Friday, October 28, 2011


Halloween is second only to Christmas in the amount of money Americans spend celebrating it.  This wasn’t always the case. In fact, the holiday, variously referred to as All Hallow’s Eve and Old Souls Day, has steadily increased in popularity since the 1920’s. What began as a Celtic festival called Salhain, a celebration of the harvest, has blossomed into quite a commercial affair.
            As a child, I was discouraged from trick or treating. My parents claimed that it was a kind of begging of sorts but I think it was more likely that they didn’t feel quite comfortable with my knocking on strangers’ door on the streets of New York.
           Fortunately they had no problem with my going to Halloween parties. And I went to many.  I remember old fashioned parties I attended where we “bobbed for apples” (people were less health conscious in those days) and told scary stories in the dark (while passing around items, such as overripe fruit, that were gross to the touch). We partied  beneath black and orange streams of crepe paper. Lots of fun. Great memories.
           As an adult, the parties continued and often got a little wilder than mere bobbing for apples.  I tried, before writing this, to recall all the many costumes I’ve worn through the years: Little Red Riding Hood, A French Can-Can Dancer, The Pink Panther, a  witch, Papillion (I dressed as prisoner, in striped pajamas having been invited to a somewhat pretentious “come as your favorite literary character” party). I wore fake fruit sewed to a turban when I dressed as Carmen Miranda one year. Probably my favorite getup, and one that I wore more than once was that of a Saloon Girl (I was wearing this when I met my future in-laws; their son was dressed as Spock).
           Nothing allows you to revisit your childhood and to enjoy Halloween more than getting to celebrate it with your children. Visits to the Pumpkin Patch, carving Jack-O-Lanterns (and roasting the seeds), going on the occasional hayride.  It was a rush getting them dressed as devils, gypsies, pirates, and an assortment of movie figures and Disney characters.
          When they were young, our neighborhood was the “go to” neighborhood for the premium trick or treat experience. Streets were lined with bumper to bumper kids and their parent chaperones. One couple around the corner supported the parents by serving up apple martinis. After we checked the bags of loot that were brought home for “suspicious looking candy inspection”, we’d wait for our children to graciously share what they knew were their parents’ favorites. (In my case, Dots and Good and Plenty)
          Again, lots of fun. Great memories.
          So what candies do kids (and adults) think fondly of?
          My list, in no particular order:

1.    Tootsie Rolls
2.    Snickers
3.    Kit Kats
4.    Neco Wafers
5.    3 Muskateers
6.    Twix
7.    Smarties
8.    Good n Plenty (or Mike & Ike’s for those who didn’t like black
9.    Twizzlers
10.   Dots
11.   Starbursts
12.   Mr. Goodbar
13.   Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
14.   M & Ms
15.   Raisinets
16.   Goobers
17.   Abazaba
18.   Almond Joy
19.   Chunky
20.   Whoppers

What was your favorite candy?

Have a great Halloween and thanks for joining me on this week’s journey



Friday, October 21, 2011


             It’s World Series time again so I felt it only appropriate to post an article about baseball.  When I was growing up it was baseball, rather than football that was the national sport in the United States. (Forget about soccer; that didn’t really make its way on the scene until the early to mid seventies.)
            While admittedly I was not nearly as avid a fan as was my older brother and older sister, I enjoyed baseball nevertheless. Not merely for the game itself, but for the feelings of comfort it evoked. I have many fond memories associated with baseball. For example, I’m reminded of lazy, N.Y. Saturday afternoons, hearing the familiar voice of announcer Mel Allen as he relayed the plays of the Yankees. (I imagine that my kids, born and bred Angelinos, will feel the same way about the voice of Dodger announcer, Vin Scully). I think back to the small purple plums we ate every September and October while watching the Series.  We came to refer to these plums as “World Series” plums. I remember snatches of conversation amongst my brother and sister and their friends. Conversations referencing names like Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, and Joe Pepitone.
            I recall how enthralled I was when my brother took me to my first “live game” at the Polo grounds in the Bronx.  The baseball diamond was so green! (Keep in mind that up until that point I had only watched the game on a black and white T.V.) Eventually, my sister took me to see the Mets at Shea Stadium, which was located directly across from the site of the 1964 World’s Fair.
            I was a Mets fan (still recall where I was when they incredibly won the series in ’69) but became a Dodger fan when I moved to California. (Hey, they were originally from Brooklyn, weren’t they?)  I attended games with my friend, Jane, who introduced  me to her friends, Fran and Ron (the Penguin) Cey. Ron played third base for the Dodgers in the early eighties. (I had a ball signed by the team but it faded over the years because, foolishly, I didn’t realize until later that I should have encased it in plastic).
            It’s apparent that football is the sport of choice for many in this country, but for me it’s baseball. (I even enjoy baseball movies like It Happens Every Spring and The Natural and the musical, Damn Yankees has always been one of my favorites.)
 I thought that this week I’d offer up a small “baseball oriented” quiz.  Mindful of the fact that players are free agents and often change teams, see if you can match the following pitchers to the team with which they are most closely associated.

