Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: Humor and Weird Wilson-isms Page 1 of 26

In the spirit of her full-length book “Laughing through Life” that featured humorous stories of child-rearing and general life, Connie has written humor columns for a variety of newspapers, which Erma Bombeck’s widower described as being very much like her columns when presented with a book at an Ohio writing festival.

Gold Coast Art Show, 2024, Is A Hot One!

Mark Ferguson & Connie Wilson

Mark Ferguson of Asymmetrical Jewelry and me, at the Gold Coast Art Show on Sunday, June 16, 2024.

Today was Sunday, June 16, 2024,  the last day of the 2024 Gold Coast Art Fair in Chicago. I only learned that it was going on this weekend when we drove by Grant Park on our way to see Seth Meyer’s stand-up show at the Vic. I immediately began saying I wanted to go. The Gold Coast Art Show is always wonderful—for me. For my spouse? Not so much. He isn’t really in to strolling past  250 booths and debating the merits of various purchases I  make. Plus, he thought the Cubs were playing (although it turned out that, for mysterious reasons) the Cubs were playing the Cardinals only on Roku. (W-H-A-A-T?)

My husband urged me to go “early.” As anyone who knows me knows, “early” for me is any time before noon. However, I promised to be readying myself no later than the time I get up to play Hand-and-Foot Canasta in Austin, Texas. That is 9 a.m., so I was up “early” and getting ready to walk to the park. I was very tired, because I am a Night Owl of the First Magnitude and being able to fall asleep earlier than 2 a.m. is often difficult. Keep in mind that I write, and—[in my defense]—I write at night. So, promising to get “up and at ’em” by 10-ish was early, for me. It would not have been my first choice of times to attend. But, aware that we faced a 3 and 1/2 hour drive home to the Illinois Quad Cities, I agreed that I would attempt to hit Grant Park at 10-ish.

 

66th Gold Coast Art Show in Chicago, June 16, 2024

My impatient husband offered to drive me down to the Park, which was very nice of him. In years of yore I routinely walked to the Art Institute and back, but that was before one full year of cancer treatment, which blew out my left knee and put me in a wheelchair or hobbling with a cane from September of 2022 until March of 2023. (Thanks to the Oak Brook Joint Pain Clinic for the 32 m. of anti-inflammatory injections and 6 ml of Durolane, which helped restore me…sort of.)

Asymmetrical Jewelry necklace

Another of Mark’s Asymmetrical pieces. ([email protected]).

The adjuvant therapy pills (specifically, Anastrozole) have not been “berry, berry good” to me. Let’s not forget that—thanks to Mom and heredity,— I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes in 2017 and have to doctor for that, too. Minor ailments (fibromyalgia, asthma, osteoarthritis) I shall set aside for the moment. Either of the major ailments would make me vulnerable to extreme heat, And I honestly think that the excessive heat was primarily responsible for chatting with Mark about how he and his hosts went to the Red-Headed Piano Bar and a blues club the preceding night. At one point, in our car on the long drive home, the thermometer said 97 degrees. Yikes!

I remember in high school, when I (unwisely) I played intramural basketball (I’m so old that the game was 6 on 6) and—right before I would become so fatigued that I’d pass out—I’d turn beet red, except for the area right next to my nose, which would be stark white. Below is a picture taken less than 24 hours earlier, at the Seth Meyer show at the Vic Theater, for contrast. I do not appear to be beet red and disheveled in that one, do I?

AT SETH MEYERS on JUNE 14, 2024

Connie Wilson with BEE GONE book at the June 14th Seth Meyer stand-up show

Waiting at the Vic Theater in Chicago to give Seth Meyer a copy of BEE GONE after his June 14, 2024 show.

I direct your attention to the picture atop this page. Who knows what was going on with my blood sugar? I didn’t take the time to eat anything prior to being delivered to Jackson intersection (a fairly long way from the entrance. I should have gotten off at Madison). You can compare the picture from Friday night when I look fairly happy and healthy with the sweaty, overheated shopper who, after about 30 booths, became dizzy as hell and nearly passed out. Okay. Maybe I DID pass out (briefly), but I was seated at the time. I believe that Mark is too kind and honest to make up the nodding off that he says occurred right after I commandeered his chair for my own purposes. (Ahem).

I had purchased many items by that point, and I was aware that the temperature was REALLY REALLY HOT. I attempted to buy something cold at a small booth nearby that had a bunch of beverages for sale in cans, but the beverages all were warm and had alcohol in them, which is pretty much verboten. Plus, the only one I would have liked (Sangria) was warm. Warm sangria in a can for $10 did not sound appealing. So, yes, I was not very well hydrated, I was tired, and BOY, was I HOT!

GOLD COAST PURCHASES

My kind husband and I sought Madison futilely on our way down, because I had read online that it was the entrance. Of course, I had also read online that admission was $5, which may have been true if you bought tickets in advance. That left me out. Admission was $15. At least I managed to find an entrance from the Jackson intersection and I proceeded to quickly determine that (a) there were a lot of paintings (b) many of them cost $1,800 and up and (c) Boy! It was hot in the sun! (I haven’t felt that hot since I tried to bicycle to Willow Springs on a similarly hot day many moons ago and collapsed in someone’s front yard. Those people weren’t nearly as kind to me as Mark. As I recall, the lady of the house yelled, “Don’t go near her. You don’t know where she’s been!” The husband had to come and pick up me and my bicycle and ferry us home. (Is there a pattern here?))

Necklace from Asymmetrical Jewelry

Necklace from Asymmetrical. ([email protected])

By the time I had bought several pairs of earrings for various birthdays and my own use, I began to feel dizzy.

I was only about 1/3 or 1/4 of the way through my planned circuit of all 200+ booths, but I honestly thought I might pass out. I had just found a booth operated by a lovely British gentleman, Mark Ferguson of Manchester, England, who can be contacted at [email protected]. I saw that Mark had an empty chair (for himself, of course) behind the counter of his booth. Since I felt as though I might collapse at any moment, I asked if I could temporarily occupy Mark’s chair.

HEAT HITS HOME!

He was so great about my near collapse at his booth!  THANK YOU, MARK! Not only did he get me some water (and a fan, which he borrowed!) he swears that I passed out as soon as I sat down in HIS chair. This may be true. I would not know, as I was (apparently) unconscious. Just what every jeweler hopes for: a customer who stops by, takes their chair, and then passes out in it!

Now came the security person, wanting to know if I wanted to be taken to a hospital.

Uhhhhh…that would be a resounding NO,

Mark Ferguson of Suzanne & Mark Ferguson Asymmetrical Jewelry

Mark Ferguson (of Suzanne & Mark Ferguson Asymmetrical Jewelry) at his booth on Sunday, June 16, 2024.

But I did think that calling my husband (of 56 years) might be a good idea and, between Mark and a very nice lady who gave my husband directions about how to find Madison entrance (which we never did find initially) I was spared the necessity of walking a couple of football fields back to the Jackson intersection that we had originally agreed I would phone him from for pick-up.

MANY THANKS to Mark Ferguson (and Suzanne) of Manchester, England. If you see some things that speak to you in these photos, you can probably contact them at [email protected]. I had already bought three pair of earrings before unceremoniously commandeering Mark’s chair,  so I can attest that his “asymmetrical” idea of not having to “pair” earrings is a godsend. My daughter will be the beneficiary of the earrings that I got before I collapsed and left poor Mark to deal with me. He even escorted me to my spouse’s car. (Husband Craig did find the Madison entrance after the nice lady told him how to get there.)

I haven’t been so embarrassed since I missed a step at the Chicago International Film Festival, fell, and hit my head (and my bad knee). That didn’t lead to the hospital, either, but it did cause me to go have X-rays of the bum left knee when I made it back to the Quad Cities. That knee is going to be bad for the rest of time, I fear.

Here are some additional photos of Mark and Suzanne’s reasonably-priced and creative jewelry items, including some Cubs earrings (I bought 2 pair) and others. Not sure what the delivery options are, but, if you see something you can’t live without, the Fergusons have relatives in the Chicago area and perhaps you can contact them at [email protected] and make arrangements for mail delivery.

Earrings from Asymmetrical Jewelry

Asymmetrical Jewelry ([email protected])

Thanks, again, Mark!

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Holds Rally on May 13th, 2024 in Austin, Texas

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Holds Campaign Rally in Austin, TX is now available for viewing in the C-SPAN Video Library.

Let’s not forget that I covered the Presidential races of 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 and wrote 3 books on the candidates, often focusing as they came through the Iowa caucuses. I was named Content Producer of the Year for Politics in 2008 by Yahoo and my two books on that race are “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vols. I & II. I am also responsible for BEE GONE about the 2016 election, which I was not allowed to advertise during DJT’s tenure, since it is a comic book rhyming presentation that was hilarious, but which the MAGA folk did not like at all. [One of them called me “Hitler with breasts.” Perhaps that one did not hear about my breast cancer diagnosis?]

