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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  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.

 

 

 

Hollywood Lens of Murray Garrett

DATELINE:  Eye on Hollywood 1950s

 Odd Couple: Marilyn & Dale Robertson?

You may not know his name, but the photo-journalist of choice among Hollywood minions of the 1950s was a New Yorker with a keen sense of beauty. He protected his subjects—and they appreciated it.

Murray Garrett started out at age 16 taking photos of celebrities. He even apprenticed with one of the big Broadway photogs and learned how to visualize stars on stage, meeting the likes of Brando and Ferrer In their stage phase.

As someone who met and worked with a few celebs, we can confirm that the lessons and observations of Murray Garrett are more than a means to live with stars: it is a sense of decency that sensitive people, artistic souls, easily spot.

The documentary of his career and life shows that Murray knew how to see the best in people—and took a photo of it.  His pictures show clarity of heart, beauty and honesty in every subject.

At 16 in New York, he was to take a photo in Frank Sinatra dressing room in 1943, when the singer was first going solo. Sinatra asked for a print—and Garrett said, of course. Sinatra was snidely disbelieving, but the kid returned the next day with an envelope and left it.

Three years later he was in Hollywood at a studio and walked through the commissary—and Sinatra recognized him! He told others the kid was a great photographer from New York, and Garrett was on his way.

He was a personal photo-journalist, and took pix at Sinatra parties.

Later, he met Bob Hope who grunted at him from the stage during a radio broadcast. Thinking he’d offended Hope, he went to apologize after the show, but Hope liked him—and wanted him to be an exclusive photographer for his shows. Their relationship last 25 years. He became a personal photo-journalist for Red Skelton and Louella Parsons too.

He was the antithesis of an “ambush photographer,” and stars could trust him to destroy any unflattering images.  Yet, it was more than that: he actually talked to his subjects before shooting and seemed to win relaxation that showed up in pictures.

 

 

 

 

Afraid of Nothing or Nothingness?

DATELINE:  Paranormal in Salem, MA!

 Director Robert Heske.

Bob Heske is a writer/director of low-budget stories, and his major documentary film is called Afraid of Nothing.Its appeal on some levels is all the small businesses associated with spirit life and death (from Ouija board historians and prosthetic mask shops to healers of all stripes who meet people for various paranormal purposes.

The film spent considerable time in Salem, Massachusetts, which is a hotbed of witchcraft and afterlife experts. Also included in the visits are East Bridgewater, Mass., and Gardner, Mass. All three locations are adjacent and contiguous owns where this writer lived.

As someone who lives in a haunted house, we are always curious about others and what they experience: to that end we meet regression specialists, healers and teachers of how to deal with death. The big wheel involved here is Jeff Belanger who created the Ghost AdventuresTV series and has cornered the market on paranormal topics in New England.

An actor from Los Angeles is at the crux of people here, as he lived a previous life in Salem—and has been drawn to return to the area of Salem Willows, an old haunt.

All these many individuals have achieved some level of connection to the great beyond—and all seem to have multiple talents to connect with both positive and negative forces. It astounds us—as we have only one spirit in the house, though he is a big one, a victim of Titanic.

We have learned late in life that we have some still unknown connection to this guide and mentor who is a guardian spirit. So, we hardly disparage all the kind souls who show up in Bob Heske’s little film. It is not frightful or horrific, but it is informative and fascinating for those with an interest in the hereafter.

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Nichols: Becoming & Unbecoming

 DATELINE: Insider Biography

 Burtons with Nichols.

Filmed shortly before his death several years ago, director and comedian Mike Nichols reviewed his life and career before an audience and in a more private interview. HBO put together this short film about Nichols called Becoming Mike Nichols.

The result is an illuminating exposition about a self-made director.

In the early 1960s in the heyday of the monologue comic standups like Mort Sahl and Bob Newhart, you had Nichols and May among the cleverest of all. Their run ended when, Nichols admits, he became too obstreperous director for May.

It opened up a chance to direct in theater, not merely his partner. He started with Neil Simon, Walter Matthau, Robert Redford, and Odd Couple on stage. Not exactly chopped liver.

