Monthly Archives: June 2010

Actor: Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman has appeared in some 80 films. Is he a lead actor or the quintessential character actor? Yes. Uploaded by

Gene Hackman has certainly had the lead in enough films to richly deserve being described as a leading man. And yet, when I think of the roles he’s played, he almost seems to be the most talented character actor in Hollywood history. Actually, he’s both.

Uploaded by

One of his first roles came in Bonnie and Clyde, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1967. Here are some of his “leading man” roles: “Popeye” Doyle in The French Connection (1971), Harry Caul in The Conversation (1974), Coach Norman Dale in Hoosiers (1986), and Agent Rupert Anderson in Mississippi Burning (Academy Award – 1988).

Now look at some of his character actor parts: Lex Luthor in Superman (1978), Rev. Frank Scott in The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Little Bill Daggett in Unforgiven (Academy Award – 1992), Harry Zimm in Get Shorty (1995), and Royal Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).

Of course, these are just the highlights of a busy and illustrious career. He’s appeared in some 80 films altogether. He once said on Inside the Actors Studio that two of the most important factors in deciding on which films he will work on are the script and the money. I certainly hope we haven’t enjoyed his talented presence for the last time; however he hasn’t appeared in a movie since 2004…

Kid Stuff: Happy Meal

Happy Meals stopped being a lure to bring parents and kids to McDonald's, and became a marketing tie-in for the latest family-friendly movie. Uploaded by

In 1977, McDonald’s was king of all it surveyed (sorry, Burger King, for the unfortunate analogy). The company knew that kids loved their restaurants, but looked for a way to lure parents, especially parents who were raising kids, and whose disposable income was limited.

The solution, conceived by a McDonald’s advertising manager in St. Louis, was a meal just for kids. The Happy Meal, as it quickly became known, set parents back only a buck, yet provided what kids wanted — a hamburger or cheeseburger, small fries, 12 oz. drink, and cookies. A toy became part of the HM at a later date.

Uploaded by

In the headquarters building of fast food chains across America, you’ll see a conference room with dented walls. Those were put there by the companies’ executives banging their head wondering why they didn’t think of the idea first. Now, every restaurant that welcomes kids also offers a special meal. The food today is a bit healthier, with fruit often substituted for french fries, and milk or juice instead of a soft drink.

And the toys have become more sophisticated, as Happy Meals now are often advertising vehicles tied in to current family-friendly films…

Americana: The Lost Colony

The Lost Colony production was planned to last for one summer. But then FDR came to see the show, and it opened again the next year. It's now entering its 73rd season. Uploaded by

The people of Roanoke Island, part of the Outer Banks on North Carolina’s coast, were looking for the proper way to celebrate the 350th birthday of Virginia Dare. (Young Miss Dare, as you may remember, was the first child born in the Americas to English parents.) They decided to stage a play to run for that one year — 1937. They called the production they created The Lost Colony. It enjoyed a good summer, but then President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to see it. He loved it, word spread, and its popularity grew such that it ran another year.

And another. And another. Now, 73 years later, it’s still thrilling new generations of visitors.

Uploaded by

During its historic run, more than four million people have enjoyed The Lost Colony. It’s the story of settlers in the New World in 1587 who sent their governor back to England for supplies. He wasn’t able to return until 1590, and he found the settlement deserted. The only clue was the word “CROATAN” carved on a post.

If you make it to Roanoke Island in the summer, head to Waterside Theater any evening (except Sunday) to enjoy this remarkable piece of history. You won’t have any trouble finding it: Roanoke Island is only eight miles long by two miles wide…

Americana: Air Force One

Air Force One has more than 4,000 sq. ft. of living, meeting, and office space. Uploaded by dept.

Technically, any Air Force airplane transporting the President of the United States is designated as Air Force One. For our purposes, though, we’re designating the two airplanes that have been customized to carry the President as a Great American Thing.

Uploaded by

The first President to fly in an airplane while in office was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who flew to great powers conferences in Casablanca and Yalta. But it wasn’t until 1962 that the plane now designated “Air Force One” had a distinctive appearance. President John Kennedy commissioned industrial designer Raymond Loewy to create a unique exterior design for the presidential Boeing 707. Using a two-tone blue color scheme with the presidential seal near the nose and an American flag on the tail, the new look received immediate popular approval.

Uploaded by

Today, the Air Force One planes are Boeing 747 wide-bodied jets, first brought into service during the administration of George H.W. Bush. They offer more than 4,000 sq. ft. of floor space and include a bedroom, bathroom, workout room, and conference room/dining room. The President and his senior staff have offices, and the press has a separate area. Air Force One can carry up to 70 passengers and 26 crew members…

Architecture: I.M. Pei

We don't always know architects by name, but the great ones become more than artists, they become brand names. Uploaded by

With few exceptions, most architects remain unknown by name to the public at large. Usually, we know them by their designs. One of the few men whose accomplishments are so great that his reputation has spread beyond trade circles is the great I.M. Pei.

Pei was born in the Chinese city of Guangzhou (what we wish we could still call “Canton”), and was raised in Hong Kong and Shanghai. At age 18 he left to come to college in the USA, starting at the University of Pennsylvania, but quickly transferring to M.I.T. His talent became evident quickly, and he joined the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He became a U.S. citizen in 1952.

