Click here or here to buy Unnecessary Headaches
Click here or here to buy Drinking Games...and Other Stories
Click here or here to buy Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad
(For signed copies, e-mail me at BrianScottNYC@gmail.com)
September 10, 2016
It's been nearly two weeks since Gene Wilder left us. The shock has given way to tears, yet I still do not know what to say. I am not going to write a typical tribute because I wrote so many about him while he was alive. I'll just say some random thoughts.
First, I want to relay how I heard the news. I was at work when I got a text message from an old friend that read, "Just heard the news. So very sorry." Instinctively I just knew what it had to be - what else could it be? I nervously fumbled through various news sites and did not see anything. Less than a minute later another old friend texted me, "Did you hear about Gene Wilder?" I went to Google and typed in his name. There it was. I was just totally in shock.
I knew Gene was very frail - a photo taken of him at last year's U.S. Open showing him extremely gaunt and old-looking immediately prompted rumors he was dying. But I just attributed it to age. He was an old 83, as opposed to Mel Brooks, who is a youthful 90 (and may very well live to be 2,000 at the rate he's going). I had no idea he was suffering from Alzheimer's. Gene was always an intensely private person, and this was not something he wanted to share with the public.
I must say I am overwhelmed by the amount of coverage and the worldwide reaction to his death. Ever the pessimist, I did not think he would get this kind of attention. It is not only very moving but undeniably deserved. Almost as soon as the news broke, I was contacted by various media outlets for interviews. Gene was apparently very big in Australia - I had to turn down two separate interviews with Australian morning TV shows because of the time difference. I did, however, do an interview with an Australian radio network and BBC Radio 5 the day he died, and then one the next day with Mike Slater, who broadcasts out of San Diego. Several publications also interviewed me.
On a personal level, people I had not talked to in years reached out to me with condolences - an old flame, a fellow film student I went to NYU with, various friends I hadn't spoken to in years. All said they immediately thought of me when they heard the news and that they knew how much I loved him. (I wish this many people reached out when my parents died.)
I am flattered that people who know or used to know me think of me when they think of him. And yes, I did love him, not like some star-crossed, obsessive fan (which is what I initially was as a young boy) but as someone I respected both personally and professionally. Whenever I am asked why I chose to spend so many years writing a book about him, I explain it this way: growing up, every lonely moviegoer has one actor or actress they identify with, who they feel speaks directly to them. For me, it was Gene Wilder. In every character he played, I saw a little bit of me. I still do. There is a very fine line between comedy and tragedy, and no other actor has ever walked that tightrope better.
The weekend following his death, AMC Theaters re-released Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Blazing Saddles in 55 movie theaters across the country, an unprecedented move that I cannot recall ever being done for any other actor immediately following their death. More tributes are to come. On October 5th, Young Frankenstein will be shown in theaters throughout the country with a live stream tribute from Mel Brooks. On September 29th, TCM will honor him by airing several of his films. And I have something up my sleeve that's a little ambitious but I'm hoping to get it done.
Ah, Gene. I cannot believe you are gone. Your work and humanity had an immeasurable impact on so many people. You changed my life. To paraphrase something you once said about Charlie Chaplin, you were my hero, my patron saint, my spiritual father. You brought happiness and laughter to a world filled with sadness and misery. Most of all, you brought love to your dear wife of 25 years Karen, your nephew Jordan, and your late sister Corinne and brother-in-law Gil. You said you did not believe in Heaven in the traditional sense. You said Heaven exists here on Earth - whatever happens later, who knows. I feel the same way but what I do know is that every person you touched got to feel like they were indeed in Heaven here on Earth. I join your millions of fans in saying we will never forget you, we will always miss you, and we will always be grateful for making us smile. Rest in peace, my friend.
August 30, 2016
I am just in shock. What sad news the world received yesterday. Proper tribute to follow.
Five Years an Orphan
August 24, 2016
Hard to believe it's been five years since I lost my dear parents. My father died on August 22, 2011, my mother two days later. I never got into the details of their death on here, but it was due to the negligence of those who claim to heal us. My mother died due to the incompetence of the doctors and staff at the hospital she was staying at. She went in for a foot infection and never left. My father was in a rehab facility, learning to walk following the amputation of a toe due to diabetes.
My mother was in a coma and would never come out of it. My father was confused but when I told him that I had to decide when to "take mommy off the breathing machine," he sank. He died in his sleep the next morning. I was devastated. This cannot be possible, I thought. That day I took my mother off the machine. She held on for two days. She was 75, he was 72. "So young," is what I am constantly told by anyone I relay this story to.
Yes, I tried to sue the hospital. Went to three different lawyers - one the top malpractice attorney in Manhattan - and while they all agreed there was negligence, they also all agreed I would never win if I sued. These hospitals are so lawyered up, it is nearly impossible to bring a case against them. If I were Melissa Rivers, I feel things would have been different, but alas my parents were just regular working people, not celebrities.
My parents both dealt with many health problems but they were not ready to die when they did. I used to think my parents were safer in the hospital than at home with me looking after them. How wrong I was. I lost all faith in the medical profession. To them, our parents, children, and loved ones are just another patient, nothing more.
I wrote a very long letter to the hospital last week, copying the whole board of directors and including my past correspondence. "I do not know what the purpose of this letter is," I wrote. "I am not writing this letter in the hopes of 'letting go.' I'll never let go. I do not want to let go. But I do want to shame you, to try to get it into your thick heads and cold hearts how you do the opposite of helping people. But you know no shame. You feel no guilt. You simply do not care." I concluded the letter by writing, "You are not healers, you are murderers."
Well, I usually make these tributes to my parents much shorter, but so much for keeping it pithy this year.
This is the first anniversary of their deaths without Daisy. The "shrine" now includes her - I want them together. I wish I could believe they were. The loneliness and loss will never go away. I said it before but I will say it again - I just wish I could have one more Chinese dinner with them.
Love and miss you all.
Arthur Hiller: 1923 - 2016
August 20, 2016
Arthur Hiller, the highly respected director of such film classics as Love Story and Silver Streak, died on August 17th at age 92.
Hiller may not have had his own particularly recognizable style as a director but he was an accomplished one nonetheless. He made one of my all-time favorite films, Silver Streak (1976), the first - and best - film to pair Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. A Hitchcockian romantic comedy/action buddy movie, the film was a box office hit that, despite receiving mixed reviews at the time, is now regarded as a classic, in no small part because of Hiller's crackerjack direction, displaying his knack for blending several different genres seamlessly into one hugely entertaining experience.
A dozen years later he would again direct Wilder and Pryor in See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), a far inferior film to Silver Streak but a very funny movie nonetheless.
Other Hiller films include Author! Author! (1982) with Al Pacino and The Lonely Guy (1984) with Steve Martin, both very underrated.
Showing what an accessible mensch he was, I had reviewed See No Evil, Hear No Evil for my high school newspaper and gave it a rave. I sent him my review and he responded with a beautiful two- (it could have been three - I need to check) page handwritten letter thanking me for the praise.
Years later, I got to interview him for Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad, and he gave me some great stuff, reminiscing me about dinners he had with Gene and Gilda, as well as telling me he saw no signs of a romance brewing on the set between Gene and now wife Karen, who was Gene's deaf coach for See No Evil, Hear No Evil.
Hiller was nominated for one Oscar for directing Love Story (1970). In 2001, the motion picture academy gave him the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. He served as the academy's president from 1993 - 1997 and as president of the Directors Guild of America from 1989 - 1993.
His wife of 68 years died in June, also at 92.
Great director. Great guy. Great loss.
John McLaughlin: 1927 - 2016
August 16, 2016
John McLaughlin, whose pioneering political shootout The McLaughlin Group was a Sunday morning mainstay for those of us for whom politics is sport, died today at age 89. McLaughlin had appeared very frail in recent months, but when he missed his first appearance in his show's 34-year run this past Sunday, it became obvious he was gravely ill.
A former Jesuit priest, McLaughlin made a run for the U.S. Senate from Rhode Island in 1970 before joining the Nixon administration as a speechwriter. He left the church following Nixon's resignation. His two marriages ended in divorce, producing no children.
McLaughlin moderated his show with two panelists on each side of him of various political leanings, including regulars Pat Buchanan, Eleanor Clift, and Clarence Page. With its rambling style and McLaughlin's quick-witted, rapid-fire questioning ("Predictions!"), The McLaughlin Group became something of a pop culture phenomenon, culminating in Dana Carvey's spot-on impersonation of McLaughlin on Saturday Night Live.
It is unclear what the future of The McLaughlin Group is, but his death leaves a huge hole in Sunday morning political television. As McLaughlin himself used to say as he closed each show, "Bye! Bye!"
Springtime in July
July 29, 2016
My third essay for the Library of Congress' Film Preservation Board went online today. The film I wrote about is The Producers, the 1968 comedy classic that made Gene Wilder a star. It was added to the National Film Registry in 1996.
So cuddle up with your favorite little old lady, grab your little blue blanket, and click here to read.
Happy 80th, Mom
May 5, 2016
Tough day. My mother would have been 80 today. She was my best friend, the person I cared about more than anyone and she for me was born 80 years ago today.
I remember her 70th. I was living and working in Manhattan. Came for the weekend. I think I sent her flowers with a note saying "here's to the next 70." I got her her favorite perfume - but got it from Saks, wrapped in an elegant grey box and in a fancy Saks gift bag. What did my father get her? Bubkes. A landmark birthday and he got her nothing. Jerk.
She was okay health-wise at 70. The following months and years would see her deteriorate as I, woefully unemployed and unable to keep my apartment, became full-time live-in caretaker for the both of them.
It is almost five years since I lost them, and with Daisy now gone, I really have no family whatsoever. I miss them. Enough time has passed, though, that I also find myself criticizing them about certain things. No one is perfect. My mother was no exception. But she always had one thing that mattered to her above everything else: me. I was her world, and yes, she was mine.
I took today and tomorrow off from work - was going to go away but cannot afford it and realize it just is not a good idea. My mother would not want me to grieve for her, but she would also know that I just can't help it. I have been grieving every day for nearly five years. I can't move on and I don't want to move on. Yes, she would want me to have a girlfriend and even a family of my own - I only want the former. She would want me to be a big success, make a lot of money, be surrounded by good friends. Alas, that is not the case.
There is a story I think of often from when I was in kindergarten when we lived in Brooklyn. During show and tell, some boy brought in this Godzilla toy he had just gotten. It was pretty neat, made sounds and maybe even moved. I do not remember but I liked it. The next morning, as they drove me to school, I told my parents about it but - seriously - did not ask them to buy it for me. I did not even express interest in wanting my own one. I simply told them about it.
That afternoon when they picked me up, what do you think they presented me with? Yep. I was thrilled, of course, and surprised. I did not know the art of coercion then. And I appreciated and loved them for it. I am sure my mother said to my father that morning, "Marty, let's find him Godzilla." She did it out of love. My father only knew how to show love by buying me things. He thought going to work, bringing in a paycheck, and buying me lots of toys made him a good husband or father. Hugs and kisses he knew nothing about.
So Bella. 80 years old. You left me at 75. For years I always thought you looked so much younger than whatever age you were. I know you would kill me for making this video public on YouTube but I did it anyway (mainly to never lose it). This was us visiting daddy when he was in rehab for something related to his kidney disease and dialysis. I now see you looked older than you were here. A few months later I would lose you both. And yes, those pork chops were delicious. I am so glad you liked them.
You spoiled me, ma. You made me the ultimate mama's boy, a title I take great pride in, but it is hard being one when you can no longer can pick up the phone to speak to the woman who gave you life, love, and everything good and meaningful. I can only imagine all the hours we would have spent talking about the election and all the craziness going on. Can't do that anymore. I don't care what anyone says but Norman Bates was right: a boy's best friend is his mother.
Daisy Mednick: 1994 - 2016
April 3, 2016
I had to do one of the hardest things in my life on Monday, March 28th. I had to put my Daisy down. My best friend. She was 11.
My mother always made me promise to take care of Daisy if something happened to them. For nearly five years, I did the best I could. No more pain. I wish I had faith and could believe they are all together now but I can't.
Daisy was not herself for a long time. She had "doggie Alzheimer's," in addition to several physical problems. But I miss the Daisy who would spoon with me in bed, like we were a couple. The Daisy who knew when I was sad and crawled over and put her paw on me, hating to see me weep.
I regret all the horrible things I said when she upset me. She was sick. She meant well. I used to complain about having to get up early to feed and walk her before work and do the same when I came home from work. Now, aside from going to work and the supermarket, I have no reason to leave my apartment. I wish I had to walk her.
I had three other dogs since I was six years old. But my mother always did all the hard work. I just played with them and loved them. Daisy was different - she was mine. I spent my money on her, she lived in my apartment, I took care of her.
I thank my friend Michael, who adored Daisy, for going with me to the vet on that horrible, appropriately rainy day. I thank my vet, Dr. Sasha Hilchuck, for not only taking such good care of Daisy for the four years I have lived here but also comforting me, hugging me, and assuring me I did the right thing. It simply was her time. I also am very moved by the kindness of my Facebook friends, who are always there for me, and their sympathetic words.
Daisy was a kind, loving, adorable little girl. I now officially have no family. I am heartbroken - a cork floating in the ocean.
Garry Shandling: 1949 - 2016
March 25, 2016
Shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Garry Shandling. The beloved comedian died of a heart attack yesterday at age 66.
I grew up on Shandling. Always enjoyed him guesting or hosting The Tonight Show. It's Garry Shandling's Show was one of the most inventive sitcoms of the 1980s (remember when Gilda made a guest spot as herself and joked about her cancer battle?). For whatever reason, I have never seen a single episode of The Larry Sanders Show, but I am sure it merits all the praise that has been heaped upon it.
Shandling made a few films as well, most notably Mike Nichols' underrated What Planet Are You From? (2000), which co-starred Annette Bening. Shandling was a good friend of Warren Beatty, and also appeared with Beatty and Bening in the 1994 film Love Affair.
I most recently watched Shandling commenting on the "2000 Year Old Man" on The Incredible Mel Brooks DVD set. Shandling kept joking that Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner had to be lovers.
Shandling never married or had children. Was a funny guy, gone way too soon.
Go, Tootsie, Go!
March 23, 2016
Back in October, the Library of Congress asked me to write an essay for their National Film Registry Web site about Young Frankenstein. Being one of the more savvy government agencies, they came back and asked me to write another essay, this time about one of my five favorite films of all time, Sydney Pollack's Tootsie.
I got the Criterion Collection special edition DVD in December, and watching it again and the great special features reminded me why I have been in love with this film since first seeing it when I was nine years old (and also why I have owned a framed, ridiculously oversized poster of the film for over twenty years!).
Click here to read the essay.
Nancy Reagan: 1921 - 2016
March 8, 2016
I think Nancy Reagan got a bad rap. She was everything a first lady should be - elegant, strong, and totally devoted to her husband. I was saddened to hear of her passing at age 94 on Sunday. 94 is a great run - she lived a year longer than Ronnie - but a good woman's death is never welcomed.
Unlike the Clintons, the Reagans had a real marriage, not a business arrangement. They genuinely loved each other. Nancy was criticized by many for the influence she had on the president. Well, I think most first ladies have a lot of influence but this was different. Only two months into his first term, the president was nearly killed after an assassination attempt. Reagan recovered but Nancy was as protective as ever.
They complained when she got new china for the White House - which was paid for by private donations, not taxpayer dollars as her haters claimed. She brought style and class back to the White House after the disastrous Carter years. Just as Reagan brought the country back and made us once again proud to be Americans, Nancy made the White House the showplace it should be.
The anti-Reagan crowd wasted no time on Sunday saying hateful things about the couple, the most ridiculous being that Nancy herself denied Rock Hudson treatment for AIDS! Hudson was a friend of the Reagans. As much as I admire Ronald Reagan, he was flawed like any other human. The biggest mistake of his administration was the failure to acknowledge the growing AIDS crisis. People were dying. They were afraid. They wanted leadership from their president. Reagan did not even utter the word AIDS until 1986. On this, he was sadly out of touch. But he was not a homophobe and it is absurd to suggest he had no compassion for the sick and dying.
Ronald Reagan's final years were, of course, marked by his slow decline from Alzheimer's. Nancy stood by him bravely, speaking out against the GOP in support of stem cell research. When Reagan died in 2004, the sight of Nancy saying good-bye to his flag draped coffin brought anyone with a heart to tears.
Nancy Reagan was a devoted wife, mother, and advocate. She will hopefully be remembered as one of our great first ladies.
Kasich for President
February 19, 2016
So I re-registered as a Republican recently to vote in the upcoming New York primary. I got my
confirmation a couple of weeks ago. For whatever reason, I was looking at it last night and
noticed it said my current registration was no affiliation and after Nov. 15th I would be a
Republican. Seemed strange, especially since the general election is before then.
So I called the Board of Elections. Turns out there is a screwed up law in New York state that
does not allow you to change parties in advance of a primary. The guy said after Nov. 15th I
will be a Repub and can vote in primaries. I said I don't want to be a Republican, I just
wanted to vote in this primary because NY does not have open primaries. What a crock! He even
agreed and said it is an arcane law that benefits incumbents.
If John Kasich loses the NY primary by one vote, I will be livid. Voting laws need to be
changed in this country so everybody can vote...except Hillary supporters (okay, even they
should have the right).
I was for Trump in the beginning but with each passing month, then week, now day, it becomes
clearer and clearer this guy is nuttier than a Snickers bar. Cruz I hated from the beginning
with his Jesus schtick (and can you imagine having to look at that meeskite's face for four
years?). I considered Rubio for a time, but as I studied him I could tell that behind that
boyish face is a typical politician who will say whatever needs to get elected. Carson is
likeable and funny (I'm talking about Ben, not Johnny, although the adjectives can be applied
to both). But while I may want Carson if I needed brain surgery, he has zero experience when
it comes to government and, alas, is another religious right-winger. I always thought Jeb was
the smartest of his family (actually, it's his mother) but he has proven to be an incredibly
weak candidate who just cannot gain traction. He would be my second choice, but not one I
would be enthusiastic about.
So that leaves John Kasich, who, with two decades in congress and two terms as Ohio governor,
is clearly the smartest, most experienced, and most capable candidate to lead our country. He
took Ohio out of financial turmoil. He is not a religious freak, even though he knows he has
to pepper his rhetoric with his "faith" every now and then because you have to if you want the
GOP vote. He is that most maligned of Republicans - a moderate. His response in one of the
early debates about how, even though he opposed gay marriage, he believes it's the law of
land, it must be obeyed, and we should move on showed genuine courage. If that wasn't enough,
his remarks about how he would love his daughters just as much if they were lesbians or
straight shows he is the lone bagel on a plate of stale onion rolls in this election.
Kasich has the most appeal to independents. He does not seem scripted. And he comes across
as genuinely likeable, compassionate, and down to earth.
His second place finish in New Hampshire was very encouraging. Now he's trailing Trump and
Cruz in nearly every poll. If anyone but Kasich gets the Republican nomination, the election
is Hillary or Bernie's.
I hope Kasich makes it to the New York primary. I just hate that I won't be able to cast my
ballot for him, but I hope I can come November.
December 6, 2015
"Making movies is the most wonderful thing in the world."
- Ian McKellen as James Whale in Gods and Monsters (1998)
I am happy to announce that after 23 years my first short film is finally online! Confessions of a Male Prostitute is a 17-minute film I made when I was a freshman at NYU. It stars John Aprea, who was on Another World at the time and a good friend who did this for me as a favor. He is amazing in it. My friend Dene - also superb - plays Helen, the quintessential hooker with a heart of gold. The kid who plays Jamie was a classmate of mine - huge diva - who is supposedly a big soap star in China now.
Rex Reed said the following about it: "I am a bit speechless. This is exemplary work...revealing much sensitivity and intelligence. The actors were absolutely first-rate and directed with skill, precision and naturalism… I actually could have hung in there with [these] characters for another hour or so. I am really most impressed with by the writing more than anything else – an economy of words, a wealth of style, an almost minimal thrust in dialogue but with maximum believability. [Brian Scott Mednick] has obvious talent... This short film is so good I would be very keen to see what [Mednick comes] up with in the next few years."
Click here to watch. Enjoy!
November 26, 2015
I always hated this day of the year. I used to think it was a day for families. It was always just me and my parents, that's it. I thought it was pathetic. Now that I do not have them, I realize that was more than enough family. I always liked turkey - and my mother made a great one - but I could never appreciate the day.
I am reluctantly having dinner with a friend tonight, although I would much prefer to stay in and wallow in my misery, just like any other day. I do not feel very thankful about anything, except that it's a four-day weekend for me, so after dinner I can wallow through Sunday.
I would sum up how I feel about this gluttonous holiday by quoting Mary Tyler Moore, as she confronts her brother, who says everyone just wants her to be happy, in Ordinary People:
"Happy?! Ward, you tell me the definition of happy. But first you better make sure that your kids are good and safe, that no one's fallen off a horse or been hit by a car or drowned in that swimming pool you're so proud of! And then you come to me and tell me how to be happy!"
"You Talkin' Turkey to Me?"
November 25, 2015
So tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Robert DeNiro will undoubtedly enjoy himself some dark meat. I understand he's also having turkey for dinner.
Happy Birthday, Dad
November 23, 2015
My father would have been 77 today. Fifth birthday without him. He loved watches. I used to buy him watches for his birthday. No, that was not a watch. Sneakers. This was around 1986. What the hell happened to me? Fifty pounds, thirty years, and too much vodka, that's what!
November 21, 2015
So I was talking on the phone with Charlie Sheen last night. We spoke about our Thanksgiving plans, and he said his family came over on the Mayflower. I told him he had to be joking. "No," he said, "it's true. On my mother's side." I said, "Are you sure?" He said, "I'm positive!"
Marty and Bella
November 20, 2015
Was going through some old photo albums the other day. Found one of the few photos of my parents together. How screwed up is it that I have so many of Gene & Gilda and almost none of Marty & Bella together? Miss them so much.
Paris, je t'aime
November 19, 2015
I was sickened by what happened to our brothers and sisters in Paris. This world is nuts. As if the Paris attacks weren't bad enough, sources say Muslim extremists are now targeting Rome. This group is known as Italian Isis.
November 18, 2015
I am not a judgmental person. As a writer, I would like to interview Charlie Sheen. I called his manager and was told I should expect to hear from his aides.
Fred Thompson: 1942 - 2015
November 7, 2015
I was very upset to hear about the passing of Fred Thompson, who died on November 1st at 73 from a recurrence of lymphoma. Thompson had an amazing career in politics and show business. He was a lawyer who served as a U.S. attorney for three years before being appointed minority counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee.
He made his film debut playing himself in the 1985 Sissy Spacek film Marie, about a whistleblower who exposed corruption in the administration of Tennessee Governor Ray Blanton. More film roles followed, including No Way Out, The Hunt for Red October, and In the Line of Fire.
After Al Gore became vice president, Thompson ran to fill the remaining two years of Gore's Senate seat in a special election, winning in a landslide over Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper. Two years later, he won a full six-year term.
He decided not to run again, devoting his time to his acting career, most notably as Manhattan District Attorney Arthur Branch on Law & Order. One of my favorite roles of his was as himself in Albert Brooks' Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World.
In 2008, Thompson ran for the GOP nomination for president. Despite his natural charisma and likeability, his campaign never gained traction and he withdrew after four months.
I liked Fred Thompson. I don't think he was necessarily presidential material (I mean an actor becoming president?) but he was smart, meant well, and wanted nothing to do with the extreme rightwing religious sect of his party.
He is survived by his second wife Jeri and four children (he lost a daughter from his first marriage to an accidental prescription drug overdose in 2002). Thompson was a good guy. He'll be missed.
October 10, 2015
I was recently contacted by the Library of Congress. Great, I thought. They found out about those library books I never returned. But alas, they wanted to know if I would write an essay about Young Frankenstein for their National Film Registry Web site. Well, knowing very little about the film or its star, I reluctantly agreed. The essay - pulled mostly from the chapter on the film from Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad with a few tweaks - is now alive - ALIVE!!! - on the site.
After Congress passed the National Film Preservation Act of 1988 (Congress actually gets things right on occasion), the National Film Preservation Board was established to ensure the survival, conservation, and increased public availability of America's film heritage. The Registry adds 25 films every year.
Young Frankenstein is among four Gene Wilder films on the Registry, the others being Bonnie and Clyde, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and Blazing Saddles. It's a great organization.
So get comfortable, pour yourself a brandy or zum Ovaltine perhaps, and click here to read my thoughts on this enduring classic.
October 1, 2015
Wow! I do not know what else to say. Courage, strength, fortitude, chutzpah - words that can not be applied to many on the world scene today. But Benjamin Netanyahu gave one of the all-time great speeches today at the UN. Forget the best of FDR, Churchill, King, JFK, Reagan or Sally Field. His 45 seconds of silence was filled with more substance than anything Obama has said in 6 years.
September 11, 2015
We never learn. It's been 14 years since our world was forever, senselessly changed. And in two weeks NYC schools will be closed to celebrate a Muslim holiday. Couple this with the Iran deal, as well as this sickening, liberal BS about Islam being a peaceful "religion" (tell that to the women and gays in Muslim countries), and we are just a pinch of tamarind away from, as Ronald Reagan would have said, "the end of civilization as we know it."
September 4, 2015
Hard to believe it's one year today that we lost our dear Joan Rivers. Such a senseless death. She was an amazing person.
Women of Influence
August 29, 2015
A year ago, the LA Film Critics Association honored the luminous Gena Rowlands for lifetime achievement. Who was it who has said for years that the motion picture academy should give her an honorary Oscar? Oh, that's right, me. So I was delighted to read this morning that Ms. Rowlands is finally getting her long overdue statuette after two previous nominations (for A Woman Under the Influence - for which she should have won - and Gloria, both directed by her late husband John Cassavetes). She is one of the great actresses of all time.
I hate that these honorary awards are no longer presented on the live telecast, but at a private dinner in the fall before the competitive nominations are even announced. At least there will be clips online. Now 85, Rowlands will surely be filled with emotion and speak lovingly of Cassavetes and their talented children.
If Rowlands getting the honorary award isn't enough, another great old broad who I have been saying should get one is too - Debbie Reynolds! She is receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (I did not know she dedicated herself to mental health causes - then again, after being married to Eddie Fisher, it makes sense). Reynolds, 83, is a true legend. This is a superb pick. Gives me hope for Gene Wilder after all.
Nice to see the Academy do the right thing. Which reminds me - the other honorary Oscar recipient is Spike Lee. I am sure he will do a brilliant job bussing the tables.
My Best Friend
August 24, 2015
Lost my best friend, my world, my everything four years ago today. I will never "get over it" and I don't want to. Miss her so much.
Four Years Later
August 22, 2015
Four years ago my world came to an end. My father died on this day, my mother two days later. Words are futile. Miss them, cry for them, wish I could have one more Chinese dinner with them.
Melissa and Cooper Grace AARP Magazine Cover
June 17, 2015
I am not a fan of AARP as an organization, but their current edition of their magazine is quite impressive. Melissa Rivers and son Cooper are on the cover, and they both look amazing. At 47, Melissa, like her mother, is getting prettier as she gets older, and Cooper, 14, has a killer smile and movie star good looks that make you think two things: the girls must be all over him and he has got to be contemplating a career in show biz.
Click here to read the article.
Covering the National Dream Beat
June 15, 2015
Stumbled upon this excellent, very long interview Siskel & Ebert did with Playboy in 1991. Great stuff.
I think of them often. I didn't know it at the time but now I realize they were probably the main reason I wanted to go to film school (the irony is that watching them for free growing up was a much better film school than the hundred grand that was wasted on NYU).
Having had many jobs that I had zero passion for, I was reminded of something Gene Siskel said about a year before he died. He knew he had a brain tumor and was going to be operated on. His son was only about three years old. During a ceremony where he and Roger were being honored, Gene said to his daughters - and I paraphrase - "Do me a favor and tell your brother when he gets older to find something he loves and do it. Roger and I are lucky because we get to do what we love. Do something that you could not imagine not doing. Something that makes you want to get out of bed each morning. If you girls could tell your brother that, I would appreciate it."
I was trying to tell this to a friend last week and I could not finish the story. I welled up - and I was sober! So moving. He feared he would not live to see his son grow up. His son is now in his early twenties, a college graduate, and very handsome.
Reading this interview also made me weep when Siskel talked about his mother's death. He lost both of his parents in the same year when he was a young child. His aunt and uncle raised him.
