Robby and Me

So 31 years ago this month I spoke to a guy I didn’t know on an actual landline.  No, it wasn’t like that.  He was a friend of a friend who was new to town and he had the soft, sexy voice of a young Robby Benson.

For those who don’t know – Robby Benson was a big film and TV star in the seventies with great hair, impressive acting chops and endless boyish charm.  Extremely smart and fun loving with a talent for playing often troubled though never irredeemable characters.

NOT ROB LOWE. #better

Anyway, I agreed to take Robby’s voice to a party because It/He didn’t know many people in town and when he came to my door I was taken aback.  He not only looked a little like Robby, by way of Italian heritage, but was smart, fun-loving and far LESS TROUBLED than any of the people he played.

This was Robby as you wanted him to be.   Or so I thought.  And it turns out I was right.  That night turned into that morning and more than three decades later here we are, his voice still intact and my crush now my husband.

and they lived happily ever after #AWWWWWW

It is important to remember Robby my husband and I met in 1987 in the height of the AIDS crisis.  The idea of finding a person with whom you could survive with 31 years later seemed…well, no one was thinking that far ahead.  About a week or two was all you could manage, and even that was pushing it.

We were ending the horrible Reagan years where gay people were branded nationally as diseased sinners whom the public at large needed to be protected from.   It wouldn’t get too much better in the four years of George H.W. Bush, though one of my favorite political moments of that time was when a former boyfriend gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention nominating Bill Clinton that chastised Bush, Sr. for willfully ignoring so many of the sick (nee gay) members of his (Note: Bush, Sr.’s that is) American family.

That boyfriend is long dead but his words linger in my mind.  I think of him and so many others often, though not in tragic terms.  I wonder – what would they make of Ellen coming out nationally?  Will and Grace and the return of Will and Grace 15 years later?  Could they have imagined RuPaul would not only have a high-rated show but win an Emmy and spawn a nationwide trend towards EVERYONE workin’ it 24/7 by simply being your true self?

Preach Ru

This is to say nothing about gay marriage in the age of Grindr, gay parenting, #ItsGetsBetter, gays in the military and, well, pretty much gay everything, anything and in any way possible if you so choose.

Exhibit A  #heyantoni

That does not mean there are now zero consequences from family members, neighbors and the world at large for one’s choices.  But pretty much every choice we make has consequences.

The fact that there is even this much of a level playing field felt like a quaint pipe dream in 1987.   Kind of like your parents saying you were not even a twinkle in your mother’s eye five years before you were born.  (Note:  Okay, maybe my family were the only ones who spoke this way but nevertheless the star metaphor feels apt).

It is in this context that I tuned in NBC’s The Voice this past week and saw a gay male couple in their 30s – one African American, the other lily White but both super hot – talk about meeting, singing together, falling in love and forming their own singing group.

They then discussed their parents and siblings, families who were finally face to face for the first time at this about-to-be televised audition.  Amidst all this we were also told they had an upbringing steeped in the church, information that would have been the whole point of their appearance even a decade or two before.  Assuming, that is, they would have even been let on TV as their true selves, which they wouldn’t have been.

Never mind that I thought their musical act was kind of corny, albeit sweet – sort of Up With People trying to mix with vintage Temptations music.   What was being broadcast here was in PRIME-TIME NETWORK TELEVISION.  More than their music, their story had reduced their four heterosexual vocal coaches/International music stars to sighs of admiration and tears.

YES IT IS LISA #exceptyourlips #help

It was also pre-determined by a corporately held network, owned by a conglomerate, that this would similarly tug at the heart strings of America’s heartland. Why else make them the lead off act in the 8:00pm family friendly time block?

Heck, I wondered, what does my sometimes still stuck in the eighties self make of that?  What would any of my friends, particularly the musical ones and specifically those who were long gone, make of it?

Answer – most of us around these days don’t think of it much at all.  Those not around couldn’t think of it as real.  At least that’s what I and my husband concluded.

