An Eccentric! Look at Louisville Yummiest! New Edifice

Posted: October 27th, 2010 | Filed under: Community, Culture, Features | 2 Comments »

“If you build it, they will come.” —The Voice, “Field of Dreams”

That’s how America got so big. We called it Manifest Destiny a century and a half ago. The country remains mired in that hubristic mindset today.

A nation much younger than now expanded relentlessly and inexorably toward the Pacific. It was our right, we believed. There was divine justification.

Manifest Destiny: “To overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.” Journalist John O’Sullivan so branded that vision in the 
mid-19th century.

So we stretched our borders, east to west, north to south.

And they did come — the adventurous, the set-upon, immigrants, illegals and indentured — developing a can-do mentality. Nothing was beyond our reach, no dream too grandiose. American swagger evolved.

So we built accommodations bigger and taller and wider, skyscraping the heavens, strafing the countryside.

And, because we are addicted to new and shiny, we tear down and build again.

It is our wont, an imperious ostentation that sets our nation apart.

If you build it, they will come.

That is how we remember the quote, of course, though it actually reads, “he will come” — not “they” — in the romanticized cinematic ode to a more pastoral, long-lost America. An homage to the halcyon days of hickory and horsehide, to “Say it ain’t so” Shoeless Joe, swinging his Louisville Slugger.

For the film, producers built a baseball diamond in cornfields outside Dyersville, Iowa. And the ghosts of Joe Jackson and his pals, the type of sporting gladiators nation-states have revered for centuries, came and played. So the fans also came, both in the film and real life, trying to recapture the bucolic.

If you build it, they will come.

That quiet ball diamond midst the cornfields is far from our default idea of destination. It is but a quaint counterpoint. We love our sports heroes, their games and the venues where they battle. As constant reaffirmation of O’Sullivan’s proposition, we build ever larger, more commodious stadia to watch them perform.

Jerry Jones, who built a billion-dollar temple to his Dallas Cowboys, is not aberration but paradigm. Hallowed, staid and utilitarian no longer satisfy. We desire — no, crave — neon and luxe palaces for our sports idols to compete, where we can savor their endeavors in splendid comfort.

Vegasize those American dreams.

Goodbye, Freedom Hall.

Hello, Yum! Center.

If you build it, they will come.

Thus this monument to a city’s pride was once conceived. Now it is done. Louisville’s Parthenon, its Colosseum, sits grand, glitzy and imposing hard by a bridge and interstate paralleling the Ohio, close to the spot where our burg was founded. A daring endeavor in insecure financial times, its future viability unknown, The Yum! stands as testament to dogged determination.

The city’s fathers, its dreamers, its schemers, its university wanted bigger, mo’ better.

The deal’s been done.

The question now: Will they come?

So far, yes, they have. Fueled by a fawning fervor, tickets — free tickets — have been gobbled up to tour this object of civic pride and fascination. First to come, for a christening, the luminaries who made it happen. Then, corporata, for whom this edifice stands as a confirmation it tops the pyramid of power. Then Cardinal fans, whose loyalty has been tested in extremis. Then John and Jane Q. Public to come and gawk at this palatial experiment in civic responsibility.

The Eagles broke in the place. How appropriate.

Their music is slick, pristine, pretty to a fault. And the band is in it for the Benjamins. It is said the members don’t even talk to each other offstage. Yet $180 tickets were sold with impunity.

Such exaction is all too familiar to Louisville Cardinal basketball fans, whose loyalty has been taxed to the limits to pay for the team’s abdication from Freedom Hall. A season’s seat in the corner, not between the baskets, 30 rows up, runs $101/ game, factoring in the mandatory donation.

When told this, Marc Winston, a New Orleanian married to a Louisvillian, in town for a family visit and to attend The Eagles concert, offered this perspective. “My seats to the NBA New Orleans Hornets are in the fourth row at mid-court. I pay $85 a seat.”

If you build it, they will come.

So far, at least. For The Eagles. For the Cardinals inaugural men’s and woman’s basketball seasons.

