Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Two Sam Cooke Film Projects Battle For Best Big Screen Biography

October 24, 2015


Singer Sam Cooke was the Michael Jackson of his heyday. He was a handsome rhythm and blues crooner of color who made women swoon over his sound.

His noteworthy tunes include “You Send Me”, “Only Sixteen” and “Twistin’ The Night Away.”

Tragically, in December 1964, his life was cut short at age 33 when he took a known asian prostitute to a seedy Los Angeles motel. The motel manager, Bertha Franklin, shot and killed Cooke after he apparently went into a drunken rage and became aggressive once the hooker left his room while the singer used the bathroom.

The oriental woman claimed to police that Cooke had kidnapped her and had intended to rape her. Perhaps she lured him there to rob him while he wasn’t looking. Others theorize that Cooke was killed by music industry powers-to-be because he was in control of his own record label which was unheard of back in those days.

Over half a century since his demise, two separate feature films are being developed telling Cooke’s story from humble gospel beginnings in Mississippi to musical stardom to his despicable demise under mysterious circumstances.

One film claiming to be the authorized version is being made by ABKCO Films, part of Cooke’s former manager Allen Klein’s music empire. Klein died in 2009 but his daughter Robin is Vice President of ABKCO Music and Records Inc. while also serving as Director of Film for their motion picture division. ABKCO holds the music/movie/life story rights of Sam Cooke, purchased from his widow in 1988 for approximately $100,000.

The other unauthorized film version is being produced by musician and filmmaker Romeo Antonio who also has a background in law enforcement. He spent several years researching the murder investigation and coroner reports and is calling his project “Sam Cooke: The Truth.”

Family members of Sam Cooke are somewhat divided among both camps. Widow Barbara Cooke Womack and brother L.C. Cooke endorse the ABKCO venture while brother David, former sister-in-law Phyllis and nephew Eugene Jamison sides with Antonio.

The official stand of the Cooke family is that the ABKCO feature is supposedly the only official film version about the soul singer.

Lou Rawls Jr., the son of singer Lou Rawls and god-child of Sam Cooke, is named an associate producer in Romeo Antonio’s production. Their story is based on the B. G. Rhule biography “The Redemption of Sam Cooke.”

ABKCO Films has named Carl Franklin as director of their film project.

Romeo Antonio has hired actor Christopher Warren to portray Blues musician Hank Ballard in his production.

No word yet on who is starring as Sam Cooke in either version.

How Romeo Antonio can even make a movie about singer Sam Cooke without holding rights to his persona or music remains to be seen.

He was hoping to cast Mad Men’s Jon Hamm to portray ABKCO’s founder Allen Klein who could possibly be implicated in Cooke’s murder over musical ownership and generated royalties.

The battle of this epic biopic has begun.


The Legendary Comedy And Longevity Of Don Rickles

October 11, 2015

Mister_Hockey_PuckDon Rickles is regarded as a living legend of comedy. An icon of a time when the “Rat Pack” (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford) ruled Las Vegas.

The only reason he is considered with such reverence is because he has lived so long. It’s amazing that he is 89-years-old and still performs on stage. He has future gigs scheduled as far ahead as May 2016 if he is lucky enough to be alive to attend.

I mean no disrespect. I adore the man. I just don’t think he would be so exalted had he passed away, say, in the 1980s. He was the Howard Stern of his day. He insulted everybody. He was politically incorrect before the term “politically incorrect” came into existence.

His acting skills were marginal at best. He had his own sit-com in 1972 which lasted only thirteen episodes. He later starred in C.P.O. Sharkey that ran two seasons. He made guest appearances on many classic TV shows such as The Addams Family, Gilligan’s Island, Get Smart, The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Dream Of Jeannie but none which would be considered notable.

His best television appearances, in my opinion, occurred on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. One in particular was when Rickles was on while Bob Newhart was filling in for Johnny as guest host. Rickles accidentally broke a cigarette case on the desk and, the next night, Johnny noticed the damaged container. He was told by band leader Doc Severinsen that Rickles did it the night before so Johnny took off to the adjacent studio, where Rickles was taping an episode of C.P.O. Sharkey, and confronted the surprised Rickles about it.

He appeared in movies (Kelly’s Heroes, Beach Blanket Bingo, Casino) but without Academy Award recognition. His own grandchildren know him more for being the voice of Toy Story’s Mr. Potato Head than for anything else in his career.

It’s remarkable that here he is nowadays with his own web site featuring his own mobile app, his own twitter feed and selling DVDs of his Sharkey program as well as listings of upcoming performance locations.

