Are you a “Grumbletonian?”

The English language is full of words that rarely get used today. I don’t know what made me think of this particular word this week. I don’t know if maybe I heard someone say it on the radio or TV, but the word makes me chuckle. The word is “cockamamie.” It means ridiculous. Example: Who came up with this cockamamie idea? When I came into work this week, as a joke, I told the other techs to find a way to use the word in a sentence during their conversations with patients. Believe it or not, I was actually able to!

My radio buddy, Johnny Molson, used to (and probably still does) get a “word of the day” in his e-mail. I know a few Facebook friends who post a “vocabulary” word to use in conversation during that day. I enjoy seeing those posts and find the words interesting. Recently, actor Eddie Deezen (of Grease fame) posted the word “Bruxism” – which I know because of my job in sleep medicine. That is the correct medical term for “teeth grinding.”

So for the fun of it, here are some words (and definitions) you should strive to use in every day conversation. Feel free to share some of your favorites in the comments!

  • Grumbletonians – People who are angry or unhappy with the government.
  • Fudgel – The act of giving the impression of working but actually doing nothing.
  • Snollygoster – A person who has intelligence but no principles, especially a politician. 
  • Ultracrepidarian – Somebody who gives opinions about topics they know nothing about. 
  • Kakistocracy – Government by the least qualified or worst people. 
  • Chuckaboo – A best friend or a really close friend.
  • Humbug – Deceptive or false talk or behavior.
  • Balderdash – Nonsense.
  • Curmudgeon – Ill-tempered (often old) person.
  • Willy-Nilly – Haphazardly.
  • Skedaddle – Flee. Leave.
  • Osculate – To kiss.
  • Rigmarole – Confused talk or complicated procedure.
  • Hullabaloo – Uproar.
  • Brouhaha – A state of commotion or excitement.
  • Doohickey – Gadget or attatchment.
  • Finagle – To trick.
  • Hornswoggle – To dupe or hoax.
  • Lackadaisical – Lacking energy or enthusiasm.
  • Spiffy – Stylish.
  • Gobbledygook – Nonsense. Indecipherable writing.
  • Kerfuffle – A disturbance.
  • Lollygag – To meander or to delay.
  • Fakakta – Screwed up.
  • Plethora – Large amount or in excess.
  • Kibitzer – Yiddish term for a spectator. Usually one who offers (often unwanted) advice or commentary.
  • Quagswag – To shake to and fro.
  • Callipygian – Having well-shaped buttocks.
  • Skinflint – A person who spends as little money as possible; a miser.
  • Guffaw – A loud and boisterous laugh.

I think I am done with this cockamamie post! Thanks for reading!

Favorite Film – The 70’s

film-reel

I guess I saw this on Facebook some time ago.   Somebody had the idea to post a list of your favorite films.  The list was to consist of your favorites from each year of your life.  So, you start with your birth year and move ahead year by year and list all the films from each year.  I am SURE I have this idea written down in my notebook of “blog ideas”.  A post from the Avocado site came up in my “Reader” list of blogs that had the same principle, but with one exception – you can only pick one movie from each year. You can read that blog here:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/73828787/posts/2442817483

I am going to say that narrowing down just one film from each year will be next to impossible for me.  I am going to attempt to do it.  I have a feeling that I will go back in a day, a month, or year from now and think, “No, I should have picked _____ instead!”  At any rate, some of these will be easy to pick, and some I will have to “eenie meanie miney moe” to pick just one.  Maybe this is a topic I revisit each year?  I don’t know.

I am going to break it down by “decade”, so each post will include 10 films.  Deep breath.  Here we go – back to the year I was born:

189303f5737c7647d52c009ad0ce19b5_400x400x1

Of the 1970 films that made my personal favorite list, many have “war” themes:  M*A*S*H, Kelly’s Heroes, and Tora! Tora! Tora!  Other films include Dean Martin in Airport! and the Mel Brooks comedy The 12 Chairs.  Of all of the films from the year of my birth, if I had to pick my absolute favorite, it would be the classic biopic, Patton.

patton

George C. Scott is brilliant as Patton!  He won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role.  The film won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.  It’s an amazing film.

