Archive for the ‘Decade: 1970's’ Category

Do I Love Musicals?

October 18, 2017

Could it be my gay DNA has been working all along? I always say I’m not a fan of musicals. I hated La La Land. I also hated the idea of (because I’ve never actually seen them) Cats, Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, Showboat, Jersey Boys, Chicago, Kiss Me Kate, Rock of Ages, and South Pacific.

But then I started thinking today about musicals. About doing a program at work featuring musicals. About somehow getting my friends involved who are obsessed with musicals. I have yet to see (which I want to see) Hamilton, Book of Mormon, Wicked, Les Miz, Avenue Q, or Spring Awakening.

I thought about my life. To some extent, I grew up on musicals. And no, I’m not talking about The Partridge Family, smart ass. I’m talking actual musicals and their film adaptations. Each year we watched The Wizard of Oz and White Christmas on TV. Religiously.

I knew all the words to all the songs in both films. I discovered set design and pizzazz from Oz and my first real diva moment with Rosemary Clooney singing Irving Berlin’s Love You Didn’t Do Right By Me. But was the little gay boy in me spending more time watching Rosemary or George Chakiris? Probably a little of both.

As a devout Catholic teen, when I wasn’t spending time being an altar boy, lector, cantor, or playing guitar in folk mass, I was listening to and memorizing all the words to Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell.

Of course I totally freaked out when Everything’s Alright and other songs from the Superstar soundtrack showed up prominently in the fourth season of Transparent. Apparently I wasn’t the only one grooving on these tunes in the 70’s. And is it me or does anyone else think that Godspell has a Manson family vibe to it? Maybe I watch too many serial killer TV shows. Streaming Mindhunter as we speak. One thing’s for sure, Jesus in Godspell had the original Jewfro. Whew doggie!

So in 1976, I finally went to New York City and saw my first musical on Broadway: The Wiz starring Stephanie Mills. I clearly remember being in awe of the entire show, but when the curtain rose on Emerald City, I was in green sparkle heaven. Stunning. The film adaptation really paled in comparison. Diana Ross was more than a bit long in the tooth playing Dorothy at 34.

Around the same time, I obsessed over the luminous Barbra Streisand and the smooth skinned hunkiness of Kris Kristofferson in the third film adaptation of A Star is Born. Another huge favorite of mine. Another soundtrack I had memorized completely.

And then adulthood beckoned. Or at least college. While off discovering higher education, I also came across Blake Edwards incredible film, Victor Victoria. To this day, I continue to love and worship Victor and Victoria. Le Jazz Hot stands out as one of the best shiver-inducing numbers from a musical ever. Mary Poppins sets off a 3 alarm fire.

And a few years later there was this: Jennifer Holliday in Dream Girls. And I Am Telling You, I’m Not Going continues to give me chills and brings tears to my eyes. Even today when I watched it. Simply one of the best moments in Broadway history. Screaming along with Effie each and every time.

When did I discover The Rocky Horror Picture Show? During college? Probably. Maybe after. I can’t recall. But I fell hard for this surface silly ode to being yourself. Such a great message wrapped up in a deeply moving gender-bender show of delight. As annoying and destructive as Susan Sarandon was during last year’s presidential election, I still love Over at the Frankenstein Place the best from the deliciously deviant soundtrack.

The AIDS crisis years brought us Rent. I had the honor of seeing it twice on Broadway (thanks Jane). I still tear up whenever I hear Seasons of Love.

AIDS also brought us Zero Patience which continues to be an absolute joy to me. If you want to see a truly unique, smart, and independent musical, check out John Greyson’s Zero Patience: “tell the story of my life.”

Later I had an opportunity to witness the miracle of Hedwig and the Angry Inch with John Cameron Mitchell at the Jane Street Theater before it became a film and an actual Broadway musical. That evening was the first night I wore my baby blue eyeglasses.

And recently I had the honor of seeing Fun Home with a bunch of super fun co-workers. What a treat. The depth of this musical – I never thought in my lifetime I’d see something so beautiful. So sad, so celebratory, so lesbian. Thank you Alison Bechdel for sharing your remarkable life story with us.

There have been others over the years. Actual stage musicals, film adaptations, and just plain films with songs. Additional favorites include 42nd Street, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Cabaret, Cabin in the Sky, Carmen Jones, Funny GirlMoulin Rouge, The Music ManStorm Weather, A Star is Born (Judy Garland), and Tommy. 

