Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Bates and Anna are discussing property swaps and running an inn. Daisy is pursuing an education that's going to get her out of the kitchen. Tom Branson is considering going to Boston: A-Mer-I-Kay.
Carson and Mrs. Hughes are considering joint property ownership, and maybe courtship, then marriage? Mary's thinning the forest like a wild lumberjack. Isobel announces marriage to Lord Merton, but what about that elitist, sniveling snot of a son Larry? There's trouble there. It's beginning to look like the final episode of M*A*S*H: everyone is getting ready to say goodbye to everyone.
Isis is dying. The dog, not the radicals. One only hopes that the producers and writers didn't cave to some politically correct agenda to strike any references to Isis by having the dog get terminally ill. We've already mentioned it's not he dog's fault that a mythology daughter called Isis shares the Western world's spelling of the Islamic State in Syria. ISIS in Arabic spelling would, I'm sure, hardly resemble the characters needed to spell Isis. Regardless, the pooch is on the way out. Perhaps she didn't renew her contract with the show's producers either. Dog food commercials probably pay more.
We knew Lady Rose's blossoming friendship with Atticus was going to bring the Jewish question to the Crawley dinner table. It does get batted around a bit, but doesn't become an issue with anyone until Larry, Lord Merton's son rails into the Crawley "eccentricities" that produce a rag tag bunch of human origins under one roof.
Of course, Larry knows nothing of "diversity" and could never see that the Crawleys were the forerunners to anything produced by Norman Lear.
The machinations surrounding Lady Edith and her out-of-wedlock child Marigold are reaching Marx Brothers territory. As usual, a country train station and a first class carriage figure in Lady Cora's shell game of hide-the-kid. The plans to make it possible to bring Lady Edith back to the household and Marigold to the Crawley nursery are taking on a Lucy and Ethel scheme. This is what happens when women with hats meet for tea and stay till last call. I'm waiting for the kid to call Edith "mommy" in front of Lord G. Fetch the brandy and the ambulance.
And Lady Mary looks like she might have, with the help of who I suspect she'll next be involved with, ditch Tony Gillingham, who's been clinging to Mary like a process server.
Mary takes Charles Blake's advice and stages a kiss in front of Tony Gillingham and Mabel Lane Fox, who are leaving the cinema at the same time. This is all the proof Tony needs to believe that Lady Mary will not reconsider and pick him, despite her spending a week with him sharing a bed in a hotel. Mary does love 'em and leave 'em, but not until she's well fed.
And if a woman with a name like Mabel Lane Fox doesn't end up writing a gossip column for Edith's publishing house then the producers and writers will be missing something.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
The pace continues to be a bit more double-time. And what better way to get the blood jumping than to show horses racing and jumping? The Brits positively love this.
Thus, we have Lady Mary insisting she ride side-saddle over the jumps. To fully go astride a horse would send her granny into convulsions. Lady Mary underestimates her granny's strength. Nevertheless, at the start of the Lady Mary-Mabel Lane Fox heat we start to think there's going to be a bit of NASCAR action in the pit lanes, as Mary and Mabel, two women, one man, square off at the flag. It doesn't happen, but Mary does best Miss Mabel, despite having the far more difficult posture atop a horse jumping over fences.
A neglected character is sick. This of course is the dog Isis. Despite the rumors that the producers are going to "86" Isis because of the similarity in name to Islamic State in Syria, the dog is still with us. But for how long?
It's not the dog's fault that she's cursed with a name that in 2015 means something wholly different than being the namesake of the first daughter of Geb, God of earth, and Nut, the Goddess of the sky. In 1924, Lawrence of Arabia was making inroads to creating Islamic states separate from Turkey.
Lord G. has settled down and gotten over his jealous tiff with his wife. She reminds him of flirtations, and didn't he once, like Katy Perry, "Kiss a Girl?" (the maid) in a prior episode? Robert's back in the big boy bed.
