I've written in the past about my cousin Diana Leviton Gondek, who's a terrific artist in Chicago. Among other things, she's worked with the Special Olympics -- who are based in Chicago -- even to the point of being commissioned to design their 50th anniversary poster. I've also noted the three fiberglass horses she was commissioned to create for the city to honor fallen policemen, one horse of which was on display outside of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.
It turns out that the Special Olympics is introducing a new program, where they feature artwork from their athletes shown side-by-side with professional art. The CBS-TV affiliate in Chicago, WBBM, did a report on this, and the Special Olympics asked Diana to speak on behalf of it.
(I think this could lead to a spin-off series, an artist who solves crimes as a hobby, finding patterns that lead her to the culprits, accompanied by her sidekick cat, Banksy.)
So, okay, yes, I'm biased. In either event, I can now refer to her as my artist cousin Diana Leviton Gondek as Seen on CBS News. And so, we take you now to our correspondent in the Windy City.
Apropos of nothing, this is a bit of a non sequitur. A home repair tale, one that I find most notable on a personal level, but it might eventually be of value to others down the line, should the same situation occur. And so I offer it up.
The situation was that my key was beginning to stick in my front door lock. It not only kept getting more difficult to get the key all the way in, but once it I had a challenge getting it out, and the problem was getting worse. I knew something had to be done and soon, because I didn’t want to find one day that I had to leave but couldn’t lock my front door – or if I could, that I had to leave my key in the door.
I knew that one option was calling a locksmith, but that was a last resort thing. Instead, I looked online and did a lot of research. Without going into all the minutiae of details, what I basically determined was that –
WD-40 (which I had at home) would likely work, but it was a bad choice for this, because if you use it too often it will gunk up the lock. Carbon dust-like products work, but are very messy, and also risk clogging a keyhole over time.
There are a bunch of good products, but the ones that most lock professionals (who I gave most weight to) and consumers recommend were synthetic products that used either Teflon or the generic equivalent of Teflon, known as polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE. It’s least-likely to gunk up a lock.
And of those products, two stood out from the rest. The most-recommended is called Tri-Flow. The other (widely and highly recommended, just not as much) is Lock Saver.
Though Tri-Flow stood out from the others, I went with Lock Saver. It was for two very small reasons. The first is that as “ungunky” as Tri-Flow was, Lock Saver was apparently even less-likely to gunk up. And the other was that there were a lot of user comments on Amazon that said their can of Tri-Flow did not come with one of those thin straws to connect to the nozzle. (And the photo on Amazon didn’t show one.) That wasn’t a huge problem, since I had a straw I could use with my WD-40, or you could buy a pack online. But since it was almost a toss of the coin which to use, as long as the Lock Save did always have a straw, and it was even less-gunkable, that tipped the scales
So, okay, I ordered Lock Saver, it arrived, and I checked out videos online to make sure I did it right. And it seemed easy enough – you point the nozzle upward in the keyhole, spritz the spray briefly and wait a couple seconds to let it drip down in the lock. Then, you slowly wedge the key in and then out to spread the liquid through the lock, and wedge it in again, and a few times until things are finally loosened.
So, I did that and hoped for the best. I sprayed it up for a half-second. Waited a couple seconds and then held my breath as I went to wedge the key in…
…and it instantly slid in like butter. Actually, even better, like a knife cutting through water. Its impact was immediate and profound. So much so that I love locking my door these days, it’s such fun to see my great handiwork.
The only downside is that, given it used a half-second spritz, I now have about a 3,000 year supply of Lock Saver. I know it can be used on other products if needed, but I’ve never really needed it before for anything. And even if I did, then I’d probably have a 2,000 year supply. Happily, the can only cost $13, so it was well-worth it. Because, man, did this ever work.
If you ever have a stuck key, or stuck anything, I’m sure that you can get Lock Saver (or Tri-Flow) at any lock shop, but you can also get it online here.
(By the way, the reason I've been using weird phrases like "lock shop" and "lock professional" rather than the more common term (it rhymes with "rocks myth") is because I last time I wrote an article about a lock tale, I used that common name...and was inundated by spam here on the subject. And still get it, a couple years later. Now, it's possible that just the word "lock" will bring all the spam again, but I'm hoping and expecting that because "lock" alone is a very common word with many different uses, I'll be safe. We'll see.)
And that's today's latest Key Tale. I almost want to say that I hope one of your door locks gets a little stuck, just so that you can use this product and be as awed as I was by something so simple. I don't hope that, of course, may all your locks be fine. But man, this was a joy when a home repair goes this remarkably well this remarkably easily.
