Monday, August 25, 2008


Friends took my son Andrew, Sue and I to a Philadelphia Phillies game. The scope of their kindness and generosity even included taking a third kid.

The Phillies stadium, Citizens Bank Park, is a leader in the new wave of beautiful, State-of-the-Art ball fields. From the minute you push your way through the turnstile onto the concourse level, you can't help but be impressed with the roominess, cleanliness and friendly enthusiasm. The field itself has tremendous sight-lines to view the the aesthetic value of garden-greenery in center field not only serves as a batters eye (to help see the incoming pitch) but also adds to the flavor of the "park"theme.

We were a party of eight. Our hosts, "die-hard" Phillie fans all wore Phillie shirts, and provided my son and the other kid with one too. That left my wife and I in "street clothes." She of course is the ultimate waffler, and to be "politically correct," root, root, rooted for the home team. Me, I'm a Mets a fan. And these days the Mets and Phillies are clawing it out in a tight pennant race...ergo, I am not going to turn my back on my team...even for one night.

The Phillies opponent that night were the Washington Nationals (or as I like to say to my brother-in-law...the Washington Sharons). Coming into that night the Nationals, the worst team by far in the league, had lost twelve straight games. Although Washington seemed overwhelmed by the Fightin' Phils, it was a close game and a see-saw battle to the end.

It seemed that of the 41,500+ in attendance, I was the only person rooting for the Nationals. This especially pissed-off our host's elder son as well as everyone in our party. I got myself into deeper hot water when the out of town scoreboard posted the Yankee's getting shellacked in Toronto, 14-0. At that point, the friend that also came with us threw down his Phillie fan facade and voiced his displeasure in my joy of the Yankees getting pounded.

My happiness only got better as the Phillies had great opportunities to at least tie the game in the 8th and 9th but failed. Then with the pleasure of the Nationals win still warm in my loins, the scoreboard lit up the fact that the Mets eked out a run in the ninth inning and won their game too.

Later I reflected that the Mets home field, Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium are both closing after this year. To be consistent with the trend in major league baseball, they are building new ballparks for the 2009 season.

Shea Stadium was opened in 1964. The Mets had played two seasons at the dilapidated Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan, (if you watch the history channel as frequently as I do, then you'd also know that it was build by ancient Egyptians). The Polo Grounds had been the home field for the Giants before they moved to San Francisco for the 1958 season. I attended two games in the Polo Grounds in 1963. I remember it being a rickety old place with an unpaved parking lot and trough-like urinals which...considering the "falling-in factor" were acutely intimidating to eight year old me . Nevertheless, I never developed any particular love affair with its replacement, Shea Stadium.


On the other hand, I have a funny memory from the only saw game I saw, in the hated rival ballpark, Yankee Stadium. When I was ten...there were two class trips. One was to a Mets game and the other was to a Yankees game. I was friendly with this chubby, bookworm kid of Eastern European refugee parents. Actually, I'm not using his name, so I can write that he was actually a fat nerd with an annoying social habits.

At that point, the two-year old roots of my Mets inferiority-complex were already well-entrenched. So when the school trip to the Mets game came along, it was bothering me that this heavy-set genius with the social graces of a sink...was rooting for the Pirates.
He might have been book-smart but he was as naive as they come. I easily conned him into rooting for the Mets by saying...if you root for the Mets now...I'll root for the Yanks when we go to that game. Well, he did and probably had an intrical part in the Mets winning that day.

At the Yankee game, I was agreeable and kept a low-profile all the way through the national anthem.

Once the game started, I became a one-man, super-charged Baltimore Oriole fan. My friend whined his protested, "You said..."
To which I countered, "I lied!"

I was and still am confident that it was me and me alone that catapulted the Orioles to the win that day. As for my friend...we kind of stopped hanging together after that.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Leave it to me to find a negative spin on Olympian Michael Phelps' impossible mission to win eight gold medals.


First, I will not engage in a debate whether Phelps is the world's greatest athlete, Olympian or swimmer. I feel his accomplishments speak for them self and at this moment, he's the greatest thing since sliced bread and deserves every ounce of his celebrity. Of course he will always be remembered, but in my opinion, his feat will lose its impact within a couple of months and will continue to be less relevant until 2012 Olympic Games spike-up interest in him.

