Robert Mitchum on the Tonight Show, June of ‘ 78. Turns out he lived in Santa Barbara when I did. Oddly enough, we never ran into each other. He’s wearing shades indoors, I assume so we can’t see his dilated pupils. You hate being on TV, Johnny says. I hate being in Hollywood, Mitchum says. Even if Hollywood is Burbank. Johnny Carson is way coked out and edgy. Ann Margaret has been so high on something she was talking in a whisper, terrified, and walked off stage in the wrong direction. Weird bit with a guy in a kangaroo suit, from some completely forgotten waste of celluloid Mitchum did with Elliott Gould. The guy does an incredibly good kangaroo. Mitchum makes sure to mention the name of the guy in the suit, twice. Interview over, the ersatz kangaroo goes stage left, Bob Mitchum departs, stage right, and even after patting the fake kangaroo, he comes off an ineffably cool motherfucker.
A comic now, no idea who, talking incredibly fast. The last guest, incredibly, is a judge. A real judge. Imagine the band hiding the drugs. Johnny is talking carefully. The comic is completely silent. Damn, the seventies.
She asked what I was doing tonight. Just gonna hang, I said, start a couple projects I’ve been planning and watch some hockey. So you’re one of those people, she said. Those people? Yeah, one of those people who make sure everyone knows you don’t watch Game of Thrones. Is that on tonight? Don’t patronize me, she said. Sorry, I said. So you’re going to watch it? But I’ve never watched it. There you go again, she said.
I met Jack Riley a couple times, some cool little chats, once at Charlie O’s, and once after a Jack Sheldon set at the old Catalina’s on Cahuenga. Last time was at Chuck Niles’ funeral. I didn’t know where the men’s room was. He’d asked. Maybe over there, I said. Over there? Yeah, that looks like the kind of spot a men’s room would be. Yeah, it does, he said, and wandered off. Some time later he walked by again. You find the men’s room? Yeah, it was over there, he said. Was it nice? He gave a Mr. Carlin shrug. I’ve seen better, he said.
Never ran into him again.
Burt Reynolds was bald. Way bald. Even the body hair was a toupee. Lonnie said so. She was mad at him and told everybody. I don’t think it fazed his image an iota. Like Cary Grant, Burt Reynolds’ image, that look, was hewn in marble, impermeable. It was hard to believe he was eighty two when he died. We can’t even imagine him old. His Cosmo centerfold sprung up like mushrooms minutes after his death till Facebook, like a high school principal in 1972, took them all down. It offended Facebook’s standards of decency, they said, though perhaps it was just enforcing Zuckerberg’s feelings of inadequacy.
But Burt really was bald. William Shatner bald, but much better toupees. Some guys can wear a toupee. I imagine he was the guy that customers in toupee stores said they wanted to look like. Skinny little guys, paunchy dumpy guys, they wanted to look like Burt. His hairpiece would do it, for sure. Laying across bed with a hand strategically placed and a hair piece. I hate to think how many of those old Polaroids have made it onto the web.
I loved seeing Burt Reynolds on the Tonight Show. Incredibly funny guy but better yet a total show biz anarchist. Once he came out and smashed a raw egg on Johnny Carson’s head, just because because he could. A super hunky Hollywood icon acting like one of the Marx Brothers. Then making toupee jokes.
Now that’s a movie star.
Blue Planet 2. Problem solving and coordinated group action by clownfish. Who knew? Besides other clownfish, I mean. And what’s with the meter long carnivorous worm? Teeth sharp as pinking shears, hence the name: Bobbitt. As in Lorena. David Attenborough left that part out (no pun intended).The damn things can get up to ten feet, I read, like sandworms in Dune. They can lop a foot long fish clean in half. A Devonian Era nightmare, giant meat eating invertebrates. Acid visions of carnivorous trilobites. Thankfully they went instinct first.
Then the scene with hundreds of reef sharks swimming menacingly above thousands of groupers. Suddenly l’amour drives the groupers mad and they rush upward into the sharks, shedding eggs and milt to the seven seas. The sharks go into a feeding frenzy and the surging waters are all blood and roe and sperm, a veritable fish fuck massacre. Stella!
The clownfish were so neat and orderly and mannered in comparison. They’ll go far. Check back in a hundred million years.
