Category Archives: Pop Culture

Moved By A Movie — Twice

Bernie and Elton

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — I don’t often go to the movies anymore.

Nope, not even the lure of the taste of popcorn mixed with the taste of Raisinets can pry me away from being able to choose from a menu of at-home snack choices and the autonomy of the remote control.

Plus, if a flick provokes me to extreme laughter – or tears (Sofia jokes that “every movie” makes me cry, and she is close) – I am free to be me.

While I do still go to the movies from time to time to see something I just can’t wait on, what I don’t often do is go to the movies twice in one week – let alone see the same film twice in that time span.

Until that “Sopranos” prequel comes out next year, Vegas odds placed it as an extreme longshot.

But anyone who plunked down the money on the 250-1 chance that I would do so beforehand cashed in big recently.

The movie that got me out there twice in less than seven days?

“Rocketman,” the biopic about Elton John.

I wouldn’t say Elton John is at the top of my list of favorite acts. Maybe Top 25 (although there has been a resurgence lately, pushing him into the 18-20 range).

But, once upon a different time in Gordonville, he was it.

No. 1 with a bullet.

Before Bruce Springsteen. Before Bob Seger. Before even The Beatles or The Rolling Stones.

In the early 1970s, my family tree had a lot of those “long-haired freaky people that need not apply” (as described in the song “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band), so I was introduced to rock and roll a little sooner than my friends who were still singing the theme from Batman around the schoolyard.

Once I heard “Bennie And The Jets” on the radio, I wanted in.

My first purchase was Elton John’s first Greatest Hits album, and the first cut was one I had not personally heard before on AM Radio, as it had predated what was being played in 1973-74.

It was “Your Song,” which featured direct lyrics like “my gift is my song and this one’s for you,” and may have been the first song to ever strike a chord in deep my soul.

The next in my collection was a double-album –“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” – meaning twice the fun.

Like many of the others that followed in quick succession, it came complete with a readable lyrics booklet.

I was struck to soon learn that someone besides Elton John had the job of just writing the lyrics that captured an imagination that was ripe for the taking for a kid from a broken home whose best skill was daydreaming.

That lyricist was Bernie Taupin, with whom I always identified ever since (I consider myself a self-renowned lyricist of about a zillion songs myself).

When people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was Bernie Taupin.

Still is.

When I read that Taupin’s role in John’s career was going to be a big part of “Rocketman,” it got me out of my viewing comfort zone (while the other two-thirds of my family were seeing “Aladdin” in an adjacent theater).

When Sofia had a slumber party a few nights later, I returned with the better half for a second viewing that was just as powerful for me – and her — as the first.

As much as I saw my scribe-like self in the way Taupin was portrayed – always at the ready to write out lyrics as moved by the creative spirits that cannot be explained – I also saw a bit of myself in some of John’s character.

This included a hot temper and a doting maternal grandmother, which I had as well.

In the climactic scene, Elton John was faced with a 5-year-old version of himself – little Reggie Dwight (his real name) – and bends down and hugs him, teaching the viewer the lesson that we all need to embrace who we really are to be at peace with ourselves.

For me, seeing “Rocketman” twice in less than a week was a lot like that scene.

It was a chance to go back and embrace a lot of who I was in a different time and place, where his music was a salve in a lot of wounds for a lonely kid who had some of his albums in one house (apartment, actually) and different ones at the other.

His gift was his song back then.

And it was for me.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on June 29, 2019.

Celebrating A Life Well-Lived

Phil4

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — It was just the other morning that I glanced over my shoulder and told my dog Rex I’d walk him once I finished the arduous task of dressing in a suit (tying a tie is rocket science in Gordonville).

When there was no response – at all – I took a closer look to see if it registered with a pooch who comprehends English at a high school level.

Turns out, I wasn’t speaking to Rex.

I was promising to walk a black sweatshirt that I easily mistook for Rex, who is well-known for his inertia (also at a high school level).

The humor was not lost, and my first thought was that my Uncle Phil, a longtime veterinarian who loved a good joke almost as much as he did telling one, would particularly enjoy hearing that I briefly got my lazy black dog confused with a sweatshirt of the same color.

The only issue was that I could not tell Uncle Phil about it.

That morning, I was getting dressed for his funeral.

Uncle Phil had died a few days earlier at the age of 95.

While more reason to celebrate a life well-lived than to mourn, the world was left a lesser place unless we accept the challenge to live life the way Uncle Phil did.

I have learned in 54 years on the planet that people are not perfect, and that we all have to accept their good qualities with the not-so-good.

But, in my uncle’s case, I’m reminded of the old documentary-style television show, “In Search Of,” narrated by Leonard “Mr. Spock” Nimoy.

In this episode, the goal would be to search for Uncle Phil’s missing downside.

He was a rare jack of many trades (square dancing, ping-pong, playing bridge, golfing) who mastered them all with sheer joy and zero cockiness.

Even at his funeral service, I learned new things about a man I had known my whole life.

Example: While I knew he was a virtuoso piano player, I had no idea he plied his classically-trained chops in the famed Catskill Mountains before settling down with my late Aunt Miriam (my father’s sister) and becoming the Dr. Doolittle of South Jersey.

What I remember from my youth was that a family gathering wasn’t officially a party until Uncle Phil arrived, armed with new jokes and stories to tell.

He was always at the piano well in time to play “Happy Birthday” for whichever niece or nephew was being feted.

And there he would stay — save maybe a break to smoke his pipe — playing the role of the character depicted in Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”

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Ironically, Joel also wrote a song called “Only The Good Die Young,” and there is no denying the truth behind the sentiment.

Uncle Phil lost a child — my cousin, Francine — at age 35 to Scleroderma. He kept vigil at her bedside and maintained a brave face for her sake.

It was not the first time he went through the drill.

He never left the side of his older child, Alan, who only narrowly survived a hit-and-run accident while riding a bike while in college.

With Francine, there would be no miracle. Her passing seemed surreal.

