Classic Celebrity Commercials

Hi-yo, Pizza Roll!

DATELINE: Olde TV Bad Habit 

Back in 2013 there was another compilation of “hucksters,” from advertisements and commercials on TV in the mid to late 1950s. It seems a bit unfair to call these old stars “hucksters,” as appearing at the end of their series or show (often in character) to sell a product was just a means of enhancing their income.

This delightful collection is a bit tiresome. Who wants to sit through one hour of commercials, even in fun?

A couple of points are particularly distressing. Most of the commercials were done in black and white, and most of them actually run for a full sixty seconds, which is maddening in our attention deficit age.

In particular, Steve Allen takes a Polaroid photo of Lou Costello and we actually wait while Steve talks for sixty seconds for him to show us the newly developed photo.

Yet, the compilation also features some fun moments and images we’ve never seen:  John Wayne sells Christmas Seals on set, and his director really is Wild Bill Wellman!

We were thrilled to hear the William Tell Overture selling some Jeno pizza rolls—and at the end of the commercial, in color no less, Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels show up in costume as the Lone Ranger and Tonto.

One funny bit features a color King Kong climbing off the Empire State building and driving off down the avenue in his king-size car. He puts his little blonde companion in the passenger seat.

Almost as stunning is to see Marilyn Monroe in full throttle, selling gasoline.

A montage of TV western stars of the era each smokes a different cigarette. We almost want to cry out to stop, please!

Leo G. Carroll as Topper smokes too, as do his ghosts, Anne Jeffreys and Robert Sterling as Marian and George Kirby.

We also see James Arness smoking away with Today Show host Jack Lescoulie! We had not seen him in fifty years.

Quite a collection.

 

 

 

 

Lucy & Desi: Together Again

Home Movie

DATELINE: Being the Ricardos 

  With the recent controversy over the casting of a new biographical movie about Lucy and Desi, it seemed like a good time to reconsider daughter Lucie Arnaz’s 1993 documentary about her parents, Lucy & Desi: A Home Movie.

Lucie Arnaz is defending the casting of Nicole Kidman as Lucy and Javier Bardem as Desi. Indeed, we think it is most interesting to see them play the real people during one dramatic week that the couple played the Ricardos.

They are not remaking I Love Lucy.

Back in 1993, Lucie Arnaz directed and produced, interviewed people, collected film clips, and put together a fairly honest and direct look at her famous parents, warts and all. She never received the full commendation she deserved. As she said, her mother was a “pack-rat” and kept all kinds of home movies that Lucie never saw. They were from the decade before the TV show and before the kids arrived.

What can you say about two people who were always “on.” They were the epitome of show biz, but alas, when home, their love story didn’t have a script they could embrace.

Lucy was the Queen of Comedy and pratfall on screen, and she loved being a performer and working. Off-screen she might have given Mommie Dearest, Joan Crawford,  a run for the roses.

 Desi was a talented man of show biz, and even more talented with business acumen, but never came out of the shadows. He loved Lucy too much. Their cultural differences, cute and remarkable, were also their downfall.

Desi’s Latino view of philandering infuriated Lucille Ball, but he was the love of her life. When two titans fall in love and clash, you have a big production called DesiLu, and you have shambles that make for great theater.

The home movies their daughter puts together are stunning and insightful. We suspect the movie docudrama of their lives by Aaron Sorkin will be even more stunning with brilliant actors playing the first great TV stars. We are, of course, most interested in who will play Fred and Ethel in Being the Ricardos. No word yet.

 

 

 

 

 Out, Out, Damned Spot! Trump Cut!

Trump Cut Out of Movie

DATELINE: Fans Direct Home Alone Cut

You know Donald Trump’s legacy is in trouble when his innocuous scene in Home Alone 2 is now under editorial attack. You can yell, “Cut” or “Hang Mike Pence,” but Trump is about to be given the digital age’s equivalent of Marie Antoinette’s fate.

Called Lost in New York, the sequel to the beloved movie that launched Macauley Culkin now will cast fate to the wind and Trump to the dust bin.

Off with his head is now a movie production shot heard round the world. Donald Trump is being digitally removed from a scene of several seconds as he gives Macauley Culkin direction to the hotel lobby.

