Friday, April 30, 2010

An Important Distinction About Creative Expression and Artistic Freedom

Though I do not endorse violent/vulgar movies/TV shows, plays, songs, Internet content, etc. I completely support artistic freedom. I may not understand "vulgar"/"violent" choices and will always question why others do - but I will never work to prevent those individual choices or creative expression.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Be Courageous: Join "Your Brave New Hollywood"

I am very excited about my new FB group, "Your Brave New Hollywood," which is a gathering of actors, writers, directors, producers, and others from the entertainment industry and creative community who are dedicated to creating feature films, TV shows, plays, musicals, songs, etc. that are free from vulgar and violent scenes and dialogue.

And before I go on, let me say this:

I do not not support, endorse or enjoy violent and vulgar movies and TV shows, and don't always agree with those who do. But I do support artistic freedom and creative expression. I may not understand the "vulgar"/"violent" choices - and I will always question why someone does enjoy such choices. But I will never work to prevent those individual choices from being selected.

Also, I feel you can't believe in peace and/or say you believe in peace, and then go on to make, act in, direct, produce, screen, watch or be a part of in any way violent and vulgar movies and TV shows.13 minutes ago·

Any way you slice it, I am dedicated to creating violent-free - and that's what my new organization, "Your Brave New Hollywood," which has commenced on Facebook, is all about.

I think the best way to explain it is this:

When I stub my toe, more times than not, I swear or I "curse." If I find it difficult to forgive myself over a mistake, I may curse myself. And if I become angry in a particular situation, I may employ a vulgar word to make my case.

But none of this takes place in a controlled environment. As humans, our negative emotions sometimes get the best of us - without any positive results...except maybe - down the road - we will learn to not make those mistakes again.

But with film, TV, stage plays, books, music - such is not the case. These creative outlets present fictional scripts, words and songs, and are maybe sometimes based on reality. But the actual properties themselves - are two-hours, or 3-minutes, or 60 minutes, or one 1/2 hour of non-reality presentations ...created with control.

Same goes for TV reality shows. There are individuals, producers, studio and network execs, actors, etc. - all of whom ultimately decide what makes it to the screen, gets on the air, or into a song. These are controlled "projects."

The stuff of real life is just not like that. We SHOULD have better control of our emotions, but more times than not, we don't.

But with creative, produced "controlled" projects in Hollywood, we are indeed ABLE to present whatever we want - in a dignified manner. And you can still be "edgy" and present artisitc perspective. You don't have to do that with vulgar language, and violent car chases and murder scenes.

And let me clarify, this is NOT ABOUT CENSORSHIP. I don't want to boycott ANYTHING, even projects or movies, TV shows, songs, etc. that I personally find offensive (like "Kick-A__" or "Two & A Half-Men," and to some extent, even a show like "My Wife & Kids."

This is about asking the question WHY?

Why do those in creative power even choose to produce, star in, direct, etc. in TV shows, movies, etc. that are offensive, and vulgar and violent?

What is IN THEM to make such choices? Who has guided them in their lives to allow them to think that such paths are, dare I say, "honorable"?

As I recently posted in a status report on my FB wall, when I used to teach acting, I would instruct my students to please not choose scenes with violence or vulgarity. I would instruct them, instead, to impress me and their intended audiences with their TALENT.

To be "courageous" enough to do so - even in the midst of peer pressure...which to some extent shows up in Hollywood.

- which is where the "Brave" part comes in with regard to YOUR BRAVE NEW HOLLYWOOD.

There's a certain "club" in Hollywood that seems to be "against" NON-VULGAR and NON-VIOLENT films and TV programming...thinking somehow that such properties are "too preachy" or not "edgy enough" or "too Christian"!

Well, truth be told, Christianity doesn't have the corner on the Love market. I know a lot of atheists who are very loving-kind people.

There's also the sense that many in Hollywood think that modern audiences won't go for anything unless there are curse words or violent acts included in the script.

I don't buy that.

And this is also NOT an attack on creative freedom in speech or artistic expression.

Again, I don't want to stop anyone from displaying their artistic creations.

But if such creations are littered with violence and vulgarities, once more I would ask, "Why do you feel the need to create such productions?"

"Because that's reality," is not a good enough answer.

Vulgar and violent films and TV shows, to some extent may, mirror reality. But that's not been MY reality and it's not the reality for a lot of people. And if everyone would really have the chance to choose, I bet even those people who DO commit violent acts and speak vulgarly all the time - would ultimately prefer not to.

