Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Poseidon Quickies: Bathtub Hopper

Keeping the gears moving here at P.U. (I'll say!) with another brief post. This time, we look at a scene from the 1973 (though filmed in '71) revisionist western character study Kid Blue. The story concerns a young ne'er do well (Dennis Hopper) who winds up living in a town and attempting to go legit. He comes under the wing of a respectable couple (Warren Oates and Lee Purcell) who both grow fond of him.

Hopper (who was about 35 at the time of filming yet somehow retained a sort of baby face in the midst of copious drugs and alcohol!) takes on legitimate work in an attempt to go straight. He'd initially been involved in a robbery gone awry prior to arriving in town.

Oates is an upstanding citizen with a pretty young wife. Things ought to be hunky-dory with them, yet there seems to be a bit of a disconnect, principally in their marital relations. 

One night, Oates has Hopper over for a visit and is ecstatic to reveal a spanking new nickel-plated bathtub, costing $12.29 (not including freight!)

Then he begins quizzing Hopper on when the last time he had a bath. Determining that it's been about two weeks, Hopper senses that he may be about to partake in one whether he likes it or not. But Oates has an even better idea. Since the wonderful warm water is too good to "waste on just one person," he suggests that they "do like the old-time Greeks" did and take a bath together!

Hopper suggests that perhaps the Greeks had larger tubs than this one! Oates won't be put off, though... Purcell promises not to look as Hopper prepares for his warm (not to mention cozy!) bath.

Perhaps sensing something in the air, Hopper asks what the Greeks did "afterwards?" Oates explains that they sorta "laid around, drank wine... one thing or another."

Before that can truly sink in, Oates asks a bemused Purcell to wash his back some. He also indicates that Hopper will soon have his turn, which he swiftly declines, though - again - he's not going to get out of this that easily.

Just about then, Oates gets soap in his eyes and can't open them from the sting. (Lord knows it was probably lye soap back then!)

Purcell's motherly predilections soon seem more affectionate than expected.

Hopper, who is utterly unresponsive to Oates' thinly-veiled overtures (which are semi-subconscious on his part anyway), finds himself a skosh more intrigued by what Purcell has to offer.

Following bath time, the trio has no clue how to properly dispose of the water! Hopper slinks downstairs in his cowboy hat and a towel and scores an enema bag with tube, which seems to really delight Oates...! But really all Hopper intends to do is use the tube to siphon the water out the window. Both wear their towels in a Grecian toga fashion.

Perhaps two of the last actors imaginable one might find sharing a narrow 6' long bathtub together (they had nine wives between them in real life), this was a fun and intriguing sequence in an uneven film. Reportedly, Oates was creating concoctions with hallucinogenic mushrooms, Dexedrine and LSD after work while Hopper was in the middle of his own drug and alcohol scene at this time (fresh off a 9-day marriage to Michelle Phillips!) They both, however, deliver thoughtful, coherent performances nonetheless.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Poseidon Quickies: Arriving at Kennedy

Doncha just love a quickie every once in a while?  Ha ha! I have decided that since life is simply too crazy for me to compose/ compile the sort of looonnng, microscopic posts I am known for, I'm going to occasionally pop in with a short one with less to say and show. This first one is concerning disaster staple George Kennedy, famous around here for his roles in the Airport movies as well as Earthquake (1974.) The year Airport - the biggest blockbuster of 1970 - was released, he actually had three other films hitting movie screens as well. Having won an Oscar for Cool Hand Luke (1967), he was riding a wave of success with a mixture of supporting parts and co-leads. But for Zigzag (1970), he was granted a rare chance to be practically the whole show... and I sort of mean that in more way than one. Few people have probably ever even heard of this movie, but - thanks to COVID19 - I have been catching all sorts of obscure and oddball movies that I ordinarily might not take time to invest in.

Zigzag is a somewhat convoluted movie which doesn't tell it's story in a linear fashion. It begins in the middle and flashes back, then picks up again. Modern audiences can probably grapple with this a bit easier than the ones who were either baffled or annoyed with it in 1970. Kennedy starts off the movie being carted off to prison, undergoing a thorough procedure of entrance examinations and processes. (I wonder if L.A. County still gives incoming inmates a sandwich and an orange upon entry!)

Kennedy (sporting some very fake 5 o'clock shadow that would make Bluto jealous) is put through all the rigamarole you've come to expect from decades of prison flicks.

I always think of George as quite huge, but he was really just burly/brawny at this point. He was almost trim in Luke, but seemed to get stockier with each passing year.

As he is forced to disrobe along with the others, there are convenient heads in the way. But it's clear that he's getting down to his birthday suit... Some of you are just gonna hate me for this, but... wait for it... wait for it...

We are faced with the specter of George Kennedy's rippled mid-section along with confirmation that the carpet does not match the famous blond drapes! Ha ha! Now I'm not really picking on him. He's just an ordinary 45 year-old man of the time. But it might have been just a skosh more tantalizing if, say, his old Luke costar Paul Newman was in the part.

