One almost wishes that the Mormon Angel Moroni, the Italian angel, had
descended upon the 2002 Salt Lake City, UT Olympics. Between Vladimir
Putin's mistaking the Ice Games for the Cold War, the South Koreans acting
like"axes of evil" by hiring a local law firm to diss-pute the
speed-skating referees, the Lithuanian ice-dancers litigiously following
in the Canadians' footwork , this noble sporting event promoting world
harmony (see Adolph Hitler, 1936) was more like a Rumble in the Olympic
Village. I couldn't quite distinguish between the Jets and the Sharks,
but I wished Officer Krupke would put in an appearance, or Rodney King
( "Can't we just all get along?") or even Emily Post!
For this sportsfan, not even the first-ever
performance of Jonny Moseley's "dinner roll" could equal the
adrenaline-packed thrill of watching the Olympic Village's very own Lois
Lane, Kelly O'Connell. Sporting crimson hair, scarlet lipstick, and a
vermilion sweater, the ace investigative reporter told Dick Clark-clone
Mike Costas how she had staked-out the controversial French figure-skating
judge, Marie Reine Le Gougne, widely-described as being both "emotionally
fragile" and "corrupt". The excitement in her voice as
palpable as if she had just landed a quadruple axel, O'Connell reported,
"She was recently seen at her hotel speaking with an unidentified
man. Reports that she has checked out of the Olympic Village have not
Give Kelly a 5.9 for performance! I was
as jazzed as if I had just injected darbepoetin (hey, couldn't everyone
use some extra red blood cells?) Yet no sooner did Kelly score, than the
dispute was settled, duplicate gold medals were given to the modest but
fervent Canadian pair (Now watch, just like James Cameron winning his
Oscar, soon they'll be shouting out, "We're king and queen of the
world!"), and the intrigue was over. No more need for O'Connell's
sneaky reporters tricks! The only fun left for me was hoping that Michelle
Kwan fell down (she did not disappoint). My reactions were based solely
on her "New York Post" interview in which she shared her hubris-y
world view about how it "wasn't all about winning the Gold Medal.
I feel like, 'Hey, I'm Michelle Kwan. Whatever!' "
Not even remotely entertaining, however,
was speed-skater Apolo Ohno being blizzarded with 16,000 hate e-mails
(including death threats) after he won on a technicality, shutting down
the U.S.O.C.'s server for nine hours. This reminded me of Cynthia Cotts
getting "freeped" for pointing out in her "Village Voice"
column "Press Clips" that the media in general, and CNN most
specifically, had pulled a Le Gougne of sorts by implying that John Walker
Lindh was guilty before he had been duly tried. She received over 50 e-mails,
seemingly largely composed by American males with a Taliban-esque mentality
towards women, who attributed her reportorial success to her typing ability
I wondered: Has technology become what my
cousin Jonathan Katz, aka "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist"
would call "a blurse--a blessing and a curse"?
With the Games complete, and the requisite
20 partying drunken youths arrested, who else but a hip and wholesome
band like Kiss to perform at the Olympics closing ceremonies? Stan Eisen,
aka Paul Stanley, who grew up about half a mile away from me in my childhood
hood, widely picked-on because he had been born with only half an earlobe
(children are so cruel
guess who's laughing now!), informed the
press that Kiss "would provide a memorable Olympic moment" by
playing its signature hit "Rock and Roll All Nite" in full make-up.
"We're going to do the rock 'n' roll
national anthem," Eisen said in an interview. "Since every country
is being represented, the Kiss Army has to represent with 'rock and roll
all nite and party every day, ' !"
I awarded Eisen, a graduate of my own elementary
school, P.S. 154 in Flushing, Queens, a 3.2 for grammar!
His quote reminded me of basically any statement
made by Mother-of-the-Year Linda Kantares, star of the "Transexual
Custody Case", which aired in February, 2001, on Court-TV. The live
coverage was as addictive as darbepoetin. Linda Kantares, a former donut-frier
turned elementary-school teacher, who never encountered a double negative
she didn't embrace, was ridiculed by her very own lawyer, Claudia Wheeler.
Establishing thrilling new legal precedent, the mouthpiece stated, "My
client is obviously really, really stupid." I couldn't decide which
was more fascinating: medical expert Dr. Huang, describing an artificially-constructed
penis as a "meat-stick"; Linda herself, who when told that a
court psychologist had diagnosed her as having "borderline personality
disorder" screeched, "I'd like to confront him about where did
he got that idea!" and who blithely chatted away about how son Matthew
"doesn't feel no pain" when she routinely "clocked him
in the mouth". Dignified Judge Gerald O'Brien seemed to have the
most difficulty pronouncing the name of Transexual Dad Michael Kantares'
new flame, Sherry Noodwang, calling her, "Ms. Woodwang", "Ms.
Woodwing" and even, "Ms. Hoodwink". The white-haired jurist
otherwise acclimated seamlessly to the proceedings. Initially reserved,
eventually he comfortably debated the intricacies of strap-on dildoes.