They just think it's okay and acceptable, or they've not received the proper guidance in life and/or the media has disensitized society to believe that such productions are "okay."

When, clearly, they're NOT okay.

So, I guess really what I'm try to say and do with YOUR BRAVE NEW HOLLYWOOD - is to introduce the "High Road" - and encourage everyone else to take it.

YOUR BRAVE NEW HOLLYWOOD is also a club.

But it's NOT an exclusive club.

It's a club that EVERYONE is invited to join.

Yes, it's an UNCOMMON club, but it's not a "holier-than-thou" club.

It's uncommon because it goes "against" what Hollywood might percieve as "cool" and "edgy." But it's also an uncommon club because it encourages its "members" to create TV shows, movies, plays, songs, etc. with UNCOMMON words and scenes. Because creative types are, quite frankly, NOT common folk.

On the whole, creative individuals are intelligent, wise, funny, insightful, compassionate, loving, sweet, joyfull and so many more beautiful things.

So why not concentrate on sharing that beauty and stop attempting to create a "harsh reality" that people, whether their experiencing it or not, would probably not like to experience in the first place?

Either way, I'll probably keep stubbing my toe and swearing in reality. But if I am ever to recreate that scene for a movie or a TV show, I'll still stub my toe, but instead of cursing, I may have my "character" just sit there and wreath in pain - or maybe just say, "Darn it!"

I will then allow my script and the talent of the actor who is playing me - to shine through...to pass on what has all too often become a "cheap" way to get an emotion across - at the expense of all those concerned, behind and in front of the camera - and for the audience!

THE BIGGER PICTURE

One of the reasons I wrote books about "Bewitched," "Kung Fu," the "Bionic" shows, and "Life Goes On, is that each of these classic television programs displayed "isolated" characters, who felt "different." And we are each seeking acceptance, in one way or the other.

So with my books - and the TV shows I have produced and consulted on - and in my small measure of a way, I have made every attempt to instill that "Light" I keep talking about into my work.

And each of us, in any area of expertise, has the ability to do the same, and not just with our work or in our workplace, but into our very lives, homes, neighborhoods, cities, states, countries, etc. We are awakening from the ignorance of the past - and yet reaching farther still into the past - before the recorded past - where there was only Love and Light. The same Love and Light that remains in each of us today.

Slowly, but surely, each of us is peeling off the "mud" of our beings...seeing past what may be considered short-sightedness...to see that, you and me and I and they and them and we are all one and the same.

It's not easy to point out such things in a world that all too often seeks to divide. But as I've said many times before - on Facebook - and elsewhere - we all must learn to ignore our differences, and to concentrate on what makes us the same.

That said, a new day is dawning, when the misguided leaders of the past and their thinking - will soon be gone...replaced with a higher thought...a though of acceptance...in a world, undivided by race and only united through humanity.

For as I have also previously relayed (here on FB and elsewhere), there is only one race: the human race. And the word "unity" may be found in "comm-UNITY" for a reason.

In fact, many modern words hold ancient meanings. And all words have as much power as we give them.

But if we start by creating GOOD words (with our work, our scripts, our books, our essays, our poems) - and keep open the lines of communication and close down the borders of dissension, we'll have half a shot in the world. More than half.

And maybe we won't live to say the peace we all seek. But our children and their children will - and the new history books that we will be responsible for writing the ways to that peace - either on Facebook - or in real books - will be there to guide them.

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Link to "YOUR BRAVE NEW HOLLYWOOD" group on Facebook

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?created&&suggest¬e_id=386679325196#!/group.php?gid=118211294862779&ref=ts

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"It's All About Community": A Profile of Rochester News Icon Janet Lomax

Janet Lomax is an award-winning News Anchor who works for WHEC-TV, Channel 10 in Rochester, New York. With over three decades of experience in broadcast journalism, Janet has written and co-produced numerous TV specials, and is responsible for Rochester's heralded Best Seat in the House series (which focuses on the local arts scene). She's also a member of several organizations of note, including Jack and Jill of America, Inc., and the National Association of Black Journalists.

About four and a half years before she became a trusted news legend and personality in the Rochester area, Janet served as a reporter/photographer at WAVE-TV3 in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, where she had attended Murray State University. While at WAVE-TV3, she was quickly assigned additional duties as host/producer of Urban Insight, a weekly public affairs program. As she recalls, "I figured I would either land a job behind the camera or in front of it. And glad I did."

