Saturday Night Live

It started out as Saturday Night… Saturday Night Live title belonged to ABC for a show hosted by Howard Cosell who was out of his league. ABC let Saturday Night have the Live part after Cosell’s show was over.

Who was the best cast through the years? This is a question that is debated over and over again. The people arguing usually picks the cast they grew up with. I grew up with Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo. Personally, I always thought the original cast was the best and it wasn’t even close. John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Chevy Chase (though I liked his replacement better…Bill Murray), Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris and my favorite overlooked cast member Laraine Newman.

Why do I like the original cast the most? They tried new things and went out on a limb. Some of the skits succeeded some didn’t but they were different from anything on TV at that time…and also at this time. That cast pushed the envelop to use a worn-out phrase but in this instance it is true. Lorne Michaels guided the show and even the musical guests were usually hip bands and artists unknown to the general public and some are legendary now. No way would Michaels ever dream of that now…he usually gets whoever is the most popular to draw in the ratings. He could not do what he did in the 70s anymore because of ratings…and it is sad. Michaels also used the complete ensemble. It was not the Eddie Murphy and the Joe Piscopo show of the early eighties. It was about getting an unknown cast and building them and all of them having a shot…not a star-driven show that gave all the best bits to the stars.

A lot of the skits are now famous… Ackroyd’s Bassomatic, the Samurai, the uncomfortable but funny Word Association with Richard Pryor, The Mr. Bill Show, Weekend Update, Roseanne Rosannadanna, Land Shark, Bag of Glass, The Wild and Crazy Guys, the Coneheads, The Lounge Singer, Mr. Mike, The Blues Brothers and many more.

The writers for the show were not in the Carol Burnett comedy vein..they were not in the current SNL vein either. The style was more aggressive, especially with Michael O’Donoghue. He was a comedy trailblazer with National Lampoon and added dark humor to SNL. Other writers were Franken and Davis, Rosie Shuster, Alan Zweibel, Marilyn Miller, Anne Beatts, Herb Sargent, Tom Schiller and also Ackroyd and Chase.

The two members that didn’t get as much publicity as the others were Newman and Morris and are not as well remembered today. Newman and Ackroyd were the best character actors on the show…they could play anyone.  That cast tried to test all the limits. SNL has turned into just another comedy show through the years. The original group also did some serious skits along with comedy and trips into the bizarre (See Mr. Mike). …It separated the original from any other cast.

There were other great casts but none resonated like the original to me. It was also the timing of when they debuted…and look at the talent in that cast…

The host each week was usually under the radar actors, writers, musicians and sometimes athletes. You usually didn’t see A-list actors but if you did they were carefully chosen. The one big mistake was Milton Berle…how he got to host I don’t know but that is the only show of the first five years I will try to avoid… He was that bad.

I like the feel of underground the first five years had but you can only be that for so long…popularity takes over. Those first 5 great years (the first four were great…the fifth good) set the foundation that holds to this day…just without the daring and danger…in other words, it has become vanilla like the rest of the world.

Cheers to the show that introduced Acapulco Gold to a television audience.

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The Bassomatic…something you cannot explain with words.

The best Star Trek parody…

Howard Cosell

Young people will not remember this man. He was a journalist, lawyer, and sportscaster and more (even a spot in a Woody Allen movie). Along with all of that, he was egotistical, insecure, annoying, opinionated, cruel, obnoxious, jealous, petty but yet I still liked the guy.  This man was once voted in a TV Guide poll as the most disliked and the most liked sportscaster of the time. He didn’t care who he upset and according to him he always would “tell it as it is”… He did elevate sports reporting that is now prevalent to this day.

He probably is most remembered for three things. He championed Muhammad Ali and when Ali refused the draft Howard stood by him. Helping boxing become a huge sport. Being Jewish he knew bigotry and always stood for equality. He is also remembered for being in the original Monday Night Football crew… He made it THE show to watch and the NFL owes him quite a bit. Whether you loved or hated him, you would tune in and watch.

The original MNF crew was Cosell, Don Meredith and Keith Jackson (to be replaced by Frank Gifford). I never understood Keith being replaced by Frank…Keith was by far the better broadcaster but Frank looked better for the women viewers. Howard never liked the thought of ex-jocks being sportscasters. He felt like they were taking over and called it jockocracy. Cosell and Meredith made a great team. Meredith didn’t give a care about the game and supplied the humor while the photographic memory of Cosell would rattle off stats without cheat sheets most of the time.

In 1974 during an MNF telecast, the crew were joined by John Lennon and Ronald Reagan. Cosell told Frank Gifford you take the governor and I’ll take the Beatle. Howard wanted to interview John because there were only 4 Beatles in the world but a lot of politicians. Lennon and Regan actually hit it off well while Reagan explained American Football (I would have loved to hear that conversation) to him. Cosell actually talked to John a few years later wanting him and the Beatles to regroup on a terrible show that Cosell was hosting…of course, Lennon politely refused.

