Friday, October 23, 2009

Speaking of the Dead

Soupy Sales' death got me to thinking about all the showbiz types I've met who have since passed on. I met Soupy briefly in New York in the mid 90's when I had to engineer a satellite interview he was doing with a Washington DC based show. He was late and being a live-show TV pioneer he was upset and embarrassed. I assured him the show was taping and it was no problem. But he was still nervous so he told me jokes all morning long. They were silly jokes but the fact that he was telling them to me, and me alone, was a thrill.

Buffalo Bob was a TV pioneer I met in Boston when I worked at WBCN. Bob has finished his interview but wouldn't leave until everyone had their autographs. Classy guy.

Yet another one was Bob Keeshan, aka "Captain Kangaroo." I told him how I heard Hawaii had become our 50th State on his show. As we parted he said "We will meet again." I had a feeling he didn't mean on this earth.

I interviewed Charlton Heston at the Mark Hotel one labor day years ago. I called him from the lobby and he was surprised because he thought the interview was a "phoner." But he told me to give him a few minutes and meet him in his suite. We would have to keep the conversation low he said because his wife was sleeping in the other room. There his was, the guy who played Moses, in his t-shirt pouring me coffee. I normally don't drink coffee but I wasn't going to refuse. I didn't want to get into politics or 2nd amendment issues but I told him how my grandfather hunted squirrels for dinner during the Great Depression. Heston told me they were good eating. We chatted quite amiably and he told me how he march for equal rights and great stories about Ben Hur and his stuntmen. Without being asked he signed a copy of his memoirs for me. Then, weeks later we met again when he came up to our studios for an interview with David Brenner. He recognized me and when I made a stupid joke he pretended to slap me in the face. Just a joke, but the kind of thing the papparazzi would have been all over.

Anne Bancroft was beguiling. We were doing roundtable interviews for "Up at the Villa" and were told to tell her "who you are and where you're from" meaning what media outlet you worked for. But the first person said I'm Robin and I'm from Brooklyn." That was met with "Well I'm Anne and I'm from the Bronx." Her warmth was apparent right away. When I said "I'm Bill and I'm from Brainree, Massachusetts" she replied "Birthplace of John and John Quincy Adams" without missing a beat. Later she showed us how she played characters of different ages. Her hair was died black for younger roles but she flipped it up to show the grey roots underneath that allowed her to play older. If you watch the movie version of "The Producers" look for a scene where Max Biallystock goes into an apartment building. The list of residents on the mailbox includes one "A. Bancroft." This was a tiny tribute to her after she passed away.

One of the younger actors who passed away was Brad Renfro. He was thrust into the spotlight in "The Client" and during the roundtable interviews fidgeted in his seat without saying much. He was 12 at the time and it was to be expected. I did a one-on-one interview with him for "Tom and Huck" a year later. The publicist said "don't expect much" as I entered the room. He looked uncomfortable so I told him, "look, I just need one or two soundbites so just tell me about what it was like working on the film and who you enjoyed working with. Then we can just hang out for the rest of the time without telling the publicist we're finished." That's what we did and when the publicist came back he told her "This guy was the best of everybody."

Another young one was Aaliyah who we interviewed for "Romeo Must Die." She was known for her singing and this was her first acting role. She told us of her hopes saying where she wanted to be when she turned 30. An older journalist was besotted with her which was a good laugh. When she died the following year I cut the interview into soundbites and gave them to CBS News Radio as a favor. The next morning I awoke to Aaliyah's suddenly ironic soundbite about where she wanted to be when she was 30 on the CBS World News Roundup.

One of the oddest things in the world is to cut up an interview into soundbites after a person has died. It's sad to hear them breating and full of life. And if you liked them. you're careful how you cut up their soundbites, wanting to give them their due.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The All Crying Baby Airline

My job search has hit yet another snag and it's time to get creative. So I was thinking - how about an airline that only has infants as passengers? There's already a pet-only airline and while that one is for the benefit of the animals, my infant-only service would benefit adults who would no longer have the screaming banshees to contend with alongside all the other indignities of modern travel.

The cabins would be lined with cribs that have tiny seat belts inside and there would be one or two adult attendants - deaf or hearing-impaired who would see to the little tykes.

I could just imagine the cabin announcement. "Hi kids, this is your captain speaking. I'm the underpaid adult who makes the airplane fly. We're going way up in the sky where the birdies are. But if you see any birdies let me know...and then crawl up into a tiny ball. I want to thank your parents for fobbing you off on KinderAir for our non-stop flight from New York to Los Angeles. Our in-flight entertainment will be a Barney episode that plays again and again - just the way you like it. And for today's meal you have a choice of mashed-up peas adults wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole or chicken nuggets made from goodness only knows parts of chickens. In case of emergencies little masks will come down into your cribs. Put them on your face or just stick the air tubes into your mouths and suck away. In case of a crash landing a big fun slide will come out and you can go weee all the way into the arms of waiting rescue personel. But don't worry about that stuff, just lie back, drool and enjoy your flight."

I could be the next Richard Branson, though I wouldn't waste my profits trying to set hot-air balloon records - heck I could hire nut jobs who want a reality show to do that.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Last Job in America Filled

(New York) U.S. Department of Labor officials confirmed Friday what most of America had pretty much surmised: the last job in the country has been taken. The position, a minimum-wage security guard at a New York city office building has gone to Hector Gomez, 23, of Queens, who told reporters he was "thrilled beyond words."

"It's a power trip," said Gomez, "I only have a G.E.D. and these guys who have Harvard MBAs and stuff have to see me before they can get in the building."

His bosses at Superior Security and Auto Rentals admit filling the position from over 600,000 applicants was easier than they expected. "Anyone with more than a grade-school education was overqualified" said CEO Jerry Sinclair "and anyone who was over 25 is basically too old" he added. Sinclair said Mr. Gomez's chief advantage was that he had only been arrested once, and was dating Mr. Sinclair's daughter, "which should make him easier to find."

Meanwhile, Americans continue to hold out hope that something would open up somewhere. Lines formed in Syracuse NY when a popular fry cook at the downtown McDonalds failed to show up for work Friday afternoon. Managers disbursed over 500 job-seekers telling them the fry cook merely had the flu. Some in the crowd refused to leave in hopes he had swine flu rather than the garden variety influenza.

At the Department of Labor official were less enthusiastic about employment possibilities. One official, who asked not to be identified told reporters the agency was looking into rumors an Arby's in Canada was expanding its midnight to 8am shift but there was little else.

This was way too easy to write - Bill

Friday, October 2, 2009

I'm In My Own Personal Zombie Movie!

"Zombieland" is now out in theaters and you should check it out if you're in the mood for a comedy. I saw it a few weeks ago and it got me to thinking. My life is a zombie movie. In fact anyone who is unemployed (or underemployed) is in their very own zombie movie too. And not as the hero - in fact we're all pretty much undead as far as the rest of the world is concerned. The "living," or more accurately, the employed, shun us. Try getting someone who talked to you about a job a while ago to call you back. Mentioning your employment status kills all party conversations, that is, if you even get invited to parties any more.

Not that we're running around bleeding at the mouth but a recent trip to the Department of Labor had me wondering if some of the people there were about to lose flesh off their bodies. Footage of unemployed people in TV newscasts has us looking bad enough though. But fear not people - we don't crave the fleash of the living. So far the Entemann's Bakery Outlet store here in Queens is sufficing very well.

Oh, and I must apologize for not writing sooner. Frankly I've been in a bit of a funk and kind of turned inwardly for a while. I didn't want to subject anyone to those thoughts. But a good zombie movie lightened me enough to write this piece.