Sunday, December 17, 2017

RIP: KEELY SMITH

Keely Smith, the Grammy winning singer known for her solo recordings of jazz standards as well as her partnership with her first husband, Louis Prima, died Dec. 16 in Palm Springs, Calif. She was 89 and had been suffering from heart failure, according to her publicist, Bob Merlis.

Her hits included “Bei Mir Bist Du Schön” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” “That Old Black Magic,” which she reprised with Kid Rock at the 2008 Grammy awards, made a big impression on pop culture: Kermit the frog, wearing a wig, performed as Smith on the early Muppets show “Sam and Friends,” singing “That Old Black Magic.” Smith and Prima also performed the hit at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration.

Born Dorothy Jacqueline Keely in Norfolk, Va., she was of Cherokee and Irish parentage. She started out singing at a naval air station band and got her first paying job at age 15 with the Earl Bennett band.


She was hired as “girl singer” in Prima’s big band when still a teenager, and went on the road with the band in 1948. Smith and Prima married and had two children.

The duo won a Grammy in 1959, the first year of the awards, for best pop vocal performance by a duo or group for “That Old Black Magic,” which stayed on the charts for 18 weeks. They had hit albums with “The Wildest!” and “The Wildest Show at Tahoe.”

She was also Grammy-nominated later in life for the 2001 album “Keely Sings Sinatra.”


A mainstay of the Las Vegas lounge scene for many years, she was honored in the Las Vegas Hall of Fame as well as with stars on the Hollywood and Palm Springs walks of fame.

Smith also sang in several movies including “Hey Boy! Hey Girl!,” “Senior Prom” and “Thunder Road.”

She launched as a solo artist in 1957 with “I Wish You Love,” produced by Nelson Riddle, and she followed that with “Swingin’ Pretty” and “The Intimate Keely Smith,” which was re-released last year. The album was produced by Jimmy Bowen, whom she married in 1965 after divorcing Prima in 1961.

In 2005, she played a series a well-received shows in Manhattan. Variety said, “Smith’s bold, dark voice took firm hold on a handful of great standard tunes, and she swung hard.” Her final performance was in 2011 at the Cerritos Performing Arts Center.

Survivors include her children Toni Prima and Luanne Prima...


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

SCOTT GIMPLE AND THE DEATH OF THE WALKING DEAD

I have to admit that I was never a huge fan of zombies. When I was little I was afraid of everything, including zombies. As I got older I watched George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead, but I did not really embrace the genre until my brother in law talked me into watching AMC's "The Walking Dead". I started watching during the third season, and I quickly became addicted to the show. I rewatched the seasons that I missed, and I became devoted to that show.

Now "The Walking Dead" just ended the first half of its 8th season, and although the show is still the top rated program on AMC, the show is very different that one the I started watching five years ago. I barely got through the first eight episodes of this season, and my devotion to watching the show has turned to an obligation to watch it. I'm not sure if I will be back as a viewer when the show returns in February.


The show was always more about the people than the zombies, and that is why I like them. Unfortunately under the direction of show runner Scott Gimple, the program has been really going downhill the last two seasons. Gimple came on board during season 4, and that season with the villain the Governor fighting Rick, the leader of the survivors, is one of my favorites. However, each season since then has been full of nonsensical story lines, huge plot holes, and a pretty overt disregard for the audience and fan. Under Gimple, the majority of the minority cast members have been killed off. In a matter of two seasons we have lost the minority characters of Tyrese, Bob, Noah, and Sasha.

The deaths of many characters were done for shock value rather than to expand the story line. I expect people to die on the show. After all, it is the zombie apocalypse. However, the major deaths are only during the mid season finale or the season finale. You can predict when someone will die. In the first few seasons you did not know from episode to episode who would be left. The latest death - the death of Carl, has left fans shocked - and not in a good way. The character of Carl is still alive in the comic book version of The Walking Dead, and he is a major character in the future storyline. There is no reason Scott Gimple had Carl killed off other than shock value. It goes deeper than that. Chandler Riggs, the actor that plays Carl, was shocked about being killed off, and his father has gone on record to say he never trusted Gimple or AMC.


"The Walking Dead" is not dead yet. One way AMC could fix the show is to get rid of Scott Gimple, plain and simple. Gimple has lttle regard for the Walking Dead storyline as well as a blatant disregard for the fan base. He is often interviewed on the after show "Talking Dead", and with each appearance he seems more cold and unfeeling. I never thought this would be happening to my favorite show. The ratings have dropped majorly this season, and I can not believe AMC is not wondering why. Again I have to say to them is two words: Scott Gimple. We see a lot of deaths on the show, but I hope the next person to leave the show is Scott Gimple. I may not be able to watch how the zombie apocalypse plays out until he is gone. I once said this show was a modern classic, but with Scott Gimple in charge, he is slowing killing this show. Like the zombie outbreak on the show, The Walking Dead iteself is running out of time to cure itself...