Life sucks. These guys knew the value of great movies. A great movie could be life changing. A great movie could help you escape from life's miseries for two hours. As Siskel said, they had the greatest job in the world because they covered "the national dream beat." They had a greater impact on movies than most of the people who made them. They were thumbthing else.
Happy Birthday, Gene Wilder
June 11, 2015
Gene Wilder turns 82 years young (as Mel Brooks' 2000 Year Old Man would say). One of the first things people often ask me when I tell them I wrote a book about him is, "Is he still alive?" To which I respond, "Very much so." Of course, he's retired from acting (his last feature film was, sadly, one of his worst, the 1991 "comedy" Another You, his fourth and final film with Richard Pryor).
Wilder writes now. His memoir came out in 1995, and since then he has penned four rather charming works of fiction. He spends most days in his study at his home in Stamford, CT. He writes for a few hours, exchanges e-mails with friends, comes out for a cup of tea and maybe some yogurt, kisses his wife, and then goes back to writing until about four or five o'clock when it comes time to contemplate dinner.
He and wife Karen both like to cook. As Gene told Martha Stewart, Karen tackles the more complicated dishes that require a recipe while he is comfortable preparing steak, leg of lamb or what he claims is his best dish - his "method of seduction" as he calls it because he often prepared it for women he was dating the first time they would come to his home for dinner - roast chicken.
Though he has been in remission from a grueling battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for fifteen years, he rarely goes out, except for doctor's appointments and occasional trips to the supermarket. He is the anti-Joan Rivers, having no desire to be back in the Hollywood spotlight. I'm not trying to make him sound like a total recluse - he still attends the U.S. Open every year and will do a speaking engagement here and there. Charles Grodin, who has been friends with Wilder for nearly sixty years, lives twenty minutes from Gene in Wilton, CT, and usually stops by to visit a few times a month. Grodin himself just became an octogenarian back in April.
In September, Gene will celebrate 24 years of marriage to Karen, his fourth and longest lasting (and happiest) marriage.
So happy 82, Mr. Wilder. May you have many more. But can you get out of the house for a few weeks and maybe do a nice supporting role in a movie? You could play Ben Stiller's father or Seth Rogen's grandfather or Morgan Freeman's wacky best friend. Your fans miss you!
Happy Birthday, Joan
June 8, 2015
It's been nine months since dear Joan Rivers left us. She would have turned 82 today. I know she would still be performing like crazy, writing more books, hocking more jewelry, and bringing laughter and joy to others. Perhaps she would even celebrate with one of her favorite foods: a "dirty water" hot dog from a local Sabrett cart, washed down with a Diet Coke. Miss you, funny lady.
Happy Birthday, Daisy
June 5, 2015
Happy birthday to my Daisy. She turns 11 today. Unfortunately, her age is catching up with her. She has very bad arthritis but it's under control with medication. But she cannot jump on the bed anymore, I have to help her. I live in a fourth-floor walkup, and it takes her a long time to walk down the stairs. Some days are better than others. I am just thankful that she still has a voracious appetite.
My mother always said that if anything happened to her or my father, I had to take care of Daisy. She made me promise. As much as I complain about her at times, she really is a good dog, my best friend, and the only connection I have left to my mother. I cannot imagine her not sleeping next to me every night.
Do You Think Max von Sydow Does His Own Grocery Shopping?
June 4, 2015
I am trying to picture him walking down the aisle at Waldbaum's, picking up a cantaloupe and smelling it. "Another two days maybe," he says, possibly in Swedish.
He goes to the customer service counter and says, "You are out of the Canada Dry 12-packs on sale. I want a rain check. If Jesus came back and saw how you stocked your shelves, he'd never stop throwing up."
Then he goes to the deli counter. "I want half a pound of the Boar's Head low sodium ham, not too thin." He solemnly looks at the potato salad and wonders if it was made today. He isn't sure so he only gets a quarter pound.
He proceeds to check out and presents his coupons. He insists on paper and plastic. He wheels his cart to his car - a Volvo, of course - and puts the groceries in the trunk. The gray sky opens up and it starts raining. He drives home consumed with thoughts of death and potato salad.
Get Dad Something Wilder This Father's Day
May 30, 2015
Father's Day is just around the corner, and Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad is back in stock on Amazon at 10% off. Dad has enough ties and power tools. Get him something nice for his summer reading list.
Click here to order or e-mail me at BrianScottNYC@gmail.com for a signed copy.
Robert DeNiro to NYU Grads: "You're f--ked"
May 24, 2015
As an NYU Tisch alum, I have to say DeNiro nailed it. Yes, Bob, I did get f--ked. And not in a good way. You really are talkin' to me. Do not pursue the arts unless your brother-in-law plays tennis with Lorne Michaels. Talent means nothing! Go to law school! Become an electrician! Plumbers make good money. Get an MBA. Make money! Money! Money! Money! Forget about the movies and TV and being creative. It will kill you! No one wants to boink a poor artist.
The King of Late Night
May 22, 2015
As what has inadvertently turned into talk show week here on the site comes to an end, it does so, most appropriately, on the 23rd anniversary of Johnny Carson's last Tonight Show. Carson was the undisputed king of late night. His Midwestern charm, quick wit, and mastery of the medium made him the last face millions chose to see before going to sleep at night.
And, unlike some of these little pishers who are the new face of late night, Carson possessed the most important trait a talk show host should have: he listened. Unlike Conan O'Brien, who interrupts his guests and tries to one-up them, Carson loved sitting back and watching his guests shine. So confident was Carson that he found no need to try being funnier than a guest who was on a roll. We all remember how he would react to something he found beyond hysterical, turning and looking as if he was going to fall off his chair.
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson is probably my favorite TV show of all time. It was old-fashioned in a good way - everyone dressed nice, and Doc Severinsen's orchestra was truly an orchestra (no one looked like they just came from a Bob Marley concert). The Carson era was about martinis, not marijuana.
Carson was a very lonely, unhappy person off-camera. He had no close friends and apparently had a very bad temper. But for that one hour, he felt alive, he once said. And so did we.
Final Late Show a Great Show
May 21, 2015
David Letterman nailed it last night. What a great last show. Letterman was funny, self-deprecating, and very mindful to thank everyone who worked for him. At times it was quite moving but never maudlin. Unlike Johnny Carson, who welled up a bit when he bid farewell, Letterman kept his emotions in tact (but I thought he should have thanked Carson who, after all, is responsible for making him a star).
The star-studded top ten list was fun, as were some great clips, especially one segment where he was talking to children. As Foo Fighters played him off, we saw quick stills of guests through the years. It was particularly touching to see Gilda Radner, Liberace, Joan Rivers, Siskel & Ebert, and some others who are no longer with us.
Yesterday I wrote Letterman should probably have quit a few years ago but last night he was in top form. Maybe he should have done every show pretending it was his last.
May 20, 2015
Tonight David Letterman ends a remarkable 33-year run on late night TV. I was a huge fan of his growing up. In recent years, however, he seemed to often be calling it in. He should have retired a few years ago.
Letterman is incredibly smart and not just a wiseass. He demonstrated this with a series of compelling, serious interviews following 9/11 (remember Dan Rather crying?). He was also heartfelt (forgive the pun) when he brought the medical team who performed his bypass surgery onto the show.
I personally do not know anyone who likes Letterman. I always found him quick-witted and genuinely funny, but many people seem to agree with Cher's famous assessment of him. My quibble with Letterman is that in the years after 9/11 he turned political. Letterman is a big leftie, which is fine, but the way he blatantly fawned over Democratic politicians like the Clintons, Obama, and Al Gore - while treating Republicans like George W. Bush as children - was not appropriate for a comedy talk show. Johnny Carson was a Republican but he never made his personal political views clear on The Tonight Show. Carson knew his job was to entertain and therefore skewer everyone equally. In all fairness, though, Rudy Giuliani was on many times, and he and Letterman had a mutual liking of one another - Giuliani even thanked Letterman in the acknowledgments section of his book. On his first show after 9/11, he heaped enormous praise on Giuliani - click here to see that and click here to see Giuliani's first post-9/11 appearance.
Still, it's hard to deny Letterman's impact on television. I saw his NBC show when I was fifteen. The guests were Tom Cruise and Connie Chung - great show. Afterwards, I stayed and asked Letterman's late announcer Bill Wendell if I could take a photo of him. He then asked if I wanted him to take a photo of me sitting in Dave's guest chair. As soon as the taping ends, the crew covers the desk and chairs with drop cloths, but what a thrill to sit in that chair (and in retrospect I am grateful for the drop cloths since Tom Cruise had been sitting in that seat less than an hour ago).
So thanks for all the laughs, Dave. When it comes to TV's talk legends, you are most definitely in the top ten.
Behind the Menorah
May 19, 2015
Going through old photos and found this one from December 1985. This is when my family tried really being Jewish (note the Jewfro). I still do not understand why we had to light a candelabra in December considering Liberace's birthday was in May.
It's Good to Be the King
May 19, 2015
When writing my piece about Phil Donahue yesterday, I realized I left a few people of my list of the nicest celebrities I've met: Larry King, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, and Tim Robbins. Most stars are smart about being nice to fans and they appreciate the attention. And it's usually the bigger, older celebs who are nicest and "get it." It infuriates me when I read about some of these young actors who refuse to give autographs. (I'll dish on the very few unpleasant stars I have encountered another time.)
I am really remiss about not including King in yesterday's piece. He is a real mensch. He never forgot that he was some kid named Lawrence Zeiger from Brooklyn. I met him in 1991 when I was 18. My mother and I attended an awards ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria where I received honorable mention from the Scholastic Writing Awards for a short play I wrote about a bickering show biz couple (which I now can admit was inspired by the Michael Caine/Maggie Smith part of Neil Simon's California Suite).
We were all decked out, me in my first big boy suit and her in a beautiful purple dress, one of maybe only two or three times I ever saw her in a dress. My mother went to use the ladies room. As I waited for her, I see Larry King walking by. With my teenage, starstruck enthusiasm I stopped him. I told him what a fan I was. He said he was there to speak at some radio convention. I told him about my awards ceremony. I then said I would love a picture with him but my mother is in the ladies room and she had the camera. "That's okay," he said. "We can wait." We can wait??? How many stars would do that?
Luckily my mother was quick. When she saw me chatting with Larry King, she was in shock. She playfully smacked him on the shoulder and said, "What are you doing here?!" She snapped the great photo below, and then the Mednicks and Mr. King went out separate ways. Shortly afterwards I mailed him the photo, told him how thrilled we were to meet him, and that I was starting NYU film school. He mailed me back our photo signed along with a 5x7 of him that read, "For Brian, You'll make it. Larry King." Truly one of the nicest guys in the biz.
There is a reason he - like Donahue - interviewed nearly every major figure of the last fifty years. So what is this sudden admittance to my adulation of former male talk show hosts now in their seventies and eighties? No idea. Maybe I should ask Dr. Phil.
Get Your Phil!
May 18, 2015
While browsing YouTube, I was delighted to find this absolutely priceless video of Phil Donahue's primetime television special from 1992 celebrating his 25th anniversary on the air.
I have always been a huge Donahue fan. I went to see his show three times. The last time was in 1992 and the guest was Jesse Jackson, who was running for president. Donahue always kibitzed and fooled around with his audience during commercial breaks. He instructs the audience to raise their hand during the breaks if they want to ask a question. I raised my hand, but before he let me ask my question, he kept personally addressing me during each break and saying things like, "Young man, I have a feeling you're gonna give me the Gettysburg Address. It's only an hour show." Eventually the person next to me asked if I knew Donahue personally. No idea why he kept coming over to me -though, in all fairness, I was 19 but looked much younger, was thin, adorable, and had a great head of hair. See my headshot below from back then when I was pursuing acting (I am the one on the right - no pun intended).
Eventually he let me ask my question and looked at me with a devilish smile, as if he knew something good was coming. I have the show on videotape but alas, who has a VCR anymore? Anyway, I remember my question to the good reverend verbatim: "A few years ago there was a big controversy when you called Jews 'Hymies' and New York 'Hymie Town.' How do you expect to have any credibility as someone who wants to ease racial tensions when you say something like that, which only creates more hate?"
It was and will be my one moment in the national spotlight. Everyone applauded. Up until me, the audience was asking softball questions. I was the only one who challenged Jackson. Of course, he responded with some nonsense and totally avoided the actual question. They kept cutting back to me, and when he was done they captured a perfect shot me turning my head with a WTF gesture.
After the show, Donahue always shook everyone's hand as they left and posed for pictures. When I shook his hand, I said, "See, it wasn't the Gettysburg Address." Like a Jewish mother, he put his hand on my chin and said, "No, it was a good question." Little did I know I had a bromance with him before the word was coined.
Less than a year later I met him backstage at the Daytime Emmy Awards, which he co-hosted with Susan Lucci. Dick Clark was the producer. Despite his genial on-air demeanor, I heard some stories that Clark was a nasty man off-camera. He seemed very unapproachable and bossy. Meanwhile, Donahue was just standing to the side by himself. I went over and asked if he remembered my question to Jesse Jackson. He said he did and we chatted briefly. I also met Oprah Winfrey, who won that year, and she was actually very nice (but then again, she just won an Emmy).
I have met a lot of celebrities, and Donahue is without question one of the two or three nicest (the others would be Dom DeLuise, Joan Rivers, Mario Cuomo, Dick Cavett, Cliff Gorman, Joe Franklin, Paul Shaffer, Ted Allen, and Linda Dano - okay, that's more than two or three).
Donahue, who turns 80 in December, is one of TV's great pioneers. He developed the format for the daytime talk show that set the standard for everyone else. He has no ego whatsoever. He befriended and even championed rival Oprah, who beat Donahue in the ratings consistently. He is the ultimate entertainer - he can act, he can sing, he can dance, he is even a good cook (according to Marlo). He's also a dog lover and family man who loved his mother.
There was no topic Donahue wouldn't tackle. His show was one of the first to regularly address the AIDS epidemic when so many would not. He interviewed nearly every major celebrity and politician from the last fifty years (he even interviewed then senator JFK while a younger reporter in Ohio).
I know I usually write these long tributes to people after they depart us, but sometimes we need to celebrate them while they are alive. Television is a less interesting place without Phil Donahue. He does still pop up here and there. He kicked Bill O'Reilly's ass regarding the Iraq war (click here to watch). Hell, even Sean Hannity admires him.
Click here to watch the full special. You will laugh, cry, and be enthralled.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom
May 10, 2015
My mother's birthday and Mother's Day were always a week apart. This is my fourth Mother's Day without her and I get so upset when I see Mother's Day commercials on TV that I immediately change the channel. I also delete every e-mail telling me what's on sale for Mother's Day.
I used to tell my mother that as far as I was concerned, every day was Mother's Day for her. May sound sappy but I meant it. If you are lucky enough to still have your mother, call her, visit her, kiss her, hug her, take to her dinner, buy her something nice. You wouldn't be here without her. It all goes by too fast.
Happy Birthday, Mom
May 5, 2015
Sad day for me. My mother would have been 79 today. The pain and loss never stops - I don't want it to stop. She was my world, my everything. I still want to pick up the phone to discuss politics or movies or this new restaurant I tried. But I can't. I lost not only the most caring, giving, loving mother anyone could wish for, but I also lost my best friend. No one will care about me the way she did, and I will never love anyone as much as I loved her. Miss you, ma.
Jerry vs. Joan
May 3, 2015
How disappointing to hear of such nonsense between two of your heroes. In a SiriusXM Town Hall last year, three months before Joan Rivers died, Jerry Lewis said, "I always feel bad when someone passes away...except if it was Joan Rivers." He continued his vitriol by saying, "She set the Jews back thousand years."
This all stems from a comment Joan once made basically saying he is lucky to have the telethon because it helps his career. Jerry claims to have sent Joan a note saying, "Dear Miss Rivers: We've never met, and I'm looking forward to keeping it that way. If you find it necessary to discuss me, my career or my kids ever again, I promise you I will get somebody from Chicago to beat your goddamn head off." Real classy, Jerry. So macho to threaten a woman. (I doubt he ever had the cajones to actually put those words on paper.)
Alas, I would side with Joan. I never personally saw it but Jerry did have a reputation for having a bad temper and not liking female comics. He was always nice to me, but so was Joan. Joan was always Joan. No phoniness or pretense. If you can't take a joke, you shouldn't be in comedy. Joan was an equal opportunity offender.
Jerry Lewis was always an idol of mine but I have lost all respect for him. At 89, I think he's starting to lose it. He says he never met Joan Rivers. Oh, really? Click here for the evidence.
For Jerry to disparage such a beautiful human being as Joan Rivers shows those legendary stories of his horrible temper, much of it aimed at his sons, who claimed to be terrified when he would arrive home, are likely true. As Don Rickles used to say in jest to his pal Frank Sinatra, "It's over, Frank. The voice is gone. Face it, it's over."
Well, pains me to say this, Jerry, but it's over. When you open your mouth and, instead of jokes, you spew venom about a really NICE LAAAAAAADY, it's time to accept you're no longer the nutty professor, you're just plain nuts!
Congrats, Melissa Rivers!
March 27, 2015
Mazel tov, Melissa Rivers! Joan's daughter has been named to the board of directors of God's Love We Deliver, the charity her mother championed for decades. Every Thanksgiving Joan would bring her grandson Cooper with her to deliver hot meals to homebound people with AIDS and other illnesses. What a great example Joan and Melissa have set for Cooper.
Click here to read the article.
Michael Douglas: Mensch
March 14, 2015
You must read this brilliant piece by Michael Douglas about his son being harassed for being Jewish. I have a newfound respect for Douglas. Bravo, you mensch...a horny mensch, but a mensch nonetheless. Click here to read.
Just Walk On By...
February 13, 2015
Scott Walker is now the Repub flavor of the month (I prefer pistachio). I had huge respect for his actions regarding the teachers unions in Wisconsin - I despise unions. I think he is a smart guy who could get things done. BUT...he is another pro-life, evangelical, anti-Medicaid rightie.
If I could choose anyone for president (Rudy is too old and a lousy campaigner), it would be John Bolton. This guy is pretty amazing. But we're never going to elect someone in this day and age with a mustache for president...oh, wait, I forgot about Hillary.
Can We Talk?
February 9, 2015
My dear Joan Rivers won the Grammy last night for Best Spoken Word Album for her book Diary of a Mad Diva. Gilda also won one posthumously years ago for her memoir. Melissa accepted with grace and class. Cooper was there holding the Grammy - what a handsome young man he has become. Click here to watch. Joan would have been proud.
February 4, 2015
More memories of Joe Franklin. When I would call him, he would usually say, "Hey, brother!" And he used to end our calls by saying, "Love ya, kid." He was one of a kind. Loved you too, kid!
Joe Franklin: 1926 - 2015
January 26, 2015
Joe Franklin the legendary talk show pioneer who was a fixture in New York for more than half a century, died on Saturday at 88. He had been ill for some time with prostate cancer.
Joe was a friend who I often spoke with on the phone. He interviewed me in early 2011 about my Gene Wilder book on his Bloomberg Radio show (click here to listen). It was a great interview, and we became friendly after that.
We had a marvelous time together a few years ago at a Gene Wilder tribute event in Stamford, Connecticut (Gene did not show up but Kelly LeBrock did). He was warm, funny, feisty, and knew everybody in the business. From his early days with Jolson to his historic WOR TV show where he interviewed everyone from Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand, Debbie Reynolds - well, the list is too long. He also featured lesser known talents whom he let shine, if only for a brief time in the early morning hours.
He probably received his greatest honor in the 1980s when Billy Crystal impersonated him regularly on Saturday Night Live.
In 2013, Joe gave me a great quote for the back of my first novel, Unnecessary Headaches. He always thrived on helping out other artists.
His Midtown office was famous for being cluttered with showbiz memorabilia. It seems everyone with even a slight connection to the "biz" knew Joe Franklin. He was as New York as they came. We are a lesser city without him, and I have lost a dear man I called my friend.
This (Kinda) Nice Jewish Boy from Canada
January 24, 2015
This Seth Rogen is in danger of overexposure. He is all over TV and the Internet every day, several times a day. I think his initial remarks about American Sniper were in poor taste but his "apology" and clarification seemed sincere and made sense so I forgive him. It's not like the kid is Jane Fonda. He is also a genuinely funny guy. Not into all the marijuana stuff but he's funny - a big pottymouth but funny.
That being said, before he made those comments, I have noticed such anti-Semitism towards him on the Internet Movie Database's message board accusing him of being successful because he is Jewish and the Jews run Hollywood. Well, if this is the case, why I am still struggling? I think a lot of it is jealousy. Not to mention digs calling him fat (which I do not think he is - he is not your typical Hollywood pretty boy, just a regular guy).
I have been told on more than one occasion that I look like him, which I find a compliment. As a person of the Jewish faith who could lose a few pounds myself, I take umbrage. Actually, I don't, I just wanted to use the word "umbrage."
January 12, 2015
Obama was in the White House watching the Golden Globes instead of joining the other world leaders at the Paris rally. Kerry would not cancel a speech on global warming in India. What about Biden? Holder was in Paris yet did not go to the rally. This is one effed up administration.
Mario Cuomo: 1932 - 2015
January 3, 2015
2015 is not starting off on the right foot. Mario Cuomo, the greatest governor the state of New York has ever had, died on New Year's day at 82, just hours after his son was sworn in for a second term as governor.
I loved the man. On July 9, 2004, I interviewed him in his office at Wilke Farr & Gallagher, where he was a partner. I had to wait over an hour because he was on an unexpected conference call. His secretary came out several times and asked if I wanted to reschedule or do it another time by phone. I defiantly said no, I was happy to wait.
When she finally brought me in to meet him, Mario was so apologetic. "I'm so sorry to have kept you waiting," he said. "It's okay," I said. "It's not okay!" he fired back.
Then he immediately started asking me questions. Where ya from? Oh? My brother-in-law had a house there. This was a man who genuinely liked people and was interested in them.
Once I started the interview, I was in awe. This guy could answer any question about anything. You could see the wheels turning in his head. I had to keep myself composed as I realized I was sitting two feet from a man who could have very well been president of the United States. Not asking him why he did not run was my only regret.
As our interview concluded, I told him that my boss loved him, said she would have worked on his campaign had he run for president, and thought he should still run for president. His response: "Oy gevalt!"
"You like Lincoln?" he asked me.
"Of course," I said.
He then conveniently took two copies of his then new book Why Lincoln Matters and began to sign one for me. "It's Bernard, right?"
"I'm all right," he said.
He signed it, "To Brian, Thanks for your patience, Mario Cuomo. 7/9/04."
"And your boss is Audrey?" he asked.
He signed the other book to her (yes, big brownie points).
He then leaned over and said, "Look, if this isn't enough - if you need more stuff - just call me and we can talk some more."
Can you say Mensch City?
I then asked if he would sign an 8x10 photo of him that I had brought. "I'm not signing that!" he said of the lousy photo. "Mary, get me an 8x10," he said to his secretary.
And he proceeded to sign the photo below. "To Brian, Excelsior, Mario Cuomo." "Excelsior is the state motto," he told me. "Not a lot of people know that."
The man was amazing. He was 72 when I interviewed him. Not as tall as I would have imagined. Beautifully dressed in a light blue shirt, tie, and suspenders. Photos of Andrew and the grandkids all over.
I ran into him at a restaurant a few years later. Always curious about people, he asked what I was up to. I told him I had just lost my job. He shook his head in despair. "We just let fifty people go from my law firm," he said. (So much for hitting him up for a job.) He had lunch with some lady. It was a Friday. We both had the fish.
Confession: growing up, my family was not in the Cuomo camp. I voted for Pataki in 1994 and still regret it. Sure, I did not agree with Mario on most issues, but his integrity, his decency, his drive, his compassion - well, that means more than anything. I left his office that day walking on air. I even contemplated becoming a Democrat. I said it then and I say it now: we are a lesser country to not have had him as our president.
Rest in peace, you wonderful, kind man. Deepest sympathies to Matilda, Andrew, Chris, Maria, Margaret, Madeline, and his grandchildren.
Take These Job Numbers and Shove It!
January 1, 2015
I am sick of the lying Dems insisting the job market and economy have gotten better under Obama. Truth is:
1. A ridiculous amount of Americans have stopped looking for jobs.
2. The jobs that are available pay NOTHING. You have people who used to make 60K a year now working for $12 an hour with no benefits.
3. A large number of the jobs out there are part-time.
4. Employers are taking advantage of the dire situation by paying unlivable wages.
Hope and change? You Obama supporters deserve a rash.
2014: Good-bye and Good Riddance!
December 31, 2014
This has been a lousy year in every way. Beheadings overseas. Race riots and violent protests. Plane crashes. The Cosby scandal. Ebola. Devastating celebrity deaths. 2014 is one of the worst years I can remember.
Every year has been horrible for me since my parents died in 2011, and each year seems to get even worse. But to lose dear Joan Rivers really was just too much.
When I would spend New Year's with my parents, we would get Chinese food but eat dinner later than usual. Very low-key. Now I have no one to spend the night with, which is fine. New Year's Eve is amateur hour. Being home is best. Just would be nice to be home with another warm body or two instead of just a bottle of vodka and the dog (who does have a very warm body, by the way). But so it is. I shudder to think what 2015 will bring.
The United States of North Korea
December 17, 2014
I have no love for Sony Pix or anyone who works for them, but I am really ashamed to live in a country where we let terrorist thugs win. They won. They are smarter than us. We are wimps. For two of the largest theater chains to not show The Interview sets a horrible precedent for artistic expression and free speech. This is a very sad day for the United States.
I Love Dick!
December 14, 2014
At 78, Dick Cavett has recently had a well-deserved career resurgence. Earlier this year he appeared in a wonderful off-Broadway play as himself called Hellman v. McCarthy (and he is bringing it to L.A. very soon). And now he has written another can't-put-down book of his writings for The New York Times online.
Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments and Assorted Highjinks (Henry Holt) contains so many engaging, thoughtful, and witty observances and memories of everything from sex, politics, aging, alcohol abuse, celebrities, and everything in between. Cavett has met everyone, and his stories about Groucho, Liz Taylor, Mel Brooks, Jonathan Winters, and so many others are just thrilling.
Cavett refers to our current climate in this country as post-literate (he's right) but praises those readers who thoughtfully reply to his columns. He is a stickler for spelling and grammar (as I am) and a self-admitted smartypants, but he also happens to remain down to earth and real (met him in April after the play and he could not have been nicer - can we say bromance?).
Dick Cavett is a national treasure. I am glad he is back in the spotlight. Now will someone please give him a new talk show?
Mike Nichols: 1931 - 2014
November 20, 2014
RIP Mike Nichols, one of the great American directors, who died suddenly last night of a heart attack at 83.
Now on to me: I met him around 20 years ago when he was directing Death and the Maiden on Broadway. I did not see the show but was passing by the theater as a weekend matinee had just ended, and lots of people were waiting at the stage door to hopefully see Glenn Close, Richard Dreyfuss or Gene Hackman. None of them came out but Nichols did and signed autographs.
As he signed my piece of paper, I told him, "I loved Gilda Live." No reaction. Then I said, "I loved Heartburn." He looked at me, totally amused, and said, "You like the obscure ones." "No," I said. "The Graduate was good."
I later dropped off a copy of my short film to his office but he never responded. Maybe he was too busy pasting his eyebrows on. Whatever. He was an exceptional director with a truly amazing filmography.
Coming to "Terms"
October 24, 2014
Was speaking to a friend the other night. Remembering my mother. For a bunch of nobodies, I made us so showbiz. Oscar night 1984. One of the only times me, my mother, and my father all went to the movies together was to see Terms of Endearment. We all loved it and rooted for it on Oscar night. But after Nicholson won, The Right Stuff seemed to dominate the night and we thought we were in trouble.
The show went on forever. I had to go to sleep. My father left for work very early in the morning, and, however it happened, I wound up in my parents' bed. My mother woke me the next morning with the news. "Shirley won," she said. "The movie won too."
You would think we lived in Beverly Hills and had a lifetime subscription to Variety. I was thrilled. We won! We beat those macho astronauts! Must be like what those nutty sports fans feel when their team wins.
I miss not having anyone to wake me up to tell me something like that. These were our "terms." Miss her so much.
Congrats: Pete Hamill and Gena Rowlands
October 19, 2014
I'm getting sick of writing all these obits lately. For a change, I would like to say something nice about two great artists who are still with us.
