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It’s for the Birds, or Isn’t It?

This isn’t a follow-up to my post “Peeps Show.”  I’d really like your advice.

Should I tweet?  Do you?images

Who tweets?  Religious figures, occasionally. Political candidates, certainly.  Hot, young celebrities, definitely. Justin Bieber has over forty million followers.  Lady Gaga, who used to lead the pack, has over thirty-eight million.

Nick Offerman, of Parks and Recreation, in conjunction with Team Coco (that’s Conan O’Brien) delivers a series of deadpan, dramatic readings of the tweets of famous starlets.  “I’m not going to lie. I feel very vulnerable after a nap,” he quotes Katy Perry.  “Nothing better than puppy cuddles,” he quotes Hayden Panettiere.

Social media marketing experts say, “YES.”  Tweeting is a must. Amass a crowd!  Build your brand! Create a following!

Comedian Albert Brooks took this advice to heart when he was writing his book 2030, a wry look at our future when the country is saddled in debt with no place to put the old folks except on defunct cruise ships.  He now has half a million followers.  Not bad. But not as good as organizations that go by initials, like CNN and ESPN.

Brooks is still tweeting on everything from the crisis in the Middle East (“Before we go to Syria to arm the rebels should we at least find out who they are?”) to the spy agency scandal (“The last tweet was automatically deleted by the N.S.A. No threat, just deemed not that funny.”).

Tweeting seems addictive.  As Brooks point out, “Originally joined Twitter to promote my book.  Now trapped.  Can’t get out. Help.”

I’d love to help, Al (can I call you ‘Al’?), but I’m dealing with my own existential situation: to tweet or not to tweet. I’m twixt and tween.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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If you do tweet, you might want to visit: 5 Handy Tips on How to Get Re-Tweeted in Twitter.

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80 Years Ago in Pop Culture: Drive In and Watch a Movie

Richard Hollingshead opened the first outdoor movie theater in Camden, New Jersey on June 6 eighty years ago. 1933 was the height of the Great Depression, when 25% of the U.S. population was unemployed.  A can of Campbell soup cost ten cents.  So did a gallon of gasoline.SnackBarAd

Movie tickets cost fifty-one cents.  Hollingshead charged a quarter a car plus a quarter per person, with no group paying more than a dollar.  So that those in the back had as good a view as those in front, he graded the lot at a five percent incline.

Hollingshead called his business Park-in Theaters.  He advertised as entertainment for the whole family, “regardless of how noisy the children are,” and no one had to leave their car unless they had a yen for popcorn and a Coke.  The concept caught on.

By 1946 there were three hundred drive-ins across the country.  By 1957 there were six thousand with a weekly audience of thirty-five million.  The growth paralleled the movement to suburbia, the increase in car ownership, and a shortage of baby sitters.

The smallest theaters accommodated fifty automobiles.  One of the largest, the All-Weather Drive-In Theater in Copiague, New York, had room for 2,500 cars.  It also offered an amusement park for frisky kids, a cafeteria serving hot dogs and pizza for randy teenagers, and an indoor, air-conditioned theater for anyone seeking relief on a hot summer night.  Needless to say, no one was ever bored, went hungry, or wilted from the humidity.

Decades later drive-ins have pretty much gone the way of landline telephones, done in by technology. First color televisions, followed by video players and DVDs, captured the audience’s attention.  Today theater owners find it too expensive to switch to digital equipment for a shrinking number of viewers who would rather stay home and pop Orville Redenbacher in the microwave than go out.

But, for anyone craving a trip down memory lane, some drive-ins are still around, many with multiple screens.  Coast to coast there’s the Randall Drive-in In Bethel, Maine and the Mayfield Road in Chardon, Ohio.  At the South Bay Theater near San Diego, Iron Man 3, Fast & Furious 6, and The Hangover Part 3 are playing.  Grown Ups 2 is coming soon!

For an Ozoner, that’s anyone who enjoys watching a movie under the stars, it’s going to be a great summer.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

And a Google doodle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TV7ppqSzfuY

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Pop Quiz #1: They Said What?

Book CoverLet’s see how well you know your movie stars past and present.  Identify the speaker of the quotes below.  It’s multiple choice – how hard can it be?

Answers can be found in Hollywood or Bust: Movie Stars Dish on Following their Dreams, Making it Big, and Surviving in Tinseltown (the page number on which the quote can be found follows the quote) or on my Hollywood or Bust website.

Let me know how you did.