To see an interview of a subdued Don Rickles, without all of the yelling and insulting of his known “shtick” act, catch him on his 2007 book-tour guest appearance on The Charlie Rose show. He speaks openly and honestly about his mother, about Johnny Carson, about Frank Sinatra and his friendship with colleague Bob Newhart.

The 2007 HBO special, “Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project” helps to celebrate his notable life and celebrity by showing what it’s like behind the scenes of his performances.

His 2014 “One Night Only” tribute on Spike TV at the Apollo in Harlem was a delightful broadcast in his honor.

He has outlasted so many comedians who came after him: Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, John Belushi, Sam Kinison, John Candy, Robin Williams.

Rickles married late in life, at age 39, in 1965. He and his wife Barbara had two children. His son, Larry, died in 2011 from pneumonia.

He loves baseball and especially the Los Angeles Dodgers. He used to poke fun mercilessly at former Dodger Don Zimmer who once said that his most sweetest revenge was, as he and Rickles got older, they began to resemble one another.

Red Skelton Loved To Paint Clowns

October 5, 2015

Canvas, 11x14"

Comedian Red Skelton (1913-1997) always considered himself a clown rather than a comic. He believed his life’s work was to make people laugh so he wanted to be known as a clown because he defined it as being able to do everything.

In 1943, Skelton began producing artwork but did it privately for many years. He said he was inspired to try his hand at painting after visiting a large Chicago department store that had various paintings on display.

Skelton’s artwork of clowns remained a hobby until 1964 when his second wife Georgia, a former art student, persuaded him to have his first public showing of his work at the Sands hotel in Las Vegas where he was performing.

Skelton believed painting was an asset to his comedy work as it helped him to better visualize the imaginary props he used in his pantomime routines.

When asked why his artwork focused on clowns, he first said, “I don’t know why it’s always clowns.” After thinking a moment he continued by saying. “No, that’s not true. I do know why. I just don’t feel like thinking about it.”

Jayne Mansfield Almost Was Ginger On Gilligan’s Island

September 30, 2015


With her acting career on the decline, blonde bombshell movie actress Jayne Mansfield was offered the part of Ginger Grant on Gilligan’s Island but turned it down at the advice of her third husband.

She continued taking bit parts in small B-rated films with an occasional appearance in a respectable production. She also worked in nightclubs.

A couple of years later, Mansfield would be tragically killed along with two other adults in an automobile accident in Louisiana while headed for a television interview. Her three young children with her in the rear of the car survived the crash, one of which was future actress Mariska Hargitay.

Jayne Mansfield was dead at 34 years of age. Had she been a castaway member of an iconic situation comedy filmed in California, she might have lived.

What If Eleanor Roosevelt Could Fly?

September 30, 2015

I am fairly certain that that counterfactual did not mean by way of the airplane.

During a late 1970’s Saturday Night Live skit moderated by Jane Curtin, this question was raised amongst a panel of distinguished guests commenting on the ridiculousness of the former First Lady sprouting wings and leading an air raid attack of military bombers against Japan and Germany during World War II.

Gotta love comedy writers. Must have been one heckuva brainstorming session on that one.

Happy Trails: Roy Rogers Had Some Rough Ones

September 19, 2015


Roy Rogers was born as Leonard Franklin Slye in Cincinnati, Ohio on November 5, 1911. He lived to be 86-years-old.

Besides being a singing cowboy and famous western movie and television star, he had quite a rough life. I never realized how rough he had it until recently.

When Roy was nearly 35-years-old, he was left with two small girls and a newborn son, all under 6 years of age, when his second wife Arline died from child birth complications. He and Dale Evans met and got married and had nine total children between them. Four were adopted.

In 1950, Robin Elizabeth was born with Down’s Syndrome. She died just before turning 2-years-old. Their Korean-American daughter Debbie died at age 12 in a church bus accident on its return from a goodwill mission at an orphanage in Mexico. Their grown adopted son Sandy died in the military while based in Germany.

Roy and Dale Evans were devout Christians and I have a feeling that their strong belief in that faith helped get them through the hard times.

Roy Rogers has several stars along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has been inducted in the Western Performers Hall of Fame in Oklahoma. His own museum was prominent first in California then it moved to Missouri before closing down in 2009.

His name and wholesome character were licensed to a chain of fast-food restaurants in 1968. He made a lot of money during his lifetime but being rich and famous couldn’t shield him from suffering some heavy tragedies during his long and illustrious career.