If you want to try to find THAT one, your best bet is to go to ConnieCWilson.com and scroll down to “other” books and look it up that way. It is truly hard to find on Amazon and, last time I looked, they only had one copy (which I sent to a friend), If you want one, send me a note.)

 

 

I traveled to downtown Austin tonight to hear Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., deliver a speech. The main message of the evening was that RFK, Jr., has gathered enough signatures (more than enough) to get on the ballot in Texas.When I got there, I was told that the speech was not going to be held at that venue. It had been moved to somewhere on Brazos Street and was going to be live-streamed by CNN. The nice volunteer said she doubted that I could get in, but told me it would be available on C-span, live-streamed, which suited me fine.

I left the book that had RFK, Jr.’s picture in it (p. 33“Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vol. II) and went home, where I watched the speech on C-Span. This was a good thing, because out of an hour and 39 minutes, Bobby Kennedy (Jr.) didn’t come on for a very long time. With it being live-streamed, you could fast forward past the introductions and Nicole Shanahan’s speech.

The wealthy Nicole Shanahan, his running mate, gave a speech about soil.

Interesting, I thought. Something that everyone came for—[NOT].

I fast forwarded past all the greeters and announcers and the VP who is helping finance RFK, Jr.’s campaign (and paid for his SuperBowl ad) and listened to what Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the doppelganger of his famous father, had to say. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Holds Campaign Rally in Austin, TX is now available for viewing in the C-SPAN Video Library.

The first 2/3 of the speech (look it up on the C-Span archives) was random.

Then came RFK, Jr. Bobby told a lengthy story about an Amish farmer who does a podcast. This sounded like a contradiction in terms. Kennedy addressed that by saying that the 35-year-old young man (apparently an Ohio expert on soil and pesticides with very bright blue eyes) could not allow himself to be photographed. RFK (Jr.) had promised not to show the tape of his comments to the world. The conversation concerning the young Amish man’s encyclopedic knowledge of pesticides went on (and on) describing 2 rows of melons on the Amish podcaster’s farm, one of them grown without pesticides and, therefore, far healthier and more pest-free than the other. One was healthy. One was sickly. What this had to do with anything was hard to determine (but keep in mind that I skipped past the Shanahan soil speech, so shame on me). I am onboard with the idea that pesticides and pollution and the variety of pollutants that are covered so well in the documentary “Plastic People” that I reviewed during SXSW are harming us irreparably, so I will assume that RFK (Jr.) is as concerned about this as the Canadian documentary-filmmakers.

After talking about soil and Amish farmers for a rather lengthy time, the 70-year-old Kennedy talked about what a sick country we are, sharing the data that we have only 4% of the world’s population but, during the Covid pandemic, we had 16% of the world’s deaths. There were more remarks about how good health is not found at the end of a hypodermic needle (anti-vaccine position). I just watched (and reviewed) a documentary called “Plastic People,” mentioned above, and much of what RFK, Jr., was talking about this Canadian documentary supported, so I’m not throwing stones here. I have an interest in such things as why the incidence of breast cancer in young women is so much higher than in years of yore. Not to mention colon cancer in younger people, infertiity, and autism disorders.

The reason the CDC said so many of us succumbed to Covid, (said Kennedy), was that those who died had 3.8 pre-existing chronic diseases. Chronic disease was a recurring phrase and topic.  Kennedy named cancer, asthma, food allergies and then blanked out. He sought a disease to represent the fourth chronic disease, soliciting it from the predominantly young crowd. The crowd finally coughed up “diabetes.” (Heart disease did not rear its ugly head, and I wasn’t sure that food allergies qualified, but nevermind. Obesity might have made the list, based on another statistic he threw out about 40% of us being obese. No idea if any of these facts and figures were precisely accurate; just reporting what the candidate said,)

This is not a fact-checking article—so go ahead and listen to the speech (link above) for yourself. But don’t omit reading up about the candidate’s background, because we have already been “conned” once in 2016 and elected someone who built a totally fabricated background for himself based on being a success in business, when, in reality, that was very far from the truth. And don’t fail to check the candidate(s) out for their strength of character. We’ve seen THAT happen before (John Edwards, anyone?) and we don’t want to constantly be conned into accepting uncritically media presentations (Fox News, I’m talking about you.)

TRUST IN GOVERNMENT

One refrain that did strike a responsive chord for this seasoned political reporter was the remark that we no longer trust our government, because it’s been lying to us for years. To illustrate this, Kennedy repeated the Francis Gary Powers story.

For those of you who are too young to remember that 1960 U-2 event, Powers was shot down over Russia in a super-secret plane. Wikipedia:  “On May 1, 1960, Powers’ U-2A, 56-6693, departed from a military airbase in Peshawar, Pakistan,[13] with support from the U.S. Air Station at Badaber (Peshawar Air Station). This was to be the first attempt “to fly all the way across the Soviet Union. Powers was shot down by an S-75 Dvina (SA-2 “Guideline”) surface-to-air missile[15] over Sverdlovsk. A total of 14 Dvinas were launched,[16] one of which hit a MiG-19 jet fighter which was sent to intercept the U-2 but could not reach a high enough altitude.”

Attempted deception by the U.S. government

“When the U.S. government learned of Powers’ disappearance over the Soviet Union, they lied that a “weather plane” had strayed off course after its pilot had “difficulties with his oxygen equipment”. What CIA officials did not realize was that the plane crashed almost fully intact and that the Soviets had recovered its pilot and much of the plane’s equipment, including its new top-secret high-altitude camera. Powers was interrogated extensively by the KGB for months before he made a confession and a public apology for his part in the espionage.”

Kennedy’s point: that the American public quit trusting their government about the time that JFK was shot dead in the streets of Dallas and Bobby’s father was shot dead in Los Angeles, California, as a result of lies like the Francis Gary Powers incident, rang a bell with me. I am not a conspiracy theorist,  but I have always doubted the “single bullet” theory of JFK’s death. So did RFK, Sr.

If Bobby Kennedy (Sr.) had gone on to be elected, he had vowed to get to the bottom of his brother’s assassination. (I know this from reading the book by his nephew, Christopher Lawford.) I don’t doubt that there  would have been a much better inquiry than the Warren Commission provided. An investigation that Bobby (Sr.) would have conducted might have come to different conclusions about who was responsible for the death of his brother Jack (JFK).

RFK (Jr.) took a few shots at the national debt and how it is chewing up half of our tax moneys now, simply to service the interest on the debt. He pointed out that neither of the geriatric candidates has really addressed that very important issue. I do have one tiny bit of rebuttal there. While it is true that, “The national debt has increased by around $3.5 trillion under the Biden administration, as data from Statista shows, currently standing at $31.46 trillion. Year-on-year the debt has never decreased since 1957, according to Treasury data.”

However, it is also true that Biden is far from indifferent to the pressing need to reduce the national debt. Between 2020 and 2022, he was responsible for $1.7 trillion in deficit reduction. The exact quote that Biden gave was, “”I might note parenthetically: In my first two years, I reduced the debt by $1.7 trillion. No President has ever done that.” Obviously that is a drop in the deficit bucket and the GOP immediately began  to see investigating to see if it held up. (Does anyone besides me remember when Democratic President Bill Clinton left us with a budget surplus?)

Biden gets precious little credit for all of the good things he HAS done and selling a national debt decrease is going to be a hard sell. But it IS true that the debt went way up under DJT. (And the GOP would point fingers at Obama, before him.) We could also point out that desperate times call for desperate measures and some of those increases in 2020 on were created by the pandemic crisis. Was there graft and corruption during a tough time when we were navigating a nationwide pandemic? Is the Pope Catholic?

Fleeting references to the Issues of the Day (abortion, the border) were made. Bobby seemed more critical of the Republican candidate than of the Democratic candidate,  (despite the YouTube video that says the opposite). In fact, Bobby said that he, like his supporters in the room, needed to be independent of party noise. He added that he, therefore, had divorced himself from the Democratic party which so many of his relatives served. He said that divorce from being a Democrat was painful, as it went waaay back, even unto grandfathers and beyond. Traditionally, running as a third party has not worked well, even for Teddy Roosevelt and his Bull Moose Party,

The opening of the rally should be mentioned, as it had his famous father repeating some of his most famous quotes in that memorable voice (which, sadly, the younger Bobby cannot emulate because of spasmodic dysphonia, a disorder that causes his voice to quaver and makes speech difficult). He traveled to Kyoto, Japan, to have a titanium bridge inserted between his vocal cords to treat the condition.[315

]The film that  ran at the opening of the rally was very professionally done. It was certainly better than listening to a choir of January 6th miscreants singing from prison (and being hailed incorrectly as “hostages.”) Bobby Kennedy, Jr., was onscreen in this opening film introduction, but the voice was his famous father’s.

