Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bob Dylan at the State Theater, Cleveland, Ohio, November 12, 2014

Signs in the lobby of the State Theater reminded patrons that Bob Dylan and his band would take the stage promptly at 8:00 p.m., and they did with a predictable reaction. Once the house lights were dimmed and we could see several shadowy figures move to their positions on stage, the applause, mixed with shouts of “I love you, Bobby,” were almost deafening. Dylan is in what I call the “later Elvis” period of his career. Like Elvis, Dylan merely has to make an entrance to bring the crowd to its feet, and while Elvis could bring the house down with nothing more than a sluggish shake of a leg, Dylan does it blowing on his signature harmonica. It did not matter that all but a handful of songs were unrecognizable to anyone but fans of his most recent albums. It did not matter that he talks his songs more than he sings. He’s still the best show in town.

Wearing a white hat, a long white scarf, and a dark duster that might have come from the wardrobe department of an Italian western, Dylan opened the show standing at center stage, blasting out “Things Have Changed,” his Oscar winning song from the 2000 film, Wonder Boys. The rest of the night found him alternating between that position and the piano. The band crackled and, unlike the last Dylan show I attended at Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall, the stage was well-lit. You could see the guy as well as hear him. He even spoke for a change, not to introduce the musicians (he never did), but to alert the audience that there would be a 15-minute intermission.

Although the highlights were when Dylan performed the undisputed classics in his vast catalogue (“She Belongs to Me,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Simple Twist of Fate,” and the first encore, “Blowin’ in the Wind”), my ears gained a greater appreciation for some of those newer, less familiar songs thanks to his impassioned delivery. This was no aging legend giving a perfunctory reading of his “hits” for the benefit of an undiscriminating audience, but an artist who is still inspired or can sure make you feel that he is. “Long and Wasted Years,” with its distinctive guitar riff, was especially impressive. And the closer, a cover of an old Sinatra ballad called “Stay with Me,” gave the audience a preview of his upcoming album of standards, Shadows in the Night. If the album is anything like his performance of this song, it will be worth the wait.

Then, cloaked in those shadows, Dylan and his band headed for another joint. It was a memorable night, one that will stay with me until my own long and wasted years are complete.

Brian W. Fairbanks

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

9/11: The Devil in the Details

In commemoration of the 13th anniversary of the "terrorist attacks" of September 11, 2001, an excerpt from chapter 10 of The Illuminati Zone by William Fevers (a pen name for yours truly) concerning the significance of numbers on that day which is proof that the official story is, to put it politely, incorrect:

“11 and 22 are particularly fortunate and excellent numbers,” Richard Cavendish writes in The Black Arts, “representing a higher plane of experience than the numbers 1 to 9. Eleven is the number of revelation and martyrdom.”

And multiples of 11 have a unique power:

“Just as adults always carry their inner child within them, the numbers 11, 22, 33, and 44 carry within them the number they can be reduced to. The number 11 is also 2 (1+1=2); 22 is also 4 (2+2=4); 33 is also 6 (3+3=6); and 44 is also 8 (4+4=8).”

There’s no avoiding the fact that 11 was a most unfortunate number on that infamous day in 2001. Consider the following from the web site, The Forbidden Knowledge:

● The date of the attack: the eleventh day of the ninth month. Add the digits in 9/11 (9+1+1) and the result is 11.
● The World Trade Center’s two towers each had 110 stories (11x10=110).
● The building known as 7 World Trade Center had 47 stories (4+7=11).
● The State of New York, the scene of the attack, was the eleventh state added to the Union.
● The year 2001 had 111 days remaining following the attacks of September 11.
● September 11 is the 254th day of the year (2+5+4=11).
● The Twin Towers themselves formed a symbolic number 11.
● The first plane to strike the towers on the morning of September 11 was Flight 11.
● Flight 11 had 11 crew members on board.
● Flight 11 had 92 persons on board overall (9+2=11).
● Flight 175 had 65 people aboard (6+5=11), and, of course, 1+7+5=13, the number notoriously associated with bad luck and, not surprisingly, the number of the chapter in the Book of Revelation in which the Antichrist appears on the scene. 5

The number 9 is also important in the occult.