First is Pete Hamill, who is not only one of the great American writers, but also one helluva nice guy. Met him once at a book signing, but prior to that, he responded to a letter I wrote him when I was young. It was handwritten, sent from his apartment, and was very encouraging. I was sad to hear he has had a series of health problems lately: a perforated ulcer, then kidney problems, then he fell while in the hospital and broke both hips. He still cannot walk but says he is getting better thanks to his wife and physical therapy, and he will attend an event at the Manhattan Club tomorrow where he will be honored with the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award from the Irish American Writers & Artists. Congrats to a great New Yorker.
And kudos to the LA Film Critics Society for honoring the incandescent Gena Rowlands for lifetime achievement. For years I have said the Academy should give her an honorary Oscar (but no, they rather give it to that racist scum Harry Belafonte), so it's nice to see one of our greatest actresses receive the recognition she deserves. She was twice nominated for the Oscar (she should have won for A Woman Under the Influence), and has an impressive body of work that she did with her late husband, the great John Cassavetes (his last film, Love Streams, which stars Rowlands, was recently released on DVD - go see it). She has always been one of the most beautiful and underrated American actresses. A most deserved honor.
30 Years Ago Today...
September 18, 2014
...these wacky kids named Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner were married in the south of France.
Sadly, it was a short-lived union lasting only 4 1/2 years after Gilda's death from ovarian cancer at age 42 in 1989.
Buy your copy of Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad to read about their funny, loving but far from perfect marriage.
September 13, 2014
I had never watched the bonus features on Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work until last night. The scenes that did not make it to the finished film are amazing! In one, Joan eerily says she does not want to be revived if something were to happen to her. Pull the plug, she says. She said she did not want to be left a vegetable, and only would want to be revived if she could be 100% and be able to perform a solid hour of standup.
In another scene, she is rushing between gigs and stops at a hot dog stand. She orders two dogs - one with mustard, one with mustard and ketchup. I hope the latter was not for her. And she got a whole bunch of sodas and asked the whole camera crew if they wanted a Diet Coke. Total class.
In the limo, she is practically orgasmic as she enjoys the frankfurter, saying - as any real New Yorker knows - there is no better hot dog than the "dirty water dogs" you get in Manhattan. I was drooling and dying for a hot dog, so went to the store and that's what I shall have tonight - mustard, onions, and sauerkraut. Never ever ketchup!
And one more thing: in the supermarkets near me, almost all of the hot dogs are skinless. Why? I am all for circumcision, but not when it comes to franks. You want the natural casing for that crunchy first bite. My first choice is usually Nathan's brand but Boar's Head is excellent and has the skin on, so that is what I got. As for the buns, that's none of your business.
Dimwits See the Light
September 9, 2014
The Broadway League had refused to dim the lights in memory of Joan Rivers. They initially said she was not a Broadway star and had not appeared on Broadway in 20 years. Well, she did three Broadway shows and was nominated for a Tony for Sally Marr...and Her Escorts. There was such a public backlash that they gave in, and tonight at 6:45 p.m. the lights will dim for one minute in her honor.
Jordan Roth, who runs the Jujamcyn Theaters, was going to dim the lights at all of his theaters. Roth is a spoiled little twerp who defended the ridiculous prices of Broadway theater seats. We got into a heated exchange about this on Facebook, and either he unfriended me or I unfriended him. This guy never had to work for anything in his life, but, to his credit, he was going to do right by Joan until the Broadway League finally agreed to have all of the theaters dim their lights.
As Joan might say, they "grew up!"
September 8, 2014
Yesterday was Joan Rivers' funeral. Approximately 1,000 people gathered at Temple Emanu-El on the Upper East Side for the private, invitation only service. Joan was cremated the day before, and you can obviously see the pain on Melissa and Cooper's faces from the photo below.
The New York Gay Men's Chorus sang, as did Hugh Jackman and Audra McDonald. There were scores of famous faces, and a lot more laughs than at your typical funeral.
Thousands of fans lined Fifth Avenue just to get a glimpse of the event.
Joan is gone, and I suppose life must go on, but it won't be as funny.
My Memories of Joan
September 6, 2014
Where do I begin? When I was a kid, I had several heroes: Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Jerry Lewis, Liberace, Johnny Carson, and, yes, Joan Rivers. In fifth grade, I used to do an impression of her, complete with her jokes and her distinctive clapping. At a parent-teacher conference, my teacher grabbed my mother and said, "Mrs. Mednick, Brian is naturally funny! Just like Joan Rivers!"
I longed to see Joan perform live, but that did not happen until I was an adult. I saw her act numerous times, saw her brilliant turn on Broadway as Lenny Bruce's mother, went to a taping of her morning talk show, and wound up personally meeting her five times over the years. There was never a nicer, more down to earth person.
When I saw her perform at The Duplex - a tiny venue that seats only about 70 people - I was up front and she bantered with me (she even asked if I was circumcised). After the show, we all gave her a standing ovation, and she came over and kissed me. That still remains one of the great thrills of my life.
The loss of Joan Rivers is just inconceivable. Andy Cohen told Anderson Cooper on the eve of her death, "I don't want to live in a world without Joan Rivers." I could not agree more. As I previously said, I viewed her as a friend.
The woman was a dynamo, never stopping to take a break, constantly performing, flying cross-country twice a week, writing, hocking her jewelry, and cementing her legacy as the hardest working woman in show business. Her death was unnecessary. Like my mother, she was done in by the incompetence of so-called "medical professionals." I hope that endoscopy place gets closed down, and Melissa collects as much as she can from them.
As sad as I was when Gilda died, I had never met her, so it was not the same. I feel I knew Joan. Hell, I did know her! This might be a terrible thing to say, but I have been crying over her in a way I have not cried for anyone since my parents died.
The last time I met her was exactly two years ago today when my friend Scott and I saw her perform at The Venetian in Vegas. He had never seen her live before and fell in love with her. She was brilliant. Afterwards we had a meet and greet. I gave Joan my first two books, and she said she loved Gene Wilder and that he was a nice man (yeah, unless you're his biographer). I asked if they ever met since they both did the voiceovers for the Letterman cartoons on The Electric Company. The voiceovers were done separately so they did not meet, which she said she regretted. I also asked if I could interview her for The Jewish Voice, and she had me speak to her assistant, a very nice guy named Graham Reed. We exchanged contact info but after numerous e-mails with Joan's publicist, sadly the interview never happened.
Joan was a fighter. She overcame enough personal and professional obstacles for two lifetimes. She never got over the suicide of her husband or being shunned by Johnny Carson. When I saw her at The Duplex, she took questions from the audience. Carson was still alive then, and one guy shouted, "What do you think of Johnny Carson?" Without missing a beat, she said, "Fuck him!" The whole audience applauded and was hysterical. Carson was warm and loveable on-camera, but, unlike Joan, he was an unhappy, lonely person in real life. Showing how classy she was, Joan never stopped crediting Carson for making her a star.
In 1990, Joan won a well deserved Daytime Emmy Award for her morning talk show. Click here to watch. And notice two real mensches - Phil Donahue, who kissed her and was beaming with pride, and the late great Jeff Smith, who gave her a standing "O."
When you think of the great funny women of all time - Gilda, Lucy, Carol Burnett, Lily Tomlin, Madeline Kahn - you must remember - as brilliant as they are/were - they were comedic actresses. Joan was a true standup comic in a field that was dominated by men. And she was the best.
Joan loved dogs, she was a great friend to the gay community (she became an ordained minister and performed two gay weddings), she was a staunch supporter of Israel, and she always appreciated how lucky she was to be rich and famous. She said she thanked God every time she got into a limo. She also believed in giving back - every Thanksgiving she and her grandson volunteered at God's Love We Deliver, bringing fresh hot meals to homebound people who were ill.
For most people, living to 81 would be considered a pretty good run. But Joan was spry and healthy - she easily could have lived another dozen years, and I bet she would have never stopped performing.
My heart goes out to her daughter Melissa, who, like me, is an only child and was incredibly close with her mother. I also feel for Joan's handsome grandson Cooper, whom she doted on. There is a scene in the documentary about her where she and Cooper are riding in a limo, and she is holding his hand. You could just see how much she loved him.
Life stinks. As Woody Allen once said, "Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon." But people like Joan Rivers made life a little more bearable. In this age of political correctness, Joan said what she felt and did not care what anyone thought. The people who did not like her because they thought she was mean just did not get it. Joan's detractors were small-minded and humorless. As she would say, grow up! It's a joke!
We lost a true legend, an icon, a trailblazer - and I feel I lost a friend.
Good-bye, funny lady.
Flowers for Joan
September 5, 2014
Just got back from Joan's apartment building where I left flowers and a note to Melissa and Cooper. Was very moving to see so many flowers and notes. There were two cops and lots of camera crews.
One reporter said Melissa had pizzas and bottled water sent down to the fans and news people who had gathered outside yesterday because that's what Joan would have wanted. Melissa is carrying on Joan's spirit of appreciating her fans.
Temple Emanu-El, where the funeral will take place on Sunday, is a few blocks from Joan's building on Fifth Avenue. Already there are blockades up, for there will no doubt be thousands of fans who will want to have a small part in saying good-bye to her. I am guessing it will be a private funeral with a public memorial hopefully in the coming weeks.
Joan Rivers: 1933 - 2014
September 4, 2014
At 1:17 p.m. today, the world became a less funny place. I am too upset to write a proper tribute now but will soon.
Rest in peace, you dear, wonderful, kind, funny lady.
Cindy Adams on Joan Rivers
September 2, 2014
Still no update on Joan Rivers, but I just had to share with you this beautiful piece by her close friend Cindy Adams. One great lady writes about another. Click here to read.
September 1, 2014
I do not know what to say. I am just devastated. I have never shed tears for a celebrity the way I have the last few days for Joan Rivers. I met her so many times - she even kissed me once - that I feel like she is a friend.
I am too upset to say anything more than that I am hoping for a miracle. I cannot imagine a world without her in it.
My thoughts are with her daughter Melissa and grandson Cooper.
August 24, 2014
Today is the third anniversary of my dear mother's death. Words seem so futile when trying to describe the pain of losing her. She was my best confidante. As my alleged "friends" prove over and over, no one will ever care about me the way she did. And I will never love anyone as much as I loved her.
August 22, 2014
Today is three years since I lost my father at age 72. Sunday is three years since I lost my dear mother.
Not long before he died, my father - never a big in-touch-with-his-feelings kinda guy - said during one of his last hospital stays, "I'm sorry you have no life. I'm sorry you have to take care of us."
I wish I was still taking care of them. The last thing I cooked for him was an over easy egg - runny, of course - with cheese on an English muffin. He loved it.
We did not get along. I did not think he loved me or my mother. But it was too late when I realized he did, and I loved him too. And I miss him.
Nanu No No
August 16, 2014
When I was little, I had Robin Williams' rainbow Mork suspenders. Now I wish I had his belt. Yeah, this bar mitzvah thing really helped.
A Haircut and a Bar Mitzvah
August 15, 2014
Okay, you are not going to believe what just happened. Please take a few minutes to read.
So I go to get a haircut at this place around the corner from me that I always go to. They are all Russian Jews and are all cousins. This 22-year-old named Avi cut my hair. Do not recall seeing him there before.
Anyway, we had a very nice conversation. He is Orthodox, I told him I am an atheist and was never bar mitzvahed. He was totally cool. You never would have thought he was Orthodox - he was a handsome, regular kid. He said is dating for marriage. 22 is considered late not to be married in his community, although he did admit he "fools around."
So when he is done with my haircut, he makes me an offer I could not refuse. He said, "This haircut is on me if you put on the Tefillin," which are a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah, which are worn by observant Jews during weekday morning prayers.
I said sure. I may be an atheist but I'm also cheap. So he takes me into a back room, puts a yarmulke on me, and ties this box on my arm, and has me recite some prayers. Then he puts a box on my head, more prayers, then has me cover my eyes and say a final prayer. He then says, "Congratulations! You've just been bar mitzvahed."
I was taken back, to say the least. We hugged. I thanked him. I tipped him $5.00 (no idea what you are supposed to tip for a bar mitzvah). He then handed me a dollar bill, made me say another prayer, and put it in a can for charity.
I said, "Usually you go into a barber shop for a haircut and shave. I went in for a haircut and a bar mitzvah." We hugged again (that was my favorite part - I am so lonely!).
Now let me make this clear: I do not know if this really counts as being bar mitzvahed, but if you want to send gifts, e-mail me for a list of some things I want from Amazon.com. (Actually, as a Jewish Facebook friend of mine pointed out, it's not a real bar mitzvah, just a figure of speech. She said he may be a Lubavitcher, and that they do this kind of outreach and tend to be sweet.)
Also, I am not suddenly going to be a "believer" or give up ham and shrimp and lobster. But this Avi was the kindest person I have encountered in a long time. I told him about Unnecessary Headaches, and said I would drop him off a signed copy.
So that's the story. Click here to see me and Avi after he made me a man. I only wish my parents were still here so I can share this with them.
Robin Williams and the Demons of Depression
August 12, 2014
I was in complete shock when, while watching Jeopardy! last night, I see the show interrupted for a special report. I thought it would be something about the turmoil in the Middle East. I could not believe Robin Williams had died. My initial thought was it was a heart attack or drug overdose. But suicide?
Williams, 63, was a brilliant talent, of course. The tributes have been overwhelming, and they will continue. But I want to talk about depression and Robin Williams. I know all too well about severe depression. I have been to dozens of shrinks and on virtually every antidepressant since I was 18. I have no faith in these drugs or in psychotherapy. For those who find it works for them, great. I think it is all a crock.
Williams had the best rehab and doctors money could buy, and look where he ended up. Here is what I do not understand: what was he depressed about? He was a multimillionaire, an Oscar-winner, beloved by millions. He had everything to live for. Me, on the other hand, can easily list why I am depressed and hopeless: my parents died two days apart and I think of them every second of every day; my savings is almost gone; if I do not get a job very soon, I will lose my apartment and have nowhere to live; and I cannot get a woman to have sex with me. I think that merits being depressed, and yes, alcohol is my only escape (I do not do drugs).
At the urging of some friends, I finally gave in and saw a psychiatrist two weeks ago. She was perfectly nice. She gave me something to help with sleep, and thankfully it works for the most part. She also dramatically upped the dose of my regular antidepressant. Well, we all know the main side effect for men. Yep. I totally stopped taking it. Sex is more important to me than being medicated.
I have one friend who is so doped up on antidepressants, he talks like a zombie - and do not ask what he is like after a few drinks. He is also a paranoid schizophrenic who has been hospitalized several times in the cuckoo's nest.
You see, these drugs can make you calmer and sedate, but they cannot get me a job, get me laid, or bring my parents back. And as long as that is the case, I will never be happy. One friend said I will never find peace until I die. And I totally agree with him. I think - no, I know - depression will be the death of me. I am just too wimpy to kill myself, mainly because I do not know who would care for my dog.
Robin Williams was a troubled soul. Like most funny people - myself included - he was unhappy and haunted by demons. And if someone with his money, fame, and stature could not be helped, how can I? People who know me well - and there are very few - do not believe it when I say I am shy. They don't realize I cry like a little girl every night. Being funny is a mask for misery.
I feel for Williams and more so for his family. By all accounts, he was a kind, generous man, but he was also a very sick man. I hope the nothingness and blackness of death is his peace at last as my friend predicts it will be for me.
Charles Keating: 1941 - 2014
August 9, 2014
Charles Keating, a distinguished English actor best known for his role as the villainous Carl Hutchins on the soap opera Another World, died today. He was 72 and had been fighting lung cancer.
I had the privilege of meeting Keating a number of times when I was producing the syndicated radio show Soap Opera Radio. I also saw him in a very funny regional play. Afterwards, we hung out backstage.
In addition to Another World, he also appeared on other soaps such as All My Children and As the World Turns. He guest starred on Miami Vice and Sex and the City, and also had roles in the feature films Awakenings opposite Robin Williams, The Bodyguard, and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.
He was nominated for a Tony Award for the 1986 revival of Joe Orton's Loot, and he won a Daytime Emmy Award for leading actor in a daytime drama for Another World in 1995. Click here to watch his ebullient acceptance speech (notice how happy his co-star and good friend Linda Dano and her husband Frank were watching him from the audience).
He is survived by his wife Mary and two sons.
August 7, 2014
My mother was the best cook I have ever known. I try to make some of her best dishes, and thankfully they come out just like she made them. It's always very comforting. I miss her so much.
I bought frozen calamari (frozen is actually better than fresh) a few months ago with the intent of making her delicious calamari salad. Finally did it today, and it looks just like hers. Letting it chill in the fridge for a few hours before having it for dinner.
Click here for the recipe (I decided to add a little bit of diced red onion, which my mother did not, but I think it will be nice).
Israel Must Defend Herself
July 22, 2014
In France and Germany, pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protestors rioted, looted, attacked two synagogues, and called for Jews to be gassed. For all of you anti-Semites - and don't say you are not, if you are pro-Palestinian you are an anti-Semite - do you ever see Jews act like this?
The Palestinians are savages, barbarians, the scum of the earth. I have no sympathy for the Palestinian children being killed - they are brainwashed to hate Jews and are future terrorists.
There will be no peace in the Middle East until every Palestinian is destroyed, just like they want to see happen to Israel. The difference is Israel is an advanced nation with a tough leader and will always pummel them.
July 21, 2014
Greg Gutfeld's mother died in May. This is a beautiful tribute he wrote. So much here I could say about my own dear mother. The most touching line, which I very well could have written, is: "I am a Mama’s Boy, a description often viewed as disparaging, but it is not. It is a compliment—any boy who is not a mama’s boy is either an evil space alien, or Lizzie Borden. A mama’s boy is a manifestation and consequence of something great: a great mother."
He also dedicated his first book to his mother, as I also did. And Gutfeld is a cynic like me - he almost sees no point in doing his TV work without his mother around to watch him. I feel the same way about writing any more books.
Like my mother was to me, Gutfeld's mother was his best friend.
James Garner: 1928 - 2014
July 20, 2014
We are losing so many greats, James Garner being the latest. The dashing actor died yesterday at 86. Garner was a master at playing salt of the earth characters, from his iconic role on The Rockford Files to his brilliant performance in Murphy's Romance, which earned him his only Oscar nomination. He deserved the award, but William Hurt won instead for that dreadful film Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Garner is best known for his TV work, but he made a lot of movies, including The Wheeler Dealers, The Americanization of Emily, Support Your Local Sheriff!, Victor/Victoria, Space Cowboys, and The Notebook.
He penned his autobiography a few years back, and I read some excerpts that made my blood boil. Garner was a big leftie, and he wrote very disparagingly about Ronald Reagan. He hated Reagan.
Politics aside (after all, most in Hollywood share his views), he was a great actor, and will definitely be missed.
Elaine Stritch: 1925 - 2014
July 17, 2014
“I drink and I love to drink, and it’s part of my life.” No, this is not my quote (although it could be), but that of the great Elaine Stritch, who died today at 89. She was feisty, crotchety, funny, and an amazing singer, dancer, and actress. If you never saw her brilliant turn as an aging movie star based on Lana Turner in Woody Allen's September, go see it! One of the last of the greats. RIP.
It Was So Hot...
July 2, 2014
It was so hot in New York today that Bill Clinton had sex with Hillary just for the chill!
25 Years Later, It's Still Always Something
May 20, 2014
Hard to believe that today is twenty-five years since wonderful, beautiful, funny Gilda Radner left us. She was just six weeks shy of her 43rd birthday when she succumbed to ovarian cancer, a disease she bravely fought for two-and-a-half years.
I remember the day she died vividly. I was sixteen. It was a Saturday. I was eating Corn Flakes for breakfast when I asked my mother to turn on the radio so we could hear what the weather would be. Then the words: "The comedy world has lost one of its greats today..." I was expecting to hear someone old like Milton Berle had died. When the announcer said, "Gilda Radner died today..." I bolted up out of my chair and went over to the radio. I was shocked. I felt like I lost a friend.
Gilda did such amazing work on Saturday Night Live, and despite never having the movie career she deserved, she also did some fine work in the three movies she made with Gene Wilder. There was so much more she could have accomplished had she lived. She was a great lady and a truly inspiring human being.
Gordon Willis: 1931 - 2014
May 19, 2014
Gordon Willis, one of Hollywood's greatest cinematographers, has died at age 82.
In the 1970s - considered by many, myself included, to be the true golden age of cinema - Willis brought to life iconic, often brooding images in such classics as The Godfather I and II, All the President's Men, Annie Hall, and perhaps his best work, Woody Allen's Manhattan, which featured some of the most beautiful shots of New York City ever captured on film, made all the more glorious in black and white.
Willis would continue his amazing track record in the 1980s with Stardust Memories, Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and Bright Lights, Big City, another stunningly photographed film set in Manhattan.
Once again showing the ignorance of the Motion Picture Academy, Willis only received two Oscar nominations, for Zelig and The Godfather Part III. He never won a competitive Oscar, and it is almost mindboggling to think he wasn't nominated for any of the above mentioned 1970s films. One theory is that the Academy is a clique, and Willis separated himself from the Hollywood elite - he was a New York native and a loyal one at that. Hollywood has been known to snub certain technicians who do not make the effort to be part of their club. So much for art, although the Academy did give Willis an honorary Oscar in 2009.
I remember being in a very nice, dimly lit Italian restaurant a number of years ago with my late friend, the scenic artist Billy Puzo, who had worked on Stardust Memories. He commented, "It looks like Gordon Willis did the lighting here."
When Bad Things Happen to Good People
May 15, 2014
I found out today that this very nice woman I worked with five years ago has a rare form of head and neck cancer. She is only a few years older than me and has two little girls. She is a tough cookie, and I wish her the best.
One of my best friends was just diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, and my dear cousin Linda just underwent major surgery and is in a lot of pain. Life is not fair. I do not believe in God, therefore I cannot pray for these people, only keep them in my thoughts.
Happy Birthday, Mom
May 5, 2014
My dear mother would have turned 78 today. I miss her so much.
Bob Hoskins: 1942 - 2014
May 3, 2014
Bob Hoskins, who announced two years ago he was retiring from acting following a diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease, died on April 29th at 71.
A gifted master of his craft, Hoskins is best known for his lead role in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but it's his Oscar-nominated turn as a small-time hood in Neil Jordan's 1986 Mona Lisa that is his crowning achievement. Rough, gruff, and lacking any social grace, he gave the very definition of the clichéd tour de force performance as, as Rex Reed called him, this "ugly toad of a man" who softens up when he gains feelings for the call girl (Cathy Tyson) he's been assigned to chauffeur.
He also appeared in a criminally underrated Alan Alda film called Sweet Liberty (1986), as well as opposite Judi Dench in Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005), and a number of key films I am remiss to say I have never seen, mainly the British series Pennies from Heaven and the 1980 gangster film The Long Good Friday.
I had never heard a bad word about this guy. He was a consummate professional and one of our great British actors. May he rest in peace.
That's My Dick!
April 8, 2014
Had a wonderful time on Sunday seeing the off-Broadway play Hellman v. McCarthy starring one of my heroes, Dick Cavett as himself. Afterwards, I had him sign his book to me and got a photo with him.
I asked him if he remembered me sending him Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad, and he said he loved it. "I ate it up," he said. "I wanted more!" We then talked for a bit about Gene Wilder.
I have been a huge Dick Cavett fan since I was very young, and it's thrilling to meet someone you admire and have them be so nice. The one thing I should have told him was that he should replace David Letterman. I think he would have liked that.
Hellman v. McCarthy closes on Sunday, April 13th and tickets are only $40.00. If you are in NYC, I highly recommend catching it before it ends.
David Brenner: 1936 - 2014
March 20, 2014
Okay, this is getting ridiculous. David Brenner??? All the great funny Jews are dying.
Brenner, who died on March 15th from cancer, was 78 years old, though for most of his career he professed to being nine years younger.
He was a masterful stand-up comic, becoming a huge star in the 1970s after making a killer appearance on The Tonight Show and impressing Johnny Carson. He was one of the most frequent Tonight Show guests and guest hosted the show numerous times. In 1987, he had his own short-lived late night talk show on ABC called Nightlife.
He also authored several books, my favorite being Nobody Ever Sees You Eat Tuna Fish, in which he writes about growing up in Philadelphia. The title refers to his belief that canned tuna was a pedestrian food, but the way he describes how every member of his family preferred theirs will make you run to your kitchen cupboard for a can of Bumble Bee.
He is survived by his wife, three children, and a grandson.
Harold Ramis: 1944 - 2014
March 13, 2014
I am starting to feel like this Web site is turning into obituary central, but sadly, so many great people have been dying recently.
The passing of Harold Ramis, who died February 24th at 69, is an enormous loss. He was a comedy giant who did it all, writing, directing, and acting in some of the most influential film comedies of the last 35 years.
Among his credits: Animal House, Caddyshack, National Lampoon's Vacation, Ghostbusters, Analyze This, and the all-time classic Groundhog Day.
In addition to being a great talent, he was one helluva nice guy. When I was 14, I wrote him a fan letter and asked him a number of questions. He responded with the nicest letter in which he answered every question, along with a personally autographed photo.
He had been ill for the past several years with an autoimmune disease that he ultimately succumbed to. Harold Ramis was one of the good guys in showbiz. He will be missed.
Sid Caesar: 1922 - 2014
February 13, 2014
Sid Caesar was a true pioneer of American comedy. Caesar, who died yesterday at 91, paved the way for most of the great film and TV comedy of our time. His Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour were landmark programs where such greats as Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, and Neil Simon started their careers as part of Caesar's writing team.
Caesar appeared in many films, including It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Grease, and two films by his protege Brooks - Silent Movie and History of the World Part I.
Sadly, many young people today have no idea who Sid Caesar was. But for those of us who appreciated his importance, this marks the passing of a true legend.
His wife of 67 years died in 2010. He is survived by three children.
Philip Seymour Hoffman: 1967 - 2014
February 6, 2014
What shocking news to hear about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. I met him years ago in a coffee place in the West Village and he could not have been nicer. He was a great actor, a character actor at heart whose huge talent helped him land leading roles, not to mention a Best Actor Academy Award. I was surprised how many of his films I have on DVD - Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Happiness, 25th Hour.
Talent aside, this guy was a schmuck. He threw a brilliant life and career away. He was a junkie who could not conquer his addiction. I have a certain amount of sympathy for him - and yes, it is a great loss - but his death is not a tragedy. Gilda Radner dying of cancer at 42 was a tragedy. Princess Diana's death was a tragedy. 9/11 was a tragedy. Dying with a needle in your arm and leaving three young children without a father is a pathetic waste of life.
Blog Talk Radio
February 5, 2014
Click here to listen to me being interviewed about my books by Marsha Casper Cook and Virginia S. Grenier on Blog Talk Radio.
January 9, 2014
Thanks to my buddy Travis Cassity for having me on his podcast to discuss my new novel, Unnecessary Headaches. Click here to listen.
December 17, 2013
Had a wonderful lunch today at RM Seafood, celebrity chef Rick Moonen's superb restaurant at the Mandalay Bay in Vegas. Delicious oysters, clams, and - seriously - the best sushi I have ever had. And he knew I was coming and personally greeted me. I gave him Unnecessary Headaches, and he was so grateful. He also autographed a menu to me ("best fishes," he wrote).
Very nice, down to earth guy - definitely stop in here if you are in Vegas and love seafood.
Peter O'Toole: 1932 - 2013
December 15, 2013
Peter O'Toole had always been one of my favorite actors. Few have commanded the screen with as much charisma, charm, and intensity as he did. O'Toole, who died yesterday in London at 81 following a long illness, was the last of his era. The only actor I can think of who is a peer that we still have is Michael Caine, who himself will turn 81 next year.
O'Toole shot to fame with Lawrence of Arabia, and while I did not care for the film (I tend not to like movies with a lot of sand), he was magnificent. He would go on to receive eight Best Actor Academy Award nominations but never won, besting a record previously set by seven-time nominee Richard Burton. For years I was hoping the Academy would at least give him an honorary Oscar, and they finally did in 2003. Click here to watch how you accept an award with total class and wit.
One of the all-time great drinkers, O'Toole's love of a good time was legendary, as were the hijinks he and good friend Richard Harris used to get up to. The fact that despite decades of hard living he survived to 81 is impressive indeed.
O'Toole was marvelous in the underrated 1985 film Creator, and he was the best thing about the otherwise overrated The Last Emperor. But my favorite O'Toole performance was in My Favorite Year in which he played a boozy actor who mutters the classic line, "I'm not an actor, I'm a movie star!" Of course, Peter O'Toole was most definitely both.
Adam Levine: Sexiest Man Alive
November 20, 2013
Why are people hating on Adam Levine being named sexiest man alive? I don't care for all the tattoos but he is definitely a handsome dude. We finally get a Jewish sexiest man alive and everyone complains. Anti-Semites!