Cosell and Ali were linked together for the rest of their lives. Ali would pick on Howard in front of cameras but Cosell loved the attention. Ali helped Cosell and Cosell helped Ali… two completely different people in all ways except both loving the limelight. Cosell’s most famous call? “Down goes Frazier” “Down goes Frazier”  “Down goes Frazier”

 

Only in the 1970s could this pairing happen

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When John was assassinated in 1980 Howard broke it to the world on MNF.

Howard faded out in the 80s but took shots at everyone in one of his tell-all books. Again he really didn’t care who he upset.

The Twilight Zone

The way Rod Serling handled social injustice and racial bigotry all with a science fiction twist was compelling. He had to do it that back then because of sponsors. Picking a favorite episode (Walking Distance is hard to beat) is almost impossible. Black Mirror covers some of the same territory but nothing beats the intelligence of Twilight Zone.

Hands down my favorite show of all time. I never get tired of it. 5 seasons of quality 30  minute stories. Season 4 has hour long episodes. Just a few of them are a little forced but even the weakest are very watchable. Rod Serling was a great TV writer and he picked some great writers like Richard Matheson to contribute to the show. The show doesn’t age and the black and white only adds to it.

I would really look forward to labor day because one channel would always play Twilight Zones for 24 hours. I then just went out and bought the complete collection on DVDtwi.jpg.

The Twilight Zone has been revived a few times. In the 80’s and 2000’s but they didn’t come close to the original. A movie was made in 1983 called Twilight Zone: The Movie  but it came with a tragic a cost. Vic Morrow and two child actors died needlessly in a scene with a helicopter.

The movie was alright…I liked the Vic Morrow story but my favorite part was the intro with Dan Aykroyd “You want to see something really scary”and Albert Brooks. Again not even scratching the surface of the original series.

You could always depend on a twist in the smart scripts. I’ve seen all of them probably 5 – 10 times each. The one that is the most haunting to me is “Come Wander With Me”… It’s not the most famous one but I loved it…if you haven’t seen it check it out. A lot of future stars were on the show from Robert Redford to Jack Klugman.

Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks

 

 

 

Rock Music… Where have you gone?

Rock Music… Why is it not breaking through to the mainstream anymore? Yes there are a lot of good bands out there…just check on Youtube and you will find many that are really good and some great. That is the problem though…you should not have to search them out. Mainstream rock stations will not play them…they play classic rock (which I love for the most part) but artists today have a bleak way of life. The only way they make real money is to tour and tour and tour. Since downloading began they are left with ticket sales. There are college radio stations and less powerful stations that play new rock but they are not prevalent.

The older rock stars really made the money… Album sales, tours, 8 track sales, cassette sales and CD sales and some download sales. Today’s artist has downloads on Itunes and CD’s that sell at concerts Some are releasing vinyl which is on the rise and that is cool. My son is 17 and he likes some new acts like Jake Bugg, Foster the People and The Black Keys. Mostly though it’s the Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Band etc…

I don’t think people take music as seriously as before because there are so many other options to do. When an album came out we would rush to the record store (Cats, Port 0 Call, Tower or Columbia House) and study the album’s artwork and liner notes. Music was a big part of teenager’s life in the 60’s through the 90’s…. With me, I bought a lot of older albums but I would get new ones also. Bands that came to town were announced on the radio and also posters on telephone poles everywhere. It was hard to miss a band or artist coming. We would line up and wait for tickets. I can’t say that I miss that part but I do in a way. I appreciated the concert more because of the effort and the long wait times. We would all talk while waiting in line on how much we liked the artist we were getting tickets for…. Talking face to face and not on a phone or in a chat room…a different feel altogether for all of us kindred souls. It was not a concert…it was an event. An event that you planned for weeks or months to attend and get excited about. After the concert we would wear our concert shirts…bootleg or otherwise like a badge of honor.

We would go to school arguing over rock groups and music in general…. like The Kinks “You Really Got Me” or Van Halen‘s cover of the song….I sided with the Kinks. New Wave vs Rock… Heavy Metal vs just rock n roll.

Yes, some weak music appeared in the 60-90s as in every decade but no one took music from The Partridge Family etc… seriously. Now boy bands or “divas” are embraced with corporate driven muzak. Record companies want a sure thing and will not try anything new….just the proven formula. Why can’t they put muscle behind more talented rock bands? I would like to see a revival of rock bands that you don’t have to search for on the internet.

In high school, there were a lot of bands. The group I was in played more straight rock and roll but we had bands that played heavy metal to punk. Today in that school…no bands exist. We would play in the gym for the entire school and the theater. During the time in high school (sneaking into bars that would let us play being underage on weekends). After we graduated from high school we would play bars and clubs. It was fun, exciting and we made a little money doing something we loved. The customers which included bikers were always great to us because they wanted entertainment. If anyone tried to mess with us they are surrounded by bikers who loved their rock and roll…thank goodness.

Rock music may remain underground but I hope not…

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Paintings and Artists that I like

Painting is something I could never do. I would be lucky to paint stick figures. Like music, it is a great form of expression. If I were an artist I would do pop art paintings and…black light poster art… I would be a very poor artist because the demand for those styles in 2018 would be close to non existent to say the least.

