Varney’s Posse

I had the great good luck to be about the same age as Jim Varney aka Ernest.

I met Jim when we were both in high school, long before he had saved Christmas. When we met, Jim was already legendary as a high school actor and was already developing riffs and routines that would later evolve into his standup routines and, of course, Ernest. A typical conversation with Jim during this time featured only a tiny amount of Jim. Instead, you found yourself deeply involved in philosophical (and ludicrous) discussions with Jim-Bob, Lloyd Rowe, the All-Teeth State Trooper, Studley Hungwell, the Low-Life Sisters (Bunny Jeanette, Juanita Dean, & the baby Nylon), and the totally evil Greenbury Deathridge.

Well…truth be told, you found yourself simply struggling to get a word in at all with that crowd. And whatever the topic of the confab, you were always too slow, interrupted, and outvoted.

One of those early high school routines featured a hopeless teenager called “petite little small ass Donnie”. This poor chump’s claim to fame was that he spent all day sitting on his grandmother’s couch watching TV. His response to everything was; “Got any cake?”

Our cat, Sprite, reminds me a great deal of petite little small ass Donnie. She has a similar agenda.

I love the kitten.

And I still miss Jim…all of the hims.

Well…maybe not Greenbury.

Let’s Make a Deal

I’ve tapped my inside sources of Washington political doin’s for inside information for inside dope.

I live in Lexington, Kentucky, a bluish dot in a ruby red state. My votes count for little in a chorus of “I ain’t wearing no mask” chanters.

My connection to my red state senators consists of one Chamber of Commerce session listening slack-jawed to Rand Paul’s creepy musings about constraining welfare mothers, one Mitch McConnell political-donation harvesting event in a white mansion full of dark suits and dead animal heads, and an afternoon meeting in a small room in McConnell’s Washington digs with two of the myriad blonde young office ladies with whom I had made no appointment, listening to them earnestly explaining that my issues were Kentucky issues and that Senator McConnell tried to leave Kentucky issues to Kentucky elected officials while he concentrated on world issues.

These senators don’t call me with the inside scoop.

Nor do those myriad blonde young office ladies…but that’s probably for the best. Janie might hurt’em.

Mr. Trump calls me…often.

Well, he used to.

He was calling every night there for a few weeks. He stopped after I told him for the third time that the check was in the mail and perhaps he should reconsider that last brilliant hire he made for Postmaster General. I think he realized I was being a liar about the check. It takes one…

No, my inside info about Mr. Trump’s behaviors and motivations are divined from TV news, reporters’ and politicians’ twitter accounts, and newspapers (on-line)…

…and an afternoon seminar about 30 years ago.

It was a seminar by Herb Cohen, the author of YOU CAN NEGOTIATE ANYTHING. At the time I felt I was poor at negotiating and being left behind by my world because of it. Thus, I was in the group of listeners.

The first question asked of the speaker was predictable; “Can you really negotiate anything?”

The answer was one of the wiser and self-relieving things I’ve heard; “YES……but why would you want to?”

Damn straight.

Push, pull, strive, strain, fret, scheme, connive, cajole…when it matters. Otherwise, breathe an un-negotiated breath, and dance like nobody’s watchin’.

Another part of Mr. Cohen’s presentation has stayed with me and resurfaced this week as I watched Mr. Trump’s reactions to his electoral loss. Mr. Cohen described a negotiation using a picture of a scale (it was before power point had been foisted upon us). In order to move a scale in the desired direction, something must be added to the high side to raise the lower. Negotiations are like that. You have something I want. I must add something to my side that you want in order to move the scale.

It sounds so simple.

Why are we not seeing it in Mr. Trump’s recalcitrant behavior since the election?

The media says he’s pouting.

The media says he’s positioning himself for another run at the presidency.

The media says he’s establishing his legacy.

I don’t think so.

I think he’s adding to the scale.

What does he want?

  • He wants the Southern District of New York to leave him alone.
  • He doesn’t want to reveal his taxes.
  • He doesn’t want to go to prison.
  • He wants the Mueller Report/Steele Dossier/Russian collusion to be forgotten.
  • He wants his extortion of Ukraine to be forgotten.
  • He wants his frolics with Epstein to be forgotten.
  • He wants his payments to Stormy Daniels to be forgotten.
  • He wants his former aggressions against how many women to be forgotten.
  • He doesn’t want to go to prison.
  • He wants his kids and their spouses left alone.
  • He doesn’t want to go to prison.

His language to the president of Ukraine might go far to explain his actions since the election; “I’d like you to do something for us.”

