Wednesday, December 21, 2011

bests

Just like any pretentious blogger is apt to do (and, believe me, I've fallen into several of the traps that bloggers fall into), I feel the need to list my favorites for the year 2011. If something magically changes in the next several days, I will make a revision, but let's assume that the best I've read/seen/heard has already made its mark.

MOVIES

The Tree of Life
Midnight in Paris
Drive
Bridesmaids
Moneyball


If anyone knows me, the first two are quite obvious. Terrence Malick and Woody Allen are up there with the Coen Brothers on my short list. That being said, this would be the first Woody movie in years that I would consider to be great, and I'm as shocked as anyone that a movie starring Owen Wilson (not directed by Wes Anderson) would be near the top. For Tree of Life, there are just so many spellbinding visuals (not even bringing up the dinosaur sequence), and such powerfully-restrained performances, it brought me back to my childhood in small-town Pennsylvania. I didn't think Drive would make my top five, but the movie stuck with me. Bridesmaids was the funniest movie I saw this year, and, Moneyball - well, I'm a fantasy baseball nerd and it held up to my hopes (one exception - Philip Seymour Hoffman turning 6'3" Texan Art Howe into a bit of a schlemiel). The one movie I wanted to see that would probably be on my list is The Interrupters, but it had a very limited release in Los Angeles and I missed it. Just from the trailer, I know I'd eat that documentary up.

TV

Friday Night Lights
Justified
Parks and Recreation
Louie


The series finale of FNL brought the show to a perfect ending, although I'd be happy if they do follow through with a movie. Don't see it really happening, though. If not, I'll just settle with the fact that Eric and Tami Taylor might just be the best married couple in modern dramatic television.

Three scenes can make it all clear regarding the next three: the "Apple Pie" scene with Margo Martindale and Timothy Olyphant that ended season two of Justified; the drunken reactions of the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department after drinking Snake Juice; when Louie opens up and tells Pamela how much he loves her, yet understands that it will never be.

MUSIC

The Whole Love - Wilco
w h o k i l l - tUnE-YarDs
David Comes to Life - Fucked Up

The Wilco one was a no-brainer for me and an incredibly biased choice, but it is their most fully-realized album they've done since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, so it has that going for it, which is nice. tUnE-YarDs became my treadmill album, which sounds like a back-handed compliment, but it's meant in the best way possible. In short, it grooved. The Fucked Up album is a little more difficult. Yes, the lead singer sounds like he gargles Hydrochloric Acid. Yes, it's loud as hell. But it's as ambitious and, in many ways, compelling as anything out there. It's more of a vote for being memorable than enjoyable, if that makes any sense.

BOOKS

Just Kids, Patti Smith
Popular Crime, Bill James
The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach

The Patti Smith book put me in its time and place more than any other book I read this year. Bill James' book was a strange, curmudgeonly experience, but altogether fascinating. Harbach had fully-realized characters mixed with a John Irving eloquence.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Frosted Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is pumpkin pie and its many variations. Whether it's the pie itself, or Cheesecake Factory's pumpkin cheesecake, or pumpkin ice cream, I'm all over it. So it was a moment of great excitement for me when Pop Tarts came out with a Limited Edition Frosted Pumpkin Pie version of their breakfast treat. To me, this was going to be the greatest piece of foodstuff ever invented, or the most vile concoction ever set forth on the universe. I didn't think there was going to be a middle ground.

I know your first reaction - Pop Tarts are nasty. I have to disagree. While they're not something I could eat everyday, a Frosted Cherry P-T, brought to the right temperature (just barely browned), is a quality sugar rush. While some of the flavors obviously should not be even tried (Hot Fudge Sundae), I was ready to dive in fully for the pumpkin pie flavor. In fact, I felt that it was my duty.

So, after all is said and done, are the Pumpkin Pie P-Ts a masterpiece or a disaster? Actually, neither. They're surprisingly sedate. I guess because the possibility of pumpkin pie filling overwhelming the whole thing was quite possible, they kept it minimal. Probably too minimal. The frosting wasn't too much, either.  It was...pleasant, but not thrilling. I am disappointed only in the sense that I was expecting an A-plus or an F. Instead, I got a solid B. It ain't Frosted Cherry, that's for sure.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bands I Want To See At Coachella 2012

I didn't make it to Coachella last year, so I'm sure that I'll have the itch to go this time around. That all depends, as usual, on the lineup.

Not that the people who organize the event care whether or not I go this time, but to make the odds better that I show up, here are some of the bands I'd like to see at the event, broken up into bands likely /possibly showing up to the event, and ones who would take some finagling, or perhaps a miracle, to attend.

LIKELY/POSSIBLE


PULP


Pulp got back together last year to play some of the festival shows in the UK this year, and it would make perfect sense for them to attend. Lead singer Jarvis Cocker has played the event in a solo capacity, so I feel like they would be on the list.


ST. VINCENT


This year, when Annie Clark was in town, her concert was on the same night I was going to another show (Wild Flag, I think). She's been on the list for me to see for a while, so she'd be a great second-stage, late-afternoon artist.


FUCKED UP


Honestly, I just want to see the first ten rows having no idea how to react. On the other hand, my fear is that the first ten rows will know exactly how to act, so I'll stand over on the side a bit, thank you. Check out some of their live videos if you want to see some spent energy. I'll stick with the artsy concept video for the link.



LOS CAMPESINOS!


I saw them a few years ago, and they were so good that I skipped The Hold Steady, who are traditionally known as a superb live band. I'd just like to see them graduate to a bigger stage. Here's a video of them all getting killed by twee.


IT WOULD TAKE A MIRACLE


TALKING HEADS


I know they don't seem to get along, but the Pixies didn't, either, and they pulled that off (and they're still cashing in...er...I mean, playing together...years later). Come on, David. One more time.


THE REPLACEMENTS


Rumor has it that this was a possibility until Paul Westerberg had an accident with a screwdriver, needing surgery. Any chance he's better now? Both Talking Heads and The Replacements fit into the category of Bands I Missed Seeing Live. Let me make it up in one weekend (and, yes, I know it won't be the same without Bob).


There are several other bands I could put on the overall list: eels, a Grandaddy reunion, Dum Dum Girls...I could always see Wilco or Radiohead. Since Sigur Ros isn't quite broken up, yet, they'd be nice to see. Who would you add to this list?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A General Reminder

Just reminding people that Albert Finney is a badass. That is all.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

20 Books This Year, #19: "The Art of Fielding" by Chad Harbach

Fully-realized characters, John Irving-style eloquence. Five characters' lives change when a formerly-peerless college shortstop makes a terrible mistake. Yeah, doesn't sound like much, but it works. Grade: A-

Friday, November 11, 2011

20 Books This Year: #18, Boomerang, Michael Lewis

If you read The Big Short, this extends the financial tomfoolery out to the rest of the world. See how Iceland, Ireland, Greece and Germany are just as screwed up as we are, if not more, on some cases. The majority of Europe's finances seems to have been handled by 1990s NBA players. Lewis' books are always great reads, recommended. Grade: B+

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

20 Books This Year: #17, "Baseball Between the Numbers", by Baseball Prospectus Staff

In case you didn't know, I'm kind of a nerd. I was one of those teenagers who pored over baseball statistics. Don't get me wrong, I focused my attentions on many other things, too, but stats were something that could be listed as an obsession, somewhere slightly below the 22 girls I had crushes on in high school. Most of the people at Baseball Prospectus were similar (regarding the stats; I can't speak for the ladies), although they take it to another level completely.