I remember entering the same Cherry Hill funeral home where his recent service was held, and being greeted by the overpowering sounds of wailing from Uncle Phil.

He was rightfully inconsolable the day Francine was laid to rest, but he somehow found light in the darkness and eventually reclaimed the same joys in life.

We are talking about someone who attended college – and vet school – at the forerunner of Auburn University in Alabama, a place where a Jewish kid with a thick Brooklyn accent would have trouble today, let alone in those days of black-and-white photos and mind sets.

But, knowing Uncle Phil, whose infectious laughter even oozed Brooklyn, you just know it was likely never an issue.

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In my flood of all positive memories, I go back to the first Thanksgiving we hosted at our new – and current – house in 2003.

We were so proud – and nervous.

I invited an old summer camp friend I hadn’t seen in about 20 years to stop by for a bit. It was Uncle Phil, more than anyone else, who went out of his way to make this old friend feel so welcome that he stayed for hours instead of minutes.

When Aunt Miriam passed away, Uncle Phil fulfilled her prophecy of getting a girlfriend.

He didn’t detach from Aunt Miriam’s side of the family, though. He just brought his companion, Marilyn, to events and carried on as our piano man until his fingers finally betrayed him.

Uncle Phil living to 95 was not by accident. While his kidney functioning got to the point where he needed dialysis three times a week, his spirit was not broken.

He made the most of it, planning out which classic music he was going to play through his iPad during dialysis.

This week’s funeral was more than just a tribute to someone who defied the axiom about only the good dying young.

The good vibrations came easier to Uncle Phil, I believe, because he saw the good in himself.

And there was plenty of it to see.

At the funeral, we were all charged with the task of keeping his memory alive by doing as he would have done.

Be the first to make a stranger feel welcome, conquer your own insecurities enough that you don’t project them onto others, and enjoy the complexities of simple pleasures.

For a sourpuss such as myself, it won’t be easy. But, I’m going to give it a whirl.

I challenge a lot of you, who surely know someone like Uncle Phil within your own personal orbit, to do the same.

The world will be a better place.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on June 2, 2019

Us And Them

Sopranos

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — The Brady Bunch or The Partridge Family?

Sounds innocuous enough, but in the alternate universe of nonsense that is Facebook, it sparked an argument that simulated how World War III might unfold.

And this one was not the work of Russian bots.

It was just another sign of the rapid decline of Western Civilization.

Do I get involved?

Guilty as charged.

For starters, blatant grammar errors – “your” instead of “you’re,” or “there” instead of “their” – will turn me rabid on someone already taking the opposing opinion (The Partridge Family, in this case).

Yeah, I take the bait faster than a trout in a pre-stocked lake on the first day of fishing season.

If faced with some of the following, you would, too:

Star Trek or Star Wars?

How do I say this nicely, without coming right out and saying it? If I’m sharing the same oxygen as anyone who prefers Star Wars, I need Scotty to beam me up ASAP. There is no intelligent life down here. And, if you don’t get that reference, there is little hope. Go stick your lightsaber in a dark place.

Lou’s or Eve’s?

This is the ongoing debate for the best Zep in Norristown, the “home” to the sandwich that can actually be found in many other locales, but under other names.

With all due respect to Lou’s, which I admit to having not graced in years – and, when I did, I got that look from the regulars that Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei got from the locals in “My Cousin Vinny” – I have to go with Eve’s here.

One more plus that Eve’s has going for it is that it is one of the few suburban joints that has an edible cheese steak.

Elmwood Park Zoo or Philadelphia Zoo?

Elmwood Park by a mile.

Main reason? The miles.

There is also another reason. I have never heard a traffic report where it wasn’t nearly impossible to get to the Philadelphia Zoo. I don’t care if they have Bigfoot or Loch Ness Monster in captivity, it’s just not worth it.

Schuylkill Expressway or Route 422?

Neither, as I avoid both like the plague (see above).

Never ever?

Never ever.

Eagles games?

Kelly Drive, or weave through the city.

Limerick outlets or a baseball game in Reading?

Backroads.

Like I said, never ever.

McDonald’s or Wendy’s?

I used to keep McDonald’s in this conversation because of its semi-edible breakfasts, but there seems to be a conspiracy afoot to screw up every drive-thru order.

I’m working on 11 times in a row, and I’m not looking to make it 12.

Once we get past breakfast time, forget about it.

The only place with an edible burger is Wendy’s.

As for other fast food joints, Burger King does not float my bloat. We have to watch some of the others around because they cook their fries in peanut oil, and Sofia is allergic to nuts.

I am going through a bit of a Taco Bell resurgence, but I know I’m setting myself up for a rude awakening.

Chic-Fil-A? Even if the food floated my boat, which it doesn’t, the franchise joins Mel Gibson on boycott list.

The reasons? Look it up. I’m not alone.

Dogs or Cats?

We have a dog (Rex), three cats (Hank, Licorice and Hershey) and a bunny with floppy ears (Buttons). If it has four legs and a tail, they are welcome here.

That said, while cats are cool to have around a house, dogs make a house a home.

Walking or Running?

Because of Rex, I get my walking in that way, and it is fine with me.

Why run when you can walk? Why stand when you can sit down, and why sit down when you can recline?

Game of Thrones or The Sopranos?

Well, let’s put it this way, The Sopranos remains my favorite show of all-time. I still watch it on a continual loop, and it is so nuanced that I still pick up on different twists.

As a show, it set the bar for all to follow – from cable networks to Netflix and other formats – and that was not by accident.

I did watch the first season of Game of Thrones when it originally aired and found it compelling, considering the whole fantasy genre is not my plate of pasta with homemade meatballs.

When Ned Stark was beheaded, it had impact. The only reason I didn’t keep up with the show was because the subsequent season rolled around with both the Flyers and Sixers making 2012 playoff runs and, well, a guy has to have priorities.

With the better half ceding to water-cooler peer pressure at work, we endeavored to go back to the beginning and get caught up, via the binge.

She is still binging, and is somewhere into Season 4 or 5.

