Thursday, February 28, 2013

chinacat, regina

WOMEN 72-73
A deadhead i met online, she lived on Staten Island with her ten year-old son. She was a nurse and martial arts teacher. We shared a nice correspondence. We met a few times at my home in Jersey...did some outdoor stuff, listened to evening we cuddled, and things got mildly sexual. But i backed away because of the distance (with two bodies of water to cross in not always the most timely fashion, getting to her might take over two hours), and because i wasn’t as into her as she was me.
A fun woman i met online, an ivy league actress. We agreed we must do MAN AND SUPERMAN someday. The night we met, we wandered around Manhattan. She was bi-racial, and had an incredible, smallish afro. I half-seriously joked that i would date her just for her hair. It was just startlingly, beautifully soft, i couldn't stop touching it. After a few hours, she said that she was feeling very sexual, and she could either go home to masturbate, or i could come with her. I told her i didn’t jump into sexual relationships, but at the very least i wanted to hold her while she took care of herself. Her apartment on the upper west side had a cool kittycat and a cool vibe. We talked awhile, then got ready for bed. She made a fun happy noise at the sight of me naked. She was a bit out of shape, but very cute. She became sexual, and took delight in disrobing as we held each other. She was almost apologetic, saying she hoped i didn’t mind her getting naked too. I told her of course i didn’t mind. We gave each other baby kisses, then she masturbated while i held and caressed her. I’d wanted to do that with a woman for a long time...i'd even thought that every sexual relationship should start that way. It was beautiful. We shared some more sexual cuddling in the morning. I felt that i might not end up being profoundly into her, but i was open to letting whatever unfold. However, that night was our last. We e-mailed for another week or two. She apologized for being a horndog our first night, and i happily assured her she had nothing to apologize for...but eventually i just stopped hearing from her. Inexplicably. Maybe i had morning breath.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

buzz-worthy JCS

-summer 2002
Back at the Red Curtain, Paul had made the acquaintance of Diana Wolf (Dee-ana), a mexican rock singer. She'd had a record released in Mexico with Sony, but had become disenchanted and moved to the U.S. She told Paul that one of her dreams was to play Jesus as a woman, in the classic Webber/Rice rock opera. I loved the idea, and we discussed doing a stripped-down, three-actor version. I could play either Judas or Magdalene/Pilate. Vocally, i was leaning toward the latter, although Judas was tempting and Diana was pushing me that way. But we found a perfect Iscariot in Tom Corcoran, from PLAY ON! and our Jack Lemmon tribute. His wonderful demeanor and reliability were a given, and he was great vocally. I set to work arranging and streamlining. Since Diana would be recording much of our backing music (with her german guitarist husband Oz), she asked for and got the title of musical director. We eliminated Simon and Peter, and shortened many numbers. Tom took on the character of Caiaphas, and i played Annas. Diana took the role of Herod. I realized that the few-actor element that had lent such a comedic touch to JOSEPH didn't fit the heavier JCS, so i set out to find some Apostles and soldiers. The first additions were Apostles Caitlin Clause and Danielle Dragoni, two of my buddies from the Pirate Players. They were both fifteen. Caitlin's strength was acting and Danielle's was singing, and they were wonderfully dedicated and enthused. Oz became a guard, as did new gallery partner Ronn James. Oz was quite a character, with his thick german accent, tattoos and piercings, and interest in the metal-demonic side of life. Our final performer was Melinda McNerney as an Apostle. She joined a couple weeks before we opened and was the wife of Leo, a hippie-esque chap who volunteered his wonderful light system, and ran them as well. He was a delightful, funny extrovert. Melinda was quiet with a quick smile, and so easy to get along with - moderately talented, she did just fine. Ronn was…well, at Paul's urging, i went against my instinct in casting him. There was something cold and controlling about him. He was donating to the gallery a bar, which he would run, so Paul was deferring to him. Early on, Ronn wanted some creative control of the theater. Amanda Parke, who was friendly with him, joined the three of us for a meeting to address Ronn’s anger at my independence, and his dislike of “children” in the cast. I explained that it was common and justified for all ages to be in the show. Our problems chiefly stemmed from Paul’s miscommunications. I wasn’t thrilled with Amanda’s presence as facilitator, for i felt that Ronn wasn't the kind of person she needed in her life. I'd met him a