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Showing posts from June, 2009

A Rudy Awakening

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Rudy Giuliani, once, had all the political capital in the world at his disposal.

Giuliani, as mayor of New York in the wake of 9/11, was more popular in the city than the Statue of Liberty. The political world, it seemed, was his oyster.

He was another whose career aspirations were pumped up, albeit in an unseemly way, by the September 11 tragedy.

President George W. Bush rode that wave for a while, too, until he toppled off the surf board.

Giuliani, it says in the news, is contemplating a run for Governor of New York in 2010.

He's anything but a shoo-in.

When Rudy was at his political zenith, governor was small potatoes for him. Way too small. He had one destination and one destination only in mind: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., as another Republican president to follow Bush.

Even after some of the very same firefighters and policemen that he bonded with in the aftermath of 9/11 grumbled that Rudy wasn't all that, a presidential bid was still on his radar.

It didn't…

Pop Goes the King

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Farrah Fawcett, in one blazing moment, has just been reduced to the obscure answer to a trivia question.

She's now the actress whose death was knocked out of the stratosphere by Michael Jackson's.

Michael Jackson is dead. Again. And that's pretty much all you need to know for your entertainment news for the day. Or for the year.

Jackson died once before.

The cherubic child from the Jackson Five who grew into a fine-looking young man--that Jackson expired sometime in the mid-1980s.

That's my impression, anyway. Jackson died twice, for when you see videos and movie clips of Jackson as part of his brothers' group and when he recorded Off the Wall, it's very much, to me, like looking at someone who's perished.

Jackson was 50 when he suffered cardiac arrest today in Los Angeles. Efforts to revive him failed, and he died at UCLA Hospital, though he may have been dead before the stretcher hit the emergency room door.

So there's your three--the way they die in show bu…

One Small Misstep

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We're coming up on 40 years since one of the most important, you-had-to-see-it-to-believe-it moments in world history. Heck, in the history of the universe.

Also, 40 years since Neil Armstrong blew his big line.

Neil whiffed on it, botched it but good. But he still ended up uttering a gem.

Kids from first grade, almost, know what Armstrong said on July 20, 1969, when he was the first human being to set foot on the moon.

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Yeah, that's what he said, alright. Just not what he intended to say.


Armstrong, about to set foot on the moon and insert the other one into his mouth


What Armstrong wanted to say was close, but different. It was just one letter that was omitted, but had it been included, it would have changed the texture of the quote dramatically.

Here's what he not only intended to say, but maintains he did say: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Armstrong, you see,…

Ed of the Class

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For years, they made fun of Ed McMahon for not doing anything to earn his money.

Then he frittered it away, some was lost on bad investments, and he ended up with hardly anything after all.

McMahon was 86 when he slipped quietly into death overnight in Los Angeles. It's anyone's guess what did him in, because Ed was suffering from so many maladies.

McMahon, of course, will be forever joined at the hip, metaphorically, with Johnny Carson after being his sidekick for so many years.

It's true that Ed didn't do a whole lot. What second banana on a talk show ever did?

Ed came up with his signature "Heeeeeere's Johnny!" and he sold some dog food live during the show and he laughed a lot. And drank a lot too, at times.

Yeah, so he didn't do a whole lot and they paid him big bucks for it.

Anyone here who would have turned the money down?

The thing is, Ed McMahon didn't purport to having done anything. He wasn't ashamed of himself, certainly, but he didn't…

Not-so-Sweet Lou

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Forget the Bushes -- the Romneys might have done the father/son boogaloo in the White House.

If it wasn't for Lou Gordon, that is.

It's a shame that we have grown a whole generation of people who have no idea who Lou was.

Lou Gordon was a media tyrant, in that he put you on his show and sweated the truth out of you under those big TV lights in the WKBD, channel 50 studios.

He made 60 Minutes look like child's play, at times.

Gordon was a Detroit icon, back in the 1960s and '70s. He hosted The Lou Gordon Show on Sunday nights, and when my parents let me stay up to watch it, I usually got an eyeful.

