Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday's Favs

(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from May 29, 2009

W-h-o C-a-r-e-s?

First, let's call it for what it is, not what its title is.

The National Spelling Bee has nothing to do with spelling.

Well, maybe a little bit. But only a little bit.

The Bee is, in fact, a test of one's memory. The ability to remember the order in which the letters of words that no child will ever use, come in.

It's a demanding, almost cruel ordeal we put the children through.

And what do they get out of it, exactly?

Nausea. Cold sweats. Fainting spells -- no pun intended. Wracked nerves.

Besides, the Indian-American kids seem to have this down pat, so why bother anymore?

This year's winner is a 13-year-old girl from Kansas who is now the seventh Indian-American child to win the event in the past 11 years.

Her name is Kavya Shivashankar.

“Spelling has been such a big part of my life,” said the Scripps Spelling Bee 2009 winner to the Associated Press. Kavya has been participating in national bees for several years, including the 2008 Scripps bee.

I'm sure she's a sweet girl, but she's got it all wrong.

Spelling hasn't been a big part of her life. Memorization has been.

I'm not sure why we have spelling bees, if the words that are included have a 0.1% chance of being uttered in everyday conversation.

Look, I think the idea of a spelling bee, in its purest form, is a grand idea.

There's nothing wrong with knowing how to spell, No. 1.

I don't know about you, but I encounter bad spelling on a daily basis, and not just on Twitter or in e-mails.

How about on menus, or on signs?

And not just the handwritten ones, either. The kind that actually have to go through (you would assume) some sort of proofreading process.

So I'm not anti-spelling. Far from it. As a writer and editor, good spelling is sort of a part of my life.

But I'm anti-child abuse, and that's what I see the spelling bees--with these high stakes--as being.

Kavya being consoled after being eliminated from the 2008 National Bee

If we're going to have a National Bee, how about testing the kids on words they're likely to encounter somewhere other than a medical or psychiatric journal?

That's right--little Kavya's winning word was “Laodicean,” a phrase referring to lukewarm or indifferent feelings toward religion.

Yeah, that's something 13-year-olds are talking about at lunchtime.

According to this story, Kavya used the technique of writing the letters into her palm with her finger while saying them aloud.

Mirle Shivashankar told the AP that his daughter’s victory was “the moment we’ve been waiting for” and “a dream come true.”

That's all well and good, but these bees make me almost more uneasy than the kind that buzz around and sting.

The reason? They simply aren't, anymore, within the framework of what well-meaning spelling bees used to be.

A true spelling bee was designed to get kids to learn how to spell words, not medical terms or sociological categories.

Today's bees, which are the culmination of local and statewide bees prior to them, aren't designed to be helpful at all to the kids' futures.

It's all about who can cram and memorize the best.

Let's have bees that ask kids how to spell "bankruptcy" and "foreclosure". Maybe "waterboarding" and "recession."

Too easy? Maybe. But more reflective of life.

Recent bee champs have gone on to great things in life--doctors and engineers, for example.

Wonderful. But my gripe isn't that the kids aren't smart enough to make it in today's world.

Let's just not call them "spelling bees" anymore. Because they're not.

Fie on them!

F-i-e. Fie.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Zero Tolerance

Allow me to toot the horn of my alma mater for a second.

Maybe you've seen the billboards, or read it in the newspaper. (Does anyone read newspapers anymore?)

By billboard, you'll notice it by the three big, fat zeroes under the words Tuition, Room, and Board.

Eastern Michigan University, my haunts circa 1981-85, is doing something no Michigan university has done in some 25 years.

It's holding its rates of tuition, room and board flat for the 2010-11 school year, from the current year.

They're calling it the "Big, Fat Zero" campaign.

This after one of the smallest rate hikes in the state last year---just 3.82 percent.

"We recognize how desirable an affordable, quality college education is," EMU President Sue Martin said. "I applaud the Board of Regents for taking this necessary risk."

