1] CHRISTMASTIME IS HERE (Written by Vince Guaraldi - from A Charlie Brown Christmas):
Show me a better song representative of Christmas? Okay, maybe The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole - but nothing revs up the Holiday heart strings like this classic tune sung by the Peanuts gang on one of the best Christmas TV specials of all time (see previous post - and see video link below).
2] THERE'S ALWAYS TOMORROW (FOR DREAMS TO COME TRUE) By Janet Orenstein from Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special:
Like Christmastime is Here (from A Charlie Brown Christmas) this true-love bearing (and en-deer-ing) song from TV's other classic perennial, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, hits all the right chords. Years after first hearing it as a kid, my college crush Debbie Bell (yep, that was her name) sang this for me on her piano. And I couldn't believe she had the sheet music.
3] SILVER & GOLD (performed by Burl Ives in Rudolph):
Stripping away the materialism of what it may appear to mean (silver and gold money, for example), this song caters to core of Christmas - and teaches us to decorate our trees with only the sincerest of colors (that you just know somehow glisten on and make into Heaven - which, of course, is already paved with silver and gold).
4] HOLLY-JOLLY CHRISTMAS (performed by Burl Ives in Rudolph):
Put away your frown, Mr. Scrooge...I dare you not to dance when you hear this jingle bell.
5] LAST CHRISTMAS by George Michael:
George has certainly had his share of issues in the years since his early days with WHAM, but this song wasn't one of 'em. Instead, it goes down in history as one of the most beautiful and somber pop-rock carols of all time.
6] ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU by Mariah Carey:
Like George Michael before her, Mariah Carey has experienced a few personal challenges in recent years. However, her talent is astounding - and her voice is pure - as is so pristinely evident heart-felt holiday rockin' tune.
7] FELICE NAVIDA by Jose Feliciano:
Before it became hip for non-Latinos to speak Spanish in the US, the gifted Jose Ferrer introduced mainstream Americana to the international sounds of Christmas with this bangin' gee-tar-driven holiday present that broke the language barrier.
8] SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS (offcially titled Happy Christmas) by John Lennon TIESwith LITTLE SAINT NICK by Brian Wilson (and Mike Love):
One would expect nothing less from Lennon - the man who brought us the timeless beauty of Imagine - while the genius of The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson is front and center for Christmas. And is it really any wonder that Little Saint Nick appears on TBB's first Christmas album, which just so happened to be released in the same year (1964) that Rudolph debuted on TV? 'Course not. The angels know what they're doing.
9] DO THEY KNOW IT'S CHRISTMAS? Before being charitable in the public eye became cool, this haunting tune was recorded to help feed the hungry - not only of the body - but of the heart and the soul. In the process, it reminds us exactly what Christmas is supposed to be all about (clue: not buying Christmas gifts at the mall, which opens at 4 AM on Black Friday).
10] EDELWEISE by Rodgers and Hammerstein from The Sound of Music. If this isn't a Christmas song, I don't know what is. It is infested with love, and as far as I'm concerned, is one of the most beautifully melodies on the planet. And though The Sound of Music is not "really" a "Christmas story," per se, it really kinda'sorta is.
I now leave you with one of the YouTube links to this beautiful song.
1] A Charlie Brown Christmas (CBS, 1965): Directed by Bill Melendez. Written by Charles Schulz.
Young voice-over talent Peter Robbins made his indelible mark as Charlie Brown in this poignant holiday classic that spawned a series of similar specials for every holiday. Here, Charlie Brown searches for the true meaning of Christmas and the perfect tree. While directing a school play, he ultimately finds both, though not before our young low-acheiver is confronted by a number of obstacles. None the least of these conflicts is presented by his own dog Snoopy's obsession with winning first prize for a local decorations competition, or by his mean-spirited peers who mock his choice of a tiny sickly tree. Through it all, Charlie continues to struggle for peace of mind in his December time, when he is forced to visit with his pseudo-psycholgoist friend (and foe) Lucy, who offers him a 5 cents therapy session. Following a desperate plea (during which he screams, "Can't anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?!"), CB finally hears the real deal - from Lucy's young brother Linus, of all people. "I can tell you," Linus reveals. And in one of the most uniquely animated moments in the history of the genre, Linus goes on to quote the Biblical story of the first Christmas. In a matter of moments, CB's misguided pals realize their inconsideration and, with the help and reconfiguration of Snoopy's prize-winning decorations, breathe life into a once-listless tree - further uncovering and "illuminating" the true meaning of Christmas. "Hark the herald" these young animated angels then all sing.
2] Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer (CBS, 1964): Directed by Kizo Nagashima and Larry Roemer. Written by Robert May and Romeo Miller.
A "true love" story. Lessons about maturity, responsibility, pride, prejduice, ambition and acceptance; deciphering "deer pressure" from "elf-improvement." Dispelling the fear surrounding a visit to the dentist? Learning that no toy is happy unless it is truly loved by a child? Some of the most beautiful Christmas songs ever written (There's Always Tomorrow; Silver and Gold). What else could anyone want in a Christmas TV special? This classic always signals the commencement of the holiday season - and reminds me so much to slow my pace and shine on until the morning - and beyond. Featuring the awesome talents of Burl Ives, who we first meet in the North Pole midst of a field of Christmas trees ("Yep - this is where we grow 'em?).
3] Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (ABC, 1969): Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr. Written by Romeo Miller.
Taking it's cue from Rudolph, this smart Christmas tale expands on the popularity of a Christmas song and threads a charming tale about the origins of St. Nick - here voiced by Mickey Rooney. Also along for the ride: Fred Astaire (serving the narrator purpose, alla Burl Ives on Rudolph) as the Christmas Mailman. Also featuring the vocal talents of Keenan Wynn, Paul Frees, Joan Gardner and Robie Lester.
4] The Year Without A Santa Claus (ABC, 1974): Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr. Written by William Keenan and based on the novel by Phyllis McGinley.
Mickey Rooney returns as Santa, this time joined by Shirley Hazel Booth as Mrs. Claus in smart take that may be sub-coded, Santa Takes A Holiday - as the jolly one gets sick and decides to take a break from Christmas. As such, a quite sophisticated animated tale is delivered, along with an astounding message and pristine dialogue. In fact, this cartoon was so impressive, it spawned a life-action TV-movie (starring John Goodman) in 2006.
5] A Christmas Carol (Syndicated, 1970): Directed by Zoran Janjic. Written by Michael Robinson and based on the classic novel by Charles Dickens.
Who says television isn't educational? This was my introduction to the great mind of Charles Dickens. Up until then, I thought cartoons only meant Scooby Doo, Where Are You? - not to mention, great literature. Starring the voiceover talents of Alistair Duncan, Ron Haddick (as Scrooge), John Llewellyn, Bruce Montague, Brenda Senders and many others.
6] The Night The Animals Talked (CBS, 1970): Directed by Shamus Culhane. Written by Peter Fernandez, Jan Hartman and others.
Just about his far away from Dr. Doolittle as you can get, we learn here what the animals were thinking at the birth of Christ. They are granted the gift of gab - and we are granted the gift of insight. Mind-boggling - and aeons ahead of its time. Starring the vocal gymnastics of Pat Bright, Ruth Franklin, Bob Kaliban, Len Maxwell, Joe Silver, Frank Porella and others.
7] 'Twas The Night Before Christmas (CBS, 1974): Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr. Written by Jerome Coopersmith and based on the poem by Clement Moore.
Producers/directors Bass and Rankin steered away from stop-action animation (Rudolph, Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town) and headed into the then-more traditional animatrics of the era. What's more, it's also told in a 30-minute format (as opposed to the aforementioned 60-minutes, though first completed a few years before with Frosty the Snowman in 1969). But their style is still evident especially drawn in the eyes and "heart" of each character. A sweet narrative delivery of a perfect holiday ryhme. Feauturing the voices of Patricia Bright, Scott Firestone, George Gobel (Hollywood Squares), Broadway giant and film legend Joel Grey, and Tammy Grimes (the original choice for Samantha on TV's Bewitched; but she said no).