1.    Carlos Zambrano                          a. Arizona Diamondbacks
2.    Warren Spahn                               b. St. Louis Cardinals
3.    Jim Palmer                                    c. Atlanta Braves
4.    Satchel Paige                                 d. Pittsburgh Pirates
5.    Roger Clemens                              e. Washington Senators
6.    Sandy Koufax                                f. Cleveland Indians
7.    Mark Buehrle                                g. Detroit Tigers
8.   Whitey Ford                                   h. Boston Red Sox
9.   Juan Marichal                                i.  Chicago White Sox
10. Nolan Ryan                                    j.  Philadelphia Phillies
11. Greg Maddux                                 k. Texas Rangers
12. Bob Gibson                                     l.  Chicago Cubs
            13. Tom Seaver                                    m. Florida Marlins
14. Robin Roberts                                n.  Baltimore Orioles
15. Walter Johnson                              o.  San Francisco Giants
16.  Bob Friend                                     p.  N.Y. Yankees
17. Hal Newhouser                              q.  Brooklyn, LA Dodgers
18. Michael Pineda                               r.  Seattle Mariners
19. Randy Johnson                               s. N.Y. Mets
20. Leo Nunez *                                    t. Milwaukee Braves

Bonus trivia question: Who was the only player to have played for the Boston Braves, the Milwaukee Braves and the Atlanta Braves?


l. l; 2. t; 3.n; 4. f; 5. h; 6. q; 7. i; 8. p; 9. o; 10. k; 11. c; 12. b; 13. s; 14. j; 15.e

16. d; 17. g  18. r;  19. a; 20. m

* Nunez was recently arrested for signing his contract with forged documents and playing under an assumed name. His real name is Juan Carlos Oviedo.

Answer to trivia question: Third baseman, Eddie Mathews.

Enjoy the Series and thanks for joining me along,



Friday, October 14, 2011


Watching a movie made in the forties or fifties, one gets the idea that certain themes were taboo.  That’s because they were. But this was not always the case. Many of the movies made in the twenties and even the early thirties were actually somewhat risqué.  These movies dealt with such controversial subject matter as adultery, homosexuality, drug addiction, abortion, incest, and miscegenation (or what was at that time referred to as “the mixing of the races”).
What then caused the sudden shift to more “morally correct” films?  Numerous Hollywood headlines in the twenties, the “Fatty Arbuckle” scandal amongst others, along with the strong influence of the Catholic Church, resulted in a general feeling that the film industry needed some sort of accountability. This was to come in the form of Will Hays, a man who had served as Postmaster General under President William Harding (ironically, Harding’s presidency epitomized scandal, but that’s another story). At any rate, this is how the Motion Picture Production Code came to be.
What sort of “moral guidelines” did the MPPC put forth?  Aside from the avoidance of the above mentioned subjects, there were now “rules” to be abided that didn’t exist prior to the code: criminals had to be punished for their crimes, authority figures had to be respected (particularly clergymen), brutal killings could not be shown in detail, there was to be no nudity and no sex outside of marriage, (if there was, the participants couldn’t enjoy it, in fact, they had to suffer as a result of it) and so on.
Directors and producers paid little attention to the code and looked for ways to get around it but that soon changed.  In 1934 an amendment to the code was adopted which created the Production Code Administration, requiring all films to get a “certificate of approval” before they could be released (any theater that didn’t adhere to this would be fined $25,000). Joseph Breen, who appears to have been one tough cookie, resided over the PCA with a rigid hand. Under his leadership, scripts that were deemed to be “questionable” in their moral views were changed. (For instance, if a woman, lying in bed, were to be kissed the man kissing her would have to have had one foot on the floor).
Needless to say, the Breen office was not a favorite with directors, writers, and movie moguls and the final cut of films like Animal Crackers only made it to the screen in their much censored versions. (Groucho was notorious for having slipped many a double entendre under the noses of the PCA but in the fifties, when he had his own TV show, he was once again rebuked by censors. He’d asked a contestant why she had so many children and when she smiled shyly and said she loved her husband a lot, Groucho quickly replied, “I love a good cigar but I occasionally remove it from my mouth”).
Back to the code.  As mentioned, the code was strictly enforced, whether it pertained to the adaptation of a classic book such as King’s Row (a good deal of sex, incest, and sadism in that one) or even to a cartoon (Betty Boop changed her attire from that of a flapper, to one that was deemed to have been more “sedate”).  Years of symbolic sexual implications passed by (trains entering tunnels, fireworks exploding, the tide rushing in, etc.) before adherence to the code began to weaken.
By the late forties, some subject matter began to become acceptable in films, prostitution for example. By the fifties, the film industry was feeling the competition from television. In addition to this, unregulated foreign films, with their more sophisticated themes, began making their way into the country and moviegoers’ demands changed. It was director Otto Preminger who is credited with first thumbing his nose at the PCA by using the word “virgin” in his film, The Moon is Blue. Directors such as Billy Wilder (Some Like it Hot) soon followed suit.
Though the code ended in 1968 (the movie industry replaced it with “age-based” ratings), it had a far reaching influence even in television. (For example, take the twin beds poor Laura and Rob Petrie were forced to sleep in).  And those Doris Day sex comedies of the sixties! It always amazed me while watching A Touch of Mink, to see Doris Day, a virgin in her late twenties or early thirties, turning down an opportunity of traveling the world with her love interest, wealthy business tycoon, Cary Grant, for the sake of her virtue.
Pre-code films are truly quite remarkable and make one wonder how much greater might some of the movies have been that were made when the censorship code was strictly enforced. On the other hand, an argument could be made that having these restrictions may have resulted in more creativity and ingenuity on the part of filmmakers.
Below, I’ve listed a dozen of, what I consider to be, the best “pre-code” movies. They often turn up on TCM or they can be ordered as part of TCM’s “Forbidden Hollywood” trilogy.