Carson and Mrs. Hughes are tip-toeing around considering a little cottage rental 401-K of their own, like Mrs. Patmore, and Daisy is full steam ahead for academic glory.
Thomas the under-butler gets some sound advice from Dr. Clarkson that magazine ads aren't going to change his sexual orientation. And Bates and Anna have a heart-to-heart that looks as if all suspicion should be off Bates for Mr. Green's demise. Or, have we still not seen the end of this?
Dame Violet and Prince Kuragin play out a scene straight from 'Gigi,' but without the music: he, Maurice Chevalier and she, Hermione Gingold, as they reminisce about their long ago love. Ah yes, they remember it well. Lerner and Lowe did a better job, but then that was a musical. The daylight can't even find its way into that cell that the Prince now lives in. Russians are always so much more tragic than Frenchmen.
But the whole episode really belongs to Lady Mary and Lady Edith. I always watch the Brit stuff with close-captioning turned on because it is often hard to understand what the hell they're saying. And then there's the stray topical reference to something that I may not know anything about. The close-captioning allows me to zero in on spellings for later lookups.
No need this time. When Lady Mary comes down to dinner with her arresting new hairdo, cat- walking into the sitting room and hears Cousin Isobel declare that Pola Negri has entered, how many people know who Pola Negri was? How many people went to school in her repurposed Beechhurst (Queens, NY) mansion? My hand goes up twice.
Pola Negri was a stunning silent film and golden age of talkies star. Black hair, green eyes and porcelain white skin, she was on the arm of Charlie Chaplin, Rudolf Valentino, and I think also on my father's mind. When it was decided to send me to a small Greek language based school in Beechhurst, the school turned out to be housed in Ms. Negri's old mansion on 11th Avenue. The school was small and the house was large, although lacking in any leftover elements of luxury. A nice staircase, perhaps.
Many of the film stars of the 1920s lived on the north shore of Queens, not far from the Astoria studios where the movies were made. It was the early Beverly Hills. If I heard it once, I heard it many times that the repurposed Negri house was now where I went to school. My later guess was that some of my father's dimes went to seeing some of her movies.
And then of course there's Lady Edith. Poor, honk-nosed Lady Edith, always being upstaged by her sister Mary. There's poor Edith, decked out in mourning black because the death of the father of her child is now confirmed, almost certainly caused by the activities of "Herr Hitler." And here's Mary, showing off frocks and hairdos. What's a poor girl to do?
Seek a change of venue, which is of course what Edith does, scooping little Marigold up from the well-meaning farming Drewe family. Lady Edith has now inherited a publishing house, despite not being married to Gregson. Champagne and ice cream are on tap from room service. If this were TV, she'd pull into the parking lot at Mel's Diner. But this is 1924 England, and Lady Edith is not destined to be supervised by a sweaty Mel in a t-shirt waving a spatula.
Always more to follow. Cousin Violet and Lord Merton to tie a knot? Nothing like a wedding in a soap opera to keep the wardrobe people busy.
Friday, February 13, 2015
It is only fitting to have the heads of the four leaders carved into a mountainside in Switzerland, the world's most neutral country, except when accepting money to keep on deposit, when only their rules apply. And there is little argument it should be these four heads, since they are trying so hard to achieve peace in the Russia/Ukraine theater.
For the uninitiated who might not recognize the four figures, they are, from left to right: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, France's President Francois Hollande and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko.
Of course, no peace-seeking quartet would be complete without the inclusion of Chancellor Merkel, the world's most photographed woman with clothes on, even beating Hannah Davis, who on the cover of this year's 'Sports Illustrated' Swimsuit edition nearly has clothes on.
It just shows you how tough the competition is.
Thursday, February 12, 2015
I can hear a version of Johnny Cochran, now as a prosecutor, in a courtroom summing up the affairs of Brian Williams, the now suspended NBC evening news anchor who in his own words "conflated" events regarding the helicopter he was in in 2003.