According to Texe Marrs, occultists regard the number 9 as the “ultimate number of power and authority” for the usual blasphemous reasons. It was at the ninth hour on the cross that Jesus drew his final breath, and there are said to be nine orders of devils in Hell.

Submitted for your approval: world-shaping events in which the numbers 9 and/or 11, or multiples of one or the other, appear to have an occult implication:

● The Pentagon was also targeted on 9/11. Ground was broken for this structure, a think-tank for war, on September 11, 1941. Here we have 9/11 and, when adding the digits in the year (1+9+4+1), we get 15. Add one to five and the result is 6. When turned on its head, 6 becomes 9.

● World War I, the “war to end all wars” which the League of Nations hoped would usher in a world government, ended in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

● President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. That’s 11/22. Adding those figures gives us 33, multiple elevens.

● September 11 was also the date in 1973 when a coup d’etat took place in Chile. That event, triggered by policies conceived by the Rockefeller controlled Council on Foreign Relations, led to General Augusto Pinochet’s establishment of a military dictatorship that would last through 1990.

● The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989. That’s 11/9, the reverse of 9/11, and when you add the digits in the year, you get 27 or 2+7=9 for a total of 11/99.

In none of the mainstream news accounts of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center was there any mention of whose idea those haughty towers were in the first place. Hang on to your hats, conspiracy buffs, because here comes a surprise: they were David Rockefeller’s dream!

These giant towers of Babel-like structures were deemed impractical by many. No doubt those who worked in them and bellyached about the constant swaying motion they experienced were never convinced otherwise. But Rockefeller always gets what he wants, so the towers, derisively nicknamed Nelson and David, went up at his behest.

The architect, Minour Yamasaki, didn’t live to see his arrogant masterwork destroyed. Of his baby, he said, “World trade means world peace, and consequently the World Trade Center buildings in New York . . . had a bigger purpose than to just provide room for tenants. The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man’s dedication to world peace.”

Architect Charles Jencks had a different take, however:

“Repetitive architecture can put you to sleep. Both Mussolini and Hitler used it as a form of thought control knowing that before people can be coerced they first have to be hypnotized and then bored.”

Indeed, Hitler recognized that architecture played an important role in the psychology of a totalitarian state. In Hitler and the Power of Architecture, Frederic Spotts describes Hitler’s obsessive participation in the design of new building projects in Nazi Germany:

“The overall effect - and, indeed, intent - was to aggrandize himself and to debase human beings into tiny objects, automations as insensate as the stone of the building.”

“Is it possible to imagine the World Trade Center as a ruin?” Eric Darton asked in his “biography” of the Twin Towers in 1999.

Prior to September 11, 2001, few of us could. Psychologically, 9/11 reinforced the feeling that we are tiny objects, vulnerable and easily crushed.


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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On Dylan's Basement Tapes and the Mighty Eskimo

For several months now, visitors to bobdylan.com have been greeted by a homepage that seemed to be advertising a new Bob Dylan album titled Shadows in the Night. Once you clicked what appeared to be an album cover, you were taken to Dylan’s recording of an old chestnut, “Moonlight and Open Arms,” once recorded by Frank Sinatra.

