Friday, July 29, 2016

Movie Review - "Cafe Society"

As my friends know, I am big fan of Woody Allen, and I always look forward each summer when a new movie from Woody is released.  Last year's movie, "Irrational Man", was a disappointment, but I am happy to report that both Marilyn and I really enjoyed his new release, "Cafe Society", when we took it in this afternoon.

The movie is a period piece that takes place in the 1930's and stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively, and Steve Carrell.  It is a story of a young man from New York, Bobby Dorfman (Eisenberg) who goes to Hollywood to land a job with his Uncle Phil, a high-powered Hollywood agent (Carrell).  While there, the nebbish Bobby meets and falls in love with Vonnie (Stewart), a young woman who just happens to be in love and having an affair with the married Carrell.  After that secret is revealed, Bobby moves back to New York and takes up running the sophisticated night club, the high society cafe of the title, that is owned by his gangster brother.  While back in New York, Bobby meets another young woman named Veronica, played by Blake Lively, falls in love, gets married, and starts a family.  Life is good, but one day, Phil and Vonnie show up in Bobby's New York night club, and complications, as they say, ensue.

It sounds a little confusing, but it isn't really as it plays out before you.  Eisenberg is terrific as the "Woody Allen Character" in this one as he fumbles and stumbles around verbally and physically.  He may well be the best of all of the Woody Surrogates that have populated Allen's recent movies.  Both Stewart and Lively are charming in their roles, and Carrell plays a guy who you would probably want to not like, yet he shows a somewhat touching vulnerability as the blustering Hollywood big shot.

The reviews that I have read for this one have been mixed, with most critics saying that while it may be just okay, its not great because, essentially, Allen is making the same movie that he has made a dozen or so times in the past.  Well, this one does remind me of one of my Allen favorites, "Radio Days", in a number of ways:  the period setting, the Jewish family discussing what life has dealt them as they sit around the dinner table, the travails of the main character's extended family, the fact the Allen himself serves as the voice-over narrator of the film, and the climactic scene that takes place in a night club on New year's Eve.  

So maybe Allen has made the same movie before, but to that I say "So what?" He tells the story with enough of a twist to differentiate it from past movies, and he tells it with humor, good writing and direction, and with terrific actors.  It is also a beautiful movie to look at, especially since Allen has returned to New York City to film much of this one.  It has been awhile since Woody has set a movie in New York, and his love affair with his home town shows up as strong as ever.

The Grandstander (and Mrs. Grandstander) give 3 and 1/2 stars to "Cafe Society".

See it.

The Jordan Spieth Pendulum Swings

At this time last summer, the world, or at least the golf world, was pretty much Jordan Spieth's oyster.  He had won both the Masters and US Open, was one errant drive on the 72nd hole away from winning the British Open, and he would go on to win the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup, and $22 million in earnings.  All of this in the summer in which he celebrated his 22nd birthday.

In April, he held a five shot lead at the Masters with only five holes to play and we all know what happened: he gagged up that lead highlighted by a quad on the par three twelfth hole when he put not one, but two, shots in the water. He was bit short with reporters and his fans after that, but, hey, that was understandable, right?

What has followed since was a golf vacation that Spieth took with some of his fellow Tour pros (Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, and Smylie Kaufman) to the Bahamas to decompress that featured some of this type of frat-boy, animal-house hijinks on the golf course:

Yeah, yeah, they're still just twenty-something kids, but how would you have liked to save your money all year long to go on a dream golf vacation to some upscale golf resort in the Bahamas only to have found those guys playing in front of or right behind you?

The season has progressed, Spieth won a tournament in Texas a few weeks after the Masters debacle, but was never a factor in either the US or British Opens.  More to the point, he has been dropping some rather churlish comments in press conferences about how "unfair" it is that he is being held to such high standards in golf's major championships. Well, isn't that just too damn bad.