couple years before, as a reckless, hard-partying friend of Jason O'Neill's. Jason had been in love with Amanda, and Ronn had acted destructively toward that love. Ronn made solid contributions; he brought authentic semi-automatic weapons for the guards, and built a stage and crucifix. Our costumes were wonderful, a combination of period and modern. Our set was beautiful, with huge columns Paul painted to look like black marble, and the prop rock set pieces Eric Stillson had made for the Wood production of ASHER’S COMMAND. A huge picture of Diana appeared on the front page of the Beach Bulletin, but the shoot and article had been arranged without my knowledge, which bothered me. I explained to her that i was the person that the cast has to look to if, say, feelings got hurt because only one actor appeared on a newspaper cover. She didn’t really apologize, saying that the shoot came on short notice, and that the show was about her. I told her it was arguably Judas’ story as much as Jesus, and that i probably would have approved the shoot, but that i needed to be accountable for these decisions. Ronn Lobbied to be Caiaphas, the high priest. Again i balked, but Paul prevailed upon me. Ronn assured me that if it didn’t work out he would give the role back to Tom, and would eagerly stand by any direction i gave. It became quickly obvious that he had a long way to go. His presence was ominous, with his dark energy and large physique, but his acting was wooden, and he had major rhythm and pitch problems. I got him to talk-sing many of his lines, and we were able to find some good moments, but as the opening loomed he was still struggling (and missing some rehearsals, to boot). The day before we opened, in a move i should have made sooner (i'd wanted to give him as much time as possible), i dropped Caiaphas from two numbers, and gave some of his remaining lines to Annas. I left the changes on Ronn’s phone machine when i couldn’t reach him. He didn’t show up for dress rehearsal, so Tom re-assumed Caiaphas. Tom’s performance was so good that i was almost grateful for Ronn’s apparently boorish behavior. I tried to reach him after rehearsal, to make sure he understood that i hadn’t removed him as Caiaphas. I left a message saying he could still return. In the morning, i arrived at the darkened gallery and discovered that he had torn every contribution of his out of the space. The stage and cross were gone, the curtains torn down and damaged…and he had used the Judas rope to hang a dummy in effigy. It was wearing some of my costume pieces, with a note pinned to it saying, “Your burden is lifted”. I tried to reach him, then started cleaning up. Paul arrived, and i didn’t tell him about the dummy until a couple days later. He felt i should have told him right away, but i didn’t want to feed Ronn’s negativity on a day when we suddenly had so much to do. Paul was galvanized, and dashed off to get us hardware to re-hang the curtain. I alerted our actors, and Tom and Caitlin and Danielle said they’d be in early. Tom said he'd bring lumber for a new crucifix. Needing a stage, i called Tony and Donna at the Orpheus, and they said we could borrow theirs. It was a forty-yard walk to the Orpheus, and i soon was busy turtling sections of a stage back to the gallery. Tom arrived, and our new crucifix was actually more aesthetically pleasing than the old. We replaced a few costume pieces, built a new whip, and were set. I made one stop at Ronn’s, but there was no answer. When Caitlin and Danielle arrived most everything was in place, so the three of us walked around the beach and Times Square area handing out flyers in costume, which became a joyous, silly ritual. Opening night was the 4th of July. We started at 7:30, to be sure we'd be done when the beach fireworks began. It's hard to communicate how proud i was, for the way we all pulled together in the face of the most small-minded behavior i’d ever come across. In the wake of such maliciousness, i actually felt very little. It was obvious that Ronn's issues ran very deep. I was ashamed though, and vowed to never again expose any cast of mine to such danger. I had known that Ronn had a reputation for burning business partners, but, fan of redemption that i am, i suppose i believed that the love inherent in one of my productions would bring out the good in anyone. I contacted him one last time after the run was over, and left a message saying that i'd be there if he ever wanted to talk. So what did we create that opening night? Something pretty wonderful. Tom and Diana were fantastic. The backstage was light-hearted. For the pre-show music, i chose George Harrison’s ALL THINGS MUST PASS album, and the cast would sing and goof around while we waited. With my Annas to Tom’s Caiaphas and the teutonic presence of Oz, the priest scenes were too much fun. Our Apostles had great energy. Our temple scene was a raucous hoot - we went out into the audience to pull them into our debauchery. Melinda