HARRY KALAS, 1936-2009
Very sad day in baseball yesterday with two major passings. Veteran Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas died in Washington as he was preparing for the Phils’ game at the Nationals’ home park. Kalas was to Philadelphia what Jack Buck was to St. Louis and Ernie Harwell was to Detroit, and was also known nationally as one of the narrators for NFL Films (more or less succeeding the late John “Voice of God” Facenda) and HBO’s “Inside The NFL” program, as well as the voice of numerous Chunky Soup TV ads. He had a rather slow, deliberate play-by-play delivery style and was known for his trademark “outta here” home run call. Unfortunately, “outta here” has a sadder connotation for Harry now…
MARK FIDRYCH, 1954-2009
Long about the same time that Harry Kalas left us, former Major League pheenom pitching sensation Mark “The Bird” Fidrych flew on as well in Massachusetts, evidently the result of some sort of accident involving a dump truck he was working on. The Bird was the Word in the summer of ’76 with his quirky behavior on and around the pitcher’s mound as he earned American League Rookie Of The Year honors with his 19-9 record and even started the All-Star game for the A.L. This was back in the days when ABC aired “Monday Night Baseball”, and their ratings went through the roof on the nights when The Bird was on the mound. Injuries to his knee and shoulder derailed what was a promising career, and although Fidrych’s goofy antics gave the impression that he was a couple fries shy of a Happy Meal, everything I’ve heard and read about him indicates that he was a really down-to-earth guy. Done too soon, both in his career and his life.
MARILYN CHAMBERS, 1952-2009
The Grim Reaper was busy this week, as semi-infamous porn star Marilyn Chambers died over the weekend of unknown causes. Don’t mean to speak poorly of the dead, but I never quite got why she was so popular. I remember seeing several of her more soft-core stuff on Skinemax back in the ‘80s and found her to be awfully plain-Jane for a porn star. Whatever worked, I guess…
ROCKY HILL, 1946-2009
Here’s one more recent passing worth mentioning, although you may not know the name. You probably know Rocky Hill’s younger brother Joe, better known as Dusty Hill of Z.Z. Top. Rocky was a guitarist and singer in a band with Dusty and drummer Frank Beard called American Blues before the latter two hooked up with Rev. Billy Gibbons and formed that Little Ol’ Band From Texas. R.I.P. one and all…
DANCIN’ TO THE JAILHOUSE ROCK?
Speaking of someone a few fries shy of a Happy Meal, legendary producer Phil/Phyllis Spector appears on his way “outta here” after being convicted yesterday in his re-trial for the murder of singer Lana Clarkson in 2003. This man was once a brilliant music producer—just one listen to the Righteous Bros.’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” or “For Once In My Life” bears that out—but he’s always been a strange duck. He basically imprisoned his ex-wife, Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes, in her own home for years because of his raging paranoia that she would cheat on him with someone else. Who woulda blamed her if she did?
One thing I’ll never get about legal-eze, though: in addition to the murder charge, they also convicted Spector for “using a firearm to commit a crime”. Uhhh, isn’t that kinda redundant? Who gives a rip about the firearm? Seems like the murder charge would render that part irrelevant. As A. Bunker once said, “Let’s hear it for the legal profession, Little Girl…[Bronx cheer].”
D.V.D. ON DVD
As part of my ongoing effort to mine the past for good TV viewing in light of the putrid offerings on the networks and cable today, I started in last week on the “Dick Van Dyke Show” on DVD. I’m fairly impressed with the care and effort that went into the first season set, which includes numerous bonus features, including trivia questions and recollections from D.V.D. himself, along with Mary Tyler Moore. The plots and situations are a bit dated nearly 50 years hence, but this show is considered by many as the “perfect” TV sitcom. I tend to disagree with that assessment to a degree, but it is indeed a classic, and it was a pretty good template for subsequent shows to follow. Here are just a few observations on what I’ve seen so far:
- It seems odd that in the early episodes, the producers couldn’t decide whether to call MTM’s character “Laura” or “Laurie”. They eventually settled on “Laura”, of course.
- Not trying to be mean here, but did Rose Marie ever NOT look old to you? She was in her late ‘30s when the show debuted, but she could’ve easily passed for 55 even then…
- It took me a minute or two to recognize a young Jamie Farr, in his recurring role as a smart-alecky deli delivery boy on several episodes. The voice registered at first, but it wasn't until he turned his head sideways and I saw his famous schnozz that I realized who it was!
- I coulda done without the kid that played Richie, the Petrie’s only son. He wasn’t much of an actor—just a little kid reciting lines like it was a school assembly or something.
Just to show how little I’ve been paying attention lately, I was unaware that TV pundit Glenn “Chicken Little” Beck had jumped ship from CNN to Fox News Channel, which seems to be a much more appropriate home for all his The-Sky-Is-Falling histrionics. My good friend Tom, a staunch Republican, once urged me to watch the Big G, but I’m sorry, dude—you got to do better than some wanker who has all the credibility of Jerry Springer. There was a write-up on Beck in last week’s Slime—er uh, Time—magazine by James Poniewozik in which he opined, “Some TV observers (like me) wondered if Fox’s commentators could thrive in an Obama era. The answer is yes, and how…” That may be true, JP, but that doesn’t make it right when some fear-mongering ratings whore like Beck starts crying like Johnny Fontane in front of Vito Corleone in The Godfather, proclaiming, “I’m sorry. I just love my country. And I fear for it.” Well, Glen, as Vito said to Johnny, “You can ACT LIKE A MAN!” Beck’s hackneyed effort to tug at our collective heartstrings and prey upon ignorant viewer’s irrational fears and hang-ups with all his doomsday prophecies almost makes Pat Robertson look legitimate by way of comparison. I was so pleased to see our good friend Steven Colbert do a mighty fine job a few weeks back on Comedy Central of slaying this faux dragon…
Then again, I long ago gave up wasting my time on the prime-time crap (Beck, O’Reilly, Nancy Grace, Hannity, Van Susterererereren, et al) these networks try to pass off as “news” because it’s nothing but Sensationalism, 101. In the words of Phil Collins, "I got better things to do with my time—I don't care anymore…"
Here we are again on the eve of the Stanley Cup playoffs and now’s when the fun really begins. I like the field of teams this year, especially in the Western Conference with the first postseason appearance by the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets, as well as the return of a couple teams who’ve been missing from the Big Dance for a few years, the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. I say watch for a San Jose Sharks-New Jersey Devils Stanley Cup finals in late, May.
Meantime, word came down yesterday that the proposed Central Hockey League franchise for the new 5,800-seat arena going up in nearby Independence is a done-deal and will begin play in November. I still have my doubts whether this little arena will fly or not, success-wise, but it’s not far from where I live and supposedly, one won’t have to pay more than $20 a ticket for the as-yet unnamed team. I presume they won’t pay tribute to Blazing Saddles and name them the Kansas City “Faggots”…