an actor’s perspective 

I recently watched a pair of episodes from Dick Cavett’s PBS series in 1981 in which he interviewed Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. It was a real delight.

One thing Matthau said caught my attention. He said that he refused to do theater where there was sound amplification. He said that he and Lemmon turned down an offer to do a play at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion in the Los Angeles Music Center because it had sound amplification. Instead they did the same play at the nearby Mark Taper Forum for one-tenth the money because there was no amplification.

Theater DistrictWhen I was attending Pitzer College in Claremont I would come home to Hemet to see plays performed by the Hemet High theater class. They put on some good shows, and, as I recall there was no amplification. I remember a great performance of Stop the World I want to Get Off. The lack of amplification was also true for the Four College Players in Claremont and the Pomona College theater department.

Theater today is a much different animal. Terry and I have seen Phantom of the Opera in both San Francisco and San Jose. We saw the original Chorus Line on the San Francisco Peninsula and the wonderful revival in San Francisco. We saw Rent and Wicked in San Jose.

All of those shows relied on a complex array of wireless microphone. The theater community has been unhappy because the FCC has been considering changing the regulations around wireless microphones, and they say the changes would require heavier, more unwieldy microphones. I hope that doesn’t happen.

The bottom line is this: I admire Matthau’s integrity in 1981, but Terry and I loved all of the theater experiences I have mentioned.

Live theater is a mode of entertainment to be respected, enjoyed, and savored. Sound amplification does not diminish the experience.


Food Network conventions, part 2

Recently I wrote about how most Food Network cooking shows have to have some kind of plot, which I find annoying.

Food Network logoThere is another common thread. Food Network seems to want to coordinate show themes on specific weekends. I can see that for Christmas, Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, Halloween and so on, but the coordination goes beyond that. For example, not long ago The Kitchen, Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, and Guy’s Big Bite all had shows about tailgating on the same weekend. Valerie’s Home Cooking was right there as well with a football-themed show. Why Pioneer Woman was out of sync with a program on mashups I have no idea.

The following week it was about competition. Trisha cooked as if she were a contestant on Chopped or another of the competition shows, with her sister Beth as judge. On Pioneer Woman Ree competed with herself, asking the cowboys to judge variant versions of the same dish. Valerie’s husband and his brother competed for the best home brew beer.

Show biz. It’s all show biz.

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Food Network conventions

Food Network logoCooking shows on Food Network generally have a particular convention. There has to be some kind of plot or story. Someone is coming over to visit, or there is some sort of activity, or whatever. For example, on Valerie’s Home Cooking friends and/or relatives are coming over for dinner. Or on Pioneer Woman the boys have a football game or the girls have soccer. On Farmhouse Rules Nancy is organizing a community dinner.

Recently Guy Fieri’s show, Guy’s Big Bites, started its new season. He’s just cooking. He’s just demonstrating recipes. No plot line. He may talk and chatter with a guest, but it’s all about cooking. It’s all about that day’s menu.

That’s the way it should be done.


thank you, Vin

I can’t let the occasion of Vin Scully’s final game yesterday go by without taking time to think about how much Vin has meant to me.

Vin ScullyThe Dodgers arrived in Los Angeles in 1958. I was four at the start of the season and five when that first west coast season ended. My dad began listening to games right away, so I learned baseball from the youngest age. Here in Hemet we are about ninety miles from Los Angeles, but the games in those days were broadcast of KFI which was then a “fifty thousand watt clear channel station,” so we had no problems getting the games day or night. Even when we spent three years in Barstow, out in the high desert of San Bernardino county, the games came in clearly.

There were so many intense, exciting games. The one I most remember, however, was Vin’s call of the Sandy Koufax perfect game. That was September 9, 1965. I remember that evening well. The entire family was at home in our living room. The television was off and the radio was on. I remember the tension build as Vin Scully’s play-by-play made clear that something special was happening. I remember Vin noting the time on the scoreboard clock. I remember the excitement when the game ended. I think we were all holding our breath in the living room.

I spent many years away from Southern California and the Dodgers. And in spite having spent a number of years as a Giants fan during my Bay Area days (that’s another story) I migrated back to the Dodgers when we came back here in May of 2015.

Vin had reduced his workload to (mostly)  just home games, and a dispute over fees meant that more than half of Southern California television viewers could not see or hear Vin, except for the first three innings which were simulcast on radio. Fortunately an arrangement allowed the local station KTLA channel 5 to carry Vin’s last six games. That was a delight.

We will miss you, Vin. Enjoy your retirement.

photo credit: Floatjon. cropped. Creative Commons License 3.0.

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Dick Cavett

Dick CavettI wrote last week about literary smackdowns, and I mentioned Dick Cavett. That made me think to look to see if he has a presence on Facebook. He does. And he was posting about rebroadcasts of his show airing on a network called Decades. Hadn’t heard of that. Turns out that it is a secondary digital channel broadcast on CBS-owned stations. And my television provider offers it.

What a delight. Programs air Monday through Friday. Decades offers shows from Cavett’s ABC program from the early 1970’s, his PBS program from the late seventies and early eighties, and his short-lived series on the USA Network from 1985. Now I admit that I have three box sets on DVD from the ABC show and I haven’t watched all the programs, but how convenient to have the programs right there on my DVR.

As someone with a permanent 1970’s mentality, this is a real treat.

photo credit: Nick Stepowyj. Cropped. Creative Commons License.


literary smackdown

There is a column each week in the Sunday New York Times Book Review called “By the Book.” Each week a different author is interviewed with a more or less standard set of questions. Here is an exchange from a recent interview with author Daniel Silva:

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer, with William F. Buckley to serve as referee. I think I would set the table with paper plates and plastic utensils to avoid any undue bloodshed.

I posted this to Facebook and commented, “Can we somehow involve Dick Cavett in this as well?” After I wrote this I realized that Cavett had both Mailer and Vidal on his weeknight half hour PBS program in the mid and late 1970s. I don’t recall Buckley ever being on the show, but this was when Buckley was ascendant with his own weekend program in which he engaged in an intellectual smackdown with whomever his guest might be.

In fact, if I recall correctly, Cavett once had Mailer and Vidal together on the same episode, and there was something of a smackdown on that show.

There was some marvelous television in the 1970’s.


things not to do

quoteYou don’t tug on Superman’s cape
You don’t spit into the wind
You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger
And you don’t mess around with Jim

—Jim Croce

In addition:

  1. Don’t lie to the feds.
  2. Don’t argue with Food Network judges.

You can sometimes negotiate with the feds if you admit to some level of guilt. What they really hate is being lied to. Martha Stewart learned that the hard way. It’s why she ended up spending time in federal prison.

If you’re on a Food Network competition show, don’t argue with the evaluation that the judges give your cooking. Don’t try to explain or justify yourself. It’s likely to cause you to be the one to be sent home that week. And in any case you’ll just annoy the viewers.

I’m just sayin’.