That said, on screen or off, Janet has taken her role as a journalist, seriously. "I feel a great responsibility to our viewers to present a clear, concise and informative newscast," she says. "I've always been a 'communicator' in one form or another. I loved to write as a child. In high school, I was one of our senior class speakers at graduation. I was also active with a professional children's theatre company. We had an opportunity to do some taped segments in a television studio and I fell in love with the production aspect of TV. I decided to major in Radio/TV Production in college and added Journalism as well."

Over the years, various members of her family have proved inspirational, and she has enjoyed many family-oriented classic TV shows, including The Cosby Show, 227, I Love Lucy, Leave It To Beaver, and The Andy Griffith Show. She's also enjoyed the series, Night Heat (which is not yet available on DVD), contemporary shows like Friday Night Lights, and much of the programming made available on the HGTV network.

Meanwhile, countless viewers and members of the Rochester community have enjoyed and admired Janet's presence on screen for years. Rochester viewers and citizens have depended on her trusted voice to relay the news, and her respected presence at various charity events. "Wonderful," is how she defines the Rochester community, and goes on to say how "many native Rochesterians mixed with many transplants," who moved to Rochester and remained, due to employment opportunities created by Xerox, Kodak, and other industry giants in the city (which has, over the years, have included international institutions like French's Mustard, Bausch & Lomb, Hickey Freeman clothiers).

It's safe to say, that the Rochester community, in particular, as well as the definition of community in general means a great deal to Janet. She recently completed reading In The Neighborhood-The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time (by Rochester author Peter Lovenheim). As she explains, this book "focuses on how we don't know our neighbors, and why it can be important to create that sense of 'community.'"

Clearly, Janet Lomax believes that all forms of media, specifically, TV, play important roles in society. "If used correctly," she says, "television can be a great educator." With regard to her particular position in the communications industry, "The work of a journalist is to convey what is happening in the world around us - information that we can use in our daily lives."

However, such information might not have been so fully conveyed - and as widely accepted and embraced - in the Rochester community - and elsewhere, if not for professional, respected and amiable personas such as Janet Lomax.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Tribute to Robert Young, "Marcus Welby," "Father Knows Best," and Everything That's Right About Television

For the last few months, I have had the chance to watch reruns of "Marcus Welby, M.D." and DVDs of "Father Knows Best," both TV classics - and both starring the ever-so affable Robert Young (who passed away in at age 90 in 1998).

I grew up watching "Welby," and had not seen the episodes in a long time. As fate would have it, one of the first segments that I viewed (since their original run) featured Lindsay Wagner, in a pre-"Bionic Woman" appearance. As the author of The "Bionic" Book, I was pleasantly surprised and delighted with this particular segment. From there, I was hooked - again - by "Welby's" realistic medical plot lines and and Young's charming and comforting lead and "fatherly" performance.

Meanwhile, I was introduced to "Father Knows Best" years after the original series ran in the 1950s and 1960s. I heard about it, but never saw a segment. That is, until 1989, when I happened to catch a rerun of the 1977 "Father" holiday reunion special, "Father Knows Best: Home For Christmas." The budget for this TV-movie was not high, but the caliber of talent, on-screen and off, was "off-the-charts." Original cast members Young, Jane Wyatt, who returned to the role of Young's on-screen wife (and who had also played "Spock's" mother on "Star Trek"), and Elinor Donahue, Billy Gray and Lauren Chapin as the "Anderson" children - were all in top form. This was the second reunion special for wich they had regrouped (another had aired only six months prior), and it was as though they had never left the set of the original series.

I, of course, could not legitmately make such an observation without seeing episodes of the original series. But upon first viewing "Home for Christmas," it was clear that something special was happening. The movie was videotaped and not filmed like the original show, but again, the cast was wonderful. The story was sweet. And the directing was on-the-mark.

I was then inspired to watch the orignal "Father" series - again and again.

With "Welby," it was as if Robert Young had retired from insurance (his on-screen "Father" career), and went into medicine. However, Young had retained that same screen charisma, charm, wit and nurturing persona that so many had appreciated for years on "Father Knows Best."

One recent "Welby" rerun happened to feature a young woman who had experienced a substantial weight loss. In doing so, and by today's standards, she would have been considered "hot." The episode starred a pre-"Mary Tyler Moore" Cloris Leachman and the iconic William Schallert (who for years played a comforting TV dad himself on "The Patty Duke Show") as the young girl's parents.

I found it ironic that the name of the young girl in "Welby" episode - which was directed by the late, great Leo Penn (father of Sean) was named "Cathy." "Cathy" was the name of Lauren Chapin's young character on "Father Knows Best," and "Cathy" was also the name given to one of Patty Dake's twin-personas on "The Patty Duke Show."

Now, here they all were - together - lead by Robert Young - and the episode was remarkable.

Leo Penn's direction was astounding, and the turmoil and tribulations of the young girl, who was once considered unatttractive and now "easy," was played so convincingly well. Cloris Leachman gave her usual A-list performance, this time, as a self-absorbed mom - and William Schallert was, well, William Schallert - perfect as usual.

I actually stayed completely off the Internet - including Facebook! - for the entire 60-minutes of this episode of "Marcus Welby, M.D."

THAT'S a testament to not only the merit of this particular "Welby" episode, but proof that classic shows this and "Father Knows Best" (and "The Patty Duke Show" and "The Donna Reed Show," for that matter) have the "staying power" for today's audience.

"Welby," "Father," et al., along with actors like elegant Robert Young - offered comfort that not only was "everything going to be okay," but these shows and stars like Young represented everything that was - and still could be - right about television.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Actor/Director Adam Carl: Renaissance Man

Adam Carl has been acting since he was a child, and has appeared on some of the most iconic television shows of all time, working with legends like John Ritter, Ed Asner, Bob Newhart, Patti Lupone, Dixie Carter, and so many others. His acting resume reads like a classic TV lovers dreambook, as he's performed on shows like Cheers, Who's the Boss?, The Facts of Life, Newhart, and Family Ties, to name just a few. Yet, his talents reach beyond acting on television. And it's clear why he is always working. He's one of the most amiable people in the industry.

Adam took the time to chat with me about his awesome and versatile career (which now includes directing feature films). Let's take a listen.

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HJP: Adam - you're quite an eclectic individual. Your talented, intelligent, funny and insightful. Tell us about how it all began. Where were you born and raised, and what lead you to work in the entertainment industry?

AC: Well, first of all, thanks for the kind words. I was born in Fullerton, in Orange County, and my family moved to Tustin when I was in first grade. I wanted to perform for as long as I can remember. When I was five or six I wrote a letter to The Mickey Mouse Club asking to be on the show. I think they wrote me back a form letter thanking me for my interest and claiming that I was on some sort of a "waiting list." I'm not sure I knew at the time it was a blow off, but my folks did. When I was twelve, I convinced my parents to take me to an open call at Fox that we saw in the newspaper. It was for a lead role opposite Richard Dreyfuss and Susan Sarandon in a feature film called The Buddy System. My Dad drove me to the audition, dressed in my little league uniform because I had a game I had later in the day. They saw us seven kids at a time, but I ended up getting a call back. Then another. And another. At one point, Fox was messengering scripts to my house. It got down to the wire, and then Fox head Sherry Lansing saw the screen tests...and Wil Wheaton [Star Trek: The Next Generation] got the part. But they offered me a tiny co-star role as a consolation, playing an Ear of Corn in a school Thanksgiving pageant. Jason Hervey [The Wonder Years] played the Potato. After that auspicious debut, I got an agent and started auditioning regularly and working. And my parents were saints for constantly driving me back and forth from Orange County and laboring to make sure I had an otherwise normal childhood.



HJP: You've worked on so many wonderful classic TV shows, specifically, the short-lived but very funny Hearts Afire, with the great John Ritter, Designing Women, with Dixie Carter, who just recently passed away - and Life Goes On. The list itself goes on and on. And before we get into many of the other shows you worked on, what are your memories of working on these three shows in particular? And what was it like to work with John Ritter and Dixie Carter on theire respective shows? Do any particular memories stand out?

