Frontiersmen of America, Episode 2

 DATELINE: Never Surrender

 Robert I. Mesa   Robert I. Mesa as Tecumseh

History Channel and Leonardo DiCaprio present the second documentary in the series, Men Who Built America: The Frontiersman.

This time, they take two storylines and entangle them for their parallels: Tecumseh (played by hottie Robert I. Mesa) starts off as a young man whose tribe is wiped out largely by smallpox, brought on by the American settlers flowing into the Ohio and Indiana territories after the Revolution.

The twin sides of the story feature Meriwether Lewis and William Clark being saved by their guide Sacajawea, who meets a long-lost brother and intervenes on behalf of her friends. Jefferson’s plan to have a peaceful settlement soon meets the reality of the greed of American settlers.

On the other hand, Tecumseh’s brother is a visionary who helps the Native American bring together tribes into a united nation. To that end, Tecumseh creates Prophetsville, a symbol of Pan-Indian unification.

The stories diverge from there. Lewis ended up committing suicide and Tecumseh’s village is wiped out in a genocidal attack by Tippecanoe Harrison himself, who parlayed the vile sneak attack into political capitol.

Tecumseh never trusted the British who tried to curry his favor, but the Americans were worse, convinced of their destiny to drive out the natives to settle the land from coast to coast.

The episode manages to bring the highs and lows of American roots into one trail, both of tears and joy. You cannot blame Tecumseh for wanting revenge whose power was enhanced the the New Madrid earthquakes—and an alliance with the British in 1812.

Yet, Tecumseh knew the quality of mercy is never strained. He wanted a diplomatic settlement to the war.




Yellow Brick Road Leads Out of Foxboro

 DATELINE: Patriots in Munchkinland

bosch Gillette Stadium?

Something has happened to the New England Patriots in the past month. You may not be in Kansas, but it sure doesn’t look like New England.

Less than kind Patriot-haters might say the rats are leaving the sinking ship.  Whatever your thoughts, the good ship SS Belichick is listing badly after hitting an iceberg in the Super Bowl.

Key players have opted to leave in free agency—and teammates remaining are wishing them good luck and happy voyage, almost as if they are envious.

Foremost among the congratulations on social media are coming from Tom Brady and Gronk.

Gronk still has not dispelled rumors he is going Hollywood on New England, and Tom Brady dropped a hint that he is a man of his convictions in his TV autobiography series—and he appears to have switched convictions in mid-stream.

Life begins at 40—but not in Foxboro.

These key Patriots (Nate Solder, Amendola, Butler, Lewis, and who knows who else) have talked among teammates. If you don’t realize that, you don’t know what’s happening.

It’s like a bad Bob Dylan song: the mattress is now balancing precariously on Bill Belichick’s head. Someone is ready to drop a house on Wicked Witchy Belichick. His former coaches and underlings are picking up the pieces Belichick has shed. And they are happy to have them.

During the season, opposing players attacked the Foxboro as being as unpleasant under the control of Ebenezer Scrooge Belichick before any ghosts haunted him. It was worse than Hieronymus Bosch’s depiction of Hell.

We see the end as coming in a whimper, not a bang. Brady and Gronk are packing their bags, and everyone else is cashing in their chips.

Oh, my. Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my. The gold brick road is leading to ruination for the Kraft family of marshmallows.


Kingpin Whitey Bulger on History Channel

DATELINE:  King Whitey & Crown & Anchor Gay Bar!

Jimmy  Rough Trade Whitey Bulger

Leave to History Channel to insult women with their series called Kingpin during Women’s History Month. The good news for women is that the first episode, of Kingpin features no women.

Indeed, the episode glorifies the bloody thughood of young Jimmy Bulger who rose from boy prostitute to homicidal maniac. Oh, you mean they didn’t mention the fact that Whitey Bulger started out as a frequenter of gay bars in Boston in the 1950s. The moniker Whitey came from his alabaster skin and blond hair.

The producers also left out the salient fact that Whitey’s brother was one of the most powerful politicians in Boston for a generation, the founder of the St. Paddy’s Day roast, Billy Bulger of South Boston.