November 5, 2013
It's back to the Dinkins days. New Yorkers are among the dumbest voters in the country.
Unnecessary Headaches Now Available
September 3, 2013
Unnecessary Headaches is now available for purchase from Amazon.com and CreateSpace. It is also available on Kindle for those of you afraid of paper cuts.
Two Years Later
August 23, 2013
It's been two years since I lost my dear parents. My father died two years ago yesterday, my mother two years ago tomorrow. The pain never goes away. They are in my dreams every night. Life without them is just...well, it's not life. It's just drudging on.
My father and I fought a lot, but I miss him. My mother was my best friend. I was a mama's boy and am proud to say that. I was very sick recently and it is very sad when you are alone and you do not have anyone to bring you soup. My mother was an extraordinary woman who overcame many obstacles. She had a hard life yet remained a strong, generous, funny, and loving person who never put herself first.
I wish I had faith and could believe that we will all be together again. All I wish is that we were sitting around the kitchen table eating Chinese food and talking about showbiz and politics. Love and miss you, mom and dad.
Happy 80th Birthday to Gene Wilder!
June 11, 2013
Wishing health and good wishes to Gene Wilder on his 80th birthday today!
Joe Franklin Praises Unnecessary Headaches
May 23, 2013
The legendary Joe Franklin has given my new novel Unnecessary Headaches a great quote for the back of the book: "A moving, memorable, and deeply human story of a family dealing with life's heartaches. I couldn't put it down. A very impressive first novel." The book comes out September 3rd. Thanks Joe!
New World War II Novel Is "Something" Wilder
May 10, 2013
It's something of a crime that Gene Wilder has retired from acting. The legendary funnyman, known for some of the funniest films ever made, in recent years has become an author, turning out one book every two years or so.
His latest, Something to Remember You By (St. Martin’s Press), is his fourth work of fiction following the novels My French Whore and The Woman Who Wouldn't, and the short story collection What Is This Thing Called Love? Like his previous books, it's a charming, low-key romantic tale that is both funny and sad.
Set during World War II, the story concerns Tom Cole, a Jewish corporal injured during the Siege of Bastogne, Belgium on Christmas Day 1944. He recuperates in a hospital in London, and following his release, falls in love for the first time with an enigmatic Danish girl named Anna. Wilder is a hopeless romantic at heart, and the early scenes of Tom and Anna having beautiful dinners at a small café and then making love are thoughtfully and poignantly written.
As it becomes clear that Anna is not the girl Tom thought, the story unfortunately wanes a bit as Tom becomes part of an elaborate plot to rescue several women from a concentration camp. The ending is also rather flat. Of Wilder's three novels, this is probably the least successful, but it is a fine work nonetheless, with enough clever dialogue, quirky characters, and genuine romance to make it worth reading.
Wilder, who turns 80 this summer, has not appeared in a feature film in more than 20 years. I guess we should be glad that at least he is entertaining us with the written word, although it would be so nice to see him back on the big screen again.
Roger Ebert: 1942 - 2013
April 5, 2013
Such sad news about the death of the great Roger Ebert yesterday. I remember vividly back in 1999 when Gene Siskel died. I was a huge Siskel & Ebert fan, and Siskel's death really hit me hard. I was at a bar, it was after hours, and someone told me Siskel had passed. I called my mother, who knew how upset I was, and she comforted me, even though I had awakened her.
Siskel & Ebert were the most influential film critics in the country. I truly believe their infectious love of film influenced my decision to go to film school. When I was 14, I wrote Ebert a letter and he responded with a very nice letter back.
Ebert loved film with all his heart. And late in life, he met his true love, his wife Chaz, an amazing woman who helped care for him in his final years, which were marked by the kind of cruel physical ailments none of us should ever know from.
Ebert was among the best writers of his generation. Even when you did not agree with him, you could not help but admire how gracefully he got his point across. It's hard to imagine no more great Ebert reviews.
I only wish my dear mother was still alive so I could have called her yesterday and said, "Ma, did ya hear? Roger Ebert died."
Thumbs up to a life well-lived.
New Book Coming This Summer
March 25, 2013
I will be releasing my third book this summer. Unnecessary Headaches is my first novel. It's the story of Harvey and Betty Sugarman, a well-to-do Manhattan couple with a son in college named Daniel. Just as some underlying secrets are about to be revealed, their world changes when Betty is diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
The Sugarman men try their best to be strong as Daniel struggles to hide his homosexuality from his parents and Harvey tries to put on hold his dream of a second career as a writer of Broadway musicals.
Set against the backdrop of modern day New York City, Unnecessary Headaches is a poignant story of a family trying to live their lives despite the brutal realities that stand in their way.
The book will be available for purchase on Amazon.com. I will let you know when I have the exact publication date.
Talking with Mayoral Hopeful John Catsimatidis
March 13, 2013
The office is humble, to say the least. It's not on Madison Avenue, but rather way out west on Eleventh Avenue among mostly automobile dealerships. Despite being a billionaire, the man himself is humble as well. The man is John Catsimatidis, 64, the owner of Gristedes, one of the largest supermarket chains in New York City.
In 2009, Catsimatidis explored running for mayor, but after Michael Bloomberg overturned term limits allowing him to run for a third term, Catsimatidis abandoned the idea. Four years later, with Bloomberg out of the picture, Catsimatidis has officially thrown his hat into the ring, running for the Republican nomination for mayor in a field that includes former MTA chairman Joe Lhota, former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr., Doe Fund founder George McDonald, and Manhattan Media publisher Tom Allon.
Catsimatidis was born on the Greek isle of Nysiros. He came to the United States with his parents in February 1949. "I came to America looking for the streets paved with gold [at] six months old," he says. His father worked as a busboy at Jan Mitchell's famed German restaurant Luchow's. It is with great pride that he says, "I ended up buying my father's boss' apartment on Fifth Avenue."
He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1966 and went on to pursue a BS in electrical engineering at New York University. While at NYU, he worked for an uncle in a small supermarket on 137th Street. Catsimatidis ultimately dropped out of college, and in 1971, convinced he could make money in the grocery business, opened his first store on the Upper West Side at 99th Street and Broadway under the name "Seven Eleven" (which was not part of the similarly named franchise). Soon afterwards he opened a Red Apple supermarket on 87th Street just west of Broadway. In 1986 the Red Apple Group acquired the Gristedes supermarket chain.
After twelve years of Bloomberg, whose critics consider him an out of touch billionaire, I asked Catsimatidis if New Yorkers would embrace another billionaire in City Hall. "I'm different," he says. "I grew up in the streets. I grew up on the poor side of town – 135th Street. I was an altar boy [at] the church on 91st Street... I grew up being a merchant, a store owner... The people that grew up like that never forget where they came from... Mike Bloomberg came with a silver spoon, went to Harvard, went to Yale, and then went straight to Solomon Brothers. I love people, I respect people. I got my training – even though I’m running as a Republican – I got my training from Bill Clinton. I was a Clinton Democrat."
The walls of Catsimatidis' office are lined with photos of him with virtually every modern political player, including several with Clinton, most notably one taken in August of 2000 when Catsimatidis threw him a surprise birthday party in his apartment. Photos of Catsimatidis with Chuck Schumer, George Pataki, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and even Fidel Castro also adorn his walls.
Catsimatidis said he plans to spend a million dollars a month on his campaign, which seems like very little considering how much Bloomberg spent on his first campaign. "My only criticism of Mayor Bloomberg is I think he wasted a lot of money," Catsimatidis says. "But he also created walls between himself and people. There are no walls between me and other people. I think Mayor Bloomberg by and large has done a very, very decent job. He’s kept the city safe. He’s kept it economically stable along with Commissioner Kelly, and that’s what we need. We need stability because nobody wants to live in fear."
Catsimatidis says his top priority were he to be elected is safety. "I want to beef up [the police force]," he says. His other concern is jobs. "We have to create new jobs," he says. "One of our biggest businesses in New York is tourism. [We need to] create inducement to have additional tourism so we could build more hotels and our restaurants should be full and our taxi cabs should be full."
When it comes to education, Catsimatidis says, "I think our kids are being shortchanged. I plan to fix the education system."
As for past mayors that Catsimatidis might model himself after, he picks Fiorello LaGuardia. After seeing a play about LaGuardia several years ago, Catsimatidis said, "I was inspired... Wow, what a great job he did. That inspired me to want to run for mayor." A new production of the one-man show, simply called LaGuardia, is returning to New York for 10 performances starring Tony LoBianco. Catsimatidis is so enthusiastic about the play that he bought an entire block of tickets that he freely gives out to anyone who wants them, including schools, the Police Athletic League, and the Boy Scouts. "I want to inspire these kids to want more," he says. "What other good can you do [than doing it] for kids?"
Catsimatidis donates to many philanthropic causes. In addition to the Police Athletic League and the Boy Scouts, he is also involved in the fight against Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson’s disease, and juvenile diabetes. "God has been good to us," he said. "New York City has been good to us. That's why I want to give back. I think every successful citizen should give back. Remember what John Kennedy said – 'Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.' People don’t believe that anymore. I want to give back [because] in the end I don’t need any money, I don’t need anything. Bloomberg works for a dollar – I’m going to work for 99 cents."
A poll released last week showed City Council Speaker Christine Quinn with a substantial lead over her Democratic opponents, as well as trouncing potential GOP nominee Joe Lhota. "I like Speaker Quinn," Catsimatidis says. "I like her as a person. But I think I can do a better job." As for Lhota, generally viewed as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, Catsimatidis says, "Joe Lhota can't win, in my opinion, because he's a pure Republican. Me, I just got started a few weeks ago. We're going to go out and get name recognition out there... But I'm a combination pro-business Republican but I am also a Clinton Democrat. And a fusion ticket could win in this election."
Despite the Bloomberg administration's touting that the murder rate is down in the city, other crimes such as rape and violent assaults are up. How would a Catsimatidis administration handle crime? "One of the things I would do [is] take all of the police out of the police stations [and] put them on the streets," he says. "I want the police on the streets... There are 335 public housing buildings in the city that account for 20 percent of the crimes in the city. I'd make sure in those 335 buildings that I had a cop there all the time. And if we can get rid of 20 percent of the crime, God bless us... We have to protect the poor neighborhoods and the poor people in those neighborhoods."
Catsimatidis has enormous respect for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and said he would not run for mayor if Kelly had. Were he to be elected, Catsimatidis made it clear he would try to keep Kelly on. "I'd love for him to stay as police commissioner," he said. "I'd love for him to come in as first deputy mayor."
Many New Yorkers feel Mayor Bloomberg has warped priorities, seeming to care more about banning large sodas, salt, and fatty foods instead of focusing on crime, jobs, and the homeless situation. "I think Mayor Bloomberg is getting overzealous," Catsimatidis says. "I hate those bicycle lanes... But overall Mayor Bloomberg has done a great job. What I would do [through] the education process [is] teach the kids about nutrition while they're in school. I went to the movies a few weeks ago and I looked up at the board and it said a big Coca-Cola was 1,100 calories. Telling kids what they should eat and shouldn’t eat I think is a better way."
With New York's large gay population, a substantial voting block, any candidate for mayor needs to articulate their stance on gay rights and same-sex marriage. Catsimatidis is not passionate one way or the other, but takes a live and let live approach to the matter. "That's the reason the pilgrims came to America," he said. "So they could do whatever they want to do. As long as they're not bothering anybody, this is America. Let them do whatever they want to do. [I was asked], as mayor, would I perform a gay marriage? I said I'm not volunteering to do it, but if it's a gay couple that's friends of mine, I may do it."
As for his own marriage, Catsimatidis has been wed for 24 years to the former Margo Vondersaar. He has a 23-year-old daughter, Andrea, and 20-year-old son, John Jr. "They're both good kids," he says. Andrea graduated from the Stern School at New York University and is married to Christopher Cox, grandson of Richard Nixon. John Jr. is a sophomore at NYU. “I wanted my kids home versus going out of state,” he says. "You know why? I wanted to be able to hug them every day. I believe family is very important. I'm a family man."
Catsimatidis has long been a friend of the Jewish community. "Every year I light the menorah on Fifth Avenue for the last twenty years," he says. He has formed close friendships with many prominent New York rabbis, and takes pride in a dinner he threw at the '21' Club where he brought together Jews and Palestinians at a particularly sensitive time. "At the end of the night, we all laughed," he says. "I was proud that I was able to put together a meeting like that to avoid problems that don’t need to happen. I was the head of the Greek Orthodox church at the time. Now I serve as the chairman of the World Congress for Religious Freedom."
Any mayor is the most important booster for their city. Catsimatidis doesn't hesitate to say New York is"the greatest city in the world. If you have a choice of working in Kansas or working in New York – some towns where they have one movie theater, one diner – versus New York where you have thousands of movie theaters, thousands of restaurants, you have Lincoln Center, Broadway, Carnegie Hall. Best city in the world."
Ed Koch: 1924 - 2013
February 6, 2013
What can I say? A city weeps. New York is a less vibrant place without Ed Koch, our beloved former mayor who died February 1st at age 88. I was fortunate to meet Koch three times and interview him twice, the last time just five months ago. I feel honored to have done one of the last interviews he ever gave.
He was a great man, a dedicated public servant, and a loving brother and uncle. When I heard of his death, I felt like I lost a friend. This is truly a huge loss.
Click here to read my obit in The Jewish Voice.
Talking with Martin Landau
January 30, 2013
I recently interviewed the great Martin Landau about his impressive life and career. Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors is one of my favorite movies, largely because of Landau's brilliantly devilish turn as the scheming, adulterous ophthalmologist Judah Rosenthal. In addition to being a wonderful actor, Landau is also one of the nicest people I have interviewed.
Click here to read.
Still Wilder After All These Years
November 21, 2012
Click here to read an article I wrote about what Gene Wilder is up to that appears in this week's Jewish Voice. Also, click here to see this wonderful clip that was recently put on YouTube of Gene being interviewed by Merv Griffin in 1979.
RIP Daddy Bear
October 13, 2012
I lost one of my dearest friends last night. Denis O'Shea was 71 and one of the funniest, largest personalities I have ever known. He was an amazing raconteur, a great cook, and a lover of all things decadent and enjoyable. We had some great vacations in Orlando, Philly, and the Jersey Shore, wonderful lunches in his Murray Hill neighborhood, and more than a few times were both overserved at the bar.
I sadly saw him declining in the last few years and was no longer that close with him. He had dementia and was living in a nursing home near his brother in New Jersey for the past 10 months or so. He went fast, which I am grateful for, but it is so hard when such a larger than life personality goes.
His nickname was Daddy Bear. He called me Baby Bear. Baby Bear will be toasting to Daddy Bear tonight.
September 18, 2012
Will this pain ever end? I think of them constantly, dream about them. What used to be the simplest things I now long for. Just to be sitting at the kitchen table and eating Chinese food with them. The conversations about politics I used to have with my mother. Coffee. Blueberry pie. Phone calls. It's like losing limbs, losing your heart, your everything. The pain will never go away - and it shouldn't.
Can We Talk?
September 8, 2012
I got back last night from Las Vegas where I saw the one and only Joan Rivers give a typically amazing show at the Venetian. Afterwards my friend Scott and I had a meet and greet. I gave Joan both of my books and she said she loves Gene Wilder. I asked if they ever met since they both did the voiceovers for the Letterman cartoons on The Electric Company. The voiceovers were done separately so they did not meet, which she said she regrets. I also asked if I could interview her for The Jewish Voice and she had me speak to her assistant. We exchanged contact info and February is when it will probably happen.
I have met Joan Rivers many times over the years and she remains one of the funniest, classiest, and nicest people in show business. And she looks beautiful in person. If you don't like her, as Joan would say, grow up!
One Year Later
August 22, 2012
This week is one year since I lost my parents. My father died a year ago today, my mother a year ago on Friday. I still think of them constantly, from the moment I wake up until the moment the gin knocks me out.
Dick Cavett, an only child like me, once said he was amazed at people who, when they hear you have no siblings, then go, "Ah ha! I knew it." I guess only children have a certain je ne sais quoi about them. In my case, I was a spoiled kid and in turn became a spoiled adult. My mother always wanted me to have whatever I wanted, whether it was a trip to Vegas or a new DVD or even a woman.
I always used to think I would be unable to live without my mother. I thought I would kill myself. Of course, I have not. I have "moved on" in the sense that I sold the house, moved back to Manhattan, got a job, etc. I take care of the dog, who I love, even though she drives me crazy. I had a great realtor who got me a beautiful apartment in a great part of town for fairly decent rent - and it's huge by Manhattan standards. I have a wonderful boss who took a chance on me, despite knowing I was overqualified. I actually like my job and the people there, and I think I would have snapped if I did not have the regular daily routine of going to work.
I've been trying to write but it's hard. A novel I was hoping to have completed by the end of the year is just not coming along. But I actually have a new regular freelance gig with The Jewish Voice, a great paper that I am contributing two or three articles to a week, as well as some upcoming interviews with Jewish celebrities.
Without my mother, though, none of it has any significance. I cannot pick up the phone and say, "Ma, can you believe Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate?" (My mother hated Ryan, as do I, but I digress.) My mother was my best friend, my closest confidante, and the best conversationalist I have ever known. We loved talking about politics, celebrities, gossip, food, you name it. She was my biggest cheerleader and supported me in anything I wanted to do.
I never was close with my father the way I was with my mother. He was not an emotional person, nor was he savvy like my mother. We had some fights, some real doozies, many which I regret now that it is too late. I never thought I would miss him so much as well. We take for granted the simplest things in life. What I would not give for just one more evening sitting at the kitchen table eating Chinese food. We would start off with a quart of wonton soup, and since there were ten wontons for three of us, it was always, "No, you take the fourth wonton," "No, I only want three, you have it." My father would leave the table first to nap while my mother and I would just sit and chat before I helped her clean up. And I will never forgive myself for all the times I chose not to eat with them because I preferred eating in my room later at night. What a putz I was.
My mother was the best cook I ever knew. Thankfully I have most of her recipes and have prepared a number of them lately - I was particularly proud that my chicken soup tasted just like hers.
I never was a fan of the human race and after losing my parents, I feel even more strongly about this. It is amazing how cruel so many people were in so many different ways. And though I have not discussed the circumstances surrounding their deaths, I blame the hospital my mother was in. There was definite malpractice which led to my mother's death (and my father dying the day after he finally realized she would not make it) but despite consulting several attorneys (including one of the top ones in Manhattan) I was advised I did not have a case to go forward with, even though one attorney agreed there was negligence. If there is a hell, I only hope the doctors who did wrong go there. I try not to think about the doctors and hospital too much because I might be tempted to do something I would later regret.
It all sucks. I have morbid, horrible thoughts all the time. I can go months without shedding a tear and then lay in bed crying my eyes out, the latter being the case recently.
It's been one year - the pain will never stop no matter how many more years I have left. Can I live without my parents? Technically, yes, I am alive, but for this spoiled brat and self-professed mama's boy, I certainly would not call life without them living.
Mel Stuart: 1928 - 2012
August 13, 2012
Mel Stuart, an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning producer and director, died of cancer on August 9th at the age of 83 at his home in Los Angeles.
Born Stuart Solomon on September 2, 1928 in New York City to Jewish parents Edgar and Cecille Solomon, he graduated New York University in 1949 and worked in advertising before making documentaries. Among Stuart’s best known documentaries is Four Days in November (1964), produced and directed by Stuart, about the assassination of President Kennedy. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for best feature length documentary. An avid student of history and politics, he also made two Making of the President films chronicling the 1964 and 1968 presidential elections.
Stuart directed several features, including If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969) and I Love My...Wife (1970). But it is for 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory that he will best be remembered. Based on Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the film came about when Stuart's young daughter Madeline approached him and said he should make a movie out of this book she had read. Stuart, who was vice president of David Wolper Productions, read the book, thought it had great potential, and brought it to David L. Wolper. Wolper wanted to do the film entirely in animation, but Stuart thought it could work as a live-action feature.
After filling the roles of the children and parents, Stuart and Wolper held a casting session at the Plaza Hotel to find their leading man. Joel Grey came in and auditioned. They liked him, they knew he could sing, and physically he was suited to the part since in Dahl's book Wonka is described as a diminutive man. The next actor to come in was Gene Wilder. When I interviewed Stuart in 1996 for my biography of Wilder, he told me he knew right away Wilder was the only person who could play the part.
"Dave, this is Willy Wonka!" Stuart said to Wolper as soon as Wilder entered the room. "This is fantastic! There can't be anybody else."
"Shhh!" Wolper shot back. "Don't tell him! Don’t tell him! If he knows it'll cost us more money."
After Wilder finished his reading and was about to leave, Stuart just couldn't restrain himself. He ran after him as he was about to get on the elevator and told Wilder, "You've got it. I don't care. We'll make a deal. You got the part."
Though Stuart found working with Wilder an incredibly positive experience, according to Wilder he "was a maniac who screamed and yelled, not at me, but at the crew, not realizing that you can't yell at one person on the crew without having it affect every actor who's going to act in that scene."
Stuart may have had a reputation for being bombastic but that did not stop him from amassing a large body of work that also included 1973's Wattstax, a sort of black equivalent of Woodstock that documented a non-stop seven-hour concert held in Los Angeles in the summer of 1972, as well as Bill, a 1981 TV movie that Stuart co-produced, starring Mickey Rooney as a retarded man learning to live in the real world after spending most of his life in an institution. Stuart also contributed to PBS' American Masters series, producing profiles of artist Man Ray and director Billy Wilder.
As for the enduring appeal of his most famous work, Stuart told me that he never attempted to pander to children when making Willy Wonka. "I was making an adult picture and the little brats can come along and laugh," he said. "I have a tremendous respect for children...as far as their capacity to 'get it.'"
Stuart's wife, the former Roberta Silberman, died last year. In addition to his daughter Madeline, he is survived by his sons Andrew and Peter.
The Way He Was: Marvin Hamlisch: 1944 - 2012
August 8, 2012
Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hart, and Noel Coward are among the names that helped establish the Great American Songbook. More modern composers like Burt Bacharach, Randy Newman, Stephen Sondheim, and the late Henry Mancini continued that legacy by creating original music for film, stage, and television that managed to be both gloriously artistic as well as extremely popular. But no musician of the last forty years has had as much impact on all genres as Marvin Hamlisch, the brilliant composer whose unexpected death yesterday at age sixty-eight shocked the entertainment industry and indeed the world.
Hamlisch was a native New Yorker, born on June 2, 1944 to Viennese Jewish parents Max and Lilly (née Schachter) Hamlisch. He was a child prodigy, accepted into the distinguished Juilliard School when he was just seven years old.
In 1973, at the age of twenty-nine, Hamlisch won three Oscars for his work on The Way We Were and The Sting. He also won a Tony Award, four Emmys, four Grammys, and two Golden Globe Awards, making him one of the most honored musicians of all time.
In 1975 Hamlisch collaborated on A Chorus Line, which ran for 6,137 performances, the most of any Broadway musical until it was surpassed by Cats. For this landmark show about the hopes, lives, loves, and fears of a group of Broadway dancers, Hamlisch shared the Pulitzer Prize for Drama with lyricist Edward Kleban, director Michael Bennett, and book writers James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante. Among the show’s now classic songs are "One," “I Hope I Get It," and "What I Did for Love."
Hamlisch was a favorite collaborator of Barbra Streisand, whom he met when he was nineteen and the rehearsal pianist for Funny Girl. "I'm devastated," Streisand wrote on her Facebook page. "He was my dear friend... He played at my wedding in 1998...and recently for me at a benefit for women's heart disease... He was a true musical genius, but above all that, he was a beautiful human being. I will truly miss him."
Hamlisch was a frequent guest on all of the major talk shows, displaying a very likeable "nice Jewish boy" persona that let him breezily exchange quips with the likes of Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, Mike Douglas, and David Letterman. He was also the object of desire for Gilda Radner's Lisa Loopner character on Saturday Night Live, who often mentioned wanting to marry him.
His film work included the music for pictures as diverse as Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run and Bananas, The Spy Who Loved Me, Same Time, Next Year, Ordinary People, Sophie's Choice, and the underrated 1980 Neil Simon comedy Seems Like Old Times, which boasts one of Hamlisch's most ebullient scores.
Hamlisch wrote an absorbing 1992 memoir entitled The Way I Was, in which he candidly discussed his shyness and problems meeting women. He was involved for a time with fellow musician Carole Bayer Sager before getting married in 1989 at age forty-four to Terre Blair, a Columbus, Ohio weather and news anchor, who survives him, as does a legacy of great music. His last works include the score for Behind the Candelabra, an HBO movie about Liberace scheduled to air next year, and the musical version of Jerry Lewis' The Nutty Professor, which opened in Nashville last month.
July 11, 2012
I don't watch much TV these days except for the news and cooking shows. But for the past year, there has been one show that has been taking cable news by storm, and deservedly so. Fox News Channel's The Five is the freshest, hippest, best produced political show on television. The Five celebrates one year on the air today, and I join millions of loyal viewers in wishing them a very happy first anniversary.
The Five is a panel show airing at 5:00 p.m. eastern time and consisting of five extremely talented and likeable commentators – Bob Beckel, Eric Bolling, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Greg Gutfeld, Dana Perino, Andrea Tantaros, and Juan Williams (yes, that's seven, but the ladies rotate and the liberal Williams regularly fills in for the liberal Beckel).
The show pits four conservatives (well, four and a half really – Gutfeld is more a libertarian) against the lonely liberal Beckel, a loveable, grumpy teddy bear of a man who is probably every conservative’s favorite lefty. The daily debate includes all of the current political news, as well as just the right dose of pop culture and celebrity dish. And occasionally a guest will actually drop by, such as Sarah Palin or Karl Rove.
The key to the show's success is the rapport the commentators have with each other. Like the great sitcoms of the past, they are friendly faces you welcome into your home, except they are not Norman Lear characters, they are real people who genuinely like each other and respect differing opinions. It is civilized debate, something sorely missing both on television and in politics. They actually go to baseball games together.
Bolling, a former major league baseball player, is funny, a real gentleman, and a devoted family man and dog lover who frequently coos "Gooood boy" when talking about canine friends. Perino, the former press secretary for George W. Bush, is spunky and, like all of the ladies of The Five, very easy on the eyes. Guilfoyle, ex-wife of former San Francisco mayor and current California lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom, is a polished lawyer, and Andrea Tantaros, who also regularly appears on the Fox Business Channel, completes the female trio. Gutfeld, a stand-up comedian who also hosts the wonderfully wacky Red Eye on Fox in the wee hours of the morning, is the craziest of the group, a unicorn-obsessed sprite who is the first to bring up his elfin stature and always ready to give Perino grief, especially about her adorable new puppy Jasper. Beckel is a wonderful curmudgeon who is brutally honest about his past drug and alcohol addictions, and keeps a swear jar on the set due to his penchant for inappropriate outbursts. And Juan Williams, perhaps every conservative’s favorite lefty along with Beckel, is always welcome when Beckel is out.
The Five replaced Glenn Beck's program, and it is the savviest move Fox has made in a long time. Here's wishing those fantastic Fivers many more years of great TV.
Nora Ephron: 1941 - 2012
June 27, 2012
The death of Nora Ephron at age 71 sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry. The prolific author and filmmaker had managed to keep her battle with leukemia private to everyone but a few close friends and family. She was equally revered by her colleagues as she was by her millions of fans, who helped make such films as When Harry Met Sally..., Sleepless in Seattle, and You've Got Mail such hits.
Ephron was born in New York City, the daughter of screenwriters Henry and Phoebe Ephron. The family moved west to Beverly Hills when Ephron was four. She attended Wellesley College, where she worked on the school newspaper, and went on to intern in the Kennedy White House where, she joked, she was the only intern President Kennedy didn’t hit on. She spent five years writing for the New York Post before regularly writing for such magazines as Esquire and New York.
In 1976 she married fellow journalist Carl Bernstein, half of the team responsible for breaking the Watergate story. Ephron and Bernstein had two sons, Jacob and Max, before divorcing in 1980.
Ephron's first screenplay was Silkwood (1983), based on the true story of Karen Silkwood (Meryl Streep), who died under suspicious circumstances after she exposed unsafe conditions at the plutonium processing plant where she worked. The script earned Ephron the first of her three Oscar nominations.
Moving from the word processor to the director’s chair, Ephron helmed This Is My Life in 1992, a slight but likable film about a single mother (Julie Kavner) pursuing a career at stand-up comedy. The film was not a success, but her subsequent directing efforts, Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and You’ve Got Mail (1998), were both huge box-office hits, particularly with female audiences.
