Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’s Vote’

Gilbert Gottfried, Get Back and Sondheim

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021
M.A.C. and Dave Thomas on Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast with Frank Santopadre

I haven’t heard much of it yet, but my appearance with Dave Thomas on Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast with Frank Santopadre – in support of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton – is available now. Check out the podcast web site here.

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The Beatles: Get Back

The Beatles: Get Back, the new three-part documentary streaming on Disney Plus, may be destined for as much controversy as the original Let It Be (1970), which at the time Ringo Starr described (rightly) as “joyless.” The director of that previous documentary, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, is revealed as a vapid, unimaginative baby who substitutes a cigar for a rattle.

Already reviews have called the nearly eight-hour documentary both “aimless” and “riveting,” and it is admittedly as exhausting as it is exhaustive. But only the most casual of Beatles fans would not be engaged and moved by spending unfiltered time with these four young musicians who were – and are – so pivotal to worldwide popular culture.

Peter Jackson is a master filmmaker – this is the guy who made the great Meet the Feebles and Dead Alive, after all – and his storytelling via cutting and choice of image is as purposeful as it might seem random. He uses reaction shots – culled not necessarily from what is happening at the moment – for glue and to underline character, a technique that might seem dishonest but is vital to making something like this flow and achieve coherence.

The most basic aspect of Get Back is its immediacy – John Lennon and George Harrison are alive, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are young men, and the right-now-of-it is startling. It doesn’t take long to realize these are real people, interacting in flawed, personal ways, and anyone who has been in a band will recognize at once the conflicts and alliances within this world of four humans.

These aren’t just any four humans, of course, although their Liverpool-lad humanity comes through – these are consequential humans. Laugh if you will, but this is something like having behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the Constitution, with Jefferson and Franklin on camera.

Perhaps the most fascinating and startling aspect is watching songs that have become a familiar part of our lives created before our eyes and ears. McCartney and Lennon struggle to find the right lyrics, Paul looking for something natural, Lennon something surrealistic – Ringo at a piano playing just the opening of “Octopus’s Garden” and Harrison leaning in and helping him take it further…all very casual.

Primarily it’s a character study although it’s in the context of ticking-clock suspense – Ringo has a film start coming up and the band has only a few weeks to write the new album and perform it live for a TV special. A lot of compromises and rescheduling accompanies the band’s apparent inability to do much more than screw around in the enormous movie studio they’ve been burdened with. But they get down to work (although a lot of warming up and goofing off follows) with the goal shifting but staying essentially similar. The documentary aspect of the TV special evolves into a feature film, but the pay-off – where to hold their first live performance in three years – remains elusive. Lindsay-Hogg has spectacularly bad ideas about where that might be shot – he is a one-man reminder of how dead-on This Is Spinal Tap was.

The doc shows a band in free fall. They have reached a point where all of them – even Ringo – need to go off on their own. The real, largely unspoken question is whether or not breaking off for solo albums and individual projects can stay in the context of the Beatles – can they be individuals and group members at the same time. This is the issue they haven’t faced.

In Part Three, Harrison – who quits the band in Part One, which becomes a major dramatic turning point – rather timidly suggests that maybe since he only gets a couple of songs per album he might want to do a whole album of his own. Lennon reacts favorably, but with a bit of surprise, as if that possibility had never occurred to him.

In Part One, McCartney tries hard to be the leader, to get things organized, and throughout he’s focused – really, obsessed – with having a goal, expressed as the documentary paying off in some way (likely a live concert). Lennon seems rather passive-aggressive – he’s not a problem, just less than enthusiastic and showing up late, with Yoko Ono sitting close beside him. While she is not disruptive, her presence changes the dynamic. Harrison quitting brings McCartney and Lennon together, in an effort to coax George back into the band, which (obviously) they do. By Part Three, McCartney swaps roles with Lennon, becoming vaguely passive-aggressive, often off by himself developing melodies and lyrics – his own engine now, not the band’s.

