Saturday, July 22, 2017

Happy Birthday, Albert Brooks!

A rather long one today...

First of all, don't panic, fellow babies! I realize that when a celebrity's face appears at the top of one of my posts, it usually means that the guy or gal has passed away. But thankfully, not this time!

As I have occasionally (rarely?) done in the past (for example, back in 2011, for Graham Nash), I'm posting to wish a Happy Birthday to one of my long-time favorite entertainers, none other than comedian/actor/director/author Albert Brooks, who turns seventy years old today!

First of all, contrary to what's believed by a very close friend of mine, Albert Brooks is not the son of Mel Brooks! They're not even related. For that matter, Albert Brooks wasn't even born Albert Brooks. (Mel Brooks wasn't born "Brooks" either, for that matter. His birth name was Melvin Kaminsky.)


Albert Brooks' birth name was -- wait for it -- Albert Einstein. Yes, really. Brooks' father was a successful and well-known "dialect comedian" named Harry Einstein, better known as Parkyakarkaus ("park your carcass"). Harry had three sons before finally giving into temptation and naming his fourth son Albert.

Harry "Parkyakarkus" Einstein, 1904-1958

In 1958, Harry Einstein delivered a well-received comedy routine at a Friars Roast honoring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Einstein returned to his seat (next to Milton Berle) and soon fell over into Berle's lap. Despite attempts to save him, he died two hours later, victim of a heart attack.

Back to Albert...

Appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the mid-1960s, the one-and-only Carl Reiner once stated that the two funniest people he knew were Mel Brooks and a high school kid he knew, Albert Einstein.

I first became aware of Brooks through his unique stand-up appearances on The Tonight Show. In one, he played a truly awful ventriloquist. In another, he portrayed a writer of children's songs, doing such insipid numbers as "Brush Your Teeth" and "Eat Those Beans... Please!" (I can still sing both songs from memory. Not that I'm necessarily bragging about that...) He did a skit called "Rewriting the National Anthem" where he showcased several applicants from around the USA who'd written songs that could hopefully replace "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The "Rewriting the National Anthem" routine and several others appeared on Brooks' first album, "Comedy Minus One."

The front cover of "Comedy Minus One."

The back cover of "Comedy Minus One."

A few years later on The Tonight Show, he again did a ventriloquist act of sorts where he used a "dummy" made from a children's toy which played single letters aloud when you pressed the appropriate key on its keyboard. ("I" substituted for "hi," and so forth.) It was (purposely) pretty lame.

I even caught his 1972 appearance on an episode of the short-lived sitcom, The New Dick Van Dyke Show. I saw several of the short films he did for Saturday Night Live in the mid-1970s, and caught him in Taxi Driver (which I admittedly didn't see until a few years after it came out in 1976).

In Taxi Driver with Robert De Niro and (with her back to the camera) Cybill Shepherd.

Although I missed his initial effort at directing, 1979's Real Life -- an eerily prophetic look at what we now call "reality TV" -- I did manage to procure it years later. (It's part of the sizable videotape collection I'm planning on keeping.)

In Real Life, Brooks (playing himself, more or less), decides to "spice up"
his subjects' lives, because he doesn't think his movie is exciting enough!

I have to admit that to this day, I still haven't seen 1980's Private Benjamin, in spite of all the good things that I've heard about it... and in spite of the fact that I've been a fan of Goldie Hawn's since Good Morning, World, a sitcom she appeared in even before she showed up on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.

With the lovely Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin.

In 1981, Brooks directed, co-wrote, and starred in my own personal favorite out of all his films, Modern Romance. He played a successful but neurotic and insanely jealous Hollywood film editor, Robert Cole, who breaks up with his girlfriend Mary (excellently played by Kathryn Harrold) and immediately regrets it. Their ups and downs as a couple, as well as Cole's personal quirks (explored both on and off the job), make this film an incredible treat for those who like something different.

In Modern Romance with Kathryn Harrold.

In Modern Romance with real-life director James L. Brooks (again,
no relation), who later cast Albert in Broadcast News, and Bruno Kirby.

A terrific Modern Romance scene, set in a sporting goods store. Brooks is shown
here with Bob Einstein, who IS Albert's brother in real life. Bob Einstein is
better known today as "Super Dave Osborne." He also played policeman
"Officer Judy," on the controversial 1960s Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

And now I'm going to let the photos speak for themselves, except where I felt it necessary to supply a detail or two.

With Julie Hagerty in 1985's Lost in America.

With Holly Hunter and William Hurt in Broadcast News, 1987.

With Meryl Streep in 1991's Defending Your Life.

With the incomparable Debbie Reynolds in 1996's Mother.

With Sharon Stone and Andie MacDowell in The Muse, 1999.

Brooks appeared as Randall Harris in the vastly underrated
My First Mister (2001). He's pictured here with co-star Leelee Sobieski.

Brooks also supplied the voice of Marlin in 2003's
Finding Nemo, as well as its sequel, Finding Dory (2016).

In 2005's Looking for Comedy in the Muslim WorldAGAIN doing a ventriloquist's act!

And I've still left out a lot of things that he's done in a career of over fifty years.

So, there you have it: A tribute to someone who's still very much with us! Happy Birthday, Albert Brooks!

And thanks for your time.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

More about Martin (Landau) ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post

For many years, there's been a persistent rumor in comics fandom -- debunked in detail here -- that claims that Martin Landau was a comic book illustrator who went by the name of Ken Landau, not long before Mr. L. became an actor. Not so. Martin Landau did, however, work as an illustrator/cartoonist for The Daily News and later assisted artist Gus Edson on the comic strip The Gumps when he was a very young man in the mid-to-late 1940s.