Apart from general inaccuracy and consulting a bunch of stiffs who are thrilled at Whitey’s shenanigans, the series is nothing short of appalling. Boston ought to sue History Channel for slander and libel.

We remember that Boston was not Chicago in the 1920s. Crime was localized, however violent.  People like Howie Carr, radio celeb and sometime author, know better, but jumped at the chance to be on screen.

Carr knows better than anyone how Whitey, known as Jimmy in his more refined circles, was a frequenter of Jacques, one of the more notorious gay bars of the the 1950s in Bay (aka Gay) Village, among his foibles and indiscretions.

Cutie-pie and rough trade Jimmy carried on in P-town too, at the Crown and Anchor Bar, where he stayed with its owner often. There, too, he canoodled his affair with movie star Sal Mineo. Oh, they left that out too?

sal Sal Mineo

You don’t want to alienate the audience for this kind of drivel. They wouldn’t cotton to affairs among the cognoscenti when a bloodbath would do.

You can check out most of this stuff in books (try Mafia & the Gays) on the Mafia and Whitey, including one by Howie Carr.


How Many Oscars to Put Up a Billboard?

DATELINE:  Ebbing Tide!


Two major Oscars went to the star actors of Three Billboards Near Hibbing, Minnesota, or was it Ebbing, Missouri?

We think the ridiculous title seemed laughable at first, but becomes seriously apt by the end.

Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell play borderline sociopathic and violent characters who are held in check by the small-town sheriff played by Woody Harrelson.

Audiences have been deeply bothered by a racist cop (who may be latently gay) and vindictive mother of a murdered girl who become, weirdly, sympathetic, owing to the brilliant performances of Oscar winners Rockwell and McDormand.

The audience faces a story wherein characters repent and try to mend their nasty ways. It’s not looked upon with much favor. It becomes far worse if they turn into outright vigilantes, leaving us with complete moral and ethical ambiguity. We seem to forget Bruce Willis has just released his remake of Death Wish, the ultimate film about taking the law into one’s hands, just to entertain us.

The Oscar winners are surrounded by other tour de force actors, playing small-town Missourians to the hilt. And, there were likely no other stars who could have played the leads: we doubt that Meryl Streep or Tom Cruise could have pulled it off with such aplomb or lack of glamour.

The story has absurdist elements that make for that most deplorable of all genres: dramedy or black comedy, with fewer and fewer laughs along the way.

Perhaps life is not so black and white as good guys and bad after all, but our movies usually refuse to reflect this. This film challenges its audience to live with moral ambiguity in their art, as well as in life.

This is the first movie in quite some time in which characters mention Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde in the same scene, among other quirks, making this the most intriguing film of the year.





Red Sox Owner Tom Werner & Bill Cosby



Once again, the Boston sports media has fallen down on the job.

Over the past year or so, there have been ample opportunities to ask owner Tom Werner, the media expert of the Red Sox and co-owner of the largest share with John Henry, about his dubious association with Bill Cosby.

You might better remember Werner as the man who decided to fire Voice of the Red Sox for years, Don Orsillo, for no reason except trust in his own good judgment and disregard of fans.

Now it’s come back to us in the age of #MeTooism, that Tom Werner was one of the first great enablers of actor and sexual predator Bill Cosby as a Hollywood TV producer.

Werner was the producer of the Cosby series from 1984 to 1992, making both men rich and giving Werner the opportunity to buy the Red Sox in subsequent years.

Tom Werner is not to become confused with Werner von Braun, the space scientist. They are heavens apart.

No member the media has asked Tom about how he enabled Cosby. No member of the media has asked him for his opinion on all of the charges against his former star and pal of the series.

Unlike the previous owner named Tom (that’s Tom Yawkey, folks), Tom Werner had no problems with hiring black people and using them to profit. Tom Werner has been instrumental behind the name change of Yawkey Way in Boston near Fenway Park, with its racist connotations, to turn back the clock to the original name, Jersey Street.

But, we digress.