Still, Lennon and McCartney are working together, smiling, laughing, creating. You see, right before you, their spark. Their magic. And you understand why Harrison feels left out. Strangely, they are always accepting of each other’s music but rarely offer a compliment. Harrison comes in with several now-familiar songs, wonderful things, that receive nods and little smiles, but not much else.

Ringo, perhaps realizing the trouble he’s caused with his looming film start, says very little – he just does his job. Now and then that wonderful smile flashes, but mostly he seems melancholy, as if he alone knows the Magical Mystery Tour is nearly over.

And it’s almost frustrating, if fascinating, to hear such now-familiar songs as “Get Back,” “I Dig a Pony,” “The Long and Winding Road,” and “Two of Us,” refusing to come together. Even when an actual song emerges, they rarely get a take that satisfies them or longtime producer George Martin, a quietly looming presence. When the idea of a rooftop performance as the pay-off comes up, the shaggy shape these songs are in is almost frightening.

The Beatles, rooftop performance

And then the Beatles are on that rooftop and their performance is tight, dazzling, classic – definitive versions that made it onto the Let It Be album. And Lennon and McCartney are smiling at each other, grinning. Ringo smiles, too; even the reluctant, remote, jealous Harrison, is having fun. When they play “One After 909” – a formative Lennon/McCartney composition dating back as early as 1957 – their sense of the journey they’ve been on is palpable.

And joyous.

But it’s also the very definition of bittersweet – there they are, alive and well and playing their hearts out. We try not to linger on what we know that they don’t – death by gunfire, lung (and breast) cancer – and revel in their living presence.

Their undying presence.

* * *

When someone dies at 91, I suppose you can’t call it a tragedy. But losing Stephen Sondheim is a loss nonetheless. For many years he was somewhat off my radar – Company, A Little Night Music and Sunday in the Park With George seemed (from a distance) arty, the kind of thing New Yorkers get excited about…and I admit I am still not a fan of Sunday in the Park with George, which has an unsympathetic protagonist and a weak second act.

I got on board the Sondheim train by way of Sweeney Todd, thanks to a laserdisc of the Broadway production. I was (as the British say) gobsmacked, the tuneful darkness of it hitting me in the same spot that had turned me into a Bobby Darin fan at age 10, thanks to “Mack the Knife.” I found a laserdisc of Into the Woods and loved it, too – fairy tale fun in the first act, something Grimm in the second.

In 2001, with son Nate along, we witnessed a wonderful, intimate production of Pacific Overtures at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. This was the first time we’d seen a live, professional performance of a Sondheim musical, one of his best shows. At the same theater in 2007, we took in Passion with SNL’s Ana Gasteyer (so wonderful in the film version of the musical of Reefer Madness); a much undervalued show with a James M. Cain feel.

In 2003, Barb and I saw Bounce, Sondheim’s last produced musical, in Chicago (it was also known as Wise Guys, Gold!, and Road Show). It was a troubled show that never quite came together despite seemingly endless rewrites; but it was an opportunity to see a new Sondheim musical. The hilarious Richard Kind starred.

The only time we saw a Sondheim show on Broadway was a revival of Into the Woods in 2002 starring Vanessa Williams that was unfortunately dumbed down for tourists (like us?). The film version is good, but not a patch on the Broadway production (available on DVD and Blu-ray); same is true of Sweeney Todd – an interesting Tim Burton take on the material, but the original with Angela Lansbury can’t be beat (also on DVD and Blu-ray).

I came to realize I’d been a Sondheim fan long before Sweeney Todd – I just didn’t know it. But he was the co-lyricist of two musicals I liked very much – West Side Story and Gypsy – and he had written the music and lyrics for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Stephen Sondheim

Sondheim appeals to the writer in me for his attention to language and character; the musician in me admires the way he does so while still coming up with memorable melodies. Some say he wasn’t a good man with a melody, but I’ve had too many Sondheim ear-worms for that to be true.

No question he’s on my short list of Broadway musical composers with Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein, Lerner & Lowe, Frank Loesser, and Newley & Briccuse (Briccuse recently passed as well).

* * *

We also saw an excellent TCM bio: Dean Martin: King of Cool directed by Tom Donahue. A star-studded (if somewhat alarmingly elderly) group of celebrities reminisce about Martin, who seems to have been something of an enigma even to those closest to him.

