What I’m Reading: June 2015 …of baseball, Beatles and where were you in ’62?

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What I’m Reading June 2015

Of Baseball and Beatles……

Chasing October by David Plaut

Baseball fans have selective memories…and in the big scheme of things the 1962 season gets few raves when TV shows highlight some of the “great” seasons of the past. Make no mistake though the 1962 pennant race between the Dodgers and Giants was an epic tale that put California baseball on the map for good. It was the first season of Dodger Stadium,

the year of Maury Wills wild dash to break Ty Cobb’s base stealing record and a year in which the Dodgers and Giants played 165 game seasons (thanks to a 3-game playoff series).

Author Plaut does a wonderful job weaving in the real world on top of the baseball universe and then focusing in on the timeless rivalry of two great franchises whose rivalry extends back to the middle ages (or 1890 or so).
Only five years removed from their controversial relocations to the Golden State these two ex-New York teams squabbled like newlyweds as they attempted to secure their standings in each of their great cities pop culture landscapes. The Dodgers were tinseltown stars with Koufax, Drysdale and Willie Davis effortlessly posting 101 wins in the oasis of Chavez Ravine. The Bay Area Giants were a tough lot of moody superstars like Cepeda, Mays and Alou managed by an odd red-neck manager in Alvin Dark..they too posted 101 wins as the season closed on September 30, 1962.

Without delay a 3-game playoff was underway- with one game at breezy Candlestick and two in LA. As if channeling the epic 1951 playoff series the Giants would take the pennant with a miracle comeback in the final game- sending them to an immediate World Series appearance against the mighty Continue reading

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What I’m Reading: Rock Bios from the cynical to the crass: Fagen, Jim Croce and Bowie

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Book Reviews

What I’m Reading: Bowie, Croce and Fagen….70’s Icons with feet of Clay..but that’s Ok

Eminent Hipsters- Donald Fagen’s Meaningful Memoir of Madness

As many fans of Steely Dan already know it has been hard to break the facade of the Becker and Fagen persona. Both seem private and aloof and have gone about their musical careers without any impulse to divulge any personal information. Fagen’s 2013 book goes a long way in rectifying this matter- although Fagen conveniently skips over the entire Steely Dan saga. With ‘Eminent Hipsters’ we now have our real glimpse into the mind that composed such classics as ‘Do It Again’, ‘Aja’ and ‘Pretzel Logic‘ (with Steely Dan) and 4 of the best solo albums ever issued. Without doubt I place Fagen right up there as one of the funniest fucking people on the planet. Sort of Mort Sahl meets Andrew Dice Clay.

His honest appraisal of the absurdity of touring as a rock star at the age of 61 and his “candid” take on who is actually coming to see him (and his “buddies” Boz Scaggs and Mike McDonald- then touring as ‘The Dukes of September’) is priceless witty sarcasm at its best. Pesronally I have always cringed at the sight of all these super old bands from the 60s and 70s touring so extensively, as if they are still important and their music was that good….get real aging old men with Peter Pan complexes: you are ridiculous and sad…your songs were great and are worth hearing once in while….on the radio!

Now if these classic rock bands are a joke of their old selves and incarnations (I just saw that the band Boston was touring….must be a great show…their lead singer died about 10 years ago…hahah)..what can we say about the sad souls that march down to see them….let’s let Donald descibe them in his July 8 entry (p.110) “The crowd at the Orpheum was the oldest yet. They must have bused in people from nursing homes. There were people on slabs, decomposing, people in mummy cases.

