Monday, April 26, 2010

Hatchet Job?

Faye Dunaway once said (prior to her slamming the lid on the topic forever) that she believed that only God, Joan Crawford and Christina truly know what went on between the legendary movie star and her adopted child, referring to the sensational topics covered in the book (and resultant film, in which she starred) Mommie Dearest. I’m inclined to think she was right. Joan never got a chance to defend herself and too many people doubt Christina for her side to be taken at 100% value.
When Joan died in 1977, she famously left out of her will the two oldest of her four children (all adopted – a fifth one was returned early on when the family of the birth mother claimed him.) Her stated position in the document was “for reasons which are well known to them.” It has been written that Joan knew about her daughter’s forthcoming book as early as 1976 and that Christopher was supporting it and so that is why she took this action. She had been estranged from both of them for a varying number of years. Joan could never have imagined, however, the utter sensation that would arise from the book’s publication a year and a half after her death.

Literally, term papers could be written on the complex relationship between Joan and Christina. There is all sorts of evidence on both sides regarding the character of these two women and much dispute over the validity of Christina’s account, some in her favor and some not. Anything written in this post is my take on the matter based on much reading on the subject in books or interviews (or from watching filmed documentaries) and my own perceptions. As I said, I don’t think anyone outside the actual participants will ever know the whole truth.

What I can say is that if Joan knew that Christina was writing a tell-all book (really the first of its kind, exposing the tears behind the staged familial happiness of Tinseltown), one can’t blame her for excising her from the will, though if she’d had better advice, she would have left the pair a nominal sum to prevent them from contesting (which they did, earning them $22,500 apiece.) I mean, why leave money to someone who is sharpening his or her knives as you’re on the verge of succumbing to cancer?

I also have no doubt whatsoever that Joan was a person who believed in discipline and order. That much is obvious from studying her own life and the two younger children Cathy and Cindy have acknowledged that much themselves, though they stringently denied practically everything Christina wrote about in Mommie Dearest. Even though these two ladies only received around $77,500 themselves, they always staunchly defended their adoptive mother and, in fact, never spoke to either Christopher or Christina again following the publication of the book. The surviving sister Cathy won’t even refer to the book by name.

It’s easy to suggest that things could have been different amongst the siblings due to age difference, but that sort of falls apart when one realizes that Christina is only seven years older than the youngest children and Christopher was merely three years their senior! Only so much could have gone on without their knowledge when the ages were that close. I do suspect that there was a difference in the way Joan felt about her children because of their personality differences. It seems as if the younger two children were far more appreciative and compliant than the older two. (A cynic may suggest that they were that way because they saw what happened to you if you were the opposite!) Christina, on the other hand, has often been described by people who knew her as a willful, spoiled, bratty child and Christopher, likewise, as an unruly and difficult one. Christopher eventually had tangles with the law as a juvenile and was placed in a military academy.

Christina made much about being sent away to school, but all four children were. It was practically a given in Hollywood at that time for children to be boarded at a private school. Along the same lines, it was far more typical in those days for a parent to strike a child. My mother certainly spanked me (with a small oar, meant to be a souvenir, but giving me mementos of a different kind!) though after a while all she had to do was indicate my punishment and I straightened up quickly! Another time she gave me a royal tongue-lashing and even had her hair in a towel for that one. My father was far worse, chasing my sisters around and spanking and slapping them, but I was far too obedient with him to ever warrant any of that. I’m not condoning any of it, just saying that it was more common (and accepted/expected) in the past. I also realize that there is a difference between corporal punishment and abuse. The punishment I received as a kid taught me a sort of personal discipline and respect for authority that I tend to find sorely lacking in many of those younger than me. Considering the background Joan came from, it’s possible that any number of horrors occurred in her own childhood and equally possible that she utilized some severe methods in childrearing.