2003 to 2015 is a long elapsed time to have something bite you in the ass and now hit you in your wallet and lifestyle, but here we have it. Mr. Williams's exaggeration of which helicopter he was in when grenade fire forced a helicopter down.
Rather than report that he was in a helicopter that was 30 minutes to an hour behind the one that was hit, Mr. Williams "conflates" his memory of the events to putting himself in the actual helicopter that was forced down. Easily a different experience and a different level of fear.
The somewhat misleading first version fairly quickly morphed into the more dramatic one, the one that he literally told millions of listeners. I mean, tales of imminent death are more interesting than being a footnote.
The unraveling of Mr. Williams's memory has been a top of the heap news story for the last week. There are even those who are willing to offer a benefit of doubt to Mr. William's memory, claiming the memory gets fuzzy after so many years. Most aren't buying into that one.
Who uses the word "conflate" anyway? This is easily an academic word and not one you hear in everyday conversation. When the definition is read and you hear Mr. Williams use it, you might think somehow the stress of the events (or the hubris of ego) caused him to combine the narrative of events into something that wasn't. He didn't misspeak, his subconscious did it.
For myself, I've been in two horrific events, one in 2001 and the other in 2002 that both made the papers. At no time have I ever misrepresented my experiences, actions, or feelings in these events. In fact, I'm surprised that my memory doesn't vary; nor do my words. When I do tell the stories, I tell the stories the same way I did on 9/11 and on September 16, 2002.
The way things really happened. It's not that hard.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Old movies can be like documentaries. They can show you the way of life. Take for instance phone booths. Who by now who has watched a few gangster flicks from the 30s or 40s doesn't know that lots of phone calls needed to be made from drugstores? And who doesn't know that when the tension in the film rises, that nothing good can ever happen to the person who in a mad rush to deliver some news makes a call from a drug store phone booth?
I just witnessed again, perhaps for the fourth or fifth time when a woman (dame) makes a hurried call from a drugstore phone booth. Bullets find her. Lots of bullets. But she doesn't slip into the hereafter until Jimmy Cagney jumps out of a hospital bed and listens to the dying woman struggle to give him the address of the garage where the other woman (dame) is being held by a very bad guy. All this happens in the 1935 classic movie "G-Men." Don't know what the "G" stands for? Tough.
Lessons in life: Don't eat the yellow snow, and don't make, or take phone calls from drugstore phone booths. I bet you, with cell phones, no one (or very few) have ever met their maker while making or taking a call while walking down the street. It's always better to keep moving.
But it's hardly all gangsters and bullets. Take 'Mr Hex,' a 1946 Bowery Boys edition that has the boys wondering what to do with themselves while in a malt shop. Never heard of the Bowery Boy? Don't know what a malt shop is? You've got your work cut out for you.
Well, the Bowery Boys themselves are hardly boys. They are adults who act like juveniles. The principal Bowery Boys are played by Leo Gorcey who is Slip Mahoney, and Huntz Hall who is Sach Sullivan. My father knew Huntz Hall from the Madison Square Boys Club on East 29th Street.
Well, in this particular Bowery Boys movie the "boys" are wondering what to do, when they walk over to the jukebox and deposit a nickel. So far, this seems like any scene that might have been in 'Happy Days.'
I confess, I had never seen this movie, but switched onto it while it was already in progress. So, the nickel goes in, and then Leo Gorcey starts talking to the jukebox. Is he nuts? No. The jukebox of that vintage is the one pictured above. It connects, via a phone line to an operator who is somewhere at a switchboard with a rack of 78's in pigeon holes on a shelf on front of her. Leo's song request is something the operator, Gloria expects, since they boys always call at this time and request the song just to hear Gloria's voice.
You might start to see where this is going, but I'm going to tell you anyway. Gloria, played by Gale Robbins, sings the song into the phone receiver. The boys are enraptured. They want to get enough dough to get Gloria a recording contract. There's more, way more, like how they try and accomplish getting the dough, but that's another part of the story.
