Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jeffrey Katzenberg, Dec. 4, 1992

Standard·Examiner staff

Somehow, this fits: Walt Disney Studios Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg is squeezing in a phone interview view while tooling through Los Angeles morning traffic, on his way to do more satellite interviews for and TV stations around the country. It serves to reinforce the popular image of Katzenberg, the mogul who is said to complete some 200 phone calls each morning -- after reading several newspapers during his daily rise-and-shine physical workout.

No time to waste. Literally.

And from a business standpoint, who could argue? Katzenberg and Team Disney, transplanted from Paramount Pictures in 1984, took the studio that Uncle Walt built from a dead-last 3 percent market share that year to a first-place 20 percent in 1988. And since then, his motion picture division – including movies released under the Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures and Hollywood Pictures banners -- has been hanging tough, never out of the race.

"Aladdin," Disney's newest release, is sure to keep the company's stockholders smiling; it grossed $25.8 million over the Thanksgiving holiday, about 2-1/2 times what "Beauty and the Beast" did during the same time period last year. And critics have lavished so much praise on the film, there's already talk Robin Williams may be nominated for an Oscar in an acting category -- for his voice performance.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Brains and eggs at Bill and Nada'sYeah, Oct. 30, 1992

Yeah, that's my plate of brains and eggs.
One of the features I wrote in 1992 was a food story. I had some fun with it.

Standard-Examiner staff

SALT LAKE CITY -- If you know anything at all about Bill and Nada's, the landmark eatery north of Trolley Square in Salt Lake City, it's probably that the establishment serves brains and eggs.

That's right -- brains and eggs.

A local radio station, KLZX-FM, has fun with the dish in one of its promotions: "Jon and Dan in the morning," an authoritative voice intones. "A Utah institution -- like brains and eggs at Bill and Nada's."

Bill McHenry has been running the eatery since 1946, and brains have been on the menu since he opened the doors. Which means, of course, people have always eaten enough of his brains -- well, not his, exactly, but you know what we mean -- to make them a profitable dish.

"During initiation time at the university," McHenry says with a grin, "we go through a lot of 'em."

And that brings us to the obvious question: Why would anyone, of their own volition, eat the brains of any animal?

Bugs Bunny at 50, April 15, 1990

On the occasion of Bugs Bunny's 50th anniversary, I wrote a feature page cover appreciation of my favorite cartoon character. One of our staff artists, Larry Stephens, drew a great Bugs in a trenchcoat, looking very much like Humphrey Bogart -- cool. We decided to run it by Warner Bros. since Bugs is trademarked and the studio warned us against using it -- because Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy" was coming out and they thought it looked like something from that film. So we used some WB stock art instead. After the thing was published, I sent a clip to the WB press people as a courtesy, and they were so thrilled with it they had it cleaned up from the newsprint version on beautiful white Velox paper and sent me back a rolled copy suitable for framing.

Standard-Examiner staff

They say Bugs Bunny turns 50 this year. Which is like saying the Bible is a thick book -- it simply doesn't begin to tell the story. Bugs Bunny is ageless, so his being 50 years old is irrelevant -- except that it gives us one helluva good excuse to think about him.

So, on Easter Sunday as bunnies come to mind, let's do just that: Picture ol' Bugs in your mind. What do you see? Maybe he's casually nibbling a carrot and asking, "What's up, Doc?" while Elmer Fudd's double-barreled shotgun rests on the bridge of his nose. Or he has Yosemite Sam in such a snit that the mustachioed hothead is bouncing up and down on the heels of his boots like a superball on concrete. Or perhaps Daffy Duck is trying -- in eternal futility -- to outwit that wascally wabbit.

Whatever image springs to your mind, one thing's certain: You are smiling. It's impossible to ponder the Bugster and not smile. Einstein proved that; look it up.

Nobody ever gets the best of Bugs, because even in defeat -- which is rare -- Bugs has the last word. He is the coolest. The hippest. The best that's ever been.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Michael Moore, "TV Nation," Aug. 11, 1995

Standard-Examiner staff

PASADENA, Calif. -- Professional nose-tweaker Michael Moore is a man with a mission: to inform, irritate and stimulate the American TV-viewing public.

The creator of
"TV Nation," Moore met with TV writers at the Summer Press Tour here to promote the late-summer run of his show on the Fox network, which played a year ago on NBC.

"This is satire," Moore explained. "It's not a stunt, it's satire, and the purpose of it is to expose a system that somehow has drifted away from the bulk of the American people. People don't care about politics anymore and they don't vote and in some cases for good reason."

Mandy Patinkin interview, July 24, 1995

He won an Emmy in 1995 for "Chicago Hope"
Two days after it was announced that Mandy Patinkin was out of full-time work on "Chicago Hope," he showed up -- along with CBS' roster of series stars -- at the Ritz for a big lawn party. I sat down with Patinkin at one point and he told me why he was stepping away.


Standard-Examiner staff

PASADENA, Calif. -- Mandy Patinkin says he was ready to lose everything: his job, his house, his bank account. Everything but his family, that is, which was the point to begin with.

He's leaving "Chicago Hope," his hit series, to spend more time with his family. The star must live in Los Angeles to film the show, while his wife and two sons, age 9 and 13, live in New York City.

Patinkin, seated at a table on the expansive, carefully manicured lawn in the early evening shade of the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel, leaned forward to emphasize a point to his interviewer. He said after nine months away from his family last season, the recent three-month hiatus was a blissfully happy time.

"Boy," Patinkin said, "that made my tough decision for me."

