Wednesday, June 20, 2018

STRICTLY ON BACKGROUND, PT. 21: "SHADES OF BLUE"

After a pretty good run of screen time, I had a dry spell. Either I was too far from the camera or my scene was cut.

 That changed this week when the second season of Shades of Blue aired -- even if it took over a year after the episode was filmed.

We were shooting on a subway train in an abandoned station near the Lower East Side. The subway signs inside and out were changed for the show to read Flushing Avenue, a non-existent Manhattan stop. (The MTA must have a rule about having to use phony subway signs; Louie did the same thing. Pity the poor TV fan who comes to New York expecting to follow in his favorite TV stars' shoes.)

We were given the set-up: star Jennifer Lopez, playing an undercover cop, is pursuing a perp into the subway station and on to the train. A young guy and I were placed on the car where Lopez was to walk between us. We did at least seven takes, with the subway train moving into the tunnel before reversing each time.


I might be wrong, but I think this is the last time
Jennifer Lopez willingly brushes past me.

We were shooting the scene out of sequence, so that Lopez's entrance inside the station -- at, as I recall, the real Houston Street stop -- was filmed next. (There were real riders there, many of whom mistook Lopez's look-alike stand-in for the real deal.) Later that evening, we shot outside the abandoned station.

When Shades of Blue finally aired, my brief appearances outside the subway station and in the entrance were nowhere to be found -- not that you would have recognized me anyway (I was walking away from the camera). But inside the train was a different thing.



Reverse angle: The guy's marveling at my ability to
carry around so many chins without falling over.
Once again, my lucky Fedora came through for me; I appear three times in the brief sequence. Yet it's a shock to see how old I look. At least when I appeared on Blacklist, I was supposed to look terrible.

So was it worth the year-long wait? Of course! Any time I get on camera is worth the wait, even if I do need the help of a mortician's make-up box. If I look like that again, I'm going to turn shades of green.



                                                             ***********************
The video clip of my scene. The first shot, where Jennifer Lopez leaves her car and walks toward the station, was filmed last. The next shot, where she walks down the stairs and  hops the turnstile, is the real Houston Street station. From that point on, we're in the abandoned station.




Tuesday, June 19, 2018

CAGEY DAYS

If you can't trust this guy...
Thanks to our spiritual leaders in the current administration, we now are aware of the Bible passage that reads, If the children of illegals offend thee, pluck them out of their parents' arms. And, lo, drop them in cages of metal, where they may cry and shiver for the misdeeds of the mother and father. 

Is cage too strong a word? Apparently so, according to Fox News' yolk-for-brains Steve Doocy. The kids, he informs us, are actually in "a great, big warehouse facility where they built walls out of chain link fences"

The Dooce might have consulted with border patrol agents who admitted to CBS News that they are cages but -- and this is important -- the kids aren't being treated like animals. So can we please put that canard to rest?


"Be vewwy, vewwy quiet. I'm hunting children!"
Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions -- the man Elmer Fudd would have been if he'd been born in Alabama and leaned toward a theocratic rule of law -- had to defend himself against charges that seizing children from illegals was comparable to Nazi behavior. 

Now, comparing anything in America to Nazis is always dicey. But leave it to the guy named after Jefferson Davis and whose middle name really is Beauregard to teach us a Trump-like history lesson: "Well, it's a real exaggeration. In Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country." Kind of the way kidnappers keep captives from leaving by locking them up in concentration camps and gassing them, you cornpone moron.

But forget about all that. We know that caging kids who are here through no volition of their own is acceptable because, according to Jeff, the Bible tells us so. Just like it tells us, "Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

Hey, at least the grown men are spared. Unless they fall into this list of 28 people who the Bible sees fit to die. Oh man, do I want to see our Attorney General defend someone who murdered his kids because they were "disobedient". 


Who wants to smack him in the face first?


We shouldn't be too hard on Jeff, though. He's merely following the orders of Stephen Miller, who got his job as Trump's senior advisor due to his uncanny resemblance to Vladimir Putin and Josef Goebbels. Miller is the driving force behind Operation: Offend Everybody, which has been so successful that it's riled up Ted Cruz, who didn't care that Trump called his wife ugly.

Yet for all his hard-right goosestepping bravado, Miller appears to share one vitally important trait with liberal Democrat Anthony Weiner. They likely got their asses repeatedly kicked in high school because they looked (and probably behaved) like assholes. But while Weiner took revenge in adulthood by sexting adolescent girls, Miller seems to have decided, "OK, I'll show you what a real asshole is!"

President Barack Obama used to have a habit of dismissing actions he didn't approve of with the proclamations "This is not who we are" or "This is not the way the world works." This intellectually-naïve attitude continues today in regard to children locked in cages: "This is not what America is." 

Yes. It. Is. Watch the news -- that's not CGI on your TV screen, so you might as well get used to it. As it says in Hebrews 13:17, "Obey your leaders and submit to them." Kneel before the Holy Trinity of Trump, Miller, and Sessions: the Adulterous Father, the Son of a Bitch, and the Holy Old Goat.

                                                 *******************

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

HOLLYWOOD, D.C.

Two  authoritarians walk on to a stage...
There are many reasons to dislike President Trump. For me, it's because every time he opens his mouth, he sounds like a five year-old with brain encephalitis trying to recite passages from Troilus and Cressida.

Perfectly reasonable, articulate Congressional Democrats like Tim Ryan, Tulsi Gabbard, Beto O'Rourke, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Jack Reed have the ability to explain to wavering Trump supporters why their guy isn't working for their best interest -- dismantling environmental laws; breaking promises regarding infrastructure and better healthcare; stacking his Cabinet with the same crooks and liars he promised to get rid of; insulting leaders of democracies while feeling up dictators --  and, as they do so, never talking down to them.


"Four score and seven fuckin' years ago..."
Their skill and thoughtfulness, of course, make them anathema to so-called progressives, who instead insult potential converts, while turning to pithy one-liners with punchlines like "Fuck Trump" and "feckless cunt". They've apparently mistaken "When they go low, we go high" for "When they go low, we get a solar-powered steamshovel and start digging further". This kind of stuff makes a wide swath of Americans between New York and Los Angeles think, Oh yeah, that's why I hate Hollywood. Thanks for reminding me! 

Despite what their fans think, it took zero courage for Robert De Niro and Samantha Bee to say what they did in rooms filled with people who were already in their pocket. For real profiles in comedy courage, I direct you to the Smothers Brothers and Lenny Bruce, who lived in a time when real political wit drove them off the air and into an early grave respectively. 
This kind of brilliant artwork should elect
a president, alright.

So it's both shocking and totally understandable to see this headline on Politico: DEMOCRATS TURN TO HOLLYWOOD FOR MESSAGING HELP

Naturally! Why go with the men and women with an ability to connect to voters when you can instead live up to your own negative stereotypes, and leave yourself wide open to ridicule by getting your talking points from sitcom writers? To quote Politico, In one recent meeting, a Midwestern senator sought advice about how to discuss gun control with conservative-leaning voters in his or her state. 

In other words, instead of crafting their own ideas -- i.e., using their brains -- they're outsourcing their job to Veep. One producer claims they're going to get their message out because they know how to create movie posters. You know, advertisements that airbrush images to remove any sign of reality, and deliberately mislead you into thinking it's one thing when it's really something else.  

The idea that most excites them, however, has nothing to do with one-sheets or lobby cards:


Remember the last time they did something like this? It was the 2016 presidential election. Leave it Hollywood to once again create a sequel to a product nobody wanted the first time around.
 

                                                           ******************

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

BREAKING NEWS: 6/6/18


Asked if the White House had a comment regarding the incident, press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders told reporters, "As we've explained several times already, there was no collusion between President Trump and Miss Spade."



Asked if the White House had a comment regarding the incident, press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders told reporters, "I refer you back to our statement regarding the volcano in Hawaii."



Asked if the White House had a comment regarding the incident, press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders told reporters, "We consider this another example of government over-reach, since the science isn't settled on the so-called dangers of lead paint."



Asked if the White House had a comment regarding the incident, press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders told reporters, "This is just another example of countries refusing to carry their fair share of our economic burden when it comes to foreign aid."

An audience in Kentucky cheered when class valedictorian Ben Bowling shared an inspirational quote he initially credited to Donald Trump. When the applause subsided, Bowling explained that it was really spoken by Barack Obama, leaving the audience silent.

Asked if the White House had a comment regarding the incident, press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders told reporters, "As we've explained before, President Trump really did say those words, and is demanding an apology."



After saying that businesses should be able to turn away customers based on their race, South Dakota Rep. Michael Clark said, "I would never advocate discriminating against people based on their race."

Asked if the White House had a comment regarding the incident, press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders told reporters, "Pres. Trump is happy to announce that Michael Clark has what it takes to become our new assistant press secretary."

                                                        

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

BULLSHIRT

If you're anything like me, you're likely uninterested in someone's laundry skills. But stick with me, because there's a larger point I'm going to make.

When retrieving clothes from the dryer, I try to remember to bring hangers for the shirts -- the operative word being "try". When that fails, I drape the shirts on one arm while carrying the laundry bag in the opposing hand. 

Upon returning to the apartment, I gently lay the shirts on the bed. Sometimes, there might be a t-shirt underneath. Kind of like this:



If only I had taken a second look at my otherwise routine household chores, I could have created the latest fashion craze: T-Shirt Shirt:



Take a good look at the model's expression. He couldn't be more insulted than if he was the recipient of one of Roseanne Barr's "apologies". Pray for the gentleman that he got paid more than the price of the T-Shirt Shirt itself-- which is $1,290.

Let me spell that out. One thousand-two hundred-ninety dollars for two shirts sewn together. And not just any two shirts, but shirts that look like the Kirkland brand sold at Costco. Which together would blow the bank at roughly 50 bucks.

There are some clothes that can't be fully appreciated unless seen from all sides. Maybe -- just maybe -- the T-Shirt Shirt is one of them. You tell me:



Welp -- from the rear, it looks like a guy in a t-shirt. From the side, it could pass for a bib worn by an extraordinarily sloppy eater. And since he appears to be wearing the same designer's $850 boot-cut jeans, said eater should wear another pair of pants over them.

A year ago, I wrote a piece about similar stupid "fashions" including a pair of $425 jeans that look like they were smeared with elephant dung, and clear plastic pants going for a crisp C-note. But while those sartorial absurdities were from the decidedly second-tier Nordstrom's and Topshop respectively, the T-Shirt Shirt is manufactured (with a straight face) by Balenciaga, described by Wikipedia as "a luxury fashion house founded in Spain by Cristobal Balenciaga," who had a "reputation as a couturier of uncompromising standards and was referred to as 'the master of us all' by Christian Dior".  

Y'know, when I see "master" in a sentence, it's usually followed by "slave". And you can bet that there will be plenty of people with money to burn --  or destroy, blow up, castrate, you name it -- in order to slavishly wear items like the T-Shirt Shirt in order to be the hautest in haute couture. 

If only he was the
designer.
But to be fair, Cristobal Balenciaga himself isn't to be blamed for this tripe. He closed the original company 50 years ago; it was revived by Jacques Bogart (no relation to Humphrey) in 1986. Perhaps Cristobal knew what was coming, and wanted to be out of the picture for a few decades.

When I saw the miniseries The Assassination of Gianni Versace earlier this year, I could recognize he was responsible for genuine fashion, even if it wasn't up my alley. He thought about what he was designing. But what Balenciaga and others are doing seem to be the result of a game of darts run amok. 