Other than that, The Courier-Journal, in its special Oct. 10 section on all things arena, reported only 11 other events scheduled through March. So it is certainly legitimate amid all the hoopla to ask how this place is going to meet its debt service. The newspaper reported that Standard & Poor “will consider downgrading the arena bonds to ‘junk’ status as early as next year because of concerns about the TIF (tax increment financing) revenues being available for paying off debt.” There are rumors bond rating agencies might make that move sooner.

But that’s a worry for another day.

For now, the denizens of our city, as well as the community’s movers and shakers who made this happen, are glorying in this stunning achievement. Sitting in absurdly expensive seats, munching on $11 turkey sandwiches, quaffing $6 beers and $4.25 soft drinks, citizens savored “Life In The Fast Lane,” and will root on an undermanned Cardinal team. Or, if so inclined, simply ignore the games and gather in any of several large areas set aside to eat, drink and schmooze.

The hope is that the place will reignite an appreciation for downtown, foster the belief that center city is a safe, fun place to socialize, dine and be entertained. The hope is that the magnitude of the project will fuel interest and investment from an expanding corporate America.

If you build it, they will come.

Let it be said, let it be done.

You’re A Good Man, Charlie Strong

Posted: September 7th, 2010 | Filed under: Features, Sports | 1 Comment »

If springtime is the season of rejuvenation and frolic; fall heralds recommitment and refocus, a time that takes the measure of man.

Labor Day, summer’s traditional end, marks the kickoff of what has evolved as America’s favorite pastime.

How and why the nation turned its wandering eyes from the bucolic pastures of baseball to the thunder of headgears and the grandeur of script Ohio that define football is a semester’s course unto itself. Suffice it to say the changeover occurred sometime after Joe Willie wrenched the pigskin planet off its axis in Super Bowl III, but way before ESPN greenlighted Brett Favre’s life into a daily soap opera.

Football is now the deal.

And this autumn, in this city, in this commonwealth, there are cultural considerations that make the season just over the horizon the most fascinating ever. Perhaps even a portent of significant social change.

The state’s three major football schools have new coaches. By odds-defying coincidence, the triad of new leaders are men of color.

Willie Taggert at Western Kentucky and Joker Phillips at UK are alums who now lead the charges of their alma maters. Their stories are worthy.

But nothing like that of Charlie Strong, tapped to lead Louisville’s Cardinals out of the football wasteland, where it has been deposited by a coaching fraud who turned a national contender with talent and Heisman-quality leadership into an also ran.

How Strong traveled the circuitous, impediment-laden byways from the rural burg of Batesville, Arkansas to the University of Louisville is not epic in the Homerian sense. But it is poetic nonetheless, a fable of fortitude and forbearance, how what is good and right can eventually prevail despite pitfalls.

When Charlie Strong was born and raised a half century ago in Batesville, Arkansas, hard on the edge of the Ozarks in “Deliverance” country, it was a town of 5,000. It is less than twice that now. Yet it’s still produced its share of favorite sports sons. Like NASCAR’s Mark Martin, a contemporary of Louisville’s coach. Former major leaguer Rick Monday was born there. So too, Ryan Mallett, now the quarterback for former U of L coach Bobby Petrino at Arkansas.

As it turns out, football wasn’t Strong’s favorite endeavor as a kid.

“I loved baseball. Centerfield. But when I was old enough I had to work in the summers. At my uncle’s service station. So I switched to a winter sport.”

It is that work ethic — taking care of basic business first — that has guided Strong along his career arc.

Quarterback Adam Froman explained to’s Andy Staples that it’s not difficult to follow when you see Strong jogging before sun up and lifting. “He’ll get in there in the weight room, and just put 315 [pounds] on the bar and start repping it out.”

Defensive tackle Gregg Scruggs: “He works hard. He makes us work hard.”

Charlie Strong’s resumé proves it makes a difference.

Perhaps the most impressive of stats is this. According to Strong’s bio at the University of Florida website, in 64 of 92 games when he was defensive coordinator, the Gators tallied points off turnovers. In 70% of the games, Strong’s defense scored. Stunning.