Many of the people introducing RFK, Jr. were Hispanic. The Big Announcement of the night was that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s name will be on the ballot in Texas with over 235,000 signatures and that the campaign will next move to New York to get on the ballot. He described these two states as the most difficult states to get on the ballot. Kennedy claimed that Texas had actually introduced legislation raising the threshold from a smaller number (150,000?) to one that the Texas legislature thought was too high to ever be reached.

I think the number the team actually secured was more than what they needed. I remember it as being 235,000, but I’d have to wade through the speech on the CNN archives all over again to actually establish that. Feel free to do so and correct me.

To me, it seemed like getting on the ballot was so difficult that, in some way, RFK, Jr., has conflated that  with actually getting the electorate to vote for him. Lord knows the country would like a younger leader.  Bobby Kennedy is 70, so is that what is meant by “younger?” He is the 5th member of his family to run for President, said Wikipedia. (Don’t ask me to cough up the names of the others: I could only think of JFK, Bobby Kennedy Sr., Ted Kennedy and—-? Maybe running for VP counts? Didn’t Maria Shriver’s father have a flirtation with elective office? Help me out here!)

Bill Maehr on his show criticized Kennedy’s lack of government experience, We all know about putting someone in office, an office for which they have literally no training or experience, and how that works. Or doesn’t. RFK, Jr., doesn’t fall into that category, as you will see for yourself if you visit his Wikipedia page. There’s a lot there to unpack. There is also this Internet page:https://www.kennedy24.com/

And then the rally was over after 1 hour and 39 minutes.

Shaking It Up: The Life & Times of Liz Carpenter- World Premiere at SXSW on March 10th

Liz Carpenter was a force of nature who, throughout her 89 years (1920-2010), was often front and center where history was unfolding. leaving her own indelible mark on events. She was a journalist, White House official, Women’s Rights activist, best-selling author, and humorist. Directors Christy Carpenter, Liz’s daughter, and Abby Ginzberg weave candid modern-day interviews with Dan Rather, Bill Moyers, Gloria Steinem, Luci Johnson and others into an entertaining and informative 77-minute World Premiere that took place at the Zach Theatre on March 10th at SXSW 2024.

Liz Carpenter

Liz Carpenter in action.

 

Born in Salado, Texas, five days after the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution granted women the right to vote in 1920, Liz’s family moved to Austin, the state capitol, when she was 7 years old. She earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas in 1942 and headed straight to Washington, DC, intent on starting her journalism career  in the midst of WWII.  .

At 22 years of age, she was attending press conferences held by both President Franklin and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt despite barriers against allowing women reporters to be present.

SUPPORTING LBJ

She began covering the political rise of Congressman Lyndon Johnson for the Austin American-Statesman. This developed into a lifelong friendship with LBJ and his wife Lady Bird.

Liz’s reputation as a dogged reporter quickly spread and, by the late 1940s, she and husband Leslie Carpenter established the Carpenter News Bureau. They covered Capitol Hill and the White House for more than a dozen newspapers. She was also known as “the funniest woman in Washington, D.C.,” which made her an in-demand speaker.

In 1954,  she was elected president of the Women’s National Press Club, a platform she used to attack barriers to participation in the males-only National Press Club, the foremost journalistic organization in Washington D.C..

LIZ AND JFK’S ASSASSINATION

Christy Carpenter

Christy Carpenter, daughter of Liz Carpenter and co-director of “Shaking It Up: The Life and Times of Liz Carpenter” at SXSW.

In 1960, Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird persuaded Liz  to join his campaign for vice president. Once elected, LBJ convinced Liz to join his staff as the highest-ranking woman ever to work for a vice president. Liz Carpenter was one of a small number of his staff traveling with him to Dallas on November 22, 1963. She was riding in the motorcade, in a car behind JFK’s, when President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated.

Carpenter realized she was the only writer on LBJ’s staff aboard Air Force One.  On the return trip to Washington she crafted the newly sworn-in President’s first public remarks to a shocked world. LBJ delivered these 58 words, written by Liz while on the plane, upon landing and that footage is included in the documentary:

“This is a sad time for all people. We have suffered a loss that cannot be weighed. For me, it is a deep personal tragedy. I know that the world shares the sorrow that Mrs. Kennedy and her family bear. I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help and God’s.”

The archival footage of the delivery of these remarks is historic.

BEAUTIFY AMERICA

Liz was appointed st aff director and press secretary to the new First Lady.

Although Lady Bird and Liz had very different personal styles, they were both women of action and vision, and together, over the next five years, they pursued an aggressive agenda including, “the most ambitious national environmental effort since Theodore Roosevelt,” according to Lady Bird biographer Julia Sweig. (I can still do a pretty fair imitation of Lady Bird Johnson saying, “Plant a tree, a shrub, or a bush,” with the Texas twang on ‘bush,'”—fodder for comediennes of the era.) The ubiquitous campaign to remove blighted highway billboards and beautify America by planting vegetation became a trademark of Lady Bird’s. A lake and park in Austin in her name perpetuate her legacy.

WAR ON POVERTY

Liz enabled Lady Bird to put a human face on LBJ’s War on Poverty by organizing strategic press tours of Head Start and Job Corps programs across the nation. My mother was then a kindergarten teacher in a small Iowa town. She fought tirelessly for the Head Start program, which, gave disadvantaged youngsters from minority and poorer homes an equal starting point with other 5-year-olds entering the system.

Liz was sometimes dubbed the “P.T. Barnum of the White House,” and was the key mastermind of Lady Bird’s historic and unprecedented Whistlestop campaign tour through the South during the 1964 presidential campaign. In the immediate aftermath of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Southern states were often far from welcoming to the wife of the man who had given Black citizens in the South the right to vote and a leg up on equal rights under the laws of the land.

AFTER THE WHITE HOUSE

Abby Ginzberg

Abby Ginzberg, co-director of “Shaking It Up: The Life and Times of Liz Carpenter” at SXSW on March 10, 2024.

After Johnson’s presidency ended in 1969, (with a populist anti-war backlash against Vietnam that saw my generation in the streets chanting “Hey! Hey! LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?”), Liz wrote a best-selling book about her White House years, entitled Ruffles & Flourishes. She would write other best-sellers, utilizing her storied wit and her historic experiences in government.

WOMEN’S MOVEMENT

Liz Carpenter got heavily involved in the growing Women’s Movement – a cause that would consume much of her time and energy until the end of her life at the age of 90 in 2010. Bill Clinton appointed her to serve on the White House Council on Aging.

In 1971, she joined feminist leaders such as Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Congresswomen Bella Abzug, and Shirley Chisholm, to co-found a new organization, the National Women’s Political Caucus. This was a nationwide effort to elect more women to public office, eliminate discrimination, and to push forward legislation to improve the lives of women. Soon Liz was campaigning across  the nation, stirring up voters to elect women candidates.

THE ERA

Some fifty years after its introduction, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) finally sailed through Congress in 1972 with huge bipartisan majorities, says the documentary. (*I still have my ERA  bracelet in a drawer somewhere, along with the POW bracelet of a U.S. soldier MIA in action from that era.) Sadly,  however, after many early successes on the state level, the momentum for ratification began to hit speed bumps. That is putting it mildly.

PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY & EAGLE FORUM

Phyllis Schlafly

Activist Phyllis Schlafly wearing a “Stop ERA” badge, demonstrating with other women against the Equal Rights Amendment in front of the White House, Washington, D.C.

The film doesn’t dwell much on Phyllis Schlafly and her Eagle Forum organization, but it should. That is my one criticism of this documentary.  It was Phyllis Schlafly and her anti-equal-rights work compiling lists of ultra-Conservative prominent women and men who were against the ERA that defeated it. Schlafly—who had her own political agenda—smeared the entire equal rights movement as a ploy for lesbians and women libbers and an anti-family movement. That was, at best, an over-generalization, a technique often used by the GOP to gloss over the realities of issues and, at worst, a hypocritical smear job. (*See “the border issue” in 2024). Although I realize that Phyllis Schlafly’s anti-ERA work merits an entire documentary of its own, I think she should at least have been mentioned in this one, as that opponent of the ERA kept it from passing nationwide and has left it mired in oblivion.