The first dartboard features images of various clothing items. The second features words like "mud" and "plastic", with the occasional "surprise" you read only when opening an envelope (that's where the "second shirt" comes in). The third has a dozen or so outrageous prices, none lower than $750.

Have designers, then, simply run out of ideas -- or are they laughing their haute couture heads off as they decide how stupid the public can get? All I'm asking is that one of them wears the T-Shirt Shirt in public. Hey, they can even get the employee discount for the pleasure.

                                                             *****************

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

WEINSTEIN STAIN

Whatsamatter, Hav, you lose something? Oh yeah,
your career!
As Harvey Weinstein was led on his perp waddle last week, I could almost see the spirits of his forebears -- Darryl F. Zanuck, Louis B. Mayer, Harry Cohn, and Jack Warner -- shaking their heads in disappointment. Schmuck, why'd you have to give us such a bad name?

I can't remember the last time people took such great satisfaction in seeing a guy getting the cuffs slapped on him. Had I known it was going to happen that morning, I'd have gone down there myself just to yell, "Hey Harvey, you fat bastard, you're going to be someone's bitch soon!"

The Godfatso.
Yet even better than the news video was Jane Rosenberg's courtroom sketch, which managed to capture the very essence of Weinstein better than any digital camera. No longer was this the powerful movie mogul responsible for 81 Academy Awards over 26 years. Instead, he was a homely, bloated, badly-dressed Mafia don-wannabe wondering why his mouthpiece allowed things to get this far.

Said mouthpiece, Benjamin Brafman, clearly knew what he was up against. But even those leagle fleagles you see in old Warner Brothers movies try to polish things up by dropping phrases like "habeas corpus". The best Brafman could pull out of his bag of tricks was, "Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood."

And I thought the "Twinkie defense" was a work of genius! What Brafman did in those 10 simple words was update a child's whiney defense after throwing a rock through a neighbor's window: Darryl did it first! Think of the different ways Brafman's strategy could have been used in the past:

"Your honor, my client, Lee Harvey Oswald, did not invent political assassinations in Washington."

"Your honor, my client, Osama bin-Laden, did not invent terrorism in the U.S."

"Your honor, my client, Kevin Spacey, did not invent child molestation in New York." (Wait, maybe he did try that one.)

Still better was the rush of admissions of cluelessness from people in the movie industry. Celebrities who could never wait to share their personal pieces of wisdom were suddenly doing their best Butterfly McQueen impression: I don't know nothin' 'bout Harvey rapin' starlets.

Other than missiles.
Question to anyone who ever worked in an office situation: Was there any "secret" you weren't privy to at one time or another over the course of your career? Maybe at GE progress was their most important product. But as for every other company, it has been and always will be gossip, which is the truth that the boss doesn't want you to know.

Show business is one big office, with gossip spoken louder and faster than any Quentin Tarantino dialogue. Celebrities' proud willful ignorance in l'affaire Harvey is more likely a case of implausible deniability:

"Hey, did you hear what Harvey Wein--"
"GODDAMMIT, DON'T TELL ME!"

A regular Don Juan.
It's what I always have to explain to chaste movie fans who are stunned that their heroes are actually monstrously human: These people are paid to act, remember? 

And that explains everything regarding Harvey Weinstein. He knew their jobs, paychecks, Oscars, and Golden Globes depended on their silence -- even if they never worked for him. 

Yes, it's a dirty business, filled with people ready to compromise whatever soul they have left in order to keep getting paid $30-million to wear make-up, costumes, and speak someone else's words.  And I know what my response would have been if I were in their place: 

GODDAMMIT, DON'T TELL ME!

                                                   *************************

Monday, May 21, 2018

ROYAL GELATIN

The man who would never be king with the woman who
would never be queen.
For the last several months, American news programs tried unceasingly to get you to care that a divorced American actress you never heard of, who was the co-star of a TV series you never watched, that was on a cable network you couldn't find, was getting married to a member of the world's richest welfare family. It's a fairytale romance!