On Tuesday August 26, however, the news was about the release, on November 4, of the 11th collection in The Bootleg Series: The Basement Tapes Complete, a six-disc compilation of those fabled homemade recordings of Dylan and The Band (before they were even known as “The Band”) from 1967, a period between the motorcycle accident that gave Dylan an excuse to take a rest from his hectic career and the release, on December 27 of that year, of John Wesley Harding. When the basement tapes found their way onto an unauthorized and illegal set called Great White Wonder, it was the beginning of that illicit and shadowy industry known as “bootleg” recordings. In 1975, Columbia officially released a scant selection of these recordings on a two-record set, The Basement Tapes, but there was something inauthentic about the package. Robbie Robertson of The Band was in charge of compiling the songs and included eight tracks by The Band in which Dylan did not participate (and were not even recorded during these sessions), and there was some tinkering with the sound to make the crude recordings (part of their charm) sound more “professional.” There were also some mind-boggling omissions. Neither “I Shall Be Released” nor “The Mighty Quinn” (aka “Quinn the Eskimo”), two of the most famous songs from the sessions, were included even though a character obviously meant to represent the latter was pictured on the cover.

“The Mighty Quinn” (aka “Quinn the Eskimo”), a 1969 hit for Manfred Mann, is on the track listing for The Basement Tapes Complete. Like most Dylan songs, “The Mighty Quinn” (aka “Quinn the Eskimo”) has led to speculation concerning who or what Dylan is singing about. The man’s own comments, and there have been very few about this song, are not too helpful.

“’Quinn the Eskimo,’ I don’t know,” he told Cameron Crowe when asked about the song for the booklet packaged with 1985’s Biograph. “I don’t know what it was about. I guess it was some kind of nursery rhyme.”

I don’t know what the song is “about,” but I’ve always suspected that the Quinn in the song came from actor Anthony Quinn, Zorba the Greek himself, which is not to say the song has anything to do with him, only that two movies he appeared in may have triggered Dylan’s imagination. As a film buff (and Dylan left no doubt that he is one by including Todd Browning’s 1932 Freaks among the movies that “stay with you” in that same interview with Crowe), Dylan probably saw The Savage Innocents, a 1961 film directed by cult favorite Nicholas Ray (Johnny Guitar, Rebel Without a Cause), in which Quinn was cast as an Eskimo. Dylan almost certainly would have seen Federico Fellini’s La Strada with Quinn as a circus strongman (you know, the kind who breaks chains across his chest). From those two Anthony Quinn movies we get both “Quinn the Eskimo” and “The Mighty Quinn.”

So there. Another Dylan mystery solved. (Others may have made the connection between the song and two Anthony Quinn movies, but I’m not aware of it.) More mysteries are sure to be unearthed on November 4 with the release of The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Volume 11, though I’m guessing that the riddle of “Yea, Heavy and a Bottle of Bread” will never be solved. That’s just as well. What is life without wonder?

Brian W. Fairbanks

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Blood Moons are coming

Does God communicate with us through signs in the heavens?

Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs (WND Books) by Mark Blitz is the second book that I’ve read on the subject of the tetrad due to occur on Jewish feast days in 2014 and 2015. (A tetrad is the name that astronomers give to the phenomenon of four successive blood moons.) The first, Four Blood Moons by John Hagee, did not thoroughly persuade me that blood moons, at least when falling on feast days, are significant in the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Blitz hasn’t erased my doubts, but he doesn’t confirm them either. Blood moons? There may be something to it.

A blood moon is an eclipse in which light traveling from the sun to the moon is blocked by the earth. The moon turns blood red as a result. In the Bible, there are warnings about signs in the sun and moon as we enter the last days. In Matthew 24:29, we read that “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light.” In Revelation 6:12, there’s this: “And I beheld when he opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.”

Blood moons are not uncommon, but four in a row, a tetrad, all on Jewish feast days, is unusual. When they occurred in the past, they preceded or followed major events of prophetic significance. In 1967, the first of four blood moons became visible prior to the Six Day War in which Israel reclaimed Jerusalem. The four blood moons in 1949 and 1950 occurred after Israel became a nation in 1948. Blitz believes these signs were “God’s way of telling the world it was His doing . . .” The inconsistency in the timing, with blood moons preceding one event and following another, has made some prophecy students question Blitz’s theory. Blitz thinks they “are totally missing the point.”

