Frank Fax Facts

And Reviews

     Volume XVII, No. 48

Sunday, February 19,  2012

      Today is Joe Cain Day in Mobile. For those who do not recognize the occasion, it is the day that celebrates Mobile’s most famous Mardi Gras celebrity. And, while New Orleans is the city most people think of when Mardi Gras is mentioned, it all began right here, in Mobile.

      Tuesday morning, Bill McGlasson and his wife, Marge, played bridge again with the group at Dauphin Way United Methodist Church. They now reside in Springfield, Illinois, and returned here on their way back home. We have missed them terribly, but Tuesday was a great day for the group of bridge players. Bill and I played together and had two 700 rubbers, which pushed him into 1st place for the day, and I came in second! Then, as if that were not enough, the couple took me to supper Wednesday night, at Wintzel’s, where Marge and I had (among other delicious morsels) oysters on the half shell. I added a dozen fried (nobody does oysters better than this restaurant. Bill had oysters and shrimp (as did his wife). Before we went to eat, they both came into the house to see Ginger: who put on her “Act” for them. They lest early the next morning, and I had an e mail from Mr. Bill (his Internet persona) Friday morning that they had gotten home safely Thursday before dark, safe and sound.



“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals.”

Mahatma Gandhi


TV and the LAW

      I just watched this week’s Law and Order, Special Victims’ Unit, and once again was overcome with the greatness of this constantly masterful drama. Its longevity certainly attests to this; even though the number of the Law and Order series has been drastically cut (some of these “casualties” can still be viewed as re-runs every day). This latest episode has Mariska Hargitay (who is without her longtime partner, played by Chris Malone) Ice T and complex multiple murder cases in ages. I am usually emotionally exhausted just from watching any episode; but it is the writing and the acting, which are consistently marvelous, that get to me every time.

      Recently, when Peggy Griffin told me I might enjoy watching The Closer, I asked, “Doesn’t that repulsive Kyra Sedgwick star in that?” and when she answered in the affirmative, I decided to give it a try even though I was convinced I could never like anything with that creature! I am happy to report that I fell in love with the series, and particularly its brilliant star! Indeed, this entire cast is so good (and funny) that the entire show is fun to watch. And, it is a lot easier to take than L&O, even though I must give the edge to NBC’s legal drama.

      My past has been checkered with situations similar to that of The Closer. Gerald Kutzman asked me to a party at his house, to watch the final episode of Seinfeld; and I almost did not accept the invitation. All I knew about the series was that I found the star’s appearance and personality so obnoxious (all I had seen were short news items on TV). When I arrived, there was a large group gathered together, and they were all Seinfeld fanatics! I watched quietly, through the two-hour finale, and in spite of not knowing what it was about, most of the time, I was nonetheless quite taken with the entire ensemble act. When the program was over, Gerry handed each of us a copy of a quiz he had composed, based on many of the episodes. Of course, I did not fill one out, but I did read the questions; and I realized that Seinfeld had literally had cults all over the world- just on the strength of this sit-com. Incidentally, I made sure I saw every single show of the long running comedy eventually; and still watch the occasional third time if I see an episode that I particularly liked is on.

My next late discovery was timed a little better than the Seinfeld one. Ed Kohler was here on a visit, and asked if we could watch Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier. I felt I could endure one episode, not wanting to hurt my friend’s feelings. As it progressed, he would fill me in (with “asides” explaining each cast member’s relation with the rest of the crew}. By the time it was over, I was mad about Roz, and even was able to tolerate the two Crane brothers’ father, played by another actor I had never cared for.

      So, I am wondering if I might, by any stretch of the imagination, become a fan of Three and a Half Men.



Old Time Movie Reviews

The Southerner (1945)

Zachary Scott and  Betty Field are simply magnificent, as the dirt-poor farmer and wife who persist in battling a cruel mother nature to preserve their farm and shack: as well as man. The cast includes Beulah Bondi, J. Carrol Nash, Estelle Taylor and Percy Kilbride. Directed by Jean Renoir this is a beautifully detailed, heartfelt film. (****).


Return to Ann Arbor

Summer, 1959

      Since Mr. Marsh would not hire me to teach that summer, I went joyfully back to Michigan. But I stopped in Cincinnati for a visit with my old friend, Marcus Jordan. He was the perfect host, and over the many years we visited each other, he managed to take me to some of the finest restaurants in the country. In return, I’d often transport him to Ellisville. But this was the very first time I had driven myself to his new home town, and I had to call for directions when I got as far as the last town on the map before Cincinnati.

      I forget which restaurant he introduced me to that trip, but I remember that he made a date then, to ride back to Ellisville with me at the end of the summer session.

      Back in Ann Arbor, I had to find a room for the summer, quickly. I found what seemed “The Perfect Room”. It had a kitchen, which I would have all to myself, unless the owner managed to get another lodger. She did lay down a few restrictions: I was not to have company in that kitchen. The room was only a block from the familiar old music building, so I did not argue. But I did manage to sneak my old friend, Van (Ridley) Roberts in for a couple of lunches.

