Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pixarland Update: Sewage backup at Ariel's Grotto

We used our resident 2-Fer pass at Disneyland’s California Adventure park over the weekend. After we broke the story that the park may be transformed into “Pixarland,” we figured we’d take a visit. Entrance was free because we’d visited Disneyland two weeks earlier, so we took our time and drove down Saturday afternoon. The place truly is a California Adventure. Like San Pedro. Without the magic.

We don’t expect a theme park to be as magical and historic and culturally significant as Disneyland across the way. But California Adventure (DCA) is kind of a drag. It’s crowded. It’s noisy. It’s not special. And it’s too— California.

Too many of the workers—the park’s ambassadors—are businesslike, annoyed, bullying-- maybe in training for the Big Show, maybe overworked. We found out soon enough.

The little one wanted lunch at Ariel’s Grotto, the restaurant on the water where Disney characters come to the tables. The hostess, a young Shirley Stoler-type with similar commandant demeanor, asked if we knew the rules (22 dollars for adults, 14 for kids for Marie Callendar quality-- you’re paying for the characters), and finally got us to a table outside. We waited about another fifteen minutes and made a couple of pleas to busboys for service, before a waitress showed up and cheerily told us the restaurant wasn’t serving food because there was a “sewage backup in the kitchen.”

She didn’t tell us to leave, or say the place was closed. She left us there. Out front, Shirley sighed in exasperation when the little one ran over to the woman dressed as Belle, then told us we could wait because there was a possibility the sewage backup in the kitchen could be repaired in five minutes. “If there’s a sewage backup in the kitchen,” we suggested, “we'd hope you'd close the kitchen for 24 hours and bring in the hazmat suits!”

We got the kids to Strips, Dips ‘n Chips, the place where the phenomenal Disney invention, the ketchup sauce-dipping trough, was apparently intoduced. And still hidden. It’s under the roller coaster. Busy. Like the Santa Monica Pier. Without the magic.

The dipping troughs were in use at every table and bench, but the lines were long, the food with the dips not as appetizing as the troughs. We moved on, and somewhere near the fake California vineyards, were intimidated by a female worker in sunglasses who directed us away from one of the “party zones” that materialize in the middle of the street. She windmilled her arm like we were in the middle of a freeway and glared until we were out of the funzone.

We headed to the newest attraction, the Pixar Monsters Inc. ride, and on the way over fed the kids at Award Wieners in the Hollywood section (like Universal Studios without the studios. Or the magic). Fries and hotdogs on our laps. And no dipping troughs!

Another encounter with a dumb employee in the gift shop: a should-be-retiree behind the counter who scared Sam by telling him a kid had gotten dizzy on the Monsters Inc. ride. Then he told the little one that the wait was an hour and a half. He was right about the wait. The sign at the door said the wait was 65 minutes from the door (the Disney folk are very good at getting the exact times down-- and keeping guests moving throughout). And it was at least another half hour to get to the door. No Quick Pass. No go.

The kids played in the Bug's Life area, which is like a playground in a park. Without the magic.

It was time to hit Downtown Disney. Most anything worthwhile in the park was Disneyland-related, anyway, like Disney Animation (and its store, Off The Page, with Disneyana, art, and a kind and knowledgeable staff), which was fun for the kids, but similar to what you’d find in a big Disney Store in a shopping mall. Without the— you get it.

Disneyland, we’ll be back soon. Pixarland, here we come.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Weather Terror

Renegade cells?

We’ve been in the television news business for 25 years, we’ve worked with the foremost weather people, including Frank Field, Al Roker and Linda Gialanella, and we've never heard of renegade cells-- at least not when it comes to the weather. But here this morning was the frumpy weather lady on KNBC-TV's morning show (when they hired her she was advertised as kooky, but KNBC switched her to frumpy right away), talking about a storm system that was working its way from Santa Barbara, and she was using terms of terror.