What young Jordan apparently fails to realize is that he himself set the standards by which he is judged by winning the Masters and the US Open last year.  Maybe it would be better if he HADN'T won those events, and then those mean and nasty reporters wouldn't be hounding him with mean and nasty questions like "What happened at Oakmont?" or "What happened at Troon?" or "How could you possibly rinse not one but TWO shots into Rae's Creek when they were getting ready to stitch your name into the lining of that second green jacket?"

Jordan Spieth is a terrific young golfer.  There is a lot to like abut him. He may well contend for and win the PGA Championship this weekend (five shots off the lead after the first round), and may win a raft of majors and a score of other Tour events over the next ten or twelve years.   Or he may not, who knows, but in the crucible since his meltdown at Augusta, Spieth is appearing to be just another typical young millionaire athlete which a highly inflated sense of entitlement who loves it when things go well, and pouts and whines when they do not.  The NFL, NBA, MLB, and the NCAA are full of those types, and why should the PGA Tour be any different?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

To Absent Friends - Marni Nixon

Marni Nixon

Singer Marni Nixon died ealier this week at the age of 86.  You may not be familiar with her name, you have probably never seen her, but if you are a fan of older movie musicals, there is a very good chance that you have heard her many times.

A classically trained singer, a teen aged Miss Nixon found work -  to help pay for her voice lessons - as a messenger on the MGM lot as teenager, where her beautiful singing voice came to the attention of studio honchos, and she was asked to dub her voice for non-singing actresses in the movies.  According to the obituary in the New York Times, thus began a career that.... 

"starting as a teenager in the late 1940s and continuing for the next two decades, Ms. Nixon lent her crystalline soprano to some 50 films, sometimes contributing just a line or two of song — sometimes just a single, seamless note — that the actress could not manage on her own."

You all remember Marilyn Monroe singing "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", right?  Remember these lines from that song:

"Square cut or pear shaped/These rocks don't lose their shape."

It seems that Miss Monroe just couldn't hit the note required for the word "their" in that second line, so what did they do?  Yep, hired Marni Nixon to dub that particular note in that song.  

She was most famous, however, for supplying the singing voices for Deborah Kerr in "The King and I", Natalie Wood in "West Side Story", and Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady".  Her work in these films was uncredited and she was paid relative peanuts for working on these huge budget movies, the latter two Best Picture Oscar winners.  Studios at the time didn't want the public to know that their bankable stars such as Kerr, Wood, and Hepburn couldn't sing the roles that they were playing, and Miss Nixon  was contractually forbidden to reveal her part in these movies or she would, as the Hollywood cliche goes, "never work in this town again".

Her secret eventually came out, and her bitterness grew, but she did go on to a nice career as concert singer and performer, and she came to be at peace with her particular role in Hollywood history.  She played a role of a singing nun in the movie "The Sound opt Music" and she even played Eliza Doolittle in a Broadway revival of "My Fair Lady" in the 1960's, which was a bit of show biz justice.  

As the Times obit put it, she was "American cinema's most unsung singer."

In closing, here is one of the great songs from one of the greatest of all musicals. The actress is Audrey Hepburn, but the voice is Marni Nixon's

RIP Marni Nixon.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A New Award?

Could The Grandstander's coveted "H.A. Citation" be replaced int he near future by the "DHRA Citation"?

(Photo courtesy of Bill Montrose)

As you all know, the hippopotamus is also known as a "river horse", so the citation is for a Dual River Horse's Ass.  Obviously, this will be awarded to two persons who concurrently distinguish themselves to earn such a high honor.  It won't be easy to earn one of these babies.

Stay tuned.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Locke'd Out

After watching yet another ineffective start from Jeff Locke on Wednesday night, it is my opinion that the Pirates need to move on and away from this guy.  I am tired of the dance that the Pirates have been doing with guys like Chad Kuhl and Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon and Steven Brault.  You know what I mean...bring him up, give him a spot start, send him back to Indy, bring him back from Indy, put him on the DL....yet Locke keeps getting sent out every fifth day in hopes for another "lightning in a bottle" start, like the one against Madison Bumgarner a few weeks ago, only to see him not make it out of the fourth inning AGAIN.

