Category Archives: Celebrities

Stevie Ray Vaughan: Never Replaced

By ROBERT CHARELS

Stevie  Ray Vaughan must have been special.  At times, he seemed to embark in every blues cliché in the book, yet everything he did reeked with originality and style.  In a world where so many guitarists strive to pack as many notes into a solo as possible, when “SRV” did it, he changed the landscape of blues guitar forever. Today marks the 20th  anniversary of his untimely death when he went down in a horrifying helicopter crash. I remember saying this on the day he died:  “He’ll never be replaced.” Sadly, it’s pretty much the way it’s been.

We’ve heard Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang and “Monster” Mike Welch and Susan Tedeschi and so many others, but not a one a one of them has 1/100th  the verve, style, and originality of Vaughan.  The Texas-raised guitar master wasn’t handsome, or even particularly tasteful in his attire choices; the constant boots, soul patches, and feathered hats seemed like a desperate reach for attention; his talent was such that he didn’t need the flash.  But when he picked up a guitar – as always, buoyed by his underrated, utterly soulful singing – he was pure magic.

As I write these words, I am doing so without even a cursory glance at the Internet for notes or fact-checking. Here’s what I remember about Vaughan, and how, through the tree of blues music, he impacted my life (margin for error, 100 percent):

I first saw Vaughan in what I recall as 1981 in a small club called Radio City in Scotia, New York.  After a half-assed new wave act finished its short set, Vaughan and the rigidly rocking Double Trouble hit the stage and blew the roof off the place – almost literally. I must state it was the loudest concert I’ve ever attended; I felt physically sick for about three days afterward, I was so jarred. I stuffed my ears with napkins, but I knew, even then, I was watching the best blues guitarist in the world. It can’t be defined; like B.B. King, Albert King, and few others, Vaughan took the best of the past and enveloped it in the best of the current. Lots of licks, sure, but every one was musical, necessary, and real. That was Vaughan.

When I found out that Vaughan’s brother, Jimmie Vaughan, was the guitarist of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, I went out and picked up every T-Birds album and began to love them every bit as much as Stevie Ray. They were a vocally based blues and R&B combo, but they were every bit as great in a completely different way; Jimmie plays rhythm guitar as if he had invented the entire idea. In 1983, I walked onto a  stage as a professional blues singer for the very first time; my biggest influences were Vaughan and The T-Birds.

When Stevie Ray died, I looked for other guitarists to get into; I discovered the great Duke Robillard, who filled the void for me as a truly gifted blues star, yet very tasteful, and he could play swing music as well as anyone ever on this planet.  As fate would have it, Robillard replaced Jimmie Vaughan when he left the T-Birds; the branches of the tree started to widen. A few years later, I got to work with Duke when he produced my Metropolitan Blue album in 1999. Some musicians dream of working with a Beatle; as for me, a blues addict, I got to work with a T-Bird. I still consider the album the greatest thing I’ve ever done.

All considered, I’ve had a great life and a wonderful music career, but I’m not the story here, other than my reverence for all things Vaughan.  I can’t imagine how different the blues world would have been had Stevie Ray Vaughan not perished so young. The blues would certainly be more popular than it is today; he was that powerful and influential. And I have no doubt that Vaughan would have been changing, modifying, and honing his sound through the years. Like Jimi Hendrix, Robillard and the great jazz players of our time, Stevie was a perfectionist, and you could hear it on every recording he made.

For now, my advice is to get to the store and pick up Jimmie Vaughan’s great new album. I’ll never let the Vaughan brothers go; they are still part of my musical dreams and hopes. Through it all, neither man ever seemed to realize how truly great they were, and still are.

And as I write these words, I’m missing Stevie Ray Vaughan every bit as much as when I first heard the bad news.  Some wounds never fully heal.

Robert Smith’s professional music moniker is Robert Charels; the blues singer’s albums – Metropolitan Blue, Three Leg Dogs & Old Skool Cats, and Deception In Your Eyes – are available everywhere.

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Die, Newspapers, Die: Second In A Series

By ROBERT SMITH

Yes, leave it to Rupert Murdoch’s ever-so-tasteful, rabble rousing, sub-mental New York Post to put just the right spin on the recent, meaningless LeBron James Miami Heat signing for its Sunday, July 11 edition:

Of course, this is a country where, on one night this week, members of the public took to the streets in Cleveland, New York, Miami, and Chicago. War protests? Power grid failures? Job creation meetings? Worried about the oil spill in the gulf, perhaps?  Nahh…people wanted to know where James was going to sign as a free agent, and took to the streets – Clevelanders burned James’ jerseys, so incensed were they – to either celebrate (Florida) or scream in anguish (New York and the other cities). The Post apparently can’t get over the fact that James didn’t want to sign with the New York Knicks (owned by another enemy of a fair, balanced media, Cablevision owner James “Nepotism” Dolan, who now controls what used to be a newspaper, Newsday).

