Sinatra in Palm Springs

DATELINE: 50 Years in the Desert!

 1948 Home!

One of the least frequently used ways to examine a life biography is to study the place called home. For Frank Sinatra, that place was not New Jersey or Las Vegas: it was Palm Springs where he first moved in the late 1940s and fell in love. He was one of the self-professed “desert rats.”

When he commissioned a house, it became a sleek modern style that so fit the area. It soon became a compound, and with his marriage to Ava Gardner, she took over much of its design, including a recording studio within for when he had the urge to sing.

Before long, the social and gregarious Sinatra had many of his show biz entourage there. It was an exclusive place which did not cater to his Jewish friends, and with Jack Benny and the Marx Brothers, they built a golf club that was open to all, especially celebrities. Even Bob Hope soon moved to the Springs area.

The home was the site of famous fights between Ava and Frank, resulting in damage that is now part of the legendary design. After their divorce and Sinatra’s resurgence after From Here to Eternity, he moved about ten miles across town to Rancho Mirage where he stayed for the rest of his life. He is buried in the Springs as well.

Sinatra even allowed his home to be used for Joan Crawford’s house in The Damned Don’t Cry. Later, his new compound had many guest houses for his frequent gatherings. He loved to entertain and be entertained. Only his mother’s death in 1977 in a plane crash on her way to be with him seemed to be a bad time.

Sinatra loved to drive around at night—and frequented many of the well-known restaurants of the area, from the Doll House to Melvyn’s. He had his own table in many—and he owned the town. If he came to your restaurant or bar regularly, you had it made.

In the early days of Palm Springs, celebs could walk around unbothered by fans. It was an increasingly cosmopolitan place away from the business centers of Hollywood, and the Racquet Club was part of Frank’s world.

The word most often used to describe Sinatra was “generous.” He was charitable beyond his moodiness or occasional blowup. Most called him a pure gentleman.

His entourage was not only the Rat Pack, but many stars from different films who vied to be part of this Vegas legend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Little Letters at ESPN

DATELINE: Idiots from the Show-Me State of Mind

 Imbecile at Large!

 The limits of telling off an elected official have now reached critical point. A fairly well-known sports journalist has been suspended by that bastion of free speech, ESPN, for telling a closet-idiot senator known for his Trump edge to go “f” himself.

We’ve heard worse diatribes aimed at immortal beings. It seems many in the NBA (whom the un-pronounceable journalist was defending) have come to his aid and comfort.

Billion-dollar corporations and billionaires are now defended by a gaggle of ungagged neo-racist fools and idiots. Josh Hawley is a 40-year old exploitative politician who wants to make hay fast. He is also from the “Show-Me” state of Missouri.

We’d love to show him total disrespect due his rank smell.

The notorious Sen. Josh Hawley is the bright light of the dim GOP and may well be a candidate successor to Donald Trump when the present presidente is sent packing to a Moscow address after the next election.

You cannot use four-letter words in an email at ESPN. To argue our usual line of thought, a good writer need not stoop to profanity. Isn’t the education of a wordsmith that he can express his exasperation without four letters being the custom of boobs and thugs?

We certainly understand the need for a Republican senator of the United States to perform an impossible sex act on himself. However, we might couch it on the couch with more genteel verbiage.

Part of our divided America is that those who have intelligence and education must not stoop to conquer the profane idiots of the crypto-Nazi field, like Senator Hawley, a near-Cro-Magnon Republican stalwart.

Churchill Unwrapped but Parboiled!

 DATELINE: Interesting Take on Great Briton!

 Cox as Churchill.

Every actor appears to want to sink his acting chops into one of the most melodramatic and imperious roles you can face. Heavy, middle-aged men are particularly apt to apply their skills to the role of Winston Churchill.

It is something off the track in 2017 with Brian Cox in the title role: Churchill.At least one critical judge called it a “hit job.” We are not prepared to go that far, but this is a meddlesome, troublesome, cantankerous version of Churchill in the hours before D-Day. It is not his finest hour.

