I was still trapped in Florida, waiting for my
parents’ house to sell, and as I hoped for reprieve I toyed around with the
iPad I had brought to liven up my confinement. I don’t even remember what I was
looking for when I stumbled across this old song on YouTube. I had heard it
before, of course, when it was new. But back then it was just another song on
one of the Monkees albums we kids had around the house.
And now hearing it again, half a century later, I
admitted that “Sometime in the Morning” was a damn good song. And why wouldn’t
it be? It was, as I already knew, written by Carole King, arguably the greatest
American songwriter of the rock era. (With a nod to Paul Simon.) In fact, it
was co-written by King and her former
partner/husband, lyricist Gerry Goffin. And make no mistake, Goffin’s
contribution to the song should not be dismissed. As original and infectious as
the melody is, the lyrics, too, are creative and touching, and leave quite the
“Sometime in the Morning” is about a man who has an
epiphany, and suddenly and dramatically appreciates the woman he has been with
for who knows how long. And to give credit, it’s a joy to watch and listen to
the short clips of Micky Dolenz sing it in the video, which is taken from the Monkees’
both wildly popular and surprisingly short-lived TV show of the 1960’s.
Still, as I played the song over and over I eventually
switched to viewing the version with just the lyrics on the screen. As the song
grew on me it became harder and harder to listen to it as the Monkees, dressed as
clown, Benny Hilled it up trying to cheer up some chick at a circus. The song
I played that song every day, several times a day,
for about a week. When I was driving around that hot, flat state I often caught
myself singing it. No doubt about it, “Sometime in the Morning” had become what
today is commonly known as an earworm. That is, that song that you play over
and over in your head until it almost drives you crazy.
And apparently I’m not the only one who appreciates the
song. As you would expect, so does Micky Dolenz. In fact in 2010 he recorded
his first album in ten years, cleverly titled King for aDay. On it he
covers fourteen Carole King songs, including, of course, “Sometime in the Morning.”
In concert Dolenz has introduced it as, “A beautiful song by Carole King.” He’s
absolutely right, and it goes like this:
I’m going to use the Bill Cosby scandal to
illustrate my point, but in truth the misuse of this expression had been
irritating me for years, long before the accusations against Cosby came to
light. The expression is, “A person is innocent until proven guilty.” You hear
it all the time, not infrequently by Cosby’s defenders, and it makes me cringe
First of all, the expression actually states that a
person is presumed innocent until
proven guilty. They even get this wrong at the beginning of Cops. And what the presumption of innocence
means is that when a person stands accused of a crime, generally in a court of law, the burden of proving
guilt is on the accuser, rather than the accused having to prove himself
Let’s take a look at the famous O.J. Simpson trial.
It was the job of the prosecution to prove that Simpson had committed the two
murders. They failed to accomplish this, at least in the eyes of the jury. Now,
assuming that Simpson did indeed kill those two people (and you and I have no
way of knowing for sure) there’s no way he can be considered innocent. He may
not have been convicted, but he most certainly is guilty of the crime.
A year or so ago I heard an interview with comedian
Jerry Seinfeld, who stated that the three greatest stand-up comedians of all
time are Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Bill Cosby. I recall this because they’re
the same three that I would have chosen. Sometimes Cosby, who works clean and
never presented a particularly hip persona, doesn’t get the appreciation he
deserves, so it was nice to hear him get the recognition.
Not every one of Bill Cosby’s accusers is saying he
raped them. Some have simply come forward with an account of how Cosby crudely
attempted to seduce them, and was rejected. However, if even one of the rape allegations is true,
Cosby is a criminal. Again and again women have said that while with Cosby they
mysteriously passed out and woke up naked, often with Cosby having sex with
them, or with Cosby not there but with the feeling that they had had sex.
