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LA FLORIDIANA
T.R.E.E. Inc.’s Florida Arbor Day Weekend 2004
 by Will Moriaty

THIS WEEK'S MOVIE REVIEW
OSCAR PICKS, 2004
by Mike Smith

ODDSERVATIONS
VH1's "Bands Re-United"
 by Andy Lalino

THE OGRE
Burlesque and The Suicide Girls....plus, guest editorial by Black Dog
 by Clayton Smith

CREATURE'S CORNER
You can go back
 by John Lewis

MIKE'S RANT
Good Morning, Captain....Good-Night, Jack....The Golden Globes....Oscar Time....How About The Bad Ones?....Pirates, As In "AARRGH"?....Game Show Memories....Meet The Beatles, Part 3
 by Mike Smith

LETTERS
Nolan's Pop Culture Review, 2003!
Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our fifth calendar year!
Number 201  (Vol. 5, No. 5). This edition is for the week of January 26--February 1, 2004.

Busy Week!

•  The Death of Captain Kangaroo
•  The second Martian rover successfully lands
•  The Golden Globes
•  No nukes in Iraq after all
Plus...
•  Flash Fantastic wins an award (already!)
•  Guest editorial featuring a potential participant of "The Weakest Link"

I know I've talked about this before, and I don't remember exactly where or when, but it was most likely during one of our Top Ten list meltdowns about greatest TV shows, or greatest influences, or something like that. But along with The Adventures of Superman and Lost in Space, Bob Keeshan's Captain Kangaroo was the earliest documentable influential part of my childhood TV development (if there is such a thing) that led the cascading series of events that created this crazed fanboy, and why I eventually became a video producer and host. In fact, and this is no lie, when I watch myself on TV, I see Bob Keeshan written all over the place, (As I age, you might say I'm almost growing into the role), more than any other singular influence....well, along with Johnny Carson, Rod Serling, and Art Bell's influence, but you know. It wasn't conscious. In fact, I never really realized it until recently.

This is not to be confused with my influences as a fan writer, publisher and collector, where Forrest J Ackerman is my single biggest influence (with Stan Lee an extremely close second), or my influences into video sci-fi/social commentary where Rod Serling and Joseph Stephano are kings.

I have always respected and admired Keeshan's "grandfatherly" approach to children's television, as did I Fred Rogers and "Mr. Wizard" Don Herbert. I was simply not that big a fan of Romper Room and was slow to warm to Sesame Street (and mostly then because of the Muppets). I think it's because I felt they talked down to me and Keeshan refused to. He went on record as saying something to the effect of "you don't have to talk down to children, you just have to talk to them". This is LONG before Robin Williams uttered virtually the same words in "Mrs. Doubtfire" decades later.

The cast of Captain Kangaroo in the '60s was insanely small, I believe there were only three of them! Keeshan, of course, "Lumpy" Branum who played Mr. Greenjeans, frequently the show's animal curator and comic foil, and the under-appreciated and underseen Cosmo Allegretti, the manic puppeteer who breathed life into Mr. Moose, Bunny Rabbit, Grandfather Clock, the 3-Dimensional clown, Mr. Bainter the Painter, the list goes on and on.

Bob Keeshan himself had a prior history in show business, most notably as Clarabell the Clown on the Howdy Doody show. He carried a similar clown character over into Captain Kangaroo, but I don't remember what its name was.

There was another performer, a real odd-ball type, who had one of the strangest acts I've ever seen: The Banana Man (I don't think he was played by Keeshan). If any of you old fogies can recall, this was a rarely-seen clown character, who also occasionally was on Ed Sullivan. His act, performed in front of a circus wagon (to suggest "on the road") consisted of nothing more than finding bunches of bananas in strange places, including on his person, then looking up to the camera and, with a child-like falsetto, saying, "Wooooow!" That's it. That was his only dialogue.

Begun when Keeshan was only 28 in October of 1955, I think Captain Kangaroo was positively groundbreaking. For the record, I don't believe the character was a "Captain" of anything militaristic---my impression is he was more of a train conductor. The "Kangaroo" part was because of the jumbo-sized pockets in his coat. I think he picked "Captain" for the alliterative "K" sound against "Kangaroo". He dropped the conductor's hat entirely by the early '60s. Much was made of his big, hoop-sized key-ring which he'd use to unlock the doors to the Treasure House every week. This, too, was more or less de-emphasized as decades wore on.

The '90s brought more changes as Keeshan had been traded and trafficked to several different networks, winding up on Public Television. His budget slashed, the Treasure House was a shadow of its former self, obviously a very small set in a large studio-with-cyclarama. Almost public access-like in its pathetic state, right down to the free standing back-wall-with-window set piece to even remotely suggest an "inside" and an "outside".