The inveterate Chris Dunn brought this to my attention. It was a wonderful thread on Twitter. A bit of background first, though, which is about baseball, but bear with me because the story really isn’t. But it helps round-out the tale, getting to know the person involved.
Yu Darvish is a Japanese pitcher who signed with the Texas Rangers in 2012. He was considered at the time perhaps the best pitcher in Japan and has largely had a very good career since coming to America and playing in the majors here, but not without some bumps along the way.
In his first season with Texas, he finished third in the American League voting for Rookie of the Year. The following year he lead all of baseball in strikeouts and finished second in American League voting for the Cy Young Award as best pitcher. He also struck out 500 batters in fewer innings than any starting pitcher in the history of baseball. So, he's very good.
He moved to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and had a mixed career. His record was good, though there were some inconsistencies, and he had a famous flameout in the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros. It later came out that the Astros cheated by stealing signs between the pitcher and catcher -– whether that impacted Darvish’s collapse in the World Series, it’s hard to say. But it’s certainly possible.
Anyway, the following year he was signed by the Chicago Cubs. I was thrilled.
I had a fellow-Cubs fan friend, however, who was very down on Darvish after he got off to a very bad start with Chicago his first year -– not helped by coming off his World Series meltdown, and bolstered by criticism by a Dodgers fan who was friends with my friend. We'd argue because I'd defend Darvish, despite his problems. I liked Yu Darvish from the start -- though was certainly bothered when he started poorly. But I sensed it was an anomaly since his career was far better than that. And I didn't hold his Dodger post-season blow-up against him. (Hey, by those standards you should hate a lot of great players who performed badly in the World Series, like Dodger star Clayton Kershaw.)
It turned out that Darvish had been hurt his first year, and even had to stop pitching, eventually missing the last third of that season. Though he did start the season, he wasn't up to speed yet, working himself back in to shape -- and so the debates between my friend and I continued. Darvish finally got fully recovered by mid-season of his second year, and from that point on he was absolutely tremendous. But because his great "second-half" numbers got lost amid his full-season stats, it took a while for many people to realize that, particularly since his first year had been so problematic. But as the remainder of the season progressed, my friend was open-minded enough to start giving my debating points some leeway and finally accepted that Darvish had good games in him, though he still needed convincing it wasn't a fluke and would hold through the next year. By the third year, though, he became convinced and was totally on board. Darvish had a great season, leading the National League in wins and having the second-best earned run average in the league, a miserly 2.01. It reached the point that when the Cubs traded him after 2020 to the San Diego Padres, my friend was disappointed. As was I.
Which brings us to the tale. This comes from a series of tweets by Annie Heilbrunn, who is a sportswriter for the San Diego Union-Tribune. I’ve edited them together here in story form, and tweaked some of the text for normal-writing style.
And here it is --
Wanted to share a quick story about Yu Darvish. It starts with a boy named Landon, who, for his 10th birthday, was gifted a trip by his grandparents to Truist Park in Atlanta to see the Padres play the Braves. Landon is a Padres fan.
Landon and his dad made the 3.5 hour trip from Tennessee, where he lives. But the game was postponed due to rain, which would bum any kid out. However, one player stood outside to sign autographs in the rain: Yu Darvish. Landon was thrilled when he got a ball signed.
Landon's mom is not a baseball fan, but she noticed how happy Landon was (despite the rainout) and messaged Darvish on Instagram. Didn't expect him to write back, but wanted to say thanks for standing in the rain and making her son happy with a signed ball.
Darvish wrote back the next day:
But the NEXT day, Darvish followed up, asking if he could gift Landon and his family a trip to Petco Park in San Diego to see the Padres, since his trip was rained out. Darvish offered to pay the flights, hotel and tickets. Landon and his dad accepted, blown away by the generosity.
Landon came to Petco Park earlier this week, courtesy of Darvish, and saw his Padres play. He got to chat in the dugout with Darvish before the game. Yu gave him signed cleats, a glove and an autographed [Francisco] Tatis jersey. Landon said it was the best day of his life.
His family hopes to host Darvish for a homecooked meal if he ever comes through Tennessee. They are still in shock this trip even happened, and that a chance encounter led to it. Landon will likely never forget this moment. The end.
As you might imagine, there were a lot of comments to this Twitter thread, all ravingly positive. But this one stood out, because it was sort of an addendum to the story. A father wrote --
"We were there as well. Yu made my boy's dreams come true, he’s such a good dude. First game my son has been to that a player signed autographs, and to do it in the rain was awesome."
So, yeah, that's the answer to anyone who asks, "Yu who?" That's Yu Darvish
With all the serious talk now about Climate Change following the hurricane devastation in the Gulf Coast and the disaster flooding in the northeast -- not to mention the crushing wildfires across the West, it would be really appropriate if all the news networks had AL GORE on – and not just on once, but as a regular guest. But even just once would be a step in the right direction.
