It was NOT "locker room talk."
It WAS NOT "locker room talk."
IT WAS NOT "locker room talk."
IT WAS NOT "LOCKER ROOM TALK."
It was at the workplace.
Now that Trump has bizarrely tweeted and made his past actions and statements and videotapes a topic once again, let's be clear --
It was NOT "locker room talk."
It WAS NOT "locker room talk."
IT WAS NOT "locker room talk."
IT WAS NOT "LOCKER ROOM TALK."
It was at the workplace.
Al Franken was wrong, his actions 10 years ago on a USO tour during a comedy sketch and bad-joke photo afterwards were bad, and he deserved the harsh criticism he got. And Al Franken himself agrees. Franken not only wrote a long, eloquent statement of apology, taking himself to task, but he also did something unheard of, calling for his own ethics investigation -- even though he was a comedian at the time and not yet in the Senate.
There have been suggestions that a lot of this was a set-up. That the woman making the charge had been a commentator on "Fox News." And that it's suspicious that Trump operative Roger Stone was tweeting about this before the story broke. But that's all separate. Whatever brought about the story, the actions actually did take place. And Franken was wrong, and he says so, too.
Where I veer off is the false equivalency that so many Republicans on the far right are trying to draw with Roy Moore and other sexual abuse charges in the news.
Criticize Franken all you want for awful judgement and bad actions. But criticize him for that, not what he didn't do.
Among the things he didn't do was molest eight children, or have 16 women accuse him of sexual abuse as they did at Trump, or brag about being able to grab any women "by the p*ssy" he wants, or have 30 years of egregious sexual predator abuse charges at him, or unzip his pants and...er, refresh himself in front of women, or try to date a 14-year-child when an adult D.A., or get banned from a mall, or call a teenage girl at school during "trig class," or have to pay $42 million in hush money to sweep charges of sex abuse under the rug, or be such a serial sex predator that he had to get fired from running an entire television network. Nor did he go around blaming the women accusers, shaming them as liars out to make money, nor surround himself with pastors, or hide behind Bible quotes, or send out his lawyer to hide behind and suggest mental problems
And one thing Democrats in the Senate didn't do was run away from reporters or say we shouldn't rush to judgement until all the fact are in or question the motivation of the woman bringing the charge or say the people should decide or avoid discussing it. They reamed Franken, one of their own, making clear that such actions are unacceptable.
Franken was wrong. He went too far while rehearsing a comedy sketch, and thought a sex joke about grabbing body parts protected by armor would be funny, when it was not. And he not only apologized movingly, and in detail, explaining not only that he was wrong, but why he was wrong...but also the woman accepted his apology.
Her acceptance of his apology does not excuse his actions. What it does is put them in perspective, showing the limit the woman herself puts on them. We have seen no apologies from most, if any of the sexual abusers on the recent stage, and certainly no acceptances of apology. Except here, with Al Franken.
Shockingly, Trump decided to chime in, for some maniacal reason known only to his inner demons and his eternal need to project his own actions, leaving two bizarre tweets about the story. He wondered, oddly, about all the non-existent other photos of the event -- ignoring that it was the woman herself who released this one, single photo, and if there were others, she would no doubt have plastered them everywhere. He weirdly wondered what Franken's hands were doing in these non-existent pictures. He brought up some audio tape with Franken in the Saturday Night Live writers room pitching a bad sex joke.
You could only stare at the screen and think, "Seriously, guy??? This is where YOU want to go?? You, of all people?!! And you want to bring up an audio tape???? Really?!!" How on earth can Trump not realize that bringing up audio tapes would make pretty much everyone with even a leaky memory immediately think of his own infamous Hollywood Access tape admitting to his own proud sexual abuse, how he could "grab the p*ssy" of any woman he wanted and they'd let you, because you're a star?? And his bringing up tapes only reminds the world of all the behind-the-scenes tapes of The Apprentice, which crew members and the show's participants have said would be filled with Trump at his racist, sexist worst, which is saying a lot -- though unreleased because the producer, a friend of Trump, owns them and thus far is protecting them.
You want to say, "You really, truly, honestly want to go there, guy? With sixteen women accusing you you of being a sexual predator? You want to shine a big klieg light on you, pour all that attention on you, with all that hanging on your body?" It's like a cry begging to be locked up.
And beyond all that, Trump attempting to take on Al Franken alone only reminds the public of his total silence in public and in these tweets on Roy Moore. Nothing. Eight accusations of child molestation, and he's SILENT? That makes it seem he thinks pedophilia is okay. Worse, his silence on Roy Moore, while snarking at Franken, makes it seem like he's scared of what referring to Moore opens up about himself. "Let the voters decide," the one thing his press spokesman said on the subject, not even Trump himself, just doesn't cut it. Well, even without Trump's encouragement of that, the voters will decide, that happens automatically in every election. But what does Trump think?!!! His total silence, while spewing loudly about Al Franken, speaks volumes.
And his wondering about where Franken's hands might be going in all the other non-existent photos only foolishly serves to lay breadcrumbs back to Trump's door. That's how projection works.
All Franken was wrong. He said so himself and called for an ethics committee to look into his past. His action 10 years ago attempting to do comedy was bad. His action today taking responsibility for himself was good.
And anyone who wants to criticize him -- should. So long as they aren't craven hypocrites and don't ignore criticizing others for their actions, indeed not only criticize others but do so at a level that child molestation -- and the kind of serial sexual predator abuse that we all understand can bring about serious prison time -- demand.
The guest contestant on the "Mystery Guest" segment of NPR's quiz show Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! is director Lee Unkrich, who directed the upcoming Pixar animated film, Coco, as well as Toy Story 3. (Previous to that, he had co-directed Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc, and Finding Nemo.) As you might imagine, it's a charming interview with host Peter Sagal, and fun, as well, particular when he gets around to discussing some of the jokes he hid in Toy Story 3 that are homages to his favorite movie, of all things, The Shining.
So, do you remember the piece I ran a short while back here about when Charles Kuralt went On the Road to visit a man who was expert at building domino designs? In fact, it was the very first of the Kuralt videos that I posted on this site. Well, a few years ago, Steve Hartman decided to re-visit some of those people for the CBS Evening News -- and one of those was The Domino Man. It's a lovely and even somewhat unexpected follow-up.
What actress Ellen Page wrote today is remarkable. Not just for what she said, but the pure craft of how she said it. It's not just on those who are sexually abused, but people who are minimalized. It's moving, thoughtful, angry, compassionate, pointed and wise.
Thanks to the ubiquitous Chris Dunn for pointing me to this. I'd seen the headlines about her and director Brett Ratner, figured that was the story, gnashed my teeth and moved on. But what she wrote is far more than that, which in many ways is only the jumping off point. So, thanks to him for the link and having me read it.
If you have a Facebook account, you can get it here. If you don’t have an account, you may still be able to access it.
There are a lot of articles that quote from it at length, but they paraphrase parts and leave out some of her most thoughtful societal insights. So, hopefully you can read the full thing above.
I've written often about my fave Chicago Cub Anthony Rizzo, with various tales about what a terrific person he is. And I know that can seem hyperbolic, but I really tries nots to steers ya wrong. So, a couple weeks ago I posted the story of him winning Major League Baseball's Roberto Clemente Award for humanitarian services. (You can read all about why here. The short version is his work with children's cancer programs for families.)
And because there just still might be some people reading these pages who insist on all that being reinforced, I say fine. And so I'll mention that tonight he was voted by the major league players themselves to be the Marvin Miller Man of the Year in baseball.
The award is named after the influential former head of the Baseball Players Union and is given to the player who "most inspires through his contributions on the field and in the community."
I tries nots to steers you wrong. When I say that Anthony Rizzo is a terrific guy -- I simply tries nots...well, you know.
As long-time readers of these pages likely know, I'm a big fan of Ella Fitzgerald. In fact, one of the Entertainment Word treats of my life is that I not only got to see her live in concert, but even went backstage afterwards and met her.
It was a long time ago, when I was on an American Youth Hostel bicycle trip to Europe and just a kidling. We were in Copenhagen at one point, and one day I was wandering through the wonderful Tivoli Gardens, a sort of amusement park, entertainment center, and nature area -- and I saw signs that Ella Fitzgerald would be performing there that very night! I couldn't believe the good luck and wanted to find out who else from our group of about a dozen people wanted to go with me. The total of others was...zero. Idiots. But that didn't stop me from going alone. And it was joyous. In fact, all the better, it was an intimate room of only maybe 200-300 at most. She was tremendous, low-key, almost shy it seemed (perhaps it being in a foreign country). I recall her occasionally says, "Mange tak" (manya-tahk) -- many thanks, in Danish, after the numbers. And then afterwards, as I said, I went backstage and briefly chatted. And as before, she was low-key and gracious. And I had her sign my little "travel diary" that I was keeping for the trip. And I still have it! (As you can see, I was a cleanly kid, getting up at 7:30 in the morning and taking a shower. My diary was pretty boring. I kept it sort of as if I was learning to be a train conductor, filled with details of times I did things.)
So, here's my Ella Proof.
So, there, you skeptics!
Anyway, with all that as the backdrop, here is the footage from 1979 when Ella Fitzgerald received the Kennedy Center Honor.
The guest contestant on this week's "Not My Job" segment of NPR's Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! is astronaut Scott Kelly. I just got in and haven't had time to listen yet, so I have no idea how it is and you're on your own -- as am I. What I do know is that he's made four spaceflight missions, and his twin brother, Mark Kelly, is also an astronaut and married to former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. As for the rest, it's up to host Peter Sagal...