Her most iconic work, though, is probably Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally... (1989), the now classic romantic comedy starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as on-again, off-again lovers. The film was a critical and box-office hit, and its most famous line of dialogue ("I'll have what she's having."), uttered by Reiner's mother Estelle, still remains a part of the American lexicon.
My favorite Ephron work, however, is her screenplay adaptation of her book Heartburn, a fictionalized account of her turbulent marriage to Bernstein. Directed by Mike Nichols, the 1986 film starred Meryl Streep, in one of her most underrated performances, and Jack Nicholson, also superb, as two journalists who meet at a friend's wedding, hit it off, marry, have a baby, and live a life of domestic bliss in Washington, D.C. until Streep discovers Nicholson’s been cheating on her. With a supporting cast that includes Maureen Stapleton, Jeff Daniels, Richard Masur, Catherine O’Hara, Milos Forman, and a then unknown Kevin Spacey in his film debut, it is one of the most overlooked films of the 1980s. Set to some great Carly Simon songs, it is an insightful, funny, and very human look at love, marriage, and betrayal as only Ephron could write it.
Her final film was 2009's Julie & Julia, once again starring Streep, this time as Julia Child.
Ephron was married to Goodfellas scribe Nicholas Pileggi since 1987. He survives her along with her two sons and her sisters Delia, Amy, and Hallie, all of whom are also writers. A memorial lunch is being planned by her friends in New York City.
Happy Birthday, Mom
May 5, 2012
Today would have been my dear mother's 76th birthday. It's been a little over eight months since I lost her and my father, and the pain seems to get more intense. She was my best friend. I am staying in today with a large bottle of vodka and lots of the foods she loved (pork chops, egg salad, chopped liver, and her favorite, blueberry pie - with vanilla ice cream, of course). I will probably need a new wardrobe come Monday morning but I don't care.
My mother was such an amazing person. Everything she did, she did for me. When I lived away from home, if she and my father got dinner from a new place and liked it, she would say to my father, "Brian would love this. We'll get food from here next time he visits." If I was short on cash, she would pull a Max Bialystock on my father and send me a check, even though they never had a lot of money - and always with a note saying something like, "I wish I could give you more."
I sometimes think my mother and I were too close. I was always a self-professed momma's boy and it is a title I wear with pride. After they died was really the only time I wished I had gotten married because at least I would have had someone to help comfort me. My parents had some wonderful neighbors whose kindness and friendship I will never forget. And a handful of friends also reached out, but most of the people I knew from the city (i.e. the bars in the city) really let me down. Some literally disappeared.
There is no love like a mother's. I did as much as I could for her and my father as their health declined, yet I still kick myself for not doing more. I wish I did not make the stress of caring for two sick parents show as much as I let it. Not long before he died, my father - never a big in-touch-with-his-feelings kinda guy - said during one of his last hospital stays, "I'm sorry you have no life. I'm sorry you have to take care of us."
I find time does not make the grief any better - whoever said time heals all wounds should have been shot. And those who are honest with me agree - you will never get over it, they say. And I know I won't. I was never exactly a perky Mary Hart type when they were alive, but some days are so dark that I think even Ingmar Bergman would say, "Enough already!" But I still get up in the morning, brush my teeth, feed and walk the dog, shower, get dressed, and go to work. It's hard but I do it, only because we all know what the other option is.
Not having my parents here for my father's birthday in November was tough. Thanksgiving was tough. Likewise my birthday in February. And today I have such a heavy heart, wishing my mother was still here to blow out the candles on her cake. And next Sunday is Mother's Day, another doozy.
I wish I had faith and believed my mother was looking down on me, as several friends tell me. I wish I could believe that when I die, I will be with her. But I know better. Life sucks. It's just not fair. And not a second of each day will go by that I do not think of my best friend, Bella Mednick.
More Wilder Press
February 25, 2012
It's been over a year since Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad was released but I received two interview requests about it recently.
Click here to listen to an interview I did with Travis Cassity on his PA Podcast. And click here to read an interview I did with Harry Pye for The Rebel Magazine.
Yes, I Want an English Muffin
January 23, 2012
Nobody will ever again ask me, "You want something? You want me to make you something?" the way my mother would. "You want an Engligh muffin with ham and cheese?" [Click here for recipe.]
In the last months of her life, I made sure to be awake before her because her breathing was so erratic. On bad days, I rushed to feed the dog for her and pour her coffee the way she liked it. When she needed the oxygen, I served her coffee in the living room on the coffee table and sat with her.
"I'm all right," she would say after five minutes. "Go upstairs, play on your computer. Thanks." What I would give for just one more morning like this. Miss you every second of every day, ma.
January 22, 2012
Okay, some things you just can't make up. Apparently there is this lady who has two vaginas and has been offered a million dollars to do a porno film. Click here to read the piece.
So where do we begin with the jokes? How about this? So you hear about this woman with two vaginas? Newt Gingrich said if she gets one more he'll marry her!
Two vaginas? Please, I have enough trouble dealing with one. My sex life, I tell ya... It's been so long since I've seen a vagina up close that I would probably try putting a quarter in it - or do they now accept bills? Been a long time. Last vagina I saw only had thirteen stars.
Thank you, folks! Try the veal!
January 20, 2012
Politics has always been for me what sports is to most. Because of the horrible loss of my parents five months ago, I have not followed the GOP primaries with the fervor I normally would. Come 5:00 p.m. each night, I settle in with my martinis and watch It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia on DVD, my new favorite show. My mother shared my love of politics (and hatred of most politicians). Were she still here, I know we would spend hours talking about the candidates and all the craziness going on. She was not only my best friend, she was the best conversationalist I knew.
"D" Is for Franco, "E" Is for Exit
December 20, 2011
Ah, James Franco. After seeing 127 Hours, I had to admit this guy is an extremely talented actor. I even went so far as to say he deserved the Academy Award for his impassioned performance. But he has an ego the size of Yankee Stadium - and I can only imagine how much bigger it would have gotten had he actually won the Oscar.
Franco was taking a graduate class in directing at my alma mater, NYU. He only showed up for two classes and was given a final grade of D by his professor, José Angel Santana. Well, as I have known for many years, NYU has only two concerns: making money and promoting a far-left liberal agenda. Prof. Santana was fired and is now suing the university. I wish him all the best and hope he wins. I am sick and tired of seeing celebrities use their influence over everything, including buying college degrees. NYU is blatanly shameful in its fawning over the rich and famous. Prof. Santana and his attorney gave an interview to Harvey Levin on TMZ, and it is obvious that he is a thoughtful, well-spoken, and affable guy. I only wish I had a professor like him when I was at NYU film school.
In other news, it seems that sometimes nepotism and good looks just ain't enough if you have zero talent, as is the case with Ben Lyons. Lyons was just let go from his reporting gig on E! Lyons was embarrassing when he co-hosted At the Movies (a thankfully brief stint) and has no credentials whatsoever to be a critic, aside from the fact that his father is Jeffrey Lyons (who himself is not exactly in the league of Siskel & Ebert, Richard Roeper, Pauline Kael or Rex Reed). With his boyish good looks, Ben Lyons should probably consider a career as a Land's End model - a job which would not require him to use any brain power. But if he really wants a career in film, I think he has a future - I understand Loews is hiring ushers.
Notes from My Mother
December 6, 2011
As I have been cleaning out the house, I have come across several handwritten notes from my mother. I have handwritten letters from some huge celebrities but these notes mean more to me than anything. Loving notes she would include when she would send me a check in the mail when I lived in Manhattan and was running short on cash, always saying how much she loved me and how she wished she could give me more. No one will ever care about me like that again.
I was clearing out my old college books today when I found a note from her that read, "Linda Dano called. It is very hard to reach her. Try tomorrow morning before you go to school."
This was around 1992 when I was going to NYU. I was producing a radio show at the time that featured interviews with soap stars. I had always been a fan of Linda Dano, even though I was not a soap fan per se. The first time I met her was at a fan club event and she was just as nice and beautiful in person as on TV. We had tried getting her to be a guest on the show and it turned out that the first time she did the show was on my 19th birthday. I was thrilled. We taped the show at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Midtown and would first have dinner with the guests, then retreat to a different restaurant in the hotel that was only open for breakfast and lunch. There we would tape the show.
I wound up becoming very friendly with Linda and she did our show several times after that. I was with her the night she won her Emmy Award and remember how all of us in the press room jumped up and applauded and hugged each other. I went to visit her at the Another World studio in Brooklyn a few times - she was always so open and down to earth and funny. Shortly after winning the Emmy, she drove me from the studio to Penn Station - a fellow driver recognized her and congratulated her on her Emmy win. What a nice memory.
I was also very close with Linda's co-star at the time, the great actor John Aprea, who starred in my first short film, Confessions of a Male Prostitute. The 1992 Democratic convention was held in New York City at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. John and Linda were both our guests and I had my mother come join us so she could meet them. John was leaving Another World to move back to Los Angeles. After a wonderful dinner (we all had steak), we taped the show and I read a little tribute poem I had written for John. Afterwards we went back to our dinner table and presented John with a gorgeous cake my mother had bought that read, if I remember correctly, "Good-bye John and Lucas [his character on the show]. We'll miss you both."
I was glad my mother was able to share that wonderful night. She was healthy back then and could walk well and breathe fine. The photo below is of me and my mother with John and Linda - four pretty nice looking people, if I do say so myself. You can see in my mother's smile how warm and wonderful she was. John and Linda may have been the TV stars but my mother was the real star. I dream about her every night, my father too usually. I miss them so much.
Drinking Games Now on Kindle
December 2, 2011
This guy Mednick wrote a book
But it's not available for the Nook
This ain't no swindle
It's now on Kindle
So go to Amazon and have a look
Great Review for Drinking Games
November 22, 2011
Drinking Games...and Other Stories received a great review on Parcbench.com today. Thanks to Daria DiGiovanni, whose Internet radio show I recently did, for the kinds words.
Click here to read the review.
Writestream Author Chat
November 17, 2011
I did a great interview today with Daria DiGiovanni on her Internet radio show. She had me on for the full hour and asked some terrific questions. Click here to listen.
Cindy Adams Calls Drinking Games "Brilliant!"
November 16, 2011
My girl Cindy Adams gave me and Drinking Games an excellent mention in today's New York Post. She really is such a great lady, so supportive of all types of artists and their work. All I can think is how thrilled my mother would have been to see this. Thanks Cindy!
Drinking Games Now Available from Amazon.com
November 4, 2011
Drinking Games...and Other Stories is now available for purchase from Amazon.com. Click here to buy. Thanks.
Drinking Games Now on Sale
November 1, 2011
Drinking Games...and Other Stories is now available for purchase from CreateSpace. Click here to buy it. It will be available from Amazon.com in about a week.
I am grateful my mother got to see the book before she died, but today is not the exciting, happy day I had envisioned when I chose 11/1/11 for the publication date. I miss her so much.
Anyway, to those of you who bought the first book, your support was appreciated and I hope you check out Drinking Games and enjoy it.
October 14, 2011
As those of you who visit this site regularly know from my home page, I lost my parents in August, two days apart. Though they both had many health problems in the last few years, nothing prepared me for losing them when I did, especially at the same time. The details are too painful to discuss and I cannot begin to put into words the devastating grief I feel.
That being said, I have put too much work into this site over the the last few years to abandon it, but I really do not have the inspiration or energy to write anything new. Just writing this is incredibly hard. My new book, Drinking Games, is still coming out in a few weeks. Thankfully my mother was able to see the book before she died.
I will not be doing a PR blitz like I did with the Wilder book, but when Drinking Games is out I will post the Amazon link where it can be purchased. Thanks to the few of you who reached out with your condolences.
Oprah, Oscar... Oscar, Oprah
August 4, 2011
I have not had anything positive to say about the Oscars in a long time but finally they have gotten it right. Of the three honorary Oscars being given out later this year, two will go to extremely deserving recipients: James Earl Jones, a true acting legend who has only been nominated once, and Oprah Winfrey, who will get the prestigious Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. (The third award goes to makeup artist Dick Smith, who won an Oscar for Amadeus (1984).)
Oprah was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her film debut in The Color Purple (1985). I still think she deserved the award for her impassioned performance as Sophia. She did not become a big film actress, which I think is a shame, but hey, she's done all right for herself. If she had received a regular honorary Oscar, it would not seem right - the Hersholt is special, which is why for years I kept nudging the Academy to give it to Jerry Lewis, which they did a few years ago.
Oprah is a brilliant choice for the Hersholt award - like her or not (and yes, I do like her), she is a media empire of her own and truly tries to do good with her money. As for Jones, who is still constantly working at the age of 80, he is simply a great American actor who is long overdue for this recognition.
I have constantly chided the Academy for bestowing honorary Oscars on people when they are so old they can barely get up to accept the award or even speak. Jones is a spry and healthy 80, but with Oprah, who is 57, it is nice to see someone under the age of 60 get this honor (the only other person I can recall getting an honorary award and not being a member of AARP is Steven Spielberg, who got the Irving Thalberg Award at age 40).
Now get Billy Crystal to host the next show and maybe I will start to lighten up about the Oscars.
Top Ten Differences in a Gay Version of The Godfather Trilogy
July 17, 2011
10. Johnny Fontane goes to the Godfather because he lost out a plum movie role - playing the lead in the new Princess Diaries film.
9. When Michael tells Fredo he knows it was him, the kiss of death lasts 15 minutes.
8. Mo Greene gets it in the eye - but we're not talking about a gunshot.
7. Whacking guys takes on a whole new meaning.
6. When Michael tells Kay she can ask about his affairs this one time, he admits a lifelong obsession with Tab Hunter.
5. Instead of Tom Hagen, the Corleones hire Harvey Levin as their attorney.
4. When Michael Corleone first meets Hyman Roth, he says, "Hyman? Eww! What's your middle name, Vulva?"
3. Horse head in bed means something totally different.
2. When Don Corleone says he'll make him an offer he can't refuse, he throws in a $50 gift certificate to Bed Bath & Beyond.
1. Michael, now much older, says, "I tried to come out...they keep pulling me back in!"
Betty Ford: 1918 - 2011
July 9, 2011
The Fords were always among my favorite first couples. He was a gentleman who never had ambitions beyond wanting to become speaker of the house. He became president at a difficult time. His wife was his strongest supporter. Betty Ford's passing at the age of 93 (the same age her husband was when he died nearly five years ago) is a reminder of how the role of first lady has evolved over the decades.
Mrs. Ford was outspoken and real, voicing support for the Equal Rights Amendment and legalized abortion. In this age in which only the most religious pro-life candidates are welcomed in the GOP's "broad tent," it would be impossible to imagine the wife of a Republican candidate - let alone the wife of a Republican president - stating openly that she is pro-choice.
Only a month after becoming first lady, Mrs. Ford had a radical mastectomy following a diagnosis of cancer in her right breast. She underwent two years of chemotherapy, finally being declared cancer-free in November 1976, the same month that Gerald Ford lost reelection to Jimmy Carter.
Mrs. Ford's admission that she had an addiction to pills and alcohol led to the creation of one of the most well-known treatment centers in the country, the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California.
Promoting literacy is a quaint pet project. As much as I adore Nancy Reagan, we all know how effective "Just Say No" was. Hillary looked down on the traditional role of first lady, wanting to be more of a cabinet member than someone who picked which china should be used at state dinners. And the current holder of the title thinks the quality of school lunches is the biggest crisis facing the country now, even as her husband chows down on fried chicken, pizza, and cheeseburgers every chance he gets. Ford was open, she was honest, and she spoke out about things that were controversial, never stopping to consider if she was being politically correct.
The Fords were married 58 years and, by all accounts, had as strong a marriage as any president and first lady, not unlike the Reagans. Sadly, we are unlikely to see good people like them in the White House again.
I'll Drink to That - Second Book Coming 11/1/11
July 7, 2011
I am pleased to announce that my second book is being published later this year. Drinking Games...and Other Stories is a collection of fifteen short stories, all set in Manhattan and involving drinking (hey, they say write what you know).
I got my first proof today and it looks amazing. After the Gene Wilder bio came out, I felt that I would not be able to write another book, but I am extremely pleased with how this anthology turned out. And now I can say I have written more books than Margaret Mitchell. Best part? No old Jewish comic actors were harmed during the writing of this book!
Drinking Games retails for $15.00 and will be available for purchase from Amazon.com on November 1st, plenty of time to order for your holiday gift list.
Ya Big Cuomo!
June 29, 2011
I did not vote in last fall's New York gubernatorial race. The candidate I backed, Rick Lazio, lost the Republican nomination to Tea Party nut Carl Paladino, who faced Democrat Andrew Cuomo in the general election. As much as I have always liked Cuomo, his support of the Ground Zero mosque turned me against him. Paladino is a singularly disgusting excuse for a human being, so there was no way I was voting for him, hence I sat this one out.
Cuomo has been governor for over six months now and I must say that in that amount of time he has proven to be probably the most effective governor New York has ever had. Cuomo is a liberal Democrat, to be sure, but he is open and bipartisan. Like his father, he is a principled, innate leader who knows how to get things done. I cannot even recall anyone on the right criticizing him, for he has not made one false move since taking office. I am still troubled by the mosque thing, but Gov. Cuomo has shown he is serious about his job and can accomplish what he sets out to do.
The passage of same-sex marriage in New York state guarantees that Cuomo will go down as one of the all-time great gay rights leaders, ironic considering he was long accused of being the source of the "Vote for Cuomo Not the Homo" smear against Ed Koch back when Mario Cuomo ran against Koch for mayor in 1977. Koch enthusiastically supported Andrew Cuomo for governor and disavowed that Cuomo had anything to do with that slur.
I have mixed feelings on the whole gay marriage issue. Deep down, yes, I feel marriage should be between a man and a woman. Yet if I had to vote yes or no on it, I would vote yes. But I seriously do not understand why anyone in this day and age would want to get married, gay or straight. I understand the legal and financial benefits, but still. I think being single yields far more benefits, mostly no one nagging at you constantly.
Civil unions and legal documents can provide most of what marriage does if two same-sex partners are in a committed relationship where they have assets. For many gays, however, they feel the symbolism of marriage is just as important. Having spent the last thirty-eight years watching my mother and father fight, I seriously do not believe in heterosexual marriage. My parents never should have had coffee together, let alone gotten married. "But then you wouldn't be here!" you say. Believe me, someone else would have had me.
So given my disdain for heterosexual marriage, I think saying I support homosexual marriage would be hypocritical. Perhaps there is no bigger hypocrisy, though, than in Hollywood (shocking, I know) where it seems the only celebrities who have any interest in getting married are the gay ones. Apparently no one informed Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell that they could have tied the knot decades ago. Hollywood has made having children out of wedlock not only acceptable but fashionable. Yet the same straight people in Hollywood who have illegimate kids and do not get married are gung-ho about gay marriage. Call me old-fashioned, but I think if you are going to have children, you should get married. That is as conservative as I get. But who the hell am I?
Back to Gov. Cuomo, as much as I think he is doing a good job, isn't it strange that he went out of his way to make gay marriage legal but still has yet to propose to his girlfriend of many years, Sandra Lee from the Food Network? I mean, he's governor, they live together in the executive mansion, and he's likely going to run for president in 2016. Marry the girl, Andy! I'm sure her lasagna is nothing like Matilda's but come on, she makes great cocktails and does one hell of a table setting.
In the end, why should I care if two people want to get married? It's none of my business. And while gays are more visible and accepted than ever, there is still plenty of anti-gay hate and violence out there. If legalizing gay marriage further helps bring about more understanding and tolerance, then that is something everyone should celebrate.
Sadly, like most "minority" groups, when it comes to the gay marriage debate it's the loud, activist types who are heard the most. The truth is that most gay people do not want to get married. Most do not march in parades or do drag. But that is what you see in the parades and from the most militant supporters of gay rights. News footage in New York's West Village the night it was announced the bill passed showed what, quite frankly, looked like a freak show. And that does not further their cause. It also does not mean they should be discriminated against or victimized. The militants would say I am trying to have it both ways. Perhaps I am. But the reality is that most gay people do not look like Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka. They look like Barney Frank and Rosie O'Donnell.
I know two gay male couples, one of whom has been together over thirty years. Believe me, they do not suddenly feel their love has been validated or a sudden need to register at Bed Bath & Beyond. Most of the gay people I know have been single most of their lives and they are not suddenly looking for someone now. Promiscuity has long been a part of the gay scene and the ability to marry will not change that.
This country will never see gay marriage legalized in all fifty states, especially religious, heavily Mormon ones like Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. It has been nearly forty years since abortion has been legal in this country and there is still a very large segment of the population looking to overturn it. The gay marriage issue will be no different.
For the right-wing religious nuts who say gay marriage will weaken traditional heterosexual marriage, I say that straight people have been doing a pretty consistent job of weakening marriage for a long time without the help of gays.
So mazel tov to everyone who enters into the bond of matrimony. I wish them all nothing but health and happiness. But remember, everything is a business and marriage is no different. If you have gay marriage, you also must have gay divorce. I know there is going be a cottage industry of gay divorce lawyers booming in the coming years. And I can just imagine the custody battles: "You can have Fluffy every other Pride weekend but I get her for eight weeks during the summer and all Jewish holidays."
Peter Falk: 1927 - 2011
June 25, 2011
There are about a dozen or so celebrities whose faces adorn my walls and Peter Falk is one of them. About eight years ago, after a vicious bidding war on eBay, I purchased an extremely rare one sheet of Husbands, John Cassavetes' great 1970 comedy-drama with Falk, Cassavetes, and Ben Gazzara as three best friends who act out after their fourth buddy suddenly dies. It's a great poster that captures the essence of these three guys, both on-screen and in real life - grown men who act like little boys and overindulge in booze and gambling (is it a wonder I love this film?).
News of Falk's death at age 83 did not come as a total surprise, as he was known to be suffering from Alzheimer's Disease for a number of years. He will, of course, be best remembered as arguably the most popular TV detective of all time, but Peter Falk had a rich and varied career outside of Columbo. He received back-to-back supporting actor Oscar nominations for Murder, Inc. (1960) and A Pocketful of Miracles (1961). I think he deserved even more nominations for such memorable turns in Cassavetes' Husbands and A Woman Under the Influence (1974); Neil Simon's Murder by Death (1976) as a parody of Sam Spade; and his absolutely sublime role as himself in Wim Wenders' surreal Wings of Desire (1988) where Falk is the only human who can see the angels who have come to earth.
Though sometimes assumed to be Italian because of his role as Columbo, Falk was actually Jewish, born in New York City to a father of Russian descent and a mother with Polish, Hungarian, and Czech roots. His Jewish heritage was most evident in Wings of Desire in which he roams the streets of Berlin, movingly recalling a story his grandmother told him that alluded to the Holocaust.
Falk was always a delight on awards shows, talk shows, and Dean Martin's celebrity roasts. Click here to watch this priceless bit where Falk, never breaking from character as Lt. Columbo, goes on and on in his tribute to Frank Sinatra, going so far as to present Sinatra with a tray of lasagna Mrs. Columbo baked especially for him (and then instructs Sinatra how to mail the empty tray back!).
When I told my mother last night that Peter Falk had died, her first response was, "All the good ones are gone." "True," I said, "but just one more thing..." Anyway, as usual, my mother was right. Falk was as good as they got.
Weiners and Losers
June 22, 2011
Have not had much energy to post anything new on here in a while. Obama got Osama, which was good news, to be sure. And everyone on the right gave Bush the credit even though he had eight years to catch him and for most of that time never even mentioned him by name. Like it or not, it happened on Obama's watch - give the credit where it's due.
Oprah signed off. Aside from the show she did with Streisand and Redford, I did not see any of her programs in the last year. Her network seems to be floundering, but since everything Oprah touches seems to turn to gold, give it time. Oprah worked her way up from nothing and has become the most successful female media star this country has ever produced. I met her once years ago at the Daytime Emmys right after she won. She was very nice - most people are after winning a major award. I honestly do not know what she is really like off-camera but I understand she lavishes the most extravagant rewards on her staff. Like her or not (and I do like her), the woman is a true legend.
What else? Hmm, well, got my first royalty check for my book from my publisher. Their accounting firm is obviously Bialystock & Bloom. The dollar amount was funny and I was left sad. When I went to cash the check, the teller asked if I wanted it in all quarters. I was able to use the check to make a down payment on a breadstick at Olive Garden. I always said I never decided to write a book about Gene Wilder to become rich - and I sure have stuck to my word.
I find it increasingly harder to pay attention to movies or read new books. But Albert Brooks' debut novel 2030 is just brilliant. I was able to read the first 75 pages before having to return it the library (I hate not being able to buy new hardcover books). I will take it out again at some point and hopefully finish it. I hope Brooks turns it into a film because it is monumental in scope, a seriocomic tale set in the near future that eerily mirrors our current national nightmare.
As for DVD's, I was totally impressed with 127 Hours. I take back anything negative I may have said about James Franco in the past. He is a tremendous actor who really carried the film. A lot of people had reservations about seeing it because they think the whole movie is a guy hacking his arm off - that is only a small part of it. If you did not know this was a true story, you would never believe how the film turns out. The real-life Aron Ralston is an amazing guy - you and I would have been goners. Franco may never be the next Bob Hope when it comes to hosting the Oscars, but he is an actor of unmatched skill and intensity. In fact, he deserved the Best Actor Oscar over Colin Firth.
Sandra Lee (possibly one day Cuomo) would have been proud of me. I got creative in the kitchen recently and whipped up a quick, very delicious pasta and salmon dish using Lipton/Knorr noodles and canned salmon. If I work up the strength, I will type it up and put in in the Food and Drink tab.
And finally, let's say something about Anthony Weiner. The guy always came across as arrogant but who knew he was so stupid? What he did was not horrible, per se, but when you are a congressman and a newlywed, you should know better. This was an outrageous lack of self-control and judgment. He could very well have been New York City's next mayor and he blew it. Given our current climate of turning sleazy politicians into TV stars, I am sure there will be an offer for him from CNN. He would make a perfect co-host for Eliot Spitzer - two guys who singlehandedly destroyed the myth that Jewish men are smart and good husbands.
And while talking about lewd photos of members of congress, I am debating whether I should go public with some salacious ones I have of the late Bella Abzug. They're pretty raunchy - in one she's not even wearing a hat!
April 30, 2011
I have watched the new incarnation of At the Movies (officially called Ebert Presents At the Movies) several times since it debuted earlier this year. Last night I watched with my mouth agape. The new hosts, Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (trying saying that name after two martinis), are pretty to look at but have zero chemistry and a questionable lack of cinematic je ne sais quoi.
They did a show on five films that changed their lives - Lemire's first pick was The Breakfast Club! Yes, a real classic. The boy (he is only 24) picked some regal silent films no one has ever heard of, as well as Shoah, which I admit is commendable. His top film was some obscure, wacky thing I never heard of. The girl's top film? The Wizard of Oz! Yes, Dorothy, we're not in Siskel-&-Ebertville anymore.
The show ended with Roger Ebert's own commentary from the DVD of Citizen Kane, which he considers the most influential film he's ever seen (can you blame him?).
Ebert has endured the kind of illness most of us could never imagine. I certainly would not want to live without the ability to speak or eat (he is kept alive with a feeding tube). I am a Facebook "friend" of his and he writes a lot about politics, the far left kind, of course. Mentally he is all there but it is sad to see him still trying to do what he used to (I used to think his drive was inspiring, but I am just too pessimistic to see it that way anymore). He sees movies in the same Chicago screening room he always has and writes reviews that are lucid and smart. Siskel & Ebert and Ebert & Roeper were great. But they are no more.
A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips did a terrific job on At the Movies after Roeper departed. They had a reasonably good rapport and were engaging to watch and listen to. These new kids do not deserve to fill the seats of Siskel, Ebert or Roeper, but oddly enough, it was Ebert himself who handpicked them for the job.
Ebert feels there still needs to be a weekly forum on television for serious film criticism, but this lame show is nothing but a sad reminder that such a thing no longer exists.
Sidney Lumet: 1924 - 2011
April 10, 2011
The death of Sidney Lumet yesterday at age 86 marks the passing of the last of the truly great directors of his generation. Lumet, who succumbed to lymphoma in his Manhattan home, was widely considered one of the most important American directors and deservedly so. His filmography was filled with such classics as 12 Angry Men (1957), Serpico (1973), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Network (1976), and The Verdict (1982).
Although Lumet made many great films, my favorite is Dog Day Afternoon, the exhausting, often funny story about a real-life 1972 Brooklyn bank robbery that turned into a media circus, with Al Pacino giving possibly his best performance. Lumet captured all of the heat, tension, and danger of the situation in a movie that grabbed you by the throat and did not let go until the final frame.
