Friday, March 25, 2011

Gaga Goes To Google And To Oakland

This hour long interview (conducted as a Google all-hands) reveals Lady Gaga to be an articulate­, intelligen­t, charmingly sweet and positively determined musician. She was asked all types of questions via YouTube, the interviewe­r and the audience, and answered each one with honesty and humor. I appreciate­d her discussed artistry, her waxing philosophical, and her recognition of her fans. And damn, those boots!

And damn, the Monster Ball at the Oracle Arena in Oakland! But unlike last year's ball, this time I just watched, sang and danced. The only numbers I hadn't seen were Gaga's two renditions of Born This Way: one jazz-like at her piano and the other, a club banger to end the show. It was incredible to watch us, her fans, giving as good as they got at the show's end.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Trim My Bush, Tabatha?

Tabatha Coffey is tough, talented and taking over. A niche Suze Orman, Coffey is a no nonsense business woman (and studied stylist) who turns a tanking hair salon into a money machine in one week on her television show, Tabatha's Salon Takeover. A loyal fan, she also turned me into a stylist for my garden when it came to evaluating and trimming my overgrown blue potato bush.


What would you like to do with it, Michael?

I'd like to take off a good deal of length.

Has it ever been short before?

I imagine it would be healthy, low maintenance and majestic, like yours.

Yes, that it would.


I started with a blunt cut that became a guide for the trim. Then I sectioned it off and used bevel cuts for each part. (It was hard to keep the trimmer at 90 degrees.) I undercut the top so I could get to them with more ease. I wanted the very top to fall in layers. Once I got the graduated shape the way I wanted, I texturized the outer layer to add a studied naturalism and a subtle elegance. Voila!


Michael wanted to be able to walk under his blue potato bush (which blooms flowers that are closer to purple but that's a digression). Michael wanted a blue potato tree that did not dwarf the California Redwood he has cared for since four inches tall. Now his blue potato tree is tall and majestic but not overpowering. If Michael keeps up with the low, monthly maintenance, he will have a lovely and healthy tree to add to the natural feel in his backyard for years to come.

Phenomenal Tabatha Doll ©minieyap
Click this text for more photos and details

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Jean Arthur Is More Than A Secretary

When I leave (the animals) Max and Lucy alone in the house I put the television on Turner Classic Movies for their company. When I return, if I see something worth viewing, I live rewind and enjoy it myself. And walking in to see the luminous Jean Arthur, an actor noted for playing tough, independent, and vulnerable middle-class working girls, is always a good reason to live rewind.

Jean Arthur's most infamous asset (notwithstanding her skill as a comedienne) was her voice - a mash-up that blends the husky tones of Beatrice Arthur with the high-pitched squeaks of Butterfly McQueen (I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies!.). More Than A Secretary, the rewound film, takes place in the publishing offices of a health food magazine - a business setting not often seen in black and white comedies. So I spread my almond butter and conserves on rice cakes, poured a cup of sinfully delicious rice milk and lost myself in the antics of 1936.

Arthur (a stenog herself during World War I) owns a secretarial school and is tired of her (female) graduates applying for the job but, in the end, getting the boss. She then receives a phone call from the editor of a health food magazine who has fired one of her students for being a poor worker. Her reputation impugned, Arthur goes down to the office, is mistaken for a job applicant, takes the secretarial job AND a shine to her new boss. Instead of reciprocating personally, George Brent promotes Arthur to associate editor, and takes a shine to Maizie, a non matriculated blonde floozy student who takes the boss for all she can.

The interesting things in More Than A Secretary are the comparisons between yesterday and today. At one point, Arthur tries to convince Brent that a female model on the cover of the health magazine (rather than a male bodybuilder) is good marketing and not prurient. 'Blackface comics sell toothpaste,' she says as an example of good marketing. And almost fifty years before he hit supporting actor pay dirt as the old guy on the 1980s television hit Hart To Hart, Lionel Stander played the magazine's male bodybuilder model whose face is replaced in each of his pictures with that of a prettier man. The star crossed lovers even have dinner in The Eat Right, a vegetarian restaurant in which Arthur chows down on Pro-Toze, a steak made from vegetables and mashed nuts, only to spit the vegan meat into her napkin. Finally - SPOILER ALERT - Arthur sells her school and goes on the road with her girlfriend, in a car towing a camper.

Maizie, played by Dorothea Kent, is an offbeat character. In telling Brent how the older Arthur treated her at school, "More like a mother than a daughter." In fact, Maizie's role is of a secretary paramour; she is used, paid nicely and passed on by every boss in the movie. (The look on Brent's face as he tries to palm Maizie off on the next boss is priceless.) One of the more memorable scenes is when Arthur puts Maizie over her knee and gives her a good spanking.