It’s a lovely piece, a little hard on Jerry Lewis, though Jerry probably has it coming – still, I loved seeing him and Dean together. Martin was an extremely shrewd, instinctive performer who knew his weaknesses and his strengths and could play off both. He was a singer in the Sinatra/Crosby mold until Jerry Lewis turned him into a straight man, and Martin was instantly one of the best. When he and Lewis broke off, he became a movie star, landing a straight role in The Young Lions – astonishing everyone with his ease in front of the camera…as if he hadn’t just starred in a blockbuster sixteen Martin & Lewis films.

When he needed a new nightclub persona, he crafted the well-known slightly inebriated version of himself, using Joe E. Lewis as a model. Reportedly his on-stage glass was filled with apple juice.

He resisted Sinatra’s insistent carousing, preferring to watch westerns in his hotel room. He relished his family life (though remained somewhat distant) and probably avoided extended social interaction with Hollywood royalty knowing his uneducated Steubenville, Ohio, background wasn’t up to it. He played a lot of golf and made his TV series accommodate his schedule and whims.

It’s sad to have to watch his decline, leavened by his truce with Lewis, but scarred by the loss of his son. The filmmakers, interviewed after the doc by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, make an interesting observation. Figures in popular culture like Martin – and the Beatles and Stephen Sondheim – are human beings who decline and eventually die like the rest of us. But once they are gone, they snap back into place at their peak – their best – and John Wayne becomes the star of Rio Bravo and The Searchers and not a frail shell of himself, dying of cancer as he receives an honor. In their prime again.

They live on in the way we want them to. The Beatles’ music has already lasted over half a decade. Sondheim’s musicals will be presented as long as there are stages. Dean Martin will charm and serenade us, just as he and Jerry are still able to crack us up.

But I am at an age when I find myself tearing up at the damnedest things.

Like four lads from Liverpool playing “One After 909″ on a rooftop while clueless bobbies try to shut the music down.

* * *

Titan Books celebrates 40 years, and my Mike Hammer editor Andrew Sumner says nice things! You’ll have to scroll down, but on the trip pause when you see an interesting book, even if I didn’t write it.

Finally, there’s a good review of Quarry’s Vote here, if you scroll down; too bad the reviewer expected Quarry and me to be “woke” thirty-six years ago (I got knocked down a “star” for that!).


Harlan and Harold

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

So Harlan Ellison is gone. Not dead, because his work will survive. He may not maintain the presence in the popular culture he once had, because he was chiefly a short story writer. Still, he might overcome that, because after all Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury were both chiefly short story writers, and they endure. Hard to imagine “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” disappearing.

In the aftermath of Harlan’s passing, amid expressions of friendship and loss, came those who figured that while the body hadn’t cooled yet, it would be a good time to say that he was overrated and a “gasbag,” as one dweller in the dingy, dreary corners of Facebook put it. These nonentities who must disparage those who have actually contributed will be with us always –- perhaps more shrilly now, in the age of Trump and Social Media.

In my formative years – adolescence and teens – I read mostly crime/mystery writers. I followed only a handful of science-fiction authors, despite a love of comics, films and TV shows in that genre; among those authors were Bradbury and Ellison. I was particularly attracted by Ellison’s introductory material to his short story collections – I found it fascinating and exciting for the writer to come out from in back of his tales. To be a presence.

There’s no question that he influenced me in that regard. I talk about my work in that same way, if not with as much personality or gift for language; but I do it here, and have introduced many of the reprints of my work and the collections of shorter material.

I also enjoyed his fiction itself, very much, and was aware of his byline on TV scripts on such shows as Burke’s Law, The Outer Limits and Star Trek. Seeing his name on the screenwriter credit of a TV episode always made me sit up. And in my college years I loved his writing about TV, which covered his own experiences in the medium as well as unbridled reviews of various series (collected in The Glass Teat).