What did Tom Werner know and when did he know it about Bill Cosby? No one seems to have asked him the question. So, we will.

Tom, did you have any idea about all the women that Bill Cosby was accosting?

Cosby was the Harvey Weinstein of the Dark Ages in Hollywood. Werner was apparently the man behind the curtain in those dark ages. For years he helped Cosby become a success.

If there are any Red Sox fans who belong to #MeToo’s movement, they should be asking about Werner too.




Grapes & Gold of Wrath: Civil War Curses

DATELINE:  Look Away, Look Away, Dixieland!

ClotRobert Clotworthy

If there is a revelation about Civil War gold in this new series, the big goldmine belongs to Marty Lagina. He has put his production company with Ancient Alien and Oak Island narrator Robert Clotworthy’s dulcet tones behind a new show, Curse of the Civil War Gold.

Marty Lagina admits as he exits Oak Island for the season, that he has money to burn. Why does he need a gold treasure when he already owns one? For the first time in five seasons on Curse of Oak Island, we are treated to a visit to his business on the new series, which happens to be a giant winery in Michigan.

There’s gold in them thar grapes.

So, Lagina finds a group of high school teachers with a penchant for getting rich slowly who come to him for funding. It is a surprise that Marty allows them into his inner sanctum boardroom. His office kingdom is right out of the movies, and these obsequious gold diggers beg for money.

The formula is the same:  two brothers, their close friend (also a history teacher in a Michigan high school). Since this is hardly the kind of eclectic, adventurous crew we find on other adventure reality shows, Marty Lagina throws them Gary Drayton, his Australian metal detective, the only real holdover from the Oak Island show.

Lagina will appear as a deus ex machina, or Professor Kingsfield, at the start and finish of each episode, putting down his cynical pronouncements.

When the Michigan high school teachers set off for Dixieland and Georgia where Jeff Davis was captured, we wondered how the locals will take to Yankee hunters wanting to find the Confederate treasure.

This is an enterprise borne out of greed and likely to be as unpleasant as suggesting that J. Wilkes Booth and Jesse James were members of a Masonic-style Knights-Templar wannabe group known as the Knights of the Golden Circle, behind the gold curse.

A bunch of pro-slavery advocates with gold to hide, the KGC and their gold cache should be justifiable confiscation, kind of a government asset forfeiture.

Will a bunch of mundane Michigan high school teachers take the prize? This series is betting you care. Marty Lagina is crushing his grapes before their time.



Branagh’s Murderous Result: Disoriented Express

DATELINE: Strike Three!

Branagh Hit & Run?

Pit-stop for Orient Express!

When dainty detective Poirot is transformed into a Belgian Sam Spade, we know the troubles are just beginning. Director and star Kenneth Branagh has tackled Agatha Christie with hairy results on his upper lip and elsewhere in this latest version of Murder on the Orient Express.

Bombast and exaggeration are the hallmarks of every performance, as if the actors had to make a cartoon version of Christie’s classic. Oh, yes, the sets are gorgeous and breath-taking, but filled with dead red herrings.

Alas, Branagh has miscast himself in the lead role.

We found Branagh’s bold mustache leaving the detective ripe for plucking. When your first visual image of Poirot does not work, you leave little wiggle room for the rest of the clever story. Throwing in a few fights and action scenes for Poirot is too much like James Bond than Hercule. The film even gives Poirot a girlfriend!

Agatha’s Christie’s perps in this edition match the number who likely deserve to be killed on the Calais sleeper car. Once again, famous faces take on minor roles in an ensemble cast meant to delight us. There is a tad much emphasis on political correctness as the cast is far more diverse than Dame Agatha ever envisioned, which is not a criticism.

Like Hamlet, the story can be done with an all-black cast, or an all-nude cast, though we are not convinced it adds anything to the tale.

Everyone is working extremely hard to pull this off, and the pretend fun from the cast is exhausting.

Inevitably, it is Branagh who botches the climax revelations and the explanation of the murder on the Orient Express, wasting stars like Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Derek Jacobi, and even Johnny Depp, in underwritten roles for the attention deficit audience.