Taillon certainly seems to be here to stay, and, yeah, I know Glasnow still has that Too Many Walks Box to check,  but why was Chad Kuhl sent back to Indy after going toe to toe, pitch for pitch against Max Scherzer on Sunday?

Taillon, Glasnow, and Kuhl may become the Pirates equivalent of a Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz rotation someday.  Or, they may turn out to be the second comings of Kip Wells, Josh Fogg, and Oliver Perez.  I don't know, but I do know what Jeff Locke is, and it is time for the Pirates to move on.  It is my hope that Neal Huntington will make some sort of move or moves at the August 1 trade deadline that will allow the Pirates to revamp the rotation that will include guys like Taillon and Kuhl.

Speaking of Taillon, and it does appear that he now is a part of the rotation, I was fortunate enough to have seats right behind the Pirates dugout (thank you, Tim Baker) on Tuesday night so I was witness to the frightening scene of Taillon being hit in the head by a line drive.

"Frightening" is the best word I can use to describe it, and it is positively unbelievable that he was able to stay in the game and continue to pitch, and pitch quite well.

Tough kid.

To Absent Friends - Bill Cardille

Bill Cardille
1928 - 2016

I suppose that every city has a personality that can be called a "legend" in the community, and yesterday, Pittsburgh lost one of its local legends when Bill Cardille died at the age of 87.  How much of an institution was Cardille?  Here's one way to measure.  I will turn 65 years old in a couple of weeks, and I can never remember a time when Bill Cardille was NOT a part of the Pittsburgh broadcasting zeitgeist.

Cardille was a native of Sharon, PA, went to what is now Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and began a broadcasting career at a TV station in Erie.  In 1957, he became one of the original employees of WIIC-TV (now WPXI), Channel 11, when that station first went on the air.  He began as a staff announcer and sometime newsman, but he became a legend when he hosted two of Channel 11's best known and most popular local shows....

Studio Wrestling

and Chiller Theater.

The Saturday late night Chiller Theater horror movie, which included campy introductions and in-movie commercial break pieces by Cardille and his regular cast of characters, was so popular, that it took at least one season before Channel 11 gave in to NBC network pressure and began to air Saturday Night Live at 11:30 in the Pittsburgh market. Chiller Theater can also be credited with the popularity of the Pittsburgh made movie, "Night of the Living Dead", and plays a big part in boosting the career of director George Romero (this according to Romero himself in the Post-Gazette's obit for Cardille this morning).  The show also gave rise to one of the most iconic nicknames in all of Pittsburgh, "Chilly Billy Cardilley".

Sports fans may also remember Cardille doing play-by-play of WPIAL high school basketball playoff games on Channel 13 back in the 1960's.  In the later part of his life, Cardille served as a mid-day disc jockey on WJAS, the Music of Your Life station, until a format change forced him out, amid much public outcry, a few years ago.  When his daughter went on Facebook in recent weeks to announce that her dad was not doing well, and to ask the public to send him some notes of encouragement, the family was overwhelmed with the thousands of cards and letters that they received.  It was final testimony to the enduring popularity of Bill Cardille.

In an era where all local on-air personalities seem to have the same blow-dried look, and where the only "personalities" are the weather forecasters, it is unlikely that Pittsburgh will see the likes of a Bill Cardille ever again.

RIP Chilly Billy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

To Absent Friends - Garry Marshall

Garry Marshall

A melancholy happy trails to producer-director-writer Garry Marshall who died yesterday at the age of 81.

Marshall is perhaps best noted for creating the 1970's television sitcom, "Happy Days", which beget spin offs "Laverne and Shirley" and "Mork and Mindy".  His imprint was also seen on such shows as "The Odd Couple" and numerous others.  He went on to direct many feature films, the most notable of which was the huge hit, "Pretty Woman" in 1990.