The "risk," of course, is financial on EMU's part. A zero percent increase means you can't count on additional dollars in the budgeting process.

Not unless you increase enrollment.

See how that works?

What's "Big, Fat Zero"? EMU students and staff "spell it out" for you

President Martin's university is banking that a zero percent increase across the board, combined with a tiny increase last year, will make EMU more attractive to not only incoming freshmen, but current students as well, so that they'll continue their education at Eastern.

As it stands now, an in-state student taking 30 credit hours for the school year will pay roughly $8,300 for tuition, room and board. That's not too bad these days.

EMU is also making news with an aggressive fundraising campaign---no doubt encouraged by their "Big Fat Zero" initiative---that aims to raise $50 million.

It's called "Invest, Inspire," and here's how they're describing it on the university's website:

EMU is seeking $50 million in philanthropic support from alumni and friends, businesses and foundations, parents and employees. This support will allow EMU to sustain its current excellence while also adding new resources, key capital projects and programs, through its endowment. In other words: In the face of shrinking resources and state funding, this support will endow EMU’s future.

So how does Eastern propose to raise $50 million?

Answer: they don't have to---they've already raised over $34 million.

You heard me.

If you go to the campaign's page on the EMU website, you'll see an odometer-looking thing. The university is less than $16 million away from its goal.

And they just kicked off the campaign about a month ago---on April 19, 2010.

All this, of course, makes an old EMU alum like me pretty proud.

Now, about that football program...

Zero, you see, was also the EMU win total in football last year.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mommy Dirtiest

If you saw mommy kissing Santa Claus, apparently that's not the worst of it---hardly.

As Christine Durst puts it, bad economy makes for some strange bedfellows.


Durst is the CEO of StaffCentrix, one of the actually legitimate firms that hires out work for stay-at-home types.

She says these tough times have seen an uptick in stay-at-home moms working as phone sex operators.

"Some of them are kind of apologetic, and even sheepish," Durst told CNN of the moms she's spoken to for a book she wrote. "They say that they normally would never consider doing this sort of thing."

But, Durst says, not all moms are ashamed or embarrassed.

"Some of them actually enjoy it."

Durst says a phone sex mommy will drop off her kids at school, tease and titillate men for a few hours during the day, and then pick up the kids, who are clue-free.

As for the spouses of these tart-tongued mothers, Durst says for the most part, they're understanding.

"A majority of the phone sex operators who are moms have full spousal support," Durst says.

In other words, far be it from the daddies to worry about how the sausage is made---so to speak.

Durst says the phone sex mommies can pull in anywhere from $10 to $30 per hour---and some make even more than that. The work is done via voice and text, through a new phenomenon known as "sexting" --- where lurid, suggestive messages are sent via text.

The less sensationalistic term for the phone sex mommies is "phone actress," Durst says.

You can watch the video interview with Durst here.

Puts a whole new meaning into the word "nurturing," wouldn't you say?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday's Favs

(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from November 9, 2009

Big, Dead John

There's been some scuttlebutt over a new DirecTV ad that features comedian David Spade and his former partner in crime, Chris Farley.

The DirecTV ads are clever, to say the least. They thrust real-life stars back onto the sets of one of their more famous movies, only this time they break the plane and speak to the viewer, extolling DirecTV's benefits.

They do it by doing an amazing job of recreating the scene through CG effects, but that's really Sigourney Weaver, or Charlie Sheen, or any of the others who've appeared in the campaign, talking to us about DirecTV. The Weaver one is particularly fun, as she speaks to us while battling an alien.

So the latest one has Farley playing one of his over-the-top characters, Spade being the straight man. Spade speaks to us about DirecTV as an aside.

The controversy arises, of course, because Farley is no longer with us. But I recall one of the vacuum cleaner companies running a campaign that superimposed Fred Astaire, dancing up and down walls while operating one of their units.