1971-year-patch-p4928-15-500x500

1971 was the year that George Lucas would release his film THX 1138, Gene Wilder starred in the classic Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Clint Eastwood starred in the film that scares all radio DJs – Play Misty for Me.  But it is another Clint Eastwood film that gets my vote for my favorite film of 1971, Dirty Harry.

clint

There are so many good Clint Eastwood films!  It doesn’t take long for Eastwood to establish what kind of character Dirty Harry is! Come on, you know the quote:

“I know what you’re thinking: “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?”

1363535695_a4404c22e1_b

1972 was the year we saw Burt Reynolds in Deliverance, Charles Bronson in The Mechanic, and the all star cast of the Poseiden Adventure that included Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons and others!  It was also the year that introduced many to two of the best known adult films, Behind the Green Door and Deep Throat.  1972 is probably the easiest year to pick a hands down favorite for me – no doubt about it – Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.

thegodfather-998x662

The novel is amazing.  The movie is just as powerful!  The cast (many unknown at the time) is just perfect!  It is hard to imagine anyone else as these characters.  Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Abe Vigoda, Richard Conte, Alex Rocco, and so many others star in this superb film about family and power.  I don’t think a week goes by without me quoting this film!  The film won the Best Picture Oscar and Brando won (and refused) the Oscar for Best Actor.

Print

While 1973 had some good films, in going through my list, they all are just “ok” to me.  In other words, there is no real “WOW” movie for me.  Charlton Heston is good in Soylent Green, Al Pacino is good in Serpico, The Sting had Paul Newman and Robert Redford (and the tune The Entertainer), Clint Eastwood is back for a Dirty Harry sequel called Magnum Force, and then there was the Exorcist.  I guess if I HAD to pick a favorite, it would be American Graffiti – because of two things (1) the music and (2) Wolfman Jack!

f3f7ec2097255f7fdf0167ad9aa723f2

41-lR6DAV0L

1974 was a bit more difficult to narrow down to just one film.  The reason for this is that I have some classic favorites that were released in ’74 and “how do I just pick one?”  Two of my favorite Charles Bronson films, Mr. Majestyk and Death Wish, came out this year.  Also, two of my favorite Mel Brooks films were also released – Young Frankenstein (“That’s Frahn-kun-steen”) and Blazing Saddles!  It did, however, become clear that the one film that had to be at the top for 1974 was The Godfather Part II.

Al Pacino In 'The Godfather: Part II' Woody Allen And Mia Farrow In 'A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy' '

The first time I saw it, I hated it!  I can’t lie about that.  I was confused by the shifts from past to present.  However, it became very clear with a second and third watch that the shifting from past to present is what makes this movie SO amazing.  If you really must see it all in order, you can rent the Godfather DVD and watch it chronologically.  This movie is where you really see the genius of Francis Ford Coppola.  Robert Deniro is just amazing as Vito and Al Pacino’s portrayal of Michael is about as perfect as it can get.

year-1975-birthday-design-vintage-white-mens-premium-t-shirt

1975 was the year that had us doing the Time Warp, thanks to the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  The Sunshine Boys was supposed to star Walter Matthau and Jack Benny (there are clips of screen test shots on YouTube somewhere), but when Benny died, George Burns stepped in.  Jack Nicholson is “crazy” good in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Dean Martin starred in a forgotten favorite, Mr. Ricco.  The one movie that really stands out for me from 1975 is based on the Peter Benchley novel – Jaws!

2806004-jaws

Like many, I couldn’t swim at the beach for some time after seeing it!  Now, they actually show it on a screen while people float in rafts and tubes on a lake in the summer time!  And who can forget the Jaws theme?

