Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Since I have two young children, I end up watching a lot of cartoons. I especially see a lot of children's movies in the theater. I am so glad that studios make cartoons that can appeal to children and adults alike. One example of this is the great cartoon "Ralph Breaks The Internet" which I went to see with my two children during Thanksgiving break.

Ralph Breaks the Internet is a 2018 American 3D computer-animated comedy film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures as well as the studio's 57th feature-length film. It is the second installment of the Wreck-It Ralph film series and the sequel to the 2012 film Wreck-It Ralph. It is directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, written by Johnston and Pamela Ribon, and executive-produced by John Lasseter, Chris Williams, and Jennifer Lee. It features John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, and Ed O'Neill reprising their roles from the first film, with Alan Tudyk returning to voice a new character, alongside new additions to the cast including Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Bill Hader (in an uncredited role), and Alfred Molina.

Talks for a Wreck-It Ralph sequel began in October 2012, and went through three different scripts before settling on the final plot. The film was officially announced in June 2016, with much of the original cast confirming they had signed on, with new members being added in 2018. It marks the first feature-length theatrical sequel from Walt Disney Animation Studios since Winnie the Pooh in 2011, which was a sequel to the 1977 animated film The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It is also the studio's first animated sequel to be created by the original film's writing/directing team.

Similar to the first film, which included a number of cameos and references to video games, Ralph Breaks the Internet has additional features to Internet culture and to various Disney properties, including their own films, Pixar films, the Star Wars, Marvel Comics, and The Muppets franchises. Mickey Mouse, Grumpy,Dumbo, Buzz Lightyear,C-3PO,R2-D2,Yoda, First Order Stormtroopers, Iron Man, and Rocket Raccoon also appear in the film, along with the video game characters Q*Bert, Pac-Man, Clyde, Inky, Taizo Hori, Ken Masters, Chun-Li, Ryu, Zangief, M. Bison, Peter Pepper, Frogger, Tapper, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Doctor Eggman from the original film. The band Imagine Dragons (whose song "Zero" is featured in a trailer for the film, as well as its soundtrack) make a cameo appearance in the film, with the members voicing themselves. Stan Lee, Marvel Comics' former writer, editor and publisher, makes a posthumous cameo appearance in the film talking to Iron Man. The filmmakers revealed that the film originally featured a joke about Kylo Ren being a "spoiled child", which was later cut from the film by request from Lucasfilm.

One of the best moments in the film is when all of the Disney princesses makes appearances. The original actresses provided the voices, except for the older movie princesses like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. Reportedly this is the first time all of them appeared together on film. Their appearance was much more than a cameo, and they are important to the end of the film. 

Ralph Breaks The Internet has it all. The cartoon part of the film is enjoyable for kids, but the spoofing of ebay, amazon, and other internet hot spots will make the older viewers laugh. It's a great film, and all three of us enjoyed the trip to the movies...


Monday, November 26, 2018


One of my favorite memories as a child was reading Peanuts cartoon strips and watching the annual Charlie Brown cartoons on television. It's creator, Charles Schultz, was born on this day on November 26, 1922. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Schulz grew up in Saint Paul. He was the only child of Carl Schulz, who was born in Germany, and Dena Halverson, who had Norwegian heritage. His uncle called him "Sparky" after the horse Spark Plug in Billy DeBeck's comic strip, Barney Google.

Schulz loved drawing and sometimes drew his family dog, Spike, who ate unusual things, such as pins and tacks. In 1937, Schulz drew a picture of Spike and sent it to Ripley's Believe It or Not!; his drawing appeared in Robert Ripley's syndicated panel, captioned, "A hunting dog that eats pins, tacks, and razor blades is owned by C. F. Schulz, St. Paul, Minn." and "Drawn by 'Sparky'" (C.F. was his father, Carl Fred Schulz).

Schulz attended Richards Gordon Elementary School in Saint Paul, where he skipped two half-grades. He became a shy, timid teenager, perhaps as a result of being the youngest in his class at Central High School. One well-known episode in his high school life was the rejection of his drawings by his high school yearbook, which he referred to in Peanuts years later, when he had Lucy ask Charlie Brown to sign a picture he drew of a horse, only to then say it was a prank. A five-foot-tall statue of Snoopy was placed in the school's main office 60 years later.

