Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 17, 2020

Brat Packers & Coppolas: Diane Lane Edition

Burt, Colleen & Diane Lane circa- '66

Actress Diane Lane around age 1, in 1966, with her acting coach father (and John Cassavetes collaborator) Burt Lane, and her former Playmate mother, Colleen Farrington

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In doing some research for my NYC crime fiction novel Murder in Birdland– about musicians, comedians, actors, nightclubs and mobsters in the Kennedy era–I just discovered a fascinating through line from Broadway and Hollywood back then, thru my own adolescence in the 1980s, and straight on up to today in the New Roarin’ Twenties. In a wonderful synchronicity, that through-line is one of my favorite actresses– and probably my first serious movie crush (a first crush also confessed by Matthew McConaughey)– Oscar-nominee Diane Lane!

Turns out Diane’s late father Burt Lane was an important writer, actor, acting coach and occasional taxi driver to pay the bills–besides being a doting single “stage dad”–from the late Fifties into probably the Seventies, if not longer. In checking Burt’s Broadway World profile, he only has one off-Broadway credit listed: “Chiaroscuro” in 1963 (in which Diane’s mother Colleen Farrington also appeared, though it only went on for five performances–which was and is a more common occurrence than one would think in the cutthroat New York theater world). However, that one small credit doesn’t mean Burt wasn’t the real deal as a New York area creative. How I stumbled upon him doesn’t matter, but his most significant work turns out to have been as a co-founder of the Cassevetes-Lane Drama Workshop in 1956. In the heyday of Lee Strasberg, Elia Kazan and Manhattan’s famed Actor’s Studio, Cassavetes and Lane had the chutzpah to put forth an entirely contradictory model for how to train actors, and write and perform plays. Simply put, to paraphrase an academic journal’s statement, the Cassavetes-Lane “method” emphasized INTERACTIONS OVER IDENTITY. “Authentic” internalized identity was one of The Actor’s Studio’s and Stanislavsky Method’s main philosophies, one that Cassavetes semi-mockingly called “organized introversion” in interviews.

[By the way, to see the remarkable resemblance between Diane and her former Playboy magazine “pin-up girl” mother Colleen, I’ll refer you to Medium.com, and thus I’ll stay within the bounds of more conventional tastes, and avoid copyright issues as well. She’s not nude, but she is certainly lovely, proof that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree with Diane.]

I have previously mentioned Diane on this blog, most importantly in one of my early articles about Francis Ford Coppola’s high-quality 80s “Brat Pack”/teen films based on S.E. Hinton novels. He did three: The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, and That Was Then, This is Now.

Matt D & Diane Lane Rumblin

Matt Dillon & Diane Lane in Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish (1983)

When Ms. Hinton herself made some very kind clarification comments on my article, I felt like I was on my way, both as a film historian and as a writer, myself.
[re Diane Lane’s Coppola work >>> ]
The third movie Diane did with Coppola, after The Outsiders & Rumble Fish, was “The Cotton Club”, a jazz age gangster film. In it, Lane played sultry nightclub singer Vera Cicero.

From here, I’ll let Diane take over, as quoted in reporter Anthony Mason’s CBS News interview item from May 2017, when Diane’s movie “Paris Can Wait” –directed by Francis’ wife Eleanor– was coming out.
“It was my nightclub scene,” she recalled [of the 1984 film], “and Richard Gere was playing the trumpet in my ear, and I was supposed to be all confident. And I just wasn’t really feeling it. That was the only fight I ever got into with Francis Coppola. He wanted me to be sexier. And he just finally said it: ‘I don’t know what that thing is that women do, but be sexy.’ …And maybe because I had a showgirl for a mom, I found I was very reticent to do that, …When it’s asked of me to be sexy on cue, I get a little gender-pissed-off. …I feel like I was raised like a son, in a way, by my father, you know? I didn’t feel genderized until I started to promote films and realized, ‘Oh, there’s a switch you’re supposed to throw and be sexy.‘”

[ Regarding her steamy scenes and Oscar nomination for Unfaithful (seen above), in 2002 >>> ]

…Mason asked, “What did you think when you finally saw the film?”
“You know, when my Dad saw it — it wasn’t long before he died — he said, ‘You rang the bell.'”
It earned Lane an Oscar nomination.

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In her recent film, “Paris Can Wait,” Lane has gone back to the Coppola family. Francis’ wife, Eleanor Coppola, is the director: “When that bell rings, ‘Where do you want me?'” Lane said. “I mean. I’ve made four films for Francis, and Eleanor was there.”

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…Diane Lane has had many of those moments since she first landed on that cover of Time magazine [“Hollywood’s Whiz Kids”, circa 1978…when she was just 13 and had her first major role in A Little Romance, with Sir Laurence Olivier in a supporting role].
But she asks CBS’s Mason, “I don’t know, do you think I lived up to it?”
“The larger question is, ‘What did you expect from yourself?'”
“Well, the voice I hear is my father’s, and he would say, ‘Eh, you’re a lifer.’ Who wants to do anything all of your life? It just seemed so preposterously long and unfathomable. But now, I’m thinking it’s a pretty good gig!”

radiolg6745392364351712903.jpg.

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Marc Maron (quoted below… whereas above is our pal Kerouac, “tuning in” on himself), …Marc talked on WtF, to improv/sketch performer Ben Schwartz, about The Simpsons, & being deep into the “in” or conventional comedy things, versus being into weirder, off-the-beaten-track stuff:

“See, I think I missed everything. Because I was so consumed with, like, poetry & rock music & Burroughs & beatniks & freaks that I don’t…–and also, I don’t think when I was younger it was even *there*. The deepest kind of comedy nerd you could be when I was a kid was Monty Python. Or if you were a deep nerd: Dr. Demento or something.”