But back to the angry mobs on the avenues: Hey, dolts – when seafood is $11 a pound, you gonna take to the streets? When the neighbor’s kid comes home from the Middle East in a box, are going to pound the pavement? When temperatures hit 118 in the U.S. mainland this year thanks to “non-existent” climate change, you gonna hit the bricks?

Oh, sorry…y‘all only do what the TV box tell ya to. Forgot about that.

Thanks to The New York Post – not to mention ESPN – for keeping us so smart and informed.

© 2010 Robert Smith

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The Three Stooges: Digitally Remastered Delirium

Reviews by ROBERT SMITH

A few months back, my esteemed colleague, Steve Ricci, noted how The Three Stooges were influential in his life. I now happily report that last month, a significant moment in Stooge history was logged. It was in early June that the eighth and last in Columbia’s lovingly digitally remastered box sets of complete, uncensored, and restored Three Stooges films, The Three Stooges Collection, was issued on DVD; these 190 films have never been completely released on DVD before this. Combined with AMC’s recent decision to return Stooges shorts to its regular lineup of classic films, there is – as seems to happen every decade or so – a serious case of Stoogemania going on. It couldn’t have happened at a better time.

For serious Stooge aficionados, these DVD collections are truly an answered prayer. The Stooge shorts have not only been released in chronological order, but many of these films have never looked so clear, and in some cases, new. The remastering job isn’t without its pitfalls; a couple of packages come with 3D glasses for films released originally in that format, but they still look awful. As well, the overall remastering job is actually so good it reveals everything in pristine black and white – including pies being pulled from ceilings with strings, and what used to look like flying Stooge heads in the opening of Spooks! now show Moe, Shemp, and Larry in black cloaks, running around as if they’d lost their minds (as if that’s anything unusual). It’s actually fun to see the old-time movie magic exposed.

So let us sing the praises of these master comedians, who have been underrated since their heyday, but answer me this: Are television stations still showing Charlie Chaplin? The Marx Brothers? Laurel & Hardy? Yet, times come and go, and Stooge shorts are still being shown on national networks, some films being a whopping 76 years old. It is testament to The Three Stooges’ knockabout, zany comedy that it can still be appreciated and loved by audiences after such a passage of time. The reason? The Stooges are damn hilarious, that’s why.

A look at the sets: Volume One, which covers 1934 to 1936, begins with the first Stooges short, Woman Haters, a musical number so stilted it’s a wonder the team ever got a second go. But things pick up with the boxing-themed Punch Drunks, and the hospital parody Men In Black, which was actually nominated for an Academy Award. Indeed, “Dr. Howard! Dr. Fine! Dr. Howard!” is quoted to this day, and few Stooge efforts were ever funnier.

Volume 2, 1937-1939: The Stooges, Larry Fine and Moe and Curly Howard, find the formula, and it works like gangbusters. Highlights here are Playing The Ponies, where the trio leads a nag called Thunderbolt to racing glory; Healthy, Wealthy, and Dumb, where the three idiots win a radio contest and rent a snazzy hotel room only to discover that after taxes they’re as broke as ever; and Violent Is The Word For Curly, which features the famous “bickey-bye” song that everyone still knows but can’t remember where it came from.

Volume 3, 1940-1942: The team is getting more popular, the slapstick is getting more violent thanks to the burgeoning presence of director Jules White, and this just might the Stooges’ prime. The best here include the classic Nazi era satires I’ll Never Heil Again and You Nazty Spy!, All The World’s A Stooge, where Curly delivers one of his most manic and inspired performances impersonating a little kid (and Larry never looked more beautiful), and A Plumbing We Will Go, which might be the high point of the team’s career; it’s the classic “running from the law” Stooge short, complete with wacky pratfalls, high society torn asunder, and the best plumbers who ever plumbed a plum.

