Monday, August 16, 2010

The Real King.

Elvis Presley
January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977

You know who started calling Michael Jackson "The King of Pop"? Michael Jackson did, and he insisted people call him that. Because he was delusional and crazy, that's why. You know, what with Bubbles the chimp and the one glove and having no nose and coveting the Elephant Man's bones and also coveting the bones of little boys. Allegedly.

You know who started calling Elvis "The King of Rock and Roll"? Everyone. Because he was.

Look, I'm not even that big a fan of Elvis' music. I can take or leave it, and a most of the music from his movies is just terrible. But Elvis wasn't about music. He was about revolution. He didn't create rock and roll, but he ruled it. And there's no sense denying it. That's why both Michael Jackson and Nicholas Cage married his crazy daughter. They wanted some of that Elvis coolness to rub off on them, too. Worked for Nick, not so much for Michael.

You can't deny that he was cool. Probably the second coolest person who ever lived, right behind Jesus. And being cool is better than being a talented actor or a great singer. Being cool is the best thing you can be in this world. Remember, that's why people smoke.

Down south, even if we don't like Elvis, we appreciate him. We understand what Elvis was all about, and we try to live by that code. Simply put, Elvis' philosophy of life was:

1. Sing.
2. Take care of your momma.
3. Be humble.
4. Bang chicks.
5. Enjoy pharmaceuticals.
6. Eat.
7. Die.

It's a simple way of life that I can understand and relate to.

When Michael Jackson died last year, it was a big deal. Sure, if you've got the internet and 500 TV channels and TMZ to build it up. But when Elvis died, there wasn't an internet, and only three channels...and it was even bigger. You had to be there, but it was a global event.

Nobody could live like Elvis, and nobody could die like him. Especially not self-proclaimed false "kings". Put that in your hyperbaric sleep chamber and smoke it, glove boy.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Isabel Sanford
August 29, 1917 – July 9, 2004

Last year, when President Obama made a Jeffersons reference during a speech, he screwed it up. He jokingly clutched his chest and said "I'm a-comin', Weezy!". He used Weezy Jefferson's name but was actually quoting a classic bit from Sanford and Son where Redd Foxx notifies his dead wife Elizabeth that he's on his way. It was so hilarious and effective that when Sanford star Foxx suffered a fatal heart attack on the set of his sitcom The Royal Family in 1991, his co-stars thought he was doing a bit.

President Obama must have got it confused because both Redd Foxx's and Weezy Jefferson's real last names were Sanford. I don't blame him for the mix-up. Obama was in Indonesia until the early 1970s, because that's where he was born. I'm just kidding, of course. He was born in Kenya. Allegedly.

But back to Isabel Sanford, better known to the world as Weezy. What kind of name is Weezy, anyway? That's no name, that's an adjective. Eloise Gwendolyn Sanford was born August 29, 1917 in New York City, making her twenty-one years older than Sherman Hemsley, the man who would someday play her husband on The Jeffersons. Twenty-one years! That made her literally old enough to be his mother. But was she his mother? Our sources say no.

The show, of course, was a spin-off of All in the Family, and she almost turned down the role when producer Norman Lear had a congratulatory bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken delivered to her dressing room. Lear assured her that it was a sincere gift, and apparently everyone got chicken. That's some good eatin', no matter what color you are.

I always felt bad for the cast of The Jeffersons, and not just because Roxie Roker, the actress who played neighbor Helen, was in reality the mother of rocker Lenny Kravitz. When the show was cancelled in 1985, the entire cast was so stereotyped that I saw an Entertainment Tonight piece that they were doing a Jeffersons stage play. But they couldn't get their sassy maid Florence (Marla Gibbs) because she had rocketed to (relative) fame as the star of NBC's temporarily popular sitcom 227. Hemsley became the star of NBC's Amen! a year later.

Now they're all dead, except for Hemsley and Gibbs. Helen and her white husband, one of the two actors who played the Jeffersons' son Lionel, and even the annoying British neighbor. Dead and gone. Isabel Sanford would be 92 years old if she hadn't died on this day in 2004.

I'll be honest with you. I know it's Weezy's day and all, but I can't stop thinking about that chicken. I am starving. I heard so much about the Double Down sammich at KFC and when I went there yesterday, it was already gone.