None of this is a reason to pat ourselves on our collective backs and break out in cheers as a nativist movement sweeps the country and the world, imperiling minorities everywhere and even thumbing its nose at some MAJORITIES, nee WOMEN.

OK OK Stay with me!

It is only to say, sometimes one has to look at where they came from as well as from where they started in order to gain perspective and energy about where they are now and in what way they are to proceed.

This year there are dozens and dozens and dozens of LGBTQ-themed films already or about to be released.  Click here for a list

Sure, we are still a niche audience but so is pretty much EVERY audience these days.  In 2018, it’s all about niche music, niche TV, niche radio, niche….don’t get me started.  So much to catch up on, so, so little time.

I’m sorry Sarah.. there is literally no time #AHSApocalypse #netflixIguess

But ultimately it’s more about subject matter and the lens within that niche.  In the seventies and eighties it was acceptable for straight male characters to make “fag” jokes without retribution.  The notable major LGBTQ crossover releases in 1987 were Maurice and Prick up Your Ears – two period pieces about a time when gay meant sick and in the shadows, and lesbian love or BTQ existence were barely an onscreen flicker.

It would be five years before Neil Jordan pulled off an international gender hat trick in The Crying Game.  This was 23 years before TLC aired its first episode of a reality show focusing on a transgender teenager, I Am Jazz.

We’ve learned that the point is the lens from which something is viewed.  We are offered the travails of a white suburban gay kid coming out in films like Alex Strangelove and Love, Simon (Note: L-O-V-E) and the oppressiveness but ultimately unapologetic victories young gay protagonists can have when their parents try to convert them to straight in movies such as The Miseducation of Cameron Post and the upcoming Boy Erased, all of them 2018 releases.

YAS. YAS. YAS

This doesn’t erase the tragic last days of Oscar Wilde in Rupert Everett’s The Happy Prince, now out at theatres.  As its star, writer and director, Mr. Everett effectively reminds us that this literary giant served TWO YEARS hard labor for engaging in gay sex (aka sodomy) with the man he loved at the turn of the century and was damaged beyond repair, not to mention shunned by society, in the few years he had left after he got out.

Yet in 2018, it’s an openly gay artist telling the story about an iconic gay artist from the past to a world that in the great majority, at least in the U.S., are on HIS side.   If that weren’t the case, you can bet Sony Pictures would have NEVER picked up the film for distribution.   

We’re not exactly to Avengers level, but good on them.

Nor would a gay Black man co-write the screenplay to his own autobiographical story, Moonlight, and then watch his story become 2016’s surprise best picture Oscar winner.

So as we all deal with the Trump America of it all, the international Nativism that could be our ultimate destructions, not to mention the latest U.N. report on climate change and the tragedy of global warming that threatens the extinction of the human species, it’s nice to remember history, progress, regression, revolution, resistance and more progress is our legacy.

It’s a roller coaster of emotions, dear.

History can turn on a dime, either way, and many of us have lived through periods where all fights seemed in vain and the best we hoped for was simply getting through.

What we didn’t know was that the future could be brighter than we imagined, BLINDING so DAZZLINGLY as to be rendered un-seeable, with only inevitable dollops of dark.

And that dream Robby Benson can appear at your doorstep just when you thought there was never a chance.

If this last thought seems too LGBTQ Hallmark, check out what one member of our new generation just unabashedly posted on his YouTube Channel.  Colin O’Leary you are 2018 Robby – reincarnated.

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I have no idea…

With all the know-it-alls in the world, it might be refreshing to once in a while hear someone publicly say, “I have no idea.”  That is, instead of yourself when you’re at some personal or professional impasse.

This is quite different than you or someone else stating it in the plural:  “I have no ideas.”   Meaning, you are convinced you are unproductive, uncreative or on the whole not very smart compared to all of the other “geniuses” working in the entertainment business today, or even yesterday (we’ll get to the past later).