Volume 4, 1943-1945: Something’s wrong; Curly is slurring his words and the pace is starting to slow down. Around this period, the hard-partying rotund comedian began to fall into ill health – so much so that an impending stroke would not only end his career, but eventually his life as well. However, there’s still a lot of comic gold in this set, including Micro-Phonies, featuring Curly impersonating the golden-voiced Senorita Cucaracha; Dizzy Pilots, where The Wrong Brothers take to the sky; and If A Body Meets A Body, which features some hilarious haunted house gags. However, Curly really starts to fade during this set; White’s They Stooge To Conga is nothing but garishly filmed violence including Moe getting his eyes and ears poked with climbing spikes; and shorts such as Booby Dupes and I Can Hardly Wait, finally, start to miss their mark.

Volume 5, 1946-1948: With the film Half-Wits’ Holiday in 1946, exit a very weak and tired Curly, enter Shemp. The floppy-haired comic surely had his critics, most of whom claimed he wasn’t the comic genius Curly was. That’s true, but Shemp brought his own manic energy and pretty much brought the trio back to life for the next couple of years. Included here are his debut with the team, Fight Night, which is nothing but laughs, and Hold That Lion, featuring a cameo by Curly and yet another hysterical two minutes from frequent Stooge regular Dudley Dickerson.

Volume 6, 1949-1951: Just as the TV era starts to heat up, the Stooges begin to slow down. Film studios aren’t making many shorts by this point, with Stooge studio Columbia being among the last holdouts. It’s easy to see the budgets going downwards short by short here; rekindled footage is sprouting up regularly. There are finally films that just aren’t funny at all, and they’re becoming disturbingly common; wit is being replaced with violence and repeated gags and phrases. The Tooth Will Out and Baby Sitters Jitters are poorly directed and mirthless, but, thankfully, there are still gems: Hula La La breaks the code and is one of the most original of all the Stooge shorts (a rare one of this period that doesn’t go by the book), and Malice In The Palace ranks with the best Stooges offerings of all time. Try not to crack up when the restaurant-owning Stooges supposedly serve up some “sliced dog and cat” to a pair of Arabian aristocrats.

Volume 7, 1952-1954: Bigger trouble in Stoogeland. Even more budget cuts forced the team to remake shorts from both the Curly and Shemp eras, and a lot of them are pretty much a waste of time. For instance, Rip Sew & Stitch is an almost note-for-note remake of the earlier, funnier Sing A Song Of Six Pants with just a couple of scenes re-shot. Few film fans or distributors noticed the cost cutting at the time – most theaters, at this point, were showing fewer and fewer shorts to begin with. There are laughs here with the western spoof Shot In The Frontier and in Shemp trying to install a TV antenna in Goof On The Roof, but things are getting sloppy and sad. The witless Pardon My Backfire is all new, but all unfunny, and Shemp and Moe are starting to look very old. Saddest of all, Shemp’s starting to look very, very tired.

Volume 8, 1955-1959: It’s all over but the slapping for the troupe; Shemp (the first 16 shorts here, again mostly remakes) suddenly dies, and is replaced by veteran comic Joe Besser for the trio’s final 16 efforts, after which Columbia shuts down its shorts division forever. Even the supporting players aren’t good; long gone are Stooge legends Duke York, Dickerson, Symona Boniface, Vernon Dent, and Christine McIntyre. Hardy and versatile player Emil Sitka helps, but other roles are filled by actors like the insipid Frank Sully, who delivers astoundingly awful performances. During the Besser shorts, Moe and Larry seem to be trying too hard, gesturing and overacting like madmen, probably realizing their new fat foil wasn’t up to the task. Besser, to his credit, was much more likable and funny working with Joey Bishop and Abbott & Costello; he simply seems out of place here. Still, two horse-themed shorts bring a few laughs, but Quiz Whizz, Outer Space Jitters, and the final Stooge short, Sappy Bullfighters, are as bad as any movies ever released by a major motion picture studio. As a Stooge fan that wanted to complete his collection, I purchased this set, but of the eight, this is the hardest to recommend.

Perhaps it’s nostalgia for my youth, waking up to watch a single Popeye cartoon and a Stooge short before heading off to school. Maybe it’s longing for a simpler time. Maybe, secretly, there’s a desire to bop my employer over the head with a lead pipe just to hear the beautiful steely “KONK!” sound. Whatever the reason, these lovingly remastered, low-priced collections are perfect for anyone who ever loved The Three Stooges. And how I do dearly love them.