My problem with Michael Phelps however, is right now. It concerns my signature statement greeting of: "Good evening Mr. Phelps." I stole that catch-phrase, in good faith, from the 1966-1973 TV show on CBS; "MISSION IMPOSSIBLE." The show is old and rarely seen in re-runs so that most people don't remember Peter Graves, Barbara Bain, Martin Landau and an ensemble cast using covert CIA-like tactics to keep the world safe...usually from Soviet and/or Cold-War related antagonists. THE WAY I SEE IT, I MUST HAVE EXCLUSIVELY WATCHED THE SHOW IN 1967 and 1968 BECAUSE THE MAIN CHARACTERS ABOVE ARE THE ONLY ONES I REMEMBER. UPON DEEPER EXAMINATION, I DISCOVERED THAT THERE WERE SOME OLDER ONES PLUS SEVERAL NEWER CAST MEMBERS. I WAS ESPECIALLY SHOCKED THAT IN 1969, LEONARD NIMOY TOOK MARTIN LANDAU'S SPOT.

I liked to use, "Good evening Mr. Phelps," as a random greeting to my friends. My peeps (anywhere near my age) found it amusing and some even used it on me. It seemed to have eternal appeal...until the stupid Olympics rolled around. Now I hesitate on using it because people relate the phrase to Michael Phelps.

I'm not smart enough to find a new line that is as clever as: Good evening Mr. Phelps. Plus I'm too stubborn to just forget about it, and too set in my ways to use other "MISSION IMPOSSIBLE" lines like; A) Your mission should you decide to accept it, B) Should any team member be caught or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions, and C) This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.

Right now all I can do is cry myself to sleep and repeat a million times...damn you Michael Phelps. Damn you for infringing on my creative genius.

Monday, August 11, 2008


"THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING," was a silly, satirical, romantic comedy with "Cold War" ramification from 1966. The action is set on a barrier island off the coast of Massachusetts that had been "attacked" by Russian's from an aground submarine. The comic relief is provided by villagers; Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters, Imogene Coca and Paul Ford, as they defend the U. S. of A's homeland (and their women) from the "Red Menace."

Unfortunately, this week's Russian attack of Georgia is real. No the commies aren't pouring over Kennesaw Mountain intent to burn Atlanta...yet in a strange way I wish they would be a great remake of the RUSSIANS ARE COMING. In that version, Ted Turner's Braves could defend the "Big Chicken" on Roswell Road with baseball bats or have Micheal Vick ordering his maniacal killer attack dogs to sic the pinkos before they access the secret, classic Coca-Cola recipe, (personally, they can have the "New Coke" recipe).

The real problem is, the Russians have really attacked Soviet Georgia. That Georgia, is located below Russia and above Turkey. Like; Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Estonia, Armenia, Uzbekistan and several other break-away nations, Georgia was hostilely taken-over and absorbed by Russia after WWII.

Is this the awakening of the sleeping red bear? Is Russia planning on taking all those little nations back. If so, will they stop there or will they also try to re-seize their former satellite countries like: Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria? Can world dominance and the re-birth of the communist manifesto be far behind?

What we need is someone like Leo "The Lip" Durocher to be our president, NOW !

LEO DUROCHER (1905-1991)

Durocher, a Hall-of -Fame baseball manager (thus proving his leadership qualities) is most-known for the quote: Nice guys finish last." That statement translates to; winning at all cost. As his Leo "The Lip" nickname suggests, he was famous for his big mouth. His run-ins, in the name of winning, with the authorities, umpires and the press were legendary. Durocher was such a hard case that he also said, "If I was going to be the winning run and my mother was blocking home plate, I'd run her down."

I say Leo Durocher was wasting his time in baseball...he should have been a politician. At the end of WWII Russian head-of-state Jozef Stalin made it clear that he had a different vision on how the face of Europe should look, Durocher would have attacked. He would have crushed them because, our war machine was already in Europe and our factories were more efficient than ever in support of our troops. On the other hand, Russia barely fought off the Germans and would have failed, if not for the allied aid it received. So, Durocher could have single-handedly side-stepped the fear of communism, the Joseph McCarthy-Era, the Korean War and the Bay of Pigs incident.