Poor thing even has to have the extensive body (and cavity) search...

Then it's off to the shower and eventual disinfecting.

As you can see, he's really not that big, but oh the humanity of that prior camera angle and body positioning... And, you know, there are legions of folks out there who enjoy a bigger guy. (What is it they say? "There's a key to every lock" or something like that? It just apparently doesn't ever seem to work in my own case....!)

Next, the new postulate prisoner is taken to the robing room. There's a "No Smoking" sign. Um, where was a person supposed to have stowed his cigarettes after all of this?! Then, just when we're assured that there will always be a guard in the way...

...the full moon arises!

Kennedy's attorney is played by a zesty Eli Wallach, who adds no small amount of energy and charisma to the film.

Kennedy's wife is played by Anne Jackson. It gets a little confusing for those viewers who are in the know because in real life, Wallach and Jackson were married from 1948 up until Wallach's death in 2014, a (rare) 66-year union!

In Zigzag, it is Kennedy who shares marital bliss with Ms. Jackson, not Wallach.

Presumably they got on well because they re-teamed in one of Kennedy's other 1970 movies, Dirty Dingus Magee, which starred Frank Sinatra. She was a combination mayor-madame and he was her town's sheriff. (For you completists out there, Kennedy's fourth movie of that year was the first of them to hit theaters, tick... tick... tick..., a racially-charged drama costarring Jim Brown.)

Fans of his ought to like this movie (which is just unusual enough, and filled with enough familiar faces, to be intriguing in its own right.)

At one point, he's poured into an old army uniform that tends to show what we didn't see in the prison sequence.

Service with a smile! Other than his TV-series Sarge and The Blue Knight, I'm not aware of any other starring vehicles for George, though there may be some more. Zig Zag still has a lot of that late-'60s vibe I enjoy so much (including a groovy title number heard by Roy Orbison, heard during a graduation party scene!) I wasn't even able to figure out the mystery very easily, which says something when you've slogged through as many movies as I have!

I just had to share this lunatic eBay listing I came across while looking into the movie... Shit like this drives me up a tree! Actually pictured are Charlene Holt and Stewart Moss.

The End!

Monday, November 16, 2020

Fond Farewell - The Answer: "A Class Act"

The Question: "Who was Alex Trebek?" The carousel of horror that is 2020 has brought about yet another demise of someone we adored. This blog has looked more like an online obituary column that a source of entertainment lately...! Sorry about that. I don't post about game shows quite as much as I once did, but they have always been a considerable part of my life. As such, so has Mr. Alex Trebek. It goes without saying that he was the longtime host of Jeopardy, but he was familiar to many of us ol' geezers long before that. Today we take a gander at some highlights.

Handsome George Alexander Trebek was born July 22nd, 1940 in Ontario, Canada to a bilingual French-English household. Industrious and intelligent from the start, he began work as a bellhop at 13 and eventually was graduated from the University of Ottowa with a degree in philosophy in 1961. He had his eye on a career in broadcast news and was an excellent debater. He did indeed go to work for the CBC announcing special events, news and sports. (Needless to say, he also perfected his exceptional enunciation during this period.)

In 1963, he'd earned a spot as host on a television series called Music Hop, introducing visiting musical guests and presenting songs as played by the house band. His life at this point was a whirl of radio announcing, sports coverage and, in 1969 a game show called Strategy.

In 1971, Trebek was denied the chance to become the new host of Hockey Night in Canada because one of the network executives didn't want to give the job to someone with a mustache (by which time Trebek was sporting in a big way!)

Presumably such a thing mattered less to American TV execs and so in 1973 Trebek moved to the States and served as host of a new game show called Wizard of Odds, involving audience members playing for money based on probabilities and statistics of a given situation.

Let's get a better look at that shit-bird wheel with handwritten names on it (and that suit he's wearing!!) Things were only going to be getting better from here, though.

Producers in the game show world rolled the dice once again on Mr. Trebek and he found himself hosting a moderately successful new show (which retains a following today among enthusiasts.)

High Rollers had contestants vying for prizes at a large dice table and he was paired with the endearing and sultry Ruta Lee (who seems to have things in hand here!) This publicity photo is benign enough until you see it in color and realize we were in mid-'70s fashion heaven (or hell, if you have a dissenting viewpoint! Ha ha!)

Quasimodo's Esmeralda never had this many colors going on at once!

Mr. T had one hellacious (and enviable) head of hair, but his on-screen wardrobe was a sort of stylish-staid combination.

Off-screen he was a chest-baring stud with all the era's hallmarks such as gradient-tinted shades, shirts almost-buttoned and gold necklace in place! He married in 1974 for the first time (to an ex-Playboy bunny turned talk show host), which lasted until 1981.