9f6911214da884e7f55a8e668715b9db

In 1976, America celebrated it’s bicentennial year.  It was a very patriotic year and there were some good films in theaters.  The Watergate Scandal was the focus of All The President’s Men.  Clint Eastwood returned in another Dirty Harry sequel, The Enforcer and the western The Outlaw Josey Wales.  The wonderful Barbara Harris was featured in both Freaky Friday and Hitchcock’s Family Plot (two very opposite roles!).  Mel Brooks offered up Silent Movie, while an all-star cast (Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchum, Glenn Ford, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, and Cliff Robertson) appeared in the war film, Midway. We were first introduced to Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa in Rocky and Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor were first teamed together in Silver Streak.  There are many reasons I could pick any one of these as a favorite, but I am going to go with one I already featured as my favorite – Murder By Death.  You can read that blog here:

https://wordpress.com/post/nostalgicitalian.com/856

1ef9d2942d663a258357c2934ce2f809

It’s such a fun film and I revisit it often.

mmf_hillsidestrangler_infographic_1977-blog-768x432

1977 was a year of great films!  There was Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.  Then George Burns first took on the role of God in Oh, God. John Travolta danced to the Bee Gees in Saturday Night Fever. We were introduced to the comedy of the Zucker brothers with Kentucky Fried Movie. Mel Brooks saluted Alfred Hitchcock in High Anxiety.  The “other” space movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, hit theaters, too.  From here, I was able to narrow things down to two faves, but as I said, I can only pick one for the year. While Star Wars could easily be the top pick for 1977, I am going with Smokey and the Bandit.

81EK42Eo5yL__SL1500_

Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed, Sally Field, and Jackie Gleason took us on a wild ride and this remains my favorite for a number of reasons.  First, it’s just funny.  Second, there are some very cool stunts.  Third, “East Bound and Down”.  Last, there are so many great quotes!

e1a72bfb8d69927e5ad190c5ba16741f

Smokey JUST beats out Star Wars, probably because it’s a comedy.  Don’t get me wrong, Star Wars is a CLASSIC, and at some point I really need to blog about the influence of that film on me as a 7 year old kid!

1978-Love-Songs-02-1

In 1978, we first meet Michael Myers in John Carpenter’s Halloween.  Peter Falk appears in the “sorta” sequel to Murder By Death in The Cheap Detective.  Robert Deniro and Christopher Walken star in The Deer Hunter.  Cheech and Chong go Up in Smoke.  Christopher Reeve first donned the cape in Superman.  Burt Reynolds starred as a stuntman in Hooper and tried to kill himself in The End.  We got chills that multiplied as we sang along with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease.  I’m honored to have Eddie Deezen (who plays Eugene in the film) as a friend on Facebook and he often shares cool stories about the film.  Time to pick my favorite from 1978.  It is yet another very quotable movie – a comedy – National Lampoon’s Animal House.

287695

Kent Dorfman.  Flounder.  Pinto.  Bluto.  D-Day.  Otter.  Animal House remains as funny to me today, as the first time I saw it.  John Belushi is just awesome in this film.  I have said before that Belushi can emote more with just his eyebrows than any other actor.  I also love John Vernon as Dean Wormer – he is such a great actor!  It’s amazing that “Shout” from Otis Day and the Knights is still requested at weddings 40+ years later.  One of my most quoted movies!

2013-1-23-john_belushi_bluto

“Zero.  Point.  Zero.”

year-1979

Closing out the decade, I see my list of favorites for each year growing more and more.  In 1979, Sigourney Weaver appeared in the first (of many) Alien films.  George Hamilton’s comedic take on Dracula was in Love at First Bite.  Sylvester Stallone appeared for his second “round” as Rocky in Rocky II.  Star Trek became relevant again, as it appeared on the big screen for the first time (with the original cast members) with Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Steve Martin brought The Jerk to life.  Alan Arkin and Peter Falk are great together in The In-Laws.  Robert Stack, Eddie Deezen, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and so many others appeared in 1941 (It didn’t do all that well at the box office, but I still love this silly film). To me, my favorite of 1979 goes to the genius of Jim Henson – The Muppet Movie.  I STILL marvel at this one!

muppet

This was such a breakthrough film.  For the first time we saw Muppets walking!  We saw them riding bikes!  The technological stuff that was achieved in this movie is still awesome to me.  This movie had tons of big cameos (including Edgar Bergan’s last film role) and just wonderful music.  I blogged about the music previously and you can read that here:

https://wordpress.com/post/nostalgicitalian.com/1218

What a “groovy” and “far out” list, huh?  I will have to move on into the 80’s next time.  I can tell you, it will be much more difficult to pick just one for every year in THAT decade!