A recent article in the Hollywood Reporter came to my attention from my friend Wynne McLaughlin. It's a first-person piece by long-time screenwriter and now professional psychotherapist Ilana Bar-Din about her experience dealing with sexual harassment while she had been at the AFI Institute. You can read it here.
I haven't crossed paths with Ilana for several years -- our lives and circles just went on different roads as happens. But there was a time when our friendship brought us together and dealt with one another occasionally: I've been to her house a few times, know her husband Peter (a respected defense attorney of death row cases), even worked with her on some small projects. And drove cross-town on night to fix her computer. And she made delicious brownies in appreciation. We also were among the 12 co-founders and partners of the PAGE BBS online service (basically a precursor to today's chat rooms). And I believe every single word she says in the article.
Ilana is a smart, tough, hard-working, good person -- and she has had a good career as a screenwriter and now psychotherapist, has a good family and good life with absolutely zero need for public attention of this. My sense is that anyone who knows Ilana knows that this is what happened. If it was "her word" against the AFI mentor/director's at the time, so be it, that just makes it a losing battle for him. If he says he doesn't "remember" her after 37 years , then that's probably because either a) he's lying, b) did this to so many women they all blend together in his mind at this point, or c) his memory is shot. Knowing Ilana, I have no reason to doubt her, at all. And AFI head Jean Firstenberg's part in this is shameful, both past and present to this day. That even her later explanation is that she had to "back her people" only serves to exacerbate her response, since one wonders not only why "her people" didn't include those students under her change, especially since they likely needed protection the most, but also why backing the strongest, safest, most nurturing organization possible didn't hold precedence over protecting predators.
When Ilana and I worked together, we didn't always agree. Who does? But she was always forthright, and we usually did agree. She always told you what she thought directly to your face. Answered your questions without obfuscation. A no-nonsense person. And as strong-willed and determined as she was, she was also a conciliator. There was a time when the PAGE BBS owners had a blow-up that in part lead to its ending. I was one of those having a big conflict with another owner, and Ilana -- to her credit -- called me to try at length to broker some sort of peace. I thought that her perspective was actually too balanced and even-handed (yes, such things are possible!), but I greatly admired her effort to mediate a resolution. Her goal was to be nurturing, whatever the differences. She wanted to bring everyone together. From the path of her life, that is who she is.
Ilana was able to fight past at least many of the hurdles AFI had presented and developed a solid screenwriting career. One happy personal memory of this was the time she had been hired to work on a script, but a section dealt with baseball and she was completely bewildered how to resolve the problem. Her husband didn't know either, it was just too meticulous in getting around an obscure reality of the sport. So -- she gave me a call. Alas, it was at dinnertime, but even though I was heading out to meet others, I delayed things because being presented with the opportunity to pontificate about the minutiae baseball was not something I would let get in the way of schedules, social niceties or food. And in reasonably short order we resolved the plot point. When I think of this tale, and others about her successful writing career, it just gives further lie to AFI's bully-handling of things, as the article relates, saying that her work of not "of quality" to such a degree that they dismissed her from the school. To cover up their own disgrace. It took 37 years, but finally got the sunshine it deserved.
It was heart-breaking reading her article. And if the story bothers me this much despite it happens so many decades ago, it is unfathomable how it impacted her. And what speaks volumes, despite being such a brief mention in the article, is the reality that Ilana says if her life and interests hadn't grown to where she was currently in a new and successful profession but instead was still working in the film industry, she would likely have never written the article, out of fear for her career. And this would remain buried, like I'm sure volumes of others. I'm so sorry she went through that AFI experience, and I'm glad (and not surprised) that she came out of as wonderfully strong as she did. But then the first act was impressive, as well, getting her there. Of course I believe her. But then I'm biased -- I actually know her.
I'll add too that it speaks volumes about who Ilana is as a person that years later she went back to school and became a psychotherapist. And anyone she works with in that position is lucky and I am certain the better for it.
There's a classic comedy sketch by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore about a one-legged man auditioning for the move role of Tarzan.
Paralympic athlete Josh Sundquist takes that humor and does his best to one-ups it. Sundquist lost one of his legs to cancer as a child. He competed on the United States Paralympic Ski Team in Turin, Italy in 2006, currently is a member of the U.S. Amputee Soccer Team. And in 2010, he decided he wanted to figure out a way to make his friends laugh on Halloween with his costumes. And has he ever succeeded impressively and hilariously.
Here, for instance, is the character he came up for Halloween this year -- bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.
Okay, you have to admit -- that's pretty darn great.
But then, so are his others. In fact, as good as this one is, my favorite might be what he had for that very first year, in 2010.
This article here tells more about his Halloween efforts and Sundquist himself, and includes several other hilarious photos of Halloweens Past, among them a supremely clever "iHop" pancake restaurant sign.
But this video tells a bit about the good fellow, as well, and not only shows his Tigger in full-bounce action, but also him in Paralympic form skiing.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, and is a regular columnist for the Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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