TV Show Draft – Round 10 – The Untouchables

We have reached the final round of the Hanspostcard TV Show Draft. I want to take a moment and thank Max from the Power Pop Blog for taking up the reigns and helping us continue this round in Hans’ absence. It truly has been a fun draft!

For my final pick, I have gone back to another classic – The Untouchables. The show ran from 1959 to 1963 and starred the great Robert Stack as Eliot Ness. It is hard to imagine anyone but Robert Stack in the role of Ness, but believe it or not, Desi Arnaz had originally offered the role to actor Van Johnson. Supposedly, he wanted double what they were offering to pay for the role, and it ultimately went to Stack.

When asked about the character some years later, Stack said, “Ness was a precursor of Dirty Harry. He was a hero, a vigilante in a time when breaking the law meant nothing because there was no law because Capone owned Chicago, he owned the police force.”

The show was based on the book of the same name written by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley. Brian De Palma would use the book as the basis for his 1987 film of the same name.

According to Wikipedia:

The series originally focused on the efforts of a real-life squad of Prohibition agents employed by the US Department of Justice and led by Eliot Ness (Stack) that helped bring down the bootleg empire of “Scarface” Al Capone, as described in Ness’s bestselling 1957 memoir. This squad was nicknamed “The Untouchables” because of its courage and honesty; squad members could not be bribed or intimidated by the mob. Eliot Ness himself had died suddenly in May 1957, shortly before his memoir and the subsequent TV adaptation were to bring him fame beyond any he experienced in his lifetime.

The pilot for the series, a two-part episode entitled “The Untouchables,” originally aired on CBS’s Westinghouse Desilu Placyhouse (and was introduced by Desi Arnaz) on April 20 and 27, 1959. Later re-titled “The Scarface Mob”, these episodes, which featured Neville Brand as Al Capone, were the only episodes in the series to be more-or-less directly based on Ness’s memoir, and ended with the conviction and imprisonment of Capone. CBS, which had broadcast most of Desilu’s television output since 1951 beginning with I Love Lucy, was offered the new series following the success of the pilot film. It was rejected it on the advice of network vice president Hubbell Robinson. ABC agreed to air the series, and The Untouchables premiered on October 15, 1959. In the pilot movie, the mobsters generally spoke with unrealistic pseudo-Italian accents, but this idiosyncratic pronunciation was dropped when the series debuted.

The weekly series first dramatized a power struggle to establish a new boss in Capone’s absence (for the purpose of the TV series, the new boss was Frank Nitti, although this was, as usual for the series, contrary to fact). As the series continued, there developed a highly fictionalized portrayal of Ness and his crew as all-purpose, multi-agency crime fighters who went up against an array of 1930s-era gangsters and villains, including Ma Barker, Dutch Schultz, Bugs Moran, Lucky Luciano, and in one episode, Nazi agents. On many occasions during the series run, Ness would blatantly violate suspects’ Fourth Amendment rights with no legal ramifications.

The terse narration by gossip columnist Walter Winchell, in his distinctive New York accent, was a stylistic hallmark of the series, along with its ominous theme music by Nelson Riddle and its shadowy black-and-white photography, which was influenced by film noir.

The series produced 118 episodes which ran 50 minutes each. Though the book chronicled the experiences of Ness and his team against Capone, and in reality the Untouchables disbanded soon after Capone’s conviction. The series continued after the pilot and book ended, depicting the fictitious further exploits of the Untouchables against many, often real life, criminals over a span of time ranging from 1929 to 1935.

The show came with some controversy. Italian-American groups protested over what they felt was an unfair presentation of their people as Mafia-types. “We are plagued with lawsuits after certain shows” one of the show’s producers Josef Shaftel explained, noting that the series was “heavily insured against libel.” With good reason – the first lawsuit against the show was instigated by Al Capone’s angry widow. She didn’t like the way her deceased husband was made into a running villain on the show and wanted a million dollars for unfair use of his image. (She lost.)

