Monday, July 26, 2021

Quips and Quotations (Borsht Belt Resurrection Edition)




  It took twenty years to overcome what happened in one minute

--Jackie Mason 1931-2021

(Mason's descent into right-wing politics in recent years has turned me off to him quite a bit, but, that said, I really couldn't pass this one up. I have a great affection for Borsht Belt comedy--it's really what Mel Brooks is all about--and that Mason, the one-time Ed Sullivan Show pariah, was able to make a Broadway hit out of it during an era when it was increasingly being seen as a passé form of humor is nothing short of miraculous--Kirk)


(In case you're wondering why I'm not showing a clip of the notorious moment when Jackie Mason allegedly gave TV host Ed Sullivan the finger--which the comedian denied--the reason is simple: I can't find it. In fact, I can't even find a STILL photograph of him doing that. Mason certainly managed to put his past behind him--Kirk)

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Road to Cleveland


Cleveland has a new baseball team. Actually, it's the old baseball team, but it has a new name: The Guardians. What, though, is being guarded? The galaxy? Oh, I think the Milky Way can take care of itself.

Motorists, on the other hand, can always use a little safeguarding.

This strapping, shirtless young man is one of eight Guardians of Transportation, Art Deco statues made of sandstone that stand on both sides of four 43-foot tall pylons that greet or bid adieu to drivers entering or exiting Downtown Cleveland on the former Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, completed in 1932, which since November 1983 has been called (at least officially) the Hope Memorial Bridge, named after...

 ...William Henry Hope, a member of a...

...local crew of stonemasons (I've stared at this photo for a half an hour and am still not sure which one) who helped build the statues.

Here's William Henry's son, Leslie Townes Hope. The local media often describes him as a native Clevelander, though he's not quite that as he spent his first year in England ("I left when I found out I couldn't be king.")

Anyway, the Hope Memorial Bridge is one of several ways that people living in Cleveland's West Side or in its western suburbs (as I do) can travel if they want to see the Guardians play at Progressive Field, named after an insurance company, which also looks after motorists, though, unlike the 43-foot tall pylons, one does have to pay premiums.

Play ball!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Zero Zero Zero, Zero Zero Zero, Zero Zero Zero Gravity


That's one way to lose your cherry.

Then there's the Amazonian...

Wrong Amazonian.

No pussy there.

I guess there's nothing left for the meek to do but inherit the Earth.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Vital Viewing (It Don't Mean a Thang if It Ain't Got That Twang Edition)

I don't feature country music much on Shadow of a Doubt, probably because, frankly, I don't listen to it all that much. I have nothing against it, I don't hate it, but it gets crowded out by other musical genres. It's the same reason I don't feature classical music much either. But that's about to change. In order to make up for this blog's Nashville (or Memphis or Austin or Bakersfield or Branson) deficit, I've decided to dedicate this edition of "Vital Viewing" to country, or country-western, as it was once called. It's hardly a comprehensive look at the genre, just whatever pickin' and a grinnin' and a yodeling that has captured my Yankee fancy (as for classical music, Mozart and Beethoven just will have to wait for some other post.) Also, the performers I feature, the ones who are still alive, are these days a bit long in the tooth. It's not that I don't recognize the names of the country artists who've come along in the last ten years or so. It's just I'm not quite sure what songs they're known for (but then that holds true musically across the board.)    

Let's start with perhaps the most charming woman on the planet:

I don't know who Johnny had on next, but I hope for that person's sake it wasn't a comedian. How could anyone possibly top that song's punchline?

So where did country music come from, other than, you know, the country? Some musicologists feel it came from the same Mississippi Delta as did the blues. The theory goes that the Anglo-Saxon descendants residing in the Deep South heard the unpaid labor out in the field singing proto-blues (and proto-gospel), i.e., work songs and "spirituals". They liked it so much they adopted this music as their own and then fought (but lost) a bloody civil war so they could have an endless supply of these royalty-free songs. Eventually black and white Southern music diverged from one another enough that the former is now considered indestructibly hip and the latter background music for whatever Republican is running for office (ironic considering it was a Republican who originally emancipated all those hip musicians; not sure what went wrong there.) As spirituals didn't just stay spirituals, neither did the blues just stay the blues but instead mutated into other forms. Rock 'n' roll, of course, but before that jazz. In the next clip we see a jazz great team up with one of the few postwar country greats to have died a Democrat: 

Though it's not the music one usually associates with either man, both Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash are in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Occasionally, musical forms reconverge, no matter how briefly.

Moving on, here's a couple of outlaws:

No, not those outlaws! 

These outlaws:

Willie Nelson give up weed? That's like Elon Musk turning down a government subsidy!

I'm told this Canadian yodeler got her start in country. If her wardrobe doesn't convince you of that, maybe this topnotch rendition of a Patsy Cline song will:

OK, k.d., I'm sorry if your heart was broken, but I can't play that song without also including a... 

...public service announcement. We here at Shadow of a Doubt are nothing if not socially responsible.