Isn’t that something?  Add just the letter “s” and you totally change the meaning from potentially a good, honest admission of not knowing to a bad, self-destructive and totally fictional one of stupidity and personal self-flagellation.  Clever to state it this way, huh?  Well, that was my idea.

Though I obviously won’t be a network comedy writer any time soon, I did once have the idea that I could be and started my professional writing career in Hollywood (after writing one sensitive dramatic screenplay that got me the attention of a few agents and nothing more). I was writing spec episodes of “Cheers,” “Kate and Allie,” “The Tortellis” and “The Golden Girls.”  I don’t really know why.  But I guess because nothing was happening and I figured, hey, I’m a funny guy, maybe this is what I should really be doing rather than trying to inflict my outdated POV on the powers-that-be, whoever they are.  Anyway, I got a writing partner for the big jokes, had lots of pitch/idea meetings with real shows and eventually was actually sort of promised a writing assignment for an episode of Lucille Ball’s short-lived sitcom comeback “Life With Lucy”.  But the studio and the audience had other ideas, the most prominent of which was the admission of having no idea why that show was on the air in the first place.  Lucy’s comeback was quickly cancelled after several episodes and I lost my patience trying to break into an insanity I clearly didn’t have the stomach, or perhaps the right ability for (I mean, Lucy got cancelled!).

Oy.

Then I had yet another idea that it might be best for me to follow my heart and write the sensitive dramas I had always wanted to write in the first place despite it being the age of either “Die Hard” and/or “The Cosby Show.”  A good idea?  A bad idea?  Well, who was I to ask at the time since I didn’t seem to be having anything but the latter?  However, it turned out to be not just good but an excellent decision, because I would very soon get yet another idea for a script based on my very dysfunctional and sort of sad childhood that I had the notion (neé idea) would at least prove to people (and perhaps myself) that I could, indeed write.  That turned into the best idea yet.  It became not only my first huge sale but a feature film with a bunch of big names at the time and opened the many doors for listeners who now wanted me to talk about past, present and future ideas.   Listeners I never dreamed I would talk to in this or any other lifetime.  I mean, I had no idea….

I bring this up now because it’s the beginning of a new semester for me as a writing professor and I find myself in the privileged seat of listening to countless ideas from many, many young people who, with varying degrees of confidence, are volunteering (or being forced through requirements of a class) to share ideas of their own.   Imagine – you listen and listen in a class and finally there comes the point where you are required to put up or shut up.  Scary?  Abso(fuckin)lutely.  But it shouldn’t be.  You have to expose a bit of yourself or your thought process or your point of view and, whether you like it or not, have to go with your own original idea not only in class but in life – that is if you really want to get anywhere worth going.

Roughly the layout of my classroom...

Saying “I have no ideas” is not an option.  In fact, it’s the one thing that’s frowned upon in my classes and workshops because it’s a lie.  I mean, everyone has an idea.  And many more than one.  The key is – do you have the courage to state it?? (Note: It’s the same type of courage it takes to honestly answer a question with: “I have no idea” because it at least puts you on the path to figuring something out).

An idea is a seedling, a notion or a thought.  It can be inspiring, confusing, derivative, offensive or even just plain odd.  But, and this is the biggie, is only an idea.  If you look at the dictionary definition of the word, as I love to do in times like these, you will see that an IDEA is defined as:

Meaning, who the heck knows what is going to happen with it.  It’s at its core just a notion that has come into existence as a by-product of using your brain.  And unless you are actually brain dead (which means you couldn’t walk, talk, much less take a class of any kind), you have probably thousands of ideas in any given day.

I’m amazed at how creative, unusual or just plain cool even the oddest of my students’ ideas are or could be, even when they are mere thoughts, conceptions or lead balloons that don’t seem to be going over with anyone else.  That’s because I know in my heart of hearts, and through decades of more than a few broken hearts of my own, that today’s lead balloon can easily become tomorrow’s gold standard.  Or could lead us to the road for one.    The question is, how do you convince students (or adults) or the man on the street of this?  And, as one gets older, how do you remember this lesson each time you read any part of your own new or old work?  Or engage in general in life?

