Posts Tagged ‘Oscars’

Dying To Live: Death Sentence 1981 ≠ Undetectable 2021

Hate is an awfully strong word and I try very hard not to use it. 

I’m human and there are some people, living and dead, that I do hate or that I have hated.

Ronald Reagan, one of the most popular and beloved presidents, is one of those people.

More on that in a moment, but we’ve hit a milestone in the United States.

While it likely started in the late-1970s, a new disease was introduced to the public this week in 1981 — an epidemic that ended up killing hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, friends and lovers.

And, for many years, it was ignored by the U.S. president (Reagan) and the government!

These days, those deaths are still happening for people that are diagnosed too late or that don’t have access to life-saving and costly drugs (without insurance). However, with proper medication and healthier living, HIV (and AIDS) is now a livable condition that’s more of a medical inconvenience.

But, let’s flashback to the spring and early summer of 1981. 

Doctors in New York and California started noticing that some of their young, gay patients were coming in with weakened immune systems and were developing pneumonia and cancer.

On July 5, 1981, “The New York Times” published one of the first articles on this new disease that didn’t even have a name. In 1982, it was incorrectly labeled “GRID” (gay-related immune deficiency) — how homophobic and ignorant!

While the Times was one of the first to mention this “rare cancer”, the U.S. media, including the Times, did a poor job getting the message out about this new fatal disease.

“GRID” was changed to “AIDS” (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) once doctors realized that it didn’t only affect gay men.

The early 1980s was a scary time because there was so much that doctors didn’t know and this led to fear and misconceptions about how you could get it.

It’s taken me almost 30 years, but I can now say that I no longer hate Ronald Reagan! 

I’ve always questioned his legacy. At the time, I would have loved to ask him about his actions, or lack of actions, in the 1980s that led to my hateful feelings toward him. 

While AIDS (unnamed at the time) was identified in the summer of 1981, President Reagan didn’t mention the deadly disease publicly until a press conference, years later, in 1985.

That same year, teenager Ryan White, a hemophiliac who contracted the disease through a blood transfusion, was barred from his Indiana school.

And, actor Rock Hudson died of AIDS, making him the highest profile person to succumb to the disease and his face became synonymous with AIDS in the years to come.

Still, nothing from the White House! President Reagan didn’t give his first speech on AIDS until early 1987, almost six years into the epidemic! 

His ignorance, his fear of AIDS, and the government’s slow reaction to fighting the disease in the 1980s led to the deaths of more than 90,600 people, mostly gay men, in the United States that decade.

HOPE — THE FIRST ROUND OF MEDS

In 1987, AZT, the first AIDS drug was introduced and ACT UP, an activist group, formed to protest the $10,000/year price tag.

In the years to come, more medications would become available — the drug “cocktails” in the mid-1990s were more effective, but patients would take up to 60 pills daily!

In 2006-2007, it was estimated that the cost of extending the life of an HIV patient for 24 years was $618,900!

HIV & AIDS — 40 YEARS LATER

Today, some 38 million people are living with HIV worldwide.

Of that number, as of 2018, 1.2 million are Americans. Sadly, more than one-in-ten don’t even know it! GET TESTED!

Over the 40 years since AIDS became public, 35 million people have died worldwide.

700,000 were Americans with gay men and transgender women making up about 79% of that staggering number.

Four decades later, by the grace of God, I’m still HIV-negative, but I have friends that are positive and I’ve know people that have died of AIDS.

Thankfully, we now have drugs, when taken properly, make it IMPOSSIBLE to spread the virus!

National Institute of Health: “U=U means that people living with HIV who achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load—the amount of HIV in the blood—by taking and adhering to antiretroviral therapy (ART) as prescribed cannot sexually transmit the virus to others.”

FINAL THOUGHTS ON MY IMPRESSIONABLE YEARS

I was 16-years-old when the first AIDS cases went public and I became sexually active in the 1980s as fear and hate spread across the world toward gay people because of the disease.

It’s hard not to dislike (or hate) the man running the country when people in your community were dying a very painful death and the government dragged its feet. 

My views of President Reagan didn’t soften any in the 1990s as I headed into my 20s and then my 30s seeing more and more people contract HIV and develop AIDS. 

We witnessed the resistance of religious leaders, school officials, and parents to educate kids about safe sex — they thought abstinence would keep children safe (it would, but it’s not a reality when hormones are raging)!  That mentality started in the 1980s during the uptight, conservative regime of Reagan.

While there may never be a cure for HIV and AIDS, those that get HIV can now, at least, lead a more “normal” life.

This hope made me look closer at Reagan.  As he grew older and Alzheimer’s disease robbed him of his mind, I knew that no matter how much I despised him, it couldn’t bring back all of the people that AIDS killed.

I asked myself, “how he could be so calm and collected and be so ignorant during the early years of AIDS?” 

The truth is that he probably had so many people telling him what to do and what to avoid saying because his political base didn’t want to hear about the disease those “queers” were spreading! Middle and upper class white, heterosexual couples didn’t think it affected them!

I now realize it’s time for me to move on and to find peace with the man who had many faults.  What man doesn’t?  I can’t forgive him, but I no longer hate him. We can’t change history and the government’s inaction in the 1980s with AIDS. 

While I can’t ask President Reagan what he was thinking when he ignored the disease for so long, I hope that the former president and all of the men, women, and children that died of AIDS during his presidency (and since) can come to peace with each other in that higher place.

When I finally make it to heaven, I hope I see Reagan hanging out with the more than 700,000 Americans that have died of AIDS — the majority of them gay men.

However, in heaven, all would be forgiven and I could see Ronald Reagan at a disco or a tea dance with all those that suffered during his presidency and all that succumbed to AIDS in the 33 years after he left office.

“AND THE BAND PLAYED ON”

I just re-read Randy Shilts’ enlightening history of the first years of the AIDS epidemic about the failure of the American government which led to so many people dying.

While San Francisco was believed to be the AIDS capital of the U.S., there were far more cases and deaths of AIDS in New York City.

Mayor Ed Koch and Dr. David Sencer, the city’s health commissioner, failed miserably in providing for those in the fight in the early years.

The only real help was coming from the Gay Men’s Health Crisis center, which was founded by the iconic advocate Larry Kramer.

If reading a 600-page book about the AIDS epidemic may be too much for you, the 1993 Emmy-winning movie of the same name, with an all-star cast, is incredible.

“THE GREAT BELIEVERS”

This 2018 book by Rebecca Makkai is amazing!

It tells the story of how the AIDS epidemic decimated Chicago’s gay community in the early-1980s. While fiction, it felt so real — especially if you or your friends lived through that era watching your friends die.

Makkai’s story is so well researched and touching. It had you rooting for characters that you knew were doomed by the “gay cancer” and President Ronald Reagan’s blind eye.

The book isn’t just about a group of friends dying and struggling to stay alive in 1985 Chicago. It also takes you to 2015 Paris and ties the two stories and timelines together!

As a former Chicago transplant (I lived there two years in the 1990s and two more years in the early-2000s), it was fun hearing the names of places I hadn’t thought about in years (Nookie’s and Ann Sather).

Amy Poehler is adapting the book into a television series. I can’t wait to see who is cast as Yale, my favorite character. As I was reading it, I could definitely see Yale in my younger self!

“The Great Believers” is the best fiction book I’ve read in the past year!

“LONGTIME COMPANION”

And, for those of you that may not have seen it, 1990’s “Longtime Companion” is still one of my favorite movies of all time.

It was one of the first widely recognized theatrically-released movies (mainstream) that dealt with AIDS in the 1980s. It earned a Golden Globe Award for acting for Bruce Davidson and he also earned an Oscar nomination.

Thank you for taking the time travel down this road 40 years later!

Be safe and play safe!

Peace!

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — May 21, 2021

It was just last week that I referenced Memorial Day being the “unofficial” start to summer.

After dealing with frosty temperatures a week ago, it’s now feeling like summer here in Illinois with highs heading up well into the 80s.

Our big warm-up started Thursday and will last into next week!

Yuck! I only like the 80s when we’re talking music!

Thank you for taking the time to check out my random thoughts!

GOODWILL AND GOOD GRIEF!

My sister loves going to Goodwill stores. Yard sales are more up my alley.

Now that the people across the country are feeling more comfortable and getting out of their homes, some are doing some spring cleaning.

You’d think that Goodwill store would benefit greatly from this. However, check out this headline and tidbit from the Associated Press:

The Twitter post states, “Americans cleaning out their homes during the pandemic have been donating defective and unusable items to Goodwill. The stores say the donations are hurting them rather than helping and want people to stop giving them their trash.”

Come on people, throw your damn trash away and recycle things that are still in good shape!

“ARMY OF THE DEAD”

I’m so excited that the Zack Snyder Las Vegas/zombie heist film hits Netflix this weekend!!!! I know what I’ll be watching!

A follow-up, a prequel, “Army of Thieves”, has already been shot!

It was directed by actor Matthias Schweighöfer, who stars in both movies.

“THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW”

Six-time Academy Award nominee Amy Adams and Oscars winners Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”) and Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”) and Oscar nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh star in this Netflix psychological thriller.

Okay, no matter what JJL does, I’ll always see her as “Hedy” in “Single White Female” (1992)!

It’s basically an update of the 1954 Jimmy Stewart/Alfred Hitchcock thriller “Rear Window” and 2007’s “Disturbia” with Shia LeBeouf.

In this version, Amy Adams’ Anna Fox is a New York City agoraphobic who spends her time drinking red wine and watching her neighbors.

That’s it!

Ha, just kidding!!!

One night she sees a neighbor being attacked. Or, did she? Was it a just part of a drunken stupor?

This movie definitely rises above the fray and now I plan on reading the book.

By the way, I didn’t see the plot twists ahead of time and that brought the grade up!

GRADE: A

VERY RANDOM THOUGHTS

The internet and entertainment word is abuzz about the possibility that “Bennifer” is a thing again.

Am I jaded and the only one that doesn’t care if Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are together again?

I just have so little faith in Hollywood couplings and marriages (maybe in marriage altogether)!

My only real concern if they’re together again is that there could be a “Gigli 2”? (Okay, I didn’t actually see the 2003 original, but neither anyone else, in theaters, since it was a box office bomb!)

After watching season four of “Fargo”, the television series, I don’t think Chris Rock should give up his day job as a comedian to be a dramatic actor.

He wasn’t convincing as a mob boss! However, his final scene in the series had potential!

However, the highlight of the season was seeing Timothy Olyphant playing Dick “Deafy” Wickware , a 1950 Mormon U.S. Marshal agent.

What? Another U.S. Marshal? Yes, but it was much different than Raylan Givens on “Justified.

MUST SEE VIDEO!!!

I’ve earned back some of my gay points!

A few weeks I commented that I wish Madonna would just focus on making music again because her Twitter feed seems so desperate.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love her and I can’t wait to see the Netflix documentary on the “Madame X Tour” since I didn’t get to see it.

However, I’m obsessed with the incredible performance of Elton John and Olly Alexander (from the group Years & Years) at the 2021 BRIT Awards.

They performed the Pet Shop Boys 1987 Top 10 hit “It’s A Sin” (which is also the name of the HBO Max series featuring Alexander about the early AIDS epidemic in London).

You can tell that Elton is ready to hit the road again this fall with his “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” farewell tour.

“YOU” BOOK SERIES

After watching the first two season of the creepy, stalker, “love story” Netflix series, “You”, I decided to read the first two Caroline Kepnes book it’s based on.

It was interesting to see how the author saw Joe Goldberg, Beck, and Love and how much was changed when it became a television series.

Spoiler (not really): Book 1 (“You” — 2014) and Season 1 were pretty close, yet there was much more of difference between Book 2 (“Hidden Bodies” — 2016) and Season 2.

A third book, “You Love Me” came out in April 2021, but I haven’t read it yet. The third season of the series is expected later in 2021.

Here’s the trailer for the first season, which originally aired on Lifetime.

“MEMORIAL”

Bryan Washington’s fall 2020 fictional book, “Memorial”, is a great read.

It tells the story of a young gay interracial Houston couple, Ben and Mike, navigating a failing relationship and a cultural divide.

Mike is waiting for his mother from Japan to arrive when he decides to fly to Japan to spend time with his dying father, who abandoned the family when Mike was a teenager.

Mike drops the bombshell that he’s leaving his mother there with Ben, who’s Black, and has never met his boyfriend’s mother for an indefinitely period of time!

“PARTY DOWN”

A revival of the comedy, “Party Down”, is in development more than a decade after it ended.

I recently watched the two-season, 20 episode series that originally aired in 2009 and 2010.

It’s about a group of entertainment types (actors, writers, and comedians) working at a catering company, Party Down, to pay the bills while they wait for their big break.

It stars Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”), Lizzy Caplan (“Castle Rock”), and Jane Lynch (pre-“Glee”).

Season one was very funny and season two was enjoyable, but not as funny.

THAT’S IT

With all the craziness in the world, make it the best in your little part of it!

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — May 7, 2021

Happy Mother’s Day weekend!

I’ll take a moment to remember my mother, Dessie, and be thankful that I still have my sister, Tammy, in my life.

Thank you for taking the time to check out my random thoughts!

STICKS & STONE MAY BREAK MY BONES

…but words shall never hurt me!

As kids, we’ve all heard that saying (or something like it). And, I believe, for the most part, it’s true.

I know that when you’re young and impressionable or if you’re a grown-up with insecurities (who doesn’t have some), hurtful words from parents, friends, lovers, or spouses can hurt. Actually, words said in anger do have a lasting impact.

However, being called a “f***ing fa**ot” by a speeding car driving by definitely doesn’t hurt my feelings. It just pisses me off.

This happened last Friday afternoon on one of my many daily walks around Lake Decatur.

It was from a group of youngsters and the man/boy in the back seat yelled it out the window. This person had no clue who was on the other side of busy U.S. 36. He was just being juvenile and ignorant.

I’m sure if it was a woman walking, he’d yell something sexist and stupid.

I was a teenager and young adult in the conservative dark Reagan-era years when homophobia was rampant and the world was scared of gay people and AIDS. (It didn’t help that it took President Reagan almost six years to mention it publicly!)

So, “f***ing fa**ot” is something that most LGBTQ people have heard before. However, it was scarier back then (in the 1980s and 1990s) because those people threatened us with baseball bats!

I’m a very secure person and my immediate reaction last Friday was to go back to reading my book and enjoying my day, while the thought bubble above my head said, “f***ing idiot”!

This is a perfect time for Heather Mooney! 🙂

Before I move on, I just hope that it made his day a little better to yell that out the window at a stranger. And, I hope he becomes more educated before he spawns a child and projects his ignorance onto another generation!

While I know there are others here (and in the U.S. and across the world) that share that narrow-minded mentality, Decatur and Central Illinois, I’ve met so many of you and I know there are so many more loving, caring, and beautiful people that make the world a better place!

Let’s carry on…

GOODBYE OLYMPIA DUKAKIS

Academy Award and Golden Globe winner (“Moonstruck”) Olympia Dukakis passed away last weekend at the age of 89.

In her almost 60 year career, she acted in more than 130 stage productions, over 60 movies, and in 50 television series!

I remember her most fondly as Anna Madrigal, the transgender “mother” of the tenants at 28 Barbary Lane in the “Tales of the City” series.

I always wanted to move into an apartment complex like 28 Barbary Lane and have Mrs. Madrigal as my landlady!

Armistead Maupin’s book series is my favorite and I’ve read it many times over the years. It was made into four continuing series (1993, 1998, 2001, and the most recent on Netflix in 2019).

And, as a gay man, I must mention her role as Clairee Belcher in 1989’s classic, “Steel Magnolias”!

Come on, you know the rest of it!!! All together now…

“…come sit by me.”

And, if you want to watch the entire 30-second scene…

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The 2020 U.S. presidential election is estimated to have cost $14 billion dollars, that’s with a “B”!
  • Gay and bisexual men are seven times more likely to report binge-eating than straight men and 12 times more likely to binge and purge. (National Eating Disorders Association)
  • Kenta Seki is a Los Angeles-based fitness guru? Neither did I, but I do now! 🙂

“THE MEANING OF MARIAH CAREY”

As you know, I love Mariah Carey. I’ve been a huge Mariah Carey fan since the spring of 1990 when I first heard “Vision of Love”.

I’ve seen her go through the highs with international success and we’ve see her hit the lows — the ice cream cart ordeal on MTV.

So, when Mariah’s biography, “The Meaning of Mariah Carey” came out in the fall of 2020, I didn’t know what to expect.

Once I read it, I love Mariah even more — if that was even possible.

I knew her life and career was a rags to riches story, but I never realized just how hard she had as a child.

Not only was her family poor, but she also had a very difficult time of being biracial — she wasn’t Black enough for some family members and too white for others.

I was astounded at some of the things her sister made her do as a teenager and some of the things she did to Mariah! And, once Mariah became an international superstar with money flowing in, I was saddened to hear how her family tried to siphon that money away.

And then, there’s the whole creepiness of her first husband (and manager), Tommy Mottola!

Here’s a review of the book I read and it sums it up perfectly: “improbable and inspiring journey of survival and resilience as she struggles through complex issues of race, identity, class, childhood, and family trauma during her meteoric rise to music superstardom.”

“The Meaning of Mariah Carey” is an excellent book! Read it now!

Here are a few things I learned:

Since I now live in Central Illinois, it’s interesting that Mariah’s mother was born in Illinois’ capital of Springfield and grew up there in the 1940s and 1950s, which Mariah describes as “a center of insidious institutional racism”.

After years of racially-motivated crimes in the early 1900s in Springfield, the city had a strong Ku Klux Klan presence in the 1920, which Mariah summed up this way, “Springfield was a city openly cloaked in hate.”

On a happier note, I loved the wine quote about working with David Morales. “I’d have a couple splashes of wine, and we would just go wherever the spirit took us — which were almost always high-energy dance tracks with big, brand-new vocals.”

