Thursday, March 31, 2011

Foodsploitation: Prune Whip

No comment needed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Foodsploitation: Cold Cherry Soup

In these times, we often have to tighten our belts when it comes to culinary fare. Luckily the good folks at Farberware have gifted us with this elegantly printed "cookbook" called BUDGET SAVER RECIPES.
And here's a simple and CHEAP recipe that will probably not warm you up on a cold Spring evening. Cold Cherry Soup features a can of cherries, some corn starch, some sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, s splash of booze and whipped cream. Soup! What the Farberware? I'm not sure what their definition of "soup" is - but this is clearly not soup by any stretch of the chef's imagination. It's goop at best. Wonder if a brave reader out there is willing to give this a try and tell us just how "good" it is.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Foodsploitation: Be Creative With Chili

I don't know about you but I always serve my Chili Sans Carne on a wrought iron display complete with a colorful faux flower arrangement! Now that's creative. Wondering what's on the back of this Chili recipe booklet from Ehler's Spices?
Why it's an ad for a "Special Offer" featuring three snazzy Early American Spice Racks (jars not included). These authentic racks were made by a fine old firm of of New England craftsmen! Wonder if they still make 'em? I feel sad for the family that only has the need for 8 jars of spices. Hey look, apparently Ehler's also made Coffee and Tea!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Foodsploitation: Tomato Aspic

"Our Rich Heritage" obviously includes foods that no one actually likes. Tomato Aspic is one of those foods. I don't think I've ever actually tasted it, or ever actually saw it on a dinner table - but the idea of tomato-flavored Jell-O just does not seem appetizing. Though adding slices of Spanish olives and 3/4 slices of cucumber sure makes it look purdy though.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Back in Burbank

Hi readers, sorry again for all the re-runs lately. Life has taken me out of town and away from my blog for the second time this year - but the good news is I came across some cool stuff that I'll be sharing with you guys (and gals). I'll start with this ad from the January 20, 1971 edition of The Staten Island Advance., my hometown paper. Someone in my family saved this newspaper page for the article on the other side, but I found this advertisement much more appealing.
Yes FIGURE-TONE SPA (est. 1959) actually promised ladies that they would lose one pound and/or one inch on their first free visit! I could see losing one pound - but one inch??? Holy shit! This place featured 100 different INGENIOUS pieces of rapid reducing equipment! Sputnik Spring Rollers! Bust Building Machines! SLENDERELLA TABLES!!!! All this plus much, much more including Belgian Pony Reducers? If I could only turn back time and visit Figure-Tone Spas (est. 1959) just to see all this for myself. 40 years later, the gym sounds dreadfully boring compared to the Figure-Tone Spas (est. 1959),

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Liz Taylor 1932-2011

Let's celebrate the life of the great Liz Taylor by representing a post from four years ago when this blog was called MOVIES THAT MAKE YOU SAY 'HUH?' and I inducted Ms. Taylor into the first "Huh? Hall of Fame".
Well, you just gotta love Liz Taylor. She was a friggin' legend - living a glamourous public life and starring in some of cinema's greatest films like GIANT, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?– not to mention cherished classics like LASSIE COME HOME, NATIONAL VELVET and FATHER OF THE BRIDE. Outside of film, Dame Elizabeth's devotion to ending the AIDS epidemic is truly inspiring and she really is a INTERnational treasure.

Then there's the other Ms. Taylor, the Liz that mades me say "Huh?". This is the Liz Taylor that was friends with Michael Jackson, (Editor's note: this post originally ran in 2007) markets crappy perfume...and the one that married Larry Fortensky. This is the Liz that starred (or appeared in) some of the worst films ever made. The Liz that played Pearl Slaghoople in THE FLINTSTONES movie. A casting choice so bizarre and inept, that many years later and it still makes me say "Huh?" I mean look at the evidence: I rest my case.

But the craziness did not start in Bedrock in 1994. Let's turn the clocks back a bit to 1960 and BUTTERFIELD 8. Liz actually won an Oscar for this film in which she plays a slutty, drunken "fashion model" (aka prostitute) who falls in love an alcoholic son of a working class family who has married into money. Liz made the film to get out of her contract with MGM, so she could jump over to 20th-Century Fox to star in the epic CLEOPATRA (more on this one later). Taylor's conditions for agreeing to make BUTTERFIELD 8 included shooting the film in New York, having control over costumes, hair and giving husband Eddie Fisher (freshly divorced from America's sweetheart Debbie Reynolds) a supporting role. She publicly campaigned against the film: "I hate the girl I play, " she told the press, "This is the most pornographic script I have ever read!" The public, titillated by Taylor and the provocative subject matter, made the film a hit. "I still say it stinks" recanted Liz. After finishing production on BUTTERFIELD 8, Taylor, and freed from MGM's clutches, shew flew to London to begin work on CLEOPATRA, the biggest budgeted film up till that time.