This. Was. And. Is. Me.
(and this is precisely why I love Maron and the WtF podcast… tellin’ it like it is.

For the full episode & interview w/ Schwartz (a good one):        http://www.wtfpod.com/podcast/episode-1096-ben-schwartz

Today’s example of weird, wonderful stuff I’m into, that few people give a s#!% about anymore: Cab Calloway! On the nearly ancient (by today’s fast-moving standards) JACK BENNY SHOW! https://youtu.be/8mq4UT4VnbE

And who knew this existed? >>> Cab Calloway did a song, ages ago, called “Reefer Man”! [at Amazon Prime Music]

My point is simply this:

LET YOUR FREAK FLAG FLY!

[experimenting below… you may move on, nothing to see here… checking embed link for the original Facebook post on this topic]

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmnielsen34%2Fposts%2F10221968815754045&width=500

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 11, 2020

“Collecting the Love”: Two songs for John & Dean

Joe Perry of Aerosmith’s 1960 Les Paul

For a Dean Delray-related, very cool Instagram post about that guitar above, go here!

(First song below, a new one, inspired by an inspiring & highly [watches & guitars] object-focused John Mayer/Dean Delray late 2019 interview… Second song, ” ‘58 Les Paul Sunburst Dream” is an older one from me, but in a similar vein.)

Collecting the Love – by Mark Nielsen, 2-11-20

One scratch looks bad, and a million look great.

“This machine kills fascists”: I’m an Enemy of the State.

Call me Hector the Collector, and there can be no debate,

That the only bad guitar is the one that can’t be played.

John and Dean shoot the shit, perfectly obsessive nerds:

(Jan and Dean’s “Surf City”) and the Boss’ blessed words,

“Growin’ Up”, collecting axes, and the stories that they’ve heard

On the sickness of collecting, and abandoning the cure.

Chorus:

My guitar’s in ruins but I won’t weep.

There are items I sell and some others I keep.

The design here is perfect, it fits me like a glove

As I go about collecting the love.

Talkin’ Dylan & Jerry–and the Other One’s still kickin’!

Bootlegs, basement tapes, and watches keep on tickin’.

Turn the Page to Stevie. No Gibsons, just Strats,

And a tone that breaks my heart in two milliseconds flat.

My songs are my children, but I play this game:

Just wrote it, now sing it–if you can’t, it’s a shame.

Toss it out, start again, and drive myself wild

Matching mysterious patterns like an autistic child.

(Repeat Chorus)

Dumble SSS tube amps. Sustain for miles.

Play loud! “There is a way to go deaf in  style.”

That Steel String Singer makes me lose my mind

So that I can play my ass off till the end of time.

(Repeat chorus)

Tag/Refrain

Meet me across the river at a quarter to four,

For the sickness of collecting, I’m abandoning the cure. ( X3)

( & underneath or after refrain, a distortion & wahwah-infused Strat blues solo, to a ringing-out, whammy-barred ending.)

 *    * *

A Dumble Overdrive Special & Dumbleator II, available now!!! >>>

https://reverb.com/p/dumble-overdrive-special

(just $161,392.01… plus shipping!?! Can’t they throw that cost in after $150K?!)

 *   * *

Also, below, another guitar collector/lover’s song of mine from way back in 2008, & the blog post I threw it onto:

https://markingtime4now.wordpress.com/2008/08/11/58-les-paul-sunburst-dream-a-tribute-song-to-my-dream-guitar/

’58 Les Paul Sunburst Dream

by Mark Nielsen

V1

I walked into the shop with a half hour to kill

Because vintage guitars always give me a thrill

Just seeing those well-made weapons of war

It reminds me that some things are worth payin’ for.

I saw Nationals and Strats and a Red Flying V

That screamed “California hair band, 1983”

But I must confess I missed the one true great [pause & riff]

That ol’ Les Paul Sunburst from 1958.

[Signature guitar lick of song… 2-4 measures?… into chorus]

Chorus:

Oh, but a little Les Paul is a lot more fun

With a Humbucker pickup to get rid of the hum

Add a tube style amp to warm up the sound

Pretty soon your solos are the best around

And if you see a ’58 you better buy it, son [pause for riff]

Never mind what it costs, ‘cause it’s the best they ever done.

[Transition from chorus with song’s same signature lick]

V2

Never thought an old axe could have sounded so fine

Until a geeky-lookin’ guy asked, “Is that a ’59?!”

“ ‘58” said the salesman. “We just got it in.

They say Clapton played one. Take it for a spin.”

He started bendin’ blues notes and layin’ down the funk

Did his best Chuck Berry, just a-walkin’ like a duck

Made it crunch and wail and cry and scream    [ riff ]

“Oh man,” he says, “this plays just like a wet dream.” [Sig lick]

 Chorus:

Because a little Les Paul is a lot more fun

The first humbucker pickup to get rid of the hum

Get a tube style amp and you’ll take to the sky

You can start a bonfire or sound like Buddy Guy.

I’m gonna buy this ’58 when I get the money, hon’ [ riff]

I don’t care what it costs, it’s the best they ever done. [Sig. lick]

[Extended full-band jam can go here]

Bridge? :

The salesman asked the geek guitar god about last night.

And the show he did. Did his Les feel right?

He said, “I try to pretend that it can sound this good,

But the truth is it ain’t even in the neighborhood.”