A couple splashes! What a cool description! 🙂

And, it was interesting to read who the song “My All” was written about!

I finally got to see Mariah in concert in December 2017 with her “All I Want For Christmas: A Night of Joy and Festivity” show in Las Vegas at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace.

Mariah was phenomenal, beautiful, and she sounded flawless and the sets were incredible!!!!!!!

After my separation and eventual divorce, that show lifted my spirits and it would be the most magical 90 minutes I’ve enjoyed in the past few years!

FINAL NOTES ABOUT MARIAH & CHRISTMAS

About “All I Want For Christmas”, that she wrote in her early-20s for her fourth album, 1994’s “Merry Christmas”: “I wanted to write a song that would make me happy and make me feel like a loved, carefree young girl at Christmas.

Mariah added, “I wanted to sing it in a way that would capture joy for everyone and crystallize it forever. Yes, I was going for vintage Christmas happiness!”

HOW DID I MISS THIS???

I’m usually on top of pop culture, but I totally missed this bus on this!

Recently, I was catching up on magazines and I was shocked to learn that Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy died a year ago this weekend (May 8, 2020) of COVID-19! He was 75.

The famed Las Vegas entertainer’s publicist announced on April 28, 2020, that Horn tested positive for the virus and was responding well to treatment.

I also didn’t know that Siegfried (Fischbacher) announced on January 11, 2021, that he had terminal pancreatic cancer and died two days later in Las Vegas at the age of 81!

As you recall, Roy (on the left in the photo) was the one that was attacked at the Mirage on October 3, 2003, by a seven-year-old white tiger named Mantecore. It was on his 59th birthday!

As the story goes, Horn held his microphone to Mantecore’s mouth and told him to say “hello”. The tiger bit Horn’s sleeve. Horn swatted the tiger and barked “release!”.

Horn, became dizzy, tripped, and fell onto his back. (He ended up having a stroke.)

Mantecore moved to stand over him and then bit into Horn’s neck and dragged him offstage!

SO WHAT HAPPENED TO MANTECORE?

Horn asked that nothing happen to the tiger and it was re-integrated back into the duo’s pack of cats.

Mantecore died more than a decade later, in March 2014, at Fischbacher and Horn’s Little Bavaria estate in Las Vegas at the age of 17!

“THE ROAD TO JONESTOWN: JIM JONES AND PEOPLES TEMPLE”

Last week, I talked about Jim Jones and shared some interesting things from Jeff Guinn’s compelling 2017 book.

Here are a few more tidbits from that great book.

The bisexual Jones believed that everyone, women and men, desired him. One follower in his close knit managerial team was not afraid to stand up to him. Harriet Tropp told him that she didn’t desire him because “You are 47 and fat”, but she added, “I don’t have romantic illusions. They say the greatest orgasm is death, so I hope we have the great pleasure of dying together.”

Once in Jonestown, the cost to feed almost a thousand people was extravagant and they began to see less meat and more watered down rice dishes and beverages, like water and cheap Flavor Aid.

As Jonestown began to fall apart in the fall of 1977, Jones and his inner circle were already thinking of how to conduct a mass suicide. Some suggested people being shot, but Jones preferred poison.

In early August 1978, Jones told his followers that he had terminal lung cancer. However, there was no evidence of this — yet another deceit by Jones to his cult.

“JONESTOWN:  TERROR IN THE JUNGLE”

If you don’t have time to read Guinn’s book, this SundanceTV documentary following Jones’ life was incredible!

I saw it in the fall of 2018 and gave it an “A”!

“DA 5 BLOODS”

The latest Spike Lee movie garnered mix reviews.

If you know what to expect from one of his movies, you’ll enjoy it. After the compelling opening montage, the first hour dragged a bit. However, the second hour was riveting.

It’s about four older Black American vets returning to Vietnam to search for the remains of their fallen squad leader and buried treasure.

Delroy Lindo’s performance as Paul was insane! He deserved an Oscar nomination.

Now there was talk that Chadwick Boseman might get an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in the movie, but that didn’t happen.

GRADE: B-

FAVORITE MARIAH CAREY SONGS

Before I share my five favorite Mariah Carey songs, let me tell you how difficult this was to narrow down.

Here’s how much of a superstar she is:

She’s had 36 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 since 1990. Of those, 28 reached the Top Ten and 27 made the Top 5!!!

And, 19 went on to top the Hot 100 and she’s had two different runs of five or more consecutive #1 songs!

Mariah also had at least one #1 song on the Hot 100 for eleven straight years (1990-2000) and she’s had the most #1 singles on the Hot 100 than any other solo artist!

If that’s not impressive enough, Mariah has sold more than 200 million records worldwide and is the biggest selling certified female artist in the United States.

“DREAMLOVER”

“VISION OF LOVE”

“MAKE IT HAPPEN”

“ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU”

“EMOTIONS”

What’s your favorite Mariah Carey song?

THAT’S IT

With all the craziness in the world, make it the best in your little part of it!

Anthony

P.S. My full Mariah Carey blog is here:

Random Friday Thoughts — April 30, 2021

I find it hard to believe that the first four months of 2021 are now behind us. I’m hoping the next eight brings us happiness and joy.

Thank you for taking the time to check out my thoughts this weekend!

PEOPLE, PLEASE GO BACK!!!

As with any situation in life, one death is one death too many!

With that being said, I’m dismayed to hear that about 8% of Americans are reportedly not going back to get their second COVID-19 shot! (That translates into millions of people!)

I know people are concerned about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after a few deaths were reported from the millions of shots administered.

Also, I know people are a little freaked out when they hear how some are feeling after their second Moderna and Pfizer shot.

I had no side effects from either my first or second shot! And, I’m almost through with the two-week waiting period after my second shot.

With that being said, people please go back and get your second shot!!!

I want America vaccinated and safe, so we can turn the corner on this pandemic and start the “new normal” way of life!

(RELIGIOUS) CULTS

If you regularly read my blog, you’ve probably realized I’m truly intrigued by serial killers and cults (and many other less creepy things)!

Now, let’s talk cults. Oh, hello Scientology!

You’re not alone when it comes to religious institutions (for legal purposes, I’ll add a word) ALLEGEDLY brain-washing people under the guise of Godliness. While there are many, today I’m talking about Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple.

As a child in 1940s small town Indiana, Jones idolized Adolf Hitler! (If this wasn’t a red flag, I don’t know what is!)

While Jones would eventually convince (and force) 900-plus people to gruesomely commit suicide by poison, he, like his coward idol Hitler, died of a gunshot wound to the head — most likely, self-inflicted!

“THE ROAD TO JONESTOWN: JIM JONES AND PEOPLES TEMPLE”

Jeff Guinn’s 2017 book was a concise and compelling read.

Here are some things Guinn shared that you might not remember or have known:

Jones moved Indiana to California (Redwood Valley in Mendocino County and was associated with churches in Los Angeles and San Francisco) before heading to the jungles of Guyana in South America to a community he named after himself, Jonestown.

Even as early as 1975, Jones preached “I love socialism, and I’d die to bring it about. But, if I did, I’d take a thousand with me.”

On several occasions, Jones told his followers about Masada, an Israeli fortress in the mountains “where almost one thousand Jewish revolutionaries, women, and children committed suicide rather than surrender to a Roman army about to breach the walls.”

On Memorial Day 1977, before abruptly leaving San Francisco for Guyana, Jones took part in an anti-suicide rally at the Golden Gate Bridge, where he stated to the audience that for the first time in his life, he was suicidal.

ON A MUCH LIGHTER & TASTIER NOTE

Lately, I’ve been craving a donut shop that isn’t a chain store.

I haven’t found one in Decatur, but check this out — exclusively at Sam’s Club, there’s Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Doughnut Smartfood Popcorn!

From now until the end of May, you can get an 18-ounce bag with the retail price of $4.96.

Well, I’d never pay $5 for almost a pound of popcorn, but it sounds delicious! (Okay, I would pay that for a large popcorn at the movie theater and get my free refill!)

Also, at Sam’s Club, there’s Popcornopolis’ Fried Pickle and Ranch (same price for just 12 ounces) and Herr’s Fire-Roasted Sweet Corn Popcorn (about $4 for an 11-ounce bag)!

“THE SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE”

I totally enjoyed reading Clive Davis’ 2013 autobiography, “The Soundtrack Of My Life” and I can’t believe it took me almost a decade to get around to it!

What a walk down memory lane!

I loved reading how he brought Columbia Records out of the easy listening days of Andy Williams and Barbra Streisand in the 1950s and 1960s into the world of rock & roll with Janis Joplin and Bruce Springsteen.

His next major chapter in music was founding Arista Records and launching the careers of Barry Manilow in the 1970s and Whitney Houston in the 1980s.

While at Arista, he also revived the careers of Santana, Luther Vandross, Dionne Warwick, and Aretha Franklin.

While there, he was instrumental in expanding pop music at Arista to launch Laface Records with L.A. Reid and Babyface and Bad Boy Records with Sean Combs/Puff Daddy/P.Diddy/Puffy/Piddy (or whatever the hell he wants to be call on a given day!)