Culkin has given his imprimatur to the action.

Not since Kevin Spacey was edited out of a finished and unreleased movie two years ago have we seen such a use of movie-making techniques. Spacey was sliced and diced out of the movie for his sexual peccadilloes. Trump now shares an infamy with sex abusers (though that is another story).

Not safe for children may be the new mantra when parents want to show Home Alone 2 to their kids: you better make sure that liars, provocateurs, and sedition-guilty insurgents are out of the picture.

An adult Culkin not only supports the move, but is prepared to replace Trump as the man in the lobby. So, an adult version of himself addresses the child, which is fairly funny and poetic justice. It’s also a little creepy.

Trump may suffer more inglorious fates in the years ahead, but like Benedict Arnold and Aaron Burr, he has reached a new low in American movie history.

 

Titanic/James Cameron 2020 Vision

DATELINE:  More Underwater Pix

Titanic: Into the Heart of the Wreck  is another new documentary on History Channel that gives us the lowdown on how the shipwreck is melting away in those frigid depths, owing to an iron-eating microbe.

What an ignominious end to a grand liner.

There is a history of underwater diving, photography and subs, which calmed down the divining rods.

James Cameron was the star of this documentary, the primary witness, though one Russian oceanographer has done 57 dives to the wreckage. A handful of people have gone to it many, many times.

James Cameron admits he made the famous movie version because he wanted to dive on the ship—and has done so over 30 times.

Cameron mentioned that his camera was in D-deck D35, which was next to passenger Richard White’s compartment. He switched out of D-26 one day after they sailed because a room was empty and he preferred not to share with his father.

Cameron also mentions that he does not believe in ghosts, but the pairs of shoes indicate victims. He did not believe artifacts should be taken from the inside of the ship, though that now is debated and legally challenged.

As for seeing ghosts, Cameron disbelieves—except for an overlay of memory that he feels is present. He is no scientist, holds no science degrees, but he has had 30 trips to Titanic, ahead of legit scientists.

This is similar to the electrons never die theory of Thomas Edison who felt traumatic memory was far more likely to survive as electrons in the atmosphere.

Nothing is discussed of the recent efforts to retrieve the Marconi radio. And, experts now believe the ship may last up to 500 years underwater, despite 27 forms of bacteria eating it.

 

 

 

 

Holzer Files on Surratt’s Tavern

Surratt Tavern

DATELINE:  Travel Channel Excellence

A recent 2020 series on Travel Channel presents a sobering look at spirits and hauntings in historical settings. For the second season, the show visited the Surratt Tavern and its alleged hauntings related to the Lincoln Assassination. You may want to look for the Holzer Files.

The show’s premise is based on investigations in the 1960s by a man named Hans Holzer and his psychic medium Sybil Leek. Their encounters were taped on audio with the primitive tools of the era. Today, a modern team re-opens the cases with Holzer’s daughter to bring full new technology to bear.

According to old accounts, the Surratt tavern was once the home of Mary Surratt and her family. Reports of paranormal incidents go back to before 1900, but stronger accounts appear regularly in the 1940s. When the tavern became a museum in the 1960s, witnesses saw all kinds of disturbing activity.

Hans Holzer believed that John Wilkes Booth haunted the place, though he came here on his escape hours after shooting Lincoln. He thought Leek was in contact with Edwin Booth at the house—but the 2020 investigation seems to think the “John” at the house may be John Surratt, son of Mary who was hanged. They also believe Mary’s daughter Anna may also be present.

The audio and video activity is startling as the group tries to find out what is going on. One psychic, Cindy Kaza, suffers from headaches and another Shane Pittman feels he is being told to leave the spirits alone. Cindy receives a comparable message that the haunters of the tavern want quiet and to be left alone.

The show presents a voice of a woman who speaks, “Mother,” while video shows a hoop skirt peeking around the room’s doorway. The investigators conclude that mother and daughter Surratt are at the tavern.

Multiple seances over the years may have added problems to the spiritual energies at the museum. The latest director is sympathetic to the situation and may be channeling activity.

The episode becomes a coda that proves the story is endless.

 

 

Top of the World, Ma!

