Thursday, January 29, 2009

Patrick McDermott, Olivia Newton-John's boyfriend who was lost at sea, did indeed fake his death and is alive and on the run, say investigators

We’re getting a lot of web traffic and hits from people looking for information on Patrick McDermott.

This is the place . For years, and up against great criticism and ridicule, Tabloid Baby was the sole news organization that kept alive the story of the boyfriend of Olivia Newton-John who disappeared after boarding a charter fishing boat in San Pedro, California in 2005.

Earlier this week NBC’s tabloid show Dateline picked up the story, reporting on claims that did indeed stage his own disappearance to avoid debts and enable his teenage son to cash in on a $151,000 insurance policy.

Dateline gave it a cute title, Beyond The Sea and put the comic, perpetually amused correspondent Keith Morrison on the story and filled the report and related stories with question marks, but despite the disclaimer, the bottom line, as picked up internationally (and thanks to the UK Daily Mail for the quotes below), is that another team of private investigators says McDermott is travelling along the Mexican and South America coastline under an alias.


The U.S. Coast Guard concluded that the cameraman, who was 48 when he went missing, had most likely drowned. But suspicion remained over McDermott's disappearance after it emerged he’d filed for bankruptcy, owed thousands of dollars in child support to his ex-wife— and that Newton-John never reported him missing.

Dateline picked up our lead in March 2007, and hired PIs to find McDermott, months after we reported that the infotainment show Extra took evidence from a local reporter in Baja Mexico, promised to have it analyzed, but did not.

Investigator Philip Klein told Dateline: “He's alive-- there's no doubt in my mind, this guy's alive. Maybe in his mind if he stages his death, the insurance policy will pay off his debts and he can leave his child a gift by pretending he's dead.”

Klein claimed McDermott's life insurance policy “is in full force and effect. The premiums have been paid every month. There has also been an inquiry by a person or persons in an attempt to possibly file a claim on the insurance money.”


Klein's agency set up a website called findpatrickmcdermott.com, a ruse to find McDermott by showing investigators the locations of people logging on to the site.

Klein said he began tracking hits from what he believes was a boat travelling along the Mexican coastline as far as South America.

"Sayulita, Mexico, is where many of the hits were coming from. We got to Sayulita, we began to show his picture around to witnesses in the area, and we found people who said, ‘Yeah, I know him, he comes here all the time.’ We have witnesses, including five Americans, willing to give us signed affidavits that they've seen him.

“He asked waiters to put him in corners, he had changed his appearance once or twice. He's moving as a lone wolf."

“The rule of thumb is always this-- when you're running you are always looking over your shoulder and we're going to catch him looking at us.

"We fully anticipate he's going to go underground for a while. But when he raises his head, he's not just going to have 20 eyes looking for him, he's going to have a million eyes looking for him."

Really Her Boyfriend?

Shamus Klein said that Newton-John apparently was also accessing the site on a regular basis for updates on efforts to find McDermott.

“The most unusual hits we've gotten were Olivia Newton-John when she was on tour in Asia. Every hotel she was registered at and staying at there were hits from that hotel on that night where she was staying.”

He claimed his team had “confirmed" sightings of McDermott from at least 17 witnesses across Mexico.

Newton-John refused to be interviewed for the Dateline show. Last year, she married John Easterling, founder and president of natural remedy firm, Amazon Herb Company.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

James Brady

"Jim Brady was a step ahead of us as we pushed through the crowd to greet Steve. Brady took Dunleavy’s hand, gave his shoulder a squeeze, told Steve he’d be missed and that now was the time for him to write the autobiography. Brady, a former Murdoch man who writes the celeb profiles for Parade and Forbes, broke the story of Steve’s infirmities..."

Damn it!

This site is turning into an obit page! But tribute must be paid to James Brady, a tabloid legend who wrote for Page Six, New York, Parade, Forbes and many other publications, and edited The Star. He was a writer who, like Neal Travis, added class to the operation and gave gossip a good name. The last time we saw him was at Steve Dunleavy's farewell bash. He was 80 when he died on Monday.

From James Brady's Forbes column on Dunleavy's farewell:

"...It's probably my fault for leaving the party early, but when I went out into West 46th Street, not a single punch had yet been thrown, a cop or fireman thrown out, an editor or publisher pummeled, an ear bitten off, or Rupert-- standing there happily amid the scrum-- cornered by any number of bores, but not being chewed by anyone. Not with Steve Dunleavy, shakily but faithfully, there at his side.

"Loyalty most places is pretty rare, so it was nice being at the Bourbon Street Bar, remembering 1974 when I was broke, writing and hosting a New York magazine cable TV talk show for nothing, when Murdoch came to America to stay, hiring me to run his new tabloid, and nothing ever again would be the same. For me or for any of us."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Working on suburban newspapers in the late 1970s, we found not only great inspiration in the work of John Updike but great encouragement as well, as he showed that the suburbs were not someone else's dull retreat but a complicated jungle of mysteries, betrayal and intrigue. Updike was the first great writer we'd followed who'd left New York City for the suburbs and did his best work there. Shortly after we moved to the city, we saw him speak and read at some YMCA on the Upper West Side. Back then, we were too awestruck to speak to him as he signed books and met fans. We remember Kurt Vonnegut was there.

Favorites: Couples, The Maples stories, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, Picked Up Pieces, Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.

Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu by John Updike

Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu
by John Updike

Author: John Updike ©. Published: 1960-10-22. Appeared On: The New Yorker.

Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus, like the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg. It was built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1934, and offers, as do most Boston artifacts, a compromise between Man's Euclidean determinations and Nature's beguiling irregularities. Its right field is one of the deepest in the American League, while its left field is the shortest; the high left-field wall, three hundred and fifteen feet from home plate along the foul line, virtually thrusts its surface at right-handed hitters. On the afternoon of Wednesday, September 28th, as I took a seat behind third base, a uniformed groundkeeper was treading the top of this wall, picking batting-practice home runs out of the screen, like a mushroom gatherer seen in Wordsworthian perspective on the verge of a cliff. The day was overcast, chill, and uninspirational. The Boston team was the worst in twenty-seven seasons. A jangling medley of incompetent youth and aging competence, the Red Sox were finishing in seventh place only because the Kansas City Athletics had locked them out of the cellar. They were scheduled to play the Baltimore Orioles, a much nimbler blend of May and December, who had been dumped from pennant contention a week before by the insatiable Yankees. I, and 10,453 others, had shown up primarily because this was the Red Sox's last home game of the season, and therefore the last time in all eternity that their regular left fielder, known to the headlines as TED, KID, SPLINTER, THUMPER, TW, and, most cloyingly, MISTER WONDERFUL, would play in Boston. "WHAT WILL WE DO WITHOUT TED? HUB FANS ASK" ran the headline on a newspaper being read by a bulb-nosed cigar smoker a few rows away. Williams' retirement had been announced, doubted (he had been threatening retirement for years), confirmed by Tom Yawkey, the Red Sox owner, and at last widely accepted as the sad but probable truth. He was forty-two and had redeemed his abysmal season of 1959 with a—considering his advanced age—fine one. He had been giving away his gloves and bats and had grudgingly consented to a sentimental ceremony today. This was not necessarily his last game; the Red Sox were scheduled to travel to New York and wind up the season with three games there.