I met him in 1973 at a comics convention in Dallas, which happened to be the first such convention I ever attended. Knowing he was the guest of honor, I spotted Ellison in the dealer’s room on the first evening of the show and introduced myself, and told him my first two books had just been published (Bait Money and Blood Money). He congratulated me and asked me to accompany him as he took a stroll around the dealer’s room. He was friendly to me, even warm. Of course, I’d made it clear I was a fan and had brought a book along for him to sign.

Anyway, I accompanied him on his circuit around the room. About half a dozen times, dealers at the show took pot shots at him – picked verbal fights with him (I don’t remember the specific subjects), but were beyond rude. It was like walking down a street in the Old West with Billy the Kid and seeing various punks try to goad him into a shoot-out.

Harlan was soft-spoken, just nodded, said very little to them when he said anything at all. I was confused, knowing Harlan’s reputation for confrontation and not suffering fools. I told Barb about it in our hotel room, not sure whether I was impressed or disappointed.

Throughout the weekend I would stop and chat with Harlan, but we didn’t share a meal or head to a bar or anything – we were just friendly ships that had passed in the night. At the banquet on the final night of the con, with all the dealers and the other guests and many attendees present, Harlan was the scheduled speaker.

I said to Barb, as we sat and dined on rubber chicken, looking around at those who’d verbally assaulted the guest of honor earlier, “How I wish Harlan would take these sons of bitches on.”

And that’s what he did.

Harlan had noted the names of every face that insulted him on that tour of the dealer’s room, and in his keynote speech he reported their rude conduct and called them out individually. Told them it was a hell of a way to treat their guest of honor. And he shot each one of them down, leaving each writhing in a pool of embarrassment.

And I loved it. And I loved him for it, fan of revenge that I am.

A few years later, at a San Diego con, Harlan was going into a ballroom for a panel, accompanied by reps of the con. I paused, gave him a smile and a little wave, not thinking he’d even remember me. Then he called out, “Al! I can’t talk to you right now! We’ll get together later!”

We didn’t. I don’t believe we ever met face to face again, but over the years the damnedest thing happened: out of the blue he would call me. He treated me as if I were one of his closest friends, and as the years and these lovely sporadic calls kept coming, I began to feel that way myself. He made it clear he liked my work and that was extremely gratifying – little in a writer’s life is better than being admired by one of your favorite writers, particularly one who was a formative influence.

We did not agree on Mickey Spillane. He had a low opinion of Mickey typical coming from a progressive writer of his era. But he knew I loved Mickey and his work and he respected that.

One afternoon in my office at home I got a call from Harlan. Mickey’s The Killing Man, his first Mike Hammer in some time, had just come out.

“Al! Did you write this?”

“No. I’ve never ghosted Mickey. That’s his work.”

“Great! Now I don’t have to read it.”

He hung up.

Later he revealed to me that he had a standing order at his regular bookshop to set aside any novel of mine that came out. Only once did he criticize me.

“Al, stop using, ‘He shook his head no.’ Shaking your head is no.”

“Not all shakes of the head mean no, Harlan.”

“Fine. Then characterize those head shakes that way. Otherwise, it’s no!”

“Okay,” I said. “You sold me.”

“And can you watch your word repetition closer, please? You’re a better writer than that.”

Most good fiction writers try to avoid repeating words in the same paragraph or even on the same page (excluding articles like “a” and “the,” of course, and character names). Barb catches most of mine on her edits.

So I said to Harlan, “I admit I do that more often than I should. I try to catch them. But Harlan, a lot of words fly out of here in a year, and sometimes I slip. I’m trying to make a living.”

“Okay,” he said. “I can accept that.”

He was always gracious to me, friendly and funny, and very frank. His anecdotes about Hollywood, frequently ending with him trying to strangle an executive, were priceless. But a year or so ago, he confided that his failing health was something he wasn’t sure he could live with. He said sometimes he contemplated the choice Hemingway had made.

“Don’t do that,” I said, as if he were using too much salt on his food. “Hemingway taking his life colored his work forever. You don’t want that following you around after you’re gone.”

He allowed this was probably good advice.

I was troubled by his admission, but touched that he’d share something like that with me. Yet wasn’t that what had attracted me so as a teenager? This writer who came out from behind his fiction to confront you with his humanity?