Which acumen is why he’s coached in 21 bowl games, including 14 played in January. Then there are those two national titles while directing the Florida defense. In 2009’s title battle, the Gators held the highest scoring offense in college football history to 14 points, a mere fifty points under Oklahoma’s per game average.

Charlie Strong’s leadership capabilities have been on display for years.

While preparing for that BCS title match against the Sooners, Florida mentor Urban Meyer told the press, “Do I think Charlie Strong would be a great head coach? No question about it. Do I think he’s deserving? No question about it.”

A decade ago, while coaching at South Carolina, Lou Holtz told the Columbia (S.C.) State: “Charlie Strong should be a head coach. He’s anxious to be, and he and I have talked about how you get a head coach’s job. I know we’re going to lose him eventually.”

Years before that, while at Notre Dame, Holtz recognized Strong’s potential and became a mentor, giving the then position coach a binder and advising him to fill it with ideas how to lead his own team. Then to take it on interviews to prove he was ready.

The problem, well documented and oft discussed, is that those interviews rarely came. When they did, many — nay, most — were a sham.

Charlie Strong is black. Strike one.

Victoria Strong, Charlie’s wife, is white. Strike two. Strike three.

Sad to say, but true.

Strong has spoken frankly of an interview he had with a school he knew already had secretly hired another coach, but needed to feign diversity.

But Strong carried on, never whining. Yet never afraid to publicly discuss the reality of discrimination. He told the Orlando Sentinel in 2009, he’d heard too many times to gloss over them the murmurings why, despite his credentials, he was being passed over.

Of one particular position at a southern school he didn’t get, he said, “Everybody always said I didn’t get that job because my wife is white.”

To the credit of Tom Jurich, who hired Strong without needing to see that binder, it wasn’t a hindrance at all. Nor has it been for this community which the coach says “has embraced us (he and family) and taken us in.”

The reactions of fans have been almost unanimously positive.

“He’s everything you want in a head coach,” says one local businessman, who purchased one of the new boxes at Papa John’s but asked not to be named. “His football IQ is off the chart. He’s the real deal. He’s going to be very successful.”

Long time fan and alum, Dr. George Nichols: “We will be a success within three years. I’ve heard Strong speak twice. Very impressive.”

Truth. Charlie Strong is already a success.

In the classroom. He has not one but two Masters degrees.

On the field. He has been lauded as the country’s best defensive coordinator.

Naturally, he expects and has asked a lot of the Cardinals. “He works us hard every single day,” says defensive end Malcolm Mitchell. Yet there is respect. “I love this coach,” adds Mitchell.

But this stalwart man’s moment has arrived. At half past three on the first Saturday of September, with hip hop blaring from the PA and cheerleaders tumbling and fans screaming, head coach Charlie Strong will at last stride onto his own turf.

“I enjoy being captain of the ship. But it means there’s a job to do.”

Thus head coach Charlie Strong will savor the moment but be focused. Knowing he will have traveled the longest route through the most detours to the stadium, he will be ready.

Round Eye Blues, Marah: Songs I lIke, Part XXII

Posted: August 12th, 2010 | Filed under: Features, Music | No Comments »

For forty seconds you get the set up. What’s the deal? This sounds like something from the 60s. That’s right, the drum intro to The Ronettes “Be My Baby.” Well, sort of. Yet, the castanets give it away. Do they dare swim in these deep waters, try a take on such a seminal song?

You can’t help but wonder as the intro coninues. Are these white kids from Philly really going to tackle Phil Spector? Dare they emulate the greatest voice in rock & roll, Veronica Bennett?

Or will they extrapolate the song into something unrecognizable, something white? Like Vanilla Fudge turning “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” into garage band psychedelia.

Then, in a turn as exhilarating as it is unexpected, David Bielanko’s raspy, weary voice reaches out from the jungles of Nam. The memory so strong, even though he’s actually back stateside, the images are strong and true and resonant. You can feel the sweat and grit and fear.

