Saturday, December 31, 2022

How to Talk With Practically Anybody About Practically Anything



Here's Barbara Walters, who died just yesterday at age 93, with Manhattan socialite Cheray Duchin at a 1976 New Year's Eve party at Tavern on the Green in the aforementioned Manhattan. I make no great claims for Walters as a journalist, and the above pictures illustrates why. Hobnobbing with the elite can get in the way of reporting on the elite. Yet I can't totally dismiss her either. For one thing, she was fun to watch. Walters' idiosyncratic personality guaranteed, if not a particularly incisive, at least an idiosyncratic line of questioning. You never knew what to expect in a Barbara Walters interview. Except for tears from the interviewee's eyes, and even that was probably unexpected the first time it happened. The more it happened, the more it seemed it was preplanned on the interviewees part--after all, these were actors used to crying on cue--and even Walters herself seemed suspicious of it. The Boston native handled that, and other criticisms as well as occasional mockery from the likes of Gilda Radner for Elmer Fuddishly rounding off her "Rs" when speaking (as did Marlene Dietrich, putting her in good company) with good humor, probably because she was laughing all the way to the Federal Reserve. For many a December there was a TV special titled Barbara Walters 10 Most Fascinating People. She never did, but Walters very well could have interviewed herself.



Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Lady Liberty


It probably had no effect on the outcome of World War II one way or another, but if you were a GI stationed in Europe or North Africa, it must have come as something of a relief to finally come across a German who wasn't trying to kill you. And what a German!

OK, let's go even further back in time. Here's Marlene between the wars:

Give peace a chance.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Under the Radar: Stuart Margolin



Actor, director, writer, singer, songwriter--Stuart Margolin was certainly a very creative person, which he talks about in the following video, aptly titled, "The Creative Process":

Margolin comes across as very thoughtful, and a bit refined, very different from the hapless lowlifes he so often and so expertly played, including one of the greatest hapless lowlifes in TV history. Not that he couldn't also play hapless middle-of-the-road characters, as he frequently did as a cast member of this early 1970's series:

 An hour-long comedy anthology series that guest-starred well-known TV actors of the day, each episode usually consisted of three ten-minute stories of romantic ridiculousness. As filler there was a series of blackout sketches enacted by an in-house reparatory company, one of the members of which was Margolin. You'll spot him easily:

Even though he was basically unknown at this point in his career, Margolin must have impressed at least somebody with a bit of influence (probably his brother Arnold, who coproduced Love American Style) because he got a chance to work alongside a former Catwoman and a beatnik-turned-castaway in one of those ten-minute stories, a slice of now-dated foolishness titled "Love and the Cake": 

Bob Denver, reduced to playing straight man? Where is Alan Hale Jr. when you need him? I don't know if it was "Love and the Cake" or one of those ten-minute segments, but a TV star-turned-movie star-now-segueing-back-into-a-TV-star by the name of James Garner caught LAS one night and was impressed enough with Margolin's acting to invite him on his new Western series Nichols. That show only lasted a single season. However, Garner's next series...

...did much better, lasting six seasons. On The Rockford Files, Garner played (wrongfully convicted) ex-con Jim Rockford, now a down-on-his-heels private eye. So down on his heels that he couldn't quite disentangle himself from the disastrous schemes of his former San Quenton cellmate, Angel Martin. That hardly describes the whole series, and Angel wasn't on every episode, but he appeared often enough that he quickly became a fan favorite (including this fan's favorite.) Angel apparently also was a favorite of The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, as they eventually awarded Margolin two supporting actor Emmys for his hilarious portrayal of the hapless lowlife. The following clips (including some recorded telephone messages that opened the show) should give you some idea of Angel's madcap mendacity:

Sherlock Holmes and Watson, by way of 1970s LA. Instead of foggy Baskervilles moors, sun-bleached strip malls.


Hey! What's he doing here?

Have a listen:

If I close my eyes, I can almost see Angel Martin doing a duckwalk.