Madame Blavatsky

DATELINE: Mahatmas & Other Spirits

For the 16thseason of Ancient Aliens we are going sky-high in Tibet, the ceiling of the planet where you are closer to the unknown fly-bys that have christened the population.

The location of a Shangri-La city high up on the roof of the world brings together many legends: physical and non-physical beings who lived for hundreds of years and live with little oxygen.

Of course, this series always goes for the jugular of most outrage: such as the Yeti Snowmen are magical extra-terrestrials. And those who live in that spot where Mount Everest reaches over five miles high are somehow more enlightened than the rest of us. This place is an airport of UFOs from all parts of the universe.

The series offered an insight into Madame Blavatsky, the theosophist who had befriended Mahatma Gandhi. She believed she was in contact with a spiritual creature that she called a Mahatma, or ancient alien being from another dimension.

Her circle included young artist Nicholas Roerich who worked with the Diaghilev ballet around 1910 in Paris. He worked on designs for Nijinsky ballets. He later moved to New York and conducted research in India and Tibet.

The Nazi research connection to Tibet in the 1930s included finding an old iron statue with a swastika on the figure depicted, a Mahatma. In the 21st century, tests on the figure indicated he was sculpted out of a meteorite that likely landed in Tibet.

Experts on the episode revealed a new word, Ultra-terrestrial to describe these travelers of the universe who use Yeti as the guardians to protect their secret base beneath the Himalayan Mountains

 Nicholas Roerich

My Friendly Ghost is Not Caspar

Happy Halloween?

DATELINE:  Haunted House at Halloween

A recent Geico insurance commercial shows a couple haunted by Caspar the Friendly Ghost. His child-like demeanor is irksome (as usual) as he chews popcorn in their ears while watching TV.

Friends often say I ought to have guests visit on Halloween for fun

In real life, such as it is, when your home is haunted by a friendly ghost, even more when he is  is college-aged, you may have some amusing experiences.

For example, just this week, the friendly ghost here, named Richard who died at age 21 in a horrible disaster, knew I had retired to my upstairs office for the night when I discovered I left my new box of cough drops downstairs.

To kill two birds with one stone, I would fetch them when I went downstairs with something else. Laziness leads to all kinds of trouble.

So, half-an-hour later, I traipsed down the narrow stairs to the kitchen where I put away some stuff, and promptly turned to leave. At that point came a loud crashing sound.  As a retired college professor, I am more or less accustomed to college age student antics.

 

 

When I turned around, there I saw my cough drops had fallen off the shelf and onto the counter, knocking over several items. Oh. I profusely thanked my ghostly assistant.

He likes to toss things about to call my attention like this occasion. The next day he tried to use modern technology, my smart watch to communicate.

I found a rather large bug on the wall in my bathroom. Not being Zen, I removed a shoe to bang it to the next world. As I did so, my smart watch went on with a text message: one of those spam notices: “Do you need pest control?” it asked.

Oh, Richard, you are too too much. No, I haven’t saved any money with my friendly ghost, but he is quite helpful around the house and makes for witty comments.

 

 

 

N.E. Patriots Meet a Slump, a Speed Bump, and a Pothole

Lady Luck!

DATELINE:  Going Down!

Mother of Mercy, can this be the end of the Patriot juggernaut of two decades? The road to glory seems to have run out of pavement.

After a glorious 20-year run, spending most of the time in first place in the hearts of Patriots Nation, the home town team seems to have hit a bump in the road. At least there are no sinkholes ahead. They are sinking in one now.

Yes, the Patriots are no longer in sole possession of the top spot to the playoffs. They are in their first slump of of the 21stcentury. When your first slump comes with the dog days of a pandemic, you are about to find cause to worry that rivals the Black Death in sports.

The last time a Patriots team came into a prolonged slump, they went into the poop chute faster than you can say Shaeffer Stadium.

We are more inclined to worry this time. There is no way they can equal the sinking of the titanic teams of the 1970s, which stands as a benchmark of hubris. We saw the past, and the future looks much the same.

This time their QBs have gone soft. We have not exactly seen a team with endless TD power, but their ability to make timely scores has lost more games than expected.

Now the dinner bell, like the guns over Flanders Field, have gone silent. Scarce heard below are the dead Pats of previous seasons hoping the present underdogs have caught the torch and will hold it high.