A Little Nostalgia For “The Incredible Shrinking Man”

September 14, 2015


This 1957 black and white science fiction movie starred Grant Williams and Randy Stuart as Mr. and Mrs. Scott Carey. Scott gets exposed to some mysterious mist while onboard his brother-in-law’s boat and finds himself beginning to slowly get smaller.

Suddenly his shirts are too big for him and he’s losing weight. The family doctor is played by William Schallert, famous for being the voice of Pop Tarts’ Milton the Toaster. He also played the father on the Patty Duke Show.

He recommends Scott to see a specialist played by Raymond Bailey, recognized as Mr. Drysdale from the Beverly Hillbillies. Eventually, Scott Carey is seen as a freak when he winds up smaller than little people from a nearby traveling circus.

He becomes tiny enough to live inside a dollhouse where the family’s pet cat is viewed as a survival threat. The special effects for the time period are pretty good.

Scott ends up using a straight pin to battle a spider found in the basement. Smaller and smaller into a world with an expanding universe. Not much room left for any kind of happy ending.

Famous Hollywood Horses: The Trusty Steeds Of Tinseltown

September 14, 2015


Tom Mix rode Tony The Wonder horse

The Lone Ranger had Silver; Tonto rode Scout

Pixar’s Woody from Toy Story rode Bullseye

Roy Rogers rode Trigger; Dale Evans rode Buttermilk

Ken Maynard rode Tarzan

Gene Autry rode Champion

The Cisco Kid rode Diablo

Alan Young’s Wilbur Post character had Mr. Ed

Buck Jones also rode a horse named Silver

Rex Allen rode Koko

Pancho rode Loco

The Durango Kid rode Raider

Lash LaRue rode Black Diamond but renamed him Rush

Smiley Burnette road Ring Eye

Tex Ritter rode White Flash

Wild Bill Elliott rode Thunder

Sunset Carson rode Cactus

Bob Steele’s horse was Brownie

Hopalong Cassidy rode atop Topper

Whip Wilson’s horse was Silver Bullet, later shortened to Bullet

Gabby Hayes had three horses: Calico, Eddie and Blossom

Andy Devine’s horse was Joker

Chuck Connors as the Rifleman rode Razor

Tim Holt had a team of horses: Duke, Shiek, Lightning, Steel and Sundance

A painted horse named Dice pulled the ice wagon for the Three Stooges

Was There More Than One Tony-The-Wonder Horse?

September 13, 2015


Cowboy actor Tom Mix did all of his own tricks and rode Tony The Wonder Horse while making over 180 westerns together.

Mix was sadly killed in an automobile accident in 1940. His horse lived an additional two years and was put down in 1942.

Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Joe Besser of the Three Stooges made two episodes of comedy about having a sister named Birdie who was reincarnated as a horse. Both featured Tony The Wonder Horse.

These episodes were filmed, however, in the late 1950’s.

There must have been another Tony The Wonder Horse, I wonder.

Just 3 Three Stooges? Guess Again. Try 23!

September 12, 2015


1) Moe Howard

2) Shemp Howard

3) Kenneth Lackey – Healy Replacement Stooge in 1925 “Earl Carroll Vanities”

4) Dave Chasen – Healy Replacement Stooge in 1925 “Earl Carroll Vanities”

5) Larry Fine

6) Curly Howard

7) Fred Sanborn – 1930 “Soup To Nuts”

8) Eddie Moran – Healy Replacement Stooge

9) Sammy (Glasser) Wolfe – Healy Replacement Stooge in 1931 “Crazy Quilt”

10) Paul “Mousie” Garner – Healy Replacement Stooge in 1931 “Crazy Quilt”

11) Dick Hakins – Healy Replacement Stooge in 1931 “Crazy Quilt”

12) Jack Wolf – Healy Replacement Stooge

13) Sam “Moody” Braun – Healy Replacement Stooge

14) Lou Warren – Healy Replacement Stooge

15) Bobby Pinkus – Healy Replacement Stooge

16) Jimmy Brewster – Healy Replacement Stooge in 1936 “San Francisco”

17) John “Red” Pearson – Healy Replacement Stooge in 1936 “San Francisco”

18) Frank Mitchell – performed live with Curly Joe and Mousie Garner

19) Joe Palma – fake Shemp double after his death

20) Mantan Moreland – Black comedian considered to replace Shemp

21) Joe Besser

22) Curly Joe DeRita

23) Emil Sitka – Considered to replace Larry after he suffered a stroke