Schulz's first group of regular cartoons, a weekly series of one-panel jokes entitled Li'l Folks, was published from June 1947 to January 1950 in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, with Schulz usually doing four one-panel drawings per issue. It was in Li'l Folks that Schulz first used the name Charlie Brown for a character, although he applied the name in four gags to three different boys as well as one buried in sand. The series also had a dog that looked much like Snoopy. In May 1948, Schulz sold his first one-panel drawing to The Saturday Evening Post; within the next two years, a total of 17 untitled drawings by Schulz were published in the Post, simultaneously with his work for St. Paul Pioneer Press. Around the same time, he tried to have Li'l Folks syndicated through the Newspaper Enterprise Association; Schulz would have been an independent contractor for the syndicate, unheard of in the 1940s, but the deal fell through. Li'l Folks was dropped from the Pioneer Press in January 1950.

Later that year, Schulz approached the United Feature Syndicate with the one-panel series Li'l Folks, and the syndicate became interested. However, by that time Schulz had also developed a comic strip, using normally four panels rather than one, and reportedly to Schulz's delight, the syndicate preferred this version. Peanuts made its first appearance on October 2, 1950, in seven newspapers. The weekly Sunday-page debuted on January 6, 1952. After a somewhat slow beginning, Peanuts eventually became one of the most popular comic strips of all time, as well as one of the most influential. Schulz also had a short-lived sports-oriented comic strip called It's Only a Game (1957–1959), but he abandoned it due to the demands of the successful Peanuts. The rest is history...

Thursday, November 22, 2018


Kitty Carlisle was a fixture of New York social life. Until her death in 2007 at the age of 96, she was the definition of society queen. Other than that, Hart was mostly known as a panelist on games shows, namely To Tell The Truth from 1956 to 1976. However, many people don't know that Kitty started her career as a singer/actress in the 1930s, and she was pretty good at it.

Kitty's very ambitious mother, Hortense (Holzman), escorted Kitty to Europe in 1921 (when Kitty was 11) with the intentions of marrying her off, Grace Kelly-style, into European royalty. When that plan didn't pan out, they stayed in Europe where Kitty received her adult education in Switzerland, London, Paris and Rome. She finally zeroed in on her acting career after being accepted into London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and also went on to train at the Theatre de l'Atelier in Paris.

She and her mother eventually returned to New York in 1932 wherein she first apprenticed with the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania. She attracted notice quite early in her career. Billed as Kitty Carlisle, she found radio work and made her first appearance on the musical stage in the title role of "Rio Rita." The legitimately-trained singer went on to appear in a number of operettas, including 1933's "Champagne Sec" (as Prince Orlofsky), as well as the musical comedies "White Horse Inn" (1936) and "Three Waltzes" (1937).

Her early ingénue movie career included warbling in the musical mystery Murder at the Vanities (1934), and alongside Allan Jones amidst the zany goings-on of the Marx Brothers in the classic farce A Night at the Opera (1935). She also played a love interest to Bing Crosby's in two of his lesser known musical outings Here Is My Heart (1934) and She Loves Me Not (1934).

Films were not her strong suit, however, and she returned to her theatre roots. Appearing in her first dramatic productions "French Without Tears" and "The Night of January 16th" in 1938, she went on to grace a number of chic and stylish plays and musicals throughout the 40s, including "Walk with Music (1940), "The Merry Widow" (1943, "Design for Living (1943) and "There's Always Juliet" (1944). She subsequently performed in Benjamin Britten's 1948 American premiere of "The Rape of Lucretia." In 1946, she married Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Moss Hart and appeared in a number of his works including his classic "The Man Who Came to Dinner" (1949) and the witty Broadway comedy "Anniversary Waltz" (1954). The couple had two children. He died in 1961 and she never remarried, spending much of her existing time keeping his name alive to future generations.

Carlisle resumed her film career later in life, appearing in Woody Allen's Radio Days (1987) and in Six Degrees of Separation (1993), as well as on stage in a revival of On Your Toes, replacing Dina Merrill. Her last movie appearance was in Catch Me If You Can (2002) in which she played herself in a dramatization of a 1970s To Tell the Truth episode. Kitty only made nine movies in her short Hollywood career, but do yourself a favor and check out her films especially A Night At The Opera and the movies she made with Bing Crosby. You will be left longing for more...

Monday, November 19, 2018


Each Christmas time when the 1954 classic White Christmas movie is shown I am re-introduced to dancer Vera-Ellen. Her grace and talent is in every movie she made. It is unfortunate that she hasn't made more movies. For the month of December, all of our articles will feature the underrated dancer Vera-Ellen (1921-1981).

We have a lot of special stories planned from movies reviews and rare photos to a rare interview with one of the last people to have known Vera-Ellen. I hope December will be a special month - not only for the holiday season, but for the remembrances of Vera-Ellen. She was one of the most remarkable dancers of Broadway and Hollywood...