8] The Little Drummer Boy (NBC, 1968): Directed by Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin, Jr. and others. Written by Romeo Muller.
Two years after CBS got heavy with A Charlie Brown Christmas, the Peacock network delivered this equally-deep and spiritual take on an animated Christmas TV special. Based on the classic song (that was later historically duetted by Bing Crosby and David Bowie on one of BC's traditional NBC Holiday specials). Starring the vocal prowess of Jose Ferrer, Paul Frees, June Foray, and narrated by Greer Garson.
9] How The Grinch Stole Christmas (CBS, 1966): Directed by Chuck Jones and Ben Washam. Written by Bob Ogle and based on the book by Dr. Seuss.
Director Ron Howard and actor Jim Carrey made a valiant attempt to bring Whoville to the live big-screen a few years back, but ain't nothing like the original unreal thing - especially due to the vocal brilliance of Boris Karloff.
10] Frosty The Snowman (CBS, 1969): Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin. Written by Romeo Miller.
Here, Jimmy Durrante (like his compadres Burl Ives and Fred Astaire before) serves as narrator to yet another Christmas carol come to life - along with Frosty. A sequel (Frosty Returns) later followed (with John Goodman, years before he donned the live action edition of The Year Without A Santa Claus - stepped in for Jackie Vernon). But it wasn't the same. Also starring the voices of the great Billie De Wolfe (The Doris Day Show), and Bass/Rankin/Miller stalwharts Paul Frees and June Foray.
There is no them or us; there is only we. We are all children of a loving God. The distortions and separations in the world are created by man and fear. There is another way to prosperity - and that is when all people learn to live in peace with one another, when no one goes hungry for power or food. We must all learn to share our lives with one another in each aspect - on every level. And then, there will be no need to conquer anything but one another's hearts.
I lost my watch last April. It wasn't an expensive watch. But it was a nice watch. A nice silver one. And ever since, I have been wearing my Mom's gold watch that I bought for her 85th birthday in 2006.
Anyway, a few days ago, I was prepping some winter clothing for the cold days ahead. Inside the pocket of my full-length black coat was, you guessed it...my favorite silver watch.
I immediately replaced my Mom's gold watch with the silver time piece that I had just uncovered.
As I did so, I heard my Mom's voice in my head say to me, "Herbie J - this is your time, now. "
Everyone is mad about AMC's hip, new period piece, Mad Men - which harkens to and explores the advertising age of the 1960s.
What's the deal?
More to the point, "What's the angle?"
As in the POV?
As in Emmy after Emmy after Emmy?
But for what?
Because the cameras actually stay on the actors and give them the opportunity to act - like how every other TV show and feature film used to do before - oh, I dunno - MTV videos? Miami Vice? The CSI franchise?
Yeah - that's how they used to do it in the MM age of 1960s, but what's really going on here with the multitude of accolades been bestowed upon this show?
I find it so terribly ironic that our industry rewards a new TV show for it's allegedly unique and fresh take.
Ultimately, those behind Mad Men are merely returning to not only the classic 1960s-esque way to shoot a series (or a feature film, for that matter), but the productive way to do so - for the benefit of all concerned - especially the audience.
I completely embrace the integrity of those behind, in front of and surrounding the MM cameras. In returning to the days-of-old ways of guiding lenses, the MMpeeps allow the actors to act, to deliver their dialogue and to tell their characters' stories - with grace, dignity and sophistication.
But this should be considered unique?
This should be rewarded?
Certainly, where due, but more so with regard to the brilliant (read sly) men and women who bring us Mad Men, they are being rewarded for having the - dare I-say courage (consciously or not) - to produce and direct a series the way all TV shows and movies used to be produced and directed.
If brilliant means keeping steady the cameras on actors in order to allow them to properly present their craft, then Mad Men is littered with genius.
If brilliant means being smart enough to return to a qualitive, patient and tried and true cinematic method and technique that worked for TV shows and movies for ages, then my POV on Mad Men is glittered with lenience.
In my early research work for the first Bewitched Book (Dell, 1992), I was seeking stories and material about Mabel Albertson, who played Darrin's mortal mom on the show - and nemesis to Agnes Moorehead'sEndora. Elizabeth Montgomery once told me that the playful rivalry that Mabel and Agnes shared on-screen was also apparent to some degree, off-screen.
"They were two very strong women," Elizabeth revealed to me. "And whenever they performed together, I would just say to myself, 'Well, let's just see how this turns out, shall we?"
Forget, of course, that Bewitchedactor Robert F. Simon (who played Darrin's mortal father) tried to, as he once said to me, "stay clear of such (controlling) women."
Anyway, the great Cloris Leachman - the Emmy (and Oscar-winning) star of TV's classic Mary Tyler Moore Show - and now featured on ABC's Dancing with the Stars - and Mabel Albertson were somehow related. I forget exactly how - but I think it had something to do with Mabel's thespian brother, Jack Albertson (best known from his TV-starring gig on NBC's Chico and the Man).
So, I contacted Cloris through her agent, and within a few days, the very pleasant and funny Ms. Leachman had telephoned me back - and by this time, I had returned to Rochester. So, she had telephoned me in my parents townhouse kitchen in Greenleaf (I'll save for a later blog about the time both Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York talked with my Mom).
As Cloris related to me, Mabel had developed Alzheimer's later in life, and in her last days, she would stare into the mirror, brushing what had become her very long gray hair, and "call out" to those on the other side.
It was heartbreaking to hear this about Mabel, who had been such a fine actress for so many years (many times playing the in-law-esque mother on many a TV show - including That Girl, on which she portryad TedDon HollingerBessell's mom). [Forget, of course, too, that Bessell would later - and ironically - be hired to direct the Bewitched feature film, only to die so suddenly in 1996 before it went into production; thus throwing the project into disarray for years).
All things considered, I was very excited to speak with Cloris Leachman in my parent's Greenleaf townhome kitchen in Rochester, so much so that I have to say, I was also a little nervous. In fact, I kept referring to her as Mrs. Beacham, which was a random Bewitched guest-character name that kept onto popping into my head during our conversation.
Not once to mince words (as evident with her new gig on Dancing With The Stars), Cloris would tell me straight out, "My name is not Beacham. "It's LEACHMAN."
"Sorry, Ms. Beachman....errr, I mean...Leachman."
Ugh! Oh for pity sake, I was so embarrassed.
But, in the end, all was well. By the time we got off the phone, Cloris and I had become great chums - and it all had to do with my hair.
My hair had just started to thin (and wasn't growing tall anymore; just long), and Cloris (as a former beauty queen, was and remains ever health and fit conscious was soon researching in one her health books what would be the best vitamin choices for me to reinvigorate my hair.
"Concentrate on all the B vitamins, Herbie," she said. "And you'll be alright."
So, in my book (and I just don't mean Bewitched), Ms. Beacham - er, I mean, LEACHMAN - is always alright.
I've scheduled a trip to Los Angeles (on September 30th) and will be staying there for a few weeks (until October 21st).
Haven't been to LA since 2004 and my work as a consultant on the Bewitchedfeature film and my producing gig for Bravo's hit five-part series, The 100 Greatest TV Characters.
So, I'm looking forward to the trip.
All things considered, LA really is a magical place....and wherever you go in LA, that is to say, at whatever location you find your, one thing is for sure:
I either worked there - or got lost there.
I remember one day, I guess it was in the Fall of 1988 or '89 - when I was working full-time during the week at Brentwood Publishing (which was really in Santa Monica) and part-time on the weekends at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown LA.
Getting to the Biltmore from Santa Monica (where I lived) was quite a trek every weekend...even for the early morning hours that I worked....I think it was 6 AM to 2 PM - or something insane like that.
Anyway, I just remember I would to get up at 4 AM to make it on time. Because once I got into downtown LA, I had to park in a lot that was about two miles away from the Biltmore. And I parked there because it was cheap....only 2 bucks I think. To park at the Biltmore lot was something outrageous like $90.00 or something...and that was only a little less than I was paying in rent. So that wasn't gonna happen.