But beyond the level of taste of the Farley/DirecTV ads, which could be debated, I suppose, it dawned on me that there would be no Chris Farley if there was no John Belushi.

Belushi, who died in 1982 from an accidental drug overdose, administered to him by a girlfriend, was unlike any other performer who preceded him on the big or small screen.

There was no one who matched Belushi when it came to filling the screen with physical, manic comedy. He could be subtle with facial expressions, or he could be loud and boisterous. He could be tender and abrasive and churlish and passionate---often all at the same time.

If you want a glimpse of some of his genius, YouTube a search of Belushi impersonating singer Joe Cocker during a famous "Saturday Night Live" episode. Or watch him while being one half of The Blues Brothers with good friend Dan Aykroyd.

"Animal House," of course, was Belushi's watershed moment on screen. But as bad as "1941" was, he was pretty damn good in that as well. He chewed the scenery---sometimes literally---but a John Belushi going half-speed wouldn't have been near as much fun.

The late, great John Belushi

Just before he died, Belushi tried some more dramatic roles, particularly in "Continental Divide," where he played a reporter in a love story written by the great Lawrence Kasdan. He also tried black comedy with the disturbingly funny "Neighbors."

Belushi was 33 when he died in Hollywood from a fatal drug cocktail.

Chris Farley was also 33, creepy enough, when he died in Chicago, also from a drug mishap. And, like Belushi, Farley was a gifted physical comedian with a grandiose personality that dominated the screen. And like Belushi, Farley gained notoriety from being a "Saturday Night Live" cast member.

The comparisons are eery but also wonderfully symmetrical.

John Belushi blazed the trail for the Chris Farleys of the world, but who was Belushi's predecessor?

Who filled the mise en scene as completely and with as much energy as John Belushi, before Belushi came along?

John Belushi, it says here, was one of the greatest performers in television history. Certainly one of its biggest, both in talent and in personality. And he was just starting to make movies his territory, too, before he died prematurely.

Chris Farley, too, could have done some more great things if given the time.

That both Belushi and Farley were gone at age 33, just when they were scratching the surface of their talent, should be what we're offended by---not whether DirecTV uses Farley's likeness in a promo some 12 years after his death.

It's like what the late Dick Schaap wrote about sometimes vulgar comedian Lenny Bruce after Lenny OD'd in his prime.

"Here's another four-letter word for you, Lenny," Schaap wrote. "DEAD, at age 40."

THERE'S your shock value.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May Days

Whatever you think of unions, this one can't go unacknowledged.

The UAW turns 75 this month.

It's true. The United Auto Workers union was founded in Detroit in May 1935. It was first born under the auspices of the American Federation of Labor (AFL).

Seems that the AFL's focus was primarily on craft unions at the time, and some within were getting restless. Then union leader John L. Lewis, at the AFL's 1935 convention, created a splinter group of industrial unions and called it the Committee for Industrial Organization---the original CIO.

After just one year, the AFL suspended the unions within the CIO, so Lewis and his people---including the new UAW---formed the "new" CIO, the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

It wouldn't be until 1955 when the CIO would rejoin with the AFL, forming the aptly named AFL-CIO.

But back to the UAW.

The UAW was one of the first major unions that was willing to organize African-American workers, which is no surprise when you consider that one of its early stalwarts became a Civil Rights leader.

Walter P. Reuther was his name, and he died 40 years ago this month in a small plane crash near Pellston, Michigan.

May is a big month in UAW history, because it doesn't end with the formation of the UAW and the death of Reuther, the former union president who put the UAW on the map politically.

May is also the anniversary month of "The Battle of the Overpass."

Haven't heard of it? Well, let me tell you a little story...

It's 1937. There's an issue at Ford Motor Company between the UAW and management. The union wants an $8/hour, six-hour workday. Ford prefers the existing $6/hour, eight-hour day.

The UAW wanted its $48 per day in quicker fashion.

