A Liebster for Leah – 3rd in a series


I am rapidly turning the Liebster Award into a blog genre of my own! But don’t blame me. When I wrote questions for my previous Liebster nomination, one of the recipients was Leah at the blog Cary Grant Won’t Eat You, and she proceeded to nominate me right back — so here we go again! (If you don’t believe me, click on her blog’s name, above, for the link.)

Happily, I have persuaded one of my favorite actresses, Adrienne Barbeau, to model my Liebster Awards. Don’t her friends look impressed by them?


In any case, if you’re bored with my Liebster talk, feel free to ignore this blog entry. Otherwise, here, once again, are the Liebster Award rules. Every Liebster nominee is expected to:

  • Answer his or her nominator’s 11 questions.
  • Nominate 11 additional bloggers.
  • Ask 11 questions of your nominees.
  • Share 11 additional facts about yourself.
  • Forfeit his or her Liebster Award if he or she is unable to fulfill the Award obligations for any reason for the upcoming year. (Nah, that last one’s a fake. It just sounded good.)

Without further ado, here are Leah’s Liebster questions and my answers.

1-5. What’s your favorite movie when you’re feeling these moods, and do they help you get over the mood, or intensify it?

Blue – Glengarry Glen Ross. It always makes me feel better because it reminds me that there are a lot of people out there, particularly in the job market, who are a lot worse off than I am.

Angry – The War of the Roses, with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. So many movies about anger nevertheless have an undercurrent that shows they want you to like them. Roses was one of the few movies I’ve seen where a couple started out unapologetically nasty and stayed that way right to the very end.

Nostalgic – Any 1930’s or ’40s movie set in New York or L.A. I get a rush watching actors saunter through that classic style, as if their characters knew they were making movie history.

Giddy – The Palm Beach Story. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: That movie is like mainlining joy right into my soul.

Undercaffeinated – W.C. Fields’ The Bank Dick. That movie was written and performed by an unrepentant drunk, and its very rhythm gives you the effect of feeling cheerily soused all the way through.

6. What invention in your lifetime has affected you the most?

The Internet, if that counts as an invention; if not, definitely the personal computer. I have enough social skills to get by in life, but I don’t really interact that well with live people. The Internet allows me to socialize all I want without having to come up with superfluous small talk.

7. Which actor or actress (the performer/character he/she plays) would make the best superhero in your estimation? Why?


It’s a pity that Jane Russell was never asked to play Wonder Woman in her lifetime. Physically, Lynda Carter looked smashing in the role, but she never seemed to have much fun with it. I can just imagine Jane tossing off one-liners under her breath as she saved the world.

8. Which classic movie character would you ask romantic advice?


Buster Keaton — not the real man, but the character he plays. He starts out every feature film behind the eight-ball, and by movie’s end, he has conquered some major hurdle and gotten the girl. I’d just have to ask him where he finds so much reserve. I’d have lost it by the end of the first reel.

9. Which movie character (classic/current) would give you terrible advice about everything?


Just the other night on TCM, I saw In This Our Life for the first time. I couldn’t resist mis-advising Stanley Timberlake (Bette Davis) just so I could watch her f**k everything up. (I’d also yank her chain by asking her if all her hang-ups had to do with the fact that she’s a female named Stanley.)

10. Which literary/movie character would you ask to help you with your least favorite errand?


Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) in Working Girl. I do most of the housecleaning duties in my home, but they really are drudgery. Having Tess help me topless would certainly make the job more tolerable.

11. Which actor/actress are you surprised you like? Why?

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Susan Sarandon. I first saw her in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it didn’t surprise me that she wasn’t all that great in that movie, since it was meant to be campy. But for a while, her acting never seemed to get any better. I think the turning point for me was Dead Man Walking, where I was astounded at what a three-dimensional role she was playing. I’ve been pretty impressed with her ever since.


I’m not going to bother nominating 11 people, because most of my nominees are too busy (at least that’s what I tell myself) to answer my questions anyway. However, I am happy to provide 11 questions. If you deign to answer them, please let me know — I’d love to read your replies!

  1. Past or present, who is an actor or actress whose popular appeal you have never been able to comprehend?
  2. What movie would you like to insert yourself into (either as a major character or an extra), and why?
  3. Colorization debate aside, is there a black-and-white movie whose settings you’ve ever wondered (or fantasized) about in color?
  4. If your life story was made into a movie, which genre would you prefer it in?
  5. What fictional movie city would you most like to live in?
  6. Your all-time favorite movie musical number?
  7. Which modern-day actor or actress do you think would have been tailor-made for silent movies? (Please leave Johnny Depp out of the discussion; he’s pretty much proven his chops already.)
  8. If you could, what movie character would you grab by the lapels or collar and give a good talking to?
  9. The gods have granted you 10 seconds to appear as a ghost and give a piece of advice to a movie star, past or present. Which star, and what do you tell them?
  10. You have the opportunity to yank moviegoers’ chains. What’s a movie in one genre that you’d remake in another genre (e.g., a drama you’d remake as a comedy)?
  11. What advice would you give to the current Powers That Be in Hollywood?