The “younger” crowd (ie.born in the 60s) or as Fagen calls them “TV babies” don’t escape Fagen’s wrath either, especially the ones that insist on annoyingly holding up their smartphones during the concert. “The TV Babies have morphed into the Palm People. For example those people in the audience who can’t experience the performance unless they’re sending instant videos to their friends. Look at me, I must be alive, I can prove it, I’m filming this shit.” (p.140)
Aside from the sarcasm Fagen also demonstrates a more personable side as he desribes the influences that shaped his childhood including the ‘talk-radio’ of Jean Sheperd on WOR-AM, the jazz radio shows of Mort Fega (WEVD) and Ed Beach (WRVR) and his college age experiences with LSD and G.Gordon Liddy (‘good times’). What comes across is a warmth of understanding that can only come across in the printed word….Fagen himself has managed to pierce through the facade that kept us from really understanding what “Steely Dan” was all about. What we see is one of the most honest voices in an industry that has smothered itself in smugness and absurdly high ticket prices. As Fagen himself might say “thanks for coming to the show…..now go get a life!!!”
I Got A Name: The Jim Coce Story by Ingrid Croce and Jimmy RockScreen Shot 2015-03-18 at 10.24.22 AM
This Jim Croce biography is an odd sort of writing. Obstensibly a poignant memoir by his widow (with help from her current husband) ‘I Got A Name’ traces the life of Croce through his relationship with his wife Inge Croce (nee Jacobson), herself a competent guitarist and vocalist.
While we do get the details of the blue collar Jim Croce who worked terribly hard and long just to get a recording contract- we also get the abusive Croce who seemed to become consumed by his rapid success at the expense of his marriage. Unfortunately we all know how it ends and despite now having perhaps a more “complete” picture of Croce’s personality we are left wanting to know a bit more. Croce blazed through the record charts over the course of 1972 and 1973 and toured non-stop with an acoustic guitar in his hand…he was the real-deal as they say and perhaps his widow wanted his fans to not just embrace they myth…but the hard reality of trying to balance “success” with life. Croce was the 70s version of Buddy Holly….eerily in how he died and magically in the songs he wrote that speak to us in a powerful melancholic (and sometimes fun) way.

Bowie: the Biography by Wendy Leigh
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I really hate books like this one….you know..the ones that turn your hero into a self-indulgent, sex-crazed, bi-sexual-drug fiend….all right I know that Bowie was all of those things…and I shouldn’t be shocked that someone wants to write a pulp bio full of lurid details and observations, but if you want details on the important recording sessions of ‘Young Americans’, ‘Station To Station’ or ‘Low‘- keep looking- or if you want to find out how Bowie’s early ’90s masterpiece ‘Black Tie, White Noise‘ (which included the killer cut ‘Jump They Say‘) bankrupted the label that put it out- you won’t find it here. In fact “the biography” as it is named fails to even mention the years of 1988 to 1997 in Bowie’s life or recording career. Oopsie. It does however contain a rich history of Bowie’s social life and his indulgences….and having said that- it is well written and flows smoothly from one chapter to the next….perhaps they should just re-title it “the rock star biography”….or Bowie: The Coke Spoon Years….. or Bowie: The Naughty Diaries of Major Tom….Bowie has in many ways been the most prolific and important artist in the post-Beatles era…he deserves a greater musical appreciation than this sex-scapade volume can offer.

What I’m Reading: Mookie Wilson..Life, Baseball and the ’86 Mess, or How Ghost Writing is No Writing

Book Reviews

What I’m Reading: March 2015

The New york Mess: Mookie Wilson’s story :From Game 6 to trite-psycho-analytical diatribes….

I wanted to like this book….;-)

I really hate the manner in which modern “biographies” and “autobiographies” are thrown together these days. I was actually naive enough to think this book was written by Mookie Wilson and would include a detailed account of his playing days on the Mets. Instead one can tell rather early in this book that “co-author” Erik Sherman has written virtually the entire text and Mookie himself is the real ghost writer.

Not that there aren’t a few things in it that diehard Met fans will enjoy- like the desrciption of that final at bat in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, which begins the book. it’s exciting to visualize that final inning from Mookie’s perspective as he mentally calculates the steps that lead to his unlikely trip to the plate at that late hour….and his last mad dash towards first base as Buckner makes the error of a lifetime. Mookie WIlson was the batter in one of the most exciting World Series games of all time and his style of playing played a great part in how that game ended. His never-say die attitude at bat, his speed and determination as a baserunner…and more importantly to Met fans- his optimistic attitude which created a bond right from the start of his career in New York in 1980.

