Friday, February 5, 2016

MY FATHER AND HIS 70TH BIRTHDAY

It is bittersweet for me to be commemorating my Father Frank Lobosco's today, February 5th. My Father would have been 70 today. It is hard to picture my dad being that old. He died when I was so young. My Father died days before his 45th birthday on January 31, 1991. At the time of my Father's death I had a strained relationship with him. A year before his death, my Mother and Father divorced and for the most part I felt that I was not really wanted in my Father's life. I was 16 at the time and had my own normal teenage demons to deal with as well as coping with coming from a divorced home and now coming to grips with my Father dying suddenly of a heart attack.

I did want most teenage boys would do I guess, I buried it all deep inside. I did not visit my Father's grave site for five years after his death, and I rarely talked about him as I finished up high school and entered college. I saw a distorted view of my Father's life, and it never occurred to me to look into what made my Father withdrawn and distant to me.

In 1969, my Father was in the kitchen with his father (my Grandfather that I never met), and my Grandfather had such a massive heart attack that he almost tore out the kitchen cabinets as he fell to the ground and died in front of my Dad. I also discovered much later after my Father died that he was married to a woman before my Mother. Two weeks after they were married, his first wife died of a seizure. My Father had had a fight with her before he left for work, and it was the last time he talked to her. She had stopped taking her seizure medicine because she was pregnant at the time.

All of that distorted my Father's life to the point that by the time I came along and was growing up, he was a sad and lonely man. I never got the opportunity to talk to my Father and get advice that fathers usually give their sons. I never got the opportunity to ask him why he did the things he did. However, what I finally realized was it is better to remember the happy times than the sad times. I remember my Father teaching me how to play chess. I remember sitting with him as he played records from his huge 45rpm collection. I remember tasting his spaghetti sauce and his pizza (although I am sad I never got his recipe).

I wish he could see the man that I became. Hopefully he is looking down on me, and he is proud of the husband and father that I have become. He never got to achieve greatness as a father or husband, but his life was not in vein. His grandchildren that he never met are extensions of his legacy, and I hope wherever my Father is now he is happy and content knowing this as I remember my Father fondly on his 70th birthday...


Sunday, January 31, 2016

BORN ON THIS DAY: JEAN SIMMONS

On this last day of January, legendary actress Jean Simmons was born in 1929. Simmons was born in Lower Holloway, London, to Charles Simmons, a bronze medalist in gymnastics at the 1912 Summer Olympics, and his wife, Winifred (née Loveland) Simmons. Jean was the youngest of four children with siblings Edna, Harold and Lorna. She began acting at the age of 14. During the Second World War, the Simmons family was evacuated to Winscombe, Somerset. Her father, a physical education teacher, taught briefly at Sidcot School, and sometime during this period Simmons followed her elder sister on to the village stage and sang songs such as "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow Wow". Returning to London and just enrolled at the Aida Foster School of Dance, Simmons was spotted by the director Val Guest, who cast her in the Margaret Lockwood vehicle Give Us the Moon.

Small roles in several other films followed including the high profile Caesar and Cleopatra, produced by Gabriel Pascal. Pascal saw potential in Simmons and in 1945 he signed her to a seven-year contract. Prior to moving to Hollywood, she played the young Estella in David Lean's version of Great Expectations (1946) and Ophelia in Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948), for which she received her first Oscar nomination. She played an Indian girl in the Powell-Pressburger film Black Narcissus (1947).

It was the experience of working on Great Expectations that caused her to pursue an acting career more seriously:

"I thought acting was just a lark, meeting all those exciting movie stars, and getting £5 a day which was lovely because we needed the money. But I figured I'd just go off and get married and have children like my mother. It was working with David Lean that convinced me to go on."


Playing Ophelia to Olivier's Hamlet made her a star while still in her teens, although she was already well known for her work in other British films, including her first starring role in the film adaptation of Uncle Silas, and Black Narcissus (both 1947). Olivier offered her the chance to work and study at the Bristol Old Vic, advising her to play anything they threw at her to get experience; she was under contract to the Rank Organisation who vetoed the idea. In 1949 Simmons starred with Stewart Granger in Adam and Evelyne. In 1950 she was voted the fourth most popular star in Britain. In 1951 Rank sold her contract to Howard Hughes, who then owned the RKO Pictures.