I mean, seriously, folks, He only won a Nobel Prize for his work on Climate Change. And made a documentary, An Inconvenient Truth about Climate Change that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. And lectures on the subject. And written books on it. And, y'know, is also a former Vice President of the United States.
I admit to being biased about this. But it’s the reason I’m biased that supports fully why I’m right. But then, this is a no-brainer, anyway.
However, back in 2008, I was hired to be the writer on a proposed radio series that Al Gore would do about the environment. It would be 90-second features each day on a national radio syndicate put together by Westwood One (the organization that, among other things, distributes NFL football.)
I interviewed with him in a hotel room and was told bluntly by an aide that this would be 15 minutes. It ended up going so well, we spoke for 15 minutes. I gave him several articles I’d written for the Huffington Post, but the most nerve-wracking part was when I handed over the material, I saw that the piece on top was an article on why Al Gore should be president. That wasn’t the nerve-wracking part – it’s that when I so a piece like that, my style is to bring up the negatives first, knock them down and then make the case. And among the “negatives” were that Al Gore had the reputation of being wooden and boring, that he supposedly claimed to invent the Internet, and that he was a loser (despite winning the popular vote) and that his talk about Climate Change meant he was crazy. I’d meant to bury the article among the others, but there it was on top. And when he took the pile, he couldn’t help see it – and so, as I thought was likely, he decided to read it right there, in front of me. As I waited and sweated. As he got to the end of the first page, where I wrote about Bill O’Reilly calling him crazy, I held my breath – and then saw him laugh and under his breath quote the passage, “the craziest speech I’ve heard in my life” and then laugh again. I thought there was a good chance then that I was safe. And then, after reading the last paragraph where I wrapped the thesis up with why Al Gore would make a great president, he looked over and very quietly said, “Thank you.”
My favorite part of the experience was as we were preparing for the recording session to make the demos, I was sending him material of what I was working on. And one day, the phone rang, and I heard, “Hi, Bob, this is Al Gore.” I immediately replied in a sort of weary voice, “Do you know how many times a day someone says that to me??” Fortunately, he burst into a laugh. But what most impressed me was that he hadn’t had an assistant call and say, “Are you in for Al Gore? Please hold.” He just picked up the phone himself. What I also remember was having to restrain myself from laughing during the call because of the ludicrous reality of talking with Al Gore about this project we were working on, while eating a bowl of cereal for lunch.
Our small group flew from Los Angeles down to Nashville to meet, go over the project and then record the demos. We got together for lunch at the Gore home (which was delicious), but it’s the conversation in the backyard that was most memorable. That’s because of two things, keeping in mind that it took place during the primary season before the Democratic Convention when Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton were running against one another:
One was when someone asked if he had any interest in helping broker the convention, which was being proposed by some at the time. He had absolutely none, and had no interest in running again in case the party couldn’t decide on a candidate. So, from that point on when I’d hear expert TV analysts wondering if Al Gore might be a dark horse candidate, it felt really good knowing more than them and shouting at the TV, “No! He isn’t going to run! I know. He told me.”
The other was when an aide that there was an important call for him. He apologized to the group, took the phone and walked off – when we heard, “Hi, Barack.” They spoke for a long time – we even started lunch without him and could see him walking back-and-forth in his front yard. Eventually, he rejoined us, and nothing was said for about a half-minute until finally someone said, “Soooooo???!!!!!” He said it wasn’t a big deal, just some questions about campaigning, and he said that he made himself available to both sides, that he talked with Hilary as much as Barack. But the best part came many months later. That’s when one of the big papers broke a major scoop that the now-nominee Barack Obama had spoken with Al Gore before the convention. It was very nice to have had that scoop first, months before, when it happened.
The recording session went well. He’d previously told me a range of issues that interested him, I would then put together a list I’d researched, he approved the ones he liked, I’d research them further to fill in the details, we talked about them, then I wrote the scripts. At the recording session, he went over the script, making the changes he felt it needed and rephrasing the material to fit him. He recorded six of the scripts, though rejected one – not because he didn’t like it but he said he didn’t know that area well enough yet, and didn’t want to put his name to something he wasn’t fully informed on. I was sitting in the back, next to his communications director, a very nice lady named Kaylee Kreider – she could see I was still disappointed at having the script dropped, so she leaned over to him. “Don’t feel bad,” she said. “The last person we tried, he rejected al the scripts. He’s approved six of yours.”