She wasn’t talking about storm fronts or low fronts. She was describing the approaching storm as “renegade cells.”

We understand that scare tactics are the key to ratings in local news. Tease a story about an anthrax threat or poison chicken and make the viewer hang into see it’s not really in their area at all. Report every drizzle as if it's Noah's next flood. Scare the bejeezus out of us us with crime. And since September 2001, they’ve had a grand time cutting away from car chases to scared the children with reports of terror threats.

Now they're terrorizing us directly by adding terror buzzwords to mundane segments. What genius consultant is advising KNBC-TV local news to add terror to its newscasts? Who told the weather lady to describe the storm as "renegade cells'? We can't find that in the rip-and-read wire service reports she relies on. Are they bringing in other terror code words into the news? Is this a national phenomenon or is it restricted to the morning news in L.A.?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Murray Slaughter is our mayor

Anyone who’s worked as a newswriter in a local television newsroom, putting words in the mouths of the fifty-dollar haircuts, making them sound witty, urbane and knowledgeable, has been called “Murray” at one time or another. Even those of us who didn't watch the Mary Tyler Moore Show got all the references, and knew what it was like to be Murray Slaughter, playing the ventriloquist with his typewriter.

Now Murray Slaughter is going to be our mayor.

Sort of.

We live in a town at the end of Sunset Boulevard, out where the road meets the Pacific Ocean. Lots of celebrities live here, mostly established and older, especially in the area they call "The Riviera," near the Riviera Country Club, where OJ Simpson was seen on his cellphone, having one last—or second-to-last-- fight with Nicole on the day she was murdered. The Reagans lived on Amalfi, Arnold Schwarzenegger still toots by in his touring car, Spielberg and Billy Crystal can be seen and Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman had a place high on the hill.

The real Palisades celebs are the ones we bump into at the supermarkets or the Sunday farmer’s market. Sydney Pollack and Peter Graves pushing carts and doing their own shopping at Gelson’s. Carl Lewis. Dom DeLuise. Larry David. A couple of character actors and comics who’ve wound up on Curb Your Enthusiasm (including the great Stuart Pankin). Jennifer Garner. Mary McDonnell from Dances with Wolves (we had to look up her name). Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and her husband. Ron Shelton and Lolita Davidovich, out a lot.

It’s a Hollywood town with small town pretentions. There’s a church school down the hill that has an annual carnival with Tom Hanks acting as emcee every year. A couple of years back, he took a break, let Kurt Russell take over and then gave the mic to Glenn Frey to sing Happy Birthday. We thought we’d walked into a bad Ron Howard movie, which in some ways we did. Every year, there’s an old-fashioned Fourth of July parade, and old stars like Nanette Fabray and John Raitt are boosted up on the back seats of old cars to wave to the crowd. Well, not John Raitt anymore. He died before last year’s parade.

Our town also has the tradition of an honorary celebrity mayor. Anthony Hopkins was mayor here for awhile, before he moved to Bill and Cindy Hudson’s House in Malibu (see Cloud 9).

For the past four years, the role's been played by Steve Guttenberg, who lives single in the Highlands, a planned community way up in the hills, with one lone, long access road, that guarantees privacy. Steve has played mayor as Nice Jewish Boy, showing up at Mort’s Deli, walking and pressing the flesh in the parades, and showing his punim around town. The most high-profile gig he’s had during his term was directing, producing, and starring in P.S. Your Cat Is Dead, based on a play about an actor who ties up and pulls down the pants of a gay burglar. Anyway…

Mayor Guttenberg’s term ends in June. And the Chamber of Commerce has picked Gavin MacLeod, Murray Slaughter, to replace him. Gavin MacLeod, who turns 75 this week, is better known as Captain Stubing from Love Boat, and in fact, still cashes in on the image. He told the local paper he’d agreed to be mayor after he was assured that his frequent business trips wouldn’t conflict. He's been a spokesman for Princess Cruises since 1986, and often travels on various cruise ships to participate in naming ceremonies and other events.