More recently, Durocher would have wiped-out Sadam Hussein after "Operation Desert Storm." He, unlike President George Bush Sr. would not have succumbed to the fear of world opinion. Therefore, the dying embers of the festering Iraqi brood would not have been allowed to stay lit. Leo "The Lip" Durocher wouldn't have given a rat's ass about world opinion and wouldn't have left his underlings (successors) , like George W. with egg on his face and the blood of thousands of U. S. troops on his hands.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Throughout August TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES (TCM) is featuring individual actors with a 24-hour run of their films. Saturday was Charlie Chaplin day. In addition to his films, TCM also played a two and a quarter hour biography of his life which included a montage of film clips, interviews and analysis.

I called my son Andrew in to watch and together we saw a snippet which included footage from the 1921 silent movie, "THE KID." At that point I went "off topic," and explained the significance of the child star who portrayed the kid, Jackie Coogan.

("Off-topic" is what the youth of today call, "going off on a tangent)."


Whether you know the answer to today's mystery or not...who IS Jackie Coogan? Please read on, because there is so much more to the man that meets eye.

John Leslie (Jackie) Coogan was born October 26, 1914, in Woburn Massachusetts. The son of Vaudeville performers, Coogan, by age three was already singing and dancing in their new home, Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, he was discovered by Charlie Chaplin and had a uncredited appearance in the 1917 movie, "SKINNER'S BABY."
Chaplin saw star-power in the youngster and took him under his wing. One of Coogan's best attributes was his ability to mimic. Whereas Chaplin had difficulties in getting seasoned actors to to follow intricate direction, this three-year delighted him with this natural power.


Coogan's success as "THE KID" was followed the next year with the title role in "OLIVER TWIST." Jackie Coogan quickly became an international super-star and also became the first heavily merchandised star...with his image appearing on; toys, food products, stationery, records and so much more. Even overseas, Coogan's "signature" Page-Boy haircut and oversized overalls and cap were being imitated. You may recall that Scotty Beckett from the "OUR GANG" comedies directly copied that look.


Jackie Coogan's true legacy was the installation of child labor laws for Hollywood's young stars. Coogan earned an estimated $4 million before he was a teenager. The overwhelming bulk of that money was squandered by his mother and step-father who were cocaine and heroin user/addicts. In 1935, Coogan sued his mother but recovered only a fraction of his fortune. At one point, Charlie Chaplin stepped in to provide financial assistance to him.

The legal battles with his mother did call attention to the plight and welfare of child stars. Soon the State of California enacted "THE CALIFORNIA CHILD ACTOR'S BILL," (it is also referred to as the Coogan Bill or Coogan Act). This requires the child's employer to set aside 15% of the child's earnings in a trust fund. Additionally, it also provided specifications for proper schooling, work hours and time-off.

It should be noted that during those proceedings, his mother was called to give testimony and claimed that she didn't think he was working hard because it was all fun and playing to him. Subsequently, virtually all the other child stars who were called upon to speak, agreed that they were keenly aware that what they were doing WAS work!

In 1935, Coogan was the sole survivor in a car crash that killed his natural father as well as his best friend, Junior Durkin, (a child star who starred as Huckleberry Finn in two films).

In March 1941, Coogan enlisted in the army. Eight months later after Pearl Harbor, he requested a transfer to the army air force, (he had been a civilian pilot). He became a flight officer and volunteered for hazardous duty with the FIRST COMMANDO GROUP.

In December 1943 during the Burmese campaign, Coogan was stationed in India and regularly landed English troops inside enemy lines.

After the war Coogan married four times. His first wife was Betty Grable, the #1 pin-up girl of that generation. There were two more shorties until he married Dodie Lamphere. That marriage lasted 32 years until he died March 1, 1984.

In all Coogan appeared in 60+ motion pictures. Once he lost his child cuteness nearly all those roles were bit parts or in a supporting role...yet we all know him.
Who is this 67-year film veteran?...the first merchandising personality giant, the inspiration for Hollywood child labor laws, survivor, WWII hero, heart throb of the most beautiful women in the world, father, family man and actor in a multitude of cameo performances on 60's and 70's TV shows?

Well most people don't know him from his real name, he is most remembered for one specific recurring original Uncle Fester on the "ADDAMS FAMILY."