So chapter 1 starts out great with Mookie’s recount of Game 6…that is 18 pages long. Since this is a “biography” you would think that we’d re-wind now back to Mookie’s life and begin the tale of how he became a professional baseball player…nope…chapter 2 follows with a 20-page account of Mookie’s relationship with Bill Buckner in the years after the famous game. Perhaps this seemed liked an innovative idea when they were throwing the book together but it is written in an almost child like manner that is painful to digest. It goes in to Buckner’s career details, the lack of recognition he got in his career, his problems with some of the fans, some incidents with signing autographs etc…after 20 pages you might think the book has morphed in to a Bill Buckner biography as written by Mookie WIlson…or Erik Sherman.

My suggestion to Mookie and Erik…if/when you ever revise this tombe…..take out this chapter and replace it with a detailed account of MOOKIE’s career with the Mets from 1980 through 1985…which is barely even detailed in the following chapters. When we finally get to Mookie’s life in chapter 3 we do get some details on his childhood in South Carolina and the trail that led to his embrace of baseball and his faith in Christianity. It is pleasant enough but the style of writing makes it all sound ‘lah-dee-da’…like a kids book.

In chapter 4 Mookies professional career is developing as he is signed by the Mets in 1977 and plays several years in the minors. Oddly the title of this chapter seems to imply a connection between Mookie’s career and that of the great Willie Mays and is titled ‘The Say Hey Kid and Me’. it starts with Mookie recounting a meeting with Mays in 1984 at Candlestick Park. Nothing else is mentioned about this 1984 meeting and it is used only to recount Mookie’s 1977 meeting with Mays at an instructional league in St Petersburg, FL. Unfortunately nothing is described about this meeting either and Mookie then jumps to a discussion on how he determined that his grandfather’s real surname was Mays…and not Wilson.
It seems however that Mookie was discouraged from determining who this grandfather was and where he may have hailed from so it goes in to a dead end with Wilson (or Sherman) declaring that “it is kind of a neat thought” to think that Mookie might be related to Willie Mays….kind of.…my advice…take this chapter or at least this anecdote out as well….why invoke Willie Mays and then never even talk about him?

Chapter 5 finally seems to be setting us on the path of a linear narrative of Wilson’s career. Unfortunately, probably due to the using of the “modern sports bio” template” it soon is reduced to a series of trite psychological descriptions of the players and people Mookie was associated with. When the book does focus on “baseball” it falls in to rather bland play-by-play and game-by-game descriptions that we’ve all seen and heard in previous books. As die-hard Met fans will know Mookie Wilson developed rather quickly in to a Met superstar, over the course of the years 1981 through 1984 he was recognized as a tough out, with blazing speed, adequate defense and a hitting style that recalled the great Pirate Manny Sanguillen. With perhaps just a bit more discipline Mookie could have been a career .300 hitter and have a plaque in Cooperstown.

But you will find nary a mention of any of Mookie Wilson’s stats in this book (heck it doesn’t even have an index or bibliography)…which is a problem as when we do finally get to hear from Wilson on his reaction to being railroaded out of his starting position on the Mets (in 1985) to his eventual trading to Toronto (in 1989), his anger is somewhat perplexing as the book failed to illuminate how great a player he was in those early days.

But we do get to hear about Dwight Gooden’s cocaine problem, Gary Carter’s ego problem and Lenny Dykstra’s gambing problem…plus a whole chapter on Billy Buckner’s anger management issues…Mookie was a great player…..a definitve and beloved Met…somehow all of that is lost in this 260 page New York Mess book…;-D