So I ended up walking those two miles from the cheap parking lot to the Biltmore every Saturday and Sunday morning about 5:30 AM.
And it was the strangest thing:
When I would take those walks, NO ONE else was in the city. I kid you not. I felt like I was in one of those science fiction movies where all the people have been obliterated. I mean, there I'd be - walking ALONE - in the midst of empty sidewalks and streets. I could sing at the top of my lungs if I wanted to (and quite, I'm surprised I didn't) - and no one would have heard me.
That was just plain odd.
Then again, not odder (odder?) than one of the more confusing weeks that I worked at both Brentwood Publishing and the Biltmore. In fact, I was so confused that I started to hallucinate (I guess you could call it that). Here's what happened:
I used to work at the Biltmore...as a Gold Room Butler. Not blue room, not peach...but GOLD. Meanwhile, as I mentioned, I was also working at Brentwood Publishing, where I answered phones.
And upon answering those phones, I'd say, "Good morning (afternoon, etc) - and thank you for calling Brentwood Publishing."
Then, while at the Biltmore, I would knock on a particular guest door, and announce, "Hello - this is your Gold Room Butler."
One day, however, I was so exhausted from working 90 million hours a week at both places, that I answered the Brentwood phones with, "Hello - this is your Gold Room Butler," and then knocked on one guest room door with, "Good afternoon, and thank you for calling Brentwood Publishing."
1973: The year of living happily and fully - at 11-years-old (and then 12 for a few months).
We were still living on Erie Street - and my best friend Gary Sanfilippo was up the corner (at Warehouse and Brown). I had just started eighth grade at a new school, St. Anthony's of Padua, where I met a truck load of wonderful friends - many with whom I remain in contact today.
It was the year that inspired my new book, The Nine Best Secrets of Christmas (due Christmas 2009), the year that my Dad was still driving all of us around in his 1969 dark green Pontiac Catalina (that I used to read as Cadillac to make us feel rich)...it was the year that everyone in my family (including both my parents, and their combined twenty brothers and sisters - and their wives and husbands and children) were still alive.
Every night was a party, and every minute was a joy.
I would shush my Uncle Tony (Fort) every time he talked during The Brady Bunch on Friday night - but he always came back with Aunt Anna on Saturday night for The Lawernce Welk Show.
Aunt Anna would start the pop-corn (with real kernels) on the big heavy-metal pan on the stove, and we would also sometimes get a pizza (from Petrillo's on Lylle Avenue).
It was the year before I started high school, and four years before we moved to Greenleaf.
It was the year when everything seemed simple - and was.
It was the year I met Carmella Bovenzi, and bought her a ring (for 15 cents at Trobia's), and the year I first ran in slow-motion (like The Six Million Dollar Man) - while still in my seat in Miss Ganzini's class.
Years later, Miss Ganzini showed up at one of my book signings for Bewitched Forever, and I cherised the moment.
I reminded her then how, in 1973, she gave each of us in eighth grade a graduation gift accompanied by an individual quote that was specifically geared toward our particular quote personality. Mine was by Emerson, and it said,
"No man is an island...no man goes his way alone. Whatever we send into the lives of ours, comes right back into our own."
I always remembered that...and it didn't take me a long time to realize what a true gift Miss Ganzini had given me. She knew I was a smart ass - and in her own way, she was trying to tell me about karma. As a result, she "saved" me much heartache over the years - and I wish I would have adhered more to what she was revealing to me (then and now).
In the fall of 1973, The Six Million Dollar Man and Kung Fu had just debuted on ABC (my favorite TV network) as monthly shows in something called The ABC Suspense Movie wheel on Saturday nights. It was the last year for one of the best Friday night line-ups in TV history: The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Room 222, The Odd Couple and Love, American Style...all on ABC).
It was also the year of one of the best Saturday night line-ups in TV history: All in the Family, M*A*S*H (quickly replacing the controversial Bridget Loves Bernie; he was Jewish, she was Catholic), The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Carol Burnett Show (all on CBS) - and life didn't get much better than that (certainly not at 11 and 12 and even later, 13).
Dark Shadows on daytime had been off the air for two years, but I somehow made my way to the mysterious adventures of Nichole on The Edge of Night, and also soon became obsessed with Match Game and The Merv Griffin Show.
It was the year when everyone was still delivered both a morning newspaper (The Democrat and Chronicle) and an evening edition (The Time Union).
It was the year when my voice changed (like Peter Brady), and my hair started to grow tall (and not long).
It was the year that my Aunt Rita took me and my cousin Jimmy Christmas shopping at Woolworth's, where Jimmy and I bought each of our girl cousins panties (three for a dollar), and our aunts one coffee mug a piece, and are uncles each a beer mug.
It was the year when we still lived next door to Uncle Carl, Aunt Elva and my cousin Evie - and our beautiful dog Boo Boo - shared in the love of two homes.
It was the year that Evie brought The Who (including Roger Daltry) home from a concert at the War Memorial facility. There was one of the greatest rock bands of all time - having pasta - in our kitchen on Erie Street.
It was the year of Erie Street, which was clearly not so much a location as much as it was an era.
Whether it was a toy, a TV show, a movie, a song, an actor, a band or somehow a mix of it all, here now is a list of my favorite things from the intangiable archives of my popular culture mind-set.
1] The Frisbee: So many happy hours were spent flying this between me and an assortment of fine folk through the years. It was meant for the beach, but I mostly recall playing it on the street.
2] The Super Ball: If you bounced it hard enough, it went to Heaven.
3] The Herculoids: I think they made maybe 13 episodes of this animated TV series that grouped together superheroes for the mainstream viewer long before The X-Men made it the small or big screen. The sense of family loyalty, superpowers and love for animals was mingled together in such a fine, though somewhat banal, but never sappy way.
4] The Archies: Sugar, Sugar still gives me butterflies when I hear it - and you probably can't explain why, either.
5] The Brady Bunch: So many happy Friday nights at 7:30, then 8. Oh, the slapstick, the melodrama...the pork chops...the apple sauce.
6] The Monkees followed by American Bandstand: The Beatles, they weren't, but funny and entertaining, The Monkees were. And then to watch the once-ever-youthful Dick Clark on AB invite his studio audience to the dance floor - was just plain the coolest thing at the time.
7] Bewitched: Do I really have to explain this one?
8] Star Trek: Hope for the future amid precursers for clip-open cell phones, computer monitors, and bad sequels.
9] The Slinky: My father brought this home one night from work, along with some Silly Puddy and a Super Ball. Changed my life for days.
10] The Jackson Five: I used to sing I'll Be There over the phone to Linda Padilla, my first girlfriend from second grade. Everyone thought I danced like James Brown, too.
11] The Osmonds: I wanted to be Donny Osmond. I later had a massive crush on Marie. I'm so happy she looks so good and will soon her have own talk show. And it was real cool to see Donny sing Puppy Love one last time at a recent reunion (on TV).
12] The Bullworker: I never had the confidence to play sports in high school - and we didn't even have a gym in grammer school. But my father bought me the Bullworker (after seeing an ad for it in TV Guide, and it actually contributed to a very solid physique (along with me using free weights). I found one at a second hand-store a couple of years ago, and bought it for five dollars. You still can buy a really nice updated version of this portable gym somewhere online.
13] The Ten Commandments: The movie, not the rules. The dialogue, the cinematography, the acting, the story, 'natch - and the fact that ABC still shows every year - well...it's just awesome. My favorite scene: When Moses is condemned to the desert, and later meets his future wive (played by Yvonne The Munsters DeCarlo) and all her hot harem sisters. Moses finally has a moment to be just a man.
14] The Beatles: I still remember the night they debuted on The Ed Sullivan Show. My sister Pam and cousin Evie (who lived next door in our double house) kept screaming and yelling and running up and down the stairs in between the door upstairs (that linked our two separate living spaces).