  • You want to me to concede the election? I’d like you to do something for me.
  • You want me to stop challenging and denigrating our vote? I’d like you to do something for me.
  • You want me to allow and assist the transition to Biden? I’d like you to do something…
  • You want me to not purge the Pentagon? I’d like you to do…
  • You want me to not draw down the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq? I’d like…
  • You want me to send the Covid vaccine to New York? ……

Let’s remember this is the guy that wrote THE ART OF THE DEAL.

You want what’s behind door #3?

What’s it worth to ya?

Asta and the Octopus

Movie night!

It’s a Margaret Lindsay/Donald Woods double feature thanks to TCM.

You know, if I were forced to choose one and only one TV channel to watch forever, it would surely be TCM. Where else could you see a Margaret Lindsay/Donald Woods (whoever they are) double feature? Actually, Ms. Lindsay is lovely and bland, and Mr. Woods is earnest and bland. Nuff said ‘bout dat.

Fog Over Frisco (1934) is one more flick that demonstrates that any film shot in San Francisco ought to open the cast list with “starring San Francisco”. The city invariably steals the show. It prompts an addition to the old warning to actors; “Never do a scene with children, dogs, (or San Francisco.)” Bette Davis, Alan Hale Sr. (the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island’s dad), and Asta (the Thin Man’s precocious and less than brave pup) are also in the film but who cares? It’s San Francisco.

Isle of Fury (1936), besides showcasing Lindsay and Woods (ZZZZZZZZ), also features Humphrey Bogart being cruelly assaulted by an octopus in the pearl-infested waters around a South Sea island nobody’s ever heard of (but looks suspiciously like Catalina). Every non-native character trots around the island in impeccable and crisp white clothes. The local laundry must be world-class. Also lurking around the isle is Frank Lackteen, a bit actor who amassed over 200 credits with his skulking, murderous ways. I spotted him recently in The Mask of Dimitrios, The Mummy’s Hand, The Sea Hawk, and The Law of the Tong. None of Mr. Lackteen’s efforts were nominated for Oscars. They apparently don’t give Oscars for Best Persistent Felon.

God bless TCM.

What’s Better than a Zombie Film?

TWO!!

Movie Night!

Geezer that I am, I HEAR about trends more often than I experience them.

So sue me.

I understand that “walking dead” films have been hot for several years now.

I’m puzzled by the term itself. “Walking dead film” could encompass a lot of things; zombies, vampires, mummies, diseased shopping mall attackers, or any of the old Dragnet TV episodes.

But for tonight, “walking dead” means zombies (of varying kinds).

Horror of the Zombies (1974) is a Spanish cutie directed by Armando d’Ossorio. It features a 16th-century Spanish galleon carrying 18th-century Templar ex-communicates, drifting in a mist that doesn’t exist (say that out loud – it’s practically a poem), and Maria Perschy, Barbara Rey, and several other female models on an inexplicable photo shoot who consistently fail to button their tops.

Hey, if you don’t think about it, what’s not to like? If you do think about it…what’s not to like?!

Thank you, sir. May I please have another?

Oasis of the Zombies (1983) is another Spanish maybe-not-so-cutie directed by the prolific and baffling Jess Franco. This flick is right down there with Franco’s Zombie Lake, but that’s for another time…or…hopefully not. It features Nazi zombies (one actually played by Franco himself) from thirty years before (skin wrecked, but hair and clothes vigorous and intact), an incoherent plot, and heedless young ladies in heedless short shorts who die heedlessly young. Makes about as much sense as a Rudy Giuliani press conference (…seriously, folks).

I loved ‘em.

I Could Not Be Happier

Today I was driving through a beautiful neighborhood on a sunny, 70-degree day in Lexington. The trees were autumnally spectacular. I was on my way to a spacious outdoor courtyard to meet a half dozen geezer theatre friends for a socially distanced brunch. I have worked and played and laughed with this group for over 250 years combined. We used to meet with some regularity until covid drove us into our burrows. This was to be our first assemblage in eight months.

I could not be happier…I thought.

Then the phone rang.

It was the wife of one of the geezers, herself a friend of more decades than it would be polite to specify.

“Rodge! Tell my husband to turn on his phone!”

“Julieanne, is something wrong?”

“Just tell him to turn on his damn phone! Biden won! He won! They just called Pennsylvania!!”

I hung up and drove on. The phone dinged with a text. It was from my wife, Janie; an emoji of a champagne bottle launching its cork.