What is intriguing is how rarely a tetrad takes place on feast days. It happened only twice in the 20th century. Prior to that, there were no tetrads for 300 years. Between 1400 and 1500, two of four tetrads fell on feast days (1428-29 and 1493-94). During the first, Jews sought protection from the pope. One year before the latter tetrad, the Jews were ordered to leave Spain. The blood moons of 2014-15 will be the only tetrad to fall on feast days in this century. This is interesting, indeed.

One difficulty that a reader may encounter with Blitz’s book is the author’s reliance on the Torah which means he refers to Jesus throughout as Yeshua, explaining in a footnote that “Jesus is a totally manufactured name. It is a distorted transliteration of the original Greek into Latin, and then into the various evolutions of the English language.” I don’t doubt that this makes for a more accurate reading of Scripture, but if you’re accustomed to reading the King James Version of the Bible, the effect is jarring at times, and confusing at others.

The nature of those feast days is also a surprise for anyone who accepts the modern definition of a feast as a “banquet” (formal dinner). In Hebrew, the word is “moed,” meaning a “divine appointment.” Blitz writes, “The feasts of the Lord are the divine appointments, when God predetermined that He would interact with human history.”

Whatever they mean, the blood moons are coming - ready or not. Expect the first on Passover, April 15, 2014.

Brian W. Fairbanks

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Friday, February 28, 2014

The latest "Awesome" words

On a show called Culture Click that I accidentally caught one recent Saturday morning, a girl named Isabella said that “epic,” “beast,” and “legit” are popular words among today’s kids to designate something as “awesome,” which is an earlier and sadly indestructible exclamation to indicate that something or someone is great or “cool.”

I suppose these words, with the exception of “beast,” are preferable to “bitchen,” which was popular in 1966 when Richard Burton mentioned in his diaries that his stepson was saying it. Burton described it as “the new and horrible word for ‘up-to-date,’ ‘modern,’ ‘cool, ‘unsquare,’ ‘with it,’ etc.”

I think I used “cool,” “neat,” and maybe “in,” the last very briefly, when I was a kid, but I began to shun slang by the time I reached my teens, using it only facetiously to mock those whose speech is littered with such crap. Anyone who was truly “cool” or “hip” wouldn’t allow such words in his vocabulary.

Slang always sounds foolish in retrospect. A movie from the 1960s with characters who say “groovy,” or one from the 1950s that allowed the cast to say “Daddy-O,” always look like the works of old fogies desperately trying to appear young and contemporary. The same is true of books. Those that use the slang expressions in vogue at the time they are written are often unreadable, at least to me. Every book and movie reflects the time in which it was created, but only the worst make a conscious effort to be current and are usually laughable only a few years later.

I don’t think you’ll hear a word like “groovy” in any songs by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, or Rolling Stones, but it’s there in songs by lesser artists, most of whom never made it into the 1970s.

Art is timeless and transcends its era. The rest is artifice, not art, and artifice is not “cool,” it’s not “hip,” and it’s certainly not “beast.”

Brian W. Fairbanks

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Friday, January 31, 2014

When is a book not a book?

A library that recently opened in Bexar County, Texas contains only electronic books. This is another way of saying that this library has no books.

A book is something shaped like a square, or sometimes a rectangle, or . . . well, you get the picture. It has a cloth or cardboard cover and has pages made of paper. That, my friends (and enemies, if any happen to be reading this), is a book. A book is something you can hold in your hands. The words printed on the pages of a book are called text.

Now, you can put the text on an electronic device or a computer screen, but what you’re reading is in no way a book. You can also see plenty of images on a computer screen and even your phone, but you are in error if you call them photographs. They are pictures, but a photograph is made of paper and was printed from a 35mm negative. There is still such a thing as a movie, but in most cases the movie you’re watching can no longer be called a “film.” A movie made with digital technology is not a “film,” but . . . well, I don’t really know what the hell it is. As for music, music is still music, but records are pretty much done for. The vinyl LP in its cardboard cover might as well be a tombstone.