There is no doubt he was opposed to the timing and the action as planned by others. This film attributes his motive to the catastrophe often linked to his name: Gallipoli where thousands died needlessly. Here, Winston becomes a first-level pain for everyone with his opposition to the landing on Normandy. He feels it is history repeating itself, and he does whatever petty temper tantrums to prevent this.

In this version, Churchill tries to pray and ends up ordering God, much to no result. Cox emotes, confabs, and blusters through every scene with smoking cigar and scotch in hand. He throws more than a few dinner plates off the table in arguments with Clem (his wife as played by Miranda Richardson).

No one can control him, and he is diminishing as leader and hero by the moment, not the same man who led the country through the Blitz. And, the country would soon turn him out of office as if it knew all these behind-the-scenes actions that seem fanciful and imagined.

Not Eisenhower, not Montgomery, not his wife, can make him listen. It takes a visit from the King, half-stuttering, to remind him his duty is not to fight or make military strategy. He is a mere symbol.

Though some purists and devotees of Churchill may take umbrage, toward the end of his term in the War, he was growing more marginalized and ultimately dismissed by voters. Director Jonathan Teplitzky takes a chance tacking an icon in an unfavorable light.

This film is an emotional upheaval, perhaps inaccurate but perhaps not. Cox chews the scenery and the role often puts Churchill alone, a small figure, in big landscapes and big halls with nary a security guard. There is no mistaking the message.

Absolutely interesting take on Winston.

 

 

 

John Wayne in Forsaken TV

DATELINE: Wild West Satire with Wayne

 Not Laurel & Hardy!

Back in the 1950s when John Wayne was the number one box office attraction, it was a treat if he made a guest appearance on TV. The series is called Forsaken Westernsand features a plethora of deplorable episodes with Michael Landon, Leonard Nimoy, and many others before they made it big.

One of those syndicated series that collects odd-ball appearances of noted TV stars when they were unknown in lost pilot episodes, has also brought us a true peculiar and weird little dollop:  John Wayne in a satiric, overextended TV skit called The Northwest Killer,in which Duke Wayne is falsely accused of murder and hunted down by a relentless RCMP Mountie.

Now this is supposed to be comedy, a throwaway extended bit for a variety show in 1959. The host of the show is none other than the irrepressible Jimmy Durante.

Yes, Durante, the Schnoze, plays a variation of Sgt.Preston of the Yukon, in his Mountie outifit, red jacket lost in black and white. Durante marches around and pivots to Wayne’s amusement as he plays unlucky Pierre, trapped in bad TV comedy

This is probably 15 minutes of most excruciating and unfunny bits, done like a multi-scene Western ever put on TV. There are several fistfights between Durante and Duke—and hilariously (we supposed) Durante bests the box-office champ. Wayne turns to the camera and promises the kids, “I win the next fight.”

Of course, being funny was secondary here: the treat was to see Jimmy Durante and John Wayne in a western satire. It has all the promise and none of the quality you’d hope. Pratfalls are outrageous, and Wayne likely enjoyed doing some comedy as a change of pace. Also on the bill is a guest appearance of Gary Cooper with Jack Benny, equally unfunny, in which Benny in high-heeled boots is the same height at Coop. He nearly falls over several times and is rescued, unscripted, by the laconic Gary Cooper.

It was a surprise to find such stuff after 50 years, and the ghosts of Wayne and Cooper likely wish they had lost these horrors permanently.

 

 

  306 Hollywood Avenue: Archaeological Digs

DATELINE:  How a Life Matters

 Grandma as Empress!

One of the most original documentaries and fascinating undertaking belongs to a film by siblings Elan and Jonathan Bogarin. When their grandmother dies at age 93 in New Jersey, they undertake to deconstruct her life though the house she lived in for 67 years.

Grandma Annette saved everything and they, at first, plan to shred documents and toss everything out for a quick sale. However, strange evocations in the house lead them to stop everything. Even the undertaker tells them her spirit may be in the house for up to 11 months.

Whereas most of our possessions are trashed in a bin immediately, like her lifelong collection of paperclips, the grandchildren now want to sift through her ordinary life like it is the pyramid of a great personage. The result is astounding, heart-rending, and illuminating. You must look at how our lives end up in a trash heap that no one wants or cares about. It could be your address or anyone you know.