(Let me go on record here as saying that his original classical-sounding theme music was amazing, indisputably part of my memory of the '60s version of the show and inseparable from it. I never cared much for the latter-day "Good Morning Captain" song that replaced the earlier, lilting-yet-sweeping string suite. That theme was, to my ears, more in line with Keeshan's more adult-oriented approach than the nursery-rhyme-sounding later theme. I never believed he was solely responsible for that change.)

In an attempt to keep the legend going after Keeshan's retirement, The New Captain Kangaroo hit the headlines with a big splash in the mid-'90s. The new actor playing the Captain was a younger fat guy with a long black beard. I don't remember the actor's name, but he'd remind you of a cross between a young Santa Claus and Bluto from Popeye. It was a really bad idea, the show didn't work, and not surprisingly, expired quickly.

There was only one Captain Kangaroo and he's no longer with us. He will be sorely missed.

On Weapons of Mass Destruction and Opportunities on Mars
OK, fine, I won't take up valuable screen real estate with my political ravings, especially since that seems to bug y'all and this front page is running really long this week anyway. However, I have coded in a way to read them if you desire. Pop-up windows must be enabled on your browser:
On Weapons of Mass Destruction/The Reality and Excitement of Mars exploration


The Golden Globe Winners

Best Motion Picture – Drama
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Wingnut Films
New Line Cinema
---------------------------------------------------------------
Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Lost in Translation
American Zoetrope/Elemental Films/Focus Features
---------------------------------------------------------------
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama>
Charlize Theron - Monster
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Best Foreign Language Film
Osama (Afghanistan)
Barmak Films; United Artists/Mgm Distribution Co.
------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama
Sean Penn - Mystic River
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Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Al Pacino - Angels in America
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Director - Motion Picture
Peter Jackson - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series
or Motion Picture Made for Television

Mary Louise Parker - Angels in America
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
Sofia Coppola - Lost in Translation
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Original Song - Motion Picture
“Into The West”— The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King - Music & Lyrics By: Howard Shore, Fran Walsh,
Annie Lennox
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Original Score - Motion Picture
Howard Shore - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy
Ricky Gervais - The Office
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Television Series - Drama
24 (FOX) Imagine TV & 20th Century Fox TV i.a.w. Real Time Prods.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Bill Murray - Lost in Translation
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Diane Keaton - Something’s Gotta Give
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series
or Motion Picture Made for Television

Jeffrey Wright - Angels in America
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy
Sarah Jessica Parker - Sex and The City
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Meryl Streep - Angels in America
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Angels in America - (HBO) Avenue Pictures in association with HBO Films
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Television Series - Musical Or Comedy
The Office - (BBC AMERICA) BBC/BBC America
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Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Renee Zellweger - Cold Mountain
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama
Frances Conroy - Six Feet Under
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama
Anthony Lapaglia- Without a Trace
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Tim Robbins - Mystic River


Guest editorial
Tell Me That I'm Not THE WEAKEST LINK -- Please
by Hugo Morley

(Editor's Note: Hugo Morley is part-owner and chief bartender of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, a favorite watering hole William and I frequent on S. MacDill Ave in Tampa. Hugo has deep roots in show business as his grandfather Robert Morley acted in everything from "The African Queen" to "The Great Muppet Caper" ---the walls of the pub have many pictures of him. After countless debates and discussions, and putting up with me trying to nail his deep-but-polished London accent, Hugo consented to write for the readers of PCR this true story of how he attempted to get on the syndicated version of the game show "The Weakest Link" last summer. We welcome Hugo to our pages.---Nolan

It may well have been the longest day of my life.

One afternoon about a week ago, I came to work at four o'clock and, as usual at that time, the bar was empty. Even the die-hard early regulars rarely show up long before five. As is my wont, I had The Weakest Link on the television. Not, you understand, the primetime version with that savage bitch from England. This was the syndicated version starring a man called George who actually looks frighteningly similar to Ann Robinson, and often seems to be wearing her robes.

Not for the first time, I was feeling somewhat smug as I called out the correct answers before the contestants. I even knew when to bank the money. If there was a game show for me, this was clearly it. A friend had even said that this was the game for me, as they never ask you anything useful. Towards the end of the show some writing came across the bottom of the screen. This being Florida and the third week of June, I was expecting another storm warning. Storm warnings on the television at this time of year, and at that time of day, are frequent even though the storms themselves seem to be something of a rarity. However, this was not a warning of any kind, it was an invitation to Tampa Bay residents to audition to be on the show. The auditions were to be held the following Wednesday at 10am at a hotel downtown. I somehow felt this was a sign. The gauntlet had been thrown down and who was I not to pick it up? Also, I thought how many people could have seen this, and, of those that did, how many could actually get away from their jobs, children, and other commitments on a midweek morning even with the possibility of ending up on national television.