1. I don’t use any particular method.  I’m from the let’s pretend school of acting. (page 59)

A. Harrison Ford

B. Robert Pattinson

C. William Shatner

D. Paris Hilton

E. Hugh Grant

2. I’ve always had confidence.  Before I was famous, that confidence got me into trouble.  After I got famous, it just got me into more trouble.  (page 43)

A. Don Johnson

B. Sean Penn

C. Bruce Willis

D. Clark Gable

E. Eddie Murphy

3. The secret of having a personal life is not answering too many questions about it.  (page 38)

A. Lindsay Lohan

B. Rock Hudson

C. Bill Clinton

D. Joan Collins

E. Barbra Streisand

4. I am not a demon.  I am a lizard, a shark, a heat-seeking panther.  I want to be Bob Denver on acid playing the accordion. (page 119)

A. Charlie Sheen

B. Dennis Hopper

C. Quentin Tarantino

D. Will Smith

E. Nicolas Cage

5. I’m very fond of doing movies where men fight over me. (page 64)

A. Angelica Huston

B. Elizabeth Taylor

C. Kerry Washington

D. Megan Fox

E. Marlene Dietrich

6. The only thing I have a problem with is being labeled. (page 91)

A. Elvis Presley

B. Johnny Depp

C. Peter Dinklage

D. Bela Lugosi

E. Esther Williams

7. I want to do something gritty, something real funny, a real smelly part. (page 83)

A. Gwyneth Paltrow

B. Meryl Streep

C. Joan Crawford

D. Hugh Grant

E. Meg Ryan

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Mad About Alfred E. Neuman

I was going through my tickle file looking for subjects for my blog, and I came across an article on the 60th anniversary on Mad Magazine.  I guess I had forgotten about the momentous occasion because it occurred in November 2012. Hard up for ideas I decided it wasn’t too late to write it up.  I certainly wasn’t going to worry about it.

That  hair. That music. Are we mad?  Photo by: Tim F. Bklyn

That hair. That music. Are we mad? Photo by: Tim F. Bklyn

I haven’t read the publication in years, make that decades, but Alfred E. Neuman still makes me smile.  Current editor John Ficarra described the mascot as “a kid who came to school and sneezed,” and the whole world caught a cold. I, for one, will always question authority.

In his first cover appearance in 1956 Alfred was promoted as a write-in candidate for President. His opponents were Dwight D. Eisenhower who was running for a second term and Adlai Stevenson.  Eisenhower won, if you’re shaky on your history, but in the next issue Alfred was pictured on Mr. Rushmore, along with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.  So now I’m wondering when we’ll be seeing a movie called “Neuman.”

Nothing was sacred to “The Usual Gang of Idiots,” which is what the staffers and freelancers have long called themselves. If an insipid television show was a hit, a stupid product was hot, or a lame celebrity (politicians, too) said or did really insane things, it was sure to be parodied, mocked, or lampooned in a comic strip, all in good fun, of course.

Staying the course, in recent years Mad satirized The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, Facebook, and Justin Bieber. Last year the Twilight Series, Mike & Molly, Batman and Spiderman, and the election earned covers.

With everything happening today, it’s going to be a mad, mad, mad, mad world. And you can follow it online.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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90 Years Ago: In the Hollywood Hills

Hollywood and Vine

Another iconic symbol. Photo by: Susan Marg

Thirty-four hundred stars are imbedded in the sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine, past Madame Tussauds and Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  Hollywood’s Walk of Fame remains one of the top ten most popular tourist attractions in the U.S., attracting ten million visitors a year.

Hollywood and Highland Center teems with tourists armed with camera and mimes in costumes willing to pose for a picture.

And far above the madding crowd is the Hollywood Sign.

The sign sits on Mount Lee, the tallest peak in Los Angeles, facing south.  It’s visible all day long, but it’s not easy to get to as fences have been erected to keep out the curious and protect the environment.  The Hollywood Reservoir is about the closest one can get to it by car. But there are plenty of places from which to take pictures.

Drive down Beachwood Canyon Drive or Franklin Avenue.  Ignore the street signs that saying that there isn’t access to the Hollywood Sign.  There isn’t, but you still get a great view.

The Hollywoodland Real Estate Group put up the hillside monument in 1923 to promote its properties, replacing its gigantic painted billboard. It was constructed of telephone poles, sheet metal, wire and pipes, and 4,000 light bulbs flashing “HOLLY,” “WOOD,” “LAND.” It wasn’t meant to last.

Subject to the elements and falling into disrepair the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce took responsibility for it in 1949 and dropped the last four letters, as well as the costly lights.

As the sign continued to crumble, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner took note.  “Hollywood is a city of dreams,” he observed. “And the Hollywood sign represents those dreams.”  He sponsored a fund drive to replace the sign with a permanent structure in 1978.  Each letter is 45 feet high and 30 feet across and fastened to a steel frame girder.

