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Coming This Wednesday!

Here's an advance Head's Up! on this coming week's Stu's Show. Next Wednesday, my buddy Stu Shostak will send out the 400th episode of his weekly media-centered podcast. I was the guest on this first one on December 7, 2006 and I'll be a guest (not "the" guest) on #400 this Wednesday.

His other guest will be the master cartoonist, Sergio Aragonés, the creator of Groo the Wanderer, a staple of MAD magazine since 1963 and the most honored draw-er of silly pictures in the world today. We will be on live for at least two hours — maybe longer — commencing at 4 PM Pacific Time. If you can figure out what time that is where you live, you're probably too smart to be part of our target audience.

We'll be discussing Sergio's career in cartooning and also as an actor. We'll talk about Groo and other ridiculous things we'd done together and apart. I'll get him to tell stories, like about how he killed Marty Feldman and the time he met Richard Nixon. We may even dissolve a 45-year friendship on live radio just for the amusement of you people.

To listen in, go to the Stu's Show website at the proper time on Wednesday or some back here for further instructions. Over there, you can find out how to submit a question in advance and if we have time, Stu may open the phone lines so you can call in and participate in the broadcast. Hope you'll be there for it.

Wrassling

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Jon Stewart has some sort of feud going with WWE wrestler Seth Rollins and Stewart has accepted an invite/challenge to appear on something called WWE Monday Night Raw, which on the cable channels I get is broadcast on a lot of days per week, including sometimes Mondays. I just read several articles about this grudge match and can't quite figure out if Stewart is appearing on the episode that airs this Monday or if he's taping something on Monday for it or if he's taping something that will appear on some Monday. Can someone clarify this for me? I might want to actually watch a wrestling match for the first time in many years.

Some time ago, I co-produced a prime-time CBS special with a bunch of wrestlers — "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Captain Lou Albano and Hulk Hogan. One of our Exec Producers was Vince McMahon, president of what was then called the World Wrestling Federation and is now the WWE. Before and after it, I followed wrestling for a while but I have this problem with sports…and yes, I know many people do not consider what the WWE offers as a sport.

I can't follow sports, only people. I was only interested in the Dodgers when they were Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Don Drysdale, Frank Howard, John Roseboro, Walter Alston and others of that era. When too many strangers began appearing on the field, I lost interest in that whole world. I was the same way when I found new wrestlers turning up in the ring.

Before I got to that point, I learned a very valuable lesson about that business. Early in my brief association with Vince McMahon, I found myself sitting with him in the ABC commissary, talking and getting acquainted. I've told this story here before but it's been a while…

At the time, Mr. T was still something of a TV superstar but was occasionally popping up in the ring, teaming up with Hulk Hogan to thrash bad guys who were still bad guys. If only to make conversation, I asked McMahon how he was able to persuade Mr. T, who then seemed to have a real acting career of sorts, to get into the wrestling biz.

Vince looked at me like I'd just asked him the stupidest question in the history of Mankind (an accomplishment of which I am more than capable) and said the following very calmly, the way you'd talk to a child with a severe learning disability. He said, "In the history of Professional Wrestling, no one has ever done anything for any reason except money."

I've told that story to people who know the wrestling profession better than I do. They've all said, "You know now the only thing you need to know about that business."

Go Read It!

The JNS, which I believe stands for Jewish News Service, has posted this article about Jack Kirby and his roots.

Today's Video Link

Stephen Sondheim wrote a new short song for Meryl Streep to sing in the movie of Into the Woods. It was filmed, then the decision was made to omit it…so you'll see it on the DVD. Or here…

Tonight Temps

Hey, remember that Tonight Show clip I posted featuring the band and Clark Terry? Matthew Harris, a follower of this blog, knows Dick Lieb, who was in the Tonight Show band back then. He wrote to Mr. Lieb and got back this response…

This clip is interesting in that it’s from 1965 (this includes the years I was there) and while it does feature Clark Terry, I do not recognize the band! It is not the regular Tonight Show band and I’m curious as to what band it was?

I talked to Clark and his wife several weeks before he died and he called me back on New Year's Eve, which blew me away. I was very touched and honored that he would do this for me.

I think it's obvious. The Tonight Show was visiting Hollywood for a couple of weeks and NBC didn't want to spring to bring out the regular band. So they had someone — maybe Dave Grusin — assemble a group of L.A.-based musicians. Clark Terry came out to augment them or maybe he happened to be in Los Angeles for other reasons so they had him sit in.