The FBI and J. Edgar Hoover were ticked off too. They were the ones who collared the famous names that Ness was supposedly busting each week on TV and they rightfully wanted credit for it. The second episode of the series, for example, depicted Ness and his crew involved in the capture of the Ma Barker gang, an incident in which the real-life Ness played no part. The producers agreed to insert a spoken disclaimer on future broadcasts of the episode stating that the FBI had primary responsibility for the Barker case. Even the Bureau of Prisons took offense, complaining that the show made their treatment of Al Capone look soft.

The show itself was considered one of the most violent television shows of its time. Of course, by today’s standards it’s not that bad, but it was violent enough at the time to spark protests from parents who were worried about their children seeing this violence.

My Thoughts

This is one of those shows that I just love! Robert Stack’s delivery of almost every line as Ness is perfect. He won an Emmy in 1960 for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series for his portrayal of Ness.

Despite the fact that many of the stories are fictionalized to work the Untouchables into them, they are great! The show really was a forerunner to shows like The FBI, Crime Story, and even Hawaii 5-0. I love the film noir feel of it. Every episode plays like a good 50 minute movie.

The Lebanon Pennsylvania Daily News said of The Untouchables: “Between the hard-nosed approach, sharp dialogue, and a commendably crisp pace (something rare in dramatic TV at the time), this series is one of the few that remains fresh and vibrant. Only the monochrome presentation betrays its age. The Untouchables is one of the few Golden Age TV shows that deserves being called a classic.” It really does hold up well.

As I have mentioned before, one of the things I love about these old shows is seeing big stars (who are not quite yet stars) show up. In regular roles throughout the series you could see Raymond Bailey (Mr. Drysdale on the Beverly Hillbillies), Barbara Stanwyck, Barbara Nichols, Ed Asner (Lou Grant), Harry Morgan (Col. Potter on MASH), and Henry Silva.

The list of guest star appearances is long and amazing. They include: Jack Elam, Paul Frees, Jim Backus, Sam Jaffe, Martin Balsam, John Dehner, William Bendix, Whitt Bissell, Charles Bronson, James Caan, James Coburn, Mike Conners, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Norman Fell, Alan Hale Jr., Brian Keith, Jack Klugman, Cloris Leachman, Jack Lord, Lee Marvin, Telly Savalas, Elizabeth Montgomery, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Redford, Ricardo Montalban, Rip Torn, Jack Warden, Dick York, Cliff Robertson and so many more!

“The Untouchables” Paul Picerni, Robert Stack circa 1961

You know, they play reruns of Law and Order on TV all the time. Many of the shows I have seen numerous times. I know what’s going to happen, yet I still watch (a lot like my previous picks – Perry Mason and Columbo). The Untouchables is a show that could very easily be rerun like a Law and Order. It is that good.

I love Walter Winchell’s narration

And I love the theme song!

It has been so much fun writing on some of my favorite shows. It’s been just as fun to read about the shows picked by other members of the TV Show Draft. I hope you have enjoyed my picks…

Thanks for reading!

National Twilight Zone Day

My Facebook friend, Bill, shared that today is National Twilight Zone Day!

He says,

Twilight Zone Day is mysterious, weird, surreal and perhaps a little scary. I can think of many other adjectives, but I think you get the picture. Every once in a while, you have a day like this. And, May 11th is designed to be that day.

The television show The Twilight Zone, was created, written and narrated by the late Rod Serling. It premiered on October 1, 1959. The episodes were wildly popular, stretched the imagination, and captivated viewers. The show aired from 1959-1964 and is available on DVD.

My friend Max has been reviewing each episode of the series weekly. While I wish I had time to do that, I thought for today, I would give a run down of my 20 favorites (I’m sure there are more than 20, but I jotted down the ones I like from memory and there are 20).

What I have always loved about this show is the “twist” endings. It reminds me of so many of the great old radio shows of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s!