That said, she desperately wanted children of her own (once she was ready! She had aborted several fetuses early on.) I can’t believe that they were solely for the publicity. Joan Crawford was an astonishingly generous person. Countless stories, many of which will never be told because the participants are dead now, exist of her helping various crewmembers with bills and medical expenses, often anonymously. For many years she kept a hospital room (eventually two) available solely for those in need to use and all at her own expense. Her kindness extended even to her ex-husbands. When Franchot Tone was old and in a wheelchair, she helped care for and support him despite having had a tumultuous past with him. Her devotion to her fans, of course, was otherworldy. I feel like, no matter the end result, her heart was in the right place when she adopted her children. (Her youngest daughters described an idyllic childhood filled with many memorable experiences and travels and an abundance of love and caring physical contact, though they were not free of responsibilities and chores.)

When I first saw the movie Mommie Dearest, I was about 15. I didn’t find it campy at all that time and thought it was thoroughly horrifying! I couldn’t believe the fury I saw onscreen. The impromptu haircut, the raging, maniacal reaction to wire hangers and the near-strangulation in front of the Redbook reporter were all very vivid, shocking and gut-wrenching things to me. A few years later, after I’d been desensitized by this cruel world and developed my wicked sense of humor, I started to see the unintentional hilarity that many others had seen all along. Even so, no one can deny the volcanic intensity that Dunaway brought to those and other scenes. Ironically, I don't think that Joan on her best (worst?) day could have ever been as astronomically unhinged as Faye is here. It’s an endlessly fascinating specimen of screen performance. I realized that it most likely didn’t play out exactly like this in real life but, like many, assumed that the truth wasn’t too far off!

Later, I read the book, expecting to find even more mania and horror that there wasn’t room for in the movie. To my surprise, I found myself understanding some of Joan’s actions more than I had when I watched the film. For example, in the movie, Joan makes Christina eat rare meat for lunch and when she doesn’t finish it, she gets it for dinner and then for breakfast the next day. However, the movie never bothered to explain that Joan had obtained the prime rib on the black market (during WWII rationing) at great expense and was insulted and hurt that Christina then turned her nose up at it. No, this doesn’t make the incident any less horrible, but it at least sheds a grain of light on why Joan would feel so strongly about it.

This led me to feel that many other sequences in the film were either exaggerated or one-sided in their delivery. Even the night raid, a section of the film that is every bit as scary as it is funny, didn’t play out the way it was depicted. The movie combines two different alleged instances into one marathon of horror. In the book, the wire hangers tirade and the bathroom tirade were on separate nights. Again, this doesn’t condone the behavior, it just illustrates the way things were intensified and/or manipulated for the film for maximum impact. To top it all off, the book didn’t even include any "beating" with wire hangers! Joan’s entire life and reputation is now forever associated with something that didn’t occur the way the film suggests! Even Christina herself admitted that the movie was ramped up and inaccurate. See the attached article from Entertainment Weekly (click to enlarge.)

Christina wanted to write the movie, herself, but could never get any of her scripts green-lit. She, for some reason, seemed surprised that Hollywood producers didn’t want to make a movie that was mostly about her and not her more famous mother. She kept emphasizing that this was not a Hollywood story, but one of abuse, but how, with Joan as the villain, could it be anything else? Crawford lived and breathed stardom out of every pore. What ended up happening was that the makers whipped together and released a “Joan Crawford Movie” in the vein of Queen Bee, Harriet Craig, Berserk! and others. In other words, the movie became less about the real Joan and Christina and instead became an exploitive, inaccurate and (very) over-the-top motion picture that felt like a souped-up version of one of Joan’s own films!

Initially, Anne Bancroft was signed to star before backing out suddenly. She, to my mind, would have resembled the real Joan a lot more than Faye did. She had a similarly structured face and, most importantly, large eyes. Joan’s eyes were gargantuan. Dunaway’s not so much. Much ballyhoo was given to the “incredible” and “uncanny” makeover Dunaway was given in order to look the part, but, to me, she only looks like Joan for fleeting seconds at a time. I’ve never been happy with the way her eyebrows were handled. Yes, Joan had major eyebrows, but they were thick and real whereas Faye’s just look like they were drawn on with a Crayola marker. They were even shiny when the light hit them, as if there was no hair, but just colored skin!
The movie serves as interesting bridge for me as my favorite pre-1970 actress is Joan Crawford and my favorite post-1970 actress is Dunaway. I know that Joan may not be the very best ACTRESS who ever lived. I just find her unendingly captivating to watch and listen to. Same with Dunaway. I can watch her say and do almost anything, she’s that fascinating to me. I’m not alone in my thinking. In a bizarre bit of irony, when Crawford was quizzed in the latter part of her life about which up and coming actresses she thought highly of (a species she rarely took much of a cotton to in the first place!), she remarked, “Of all the actresses ... to me, only Faye Dunaway has the talent and the class and the courage it takes to make a real star.” I’ll say it for her. This is the thanks I get?? Ha ha!