Professional journalism at its finest.
It didn't matter what network you watched. Come the day of the wedding, the news anchors and reporters followed the same script. Opening the broadcast with faux-British accents; wearing goofy hats even though none of them were invited to the ceremony; and interviewing royal-obsessed American tourists who apparently missed history class the day that the Revolution was taught.

If you flipped between networks, you might have noticed that all the anchors were women. This was because the news producers knew all too well that straight males not only didn't care about this event, they would openly mock the whole spectacle before the show was over. Because -- and I can't stress this highly enough -- a British wedding should qualify as news only in the UK (unless it involves one of the Beatles, and that was half a century ago).

Perhaps because the world is changing faster than many people would like, the word
OK, I admit that would have sealed the deal for me, too.
"tradition" was used a lot, and always reverently. Would any American woman put up with tradition that included the boyfriend's grandmother having to approve the bride-to-be, her wedding gown, and even her fiancé's beard? Apparently, if it meant arriving at the church in a 1950 Rolls Royce Phantom IV. 

Meanwhile, over in the UK, the word newspaper columnists used in excess to describe Meghan Markle was "exotic". Let's take a look at her background via Wikipedia:



Before she married Harry, this was Meghan's
lap of luxury.
I don't know about you, but "Canoga Park", "television director", and "social worker" don't evoke visions of exoticism to me. Maybe it's the yoga thing, right? Or that neither of her parents belong to the Church of England. That must be it.

No? Is it because she was a C-list actress whose credits include The Boys and Girls Guide to Getting Down, and a one-shot appearance on the 90210 reboot as "Anonymous Girl Caught Giving Head to Guy in His Car"?  Really, what could those scone-munching Brits find so exotic about Meghan Markle? 

"I say, aren't they supposed to have
bones through their noses?"
The answer could be found at the wedding itself, when the royal family suddenly found itself in direct contact with more black people since the days of colonization. Harry and William appeared to be down with the whole thing, of course. But every Brit at that ceremony over the age 50 all the wore the look of "Dear God, the savages are taking over!" 

The American news coverage, meanwhile, took a different tact, making sure to trot out African-Americans to give the black angle on the wedding. You won't see them on morning news again until the next time the black angle is required, preferably for an equally fluffy story.

Don't be such a Debbie downer -- Harry and Meghan are
getting married!
Yes, the coverage came off as expected, marred only by the ill-timed Texas school shooting the day before. NBC gave it a one-minute mention at 9:55 a.m., presumably in the name of "keeping things in perspective", before throwing it back to reporters gushing over the gift bags handed to the wedding guests. Ahh, that's better. 

And why not go all out for Harry and Meghan? There probably won't be another royal wedding for a long time, while the next "latest school shooting" is just around the corner. Let's keep things in perspective here, people. 

                                                          ********************

Thursday, May 17, 2018

NO MORE TEACHER'S DIRTY LOOKS

Last Thursday, my wife & I attended our sixth family graduation -- but we have only one child.

Sounds like one of those "logic" riddles, like A father and son are rushed to a hospital after a car crash. The boy is about to be treated first, when the surgeon says, "Oh my God, this is my son!" How can this be?

If you have school-age offspring, especially in New York, that's probably harder to figure out than our situation. Because these days, when any achievement is cause for celebration lest children spiral into the Zoloft diet, graduation ceremonies are held at the end of pre-school, kindergarten, grade school, middle-school, high school, and -- finally! -- college. 
A candid shot backstage at graduation.

Unlike the previous five, however, last week's event wasn't mandatory. Our daughter even wanted to skip the event in favor of a nice lunch with us. We let her know that her sacrifice was unnecessary. Or, closer to our actual reply, Look, kid, we shelled outshitload lot of dough for your education -- you're walking across that goddamn stage whether you like it or not. Her tenacity, however, was admirable.