There was only one bad memory from the trip. At the time we were in Nashville, there was a big country music convention or event of some sort. (I’d taken an afternoon off to walk around the city and went to Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ol’ Opry.) That night, our group went to a big bar where it turned out Trisha Yearwood was brought in to perform. After a while, the others decided to leave and go somewhere else for dinner – though I wanted to stay. My point was that I wondered if it was possible that her new husband Garth Brooks might join Yearwood later. But I was overruled on such a thin theory, and we left. The next morning, I found out that, yes, Garth Brooks did show up later. I still sigh about it periodically…
In the end, it was a great experience, but came to nothing. They actually got 200 radio stations to sign up and raised what struck me as a lot of money. But at that point, most anything would strike me as a lot of money. And as much as it was, it wasn’t enough for what Westwood One and Al Gore needed for the time and expenses it would take to pull off such a project in an ongoing basis. So…This Nearly Was Mine, as the song goes. But it was a wonderful project to do. even if didn’t come to fruition. And Al Gore was a good enough guy – behind the scenes, away from cameras – and warm and funny, to make me admire him even more than I had when I wrote the article on why he should be president.
Though the radio series never made it on the air, I do have the 5-minute promotional track that was put together, which includes three of the scripts I wrote that Al recorded. I didn’t write the promo, but my material starts around the one-minute mark.
Which bring us back to the original point – that every television network should have Al Gore on as a Nobel Prize-winning expert guest on Climate Change. That his film won an Oscar and he’s a former Vice-President of the United States – who ran for president and actually got the most votes, but it took a strange “one-time only” Supreme Court decision that offered no precedent to keep him from taking office – is just a bonus.
Yesterday, I posted a video of the song, “Give a Little Whistle, from the Disney movie, Pinocchio. In the film, the song is sung by Jiminy Cricket – but in real life, the voice of Jiminy was Cliff Edwards. He was a very popular radio performer in the late-1920s and 1930s who was known as Ukulele Ike.
While tracking that down, I came across a wonderful video of Cliff Edwards himself in person singing an enthusiastic version of “Give a Little Whistle,” and with some nice bonuses on top of it. For starters, this comes from an appearance he made on The Mickey Mouse Club in the late 1950s, so he’s accompanied by the Mouseketeers dancing along during the musical breakers.
But even more fun is that the fellow on his right (your left, looking at the video) seemed familiar to me – and then I finally realized that it’s Clarence Nash. And who is Clarence Nash, I hear many of you ask? He was the voice of Donald Duck! And then later in the song, if there was any doubt of my sense of observation, it’s wiped away as he joins in the singing, as well, as Donald.
(I had reason to meet Clarence Nash in the late 1970s. I told the story here, but the short version was that I was working at Will Rogers State Park at the time, and he showed up with his daughter for a tour of the grounds. There’s more to the story, and it’s a lot of fun, so I think it’s worth checking out, but what was so clear was much pleasure he got doing the Donald Voice for others and seeing them burst with joy, whether adults or little kids.)
But that’s not all. Because on Cliff Edward’s other side, the fellow with the guitar is José Oliveira – who was the voice of another fun Disney character, the Brazilian parrot José Carioca, who was introduced in a 1942 cartoon as the friend of Donald Duck, and more famously starred in The Three Caballeros.
I hope that Terry McAuliffe wins in Virginia.
But I hated the fund-raising email I just got from his campaign telling ME in its Subject line -- "Don't blow this deadline."
With all due respect, it's his deadline, not mine. And if it's "blown," it's on HIM, not me.
And yes, of course I know that it's auto-email. And I know how and why these things are phrased. (Hey, I worked in PR for too many years before escaping.) But there's still a good way and a bad way of doing it -- and this was bad auto-email. Especially when sent to all those who likely have already donated...and may have donated since the last email asking for money. Who are being told they are blowing it.
It's one thing to always, ALWAYS claim The Sky Is Falling, we need your money. That's standard, not the best way to raise money I think -- to me, it shows unending weakness -- but I absolutely get it. It's creating urgency. And I get, too, saying that you're "humbly asking," when there's nothing humble about it at all since it's an anonymous bulk email that the candidate probably didn't even write. But it's another blame the person you want money from (and more money from) that they're causing the sky to fall. All because you aren't doing a good enough job as the candidate.
And today, we open the door again to the International Society for the Study of Apologies, which I co-founded with my friend Nell Minow.
The other night, in a baseball game between the California Angels and Detroit Tiger, an announcer for Detroit, Jack Morris -- one of the Tigers’ all-time great pitchers – made a comment about how he’d pitch to the Angels’ star Shohei Ohtani (who leads the American league in home runs) and in doing so used a caricature Japanese voice. Later in the broadcast, Morris issued his apology
“It’s been brought to my attention, and I sincerely apologize if I offended anybody, especially anybody in the Asian community, for what I said about pitching and being careful to Shohei Ohtani,” Morris said. “I did not intend for any offensive thing, and I apologize if I did. I certainly respect and have the utmost respect for this guy.”