Much of what dominated our popular culture in recent decades (who among us never went "Aaaayyyyyy" and gave a thumbs up gesture like The Fonz always did?) can be traced to Garry Marshall.  In his obituary in Variety he even takes credit, perhaps reluctantly, for the Happy Days episode where The Fonz donned water skies, thus introducing the phrase "jumping the shark" into or vocabularies.

RIP Garry Marshall.

How's This for An Ego?

Massive egos are much in the news these days, so let's add this story out of Charlotte, NC to the "Big Ego File".

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson recently had a statue of himself erected outside of the Panthers Stadium, and since Richardson is still alive, one can only assume that the was done with his blessing and support, and who knows, maybe he even designed it himself.  For certain, he had to have approved the final design.  

Here it is:

That is not just any kind of a statue, is it?  This looks like something that would have been erected in Caesar's Rome, Stalin's USSR, or Mao's China.

Honest to God, would you want to know or be friends with the kind of a person that would agree to something like this?  I mean....

Harry Truman once said something to the effect of "never name a public building after a person or build a monument to a person until they've been dead for thirty years".  This is a lesson that has been painfully learned here in Pennsylvania where controversy over a statue is tearing a community apart.  

In contrast, the somewhat humble statue of Art Rooney that sits outside of Heinz Field was built and dedicated in 1990, after Rooney had died.  One cannot imagine The Chief ever agreeing to having such a thing installed, and, if my memory serves, the Rooney family was reluctant to even have this done.

After this Richardson statue, one shudders to think of what may be running through the minds of people like Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Kid in the Green T-Shirt

In my previous post, I made reference to the kid in the green t-shirt who turned out to be the REAL star of that 18 inning Pirates - Nats game yesterday.
I just found this article on line which is a pretty good essay on the emotions that come with sports fandom, and it shows some great clips of the kid himself.


Sunday Double-Header

Yesterday turned out to be a great day to plant oneself in front of the TV set for some primo sports viewing.  

It began at 9:30 when the leaders, and, it turned out, the only relevant golfers in terms of the Championship, Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson teed off for the final round of The Open Championship, aka, The British Open.  Stenson led by one at the start, and Mickelson, now 46 years old, was looking for his first victory if any kind since he last won the Open in 2013, and what a performance they put on.  Over the course of the final round, the two of them combined to make 14 birdies, 1 eagle, and only two bogies (both by Stenson).  When it was done, Mickelson had shot a 65 and Stenson a 63, which produced a three shot victory for him in golf's oldest Championship.

To be honest, halfway throughout he final round, I felt that Stenson was going to win because I felt that Mickelson's forty-six year old nerves would give way and cause him to lose.  Didn't happen that way.  At all.  Mickelson shot a terrific round of 65, and I think I heard someone say that his -17 finish would have won all but one of the previous 144 Open Championships.  He just happened to come up against a guy who shot a superhuman round in Stenson's 63.

By the way, did anyone else notice that when Dan Hicks kept saying after the 16th hole that Stenson needed to play the last  two holes in one under par to equal broadcast partner Johnny Miller's major championship record low round of 63 shot in the 1973 US Open at Oakmont, that Miller had nothing to say?  And when Stenson sank that thirty footer for birdie on 18 to achieve that record tying 63, Miller again had nothing to say when Hicks made mention of it.  I don't think Johnny, who has now joined the Get Off My Lawn Club, was at all happy about they score of Stenson's.

And I always like the tradition that appears on the scoreboard at The Open Championship each year:


With the conclusion of the Open, it was on to Root Sports and the Pirates-Nationals game.  The big story for the Pirates should have been the six shutout innings, one hit, five strikeout, zero walks performance delivered by rookie Chad Kuhl....

...but, of course, the bigger story became Mark Melancon surrendering a two out home run in the bottom of the ninth that tied the game, 1-1, and which then forced extra innings that stretched out to 18 innings before the Pirates won, 2-1, thanks to Starling Marte's solo HR in the top of the 18th.