Time Enough At Last

By far, my favorite episode of the series. Burgess Meredith is fantastic in this episode! I wrote about it in detail in another blog, which you can read here:

Some Favorite TV Episodes…

This is the eighth episode of the first season.

Quick Synopsis: A henpecked book lover finds himself blissfully alone with his books after a nuclear war.

Escape Clause

Outside of his over the top portrayal of The Mad Hatter on Batman, this is a great performance by David Wayne.

This is the sixth episode of the first season.

Quick Synopsis: A hypochondriac man sells his soul to the devil, exchanging it for several thousand years of immortality.

A Game of Pool

This episode features two amazing performances by Jonathan Winters and Jack Klugman. Like many of the Twilight Zone episodes, it has the “Be careful what you wish for” lesson …

This is the fifth episode of the third season.

Quick Synopsis: A frustrated pool champ has beaten everyone. Everyone except one man; the legend, Fats Brown. Brown is dead, and the champ can only curse his name. But guess who just walked in.

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

A classic episode with William Shatner. This was redone in the Twilight Zone movie years later. Shatner’s performance is just frantic! His overacting only makes the character more insane!

This is the third episode from the fifth, and final season.

Quick Synopsis: A man, newly recovered from a nervous breakdown, becomes convinced that a monster only he sees is damaging the plane he’s flying in.

The Masks

Little known fact: This episode was directed by actress, Ida Lupino (who starred in a season 1 episode I will mention next).

Greed and vengeance are the central theme in this episode. The ending remains one of my favorite twists.

This is the 25th episode of the fifth and final season.

Quick Synopsis: Wealthy Jason Foster is dying and he invites his greedy heirs to a Mardi Gras party where they must wear the masks he specially had made for them or else be cut off from their inheritance.

The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine

Ida Lupino and Martin Balsam star in this episode. While I wouldn’t call this a time travel episode, it does focus on living in your past.

This is the fourth episode of the first season.

Quick Synopsis: Barbara Jean Trenton is a faded film star who lives in the past by constantly re-watching her old movies instead of moving on with her life, so her associates try to lure her out of her self-imposed isolation.

Back There

Since I mentioned time travel, this is one of my favorite time travel episodes. Russell Johnson (the Professor on Gilligan’s Island) is the time traveler in this episode.

This is the thirteenth episode of the second season.

Quick Synopsis: At a prominent club in Washington, D.C., a socialite argues about whether it would be possible to change history by traveling back in time. When he leaves the club he finds himself in 1865, on the night that President Lincoln will be shot.

The Odyssey of Flight 33

Ok, sort of another time travel story. The captain is played by John Anderson. Always thought he had a great voice!

This is the eighteenth episode of the second season.

Quick Synopsis: Passing through the sound barrier, a commercial airliner inadvertently travels back in time.

Living Doll

Great performance by Telly Savalas. I’m not going to lie, this episode is one that creeped me out!

This is the sixth episode of the fifth and final season.

Quick Synopsis: A frustrated father does battle with his stepdaughter’s talking doll, whose vocabulary includes such phrases as “I hate you” and “I’m going to kill you”.

Eye of the Beholder

The beautiful Donna Douglas appears from under the bandages in this awesome story. I guess I just gave away the ending …..

This is the sixth episode of the second season.

Quick Synopsis: A young woman lying in a hospital bed, her head wrapped in bandages, awaits the outcome of a surgical procedure performed by the State in a last-ditch attempt to make her look “normal.”

The Fever

I always loved Everett Sloane as an actor. He is great as the angry gambler in this episode. How can you not freak out at the fact that the slot machine has followed him to his room?

This is the seventeenth episode of the first season.

Quick Synopsis: A middle-aged man catches gambling fever from a slot machine that he believes is calling his name.

To Serve Man

The great Richard Kiel is featured as Kanamit in this episode with the great twist ending.

This is the twenty-fourth episode of the third season.

Quick Synopsis: An alien race comes to Earth, promising peace and sharing technology. A linguist and his team set out to translate the aliens’ language, using a book whose title they deduce is “To Serve Man.”