was a stripper. I was a stumbling drunk with a two-foot Southern Comfort bottle and trench coat full of jewelry. Oz donned a cowboy hat to play a coke/heroine dealer. He even got his face covered in white stuff one night, one of the funniest images imaginable. The leper scene killed. At the end of “I Don’t Know How to Love (Her)”, Diana and i nearly kissed - a packed moment. Caitlin played my servant girl in the Pilate scene, which became one of my favorites; the costume (black leather/red velvet/gold) in Leo’s shadowy lighting was eerily effective. Paul stayed behind the bar, running the sound. I found one line for him to sing, “See my purse, I’m a poor, poor man” (an in-joke that provided much delight, as Paul was constantly fighting to keep the gallery afloat). Diana's demonic Herod carried a wolf-skull staff. Paul and i felt her sunglasses were a bad choice, as they hid her eyes, and overall her Herod wasn’t the crowd-pleaser Jesus was, but she resisted my suggestions. I didn’t force the issue, because of the incredible work she was doing, and her passion. The work i was most personally proud of was the choreography i created for the Herod number. Caitlin, Danielle, Tom, and i were the dancers. Danielle had a top hat and turtle life preserver, Caitlin was a happy hippie, Tom wore a rainbow wig and epaulets, and i was dressed as one of the TV Powerpuff Girls, with a baby blue short dress, plastic glasses with eyes the size of saucers, and a bright yellow pigtail headpiece. I had never even seen the show, but the costume was too much fun. We dipped and slid and sashayed and rolled...i thought of my old mentor Judi Lehrhaupt, and how proud she would have been of me, the happy but slow-footed actor, now a choreographer(!). The energy between Jesus and Pilate was dark and dangerous. Diana's “Gethsemane” was an absolute powerhouse. The scenes between Judas and the priests became nasty one-on-one affairs between Tom and i. His subtle performance captured Judas so well. In “Superstar”, the last big number of the show, he was decked out in jaunty clothes and a cane, and with Danielle (an angel) and Caitlin (a devil) at his side, they finished the singing part of the show in grand style. Backstage, the rest of us provided harmony vocals. When Caitlin was playing her devil, i had flashes of how powerful an actress she might one day be. Early on she went braless, and must have been aware of how little the thin material hid her breasts. I sensed that her parents would step in, and indeed they did. But her fearlessness was impressive. Danielle was becoming more relaxed onstage. When we got to the crucifixion the lights went down and two screens came on, showing a filmed crucifixion interspersed with holy and bloody images, and icons of mass-media culture. We'd filmed it at sundown on the north end of the beach. A large crowd had gathered, as we did many takes hoisting Diana up. It had been an overcast day, but we had gone ahead with the preparations, because that was the only afternoon we'd been able to bring everybody’s schedules together. Just as we were ready to film, the clouds parted and we were treated to an hour of the most beautiful sundown imaginable. After the film, Diana’s death scream brought the lights back up, revealing her on the cross. Oz had built a crown of thorns out of metal spikes and rubber, which was much more nasty and beautiful than i expected. We had a fog machine going. Oz finally cut her down, and i caught her. I laid her down, then carried her out of the gallery with the girls following. When the curtain closed behind us, we looked at each other with sweet smiles, and after a few moments opened the gallery back up. After opening night, we all gathered on the balcony outside. The beach fireworks suddenly began. It felt like it had been put together just for us. The audience, while small, had been extremely appreciative. Early next week, i got a message from Brian O’Sullivan, who worked for Rodgers & Hammerstein Publishing in New York. I had a feeling of doom as i returned his call. During JOSEPH, Sheryl had told me that if you do an excerpted version of a show, you weren’t liable for royalties. I'd been skeptical but went along, as i knew we wouldn’t have the money for full musical royalty rights. I suspected we were about to be presented with a huge bill, and possibly worse. Brian told me they represented Webber and Rice, and asked me to fax a description of our production. A couple days later, he called and said that we were indeed liable for royalty payments, and that if we wanted to continue, we would have to reverse the genders back. He seemed a decent fellow, and i've always wondered whether his following moves were made without the full knowledge of his higher-ups. We had scheduled a four-week run, and he said we could finish the second week as we were. We were liable for $1400 in royalties, but the bill that arrived was inexplicably only $800. At one point, the thought crossed my mind