I do get into Art a bit. I’m not an expert nor will I ever be…I like what I like….A friend I have is a great artist and over the years I’ve learned things from him. The art styles that I like the most are Pop Art, Expressionism, and Surrealism… Some of the artists I like are Andy Warhol, Peter Max, Edvard Munch and Salvador Dali. I cannot tell you about their technical skills…which yes they all had but it was the feel or soul they all  had in their paintings. The way Warhol could make some simple advertisement into art. The way Peter Max can take you places by just looking at his work. Salvador Dali taking you places where you may not want to go but enjoy it all the same.

Andy Warhol

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Peter Max

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Edvard Munch

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Salvador Dali

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I also like some vintage commercial art. The art that hung in business offices across the land. A company call Marushka had many that I liked. Art for mass consumption is looked down upon at times but there are many prints that I like from them in the 70s and 80s. Below is one of them

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I also like black light and some think it’s lowbrow but I don’t care. What imaginations artists had when they painted them…sober or otherwise.

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I can also say that my taste in art is the same as in music…having feeling or soul is the reason I never got into progressive rock bands….I could care less if you know every chord in the book and are technically advanced…if music doesn’t have soul…I want nothing to do with it. Just because you can play fast or do guitar gymnastics doesn’t mean anything without soul. Some music I do think is art. A Day in the Life, Bohemian Rhapsody, Overnight Sensation and others.

 

Ken Stabler: No cooler athlete ever walked the earth. He is missed.

No cooler athlete ever walked the earth than Ken Stabler. He was THE rock star in sports…he was more of a rock star than rock stars. Passing the ball left-handed with deadly accuracy along with the cool nickname… “The Snake”. The way he carried himself with the salt and pepper hair coming out of the back of his helmet while sporting a beard. Always looking like he was having the best time of his life.

He didn’t just exist he lived…and he lived with style. Never saw him panic on a football field.  His teammates said he would never call someone out for not blocking or missing someone to get him sacked. John Madden has said that the more pressure Ken was under the calmer he got.

He did what he wanted to do how he wanted to do it. Yes, there are a lot of bar room stories of Ken Stabler like reading the playbook by the jukebox light. He and his teammates made training camp fun… If that is a possible thing. John Madden had the good sense to let men be men and off they went. The rest of the Raiders all respected Stabler and followed him…they had his back and he had their back.

The Snake should be remembered not just for his cool personality… He was a great quarterback and should have been in the Hall of Fame long before he got in… I heard one commentator say that he would rather have Tom Brady etc… nope not me… I would rather have Stabler because for most of his career he played without the Blount rule and the timing plays that modern quarterbacks do would not run as well without that rule that was enforced in 1978… The receivers could be pretty much be beat all down the field…timing was much harder then.

Plus Stabler was just damn tough… all of them were tough back in the 60s-70s. Ken paid for that in the last few years of his life…

Some of the most well-known games in history he was in the middle of… the Holy Roller, The Sea of Hands, The Ghost to the Post and unfortunately the Immaculate Reception game which went the Steelers way but it may be the most memorable game ever.

The 1970’s team was full of outcasts, free thinkers and characters…also amazing football players. I recommend this book about the 1970’s Raiders called Badasses: The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death, and John Madden’s Oakland Raiders.

Easy read and great stories. Makes you want to youtube and find all of the games you can find of that era’s Raiders.

The NFL would not know what to do with him today. He had a personality…that goes against the game now.

Sadly Mr. Stabler passed in 2015…He is a man I wished I would have had the honor to meet.

New book about Stabler called Snake: The Legendary Life of Ken Stabler

Ken’s autobiography called “Snake” that was published in 1986.

Needless changes to the original Star Wars

In 1977 a New Hope (then just called Star Wars) came out. It blew out records and changed Hollywood. The original first 3 came out at a perfect time. Science Fiction was not a sure box office hit then and it’s a wonder George Lucas got it made. Some of the script writing was iffy but as a whole, it was a wonderful saga. Not only were the movies good but the merchandising went crazy.

The prequels I just didn’t like. The feel of the originals was gone. Lucas said he wanted a change but he changed it just to another space flick. Anakin Skywalker played by Hayden Christensen just wasn’t right. Either bad casting combined with a bad script but to me, he was not convincing. He did do better in Revenge of the Sith but still, in my opinion, it wasn’t where it should have been. Ewan Mcgregor was wonderful as Obi-Wan and the standout to me in all the prequels.

What Lucas did to the original three re-releasing them caught backlash from fans. Changing some scenes…where Han shoots first and adding more decoration throughout the films. What made me upset is Lucas only offered a poor quality DVD set of the original three in 2006 without the changes. One dedicated fan Petr Harmáček spent half a decade tracking down high-quality prints of the 3 original films and put them back together and it’s called “Star Wars Despecialized Edition” that you can download. Petr did a great job with these and it shows you how great these looked when they were released.

There was no need for extra CGI decoration when these movies were re-released. I have nothing against CGI but I do like to see the films as the audience did way back when. When I went to see “The Force Awakens” I knew within the first 5 minutes that Star Wars had the same feel as the first ones. I also liked Rogue One and The Last Jedi…The Last Jedi got some complaints but I still liked it. It was a great send off for Carrie Fisher.