Dunaway, who had become a mother to her son Liam close to the time of filming Mommie Dearest, was horrified at some of the things the script required her to say and do, though she certainly managed to overcome those fears and deliver a blistering performance. She felt haunted by Crawford during and, for a while, after the filming. When her work was received with cackles of hilarity and a Razzie award (when she believed that Oscar was going to be calling), her humiliation festered until finally she decided not to ever discuss the role again. It’s a shame she can’t borrow a page from Patty Duke (and her Valley of the Dolls fiasco) and embrace the fact that, regardless of the way things were, she has an army of fans who want her to talk about it and revel in it. No chance.

Anyway, back to Christina (and I do apologize that this posting is such a garbled mishmash!), in the wake of the publishing of the book and the publicity it engendered, along with the various hurdles of getting the movie (of which her then-husband was Executive Producer) made, she suffered a debilitating stroke. Her recovery from that, and the long and unusual journey of self-discovery that sprung from it, were detailed in a follow-up book called Survivor. It was in reading this book that I really began to feel that the first book was an exaggerated and (more importantly) self-obsessed hatchet job on her mother.

In Survivor, everything is always someone else’s fault. She comes across to me as a perpetual victim even though so many things that took place in her life were self-initiated. She speaks about contesting the will solely for her brother’s sake due to his being disabled and in financial difficulty, but after the initial mention of him, he is scarcely, if ever, referred to again. No one made her write the book or produce the film or go on the lecture tours (at which she was sometimes treated with hostility) unless you believe, as some do, that her husband did. It’s always the world against her. She seems never to have done any wrong.

Herman Cohen, who produced Joan’s last two feature films, claimed that Joan was generous to Christina around the time of her first marriage, giving her $5000 (at the time, a very decent sum) in his presence to do with what she pleased on her honeymoon. He recalled that her first husband knew nothing of the alleged mistreatment and had never heard the stories later told in Mommie Dearest, but that Christina’s second husband coerced her into writing it for the money. Joan also, despite wanting Christina to be able to stand on her own as an actress, arranged auditions and, in some cases, parts for her, such as in Wild in the Country, (that one through her close friend Jerry Wald.) Unfortunately, Christina did not only lack the striking looks of her adoptive mother, but she also didn’t possess her screen charisma (or even that which would be required of a steadily working actress.) It just wasn’t going to happen.

I think Joan was probably guilty of excessively strict discipline and discipline that had a sometimes cruel bent to it. For example, June Allyson told of witnessing Christina being shunned and disallowed to attend a party because of some infraction of the rules. She had to sit quietly with the present at her side for the same duration of time as the party. Christina also claimed that she was forced to wear a shredded dress around the house once because she absentmindedly ruined the wallpaper by her bed and if anyone asked her about her dress, she was instructed to answer, “I don’t like pretty things.” Again, I think Joan would become appalled if the expensive things she provided for her children were not, in her eyes, properly appreciated.

I, and I emphasize, I, do not believe a lot of the rest. Christina’s younger sisters claimed that after Joan died and Christina was shut out of the will, she went back over her book and peppered it with more and more horror stories and embellished the ones that were already there in an effort to bury Joan’s carefully structured and maintained reputation. On that count, it worked! Here’s what I found most callous, no matter what the truth is. One side claims that Christina had been working on the book prior to Joan’s death. She says no. She claims she didn’t begin writing it until afterwards. However, she says she started writing it barely one month after her mother’s death! A month and a half, tops. What sort of perspective could that allow?! Seriously… Your mother is buried about a month and you decide to write a reputation-killer that will forever stomp her memory into the ground? I don’t see how that’s any more admirable than having planned it before she passed away. At least Bette Davis’s equally selfish daughter fought the dragon while she was still alive to defend herself (and she did!) Christina also walked out on her corporate job the month her mother died, perhaps anticipating an inheritance that never materialized, and was in dire financial straits.