And yours?

* * *

Lately I’ve read a number of books about improv comedy and Second City. If you follow these updates regularly at all, you know that I am a huge SCTV fan. When there was an SCTV reunion in 2009, as part of a 50th anniversary Second City celebration, Barb and I spent big bucks to attend the show, which included Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short and Dave Thomas on stage together. Ramis performed with them, and also directed the performance. He had been a cast member the first season and head writer the second.

I embarrassed myself thoroughly bugging and fawning over any SCTV cast members I happened to encounter, and that was most of them. Why Barb remained married to me after such unconscionable fan boy behavior, I have no idea. But I was a teenage girl in 1964 talking to the Beatles – that bad. Maybe worse.

I’d met Ramis a few years before at a film festival in Chicago. That time I behaved myself, pretty much, getting introduced to him by a mutual friend. He was very gracious, quiet but nice, and he smiled when I mentioned how far I went back with him – to Swami Bananananda and kid show host Ol’ Muley (“These are the worst drawings yet, boys and girls”). We also talked about Stuart Saves the World, his Stuart Smalley movie with Al Franken; I told him how much I liked the film and that I wished it were out on DVD (later it was).

At Second City, though, I first flagged Ramis down the night of the reunion show and tried to remind him that we’d met (I don’t think he remembered) but he was friendly and expressed concern that they hadn’t had enough rehearsal time. He gave me an autograph, as well (I was on the hunt).

Throughout the weekend, I saw him a number of times, basically saying “The reunion was great” and hello, but it must have seemed to him that I was everywhere, maybe even stalking him (I wasn’t – it was sheer coincidence). Finally I caught him alone for a moment and apologized for bugging him (even as I bugged him again) and rather desperately said, “I just wanted to let you know how much I love Groundhog Day. It’s one of my favorite movies and it’s my son’s favorite movie, period. It’s a great, great film, it’s like…It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“It is,” he said with an enigmatic smile. “It is a wonderful life.”

I of course meant that his film Groundhog Day is on a level of importance with Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. But I am still not sure if he was agreeing with me, or saying his film was a variation on that film, or maybe just that…it’s a wonderful life. As in, it’s wonderful being alive.

I’m still thinking about that ambiguous reply, particularly now that I know a year later he would contract autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, and be gone in 2014.

The books I’ve read recently about this remarkable actor, writer and filmmaker include Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story by Chris Nashawaty, and Ghostbuster’s Daughter: Life with My Dad, Harold Ramis by Violet Ramis Stiel. The former is fascinating and covers the birth of The National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live and (to a lesser extent) SCTV, with the Caddyshack material starting about midway. It gives a good picture of Ramis at that important time of his life.

His daughter’s book I admit having some problems with, but I would still recommend it to fans of her dad. The book is her memoir, and only really interested me when it was dealing with Harold Ramis himself, although it did that frankly and with insight.

* * *

Here’s a really nice review of the first issue of the Mike Hammer serialized graphic novel from Hard Case Crime Comics (and Titan).

Here’s another good one.

And another.

Finally, here’s a review of Quarry’s Vote.


Browsing at B & N

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

Remember a few weeks ago when I encouraged everyone to buy books at their favorite brick-and-mortar store? By this I wasn’t suggesting that you find a store where you can buy brick and mortar. Rather, I was hoping you would not spend all of your money online, hastening the death of retail.

One of the bookstores I encouraged you to frequent was Barnes & Noble. With Borders gone, and some communities having no indie bookstore, B & N is about all that’s still standing. We have a BAM! (Books-a-Million) in nearby Davenport, and I trade there a lot. If you’re a member of their frequent buyer club, you get a discount coupon for at least $5 on a $25 purchase every week. Nice store.

Barnes & Noble is good about giving members of their club 20%-off-a-single-item coupons frequently. These are nice little surprises in the snail mail every couple of months. Such things take the sting out of buying a book or blu-ray at a price higher than the online option. B & N is weird in that department, by the way – they are routinely cheaper online, and the stores don’t (or won’t or can’t afford to) match their own online price.