One of the first projects that made his reputation was the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, DC. That led to the building considered his first signature structure, the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado. Since then, he’s gained wide acclaim for the National Gallery of Art’s East Building, the John F. Kennedy Library, and the glass and steel pyramid of the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Architecture, like art, can only be described feebly by words. Here’s a gallery of some of I.M. Pei’s wonderful designs…

Pyramid entrance to the Louvre Museum, Paris

Uploaded by

Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar

Uploaded by

Javits Convention Center, New York City

Uploaded by

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland

Uploaded by

National Gallery of Art, East Building

Uploaded by

National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder

Uploaded by

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Uploaded by

Sports: Vin Scully

Vin Scully has been broadcasting Dodgers game -- colorfully, evocatively, memorably -- for an incredible 61 years. Uploaded by

Most sports broadcasters would agree that baseball provides its announcers the brightest spotlight. That’s particularly true on radio, where the play-by-play guy has lots of time between pitches to fill with anecdotes, statistics, and insight. There have been lots of great baseball broadcasters — Ernie Harwell, Phil Rizzuto, Harry Caray, Jack Buck, Jon Miller — but no one has ever brought the game to life more vividly than Vin Scully.

Of course, when you think of Scully, you think of the Dodgers. He broadcast their games for an incredible 61 years, from 1950 to the present. He had an early career highlight when, at the age of 25, he became the youngest person ever to broadcast the World Series (a record that still stands).

Uploaded by

As great as he is at baseball, Scully has brought his dulcet tones to other sports as well. During a tenure at CBS Sports he did NFL games, and anchored the network’s tennis and golf coverage. And he’s also done network baseball for both CBS and NBC.

He’s made some memorable calls: Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, and Bill Buckner’s muffed ground ball. He also called “The Catch,” Dwight Clark’s touchdown pass from Joe Montana in the 1982 NFC Championship game.

Scully has been honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame, received a Life Achievement Emmy Award, and is in the Radio Hall of Fame. His sweetest recognition may be that which has come from his peers. The American Sportscasters Association named him Broadcaster of the Century in 2000, and honored him as top sportscaster of all-time on its Top 50 list in 2009…

Singer: Dolly Parton

She\'s won every award imaginable, had a gazillion hits, owns a theme park, gives millions to charity, and still seems like someone who could be your neighbor. Uploaded by

She was born in the poor community of Locust Ridge, Tennessee. One of 12 children. Started singing on a radio station at age 11. Moved to Nashville upon graduating from high school, and became a big star. All that sounds like a country song, doesn’t it? But it’s the early biography of Dolly Parton.

Dolly’s big break came at the age of 21 when Porter Wagoner wanted a female singer for his syndicated TV show. He chose Dolly, and it wasn’t long before her overwhelming talent made Wagoner look like the journeyman he was. Their partnership did have one long-lasting benefit: It inspired the number-one hit “I Will Always Love You,” which Dolly supposedly wrote for her former partner.

During her career, Dolly has achieved a lot of superlatives. She’s recorded 41 albums that made the top 10. And twenty-five of her songs have gone to number one, including “Jolene” (1973), “Here You Come Again” (1975), “9 to 5” (1980), and “But You Know I Love You” (1981).

Uploaded to Photobucket by wishywashygirl11.

Of course, the Dolly Parton success story goes beyond her singing. She’s an accomplished songwriter, and a surprisingly good actress. As a businesswoman she created Dollywood, one of America’s most popular theme parks. She co-owns a film production company that produced Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Father of the Bride movies, among others. And as a philanthropist, she’s donated millions of dollars, primarily to healthcare and literacy causes.

Dolly has won so many awards and honors that space here doesn’t permit a complete listing. The highlights: Seven Grammy Awards, two Academy Award and one Tony Award nomination, Kennedy Center Honors, CMA Entertainer of the Year, a member of four halls of fame, AND… she was the first individual to receive the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Seriously.

Americana: Drive-In Restaurants

Following WWII, America's new love affair with fast food and the automobile came together at the classic drive-in. Uploaded to Flickr by Andrew T...

Drive-in restaurants didn’t originate in the fifties, but that decade provided their glory days. In post-war America, people were more mobile than ever before, and they had more disposable income. The idea of being served food — and not having to leave their cars — was immensely popular.

At some drive-ins, girls delivered food to customers’ cars on roller skates, others worked on foot. These girls became known as carhops, and they were featured in such nostalgic entertainments as American Graffiti and Happy Days.

The menu offered at most drive-ins seemed to center on another of America’s fixations of the fifties, the hamburger. Hamburgers, fries, root beer, and shakes. What we’d now call fast food, though ironically it was the proliferation of chain fast-food restaurants that provoked the near extinction of the drive-in.

Uploaded to Flickr by ScottL.

Where I grew up, in Newport News, Virginia, our favorite drive-in was Bill’s Barbecue just across the city line in Hampton. But to be honest, I can’t remember whether or not the carhops there used roller skates. But it doesn’t matter, because the recollection of going there with my family is, to paraphrase the words of James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams, “Memories so thick I have to brush them away from my face.”

Drive-ins aren’t gone; a good number of individually owned restaurants still exist in towns all across the country. And nationally, Sonic, “America’s Drive-In” keeps the old traditions alive while adapting them beautifully for a 21st century clientele…

Food: Corn on the Cob

The big debate -- do you eat horizontally, from one end to the other, or vertically, rolling the cob as you eat? Uploaded to Flickr by jennymunro.

America loves its corn, and appropriately so — the USA grows about six times more corn than any other country. We like it in corn pudding, in succotash, in corn chowder and dozens of different ways. But most of all we love it right on the cob.

Uploaded by

Start with a variety of sweet corn, even better if it’s grilled. It goes without saying that it has to be slathered in butter, and the balancing act of spreading a fat pat of melting butter on steaming hot corn is quite an art. Then it has to be lightly salted. And that’s it. Perfection.

Now we get to the difficult choices. Hold the corn with your hands, or use little skewers? And the biggest issue of all — do you eat horizontally, from one end to the other, or vertically, rolling the corn in a circle? Either way, it’s good to have ready access to floss or a toothbrush, because you know you’re going to have some in your teeth when you’re finished. But man, is it ever worth it…