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Diary of a Mad Diva
Diary of a Mad Diva
by Joan Rivers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.65
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2 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Media Whore Musings, August 28, 2014
This review is from: Diary of a Mad Diva (Hardcover)
Media Whore Musings. Again.

One Touch of Venus
One Touch of Venus
DVD ~ Janet Blair
Offered by ClassicFlix
Price: $26.71
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A strangely pedestrian score for Kurt Weill leaves Venus orbiting the wrong way, May 14, 2014
This review is from: One Touch of Venus (DVD)
The fabled Kurt Weill-Ogden Nash musical One Touch of Venus was once, almost 60 years ago, filmed for television. While this sounds like a wonderful idea, it is, alas, rather unfortunate. Fabled yet unseen classics should perhaps remain that way.
Continuing the Video Artists International series of TV musicals broadcast in the '50s, including Bloomer Girl, Connecticut Yankee and Groucho Marx in The Mikado (no, I'm not making this up), One Touch of Venus is something of the Holy Grail. With Weill doing the score, Nash the lyrics, and S.J. Perelman the book, what could go wrong?
Well, let's just say that it really doesn't age well.
The show, with Mary Martin no less, opened on Broadway in 1943 and played for more than 500 performances, and five years later was made into a musical starring Ava Gardner. It tells the story of the goddess Venus coming to life and wreaking havoc in modern day Manhattan. This television version, done in 1955, stars Janet Blair as Venus, and she's as charming and gamine-like as you could want. It also stars Russell Nype, Ethel Merman's foil in Call Me Madam, and a fair amount of Broadway names from the fifties, such as George Gaynes, Mort Marshall, and, for you true Broadway musical queens, a pre-Shipoopi'd Iggie Wolfington (O.K., it was The Music Man). Directed by George Schaefer, what could go wrong?
Well, maybe the original material leaves something to be desired.
To begin with, the work itself is strange. It's one of the few storied classics that is not mentioned by Sondheim in his two volume encyclopedia of Broadway and how it relates to his career. Although it may be anathema to say, it seems almost as if the two collaborators never met . . . like Weill gave Nash some music to set lyrics to, and Nash gave Weill some lyrics to set music to. The rhyme schemes are very peculiar, stretched to the breaking point, especially for someone who is rivaled only by Dorothy Parker for light, humorous verse. And, other than the song "Speak Low," and maybe "I'm a Stranger Here Myself," it's a strangely pedestrian score for Weill.
Nevertheless, Video Artists International is to be congratulated and encouraged for continuing to unearth Broadway history, There are bound to be some klunkers, but fans are going to gobble all of this stuff up, as well they should.

Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story
Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story
by Carol Burnett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.78
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5.0 out of 5 stars Carol Burnett, a loving mother whose loss lingers and love continues, January 5, 2014
t’s always nice to spend time together with Carol Burnett.
She received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the nation's foremost award for humor, in October, and the Kennedy Center ceremony was broadcast the other evening, a perfect way to bring in the New Year . . . with lots of classic footage, a handful of Carol’s Big Name Friends and oodles of new laughs.
While seeing her daughters Jody and Erin (and her handsome hubby Brian Miller) sitting with her, I started thinking about Carol's oldest daughter, Carrie Hamilton. Carrie died, at 38, of cancer in 2002; last year, Carol wrote Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story (Simon & Schuster), a bittersweet journey about her life and laughs and loss with Carrie. The book is being released in paperback this April.
Carol called one day and we chatted about the book but I never got around to writing about that talk.
It simply hurt me too much.
I knew Carrie from her work on Fame and other TV shows, and the day I spent with her for a Redbook cover story. She dropped by my office looking fab; maybe the word is “hot.” Her locks were very blonde, the cut very sleek; the smile broad and bright; she was glowing from the critical acclaim she had received for her role as an American singer headed to Japan in the film Tokyo Pop. Carrie was clean as well, off drugs for years, surviving an addiction that almost killed her and her relationship with her mother.
Carol uses this Carrie quote in the book, 40 words that sums up her humanity: “More than anything, we are remembered for our smiles: the ones we share with our closest and dearest, and the one we bestow on a total stranger who needs it right then, and God has put us there to deliver.”
I just reread the transcript of our chat, and still weep.
So I offer two simple questions and answers, a few photos and a request that you read Carrie and Me. Now. You will read it and savor two voices, mother and daughter; you will laugh and cry and love.
How do you deal with the loss?
It still hurts, but it gets easier. Now I celebrate her life instead of mourning her death.
Carrie was so beautiful inside and out.
Yes, and a wildly optimistic human being. When Tokyo Pop came out, Marlon Brando wanted to work with her and she turned him down! When I was thinking of writing the book, I asked Carrie for her permission---I threw it out to the universe, and the answer came to me in a dream. I saw her face and she said yes. I hope the world knows the kind of human being she was.