Donald Trump’s early organizational work involved getting those lists from the Schlafly organization, which had painted a biased picture of the efforts to achieve equality for women as being “a bunch of women’s libbers bent on destroying the family,” an untrue characterization.Liz Carpenter was called on to co-chair a new organization in 1976 – ERAmerica –focused on ratification by the last hold-out states. She spent several years lobbying states’ legislators, and governors, and galvanizing grassroots support. (It didn’t work.)

LIZ’s HUMOR

One important key to Liz’s success was her dynamic, magnetic personality, including her well-developed sense of humor — reflecting her pioneer roots and Texas-sized, can-do moxie. Humor was always integral to her identity and effectiveness. Like other recognizable Texas women such as Governor Ann Richards and journalist Molly Ivins, Liz was high-energy and innately funny, with a knack for shaking things up. Her life was spent trying to create a more just, democratic, beautiful and humane world.

CONCLUSION:

The archival clips, alone, are worth seeing this well-done documentary. It is a slice of 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s life and history. It details efforts— some successful, some futile— to advance equality for women world-wide, battles that Liz Carpenter helped lead.

While I have a few reservations about soft-pedaling the tactics of the opposition faced in the seemingly never-ending struggle for equality that women in the United States and the world face, this fine film goes a long way to showing how it can be done, if enough courageous, influential women remember Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s line, “And yet she persists.” See this one if, like me, you lived through it. If you didn’t, you need the history lesson,

TV Pilots Screen at SXSW 2024

 

Six TV Pilots screened at SXSW 2024 on Sunday, March 10th. Here are descriptions of four of them.

Tossers Pizza TV pilot.

“Tossers” TV pilot at SXSW.“Tossers”  TV pilot featured a young girl applying for a job at two different pizza delivery services. Pizza Dome features a manager weird enough to drive Sophia from the joint and over to the competitor, Tossers Pizza. The overly attentive manager at Pizza Dome wants to give Sophia “the GT” or Grand Tour.  He talks about Domeo & Juliet and hassles a working employee to make sure that there are exactly 13 pepperoni per pie. There is talk of “slinging some za.” A yellow Gremlin car has a prominent role when Principal Thomson of Salt Lake Middle School calls in to order 125 pizzas by 1 p.m. due to the hot lunch supplies having gone bad. The task seems insurmountable, but, thanks to the emergency run to Foodies to buy more Mozzarella cheese. The showrunners/screenwriters/directors were Chase Block and Bryce Van Leuven and it was dedicated the loving memory of Papa T. It had its moments. My favorite line came when Sophia (who is told she needs to work for free for two weeks as “a trial,” which is a scam to avoid paying the help) assists in delivering a pizza, riding shotgun on the back of a motorcycle. The elderly customer takes one look at her and says to her companion, “She looks slutty.” Sophia, in a perfect deadpan voice, responds, “I’m wearing a helmet.” A relatable concept well executed.

"Marvin Is Sorry" TV pilot at SXSW.

“Marvin Is Sorry” TV pilot at SXSW 2024.

“Marvin Is Sorry” was the story of 25-year-old YouTube influencer Marvin Weaver who accidentally kills one of his fans during the filming of a YouTube video. The stunt was part of Marvin Weaver’s Ice Cap Refreezing Project. The participants are trying to see who can hold their breath the longest underwater. [Having just watched “7 Beats Per Minute” about freedivers who make deep dives without oxygen by holding their breath for more minutes than kills Marvin’s non-winner, the choice of 6 minutes seemed too little.] Marvin, well-played with elan by Sam Song Li, is sorry, as the film’s title suggests—at least at first. Marvin has 35 million subscribers to his YouTube channel but now that is gone.  He is told “No one with morals and a pulse wants you on his show.” Tag Taggart, a far right talk show host with 10 million watchers, however, does want Marvin to guest on the Tag Taggart Show. Pushed to near extinction by the backlash from the stunt gone wrong, Marvin finally gives in and makes an appearance on Tag Taggart’s show. Taggart, says the synopsis, is bent on “cultural domination.” The Tag Line is “life begins before conception.” Cinematographer was Ben Berkowitz. Director Clint Pang should have told his cinematographer that there are microphone booms visible in the upper left screen a lot of the time. The lead (Sam Song Li) saved the project with his personality.

"Neo-Dome" TV pilot screens at SXSW 2024.

“Neo-Dome” TV pilot screens at SXSW 2024.

“Neo-Dome” is a futuristic violent pilot about a woman traveling alone to the utopian dome on the horizon. It is a post-apocalyptic America, suffering economic collapse. Monica Dawes (Anna Camp) stops a car driven by Larry, whose shirt says Homestead Mechanic, his moronic sidekick, and what appears to be an old man asleep in the back seat (but is really a corpse). Monica tells the sketchy duo that she can give them a full tank of gas if they will give her a ride to her car, further down the road. The men are suspicious that Monica is not telling the truth and bargains back-and-forth with them, until things go South and bullets are exchanged. This Texas premiere was written by Matt Pfeffer and directed by Bonnie Discepolo. Producers were Anna Camp, Michael Johnson, and Matt Pfeffer. Cast was Anna Camp, Michael Mosley, Nicholas Logan, Anthony Discepolo. With only Monica still alive, one assumes that a series (of which this was the pilot) would involve other adventures that Monica would have on the road to the Neo-Dome, where the motto is “Trust no one on the road to the Neo-Dome.”

"Lucy & Sara" TV Pilot screens at SXSW 2024.

“Lucy & Sara” has Texas Premiere at SXSW on March 10, 2024.

“Lucy & Sara” – Showrunner/Director Screenwriter was Susan Park. Cast included Susan Park, Nicolette Morrison, Jeremy Joyce and Mark Holgate for this Texas premiere.  The synopsis says it is “a darkly comedic exploration of two unlikely sisters learning to lean on each other after the death of their beloved father in spite of their seemingly toxic relationship.” It was really about one sister urging the other sister to commit suicide, as she seems to be under the impression that her sister is simply “crying wolf.” I once saw George Carlin do a stand-up bit about suicide. People were streaming for the exits. For me, suicide isn’t funny. Especially in today’s climate of girlfriends urging boyfriends (or vice versa) to “just do it” (and some have) the topic seems sketchy. I can’t recommend this one.

“Bettendorf Talks” Screens at March 10th TV Pilots Program at SXSW 2024

Bettendorf Talks

“Bettendorf Talks” cast.

The improv team of David Pasquiesi and T.J. Jadowski and Director Jack Newell attended the World Premiere of their television pilot, “Bettendorf Talks” at the Alamo Theater on Lamar at 3 p.m. on March 10, Sunday, Oscar day. I was rooting for them to hit a home run with a comic take on Bettendorf, Iowa.

Comedy isn’t easy. We can’t all be David Sedaris or Neil Simon. It’s hard to find “something new under the sun,” and go forth to mint comedy gold. However, the two leads have established themselves as funny improvisational partners on the Chicago scene. Their track record is good.  I’ve seen Pasquiesi’s work at the Windy City Film Festival where he was brilliant portraying a brain-injured pianist.

So, I really wanted to root for “Bettendorf Talks.”

As someone who had two businesses in Bettendorf for close to 20 years I was eager to see this comedy that would focus on a place I know well. The synopsis in the SXSW program says: “A sharp and smart show-within-a-show, Bettendorf Talks is both a witty workplace comedy and the newest (and most unlikely) local talk show to come out of the titular Midwestern Quad City. Hosted by the has-been comedy duo T.J. Jagodowski and David Pasquesi (who star as hilarious caricatures of themselves), the two attempt to mount a hit show in search of a sliver of their former glory.”

“Each episode follows our ensemble for one day of the writing, producing and airing of our program as T.J. & Dave grapple with how to live in these new, lesser roles, the team around them deal with T.J. & Dave, and Margaret fights to keep the show going because it’s always one day away from being canceled.”

The leads (Dennis Pasquiesi and T.J. Jadowski) are very funny when doing improv. The supporting cast, including the band called The Assassination Band (Brian King, Dave Cottini, Pete Cimbalo, Adam Krier and Phil Karmets) are good and featured onscreen. The supporting cast members, especially Nnamdi Ngwe, were fine.

T.J. Jagodowski

T.J. Jagodowski of “Bettendorf Talks.”

BACKGROUND

There have been comedies set around radio stations (“WKRP in Cincinnati”) and television shows (“Mary Tyler Moore Show”). Perhaps the pinnacle of comedy shows focusing on television shows was “The Garry Shandling Show.” Others, like “Community” and “Parks and Recreation” (and, for that matter, “Cheers”) have built good shows around feelings of work site comraderie in various settings. The idea of following the ensemble for one day of writing, producing and airing of the program was a good one. It is easy to see the quirks that are being developed for future comic use, should the pilot make it to air (which I hope it does). Writer/Producer/Star Pasquiesi, in his remarks after the pilots aired, said he and his partner wanted to make an entertaining comedy show like many of those that used to exist.