Saturday, November 17, 2018


On October 30th I got an early Christmas present when author Gary Giddin's long awaited second volume of his biography of Bing Crosby came out. It took me about two weeks to finish, but it was a great biography. It took a long time for Gary to come out with this second volume. The first volume, Pocketful Of Dreams came out in 2001. The reading community has changed a lot in 17 years, and I worry that this new volume will not do as well as it deserves to do. The life of Bing Crosby is quite remarkable, and Bing Crosby deserves to be remembered more than he is.

The positive parts of "Swinging On A Star - The War Years" is the amount we learn about Bing Crosby. I pride myself in knowing a lot about Der Bingle, but Gary Giddins wrote about things I never knew about. He eluded to an affair Bing had with singer Trudy Erwin, but he doesn't really delve into that. Towards the end of the book he writes about the affair Bing had with actress Joan Caulfield, which I knew about but did not know the personal details about. What amazed me the most was the amount of work Bing tirelessly did for the war effort during World War II. Audiences knew about the work that Bob Hope during the war, mostly because Hope probably told everyone, but Bing Crosby kept a lot of his work for the soldiers to himself. I also never knew about the struggles Bing was having at home during the 1940s. His wife Dixie Lee was destroying herself with alcohol, and to read Bing's own words in regards to his wife is both eye opening and touching.

There is not much wrong with the 600 plus page book on Bing, but at some points author Gary Giddins could have benefited with a better editor. Some of the long stories on people such as director Leo McCarey were way too long and slows down the book. Director McCarey is important to Bing's career, but I don't think he deserves the pages he got in this book. The only other complaint I have is the ending of the book. It ends abruptly like the publisher just picked a point and made Gary end it there. I know there are hopes for a third volume, but a better ending would have been more gratifying for the reader.

However, Gary Giddins has a way to make you truly feel like you are a part of his books. I read an online review, and the particular reviewer complained about the amount Giddins devoted to the diary of two Crosby fans that literally followed Bing around through the years. I wished there was more from the sisters, and their diaries on Bing would make a fascinating book. At times I felt anger towards Bing when Gary wrote about Bing's parenting of his sons or his affair with Joan Caulfield. I felt sadness when Gary wrote about Bing's wife drinking herself to death and to some of the dying soldiers Bing entertained overseas. Any book that Gary writes is not only enlightening but truly engrossing.

Gary Giddins was asked recently about a third volume of Bing Crosby's life, and he basically says it depends on sales of volume 2, which makes me nervous. Is there an audience for Bing Crosby in 2018? I wish there was but I am not optimistic. You do not really have to be a Bing Crosby fan to love the book. My wife likes Bing Crosby, because I introduced her to him but she is hardly a major fan. Every day when I read another chapter of the book, I would tell my wife something I learned, and she actually got really into it. So please spread the word about this book, and please support Gary Giddins' writings. The book is pretty close to a masterpiece!


NOTE: You can purchase the book here.

Thursday, November 15, 2018


Roy Clark, the legendary guitarist and singer, Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry member, Grammy, ACM and CMA award winner and co-host of the “Hee Haw” television series, died today at the age of 85 due to complications from pneumonia at home in Tulsa, Okla.

His 24-year sting on the at times deliberately corny “Hee Haw” show belied his stellar musicianship and deep pedigree as a country-music pioneer, particularly the “Bakersfield” sound of the late 1950s and early 1960s in which he was deeply involved with fellow picker Buck Owens, who also appeared on the show. With the later rise of country stars ranging from Emmylou Harris and Dwight Yoakam to Brad Paisley and Keith Urban, Clark’s vast influence has received its proper due.

During the 1970s, Clark frequently guest-hosted for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show and enjoyed a 30-million viewership for Hee Haw. Clark is highly regarded and renowned as a guitarist and banjo player, and is also skilled on classical guitar and several other instruments. Although he has had hit songs as a pop vocalist (e.g., "Yesterday, When I Was Young" and "Thank God and Greyhound"), his instrumental skill has had an enormous effect on generations of bluegrass and country musicians. He has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1987 and, in 2009, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

He is survived by Barbara, his wife of sixty-one years, his sons Roy Clark II and wife Karen, Dr. Michael Meyer and wife Robin, Terry Lee Meyer, Susan Mosier and Diane Stewart, and his grandchildren: Brittany Meyer, Michael Meyer, Caleb Clark, Josiah Clark and his sister, Susan Coryell.

A memorial celebration will be held in the coming days in Tulsa, Okla., details forthcoming...

Monday, November 12, 2018


This article was written by my good friend BG on his Geezer Music club blog. He gave me permission to republish the excellent story here. Here is a link to his page and the original story: Geezer Music Club!

One of the things I enjoy about reading biographies of entertainment legends is learning about the less famous people whose lives revolved around the stars, like the guy I ran across in a book about Dean Martin. An accomplished saxophonist who’d gotten his start in the early big band era, Dick Stabile was the musical director for Martin and Lewis at the height of their fame as a comedy team, and for many years also backed up Dino on some of his best records. Along the way he found time to have a pretty good career as a bandleader.

Growing up in Newark meant that Stabile was just a stone’s throw from New York, and he wasted no time moving there in the 1920s to make a living as a professional musician. Still just a teenager, he bounced around a while and ended up in the well-regarded Ben Bernie’s orchestra, where he would spend the next decade learning the music business inside and out.

By the late 1930s Stabile had formed his own band and he found a lot of work in New York nightspots, including hotels and ballrooms, a fertile field for bands at that time. He also married singer Gracie Barrie, which proved to be a good move. Not only was she popular with fans of the band, she was also the one who kept the outfit going when Stabile later left for service in World War II.

In the post-war years the big band era was in decline and Stabile began to change with the times, working more in radio and eventually relocating in Los Angeles, where he later began to work with Martin and Lewis. He would spend a number of years as the duo’s musical director, appearing on stage with them and eventually on TV too. Even after the comedy team split, he continued to provide musical accompaniment for Martin on some of his best records. He also recorded with other stars — Della Reese for one — before eventually returning to the leadership of a band of his own. In his later years he relocated to New Orleans, where he was a popular part of the local music scene until his death in 1980, at age 71....

Friday, November 9, 2018


As an adoring-but-anxious crowd wondered if she'd appear at an all-star concert celebration on her 75th birthday, Joni Mitchell was stuck in traffic. It was only fitting for a singer and songwriter whose music helped define the experience of modern Southern California.

Glen Hansard could have been describing the guest of honor when he sang of "a prisoner of the white lines on the freeway" in his rendition of Mitchell's "Coyote" soon after the show finally began, nearly an hour late.

James Taylor, Chaka Khan, Kris Kristofferson, Rufus Wainwright and Seal were also among those serenading Mitchell with her own songs Wednesday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.

Mitchell didn't speak or say a word all night, but just showing up was a triumph. For 3 1/2 years, she has been almost completely absent from public life after an aneurysm left her debilitated and unable to speak, and little has been revealed of her condition since.

"You know, Joni has had a long and arduous recovery from a really major event," Taylor, one of Mitchell's oldest friends, told The Associated Press before the show. "But she's doing so much better."

Mitchell needed help walking in and getting to her seat in a front corner. She suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015. The audience greeted her with a standing ovation and spontaneous chorus of "Happy Birthday."

The crowd's love for Mitchell was matched by the artists themselves, especially the women, many of whom said Mitchell was much more than a musical influence.

"Joni Mitchell is an inspiration to every girl who ever picked up a guitar," Emmylou Harris said after singing Mitchell's "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire." That inspiration apparently has its limits. Harris didn't play guitar on the song, saying with a laugh that the "chords are too hard for me."

The songs were interspersed with photos of Mitchell and audio clips of her speaking throughout her career, allowing her to serve as the evening's narrator even as she remained silent.

Later in the evening, film director and Mitchell mega-fan Cameron Crowe presented her with the Music Center's Excellence in the Performing Arts Award at a dinner gala whose guests included David Geffen, Lily Tomlin, Anjelica Huston and Tom Hanks.

The concert brought four decades of songs that showed the twisting career path of the onetime Canadian folkie who became the quintessential California singer-songwriter behind albums like "Blue" and "Court and Spark" and then took her music to places her soft-rock contemporaries would never dare go.

Diana Krall showed the depth of Mitchell's jazz influence as she sat at the piano and sang "Amelia" from 1976. Kristofferson and Brandi Carlile showed that Mitchell could be a little bit country with their version of 1971's "A Case of You" and its memorable chorus, "I could drink a case of you darling. Still I'd be on my feet."

As the show approached its end, the curtain fell and the crowd chanted for an encore. They went wild when it rose to show Mitchell standing at the front of the stage in a long red coat, black hat and cane.
She blew out candles on a birthday cake and swayed to the rhythm as all of the night's musicians combined for 1970's "Big Yellow Taxi."

Monday, November 5, 2018


It's hard to imagine that Christmas movies are already coming out, but that is what is happening! This past weekend I took my daughter to see The Nutcracker And The Four Realms. Sadly it looks like the movie is not doing well in the box office, (It made $20 million in its opening weekend off of $125 million plus budget), but I found it to be pretty good. It does not compare to last year's Beauty And The Beast, but this was a fun movie to take my six year old to.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a fantasy adventure film directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston and written by Ashleigh Powell. It is a retelling of E. T. A. Hoffmann's short story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" and Marius Petipa's The Nutcracker, about a young girl who is gifted a locked egg from her deceased mother and sets out in a magical land to retrieve the key. The film stars Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman.