If this trend continues, as I’m sure it will, what will become of collectors? Will a first edition e-book one day be selling at Ebay or put up for bidding at Christie’s or Heritage Auctions? Is anyone ever going to collect music downloaded from iTunes?

I mean, I’m just saying.

Brian W. Fairbanks

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

R.I.P. 2013

During the final two decades of her life, my mother’s favorite expression was “I’m glad I’m on my way out.” She would usually utter the remark after hearing of some horrific incident on the news. If it involved cruelty to animals, the more emphatically it was stated. I don’t know how long I have left to tread upon the earth, but if I reach the current life expectancy for males, I should be out of here in another two decades. That’ll be fine with me. I dread the day when drones deliver mail and possibly descend from the sky to snatch me away because Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST), now in development by the Department of Homeland Security, suspects me of having “mal-intent.”

The very worst of science fiction is now coming to pass, and I was never a fan of the best.

What’s the deal with “downloading” music? I never liked the compact disc with its cold metallic shine and miniscule covers that all but killed album art, but I could at least hold the thing in my hand. These days, the movie I’m watching in a theater is on a disc or being downloaded from a satellite in space rather than printed on film and threaded through a 35mm projector. I don’t read literature on a Nook or Kindle, but so many people do that real books with paper pages will one day be as exotic as cursive writing which today’s students are not being taught.

I don’t like smart phones.

I don’t like the Kardashian sisters.

I don’t like Molly Cyrus.

I do not like Justin Bieber.

Most of what I’d miss in this world is already gone, so now my late mama’s favorite phrase has become my own: “I’m glad I’m on my way out.”

Some people I did like made their way out this year. I don’t know how they felt about life in the 21st century, but they made their mark in the 20th and left before the drones could get them.

Nelson Mandela died in 2013, and so did Margaret Thatcher. You can read about them in the history books, but not here. I am distrustful of all politicians and of what the media tells us about them. Mandela may have been as warm and cuddly as his obits claim, and Thatcher was instrumental in ending the Cold War, but neither brought me comfort, joy, or inspiration. Political figures rarely do.

Lou Reed was another matter. His voice - flat, whiny, and possessing no range whatsoever - would have gotten him booted from the first audition for American Idol, but his imperfections worked to his advantage. He was called the Godfather of Punk and a lot of other things, but like any great artist, labels just won’t do.

Reed came to prominence as the principle creative force in The Velvet Underground whose debut album in 1967 had that now iconic cover image of a banana by Andy Warhol. I first heard it when I was 15 or so, and my ears, initially appalled by the screeching guitars and coarse sound, grew to love it.

His voice was frequently drained of all enthusiasm. When he sang, "And me, I just don't care at all" in "Men of Good Fortune" from 1973’s Berlin, you did not doubt his sincerity. As Stephen Holden wrote in Rolling Stone, "It is a voice so incapable of bullshit that it makes even an artsy arrangement work by turning the whole thing into a joyous travesty." Listen to “Sad Song,” the epic finale of Berlin, in which his cynical vocal and hard-bitten lyrics (“Somebody else would have broken both of her arms”) prevent the strings and synthesizers from turning it into the inspirational “You’ll Never Walk Alone” moment that Reed seems to be mocking.

Reed also wrote some more traditional ballads. “Perfect Day” was even covered by Susan Boyle who may not have heard that the lover who made Reed “feel like someone else, someone good” was rumored to be heroin. That sounds as credible as the hypothesis that “Mother Mary” in the Beatles’ “Let It Be” was really marijuana. I don’t believe it, but to each his own.

George Jones was described by critic Jon Pareles as “the definitive country singer of the last half century.” The late Waylon Jennings was speaking for all country singers when he said, “If we could all sound like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones.” To Leonard Cohen, the man nicknamed the Possum had “the best voice in America.” What accounted for such praise? Jones attributed it to “being myself and singing from the heart.”