Now that I am teaching college after a 20
year sabbatical, my Court-TV watching days are dramatically-limited. As
I will be teaching a summer course called "Great Works", colleagues
constantly ask me "What books do you read?" I reply, "The
Cool World" (by Warren Miller, Fawcett, 1959). Written in the scornful,
bewildered, observant, cynical, wistful, placating, bemused "voice"
of a Black gangmember, Duke Custis, it was called "One of the finest
novels about Harlem that has ever come my way" by none other than
James Baldwin, who also couldn't determine whether the white, Jewish author
was, in fact what was then termed a "Negro". This seems clueless
on Baldwin's part. Clearly, Miller himself is symbolized by the juvenile-home
shrink, Doc Levine, who sums up the book's message-within-a-message when
he tells Duke (sic), "Readin
That the beginning of evry thing
you can read an write why you can do any thing. Do any thing. Be any thing."
Anyway, I was originally going to compose
this Rant "soully" about "The Cool World", but then
I reached out through the miracle of the Internet and discovered America's
premiere Warren Millerologist, who well-intentionedly and courteously
barraged me with so many e-mails (it became somewhat of a blurse) linking
Warren Miller to everyone from Earl Warren to Warren G. Harding that I
will need at least another semester to digest all this data and write
a worthy homage. In the interim, I continue to read and re-read this masterpiece,
wondering if I am afflicted with a form of literary autism. Savoring each
sentence a requisite three times, postponing the pleasure of one of the
book's most classic lines, in the final chaper, "Man that one sue
cio city an I don't care if I never see it again." (You kind of have
to be there
) I'm still in a snit that "The Cool World"
lost out in 1960's National Book Award contest to Philip Roth for "Good-bye,
Columbus" (on my deathbed, will I be able to forgive either that
literary body or the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences for awarding
1950's Best Actress Oscar to "Born Yesterday's" one-note Judy
Holliday rather than to genius Gloria Swanson for "Sunset Boulevard"?).
However, as I bemoaned Miller's loss, I was reminded of a Roth classic,
"Portnoy's Complaint", which seemed the perfect suggestion for
one of my freshman students on his winter break looking for a fun read!
Michael Valevich chimed in with this precocious book review:
" Subject: Re: need a good book
I'm half way through 'Portnoy's Complaint' - finally got it from the library.
Somebody didn't want to give it up. It's a beautiful, beautiful book.
should be in every Jewish household - kept next to the Menorah or in center
of the bookcase or in some other significant place."
I am also
compulsively reading Matthew Ehrlich, (aka Gustave), on the website "Television
Without Pity -- 24" in which he takes on the new, thrilling,
originally-formatted, yet eminently dissable and laughably ludicrous cliff-hanger,
"24", starring Kiefer Sutherland, which airs Tuesdays on Fox-TV
at 9 p.m. With each weekly episode, Matthew Ehrlich composes a veritable
classic of world literature!
As regards movies in general, they are almost
all becoming sillier than the average Kiss performance. Contemporary cinematic
efforts seem to be completely devoid of serious fact-checking, thus preventing
the necessary suspension of disbelief. Documentaries excluded, only when
a movie's details are accurate can the viewer immerse him/herself in fantasy.
But screenwriters, directors, producers, et al have been playing free
and loose with the facts ever since Dustin Hoffman, an ambitious, oft-promoted
advertising executive confessed to earning only $28,000 a year while ex-wife
Meryl Streep, who had been hired by "Mademoiselle's" Art Dept.
in her first-ever post-college gig trumped him by pulling in $31K in "Kramer
vs. Kramer". Filmic fact-checking has deteriorated to such a degree
that when a film actually gets the details right, it's a cause for celebration.
I have already put in my 400 words on the subject at www.rj93.com,
but, Movie Fans, the ranting has barely begun!
The platinum standard for inaccuracy in
films is the now-so-bad-it-has-become-a-cult-classic, "Eyes Which
Really, Really, Really Should Have Stayed Wide Shut'. Four years after
its much-maligned debut, I still can't believe that I, along with my fellow
film critics waited so impatiently those two long years it took for Stanley
Kubrick to make and to release it. One actually wonders whether the reclusive
genius, who had been living in an English castle repeatedly watching Steve
Martin's "The Jerk", and who died before "Eyes"' opened,
was actually playing a joke on his legions of fans with this swan-song
whose lyrics read, "Fuck you, you suckers!" Since 1999, in a
form of cinematic autism, I have been alternately tormenting and entertaining
myself by pondering the following:
1) Exactly what kind of house-call making doctor is Tom Cruise? He sees
children, elderly patients, overdosed junkie hookers
and Nicole Kidman
also refers to his performing breast exams. Just a run-of-the-mill 32
year old multi-zillionaire family practitioner/cum gyno/cum rehab specialist?
2) Why would the prostitute not charge him for time spent?