Faye Dunaway summed it up as the unavoidable clash that occurs when you put a “Child of Need” (Joan) up against a “Child of Want” (Christina.) Joan expected a level of gratitude that simply wasn’t there and never would be. She probably did some rotten things as a parent. Many parents did (and do) and yet the children grow up able to understand that people aren’t perfect, especially when they were younger and under various pressures, including career ones. In fact, regardless of any of this, if I have a message to anyone on this subject, it is to try to remember that our parents are people and, as such, they make mistakes. I made a choice to let go of some of the controversial things my mother said and did (and, for a brief time, that included several face-slappings!) over the years and it has resulted in a far closer relationship as adults than I once thought was possible. One reason I could do this is that I know that I am not perfect and in some cases my own behavior was not acceptable. I sometimes wonder if such a notion ever crossed Christina’s mind.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sub-Standard

You thought I was out of Charlton Heston disaster movies, didn’t you! Nice try. Here’s yet another one, Gray Lady Down from 1978, all about the rescue of a US Navy submarine (the USS Neptune) that’s been disabled more than 1400 feet below the surface. The hatch is covered with sand and debris, there’s a limited amount of air left and, at any moment, the entire thing could either implode like an empty can or slip further down a crevasse into certain oblivion.

Stalwart captain Heston is on his ver
y last voyage prior to retirement, preparing to hand over the reins to second-in-command Ronny Cox. As they near New London, Connecticut, Heston takes the vessel to the surface in order to ride it in topside. Seemingly out of nowhere, amidst some dense fog, the sub is struck by a Norwegian freighter and goes careening downward where it is tenuously situated near an undersea cliff.

Heston and Cox start off as friends, but eventually develop an adversa
rial relationship with differing viewpoints on the scenario. Naturally, Heston is the one who takes ultimately takes charge. Also on board are crewmen played by Stephen McHattie, Dorian Harewood and Michael O’Keefe. The rest of the seamen are either stuntmen posing as actors, hunky mannequins with little or no experience or overly hammy actors trying to stand out amidst the sea of blue shirts.
Topside, Stacy Keach plays another captain trying to affect a rescue. (His right-hand man is pl
ayed by a newcomer named Christopher Reeve, who would soon make a stupendously successful appearance as Superman.) Stymied at every turn, Keach eventually has to take a chance on a new and controversial approach to getting the men out.

David Carradine and his pal Ned Beatty have a mini-sub called The Snark, which th
ey have been perfecting. They are enlisted, amid some degree of controversy, to dive below and help clear off the escape hatch. Portly Beatty is not the very first person one might expect to see manning a tiny vessel like this, but there he is. Incidentally, though it may look that way in this photo, Carradine is not riding on Beatty’s back, but rather is sitting in a seat above Beatty, who must lie on his belly. (Beatty, having already survived Deliverance, couldn't seem to get out of this stance early in his career!)

While the men above the surface worry about how best to rescue the submariners, the seamen in th
e sub, for reasons known only to the scriptwriter, play backgammon and watch the movie Jaws on their projector while death waits impatiently from several angles! Occasionally, to shake things up, the submarine shifts or rotates upside down, adding a dash of chaos to the often-dull proceedings.

One major set piece involves the opening of an air tank in order to right the position of the sub. There’s an unnerving
scene in which Heston must decide whether to allow some men to die in order to protect the majority or risk drowning everyone in order to save two lives. It's a gripping sequence followed by an uncharacteristically haunted Heston. Mostly, however, there is no short supply of tedium as the rescuers try and fail repeatedly to retrieve the survivors and many, many, MANY tracking shots of various vehicles and crafts are shown.