Scraping the bottom of the barrel even further, here are 11 more facts about little ol’ me.

  1. I never tried shrimp until I was 22 years old — and when I did, I didn’t know you were supposed to peel it first. My brother had a great time when he found out why I hadn’t left behind any shells.
  2. When I was a kid, I didn’t like ice in my soda because it melted too fast and left you with a watery drink. One day when I was 11 years old, I went to a theater to see a movie. I bought a large soda, and I actually went so far as to dip my hand in it, pull out the ice, and drop the ice into what I thought was a tall trash can. Then an usher came up to me and said, “That’s where we put all of the torn movie tickets.” Oops.
  3. In grade school, I won the school spelling bee twice and was a first runner-up another year. I very much identified with the movie A Boy Named Charlie Brown where they made a big deal out of him winning the spelling bee.
  4. Long before he died, I somewhat “corresponded” with Roger Ebert via his “Movie Answer Man” column. That is to say, he actually answered, online, a few of the questions I submitted to him. One of them is even printed in his book Questions for the Movie Answer Man. That meant a great deal to me because I hugely admired his movie criticism.
  5. About six months after my wife and I got married, we were sitting around one day talking about the University of Florida, where we had attended college at approximately the same time without knowing each other (or so we thought). We compared notes and realized that seven years previously, for about three months, we had worked together in a work-study job, after which we promptly forgot about each other. My wife said the turning point for her was when she asked me out with her friends to the on-campus pub one Friday afternoon, and I told her I had a class to attend. She said she knew then that she didn’t want to have anything to do with a guy who would rather go to class than drink beer.
  6. I have lived in Florida for the last 37 years, with the exception of June 1987 through February 1988. In ’87, when I was 26 years old, I had long nursed a dream of moving to L.A. and become a writer of or about movies. On a whim, in May of that year, I spent five weeks gathering up all the money and belongings I could and then headed out to L.A., where the only person I knew was my best friend from high school. I thought I’d end up spending the rest of my life out there, but I moved back less to Florida less than a year later due to a strange case of homesickness. It turned out to be quite an adventure, though.
  7. I had mononucleosis when I was 8 years old and spent a week in the hospital. I had no idea how deadly it could have been; I just knew I loved the nurses fawning over me. The only part I hated was when they drew blood from me for the first time in my life.
  8. As I mentioned in my first Liebster factoid, I’ve written several plays that have been performed locally. I taught myself how to write scripts. First, I read some scripts that were printed in books. Then when I was about 13, I transcribed a TV show one night and “wrote” it back out in script form. It was like Malcolm X learning how to write by copying the dictionary. You’d be surprised how much you can teach yourself by rote.
  9. Have you had a moment where a piece of entertainment “spoke” to you? I first heard John Lennon’s first solo album Plastic Ono Band when I was 16, and I’d swear it saved my life. When he sang, “They hurt you at home and they hit you at school” on “Working Class Hero,” it made me realize, as Lennon himself said he realized through art, that I wasn’t crazy — that someone else had gone through the same kind of dysfunctional growing-up years as I was going through.
  10. I am always impressed by people who can express themselves physically — ballet, dance, etc. Maybe that’s why I enjoy physical comedians such as Chaplin and Keaton. I’m always astounded when I see Internet videos of things such as pre-K kids who can do kung-fu moves. My family doesn’t even trust me with a hammer.
  11. I’m not terribly proud of this, but I listened to the Bob & Doug McKenzie comedy album so much in the 1980’s, I found that I had memorized it. Decades later, when I had a son who got into their humor, I astounded him by putting on a CD of the album and reciting to the CD almost word for word.

That’s it for this Liebster episode. Thanks for reading!

Lovin’ the Liebster – Award No. 2


The stars must be aligned in my favor today! One month to the day after being nominated for my first Liebster Award, my new blogger friend Summer Reeves from Serendipitous Anachronisms has nominated me for my second such award! I’m so proud to have two of them that I decided to adorn my mascot, Jane Russell, with both of my medals. Don’t they look swell on her?


Now, before I bore you again with more of my pretentious commentary, I must of course share the Liebster rules with you. Every Liebster nominee is expected to:

  • Answer his or her nominator’s 11 questions.
  • Nominate 11 additional bloggers.
  • Ask 11 questions of your nominees.
  • Share 11 additional facts about yourself.