3) Since when does a medical license function as a detective badge? Tom
Cruise flashes his everywhere he goes, explaining, "I am a doctor"
to: successfully get information from a waitress and also a motel desk
clerk on the whereabouts of pianist pal "Nick Nightingale" and
to the owner of the costume shop, to gain entry after it has closed. Undercover
cops in NYC should have it so good! ?" Cruise, however, dazzles as
a virtual police impersonator, a la "Untrue
Blue"! Okay, I know it's ONLY a television show, but nonetheless,
consider "Law and Order". "We're here to investigate the
quadruple homicides of your next-door neighbors, Ma'am," Briscoe
will delicately volunteer, only to be countered with, "Can't ya see
I'm making a tunafish sandwich/washing my hair/re-arranging my file cabinets?"
Or, "Go away, I'm watching my soaps/taking a nap/jerking off!"
average citizens will yell from behind closed doors. Even better, "You
guys got a warrant? Otherwise call my lawyer!" "Law and Order"
fans: If two homicide detectives were ever to knock on my door, if I were
as innocent as Olympic snow, or as guilty as Robert Blake (Does art imitate
life OR WHAT?) I would invite them to sit down and say, "Yessirs,
Officers, Sirs, is there any way in which I can hopefully help you, Sirs
Officers Mr. Policemen Sirs?"
I was planning to count the amount of times
Tom Cruise utters the phrase, "I am a doctor", when I figured
it might be simpler to note the times he actually DOESN'T say it. Then
I lost interest in this exercise. Perhaps the movie should actually be
re-titled, "I am a Doctor". Whoop-ti-doo.
4) I did calculate a running tab of the amount of cold cash Tom spent.
Why? Because he wandered through the mean streets of Manhattan at 4 a.m.,
chased by threatening orgy-organizing henchmen, and gangs of macho college
kids calling him "Mary" (In 1999? Not, "Hey, Fag?")
limo-less, with a wallet full of Benjamins, and yet never once stopped
at a cash machine. He spent : $150 on the prostitute, who never mentions
her name (yet, oddly, when Cruise returns to her apartment the next day,
discovering that she has just received the results of her Annual Christmas
Eve Aids Test, he refers to "Domino"); $375 at the costume shop
,and $180 plus the amount of the running-meter of the taxi which drove
him out to the Long Island orgy-mansion (another $200? $300?). Plus, he
drank a cappuccino at a West Village café: $3.75 + tip, although
he seems to have run out without paying THAT tab!
5) It was set in contemporary New York City, but there were no blue re-cycling
garbage cans on the pristine streets!
6) Exactly what does Tom Cruise mean when he tells med-school mess-up
Nick Nightingale, "You know what they say
once a doctor, always
a doctor." This statement seemed as illogical as the critically-acclaimed
and incessantly-quoted Danny DeVito line in David Mamet's "Heist":
"Everyone needs money; that's why they call it money."
7) When Cruise goes in to check on the overdosed hooker he has conveniently
just read about in "The New York Post" (wouldn't someone who
boasts about "being a doctor" in every other sentence pick up
the elitist "New York Times"?) he tells the woman at the hospital's
front desk (was it indeed a hospital or a five-star hotel?) that he was
her physician and had checked her in earlier in critical condition, yet
the newspaper story says that she overdosed in her home. Perhaps this
is more of a plothole than an inaccuracy, because wouldn't the doctor's
name who brought her in--DEAD, not still alive--be on that computer?
8) After leaving the kind of 27-room apartment replete with uniformed
Third World maid only seen in Woody
Allen movies, Cruise walks a few blocks, into the West Village, when
he clearly could only have been either on Central Park West or the Upper
9) Just as it strains credulity to imagine an aging Eastern European Lothario
trying to pick up a chick at a party by asking her if she has read the
oeuvre of Ovid, as well as by bragging, "I know some people IN THE
ART GAME" could (would) Sydney Pollack (or anyone) really forget
the name "Nick Nightingale", when he referred to "that
prick piano-player, Nick whatever the fuck his name was"? Sydney,
by the way, appears to reside in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I was naturally steamed over the 2002 Academy
Awards Ceremony--but not for the coolheaded reasons cited by the critics.
I wanted The Oscars to replicate The Olympics, since its frosty atmosphere
was barely concealed behind the luke-warm scripted banter. Imagine if
the show had been replete with tantrums, protests, lawsuits, investigative
reporters, Stan Eisen "representing with rock and roll all nite and
party every day! "Although there were frightful profusions of British
Sirs and Dames in all their foppish/frumpishness, not a single saucy French
soubrette comme Juliette Binoche seduced as either nominee or presenter.
Porquois pas Madame Le Gougne? The account of her confession by Richard
Pfenning, the Olympic skating referee, who claims "she broke down
in the post-competition meeting on the morning after the event (with)
a rambling avalanche of words," reveals to this celeb-watcher that
"La Femme Fragile" may in fact be a veritable Tinsel-Towner
who should check herself into Promises Rehab Center STAT! (Quick! Call
Melanie Griffith--see Corpse 10). Wouldn't the bronze figure-skating medalist
also have pumped up the animosity lurking so blatantly beneath the surface
like freezing waters beneath a sheath of ice? Imagine those ice-queens,
Joan and Melissa "Frozen" Rivers sneezing at Kwan's gown (might
she wear one of her trademark tacky, sequined baby-doll nighties...I mean,
skating-costumes?) What better come-back than, 'Hey, I'm Michelle Kwan!