By Jack Sparacino
Despite my recent attempts to cover the entire entertainment business in two entire pages, readers tell me there are still a few more subjects that deserve some attention. This time I enlisted the help of those eclectic wizards, the Adage Re-visitation Team, so surely this list closes all the gaps in my previous reporting and ensures that 100 or so years of “modern” entertainment have been comprehensively addressed.
1. Patsy Cline. Shouldn’t her name appear on THE master list of American treasures? Thankfully, one can contact the Always Patsy Cline Fan Organization in Joelton, Tenn. After all, Ms. Cline did become the first solo female artist ever inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Pretty impressive. She had her own (in 1993, 29 cent) stamp. She was also ranked 46th in Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” (should have been in the top 10 if you ask me). Her collection of timeless hits, including “Crazy” and “Walkin’ After Midnight,” still soars.
2. Dustin Hoffman. Remember that 30-ish young actor who won us over with his winning performance in “The Graduate”? Incredibly, that was more than 40 years ago, but his pizzazz and incredible skills have endured like a fine watch. Watching his performance as Ace Bernstein in the TV series “Luck” reminds one of the research that demonstrates how time seems to go by increasingly faster as you get older.
3. Slide guitar music. I think the entire music industry would collapse like a house of match sticks without top slide guitar musicians who can take you to a wonderful place in just a few bars. Just watching their hands dance across the frets is enough to make you smile.
4. Dog shows. Love dogs? Check. Love intense competition? Check. Don’t mind watching some breeds you’ve never seen or heard of win first place when your favorites underwhelm the judges? Err, check. Even when they’re kooky looking and their owners wear goofy clothes? Well, you have to draw the line somewhere, I suppose, but maybe some of the owners just need to put on a decent pair of jeans and a polo shirt and we’re good to go.
5. Ventriloquists. Interesting how some of the best known performers over the years moved their lips more than some who’ve remained relatively obscure. The real issue may be how well audiences relate to the characters in the act as opposed to pure technique. Edgar Bergen and Paul Winchell, for example, were hard to beat.
6. Minor league baseball. By the time you get to AA baseball, it starts to look a lot like major league play. I remember watching a couple of pitchers start warming up in the bullpen in Bridgeport, Conn., for the Bluefish one night. They were about 20 years old. I was 10 feet away and they were both throwing pellets. The balls exploded in the catchers’ gloves. It’s just great fun to watch a major league player perform well after you’ve seen him dazzle in the minors.
7. Antiques Road Show. You’ve got to give this program all kinds of credit for having apparently helped to inspire cable TV derivatives like “Storage Wars,” “American Pickers,” and “Pawn Stars.” The best scenes often involve people who have enjoyed owning a special thingamajig for years but practically fall over backwards when they learn that it’s worth more than almost anything else they own. “Oh … my … GOODNESS!” And what a great way to learn some history.
8. The power of blue. After weeks of research, I can only conclude that blue seems to be the top color in song titles. The list is seemingly endless and includes “Blue Danube,” “Am I Blue,” “Blue Moon,” “Statesboro Blues,” “Bluer Than Blue,” “My Blue Heaven,” “Bluebird of Happiness,” “Hard Luck Blues,” “Blue Skies,” “Blue Moon Over Kentucky,” and perhaps my favorite, “Blue Bayou.” It’s interesting to note that most of these songs are fundamentally happy ones, unless listening to the blues gives you the blues.
9. Snake charmers. Not to be confused with snake oil salesmen or ordinary horn or woodwind players, these guys give all new meaning to the power of charm schools. I’m curious to know if the “industry” tracks accident rates. How many serious snake bites occur annually? I’ll bet that could give you the blues.
10. Lady Gaga. Our son alerted us to this artist three years ago. Silly us, she was already a 60 zillion megawatt star before we ever heard of her. Her incredible stage shows notwithstanding, it’s a treat to hear her sing and play the piano without any electronics or a kaleidoscope of energetic young performers accompanying her. Or the outrageous costumes. Just Lady Gaga. By herself. Maybe she really WAS born that way.
11. Smash. This network TV show about how a Broadway musical gets developed is simply dazzling. The dancing, singing, negotiating, backbiting and endless rehearsing help one better understand how challenging the entire process is. And maybe why ticket prices are what they are.
OK, that about does it. Three pages to cover 100 years of entertainment history. Given the age of the universe, some 14 billion years, 33 years per page seems about right. But I’m open to suggestions.
By Jack Sparacino