website, blog and vanity nexus of writer R F Brown

Posts tagged ‘actors’

Gene Nelson: Am I In Love – TCM CLASSIC FILM UNION Video

I think Gene Nelson was WBs version of MGMs Gene Kelly: dance, voice, looks, atheleticism, not to mentions Genes. This isnt the best production number, but it’s one of a kind

Gene Nelson - "She's Working Her Way Through College"

Gene Nelson – “She’s Working Her Way Through College”

Gene Nelson: Am I In Love – TCM CLASSIC FILM UNION Video.

REBLOG: VANITY FAIR INTERVIEW: SO THE GREAT PAUL WILLIAMS STILL GREAT. BUT WHO WAS/IS HE?

I actually am often trying to explain “who was Paul Williams” to younger people or to my peers who don’t know pop culture of the 1970s. As this V.F. writer points out there is no contemporary equivalent entertainer like Paul Williams to compare to Paul Williams. The guy was everywhere: pop music (genius), talk shows, game shows, movies. I think what was interesting about him was that he didn’t look like Bobby Sherman, or Burt Reynolds. He was comical, but he had a serious artist side, and he didn’t seem to care about looking like a gay Troll Doll. Part of his high profile can be attributed to the ubiquity of network television. Everybody was watching the same shows on 3 channels so our labor pool of celebrities was smaller. Also people from that time did real stuff to become famous. Famous people then wrote great songs, were not funny on Dinah, or walked on the moon.  Entertaining, even attempts at entertaining, are less important enterprises in becoming famous today. You only have to be talented now at looking beautiful or saying something outrageously stupid on a reality show. – rf brown 

Paul Williams, Writer of “Rainbow Connection,” on His 1970s Neighbors: “Borrow a Cup of Sugar? Maybe a Cup of Vodka” | Blogs | Vanity Fair

Paul Williams, Writer of “Rainbow Connection,” on His 1970s Neighbors: “Borrow a Cup of Sugar? Maybe a Cup of Vodka”

1:30 PM, JUNE 8 2012
BY JIM MCCRARY/REDFERNS.Paul Williams In the A&M Photo Studio, 1970.

Paul Williams, the songwriter, actor, and all-around 1970s media personality, is the subject of a funny, fascinating, and ultimately moving documentary that opens today in New York and Los Angeles. The title, Paul Williams Still Alive,will give you some idea of the movie’s arc, as well as its tone.

Short, witty, and possessed of a signature look that combined aviator glasses and a Jan Brady hairdo, Williams enjoyed Kardashian-like ubiquity in the 70s. (If “enjoy” is the right word.) Though he cut his own records, his songs became far bigger hits for acts such as the Carpenters (“Rainy Days and Mondays,” “We’ve Only Just Begun”), Three Dog Night (“Just an Old Fashioned Love Song”), and Kermit the Frog (“Rainbow Connection”). He and Barbra Streisand co-won an Oscar in 1977 for “Evergreen,” from A Star Is Born. You know: “Love soft as an easy chair . . . ”

But that’s not all. Williams also appeared in films such as Smoky and the Bandit and Battle for the Planet of the Apes, along with pretty much every 70s TV show you can think of, including Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, where, by IMDb’s reckoning, he turned up 14 times between 1971 and 1978. Paul Williams Still Alive includes a very funny clip of him being gunned down by Angie Dickinson on Police Woman and a less funny clip of him guest-hosting The Merv Griffin Show, where he appears to be coked up and makes jokes about screwing around on the road behind his wife’s back.

I can’t quite think of a contemporary equivalent to Williams, only earlier songwriter-actor-personalities—that was once a job description, as with Hoagy Carmichael and Oscar Levant. Unfortunately, Williams’s career flatlined in the 1980s when he disappeared into the proverbial haze of drug and alcohol abuse, but he’s been sober for 22 years now. Without giving too much away, I’ll say that the new documentary takes a couple of surprising turns, traveling way past “Behind the Music” territory to become a kind of meditation on how people do and do not let their pasts define them. I wouldn’t have thought a film that includes numbers from Circus of the Stars and The Brady Bunch Variety Hour would have something to say about the human condition, but there you have it. Williams has led a more colorful life than most of us, but here he evinces a stubborn, heroic modesty.