Quality of Mercy

A MUST watch! How things would be different if we looked at it from the other side. Dean Stockwell is great in this episode.

This is the fifteenth episode of the third season.

Quick Synopsis: Hot-shot new Lieutenant Katell tries to make his mark on the last day of World War II in the Pacific and gets a unique perspective on his actions.

Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?

Great cast in this one! Jack Elam, John Hoyt, Bill Erwin, Jean Willes, and John Archer all star in this episode which cashes in on the Martian craze.

This is the twenty-eighth episode of the second season.

Quick Synopsis: Following a frantic phone call about a crashed spaceship, two policeman try and determine who among the passengers of a bus at a snowed-in roadside diner is from another world.

A Nice Place to Visit

Another classic twist ending. Sebastian Cabot (Mr. French of Family Affair) is Mr. Pip. Little known fact: Cabot was reluctant to dye his brunette hair and beard blonde, since the peroxide used for it ensured that the color would remain for about six months.

Great story and again, a be careful what you wish for…

This is the twenty-eighth episode of the first season.

Quick Synopsis: When bad guy Henry Francis Valentine dies in a shootout with police, he wakes up in the next world where his every wish is granted forever, and ever.

Nothing in the Dark

This episode stars a young Robert Redford. I saw the ending coming a mile away, but it is still a good one to watch.

This is the sixteenth episode of the third season.

Quick Synopsis: An old woman has fought with death a thousand times and has always won. But now she finds herself afraid to let a wounded policeman in her door for fear he is Mr. Death. Is he?

Nick of Time

Another over the top performance by a frazzled William Shatner! Good stuff. Watch for Batman’s Chief O’Hara (Stafford Repp) as the mechanic in this episode.

This is the seventh episode of the second season.

Quick Synopsis: A pair of newlyweds stopping in a small town are trapped by their own superstition when playing a fortune telling machine in a local diner.

Deaths-Head Revisited

Powerful episode here. Great performances by Oscar Beregi Jr. and Joseph Schildkraut!

This is the ninth episode of the third season.

Quick Synopsis: A former German SS captain returns to Dachau concentration camp and begins reminiscing on the power he enjoyed there, until he finds himself on trial by those who died at his hands.

One For the Angels

Ed Wynn was known as a comedian, but he gives a marvelous dramatic performance here! Murray Hamilton is great as Mr. Death.

This is the second episode of the first season.

Quick Synopsis: A pitchman is visited by Mr. Death and is forced to get his priorities in order.

Night of the Meek

A wonderful, feel-good episode to wrap up my twenty favorites. Art Carney is just brilliant in this episode. The episode looks weird because it was one of only a few episodes that were shot on video tape in hopes of cutting production costs. Don’t let the quality take away from a wonderful episode!

This is the eleventh episode of the second season.

Quick Synopsis: After a derelict Santa Claus is fired on Christmas Eve, he finds a mysterious bag that gives out presents. With this bag he sets out to fulfill his one wish – to see the less fortunate inherit the bounties of Christmas.

Did I miss your favorite?

Tell me your favorite episodes in the comments! Happy International Twilight Zone Day!!

Tune Tuesday – Muppet Music

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40 years ago this week, The Muppet Movie hit theaters.  My brother and I always made it a point to watch the Muppet Show on TV.  It was always fun to see the famous guest stars interact with Kermit and the gang.  If I am being honest, I am still upset that the final 2 seasons of The Muppet Show has yet to come out on DVD!

The movie itself was the 10th highest grossing film of 1979 and was loaded with cameos from celebrities like Bob Hope, Richard Pryor, Milton Berle, Dom Deluise, Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Mel Brooks, Telly Savalas, and so many more.  The cameo by Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy is especially special, because Bergen passed away shortly after he shot his scene in 1978.  Bergen was a hero of Muppet creator Jim Henson, and the movie is dedicated to his memory.

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The movie itself is a masterpiece.  It remains, in my opinion, the best of all the Muppet films.  Jim Henson did things in this movie that had never been done before – we saw Muppets walking, and Kermit riding a bike!!!!

