Blake Edwards has died. This post, and in particular, this icon, is in memory, appreciation, and gratitude to one of the best comedy directors around.
Push the button, Max.
A late lunch break today—I’ve been busy getting ready for ACSAC next week. But I’ve accumulated a few news items:
- From the “Theatrical Departures” Department: The OC Register is reporting that the Fullerton Civic Light Opera will close in January. This is a loss for the entire Southern California Theatre community: The Fullerton CLO put on great regional shows, and continued the Civic Light Opera (an older code-phrase for “Musical Theatre”) tradtion started by organizations such as the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, now reduced to the travesty that is Broadway LA. This just leaves the South Bay CLO and the Downey CLO to carry on the tradition. Some may not care about this—after all, these are just theatre jobs—but who is to say that a job at the mall or a job in manufacturing is more or less important. This means the loss of numerous jobs that provided paychecks to families, both directly for Fullerton and for their technical and performing artists. We’ve seen other scares: the Pasadena Playhouse is slowly recovering, and the Rubicon in Ventura has been dealing with foreclosure threats to its playhouse. So what killed FCLO? The recession: specifically, a drop in subscription revenue by 20%, combined with a loss of rental income as high schools cut back their arts programs (these programs often rented sets and props from FCLO). These are things that could hit any theatre, making things especially scare. What can you do? Go see a show at your local live theatre.
- From the “Market Departures” Department: Another sad closing to announce: HOWS markets are closing all locations except Pasadena. Again, we have a victim of the recession. HOWS was the successor to Hughes. After Hughes was sold to Ralphs, some of the Hughes family members started the HOWS chain. It was doing good for a while, with locations in Granada Hills, Pasadena, and Trancas Canyon… but in the last year, saw major problems. I do agree with the conclusion of the article: the store failed because it lost its personality. Those who went their originally went because of the Hughes personality. After that died way, it just couldn’t compete with the market majors (Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons), the upscale chains (Gelsons, Whole Foods), or the quirky chains (TJs or Fresh & Easy)… and it certainly couldn’t compete with the non-Union chains.
- From the “Skank Departures” Department: Our last departure is a good one: The NY Times is reporting that the Times Square redevelopment is complete. Back in the 1970s, Times Square was a cesspool of pronshops and sleeze… and these days rent is up to $1,400/ft2. The number of tourists is up 74% since 1993, to an estimated 36.5 million last year, and attendance at Broadway shows has soared to nearly 12 million. The story of its revitalization is an interesting one… and one that owes quite a bit to the Disney Company and the New Amsterdam Theatre.
I just realized that a Bock-Harnick Quadfecta has been completed, so Sheldon Harnick can feel safe. First, on October 20th, we lost Tom Bosley, star of the first Bock/Harnick hit, Fiorello!. Next, on October 27th, came Joseph Stein, the book writer for perhaps their best known hit, Fiddler on the Roof. Then, earlier this week on November 3rd came the news of the death of Jerry Bock, the composer of these shows, as well as She Loves Me, Tenderloin, The Apple Tree, 1040, and the first musical I ever saw, The Rothschilds. Lastly, this morning’s news brings word of the death of Jill Clayburgh, who most know for film, but who I always think of as the original Hannah in The Rothschilds (although she also had a starring role in the original cast of Pippin).
I thank them for all their contributions, and condolences to their families, who may rest easy in the fact that these talented individuals gave us something that will live on.
Some interesting articles on names in the news, as I finish up my Saturday morning stuff:
- Stephen J. Cannell. Stephen J. Cannell died a few days ago, and the LA Times has put up a nice remembrance page, including videos of all his logos. Cannell was a staple of TV during my college and later days, with shows such as “The Rockford Files”, “The Greatest American Hero”, “The A Team”, and numerous other programs.
- Tony Curtis. Of course, the other big celebrity death this week was Tony Curtis. Most people are remembering his performances in “Some Like It Hot” or “The Defiant Ones”, but for me, the definitive proformance is Tony Curtis as The Great Leslie in “The Great Race”, one of the best comedies ever made. At least his talent will be preserved on screen forever. ETA: Tony Curtis also clearly characterized the difference between a movie star and an actor, as described by Mark Evanier.
- Al Jaffee. The NY Times has a nice profile today of Al Jaffee, long time artist for Mad Magazine. We all likely grew up with his art, and it’s nice to see he is still chugging along.
- F.A.O. Schwartz. The NY Times also has a nice article on how Toys ‘R’ Us is overhauling the F.A.O. Schwartz brand. No, there won’t be giant pianos in malls everywhere.
A few recently departed individuals whom I’d like to remember, some personally closer than others:
- Paul Karger. I learned of Paul’s death earlier today from a colleague. Paul was one of the true characters in the Computer Security field. A pioneer in multilevel security, and a key player in a little system called Multics (perhaps you’ve heard of it). Paul was a regular at the ACSAC conference, and he could always be counted on for a controversial opinion or a colorful anectdode. I’ll miss Paul. As I said in a comment when I heard his passing confirmed: Our profession is the poorer with his passing, but remains enriched by his contributions.
- Harold Gould. To most, Harold Gould is known as Rhoda Morganstern’s father, or as a character in a sitcom. I knew Mr. Gould in a different light. I saw him in person just a few months ago as Plato in Meeting of Minds. Here was a demonstration of his strength as a character actor: with little rehearsal, he just became the famed Greek philospher. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to see him so close and personal so recently.