I have no doubt that Morris did not intend to be offensive. And I have no doubt he’s apologetic and that it’s sincere. However, I also have no doubt that that’s a pretty weak apology. For starters, when your apology begins by noting that you were so unaware you’d done anything wrong by using a Charlie Chan-style accent that it had to be brought to your attention, that’s not the best foundation. True, many (if not most) apologies do require a “By the way…” heads-up nudge, but ideally one figures it out oneself. Especially when using a cartoonish accent out of the 1930s.
More to the point is any apology that not only says, “If I offended anyone…”, but says it twice, has fumbled the ball with the depth of his apology. The apology is there, but it’s largely floating on the surface and merely seeped underneath the ground soil so little that only a cactus could grow there. There’s no “if.” When you haven’t offended anyone, there’s no need to apologize – that should be pretty basic and obvious. You are apologizing because you did offend people. Yes, Jack Morris was sincere. I believe he meant it. It’s just that his sincerity was sort of like a carton of milk that thoughtfully includes an "Expired on..." date. And for that, by Institute Standards, I give him the grade of a C. (Ms. Minow's mileage may differ. Or not.) I danced around giving it a C-, but his transgression seems more thoughtlessly idiotic out of ignorance than anything.
A more proper apology would have been along the lines of, "Earlier, I was trying to be entertaining in explaining how difficult it would be to pitch to the Angels' great star Shohei Ohtani, and used what I thought was a funny voice. I don't know what I was thinking. It was stupid. And I sincerely apologize for what I'm sure was offensive to others, most especially in the Asian community, since I know it was offensive to even me. I have the utmost respect for Shohei Ohtani, who is doing something remarkable on the field this year unprecedented since Babe Ruth. But even if he weren't, whoever he was, it was wrong, stupid, and again I am so sorry and apologize. I will make sure it doesn't happen again."
That aside, the network, Bally Sports Detroit announced that Morris would be indefinitely suspended and undergo bias training. “We have a zero-tolerance policy for bias or discrimination, the network’s statement said, “and deeply apologize for his insensitive remark.”
The Detroit ballclub itself issued a statement, saying that they were “deeply disappointed by the comments made by Jack Morris during the broadcast last night. We fully support Bally Sports Detroit’s decision and their ongoing commitment to ensure that all personnel are held to the highest standards of personal conduct.”
If I have any pleasure from the incident it’s that it gives me the opportunity to bring up a wonderful article about apologies written for his weekly column by my high school and college friend, Rabbi Jack Moline who is president of the Interfaith Alliance, based in Washington, D.C. In addition, he is on the board of directors of Elisberg Industries and serves here as Vice-President of Telecommunications, a fact that he actually references in the article.
In fact, Jack also talks about the International Society for the Study of Apologies – as well as another of his (indeed, our) childhood friends, the eminent and oft-mentioned here Nell Minow. So, in addition to being a very good, enjoyable look at the concept of apologies from a real-life scholar who has devoted much of his adult life to dealing with the idea of forgiveness, it’s a lovely look at two of his high school pals.
If I have any quibbles about the piece, it’s that he gets the reason wrong for why he is the VP of Telecommunications for Elisberg Industries – though his reason is a funny, short one more appropriate for a thoughtful article on apologies. But for the record, as his brief bio says in the “Our Corporate Board” section above, under the “About Elisberg Industries” tab, the reason Jack is on our Board of Directors is – “Honestly, we mainly like having an officer with Washington connections. As well as a pipeline to God. Hey, you never know on either account, and it's good to cover your bases.”
Anyway, if you want to read with an actual rabbi and real-life president of the Interfaith Alliance – and life-long friend, wonderful writer, and funny, thoughtful guy – has to say about the general subject at hand, you can read it here. And I hope you do. It’s not very long – in fact, he spends more time talking about Nell and me. So, you should have a pretty good time not realizing you’re improving yourself.
Yesterday, major league baseball played an official game at the Dyersville, Iowa, location where the 1989 movie Field of Dreams was made. It wasn’t on the same field, but a new one connected to it (with a conjoining corn field) that was constructed to major league dimensions, and with seating for 6,000.
Before the game, they have a lovely ceremony that featured Kevin Costner, who also went to the announcing booth later to talk about the movie with the sportscasters. Very thoughtfully, he said that he gets too much credit for the movie and started praising all those who made the film what it was, started with Phil Alden Robinson, who wrote the screenplay (based on W.P. Kinsella’s wonderful novel Shoeless Joe) and directed the movie. I’ll post the video of the pregame show below.