By the way! It may be of some interest to note that for years when Johnny was based in New York but coming out here to do shows sometimes, the shows from Burbank were always aired on a one-day delay. His shows in N.Y. were broadcast the same day they were taped but those done out here were not. There was probably some now-outmoded tech reason for this having to do with transmitting the show back to New York so it could be telecast from there to the entire country.

That changed Tuesday, February 9, 1971. Carson had his show out here when a 6.6 earthquake hit at 6 AM. Johnny was awakened at the Sheraton Universal Hotel and moments later, he got a call from one of his writers, Pat McCormick, saying, "The God is Dead rally has been canceled!"

When it became apparent that the show could go on that night, Johnny insisted that NBC find some way to broadcast that evening's show the same evening so he could do a properly topical monologue. He opened with Pat's joke. The rest of the stay consisted of "same day" telecasts and the show they'd taped the previous evening was played a week later. Thereafter, any shows done from L.A. were aired the evening they were done.

The Joey Bishop Show, which aired opposite Carson for two years, was off the air by then. When it was on, it was done from L.A. and aired on a one-day delay. That may or may not have hastened its demise since Joey didn't do a lot of topical material…but it always seemed to be that having his competitor a day behind in referring to current events gave Johnny a big advantage. I think that also hurt David Letterman's shows when he decided to give himself and his staff a three-day weekend by taping Friday's show ahead.

Leonard Nimoy, R.I.P.

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I awoke this morn to e-mails from folks who are expecting me to have a really great Leonard Nimoy anecdote. Wish I did. I worked for three years for Alan Landsburg Productions, the folks who brought you the series, In Search Of, which Mr. Nimoy narrated. I didn't work on that program but I often ran into him at the office or at parties and he always said hello and seemed to be a nice and very real gentleman.

Performers in his position — you'll understand what position I mean in a moment — often seem to quietly appreciate it if you don't treat them like they've only done one thing in their careers. So in maybe two dozen times we exchanged words, I never mentioned Star Trek to Mr. Nimoy. I've never been a particular fan of that franchise anyway so that was easy. It seemed to please him that I knew he'd done other things and that he was an actor first and Mr. Spock, second.

In his honor, I have put up a photo of him not as Spock and I've wracked my cranium for a story that might convey the simple civility that impressed me about the man. This, I'm afraid, is the best I can do…

The lot at the Landsburg office was a mess of valet parking with runners (lowly-paid interns, actually) stuck out there all day to park and unpark too many cars in too small a space. That meant they often had to jam them in, stack-style, and when I wanted to leave, they'd had to move someone else's Mazda so they could then move someone else's Buick so they could then move someone else's BMW so they could then move someone else's VW so they could then move someone else's Mustang so they could fetch my Mercury Zephyr. It required some chess-like planning several moves at a time so I started calling it "Rubik's Lot."

I remember one scorcher afternoon standing out there for maybe a half-hour with ten other folks who wanted to leave as a particularly inept car-parker tried to free all our cars, one by one. Each move he made to try and remove cars from in front of our Business Affairs head's Mercedes seemed to be positioning more cars ahead of whatever Leonard was driving that day. He and I stood there, watching it all in despair, noting that when The Kid finally did get around to trying to bringing Nimoy's auto out, it was going to require the relocation of every other car in the lot. I was saying things to him like, "I think you have time to go in and narrate all of next season's episodes if you like."

Finally, my car became unblockaded — if that's even a word — and I offered to give Leonard a lift because "Your car will be an antique by the time you can drive it off this lot." Just then, someone apparently told The Kid who that slender man waiting patiently for his car for at least twenty minutes (so far) was. Mr. Nimoy had not thrown his clout or stardom about. He had just stood there in very hot sun, not expecting to be treated like anyone special even though, as he told me, he was going to be late for an appointment.

The Kid rushed up to him and said, "Wow, Mr. Spock, I'm sorry this is taking so long. I didn't know it was you but I do now so I'll get your car next and we'll beam you right out of here!" He gave Nimoy the little Vulcan salute. Nimoy, forcing a smile that should have earned him an Emmy then and there for acting, politely returned it and The Kid happily scurried off to begin the long process of liberating the Nimoymobile.

I got into my car and Leonard motioned for me to roll down the passenger window so he could say something to me. I did and he told me, making sure The Kid couldn't hear, "I hope he does not live long and prosper."

Not much of an anecdote, I know, but it's all I've got. I really didn't know the man but if that's what he was always like, I wish I had.