I arrived early. The Orioles were hitting fungos on the field. The day before, they had spitefully smothered the Red Sox, 17-4, and neither their faces nor their drab gray visiting-team uniforms seemed very gracious. I wondered who had invited them to the party. Between our heads and the lowering clouds a frenzied organ was thundering through, with an appositeness perhaps accidental, "You maaaade me love you, I didn't wanna do it, I didn't wanna do it . . ."

The affair between Boston and Ted Williams has been no mere summer romance; it has been a marriage, composed of spats, mutual disappointments, and, toward the end, a mellowing hoard of shared memories. It falls into three stages, which may be termed Youth, Maturity, and Age; or Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis; or Jason, Achilles, and Nestor.

First, there was the by now legendary epoch when the young bridegroom came out of the West, announced "All I want out of life is that when I walk down the street folks will say 'There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived.' " The dowagers of local journalism attempted to give elementary deportment lessons to this child who spake as a god, and to their horror were themselves rebuked. Thus began the long exchange of backbiting, bat-flipping, booing, and spitting that has distinguished Williams' public relations. The spitting incidents of 1957 and 1958 and the similar dockside courtesies that Williams has now and then extended to the grandstand should be judged against this background: the left-field stands at Fenway for twenty years have held a large number of customers who have bought their way in primarily for the privilege of showering abuse on Williams. Greatness necessarily attracts debunkers, but in Williams' case the hostility has been systematic and unappeasable. His basic offense against the fans has been to wish that they weren't there. Seeking a perfectionist's vacuum, he has quixotically desired to sever the game from the ground of paid spectatorship and publicity that supports it. Hence his refusal to tip his cap to the crowd or turn the other cheek to newsmen. It has been a costly theory—it has probably cost him, among other evidences of good will, two Most Valuable Player awards, which are voted by reporters—but he has held to it from his rookie year on. While his critics, oral and literary, remained beyond the reach of his discipline, the opposing pitchers were accessible, and he spanked them to the tune of .406 in 1941. He slumped to .356 in 1942 and went off to war.

In 1946, Williams returned from three years as a Marine pilot to the second of his baseball avatars, that of Achilles, the hero of incomparable prowess and beauty who nevertheless was to be found sulking in his tent while the Trojans (mostly Yankees) fought through to the ships. Yawkey, a timber and mining maharajah, had surrounded his central jewel with many gems of slightly lesser water, such as Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, Rudy York, Birdie Tebbetts, and Johnny Pesky. Throughout the late forties, the Red Sox were the best paper team in baseball, yet they had little three-dimensional to show for it, and if this was a tragedy, Williams was Hamlet. A succinct review of the indictment—and a fair sample of appreciative sports-page prose—appeared the very day of Williams' valedictory, in a column by Huck Finnegan in the Boston American (no sentimentalist, Huck):

Williams' career, in contrast [to Babe Ruth's], has been a series of failures except for his averages. He flopped in the only World Series he ever played in (1946) when he batted only .200. He flopped in the playoff game with Cleveland in 1948. He flopped in the final game of the 1949 season with the pennant hinging on the outcome (Yanks 5, Sox 3). He flopped in 1950 when he returned to the lineup after a two-month absence and ruined the morale of a club that seemed pennant-bound under Steve O'Neill. It has always been Williams' records first, the team second, and the Sox non-winning record is proof enough of that.

There are answers to all this, of course. The fatal weakness of the great Sox slugging teams was not-quite-good-enough pitching rather than Williams' failure to hit a home run every time he came to bat. Again, Williams' depressing effect on his teammates has never been proved. Despite ample coaching to the contrary, most insisted that they liked him. He has been generous with advice to any player who asked for it. In an increasingly combative baseball atmosphere, he continued to duck beanballs docilely. With umpires he was gracious to a fault. This courtesy itself annoyed his critics, whom there was no pleasing. And against the ten crucial games (the seven World Series games with the St. Louis Cardinals, the 1948 playoff with the Cleveland Indians, and the two-game series with the Yankees at the end of the 1949 season, winning either one of which would have given the Red Sox the pennant) that make up the Achilles' heel of Williams' record, a mass of statistics can be set showing that day in and day out he was no slouch in the clutch. The correspondence columns of the Boston papers now and then suffer a sharp flurry of arithmetic on this score; indeed, for Williams to have distributed all his hits so they did nobody else any good would constitute a feat of placement unparalleled in the annals of selfishness.

Whatever residue of truth remains of the Finnegan charge those of us who love Williams must transmute as best we can, in our own personal crucibles. My personal memories of Williams begin when I was a boy in Pennsylvania, with two last-place teams in Philadelphia to keep me company. For me, "W'ms, lf" was a figment of the box scores who always seemed to be going 3-for-5. He radiated, from afar, the hard blue glow of high purpose. I remember listening over the radio to the All-Star Game of 1946, in which Williams hit two singles and two home runs, the second one off a Rip Sewell "blooper" pitch; it was like hitting a balloon out of the park. I remember watching one of his home runs from the bleachers of Shibe Park; it went over the first baseman's head and rose meticulously along a straight line and was still rising when it cleared the fence. The trajectory seemed qualitatively different from anything anyone else might hit. For me, Williams is the classic ballplayer of the game on a hot August weekday, before a small crowd, when the only thing at stake is the tissue-thin difference between a thing done well and a thing done ill. Baseball is a game of the long season, of relentless and gradual averaging-out. Irrelevance—since the reference point of most individual games is remote and statistical—always threatens its interest, which can be maintained not by the occasional heroics that sportswriters feed upon but by players who always care; who care, that is to say, about themselves and their art. Insofar as the clutch hitter is not a sportswriter's myth, he is a vulgarity, like a writer who writes only for money. It may be that, compared to managers' dreams such as Joe DiMaggio and the always helpful Stan Musial, Williams is an icy star. But of all team sports, baseball, with its graceful intermittences of action, its immense and tranquil field sparsely settled with poised men in white, its dispassionate mathematics, seems to me best suited to accommodate, and be ornamented by, a loner. It is an essentially lonely game. No other player visible to my generation has concentrated within himself so much of the sport's poignance, has so assiduously refined his natural skills, has so constantly brought to the plate that intensity of competence that crowds the throat with joy.