Reuther, along with fellow union leaders Bob Kanter, Richard Frankensteen and J.J. Kennedy, gathered on the pedestrian overpass over Dearborn's Miller Road at Gate 4 of the Rouge Complex.

They were going to pass out leaflets pumping their idea of what a workday should be.

The distribution was to take place around 2:00---at shift change time, so as to maximize the number of passersby.

Ford management didn't like this.

So along came some goons from Ford's Service Department, an internal security force---and they took the word "force" literally.

As photographers snapped pictures of Reuther et al, the Service Department goons advanced. Disregarding the photogs, the goons attacked the labor leaders, beating them brutally.

Frankensteen got the worst of it. His jacket was pulled over his head and he was kicked and punched incessantly. Reuther was tossed down the steps of the overpass.

Big mistake---for the Ford people.

One of the photographers who didn't have his plates broken or confiscated was Scotty Kilpatrick, from the Detroit News.

Kilpatrick snapped several pics of Reuther and the boys getting their butts kicked. And he had the wherewithall to hide them under the backseat of his car after being chased to the vehicle. He handed over useless other plates from his front seat to the Ford goons.

The results?

Kilpatrick's photos were splashed all over the country, even finding their way on the pages of the New York Times.

(From left): Bob Kanter, Walter Reuther, Richard Frankensteen, and J.J. Kennedy prepare to pass out leaflets on the pedestrian overpass near Gate 4

Moments later, Frankensteen fights for his life against goons from Ford's internal security force (both photos: Scotty Kilpatrick, Detroit News)

The images of Ford's security people beating up union leaders didn't do the automaker any favors. Though not photographed, some of the beating victims were even women, who had arrived thinking they were going to help pass out leaflets. Instead, the goons beat them up, too. Nice guys.

The other result was that Kilpatrick's photos were so compelling that it was deemed that a Pulitzer Prize should now be awarded for photography---and Scotty Kilpatrick was the first winner.

Despite Henry Ford's assertion that the UAW would organize his company "over my dead body," the fallout from Battle of the Overpass would lead to Ford Motor Company bedgrudgingly signing a contract with the UAW within three years.

It all happened on May 26, 1937.

Now you know.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Can't-Miss USA

She's Miss USA and she's from Michigan. Hooray!

Oh, she's gorgeous, as you would expect---but this time Miss USA looks a little different.

That's because she's Arab American.

Rima Fakih of Dearborn wears the crown today, chosen over 50 other contestants at yesterday's pageant in Las Vegas.

She's 24, of Lebanese descent, and a graduate from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a bachelor's degree in economics and business management.

And did I say gorgeous?

Fakih works in marketing at the Detroit Medical Center, and she's got the Arab American community atwitter.

"This is unbelievable," gushed Rami Haddad of Livonia. "It's a dream come true. I can't express my feelings."

"This is the real face of Arab Americans," said Zouheir Alawieh of Dearborn. "Not the the stereotypes you hear about. We have culture. We have beauty. We have history, and today we made history. She (Fakih) believed in our dreams."

I had no idea the Arab American community would be so agog about one of theirs winning Miss USA, but I must say---I'm proud of them.

Rima Fakih

Good for them, because they haven't exactly had the best of images around these parts in the past, oh, eight years, eight months, and six days---if you get me.

I'm proud of them because they wanted this not to give us all the bird, but to feel more like they belong. What better way to do that than to hold up one of your brethren as Miss USA, for goodness sakes?

Rima Fakih is beautiful and smart and has a bright future and she's Miss USA. The fact that she's of Lebanese descent is secondary.

Some will disagree with me. They'll look past her beauty and see the dark hair and the olive skin and the name and they'll sneer.

She's Arab!! She's not one of us!!

Fine. You'll not change those minds, no matter how hard you try.

And there's this.

When asked how she felt about winning Miss USA, Fakih said---and I'm not making this up---"Ask me after I've had a pizza."