In 1953 she starred alongside Spencer Tracy in The Actress, a film that was one of her personal favourites. Among the many films she appeared in during this period were The Robe (1953), Young Bess (1953), Désirée (1954), The Egyptian (1954), Guys and Dolls (1955), The Big Country (1958), Elmer Gantry (1960), (directed by her second husband, Richard Brooks), Spartacus (1960), All the Way Home (1963) and The Happy Ending (1969), for which she received her second Oscar nomination. In the opinion of film critic Philip French, Home Before Dark (1958) saw her give '"perhaps her finest performance as a housewife driven into a breakdown in Mervyn LeRoy's psychodrama".


By the 1970s Simmons turned her focus to stage and television acting. She toured the United States in Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music, then took the show to London, and thus originated the role of Desirée Armfeldt in the West End. Performing in the show for three years, she said she never tired of Sondheim's music; "No matter how tired or off you felt, the music would just pick you up."

She made a late career appearance in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Drumhead" as a retired Starfleet admiral and hardened legal investigator who conducts a witch-hunt. In 1991 she appeared in the short-lived revival of the 1960s daytime series Dark Shadows, in roles originally played by Joan Bennett. From 1994 until 1998 Simmons narrated the A&E documentary television series, Mysteries of the Bible. In 2004 Simmons voiced the lead-role of Sophie in the English dub of Howl's Moving Castle.

Jean died in 2010 of lung cancer, days before her 81st birthday...


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

CHRISTINE CHUBBUCK: THE SAGA CONTINUES

"In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts and in living color, you are going to see another first," 29-year-old broadcast journalist Christine Chubbuck told her television audience during her final on-air broadcast on Monday, July 15, 1974. "Attempted suicide."

The morning host of Sun Coast Digest on WXLT in Sarasota, Florida, then pulled a .38 caliber revolver from under her desk and shot herself in the head. She died 15 hours later and became the first on-air suicide in the United States.

"My grandparents lived across the street from my sister and she was extremely close to both of them," Chubbuck's brother Greg tells PEOPLE. "They watched every one of her shows, except my grandfather had an appointment with his doctor and he didn't feel like driving so my grandmother drove him and they missed the only show they had ever missed my sister on – the show she killed herself. She knew they weren't going to be watching that show."

Chubbuck's death made headlines around the country and helped inspire the 1976 film Network starring Faye Dunaway and Peter Finch.

Now, 40-years later, Chubbuck's tragic tale is the driving force behind two films selected to debut at the Sundance Film Festival, underway in Park City, Utah.

Christine, directed by Antonio Campos and starring British actress Rebecca Hall, chronicles the newswoman's final days. The second film, Kate Plays Christine, is a documentary by director Robert Greene that follows House of Cards actress Kate Lyn Sheil as she gets ready to play the role of the statuesque 5-foot, 11-inch brunette in a forthcoming movie.


Chubbuck's brother Greg says he doesn't plan to watch either film. "Nobody wants to know who Christine Chubbuck was," he says. "They want to sensationalize what happened at the end of her life. A public suicide is not a source of joy for a family."

Christine Chubbuck grew up in the upscale Ohio suburb of Harbor with her parents, George and Peg, and two brothers, older brother Tim and younger brother Greg. The only daughter of a high-end automotive and manufacturing industry salesperson and a housewife, Christine was talented and smart. While in middle school, she was a flutist in the high school marching band. She later developed an interest in acting at private school and enrolled in the University of North Carolina summer acting program.

Christine was a bright, gifted student with a sharp wit and a nationally ranked kayaker, but since she was about 10 she never felt that she fit in.

Greg recalls his older brother, Tim, taking him aside and telling him their time with "Chrissie" would be short-lived. 