1.    EMPLOYEES’ ENTRANCE (1933)  Starring William Warren (a pre-code favorite) and Loretta Young. Loretta plays the wife of a department store employee who is harassed by the lascivious store manager, Warren.

2.    BABY FACE (1933)   Stars Barbara Stanwyk as a girl from “the wrong side of the tracks” who uses her body and sexual know-how to climb the corporate ladder. (And climb she does). Incidentally, strong female characters were a cornerstone of pre-code films.

 3.   FREAKS (1932)  I was first introduced to this bizarre depiction of a group of circus sideshow “freaks” by my brother when I was young and I found it terribly disturbing. (Particularly the man who was little more than “a head”, lighting his own cigarette.) With the advances in medical science, Americans are rarely exposed any more to the deformities depicted here. A good, if somewhat predictable, story with amazing characters.

4.    THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE (1933)  This is a movie I’ve never had the opportunity to see, much as I’ve wanted to. Based on the novel SANCTUARY By William Faulkner, the film is apparently steeped in “Southern Gothic”. Starring Miriam Hopkins, it is recognized as much for its extraordinary cinematography as for its depiction of a flirtatious Southern belle who “gets what’s coming to her” when she falls in with a bad, bad gang.

5.    THREE ON A MATCH (1932)  The story tells the tale of three school chums who reunite to find that their lives have taken very different paths. The seemingly most successful of the three (her name is Vivian, by the way) ends up throwing it all away in exchange for a life of debauchery and alcoholism.
What surprised me most when watching this movie was what a relatively minor role Bette Davis played. Like her co-star William Warren, Joan Blondell was another pre-code favorite.

6.    WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD (1933)  This film is a dismal depiction of the Depression. In order not to be a burden to their struggling, out of work parents, two teenagers, Ed and Tom, head for the road in search of work. They hop freights and camp out in God awful places with their newly acquired friend, Sally. When Sally suggests they visit her “well to do big city aunt”, they’re delighted (until they meet “auntie” and discover she makes her money by turning tricks).

7.    NIGHT NURSE (1931)  I enjoyed this one immensely. My kind of movie: psychological suspense. When a nurse trainee (Barbara Stanwyk) is hired to care for two small sick children, she suspects that something (or rather someone) sinister is behind their illnesses. She employs the aid of a petty criminal (Clark Gable) to get to the bottom of things.

8.    LILLY TURNER (1933)  Like many pre-code movies, this one was directed by William Wellman. It tells the story of a carnival magician who deserts his wife when he finds out she's pregnant. She marries the carnival's barker, but soon finds herself attracted to a young engineer.  When Warner Bros. tried re-releasing this in 1936, they couldn’t get a PCA “seal of approval”.