15] The Beach Boys: They still always create summer in the middle of winter.
16] The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia: One of the best over-rated pop-songs ever made, and ever sung. A real close second to Tie A Yellow Ribbon ('Round the Old Oak Tree).
17] The Carol Burnette Show: Worlds collided when Vicky Lawrence sang The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia, but not enough to outshine the astounding memoric history of watching Carol, Harvey, Lylle and Tim.
18] The Dick Van Dyke Show: Supernatural entertainment come to life.
19] Casey Kasem's Top 40 Radio Show: His descriptions actually made you see music videos before MTV brought them to the screen.
20] Let's Make A Deal: I loved Monty Hall's right-hand woman/model Carol Merrill. She looked just like my third grade teacher, Miss Charlene. When I would later work the new edition of this show (as a page for NBC), I guess it was a dream come true.
21] Bob Hope: Nobody made Christmas specials like this man.
22] TV Guide: I used to love those really classy TV commercials. You know - when the multi-colored dots came on the screen - with that computer-esque music ("do, do, do, do, do, do). I used to collect them - until that Seinfeld episode in which George's father and that nutjob who was in love Elaine did the same.
23] Perry Mason: Classic, one-hour little movies.
24] The Andy Griffith Show: I'm still looking for Mayberry.
25] P-F Flyers: I tried flying with them. But they didn't work.
26] Love, American Style: What a friggin' great theme song.
27] The Partridge Family: I had the pooka-shells, but my hair never flipped back like David Cassidy's. But what a very underappreciated show for its great humor.
28] The Mike Douglas Show/The Merv Griffin Show: Probably starred the same person. Upon one of my first trips to LA, I actually had the chance to see both shows. I couldn't believe it.
29] Charlie's Angels: I later understood why Kate Jackson wanted to leave the series. But before I did comprehend just how bad this show was, to me, at the time, there was nothing like it on the air - and I loved every second of it.
30] The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man: Not sci-fi shows at all...but a great love story...much like Bewitched.
31] Kung Fu: Enlightened the world.
32] Seinfeld: Changed the world.
33] Life Goes On: Saved the world.
34] Dark Shadows: Never endangered the world - but gave new meaning to true (blood) love...long before Buffy, The Vampire Slayer (and all those new, really sily vampire shows on now).
35] Silly Puddy: Was just plain fascinated with the fact that I could press it on the Sunday color comics page, and make copies.
36] Twister: Got this the same Christmas I got Hats Off. Made me happy for years.
37] Jesus Christ Superstar: First heard it in Religion class in sixth grade at St. Peter and Paul's. However, the teacher (the very cool Miss Vigna) had to clear it beforehand with the school's principle (Sister Florence)
38] Grease: No musical movie told a story so well, and so entertainingly for so many.
39] Saturday Night Fever: Changed my life.
40] ABC: Though I worked for NBC, ABC was always my favorite network. It was the good Fox-TV of its day.
41] The Hula-Hoop: Could never keep it on my hips - even as good a dancer as I was.
42] Woody Wood Pecker: One of my first memories - ever.
43] What A Wonderful World: The best song in the wonderful world.
44] The Color TV: One year, our old Motorola set died. My father, on the sly, went to Sears and bought a brand new 19" inch RCA futuristic color set. Couldn't believe it. And we had that set for years.
45] The Clapper: I knew it was imbedded in pop-culture when Roseanne incorporated it into her show.
46] Ronco: Love the commercials; love the Dan Ackroyd SNL skits.
47] Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Untouchable.
48] The Waltons: The first real family of TV.
49] George Washington Carver and Stuart Little: Two of the first books I ever read when ordered through the Weekly Reader.
50] The Weekly Reader: Changed my life forever. But didn't know it 'till just now.
You are a beautiful child - in a world filled with other beautiful children. You are no less or more perfect than any other child. Do your best in whatever you attempt, and in every attempt you will succeed. Always have forgiveness and love in your heart, and your needs - whatever they may be - will never go unfulfilled. Be a beacon of light to everyone who chooses and refuses to see you. In doing so, your carefree spirit will glow, you will become a magnet of peace, and the world - and everyone in it - will become your graceful and protective shelter.
In a few weeks, I will appear on Northern California's Share-A-Vision Radio show, entitled, TV Confidential - hosted byEd Robertson and FrankieMontiforti.
The show will stream live on Tuesday, September 23rd beginning at 10:30pm ET, 7:30pm PT via http://www.ksav.org/. I will be joining the hosts from 11:00 PM - Midnight (ET), and the topic will be hit TV shows that aired in 1973, which were my favorites and why, and how TV has changed since then. The conversation will circumvent around the premiere of ABC's newDavidE. Kelley series, Life on Mars, in which Jason O’Mara’s character finds himself suddenly transported back to 1973.
For more information about TV Confidential or Share-A-Vision Radio, click on the link below:
When I think back to the ambition I had...and the guts. Holy moly, I was unstoppable.
And for years, I've been telling everyone about the whole "I'd rather live the scripts, then write them" scenario, and that still is very true. But if I were to sell the right script, I could do both.
Once more, it all goes back to the "A-Life"...living it and aspiring to it.
Just a few days ago, I didn't think I would be able to get another chance at living the A-Life...not at 47.
But I'm not so sure I believe that now. I think anyone can have anything they want - if they want it bad enough - and if they conduct themselves in the proper way.
One thing is for sure, when I was living in LA in the '80s, I never gave my pursuits 100%. I never did the things I should have done to really make it as an actor. I somehow "circled" the objectives, but never really zeroed in on them.
I fell prey to establishing a "regular" life in LA...I opted to become a page for NBC - instead of a working TV-actor. And I won't ever forget the day I saw that fork in the road:
A friend of my Mom's from Rochester, - in the old neighborhood, had somehow made his way to LA, and became a top talent manager. He was the main contact that I had when I first moved to LA - and he had a substantial amount of power in town. I couldn't believe that my Mom had known him from growing up on Erie Street in Rochester.
Anyway - this manager, who I will call "Bob," managed to schedule an interview for me with one of the biggest talent agencies in Hollywood. I went on the interview, shortly after getting the job at NBC. I sat down, and the top executive for the agency asked me what I wanted him to do for me. And instead of saying, "Make me a star!", I went on to tell him about how I had just got the job as an NBC Page, and how it had taken me a long time to get that job, and so forth.
He was like, "Okay - thanks."
And I left the office.
The next day, my Mom's friend "Bob" called me and ripped me a new one.
"What the f__k is wrong with you?!!! I get you an interview with one of the top talent agencies around, and you tell them about your life as a page? What are you doing? You told me you were ready (to be successful as an actor)???!!!
Well, needless to say, I was sick about the whole thing. I was supposed to give a presentation in the mini-studio on the NBC Tour the next day, and I couldn't function. I had to hand over the presentation to a fellow page, and instead, just worked the cameras.
In short, I blew it. Big time. But I couldn't help it. Apparently, I wasn't as ready to be a successful TV actor as I thought I was. And there was still a huge part of me that enjoyed the "regular" life...and the anonominity of not being a recognized TV "personality".
Don't get me wrong: me ego was still in check...but I was too busy enjoying things like remodeling my cousin's apartment, and having lunch with my Aunt Elva (who moved from Erie Street in Rochester to Sixth Street and Montana in Santa Monica).
And then I met so many wonderful people when I started the job at NBC...so many great friends (many with whom I still stay in contact today)...I just wasn't ready to give all that up. Not for sitcom stardom.
And now - here we are....some twenty years later. And I'm back in Rochester - with both parents now gone. Strangely, one of the main reasons I wanted to be successful - whether as an actor or not - was to be able to give my parents the things that they were never able to get themselves.
I was never really concerned with becoming a "star" to get "stuff" for myself. Truely, it was always about my parents.