One blip on Trebek's extensive resume was the show Double Dare.

The show pitted contestants against one another in pods that suddenly closed up and became sound-proof. Likewise, the bonus round had three experts who were placed in sound-proof booths who were trotted out to make educated guesses that might ruin a contestant's chances at the big money.

He hosted a couple of short-lived shows from Canada's The $128,000 Question to Battlestars to Pitfall. And he was fast-becoming associated with the game show format as one of its premier personalities. Thus, he joined Peter Marshall, as seen here, as a celebrity contestant on Art James' The Magnificent Marble Machine (which involved a giant pinball machine!) and popped up on Celebrity Bowling as well. Things were about to become considerably more permanent for him, though.

Merv Griffin had opted to re-launch a chestnut that had first aired from 1964-1975. Original helmsman Art Fleming was invited to host, but disliked what he perceived to be a dumbing-down of the format which coincided with the move to California from New York. Thus, the job fell to Alex Trebek. This 1984 gig would last until Trebek's death on November 8th of 2020!

This is how our Alex looked on that first broadcast.

What once consisted of manually sliding panels now went "high tech" with television monitors (and neon lighting around the categories.) Of course, now, even this looks archaic in the digital age...!

These were the first three contestants and, despite Art Fleming's protest that the clues gave away too much of the answer, they were not exactly rocket scientists!

The show, very often paired with Wheel of Fortune as its lead-in, became a great success and at last Trebek had found his niche. Jeopardy made him a household name.

Even so, he continued to work on other programs such as a re-vamped Classic Concentration. Keep in mind that game shows often film one week's worth of episodes in a single day, thus a month's worth can be completed in four days...!

Classic Concentration paired him with the icily pretty model Diana Taylor (who was later replaced by Mark Goodson's daughter Marjorie, who brought rather goofy fun to the proceedings -- while they lasted.)

He also found himself filling in on a troubled revamp of To Tell the Truth. Original host Gordon Elliott had to depart due to a contract issue and his replacement Lynn Swann was woefully inadequate for the job. So a last-ditch effort was made with Trebek.

He endeared himself to me when he made a special point on his first episode to thank and pay personal tribute to one of my all-time favorite people, Miss Kitty Carlisle.

In between the end of his first marriage and the beginning of his second (in 1990), Trebek was a highly eligible man. For a time, he dated Susan Sullivan, who portrayed the heroine of Falcon Crest. By now, he'd earned a reputation as a bit of a know-it-all after his constant (albeit necessary) corrections of players on Jeopardy, sometimes with a chiding tone - which isn't fair since he had the answers right in front of him! With Sullivan demonstrating classy authority (based on... what??) in a long-running series of Tylenol commercials, I thought they were the ultimate in intellectual yet attractive couples, but it wasn't to be...

Eventually, a yearly Celebrity Jeopardy tournament was held (glittering Donna Mills was among the first participants) in which various names demonstrated their smarts (or worrisome lack thereof...!)

This led to some popular parodies on Saturday Night Live. For the record, I never thought that Will Ferrell had the slightest thing to do with Alex, nor did I faint over Darrell Hammond's Sean Connery impression, but they were a hit together. I include this today as an ironic twist on the fact that we lost both Alex and Sean within about a week's time of one another.

As the years pressed on, the curly-haired, mustached Trebek mutated into an elegant, clean-cut, older, silver gentleman before our eyes.

Mr. Trebek won Outstanding Game Show host Emmys in 1989, 1990, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2019 and 2020. In 2011, he received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy and he holds the Guinness World Record for the most episodes of a game show hosted by the same person (a position previously held by Bob Barker.)

The world was given a nasty surprise in 2019 when Trebek revealed that he had stage IV pancreatic cancer and was going to undergo intense chemotherapy in an attempt to beat it. (He was given an 18% chance of living beyond one year.) He did live well beyond a year and, more importantly, kept working! Despite pain and fatigue, Alex Trebek was filming new episodes of his beloved show just two weeks after undergoing surgery and just two weeks before he passed away at age 80.

The day after Trebek's passing, the producer of Jeopardy presented a brief prologue and tribute to the show's brave host just before the show came on, explaining that Alex would want his remaining episodes to air. It was a heartfelt, yet utterly tasteful message that sent legions of his fans grabbing for the Kleenex. 

The set (newly rebuilt and reconfigured thanks to COVID19) was then shown empty...

...before going dim altogether. And it's certainly no stretch to suggest that an era has passed and that the show will never be the same again. When Mr. Trebek's final filmed episode appears (on Christmas Day... oh the humanity!), it's safe to say there will be more Kleenex in use around the country.

We dearly loved Jeopardy (scarcely missed it) and dearly loved Alex Trebek. I don't think there are too many other men out there who left this earth in a more graceful fashion, maintaining his perspective, his dignity and his integrity (even his sense of humor) right up until the inevitable final answer.