This book is not for the most casual fan - it can be quite daunting, the number of formulas, mathematical terms, etc. (the book sat on my shelf for a few years before I finally decided to dive in completely). But if you like learning, and you love baseball, then this book is definitely worth a read. If you saw Moneyball and want to figure out what Jonah Hill was talking about, this will help, too. Grade: B+

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Latest Batch of Psychic Predictions


In tribute to the Christopher Walken character he played on SNL, Ed Glosser, Trivial Psychic, I have this habit of doing psychic predictions, usually around two in the morning. Here are last evening's results:





  • A kid will be bored by a trip to the aquarium; their mother will be disappointed in the kid's lack of imagination.
  • Someone will bring home Toaster Strudels instead of Pop Tarts. Reaction: "Now, those aren't Pop Tarts, ARE THEY?" 
  • The number of those dying nobly will lose, once again, to those surviving ignobly, by a large margin.
  • A homeless person will come up with a clever sign that will briefly increase donations for a few hours.
  • Someone will misspell "definitely" and "weird" in same sentence: this will be enough to keep me from dating them. 
  • A man will lament loss of Borders store, not because they read - that's where they went to the bathroom when at the mall. 
  • A teenage girl will buy a cute eraser at Japanese novelty shop; it will never be used to erase anything.
  • Owner will name racehorse cloyingly cute name; it will give horse low self-esteem, and it will never win.
  • An old pervert will make subway passengers uncomfortable by talking about how much he misses panty hose, out loud. 
  • Someone will regret asking the question, "So, how did you get that nickname?" 


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Briefly, I Was a Pimp

Junior high. Anyone who knew me knew that I was not bringing a lot of swagger to the table. "Gawky" would be a prime understatement. I had about seven annoying tics, including a nervous laugh which occupied the end of fifty percent of my statements ("I am going to walk to the store - heh-heh"). I had absolutely no play with the ladies - even the girl I liked in seventh grade, who knew I liked her and liked me back, nothing every happened because I lived in terror and was afraid to act upon it (I wrote her a "secret admirer" letter which gave enough clues to make it clear it was me, including that I was a twin. Even Shaggy could've figured out that mystery by himself. And I'm talking about the dancehall singer). In short, I was a mess.

Drastic measures needed to be taken. My friend, Josh, who could also be argued was not refined with the ladies at that time, had one weapon that brought him attention - a Lakers Starter jacket which he wore everywhere, every day. It could be 122 degrees outside and that jacket was getting worn. It was his Indiana Jones hat, his Excalibur. The girls liked the jacket, and, at the least, it was a conversation starter (what he did with that, that's another story). As imitation was not only flattery back then, it was necessity, I pestered my mother, until one Christmas, I got this:


Back in 1984, a Starter jacket was not quite at the level of owning Air Jordans, but it gave you some street cred (as much as you can get street cred in Santa Monica, at a mostly white-bread school that almost made Izod shirts the school uniform). It was something I could call my own, gave me my own identity, and, yes, I wore the hell out of that jacket, with the white stripes turning grey with repeated wearings (I could never get the white to return to those stripes, no matter how hard I tried). Did it get me more play with the ladies? Not really. I was still a mess. Hell, I'm still a mess, although the nervous laugh is mostly gone, and I don't cover my mouth when I speak (but I'm not wearing industrial-strength braces, so that might have something to do with that one).

The ironic thing is, the mid-80s SOX look has made a comeback, falling into the world of ironic hipster couture (God, hipsters drive me nuts, and I speak as someone who is in the periphery of that culture). Most of the people who wear that logo on a shirt now probably don't even know who Harold Baines and Carlton Fisk were (hell, they probably can't name a player on the team now). If I went on eBay and bought this jacket again, it wouldn't be in support to my baseball team, it would be an ironic gesture, harkening back to a simpler time that has been romanticized far too much (in short, the music was overrated, Reagan wasn't as great a president as the Republicans would make you believe, and satin jackets were considered premium fashion). I still want to get an old SOX T-shirt, though. I love that logo.

Addendum (9/26/11): My brother, while helping my mother clean out a storage area, has found my Starter jacket. Surprisingly, it still fits (in the arms; a little tight in the chest). I have now given the jacket to my godson so that he can wear it. Let's see if the tradition continues...

Friday, September 16, 2011

20 Books This Year, #16, "Heathers (Deep Focus)", John Ross Bowie

So, my brother gave me this book a couple of weeks ago, knowing that I was a huge fan of the movie Heathers and had the same attraction to Winona Ryder that many awkward young men had during the early 1990s*. The book is a snappy, entertaining deep-analysis of the film combined with how the author's life parallels parts of the film**. This is one of a series of "Deep Focus" books, and I have to admit, I'm tempted to read the one about John Carpenter's They Live. Roddy Piper kicked ass and chewed bubble gum in that one. Grade: B+

* Hell, I still have it. Not in a stalking nature, but let's just say that if Winona wanted to go out with me, I'm willing to take a shot (like I really have a shot, anyway).

** For example, the author dated two Heathers. I "dated" one Heather, using quotes because mostly it was me trying to convince her that we should be a couple, and failing miserably.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

20 Books This Year: #15, "Popular Crime" by Bill James

I have been reading Bill James for years, but always as a baseball fan. He is, after all, the Father of Sabermetric Writing. So, when I found out he put out a book on crime, it caught me off guard. But, wowzers. It's an utterly compelling read, and to hear James discuss people such as Lizzie Borden, Bruno Hauptmann, The Boston Strangler, even Jon-Benet Ramsey and OJ, in the same curmudgeonly manner he speaks about first baseman, is fascinating. The chapter on the Kennedy assassination is quite compelling, mostly discussing one of the theories he read that makes the most sense.

James is focusing not only on the crimes themselves, but also the people who wrote about them, criticizing the major books on each crime. He is also not afraid to criticize police and legal techniques which were used for each case. If you're one of those people who watch all of the CSI or Court TV shows, you should read this book. Even if you're into understanding the fascination America has with such lurid stories, it's also worth a read. Grade: A

Monday, August 15, 2011

20 Books This Year Project: #14, "Role Models" by John Waters

Yes, John Waters' idea of a role model might be different than the ones you might have. If members of the Manson Family, outsider porn directors, lesbian strippers anti-establishment designers and (gasp) Little Richard are up your alley, though, this is the book. At times sentimental, sometimes gross, I guess that makes it exactly like a John Waters movie. Come to think of it, if anyone should partner up with Frank Belmondo and his Sands and Hands restaurant, it might be him. Grade: B (of course)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

20 Books This Year Project: #13, "Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN" by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

I like to see how things are created, and you definitely get the beginning-to-current story of how ESPN was built from a patch of mud to the global titan it is today. You also get the idea that Chris Berman is incredibly full of himself, that Keith Olbermann is painfully complicated and tortured (and, thus, very difficult), and you get that there isn't much more to do in Bristol, Connecticut than have affairs. An entertaining, overly long (745 pages) book that has its moments. Grade: B

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why I Root For Who I Root For (A Lesson In Randomness)

For people who know me, to say that I tend to think a bit differently from most would probably be an understatement.

This isn’t some sort of chest-thumping boast; when I say “differently”, I am not saying it in a sense of superiority, suggesting that my thoughts are deeper or clearer or of more import than others. It’s just different, that’s all. One example would be that, when I was young, instead of choosing things to like which would make me most similar to others (thus, having things in common with others, thus making the ability to make friends easier), I tended to choose things which made me different from everyone else.