He knew many Broadway stars from his years in New York, and met Richard Burton when they were in next door theaters. Burton later invited him to Rome to visit where he met Elizabeth Taylor while filming Cleopatra—and he was instrumental in having both appear in his first film, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Three days before filming, he had friend Tony Perkins give him a crash course of pointers on use of camera in movies. In fact, he learned on the job. His work began a string of brilliant movies: The Graduate, Carnal Knowledge, Catch-22, and other literate films like The Birdcage.

The documentary focuses on his first two movies in depth, giving marvelous insights into Taylor, Burton, Dustin Hoffman, Buck Henry, and Simon and Garfunkel. The anecdotes leave the audience begging for more. A few pearls drop about Jack Warner, Billy Wilder, Anthony Perkins, but there is not time or attention to those.

There is nothing really about his Emmy winners or Tony winners. You may want to know about The Birdcage or Angels in America,  or his work on Gilda Radner or Whoopi Goldberg, but you will need to look elsewhere for that.

 

 

Oak Island Ends 7th Season with $ Whimper

DATELINE: The Price is not Right.

 Star is born.

When Gary Drayton is doing the History Channel promos for the last episode of the season, you know they have a new star on their hands.

It’s raw November as the season ends, and the digging time is over. The so-called Fellowship’s final dig becomes too dangerous and is curtailed because of collapsing tunnels. It is the worst news of the season.

Attention immediately shifted to the swamp. It was a docking area and a man-made site, and Dr. Ian Spooner brings the most interesting news. He dated tree branches and rushed to give them the dates of his findings.

The swamp was created in 1200 A.D. which seems to be Templar. It is a stunning historical event, though this is secondary to finding gold in most eyes.

Marty Lagina resisted any idea of the swamp being important, but now he has found that answers are there. If the swamp was made in 1200, you have something momentous, far earlier than the Columbus discovering America notion.

Human activity could include tunneling 800 years ago. There is a stronger sense that there were several treasure burials. A second group may have taken advantage of their knowledge about the early excavations.

If there is cold water, Marty Lagina has the right to throw it on this exploration. He now states that additional digging for the Money Pit may now tally into the tens of millions. At what point does the treasure wash out by the cost of retrieving it?

Should they dig down 250 feet and create a concrete circle in which you may find the treasure?  It seems beyond feasible. How much profit can you dig out of this series?

A memorial to honor Dan Blankenship was created immediately, no matter what else happens. Dan’s not able to be there, but his presence will remain.

 

UFOs: Bigger and Better than You Realize

 DATELINE: Ultimate Guide

  Is it really an 1870 photo of UFO?

Alien mother ships that are fifteen miles across and 40 stories tall? These cylindrical or cigar-shaped monsters in space have been seen everywhere: from Mount Washington in 1870 (the first UFO photo) to next to one of Mars’ moons in the 1970s.

Yes, the first photo of a UFO was taken in 1870 not far from where Betty and Barney Hill were abducted about a hundred years later.

Ancient Aliensprovides us with a guide this time around. Even Travis Taylor comes back from Skinhead Ranch to tell us that there is more technology than magic in UFOs. And, the usual gang insists that the shapes of UFOs indicate something about the creatures who pilot them.

Another shocker was 2011, a large light hovered over Jerusalem at night at the religious center of most world religions. It also moved away at instant speeds. Acceleration has always been something beyond human abilities (with G-force that would kill organic matter).

Cigar-shaped craft were spotted and painted by witnesses back before Leonardo da Vinci was born.

It means the aliens are either robotic, or are light beings. You know, sort of like orbs. Dr. Kaku thinks they are remote controlled or some system that uses drones or are flown autonomously.

NASA already is preparing to send shape-shifter robots to send to Titan and other distant world to adapt to the world with methane air and sea. They are mechanical adapters—going from triangular to circular. They are also self-replicating to colonize.

Yup, we are them, however ungrammatical.

Parce Domine,or Sing a Song of Sixpense

DATELINE: Joy in Nolan’s World

  Out into the World!

The most literary TV series of recent memory has returned for season three under the creative control of Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan. Nolan, of course, gave us the extraordinary Person of Interest, but nothing came close to this artistic juggernaut.

Welcome to Westworld III. It’s almost like World War III.

Now, with robots amok, we begin with a Latin Gregorian chant phrase, so typical of an overeducated TV production in an age of under-educated audiences.