In one segment, they visit the archivist for the John D. Rockefeller house, the saved heirlooms and collectibles of the rich family. They have the resources to do what middle-income people cannot—and they have selected what will survive to prove the Rockefeller legacy.

They then ask the archivist about his family. He has saved his grandmother’s cookie recipes and her log of making dozens for her children.

As Annette made dresses, beautiful copies for herself too, they have an interesting take on the fashion as icons. A conservator tells how she can feel the spirit of the owner in the clothes, and physicist Alan Lightman talks about how molecules and atoms never die, but become disarranged: the dead person is no longer assembled, but parts float around the universe.

They keep the house for six years until Jonathan hears his grandmother call his name. As Alan Lightman states, houses are universes, and like the universe, they can be reduced to fit into a thimble.

Dark Dirk’s Shadow

DATELINE:  British Murder Mystery

 As a Charming Killer!

Of course, Janet Greene is no Agatha Christie, but English female mystery playwrights were big in the 1950s. Her big play has more sociopathic psycho than most.

So, the big cheese to play the role was a perfect choice.

From light comedy to darkest character drama with sociological implications, Dirk Bogarde stormed onto the scene in British, arty films in the 1950s. He could play a charming medical students in the film series, Doctor in the House,or he could be a dangerous sexual predator as in Cast a Dark Shadow  all within the same year!

No actor in the Hollywood system could do that sort of range.

In 1955, he managed to play one of his creepier wife-murdering fortune hunters, cast as the darkest shadow, Teddy Bare who is married to oldster Mona Washbourne. Her name is Moni, but it sounds like Mommy when Dirk speaks.

Moni makes a will, against Teddy’s wish. With no will, he receives all her money. He is forced to dispatch her immediately and must find another wife/victim.

In some ways, the young man after old ladies is not credible, but the idea of a young man hustling an older man was not feasible in 1955, but we give Bogarde credit for his unspoken suggestion. In one scene he is reading male health magazine with men in bikini photos.

That was about as blatant as you could be to send a gay message in 1955.

In glossy black and white, the film is a beautiful production with sharp sets and lovely photography from director Lewis Gilbert. The other women victims are younger and more apt, Margaret Atwood and Kay Walsh.

This is a lost gem that now is found on streaming services.

 Go West, Young Voter!

DATELINE: IQ Not a Barrier!

 

If you did not already believe that any idiot can become president of the United States, Kanye West is the example to prove the point.

His campaign motto shall be, “Go West, or Go to Hell,” and voters of an ilk will likely respond. He doesn’t need the senior vote, and has no intention of putting the Pointer Sisters into his cabinet.

Yes, this musical maven has announced he is fit and ready to be your next president. Despite being a Trump lackey, he has found the limelight too much to his liking.

He first big donor has lined up: another half-wit billionaire by the name of Elon Musk. He’s the guy ready to send you to Mars with no return ticket. And now, Mark Cuban who famously was called out by his player, Kevin Durant, with the words, “Cuban is a idiot.”

Spaceshots are already clamoring to be president of Mars. No mail-in ballots will be allowed on Phobos.

It’s now clear who has been abducted by space aliens and who is the pilot of your local UFO. Kanye will hold his convention and nomination rally at Area 51 where long runways and reverse engineers are preparing his Oval Office décor.

To balance the ticket, Kanye needs to find the right Veep and Justin Bieber may be a tad young, but he won’t be in line to succeed for eight years. Justin Timberlake is too far left. Taylor Swift has turned him down.

Kayne West already will tell you his black life matters more than others: he makes big money and has a famous wife. Kim Kardashian may not be Jackie Kennedy Onassis, but she certainly will give her best imitation. Jay-Z is set to be campaign manager. And Drake has promised to bring in the LGBT vote.

By the way, the Federal Election Commission is investigating Kanye for false filing information. The joke will be over soon enough.

 

 

  Mae West: Dirty Blonde

DATELINE: Way Ahead of the Curve!

 Mae in Lion’s Mouth!