Peter O' Toole got his break playing Lawrence of Arabia to perfection in David Lean’s 1962 epic. He never quite equaled that achievement, but who could? That illustrious credit more than compensated for What’s New, Pussycat, Man of La Mancha, and Caligula, the kind of movies he might have been anticipating in 1963 when he told Gay Talese, “Oh, it’s painful seeing it all there on the screen, solidified, embalmed.” Thankfully, there’s also The Lion in Winter, The Ruling Class, The Stuntman, My Favorite Year, and a couple of well-written memoirs.

When making something called The Delinquents, Tom Laughlin was directed by Robert Altman who called him “an unbelievable pain in the ass.” He wasn’t much of an actor. He wasn’t much of a director either, but, like Altman, he was a true maverick. No survey of 1970’s cinema could ignore Billy Jack, the 1971 film he co-wrote, directed and starred in. Unhappy with the way that Warner Bros. dumped it into theaters he sued to regain control of its distribution. Re-released in 1973, it was a box-office sensation that helped propel an interest in martial arts and gave a boost to TV’s Kung Fu and all those Bruce Lee movies that filled screens in the same decade. Billy Jack was full of New Age style hippie philosophizing and characters who expressed a desire for peace, but one could argue that it did not practice what it preached. The real draw for its mostly teenaged audience were those moments when Billy Jack frowned and thoughtfully stroked his chin before exploding in a rage, his foot violently striking someone’s face or crotch. Roger Ebert felt that the film’s message was that “a gun is better than a constitution in the enforcement of justice.”

Ebert and I once exchanged a series of emails about a negative review of his Movie Home Companion that I posted at Amazon.com. It all ended amicably, and I wish I still had our correspondence. As film critic for The Chicago Sun-Times, he won a Pulitzer Prize while moonlighting as the screenwriter for Russ Meyers’ bosom-heavy adult films. In the late ‘70s, he was partnered with Gene Siskel, his rival at The Chicago Tribune, to debate the current movies on a local public TV station. Once Sneak Previews moved to PBS, the pair became household names and soon moved on to the more lucrative field of syndication. They may have been discussing movies, but their debates sometimes got personal and nasty. Once Siskel passed on in 1999, the show never regained that original spark, and it struggled with a variety of co-hosts until illness forced Ebert to relinquish his seat in the balcony and limit his reviews to print.

Jean Stapleton was Edith, the heart and soul of the Bunker clan on TV’s All in the Family. When Norman Lear’s landmark sitcom premiered on CBS in January 1971, it was a bust in the ratings. By the time repeats began airing in summer, it was the talk of the country and the number one show on television. In that pre-VCR and TiVo era, some 60 million people stayed home on Saturday nights to watch Archie chomp on his cigar and clash with his liberal minded daughter and son-in-law on women, gays, guns, and, in my favorite episode, a couple of refrigerator repairmen. To Archie, his wife was a “Dingbat,” but Edith was the only member of that family who could think clearly without prejudice (Archie) or pomposity (Mike, the college educated “Meathead”). Edith’s kindness and compassion made her appear na├»ve, but she was wiser than both of them combined.

Dynamation, the stop-motion animation technique employed by Ray Harryhausen, reaped more impressive results than the computer generated effects of today. Those sword-brandishing skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts had real personality, often more than the flesh and blood actors that populated his films. Harryhausen jokingly agreed during a night in his honor at the Cleveland Cinematheque in 1993 where he autographed my lobby card from the film and I shook his gifted hand.