And then, too, after I left NBC in 1985, and commenced the whole "Bewitched" thing, and after I met Elizabeth Montgomery, whatever residue ambition to become a "star" that was left over, just seemed to fade away. After meeting Elizabeth, I just wanted to go back "home" to Rochester...to hang out with my family and friends...the people who I had known my whole life....to again, "live the scripts of life instead of write them"...or at least act in them.
But again, now that my parents are gone...along with Elizabeth...it's a different world for me...and I'm a diferent man...with different ambitions...hopefully, kinder ambitions...and it's time for me, at 47-years-old, to make the attempt to become successful for me. Not for my parents and not for anyone else.
Certainly, my parents in Heaven want me to become everything I should have become back in the '80s....and to honor the life that God gave me through them (which, ultimately, in my view, is the true definition of The Fifth Commandment).
And certainly, we all have our gifts and talents, and I have mine. To not employ those gifts and talents would be a disservice to myself, a disservice to God (the great Gift-Giver), and a diservice to those who will benefit from and enjoy those talents and gifts.
One thing is for sure, whatever I decide - whether it be a return to LA (and re-igniting the pursuit of acting successs), or staying in Rochester (and working in public relations or media consulting)...or whether or not I somehow manage to pull it all off - on both coasts - one thing is for certain, I will succeed...at the new A-Life....a better, stronger, wiser and more generous A-Life than I could have ever hoped to have before.
I was singing at clubs up and down the Sunset Strip in L.A, I was contracted (via AFTRA) as a stand-in dancer for Solid Gold, and I had just been cast to play one of the waiters at Duke's Restaurant on ABC-TV's General Hospital.
A lot of things were happening, but nothing was solidifying. I was spreading myself too thin. There's was too much going on, and I lacked focus.
Then, one day, I walked into the Samuel French Bookstore in Hollywood, and noticed a $60.00 book that presented episode summaries to every major TV sitcom in history - including one of my favorites, Bewitched. I really didn't have the extra sixty bucks to spend that day, but I felt compelled to buy that book. I was simply in awe with the fact that I could actually read the episode summaries of Bewitched - and that I had finally learned to the titles to each episode.
So, I forked out the sixty smackers, and bought the book.
A few weeks later, after I became enamored with that book, I had broken my baby toe on my left foot. As a result, I couldn't walk. You never know just how much you appreciate something until you lose it. Even your baby toe - on either foot.
Now immobile, I could do nothing but watch TV - which, of course, I had been doing for years. But now I was forced to watch it...nearly 24/7.
Around this time, Channel 5 in Los Angeles was broadcasting Bewitched reruns. Naturally, I loved the show as a kid - and now, I knew the episodes more intimately than ever, as a result of me forking over those 60 big-ones for that TV sitcom book. So, I started watching the series again - only this time with a very different point of view.
The show was always more than just about magic; but now I was observing and comprehending more clearly how it was more so about people who cared for one another - despite their differences. It was about someone who could have anything she wanted with the twitch of her nose - but how it material things didn't matter much to her - and how she actually fell in love with someone else without there being anything in it for her except to be loved in return.
Around the same time, NBC-TV (for which I had just completed my contracted 18-months as a Page) aired I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later, a TV reunion-movie based on the original Jeannie series starring Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman.
Eden had returned to her famous comedic-mystic role, but Hagman - then a mega-major star due to his gig as JR on Dallas, declined to portray Major Anthony Nelson...some 15 Years Later.
Instead, Wayne Rogers (who had left M*A*S*H some years before) stepped in as the mortal Master to Eden's Jeannie.
Meanwhile, director William Asher, once married to Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery, and who had served his wife and her show for so long on that wonderful series, had now become a "double agent," bolting to the "other side," and signed to direct 15 Years Later.
I was troubled on several levels. Number 1: If there was to be any TV-reunion movie of a magical blond who falls for a mortal man, it was going to be for Bewitched. And then to have Asher direct the Jeannie reunion was well - treason.
That's when I decided to write a reunion movie for Bewitched. Elizabeth Montgomery, however, did not want to return to playing her most famous role of Samantha Stephens. But Bill Asher loved my Bewitched reunion script (which I had written on spec). He had just signed on to do a new Bewitched TV series in the UK - and wanted to hire me for the show.
But the UK Bewitched lost its financial backing, and the deal fell through.
Meanwhile, I still had all this Bewitched energy left. And that's when the idea for a companion book came about. And Elizabeth had agreed to grant me four, extensive, exclusive interviews.
But I had not broke my toe - and gone what I had then viewed as the extra mile (and forked over that whopping sixty bucks for that initial TV companion), the original Bewitched Book (first published by Dell in 1992) would have never came into being - nor would have all the great things that later transpired in my life and career because of it.
Moral of the story: One little correct split-second decision has the power to lead to many great results for years to come - if you see a chance - and take it.
Those in the artistic world seek to accomplish, to showcase, and share talent...to leave a mark.
The following list of performers have already done so - and never have to prove anything ever again - as they have earned our eternal and immediate applause:
1] Al Pacino and Robert Deniro: Two superior talents of equal measure, nature, diversity and passion for their art.
2] Brian Wilson: The angels instruct, and he listens and plays.
3] John Travolta: A sizzling talent who has returned to the screen, time and time again, with frequent, successful, reinventive and stellar comebacks.
4] Paul McCartney: The Global Idol to whom we shall forever be indebted for Yesterday - and about a billion other sounds of Light and musical grace.
5] Reba McEntire: Does it all...with a heart of gold - on screen and off.
6] Farrah Fawcett: Brought back glamour, beauty, sophistication, talent and timeless charisma to a once sadly and dimless Tinseltown.
7] Stephen King: The King of the written word, indeed.
8] Dick Van Dyke: Ain't nobody, no-where, no-how has does so much, so right, for so long, and on so many levels - in the areas of voice, dance, music, theatre, TV, film; pure dramatic, comedic and vibrant gold.
9] Jerry Seinfeld: Where would we all be without his genius insight into mainstream, everyday observation?
10] Michael Caine: The actor's actor...the people's actor...the best actor...in any category.
According to The Associated Press, a homeless man from Victorville, California found a purse containing nearly $1,000, and returned it to a needy mother of three. The man, identified by The Victorville Daily Press only as Chris, told the newspaper that he had been trying to save $700 to move into an apartment.
"I can't say I was perfect because for a tenth of a second, I thought about taking it," he said. But "it wasn't my money," he added.
Nancy Daniels, who had lost the purse, said she was grateful. "I'm going to be able to pay the rent because of his honesty," she said.
Daniels said she offered the man $50, but he refused the reward. Daniels, of Rancho Cucamonga, had cashed a check from her parents and forgot her purse on the roof of her car in a Target parking lot. As she settled her children inside and drove off, the purse fell off. It was found by Chris, who was living in the nearby High Desert Homeless Services shelter. He found Daniels' cell phone and began dialing numbers. He got a friend, who called Daniels. Chris has become a celebrity at the shelter -- which he finds puzzling. "I just did what I thought was right," he said. "I know I'm homeless, but she has three kids. It seemed too important."
It's now been over three months since my Mom passed away, and I'm only just beginning to comprehend the depth of this loss. I not only lost my Mom, but my best friend, my "daughter" - and my identity as a caregiver - a position that I held for the last 15 years (not only with my Mom - but with my Dad and an aunt - in California). The hardest part is not having that "buffer" zone...no strong and immediate support system to help me through the daily grief...no family, no children, no wife, etc. - to help me deal with the devastating life-changing loss. And it's been nothing less than devastating and life-altering - as I have been forced to work through all of this on my own. No one really understands the loss of a parent until you lose one. But even then, some who lose parents, at least have wives, husbands, a remaining parent, and children to help carry them through the grief. I have none of that.
However, my Mom would now want me to move on and live a full, happy life. And as I look back, I would not have done anything differently. I loved my Mom a great deal - and again, I still do. Whatever good that is inside me was placed there by God through my Mom. I always had only the best of intentions with whatever decisions I made for her - as she was so clearly unable to make them on her own. And, again, as I look back in perspective, I realize that everyone else's intentions and decisions for and with her also were only the best. We are all only doing the best we can in life.
