Tuesday, January 22, 2008

25 Things you may (or may not) know about me—and probably don’t need to know either

Go west young man, go west


I shared this photo of myself from the early 1970s with a couple girls at the office the other day and was tickled at their reaction.  What can I say, I know how to work a pair of plaid shorts and an American flag cap. 

One said I was full of surprises, so I figured I’d put that rumor to rest with a list of 25 boring things about yours truly.  As you can see, I’m perfectly harmless.  


1. My favorite tv show of all time is 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'


When the ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ premiered in 1970, I was 8 years old & smitten with Mary Richards (and her friends Rhoda Morganstern & Phyllis Lindstrom from the very first episode). 

I've seen each show so many times that I had no plans to purchase it when they began releasing the seasons to DVD, but of course I did and I’ve probably watched these discs more than any other in my collection. 

(I really need to do a blog-tribute to these guys soon!)


2.  I write with my right hand--but I doodle, toss, bowl, bat and whisk (heh) with my left.   That’s a normal thing, right?  Who knows, who cares! 

3. I've lived in this apartment building since October 16, 1994.  At the time I was seeing someone fairly seriously and told my landlady I’d probably only be here a year.  Who knew? 


My apartment building, where I live pretty comfortably--it's on a quiet street & only a block from civilization (bus stop, shopping and a dozen or so pizza parlors!)



 4. The last (vinyl) record album I bought was in 1981--John Lennon & Yoko Ono's 'Double Fantasy'. 

5. The Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, Peoples Choice Awards—blecch  Don’t these people get enough attention & accolades?  Why aren’t glitzy awards presented to IT people like me?  I worked some real magic this year & didn’t even get a pat on the head! 

6. I subscribed to Playboy Magazine from 1982-2002.  On my 20th anniversary with them, I cancelled the subscription--and tossed out my entire collection! 

7. I have never seen 'Citizen Kane', 'Lawrence of Arabia', or 'Doctor Zhivago'.  But I did just buy “Citizen Kane” on Amazon, so I’ll be nipping that one in the rosebud soon enough!


8. Every Thursday night, I have a ritual where I scrub my bathroom & kitchen from 7-8pm.   For like the last 20 years, too.     

9. I never really learned to swim.   But I still prefer being in water over my head, if you think I just hang out in wading pools.

10. I've always worn glasses—but hate getting my picture taken while wearing them.   (Go on, try to find a photo of me wearing glasses—go on… okay there is a couple out there!)

11. I didn't get my first car (or my driver's license) until I was 39 years old.  I still don’t like driving unless I absolutely have to, this is why God gave us feet—and public transportation! 

12. I have a shy bladder.  But not a shy mouth, apparently In love

13. I prefer sleeping on my couch versus my bed. In the winter, I often make up my couch with sheets & blankets and sleep there all week.  My mom used to do this too.

14. I have never seen any of these popular shows: 'The Office', 'My Name is Earl', 'ER', 'Dancing with the Stars', 'Law & Order', 'The Amazing Race'...the list goes on & on.     

15. My favorite classic monster is the Bride of Frankenstein.   My God, what’s not to love!

16. Since the year 2000, I've seen my brothers Duke & Steve a total of 3 times.   Here’s the 3 of us with Dad in the 1990s, the last time we were all in one photo together.   (That’s me, Duke, Steve with his boys Stevie & Ed, & Dad.)

17. I've never owned, held or shot a gun..  And I’ll go to my grave thinking no one who isn’t a cop or soldier should, either. 

18. I’m a cat lover.   Growing up, our family had 2 cats, Gretchen & Mimi.  I had 3 cats of my own--a striped cat named Popsi Cola, a Siamese named Ming, and my favorite cat Gumby, that my sister Shawn & I rescued as a newborn kitten.  It's been 20 years since Gumby’s been gone & I still think about her. 

19. My favorite author is Shirley Jackson  but Stephen King is in a close tie for that honor!  Shirley wrote such classics as "The Lottery", "The Birds Nest" & "The Haunting of Hill House".  Get her collection of short stories, she is dark & stunning.


From ‘The Haunting of Hill House’:  “No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."