I arrived at the brunch, ridiculed my occasionally Luddite friend for walking around with a useless phone in his pocket, and announced the electoral headline in spontaneous duet with our hostess as she emerged from the house having just learned the same news. Champagne flowed and flowery toasts were deployed. Old friends were reunited. Old stories were told again. Our laughter rocked the world.

I could not be happier…………I thought.

But there was something missing.

At first, I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Then I thought back to election night, 2016.

I went to bed that election night stunned and morose. The momentum and the arithmetic was undeniable: Donald Trump was gonna win.

Janie had already gone to bed. I didn’t wake her with the news.

The next morning, as she learned the result, I watched the subsequent waves of incredulity, indignation, sadness, fear, and finally anger.

“What do we do to fix this?”

We were together for the bad news.

We should be together for the good news.

I excused myself from my jolly brunch brotherhood and headed home.

Janie met me at the door. There was a hug and a kiss. Champagne flowed and the toast, though not flowery, was precise and jubilant; “Now we can begin.”

I could not be happier…………………………this time I know.

MMGA – Make Movies Great Again

Movie night!

Goliath and the Dragon (1960).

They just don’t make films like this anymore and I don’t for the life of me know why.

We’re talkin’ giant puppet monsters and Mark Forest’s giant pec’s (the inspiration perhaps, for current Old Spice commercials).

We’re talkin’ Cerberus as a three-headed, fire-breathing bobble-head.

We’re talkin’ one – count ‘em – ONE flying monkey, and ONE giant egg. I don’t for the life of me know why.

We’re talkin’ ‘bout a truly cheesy centaur and a snake pit infested with at least five or six serpents. Hey, any number of snakes over one is overkill for me.

And finally, there’s our titular dragon. Did they even have auditions? This terror looks like a cross between the Geico gecko and a Chinese New Year’s street puppet. Was I petrified? …well, not so much. Was I amused? …well, maybe a little.

All the ladies in the flick are damn cute in their perfectly tailored and indestructible skirtlets in solid pastels and their perfectly coiffed and indestructible hair sculptures.

There was even a giant bear, lovingly portrayed by someone (uncredited) in a bear suit…of sorts.

The only thing missing in this film was Godzilla.

I loved it.

Did I mention there was a bear?

Mr. Moto’s Last Warning

Movie night!

The year; 1939.

The challenge; can you take a cast consisting of Peter Lorre, George Sanders, Ricardo Cortez, John Carradine, and Robert E. Lee’s cousin (Virginia Field) and prevent World War II?

Well yes you can……at least for a year or two.

It’s exotic, it’s silly, it’s Mr. Moto’s Last Warning.

Points of interest for this Z-movie freak;

  • Virginia Field made a mini career of working with Asian detectives played by non-Asian actors. She appeared in three Mr. Moto flicks and a Charlie Chan.
  • Ricardo Cortez is always a charming villain; always. As an actor…Ricardo Cortez is always a charming villain.
  • In this epic, Mr. Cortez pumps air to an underwater diver with one hand while watching the French fleet though binoculars with the other and all the while his double-Windsor-knotted cravat and his Panama are never compromised. What style!
  • But that’s lollygaggin’ compared Mr. Moto, our persistently bespectacled hero. Mr. Moto dives underwater (in his eyeglasses), KO’s George Sanders underwater (still in his eyeglasses), blows up the enemy land mines underwater (yes, still in his eyeglasses), climbs out of the water onto the dock (you guessed it, still…), beats up Ricardo Cortez, disarrays his Panama and double-Windsor, and flings him into the Mediterranean (IN HIS EYEGLASSES!) It’s an astounding spectacle (see what I did there?).

I loved it.

They Can’t Have Gotten Far!

A movie night musing.

I hear it said there are no absolutes.

Maybe that’s why I love movies so. In the flicks there are immutable truths. A couple came immediately to mind as I reveled in The Legend of Spider Forest. I’m sure you’ve seen this treasure of a film countless times and cherish it as I do.

I josh.

Roger’s Immutable Film Truth (RIFT) #1 – Within five seconds after the words; “Get them!” have been uttered, a chase/fight/melee will ensue.

RIFT #2 – Be assured that as soon as you hear the statement; “They can’t have gotten far.” – they have.

It’s good to have these moral landmarks to guide us.

RIFT #2 is particularly important to understand these days. Mastering this concept makes our current president decipherable. It’s the primary law of the alternate dimension in which he lives.

He says “Hoax.” It’s not.

He says “We’ve turned the corner.” We haven’t.

He says “It will disappear.” I still see it.