"We have to hug Chrissie extra hard because we aren't going to have her very long," Greg recalls. "He was 12 and I was 8 and in the back of our minds we always knew that our time with her was not going to be infinite."

Greg says his parents spent over $1 million over 20 years with psychiatrists and psychologists to "help Chrissie find peace."

Greg now believes his sister suffered from bipolar disorder, a mood disorder defined by periods of highs and periods of depression. At the time, Greg says she was only being treated for depression.

"If you are treating someone for general depression and they have bipolar depression they actually get worse," he says. "So with that in mind, you can imagine my parents' 20-year odyssey to try and help my sister understand why she didn't look at the world the way everybody else did, while very expensive did not turn out to be fruitful. That never made my parents give up on my sister or quit loving her. Her two brothers adored her. My wife at the time and my little girl just worshipped my sister and none of that made any of the outcomes change."

Christine's emotional wellbeing was further tested at 16 when her 23-year-old boyfriend was killed in a car accident. 


"I think truly that this fellow, Dave the kayaker, he was truly the love of her life," says Greg.

Nonetheless, Christine went on to earn a degree in broadcasting at Boston University, worked at a Florida cable station, attended a summer film workshop at NYU, and then got a job at public television stations in Pittsburgh and Canton, Ohio. The 21-year-old began dating a man in his early 30s, but Greg says their father disapproved of his age and his religion – he was Jewish – and the relationship was short lived.

"She never really had another boyfriend after that," Greg said.

Christine moved to Florida to live with her mother after her parents divorced. She worked as a hospital computer operator before landing a job as a reporter, then host at WXLT in Sarasota, Florida.

"It was her show," says Greg. "It was one person doing all of it with very low pay."

Everyone in the family went out of their way to help Christine with her television career. Her mother paid for designer dresses to make sure she looked good on air.

"In 1974 there weren't too many local TV personalities wearing $2,000 designer dresses, and she did," says Greg. 


Despite having her own morning television show, Greg says his sister never felt she was good enough – and was constantly doubting herself.

"She was very gifted and she never felt like she was good enough and she was constantly doubting herself, and I mean morosely doubting herself," says Greg. "And she would come out of it and she would be better and we would think with all the outside help with the professionals maybe this would be the time she would get her wind and be fine. But it just never really happened completely for her. It is a really sad, tragic circumstance."

The final Monday show started off normally. Then, Christine introduced a segment about an officer-involved shooting. The news footage jammed and that was when Christine – looking relaxed and determined – said the words that would make headline news, drew a revolver, pointed it at her head and shot herself behind her right ear.

A few weeks before her suicide, Christine interviewed a deputy sheriff about suicide.

"She asked him if someone were to kill themselves where they would put the gun to make sure it was effective," Greg recalls. "I learned this from the deputy sheriff. He was in tears."

Christine's family immediately got an injunction preventing the release of the tape of her suicide. After it was seized as evidence by authorities, it was turned over to their mother, Peg.

"I don't know to this day where it is," Greg says. "But I know no one knows where it is and no one ever will if I have anything to say about it."

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

RIP: ABE VIGODA

Abe Vigoda, the beloved actor known for playing Det. Fish on Barney Miller and mobster Sal Tessio in The Godfather, and for weathering years of mistaken reports about his death, died in his sleep in New Jersey on Tuesday, January 26, at the age of 94.

Audiences first got to know the actor in 1972’s The Godfather, when the then 51-year-old actor played Tessio, a longtime friend and associate of the Corleone family who’s killed when the Corleones find out he’s been working with a rival mob family.

In 1975, Vigoda began playing Det. Phil Fish on the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning ABC sitcom Barney Miller. Fish was a cantankerous New York City detective whose advancing age had led to a lot of physical ailments, namely a persistent hemorrhoids issue that fed his grumpiness and made the squad’s bathroom one of his frequent hangouts.

The role earned Vigoda three Emmy nominations, and led to a spin-off, Fish, in which an eventually-retired Fish and his wife Bernice (Florence Stanley) raised a group of foster children (including one played by a pre-Diff’rent Strokes Todd Bridges). The series ran for two seasons on ABC.