Games like this always produce some weird statistical occurrences.  For example:
  • Andrew McCutchen went a mind-numbing 0-for-8.
  • Bryce Harper went 1-for-6, and Nats' fist baseman Clint Robinson went 0-for-7.
  • Pirate catcher Eric Kratz went 1-for-6 which somehow managed to RAISE his batting average to .107.
  • The unlikely Pirates bullpen combo platter of A.J. Schugel, Jared Hughes, Juan Nicasio, and Jonathon Niese combined for a nine inning shutout.
  • Jerry Meals - remember him? - was behind the plate umpiring this game, and he had a chance to balance the books for the Pirates had he called a DOA Eric Fryer safe at the plate in the 16th inning, but, alas, he made the correct call this time and called him out.
And of course, the REAL star of the day was that little kid in the neon green Under Armour t-shirt that Root Sports kept focusing on from the time of the game tying Nats' homer in the ninth and throughout the rest of the game.  I loved him, and so, apparently, did the rest of the country, as the kid blew up the Internet as he ran the gamut of emotions over eighteen long innings.

Nice game to win.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Watching Old Movies

The programming schedule on TCM of late, combined with however my schedule happened to work out, has produced a convergence that has resulted in me watching a spate of old movies in recent weeks.  Thought I'd share some thoughts with you in alphabetical order.....

From 1976, "All The President's Men" directed by Alan J. Pakula and starring Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jason  Robards Jr. and a cast of terrific character actors such as Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, John McMartin, Jane Alexander and Hal Holbrook, among others.  It is the story of the reporters from the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, diligently working to piece together the story that has become known simply as "Watergate" in our history.  It is tense and exciting, made more so because the story is a true one.  It has also been called the greatest movie about newspapers and newspaper reporting ever made.

Can't even count how many times I have seen this movie, and it never gets old.

From 1974, "The Conversation" stars Gene Hackman as a private "security consultant" who is really a wiretapper who records conversations for his clients.  He is the best in the business, but the movie becomes a character study of a guy who is paranoid almost beyond belief, either his profession made him that way, or he turned to his profession because he was that way.  Hackman is terrific in the role, as he is in most everything, and the movie also features Robert Duval (he was unfilled in the credits), Cindy Williams, John Cazale (Fredo from The Godfather movies), and  very young Harrison Ford.  In the movie, Hackman violates his number one rule and becomes involved in the case on which he is currently working with disastrous results.

This movie was nominated for a bunch of Academy Awards, and some critics say it is one of the best movies of the 1970's.  I don't know about that, but it was pretty good.  It is also known as the movie that writer and director Francis Ford Coppola squeezed into his work schedule between a couple of movies that we like to call "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II".

Gene Hackman again in the 1971 Oscar winner for Best Picture, Actor (Hackman), and Director (William Friedkin).  Terrific story about two police detectives who work to track down a massive drug shipment into the United States from France (the "French connection"). Gritty and action packed, this movie might also feature the single greatest car chase scene in any movie ever.  Seeing it again, I had forgotten the somewhat ambiguous ending of this one, but maybe that is what contributed to how good this movie is.  "The French Connection" holds up perfectly forty-five years after its original release.  If you've never seen it, you should.  Well worthy of all those Oscars.

Way back in the summer of 1962, my mother must have been having one of those days where she looked at my Dad and said, "get those two kids out of the house today because I need a break", and so it was that on a Sunday afternoon, my Dad took my sister and me to the Stanley Theater downtown, and we saw "The Music Man".  I loved the movie that day, and I have seen it innumerable times since (not to mention at least three stage productions of the show), and most recently this past Monday night, the 4th of July, and is there a better movie to watch on that holiday?  I think not.

As I was watching this one on Monday, I started making comments about it on Facebook, and I soon found that about a half dozen or so other friends were watching it with me.  How fun that was.