And there's a remarkable bonus P.S. after that which will boggle you. Honest. If you don't want to read any of this or watch the video, at least jump to that.
But first, a few comments about the documentary that Fox Sports made about constructing this field of dreams and the background on the making of the movie itself. Called If You Build It: 30 Years of “Field of Dreams,” it’s been repeated several times on the FoxSports1 channel since it premiered over the week, and is next scheduled tonight at 10 PM on the channel (which is 400 in my West L.A. Spectrum guide). The documentary is really well done, though I had a rough time watching it for a very personal reason – I came inches from being hired to do the unit publicity on the movie, but in the end wasn’t hired.
I had read several novels by W.P. Kinsella, including Shoeless Joe, and when I read that they were making a movie of it, I was so anxious to work on it. Over a year in advance I tracked down who the executive producer was, a fellow named Brian Frankish, and wrote him. It was much too early to even think of hiring the publicist who’s usually one of the last crew members hired. But we stayed in touch, and six months later (still way early) he had me come in to his office at Universal Pictures to talk. It went so well, and set up another meeting to talk with Phil Robinson. Still far, far in advance of the movie production, but he wanted us to meet.
That meeting with Phil went very well. (We later became friendly through the Writers Guild, and when I reminded him that I was that guy who interviewed with him SO early to do the P.R. on Field of Dreams, he actually remembered it.) Since the movie’s story centers around Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Chicago White Sox (nicknamed the “Black Sox” for throwing the World Series), I brought along my Nelson Fox autographed-model baseball glove and my Luis Aparicio autographed “To Bobby, best wishes") baseball – both the former double-play combination for the White Sox and now in the Hall of Fame. We talked a very long time and a range of subjects, including Kinsella’s other novels. (We disagreed about The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, a novel about the most monumentally epic game ever played, where quite literally the heavens opened.) And when I left, it was pretty clear that I had a big leg up on being hired. But it was still much too early. Nothing was settled.
And then months later, Brian Frankish called me to say he’d been replaced as producer. He was being kept on the film as executive producer, but since it was the producer who hires the unit publicist, the job was no longer certain because the new producers had their favorite publicist, and the job was down to that person and me. It wasn’t hard to guess what would happen. And that’s what happened, and I didn’t get the job.
I never much liked unit publicity, but I really anxiously wanted that job. But I was still so glad that the movie was being made, because I loved the novel. It’s always a bit bittersweet watching the movie, but since it’s so wonderful that transcends all, and it’s a total joy.
Watching the “making of” documentary was a bit tougher for the “This nearly was mine” aspect. However, 30 years have passed, and it's a fond memory just to have crossed paths with it all. (As for "memory," Phil Robison corrected me on some of my recollections that I wrote about in the first draft of this that I posted. Since he was right there in the center of it all, I defer to his recollections on everything here and have made some edits.)
One story that I do remember different from what was told in the documentary is one I'm absolutely sure of -- because I got it years ago...from Phil Robinson. The way the producer told the story about the title of the film changing from Shoeless Joe and becoming Field of Dreams made it seem like he was the one more involved and who gave the news to novelist Kinsella about the change. But while very close to the way Phil tells it, his is a bit different and with much more detail, indeed details that make it clear his version and involvement are the true one. As Phil relates the story, Universal insisted that they wouldn’t release the movie as Shoeless Joe because tests showed that people thought the movie was about a homeless guy. Instead, they gave the filmmakers a long list of other titles to choose from. (The producer said that the studio just gave them the title, here, it's Field of Dreams.) Phil said that the long list of possible titles was really terrible, including one that pretty much gave away the ending. There was only one title that was passable, Field of Dreams, and it one was the filmmakers picked. However, the only thing Phil insisted – because he had built up such a good relationship with W.P. Kinsella by then, adapting his novel – was that he be the one to break the news to him. (Not the producer doing so, as he said.) For all these reasons, though the two are close, that’s why I believe that Phil’s version is the correct one. He had the long relationship with the author. Anyway, he called Kinsella and told him that unfortunately the studio was making them change the title of the movie, and it wouldn't be called Shoeless Joe, like his book. But Kinsella wasn’t bothered, “That’s okay,” he said, “I never liked that title anyway. The publisher insisted on it.” Relieved, Phil asked him what his own title for the novel was. Kinsella answered, “Dream Field.”