I've yet to run this type of jukebox by my friend whose oldest sister might have spent 1940s quality time in a malt shop. I don't know if these jukeboxes were common to New York City, but you can read what they delivered below.
Rock-Ola: Entering the jukebox fray in 1935, Rock-Ola hit it big with its opulently designed, high-fidelity machines. The company held its own against Wurlitzer and Seeburg, but was the dominant player in one unusual and all-but-forgotten niche: telephone jukeboxes. The company’s Mystic Music telephone jukebox held the then-standard 12 selections but also gave customers access to a virtually unlimited range of songs transmitted to the jukebox over telephone lines from a remote call center equipped with a large record library and request-taking operators.
Imagine, a call center not in India queuing up records. How many copies of the same song did they keep in the call center? Simultaneous playing of the same song to different callers might have been tough.
But what could be better than talking to someone personally, requesting a song, and possibly getting Gloria to sing it live to you?
Think of having Suri talking to you, but she's not blonde, and you can't ask her out. Some improvement.
Monday, February 9, 2015
In fact, I didn't even realize the triple had been hit until I looked back at my tickets. You might remember the blog entry of December 7, 2014. It was revealed there that we had just missed the felony trifecta for 90+ passed away notables. The triple we just hit is a little less restrictive, but no less worth noting.
This is probably a trend we can count on continuing. Since Mr. McFadden must have written a good number of "morgue" or pre-written obits of notables, we are now seeing the vault empty out as the subjects enter the afterlife after 90 years of age.
I'll work backwards, in the order of discovery. Since I seldom read the papers in chronological order I first became aware of a 90+ obit of Mr. McFadden's when he wrote about Lizabeth Scott, an actress who passed away at 92.
Ms. Scott is written about so effusively and with such passionate descriptions that I wondered if she was a favorite of Mr. Fadden's. No matter. She somewhat disappeared from making movies for some murky reasons, but continued on a bit with voice-overs, game show appearances and social activities. Mr.Mcfadden created such an interest in her on my part that I checked my film noir DVDs and found she's in 'The Racket,' so far unwatched, but not for long.
She also did some singing, and bless iTunes, for there she was with a 1940s suggestive ditty, "A Deep Dark Secret" lifted from an album "Female Voices of the Silver Screen." So, in keeping with my policy of loading my iPod with purchased CDs and downloads from the departed, I added another one from a source I wouldn't have anticipated.
The second obit read, but written two days before Ms. Scott's was on Mary Healy, also an actress and singer, at 96. So, a restrictive triple was in play, but wasn't hit. At least not yet. Going forward, we still might have a 90+ McFadden entertainment triple. We're "live" as they say at the track.
Mary Healy was part of a husband and wife banter team that was Mary Healy and her husband Peter Lind Hayes. I remember those two on television. Mr. Hayes has one of those names that needed three names to complete the id card. Sort of like William Henry Harrison. He lived much longer than the 9th president, having passed away in 1998. Ms Healy is wanely represented on iTunes warbling "Star Dust." I passed.
The third obit, which was really the start of the triple ticket, goes to Carl Djerassi, 91, a creator of the birth control pill, whose McFadden obituary appeared on January 31, 2015.
Dr. Djerassi was a chemist, who along with others, developed what became oral contraceptives. He also took on many other vastly unrelated endeavors, but Mr. McFadden avoided calling him a polymath. A read of the obituary reveals that he was way more than that.
It isn't in the obituary, and maybe because he wasn't the one who said it, but I wonder if Dr. Djerassi was the one who admitted in an interview that the only reason "the pill" was developed to work on women was because men were the ones doing the developing. A woman would have worked at he problem from the other side of the gender coin.
It is certainly possible, but like many discoveries, it turns out the "the pill" was first developed to aid fertility. Its ultimate widespread use came later. Just like Viagra was first developed to treat angina, and came to sponsor the Evening News on all the networks for a wholly different set of symptoms.