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The movie had a great story and thanks to the writing of Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher, some really amazing music!  The soundtrack includes “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” (which would be performed at Jim Henson’s funeral), “Never Before, Never Again”, and the bluesy, “I Hope That Something Better Comes Along”.  All of these are great songs in their own right, but for Tune Tuesday, and in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of The Muppet Movie, here are MY favorite songs from the film.

Can You Picture That?

I have always loved Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem!  First of all, what a great name for a band!  Second, Dr. Teeth was always so “hip.”  Floyd and Janice were “like totally far out!”  Animal was one hell of a drummer and I Zoot could really nail a sax solo! I always loved how they could take a standard song like “Tenderly” and rock it out!  Check out this groovy track!

Oh yeah, whoo
Everybody’s lover, everybody’s brother, I wanna be your lifetime friend
Crazy as a rocket, nothin’ in my pocket, I keep it at the rainbow’s end
I never think of money, I think of milk ‘n honey, grinnin’ like a Cheshire cat
I focus on the pleasure, somethin’ I can treasure, can you picture that?
Can you picture that?

Hey Floyd, take a verse

Let me take your picture, add it to the mixture, there it is I got you now
Really nothin’ to it, anyone can do it, it’s easy and we all know how
Now begins the changin’, mental rearrangin’, nothing’s really where it’s at

Now the Eiffel Tower’s holdin up a flower
I gave it to a Texas cat
Fact is there’s nothin’ out there you can’t do
Yeah, even Santa Claus believes in you

Beat down the walls, begin, believe, behold, begat
Be a better drummer, be an up and comer Can you picture that?
Can you picture that
All of us are winnin, pickin and a-grinnin, Lordy but I love to jam

Jelly-belly gigglin’, dancin’ and a-wigglin’, honey that’s the way I am

Lost my heart in Texas, Northern lights affect us
I keep it underneath my hat
Aurora Borealis, shining down on Dallas, can you picture that?
Can you picture that?

Can you picture? You gotta see it in your mind
Can you picture? You know it’s quick and easy to find
Can you picture? You don’t have to buy a frame
Can you picture? Can you picture that?
Can you picture that?

Use it if you need it
Don’t forget to feed it
Can you picture that?

MuppetStudebaker

Movie Fact:  The Studebaker in the movie is currently housed at The Studebaker Museum in Indiana.

Movin’ Right Along

There is just so much to love about this song!  Kermit and Fozzie are traveling the open road in the Studebaker mentioned above.  It’s really the perfect song to kick off any road trip.  It’s just a fun song.  As I watch this scene now, I think about how many times my buddies and I would hop in my Caprice Classic in high school, pop in a “driving mix” tape and sing along to songs as we drove around wasting gas.  We were so much like Kermit and Fozzie!

Movin’ right along in search of good times and good news,
With good friends you can’t lose,
This could become a habit!
Opportunity knocks once let’s reach out and grab it (yeah!),
Together we’ll nab it,
We’ll hitchhike, bus or yellow cab it!
(Cab it?)

Movin’ right along.
Footloose and fancy-free.
Getting there is half the fun; come share it with me.
Moving right along (doog-a-doon doog-a-doon).
We’ll learn to share the load.
We don’t need a map to keep this show on the road.

(Hey, that song is sounding better Fozzie.)

Movin’ right along,
We’ve found a life on the highway.
And your way is my way,
So trust my navigation.

California here we come, the pie-in-the-sky-land.
Palm trees, and warm sand.
Though sadly we just left Rhode Island.
(We did what?!)
(Just forget it.)

Movin’ right along (doog-a-doon doog-a-doon).
Hey LA, where’ve you gone?
Send someone to fetch us, were in Saskatchewan!

Movin’ right along (doog-a-doon doog-a-doon).
You take it, you know best.
Hey, I’ve never seen the sun come up in the West?

