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Today's Video Link

Hey, remember that John Cleese-Eric Idle conversation I attended the other night? The one I said was wonderful and I'd love to see it again? Well, now I can by clicking on the embedded video below. You can, too. And I highly recommend you spend the hour and 17 minutes to do so…

Yeah, Another Cosby Post

I kinda don't wanna keep writing about Bill Cosby here but there's something fascinating about this case…not about the alleged crimes of sex and violence but about our reaction to them and how fans of Mr. Cosby are processing all this information.

While I was in the air yesterday, the news said that more women have come forth with allegations and several performance venues have canceled bookings with him…but at the same time, when he appeared for a show in Melbourne, Florida he was cheered and received a standing ovation. Now, I have no doubt what he did on that stage was very, very funny. Rape charges aside, no one's better at that than William Henry "Bill" Cosby, Jr. and before this new flurry of charges, he always got standing o's.

But I do wonder what, if anything, was on the minds of those who showed up that night, laughed and stood to clap. Presumably, they all purchased tickets before they heard about the fifteen or eighteen (or whatever it's up to now) women who say Cos drugged them then had his way with them and I do understand the feeling of "We paid for these, we might as well use them." Some of those people might even have thought, "Hey, this could be our last chance to see Bill Cosby on a stage."

Still, you can think all that and not give the guy an enthusiastic round of applause that would be interpreted as, "We don't care, Bill. We love you." One does wonder if Cosby hears that and thinks, "Hell, the public still loves me. All I need to do is stonewall and press on and this damn thing will blow over."

I wish someone could have polled that audience to discern their attitude. I'm trying to think of what some of them might have been thinking…

  • "No, I didn't really hear anything about rape and anyway, the press prints a lot of crap about celebrities that isn't true. If he really did this stuff, why isn't he in prison or something?"
  • "I just don't believe all those women. I think it's some conspiracy to extort money from the guy or ruin his reputation for some reason."
  • "I've always loved the guy. I don't care what anyone says. I just don't believe it."
  • "I've always loved the guy. What he does when he's not on stage is a separate matter and none of my business."
  • "Hey, so maybe he had a little fun with some women who were trying to use him to help their careers. Remember some of them came back to see him again after it. It wasn't a big deal and anyway, if it happened, it's way in the past."
  • "I don't know who to believe but I know he's really funny and we had these tickets…"

And there are probably other views. If political discussions on the Internet have taught us anything, it's that some people think some pretty weird things and that they make up their mind about something and then firmly believe whatever "evidence" they have to believe to support that view. There are human beings who insist they have incontrovertible proof that Martians killed J.F.K. to try and stop the U.S. space program.

Unless some recent victim emerges to turn this whole thing into a police matter, Cosby can probably coast for a while on audiences of such people. Someone will book him and he can maintain some pretense of the charges being like gnats that can be swatted away. He's made too many folks too much money for entrepreneurs not to offer him stages and vehicles…until he stops making them money. A career can go on and on for some time before it becomes obvious to all that it's over.

Today's Video Link

Didn't blog much today because I spent most of it at the airport, on a plane, waiting for my luggage at Miami-Dade Airport or waiting in a long, long stream of people for a taxicab. The cab thing bothered me a little because I figure when you wait that long on a line in Florida, you ought to eventually get in to the Pirates of the Caribbean.

This is where I'm appearing tomorrow and Sunday…the Miami Book Fair. These scenes were shot (I presume) at last year's Miami Book Fair but this year's should look pretty much the same except that I'll be there and it'll be raining much of the time…

Recommended Reading

Fred Kaplan on the current talks with Iran about deprogramming their nuclear program. I'm currently trying to hold my own talks with various delicatessens about eliminating "weapons-grade" cole slaw.

Still More About Mike Nichols

Mike Nichols once gave his five rules for filmmaking…

  1. The careful application of terror is an important form of communication.
  2. Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting dirty for.
  3. There's absolutely no substitute for genuine lack of preparation.
  4. If you think there's good in everybody, you haven't met everybody.
  5. Friends may come and go, but enemies will certainly become studio heads.