0000701_large-film-reel-tin-can_550

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Mr. Howard

curly-platter.jpg

115 years ago today, Jerome “Curly” Howard was born. He was a man who made – and continues to make – millions of people laugh! He is considered by many, myself included, to be a comedic genius. He, of course, is remembered for his role as the “third stooge” in the Three Stooges comedy team. He is easily remembered as the most popular, and favorite stooge.

His brother Moe was the leader and often delivered slaps and konks on the head with various instruments. Larry was the stooge in the middle and often overshadowed by the other two. Curly was a whirlwind! He was a ball of energy. He was a childlike force of physical comedy! He commands every scene he is in! Whether he is a “victim of coicumstances”, barking like a dog, “woo woo wooing”, or giving his standard “N’yuk, n’yuk, n’yuking”, he has rightfully earned a place in comedy history.

In honor of his birthday, here are my “Must Watch” Curly shorts:

(1934) Punch Drunks – Curly is KO Stradivarius, a boxer who goes nuts when he hears “Pop Goes the Weasel”

(1934) Men in Black – The Stooges are doctors in their only film to be nominated for an Academy Award (for Best Short Subject – Comedy). “Calling Doctor Howard, Doctor Fine, Doctor Howard!”

(1935) Pop Goes the Easel – The boys are mistaken for art students. No pie fight, but there is a clay fight!

(1935) Uncivil Warriors – The boys are undercover agents during the Civil War. Curly in drag as Mrs. Dodge is priceless.

(1935) Pardon My Scotch – The boys are mistaken for three Scotsmen who brew a mean batch of Scotch. Curly is Mr. McSnort.

(1935) Three Little Beers – Whether you golf or not, the boys ripping up a golf course is funny stuff!

(1936) Disorder in the Court – Probably one of the best known Curly shorts. Curly being sworn in before testifying is one of my favorite bits.

(1938) Tassels in the Air – Know your Pig Latin! Moe is mistaken for the famous interior decorator Omay. Curly goes nuts whenever he sees tassels.

(1938) Healthy, Wealthy, and Dumb – Curly wins a radio contest and they nab a room at a swanky hotel. Watch them wreck the room and a “$5000 gadget”

(1938) Violent is the Word for Curly – Imagine the boys as college professors! Swinging the Alphabet!

(1940) A Plumbing We Will Go – The Stooges are plumbers. Curly surrounds himself in pipes! Dudley Dickerson’s appearance in this short is brilliant!

(1940) No Census, No Feeling – while taking census, they wind up in a bridge game. “Are you married or happy?”

(1940) Boobs in Arms – The boys wind up in the army and drive their drill sergeant nuts!

(1941) I’ll Never Heil Again – Moe’s impersonation of Hitler is spot on. Many say that Hitler had the Stooges on his “hit list” because of this short.

(1941) An Ache in Every Stake – The Stooges are ice delivery men. Curly climbs a very famous set of stair to make a delivery in this short.

(1943) Dizzy Pilots – The Stooges have invented the Buzzard, an airplane that will revolutionize flying. Their test flight better be good, or its off to the army.

(1944) Gents Without Cents – If for nothing else – watch it for the Niagra Falls bit!

(1945) Idiots Deluxe – Two scenes I love from this: The Original Two Man Quartet and a bear driving off in the Stooges car.

(1945) If a Body Meets a Body – Curly is in failing health by this time, but the scene where they make him jump backwards still cracks me up.

(1945) Micro-Phonies – probably the best of Curly’s last films. He is mistaken for Seniorita Cookaracha and is asked to perform at a party. Lip-synching at its best!