[Shorter break for solo, horn section, or other flavors, before last verse]

V3

Really makes me proud of the country I was born in

Sustains high notes from here to Sunday mornin’

Got tulip-shaped tuners that are easy to turn

Plus fifty years of character and cigarette burns

A fast, thin neck and a melancholy tone

So that even big arenas sound like you’re right at home

I hope that when I’m fifty I can sound this good [riff]

It’s the fountain of youth, done up in metal and wood. [Sig lick]

Alternate Chorus:

Yeah, my ’58 Les Paul can burn like the sun

Need a humbucker pickup to get rid of the hum

And a tube style amp for that Orbison sound

Get ready sons of bitches ‘cause I’m layin’ it down

Now that I got a ’58, you better watch out cous’  [riff]

‘Cause I’m a million dollar man, I’m the best there ever was! [Sig lick]

         [Now wail all the way out of town, or till they give you the hook, whichever comes first…]

      [p.s… actually, Clapton most likely plays a 1960, but the ’58-60 models are similar in design and sound.]

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 9, 2020

Mark’s Movie Menu: The Classics

man in suit jacket grayscale portrait

Jimmy Stewart, Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In honor of Oscar Night 2020…

Mark’s Movie Menu:
Lesser-Known Gems From (Mostly) Before You Were Born

To make it easy on you, better experts than me at the American Film Institute list the Top 100 20th century movies, & I generally agree.

Meanwhile my own list includes some of the above AFI suggestions, but other stuff also– grouped by genre or theme, but not ranked:

Drama

  • The Hustler / Hud / Cool Hand Luke (a “Paul Newman as tough smart-ass” trilogy)
  • Casablanca / Treasure of the Sierra Madre / Sabrina (a Bogart non-noir trilogy)
  • Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee’s first great movie)
  • Apocalypse Now / Platoon / Full Metal Jacket (a Vietnam War trilogy)
  • Wall Street / JFK / W. (an Oliver Stone Lefty politics trilogy)
  • A Streetcar Named Desire / Cat on a Hot Tin Roof / Night of the Iguana (a playwright Tennessee Williams trilogy, featuring the best actors of the 50s/60s)
  • On the Waterfront (or ten other Marlon Brando movies, he was must-see for 20 years… or ten others from director Elia Kazan, Brando’s “Method” counterpart on the other side of the camera)
  • Rebel Without a Cause / The Outsiders / Cooley High / Fast Times at Ridgemont High (4 generations of teens, all before 1990)
  • Grapes of Wrath
  • Network / Broadcast News / Goodnight, and Good Luck (a tv news trilogy)
  • Gilda / The Shawshank Redemption (movie inspires book, book inspires different movie)
  • The Right Stuff / Apollo 13 / Gravity / The Martian (realistic or historical space stuff)
  • The Last Emperor (Chinese history circa WW2)
  • Braveheart / Beckett / The Lion in Winter / Excalibur / Rob Roy  (Jolly Olde England & Scotland, real and imagined)
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Gandhi

Dance, Foreign or Art-House Movies

  • The Red Shoes (1948) / Tap (1989) / Company dir. by Robert Altman, ft. Neve Campbell, 2003) / Black Swan (2010) –four very different dance movies
  • Royal Wedding (Astaire & Rogers)
  • Wings of Desire (in German) [on my all-time Top Ten]
  • Fitzcarraldo (1982, German director Werner Herzog’s odd, early masterwork)
  • The 400 Blows (dir. by Truffaut, in French)
  • Breathless (dir. by Godard, in French)
  • The Bicycle Thief (in Italian)
  • Life Is Beautiful (in Italian)
  • Cinema Paradiso (in Italian)
  • The Seven Samurai / Ran (a Kurosawa double feature)
  • The Seventh Seal / Franny & Alexander (a Bergman double feature)

Crime/Mystery/Action

  • Every Hitchcock movie ever
  • The Godfather 1&2 (+ 3 if it “pulls you back in”)
  • The French Connection
  • Chinatown
  • The Third Man
  • Mean Streets / Goodfellas / The Departed (a Scorsese gangster trilogy)
  • Reservoir Dogs / Pulp Fiction / Kill Bill Vols 1&2 (a Tarantino trilogy, plus one)
  • The Maltese Falcon / The Big Sleep / Key Largo (a Bogart noir/detective trilogy)
  • Blow-Up (1966, Italy’s great Antonioni, but in England, a mystery among the Mods)
  • L.A. Confidential / Hollywoodland (two noirs about Tinseltown’s golden age)
  • White Heat (Cagney) / Bonnie and Clyde (violence, the beginning & middle years)
  • Enter the Dragon (Bruce Lee) / Supercop and/or Legend of Drunken Master (Jackie Chan) / Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (Tony Jaa)
  • Lethal Weapon / Lethal Weapon 4 (Jet Li and Chris Rock make Gibson/Glover mo’ better… but LW2 & 3 are ok, too)
  • Point Break (1991 version)
  • Pi (1998)
  • Se7en / Fight Club / Zodiac (3 dir. by David Fincher)
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Double Indemnity
  • The Desperate Hours (1955, claustrophobic Bogart)
  • The Player (Altman)
  • Medium Cool (1969, director Haskell Wexler takes on the Chicago ’68 DNC convention riots)