He says “Hydroxy-snake-oil will cure it.” Nope.

He says voting by mail is bad and fraudulent as he posts his vote.

He says Biden probably plays more golf than he does…

He says he pays millions in federal tax…

He says he’s rich…

You get the idea? He points the way to truth by pointing unerringly in the opposite direction. Once we learn the language, he is the most transparent politician in history. Clearly, he’s living by the rules of terrible old movies like The Legend of Spider Forest.

It’s an odd political concept.

2020…….spider forest……it’s plausible.

Democracy, fairness, grace, civility – disappearing?

That’s OK.

They can’t have gotten far.

Oh, by the way, I voted today.

Gold

Movie Night!

I have never heard of tonight’s treasure, Gold, but the Oracle of Medford, Greg Luce, spoke glowingly of it.

Gold is a 1934 sci-fi film from Germany. It’s just fine.

It features;

  • The lovely Brigitte Helm of Metropolis fame.
  • Great, massive, electronic laboratory equipment that beeps and buzzes and flashes and flickers in quite intimidating fashion.
  • Not one, but two, count ‘em, two mighty and plausible laboratory explosions.

But most charming of all is the intense struggle between our protagonist, played by Hans Albers who looks a bit like the Amazing Kreskin (Plan 9 From Outer Space and Orgy of the Dead) and our antagonist played by Michael Bohnen who looks like Mr. Whipple in the old Charmin Tissue commercials. (“PLEASE don’t squeeze the Charmin!)

I found myself pondering whether the film might have sold more tickets in its United States release (assuming there was one) if it had been billed as Mister Whipple Vs. the Amazing Kreskin. I suppose not…1934 movie-goers hadn’t yet heard of the pair. Besides, that title wouldn’t have fit on the posters as well as; Gold.

I liked it.

The Gargoyle Vote

A hall-of fame bluegrass autumn evening prompts me to open the library windows and allow its pleasant invasion. The temperature is perfect, the humidity is low (rare for Kentucky). The sounds of the evening stream in to complete this urban hermit’s bliss.

What a change from the harsh invasion of last night.

The sounds of last evening screamed in to annihilate any bliss.

A red, shiny, snarling, sneering, pouting visage filled the TV screen. It was a face I’d seen before on the gargoyles of French buildings; looming and leering, hungry and angry, auguring vengeance on any lack of subservience, real or perceived.

It was a face I’d seen before in the Marvel comic books I collected in the 70’s. It was the screaming face of Peter Parker’s boss, J. Jonah Jameson. It was the leering face of the Green Gargoyle. It was the rampaging, obese face of the Incredible Hulk (“Don’t make me mad”). It was a cartoon face. It was not human.

I knew that then.

I know it now.

There’ll be no voting for gargoyles at our house.

This evening’s sounds are mostly gentle and reassuring.

The soft plash of the frogs, the muffled rumble of a squirrel on the roof, the martial rhythm of the cicadas, Little George and his dad recreating Tyler Herro’s finest moments on their hoop in the yard behind us, and the UK Marching Band practicing for this Saturday’s first home football game of the season.

I start thinking about football. It’s kinder than roaring gargoyles…barely.

I like to watch some college football and I usually get caught up in some of the pro football playoffs.

But it appears to me that the game has become purely a game of physical attrition. Whose third-string quarterback can beat whose fourth-string left tackle? Which team has the most pass receivers unencumbered by crutches? Which team has the fewest players undergoing the concussion protocol?

Why would any parents allow their children to participate in such an exercise?

For my occasional entertainment?

Why would anyone allow their children to become a gargoyle on TV?

For my occasional entertainment?

Gulp!

Folks, please, don’t bother for me.

I can always find a good or dreadful movie to watch.

The Well-Dressed Bulldog

Movie Night!

Monocles, tuxedos, feathered boas (are there any other kinds?), three-piece tweeds, hats & scarves (on the guys!), pencil-thin mustaches (on the guys), pin curls (NOT on the guys), thirty-foot-high interior doors, whiskey ‘n’ soda’s, evil doctors, femme fatales, tie bars (open bars, hotel bars, and prison bars, for that matter), private libraries with gothic doorways and fireplaces you could walk into upright, pubs as big as the General’s dining room at the end of White Christmas

What style! What total foolishness!!

The action is implausible and non-stop.

The plot is implausible and non-decipherable.

The repartee is brittle, the accents are vaguely British, and all the upper lips are stiff.

It’s the 1929 version of Bulldog Drummond with Ronald Colman and Joan Bennett.

I’m loving it!