12 Angry Men, his feature debut, is an incredibly well-made actors' showcase that still holds up today, although I still have the same problem with the film I did when I first saw it - I believe the kid really was guilty and think it totally absurd to believe one do-gooder juror can sway eleven others. But it's only a movie, and as such, it's great entertainment. Network may have seemed like a far-flung premise when it came out 35 years ago but who knew television would actually become the freak show it has.
One of my very favorite Lumet films is 1988's Running on Empty, a heart-wrenching drama about a couple of '60s radicals on the run and the impact their past actions have on their young sons. Lumet got powerhouse performances from Christine Lahti, Judd Hirsch, and River Phoenix, who was Oscar nominated. It's a beautiful film that leaves you in tears.
Like another great director, Stanley Kubrick, Lumet's last film also happened to be among his best. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007) is a taught, utterly engaging thriller about a heist gone horribly wrong. The film is so slick and pulsing with adrenaline that you never would have guessed it was made by a director in his 80s.
Sidney Lumet never won a competitive Oscar, despite five nominations (and I still think it's a joke that John G. Avildsen won for Rocky over both Lumet for Network and Pakula for All the President's Men). In 2005, however, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences gave Lumet a long overdue honorary Oscar.
Lumet had among the best reputations in the industry. In a business where 18-hour days are the norm, he allegedly always finished shooting by 5:00 p.m. so he, his cast, and crew could enjoy their evenings and have some down time. That's my kind of director.
Oy, Such Praise...
April 8, 2011
Today's Jewish Voice has a great review of Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad. Thanks to Daniel Perez for the kind words.
Click here to read - the review starts on page 34 and concludes on page 39.
The Nutty Phone Caller
April 2, 2011
You'll never guess who called me last night on the phone! Come on! Try to guess! No, not Gene Wilder - what are ya crazy? Okay, I'll tell you. Jerry Lewis!!! Yep! I sent him a copy of my book for his birthday with a nice letter and he called to thank me.
We tried arranging a time to meet so I could interview him nine years ago but it never worked out. He said he will be in New York in May and that he is very busy but that he'll try to work it out so hopefully I can finally meet him and interview him. He said to call his office at the end of this month - again, he stressed he couldn't promise anything, but we'll see. And if not in May, hopefully another time.
Jerry Lewis really is amazing. He actually reads every piece of mail he receives and often responds personally. I do not know of any other star of his caliber who cares enough to do this.
Yesterday may have been April Fools, but Jerry Lewis calling was no joke. What a thrilling end to what started out as a dismal day.
March 29, 2011
I recently received an e-mail from my alma mater, New York University, asking me to take part in a survey about how I feel about the school. Well, I did not hold back.
NYU was expensive when I started in 1991 and now the tuition is insane. This a college for rich kids. Worse, I paid off every single loan I owed NYU and a few years ago was constantly harassed about an unpaid loan. This was more than ten years after the fact. I no longer had any paperwork proving that I paid these obligations but I know I did.
Furthermore, NYU could not provide any documentation showing that I owed any money, yet they continued to harass me. I consulted an attorney who agreed that I cannot be responsible for paying money they cannot prove I owed, especially so many years later. On the last phone call I received from NYU, I told them to sue me and I would show up in court with my lawyer. I never heard another thing since then. But when I tried to get a copy of my transcript afterwards for an unrelated matter, I was denied access to this because they claimed I owed money! So this is still not cleared up since I cannot get my transcript.
NYU, like most high-profile universities, also has a political agenda that favors liberal politicians, liberal causes, and giving preference to so-called minorities, all things I deplore. In a perfect world, universities would be non-partisan, fair, and equal, all things I am sure NYU claims to be but certainly is not. How telling that Bill Clinton is their next graduation speaker. Has NYU ever had a Republican politician speak at a graduation ceremony?
Based on my disturbing experience with being harassed about money I did not owe, along with what I hear about NYU in the news, the more ashamed I am to be an alum. The most recent shameful news is that NYU has announced that legendary master of cinema, the esteemed auteur and bon vivant James Franco, will be teaching a third-year course in directing. The guy is 32. What films has he directed? At least he's not teaching a course on how to host an awards show. His course will focus on adapting poetry into short films - makes me sleepy just thinking about it. The only surprising thing about NYU employing Franco is that he is a white male, a species NYU tries its hardest to discriminate against in their hiring.
I used to think being an NYU grad was presitigious. Well, my degree means nothing - despite being a published author, I have been out of work for two years, lost my apartment, and am totally broke. I have applied for numerous jobs at NYU over the years and never even received a phone call for an interview. Then again, my unfortunate lack of pigmentation and a vagina does not fall within the preferential quotas they have in place.
In all fairness, I did not make the most of my time at NYU. I should have taken more advantage of an internship early on. I made zero connections. I did not like most of my classmates and they did not like me. I had one great film professor who was a genuine mentor to me (turned out he was born three days apart from my mother and went to the same high school as her but they never knew each other). I made a few decent shorts but nothing that would get me a three-picture deal at Paramount. None of my classmates went on to become famous, except for Jerry O'Connell, but he was already famous while going there. I know some have managed to do well in behind the scenes capacities, and naturally they happen to be among the most vile people I knew there.
I was naive to believe when I was a teen-ager that going to NYU would help me become a success. Now I know NYU means nothing on a resume. Worse, there are tens of thousands of similarly naive teens out there who still apply to NYU's film school each year hoping their education there will help them become the next Spike Lee. When they graduate, they will be in debt with student loans and unemployed. The only way to make it film these days is to have parents or close relatives who are already established in the business. The few who make it because of sheer talent alone are rare and just plain lucky.
Barefoot but Never Pregnant
March 29, 2011
What a horrid woman Ina Garten is. She used to be one of my very favorite TV chefs, largely because she seemed so personable and down to earth. Turns out it's all an act for the camera. The recent news that she refused a cancer-stricken six-year-old boy named Enzo his wish to meet with her - not once, but twice - shows she is stuck-up and out of touch. What kind of monster would deny a child with cancer the opportunity to meet her and cook with her? I will never watch her again.
Worse is the Food Network's silence. They failed to address the situation, hoping it would just blow over. Garten now says she became aware of the boy's story over the weekend and will invite him to her home. Talk about too little too late. Enzo's parents should not even let Ina meet with him. She screwed up big time. And for failing to address a public relations nightmare, I am through watching the Food Network as well. The best cooking shows are on PBS anyway (Lydia, Ming, Jacques Pepin, America's Test Kitchen, etc.).
It's interesting to note that Ina rarely ever participates in Food Network events with her fellow chefs. She claims to be very private and low-key, preferring to stay in her sprawling Hamptons home. I think Ms. Ina feels she's too good to rub elbows with the likes of commoners like Paula Deen and Bobby Flay, both of whom I am sure would have gone out of their way to honor a sick child's wish.
Ina has been married to her husband Jeffrey for over forty years. She has never had children. Maybe she does not like them, which is fine. I do not like children either. And I have actually praised married couples who make the choice not to continue overpopulating the world. But as annoying as I find children, I would do whatever I could to help one who is battling a terrible disease, especially if it was something as simple as just meeting with him.
After being turned down by Ina, Enzo was asked by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to come up with a second wish, which he is getting, which is to swim with dolphins. I hope the kid has better luck with dolphins than he did with this whale Ina, for whom I have come up with two new nicknames: Julia Child Abuse and the Barefoot Cuntessa. Which do you prefer?
Geraldine Ferraro: 1935 - 2011
March 26, 2011
I did not agree with Geraldine Ferraro on most political issues, but I did have respect for the lady. News of her death today at age 75 after a twelve-year battle with multiple myeloma, a form of bone cancer, is very sad indeed.
Ferraro spent three terms in Congress before being picked as Walter Mondale's running mate in 1984. I still remember the signs at the Democratic convention that year boasting, "The Republicans think they're hot, but we've got Gerry and they do not!" The Mondale-Ferraro ticket suffered the greatest defeat of any presidential ticket in U.S. history, losing every single state to Reagan-Bush except for Mondale's home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. And despite the thinking that Ferraro would help Mondale attract female voters, 55 percent of women still went for Reagan.
Ferraro was unable to turn her VP nomination into future political capital, although President Clinton did appoint her Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. She made two unsuccessful runs for the U.S. Senate in New York, losing the primaries to Robert Abrams in 1992 and Chuck Schumer in 1998.
In later years, she announced her diagnosis of cancer yet managed to live with it longer than most and made regular appearances as a political commentator on various news programs. I remember seeing her on Fox News with Sarah Palin less than five months ago on election night, and she was very dignified and thoughtful (click here to watch). It was nice to see her and Palin acting civilized despite their political differences.
Ferraro is survived by her husband of fifty years, John Zaccaro, and three children.
Obama: That's Right! He Baaaad!!!
March 25, 2011
I usually do not have anything nice to say about the president, but I must admit that Mr. Obama has excellent taste in his choice of reading material. Maybe someone told him about chapter 24 where I reveal Gene Wilder is a supporter of his. Or maybe he just wanted to read about Richard Pryor.
Elizabeth Taylor: 1932 - 2011
March 24, 2011
Well, what can you say about Elizabeth Taylor? Taylor's death at age 79 did not come as a total surprise. She had many health scares over the years but the reports all seemed to indicate that it was unlikely she would pull through this one. In a career that spanned an amazing seven decades, Taylor was larger than life both onscreen and off. She was probably the last of the great old movie stars, and with her gone, gone too is the kind of glamour and beauty we will likely not see again.
I am a bit ashamed to admit I have not seen many of Taylor's films, and it is true that her acting talent was more often overshadowed by her tumultuous personal life. I met Taylor's ex-son-in-law in a bar a number of years back. He was very nice but offered some insight into Taylor as a person that was, well, let's say less than flattering. Let's admit it: in her later years, the broad was downright loopy. Hell, Michael Jackson was her best friend. But however Ms. Liz may have been offscreen - and by most accounts she was a nice lady - her greatest legacy will perhaps be the tireless work she did for AIDS research and awareness following the death of her close friend Rock Hudson.
In all the time I have been on Facebook, I have never seen such a response to a celebrity's death as I have with Taylor's. That's how significant a figure she was. A true beauty, a talented actress, and a fighter, both for herself and others, Elizabeth Taylor left an indelible mark on Hollywood and indeed the world.
Wilder Bio in Today's CT Post
March 20, 2011
Today's Connecticut Post has a nice article about Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad in its arts section. Thanks to the Post's film critic Joe Meyers for one of the most enjoyable interviews I have given for the book and the great exposure.
Click here to read the piece.
85 Years of Hey Laaaady!
March 16, 2011
"I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."
- Jerry Lewis
Jerry Lewis turns 85 today. The word legend is used rather loosely these days but he is the very definition of it, a master comedian, actor, filmmaker, singer, and humanitarian. If you never had the pleasure of seeing him in person, you truly missed out on something. Luckily I saw him perform his act twice, once at the Westbury Music Fair in New York and once at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas. Both shows were among the very best live performances I have ever seen, the others being Liberace, Dom DeLuise, and Joan Rivers.
I also was lucky enough to see his tour de force turn on Broadway in Damn Yankees, which I don't consider a great musical, but he brought such magic to his role as the devil that it was one of those once in a lifetime theater experiences that you will never forget.
As an actor, Jerry never got the respect he deserved. His role as Jerry Langford, a Carson like talk show host kidnapped by Robert DeNiro in The King of Comedy (1983), is the best work he has done on-screen, a surprisingly low-key, nuanced performance that showed a serious side he rarely ever displayed in the movies. It's a crime he was not nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role, but thankfully he received a much overdue Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 2009.
One of the great thrills in my life was answering the telephone one day in 2002 and hearing a crazy voice at the other end asking to speak to me. Yep, it was Jerry, actually responding personally to a letter I sent him asking if he would let me interview him. We had a series of phone conversations in the following weeks as we tried to arrange a time to meet when he was in New York. I consider one of my biggest accomplishments the fact that I actually was able to make him laugh a few times. He even sent me a comedy CD of crank phone calls he had put out after I told him that I loved his Just Sings CD. Alas, Jerry's schedule was very hectic and the in-person interview never happened. I'm still hoping it will.
If you go to YouTube and simply type in Jerry Lewis, you will find enough priceless clips of him to keep you entertained for hours. There are too many to link to here, but among the ones I recommend most are his live performance in Vegas from the 1980s and his guest spot on Dick Cavett's show from the early 1970s.
Jerry Lewis has had a tumultuous life both professionally and personally - few stars have suffered as many career highs and lows and health problems, yet he has always managed to bounce back with his dignity and humor intact. He recently said his goal was to live beyond 100 so he can surpass George Burns. Here's hoping he does just that. Happy birthday, Jerry and thanks for so many years of laughter.
Some Pleasant News Out of Wisconsin for a Change
March 15, 2011
A review of Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad appeared online today in the Milwaukee Shepherd Express. Click here to read it.
Thoughts on the Week That Was
March 6, 2011
Charlie Sheen's Webcast last night drew 116,000 viewers. There has to be a way I can convince him to plug my book. The attention would result in sales that are...well...WINNING!
In related news, earlier this week CBS announced it was replacing Charlie Sheen on his sitcom with Chaz Bono. The show was going to be called Two and a Half...er, One Guy and One Dude Who...er, Screw It, Let's Call It Cheers. Then came word that Bono dropped out and will now be replaced with Speaker of the House John Boehner. Great - now there will be two Cryers on that show.
If Two and a Half Men is indeed canceled, I think I know a great gig for Charlie. He should replace Regis since I think he is probably the only public figure who will make Kelly actually seem fairly intelligent in comparison.
Er, uh...a story emerged this week claiming that Ted Kennedy rented a brothel in Chile for the entire night back in 1961. His brother turned the White House into a brothel, so why should this be any surprise?
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has the courage to acknowledge that we are at war with Muslim extremists. Those great intellects Sean Combs and Kim Kardashian think he is a bigot and want everyone to say that they stand with the Muslims. The left will never get it. The next 9/11 is likely being planned not overseas but right here by - gasp! - Muslims! These politically correct fools would rather die than admit that Muslims are our enemy. Sick.
It was Muslims who attacked us on 9/11 and Muslims who want to attack us again. If the Muslim community in the U.S. wants to truly be viewed as peaceful, they need to show they are on our side - we should not have to show we are on their side.
Will someone please smack this old coot? It's over, Mickey. You've been a hasbeen for longer than you were a star. You're a nasty man, a burden to your family, you're not going to have a Betty White style comeback. It's over. Who is there to testify for us caregivers who get no support? Stop badmouthing your stepson and ride that black stallion into the sunset already.
So if I stayed outside a gay bar with placards saying disgusting things like "AIDS Is God's Vengeance" and "Gays Go to Hell," this is my right to free speech? I have a feeling I would be arrested in minutes - and rightfully so. How can you consider disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace free speech? I have new respect for Justice Alito. Shame on the other eight.
Priceless Talk Show Moments
I thought I would end on an up note. I found the following links online this week and they are absolutely priceless. Enjoy.
The Dick Cavett Show - The Directors
Wow! Robert Altman, Mel Brooks, Peter Bogdanovich, and Frank Capra all on one set. We shall never see the likes of a talk show like Dick Cavett again.
The Dick Cavett Show - Katharine Hepburn
Can we say control freak?
Late Night with David Letterman - Gilda Radner
I am so glad someone uploaded this utterly charming interview with Gilda Radner from 1984 that captures all of her humor and warmth. Sadly, she would be dead less than five years after this. She is still so missed.
The Remains of the Oscars
February 27, 2011
When I was a kid, I used to look forward to Oscar night the way gentiles must look forward to Christmas. It was easily the biggest night of the year. And unlike sporting events, Oscar fans were never known to get violent or riot in the streets if their choice for Best Supporting Actress didn't win. Instead we just drown our sorrows in more guacamole.
Since I do not see movies in theaters anymore, I haven't seen many of the nominated films and performances. I have seen five of the ten Best Picture nominees (I still cannot get over this ten nominees business). The best of what I have seen is The Social Network, an utterly engaging story about all of the backstabbing drama behind the founding of Facebook, which I admit I am totally addicted to. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work was definitely the year's best documentary, but the Academy ruled it ineligible to compete for some reason (perhaps because it was too entertaining and did not have some left-wing, pro-environmental spin? Just saying...). I was surprised how much I liked Exit Through the Gift Shop, the offbeat film about L.A.'s underground art world, something I thought I would have no interest in. Thankfully it is nominated for Best Documentary Feature. Most pundits are not predicting it will win but I hope it does.
Ben Affleck proved to be a first-class director with the gritty and absorbing heist drama The Town. The fact that the Academy filled the tenth Best Picture slot with the dreadful Winter's Bone instead of The Town shows their shortsightedness. At least Jeremy Renner is up for Best Supporting Actor, a very well-deserved nomination, although I am rooting for Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right. Ruffalo is one of the few actors currently working today who exudes genuine movie star charm, sexiness, and talent, a combination that is increasingly rare.
People remark to me that I seem to hate everything, that I think there are no good actors or actresses or films anymore. That is not entirely true. There are some great young talents who have emerged in recent years. Renner and Ruffalo are on the verge of becoming huge stars and I think we will be seeing a lot of them in the coming years. Although I thought Inception was an overrated mess that required a physics degree to understand, I think its two stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, are among the best actors of their generation. Ditto that to Affleck and Matt Damon. I also thought every young actor in The Social Network was sensational - I would gladly watch them in anything. Oddly, I cannot think of a single younger actress who really stands out.
The real problem with the state of movies today comes from the top. Studios do not want to take risks. They would rather remake old movies and adapt old sitcoms and comic books instead of taking a chance on original scripts by unknown writers. It all starts with the writing. You can have the snazziest special effects, the most beautiful cinematography, and the slickest editing (all of which Inception had), but without an intelligent, well-written screenplay, you have nothing. I think the moviegoing public is equally to blame since they keep shelling out money to see these rotten movies - although they spend most of their time playing with their cell phones instead of watching the screen.
Call me a fuddy-duddy, but the days of great movies are gone. Even into my late twenties, I used to consider staring up at the big screen in a darkened movie theater with the smell of popcorn in the air to be one of life's great pleasures. Sadly, that is gone. I wish it wasn't. I wish the Oscars were like I remembered them when I was young. It's nice to have something to look forward to, even if it is as frothy and meaningless as an awards show. But this is how it is. Getting that red and white envelope in the mail from Netflix is about as exciting as it gets.
I will likely catch bits and pieces of tonight's show. I have no predictions except for 127 Hours - that is how long I am guessing the telecast will last.
Shut Up and Teach
February 25, 2011
More power to Gov. Scott Walker for standing up to the teachers' unions, who for too long have silenced their opponents with bullying tactics while using their members' dues for left-wing political causes.
The more I hear Walker talk, the more I respect him. These foaming-at-the-mouth protestors in Wisconsin have compared Walker to Hitler and Mubarak. The unions are the real bullies, not Walker. It's about time they get what they deserve. Unions are notoriously corrupt and yield way too much power, all at the expense of the workers they claim to be looking out for.
The protests in Wisconsin have become a circus, with some union members comparing themselves to their "brothers in Egypt." Puh-leeze! You have doctors writing sick letters for teachers who are not showing up to work, which is illegal. What a fine example these "educators" are setting for "our kids." And then you have students joining the protests because it's better than actually going to school. Even better, how about the do-gooders watching from the sidelines who are showing their support for the "working people" by buying them pizzas (I don't think there are many decent Chinese restaurants in Wisconsin).
When I see all of these striking teachers, I can't help but think of all the teachers I had who I would have liked to have struck. Building up teaching as a noble, even heroic profession is one the great myths perpetrated by the media and politicians. I have zero respect for teachers. Are there some good ones? Sure, even I had a few. But most are bitter because they failed at other professions, take advantage of their position, and could care less about "our children's future."
As Woody Allen famously said, "Those who can't do, teach. And those who can't teach, teach gym."
That's What Fiends Are For
February 22, 2011
September 2009. I had just lost my apartment. I asked a "friend" if I could stay the night. I offered to pay for drinks and Chinese food. His response? "You'll also have to give me $50 so I can buy drugs." You can't make this up.
Kenneth Mars: 1936 - 2011
February 16, 2011
"Soon I will be with mein Fuehrer...and Goring...and Goebbels...and Himmler. I'm coming, boys!"
- Kenneth Mars as Franz Liebkind in The Producers
Kenneth Mars appeared in a lot films and TV series during his long career, yet he was best known for two key roles in two of Mel Brooks' best films. Mars, who died on February 12th at age 74 from pancreatic cancer, brought Franz Liebkind to life in The Producers (1968), playing a Hitler-worshipping playwright whose tribute to his beloved Fuehrer makes it to Broadway courtesy of Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) and Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder).
Six years later, Brooks again employed Mars in Young Frankenstein (1974) as Inspector Kemp, the burgermeister with one wooden arm, who fears that Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Wilder) is "following in his grandfather's footshteps, footshteps, footshteps!"
Other notable films Mars appeared in include Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and Woody Allen's Radio Days (1987), where he played a rabbi who takes turns with the film's young hero's parents hitting the boy after he stole money from the charity box. But it's Franz Kiebkind and Inspector Kemp that he will always be remembered for. Mars was lucky enough to be a working actor but unfortunately he never rose to major stardom like the other key members of the Mel Brooks stock company.
I don't think you ever need an excuse to watch either The Producers or Young Frankenstein, but perhaps tonight you can have a little schnapps and some sponge cake and enjoy Kenneth Mars' contribution to these classics.
Movies for Schmucks
February 14, 2011
Next month marks five years since I last saw a movie in a theater. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never was the #2 film at the box office this weekend, taking in over $30 million. Why would I want to sit in a dark auditorium with the kind of element that shells out money for this dreck while talking, texting, making phone calls, and nursing babies?
Most of the people who go to the movies these days probably have no idea who Orson Welles, Bette Davis or Ingrid Bergman were. The American public is getting dumber and dumber, as evidenced from who they put in the White House to what they watch on TV and pay to see at the movies. There is a small segment of the population, of course, who is savvy and know their film history. These are the kinds of folks who tend to buy books like Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad, but alas that is a small number compared to the droves who flock to the local multiplex to see the latest Seth Rogen masterpiece.
February 12, 2011
Today is the second anniversary of my being unemployed. I could not have accomplished this alone, so there are some people I want to give thanks to.
I want to thank every past employer, for whom I went above and beyond, only to have nothing to show for it. For the late nights, early mornings, and extra attention to detail I gave. Whether it was offering to postpone a vacation day so you could go to your house on Fire Island to dictate an important letter to me by phone so you would not miss any of your vacation. Whether it was cleaning up the office after the mess you made when you tried to put toner in the copier, only to realize if you were not a boss you could not figure out how to put a stamp on an envelope without instructions. Or the genius who had no idea how to order a turkey sandwich from the deli downstairs without assistance. I thank you all.
I want to thank all of my Manhattan "friends" who will never let me crash even one night on their couch. Who know how horrible being away from the city is, yet, on the rare occasion I can make it into town, are fine to meet me for drinks while knowing I am spending money I do not even have on hotel rooms. To those "friends" who would let me freeze on the street before asking me to come over. To the "friends" who hit me up for money at my own book party. For making me realize that friendship is nothing more than a brand of cottage cheese, I thank each and every one of them.
I want to thank the GOP for refusing to extend benefits for us 99ers. For their puzzlement that anyone could not be rich like them. For their belief that unemployment makes people lazy and not look for work. For their refusing to realize that when the neediest of people have some money, they put it back into the economy to buy luxury items like food, medicine, and toilet paper (that is, when we aren't wasting it on frills like rent and bills).
Equal thanks must go to the Democrats, who back a president who has done absolutely nothing to help the job situation. A president who blatantly lied to the American people by trying to make us believe temporary census jobs equalled real growth. The Democrats, while totally right about unemployment benefits, are just as negligent as their GOP counterparts when it comes to a solution for creating jobs.
Thank you to the few employers out there who actually are hiring, who place ads for jobs that seem to call for an individual with years of experience yet pay under $30,000 a year in New York City. For taking advantage of the situation by paying these criminally low salaries while at the same time demanding everything from their workers. To the employers who are intimidated when a well-spoken, witty, educated male comes in for an interview with flawless credentials and who choose to instead hire a mousy 25-year-old girl because she is just competent enough to do the job but poses no threat of being smarter or more ambitious than her employer.
And most importantly, thank you to Georgi vodka for helping me live to forget.
Hey, Michelle! Eat This!
February 9, 2011
So our beloved first lady wants to tell me what to eat. Fine. There's something I'd like to tell her to eat too.
Big Week in the Press for Funny and Sad
February 7, 2011
This past week has been the busiest week so far for press for Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad. In addition to the profile in The Southampton Press and the excellent interview with Joe Franklin on Bloomberg Radio, the current issue of the National Enquirer has a full-page story about the book.
The Enquirer referred to the book as a "bombshell," choosing to concentrate on the angle that Gene's marriage to Gilda was not the fairy tale it seemed - thankfully, everything in the article is true and taken from the book, although I would not have characterized their marriage as a "sham." The Enquirer has a circulation of just under 800,000 readers a week, so this is great exposure.
Click here to read the article.
Joe Franklin Interview Airing Today
February 5, 2011
The interview I did with Joe Franklin for Bloomberg Radio airs today - check your local Bloomberg station or listen online at www.bloomberg.com/radio.
Click here to listen to the full interview.
Joe Franklin is not only a legendary broadcaster but about as nice and down to earth a guy as you're likely to meet. We had a follow-up phone call the day after taping the interview and he was just amazing.
Thanks to Joe, his producer Rich Ornstein, and Charlie Pellett for a great interview and, with 35 million listeners worldwide, wonderful exposure.
More Wilder Press
February 3, 2011
The new edition of The Southampton Press features a very nice profile of me and the book. Thanks to reporter Brandi Buchman for doing such a great job.
Click here to read the online version.
A Book Party That Was Wilder Than Any Other
February 2, 2011
Had my book party yesterday. Of the 21 people who RSVP'd, 16 showed up and some of them brought guests so there was a total of 19 there - not bad. A few of the no-shows were decent enough to at least call or e-mail that they would not be able to make it. The others clearly never read Emily Post. We had fun, lots of delicious nibbles, and, of course, lots of booze.
But I tell ya, I know some winners - one "friend" showed up, did not buy the book, and then hit me up for $10!!! Like a schmuck, I gave it to him. Then later on another "friend" hit me up for $10!!! I have been out of work for two years - what is wrong with these people? I should have just said no but when you are put on the spot like that, it is very awkward. As I have said before, Bar People are not friends. I have never asked anyone for money when I was short on cash - that's what credit cards are for. I am through with these losers for good.
Aside from the total lack of class displayed by the two beggars at my party, everyone else was just great, making for an evening filled with affection, laughs, and appreciation for the accomplishment of getting the book published. One of my oldest friends, who I had not seen in person in about ten years, showed up and she looked amazing, better than when I first met her when I was 18 and she was in her thirties. She was a wonderful actress who starred in my first short film back in 1992 and her showing up made the evening for me. Another old friend, a photographer who let me use a photo he took of Gene and Gilda back in 1986, also showed.
I had the party at The Wheeltapper Pub, a lovely tavern at the Fitzpatrick Grand Central Hotel. The food was just terrific - great buffalo wings, a wonderfully savory dish of sirloin tips, mushrooms, and Gorgonzola, and the moistest, most delicious salmon I have ever tasted, served on skewers over a fennel salad. The management and staff could not have been more helpful and friendly. I highly recommend The Wheeltapper if you're in the area and I definitely recommend the Fitzpatrick, a wonderful boutique hotel with attentive service and elegant, beautifully appointed rooms.
So that's the scoop on the Gene Wilder book signing party of 2011. If you want to know anything else, it'll cost you $10.
January 25, 2011
So the nominations for Hollywood's annual company picnic were announced this morning. Was a time when this would be exciting. The movies are nothing but junk these days and the hacks who make them are bloated egomaniacs who mostly got where they are because of their family connections. The show itself is a three-hour amateur act.
Chris Connelly was on Good Morning America before the nominations were announced. He said if Annette Bening and Julianne Moore were both nominated for lead actress for The Kids Are All Right, it would be the first time that happened since Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine were nominated for The Turning Point in 1977. WRONG! Happened in 1983 with MacLaine and Debra Winger for Terms of Endearment and in 1991 with Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon for Thelma & Louise. I love how these "experts" get the big bucks yet know nothing.
Oompa-Loompas for Obama?