The answer, as it often is, is to go back to the truth – in this case,  your (the) definition.  An idea is a thought.  How can it be bad in itself?  And since thoughts are produced by your mind ad infinitum, that’s like saying that one of your sneezes is bad.  How do you quantify a good sneeze? (Doctors, please don’t write in).  Or smile?  Or, as long as we’re choosing random bodily functions, an orgasm?  Re the latter, “My worst one was right on the money,” as Woody Allen once so wisely said.  Amen.

I try to remember this when talking to the students and working on my own ideas.  I also try to remember that it’s not entirely bad, when faced with a new challenge of how to execute one of my or their many thoughts, to state, “I have no idea.” Actually, it’s pretty liberating.  Because if you have no idea then anything you say can’t be mistaken for one and thus absolves you from stupidity, inferiority or a factory of dumb thoughts.  It does, however, open the door to explore something or a series of things that might lead to one or two notions worth listening to.   Contrary to what I was like in my younger years, I try to say this “I have no idea” thing at least once or twice a week, and sometimes more often than that when I’m teaching.  It’s amazing how many doors it opens up – how many random thoughts young (and even older) people can have when you admit to them you are as confused as they might be or feel they are (you mean I’m not the only one?).  It also builds potential bridges because more than a few people imagine that if someone in a position of authority (or friendship) doesn’t know, maybe that one tiny thing they suddenly (or earlier) thought to say might not be so bad either.

(Note: I have to confess that each time I watch the news these days, I long to have at least one person in public life say the “I have no idea” thing and invite others to brainstorm with them).

Martin Scorsese, who has spent a 50-year career in movies, and has had and continues to have an endless supply of ideas, comes to mind right now.

Drinking game alert!

I watched “Hugo” for the second time and did a bit of a favorable turnaround on the film.  On first view I almost gave up on his ideas because the set up of the film was so long.  But on second view, knowing the set up, I was excited about all the ideas I knew were to come because, bottom line, “Hugo” is a film about a forgotten pioneering artist who had endless ideas in uncharted territory of a then very new art – moviemaking. Riffing on the true story of Georges Méliès – and in a fictional world unlike/like our own where a pioneering master of early films had his work destroyed through age, money and lack of appreciation by the business people – “Hugo” wants to shout at the world that ideas and the people who are bold enough to create them are to be valued when everyone has turned their back on anything new in favor of just living an unimaginative life.  Actually, more than valued.  Treasured.  And preserved.

But at one time each idea Méliès, the real or fictional one, had was a notion, a thought, a concept.  Much in the same way as one of our own in 2012.

I suspect it’s because Scorsese is a veteran “idea” and “I have no idea” man of storytelling that he has managed this long a career.  He knows you have to develop countless ideas (with more writers than you can shake a stick at, not that I recommend stick shaking towards my brethren or myself) than movies they make (but usually it’s a 1-10 ratio).  Mr. Scorsese – a name that usually evokes genuflection in film and TV classes – is willing to jump off the net.  And see where it all goes, knowing full well it might, in all reality, go nowhere.  But knowing also that it might, just very might, be his next great, or at least, new, or cool, idea.  As they say in life and in old Hollywood adages:  “You learn from the best.”

Big Red Lips: Learning from Lucy

LucyIf one more talking or writing head on TV or in print proclaims that young people entering the marketplace will have a near impossible time getting a job or that the “millennium” generation better get used to the fact that they’ll never live as good as their parents, I’m going to scream. Or let someone do it for me.

And they say it with such certitude – with intellectual arguments — and near irrefutable evidence. “Unemployment is at an all time high.” “The economy is crashing.” ‘The world is teetering on the brink of disaster.” And just checking the web, TV or newspapers for the daily riot quotient only seems to confirm this outlook.