I believe that after all these years, I’ve figured out the reasons why. Moe, Curly, and Shemp Howard, as well as Larry Fine, Joe Besser, and Joe DeRita (the last Curly replacement), never became millionaires from acting as most of today’s film stars do. However, even as an old man before his death in 1975, Moe always was trying to find ways to keep the Stooges going. He reportedly was going to team with DeRita and Sitka even after Larry could no longer go on. One gets the feeling that if Moe were alive today at 113 years old, he’d still be a member of The Three Stooges. From all accounts, Moe Howard, the brains of the group in real life as well as on-screen, loved what he did, every moment, every poke, every pie fight, and every slap. A magazine article printed just before Moe’s death reported that the elderly comedian saw a child in a store, and at that moment, he became a Stooge again, delighting the kid with impromptu, crazy antics. Moe Howard was born to be a Stooge. If someone loves what he does that much, he’s got soul and heart, and those are attributes too few of today’s entertainers possess.

But I think it all really boils down to this: When a Stooges scene shifts to a hotel, and to let you know, a sign is shown with the name “Hotel Costa Plente,” I still laugh like a hyena. Yeah, those corny old men still crack me up.

May their heirs be richly blessed, every one of them. Dare I say, few people on this earth have given this writer more pure joy than The Three Stooges. May they poke, slap, gouge, and woo-woo-woo till the end of time. And if you don’t get to the store to pick up these beautiful DVD collections, well, you’re just a knucklehead.

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We Received Letters

Dear DM Refugees,

I take strong objection to your recent column suggesting that my Invicta Subaqua Noma III isn’t fashionable. I showed mine to my foreman at the smelting mill where I work, and he thinks it’s really sexy. It’s so big! Then I wore it to dart league and every member of my team said they wanted one, too. I have an official Dale Earnhardt #3 racing helmet and an official replica WWE World Championship belt, and when I walk down the street with all this stuff on, I really get looks. People actually stop walking and stare at me. I love Invicta!
Ralphy Tomkins
Inside His TV

Hey, hack writers,

You guys think you’re king shit because you’ve all had jobs writing for newspapers and magazines. Well, let me tell you, print is a thing of the past – that Mac doohickey is going to be what we all look at soon. Note I said look at, not read.
R. Murdoch
On An Island

Dear Editor,

I don’t like how dirty TV, movies, and magazines are these days. Sex isn’t everything.
Dick Johnson
Poon, AL

Dear DM,

I used to work with you guys back in the day, and frankly, I always thought you were a bunch of Kansas City frog jumpers.
Dale Dobkins
Kansas City, MO

Dear DM,

Thank God I got this second letter to you real quick like! I live in Kansas, not that crummy Missouri. Just wanted to make that clear. Have a happy and a holy day.
Dale Dobkins
Kansas City, MO

DM Refugees,

I’ve read your blog, I have looked at every page. Your problem is that you don’t spend enough time talking with our Lord. Heaven help those who aren’t walking with Jesus.
Rev. Samuel “High Tops” Barton
In Your Grandparents’ Wallet

Hey, I Haven’t Seen You In Weeks,

The other day I went to one of those places that both serves donuts and ice cream, right? So I went in and stared at the signs; I couldn’t really tell if I wanted soft serve or old-fashioned hand-dipped. I like all kinds of ice cream! I really didn’t like the flavors at the dipping area, so I wanted for one of those foreigners behind the counter to quit waiting on other people and get to me. So after a while, I get someone, and I ask for a vanilla cone. I’d be damned if the idiot didn’t make me a chocolate cone! So when the dummy brought it to me, I had to tell him I asked for vanilla, not chocolate. He probably doesn’t even speak English! So he had to throw out the chocolate cone, pick up another cone, and fill it with vanilla ice cream. Now, remember, it had been like, what, four minutes since I walked into the place. So I finally get my cone and I started to lick it, and I walk out, and guess what happens? I dribbled some vanilla right on my new Invicta Subaqua Noma III watch I bought off the TV! Do you know how sticky vanilla ice cream is? So, I turn around to get a napkin when I noticed the whole face of the watch was creamy with white ice cream. I hate that! So I had to go back in and ask for a wet nap, which naturally they didn’t have, you know how those people are. So finally I…
The Neighbor You Avoid
Watching HSN

Hey, Bob Smith,

I want you so bad, I’m aching.
Pamela Anderson
Not Talking To Our Bob Smith

Hey Bob Smith,

Get off me.
Mrs. Smith
In Her Bob-Made Hell

Dear Editors,

There’s a real problem in this country. People simply aren’t serious enough about the matters that really count. From war to taxes to our infrastructure to our environment, we must buckle down, swallow hard, and roll up our sleeves and systematically solve our problems one by one. Let’s get serious about these tough times.
Archie Poot
Making That Funny Armpit Noise