So, it's a tragedy all around. Sitcoms get cancelled, old ladies die, and fast-food chicken restaurants suddenly remove items just when you're craving them the most. I think there's an important lesson to be learned about our fragile existence and crap like that, but I have no idea what it is.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

If You've Seen One Dick, You've Seen 'Em All.

Dick Sargent
April 19, 1930 - July 08, 1994

The TV series Bewitched always confounded me.

Not because I didn't find it particularly funny, or because it was using a fake laugh track, or that it was recycling the same stories over and over again for years. It's none of these things. It's not even that the show was a complete rip-off of the movie Bell, Book and Candle. I could honestly care less about that. No, my beef is of a different nature. It's one that has been much discussed by obsessive TV viewers for many years.

You just can't completely switch Darrens and not say anything. It wouldn't be tolerated now. Today, Darren would either be killed off or they'd divorce. I would have even accepted it if they'd concocted some story involving magic wherein Darren's appearance completely changed...anything to explain the obvious physical differences of the two actors, but it's not even alluded to. Perhaps Samantha couldn't tell the difference between the two Dicks. I bet Uncle Arthur could.

I'm biased. I prefer Dick York's Darren to Dick Sargent's Darren. It was all about timing and comedic reactions. Sargent was probably a better actor, but York was funny. York had to quit the show in 1969 due to a chronic back injury and Sargent, who was originally offered the role in 1964 but couldn't take it because of his contract with Universal Studios, got the part. Sargent appeared in 84 episodes of Bewitched (as opposed to York's 156) before the show ended in 1972. York never worked again, except for an episode of Simon and Simon and a Love Boat in the early 1980s, but Sargent went on to an illustrious career of b-movie roles and TV crime drama guest-spots and sitcom walk-ons. His most memorable role (to me) was that of Grady Byrd, the Sheriff who filled in for Roscoe P. Coltrane on a few episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard.

Sargent announced he had prostate cancer in 1992 but shortly thereafter confirmed tabloid reports that he was gay and that his cancer was AIDS-related. He died on July 8, 1994. Before researching this I had also heard that Dick York was also gay but I can't find anything to verify this. He was married to the same woman for almost 40 years and there's no smoking gun, or penis, or whatever smokes when you're gay. Perhaps the person who told me this simply got their Dicks mixed up.

By the way, Dick Sargent wasn't his real name. He was born Richard Stanford Cox. Yes, that's right. His real name was Dick Cox.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Day of the Dead.

Ted Williams
August 30, 1918 – July 5, 2002
Louis Armstrong
August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971
Joel Siegel
July 7, 1943 – June 29, 2007

It's been a few days since I blogged dead people, so it's time to catch up with the past few days of room-temperature celebrities.

Ted Williams was a respected and famous major league baseball player and war hero, but he's more remembered for the bizarre legal wranglings by his family after his death. Ted's contested (and possibly fraudulent) will called for his head to be put into "biostasis" (cryogenic suspension) until he could be revived.

But the head was apparently damaged (cracked) by employees at the cryogenics lab, letting Ted's oozy goodness and life essence escape. Williams' son John-Henry was believed to be the forger of the will until he unexpectedly died in 2004 and is currently frozen as well. Someday they'll all be revived, maybe even in a Ray Milland-Rosie Grier Thing With Two Heads type of deal. It would be pretty sweet. Hurry up, science!

Louis Armstrong was a balding, sweaty man who played the trumpet. He was adored by audiences due to his folksy, affable nature. Although he died nearly forty years ago, it's hard to avoid his peaceful anthem "What a Wonderful World". In fact it's impossible to avoid it. You know how great that song is, and how enraging it is to see it used ironically in substandard films like Good Morning, Vietnam and Fahrenheit 9/11?

It's not Louis' fault. Not at all. As usual, I blame the Liberals. Oh, did I say "Liberals"? I meant to say Progressives. Yeah. That's so totally different. My bad.

Joel Siegel was the movie reviewer with a difference: he never met a movie he didn't like. Put any awful movie up for him to review on Good Morning, America and he'd have nothing but glowing things to say about it. Supposedly he was respected by his peers, but I can't see how. You think Roger Ebert, as wrong as he is about so many things (and completely insane on his Twitter account, if you've seen that) would have put up with Siegel's crap? No way, man.