      Of course, one of the first persons I contacted once I had entered the city limits of Ann Arbor, was Pat Donahue. He was teaching that summer (still at Grass Lake) and told me that he wanted me to go with him on Sunday to what he called “The Irish Hills”. He said he went each Sunday, to help his friend, Larry Burns, with a store he had bought and was operating. I said I would be delighted to go with him, when he assured me it was more fun than work (“And we get to eat all kinds of stuff!” He lied.

      I was not surprised to learn that my former piano teacher wasn’t teaching that summer (he actually never returned to his studio after that last semester, when he had missed more lessons than he had taught). I was able to choose a much younger pianist, whose name was Robert Hord. We got along famously, and soon I was working on Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz: a piece I had always wanted to play! That summer, it got so hot in Ann Arbor, that Mr. Hord asked if I would mind if we had my lessons at his house, which he said was cooler than the music school. So, each week I would drive to his residence for my lesson. I learned a lot from him, and when I said that I wished Liszt had actually written the piece the way William Kapell had played it (as well as Arthur Rubenstein, portraying Liszt, in the film, Song of Love.)

      Unfortunately, the Liszt opus has a lot of bombast and very loud booming sections. In the film, Liszt is performing the Waltz for a large group of friends, and at one “fff point (two is fortissimo- but that was not loud enough for Franz) a string inside the piano breaks. Not in the least non-pulsed, Liszt rises and moves to another grand and continues, almost without missing a beat! It was usually during the playing of this section, that Mr. Hord began getting phone calls from his irate neighbors. They were not at all impressed with my rendition because it made too much noise! So, back to the music building we went.

      Another old friend, Pat Smith, was in school there. I managed to sneak him into “my” kitchen that summer, also. He was very excited because Katherine Hepburn was appearing in Shakespeare’s As You Like It in Stratford, Canada, which was not far from Detroit. He said he’d make all of the arrangements, plus getting his father’s car to drive us up there. Pat was always well aware of everything that was going on in New York’s theaters; I was told about The Sound of Music, and Gypsy, just to mention two of the ones I was not at all familiar with.

      We lamented the loss of Rita (the beautiful cat he had taken with him to Las Vegas the previous summer) and he told me again how sorry he was, I assured him I was not upset with him: I certainly was unable to do anything for the pet, after I found out what it would cost to travel with her on the train.

      As it turned out, we did not go to Stratford, because Pat learned that Gypsy Rose Lee (ironically) was going to give two performances as Auntie Mame, in Detroit the last night K. Hepburn would be in Canada, We both wanted to see both, but when faced with a choice, we both leaned towards the shorter trip.

      It was a grand performance (of course we had both loved Rosalind Russell in the film version) and Gypsy was a great comedienne, who had also been in some movies. At the end of the performance, I stood up with the rest of the audience who had given its star a standing ovation, only to be told by my buddy, “Sit down.” But I continued standing and clapping until the crowd quieted down.

      “What are you sitting there for?” I asked, when it was apparent Pat was determined to remain seated.

      ”Because you and I are about to be invited back to her dressing room!”

      I feared he had taken leave of his senses. “Dream on! I said, and looked at him seriously. “What on earth are you talking about, anyway?”

      “I sent a note backstage before the play, telling her we had turned down a chance to go to Stratford to see Hepburn do Shakespeare, but chose to see her instead. I said we had both been fans of hers for decades- and that nothing would ever please us like getting the chance to meet her, and maybe even getting our pictures taken with her.”

      I felt as if I were about to come unglued! “You moron!” I tried to laugh, “What makes you think she will bother to see us? And how do you know if she even has a camera?”

      “Here he comes now---“ he said, instead of giving me an answer.

      I glanced at a handsome young man walking quickly in our direction. Another quick glance, this time at Pat, found him grinning, like a jackass eating briars, as Helen used to say.

      “Hello, there!” I knew that Pat was imagining himself uttering these words in a comedy on Broadway.

      “Are you the gentlemen that sent a note to my mother?
      “We are!”

      “Well, come with me. She said she hopes you brought a camera, because she doesn’t have one here.”

      “Oh, never fear, I came well equipped.” And he led us to the backstage, where he opened a door, and there she sat: Gypsy Rose Lee, in person! It was just like seeing a movie about Stage stars who sit around with a box of Kleenex, wiping the grease paint off their faces as the talk to you. “Oh, hello!” her voice was like music!

I felt as if I were going to swoon. I had seen her in every one of the handful of films she had made (there were not that many) and adored the way she talked. I particularly was taken with a film she had made in which Bob Burns was her co-star. She sings a song in that one about a teacher and all of the subjects she teaches. The way she said words like “Geology, biology, chemistry, etc. struck me as being so charming that I was a fan forever.

She quickly completed her chore and stood up. She walked to where we were standing and, coming between us, put an arm around each of our necks, “Are you ready?” she asked. Without my awareness, Pat had handed his camera to the son.

After the picture was taken, she positioned us for another shot: “In case something goes wrong with this one,” she explained

Luckily, both pictures were great looking! They are two of my most treasured possessions.

