by John Walters

Tweet Me Right

Unless you’re an obsessive college football/Jalen Hurts/astronomy fan, this tweet may be a little too abstruse. We laughed.

Starting Five

1. All In The Family*

*The judges will also accept “Mobster’s Ball”

It was twenty years ago today…A cold January Sunday evening in New York. We decided to give this new HBO show a try, although we thought the name sounded a little weak. One hour later, we were hooked. This Tony Soprano fella, he wasn’t like any other mobster we’d seen. He wasn’t dapper. He wasn’t particularly well-spoken. He reminded us of the Italian-American dads we’d grown up with in our Middletown, N.J., neighborhood, dads like Carmine Valardi and Sal DeMarco.

Tony was vulnerable. But on a dime he could turn vicious. The show. One moment it was heartless, the next, hilarious. It cared about food.

The next day, a Monday, I told some of my SI friends about it. No one else had seen it. Within three to four weeks all of us, whenever something did not go our way, would be saying, “What? No (bleeping’) ziti?”

Was The Sopranos the best TV show of all time? I don’t know about that. It was the most ground-breaking show, however, since All In The Family. It opened the door for all the great dramas and series (most of them on HBO or AMC or Netflix) to follow: Breaking Bad, The Wire, Mad Men (created by a writing alum of the show), True Detective, The Americans, Game Of Thrones, The West Wing, Friday Night Lights, Deadwood. Maybe it killed network TV (I’m not the only one to say this; it’s not that original a thought). It definitely made TV cooler than the movies.

As for the finale, whatever creator David Chase was trying to do with it (and he’s not telling), the unintentional error of it is how much air that scene has sucked up relative to the other 85 1/2 episodes that preceded it. The NYT writer suggested to him that if anything the scene was hopeful. “There is some hope in it,” Chase replied. “Don’t Stop Believin is the name of the song, for Christ’s sake. I mean, what else can you say?”

Final scene. About 12 to 15 Sunday nights after the series premiere. Three of us are sitting in The Emerald Inn (the old location on Columbus) and in walks the hulking, ursine presence of James Gandolfini. He’s got a bag of recently purchased books from the Barnes & Noble two blocks down. He sits by himself and orders a beer. The three of us watch in awe but we know: don’t bother the famous people. So we leave him alone. About 5 minutes pass and yes, some other bro has to ruin it and approach him to tell him how much he loves the show. Gandolfini shoots him a pained smile and thanks him. Takes a quick sip of beer, gathers his things, and exits. He looked miserable. And that was at the end of Season 1.

2. Premature Exasperation

Remember, he doesn’t have temper tantrums

Whether or not President Trump stormed or Stormied out of the Situation Room yesterday during a bipartisan meeting regarding the government shutdown and border security, he did leave it prematurely. The Dem leaders asked him if he would end the shutdown, now in its third week, while they negotiated, and he said no because “then you won’t give me what I want.”

So when the Chuck & Nancy Show said they would not relent on the wall, he waved his palms in the air and said, “Bye bye” (I mean, you can easily picture this, no?) and walked out. Pelosi afterward, expounding on the disconnect between the president and the 800,000 government employees not being paid, on the White House lawn: “He thinks maybe they can just ask their father for more money.”

Sick burn, Nance. Sick burn.

3. Kliff Notes

Lots of stuff to unravel here: Kliff Kingsbury was interviewing with the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals last week while still with USC…Kliff said he’d pick Kyler Murray No. 1 overall, which was wild because the Cards have the No. 1 pick and Murray, the ninth overall pick in last June’s MLB draft, just made himself available for the NFL draft…Kliff is dating Fox sideline reporter Holly Sonders, who has filed for divorce from Eric Kuselias (who’s well, kind of a capital D D-bag himself)…Kliff is 39 years old and four of his six seasons at Texas Tech were losing seasons (his best, 8-5, was his initial season) despite having two first-round QB picks play for him (Baker Mayfield and Pat Mahomes, who may be the NFL’ ROY and MVP, respectively, this season)…Is he a better QB coach/OC than HC? We’ll see.

4. Isn’t It Ironic?

We thought this was funny and curious. Perhaps you will, too. In yesterday’s Bubble Screen for The Athletic I noted that on Tuesday, ESPN host Rece Davis mentioned on a couple of occasions that Levi’s Stadium, which opened in July of 2014, has been the site of a Grateful Dead show but that he never mentioned its signature moment, below. Explicitly, verbatim, this is what we wrote: “The B.S. wonders…if you noticed that while Rece Davis mentioned multiple times that the Grateful Dead had played at Levi’s Stadium, he never referenced the venue’s signature moment: Colin Kaepernick taking a knee (If you had “Coldplay performing with Beyoncé,” move three spaces back).”

We weren’t admonishing Davis, although a few readers suggested that we were implying as much. We were honestly wondering why.

Let’s delve further: First of all, the Grateful Dead minus Jerry Garcia is hardly the Grateful Dead. Second, be opposed or in favor or Kaepernick’s gesture if you like, but it is by far the most-discussed moment in that stadium’s brief history. Why wouldn’t ESPN even mention it? My guess is for the same reason readers came at me in the comments for even mentioning it.

But here’s where it really gets funny. The fact that the Grateful Dead doesn’t bother readers in 2019 but Colin Kaepernick does demonstrates how counter-culture eventually becomes culture. Fifty years ago the Dead were seen as every bit as dangerous to mainstream, Flyover America as Kaep is now. If you didn’t already know, the Dead got their start as the house band for Ken Kesey’s infamous and legendary acid test, which were at the vanguard of the hippie/psychedelic movement. They were the soundtrack to the “long-haired, freaky people.”

A must-read for any fan of American history or culture in the 20th century

If you don’t already know about the acid tests (read Tom Wolfe’s outstanding The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test), these were all-night and beyond dance parties where a giant drum of Kool-Aid was placed somewhere and LSD was dropped into it. This is literally where the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid” originated.

So there’s the irony. You have a segment of the population drinking the Kool-Aid, defending Trump’s misrepresentation of Kaepernick’s gesture, defending ESPN’s right to be inoffensive as opposed to transparent, thinking of the Grateful Dead as more sacrosanct to Git ‘Er Done America than Kaepernick. And yet the Dead were FAR MORE counterculture than Kaep and it is they who helped make “drinking the Kool-Aid” a part of the lexicon.

Gotta love reality. You could never make this stuff up.

5. Slim Fast

So we’re still reading that book (Hank & Jim, by Scott Eyman) and we are reminded how humbling it is to read: The more you learn, the more you realize how much you never knew. And you may say, ‘But, Jdubs, all you’re learning about is celebrity lives and dirty laundry.’ And? We think our friends Mike & Katie would agree that there is nothing more worthy of being learned about.

Anyway, yesterday we came across, Mary Raye Gross, who would later be known as Nancy “Slim” Keith, who is purported to be the Original California Girl. Blonde and blue-eyed, Slim was born in Salinas, Calif., in 1917. At age 16 she traveled to Death Valley where, at the Furnace Creek Inn, she met movie star William Powell (of the Thin Man series). Powell introduced her to William Randolph Hearst and from there it was on.

Clark Gable pursued her. So did Ernest Hemingway. She was on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar by age 22 and befriended another young model, whom she would introduce to her by-then husband Howard Hawks (famous film maker: Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, To Have and Have Not, etc.). That model was Lauren Bacall.

Slim, Jim

Kieth/Hawks would never go into the movies, but she would amass husbands (she left Hawks for agent/producer Leland Hayward, who then left her for Pamela Churchill, who then left him for Averill Harriman…and the beat goes on), but she became legendary as a socialite of the Hollywood and 5th Avenue scene. Truman Capote would later lampoon her in an unfinished novel of his and when she got word of it, she never spoke to him again.

One line, casually thrown out by Eyman in his book, made us chuckle. He wrote that Slim was “prone to sarcasm and adultery.”

Music 101

Arnold Layne

This was the beginning for one of the most successful rock groups of all time. The single, released on March 10, 1967, did not exactly catapult Pink Floyd to stardom, but there was a lot more than songs about transvestites who steal women’s mannequins to come.

Remote Patrol

The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs


Six Western vignettes courtesy of the Coen Brothers, and well worth your time. In the first two death is a punchline, but then it gets a little more serious. We were overwhelmed by the scenery and particularly in the fourth vignette, above (that’s Tom Waits, by the way), it is stunningly obvious to us what a better planet this is without us than with us. Don’t @ me. Do you think the Coen brothers were perhaps maybe trying to imply the same thing? Wait until you watch it before you reply. This is flat-out outstanding stuff, and the fifth vignette could easily have been extrapolated into a feature-length film.


5 thoughts on “IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

    • Fair point. I stand corrected, though they were “drinking the Kool-Aid” and it did warp their minds at the acid tests. But I agree with you, now that you bring it up. I forgot. Good catch.

  1. And to think I thought the Kool-Aid Man was just a fun loving, big glass of refreshment. I may have to revise my entire childhood.

  2. So how did Slim connect to Jimmy or Hank? Date? More? I love books about old Hollywood & read quite a few in my teens & 20s. This one sounds good!

    And yes, “drinking the Kool-Aid” originated from the horror of Jim Jones/Guyana. The biggest lesson I learned at the time (& still) is that seemingly sane people can get swept up into believing in someone who says they have ALL the answers. I’ve since read about many cults & so-called prophets (especially in America’s history) & really, it just proves humans are searching for the “answer to life” & the vulnerable can be victimized. Over the years, I’ve seen various documentaries about the Jones horror & read about it but I’m not clear if the people willingly drank the cyanide/Kool-Aid or were forced at gunpoint. I’ve read/seen both “facts”.

    Good news today – I don’t own Macys stock! If there is anyone here who does, I’m sorry for you. I too have owned some stocks that plummeted (even more than 20% in a day), so I feel your pain.

    So, jdubs, I’ve spent the last week looking at all my “numbers” (i.e. 401-K, ROTH, stock portfolio, etc ) & ugh, 2018 was like a beautiful young actress/model who shot to stardom & then died an ugly drug overdose death. The market is now in rehab! The “bottom” was 12/24/18 & my 401-K had sunk 19.7% from its peak on 8/29. OUCH! What’s worse is the actual dollars. And what’s REALLY, REALLY worse was my stock portfolio which, hold on to your knickers, fell 32% (THIRTY-TWO!) from it’s peak on 10/3. Things have perked back up a bit since but, damn! And do you remember me mentioning my growing concern that just a few stocks had become more than a third of my total? THAT’S WHY! The beat-down that AMZN, NVDA, & AAPL all experienced after such lofty heights just smushed me! Well, ok, my holdings in the energy sector didn’t help either. And yes, the ‘smushing’ was but on paper & temporary (?), but it still made one wince.

    Had you sold out of most or did you get squished too? I did do a lot of buying between mid-Oct to Jan 3rd, so if the bull is about to run again, I’ll be waving my cowgirl hat in the air! (Ahem, that’s a metaphor). 🙂

    BTW, one of the stocks (EXEL) that I bought (tiny, tiny amount) in late Oct (& I mentioned here as 1 of my “2019 picks”) is now up 65%. (Hot damn!) And I can’t guarantee anything, but you should look into my other 2019 picks – EDIT & TERP too. Did I mention the latter has a fat dividend of over 6% (hot damn again!) & is about wind & solar power, which I thought would be of interest to you. 🙂

    • Great question, Susie B. Forgot to note: in 1949 Slim married famed agent/producer Leyland Hayward, who was basically the shepherd and first agent of Hank and Jim. He sold his agency to Lee Wasserman and made big money.

      Leland and Slim were both married but left their spouses. Not making this up: Slim’s daughter with Howard Hawks was named Kitty.

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