The Ear of the Heart: An Actress' Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows
The Ear of the Heart: An Actress' Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows
by Mother Dolores Hart
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.08
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars God spoke into the ear of her heart and it was a long journey for a woman Elvis kisser, December 14, 2013
Few Hollywood stars have left tinsel and glamour to dedicate their lives to God. The Ear of the Heart: An Actress' Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows, a new biography from Ignatius Press, is just that
story, and it packs a wallop: Laughter, tears hope, and a truly engrossing and thrilling story. Not your average Hollywood story of sin and splendor, that's for sure.
Dolores Hicks was born in Chicago in the fall of 1938, she was, oddly enough, the niece of Mario Lanza. More strangely, considering her vocation, Dolores Hart, as Hollywood renamed her, made her film debut at the age of nine in the censor-troubled Forever Amber. Based on the novel by Kathleen Winsor the book was dubbed Forever Under by wags because of its heavy sexual content.
Hart went on to co-star with Anthony Franciosa, Montgomery Clift, Frances Farmer, John Saxon and some singer from Tupelo, Mississippi ...what was his name? Oh, yes Elvis Presley. Hart co-starred with the King twice, in her first starring role, Loving You, and then King Creole. Yet, in the early '60s, although things were going gangbusters career-wise, Hart sensed something was missing. Not even that the boys were missing.
Another King.
Perhaps co-starring with Bradford Dillman in Francis of Assisi, or really as she relates, it was something that was always there. Finally understanding her vocation, she became a Benedictine Nun, now known as Mother Dolores of the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut. God truly spoke into the ear of her heart, and as this book will show you, it was a long and amazing journey for a woman who gave Presley his first screen kiss.
Need more prayer and prose? More heart full Hart unfolds in HBO's God is the Bigger Elvis, one of five nominees for Oscar's Best Documentary. The short subject (a mere 35-minutes) examines the same infamous Bible of info---Mother Dolores's transformation from a Hollywood ingenue, Presley's first on-screen smooch to her final role as a cloistered Benedictine nun at the abbey for nearly a decade---and much more.
Praise the Lord and pass the old films.

Not Your Mother's Meatloaf: A Sex Education Comic Book
Not Your Mother's Meatloaf: A Sex Education Comic Book
by Saiya Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.93
51 used & new from $0.34

1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All About Sex, Comic Book Style and Quite Animated, July 18, 2013
The birds and bees were never like this when we were growing up. We learned about the differences between men and women by snatching copies of Playboy . . . and letting our hands do the walking. We further stroked the subject with Playgirl, Drummer, Blueboy, Hustler, Screw, San Francisco Ball and, of course, David Reuben's infamous classic. But everything you ever wanted to really know about sex can be found in the new, nifty and slightly off-balance Not Your Mother's Meatloaf.
Authors Saiya Miller and Liza Bley put out a call in 2008, asking young people to create comics that addressed a myriad of sex topics. And address it they did, in such headings as "Bodies," "Age" and "Endings." The graphic panels take a whack at everything from excessive female armpit hair to the pleasure of orgasm through a bit of S&M.
And we don't mean Streisand and Minnelli.