“When she’s by herself, Julie’s almost transparent, almost nonexistent,” playwright John van Druten said of Julie Harris. He might just as well have called her a ghost. In 1963’s The Haunting, Harris was surrounded by poltergeists, but you have to wonder whether the title referred to them or to the sensitive Eleanor whom Harris vividly brought to life. In addition to starring in what may be the most frightening movie ever made, Harris was a legend of the stage who reprised her first Broadway triumph, that of the lonely tomboy in Carson McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding, in her 1952 film debut.

I was never a fan of Annette Funicello, but like Popeye, dungarees, and Keds, she was part of the landscape of my childhood. I remember the ads for her movies better than the actual films, only one of which I ventured into a theater to see. What I remember most about 1963’s Beach Party was Vincent Price’s brief appearance at the end to plug The Haunted Palace, one of American International’s less memorable horror movies. Two of the best, House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum, were written by Richard Matheson who also passed on in 2013.

In later years, Matheson expressed disapproval of the genre for which he was best-known. “I think that when people are exposed to it, it gets in their brain and stays there,” he told William P. Simmons. “I think it roots itself in their psyches.” That was certainly true of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” Matheson’s classic Twilight Zone in which William Shatner’s nervous airline passenger has an unforgettable encounter with a gremlin. Some other Matheson stories to root themselves in the psyches of all who saw them were 1971’s Duel, the “Movie of the Week” that put Steven Spielberg on the map, and 1972’s The Night Stalker with Darren McGavin as a reporter on the trail of a vampire in modern day Las Vegas.

Elmore Leonard was the modern king of crime fiction. Before writing bestsellers like Get Shorty, Freaky Deaky, and Killshot, he penned dozens of westerns, many of them adapted to film including 3:10 to Yuma (Glenn Ford and later Russell Crowe), Hombre (Paul Newman), Hondo (John Wayne), Valdez Is Coming (Burt Lancaster), and Joe Kidd (Clint Eastwood). One of Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing was to “leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” His spare style was born of practicality. “When you write to make the rent or send your kids to school,” he told NPR, “you learn how to write without a lot of nonsense.”

And . . . Dennis Farina, the hat wearing detective on Crime Story, one of the few bright lights of 1980’s prime-time; Ed Lauter was a dependable villain in scores of movies, including Hitchcock’s last, Family Plot; Jonathan Winters inspired Robin Williams, but was funnier and never got on my nerves; David Frost was rather smarmy on the talk show he hosted in the early ‘70s, but he toughened up for his one-on-one with big, bad Richard Nixon in 1977; Eydie Gorme and her surviving husband, Steve Lawrence, were unavoidable on TV in the days when Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show; Marcia Wallace was the snippy receptionist to Bob Newhart’s befuddled psychologist on his popular ‘70’s sitcom; Steve Forrest played Elvis’ big brother in Flaming Star; Joan Fontaine won an Oscar for Hitchcock’s Suspicion, but was even better in his Rebecca; Bonnie Franklin was a sexy single mother to two teenage daughters on One Day at a Time; Conrad Bain’s biggest success was in the hideously awful Different Strokes, one of Norman Lear’s worst sitcoms, but he was also Arthur, a nemesis for Beatrice Arthur’s Maude, on one of the best; Karen Black was in a lot of movies in the ‘70s, the best of which was Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson; Dale Robertson was made for westerns like TV’s Tales of Wells Fargo; John Kerr was the sensitive youth in the movie version of Tea and Sympathy, but I’ll remember how he was nearly sliced in half in The Pit and the Pendulum; Directors Michael Winner and Hal Needham were to Charles Bronson and Burt Reynolds, respectively, what John Ford and John Huston had been to John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart decades earlier; Colin Wilson wrote The Outsider, a fascinating study of art and existentialism; and Patti Page topped the charts in the pre-rock ‘n’ roll era.

I never read The Hunt for Red October or watched The Sopranos or saw those Fast and Furious movies, but adios to author Tom Clancy and actors James Gandolfini and Paul Walker.

Rest in peace, and congratulations to all. The grave got you before the drones.

Brian W. Fairbanks
December 23, 2013

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