that this whole encounter was a ruse created by Ronn, but the depth of the phone system and knowledgeable hirelings it would have taken made me dismiss that thought. I had bankrupted myself to get SUPERSTAR launched, but Paul volunteered to pay the royalties until i could reimburse him. We did our second week, again with joy. But then? There was never a question of letting the show die. I set about re-gendering. I considered moving Tom to Jesus, but realized that for the sake of stability, he should remain a constant. Diana and i would switch roles. I wanted Leo to play Herod, for he had performed the song once after a rehearsal, with hilarious tongue-in-cheek presence. But he balked, so i took the part. I knew i could do it well, but was saddened at the prospect of not being a Herod dancer anymore. I would re-work a couple scenes so i could continue as Annas...but this plan wasn't to be. Diana said that Magdalene wasn't a part she could do well. I tried to convince her that she could. I suspected she really was just too downhearted at the prospect of not being “She-sus” anymore. I understood. We had all been hoping that the show would draw well enough to earn the actors some pay, but this wasn't to be. Later, Paul told me he suspected that Diana never even fully believed we'd been contacted by New York. This had been her first acting job, and i tried to make her understand the bond between actors who commit to each other (and that the girls looked up to her and wouldn’t understand why she was leaving), but my words were in vain. I faintly hoped that Oz wouldn’t quit, but he did. We needed actors, fast. The one factor in our favor was that it would be hard to overstate how ardently JCS is known and loved - it's fair to say it's one of the most-memorized shows ever. Paul found Angie Smoker, a hippie chick who had done some acting a few years back. Her voice was solid if not overwhelming, and her energy very good. After Diana’s final performance, Caitlin said she wanted to be Mary. While the audience and crew kibbitzed, we went into the dressing room and she sang for me. It broke my heart to disappoint her, because she had been a little fireburst of energy onstage, but at fifteen she wasn’t ready, vocally. I told her she would play the part one day. I knew she didn’t want to hear that, but she soldiered on. Angie was our Mary, but didn’t have the energy or desire to be Pilate (she was daunted enough by the prospect of learning one part in a few days). I found Anthony Hurrell, who'd been one of my students at Cape Coral High. He was mature and intelligent, the kind of student you occasionally gave a late pass to just because he'd engaged you in some compelling conversation or another (and once in awhile, for less reason than that). I'd been a bit of an acting mentor to him. He had very nearly been in one of my Rooftop productions, and had auditioned at the Orpheus. He'd been singing in a band, and was extremely interested. Our final new piece was a guard, who appeared in the form of another ex-student, Doug Ball. Intelligent and funny, prone to talking your ear off, and the kind of student you occasionally didn’t give a late pass to, because he would try to get as much out of you as he could (not in a sneaky way though; he would always tell you what class he was trying to ditch). When i told him he would get to whip me, he was sold. We scheduled two full cast rehearsals. Angie had her part down pretty quickly. Anthony had a little trouble with some of the quick and quirky rhythms, but kept at it. Two days before re-opening, Angie fell down a flight of stairs, breaking her wrist. Now wearing a cast, her nervousness doubled. I assured her she would be wonderful. The new chemistry was a positive mix. In rehearsal i sang parts of Jesus in falsetto, but Tom felt it didn’t sound right. For expediency’s sake (and also because of all he'd had to endure), i immediately took his counsel. As i wasn’t a howling tenor, i had to adjust some of the songs to fit my range. Diana and Oz had left most of the props they'd contributed. The newspapers gave a lot of coverage to our story, running pictures of Diana and i side by side. Drew Sterwald, Charles Runnells’ replacement at the News Press, did a huge piece, even interviewing Brian O’Sullivan. We were the News Press entertainment section cover story that week. Drew labeled me an iconoclast, which kept Paul and i laughing. That week, we got a call-in from an irate christian, a lady who thought that what we were doing was just terrible. I invited her to see the show for free, but she declined. I was busy doing what needed to be done, so i didn't dwell on this, but i was quite sad at leaving the roles of Magdalene and Pilate. I'd gotten to the point where performing them felt so very amazing. The final version of the cast probably didn’t quite reach the level of excellence of the first, but was superior in one way - sweetness and love. For those in both casts, there was probably an