The director is Stephen Kessler, who, I should note, is an old and good friend of mine. The film begins with him essentially stalking Williams, and in some sense, it’s as much his story as it is Williams’s—Roger & Me with a happier ending and two much nicer guys at its center. As the following slide show demonstrates, it also serves as a delightful, if occasionally eye-searing, survey of trends in costume and set design on 1970s variety shows.

file

The Tonight Show, 1975.

Bruce Handy: How did Steve first approach you about doing the film?

Paul Williams: It was an e-mail that I answered nine months later. There’s a wonderful, ethereal place where you look at a message that you don’t want to say yes to, and you don’t have the balls to say no to, so you just keep it “save as new” for seven months and every time you look at your mail you’re like, “Oh, my God.” Eventually we talked.

He said from the very beginning, “Someone needs to do a documentary on you and I’d like to do that.” I was like, “I don’t know.” The line I’ve used again and again is that I’ve never found anything more pathetic than some little old man saying, “Please, sir, may I have another cup of fame?” The last thing I wanted to do was a behind-the-scenes “Where Are They Now?” If Steve had found me living behind a trailer behind a junkyard, working at the Red Lion singing “Rainbow Connection” to a sock-puppet Kermit, he would have been thrilled.

Was that the reluctance, that you were afraid Steve was going to make fun of you?

Partly, and I didn’t want to poke the bear again. I had had the full-tilt celebrity experience to the max. I always was a little embarrassed. I had acting agents for a little while after I got sober, and they’d want to send me out to audition, and I just found it embarrassing, going out to ask for something. I had my share. I had all that attention. I don’t need that now. Financially, I’m at a place where I’m O.K. I have a great family. I have good relationships with my kids.

The climax of the movie, really, is the scene where Steve has you watch that footage of you guest-hosting Merv Griffin where you’re clearly high and kind of smug and obnoxious. And present-day Sober You eventually tells Steve to turn it off—that you can’t take it.

I said, “It’s like A Christmas Carol. Steve is taking me back and showing me my past.” The Ghost of Christmas Past. Look at you being an asshole. But it’s a really important piece because you can see the footage practically made me ill. You can see how much I hated that. I was just fried [in theGriffin footage]. I was arrogant, grandiose, shallow, making jokes about marriage infidelity on the road. I asked Steve, “Why would you make a film about that?” Who wants to know about that guy? He’s terrible.

That Griffin footage is pretty extreme, but in earlier clips, it looks like you’re having a good time. I know that’s partly the performer’s craft of appearing on a show likeThe Tonight Show, but still.

I had a lot of fun! The 70s were fabulous. But we rolled into the 80s . . . and suddenly you moved from use to abuse to addiction, where all of a sudden the general party has moved on, and where I’ve moved back to a place where I’ve lost touch with what is my reality, in a sense—where all of a sudden I’m doing stuff on television that was totally inappropriate. That’s what made me clean up.

I want to talk about your music, too. Today it’s Monday and it’s raining. You must get that all the time: Oh it’s a rainy day and it’s Monday!

When it’s raining and it’s Monday, that’s a win-win.

I had thought you were mostly a solo songwriter, but the film mentions your various collaborators.

Kenny Ascher and Roger Nichols were the two main collaborators throughout the years. [B.H.:Williams wrote “You and Me Against the World” and “Rainbow Connection” with the former, “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Rainy Days and Mondays” with the latter.] The first Academy Award nomination [in 1974, for the song “Nice to Be Around,” from Cinderella Liberty] was stuff I wrote with John Williams. My collaborators were my music school.

As a listener, I’d say that if anyone besides you did your songs the most justice, it was Karen Carpenter. Did you work with the Carpenters directly on those records?

No. I knew them and was friends with them, but I hung out with actors. I lived next door to Bob Mitchum.

Did you go over and borrow a cup of sugar?

Not sugar. Maybe a cup of vodka.