Mandy Patinkin out of "Chicaho Hope," July 22, 1995

Mandy Patinkin in "Chicago Hope"
One of the bombshells of the Summer Press Tour in 1995 was Mandy Patinkin's decision to leave "Chicago Hope," a hit series, one year into its run. Earlier that year, in January, the actor and his fellow cast members had been quite defensive at the Winter Press Tour when questioned by TV critics about the ratings war between "ER" and "Chicago Hope." ("ER" was winning.) Years later, Patinkin -- currently in the hit "Homeland" -- would make headlines again when he departed "Criminal Minds" after only a couple of years.

Standard-Examiner staff

PASADENA, Calif. -- It looks as though Mandy Patinkin, star of the CBS hospital drama "Chicago Hope," will joining the short list of stars who have left hit shows early in the run.

Entertainment industry trade papers Variety and The Hollywood Reporter were abuzz with the news of Patinkin's imminent departure.

Other actors to leave high-profile shows early in the game include McLean Stevenson ("M*A*S*H") and David Caruso ("NYPD Blue").

Saturday, December 22, 2012

David Letterman, July 1995

PASADENA, Calif. -- David Letterman trekked to the West Coast Saturday to speak with assembled TV critics at the Summer Press Tour, once again proving he can play a room like no one else in show business.

Over the course of his 45 minutes with the media, he artfully dodged the hot topics of his "Late Show" 's first-ever ratings loss to Jay Leno's "The Tonight Show" last week in favor of laughs. Lots of laughs.

Of his much-criticized hosting of the Academy Awards telecast earlier this year: "I was so traumatized by that Oscar experience that I couldn't watch 'The Odd Couple' for a month," Letterman said, making a borderline obscure Oscar Madison joke. "At first when it happened, I thought, 'I'm out here in Hollywood and I've screwed up the Academy Awards,' and I'm thinking, 'I'll be arrested.' Or, 'What if they stop making films altogether? Oh, no!'

“Pasadena press tour no vacation for critic Don Porter,” July 30, 1995

The pool at the Ritz.
This is an editor's column written by the Standard's Managing Editor Ron Thornburg. He used to write one each week or two to help readers peer behind the curtain at the S-E.

By Ron Thornburg
Managing Editor


After attending the Summer Press Tour of the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, Calif., Don Porter returned to the office last week to some not so subtle kidding:

"How was your vacation, Don?" "Bet you spent it by the pool, didn't you?"

Some vacation.

For two weeks, Don started his days around 6 a.m. by viewing pilots of the programs that the major networks plan to air as part of the fall television season. Then he and the approximately 160 members of the critics association attended four, 45-minute press conferences.

Ed O'Neill, July 1995

Very often, as I'm digitizing my past, I come across pieces that I completely forgot about. This interview with Ed O'Neill, who right now is so great on "Modern Family," is one of them. I interviewed him at a Fox Network party one evening around the pool of the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena. He were there to meet with the press, and now that my memory has been  bumped, I recall talking with him and Michael Moore that night. This is ironic for me, because I just watched an immensely entertaining interview with O'Neill on "Kevin Pollak's Chat Show."

By Donald Porter
Standard-Examiner staff

PASADENA, Calif. -- A couple of years back, Ed O'Neill was cut out of a movie because a test audience laughed when he was on screen. It was a drama, you see -- a war film -- and he was playing a character who wasn't supposed to be laughed at.

Actors can be typecast, and O'Neill, after playing Al Bundy for eight years on "Married ... with Children," knows all about it. He's so identifiable as Al Bundy that, in the case of the aforementioned movie, "Flight of the Intruder," it meant his work was left on the cutting room floor.

O'Neill, however, is sanguine about his being Al Bundy.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lawrence Bender, January 1993

Lawrence Bender
EDITOR'S NOTE: This interview was conducted at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival.
Standard-Examiner staff

PARK CITY -- Lawrence Bender sits at a table in the hospitality suite of Z Place, where press and filmmakers come to mingle, do business and escape the crush of humanity on Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival. Bender has a broad smile fixed on his face, conveying his feelings of wonder and excitement to all who see him.

He's been that way for a couple of days, since "Reservoir Dogs," a gritty crime film he produced, began getting most of the ink and much-coveted buzz at the 1992 edition of the premiere festival for American independent filmmakers.

"This is a really great time for me," Bender says ,with barely contained enthusiasm. "I'm like a kid in a candy shop. I've made a couple of other movies, but I was a production assistant on a TV commercial two months before we went into production on 'Reservoir Dogs' because I had no money."

"Spike Lee maintains controversial image," April 29, 1993

Standard-Examiner staff

SALT LAKE CITY -- "Uncle Tom." "Shuck and jive.” "Nigger."

When Spike Lee opens his mouth, these words tend to tumble out. They are not the words of pretense, of artifice. Nor are they the words of confrontation. Rather, they are the language of truth when discussing cultural bias and racism, he says.

Lee, the foremost African-American filmmaker in America, was at the University of Utah Wednesday night, doing the Spike Lee Thing in a sold-out Kingsbury Hall. His audience consisted primarily of disciples, in one form or another, who gave him a standing ovation when he appeared on stage and again, 90 minutes later, when he left.

In between ovations, they listened to him relate anecdotes from the making of his many films, including "She's Gotta Have It," "School Daze," "Do the Right Thing," "Jungle Fever," "Mo' Better Blues" and "Malcolm X."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Making of a Christmas Grinch, Dec. 24, 1992

Standard-Examiner staff

This is a story about a Christmas grinch. It's a story about me, and about how I got that way.

I wasn't always a grinch. I used to look forward to Christmas: the colors, the music, the giving, the receiving, the time spent with family and the expressions of joy on the faces of my children.

But three, maybe four years ago, I began noticing that not only was I less enthusiastic about Christmas, but I had grown cynical about the holiday. For me, it became less about celebrating a miraculous birth and more about money -- spending it and, most troubling of all, earning it. Instead of making me happy, Christmas was making me sick.