Friday, January 19, 2018


Here is Pittsburgh it is cold and snowy, so in my household there has been a lot of television watching this month. This new feature will highlight some of the movies, series, and specials I have been watching on television for the month.

1. GOOD NEWS (1947) - When my son was born, I started to groom him to be a classic movie lover like myself. My son is all sports - all the time, and he has little time or interest for movies at all. My daughter is five years old now, and loves anything with music. So the one snowy Saturday I put on one of my favorite classic movie musicals Good News, and we both watched it. The musical has really two non singers as the leads - June Allyson and Peter Lawford, but the songs and numbers make it. My son looked up annoyingly from his tablet when my daughter and I started dancing to the number "Pass The Peace Pipe", which is one of my favorite numbers. The whole movie is full of gems from the 1920s including the show stopping finale "Lucky In Love". It was great to see such a young Mel Torme in the film as well. Peter Lawford was a good looking actor who would ruin his looks in a matter of 15 years after this movie from booze and pills. Nevertheless Good News was a great film to watch on a lazy afternoon.

2. THE SANDLOT (1993) - This is one of the few films my son does like to watch. Since it is on HBO On Demand now, we can watch it at anytime. The movie came out when I was 18, and I really don't remember the film. I didn't see it until a couple years ago. It is a great movie that shows life in the 1960s when baseball was king. A lot has changed though. It makes me sad seeing kids just running around their neighborhood and not worrrying about locking their doors, because that is certainly not the case anymore. In the past three months, I must have watched this film 20 times. If nothing else is on television, The Sandlot is the movie I put on! I love the story about a lonely boy called Smalls (I was Smalls!) that comes out of his shell when he meets the other boys in the neighborhood. He discovers his love of baseball to the backdrop of 1960s America. I wish I would have had a sandlot in my life when I was young. This is one of the few films that both of my kids agree to watch together!

3. GET OUT (2017) - This movie is not for everyone. It's another film that I missed when it was in theaters. My wife saw it first and recommended it to me. I was reluctant to watch it, but I did one night when everyone was asleep. It's considered a horror movie, but it is so much more!  It stars Daniel Kaluuya as Chris, a black man who visits the family of his white girlfriend (Allison Williams); at their home, the servants are black and act strangely. Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, and Catherine Keener costar. I can't wait to see Daniel Kaluuya in more roles. The movie is not grusome and overly violent, but the tense suspense was great. The movie starts out as what I thought was a movie about racial profiling and it ends up being a movie about medical experiments! The movie isn't for the faint of heart, but I loved it!

This is what I'm watching this month...

Saturday, January 13, 2018


On this day 99 years ago, the great Robert Stack was born! Robert Stack was born Charles Langford Modini Stack in Los Angeles, California on January 13, 1919, but his first name, selected by his mother, was changed to Robert by his father. He spent his early childhood in Europe. He became fluent in French and Italian at an early age, and did not learn English until returning to Los Angeles.

His parents divorced when he was a year old, and he was raised by his mother, Mary Elizabeth (née Wood). His father, James Langford Stack, a wealthy advertising agency owner, later remarried his mother, but died when Stack was 10.

He had always spoken of his mother with the greatest respect and love. When he collaborated with Mark Evans on his autobiography, Straight Shooting, he included a picture of himself and his mother. He captioned it, "Me and my best girl." His maternal grandfather, the opera singer Charles Wood, studied voice in Italy and performed there under the name "Carlo Modini." On the paternal side of his family, Stack had another opera-singer relative: the American baritone Richard Bonelli (born George Richard Bunn), who was his uncle.

When Stack visited the lot of Universal Studios at age 20, producer Joe Pasternak offered him an opportunity to enter the business. Recalled Stack, "He said, 'How'd you like to be in pictures? We'll make a test with Helen Parrish, a little love scene.' Helen Parrish was a beautiful girl. 'Gee, that sounds keen,' I told him. I got the part."

Stack's first film, which teamed him with Deanna Durbin, was First Love (1939), produced by Pasternak. This film was considered controversial at the time. He was the first actor to give Durbin an on-screen kiss.

Stack won acclaim for his next role, The Mortal Storm (1940) starring Margaret Sullivan and James Stewart, and directed by Frank Borzage at MGM. He played a young man who joins the Nazi party.

 He was borrowed by United Artists to play a Polish Air Force pilot in To Be or Not To Be (1942), alongside Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. Stack admitted he was terrified going into this role, but he credited Lombard -- who he'd known personally for several years -- with giving him many tips on acting and with being his mentor. Lombard was killed in a plane crash shortly before the film was released. 