January 21, 2011
I want to thank my friends at Parcbench for posting a very nice piece about Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad today. The political and pop culture Web site, which I occasionally write for, recently interviewed me about the book.
Click here to read the article.
Wilder Bio on the Radio with Joe Franklin
January 20, 2011
I taped a radio interview today with the one and only Joe Franklin, who broadcasts on Bloomberg Radio on Saturdays. Joe is a fan of Gene Wilder's and it was a thrill to be interviewed by a true broadcasting legend. The interview will air sometime in February on a Saturday. I will keep you posted and also post a link here on the site.
The book also received a very nice review today from William Schoell on his Web site. See below.
Excellent Article on Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad
January 17, 2011
I recently gave an interview about my book to a local Stamford, CT news Web site. The reporter who interviewed me, Caroline Sadowska, did an excellent job with the piece. If all future press on the book is half as well-written as this, I will be very lucky.
Click here to read the interview.
Ricky, Don't Lose That Humor
January 17, 2011
Last night's Golden Globes proved that the only thing Hollywood seems to be able to laugh at is Republicans. Everything else is taboo to joke about. Ricky Gervais was downright brilliant. His dig at Travolta and Cruise was my favorite. Everyone knows they are gay - he had the courage to poke fun at them in a very clever way. The audience squirmed and moaned because Gervais was touching a nerve. That crowd only wants to pat each other on the back for caring about Haiti and every social injustice in the world. They have no idea how to relax and let loose, unless it's with drugs and hookers...and then you cannot make jokes about that. I hate Hollywood.
On Facebook, I was appalled to see some people who work in the theater compare Gervais' act with the kind of bullying that causes kids to commit suicide. As someone who has tried to block out most memories of my childhood because I was beaten up every day in school, I find that absurd. Gervais is a comedian! And he was damn funny. CNN had interviews with many of the celebs in the audience after the show and all of those interviewed, including Chris Noth, Steve Buscemi, Al Pacino, and Joe Mantegna, said they liked Gervais' jokes.
There are people who never liked Don Rickles or Joan Rivers, arguably two of the greatest comedians of all time, because they are "mean." As Joan would say, grow up! The ability to laugh at one's self is the mark of a confident, intelligent person. I watched the Rivers documentary twice - half of her material is at her own expense. And the rest is the essence of comedy - she actually was able to make jokes about AIDS hysterical yet tasteful.
We live in dangerous times. Classic books are being edited so people are not offended by certain words. Comedians are supposed to censor themselves so no one is offended. And the left is trying to make everyone think political rhetoric caused one sick young loner to shoot up a crowd in Arizona. Political correctness is the death of art, the death of comedy, and if it continues, the death of free speech. I do not like the times we live in. And it's only going to get worse.
We Need More Funny, Less Sad
January 11, 2011
I sent out invitations to my book signing party today. If you know me and didn't get an e-mail, I apologize. E-mail me for details. If you don't know me and want to come, e-mail me.
A lot of unpleasant things have been going on in the world in the last couple of weeks since my book came out. I did not write anything about the horrific shootings in Arizona because, as my Web site of late has become primarily an outlet to promote my book, I did not want to trivialize such a tragedy.
Let me just say that I do not think there is a single decent person in this country whose heart does not go out to everyone who was shot and their families. Gabby Giffords seems to be incredibly lucky and hopefully will make a full recovery. Amazing how three major news sources confirmed her death, then retracted it. The aftermath of this shooting leaves a lot that needs to be discussed but I hate seeing how almost immediately so many turned this into a left vs. right issue. Yes, Sarah Palin's "targeting" of 20 Democrats whom she wanted to see defeated was downright stupid and irresponsible, but I refuse to believe she or any conservative talk show hosts are to blame for one deranged loner's actions. And lest we forget, there is plenty of hateful speech from the left, evidenced a few months ago by John Cusack's call for the "satantic deaths" of Fox News and GOP leaders.
Back to the book, it has only been on sale for two weeks and already I have gotten two very nice five-star reviews on Amazon.com (and no, they were not written by my mother). One of them was written by a great lady named Judy Nathanson, who was president of Gene Wilder's fan club back in the late 1970s. Any words of praise are nice, but coming from her it really means a lot considering how big a fan she is of Gene's and how much great work she put into the club.
I am also thrilled by the response I have been getting from a number of media outlets interested in the book. The readership of the New York Post is so big that several people I know contacted me to say they saw the mention in Cindy Adams' column, as did the producer of a radio show hosted by a true New York legend, who is interested in me doing the show. More details to come.
Finally, the Drama Book Shop, that esteemed New York City store that carries books mainly on theater and entertainment, has the book for sale on their Web site. So the book now can be ordered through either Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, BearManor Media or the Drama Book Shop.
Cindy Adams Mentions Wilder Bio in Today's NY Post
January 10, 2011
I am pleased that Cindy Adams mentioned my book in her New York Post column today (click here to read it), but she kinda implied the wrong thing. "People" never thought Gene was gay, as she implies I said or wrote. What appears in the book is this: "[Gilda] thought I was queer," Gene said, "because she saw Stir Crazy and she got it in her head that I was tutti-frutti. Just because Richard kissed me one time."
So to clarify, Gene Wilder is as straight as they come (my luck, I spent 15 years writing about one of the few straight guys in Hollywood!).
Cindy also spelled Gilda's last name like the Pennsylvania city. Do I call Cindy's assistant today or, as Emily Litella might, just say, "Never mind?" After all, it's publicity and at least she got my name right.
Wilder Bio on TCM's Main Page Today
January 2, 2011
Turner Classic Movies' Web site rotates different items on their Movie News section on the main page of their Web site. Today Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad is featured. Being on the main page is a big deal considering how much traffic www.tcm.com gets, hence huge potential for book sales.
I am thrilled and humbled that so many people have actually let me know they have purchased the book already. Thanks for the support.
Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad Now Available from Barnes & Noble
December 31, 2010
Barnes & Noble's Web site now has Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad available for purchase, so you now have three choices for buying the book: Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com or BearManor Media.
I should be getting a few more press mentions in the coming weeks. I will post them as they appear. For now, 2010 has been more sad than funny, so let's hope we all have a happy and healthy new year in 2011.
More Press for Wilder Bio
December 30, 2010
I finally received my copies of Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad yesterday. I cannot tell you what a thrill it is to have the finished book in my hands. It looks terrific. My designer, Brian Pearce, outdid himself with both the front and back cover, as well as the inside layout.
A local news Web site that covers Gene Wilder's hometown of Stamford, CT interviewed me about the book. Click here to read this very nice piece from The Daily Stamford. I also awoke this morning to find someone posted a glowing five-star review of the book on amazon.com, which is a nice boost for any book.
Thanks to those of you who have already purchased the book or plan on doing so, as well as those of you who have supported me in this endeavor through the years.
Turner Classics Features Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad
December 29, 2010
I am proud to announce that Turner Classic Movies is currently featuring Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad on their Web site. Click here to see the page. Considering TCM's popularity and the amount of traffic their site gets, this is great exposure for the book. Stay tuned for more press announcements.
Due to weather, I did not receive my copy of the book yesterday but I did have egg foo young in anticipation. The champagne is still chilling in the fridge, however, and will hopefully be opened tonight since I was informed by my publisher that all of my copies should be arriving today.
Wilder Bio Now Available on Amazon.com
December 27, 2010
Hope everyone had a good time celebrating baby Jesus' birthday. I spent Christmas with some friends in the city I had not seen in three months. And like any good Jew, I ate Chinese food, although I still continue to eschew movies in theaters. There was lots of booze, lots of nibbles (I forgot how delicious port wine cheddar is), and lots of laughs. Santa even tried to give me rosy cheeks.
As of Christmas day, Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad is now available for purchase on amazon.com, both in book form and for Kindle. So you have the option of either purchasing it from them or from BearManor. The book will also be available on Barnes & Noble's Web site in the coming weeks.
I checked out a really nice place in Midtown East that I am almost certain I will be having my little book signing party at. I will need to firm up details in the next few weeks. And as New York is currently paralyzed due to a major blizzard, all winter plans are always tentative since we never know how pissed off Mother Nature might be.
Tomorrow I will get my first look at the finished book in my actual hands. I am very excited to finally see the physical result of so many years of hard work. I think champagne and egg foo young will be in order for tomorrow evening to celebrate.
Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad on Sale Now!
December 22, 2010
Although the projected release date for Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad was February 15, 2011, the book is now available for order on BearManor's Web site and will arrive in approximately two weeks if you order now. The book will also soon be available from amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
The 273-page book is $19.95 plus $5.00 shipping. Click here to order.
Head for Cover...
December 15, 2010
I am pleased to announce that yesterday I signed off on the final galleys and book covers for Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad. My publisher's designer had the patience of a saint with all of my revisions, but I do not regret being so persnickety about every comma and period because the finished product looks really terrific.
The book is 273 pages, including 22 pages of photographs, some of which are extremely rare. My birth month and year are 2/73 - hopefully a lucky sign.
Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad will be available for purchase two months from today - 2/15/11 - from amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and bearmanormedia.com.
December 9, 2010
Okay, I really have been behaving myself and not wanting to write this, but hey, it's my Web site, so here goes. I am naturally very excited about the forthcoming publication of my book. I only wish it could have been during a period of my life when my parents were in good health, I was employed, and I had my own place in Manhattan. But it's still something I am very proud of. After many years of thinking I wasted my time and it would never be published, I am finally seeing my hard work pay off.
I thought that if I ever did get my book published, I would have a book party. I was never bar mitzvahed and I am never getting married, so I thought this could be my one moment to shine. If I still had my own place, I would have the party there. But I don't. So I looked into a number of bars and restaurants to have a gathering - and no matter what you choose, it's expensive. But here's the catch: aside from four or five people, I have nothing but contempt for most everyone I know. I cannot even call them friends - they are acquaintances or, more accurately, Bar People. With very few exceptions, people you meet at bars are not real friends. They care only about themselves and where their next drink is coming from.
After I lost my apartment, the phone stopped ringing. Out of sight, out of mind. As much as I would like to have a big "do," I cannot justify spending $60 a head for a two-hour open bar and hors d'oeuvres on people who would not even let me crash on their couch for one night when I really needed it.
Then I thought about doing something very casual instead. Just go to a bar, tell people I will be there, and whoever shows up shows up. Let everyone buy their own drinks, I'll flip for some bar food, and that's that. If they want to buy the book, great, I'll sign it for them. If they don't, fine. I cannot afford to give everyone a complimentary copy and if they can't understand that, that's their problem.
Or maybe I just won't do anything at all. I'll be in town, that I know. It will be a cold gray late afternoon in February. I will be all the way downtown in the Financial District. I will wander into some bar I have never been in before. It won't be very crowded. I will order a good drink - probably a martini. And I will take out my book and read it. Maybe the bartender will ask me about it. And I can tell him I wrote it. Maybe he will buy me a drink to congratulate me. And in turn maybe I will give him a copy of the book and sign it for him (I, of course, will be carrying at least a dozen copies on me at all times, mainly in the hopes of impressing potential sex partners).
I will have a few more cocktails probably, then maybe hit on those three women at the end of the bar who are having after work drinks. I will show them my book. Maybe they will turn out to be Gene Wilder fans. And I will buy them drinks and make them laugh. I will give them copies of the book, which they will insist I sign for them. Then I will ask if they want to come back to my hotel room with me. And they will. And we will have the most amazing sex all night long, the only breaks being to take turns reading passages aloud from my book. And then the bartender will shake me and tell me that they frown upon people sleeping on the bar. So I will thank him for the drink, he will thank me for the book, and I will head off into the snowy night, alone except for my satchel which now contains eleven books.
It's only 7:00 p.m. but I have had all I can drink for now. As I walk in the direction of my hotel, in search of a Chinese restaurant on the way, I will be reminded of the ending of John Huston's film of James Joyce's The Dead:
"Snow is falling. Falling in that lonely churchyard where Michael Furey lies buried. Falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living, and the dead."
Nobody Asked, but...
December 5, 2010
My thoughts on a few things in the news this past week:
This past week there has been a movement on Facebook encouraging everyone to change their profile picture to that of a cartoon character in a charitable effort to fight violence against children. Huh? How is changing your own photo to that of Daffy Duck going to stop violence against children? That is like saying if you put a photo of boobs on your profile you will be fighting breast cancer or a cheeseburger photo will help end world hunger. People are so gullible.
Instead, I propose just the opposite. This is what I posted on my Facebook page:
In an effort to show disdain for inconsiderate parents who think it is cute to bring their screaming snot-nosed brats to nice restaurants, movie theaters, and anywhere in public without teaching them manners, DO NOT fall for this BS about changing your profile picture to a cartoon character. There is a silent minority of us who do not believe in overpopulating the world and we should not have to put up with other people's bundles of germs and noise when we pay money to have a meal, see a movie, or patronage a business.
I have not seen a movie in a theater in almost five years but there are two films out now that really look worthwhile - The King's Speech and I Love You Phillip Morris. These "grown-up" movies do not seem like the kind of films people will bring screaming two-year-olds to but ya never know. And then the female moviegoers constantly talking. And the cell phones. Plus it's like $50 a ticket in NY. Add another $25 if you want a small popcorn. Screw it - I can wait six months for Netflix.
It was announced that the hosts of the next Oscars ceremony will be James Franco and Anne Hathaway. All together now: WTF??? These kids - and yes, they are kids - are fine actors, but what gives them the slightest credentials to host what used to be the biggest night of the year? Hosting Saturday Night Live, which has become so pathetically unfunny in recent years, doesn't cut it. As if dumbing down the awards themselves by having ten nominees for Best Picture instead of five wasn't enough, now the show itself will be helmed by two performers who are not even household names yet. If the goal was to attract a younger audience, there are dozens of other young actors who would have been better choices, chief among them Neil Patrick Harris, who has proven to be an utterly charming and funny emcee on other awards shows. Gone are the days of Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Jack Lemmon, and Billy Crystal it seems. Who will the Academy get to host next year? Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus?
Elaine Kaufman: 1929-2010
I lived near Elaine's restaurant for years yet never went in because I heard that unless you were Woody Allen or Michael Caine, you were treated like scum. I'm treated badly enough as it is without having to pay high prices for food that was legendary for its mediocrity. Never met the lady, so cannot speak from experience, but I believe the stories about her rude behavior. Still, she was definitely a landmark.
Leslie Nielsen: 1926-2010
Everyone has already made the Shirley jokes, so just let me say that Leslie Nielsen was a comic actor of the highest order. His standout films, of course, were Airplane! (1980) and the first Naked Gun (1988), but he also managed to rise above mediocre material in minor films like Mel Brooks' Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995). And Golden Girls fans will forever remember him as the man who finally hitched Dorothy Zbornak. After already having established himself as a comedic actor, who could forget his dramatic turn as a john who gets knifed to death by call girl Barbra Streisand in Nuts (1987)? Now that should have been a comedy!
Keep Hope Alive?
What kind of crazy times do we live in when two million Americans - yours truly included - are losing their unemployment benefits and the most sane voice in all of this is Jesse Jackson?
Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, began this past Wednesday at sundown. It coincided with the 75th birthday of a very famous Jew, Woody Allen. So to celebrate both, after I finished my Chinese food, I went over to my girlfriend's house and had sex with her adopted Korean teenage daughter.
You Can't Handle the Tooth!
November 27, 2010
"Poor drunks do not find love, Arthur. They have very few teeth, they urinate outdoors, they freeze to death in summer. I can't bear to think of you that way."
- John Gielgud as Hobson in Arthur (1981)
In another sign that my youth is slipping away, I had to have a tooth pulled yesterday. I have had pretty good oral hygiene throughout my life. I used to go for cleanings and check-ups every six months. Had my wisdom teeth removed when I was in my early teens. I brush and floss regularly. As I got older and was living on my own, I went about once a year for cleanings. Then when I entered the wonderful world of unemployment, I simply stopped going to the dentist because I could not afford it.
I had a tooth that was bothering me for a while that I finally had to take care of about six weeks ago. The dentist was very nice and understood my financial situation. The tooth was fractured, so he replaced the filling but told me that he was doubtful the filling would last long. A crown or root canal could be options but they are both very expensive and he said I could still lose my tooth anyway. Well, a few days ago the tooth acted up and by yesterday the pain was unbearable. Thoughts of Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man (1976) kept entering my mind. My usual dentist was not in but I saw his associate, who was very good, even though he was 12 years old. Yet another sign you are not a kid anymore - doctors are younger than you!
The tooth had to come out. To say it was one of the most unpleasant things I have ever experienced is, well, let's put it this way - if they ever catch bin Laden, forget waterboarding. Send him to the dentist. Yes, you are numb, but the tooth in question was stubborn. It seemed to take forever to come out (kinda like Ricky Martin) and you can actually feel the pressure from the pulling. I kept trying to think happy, positive thoughts - a challenge for me, of course. The tooth needed to be removed in segments - sounds lovely, doesn't it?
I needed one stitch. The dentist wants to see me in a week. Thankfully there was not a huge amount of bleeding and today I am not in pain. The tooth that was removed was the next to last in the back, so you cannot see it when I talk or if I smile, which I rarely do anyway.
I used to make fun of all the people from the bars who had very few or bad teeth. We make fun of that which we fear we will become. If I am liquid in another year or so, I would like to have an implant to replace the missing tooth, but for now I cannot honestly say I have all my teeth. The hair should be next - it's just a question of going gray or bald.
Click here to watch this wonderful clip about getting on in years performed by those lovable old Commie folk singers (is that redundant?) The Weavers.
The Prince and the Pastrami
November 16, 2010
Mazel tov to Britain's Prince William, who will marry his longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton next year. Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth must be kvelling with naches, even though Kate is not Jewish (not clear if she intends to convert).
The wedding will most likely take place at Leonard's of Great Neck with catering expected to be done by the Second Avenue Deli.
A Balanced Diet
November 12, 2010
"I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I'm under the table,
After four I'm under my host."
- Dorothy Parker
I don't know about this article. If I have a martini, I have olives. If I have a Bloody Mary, I have celery. If I have a pina colada, a cherry and pineapple slice. How is this not healthy eating?
Jill Clayburgh: 1944 - 2010
November 6, 2010
What sad news to wake up to this morning. The lovely and hugely talented actress Jill Clayburgh has died from leukemia at age 66. For a time, she was one of the hottest actresses in Hollywood, having appeared in such seminal 1970s films as An Unmarried Woman (1978), Starting Over (1979), and, of course, my favorite, Silver Streak (1976), in which she was both funny and sexy as Gene Wilder's love interest (in the early '90s, she and Wilder did a sitcom pilot called Eligible Dentist but it never aired).
A native New Yorker, Clayburgh most recently appeared on Broadway in a 2006 revival of Barefoot in the Park and was a regular on the 2007 TV series Dirty Sexy Money.
She managed to keep her disease private for 21 years while still maintaining an active career. She is survived by her husband, the playwright David Rabe, as well as a son, daughter, stepson, and brother. She will be missed.
November 5, 2010
"Look at me, ma. Look at your chubby baby now. I'm a lousy fat, fat man! And that's what you made me! A damn fatso!"
- Dom DeLuise as Dominick DiNapoli in Fatso (1980)
Dom DeLuise was a wonderful, dear man. He loved food. He struggled with his weight all his life. And he died a year and a half ago at the age of 75 - not bad for someone whose weight might have presaged an early death.
DeLuise's performance in Anne Bancroft's Fatso still remains one of the most overlooked brilliant performances I have ever seen in a film that was also criminally underrated. Robert DeNiro won the Oscar for Best Actor for Raging Bull the year Fatso was released but I think DeLuise gave the year's best leading performance (if you want to leave Timothy Hutton in the supporting category, which is still debatable). His Dominick DiNapoli was like an updated version of Ernest Borgnine in Marty (1955) but with a lot more soul. The role was obviously close to home for DeLuise, who ironically was not at his heaviest in this film.
There are some people who can eat and eat and eat and never gain a pound. I think people like that should be forced to pay higher taxes. I gain five pounds just walking past a White Castle. I started a diet two months ago and was doing so well. Lost fifteen pounds in less than three weeks. I was eating healthy. I stopped drinking. Then I allowed myself a day to cheat here and there. Then one or two days turned into three and four days.
My father was in the hospital for nearly a month for a blood clot in his leg that required surgery. Then he was transferred to a rehab facility where he still remains for at least two more weeks. So the stress from all this made me abandon my newfound healthy habits and revert back to early evening cocktails followed by dinner loaded with lots of fat, calories, and carbs (i.e. usually Chinese food). I was still managing to keep most of the weight off, though - aside from the evening, I would be good throughout the day (lots of water, light lunches of tuna, cottage cheese, and fresh vegetables). But I could only elude those pesky pounds for so long, for they have started making a return. As of today, I gained back half of what I lost.
It's very easy to get depressed and feel sorry for yourself and say screw it, I give up, I'm eating and drinking whatever I want. And that is where I am right now. I was looking forward to going to Vegas in another week and my goal was to lose twenty pounds for that trip. But I had to cancel the trip because of the situation with my father, so what does it matter if I am back to my old weight, right? I know that if my trip was still on, I would have lost those twenty pounds and maybe even more. Thankfully my friend Bob Davis took a photo of me for the author page of my book when I was at my lowest weight - and it's one of the best pictures I have taken in recent years, made even better with a little retouching by my friend Jimmy Tomkins (hello, Ceil!).
Without having goals, it's hard to keep up the momentum of losing weight. After all, most people who lose a lot of weight gain it back. I am going to have a small party in February to celebrate my book coming out. That is an event that should give me motivation to lose weight.
James Coco, another actor who always had weight issues, said, "I have never not been on a diet. I don't know what it's like to eat a plate of spaghetti with no conscience at all." Coco eventually did lose a substantial amount of weight (more than fifty pounds, I believe) - and in a terribly sad irony, then died of a heart attack shortly thereafter at age 56.
Well, February seems like a long way off right now. So I must keep my chins up and perhaps turn to Bette Midler for encouragement. But right now, I have a tough decision to make - will it be egg foo young or lo mein for dinner tonight? Or both?
From Cubans to Reubens, Let's Toast the Sandwich
November 3, 2010
Today is National Sandwich Day, so I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about some of my favorites. The sandwich is often regarded as rather lowly - something quick and easy to grab for lunch or on the run. But sandwiches are actually among my favorite foods.
I sometimes enjoy a simple ham and cheese sandwich more than anything. Then you have your comfort food sandwiches in the form of the big three of salads: tuna, egg, and chicken. The fast food world has become more delicious and a lot healthier in recent years with the dominance of Subway, a chain that offers you a choice of what you want and how you want it, always fresh and tasty (I usually go for turkey with most of the fixings). Regional favorites like the Philly cheesesteak are now everywhere. My late friend Billy Puzo used to wax on about the Reuben, that decadent combination of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on toasted rye. And then there's the Cuban - a savory combination of ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard.
I'm a sucker for those huge hoagies filled with assorted Italian delicacies like capicola, salami, pepperoni, roasted red peppers, etc. When I was little, my father used to buy a monster version of this called the Godfather from a local deli. It was huge - three of us would have it for dinner and there would still be leftovers. I guess they called it the Godfather because it was impossible to refuse.
The Second Avenue Deli is not only one of my two or three favorite restaurants, but they also have what I would be tempted to say is my favorite sandwich - pastrami on club. But then what about my people's soul food, the classic bagel and lox (with onion, tomato, and scallion cream cheese, of course)? Or from our Greek friends, the gyro with all of that delicious lamb, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and white sauce on a warm pita. Or how about a nod to the French for giving us the croissant, whose flaky, buttery goodness can give an ordinary sandwich a certain je ne sais quoi.
The simplest sandwiches are often the best, such as the grilled cheese. Only a handful of ingredients make up the BLT, arguably the most perfect sandwich ever created with the saltiness of hot bacon paired with cool crisp lettuce, tomato, and creamy mayo on warm toast. What's not to like? Add some turkey and an extra slice of toast and then it becomes a club sandwich.
But if I was forced to name my favorite sandwich - and it's tough since I have so many - with all due respect to the pastrami at the Second Avenue Deli, I think the most satisfying sandwich is one which has helped me many a morning come back to life after a night of being overserved - ham, egg, and cheese on a roll. I usually get egg whites to cut down on the cholesterol but if it was really a rough night, then I would opt for a runny fried egg, several slices of ham, and American cheese on an untoasted kaiser roll - and for me, lots of black pepper. This is a truly sublime combination of flavors that is only made better with a good cup of coffee.
So let's give the sandwich the respect it deserves today. Click here to watch a classic sketch from Saturday Night Live featuring Bill Murray as the Earl of Sandwich. Click the following links to watch parts one, two, and three of The Frugal Gourmet's sandwich show. Lastly, click here to watch this mouthwatering clip from the special features on the DVD of the 2004 movie Spanglish in which chef Thomas Keller prepares what looks like the ultimate late night snack. I have wanted to make this at home since first seeing this clip but have been too lazy. But I must say, it does indeed look like the world's greatest sandwich.
Roeper Gives Thumbs Up to Wilder Bio
October 25, 2010
A couple of months ago I announced that one of the most prominent film critics in the country read Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad and gave me a great quote for the back of the book. I didn't want to reveal who that critic was until a little closer to the publication date, which my publisher informed me is still on schedule for February 15, 2011. The gentleman with the exceptional taste is none other than Richard Roeper, the distinguished critic and columnist of the Chicago Sun-Times and, of course, formerly Ebert & Roeper.
"Gene Wilder is one of the great comic actors of the last half-century – and he is also a fascinating figure offscreen," says Roeper. "Brian Scott Mednick has done a four-star job of capturing his life and times."
I could not ask for nicer praise than that, made all the more flattering coming from a critic of Roeper's stature. I approached a lot of well-known critics and journalists asking if they would read my book - two agreed and then flaked out, while most others said they were too busy or simply did not respond. Carol Burnett once said that often the biggest stars are the ones who are the nicest. In addition to being an astute critic, Richard Roeper is also an incredibly nice guy. I thank him for giving me and my book this nice boost.
Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad will be available for purchase on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and bearmanormedia.com.
Score Juan for Fox News
October 22, 2010
I think the average NPR listener is a middle-aged big city woman who has three cats, always wears her hair tightly pulled back in a bun, dresses entirely in black, sports thick black-rimmed glasses, and spends hours alone at a bar nursing one glass of wine while reading the memoirs of Gloria Steinem.
Anyone who continues to listen to NPR is nuts. They fired Juan Williams - a LIBERAL! - for expressing his opinion on a venue other than theirs. They are more concerned with offending Muslims than defending free speech and differing points of view, things that are not tolerated in the Muslim world or obviously at NPR. I hope their public funding dwindles to nothing.
No matter - the joke is on NPR because Williams will become a bigger star with a larger forum to express his views, thanks to Fox News, which, by signing Williams to a three-year, $2 million contract, really shows they are indeed fair and balanced, unlike the one-sided, extremist, pro-Arab NPR, a station that can often be heard in taxi cabs here in New York driven by - yep - Muslims. Funny that.
Whether or not you agree with Williams' politics, he has always been a thoughtful commentator and welcome presence on the Sunday morning political shows. His firing shows just how dangerous radical organizations like NPR are to our basic First Amendment rights. I predict Williams will not only become a successful addition to the Fox family, but a hero of sorts to those on both the right and left who honestly care about free speech.
If you say you would not be scared if you saw someone dressed in Muslim garb on a plane, you are either a liar or just plain dumb. Shame on anyone who continues to support NPR.
This Globe Ain't Golden
October 21, 2010
Globe magazine contacted me last month and said they had some great photos of Gene Wilder and his wife Karen taken at the U.S. Open. They asked what Gene was up to these days, so I sent them some excerpts from the book. The article was supposed to run a few weeks ago but got held back and is in the issue that hits stands today. BUT DO NOT BUY IT!
They totally spinned the story into a sleazy, untrue piece entitled "Gene Wilder's Desperate Last Days." Plus, they got my name wrong. I am really upset because they used my actual quotes yet make it sound like I am implying Gene is dying. Yes, his cancer treatments took a toll on his appearance. Yes, he no longer has the long curly hair everyone remembers him for. Yes, he looks like a man in his late seventies. But nonetheless he is alive and well and has been cancer-free for a decade. The Globe is a total rag.
A few years back, I cooperated with the National Enquirer on two pieces about Gene Wilder that were positive, one that Gene himself gave an interview for. The Enquirer actually has a level of journalistic integrity while the Globe is the kind of waste of paper best used for lining a birdcage.