I also loved hearing his story about how he clashed with certain artists — Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Dayne, Melissa Manchester, and Manilow to name a few.

And, after Arista, he started J Records and brought the world Alicia Keys.

What an incredible book to read about his almost 60-year career in the music business. This spring, the legendary Clive Davis turned 89!

I also learned that “How Will I Know”, which Whitney Houston took to #1 in 1986 was originally written for Janet Jackson.

And, my favorite Taylor Dayne song, “I’ll Be Your Shelter”, her #1 song from 1990, was pitched to and rejected by Tina Turner.

DOCUMENTARY — “THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES”

I highly recommend the 608 page book!

But, if that’s not your thing, there’s an amazing music-filled documentary about Clive Davis and the book on Netflix!

NEW REBA MUSIC

Just last week, I hinted at new Reba McEntire music.

Her video, “Somehow You Do”, a ballad written by 12-time Oscar nominee and two-time Golden Globe winner Diane Warren, dropped last Friday. (She’s also won a Grammy Award!)

It’s from new Glenn Close and Mila Kunis movie, “Four Good Days”, out now.

Warren also wrote Reba’s “What If” Red Cross charity single, from 1997, that went on to reach #23 on the country chart and her #4 country hit “I’ll Be” in 2000 from the “So Good Together” album.

A LITTLE WEEKEND HUMOR

“MADAM SECRETARY”

Back in March, I shared some interesting tidbits from reading former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s autobiography, “Madam Secretary”.

I also shared the story of interviewing her in Youngstown, Ohio, back in 1999.

Here are a few parting notes from that great book:

Once Bill Clinton offered Albright “Secretary of State, upon Hillary’s recommendation, making her the first woman “Secretary of State”, she called every one of her predecessors in the position.

Henry Kissinger congratulated her and teased her that she took one of the interesting things about him away — his foreign birth. (He was born in Germany and Albright in Czechoslovakia.)

Albright wrote: “I chided him back by saying he would still be the only secretary who spoke with an accent.”

After Albright, two other women became Secretary of State — Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.

Obviously we know Hillary’s connection to Albright (Bill Clinton). Rice has a connection to Albright, too. While a student of the University of Denver in the 1970s, Rice was mentored by Albright’s father, Josef Korbel!

And, in honor of one of my favorite shots (when I do them), Madeleine Albright’s nickname is “Fireball”!

Cheers!

THAT’S IT

With all the craziness in the world, make it the best in your little part of it!

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — April 23, 2021

Two weeks ago in my “Random Friday Thoughts”, I jokingly posted about breaking up with winter because summer is hotter!

It snowed earlier this week here in Central Illinois!!! That’s what I get! 🙂

Oh, if winter looked like this in the real world, I’d be all for it twelve months a year!

Thanks Gus (Kenworthy) for making my day!

And, thank you for taking the time to check out my thoughts this week! (Oh, apologies to the uninitiated to my blog about the pictures above, but my thoughts are really random!)

REMEMBERING WALTER MONDALE

Earlier this week, the world lost a great man when former Vice President Walter Mondale passed away at the age of 93.

Before become President Jimmy Carter’s vice president from 1977-1981 and running as the Democratic nominee for President in 1984, he served as the U.S. senator from Minnesota from 1964-1976.

Here are some interesting facts from Jonathan Alder’s 2020 book, “HIS VERY BEST, JIMMY CARTER, A LIFE”:

President Carter changed the role of Vice President. Before Carter, it was basically a useless role — other than becoming the leader of the free world in the case of the president died or became incapacitated.

But, Carter made Vice President Walter Mondale’s role real. He invited him into meetings, gave him real responsibilities, and valued his opinions.

At a farewell dinner before President Carter left office in 1981, Mondale said, “Never once did you put me down. Never once did you fail to treat me with dignity.” He made a toast and added, “We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace.”

AND, ON A MORE INFAMOUS NOTE

While on a high school trip to Washington D.C., future serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer called the White House and talked his way into a tour and met Vice President Mondale!

AMERICA, GET ON WITH YOUR BAD SELF!

Even though thousands are still being diagnosed with COVID-19 daily in America and the death toll continues to rise, more and more of us are fully vaccinated!

In the U.S., 26.7% of us are fully vaccinated! That’s slightly more than one-in-four!

In Illinois, we’re at 26.9% and up to 43.3% for those with at least one shot.

While this is great news, I personally feel that some are getting a little too comfortable a little too soon. However, I’m happy to see things moving toward the “new normal”.

With that being said, more and more artists are announcing fall 2021 tour dates.

In the past few weeks, Eric Church, Kane Brown, Andrea Bocelli, and Sammy Hagar announced new tour dates and Elton John and James Taylor posted new dates for their previously postponed tours.

Meanwhile, last week, Reba postponed her 2021 road concerts to 2022 and Michael Buble did the same for his 2021 U.K. dates.

I’m still waiting for Kylie Minogue to announce dates for her late 2020 critically acclaimed album, “Disco”. As I said before, she’s at the top of my concert “bucket list” and I want to see her in some foreign city!

Call it wanderlust!

How comfortable are you attending concerts with 100% capacity later this year?

I’m ready for us to safely travel again. However, it may still be a while for international travel.

At this point, only 2.8% of the world is fully vaccinated!

REBA ANNOUNCEMENT

Oh, back to Reba! When she announced the postponement of her summer arena tour, she also dropped something that made me very happy!

Yes, new music!!!!!

“ARMY OF THE DEAD”

My two most highly anticipated movies this year are “Halloween Kills” (October 15, 2021) and Netflix and Zack Snyder’s “Army of The Dead” (May 21, 2021).

I’m excited for two reasons: (1) it’s about zombies and (2) it’s set in Las Vegas!

Let’s just hope the excitement for me when I visit in June is winning big bucks (or breaking even) — no explosions or zombies, please!

The full trailer is now out and if you love Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler”, take a look and listen!

RIP JIM STEINMAN

Earlier this week, the same day that Vice President Mondale died, the rock music world lost a legendary producer.

Jim Steinman produced some of the biggest hits in pop and rock music including Bonnie Tyler’s four week #1 smash “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in 1983 and Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) in 1993, that topped the charts in 28 countries, including five weeks in the U.S., and Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now”, which hit #2 in 1996.

He also wrote and produced my favorite Air Supply song from 1983, “Making Love Out of Nothing At All”. It peaked at #2 for three weeks behind Bonnie Tyler’s “Eclipse”!

“ANOTHER ROUND”

Earlier this week, I checked out the 2020 Danish movie “Druk” (which means “binge drinking”) on Hulu.

While most of you haven’t heard of it, it’s actually nominated for two Oscars this year, including Thomas Vinterberg for Best Director.

My interest in the movie is that it stars Mads Mikkelsen (“Hannibal”).

It’s the story of four high school teachers in Denmark going through mid-life crises.

They decide to do an experiment with alcohol, since a leading psychiatrist believes that an alcohol blood content level of 0.05 makes you more creative and relaxed.

They test the theory and push it to the limits.

While a very interesting movie, I probably wouldn’t watch it again. However, the final scene is amazing!

Spoiler Alert: The captured image above is part of that incredible last scene.

GRADE: B

MORE MADS

If you love Mads Mikkelsen and you’re going through “Hannibal” withdrawals like me, check out “Arctic”, my #9 movie of 2019.

Awesome movie!

THEY SAID WHAT???

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace to Texas Governor Greg Abbott: “There were thousands of complaints of sexual abuse at migrant shelters during the Trump years. Not to say what’s going on now is right, but we couldn’t find one instance of you complaining & calling that out when President Trump was president.”

“ME”

I’ve read several book about and from Elton John, but his 2019 autobiography, “Me”, is by far the best!

I absolutely loved this book and I’d highly recommend it.

I was very intrigued about what he had to say about Michael Jackson (“He was genuinely mentally ill, a disturbing person to be around.”) and Tina Turner.

In 1997, he and Tina had planned to tour together but found her very difficult to work with. His band called her a “f**king nightmare” and Elton agreed!

Elton says she called him at home and told him, “She didn’t like my hair, she didn’t like the color of my piano – which for some reason had to be white – and she didn’t like my clothes.” And, then Elton says, she added, “You wear too much Versace, and it makes you look fat – you need to wear Armani.” 

I loved that he and Rod Stewart have female nicknames for each other.

And, I was so touched when he told the story of how he and his husband, David Furnish, met in October 1993. (Elton was feeling down, so he called a friend and said bring others over for a dinner party before they went out to celebrate Halloween. David was one of the people his friend brought along to dinner!)

He and David are now the dads of 10-year-old Zachary and 8-year-old Elijah.

Since I haven’t had a date in more than two years, I should try that when the “new normal” post-pandemic world begins!

Also, I was curious about what he’d have to say about Madonna.

If I recall correctly, Elton mentioned her four times and three were positive. The other time he spoke of Madonna was about his anger toward her and he said he apologized to her!