By the time I went to college, near Boston, the lesser stars Yawkey had assembled around Williams had faded, and his craftsmanship, his rigorous pride, had become itself a kind of heroism. This brittle and temperamental player developed an unexpected quality of persistence. He was always coming back—back from Korea, back from a broken collarbone, a shattered elbow, a bruised heel, back from drastic bouts of flu and ptomaine poisoning. Hardly a season went by without some enfeebling mishap, yet he always came back, and always looked like himself. The delicate mechanism of timing and power seemed locked, shockproof, in some case outside his body. In addition to injuries, there were a heavily publicized divorce, and the usual storms with the press, and the Williams Shift—the maneuver, custom-built by Lou Boudreau, of the Cleveland Indians, whereby three infielders were concentrated on the right side of the infield, where a left-handed pull hitter like Williams generally hits the ball. Williams could easily have learned to punch singles through the vacancy on his left and fattened his average hugely. This was what Ty Cobb, the Einstein of average, told him to do. But the game had changed since Cobb; Williams believed that his value to the club and to the game was as a slugger, so he went on pulling the ball, trying to blast it through three men, and paid the price of perhaps fifteen points of lifetime average. Like Ruth before him, he bought the occasional home run at the cost of many directed singles—a calculated sacrifice certainly not, in the case of a hitter as average-minded as Williams, entirely selfish.

After a prime so harassed and hobbled, Williams was granted by the relenting fates a golden twilight. He became at the end of his career perhaps the best old hitter of the century. The dividing line came between the 1956 and the 1957 seasons. In September of the first year, he and Mickey Mantle were contending for the batting championship. Both were hitting around .350, and there was no one else near them. The season ended with a three-game series between the Yankees and the Sox, and, living in New York then, I went up to the Stadium. Williams was slightly shy of the four hundred at-bats needed to qualify; the fear was expressed that the Yankee pitchers would walk him to protect Mantle. Instead, they pitched to him—a wise decision. He looked terrible at the plate, tired and discouraged and unconvincing. He never looked very good to me in the Stadium. (Last week, in Life, Williams, a sportswriter himself now, wrote gloomily of the Stadium, "There's the bigness of it. There are those high stands and all those people smoking—and, of course, the shadows. . . . It takes at least one series to get accustomed to the Stadium and even then you're not sure.") The final outcome in 1956 was Mantle .353, Williams .345.

The next year, I moved from New York to New England, and it made all the difference. For in September of 1957, in the same situation, the story was reversed. Mantle finally hit .365; it was the best season of his career. But Williams, though sick and old, had run away from him. A bout of flu had laid him low in September. He emerged from his cave in the Hotel Somerset haggard but irresistible; he hit four successive pinch-hit home runs. "I feel terrible," he confessed, "but every time I take a swing at the ball it goes out of the park." He ended the season with thirty-eight home runs and an average of .388, the highest in either league since his own .406, and, coming from a decrepit man of thirty-nine, an even more supernal figure. With eight or so of the "leg hits" that a younger man would have beaten out, it would have been .400. And the next year, Williams, who in 1949 and 1953 had lost batting championships by decimal whiskers to George Kell and Mickey Vernon, sneaked in behind his teammate Pete Runnels and filched his sixth title, a bargain at .328.

In 1959, it seemed all over. The dinosaur thrashed around in the .200 swamp for the first half of the season, and was even benched ("rested," Manager Mike Higgins tactfully said.) Old foes like the late Bill Cunningham began to offer batting tips. Cunningham thought Williams was jiggling his elbows; in truth, Williams' neck was so stiff he could hardly turn his head to look at the pitcher. When he swung, it looked like a Calder mobile with one thread cut; it reminded you that since 1953 Williams' shoulders had been wired together. A solicitous pall settled over the sports pages. In the two decades since Williams had come to Boston, his status had imperceptibly shifted from that of a naughty prodigy to that of a municipal monument. As his shadow in the record books lengthened, the Red Sox teams around him declined, and the entire American League seemed to be losing life and color to the National. The inconsistency of the new superstars—Mantle, Colavito, and Kaline—served to make Williams appear all the more singular. And off the field, his private philanthropy—in particular, his zealous chairmanship of the Jimmy Fund, a charity for children with cancer—gave him a civic presence somewhat like that of Richard Cardinal Cushing. In religion, Williams appears to be a humanist, and a selective one at that, but he and the Cardinal, when their good works intersect and they appear in the public eye together, make a handsome and heartening pair.

Humiliated by his '59 season, Williams determined, once more, to come back. I, as a specimen Williams partisan, was both glad and fearful. All baseball fans believe in miracles; the question is, how many do you believe in? He looked like a ghost in spring training. Manager Jurges warned us ahead of time that if Williams didn't come through he would be benched, just like anybody else. As it turned out, it was Jurges who was benched. Williams entered the 1960 season needing eight home runs to have a lifetime total of 500; after one time at bat in Washington, he needed seven. For a stretch, he was hitting a home run every second game that he played. He passed Lou Gehrig's lifetime total, then the number 500, then Mel Ott's total, and finished with 521, thirteen behind Jimmy Foxx, who alone stands between Williams and Babe Ruth's unapproachable 714. The summer was a statistician's picnic. His two-thousandth walk came and went, his eighteen-hundredth run batted in, his sixteenth All-Star Game. At one point, he hit a home run off a pitcher, Don Lee, off whose father, Thornton Lee, he had hit a home run a generation before. The only comparable season for a forty-two-year-old man was Ty Cobb's in 1928. Cobb batted .323 and hit one homer. Williams batted .316 but hit twenty-nine homers.

In sum, though generally conceded to be the greatest hitter of his era, he did not establish himself as "the greatest hitter who ever lived." Cobb, for average, and Ruth, for power, remain supreme. Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Joe Jackson, and Lefty O'Doul, among players since 1900, have higher lifetime averages than Williams' .344. Unlike Foxx, Gehrig, Hack Wilson, Hank Greenberg, and Ralph Kiner, Williams never came close to matching Babe Ruth's season home-run total of sixty. In the list of major-league batting records, not one is held by Williams. He is second in walks drawn, third in home runs, fifth in lifetime averages, sixth in runs batted in, eighth in runs scored and in total bases, fourteenth in doubles, and thirtieth in hits. But if we allow him merely average seasons for the four-plus seasons he lost to two wars, and add another season for the months he lost to injuries, we get a man who in all the power totals would be second, and not a very distant second, to Ruth. And if we further allow that these years would have been not merely average but prime years, if we allow for all the months when Williams was playing in sub-par condition, if we permit his early and later years in baseball to be some sort of index of what the middle years could have been, if we give him a right-field fence that is not, like Fenway's, one of the most distant in the league, and if—the least excusable "if"—we imagine him condescending to outsmart the Williams Shift, we can defensibly assemble, like a colossus induced from the sizable fragments that do remain, a statistical figure not incommensurate with his grandiose ambition. From the statistics that are on the books, a good case can be made that in the combination of power and average Williams is first; nobody else ranks so high in both categories. Finally, there is the witness of the eyes; men whose memories go back to Shoeless Joe Jackson—another unlucky natural—rank him and Williams together as the best-looking hitters they have seen. It was for our last look that ten thousand of us had come.

