Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dick Dale of "The Lawrence Welk Show" passes away

According to the blog Welk Musical Family and The Globe Gazette, Dick Dale has passed away. He performed on The Lawrence Welk Show from 1955 to 1982.

Sadly, his passing is not being covered by major news sources, presumably because the editors don't think anyone cares about or remembers The Lawrence Welk Show.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hollywood: Please stop dying

I just have one thing to say tonight. Please no more deaths. This week has been very hard. I don't have the strength to write  anything other than I am very deeply saddened by all of this week's passings. Especially today's news, Ralph Waite of The Waltons, my favorite show. If anyone deserved an Emmy, it was Mr. Waite.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Jay Leno's last week

After 20+ years on the air,  last week was Jay's last, and I was feeling a little sentimental. So I DVR'd every episode this week to make sure I caught every last moment before the Jay Leno era ended for good.

I remember when Johnny Carson left in May 1992. I wasn't a regular viewer of late night talk then either, but I remember taping each of his last shows, too (but I couldn't tell you for the life of me what became of those old VHS tapes).

Last Monday, Jay's successor Jimmy Fallon was the first guest of the evening; he and Jay had a friendly chat. I'm happy that Jimmy will be the new host. I like him. For one, he's a fan of the Muppets. And I find him funny, too with a good sense of timing. And I think he will treat his guests with respect. For example, I remember a Jimmy Fallon show a few months ago when Bill Cosby was a guest. Bill was acting very strangely that night (as if drunk) and ended up lying on the floor, then sitting of the floor for an extended period of time. Instead of mocking him or snickering, Jimmy got on the floor, too so as to not make Bill Cosby look so bad.

Monday night's second guest was Betty White, and when she emerged from the backstage Jay and Jimmy escorted her to the couch. She teased Jay by acting more interested in Jimmy. Then she reminisced about each of the previous Tonight Show hosts, going all the way back to Steve Allen and Jack Paar. Then Jay showed an old clip of Betty's Life With Elizabeth show from the early 1950s and Betty was thrilled. I'd like to see more of those old episodes!

On Tuesday, Matthew McCaunahey was the first guest, followed by former NBA star Charles Barkley, who is now a commentator. Matthew talked a little about "Dallas Buyers Club" - the movie that may win him an Oscar. And Barkley praised the LA Clippers. Then on Wednesday, Sandra Bullock - another possible Oscar winner this year - was the first guest followed by Blake Shelton. Blake began to tell a story about marijuana smoking at the Grammys a few weeks ago but didn't get to finish the story. Jay managed to tease Sandra a bit for some of her bad movies ("Speed 2")  but then praised her for others, including a movie that came out 20 years ago called Wrestling Ernest Hemingway. Jay talked about how much he loved it and her performance in it. I never saw that movie but I'm going to seek it out and review it on my movie blog one day.

Then Thursday was Jay's final show, with guest Billy Crystal. Billy began with a little comedy act, and then sang a parody of the "Goodbye Farewell" song from "Sound of Music", with guest stars stopping in such as  Carol Burnett, Sheryl Crow, and Oprah Winfrey. Billy and Jay reminisced about their early careers in the late 60s and early 70s when they knew each other in the comedy world. They both cited Robert Klein as a big influence and I found that interesting. I guess I never thought about who influenced them as comedians.
And then Jay introduced his final musical guest Garth Brooths, who sang one sad song (The Dance) and one spirited one (Friends in Low Places).

I think Monday or Tuesday's show had a 5-minute clip of highlights from the past 20 years. That was fun. I wish there was an entire show of clips. Like Johnny Carson did on his last show in May 1992. Oh well, there's always YouTube I guess.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Waltons episode on Slavery

The other day I watched an episode of that had the Waltons deal with the issue of slavery. It was the episode where their black neighbor Verdie goes on a quest to find her ancestors. It was a very touching episode, and I think one of the best of the whole series. At one point, Verdie's husband tells her not to go hunting for answers because it will be too painful. But she keeps searching anyway, with the help of Jason Walton who drives to her to several towns and cities searching for public records, churches, and cemeteries.

Eventually they make their way to a plantation where her great grandfather once lived, and where an old woman now resides. The old woman tells  them to go away. But Grandpa Walton  - of her generation - persuades her to let Verdie look at some records in the house. Eventually Verdie and Jason find sketches of everyone that lived on the plantation including the slaves, one of them being Verdie's great-grandfather who came from Africa.

The way this whole sequence is filmed really makes you feel you're right there along with Verdie, Grandpa, and Jason. When they go into the attic, you get the feeling that no one has been there in years, and that they'll probably be the last people ever up there, until the old woman dies. 

At the end of the episode, there's a close up of Verdie praying that one day someone in her family's line will have an opportunity to travel to Africa and discover deeper roots. 

I wished the episode ended on that note, but there was the obligatory ending where everyone in the Walton house says "Goodnight" and I thought that sort of killed the mood. Otherwise, it's a great episode.