undercurrent of the simple reality that performing this show, under any circumstances, was perhaps one of the sublimest pleasures we'd ever know. We started as we always had, coming together onstage and discovering a pile of costumes. We goof around, and pick pieces that will become our characters. On re-opening night, even with some of our energy focused on simply getting through it, it felt as though nothing had really changed. The audience reaction was similarly excited, and the crowds a bit larger. Amelia Rosen and Whitney Congress, two of my child buddies from the Pirate Players, came one night, and during the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, i picked Whitney up and carried her as we went back onstage. Caitlin happily took over my stumbling bum character and Powerpuff costume. My red-costumed Herod was much more playful than Diana’s black-themed version (Tom gave me his rainbow wig, which topped off the character perfectly). We abandoned the filmed crucifixion. Playing Jesus was wonderful. I’m honestly glad i only played him for two weeks, because i’ve never done a character that stayed with me so much. In the past, anytime i came offstage, i would become me again pretty quickly. But i couldn't do that with Jesus…i carried around an extra heaviness and pain those weeks. Tom adjusted seamlessly. Angie brought wonderful emotional honesty to her part. Anthony finally nailed the music, and was delightful to act off of. There were a tiny handful of scenes that were unchanged. One of these was the “Superstar” finale. During those final weeks particularly, there was no number which filled me with greater offstage joy. Doug’s highlight was, not surprisingly, the whipping. A curious thing happened the first night. We had had sort of taken the whipping for granted, but with the first crack i felt a stinging pain and realized that we hadn’t taught Doug how to pull back at the last moment. He thought that since the whip was only cloth, he could lash away. But let me tell you, a cloth cat-o-nine-tails can hurt. It didn’t help that there was stage blood on the whip, lending it extra weight. So that show had an extra measure of reality. Audience members were either very impressed or a bit shaken. Doug chuckled evilly when we told him of his technique error, then laughed even harder when i showed him the welts. At the end of the show, i lay in Angie’s arms as the lights faded. Our third week accomplished, we looked forward to relative peace our closing week. But St. Genesius had one more bit of mischief - Tom broke HIS hand in a home accident. He wouldn’t need a cast though, and by this point, broken bones didn’t phase us. I moved in with Angie, to help her with activities that required two hands. The only thing left was a replacement our final Friday night for Doug, who had a previous commitment. My resources produced nobody, so Paul was pressed into service. He had stage jitters, but came through (and whipped with a gentle touch). His night wasn’t without further drama, though. Leo had an emergency, so Paul had to be soldier and run sound AND lights. He did it all in costume, making his entrances from the audience. One of the least relaxed humans on the planet that night, he made only one big goof. When he returned to the tech station prior to “Gethsamane”, he keyed in the music for the following number. Jesus’ big talk with god? Not to be (it had probably been my weakest number, so we joked about somebody paying Paul off). It wasn’t until our final night that cast #2 really came into our own, performance-wise. It was so good that i was sad we had to end. But we did so as we started, in love and joy. I was so proud of every one of us. When i think of them today, it is with more pride than for any troupe i’ve ever known. Over a year later, i received one of the most touching appreciations i’ve ever had as a director, when Leo, whom i hadn’t seen since the show ended, told me that when he saw how i kept the show together, he wanted to stand in the distance and quietly applaud. He said that the final version was unequivocally better than the first. SUPERSTAR was the first show i ever did that made me doubt my fitness to be a director. It was also one of the greatest things i was ever a part of.

Friday, February 22, 2013

TV's greatest actors

Debaters, on your marks. No Lucy or Gleason? Nope, they only hit greatness once. No Mr. Television himself? Nope, Uncle Miltie failed to put his stamp on an iconic show, and contented himself with one-offs for his last three or four decades. Cloris Leachman and her nine emmies? Nope, nothing iconic. Doubly-iconic Ron Howard? Nope, he walked away while young. There were several close calls. Mary Tyler Moore and Tony Danza? Right on that bubble. Can MATLOCK or DIAGNOSIS MURDER be considered iconic? Or if JOANIE LOVES CHACHI had gone just one full season...
For bonus credit, which two of the following immortals both died ignominiously on the short-lived POLICE SQUAD!?