Two girls, one of them with pert buckteeth and eyes as black as vest buttons, the other with white skin and flesh-colored hair, like an underdeveloped photograph of a redhead, came and sat on my right. On my other side was one of those frowning, chestless young-old men who can frequently be seen, often wearing sailor hats, attending ball games alone. He did not once open his program but instead tapped it, rolled up, on his knee as he gave the game his disconsolate attention. A young lady, with freckles and a depressed, dainty nose that by an optical illusion seemed to thrust her lips forward for a kiss, sauntered down into the box seats and with striking aplomb took a seat right behind the roof of the Oriole dugout. She wore a blue coat with a Northeastern University emblem sewed to it. The girls beside me took it into their heads that this was Williams' daughter. She looked too old to me, and why would she be sitting behind the visitors' dugout? On the other hand, from the way she sat there, staring at the sky and French-inhaling, she clearly was somebody. Other fans came and eclipsed her from view. The crowd looked less like a weekday ballpark crowd than like the folks you might find in Yellowstone National Park, or emerging from automobiles at the top of scenic Mount Mansfield. There were a lot of competitively well-dressed couples of tourist age, and not a few babes in arms. A row of five seats in front of me was abruptly filled with a woman and four children, the youngest of them two years old, if that. Some day, presumably, he could tell his grandchildren that he saw Williams play. Along with these tots and second-honeymooners, there were Harvard freshmen, giving off that peculiar nervous glow created when a quantity of insouciance is saturated with insecurity; thick-necked Army officers with brass on their shoulders and lead in their voices; pepperings of priests; perfumed bouquets of Roxbury Fabian fans; shiny salesmen from Albany and Fall River; and those gray, hoarse men—taxidrivers, slaughterers, and bartenders—who will continue to click through the turnstiles long after everyone else has deserted to television and tramporamas. Behind me, two young male voices blossomed, cracking a joke about God's five proofs that Thomas Aquinas exists—typical Boston College levity.

The batting cage was trundled away. The Orioles fluttered to the sidelines. Diagonally across the field, by the Red Sox dugout, a cluster of men in overcoats were festering like maggots. I could see a splinter of white uniform, and Williams' head, held at a self-deprecating and evasive tilt. Williams' conversational stance is that of a six-foot-three-inch man under a six-foot ceiling. He moved away to the patter of flash bulbs, and began playing catch with a young Negro outfielder named Willie Tasby. His arm, never very powerful, had grown lax with the years, and his throwing motion was a kind of muscular drawl. To catch the ball, he flicked his glove hand onto his left shoulder (he batted left but threw right, as every schoolboy ought to know) and let the ball plop into it comically. This catch session with Tasby was the only time all afternoon I saw him grin.

A tight little flock of human sparrows who, from the lambent and pampered pink of their faces, could only have been Boston politicians moved toward the plate. The loudspeakers mammothly coughed as someone huffed on the microphone. The ceremonies began. Curt Gowdy, the Red Sox radio and television announcer, who sounds like everybody's brother-in-law, delivered a brief sermon, taking the two words "pride" and "champion" as his text. It began, "Twenty-one years ago, a skinny kid from San Diego, California . . ." and ended, "I don't think we'll ever see another like him." Robert Tibolt, chairman of the board of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, presented Williams with a big Paul Revere silver bowl. Harry Carlson, a member of the sports committee of the Boston Chamber, gave him a plaque, whose inscription he did not read in its entirety, out of deference to Williams' distaste for this sort of fuss. Mayor Collins presented the Jimmy Fund with a thousand-dollar check.

Then the occasion himself stooped to the microphone, and his voice sounded, after the others, very Californian; it seemed to be coming, excellently amplified, from a great distance, adolescently young and as smooth as a butternut. His thanks for the gifts had not died from our ears before he glided, as if helplessly, into "In spite of all the terrible things that have been said about me by the maestros of the keyboard up there . . ." He glanced up at the press rows suspended above home plate. (All the Boston reporters, incidentally, reported the phrase as "knights of the keyboard," but I heard it as "maestros" and prefer it that way.) The crowd tittered, appalled. A frightful vision flashed upon me, of the press gallery pelting Williams with erasers, of Williams clambering up the foul screen to slug journalists, of a riot, of Mayor Collins being crushed. ". . . And they were terrible things," Williams insisted, with level melancholy, into the mike. "I'd like to forget them, but I can't." He paused, swallowed his memories, and went on, "I want to say that my years in Boston have been the greatest thing in my life." The crowd, like an immense sail going limp in a change of wind, sighed with relief. Taking all the parts himself, Williams then acted out a vivacious little morality drama in which an imaginary tempter came to him at the beginning of his career and said, "Ted, you can play anywhere you like." Leaping nimbly into the role of his younger self (who in biographical actuality had yearned to be a Yankee), Williams gallantly chose Boston over all the other cities, and told us that Tom Yawkey was the greatest owner in baseball and we were the greatest fans. We applauded ourselves heartily. The umpire came out and dusted the plate. The voice of doom announced over the loudspeakers that after Williams' retirement his uniform number, 9, would be permanently retired—the first time the Red Sox had so honored a player. We cheered. The national anthem was played. We cheered. The game began.

Williams was third in the batting order, so he came up in the bottom of the first inning, and Steve Barber, a young pitcher who was not yet born when Williams began playing for the Red Sox, offered him four pitches, at all of which he disdained to swing, since none of them were within the strike zone. This demonstrated simultaneously that Williams' eyes were razor-sharp and that Barber's control wasn't. Shortly, the bases were full, with Williams on second. "Oh, I hope he gets held up at third! That would be wonderful,'' the girl beside me moaned, and, sure enough, the man at bat walked and Williams was delivered into our foreground. He struck the pose of Donatello's David, the third-base bag being Goliath's head. Fiddling with his cap, swapping small talk with the Oriole third baseman (who seemed delighted to have him drop in), swinging his arms with a sort of prancing nervousness, he looked fine—flexible, hard, and not unbecomingly substantial through the middle. The long neck, the small head, the knickers whose cuffs were worn down near his ankles—all these points, often observed by caricaturists, were visible in the flesh.

One of the collegiate voices behind me said, "He looks old, doesn't he, old; big deep wrinkles in his face . . ."

"Yeah," the other voice said, "but he looks like an old hawk, doesn't he?"

With each pitch, Williams danced down the baseline, waving his arms and stirring dust, ponderous but menacing, like an attacking goose. It occurred to about a dozen humorists at once to shout "Steal home! Go, go!" Williams' speed afoot was never legendary. Lou Clinton, a young Sox outfielder, hit a fairly deep fly to center field. Williams tagged up and ran home. As he slid across the plate, the ball, thrown with unusual heft by Jackie Brandt, the Oriole center fielder, hit him on the back.

"Boy, he was really loafing, wasn't he?" one of the boys behind me said.

"It's cold," the other explained. "He doesn't play well when it's cold. He likes heat. He's a hedonist."

The run that Williams scored was the second and last of the inning. Gus Triandos, of the Orioles, quickly evened the score by plunking a home run over the handy left-field wall. Williams, who had had this wall at his back for twenty years, played the ball flawlessly. He didn't budge. He just stood there, in the center of the little patch of grass that his patient footsteps had worn brown, and, limp with lack of interest, watched the ball pass overhead. It was not a very interesting game. Mike Higgins, the Red Sox manager, with nothing to lose, had restricted his major-league players to the left-field line—along with Williams, Frank Malzone, a first-rate third baseman, played the game—and had peopled the rest of the terrain with unpredictable youngsters fresh, or not so fresh, off the farms. Other than Williams' recurrent appearances at the plate, the maladresse of the Sox infield was the sole focus of suspense; the second baseman turned every grounder into a juggling act, while the shortstop did a breathtaking impersonation of an open window. With this sort of assistance, the Orioles wheedled their way into a 4-2 lead. They had early replaced Barber with another young pitcher, Jack Fisher. Fortunately (as it turned out), Fisher is no cutie; he is willing to burn the ball through the strike zone, and inning after inning this tactic punctured Higgins' string of test balloons.