In 1963, Liz also became the highest paid movie star AND worked with future husband Richard Burton (who was cast as Mark Antony) for the first time. The press had a field day when Taylor and Burton began an torrid and scandalous affair during filming – both stars were married to other people at the time!!! The Vatican even accused her of "erotic vagrancy"!!! That's pretty damn cool The production itself was plagued by many problems, and director Joe Mankiewicz' original cut was six hours long. Fox demanded that two hours be cut, which they were, thankfully. When the film was released historians criticized it's inaccuracies, critics attacked the disjointed script and the over-the-top acting was laughed at universally, causing filmgoers to wonder how a film maker could get such great actors to act so badly.

After a string of better films in the mid-60s, Liz and Dick returned to Huh?-ville in 1968 with a little something we like to call BOOM! Freely adapted from Tennessee Williams' play "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore", BOOM! is the oddest, most pretentious "art film" ever made. It's almost indescribable. But if you EVER get the chance to see it - Run!!!

Liz spent much of the 1970s making mediocre films for theaters and TV, appearing on talks shows, Bob Hope specials and playing herself on HERE'S LUCY. In 1978, she showed up in - of all places - a musical! In A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, Liz delivers a poorly dubbed rendition of "Send in the Clowns". Isn't it rich?

In 1981, during the peak of the daytime soap opera fad, Liz showed up for a short stint on GENERAL HOSPITAL, playing Helena Cassadine. The character has lived on, though Liz has never revisited the role. After THE FLINTSTONES debacle, Liz participated in an ill-concieved ABC TV-movie aimed at gay men who missed THE GOLDEN GIRLS. Entitled THESE OLD BROADS, this "event" gathered together for the first (and LAST!) time: Liz Taylor, Debbie Reynolds (Liz's longtime nemesis) , Shirley MacLaine (who had played Debbie in POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE) and Joan Collins (who took over the role of Pearl Slaghoople in THE FLINTSTONES sequel). I can recall this being among the two of the most painful hours ever spent in front of the TV - rivaling the infamous MARY & RHODA reunion movie. To top it all off, poor Liz delivered all her scenes from a sickbed!!!

Well, in spite of it all - we still love her and were were proud to have Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor as first inductee into the "Huh?" Hall of Fame! She was an angel and she will be missed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sonseed Gets GLEEked

Just when I thought we saw the last of the Sonseed revival that sprung forth from this very blog, I received word from Sal that the song "Jesus is a Friend of Mine" was to be featured in this week's episode of GLEE.

This was followed by emails, phone calls and texts about it - and now even another blogger has blogged about it. How meta is that? Of course they credit the person who stole the video from me for starting the phenom, but what can you do?

Congrats to Sal and the folks from Sonseed!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Goldie & Liza Together

To celebrate Liza's 65th birthday - Here's a classic post from 2009.

When I think of the great showbiz pairings over the years I think of such duos as Martin & Lewis, Burns & Allen, Hope & Crosby - even Crosby & Bowie. Somehow Hawn & Minnelli don't easily spring to mind. But in 1980, both of these leading ladies were campaigning for roles in the aborted film version of CHICAGO - and CBS thought it would be a good idea to team the two superstars up in a prime-time variety outing.
Both gals already had big film careers and a few TV specials behind them, so why not take America's favorite kookie blonde and the dazzling Studio 54 barfly and give them an hour to prove what good friends they are supposed to be in real life? And so we have GOLDIE & LIZA TOGETHER! By the way, I've had this show on VHS since it first aired, and has entertained me and countless guests ever since.

The hour starts with an hysterical duet as Goldie and Liza drive to the studio (in their own cars) declaring how nervous they are about working with each other. 

"I'm doing a special with my friend Liza..." Goldie's so freaked out she takes a bag of garbage with her in her jeep!

Liza's a mess too - almost causing a major traffic accident because she's totally obsessing on Goldie. 

Well, luckily they both make it to the studio alive in time for rehearsal.