AC: All three of those shows were terrific to work on. John Ritter was one of the sweetest, funniest, most generous actors I've ever had the pleasure to work with. Whenever he thought you did something particularly funny, he always went out of his way to point it out and tell you, no matter how subtle it was. He'd pull you aside and say, "You did a thing there that was so great..." If you said something funny, he'd run around telling everyone and make sure to give you credit. That's the kind of guy he was. He noticed and he was a champion of everyone around him. I got to do a dance number in drag with John and Billy Bob Thornton and it remains a highlight of my life. As for Designing Women, that show was just so much fun to work on. I remember being terrified because the show was in the tabloids at the time, and there had been reports on on set strife. But I have to tell you, I saw absolutely none of anything like that. All of the women were so sweet and welcoming to me and it was a pleasure to get to come back and do two more episodes after the first. I love that there will always be footage of me out there with Dixie, who was so fantastic. And I also got to work with Alice Ghostley, which was such a thrill for me because I'm a huge fan Bewitched [on which Ghostley portrayed the bumbling witch-maid Esmeralda]. Life Goes On was also a lot of fun. There were lots of young people to hang around with Kellie Martin and Tanya Fenmore and Seth Green, and we had a great time. And Chris Burke was such a nice kid and always remembered me every time I came back for a new episode. That show gave me the opportunity to do a scene with Quincy Jones, which was very cool. And it was also fun to get to play the boyfriend for a change and not just be comic relief.



HJP: Ok - let's delve into a few other you've appeared in: The King of Queens, Silk Stalkings, Charles in Charge, Who's The Boss?, The Bronx Zoo, The Facts of Life, Dear John, Newhart, Cheers, Family Ties, Benson. Again, the list goes on and go. But if you would, please share with us at least some of your behind-the-scenes experiences from the iconic sets of these shows.

AC: All I can say is, it can be very scary being a guest actor on iconic shows. You're walking on to a set that is already a family and trying, like a brand new in-law, to desperately fit in and not break anything. And yet I don't think I ever worked on a show the cast and crew of which didn't make me feel welcome and supported. And, not surprisingly, the bigger the stars, the nicer they tended to be. Ted Danson and the entire Cheers cast were absurdly kind to me, as were Michael J. Fox, and Jamie Lee Curtis (Anything But Love), and Carol Kane (All Is Forgiven) and Tony Danza, who I'm told personally insisted on my character coming back. Ed Asner - who I also got to work with on Hearts Afire - wrote me a letter of recommendation for film school. And on Benson, which was my first TV gig, I got to do my scene with Rene Auberjonois, who I had just done Richard III with at The Mark Taper Forum, so that was a great way to get my feet wet. I don't remember having a lot of personal interaction with Bob Newhart, but I can't tell you how much it means to me to have had the chance to do a scene with him. He is one of my comedic heroes.



HJP: What many people might not know, is that you are also a busy voiceover actor who has worked on animated shows like Batman: The Animated Series and The New Adventures of Batman and Robin. Tell us what this type of work involves. And besides the obvious differences between performing for a live-action series or movie, explain the "emoting" process, if you will, for finding your "creative voice" for an animated character.

AC: I loved doing cartoon series - just a bunch of actors standing in front of microphones and playing. It really is like doing an old radio play, except that they put the sound effects in later. And I got to work with the best of the best. On Peter Pan and the Pirates, I would watch Tim Curry do Captain Hook with my jaw slack. He was just so freaking good. And it was fun doing a show like Denver the Last Dinosaur because I got to play two different characters, sometimes bouncing back and forth between the two. I don't really know how I came up with the voices I did. I was never as versatile as most of the actors I worked with, who it seemed could work miracles. I could pretty much just do different versions of my own voice! It was either higher or lower, either more realistic or more "cartoony," but it was still pretty much just me. Even when I played Donatello in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, I didn't do much more than just my own voice in a silly, higher register. But the vast majority of voice actors I got to work with - amazing actors with control of their voices finely tuned to the point of being very humbling.



HJP: You've clearly appeared on many family-oriented shows. How do you think the family shows of the past compare to the family shows of the present?

AC: That's a good question. It's probably best answered by true students of the genre, but I definitely think family shows now are much edgier. What is considered acceptable by today's standards would have been downright pornographic in previous decades, even recent ones. I myself prefer the edgier fare - family shows were never really my cup of tea - so it's hard for me to really judge.



HJP: In addition to continued acting appearances on shows like CSI: Miami, you also appear on radio. Tell us about that.

AC: I've made a few appearances as a panelist on a called The DAM-age Report and it's hosted by comedian Johnny Dam. It's a celebration of the First Amendment, so, naturally, not only is it political, but it can get pretty raunchy. Right up my alley, I'm afraid. The show is on every weekday from 2-4 on latalkradio.com Johnny's a great guy and he cares about free speech, so he's my kind of guy.