Gypsy Rose Lee was, of course, the person on whom Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim based their magnificent stage play, and Ethel Merman took the role of the stage mother who gave up everything (as Rose Havoc) so that her two daughters, June and Louise, known later as “Gypsy Rose Lee” could have show business careers. I, personally consider it one of the most powerful musicals I have ever seen; and as close as any musical can ever get to being an opera.

Well, that was the experience of a lifetime; after which my first Sunday in the Irish Hills took a close second place.

Pat picked me up at my room on Division Street (again, and now I had to worry about the parking of my car, because Division is one of those aggravating streets that has all of the cars park on the right side one night, and then on the alternate side the next. I was forever (it seems) ending up on the wrong side. I kept all of my tickets in a jar in my room, and came back South with them, and threw them in the trash. I managed to get away with it that summer. I wonder if they still have that system—or, how much worse the system is now! By this time, parking may be banned altogether!

He drove due north, talking all the while (that is a Pat Donahue typical expression) and eventually stopping by a wire fence. He got out of the car and asked me to do the same. Then he told me the water in the ditch was running upstream, rather than down! I never found out if this were true, or not, and sadly, I never could learn why the area was called The Irish Hills.

We arrived about nine o’clock to find Larry waiting on a single customer. He wrapped some sort of meat with white market paper, and then he pushed down on a tape machine and sealed the package, took the customer’s money and finally acknowledged our presence.

I was introduced to Pat’s buddy, and then he told us to take a look at the chickens. He had one of the first Rotisseries I had ever seen. I had heard of them, but this was the first one I had actually seen. And the aroma it was sending all over the store was maddening! It made me so hungry I felt as if I could have eaten every one he had cooking. And the big machine looked as if it had at least twenty-five whole small friars!

I asked him what he would like for me to do, and he said anything I wanted to do.

By eleven o’clock the store had filled up with hungry tourists, wanting either something to eat as breakfast, or lunch. Being a butcher’s son, I offered to help with the cutting of meats. I had a ball that first day!

For lunch, Larry had us eat one of the roasted chickens (there were different flavors, but he could use only one at a time.) He told us that the two most popular flavors were Barbeque and Lemon Pepper (which still seem to be the biggest sellers)

Larry’s mother came in about this time, and although advanced in age, she was able to get around like someone half her age. Her husband was dead, so the store was basically run by mother and son.

By the time the customers were few and far between, it was twilight. Larry had what seemed to me, a thriving business. Before we left, he asked me if I had any use for chicken gizzards. I assures him that I would be happy to take every one he could give me, Then I was a little overwhelmed when he handed me a huge cloth bag filled with the only part of the chicken he had no use for,

That summer, I invented Chicken Gizzard Salad, Fried chicken gizzards,  Chicken Gizzard Soup, Spaghetti and Chicken Gizzard sauce. I saved a lot of money, but for decades after that summer, I didn’t even want to think about that particularly rubbery (but quite delicious) chicken part!

(To be continued)

Movie Trivia Quiz #24

1.    Top Hat starred what famous duo at RKO in the early ‘30’s?

2.    Jennifer Jones won an Oscar for her first film role. What was the name of the film?

3.    Name three teenage girls who won Oscars at that age.

4.    Abe Lincoln in Illinois had what famous actress as Abe’s wife? Hint: She was also in Rosemary’s Baby, decades later.

5.    What was the name of Scarlett and Rhet’s only child in the film GWTW?

6.    Audrey Hepburn won an Oscar for her debut role in which film? Her co-star was Gregory Peck.

7.    Bette Davis had the same female co-star in two Warner Bros, films: The Old Maid and Old Acquaintance. What was her name? She was the star of the very first Technicolor film ever made; Becky Sharp, 1935-at RKO. What was her name?

8.    Merle Oberon and Miriam Hopkins played two teachers who are the victims of slander in the first film version of the play by Lillian Hellman: The Childrens’ Hour. What was this earlier movie’s title? (Hint: think number)

9.    The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, based on a play by William Inge, had what actress (famous for her “Other Woman” roles) with Robert Preston and Dorothy McGuire?

10. In Rosemary’s Baby, who was Rosemary’s husband?



      Old Movie Trivia Quiz #24 Answers

1.    George Burns was Gracie Allen’s husband.

2.     Mary Livingston was Jack Benny’s wife.

3.     Chastity was Sonny and Cher’s daughter.

4.     Annabella  was Tyrone Power’s wife.

5.    Name as many of Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands as you can.

6.    (without looking them up: Eddie Fisher; Mike Todd, Richard Burton (twice), and a hotel magnet’s son (I think her was #1) and the last r 5 or 6 were totally unknown to me)

7.    Judy Garland was married to Vincent Minelli, with whom she had Liza.

8.    Alice Faye’s longtime husband was 

9.    Monty Wooley was The Man Who Came to Dinner.

10, Breakfast at Tiffany’s paired Audrey Hepburn with George Peppard, based on Truman Capote’s novel: “Moon River” was the song she sang.

11. The Brat Pack included Emilio Estavez, Molly Ringwald,     Ally Sheedy, and Anthony Michael.



Wednesday, February 22, 2012