The on-air team here is described as “an unmotivated deeply disorganized group of individuals.” That charge can be fairly made about the characters in some of the other classic comedy shows mentioned.

Tim Kazurinsky

Tim Kazurinsky

Tim Kazurinksy.

Tim Kazurinksy–who was part of the comedy ensemble on “Saturday Night Live” from 1981 to 1984—has a small role as the annoying older owner of the station, who constantly hums or does similarly annoying things while the team is trying to conduct a live talk show. The character Margaret, who manages the station, is his niece. It’s a good thing Kazurinsky’s real name is used (he plays the station owner), because he might be difficult to recognize otherwise. I saw him in Chicago doing something post-SNL years ago; haven’t seen him since. The Margaret character is attempting to be the lynch-pin holding the show together. It was easy to see the conflict that would develop, if the series goes further.

THE MATERIAL

Jack C. Newell

Jack C. Newell, Director of “Bettendorf Talks.”

There was a bit about the Borden 24-hour towing company. It didn’t work for me, but  the snide asides did, including the reference to a poorly-made commercial. The child calling in the tow of David’s car was not clearly defined (for me) as being anyone’s illegitimate son, but, hopefully, there’s time for that in future episodes. (I hope he doesn’t quickly grow out of the role as happened on “Three and A Half Men”).

There were jabs at businesses that have ceased to exist (Border’s, K-Mart). Those remarks seemed  universal, as opposed to being a shortcoming specific to the small town of Bettendorf, Iowa. Probably a good relatable thing for other small towns in America losing their chain stores.

The bit about “which one of the Quad Cities is best” with Rock Island entering the competition was well-received by the crowd present at the premiere. I’m not sure it deserved throwing on long white wigs and judges’ robes to drive home the point that each of the several cities in the Quad Cities maintains that IT is “the best.” (“We shall not use superlatives in discussing the Quad Cities.”)

At some point, hopefully, the comedy duo will get around to actually naming the Quad Cities. It’s a two-state area, with the slogan “joined by a river” and there are about 350,000 souls residing there in the states of Illinois and Iowa, joined by I-74 (down from a one-time high of 500,000.).The map in the background didn’t help and was partially obscured. I wondered if shooting in one state was influenced by state “perks” financially, which is part of the game. I remember that there was a big scandal within the state of Iowa during a brief film Renaissance, when it emerged that someone had been playing fast and loose with the funds for making movies in the state. One very good movie (“Sugar”) came out of those halcyon days, set in Davenport’s John O’Donnell Stadium, but the scandal seemed to, at least temporarily, turn off the spigot for money for movies in Iowa. It’s too bad, because the Quad Cities is a very pretty area with many historic homes and locations that filmmakers could utilize. But does Iowa give filmmakers the breaks that Illinois does? (A good question for a Q&A, if there had been one aimed at this specific film and not at all six of them.)

Bettendorf Talks cast

Bettendorf Talks” stars T.J. Jagodowski (left), David Pasquesi, and Director Jack C. Newell at the TV Pilot Screening on March 10th at the Alamo Lamar Theater at SXSW.

I’ve lived in the area since 1968. I still can’t figure out which exact cities are “the Quad Cities.” Why are there only four cities implied by the name when there are really more like nine? You’ve got Davenport, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley and LeClaire in Iowa and Moline, East Moline, Rock Island, Silvis, and Hampton on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River which is 9 cities. (Go figure). In February of 1996 there was a popular song by a group called the Quad City D.J’s, (“C’mon N’ Ride the Train”). When the Quad City D.J.’s were asked about their name, it emerged that they were simply driving through the area and selected the name randomly. They were from Jacksonville, Florida. Seems about right.

In the pilot there’s talk of a dentist who brings on a dangerous rodent and sells whippets out of the back of a truck. There was an actual local doctor (an accordion enthusiast) who had Friends in High Places and his life’s adventures would make for some good comic Bettendorf fodder, but he did not sell wild animals. He was more into politics and hooking up with much-younger Miss Iowa pageant contestants. (Hmmmm…sounds familiar on the national scene.)

There’s a gag about a manure shop burning (“an actual shit show”), plus lines like “I’ve got my Grandma’s gams” to which the response is “How does she get around.” [*I haven’t heard a line like that since “I just flew in from Chicago and boy are my arms tired!”]

A couple representative lines:

“Don’t have a sponsor on as a guest…Let him buy a badly-produced commercial like everybody else.”

“Your buddy gets drunk and takes a dump in your gas tank…Happens every week.”

THE GOOD

David Pasquesi

David Pasquesi of “Bettendorf Talks.”

The leads (Dennis Pasquiesi and T.J. Jadowski) are very funny. The supporting cast, including  The Assassination Band (Brian King, Dave Cottini, Pete Cimbalo, Adam Krier and Phil Karmets) are good and featured onscreen. The supporting cast members (Sadieh Rifai, Emma Pope, Cassie Kramer,Nnamdi Ngwe, Tim Kazurinksy) were fine.

So far, aside from a few exteriors (Logomarcino’s, which is actually in Moline, not Bettendorf; WQAD’s headquarters which is mis-identified as being in East Moline—it’s in Moline), it doesn’t look like the film is being shot in the actual Quad Cities. Most scenes were in the purported studio. It would be nice if it were actually shot in Bettendorf (and Iowa),  because, as I’ve been saying to those on the Illinois side of the river for some time now, “Will the last one out of the Quad Cities please turn out the lights?”

I was quite excited to learn that a funny comedy TV show might be focusing on the Quad Cities, since Chicago has taken up all the bandwidth on television for years now with shows depicting what goes on there (“Chicago P.D.”, “Chicago Fire,” Is Chicago Shit Show next?). Manure (shit) jokes proliferated in both of the better pilots. Audience present this day approved of most, a good sign. However, never under-estimate the intelligence of the audience. [Except we are living through a particularly odd time, nationally, that makes one wonder about that old truism]

I guess we can’t always have a local city coming up a big winner (as Rock Island did in “The Blues Brothers.”) But there can still be some unique, original jokes associated with Bettendorf that this team can produce, if given more time.

CONCLUSION

David Pasquiesi and his partner T.J. Jagodowski are talented and funny. It’s a good start. The material is  not quite up to their normal comedic standards right now, but I hope a distributor will give it time to develop on the air. Seems that is the way most of the Great Comedy Series started out before catching on with audiences.

Good luck to the team!

 

TV Pilots Screen at SXSW on Oscar Day, March 10, 2024

The  TV pilot section at SXSW went off at 3 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar on Oscar Day (March 10th), with six TV pilot episodes shown, one after another. I did not realize that the program was comprised of all six of the entrants. I was  originally focused on one entitled “Bettendorf Talks.”

Some of the many TV Pilot participants, post March 10th screening.

I may be the only critic here who owned and operated the Best Business in Bettendorf (Iowa) for close to 20 years, so, naturally, I was intrigued by the title alone. I looked up the creators of this TV pilot and contacted (via e-mail) one (of two) of the leads, a very good actor named David Pasquesi, whom I have  seen perform in Chicago. He does improv with his partner, T.J. Jagodowski,—the leads in the TV pilot— but he also acts in other vehicles. He was impressive portraying a brain-damaged pianist in a short that screened at the Windy City Film Festival the same year I had a screenplay in competition.

My e-mail mentioned that I had seen him in that short and I received a friendly response, that suggested he hoped we might meet in Austin. He said he was “looping in” a publicist who was representing the pilot.

I had asked for a screener but was told (by the star) that it was “a World Premiere.” Most of the films here are World Premieres. Generally, a screener is sent with an embargo date and time, which I always abide by.  I did ultimately receive the 18-minute film. Since I was not aware that ALL six of the films would be showing at once, I  prepared remarks for just “Bettendorf Talks,” which I will conscientiously review tomorrow.

I was so enthused about helping publicize the existence of a pilot that might highlight the Quad Cities that I invited the two leads to dinner at my expense, at a very nice downtown restaurant, the Roaring Fork. That invitation was sent (e-mail) on February 22nd. I have only invited one other individual to join me for a meal so I could do an in-depth interview ever in over half a century. That one person was Suzanne Weinert. Here is the link to that piece:  https://www.themovieblog.com/2019/04/writer-producer-director-suzanne-weinert-flatiron-pictures-talks-movies-and-a-good-son/

That is not to say that I have never done interviews that were conducted in spaces provided. Last year, I interviewed the leads of “A Small Light,” a National Geographic special.

My intention for “Bettendorf Talks” was different.