He says he’ll “keep in touch with the community” by writing letters to the paper when he's out of town, a tradition started by former honorary mayor Jerry Lewis (1953) and continued today with Guttenberg's "Gute News." He’ll also make hay by having his installation dinner videotaped by a crew from the reality show, Living In TV Land.

We said hello to the future mayor at the parade a couple of years back—shook his hand and told him he was an inspiration to TV newswriters everywhere. But MacLeod was surprised when we offered the compliment. It took him a moment for it to register that his role as Murray had an impact greater than the Love Boat (even though Ted Knight was the honorary mayor here from 1981 to 1983).

Then again, maybe he forgot because Murray Slaughter, the character from the Mary Tyler Moore Show, was a Jew (at least MacLeod always played him like a bisexual Jew). And we tabloid babies also remember Gavin MacLeod as the swinging television star who dumped his wife in the early Eighties, then suddenly remarried her (with Pat Boone as his Best Man) a few years later when he came out as a weeping Born Again Evangelical Christian and spokesman for something called “Born Again Marriages.”

Murray Slaughter is a Pentacostal evangelizing Christian, starring with his wife Patti on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the Benny Hinn hucksters that get poor people and old ladies to send in their money.

He recently talked about his marriage and mission with the Evangel News:

“We were married the first time for seven years, but it was under New Age teachings. We had been taught there was no such thing as sin-- we could do whatever we wanted as long as it made us happy.

“I became very selfish, and when I left Patti I didn’t think about how she would feel. We were divorced for three years and I didn’t think I would ever see her again. She was stunned and hurt when I left. Then she went to a weekly prayer meeting of ex-wives of actors and they started praying for me.

"Meanwhile, doctors discovered that my mother... had a cyst the size of a baseball in her brain... The morning of the surgery I prayed to God, If You give my mother more time on this Earth I will turn my life over to You. It was a sincere prayer. I was still on The Love Boat, but I didn’t even care if I acted anymore. I was living in a big house in Beverly Hills all by myself… But how vacuous that is if Jesus isn’t living there with you.

"Then for some reason I called Patti in Santa Monica. I told her about the operation and she said she would pray for my mom. Then I said, 'Can I come over and see you?' I didn’t even know I was saying this, but the Lord had set it up because these women were praying.

"When she opened the door, Patti said, 'I’m sorry, Gavin. Your dinner is cold. It’s been waiting for three years.' She told me she had given her life to Christ and explained what that meant. Then she went into the bedroom and came out with a Bible with my name inscribed on it. The next week I went with her to a meeting of Born Again Marriages and I gave my life to Christ on September 14, 1984. Patti and I remarried on June 30, 1985."

Is it difficult to be accepted in Hollywood as a Christian?
"I do get a chance to witness to whomever I’m working with as an ambassador for Christ. What is difficult is finding work that I can do — projects that God would approve of. I only do things that Patti and I have prayed about and really feel they are the Lord’s will. For some people, my behavior is the only Bible they’ll ever read. I tell anyone who wants to change what a difference it makes being a born-again Christian."

So our Honorary Mayor is Murray Slaughter, Captain Stubing, Princess Cruise spokesman and Honorary Ambassador for Christ. That's what it's like living in TV Land.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Great comedian, great cop

We'd see him often at the Bel Age Hotel, always in the company of a beautiful, younger blonde.

Don Knotts was, and remains, the funniest actor in the history of television, creating the most memorable character in the greatest comedy series in the history of television.

Favorite episode: "Citizen's Arrest,"
season 4 (12.16.63),
featuring Jim Nabors.

(Prediction: He will get the greatest applause in the Academy Awards "In Memoriam" dead people segment.)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

James Bond's Porn Girl

Everybody’s jumping at Daniel Craig this week, saying he won’t be a good James Bond. Blah blah blah. He's a good actor. Bond will be lifted to a new level. We waited an entire week to see if anyone would get on the real story: the new Bond girl is an arthouse DP porn queen, showing more snatch than Guy Ritchie, making Sharon Stone look like Mary Poppins and Maud Adams like Katie Holmes...

