Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Good Morning, Dave: Vindication Hardware

It's been a while since The David Letterman Show ended.  Dave has since guest-hosted The Tonight Show multiple times and created an HBO special titled "Looking for Fun."  (It's a doozy)  But, the Daytime Emmys are also this time of year, and the show has already won a writing award in the non-televised program.  Up next is the hosting award, and we turn (as we did for every important entertainment extravaganza back then) to Dick Clark.

Yes, he introduces Hasselhoff.

As you'll see in the clip:
1. Even in a "serious" setting, Dave wryly sends-up the task of award-show thanks.  Then turning serious, he finishes with another joke.  I can't help but thinking it's said with just a touch of "all these months later...seriously, what am I going to do now?"

2. Deidre Hall applauds him off with a warm smile.  Can't place the guy next to her...guessing he was on Days of Our Lives as well.  Dick Clark smiles and applauds as he takes the stage, but then he did that with everyone, on every show, because he was a god damn pro.

3. Following the award, it goes to outstanding variety series.  I'll leave it up to you which is the better show between Dave and Merv.  Ricky Schroder steals the Merv clip.  Is it let-down applause?  Merv's producer is polite, though.

4. Seeing the ads, the early 80's were THE time for soap operas.

So it goes.  A year ago (in May of 1980), Dave was promoting this show ahead of time on The Tonight Show, and seemed slightly nervous at the daunting challenge ahead of him.  By the time he'd ironed out the kinks, it didn't last much longer.

A year after this (by May 1982), however, he'd be doing the same kind of show, and never looked back.  (Seriously, even at the end of the Late Show, the clips weren't exactly overflowing, particularly from the morning show days)  But there he is, an Emmy winning host, unknowingly biding his time.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Was it good for you? Was I what you wanted me to be?"

I already had plans that night with my girlfriend, and for whatever reason we were looking forward it.  I can't remember why, or what we were going to do besides the usual, when I get a call from a fellow Minnesotan, also a girl, and member of the Prince fan club.  She has procured 2 tickets in the 5th row for that night's concert at Staples Center.  Knowing that I couldn't make the tour rehearsal show in Reno, could I go tonight?

The girlfriend was disappointed.  I reasoned that this was life-changing.  SHE went to the Reno show.  It's only fair.  Honestly, it didn't matter what she said.

The opening act is Morris Day & The Time because, apparently, I have taken a time machine to 1984.  I am singing along to The Walk, dancing like a moron, yelling out requests for Gigolos Get Lonely Too.  They played it when I saw them the summer before at Hollywood Park.  Even just with that set, I'd have been happy.  (No Chili Sauce, but we can't win them all)

But then the main event.  The music, from the beginning, washes over me.  The funk, the horns (Candy Dulfer was on our side of the stage for most of the night).  No tiny pieces of a medley here and there.  It was full on from the new album, and the past.  He pulls out a back to back Shelia E cover just because.

It appears to be intermission...but then through the center of a stage, up comes Prince, sitting in a chair, playing a guitar.  See, there will be no intermission tonight.  He'll do an acoustic mini-concert, in-between songs shooting the shit with the audience.  He defends Kevin Garnett to the L.A. crowd, who just knocked the Wolves out of the playoffs.  

Act 2 begins, and we still don't have our breath.  He covers Sam & Dave because he's fucking Prince.  He does a Zeppelin song because why stop there?  At this rate I remember wanting him to get even weirder, and just pull off a Beatles song.  Or Johnny Cash.  Go for it.  Of course, we knew the end really wasn't the end.  The crowd went bananas just in case...and the band returned.

The Beautiful Ones.  We're right back at First Avenue, singing right to Apollonia, Morris stewing by her side.  Nothing compares 2 U was after, but we know why we're there.

Purple Rain begins, and he's putting everything into it.  I start, in what little brain I have available at the moment, thinking of the bootlegs of him opening for the Rolling Stones at the Coliseum here in 1981.  All the burned out old rockers aren't having him, ignoring his guitar ability, and the audience pelts him with garbage.  Both shows.  And while he returned to southern California in the Controversy tour to an appreciative audience, here he was all those years later.  Sold out arena, everyone screaming.