We all know that the songs and the music and the choreography are so great, but I am always struck by a couple of really poignant lines...."You pile up enough tomorrows, Madame Librarian, and pretty soon you'll find that all you've collected is a bunch of empty yesterdays."....."For the first time in my life, I've seem to have got my foot caught in the door."...."I always think there's a band, kid."

As I said on Facebook the other night, I just love "The Music Man".

Until just this afternoon, I had never seen this classic John Ford - John Wayne movie from 1956, a movie that many critics say is the best of the fourteen films that Ford and Wayne made together, and that some say is the greatest Western ever made.

Wayne is very good as the obsessed confederate veteran who spends five years searching for his young niece (Natalie Wood) who was kidnapped by Comanche warriors after they had killed her family.  Interestingly enough, Wayne is not a particularly nice guy in this one.  He served in the Confederacy so one might consider him a traitor, there are hints that he may be a wanted criminal, and his hatred of the Indians is so palpable that he is certainly an avowed racist (a word probably not used much in 1956 when the movie was made).   His intent is such that when and if he does find his niece, he wants to kill her because she has been "used" by the Comanches. (Spoiler Alert: He doesn't.)  In his later years, Wayne often became a caricature of himself, but he was a good actor, and I have found that he was usually at his best when he played not so nice guys ("Red River", "The Shootist", to name two) as he did in "The Searchers".

This movie was also beautiful to look at with much of it being filmed in Monument Valley.  Great John Ford touches throughout.  And the closing shot of a solitary Wayne framed in the doorway is an undeniable classic:

And finally, from 1959, Billy Wilder's classic, "Some Like It Hot", arguably the greatest movie comedy ever made.  The story:  In 1929, musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon happen to find themselves in a Chicago parking garage and witness the St. Valentine's Massacre.  To escape the hoods who want to rub out these witnesses, they disguise themselves as women and go on the lam as members of an All Girl Orchestra, an orchestra that features a ukelele player and vocalist played by Marilyn Monroe. As they say, hijinks ensue, as the band heads to Florida by train and play an engagement in a swanky beach resort.  Hard to say who is better in this one, Lemon or Curtis. Lemon was nominated for an Oscar, a fact that Curtis seemed to resent at the time.  Monroe was Monroe: beautiful, sexy, and totally charming.  Some have said that these three, along with Joe E. Brown and director Wilder did the best work of their careers in "Some Like It Hot".

As Marilyn (Sproule, not Monroe) said when we watched this the other day "This movie is never not funny".  A perfect description of this movie, even if "Nobody's perfect."

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Saluting the Pirates' All-Stars

Congratulations go out to Pirates Mark Melancon and Starling Marte for being named to the National League All-Star team this week.

This will be Marte's first time as an All-Star and Melancon's third straight year on the team.  A well deserved honor for both of them.

And a word about Andrew McCutchen.

The bad start, which has turned into a season long slump, for McCutchen has been well documented, and he has, deservedly, been left off of the All-Star team for the first time since 2010.  McCutchen had made the All-Star team five seasons in a row. You know what other Pirates ever made the All-Star team five seasons in a row?

Ralph Kiner and Roberto Clemente.  And Andrew McCutchen.  That's it.  That's the list.

So let's salute Cutch for a great body of work over the last five years and wish him a well deserved rest over the Break.  And with five hits, a home run and couple of RBI's in the last two games against the Cubs, maybe, just maybe, he's turning it around and will have a huge Cutch-like second half.  

See you at the All-Star Game in 2017, Andrew.

Josh Bell ARRIVES!!!!!!

It was my plan to do The Grandstander's traditional "Bucs at the Break" post later this evening or tomorrow morning, and I will do that, but I cannot let any more time pass without commenting on the unbelievable debut this weekend of Pirates prospect Josh Bell.  You know the story - Bell brought up just to provide an extra bat off of the bench for the final three game series against the first place Cubs before the All-Star Break, just in case they need a pinch hitter, and he'll be headed back to Indianapolis after the weekend.