So, he worked on comic strips, not comic books. There is a difference, don'tcha know!

And by the way, although he eventually became an actor, Landau never stopped drawing. He painted, he drew caricatures... He just didn't draw professionally.  

And here's another (unrelated) little tidbit for you. Years before playing the role of Bela Lugosi (the actor best known for playing Count Dracula, of course), Martin Landau also played the famous count in a 1985 stage production of Dracula. A photo of him in that role ends this post!

Thanks for your time.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Martin Landau, 1928-2017, R.I.P.

Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau has died at the age of eighty-nine.

Landau's long career as an actor began in the mid-1950s. He had a notable supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest. He went on to play master of disguise Rollin Hand in TV's Mission: Impossible in the late 1960s, and following that, he and then-wife Barbara Bain co-starred in Space: 1999. He deservedly won an Academy Award for his remarkable performance as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood. And obviously, I've left out a lot!

Now I'll (mostly) shut up and fill the rest of this tribute with photos!

His Oscar-winning role as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's Ed Wood, 1994.

With James Mason in Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 classic, North by Northwest.

In Space: 1999, a show that, believe it or not, I never watched!

With Peter Graves and then-wife Barbara Bain in Mission: Impossible.

With Jeff Bridges and Lloyd Bridges in 1988's Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Landau
played the part of Abe Karatz, and received his first Oscar nomination for this movie.

 With Woody Allen in 1989's Crimes and Misdemeanors. Landau
won his second Oscar nomination for his role as Judah Rosenthal.

In Ed Wood, where Landau appeared with George "The Animal" Steele,
Juliet Landau (Yes, that's Martin Landau's daughter!), and Johnny Depp.

With buddy James Dean.

With Steven Hill in the first season of Mission: Impossible.

As Geppetto in The Adventures of Pinocchio, 1996.

With most of the cast of Ed Wood.

Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I Was Right!

The following is an unedited reprint of an article called "Don't Count Your (Digital) Chickens," which I posted here on July 31st, 2011. Note that date!!!

*  *  *  *  *

As this (relatively) recent article points out, Paypal President Scott Thompson predicts that by 2015 -- yeah, only four years away, fellow babies -- the wallet will have become a thing of the past.

Mr. Thompson is quoted as saying “We believe that by 2015 digital currency will be accepted everywhere in the U.S. – from your local corner store to Walmart. We will no longer need to carry a wallet.”

In a word, "Yeah, right."

(Okay, okay, that's two words -- my fabled math skills deserted me for a second, it seems -- but you get my freakin' point.)

Let's face it, a man in Mr. Thompson's position is more than just a tad biased on this subject. Add to that a smidgen of wishful thinking, I suppose...

I'm just trying to think of how his electronic-only money system would work at a flea market, a neighborhood yard sale, or when you want to hit your friend Bill up for a twenty-dollar loan until Friday.

Maybe someday, but within four years? As I said above, "Yeah, right."

Oh, by the way: This is Scott Thompson...

...not to be confused with this other Scott Thompson, who does a terrific impression of Queen Elizabeth II.

Just sayin'.

*  *  *  *  *

Well, 2015 is behind us all, and Mr. Thompson (who left PayPal in 2012) was just plain wrong, wasn't he?

Here it is, six years later, and I'm not giving up my wallet anytime soon. If nothing else, I need someplace to carry that "list of medications" my doctors always want me to bring to appointments, even though they already have all that information in their damned computers!

I was reminded about my old post by this article, entitled "The end of cash? Cards now account for more than half of retail purchases, BRC finds," which says that last year in the UK, more than fifty percent of retail sales were paid for with cards for the first time.

I still say wallets won't "vanish" anytime soon. Where else would we carry all those credit and debit cards?

Ah, well. See you in another four years?

Thanks for your time.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Michael Parks, 1940-2017, R.I.P.

Aww, s**. It's happened again.

It was only last weekend that I was looking at some of my old LPs, and I came across the album "Long Lonesome Highway" (pictured below) by actor/singer Michael Parks, star of the 1969-1970 TV series, Then Came Bronson. ("Long Lonesome Highway" was Bronson's theme song.) I couldn't help thinking that it would be nice if I could someday hand it to him personally so I could get it autographed.

And just today I learned that he died on May 9th, at the age of seventy-seven. How the hell did I miss that news?

I had first seen Parks as Adam at a drive-in viewing of John Huston's 1966 film, The Bible: In the Beginning... but I didn't recognize/remember him when Then Came Bronson premiered a few years later.

After Then Came Bronson was cancelled, I personally didn't hear anything about Parks until approximately twenty years later, when he appeared as Jean Renault on Twin Peaks. (You know, that offbeat series that came from the other David Lynch.) And much later, I saw him again in both entries in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill series of movies, where he played a different role in each one. I've obviously missed many of the parts he played over the years, but just the ones I did see were enough to make me post a tribute to him here.

As Texas Ranger Earl McGraw in 2003's Kill Bill, Vol. 1, with
real-life son James Parks, who played McGraw's son Edgar!

With Ulla Bergryd (as Eve) in 1966's The Bible: In the Beginning...

In 2014's Tusk, directed by Kevin Smith

With Chuck Norris in 1991's The Hitman

With director Kevin Smith

As Jean Renault in Twin Peaks

Thanks for your time.


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