Wagner & Me
Wagner & Me
DVD ~ Stephen Fry
Price: $27.95
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stephen Fry takes on Wagner and Hitler in a brilliant film, June 30, 2013
This review is from: Wagner & Me (DVD)
Stephen Fry is one of the funniest men on earth, a man possessed of great acting talent. Think of the hysterical TV series A Bit of Fry and Laurie, 26 episodes co-starring Hugh Laurie revered as great comic genius to his awarding-winning portrayal of Oscar Wilde, his talent is enormous and somewhat audacious.
Richard Wagner was an incredibly abstruse German composer, author of many operas and especially well known for his series of creations collectively called Te Ring, four operas based of Germany's most popular myths. Wagner was Adolph Hitler's favorite composer. Fry is Jewish, and just old enough to recall the results of the Second World War.
So, why in the name of heaven would he do a motion picture entitled Wagner & Me (First Run Features)? Wagner was Adolph Hitler's very favorite composer, representing to him both the best of the Master Race and a faux history and prophecy of the Third Reich. How could an Englishman, who is Jewish, possibly reconcile Wagner's music with history and reality?
Fry explores the beauty and complexities of the opera Parsifal and the four pieces composing the ring: Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried and Gotterdammerung. Visually stunning, Fry traces Wagner's life, both personal and creative. The audience is treated to a tour of Europe and the composer's search for fame, fortune, recognition, and, frequently, his next meal, in 18h century Europe. Late in life, a gay flirtation with the mad King Ludwig, with Wagner counterfeiting similar feelings, led to final financial stability and the building of a special theatre in Bayreuth just for Wagner's mammoth productions. The four operas of The Ring are sumptuously performed there yearly, and for decades it has literally been the hottest ticket in the world, impossibly expensive even if you're lucky enough to be offered one. The waiting list for subscriptions, said to be a highly guarded secret, is reportedly enormous. Drawing untold thousands of fans every year, there is a demand for over a half a million tickets for a supply of on 58, 000. The waiting list is between five and ten years, at least, with somewhat Draconian rules and regs just for the applications.
Fry was able to obtain tickets to all four operas. But how to reconcile the obvious and complex problem here? With humor, charm, pain, soul-searching, and an infinity of questions, Fry attains the obvious answer. Hitler is arguably the most evil man of the last century, the destruction, pain and suffering he caused can never be understood. Fry, with a great deal of help, realizes that we must not let this monster's action stain the beauty of the composer's genius. It is impossible to deny Der Fuhrer's affection for the music, and it is impossible to overlook the composer's anti-Semitism. Yet one must force oneself, however difficult, to have the strength to look beyond the hatred and see, and most of all, feel, the beauty of the music. Fry suggests that while any sort of forgiveness may be out of the question, one must be able to step beyond the sordid history and appreciate the genius that created this beauty. This DVD follows Fry's search for a reconciliation, and is instructive, inspiring, and quite simply an incredible journey.

The Head That Wears a Crown: Speeches for Royal Men by William Shakespeare
The Head That Wears a Crown: Speeches for Royal Men by William Shakespeare
Price: $18.47
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alan Cumming and the Bard: A marriage made in literary heaven, May 18, 2013
From the Tony he won for Cabaret some seasons back to the Emmy nominations for The Good Wife, Alan Cumming has had quite a varied career. Adding Shakespeare to the mix isn't that big of a jump-he just opened on Broadway in a limited-run production of Macbeth in which he plays all nods roles.
Perfect timing: Cumming has a new CD, and if you're any kind of a Shakespeare fan, grab it. The Head that Wears a Crown (GPR Records), as you'd imagine, is taken mostly from the History Plays. The Bard's Tragedies and Comedies have always taken a front seat to the Histories, yet we find some of the Bard's most poetic and moving language in the dissections of the power of the king. And, though Cumming includes Hamlet, As You Like It, The Tempest, Titus Andronicus and Twelfth Night, he relies on the Richards and Henrys here. He seems to find something essentially human and moving in each and every character, King and Commoner. More astoundingly, as disparate as the myriad kings and characters are, Cumming seems to create one single voice and man that embraces all of these different characters into one being. This being is flawed, searching for the truth, searching for power, searching for love, all the time considering and examining the options and obstructions to his search. The genius of Shakespeare in creating all these characters is no surprise, but that one single actor could take all the various parts and create one cohesive whole is astounding.
The faint Scottish burr that waves in and out of Cumming's speech seems to add to the pace and variety he brings to the project. Ripping some consonants and softening others, stretching some vowels to nearly their breaking point and foreshortening some to a clipped breath are just some of the technical tools in Cumming's talent. His overwhelming genius is being able to take speeches from the cunning, crookbacked Richard III; the ineffectual, poetic Richard II; the warmongering Henry V; and weave them with his profound intellect and talent into one voice, one lone human facing the slings and arrows that life shoots at him.
The Head that Wears a Crown belongs with the great recordings of Gielgud and Olivier from the previous age, and will doubtless do double duty in bringing the fans of Cumming to Shakespeare, and the fans of Shakespeare to Cumming. This is not a recording which will disappoint.

Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary
Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary
by Denis Kitchen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.04
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our Capp off to A Life to the Contrary, May 18, 2013
Michael Schumacher and Denis Kitchen's new book, Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary (Bloomsbury USA, $30) is essentially a heartbreaking tale, the darker side of the American dream, a story of rags-to-riches-to-total unhappiness. Capp's is an Horatio Alger-like life: He grew up in a middle-class family, tragically losing his left leg in a streetcar accident when he was quite young, dropping out of high school, yet, through driving ambition and grit, rising to the position of most popular comic strip artist in America. Capp created probably the most iconic strip ever with Li'l Abner.
Daily, everyone followed the actions of the denizens of Dogpatch, whose lives reflected and refracted American life at the time. Capp fought hard for this popularity, creating many an enemy and probably causing the suicide of Ham Fisher, creator of Joe Palooka, in his rise to the top.
But the real demons came out once he reached the top. With media expanding at such a rate today, it's impossible to realize the impact of a comic strip that began just after the depression, but consider a world without TV, a world without instant news, a world where "tabloid" does not exist, and newspapers were the primary source of any information in the world.
Capp created a world that at times mirrored the world of corrupt politicians and snake-oil sellers, and at times delved into a "what if" world. What if there were such an animal as the adorable shmoo, a roundish white creature with a small moustache and adorable grin who lay eggs, bottled milk, cakes, sticks of butter and all sorts of goodies effortlessly. If a human looked at a shmoo and was hungry, the shmoo would die of joy. Broiled, they tasted like steak; fried, they tasted like chicken, their whiskers could be used as toothpicks, their eyes as buttons, they were boneless, so there was no waste. They didn't eat, so the upkeep was free, and they reproduced at a rate faster than mankind could use them. Their skin, depending on how it was cut, could produce cloth or leather, and they could also be used for lumber. All human needs satisfied in one cute little animal.
Day after day, week after week, for 43 years, Dogpatch became more and more popular. But, as this book illustrates without editorializing, something very bad happened: Capp grew older. The targets went from those older, in power, to those younger, seeking to address abuse of power. Capp couldn't stand people more critical than he, people younger, faster, the kids of the sixties who would inherit the world Capp felt he had created. Capp had created the Bald Iggle, a small creature whose beautiful brown eyes made anyone looking at them incapable of lying. In the strip, a critic of the younger generation glanced at the Bald Iggle and said: "When I was young, all I was interested in was having fun! Really, the only thing I have against the younger generation is I'm too old to be one of 'em!!-sob sob." Written in 1956, this proved to be horribly prophetic in Capp's case.
Forcing himself sexually, and sometimes violently, on younger women proved to be his undoing. Apparently, everyone from Grace Kelly to Goldie Hawn fell victim, as well as unknown numbers of college students strewn along the path of his college speaking tours. A friend tells the story of a party on Beacon Hill in Boston where a young man, infuriated by Capp's hitting on his girlfriend, engineered the theft of Capp's prosthetic leg, later to be found hidden under a bathtub. A cruel story, perhaps, but not nearly as cruel as an older man from a position of power forcing himself physically on younger women. This book has the ups and downs, the arc of the life of an American legend. Genius or villain, Capp was an important media creator of mid-century America, and this book illustrates his successes and failures with flair and authority.