Try one of the other two, preferably Suchet’s version.




Not Springtime for Hitler

 DATELINE:  Ultimately Superb

 hitler & edward

Unlike other History Channel series, the Hunting Hitler: Final Evidence show has gone by quickly and been chock full of suspense and intrigue on a cold-case 70 years old.

The cast of detectives are perfectly off-kilter types that find witnesses too that might be casting gems, if they were not real. We came to appreciate the various duos when they cross-teamed to do their specialty.

We bid adieu to the third season with this episode, presuming it will return to dig up bones where and when necessary.

You know it’s the end of this segment of shows when Bob Baer, host and orchestra leader, leaves his high-rise Los Angeles comfy office to take credit on the big picture. He wants to go to the FBI with his team’s findings.

We would have thought INTER-POL a more apt choice, but former CIA operative Baer goes where the ratings lead him. And he goes alone, because he is the only ‘I” in team. To top it off, he goes to a retired FBI agent. Hunh?

The findings of the show were distressing: uncovering Hitler’s microfilm will in Chile, a concentration-style camp under Pinochet run by escaped Nazis, and remote fortifications in Paraguay.

Baer thinks they were planning a Fourth Reich, but more likely they were hiding, like cowards, from execution in empty luxury at mountainous hideaways.

Next season, if it comes, will hunt for Hitler’s bones.





Last Great Elizabeth Taylor Movie?

DATELINE:  Grand Taylor Horror!

 night watch Liz @ Her Best

By the time Elizabeth Taylor reached the end of her prime, she ditched Richard Burton. Her first theatrical movie without him, after 11 extraordinary teammate movies, including the notorious TV film Divorce His, Hers, was something called Night Watch from 1973.

Now streaming for the first time ever.

This is vintage Taylor:  extraordinary wardrobe, great hair, jewels to die for, and a svelte damsel Liz in distress.

Night Watch is a paranoid’s nightmare.

As the rich and disdainful Ellen with a swish of silver in her hair, she does jigsaw puzzles and entertains her girlhood friend (Billie Whitelaw) in indolent luxury. Her palacial home, unfortunately, is next to some abandoned, ramshackle mansion that seems haunted.

As she does a jigsaw of Bosch’s painting of Hell, she thinks she has seen a murder in a thunderstorm across the garden. Alas, police think she is bonkers, and her husband (Laurence Harvey) isn’t more helpful, trying to find an old psychiatrist to commit her.

Before you can say Gaslight, the old classic about a mad wife, you may have Hitchcock’s Suspicion on your hands. Perhaps too the director and writer saw Barbara Stanwyk’s chestnut called Night Walker.

It’s all in the horror/mystery family, though this one is definitely high-end in its hoots & laughs quotient.

All while she suffers, Taylor’s insanity is a joy to behold. The suspects line up from every direction: former dead husband, his lover, a smarmy neighbor, a hostile housekeeper, and even cavalier police.

Who wants to drive her crazy? Or is she actually seeing dead people?

As the drama grows more overwrought, the pay-off is way beyond anything Taylor fans could ever desire. We loved every cliché moment. The ending was considered a surprise shock by most fans. Marvelous.




LeCarre’s Deadly Affair

DATELINE:  Cold War Spies

Serpentine dinner

When Sydney Lumet could not use the original name of George Smiley for his spy from the famous book, he came up with Dobbs. However, the man playing Dobbs was the always-brilliant James Mason. He was Smiley in any other name in The Deadly Affair.

As a spy mystery, this movie is the epitome of sophisticated and intelligent drama in the 1960s, down to the Astrid Gilberto theme song.

Few movies would feature a background scene of Macbeth as put on by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre as part of the plot. There you’d find a quite young Georgy Girl, Lynn Redgrave, before she teamed up with Mason again in her breakthrough role.

Harry Andrews and Kenneth Haigh provide solid support as allies to Mason’s disgruntled, cold spy who learns a man he interviewed pleasantly as a routine security check was not happy and committed suicide shortly thereafter. He is suspicious, rightfully.