Those entertaining a career in entertainment would seem to have it even worse. It’s an unstable business full of illogical people. Or perhaps it’s an illogical business full of unstable people. Take your choice. Or choose both.

OR PERHAPS NEITHER.

Because while this news certainly upsets me as a screenwriter who wants to work again, it makes me positively (but in a good way) LIVID as a teacher of many extremely talented, creative, enthusiastic students of the millennia who want to be in entertainment and are doing more than entertaining that career option. They are actually doing it. Or trying to do it. Or are entering or about to enter the marketplace despite what you say.

To these courageous youngins I say, it’s never not always wise to listen to your nay saying elders.

To their elders I say – SHUT UP THE F&$K HECK UP!!

Dream stomping is such a common pastime in our culture, especially during tough times, that it’s almost become de rigueur. Remember the old adage that it’s not enough to succeed, but you have to see your friends (or loved ones) fail? – multiply it by a lot and you get what’s going on now. People will say – “oh, we’re just being realistic – “warning ‘em” “preparing them “ For what? Another reason not to get out of bed in the morning? (as if we needed to add to the list) A new and improved excuse to not try anything new at all? (I mean, if that’s the case, why even wake up at all?) Are you saying that it used to be easy but now it’s hard? Or it used to be difficult but now it’s impossible. Or something else? Because whatever is being said, I can tell you from the trenches, is extremely, uh….. (let’s be polite here) counterproductive?

What is productive in August – a time when Congress, the president and other people who have paying jobs are on vacation (it still is vacation even if you’re unemployed) and are still looking for a laugh – is to go to the tried and true for some WISDOM that’s stood the test of times and yeah, even a few laughs. (hey, we’re on vacation).

And what better place to look for all that than to Lucy.

Yeah, Lucy. As in Ricardo. She was a housewife in the 1950s. Actually, she was a fictional character. But rather than listen to anything the dooms-dayers are saying, I’d urge every young (and old) person to watch a bunch of the made up, meaning not real, “I Love Lucy” episodes from the past and consider some of the lessons imparted for the present. If you don’t want to do it because I said so – do it in honor of Lucille Ball’s 100th birthday – which was commemorated nationwide in various celebrations, writings and web/TV pieces last week. Heck, even Google posted a clip on their page from “I Love Lucy” in recognition of her centennial. And how many black and white TV show fictional characters from the fifties do you see Google modifying their logo for? (The correct answer is ——NONE). Given Google’s standing as a success model in our post millennium world, that and that alone, should mean that at least some of her lessons are worth following.

LUCY LESSON #1 — BE WILLING TO TRY SOMETHING NEW – meaning — BE FEARLESS IF YOU WANT IT. You may or may not know Lucy was determined to break into show business with or without the approval/help of her bandleader husband Ricky. So determined that she talked her way into being the TV commercial pitch lady on one of his upcoming TV appearances despite the sour taste it left in her mouth (with dubious results).

LUCY LESSON # 2 – THERE IS ALWAYS A PLAN –Lucy was consistently told by her bandleader husband Ricky she could not be part of his nightclub show for various reasons (talent being a big one) but she knew she had it and always came up with a plan to prove him wrong. Even if it meant doing the jitterbug right after the eye doctor dilated her pupils and she couldn’t see.

LUCY LESSON # 3 – IMPROVISE, NO MATTER HOW MUCH THE ODDS SEEM AGAINST YOU – When Lucy’s back was against the wall she NEVER gave up, no matter who much the odds seemed stacked against her. When she was told by her husband she could never get a paying job (yeah, men FREQUENTLY said that to their wives in the fifties) and she indeed found herself in an impossible situation, she still found a way to sweetly (‘cause it was a candy factory) trudge forward.

LUCY LESSON #4 – DON’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER, DESPITE WHERE IT LEADS – When Lucy’s bandleader now turned would be movie actor husband Ricky is not being given a film by his studio (MGM) she pretends to be his agent because A) he doesn’t have one, B) he needs the help and C) the studio needs a push in his direction. Someone has to take the initiative and stop complaining so — she goes into action.