(Note: I couldn’t find the album version anywhere on the www. It’s purer than any of the live versions. So here it is. No visuals. You’ll probably be directed to a page with just a player. After you listen, hit the return button on your browser to come back. There’s a raucous live take on the song at the end of this article.)

Round Eye Blues

Last night I closed my eyes/ 
And watched the tracers fly/ 
Through the jungle trees
/ Like fireflies on a windy night/ 
Pulled up and onward by the breeze
/ I can still hear the far off tin-canny sounds
/ Of their machine guns come unwound
/ And I was shakin’ like Little Richard/ 
And I was sweatin’ like ol’ James Brown


Viet Nam and soul music. It worked for Coppola. It works even better for the Bielanko brothers, who are the magnificent bar band Marah.

Over by my window sill
/ The moon was still/ 
On my cigarettes and wine/ 
Sometimes that’s where I pray to Jesus
/ Sometimes there’s where I pray to die/ But I could still sense the circling danger
/ Of those invisible bastards of a piss-hot day/ 
I was shakin’ with ol’ Proud Mary/ 
I was sittin’ on the dock of the bay/

The rhythm continues. Yes, it’s Phil Spector, but it’s hard to figure out the connection?

Take the hits boys take the hits/ Don’t smoke your bible and don’t lose your wits/ 
Because the sky is filled with shrapnel
/ And your eyes are filled with tears

/ Hold your breath boys hold your breath
/ Finger your trigger and welcome death/ 
Because the chopper’s filled with your gut-shot friends/ 
Your hearts are filled with fear/

There’s that coda again during a short instrumental break. No flourishes. No castanets this time, just he insistence that adds gravity to this cautionary tale that’s wrapped around an icon of a song.

Fables tell of men who fell
/ With swords dangling from their chest
/ The old guys down at the taproom swear
/ The Japs could kill you best
/ But late at night I could still hear the cries/ 
Of three black guys I seen take it in the face/ 
I think about them sweet Motown girls they left behind
/ And the assholes that took their place


Then the chorus again, the lament of lost brothers, the helicopter imagery that is such a part of Viet Nam memories. For those who were there and those who weren’t.

The chorus again.

Your hearts are filled with fear.

Then a lonely horn, forlorn. And, yes, the signature castanets.

So won’t you please/ Be my little baby/ Be my baby now . . .

“Dixie Chicken” Little Feat: Albums I Love, Part VI

Posted: June 24th, 2010 | Filed under: Culture, Features, Music | 1 Comment »

Let me get the hyperbole out of the way at the start.

Here me now and believe me later. Little Feat is the most unappreciated band of rock’s halcyon days.


Bill Payne’s piano. Richard Hayward’s and Sam Clayton’s syncopated percussion. A southern sensibility that is both traditional and innovative. And, of course, Lowell George’s intelligent, nuanced, evocative and clever lyrics. Oh yes, there’s his signature slide guitar stylings, which legend says was taught to him by Bonnie Raitt.

When this album was released in ’73, the band, with a few personnel adjustments, had put out two albums to considerable acclaim, “Little Feat” and “Sailin’ Shoes.” Both are worthy of your attention.

But “Dixie Chicken” put it all together. The sultry funk. The aroma of magnolia and marijuana. The slinky sensuality. Plus it rocks and you can dance to it.

How about a taste of the title tune, with some superstar help:

In case you miss the rock & roll elegance of that cautionary tale, here are the lyrics:

I’ve seen the bright lights of Memphis/ And the Commodore Hotel/ And underneath a street lamp, I met a southern belle/ Oh she took me to the river, where she cast her spell/ And in that southern moonlight, she sang this song so well

If you’ll be my Dixie chicken I’ll be your Tenessee lamb/ And we can walk together down in Dixieland/ Down in Dixieland

We made all the hotspots, my money flowed like wine/ Then the low-down southern whiskey, yea, began to fog my mind/ And I don’t remember church bells, or the money I put down/ On the white picket fence and boardwalk/ On the house at the end of town/ Oh but boy do I remember the strain of her refrain/ And the nights we spent together/ And the way she called my name