HJP: You're also a film director and writer. First, tell us about some of the films you've written and directed, and then tell us about how these aspects fulfill your creative spirit.

AC: I've made three films - Performance Anxiety (1996), Pieces of Eight (2006) and Waiting For Ophelia (2009). All three are essentially romantic comedies, although the first one is slightly darker than the others. Because all three films were "microbudget" indies I was able to make them absolutely the way I wanted to, with no studio executive breathing down my neck or giving me notes. The movies are far from perfect, but at least the mistakes are my own. Working with so little money, though, you definitely have to make tons of compromises. You end up having to learn to love the movie you made as it invariably ends up being different than what you set out to make, but often in better and more surprising ways. Regardless, it's a special kind of thrill to see words you've written come to life on the set and in the editing room. I think it's truly a privilege to have had the opportunity to express myself in that medium. I'm probably the most relaxed and happy when I'm on a set, directing material that I think I really "get." I wouldn't know where to begin to make a big action blockbuster, but small stories that are dialogue heavy and deal with personal relationships... those I understand. The first two movies I made never really saw the light of day, but the latest one played a couple of film festivals and will soon be available on DVD. And it features what I think is a tremendous performance from Emmy winner Yeardley Smith [The Simpsons].



HJP: Out of all the varied talents you have, which do you enjoy most: acting, animated voiceover work, writing, directing or radio.

AC: So hard to pick just one as each has its own unique charms - but I think at the end of the day it would have to be directing. I don't think I'm a particularly talented director. I don't have a specific style or a lot of technical chops. I would probably be lost on any set other than one of my own. But it gives me a tremendous amount of joy to get to sit around all day working with great actors and technicians, having fun, keeping things light, and getting to play and create "moments." As a director, if I can foster an environment that makes the actors feel safe and supported and lets the cast and crew do what they believe is their best work, then I feel my own work has been a success.



HJP: Thank you so much, Adam, for the visit. We all look forward to seeing, reading and hearing your various and wonderful talents for years to come.

AC: Thanks Herbie! The pleasure was mine.

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For more information about Adam Carl, click on this link: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0137262/

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happy Birthday To Elizabeth Montgomery!

Some Elizabeth Montgomery/"Bewitched" trivia in celebration of her birthday today:


* Elizabeth's grounbreaking TV-movie, "A Case Of Rape," became one of the Top Ten Highest-rated TV-movies of all-time - and was one of the first issue-oriented TV-movies in history (exploring the topic of spousal abuse -ten years before Farrah Fawcett did the same with "The Burning Bed").


* Elizabeth's TV-movie, "The Legend of Lizzie Borden" became one of the first DOCU-DRAMAS ever made.


* Elizabeth was nominated for an Emmy for her performance as a "lady of the evening" in an episode of "The Untouchables" - in which she appeared with future "Bewitched" co-star David "Larry Tate" White.


* Elizabeth did not speak a word of dialogue in an episode of "The Twilight Zone" called, "Two." Meanwhile, too, Agnes Moorehead, another of Elizabeth's future "Bewitched" co-stars, also appeared in a TZ segment - in which she played a MUTE. And we heard Dick "Darrin #1" York's THOUGHTS in the TZ episode, "A Penny For Your Thoughts."


Oh, the irony!

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Top Ten Spiritual/Spring Films Of All Time

1] The Ten Commandments (1956): This Charlton Heston flick directed by the great Cecil B. Demille is by far not only the best of the lot, but my favorite movie of all time - in ANY category. The visuals are unearthly, the dialogue is hypnotic, and the acting is stoic. Wrap it all up in a package to save your soul, and you're all set. (Additional Note: The great Eastern mystic Paramahansa Yogananda, who had a great deal of respect for the teachings of Christ - and who helped to introduce Eastern thought to mainstream America, served as a spiritual consultant on Demille's first, 1926 silent edition of The Ten Commandments ).

2] Jesus of Nazareth (1977): There is no way that this is any kind of "production." Director Franco Zeffirelli had to go back in time and film this thing for real, on location. Because there's never been a better Jesus, in the form of Robert Powell (who was was forced to marry his girlfriend before he started filming this movie, because Zeffirelli did not want the actor "living in sin").  However, the actor would never be seen on-screen again...at least - this side of heaven.