Brian Frankish also told me a funnier version of the story about the corn that they described in the documentary. They tell the tale well, but don’t have the punch line. There had been a massive drought in Iowa that summer, and corn wasn’t growing anywhere. And without high corn, there was no movie. Production was nearing and the filmmakers didn’t know what to do. Finally, they got the advice about trucking in thousands of gallons of water, and the corn grew – really high. The addendum to this is that someone on the film said to a local farmer how it was a shame they weren’t able to get their corn to grow that summer like they had at the film location. “Hey,” the guy said, “you spent hundreds of thousands of dollars piping in all that water because you’re Hollywood and could do that! We couldn’t. We’re farmers.”
Anyway, the documentary is done very well. My personal hesitancies and hiccups aside, it’s really worth watching, if you can track it down On Demand or on a FoxSports1 repeat.
As for that pregame ceremony with Kevin Costner, here’s the video. It’s about nine minutes long, and admittedly a little corny, but I found it very well done, appropriate to the film, and actually a bit moving at a few points. And if you loved the movie, you likely will think so, too. In the announcer’s booth later during the game, Costner talked about how he didn’t know how the program ceremony would go, but when he heard “that great music” playing, he said he just let it take over and was surprised that it was all as moving as it was.
And this is the great P.S. that I mentioned at the beginning. And it wasn't referenced on the broadcast, because I suspect they didn't know at the time. It was probably only discovered by statisticians later.
The game -- played to honor the movie Field of Dreams, based on the novel Shoeless Joe -- was won in the bottom of the ninth inning when Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox, down 8-7 after giving up four runs in the top of the inning, hit a two run home run -- into the corn field! -- to win the game. And the scoreboard exploded with fireworks. The first "exploding scoreboard" in the major leagues having been built by Bill Veeck when he owned the Chicago White Sox. But believe it or not, that's not the point.
This is the point --
Throughout both teams' history playing against each other over a few thousand games, the Chicago White Sox have beaten the New York Yankees with a last-inning, game-winning home run 15 times.
The first time it was done, the game-winning home run was hit by...Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Continuing our policy of attempting to wean ourselves away from writing at great length about political hell every single day, I thought I’d jump in with a customer service tale.
I’ve ordered the Solimo hand sanitizer twice now, which is Amazon’s house brand. The issue at hand (okay, yes, pun intended) is not with the quality of the product – which has a very good rating and is also extremely well-priced. Rather, in both instances the expiration date was only 4-5 months away. On all websites I’ve checked, including the CDC’s, hand sanitizer should be stable for 2-3 years. So, 4-5 months is considered less.
Also, the order is for six 10-ounce bottles. I wasn’t sure if I’d use up all that in three years. So, there is no way on earth I can use that much hand sanitizer in four months -- unless I start drinking it as aperitif before dinning. And even then, I might have to start chugging it as the expiration date nears.
To be clear, Amazon has been very good about dealing with this. They give no argument and have said each time on their own that they’ll refund the money and I can keep the product. So, in essence I’m getting it for free for four months, twice. And that’s lovely, but I’d rather order it once and have it good for three years and not have to go through all the phone calls and re-ordering (arguably ever again, God willing), especially since the price is so reasonable. If I had a three year supply, it would work out to just $5 a year.
I’m not writing about that so much, though, as I am about the conversations I have with the Amazon folks. And again, as I said, even the conversations have all be very personable and responsive, and pleasant to deal with. It’s just that they always say the same, one particular thing, and it takes all my effort to be as polite in return as possible not to explain how utterly, monumentally wrong – and potentially dangerous – their cheery, well-meaning comments are.
Take this recent instance. The first call I made was to Amazon Customer Service to deal with the order. The second call was to the Amazon Brands office because I wanted to know what was going on with the expiration date – was there an old backlog, or bad timing luck on my part, or was this simply the standard with Solimo – when it came time in four months to order new hand sanitizer.
And what they always say is, “Oh, I use this product myself and use it past the expiration date, and it’s just fine. It doesn’t go bad.”
I always then take a breath and give the polite response. “Thanks, yes, I do know it doesn’t just go bad when it passes the expiration, but that it starts to degrade and over time loses more and more of its potency. And honestly, when it comes to a worldwide pandemic, I’m just not willing to take a risk with a less-potent degraded product past its expiration.
They always answer, “That’s very true. And yes, I completely understand. That makes sense.”
What I want to say is – “Wait, don’t tell me it’s perfectly fine past its expiration! You have no idea if it’s perfectly fine. I mean, seriously. Do you have a lab at home? Do you test it? Are you a scientist or send it in to a research center? How on earth do you even possibly know that it’s just absolutely fine after the expiration date???! Especially since all science says it starts to degrade when expired. And how long do you believe that it’s just fine? A year?? Two months? A week? And how would you know?! As kind and thoughtful as you’re trying to be, that is truly awful, and potentially dangerous advice.”