Stack served in World War II and returned to movies, where he would be a force for the next 50 plus year, and the rest is history...

Saturday, January 6, 2018


Jerry Van Dyke, who after decades in show business finally emerged from the shadow of his older brother, Dick, with an Emmy-nominated role in the long-running ABC sitcom “Coach,” died on Friday at his ranch in Arkansas. He was 86.

Jerry’s wife, Shirley Ann Jones, who confirmed the death, said his health had deteriorated since a traffic accident in 2015.

From the beginning, Mr. Van Dyke’s television career was intertwined with his brother’s. One of his earliest TV appearances was in 1962 in a two-part episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” as Stacey Petrie, the would-be comedian brother of Dick’s character, Rob Petrie.

A boisterous performer who supported himself with a banjo-and-comedy stage act when television or film roles were scant, Mr. Van Dyke was a ham to his brother’s more dignified persona. But while Dick had runaway success early on, with the Broadway show and film “Bye Bye Birdie,” the Disney musical “Mary Poppins” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” his brother’s career was long defined by a string of short-lived projects, like “The Judy Garland Show” and the game show “Picture This.”

The worst of his projects was the sitcom “My Mother the Car,” which ran for one notorious season on NBC beginning in September 1965. He played a man who buys a car that contains the spirit of his deceased mother, voiced by Ann Sothern. The premise seems far-fetched, if not bizarre, but fantastical sitcoms like “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Bewitched” became popular around the same time. “My Mother the Car” never caught on and was savaged by critics.

“When people talk about bad television, ‘My Mother the Car’ is the show that pops to mind,” Mr. Van Dyke told The A.P. in 1990.

He went on to have prominent roles in other series that did not last long, like “Accidental Family,” “Headmaster” and “13 Queens Boulevard,” and largely supported himself with his stage show. His brother, meanwhile, enjoyed more success, including a lead role in the 1968 Disney film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a musical about a flying car.

But in 1989 Jerry Van Dyke landed the role of Luther Van Dam, the assistant coach to Craig T. Nelson’s head football coach, Hayden Fox, on “Coach.” They worked together to lead the fictional Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles, often with guest appearances by professional football figures like Troy Aikman, Dick Butkus and Jerry Jones, as well as actors like Lucy Liu, Drew Carey and Mary Hart.

Van Dam, a bumbling, subservient second banana who had occasional moments of pathos, was a reliable source of laughs on the show, which ran until 1997.

Jerry McCord Van Dyke was born on July 27, 1931, in Danville, Ill., to Loren Van Dyke, a traveling salesman, and the former Hazel McCord, a homemaker. He was a little more than five years younger than Dick, and like his brother started a comedy act as a teenager, honing his skills at nightclubs and strip clubs.

“I couldn’t do anything else,” he joked to USA Today in 1990. “I decided to be a comedian at 8 years old and didn’t tend to my studies in school. Had I known how to do anything else, I would have quit. Many times.”

He performed at bases around the world during a stint in the Air Force in the mid-1950s. He appeared as a guest on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” had walk-on roles on “Perry Mason” and “The Andy Griffith Show” and appeared in the John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara Western McLintock! (1963), one of a handful of movies that he acted in.

Mr. Van Dyke married Carol Johnson in the mid-1950s; they divorced in the mid-1970s. Besides his wife, Ms. Jones, and his brother, survivors include a daughter, Jerri Lynne, and a son, Ronald, both from his first marriage; and two grandchildren. Another daughter, Kelly Jean Van Dyke-Nance, died in 1991.

After “Coach,” he appeared in sitcoms like “My Name Is Earl” and “Raising Hope.” The Van Dyke brothers kept playing siblings together into old age, including on the ABC sitcom “The Middle” in 2015...


Marlene Dietrich made the tux luxe for all.

Born in Berlin as Marie Magdalene Dietrich, she became a star during Hollywood’s Golden Age. The image she’s best remembered is her turn in a man’s tux with top hat and white tie in Josef von Sternberg’s 1930 film Morocco. Google even remembered Marlene Dietrich’s 116th birthday—and her gender-defying tuxedo—with a December 27th doodle.

Her boundary-pushing performance—Dietrich, playing a cabaret singer, kisses a woman in the audience—stunned and titillated audiences, according to the BBC. Dietrich’s big-screen appropriation of the men’s tuxedo was a long leap at a time when women wearing trousers was still far from accepted.

The era of her widest fame included the World War II years when women stepped into factories and manufacturing to support the US war effort, events that helped set in motion the ongoing struggle for greater equality between the sexes. As the Costume Society  wrote last year of her wardrobe, “at times, Dietrich looked far better in suits than men themselves.”