I wanted to run a  lengthy article on “Bettendorf Talks” and its stars and their background(s).  I wanted to help launch “Bettendorf Talks” and I had some Bettendorf stories that the team might be able to use if their pilot were to be picked up.

I literally never heard another word back from anyone, so that plan died. I’m sure the team was busy and may not have even been in town. A note to that effect would have been nice, but I was busy covering “Stormy” on Opening Night, anyway, and it ran late.

The short observations below are in the order of which  were the best of the pilots screened this afternoon:

“Halfrican American” TV Pilot.

  • Halfrican American” – This one came from real life, said its Showrunner/Director/Screenwriter, Zeke Nicholson. The short synopsis in the program said, “Zeke attends a cookout with his boisterous black family and estranged father.” Zeke is from New York, but not THAT New York. As he tells his assembled relatives, he is from Reinbeck. New York, a small town upstate. When his dad asks him what they do in Reinbeck, Zeke mentions antiquing. His father’s hilarious response is “that shit sounds white.” Zeke has already admitted that the most exciting thing that ever happened in Reinbeck is that Chelsea Clinton got married there. Among other laugh-out-loud funny moments were his description of an old photo of himself from high school with chin hair and sideburns as “a chin-strap situation,” admitting that “It kind of looked like a helmet I couldn’t take off.” Zeke meets a sister named Destiny he didn’t know he had (“I don’t meet a new sister every day”) and asks her to help “explain the proper hand service” to him, as he doesn’t seem to have the Black hand signals down completely. There were also jokes about colonoscopies and 6-hour erections, but I’ll leave the shit jokes (quite numerous in the two best pilots) for later, with this one exception: Zeke’s father expresses some opinions about California, a state, he says, where people “howl at the moon.” Walt goes even further suggesting that it’s a place where anything goes, saying, “You could eat your neighbor’s shit and somebody will join you.”

See what I mean?

The cast was vibrant, funny,  lively and the concept seems like one that would “play” well on television today—with some censorship of the racier parts. It was definitely an “A” effort.

  • There’s actually a tie for the two that were second-best, based on today’s viewing:

Bettendorf Talks” and “Tossers” seemed equally funny, but I had prepared remarks for “Bettendorf Talks” only.

“Bettendorf Talks” cast.

This was because I didn’t realize that ALL the pilots would screen one right after another. Also, I thought I might have an opportunity to ask questions of the Bettendorf duo, such as, “Who is the person on your writing team that actually knows the Quad Cities?” There’s always someone. The two young men who created “A Quiet Place” (Scott Beck and Bryan Woods) are from Bettendorf and that film has now become a franchise with John Krasinski at the helm. So make fun of Bettendorf all you want. I don’t live there, and I didn’t grow up there. Go for it, but be funny and witty. I would also mention that the WQAD television station isn’t in East Moline; it’s in Moline. Logomarcino’s? Also in Moline—but this is fine, since we are all “joined by a river”—right? After all, when they shot “Cedar Rapids” (Ed Helms) they used Pittsburgh as a stand-in for C.R.

Let me mention the Top Two pilots (“Halfrican American,” above, and “Bettendorf Talks”)  and resume with lengthier descriptions of the others tomorrow, since it’s Oscar night and it’s now after 3 a.m. While conducting our annual Oscar Night Party I received a terse text message from the publicist for “Bettendorf Talks.” It was a little after 6:30 p.m.

My boss (from New York City) and the only one that I am aware of who sets the time(s) for reviews to go live on his blog, is here in Austin.  His e-mail is now sporting a message that he is “away from his desk.” We have not spoken or seen one another. I know that he was on the Red Carpet for “Roadhouse” on Friday, because I read it on TMB. He is basically unable to be reached by me or anyone else. I know he is busy, because I am busy (although I did set aside tonight for the annual Oscar predicting party, with ballots, a traveling trophy, friends and snacks.)

Keep in mind that we mere reviewer types have been laboring in the fields, attempting to get screeners in order to get a head start on all the activity. I  filed at least 10 such reviews from screeners and clearly indicated all “embargo” dates and times. When I was accused of running a review of one such documentary less than an hour earlier than the time it was to go “live” (7:30 CDT), via a brusque message from the publicist’s cell phone,I responded that I did not set the timing of the run on that blog; it’s not my job. I did not, consciously or unconsciously, violate any embargo. It was also, at most, a one hour discrepancy. (If you’re trying to go early, wouldn’t you jump the gun by more than a few minutes?)  I offered a potential explanation on behalf of whoever did set the blog to automatically post. It would have been done in NYC, which is Eastern Time versus Central Time and today was the day the clocks changed. But I sense that the goal was really something quite different from what we will laughingly call “public relations.”

“Bettendorf Talks” leads T.J. Jagodowski and David Pasquesi after the March 10th TV Pilot showing.

I offered up this evidence of my own innocence:

(1) It was NOT up on MY smaller blog, WeeklyWilson at the time of the brusque message, which proves my point.  I DO set times for that one, but am only one contributor of many on TMB.

(2) The boss operates on Eastern Standard Time, normally, but today was the day that we “spring forward” with daylight savings time here in Central Daylight Time. Either one could account for going “live” very slightly early. The point is, it was a really nice review (and a big one) and I do not set the time that things run on TMB. I wish I did, but I do not have that power. It’s well above my pay grade. If it did run slightly earlier than intended, it was accidental and—if you check—there is publicity on the piece well back in the month from other sources (interviews, etc.). Was it really a good and/or nice thing to call me up and give me grief?

If it were my film, I’d want as much free P.R. as I could get. The best way to get it is to get reviewers the materials when they actually have time to prepare their words well and, yes, it can be embargoed and everyone should attempt to comply. I, at least, definitely did comply.

(3)  I have not been able to speak with the very busy Boss Man since he hit town. I tried sending an e-mail, but got the “away from the desk” thing. Phone messages are going straight to voice mail.

The publicist suggested I should do what I could to take the very nice, very large review down immediately. If it were my film, I would most definitely not want that. (*Note: the review was not of “Bettendorf Talks.”)

I instantly agreed that I would do what I could, which is nothing.

David Pasquesi of “Bettendorf Talks.”

I have never been the one who sets the “run” time for The Movie Blog’s pieces. I only can be held responsible for my own little blog, which clearly had been in compliance. If it was one hour “off,” I’m guessing it is because it was set to run automatically quite some time ago.

Man! I guess I don’t understand what a Public Relations person is supposed to try to do, even though I worked in that capacity for many years as the CEO of two companies. Harassing me at home while I’m having an Oscar party and accusing me of something I did not do never seemed like it would be high on the list of “things I should do to promote.” Asking a large blog to remove an excellent review that goes out to a large audience also seems counter-productive if you’re working to promote the film. Of course it would be bad to intentionally violate embargo dates and times, but that did not happen.

I always thought P.R. people were supposed to concentrate on trying to create good will. No?i

(Post Script: I checked the Premiere time for the review in question. It started at 6 p.m. and went until 7:36 p.m. This means that the film was well underway when I received the phone message that I must remove it from being read. On Oscar night. While throwing an Oscar party. Anyone going to the movie was already in the film. It had been going on for over half an hour, at least. If I’m this film’s publicist, I am exulting at the good reviews, not telling big outlets to take them down. Maybe I’ve been doing P.R. wrong for half a century, but I would definitely be out celebrating (as, in fact, I was trying to do here in Austin) at the good reviews my efforts had produced and not hassling an underpaid reviewer for jumping the gun on a review by less than an hour,— especially when setting the time to run the review was not even the reviewer’s job.

 

 

 

 

“Stormy” Documentary World Premiere on March 8th at SXSW Is Cautionary Tale About Crossing DJT

Jud Appatow

Executive Producer Judd Apatow.

The documentary “Stormy” had its World Premiere on Friday, March 8th, at SXSW in Austin, Texas. Directed by Sarah Gibson and executive produced by Judd Apatow, the film was a sympathetic look at the Stormy Daniels saga. It was comprised of film that Stephanie Clifford (Daniels’ real name) shot previously in an attempt to do her own documentary combined with new footage.

Sara Bernstein Executive Produced, while Erin Lee Carr Produced, and Editor Ben Kaplan and Inbal B. Lessner did great editing work. The score was provided by Jeff Morrow for this 104 minute film. With the Stormy Daniels “Hussia” (hush money) case set to go to court on March 25th this is indeed a timely film. And a good one. Don’t miss it.

When porno actress Stormy Daniels met Donald J. Trump at a golf outing in July of 2006 at Lake Tahoe, Nevada, she couldn’t have known that her association with the man who was then the star of “The Apprentice” would lead to financial ruin, the end of her marriage and non-stop death threats. She was 27; he was 60. Stormy’s daughter from her third marriage  was then seven.