- Paul Conrad. Paul Conrad was the editorial cartoonist at the Los Angeles Times when I was growing up and in college, and it was he who taught me the power of the editorial cartoon. I still have a number of his cartoons clipped; his work is indelibly drawn in my memory. For example, after the first HOV lane went up in Southern California, he did a cartoon that showed the changable message signs that read, in order, “The Diamond Lane” / “Is Working Well” / “If You Don’t Like it” / “Go To Hell” / Caltrans. He was most notable for skewering politicians, especially Republicans, and was a strong demonstration that, under Norman Chandler, the Times was not a a Republican mouthpiece. This fact was omitted by the LA Times obituary: read the Bill Boyarsky piece on Paul Conrad for the full story.
I’ve been so busy of late that I haven’t had the time to find some really good news chum, but I figured I’d take some time at lunch and share the few I found:
- From the “Ideologues” Department: The Los Angeles Times has a nice piece today about how if Ronald Reagan was running today, he would be snubbed by the GOP for being too liberal. The article notes how both parties have gone to the ends of their spectrums, leaving the moderates with no one viable. Interesting read.
- From the “They Happen In Threes” Department: With the recent deaths of Gary Coleman and Rue McClanahan, there’s one name that surprisingly hasn’t been mentioned: Conrad Bain. He’s the common link: He worked with McClanahan on Maude, and Coleman on Different Stokes… and Bain is still alive.
- From the “They’re Back” Department: When I was a kid, everyone had a terrarium. You would take an old fish tank or large jar, put in some dirt, some plants, and give it to your mother :-). Well, according to the New York Times, terrariums are making a comeback.
- From the “Addicted” Department: The NY Times has a nice piece on the mental price of all of our gadgets.
I was hoping for a theme, but alas, that was not to be. Here are a few items that caught my eye from skimming the papers the last few days over lunch:
- From the “He Made It Too Easy” Department: The Chicago Tribune brings the obit of John Shepherd-Barron, the inventor of the ATM machine. We all know how we are stuck with 98.6 as normal human temperature because the inventor’s wife had an illness when the calibration was done. It turns out there is a similar story on why ATM PINs, and PINs in general, are a relatively insecure four digits: “Shepherd-Barron originally planned to make PINs six digits long, but cut the number to four after his wife, Caroline, complained that six was too many. “Over the kitchen table, she said she could only remember four figures, so because of her, four figures became the world standard,” he told the BBC.” The first ATM machine was installed in 1967!
- From the “Hidey, Howdy, Izzy, Syd, Ollie, and Millie” Department: And the question is: “Who were some of the worst Olympic mascots?” The National Post has a nice article today looking back on some of the worst Olympic mascots, including photographs.
- From the “They’re All A Little Looney” Department: The New York Times has a nice article on the upcoming reincarnation of the classic Looney Tunes on CN. It includes a nice history of other attempts, including Tiny Toons (which was somewhat successful), “The Loonatics Unleashed” (which was horrid), and “Baby Looney Tunes” (the mind just boggles). No mention of “Duck Dodgers”, tho. It will be interesting to see how the new incarnation fares.
- From the “A Force for Good” Department: That’s how McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner characterized Ronald McDonald, who isn’t going anywhere despite protests calling for his abolition. What is going away is the McDonalds physical look, as the chain is introducing an updated look that is significantly more modern. Out will go the iconic red mansard roof and cafeteria-style lighting, and in will come a stone or brick exterior and more modern furniture. There will be zone-seating areas, so the customer has the opportunity to use the restaurant in the manner that fits their lifestyle best, and playlands may disappear from some stores.
- From the “Yet Another Reason To Drink” Department: The Jewish Journal has an interesting column on the changing Jewish relationship with wine, and how single-malt scotch is now the drink of choice. Why is this happening? The poor quality of Kosher wine, combined with the higher quality with no kashrut issues (except during Pesach) of single-malt.
First, some unfinished business. Although I am walking every day for at least an hour, I am not going to run a marathon. I’ve never been the running type. And as for yesterday’s news, it was mostly true, except for the bit about “drips” and Bing changing its name. Oh, look, a squirrel.
Turning to today’s news, I do have a few items of note:
- From the “Passings of Note” Department: Dr. Henry Edward Roberts has died. Most of you kids won’t know him, but Roberts is responsible for much of what we see on computers today. Roberts was the developer of the build-it-yourself computer kit called the MITS Altair 8800, which was the original inspiration for two kids called Billy Gates and Paul Allen. My memories of the Altair were from my days with the Southern California Computer Society back in the mid-to-late 1970s, when people were building their Altairs and Kim 1s.
- From the “Milestones of Note” Department: Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the launch of TIROS-1 from Vandenberg AFB. If that name doesn’t sound familiar to you, TIROS-1 was the first weather satellite, and so 50 years ago the science of weather forecasting changed forever. Can you imagine long-range weather predicting without the benefit of satellite?
- From the “Ridin’ The Circuit” Department: USA Today had a nice piece yesterday on the Southern Rabbi Circuit, which is not an electrical mechanism but a project where a rabbi rides around the Southern US visiting small congregati0ns. I first learned about this about a year ago, when Rabbi Sheryl Nosan-Blank was leaving Sacramento. She’s now serving a congregation in Australia, but one of the places she was looking was the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life out of Jackson MS. ISLI is the place that provides the visiting rabbi for the small congregations. Interesting article.
- From the “You Look Mahvelllous” Department: Speakings of the problems of the small and mighty: The LA Times has an interesting article on the troubles on niche menswear shops: in particular, the disappearing shops for short men. Yup. If you are under 5’3” (I’m safe at 5”6½”), there are only two places left in Southern California where you can buy a suit off the rack and only have minor alterations. For many others, it’s the boys department or cutting down a suit (which leaves many components, such as pockets, in the wrong places).