Now THAT'S an American girl!

At La Pita Restaurant in Dearborn, they had a viewing party---not knowing who would win, of course. Well, apparently the place went bonkers when Fakih came out on top.

Some of her supporters wore t-shirts that bore this quote, from Rima Fakih herself.

"It's beauty that captures your attention, personality which captures your heart."

Red, white and blue decorations dotted the La Pita banquet hall.

They read, simply, "USA."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday's Favs

(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from December 2, 2009

Revving Up with a V-8

Wow---I really could have had a V8.

Rummaging in the fridge the other day, in the post-Thanksgiving version of nuclear winter, I happened to take a gander wayyy back on the third shelf down.

There they were: a few six-ounce cans of V8, "Extra Spicy" version.

I actually enjoy V8. A lot. Yet it's not something I think about buying. I cruise right by it in the grocery store.

The company's longtime tag line is spot on.

"I coulda had a V8!!"

Forget how good it tastes as part of a bastardized Bloody Mary; V8 is surprisingly refreshing (considering it's made from...VEGETABLES!) and has one of the best after tastes you'll ever find in a drink---especially one made from...VEGETABLES!

This isn't tomato juice, by the way; let's get that clear right off the bat. It looks like tomato juice, yes. And its primary flavor is clearly culled from tomatoes. But this isn't just tomato juice. The drink's name ought to tip you off: eight vegetables (at least) squeezed and mashed together into a sort of non-alcoholic hooch that'll bowl you over with its tang and flavor.

Yeah, I sound like I'm hawking the stuff, but I don't care. A swig of V8 is like smelling salts for your mouth---it wakes it up, and fast.

Yet I rarely buy it. I never ask for it at restaurants. Something so good, something I enjoy so much, yet I shove it back to the recesses of my brain. What gives?

I suppose that's what the V8 folks (it's put out by Campbell's) have been battling over the decades. They have a terrific product that sticks to the customers' consciousness like Teflon.

It simply is not the first drink of choice, despite how great it is.

I like cranberry juice, too, but that only seems to make its way into our fridge around the holidays---because it mixes really well with vodka, for one.

Might it be the cost? A good sized bottle of cranberry juice---if it's Ocean Spray, anyway---can run you every bit of four dollars, at least. V8 isn't cheap, either.

One caveat, though. Don't drink V8 on ice. Instead, wait until it gets verrry cold, then pour a glass. Then drink it quickly. It's a process, see. But trust me---I know what I'm talking about here. Follow the above instructions, and you'll enjoy your V8 immensely.

If you remember to buy some, that is.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Their Days Should be Numbered

Including area code, there are 10 digits to any garden variety telephone number.

Tell that to the folks at Progressive Insurance.

I'm sorry to pick on Progressive, but they're the most egregious example of what's been making me cranky lately.

I find that as I get closer to 50 years old (I'll be 47 this summer), it doesn't take much to crank up my crank machine.

Progressive, if you'd like to call them, pumps a phone number that defies logic and that makes its own rules for dialing.


The "area code" for purposes of this number is the toll-free 800, thus leaving seven digits to dial a proper, legal phone number.

"Progressive" contains 11 letters.

I think you see where I'm going here.

What the Progressive people want you to do is use the name of their company to better remember their phone number. On the surface, I understand that sentiment.

Two problems.

One, you have to dial four superfluous numbers.

Two, the new "smart" cell phones, like BlackBerries, aren't so smart.

A traditional telephone keypad contains both numerals and letters; you know---2 is also ABC, 3 is DEF, etc.

But a smart phone doesn't play that game---which has only been around since the days of WWI, for crying out loud.

The numbers on a smart phone share the same keys as the letters on a QWERTY keypad, a fancy term for a typewriter keypad.

So the 1 is on W, the 2 is on E, etc.

This doesn't do you any good when the phone number you are meaning to dial isn't a number at all, but rather a word.