I barely made it into a few episodes of Season 3, and this was after finding Season 1 just as compelling as the first time around.

Amazing how the show gained in popularity the sillier, and more violent, it became – almost to the point of becoming a high-budget parody of Season 1.

Actually, it’s not amazing at all. It’s reflective of the sadistic culture in which we live, where we are numb to mad kings and tragic violence.

Give me the bell bottoms and min-skirts of The Brady Bunch any day of the week.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on May 26, 2019.

The Witch Hunt of Kate Smith

kate-smith-1

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There are some true American heroes that, for one reason or another, don’t quite receive their just place in in the history books.

A few who come to mind are Thomas Paine, Susan B. Anthony and Woody Guthrie.

Another is Paul Robeson, a true Renaissance man if there ever was one.

As a black man born in 1898, he seemed to either break down barriers – or get around them – with an uncommon ease and grace for his time when mutual respect between races, and ethnic groups, barely existed.

One of the first blacks to attend Rutgers, he endured physical punishment from prospective teammates to earn a place on the football team.

Robeson was also on the debating team, honing skills that would serve him well with a lifetime of political activism that later got him blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

Although he earned a law degree from Columbia, Robeson became a successful stage actor and singer, leaving behind a long discography while engaging in social activism.

Why do I bring up Robeson, other than because he should not be forgotten by time?

Because one of his recordings was a song titled “That’s Why Darkies Were Born.”

The lyrics of this song, written by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson, are beyond offensive and blatantly racist.

But Robeson still recorded the song, which would seem to be an off choice for someone of such steadfast conviction about who and what he was.

However, research reveals the song was meant as a satirical jab at racists (one of the writers, Brown, was Jewish and likely keenly aware of prejudice).

In that context, it is a poke right through the eyes of their white hoods of the many out-in-the-open Klan members of the time period.

The Marx Bros. also referenced the song in the movie “Duck Soup.”

And Kate Smith recorded it as well in 1931 (the same year as Robeson).

Although it was recorded as recently as 1970 by satirical song master Randy Newman, who once wrote and sang how “short people have no reason to live” to make a point, it seems that only Smith will be punished.

Since Smith has been dead for 33 years, there is no way to know if she was performing the song for reasons other than that of Robeson or Newman.

But unlike them, she has been posthumously singled out and put on trial like a Salem witch – without a chance to defend herself or her motives – as both the hometown Flyers and New York Yankees, a team so reluctant to sign black players that they reportedly passed on Willie Mays, have taken steps to make sure the singer of “God Bless America” is vanquished from history.

Truth be told, the Flyers winning the Stanley Cup in 1974 – and again in 1975 – was a highlight of my wayward youth. The whole Kate Smith thing – the playing of “God Bless America” and her showing up in person before Game 6 of the finals in 1974 to belt out the song – was a bit silly to me (and I was the ripe old age of nine).

The fact that the Flyers erected a statue of her was embarrassing, but taking it down – now – is beyond mortifying.

Left in the place of where the statue once stood, we have yet another downright blatant case of political correctness run amok.

In the final analysis, this is more about what is or isn’t fair when dealing with what I regard as the most valued possession any person has, that being their legacy.

Yes, Smith also sang “Pickaninny Heaven,” another song – one she dedicated to children in a black orphanage to “cheer them up” — with offensive lyrics (watermelons and such) that was yanked off YouTube (and yet we can still watch the alleged cinematic masterpiece, “Birth of a Nation,” whenever we want).

These ignominious events caused me to research Smith a bit more, and I found nothing – as in zero – that the woman held any racist views.

After World War II, in terms of social and political stances, she was a non-entity.

At worst, she was a product of her time. More than likely, as time passed, she was embarrassed by the poor song choices made for her to sing.

And, in her prime years, keeping pace with the hit parade was a grind. You had to keep cranking out song after song, or someone else would take the same song and have a hit with it instead.

Considering artists don’t have much say or control today, they certainly didn’t back then.

Smith’s parents scoffed at her career aspirations and wanted her to become a nurse, but she chose a career as a singer. It was make it or break it. If someone said “sing this, it will be a hit,” she sang it.

That’s not an excuse, and maybe she could have risen above it all, but there are more egregious acts that are overlooked.

Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford, for example, were vehement anti-Semites and Nazi sympathizers who opposed our entry in World War II.

No statues of Lindbergh are being torn down, and plenty of people – myself included – drive Fords.

Walt Disney was purported to be a bigot, and yet people – of all creeds – pour into his resorts.

Andrew Jackson was responsible for heinous policies against Native Americans, and yet he remains on the $20 bill.

Many of the founding fathers – including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – owned slaves.

Their legacies remain untarnished.

But not that of Kate Smith.

Sounds like fodder for a song – one that a man with the character of Paul Robeson would have been proud to sing.

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on April 28, 2019.

 

Too Much PC Not OK

tiger-woods-3

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — This past Monday was the most manic of Mondays I’ve had in quite some time.

I emerged in such grumpy old man form that I may as well had been wearing a moldy cardigan sweater.

Set against the backdrop of the surreal Notre Dame Cathedral fire in Paris, there were two other dueling issues I wished would go away.

There was Tiger Woods winning the Master’s Open.

And there was Pete Buttigieg officially throwing his hat into the ring of a million Democrats in the quest for the presidency.

I have nothing against Woods or Buttigieg, and I have nothing against the need for political correctness –especially in the era of your president (not mine) setting such a low bar for civility.

But I can’t help but think, in both cases, that we may be dealing with political correctness run amok.

While I regard golf as a four-letter word, it was a big deal when Woods lived up to his advance hype and won his first major tournament in 1997. But all I learned in a career of journalism was lost with a headline from a Philadelphia paper that read “Tiger Wins One For Us All.”

Did everyone – i.e. “us all” — win that day?

And, in those pre-Internet days of steadfast rules, first names in headlines were for middle school papers with faculty advisors who napped through production.

After a stretch of dominance in his “sport,” Woods fell into oblivion with physical and personal issues.