Watched an old Dick Cavett show from August 1969 and the Jefferson Airplane, fresh from Woodstock, were fierce. The discombobulation of going from a festival bigger than Buffalo and back to Manhattan by helicopter as they came off the acid was noticeable only for a few minutes and by the time Grace sang motherfucker on national television all was well again. David Crosby and Stephen Stills showed up mudspattered and David talked and talked (coming up on the crowd by helicopter, he said, was like viewing the Macedonian army, the acid in his brain turning the vast throng of hippies into invincible hoplites and horsemen of Alexander the Great….) Stills was mostly mute, as if still overwhelmed but when handed a guitar played brilliantly and I remembered it was he and not Mike Bloomfield on Super Session’s Season of The Witch (another of those free form FM standard long since purged from Classic Rock radio). Joni Mitchell, clean and windblown from the canyon and kicking herself for not going (her manager said go on Cavett instead….amazing how many idiot managers kept their bands off the bill, booking them elsewhere) sounded great but sang too many songs, but then I’ve never been a fan. (It’s a minority opinion, I know….) The Airplane hit the studio stage again with a very tough Somebody To Love, Jorma’s lead stinging and psychedelically hostile, followed by a hard jamming Other Side Of This Life, and as the studio audience began breaking out in frantically groovy dancing Cavett waved the camera off and the credits rolled and the Airplane just got fiercer and fiercer and who knows how long they played past the commercials.
Man, Edie Adam’s did a devastating Marilyn Monroe parody. If Marilyn hadn’t been so fucked up she might have sued. It surpassed even SCTV’s Catherine O’Hara and Andrea Martin at their cruelest. I saw it on the Edie Adam’s box set, I imagine some one has put it on YouTube as well. Also, among the many long buried treasures revealed in this collection is a solid dozen minutes of the Woody Herman Big Band c.1963, and what a blazing aggregation that was. You could hear that music in a club now and it would still sound state of the art. Were I Scott Yanow I could rattle off the soloists, but alas I ain’t. A smoking young bunch they were however. And in that very same program the daring Edie gave Jack Sheldon six or seven minutes to go a surreal monologue about falconry that was as hysterical as it was weird. Clean, though. She must have warned him.
I met Edie Adam’s several times. Had a few extended conversations. Wonderful stories, wonderful lady.
Odd the way Matt’s surname looks and is pronounced. It LOOKS like “Groaning” but is pronounced “Gaining” (from Facebook)
The oe was actually ö, so Groening was Gröning. Which in standard German should be pronounced more like Grerning, but in some German dialects, such as Swabian (Schwäbisch) an ö is pronounced more like an English short e or (depending on the consonants around it) a long a. I think this happens because in Standard High German the ö is a diphthong, but if you take the diph out of the thong (or the thong off the dip) that ö would be pronounced like the double e in the German “Schnee” (meaning snow) or the English “say” (meaning say). So apparently there were a lot of Swabian emigrants in the stretch of Canada where Matt Groening’s German father’s family had settled. I know there were lots of Swabians in Ontario, and I’d explain how it is I know that, but this is already the single dullest paragraph ever written about Matt Groening, so why ruin it.
(New Year’s Eve, 2016)
Fyl decided her husband is still too sick to be life of the party on a wet, cold night and so we’re sitting home on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t argue. Besides, there’s a Jack Benny marathon on Antenna TV. When the pizza came It was guest star Frankie Avalon singing, so I joined Fyl in front of her TV watching old Sid Caesar shows and munching on a Palermo’s special, thin crust, crispy, anchovies on half. Taking my empty plate into the kitchen later the Benny marathon was still on in the living room and I could hear Robert Goulet. Even an hour apart the difference in timbre, phrasing, range–hell, in sheer quality of everything–with Frankie Avalon was beyond glaring. Plus Goulet was much, much funnier in the follow up bit, a natural. Funniest of all, though, was Joan Marshall, the woman in the sketch and one of the great undiscovered comic talents of the sixties. Alas, she was gorgeous, and in that decade gorgeous and funny were not allowed to mix. In the thirties she might have been a screwball superstar, another Carole Lombard; in the fifties she could have been the female lead in a sophisticated comedy. But in the sixties only Jack Benny recognized how funny she was and let her run riot in a couple sketches. They said it really bothered Joan that she never got choice comedy roles, and she never seemed happy in her career being beautiful. Hollywood is full of beautiful women. It’s not full of naturally funny people. But sometimes what you are really good at and the times you live in don’t coincide. If only you’d been born twenty years earlier.