Today happens to be Chill Wills birthday. Wills had some country music success as a member of the Avalon Boys quartet in the 1930s, before segueing into acting, for which he became better known. Here he and his quartet provide musical accompaniment for a beloved comedy duo:

Yes, that was all very charming, but this post is about country music, not Laurel and Hardy, so let's forget those two and get back to Chill Wills. Like I said, Wills eventually became an actor. He did most of that acting onscreen, but occasionally he dubbed for others, such as...

...a mule named Francis in a series of movies in the 1950s (in case you're wondering about a TV horse named Ed, he was dubbed by minor cowboy star Allan Lane.) However, Wills didn't just dub equines. He sometimes lent his deep bass voice to humans as well. In the 1937 movie Way Out West, a couple of greenhorns sing a country song mostly in their own voices. However, before they're through, Wills replaces one of them. Keep your ears pricked, and see if you can detect the difference:  

Those two again?! Just who the hell do they think they are hijacking my country music post?! Well, since they're here, you may have noticed Stan lip syncing not just to Chill Wills but another person as well, but who?

Actress and singer Rosina Lawrence, also in the movie, and not only dubbing for Stan, either. Rosina really wasn't a country singer, but for this film she adapts to the form nicely, at least in its final moments:

I know--sigh--the hijacking continues. Anyway, they're actually headed for the New South, where they not only have scrambled eggs in the new-morn hay, but also computer colorization. 

Now, if you'll excuse me...

...I've got that aforementioned classical music post to work on.



Sunday, July 11, 2021

Smart Art (Model Mom Edition)


Take the picture of my mother, exhibited at the Royal Academy as an "Arrangement in Grey and Black." Now that is what it is. To me it is interesting as a picture of my mother; but what can or ought the public do to care about the identity of the portrait?

--James McNeill Whistler, complaining about the unwanted nickname that his painting increasingly was becoming known by (I'll let you guess what it is.) These days it hangs not in the Royal Academy but in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, France.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Vital Viewing (Confused? You Won't Be After This Week's Episode Edition)


Actress Katherine Helmond was born on this day in 1929. She's best known for...well, that's an interesting question. According to the various headlines announcing her death in 2019, she seems to have been best known for playing Mona Robinson, the free-spirited, vampish mother of Judith Lights' Angela Bower on the situation comedy Who's the Boss? And make no mistake, she was good in that, but her original claim to fame was in an earlier, and in my opinion much funnier, sitcom than Who's the Boss, and that would be...  

...Soap. In it, Helmond played Jessica Tate, and Cathryn Damon played her sister Mary Campbell. Jessica, husband Chester, and their two grown daughters, one teenage son, the children's deluded grandfather, and the household's insolent butler lived in the rich part of town. Mary, husband Burt, Mary's two grown sons from another marriage, Burt's one grown son from another marriage, and the latter's ventriloquist's dummy, were all working-class. But don't get the idea things were as socioeconomic as all that. The class differences hardly made a difference on that show. The first big hit from writer-producer Susan Harris (who went on to create The Golden Girls), Soap took its' sitcom characters, and instead of the usual surprise birthday parties, reluctant visits to the dentist, and amateur talent shows put on to raise money for a new seniors center, plopped them into melodramatic situations. Being sitcom characters, they lacked the basic melodramatic social skills to deal with these situations on anything other than the level of a sharply-written burlesque sketch, and that's what made this series so damn funny. The melodrama got pretty wild as time went on it, with storylines about demonic possession and alien abduction (which reminds me, they also lacked Mulder and Scully's basic social skills), but in Soap's first season the plots dealt mainly with the kind of things you would have seen on afternoon soap operas (hence, the show's name), and, in the 1970s at least, that meant affairs of the heart, cheatin' hearts, and broken hearts. Katherine Helmond attempts to sort out all those various hearts in relation to her character in the following interview:

Here's a scene from early in Soap's first season. Along with Helmond herself, there's Robert Mandan (Chester Tate), Jimmy Baio (Billy Tate), Diane Canova (Corrine Tate), Arthur Peterson Jr. (the Major; Jessica and Mary's father), and Robert Guillaume (Benson):

If the above clip is all you've ever seen of Soap, you could easily get the impression that it's just an ordinary sitcom. Or out of the ordinary only because it's funnier than most sitcoms. But the above scene actually comes in the aftermath of a shocking revelation. So, going backwards in time by an episode or two, let's see what happens when Peter is introduced to the rest of Corrine's extended family.  In addition to the actors I've already mentioned, there's Robert Urich (Peter), Richard Mulligan (Burt Campbell, Peter's father), Ted Wass (Danny Dallas, Burt's stepson), Billy Crystal (Jodie Dallas, Burt's other stepson), and Cathryn Damon (whose name I did already mention, but now you get to see her.):

What this? It looks as though Peter had ongoing affairs with both the daughter and the mother! Ewwwwwww! Where are their morals? Well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Soap takes place in Connecticut, which is, you know, one of those blue states. I can't watch any more. I need a soap opera parody that takes place in Middle-America, in a red state, like Ohio, where I live, where there are still such things as values:  

There. That's better.