This was especially true with sports. Now, it is true that when I was an eight-year-old boy in the tiny town of Bovard, Pennsylvania, I followed the local teams with passion, especially the Pittsburgh Pirates. I even pitched sidearm, emulating my favorite player on the 1978 Pirates, whippet-thin relief ace Kent Tekulve. Playing strikeout (one-on-one baseball, hitter vs. pitcher) against my twin brother, Kevin, for hours at a time, I realized that since my brother was the far-superior player, I needed deception to get him out. Emulating “Teke” was my best shot. That, and the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers were right in the middle of their glory years, winning four Super Bowls in five years, as well as the Pittsburgh Panthers being one of the elite college football programs, I was moving closer and closer toward being indoctrinated fully into the loyal cadre of Pittsburgh sports fans. Hockey wasn’t an issue, yet – the local Penguins, for all intents and purposes, sucked.

But in 1979, before full indoctrination could kick in, my mother moved my brother and I from a town of less than a thousand to Santa Monica, California. Immediately a culture shock kicked in, leaving me a bit overwhelmed and suddenly searching for identity. That change in scenery, as well as the fact that I was a twin (which instantly meant that people assumed that you were alike with your brother in every way), led me to finding ways to make myself stand out on my own.

Clothes weren’t the way to do it, not in elementary school (one piece that was out of place in the traditional polo shirt and Ocean Pacific shorts look of the time would cause a Scarlett Letter-type shunning and chastising). It was too early for me to be influenced by music. Z Channel definitely gave me the opportunity to watch movies that the average kid wouldn’t watch, but I wasn’t developed enough to discuss the intricacies of A Clockwork Orange or The Deer Hunter with my friends (although I did become deeply influenced by the early works of Woody Allen, which helped me develop a dry sense of humor that played horribly in my preteen years, but improved as I got older).

This left the one thing that could always be discussed with the friends I made during my time at school and at the Santa Monica Boys’ Club (my brother and I were there so often we were named Junior Boys of the Year in 1981) – sports. While my brother stuck to his black-and-gold loyalty like a badge of honor. I, on the other hand, started experimenting with finding the right teams to fit my identity. It was a painful process, to say the least. The following are the paths that led me to where I am today.

BASEBALL
My brother will answer the question as to how I became a fan of the Chicago White Sox by saying that it’s because they wore shorts. That is most definitely not the case, but it would be a simple enough answer. I go back to a pre-season article in either Inside Sports or Sport magazine in 1981. The White Sox had signed several free agents, including Carlton Fisk, Greg Luzinski and Ron LeFlore. I remembered Fisk from seeing his most memorable home run on This Week in Baseball, and although the Phillies were the Pirates’ enemies in the 1970s, I still liked “The Bull”, Luzinski, who looked like a softball player on the field. LeFlore’s TV movie (with Levar Burton) was still fresh in my mind. I started following them, and shortly before the 1983 season, with rookie Ron Kittle and sweet-swinging Harold Baines (who would become my favorite player, just barely ahead of Fisk) taking starring roles, I was locked in. When the Sox, with their “Winning Ugly” team, won the division in 1983, I figured I was on to a successful relationship. Little did I know.

1984 was a crushing disappointment. The team went through fits and starts for another decade, until 1994. With “The Big Hurt”, Frank Thomas; Black Jack McDowell; Robin Ventura and future manager Ozzie Guillen, I thought I had my chance. The strike ended that season, and, thus, my hope. Finally, in 2005, I got to celebrate, and in semi-drunken glee, I literally streaked for a quarter-mile in joy, only wearing shoes and a single white sock (properly placed). Of course, the Red Sox and their 512 books about their championship the year before sucked all of the publicity out of that season, but no worries. I got mine.

FOOTBALL

How did I give up on the Steelers? What was I thinking? Trust me, it’s a question that has haunted me over the years as the hometown team kept winning Super Bowls and the team I chose – the Seattle Seahawks – fell to ignominy.

Why did I choose them? I think it has to do with Jim Zorn, Steve Largent and Efren Herrera. I used to buy football cards at the local corner store, and something about the name “Jim Zorn” sounded cool to me (after his coaching mishaps of recent years, that sounds impractical now). When I was around 12, my father rented an RV and we went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. In the gift shop they had jerseys of the star players of every team, and I chose to get a Zorn jersey. For a young boy, a jersey represents a bond that you made with that player, one that wasn’t easy to break (of course, my brother got a Harold Carmichael Eagles jersey, and he never was going to be an Eagles fan, ever. Go figure).

What I should have gotten was a Steve Largent jersey. My first year of flag football, I patterned myself after Largent, a receiver not known for his speed, but more for his hands and his guile. Playing catch in the back alley with whomever would throw the ball to me, I’d imagine I was Largent, running into the seam and catching the ball in traffic, avoiding the Raiders defense. I may have had a jersey of a quarterback, but I was a split end, running a post pattern.

Efren Herrera? He had one of the greatest plays ever on Monday Night Football, running a fake field goal in for a touchdown. Never underestimate the power of television.

I became such a fan that I went to the 1983 AFC Championship game, when the Raiders (and their unruly fans) beat the Seahawks. Nothing like being a 13 year-old in a Seahawks T-shirt getting threatened by adult Raider fans. I figured after that game, I’d get another chance soon to see the Seahawks make the Super Bowl.  Coincidentally, I had to wait until the 2005 season – same as the White Sox – to come close, and the Super Bowl put my Seahawks against none other than the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was yours truly against my family. Brother against brother. If it weren’t for a horrible holding call, I might have gotten two championships in the same year. Well, at least my family was happy. It actually was a comfort, of sorts. If the Raiders had beaten them, I might have punched a hole through a door, like my brother did when Neil O’Donnell threw his second pick against the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl years earlier.

BASKETBALL

This is the sport that’s led me down the most nomadic path. I have tried for years to stick with an NBA franchise, and the only lasting result that has come out of it is a hatred of one team.

To me, I’ve been more of a fan of players than teams. I started with George “Ice Man” Gervin and the San Antonio Spurs. I had the “Ice Man” poster hanging proudly in my bedroom, and I even had a variation of his patented “finger roll” shot in my first years (as I moved from 8-foot to 10-foot baskets, my shots became more conventional). After several years of the Spurs losing to the Lakers in the playoffs, Gervin left the Spurs. In the same off-season Gervin left, my favorite college player, Chris Mullin, was drafted by the Golden State Warriors. Now, if I had just stuck with the Spurs, I would’ve enjoyed the David Robinson/Tim Duncan championship years. But, no, I followed Mullin to Golden State, which led to many entertaining, but fruitless years.


I used to joke that Mullin and I had a lot in common - we were both pale, left-handed, sweet shooters and alcoholics. Three out of four ain't bad. Mullin also owned the hell out of the word “crafty”, maximizing the most out of his ability. I can’t say I did that, but it was a nice thought, at the least.

When Mullin left Golden State to play in Indiana, I followed Mullin. Since they also had Mark Jackson (his teammate at St. John’s) and Reggie Miller (from my alma mater, UCLA), Indiana was an easy team to follow. They actually made it to an NBA Finals, losing to…the Lakers (you see a pattern here).

When Mullin retired, I tried to find another team (or, more specifically, another player) to champion. I tried Baron Davis, who was at UCLA when I was there, but if you’ve followed Baron’s career you know how frustrating that can be. Really, all I have right now in the NBA is a hatred for the Lakers. Basically, I just root for the team playing them.

I admit that this is not healthy. I actually want a team to root for, instead of a team to root against. However, the Lakers of the last decade or so have been so easy to hate.