Today's Video Link

We love Bernadette Peters, no matter what she sings. Often, it's "Broadway Baby" from the show, Follies. Here's a mashup of some of the many times she's sung that tune…

50 Ways To Leave Your Liar

Okay, one more thing. Last night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart did a pretty scathing piece about Fox News. In connection with it, his crew assembled a Vine video which offers 50 of what they call Fox Lies in about six seconds. Why they did this as a Vine video, which is hard to pause in some browsers, is beyond me. But Politifact has broken it down, assertion by assertion. They agree that at least 49 of the 50 statements Stewart's staff listed were Mostly False, False or Pants On Fire.

Mushroom Soup Thursday

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Tom Stemmle writes to say that the Dave who was functioning as substitute bandleader in that Tonight Show clip is Dave Grusin. Hey, I've heard of Dave Grusin. He's been the composer on an awful lot of great movies and has been nominated for (and occasionally won) a mess of Grammy awards and Oscars. A week or so ago, I re-watched one of my favorite films, And Justice For All, and it had a score by Dave Grusin. That's cool that that's him.

Meanwhile, Tim Dunleavy notes that the date given for that clip — 10/03/1965 — must be wrong because October 3 of that year was a Sunday. So your guess is as good as mine.

And that's about all I have time to post right now because I have a deadline that needs meeting and, heck, I've put up tons of content the last few days. I'm entitled to coast one day a week. Ergo, I have put up a photo of a soup can to indicate that posting will be light here the rest of the day…or however long it takes me to finish this script.

Go Read It!

What happens to someone who goes on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and loses $225,000? Check out the sad (but in some ways, inspirational) story of Justin Peters.

Shack Attack!

As we mentioned, RadioShack is going away…so what to do if you have gift cards to redeem there? This article will tell you…and I'll add that if you're going to go in and buy something to use them up, you'd better hurry. The last few days they're in operation may not be the time because as they run out of items, they're not going to be restocking those shelves.

Today's Video Link

This is a fascinating clip from The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson and it's from 10/03/1965. Not many of the shows from that period survived.

You may know this part already. When Johnny took over the show, it was an hour and 45 minutes every night and it started twice. They would start the show at 11:15 and then go to commercial around 11:28. At 11:30, that commercial break would end and they'd do a new opening, billboarding the guests again. This was because some local stations ran a 15-minute newscast at 11 PM and some had a half-hour. The two starts were so stations could join the broadcast at either time.

Originally, Johnny did his monologue at the start of the 11:15 segment but more and more, stations then were shifting to 30-minute newscasts so fewer and fewer of them were airing that labor-intensive bit of stand-up. Around early '65, Johnny decided the first fifteen minutes had to go so he could do his monologue for everyone to open the show. For a time, he just plain refused to do the first 15 minutes of the show, insisting he was sick and leaving it to Ed McMahon and the show's bandleader, who then was Skitch Henderson.

Eventually, Johnny won. NBC agreed to get all their stations lined-up to start at 11:30 but the "first fifteen" starring Ed and Skitch continued for several months until that happened. They'd play games, chat, sometimes interview one guest, all the time reassuring the audience that Johnny Carson would be along shortly. Some nights, it was pretty grim until he showed up.

This is an excerpt from the "first fifteen." Skitch seems to have been off that night and the bandleader seems to be someone named David. I do not recognize this man but he and Ed introduce a band number spotlighting the great trumpeter, Clark Terry. Terry played in the band for most of the sixties, leaving in 1972 when Johnny moved the show from New York to Southern California. This clip appears to be from a 1965 visit that the show paid to Hollywood but Mr. Terry came along to join what was probably a band made up mostly of L.A.-based musicians.

After he left The Tonight Show, Clark Terry continued to be one of the greats of the jazz trumpet…and I seem to recall him sitting in with the band in Burbank every now and then and offering up an amazing solo. He toured and did concerts and some people say he played on more jazz recordings of his era than any other trumpet player. He passed away last Saturday at the age of 94. Here he is doing what he did as well as anyone who's ever held one of those instruments…

My Latest Tweet

  • Donald Trump running for President again. Not one person not on his payroll thinks he will get more electoral votes than Donald Duck.

Snubbed!

People keep writing to ask me about the Joan Rivers "snub" from the Oscars' In Memoriam segment. The word "snub" is getting way overused on the Internet these days, its definition now being broadened to include any time you think the wrong person got selected for something. It's like when a casting director has to pick which of ten actors who were considered (or even which of fifty who were submitted) will get a part. He picks the one he'll hire and then folks say they others were "snubbed."