Two iconic roles, plus several animated iconic roles. Given the title progression of his shows, after we get COS out of the way, will the next title be just a picture of his face?
Seasons as a series regular - 23
I SPY (1965-1968)
THE COSBY SHOW (1984-1992)
COSBY (1996-2000)
One iconic role, and two semi-iconic. What color is your shat?
Seasons as a series regular - 19
STAR TREK (1966-1969)
STAR TREK (animated, 1973-1974)
BARBARY COAST (1975-1976)
T.J. HOOKER (1982-1986)
TEKWAR (1994-1996)
BOSTON LEGAL (2004-2008)
$#*! MY DAD SAYS (2010-2011)
Plus recurring roles on 77 SUNSET STRIP, DR. KILDARE, THE PRACTICE, and 3rd ROCK FROM THE SUN. Also the mini-series HOW THE WEST WAS WON, and the sublime INVASION IOWA.
No other actor ever played two such divergently iconic roles, genre-wise.
Seasons as a series regular - 20
BONANZA (1959-1973)
GRIFF (1973-1975)
GALACTICA 1980 (could it be...)
CODE RED (1981-1982)
He also starred in the greatest mini-series of all time, ROOTS.
I know, i think i might be jumping on the bandwagon, as the country seems to be having a "Betty White moment". Are you kidding?
Seasons as a series regular - 23
MARY TYLER MOORE (1973-1977)
THE GOLDEN GIRLS (1985-1992)
MAYBE THIS TIME (1995-1996)
LADIES MAN (1999-2001)
His small screen presence is as large as they come, and his dedication indisputable.
Seasons as a series regular - 24
CHEERS (1982-1993)
INK (1996-1997)
BECKER (1998-2004)
HELP ME HELP YOU (2006-2007)
BORED TO DEATH (2009-2011)
CSI (2011-?)
Plus recurring roles on CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM and DAMAGES, and the TV event GULLIVER'S TRAVELS.
With apologies to the more famous names on this list, Urich might be able to lay claim to the title of "Most Employable TV Actor Ever". Quick! Get this man a series! What, he's done? GET HIM ANOTHER ONE!! He was a regular on twelve, count 'em, twelve different shows. Some of 'em even lasted longer than a season.
Seasons as a series regular - 17
BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE (1973)
S.W.A.T. (1975-1976)
TABITHA (1977-1978)
VEGA$ (1978-1981)
GAVILAN (1982-1983)
SPENSER: FOR HIRE (1985-1988)
CROSSROADS (1992-1993)
EMERIL (2001)
Plus the mini-series LONESOME DOVE. With all that and movies too, what was his most enduring work? A recurring role as Peter the tennis player, on SOAP.
His resume is thin, but being the only actor ever a regular on two of the top three shows of all time puts him over the top.
Seasons as a series regular - 12
M*A*S*H (1972-1983)
THE WEST WING (2004-2006)
Plus recurring roles on ER, 30 ROCK, and THE BIG C.
Disinclined to respect? Cop show, soap, another who genre-jumped so successfully. With even an average life span, she might become the most successful television actor of all time.
Seasons as a series regular - 25
T.J. HOOKER (1982-1986)
DYNASTY (1981-1989)
GOING PLACES (1990-1991)
MELROSE PLACE (1993-1999)
SPIN CITY (1999-2002)
LAX (2004-2005)
Plus a recurring role on HOT IN CLEVELAND. And, not that it's relevant to this article, but...THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING. You know you wanna see it.
He makes it by a hair's breath, courtesy of an iconic turn as a recurring character on THE SIMPSONS...that plus the longest-running sitcom character ever.
Seasons as a series regular - 23 (what, do he and Danson have a wager going?)
CHEERS (1984-1993)
FRAZIER (1993-2004)
BACK TO YOU (2007-2008)
HANK (2009-2010)
BOSS (2011-2012)
Okay, one third of his canon belongs on the short bus. But he's Robert Urich with a 0% failure rate. Every time someone hired him as a series regular, the show went at least five seasons.
