Oh joy of joys! For the last three weeks, it has been spring cleaning at my house. Each year, I take on the least desirable jobs, (many of which are also done in October). Of these, snaking (dredging), the drains are my least favorite. The look and smell of oodles of hairy clumps, made pasty by the stagnant fermentation of hair products, is revolting. To add drama and time to this easy to do, yet disgusting task, is wrestling the snake when it gets caught-up in one of our four sinks or two shower drains.
|CLEANING THE DRAINS IS A "LOW-MAN ON THE TOTEM POLE" KIND OF JOB. BUT I'M NOT COMPLAINING...JUST REALIZE THAT IN NO WAY, SHAPE, MATTER OR FORM THAT I'M RESPONSIBLE FOR CLOGGING DRAINS, AT LEAST WITH HAIR...|
The other household projects I take on are also simple but time consuming. The king of this category is the three-step procedure of dusting the vertical blinds. The actual dusting is boring dog work but washing the windows at the end, is a breeze. However sandwiched in between, is the epic orgy of painstakingly removing a year's worth of crud, soot, cobwebs, dead bugs and leaf fragments from the narrow metal runners at the bottom of each sill, (those runners help snap the windows shut).
The proper way to wile away the hours while doing this, is to blast the, "Classic Rock and Roll Channel" on the TV. Then it's essential to be armed with a vacuum cleaner, all-purpose spray cleaner, industrial-strength paper towels, a flat-head screwdriver (for the fine work in the corners) and Q-Tips, (for the finer work in those same corners).
To do a crackerjack job, there is a tremendous amount of redundancy. That means going back and forth, over and over and retracing your steps until each ladybug carcass, grain of sand, nano pebble and stain has been eradicated.
My big problem happened during the confined quarters execution of erasing a stubborn stain. Beyond the most remote nook and cranny, like a man on a mission against the unholy dirt-devil, I scrubbed like a man possessed. Until YOWIE ! I crushed one of my top ten favorite fingers, (the middle right).
Goddamn it, I was in agony. A lesser man would have voluntarily had it amputated to stop the pain but I chose to gut it out. I soaked my poor crippled digit in cold water but it kept throbbing. In a short time, a thin line of dried blood formed under the bent back nail of my reddening finger tip. I thought about working in the casino that night and realized that I would be operating a card dealing machine that requires pushing a button.
|LIKE ACTOR MATTHEW PERRY (above) TWO OF MY FRIENDS, (JOEMAC AND GRANDFATHERKLOCK) HAVE LOST THE LAST JOINT OF A FINGER TO AN ACCIDENT.|
I knew as terrible as my mishap was, I couldn't show up at work and demand to be put on light-duty. Nor could I piss and moan to my friends, (when JOEMAC came close to severing his finger, he shrugged it off, used duct tape and came to work the same night). So I decided that I'd be okay if I remembered to use my healthy index finger instead. However, at that moment when I looked back at my partially completed spring cleaning, I knew the window runners would have to wait till another day. I switched off the music and took solace in watching TV.
Everybody hates the rates that their cable provider charges. So many times, you look at the gazillions of available channels and are perplexed by the fact that "there's nothing on." Overwhelmingly, I (most people) still use only a small handful of stations. Well, we all know that cable companies will NEVER respond to complaints by reducing the cost...so in loyalty to their customers caught-up in their monopoly, they add new channels, to give the impression that they are hooking everyone up.
In my cable company's latest new channel foray, they have actually bequeathed me several stations that I like, (I still hate the company). Included are vintage movie networks, (with commercial interruptions) like; "MOVIES," "THIS" and "THE WORKS." Also they have added, "METV" and "DECADE" that air old TV shows.
While my finger ached, I tuned into the newest movie channel, "THE WORKS." They were showing a 1953 film noire called, "99 RIVER STREET." The TV synopsis gave this corny, innocent man tracking down his unfaithful wife's killer yarn, three stars? It was a miracle I stayed awake. MIKE123 one of my friends at work later said, "I heard Martin Scorsese studied the boxing sequences in this film before making 1980's, 'RAGING BULL.'"
|THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE (AFI) RATED RAGING BULL, A BIOGRAPHY OF BOXER JAKE LaMOTTA, AS THE FOURTH GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL-TIME...AS WELL AS, THE BEST SPORTS-RELATED FILM...99 RIVER STREET, NOT SO MUCH.|
I came away from 99 River Street thinking it was a dated tapestry of silly banality. However, I was intrigued by a quasi-familiar face. I waited to see the closing credits because I couldn't put my finger (healthy index finger) on the third billing villain, who turned out to be Brad Dexter.
Dexter was frequently over shadowed by his contemporaries. To prove it, in the trivia question; name the magnificent seven actors, he is almost always the last to be remembered.
|I CHANNEL SURFED DURING A COMMERCIAL. SESAME STREET WAS ON. I RECALLED WHEN MY SON ANDREW WAS YOUNG THEY HAD A FUNNY SKIT FEATURING A MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, (above). BUT FIRST THEY SHOWED A DULL SEVEN, THEN A MAGNIFICENT FIVE...UNTIL THEY GOT IT RIGHT.|
Along with my finger, it was killing me during the movie that I couldn't place Dexter's hauntingly familiar face. I was concentrating on his light-colored eyes when I paused the TV and ran upstairs to look this flick up in my movie book. But there was something else about him and my 1500+ page book didn't help.
To ease my mind after failing to find the Brad Dexter connection I was looking for, I clicked the TV and soon found myself on the DECADE network. They were showing the 1966 pilot episode of, "MISSION IMPOSSIBLE." It caught my interest because the Peter Graves character Mr. Phelps, was missing. Instead, Stephen Hill of TV's, "LAW AND ORDER" was the team leader, Mr. Briggs.
The rest of the original cast, with one other exception, were the *regulars I was used to.
* If the actual plot didn't catch your attention, seeing sizzling Barbara Bain clad only in a skimpy towel could rationalize becoming a regular viewer.
The one irregular cast member who stood out was Wally Cox, as safe cracker Terry Targo, (it would be his only appearance in the series).
Seeing Cox in Mission Impossible in a wife-beater tee-shirt as sweaty, yet confident safe cracker was amazing. The only time I recalled him being self-assured was in the role of Underdog, an animated superhero canine. You may recall, to hide Underdog's secret identity, he posed as unassuming "Shoeshine Boy." (also voiced by Cox). So whenever there was a cry for help, "Help, help!" Shoeshine Boy dropped his meek alter ego and declared, "There's no need to fear, Underdog is here!"
|"UNDERDOG" RAN FROM 1964-1967 (124 EPISODES). I LOVED IT AND IT'S CATCHY THEME MUSIC. UNDERDOG HAD A LOVE INTEREST, SWEET POLLY PUREBRED AND FOUGHT TWO MAIN ARCHENEMIES; MAD SCIENTIST...SIMON BAR SINISTER AND CRIME BOSS...RIFF RAFF.|
While recalling Underdog, the wolf-like Riff Raff character came to mind...and that's when I made my connection to Brad Dexter.
|I'M BETTING THAT RIFF RAFF'S LIGHT EYES AND GANGSTER PERSONA WAS INSPIRED BY BRAD DEXTER'S ROLE IN 99 RIVER STREET. WHILE THE NAME WAS INFLUENCED BY ACTOR GEORGE RAFT, THE LOOK IS ALL DEXTER.|
This startling Riff Raff is Brad Dexter revelation made me happy. Not happy enough to continue cleaning dead ladybugs out the window runners with my maimed finger, but pleased to look forward to next week, when my spring cleaning goes OUTSIDE.
Sprucing-up the backyard is its own discipline. Anyone can pick up downed branches, rake leaves and mow the grass. But before anyone dares to take any chances back there, they must cry for help, "Help, help!" But the only real-life superhero dog who single-handedly keeps squirrels from taking over South Jersey, doesn't come to my rescue. The reason why is, my superhero dog is the guilty party who perpetrated a whole winter's worth of "Roxy-Bombs."
Until my finger heals or until Roxy takes on her responsibilities, I'll have to hire Brad Dexter and his henchmen to make my backyard safe for foot traffic.
Hard to believe but true, smashing my finger drove me to investigate where I knew Brad Dexter from. Then Wally Cox came to mind. Incredibly, Cox led me to Underdog and then to his cartoon enemies...after going full circle, there he was, Brad Dexter as the animated baddie, Riff Raff.
If that was all there was to it, the coincidence would still be fantastic. But get this, the least cool guy in the world, Wally Cox was the boyhood friend...and lifelong confidant of the essence of cool, Marlon Brando. It is said that after Cox's untimely death at age 48, that Brando kept his ashes. Later when Brando passed, he stipulated that his people would intertwine both men's ashes and spread them in Death Valley and Tahiti.
Brad Dexter proved his meddle and gained major ups when he saved Frank Sinatra from drowning. On May 10, 1964 in Hawaii, during time off in the filming of, "NONE BUT THE BRAVE," Sinatra while swimming at the beach was swept out to sea. Dexter a burly former boxer saved "Old Blues Eyes" and was awarded the Red Cross' medal for bravery.