After an implied dance runthrough, Liza insists on Goldie telling her about her big solo number - which turns out to be a cover of the iconic Village People song, "Y.M.C.A."

Goldie and a gaggle of scantily clad, but not very sexy, dancers bring the song to life inspiring countless wedding receptions since.

Liza's big solo number is also a disco tune from the same period–Donna Summer's "Bad Girls". 

This tribute to prostitution is a "toot-toot beep-beep" hoot, with Liza taking on the role of a high class call girl, surrounded by several more hooker-ish women. 

A Fosse-inspired solo dance number ensues and lots of slow-motion inserts attempt to make Liza look glamourous. 

I think she looks like a severely damaged drag queen. 

After this number, we visit the ladies in the recording studio where they are recording the vocal tracks for "The Other Woman." After goofy Goldie messes up a few times, they finally get down to business and provide us with a very pleasing performance.Next is an extremely silly and somewhat painful number involving the gals and a pile of leftover wardrobe from what looks like a high school production of ALICE IN WONDERLAND with pirates.

Then comes the big dramatic sequence. A  10-minute character study that borders on lesbianism but really has something to do with unfaithful roommates. I've seen it about 100 times and it kills me every time.

The best part of the show is the finale - the fabulous CHICAGO number in which Liza proves what a tremendous talent she is.For every dance move that Goldie makes, Liza tops her with at least two. 

It's a rousing rendition of "All That Jazz" that causes us to wonder what the film might have been like with them in it. Oh well...we'll always have GOLDIE & LIZA TOGETHER.
The closing number is an out-of-breath "Together Wherever We Go" from GYPSY. I could be wrong, but somehow you can tell that as soon as production wrapped, Goldie and Liza never spoke to each other again.
I really wish they still did shows like this today. Who wouldn't love to see QUEEN LATIFAH & NICOLE KIDMAN TOGETHER? CBS - are you listening?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Before there was RED RIDING HOOD

Here's a "classic" post from 2007.

First of all, if you don't like seeing animals injured or killed - avoid this 1984 film. Not sure if the humane society approved this film or not, but between the wolves, a cow, some pigs, a couple of frogs, a goose and a peacock...not a creature seems to go unharmed. And then there's senior abuses suffered by Angela Lansbury, who appears here as a twisted version "Granny" from SYLVESTER & TWEETY rather than loveable Jessica Fletcher or sassy Auntie Mame.

Here's the story: the movie opens in present day. A young girl in bad Baby Jane make-up has a creepy collection of dolls and stuffed animals. She's having a dream that she's gone "into the woods," where her older sister has just been slaughtered by a company of wolves. After they bury sis, the girl goes to live with her Granny - who decides to cheer up the tyke by telling her tales about werewolves. Charming. It also appears that the girl has either travelled back in time or joined a Renaissance Faire.

In the first tale, a young groom is about to bed his new bride when he summoned by 'call of nature'. I guess he had to pee. He never returns. Men! Several years later, he returns looking like Tina Yothers from FAMILY TIES. The bride has since remarried and has kids. Angered by this development, he rips his flesh off and slowly transforms into his werewolf form (a very graphic - but incredible sequence), but is soon killed by husband number two. Whew!

Then there's a boring subplot about a flirty village boy. Zzzzzzzzzz....

In Granny's second story, a strapping young lad meets the Devil and his disturbingly made-up female chauffeur (who looks like Jon Benet Ransey - forcing us to wonder if her parents saw this film and decided that their daughter should look like this character). The devil gives the boy a potion, which he rubs onto his hairless chest - and suddenly blooms into puberty ...and beyond!

Later, Granny has made a Riding Hood for the girl, who we might as well call Red.
The horny village boy harasses Red again, causing her to climb a tree, where she finds a birds' nest with eggs that hatch tiny figurines of fetuses. Huh? Next we are treated to a scene of a mutilated cow. Huh?

While the villagers hunt down the wolf, Red tells her mother a story that Granny told her. This tale is about a wedding party where everyone is transformed into wolves. Fun!

Later Red's father returns after the villagers slay the cow-killing wolf. When he presents the wolf's paw, it has transformed into the hand of a man!!! Of course they chuck it into the fireplace! Wonder what THAT smelled like.

Soon it is winter and Red is off to Grandmother's house once again (presumably for a holiday visit). On the way she meets a huntsman with a unibrow. (Granny always warned her about guys with one brow!)