The song crescendos, and the band holds the note.  He waves and bows to each side of the stage, and turns to mine.  I look and he's crying, blowing kisses to the crowd.  I'm crying.  I'm crying?  I'm cheering, and yes, crying.  Having his music around your life, growing up as he grew popular, always a figure, always reminding everyone of his enormous talent.  Moments of your life, the soundtrack, and how the two intertwine, how else could I be if not emotional after a concert like that, seeing a performer like that?

That's what music does to you.  And that is what a musical genius can do.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Laughing all the way FROM the bank

In-between the madness of Stephen F. Austin State University doing what they do on the basketball court and the pile of tall cans in the backyard as evidence of a "typical" St. Patrick's Day, Cactus League baseball is stretching and straining in Arizona.  For the National League team at Cameltoe Ranch, the Dodgers are getting into mid-season injury form.  Currently, the Dodgers are playing an exhibition against Seattle.  In theory, this game should be on the Dodgers-owned cable channel, SportsnetLA.  But instead, they are replaying Sunday's split-squad defeat to San Diego.

Just to summarize: A channel only Time Warner and Charter subscribers can see, one devoted entirely to the Dodgers and nothing else, can't even air the team's spring training games live because...

And don't think this is an isolated incident.  It's happened again and again this Spring.  "[I]t's a reaction based on viewership of weekday games." said a channel rep.  The channel cut their game coverage in half.  You'll wan't this channel now, right, fans?

The dynamics of sports on television these days shows its value in a multi-platform world.  This, in theory, is a bargaining tool for the owners.  The Dodgers are the owners, Time Warner the facilitators, and it's should be an easy deal, correct?   A "Home Run" for Southern California viewers.

Well, maybe, except for one fatal flaw: The Lakers did it first, and no one cared.

In the Spring of 2011, when the Lakers announced they would forgo Fox Sports West and KCAL, it was met locally with sadness.  "It's the future" was the refrain, and that fans would be getting more content than ever before.  A future where they wouldn't make the conference finals, Phil leaves for the first time for the last time, and "a new era begins."

After the strike (and while Mike Brown slowly brought the team down) the Lakers have been worse than the previous year ever since the channel started.  You can imagine the demand for said channel as each year went by.  And when cable and satellite companies decided to pass along TWC Sportsnet's fee directly to consumers, the complaints were loud.  Louder than the fandom for this can't-miss opportunity to give the Lakers a dedicated home.

The Dodgers didn't give a fuck about what happened to the Lakers interest when they made their own channel.  There would be twice as many games on THEIR channel, and just as the Lakers broke the back of all the cable and satellite companies in "demand," the declines wouldn't happen to the Dodgers.

But those cable and satellite companies had been burned once.  Southern California viewers had been burned once.  Time Warner was only warm, and they needed the cash.  The Dodgers got theirs...8 BILLION.  They don't give a fuck.

"Hey - can't see the games?  Don't look at us.  We own it, but you know, we're a baseball team.  What do we know about dealing with a cable company besides getting bags of cash?  Would you expect us to negotiate a good deal?  How about our deal trading Dee Gordon?  I thought so.  Call your operator and demand it now!"

And there it is.  In 2014, for the first time since the 1940's, there was no local or cable TV for all Dodgers fans.  That's progress.  So what if it's their lowest season ratings on record, and the ratings for Angels' games grew +49% year to year.

2014, and 2015...and, again 2016.  Nothing has changed, the team doesn't care, so...should you?  As a fan, should you go out of your way to spend even MORE?  Will you be satisfied?  Or, like the LA Rams move, will the team just be a memory?

Perhaps...of course, the team is still here.

Monday, February 29, 2016

"It's Easy - Watch Me"

As I type this, I am eating plain pasta.  Rice pasta, specifically bought because it helps the stomach recover from the flu.  But, I don't have the flu.  I'm feeling fine if just a small percentage anxious.  Like most, I prefer pasta with some kind of sauce, but I'm eating it plain for no other reason than to show that it's no big deal...totally fact, quite good.

Just over 20 yeas ago I did this with a group of novice drinkers.  They had smuggled in a bottle of vodka and had no plans beyond that.  It would have to be done straight or on the rocks (from a motel ice machine).  I got the feeling peer pressure would set in, so as the others hemmed and hawed, I quickly replaced the contents with water.  "Let's go" I said as I downed the drink to the excitement of the bunch.  I later learned a lesson: no on remembers the guy who held his liquor with ease.

Saltines with unsalted tops, juice with vegetables blended in, these are the more pedestrian things, and yet even nuttier moments are done...quickly pushed out of my mind, if possible.  Forcing people to do what they should do is no one's specialty.