That last year of my Mom's life, was such a trying, challenging time for me. In the deepest part of me, I knew and observed that she was dying a slow death. And even though her great energy periodically betrayed that realization, I was scared for her - more than she could have ever been scared for herself.
Fortunately, my Mom was not aware of her gradual dying process - and also, gratefully, she never felt any pain. If she did feel any pain, she would forget about the pain (due to her dimentia) minutes after it would transpire. As such, she would bounce right back. And that had always been my prayer: that she would never suffer. And she never did.
It was another part of my prayer that she would pass away in the middle of the night - thinking she would attend the wonderful activities at the ILS senior center the next day. And that's exactly what happened.
My only remaining fear is that she may have felt the impact of hitting the floor when the nurse (Sue) called me and said, "Sweetie - it's your Mom. Her heartbeat is faint. We found her on the floor..."
It is now my great hope that her soul left her body before she fell to the floor.
That all said, not many people know of my interactions with her leading up to the day she died:
I had just moved to my new apartment at Greenleaf Meadows in Greece. I was hoping to begin a new life, now that my Mom was secure at ILS. But when I moved in on a Thursday, she died on a Monday.
I had no furniture at my new apartment, as I set out to begin everything anew, once I got to Greenleaf. So, I decided to stay with my Mom at ILS for those initial few days of May. But on the Sunday night before she died, I wanted to go home - even if I had to sleep on the floor. I wanted to go home and sleep in my new apartment.
So I said, "Mom - I think I'm going to go home tonight."
She replied in only the fun-fiesty way for which she had become known. "Well," she said, "I'm probably going to die tonight."
"Mom," I said, "you're not going to die tonight. I'll see you in the morning. Nellie (her evening aid) will be here at 9:00 to put you to bed."
Then - I went home. Upon arriving inside my apartment, the phone rang. It was my Mom, who went on to speak in what had become a child-like, even sweeter voice than usual (due to her missing lower dentures that we had been working on to replace).
"Are you going to come back and visit me?" she wondered.
"No, Mom," I replied. "I was just there. I'll see you in the morning. Nellie should be there soon."
Sure enough, as Nellie herself would tell me the next day, she walked in my Mom's apartment at 9:00 on the nose. As my Mom relayed to Nellie that night, "Herbie J said you were going to be here at 9:00 - and here you are."
My Mom trusted me to the end, and I have a measure of guilt for leaving her that night - and then not returning to her apartment when she requested that I do so. Later, naturally, as I slept, I had what turned out to be this prophetic dream:
My Mom and I were on the beach - and in front of us was a huge tidal wave. It wasn't murky and threatening - but clear, beautiful, strong and calm - and it was coming toward us. I stepped into the wave, and then walked through it. But when I turned to my right to look for my Mom, she was no where to be seen.
That's when the phone rang, and I received the life-changing news from Sue, the nurse.
I rushed through five red lights from Greece to Irondequoit to get to ILS. But I was too late. My Mom, or "St. Frances," as she was so fond of as referring to herself, was gone.
Fortunately, during that last weekend at ILS, she sang on Saturday afternoon for everyone at lunch in the community room (on the Hudson Housing side), and attended The Lawrence Welk Show gathering on Saturday night. Friends from my old apartment complex at North Village had invited me out to dinner. About one hour into the evening, I said I had a scheduled "date" with my Mom to watch the Welk show with her every Saturday. I begged their forgiveness, went on to the ILS community room to sit with my Mom, and we watched Mr. Wunnerful, Wunnerful together for what would become (then unbeknowest to me) the last time.
We then spent all day together on Sunday, and talked for a good measure of time - mostly while sitting in the front area of ILS, looking out the windows.
"Oh, Herbie J," she said, "look at all the trees....they're so green - and all the houses are so beautiful." As I relayed at her Memorial Service, it was like she was already begininng to see Heaven.
Then, after my Mom did leave this Earth, I wanted to leave with as many ILS employees and residents as possible some form of momento of hers. Some aids received vases, other ILS employees and residents clothes...a few others, some jewelry. Either way, I wanted as many people as possible to have a "solid" memory of my Mom.
So, in closing, I just wanted to say - in a very public way - thank you to everyone at ILS who did and gave their best for my Mom. It was and will forever be appreciated.
Thank you to all of those who have sent cards, letters, emails and gifts - to all of you who have made special visits or phone calls - and to all of you who found the time out of your busy work days and Memorial Day Weekend celebrations to attend the Memorial Service for my Mom (Frances Mary Turri Pilato) on Friday, May 23rd.
For those not able to attend, I wanted to share the words I spoke at the Service, as I continue in the process of moving on and bringing closure to this most very important chapter in my life.
Other "creations" will transpire in the future as a result of the love and life I shared with my parents - and as you will read in this blog post, there may be a movie and/or a TV show or two that will arise to chronicle it all.
But for now, it all begins with words.
May God=Love bless you all - and may every moment of your lives be filled with health, strength, riches - and Light.
My Mom was a great person, parent, sister, daughter, cousin, niece, friend and employee. She worked at Kodak for 17 years, just shy of earning a pension that would have “set her up for life.” But she left Kodak – to have me. Years later, after we moved from Erie Street to Greenleaf Meadows, she started working in the lunch room at Number 7 School.
My Dad used to take her to work, go to OTB, and then pick her up a few hours later. They’d go on to McDonalds, then Wegmans supermarket, and back to Greenleaf. After my nephew Sammy was born, they’d pick him up at daycare, and bring HIM back to Greenleaf. And that was their simple HAPPY life – every day – for years.
When I tried to move on with MY life after my father died, I made the attempt to bring my Mom to California. And that was pretty much a disaster. So, we brought her back here, and subsequently moved her to the South Village Apartments at the Shire in Irondequoit.
Meanwhile, I stayed in LA – and did a few shows – but my heart wasn’t in it. I missed my Mom. I missed Rochester. So I came back and moved into the NORTH Village Apartments at the Shire, where I named myself the Volunteer Director of Activities. I wanted to create the sense of family that we had for years on Erie Street and at Greenleaf. So, I started throwing parties and picnics - big parties, little parties, pizza parties, Thanksgiving Day Parties, Christmas parties, New Years Eve parties, Easter parties, Tax Day Parties, and of course, the real big parties for my Mom’s 80th and 85th birthdays – the latter of which was the mother of ALL the parties.
People said, “Oh, Herbie J - you gave up your life for your Mother.” But I never looked at it like that. I did those parties because I wanted to – and I enjoyed them. I’d see movies and TV shows about a small town boy who moved to the big city and made it big. He then realizes that the big city ain’t all that.
And I loved those movies – for a few hours. Then I thought, “You know - instead of me feeling all warm and fuzzie for just a few hours and instead of me putting all my energy into maybe writing scripts similar to those movies, I’d rather LIVE the scripts of life – then write them.”
It’s because of my Mom that I came to appreciate the simple treasures of life – as opposed to the glamour and glitter of Hollywood. In turn, she gave me a treasure trove of stories, which will now one day be turned into movies and TV shows – maybe even with a few of YOU in them.
One of my favorite memories of my Mom centers around a TV show: The Golden Girls, which I’d watch with her whenever I had the chance. One afternoon last year, while watching the show with her, I thought about the full and successful lives and careers of the older women on the series. I also thought about how my own life has been so full of aspirations, personal and professional. I then looked over at my Mom, turned off the TV and asked, "Mom - what did YOU want to be when you were young?" "What do you mean?" she said.
"Well," I continued, "Did YOU ever have any dream job or dreams of how you wanted YOUR life to turn out?"