Comedy

  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail / Life of Brian / Meaning of Life
  • The Philadelphia Story / It’s a Wonderful Life / Mr. Smith Goes to Washington………..(3 from Jimmy Stewart, last 2 dir. by Frank Capra… from whom ten other greats can also be chosen [ https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/lists/frank-capra-10-essential-films ] )
  • Bringing Up Baby / Monkey Business (screwball Cary Grant messes w/ animals, w/ either Katherine Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe)
  • Some Like It Hot (dir. Billy Wilder, always great, …this one feat. Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis & Jack Lemmon) / The Apartment (Wilder & Lemmon again, this time w/ Shirley Maclaine, plus some Oscars)
  • The Odd Couple (speaking of Oscar… Walter Matthau plays slob Oscar to Lemmon’s neat-freak Felix in the superb adaptation of Neil Simon’s play)
  • The Stooge (1st teaming of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis together onscreen, or else “Money From Home” cuz it has a fun dog)
  • Best in Show (speaking of dogs, …or try any movie directed by Christopher Guest)
  • The Graduate / Midnight Cowboy / All the President’s Men / Tootsie (four flavors of Dustin Hoffman)
  • Smokey and the Bandit (the funnest car chase comedy) / It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (star-studded originator of the genre)
  • Young Frankenstein / Blazing Saddles / The Producers, both the musical AND the original! (a Mel Brooks trilogy, plus one)
  • Witness / Dead Poets Society / The Truman Show (Australian Peter Weir, directing Americans)
  • The Royal Tenenbaums / The Grand Budapest Hotel / Isle of Dogs (& all others by influential director Wes Anderson)
  • Barton Fink / Hail, Caesar (Coen’s take on classic Hollywood, but any Coen Bros. movie is a great pick)
  • Roman Holiday / Breakfast at Tiffany’s / Funny Face (an Audrey Hepburn trilogy)
  • Reality Bites / Zoolander / Tropic Thunder (written/dir. by Ben Stiller – a trilogy)
  • City Lights / Modern Times / The General (silent trilogy, first two by Chaplin, 3rd by Keaton)
  • Most Marx Bros. movies, but esp. A Night at the Opera / A Day at the Races / Duck Soup
  • M*A*S*H*
  • The King of Comedy
  • Annie Hall / The Purple Rose of Cairo / Crimes and Misdemeanors (a Woody Allen trilogy)
  • Diner / Good Morning Vietnam / Wag the Dog ( a trilogy from dir. Barry Levinson)
  • Clerks (+ most other Kevin Smith, but maybe he’s a just personal fave)
  • Wayne’s World / Stuart Saves His Family / MacGruber (my personal fave SNL-adapted movies)
  • Austin Powers: Int’l Man of Mystery / Our Man Flint (1966) / Burn After Reading (3 spy spoofs)

Weird Movies to Get High For, Then Watch Again Straight to Compare (or to Figure Out the Puzzle)

  • Time Bandits / Brazil / The Fisher King (a Terry Gilliam trilogy)
  • Pink Floyd’s The Wall (dir. by Alan Parker)
  • Blue Velvet (or any David Lynch movie, they’re all pretty trippy)
  • 2001: A Space Oddyssey
  • The Last Temptation of Christ (it’s not at all what you think… plus it’s Scorsese)
  • Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure / Harold and Kumar (two generations of stoners)
  • Slacker / Dazed and Confused / A Scanner Darkly / Before Sunrise Trilogy / School of Rock (or most others dir. by Richard Linklater)
  • Memento (from Chris Nolan, writer/director of The Dark Knight)
  • After Hours (the wildest night you ever had, x3, and another “lost” Scorsese gem)

Horror

  • Rosemary’s Baby
  • Santa Sangre (Italian/Mexican)
  • The Shining (Jack Nicholson version)
  • Jaws
  • The Ring (ok, yes, you were born… but it’s freaky good)
  • Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968 version, 1st great zombie flick)
  • Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (all the classic Universal monsters appear, & get silly)
  • Nosferatu (1922 – silent) / Shadow of the Vampire (2000) / What We Do In the Shadows (2014) (a “not your usual vampire movie” trilogy)

Music Movies

  • This Is Spinal Tap
  • Ray (about Ray Charles)
  • Bird (Eastwood’s first important directing outing, about jazzer Charlie Parker)
  • Walk the Line / Walk Hard (Johnny Cash + music biopic parody)
  • The Commitments (dir. by Alan Parker)
  • Once
  • High Fidelity (Jack Black’s break-out role, in my opinion) / Love and Mercy (Brian Wilson biopic) –a Cusack double-feature
  • The Last Waltz
  • The Blues Brothers
  • La Bamba / The Buddy Holly Story / Great Balls of Fire (’50s music biopic triple feature, but w/ all movies made in 1980s)

Sports

  • Rocky 1
  • Bull Durham / Field of Dreams (Costner takes on baseball)
  • Major League
  • We Are Marshall
  • Brian’s Song
  • Invictus (rugby meets South African political & social justice)
  • Hoosiers
  • Hoop Dreams (the lone documentary on this list, cuz my name’s in the credits, thanks to my first job after college with the producers!)
  • Rudy
  • The Rookie
  • Raging Bull
  • Eight Men Out
  • Fear Strikes Out (baseballer Jimmy Piersall, played by Anthony Perkins, wigs out)
  • Slap Shot (a raunchy Paul Newman hockey comedy)
  • The Longest Yard (the original from the 70s)
  • 61* (Roger Maris chases Babe Ruth, written/dir. by Billy Crystal)
  • The Bad News Bears / The Sandlot (a “cute little leaguers actin’ ugly” double feature, or triple feature if you watch Billy Bob’s “Bears” remake, but the orig. is better)
  • Fever Pitch (the rare love story/sports movie combo, from the Farrelly Bros.)
  • A League of Their Own
  • The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

Sci-Fi

  • Brother From Another Planet (racial issues + aliens)
  • Starman
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind / E.T. / A.I. (a Spielberg trilogy)
  • Bladerunner / Bladerunner 2049 (the rare sequel that equals the original)
  • Total Recall (they’re both good, but I prefer the orig. as usual)
  • Alien / The Terminator / Avatar (a James Cameron trilogy)
  • Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan / ST: First Contact (the best TNG movie)/ ST IV: The Voyage Home
  • Stargate
  • Mad Max / The Road Warrior / Fury Road (Aussies runnin’ wild!)
  • The Matrix
  • Man Who Fell to Earth (w/ David Bowie as an alien)
  • Planet of the Apes (1968)

Westerns (I’m barely scratching the surface here)

  • High Noon
  • The Searchers
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  • The Magnificent Seven

Classic Hollywood Musicals (and I’m barely scratching the surface here, too)

  • Singing In the Rain
  • West Side Story
  • My Fair Lady
  • On the Town
  • Brigadoon
  • Fiddler on the Roof
  • Oliver
  • Funny Girl
  • Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 6, 2020

“Route 66” – a Kennedy Era TV Gem With Higher Aspirations

George Maharis & Martin Milner in Route 66, CBS, 1960-64

I’ve been casually but consistently watching several tv series from the early Sixties lately, partly as research for my novel, Murder in Birdland, about music, movies and the Mafia in the Kennedy era. One of the best, in fact one of the most unique series ever, was Route 66. (Amazon Prime)

When a rider relinquishes herself to the bolting horse, there’s nothing to be done… nothing but wait. And keep on praying.”