But you get a smile, a giggle, an uproarious laugh just at the sight, and it's worth it.  Or something.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The LA Rams: Reality

(You'll have to forgive me for not writing about this immediately...I had to take some time to digest it all...)

When I moved to Dealville, the St. Louis Rams were in the NFC Championship game vs. Tampa Bay.  In one of the uglier games I've ever seen at the pro level, they win 11-6 to go to the Super Bowl.  Being in LA, there was muted LA Ram fan response in the papers, but that was it.  Anger toward Georgia (Insert current last name) continued.

After the Super Bowl victory, the possibility of the Rams in LA ever again would only occur if a Super Bowl would be here...and in a rule, the only way to gouge cities for cash and free hotel rooms is if that city has a pro team.  So, I went on eBay and began getting items that people were more than willing to unload.  They'll never move again.

Rams magazines, cocktail glasses (1 bar face mask, naturally), a cap and jersey all came easy and cheap.  In the pre-YouTube era, VHS tapes were purchased: copies of classic Rams games from folks talking about them like they were a favorite but cancelled show.

On the rare chance I'd be at a bar watching NFL games and find a Rams fan, we'd reminisce of the old days.  I was playing more reporter than anything, but such folks liked the walks down memory lane.  They were swanky days.  I'd go home and play Madden (where I'd moved the Rams to LA, naturally).

A little over 10 years ago when this blog began, it didn't take long to sneak in a Rams reference here and there.  If this, too, was to give a current focus with a "swanky days" lens, then the Rams would be one of those references.  Even if it was under the guise of the Steelers winning their first Super Bowl since XIV, when they played the Rams.  

But then the Rams stopped being good.  Having Mike Martz as your head coach will eventually lead to that result.  So, rumblings, if even for a light joke, for posting the "Ram It" video, occur.  More teams played the LA gambit and then get new stadiums...well, St. Louis' stadium is only 10 years old.  No way they'd leave now.  But the seed is there.  You'll note one of the links to the right of this page is "LA Rams highlights" - it's been that way as far as I can remember.  We daydream.

In 2012, with Frank McCourt having "no money to pay" the Dodgers, the team was up for sale.  Stan Kronke was one of the folks bidding for the team...and if you think he WOULDN'T move the Rams if he had the Dodgers, you'd be a fool.  More talk discussed.  At a UCLA basketball game at the Sports Arena, Doc Gold and I mused if the arena should be torn down for a Rams stadium.  Made little sense with it so close to the Coliseum, but isn't impossible to think that, right?  (It's not because, in the near future, it will be torn down in actuality, this time for a soccer stadium for the MLS.  I thought LA already had a team, but forgive me for not knowing shit about US soccer leagues. It hasn't happened yet - Bruce Springsteen is scheduled for multiple dates in the arena this March).

But two years later, in news that might have been quiet across the country but was a foghorn here, Stan buys the land of Hollywood Park.  A lot of it.  The stakes, immediately, are raised.  We could talk (and so many on AM radio did, stuttering while saying the same points over and over, slower and slower) but nothing really had to be said.  The deal was done.

Since then, oh has it been a pain.  NFL owners, writers, all keeping their usual storyline of having the LA bargain chip without actually sending a team to town.  Said windbag writers, waiting to tow (literally) the party line, saying it wouldn't "make sense" for a team to be in LA.  No one cares about the NFL here, because...well, they say so is the only reason given.  "The 2 teams they had left and can I eat the rest of these chicken fingers in the press box?" was the tone of each waste of ink.

So Stan, and those of us who waited so long for the Rams to return, played the dance.  We'd either remain mum on the subject, or rapidly educate those who didn't think it should happen.  The NFL fan of 2016, and the future, holds no sway.  Deals are made, you're a fan or not, they don't care.  They get theirs, you maybe get some, and possibly, a taste of satisfaction along the way.

But the Rams are here now.  For real.  And count me as one of those fans, too - I have to replace the worn eBay items with the real thing, hopefully in proper colors.  (I refuse to buy St. Louis era shades of blue and gold)  But it happened.  Wrongs can be righted.  These are glorious days in Dealville.

As I wrote, 2 years ago: Yes.  The Los Angeles Rams.  This time, for real.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Fear was Real

Back in March, I wrote of a work change that I was nervously, yet cautiously optimistic towards...and that it was all OK.  I suppose, OK to have that fear.