(Here come the Laker fans, not understanding one bit why I feel this way. That’s part of the problem. They have absolutely no idea how annoying they are. I’ve had this argument many times before, but here it is again: when it comes to Laker fans, I can deal with ignorance, and I can deal with arrogance, but not both at the same time. Whether it’s the first 10 rows of dilettantes at Laker games, or the idiots on sports talk radio who think that the Lakers could get Kevin Durant for Lamar Odom and the washed-up corpse of Derek Fisher, or the battalion of cars with those idiotic flags that come out around playoff time, Laker fans are some of the most exasperating people alive. But not you – if you’re reading this, you’re great. Also, Kobe Bryant is such a smug little prick that he could be a Republican in Congress.)

So, if any PR person in the NBA happens to read this, I am looking to be recruited. Make me a fan of your team. My proof of still being a White Sox and Seahawks (Tarvaris Jackson????) proves I can be one hell of a fan. The Lakers, you don’t have to call. I won’t give in on that one.

HOCKEY

The one home team I root for – the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s all about Mario Lemieux. I still think that he could play and score 50 points. I don’t think I have to go any further with this point.

POSTSCRIPT

If you go back to 1982, I’ve had about 120 seasons of sports where I’ve had teams to root for (or against). If you take out the Penguins (who have won three Stanley Cups in my lifetime), I’ve had only one championship celebration, from the 2005 White Sox. As is something that I think has become more commonplace with sports fans around the country. I almost think that I’m more loyal to my fantasy teams than to my real sports teams. My NL-only baseball team, Shawnic Youth (puns are your best entertainment value) has three titles in recent years, two more than the Sox. Maybe it’s because there’s a financial value put to victory with them, maybe it’s because I am in control of the rosters (I doubt that I would ever sign Tarvaris Jackson), I tend to feel more satisfaction after a big victory with them. Or maybe I’m still bitter about that holding call in the Super Bowl.

P.P.S. I'm completely serious about looking for an NBA team. I am open to suggestions.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

QUESTIONS FOR WHICH I TRULY DON'T HAVE AN ANSWER #1

So, new idea. I'm going to take topics where I don't really have a concrete answer regarding them, discuss both sides of the topic, then open the topic up to you. Yes, this means I'll actually be expecting comments from my readers, especially the ones in Germany (seems like over 100 people in Germany have read my blog, and I truly do want to know who they are. Willkommen!)


First topic on the board: IS BJORK SEXY? I really don't know the answer to this question. I'm sure that people do have an instant opinion on this, but I don't. I really could answer this both ways. Let's break it down:

HER LOOK


Sometimes, photographs of Bjork can be quite pretty. This first image of her, she's quite attractive, although there seems to be a good two inches between her eyes. Granted, it's an untraditional look, but there is something alluring about her.


Then, sometimes, that whole "I'm a four-year-old trapped in an adult mental patient's body" thing comes out. Like this:


This woman would make me take a couple steps back. She seems to be the type of woman you read about in a small-town paper: LOCAL WOMAN POSSESSED IN PUBLIC LIBRARY. There are a lot of adjectives I would use to describe this picture, but "sexy" is not one of them.

Then, sometimes she has somewhat natural photos, and she looks cute. She almost has a half-Asian look to her. If this girl had an online dating profile, I'd most likely continue to read it, at least until I get to the part where she really, really likes cats.


I think the key with Bjork is that she shouldn't smile, because when she smiles she looks insane (but considering my past history with women, that's never been an obstacle for me, so, this still leaves me without an answer).

HER VOICE


Let's face it, Bjork has an amazing singing voice. In this live version of "All Is Full of Love", she just has a clean, powerful voice. Forget the fact that she's dressed in a costume that looks like a failed concept for "Electro Woman and Dyna Girl"(okay, maybe I wanted an excuse to put up a clip from that show. Sue me). When she gets that growl in her voice (like on this version of "Big Time Sensuality"), yes, you definitely have to say that she has a sexy voice. Arguably, one of the sexier voices out there.

Then you hear her talk. The whole four-year-old thing comes out again. I guess that it all depends what you're into, but that's not my bag. Now, in her case, it could just be that her accent is such that it makes her sound young, but it also could be an affectation, and if it's that, I can't support that as sexy.

HER ARTISTRY


If there's ever a video collection you should own on DVD, it's Bjork's Volumen, as she is one of the most compelling video artists out there (yes, there still are people who make great videos). She won best actress at Cannes for her role in Dancer in the Dark. Her album Post is considered to be one of the top 500 albums of all time by Rolling Stone. If you are entranced by artistry, she's got it in bushels.

On the other side, she is constantly one of the worst dressers in show business, and I'm not even talking about the swan dress.



This has to knock off a couple points, doesn't it? Or does her daring give them back?

I guess the point is, I have no idea. There are definitely sexy qualities about Bjork, then there are a few that are just flat-out weird. Help me answer this question.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

FROM THE ASHES: THE FRANK BELMONDO STORY, CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XVIII

A FEW FINAL WORDS FROM FRANK BELMONDO

Three hours before the debut of The Lost Trucker of Cedar Creek in Carnegie Hall, Frank wrote the following while on his laptop computer for use as the final chapter of his biography. Frank had completed reading the first draft of the first seventeen chapters that morning, and, as always, he had a few comments.

Dear Reader,

When I was first approached by Shawn Hugus to write the story of my life, I was in a state of confusion about where I was headed in my life and the decisions that I had made to put me where I was. I hadn’t yet planned my dance comeback and I was drifting. To be honest, I agreed to have the book written not only for financial reasons, but for also - more or less - as a form of therapy, to understand my place in this world. After reading the first draft of the book so far, I realize that I have lived a pretty screwed-up life. Fun, but screwed-up.

Despite that, I have to say that I’m happy with the results of the book, and I am grateful for all of the people who volunteered to be a part of the interview process. I especially want to thank Reza Belmondo, my birth mother. Someday I may get the nerve to go visit her at the penitentiary, but that’s an emotional wall that I really haven’t even begun to scale.  Bear with me, Reza.

As for the writing, I’m okay with it, I guess. The only issue that I have with it is that it’s too short. Going onto the web with my laptop, I found several biographies that were much larger. To name a few:

John Adams, by David McCullough – 752 pages.
Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio, by Jeffrey Kluger, 384 pages.

Brad & Jen: the Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Golden Couple, by Joey Bartolomeo, Mara Reinstein, 216 pages.

Nails, by Lenny Dykstra, 215 pages.

Okay, I know that John Adams was the President of the United States (Second? Third? I’m never sure), and one of the founding fathers of our country, but, come on, he’s been dead for almost two hundred years! There’s not even one eyewitness alive to corroborate any of what he’s done. For all I know, all of the stuff in the book could’ve been fiction. And to have this book be over five times as long as my book, I’m sorry, I have to take issue.

Now, Jonas Salk, I can understand why somebody would write a biography about him. I mean, he cured polio, for crying out loud. But did he ever get into a fist fight with Jodie Foster? I never read anything that said that he did, so I’m going to say “no”. I think that both books should be about the same size.

The Brad and Jen book came out, like, a week after they broke up, and they were able to get 216 pages out of it, boom. That’s some investigative journalism, my friend. Forget Woodward and Bernstein, give Bartolomeo and Reinstein a Pulitzer. My writer had almost a year to put my book together, and it was about 90 pages less than this one, not counting the part that I wrote…come to think of it, he took two magazine interviews, too, and that’s like another 12 pages he didn’t write! What did my biographer do, anyway?