But I don’t say that. I just take a breath and push the subject elsewhere. Today, though, I have to admit that I did finally get a little fed up hearing that well-intended but deeply wrong-headed comment yet again and (because I didn’t want anyone giving that “advice” to other customers who might believe her as an Authority Figure with Amazon Brands) finally said a much-more polite version, along the lines of “Okay, thanks, yes, though in fairness I don’t have a way of testing how effective it still is, and you probably don’t, so I just don’t want to take a risk during a pandemic.”
She understood and said, “That’s very true. And yes, I completely understand.”
In four months, when December comes around and it’s time to renew the soon-to-be-expired batch, I’ll figure out if I want to go through this again or just trying another brand. I’ve already done the research and have my list.
And look forward to not having to order hand sanitizer again, period.
There's so much Republican meltdown fascist insanity the last few days (and yes, for far longer), that every once in a while you just have to clear out the much. So, this morning we have a bit of enjoyable fluff.
Dick’s Sporting Goods has been running an ad that uses part of the song “There She Is, Miss America.” I take note of this for an odd, personal reason.
The song is written by Bernie Wayne, who also wrote the song “Blue Velvet.” A few decades back, I was at a friend’s how for a holiday dinner, and one of the guests was -- Bernie Wayne. Also there was Grace Kahn, the widow of Gus Kahn who wrote just legendary songs as “Makin’ Whoopee,” “It Had to Be You,” “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” and much more. (She and her husband also wrote songs together, and a movie, “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” was made about their lives.)
The evening was made all the more memorable, though, after dinner when Bernie Wayne got behind a piano and performed, “There She Is, Miss America.” And Grace Kahn, in her late 80s, sang perhaps the most sly version of “Makin’ Whoopee” I’ve ever heard, the first time it was made clear to me how wryly sensual the song is supposed to be.
Back to the TV ad, the person singing “There She Is, Miss America” was not Bert Parks, who is so iconic to the number from his decades singing it on the pageant. I was trying to place it, and then realized it sounded like Johnny Desmond. I don’t know his work well, but he was in a Broadway musical, Say Darling,” and I seemed to recognize the voice from that.
When I looked up the song, it turns out that Johnny Desmond actually introduced the song in 1954 on a TV show, “The Miss America Story.” So, obviously, that was Desmond. Bert Parks then hosted actual Miss America pageant the next year and became synonymous with the song, singing it from 1955-1979.
The song’s story gets convoluted at this point. Simplifying it as best I can, Bert Parks was getting on too much in years for the pageant, so they let him go. And they also had a new song written – though that appears to because of a rights issue. Actor Gary Collins took over hosting and the new song was performed. But it didn’t go well – there were huge protests, many for firing Bert Parks, but probably more for not using The Song.
Eventually they did bring back Bernie Wayne’s song, it was just too ingrained in the public’s consciousness. Though Bert Parks wasn’t getting younger with each passing year, so there was no chance that he’d be re-hired to host the show. Yet even there, he did returned, call in for several years just to sing The Song. And in fact, even beyond that, and beyond even when Bert Parks passed away in 1992, the Miss America pageant using a recording of Bert Parks singing “There She Is, Miss America” until 2012!
(By the way, as much as most people likely presume that this is all that Bert Parks did, he actually starred as Prof. Harold Hill on Broadway as one of the replacements for Robert Preston in The Music Man. And from all reports I’ve read about it, he was wonderful.)
I thought that with The Song being played in part on this national ad, but without the man singing who’s most identified with it (although with the singer who introduced it), I thought it only right and proper to offer a video of Bert Parks singing “There She Is, Miss America" -- and also, the full version.
Yes, this is from another time and sensibility. But this particular video is nonetheless a standout, I think. It was from the pageant in 1990 and made special because they invited back all the Miss America winners up to that point.
(Side note: In one of Life's Great Wonderments, there have actually been two Miss Americas who were, at the time, students at the beloved Northwestern University. Jacquelyn Mayer in 1963 and Kate Shindle in 1998.)
And I think that even this deserves a coda.
In that same 1990, the movie The Freshman with Matthew Broderick, Marlon Brando and Penelope Ann Miller was released. And late in the film, there’s a scene at a highly-secret and illegal exotic animal dinner, where the main course is an endangered species, this particular year a Komodo Dragon. (It’s all part of a scam, and no, the Komodo Dragon was cooked…) And as they bring in the animal to show it off before the crowd of very wealthy patrons, it’s introduced with a song – Bert Parks, performing a slightly altered version of The Song.
It turns out that 1990 was a good year for the guy.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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