Storytime With Melvin

I’m not sure there is anyone my age that didn’t grow up with Mel Brooks’ movies. I was first introduced to him with his film History of the World Part 1. Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, To Be or Not To Be, and so many others soon followed. While some of his films were … well, not so good … many made me laugh (and still do).

I soon learned that Mel wrote for Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows. Then I learned he co-created the TV show Get Smart. Then I heard his 2000 Year Old Man stuff with Carl Reiner. I was gifted a Mel Brooks movie collection for Christmas one year with all of the movies mentioned above and a few others. I really came to appreciate this comedy genius.

Recently there was a book that came out about Mel that I saw at the book store. I was going to buy it, but it was like $45. I had heard Mel was writing his autobiography and I thought the book I had was it. It wasn’t. Not that I won’t ever buy that book at some point, but I wanted to read the stories from Mel himself.

I finally received Mel’s book in the mail today. I used a gift card I was given for Christmas to get it.

I read the reviews and they are favorable. Some say the title says it all and say “Mel is all about praising himself.” So what?! LOL Another guy said he literally read the whole book in one sitting because it flowed so naturally from story to story. I barely was able to get into the first chapter, but so far i am enjoying it. Maybe I am weird, but I can hear Mel talking as I read it.

My reading time is limited, so I am not sure how long it will take me to read it, but when I finish, I will be sure to post a review.

Favorite Film – The 70’s

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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

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

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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“Zero.  Point.  Zero.”

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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!

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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!

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Weekend Wrap-Up

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Because of my “real job” work schedule, I have Thursday-Saturdays off.  I have my sons three weekends a month, and I love that time with them.  One weekend a month, my wife get a “date” weekend.  This past weekend was that weekend.

Thursday

Thursday is usually a short day, because I work the night before.  I sleep late into the afternoon, and then begin the process of going from “midnight” mode to “daytime” mode.  Thursday night, Sam and I didn’t feel like cooking, so we went to our favorite restaurant for dinner.

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I LOVE Lucky’s!  Not surprising I am a “meat and potatoes” guy.  I usually get a Filet Mignon and baked potato.  Because I am currently on Weight Watchers, I opted for broccoli instead of the potato this time.  I also drank water, instead of beer.  The steak was cooked to perfection, as always.  I love when a steak is cooked and seasoned so right, you don’t need to put anything in it.  I always ask for steak sauce, but never use it.

Friday

Friday is “weigh in” day for me.  After the BIG meal the night before, I stepped on the scale hoping I had lost weight.  Happily, I was down 4 pounds and that took me to an overall milestone.

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What an amazing feeling to be down 31 pounds.  Years ago, when I first did Weight Watchers, I hit a 30 pound loss on the week of my 30th birthday.  I was a bit lighter then, but I am working toward being down to where I was the first time I did it.  The journey continues!

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I am not ashamed to admit that I’ve been seeing a therapist since before my divorce.  I needed to have someone who was non-biased to talk to.  It was a decision that I am glad to have made.  She has helped me in so many ways.  I have learned much about myself, and gained many skills through our visits.  I had an appointment Friday morning.  She, once again, hit on something that really helped me.  I’ve been struggling with something outside of my home life and she helped put some things in perspective. Those moments are awesome.  It should help a lot moving forward.  It’s always a good thing to be able to talk to someone who sees things in a different way and can offer honest opinions and advice.

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Sam had a practice exam she had to do for her final clinical class.  It was a three hour test that is helping her prepare for the actual test she needs to take for her new credentials.  While she worked on that, I finished the book I was reading.

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Can you imagine America without George Washington?  Me either!  Hell, he’s one of the first famous people you learn about in elementary school.  I went to elementary long before there was President’s Day.  When I was in school, we celebrated Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday in February.  Washington, the “Father of our Country”, was almost NOT.

This book is a work of non-fiction by one of my favorite authors, Brad Meltzer.  As a history buff, I was excited to read this.  This all takes place prior to the Revolutionary War, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and his presidency.  As a matter of fact, I was surprised at just how close to the start of the war and July 4, 1776 all this took place.

You get a really good picture as to what kind of man Washington was.  Through excerpts of his letters, you see the various struggles he faced and the stress he bore on his shoulders.  You really get a sense of the weight and pressure that was on him during this turbulent time in our nation’s history.  You also see the “birth” of counter-intelligence.  It’s a very good read.