Hesto
n managed to enlist Rosemary Forsyth, one of his old leading ladies (from The War Lover), to portray his wife in this film. For her trouble, every scene of hers was eliminated from the final cut except for one brief excerpt in which she gets to say exactly five words with less than 30 seconds of screen time! Thus, her contractually retained seventh billing on the poster (eighth in the end credits) should be a real head-scratcher for the casual viewer. Seventeenth-billed voiceover actress Melendy Britt is given slightly more to say and do.

The opening collision is marred by some shoddy editing, fuzzy photography and questionable special effects w
ork. It's also made confusing by a lack of clarity about where some of the men are and how they evacuate certain areas. The use of miniatures is also of varying quality. Sometimes they are passable, other times they are startlingly obvious. As a fan of rushing water, though, I always enjoy scenes that include it bursting through ruptured hulls and so on.

Jerry Fielding’s score is appropriately dirge-like at times and eerie at other times, though certain musical elements from his work here were later interpolated into his mostly ghastly score for Beyond the Poseidon Adventure.

Granite-jawed Heston was a natural for a
uthoritative roles like this in films of this nature and, perhaps, audiences were growing tired of the same sort of thing. At least this time he had a beard, which was one minor difference! He does a solid job, underacting for the most part, and gets to deliver one memorable line: “I feel like a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest!”

Helping to brighten up some of the antagonistic scenes between overly intense (and, thus, unintentionally funny) Keach and the more laid-back Carradine is Beatty’s amiable and appealing persona. His endearing presence gives the movie a gift it probably doesn’t deserve.

The fact that scarcely a year had gone by since Airport ’77 offered a similar (and superior in many ways) sort of stor
y may explain the soggy box office returns for this film. It was not a hit. It was twelve years before another major submarine film was produced, The Hunt for Red October. What really did it in, though, was a focus on the technical in lieu of attention to human drama. It’s hard to get worked up over people sitting around playing board games. It does score points, though, for refusing to artifically insert a female character into the submarine, though it might have held my attention more had there been Barbara Eden, Dina Merrill or even Marilyn Hassett flailing around! One's tolerance for the stars and for the genre will help determine how palatable the film is.

One unintentionally amusing aspect of the film is the endless concern for and preoccupation with the injured when every one of the people on board could be dead any instant! Not that you can’t ad
minister first aid and give ‘em a sip of water, but it sometimes strains credibility here in light of what else is happening. Also, there are moments of certain people cracking up under the strain and those types of scenes are always in danger of providing a chuckle if they aren’t handled well. Occasionally here, they aren't...

Heston had only three more big screen leading roles left in him after this until it was off to television and the stage for a while before coming
back as an occasional supporting actor. The disaster genre of the 70s was also on its last legs. Star Wars, Star Trek, Superman and other, more fantasy-related effects-based films would take center stage from now on, though there was a hearty, CGI-influenced aftershock of disaster retreads in the 90s. Though some of those were successful, not one of them contained the elusive sort of campy fun that the 70s flicks had.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Gimme McGinley!

Born practically on the beach in 1958, the perennially tan cutie pie I’m featuring today was given the decidedly un-hunky name of Theodore. We know him better as Ted McGinley, a man with a practically perfect face, accented by equally impressive hair! What’s more, he’s got a reputation for being one of the nicest guys imaginable, even if, at times, he’s excelled at playing major jerks.

Raised in Newport Beach, Ted eventually attended The University of Southern California where he was captain of the water polo team. Holy Mother of God, I can’t even imagine. Also, notably, he was a member of Sigma Chi fraternity, a detail that would aid him in the early part of his acting career.

He first became a print model, his clean, pretty, but manly, good looks gracing many a cover and photo spread, including those of GQ magazine. His professional acting career began when he was enlisted to help fill the void left when Ron Howard exited the sensationally popular sitcom Happy Days. McGinley played Roger Phillips, a cousin of Howard’s character, though they were not much alike in the slightest. He was the school’s phys-ed teacher, which certainly would have gotten me interested in gym class, which I never was at my own school!