A bigger problem is that B & N corporate has made some decisions about their brick-and-mortars that are not helping the whole decline of retail thing. And now a personal story. (Warning: I’ve told better ones.)

I tend to work six days a week and take one unashamed day off. But when I am really swamped, as I have been lately, Barb and I will take half-days off, usually a morning where we drive to the nearby Quad Cities, have breakfast or an early lunch, shop at BAM! and B & N (that’s where I go – Barb usually has other retail destinations), and are back very early afternoon for more work. Such is our devotion to our readers. And the bill collectors.

On my last two trips to the Davenport Barnes & Noble – a lovely, big store with very nice and often knowledgeable staff – I have had several of those 20% off coupons burning a hole in my billfold. Now I am about as hard to get money out of at a bookstore as convincing a sailor on leave that debauchery is worth paying for.

And twice I have spent not a dime.

Here’s the problem. Barnes & Noble has been rearranging their stores in a fashion that indicates either (a) someone is secretly trying to end the brick-and-mortar aspect of their business, or (b) is desperately trying to get fired. For some years, B & N has had – in each section (Mystery, Biography, what have you) – a display at the head of that section that showcases new titles, face out. The corporate genius in question has decided to instead salt those new titles through the existing stock. Occasionally the new titles are face out, and of course the bestseller type books sit out on various new releases tables.

But for the most part, as a shopper, you either have to have the patience to sort through everything in a section to find new titles, or know exactly what you’re looking for. In the latter case, it’s obviously easier to do that online.

Someone clearly doesn’t understand the shopping experience. Someone associated with bookselling actually doesn’t seem familiar with the term “browsing.”

If searching within a section (Science Fiction, Humor, whatever) isn’t enough to frustrate you, might I suggest the B & N blu-ray/DVD/CD section? (Not all B & Ns have those, but many do.) To further make your shopping experience a Bataan Death March chore, B & N has abandoned individual sections to put all CDs (except classical) together, alphabetically. So you can pick up both the Sid Vicious and Frank Sinatra versions of “My Way” in the same area, if you know your alphabet.

For a blu-ray collector like me, the best (and by that I mean “worst”) is yet to come. The blu-ray section is no more. Instead, a massive section combining DVDs and blu-rays now awaits your browsing pleasure (I also don’t really mean “pleasure”) (sarcasm is fun). Blu-ray buyers tend to be snobs – they avoid DVD unless absolutely necessary. I’m not sure my son buys any DVDs any more. And I would under no circumstances buy a DVD of something available on blu-ray.

Also, the new release blu-rays were formerly displayed on a little shelf above the bins. No more. End caps and other displays may showcase new titles, but again blu-rays and DVDs are mixed.

This may in part reflect the cutting back on help in that section of the B & N stores. With no one to ask, “May I help you,” there are fewer places to look. If you know your alphabet, you’re in business! Hope you have plenty of time on your hands and don’t have to get home to entertain America with your fiction.

What these new policies at B & N are doing is discouraging the brick-and-mortar shopping experience. It’s now not only cheaper and easier to shop online, it’s no longer less fun. By which I mean, it’s more fun.

I still encourage you to shop at B & N, but also to politely complain about the new user-unfriendly sections throughout their stores. If I can go there twice on shopping expedition and return with my 20% off coupons still tucked away, something is seriously, seriously wrong.

* * *

Here’s a nice Jon Breen EQMM review of A Long Time Dead. Jon doesn’t really like Mickey Spillane, but he likes me. Watch him deal with that. (Answer to his question: Collins.)

This is an article on the newly turned-up photographic evidence that supports my Amelia Earhart theory as expressed in Flying Blind – back in 1999! That book is mentioned in the comments.

Here’s yet another of those write-ups about movies you didn’t know were from graphic novels, with Road to Perdition nicely mentioned.

Finally, here’s a lovely review of Quarry’s Vote.



Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Three show business figures passed away recently, and as it happens, I had passing meetings with each.