Try dialing 1-800-PROGRESSIVE (forget the 11-digit thing for a moment) with a "smart" phone, if you haven't committed to memory what number P is, then R, and so on, on a traditional telephone keypad.

Here's what I want: I want a phone number. Just give me a phone number. I don't want cute, clever words---just numbers.

Turns out that 1-800-PROGRESSIVE, for example, is 1-800-776-47377483.

See how silly that sounds?

Huh? You're supposed to dial "dot-com, inc.", too?

I guess the beef I have isn't with the notion of using names instead of numbers, in of itself. To be fair, this phenomenon began way before smart phones came out.

My complaint is the abuse of this practice; read: using words that contain more than seven letters!

Like I said, 1-800-PROGRESSIVE is, by far, the worst abuser of this attempt to provide an easy-to-remember phone number.

If you dial all 15 numbers, the phone thinks you're nuts. It may or may not complete the call after the first 10 digits. Regardless, it's probably wondering what the hell you're doing, tapping in 15 freaking numbers for a task that only requires 10.

1-800-FLORIST is nice because it shouts the name and purpose of the company, AND---bonus---it only uses up the allotted seven key punches!

But gradually, companies began fudging---sneaking eight-letter words into their cutesy phone numbers, then nine.

Progressive takes the cake, with 11.

Still, I prefer numbers only. OR, a compromise: announce the cutesy number (for radio spots, for example), then repeat it in numerical form.

"Call 1-800-FLORIST; that's 1-800-356-7478!"

Printed forms of the cutesy numbers sometimes will include both alphabetical and numerical versions. God bless those people who provide that.

Just thought I'd share that with you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Final Horne

The Lady and Her Music may be gone, but they'll be far from forgotten.

That was the title of Lena Horne's one-woman Broadway show, but that was far from all she was.

She was much more than a lady and her music.

Horne died yesterday, 92 years young. And I mean that sincerely.

Horne, even near the end, had skin like porcelain and Fred Astaire eyes---they danced.

Folks used to make fun of Dick Clark for never showing his age. Lena Horne had Clark beat in a route.

Horne entertained for about 60 years and some change. She was a dynamic performer---one of those precious few whose mere presence in the room created a buzz. If you knew Lena Horne was backstage about to perform, you didn't settle back to watch---you strapped yourself in and made sure your tray was in the upright position.

Alas, Horne was another performer whose political views (read: left of center) got her blacklisted during the Red Scare. She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington in 1963 and was quite the Civil Rights activist, in her own inimitable way.

Her ethnicity was a spicy blend of African-American, European, and Native American.

The Lady

Horne started belting them out at the legendary Cotton Club in Harlem, way back in 1933. Her career path would eventually lead her to Hollywood, but she would grow disenchanted in Tinsel Town and focus primarily on her nightclub act.

In a comeback of sorts, Horne won a special Tony Award for Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music in 1981. The show gave her a record she still holds today: longest-running solo performance in Broadway history.

But this was also a woman who worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to help pass anti-lynching laws in the 1940s, and who would refuse to perform with the USO for segregated audiences.

Last but not least, there was the voice. If you listened closely, Lena Horne's voice would wink at you. I swear it.

"As much as I try," Horne used to say, "when I open my mouth, Lena comes out, And I get so mad."

She was a little hard on herself, don't you think?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday's Favs

(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from February 3, 2010

Ain't it Funny

"60 Minutes" was chatting up The Great One---and I don't mean Wayne Gretzky---and they had a simple yet probing question.

This was Jackie Gleason, of course---the original Great One, and the question came as he relaxed with the ubiquitous drink nearby.

"Why do you suppose," the query began, "The Honeymooners is still so popular, after all these years?"

Gleason smirked beneath that pencil-thin mustache of his.

"Why? Because it's FUNNY."

Well said.