And I believe the last time he won a Tony, he said his acceptance speech that his philosopy was, "Cheer up. Life isn't everything." Quite apropos tonight.

A Good Question

So, uh, why is Peter Pan usually played by a woman?

More on Mike Nichols

Todd McCarthy writes about the career of Mike Nichols.

I would recommend to you the commentary track Nichols did for the DVD of the movie, Catch-22. I am not recommending the movie, which I think was at best a noble attempt to film the unfilmable. But the commentary track on the DVD is fascinating and fun…and actually made me appreciate the film a bit more. (The DVD is five bucks now but I'm not certain this version has the commentary track.) [UPDATE: Several readers have written in to tell me it does. Proceed at your own risk.]

Thoughts on Mr. Cosby

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You can kind of tell Bill Cosby is in serious trouble because the photos of him have all gone from looking like the one at left above to looking like the one at right above. Much the same change has occurred in a lot of minds.

Like most of you, I try to hold the thought that he has not been convicted or even charged by police, and that there are a few possibly hinky things in the accounts of a few of the women who've come forth to accuse him of drugging and raping them. Still, you take those hinky details away and you still have a lot of women telling much the same story without a visible motive to lie.

Last night at a writers' gathering, I overheard folks talking about the matter. One said he wasn't convinced to which another said, "What if it was twenty-five women? Fifty? How many it would it take?" The first one admitted that the number was probably more like ten, and there are already more than ten. Still, he wanted to believe it was not so. Cosby's refusal to offer any explanation or convincing denial has also probably convinced a lot of people he did it.

I'm trying to invent a scenario where he comes out of this okay and goes back to being Bill Cosby. I can't. And maybe one of the reasons he's not going on TV to try and deny it is that he can't, either. He'd have to say all these women are lying and that would (a) embolden them to repeat the charges louder, (b) cause him to be accused of trashing his victims, (c) maybe bring forth other accusers and (d) not be believed by very many people. He may try it but on a "nothing to lose" basis, which is not a good reason to do anything.

Where's this all heading? I'm thinking that depends on two things. One is what else comes out. Are there other scandals and charges lurking out there? And if so, are any of them still actionable, still within the Statute of Limitations? The other question is what the public does.

All the venues where Cosby is booked to do concerts seem to be going ahead with them. Will people stop showing up to them? Will protesters appear outside with angry signs? How long before Cosby is in the middle of a monologue about parenting and some audience member yells out a remark about rape? I can't imagine this man turning around the downward trajectory of his reputation but I can sure imagine him being shunned clear out of public life.

He doesn't need the money. He probably figures he needs to just keep going, act normal, make like this is all some minor misunderstanding…and hope that when he dies, the obits don't mention rape accusations in the early paragraphs.

It's all so sad. The guy was such a great comedian. Around 1982, in a story I told here, I was in Reno working on his opening act so I got to see him perform four shows over two nights. He was so terrific and I don't just mean that he made everyone laugh. We all just loved him. He did what he did on that stage about as well as anyone ever has or ever will. And now I look back on that and think, "1982 is when Janice Dickinson says he drugged her and raped her in Lake Tahoe, just a few miles from Reno." It's hard to get that out of your head.

Mike Nichols, R.I.P.

The great, universally-admired director Mike Nichols has left us at age 83. I have nothing to say other than that he sure gave us some wonderful plays and motion pictures. Before that, he did some now-legendary work as an actor and improv comedian, usually in tandem with Elaine May. Anthony Tollin suggested I link to this famous sketch the two of them did, in this case on The Jack Paar Show. One hopes and presumes the Nichols family is not going through anything of the sort right now…

Letters, We Get Letters…

Todd Klein is one of the best comic book letterers in the field. It's a profession that has largely transitioned from working with pen and ink on the artwork to working in Adobe Illustrator on a computer. Recently, Todd did a stunning amount of research to chart the evolution of that change for a seven-part series on his blog. Wanna read it? Start with Part One, then read Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six and Part Seven.