CHUCK BERRY, 90, I met at an airport where we shared a gate. He was traveling with a guitar in its case, and appeared to be alone. But it was unmistakably him. As a longtime veteran of rock ‘n’ roll, I had to have a moment. I didn’t ask for an autograph, afraid I might start trouble for him, because a lot of people obviously didn’t recognize him.

“I just want to thank you for starting it all,” I said.

He smiled and said you’re welcome, and we shook hands.

I think I said something about having played rock ‘n’ roll for decades, and he said where he was headed, though I’ve forgotten. He was quiet but friendly.

What I said to him was about right. Little Richard and other black artists of the early rock days really were r & b starting to become rock, and Elvis fell in that category as well. But Chuck Berry, with his guitar-driven rock and his teenage subject matter, was not r & b, but at the very forefront of the new genre. Pure rock ‘n’ roll.

He was playing regularly in his home, St. Louis, until very recently.

TONY ROSATO, 62, is one of the unsung heroes of SCTV. He and the great Robin Duke were in the final season of the original incarnation of the show (they both moved to SNL after). His big character on the show was TV chef Marcello Sebastiani, but he was also a fine mimic, playing Lou Costello in a memorable Abbott and Elvis Costello parody.

He had a fine career, with a lot of Canadian TV, but mental health problems took him into a tragic area in later years.

I met him at the SCTV reunion in Chicago several years ago, in a crowded lobby of fans and Second City performers. He was accompanied by a minder of sorts and was obviously feeling a little lost. He was frankly surprised when I recognized him and asked for an autograph, which he gave me, and he smiled when I told him what a big fan I was of his SCTV and SNL work.

ROBERT OSBORNE, 84, the charming and knowledgeable presenter on Turner Classic Movies, I met backstage (actually upstairs somewhere) at a theater in Hollywood. My pal Leonard Maltin was giving me a chance to meet Jane Powell and a few other celebrities at the TCM Film Festival that year. I chatted with Osborne about (this will surprise few) how cool it would be to have a Mickey Spillane film festival on TCM, as they’d already shown The Girl Hunters a few times and Kiss Me Deadly many times. He was friendly and gracious, and exactly the guy you saw on TV.

I thanked him for everything he did for classic films and for sharing his enthusiasm, and knowledge, with viewers. And I’m glad I did.

While I never met him, BILL PAXTON, 61, was a good friend of my pal Bill Mumy and appeared in “Fish Heads” (which he also directed) and other Barnes & Barnes videos. What a terrific actor, and what a devastating loss. If you’ve never watched his HBO series Big Love, you should correct that mistake.

I don’t recall meeting the great cartoonist BERNIE WRIGHTSON, who like me was born in March of 1948, but I loved his work. Decades ago, when I started realizing interesting new things were happening in comics, and that I wasn’t the only one who liked the medium, Bernie Wrightson was at the forefront.

Such passings define bittersweet – we are so lucky to have experienced the art these creators shared with us, and so unlucky to be denied any more.

* * *

For those who suspect I have become a curmudgeon where current movies are concerned, walking out more often than staying to the finish, I am pleased to report Barb and I saw a terrific movie this weekend – Get Out.

Written and directed by Jordan Peele, Get Out is a horror movie with darkly satiric overtones and some outright comedy that never dampens a truly creepy tale that might be described as an African-American Stepford Wives…though that doesn’t do it justice.

Remember how lousy I said the script of Kong was? And how I was chastised for expecting a monster movie to have good dialogue? Well, he’s a horror movie on a modest budget with no huge stars (but a strong cast) that not only has sharp dialogue but a well-constructed narrative that pays off everything it sets up, in a most satisfying manner.

This one I’ll be buying on Blu-ray.

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The Will to Kill, the new Spillane/Collins, is getting some lovely reviews. Have you ordered your copy yet? What are you waiting for? You wanna get on Mike Hammer’s bad side? In the meantime, check out this wonderful Criminal Element review.

And here’s another great Will to Kill review, this one from the NY Journal of Books.

The new Hard Case Crime edition of Quarry’s Vote inspired this sweet review.

And Publisher’s Weekly likes Antiques Frame, due out in about a month.

Finally, once again my Eliot Ness/Batman graphic novel of some time ago is getting noticed.