He would bring on everyone from the silly to the serious, and often they ended up the same way: grilled, with marks on their back.

Uri Geller, the reputed mentalist, came on one night and purported to bend spoons. Until Lou humiliated him and exposed him as a fraud.

Lou would get his guests so angry that a familiar scene was said guest ripping off his microphone and stomping off the …

Legal, Matters

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You've seen the gut-wrenching, heartbreaking video clips, no doubt.

The family members of a murder victim, appearing at the sentencing of the convicted, taking their turns at the microphone, testifying about the impact the crime had on them.

It wasn't all that long ago that such a scene was forbidden in Michigan.

Less than 30 years, in fact.

It's also a judicial history nugget that mandatory sentencing guidelines for certain crimes didn't exist in Michigan.

Also less than 30 years ago.

Vincent Chin didn't die in vain. Says me, at least. I hope his family feels the same way.

It was about 27 years ago when Chin was beaten to death in Highland Park by a laid-off autoworker and his stepfather, just days before Chin's scheduled wedding.

He was buried the day after the planned nuptials.

Chin, a Chinese-American possibly mistaken for being Japanese, was singled out by Ronald Ebens and his stepson Richard Nitz at a bar and blamed for the fact that both stepfather and stepson we…

Tower of Power

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In a long history of silly tiffs between the city of Detroit and those beyond its borders, it was one of the silliest.

But considering who was occupying the mayor's seat in the city, it was no wonder that something seemingly so innocuous could turn into the proverbial mountain from mole hill.

The water tower above the Detroit Zoo became a big old bone of contention, circa mid-1980s, in the thick of Coleman Young's tenure as Hizzoner.

It was all much ado about nothing, Bob Berg told me years later. With a chuckle, to boot.

Berg was Mayor Young's spokesperson, both during and after Coleman's years in office.

Berg and I got to know each other while I was Programming Director for Barden Cablevision in Detroit. We became friends of sorts. When my father passed away in February 1996, Bob was one of the first to send condolences.

One day, chit-chatting on the phone, I mentioned the water tower flap. Berg, by that time, had started his own public relations company.

First, the chuckle…

Et Tu, Little Caesar?

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I adore Mike Ilitch. I'm simply amazed at the commitment he's made to the city of Detroit, and the work and money he's put in to his sports teams.

While I haven't agreed with him on everything--the freezing out of Sparky Anderson and his cold attitude toward Tiger Stadium, to name two--I nonetheless shudder to think where so many of us would be had he not come to the rescue of not only the Red Wings, but the city itself.

But Mike--you gotta clue me in on a secret.

I think I'll end up in my grave before I understand how Mike Ilitch made so much money and built such a food empire, selling such an inferior product.

Little Caesar's Pizza.

Ugh.

Now, I must admit, some of my distaste for Mike's pizza pies has to do with repetition.

Back in my TV production days, in local cable, we would have to feed our crew on all remote shoots, and do it for about $40. The cheapest and easiest way was with pizza.

Still is, as a matter of fact, when you need to feed large numbers of peo…

Chastity's Belt

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Chaz says he's ready to get on with his life. He's excited about it. Finally, he can be himself.

After he changes sexes, that is.

"Chaz" is Chastity Bono, the daughter, er, son, of singers Sonny Bono and Cher.

Yes, adorable little Chastity, who used to be brought on stage at the end of some episodes of "The Sonny and Cher Show", has been, for decades, struggling with her sexuality.

So it's time now, apparently, to do something about it.

Chastity will be known as Chaz and is, right now, in the process of sex change.


Chastity (soon to be Chaz) Bono


Of course, Chaz's lack of femininity and brazen homosexuality has been known for years. To some, it was a distinct dichotomy from the cute little girl that Sonny and Cher proudly displayed on camera, and in front of the paparazzi.

So what does it mean?

Just that people are who they are, to themselves, whether or not that conforms to what others feel they should be.

Cute, adorable, little girls with blonde, curly hair…

Is it Safe?

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If what Leon Panetta is accusing Dick Cheney of could ever be proven as true, then they ought to toss ole Dick onto a boat, roll him a wheelchair and shove him off to parts unknown.