Now Nails was the only one of these books that I have read, and it was good. Lenny Dykstra was like the Mark Twain of baseball. A crude, vulgar Mark Twain, but you get the point. I know that he had a ghostwriter, but the book’s all Lenny. I think that if any athlete should be writing fiction, it should be Lenny Dykstra. He could be a Larry McMurtry type. The reason that I bring Nails up is that the book was basically about one year and it was also about 90 pages longer than my book, which covered my whole life. Maybe I should have had Lenny Dykstra write my book.

Wait, I’m working myself into a lather before the biggest night of my life. Time to calm down. There, much better. Actually, Shawn did a good job. I shouldn’t be so hard on him. My life had a lot of warts, and Shawn was firm but fair with all of them. I’m really appreciative. Maybe this night will be bigger things to come for me (and, perhaps, another book), or it could just be the last stand before I fall into obscurity. I don’t know. Either way, the whole thing’s been a good ride and I stand behind the work that I’ve done. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get my hamstrings stretched.

Sincerely,

Frank

Monday, June 27, 2011

RESOLUTE (mid-year update)

So, in January, I was pretty ambitious, giving myself 11 New Year's resolutions. Mostly that was because I have a lot of free time, but it is also because I am constantly trying to better myself. In order to hold myself to these resolutions, I am doing a mid-year update in order to keep myself focused on completing them. Therefore, here were my January resolutions again, with status updates of where I am right now.

1. Write on this blog more often. Okay. This is a good start. Think I only wrote on the blog eight times last year, so this is beatable.


Okay, in 2010 I wrote eight entries on my blog. So far, this is number 38. I'd call that ACCOMPLISHED.

2. Get myself down to 180 pounds. It's going to be tough, since I had a bacon cheeseburger at lunch today and I haven't hooked up the Wii Fit in months. It can be done.


Around January, I was slightly over 200 pounds. Now, I have been bouncing between 189-191. The next 9-11 pounds are always the hardest. I'd call this one PROGRESSING.

3. Finish my brother's idea for a story - either as a script or fiction. Right now it's fiction. Was a script a month ago. Could go back to a script. An agent is currently reading one of my other ideas. I'll be willing to call this one a win if I get an agent.


Let's see. I did some work on my brother's idea, and I will work on it...after I finish my script, which I have finished a first draft of and am making revisions. Don't have an agent, yet, but I think that once I get this script revised, I've got a good shot. I'd call this PROGRESSING.

4. If that doesn't work, get a job. Play time is not quite over, but it'll be soon. Can't live the life of the free and easy for too long.


Hmmm. I have been doing a lot more freelancing, but I am working toward getting my portfolio finally done, may be done by tomorrow. Maybe. I'll call this a NOT COMPLETED.

5. Continue the reading of 20 books in a year. I think I finished 20 last year, but lost count. Maybe this time I'll do a mini-review on here just to keep count.


I'm already through 12 books, and number 13 is about halfway done. Small blurbs of the 12 books I've read are on the blog. ON TARGET.

6. More culture. Get to at least three museums I haven't been to (or haven't in a while).


Have been to the Jurassic Museum of Technology (trippy), and MOCA (very cool). Have a plan to go see the Norton Simon in the next month or so. If you count some art shows I've been to, I'd say I've completed this one, but let's just say ON TARGET.

7. Do something on a stage. Already made the first attempt at this. Stay tuned.


So...I was in discussion with someone about this, but it's been put aside for the short-term. Not a guarantee, but still POSSIBLE.

8. Two trips this year. Whether one is international depends on number four. Might involve hitting a couple ballparks I haven't seen, yet. San Francisco and Denver?


Went to San Francisco last week, and saw AT&T Park. Nice. Still need a second trip, but ON TARGET.

9. Get at least 100 followers on Twitter. It's kind of sad, actually. I think I'm spinning gold on there, and, yet, it's going unnoticed. Oh, well. Getting more than four followers on here would be nice, too. Just follow it! It won't send you e-mails or anything. :)


If I had just kept all of the spammers that have become my "followers", I'd easily be over it. But I'm still at 86, and a few are questionable. I started at around 70, so I'm IN PROGRESS, but can use a little help soon.

10. Improve on seeing the Top 100 Films on the AFI list (the 2007 list, not the 1998). Right now, I'm at 61. Want to be at 70 by the end of the year.


Way past. At 75 already. May go see SWING TIME at the Aero in a couple weeks. Screw it, let's go for 80. WIN.

11. Meet the right girl. One of these days, I'm going to get that one right.


...oh, well, there's still six months more to the year.

So far, two clear wins, three on target, three progressing toward the goal, and we'll say three not completed. If I get eight done (or nine, ten or eleven), I'd call that one hell of a year.

Friday, June 24, 2011

FROM THE ASHES: THE FRANK BELMONDO STORY, CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVII

DO WHAT YOU LOVE, LOVE WHAT YOU DO

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: When I read the article in People magazine regarding Francis and the hunting trip, the thing that stood out to me was not the fact that Francis’ career went into a sinkhole, because that happens in the world of entertainment. What surprised me was that Francis was able to carry that large woman basketball player over his shoulder and then throw her into a car. Sure, it might have been adrenaline, but that single act made me think that Francis might still have the leg power to dance again. The world of modern dance was deprived of Francis’ gift on the day he injured his Achilles’ tendon. Maybe we could reward those who waited so patiently for another comet to soar through the sky so brilliantly and have had to wait in vain.

FRANK: When I got the call from Dr. Penchance, I thought it was a crank call. I mean, here I was in my early thirties, I was out of shape – slightly, but still out of shape – and I hadn’t danced professionally in over 25 years. Also, I just naturally assumed that Dr. Penchance was dead, considering all of the rum that that guy would polish off. Sure enough, I checked around and found out that he was alive. Sober, even.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: I wouldn’t say that I had an addiction to rum, so much as I had a carnal lust for it, each drop of it a liquid paradise that caused my taste buds to convulse in rhythmic ecstasy…but I have it under control now.

The first thing that was done was to have Frank’s Achilles’ tendon checked out by two doctors.  Both of them gave him a clean bill of health.

DR. ALDIS RAY, CEDARS-SINAI HOSPITAL, LOS ANGELES, CA: It looked as though there was not a thing wrong with it in the first place. I believe that years of inactivity gave him the time to fully heal. I felt confident that he could dance again.

With a clean bill of health, Frank came back to Cedar Creek to begin the comeback of his dance career under the watchful eye of Dr. Penchance. In order to avoid publicity, Frank did his training in the barn of a nearby friend of the Laster family, Arnold von Benschauten.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: We decided to practice in an obscure place in case Frank didn’t have the goods anymore. If it wasn’t meant to be, we didn’t want anyone to know about it.

ARNOLD VON BENSCHAUTEN, FAMILY FRIEND: I watched Francis during his training period, but I promised not to tell anyone about it. Watching him train, it was like…well, you remember the training scene in Rocky IV, when Rocky was training in the mountains? It was a lot like that, except that there was a lot more prancing.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: Physically, we had a lot of work to do. He was in no shape to dance in the same manner that he was used to doing. I wasn’t worried about his passion, though, as you could tell that he wanted to be great again, and not just for financial gain, which was good, because the money in modern dance wasn’t what it used to be.

FRANK: The money was a reason that I did want to come back, and when Dr. Penchance told me the financial problems in the industry, it did slow me down slightly. But I persevered.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: The main obstacle that we had to overcome with Francis was getting him to believe in his greatness once again. In order to do that, any time that Francis would doubt himself, in any way, I would taser him. On the lowest setting, mind you, but it got the message across.