She was also a bisexual star when homosexuality was a crime in many jurisdictions, and elevated drag to a new level. Today’s doodle was illustrated by Sasha Steinberg, who was a winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, performing as Sasha Velour. “Despite the pressures of the time, she followed her own course, especially in terms of politics and gender,” Velour said.

Her film career extended into the 1970s, as did her international cabaret appearances. Decades after Dietrich’s pioneered her signature look, Yves Saint Laurent designed “le smoking,” the first tuxedo for women. It came to symbolize “female liberation,” according to a statement for the 2005 exhibition Yves Saint Laurent Smoking Forever.

Dietrich, who died in 1992, is remembered as a symbol of liberation in various forms. After Hitler’s Nazi regime took control of Germany, she became an exile, went to war zones to encourage American troops and traveled widely to promote the sale of war bonds. She resisted repeated attempts by the Third Reich to lure her back and instead became an emblem of a free Germany...


Monday, January 1, 2018


Happy New Year! Here is episode 3 of my pod cast on You Tube. I think the bugs and kinks of episode 2 has been corrected. I hope you enjoy the episode, and please keep the comments and suggestions coming...

Saturday, December 30, 2017


Every year I comment on how quickly the year has gone, and 2017 is no different. My children are getting older, my bones are aching more, and my heart goes out to all of the stars and celebrities we have lost in the fading year. Here are just some of the notable artists that we lost in 2017...

Actress MARY TYLER MOORE died on January 25th at the age of 80. She known for her roles in the television sitcoms The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977), in which she starred as Mary Richards, a single woman working as a local news producer in Minneapolis, and The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966), in which she played Laura Petrie, a former dancer turned homemaker, wife and mother. Her film work includes 1967's Thoroughly Modern Millie and 1980's Ordinary People, in which she played a role that was very different from the television characters she had portrayed, and for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Due to her roles on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show, in which her characters often broke from stereotypical images of women and pushed gender norms, Moore became a cultural icon and served as an inspiration for many younger actresses, professional women, and feminists. She was later active in charity work and various political causes, particularly the issues of animal rights, vegetarianism and diabetes. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes early in the run of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She also suffered from alcoholism, which she wrote about in her first of two memoirs. In May 2011, Moore underwent elective brain surgery to remove a benign meningioma.

Director GEORGE ROMERO died on July 16th at the age of 77. He was best known for his series of gruesome and satirical horror films about an imagined zombie apocalypse, beginning with Night of the Living Dead (1968). Other films in the series include Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985). Aside from the Dead series, his works include The Crazies (1973), Martin (1978), Creepshow (1982), Monkey Shines (1988), The Dark Half (1993) and Bruiser (2000). He also created and executive-produced the television series Tales from the Darkside (1983–1988). Romero is often noted as an influential pioneer of the horror film genre, and the "Father of the Zombie Film

Singer and comedian JIM NABORS died on November 30th at the age of 86. Nabors was discovered by Andy Griffith while working at the Santa Monica nightclub The Horn, and he later joined The Andy Griffith Show as Gomer Pyle. Betty Lynn, Elinor Donahue, and Ron Howard are the last surviving regular cast members from that series. The character proved popular, and Nabors was given his own spin-off show Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.He became a popular guest on variety shows which showcased his rich baritone voice in the 1960s and 1970s, including two specials of his own in 1969 and 1974. He subsequently recorded numerous albums and singles, most of them containing romantic ballads.

Singer BEA WAIN died on August 19th at the age of 100. She was an American Big Band-era singer and radio personality born in the Bronx, New York City. She had a number of hits with Larry Clinton and his Orchestra. After her marriage she and her husband became involved in radio, helming a show titled "Mr. and Mrs. Music". Wain had four No. 1 hits: "Cry, Baby, Cry", "Deep Purple", "Heart and Soul", and her signature song, "My Reverie". My Reverie (Victor 26006) stayed at the top of the chart for eight weeks in 1938. Wain was also the first artist to record the Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg classic "Over the Rainbow" (on December 7, 1938, with Clinton's orchestra), but MGM prohibited the release until The Wizard of Oz (1939) had opened and audiences heard Judy Garland perform it. Wain rarely made recordings after she left the Clinton orchestra in 1939, focusing primarily on her work on radio instead.