You know, like an undisclosed location--to even him.

Panetta, the CIA Director, is, like so many of us, becoming flummoxed by the former vice president's incessant and, in some cases, incendiary criticism of the Obama Administration's policy re: the war on terror.

Cheney has been, for months now, on a media blitz, telling anyone who'll clip a microphone onto his lapel just how "unsafe" we are with Barack Obama and his minions running the country.

I don't know about you, but the more Cheney does that, the more relieved I am that we put the word "former" before his title.

Panetta finally had heard enough, and he went on the offensive.

Firing some incendiary words of his own, Panetta told The New Yorker magazine that Cheney's actions, words, and tactics suggest that the forme…

No WIN Situation

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The buttons and bumper stickers started sprouting up sometime in late-1974, early-1975.

They were designed to be a nationwide rallying cry--a modern-day version of jingoism.

Three letters, that's all.

WIN.

It was a directive from the White House, disguised with a bunch of rah-rah.

President Jerry Ford, in October 1974, made a speech about the economy and then he got some ideas.

WIN.

We thought, back in '74, that the auto industry was in trouble. This was 35 years before their house of cards came down completely and the 11th Chapter was invoked by two of the (formerly) Big Three.

No, 1974 was child's play compared to what's happening now.

But we didn't know that in '74. Detroit shed some jobs. Gas prices started to spike. Not only gasoline, but the prices of coffee, bread, meat--you name it--started to inflate.

That word, inflation.

So Jerry Ford makes a speech and gets the idea: what if we encouraged thriftiness and money-consciousness among the masses?

This inflation, Jer…

Jelly Good!

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Norman Brinker is dead. And you have no idea how much you owe him.

If you like salad bars, that is. And who doesn't like a salad bar?

Brinker was the chairman emeritus of Brinker International Inc. and was one of the pioneers of casual dining. In 1966, he used $10,000 and a $5,000 loan to launch Steak & Ale, a chain that went bankrupt in 2008, and was also the creator of Bennigan's, which was also a casualty of the economic slowdown.

But Brinker's most famous contribution is the salad bar.

I wonder if he was also the one to invent the sneeze guard.

I also hate to think of how the sneeze guard idea came about.

Never mind.

The salad bar got me to thinking about other restaurant inventions.

Like the Daily Special. Or All-You-Can-Eat.

Or this one: jelly packets.

All hail the jelly packet!


Americana!


Where would we be as a society if we couldn't choose from strawberry or grape or apple jelly in cute, convenient little vacuum-sealed containers?

It's one of my guilty little pleasu…

The Enemy Within?

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The exception is so prevalent, they may as well just add it to the penal code in every state and be done with it.

"Innocent until proven guilty...UNLESS a spouse or child goes missing."

Another child is dead and the mom is getting cross-eyed looks.

Five-year-old Nevaeh Buchanan is, likely, a murder victim. The little girl from Monroe, Mich. went missing on May 24 and a body fitting her age and size was found by some fishermen the other day in the River Raisin.

There hasn't been a confirmation yet, but who else is it?

Jennifer Buchanan, Nevaeh's mother, is a "person of interest" -- at least in the public's eye.

The Reader's Digest version is this: Nevaeh was playing with a friend in an apartment building, and then she was gone. The apartment she was to visit is upstairs from the one she lived in with her mother.

More than a week later, the body was found by the fishermen, not too far from Nevaeh's home.

Trouble is, Jennifer Buchanan was seeing a dude nam…

Jew Don't Say!

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OK, so a priest and this black, female, rabbi walk into a bar...

Whoa!

What did you just say?

Um, a black, female rabbi, why?

Is that the punch line?

Meet Alysa Stanton, who was ordained on June 6 as mainstream Judaism's first-ever black female rabbi. She will become the rabbi at Congregation Bayt Shalom in Greenville, N.C., on Aug. 1.

Stanton, 45, completed seven years of rabbinical training at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati.