Well, I was right and wrong.  Correct in fear, and wrong in this case, this specifically, because well, I was correct in the fear.  That's the easiest way to put it.  There's a phrase "go with your gut" for a reason.  And if your gut starts to send you grumbles, well, you hope that a fart, a burp, a dump...that will solve it.  Most times, it does.

But there are times your gut will just tell you no: whatever the decision is you made, your gut is telling you that you are wrong, that it always makes the right decisions, and just to show you again, it "calls the shots" if you will.

Day 1 and 2 were bad, but I kept telling people that I felt like the lost, confused new person in school.  No guidance counselors here, though.  No seniors to ask questions or to share advice.  I was mildly comforted with the positive statements that it's "normal" and that "it will get better."

Day 3.  A Wednesday.  April Fool's Day, ironically.  I sat and felt a huge sense of unease.  This was wrong.  All wrong.  The likelihood of it becoming right would not occur.  I wasn't immediately pessimistic, just seeing something with fresh eyes.  This needs to be changed, and fast.

So it's week 1, all done, and I bounce off this theory on professions this time...not the average getting-by folk that fills this town.  Not even the how, just the what.  What do you think?  Do you think the same way I do?  It was 50/50.

After week 2, my mind was made up.

The problem is this, and I share this to all that read my scribbling: I once said that real estate mistakes were the worst to make because it takes so long to correct.  While there is a great deal of truth to that, there are many ways (even over the long run) to solve that problem.  You find another apartment, you sell the house, you move.  You know your end date, good or bad, and do what you can.

Career mistakes, those dangled with fortunes, those are the worst.  Ambition is a great thing, but unless you work for yourself, someone else decides you can work somewhere else.  Hunt, call, write, but it's someone else saying "Yes."

Each day the groan, looking over the shoulder, ready for the inane...wondering why...the best of intentions leading to this and...

Oh shit, it's 6:00?  Another day...

Friday, October 23, 2015

Good Morning, Dave: Fri, 10/24/80, The Final Episode

(This is the second of 2 parts detailing the end of The David Letterman Show.  Part 1, where the show traveled to Cresco, Iowa, is below.

With Dave's retirement earlier this year, other collectors put clips, but curiously not the full episode, online.  Not knowing if those clips will last or not, the following is a look at the last program.)

Inasmuch as a show can "build-up" to a final episode, I can't remember a time where the show itself celebrated its last episode, particularly one that was not a ratings success.  Was some of it being thankful for the chance to do the show?  Yes, but I can't help but think this was for the show's fan base.  In case anyone hadn't seen the show before and were tuning in for the first and last time, I can't say this episode is typical in any way.  Hell, it's not typical for TV in 1980.  But there also seems to be an air of optimism for the future, though we know that no one knew it at the time.  But enough philosophy: let's get to it.

The Rainbow Grill Dancing Girls open the show in the same costumes, doing the same routine, and the same song that would later be used for the first episode of Late Night.  Harve Mann is also announced as a feature guest.

"And now, a man who has been replaced by two game shows, David Letterman!"

Our sometimes cynical host can't help but be swept up in the ebullient nature of the act, and the audience.  The crowd is really going for it: a standing ovation, screaming and cheering.  It's the kind of response you'd love for your last episode, regardless of the reason.  

Oh, and the audience?  They brought more signs, and they are amazing.

(TV viewers can be cruel on occasion)

The audience is sitting in the aisles, as Dave thanks the dancing girls "The Silverman Sisters" a not-so-subtle jab at the executive who, while championing the show, gave some off-the-mark creative suggestions.     

Dave: Today is our last show on the air.  Monday, Las--
Audience: BOOOOOOO!
Dave: Have these people been frisked?

Before Dave gets to viewer mail, he lists those who sent well wishes, including KGW in Portland.  He also gets a chance to overuse a game show buzzer next to his desk.  Considering his replacement, he goes to this well often. 

One viewer letter writes with anger that the letter, written by a viewer in Taunton, MA, was read as being from Taunton, ME.  The author suggests Dave never visit Taunton, MA, which leads to a sincere apology and his invitation for the author to be a guest on the show next week. The crowd eats it up.  

(BUZZ)  "Pretty much all you need for a show."  (BUZZ)  "Just want to get you folks re-accustomed to this."