Ebert loves movies, but not all movies. Joel Siegel was just a good date. If somebody paid for his ticket and his popcorn, he seemed happy with whatever was on the screen. A year before his death, though, Siegel went nuts and walked out of a critic's screening of Clerks 2 and loudly announced it was the worst thing he'd ever seen. I think it was just the cancer talking. The real Joel Siegel would never hate a movie. Not even Twilight.

The most interesting thing I've learned about Siegel is that he was a joke writer for Senator Robert F. Kennedy and was at the Ambassador Hotel on the night of his assassination. My strong dislike for Joel dictates that I implicate him in RFK's death, but we all know that it was Sirhan Sirhan...a lone gunman, acting alone, without a hint of conspiracy. Nope. Not even a little bit.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bored on the Fourth of July.

"Ann Landers"
July 4, 1918 - June 22, 2002

So, let's get this straight. Ann Landers wasn't a real person. But was also at least two different people. And her daughter, who wasn't named Prudence, became Dear Prudence. And her twin sister was Dear Abby, only that wasn't at all her name. And when the twin sister retired, her daughter, whose name wasn't Abby either, then became Dear Abby.

Sounds like a scam to me.

"Ask Ann Landers" was created by advice columnist Ruth Crowley in 1943 and taken over by Esther "Eppie" Pauline Friedman Lederer, who won a contest in 1955 after Crowley died. Eppie's column debuted on October 16, 1955, but just a few months later her twin sister Pauline Phillips decided she could write a better advice column and adopted the name Abigail Van Buren and started "Dear Abby". The two sisters fought back and forth for a decade or so but eventually made up. But that's not really what this is about.

What I'm saying is, I'm about to head to work in an hour or so to flip stinkin' burgers, and people are still making money writing advice columns telling other people what kind of hats to wear. I'm a semi-talented fellow, so what the hell? Why is it that I have to get burger grease all over my shoes on the Fourth of July while ritzy advice columnists are sipping brandy while wearing monocles like the friggin' Monopoly guy in limos and laughing loudly to themselves about the amusing "little" people? Where is Barack Obama's "social justice" when we need it, I ask you?!?

There is nothing more useless than the advice column. They're such terrible, pathetic wastes of time that I'm surprised Paris Hilton doesn't have one. In an era when newspapers are but oversized leaflets and have eliminated movie, art, and television critics to save money, you can't avoid the advice column. Like Marmaduke and The Family Circus, they're a permanent part of the landscape. And for all I know, they could have simply been reprinting the same column over and over for 60 years. Who the hell would know? Does anyone really read them?

But I digress.

Point is, advice columns are useless, and the advice column industry has made the same family (and only members of that family) stinking rich for the last 55 years. It's a racket, and a conspiracy.

I should start my own advice column for real men who like big boobs, cold beer, and movies with 'splosions in them. I'd call it "Dear Roscoe", or some other manly name. But then the advice column mafia would come after me and burn my house down for daring to write a column without the Ann/Abby family blessing. All I wanted was to give advice to men about beer and Chesty Morgan movies, and I get my house burned down?!?

Where's the justice in that. I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hot, Sexy, and Still Dead After All These Years.

Brian Jones
February 28, 1942 – July 3, 1969
Jim Morrison
December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971

What are the odds that you can be an immortal musical genius and be dead at age 27? Apparently, pretty good. Just ask Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Johnson, Kurt Cobain, and these two guys. It's called the "27 Club" among conspiracy theorists who believe that each of its members sold their souls for rock immortality.

Frankly, I'm willing to believe it in the case of Jones and Morrison.

Brian Jones formed and named the Rolling Stones, but became estranged from the band because of his drug use. Despite being a good musician, he didn't write many songs and he was happier playing blues and jazz than rock and pop. He was finally fired from the band in 1969 and found floating in his swimming pool less than a month later. The details of his death are mysterious, but it was later speculated that Jones was accidentally killed in a fight with a building contractor and it was made to look like an accident. The contractor died in 1994 and apparently confessed on his death bed.

Jim Morrison was a member of a little-known rock and roll quartet called The Doors. They released a few albums, made some decent music, but mostly it was all about Morrison drinking and pulling his penis out on stage. If you've ever heard a live Doors album, they're terrible. What really matters is that they got it right one time in the studio. Oddly, Morrison also had a water-related death: he was found floating in a bath tub after a "heart attack" in Paris. And by "heart attack" I mean "heroin overdose". Allegedly. Morrison and the Doors have been the subject of many books and one well-edited but embarrassingly heavy-handed Oliver Stone film.