The debut on Friday was nice - a first pitch pinch hit single off of no less than Jake Arietta, that contributed to a rally that led to a Pirate victory.  Nice story, but what happened last night topped that.  

Sent up as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded in the fifth, and the Pirates holding a one run lead, Bell parks one on the river walk over the right field grandstand.  Grand slam!  And a close, back-and-forth game becomes a rout in the Bucs favor.

So far here's the log on Bell: 2 AB, 4 pitches faced, 2 hits, 2 runs scored, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1.000 BA, 3.500 OPS.

Yeah, I'm having a little fun with the numbers here.  Two at bats doesn't even qualify as a "small sample size", but still, what an impressive debut.   Has any Pirate EVER had a better one?

And how do you send this kid back to Indy?

 (Photos courtesy of the Pittsburgh Pirates.)

Saturday, July 9, 2016

To Absent Friends - John McMartin (UPDATED)

John McMartin

I saw the obituary in the Post-Gazette this morning for actor John McMartin, who died earlier in the week at the age of 86.  It was kind of jarring to see this because I had just seen McMartin on television the other night when I watched the terrific 1976 movie, "All The President's Men".

McMartin was best known a stage actor on Broadway.  He was nominated for Tony Awards on five different occasions.  He also made numerous television appearances on shows such as Murder, She Wrote, Beauty and the Beast, Golden Girls, Cheers, and on and on.  Interestingly, he didn't enjoy doing movie work, so he made relatively few feature films.  

I can remember seeing John McMartin perform in a play in Pittsburgh many years ago, and for the life of me, I cannot recall the name of it.  It was a two character play that traced the life of two people from meeting, falling in love, marrying, having children, surviving an affair, and knowing that they were, in the end, perfect for each other.  It was great show, and it is going to drive me nuts until I remember what the name of that show was.

John McMartin was one of those guys whose name you might not recognize, but you have all seen him a million times over the years.  A solid performer.

RIP John McMartin.

UPDATE (several hours later):  The play that I could not remember seeing in Pittsburgh starring John McMartin was "I Do, I Do", a musical adaptation of a play called "The Four Poster".  When I wrote this memory of Mr. McMartin earlier today, I posted it, as I always do, on both Facebook and Twitter.  Lo and behold, my tweet was seen and responded to by Susan McMartin, the daughter of John McMartin, and she told me that the show was, indeed, "I Do, I Do".  I am honored that Miss McMartin would take time during this period in her life to respond like that, and I extend sincere sympathies to her and her family over their loss.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On Kevin Durant: Why The Fuss?

I don't get the negative reaction that has greeted the news about Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors.  He has been savagely attacked on social meeting, and noted ESPN Gasbag and Bloviator Stephen A. Smith has called him a "coward" (huh?) for doing so.

(Before going any further, I need to note that taking Stephen A. Smith seriously about just about anything is probably not a good idea.)

Anyway, here's what I know - and I admit that I am not an expert on the subject - about Kevin Durant:

  • He is a great basketball player who has served the Oklahoma City franchise with honor and distinction for nine seasons (one of which was when the team was located in Seattle).
  • To my knowledge, he has always been a good teammate and a good citizen and has never been a problem child or prima donna, and he has never made an issue about being in Oklahoma City.
  • He allowed his contract to expire, and became a free agent.  This is a right that he has earned under the collective bargaining agreement that governs his employment as an NBA player.
  • He carefully considered his options and signed with the Warriors, where he felt he had the best chance to play on a championship team. He went through this process quickly and relatively quietly.  No hoopla, no media circus - at least not one orchestrated by him or his representatives.
  • And, yes, he signed with a team that would pay him a lot of money.  So what?  Another name for that, I believe, is "free enterprise".
Once this news broke, the attacks started and they have been relentless, and I don't get it.  

Why is it wrong for him to have signed with the Warriors, a team that won 73 games last year and went to Game Seven in the NBA Finals?  

Why is it wrong for him to have signed with a "good" team, one that will contend for the championship next season?