If Cosby did in fact rape these women but never
stands trial, because of statute of limitations loopholes and/or secret
payoffs, it is legally wrong and morally reprehensible to describe him as “innocent,”
as the people who still attend his performances often do. If he raped those women he is guilty, even if he never steps inside of a courtroom. As with O.J. Simpson,
we can never know the truth with absolute certainty, but as thinking adults we can
look at the evidence and form our own opinions. And many people, myself
included, now believe it’s at least possible for someone to be both one of the
greatest comics in history and a
One thing that you can definitely count on, however.
You will never hear me defend Cosby, or any accused person, by claiming he is “innocent
until proven guilty.” It is simply an automatic, go-to defense for people who
have no other evidence to support their argument, and besides, it’s not what
the concept means.
It’s not that tonight’s Mr. X is a hero of mine. In
fact, most of his work was created before my time, if you can imagine such a thing.
Still, there’s no denying that Mr. X was a powerhouse in the field of cinema in
his day, and you’ve most certainly heard his name. And if, before taking this
quiz, you come up a little short in your attempt to identify even a few of his
accomplishments, that’s okay. You’ll certainly be able to do so after taking it.
Mr. X’s middle name was Marcellus.
Mr. X was born in 1906.
Mr. X was nominated for an Oscar ten times.
Mr. X began perming in Vaudeville at the age of
Mr. X was married five times.
Mr. X often cast his father in movies.
Mr. X often cast his daughter in movies.
Mr. X often cast Humphrey Bogart in movies.
Mr. X is the only person to direct both a parent and
a child in Oscar-winning roles.
Mr. X was a licensed pilot.
Mr. X said, “If I ever do a movie that glorifies
war, somebody shoot me.”
Mr. X was an amateur boxing champion.
Mr. X received an Oscar nomination in five consecutive
Mr. X once had a pet monkey.
Mr. X was proclaimed the 13th greatest director of
all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Mr. X appeared on a U.S. postage stamp in 2012.
Mr. X said, “I prefer to think that God is not dead,
Mr. X was born in Missouri and died in Rhode Island.
My, that certainly is a long list of clues up there. So
tell me, who is Mr. X?
It was 1997 and I was enjoying a new game show
called Win Ben Stein’s Money. It was
fun to try to answer the questions and add to my vast storehouse of useless
information, of course, but more and more I found myself tuning in to watch
Stein’s co-host on the show. He was a bit chubby, poorly dressed and had a
quick, smart-ass wit that made the show a lot of fun. His name, of course, was
Kimmel remained on Money for three years, but eventually left to co-produce and
co-host the hilariously creative The Man
Show. I still remember thinking that it was much too soon for Kimmel to
leave this show when he did just that, in 2003. The show was at its creative
peak and had a lot of mileage left. Kimmel left because the Holy Grail of
television had been laid down before him: he was offered his own talk show.
Short of a break-out movie career, the ultimate
achievement for successful television funnymen (and funnywomen) seems to be
sitting behind the desk of their very own talk show. Over and over we seem to
lose uniquely entertaining programs, and their stars, to the apparently
irresistible lure of the talk show. You would think the formula would have worn
out by now, with the host feigning fascination with a seemingly endless parade
of celebrities pretending they are not there to hawk their latest movie, book
or TV show. It has been, after all, fifty-three years since Carson began his
celebrated late-night reign.
But no, it seems that few can resist that seat
behind the desk. We lost The Man Show
because of it. Some might recall that
before she had her talk show, Chelsea
Handler hosted a sketch comedy show on the E! network called The Chelsea Handler Show. It was funny,
daring and something fresh. Ah, but it didn’t fit the formula. It lasted two
years, after which Handler began to host Chelsea
Lately, which was, and let’s say it together, a talk show.
And that brings us to my main point, the most crushing
blow of all. I still remember that he was a little shaky during the first weeks
of his new fake news show. He stumbled over lines and at times I felt just a bit
embarrassed for him. Back then it would have been nearly impossible to imagine
that Stephen Colbert would host his Colbert
Report for the next decade, amassing a catalogue of 1,447 shows. Television
is much like any art form. There is some real crap at the bottom, a huge mass
of mediocrity in the middle and a slim layer of brilliance floating on top. For
ten seasons The Colbert Report, without
a doubt, was nothing short of brilliant.