When PBS Masters finally recognizes Mae 100 years after her astounding Broadway run, you know she is still years ahead of the rest of society. How did this woman whose first plays were called “garbage,” or “lewd” or worse, manage to transcend Sexand The Dragto become a sotto vocecomic?

She was hardly a dirty blonde, but she was stunning to behold.

Her first play about a sex worker resulted in a week-long jail sentence that became the best publicity stunt New Yorkers ever saw. Her second play, she scoured the drag queen bars of the 1920s to find 60 gay men and women to do her ground-breaking shocker about homosexuality!

It took her thinking about why few women attended her plays (she wrote, directed, and starred). So, she came up with Diamond Lil, in hour-glass dresses, fancy lingerie, and big hats: add a few off-hand jokes, and she was Mae West forever.

You could say she saved Paramount Studios with her astute performances: she was in charge of everything and made $1 more than the highest paid executive. She insisted on black performers with billing in her movies, and she gave Duke Ellington his first Hollywood exposure!

Mae hated negativity—and she liked to be in control. Slowly she evolved into a real version of her creative version. She was forty and overweight when she made her first movie, and she was run out of Hollywood by censors. By the 1950s, she was considered a man in drag herself–and she was ripe for parody everywhere.

In the 1970s in her 80s, she made a comeback as a sex symbol, a shocking parody that was hilarious inSextette  and Myra Breckinridge. With her half-baked singing, shimmy, and snide overcurrent delivery, she was a striking original.

 

 

 

Yes, We Have No Trump Bananas!

DATELINE: Accused Felon

Trump with recently arrested harridan predator.

Fox News, that bastion of journalistic integrity, has now taken to cropping any photo of Jeffrey Epstein with Trump so that the POTUS is MIA. They forgot all the pix of Ghislaine Maxwell with him.

This is almost identical to sticking your head in the sand, if you are an ostrich. If you don’t show it, it never happened. A Trump supporter went for our throat recently when we sent a picture of the president and Ghislaine. She foamed rapidly that it was “photoshopped,” but did not feel any picture of Bill Clinton might be equally photoshopped.

Of course, the nervous nellies of Fox are photoshopping Trump out of the images because the summertime heat is increasing. It seems the prosecutor’s office may be looking at a tie to “public officials.” Hmm, that means you, Trump.

 

 

It could mean AG Barr too, whose father was an early Epstein enabler at the Dalton School, a fancy prep where words like rich and scandal never are put in the same sentence.

 

Sexual predators seem to travel in packs.

 

Fox News clearly is thinking that their news watchers who are Trump supporters do not need to hear how their brazen leader knew and supported the child abuse of Ghislaine and Epstein. Heavens, no!

 

The problem is a pattern of sexual abuse and accusers over many years around the President. The problem is that Ghislaine’s father (and her friend Epstein) may have been selling video, audio, and bugged footage to Vladimir Putin over the years. Yes, Epstein was a salesman who met death from the business of selling images of  famous politicians in compromising positions.We do not use “positions” lightly.

A cold steel dossier on Trump would surely mean his cooperation. Putin has that.

Of course, some Fox intern left Melania in the original picture, apparently not recognizing her in her pre-First Lady coquettish days.

Fox News may switch its theme song to “Yes, We Have no Bananas.”  It’s fitting for those going crazy and living in a banana republic like Trumpworld.

 

 

 

Stone Monuments & Rocks in Trump’s Head

DATELINE: Trump Version of Disneyland

Mt. Rushmore or Less!

The so-called Garden of Monuments proposed by Trump will be nothing less than an ode to Hollywood versions of American heroes. A close look at Trump’s selection of heroes features a good number of 1950s TV icons—from Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, to a plethora of Walt Disney depictions.

 

We suspect in Trump’s rock head, the faces of Boone and Crockett will belong to Fess Parker.

You may have noticed war hero Audie Murphy on this list, but not war hero Alvin York. York’s movie came too soon for Trump, but you can count on the fact that when Lou Gehrig is included, he will look like Gary Cooper.

Oh, in a show of good faith and black face, Trump includes the ubiquitous Martin Luther King, Jr., and Harriet Tubman (she’s good enough for the $2 bill but not the $20).  We expect there will be a lot of Confederate money tossed about: though he does not mention Jeff Davis or Robert E. Lee, they will have a spot in Trump’s American heritage.