And I haven’t even begun to talk about television shows with musical numbers in them. Guess I’ll save that for another post.

So in conclusion, I need to stop pooh poohing musicals. Sure the big formulaic Broadway ones are boring. But no less boring than big Hollywood films or pop music that’s more about the bank than the heart. Great musicals bring a sense of magic and wonder to stories. They take you out of your world, take you out of your blues. And for a brief moment you’re a star, belting out the best damn song ever written.

Thanks for taking this journey with me. I’d love to know what your favorites are – stage, screen or even small screen!

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Match Game ’75

October 16, 2017

Thanks to Buzzr, Amazon Prime Video added some classic game shows. One of my all-time favorites, Match Game has a number of episodes streaming from 1975 and 1976. So much fun! Brett Somers, Richard Dawson, Fannie Flagg, Betty White, Greg Morris, and many, many more. Were they drunk? Were they stoned? Only host Gene Rayburn knows for sure. Whatever, they were giggly and silly. Great nostalgia. 4 out of 5.

The Merv Griffin Show

October 12, 2017

Amazon Prime Video has quietly added a number of classic television shows this year. Reel Charlie’s already discussed My Favorite Martian. A unique addition to Amazon is The Merv Griffin Show. Merv’s talk show spanned 1962-1985. What’s available to stream are some best-of episodes spanning the 20+ years. You can see Merv in his infancy interviewing Andy Warhol and Salvadore Dali. Merv’s show in the beginning resembled a more serious format. Think David Susskind or Charlie Rose. Later on in the 1970’s the show morphed into a more popular Hollywood celebrity format featuring people like Farrah Fawcett-Majors and Marie Osmond. The 80’s brought a celebration of the 10th anniversary of Ms. Magazine with Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Carole King (in a rare television performance), and Loretta Swit. The capsule ends with Merv interviewing the cast of The Golden Girls during their first year of production. Merv certainly supported women in Hollywood. Though it all, Merv awkwardly flirts with some women, but in a most respectful way – just enough so his audience won’t realize he’s gay. That part of it is sad – the closet always is. But he certainly had a style and created a blueprint for talk shows through today. Merv on Amazon is a fun trip down memory lane or a history lesson for younger viewers. 3 out of 5.

For an in-depth examination of the damage Griffin’s closeted life did to himself and the gay community, read Michaelangelo Signorile’s piece from 2007.

The Criterion Collection: Reel Charlie’s Top 17

September 15, 2017

Whenever I see a famous person list their favorite Criterion films, I wonder what my list would look like? I took a shot at this back in 2012. Criterion’s been adding films monthly so my favorites list is ever-evolving. Currently I have a list of 17 must-see films from Criterion’s Collection. If you have access to Kanopy, you can see these films any time.

Reel Charlie’s 17 favorite Criterion releases (in alpha order):

All That Heaven Allows
A Christmas Tale
Desert Hearts
Fox and His Friends
Howards End
The Ice Storm
In the Mood for Love
Monsoon Wedding
My Beautiful Laundrette
Nashville
Rebecca
A Room With a View
Rosemary’s Baby
Safe
The Times of Harvey Milk
Weekend (Haigh)
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

 

Honorable Mention:

Being There
Boyhood
Brazil
Do the Right Thing
Fish Tank
Frances Ha
The Great Beauty
Grey Gardens
La haine
The Lady Eve
Mildred Pierce
Shallow Grave
Three Colors: Blue
Valley of the Dolls

Explore all Criterion films at their website.

All of These Shows Are Coming to Hulu (NY Times)

September 4, 2017

Love classic television? Interested in trying out Hulu? Then you’ll be happy to read Hulu struck a deal with 20th Century Fox Television Distribution for over 3,000 episodes of their television catalog. From NY Times,

Get ready to update your Watchlist, because Hulu is about to add a raft of shows to its streaming library. (Included are classics such as:)

The Bob Newhart Show
St. Elsewhere
NYPD Blue
M*A*S*H
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Hill Street Blues

Read the full list of shows at The New York Times.