We arrived 15 minutes before showtime, but it appeared that 90% of the audience had camped out the night before, giving them the best seats, and us a literally birds-eye view. We wouldn't even know if that was really our kid crossing the stage, or if she paid someone to take her place. 

Since our last name is in the first half of the alphabet, I figured my wife and I -- or at least I -- could clear out early on for a mimosa, and catch our daughter as she exited the ceremonies. But since that kind of rational thinking is probably condemned as "alphabetical privilege" now, there was, instead, no rhyme or reason as to how the graduates were called to stage.


My choice of commencement speakers.
By the time they got to the half-way point -- 350 grads by then, with no sign of daughter -- I was regretting that we didn't take her up on her original offer. To make things worse, they didn't even have a celebrity give the commencement address. Other schools this season had Michael Keaton, Tim Cook, Oprah Winfrey, Queen Latifah, Josh Groban, and, of course, Hillary Clinton, who will probably complain to the Yale grads how she was denied her rightful place in the White House for the zillionth time: "My only piece of advice going forward is to blame everybody else for your own obvious failures."

Ninety per-cent through the ceremony, I was still daydreaming about the mimosa when my wife elbowed me and whispered, "There she is!" Unlike me, she had been attentive enough to hear the first syllable of our daughter's name called out; I woke up in time to hear her last name mispronounced. And we could only hope that figure walking across the stage really was the same girl we raised for all these years.


Pay no attention to that monstrous hand resting
atop our daughter's shoulder.
People asked me if I was going to be emotional when this time arrived. And my answer was always, "No. This is what's supposed to happen. If it didn't, then I'd cry." 

Not that I didn't feel something inside. Some things -- love, pride, happiness, relief. She made it. We made it. College paid off, no loans to worry about. What's to cry about? I didn't even get choked up at hearing "Pomp & Circumstance", probably because it was so difficult to hear over the din from the audience. Graduation ceremonies these days, at least at our school, are more rally than solemn.

My wife, too, held up quite admirably. It was only after lunch, when we waited at the local bus stop so we could return to our Airbnb, did her emotional side appear. As we said our goodbyes, her tears, which had been held in check throughout the day, at last arrived. And, if my memory isn't playing tricks on me, she had the same reaction at the pre-school graduation 18 years ago. You think she'd have gotten used to this by now.

At least back then, she had the comfort of knowing that our daughter would return home with us afterwards. This time, we were going in opposite directions. Next week, she embarks on a cross-country drive with a friend, before working and travelling up the West coast before coming back East in November -- the longest we will have gone without seeing her. 

Hey, that's life. Her life. And with a little luck, it'll only get better from there.

And if you're still wondering about that "logic" riddle about the auto accident... unlike his son, the surgeon was wearing his seatbelt, and thus survived the accident without a scratch, making him able to report to work per usual. It doesn't take a college education to figure that out, right?

                                                    ***************

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

BREAKING NEWS: 5/9/2018

Michael Avenatti claims that President Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen received $500,000 from a Russian oligarch, which was then deposited into an account used to pay Stormy Daniels.

When asked if this helped to shape Trump's positions regarding Russia, Cohen replied, "Nyet."




Schneiderman explained that the role he was playing was that of a sociopathic, hypocritical New York Attorney General who was getting a pass on his behavior from fellow Democrats for years.


In an essay written for the New York Times Review of Books, Reah Bravo, a former unpaid intern for Charlie Rose, says that the disgraced news anchor forced her to unclog a toilet "brimming with feces" before groping her.

In a statement to the Times, Rose said that it was the least he could do for her.



As the clean-up got underway, Airport officials received a call from Charlie Rose, who told them, "I know someone who could help."





Mueller added that he would be willing to revisit the possibility once Trump learns how to write.



A spokesman for the Church explained, "As with other religious institutions, our leaders want nothing to do with anything other than young boys."










Informed of Trump's visit, one of the former captives said, "That's OK, we're used to getting tortured in the middle of the night."



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