If you’ll be my Dixie chicken I’ll be your Tenessee lamb/ And we can walk together down in Dixieland/ Down in Dixieland

Many years since she ran away/ Yes that guitar player sure could play/ She always liked to sing along/ She always handy with a song/ But then one night at the lobby of the Commodore Hotel/ I chanced to meet a bartender who said he knew her well/ And as he handed me a drink he began to hum a song/ And all the boys there, at the bar, began to sing along

If you’ll be my Dixie chicken ill be your Tenessee lamb/ And we can walk together down in Dixieland/ Down in Dixieland, Down in Dixieland

Now, that’s a song, kiddies.

My favorite song on the album — truth be told, my favorite Little Feat tune of all — is “Fat Man In The Bathtub.”

Check it out:

Okay, some more over the top praise. Little Feat is the most underrated band of all time. How’s that for devotion.

Anyway, as happens so much, it was too good to last. At least in the group’s best incarnation. George, founder, leader and most aggressive drug advocate, broke the band up in the late 70s, casting aspersions on his bandmates Payne and Paul Barrere. Lowell George died not long thereafter of a heart attack, probably drug induced.

In ’88, the remaining members, with some additions, reconstituted. The group’s first gig was on the Riverboat President at the New Orleans JazzFest. (Did you have any doubt, we’d end up there?) Bonnie Raitt sat in on slide.

The band has evolved through the years, and still gigs. Various personnel changes on the periphery haven’t changed the essence of the group. They’ve put out any number of albums through the years, including some amazing live shows. Most all deserve a listen.

“Dixie Chicken” is still the standard.

A Fan’s Farewell To Freedom Hall

Posted: March 9th, 2010 | Filed under: Culture, Features, Sports | 3 Comments »

freedom hallPhil Rollins has been immersed in the University of Louisville hoops tradition for half a century. His playing days predate Freedom Hall.

As a senior in 1956, he starred on Louisville’s team that ruled Madison Square Garden and has been a fixture at Freedom Hall since 1963 after his pro career ended.

He’s red and black to the core. His business card includes a photo of him in his Cardinal uniform and reads “1956 NIT Champs.”

“What I remember is that a lot of people thought Freedom Hall was going to be a white elephant. It’ll never be what they want.

“I was in the service, but made it back for the first game in Freedom Hall. The place was packed. Charlie (Tyra) broke his record. Tommy Hawkins played a great game for Notre Dame.”

U of L contested its first tilt in Freedom Hall on Dec. 21, 1956. By that time, two other games had already been held there: Ed Diddle’s Western Kentucky State College Hilltoppers (later to become WKU) bested San Francisco, 61-57, several days earlier in the official inaugural. Bellarmine played an “exhibition” versus a squad from Fort Knox.

The Cardinals whipped Notre Dame, 85-75, before 13,756 fans in their first bout at the Hall. It was in that game that Tyra, cover boy on the first-ever Street & Smith College Basketball Yearbook, tallied 40, including a perfect 18 for 18 underhanded free throws. Sophomore guard Harold Andrews scored a dozen in his first start. Bill Darragh scored 17.

Darragh, a season ticket holder to this day, remembers that game as well as the Cards’ other two wins at the fairgrounds that season. U of L moved permanently from the Jefferson County Armory (Louisville Gardens) the following season.
“Freedom Hall was big, new and shiny. We liked the Armory, but the locker room was like a furnace room. It was dirty and dingy. Playing at Freedom Hall was exciting…

“In the Christmas tournament we beat St. Louis. It was payback. They’d beaten us earlier in the season. Against Dayton, I missed a shot that would have won in regulation. But it made a good friend happy. He’d bet on us. We won and we were able to cover the spot in overtime.”