Many stars return for the new season—but many notable names are omitted (at least officially so far). Dolores, the head robot rebel, is about to lead Armageddon on the human race by the hosts of Westworld.

Evan Rachel Wood now wears designer gowns after two seasons of a western petticoat. She is stunning in spike heels to say the least as a homicidal android.

Her first stop is a fifteen-minute visit to the billionaire world of the man who owned all the robotic worlds of androids. She is about to take his money and run. It’s quite an android future, based on the lifestyle of the superrich in 2060, or whatever future it is.

New character Caleb is introduced as what appears to be a second-rate criminal and war veteran. He must be presented in parallel to Dolores’s ruthless involvement with the powerbrokers of Westworld and the virtual world.

Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) is on the run as responsible for the murder of Westworld’s Board of Directors.

Mostly, the world outside the robotic paradise is stunning visually: with most of the location shooting in Singapore and Spain. As far as Dolores is concerned, she is out to take over the human world for revenge (we presume).

This is a sumptuous production.

 

 

 

 

 

Oak Island: Time Running Out

DATELINE: Reckless 7th Season?

 Mercury Dunk?

Dr. Ian Spooner shows up to assess another breakthrough in the swamp. Can it be some kind of megalithic creation that is manmade? Bigger is more desperate on Curse of Oak Island as we wrap up another season of empty-handed potential.

Big trouble is coming because the coffer dam must be removed within weeks, with the permit running out after one year. Not only must the dam be removed, but the area must be made to look as it was. Why can there be no extension of the permit? There is no explanation. Did they even try?

Finding a potential tunnel to the Money Pit means that Rick Lagina will go down on a bucket into the hole. If this seems a bit extreme and likely to be dangerous, we must recall that this is a cliff-hanger series with death-defying (or something akin to it).

Another lead artifact now has a strong mercury component, which suggests that Francis Bacon may have done some experiments on the manuscripts of Shakespeare. The lead also can be traced to the Middle East. More inconclusive but tantalizing hints. We are hooked again and reeled in.

Another curious discovery occurs at the home of original finder Daniel McGinnis whose root cellar was a secret tunnel, leading to something hidden. Because permits will not allow them to dig deeper, whatever treasure buried under the house cannot be excavated for a year in all likelihood.

If you want frustrations, they are everywhere this week. They have found more 1760s tunnels and shafts. Rick Lagina plans to go down in the bucket. They have to insist he come out before it caved in on him (which likely is his preference). Of course, Marty Lagina must put on a harness and goes down.

So they put a camera on the long-range excavator. Even that is inconclusive: we feel like we are no closer to knowing anything.

With time running out for this season, it becomes clear that a new sequel series is in the ready with the Lagina boys: it’s called, naturally, Beyond Oak Island.

Thee’s a sucker born on Oak Island every minute.

 

 

 

Just Friends is Just Marvelous!

DATELINE: A Sleeper to Wake You Up!

 New Stars!

We had the pleasure of watching a Dutch movie that was not insipid, nor overly obvious. Just Friends is a gay movie with a light touch.

Subtitles are secondary to the beautiful production and images, and Josha Stradowsk is stunning to look at, and he meets a Syrian played by Majd Mardo. They have chemistry and are delightful in their growing friendship.

The usual angst over coming out and family conflict are truly not part of the sophisticated tale. They are sexy, chic, and well-to-do. There are other conflicts that impede their relations, but Majd takes a job as housekeeper at Josha’s grandmother.

She is a delight too, as matchmaker and wise old lady.

These are intelligent young men, and their maturity makes for a story that appeals to all viewers. Josha is the one who has a hobby with his drone, and he sees Madj surfing from above. It is intriguing how connections are made.

Without a doubt, you seldom meet people in character movies that you really would like to spend time with, but these two are pleasant dinner companions.

What impediments to their friendship that must be overcome are not melodramatic and work out, making your time with this story fly like the drone, over the Netherlands and its beautiful world.

If you’ve been stung by horrible gay-themed movies of all stripes, you need your faith in a good film restored. This is the antidote.

Water, Water Everywhere on Oak Island

DATELINE:  Still Waters Not Found

We have arrived at the 16thweek of the 7thseason. It’s clear they will find nothing this season.

But the coconut hair indicates that they are near the booby trap of flood tunnel. Out of the muck, Gary Drayton starts to find a couple of spikes from the 1700s. These were original people who were digging to bury something.