No, not Lee Tamahori.

Eva Green is more Suicide Girl than Maxim material, best known for her role in The Dreamers, Bernardo Bertolucci’s boner-boundary-breaking ménage au trios artfest, the most lasting impressions of which are the Internet freeze-frame grabs of Eva’s crotch. She's arty. She's European. She's Cinemax.

See her porn shots here.

This being 2006, most young moviegoers don’t know much of Bertolucci beyond his casting of Keanu Reeves as Siddhartha or Liv Tyler in some coming of age sex flick. He makes pretty pictures, but for more than thirty years, his real contribution to cinema has been pushing the perv limit, polishing X-ratings for the butter stick sodomy of that mad girl in Last Tango in Paris and the memorable vision of Jill Clayburgh’s full-frame butt as she's having sex with her son in the incest comedy, La Luna (her assiest, and Fred Gwynne’s classiest role). Not that Bertolucci's not an artist. We know. We’re artists too. We’re behind the current movie Cloud 9, and any of our female stars (Angie Everhart or Gabrielle Reece most obviously) would be more palatable Bond girls than Bertolucci’s latest silly flasher chick, convinced by his Italioartistofakaclassitakaoffayouundies line of bullshit to spread all for a demiporn movie that ended up on HBO and screen grabs faster than she got her next role in yet another language.

Anyway, anyone giving Danny Craig a hard time at this point didn’t see Layer Cake, and certainly didn't live through the Seventies and old Roger Moore playing Bond with smut and a girdle (and Maud Adams, now that we think of it— look up her scandal and report back).

Best Bond was Connery, of course, but George Lazenby is in second place, with the best Bond in the best Bond “film,” On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Timothy Dalton was the low point, always annoyed and upper class gaseous, unmoved by the Bond girls, his offscreen taste taken by old scrubber Vanessa Redgrave.

And let’s face it. Pierce Brosnan, though a nice guy, was always a lightweight, spindly Bond, (NY Times on Goldeneye: “When Bond rides in a tank through St. Petersburg during a scenery-crunching chase scene, Michael Dukakis comes to mind...”) too agreeable to go with the flow and be a product placement shill, and giving over half of his movies to the likes of Halle Berry and Michelle Yeoh.

But what of Eva Green? She's the first Bond porn girl. Will she make history in Casino Royale as the first nude Bond girl in the 007 franchise? Danny Craig’s a down and dirty lad who could do Ian Fleming proud with a slapper like Eva.

What was Cubby’s family thinking?

Sharon Stone, meet Eva Green...

...meet Jill Clayburgh...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Exclusive! Disneyland to meet PIXARLAND?

Will Disney's California Adventure park morph into PIXARLAND?

Highly-placed sources in Northern California tell us there are talks going on right now to do just that-- close California Adventure and turn it into Pixarland.

Disney acquired the Pixar animation company last month. California Adventure's latest attraction is the Disney-Pixar Monsters Inc. ride. That could be the harbinger.

One Disney stockholder tells Tabloid Baby: "DCA should stand for 'Dismal Commercial Accident.' The park has been a failure since Day One. It's too off-the-shelf and lacks in anything that makes it uniquely Disney. But turning it into Pixarland-- and I hope it works out-- will reinvent the theme park. It can be a Disneyland for the new millennium."

See Hollywood Thoughts for the story of California Adventure's flop.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Cloud 9 star faces death threats!

Gary Busey, a star of the new motion picture Cloud 9, is being threatened by political and religious zealots because of his latest movie role.

The Oscar-nominated actor, who plays himself in Cloud 9, is being accused of “blood libel” against Jews for his starring role in the Turkish movie Valley of the Wolves: Iraq as a Jewish U.S. army doctor who cuts out the organs of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and sells them to wealthy foreign clients.