FRANK: Some days after training my teeth would rattle for hours after a session, I was tasered so much. If he wasn’t the great Dr. Lars Penchance, I wouldn’t have put up with it.

After four weeks of rigorous training, Frank was 18 pounds lighter and in the best physical shape of his life.

FRANK: My calf muscles were tight, man, and you could bounce a silver dollar off of my ass cheeks. Lars even tried to do so, but I wouldn’t let him. But I was exhausted after those four weeks. I was more tired than a Robin Williams penis joke.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: I gave him three days to let him decide if this was all worth it to him. I wasn’t going to go forward anymore if he didn’t believe that this was the right thing to do. During the training period I had seen significant progress in his skills, even occasionally seeing that moment of greatness that I remember from his childhood.

FRANK: I decided to go with my father out to a friend’s cabin and go crossbow hunting. I had bought a new crossbow that I wanted to try out and I thought that it would get my mind off of dance. It didn’t/

JEREMIAH LASTER: We hunted for a grand total of two hours. For the next two days, Francis was working on his dance piece, The Lost Trucker of Cedar Creek.

FRANK: The piece came back to me in a dream, the piece that I wrote while driving a big rig. It seemed even clearer than it did when I first wrote it. By the time the weekend was over I had essentially put together the entire program.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: When Francis came back to the barn with The Lost Trucker of Cedar Creek in tow, I knew that not only was Francis serious, but that the old magic that he had in him was back. At that moment I tried to kiss him but he ended up smacking me in the face with a feed bag.

FRANK: I had never felt as high as the moment when I realized that my piece was a legitimate work of art, not even when I was taking those Indian cough drops. It was really neat.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: It was still a raw piece of work, as untamed and primal as a feral cat.  We were going to have to iron out all of the kinks in the piece, and we had to set it to music, as well. I felt that the piece needed something unconventional.

The “unconventional” band that they found were the boldly experimental group from Iceland, Sigur Rós.  

JON THOR BIRGISSON, GUITARIST-VOCALIST, SIGUR RÓS: Dr. Penchance had heard of our group when we performed a few songs for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for his dance piece Split Sides. Being from Iceland, we were not all-too-familiar with trucking, but Dr. Penchance sent us a copy of the movie Convoy and it was very inspirational. Kris Kristofferson was bad-ass. We also talked to Mr. Cunningham and he recommended that we do this.

MERCE CUNNINGHAM, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, MERCE CUNNINGHAM DANCE COMPANY: I told Jon that if he had the opportunity to be involved in Francis Laster’s return to dance, that he should jump at it, that it would be their chance to be involved in a history-in-the-making moment.  And if it did not succeed, no worries, most people would probably not notice.

JON THOR BIRGISSON: We went to West Virginia and we got a room at a Radisson hotel that was very nice. The staff there was very friendly. The next morning we went to Cedar Creek and met Frank and Dr. Penchance.

FRANK: I had never heard of this band, and when I was told that they had made up their own language to sing in, that weirded me out a bit, too. But when I listened to some of their music I saw what Dr. Penchance was thinking. If we could somehow combine their music with my vision of trucking and dance, we would have something special.

The members of Sigur Rós sat down to watch Frank do a dry run of his piece without music in the von Benschauten’s barn.

FRANK: I was able to do the entire piece without music because there was already music in my head. I just fed off of that. Luckily for all of us, Sigur Rós had a similar vision to mine. It was the most that I had ever been in sync with anyone in performance since the time I appeared on Miami Vice. Don Johnson and I worked really well together.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: It was agreed. Francis would perform The Lost Trucker of Cedar Creek in four months’ time. Sigur Rós would do the musical score. We had also decided to have a group of young dancers perform Purple Nurple for the first time since Francis did it as a child as a precursor to Trucker. Francis even decided to perform under the name of Francis Laster, which made me quite happy, as well as the Lasters. The only decision left was to decide the locale for the performance.

HAWLEY SMOOT: For a performance so big in scope, one where the whole world would be watching, there was only one logical place to do the performance: the Wheeling Civic Center. Unfortunately for us, the center was booked for a two-week run of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring Mac Davis during the time we wanted. I don’t blame them, really, for not making a change. So we had to settle for Carnegie Hall, instead.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: We set a date of August 14th, and as soon as the press release went out, it became the hottest ticket in New York. Every person in Cedar Creek bought a ticket for the show and a caravan was created to go there, as well as a Phillies-Pirates game a few days before.

FRANK: I was getting calls from everywhere. The whole cast from Who Took the Gravy? said they were coming, and we set up a reunion with the cast for an interview with Katie Kouric on the Today show. Screaming Jimmy Leaney was coming. Wendy Peski was coming. Wendy Peski! That made me feel good. PBS had agreed to televise the performance live, and it was during a pledge week, so we know how highly they thought of it. Now all we had to do was make the show work.

Not an easy proposition, as it turned out. Tensions between Frank and Dr. Penchance were at a boil over the next several weeks, with both of them walking out on each other on separate occasions during rehearsals.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: Francis can be a very ill-tempered man when he doesn’t get his way. I merely had a costume suggestion and the next thing you know, he’s going completely insane.

FRANK: He wanted me to wear hot pants. I will never wear hot pants. Well, maybe if it was the right director, like Martin Scorsese or Sir Richard Attenborough or somebody like that, then maybe you could…but not for this.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: We lost two days on that argument. Then I left for a day when I got into an argument with Frank over who played Carol Seaver on Growing Pains. Frank was correct in saying that it was Tracey Gold, but I could’ve sworn that it was Heather Langenkamp. It turns out that Heather was on Just the Ten of Us, which was coincidentally a spin-off of Growing Pains, so you could see how I was wrong. Maybe I overreacted.

FRANK: Any twit with a working knowledge of 1980s television knows that Tracey Gold was Carol Seaver, but, hey, there were far more important things happening than that, so we got back to work.

JON THOR BIRGISSON: Even being from Iceland, I knew that it was Tracey Gold. But I sensed that there was something far greater than the cast of Growing Pains in their argument and it had to be sorted out.

FRANK: We made up the next day and that was the end of the fighting. We were able to fill out the full cast of the show about six weeks prior to opening night using all West Virginian dancers, and we got the music to where we wanted it. We had a show that we felt good about.

Two weeks before the day of the show, Frank and Dr. Penchance moved their operations to New York City where they worked out the final staging of the show. Hawley also came to help with publicity.

HAWLEY SMOOT: We worked out a schedule of rehearsals mixed with public appearances. Frank was the Grand Marshal of the Lithuanian-American Day Parade and he appeared on Live with Regis and Kelly on the same day, but we were also able to get him into the rehearsal studio for a couple of hours, too. We made it all work. Frank was a bundle of energy at that point.

Two days before opening night, a special gala was held to celebrate the opening of the show and the return of Frank to the dance world. For Frank, it was a very emotional evening.

FRANK: To see that so many people still cared about me, that they still supported my career, it was a beautiful moment. I got up with Screaming Jimmy and performed “Shake Your Love” for the first time since we parted ways, completely impromptu. I also realized that Wendy Peski and I still had some feelings for each other. It was something that we wanted to pursue, but I had to wait a bit. I wasn’t going to ruin my dance career over a quick pop in the sack – it’s like a boxer, you have to keep the legs strong.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: Francis was focused to make this piece work. It actually saddened me, because you could tell how devoted he was to his craft, and the fact that the world of dance did not get to appreciate him for so long…it’s really bittersweet. But I had no doubt that Francis was back.