3] The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965): The cinematography is ethereal; every frame is a painting - and Max Von Sydow's performance as Christ is haunting.

4] King of Kings (1961): Before the late Jeffrey Hunter was cast as the original Captain (Pike) to pilot the Enterprise in the original pilot (The Cage) for the original Star Trek , he played Christ here as the "hippie Jesus." If this film did anything, it introduced the mainstream youth of the 1960s to religion. Not always a bad thing. (Additional Note: Agnes Moorehead, who played "Endora" on "Bewitched," served as Hunter's acting coach on this film.)

5] The Robe (1953): There's a great line in this movie where Jay Robinson as Ceasar says something like, "Keep that robe away from me. It's bewitched." Years later, Robinson would go on to play Ceasar again in an episode of Bewitched. You gotta' love that.

6] Ben-Hur (1959): Charlton Heston followed up his 1956 Moses-interpretation in the 1956 edition of The Ten Commandments with this film playing a friend to Jesus - just to make sure he covered both the main Old and New Testament stories.

7] The Song of Bernadette (1943): Jennifer Jones, as a young peasant girl who has contemporary visions of the Blessed Mother (of Jesus), gives one of the most consistenly brilliant and realistic in-character performances ever brought to any screen or stage. [On a very personal note, on the evening that I orginally purchased the video for this film in 1995, I had a spiritual experience. It was shortly after my father passed way, and I was seeking answers. So this one night, I awakened at 3 AM, sat right up in bed and said aloud to God, "I love you. I love you. I love you." I then felt compelled to go downstairs and watch the "Song" film - for the FIRST time. I was later stunned when, during one scene in the movie, Bernadette is sleeping and suddenly rises in her bed and proclaims HER love for God in the exact same way: "I love you. I love you. I love you."]

8] Jesus Christ Superstar (1973): Not really the best interpretation of of the Broadway classic, but the music is still as awesome as ever. (And thank you, Miss Vigna, my 6th grade teacher from St. Peter and Paul's Catholic School on Brown Street in Rochester, New York. She had the guts to introducing me and the rest of our class of 1972 to the soundtrack music from the live stage rock-opera on which this film was based).

9] The Sign of the Cross (1932): Around the same time that Cecile B. Demille was working on the original Ten Commandments (before he remade it with Charleton Heston in 1956), he worked on this other religious classic (with Fredric March, Claudette Colbert and Charles Laughton) about early Roman evils. Can't be missed - and shouldn't be.

10] The Passsion of Christ (2004): I actually walked out on this movie when it played in the theatres because I deemed it too violent. But director Mel Gibson's own personal passion for getting it done must be revered, not to mention, that like King of Kings before it, this film introduced a beautiful story to a mass mainstream generation who might not otherwise have cared. So, the end justifies the means. I think.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Classic TV's Iconic Writer/Actor Marty Nadler Speaks (About "Happy Days," "Laverne & Shirley," "The Odd Couple," "Chico & The Man," "Perfect Strangers" And More)

Writer/Actor Marty Nadler has composed scripts of some of the most classic television programs that ever aired, including "The Odd Couple," "Happy Days," "Laverne & Shirley" and "Chico and the Man," to name only a few. He's also an actor who has appeared in feature films like the recently released, "Valentine’s Day," directed by his good friend Garry Marshall, brother to Penny Marshall, co-star with Cindy Williams of "Laverne & Shirley," which Garry produced (along with "Happy Days" and "The Odd Couple").

Marty was inspired to get into the entertainment industry by all the performers he watched on television while growing up, particularly comedians like Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis, Abbott & Costello. "Then when realized I was the class clown," he explains, "it even made me more interested. School plays, and so forth. I was eight-years-old and knew I was destined for the entertainment industry."

Marty's first acting job was in Summer Stock on Martha's Vineyard. "It was with an acting company that was part of my College Theatre Department," he says. "I received $15.00 a week, a room, and three college credits. Thank you, Ithaca College!"

In all, Marty is proud of the work he did in television. "People are very nice when they learn what shows I worked on. We had about 40 million people watch 'Happy Days' and 'Laverne & Shirley' every Tuesday night."