Donald J. Trump invited Stormy to dinner. She arrived at the door to The Donald’s hotel room early.  He was attired in black satin pajamas.  Stormy said, “Go put some clothes on. Hefner wants his pajamas back.” Trump did, and they talked for three hours, but when Stormy emerged from Trump’s bathroom (where she noticed gold things everywhere and Old Spice cologne) Trump made a move on her, sexually, and she didn’t say no (although she wishes she had). No dinner was had.

Stormy Daniels

Stormy Daniels at the Stateside Theater on March 8, 2024 at SXSW.

Trump told Stormy he wanted to put her on his TV show, “The Apprentice.”  From her book “Full Disclosure” we learn that the two watched “Shark Week” together in The Donald’s hotel room and Hillary Clinton called during the program. The Donald told Stormy that he wanted to put her on his TV show “The Apprentice.” Trump called her for months thereafter, stringing her along with that promise and suggesting more meetings, but finally admitted that he couldn’t put her on his show. Stormy quit taking his calls after 18 months, saying, “I thought we were done.” The story began in 2006, when Barron Trump was 4 months old (Melania Trump had just given birth to their now-7-foot tall son.) Stormy was 27 and Donald Trump was 60.The story re-surfaced in 2011.

Stormy grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with a somewhat indifferent mother in a father-absent home. (She hasn’t talked to her father since she was 17). Throughout life, Stormy has seemed to look for love in all the wrong places. She says, “I’ve gotten ripped off by everybody.” We learn that one of her better friends tried to sell the Stormy/Trump story to the tabloids.  Her first attorney, Michael Avenatti, who got her the book deal in September of 2018, stole $300,000 of Stacey’s book profits. Avenatti ended up in prison for 4 years for defrauding Stormy and received more time for defrauding Nike and other clients. He has been in prison since February 7, 2022.

Judd Appatow, Erin Lee Car and Sarah Gibson at SXSW

Judd Apatow (Executive Producer), Erin Lee Carr (Producer) and Director/Producer Sarah Gibson at the World Premiere of the documentary “Stormy.”

On December 5, 2022, Avenatti was sentenced to an additional 14 years for stealing millions from clients, bringing his total sentence to 19 years without the possibility of parole.

The betrayal by Stormy’s supposed friend and by her first attorney lend credence to her charge that she has been ripped off by everyone. Throughout the film, Stormy’s love and concern for her third husband Brendon Miller and her daughter are an ongoing theme.

Stormy’s husband took responsibility for the care and feeding of their daughter, when Stormy went on gigs, including her “Making America Horny Again” tour. A rift developed when Stormy’s husband learned that she actually did have sex with Donald J. Trump, something she had previously denied.  Stormy was set up for arrest after playing a gig at the Siren’s Club in Columbus, Ohio, when 2 female officers attended her show and then contacted authorities to have her arrested, charging assault. The charges were dismissed within 24 hours when it became clear that the female officers were MAGA supporters of Donald J. Trump.  Stormy’s lawsuit against the city of Columbus resulted in a $450,000 payout when the bias of the officers was revealed. Stormy also related being threatened by an unknown man in the parking garage while she was with her 7-year-old daughter. (She passed a lie detector test alleging this.)

Director/Producer of "Stormy" Sarah Gibson at SXSW on March 8, 2024.

Director/Producer of “Stormy” Sarah Gibson on March 8, Friday, at the SXSW World Premiere at the Stateside Theater in Austin, Texas.

There was an incident that took place at the Canadian border when border patrol said Stormy could not enter the country because she had 17 assault charges in her FBI file. It became evident that Stormy’s FBI file had been tampered with. This occurred during Trump’s presidency. It is yet another example of why Michael Cohen, who went to prison for making the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, texted her and told her he was seriously concerned for her safety.

The photos of Stormy Daniels onstage show a woman under a great deal of stress. She came late, surrounded by some very large bodyguards. She has been threatened continuously since the rendezvous with Trump emerged in 2011. Those threats have escalated as the trial looms close later this  month.

Stormy herself, onstage at the Stateside Theater, used the adjectives “ridiculous, terrifying, and pointless… I have no hope about it any more.” She described the current situation in 2024, when compared with the saga from 2011 and beyond this way: “It is different from 2018. I have more knowledge, but the threats have become more violent.”  Her once promising career as a director of porno flicks dried up by 2019. She has given up full custody of her daughter to the child’s father, reasoning that their daughter will be safer with him. The threats against her life are not to be dismissed lightly. There are a lot of zealots in the  MAGA camp; it only takes one.

Stormy Daniels in the Stateside Theater lobby before the World Premiere of the documentary "Stormy."

Stormy and cast and crew at the Stateside Theater on March 8, 2024 at SXSW.

She has been called every name in the book, but liar is one epithet she won’t take without fighting back. Said Daniels  in this must-see documentary, “My soul is so tired. I’m out of f***. I won’t give up, because I’m telling the truth.”

During the Q&A that followed the impressive documentary Director Sara Gibson said she could not believe the level of stress that Stormy endured. “It makes it very hard to lead your life. I couldn’t believe how stressful this was for her.”

Commenting on the large amount of footage that the editors had to integrate with new film in a very short time, Apatow said he had known Stormy Daniels for a long time—ever since she had a small part in his 2006 film “Knocked Up.” He said that his goal was to “Tell an accurate, empathetic story of what she has really been through.”

When Ms. Daniels took the stage she recounted getting the part in Apatow’s movie, but then potentially losing it because of the death of her step-daughter when filming was to take place on this very date (March 8th) many years ago. Apatow sent flowers to her home in sympathy. He changed the shooting schedule so she could still participate. For someone who expressed the opinion that “nobody ever helped me” and felt as though she were 9 years old again (the year she was repeatedly abused by a neighbor) you can tell that she was genuinely grateful.

Stormy Daniels

Stormy Daniels onstage at the World Premiere of “Stormy” on March 8, 2024 at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

Stormy said, “Nobody cares what the truth is any more.” Describing a never-ending avalanche of court documents, this statement during the Q&A seemed fair: “She deserves to have a voice in a lot louder, larger way.  She was a tax-paying American citizen, and she deserves better.”

“Stormy” is one of the investigative documentaries that the American public needs to see before November’s election. It is a Peacock original and will stream there beginning March 18th.

The "Stormy" team at SXSW on March 8, 2024.

The “Stormy” team at the world Premiere.

 

Bodyguards for Stormy Daniels (2 of 4).

Stormy Daniels bodyguards on March 8 2024 at SXSW.

 

 

 

 

[Among the team producing “Stormy”: Director Sarah Gibson and Executive Producer Judd Apatow (“The 40-year-old Virgin,” “Knocked Up”) of Apatow Productions, Olivia Rosenblum, Erin Lee Carr (Producer), Sara Bernstein (Executive Producer), Meredith Kaulfers, Kelsey Field (Imagine Entertainment), Amanda Rohlke, Emelia Brown, Natalie Goldberg, Brooke Snyder, Ben Kaplan and Inbal Lessner (editors), Shiho Fukada, Jonathan Furmanski, Wolfgang Held, RA Barrett (Cinematography), Denver Nicks, Bob Rose, Jason Sager (Co-producer) and music by Jeff Morrow]

“An Army of Women” Profiles Sexual Assault in Austin, Texas on SXSW Opening Night

Director of "An Army of Women" Julie Lunde Lillesaeter.

Director of “An Army of Women” Julie Lunde Lillesaeter.

Norwegian director Julie Lillesaeter has directed a documentary about 3 Austin (Texas) women attempting to seek justice for their rapes or sexual assaults. Ultimately, the 3—Amy, Marina, and Hanna—join 12 other women in a groundbreaking federal class-action lawsuit. It is the first lawsuit to argue that sexual assault isn’t prosecuted enough, primarily because it is a crime that predominantly affects women. The plaintiffs also made clear that they were frequently not believed, despite proof that one perpetrator went on to assault 5 other people after raping one of the victims.

Three, in particular are highlighted: including Mary Reyes and Marina Garrett. Lawyers Jennifer Ecklund and Elizabeth Myers charged, in the original 2018 lawsuit, violations of survivors’ Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

The women are shown addressing the Austin City Council about the failure to prosecute their cases in a timely fashion.  One of the women had been fighting for justice for 15 years, since 2008. Their rallying cry: “We’re here to force change in a system that seems to be incontrovertibly broken.”

At the time, Norwegian director Julie Lunde Lillesaeter was living in Austin. It was 2019. She told Sarah Marloff (Austin Chronicle) “I was really shocked. I was naively thinking that when assaults happen, there’s a system in place to handle it properly, and make sure it doesn’t happen again. :When I learned about the lawsuit, I realized the system is really failing spectacularly. And there doesn’t seem like anyone in charge wants to fix it.”

