As I mentioned here the other day, Regis Philbin is guest-hosting The Late, Late Show on Monday and Tuesday nights. I pointed out that he was taking no chances with his guest list on Monday night: Alan Alda, Martin Short, Tony Danza and Susan Sarandon.
Well, Tuesday night he has David Letterman, Martha Stewart and Tracy Wolfson. Since Letterman is in New York and is not in reruns next week, my first thought was that he'd be on via satellite since The Late, Late Show is done out here. But then I realized: Martin Short is currently appearing on Broadway in It's Only a Play and Tony Danza is in Honeymoon in Vegas. So maybe they're taping in New York, which is where I think all of the guests over those two nights are based, as is Regis. That would be kinda interesting, right?
Assuming that's true, here's what I think is happening. They're taping episodes this week here in L.A. with Kunal Nayaar and Billy Gardell hosting…episodes that are not scheduled to run until sometime in February. They've already taped some more episodes ahead with Drew Carey hosting. James Corden takes over late in March so what they seem to be doing is taping ahead — with shows this week taping on both coasts — so that they'll be done with all the guest host shows in time to not be taping in L.A. in March. That would then allow time to redo the studio for Corden and for him to do test shows in there. I can't recall any late night network talk show ever taping more than a few days ahead but I think that's the plan here.
[UPDATE, fifteen minutes later: Yeah, just found a couple of online news stories saying Late, Late Show is taping in New York this week. None of them mention though that they're apparently also taping in Los Angeles this week.]
The New York Times says Joe Franklin has died at the age of 88 and that's good enough for me.
Since I wasn't a New Yorker, I saw very little of Mr. Franklin's legendary TV show. It occasionally made it onto Los Angeles TV in brief spurts of unsuccessful syndication but I suspect more people saw the Billy Crystal parodies than saw the real program. It was a show where Franklin interviewed guests, usually all at once, jumping from guest to guest and therefore from topic to topic. He sometimes had on some Big Stars and when he couldn't get Big Stars, he got whoever he could get and treated them as Big Stars.
In 1983, my friend Marv Wolfman was booked on the show to promote a series of Teen Titans comics he'd written with an anti-drug theme. Franklin quizzed him a bit on the project, then asked some unrelated questions of an unrelated guest. Then he asked some unrelated questions to another unrelated guest. Then completely non sequitur, he turned back to Marv and said —
"Marv Wolfman! Eddie Cantor…any anecdotes?"
I didn't see that episode but when Marv told that to me, I laughed for about twenty minutes. It so perfectly encapsulated the Franklin style that I had witnessed.
I never met the man but I know a lot of people who did. They all said he was nice, caring and eager to help any talented person with any kind of problem. I hope he's remembered with the same enthusiasm that he gave to remembering the greats of show business before him.
Is he? It's all over the 'net that Talk Show Legend Joe Franklin has left us…but at this moment, it's not on any official news site. We're waiting until it's on several — or from a reliable source — before we believe it.
Yesterday, we were jesting about the announced bankruptcy of SkyMall, the store whose showroom is right next to the airsick bag. I've never ordered anything from them though I must confess that at least twice, I've seen an item in there that I thought might come in handy in my life…then done an Internet search and ordered it elsewhere. Maybe everyone's doing that and that's why they're bankrupt.
No, that can't be the problem and it isn't. This article will tell you what is.
I put this up here on 12/29/03. It's about me meeting the woman who lived for years with W.C. Fields. Looking back, I see that for some reason, I left out my favorite of all the W.C. lines she quoted for me. One time when Fields was out of work, his agent suggested he go play golf with the powerful producer, Jack L. Warner. Fields immediately responded, "If I want to play with a prick, I'll play with my own." I wish I'd taken notes on the other ones…
I mentioned meeting Carlotta Monti the other day and a reader made me promise I'd tell how that happened and all that I recalled. It was around 1974, a period when I often found myself in Westwood Village, right outside the U.C.L.A. campus. My Aunt Dot was donating two days a week as a saleslady at the United Nations Gift Shop, which was a charity enterprise that sold globes and flags and little sculptures that you'd never want in your house. When I was in the area, I'd drop in and say howdy to Aunt Dot and one day, she introduced me to another of the women who volunteered their time in the store. When she said, "This is Carlotta Monti," little bells went off in my head and I thought, "Hey, I think this is the lady who was W.C. Fields' mistress." She seemed about the right age (just shy of 70) but I wasn't sure enough to say anything other than, "Oh, I certainly know of you." Matter of fact, I think I changed the subject swiftly and awkwardly and hurried off. Once home, I consulted her autobiography, W.C. Fields and Me and, sure enough, it was the same lady.