Once Red arrives at Granny's house, the huntsman has done away with Granny (in an amazing scene - sorry Rob Herrmann), and is taking her place. Sound familiar? There is a final encounter between Red and the Wolf...followed by another tale. This one is about a girl who looks like Chaka from LAND OF THE LOST.

I will not spoil the ending, since I highly recommend this film (despite the animal and Lansbury abuse). Directed by Neil Jordan (THE CRYING GAME), the film is gorgeously shot, and the sets and special effects are wonderful.

I'll give it an 8 outta 10 because with it's mix of dreams, nightmares, stories within stories - it still gives you many reasons to scratch your head. Oh yeah, and Angela doesn't even get to sing! Wonder if Lucille Ball was behind that... (inside joke)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Jazz Singer

Here's a vintage post from January 2007.According to Alyn Shipton's A New History of Jazz, Jazz is "an American musical art form which originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States from a confluence of African and European music traditions. The style's West African pedigree is evident in its use of blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation, and the swung note."THE JAZZ SINGER is another story altogether. 
This 1980 remake of the Al Jolson classic (first mounted on stage in 1925 and filmed 1927) is actually the fourth film version of the story. Here, following in the footsteps of MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY's Danny Thomas...

and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR's Jerry Lewis...

...recording superstar Neil Diamond takes on the demanding role of synagogue cantor Yussel Rabinovich (aka Jess Robin) and proves that he is not a triple-threat, or even a double-threat - just a threat. 

Interesting side note: this film was directed by Richard Fleischer, also known for Disney's 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA and the cult classic MANDINGO. Talk about range!
For 29 years, I've avoided this film, but something finally drew me to it - perhaps the spirit of multiculturalism that is in the air with tomorrow's inauguration or maybe a "bad movie" angel tapped me on the shoulder? Well, either way...bring on it, Neil!
The film opens with a patriotic diversity montage showing New Yorkers of every race, creed, color and stereotype while Neil's hit America, a rousing tribute to immigrants, blasts bombastically into our brains. After the anthem, we settle in on Neil, who is singing a Hebrew prayer in an Orthodox Jewish temple. His African American friend comes to see him - taking a seat in the back - his yarmulke (aka "beanie") keeps falling off because he has an Afro. This is comedy.
After the religious ceremony, Neil's friend rushes him outta the sacred place, and he tries to coax his Jewish lady friend to join them at a club. She refuses. Turns out it's an all black club and Neil is part of the entertainment! Yes - Neil makes his film debut in BLACKFACE! In an obvious homage to the Jolson original, Neil is part of a soul quartet, only he's wearing really bad makeup and wig that makes him look more like an unfortunate mix of Greg Brady, Eddie Munster and the Incredible Hulk.
It would be offensive, if it wasn't so damn ridiculous. So Neil and his band are performing in front of an all-black audience, but the gig is over when someone in the audience notices that his hands are caucasian! A fight breaks out and everyone gets arrested. Luckily Neil's Cantor papa, Laurence Olivier (!) comes to bail him out, and then follows with the question of the day "It's not tough enough being a Jew?". Papa is upset that Yussel is going by the name Jess-denying his heritage and birthright. I think.Next Neil goes to visit his Jewish girl, who, of course, is a Herbew teacher. It it turns out she's his wife - Rivka! We soon learn that his band has a gig in L.A., but Jess doesn't join them because of his responsibilites at the temple. After helping a teen prepare for his Bar Mitzvah, Neil sings Love on the Rocks...and then he gets a call from his black friend (Bubba, played by comedian Franklyn Ajaye) telling him that a powerful producer wants to record that very song - the next dayHe tells Rivka that he's gotta go to L.A. cause he's gonna have a hit song. Talk about jumping the gun! What's Papa gonna say? Before Jess can tell Papa, about his L.A.trip, Papa satrts lamenting to Jess about a bad dream that he had in Jess leaves him and doesn't come back. Let the guilt begin! Then Jess tells him about L.A. trip and Papa has a crying tantrum- but Jess quickly cheers him up by singing Hava Nagila - the classic Hebrew folk song (translation: "Let us rejoice").
So then he's off to big, bad Los Angeles to meet producer Keith Lennox! Jess is greeted at the airport by none other than Lucie Arnaz-
the daughter of showbiz legends Lucy and Desi, who looks like neither! As soon as they meet, the requisite palm tree and earthquake jokes begin. Once at the recording session - we discover that British madman Lennox has turned Jess's beautiful ballad, Love on the Rocks into a hard-edged new wave tune. In response, Neil sings the crap of of the tune in his inimitable style. Lennox reacts by telling Jess to "piss off..." and to take the four clowns with him. Lucie (Molly) tells Lennox thats the way the song should be sung - and she gets fired too! To celebrate their unemployment, the fivesome have party where Jess sings a song about Robert E. Lee. He asks Molly if she has any Charlie Parker records (finally somebody mentions JAZZ!) She replies "are you kidding? "Bird" is my middle name!" So, Molly Bird decides to take Jess under her wing and champion his talent (based on his one song). He tells her he's next in line to be the Cantor, and he eventually tells her he's married, so he can't live in sin with her. Molly has a plan - first she carjacks a booking agent, forcing him to listen to a tape of Jess's song. After this, Jess sings part of a new song, Hello, Again to Molly - proving he has more than one song in his bag. They almost kiss - but they don't. Molly tells him to finish writing the song, for her. She tries to seduce him, by offering him her body, but he refuses - he'd rather have pizza.
What would mama Lucy do? Probably cry "Wahaaaaaaaaa!"
So Jess books a gig opening for popular stand up comic Zany Gray - but his wife Rivka gives him a guilt trip over the phone. He starts his set by playing an harmonica and gets heckled by an audience member who calls him a "turkey". Harsh. Jess then breaks into a lounge-y ditty called Summer Love - suddenly his wife Rivka shows up! Like, she just jumped on a plane and knew exactly where to find him! She introduces herself to Molly backstage and asks her if they've slept together. Molly says he ate pizza, but didn't touch her. Rivka's pleased.By the second song, the auidience is in his hands - he gets a standing ovation. For just two songs? Highly unlikely. After the show, Rivvy (what he calls her) tells him she wants him to come home to NY to her and Papa - and they have the most polite argument ever filmed. She leaves, he stays.  The next day Molly introduces Jess to her hairy friend named Tommy who she's planning on sailing to Mexico with. Jess gets jealous - leading to a calypso-themed montage of them falling in love. Through the montage, we learn that Lucie is just like her zany redhead mother  after all - because she cooks him a ham! Oh Lucie!!!! They also attend a recording session, ride a bicycle built for two...and then she puts a schmata on her head and holy lights candles just like Lucy in MAME during Open a New Window! They kiss. Then they do it. And just when things seem to be going good for Jess, Papa shows up in L.A.- at Molly's house- to give Jess a guilt trip! Oy vey!  Jess introduces Papa to Molly - and he immediately starts crying! Again with the waterworks? "No, No!!!!!!!" he excalims and then he begins tearing at his clothing as the music swells. Apparently when a Jew tears at their clothes - they are in mourning. Who knew? Then Jess records a song called When Does Jerusalem Close? More like - When Does This Movie End????