It was an auspicious start to what’s been an amazing run in the Hall, given the school’s 680-plus wins against fewer than 150 losses there. This Saturday, that long, successful run will come to a close when the Cards play their final game in Freedom Hall. Next season, the team will move into a new downtown arena, leaving behind a place they’ve called home for more than five decades. Read the rest of this entry »

Albums I Love, Part I: James Brown, “Live at the Apollo”

Posted: June 12th, 2009 | Filed under: Features, Music | 8 Comments »

There are too many reasons and so many ways to talk about this seminal album.

Let’s start with Hugh Jarrett.

In the early sixties, the most important radio station in the land was 50,000 watt clear channel WLAC-AM in Nashville. It had morphed through the decades into an outlet which played blues and R & B to an audience that spanned the eastern half of the northern hemisphere.

In the winter and spring of ‘62-’63, Robbie Robertson listened. Johnny Winter listened. So did my buddies and I, eschewing homework to twist and turn the wireless knobs in our bedrooms to catch every funky beat. Spinning the platters were the legendary quartet of John R (Richbourg), Hoss Allen, Gene Nobles and Herman Grizzard.

Between shilling for White Rose petroleum jelly, Royal Crown pomade and mail order specials from Randy’s Record Shop in Gallatin, Tennessee (7 records, pure vinyl, either 45 rpm or 78, your choice), they exposed a generation to this whole world of black music that would, as John Lee Hooker sang, “rock the nation.” These deejays were white guys — much to many listeners’ surprise — who adopted black southern patois and rode the night train to notoriety.

At some point, Hoss Allen decided to become a rep for the station and gave up his DJ gig, replaced by Jarrett, known to acolytes as Big Hugh Baby. A former member of the Jordanaires, the gospel group that became Elvis Presley’s back up singers, Big Hugh was master of the double entendre. Such that he opened his phone lines during his nighttime double shift to college and high school kids like me in need of an airwaved 55 gallon drum of White Rose or a Big Hugh Baby bird. Which sounded disarmingly like one of Uncle Joe’s beer and sausage farts. (Several years ago, I tracked Jarrett down to a small station in Georgia or Alabama, where he had a weekly gig, playing gospel music. I wrote him an email. He never responded.)

I called in from Florida during spring break in ‘63, and still have some of the White Rose left almost a half century later. 55 gallons is heap o’ petroleum jelly. It helps me get better, but I never get totally well. Read the rest of this entry »

The World’s Greatest Gravestone

Posted: March 5th, 2009 | Filed under: Culture, Features, Music, Personalities | 3 Comments »

How did I come to honor the curiosity that is the grave marker of one hit wonder Ernie K-Doe (Real name: Ernest Kador)? Listen up.

Those into Oldies but Goodies surely know without much brain racking that he sang “Mother In Law” The Top 40 song with the classic call and response. The lyrics in full:

(Mother in Law) Mother in Law/ (Mother in Law) Mother in Law

The worst person I know/ (Mother-in law, mother-in law)/ (Mother-in law, mother-in law)/ She worries me, so/ If she’d leave us alone/ We would have a happy home/ Sent from down below

Mother in Law/ Mother in Law

Satan should be her name/ To me they’re bout the same/ Every time I open my mouth/ She steps in, tries to put me out/ How could she stoop so low

I come home with my pay/ She asks me what I made/ She thinks her advice is the constitution/ But if she would leave that would be the solution/ And don’t come back no more

Mother in law/ My……mother in law Read the rest of this entry »

Astral Weeks: Hollywood Bowl Revisted

Posted: February 10th, 2009 | Filed under: Culture, Features, Music | 1 Comment »

And I’m caught one more time
Up on Cyprus Avenue
And I’m caught one more time
Up on Cyprus Avenue
And I’m conquered in a car seat
Not a thing that I can do

The CD release of Van Morrison’s first ever performance in its entirety of “Astral Weeks” in November at the Hollywood Bowl is now set for March 24. It was supposed to come out today (when I’m writing this), February 10. But, as those things go in the music biz, the release date was pushed back.

I did score a copy after much cajolery and obsessive pursuit of that goal. After all I’d been to the concert on a honeymoon trip and the time had long since passed to hear whether the show was as magnificent as the Film Babe and I believed it at the time.