Simone Signoret is right off the boat of Ship of Fools, and Maximilian Schell out of Judgment at Nuremberg. You have here something special in the litany of suspects.

John Dimech, one of the young stars of Lawrence of Arabia, made a small appearance here as a waiter at the Serpentine Restaurant. It was a swan song to a promising movie career.

Back then, this was the antidote to James Bond special effects and glamour. It is full of sound and fury signifying ennui.

The script has a couple of glorious hoots among the angst of the characters. It is, after all, vintage John LeCarre and a dandy spy mystery.





Truman’s Coldest Blood: Infamous & Capote

DATELINE:  Capote’s Clutter Story

Oscar Capote (Hoffman)

With a dozen years passing since Bennett Miller’s brilliant movie called Capote, we chose to look at it again. There were two Truman movies that year: competing for attention.

We felt at the time that Infamous with Toby Jones as Capote writing his non-fictive novel was the better. Phillip Seymour Hoffman won the Oscar.

We wished that the two films had mixed casts. It seems each had good points. We remain impressed with Hoffman’s work as Capote. A big man, he managed to convey a sense of the elfin Truman.  Jones was already the right size, being tiny.

Clifton Collins, Jr., remains so impressive in his work as Perry Smith, the sensitive killer with whom Capote seems to have fallen in love. Casting Daniel Craig in the other movie seems an odd choice. He was all wrong.

As in each movie, there is nothing more cold-blooded than a writer and his greatest work of literature. Don’t ever get between them.

Hoffman’s fey Capote has a ruthless, cold, hypocritical soul. He lies repeatedly to the killers of the Clutter family to gain their trust. Perhaps the two brutal murderers did not deserve much more than a lying hypocrite to befriend them.

Capote and his friend Harper Lee (also so well done by Catherine Keener) spend hours in Kansas doing research. Without her, Capote might not have a book—and he was less than supportive of her work, To Kill a Mockingbird, that she wrote even as she gave Truman her assistance.

We preferred Jeff Daniels as the detective on the case, though Chris Cooper is soberly affecting.

In the end, Capote did not want to discuss much with the killers until they gave him his ending and confessed how they did their murders. He also could not publish his book until they were executed. So, he simply stopped helping them find lawyers—and truly wanted them dead.

The flamboyant joke that Truman ultimately became likely came from his work on that book and his self-disgust. He never finished another book during the 20 years he lived after the execution of Perry Smith.

We still prefer the other Capote movie, Infamous, as a total movie experience, we must again give kudos to Capote as a film with impact and lasting emotional pain.


The Second Shadow War!

DATELINE:  Sci-fi, murder mystery, and romantic fantasy combined!


2ndShadowWarkindlecover RECOMMENDED! A True Sequel to Rider Haggard’s She!

Now available on Amazon in both paper and e-book

Author Ralph T. O’Neal III is co-founder of BooksnBars for federal prisoners and knows something about the political and shadow government operating in the United States!

 Following the characters and situations raised by the first Shadow War about the conflict between MJ-12 and the Vatican, the Second Shadow War takes on the motives and conspirators behind the Kennedy assassination. It’s a concoction of alchemy, merging three genres into something totally unusual.

Ralph T. O’Neal III has done it again, throwing the JFK’s assassination into the mix of MJ-12 conspiracies.

An evolving series, the characters repeat their roles and become enhanced with familiarity. Central character is a mysterious teenage boy who is half-human and half-space alien, the work of black ops in the federal government.

According to reviewer Mal Tempo: “If Agatha Christie and Arthur C. Clarke collaborated with H. Rider Haggard, this book would be the result.”

It is not a graphic novel, but something like it –but special, using Foto-Footnotes or illos to annotate the text.

A stunning story and a shocking conclusion! Conspiracy buffs and feminists will come alive reading this tale about She Who Must Be Obeyed, never gone from Earth and back for more.



Celtics Fight Each Other!

DATELINE: ‘Former Celtic’ is Always a Dirty Term


Two of our favorite Celtics characters were sent packing to other teams some time ago. However, that does not mean they are not still Celtics.