And yet, he remained the biggest name in the game. News reports would start with “Tiger (not Woods) is 17 strokes behind in 45th place after the second day of the XYZ Invitational” without even a mention of who was winning.

Because of his name – his brand, if you will – he stayed on tour long enough to hit a ball in a hole a few less times than everyone else last weekend.

Sorry, not quite the “comeback of the century” it was made out to be, and I’m willing to stray from the PC script to say it.

Meanwhile, the situation with Buttigieg is less benign, as the need to vanquish your president (not mine) grows by the tweet.

And being PC is not OK if we want to KO the current climate of the presidency in 2020.

“Mayor Pete,” already drawing hecklers about his sexual orientation, is not the right choice – at least not right now.

And something tells me he will be.

Just like something told me your president (not mine) was going to be the GOP nominee. We were at a Loretta Lynn concert (yes, she is still alive) in Lancaster, and she said her son, Earl (eye roll), wanted to make a political statement.

He bellowed the name of your president (not mine), at which point a surprising roar came from the throng.

Cult 45 was alive and well.

Something similar happened recently, when Bill Maher didn’t make it all the way through Buttigieg’s last name of 1,001 pronouncements when the crowd erupted in raucous cheer.

Even though his platform is a bit Hillaryesque, “Mayor Pete” already has rock star status.

In a common foot-shooting drill, PC-minded Democrats are so quick to show how enlightened they are that that they are not considering that the chances of this realistically working with a thick-headed national electorate that can’t see past the idea of the spouse of the president being a man.

I get it with “Mayor Pete,” I do. He is the antithesis of your president (not mine). With no alleged “bone spurs,” he actually went to war. He’s well-educated, well-spoken and insightful.

After the Notre Dame fire, for example, he went on French TV and spoke French in the interview.

Big change from a current “president” who butchers the English language, huh?

But he is also 37 and is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana — a small town in a middling state.

MayorPete

How about moving on to the Indiana governor’s mansion and/or the US Senate before taking a serious run at the White House when we are more open-minded?

The fear here is that he will get chewed up and spit out in a general election, thus ruining his promising brand so severely that it may take Tiger Woods-type comeback to be viable again.

And the embarrassment of another loss on the left will be pretty severe.

Democrats need to build a farm system as in baseball, with the likes of “Mayor Pete” and AOC as blue-chip prospects rising up through the ranks.

Putting this mayor – gay or straight – in the presidential race now would equate to promoting someone from single-A to the big leagues.

You’d root for the kid – you know, just to be PC – but he’d be overwhelmed.

Nominating the first openly gay man for president in 2020 could backfire into winning the PC battle just to lose the war of harsh reality in the quest for the larger and more pressing issues (health care, gun control, education, environment, etc.).

We’re past the point of trying to prove a point, as we are at the point of no return.

Any day of the week.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on April 21, 2019

Eggs That Went Over Hard

Rambo

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Mischief Night? For all the nights I went out looking to make mischief, I was never a big fan of feeling obliged to do it by stringing toilet paper around a tree.

And once I got hit the head with an egg from a passing car while walking down a street, I was a flat-out abolitionist.

But there is something about April Fool’s Day that gets my blood circulating.

Just one day, and so many fools in waiting, is too enticing to ignore.

The best playground for me has been Facebook, and I have pulled some good ones.

A few years ago, for example, I posted that a song I co-wrote was going to be recorded by Pat Benatar (I was flattered that so many believed it, unequivocally, that it pained me to drop the truth bomb).

Ditto when I posted I was just hired as the New York Times as a blogger.

This year, while I got a few people in private messages, I kind of swung and missed.

My morning “Movie of the Day” post of Ghostbusters as an all-time favorite, over the likes of The Godfather or Rocky, didn’t really get much mileage.

But it did get me thinking,

Wasting the time and money on a horrible movie, usually on the advice of others touting it, has made a fool out of me quite a few times, leaving me with more egg on my face than on that Mischief Night.

This has happened more times that I’d like to admit, with the common thread generally being comedies that didn’t make me laugh (I know better than to expect much from reboots and action/adventure nonsense).

Here are some examples:

1) Caddyshack – Maybe I’m being too hard on this one, but it’s all about where you are coming from as a viewer. I went to overnight camp every summer, so “Meatballs” from the same era connected. I got it. It rang true. Maybe if I grew up around country clubs and worked as a caddy or whatever, some of this 1980 offering would have been the slightest bit funny. Since my only experience around golf courses was on miniature golf courses, I was miserable trying to get through this. Plus, in full disclosure that you will see again on this list, any humor that involves the quest to kill an animal falls flat in Gordonville. The only redeeming quality was the theme song – “I’m Alright” – by Kenny Loggins.

2) Animal House – I know I’m in the minority here, but I’m still waiting to see the humor at what everyone else seems to think was a comedy classic. I like to laugh as much as the next guy, and I’m not trying to come across as an elitist, but this 1978 offering was an insult to every brain cell in my head.

3) A Fish Called Wanda – I knew my future wife was the girl for me when we saw this in a crowded theatre in 1988 and both couldn’t wait until this alleged comedy – complete with more animal cruelty for cheap laughs – would end (even though everyone around us was forcing laughter because of peer pressure). They say the running time was 109 minutes, but it felt like 109 years.

4) Ghostbusters – Another one that everyone said I had to see, so I followed the 1984 throng and saw it. Only thing worse was the theme song by Ray Parker Jr. (and we are talking about one of the worst songs ever recorded, so it’s not saying much).

5) A Taxing Woman – One more 1988 alleged gem that failed to shine, and I hang this one on the critics, all of whom seemed to be in collusion to tout this Japanese film that was made in more unwatchable by irritating background music.

6) Any of the Rambo Sequels – And it’s sad because the first in the series, “First Blood,” was not bad (fond memories of sneaking into the movie on a Friday night with my boys). While that one even descended in more explosions and less dialogue as it went along, it still had more “script” to it than all 19 sequels combined.