I'm not sure about the legend of a "27 Club". What's the point of becoming an immortal rock legend if you have to die in the process? And what kind of retard makes a deal with the Devil?

Don't people realize that Satan, by his very nature, is going to go back on his deals? It's what he does. Satan is going to screw you over. Would Robert Johnson have gone to the Crossroads and inked a contract with Beelzebub if he knew someone was going to give him a bottle of poisoned whiskey? Would Jimi Hendrix have signed on the dotted line with the Dark One if he knew he'd soon be choking on his own vomit? Would Janis Joplin have agreed to the deed with Old Scratch if she knew that before long she'd curled up in a stinky ball of putrid hippie death? Did Kurt Cobain realize he had consented to staring down the barrel of Mephisto's double-barreled shotgun of fame? And didn't Kurt realize that his Hell experience will become infinitely worse when he's eventually reunited with his wife Courtney Love?

It all just reminds me of that CBS TV show from 1977 or so, A Year at the Top. Two musicians (David Letterman's band leader Paul Shaffer and BJ and the Bear star Greg Evigan) sign a contract with a sleazy rock promoter who guarantees them a year of success, but it involves them selling their souls and being sucked into Hell at the end of that time. The show didn't last a whole year, though, so the story didn't have a satisfying conclusion. I guess starring in BJ and the Bear, My Two Dads, and TekWar is its own kind of Hell, though.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dave Thomas and the Robot Love Cult

Dave Thomas
July 2, 1932 - January 8, 2002

When I went to work (briefly) for Wendy's in the year 2000, my fellow employees spoke in hushed and reverent tones about Dave Thomas, who was born on this day in 1932. My manager told me that few people had actually met Dave, and she'd worked for the company for over ten years and had never once been in his presence. It apparently was an honor that had to be earned, like an audience with the Pope. A select few were worthy, but most were not.

Dave was a mysterious and enigmatic figure despite his "regular guy" persona. He never knew his mother, who put him up for adoption. He served in the Army during the Korean War, eventually he ran some Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises in Ohio, and he started Wendy's in 1969. Typical stuff you can find on Wikipedia, which is pretty much where I got it.

Anyone who works at Wendy's will tell you that (like most fast food joints) the object is to provide good food to customers quickly and make a profit. And yet, I've always felt there was always something that was slightly off about the place. The first thing you notice is the square hamburger patties. At one point my manager told me, "We make the patties square because at Wendy's we don't cut corners."

Even when I was working for them, I was amazed at how well the place was run. Everything was cooked to order and it could take no more than sixty seconds for customers to get their food. There was a person whose job it was to toast buns, there was a constant flow of fresh patties being put on the grill in a clockwise fashion, and there was absolutely no waste. The patties that were not used were put in a bin and chopped up, for use in Wendy's famous chili.

Most amazing to me were the little folded pamplets that had had instructions, in English and Spanish, on how to do everything in the restaurant. They detailed every food item and almost any situation that could occur and how to prevent or remedy it. I've worked in a lot of fast food places and have never seen such fanatical precision.

The manager training process was like going to college. Two weeks of classes, including homework, in a honest-to-goodness full-size fake training restaurant, then weeks and weeks of extensive training in random locations. It was bizarre.

The idea, of course, was to inspire loyalty and to screen out the lazy or unsavory element. But it always seemed to me that maybe there was something deeper. Like it was an initiation. Like if you went through all the hoops and said the right things and did good, then maybe someday you'd meet Dave.

And then it struck me. There was no Dave.

It was all a game. The "Dave Thomas" that was in all the TV ads couldn't be real. He was just an actor, or a robot double, to be the public face of Wendy's while the real Dave was on an island fortress smoking cigars and being serviced by an army of sex slaves. It was like that phony UFO religion made up by that insane sci-fi writer that all the Hollywood stars got suckered into.

Dave Thomas died of liver cancer in 2002, if you can believe that they tell you. Maybe so, maybe not. Or perhaps he's being held in suspended animation, being attended to by an army of robot clones or mad scientists who are even now working to bring him back.

Was there ever a real Dave Thomas? Sure there was. Just like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, Dave Thomas lives in our hearts. As long as there is a dollar menu, or a pick-up window, Dave Thomas will always be watching us.