Monday, June 20, 2011


Despite my ongoing obsession with the astonishingly misconceived musical Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark, I didn't bother writing anything about the official opening of the show last week.  Since the ousting of its formerly "visionary" director/co-writer/co-designer Julie Taymor, the show, according to most critics, turned out exactly as anyone could have predicted: Instead of Taymor's batshit insane down-in-flames grab for glory, the show instead became dully respectable, a competent salvage job of something that shouldn't have been salvaged.

So okay, we saw that coming, nothing more to say...except Taymor, who should have shut up and moved on a long time ago, felt moved this weekend to talk about what became of her baby. 

Speaking to a conference of theatrical types, she proclaimed her disgust with her Spider-man producers, who, in a desperation move as Taymor's show missed numerous opening dates, used focus groups to try to salvage something from the show.  "It's very scary if people are going to move towards that, to have audiences tell you how to make a show.  Shakespeare would have been appalled.  Forget about it.It would be impossible to have these works come out because there's always something that people don't like."

Sure, Julie.  Except Shakespeare cannily tailored his plays to the audience of the time, mixing his deeper themes with low comedy specifically designed to appeal to the groundlings.  Also, he could write--once the script was set, it was rehearsed and performed.  There was no "process" to "discover" the show, no endless reworkings of crazy theatrical concepts at the expense of coherent storytelling.

Besides, Taymor's producers only turned to the focus groups after she was fired from the show.  She was given months and months and months and months to "find" her show, and she never did.  She wasted seventy million dollars of investors' money on her ridiculous notions--Spider-man as a supporting character in a show about the power of myth, or some fucking thing--and she would have been perfectly happy to keep spending, with no regard for what her producers needed (that is, a profitable show) or an audience might have wanted (some kind of entertainment).

Of course, those pesky audiences were part of the problem, according to Taymor: "Twitter and Facebook and blogging just trump you.  It's very hard to create.  It's incredibly difficult to be under a shot glass and microscope like that."

Well, granted, it would be hard to be under both a shot glass and a microscope, but inexplicable metaphors are nothing new for Taymor.  But again, much of the online chatter about the show's astounding non-quality came once previews started.  Once you're asking audiences to pay for tickets--at full prices, mind you; there were no discounts during the preview period--they're going to respond.  That's how the process works.  And if the audience is overwhelmingly telling you that your show has problems, you fix them.  If you can't do that, your producers have every right to fire your ass.

Sure, I'm usually all about the artist here, but Taymor was working on a Broadway musical, where the rules have always been in place.  And the first rule has always been: It's all about the show.  Directors, songwriters, authors, even big-money stars have all been replaced when shows are in trouble.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but Taymor acts as though it's all brand new. 

The biggest mistake the producers of Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark made was not dumping Taymor much earlier in the process.  Like, for instance, when she submitted an incoherent script that had very little to do with the title character.  Or after the first, say, ten million bucks were spent with nothing to show for it.  After sixty million more was spent, firing Taymor was a mercy killing.

Now if they'd just close the show altogether, we could all pretend this never happened, and I'd finally shut up about it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


When you see the headline Arizona Town Cashes In On Rock Song, there is no need to click on the story because OF COURSE it will be about the citizens of Winslow taking advantage of the town's fleeting mention in that stupid, stupid Eagles song.

And sure enough, Winslow has installed a bronze statue of a "floppy-haired man with a guitar" (this description, like the story itself, comes from The New York Times, the Arts & Entertainment section of which has clearly seen better days)on a corner near--sigh--Standin' On The Corner Park, which is odd because unless I'm mistaken the actual lyrics of the song are, "standin' on A corner in Winslow Arizona" but  why split (floppy) hairs?  Once you've decided to name a park after a line in an overplayed country-rock groaner from the seventies, you've already taken leave of your senses.  Oh, and hey, there's an annual Standin' On The Corner Festival that draws "thousands" (according to the Times, which I suspect didn't do a lot of fact-checking on this particular story), so...dear God, I can't go on.

The notion of thousands--or even dozens--of people reorganizing their lives just so they'll have time to attend something called the Standin' On The Corner Festival fills me with a sense of overpowering despair.  Everybody is entitled to their own obsessions, and it's not like I, with my Jerry Lewis obsession, have any room to question anybody's taste.  But still, people making a pilgrimage to a town just because of its mention in a fucking Glenn Frey song...

Seriously.  Kill me now.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


This headline from the Associated Press says it all: Pretty In Pink's Andrew McCarthy Writing Memoir.  And by "says it all," I mean the AP used the headline to remind us who McCarthy is, or more accurately, was--a guy who was in a semi-loved movie, though he's not the reason anyone liked it.  They could also have said Weekend At Bernie's Star Andrew McCarthy Writing Memoir, but then readers would be scratching their heads trying to remember which of the two remarkably uninteresting leads from Bernie's was McCarthy and which was the other guy.