What I’m Reading: Rock Gods: Devilish Details Done Right

Book Reviews

What I’ve been Reading: March 2015

Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd

by Mark Blake

I’ve been on a reading binge of sorts and have countered my “serious” reading with a slew of pop culture works. I am constantly amused with the self-indulgent, peter-panism of our great rock heroes and have enjoyed reading each of these three works. All of them well written and researched.
Mark Blake’s Pink Floyd tome is as dry as a strong gin and tonic as he chronicles the details of the enigmatic Floyd ensemble. Over the course of their existence Pink Floyd has reflected the personalities of three distinct people: Syd Barrett, Roger Waters and David Gilmour. While Barrett comes off as a creative and ultimately tragic figure, both Waters and Gilmour are portrayed as calculating business men…creative…yet reserved. The story itself however is very interesting as this Cambridge based troupe plunge on through the pschedelic ’60’s on in to the self-indulgent ’70s and beyond. Barrett of course flamed out early, a sort of Oscar Wilde-super nova, leaving Waters to take over as the main song-writer. Water was stoic and calculating as he mapped out the mind-numbing traits of the 70s Pink Floyd sound. Gilmour developed his own sense of Floyd in the background for many years and the band seemed to finally fizzle out circa 1982…legal fights soon developed over the rights to

 the “Pink Floyd” name but many fans enjoyed the Gilmour led ‘Momentary Lapse of Reason’ that emerged circa ’87.

Pink Floyd remains an aquired taste for many but this book does a wonderful job putting their saga in focus, each chapter perhaps taking another brick out of the wall….hahah..

Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band: Barney Hoskyns
If you are an avid pop music fan like myself..then you will already know that Barney Hoskyns is a god himself….each of his works has a magical story-telling quality (get ‘Hotel California’ his epic on the 70’s southern Cal scene- a must have for classic rock lovers)….for this Zep volume Hoskyns has done something different and creative…he’s presenting the story by way of actual quotes from the principals invovlved. Sometimes this approach is disatrous as it can lead to flowery and rose-coloured memories telling us how wonderful the subject is…but Hoskyns has been shrewd with his editing and his sources and this reads like a smooth documentary on one of the most successful rock bands ever. One of the wonderful things about Zeppelin was their honesty…they never let any of themselves get to full of themselves, they partied hard for 12 years and created a canon of wonderful melodies that were melded on to high quality instrumentation and production. Page knew what he wanted each record to sound like before hand and never really over did it. Led Zeppelin was concise (they never even issued a 45 in their native UK) and when John Bonham died the curtain came down literally.
Old Gods Almost Dead: The 40-Year Odyssey of the Rolling Stones
by Stephen Davis

This book was a joy to read and vividly describes the trials and tribulations of the Stones as they attempted to reign as the Kings of Rock over the ensuing decades. Brian Jones, kind of the Syd Barrett of the band, died early in the story and does come off as a bad seed if the tales can be believed. Keith Richards became zombie junkie in the early 70s even as the band created some of their best LP’s and singles. Jagger of course seems to turn into a Peter Pan type of figure who never seems to mature much but this may be part of his own plan to cover his more serious and fascinating side. His connections and appreciation of Burroughs ran deep into the psyche of the Stones throughout the 70s and 80s, perhaps culminating with the last great Stones track ‘Undercover of the Night’ in 1983. indexAfter 1983 the story kind of runs its course with the details of those huge money-making tours and lousy albums. It’s ok to get old guys..it’s ok to call it a day….they should have become a comedy troupe…like Monty Python …Spinal Tap….oh wait…they were…hehhe

The Harvard Psychedelic Club: Be Here Now…and Then

Book Reviews

What I’ve been Reading: Feb 2015
The Harvard Psychedelic Club
By Don Lattin (Harper Collins 2010)

If you’ve ever wondered how Harvard professors Leary and Alpert went from Ivy League insiders to wacked out LSD Gurus….this easy to read volume by Don Lattin is for you. Lattin spins a yarn that develops vividly, almost like a modern Hollywood film [perhaps we could get George Clooney to star as Timothy Leary{?}]. There are heroes…villains, mystery and an epic saga of how the wonders of mind alteration transformed American culture in the 1960s.

What started out as a high-brow attempt to gain insight into the fields of psychiatry and mystical experiences soon turned in to an early ’60’s comedy as the Harvard school newspaper, the Crimson Tide, ran a detailed expose that highlighted the supposed abuses overseen by the professors. Lattin provides a detailed chronology of the events and notes the role of Andrew Weil who would ironically emerge as a new sort of Leary-esque prophet in the early 1970s, despite having been the main protaganist in getting Leary and Alpert fired in 1963.