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The book takes place prior to the Revolutionary War primarily, but it does touch on the first few battles of it.  It mentions the “Culper Ring,” which was a group of spies that Washington used to gain information throughout the war.  AMC did a very cool series surrounding the Culper Ring in the series Turn, which I believe is still on Netflix. Ian Kahn played Washington in the series.

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I watched the entire series, but now that I have read this book, I think I am going to revisit it.

***

We spent part of the day grocery shopping and we made turkey burgers for dinner.  We then retired to the couch to relax.  The original plan was to watch a movie, but when we turned the TV on, the Tigers were on, so we watched the game.  It was their “Pink Out the Park” game.

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As you know, my mother and grandmother both died of breast cancer.  I wish I had known that it was “Pink Out” day.  If I had, I may have gotten tickets to the game.  I LOVE when professional sports supports a cause like this.

The Tigers lost (miserably, I might add).  Tiger fans are living through more of the “we are building” stage.  Basically, that means we’re going to suck for a few years.  Maybe, because of this, I haven’t really been watching or listening to a lot of games this year.  At any rate, the game was one of the first ones I really got to sit and listen to the broadcasters.

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Matt Shepard and Kirk Gibson were calling the game.  I was quite disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Gibby as a ball player, but as an announcer, he is boring and monotone.  If there wasn’t a game to watch, and it was just audio, I would have fallen asleep.  I guess I was lucky to have watched George Kell and Al Kaline call games on TV, and Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey call games on radio when I was growing up.

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After the game was over, Sam and I tuned in for one of our favorite shows – Live PD.

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I have dissed “reality” shows before.  This, however, is not Survivor, the Bachelor, American Idol, America’s Got Talent, or those other shows about winning money or a bride.  This is real cops doing their job.  I LOVE this show!  There are some other variations of this show – Live Rescue and PD Cam – which are good too.  In my many years on the radio, I have interviewed police, fire, and rescue people before and I ALWAYS made sure to say “thank you.”  They are out there putting their lives on the line, saving lives, and keeping us safe.  Live PD is a guilty pleasure.

Host Dan Abrams has actually wrote a couple books I want to read: Lincoln’s Last Trial and Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense.  Definitely, two to add to my stack of books to read.

Saturday

Saturday started early, as usual, for me.  I have to be up early so I can get to the radio station to be on air at 9.

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I worked for the Moose years ago full time.  I left to take a morning show position.  I was so grateful to be asked to return part-time.  The staff hasn’t changed much since I left and it’s like returning home to family.  I truly enjoy being back there.

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I woke up Saturday feeling like I might have a sinus infection.  This is never a good thing for me.  Upon feeling those symptoms, I need to act fast.  If I don’t, I wind up with vertigo.  Every time I have ever gotten vertigo, it has happened because of a sinus infection.  Unlike, Mel Brooks poking fun at it in High Anxiety…..

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…it’s not fun.  It is crippling!  The last time I had it, I couldn’t even sleep in a bed.  I had to sleep sitting up.  The dizziness is SO bad.  I swear, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.  You have no control over anything.  You can barely turn your head.  EVERY little movement can cause you dizziness.  It’s awful.

Because of this, Sam and I went to the Urgent Care and I got checked out.  Definitely the start of a sinus infection.  So they gave me some steroids to bring down the swelling, told me to up the Flonase and sent me on my way.  So far – so good.  Fingers crossed!

***

While we were filing the fridge Friday night after grocery shopping, Sam pulled out the package of bacon that was in there.  She looked at me and said, “You know….BLT’s sound really good.  We should do that for dinner tomorrow.” Behold the power of bacon!!

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So, we had BLT’s for dinner!  “You’re on a diet, though, Keith” you say?  Yes, indeed.  And Turkey bacon works just as well!  Sam had hers on bread and I had mine in a low carb wrap – BLT wraps are just as good!!

The Week Ahead …

I may have a Guest Blogger lined up in response to my earlier blog.  If you have a story about us you’d like to share, a favorite memory, or a story that one of my blogs reminded you of – I’d love to hear it.  Let me know.

It’s back to work for me, tonight, but I have a very important appointment to keep this week.  It can mean some big changes on the horizon.  It’s exciting.  If all goes well, I will be sharing the “breaking news” in the days ahead ….

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Until then … Have a great week.  See you Tuesday for Tune Tuesday.