LUCY LESSON #5 – ASPIRE TO SING, EVEN IF NO ONE LIKES YOUR SONG – If you really want to sing, you’ll find your audience – and a way to be heard. That’s the Lucy way. Sure, she might not have had the typical singing voice – but what she lacked in traditional pitch, she made up for in stage presence.

LUCY LESSON #6 – IF ALL ELSE FAILS, MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH WHILE YOU’RE DOING ANY AND ALL OF THE ABOVE – Lucy is in Italy. She has a PLAN to soak up the local culture in preparation for a potential MOVIE ROLE when an Italian director thinks she could be ON CAMERA – something new and interesting in his next film. No matter she doesn’t know Italian, or grape stomping. She WON’T TAKE NO FOR ANSWER and perseveres even though IT’S RISKY and NONE OF THE OTHER WOMEN LIKE HER.

These are tried and true themes that have survived show business FOR DECADES. They might not all work for you, but I’ll bet at least one does. Or at the very least, lightens the load. And these days, you can’t do much better than that.

Recipes

I enjoy cooking and I’m good at it.  I’m not a great cook because that would entail inventing recipes from scratch out of thin air or improvising five star meals out of what’s in the kitchen cabinet.  What I love most about cooking (other than eating) is that if you exactly follow a great or even good recipe it’s impossible to make a mistake.  It will ALWAYS come out right.  When my sister, whom I adore, compliments my cooking and tells me she wishes she could be as good as I am at it, I roll my eyes (lovingly) and always have the same response:  “If you can read, you can cook.”

Not so in the entertainment business.  There is no recipe.  No formula.  This runs contrary to what you hear deep inside film and TV studios and from many, if not most, producers and agents.  They believe in the “recipe,” “the formula,” if only for self-preservation.  I mean, what if there were no sure fire way to do your job – you’d have to get creative.  Maybe even edgy or dangerous.

Note:  I’m making an overall point here.  I do know some creative studio executives, producers and agents.  Maybe even one or two who are edgy and dangerous.  And even if I didn’t (but I do) I would not admit it because I would like to get a film made again.  To reiterate, that’s “if” I didn’t.

The recipe you most hear about in film and television is

  1. Take a strong concept or story (robots attacking the earth.. ahem, “Transformers”) and…
  2. Marry it with a proven moneymaking director (Michael Bay: “Tranformers II.”  And “III.”  And…?).   Sometimes you can even…
  3. Put a big star in it (Shia LaBeouf?).  But, uh, okay, not necessarily.  Two of the three elements are often enough.

Another way to go is to:

  1. Take a money-making story from another medium that is so HUGELY popular (“Harry Potter”) that it can’t help but succeed financially, even without big box-office stars.  In that case, it helps to have…
  2. A proven, big moneymaking director (Chris Columbus)
  3. An experienced, literate screenwriter (Steve Kloves) and…
  4. A lot of very experienced producers – too many to mention but you can look it up here.

So okay – there IS a formula, you say?  Hasn’t this guy just disproven his point?  Not exactly.  Or at all.  Because aside from the various examples of other films that had those same type of elements but DID NOT succeed (my friends and I call them LUCY award winners, for reasons which I’ll explain in a minute), it seems that the aforementioned sure-fire formulas for film/TV success I just mentioned in 2011 no longer hold water for the studio powers-that-be.

To prove my point, I cite and credit the following bit of information to Nikke Finke’s Deadline Hollywood, which broke the following story earlier this week:

“Universal recently passed on green lighting At The Mountains of Madness, which Guillermo del Toro was to direct with Tom Cruise starring, based on HP Lovecraft horror tale.”

And what about this one?