Valley of the Wolves: Iraq (Kurtlar Vadisi: Irak in Turkish), is described by one Turkish newspaper as “our revenge for Midnight Express.” It’s breaking box office records in Turkey, is set for release in a dozen Arab and European countries, and was at the Berlin International Film Festival last week, looking for a US distributor.

The Jerusalem Post writes: “The Busey character, listed only as The Doctor, is far removed from the Jewish stereotype in both appearance and manner, but hardly a credit to his heritage…. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, noted that the cutting out of organs from innocent people ‘wasn't created out of thin air. It is a revival of the ancient blood libel against the Jews.’”

Debbie Schlussel (a self-styled “Jewish Ann Coulter” who was a frequent annoying caller to Howard Stern’s radio show--hey, whatever happened to Howard?) leads the attack on Busey’s life, writing in Frontpagemag.com that Busey is “now an official member of the Anti-Semite club. In the grand tradition of Hitler, the authors of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, etc., etc., etc.”

She adds: “We have a suggestion for all Jewish-American doctors: Since Gary Busey defamed you, refuse him as a patient.”

Debbie Schlussel is an idiot. Her fatwah on Gary Busey shows she’s no better than the Ayatollah or the Taliban, and if Howard Stern is still letting her call in to his satellite radio show, he ought to invite her into the studio and strap her in to the spanking machine.

Gary Busey’s an artist, as a viewing of Cloud 9, the hilarious motion picture written and produced by Burt Kearns & Brett Hudson of Frozen Pictures, and Academy Award-winner Albert S. Ruddy, will attest. The movie, starring Burt Reynolds, D.L. Hughley, Paul Rodriguez, Angie Everhart and Gabrielle Reece, is just out on Fox Home Entertainment DVD, and features the exclusive, side-splitting bonus feature, Being Gary Busey: The Cameo Outtakes!

Busey took on a difficult film role (in Valley of the Wolves, that is— in Cloud 9, he's playing Busey). He’s got nothing to apologize for. Nor does Anthony Hopkins (who plays an important part in Cloud 9), for playing Hitler.

Now watch. Drudge will pick up the story, Fox News and the talk radio idiots will then jump on the story and someone will start selling Gary Busey t-shirts of Gary Busey wearing a ticking time-bomb turban.

By the way, Busey was reportedly arrested last week at LAX. We wonder if there’s any connection.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Last Call for Pirates of the Caribbean

This is the last weekend to ride Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland before it closes for renovations and depprivations. We can only hope they don't screw it up and turn it into something out of the Universal Studios tour.

Pirates is a classic ride, opened in February 1967, the last Disneyland attraction supervised personally by Walt himself, and 39 years in, it remains one timeless, transporting Disneyland adventure—audio-animatronic, politically incorrect, scary, funny and awe-inspiring in a way the new movies just can’t be.

It’s on water, a boat ride, a journey that moves through the darkness, plunging into an abyss and into another world: a pirate seige of a Caribbean village, from initial sea attack through looting, gluttony, greed, and conflict, all to a jaunty pirate tune. The ride was refurbished in 1997 in a stab at political correctness, and several gags hinting at sexual assault or exploitation were altered (where a pirate once chased a woman, he now chases a woman carrying a food tray)— though the most blatant example, with women being auctioned, remains.

This time around, they’re adding figures representing Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and his nemesis Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) from the successful movie (and series) the ride inspired. It would be a shame and cheat the kids if the figures look too much like Madame Tussaud replicas, because seeing real-life movie stars in the middle of all these life-like yet definitely cartoonish, odd-shaped figures will surely slide this experience from Disneyana wonder to Eisnerana tie-in (though we have to admit, they could stuff Mackenzie Crook, stick him somewhere along the boat channel, and he'd fit right in).