On Wednesday, June 26th, I awoke at 9am, about five hours earlier than I like to get up on a weekday morning. But today was a special day; I was going to join I assumed about twenty other people with the hope of winning a trip to Hollywood to appear on my favorite game show and ultimately, obviously, to win several thousand dollars -- up to seventy-five, although I have noticed that fifteen is about the most anybody seems to carry away. I even had my best shirt laundered and it was hanging in my closet ready for my big chance at game show stardom & fortune.

As usual I got lost downtown but still managed to park and be at the Hyatt by five minutes to ten expecting to walk into an empty room with a few jaded television executives relieved to see that someone had actually bothered to show up at all. How wrong was I? The ballroom, where the the preliminary stages of the audition were active, were already full with about a hundred and fifty people. I was given numner 199 and asked to return at twelve-thirty. There was obviously more to this game than a courtesy handshake, informal discussion over coffee, and promise of an airline ticket to California sometime next month. This was a competition.

I returned before twelve. I obviously had to appear enthusiastic. Sauntering in with five minutes to spare had done me no favors at ten and I was not going to make that mistake again. I now felt for the first time there was something at stake. I need not have worried quite as much as I spent the next hour in a crowded corridor with a hundred and fifty other hopefuls. We were eventually called into the room and sat in rows of long tables. A four-page form was handed out to be filled in. Name, address, phone, work phone, friend's phone, social security, etc. Did I know anyone who worked for NBC, BBC, Gudrin & several other companies that I had never even heard of? I'm sure I must know someone, but "no" seemed to be the desired answer for fear of a conflict of interest. Had I consumed alcohol in the last twenty-four hours? Amazingly, I had not. Monday night had gone on for a lot longer than was wise, and consequently, Tuesday had been one of the very few days when I had not had so much as one drink. Then came some questions that looked like they required thoughtful answers. Now was the time to be, or atleast appear to be, intriguing. I clearly had if not strong, big competition. "What do you enjoy?" -- five lines, keep it simple, one word on each line. Drinking, talking, magic, movies, theater. Next page: Current & Previous Employment -- Bartender/manager of a restaurant in Tampa, Company Manager for ten years of theatrical tours around the Middle and Far East, Home Shopping Network, call center (not my proudest moment, but it paid the bills), waiter at Pizza Hut (a long time ago, but it helped me through college). "What are your hobbies?" Didn't we just have this question? Drinking (damn, again) -- should I cross it out, I'm beginning to look like an alcoholic. What if they turn the paper over, they could still see what I wrote. Leave it, but put in some healthy intelligent stuff: reading, swimming, diving -- not exactly lies, but nothing I have actually excelled in lately.

Now it was time for everyone in turn to stand up and talk briefly about themselves and for me to scope out the competition. Lawyer, doctor, housemaker, dentist, Wal-Mart manager -- how did they all get the day off? Insurance broker, banker, ditto? Waiter, DJ, stripper, usual assortment of second and third shift workers. Bartender, bartender, bartender looked like my job alone was not going to win me a place on the show. Three people had been involved in the Gulf War and about five had met the Pope. A couple seemed to be missing belly buttons and one lady was carrying a dog (I could not imagine how that could possibly work in her favor). One man stood on his chair and several made bad jokes. A few made very good jokes, then it was my turn. Keep it simple, don't try to be funny if you can't be, but try to get the scout's attention. Hopefully, the English accent might count for something.

My name is Hugo. I was born 34 years ago in London, England. I spent ten years taking theatrical tours around the Middle & Far East. I am now a bartender and live in Tampa about three blocks the wrong side of Gandy. (Small, but appreciative laugh from about half the room.) So far, so good.

Next -- a test, 20 questions, no conferring. Where were the 2000 Summer Olympics held? Sydney -- good start. Which cable network shows "True Hollywood Stories"? E! -- rock & roll. Author known as "Papa"? Hemmingway. This was too good to be true. Which English actor played William Thacker¹ is "Notting Hill"? Was this my day or what? There were a few questions I know I got wrong and I'm still upset about the scout's pronunciation of Madonna's last name² -- the man had clearly never been to Italy and that was one of my wrong answers.