Friday, December 8, 2017

HEALTHWATCH: ARTIE LANGE

Whenever comedian Artie Lange used to come to Pittsburgh I would go to one of his shows. I have bought him dinner, got his autograph, and have laughed with him through the years. Since Lange left the Howard Stern show though, I have grown tired of his comedy. It is not his comedy, but his disregard for his own health and life. Watching the comedy of Artie Lange now is almost like watching a very slow snuff film. In recent years it seems like we are watching him die right before our eyes.

Artie Lange had all the makings of a great comedian along the likes of his idol John Belushi. Both Lange and Belushi have/had great comedic timing. They also share something else, a love of drugs. Lange got fired from the television show MadTV in 1997 and the Howard Stern show in 2010.

Now it looks like Artie is continuing on his downward spiral. Lange's mom admits doctors are worried about his deteriorating condition. Struggling substance abuse addict Artie Lange sent fans into a frenzy on December 6 when he unexpectedly cancelled his appearance on the Artie and Anthony Show. While the former Howard Stern sidekick blamed the flu for his absence, RadarOnline.com has learned exclusively it’s his uphill battle with drugs that’s causing him to cancel on his podcast and other shows.

His mother, Judy Lange, revealed the truth about her son’s constant troubles exclusively to Radar, saying: “Artie has to take care of a few things. He’s got diabetes, so that doesn’t help. He’s okay, as much as he can be. But he is fighting addiction — trying to get through that, and hopefully he will.”


As fans know, followers of the comedian became skeptical of the 50-year-old’s excuse to cancel his appearance when he said he took antibiotics as a remedy — a medication that only fights bacteria, not viruses.

As Radar previously reported, Lange was hospitalized multiple times this year due to drug related issues. As recent as October, Lange cancelled a show in Akron, Ohio after having to make an emergency trip to the hospital for a blood sugar problem. In July, he was hospitalized for days following emergency open heart surgery.

Godspeed funny man Artie Lange. Please don't end up like John Belushi or Chris Farley. Artie Lange is a cat and he is on his ninth life...



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

FINAL RESTING PLACES: VERA-ELLEN

Vera-Ellen is best remembered for her role of 'Judy Haynes' in the movie, "White Christmas" (1954), playing opposite fellow actors Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney. Born Vera-Ellen Westmeyer Rohe in Norwood, Ohio, she began dancing at the age of ten, and within a few years, became one of the youngest Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and a Broadway dancer.

In 1945, she was spotted by film producer Samuel Goldwyn and invited to Hollywood, where she was cast opposite Danny Kaye in "Wonder Man" (1945). There she earned a reputation as a hard worker. She would also dance with Gene Kelly in "On the Town" (1949) and with Fred Astaire in "Three Little Words" (1950). 


She married twice, first to fellow actor and dancer Robert Hightower (1945 to 1948) and then to millionaire Victor Rothschild (1954 to 1966); both marriages ended in divorce. She would also date Rock Hudson for three years, but this was a publicity event orchestrated by his agent, yet they remained good friends for years after. After her success in "White Christmas", the motion picture industry decided to make fewer musicals, and it did not consider her for non-dancing roles. To keep her weight down, Vera-Ellen also became anorexic, which caused premature aging, and expressed itself mostly in her upper body and neck (this eventually came out as the explaination as to why she always covered her neck in "White Christmas"). 

In addition, her only child and daughter, Victoria Ellen Rothschild, died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1963. Her last film, "Let's Be Happy", was made in 1957, and she then retired from public life. She continued to dance, in part to fight the arthritis she suffered later from. She would die of cancer in Los Angeles, California. Author David Soren wrote a book, "Vera-Ellen: the Magic and the Mystery," about her life; it was published by McGraw-Hill Press.

Her mother, Alma Catherine Westmeier Rohe died a year before Vera did in 1980 at the age of 89. Her 2nd husband remarried after their divorce. Victor Bennett Rothschild died in 2008 at the age of 85. Vera-Ellen is buried in a modest grave at Glen Haven Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California...




Sunday, December 3, 2017

A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE - WEB EPISODE 2

Here is episode two of my You Tube series. This time it's the ladies turn as we look at my five favorite female singers. Please keep the comments and suggestions coming!


Friday, December 1, 2017

RECENTLY VIEWED: JUSTICE LEAGUE

I recently took my kids to see the new Justice League movie. The critics and some fans are complaining about the movie, and the film isn't doing as well at the box office, but I've got to say it was a great movie. I've seen a lot of movies in 2017, and this was my favorite new movie next to Beauty And The Beast.

It is the fifth installment in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). The film is directed by Zack Snyder, with a screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, from a story by Terrio and Snyder. It features an ensemble cast that includes Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, and J. K. Simmons. In Justice League, the titular superhero team forms to honor Superman following his death and to save the planet from the catastrophic threat of Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons.

