Showing posts from October, 2010

Steak Out

Venerable Carl's Chop House, near Grand River and the Lodge Freeway, is being torn down this week. My family and I enjoyed many meals there, and the restaurant's demolition strikes a sad chord. As a tribute to this legendary steak house, here's a piece I wrote about Carl's in this space on April 10, 2009.

Chop Shop

Carl's Chop House is no more. Never again will a steak thrill me so.

It's been closed for several months now, Carl's has. But the familiar sign is still there, visible as you head down the Lodge Freeway, near Grand River.

All you non-Detroiters, keep reading. Because no matter where you live, you need to know that once upon a time sat a steakhouse where I nearly ran into the kitchen and yanked the chef into the dining area.

Don't worry; it wasn't to throttle him. Instead, I wanted to reveal to the customers that there existed a man who knew how to cook a steak "well done" while, at the same time, preserving its juices and …

Burning Sensation

I smell them in the evening, as I walk our Jack Russell Terrier around the neighborhood, and few things stagger my olfactory nerves with such a wallop.

They're bonfires, and folks are having them all over the place anymore. And that's a good thing.

We sprung for a nice, stone-framed fire pit this spring, in anticipation of those cool evenings when you'd just as soon be outside next to crackling wood than inside watching TV.

There's something wonderfully intoxicating about gathering around a fire, in your own backyard, assembling some gooey s'mores or turning an impaled frankfurter over the flame. Or just sitting and staring at the orange, yellow and blue that emanates from the burning wood.

You can get awfully relaxed looking at a fire. The worries of the day magically leave you. And the smell, meshed with the cool autumn air, makes you feel like you're camping in the woods.

The fire experience reached its apex for us as a family in late August, when we vacationed n…

45 Caliber Records

I hear them now on the radio and I can practically recall what they looked like in their physical form.
Record labels called Capitol, A&M, Columbia and Mercury.
They were my 45 records and I had a bunch of them.
I hear the songs now and I smile to myself. Suddenly I remember what they looked like, spinning on the turntable---with the yellow plastic thingie in the middle so the disc can play on the narrow spindle of your parents' stereo.
The list comes to mind now.
"Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas, who should be inducted into the One-Hit Wonder Hall of Fame.
"Fire" by the Ohio Players.
"Philadelphia Freedom" by Elton John.
Plus tons of tunes by the likes of The Monkees, Stevie Wonder, the Brothers Johnson, Barry White, and Neil Diamond.
Can't forget the novelty songs, such as "Shaving Cream" by Benny Bell, and "Earache My Eye" by Cheech and Chong.
I can just about see the labels in my mind---their color, the logos, even the font st…

So Long, Mr. C

The exasperated spouse or parent has been a staple in American family sitcoms since they were recording the programs on kinescopes. That remained constant for decades; what would change was the source of the exasperation---another spouse, a child, a neighbor, etc.

Tom Bosley was among the best at being exasperated, and Lord knows he had plenty of sources with which to deal.

Bosley, 83, passed away today at his home in Palm Springs, CA, his family said. Reports say he died of heart failure, and that he was also battling lung cancer. A recent staph infection didn't help, either.

Bosley was Howard Cunningham, father of Richie and Joanie and husband to Marion on the ABC hit "Happy Days," which ran from 1974-84.

There was no shortage to the annoyances Howard Cunningham had to put up with.

There were his kids, who although well-behaved for the most part, were also rather impressionable and prone to getting caught up in the schemes of their friends.

Ah, those friends---Ralph Malph, P…

Importance of Being Ernest

The eyebrows have long ago gone gray but are still as bushy as the Serengeti. The nose is bulbous, the smile as gap-toothed as ever. The voice still sounds like it's coming out of a cement mixer.

Ernie Borgnine was never an attractive man, unless you're one of those who like creatures that are so ugly that they're cute, like a koala bear.

Yet here Borgnine is, 93 and still we see his mug on the big screen.

Borgnine is one of those actors who was always old. "McHale's Navy" debuted almost 50 years ago and Ernie looked old then.

It's been 55 years since Borgnine made his mark in the film "Marty," in which he played the title character, a warm-hearted butcher who was also a shameless mama's boy. The film was an adaptation of the great teleplay by Paddy Chayefsky and earned Borgnine the Academy Award for Best Actor---beating out the likes of Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Cagney and Spencer Tracy, no less.

From then, Borgnine made a living in film playing roug…

Land Ho!

The 41-year-old explorer obsessed with finding a western route to Asia struck land 518 years ago today, believing that he'd accomplished his goal. He hadn't, but that's OK; he accomplished much more.

Christopher Columbus, the Italian from Genoa, was born to be a seaman. He started at a very young age and eventually became a maritime entrepreneur. It wasn't much longer before he was brimming with how delectable it would be to head west and end up in China, India, and the gold and spice islands of Asia.

Because of the Ottoman Empire's barricades of both land and sea, the route to Asia via Egypt and the Red Sea was closed off to Europeans. That left Columbus with only one direction to his white whale of destinations: west.

Columbus and others of his ilk had no idea that the Pacific Ocean even existed, so when he struck land with his fleet of three ships (Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria) on October 12, 1492---a little over two months after departing from Palos, Spain on August 3…

Slow Burn

OK, let me get this straight.

A rural town in Tennessee charges a $75 annual fee, a.k.a a "fire subscription service," to homeowners. Those who pay the fee can get their fires put out by the local fire department. Those who don't, can't.

That by itself, on the surface, seems odd to me. But whatever---fees is the other "F-word" anymore.

Fees can be billed. They can also be late, but they can be collected after the fact.

Now here's what happened to a man in South Fulton, Tennessee.

As reported on, Gene Cranick's double-wide mobile home caught fire, but when firefighters responded, they protected the home of his neighbor instead---because the neighbor had paid the $75 fee and Cranick hadn't.

"I just forgot to pay my $75," Cranick told ABC News. "I did it last year, the year before. ... It slipped my mind."

The cost?

Cranick lost his home, all his possessions---and his three dogs and a cat.

Unconscionable, right?

"I have no p…

Tony's Reward

Bernard Schwartz was a Bronx kid spawned by Hungarian Jews, his mother a diagnosed schizophrenic. He didn't even learn to speak English right away---Hungarian was his first and only language until age six.
He was inspired by the actor Cary Grant, even enlisting in the U.S. Navy because he marveled at Grant in the film "Destination Tokyo."
Bernard Schwartz was further inspired by Grant to pursue acting, and went to Hollywood mainly for the girls and the money more than for the craft.
It was on the Left Coast, in 1948, when Schwartz borrowed a first name from the novel "Anthony Adverse" and a version of the surname Kurtz from his mother's family and became, just like that, Tony Curtis.
In his younger days in film, Curtis was a raven-haired ladies man with beveling eyes and a slight pout. The Bronx accent never left him.
Curtis played the ladies man on film and in real life. He was married six times, and infidelity played a role in the breakup of his first, to ac…