Whenever Williams appeared at the plate—pounding the dirt from his cleats, gouging a pit in the batter's box with his left foot, wringing resin out of the bat handle with his vehement grip, switching the stick at the pitcher with an electric ferocity—it was like having a familiar Leonardo appear in a shuffle of Saturday Evening Post covers. This man, you realized—and here, perhaps, was the difference, greater than the difference in gifts—really intended to hit the ball. In the third inning, he hoisted a high fly to deep center. In the fifth, we thought he had it; he smacked the ball hard and high into the heart of his power zone, but the deep right field in Fenway and the heavy air and a casual east wind defeated him. The ball died. Al Pilarcik leaned his back against the big "380" painted on the right-field wall and caught it. On another day, in another park, it would have been gone. (After the game, Williams said, "I didn't think I could hit one any harder than that. The conditions weren't good.")

The afternoon grew so glowering that in the sixth inning the arc lights were turned on—always a wan sight in the daytime, like the burning headlights of a funeral procession. Aided by the gloom, Fisher was slicing through the Sox rookies, and Williams did not come to bat in the seventh. He was second up in the eighth. This was almost certainly his last time to come to the plate in Fenway Park, and instead of merely cheering, as we had at his three previous appearances, we stood, all of us—stood and applauded. Have you ever heard applause in a ballpark? Just applause—no calling, no whistling, just an ocean of handclaps, minute after minute, burst after burst, crowding and running together in continuous succession like the pushes of surf at the edge of the sand. It was a sombre and considered tumult. There was not a boo in it. It seemed to renew itself out of a shifting set of memories as the kid, the Marine, the veteran of feuds and failures and injuries, the friend of children, and the enduring old pro evolved down the bright tunnel of twenty-one summers toward this moment. At last, the umpire signalled for Fisher to pitch; with the other players, he had been frozen in position. Only Williams had moved during the ovation, switching his bat impatiently, ignoring everything except his cherished task. Fisher wound up, and the applause sank into a hush.

Understand that we were a crowd of rational people. We knew that a home run cannot be produced at will; the right pitch must be perfectly met and luck must ride with the ball. Three innings before, we had seen a brave effort fail. The air was soggy; the season was exhausted. Nevertheless, there will always lurk, around a corner in a pocket of our knowledge of the odds, an indefensible hope, and this was one of the times, which you now and then find in sports, when a density of expectation hangs in the air and plucks an event out of the future.

Fisher, after his unsettling wait, was wide with the first pitch. He put the second one over, and Williams swung mightily and missed. The crowd grunted, seeing that classic swing, so long and smooth and quick, exposed, naked in its failure. Fisher threw the third time, Williams swung again, and there it was. The ball climbed on a diagonal line into the vast volume of air over center field. From my angle, behind third base, the ball seemed less an object in flight than the tip of a towering, motionless construct, like the Eiffel Tower or the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was in the books while it was still in the sky. Brandt ran back to the deepest corner of the outfield grass; the ball descended beyond his reach and struck in the crotch where the bullpen met the wall, bounced chunkily, and, as far as I could see, vanished.

Like a feather caught in a vortex, Williams ran around the square of bases at the center of our beseeching screaming. He ran as he always ran out home runs—hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of. He didn't tip his cap. Though we thumped, wept, and chanted "We want Ted" for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back. Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters.

Every true story has an anticlimax. The men on the field refused to disappear, as would have seemed decent, in the smoke of Williams' miracle. Fisher continued to pitch, and escaped further harm. At the end of the inning, Higgins sent Williams out to his left-field position, then instantly replaced him with Carrol Hardy, so we had a long last look at Williams as he ran out there and then back, his uniform jogging, his eyes steadfast on the ground. It was nice, and we were grateful, but it left a funny taste.

One of the scholasticists behind me said, "Let's go. We've seen everything. I don't want to spoil it." This seemed a sound aesthetic decision. Williams' last word had been so exquisitely chosen, such a perfect fusion of expectation, intention, and execution, that already it felt a little unreal in my head, and I wanted to get out before the castle collapsed. But the game, though played by clumsy midgets under the feeble glow of the arc lights, began to tug at my attention, and I loitered in the runway until it was over. Williams' homer had, quite incidentally, made the score 4-3. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with one out, Marlin Coughtry, the second-base juggler, singled. Vic Wertz, pinch-hitting, doubled off the left-field wall, Coughtry advancing to third. Pumpsie Green walked, to load the bases. Willie Tasby hit a double-play ball to the third baseman, but in making the pivot throw Billy Klaus, an ex-Red Sox infielder, reverted to form and threw the ball past the first baseman and into the Red Sox dugout. The Sox won, 5-4. On the car radio as I drove home I heard that Williams had decided not to accompany the team to New York. So he knew how to do even that, the hardest thing. Quit.

Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu by John Updike© 1960

John Updike, our literary hero

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Exclusive! The Seventh Python at film, fan fests

The Seventh Python, the acclaimed Neil Innes doco film from our pals at Frozen Pictures, is officially on the film festival trail.

The film has been selected for inclusion in the first annual Chicago International Movies & Music Festival and will be screened March 7th at the Chicago Cultural Center downtown. Director Burt Kearns and producer Brett Hudson will discuss the film after the screening.

The film will be in competition with other first-rate musical docos. Awards will be presented on Sunday.

Then, on March 28, the film will be a highlight of another Fest for Beatles Fans. The film will be shown as an 11 a.m. Saturday morning "early bird special" in the Grand Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the Meadowlands (a tunnel from Manhattan), where the 35th annual convention-- the New York Metro Fest"-- is taking place. When the film was shown at the last Beatles fanfest in August, a thousand fans gave it a standing ovation.

Once again, Kearns and Hudson will be at the fest all weekend for fan Q and As. What's more, Neil Innes himself will be there to perform and join in. (Victor Spinetti will also be at the Beatles fan fest, so expect photos.)

Other Seventh screenings and festivals will be announced soon. We do know the film is headed to the Revelation Perth International Film Festival in Perth, Australia in July.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bob Lee's classic interview with Brian Wilson makes note of the Beach Boy's relationship with rocker and documentary subject Chris Montez

Bob Lee, a writer at the forefront of the Los Angeles rock 'n' roll journalist pack, met up with one of the greats recently and showed why he's tops in the music writing field. Lots of journos and muso crits have lined up to interview Brian Wilson lately but few used the time to create a classic article that adds new information and insight to a well-thumbed history.