Short days ago the Patriots won, Brady looked younger than youth, and Bill Belichick looked like a genius, but now the Pats are starting to look like the embalmed teams of the yesteryear, or like the Jets.

Cheer up, fans! This may be only an aberration on the road to the Super Bowl. . A team with character knows their fate is in the hands of Bill Belichick and Cam Newton.

Move over, Black Death. The Pats need more room.

Rhonda Fleming, 97, Fades Away

Alias Jesse James, 1959 with Bob Hope

DATELINE: Smart and Lovely

To hear that Rhonda Fleming had passed away was an anticlimax. She had been out of public eye for twenty or thirty years. And her age was given as 97. She was not cheated out of time, but her film career cheated her out of nearly everything else.

In the 1960s when she was fairly done as a smart leading lady, she did not go into a TV series that might have cemented her legacy. Instead, she did stage shows in Vegas for a time and lived out her life in teaspoons of fame.

At her peak, Rhonda’s fiery red hair made her a good second choice to all the roles that went to Maureen O’Hara. Yet, she still managed to play opposite Ronald Reagan four times and Bob Hope and Bing Crosby separately.

If there was a last film recalled about her, it was Alias Jesse James, a cameo-studded Bob Hope western comedy that featured every TV and movie cowboy. She held her own.

Rhonda was never offered much beyond the sensible woman. She was stunning to look at, but played it as equal to any leading man. They must have liked that because so many wanted to appear with her co-star.

Now you may catch her on the cable movie channels. Perhaps one will feature a few of her movies, nothing earth-shattering, something with Charlton Heston or Vincent Price. You have to admire an actress who did her job and was the consummate professional.

We can’t say we’ll miss Rhonda Fleming because she was gone years ago. It’s just another empty spot in the pantheon of old Hollywood.

 

 

Return of Former Celtics?

DATELINE: Past is Prologue

For a team eliminated out of the playoffs in a collapse, the powers of Boston Celtics high command think the problem was in a lack of veteran presence to calm the choppy waters.

The Smart man, Marcus, may be history like his two predecessors before next season commences.

To that end, the Celtics may be looking at returns of the native that will shake up the Boston sports scene even more than a night out having dinner with a COVID-19 colleague.

Rajon Rondo, who made the word mercurial a common vocabulary lesson for years in Celtics Green, will be a free agent after winning a title with the Lakers. He has the dubious honor of winning the 17thchampionship with both teams.

It seems almost poetic to have him return to Boston to lead a charge to hoist an 18thbanner.  Yet, not so fast, you nostalgia fans.

The Celtics have a second retread whose tires need to be kicked. Isaiah Thomas, who played hurt and in mourning to prove his green bona fides,is also available to be a backup returnee.

The Celtics do not really have a veteran backup point guard—and since we made a cottage living out of writing blogs on both Rondo and Thomas before retiring out of lack of material, we are ready to resume the resume.

Yes, either Rondo or Thomas would give us great strides in resurging our chops of humor back on Celtics. Whether either or neither appears on the roster this off-season, we have hope springing out of our keyboard.

Imagine a reunion with either and our sarcastic satiric barbs. We have begun forging our needles and knives in fire out of such keen anticipation.

Oh, a last hurrah is always so poignant.

 

 

 

Enchanted Cottage: Ghostly Choice!

DATELINE: More Augurs

Into the Vortex?

When I entered the library this morning, where I have many Titanic books and keepsakes, there was once again something out of place. The house once belonged to a couple of victims who died on Titanic, and their presence is never far away.

So, on the floor, tossed off the wall shelf was a single DVD, tossed quite a distance. It landed on the edge of a new addition to the room: a vortex rug.

When psychics told me there was a vortex in the floor, through which the spirit world had a rapid transit station, I covered it with a vortex rug.

How appropriate that my spirit resident nearly had a bullseye with his toss.

The DVD is The Enchanted Cottage,little fantasy movie from 1945 about a wounded war veteran, harmed emotionally and physically, and an ugly girl who is the cottage housekeeper. They soon find the house makes them see the world differently. The stars are Robert Young and Dorothy Maguire.