FRANK: As opening night arrived, I was completely at peace. This was my moment. This was what all of my life was leading up to, and I was ready for it. For once, I felt like I wasn’t going to screw this moment up, and if I did, maybe I could get into selling insurance or something. Either way, I was feeling okay. Let’s make some magic.

(To see Chapter 18, click here)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

10 Lines Christopher Walken needs to say NOW

Maybe this needs to be a Letterman Top 10 list, I don't know. But some how, some way, this needs to happen.

10. "Martha, I think there are martians in our back yard."
9. "Now batting for the Boston Red Sox, number 39, catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia."
8. "Some people call me Maurice (woo-woo), 'cause I speak of the pompitous of love."
7. "The Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast - what a bargain!"
6. "I am totally in the mood for some hot monkey love."
5. "My favorite Culture Club song, by far, has to be 'Karma Chameleon'."
4. "Kim Kardashian's butt - wowzy wowzy wow."
3. "Camptown Racetrack sing this song, doo-dah, doo-dah."
2. "Your apartment needs to be fumigated for vermin."
1. "You are not the first lady whose vulva has made me extremely aroused."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

FROM THE ASHES: THE FRANK BELMONDO STORY, CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVI

RANDOM MISTAKES, 2000-2004 (this was to be called “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” but that was taken)

The following are five ideas/situations that Frank was involved with during the years 2000-2004. The results are below.


EMOTICONS! 

THE CONCEPT: A game show based on the popular icons used by e-mailers and instant messengers as a shorthand form of communication. Tech-savvy contestants would solve puzzles built from the emoticons to win great prizes.

SLOGAN: The Game Show the Unabomber Loves to Hate!

FRANK: I got a start-up company (Hotspur Technologies) to sponsor the show. We filmed five test episodes and were going to try to sell it to The Learning Channel or Discovery or something like that. I was the emcee. The Game Show Network had passed sight-unseen. Maybe that should have been a sign.

PROBLEMS: Only a limited number of emoticons meant a limited number of questions. Frank was constantly confused as to which emoticon was what, leading him to say during the middle of show four, “I don’t know what in the hell I’m talking about.” During the Lightning Bonus Round portion of the show, in which contestants had to name as many emoticons as possible off of a flashing screen, three contestants received seizures from the array of bright flashing lights.

FRANK: I don’t know why we didn’t stop after the second one. Twice isn’t a fluke.

THE RESULT: The financial settlements for the three stricken contestants was the beginning of the end of Hotspur Technologies, who filed for bankruptcy six months later.

SANDS AND HANDS

THE CONCEPT: What do you get when you combine a world-class sandwich shop with the state of Nevada’s legalization of prostitution?

THE SLOGAN: Come from the hand jobs, stay for our fresh baked baguettes!

THE LOGO: A buxom brunette waitress with an oversized right hand holding a tray with a French Dip sandwich.

FRANK: I thought that it was a good idea. Let’s face it, after a guy has sex, wouldn’t a lot of them want a great sandwich? I know I would! And that’s the key to the place – really great sandwiches. We even had a room planned with comfortable couches and ESPN on all of the time, so you can take a nap afterwards. A hand job, a great sandwich and a place to nap – that’s like a trip to Mecca.

PROBLEMS: Health code violations aplenty. Said one Nevada health official, “Any time you mix ejaculation with condiments, you’re going to have problems.” Also, as one prostitute said, “I do tricks so I can avoid waiting tables.” This led to only older professional women applying for the jobs.

FRANK: There was one woman who applied for a job who looked as though she whored during the Coolidge administration. Let’s face it; if you are at a place that specializes in hand jobs, and you have a middle-aged mother of three giving it to you, it takes some of the magic away. I don’t care if you’re eating filet mignon.

PROBLEMS (cont.): Women’s groups protested, some because of moral issues, some because there was no place for women to get the same treatment.

FRANK: I was stumped. What would be a comparable place for women? Gelato and Thigh Massage? I had no idea.

THE RESULT: The place never opened.

CONGRESS

THE CONCEPT: Frank, on advice from a political organization called Liberals No More, considers running for Congress as a Republican in the 30th District of California, running against Democratic stalwart Henry Waxman.

PROPOSED CAMPAIGN SLOGAN: True Values.

PROBLEMS: A simple background check revealed Frank’s time in a rehabilitation facility, his brief porn career and his joining a cult. A sample poll of 100 people had Frank losing to Waxman by a result of 97-3.

FRANK: And that poll included votes from me and Hawley. The third was a guy who was a big fan of my song “Hot Ass Baby”.

VINCE BENTON, POLITICAL ADVISOR: I think that David Duke would have gotten four votes, and that’s without him voting for himself.

THE RESULT: Frank drops out of the race before officially entering it. Nobody notices.

C.H.E.E.S.y. TELETHON

THE CONCEPT: Frank agrees to host a telethon for C.H.E.E.S.y., the California Hospitals Eczema Eradication Symposium, on a local public access station.

THE PROBLEMS: Frank is unable to make any of the rehearsals and does not bother to read any of the literature sent to him regarding eczema and the work of the symposium.

FRANK: I was going to read it, really I was, but then I got called to play in a foursome at the Riviera Country Club. I had never gotten to play there before.

So, I get to the telethon thirty minutes before it begins – car trouble – they’re all panicking and they only have time to do hair and makeup, that’s it. They then tell me that I’m supposed to open the show with a song. Are you kidding me? Granted, I know that I should have been at rehearsal, but…anyway, I get one of the stagehands to grab this cassette tape of karaoke instrumentals that I use to practice with out of the glove compartment of my car and tell them to play the first song that they can cue up on the tape. I can just roll into it, I tell them, I’m a professional and I know all of the songs on the tape. Now, in hindsight I realize that “I’ve Got You under My Skin” was an unfortunate choice, but I think I really nailed it, if that means anything.

The song ends, and everybody’s looking at me with stunned looks on their faces. I thought they were really impressed. I introduce myself, tell a joke or two, and then I bring out the head of C.H.E.E.S.y. I make a joke, asking him, “Can I call you the Cheese Head?” He says no, all serious and that. So, then I say, “So, what is eczema, exactly?” At the time, I wasn’t only asking for the viewing audience’s sake, I really wanted to know.

DR. MARTIN FREUNLIND, HEAD OF C.H.E.E.S.y.: First, he couldn’t even pronounce “eczema”. He kept saying “ex-ZEE-ma”. After the tenth time he gets it wrong, a stagehand tries to correct him, and he goes, on camera, “Alright! I get it!”

FRANK: So, the doctor tells me what eczema is, and I just freeze. Disgusting! Just disgusting! After hearing that I just…I couldn’t shake anyone’s hand after that. I started doing that thing where people touch elbows with each other. I started telling people that it was “my thing”.

DR. MARTIN FREUNLIND: And then we show this medical video on eczema and the ways to combat it. It was a clinical tape, very graphic. The whole time that we are playing the tape, you can hear Frank gagging off-camera.

FRANK: I practically dry heaved. It didn’t help that I was hung over from the night before.

DR. MARTIN FREUNLIND: Then, Frank realizes the connection between our name and eczema and he goes on this five-minute tirade about it. Now, I admit that C.H.E.E.S.y. isn’t the best name, but…let’s just say that the name wasn’t my idea. I was out-voted.

THE RESULT: While very few people saw the live airing of the telethon, the tape became an underground bootleg sensation, one of the most downloaded videos on illegal file-sharing services. While the live telethon made less than $1,000 during the live broadcast, viewings of the bootleg gave C.H.E.E.S.y. several-thousand dollars in donations afterward.