Man, are you in for a painful read! Nevertheless, I shall begin by answering the lovely Summer’s questions. (A couple of these happen to overlap some questions from my previous Liebster questionnaire, so please don’t shoot the messenger.)

1. What movie have you seen more times than necessary?


This is a question that I covered previously. It’s The Rocky Horror Picture Showwhich I saw 50-plus times throughout my high school and college years. (Don’t knock it, it was the next-best thing I had to a social life.) Second place goes to practically any Laurel & Hardy movie, all of which I’ve been watching since I was 10 years old.

2. What movie scared you?


This might be the silliest confession of my life. But I saw the much-maligned Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1984 on video, about a year after it had been released theatrically. I watched it on a Friday night, and as it happened, the segment “It’s a Good Life,” about a sociopathic boy who uses magical powers to control his family members’ lives, happened to come on just after midnight. I was freaked out for the rest of the night.

3. What do you wish they would adapt or re-adapt to cinema?


Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, an outstanding novel about a black family’s struggles in 1930’s Mississippi. Someone produced a TV-movie version of the story in 1978, and despite a few good moments and the casting of Morgan Freeman (shown at far right) in an early supporting role, the movie didn’t begin to do justice to the sprawling novel.

4. Are there any forthcoming films or TV shows you are excited about?


Last year, I saw a very funny trailer for Cuban Fury, a comedy starring Nick Frost (veteran of Simon Pegg comedies such as Shaun of the Dead) as a plus-sized man who decides to learn salsa dancing to win the heart of a curvaceous salsa dancer he sees. The trailer stated, “Coming this April,” and the Internet Movie Database claims the film was released in America last year, but IMDb shows no ratings or reviews for it, so I think they’re wrong. My guess is that the releasing company decided the movie wasn’t dumb enough to be released in America.

5. What are your favorite Shakespeare-ish films (Derivative work)?

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This isn’t a movie, but I just can’t help citing “Atomic Shakespeare,” the Taming of the Shrew parody from the infamous 1980’s TV series “Moonlighting.” Whatever else you could say about that show, it brooked no middle ground; either it was buzzing with off-the-chart quality, or it was laying a huge egg before your eyes. The “Atomic” episode is as farcical-brilliant as anything Mel Brooks ever did, concluding by going the Bard one better with a pro-feminist speech beautifully delivered by Bruce Willis. At present, the episode is posted on YouTube; savor it while you can.

6. What’s your favorite movie about show business?

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All That Jazz, Bob Fosse’s post-modern musical — full of all the truth about show-business self-loathing, joy, and backstage chicanery that would have made Mickey and Judy blush to admit it. It’s showtime, folks!

7. What’s your favorite documentary?


Les Blank’s Gap-Toothed Women, a celebration of physical imperfections and one of the most life-affirming movies I’ve ever seen. It would make a perfect curtain-raiser for Steve Martin’s romantic comedy Roxanne (which was coincidentally released the same year).

8. What’s your favorite movie score?


I don’t have much quarrel with anything Bernard Herrmann did, but for a score I listen to from start to finish, I prefer Taxi Driver — equal parts jazzy sax and sinister Gotham.

9. Why did you start blogging?

Since 2000, I’ve been creating websites devoted to my favorite movie comedians, but relatively few people have visited them. Then, a couple of years ago, I noticed that my then-supervisor at work had a blog that she used to promote retail items she liked. She told me she had 1,000 subscribers and that I should do something like that to promote my movie writing. Last year, I finally decided to do it.

10. What do you think is the nicest thing you’ve discovered about blogging?

I really like the cameraderie and the sense of community. I’ve met so many like-minded bloggers whose work is fun to read and who appreciate the kind of opinions that used to get me sneered at when I’d try to share them back in high school.

11. What are your other interests? 

Reading and Facebook. I’m in my mid-fifties and fairly boring.


Now, I get to pick on 11 other bloggers. Some of them are people whom I already chose when I answered my first Liebster questionnaire, so don’t get peeved at me for pestering you again!

Diary of a Movie Maniac

Outspoken and Freckled

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies

Cary Grant Won’t Eat You (Who couldn’t love that title??)

Love Letters to Old Hollywood

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood


Criterion Blues

Reel Distracted

Timeless Hollywood


Since I received only a couple of responses from my previous Liebster questionnaire, I’m going to “recycle” it for this one. I’d appreciate it if the above-named nominees would answer the following questions and link your answers blog back to this (my) blog.

1. “All-time favorite movie” is too tough. What is your favorite genre, and what is your all-time favorite movie in that genre?