7) The Babe – For some reason, somebody thought there needed to be another movie made about Babe Ruth in 1992 and that John Goodman would be the right person to play him. Wrong and wrong, and Goodman has admitted as much himself after this 1992 flop.

8) Rocky IV – To be fair, I worked in an electronics store in the mid-to-late 1980s that sold this things called VCRs. We only had three movies to play: “Top Gun,” one of the forgettable “Back to the Future” movies and this fourth in the “Rocky” series that has since redeemed itself with “Rocky Balboa” and the two “Creed” movies. However, “Rocky IV” was, pun intended, rock bottom. It was heartbreaking to think what it had turned into after such a wondrous original, not to mention nauseating to watch 62 times a week.

9) The Godfather Part III – With the original being my all-time favorite and the second ranking third, behind only “Rocky,” nothing – not even bad reviews – was going to keep me from seeing it on opening night on Christmas Eve in 1990. I actually didn’t hate it, like the other movies on this list, but it was the biggest disappointment of my movie-going lifetime.

10) Vanilla Sky – in 2001, Cameron Crowe was set to direct a dream team cast – Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz and Kurt Russell – but dreams often turn to nightmares. I still don’t know what it was about, and I really don’t care.

This Column first appeared in The Times Herald on April 7.

 

Nothing New to See Here

Dubyah

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — While the talking heads on the tube were all aghast at the news of ultra-rich people scamming to get their kids into “elite” schools, I’ll pulled my shoulders out of my sockets – again – with a shrug.

As long as Bruce Springsteen wasn’t implicated, which I highly doubted, I was good.

And really, the news was not news at all.

It certainly wasn’t breaking news, largely because this drill of our culture catering to lifestyles of the rich and famous has left us all broken.

The rich getting over, usually at the expense of the poor, is one of the world’s oldest professions – right up there with, well, the world’s oldest profession.

I’m reminded of a line in the movie “Platoon” where the Charlie Sheen character, Taylor, is admonished by a black soldier, King, that, “the poor are always getting (bleeped) over by the rich. Always have. Always will.”

Emphasis on always.

As in always.

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It’s a reason I don’t get into tongue-clucking mode when a kid from a poor or middle class background gets a 6-year, $11 trillion contract — with a $34.5 billion guaranteed signing bonus – to put a ball through a hoop or hit a ball with a wood club over a fence from some filthy rich owner trying to outbid other filthy rich owners.

Turnabout, in these rare instances, is fair play.

But these are rare instances.

For the most part, it is the other way around, and we should not be surprised by the latest scam.

Maybe the national networks saw it as a chance to talk about something other than All the President’s Men II, but it is really all connected.

While your president (not mine) signs bills to be unforgiving with the student loan debt that almost all of the rest of us needed to keep literal pace with the Joneses, let’s look at his disloyal highness as a prime example.

He got into Penn (after a stint at Fordham).

How did that happen?

It’s all a bit murky, but Penn clearly seems less than boastful about an alum in the White House than he is about being a Penn alum in the White House.

Though barely remembered by professors or fellow students, he somehow walked away on his bone spurs with an economics degree (transcript sealed).

trump11-horiz

And his kids – the spawn of the bible-signing devil – all managed to gain entry into elite schools: Donald Jr. (Penn), Ivanka (Georgetown, Penn), Eric (Georgetown) and Tiffany (Penn, Georgetown).

Meanwhile, our first lady entered America on an Einstein visa (insert laugh track).

George W. Bush? Not quite the sharpest tool in anyone’s shed, and yet he went to Yale.

There are pictures of “Dubya” as a male cheerleader, so there is more evidence of involvement in student life that that of your president (not mine), but you still have to wonder how he landed there – given the fact that he is, well, him.

“Dubya” – despite a middling 77 average at Yale – moved on to Harvard Business School.

See, there was an open rule on the books that students were grandfathered into these place based on bloodlines – as in blood of the blue variety.

A rule? Yes, a rule. Talk about an exclusive country club where the poor kids earn their way in on tips from parking the cars.

George H.W. Bush went to Yale. So did his father before him, Prescott Bush.

Sensing a pattern here?

And it’s not limited to just Republicans.

The Kennedys all went to Harvard (Ted even got booted for cheating and then somehow reemerged after a military stint).

The difference, as opposed to the current “first” family, is that they were clearly edified enough by their Ivy League schooling to master critical and nuanced thinking skills.

There are zillions of more examples of how rich people made sure their offspring, deserving or not, were inserted into the race a few laps ahead of a field trying to run it honestly.

On its face, creating something better for the next generation — if only in enlightenment — is at the soul of what’s left of the American dream.

Anything beyond that, and we see how badly the system is broken.

This new twist on it, though fairly elaborate and so slimy that it makes you want to take a shower just from reading the sordid details, is nothing new.

Simply put, it involved a whole lot of cheating and bribing – all under the guise of money going to charity.

Sounds bad, and it is bad.

But is it any worse than when poor kids went to fight in Vietnam while the rich kids went to college (or their daddies paid to have them diagnosed with mystery ailments like bone spurs)?

Any worse than serving from 1968-74 in the Air Force and somehow never setting foot in Vietnam (i.e. “Dubyah”)?

Any worse than working people paying twice as much than the wealthy in taxes?

Any worse than traitor Paul Manafort, and his so-called “blameless life” of turning American dreams into Russian schemes, getting a lighter prison sentence than a poor person – especially of color — would for a lesser crime?

Yeah, this one had intrigue – with some celebrity names to make it tawdry – but let’s be real.

It is neither new nor news.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on March 17.

 

 

For Those About To Rock

Gun Control

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Welcome all to the return of the infamous “What Is and What Should Never Be” format.

For those who don’t know, or who may have forgotten (shame on you), it is named for the Led Zeppelin song and rolls through several current events and issue (What Is) followed by the opinion (And What Should Never Be).