Sometimes, they say they were "banned." If you host Saturday Night Live only once and then Lorne Michaels decides once is enough, or you get turned down to guest with David Letterman, you're likely to wind up on a list of people who are (gasp!) "banned" from those shows.

Or even "blacklisted." That's another one. A comedian I met at a party a few years ago was complaining that he couldn't get on The Tonight Show, which of course has always been the fate of well over 99.9999999% of all people who consider themselves professional comedians. He was saying he'd been "blacklisted," likening his non-selection to the injustice done to actors and writers who were persecuted by a conspiracy involving multiple employers who did not question their ability, only their exercise of free speech and free association.

So here's the deal with the Oscars segment. Each year, a committee at the Academy — not the producers of the telecast — has to make up the roster of who's in and who's out. They start with a list of maybe 400 names — everyone in show business who died in the last twelve months and had anything to do with a movie. Probably that list isn't even complete but they have to start somewhere. Then they whittle it down to 40-50 names.

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You might ask, "Why don't they cut some musical number or a commercial or two and put in more names?" Well, they'd sooner not give out Best Picture than cut a commercial but even that wouldn't solve the problem. If they put 100 dead folks on the screen, the fans and family of others on the master list would still say, "Hey, you included the caterer on a movie made in 1974 but you left out the caterer on a movie made in 1969!" The more you include, the more you lower the bar on how important a person has to be to make the reel.

The committee considers fame and importance. You get more points if you were nominated for an Oscar or won one, which is not to suggest they have an actual points system. They may or may not.

They used to only put up actors and an occasional director but there were too many complaints about "snubbing" other job descriptions. So now they make sure to include some writers, some make-up folks, some studio execs, some cinematographers, etc. I would guess that the one or two most important costume designers who die each year will always make the final list because it would be viewed as an insult to all costume designers if at least one wasn't included.

I am told the official Academy site says that the honor is only for actual members of the Academy but I don't believe that rule, if it exists, is followed religiously. I mean, do we think some huge star who never actually joined would be omitted for that reason? It may matter in the case of those who are on the cusp.

And then the committee decides what they decide. I would assume there is discussion of whether someone is a TV person or a stage person and whether they did enough of their careers in movies that they belong. On Shelly Goldstein's Facebook page, Bruce Vilanch posted…

it ain't the people's choice, it's the academy's choice, and they tend to choose people who actually are in the movie business, not the fashion business or the television business.

Bruce has been involved in enough Oscar telecasts to know of what he writes.

Each year, we have this controversy and folks read way too much into the decision to include A but exclude B. Sooner or later, the Academy is probably going to tell whoever constructs and designs the montage, "Look, here's a list of 423 people who died since the last Oscars. We'll give you four minutes instead of three. Get every one of these names on the screen for a few seconds, even if for some, it's just putting up a crawl or twenty names at a time with no pictures."

Then there will instead be complaints about who got a picture and who didn't, and why someone's name was on longer than someone else's, and putting up 423 names will just about guarantee that someone's is misspelled. And then we'll hear about how someone whose name wasn't on the initial list of 423 was snubbed…or maybe even banned or blacklisted.

Today on Stu's Show!

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I want to recommend today's Stu's Show and I want to recommend a recent book by Stu's guest. Joel Tator is a TV producer with a long résumé, a shelf or two full of Emmys and an extensive knowledge of Los Angeles television history. He has recently given us Los Angeles Television, an excellent book about local TV in my home town back in the fifties, sixties and seventies…you know, back when there used to be local television other than late news and dawn-to-dusk coverage of police pursuits.

The group shot on the cover gives you a good idea of the kind of people covered by this volume. On it, I see Engineer Bill, Mike Stokey, Stan Freberg, Tom Hatten, Art Linkletter, Skipper Frank and so many more. That photo's from a reunion years after most of them were vital contributors to local television but Tator's book is full of photos and history of earlier days. If you grew up where I did, you will love this book and your biggest complaint will be that it isn't long enough. So order it and listen in when Joel guests with Stu today.

Stu's Show can be heard live (almost) every Wednesday at the Stu's Show website and you can listen for free there. Webcasts start at 4 PM Pacific Time, 7 PM Eastern and other times in other climes. They run a minimum of two hours and sometimes go way, way longer. Whenever a show ends, it's available soon after for downloading from the Archives on that site. Downloads are a measly 99 cents each and you can get four shows for the price of three. Well worth the money.