(1946) Three Little Pirates – even though Curly is ill – he is still able to pull of the famous “Maharaja” routine.

(1947) Hold That Lion – The last on screen appearance from Curly. It is a cameo in a Stooges short that features Shemp as the third stooge. Curly appears as a passenger on a train and his hair is grown out. It marks the only time the three Howard Brothers (Moe, Curly and Shemp) appeared on film together.

I am sure there are plenty that I missed, but off the top of my head, these are some of my favorites!

My friend Eddie Deezen (who you know as Eugene from Grease) wrote two articles about Curly that are worth reading:

https://www.neatorama.com/2014/04/10/Curly-of-the-Three-Stooges-The-Funniest-Guy-in-the-World/

Here is his excellent article on Curly’s final years:

http://mentalfloss.com/article/29769/final-years-curly-three-stooges-fame

Happy Birthday, Curly! Thanks for the laughter!

l00ovro33jx01.jpg

A Shemptastic Day in History…

 

Throughout history, some truly great people never got the respect they deserved simply because they had big shoes to fill.

* John Adams following George Washington as President of the United States.

* Ryan Seacrest following Dick Clark hosting New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

* Ray Combs following Richard Dawson as host of Family Feud.

*Daniel Craig is forever compared to Roger Moore and Sean Connery as James Bond.

* Dick Sargent never fully got the credit he deserved as an actor because he replaced Dick York on Bewitched.

There is one “under rated” comedian who truly never got the true respect that he deserved … Simply because he stepped in to fill the shoes of a comedy GIANT! This modest blog hopes to give him some recognition.

Shemp Howard was born today in 1895. Shemp was born Samuel Horwitz, but his mother had a very heavy Lithuanian accent so when she called his name it came out “Shemp”. That name stuck and he was Shemp for the remainder of his life.

Shemp and his younger brother, Moe, watched a lot of vaudeville shows and eventually started their own act. They did an act entirely in black face. This wasn’t unusual as many performers like Al Jolson, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll we’re doing just the same.

Moe and Shemp teamed up with Ted Healy, and eventually Larry Fine joined the group. Ted Healy and his Stooges were a vaudeville hit.

My pal, Eddie Deezen, who you may know as Eugene from the movie Grease and many other great films, wrote an very nice article about Shemp for Neatorama. In it he addresses one of Shemp’s “issues”:
According to Shemp’s wife, Gertrude “Babe” Howard, whom Shemp married in 1925, Shemp was “just a big old ‘fraidy cat.” Everyone has a particular fear or phobia (many of us have more than just one); Shemp was “afraid of his own shadow,” according to his friends, with a whole litany of fears:

*He lived in constant fear of cars, never driving or getting a driver’s license. According to Moe, this fear was rooted in an auto accident Shemp experienced when he was a youth. (In his films, when Shemp had to fake driving a car, he was towed by prop men in a simulated car but was still scared, nervously holding the steering wheel until the scene mercifully ended.)

*Shemp also refused to fly in airplanes, travelling only by train.

*He was terrified of strange dogs and would carry a big stick with him, just in case a strange dog approached him.

*He refused to swim or go in any body of water larger than a bathtub. Shemp always carried a pair of rubber overshoes in his pocket, lest he be caught in the rain.

*It also became fairly common that, before Shemp appeared live on stage, he would throw up to relieve himself.

*And Shemp was a chronic bed-wetter. He had actually served in World War I, but his stint was truncated due to his bed-wetting.

Ted Healy was a jerk. He saw these things and often used his knowledge of Shemp’s fears to scare him. Because of Healy, Shemp left the group to do solo projects. He was replaced by…Curly Howard (Shemp and Moe’s younger brother). Curly went in to become the comedy icon with the Stooges and was loved by millions.

Shemp had great success working alone. He can be seen in some of Abbott and Costello’s films, but according to Eddie Deezen’s article, Costello was very jealous of Shemp and most of his funny stuff ended up being edited out. He also appeared with WC Fields in The Bank Dick and he also played Knobby Walsh in the Joe Palooka films. While off on his own, Shemp was called (and billed as) “The Ugliest Man in Hollywood”!