 

A Star is Born (1976)

August 30, 2017

I wanted to revisit Barbra Streisand’s 1976 remake of A Star in Born in anticipation of the new Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper incarnation coming in 2018. I worshiped Streisand’s film when I was a kid. I owned the soundtrack and memorized every line to every song. I don’t believe I’ve watched it since. Conversations with my friend Nina who also spent time obsessed with the film reminded me how much I loved it back in the day. I’m happy to report the film holds up beautifully after all these decades. Kris Kristofferson plays the perfect love interest for Babs. He’s jaded, edgy, and bad boy to her good girl dorkiness. Did you know Joan Dideon got a screenplay credit along with Frank Pierson (director) and John Gregory Dunne? Also of note, Streisand wore her own clothing as Esther. And many of the stage outfits were men’s suits giving a  feminist vibe to her character. Perhaps the best part of the film is the concert footage which was not only filmed live, but recorded live. Only Streisand would attempt and succeed at something so daunting. Really gives the audience an authentic feel as if you’re there live with the performers. And sure beats the auto-tuned, overly edited world we live in today. For a glimpse of 70’s Streisand perfection, check out A Star is Born. 5 out of 5.

Catch Reel Charlie’s review of A Star is Born 1954 version with Judy Garland.
Enjoy Streisand’s The Woman in the Moon – the pivotal point in the film where Babs’ Esther Hoffman becomes a star.

Rhoda

August 4, 2017

“New York: this is your last chance!” Ba ba ba ba ba, ba ba ba ba…

And so goes the intro to Rhoda, the Mary Tyler Moore Show spin-off starring Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern, a 30-something, single, Jewish, New York woman who moves back to her hometown after living in Minneapolis. I loved this show as a kid. I had a mad crush on David Groh who played Rhoda’s love interest Joe and spoiler alert – husband. This is another show better left in my memory. It’s not bad, but it’s a bit flat all these years later. I watched two episodes of Rhoda and had enough. Oh well, I’ll hold on to the memories. Giving Rhoda a 3 out of 5 for old-time sake.

John Heard 1945 – 2017

July 22, 2017

Actor John Heard died yesterday at the age of 72. Heard is best known as the dad in the Home Alone franchise and for a role in The Sopranos. I’ll remember him best as the amoral friend of Susan Dey’s love interest, William Katt in the 1977 film First Love. Hearst had a child with one of my other favorite actors, Melissa Leo. RIP.

John Heard and Susan Dey in First Love (1977)

The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977)

July 3, 2017

Tried watching the first episode of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977) on DVD from Netflix. To be honest, I’m not sure I ever watched these when they were first on television. Like many old shows, HB/NDM was probably best left to some vague, youthful memory. The quality definitely did not hold up all these years later. Even giving a handicap for time period. But honestly, when I look back at 1977, there’s no handicap necessary. This was the year American television gave us All in the Family, MASH, Charlie’s Angels, Happy Days, Barney Miller, One Day at a Time, Soap, The Jeffersons, Lou Grant, Rhoda, Alice, The Waltons, The Rockford Files, Family, Roots, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Maude! The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew just didn’t rank at the top of the heap. Too bad because those feathered haircuts sure were dreamy. LOL. Best to stick to the classic novels which still enthrall young readers today. 2 out of 5. Next.

That Gay Episode: ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ Comes Out Of The Closet (Decider)

May 9, 2017

Photos: HULU ; Illustration: Dillen phelps; from Decider

Brett White over at Decider continues the series, That Gay Episode this time focusing on the famous Mary Tyler Moore episode where Phyllis finds out her brother is gay. From Decider,

Gay people worry about how they’re perceived — not for vanity reasons, but survival reasons. The period of a gay person’s life — be they minutes, months or years — between acknowledging their queer identity and proudly flying a rainbow flag are a nonstop internal Q(ueer) & A session.”Do they know I’m gay?” “Wait, does this make me seem gay?” “When do I tell them I’m gay?” It’s hard to express who you now know you are when you’re dealing with people whose perceptions of you run back decades.

These are the issues at the heart of The Mary Tyler Moore Show‘s 1973 episode “My Brother’s Keeper.” Unlike Cheers‘ “The Boys in the Bar,” which tackled machismo and gay panic by making half the cast straight-up homophobes, “My Brother’s Keeper” saved its big gay reveal for the very end. To get all meta, this is a gay episode that literally plays it straight for 24 of its 25 minutes.

Read the full article.
Read Kenneth in the 212’s blog post about how this episode and other quintessential queer moments on television personally affected him.


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