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Friday, October 28, 2005

D'ya hear about . . . ?

On Friday, 10/28/05, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Donald Trump was ticked when he saw an advanced copy of a biography about him by Timothy O’Brien. The paper reported, “The Donald gave the scribe considerable access to his boardroom, but it turns out O'Brien was more interested in the bedroom.” The paper said Trump was particularly annoyed about “a chapter claiming Trump had an affair with actress Robin Givens, the lantern-jawed ex-wife of heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson.”

Billy Crystal recently appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman to discuss his book 700 Sundays. Publishers Weekly reports, “Reading the book version of comedian Crystal’s Broadway solo show can be initially off-putting. The jokes he uses to warm up his audience (on why Jews eat Chinese food on Sunday nights, his complaints about his circumcision, the nasal pronunciation of Jewish names, etc.) are distinctly unfunny on the page. But once Crystal is finished with shtick and on to the story of his marvelous Long Island family, readers will be glad they can savor it at their own pace. There’s the story of Crystal’s uncle Milt Gabler, who started the Commodore music label and recorded Billie Holiday singing “Strange Fruit” when no one else would. Then there’s the Sunday afternoon when Holiday takes young Crystal to see his first movie at what later became the Fillmore East. There’s even Louis Armstrong at the Crystal family seder, with Crystal’s grandma telling the gravelly-voiced singer, “Louis, have you tried just coughing it up?” At the heart of these tales is Crystal’s father, the man who bought his little boy a tape recorder when he announced he wanted to be a comedian and didn’t scold when he recycled off-color borscht belt routines for family gatherings. Crystal’s dad worked two jobs and died young, so they had maybe 700 Sundays together — but how dear they were.”

President Jimmy Carter recently appeared on Larry King Live to discuss his latest book, Our Endangered Values. Publishers Weekly reports, “After several books on spirituality and homespun values (most recently Sharing Good Times), President Carter turns his attention to the political arena. He is gravely concerned by recent trends in conservatism, many of which, he argues, stem from the religious right’s openly political agenda. Criticizing Christian fundamentalists for their “rigidity, domination and exclusion,” he suggests that their open hostility toward a range of sinners (including homosexuals and the federal judiciary) runs counter to America’s legacy of democratic freedom. Carter speaks eloquently of how his own faith has shaped his moral vision and of how he has
struggled to reconcile his own values with the Southern Baptist church’s transformation under increasingly conservative leadership. He also makes resonant connections between religion and political activism, as when he points out that the Lord's Prayer is a call for ‘an end to political and economic injustice within
worldly regimes.’ Too much of the book, however, is a scattershot catalogue of standard liberal gripes against the current administration. Throwing in everything from human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib to global warming, Carter spreads himself too thin over talking points that have already been covered extensively.”

As King Kong once again hits movie theaters, the 1933 version of what the Philadelphia Inquirer calls a “landmark film” has finally come out on DVD. The Inquirer reports: “Offered in both a standard and a more lavish collectors’ edition with extra bonuses, King Kong comes in a handsome restoration that does justice to its resourceful black-and-white photography.

Even though we are jaded by dazzling special effects today, the 1933 RKO movie, codirected by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, is still mighty impressive. You can still feel what must have absolutely stunned the audience at the premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

A remarkable retelling of the fable of Beauty and the Beast, King Kong works because it creates sympathy for the great ape even while he is on the rampage. The erotic frisson that culminates with Kong clutching Fay Wray as he bats away biplanes from his perch on the Empire State Building is one of the most iconic scenes in all of movies.

The documentaries that accompany the film recount the immense labor and ingenuity that went into its creation, from the dreamlike production design to the breakthrough use of stop-motion photography.”

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