Dear DM Refugees,

Since that guy won’t do anything, I must ask: Is there a meat shortage? Everywhere I look, nothing. It’s epidemic, it’s terrible. No more running after things until there’s brisket. Good boy, my tight multi-colored ass.
Your Dog
On Strike

Dear DM Refugees,

Love your blog. Keep up the great work.
Nobody At All
This Is A Fake Letter

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Me and My Head Trauma

by Steve Ricci


Steve Ricci

The Three Stooges, under whose tutelage I have labored exhaustively, are the undisputed masters of head trauma. In one of my favorite routines, Curly bungles a carpentry job and Moe runs the blade of a saw across his partner’s stubbly scalp. Curly feigns agony, screaming, “OH! OH! OH!” then points at the saw and says, “Look!” Cut to a close-up of the gnarled, twisted saw with its teeth all bent and broken. In another bit, Moe grabs Shemp by the nose and wrenches it around so brutally as to recreate precisely the sound of walnuts being crushed in a meat grinder. No one’s heads ever suffered so much for the sake of laughs.

Perhaps I’ve watched too much of the Stooges (okay, not perhaps, definitely) because it seems that my own head has been trying to eradicate itself in an uncannily comparable stooge-like fashion.

The first instance of head trauma that I can remember took place as a young boy living in New York City. I recall running down the sidewalk, tripping, and somehow executing an acrobatic maneuver so convoluted that the first part of my body to make contact with the pavement was my upper forehead. Other than screaming with sufficient volume to shatter several nearby windshields, all I remember about it is that a nearby adult said, “Boy, you’ve got quite an egg there.” I remember being old enough to know that an actual egg wasn’t growing out of my forehead but I was too young to understand that, when you’re plummeting toward concrete, your eyebrow is a less-than-optimal device for breaking the fall.

Sometime later, slingshots became popular among my age group. Giving slingshots to boys in Manhattan is about as conducive to the safety and well-being of the general populace as giving hand grenades to warring tribes of howler monkeys. Eventually they’ll learn to pull the pins, just as we eventually discovered that you didn’t have to shoot the harmless plastic projectiles that came with the slingshots. With decent-sized rocks in short supply in Greenwich Village, we quickly found an alternative ammunition: marbles.

Immediately upon convincing his parents to purchase the weapon for him, each boy collected and got refunds for as many returnable soda bottles as would buy a bag of glass marbles, and then joined his sadistic cohorts in carpet shelling everything within a one-block radius. We blasted the marbles against fire hydrants, car windshields, the target-friendly buttocks of corpulent pedestrians, store-front plate-glass windows, and an infinite supply of slow-moving pigeons.

Shortly before the neighborhood’s outraged (and deeply bruised) residents, shop owners, motorists, and representatives from the pigeons’ union demanded the confiscation of all slingshots, I was in a park one sunny day admiring a recent acquisition: an extra-large marble with a unique swirl design inside. I wanted to see what the innards were made of so I fired the marble against a high wall about 30 feet away, assuming the impact would detonate the fragile glass projectile. Instead the marble bounced off the wall unharmed and began a flawless return arc, colliding a second later with the outer rim of my eye socket. I was happy to let people think a street gang had savaged me with a tire-iron rather than explain the real reason I had replaced my eyeball with a ripened two-pound strawberry.

Things didn’t go much better with the other traditional boyhood weapon. Long before Ralphie got his Red Ryder in “A Christmas Story,” I was in the yard behind my grandparents’ house in upstate New York and managed to do with a BB gun almost exactly what I’d done with the slingshot. I fired at a glass bottle and watched as the BB exited the muzzle, ricocheted off the target, and hit me in the eye, this time in the inner part. I remember only unrestrained shrieking, swarming adults, several pounds of ice, and frenzied deliberations about Braille, German shepherds, and Patty Duke.

In that same yard in another summer, my brother, cousins, and some neighbor children were playing behind the house. Some teenage boys were watching us from behind the trees and decided it would be fun to pelt the smaller children with large stones. When we heard the rocks start to land around us, we all scattered. My scattering took the form of inserting my face directly into the flight path of a tennis ball-sized igneous missile. The damage was relatively minor; hardly equal to the mummification quantities of gauze my parents were frantically layering around my head. But at this point they had accepted that their son’s skull was the final destination for every airborne object in the western hemisphere. From then on, whenever they heard about an asteroid running loose around Neptune or a space satellite with a decaying orbit they hid me in a basement crawlspace until the danger had passed.