The star, born in Brooklyn on Feb. 24, 1921 to parents who immigrated from Russia, began his acting career in 1947, and appeared in several Broadway productions before his breakout role in The Godfather.


He also guest-starred on TV shows like Dark Shadows, Kojak, and Hawaii Five-0, and, post-Barney Miller and Fish, had memorable roles in Cannonball Run, Look Who’s Talking, Joe Versus the Volcano, and Good Burger.

Vigoda, who always looked a bit older than his actual age, also played along with what became a running joke: premature reports of his death. In 1982, People magazine mistakenly printed a story that referred to him as “the late” Abe Vigoda, which prompted him to pose, sitting up, in a coffin, holding a copy of People, for a photo that ran inVariety to prove he was very much alive.

Various TV reports, late-night TV hosts David Letterman and Conan O’Brien, and numerous Websites either mistakenly reported his death or poked fun at the idea that he was frequently the subject of such rumors. A pair of Websites — Abe Vigoda Status and Is Abe Vigoda Dead? — exist solely to keep tabs on whether or not he’s still alive, and Vigoda won a whole new fanbase for his good humor and longevity as faux reports of his death became a meme...



Monday, January 25, 2016

RECENTLY VIEWED: A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN

The other night I had the opportunity to re watch one of the saddest movies I have watched in some time, and one movie that has stuck with me through the years. The movie is the 1969 cartoon A Boy Named Charlie Brown. The movie has been important to me, because in my youth I felt like I was a misfit like the main character poor Charlie Brown.

The movie was the first feature film based on the Peanuts comic strip. It was also the final time that Peter Robbins voiced the character of Charlie Brown (Robbins had voiced the role for all the Peanuts television specials up to that point, starting with the debut of the specials, 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas).

In this film, Charlie Brown, our hero, has finally proved that he can do something right. He wins the spelling bee in his class. All the kids treat him with their usual lack of tact. He studies really hard and wins the championship at his school and gets to go to the "city" to be in the "National Elimination Spelling Bee" I will not spoil the ending.

Vince Guaraldi, the composer of the music for the six previous TV specials, is back for this one. There are new arrangements of the old music, plus several new songs by Rod McKuen. Guaraldi did not do the music for the next feature, Snoopy Come Home (1972) and that film suffers because of this.


Schroeder has a beautiful salute to Beethoven in this film. While the music plays, we see some beautiful abstract scenes and colors on the screen that look fantastic in Technicolor. Sadly, I have seen this sequence cut from TV showings.

Snoopy has a wonderful sequence while he and Linus are wandering around the city looking for his blanket that he sent with Charlie Brown for good luck. Snoopy discovers an ice skating rink and pretends that he is in a hockey match while he skates around the rink. He also has an encounter with the Red Baron that has some of the same animation that was used in "He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown! on TV.


One thing that I like about this film is when the closing credits are rolling, you get to see animated images of most of the principal creators of this film. Their names are on the right side of the screen, and their images appear on the left. Things like that entice me to sit through the credits instead of walking out as soon as they start.

Since I watched the movie, I can not get the title song "A Boy Named Charlie Brown", sung and written by Rod McKuen out of my head. It sets the whole mood for the film in the beginning and the end. The song and the movie basically tells us that there is a little bit of Charlie Brown in all of us. I love the movie despite its melancholy portrayal of Charlie Brown, and even though I am sad for Charlie, I am quite happy by the end of the film. It is a great film for everyone. You're a blockhead if you don't see this one!



MY RATING: 9 OUT OF 10

Sunday, January 17, 2016

JOHN SCOTT TROTTER: A MUSICAL HEAVYWEIGHT


Bing's musical director during his hey-day was an easy-going mountain of a man, John Scott Trotter. Trotter weighed in at 12 pounds when he was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1908. As an adult he weighed nearly 300 pounds. Trotter's professional music career began at the University of North Carolina in 1925 when he became pianist and arranger for a college band led by Hal Kemp.