That's what Bob Lee does with his short-but-deep piece in LAist. And it's not only the type of left field question that will pop a pop genius out of his psychotropic reverie:

Do you have a favorite chord?
A favorite chord? You mean in music? Uh, E!

Check out Bob Lee's interview with Brian Wilson here.

Our pals at Frozen Pictures are chuffed about this exchange:

I noticed that another guy from Hawthorne named Chris Montez, who did "Let's Dance", is having a documentary made about his life this year. You knew him?
Yeah, I met him in high school.

Was he involved in music at that time?
Not at the time, no. But later, I heard his record and I flipped. I loved it.

Have you seen Chris at any time recently?
No, not in forty-some years.

We heard God Only Knows on the radio this morning. While driving on the PCH!

Sad about MAD

From satires of Britney Spears to Barack Obama, MAD magazine has made something of a cultural comeback in recent years. So we're sad to report that starting with issue No. 500, to be published in April, the monthly satire mag will become a quarterly. It will expand to 56 pages from 48. The changes were announced by DC Comics, the Warner Brothers Entertainment unit that publishes Mad.

Friday, January 23, 2009

LA Times: American Dunkleman is 'hilarious'

We told you yesterday about American Dunkleman, the great new scripted comedy series starring American Idol veteran Brian Dunkleman. Our pals at Frozen Pictures have just begun shopping the project, and today the Los Angeles Times ran with the story-- and posted the video clip-- on its Idol Tracker blog:

Los Angeles Times
January 23, 2009
Idol Tracker: What you're watching

The return of Brian Dunkleman

"American Idol's" original black sheep is back. It's hard to remember a time when then-surfer dude Ryan Seacrest shared the stage as one of two hosts, but that's how it was in Season 1 of "American Idol." And while we all know what happened with to the Man Who Became Dick Clark, his vanquished other half has largely disappeared from view -- except for the occasional embittered interview.

Now, as seen in the hilarious trailer above, Brian Dunkleman has returned, shooting a series about the travails of being the Man Who Did Not Become Ryan Seacrest. The press release from Frozen Pictures, the show's producer, explains:

"American Dunkleman" is a fictional account of the actor-comic's life, based on his reputation for having made "the biggest mistake in the history of show business" when he walked away from his role as co-host of "American Idol" after its first season in 2002 (Dunkleman's cohost was Ryan Seacrest).

The series follows the fictional Dunkleman as he tries to work his way back to the television industry, embarrassing himself and disappointing his friends while constantly being reminded that he "could have been a millionaire" had he stuck with "Idol."

The episodic arc runs from realism to absurdity, including Dunkleman's misadventures hosting a cable reality pilot; disaster in a stand-up comedy appearance when he offends an audience of young teens; his surprise at a convention event when he's forced to host an Idol-like contest among "furries"; a desperate decision to become a patient on a Hollywood rehab reality show (even though he doesn't have a substance abuse problem); an embarrassing mugshot; and, in a twist, a stalking by a deranged celebrity.

The series pitch tape is running at AmericanDunkleman.com and other industry outlets.

Series was created and written by Brett Hudson and Burt Kearns of Frozen Pictures. Their credits include the 2005 Fox movie comedy "Cloud 9," Showtime's "My First Time" and "The Seventh Python," the Neil Innes film bio now making the film festival circuit.

"Brian Dunkleman is a great comic actor," says Hudson. "He's a very self-aware personality who's got the timing, the face -- and the name -- for comedy. Dunkleman (the character) fits somewhere between Rodney Dangerfield and Charlie Brown. The audience can't help but identify with and root for him."

Check back next week when we hope to bring you an interview with the one-man lost colony of Idol Nation, Brian Dunkleman.

-- Richard Rushfield

Thursday, January 22, 2009

American Dunkleman is the next great TV comedy

So say our pals at Frozen Pictures.

We told you the Brian Dunkleman comeback is underway. Check out the trailer for the show they're now shopping. Visit AmericanDunkleman.com and see the news release:

Frozen Pictures Pitches 'American Dunkleman'
First comedy series of the Obama years
features "Guy Who Quit American Idol"

Hollywood, CA (Frozen Pictures) January 23, 2009 -- Brian Dunkleman continues his television comeback with the starring role in 'American Dunkleman,' a new scripted comedy series being shopped by Frozen Pictures.

American Dunkleman is a fictional account of the actor-comic's life, based on his reputation for having made "the biggest mistake in the history of show business" when he walked away from his role as co-host of American Idol after its first season in 2002 (Dunkleman's cohost was Ryan Seacrest).

The series follows the fictional Dunkleman as he tries to work his way back to the television industry, embarrassing himself and disappointing his friends while constantly being reminded that he "could have been a millionaire" had he stuck with Idol.

The episodic arc runs from realism to absurdity, including Dunkleman's misadventures hosting a cable reality pilot; disaster in a standup comedy appearance when he offends an audience of young teens; his surprise at a convention event when he's forced to host an Idol-like contest among "furries"; a desperate decision to become a patient on a Hollywood rehab reality show (even though he doesn't have a substance abuse problem); an embarrassing mugshot; and, in a twist, a stalking by a deranged celebrity.

The series pitch tape is running at AmericanDunkleman.com and other industry outlets.

Dunkleman is featured again tonight (Thursday) in the second two-episode arc of NBC's My Name Is Earl, playing another version of himself.

Series was created and written by Brett Hudson and Burt Kearns of Frozen Pictures. Their credits include the 2005 20th Century Fox movie comedy Cloud 9, Showtime's My First Time, and The Seventh Python, the Neil Innes film bio now making the film festival circuit.

"Brian Dunkleman is a great comic actor," says Hudson. "He's a very self-aware personality who's got the timing, the face-- and the name-- for comedy. Dunkleman (the character) fits somewhere between Rodney Dangerfield and Charlie Brown. The audience can't help but identify with and root for him."

Dunkleman is repped by Susan Haber of Haber Entertainment.

Oscar blows it again

What's wrong with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences? Every time they have a chance to connect with the general moviegoing audience, they reject that and pass over great popular art in favor of pretentious phony intellectual middle of the road and basically dishonest fare that poses as grand statements. Are Frost/Nixon and The Reader really better movies than The Dark Knight? The Reader? Milk?? Does Richard Jenkins really deserve a nomination more than Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino? There are some really good movies out there that people line up to see, but the Oscar folks obviously answer to a higher power than the public. Expect Benjamin Button to beat Slumdog Millionaire and the singing and dancing Hugh Jackman Oscars show to get even lower ratings than Jon Stewart.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Israeli Baseball: Oy, boy! Here we go again!

This just in-- something to knock Gaza off the front page:


Tel Aviv, January 20, 2009 – The Israel Association of Baseball (IAB) has announced that it has entered into exclusive negotiations with a group of prominent North American sportsmen who are planning the development of a new professional baseball league in Israel.

The group, which will operate under an American company formed for the purpose of developing the professional baseball initiative, is headed by Marv Goldklang, a part owner of the New York Yankees and principal owner of four minor league professional baseball teams in the United States, Jeff Rosen, owner of the Maccabi Haifa Heat Professional Basketball Club of the Israeli Premier League and Chairman of Triangle Financial Services, and other prominent individuals involved in Major League Baseball and other sports endeavors.