Seasons as a regular - 28
BONANZA (1959-1973)
His name isn't big, so much as wiiiiiiiiiide. He started acting in television basically when television began, and there's no one else in his league (Actually, there's one in his league - James Hong. Ultimately, the only way i could choose just one was by counting credits. William tops James, 262 to 238. Not 262 episodes, but 262 different shows...and those numbers are premature, as they're both still going.). In sixty some years, William's been a regular on THE PATTY DUKE SHOW, THE NANCY WALKER SHOW, THE NEW GIDGET, and THE TORKELSONS. He's the Urich of recurring characters, with turns on COMMANDO CODY, HEY JEANNIE!, THE ADVENTURES OF JIM BOWIE, STEVE CANYON, PHILIP MARLOWE, THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS, GET SMART, THE MAN AND THE CITY, THE HARDY BOYS/NANCY DREW MYSTERIES, THE MISADVENTURES OF SHERIFF LOBO, THE WALTONS, ST. ELSEWHERE, THE NEW LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, DREAM ON, and TRUE BLOOD. If he's not on your dream dinner party list yet, how about a small sampling of his guest appearances - DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, ER, ROSEANNE, MAGNUM P.I., CHiPS, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, MAUDE, THE BIONIC WOMAN, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, LOVE AMERICAN STYLE, GUNSMOKE, KUNG FU, THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY, HAWAII FIVE-O, BEWITCHED, THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW, STAR TREK, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, LASSIE, BONANZA, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, THE RED SKELTON HOUR, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM, and THE GEORGE BURNS AND GRACIE ALLEN SHOW. If actors didn't already have to sit and wait so much, i'd order somebody to get this man a lounge chair.
No star ever burned brighter, or under more intense (and exhausting) conditions. His first show still holds the distinction of being the only show ever cancelled for being too successful (the advertisers couldn't keep up with the demand for product).
Seasons as a regular - 10
YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS (1950-1954)
CAESAR'S HOUR (1954-1957)
More episodes than any actor ever - 1461 and counting (1449 of them on the british soap CORONATION STREET). Co-star William Roache is hot on her heels at 1454. Oy.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"Cleopatra 2525"

Painful and embarrassing. For the most quease-inducing sci fi theme ever, they used a re-write of the 1969 Zager & Evans hit "In the Year 2525". Even if you loathed the song (which many apparently did), you'll feel violated and incensed by this saccharine aural assault. The show billed itself as the "sexiest sci fi ever"...and the eye candy will probably keep the demons at bay for a few episodes. I myself survived seven or eight, wanting so much for this tale of three comely freedom fighters taking on death robots to become...something, anything. Sci fi luminary Gina Torres (FIREFLY) is capable, but Brando, Hepburn, and Olivier in spandex couldn't have saved this turkey. The stunning Victoria Pratt (and her abs) seemed a mail-in lock for the "sexiest sci fi babes of all time" list. But no...there can be no reason for any human to ever endure watching this show.

Monday, February 11, 2013

we want 60!!

Okay, we've indulged 30 ROCK. Now it's done. May we please get STUDIO 60 back on the air??

Saturday, February 2, 2013

the anti-wrob push

Anyone out there ever change your name?
I don't mean in a societally-accepted way. If Ginny Feinstein becomes Ginny Messerschmidt, nobody bats an eye. Little Ginny spent her whole life being called one thing, now she's asking that everybody call her something else. She's not soliciting your permission or opinion. If you decide to not go along with it, people you don't even know might berate you. Ginny might cry.
It's also societally-accepted for Billy to become Bill. This change has limits though...the further one is from fourteen years of age, the more resistance master Billy is likely to receive. If adult Bill decides it's time to be William, he can expect the occasional "Bill" for the rest of his life.
There's also the occasional Darrell who becomes "Rimmer" during college. This kind of change has a faintly tribal element to it, with a built-in core of friends who reinforce this new identity forever. Darrell's old friends and family may refuse to go along with it, and probably nobody (including Rimmer) will mind.
In the past, it was more common for people with ethnic names to "whiten" themselves if they were embarking on some kind of public life in the ol' U.S.of A. Not surprisingly, this has always been readily embraced by the white (ex-) majority...and probably met with resistance by the old neighborhood. Would you agree, Mr. Bonjiovi? The acceptance level of these changes has always been commensurate with how high the individual climbs in public life. In rare circumstances, this change runs in the opposite direction, as Mr. Alcindor DE-whitens himself. Again, the acceptance hinges largely upon how far one rises. America's greatest unwritten rule? Success begats ass-kissing, failure begats derision.