Also, seismic explosions from earlier this season and used to produce sound waves have created a map of voids under the surface of 300 feet. However, they find a linear tunnel about sixty feet near the Money Pit from the Cove.

Their excavation with a huge new machine obviously finds a flood tunnel. Of course, the cavalier digging means a cave-in, having unstabilized the area. It’s almost like they sabotage their own hunt to extend the season till next year.

So, they move to the eye of the swamp where they believe the Templars may have hidden something.

But Gary wants to go to the spots where Hurricane Dorian stripped away the ground cover. His hunch proves right yet again. So, once again, Rick and Gary find some piece of lead that may have etchings on it.

But the swamp has large deposits of blue clay, an water sealant that is there to protect and make watertight something underneath.

The highpoint of the show is Dr. Christa Brosseau’s return to analyze the spikes Gary found. Alex brings them to her for an elemental analysis. She delivers the good news that the iron has phosphorus, meaning it is 18thcentury. She thinks they were from Britain or Northern Europe.

We are delighted that Drs. Spooner and Broseeau are now the voice of academic insight on Oak Island.

Crosby in Search of a Crosby

 DATELINE:Haunted by Uncle Bing

The nephew and godson of Bing Crosby has been documenting his uncle Bingle for decades. Now, he has produced, directed, and written up, all his film records as he tries to uncover the truth behind the legendary crooner.

The film is not merely vanity; it serves a genuine purpose in dissecting a legend. Chris Crosby was close to greatness, and he documents it well.

And Bing has had his share of Mommie Dearest moments. His eldest son Gary wrote a scathing book about his father’s cruelty and bad parenting. A few think he added the worst to sell the book to publishers. Yet Bing was at heart a Daddie Dearest, and nasty too.

Chris Crosby is fairly even-handed, trying to learn how bad his uncle truly was. What he finds from his father Bob Crosby, and Bing’s friends like Bob Hope, Anthony Quinn, Mel Torme, Stewart Granger, Donald O’Connor, Terry Moore, Rhonda Fleming, and many others, is that he was exactly what you saw: an easy-going, charming person with a hard veneer. He was always friendly, but you never broke below the surface.

Like many celebs, he was smart with money, shrewd with people, and kept his foibles well-hidden. Oh, you will hear the stories of his womanizing, his drinking, and his sadistic treatment of his sons (two of whom committed suicide after his death).

You will hear he cut you if you did not adhere to his strict Catholic views. If you were divorced, you may have lost him forever. He went to church every Sunday, and he was secretly charitable to a fault.

Many show biz friends knew the image, and never wanted much more. He never gave more because it was generous in a cut-throat business. He meant it when he sang “White Christmas.”

He died on a golf course in Madrid, whistling and singing, one day after visiting a long-time friend after 20 years. It was spooky.

Chris shows the drickle down talent, watering by generation. He seems to be haunted, if not possessed, by Bing. His sister was less fortunate. When she chose to live with a man they disapproved of, she was kidnapped and given electro-shock treatments.

But, if you were a fan, or a friendly associate, that stuff never intruded on what you saw and knew. Bing was complicated, as they say nowadays.

Roswell Relics on Ancient Aliens

DATELINE: Crash 50,000 Years Ago

Foot in Mouth Again?

You know you are scrapping the bottom of the barrel on season 15 of our favorite Ancient Aliens show when you send Giorgio and Linda Moulton Howe out to the desert to scrape the ground for any leftovers. Next time they will start going through dumpsters at Area 51.

With an inexpensive metal detector, Giorgio goes out into the desert, like Moses, and finds the amazing metal of a crashed flying saucer. Linda has possession for 20 years of strange metal that is impossible to make on Earth.

Now we hear there were not two, but three UFO crashes.

She has been give mysterious materials from the grandson of recovering soldier who kept the samples from the government’s coverup. These are called metamaterials.

The materials are brought to Fort Worth about the crash, but he is stopped. Gen. Ramey dumbly held a document that forensic analysis revealed that there were victims and a disc.

Linda uses white gloves at the start, later they handle these materials in bare hands. So much for care for the artifacts. The use a small detector to find a needle in a haystack or a piece of metal in a vast desert. You guessed it: Bingo!