20. I drink iced tea--by the gallon.  Seriously, I brew at least 3 gallons of the stuff per week. I was a soda-fanatic most of my life (did you see the name of my first cat?  Popsi Cola?)  until my thirties, when I discovered I could get my caffeine rush without the added 16 teaspoons of sugar per 12 oz. serving. 

21. I’m a Trekkie.   Yes I own every series & movie made on DVD, and maybe a few model ships here & there, and a hundred Trek books and 30 commemorative pins and a couple phasers & a communicator or two.  But no costumes!

Most of my collection (before I got TNG too)

22. I like to draw, and write short stories..  I'm not saying I'm talented, but I still enjoy doing both just the same.  (Explore my blog, you’ll find some!) 

23. I am the only one of six kids that never married.Eye rolling smile      

24. The celebrity I've had a lifelong crush on is...Sally Field!  I know my sister Shawn will say "Doug, I thought it was Barbara Eden"  but that was just a phase I went thru during Barbara’s “I Dream of Jeanie” years along with every other American male in their right mind!   

Anyway--Sally was adorable in ‘Gidget’ & sweeter as the Flying Nun.  In the early 70s when ESP was all the rage, she delivered the goods in ‘The Girl with Something Extra’.  And just when I thought I couldn’t dig her any more, she slipped on a pair of 1960s eyeglasses and became the deliciously crazy ‘Sybil’.  And that’s just her early tv stuff… Go Sally!

25. When I was 7 years old I wished I could fly like Superman..  I still do.


Monday, January 14, 2008

My Top Ten Favorite Musicals (why not!)


The other morning my friend Martin wrote on his blog:

"With the wife and son off visiting her relatives in Minnesota for the long weekend, what am I doing right now (besides blogging on the laptop from the kitchen counter)? I'm watching the beginning of High School Musical 2 for like the sixth or seventh time."

Now when I read that, I thought "What the heck??  I've never seen those Disney things--probably never will--and meanwhile he's seen this how many times?"   And then I remembered his fondness for movies like 'Grease', and then it hit me--I love musicals too!    

What follows is my personal 'Top Ten List of All-Time Favorite Musicals'; ranked in ascending order, of course (and followed by a couple Honorable Mentions).  Are there any surprises here?  It's doubtful; the films have lasted this long for a reason.  

10. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)


Wait--this movie has a bunch of guys in fake moustaches & orange hair!

Yeah, freaky.  But it has Jane Powell.

But this movie has a bunch of 'lonely' hillbilly brothers swooping into town & kidnapping half a dozen single women for the winter!

Criminal.  But it has Jane Powell.

But it has too much 'Brothers' and not enough 'Brides'--except for catty Julie Newmar, who has too much everything!




It doesn’t matter.  It has Jane Powell. 

While songs like 'When You're in Love' don't do a lot for me here, it still had a great score, a well paced & funny storyline and gymnastic dance routines that were brilliant to watch.  And of course...Jane Powell.


9. 42nd Street (1933)  


"You're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!"

What's not to love?  With a dowey eyed Ruby Keeler ready to save the day, Dick Powell shufflin' off to Buffalo, and Bebe Daniels saying "Now go out there and be so swell that you'll make me hate you!"  Throw in George Brent, Walter Baxter, a couple quarts of genuine flop-sweat and a Broadway stage decked in shabby Depression Art-Deco...I say again, what's not to love?  




fm88. Calamity Jane (1953)

Doris Day has said this was her favorite film of the 39 musicals she'd done; I agree.  From the 'backwoods varmint' in love with Wild Bill Hickok (Howard Keel) to her 'extreme makeover' complete with flowers, chintz curtains, & Maybelline cosmetics--Doris could do it all.   I defy you not to fall in love with this wild west critter!  


7. A Star is Born (1954)



This was Judy Garland's 'comeback film', her earnest attempt (after MGM dropped her contract) to show the world she could still deliver.  And boy, does she ever--a bittersweet vehicle with James Mason as her 'washed up' actor husband, struggling to regain his own star as she climbs the ladder of Hollywood Success.   




6. The Sound of Music (1965)



Okay those Von Trapp kids unnerve me a little, but Julie Andrews sure packs a wallop in this film--I don't own it, but I don't have to.  I know it by heart & watch it every year when ABC airs it around the holidays.   (Each time I see the darn thing, I pray young Liesl doesn't go 'Whee!' after that gay Nazi kisses her, but she always does!)