-Preacher Daniel, in Stirling Silliphant’s 1960 Route 66 script for “The Strength of Angels” (S1E5).

The line, an example of the highly literary and occasionally poetic language often featured on the show, refers to guest star Suzanne Pleshette’s conscience-haunted character, who’s suddenly on the run after a self-defense killing she doubts will get a fair trial.

The episode also (and oddly, out of nowhere!) features a wisecrack by the main character Tod (played by Martin Milner) of “Russian dogs barking in outer space” as the only thing to tune into on the car’s radio. This would most likely be a reference to Laika–the first living creature to orbit the Earth– who was launched into orbit by Russia in November of 1957 (an event generally acknowledged as the true start of the “space race”, and a kick-in-the-pants for U.S. math and science educators).

Or, if you find actual history less interesting than plain old star-stalking, then the episode immediately prior to Pleshette’s is a great example of how Route 66 viewers can frequently see big actors at the very small starts of their careers. Season 1, Episode 4 is about the hunt for an escaped Nazi war criminal (possibly the first time tv took on that frequent dramatic theme, soon to be visited again with Pacino and Amazon’s “Hunters” ). In the opening scene, I had a moment of glee as I realized the two young actors in the car with the older Lew Ayres were none other than future greats Ed Asner and Bruce Dern! Each legendary “character actor” had just one line (maybe Asner had two), but it still sort of made my day. I should also note I had previously come to appreciate both Asner & Dern by listening to their long podcast interviews with comedian/actor Marc Maron on his well-known WtF podcast (click their names above to get to the WtF interviews).

But if one is a Kennedy conspiracy buff, or into the intersection of IRL events and media productions, here’s the oddest event of all in the run of this classic show, as explained at Wikipedia:

The “Route 66” episode “I’m Here to Kill a King” [S4E9] about a potential assassination, was originally scheduled to air on November 29, 1963. It was removed from the schedule because of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination one week earlier, and (according to TV schedule listings published at the time) was not aired until the series went into syndication. This episode was filmed and set in Niagara Falls, New York, but also features a few shots taken in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

There are three cool things of note here, historically:

1) The obvious and fascinating coincidence that an episode about a top-level political assassination was scheduled (on one of only three existing networks at the time), just one week after the actual assassination of Kennedy.

2) That CBS essentially “killed” the king’s episode, to spare a grieving nation further heartache. There have been similar occurrences since then, like the holding back of a school shooter movie by a studio in the wake of a real-life shooting event. But the Route 66 pullout was likely the first, given that the television industry itself was not much more than ten years old in 1960. But lucky for us, since the episode was re-released when Route 66 went into syndication, we can still view it now, right here, in fact.

3) That the “assassin” episode shot partly in Ontario, Canada. Route 66 is already famously respected for being among the first and only tv series to get so entirely away from New York or Hollywood studios and back lots, and out “on the road”. (Speaking of which, Beat writer Jack Kerouac seriously considered suing co-creators Silliphant and Herbert Leonard for ripping off his already famous novel On the Road, at least in its themes and overall vibe.) …But to shoot in Canada?! I wonder if any U.S. tv show had yet done so by 1960? The networks were cutting corners, especially then, which made the logistics of producing a show that zigzagged all over the country that much more impressive. [Side note: I presently live in central Illinois just a couple miles from the original U.S. Highway 66… while the show technically featured this famous “Mother Road” in only 3 (!) out of 116 episodes.] …But Canada isn’t just a state other than California, it’s another nation (despite some people’s denial of that). Route 66 even shot a different episode, almost in its entirety, in Toronto. And they didn’t even do it for the tax breaks or trade-union-busting savings there, which probably didn’t exist at the time!

We should appreciate the realism, even the photographic beauty, of this series at a time when dozens of cheap westerns and bad sitcoms littered the media landscape. Not to mention its influence on the future of the medium, and casting many future stars in key roles early in their career.

Plus let’s not forget the artful, frequently existential (a.k.a. “beatnik” cool), socially-conscious, and truly next-level writing of co-creator Stirling Silliphant. He would later win an Oscar for 1967’s In the Heat of the Night. (Say it with me, that classic line from Sidney Poitier: “They call me… MR. TIBBS!”)

But let’s save Poitier, Southern cop Rod Steiger, and the questions of race and policing for another day. For now, let’s keep it simple…

Get your kicks! Watch Route 66!

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | January 10, 2020

Disembodied Kerouac (a poem after Ginsberg, by Mark Nielsen)

Jack Kerouac Listening to Himself on the Radio, New York City, 1959.
Photo: © John Cohen from There is No Eye: John Cohen Photographs, published by powerHouse Books, 2001

Disembodied Kerouac (After Ginsberg)

(Rambling Word Association Improvised Poem #35)

The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics?

Sounds like disemboweled poets, beheaded, sick

with terrible anxious yearnings for shtick,

for soul food, for food souls,

rolls of fat, fat buttered rolls, and fat juicy roles 

for wanna-be actors who have no control

over bowels, over bowls,

over sense memory, but they wanna be whole.