Ready? Go …

What Is: Rep. Ihan Omar (D-Minn.) shook up the Beltway when she suggested – via Twitter, the way we govern these days — that US support for Israel is the direct result of the lobby group AIPAC.

And What Should Never Be: Random slaps on the wrist without deeper all-around understanding. Omar, one of two nationally elected Muslim women, met with swift rebukes from both sides of the aisle – up to and including the nation’s most powerful person, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.Cal.), and your president (not mine), who said (anti-Semitism) “has no place in the US Congress.”

You know what? Even a broken clock is right twice a day (even though detractors of Barack Obama would never admit that). Your president (not mine) is right. Prejudice, if that’s even what it is, has no place in the U.S. Congress.

Then again, it also had no place in Charlottesville and his non-reaction reaction to that American tragedy still dwarfs any prepared statement now.

Omar is actually not wrong, either. IAPAC – like the NRA, Big Pharma and many others – is a powerful lobby, but the root cause here is that the birth of Israel was the net result of the horrors of the Holocaust. Jews and Gentiles (particularly evangelicals) who support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state (there are plenty of Muslim-only and Christian-only states, too) are willing to write checks to help keep it that way.

Omar should not answer calls to resign or step down from any committees, but she needs to follow up with what she said she would do in her apology, which is to live in the real world and rid herself of tunnel vision.

What Is: “Bruce On Broadway” has been available on Netflix since mid-December.

What Should Never Be: Giving up on something too soon.

Despite being a longtime Springsteen fan, I had a hard time getting into its much-anticipated showing for those of us who couldn’t afford the $700-plus ticket price (not to mention the train fare to New York).

His stories behind the songs, at least early on in the show, were either too similar to those I’ve already heard in past concerts (been to 33 of them) or almost verbatim from his recent autobiography.

Even though my better half gave up on it, I plodded on – first at a pace of about 15 minutes at a time, and then straight through. I’m thrilled I made the commitment.

Right on cue, I was reduced to those kind of tears that only Bruce can make stream down my face by the time the credits rolled.

What Is: Former NASA astronaut (and Navy pilot and engineer) Mark Kelly has accepted his next mission, which will be to attempt to become a US Senator in Arizona.

And What Should Never Be: The status quo. This astronaut/politician pedigree is nothing new to politics (i.e. John Glenn), but Kelly – if he wins the Democratic primary (likely against Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Iraq War veteran) – would bring a marquee name from the Democratic ticket, put his state in play as a vital swing state in 2020 and beyond (this is the seat vacated by the death of longtime Republican John McCain and currently held by the vulnerable former Rep. Martha McSally).

The 54-year-old Kelly, if you recall, is the husband of former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, the survivor of a high-profile 2011 mass shooting.

Since that time, the couple has become strong advocates for gun control legislation.

What Is: Speaking of the need for gun control legislation, there was a recent double shooting that hit close to home – well, sort of – at my former hangout of the Roosevelt Mall in Northeast Philadelphia.

And What Should Never Be: Shrugging it off because it was my former teen hangout in the 1980s, and not yours.

Twentysomething shots were thrown around the parking lot, with one going through the window of a 60-year-woman in her home a quarter-mile away, and leaving two males in the hospital in critical condition.

These incidents — like the teen-on-teen shooting in Havertown this week and the shots thrown like tennis balls into the Lombard-South subway stop downtown — are all too common and random.

Citizens of Norristown’s meanest streets can testify to this harsh reality.

At the Roosevelt Mall — my Roosevelt Mall of fond memories of buying cassettes tapes and waiting in line for concert tickets and kissing girls from the mysterious other side of Roosevelt Boulevard — two men and a woman were arrested at the scene.

Our national common enemy, an assault rifle, was promptly recovered.

Close your eyes and picture anyplace that you once considered a safe haven, and now picture it being a potential combat zone.

The way people act with guns is at the top of the list of real – not manufactured – national emergencies.

We just passed the one-year anniversary of Parkland (an incident and subsequent protest that Springsteen spoke eloquently about in the aforementioned Broadway show). The hard fact is that 1,200 minors have died as the result of gunshot wounds since then.

Right after the Parkland Shooting, 71 percent of Americans told pollsters from NPR/Marist that stricter gun laws were needed. In just one year, that number has plummeted to 51 percent while just 41 percent said it should be a higher priority for Congress (as compared to 51 percent a year ago). The poll revealed a tragic me-first mentality, as higher numbers were worried about a school shooting in their own community. Overall, at 63 percent, women were more concerned than men about the issue.

Maybe, even with some needing gentle rebukes, we are the right track with more women rocking the boat inside the Beltway.

Welcome all to the return of the infamous “What Is and What Should Never Be” format.

For those who don’t know, or who may have forgotten (shame on you), it is named for the Led Zeppelin song and rolls through several current events and issue (What Is) followed by the opinion (And What Should Never Be).

Ready? Go …

What Is: Rep. Ihan Omar (D-Minn.) shook up the Beltway when she suggested – via Twitter, the way we govern these days — that US support for Israel is the direct result of the lobby group AIPAC.

And What Should Never Be: Random slaps on the wrist without deeper all-around understanding. Omar, one of two nationally elected Muslim women, met with swift rebukes from both sides of the aisle – up to and including the nation’s most powerful person, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.Cal.), and your president (not mine), who said (anti-Semitism) “has no place in the US Congress.”

You know what? Even a broken clock is right twice a day (even though detractors of Barack Obama would never admit that). Your president (not mine) is right. Prejudice, if that’s even what it is, has no place in the U.S. Congress.

Then again, it also had no place in Charlottesville and his non-reaction reaction to that American tragedy still dwarfs any prepared statement now.

Omar is actually not wrong, either. IAPAC – like the NRA, Big Pharma and many others – is a powerful lobby, but the root cause here is that the birth of Israel was the net result of the horrors of the Holocaust. Jews and Gentiles (particularly evangelicals) who support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state (there are plenty of Muslim-only and Christian-only states, too) are willing to write checks to help keep it that way.

Omar should not answer calls to resign or step down from any committees, but she needs to follow up with what she said she would do in her apology, which is to live in the real world and rid herself of tunnel vision.

What Is: “Bruce On Broadway” has been available on Netflix since mid-December.

What Should Never Be: Giving up on something too soon.

Despite being a longtime Springsteen fan, I had a hard time getting into its much-anticipated showing for those of us who couldn’t afford the $700-plus ticket price (not to mention the train fare to New York).

His stories behind the songs, at least early on in the show, were either too similar to those I’ve already heard in past concerts (been to 33 of them) or almost verbatim from his recent autobiography.

Even though my better half gave up on it, I plodded on – first at a pace of about 15 minutes at a time, and then straight through. I’m thrilled I made the commitment.

Right on cue, I was reduced to those kind of tears that only Bruce can make stream down my face by the time the credits rolled.

What Is: Former NASA astronaut (and Navy pilot and engineer) Mark Kelly has accepted his next mission, which will be to attempt to become a US Senator in Arizona.

And What Should Never Be: The status quo. This astronaut/politician pedigree is nothing new to politics (i.e. John Glenn), but Kelly – if he wins the Democratic primary (likely against Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Iraq War veteran) – would bring a marquee name from the Democratic ticket, put his state in play as a vital swing state in 2020 and beyond (this is the seat vacated by the death of longtime Republican John McCain and currently held by the vulnerable former Rep. Martha McSally).

The 54-year-old Kelly, if you recall, is the husband of former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, the survivor of a high-profile 2011 mass shooting.

Since that time, the couple has become strong advocates for gun control legislation.

What Is: Speaking of the need for gun control legislation, there was a recent double shooting that hit close to home – well, sort of – at my former hangout of the Roosevelt Mall in Northeast Philadelphia.

And What Should Never Be: Shrugging it off because it was my former teen hangout in the 1980s, and not yours.

Twentysomething shots were thrown around the parking lot, with one going through the window of a 60-year-woman in her home a quarter-mile away, and leaving two males in the hospital in critical condition.

These incidents — like the teen-on-teen shooting in Havertown this week and the shots thrown like tennis balls into the Lombard-South subway stop downtown — are all too common and random.

Citizens of Norristown’s meanest streets can testify to this harsh reality.

At the Roosevelt Mall — my Roosevelt Mall of fond memories of buying cassettes tapes and waiting in line for concert tickets and kissing girls from the mysterious other side of Roosevelt Boulevard — two men and a woman were arrested at the scene.

Our national common enemy, an assault rifle, was promptly recovered.

Close your eyes and picture anyplace that you once considered a safe haven, and now picture it being a potential combat zone.

The way people act with guns is at the top of the list of real – not manufactured – national emergencies.

We just passed the one-year anniversary of Parkland (an incident and subsequent protest that Springsteen spoke eloquently about in the aforementioned Broadway show). The hard fact is that 1,200 minors have died as the result of gunshot wounds since then.

Right after the Parkland Shooting, 71 percent of Americans told pollsters from NPR/Marist that stricter gun laws were needed. In just one year, that number has plummeted to 51 percent while just 41 percent said it should be a higher priority for Congress (as compared to 51 percent a year ago). The poll revealed a tragic me-first mentality, as higher numbers were worried about a school shooting in their own community. Overall, at 63 percent, women were more concerned than men about the issue.

Maybe, even with some needing gentle rebukes, we are the right track with more women rocking the boat inside the Beltway.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on Feb. 17.

 

CBS, NFL Take Wrong Turn

Medical Grass

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — So here we are.

The national holiday known as Super Bowl Sunday.

But there is not much to celebrate here in the mythical town of Gordonville, where Main Street has been gentrified with used record stores and all-night diners.

Last year? Yes. This year? No.

When the game ends, and the Lombardi Trophy is handed to the winning team (my prediction is the Patriots in a walk), it will officially end the reign as champions for our Eagles.

A year ago, and unlike Super Bowl 39 (I don’t believe in Roman numerals, as we are not in Rome, although the fall of that empire and our own is eerily similar), I didn’t attend in person.

I was at the best place in the world. A house of a friend with a roomful of diehards totally fixated on the game (with the local broadcast on the radio and the volume of the TV, with the irksome network crew, turned down).

I get chills now – I am, right now – thinking about how the room erupted when Brandon Graham stripped Tom Brady and Derek Barnett fell on the ball.

When Brady’s Hail Mary pass fell to the ground, I made my way out of the room and sat by myself and cried like a baby for a good five minutes.

What can top that?

Not much, not even another Eagles’ title – although they are more than welcome to win it all again whenever they’d like before I am in my rocking chair with two or three marbles rattling around upstairs.

So here we are.

The following year.

There will still be plenty of those Super Bowl parties, which I abhor almost as much people who make snide global warming remarks whenever it’s below freezing where they happen to be drawing air that particular day.

These are really the polar opposite of what I experienced last year, as barely anyone in those rooms will give two hoots about the game while dipping their chips in guacamole dip.

There will be men – I’ll let women slide on this – who barely know who is playing, and couldn’t name you more than 5-10 players on either team.

Everyone will drink their foreign lagers and play their block pools and only shut up to watch the commercials.

And they will see commercials for all kinds of nonsense, like people buying each other $50K vehicles for Valentine’s Day. There will be ads for beer and online sports gambling, while some sort of nonsense scrolls under the screen about drinking – and gambling — responsibly.

It seems like anything and everything is fair game.

But it’s not.

CBS, the network broadcasting the game this year, rejected a 60-second ad for medical marijuana.

Read that again, and let that sink in.

There will be ads for ailments such as adult acne and leg pain, with side effects so severe that that they may led to any of the 21 conditions approved for the use of medical marijuana in our state (and 29 others, including the District of Columbia).

Puritanical much?

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17th), who teamed with State Sen. Mike Folmer (R-48th) in a successful bipartisan effort to legalize the use of medical cannabis in Pennsylvania, couldn’t help but note the irony.