Musicals I've seen (and loved) performed live on Stage


I saw ‘Phantom of the Opera’ twice—both at the Pantages Theater in Toronto.  (Once in front row seats with my friend Elisa & a couple other ‘Broadway Babies’, man it was awesome!  A second time with my sister Shawn & a friend of hers who was dating a man in a wheelchair—we got stuck in the last row, boo.)   ‘Miss Saigon’ & ‘Oklahoma!’, both at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh with my friend & apartment neighor Sue, and finally ‘Mama Mia!’ at Heinz Hall with my sister Shawn again, for her birthday.  What a great show!


fm55. Funny Girl (1968)

If someone had told me I'd be writing (on my own behalf) about Barbra Streisand in the Teepee someday, I wouldn't believe it.  But here I am, and here she is.  And she was nothing short of amazing in this 'bio musical' based on the life of Fanny Brice--Streisand's film debut.  Growing up, my sister Shawn was Barbra's biggest fan; but it wasn't until she got this movie in the 80s that I finally saw it.  Over and over again, in fact. 




"You think beautiful girls are going to stay stars forever? I should say not! Any minute now they're going to be out! Finished! Then it'll be my turn!"



4. Annie Get Your Gun (1950)


I suppose everyone knows the backstory here--originally a Judy Garland film, but she was dealing with health issues.  The studio replaced her with Betty Hutton, who made the character her own.

Irving Berlin certainly cranked 'em out for this Wild West Show--"You Can't Get a Man With a Gun" (my personal favorite), "Doin' What Comes Naturally", "I'm an Indian Too", and of course "Anything You can Do". 

For legal reasons, this wasn't broadcast on TV until just a few years ago--and was just as difficult to rent or buy.  Thank God they finally cleared that mess up, because this is considered one of the top 5 musicals by the AFI—and me!     


3. Cover Girl (1944)


1) A lush technicolor musical from the 40s, and it's not MGM--it's Columbia Pictures??

2) Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers as "Genius" & Rita Hayworth as "Rusty Parker"--the small-time nightclub dancer who looks for her big break in a 'Cover Girl' magazine contest.

3) Did I mention it stars Rita Hayworth?


What You'll Love About 'Cover Girl'

In the first fifteen minutes of the film, Kelly, Hayworth & Silvers do a 'walkalong' dance/song routine 'Make Way for Tomorrow' on a city street-- designed especially for Gene Kelly by a grateful Columbia Pictures.

Hayworth's 'Broadway debut' in the film features twenty giant-sized magazine covers, all in terrific color & some still around today!  (Remember Coronet?  Colliers?  Yeah, me neither.  But it's still a fun look into the past!)  


2. Singin' in the Rain (1952)


It's no secret that Gene Kelly is my favorite musical actor.  In fact, when creating this list I wrestled with 'Summer Stock', 'The Pirate', 'On The Town', 'An American in Paris'...all wonderful films starring Gene Kelly. 





Debbie Reynolds was only 19 & still lived at home with her parents while making this film; did you know Howard Keel was MGM's original choice for the lead? 

So who doesn't know the story, about the early days of Hollywood when the industry was attempting to switch from silent films to talkies?  Also starring Donald O'Connor (who was secretly terrified of Kelly), Debbie Reynolds & a too-sexy Cyd Charisse--Gene didn't just make a fine movie here, he made history.  It's no wonder that the American Film Institute rated this the No.1 musical of all time--and the No.5 MOVIE of all time.  


1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)


This took all of 3 seconds to decide.  Judy Garland--the greatest star of all time, in what is & will always remain my favorite musical –and- movie of all time.    


Honorary Mentions - Three Personal Favorites that deserve to be listed here too


On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970)

Let's see--ESP, reincarnation, hypnotism, mod 1970 fashions and a Hitchcock-like opening sequence with the best title ever.

College student Barbra visits Professor Yves Montand to help her quit smoking & discovers she’s the latest in a long line of Barbras—who knew??



Chicago (2002)

My friend Sue dragged me to this when it premiered; I haven't got Catherine Zeta-Jones or Renee Zelwegger outta my head ever since!




West Side Story (1961)

Natalie Wood plays Maria.  That's all you need to know.



The End!