We visited the park last week, specifically to take one last ride. As the Theme Park Insider posts: “You begin your adventure by floating gently through the Blue Bayou, only to drift into a forgotten crypt. Ignoring the warning to turn back, you plunge into a fantastic dream of pirates, treasure and battles upon both sea and land. Yet the enduring musical theme by X. Atencio and George Bruns keeps the mood joyous throughout. Only the most sensitive toddlers will not find something here to elicit a smile.”

Actually, Sam was a sensitive toddler and screamed his head off with a healthy "Get me out of here!" from the moment we took that dip from the bayou and into the tomb, but that was when he was about three or four and every dark Disney ride is a bit scarier than you remember. But yes, in its final days, Pirates remains refreshingly politically incorrect, with debauchery, torture, drinking, sexiness and gunplay. Last week, our little one kept her eyes closed through the scarier parts and dug in the fingernails with each cannonball splash, but was more alarmed by the particularly bumpy and creaky boatride, which seems in need of repairs, as well. The ride was rough and stop-and-start, and strained on the final climb to the exit.

When we did walk out into the light, one of the Disneyland workers with a clipboard stopped us by the entrance to Club 33 and polled us about what we thought of the ride and whether we ”noticed anything new” on it. Which made us wonder if they’d already slipped in a new character or two-- and if they did and we didn’t notice, all the better.

The ride will reopen on June 24, in time for the new Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest movie on July 7. We’ll have our report. Send us yours.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

If You Talk Too Much, My Head Will Explode!

Every once in awhile something jumps off the car radio. This time it’s “If You Talk Too Much (My Head Will Explode).”

Heard it more than once on KROQ here in LA. A woman sings the title in low-fi a couple of times, birdies tweet, and then the band kicks in. Yeah. We looked it up and found the group is called People In Planes. From Cardiff, Wales. Of course, the title provides the catchy hook, but the song sticks. Heard more of them. They’re good. And not manufactured like the Arctic Monkeys, we don’t think.

We looked a little more and found the album drops on March 28.

Looked a little further and found that Joaquin Phoenix directed the music video.

Small world. Joaquin Phoenix is featured in a very sad scene in Tabloid Baby. (Coincidentally, he showed up at the Tabloid Baby west coast book release party at the Bel Age Hotel's Diaghalev Bar in November 1999. The east coast launch party took place a week later at Elaine’s in Manhattan. Michael Caine wandered into that one.)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Geraldo At Small

When Roger Ailes took over the Fox Television stations after Rupert Murdoch’s son Lachlan quit, one of his first moves was to cancel the newly-revived A Current Affair and replace it with a cobbled-together show starring his old pal Geraldo Rivera.

Well, Geraldo At Large continues to draw lower ratings than the show it replaced.

Ratings Box: What's Hot/What's Not
Geraldo at Large Update:

After 14 weeks of a limited to-date run, Twentieth Television first-run half-hour strip Geraldo at Large remains down from both the lead-in and year-ago time period averages. Based on 37 markets, Geraldo at Large is averaging a 2.3/ 4 in the overnights-- down 35 percent in rating and one share point from the lead-in average (3.5/ 7). The Feb. 2006 time period average was a 2.5/ 5.

Geraldo At Large's failure was in the cards from the start. Ailes only killed A Current Affair because it was a competitive threat to Fox News' greener news staff, and shifted Geraldo from Fox News because he had a fat Ailes contract but didn't fit the Fox News political profile. After playing the fool in Afghanistan and New Orleans, Geraldo is no longer the legend of Good Night America (far more influential to today's crop than the Good Night COMMA and Good Luck myth), but a parody from another era. And his show is obviously being produced by newspeople who don't get the joke, or the difference between news broadcasts and syndicated magazine entertainment. It's apparent as the show veers from hardcore tabloid stories to 1980s-Magid-style-local news segments on trumped-up consumer dangers like “Killer I-pods.”