Certainly, then, this icon of classic television must have at least one or two interesting "behind-the-scenes" tales he could tell. Like the time, while working on "Happy Days," when "some wacko" posed a death threat against Garry Marshall. As Marty recalls, "The LAPD were undercover at the live taping. Garry and I did the warm-up for the show (i.e. talked to the audience and answered questions). So, I came out first to introduced Garry and hoped he (the 'wacko') didn't think I was Garry." Thankfully, nothing tragic transpired that evening – and all went without a hitch.

Marty remembers another time, on the set of the pilot for "Laverne & Shirley," when they were filming this initial segment "n secret." Fred Silverman, then-head of programming for ABC, liked the episode of "Happy Days" in which Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams guest-starred. As a result, Silverman ordered an entire first season of "Laverne & Shirley" without fanfare. "We were shooting the first episode," Marty explains, "while ABC was holding Pilot Season in New York. Producers were walking around trying to sell their shows while we knew we were already on the air. When the schedule for the new season came out, people were like, 'Laverne and 'WHO?!’”

A few years before, Marty was involved with another Garry Marshall production called, "The Odd Couple," which also aired on ABC (for five seasons). "We weren't sure if we'd get picked up for a sixth season," Marty recalls. "The last episode of the last season was 'Felix' (played by Tony Randall) getting re-married to his wife Gloria. We filmed it two ways, one with him saying ‘Yes’ and one where he backs out and we can go another season."

Marty worked on yet another ABC comedy, "Perfect Strangers," which aired in the years following the cancellation of "Happy Days" and "Laverne & Shirley." As Marty explains, "I don't think people knew that the comedian Louis Anderson played 'Balke' in the first pilot. But we re-shot it with Bronson Pinchot."

While writing for "Happy Days" and "Laverne & Shirley," and some years before "Perfect Strangers," Marty also worked on "Chico and the Man," which starred Jack Albertson and a young comedian named Freddie Prinze. Both performers are gone now. Albertson died of natural causes, while Prinze committed suicide.

"Freddie was a buddy of mine," Marty says. "We did stand-up together at the Improvisation (club) in N.Y.C. He kept asking me to do the show. I was finally available and wrote an episode with him. It was very sad when he shot himself." What was equally tragic, Marty goes on to say, was the conversation that took place in a Limousine on the way to his funeral when certain network executives were simply planning what to film next week on 'Chico & the Man.' As Marty sees it, "It's a cold, cold business."

Still, he keeps smiling. "What I like to do best is perform stand-up comedy. I do a comedy show on Martha's Vineyard - forty-five years after summer stock! It's called, ‘Very Vineyard’ [and he'll perform it at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs on August 7th)."

Whether performing comedy on the stage, or writing sitcoms for TV, yesterday or today, as Marty sees it, "Funny is funny. There are some very good shows today because of great writing and great casting. That is the measure."

Some of Marty's favorite contemporary programs, include: "Big Bang Theory," "Two & A Half Men," and "Parenthood." "They each of have great writing and casting," he says.

Yet, if any new edition of say, "Happy Days" were to debut on TV any time soon, which actor out of today's pool does Marty think would make a good "Fonzie"? "An unknown," he replies. "It worked with Henry Winkler" [who had yet to establish a name for himself when he was cast in the original series].

Meanwhile, Marty Nadler believes there's a very good chance that we'll soon see feature film edition of "Laverne & Shirley," on which he'll offer his expert assistance to Garry Marshall in helping to bring that TV classic to the big screen. "If Garry calls me," he says with fond enthusiasm, "I'll be there!"

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

How To Deal With Missing Your Timing With A Potential Love Interest

You know you've missed your timing with a potential love, when they say things like, "I'll talk to you here, 'cause I have to. But if I ever saw you out, I wouldn't give you the time of day." And - "I wouldn't care if you died tomorrow."

(Yikes!)

So, if someone's sweet on you, and you don't respond to them when they come-on to you, and you wait too long to flirt back, you're just simply too late. They have already felt that you rejected them by not responding in a timely fashion - and now they're just plain mad.

However, you really shouldn't take it as a rejection because their present anger merely confirms just how much they liked you before you blew it!

Have an awesome day!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Tribute to the "Commanding" Charlton Heston

In view of the Holiday, and in particular, tonight's airing of "The Ten Commandments" (which just so happens to be my favorite movie of all time), I invite you to read my tribute to Charlton Heston (see below), which I originally wrote and posted in 2008 (upon the actor's passing).

Blessings and Light to all during this Holiday - and always.

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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 Rod Twilight 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..."

That one we all broke in viewing his presence on screen.