Actor MIGUEL FERRER died of cancer on January 19th at the age of 61. His breakthrough role was the OCP Vice President Bob Morton in the 1987 film RoboCop. Ferrer's notable television roles include FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield on Twin Peaks (1990–1991, 2017), Dr. Garret Macy on Crossing Jordan (2001–2007) and NCIS Assistant Director Owen Granger on NCIS: Los Angeles (2012–2017). He was the son of actor José Ferrer and singer Rosemary Clooney.

Actress and child star ROSE MARIE died on December 28th at the age of 94. As a child performer, she had a successful singing career as Baby Rose Marie. A veteran of vaudeville, her career included film, radio, records, theater, night clubs and television.She was most widely known for her role as Sally Rogers on the television show The Dick Van Dyke Show from 1961 to 1966.

Comedian and director JERRY LEWIS died on August 20th at the age of 91. He was known for his slapstick humor in film, television, stage and radio. From 1946 to 1956, he and Dean Martin were partners as the hit popular comedy duo of Martin and Lewis. Following that success, he was a solo star in motion pictures, nightclubs, television shows, concerts, album recordings, and musicals. Lewis served as national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and hosted the live Labor Day weekend broadcast of the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon for 45 years. He received several awards for lifetime achievement from the American Comedy Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Venice Film Festival and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Television personality CHUCK BARRIS died at the age of 87 on March 21st. He was an American game show creator, producer, and host. Barris was known for hosting The Gong Show, and creating The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game. He was also a songwriter, who wrote "Palisades Park" for Freddy Cannon.

Singer HARRY PRIME died on June 20th at the age of 97. He was a Big Band vocalist who performed from the late forties through the mid-fifties. Prime was a featured vocalist with the orchestras of Randy Brooks, Tommy Dorsey, and Ralph Flanagan. Prime peformed mostly with Flanagan's band , but his biggest hit was with the Dorsey band and the song "Until" in 1947. He performed until a few months before his death.

The widow of Frank Sinatra, BARBARA SINATRA, died July 25th at the age of 90. A show girl and model, she married Robert Oliver in September 1948 and had a son, Bobby on 10 October 1950. She divorced Oliver in 1952 and married Zeppo Marx on 18 September 1959. That union ended in divorce in 1973. Then she became the fourth and final wife of Frank Sinatra from 1976 until his death in 1998.

Actor MARTIN LANDAU died at the age of 89 on July 15th. His career began in the 1950s, with early film appearances including a supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959). He played regular roles in the television series Mission: Impossible (for which he received several Emmy Award nominations. Landau received the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, as well as his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his role in Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988); he received his second Oscar nomination for his appearance in Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). His performance in the supporting role of Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood (1994) earned him an Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Golden Globe Award. He continued to perform in film and television, and headed the Hollywood branch of the Actors Studio until his death in July.

Singer FATS DOMINO died at the age of 89 on October 24th. Fats was a pioneer of early rock n roll, and had countless hits including: "Blueberry Hill", "Ain't That A Shame", and "My Girl Josephine". Five of his records released before 1955 sold over a million copies and were certified as gold records, and he had 35 records in the U.S. Billboard Top 40. Fats retired in 2007.

Comedian and social activist DICK GREGORY died at the age of 84 on August 19th. Gregory was a comedian, civil rights activist, social critic, writer, entrepreneur, conspiracy theorist, and occasional actor. During the turbulent 1960s, Gregory became a pioneer in stand-up comedy for his "no-holds-barred" sets, in which he mocked bigotry and racism. He performed primarily to black audiences at segregated clubs until 1961, when he became the first black comedian to successfully cross over to white audiences, appearing on television and putting out comedy record albums

Actress and former child star ERIN MORAN died of lung cancer at the age of 56 on April 22nd. She was best known for her role as Joannie Cunningham on the television series Happy Days (1974-1984) and the spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi (1982-1983). 

Singer CHUCK BERRY died on March 18th at the age of 90. Berry was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as "Maybellene" (1955), "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), "Rock and Roll Music" (1957) and "Johnny B. Goode" (1958), Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive. Writing lyrics that focused on teen life and consumerism, and developing a music style that included guitar solos and showmanship, Berry was a major influence on subsequent rock music.

Actress BARBARA HALE died at the age of 94 on January 26th. She was best known for her role as legal secretary Della Street on more than 270 episodes of the long-running Perry Mason television series from 1957 to 1966, earning her a 1959 Emmy Award as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. She reprised the role in 30 Perry Mason movies for television. Her movie roles included: Jolson Sings Again (1949) and The Boy With The Green Hair (1949) among others.

Singer and actress DELLA REESE died on November 19th at the age of 86. Reese's long career began as a singer, scoring a hit with her 1959 single "Don't You Know?". In the late 1960s, she hosted her own talk show, Della, which ran for 197 episodes. She also starred in films beginning in 1975, including playing opposite Redd Foxx in Harlem Nights (1989), Martin Lawrence in A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996) and Elliott Gould in Expecting Mary (2010). She achieved continuing success in the television religious supernatural drama Touched by an Angel (1994–2003).

Singer and band leader BUDDY GRECO died on January 10th at the age of 90. Greco was an American jazz and pop singer and pianist, who had a long career in the US and UK and was good friends with the Rat Pack. His recordings, in several genres including jazz, pop, and country, have sold millions of records, including "Oh Look A-There Ain't She Pretty", "Up, Up and Away" and "Around the World".

Actor ADAM WEST died on June 9, 2017 at the age of 88. He was widely known for his role as Batman in the 1960s ABC series of the same name, its 1966 theatrical feature film and two animated feature films Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016) and Batman vs. Two-Face (2017) (The second one being his final work and released posthumously). He performed voice work on The Fairly OddParents (2001), The Simpsons (1992, 2002), and Family Guy (2000-2017), playing fictional versions of himself in all three.

Actress and socialite DINA MERRILL died at the age of 93 on May 22nd. Merrill's film credits included Desk Set (1957), A Nice Little Bank That Should Be Robbed (1958), Don't Give Up the Ship (1959), Operation Petticoat (1959, with Cary Grant, who had been married to her cousin, Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton), The Sundowners (1960), Butterfield 8 (1960), The Young Savages (1961), The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963), I'll Take Sweden (1965), The Greatest (1977), A Wedding (1978), Just Tell Me What You Want (1980), Anna to the Infinite Power (1983), Twisted (1986), Caddyshack II (1988), Fear (1990), True Colors (1991), The Player (1992), Suture (1993) and Shade (2003). She was more famous as a socialite than a move star in latter years.

Bandleader LARRY ELGART died on August 29th at the age of 95. With his brother Les (1917-1995), Larry recorded "Bandstand Boogie", the theme to the long-running dance show American Bandstand. While young Larry played with jazz musicians such as Charlie Spivak, Woody Herman, Red Norvo, Freddie Slack and Tommy Dorsey.

Actor BILL PAXTON died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 61 on Feburary 25th. Paxton appeared in numerous films like The Terminator (1984), Weird Science (1985), Aliens (1986), Predator 2 (1990), Tombstone (1993), True Lies (1994), Apollo 13 (1995), Twister (1996), Titanic (1997), U-571 (2000), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), and Nightcrawler (2014). Paxton also starred in the HBO drama series Big Love (2006–11). In 2013, he received an Emmy Award nomination for his performance in the miniseries Hatfields & McCoys.

Comedian DON RICKLES died on April 6th at the age of 90. was an American stand-up comedian, actor, and author. He became well known as an insult comic, but his pudgy, balding appearance and pugnacious style led to few leading roles in film or television. His prominent film roles included Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) with Clark Gable and Kelly's Heroes (1970) with Clint Eastwood. He later voiced Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story franchise. He won a Primetime Emmy Award for the 2007 documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project.

Singer KEELY SMITH died on December 16th at the age of 89. She was a Grammy Award-winning American jazz and popular music singer, who performed and recorded extensively in the 1950s with then-husband Louis Prima, and throughout the 1960s as a solo artist. She was married to Louis Prima from 1953 to 1961, and together they scored a major it with their record of "That Old Black Magic" from 1958.

Actor ROBERT GUILLAUME died on October 24th at the age of 89. He was known for his role as Isaac Jaffe on Sports Night (1998-200_ and as Benson on the TV series Soap (1977-1981) and the spin-off Benson (1979-1986) as well as for voicing the mandrill Rafiki in The Lion King.(1994). In a career that spanned more than 50 years he worked extensively on stage, television and film. For his efforts he was nominated for a Tony Award for his portrayal of Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, and twice won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of the character Benson DuBois, once in 1979 on Soap and in 1985 on Benson. He also won a Grammy Award in 1995 for his spoken word performance of a audiobook version of The Lion King.

Actor ROGER MOORE died at the age of 89 on May 23rd. Sir Roger Moore was an English actor. He is best known for having played secret agent James Bond in seven feature films from 1973 to 1985. He also played Simon Templar in the television series The Saint from 1962 to 1969 and Lord Brett Sinclair in The Persuaders! from 1971 to 1972. Moore took over the role of Bond from Sean Connery in 1972, and made his first appearance as 007 in Live and Let Die (1973). The longest serving Bond, he went on to portray the spy in six more films