The one omission that struck me in Todd's otherwise exhaustive piece was Stan Sakai, who still letters Groo the Wanderer and his own Usagi Yojimbo the old-fashioned way, right on the art boards. Sergio Aragonés, who of course draws Groo, is well aware of the advantages of computer lettering. It makes it much simpler to translate the work for overseas publication, for instance. Still, there is something comforting about having the lettering right there on the pages he's drawing.

Today's Video Link

The other day, Shelly Goldstein (you all know Shelly Goldstein) and I were talking about the upcoming live TV production of Peter Pan and she said they'd probably cut or rewrite the "Ugga-Wugg" song, the one about Indians that is now far from politically proper. I wasn't as sure but, of course, Shelly was right. She always is. As this article explains, they're changing quite a few songs.

This does not bother me a whole lot. If they're bad songs it will but the mere fact that the show is being rewritten is not a deal-breaker for me. The Cathy Rigby production of the show dropped the "Mysterious Lady" number and was much better for it. It's a stupid number that added to the general sexual confusion of the show.

In the Mary Martin version, you had this adult woman (Mary was 47 the last time she played "The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up" on television) and Cyril Ritchard playing Captain Hook as very foppish — his feet touched the ground less than Peter's — and then along comes this song. Peter pretends to be a woman so you have someone who could have been a grandmother playing an adolescent boy playing a sultry young lady being lusted after by a gay pirate…

The Rigby version was right to cut it. And to go without that ridiculous ballet in which the Darlings' housekeeper somehow, in defiance of the logic behind the fairy dust, manages to fly to Neverland, dance with badly costumed animals, then fly home — all for no visible reason. Plus, they made Hook more menacing and villainous.

There's nothing wrong with changing a show like that if the changes improve it. We'll see if the changes on NBC do but for now, here's the "Ugga-Wugg" song as it was performed by Sandy Duncan — who was a pretty good Pan, too — for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade one year. I think the "Indians" are wearing body stockings they didn't wear on stage because it was, like, eighteen degrees out there that day. And of course, there's no orchestra or microphones out there so they're lip-syncing…but it's still a pretty good performance.

It's introduced by Ed McMahon whose vertical hold keeps slipping. That's what happens to you when you drink…

Wednesday Morning

Okay, we have more tales from women who say they were raped by Bill Cosby, more attacks on the accusers' credibility and a lot of really clueless, insensitive comments about rape from people who oughta know better and don't. And still silence from the Cosby camp. So how long do we think he's going to be able to get away with this? The man has a series of concert appearances booked — one or two most weekends for months to come. I assume the two last weekend went on without incident or we'd have heard. At some point, they're going to begin getting disrupted or boycotted or even canceled because of these charges.

I'm still glowing a bit from last night's John Cleese/Eric Idle presentation. What a pleasure to sit in what was clearly a very smart, well-informed audience and listed to two smart, clever men speak with great wit and obvious affection for each other. Years ago, I attended a similar conversation in which Mr. Cleese interviewed William Goldman. I wish there was a place on TV for a weekly hour like this and I don't necessarily mean with John Cleese or Eric Idle as host, though either would be smashing. I mean a place where there could be discussions between bright people who were talking about something other than their current product. Jon Stewart occasionally has such chats and there are many podcasts…but podcasts usually lack what was a vital part of last night's event: A live (and smart) studio audience.