And then he was tapped to replace the retiring David
Letterman. Yes, Colbert was leaving the Report
to do…a talk show. I suppose it’s really not a mystery why he, or any
performer, would make this choice. Apparently a late-night talk show,
especially on one of the major networks, is a huge step up the showbiz ladder,
and I assume it is, as such, accompanied by the appropriate rewards, monetary
There might be sharper minds and quicker wits on television
than Stephen Colbert, but none come to mind. And no doubt he will find even
greater late-night success when he begins his new gig. The price he’ll have to
pay, however, is the softening up of that razor sharpness. He’ll have to appeal to
a wider audience and therefore use broader humor. He’ll probably even have to,
dare I say it, “dumb it down” for his new audience. He’ll have to play it safe.
Oh, he’ll be fun to watch, no doubt. And it will be easier, too, for us viewers.
You know, without all that thinking to get in the way of the laughs.
It’s called Cheesy Chicken and it’s a simple recipe
that I’ve carried with me for about thirty years, ever since making it for a
long-ago girlfriend. And on this night just last week it looked like I had all
of the necessary ingredients in the house.
This shouldn’t have been too surprising, since there really are only
three. I had the chicken, I had the cheddar cheese and I had the cream of
mushroom soup. Great! Let’s make dinner!
I had already grated the cheese and was in the
middle of browning the chicken when I reached up to grab the can of soup. Hmmm…that’s
interesting. It was indeed a can of cream of mushroom soup, but somehow I had
accidentally bought the “with garlic” variety. Well, how much difference could
it make, really?
I opened the can and tasted a bit of the soup. I was
not pleased. It didn’t taste like good old cream of mushroom soup. Frankly, it
tasted worse. Much worse. Ah, but I had
already started making dinner, and so convinced myself it would come out just
But it didn’t. The Cheesy Chicken, one of my
favorites, didn’t taste right that night. And it was no secret why. It was the
garlic. Now, had you asked me earlier that day if I liked garlic I would have
given a resounding, “Sure! Who doesn’t?”
That doesn’t, however, mean it needs to be added to
everything. In fact, there are very few things that are enhanced by garlic.
Have you ever been to the Garlic Festival in Gilroy? There’s always a long line
of people waiting to buy the famous garlic ice cream. I love ice cream, and a few years ago I
finally made it to Gilroy to taste the garlic kind. It was awful. How could it not be? It’s garlic in ice cream! And no matter what
people claim, they don’t like it. They just eat it so they can tell their
co-workers that yes, of course they
ate the garlic ice cream at the festival.
You no doubt know someone who claims to love garlic, or you yourself might be
that very person. They go on and on about garlic. Oh, they put it in everything. I suppose it’s possible that they do actually
love it, but I have my doubts. You know, I love ice cream. I love the Beatles.
I love breasts. But loving garlic?
Nah, not even close.
And then there’s the guy, and for some reason it
always seems to be a man, who has to prove his love of this stinking rose. And
woe be to you if you find yourself a dinner guest at his place. You see, this maniac
has a point to make, and he’ll do so by putting more garlic into a single meal than
most humans consume in a lifetime.
And soon the people sitting around the table, those
who had only just recently proclaimed their undying love of garlic (“Mmm…what smells so good?”)
will have quieted down, slowly eating their dinner, politely complimenting the
cook and surreptitiously making eye
contact with their fellow diners. Maybe, if it’s a particularly close group of friends,
somebody might mention there’s a bit too much garlic in the meal. At this point
the whole group will quickly jump in to agree. The cook will just smile, of course.
He’s sorry, he’ll chuckle, but you see he can’t help himself. He just loves garlic.