9.    RED HEADED WOMAN (1932)  Another “woman sleeping her way to the top” story, this one starring a sultry Jean Harlow whose ultimate goal is to sleep her way into high society. 

10.  TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932)  This comedy starred Kay Francis, Miriam Hopkins, and Herbert Marshall. Since it takes a lighthearted look at pickpockets, and thievery in general, it would never have received PCA approval.

11.   POSSESSED (1931)  Factory worker, Joan Crawford, enamored of the lifestyle and the man, acquiesces to becoming the mistress of influential lawyer, Clark Gable. Great chemistry between the two, who were paired in many, many movies.

12.  DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1931)  Having seen both this version, starring Fredric March, and the later one starring Spencer Tracy, I’d have to say that this was the better of the two. March’s incredible transformation from kindly Dr. Jekyll to maniacal Mr. Hyde was nothing less than brilliant. In fact, he earned his first Academy Award for his performance.

       If you can rent or purchase any of these movies, I’d encourage you to do so.

       Have a wonderful weekend and thank you for joining me this week on,



Friday, October 7, 2011


            Men have probably been pitching bad pick up lines since Fred Flintstone asked Wilma if she’d like to “go behind a rock and get a little ‘boulder’”.   Some pick up lines work, if the intended target hasn’t already heard them many times before which is usually not the case.
            As I mentioned when I first began blogging, I only re-entered the dating scene a few years ago, after my husband passed away. I had been happily married for twenty-three years and the whole ritual of dating seemed a lifetime ago. 
            Incredibly, some of the same lines that were offered up in my youth are still around. (“Do you mind if I stare at you up close instead of from across the room?”) Others have become popular as times have changed. “Do you work out?” is probably one of the lines used most frequently these days but only became popular, I suspect, in the past ten to twenty years. Before that, it wasn’t mandatory that everyone belong to a gym (and by the way, it’s interesting to note here that “running” or “jogging” only became a national pastime with the success of the first Rocky movie.)
            Why use a pre-rehearsed line in the first place?  Some might say it’s worth playing the odds. If a line has worked for a man in one instance, he’ll likely use it again. His thinking is probably that if he uses it on twenty-five woman, perhaps at least one of the twenty-five will be responsive. 
            But why not come up with your own line rather than one that’s made the rounds over the years?  Simply put, some people are just not that creative. Or confident. Maybe they don’t think that saying, “Hi, I’m Sam. May I join you?” or “Can I buy you a drink?” will get them very far. Of course many men do just that but others still feel they need to rely on pick-up lines.
(A side note men: Most women are responsive to a man who is not cheap (doesn’t stiff the waitress) and who makes her feel as though she’s the only woman in the room (doesn’t oogle the waitress). Mind you a woman needs to be wary, keeping in mind that extreme generosity and coming on strong are also the attributes of a “player”.)
            A little empathy is in order here for the male gender. After all, even in this day and age it is generally the man who makes the first overture and with the first overture comes the risk of rejection. And women don’t always help the cause. I’ve seen women turn down a man who has asked for a dance, then agree to dance with someone else two seconds later. Not very classy. I’ve always had a policy of dancing (if only once) with someone who has gathered up the nerve to ask me. It’s only a dance. Is it really worth hurting someone’s feelings over a simple dance? Of course, if a guy feels rejected when you don’t want to pursue things, that’s another matter and not your fault.
            I can’t begin to imagine the pick-up lines women would come up with if the tables were turned, but I’ve gathered a few of the worst pick up lines used by men. (It would be interesting to know whether these were just lines used by American men, or whether these lines are universal).

.   Do you know the difference between sex and conversation? (No.) Okay, do you want to go somewhere and talk?

.   Just call me milk; I’ll do your body good.

.   You must be Jamaican, because you’re Jamaican me crazy.

.   So what should we have for breakfast?

.   I hope there’s a fireman around, ‘cause you’re smokin’.

.   You just made my floppy disk turn into a hard drive.

.   You’re like a parking ticket…you’ve got FINE written all over you. (A variation of you’re like a broom…you’ve swept me off my feet).

.   If you turn me down, would you mind introducing me to your friend?

.   Do you practice karate?  ‘Cause your body’s kickin'.

.   You remind me of my third wife. (How many times have you been married?) Twice.

.   I'm not really this tall; I'm sitting on my wallet.

.   If I said you had a great body would you hold it against me? (This one’s been around for ages).

Well, that’s it. Please feel free to add to this list…I know there are many more good ones.

Have a great weekend and thank you for joining me along,