Trotter's chance for national fame came 12 years later in 1937. Bing was hosting the Kraft Music Hall with Jimmy Dorsey conducting the orchestra. Kraft insisted that the show include a concert spot of classical music, and Dorsey was having difficulty delivering an acceptable product. He gracefully left the show. In searching for a new musical director, Crosby asked his songwriter friend, Johnny Burke, about the arranger for singer Skinnay Ennis of the Hal Kemp Orchestra. Burke told him "John Scott Trotter." Crosby said "Get him."

Trotter was tracked down in New York and offered the job as Crosby's orchestra leader. Trotter accepted, and took over for Dorsey on the 8 July 1937 broadcast. Soon he was arranging and conducting for Crosby's Decca recordings as well. Their first Decca session was the up-tempo It's the Natural Thing to Do, recorded July 12, 1937.

Carroll Carroll, chief writer on the Kraft show, recalled Trotter's massive volume and appetite:

"Trotter, a monolith of a man, stood astride pop and 'long hair' music, as it was then called, like a colossus, and occasionally flew from Hollywood to New Orleans for the weekend (something not done often in the thirties) just to cater to his gourmet tastes with a decent plate of oysters Rockefeller. During the war, when home economist M.F.K. Fisher was a guest on the show to plug her wartime conservation cookbook, How to Cook a Wolf, she told Bing that her book explained how to use leftovers. The heartily-fed Trotter stepped to the mike and, in his most polite and gentle North Carolina drawl, asked, 'Pardon me, ma'am, but what are left-overs?'" (from The Old Time Radio Book by Ted Sennett, p70)
                      

Trotter arranged and conducted for Crosby for 17 years. During that time several members of his orchestra went on to greater fame. Jerry Colonna (1905-86) was Trotter's trombonist when his comedic skills were discovered. While playfully singing "On the Road to Mandalay" with Trotter at the organ, Colonna began on a high note reminiscent of an air raid siren and went up from there. The next week he was featured as the guest 'concert star' on the Kraft show. Soon Colonna joined Bob Hope's radio show as his comedy side-kick.

Trotter hired Spike Jones (1911-65) in 1937 to beat the drums in his orchestra. Jones became a celebrity during World War II when he moonlighted on a novelty song called "Der Fuhrer's Face." The song became such a hit that Jones left the Trotter orchestra late in 1942 to make a career for himself as conductor of a not-so-serious band, the City Slickers. Jones' raucous sound was invented by Trotter's orchestra to accompany (and cover) the dischordant notes of comedian Bob Burns on the bazooka. Later Jones and his City Slickers returned as guests on the Crosby show. After the City Slickers accompanied Bing on a song, Crosby was heard to say, "John Scott, don't ever leave me!"


Trotter remained as Crosby's musical director until 1954. Their last recording together was "In the Good Old Summertime" in May. That summer Bing decided to end his big-budget radio variety show and with it went his need for a full-time musical director. Bing wrote Trotter on Sept. 9: "I certainly hate to see the wonderful organization we have break up, and it gives me a wrench to be an instrument in its dissolution. I shall never forget all the good years you and I had together, and all the wonderful unselfish things you did for me and my interests. You had a great deal to put up with at times, and your patience and forbearance was always incredible. You must know how grateful I am to you for everything that you have done."

Trotter moved on to television, becoming musical director for the George Gobel show from 1954-60. He remained friends with Bing and was a frequent visitor to Bing's home, even helping redecorate Bing's San Francisco mansion. Trotter served as musical director of several of Bing's TV specials as well as his 1964-65 ABC situation comedy, The Bing Crosby Show. Later he directed the music for the Charlie Brown cartoon specials. In 1970 Trotter was nominated for an Oscar and a Grammy for his musical score for the movie "A Boy Named Charlie Brown."

Bing once said of Trotter, "I'm not musically educated enough to really describe what he was in music terms. I just knew he was very good and he had marvellous taste."

Trotter died of cancer October 30, 1975, a month after arranging a Boston Pops special for PBS...