Going to break, instead of the usual photos with household hints and the like, it's the resumes of the staff.  The symphony orchestra also begins to play "I Can't Tell You Why" by The Eagles, perhaps an appropriate choice for today.

Wil Shriner is out as we return (his resume is shown as the show returns from commercial with his first name "Will") and both men show off their fashions for the 80's

Dave acknowledges they're already low on time, so they cut to the chase and show a video Wil put together of the Live-TV mistakes the show endured during its run.   We see phone calls that don't work, a phone call that did work to an old lady who tells Dave "I heard a rumor you were going off the air.", and a shepherd having, well, some trouble:

Dave interrupts the video to say that they have to run a commercial, but someone else on the staff yells out to show the fire clip (which was on an earlier post here on the blog) leading Dave to admit "This is funny: we make mistakes while showing mistakes"

Next out, Edwin Newman and Frank Owens are out giving Dave a chance to ask them about the early days of their careers as well.  

Frank talks of his early career at the Apollo Theater and says that the theater no longer has Amateur Night...but a handful of years later, it would be back, and Frank would be the musical leader of Showtime at the Apollo.

Next, the final installment of "Coffee Cup Theater" - a regular feature that showed up more on the 90 minute version of the show.  It's the "Suicide Squad" re-edited out of sequence for comedic effect.  It's funny, and it's also a time filler.  Looking back, I wonder if Dave would have chosen more time with his staff instead of this, but it's only a minute or two here.  

We follow this with "Stupid Writer Tricks" - giving each of the remaining staff a chance to perform their own material that Dave rejected.  Gerard Mulligan tells a joke and then balloons fall from the ceiling.  This seems to be yet another screw-up, and all Dave can do is shrug.  The late Paul Raley is next, to do a rather spot-on impression of Dave, and then deliver a joke that was correctly vetoed.  Ron Richards is next, followed by Rich Hall.  Rich states that the Statue of Liberty says "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses."  "I noticed you don't see too many huddled masses anymore, so we have one here today."

Frank and the band play "Another One Bites the Dust" (another appropriate tune) and we see the resume of Dave's future director, Hal Gurnee:

Dave then introduces the rest of the show's staff to the audience.  Producer Barry Sand shows all the phones he's connected to for a live show: the East Coast, West Coast, and his jeweler.  Announcer Bill Wendell is next, who also followed Dave all the way through CBS.  Bill mentions his first network gig, and a man Dave reminds him of: Ernie Kovacs.  Kathleen Ankers did artwork for the show, and also followed Dave to Late Night.  (She played Peggy, the Foul-Mouthed Chambermaid on the show)  

Bob Pook, who created many of the bumper photos (and did so on Late Night) is also introduced, and it's noteworthy considering he's wearing a David Letterman Show T-Shirt.

More brief introductions to the staff, and then it's time to wrap it up.  With the future unknown, it doesn't hurt for Dave to post his resume and headshot as well.

Dave takes another moment to thank the audience, particularly the mail they received, "the only one consistent piece of support on the show."  He thanks Merrill, Hal, and Barry again...and now, the ending.  Please let Harve serenade you (with reference in the viewer mail as well):

No good-bye, no final words.  It's all there: the TV business.  We go out with balloons, confetti, an up-tempo version of the theme, and a happy audience.  

Years later, it would be easy to gloss over the situation with the off-quoted remark that this was the right show and talent in the wrong time period.  That's true, but you don't do something like this without the thought that 1. it should be on the  TV air and 2. it would be a breath of fresh air for viewers.  A year and a half later, it arrived again with nearly all the same bits at a later hour.  The housewives who like it wouldn't see it much, but the teens and college students home for the summer kept those hours.  The rest was history.

If Dave doesn't get a second chance with Late Night, it's hard to envision what would happen not so much to his career, but to so many others the shows influenced.  Moreover, if he doesn't get that show, how many of these Betas survive?  Back then, considering the prices of cassettes, you had to record for purpose if you were going to save something.  It shows that people thought a little-watched TV show in 1980 was worth hanging on to years later, but it was a correct prediction.

Being a toddler at the time, I was left to ask my mother (a Dave fan as well) if she remembered that crazy summer 35 years ago.  Home taking care of 2 kids, did she ever find the time to watch?  Or even remember?  Her response was something that was likely happening (in moderation, but still) across the country:

"I just remember saying 'there's this funny new show on in the morning.  I like him; this David Letterman guy is funny."