Movin’ right along.
We’re truly birds of a feather,
We’re in this together and we know where we’re going.
Movie stars with flashy cars and life with the top down.
We’re storming the big town,
(Yeah, Storm is right should it be snowing?)
(Uh, no I don’t think so…)

Movin’ right along,
Do I see signs of men?
Yeah, “welcome” on the same post that says “come back again.”
Moving right along, nice town!
Footloose and fancy-free,
You’re ready for the big time…
Is it ready for me?

Movin’ right along,
Movin’ right along,
Movin’ right along,
Movin’ right along

The Rainbow Connection

What an amazing song this is!  It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song (it lost to a song no one remembers), it was a Top 40 hit (reaching #25 on the charts), and has been covered by artists like The Dixie Chicks, Willie Nelson, Judy Collins, Kenny Loggins, Jason Mraz, Gwen Stefani, and The Carpenters (just to name a few!).  The American Film Institute named the song one of the top 100 songs in their AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Songs list (it came in at #74).

Jim Henson told the song writers that the opening song would be Kermit in a swamp singing with a banjo.  According to Paul Williams, he and Kenny Ascher wrote most of the song fairly quickly at Williams’ house, but got stuck trying to think of appropriate words for the part in the chorus that eventually became the phrase “the rainbow connection”; they were looking for a way to tie in the chorus to the song’s theme of rainbows. As they sat down for dinner with Williams’ then-wife, Kate Clinton, they explained to her their predicament of looking for a phrase that would provide “a rainbow connection”, then realized, in the course of explaining the problem to her, that the phrase “the rainbow connection” would itself be a good fit.

In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Paul Williams explained how the song was recorded.  He said that when the song was being recorded in the studio, Jim Henson started by simply performing the song himself in Kermit’s voice. However, there was a feeling that something was missing. Williams said that somebody, he doesn’t recall who, suggested that Kermit should give the song a try. Henson then took the Kermit the Frog puppet into the recording booth with him and performed the song with the world’s most famous piece of green felt. He says that “Kermit sang it brilliantly! One can only imagine what this looked like to the people working on recording the song. Kermit the Frog himself, with Jim Henson standing behind him, really did sing “Rainbow Connection.” Clearly, this was the thing that was missing. The recording would then be perfect, and would go on to inspire millions in The Muppet Movie.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side
Rainbows are visions
But only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide

So we’ve been told
And some choose to believe it
I know they’re wrong, wait and see
Some day we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

Who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
And look what it’s done so far

What’s so amazing
That keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

All of us under its spell, we know that it’s probably magic

Have you been half asleep?
And have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name
Is this the sweet sound
That called the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
It’s something that I’m supposed to be
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me

La da da di da da dum da duh da da dum di da ohhh

RainbowConnectionFinale

Happy Anniversary!

40 years later, and this movie still amazes me.  It never gets old.  I still enjoy watching it and I still tear up during the finale.  40 years later and I agree with the Swedish Chef – “Der Flim is Okie Dokie”!

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Uncontrollable Laughter

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When I started this blog, I often questioned whether or not I would have things to write about.  A friend of mine suggested subscribing to a “daily writing prompt” site.  These prompts can be helpful as “thought starters,” but I haven’t really ever received one that immediately made me want to sit and write – until today.  Today’s prompt simply said, “Write about a time when you couldn’t stop laughing.”

There are two stories that instantly come to mine and they both involve my best friend of over 40 years.  Jeff and I have known each other since 2nd grade.  For years, we’ve been able to make each other laugh with stories, jokes, gibberish and sound effects.  As you know, there are times when laughter is appropriate and there are times when it is not.  Both of these incidents fall into the latter.

Story #1

You know that uncontrollable laughter that you get when you know that you absolutely should not be laughing?  The laugh that no matter how hard you try not to laugh, and try to stifle that laughter, you just cannot seem to stop it from happening?  Remember the Mary Tyler Moore when Mary can’t stop laughing at the funeral of a clown?  No?  Here is the clip:

My first incident falls into that category.  Jeff and I had an English class together.  As I remember it (and Jeff can correct me if I am wrong), we had a substitute teacher and we were working on vocabulary words.  This meant looking up words and writing the definitions down on a work sheet.  Well, you know how it is when there is a substitute teacher … we were screwing around.