The world was forever changed when Albert Hoffman took that first trip (by accident) in April of ’44. By the 1960’s the world seemed poised to jump into an exciting era of experimentation and challenges. Leary and Alpert and their literary friend Aldous Huxley were leaders of the intelligentsia who championed a controlled experimentation of psilocybin and its’ synthetic version LSD. It was to be a short era of experimentation and the results of what they may have discovered remain dubious to the skeptics. By 1966 LSD, marketed legally by the Sandoz Laboratories until then, was declared illegal. By that time other universities around the US had started their own experimentation programs and the cat was well out of the bag. Alice had slipped down the rabbitt hole……the summer of love followed.

Leary and Alpert eventually became outlaws of sorts. Leary spent time in prison and later became a prominent figure on celebrity lecture tours until his death in 1996. Alpert transformed into Ram Dass and is generally recognized as an intelligent and gifted teacher, noted especially for his best-seller Be Here Now in 1971.

Don Lattin has done a great job presenting this unique episode of American history in an easy to digest (like a sugar cube) manner. Read It!!

What I’ve Been Reading: When Britain Burned the Whitehouse

Book Reviews

What I’ve been Reading: Feb 2015

When Britain Burned The White House by Peter Snow

If you’ve ever wondered what the War of 1812 was about

this book will have many of your answers. Written in an easy to read, yet very informative manner, When Britain Burned The White House, tells the story of how the UK invaded and burned Washington DC and set fire to the White House. Peter Snow is superb as he highlights the personal backgrounds of botht the British commanders and the US leaders. He brings to life this interesting episode that allowed the English to give the US a good thumping in a time that still had emperors, frontier wars and exhaustive naval battles.

Some interesting facts to consider:
– at the beginning of the battle near Bladensburg, both the standing US Commander In Chief (Madison) and the future Commander In Chief (Monroe) were on the battlefield…..the last US President to be on the battlefield in time of war would be Lincoln.
-the English had no intention of trying to defeat the US or reclaim the US in the War of 1812….they just wanted to give us a “good thumping’ as Admiral Cockburn put it..
-many of the British who led the invasion of Washington were well seasoned veterans of the highest caliber, having defeated Napolean under the leadership of Wellington in the previous years
-the decision to actually lead an onslaught on to Washington and burn the city was not a unanimous decision by the British leaders and it was one that many later regretted
-Dolly Madison only vacated the White House at the last minute, pausing to ensure that a portrait of George Washington be saved
-the British officers dined on the food and wine left by Madison before torching the magnificent building
-when architech James Hoban rebuilt the White House he was forced to use wood in stead of stone, which led to the White House being re-built during the Truman administration
-the soot marks from the 1814 fire can still be seen on certain areas of the house that remained
-Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that would become the US national anthem while being held captive by the British during their bombardment of Baltimore in the final days of the war

After the War of 1812…James Monroe, who had served in the Revolutionary War and in Madison’s cabinet, became President and is generally accepted as a powerful and intelligent leader, despite the debacle of 1814. Monroe’s lasting legacy was codified in the Monroe Doctrine which called for the entire hemisphere to ‘be free from future European colonization and free from European interference”.

When Britain Burned The White House by Peter Snow is a great book…and will lead you to other areas of US history to enjoy!

Book Reviews: What I’m Reading (Feb 2015)

Book Reviews

What I’ve been Reading: Feb 2015

Seasons In Hell

A fun ride through the memories of the 1973 Texas Rangers by by Mike Shropshire some 20 years after the fact. Shropshire is sort of a Hunter S Thompson of baseball and narrates in a way that puts baseball in a tangtental perspective. It’s 1973…Watergate is in full exposure…weed is cheap and he has an expense account (that he uses liberally at the local bar) with his newspaper the Forth-Worth Star Telegram. The Rangers are a virtual expansion team and play like it as Shropshire attempts to chronicle their epic 1973 saga with Whitey Herzog at the helm. Herzog had just come over from being the Mets minor league supervisor and was not used to the bush league he was handed by no less than Ted Williams the 1972 Ranger manager.