My Mom sat there for a moment, with these questions, and searched her memory, which had been gradually erased by dementia. Yet, she glanced back at me, determined to give me an answer, and replied, "I guess it was always my dream to one day go to a community center every day, where I would have a good meal, be with people, play cards and bingo. That was always my dream." At first, I was startled and sad for her. Whatever aspirations she may have had as a child, a teen or an adult, were gone - lost in the deep sleep of her memory. But then, after a moment, I was happy for her. My Mom had convinced herself in the short NEW history of her life that going to the Senior Center (every day for the last twelve years) was the fulfillment of a LIFE-LONG dream – and she was content.
I felt God shining upon and THROUGH her that day.
And I felt that a LOT in her last few months – more so than usual. Everything and everyone was beautiful to her. Everyone’s blouse was pretty – everyone’s shirt was sharp. The trees were so green. The sky was so blue. She was ALREADY seeing Heaven.
On EARTH, my Mom left me, my sister and my nephew with NOTHING. And yet, she left us with EVERYTHING. Nothing of what this world calls secure. And everything of what this world holds dear. My Mom left no diamonds, no cars or homes, no stocks, bonds or annuities – but taught us to understand the true value of endless forgiveness. She left us no cold, hard cash, but encouraged us to invest in warm, soft unconditional Love. She may have left Kodak one year shy of earning a pension, but in the end, or at least what we CALL the end, she had a penchant, as in ENTHUSIASM, for life – and it was concealed in new beginnings:
She died in the Spring, the season of rebirth, shortly before Mother’s Day, on May 5th – Cinquo de Mayo – a joyful 24-hour period that kicked off the week-long festival of lilacs, which bloom in the many shades of lavender - her favorite color.
I loved my Mom - and my Dad - and it is through them that I came to love all of you, and if I learned anything in caring for my parents in these last few years, I learned this: we are ALL Mothers and Fathers to one another…we are each other’s CHILDREN – EQUAL in the eyes of ETERNAL Father/Mother. Whether on Earth or in Heaven, Love is the only thing that survives in BOTH worlds.
On Earth, my Mom’s Love was packaged and shaped in a body and a personality called Frances. And though we may not see her now, everything about her that was Love - lives on...her sense of humor, the echo of her singing voice, every hug she ever gave, every blessing she ever made with her rosary - all of it - survives. Everything else that was NOT Love...the dementia...the fear...the anxiety...the heart ailments...the stomach issues - all of THAT has been burned away in the Light of GOD’S Love.
In my view, our journey and final destination is like a rocket soaring into space. The pieces of us that we don’t need – fall off as we move closer to the Light of God’s EMBRACE – until all that is left is the little capsule that holds our soul. My Mom’s capsule - filled with every loving thought and every act of loving kindness that she ever displayed on Earth - is now not only bundled together, magnified, multiplied and showcased in Heaven – but it’s the personal, immeasurable, immortal - and priceless legacy that she left for me, my sister, my nephew - and each of us.
For more stories about St. Frances of Turri, please see these links:
As my readers have known for years, I have long held responsible Simon, his American Idol reality music competition show, and his rude and condescending behavior for the downfall of American television. Actually, both Simon and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have contributed to that end.
But one thing at a time.
Let's just stick to Simon for the moment (and I'll address Jerry in a later post).
First, I saw him on Oprah Winfrey a few weeks ago, when he reached into his deep pockets and paid off the mortgage of a family with a sick child. Then, last week, I caught him (along with his Idol co-stars, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Ryan Secrest) talking like a human being on CNN's Larry King Live! Then, there was last night's Idol segment.
Again, something was different. Simon was different. He had changed. Warmer. Kind. Fair. It appears, somehow, that the Tin Man who can spot a tin ear at the drop of a tin can has found his heart.
The dude was actually charming and displayed humane behavior.
I commend Simon - and never really condemmed him. Before, I just felt sorry for him - and others like him. Privledged people who have known only success and economic stability their entire lives. Or worse, people who have grown up with nothing, and then trip upon success, then falsely leading themselves to believe that their new success now somehow makes them superior to others.
But, of course, what bothered me the most about Simon was his point-blank, mean-spirited attitude and arrogance- and how most of American bought into and encouraged it to make his Idol a massive success and template for contemporary television.
But again, last night's Idol was different. Simon actually offered constructive criticism to the contenders. He used his brilliant mind and keen observational, creative and music executive skills to relay the same advice and counsel that he has given in the past. But this time, he employed discretion and an even temper.
I'm still very much concerned about Ms. Abdul, and not so much Mr. Jackson. And as long as Mr. Cowell and his American Idol phenom-show continues to show his and its softer side (as with tonight's Big Give show), American television just may have a chance after all
According to a blanket statement to the press from his family, Charlton Heston, who passed away on Saturday (and who revealed in 2002 that he had Alzheimer's disease), "was seen by the world as larger than life. He was known for his chiseled jaw, broad shoulders and resonating voice, and, of course, for the roles he played. No one could ask for a fuller life than his. No man could have given more to his family, to his profession, and to his country."
Sounds like the Chuck Heston to whom I was introduced via his monumental performance as Moses in Cecil B. Demille's 1956 cinema classic, The Ten Commandments (which also happens to be my Number One Favorite Movie of All Time).
Though I was never that crazy about Heston's politics (he loved guns and conservatively supported wars), with his iconic physical and vocal charisma, he was the consumate actor and star.
"I have a face that belongs in another century," he often remarked.
Cue the big Biblical epics, the aforementioned The Ten Commandments, as well as 1959's Ben-Hur, which earned 11 Academy Awards, including lead actor for Heston - and the sci-fi/futuristic tale, Planet of the Apes (penned by RodTwilight Zone Serling, and which beget four sequels).
Off-screen, the actor's actor served as president of the Screen Actors Guild and chairman of the American Film Institute and marched in the civil rights movement of the 1950s. As time marched on, Heston's conservative brow increased, and campaigned for conservative candidates. In June 1998, he was elected president of the National Rifle Association.
Meanwhile, there were other historical figures he portrayed:
Andrew Jackson (The President's Lady, The Buccaneer), title role of El Cid, John the Baptist (The Greatest Story Ever Told, which also happens to be one of the greatest films ever made - as every frame is a portrait), Michelangelo (The Agony and the Ecstasy), General Gordon (Khartoum), Marc Antony (Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra), Cardinal Richelieu (The Three Musketeers), Henry VIII (The Prince and the Pauper).
"What acting offered me was the chance to be many other people," he said in a 1986 interview.
And playing those additional individuals commenced in 1941, when he won an acting scholarship to Northwestern University, where he ruled the campus stage and appeared on Chicago radio. In 1943, he enlisted in the Air Force and served as a radio-gunner in the Aleutians. In 1944 he married another Northwestern drama student, Lydia Clarke, and after his army discharge in 1947, they moved to New York to become acting work. Finding none, they were hired as codirectors and principal performers at a summer theater in Asheville, N.C.
Back in New York, the Hestons began finding acting jobs. With his 6-feet-2 form and ruggedly handsome face, Heston won roles in TV soap operas and plays. He also eventually authored several books: The Actor's Life: Journals 1956-1976 (published in 1978), Beijing Diary: 1990 (about his direction of the play The Caine Mutiny Court Martial in Chinese), In the Arena: An Autobiography (1995), Charlton Heston's Hollywood: 50 Years of American Filmmaking (1998).
The Hestons gave birth to a son, Frasier, and daughter, Holly Ann, and celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1994 at a party with Hollywood and political friends. They had been married 64 years when he died.
Of course, he will live immortal - or at least every Easter, for the annual screening of The Ten Commandments, all to which the conservative Heston assuredly adhered - except maybe for Number 2, "Thou shall not make for yourself any idol..."
Come May 1st, I will be moving back to Greenleaf Meadows, where I lived, off and on, from when I was 17 to 38-years-old. And here's why I'm moving back...
My Mom, who used to live close by, has now moved to an assisted living facility - and there simply is no reason to stay where I am.
Meanwhile, Greenleaf almost equals the distance of where I am now to my Mom's new apartment. Greenleaf is prepping an all-new apartment for me - with mini-blinds and a storage room downstairs. So, I don't have to buy new window treatments and I don't have to have all my excess stuff laying around the apartment like I do now.
