Wednesday, January 29, 2020


Troubling eye problem.

Can’t write.

Be back when I can.

In the meantime, thanks for the company.

I’ve never had more fun writing.

So long.

And as The Cisco Kid used to say,

“See you soon, Ha!”

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

"Forgiving Jack Kelly"

It's time.

I’ve been down on this guy since 1957.

And for no really good reason.  (Although when did “intense grievance” require rational justification?)

My longstanding beef with Jack Kelly is quite simple.

He was not James Garner.

Which will make immediate sense to any Maverick fan, though even they likely got over it, and I didn’t.  Just last night, I “surfed” to a rerun of Maverick on The Westerns Channel and it was Jack Kelly and I spontaneously went “Awww.”

Which led me to think maybe it was time I should stop doing that.

Here’s the thing.

Unable to keep up with its breakneck production schedule, they decided to halve the load and have two “Mavericks” simultaneously cranking out episodes, one starring the original “Bret”, the other starring the mandatorily “B” name-starting “Bart.”  (There was later also a “Beau” and a “Brent.”)

The glaring problem was that “Bret”, played by James Garner, “had it” and “Brother Bart”, played by Jack Kelly, did not.

That’s why, for over sixty years, I have tuned in to Maverick rooting for “Bret” episodes, and griping vociferously when confronted by “Barts.”  

Both of them played essentially the same character.  (Recent research reveals they played exactly the same character.  Producer Roy Huggins “… insisted the writers visualize Garner as ‘Maverick’ while writing {all of} the scripts.”)

A dapper, card-playing reluctant hero, is what he was, no matter who played him, the spectacular Garner, or the thundering disappointment.

The unique “anti-hero” persona is why I enjoyed Maverick.  Although he inevitably did the right thing, it took (either) Maverick longer to get there than any other hero on television, which made the series stand out.  

Everyone else was itchin’ for a ruckus.  Maverick – whoever it was – itched for a “Full House” and a tasty cigar.

The thing is, with his irrepressible twinkle, James Garner could naturally pull that “Reluctant Hero” shtick off.  (Essentially playing it throughout his career, from T.V’s The Rockford Files to feature films like Support Your Local Sheriff and The Americanization of Emily.)  

Jack Kelly had no twinkle.

He had a hat and a horse.

Kelly was capable enough performer, acting in scripts written with another actor in mind.  Who knows?  Maybe if they had tailored the scripts specifically for him.

PRODUCER:  “An ‘okay actor’ with no twinkle.  Make me some magic, boys!”

Sound like a “Winning Formula” to you?

They’d have been better off giving his character a distinguishing “hook”, like one arm, or something.  (Note:  “Hook” is a show biz term, meaning “an identifiable characteristic.”  I did not mean to infer the missing appendage had been replaced by a hook.  Although shuffling cards with one hand… Nah.)

You know what?  I say “Let’s bury the hatchet.”  (Although I am unaware of Jack Kelly having any grievance against me, so it’s a one-sided “bury the hatchet.”)

The next time I turn on Maverick and it’s Jack Kelly not James Garner, I will not act like,

“Ladies and Gentlemen.  Replacing Ethel Merman in Gypsy will be Florence Henderson.”

From now on, I take Jack Kelly exactly as he is:

A man playing James Garner.

Without the twinkle.

Monday, January 27, 2020

"It's All In The 'Tude'"

Watching Tom Hanks recently receive the Golden Globes’s “Cecil B. De Mille Award for Lifetime Achievement and Impact on the Entertainment Industry” took me back to me, sitting gloomily in the “Tea Room” at London’s St. John’s Church of England Infants and Junior School.

I know.  My mind works in mysterious ways.  Hey, I was fashioned in His image.

There I was – 1967 – a man with vague show biz aspirations and currently dismal prospects, sipping my tea with this funereal mask on my face, looking so distraught that fellow teacher Mr. Rowbotham said to me,

“Don’t worry, Earl.  It probably won’t happen.”

To which I sadly replied,

“That’s what I’m afraid of.”

Watching this year’s Golden Globes I wondered if now show biz icon Tom Hanks felt the same way, mired in the sitcom nadir of Bosom Buddies. 

I suspect he did not.


Because of five words.

Tom Hanks is not me.

For if he were

(Wait.  Note:  Early in his career Tom Hanks headlined a TV series in which he and Peter Scolari dressed up as women to avail themselves of the low rent at a “Women-Only” hotel.  Okay, now go.) 




TOM HANKS, IF HE WERE ME  “I hate this!”

TOM HANKS’S GENERIC AGENT  “What’s wrong, Boobie?”

“What’s wrong?  I am an actor hoping for great roles, and here I am, rolling on tights and plucking my eyebrows.  This isn’t it, Larry.  I am telling you.  This is not it.”

“It’s a step up from Mazes and Monsters.

“Which, may I remind you, you also got me.  What am I doing here?  How can I show what I’ve got, acting in this terrible sitcom?”

“Correction.  ‘Starring in this terrible sitcom.’” 

“Meaning I am contractually bound to this turkey for seven years.”

“Nah.  It'll l be cancelled way before that.”


“You’re a tough guy to please, Tommy.”  (If it were me.)

“How did this happen, playing a man playing a woman.  My mother watched.  She said ‘Which one were you?’”

“So it’s working!  (THE LINE IS MET WITH A MURDEROUS GLARE)  I’m telling you. You, teetering on high heels?  Hilarious!”

“This is so low.”

“You mean this is so high!  Listen to me.  What arguably – and with some people no ‘arguably’ about it – is the funniest movie comedy ever made?”

Sullivan’s Travels?              

“Some Like It Hot!”  Pretty good company, wouldn’t you say?  Jack Lemmon?  Tony Curtis?  ‘Tom Hanks?’”

“Small difference.  That was Billy Wilder.  You see Billy Wilder around here?  No.  Because Billy Wilder doesn’t do sitcoms! 

“Are you kidding?  After Fedora?  He would kill to be back in 'cross-dressing comedy.'  I am making a note.  ‘Call Billy Wilder.’”

“You know Billy Wilder?”

“I know where he eats.  I could casually pop by his table and…”

“And what?  Say ‘Excuse me, “Mr. All-Time Great Writer-Director.”  Do you think you could you find time in your feature-film-making schedule to direct a half-hour episode for ABC?  The money’s not great.  But when they rerun it, they pay you again.” 

“Listen to me…”

“I’m not finished.  ‘It’s about two men who dress up as women.  Curtis and Lemmon?  No.  Hanks and Scolari.” 

“Listen to me, I will say once again.  You are starring in a nationally broadcast television show.  More people see you than ever went to Sunset Boulevard.”

“Is that true?”

“I will look it up later.  Hey, I know this ain’t Ibsen – was that right?


“I pulled it out of a hat… but it’s only a start.  Who knows where this could lead?”

“I’m afraid it will lead nowhere.  I mean, let’s get real here.  Someday, they may be casting the role of a character stricken with a horrible disease.  What do you think?  ‘Let’s give it to the guy wearing a tutu’?  (AFTER A PENSIVE MOMENT)  What if this is as good as it gets for me?  What do I do then?”

“Save your money and raid the ‘Crafts Services’ table.”

“I thought I’d be big.  Now, ‘end of the line’ is stale nachos and limp crudités.”

“You’re a real ‘Captain Bringdown’, you know that?  And just when I’ve brought you some wonderful news, which I was saving for the end of this post.”

“And what’s that?”

“The show’s been picked up for another season.”


“Careful.  You’ll wrinkle your ball gown.”