She will become the first non-white rabbi of Congregation Bayt Shalom, which is a 60-family synagogue.

Like so many others before her who've broken color barriers, Stanton chooses not to place the emphasis on her race.

"I'm honored and awed by this achievement," she told Time magazine. "But I am foremost a rabbi who happens to be African-American, not The African-American Rabbi."

That's the way it should be, of course.

And Jackie Robinson was just a big league ballplayer who happened to be black.

Not buyin…

Kitchen Nightmare

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Forty-one years ago tomorrow, Bobby Kennedy took a wrong turn and it cost him his life and, maybe, changed the course of U.S. history.

It was June 5, 1968, when Kennedy, running for president as Democratic Senator from New York, was gunned down in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

He died about 26 hours later in the hospital, never having regained consciousness after being shot in the head by Sirhan Sirhan.

It almost didn't happen that Sirhan even got a crack at RFK.

Kennedy had just won the California primary, and was looking like the front-runner for his party's nomination.

In one of the most often played pieces of film ever, Kennedy is seen wrapping up his victory speech at the podium in one of the ballrooms with the famous words, "And now it's on to Chicago and let's win there."

The crowd, which had gathered for hours waiting for Kennedy's arrival, roared.

Kennedy turns to his right, conducts a brief interview with a radio reporter, but the…

Chevy's Lemon

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Conan O'Brien started his new gig last night as the latest host of "The Tonight Show."

I missed it, and, truthfully, I'll probably miss a whole lot more.

I don't watch "Tonight" anymore. Of course, I don't watch much TV, period, anymore, but "Tonight" was a favorite of mine.

No longer.

This isn't to disrespect Conan--who I actually like--or Jay Leno (who I kinda like, too).

But come on--is "Tonight" really "Tonight" if Johnny Carson isn't hosting it?

On October 1, 1962, some folks were asking much the same question, only substituting Jack Paar's name where I placed Johnny's. Or Steve Allen's, depending on your preference.

Johnny stayed some 30 years, and I'd say he pretty much silenced his critics.

Johnny didn't walk off the show, like Paar did, for example.

Jack was upset at the network's censoring of him, and decided he'd had enough. On the set. Live, while the show was going on.

A stupefied …

High Jinx

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The secret's out. I'm letting the cat out of the bag.

Jim Blanchard has me to blame for his 1990 gubernatorial election loss. I'm guilty as charged.

I put the jinx on first, and not only Blanchard, but a ton of other Michiganders would probably like to have five minutes with me as a result.

I couldn't help it, judge. The awkward silence was just too much for me to bear.

I sat with John Engler, circa May 1990, and since we didn't know each other and we were alone briefly, it was tantamount to being stuck in an elevator together.

So I spoke up.

"So, it would appear as if you have a bit of a popularity issue," I said, almost wishing I hadn't.

For I had no idea how Engler would take such a churlish remark.

Engler and I spent some quiet moments in the green room--read: waiting room--of the cable TV station I worked at in Taylor.

Engler was the Republican rube, or so I thought, from Mount Pleasant who was being thrown to the wolves in running against incumbent Democ…

Two Blonde Ms

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Marilyn Monroe would be 83 today. If she didn't die nearly 47 years ago, that is.

Her lover, John Kennedy, would be 92.

It's fascinating, to me, to imagine iconic figures at advanced ages.

Can you picture a 74-year-old Elvis Presley?

Ole Pelvis Elvis, at 74?

It comes to mind because, word is, new photos of Marilyn have surfaced, never before published.

But it's not as juicy as it sounds. Apparently the pics were taken before she was a megastar, and show her in a very wholesome light.

Well, nuts!

The shoot dates back to 1950 and was conducted by photographer Ed Clark of Life magazine.

"She hasn't really exploded as a star, yet she was on the brink of something big," says Dawnie Walton, deputy editor at Life.com, a Web site harboring more than 7 million Life magazine photographs. The site was launched in March.

Marilyn was something else, alright, but I still prefer Jayne Mansfield, if you're talking va-va-voom blondes who died prematurely.

Two myths: 1) Marilyn was m…