2. “Theatrical” is too easy. What’s your all-time favorite TV-movie?

3. The Great Movie Genie is allowing you to permanently change the ending of one movie. Which one do you choose, and why?

4. You’re the latest heinie-kissing Hollywood exec, slavishly following trends. Which movie, good or bad, would you like to sequelize or remake?

5. Name the movie whose screening you’d like to co-host on TCM with Ben Mankiewicz.

6. Describe your most memorable movie occasion — not necessarily your favorite film, but a movie you enjoyed with friends, one that evoked a particular memory, etc.

7. What is your favorite line of movie dialogue?

8. Why are movies special to you?

9. What do you enjoy most about blogging?

10. What is your favorite book about movies?

11. You have your favorite movie actor or actress to yourself for 24 hours to do with what you will. Name, please.


Finally, I must share 11 more facts about little ole me. Some of these are pretty “reaching,” as I used up most of the interesting facts about me on my first Liebster list.

1. When I was 9 years old, a rhinoceros peed on me at the St. Louis Zoo. I didn’t do anything to bring it on. He was caged, and I was a good distance away from him. It’s just that, when my brother-in-law grabbed my sister and their baby and said, “Run for it!”, he understood more about the meaning of a rhino turning his heinie to you than I did.

2. I’m left-handed. That’s nothing spectacular, I know. But at a young age, I was delighted to find out that some of my favorite entertainers, such as Harpo Marx and Paul McCartney, were/are also left-handed.

3. My wife’s name is Kathy. Her younger siblings, in order of birth, were known as Susie and Bobby (now Susan and Bob). When I saw the movie Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, imagine my surprise when Santa Claus started reading his list of “good” children, and he intoned, “Kathy, Susie, Bobby…”

4. My father’s name was — really was — Bill Bailey. And for years, he dined out on his story about meeting Pearl Bailey when he was a custodian at the Chicago Amphitheatre. As he told it, he was cleaning up after her performance one night, and Pearl started making small talk with him. As soon as she found out his name, she sat him down and sang “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?” just for him.

5. My wife is a local newspaper editor. For 11 years, I wrote weekly movie reviews for her paper. She blithely informed me one day that copies of all U.S. newspapers, including hers, are forwarded to the Library of Congress for cataloging. So apparently, my silly little reviews are sitting somewhere in the Library of Congress.

6. My father married twice in his life. My oldest sibling is my half-sister, who is 78 years old. By contrast, I’m my family’s youngest member, and I’m 54.

7. I’m not a huge Three Stooges fan, but one day, my then-9-year-old son was with me when I happened to watch Gents without Cents, the Stooges short where they perform the classic burlesque sketch “Slowly I Turned/Niagara Falls.” My son fell over with laughter. He re-watched the short with me a couple of times, and he became so obsessed with it that we finally ended up creating our own “miniature” version of it (minus the Curly-type violence so that I wouldn’t hurt him) and performing it for anyone who would sit still for us for two minutes.

8. I did not have cable TV in my man-cave until a couple of weeks ago. We have cable in our home, but there was a TV in everyone’s room except mine. (Not as punishment — I didn’t especially want one.) My mother-in-law recently died, and my son set up her old set in my room. Now I check the TCM schedule as religiously as any of my fellow bloggers. This #TCMParty thing is a hoot.

9. I got a pith helmet the other day. Again, not a major accomplishment, but still…I’ve always wanted one, I guess because I thought they looked cool and because they make me think of Groucho Marx in Animal CrackersThere’s a guy I’ve befriended on Facebook who also likes Groucho; this guy lives in the U.K. He had a pith helmet he was tired of, so for no particular reason, he sent it to me, free of charge. Pretty cool for something I never expected!

Me, in all of my pithy splendor.

Me, in all of my pithy splendor.

10. One summer, 15 years ago, I shaved my head bald. I was a middle-school teacher at the time, and I’d had an especially bad school year. I think that was my way of symbolically shedding the past year. My wife and daughter were horrified by my appearance. It was an interesting experiment, though; I think everyone should do that once in a lifetime.

11. My biggest accomplishment in my life is that I overcame the NO. I was raised by an embittered, widowed father whose philosophy was to settle for whatever crumbs life throws you, and to not ever ask for or expect anything special. Despite that, I grew up to: move across the country to L.A., interview my hero Chuck Jones (and get him to do a personalized drawing of Bugs Bunny for me), and write, direct, and star in plays that got produced locally. Don’t live the way a lot of my relatives lived, and die wondering why you didn’t do some of the things you wanted.


Thanks for your participation and your continued enthusiastic blogging! Jane is also awaiting your replies with much enthusiasm!