One of these days, I will probably have a long post here about one of my pet topics: Creative people being asked to create for little or no money. I am amazed sometimes at the insensitivity some have to the fact that folks who write, draw, act (etc.) do have to pay mortgages, buy groceries, deal with emergencies and so forth. If the creative person is largely unknown, there's the assumption that the exposure and having their work seen should be reward enough. If the creative person is well-known and established, there's the (often erroneous) assumption that they must be flush with cash so they can afford to do freebees. I'll write more about this soon but in the meantime, you might want to read what happened when a hula-hooping wonder named Revolva was asked to work for free…by Oprah Winfrey's company. We all know how Oprah can't afford to pay people.

Today on Stu's Show!

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That's the legendary Cap'n Crunch Bo'sun Whistle that came for a time in Cap'n Crunch cereal back in the sixties.  What was legendary about it?  Well, someone figured out you could use it to make free phone calls anywhere in the world.

Stu's Show today is about Phone Phreaks.  Those are guys who, back when long distance was real expensive, figured out ways to call anywhere for nothing…and an ingenious lot they were.  Ripping off Ma Bell became kind of a fad in some circles and for many, it was not so much a way to save money as it was a way to Beat the System and make a statement for civil disobedience.  Stu has assembled an expert panel to discuss the matter and you'll want to listen in as they discuss this and also some of the amazing telephone lines you could call to get jokes, alternative news, stock tips…all sorts of things.

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 longer.  Then, not long after a show ends, it's available 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.  It's not as good as swindling the phone company but it's something.

John 'n' Eric

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I'm sure it will surprise absolutely no one that an evening of John Cleese and Eric Idle in conversation would be hilarious…but it was even funnier than that. To promote Mr. Cleese's new book, the two men took the stage this evening and just talked for close to ninety minutes. There seemed to be professional video being shot so perhaps the whole thing will be available somewhere, sometime. I'd sure like to see it again. And again.

They didn't talk a whole lot about Cleese's book. It actually had the feel of two close friends sitting around, telling stories to each other and to a third party, the third party in this case being a packed audience at the Alex Theater in Glendale. Given some of the rumors that have made the rounds, it's probably worth reporting that the two did seem like very close friends and that many compliments flew between them. Cleese was especially effusive about his fellow Python's skills at musical performing and at programming and supervising the big O2 stage show they did as a Farewell Performance.

The funniest thing said will not seem nearly as funny when I type it here but basically, Cleese told about how Graham Chapman — for some ungodly reason — was invited to participate in a debate at Cambridge about nuclear proliferation. Chapman, who knew next to nothing about the topic and had zero to say about it, cheerfully accepted the invite and showed up for the debate dressed as a giant carrot.

Cleese and Idle discussed how they met and how Python came to be, pretty much agreeing on all the details. Both made the point that they always thought of themselves not so much as performers but as writers who got up to perform their own material. Both agreed that while they argued a lot about scripts and what was funny, they never argued over casting and who'd get which roles to play.

Cleese's book, which was available signed but unpersonalized outside the hall, contains the text of several sketches that were written in his pre-Python days. To the delight of everyone, the two men read/performed two of them, which I believe were for At Last, the 1948 Show, a series Cleese did before Python. They had not rehearsed and Idle did not seem terribly familiar with the material but it was very funny and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who thought, "This must be a lot like how the first reading of a new Monty Python sketch sounded around the table."

Saw a lot of friends there including Paul Dini and Misty Lee, Maurice LaMarche, Billy Riback, Lee Aronsohn, Steve Stoliar, Robert Spina, Jeff Abraham, Howard Green, Arthur Greenwald, Mike Carlin, Eric Goldberg and others I'm forgetting. Kim "Howard" Johnson, who as I mentioned here is traveling with Mr. Cleese, only had a moment to say hi but he did move me and a friend to seats in the third row. I stole the above photo from Kim's Twitter feed which I highly recommend.

About a half-hour after the show let out as I headed for my car, I walked to the back of the Alex and there, not far from my parking space, Mr. Idle was still cheerfully signing autographs for folks and bantering with his fans. I couldn't help but think, "What a nice man."

Soup's On!

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Too much to do today. Looks like I'm not going to have time to blog until later this evening…if then.