THE NIGHT I SPENT WITH ELTON JOHN

Ha! That’s just tease writing! I never spent the night with Elton John — just the evening! 🙂

For my birthday weekend in 2012, I had tickets to see Madonna’s “MDNA Tour” in Las Vegas.

Earlier that year, Sir Elton John was forced to cancel nine shows due to health reasons and it was announced in the summer that he would make up those dates in October.  But, I didn’t have tickets.

As luck would have it, just hours after arriving in Las Vegas, I searched ebay one last time and found fantastic rear orchestra seats for a great price. And, just like that, two hours later I was sitting there waiting for the show to begin!

I’ve always been a fan of Elton’s from the days of my childhood and his poppy ’70s songs, the fun, yet sometimes, moody hits of the ’80s, the more mature themed music of the ’90s when radio began to move away from playing his new songs (except for “The Lion King” and his tribute to Princess Diana), to his recent adult contemporary fare.

Elton closed out his 19-song set with his award-winning “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King”.

It was two hours of pure gold entertainment!!! 

LAST CHANCE TO SEE ELTON

In January 2018, Elton announced his final “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour that would play more than 300 shows worldwide.

The North American leg kicked off that September and ran through March 2019 and then moved to Europe for the summer and then back to North America though November. The show moved “down under” to Australia and New Zealand from late 2019 to March 2020 when COVID-19 shut down the tour and the world!

Dates are now rescheduled and the tour is expected to resume in Europe on September 1, 2021, and return to the U.S. and Canada in January 2022 for 43 shows through April!

MY FAVORITE ELTON JOHN SONGS

On the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S., Elton has scored 58 Top 40 hits. Of those, 27 reached the Top 10 with 19 making it to the Top Five. Nine reached #1!

And, he’s had even more hits on the American Adult Contemporary charts. He’s scored 74 Top 40 hits with 40 of them making the Top 10 and 33 of those reaching the Top Five! Eighteen topped the charts!

So, it was so hard narrowing the list down….

“I’M STILL STANDING”

“THE LAST SONG”

“SAD SONGS (SAY SO MUCH)”

“EMPTY GARDEN (HEY HEY JOHNNY)”

“I GUESS THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT THE BLUES”

What’s your favorite Elton song?

If you want to see the full blog and my other 15 favorite Elton John songs, here it is! (It should open in a new window!)

https://anthonypeoples.wordpress.com/2021/04/20/finding-my-next-love-with-help-from-elton-john/

THAT’S IT

With all the craziness in the world, make it the best in your little part of it!

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — April 16, 2021

The weekend is upon us and I hope you have fantastic plans.

I’m working part of it, but will make the most of it!

Thank you for taking the time to check out my random thoughts!

AGATHA CHRISTIE

Okay, I’ll kick off with an astounding statistic that might blow your mind! (There’s a theme here for me to kick off with a writer that’s been dead for 45 years, the same year her last novel, “Sleeping Murder”, came out.)

English writer Agatha Christie, who’s mostly known for her 66 detective novels, has had more than 2 billion (that’s with a “B”) copies of her work published!!!

In 2019 alone, she moved 2 million copies!!!

She’s only been outsold by the Bible and the works of William Shakespeare!

Jokingly, some could say that “fiction sells”! 🙂

ARMIE HAMMER

34-year-old Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award nominee Armie Hammer is still under investigation for sexual assault by the Los Angeles Police Department.

This comes after multiple women came forward earlier this year about abuse they had allegedly experienced during relationships with Hammer.

His wife of ten years, Elizabeth Chambers, announced their separation in the summer of 2020 — before the allegations surfaced.

He’s now been dropped by his talent agency and his publicist is no longer with him. He’s also been fired/dropped out of several new movies, including one with Jennifer Lopez.

If that sexual assault allegations weren’t bad enough, texts with “disturbing sexual fantasies” involving cannibalism surfaced!

DEATH ON THE NILE”

So, what does this mean for the blockbuster release of the Kenneth Branagh-directed movie, “Death on the Nile”, which Hammer co-stars alongside Gal Gadot (“Wonder Woman”), Annette Benning (“The Kids Are All Right”), and Branagh?

The movie opening has already been delayed, at least, six times.

It was originally scheduled for December 20, 2019, and was pushed back to October 9, 2020. Then with COVID-19, it was pushed back to September 17, 2021.

Last month, it was rescheduled once again to February 11, 2022! And, I’d bet money this was due to the Hammer scandal!

COSTLY SCANDAL SOLUTION

What I think will happen is that unless Hammer’s role is a major one, his scenes will be re-shot this summer with a new actor.

This happened with Kevin Spacey in “All The Money in the World”.

After his sex/rape scandal, his scenes were re-shot with the late Christopher Plummer. Plummer earned an Oscar nomination for his performance.

If you don’t remember the story, gay actor Anthony Rapp, a star of Broadway’s “Rent” and the CBS All Access’ series, “Star Trek Discovery”, alleges that back in 1986, then 26-year-old Spacey invited him to a party at his Manhattan apartment, when Rapp was only 14!

Rapp told “Buzzfeed” Spacey tried to seduce him and that “I was aware that he was trying to get with me sexually”.

It was then that Rapp says that Spacey “sort of stood in the doorway, kind of swaying. My impression when he came in the room was that he was drunk … He picked me up like a groom picks up the bride over the threshold. But I don’t, like, squirm away initially, because I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then he lays down on top of me.”

Spacey’s career disintegrated and he was written out of the final season of “House of Cards”. I absolutely loved that show and would still watch it again with Spacey, but it would a little cringy.

However, my main draw to the show was always Robin Wright as Claire Underwood.

“CALL ME BY YOUR NAME”

Now, with Hammer, I’m torn because the LGBTQ+ classic “Call Me By Your Name” with Hammer and Timothee Chalamet was my favorite movie of 2018!

I know I’ll still watch it, but just like listening to the music of Michael Jackson, I still do it. It just adds creepiness to it!

MOVING ON!

THEY SAID WHAT???

GEORGE H.W. BUSH (then Republican National Committee Chairman, in his August 6, 1974, diary entry three days before President Nixon resigned, on President Ford and President Nixon): “this era of tawdry, shabby, lack of morality has got to end… I will take Ford’s decency over Nixon’s toughness because what we need at this juncture in our history is a certain sense of morality and a certain sense of decency.”

LEGENDARY DIRECTOR MARTIN SCORSESE (about Glenn Close, who was recommended to play Tony Montana’s (Al Pacino) mistress in “Scarface” by Oliver Stone in his book, “Chasing The Light”: “She’s got a face like a horse!”

Um, WTF? Glenn Close is beautiful! Well, definitely not in “Hillbilly Elegy”! 🙂

Darren Franich (in The Bullseye “Entertainment Weekly” March 2021): “‘Clarice’ is a ‘Silence of the Lambs’ spin-off about… who cares, ‘Hannibal’ is on Netflix.”

“JUSTIFIED”

I just finished binge watching the 2010-2015 FX series, “Justified”, with Timothy Olyphant, and absolutely loved it!

It’s tells the story of U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Olyphant) having to go back to his home state of Kentucky in the Appalachian Mountains as punishment for shooting a Miami thug in a questionable manner. (Givens has his own set of justice that doesn’t set well with his bosses!)

I’ve had the biggest crush on Olyphant since I saw him in Greg Berlanti’s 2000 LGBTQ movie, “The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy”.

His character, Dennis, did have major flaws though — he wasn’t into commitment, he definitely got around, AND, worst of all, he hated the Carpenters! 🙂

Fast forward ten years or so –this is how you rock your 40s (from “Justified”)!

And, there’s been industry buzz that the team behind the series may be bringing it back in some form with the Emmy-nominated Olyphant rumored to be coming back!

Final note: if you want to see a more comical side of Olyphant, he was amazing in the three seasons of the Netflix’s comedy “Santa Clarita Diet” with Drew Barrymore.

BEWARE OF HARLAN COUNTY

Since much of “Justified” took place around Harlan County, Kentucky, “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” was featured prominently in five of the six season finales. (Only season three didn’t use it.)

It’s an amazing and haunting song. Brad Paisley’s version from his 2001 album, “Part II” is amazing and was used in the season one and season two finales.

However, my favorite version of the song is by Patty Loveless from her 2001 album, “Mountain Soul”.

“HIS VERY BEST, JIMMY CARTER, A LIFE”

Final comments from Jonathan Adler’s must read 2020 biography…

Nine months before Islamic Revolution “students” seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, on November 4, 1979, and kept 52 Americans hostage for 444 days, they briefly took over the embassy nine months earlier on Valentine’s Day, but released them!

President Carter sensed allowing the exiled Shah of Iran to stay in the U.S. could cause Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and his radicals to take over the embassy again. In March 1979, President Carter asked his Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, “What are you guys going to advice me to do if they overrun our embassy and take our people hostage?”

After the Soviets invaded Afghanistan over Christmas 1979, it led a longshoreman group’s members to refuse to load ships with grain headed to the Soviet Union. While high ranking officials in Carter’s administration was behind a grain embargo, Rosalynn (Jimmy’s wife and one his closest advisors) and Vice President Walter Mondale was opposed.