 

You can put the monument park next to one of his golf courses, thereby raking in more money to the Trump Organization.

You should include George Patton (in the likeness of George C. Scott), but forget Ike. For that matter, you should include the movie star president, Ronald Reagan, but forget the Democrats like FDR or JFK. Not invited.

 

We expect there will be a spot on Trump’s Rushmore for Nixon.

 

You can find Wilbur Wright on this list, but no Neil Armstrong.

 

You can find a few foreigners like Columbus, but don’t look for any Native Americans like Sitting Bull. The only bull here is Trump.

 

 

 

 

 

Next Step in the Epstein Investigation?

 DATELINE: Costume Ballers

 Weinstein/Epstein/Maxwell.

 What a trio!

When Prince Andrew threw a costume ball, Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein joined Harvey Weinstein for fun and games.

Word is now filtering out of the Southern District of New York federal prosecutor’s office that the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell is opening up a Pandora Box. They may be looking at an investigation into public officials tied into the Jeffrey Epstein case.

You have political types jumping up and down on both sides of the aisle:  Republicans think Bill Clinton is under the gun, and Democrats think Donald Trump is the person of interest.

The term “public official” certainly rules out Prince Andrew, the son of Queen Elizabeth and a royal slime-ball of another country’s color.

Trump’s firing of the US Attorney Geoffrey Berman last week indicates that he was attempting to de-rail any investigation into Rudy Giuliani or Alan Dershowitz, two Trump allies with connections to Epstein’s unsavory sexual history. Bill Gates and Elon Musk have taken to the powder room to keep dry.

Everyone denies their culpability, but the rumors for years of loose morals among these people can be uncovered on many websites and news feeds over the past decade or so. Like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, all seem to be connected to each other, crossing paths or socializing with no distance too close. Ghislaine’s photo with Kevin Spacey from 2002 has been unearthed, and pix of Weinstein with Epstein are also now easy to find.

If you want to believe in a network of sexual predators, you don’t have to stretch the mind too far. Nearly all these people were flight risks on the Lolita Express, Epstein’s aptly named jet to perdition.

Some experts think Ghislaine will talk a good game to escape a long prison term; others believe she will never make it to trial. Accidents do happen when you cross billionaires and political power horses.

 

 

 

 

Claire Denis: High Life Tumbles

DATELINE: Pattinson Finds His Spacesuit! 

 Rocket Man, Not !

The latest film by auteur and brilliant director Claire Denis is not her best, but it is original, bizarre, and will find admirers among the critical set. High Life sets a tone and standard for sci-fi that seems sci-unfit.

However, High Life is more original than your sci-fi audience may want. This is not on the level of Kubrick tackling the topic. It is anti-science fiction: philosophical and idiosyncratic. Forward is going backward from Earth.

 

If Robert Pattinson has selected it, you know you are in for something different. He knows how to pick unusual movies.

The narrative storyline is something about a father raising his infant daughter alone on a spaceship hurtling toward a black hole.

You know you are in arthouse territory when the title of the film flashes 18minutes into the story. We slowly discern the rest of the crew is dead—and therein is the tale of sexual tension with malcontents on a ship going nowhere at nine-tenths the speed of light.

Somewhere around half-way into the movie, we find the kink foundation and disturbing fact that these are actually delinquent prisoners unethically sent out as guinea pigs with no hope of return.

Their fate is not exactly happy, and their problematic lives merely make the inevitable tragedy. In the meantime, Pattinson is a curio, ageless and aging as his daughter grows up. Their goal of a black hole is referred to as an alligator eye, but it is the bullseye of bull. This dark, dour film has convinced some it is a masterpiece.

For others, it is simply so far out there that it defies comprehension. Critical reaction is all over the landscape and under the sun.

Orange Hair is the New Blackface!

DATELINE: All Lives Anti-Matter!

 Upside Down to an Illiterate?

There goes the neighborhood! That is Trump’s reaction to having a giant sign that says, “Black Lives Matter” in front of his New York Trump Tower.