Inside Linda Lovelace's Deep Throat: Degradation, Porno Chic, and the Rise of Feminism
Inside Linda Lovelace's Deep Throat: Degradation, Porno Chic, and the Rise of Feminism
by Darwin Porter
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.42
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Open Wide for Darwin Porter's Latest Tell-All, March 17, 2013
Darwin Porter has done it again, stretching his talents more into scrupulously researched pop culture cloaked as a tell-all biography. Inside Linda Lovelace's Deep Throat-Degradation, Porno Chic, and the Rise of Feminism, is more than merely a bio of the most important porn star of the last century; it's also an expose of the hype and hypocrisy in late mid-century America.
The sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s was brought up short by the AIDS epidemic of the '80s. Looking back, it's impossible to realize or understand the blow puritanical forces took, spearheaded by the film Deep Throat, followed by the less popular The Devil in Miss Jones and Behind the Green Door. Before Deep Throat, porn was cheap rather than chic, closeted rather than exploited, humorless and strangely asexual. But with Deep Throat, there was a plot, there were jokes, and the age of varicose veined women and men wearing only black socks, rutting away was gone forever. Not to mention the amazing rise of oral sex, spreading the audience's view of the incredibly variety of sexual experience open to them.
But there is an astoundingly dark side to Lovelace's story. An innocent young girl gets involved with a thoroughly rotten character whose interest is purely financial, and how this pimp worked Lovelace with literally thousands of men before he discovered blue movies could be an endless source of income. Nothing changed in her life except adding a movie camera to capture the pain and degradation of endless lines of men using and abusing her body for sex. How mob money invested in a full length film that, somehow, brought a picture of the morals and behavior to the screen with a modicum of style and humor, which became the most popular pornographic film of all time.
And how that celebrity brought Lovelace to Hollywood, where her talents tasted the greats of American cinema, again viciously exploited by vile movie stars, where her talented throat became a status symbol to brag about. And, more tragically, there was no exit for this poor woman who died broke.
It was impossible to earn a living without using her body and her mouth, she had no other education, and every attempt at happiness and a shred of dignity was horribly crushed.
Porter's endless research of the lifetimes of Lovelace include two things of note. First, he has culled together Lovelace's own words from her four books, Inside Linda Lovelace, The Intimate Diary of Linda Lovelace, Ordeal and Out of Bondage. And the first hand descriptions of her life are heartbreaking. And, touching as they may be, they were written with an eye for the reader to touch himself, so to speak, further exploiting Lovelace. Second, the passing of time has not only allowed Porter greater freedom to pen and honest and true story, but also the ability to name all the Hollywood names who had a hand in the vicious exploitation. Apparently, everyone but Liberace and Lassie sampled Lovelace's talent.
Blood Moon Productions, the publisher of Porter's work, has as a dust jacket blurb "Applying the tabloid standards of today to the cover-ups of Hollywood's deep throated secrets. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it!" And no one does it like this author. Porter's delving into the dark and tragic side of popular culture is an invaluable addition to the history of the entertainment world. His ability to research, recall, and report on media stars, to rip away the curtain of lies and deceit that protects the monsters and sexual predators that the public reveres as stars, statesman, movers and shakers of the twentieth century surely is an invaluable contribution speaking to the truth and shattering the perpetrated publicity myths. Inside Linda Lovelace's Deep Throat-Degradation, Porno Chic, and the Rise of Feminism adds greatly to his previous works, as more and more his subjects are used to explain and illustrate the forces that fueled 20th-century popular culture.

Famous Monsters Speak!
Famous Monsters Speak!
Price: $1.78

4.0 out of 5 stars Famous monsters speak! Dracula and Frankenstein's monster return for another haunting, March 16, 2013
This review is from: Famous Monsters Speak! (MP3 Music)
The legendary Famous Monsters of Filmland will always be with us. Forrest J. Ackerman's creation is a part of the collective memory of people of a certain age who recall hiding the magazine from parents and friends. Geek-like monster fans would read with glee the horrible puns and offbeat humor of what could only be considered as the dark side of the Mad magazine generation.
Strangely, although the articles were loaded with photos and wonderful trivia about such things as The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Lon Chaney's make-up secrets, the back of the magazine was loaded with mail order possibilities for everything from silent, wildly truncated versions in 8m horror for home enjoyment to models, masks and recordings. Nearly a third of the magazine was devoted to such ads, and there is a strong suspicion that such advertisements added greatly to the magazine's revenues, perhaps even more than the newsstand or subscription revenue. And we kids wanted everything advertised there.
And we still do.
And the great news is one of the 1963 recordings has been reissued, Famous Monsters Speak, a legendary hunk of vinyl is now, thanks to Rock Beat Records, available in compact disc format. It runs about 40 minutes, and may bring back childhood memories of an LP played so many times that the grooves creaked more than the door to Dracula's castle.
Listening to it today, it sounds, well, incredibly cheap. There is only one narrator, Gabe Dell, or as he's credited here, Gabriel Dell. Something of a show biz legend, Dell's career covers the Dead End Kids to Sondheim's original Anyone Can Whistle. He was prodigiously talented. The recording was written by Cherney Berg, with sound effects, lots of sound effects, by Hal Johnson. The liner notes are skimpy, but the chance to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear more than make up the charming klunkiness of the recordings.
So, if you want to hear the Frankenstein monster existentially complain about his life or a nifty narration of the basic plot of Dracula, revel in the talent of Gabe Dell, or just relive a misspent youth, this CD certainly belongs in your collection. Before CIG, 4-D and the rest of such hi-tech nonsense, there was The Word, and, at its best, this recording is a celebration of what it must have been like to sit around and just listen.
And be really scared.

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