Wagner and Bernstein provide the soundtrack,

Mel Gibson’s Braveheart is on the attack,

He’s blaming the Jews for ascendance of schlock,

And calling Ben Hecht a hack. What a knock!

Mel swings his broadsword. Now it’s off with my head.

Now my guts on the ground, I’m better off dead.

A poem is meant to be spoken, not read,

To be embodied: flesh, not lead.

Words that cross the tooth and lip

That ring of truth, and plenty hip,

Floating out to a world seeking hope

“Hang in there, cat.” So here’s some rope.

There’s more to life than a crust of bread,

Word made flesh, banishing dread.

* * *

These bodies are not such great tools to work with.

They hold us back, too much distract,

I’m trying to listen to Anne Marie’s poem,

But thanks to these goddamned hormones,

No words. Only tits. I just see her rack. 

And now I’m concerned this is mere limerick,

I’m back to schtick, working too quick,

Talking, not thinking, led just by my dick.

Is that what Allen means

By “disembodied poetics”? 

(The most unpoetic, unclear phrase 

He ever uttered, by the way. )

Why?

Why is it either/or, though?

Why does Flesh impede Spirit flow?

Whydunit not whodunit, mystery deepens.

Let’s find a detective. (“Wait! Do you mean a dick?”

Insert dick joke here. See what I mean? Sick.

* * *

you are seeking attention 

social media mention 

on Twitter 

equivalent of French verb declension

some meaningless sign that your life has meaning 

as you’re preening and wondering  

how else to be scheming 

while waiting to see what your breakout will be, 

your hit, so hip, so hot folks will flip, 

the next big thing like a Super Bowl ring

on your finger that lingers long after the singer 

has finished the song. So long.

And the cock crows three times, 

living proof that you’re wrong 

to even be seeking such cheap validation, 

your ticket gets stamped, 

but you’re stuck at the station,

riddled with doubt, with lost concentration,

spitting Rube Goldberg device variations.

* * *

Welcome to the 31st annual meeting of the Rambling Word Association of Northeast Ohio. We hope you had a good opportunity to get out and see beautiful Youngstown today, because you’ll be spending the next two hours 

in a prison of your own design, 

wandering, prison of the mind, 

shrieking, reeking of sour grape wine,

with cords of catgut for ties that bind,

your lips sewn shut, your hands tied behind. 

We find that binding with twine is fine 

for most normal purposes one would find,

but incline your mind toward the task this time: 

to disembody brain from spine, 

to float your consciousness in the brine, 

the salty Sea of Innocence, where Disappointment River flows guiltily south to Tigris. 

Meanwhile Euphrates answers with a swift kick in the ass, 

because it thinks it deserved the job instead. 

Ancient Sumerian priests tell jokes 

about snakes and fruit and sheep and goats, 

while manna floats, all soggy, inedible.

A priestess began a song so incredible

that speaking it now cannot do it justice,

the song of the war, Euphrates v. Tigris.

The banks spill over, the crops are ruined,

the people don’t know that it’s really a boon.

It forces the nomads to move upstream,

up north, where weather is less extreme,

higher up from the valleys, with better defense,

and soon small houses replace their tents.

They still make the wine, do the dances of old,

but forgot what the dances meant (so I’m told).

The crows all outnumber the wise old owls,

at college, and in three of every five houses,

in prisons, at city hall, crows everywhere,

crowing their crowing in every town square,

and though pride goeth before a fall,

“Things go better with Coke” is all

washed up, and so is “the Real Thing”–

the top slogan now: “Red Bull gives you wings”.

Crows mix it with vodka and dance all night,

scavenging skanks in dawn’s pale light,

fully gone, quite drunk, Bull goggles affixed,

it’s not about love, it’s just for kicks.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | January 3, 2020

MArkin’s Village Coffeehouse Poetry Rant (audio version)

Imagine me, delivering this spoken word piece [MArkin’s Village Coffeehouse Poetry Rant] from a shabby little stage in the back of the Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village, say on January 2, 1959. ( The time period and main hangout for a cast of youthful bohemian misfits in my upcoming novel, Murder In Birdland. And may I note for the record that I rediscovered this landmark cafe a full two years before it began being featured on the hit tv series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisle. They beat me to the finish line, but I was here first!)

In retrospect, it’s a quirky personal response to 19th century icon Walt Whitman’s gem “Song of Myself”. Though when I started it, I didn’t intend it for my own voice, but as an experiment for one of my characters:

So, if not me, imagine actor Alan Arkin performing it, though he’s only 25. Alan was a young hipster on the scene at the time, a struggling actor and a working folk singer in a hit group called The Tarriers.

Shockingly , I only just recently learned that Arkin shares a co-writing credit on the very famous “Banana Boat Song” (Day-O), popularized by another great actor/singer also appearing in my novel, Harry Belafonte. (Shockingly dumb, that it took several years of research before I stumbled upon such a juicy connection… Duh! I love both these guys! Who knew?)

For the book, my performance piece here will probably later be adapted, with the Walt Whitman theme highlighted (he was a key figure for Allen Ginsberg and the Beats), and removing the stuff about the name Mark being derived from Mars, Roman God of War. I’m not a character in my own book. Nor was I even born yet! (On the other hand, EVERY character implicitly has a bit of me in them. Thus the moniker MArkin above…)

So for now, let’s call this a first draft, a rarity, or my juvenalia, which I shall later renounce as hacky and lo-fi. But in the meantime… Enjoy!