Apart from thinking that a peaceful movement is a “symbol of hate,” he believes that people who share that view are likely terrorists. He is concerned that the valuable property on Fifth Avenue will never have a white Easter parade again.

This revelation from a man who touts supporters who cry out, “White Power,” and brandish weapons aimed at peaceful marchers, is typical of a man who is going down to Fifth Avenue, with a gun where he famously announced he could shoot someone and never lose a vote.

We now know the people he prefers to shoot are likely black people.

 

The real symbol of hate in 2st century America is sitting in the Oval Office, fielding softball questions from Sean Hannity on TV. And, even then, he cannot answer a question directly—like what horror of genocide will he perform if re-elected.

We do know that in Trump’s world, Robert E. Lee enjoys more protection than a young black man under surveillance by your local police.

He is fighting mad and fighting like hell you never read a book about him, as he is desperate to stop his niece’s unsavory details about a man who put money before family.

Then, again, when your father marches in KKK rallies back in the 1920s, you may be justified in taking his money away from him when he reached the Alzheimer stage of old age. He probably thought black lives matter.

Epstein’s Murder Will Out

DATELINE: Prime Suspect.

Alex Acosta & friend.

Maybe we will learn what really happened to Jeffrey Epstein, but not while William Barr is AG and Trump is POTUS. The only prosecutor prepared to go after Epstein and his co-conspirators was fired by Trump recently.

Yes, Geoffrey Berman did what Alex Acosta would not, and Trump has dismissed him. Acosta was paid off with an appointment to Secretary of Labor, but resigned two days after Epstein’s death. Trump praised him, and he ignored victims of child abuse.

Why would a man be taken off suicide watch in the federal prison? Have his Bunkie removed? And be given dozens of sheets and extension cords? Someone certainly made sure he had a message to kill himself.

Who is ultimately in charge of the Federal Bureau of Prisons? None other than the man whose father was a pal of Epstein, William Barr. And who is Barr’s superior? The man who was a close friend of Epstein, Donald Trump.

All the dots are there in this series, but no one dares to connect them. It’s dangerous, and Ghislaine Maxwell has her helicopter pilot license and is off globe-trotting. Epstein put his will into the Virgin Islands legal system, an irony for the owner of the Lolita Express jet. It is also a means to deny anyone access to his estate for at least a decade.

Murder or suicide? Both Michael Baden and Cyril Wecht, America’s two most prominent pathologists, will give you an answer that is disturbing.

Preminger’s Last Film

DATELINE: Graham Greene Spy Novel!

 Robert Morley.

Based on a Graham Greene novel, this movie is the ultimate in dry British style. In some ways it is the antithesis of what you’d expect from James Bond or George Smiley. There is really no action, but it is hilarious in its microcosmic scenes.

The Human Factoris a far-cry from the action flicks Preminger gave us fromLaura  to Stalag 17  to Bunny Lake is Missing,and on and on. Preminger’s list of credits is astounding. So, this may be a bit of a shock to fans who may think the old master had lost it in old age.

The cast is nothing short of dead-pan marvelous: Nicol Williamson, John Gielgud, Derek Jacobi, Richard Attenborough, and Robert Morley in fine fettle.

It’s 1979 and there is a leak in security at the MI-5 HQ. Maybe it’s serious, and maybe they are just over-reacting—think of Kim Philby.

Preminger just lets the actors downplay. As for the plot, it has to do with Britain’s involvement in apartheid Africa, which is lost on most American audiences. Flashbacks a decade earlier show Williamson with his beautiful African wife, Imam. You know it’s a flashback because he doesn’t have a mustache.

In between the dull parts, you have Robert Morley mugging at the girls in a strip bar, most unconvincingly but comic for sure. It’s all veddy-veddy British.

It is almost quaint to see the simple tools of spying, dropped off messages, phone calls on land-lines, and simple codes.

Noted actress Ann Todd appears in a pivotal, harsh role as Williamsson’s mother toward the end—and the defector games seem almost like Edward Snowden modern.

Otto Preminger’s low-budget effort is in a minor key, but he stayed active and possibly relevant, even in his final movie directing.