To maintain its sparkle the sign has been repainted three times, most recently in December 2012 in honor of its 90th anniversary this year.

There’s magic in them thar hills.  Movie magic.  And dreams, too.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

 

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A New Year with Old Traditions

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Happy 2013! Photo by: asterix611

One of the things I like about living on the West Coast is watching the ball drop in Times Square at 9 P.M. on television. For me, that’s when the new year begins, and it’s still early in the evening.  But joining the crowd at the Crossroads of the World, suffering in the cold without a restroom in sight, is on many people’s bucket list.

This past New Year’s Eve an estimated one million folks donned their warmest jackets and most comfortable shoes with a heavy pair of socks, fashion be damned, to come together to watch the illuminated Waterford crystal ball make its descent.  At the last minute, they made their voices heard:  sixty, forty, twenty, ten, nine, eight….

The gathering at what is now called One Times Square first took place in 1904. When the new headquarters of The New York Times was built, Alfred Ochs, the newspaper’s owner, threw a New Year’s Eve celebration there sparing no expense.  Over 200,000 noisy, cheering revelers attended an all-day street festival that culminated in a fireworks display set off from the Times Tower. It was a much different ceremony than the ones that had been held at Trinity Church in lower Manhattan for years before.

When the city banned the fireworks display a few years later, Ochs kept the party going.  He arranged to have an iron and wood ball illuminated with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs lowered from the tower flagpole precisely at midnight to welcome 1908. And a tradition was born.

Seven different versions of the ball have been used, including transforming it into an apple with a green stem as part of the “I l Love New York” marketing campaign in the eighties.

This year the triangles comprising the crystal ball, which can display more than millions of colors and patterns, were imprinted with designs denoting peace, friendship, love, courage, joy, and light. In addition to the hale and hearty (and presumably youthful) on site, another billion people around the world partook in the ritual via satellite technology.  We all apparently want the same thing.

Could this be our year?

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Bon Anniversaire, Julia Child

I don’t know anyone, at least of my foodie friends, who didn’t want to rush home to make bouef bourguignon after watching Meryl Streep play Julia Child in Julie and Julia. Not many actually gave it a try, as far as I know, not having been invited for dinner, but it’s not too late to crank up the oven to 450 degrees and break out the beef, bacon, and Beaujolais, young and full-bodied.  Her recipes are all over the Internet and her many cookbooks are still in print.

Photo by: WorthThe Whisk

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birthday of the popular chef and television personality, this past August restaurants nationwide took part in a Julia Child Restaurant Week.  I offer some of her thoughts on cooking right (if not light), dining out, and eating well.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”

“It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.”

“This is Julia Child.  Bon appetit.”

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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“Very fine hamburger.”  Julia Child with Dave Letterman:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHX0pv8_JOE

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Legends of the Old West

Jim, my husband, a history buff, as well as a writer, recently finished reading “The Last Gunfight” by Jeff Guinn.  It is subtitled “The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K Corral – And How It Changed the American West.”  It is a densely packed tome of the events leading up to the main event in Tombstone, the characters, and they were characters in life and myth, involved, and the trial afterwards.  Yes, there was a trial, as Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday were prosecuted, but not convicted, for murder.

Old cowboys never die. They’re still around today. Photo by: Lance and Erin

Jim so thoroughly enjoyed the colorful account that he suggested we watch John Ford’s 1946 “My Darling Clementine.”  He had seen it many times, but it would be a first for me, despite being a Wyatt Earp fan.  Growing up I had faithfully watched Hugh O’Brien (sans moustache, if I remember correctly, and so handsome) as Wyatt Earp on the show by the same name.  We ordered it from Netflix.

In the opening scene Henry Fonda as Wyatt and his brothers are driving their cattle across the desert. Monument Valley with its towering pinnacles of rock and impressive mesas and buttes looms in the background.  When the Earps run into the Clantons for the first time, Old Man Clanton tells them that Tombstone is just over the next ridge.  Oh, that made me laugh.  I had been to Monument Valley. I had visited Tombstone.  And I knew that they were at opposite ends of the grand ol’ state of Arizona.

From that point on the liberties taken with geographical, biographical, and historical details begin piling up. The Earps were many things, but never cattle owners. They never met Old Man Clanton, as he died in New Mexico two months before the deadly confrontation. Doc Holliday was a dentist, not a surgeon, although he operated on one of his girlfriends to try to save her from a fatal gunshot wound. Virgil, not Wyatt, was Marshall of the western town, while Wyatt rides off, if not into the sunset, then with hope in his heart, having fallen in love with Clementine, another of Holliday’s girlfriends. The list goes on.