The initial agreement, in the form of an exclusive option covering not less than one, nor more than two years, would permit the group to conduct due diligence regarding both marketing and facility objectives to determine the long-term economic viability of a professional baseball league. As part of the arrangement, the group also would provide financial and other support for the Israeli and international amateur baseball programs operated by the IAB.

The IAB operates under the authority of the Israel Ministry of Science, Culture Sport, which supports this new initiative to establish a viable professional baseball league in the country.

“The IAB is very excited about working with Marv Goldklang and his partners,” said Haim Katz, IAB Chairman. “Marv has over 25 years of experience with Major League-affiliated professional baseball leagues, and with independent professional leagues as well. We feel the concepts that he promotes in sports, including unique entertainment features designed to appeal even to non-baseball fans, can revolutionize not only baseball in Israel, but other sports as well. Jeff Rosen, a prominent American businessman, is committed to promoting sports in Israel and has a proven record of success by taking the Maccabi Heat basketball team in just one year from the doldrums of the lower league to prime time recognition in the Israel premier basketball league.”

Professional baseball was attempted during the summer of 2007 by an organization known as the Israel Baseball League (IBL), with six teams sharing three fields and completing a 46 game schedule. The IBL was not a financial success, and was unable continue its baseball operations.

“The IAB has learned many lessons from its experience with the IBL and our decision to move forward with this new group was not taken lightly,” said Katz. “We feel this group is composed of high caliber, professional, experienced and very reputable individuals. They are not spending other people’s money but investing their own at this point and performing all the necessary groundwork required to protect their potential investment and develop a viable structure for professional baseball in Israel. We have no doubt that there is no better group to carry out this task and we look forward to building baseball in Israel with them.”

The North American group hopes to establish a fully staffed professional baseball league in the next one or two years, depending on the results of its efforts during the initial agreement which, as noted, would include development of strategies designed to create additional and improved baseball facilities appropriate for the game at the professional level.

Baseball has long been called America’s “National Pastime,” and is now played in more than 110 nations, according to the International Baseball Federation. It has been an Olympic sport and will hold the second World Baseball Classic this year, with 16 nations competing.

About the IAB

The IAB is a non-profit organization (amutah) duly registered as such with the Israeli Authorities, with the purpose of promoting baseball in Israel. It is recognized as the governing body of baseball in Israel by all the official Israeli sports bodies, including the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport; the Israel Sports Gambling Commission; the Israeli Olympic Committee; Otzma; and by International Baseball Association (IBAF) and the Confederation of European of Baseball (CEB).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yes we did

This American Life can't find American stories?

Ira Glass is a public radio star whose show called This American Life got turned into a series on Showtime. He and his team go out into "America" and find the kinds of interesting, offbeat stories that were the fodder of the tabloid television era and that the old media usually overlooks: "traveling to Iowa pig farms, following a first-time filmmaker in California, photographing a raucous night at an Illinois hot dog stand. The result is true stories that are dramatic, emotional, and often funny."

As in the tabloid television era, a lot of the stories from This American Life get turned into movies. They do six half-hour shows a season. But Ira says he may be cutting back from a mere six to a few specials a year because they can't find enough stories.

He tells Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel:

"We need stories with real drama, things unfolding, something at stake and characters we can relate to — ideally, with people doing something that has a visual component to it. It's incredibly important to have something interesting to look at."

Something's not right here. In the tabloid days we'd find a half dozen of these stories a week. Does Ira need a new research staff or does it have something to do with the Showtime deal?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lu Parker launches website, includes Tabloid Baby

Emmy-winning Los Angeles television journalist Lu Parker has launched her own website— and included a nod to Tabloid Baby along the way.

Lu is a former Miss USA who’s become a top correspondent for KTLA News. We met Lu last month when she was the only local television news reporter to follow up on our expose of California’s tsunami terror signs scam. Lu had pitched the story to her producers and followed it up on her own. Good journo.

Showing she's even better journo? She posed for us— proudly— with a copy of Tabloid Baby.

And now she’s included the photo on her LuParker.com's journalist photo gallery page! (see the photo in the lower right corner.)

Lu also acts, wrote a book, is an animal activist and shoots guns. Hers is the model of the modern All-American local television news reporter's website.

It's a long way from the old days. Check it out.

Photog calls us bozo because of credit oversight

Wow! Did we get Carolyn Kellogg mad. She's a photographer and writer who works for the LA Times book news blogsite (hired “to help us navigate” the "terrain” of the “blogosphere” because it’s “such a large landscape” “and she’s, well, just so darn smart about these things") and took a picture of the sign outside Book Soup the day founder Glenn Goldman died. The photo ran on the LA Times website. We used the picture when we couldn't find any pictures of Glenn.Then LAist linked to our site and credited us.

Now we're a bozo and a lot of other unethical things, writes Carolyn:

Noncrediting bozo steals photo. Mine.

That’s the picture. It can be found here, on Jacket Copy. It can also be found here, on the bozo’s website. Click to see the bozo’s version big, which shows how yes, the clouds and reflections are exactly the same.

Not that I am surprised some bozo runs around using other people’s photos. It’s what bloggers are accused of — irresponsibility, lack of journalistic ethics, deliberate un-awareness that people gots to get paid for their work. Or, at the very least, given credit. I’m all for Creative Commons. I let people use my pictures all the time — for free, but with credit. Think about it, bozo: did I drive out to Book Soup last Sunday for you? No, I did not. The picture is not yours.

What really galls me is that this pic ends up on LAist — credited to the bozo. LAist — where I WAS EDITOR — get the whole blogging thing. They provide photo credit. To, unfortunately, the bozo, who does not.

Yes, we gave the lady her credit this morning. And did we mention it's a very nice photo?

(Irony alert: Carolyn apparently sports the same hair color as the real Bozo. Read her LA Times bio here.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Indie 103.1

So after two days of announcements interspersed with Offspring songs and Sid Vicious' version of My Way, Los Angeles' Indie 103.1 is officially gone this morning, off the air, exiled to the Internet and replaced by a Mexican music station-- some good rootsy Mexican music, but nevertheless-- let's take stock: Los Angeles radio still offers

John & Ken,
Mark & Brian,
Frosty, Heidi & Frank
Adam Carolla.

But no Jonesy's Jukebox.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tabloid hero

Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III

Did the New York Times just out Steve Jobs?

Steve Jobs is a genius who changed the world and improved out lives, and word that he's stepping aside from Apple because of a mystery illness is disturbing to us all. Almost equally disturbing is the prospect that the stately New York Times is making us read between the lines in an article on its website entitled, "What If Steve Jobs Doesn't Come Back to Work?":

"It’s almost impossible to imagine the next chief executive of Apple having the same sort of autocratic and impulsive personality. That’s not the style of the people who work there. (There’s only one queen in the hive.)"

"One queen in the hive?"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Return of Brian Dunkleman?