Then again, who's watching? If anyone wants to fix things, they could start with the promos. They've got these jarring, crude ads running in and around Fox prime time, during and near family shows like American Idol and Skating with Celebrities. One minute it's Joey from Full House on hockey skates and then Geraldo's barking a world's-ending tease about sickos, perverts, child sex fiends, boy-raping school teachers and porn stars. Then the kids ask questions like, “Daddy, what’s this Geraldo (with a hard “G”) talking about?"

He’s literally scaring the kids!

(For the inside story of Geraldo’s original foray into tabloid television, read Tabloid Baby, and chapters like ”Geraldo Finds His Hitler”!)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Jerry brings his Telethon back to Vegas. Almost.

Variety reports that Jerry Lewis is bringing his Labor Day Telethon back to his hometown of Las Vegas after ten years and a brush with death. Looks like God, whom Jerry once accused of having “goofed” when he created dystrophic kids, has spared him for another run in the desert.

Hooray for Jerry Lewis. Jerry, as we all agree, is the greatest comedian of our era, a wonderful film clown, and a great and influential filmmaker (read The Total Film-Maker if you think this is satire).

So it’s too bad that Jerry is not being welcomed back into the heart of the action on the Strip, but is actually bringing his telethon to a squaresville hotel on the edge of Las Vegas, far from the neon and big money, off the I-15 highway. Fans won't be wandering in off the Strip 24/7, but will have to be bused in to a new place called the South Coast, a joint with an equestrian center, bowling alley and Italian joint called Don Vito’s. It’s a long way from Caesars, where Tabloid Baby’s author worked on a Jerry Lewis Telethon close to two decades ago, having wangled his way into a weekend production gig just to be able to spend 48 hours awake with Jerry, Sammy, Tom Jones, Susan Anton and Mr. T, among others. Two years later, Jerry granted our man total access behind the scenes of his 1989 Telethon, for a special episode of A Current Affair (still being sold on videotape online).

The A Current Affair segment-- Jerry raw, verite, bleeped, no-holds-barred, warts and all-- caused a scandal among the MDA and Jerry Lewis’s staff, and though Jerry himself called to say he loved the show, would be the first and last time such access was given (read the entire story in Tabloid Baby, Chapter 6, “Lesbians, Cripples & Clowns”).

That said, it’s a shame someone in power in Vegas doesn’t step up and bring the Telethon to the heart of the Strip. And it’s too bad that a young superstar or group of stars don’t take the Telethon to a new generation of viewers.

Hey, we understand that no one in the Telethon universe can be of greater magnitude than Jerry— which is why each year brings us a reunion of Gary Lewis & The Playboys and not Pink Floyd, but surely at this point in the December of his years (he’s turning 80 on March 26), Jerry would realize that the comic pretenders to his throne are his lessers and only reflect in his brilliance.

Otherwise, the Telethon will die with him. Jann Carl and Tony Orlando aren’t the ones to carry on.

What’s needed is star power: Adam Sandler, David Spade and Rob Schneider. Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell. George Clooney and Rande Gerber and Matt Damon, with Zeta-Jones and Julia Roberts sitting in. Ben Stiller. The Hudson Brothers. Angelina and Brad. Tiny Fey and Jimmy Fallon.

Most every one of them in one combination or another have participated in telethon events, from Comic Relief to 9/11 benefits to the “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” Katrina broadcasts. They showed that the telethon form is not necessarily a dinosaur, but with the right production, direction, talent and the kind of edge Jerry gave for so many years (especially when he was hooked on pills), it can be the most exciting television formats around— and with a DVD afterlife.

This new generation of Vegas lizard has the juice to grab the Maloofs to hand over the showroom in the Palms or collar Steve Wynn or borrow the Mandalay Bay for a weekend so Jerry Lewis can sit at his rightful place, under a tote-board in a classy showroom on the Strip. It's for the kids. It's for show biz.

In the meantime, download the script for The Day The Clown Cried here.