DR. MARTIN FREUNLIND: While it wasn’t the perfect way to get our message across, the result has been certainly satisfying.

FRANK: Every once in a while, somebody will come up to me on the street and say, “Hey, you’re the eczema guy!” That’s not especially satisfying.


THE HUNTING TRIP


THE PARTICULARS: Frank, Hawley and friends go on a hunting trip in the Smoky Mountain region. Guns, alcohol and raw emotion rule the day (and night).

HAWLEY SMOOT: In continuing with our tradition of going together on hunting trips, I took Frank up to this little spot in the Smoky Mountains called—(due to special request by one of the people involved in the story and that person’s legal representation, that person’s name and the location of the hunting trip have been withheld. We have, however, been given the right to stay that the hunting trip was located in the Smoky Mountain region – Ed.). It was me, Frank, Wink Martindale, Bucky – a friend of mine who was a state trooper – and, let’s just say, this congressman from the state which we were visiting.

FRANK: We were hunting for deer that week. I had bought a new Winchester Model 70 deer hunting rifle just for the trip, and I was looking forward to using it. Unfortunately, we weren’t having much too luck the first few days, so spirits were a bit low. That’s when Bucky broke out the Peppermint Schnapps.

PHILIP “BUCKY” LITELLI, STATE TROOPER AND AVID SPORTSMAN: I know that it’s not overly manly to be drinking Peppermint Schnapps, but I’m not much of a drinker and at least there is a sweet taste to Schnapps so it doesn’t make drinking it unbearable. Wink kept calling me a pussy, but I kept reminding him that I could throw him in jail and then who would be the pussy? Huh? So that shut him up a bit.

WINK MARTINDALE, GAME SHOW HOST AND AVID SPORTSMAN: Bucky was a pussy. I’m not much of a drinker, but Peppermint Schnapps? Come on! But since it was the only drink there, we made do.

FRANK: Anyway, you get one or two drinks into Wink, and he’ll start telling stories. He can tell you tons of stories about the game show business, especially Tic-Tac-Dough. Did you know that there are game shows that have an I.Q. ceiling? That if you’re too smart, they don’t want you on their show? Wheel of Fortune is like that. That show looks like they grabbed a bunch of trade school dropouts. One time I was watching that show, and it was one of those weeks where they had siblings playing together. And I remember the puzzle ended up being “mannequin”, and they had everything but the “Q” and the “U”. The two brothers whose turn it was spin, confer with each other, and then they say “K”. I’m serious. And stop buying so many vowels, already! I hate when people do that. It’s not that freakin’ hard!

HAWLEY SMOOT: Wink and the congressman are completely blitzed. They start singing their college fight songs for crying out loud. Then I see Bucky sitting in a corner all by himself, and he’s actually whimpering. He was whimpering! I think the Peppermint Schnapps caused him to have some kind of self-realization at that very moment.

PHILIP “BUCKY” LITELLI: I had realized that my father had cheated on my mother when I was twelve. I had been denying it for the longest time. The whole moment was very cathartic.

WINK MARTINDALE: I told you Bucky was a pussy.

FRANK: So we’re in the cabin, and – actually, before I tell you what happened, let me set this up for you. Hawley’s wife, she’s a very, very large woman.

HAWLEY SMOOT: My wife is not large, per se. She’s completely proportionate for her height. She’s 6’2”, maybe 6’2 ½”. She played power forward at Rutgers. Four-year starter, twice all-conference, too.

FRANK: She’s large. Jealous, too, almost paranoid, really. She’s snap at you like a wildcat. Hawley, he’s a good-looking man. Women are drawn to him. He can’t help it. But he’s loyal to his wife. She can’t believe that, though, for whatever reason.

So, we’re sitting in the cabin, and there’s some rustling outside. Wink bolts right up and grabs his rifle. He’s out the door like one of those – who were those soldiers during the Revolutionary War who used to get ready in a minute? Anyway, Wink runs out to the porch, and there’s this large brown object between the trees. Wink thinks it’s a buck and he shoots. The thing drops to the ground and cries with this blood-curdling scream. The problem is, it doesn’t sound like an animal. We knew that there was something wrong right away.

IMELDA SMOOT, WIFE OF HAWLEY SMOOT: I learned two valuable lessons from that experience. First, I should be more trusting about my husband. Second, never wear a brown overcoat in the woods. That son of a bitch Martindale got me in the shoulder, hurt like hell.

FRANK: When we got over to Imelda and realized what happened, I had four guys panicking on me. Hawley had a wife with a gunshot wound; Wink was seeing himself in jail; the congressman was worried about his upcoming election, saying something like “Cabingate” over and over again; and Bucky was still dealing with his paternal issues. So I threw Imelda over my shoulder – and remember, she’s a large woman, must have been adrenaline or something – and I threw her into Hawley’s SUV and told them to all get in.

HAWLEY SMOOT: It was an unfortunate time for my wife and me to get into an argument on the ride to the hospital, but I believe that our fighting opened up a lot of issues that needed to be dealt with…it made our relationship that much better.

FRANK: Hawley kept calling Imelda “a distrusting whore” and Imelda called him “a skirt-chasing cocksucker”…yes, I believe that’s what she called him. They’re just like that. It works for them, I guess.

PHILIP “BUCKY” LITELLI: We get to the hospital, and I had calmed down from my experience. We had to deal with two issues: getting Imelda taken care of and keeping the congressman hidden from anyone who recognized him. We succeeded on one of the two fronts.

FRANK: We had kept the congressman hidden away in a private observation room, away from the public. That’s when Miguel came in.

MIGUEL PANZADILLO, HOSPITAL ORDERLY: Before I got a job as an orderly, I had a very rough life. One of the jobs that I had when I was young was as a…I am so ashamed to say this…I used to give men pleasure for money down by the lake. The man whose name I am not allowed to say because you told me not to, he was one of my biggest clients. He made me wear a cowboy hat. He would always yell “Yippee-kay-yay-ay” while sitting in the front seat of his car down by the lake. It was very shameful. I had gotten away from that life, and then I saw him there at the hospital. I felt that I had to express my feelings. I lashed out at him, that’s what I did. I was lashing.

News of the recent incident reached papers immediately as two reporters covering another hunting accident were at the hospital and saw everything.

BOB LACARDIE, NEWSPAPER REPORTER: I was one of the beat writers covering hunting accidents in the county. There are so many hunting accidents in this county each paper had to have a beat writer covering them. That night was a bonanza – Wink Martindale shooting a woman and a congressman’s gay lover announcing their tryst in the middle of the hospital? Oh, yeah, one of the other guys in the group was an actor of some sort, although I had never heard of him. I thought that I might get a Pulitzer for this one…or at least a cover on People magazine.

THE RESULT: The second reporter on the scene, Terry Wilcox, got the People cover story (“He just happened to be a better writer than me, I guess,” said LaCardie).

The congressman tried to rebound from the fiasco (“I had several public appearances where I was kissing my wife, but she had a hard time smiling”), but was forced to resign.

Bucky Litelli is seeking counseling and is feeling “much better”.

Wink Martindale received probation for Hunting While Impaired and has sworn off Peppermint Schnapps, or any other liqueurs, for good.

Hawley and Imelda are still together and Hawley has encouraged Imelda into coaching high school girls’ basketball. Led by Imelda’s coaching, her team finished third in state in 2004.

The whole incident affected Frank the most, though, as a person from his past read the People article and came to Frank with a plan…

(To see Chapter 17, click here)