This was the season that the Rangers took a kid, David Clyde, straight from high school, to the Majors, in about 2 weeks….it was the year they wore those snazzy blue uniforms and had guys like Joe Lovitto hitting 5th. They also lost 105 games and got Herzog fired before the end of the season.

Shropshire serves as a sort of cultural monitor as he describes “what” it was like. He’s virtually Bukowski-esque as he describes the trials and tribulations of writers like himself as they struggle to make sense of baseball….the industry and America..the culture… as they weave their ways in the uncertain times of the mid-70s.

A great effort..sort of Ball Four for baseball writers…..;-D

Book reviews: What I’ve Been Reading…..(2014/2015)

What I’ve Been Reading Some of the books I’ve been indulging in as 2014 closed and 2015…commences… In the Moment- Ben Gazzara Always one of my favourite actors…it has been a joy to read his memoirs that were published right before his death a few years ago. Gazzara was a definitive NYer from the old school and went through his interesting and successful acting career in a straight forward “what ever will be will be” attitude. His approach is a victory for all of us soft-spoken, honest and caring folks that don’t waver when people try to take advantage of our niceness. Gazzar was never a “big” star in the modern sense- he was too quick to turn down big films and too “not full of himself” to kiss up to some Hollywood mogul. As a result he fell off the pop culture radar when he was supposed to be a “superstar” and only sporiadically claimed the limelight as the years went on. But make no mistake he was a giant and knew and rubbed shoulders with anyone and everyone from the 1950’s on. One of his cherished roles was in the late 70s oddity ‘Saint Jack’ which was produced by Roger Corman and directed by Peter Bogdonavich, who also starred in the film. Gazzara plays an American stranded in Singapore in the early days of it being a republic and decides to set up a brothel to cater to expats and Vietnam GI’s….Bogdonavich plays a CIA plotter who tries to convince Jack (Gazzara) to secretly take pictures of a US Senator’s (played by George Lazenby!) sexual escapades. Try to find it if you can it probably isn’t on Youtube…but was issued on a DVD. Gazzara was cool, classy and profound…in a personal way….his memoirs were epic!

Although I find it hard to find fault with any book on the Mets , there is something oddly horrible about this late ’90s Peter Golenbock volume: Amazin’ The Miraculous History of New York’s Most Beloved Baseball Team. (Notice how ‘Mets” is absent from the title) For one thing there are numerous factual mistakes that any proofreader with knowledge of the Mets would have found and corrected. Also for some reason Golenbock gives us detailed and intense chapters at the very beginning of the book on New York baseball from the 1880s on up to 1951. Interesting history but not about the Mets at all. His method of giving the actual history of the Mets is also questionable as he relies on verbatin quotes from only a handful of players. A lot of the quotes are overblown and not worth reading. And for some reason he insists on giving us detailed accounts of Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry and their struggles with alcohol and substance abuse that took place in the 1990s…after their glory days with the Mets…weird …Perhaps this book would have been good as Met Memories or something…. but as a book on “Met history” it fails. Oopsie. 

My final book for this week is a 1968 educational volume entitled ‘Manifest Destiny’-edited by Norman Graebner a collection of the original documents and speeches that led the US to claim the land west of the Mississippi in the mid 1800s. This is powerful stuff and presented without much comment, dry like a strong martini -this one grew on me as I continued to find interesting facts and serrendipities about US history. Highly recommended for those of you curious as to why Texas was a Republic before it entered the States and why California was seized with nary a drop of blood being spilled. (Special thanks to the State Library Hawaii USA)

Classic TV: ABC’s Movie of the Week: Entertaining Prime Time Television

Pop Culture/Classic TV

The ABC Movie of The Week

Enjoyable Prime-time Drama

Beginning in September 1969 and on up into the middle of the 1970’s TV viewers were treated with weekly original TV movies that usually starred a talented actor or actress. The ABC Movie of the Week , with its’ wonderful voice overs and its’ equally wonderful theme  music, was a comforting signal that the week was half over and it was ok to relax a bit in front of the new color TV. My mom would even let us stay up to watch the whole movie even though it was a school night……wowza….