Would it have been better if he had signed with, say, the Bucks or the 76'ers?  Would that have been okay in the eyes of his critics?

Why is it wrong for him to have signed for the team that paid him the most money (and I say that not knowing of other teams may have offered more than the Warriors)?  

What does his Thunder team losing to the Warriors in the past season's playoffs have anything to do with this? 

I do get it that fans of the OKC Thunder are upset.  They carry the emotional investment of devoted sports fans and feel dissed by the guy they have cheered for and supported these past nine years.  However, national media commentators, and even anonymous social media critics should look at the big picture.

Way back in 1978, I left a pretty nice job with Metropolitan Life in Cleveland, Ohio and took a job with Equitable Life.  Why did I do that?  Well, Equitable gave me chance move back to a city that I preferred, Pittsburgh, and they offered me more money.  So, I jumped at the offer.  Granted, the money was a while lot different than NBA superstar money, but the principle is the same.   I am also betting that many of you reading this can tell a similar story.  In fact, good old Stephen A. Smith himself left a job as columnist for the Philadelphia Enquirer and took a job with ESPN that pays him a reported $3 million a year.  No one called him a coward for doing that, but today we can call him a hypocrite.

As I said, I just don't get it.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Fourth of July Fireworks!!!!

 Happy Fourth of July to you all out there, and let's start it off with cleaning out the Mental In-Box......

  • After an absolutely abysmal month of June, the Pirates have rebounded with a little streak wherein that have won 7 of their last 9 games, and clawed their way back to .500 at 41-41.  During that stretch a bullpen which wasn't worthy of the name has now put together a string of 32 consecutive unsecured upon innings.  Baseball is, indeed, a funny game.
  • The Pirates now have seven games before the All-Star break against the Cardinals and the Cubs, the two teams above them in the standings.  It would be nice if they could go, say, 5-2 in those games, and it would really, really behoove them to win at least two of three from the Cubs.
  • Speaking of the Cubs, at 51-30 they hold a substantial eight game lead in the NL Central, so they cannot be taken lightly, but they have become mortal in recent weeks, and at least four other teams, San Francisco, Washington, Cleveland, and Texas have records within two games of theirs.  So, we can hold off calling them the '27 Yankees for just a bit now, can't we?
  • On of my favorite issues of Sports Illustrated arrived this week, the annual "Where Are They Now" issue.  While SI has pandered to the reality show culture of the times by placing Caitlyn Jenner on the cover, the stories in the issue are terrific, and I am still only about halfway through.  Even the story on Jenner is a good read.
  • And speaking of Jenner, here is a statistic that might blow your mind.  The point total that Jenner complied in winning the Decathlon in the 1976 Olympics would have been good enough to earn a medal in seven of the nine subsequent Olympic Games, and three of them would have been Gold Medals.  In a world where athletic accomplishments are always being toppled, that is an amazing fact.
  • I just finished reading Raymond Chandler's 1953 novel "The Long Goodbye", and I can tell you that it was appropriately named in that it was LONG.  Or, at least it seemed so.  This is always considered Chandler's finest novel and is a landmark in the world of both detective and literary fiction.  Chandler did indeed have a way with worlds and could craft some elegant descriptions of noir characters and settings, but excuse me for saying that  emperor has no clothes.  A good story, but it was too long, and had at least one superfluous character in it.  I have read many, many detective novels that are just as good and better.
  • For some reason, namely Wimbledon, ESPN has pushed the 4th of July Hot Dog Eating contest from Noon to 3:00 PM.  It's bad enough when television decreed that World Series games be played at night, but taking this sacrosanct event out of the traditional Noon start is going too far!
I shall close this post with a picture of one of the All-Time Great Founding Fathers, the author of the Declaration if Independence, the Third President of the United States, and surely one of the great minds of all time, Thomas Jefferson.  The holiday we celebrate today, and, indeed, the country in which we live, would not have been possible without him and his fellows back in the late 18th Century.