Saturday, December 10, 2022

Quips and Quotations (Famous Footwear Edition)


One day before he left, Jon called me into his office and he had a pair of shoes and he said, "What do you think of these shoes?" And I said, "Oh, they're good shoes." He said, "What size are you?" I said, "I'm a size eleven." He said, "I'm a size eight." And he said, "Will these fit you?" And I said, "No." And he said, "Don't let anyone tell you that you can't fill my shoes. You're not meant to fill them."

--Trevor Noah

Monday, December 5, 2022

Graphic Grandeur (Weirded Bliss Edition)



Whenever I do posts about notable people, I usually ignore the various name changes they may have gone through and stick with the moniker that was in place when they first achieved that notoriety. However, it might be a bit misleading in the case of alternative cartoonist Aline Kominsky-Crumb. She grew up Aline Goldsmith on Long Island, met some guy with the last name Kominsky and married him. The marriage didn't last very long, but she must have liked the new surname, as she hung on to it, and continued to hang onto it, albeit in hyphenated form, even after marrying a second time (more, a lot more, about that marriage in a bit.) Whatever she chose to call herself, she was attending the University of Arizona around 1970 or so when she met two cartoonists at a party. Now these weren't the kind of cartoonists that worked for Disney or Hanna-Barbera, nor the kind of cartoonists that drew for DC or Marvel, nor the kind of cartoonists who might have had a comic strip alongside Beetle Bailey and Mary Worth in a daily newspaper. No, Kim Deitch and Spain Rodriguez were underground cartoonists, and the best place to view their work was at some head shop in the bohemian section of town. Deitch and Rodriguez convinced aspiring artist Aline to move to a place that was rapidly becoming the bohemian capitol of America: San Francisco. Aline took their advice, and once settled in the City by the Bay, did what any self-respecting underground cartoonist does, she pushed the envelope:

Actually, she seems to have pushed more than the envelope.

Aline spent the next 50 years producing underground, soon-to-be called alternative, comics (or comix.)  The following sampling may not be in chronological order, as I didn't really have the time to track down the dates for a lot of these, but it doesn't matter. Her drawing style, and her forthrightness, changed very little over the decades:   


Now, about where that Crumb part of her name came from. If you know anything comix than you'll have figured out it has something to do with...


...this guy, Robert Crumb, sometimes known as R. Crumb, probably the most well-known underground artist to come out of the 1960s (trivia note: he lived for a while in my hometown of Cleveland where he worked for American Greetings.) Aline and Robert met at a party, fell in love, lived together for a few years before eventually marrying in 1978. This union was a bit hard for some of her female underground cartoonist colleagues to take (one of those cartoonists, Trina Robbins, called Alina a "camp follower".) So exactly what was the problem? Robert Crumb's view of male-female relations... 

...didn't sit all that well with Aline's feminist-minded colleagues.

It sat well with Alina, and that's what mattered. She talks about her relationship with Robert Crumb in the following clip:

Since Alines comics were very autobiographical, Robert naturally shows up in them:

In 1981, Alina gave birth to a daughter, Sophie, and...

...she showed up in the comics as well.

In the video, Aline mentioned that she and Robert often put out comics together. Here's a sampling. See if you can figure out who drew what:

If the above seems anti-Semitic to you, keep in mind that Alina was Jewish too. Just consider the whole thing ironic. And anyway, it's not like she hung out with Kanye West.

Speaking of which:

Dig Alina made over as Ivanka (lower left panel.) I'm hoping that was just on paper. One Ivanka is enough, even for an alternative comic.

The family that draws together stays together. Sophie Crumb is now a noted cartoonist herself, and though much of her work is solo, she occasionally draws herself alongside her mom's and dad's drawings of themselves:

The media often portrays antivaxxers as being on the Right, and provaxxers as being on the Left, but this doesn't seem to be the case with the Crumbs, a family where all three principals have often expressed leftish views. At least Alina is sticking to the Democratic Party talking points (except for the Wuhan lab part.)

Aline and Robert are said to have had an "open marriage" with her taking her lovers and he taking his. Judging by the photographic record, however, it may have been opened by only a crack, as they seemed to have enjoyed one another more than they did anyone else. See for yourself:

Ain't love grand?