All this family drama causes Jess to become super cranky, and to make things worse we learn that Molly is pregnant! But before she can tell Jess, he takes off on a road trip – driving out into the desert until his car breaks down. Then he hops on a bus to Laredo, Texas - missing his big chance to be on Zany Gray's big TV special. Oh well. Over the course of time Jess grows a beard, hitchhikes, smokes and wings up in a bar. A bartender (who I think is Charles Durning) asks him to sing You Are My Sunshine and the next thing you know he's on stage performing with a Honky Tonk Band. Still not jazz. Of course, Bubba miraculously tracks him down–without the help of Twitter. He tells Jess that Molly had his kid and named him after Charlie Parker. Jess then goes back to LA to see Molly and meet his bastard son. Wonder if the kid is circumcised? Hello Again soars.
Molly gladly welcomes him back. Turns out  while he was traveling the biways of America - his album went gold! Luckily Zany Gray's having another TV special likethat very day. Here's his second big chance. Only Papa has high blood pressure and can't sing at the temple...on Yom Kippur!!! So he sends a Jew-a-gram all the way from NY to L.A. to convince Jess to sing at the temple, therefore missing another opportunity to perform his music on TV. Can't a guy get a break???
So, he decides to honor his father and returns to New York - then after 20 minutes of Hebrew songs-he tells Papa that they have to talk. I begin to wonder where Rivka is. So, on the day of atonement, all is forgiven and Jess performs America to standing ovation - including Papa and Molly. The End. I just wanna know two things: where's the promised jazz and...where the hell is Rivka?