The series (set in the late 50s) had struck ratings gold, primarily due to the leather jacket-wearing character of Fonzie, played by Henry Winkler, but eventually declined. Ted was on the series from 1980 to 1984, which is longer than most series last to begin with, but the fact that he was on it in its waning years lent him a distinction that would come back to haunt him over and over. By the way, check out this photo of him and his onscreen aunt Marion Ross in a fantasy sequence. I mean, the man was perfection incarnate.

During (and probably due to) his tenure on Happy Days, McGinley scored a role in the Garry Marshall soap opera/hospital spoof Young Doctors in Love. Marshall (who produced Happy Days) cast Ted as a studly intern who falls for a prostitute played by Crystal Bernard. Bernard later joined the cast of the sitcom as well, briefly, when its young couple Scott Baio and Erin Moran were spun off into the infamous (and short-lived) Joanie Loves Chachi.

He also found time to guest star on Fantasy Island, play one of the pieces of marketable meat in Jon Erik Hexum’s The Making of a Male Model and take on a role that would grant him a certain cult following, that of Stan Gable in Revenge of the Nerds.

Revenge of the Nerds concerned a passel of oddballs and rejects who try to break into the fraternal cliques of Adams College, but who are, instead, roundly shunned by everyone. McGinley played the head of the Greek Council and president of the Alpha Beta fraternity, a jock with a sexy girlfriend who is chief antagonist to the nerds. As a young person viewing this film, I knew I was supposed to dislike McGinley and everything he stood for, but he was so jaw-on-the-floor gorgeous that I couldn’t help but worship him and wonder how I could make myself over into someone he would love! McGinley has always had a sense of humor about himself and his looks and gamely took on the abuse that was called for in the script. He didn’t take part in the sequel, but did reappear in the third and fourth installments that were made for TV in the early 90s.

In 1984, he was placed in the cast of another long-running and highly popular series, The Love Boat. Ted was frequently given deliberately ostentatious names for his characters that would then be simplified with a nickname. (It stood to reason, after all, having been born Theodore Martin McGinley!) The Fantasy Island ep had him playing Errol Brookfield III. In this case he was ship’s photographer Ashley Covington Evans and went by “Ace.”

The series had begun with a regular cast of only about five actors, supplemented each week by boatloads (literally!) of famous guest stars. By this time, though one person had departed (Lauren Tewes, due to a substance abuse problem), the cast had expanded to an unwieldy seven and later had the Mermaids, a performing group, added in as well! McGinley was at his blondest, most tan, most adorable ever, but there just wasn’t a place for him on the show and he was mostly adrift in the wave of storylines that came in each week. The show had long since run out of steam anyway and was canceled in 1986. Thus, he was, once again, associated with a series that was circling the drain on the way to its demise.

Never one, particularly at this stage, to remain idle for long, he was added to Love Boat producer Aaron Spelling’s hit primetime soap Dynasty. Portraying Clayburn “Clay” Fallmont, he was the rugged son of one of Blake Carrington’s rivals and eventually became the lover of Heather Locklear’s character Sammy Jo, who was undergoing a reinvention from sleazy, no-good trash to upstanding young entrepreneur and heroine.

His dazzling good looks were a boon to the show and he and Locklear made a striking couple. Unfortunately, the writers began making his character more and more conservative and old-fashioned in his thinking, particularly when it came to that hoary old cliché about wanting his wife to have a child to carry his name and all. Eventually, the pair was split up and he was later put together with Terri Garber as a newfound Carrington cousin, Leslie.

When the Dynasty spin-off The Colbys was canceled and its stars Jeff James and Emma Samms transferred back to the original show, it was decided to write McGinley out. The method was a rather icky one as it was suggested that he and Garber, who by now were live-in lovers on the show, were actually half-brother and sister! Heartbroken, Clay left Leslie, left Denver and left Dynasty. Though the series did limp along for two more years, it was yet another instance of his being part of the decline of a once-popular show!