Friday, February 6, 2015
Carson puts his toe into insider trading when he advises Mrs. Patmore that an investment in a particular developer might be a very safe haven for her recent inheritance. Why Carson doesn't utter the phrase "safe as houses" escapes me.
"Safe as houses" is phrase I first heard on the miniseries 'Restless' when a quick turn at the bar by a gentleman almost topples Hayley Atwell's drink. She quickly recovers and tells the dashing gentleman that there was no harm done, her drink is "safe as houses."
Huh? Turns out it's one of those Brit phrases that came about after the financial panic in the 19th Century when railway investments were going bust through a bubble, and housing was a better, and safer place to park your money. Safe as houses.
Mrs. Patmore eventually follows her own investment advice, which does have to do with a house, and Carson's feathers remain fluffed.
Scotland Yard is now sending an inspector to the pile to conduct interviews regarding the fatal accident the valet Mr. Green suffered in London and if there is any involvement by the Bates couple. The heat in on.
Lady Edith is coming apart at the seams over the care of her illegitimate daughter Marigold. The Hat Squad of Dame Violet and Aunt Rosamund are convening in the library. Action is being planned.
Thomas the under-butler is suffering severely from quack medicine he read about in the back of a magazine that slyly must have intimated it could cure homosexuality. He is not doing well.
The committee of Dame Violet and Dr. Clarkson has certified that Lord Merton really would be a good match for Cousin Isobel. You will remember Lord Merton proposed to Matthew's mother but admitted that he couldn't get down on one knee to do it because he wouldn't be able to get up.
I know how Lord Merton feels. In 1924 he obviously doesn't have the benefit of watching the half-hour Evening News and learning what pharmaceutical product might loosen up those joints. Or take care of his bowels, or prostate, or other parts of his body. There is much to look forward to as the decades roll on.
Miss Bunting and her tackling of Lord G. at the dinner table over social issues seems on its way out. She's leaving town. At least for now But not to worry. Lady Rose MacClare, the young breath of fresh air is about to get attached to Atticus Aldrich, someone who helps her in the rain with her packages on the way to serve tea and baked goodies in a church for the exiled Russian refugees.
It turns Atticus Aldrich is not a patrician Englishman by heredity but rather a descendant of one of the many Jewish families that were forced out of Russia during the pogram of 1859. Lady Cora's mother is Jewish, but with Miss Bunting off the guest list, we are likely to get Atticus testing his Lordship's sense of humanity. Watch out for flying buttons landing in the soup.
But the best is last. We have Lord G. dressed in his regimental uniform for a reunion dinner. He looks positively resplendent in a bright red waistcoat with a few medals pinned on the left. Rather than looking like he's ready to invade Poland he looks like the lift operator at the Carlyle hotel, ready to close the gate, grab the handle on the wheel and ask the couple in the elevator, "what floor, please?"
On his way to his dinner he passes the oily Simon Bricker who is annoyingly at Lord G's spread to ostensibly appraise art, but is rather obviously trying to get Lady Cora in the sack. This leads to the delicious scene where Lord G. returns home unexpectedly from his dinner, claiming it ended early and he saw no need to stay over.
"Ended early" is code for the fact there wasn't enough booze to go around and the stripper who was slated to come out of the cannon cancelled. What's a fellow to do then but go home to the wife?
And what a reception. He plows through his bedroom door only to find Simon in his bathrobe surprising Lady Cora with his presence. And she is surprised, and wants none of his explanation why the two of them should engage in a mattress rumba. The missed dialog here from Simon is what Willie Nelson is supposed to have said when he was caught in flagrante delicto: "Are you going to believe what you see, or what I say?" Of course this is 1924, and Willie's not yet around saying or singing anything.
This is where Lord G. starts to steam. A tea kettle on his head right now would whistle. And it does. He throttles Simon to the floor and tries to extract an enraged husband's revenge. And Lady Cora? Coooool as a block of ice. Does she stomp her feet, scream, holler, and tell the boys to stop it? No. She calmly answers the door and explains to the concerned daughter Lady Edith that she and Lord G. are only playing a game and the lamp was knocked over.