Over four hours had passed since my arrival at the Hyatt and we were asked to leave the room and return in half an hour to be told who had gotten through to the next round of audition. I was due at work at four and I realized should I be selected there was no way I would make it. Quick phone call to be gainfully underemployed friend Wilko to ask him to cover the start of my shift. No problem. Back in the hotel ballroom, I was indeed one of the fifty or so shortlisted and could I return in two hours. Was this an audition or was it to be the rest of my life?

A short stroll through downtown to a little tavern for the worst Ceaser salad with chicken that I have ever endured and three pints of beer. By my reckoning on the walk back, that was one pint of beer too many. Oh God, was I going to appear drunk and ruin my chances? I had already put the two drinking references on my application. Would drinking appear to be a career more than just a hobby?

I need not have worried, I was back at the hotel by four-thirty, an hour before requested, and plenty of time for coffee, mints, and sobering up. An hour, it seemed, was plenty of time. As had been the pattern of the day, I had a lot longer than an hour and I wasn't called into the second room until after seven o'clock. By this time, I had peed three times, more than sobered up, and read seventy pages of Nick Hornby's excellent novel, "How To be Good". A very bizarre story I had read in The Weekly Planet's "News of the Weird" would not leave my head. A little over a year ago, a man in England was caught by his own home surveillance equipment murdering his wife. He did this by slamming her head against a wall several times repeatedly shouting, "You are the weakest link. Goodbye."

About thirty people were in this room and we were told that nothing that had happened so far was of any importance any longer. We were now to be briefly interviewed on video and then we would play a quick dummy round of the game. Two questions each and then vote off the weakest link. This was the video to be watched by the producers in Hollywood. Try to forget what a long day this has been, how tired you are. Show lots of energy, enthusiasm, and humor. We were called up in groups of seven. Not surprisingly, I was in the final group. It was getting late and I hoped that Wilko was making himself some money at the bar. The young Senior Talent Scout asked us questions first about ourselves and then the quiz.

My name is Hugo. I was born 34 years ago in London, England. I spent ten years touring theatrical productions around the Middle & Far East and am now a bartender living in Tampa. I believe this makes me one of the very few people to give up show business to work in a restaurant.

(Big and very reassuring laugh from the whole room.)

Scout: Tell me the most interesting story you know as a bartender.

Me: I'm not sure what the most interesting story would be, but there were two incidents this month. A couple of weeks ago I had to give a comatose hooker to some customers across he street which I'm sure added to their cable boxing match party, and I don't want to bring the room down, but this month one of my customers was shot dead by the Tampa Police Department.

Oh no! had I gone too far? Had I shared too much? Was I still drunk? Apparently not, at least not judging by the huge amount of laughter in the room.

All finished now, apart from the game. I wanted to strangle the man who thought that Bruce Willis was the Animal House actor who went on to star as Mozart in Amadeus. Why could I have not had that question, I knew the answer was Tom Hulce. I also knew that Haley Joel Osmet got his Oscar nomination for The Sixth Sense -- and not Look Who's Talking. Mathematics has never been my strongest subject, but even I was uncomfortable in the presence of a man who thought that twelve times six was seventy. My first question: Who was the King of France at the start of the French Revolution? Louis, I knew, but would that be enough? Probably not. "The sixteenth" I continued. Correct! I rocked!!!! Second question: the Ancient Wonders -- where were The Hanging Gardens? Babylon. Will I ever feel this cool again? We all voted a man who thought Dr. Watson was Hercule Poirot's assistant as the Weakest Link, and at quarter past eight, a mere ten hours and fifteen minutes after my arrival at the hotel, it was time to leave. Will I get on the show? Who knows? We were told that we might get called anytime between two weeks and one year!!!!! I won't be holding my breath, but maybe this story is to be continued......

Notes
¹ Hugh Grant was the actor in Notting Hill for those unaware.
² When I later talked to Hugo he said that the interviewer had asked something about the rarely heard last name of a famous person he pronounced as "chick-KANE" or something like that. He joked that it sounded like saying "chicken" with a bad French accent. Not ever having heard it before, Hugo took a wild stab that it might be Prince. When the interviewer said "Madonna", Hugo remembered her last name as being pronounced "kitch-SHOWN" or "kitch-SHOWN-ee" which he would've instantly recognized as being Madonna.


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"Mike's Rant" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith    "Matt's Rail" is ©2004 by Matthew Drinnenberg     "La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty     "This Week's Movie Review" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith    "Couch Potato Confessions" is ©2004 by Vinnie Blesi    "Oddservations" is ©2004 by Andy Lalino    "Creature's Corner" is ©2004 by John Lewis    "Murder on the Woo Woo Express" is ©2004 by Patty G. Henderson     All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova    
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