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Archive for the tag “movies”

A literal “time shift” – a celebrity meeting that saved a life

Many things happen because of chance, and it was just chance that Lara Lundstrom Clarke met a celebrity one morning – one Gwyneth Paltrow.

Both had been exercising that morning, Paltrow taking in an early yoga class, Clarke rollerblading along the Hudson. While Clarke was crossing in the middle of a West Village street in New York, Paltrow was driving in her silver Mercedes SUV. Suddenly, Clarke looked over and realized who was in the SUV. Clarke and Paltrow each stopped and the two of them exchanged greetings. This small delay made Clarke miss her train….

This happens often – something is both good and bad. The good thing for Clarke was that she met Paltrow. The bad thing was that the meeting caused her to miss her train…

…to her job…

…at the World Trade Center…

…on September 11, 2001.

She caught the next train and stepped off the platform just in time to see the first plane fly into Tower One.

This is just one of the stories of people who, for various reasons, avoided being killed on September 11.

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Director Ron Howard on a cell phone

One day on Facebook, I got involved in a conversation about actors who became directors. The conversation ended up discussing Ron Howard, and someone mentioned Howard’s directorial debut, Grand Theft Auto.

It bears some similarities to Howard’s later films – Clint Howard appears in the film, for instance. But one thing is clearly different. This Ron Howard film had a budget of $602,000, and was deemed a success with a worldwide gross of $15 million. By way of comparison, Howard’s 2011 film The Dilemma had a $70 million budget.

But you can also see differences when you watch the trailer for the film. Despite only having a budget of less than a million dollars, apparently they worked car phones into the script. I suspect, however, that the car phones weren’t actually operational.

The car also included the destruction of various cars including a $40,000 Rolls Royce. Yes, a $40,000 Rolls Royce. And bear in mind that this is BEFORE the Blues Brothers movie and its automotive mayhem.

P.S. Opie Cunningham says “hell.” You are warned.

P.P.S. Speaking of Opie Cunningham – Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, and Andy Griffith reprised their television roles for a 2008 Barack Obama campaign video. The video, however, has since been removed from distribution.

Wigging out

When comparing men and women, one complaint is that women spend too much time working on their appearance, while men are less vain about it.

The complaint is unfounded, and has been for centuries.

Take a look at any eighteenth century picture of people, and you’ll find that a lot of the men are wearing wigs.

Why?

Wigs were worn in colonial times to make class distinctions clear. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation explains that even the color of wigs could indicate class and position. Professionals frequently wore gray wigs; tradesmen usually donned brown wigs; white wigs were reserved for judges and military officers. White wigs were also worn for formal occasions, but many men simply powdered a colored wig white because they did not own a white wig.

And some men would have multiple wigs for different occasions. (We’ll return to this later.) To read more about eighteenth century wig habits, go here.

Of course, after we gained independence, the whole wig thing died down and has never been resurrected since.

Um, not exactly – especially in the entertainment world. Mental Floss listed a number of confirmed wig and toupee wearers, ranging from Bing Crosby and John Wayne to Howard Cosell and Ted Danson.

But the champion of 20th and 21st century wig wearing has to be Phil Spector. Long a man of questioned mental stability, Phil Spector’s trials provided watchers with a bizarre assortment of hairstyles. The Telegraph has gathered a variety of these styles together, as well as Spector’s natural look (from his prison mugshot), and shared them here.

As for me, I don’t wear a wig or a toupee. But perhaps I should consider it.

Would Reagan or Franken have achieved political success in the late 19th century?

Many people have switched to a political career after doing something else. Biography.com lists nine actors who became politicians. I’m going to concentrate on two of those people, former President Ronald Reagan and Minnesota Senator Al Franken, primarily because of the remarkable similarities between them.

  • Both grew up in the Midwest (Reagan in Illinois, Franken in Minnesota).
  • Both majored in the social sciences in college (Reagan in sociology and economics at Eureka College, Franken in political science at Harvard University).
  • Both were union members (Reagan with the Screen Actors Guild, Franken with the Screen Actors Guild and three other entertainment unions).
  • Both enjoyed television success (Reagan primarily with General Electric Theater, Franken primarily with Saturday Night Live).
  • Both participated in movies and radio at various times in their career (Reagan before his television success, Franken after his television success).
  • Both benefited from the Watergate scandal (Reagan from the removal of Nixon, Agnew and Connally from the political scene and the weakening of Gerald Ford; Franken from his “Final Days” sketch on Saturday Night Live).
  • Neither was ever elected to a local political office (Reagan went straight to the Governor’s Mansion, Franken straight to Capitol Hill).
  • Reagan had a secretary named Franken, and Franken had a secretary named Lincoln. (Not true.)

The most important similarity, however, is that both Reagan and Lincoln were able to use their pre-political careers to prepare themselves for politics. Reagan’s time as SAG president, as well as his speeches for General Electric, allowed him to participate in and comment on major issues of the day. Similarly Franken, both through his SNL writing and his Air America hosting duties, was able to comment on various issues.

Of course, both Reagan and Franken – as well as other actors-turned-politicians such as Sonny Bono, Clint Eastwood, and Arnold Schwarzenegger – enjoyed another advantage. Because of their onstage experience, these actors were/are able to speak in front of a crowd, and (especially important today) speak in front of a camera.

But what if Reagan had been born in 1811 instead of 1911, and Franken had been born in 1851 instead of 1951? Could they have acquired the skills necessary to compete in 19th and early 20th century politics?

The opportunities for 19th century entertainers were vastly different than the opportunities for 20th century entertainers. Reagan, rather than engaging people through movie roles, probably would have become a stage actor. And in the 19th century, stage actors did not have much of an influence on politics – with the notorious exception of John Wilkes Booth.

But what of Franken? While vaudeville began to emerge in the late 19th century, it was not necessarily suited for Franken’s talents. It’s more likely that Franken would have pursued a career similar to that of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), as a storyteller who used his writings to comment on the social condition.

Neither Reagan nor Franken would have built up an entertainment career that was sufficiently powerful to propel them into statewide or national political office. For the most part, people who enjoyed political success in the latter part of the 19th century were lawyers (such as Grover Cleveland), rich people (such as Theodore Roosevelt), and Union Civil War veterans (just about everybody else).

So this is one case in which the technological changes of the 20th century provided new opportunities for people to excel in fields – even when those technological changes (in this case, in entertainment) were not directly related to the fields in which the aspirants eventually participated.

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