Monday, November 19, 2007

Dick Wilson-Mr. Whipple of Charmin ads--RIP

Another of the iconic actors seen in vintage TV commercials, Dick Wilson--Mr. Whipple of the "please don't squeeze the Charmin" toilet paper ads--passed away recently.

Here's a link to an obituary article:

A sad sidebar to the mention of Wilson's 1999 comeback as Mr. Whipple: Wilson joined the Screen Actors Guild commercials strike against commercial producers/ad agencies in 2000.  No more Mr. Whipple commercials were made.  Instead, Charmin introduced the animated "bear family" ad series--a campaign which lasts to this day.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A gathering of too few poets in Santa Monica.

Last night, I attended the seventh anniversary celebration of a poetry venue in Santa Monica.

I remember how the venue began.

Once upon a time, there was an Affluent Progressive Bookstore on the Santa Monica Promenade (now closed).  The APB's owner, who disliked the Friday evening poetry host (even though his readings were quite well-attended and appreciated), relieved him of his volunteer position.

With the aid of a now-deceased icon of local poetry (a generous man and one of the best performance poets I've ever witnessed), the former APB poetry host was able to find a venue on Second Street.

Since the fall of 2000, The Rapp Saloon (located in the International Youth Hostel) has displayed the talents of various in-town and touring poets, spoken word artists, musicians and comedians.  And it has allowed poets of various political persuasions to speak their minds during their time at the podium.

Last night, I was expecting a seventh anniversary celebration  with all four of the current hosts in attendance as well as several of the former hosts of the Rapp.  And I was also hoping to see a fair-sized cross section of poets currently and formerly active at the venue.

Unfortunately, the attendance was sparse: only two of the four current hosts, plus the founding host referred to in the above paragraphs.  Two nonpoets in the audience, one veteran stand-up comic/poet, one performance poet active on the scene since the 90s, one young male poet, one poet now living in Oregon and myself.

At this point, I could go on a rant about how generosity goes underappreciated (one of tonight's hosts even took the time and effort to provide food and drink at the reading's close)  and how the poetry community is more than ever a version of the school playground where alliances, paying proper "respect" to those perceived to have power (and influence on booking) and being "published" by literary journals/small presses with "high standards" are the things Los Angeles poets value most.  Not to mention bathing in a sort of smugness as to how they're better-informed, more sensitive, more eager to pre-empt "negative" behavior and more politically aware than just about everyone else in Los Angeles/Orange Counties.

But I haven't been to the Rapp too often in the last couple of years, so the rant would sound rather hollow.

Instead, I'll be positive and praise The Rapp Saloon for still being a venue that practices democracy in its weekly gathering of poets from many, if not all, portions of the local community.

And I'll be more than happy to return for the eighth anniversary next year.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Yes, it's true: this silly question was asked at the Democratic Pres. Debate in Vegas.

I watched about two minutes of the replay of the Democratic Presidential candidate debate on CNN last night.  I turned it off when a female UNLV student asked Hillary Clinton a "fun question" about whether she preferred diamonds or pearls.

Hillary wanted both. 

Maybe I'm a conspiracy theorist, but it seemed like another planted question (from the Hillary campaign) to me.

And a really vapid planted question at that.


Here's a link to an ATLANTIC MONTHLY blog which explains a bit more about the "diamonds or pearls" issue (thanks to HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE for alerting me to its existence).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

LIONS FOR LAMBS: Yes, Robert Redford is out of touch.

Here's a link to Nikki Finke's DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD DAILY site, specifically concerning the (mostly political conservative) response to Robert Redford's LIONS FOR LAMBS--being whipped by both left and right for (as one poster to Finke's comments section suggested) "preaching"--i.e. telling people again what they already know about the War on Terror and the debate over how well or badly it has been handled.

And it can be said that Robert Redford's film of Matthew Michael Carnahan's (THE KINGDOM) script is sometimes clunky and heavy-handed in a way that might remind some older viewers of, say, either Stanley Kramer or Tom (BILLY JACK) Laughlin message movies.

It can also be said that Redford is out of touch for expecting both liberals and conservatives (as well as centrists and libertarians) to sit in a theater for 90 minutes and--regardless of political affiliation--be moved by the film's patriotic belief that Americans should do something for their country besides claiming powerlessness and opting instead for the comfort of giant-screen HDTVs and luxury cars and houses.

But we live in a nation where those who don't believe the way we do aren't just wrong, they're ABSOLUTELY wrong. 

And the left can be as guilty about indulging in this behavior as the right.  I can remember all the invective hurled at John Wayne in the 60s for his loudly-vocalized Republican politics.  When Charlton Heston finally dies from the ravages of Alzheimer's Disease, there will be a loud "progressive" chorus of cruel laughter and denunciation of his later-life political beliefs and affiliation with the National Rifle Association. 

We may have to wait until 2015 at the earliest before there's even a millimeter of change in the way people perceive their political/relgious/social beliefs as something demanding an apocalyptic response when those beliefs are challenged.

Meanwhile, it's easier for many people to hate Redford, Heston, George Clooney, Bruce Willis, Michael Moore, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon for assuming that celebrity comes with responsibility to share opinions about how good or bad things are in the United States.

And when we don't like what we hear from left or right-wing celebrities, we'll just keep yelling until we shut them up once and for all.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A writer on poetry readings.

Here's a link to an essay by Eric Howard in the e-lit-zine Poetic Diversity offering his take on improving poetry readings:

A simple explanation of the Writers Guild strike.

Here's a link to a YouTube video (thanks to Jeffrey Wells of HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE for originally linking it on his site) which offers a simple, eminently understandable explanation of why the Writers Guild is currently striking:

Thursday, November 1, 2007

So you're a celebrity member of the "literati"....

As Yogi Berra once allegedly said, "It's deja vu all over again."

I recently received an e-mail from a literary poetry reading trumpeting that they were mentioned in THE LOS ANGELES TIMES new Guide section.

Yes, there are several poetry/prose readings mentioned.  But would the newspaper have bothered if celebrities weren't involved in some of them?

The cover of Guide is a pensive/serious shot of actor/writing student James Franco [best known for playing James Dean, the son of Robert De Niro in CITY BY THE SEA and the son of Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin in the SPIDER-MAN films--not to mention an occasional member of the Judd Apatow stock company].

Inside the Guide article, there's a color photo of two alluring young women at a literary salon at Adrien Grenier's [ENTOURAGE, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA] house.  The caption underneath starts off with: "Not your grandmother's book club....."

I'm old enough to remember the first time I was aware of actors writing poetry in Los Angeles.  It was around 1990, when then-and-now scenester Eve Babitz wrote an article for the old MOVIELINE magazine [long before it morphed into HOLLYWOOD LIFE] about celeb poetry readings at Largo [then called Cafe Largo] on Fairfax Avenue.

Poets then included Drew Barrymore and Charlie Sheen. 

I'm curious as to whether or not Eve will breathlessly chronicle Mr. Franco and his current peers' works of Word Art.

If she does, please let me know by posting a response here.