All Clara wants is a key - a one-of-a-kind key that will unlock a box that holds a priceless gift from her late mother. A golden thread, presented to her at godfather Drosselmeyer's annual holiday party, leads her to the coveted key-which promptly disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world. It's there that Clara encounters a soldier named Phillip, a gang of mice and the regents who preside over three Realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers, and Land of Sweets. Clara and Phillip must brave the ominous Fourth Realm, home to the tyrant Mother Ginger, to retrieve Clara's key and hopefully return harmony to the unstable world.

Mackenzie Foy was really good in the female lead playing Clara. She best known for appearing as Renesmee Cullen in the 2012 film The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2. Also veteran actors like Morgan Freeman and Helen Merrin are their usual bests. They never put in a bad performance in any rule. However, the stand out for me was Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy. I never really thought much of her as an actresses, but she was unrecognizable in her role, and she really did a great job on her character.

The movie is not perfect. I feel that the poor box office is due the movie being released too early in the holiday season. Also, i think that more explanation is needed for how the Four Realms were created. However, to a six year old and her father (who is always trying to make time for his beautiful daughter), this film was great. I had a tear in my eye during some parts of the movie, and as the lights came up on the movie theater I walked out with my very independent daughter, and she grabbed my hand to hold. I think this movie did it's job...


Sunday, November 4, 2018


“Evita! Evita! La santa Peronista!” Anyone who has seen Andrew Lloyd Weber’s operetta Evita knows at least a little something about the life of Eva Perón, one of Argentina’s most beloved and controversial political figures. While she was never an elected official, Evita had a profound and lasting impact on the social and political landscape of Argentina.

Born in 1919 in the town of Los Toldos, Argentina, Maria Eva Duarte grew up with her parents and four siblings. Her family was quite prosperous at the time she was born. Evita’s father, Juan Duarte, was given the role of Deputy Justice of the Peace in 1908, and the family enjoyed a great deal of prominence. At this time, the leftist Radical Party had won the presidency, and conservative ideologies continued to become increasingly unpopular: bad news for Juan Duarte, who was solidly affiliated with the Conservatives.

After moving to Buenos Aires, Evita worked as an actress, and made her way in the big city as best she could without any real financial stability. It wasn’t until 1944 that Evita would meet Juan Perón, who, as a result of his involvement with a military coup that resulted in a takeover of the Argentine government, was currently the Secretary of War and Labor.

Evita and Juan Perón were married in 1945, and in that same year, Juan Perón was imprisoned by opposition from within his party over fears that he would eclipse the presidency. Released a short time later, Juan Perón went on to win the presidency, and thus came the rise of Evita as an influential political figure.

The Peróns were both popular among the poor and working classes and unions in Argentina. The particular set of policies and beliefs held by Juan Perón eventually became a political party and political philosophy known as Perónism. While Perónism was popular among lower socioeconomic classes in Argentina, Argentina didn’t necessarily have too many sympathetic friends abroad, particularly in Europe.

As first lady, Evita was tasked with meeting foreign leaders in Europe, and in 1947, an invitation by the president of Spain lead Evita on a trip known as the Rainbow Tour. On this tour, Evita met with leaders in Italy, Portugal, France, Switzerland, and Monaco, as well as Argentina’s South American neighbors, Brazil and Uruguay. Evita used these special visits to promote her husband’s agenda abroad. She was also accompanied by a huge entourage, and traveled in style.

Despite criticism against her (some justified, some not), Evita is credited with many wonderful accomplishments. She was instrumental in passing a law that gave women the right to vote in Argentina in 1947. In 1948, she established the Maria Eva Duarte de Perón Foundation, which served poor children and elderly people. Evita is perhaps best known for championing the rights of the descamisados (meaning “the shirtless ones,” referring to working class laborers). Throughout her political career, Evita supported legislation that would improve working conditions and wages for some of Argentina’s poorest workers.

Eva Perón experienced and accomplished all of this on only 33 years, the age when she died of cervical cancer. Evita died in 1952, but the legacy she and Juan Perón left behind when they started the Peronist movement is every bit as active in Argentina today as it was when they first rose to prominence. The subject of endless debate, Evita’s Peronism (and its opposition) is still very much a defining political and social feature of Argentina. Because of this, Argentina’s future will forever be entwined with the history of La Santa Peronista...