One of the earliest Movie of the Weeks

(9/30/69) was ‘The Immortal’  which starred cool guy Christopher George as guy with “special blood” that made him resistant to age. It got such high ratings that is spawned a TV series with the same name a year later. The series of the Immortal wasn’t so big in the ratings though but the original movie is worth watching, if only for its 1969 zeitgeist of cool cars and a tough, no nonsense hero who just wants ot be a test-driver and not controlled by “the man”-in this case character actor Barry Sullivan.

There was a lot of variety on the Movie of the Week, comedies (with people like Larry Hagman, Walter Brennan, Ken Berry etc), dramas (starring Elizabeth Montgomery, Julie Harris, Arthur Hill, Hal Holbrook) and downright creepy thrillers. Anyone remember 1970’s ‘How Awful About Allen”? or that one where the dead child keeps calling on the phone??? Or the alltime classic Trilogy of Terror  …with Karen Black being terrorized by psychotic Zuni Doll…i think she ends up baking him in the oven….yikes….a lot scarier than all of those emo vampire types shows of the last 10 years…ergh

There were a lot of classics on Movie of the Week…including Duel (starring Dennis Weaver), directed by Steven Spielberg…Brian’s Song..Satan’s Triangle with Doug McClure…truly frightening…and of course the two Night Stalker films that were produced by Dan Curtis of Dark Shadows fame.

Movie of the Week rightfully earned 5 Emmy Awards and aired until 1976 when the nation started screaming for Donnie & Marie TV specials……quite a few of these classic TV movies have been uploaded to You Tube…so if you have a decent fibre optic or cable modem…..tune in and drop out for 90 minutes with a bag of Doritos.

The Name of The Game: Primetime goes Hip 1968 Style

Pop Culture/Classic TV

The Name of the Game: Hip, Happening Prime Time

A now largely forgotten 60’s TV drama, The Name of the Game debuted in 1968 at the height of swinging and turbulent 1960’s. With three leading male stars, Gene Barry, Robert Stack and Tony Franciosa the show was aimed at a hip adult audience, think Don Draper, not Mike Brady and at times tackled some of the

important cultural events of the era (ie.drugs, ecology etc). Each episode was conceived and presented to be very much like a movie and the episodes ran for more than an hour Friday nights on NBC.

With a nifty theme song and a unique storyline- Barry and his colleagues worked for a cutting edge magazine (named People Magazine…hahah)- The Name of the Game remains a time capsule of the later days of cool. It faded away in 1971 as armies of polyester leisure suits and drivable lawmowers invaded and the decade middle America took over.

Of course some of the acting, writing and cinematography of Name of the

Game is corny and cliched but it is worth watching just because of the personalities of Barry, Stack and Franciosa. the female lead was Susan St james and there were episodes that starred othe notables including Robert Culp, Darren McGavin and even Robert Duvall (in the pilot episode).

A typical Name of the Game episode involved a pretty woman, an eccentric millionaire, a gin and tonic and photography…perhaps even some drug or counter-

culture refernces.
It had style..(hey it starred Tony Franciosa…uber cool)..and it aired between High Chaperal and Star Trek on Friday nights…how cool was that? (Star trek was on at 10pm??? jeez no wonder it had low ratings..)

One of the oddest (and coolest) episodes of Name of Game was a Gene Barry episode from 1971...LA 2017....in it Barry’s car veers off the side of the highway outside LA amidst some funky 1971 smog…..and wakes up in a dark, dreary Los Angeles in the year 2017! I think this episode may have even been directed by Steven Spielberg before he was famous.

Unfortunately The Name of the Game never made it to DVD…and there were a lot of episodes…I’ve seen about 20 of them…sometime they show up on You Tube….find one and travel back to an era neat, formulaic TV….bring your shades…;-D