Game? What game? Simon Says? No matter, the woman is fantastic! Any woman who can orchestrate the removal a dead Turk from her daughter's bedroom and place him back in his own is someone who should have been in Nixon's inner circle. Gerald Ford would not have become president. Simon takes an embarrassed exit and leaves the house in the morning.
Great stuff, and followed by ' Grantchester,' the murder-solving vicar with the gay curate and a dog named Dickens.
In the third episode there are two deaths that are suspicious. This is beginning to look like 'Midsomer Murders' where DCI Tom Barnaby finally solves murders while so many villagers have been offed that the neighboring undertaker usually has to be called in to assist. Well, not really, but plenty of people go on that show before the denouement comes.
Reverend Sidney Chambers in 'Grantchester' is far more efficient. He listens to jazz, smokes, and drinks rather copious amounts of the very good stuff--Chivas Regal. He starts to feel guilty about his consumption of alcohol and starts in on non-alcoholic beverages when meeting his police counterpart, Inspector Geordie Keating.
Inspector Keating is an adequate investigator, but is really overshadowed by Sidney's bursts of creative thinking. Geordie is usually seen with shabby pants being help up by a dirty set of suspenders. When he goes out he's got Lieutenant Columbo's raincoat on, and generally keeps it on in the pub. He is usually under a cloud of cigarette smoke. He is an unmade bed.
Geordie is forever referring to Simon's assistant as a "pansy" and is forever calling Simon a "sly old dog" thinking that Simon is getting plenty of female companionship. He's not, really. His heart's gone out, but not far enough. It's now come back to him and he's a bit lonely. It seems that will change because letters are being exchanged, and a female character from the first episode is sure to reappear.
So Simon smokes, drinks and listens to delightful Sidney Bechet and Louie Armstrong records spin on his Victrola until he passes out at this desk. But he's always brought back to life, quickly, by his sharp-tongued housekeeper Mrs. Maguire. He never seems to have a hangover. TV.
Thursday, February 5, 2015
I don't really know if selling hot hogs, French fries, sodas and knishes at Steve's Lunch from the Stillwell Avenue subway stop counts in some people's minds as being in the restaurant business. But it certainly did for Steve, the grumpy Greek owner who couldn't understand why he (therefore me, for a while) couldn't sell as many hot dogs as Nathan's, which was right outside the station, diagonally across Surf Avenue. Translation: Coney Island, long before hot dog eating contests.
Anyone who has passed by a restaurant knows that around 4 o'clock there is no one eating lunch or having dinner. If it's a tablecloth restaurant, the staff is having their meal, which can sometimes be seen from the street. There's a definite lull in the business. And so it was with manning the hot dog counter at Steve's Lunch.
No one was headed from my right to the left, the direction leading to Coney Island and the beach. The bar across the passageway in the station was virtually empty. People were drifting from my left to the right, the direction from Coney Island back to the subway. No one was buying anything. I did recognize some who when headed to the beach earlier had stopped for something to eat. But not now. It was going home for dinner time.
It wasn't then, but a few years later when Rod McKuen was getting big that I heard someone say they loved his line, "too late for the beach, too early for the bars." It was a perfect description of the quiet time, the lull that is produced in the 4-5 PM time slot.
I've always loved that phrase. It turns out it's from a song Rod wrote in 1965, 'Time Gone By' and is on his LP 'Rod McKuen Sings His Own.'
Rod McKuen recently passed away and the obituaries correctly captured his vast appeal and lack of critical praise. He was hardly deterred by intellectual carping. He maintained his commercial success, and apparently lived in Beverly Hills. He did quite well.
In the 1960s, admitting you might like a Rod McKuen lyric or poem was to lower your standing in critical circles. But when his works were sung by Glenn Yarborough and Frank Sinatra you paid attention.
True, he wasn't T.S. Eliot, Yeats or Auden. But there could be a resonance in some lines, and maybe that's all it takes to be remembered.