……………… The tuxedo-wearing Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s mugshot

Sometimes ghosts come at us over the airwaves, from almost a hundred years ago. Here’s how it happened for me this week:

  1. I was poking around on Roku yesterday morning [12/4/19] for some Charlie Chaplin material. I opted (completely randomly) to watch a free 1914 short, The Rounders, from Keystone Studios (now famed for the Keystone Kops). It was only 16 minutes long–although the crappy distributor app said it was 9:00 (one reason I chose it, being strapped for time), and maybe the poor-quality version I saw was missing some of the original material. It’s notable, however, that Chaplin is not in Tramp mode here, but playing richer.
  2. Besides Charlie, I recognized the portly but graceful other drunk here as the great silent movie comic Roscoe

    Cover of Keystone/Mutual 1914 short “The Rounders” (not to be confused with the Brian Koppelman/ David Levien-penned poker film “Rounders”, featuring Matt Damon and Edward Norton)

    “Fatty” Arbuckle. In the back of my mind I vaguely recalled some scandal Fatty was involved with back then. The Chaplin short itself was fine, though not among the best for either actor. I then moved on with my day, filing The Rounders away at the back of my mind’s junk drawer of cinema history.

  3. By noon yesterday, Fatty was back, literally haunting me. While listening to one of my favorite podcasts, actor/broadcaster Ralph Garman’s The Ralph Report, his “This Day In History” segment discussed the Arbuckle hung jury’s non-verdict on December 4, 1921, in the first of three manslaughter trials of Roscoe Arbuckle. These three “trumped up” trials were for the alleged killing of star-chaser, failed actress, frequent drunken exhibitionist, and likely prostitute Virginia Rappe… Talk about “fake news”! Since he was the highest-paid actor at the time ($3 mil –think Tom Cruise or Robert Downey, Jr. level fame and money– but in a world with only 10% as many stars), Fatty’s was the trial of all trials in the early days not just of Prohibition, but also of Hollywood’s “self-censorship” through the Hays Code. The Hays office, a government watchdog agency out to clean up the morals in movies, was established just four days after Fatty’s first verdict. It was partly a direct response to Fatty, as the public had been stirred up for years by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (the model for Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane), and his three-inch headlines about such scandals. However, by the end of the Arbuckle trials, it was clear that
  4. no rape had occurred,
  5. the ruptured bladder that later killed Rappe several days later was already severely inflamed before she even met Arbuckle (Fatty had even tried to save her when she was vomiting in his bathroom), and
  6. the D.A.’s first “witness” Maude Delmont (who he didn’t even put on the stand, since she was so disreputable and easily refute-able) had sought to profit –by blackmail or fame– in accusing Fatty at all.

But by the end of this mess –and his eventual acquittal after just five minutes of jury deliberation at the third trial — it was already too late for Fatty. His rep was ruined, he was soon banned by Hays the government hack himself, and Fatty’s career never really recovered from the unjust accusations.

So there you have it. A haunting, to restore a smeared reputation. “Science fiction, or science fact?” (to quote Ralph, with the title of another of his frequent segments) . Here’s why I believe it’s fact :

Either I chose to watch The Rounders on the exact date of his first verdict entirely randomly, and then —also randomly— I chose to listen to that Ralph Report episode (of a program which I had been away from for weeks) on the same day,  …  or else…

THE GHOST OF FATTY ARBUCKLE IS HAUNTING ME!!!

Maybe in the swirl of the #metoo movement, Fatty wants all the powers that be to assign him a publicist, and begin restoring his badly tarnished reputation. So let me be the first to say it in the MeToo context: Fatty wuz framed!

Ralph Garman also mentioned that another departed great, Chris Farley, was on-record as intending to make a biopic on Fatty Arbuckle someday. So maybe the famed prankster Farley’s in on this week’s haunt, as well. (Hi Chris! Love ya! Mean it!) Either way, I’ll take the safe route, and do what the ghosts are asking here, lest these two formidable figures continue their haunting hijinks.

So before I move on to the larger topics of alleged rape, murder, and how media-makers and soap/car/magazine/website-associated opportunistic scandalmongers and Vultures [click for the John Mayer song on this subject] use these tragedies and spectacles for their own gain, let me give a couple last plugs for better factual information about the great Fatty Arbuckle:

a) For a true historian’s approach to the topic, what could be better than Smithsonian magazine?

b) For a 60-minute audio infotainment approach to the sad-but-true Fatty and Virginia story, you can find that at the always amazing cinema history podcast series You Must Remember This, produced by author and journalist Karina Longworth. She gets current big-name actors to voice some of the historical figures, her research is impeccable, and the writing and production are quite tasteful and entertaining as well.

… and by the way, leave it to Robert Downey Jr. to be in the middle of (or at least on the fringes of) yet another Hollywood controversy, having once played Charlie Chaplin (no stranger to scandal himself) in the underrated 1992 biopic Chaplin .

Speaking of controversy, tragic actress deaths, Downey and rape, followers of the  Marking Time blog here will perhaps recall that the rape –and to a lesser extent the death– of 1950s movie icon Natalie Wood has been one of the more popular subjects in this blog. Natalie, it turns out, once dated the real life nightclub owner, record mogul and Mafia front Morris Levy, a main character in my upcoming historical crime fiction novel, Murder in Birdland. Thus my interest (in my book) is more in the true SPECTACLE of her melodramatic life than her equally melodramatic death and/or murder.

My main interest here, on the other hand, is to discuss how entertainment “news” and/or gossip has been mostly a wart on the ass of most serious actors –and creators in other genres, especially popular music– where the studios, media conglomerates and pesky hangers-on usually have no vested interest in what an actual court-of-law calls “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. As a pack of lies from a pack of liars, such shoddy prosecutions to increase the profile of a top cop or D.A. –and the even more shoddy journalism that usually drives the machine– all this propaganda merely set the stage for screwing up every presidential election since Kennedy in 1960, not to mention the outright theft of the elections in both 2000 and 2016.

As many in showbiz are known to say: “There ain’t no bad publicity.” Or if you prefer, take the earlier version, “If it bleeds, it leads.” That one comes direct from the newspaper publishing realm which tried and convicted Arbuckle (and it’s probably originally a movie quote, too… though I don’t know where from… look it up yerself!).