President Carter went along with it and that decision was later compared to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When Johnson signed that into law, it turned the Democratic South “red” (Republican) just as the embargo did for the farm belt states!

THAT’S IT

With all the craziness in the world, make it the best in your little part of it!

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — April 9, 2021

Easter is now behind us, so there’s no doubt that spring is here! However, it’s still snowing across parts of country.

So, here’s my last thought on winter 2020-2021!

Don’t get me wrong. Summer is my least favorite season. I just thought it was funny.

With warmer weather settling in across the country, more and more activities will take us outdoors, so I appreciate you taking the time to check out my random thoughts!

BEING A LITTLE PERSONAL

My friends, thank you for the wonderful feedback and messages last week!

Instead of “Random Friday Thoughts”, I shared a rather personal blog about my life, some challenges and disappointments, and a look toward the future.

For those that took time to read it and share in my life, I appreciate it.

If you didn’t get a chance, here it is. (If you click on the link, it SHOULD open in a new window, so you won’t lose your place in this week’s blog!)

If it doesn’t, you can always hit the back arrow once you read it and you’re back to today’s blog. (Word Press changed that. It used to be simpler!)

https://anthonypeoples.wordpress.com/2021/04/02/feelings-as-i-look-to-the-future/

SPIKE IN COVID-19 CASES

While better than it was earlier this year, we’re now seeing a spike in Covid-19 cases.

I guess that doesn’t really come as a surprise following spring break. But, I don’t think that is the only reason.

I know people are getting a little too comfortable or lazy!

Last week, I stopped at a convenient store in my hometown of Mayfield, Kentucky, and the store was very busy.

One employee was wearing a mask, but the others were not. The only three customers that were wearing masks were me, my sister, and her boyfriend!!!

You can’t tell me that everyone in there was fully vaccinated!

Come on people, let’s get most of the country (and the world) vaccinated before we become complacent and comfortable!

MY OSCAR PICK FOR “BEST ACTRESS”

The Academy Awards show is now just weeks away and the only category that I’ve seen all of the nominees is “Best Actress”. (Does that shock you with my affinity to women in entertainment?) 🙂

We’ve all heard the old saying about saving the best for last and in this case, it’s true.

I absolutely love Viola Davis (“How To Get Away With Murder”) and I’d watch her read a phone book and Vanessa Kirby (“The Crown”) deserved the nomination based on the first 24 minutes of her movie. These were the first two of the nominees I saw and I was leaning toward Davis.

Then, I saw Frances McDormand, who is just too amazing in everything she does, and Andra Day as Billie Holiday the same weekend. Day was my pick and it was a contest between her and Davis for my vote, until….

I saw Carey Mulligan in “Promising Young Woman”. I was mesmerized by her performance and I loved the downer of a movie. I can’t wait to see it again!

So my pick for Best Actress is Carey Mulligan!

“Promising Young Woman” is up for four other Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

In a recent blog, I gave the movie an “A”!

“LIFE ITSELF: A MEMOIR”

I really enjoyed reading film critic Roger Ebert’s 2011 autobiography, “Life Itself: A Memoir”.

Some of things I learned is that he’s from Central Illinois (Urbana) and went to college at the University of Illinois (Champaign) before moving away to work at the “Chicago Sun-Times”.

While they often disagreed and would get into very heated debates, he was very close to his longtime work partner Gene Siskel. He says that Siskel was very private with his health condition when he became ill and then died.

After discovering cancer from the 1980s had come back in 2006, Ebert believed he had himself to blame for his three failed surgeries that disfigured his face causing him never to eat, drink, or talk again.

(I won’t say why in case you want to read the book. All I’ll say is that he didn’t take the medical advice he likely should have!)

Ebert died in April 2013.

I definitely want to see the 2014 documentary about Ebert’s life.

FRIDAY FLASHBACK

For some reason, “Forget Me Nots” popped into my head earlier this week.

It was Patrice Rushen’s only Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. It reached #23 in the summer of 1982 and was nominated for a Grammy Award.

The song fared much better on the R&B (#5) and Dance charts (#2).

In her career, she accumulated eight hits on the dance charts and seven on the R&B charts.

“HIS VERY BEST, JIMMY CARTER, A LIFE”

More from the amazing 2020 biography by Jonathan Adler…

President Carter changed the role of Vice President. Before Carter, it was basically a useless role — other than becoming the leader of the free world in the case of the president died or became incapacitated.

But, President Carter made Vice President Walter Mondale’s role real. He invited him into meetings, gave him real responsibilities, and valued his opinions.

At a farewell dinner before President Carter left office in 1981, Mondale said, “Never once did you put me down. Never once did you fail to treat me with dignity.” He made a toast and added, “We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace.”

And, once Carter visited Camp David in Maryland, just outside of Washington D.C., he spent almost one-quarter of his presidency there — basically every other weekend and prolonged holidays. (However, this was a working “White House”, unlike Mar-a-Lago!)

“TYRANT”

If you’re missing “Homeland” and want a new Middle Eastern drama, I enjoyed this three-season series.

I saw season one a few years ago and then real life got in the way. Recently, I found it on Hulu, so I decided to check watch it in its entirety.

It tells the story of Barry, who lives in the U.S. with his wife and two teenagers, as they return to his Middle East country for a wedding. This is his first time back since leaving as a teenager.

Adam Rayner (Bassam “Barry” Al-Fayeed) and Moran Atias (Leila Al-Fayeed) are my favorite characters in the series and they’re both DDG (drop dead gorgeous)!

I loved the addition of Melia Kreiling (Daliyah Al-Yazbek) in seasons two and three.

Warning: I got the feeling that the season 3 finale was shot as a season finale and not a series finale since it was not renewed for a fourth season.

THAT’S IT

With all the craziness in the world, make it the best in your little part of it!

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — March 26, 2021

Spring is here and it’s hard to believe we’re down to the last few days of March!

Make the most of your weekend and thank you for checking out my random thoughts.

COVID-19 VACCINATIONS

As we head into the second year of the Coronavirus pandemic, I’m so excited that 14.1% of Americans are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

In Illinois, that number is at 14.5%!

And, more than one in four (26.8%) Illinoisans have had at least one dose.

Earlier this week, I joined that group with the Moderna vaccine!!! (One shot down and one shot to go in April!)

Sadly, in the United States, there are more than 30 million reported cases of COVID-19 with 545-thousand-plus deaths!

REMEMBERING GARRY BOWIE

While that death toll rate is staggering and in any situation, one death is one death too many, I want to take a moment to remember Garry Bowie.

Like most of you, I didn’t know of the LGBTQ activist until he died in early April 2020 from COVID-19.

As the former executive director of Long Beach AIDS Foundation, Garry worked tirelessly helping people fight HIV and AIDS in the Greater Long Beach and Los Angeles areas.

What makes his death even more heartbreaking is that he was one of the longest living survivors of the AIDS epidemic. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1983, back when having HIV (and AIDS) was pretty much a death sentence!

Garry was 59.

“THE GREAT BELIEVERS”

I just read the most amazing book, 2018’s “The Great Believers” by Rebecca Makkai and it fits in perfectly with the previous thought.

It tells the story of how the AIDS epidemic decimated Chicago’s gay community in the early-1980s. While fiction, it felt so real — especially if you or your friends lived through that era watching your friends die.

Makkai’s story is so well researched and touching. It had you rooting for characters that you knew were doomed by the “gay cancer” and President Ronald Reagan’s blind eye.

The book isn’t just about a group of friends dying and struggling to stay alive in 1985 Chicago. It also takes you to 2015 Paris and ties the two stories and timelines together!

As a former Chicago transplant (I lived there two years in the 1990s and two more years in the early-2000s), it was fun hearing the names of places I hadn’t thought about in years (Nookie’s and Ann Sather).

Amy Poehler is adapting the book into a television series. I can’t wait to see who is cast as Yale, my favorite character. As I was reading it, I could definitely see Yale in my younger self!

“The Great Believers” is the best fiction book I read in the past year!

SPRING & SUMMER BBQS

On a lighter note…

It’s time to start firing up those grills, so remember the rules for wine pairings.

While it’s recommended you serve white wine with chicken and fish and red with beef, here’s how it used to be! 🙂

“PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN”

What an incredible movie and it’s now at Redbox!

The dark comedy/drama is up for five Oscars: “Best Picture”, “Best Actress” (Carey Mulligan), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.

Mulligan is fantastic in this compelling and heartbreaking movie with a very strong #MeToo message.

It features an all-star cast, including Connie Britton (her one scene is powerful).

GRADE: A

“9-1-1: LONE STAR”

After finding this season’s 16 episodes of “9-1-1” and “9-1-1: Lone Star” on my DVR, I binge watched all eight episodes of the new season of each show, which were amazing.

And, WOW, the last 3 minutes of the winter finale of “9-1-1: Lone Star” brought tears to my eyes and it ended on a shocking out-of-nowhere cliffhanger!

While diversity is a staple of series from Ryan Murphy, I have to hand it to “Lone Star” for probably being one of the most diverse.

There’s a Muslim woman, a transgender man (trans women make up most of the few transgender characters on television), a Cuban woman, two Hispanic men, and then there’s Rob Lowe! 🙂

Also, in the main cast, you have two gay men (one white and one Hispanic) and they’re beautiful together.

MORE JIMMY CARTER

Last week, I sang high praises for Jonathan Alter’s 2020 biography, “His Very Best, Jimmy Carter, A Life”. I also shared a few things I didn’t already know.

Today, I’m sharing a few more tidbits:

Freshman Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, then 33, was the first Senator to endorse Jimmy Carter in his presidential run in early 1976.

John Hinckley Jr., who was obsessed with actress Jodie Foster, planned to assassinate President Carter in the fall of 1980 to impress her.

In September, he followed the president to Dallas and even shook his hand in Dayton, Ohio! But, he had decided that he’d kill President Carter in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 9th. (For the record, but not from this book, Hinckley was arrested at the airport in Nashville for possession of three firearms hours after President Carter arrived there!)

But, the book says that Hinckley had already decided that Carter would lose the 1980 presidential election, so he changed his mind to kill future President Ronald Reagan. He attempted that in March 1981!

Finally, famous celebrity chef and TV star Ina Garten (“Barefoot Contessa”) was an analyst in the Office of Management and Budget in the Carter administration to study nuclear weapons!!!

ONE MORE THING ABOUT INA GARTEN

“Southern Living” says Garten always keeps these three things in her freezer: vodka, vanilla ice cream, and bread!

Those are definitely three of my favorites! (Well, I love flavored ice cream and flavored vodka!)

ONLY NINE MONTHS AWAY!

The countdown is on to Christmas!

It’s only nine months away and this spring, Reba McEntire is getting into the holiday spirit by shooting a Lifetime Christmas movie!

The movie is tentatively titled, “Christmas In Tune”, and will feature a new Reba song.

Here’s the plotline from the press release: Christmas In Tune tells the story of Belle, a marketing executive who is worried she may lose her job.  She decides to reunite a singing duo for a charity Christmas concert in order, but the problem is — the singers are actually her parents and they have not spoken to each other in years! Soon the at-odds couple is helping Belle get her life in order and she begins her own romantic duet with the new man in her life.”

“THIS IS JUST MY FACE: TRY NOT TO STARE”

This is the 2017 autobiography from Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious”).

Things I learned from Gabourey:

False reports of her death started on Facebook and then spread to other outlets. About Facebook, she wrote, “You know, that social-media site you use to spy on your ex and find out at election time which of your family members are racist.”

She’s funny as hell and shares many hilarious stories!

At one point she talked about “a girl like me”. Whatever you do, don’t mistakenly think about her being fat or black. She won’t take fat-shaming sitting down or hesitate calling you a racist!

She responds, “Fat-shaming racists make me sick! Just kidding.” You know she’s kidding, right? (Well, personally, my ex used to tell me, “there’s a little bit of truth to your jokes!”)

Sidibe is very serious about calling it like it is, whether you can handle it or not!

At one point in the book, she told of the time she was having a “poor-off” with a really handsome guy that she didn’t know well and she made the comment, “Oh, yeah? Your family ever wait in line for government cheese?”

This really made me laugh!

My personal story: We were very poor growing up, but we didn’t have to wait in line for our government cheese. That’s because my aunt volunteered at the hand-outs and brought ours to us! 🙂

And, let me tell you, it was the best damn cheese I had until I tried international cheeses in my later adult life! 🙂

One other thing that Gabourey and I have in common: we’re both recovering bulimics.

SPEAKING OF…

March 31, 2021, marks my one-year anniversary of being back on the wagon after falling off in the 2019 holiday season through late March 2020!

One year later and one day at a time, it’s a struggle. But, I’m winning!

“PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN” SOUNDTRACK

The soundtrack is phenomenal!

The first song in the movie, “Boys (DROELOE remix) by Charli XCX is so much fun!

It also features a very different remake of “It’s Raining Men” from DeathbyRomy and a very haunting instrumental version of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”.

And, in a very cute romantic scene in a store, Paris Hilton’s “Stars Are Blind” is played. Am I one of the few that absolutely disliked Hilton, but loved that song???

THAT’S IT

With all the craziness in the world, make it the best in your little part of it!

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — March 5, 2021

Happy March!

Soon, we’ll start seeing budding trees and blooming flowers and bushes!

For much of the country, the weather is finally starting to warm up. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re done with snow and cold yet, but it sure feels nice.

Thank you for taking the time to check out my random thoughts. The first two are a little heavy.

So, if you don’t agree with me and you want to comment, that’s fine. Just do it diplomatically!

KEEP YOUR DAMN HANDS TO YOURSELF!

More sexual misconduct allegations are coming out against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Three women are now accusing him of inappropriate advances.

Sadly, we live in a country where men feel they can do whatever they want — even “grab ’em by the p***y”!

In a culture where the last president of the United States is accused of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment by more than two dozen women, this needs to stop — now!!! Actually, it should never have started!

Men (and women), regardless of profession, unless you’re asked to touch or kiss someone, keep your damn hands and lips to yourself!

“No” means “No”!

And, if you don’t understand printed or verbal words, maybe a song will help you understand better. Here’s the one hit wonder, The Georgia Satellites’ #2 1986 hit, “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”!

BUSINESS AS USUAL IN TEXAS!

Note to self: AVOID TEXAS until I get vaccinated!

Texas Governor Greg Abbott earlier this week announced that the state is lifting its mask mandate.

Texas is now the largest state to end an order intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Additionally, the state will no longer limit the number of diners that can be served indoors!

Even during the worst outbreak of the pandemic, over the past months, restrictions across the Lone Star state were only lightly enforced.

More than 45,000 Texans have been killed by the pandemic and only two states, California and New York, have had more COVID-19 deaths than Texas!

And, what makes this change even more shocking is that over the past two weeks, Texas has seen a 31% increase in the number of daily new cases!!!

After Texas made the announcement, it should come as a shock to no one that Mississippi got on the bandwagon, too, announcing it would be dropping mask restrictions and businesses opening to 100% again!

GOLDEN GLOBES HITS

Last month, I said that season four of the “The Crown”, the award-winning Netflix series, was my absolute favorite. I added, “Even if you haven’t watched the first three seasons, watch this one. You don’t need to see their first three to follow the storyline.”

I guess the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) agrees because “The Crown” was a smash hit at this year’s Golden Globes!

The series won for Best Television Series Drama and my girl crush, Gillian Anderson picked up the Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries, or TV Movie award as Margaret Thatcher.

Also, sexy Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin both came away as winners in the Best Actor and Best Actress in a Television Series Drama categories as Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

Sadly, with Corrin’s win, that means Laura Linney, one of my favorite actresses, lost as Ozark’s Wendy Byrde.

DREAMING OF… DEXTER!

After an eight-year absence and that disappointing series finale, America’s favorite, sexy serial killer Dexter Morgan is coming back this fall.

As fans already know, production for the ten-episode, ninth season is underway in New England. While nothing is known about the storyline and what’s happened since they show wrapped in 2013, here’s the sexy new look Dexter is sporting!

Good riddance, 2013 lumberjack Dexter!

While I can’t wait for the new season to debut later this year, I did see Michael C. Hall off-Broadway in January 2015 in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”. It was a fantastic show and he was so damn sexy as the genderqueer East German rocker!

“THE UNITED STATES vs. BILLIE HOLIDAY”

This Hulu original is very compelling, even at over two hours. I never realized how messed up legendary singer Billie Holiday was with her heroin addiction.

Also, just another reason to despise J. Edgar Hoover, it amazes me the lengths the FBI went through to trap and falsely imprison Holiday because she refused to stop singing the controversial song “Strange Fruit”.

Why was it controversial and scared the government so? It focused the spotlight on the lynching of Black people in the South!

Andra Day was amazing as Holiday and won the Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Golden Globe last weekend.

GRADE: B+

“NOMADLAND”

This is one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 2020 and will get many Oscar nominations later this month. Ahead of the Golden Globes, I watched it last weekend.

I can’t imagine living the life of a nomad (someone in a community without fixed habitation that regularly moves from place to place), but I can see the freedom of it.

Frances McDormand is excellent and heartbreaking as Fran, who loses her job and her husband. When the town, Empire, closes down, too, she hits the road.

I definitely feel that the movie deserves its Best Picture Drama win at last weekend’s Golden Globes.

While McDormand is excellent in everything she does and I think this role is definitely worthy of an acting nomination, I don’t feel that it deserves the top prize! (I guess the HFPA agrees. Oscar voters may disagree!)

So far, I’ve seen four of the five performances for the Best Actress Drama category for the Golden Globes and I think that Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”), Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), and Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) all deserved it more.

P.S. I wrote these last two paragraphs before last Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards ceremony!

You can see it on Hulu.

GRADE: B+

MY NIGHT WITH MADELEINE ALBRIGHT

In 1999, while working as a reporter and weathercaster in Youngstown, Ohio, I interviewed Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. (Following 63 old white guys, she became the first woman Secretary of State (1997-2001) during President Bill Clinton’s second administration.)     

Albright was so gracious and kind and, at the time, she was the highest ranking political figure I’d ever met.

I interviewed her about several things, but we focused on Serbian President Slobodan Milošević.

Once I got back to the station, I practiced saying his name over and over so that it’d roll off my tongue easily when I did my live report. It did!

However, I then flubbed a simple English word that followed Milošević’s name! 🙂

“MADAM SECRETARY”

Last summer, I finally got around to reading Albright’s autobiography, “Madam Secretary”.

What an incredible read! Here are a few things I learned:

She was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in May 1937. Her real name is Marie Jana Korbelová.

Her grandmother nicknamed her “Madla” and her mother modified it to “Madlen”, but most of the time she was called “Madlenka”. However, while learning French at the age of ten, she chose “Madeleine”.

Three of her grandparents died in the Holocaust.

One of her favorites treats and something I’d love to try is “Knedliky” — “Czechoslovak fruit dumplings swimming in melted butter, cover with sugar and ground nuts”.

At the age of 40, after earning her Ph.D., she began working in President Jimmy Carter’s office under his National Security Advisory.

Since Albright, there have been two more female Secretary of State — Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

MISSING RIHANNA?

You might not have even thought about it, but I bet it crossed your mind now. 🙂

While her last album was 2016’s “Anti” and she says her new album is complete, there is no release date.

Earlier this week, I heard a new dance song that sounds a lot like Rihanna and I love the lyrics, “I got a bed, but I’d rather be in yours”!

Enjoy the new song from David Guetta with Joel Corry and RAYE! It’s my new favorite right now!

THAT’S IT

With all the craziness in the world, make it the best in your little part of it!

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — February 12, 2021

Happy Valentine’s Day weekend!

To us single people, it’s just another day or the day we prepare to get leftover chocolates for half-price the next day. 🙂

Thank you for taking time to check out my thoughts. It’s fine to disagree with me, just do it diplomatically!

BEING RACIST — NO PROBLEM TO SOME!

Country music star Morgan Wallen is “embarrassed and sorry.”

Earlier this month, after a night out on the town in Nashville, Wallen returned home and was yelling back to his friends that were leaving, “take care of this “p****-ass mother******” and then says, “take care of this p****-ass n*****” .

Once TMZ shared the video and story, iHeart and many country radio stations stopped playing his music, CMT dropped his videos, and his record label suspended his contract indefinitely.

Admitting he was embarrassed and sorry, Wallen went on to tell TMZ, “I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back. There are no excuses to use this type of language, ever. I want to sincerely apologize for using the word. I promise to do better.”

So, you’d think his career would be pretty much over? Hold up!

Sadly, a large number of country music fans don’t seem to have a problem with his racist stupidity. I’m not speculating. In the wake of his rant, they’re still buying his music!

Earlier this week, a week after TMZ broke the story, Wallen still had 12 of the Top 100 most downloaded songs in the U.S. on the all musical genre chart, not just country.

He had an astounding 26 of the Top 100 country downloads with six in the Top Ten!

That says more about the people continuing to support this man than his racist stupidity!!!

HOW TWISTED!

Enough about him!

It’s hard to believe that the Oscar-winning “The Silence of the 🐑 Lambs” came out 30 years ago this weekend.

And, what’s more twisted about that — it came out on Valentine’s Day 1991!!!

It’s still one of my favorite movies of all-time!

CHINESE NEW YEAR

Xin nian kuai le! Gong hei fat choy!

February 12th is the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Ox!

By the way, “Xin nian kuai le” is Mandarin for “Happy New Year” and “Gong hei fat choy” is Cantonese for “Congratulations and wishing you prosperity.”

I learned those from reading the three-book “Crazy Rich Asians” series by Kevin Kwan!

REMEMBERING WHITNEY HOUSTON

It’s hard to believe that Whitney Houston has now been gone nine years!

On February 11, 2012, the 48-year-old singer was found dead in her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, one day before the Grammy Awards. 

The autopsy showed that she drowned in the bathtub and subsequent toxicology reports attribute that to heart disease due to chronic cocaine use.

“A SONG FOR YOU: MY LIFE WITH WHITNEY HOUSTON”

Leading up to the anniversary of Whitney’s death, I read Robyn Crawford’s 2019 book, “A Song For You: My Life With Whitney Houston”.

Crawford was Whitney’s personal assistant and creative director for much of her career. Whitney and Robin met in New Jersey when they were teenagers.

There was always gossip that Whitney’s relationship with Crawford was more intimate than just working together. In this book, Crawford confirms that they together in every way!

You can tell in the book that Robyn definitely cared for and loved Whitney. She didn’t shy away from their use of drugs that started out with marijuana and then progressed to harder drugs. While Robyn cleaned up her act and left Whitney’s circle, Whitney couldn’t break the cycle.

What was astounding was how Whitney’s parents closed their eyes not only their daughter’s relationship with Robyn, but more detrimentally, her drug dependency.

A couple of things that I learned that I couldn’t believe slipped by me from being a fan of almost four decades:

Jermaine Jackson was tapped to produce Whitney’s 1985 debut album! The horror!

I recently listened to their duet, “If you Say My Eyes Are Beautiful” again. If that recording would have been any indication of her first album, her career probably wouldn’t have reached the stratosphere as it did!

Also, I was shocked that Whitney was close to marrying another “bad boy” when Bobby Brown came into her world — Eddie Murphy!

CISSY HOUSTON’S “REMEMBERING WHITNEY”

In early 2013, Whitney’s mother, Cissy Houston, now 87, released her book, “Remembering Whitney: My Story of Love, Loss, and the Night the Music Stopped”.

I refused to read it because of how Cissy responded to a question from Oprah Winfrey while promoting the book.

In the book, Whitney’s mother writes, “I knew I didn’t want Robyn around my daughter, and I told [Whitney] that. There wasn’t much I could do though. [Whitney] liked Robyn. She was past the age when I could forbid her from seeing someone. Kids have a mind of their own when they get older. They want to experiment with all kinds of things. And I don’t know if it was more than that.”

In the interview, Oprah read that excerpt and asked Cissy, “Would it have bothered you if your daughter, Whitney, was gay?” and she replied,  “Absolutely.”

At the time, I tried to be objective because Cissy was 79-year-old and religion played a big role in her career and life. However, it still bothered me.

In my January 2013 blog about book, I closed with “All I know is that my God, the one I pray to each night, loved Whitney for what she was, his child — straight, gay, or anything in between.  And, he’s happy to have her with him now.”

After reading Robyn’s book, I’m going to read Cissy’s book, even if I cringe through it — to see if she mentions the gay rumors!

MARDI GRAS

While it’ll different again this year, February 16th is “Mardi Gras”!

As much as I love New Orleans, I’ve never had a desire to be there for this event. However, I’d definitely take part in Blue Bell’s fan-favorite Mardi Gras King Cake ice cream!

Doesn’t this sounds amazing: “cinnamon cake flavored ice cream, tasty pastry pieces and a colorful cream cheese swirl with festive candy sprinkles”?

“THE PROM”

Let me first say that I enjoyed this Ryan Murphy/Netflix musical.

Really, how could you go wrong with Meryl Streep and one of my girl crushes, Nicole Kidman (as Angie Dickinson — the name alone is so campy!)

It tells the story of a group of down on their luck, self-centered New York City entertainers looking for a “cause” to support to help change their image.

They find it in a small town Indiana lesbian banned from attending prom with her girlfriend by the incredibly close-minded mother of one of the girls (played with such villainy by the gorgeous, very open-minded Kerry Washington).

A couple of the numbers were fun, but it wasn’t worth waiting an hour into the movie to see Kidman perform a solo number.

Last week, it picked up two Golden Globe nominations — one for the movie in the musical/comedy category and one for James Corden for actor in the musical/comedy category.

GRADE: B-

“HILLYBILLY ELEGY”

This “white trash” movie barely made my top 20 movie list (#19) of 2020 solely on the incredible performances by Amy Adams and Glenn Close.

Both are Oscar nomination-worthy performances and last week, Close earned a Golden Globe nomination in a supporting role.

Would I watch this movie or “The Prom” again? No!

Am I glad I watched them once? Yes.

GRADE: B-

WHITNEY’S GREATEST

In honor of Whitney Houston, here are my six favorite Whitney Houston songs. Why six, no reason! 🙂

And, you’ll notice that there are no ballads! WOW!

My favorites would be “The Greatest Love of All” and “I Have Nothing”.

“IT’S NOT RIGHT, BUT IT’S OKAY”

“MY LOVE IS YOUR LOVE”

“QUEEN OF THE NIGHT”

“HOW WILL I KNOW”

“SO EMOTIONAL”

“I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY (WHO LOVES ME)”

What are your favorites?

THAT’S IT

With all the craziness in the world, make it the best in your little part of it!

Anthony