What's more, Greenleaf is a happy, nostalgic, peaceful place for me, close to the beach, where I can resume my daily walks - which I was doing anyway last summer. But instead of me DRIVING to the pier from where I am now, and then doing my daily walk, I can now just walk from Greenleaf.
Also, I can now at least start hanging around a younger crowd at, for example, Greenleaf's gym - which has just been fitted with new equipment. Again. Not to mention that this gym and the walking in the FRESH air - will help me to get back in shape.
What's even more...the rent at Greenleaf is very reasonable - and less than what I've been paying.
Either way, this move isn't forever. I'm only signing a ten-month lease - and I'm simply looking at it this way:
I'll be spending the Spring, Summer and Fall in a vacation spot that will allow me to chill out a little bit after all the challenges that I've been through over these last nine years (and specificallay these last three). And then, God=Love-willing, by the time the ten-month lease is up, I will have my finances together to actually purchase a home or condo. If not, I will remain in a happy, clean, busy and yet peaceful and welcoming atmosphere of one of my childhood homes - for a little bit longer - or until something better comes.
In the meantime, who says you can't go home again?
Frances Pilato, my Mom (who has been diagnosed with dementia), is featured in a newspaper article of today's Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Below is a video link edition of the article, which appears in the special "Your Health" supplement, and which centers around caregiving and the sandwich generation.
The entertainment industry is failing itself, its audience and the world. TV shows (scripted and unscripted) and feature films are becoming more mean-spirited, violent and vulgar. Faith-based material is attempting to make its comeback. The Hallmark Channel, the i network, ABC Family, and a chosen fewsw other cable and broadcast networks and movie studios and production companies are attempting to create positive product. But the Simon Cowell/Jerry Bruckheimer school of producing is winning over too many students - and viewers.
There are a few pearls are among the swine (Women's Murder Club, the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV-movies for CBS), and big-screen gems like Little Miss Sunshine - way from 2006). But the majority of product out there is damaging and destructive - to all parties concerned.
Who takes responsibility? The industry or the audience?
Most likely, both are to blame. Though much of this inferior product is created by not-so-nice people, an equal amount of what might be considered fluff-and-family programming and movies are also sometimes created by those with less integrity.
I have watched and enjoyed many wonderful family TV shows and films that, ironically, were created, produced and performed by what might even be considered undesirbales. And that's been a quandry for me for years - on many levels.
It's like the swearing right after you leave church thing...what good is going to church and praying if, in the next moment, you start disrespecting yourself and others with common words and street language well beneath your intelligence level?
Also, too, I would watch many TV shows or feature films about some smalltown soul who makes it big in the big city, and then returns to his or her smalltown life, because he or she finally realizes the beauty and contentment of simple treasures.
I then realized that instead of watching those beautiful TV shows and movies for one or two hours, I woud prefer to live the scripts of life than watch them, much less actually write them. I would rather experience first hand in real life - in every moment - of every day what those fantasy characters were experiencing in reel life for only 60-120 minutes.
Basically, my general observation is this:
The kind of love for life and work that I have does not seem to fit the present state of the industry.
If I may one more time address the issue of my experience in being involved with the Bewitched feature film:
No one, no where, no way, no how, knew more than I of what that Bewitched motion picture should have become. But my kind of affection, dedication and knowledge was not substantial enough for the powers that were. Conversely, a young person just out of graduate school, who may have worked briefly as a receptionist for the Bewitched feature production company had a better shot than I at becoming one of the movie's producers, or main screenwriter. Apparently, my 20+ years of Bewitched experience (as the author of two Bewitched books, numerous magazine, newspaper and website articles, and consultant on three Bewitched TV specials, etc.) paled in comparison to that receptionist's two month pre-production period.
in the midst of the Bewitched feature film, I was also working with a production company and a writer on a behind-the-scenes TV movie based on my Bewitched books. Those parties involved here also failed to properly incorporate my talents into their product. But unlike the Bewitched feature film, the TV-movie never saw the light of day. It still may - and I still may also one day rescue and resurrect the Bewitched feature film franchise. But until then, again, my brand of affection, wisdom, and know-how of the ins-and-outs of Bewitched mythology, charactgerization, storyline, was not enough for those who would have been smart enough to hire me.
Somehow, my enthusiasm and knowledge for a product with which I was quite familiar worked against me. Yes, I may have been overzealoust in applying for the job, but had I won the Samantha/Darrin big-screenwriting assignment, the results would have been nothing less than magical. Loyal, original and novice Bewitched fans would have welcomed my assignment, and been assured that their property was in the right hands. Instead, little ol' Herbie J, from little ol' Rochester, New York somehow intimidated big ol' Hollywood. It's almost like the dark forces of Hollywood see my light and turn away. Consequently, with regards to the Bewitched feature film, the results were devastating: that movie went down in history as one of the worst motion pictures ever to have hit the big screen. My good-guy mentality, enthusiasm and strong knowledge was resented instead of embraced.
In the meantime, former and present drug addicts and dealers, along with talentless friends of agentss and investors, continue to sell scripts, be cast, and produce both great and ghastly product for the large and little screens.
I say there is a win-win scenario waiting for us all. I say Hollywood can still be saved. I say there is a way to to create quality product in the reel world, free from violence and vulgarity; to still be a good person - in the real world - free from ignorance and lies that a self-absorbed, materialistic-seeking existence has the unfortunate power to sustain.
Are you with me, my friends...my colleagues...my fellow producers...actors...directors...singers...songwriters...make-up artists, costume designers, production assistants and receptionists?
Are you ready and up to the challenge of not only being able to create beauty on screen (which movies and TV shows have periodically accomplished over the years), but to also create a beautiful life off-screen as well?
I know you can do it. As a creative individual it is your birthright to bring joy. Whether you're a member of the industry or the audience, creativity is a powerful gift. And as Spider-Man's wise ol' Uncle Ben has been known to say, "With great power, comes great responsibility."
Allow me to expand on that thoght by saying, "With great power, comes great responsibility - and great potential for creating great product - and sound, happy and productive lives."
Where is the joyful nostalgic programming that was once my classic TV safe haven? Where is the cozy-comfy appeal that once drew me back to watching television (after ABC cancelled TheWonder Years)? What the heck has happened to my TV Land?
Where is the unique voice and confidence that was once a vast taste land with graced with the many likes of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched, Petticoat Junction and The Andy Griffith Show? Andy is still around periodically, and than the Good Lord, so is I Love Lucy and Leave It To Beaver. But something's wrong with those shows, too - or at least the way they are aired. Now, too many episodes are screened in a row, and the variety airings are far and few between. Also, too, these wonderful perennials are littered by the weeds of dreadful contemporary programming such as the aforementioned High School Reunion or the mean-spirited Just Shoot Me.
Of course I understand TVL's need to join the reality fold. But with such Survivor-esque angles as presented on HSR? What may have started out as a wonderfully warm and nostalgic idea (to gather everyday former high-schoolers from a past-prime-time) has now turned into cut-throat.
Just Shoot Me is a very funny show - and all the movies that TV Land airs are equally entertaining for what they are. But they do not belong on TV Land. USA, and maybe Bravo and A&E. But not TV Land.
TV Land should be home only to Rob and Laura Petrie, Barney, Opie and Aunt Bee, Lucy and Ricky, George and Weezie Jefferson and 'natch, Samantha and Darrin.
I used to escape the stress and periodic cynicism of the real world, and run to TV Land - just like I did when I was a kid....just like I did when I first found Bewitched - in the midst of race rioting, the Vietnam War newscasts, and being picked on every day because I was a beautiful, sweet child.
Looking for comfort in the edgy wit of David Spade somehow just doesn't measure up to magic embrace of Elizabeth Montgomery.
That said, maybe one of Samantha's incantations might help to turn the situation around? We can at least try. So here we go:
TV Land come back to me... Become the media mosaic... That you used to be. TV Land come set us free.