 

In the 1940’s, it is evident by watching the Three Stooges comedies that Curly’s health was on the decline. In 1946, while waiting to shoot a final scene for Half-Wits Holiday, Curly had a massive stroke. With Curly no longer able to perform, Moe turned to his older brother, Shemp, who agreed to return to the group.

Shemp made over 70 comedies with the Stooges. He never stepped in to copy Curly, nor did he want to. He was Shemp and that was what makes his comedies with the boys unique.

Shemp had his on vocal sounds. Curly “woo woo woo’d” and “n’yuk n’yuk n’yuk’d while Shemp did something totally different. His most notable characteristic as a Stooge was a high-pitched “bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee!” sound, a sort of soft screech done by inhaling. This was rather multi-purpose, since Shemp emitted this sound when scared, sleeping (done as a form of snoring), overtly happy or dazed. It became as much a trademark sound of Shemp as the “nyuk nyuk” sound had become Curly’s.

Shemp was always compared to Curly. In my humble opinion, this is like comparing baseball to football or apples to oranges. They are both unique and each have their own attributes! There is no way to compare them to each other! Curly was Curly. He was energetic, childish, silly and graceful. Shemp (who was already in his 50’s when he rejoined the group) was more flippant. He was a wise cracking, all talk no action kinda guy. The dynamic was different, but it still worked.

He played with the human language wonderfully. One of my favorite Shemp lines comes from the short Sing a Song of Six Pants. The boys are dry cleaners/tailors. A customer comes in and Shemp says “Where did you get this mess?” (Referring to the man’s suit). The customer replies ” I bought it here!”. Shemp’s reply: “Oh, what a beautiful messterpiece!”

On November 22, 1955, Shemp went out with his friends to a boxing match at the Hollywood Legion Stadium. After the fights were over, Shemp hailed a taxicab to take him to his North Hollywood home with friend Al Winston. Shemp set back and lit up his cigar and told a joke. Suddenly he slumped over into Winston’s lap. Shemp had a heart attack and was dead at the age of 60. His friend, Al, thought Shemp was playing a joke, since Shemp was laughing moments earlier, but realized he was actually dead. Moe’s autobiography gives a death date of November 23, 1955, as do most subsequent accounts, because of Moe’s book. But much of that book was finished posthumously by his daughter and son-in-law, and some specific details were confused as a result. The Los Angeles county coroner’s death certificate states that Shemp Howard died on Tuesday, November 22, 1955, at 11:35 [PM] PST.

Many Stooge fans know “the rest of the story” (to quote Paul Harvey), but for those who don’t, Eddie Deezen’s article shared the odd final chapter of Shemp’s film career :

Columbia Studios still needed four new Three Stooges shorts after Shemp died, so they hired a replacement named Joe Palma to “be Shemp.” Joe became Shemp’s “double,” or stand-in, faking scenes by not facing the camera, just standing with his back to the camera and running off or bumbling. Old footage from previous Stooge films was intermixed with the Joe Palma footage, and thus the last four Three Stooges films with “Shemp” were made.

To this day, to “get a Shemp” or “a fake Shemp” or “a Shemp” is Hollywood nomenclature for “get a double” or “use a stand-in.” Director Sam Raimi (Spiderman), a big Three Stooges fan, always credits stand-ins or doubles in his films as “Fake Shemps.”

While people who talk about Shemp often say things like, “he’s no Curly” and Stooge Festivals often promote being “all Curly”, let’s give Shemp some credit! He was a brilliant performer. He was quick, funny, and helped to keep Stooges Comedies in theaters for years after Curly left the group.

 

As with any team, everyone plays a part. While the team took on a new look, the slapstick was still there. The puns are still there. Larry’s facial expressions and reactions are still there. Shemp Shorts are still funny, but people who automatically cop an attitude at the opening credits before the short even starts will never come to appreciate the genius of Shemp…and that is sad.

Happy Birthday, Shemp!