 “…The Dark Tower, the ultra-ambitious adaptation of the Stephen King 7-novel series that was going to encompass a trilogy of feature films and two limited run TV series. The studio has said, No Thanks. Universal has passed on going forward with the project, dealing a huge blow in the plan for Ron Howard to direct Akiva Goldsman’s script, with Brian Grazer, Goldsman and the author producing and Javier Bardem starring as gunslinger Roland Deschain.

How does this NOT work?

Don’t these fit in the formula?  Uh, not any longer because, as you see, the recipe has changed.   And will change again.  And then again.  Or maybe there was never any sure-fire recipes for film and TV success to begin with (Just as I told you!).

Because if, according to those proven “recipes,” Tom Cruise (still one of our biggest international moneymaking actors) starring in a genre (they never lose money) film directed by a now HOT, money-making and even artistic director like Guillermo Del Toro who understands, has made money and even gotten good reviews in genre filmmaking (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Blade 2,” “Hellboy”) can’t get a film project going, something’s up.  Yeah, Deadline Hollywood tells us “the studio balked at funding a $150 million film that gave del Toro the latitude to deliver his cut with an R-rating.”  But is that it?  Or have economic times called for a seismic shift in new ingredients?

Ron Howard’s films have grossed upwards of $1.8 billion (that’s BILLION, with a “B”) domestically.   So if anyone could do a “Lord of the Rings” type trilogy for his home studio of Universal you’d think it would be a veteran yet still young (ish – for directors) Oscar winner, producing with his longtime mega moneymaking partner from a script by his Oscar-winning long-time writer.  Also, incidentally,  starring arguably one of the hottest international stars both critically and financially in movies today.  But again, no go.

Stop the boiling water, Virginia —  your film package may not have seemed half-baked but is now officially only half-cooked.

The recent economic meltdown of the past two years and the financial disappointments or stale reviews for some much-touted films has changed things.  Nothing is a sure thing, if it ever was.  The recipes for success that are no guarantees of anything have been changed by the people who claim publicly to not have any.  Or maybe, where creative work is concerned, there is no, nor has there ever been, any sure fire recipe to begin with.

Consider:

  1. “Nine” – From the director of the Oscar-winning movie musical megahit “Chicago,” (Rob Marshall) starring the Academy Award-winning actor of pretty much every other acclaimed movie (a slight exaggeration?) in the last 15 years (Daniel Day-Lewis)
  2. “Lovely Bones” – An adaptation of one the world’s most recent best selling single volume books from one of the most sought after directors Peter Jackson of multi-part films (“Lord of the Rings”) the world has ever known.
  3. “Burlesque” – Cher and Christina Aguilera in a movie musical.   It bridges music young and old.  Plus there’s A LOT of skin.  How can it lose?  Or at least not be interesting.  And infinitely watchable?

Help!

My friend Barry (who suggested I cite  him  the films) and I would modestly categorize these last three films as “Lucy” award winners.  Meaning they are films that on paper look like they’re sure successes or of high interest either creatively, financially or for huge entertainment value.  Yet, all three, with fairly sure-fire ingredients in their recipes failed to deliver.

(Note:  This award was named years ago in honor of my favorite all-time TV actor – Lucille Ball, who still makes me guffaw in reruns of “I Love Lucy” just about every time I tune in.  However, she unwittingly created the “Lucy” award when she starred in the ill-fated movie version of “Mame,” an adaptation of the hit Broadway musical that, on paper at least, looked like a viable recipe for success).

It wasn’t.

What is the takeaway here?  That recipes are for cooking, not for movie or TV making.  And just to prove it, I will close with one of my favorites of the former – Ina Garten’s (“The Barefoot Contessa”) formula for GREAT GUACOMOLE.  Over the years I’ve made it at least 100 times and it ALWAYS, ALWAYS comes out perfect.

Ingredients

4 ripe Haas avocados

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)

8 dashes hot pepper sauce

1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 medium tomato, seeded, and small-diced

Directions

Cut the avocados in 1/2, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl. (I use my hands.) Immediately add the lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and toss well. Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced. Add the tomatoes. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper.

You can thank me later.