Had I been told the article was going to be a "last days" piece, I would have never cooperated. They say any publicity is good publicity, but my book is a serious and honest portrait of a life and career, not sensational tabloid fodder. I fired off an e-mail to the reporter who wrote the piece and made it clear that my book and my name not be mentioned in any future articles they may print about Gene.
I am sorry if anyone connected to Gene or his family reads the Globe and thinks I am an accomplice to such a disgusting piece.
October 19, 2010
I did not plan on watching last night's gubernatorial debate but I happened to turn it on a few minutes after it started and, like an accident on the road, I could not help but watch, even though I knew I was witnessing something terrible. Due to an inane decision to have every fringe candidate participate, the whole thing was a huge farce in which nothing of substance really got discussed. Instead we heard bona fide loonies like Jimmy McMillan, sporting black gloves and what looked like a French poodle for a beard, repeating his mantra that "rent is too damn high."
Then you had Kristin Davis, a former madam who had some pretty good one-liners ("Businesses will leave the state faster than Carl Paladino at a gay bar."); Howie Hawkins, an alleged lifetime New Yorker who sounded like he just stepped out of a community theater production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Charles Barron, a former Black Panther and blatant racist who chastised the moderators because they were not of color; and Warren Redlich, who is actually a Facebook friend of mine (God, I sound like Michael Scott), who had some good ideas, but, as the Libertarian Party candidate, has zero chance of winning.
The two major party candidates did not have an opportunity to engage one another. Carl Paladino, desperately trying to keep his temper in check, stuttered and stammered through almost every question, showing no grasp of key issues. Not surprisingly, Andrew Cuomo won the debate by just being himself. He was articulate, smart, and in control, the only one who projected the aura of a leader. He was even funny at one point when he agreed with McMillan that yes, rent is too damn high.
None of the participants completely answered the questions they were asked, all instead offering their own talking points. I really liked Rick Lazio and have a lot of problems with Andrew Cuomo, but, even though I am sitting out this election, I will be happy to see Cuomo clobber Paladino, who has been nothing but an embarrassment. Redlich seems like a smart guy and I hope he finds something rewarding to do in the near future, but right now Andrew Cuomo can rest assured he will be occupying his father's old job come January.
Morgan: A Suitable Case?
October 13, 2010
The American Film Institute announced the next recipient of their annual lifetime achievement award and it is Morgan Freeman. Freeman is without question one of our great actors. I might even go so far as to say he is our finest working American actor. Since it started the lifetime achievement awards in 1973, AFI has done a great job of recognizing the best in the business. Past winners include Orson Welles, Bette Davis, Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, and Dustin Hoffman - not an undeserving one in the bunch.
To receive the AFI award, the recipient must agree to appear to accept the award, which might explain why such reclusive types as Katharine Hepburn, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Stanley Kubrick, and Woody Allen never received the honor. Two recipients who are undeniably great talents received the honor too soon, though; Steven Spielberg in 1995 was 48 years old and Tom Hanks in 2002 was 45. They are certainly deserving of such an honor but the AFI should have waited and instead honored someone who had logged in more years.
Freeman, who is 73, has had some personal goings-on of soap opera proportions (he and his wife recently divorced and he is now allegedly marrying his step-granddaughter). But the award is not given for moral reasons (what in Hollywood is?). I met Freeman a few years ago and he was incredibly gracious and nice.
No matter who is selected each year, you can't please everyone. Among the striking omissions who have yet to be chosen by AFI are Julie Andrews, Mel Brooks, Michael Caine, Gene Hackman, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton, Jerry Lewis, Shirley MacLaine, Steve Martin, Bette Midler, Liza Minnelli, Peter O'Toole, Robert Redford, Elizabeth Taylor, and Gene Wilder. Everyone has their favorite stars and will grouse when another year passes and they aren't chosen. That's show business, folks.
Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homophobe
October 11, 2010
Hmm, being gay is abnormal but being a married man who fathers children with other women is okay? Carl Paladino is another shining example of that oh so patriotic, freedom-loving movement known as the Tea Party. Click here to read some of the boneheaded remarks he made, which then, in typical Paladino fashion, he tried to shy away from. With all of the recent violence aimed at gay people, having a major party candidate for the highest office in the state say things like this is irresponsible and dangerous.
The Republican voters in New York really showed why the GOP has become irrelevant in this state by voting for this sleazy millionaire over a decent, honorable man like Rick Lazio. Andrew Cuomo is no bargain, but he is clearly the the lesser of two evils in this race. I seriously believe Paladino is not only a hothead but someone with real mental and behavioral issues.
Paladino blasts Cuomo for having his teenage daughters accompany him in the gay pride parade. Yes, how terrible to raise your children free of bigotry and intolerance. In the Paladino book of child rearing, words like "brainwashing" and "disgusting" should be used when discussing gays. Paladino says being gay is not "an equally valid and successful option." Yeah, what parent would want their kid turning out like that loser Neil Patrick Harris. Or other "unsuccessful" people like David Geffen, Nathan Lane, Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, and Stephen Sondheim - if only they were straight, maybe they would have found some success in life.
The election is only three weeks away and Cuomo maintains a lead of more than 25 points. The two will debate next week, but the debate will be a farce because every third party candidate will be participating, making it a seven-person debate in which the two leading candidates will have little time to speak. It was Paladino who insisted on having all of the candidates take part since it will give him less face time and therefore less opportunity for him to put his foot in his mouth. Had Cuomo and Paladino debated one-on-one, Cuomo would have wiped the floor with Paladino.
The only encouraging thing about Tea Party nuts like Paladino and Christine O'Donnell is that they have no chance of actually being elected. Unfortunately, others throughout the country like Sharron Angle are in striking distance of winning. Perhaps after the election, Paladino and O'Donnell can team up to promote their "pro-family" agenda and try convincing everyone that the greatest threat to this country is gay guys in Speedos. What a joke these people are.
Egg Foo Young at Heart
October 8, 2010
My love of Chinese food is no secret, but lately egg foo young is the one dish that I crave most. I prefer the roast pork variety, which my local takeout does very well. New Kam Lai, a nondescript takeout on the Upper West Side, makes excellent combination egg foo young with pork, shrimp, chicken, and vegetables - just delicious. I usually ask for the sauce on the side so I can control just how much I want to use. Egg foo young is really just an omelette with pork, onions, and sometimes bean sprouts all smothered in brown gravy and mixed with rice, but it's the ultimate comfort food, the Chinese answer to mac and cheese, if you will.
I find most takeouts make very good egg foo young while, much to my surprise, Empire Szechuan in the West Village, one of my favorite Chinese restaurants, butchers this particular dish. Theirs is the worst egg foo young I have ever had, made almost inedible by a dark black sauce that has no business being anywhere near egg foo young (it was like thick soy sauce - yuck!).
I have changed my eating habits in the past month and have successfully lost a decent amount of weight. I still have more to go and it will always be a constant battle. When I can no longer stand to eat anymore cucumbers and cottage cheese, I allow myself a day to cheat here and there. And when I do, it's usually cocktails at around 6:00 p.m. followed by roast pork egg foo young, white rice, and an egg roll, often enjoyed while watching DVD's of As Time Goes By, a show that is equally as comforting as my food.
So that's my guilty pleasure. Sue me. (I am sure there is a Chinese restaurant somewhere called Sue Me - maybe it's kosher Chinese.)
The World According to Garr
October 3, 2010
For the last six months, I have been reading a lot of celebrity biographies for research for my own Gene Wilder bio. It was helpful to see how other authors and publishers format their books, choose their photos, and even design their book jackets. Among the best I read were Paul Newman: A Life, a definitive portrait of the iconic actor's life and career that is as engrossing as any of Newman's great films. Shawn Levy, whose previous books include a brilliant bio of Jerry Lewis, gets everything right, showing Newman warts and all in an honest, intelligent way that is never tawdry or disrespectful. Levy is among the very best celebrity biographers around.
The second book that I was taken with is Teri Garr's memoir Speedbumps: Flooring It Through Hollywood. Published in 2005, Garr details her rise to stardom, her romances (surprisingly, she omits the relationship she had with Wilder after they finished Young Frankenstein), and her brave battle with MS. I always felt Garr was underrated as an actress, perhaps because, like Burt Reynolds, she was equally as known as a talk show guest as for her film work. But those apperances on Carson and Letterman also helped to make her a big star. It was particularly touching to read about a personal phone call Carson made to her during a point where Garr was really down.
When a celebrity writes a book, a key to its success is being able to hear their voice as you read it (this has always been the case with every book Ed Koch has written). As I read Speedbumps, which was co-written with Garr's friend Henriette Mantel, I could hear Garr tossing out one wisecrack after another. My favorite is probably her recalling her first and only invitation to a White House dinner under the first President Bush, who, despite their political differences, she makes sound like a terrific, down to earth guy. She mentions the evening's main course: "poached salmon in champagne aspic with caviar sauce, something I make at home all the time." It's little zingers like that that elevate this book above most celebrity tell-alls. Garr does not take herself seriously, and she admits being nominated for an Oscar was a huge deal for her.
Fun stories about Albert Brooks, Mel Brooks, Cher, Griffin Dunne, Dustin Hoffman, Steve Martin, Sydney Pollack, and many others abound. Garr rarely acts these days, instead devoting time to her teenage daughter Molly and giving speeches about MS. Teri Garr is a great actress, a funny lady, and a fighter - and the knockers ain't so bad either.
September 21, 2010
Many in the Tea Party movement think Christine O'Donnell is their savior. She will actually be their destruction. This woman is obsessed - yes, obsessed! - with homosexuals and believes they can be "cured." Add to this her stupefying views on masturbation, her shady use of campaign money, and her recent cancellation of interviews because she does not want to respond to her "dabbling" in witchcraft, and you have a bona fide loser come November. After 2012, the Tea Party will be about as relevant as Ross Perot is today.
I'll Be Seeing You
September 18, 2010
In another sign of bad economic times, the Liberace Museum, a Las Vegas staple for over thirty years, is closing for good next month. To celebrate the publication of my book, I decided to treat myself to a trip to Sin City in November and was planning to stop by the museum, but sadly it will be shuttered by then. I did go to the museum once, though, on my first trip to Vegas back in 1998. I am a huge Liberace fan and it was thrilling to see all of the great costumes, pianos, jewelry, and furs proudly on display. Even if you weren't a Liberace fan, you would still get a kick out of how gloriously over the top it was.
At its peak, the Liberace Museum welcomed 450,000 visitors a year. Last year, that number was only 50,000. Liberace's appeal never crossed over to younger generations. When I saw him perform live at Radio City in 1985, not only was I the youngest one there at twelve years old, my mother, then in her late forties, was the second youngest! Many young people today have no idea who he even was. Thankfully all of the treasures on display will be kept and warehoused, hopefully to be displayed in another venue at some point. I think it would be great if one of the big Strip hotels opened a scaled down version of the museum - I could certainly envision such a thing at Caesars Palace (it would even be a bold move for the Hard Rock Hotel to welcome the Liberace collection and show they care about all kinds of music).
According to the Las Vegas Sun, a protest will take place outside the museum next week in an effort to keep it open and get politicians involved. The museum's closing is not only an assault on Liberace's legacy, it is a reminder of how bad we as a country are doing. Nevada has one of the highest jobless rates in the country and the museum's closing will put thirty more people on unemployment.
Like many hot tourist destinations, Vegas has seen a decline in visitors in recent years. Hotels are literally giving rooms away for free. I got an amazing deal for a free suite at one of the best hotels in town. A free suite - not a standard room but a suite complete with a Jacuzzi and a wet bar and a great view of the Strip and even an icemaker in the room! For a JAP like me whose favorite words are room service and minibar, it was just too good an offer to pass up.
If you plan to be in Vegas in the next few weeks, you have until October 17th to visit the museum.
Everyone Needs a Hobby
September 17, 2010
There's a scene in Hannah and Her Sisters where, after being told they can't have children, Mia Farrow asks Woody Allen, "Could you have ruined yourself somehow?" He asks what she means. "I don't know," she says, "excessive masturbation?" He replies, "Ya gonna start knocking my hobbies?"
I would love to get this printed on a T-shirt and sent to that Tea Party nut Christine O'Donnell in Delaware - this broad makes Sarah Palin seem like Eleanor Roosevelt.
September 15, 2010
I think Rick Lazio is one of the few decent, respectable people in the world of politics and last night his political career officially ended for good. No more second acts for Lazio. He's done, all thanks to disillusioned voters who fell for a bloated millionaire who thought politics would be a fun new hobby.
I am sick of these egomaniacal rich guys who think they can buy their way into office. Carl Paladino is a spoiler - even if he did not win the GOP nomination, he said he would stay on the ballot anyway. This will be the first time in my adult life where I will sit out a general election. I cannot vote for a creep like Paladino, whose win basically anointed Andrew Cuomo the next governor. The GOP in New York state is a joke - not one top office has even a slight chance of being won by a Republican.
Lazio is a good guy. But even if he won the nomination, he would have had little chance defeating Cuomo in this heavily Democratic state. Lazio ran a bad campaign. I was a Facebook friend of the Lazio campaign and was constantly complaining about how despondent his staff was. Lazio announced his run for governor a year ago and only recently did they get campaign buttons, t-shirts, and bumper stickers. When I called his office a few weeks ago, a kid - literally, a kid - answered. He said they did not have any Lazio gear yet. "You do realize the general election is only two months away," I said. The kid stuttered and stammered and took my name and number. Even worse, Lazio would post photos of himself at events right near me, the day after he appeared there. His campaign never e-mailed supporters to let them know where he would be. How can your supporters come out for you if you refuse to let them know you are going to be around the corner from them?
Rick Lazio's biggest mistake was aiming too high. He should have ran for the same senate seat he tried for back in 2000. But he thought he could perhaps do in New York what Chris Christie did in New Jersey. He had too much faith in the voters of New York. He will likely go back into the private sector, where he did very well following his 2000 loss. Politics is not fair. In a way, Lazio is too good for all of the dirty business it entails. He's a nice boy from Long Island who got the shaft. In the history of New York politics, he will sadly go down as a footnote, the guy who lost to Hillary and who, despite winning the backing of his party at the GOP convention, was knocked aside in his bid for governor by a sleazy millionaire.
Charlie Rangel is a known crook, yet he won his party's nomination yesterday, which means he will be reelected. The voters in Rangel's Harlem district are like abused children - they keep getting beaten up, yet still run to daddy's side and hug him each time he says he loves them.
These Tea Party people are nothing but a nutty, ultraconservative offshoot of the Republican party. Look at this Christine O'Donnell in Delaware - the woman goes beyond even the most far-fetched of religious nuts, saying she is not only against premarital sex but against teenagers masturbating!!! How the hell are you going to institute this one? Mandatory chastity belts?
I am through with all of them. The Republicans are Jesus freaks, the Democrats want to sell us out to our enemies, and the Tea Party is not my cup of tea. I am tired of going for the lesser of two evils every time I vote. I used to be gullible enough to believe my vote counted. Well, I could care less who gets a majority of the House or Senate. These politicians are all out for themselves, regardless of party. I'm staying home on November 2nd and watching reruns of The Office on TBS.
September 13, 2010
When it comes to great restaurants, New York is an embarrassment of riches. Unfortunately, the average New Yorker cannot afford to eat in the very best restaurants on a regular basis, but once in a while, we all should splurge. My friend Arlene recently celebrated a birthday and wanted to treat herself to something special. She wanted to go to The Four Seasons. I told her I would go with her - she would celebrate her birthday, I would celebrate my book coming out.
We both had not been to The Four Seasons in many years. I am happy to report that little has changed, for it remains one of New York City's culinary treasures. We had lunch in the Pool Room, which is easily one of the most beautiful dining rooms in Manhattan. The service is just terrific. Several servers attend to you, with one main waiter handling everything. Ours was Giuseppe, who has a fabulous shtick. He fawns over the lady and acts disinterested in the man. "Who cares about you?" he says. I am sure some guys with no sense of humor would not be amused at having an Italian Don Rickles waiting on you at a top restaurant, but it's all in good fun. The Four Seasons may be upscale but it's certainly not stuffy.
As you would expect, The Four Seasons is still very expensive, but their $45.00 three-course prix fixe lunch is a great deal considering what you get and where you're getting it. We both started with corn-chanterelle risotto, which was the best risotto I have ever tasted - rich, creamy, and bursting with freshness from Long Island corn and luxurious chanterelles. I added a little fresh black pepper and some small pieces of crusty bread to enhance what was one of the best meatless dishes I probably have ever had - and that's a lot coming from a carnivore like me. For our entrees, Arlene had the hangar steak, which was juicy, perfectly medium rare, and accompanied by carrots, onion rings, and a flavorful mustard-cafe au lait sauce. I had the fluke, a mild white fish that is pan seared and served with summer vegetables and a carrot-lavender broth - elegant and delicious (although for the ultimate dish, I would have loved to see that beautiful piece of fish perched atop that sinful risotto).
For dessert, Giuseppe's act included letting us order anything we wanted from the regular dessert menu because, well, we were special. Of course, I wanted the assorted cheeses - "No, not that, though," Giuseppe informed me. Okay, fine. Arlene smartly chose the chocolate soufflé while I went with the cherry strudel. Both were winners, but the soufflé was clearly the better dessert, oozing with gooey chocolate decadence. A nice plate of petit fours also comes to the table after the meal (for his final act of chivalry, Giuseppe presented Arlene with a bag of petit fours to take home).
If you are dining alone, I would recommend eating at the bar and partaking of their two-course bar lunch which, for only $25.00, includes such choices as oysters on the half-shell, shrimp cocktail, risotto with shrimp, and a lobster roll.
The Four Seasons isn't somewhere you eat everyday (and if you do, keep it to yourself), but thankfully it remains one of the great special occasion restaurants in the city.
Left and Right Both Wrong
September 2, 2010
This is why the Republicans are just as effed up as the Democrats. In the California senate race, you have a left-wing three-term career politician like Barbara Boxer running against a seemingly bright Carly Fiorina, who shows what a right-wing tool she is by saying she would overturn Roe v. Wade if she had the opportunity. With all that is going on in the world, if the GOP continues to let the pro-life religious nuts dominate the debate, they deserve to lose. Both parties have destroyed this country to the point where it won't ever recover. If I lived in California, I would sit this one out. They're screwed with either of these broads.
And a few other things:
Best Part of Having No Job? No Boss!
So when you get a full-time job, you get health insurance. Then, because most doctors are only in during working hours, you have to humbly ask your boss, who is dumber than a blind Muslim cleric, if you can take a long lunch hour to get your rash looked at. Then you come back and have to ask if it's okay to come in late next week when you go back for the follow-up. I relish never having to suck up to an inferior superior again. Working in the U.S. in the 21st century is a joke.
Liberals on Crime
Although usually opposed to the death penalty, it should be applied to the corporate heads of BP who happen to be rich and white. If a black guy randomly murders people for no reason at all, he should be rehabilitated because he is a victim of society who did not have the opportunities his white contemporaries did. Besides, executing black people is racist. Executing white CEOs is justice.
Shut Up and Act!
When someone on the right says something stupid and dangerous, it is called hate speech. When someone on the left says something stupid and dangerous, it is called free speech. John Cusack's recent call for the "satantic deaths" of Fox News and GOP leaders is typical of this left-wing hypocrisy.
A loony lefty I know complained last weekend about "that idiot Sarah Palin speaking at the Lincoln Memorial." While I am no fan of Ms. Palin, I said that she has the same right to speak as do his Muslim friends and far left radicals like Al Sharpton. "But she's an idiot!" he screamed.
There is no reasoning with these people. Free speech is either applied to everyone or not - but the left, as shown by Mr. Cusack, seems to only be for free speech when it's speech they agree with. And remember, when in doubt, blame Fox News.
John Cusack's political views are about as relevant as his career these days.
Hawking: God Not Necessary for Universe's Creation
Click here to read this piece about a truly great mind, Stephen Hawking. Now bring on the Jesus freaks who will insist a man in the sky with a long beard created the universe and then took a nappy-poo on the seventh day, which is why you cannot purchase beer until after 11am on Sundays. God is a concept created by man because of man's fear of death. Finito. End of story. Open a bottle of Bud and get over it.
Release Date Set for Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad
August 29, 2010
February is the month when I made my entrance into the world and it is also the month when my first book will be published. February 15, 2011 is the release date for Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad. A tad late for Valentine's Day but you'll have plenty of time to order it for Mother's Day. Mom has likely received her fair share of jewelry, perfume, and flowers over the years but she never got a biography of Gene Wilder for a gift. Be a good son or daughter and make mom happy next year.
And who wants to spend St. Patrick's Day in a noisy bar when you could pour yourself a nice cocktail at home and tuck in with a good book like this? Actually, on second thought, bring the book outside and read it on the bus or in a park - others will see it and likely ask where you got this intriguing tome. You'll make a new friend, I'll sell a few books - everybody wins.
Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad will be available on amazon.com, Barnes & Noble's Web site, and BearManor Media's Web site.
Early Praise for Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad
August 25, 2010
I am thrilled to announce that one of the most well-known film critics in the country has read my upcoming Gene Wilder biography and has given me a terrific quote that will appear on the back cover of the book. I won't reveal who this critic is, but let's just say it's a huge honor to get a thumbs up from him.
Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad will be published in February 2011 by BearManor Media. Stay tuned for more updates.
They Are Remaking Arthur - That Is Not the Funniest Thing Ever
August 12, 2010
"I race cars, I play tennis, I fondle women, but I have weekends off and I am my own boss."
- Dudley Moore as Arthur Bach in Arthur
I really despise Hollywood and everything it represents, which these days is a total lack of originality. Arthur (1981) was a brilliant film, one of my favorites of all-time. Dudley Moore gave what could be argued is the single greatest comedic performance ever. And he was matched by equally skilled turns from Liza Minnelli and John Gielgud. How do you remake perfection???
It is sickening that most films today are adaptations of old TV shows, remakes, or animated 3D bubblegum. No one wants to take a risk on an original screenplay, unless, of course, you are the son of Ivan Reitman or your brother-in-law plays tennis with Rob Reiner - then you have a shot.
I still cannot believe Arthur is being remade. A Brit named Russell Brand is playing Arthur Bach. Helen Mirren and Nick Nolte are also in the remake - no idea who they are playing (I can only guess Mirren is playing Arthur's grandmother, so memorably portrayed in the original by Geraldine Fitzgerald).
Like most remakes, this is all about taking something that was great, rehashing it, and making a buck off it.
I have not seen a movie in a theater in four and a half years and I certainly have no intention to anytime soon. I'll stick to watching the old classics from Netflix.
The Kids Are Not All Right
August 6, 2010
Remember how it used to be when you would go to the library and it was really, really quiet? Well, no more. I recently joined a library to do some final research for the Gene Wilder biography. There were little kids running around and screaming. And the parents? You think the parents have the decency to tell them to behave and quiet down? Of course not. We are all just supposed to accept it and think that their little snot-nosed monsters are adorable. The library lady agreed with me and said, "We can't say anything."
What the hell is wrong with our world today? Kids are not allowed to bring cupcakes to school on their birthday, yet guns are being brought in. There was a time not so long ago where if a child was to misbehave in a library, they would be told to shut up or be thrown out. But we live in a new world where everyone wants to do whatever they want without any consideration to others around them. Just like a few weeks ago when I was on a "luxury" commuter bus and the bimbo in front of me puts her seat all the way back. I had no leg room at all and asked her nicely if she minded. "Well, I want to lean back," she said. She was "nice enough" to move to next seat and recline. Again, she only cared about her comfort, not anyone else's - a typical female trait, by the way.
In the last month, I went on three separate job interviews. All went great - not just okay, but great. I was relaxed, funny, gave dynamite answers. But know what? After each interview, I got it into my head that, despite how well they went, I needed to forget about them. I sent my little thank you e-mail the next day and then I just went on with my life. Earlier this year, I had several interviews and I kept following up with e-mails like a schmuck. No more. If you do not hear back after two weeks, you don't have the job. And no one has the good manners to send an e-mail or letter saying thanks for coming in, we filled the position, good luck.
I really don't care anymore. Who would want to work for these people anyway? All bosses are the same. The worst are the ones who make you think you are really valued and irreplaceable, then after three years you suddenly find yourself out of a job. I spent fifteen years working for jerks like these - never again.
I am a very easily annoyed person but I try to keep my tempter in tow. I recently consulted Merriam-Webster (lovely woman) and I admit to being a curmudgeon, fussbudget, misanthrope, and misogynist - but I turn to butter at the sight of puppies. Go figure.
Modern society is devoid of responsibility. Look how the most blatant sleazebags such as Eliot Spitzer actually consider running for office again, otherwise they get their own TV show. If Nixon had done what he did today, he would probably be a judge on American Idol now.
As for recent news:
I am far from being a fan of the Clintons but I must give credit where credit is due. They did one helluva job raising Chelsea. The drinking shenanigans of the Bush daughters are still fresh in our memory, Bristol Palin continues to embarrass herself and her family, and even Rudy Giuliani's daughter just got busted for shoplifting. So you realize Bill and Hill obviously did something right. Chelsea will never win any beauty contests but she has matured into a poised young lady who is a vast contrast to the awkward teen-ager who occupied the White House. She has never gotten into trouble, is always dignified, and she made a lovely bride. And she even managed to bag a nice Jewish boy! Mazel Tov to Chelsea and her husband.
Weight a Minute!
So you hear how Drew Carey lost 80 lbs. and John Goodman lost 100 lbs? It makes me feel guilty that I cannot lose 25 lbs., but ya know what? It's easier for celebs. They have unlimited support and resources - they get driven back and forth to the gym, they have every meal prepared for them, they are constantly monitored and praised. Like with everything else in life, weight loss is easier if you are rich.
Only in the Bible, Kids, Only in the Bible
It appears that Cindy Adams' elusive illness was a nearly burst appendix. When she first started feeling unwell, she did not go to a doctor because - get this - she is a Christian Scientist who typically refuses medical treatment. What is a nice Jewish girl like Cindy Adams doing being a Christian Scientist? I tell ya, I lose all respect for people when I find out they are religious, let alone adhere to some crazy cult. I sooner have respect if you are a coke addict than a Jesus addict.
Have an Egg Roll, Elena Kagan
So Elena Kagan easily won confirmation and will be the fourth woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Although I was initially opposed to her, I must admit she made an impressive case for herself during the Senate hearings (how could you not love her remark about Jews and Chinese food?). She is smart, there is no doubt about that, and she gave me the impression that, while an unabashed liberal, she is bipartisan. My girls Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe were two of the five Republicans who voted in favor of her, so I think she may not be such a bad choice after all. Time will tell.
So much for the stereotype that Jews are smart. In response to the ADL rightly condemning the building of a mosque near Ground Zero, an ultra-liberal Jewish group called the Shalom Center came out in support of it. As I say time and time again, the Jews are the only minority group that fails to look out for their own best interests. These people make me ashamed to be Jewish. Feh!
Gene Wilder Biography Coming Soon
July 22, 2010
Good news is rare these days, especially coming from me, but I have some that I am pleased to formally announce. My biography of Gene Wilder is finally being published.
For those of you who know me, you know this has been a very long journey. I started writing the book about fifteen years ago. Originally, I wanted it to be an authorized bio, so in 1996 I sent Gene Wilder a few sample chapters along with a nice letter. He wrote me back saying that he could not cooperate because he was writing his own autobiography and that it would be like I was competing against him or he was competing against himself. He expressed thanks to me, though, for not setting out to do "some exploitation hatchet-job" on him and wished me luck.
I abandoned the project because I did not think I would be able to get anyone to talk to me. Then when I realized he was not writing his own book, I dusted off what I had written, interviewed a number of his colleagues, did a lot of research, and now all the hard work is finally paying off.
After being rejected by literally hundreds of publishers, Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad will finally surface in February 2011 from a wonderful publisher called BearManor Media, who specializes in books about the entertainment industry. The book is the first ever biography of Wilder and documents his early beginnings as Jerry Silberman in Milwaukee through his big break in The Producers, and, of course, all the classic films such as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silver Streak, and The Woman in Red.
Along the way there was a lot of sadness: his mother's ill health when he was a young boy (she never lived to see him become a success); two broken marriages; the death of his third wife Gilda Radner from ovarian cancer; his estrangement from his adopted daughter; and his own battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Now 77 years old, Gene has been married nineteen years to his fourth wife Karen, of whom he says "I am desperately in love with."
Despite having retired from acting, Gene Wilder maintains a loyal following of film lovers around the world, who I am sure will find this honest account of Wilder's life and career enlightening. It will be available for purchase on amazon.com, Barnes & Noble's Web site, and BearManor's Web site. I will keep you posted when I have the exact release date, and hope you buy the book.