“Dunkleman turned his back on a fortune, and people ridicule him for it. I think he’s a hero. I say we should start a 'Dunkleman for President’ campaign.”
-- Neil Innes, LA Times, June 2008

Pop culture alert: An unexpected resurgence of Brian Dunkleman, the actor-comedian who made show business history when he quit his co-hosting role on American Idol after its first season (he didn't like the sadism inflicted on the young contestants-- Simon Cowell called it the biggest mistake in industry history). Dunkleman's cohost Ryan Seacrest went on to Hollywood prominence and power. Dunkleman went on to the "Where Are They Now?" files. And Celebrity Fit Club.

Until now. Heroic Dunkleman appeared at the top of last night's Idol premiere in what had to be a heart-wrenching half-second cameo (in a reprise of Seacrest saying "This" over seven seasons, leading into his "This is American Idol" open). Tomorrow, he's featured in a new episode of My Name Is Earl, and we are hearing there is about to be some kind of major Dunkleman announcement on Monday.

A major Dunkleman announcement.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TMZ bows to Tabloid Baby in Bill Hudson boner



Well, it only took four hours, but the crumb bums at the corporate porn-pushing gossip site TMZ.com finally got around to fixing their mistake. In a cruel, unprovoked attack on beautiful Kate Hudson, the sleaze site misidentified an anonymous skeletal man as Kate's father, Bill Hudson. We emailed TMZ to let them know that they'd pulled another boner-- and even joined other readers in the comment section who knew better than the Santa Monica Boulevard pickups manning the "news" desk. The kids deleted both our comments-- but they replaced the picture-- after four hours of untold damage to Bill Hudson's reputation.

Too bad they used a shot of Bill that's about twenty years old!

And we never got a thank you.

TMZ gets it wrong again & Bill Hudson should sue

Corporate porn-pushing gossip site TMZ.com gets copied by a lot of old media outlets, but in their enthusiasm to embarrass and mock the celebrities they prey upon with such bitter jealousy, they often get it wrong.

Case in point: This morning the site recycles beach photos of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell as an excuse to laugh at the fact that they are aging (leaving aside the longevity and quality of their careers) and to warn Kate Hudson to not feel too good about herself, because despite her beauty, talent and A-list power-- something the TMZ rentboys can never achieve-- she will one day fall to the ravages of aging and time.

To stick the needle in a little deeper, they add a shot of Kate's biological father Bill Hudson.

Only problem?

It's not Bill Hudson.

This is Bill Hudson:

We don't know the identity of the man in the TMZ photo. We do know it's not Bill. (That shot has been used mistakenly in the past, schmucks. Do your homework.)

Bill Hudson, famed as a member of The Hudson Brothers, has just released his first solo album and is advertising a unique concert tour-- you can book him to play in your living room.

But not in your scummy jacuzzi, Harvey.

(Now the countdown begins to when TMZ will switch photos. WARNING: Don't rip off the photo from this site because it's copywritten and we'll sue you just like Bill Hudson should.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hager Twins Reunion

You remember The Hager Twins from Hee Haw (that's them with Roy Clark last year).

Well, Jon Hager, who with his identical twin brother Jim performed in the musical comedy duo on the immortal corny television series that brought so much great country music to mainstream America, was found dead in his apartment in Nashville yesterday morning. He apparently died in his sleep.

Jon was 67 and had been in poor health and was depressed since Jim died of a heart attack in May.

You know, if this keeps up, we're going to have to change the name of this site to Dead Baby or else start a spin-off site like we did with the Israeli baseball stories.

Local paper: Ray Dennis Steckler's obituary

Jan. 10, 2009
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

B-movie legend Steckler, 70, dies

Las Vegas filmmaker suffered heart disease



Services will be held Sunday for filmmaker Ray Dennis Steckler, a longtime Las Vegan whose no-budget hits (including "The Incredible Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies") made him a B-movie legend.

Steckler died Wednesday night at Sunrise Hospital following a 10-year battle with heart disease. He was 70.

Steckler had been hospitalized since Nov. 19, but had been in and out of the hospital "on and off since June," said his wife, Katherine Steckler.

Last August, doctors told Steckler that he had less than nine months to live, she added.

Yet even as he faced the end, Steckler said, "'I am the luckiest man in the world,'" his wife recalled. "'I made a living doing something I love.'"

Granted, Steckler never became a Hollywood heavyweight with multimillion-dollar budgets at his disposal.

"If you don't have any money, it won't stop you if you really want to make movies," Steckler said in 2007 when "Grindhouse" -- a big-budget, two-in-one homage to Steckler-style exploitation fare -- opened in theaters.

"Grindhouse" directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez "made two movies for $70 million," he said. "And we used to make them for $10,000 apiece."

Yet even with micro-budgets and unsung performers (including Steckler himself, performing as Cash Flagg), such favorites as 1964's "Mixed-Up Zombies" and 1966's "Rat Pfink a Boo Boo" made him a hero to cult connoisseurs around the world.

Born Jan. 25, 1938, In Reading, Pa., Steckler began making movies as a teen with an 8 mm camera his stepfather bought him.

His passion took him to Hollywood, where he became a freelance cinematographer working on mainstream productions in addition to his own incredibly strange creations.

Steckler moved to Las Vegas in 1970 and taught filmmaking at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Later he operated local video stores, where fans could meet the man behind the movies.

Yet the auteur behind "The Thrill Killers" also was a loving family man, "the room dad" at his daughters' schools, who "was the one on the field trip, videotaping it for all the kids in the class," Katherine Steckler remembered. "He was a hands-on dad."

In addition to his wife of 23 years, Steckler is survived by daughters Linda Arnold of Maui, Hawaii, Laura Steckler of Sunland, Calif., and Morgan and Bailey Steckler, both of Las Vegas; sister Judy Conrad of Reading, Pa.; and two grandchildren.

His funeral, which is open to the public, will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at Palm Mortuary-Eastern, 7600 S. Eastern Ave.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Ray Dennis Steckler, wild auteur

We first encountered Ray Dennis Steckler in the early Nineties when we arrived in Los Angeles and were introduced to his 1962 movie Wild Guitar, which was a hit VHS revival among our post-punk rockabilly friends along Hollywood Boulevard.

Some years later, working on some television series, we got in touch with Ray with the intention of telling his story. The auteur had settled in Las Vegas where he worked out of a strip mall and continued to make his movies, those great low-budget affairs that were shot without sound, relayered in post, unleashed at drive ins to play third billing behind Mexican wrestling flicks or dumped in offbeat video stores. Ray was all full of enthusiasm and new movie ideas as well as stacks of naked audition tapes of the would-be actresses who for some reason came to Las Vegas to find Hollywood and found their way to the strip mall instead. He sent us boxes of tapes including his Ruehlian classics like Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (originally titled Rat Fink A Go Go but when the titlemaker got it wrong, they stuck with it), The Lemon Grove Kids, a Bowery Boys homage in which he played his familiar Huntz Hallian character, and Las Vegas Serial Killer, a real creepfest from the late Eighties. Ray was a low budget, wacky inspiration. We just found out he was dead and wanted to give a mention before we headed out.

He was still out there, casting and shooting to the end. More information here and here.