A spirit at the cottage makes them see each other as whole and spiritually lovely. They grow beautiful and young. It is all tied together by a blind man (Herbert Marshall, of course) who helps them understand.

The film was based on a play by Sir Arthur Wingo Pinero and was adapted by DeWitt Bodeen for the screen.

The film is a trifle, but my ghostly resident thought enough of it to give it a look. When he visits books or DVDs, he finishes up by tossing them to the floor. He seems to have the power to enter them as an orb and see what’s inside. 

Since I set up the library, he has put many a film or book to the carpet, including a couple of Titanic books and DVDs, as well as a photo of his family homestead on Diamond Head, Hawaii. He likes to visit these items, and I am happy to make them available to interested ghostly parties.

Twice Told Tales from 1963

 Cabot & Price

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s mid-nineteenth century short stories were collected by him into a book, with more than a dozen philosophical mysteries. It was titled Twice Told Tales. He was not into the psychological terror as his fellow writer, Edgar Allen Poe.

There is an almost pre-science fiction quality to his literary themes, and yet when they were adapted for the big screen in 1963, the star and narrator of the film would be Vincent Price, already a big name in bad literary adaptations.

Price found steady work doing high-end schlock for more than a few decades. He brought dignity and style to what might normally pass for low-budget pot-boilers. Twice Told Tales zeroes in on three stories (two are famous in their own rights:  “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” and “Rappuccini’s Daughter”). The third story in the trilogy-anthology is House of SevenGables, which was a novel, his usualmetier.

Two center on scientists who play God, trying to control human nature and life over death. In the first, Dr. Heidegger’s tale is altered seriously. It becomes a small cast melodrama, now set in a dark and stormy night. Sebastian Cabot and Price are aging in pursuit of the Fountain of Youth.

 In “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” he is a reclusive scientist who has filled his daughter with poison from a plant to make her separate from the normal business of social life. These are changed enough to be slick color TV specials of the era: about forty minutes each.

House of Seven Gablesis another known title, but hardly within the themes of the first two. Here, a house holds a mysterious presence of evil, rather than the people which include an heir played by Price again.  Richard Denning and Beverly Garland join him in this ghostly tale of hidden treasure.

They are not horrific much, slow-moving, and quite literary, hardly up to contemporary standards of horror and special effects. That may be their charm. If you want something that is neither the original Hawthorne story, nor a modern flashy horror, this is your movie.

Dalmatian Jasper Stones

DATELINE: More Mysteries of History

 Signs of psychic protection?

A summer of mysterious signs at my historic home has finished with a flourish of new augurs. Over the course of the month of September, there had been such bizarre occurrences as a black butterfly hovering and settling on my white garden love-seat.

I had a visit on three consecutive days by a gold finch who showed up at the same time, same place, then never came by again.

And of course, I found white quartz stone next to my driveway where I had never seen it on a lawn that is mowed regularly. All three events have mystical connotations, interpreted differently by many cultures.

Suffice it to say: when your home was once the property of victims of the Titanic, and paranormal is the norm, you can expect more.

Today, that event arrived: home from having morning bloodwork at the lab, there in the grass next to the driveway in the same spot where the white quartz rock had rested, there were several oval white, black speckled stones.

They were not there previously. We would have seen them. Nothing more is there, and if something turns up, we will know what is afoot.

According to Internet lore, they are Dalmatian Jaspers, a rare stone that promotes calmness, stops insomnia, and helps with meditation. They are considered psychic protection.

Now they rest in my library with other stange marvels of psychic power, What will they bring? Will spirits respond? We can only wait and anticipate.

Pictured are the Dalmatian stones. One of the Titanic victims used to collect rocks around the yard: we cannot help but think these were the kind he enjoyed finding.

 

 

 

 

Black Butterfly in the Yard!

DATELINE:  Noir Papillion?

Our summer of paranormal messages continues its barrage of weekly activities.

The latest visitor to our little corner of spooky alley is a black butterfly.  It might have piqued our interest in normal times, but over the past few weeks, it has become a culmination of strange events.

According to some experts in mythology, Irish and Celtic legends say that black butterflies are also the souls of deceased people who are unable or unwilling to move on to the afterlife; they may return to the place they once lived or somewhere they were fond of visiting when they were alive.”