Giorgio and Linda find two pieces of wire in the famous Gouge area.  When tested, the material could have been lost bobby pins, but the stuff is weirder.

We find that UFOs are crashing everywhere, even in Russia where nono particles have been found. It is a debris field that could be 50,000 years old!

Our highpoint is always when Giorgio misues a big word, like tertiary.

Thomas Crown: An Affair Not to Remember?

DATELINE: What Should Have Been?

 Stand-in graveyard?

In 1968, one of the ultra-cool movies that was meant to be an antidote to the growing counter-culture of long-hair and hippies, was Norman Jewison’s stylish caper film. Sexy cool, with dune buggy rides on Crane’s beach in Ipswich and rooftop brunch on a patio in the South End of Boston, this was your ultimate sophistication.

The Thomas Crown Affairwas meant to be a vehicle showing off a Brahmin Bostonian outsmarting a beautiful insurance agent at his hobby of “crime.”

It has all the looks of a film back in the late 1960s when Alfred Hitchcock wanted to drag Grace Kelly out of retirement with the promise of another Cary Grant co-star vehicle. It’sTo Catch a Thief in reverse. However, nothing panned out. The film settles for second-best.

Hitchcock also had Tippi Hedren under contract—and so they could not even bring her on as the beautiful insurance agent. Yet, Faye Dunaway is clearly wearing the designer outfits and living the life of a millionaire investigator meant for Grace or Tippi. She tangles with a guy in a Brooks Brothers suit who pretends to be a millionaire executive, but looks like a motorcyclist in posh dress.

No doubt that Steve McQueen looks dashing, but we never believed for a second that he could play polo or chess. Not only that, the film looks like it was supposed to play out in London, but they had to settle for Boston. McQueen reportedly could not master a Boston accent and gave up half-way through the film.

It’s the ultimate double-cross thriller that Hitch loved to do, but Jewison throws in modern elements like split-screen moments (all pointless) and Noel Harrison (not Rex) sings “Windmills of Your Mind.” It seems even Dusty Springfield turned them down.

The climax of the movie takes place at Cambridge City Cemetery, a stand-in for ritzy and prestigious Mount Auburn Cemetery across the street, no doubt. We were a tad shocked to see filming near my mother’s recent burial site back then, not far from her grandmother.

Some films you may remember for all the wrong reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

Madman & Rebel: Dennis Hopper

DATELINE: Don’t Forget Drunkard!

 He’s Not in this Doc!

Dennis, Our Favorite Menace!

A semi-interesting documentary on James Dean contemporary, Dennis Hopper, whose career went through many incarnations, is allegedly told by his “co-conspirators”! The film on his life is called Along for the Ride. With friends like the intense Hopper selected, he was in for a long run toward Doom.

Hopper underwent many transformations in his life—and it mirrored his career, or vice versa. He started out as an All-American wholesome-looking boy, became a slimy and bushy-bearded druggie and drunkard, and ultimately became a haggard and highly respected character actor. He survived, which is the truly amazing fact.

Like most under-educated people in Hollywood, Hopper was sensitive to his intelligence and self-education. The film ignores his youth and early years—and picks up with his personal assistant in 1970 who owns most of his correspondence and memorabilia. He is the power behind this portrait, which really puts emphasis on his directorial ability in The Last Movie, a big flop. Having made a fortune with Easy Rider,his counter-culture friends and attitudes were given free-reign in the 1970s Hollywood-in-transition.

Hopper was never helped when friends like Satya keep telling him he’s a genius. Inevitably, his Last Moviebecame Waterloo in Peru. Hopper was a colorful show-biz personality, but he was notOrson Welles. The low-lifes and sycophants around him convinced him otherwise.

You won’t have to see The Last Movie to know from this picture that it is an unmitigated disaster. When working on Apocalypse Now, Marlon Brando refused to do any scenes with him. He had told the most powerful Hollywood moguls to go “f” themselves. He was on Ruination Row in a self-constructed prison.

There is a passing nod to his mentor and progenitor, James Dean, but really he was on his own trip far from his rebel youth movies.

Blue Velvet resurrected him. He always felt he was personally difficult, but not professionally so. In the end he made so many movies that any idea that he was blackballed cannot be believed.

Hopper’s right-hand man and behind-the-scenes acolyte does his job to the bitter end.