Free from the shackles of a regular series, McGinley guested on several shows and made an occasional film. He entered into a surprising relationship with Burt Reynolds, of all people, and had a supporting part in his film Physical Evidence, a guest spot on B.L. Stryker, one on Evening Shade, a later teaming in Hard Time: Hostage Hotel and even went to The Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre in Jupiter, Florida for a run! You can just hear Blanche on The Golden Girls yelping, “What?? And miss Mister Ted McGinley in The Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre production of I’m Not Rappaport?!”(the actual show he did there.)

As for Physical Evidence, a dreary yarn initially intended as a sequel to Jagged Edge, it was made during one of Burt’s low periods and was not a success. The overwhelmingly grey and pallid design scheme for the film is lifted when McGinley appears as costar Teresa Russell’s shallow and materialistic live-in boyfriend. He is depicted with all of the hallmarks of a new money, technology-obsessed asshole including, but not limited to, designer clothes, a gold chain, a gold watch, a fancy car and, get this, a hot tub just off his bedroom!

Thank God for it because, in a far too fleeting moment, he strips down to some very skimpy undies, showing off his luscious torso, before doffing those as well (off camera, unfortunately) and hopping in! He then carries on a now-hysterical conversation about wanting to get attorney Russell a cellular phone as she protests. While she opts to work on her case some more, he puts his ginormous earphones on so he can soak and listen to the greatest songs of that era. John Cusack and company can take their Hot Tub Time Machine back to 1986 if they want to, but I would like to be deposited directly into this tub in 1989!

That year also found Ted in a much different type of project. The bawdy and low-rung sitcom Married… With Children lost one of its featured cast members when David Garrison (as Steve Rhoades) opted to buy out his contract and return to stage work. Brought in as a new character, McGinley played Jefferson Milhouse D’Arcy, the new husband of neighbor Marcy (thus named Marcy D’Arcy.) Here, McGinley found a degree of success, staying on until 1997 when the series ended, having appeared in 164 episodes. While it’s true that he was part of the end of yet another show, he could at least claim this time that he was also part of its continued success after concern over how it would proceed without one of its key players.

Ted married actress Gigi Rice (of The John Larroquette Show) in 1991 and made four guest appearances on her series, three of them as a character named Karl. For whatever reason, Ted has very often portrayed characters with a hard K sound. Clay, Karl, King(!) and on three separate occasions, Kyle. He must like that one.

Mr. McGinley, thanks to his participation in some TV shows that were hanging by a thread before cancellation, has been anointed with the title Patron Saint of Shark Jumping. Jumping the Shark refers to that moment when a TV series makes a decision which heralds the beginning of the end. It originated when Fonzie on Happy Days went water-skiing and jumped a ramp that went over a shark that was in the water, thus costing the show its sense of reality and integrity (such as it was!) They creators of the concept (and website) have all sorts of criteria, but Mr. McGinley has a special place. Now, the presence of Ted in a series is a harbinger that the series will die soon.

Thus, the producers of the sitcom Hope & Faith must have had plenty of both when they cast him in it, having fired the original actor from the pilot! Costarring with blonde hams Kelly Ripa and Faith Ford, he could hardly be the one blamed if people decided they didn’t want to watch it! In any case, enough people tuned in to keep it going from 2003 – 2006. Why, I have no idea...
Sprinkled amongst his TV work on shows like Sports Night and The West Wing have been various TV or direct-to-video action movies and small roles in big screen features like Dick, The Big Tease and Pearl Harbor. He’s lent his voice to animated series such as Justice League and The Family Guy as well. He also starred opposite a newly nipped and tucked Genie Francis in one of cable TV’s highest rated movies ever, The Note, in 2007. A sequel, Taking a Chance on Love, was aired two years later.

In 2008, he took part in the recent phenomenon Dancing With the Stars, looking terrific as always. Sadly, his moves weren’t up to par and he was sent home after two rounds, still retaining the good nature that has kept him in good with so many producers over the years.


Now darker-haired, he is a man who looks great no matter what! He looks good in a tuxedo or a pair of shorts, with blonde highlights or brunette, scruffy or clean-shaven. He’s an ageless hunk who has been working quite steadily for almost twenty years and yet is still awaiting that project, if it exists, that will give him distinction apart from being a television series killer! Here in The Underworld, anyway, he’s a major star!