Speaking of derision, how long do you think it's been since a snooty reporter addressed Sting as "Gordon"? Which brings us to the category of changing one's name, not to whiten oneself, but to make oneself sound cooooooooool. Ever hear of actor Tom Mapother? Come on, i bet you've seen every one of his movies (even the ones you hate).
But there's another category of name-changing, one that meets the greatest resistance of all. An adult changing one's own name, simply because they choose to. A grown woman changing her name because she refuses to endorse a paradigm of patriarchy. A grown man changing his name because he refuses to share a name with a father who abused him. An adult who becomes so enamored of japanese culture, he asks everyone to address him as "Nobuyuki-san". In this society, there is a built-in pushback to this kind of name change. We're trained to be suspicious of such things. We're trained to perceive them as egotistical or disloyal. They don't fit within the walls of "acceptable", so society encourages us to react with skepticism, mockery, or even scorn. This response is perfectly understandable, and not strictly evil. A society is nothing more or less than the rules that make it up. If one challenges these rules, even for noble reasons, the natural reaction of everyone else is and must be, resistance. That's what society is, that's what it does. There may be a society somewhere, in the past or the future or possibly in Lapland, where self-name-changing is expected, perhaps even several times over the course of one's life. But not here.
I know firsthand of such things. A few years ago, disenchanted with patriarchy and a system wherein one's name is a reflection of how your biological parents felt at your birth (or even earlier), i decided to change my name from "Rob Rosenberger" to "wrob". I de-capitalized the first letter because i was philosophically bothered by the self-importance inherent in capitalizing one's name. I didn't make this change legally, such details don't matter to me. Nor did i need to push this change in anyone's face. The "w" is silent, so everyone who's called me "Rob" my whole life can keep on addressing me just as they always have. I'll answer to most anything. It's just words.
But wow, it is never-endingly amusing to watch society push back if you attempt a name-change that's outside the rules. I have an aunt who is otherwise one of the most tolerant, accepting people i know, who now refuses to address me as she always has. She feels compelled to put a non-silent "w" in front of my name, in one of the least subtle attempts at behavior modification ever assayed. An aunty-wrob push, if you will. She makes it sound playful, but it screams passive-aggressive. The most hilarious reactions are in written correspondence with strangers, though. I'll introduce myself as "wrob", and around 90% of the time, they'll write back addressing me as "Rob". To be sure, most of them probably assume i made a typo...yet their "Rob"-ing generally persists, even if we continue corresponding and i continue addressing myself as "wrob" (and continue showing them a person not prone to typos or misspelling). It's part of our need to put everyone around us in boxes that complies with our preconceived notions. Human beings tend to function not by reacting to the world as it is, but by reacting to the world as they expect it to be. We all know how to treat a man named "Bill". We all know how to treat a woman named "Kaneesha". Seeing all these written "Robs" coming at me, the image that comes to my mind is that of a brash, bossy african-american female sitcom character saying, "Naw naw, I ain't hearin' that, I ain't HEARIN' that!", as she wags her finger.
People want me to be "Rob". They understand that. This other thing, they don't. And frankly, they don't want to.
Know how i knew it was time to write this article?
I finally found one sub-group in our society that embraces my name without batting an eye. Before this week, i didn't even imagine that such a group existed. But they do, in exactly the opposite ratio of the  larger american society, meaning that less than 10% of them choose to call me "Rob" when they've seen "wrob".
That sub-group? Actresses responding to a casting call. I'm going to direct a play, and i've received twenty or thirty e-mails over the past week from actresses i've never met. They want to be in this play, and they damn well spell my name "wrob" virtually every single time! I hope a large part of this can be attributed to artists being more inclusive in their worldview, and more embracing of differentness. I realize of course that the fact that i'm in a position of power relative to something they want, is also a factor. The ass-kissing effect goes into override when someone has something we want.
But i hope (and believe) it's more than that.
Indeed, a little part of me has almost been moved to tears by the consideration these strangers have shown me. The cheeky part of me wants to advertise another casting call, identifying myself as Baby Bunny-GEorGE.
Anyway, whoever or whatever you call yourself...
I love you all.