Of this now confirmed tour de force performance, there really is only one question to ask.

Okay, that’s not true. There are a couple. Read the rest of this entry »

Cards & Cats Through a Crystal Ball

Posted: January 7th, 2009 | Filed under: Features, Sports | 1 Comment »

Am I hallucinating? Did I watch the U of L hoopsters piss away a 7-point lead with 50 seconds to go, then beat UK on a trey right before the buzzer? From 25 feet? From Edgar Sosa?

Is the kid on top of the press table screaming? Are the fans who days ago were blaspheming him now hearing “One Shining Moment?”

It’s a couple hours after that celebration has faded into its own wacky parade. I’m watching the DVR of U of L’s fuhrschlunginer three-point escape. I’m still rubbing my eyes, not hearing that CBS tourney theme or “This is It!” But, wondering if Sosa is now somebody to love, I’m hearing the Airplane: When the truth is found to be liesRead the rest of this entry »

The Big Game: Red vs. Blue

Posted: December 31st, 2008 | Filed under: Culture, Features, Sports | No Comments »

More eloquently than I, sportswriting doyen Charles P. Pierce has riffed on the difference between the Big Game and an important game.

The important game is of note because of an extraneous circumstance, say, a made-for-TV matchup, or perhaps because the winner advances toward some legit championship.

The Big Game is much more, laden with generational consequence. It is ritualistic, fraught with anticipation and conflict. Fans who bleed their team’s colors turn off the phone, don lucky underwear, eschew familial duties and, in the event of a loss, cocoon until the aftershock has passed. Read the rest of this entry »

Culture Maven’s Person of Year

Posted: December 28th, 2008 | Filed under: Culture, Features, Personalities, Politics | No Comments »

On a lark, an old pal Jan and some friends went to a Lisa Minelli concert in early fall during the election. It was a rather staid crowd, including the well dressed couple sitting next to them.

To introduce a song, Lisa mentioned it was homage to “the greatest woman ever.” At which point the seemingly normal, mild mannered fellow in a suit and tie sitting next to my friend shouted at the top of his lungs, “Sarah Palin.”

Incredulous, Jan looked over and asked, “You’re kidding, right?”

“Absolutely not,” he answered.

In fact, Minelli was referring to Sara Lee. Yeah, the coffee cake gal.

But here’s the point. In a year when our country finally stood up for truth, justice and the American way by electing our first black president, when we finally are able to bid a fond adieu to our worst president in history and his unrepentant, egregious sidekick/ puppeteer, the most compelling personality of this very political annum was an out-of-the-blue previously unknown vice presidential candidate from Alaska.

Because of that unfortunately not-so-stunning phenomenon and what it says about our culture in 2008, Sarah Palin is the Culture Maven’s Person of the Year. Read the rest of this entry »

Movies I Love, Part XIII: Body Heat

Posted: December 14th, 2008 | Filed under: Cinema, Culture, Features | No Comments »

Ned Racine (William Hurt) in “Body Heat,” like Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Jake Gittes in “Chinatown,” is bright but not as much so as he thinks, and he falls in love with the wrong woman. Racine, an underachieving lawyer in hot hot hot south Florida, is also a bit lazy, single, ever on the prowl and tempestuously immoral.

The audience realizes, but he doesn’t, that he’s a goner from the moment he spies lithe, sensuous and smokey-voiced Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner) at a concert one night on the pier.

She smolders. They flirt. She disappears on him. He tracks her down. (As Matty says, “Well, some men, once they get a whiff of it, they trail you like a hound.”) What ensues is the hottest interlude in film. Which I now present for your perusal.

Matty’s hubby Edmund (Richard Crenna), who is conveniently away a lot on business, is not as “small and weak” as Matty says. Even though Ned realizes that after a chance encounter with the couple at a restaurant, his passion leads to you know what conclusion. They desire no impediments to their “love.” As Ned says, “A man is going to die . . . just because we want him to.” Read the rest of this entry »