More Than A Secretary is more than a movie; it's a bit of history not often seen (it's not on DVD) or documented. And it's Jean Arthur. And it's healthy. And I just happened to catch it on a live rewind. Thanks Max and Lucy.

2013 Update: Watch the movie on YouTube - not sure for how long though.

See my Pinterest page for a slew of pictures of Jean from throughout her life and career.

These Jean Arthur movies can be seen on
  • The Card Sharks 1930 starring William Powell, Kay Francis, Jean Arthur, Regis Toomey
  • Resurrected 1930 starring Warner Oland, O. P. Heggie, Jean Arthur, Neil Hamilton 1930
  • The House Of Fear starring William Powell, Florence Eldridge, Jean Arthur, Eugene Pallette 1929
  • Here Comes The Bandwagon starring Charles Buddy Rogers, Jean Arthur, Paul Lukas, Helen Ware 1929
  • The Red Dragon starring Warner Oland, Neil Hamilton, Jean Arthur, O. P. Heggie 1929
  • Love 'Em And Leave 'Em starring Clara Bow, James Hall, Edna May Oliver, Jean Arthur 1929

This video is a promo for the short-lived 1967 situation comedy The Jean Arthur Show.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

No Applause for Lauren Bacall

For many years I have wondered about Applause, the late 1960s musical sourced from the classic film All About Eve. Listening to the Broadway cast recording is a mundane experience at best. The lyrics are simplistic and the melodies non-existent. My guess is that for a rasping vocalist like Lauren Bacall a melody would just get in the way.

The title tune is the most memorable song on the record but it's sung by Bonnie Franklin, not star Bacall. Fasten Your Seat Belts (alluding to the film's most quotable quote) is the horrifying first act closer with vocal "honks," if you will. And Bacall's plaintive ballad Hurry Back pains MY throat when I hear it. Bacall might have been good as Margo Channing (the grande dame of the theater famously played by Bette Davis on celluloid) but the cast recording does not give one much reason to hope.

So it was with trepidation that I watched the 1973 television adaptation of Applause. This special aired once on CBS, never to be seen again - and now I know why. It is not pretty. But for a television broadcast it was groundbreaking:

  • It portrays older woman Bacall in a relationship with younger man Larry Hagman. Hagman lip syncs to some vocal and does a little dance. His mother, after all, is...
  • The first big musical number But Alive is at a bar in Greenwich Village that only has male customers and where Bacall does her best dancing.
  • Ms. Channing and Eve are taken to said bar by Dwayne, Ms. Channing's openly homosexual assistant.

We get progressively cattier as the items continue.

  • According to the television title cards, there are six acts in this musical. SIX!
  • Fasten Your Seat Belts is still a horrifying number with vocal "honks," if you will, but with six acts it was no longer the first act closer.
  • Eve Harrington (you all know all about Eve) is portrayed devilishly by Penny Fuller who, with Bacall, originated the part on Broadway. Her big number One Hallowe'en is good despite the fact that it is just the opening number But Alive with some extra lines about her dad and Halloween. I don't even know why they had to use the apostrophe in Halloween.
  • Bonnie Franklin is NOT the Broadway dancer (or gypsy) who sings the title song Applause in the special although she was the gypsy who sang the song on Broadway. The girl who sings it on television was never heard from again and Bonnie Franklin went onto great success as the star of CBS' own situation comedy, One Day At A Time.
  • The movie is so much better.

  • This retelling of Eve's story paints her as a literal whore - thanks to the permissive 1970s television standards.
  • In one scene, Ms. Bacall as Ms. Channing is having pictures taken for a coffee advertisement; Ms. Bacall was famously paid (in the 1970s) for her High Point Decaffeinated Coffee television commercials.
  • They dropped a bunch of songs but not the sappy, lesbianic anthem The Best Night Of My Life.
  • Ms. Bacall's solo performance of Something Greater is one for the annals of histrionics.
  • Why wasn't Margo Channing (the character in the musical) made a musical comedy star rather than a dramatic actress? She speaks throughout Applause of the play she is in, the writer's new play, the play in which Eve wants the part, the play, the play, the play. Then why bring gypsies into it for one scene? Gypsies are in musicals.
  • The show ends with a very surrealistic curtain call.
Well, this 1973 television production does not give one much reason to hope that the Broadway production was any better. To be fair, Ms. Bacall was the least of this shows problems which began with Betty Comden, Adolph Green (I know!), Charles Strouse and Lee Adams (I know.)

But you can watch this television version of Applause right now and see for yourself. MikeyG0901 has edited the recording into ten minute clips. The first one is below. Just click through to the YouTube page and follow the part numbers.

Or email me for a download URL to an WMV file that contains the complete almost two hour special.

Here's the original review of the theatrical production reproduced from the New York Times. Clive Barnes loved it. Maybe it loses something on the small screen - or maybe he's tone deaf.

Right click to enlarge