My friends were more actors than they were music guys. The Carpenters [Karen and her brother Richard] were like these kids. But they knew what Roger Nichols and I had done, when nobody else did. We’d been writing album cuts and B-sides. These guys knew it. They walked into my office and said, “We love this Small Circle of Friends record ‘Drifter,’ and the Peppermint Trolley Company record of ‘Trust.’” [Two obscure “sunshine pop”-style records Williams and Nichols had written.] We were shocked. “Wow, somebody knows what we do.”

BSD Movie Log: Clownhouse

Clownhouse (1989, d. Victor Salva)

Just back from an unsettling night at the circus, and home alone, three young brothers are terrorized by three escaped mental patients dressed as circus clowns.  This movie is about confronting childhood fears, identity questions, and sexual anxiety.  Taking it more logically, I didn’t understand why the clowns wanted to get into the house or why they thought disguising themselves in white face and hoop-waist pants would make them inconspicuous.

This movie became notorious years after its release when one of the young cast members came forward that the director had molested him during production.  Somebody who wants to pick it apart will find a lot of analogous behavior between  the scary clowns and the decision by  the director to frequently show the tween boys in their underpants.  It left me feeling a little dirty.  But to anybody who pervs on that, I say. “Bon appetite, Short Eyes!”

Tom Bosley,TVs Howard Cunningham, 83 -RIP

 

Bosley on Happy Days

 

Tom Bosley, best known for his tv role as Howard Cunningham on Happy Days, 1974-1984, is no longer coming down for breakfast.

Bosley was a veteran stage actor, he won a Tony award in 1959 for the musical Fiorello! He is familiar to most people from television on Happy Days, Murder She Wrote, Father Dowling Mysteries, and TV commercials and infomercials in which he mostly played Tom Bosley.  I recall for a time people also confused him with the late actor David Doyle, although I never did.

 

People always mixed up Bosley and Doyle. I still don't see it.

 

Happy Days is one of those shows I watched religiously in childhood and now I recognize that all but the first season sucked.  The original idea was borrowed wholesale from the movie American Grafitti, including the staring actor Ron Howard.  They first shot Happy Days on film, with some pretty daring story lines for a prime time sitcom.  The second season they went to multi camera video, brought in a jovial studio audience, scrubbed a major character from everybody’s memory (lost brother Chuck), and flipped the Cunningham household set around so that the front door was on the right.  I guess a door on that side was much less controversial, but not any funnier.  The show was never the same again for ten irratating seasons.

However, Tom Bosley was a funny actor, and, I gather, a charitable person.  RIP.

link:  CBC News – Television – Happy Days actor Tom Bosley dies.

Barbara Billingsley,94 – RIP

Barbara Billingsley, best know for her role as June Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver, 1957-1963, is no longer coming down to breakfast.  The June Cleaver character is a frequently, sometimes inaccurately, used symbol in media criticism of the shiny, oblivious, chavanistic suburban life invented for television in 1950s.  June was a housewife who wore pearls while vacuuming, doted on her husband and boys, and never cracked the binding on the Feminine Mystique.   It’s true that in the Cleaver’s town of Mayfield there was no racism (or black people), no McCarthyism, and no desire in women for life beyond the foyer.  On the other hand, Leave It To Beaver was a great show because it was actually funny, often deliberately absurd, and never a depiction as bland and idealized as people make it out to be.  Also, I suspect that part of the reason the 1950’s are so elevated in the conservative imagination, is because perfect suburban neighborhoods, bridge clubs, and women officing in the kitchen, for good or ill,  is a lot the way it was, or at least the way a myopic post-war American culture wanted things to be.

link:  Barbara Billingsley of \’Leave it to Beaver\’ fame dies – CNN.com.

When Nixon Dated Gleason It Was Moon Pies and Alien Corpses

President Nixon indulged Jackie Gleason’s obsession with the paranormal by showing him the bodies of recovered aliens hidden in a US Air Force base.

link: Jackie Gleason says Nixon showed him ETs | Openminds.tv.

Tony Curtis Dies at 85 – NYTimes obit

link:  Tony Curtis, Hollywood Icon, Dies at 85 – Obituary (Obit) – NYTimes.com

Tony Curtis is no longer coming down for breakfast.  I’ve never been a big Tony Curtis guy.   I always felt like he was lucky to be surrounded by great actors and great directors.  But my favorite movie with Tony Curtis is The Sweet Smell of Success: