ALMOST ANYTHING GOES

by John Walters

What follows is a reasonable facsimile of my daily class announcement from yesterday…

During the summers of 1975 and 1976, years that I refer to as “Peak Boyhood,” there was a show that aired on ABC titled Almost Anything Goes. Back then there were only three networks and they only baked enough fresh new television shows to run two complete cycles from September through May. Then summer would come along and they’d dump garbage programming ideas at us because no one was inside on summer nights anyway because no one had computers or smartphones, after all, so you stayed outside catching lightning bugs or pretending to not hear your mom calling you to come inside.

Anyway… Almost Anything Goes. From IMDB: “This show almost defies description. Each week, three teams (each representing a particular USA town, and consisting solely of members from the town) compete for money and prizes. The competitions vary from week to week, and include bizarre obstacle courses, pie throwing contests, swing relays, and other humorous, crazy contests.”

The host was Charlie Jones and the field reporter was an energetic young guy by the name of… Regis Philbin. I seem to recall competitors getting soaked a lot, or falling,  and that none of these events were anywhere near something you’d see in the Olympics. The events would best be described as—and this term was TV gold in the 1970s— “wacky.”

(Almost Anything Goes jumped the shark—a term that itself originated in the 1970s—when it replaced regular folk with celebrities and subbed out “Almost” for “All-Star”)

So I was think about Almost Anything Goes yesterday and about growing up in the wackiest decade of the 20th century and it hit me: “Almost Anything Goes” would be a most apt slogan for the Seventies.

In the 1970s, almost anything went.

KISS. The Pet Rock. The Gong Show. The Chicago White Sox wore shorts. The center for the Oakland Raiders, Jim Otto, wore “00” as his number. Evel Knievel jumped things on his motorcycle, occasionally not breaking bones. There was a hit song titled “Kung Fu Fighting” that was all about kung fu fighting. The Houston Astros uniforms were lit…literally, or so it looked.

(The Astros wore these in public)

Almost anything goes.

Nobody wore seat belts. Or bicycle helmets. The term “play-date” did not exist: your mom kicked you out of the house and told you not to come home until supper time. Your school bus driver would blast the radio so he or she didn’t have to listen to the tortured cries for help of first-graders and you’d be subjected to Sweet’s “Fox On The Run.”

(Sweet. Legends.)

Almost anything goes.

Streaking. People would just run around naked in public and that was a thing. Cliff diving from Acapulco: televised. The Battle of the Network Stars, in which celebs from the three major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) would compete in Olympic-style events from the campus of Pepperdine and Howard Cosell commentated with gravitas.

Or how about The Superstars, in which some of the most famous athletes from the NFL, NBA, MLB, Olympics and other sports would compete against one another in everything from swimming to tug-of-war. Could you imagine agents allowing their clients to do that today?

Almost anything goes.

O.J. Simpson hosted Saturday Night Live (and he was funny). A cult classic film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, induced moviegoers to attend repeat screenings and do weird things such as throwing toast at the screen. Renee Richards was a male doctor and then she was a female tennis player and then your dad fumbled for an explanation when you asked him how that could be (poor guy; he’d tuned in to Wimbledon to watch Chris Evert and this was what he got).

The  President of the United States was heard on tape giving the go-ahead for criminal activity. But he had to resign. Remember, almost anything goes.

By the way, the 1970s were a lot of things but they were nothing like anything you ever saw in That ’70s Show.

Demolition derbies. David Bowie. Disco Demolition Night. Freddie Mercury. Mark Fidrych. Match Game. Al Hrabosky, “The Mad Hungarian.” The ABA and its red, white and blue basketball. Tear-away football jerseys. CBS gave a mime duo, Shields and Yarnell, its own variety show. Think about that.

Almost anything goes.

But maybe my most favorite thing from the 1970s, at least in terms of sports, was the high-dive challenge, a staple of Saturday afternoons on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” This footage is from 1983 because I couldn’t find anything from the 1970s, but it began in the early Seventies.

I mean, just look at this. They’re interviewing him moments before he dives (or, omit the “v”), and then they show his wife and baby, and he might be seconds away from becoming flotsam. He’s calmly discussing his form when he should be screaming, “SOMEONE GET ME DOWN FROM HERE I’M ABOUT TO DIE OH GOD NO OH NO!”

Humans beings did this. And other humans televised it. And still others watched it on TV. And nobody cared.

The 1970s. Almost Anything Goes. What a time to be alive.

Caveman Shark Tank

by John Walters

This idea came to me out of the blue yesterday. What if you did a comedy sketch where Shark Tank took place in the Neanderthal era? The twist would be that all of the Sharks would still have the same personalities and (mostly) smug and condescending demeanors.

The first person to enter the Shark Tank would be Grog from Pangea, who brings with him a new invention: fire. Grog does a demonstration of fire but then Kevin O’Leary asks if he has a patent. “Oooggg, what is patent?” Grog asks. And then O’Leary dismisses Grog with “If you don’t have a patent on this, what’s to stop anyone with two sticks and a little will power from taking your market share?”

The Sharks laugh Grog off the stage.

Up next in the Shark Tank is a young man, Vonk, also from Pangea, who has brought with him an invention of his own: wheel. What does it do?, wonders Robert Herjavec. “It rolls,” says Vonk. “Can you monetize it?” asks Barbara Corcoran. Vonk twists his head sideways, picks nose, eats booger. Finally, Mark Cuban weighs in. “Vonk, you think you’re a transportation company but you’re really a technology company,” says Cuban. “You don’t even understand what sector you’re in. And for that reason, I’m out.”

The last hopeful entrepreneurs to enter the Tank are Mooga and Shooga, sisters from the plains of Pangea. “What have you got for us today?” Lori Greiner asks. Mooga and Shooga unveil “Cupcakes in a Jar.” “We eat cupcake but we put in glass jar,” says Mooga. “And then you return jar after eat, and we re-use, which is good for environment.”

“I don’t know much about cupcakes or environment,” says Herjavec, “but I like this glass jar idea.” He quickly fronts Mooga and Shooga 200 gold pieces for 45% stake in their company and 7% royalties.

Who has John Mulaney’s phone number? Can we get this on the air, please?

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Gone With the wiN.D.

Notre Dame alumnus Regis Philbin, 88, passes away at the age of 88. When I shared the news of his death with my college buddies via text, one of them (Andre) wrote, “Jeopardy will never be the same.”

Reege loved the Irish… and donated millions to his alma mater. He also took plenty of ribbing from David Letterman, and always with good humor. Simply a good egg, he was.

Also leaving us this weekend: Olivia de Havilland, movie legend, at the age of 104. de Haviland starred in two film classics from the 1930s, Robin Hood and Gone With The Wind.

Miss Cheesecake

This was sent from our good friend Moose. Perhaps you’ve seen it before. The payoff is tremendous, but what we most love here is Bob Costas’ delivery. It’s seamless. He’s not reading off a teleprompter. He never verbally stumbles, not once. And when he segues from telling the story into mimicking Jack Buck, well, that’s just restaurant-quality raconteurism right there.

Now that I think of it, have I just invented an entire industry? Racon-tourism? Where you are accompanied on vacation by a first-class storyteller. Not to be confused with raccoon-tourism, which is self-explanatory.

Busk Tour

We’re always up for a good-looking, red-headed Irish lad who can hit the high notes on the greatest pop song ever to spring forth from Norway (notice we did not say Scandinavia as we did not want to alienate our legion of ABBA fans). This is Martin McDonnell, straight outta Dublin, not unlike Glen Hansard in Once.

150K In 150 Days

According to Worldometers.info, the U.S.A. is going to pass the 150,000 dead mark per Covid-19. And, if you trace back to the first known domestic Covid-19 fatality date, February 29, today is the 150th day of the pandemic. So I’m not the greatest at long division, but it seems that would work out a rate of 1,000 coronavirus deaths per day domestically since this all began.

No, I don’t have an answer.

Adios and Sayonara

This one really hurts.
Over the weekend I learned that La Caridad, my go-to take-out restaurant for the past quarter-century, has closed.

There was nothing fancy about this Cuban-and-Chinese restaurant on the corner of W. 78th and Broadway. It was simply the closest restaurant to my apartment that also happened to have amazingly delicious food that was ready at a moment’s notice, whether you were dining in or out.

I literally visited hundreds of times. My standard order was egg drop soup followed by red beans and white rice. Either that or the soupy rice with chicken. Your meal would be brought to your table before you had a chance to repeat your order.

La Caridad was small and cramped, with nearly floor-to-ceiling windows. To dine there was to be inside a fish bowl as pedestrian traffic on Broadway ambled by. It also had the requisite “stars who ate here” photos near the cash register.

Have you ever seen the film Blue Jasmine? The Woody Allen film? I remember seeing it and thinking that the lady in the canary-yellow dress who plays Alec Baldwin’s mistress was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. At least that day. The character, who has no lines in the movie, is played by Kathy Tong.

So one wintry afternoon after a late-night writing jag, not unlike this one, I pull on a bad pair of sweats, a ratty shirt, and I drag my unshaven and bleary-eyed self over to La Caridad. I look bad, even for me. But I don’t care. That’s the beauty of La Caridad. It’s like walking into your own kitchen.

(Just your typical La Caridad patron)

So I plop myself down at a table, make the standard lunch request, and look across at the next table. There’s Kathy Tong, sitting all by herself, enjoying lunch. I don’t know what I might’ve done if I hadn’t looked like ass that day. Probably nothing. But it’s a sweet memory.

We’ll all miss you, La Caridad. If Chirping Chicken ever closes (76th and Amsterdam), there’ll be no reason to remain on the Upper West Side.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Lights! Camera! Baseball!

Will this experiment work? I have to admit, watching Brett Gardner flashing a bunt and then pulling the bat back made it feel as if summer is officially here. And yet, if the Yankees at Nationals incited this little buzz within, then what will the Rockies at Padres feel like?

At least the Dodgers understand how to make something look more real—it is Hollywood, after all. The cardboard fan cut-outs and the piped in noise were as fake as the decolletage on one of the Landers sisters, but it did add to the atmosphere.

Fauci Flattens The Curve

Buster Olney referred to it as “a socially distant first pitch.” The first pitch of what will likely be the weirdest season in Major League history was thrown by a 79 year-old epidemiologist who may be the leader in the clubhouse for Time’s Man of the Year. Dr. Anthony Fauci’s first pitch was outside but then again, you try tossing with a mask.

Cognitive Dissonance

One of my oldest and closest friends, who is now a psychologist at Johns Hopkins, sent me a copy of the test our president took. The one he keeps bragging about. Here’s what we can safely say: The president is not suffering from late-stage dementia, assuming that he is telling the truth about his test results, and why would we even assume that?

But if he is, well, congratulations, “Person Woman Man Camera TV.” You at least know what a camel is, how to read a zip code and repeat it back backwards. If this is what constitutes a “very stable genius” nowadays, lord help us.

By the way, and shame on me, too, but have you noticed how Trump managed to push the “Who Took Your SAT?” story off the headlines by bragging about his cognitive dissonance test? You have to hand it to Kellyanne Conway: she really knows how to change the conversation.

Cary Nation


For no particular reason, other than we watched His Girl Friday two nights ago (of course, TCM), we want to remind you that when you look up Movie Star, there should be a picture of Cary Grant.

I don’t know if there’s ever been anyone more handsome in Hollywood (Errol Flynn? Brad Pitt? Clark Gable?) but there are men in his class. There have probably been what you’d call better actors (Al Pacino, Philip Seymour-Hoffman, Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart).

But I can’t name any actor who combines panache, charm, good looks and style the way Grant did. One of my favorite traits of Grant’s is that, sure, he knew how handsome he was, but he never wanted to play the straight leading man. He wanted to have fun. He had a wonderfully mischievous sense of humor and it showed in his best pictures.

Holiday. Bringing Up Baby. The Philadelphia Story. His Girl Friday. Arsenic and Old Lace. An Affair To Remember. In none is he that serious, brooding leading man. He’s playing for laughs. Even in his Hitchcock thrillers, such as To Catch A Thief and North By Northwest, Grant’s sense of humor permeates the script.

You can be a gifted actor and play most roles, but my contention is that you can’t play comedy if you’re not naturally funny (“Tragedy is easy, comedy is hard”). Grant must have been quite the character off-camera as well.

Look at the above scene from His Girl Friday (1940). Grant is playing this as if he were Groucho Marx in the opening scene from A Night At The Opera. It’s slapstick stuff and you almost forget that he’s the world’s best-looking man in a suit as he insults his ex-wife’s fiance (played by Ralph Bellamy) by pretending to mistake the old fella for him.

There’s a scene later in the film where Grant’s character is asked to give a physical description of the man whom Hildy (Rosalind Russell) is appointed to marry. “You know that actor Ralph Bellamy?” Grant’s Walter Burns says. “He looks like him.”

Don’t know if that was an ad-lib, but it was funny.

Rule No. 1

Gravity wins yet again. This time it was at the Dragon’s Tail in Glacier National Park (we should institute Rule No. 68, “Do not hike anywhere that has the word ‘Dragon’ in its name.”).

Josh Yarrow, 20, was attempting to retrieve a backpack when he slipped and fell shortly before 8 p.m. on Tuesday evening. At least he wasn’t taking a selfie (one wonders, will this at last inspire Susie B. to comment or have we lost her forever?).

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

“Once A Langmore, Always A Langmore”

Turns out the suspects in last Friday night’s slayings near a lake in rural Florida were both kin and trailer-park trash. And the entire mass slaying may have been over a suspected truck theft.

The older brother in the middle above, who apparently shot all three victims, is Tony “T.J.” Wiggins. He’s 26 and apparently has 230 prior felony charges on his record. So of course he now risks having to deal with Florida’s dreaded “231 Strikes—If You’re A Redneck—And You’re Out” law.

I guess Ozark is closer to reality that we might’ve realized.

This Show Is For The Byrdes

Speaking of Ozark, I finally began watching it and I have to ask, Is anyone rooting for Marty and Wendy Byrde? I’m midway through season 2 and here are the only characters I’m rooting for, in order: 1) The bobcats 2) Buddy 3) Tuck 4) Jonah 5) Charlotte 6) Wyatt 7) Ruth.

Of course, the show just finished Season 3 so they’re probably all dead by now (I know Buddy, played by the late Rip Torn, must be). This show is doing the Redneck Gothic thing True Blood did but with less magic and the khaki-dad-drug-lord thing that Breaking Bad did but with no real sense of humor.

And it’s just so dumb: Marty’s partner vanishes (along with three people he was known to consort with), Marty scuttles their financial advisory firm the very next day, leaves with the cash, and the Chicago PD never even calls him in for an interrogation??? WUT!

The dumb just keeps going. There have probably been about a dozen or so people connected to Marty who’ve been brutally killed since the show began and yet the next day there’s Wendy and he figuring out who will pick up Charlotte from swim practice.

Bryan Cranston somehow managed to make Walter White a compelling and often sympathetic figure no matter what he did. Jason Bateman’s Marty Bird has no such charm, and he’s the series’ key figure.

The best scene perhaps, in the entire series, is when the pastor (whose wife has just been murdered and disappeared, her unborn baby cut out of her womb) tells Marty that he still believes in God because he knows there’s a devil. “And I believe the devil is you,” he says.

He’s right. Marty’s the worst kind of evil. The one who believes that the ends justify all of the means and who always works to ingratiate himself with people. Del should’ve killed him in the series premiere and saved us all a lot of trouble.

Play Ball?

The Dodgers have signed former AL MVP Mookie Betts to a 12-year, $365 million deal

Major League Baseball’s 60-game season begins today, which means that’s 102 fewer games to plunk Astros batters. Too bad. Let the swabbing begin!

$50,000 For Online Courses?

So CNN picked up on our convo last week about having to pay a massive college tuition check when your child is only taking his or her courses online.

Harvard University announced earlier this month that the school plans to resume classes in the fall entirely online. While the school expects to cycle undergraduate students on and off campus in smaller numbers, with freshman invited in the fall and seniors in the spring, many students won’t be on campus at all. Those who are on campus could be attending classes from their dorm rooms.

And yet, the school’s tuition($49,653 before room and board), will remain the same. Which only goes to show that you may not be as smart as you think you are if you attend Harvard.

Pennington’s Peregrinations

Los Angeles-based freelance writer Emily Pennington has set a goal of traveling to all 62 U.S. national parks this year (before Donald Trump awards fracking contracts on all of them). Her work is appearing in Outside magazine.

I’m always a little suspicious when some journalist’s “job” sounds more like a means of having someone else pay for their “adventures.” Everyone wants to be Bill Bryson, but almost nobody else is. Also, that I could come up with “Pennington’s Peregrinations” in 30 seconds (self-back pat) while no one at Outside did, well…

Or maybe I’m just jealous.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

MH staffers nursing a cracked rib this morning, but you gotta play hurt. Thanks for the help, Jacob.

Who Was That Masked Man?

The president wearing a mask? Participating in a coronavirus presser for the first time since April? Warning that the pandemic, which spiked above 1,000 deaths in one day in the U.S. for the first time this month, is about to get worse before it gets better?

Sounds as if someone is finally willing to believe those 2020 presidential election polls.

K.O. Kid

Last night Edgar Berlanga, a 23 year-old super middleweight from Brooklyn, knocked out his opponent in the first round. So? So it was the 14th consecutive opponent that the 6’1″ New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent has knocked out in the first round.

Shades of another Brooklynite with a massive fist from more than 30 years ago: Iron Mike Tyson.

Is Berlanga that devastating? Or have they been lining up tomato cans for him? Or a little of both? It would be fun to see boxing, not ultimate fighting, return to the spotlight. Is this young man the person to bring it back?

The Lesson Of Ocoee

As election day 2020 creeps closer and as the president already sends signals that he may not accept the results (but only if he loses), you’re going to be hearing about it also being the 100th anniversary of the Massacre of Ocoee.

So just remember you heard it here first.

November 2, 1920, was the date of the presidential election pitting Republican Warren G. Harding versus Democrat James Cox. According to Wikipedia, the previous year had been “marked by major strikes in the meatpacking and steel industries and large-scale race riots in Chicago and other cities.”

You don’t say.

In tiny Ocoee, a village abutting what is now Orlando, Fla., blacks were simply trying to vote. In the months preceding the election, they were told they would need to register with the county notary public, but he was repeatedly being sent away on fishing trips. And they could not simply text him.

On election day, Mose Norman, a prominent black farmer who had registered, attempted to vote multiple times but was turned away. Eventually enough angry whites decided to do something about Norman’s uppity ways, as it were. They went to track him down at the home of Jules Perry and eventually tried to break in through Perry’s back door. Norman had somehow escaped (or never been there) and he was never found. But Perry shot and killed two white intruders (Klansmen?) and then it was game on.

The whites sent for reinforcements. In the next day or two more than 3 dozen blacks in Ocoee were murdered. The rest fled their property and basically lost everything they owned. Ocoee was 100% white.

It’s good to see we’ve come so far in the past century.

I’d never even heard about this before last night, when a Google search for something else landed me on it. Imagine you’ll be hearing about it more as we approach Nov. 4. It is the 100th anniversary, after all.

Punting Is Winning

There’s a ton of prep football talent in California, and none of it will be on display until at least December. The Golden State has punted on its high school football season until after Thanksgiving at the earliest. The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) tipped its hand Monday when it announced that the last day for football championships this coming academic year will be April 17.

Cool Mom

You’ve probably seen this by now, but here’s Reese Witherspoon dancing to her son Deacon’s first pop hit. He seems like a grounded kid (not as in, “You can’t leave the house for 2 weeks!” the way MH was when we were that age, though the sentence was usually commuted after a few days and thousands of pouty faces) and our favorite thing in this video is his old-school Phillies road jersey. His last name does start with a “P” (Phillippe).

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Urban Warfare

Saigon, 1968? Los Angeles, 1992?

No. Portland, 2020. Portland?!? Doesn’t everyone have better things to do this summer, especially in the Pacific Northwest (which may be northwest, but sure as hell ain’t pacific).

The United States has its own Gestapo now, and it’s called the Department of Homeland Security (you may remember this agency was formed to root out bad guys in turbans who shouted “Death to America!” less than 20 years ago. Now they’re tasked with putting down any form of insurrection and/or rebellion while ignoring all tenets of due process or Miranda rights. Hooray, ‘merica!”)

President Trump is copying directly from the Putin playbook and he apparently has enough support (DOJ, U.S. Senate, etc.) to continue his fascist agenda for the time being. Should people be vandalizing government buildings? No, and they should be arrested for doing so.

Should unidentified federal agents in camo gear and night sticks be descending on U.S. cities against the wishes of those cities’ mayors or those states’ governors to squash a “rebellion” that really isn’t one? Nope.

And don’t think for a moment that Trump and his ilk don’t hope that the bullying tactics don’t draw out more protesters, which will allow him to bring in more muscle, and then you need someone to light a spark on this race war that Trump wants Fox News cameras to film in living color.

It has a way of getting 800 dead Americans daily off the front page, you know?

Florida Men

On a rural lake road in central Florida last weekend, three young white men were brutally murdered. And if you were wondering what we were wondering, the local sheriff, Grady Judd, says, “This does not look like a drug deal gone bad.”

The victims—Brandon Rollins, Keven Springfield and Damion Tillman—were all between 23 and 30. They apparently were going night fishing last Friday night and Tillman arrived first. He was being beaten and may already have been shot when Rollins and Springfield rolled up. Rollins managed to place a cellphone call to his father, who lives only 10 or so minutes away, and the two were briefly able to talk before Rollins passed.

Police aren’t saying what was said, but he obviously did not identify the killer(s) are officials are offering a $30,000 reward for info leading to the arrest of who did it.

So what’s the motive? Was it really a fishing trip? This is not a heavily populated area. You’d have to think they at least one of them knew the assailants. Stay tuned or wait for the Netflix documentary.

Trump Trips Over Truth

It was 90-plus degrees in the Rose Garden on Saturday afternoon, but most of the heat President Trump felt was coming from four feet away. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace would have made his daddy, the legendary news griller Mike Wallace, proud. as he questioned Trump and exposed falsehood over prevarication. You have to wonder who inside the administration thought that this would be a good idea.

Chris Cillizza at CNN has done the dirty work, posting the “55 Most Shocking Lines” from Trump during the interview. 55. This is the new normal.

Pryor Engagement

This was from the Seventies. The Richard Pryor Show, with a spoof of To Kill A Mockingbird. Opposing counsels Richard Pryor and Robin Williams. This actually aired on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC in 1977—for all of four episodes.

NBC put it up against the one-two punch of Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley

on ABC.

Someone at ABC must have seen this episode, though, as they soon snatched Williams to play Mork in a bizarre episode of Happy Days that soon after resulted in Mork and Mindy. Pam Dawber. Sigh.

Incidentally, today would’ve been Robin Williams’ 69th birthday.

Freeze Frame

On this day, in 1983, the coldest temperature ever officially recorded: minus-89 degrees in Vostok Station, Antarctica.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

This, Apparently, Is An Outrage

The magazine InStyle is doing a profile of Dr. Anthony Fauci, and here he is poolside (wearing more clothing in his home than I have worn at mine in the past five months), and of course, the far-right went off on him. Meghan McCain, who like the president, is only where she is in life because of who her father was, described Fauci in the photo as “dressed like, you know, somebody in a Brad Pitt movie.”

Perhaps if that film is Benjamin Button and it’s early in the film?

Columnist Maureen Dowd, in Sunday’s New York Times, distilled the contrasts between Dr. Fauci and his nemesis, Donald J. Trump:

One is a champion of truth and facts. The other is a master of deceit and denial. One is highly disciplined, working 18-hour days. The other can’t be bothered to do his homework and golfs instead. One is driven by science and the public good. The other is a public menace, driven by greed and ego. One is a Washington institution. The other was sent here to destroy Washington institutions. One is incorruptible. The other corrupts. One is apolitical. The other politicizes everything he touches — toilets, windows, beans and, most fatally, masks.

Arash

I hadn’t heard that the Los Angeles Times had suspended sports columnist Arash Markazi until Friday afternoon when one of you commented on it. I quickly found this piece from Vice in order to glean more.

To be clear: I’m very fond of Arash and always was when we spoke regularly. Arash started at Sports Illustrated On Campus in the beginning of 2005, I believe, as a student intern. I was working there at the time. We quickly became good friends. Arash was funny, self-deprecating, self-aware and cherubic. Just a delight to be around. A human teddy bear.

At an early stage in our friendship I noticed Arash had a predilection for attending the type of galas and publicity-stoking events that I regularly avoided. A premiere, a club opening, a book release, anything that required you to call a public relations firm and have your name added: I hated those, Arash lived for them. I dubbed him, and he enjoyed the nickname, “Guest List Markazi.”

We always remained friendly. When I was in LA, I’d spend time with him. We spent a wonderful Saturday morning watching college football at Barney’s Beanery on Sunset once. I went to his parents’ home and met them. We even spent a couple of days in Las Vegas.

Arash was, and is, good company. And a good guy. I’ll be sure to phone him this week.

In the past few years I stopped following him on Twitter. I didn’t like what he was doing, from a professional perspective, and as I’ve already established myself as a bitter scold on the platform, I didn’t feel I needed to alienate yet another ex-SI colleague.

A year or two back he posted a photo of himself, Justin Verlander and Kate Upton at Minute Maid Park right after a big postseason win by the Houston Astros. I was disappointed. I tried to imagine anyone who was on the masthead at SI when I first arrived doing that.

I realize it’s a different era. Writers are trying to promote their own brand. Who knows, maybe someday they’ll earn the distinction of having Tony Reali award them a few points on Around The Horn, the ultimate display of “I’ve Made It!” in this present print epoch.

But I prefer to be old-fashioned. I wondered, seeing that photo, if Arash would write anything that night that would remain with me longer than the image in that photo. And isn’t that his job, after all? And how does his being chummy with Verlander and publicizing it help him do his job? If he’s doing his job, it doesn’t.

I don’t know what Arash did or didn’t do. I don’t know if the fact that there’s an audience, a big one, for writers and pundits who don’t always follow the rules of journalistic integrity (Clay Travis, Dave Portnoy, etc.) because they’d rather promote themselves, trumps my Puritan values.

Arash is a guy I like very much. I observed his meteoric rise the past few years with dubious silence. I was happy for him on a surface level. Deeper, though, I wondered how he was going to connect with staffers at the Los Angeles Times, the paper of Jim Murray (and Lou Grant!). These are serious journalists, Pulitzer Prize winners.

I’ll be a friend to Arash no matter what happens. And maybe some of the words above sound harsh. Or like tough love. But it’s the truth. And there’s no hiding from that.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

75,600

That’s the number of new cases diagnosed yesterday in the U.S.A., according to The New York Times. Florida and Texas also surged to one-day records. That number is approximately double the number the U.S. was hitting on a daily level just one month ago.

Remember, “fifteen, going down to zero?” How quaint.

Mask-arade

Defiant and Deplorable

In Provo, Utah, a meeting to discuss a state mandate that all children wear masks upon returning to school next month was canceled when parents not wearing masks flooded the room (although, look at that nice couple on the lower left).

It’s time for Mask America Great Again headgear. And I don’t mean baseball caps.

Got To Rock On

There are about three Kansas songs that everyone knows: The band’s massive breakout hit, “Carry On, Our Wayward Son,” “Dust In The Wind,” and perhaps “Point Of Know Return.”

This tune comes from their 1980 album, “Audio-Visions.” Always felt that it got lost on the radio. It’s not a classic, but it deserves a little more attention. If you have kids who’ve never heard either band, you should play, “Styx Or Kansas?” with them, playing a smattering of each band’s songs.

That’s Going To Cost You An Arm And A Leg

When the sister of tech entrepreneur Fahim Saleh, 33, did not hear back from him for more than a day she went to check on him in his $2.25 million luxury apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. There she found a grisly scene: her brother’s decapitated and dismembered corpse (writers from Law & Order are already on Page 16 of the script).

Police have already arrested Saleh’s 21 year-old personal assistant, Tyrese Haspil. Apparently Saleh had discovered that Haspil had stolen tens of thousands of dollars from him and confronted him about it. Not that he was going to report Haspil to the cops, but that he wanted to set up a repayment plan. It seems that Haspil was not down with that.

Saleh was a born entrepreneur, the kind of dude you’d seen killing it on Shark Tank. His main success was a Nigerian ride-share company that used motorbikes: Uber on two wheels. But if you’re going to hire a personal assistant, hire an older female. Not a 21 year-old dude with designs on your possessions. Or, better yet, just get married.

Luanda

Sometimes when I’m up against it, figuring out how to fill out the daily five, I look up a place in Africa that I’ve never even heard of. Today’s place? Luanda, the capital of Angola. Right up against the Atlantic Ocean.

Luanda is the largest Portuguese-speaking capital in the world, even more so than Lisbon. It was the center of the slave trade to Brazil until it was outlawed. It was also colonized by the Portuguese way back in the 16th century. But now the indigenous peoples have taken back their home.

Oh, and the country has running rhinos. Which is cool.

Tuition Fruition

A recurring conversation I’ve been having with friends whose kids are in college right now: Is it really worth it to send your kids back to campus if they’re going to be taking courses on-line?

Now, certainly, not everyone’s kids attend a Top 100 university but look at the costs in tuition at these schools. Once you get past room and board you’re talking at least $60,000.

So what’s the smart play here? How about a gap year? If your student/child can find a job and take a couple of community courses locally (or online), isn’t that better than sending them off somewhere where they’ll be cooped up in an even smaller room and yet still have a far, far greater chance of contracting the virus? And for what? What’s the point of being educated on a college campus if you’re never in the classroom or never around other students?

I’ll hold for your thoughts…

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Goya Own Way

Am I the only one who noticed that he would not pose with black beans?

More than 800 Americans died from the coronavirus yesterday, by the way. Trump hasn’t stepped foot into a pandemic task-force meeting in months, much less visited a single hospital ICU. If you can possibly sweep 200,000 mostly unnecessary American deaths in eight months (by election day) under the rug, well, damned if Donald isn’t about to try.

Kuminga Traction

Top high school recruit Jonathan Kuminga, a 6’8″ Congolese native who’s been playing prep ball in New Jersey, has opted for the G-League over the chance to play for a screaming martinet and take Intro To English Composition.

Kuminga was the No. 4-rated prospect in this year’s incoming freshman class. He’s also the fifth ESPN Top 100 prospect to take his talents to the G League, where NBA hopefuls can earn $125,000 in their internship season before leaping to the NBA.

This is a bad sign for college basketball (initially) and a terrific sign for progress in general. The top college hoops and football players are minor-league pro athletes, not college students. They belong in a minor league. And sure, Kuminga would’ve earned more this coming season at Kentucky or Memphis, but at least this money is clean.

Dirty Harry and Feminism

This is from The Enforcer, which came out in 1976. The mayor of San Francisco back then, by the way, would have been George Moscone, a Democrat who along with his city supervisor Harvey Milk would be assassinated two years later.

But that’s not what is funny to us about this scene (and let’s get this straight, Inspector Callahan is making excellent points). What’s funny to us is that the female cop is played by Tyne Daly, who will grow up to be esteemed New York detective Cagney. Or is it Lacey? Who can remember?

All’s Wales That Ends Wales

In the wee Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells, they’ve figured out a way to keep tourists coming: by staging bizarre and looney sporting events. Hence, there’s bog-snorkeling, man versus horse, and a mountain-bike chariot race.

Brilliant.

Manhattan Transfer of Particles*

*The judges will also accept “Remember The Alamogordo!”

On July 16, 1945—75 years ago today—the first atomic bomb was detonated in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Not a good day to be a coyote in southern New Mexico. By the way, infant deaths in the area rose 52% in the next year but…GET OVER IT!