Yet My Darling Clementine is a classic. It’s visually stunning and entirely engaging. Film critic Bosley Crowther wrote, “Every scene, every shot is the product of a keen and sensitive eye.” Director Sam Peckinpah considered it his favorite Western. In 1991 the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

If you want the facts, just the facts, ma’am, read the book.  If you’re looking for romance, and, despite the violence, that’s what the story of the Wild West is, watch a movie, particularly one in black and white.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Some old cowboys riding the rails… to the end of the line: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwqhdRs4jyA

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Marilyn Monroe Revisited

One hundred years ago on August 5, the International Herald Tribuneran the following article:

Marilyn and Shrek on Hollywood Boulevard. Photo by: Susan Marg

“A Call for Modest Dressing”

NEW YORK — An appeal is addressed by Miss G. Trenholm, the settlement worker, to fashionable women to inaugurate an era of modest dressing. Miss Trenholm declares that the greatest problem confronting the United States is the extravagance, inefficiency, lack of modesty, and selfishness of its women and young girls. Working girls, she says, slavishly imitate the styles of dress set by their fashionable sisters. She said there is quite a “subtle poisoning of all our femininity, and it is not working upward from poverty into prosperity, but downward from prosperity into poverty.”

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Values change.  Styles change.  And life in these United States changes.

Fifty years later, also on August 5, The International Herald Tribune ran the following article:

Marilyn Monroe Dies”

HOLLYWOOD — Actress Marilyn Monroe, sex symbol of her generation, was found dead early today [Aug. 5], her nude body lying face down on her bed and her hand clutching a telephone. Police said Miss Monroe, 36, took an overdose of barbiturates. A bottle which contained 40 to 50 sleeping pills was found empty by her bed when police arrived.

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This past August on the same date, 20th Century Fox, which had employed Monroe for most of her career, released a seven-disc Blu-Ray boxed set with five remastered Fox titles in which she starred, including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, River of No Return, There’s No Business Like Show Business, as well as Some Like It Hot and The Misfits from United Artists.  The New York Times described the image and sound quality as “simply superb.”

Now recognized as much as being a fashion icon for her form-fitting, curve-enhancing attire, platinum blonde hair, and bright red lipstick as for her star turns on the big screen, Marilyn Monroe lives on.

Some things never change.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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100 Years Ago in Hollywood

 

Nestor Studios in Hollywood.

In retrospect the year 1912 was a momentous one in Hollywood, although the district, before it was annexed by Los Angeles, had banned movie theaters.

Carl Laemmle founded Universal Studios after he was inspired by the popularity of nickelodeons, so-called for charging a nickel to view moving pictures.  He soon merged his company with Nestor Studios, which was making one-reelers in a vacant lot behind an unused tavern at Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street.

Distancing himself, geographically and philosophically, from Thomas Edison, whose company had patents on the equipment used to make movies, Laemmle began promoting his leading actress, Florence Lawrence, by name, establishing the star system.

Less than a month later Adolph Zukor laid the foundation for Paramount Pictures by creating his Famous Players Film Company and subsequently joining up with Jesse L. Lasky and Samuel Goldwyn and their distributor, Paramount Corporation. He, too, believed in his actors, signing Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Gloria Swanson, and Rudolph Valentino to his roster.

Zukor also recognized that the American public was ready for full-length feature films, contrary to conventional wisdom that the audience could not and would not sit still that long.  He released the four-reel French flic Queen Elizabeth with Sarah Bernhardt in the title role.

Not only are Universal and Paramount still in business, making bigger, if not better, movies year after year, so, too, is Western Costume, also celebrating its 100th anniversary.  It’s hard to imagine the movies without elaborate props, meticulous sets, and appropriate clothing, not to mention special effects.

Prior to L.L. Burn, an Indian trader, and his partner, Harry Revier, setting up shop, everything on camera was handled ad hoc.  The twosome initially worked out of a space so small it was nicknamed “The Hole in the Wall,” but business quickly expanded because of their attention to detail and emphasis on accuracy.

Today the Western Costume warehouse offers “eight miles of beautifully maintained clothing from every era,” and you don’t have to be a professional designer to take advantage of their selection.  They rent thousands of costumes from major motion pictures for Halloween and presumably private affairs, as well.

The choices can be overwhelming. Do you want to be traditional? Dress as a witch or a wench.  Looking for something with style?  Wear a zoot suit or strap on a six-shooter.  Let loose your inner self as Madonna or Maid Marion. Go historical as Anne Boleyn or hysterical as The Joker.  Or simply embody Hollywood history as one of Mack Sennett’s Keystone Kops who first made an appearance in…  1912.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved