by John Walters

Goodbye to Sandra Dee

You wanna talk crush? An entire generation of older boys and tweens walked into movie theaters in the summer of 1978 to see Grease and two hours later departed having experienced the epiphany of a lifetime. Ohhhhhhh! Hello, Puberty. Olivia Newton-John died yesterday at the age of 73 after a three-decades long, off-and-on battle with breast cancer. Yes, she was an incredibly successful Aussie pop star in her own right (arguably, the first from Down Under, even if she was born in England) but it’s her role as Sandra Dee, the goody two-shoes who breaks bad in the final scene of the musical, that will forever stamp her in my memory.

You can learn a lot about someone if you ask them which version of Sandy they prefer. The innocent, sweater-wearing lass or the “What’s it to you, stud?” black-leather diva that shows up in the final scene for “You’re The One That I Want,” filmed at Venice High School in California. Me, I’ll tell you if we meet in person, but you can probably guess. Anyway, some of us never got over or past our first crush.

And then, ruthlessly, ONJ released this song and video only a few months later. Game, set, match. No fair, really.

In the early Seventies, before the Grease mania, ONJ was a very successful pop star whose singles often bordered on country: “Let Me Be There” comes to mind, though “Have You Never Been Mellow” and “I Honestly Love You” also stand out as pure pop hits (the latter two reached No. 1 on the pop charts).

What did ONJ represent to us confused lads in the Seventies? Beauty, sure, but also innocence. At least until she watched that drag race in the L.A. aqueduct. Do yourself a favor at some point today and go back and watch “Summer Nights” and “You’re The One That I Want” on YouTube. Plain ol’ fun songs, and funny to me as they were evoking a nostalgic past, the Fifties, that had only been over for 20 or so years. Does anyone now feel that way about the year 2000? I doubt it.

Later in life, going from sex-addled to word-addled, some of us would have fun with ONJ’s name. What if she married John Salley (Olivian Newton-John Salley)? Or if she did a triple bill with Juice Newton and Elton John? Newton, John and Newton-John. But that’s just our own warped mind.

It was a magical childhood for those of us raised in the Seventies. Thank you, Olivia, for both adding to it and, in a sense, terminating it.

Going, Going, Con

It was a terrible day for grifters yesterday as two of the nation’s most infamous charlatans, Gene Takavic and Donald Trump, finally saw the first stages of their long-overdue comeuppance. Takavic, a.k.a. Saul Goodman a.k.a Jimmy McGill, is ratted out by Marion (Carol Burnett) in the penultimate episode of Better Call Saul and now must once again put his life on the run (Have you considered Alaska, Jimmy? It worked for Mr. Pinkman). Marion is too smart and when Gene makes the error of noting the difference in bail policies between Albuquerque and Omaha, an alarm goes off in her brain. We wondered why a legend such as Burnett took this role, but it’s all worth it when she looks Gene square in the eyes and says, “I trusted you.” Devastating

• The former president, meanwhile, had his home searched by the FBI, whose agents legally obtained a warrant. Of course TFG said his estate, Mar-A-Lago, was “raided,” but when has he ever been all that concerned with accuracy? Also, you have to think how many of his dimmer acolytes will have that same Marion-like epiphany about him some day. Or if they’re simply too far gone as cult members.

A few thoughts:

• A critic effusively praising BCS (or BB) is nothing new, but you have to love Vince Gilligan’s and Peter Gould’s endless attention to detail in episodes, paying off the devotion of the shows’ viewers. When Kim Wexler and her Florida boyfriend are hosting a cookout, “Escape: The Pina Colada Song,” is playing, a callback to a Season 1 or 2 episode where Jimmy fibs to a school principal that Rupert Holmes, the song’s writer and singer, attended that school (in Albuquerque; yeah, right). Or later, when Kim pulls up to the parking lot entry at the court house and the booth once occupied by Mike Ehrmentraut is now empty, as the lot is now automated. And he’s, of course, dead.

• The phone call between Gene and Kim tells you everything. This is your break-good-or-break-bad moment, your final shot at redemption. Kim, as we almost always assumed she would, falls onto the side of the angels. She chooses remorse, penitence and atonement. Jimmy, with his final shot at salvation, blows it. In fact, he amps up his skulduggery and mischief. Then again, his life is so empty at this point, and he knows there’s no road back with Kim, so he’s at that stage where Bill Murray was in Groundhog Day where he figured out new ways to kill himself each day. Jimmy needs a stiffer drink, metaphorically, and he won’t stop until it wrecks him.

• Also, the phone call is another example of the wizardry taking place in the writers’ room. We see it from outside the phone booth last week, only seeing Gene’s reaction but not hearing the conversation. There week we’re in on it. Same event, different perspective. And it explains why Gene did what he did in the final 15 minutes of last week’s episode.

• A little symmetry here. The final episode of Breaking Bad opened with Walt driving back to Albuquerque. Seems as if the final episode of Better Call Saul will open with Jimmy fleeing Omaha, perhaps also headed back to New Mexico’s largest city (and most centrally located).

Also, when we first met Kim six seasons ago, she’s standing in an underground parking lot of a law firm, taking a drag on a smoke, and she shares it with Jimmy. In her final scene last night (will she show up next week? Anyone’s guess), she leaves Saul Goodman’s office (another law firm), having just signed the divorce papers, and as it’s raining buckets, stops for a smoke under the awning. A stranger, Jesse Pinkman, bums a smoke off her. A short conversation ensues. She’s at the end of her story arc with Jimmy, the marriage is over. He’s at the beginning; he hasn’t even started cooking with his old chemistry teacher yet. Whoever conjured that scene deserves a bonus. The circle of life. An inspired idea. Jesse: “Is [Saul] a good guy?” Kim: “When I knew him, he was.”

Kim (Rhea Seehorn) may appear in the series finale, but if that’s her walk-off moment, you cannot improve upon it.

In Talking Saul last night, host Chris Hardwick asked Vince Gilligan to preview the series finale in three words. Gilligan replied, “Buy some Depends.”
Wow. It’s difficult to see how the final episode will be a banger. After all, who’s left on the villain side (I mean, except Saul himself)? So as an audience we’re completely in the dark as to how this series, really the entire Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe, will end. And that’s a credit to the show’s creators.

• As for Mr. Trump, what have we said from the beginning? Anything he accuses anyone else of, he’s doing himself. Anything he suggests happen to someone else is something that will and should happen to him. so, in short, “Lock him up.”


by John Walters

Viking Quest

Soccer’s next big thing? Meet 6’5″, 21 year-old Norwegian native Erling Haaland, who on Sunday made his debut at striker for the reigning EPL champs, Man City. In Haaland’s debut he scored once in the first half (on a penalty kick) and once more in the second as Man City won its season debut at West Ham, 2-0 (that’s nil). To play the marquee position on the defending champs is a feather in the cap for any player, much less a 21 year-old who hails from a nation not known as a soccer power. In fact, you will not be seeing Haaland at the World Cup this November, as Norway failed to qualify.

But you’ll be seeing plenty of him on NBC and Peacock the next few years. And yes, in another world he’d have grown up to be an outstanding NFL tight end, most likely.

A Night At The Garden

We thought of bringing you coverage of the CPAC convention (no, we did not; by the way, is it just me or do they stage about three of these a year?), but then this 7-minute film of the inaugural CPAC convention staged in 1939 surfaced. That’s Madison Square Garden (on its former site; not the one on 33rd and 7th Ave) and this is mere months before Adolph Hitler invaded Poland. By the way, you should probably know, and we’re not making this up, that a favorite mantra of these people was “America First!” You have to also wonder if this historical event—which we were completely unaware of before this weekend—inspired the famous and devilishly dark Seinfeld episode about O’Brien and Murphy, in which a white nationalist was scheduled to speak at the Paramount Theater, which abuts MSG. As we’ve said many times before, there’s always a Seinfeld for that.

It is chilling, though, when you watch this. Rule No. 9: It’s all happened before. That applies here. Everything you’re seeing with the modern GOP was happening in this country 80 years ago, except it was Jews they were mostly afraid of, not Mexicans and blacks.

Baltimore’s O Face

Rookie catcher Adley Rutschman, a May call-up, has ignited the O’s. Rutschman played at Oregon State, so he never had to alter his uniform colors

A few notes from a baseball weekend:

• The Baltimore Orioles are 21-8 since July 2nd and now only one game out of a playoff spot. The O’s have been the American League East doormat for quite some time, finishing fourth or fifth in each of the past six seasons.

•The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (terrible, terrible name) set a Major League record by hitting seven solo home runs and losing, 8-7, at Seattle. Never happened before. Rule No. 7

• The Yankees were swept in a three-game set at St. Louis. The Bombers, who no longer have baseball’s best record, are 0-7 against 1st place teams since the All-Star break and 12-18 since July 2nd.

• The Dodgers, baseball’s best team, swept the Padres. Tyler Anderson and Rob Gonsolin are now both 13-1 as starters for L.A., and yet their teammate, Clay Kershaw, started the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium last month. And a fourth pitcher, Walker Buehler, is the staff ace. Four Dodger pitchers have WHIPs at 1.03 or below. They’re the team to beat.

Butt’s End

Turns out there’s another story from the Titanic we’d never heard of, and unlike the star-crossed tale of Jack and Rose, it’s true. A somewhat lurid story from The Washington Post examines the likely romantic relationship between Archibald Butt, an aide to president William Howard Taft, and Francis Millett, a war correspondent. The pair lived in a mansion in Foggy Bottom (heh heh) and were sharing a cabin on Titanic when it struck an iceberg. Too many jokes, and we’re too classy to make them. Ironically, the two had been traveling abroad with the expressed purpose of Butt delivering a message from Taft to the pope, and their relationship at the time would have been enough to cause quite a furor with the Vatican.

Nature Is Wild

We might have seen this before, but if we did, we’d forgotten about it. If you ever spot an armadillo in Amarillo, please take a photo and send it to MH HQ.


by John Walters

Alex Jones’ Diary

We don’t know why Alex Jones’ lawyers turned over the entire contents of his iPhone over to the plaintiff’s attorneys in the InfoWars ghoul’s damages trial in Texas. We only know that he belongs in the “Accidental Text On Purpose” Hall of Fame. If this was truly an accident, this attorney might want to find another line of work (like hosting a right-wing conspiracy theory podcast). But maybe he was just being, uh, patriotic.

We still don’t understand why otherwise decent American folks root for and supports Biffs like this guy. We, as a country, used to despise such flop-sweating fat asses. He’d be the hapless villain in a Home Alone sequel. It all comes back to what I’ve written before about how to define the modern MAGA Republican: “He hates all the same people you do.”

Anyway, Alex Jones has been lying up and down—about whether or not he believed Sandy Hook was a hoax, about his finances—for years. Yesterday he was caught red-handed in the lies.

“Mr. Jones, do you know what perjury is?”

Diana’s Bagel

We don’t know if it has ever happened before in her career, and it certainly never happened in Storrs or Hartford, but Diana Taurasi, the most prolific scorer in WNBA history, was held pointless in the Phoenix Mercury’s loss at the Connecticut Sun in Uncasville, Conn., Tuesday night. We did personally watch Diana go scoreless in a game at Pepperdine in the very first month of her college career, but she was coming off the bench at the time and barely hoisted the rock. On Tuesday the 40 year-old went oh-fer-6 in 11 minutes.

For the record, we checked: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had one scoreless game in his career, as a Laker pre-Magic at Milwaukee (his former team) in 1977, but he played only two or three minutes. Kareem, like Diana, is the all-time leader in points scored in his league. Michael Jordan, the all-time points-per-game leader, never was held scoreless. Wilt Chamberlain was held scoreless once, in 1967, and he was being guarded by Nate Thurmond.

Worth watching: Taurasi’s Mercury are back in action tonight, again versus the Sun in Uncasville. These are her college fans. Even though she’s no longer even the second scoring option on this club, I doubt she disappoints them twice.

Cramer Vs. Cramer

Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of Jim Cramer’s Chicken Little moment on CNBC with Erin Burnett (and probably, sadly, the last time she wore that giraffe-skinned dress). It’s an amazing piece of television, made even better because history proved Cramer 100% right (“14 million people took a mortgage in the last three years; they took teaser rates or piggy back rates; they will lose their homes”). Remember, he’s saying this in early August of 2007. A full 13 months before the market crashed, but he saw the warning signs.

As Cramer recounted yesterday, the next morning he was invited on The Today Show and the host (as Cramer said, “who’s no longer involved in the television business,” i.e., Matt Lauer) asked him if he was off his meds. That, he said, was the last time he appeared on that show, as the people in the C-suite offices don’t like people coming on air and announcing the economy is on fire (at least not before warning them first so they can short it).

I’m not always aligned with Cramer. He’s way too soft on oil companies, I feel, and disregards the true impact of climate change (they should get Al Gore to come on Squawk Box and tell him that what Cramer was trying to do in 2007 is what he’s been trying do with climate for 20 years). But he nailed this one. And earlier this year, back in February, he predicted the market would bottom on July 13. That, back in February, was when the bear market was only a month or so in. He turned out to have hit the nail precisely on the head, down to the day.

Stick with Cramer. Even if he occasionally annoys you.


by John Walters

Vin, Fin*

*The judges will also accept “Vin de Siecle” and “Dodgers, Blue Today”

After 94 glorious years, the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers and truly, the voice of baseball, Vin Scully, is headed to the showers. Scully’s was a baseball life, but also his life epitomized the 20th century while bleeding into the 21st. Born in the Bronx and raised in Washington Heights just a month or so after the ’27 Yankees’ Murderers’ Row won the World Series, Scully grew up during the city’s halcyon baseball era: the Giants and Yankees both played within blocks of his stoop while the da bums from Brooklyn were just a long subway ride south and east.

Like most of America, Scully survived World War II—he did serve two years in the Navy just after it— and eventually migrated westward. To Los Angeles, with the Dodgers (though the Giants were his boyhood team; he was able to attend games at the Polo Grounds for free as a member of the PAL and CYO, sitting in the way distant center field bleachers), in 1958.

What made Scully such a legendary broadcaster? First, that rich voice. He was made to intone before a microphone. Next, his warmth. You could feel it in every syllable uttered. Then, his genuine and earnest appreciation for the game and those who played it. Vin never made it about Vin and he always understood that the diamond was an escape, a haven. And he was our tour guide, honored to have the role. He did his homework, of course, and he understood the pace of baseball, so that he was able to sprinkle in a colorful vignette here and there.

A cursory glance of Dodgers whose endeavors were narrated by Scully over his seven decades with the franchise: Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Fernando Valenzuela, Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser, Mike Piazza, Clayton Kershaw and, of course, James Outman.

Upon Scully’s passing, Bob Costas, another New York native who now mostly resides in SoCal and knows a thing or two about calling a baseball game, remarked that a long-time nugget of wisdom was that God would never allow a line-drive, inning ending double play when Vin Scully was in the middle of a story. This piece of tape illustrates that.

It almost goes without saying—and we nearly did—that when doing Dodger games, as opposed to national broadcasts, Vin worked solo. No partner in the booth. And it never, ever, seemed like a handicap. A total pro’s pro, and a gentleman. Another legend exits.

Enter Sand Ban

So this is a fun little story: Speaker of the House (not to be confused with master of the house, not to be confused with Sacha Baron Cohen) Nancy Pelosi decides to visit Taiwan, literally an island of democracy surrounded by monolithic communist governments in Asia. And they make semiconductor chips in Taiwan, which are a big deals in terms of national (U.S.) security. But China does not like that Taiwan is a democracy, and they certainly don’t like that such a prominent American legislator (and a chick, no less) is making such a symbolic visit (no one that important in the U.S. government has visited Taiwan in two decades).

So what does China do in response? Well, it turns out that you need sand to make semiconductor chips, and it turns out that China supplies sand to Taiwan (you have heard of China Beach, after all). And thus China has reacted by telling Taiwan, not in so many words, to “go pound sand.” Yes, they’re cutting off the sand supply.

So does this mean we patriotic Americans are going to have to sacrifice Waikiki and Laguna Beach and Montauk just so our smartphones will work? It sounds like the beginning of a Kurt Vonnegut novel.

Where Beagles Dare

The MH editorial staff had been reading these headlines about “4,000 Beagles Rescued” in Virginia but we never quite dove in to the story. Perhaps you have. What we did know is that “beagle” is a word that welcomes word play and just hearing “4,000 beagles” makes us grin. Almost as much as “4,000 labradoodles” would. So we looked into it. Apparently 4,000 beagles in Virginia (random number, random breed, random state) were designated for animal testing, mainly because they’re so docile (libtard dogs). But the testing facility was behaving inhumanely (ya think?), so enter the aptly named Rebecca Goodhart of Homeward Trails, an animal rescue operation.

And so now there are orphaned Snoopy types, given a new leash on life, being dispatched all over the country to safety and new homes.

The perfect story for the dog days of summer.

Bill, Boards

We would be remiss if we failed to mention the passing, Sunday, of NBA legend Bill Russell (and, since we’ve already eulogized a white sports legend, we’d likely be pilloried by a woke mob, perhaps made up of grad students, for not being racially sensitive), at the age of 88. You’ve probably read plenty about ol’ No. 6 in the last few days, and while his playing days were a few years before we began following the NBA, here are the nuggets not to be forgotten:

• In 21 win-or-go-home games that Russell’s team participated in from the NCAAs to the Olympics to the NBA postseason, Russell’s teams went 21-0. Stop. Read that again. Then read it one more time.

• Russell played in 11 NBA Finals, and he won 11 NBA Finals.

• Russell was the first African-American head coach in any of the three major team sports in North America.

• Russell averaged 22.5 rebounds per game over the course of his career. Only Will Chamberlain, his on-court nemesis, averaged more (22.9) thoughout NBA history.

• Where does Russell stack up? We’re all allowed our subjective thoughts. I will always, until otherwise, consider Michael Jordan the greatest all-around NBA player facing the basket, Wilt Chamberlain easily the most dominant player, and Russell the greatest teammate, greatest defensive player and greatest winner. Russell regularly went up against Wilt and though Wilt won statistically, Russell’s Boston Celtics (the only team he ever suited up for) always won. Russell’s also known as the Picasso of the blocked shot, a statistic they did not even keep when he was active so we cannot objectively measure him agains the current era of players. If anyone is most like Russell, though they played different positions and excelled at different stats, it’s Magic Johnson. He did whatever it took, he led in the selfless stats, and his teams (almost) always won the big series.