Case in point, Rajon Rondo and Isaiah Thomas. They bleed Green.

Both men were lively point guards, fun to watch and delightful off-beat souls. Rondo had a temperament that helped win a banner over seven years. Thomas never won a banner but played like a wounded warrior through dark days and dark events in his personal life.

This weekend was supposed to be a video tribute to Thomas’s few years in Boston, but it was not meant to be.

It was Paul Pierce’s retirement ceremony. His 34 went to the rafters, and it was not a moment to be shared. The video tribute to Isaiah Thomas (then of the Cavaliers) was postponed indefinitely.

Before it happened, Rondo said Isaiah didn’t deserve a tribute because he never won a championship. Rondo insisted he knew Boston better than Thomas. That might’ve meant an interesting game, watching Rondo sitting right near the Cavaliers bench waiting for a turn to honor Paul Pierce.

Oh yes, though he plays for the Chicago Bulls, Rondo returned to Boston for Pierce’s retirement. That in itself was marvelous. He joined his former coach Doc Rivers and his best friend Kevin Garnett. Once a Celtic, always the Celtic.

Abruptly traded to the Lakers, Isaiah Thomas faced Rondo within the week as opposing players Laker versus Bull.

If you were surprised by the next part, you never watched a Celtics game. The two former Celtics went at each other in the first quarter several times, nasty words and physical pushes nearly turning into a brawl.  They both were ejected from the game.

Thomas insisted that Rondo was giving him a hard time for the tribute video that never happened and likely accused him of being a fake Celtic.

A true Celtic comes back to the Boston TD Garden even when he plays for another team for a ceremony because he has never shed the Celtic Green inside.

We love our former Celtics. They are never former.


Finding Hitler Series Pays Dividends

DATELINE: Hunting Hitler, S3 e8

 mengele  Josef/ Jose Mengele, circa 1955

Hunting Hitler: The Final Evidence on History Channel continues to amaze us with its discoveries.

Though Hitler is the primary subject, they have decided to seek out ancillary figures, like Dr. Josef Mengele. Though the Angel of Death of the concentration camps escaped, his exact travels have never been substantiated till now. The show’s researchers find a marriage registration from 1958.

Tracing Nazis through living witnesses is impressive. One old man recalled Mengele staying with his family—and his mother warning him to avoid the “dangerous” man.

Combining jungle terrain marches with thumbing through archive documents is no easy match on adventure reality shows like this, but the series manages to do both with aplomb.

You still have the needless overtures of Bob Baer in his Los Angeles headquarters, allegedly giving orders, but it is the likes of Mike Simpson, Tim Kennedy, and Gerrard Williams, who do the leg work and find the results.

On the verge of ending their season, they may well be on to the estate in Paraguay where Hitler might have spent his last years.

The series has used slightly off-kilter searches (from nuclear weapons’ heavy water to airbases in Argentina) to spark the hunt, yet they all have a pay-off. It is astounding that the United States government appeared to know about the rumors, but did little about it.

The show does not explain how difficult it might have been to kidnap Adolph Eichmann out of German communities in South America, but you can see the powerful hidden Reich that was in place for decades after the fall of the Nazis in Germany.





DATELINE: Penknife Mightier than the Sword


Now read all your favorite blogs for the year in one handy location: your tablet, your smartphone, or your computer.


Now available, The Loser’s Edition.

Normally we compile a book of annual snide comments about the winner of the Super Bowl, but this year we change horses in the fourth quarter.

Now you can trace the sour grapes of Malcolm Butler up to the sacking by Coach Belichick in the final hours!

Now you can see the complete reviews and reactions to Tom Brady’s reality TV series and all its deadly fallout!

Now you can learn how Trump has poisoned the Patriot well of victory!

Now you can find the fake news about Gronk’s Hollywood career!

Now you cannot find much about Julian Edelman, but he still shows up on the pages now and then!

Now you can see how the Yalta Peace Talks between Kraft, Belichick, and Brady really came about and really went nowhere!

Now available on Amazon, cheap price, cheap words, cheap ideas!

Recommended for smart readers always!