The film was announced in October 2014 with Snyder on board to direct and Terrio attached to write the script. Initially announced as Justice League Part One, with a second part to follow in 2019, the second film was indefinitely delayed to accommodate a standalone Batman film with Affleck. Principal photography commenced in April 2016 and ended in October 2016. Snyder then hired Joss Whedon to write scenes that would be filmed during reshoots; however, Snyder left the project in May 2017 following the death of his daughter. Whedon was hired to oversee the remainder of post-production, including directing additional scenes written by himself. Snyder received sole director credit for the film, with Whedon receiving a screenplay credit.


With an estimated production budget of $300 million, it is one of the most expensive films ever made. Justice League premiered in Beijing on October 26, 2017, and was released in the United States in 2D, 3D, and IMAX on November 17, 2017. It has grossed over $481 million worldwide.


I don't want to give too much of the plot details away, but you can read them anywhere on the internet. However, the best part of the movie was Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman. I can not say enough good things about Wonder Woman, and she is easily the best character in the DC Universe. Also they did well with showing new characters like The Flash and Cyborg. If I had to pick out a complaint it would be the villain in Steppenwolf. He looked like a reject from an old Power Rangers movie. I would have rather seen a movie with a Batman villain or some bad guy I was familiar with. Other than that it is a really good film. Also, listen for the original Batman and Superman themes from the earlier movies of the 1970s and 1980s for some cool nostalgia. I hope this is the beginning of some more great movies in the DC Universe. Next up is Aquaman next year - and by the way, this is not your parent's Aquaman either. Please support this film - it is worth it...

MY RATING: 10 OUT OF 10





Thursday, November 30, 2017

RIP: JIM NABORS

Jim Nabors, who gave popular culture its most enduring image of a wide-eyed, good-natured if none too bright hayseed in a character whose very name – Gomer Pyle – would become synonymous with lovable rube, died Thursday in Hawaii. He was 87.

Nabors’ husband, Stan Cadwallader, confirmed the death to the Associated Press, noting that the actor had been in failing health for a year, with his immune system diminished by a liver transplant 20 years ago. Cadwallader was at his side, at their home in Hawaii, when Nabors died.

With catchphrases “Shazam!” and “Gollllly!” (the latter drawn out to four or five lilting syllables), Nabors debuted his downhome, gas station attendant character in 1962 on The Andy Griffith Show, where the slow-going, dim-witted Gomer was a constant irritation to Don Knotts’ officious, high-strung Deputy Barney Fife.

The Gomer character, and Nabors’ odd-couple chemistry with Knotts, proved so popular with audiences that he was given his own spin-off series in 1964. Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C, co-starring Frank Sutton as his ever-yelling drill sergeant Vince Carter (“I can’t heeearrrr youuu!”) ran until 1969 on CBS. (The Gomer character was replaced on Andy Griffith with cousin Goober Pyle, played by George Lindsey in a Jughead-style cap).


Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.was an instant smash when it debuted in September 1964. The series finished No. 3 among all primetime shows that season with a 30.7 rating –- ahead of Andy Griffith – and was No. 2 behind Bonanza for the following 1965-66 season. The series slipped in the ratings after its move from Fridays to Wednesdays for the 1966-67 season, but CBS returned Gomer Pyle to Fridays the following season and it ranked No. 3 and No. 2 in primetime during the next two seasons.

Nabors got his start as a cabaret act at Santa Monica’s The Horn, appearing in a musical comedy routine that included his performance as a Gomer-like character. He was noticed by Andy Griffith and hired for a one-episode appearance as Mayberry’s gas station attendant.

Nabors’ comic persona, with his natural Alabama accent stretched to a near-cartoon drawl, evaporated when switched gears to sing, utilizing a baritone that sounded both formal and trained, a dichotomy used to great effect as far back as the Griffith show.


His 1966 LP Jim Nabors Sings with All Your Heart, made the Billboard Top 25 and went gold. He charted a dozen albums through 1972 and though he never matched that initial chart success two more were half-million-sellers. One of those was Jim Nabors’ Christmas Album, which topped the holiday albums chart in 1967 and again two years later.

His singing made him a frequent guest of variety shows in the 1960s and ’70s, including The Johnny Cash Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Dean Martin Show, The Flip Wilson and, most notably, The Carol Burnett Show, where his appearance on each season premiere became an annual tradition. He hosted his own variety show, The Jim Nabors Hour, from 1969-71.


Nabors even became a Indianapolis 500 tradition with his rendition of Back Home Again in Indiana performed during the race’s opening ceremonies since 1972. He would do this every year until 2014.

On the big screen, Nabors made appearances in a string of moving starring friend Burt Reynolds, including The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Stroker Ace and Cannonball Run II...