“Preventing people from hearing about the benefits of medical marijuana, while at the same time happily advertising booze, dangerous drugs and fast food is a strange and disturbing choice,” said Leach. “Apparently the network doesn’t think their viewers are smart enough to handle a simple message responsibly, which is truly sad.”

Again, to make it clear, this has nothing to do with recreational use – although an entertaining one with Grateful Dead fans would be a hoot – but for medical marijuana.

The ad reportedly featured three patients whose suffering has been eased by medical marijuana.

The 60-second PSA-style ad (CBS is charging $3.2 million for 30 seconds) reportedly shows some uncomfortable stuff:

-A Colorado boy who suffers from Dravet syndrome (his mother says her son would have dozens to hundreds of seizures a day and medical marijuana saved his life).

-A Buffalo man says he was on opioids for 15 years after three back surgeries and that medical marijuana gave him his life back (even though he lives in Buffalo, where shoveling snow is not ideal for back health).

-An Oakland man who lost part of his leg in military service says his pain was unbearable until medical marijuana.

Funny how the NFL, which is surely the neck that turns the head that is the network in these final decisions, hoists the pomp and circumstance of the military but backs off from the other side of the story.

This is the same circuit that is on the precipice from allowing the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas, which is in the only state where prostitution is somehow legal.

So here we are.

The Eagles are no longer World Champions and a major network – with a league where officials are borderline incompetent — can’t get over itself.

I’ll watch again, because that’s what I do.

It’s wired in my DNA.

But there are no tears of joy this year.

There is no joy in Gordonville.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on Feb. 3, 2014.

Celluloid Heroes In Waiting

fleetwood mac

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — I have a love-hate relationship with Queen.

Not the Queen, as in Queen Elizabeth.

But with Queen, the rock band suddenly mythologized in a biopic film focused on the life of lead singer Freddie Mercury.

Queen has some of the best songs I ever heard – including “Under Pressure” and “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” – but some of the worst, too.

On my list of all-time songs that make me feel like I have Lyme Disease all over again, there are three Queen – yes, three – Queen songs.

And topping that ignominious list (which also includes Queen songs “Bicycle Song” and “Somebody To Love”) is “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which happens to be the title of the movie that was just nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Rami Malek, who has been stellar in every role he has played).

Its critical and box office success has me thinking about other musical acts and artists whose stories would potentially show well on the big screen.

The Beatles and Elvis? Too many to count. Dylan? In 2007, there was a flick called “I’m Not There” with six different actors – including a woman and young black boy – portraying six sides of his public persona. Kind of killed that one for now. Rolling Stones? Eh, maybe, but not yet. It would kind of kill the mystique. Ditto for Led Zeppelin. The Doors? Been there, Oliver Stone done that (with Val Kilmer playing Jim Morrison better than Morrison could have himself). The punk era was covered in “Syd and Nancy.” Johnny Cash? Check.

This doesn’t mean we are without options.

Consider a sampling of five that did make the cut?

1) Fleetwood Mac – Drama, drama, drama. Heck, just the drama around the making of the top-selling “Rumors” album, with the songs all about the members of the band breaking up with each other – Lindsey Buckingham with Stevie Nicks and John and Christine McVie getting divorced, all while Mick Fleetwood lurked in the shadows — would be enough without spreading it out over a period of years. People having to play and sing background vocals about how they should “go their own way” would be worth the price of admission.

2) Carole King – It used to be commonplace for Broadway musicals to successfully transition into feature films. The 1960s alone saw likes of “West Side Story” (1961), “The Sound of Music” (1965) and “Oliver” (1968), but there hasn’t been anything noteworthy since “Chicago” in 2002. For example, “Jersey Boys” (2014) was just average. “Beautiful,” the story about singer-songwriter Carole King is a script with terrific music screaming out to be adapted for the big screen. So adapt it already, will ya?

3) Otis Redding – You may only know him as the “(Sittin’) On The Dock Of The Bay” dude, but there is so much more to his story. For one, his greatest success, the aforementioned No. 1 hit, did not top the charts until after his death in a 1967 plane crash when he was just 26. Although his gospel-inspired singing style inspired many more popular contemporaries, as well as a litany of soul singers to follow, he is only mentioned as an afterthought. A movie delving into his interesting life could bridge that divide. The Georgia native quit school at 15 to help his family by pursuing a music career, and was a married father a month before his 20th birthday. His breakthrough came in 1966, when his version of “Try A Little Tenderness” reached No. 25. As time went on, he began writing a lot of his own material on a beat-up acoustic guitar. The batch of songs included “Respect,” which became Aretha Franklin’s signature anthem. With a gregarious persona, Redding was large in stature (6-1, 220 pounds), athletic and a sharp-dressed man (200 suits, 400 pairs of shoes) who was close to his family and successful entrepreneur. With the right actor in the lead role, this could be a stellar period piece that could introduce more of his lesser known music to the world.

4) Frank Sinatra – Yeah, sure, you are not supposed to mess with the Chairman of the Board. However, he has been dead since I was 30 (1995). That’s a long time ago. The only real dedicated screen time has been a character loosely based on him — Johnny Fontaine in “The Godfather,” which apparently drew an assault by Sinatra on Mario Puzo after the book was published. There have also been a few cheesy movies about the Rat Pack, but that’s about it. Let’s just pick a period of Sinatra’s life — like when he has down and out and came back, or his second run of popular success in the 1960s – and start filming tomorrow.

5) Bruce Springsteen – Don’t sigh, don’t moan and groan. You knew this was coming. It actually goes to the point about Carole King and Broadway, as the curtain just fell on Springsteen’s “Bruce on Broadway” run. The show has since been released on Netflix and, to be honest, was hard to get into at first. A lot of his spiel was verbatim from his autobiography or from stories I have heard him tell before. While the Netflix version picked up momentum toward the middle (we still haven’t reached the end), it occurred to me that his words and music are so visual that that maybe a movie of his life – with some selective narration over it – would be a logical next step to cement the legacy.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Jan. 27, 2019.