As for what Downey has to do with it, he eventually worked with Natalie’s daughter, actress Natasha Gregson Warner in the film Two Girls and a Guy (1997). As the children of cinema figures from mid-century (Robert Sr. was a writer/director), they became friends from then onward. So it became a thing in 2018 when actor Kirk Douglas (receiving a Golden globe special honor that year, at age 101) was semi-anonymously accused of raping a fifteen-year-old Natalie. Certain parties (myself included) strongly suspected Downey to be the anonymous accuser (though not the first). Click the link within my earlier blog for the detective work behind this theory. All of this hubbub, of course, went down in the immediate aftermath of  Ronan Farrow’s groundbreaking story on Weinstein’s serial sexual predation in The New Yorker’s October 10, 2017 edition.

I’ve now blathered on for far too long, in a manner short on facts but rife with opinion, just as I’m accusing those “yellow journalists” of doing. For this, I’m insincerely sorry, dear Reader. But you’re smart. You can read between the lines.

Fatty wuz framed.

On Kirk Douglas, RJ Wagner, and Chris Walken, the jury may forever be “out”.

Weinstein, my fellow fatty, wuz not framed.

On Trump and Ukraine, the jury’s out again, even though the king has no clothes, …so Shakespeare turned out to be wrong (a rare thing) in The Merchant of Venice when he said about another amoral businessman and horrific act “The truth will out.”

God bless us all. “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Scheider shoots shark Jaws-Garand-5 (Arbuckle & Trump)

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | December 2, 2019

He Was Born In the Cold (orig. Christmas song by Mark Nielsen)

Photo of Woodstock, IL by Laura Nielsen Mills

“He Was Born in the Cold”

V 1.

The lake is frozen over,

Days are getting shorter,

And the solar cell that powers my heart, 

it needs a charge.

I’m listening to sad songs

And I know it won’t be long

Till the Mack truck that tramples

the Amazon forest looms large.

[Chorus]

There’s crying in the laughter,

The hunger cry of a baby,

And it doesn’t matter when He was born,

It just matters He was born.

V 2.

Some say it was April, though–

In Bethlehem, no sign of snow,

And the stars all tread the red

carpet for His premiere.

The Milky Way, it was a choir,

Angels sang our spirits higher,

And cattle stopped lowing,

‘Cause finally there’s nothing to fear.

[2nd Chorus]

There’s crying in the laughter,

The first cry of a baby,

And it doesn’t matter when He was born,

It just matters He was born.

[Bridge]

The snowflakes on burning sand

A universe at His command

The coming of the promised one

No soldiers, just the only son

The bringer of deliverance

From enemies with no blood shed

Except His own, by His own choice

So all Creation could rejoice.

[1st Chorus]

There’s crying in the laughter,

The hunger cry of a baby,

And it doesn’t matter when He was born,

It just matters He was born.

V 3.

The lake still has thin ice,

And hot cider tastes so nice,

So let’s walk just once around, 

Then put away our skates.

My time with you, it is a gift.

We’ll walk home through snowdrifts,

And the setting of the sun reminds us 

[The hour is late. ?]

[or… “Each season must end.” ?]

[alt Chorus]

Because there’s crying in the laughter,

The cry of grief, or childbirth,

And every important beginning contains its end.

There’s crying in the laughter,

The first laugh of a baby,

And it doesn’t matter how He was born,

It just matters He was born.

[Repeat first chorus, or bridge, or both]

– –

…”He Was Born in the Cold”

an original carol by Mark Nielsen /song-of-the-day [12-2-19], inspired by Sarah McLachlan’s “Wintersong” [ https://open.spotify.com/track/4p8qhuurSA5UOuMAFiyRSj?si=GExt73rgQ-OUkHphPAGKlg ], the Liturgists Facebook group of gospel deconstructionists, and a creeping personal case of S.A.D.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | November 20, 2019

Drunk Down to the Worm (The Lost Highwaymen Song)

The original Highwaymen: Jennings, Cash, Nelson & Kristofferson

Drunk Down to the Worm


…….By Mark Nielsen
(a proposed “lost” Highwaymen song, suggested by a Tanya Tucker interview anecdote, to Brandi Carlisle & Rick Rubin)

I was s’posed to write Johnny a song
But the words all come out wrong
And the tune sounded like a pebble in a hubcap, clangin’

So I drove out to Willie’s for help.
I didn’t want to put the whole thing on a shelf,
But we both got drunk, so now the whole song is left hangin’.

Chorus:
Willie was drunk down to the worm,
And here I am poolside, temper’s burning,
And there ain’t enough tequila around,
So I’ll hit the liquor store in town.
Cash’s song will just have to wait
Till me and Willie get our heads on straight.
I almost had me a second verse,
But then gettin’ sober made my head hurt worse.

I was trying to make sense of a dream
Where June was scared, and she started to scream,
Said the bank was gonna take the house, and she couldn’t calm down.

Then a flood came and there was ol’ Kris,
In a canoe, he’s gonna take a dip,
But I was scared we was all so drunk that one of us would drown.

Repeat Chorus

(Slow, almost spoken, Cash-style)
Then a bolt of lightning hit my head,
And I just knew as long as I wasn’t dead
That second verse plus the chorus and bridge were right around the bend.

Three days later, we was all on stage,
Singin’ my song. It sounded great.
And now next weekend we plan to do it all again.

Alternate Chorus:

And Willie’d be drunk down to the worm
And I’d be poolside, two joints burning
And there’d be plenty more tequila around
‘Cause Waylon brung a whole case from town
Cash’s song, it turned out just great.
Willie didn’t need to get himself straight.
I saw the light and got that second verse
That holy bolt of lightning broke the curse!

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