THE GOOD

Lillesaeter felt the cause was worthwhile and that the David versus Goliath elements would spark European interest. She said, “I think it’s really hopeful, as serious as it is. It’s a sort of a story that show you can change systems. Even if it’s an Austin story, it feels very relevant no matter where you are.” The documentary has already sold in Germany, France and the Scandinavian countries.

Ultimately, the women persist and change the system, winning these concessions:

  • Enhanced training for police department and prosecutors.
  • Adding staff to the Austin Police Department sex crimes unit.
  • Notification of survivors about progress in ongoing cases.
  •  Creation of a soft interview room.
  • Releasing data to the public about cases involving sexual assault.
  • Survivor involvement in policy decisions.

Each plaintiff in the case got $75,000 with $100,000 toward legal fees, and $4,670,000 was assigned for policy improvements.

The women’s group also targeted then District Attorney Margaret Moore and helped elect current Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza (who is currently running for re-election.)

THE BAD

An Army of Women"

“An Army of Women” at SXSW highlights failures in the Austin, Texas, system for prosecuting sex offenders.

The film is slow-moving. It primarily takes place in courtrooms and the 84 minutes move very slowly. Since that is the point of the lawsuit, perhaps that is appropriate.

When one of the women, Marina, was awarded $20,000 after years of struggle in courtrooms, she seemed extremely excited about how much money she would be receiving. Marina’s story involved her drinking on 6th Street and being dragged into an alley and raped against her will. She said that the police did not believe her.

Even one of the lawyers said that she felt the amount ultimately awarded Marina was “pretty disappointing from a messaging standpoint,” despite the fact that Marina was exulting, saying, “I am so excited about the settlement.”

It seems clear that the Austin Police Department fell down on the job. The plaintiffs had high hopes that the new Travis County District Attorney (Jose Garza) would be a better listener and would do more in office to prosecute sexual assault than his female predecessor had done. (Recent ads during this primary election season run by Garza’s Republican opponents suggest failure(s) on Garza’s part in this department, but that would be standard operating procedure in elections.)

One of the plaintiffs (Hanna Senko) used a pseudonym at the outset of the film, calling herself Amy Smith, Victim #1. By the end of the film, she is willing to use her real name.  Her case involved being drugged and date-raped by a man she knew. Difficult to know what the reasoning was for initially concealing her true identity.  Marina Garrett, by contrast, began advocating for change back in 2016 when the city’s rape kit backlog made headlines. Several members of the Austin City Council also apologized to the women for how they had been not been believed and how long it had taken for justice to be achieved. Receiving an apology from the city was important to the women plaintiffs.

CONCLUSION

One reason the film seemed so long is that the subject matter is unwieldy. As Director Lillesaeter acknowledged, shaping the story into a concise narrative was a challenge. She said, “There’s so much more that could have been said…When you make a film like this, you have to make choices.”

It’s an important fight and it took too long a time for the long-suffering women to triumph, but the pace of this film also took too long a time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Tired of Winning” by Jonathan Karl Tells It Like It Is

Excerpts from “Tired of Winning: Donald Trump and the End of the Grand Old Party,” by Jonathan Karl of ABC News:

Jonathan Karl's Biography - ABC News

Jonathan Karl of ABC News

 

“He lacks any  shred of human decency, humility, or caring,” a former White House official wrote of Trump, the man he had served for more than a year. “He is morally bankrupt, breathtakingly dishonest, lethally incompetent, and stunningly ignorant of virtually anything related to governing, history, geography, human events or world affairs.  He is a traitor and a malignancy in our nation and represents a clear and present danger to our democracy and the rule of law.” (p. 263, Jonathan Karl, CBS Political Affairs Reporter)

Jonathan Karl's book "Tired of Winning"

“Tired of Winning: Donald Trump and the End of the Grand Old Party” by Jonathan Karl of ABC News.

“Two and a half years after January 6th, the man whom many of the rioters said was ultimately responsible for the carnage seemed on the way to finally being held accountable…He faces a maximum of 55 years in prison—the maximum in the documents case is higher—but because Trump stands accused of betraying the very oath of office he hopes to take once again. The charges include defrauding the United States and depriving Americans of their right to have their votes count—a right central to the meaning of democracy.” (p. 269)

“President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.  No question about it.” (Mitch McConnell on Feb. 13, 2021.)

“Remnants of the Trump era will be a strange reminder of how Trump operated—his disregard for history and for the law—in this case, the Presidential Records Act of 1978—says that official presidential records are the property of the American people, not of any individual, not even a president. Trump destroyed some of them, others he took home to Mar-a-Lago as if they were personal souvenirs of his time as commander in chief.  Fortunately for future historians—and current criminal investigators—many of the documents he attempted to pilfer were returned, and many of those he tried to destroy were gathered, taped back together, and preserved  by government employees attempting to comply with a law their boss had no intention of following.” (p. 272).

The MITT ROMNEY IS A TOTAL LOSER napkin:  “One of the more unusual documents now under seal at the National Archives is a paper napkin from Air Force One.  The napkin—the existence of which has never been made public—is hardly a state secret, but it reveals much more than the words written on it by Donald Trump with a Black sharpie: MITT ROMNEY IS A TOTAL LOSER.” We don’t know the exact content of this presidential musing—or even the date it was retrieved—or  why Trump chose to scrawl those words on a napkin. Did he write it after Romney became the only Republican to vote to convict him in his first impeachment trial? Or when Romney became one of seven Republicans to vote to impeach him in his second impeachment trial? Or maybe it was after Romney and his wife, Ann, congratulated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on winning the 2020 election.  “We know both of them as people of good will and admirable character,” Senator Romney said in a statement issued minutes after Biden and Harris were projected as winners of the election. “We pray that God may bless them in the days and years ahead.”

Trump had called Romney a loser many times, but the context of the words scrawled on the napkin—TOTAL LOSER—were different than those he blurted out on Twitter or during speeches. The napkin was a private note, probably one he had written to himself, and an indication Trump had Romney on his mind, and perhaps a reflection of the obsession with the man who won the Republican nomination four years before Trump did. Of course, the note wasn’t completely wrong—Romney, like Trump, was a loser.  Both men had lost a presidential election. But, unlike Trump, Romney took his loss with grace and dignity.  He did what Trump would never do.  He congratulated his opponent—Barack Obama—and put the country above himself, offering words of support to the man who had defeated him.

Sam Houston, 1859–1861 - Friends of the Governor's Mansion
Sam Houston, 1859–1861

SAM HOUSTON STORY:  Sam Houston, the former Governor of Tennessee, battlefield hero, and founding father of Texas independence.  Houston was the first president of the Independent Republic of Texas, the first senator from the state of Texas and  one of the most independent, unique, popular, forceful and dramatic individuals ever to enter the Senate chamber.  Houston put all of that on the line beginning with a vote he took in the Senate in 1854 against what would become the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  To Houston’s fellow Democrats, it was a must-pass bill, a test of Southern unity and survival.  Houston saw the bill for what it was—a way to reopen the the issue of expanding slavery that would set America on a path to civil war. Not a single Senate Democrat joined him in voting against it...His stand against Southern secession was so forceful, Houston received a few votes to be Abraham Lincoln’s vice president. He traveled around his state to make what had become a very unpopular case for Texas to remain in the Union. While he was campaigning in the city of Waco, a bomb exploded behind the hotel he was staying in—an unsuccessful attempt to either kill or intimidate him. He survived the bombing, but he lost the battle.  And when Texas officially seceded  from the Union and joined the Confederacy, Houston was once again defeated, removed from office after he refused to take the oath of the new Confederate state of Texas. Sam Houston was far from perfect, but at the end of his life, he stood up to the madness of his own party—and the madness of his own constituents.  Despite the steep personal price he paid, his place in history was secure—and it started with a vote, an act of political courage—made inside the Senate Chamber.” (p. 279).

“Trump’s betrayal shows just how vulnerable our democracy is and how much it depends on people who are in positions of responsibility to act responsibly.” (p. 281).

“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.  Everything that followed (January 6th) was his doing.  None of this would have happened without the President.  There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” (Liz Cheney, R, Wyoming, while heading the January 6th Commission.) (p. 285).

Of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump the second time, the vote of Representative Tom Rice of South Carolina to impeach was among the most surprising. Rice’s reason for voting to impeach, articulated in Jonathan Karl’s book:  “When Trump watched the Capitol, the People’s House, being sacked, when he watched the Capitol Police officers being beaten for those three or four hours and he lifted not one finger or did one thing to stop it—I was livid then and I’m livid today about it.” (p. 285)

How DJT Was Groomed By Russia; The Tragic End of Alexei Navalny

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