If you have followed our adventures, you may recall that three days in a row, we had a visit from a gold finch. We had never seen one around here previously, in person, but to have it show up for an afternoon tea break for three separate visits was fascinating. The totem mythology of gold finches is their spiritual impact, sending positive vibrations.

After a tropical storm not a few days earlier, we discovered a white quartz rock, flat and unusual, next to the car that also seems to have positive predictive qualities if you follow the buzz on the Internet.

So, should I be surprised when a few days ago a black butterfly sat on my car’s windshield before I could adjust my eyes and grab the camera.  A few friends told me it was bad luck and not to drive the car for a while.

A Haitian friend who knows his voodoo told that the black butterfly is feared as a portent of death to come.

This morning the black butterfly returned, and he sat on my white garden chair. He stayed long enough for me take a video.

Investigating its meaning, I discovered the old Celtic legend about a spirit returning to its old home for a visit.

None of this would matter much except for the long history of my home, once the residence of two victims of the Titanic in 1912.  Now, one of them has taken up regular stays in my library where paranormal experts and psychics have been in ecstasy over the ghostly presence. We have had more than a few seances!

Now, a series of physical and totem experiences has made the theory more concrete for me. Gold finches, white crystals, and black butterflies. It is a summer to remember.

Dr. William Russo is author of several Titanic books: Tales of a Titanic Family, Chess-mate from Titanic, Spooky Geology & Titanic. All are available in print or ebook format on Amazon.com.

 

White Stone, Gold Finch, Good Fortune

DATELINE: Sweet Augurs

You may come to wonder how serendipity causes a trio of augurs to show up on your doorstep in one week.

Here, at my haunted home, there is never a doubt that serendipity is the direct action of some spirits from another dimension.

In the grand scheme of good portents of the future, we have been quite lucky to find these arriving:  the colors are as spectacular as the items. Gold and white: symbols of positive energy.

After a tropical deluge, we discovered a flat white piece of quartz sat alongside the driveway where it was not a day before. We might think it washed across a lawn and deposited itself in a visible spot.

We might think, like frogs dropping in a rainstorm, the small white stone dropped like manna from heaven, however un-gravitational the theory is.

We do know that 100 years ago a previous resident of my neighborhood was an inveterate rock collector at age 10.  He went seeking geological anomalies around the pathways. When he moved to Waikiki Beach in 1900, he went climbing Diamond Head searching for volcanic stones.

Percy was his name, and it almost feels as if Percy may have left his calling card in the flat white stone. It came to us like something from his collection.

If white quartz has any special meaning, experts of the occult will tell you it opens your mind to receiving and learning new ideas. It also has the power of patience in its feel and look; you will not be less than tactful in dealing with the world.

Above all else, you can thank white quartz, discovered by accident, to create situations not limited by stressful responsibilities.

These are the points of wisdom from centuries of soothsayers and fortune tellers. For an oldster, the white quartz likely will improve memory and concentration, not small feats.

Not long after came the next augur of something special.

We’ve never been one to believe in totem animals as our patron. Yet, having lived in urban areas for decades, to find Nature outside the window in summer has been illuminating.

We have never seen a gold finch in person and up close until now. And, twice in a week, the itsy bird with the black-tipped wings has flown up to the window as I sip coffee and gaze out.

The first visit he stayed longer and peered at me, and the next he seemed to check on my well-being later in the day.

Again, those purveyors of prophecy will tell you that the gold finch holds special symbolism.

The gold finch is known to bring with his visit the promise of brighter days and the insurance of achieving your dreams.

It seems the gold finch chooses you and presents you with his gift to appreciate beauty and art. If you are on your journey to spiritual well-being, you will find the talent to be what you need to become, no matter how old you are.

How can the appearance of these three augurs be an accident of fate? They seem part of a larger haunting spirit that stays in this enchanted home where I now live.

If ever I wondered why I found this place and why I am here, it no longer matters. A force has engulfed me in my new and final phase of life.

One moment seldom defines a lifetime unless you happen to be on the Titanic, at Gettysburg, or in the Alamo. Some spirits are enhanced by these fateful occurrences. If you are lucky, you may find a guide to take you along their mystical journey across time and space.