Anyway, the point is--Andrew McCarthy is writing a memoir?  Seriously?  According to the AP story, which reads suspiciously like a slightly-reworked press release, it will reveal how McCarthy's "journeys helped him defeat his fear of love and commitment."  All well and good, but hopefully there will be room for discussions of his distinguished film career, including, um, Pretty In Pink.  And Weekend At Bernie's.  Plus that all-time box-office smash Fresh Horses, and of course that awful Gertrude Stein/Alice B. Toklas thing he was in.  And Weekend At Bernie's 2!

When a megastar of McCarthy's magnitude decides to sit down and spill the beans, it behooves us all to pick up a copy.  And take a nice, refreshing nap.

Monday, June 13, 2011


It wasn't so much that I made a point of avoiding a family reunion this past weekend as...oh, okay, I did avoid it.

In fairness, I had things to do.  Paul had a baseball game, then we had to see Super 8 (which we both enjoyed) and, for about a minute during the day, it did occur to me that the two of us could drive to Dawson and take part in this big family whoop-de-doo, but it occurred to me also that I'd have to keep explaining to everyone who Paul is, because aside from my brother John and my sister Ann, nobody would have any idea.

Which is kind of odd, because he is of course mentioned here quite a bit, and in status updates of Facebook, and various other places where I hang out online.  Paul, Janie, the dog and cats, assorted exes and various friends--there's a regular cast here (even though some of them are kinda like Jeff Conaway on Taxi and disappear once it becomes obvious they're not working out), and regular readers of this site are presumably as familiar with them as viewers of MASH were familiar with Hawkeye, Colonel Potter and that guitar-wielding guy Loudon Wainwright played in three episodes.

But--well, look, I was going to go off on a pissy little tangent about how nobody in my family reads my blog, but that's not really the point.  The reason I avoided this thing is, I hate--HATE--family reunions.  I'm five years younger than my closest sibling, and my cousins are older still, and whenever I'd get dragged to one of these things as a kid, I felt profoundly alone and abandoned because there was nobody for me to talk to, nobody paying attention to me, nobody comforting me as my sense of isolation overwhelmed me and sent me off to cry alone.  Also, even though I was only five or six or seven, I still sensed the weird stifled emotions that were always present when everyone tried to play nice.  (I couldn't really give you all the details, but my oldest brothers hated each other--I recall one epic Quiet Man-style donnybrook that raged down the stairs, through the dining room and living room and out the front door--but at family get-togethers, they always smiled and talked to each other.  Knowing what they were like at home, and being too young to understand the protocol of events like this, the disconnect fried my tiny brain.  It was like they'd been replaced with pod duplicates.)

It sounds facetious, or like a too-pat TV-movie style explanation, but the family reunions I was forced to attend as a kid probably had a lot to do with the fact that I wound up in therapy by the time I was in seventh grade.  That is, they took the feelings of isolation and despair I already had as part of my day-to-day existence (again, five years younger than my closest sibling, plus parents who were already into middle age by the time I started school, plus an isolated rural home surrounded by abandoned, rusting farm equipment, the type of heavy-handed symbolism that would cause any rational viewer to roll their eyes if they saw such nonsense in some shitty indie picture) and ramped it up to unbearable extremes.  I remember kicking and screaming, begging Mom and Dad to let me stay home, I hated family reunions so much.  I dreaded them for weeks in advance, my heart pounding, unable to sleep.  And nobody seemed to realize just how profound that dread was, any more than they noticed me at the actual functions, sitting in a corner glassy-eyed, sinking in a Bergman-esque well of despair.

So, yeah, I'm an adult now, and presumably better-equipped to deal with these things, but you know, the last time the tribe gathered en masse was at Mom's funeral, so it just seems that these things are destined to have depressing subtexts for me.  In other words, I could have sucked it up and gone to this thing, or I could have spent a beautiful Saturday afternoon hanging out with an eleven-year-old who makes me laugh and gets all my John Williams references. 

I'll stand by my choice.

Friday, June 10, 2011


The dog barks at car tires hissing on the rainy streets.  The cats mostly sleep, waking occasionally to acknowledge my presence.  I've got some Warren Zevon playing, milk and donuts ready to be consumed, and a weekend on the way.  Everything is exactly as it should be, except for one thing.

Janie's  not here.

No, no, it's okay.  She's just visiting her sister for the week.  We've talked everyday since she's been gone, and she can't wait to get back.  To her recliner, her bed, her cats.  And me, presumably.

I can't wait for her to get back, either.  She belongs here.  Her voice, her laughter, her everything.  When I bought this place, I thought...well, honestly, I'm not sure what I thought.  I wanted a place of my own, someplace to call home.  But it turned out to be just another place to live, no different from the anonymous apartments that had come to define my existence.

But now, when I walk through the front door after a brutal day at work and Janie is here, and we kiss and we laugh and we love, I finally feel like I'm coming home.