Despite their concerns and precautions, my head continued its unhindered quest for self-destruction.

As a teenager, I was playing touch football one day and went out for a long pass. I was in full stride, flying down the field as fast as I would ever run. I looked back to the quarterback, who saw me get open and hurled a perfect pass that landed squarely in my arms. I tucked it in and, as I turned to run for the touchdown, my head achieved complete molecular fusion with the utility pole that served as our end-zone marker.

Today, that play has been long forgotten but the impact with which my skull struck the pole has become the stuff of legend. Those who witnessed it described the sound as precisely the noise one might expect to hear when a loaded dump truck rolls over a casaba melon. As one witness said, “When I heard that sound, I just assumed you were dead.”

I didn’t die, I merely lost consciousness for a couple of seconds. I further amazed everyone when I got up and continued playing in the game, not because I was especially tough or determined, but simply because the collision had left me with the unshakable notion that I was at least seven of the apostles, all singing the theme from “The Benny Hill Show” while spiraling lazily around the Space Needle in a winged bathtub.

At this point, my parents considered having my head permanently encased in a titanium bomb-squad helmet filled with packing peanuts. I would do little to convince them this was a bad idea.

Some years later, I was riding my ten-speed bike down the street. I remember this head-trauma incident as being the most embarrassing only because I wasn’t doing anything particularly dangerous at the time. I was bored and simply steering the bike in slow, lazy circles while I tried to think of something to do. When I turned the handlebars just a little too severely, the front wheel stuck on the pavement, the rear wheel lifted off the ground, and the bike capsized along its vertical axis. It happened so slowly that I actually had time to marvel at what was occurring. The marveling stopped when I realized that I was now completely inverted and, once again, in the gravitational embrace of yet another eyebrows-first trajectory toward the pavement. I landed on the crown of my head, right at the hairline, and almost before I was able to stand up, an irate, roiling mass of inflamed blood vessels erupted at the spot of contact. Within a couple of minutes the frothing contusion looked like a mutilated raccoon trying to claw its way out of a pink balloon.

I walked my bike home, fully aware that there was no way my parents could endure another episode of “Fractured Cranium Tales,” so I jammed a baseball cap over my rapidly swelling second head and went to dinner. Of course, they immediately demanded that I remove my hat at the table and I was forced to unveil Bumpzilla. My father leaped off his chair as though it had been electrified, screamed, “Incubus!” and ran to get the holy water. My mother just went to the locker of bandages, ointments, and vascular clamps she had learned to keep on hand for these occasions.

I was routinely interrogated about how I had sustained the injury but, at this point, it really didn’t matter anymore. I could have walked through the door with the fender from a ’62 Chrysler jutting out my left temple and my father would have just said, “Great! Where are you gonna find a hat big enough to cover THAT, mister?” while my mother would have calmly called the Red Cross to see if ice could be ordered in gross tonnage.

The cranial carnage didn’t end with childhood. In college I was playing racquetball and dove to return a low shot. I grotesquely miscalculated the distance between me and the wall and slammed into it with the back of my head. Unfazed by the impact, I made the shot and went to the service line. My opponent, standing behind me, said, “Um, I think you’re bleeding.” I ran my hand across the spot where I’d hit my head and looked at it. It was deep red. I grabbed a towel, wiped my hand off, and said, “Okay, let’s play.” There was no one to play, however, because having seen the spreading blood stain on the back of my shirt, my opponent (a six-foot-six, 285-pound defensive lineman), was running down the hall screaming like a Campfire Girl with a snake in her jumper. Later in the emergency room a doctor stitched the two-inch gash on my scalp and imparted to me the kind of inscrutable advice only 10 years of rigorous medical training can endow: “Running into walls with your head is not a good racquetball strategy.”  I failed his concussion test by answering the question, “Who is the president of the United States?” with the response, “marinara sauce.”

In my early 30s I’d had enough and decided to take up tae kwon do, the “thinking” being that, if I mastered the art of self-defense I could apply those same principles to the defense of my head. Unfortunately, the exact opposite occurred.

Shortly after starting classes, I discovered that sparring was an important part of the curriculum, and that beginning students were frequently paired against sparring partners with much higher belt degrees, so that the novices could benefit from the experience of the experts. And then I learned that scoring a kick to the head was the most prized maneuver you could execute during a match. Being significantly shorter than the rest of the men in the class, this combination of circumstances made my skull the Holy Grail of head shots. How to describe the ensuing butchery? Imagine someone has just taped a winning Powerball ticket to your forehead. Now imagine that Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, and Mike Tyson are competing against each other to dislodge it. Despite the plump decorative throw pillows I had stuffed inside my head gear, I still drove home after class each night wondering if I was holding the correct steering wheel of the four that hovered in front of me.

And then I got it. Every instance of head trauma that I had experienced to that point had been the direct result of just one thing: activity. Had I not been running, shooting, throwing, biking, sparring, whatever, I would never have sustained these repeated cranial traumas. Clearly, complete inactivity is the key to an anti-concussive lifestyle: a philosophy I have followed devotedly for the past 10 years. Not once in that time have I suffered a bump, a fracture, or a substantial leakage of brain matter (with the brief exception of some cerebral liquefaction during Bush-Kerry presidential debate).

Of course, this plan for securing the integrity of my head has not come without a price, namely, being so out of shape that the physical exertion required to type this story required several multi-liter intravenous infusions of Gatorade. But it seems like a fair price to pay to keep the planet from battering my head around like a soccer ball at a Brazilian beach party.

Of course, continued exposure to the Three Stooges could trigger the same effect as a ball-peen hammer to the foreskull, but that’s a chance my head is willing to take.

© 2010 by Steve Ricci

Steve Ricci is a writer, editor, and photographer who, for some reason, just can’t get into Lost.


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Filed under Celebrities, Entertainment, Humor, Posts by Steve Ricci

Bob Backlund, We Hardly Knew Ye

Where are they?

In this era of immediate gratification – where you can find anything, anytime, anywhere – too many great moments in entertainment seem to have fallen through the cracks.  Here’s some stuff we actually have to remember rather than see at a moment’s notice – and changes that seem to have been made for no reason whatsoever:

We can’t find video of Bob Uecker’s incredible, hilarious 2003 Baseball Hall Of Fame acceptance speech anywhere, and it’s the greatest HOF moment of all time.  It has to been seen with the heart-wrenching tale told by sports writer Hal McCoy moments earlier to the get the full impact of one of the best-timed, most perfect comedy soliloquies ever uttered; it truly transcends both sport and humor.  But we dare you to find it.

Anywhere. But you can watch wrestlers with names like Necro Butcher on YouTube anytime.

While we’re on the subject: Where’s Mr. Belvedere reruns?  It’s not on any national networks.

Or Barney Miller.

Or The Odd Couple.

Or I Love Lucy – yes, even I Love Lucy.  Can you believe it? Thank Mertz for the DVDs.  As we write this, the venerable comedy series was not on the regular schedule of any national broadcast or cable network.  We once read a quote from a TV executive who claimed that he didn’t want to broadcast black-and-white shows because they wouldn’t hold the attention of younger viewers.  That executive was an asshole.

Or Looney Tunes.  What’s a Saturday morning without Foghorn Leghorn beating the tar out of Barnyard Dog?  The fact that this huge array of classic cartoons is owned by Time Warner – which can’t find regular time on their schedule for these wonderful animated shorts on not one, but two networks (Cartoon Network and Boomerang) – is downright criminal.  To think you can watch The Banana Splits and not Daffy Duck proves there are empty suits everywhere.

Why did they ever replace the wonderful, non-grating Richard Karn on Family Feud?  Is it really a better program now?

Why do they change hosts on Westminster Dog Show telecasts all the time?  Whatever happened to Joe Garagiola, who didn’t know a pug from his elbow but was riotously entertaining all the same?

Whatever happened to the wonderfully cheesy cartoon program The Marvel Superheroes from the 1960s?  No one seems to show the static Grantray-Lawrence Animation-produced show, which featured America’s first looks at Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, The Hulk, Thor, and, yes, Captain America.  The program was so incredibly bad that it achieved true greatness.  And Dean Wormer from Animal House was the voice of Iron Man!

Whatever happened to Stories Of The Century, the 1950s western where virtually every legendary villain of the Old West (Black Bart, Harry Tracy, etc.) was captured by the same lawman?

Whatever happened to The Three Stooges? At the same time a big-screen revival starring Sean Penn is being planned and a great DVD reissue series is going on, Moe, Larry, Curly, and Shemp aren’t regularly on any national network.  We don’t care about Joe Besser, though he was great on The Joey Bishop Show (speaking of Bishop, isn’t it amazing that Regis Philbin is his only contemporary left on this mortal coil?).

Whatever happened to the horrible but great Abbott & Costello Show?

Gumby?

Doodles Weaver?  The closing credits to his 1960s color shorts are so incredibly inane they reach a pinnacle of ridiculousness never before achieved, even by Chaplin and Keaton.  One segment during the closing (silent with honky tonk piano music in the background) shows Weaver smiling at the camera; you hear a snap; then Weaver lifts his hand and writhes in pain, as his fingers are somehow caught in a mousetrap.  Where did the trap come from?  Did he snap the trap on his own digits?  The greatest final moment in show business history, eclipsed only by the final edition of The Sopranos.

Where are Post Oat Flakes?

Whip ’N Chill?

Bonomo Turkish Taffy?

Where are the full-page magazine ads for Charles Atlas?  Fake mustaches and beards? Blow up love dolls?  The Johnson Smith Catalog, so we can keep stocked with a fresh supply of fake dog do, X-Ray Specs, and plastic vomit?

Where’s The Goon Show?

Whatever happened to Bob Hastings?  George Kennedy?  Alan Hamel?  Martha Smith?  While we’re on the subject, Julie Strain?

Whatever happened to Chocobliss candy bars?

Whatever happened to Robert Smith?

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Filed under Celebrities, Current events, Entertainment, Humor, Journalism, Posts by Robert Smith

The Very, Very Bestest of 2009

By ROBERT SMITH

Oh, our stars: Was 2009 ever an outstanding year for, well, virtually everything! From literature to television to the Internet to film to the music world, there was a veritable buffet of delights. Never before, as we can barely recall, has the world been so enlightened, so thrilled, so entertained.
Here is the unofficial DM Refugees list of the latest and greatest in the entertainment world. We can barely get to sleep just wondering if 2010 can top these works of sheer genius!
The Book Of 2009:
How To Be Famous by Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt: Just as future generations continue to enjoy and learn from the works of Jack London and Mark Twain, these words of wisdom from this pair of TV super-dooper stars will resonate and educate for as long as upright walking mammals have eyes. The utter brilliance of this self-help tome only belies the grace and elegance of these mega-ultra-power stars: They manage to tell you everything they know in only 144 pages of rather large type. It was a banner year for these fun-loving reality show super celebs – particularly for Montag, who somehow managed to pose nude for Playboy without actually posing nude for Playboy. Only a genius could earn huge gobs of hype without actually doing the thing that was touted in press releases for months … only to not actually do it! More, please; the world needs the comforting words of these fab entertainment giants – particularly Pratt, who has probably earned more than a million dollars without actually having a job description.
The CD Of 2010:
The E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies) by Black Eyed Peas: There was mucho competition for this award, including the Bob Dylan Christmas album and brilliant new sounds by John Mayer and a host of “American Idol” refugees, but the deep lyricists and entertainers that comprise this vibrating quartet have set a high water mark for pop music for eons to come. In fact, their entire canon’s deep-seeded emotional content will keep them in the hearts and ears for music lovers for time memoriam. Who can ever forget such flashes of brilliance such as “My humps! My humps, my humps, my humps! My lovely lady lumps! In the back and in the front!”, “I like that boom boom pow/Them chicken jackin’ my style/They try copy my swagger/I’m on that next shit now” and “Imma be shakin my hips/You gon be lickin your lips/Imma be takin’ them pics/Lookin’ all fly and shit/Imma be the flyest chick (so fly).’ Even The Archies could never match such raw human insight.
The TV Program of 2009:
Jersey Shore (MTV): There was nothing sweeter during this calendar year than the fact that people from the Jersey shore were all up in arms about a reality show about the people from the Jersey shore acting exactly like people from the Jersey shore. S’miracles will happen! We hear a proposed new MTV program will be called “Catskill Mountains,” where people who don’t brush their teeth for weeks on end spend their days punishing their kids and complaining about “those city people.”
The Website Of 2009:
The Dude Falling Website: It’s simply a man falling down the side of a hill; you can watch this for hours if you so choose. Way cheaper than cable! The raw intelligence of this site made it a squeaker victory over the more highly touted GlennBeck.com and a blog featuring a bunch of fat former newspaper writers mewling over their past glories. (studenthome.nku.edu/~russelljo/flash/dudefalling.swf)

Robert Smith actually makes a living writing reviews of entertainment, and as such, should get out there and walk a lot more than he does.

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Filed under Celebrities, Current events, Entertainment, Humor, Posts by Robert Smith