In this class we sat next to each other.  I don’t recall who started it, but we began looking up words, circling them, and passing the dictionary to each other with a bookmark marking the page to be looked at.  You can imagine the words we were looking up.  If you can’t, they were words like “penis”, “anus”, “testicles”, “feces”, “turd”, etc…

The more the dictionary went back and forth, the more we both began to laugh.  The final two passes that got us in trouble was when one of us looked up the word “fart”.  This in itself was funny.  The following word that was looked up was an adjective to describe the fart – “raunchy”.  The words were scribbled in a sentence: “A man let a raunchy fart under downtown Las Vegas.” (“under downtown Las Vegas” was something that Telly Savalas said in Cannonball Run II, which we found funny for some reason).  By this time, we were snickering and doing every thing we could to hold back laughter and just couldn’t.  I remember being called out by the teacher and not really being able to explain myself because I was still laughing.  Jeff was laughing too.  The sub stood at the front of the classroom shaking her head and said to me, “I’m still trying to figure out what planet your friend is from” and without missing a beat, Jeff yelled out, “Uranus!”

We both may have been sent to the office for that, but I can’t recall.

Story #2

One of the cool things about TV series on DVD is that most of them include a Blooper or gag reel.  Many of the flubs are performers or actors forgetting lines and many are because other actors are laughing or can’t stop laughing while recording the scene.  Those gag reels will show take after take of an actor cracking up before the funny line of the script is even said.  There were no “retakes” with my second story, as it happened live on the radio in Detroit in 1991.

I was working a weekend overnight shift one Saturday night at WMXD.  I remember before I left for work, I was searching for something to take for lunch.  My dad had recently been to some army/navy surplus store and bought a bunch of MRE’s.  MRE stands for “meals ready to eat”.  They are made so that no matter where a soldier is, they can rip it open and eat it.  Some of them are actually quite good.  He gave me one to take and I left for work.

Jeff came up to hang out in the studio that night and when I got ready to eat, I pulled out the MRE.  It was barbeque pulled pork.  First of all, when I opened it, it reeked!  The smell was awful – almost like vinegar and cat food!  I squeezed it out onto a plate and it looked disgusting!  I can’t even begin to describe it to you.  It was stringy and orange-ish red (the so-called “barbeque sauce”).  I am sure that while the microphone was off we were laughing and describing just how gross it looked.  Then I had to go on the air.

I remember opening the microphone and backselling the song I had just played.  I was getting ready to go into commercials and had to read a liner card.  Liner cards usually contained information about contests, concerts, or promotions that the station was involved with.  I remember getting a line or two into the card and out of the corner of my eye I noticed Jeff moving around.  As I continued to read the card, he waved a fork loaded with that gross pulled pork in front of my face.  This made me crack up as soon as I saw it.  I really hope that the information on that liner card wasn’t important, because the more I kept reading, the more I laughed.  If I had been smart, I would have just quit and fired off the commercial, but I was determined to finish that liner card.  It was reminiscent of when Elvis started laughing while singing “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”  I can’t even imagine what the listeners thought as I laughed and read through that!!  (I am chuckling as I am typing this, just remembering the incident!)  Thank God it happened on the overnight shift, I probably would have gotten called into the bosses office!

If you are unfamiliar with Laughing Elvis – here is the clip (with the story):

Final Thoughts

The laughter continues with each phone call and visit from Jeff.  We send each other silly pictures daily and leave voice mail messages that are incomprehendable for each other.  We can still make each other laugh with a sound effect, movie line, or some made up song lyrics.  Though we are approaching the half century mark … we still are like teenagers looking up “fart” in the dictionary … and I am ok with that!

I would love to hear your stories about laughing when you shouldn’t be ….