Gleason is another of those entertainers that no mother has been able to spawn since he was a part-owner of the television airwaves back in the 1950s. And he's right; The Honeymooners has stood the test of time because it was, as Gleason said, funny. As hell.

And to think that most of the action took place on a sound stage so small that the camera barely had to pan left or right during any given episode.

Gleason and Audrey Meadows and Art Carney performed in a phone booth, pretty much, and they made raucous fun. To this day, I get a certain thrill when I see The Honeymooners pop up on the tube.

Gleason as beleaguered---and funny---Ralph Kramden

Legend has it that Gleason, when he did his self-named TV show in New York, would leave the studio during the credits---the show was done live---and walk across the street to a bar for a nightcap. The story goes that sometimes a patron at the bar might look up at the TV above the bar, see the credits rolling, and look to his right and see The Great One, well into his first Scotch.

Gleason might have been the only entertainer to own his own train.

Years after closing the door on his television career, Gleason settled in Miami. And he bought a train and traveled around the country---clearly not in a hurry to get wherever he was going.

"60 Minutes" wanted to know about the train, too. And again they asked a silly question, as it turned out.

"Was there a bar on the train?" they wanted to know.

Gleason was incredulous.

"Was there a BAR on the train? The whole TRAIN was a bar!"

Why bring up Gleason? We finally broke out a Christmas present the other night---an entire season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on DVD---the fifth season, specifically.

Moore's show still appeals now largely because of Jackie Gleason's logic: Because it's funny.

They're all still with us---with the exception of Ted Knight---and that's nice to know, too. Even Betty White, over 80 years old, is still doing it. She was marvelous in Sandra Bullock's The Proposal last year.

From Mary Richards always calling her boss "Mr. Grant" to Knight's brilliant portrayal of dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks anchorman Ted Baxter, to the razor-edged tongue of Murray Slaughter, The MTM Show is just as funny now as it was in the early-to-mid-1970s.

I don't remember what episode in the series it was, but one of the funniest moments was when Mary was so angry at "Mr. Grant" that she said, "You don't even deserve to be called 'Mr. Grant.' You're....LOU!!"

I bet Jackie Gleason would drink to that. He did to everything else.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Seeing Red

I used to have a crush on Lynn Redgrave.

I've always had a thing for redheads, though I'm married to a gorgeous Italian woman with dark hair.

In the 1980s and '90s, I was the only member of my own little Lynn Redgrave Fan Club. I found the actress's British accent and her red hair and her class to be very attractive.

She wasn't a classic beauty by any stretch, and there may be others of the male persuasion who'd argue vehemently that Redgrave wasn't even good looking, period.

But I always thought she was.

I remember in the early-1990s she was appearing at a local celebrity golf outing and the TV station I was working for sent a camera crew there to get some show IDs from as many celebs as they could.

You know---"When I'm in Detroit I watch 'The Sports Guys' with Greg Eno."

Stuff like that.

They got ice skater/analyst Scott Hamilton and a couple others to pump our local shows, including my sports gab fest.

When the crew came back, someone mentioned that Lynn Redgrave was there.


I filleted them for not getting Redgrave to do a Greg Eno show ID.

Bob Zahari, one of my colleagues, looked at me cross-eyed.


He made a funny face.

I shrugged.

"What can I say? I like to look at her"

Redgrave, 67, passed away yesterday after a seven-year battle with breast cancer.

She, of course, comes from a long lineage of actors. And it was just last year when Lynn's niece, Natasha Richardson, died after a tragic skiing mishap.

Lynn Redgrave was a two-time Oscar nominee: for Best Actress in 1966's "Georgy Girl," and for Best Supporting Actress in 1998's "Gods and Monsters."

She was a remarkable actor, one of the more underrated of her time. Says me.

After her breast cancer diagnosis, she went on the stump, urging women to have regular mammograms whenever possible.

She had a delightful take on life.

"God," she once said, "always has another custard pie up his sleeve."

Rest in peace, Red.