I checked with Aunt Dot to find out when Ms. Monti would be there again and took the book up to get it signed. We wound up going to a shop down the street for cola and coffee, and I could see that Ms. Monti was thrilled to have a new audience for her tales of "Woody," as she called him. The way she pronounced it, it rhymed with "moody" and no, I have no idea where the nickname came from. She was proud of the book and upset that "certain people" who knew Fields or defended his memory felt she'd exploited her relationship with him. These "certain people" (unnamed) were also upset that she had sold or was about to sell the film rights…and I recall thinking to myself, "That's one movie that will never get made." Two years later, it was. Filmdom would have been much better off if I'd been right.
She kept coming back to the fact that she was being criticized for writing about her life. Her side of it, which did not surprise me and which I am not suggesting was at all wrong, was that she'd given "the best years" of her life to Fields and received precious little. So selling her life story was her inheritance, and "Woody" would have wanted her to be comfortable in her old age. She said she had plenty more stories…enough to fill several more books, but would have to wait a few years before embarking on one.
I asked her to tell me one of these stories and she mulled several possibilities before telling of an aging prostitute Fields knew. She wasn't sure if "Woody" had ever been a patron but they were friends, and Fields was always trying to find a way to throw her a few bucks since she was too old to get much work in her main occupation. There's a tale that makes the rounds about some guy who's in the hospital, attended by nurses and/or nuns and one day, one comes in, locks the door and begins ripping off her clothes and performing sex acts on his person. This of course shocks the patient who is unaware the nun (or nurse) is a hooker that his friends have hired for this treat/trick. Well, according to Ms. Monti, Fields's friend specialized in such missions and owned all the necessary costuming. Now that she was older, he occasionally hired her for non-carnal nun impersonation. He'd arrange for her to be in some restaurant or other public place when he was with some pals and he'd start verbally abusing this nun and saying foul, vulgar things to her. This would horrify Fields' friends who would try to shut him up but he would persist…until finally, the "nun" would start firing back with even better obscenities, and Fields' cronies would realize they'd been had. According to Ms. Monti, "Woody" loved the reactions.
The other main thing I recall beyond the talk about him wanting to play Scrooge was that she felt Fields's last few years had been squandered by Hollywood. He'd had a bad check-up and from that point on, no studio wanted to start a movie with him in the lead. He was in constant demand for short cameos but many offers fell through and some of what he did film was never released. She made the comment that he might have lived longer if the business hadn't decided prematurely that he was dying.
She didn't have a lot of time that day so we agreed to get together again for a longer chat but never did. And though she lived almost two decades after our chat, she never wrote that second book. I'm sorry I didn't spend more time with her because…well, how often do you get to talk to someone who slept with W.C. Fields? These days, hardly ever.
Hal Roach was the greatest producer of comedies in the silent and early talkie eras. Mack Sennett was more famous but Roach ran the lot where the best pictures were made.
I was privileged to visit Mr. Roach for an afternoon at his home around 1987 during which I asked him about his films and he asked me about how easy or difficult it was to get actresses and other young women into bed "these days." It was an odd conversation but I'm sure glad I got to spend that time with him.
On 1/21/92 when he was one hundred years and one week old, Mr. Roach was a guest on The Tonight Show, guest hosted by Jay Leno. This is his segment and he tells a few anecdotes that are not exactly true…but who cares? When you get to be that age, you're no longer bound by the truth. He passed away in November of that year…
- I never bought anything from SkyMall. I never had the need for a combination garden gnome and doghouse that can double as a footwarmer.
- The owners of SkyMall are filing for bankruptcy. Apparently, they've given up on the dream of anyone ever ordering anything from SkyMall.
The PBS series American Masters is profiling Ricky Jay in its new installment. It debuts on some stations tonight and on others later this weekend. If you aren't familiar with the work of Mr. Jay, you oughta be. Describing him as one of the greatest sleight-of-hand magicians is a serious act of missing the forest.
That's right: Two Mushroom Soup Days in one week. But keep in mind that when I'm too busy to post on this blog, I still post more than most people do on their blogs when they're not too busy to post. Or something like that.
This will interest about three people, all of them in Los Angeles. We have a cut-off low heading our way in next week's weather and the weatherfolks don't have a clue where it's going to go or what it's going to do. It could bring us a decent amount of rain on Tuesday or not a drop. It could linger into Thursday or go away immediately. Most of the time, the National Weather Service does a superior job of predicting but every so often, they get one of these storms that causes the computer models to spit out contradictory data with each run. Even as we speak, the forecasters are trying to figure out how to word their statements so as not to say, "We dunno." But the truth is they dunno.
Back later with something.