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News of the Week: Passenger Planes, Pulitzer Prizes, and Popsicle Bikes

Published: April 14, 2017

Sky Maul

Why did the guy get dragged from his airline seat? That’s not the start of a riddle, it’s an actual question millions of people around the world are asking this week. You’ve probably heard about the 69-year-old man who was accosted and dragged from his United Airlines seat because he wouldn’t get off the plane after the crew notified passengers that they needed four seats for airline employees. The plane wasn’t even “overbooked” in the traditional sense; they needed the seats so those employees could get to other United planes, which makes the situation even worse. What, they couldn’t get the employees to Louisville, Kentucky, some other way? They couldn’t offer a ton of money to the passengers instead of dealing with a multi-million-dollar PR nightmare? Maybe the default position for airlines to take, even if a passenger is wrong, should be “don’t drag paying customers off of your plane, especially when every other passenger has a camera.”

Of course, social media lit up, with complaints pointed toward United Airlines’ Twitter account, jokes for new slogans, and memes for United Airlines movie lines. Several people have made the Harrison Ford “Get Off My Plane!” joke.

United CEO Oscar Munoz, after a couple of press releases that just made things worse, went on Good Morning, America on Wednesday morning to address the issue.

It’s almost as if United was trying to win the “Who Can Create a Bigger PR Nightmare Contest?” this week. The other finalists were Pepsi, for their tone-deaf Kendall Jenner commercial, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer, for his comments about Hitler (it’s always a good idea to just never talk about Hitler). This isn’t even the only United controversy this month. Another incident happened in Hawaii last week.

I’m so glad I don’t have to fly that often. Air travel isn’t what it used to be. Though if I do fly and United wants my seat, my going price is $2,000, a night in a nice hotel, and maybe one of those travel bags with the United logo on it.

And the Winners Are…

The 2017 Pulitzer Prizes were handed out this week, and it’s impossible to mention all of the winners and finalists (you can find a complete list here), but a few that stand out are David A. Fahrenthold of The Washington Post for National Reporting, The Salt Lake Tribune staff for Local Reporting, and Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal for Commentary. The Fiction winner was Colson Whitehead for The Underground Railroad.

RIP J. Geils, Tim Pigott-Smith, Peter Hansen, Glenn O’Brien, Charlie Murphy, Chelsea Brown, and Dorothy Mengering

I was rather amazed by how many people online think that J. Geils, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 71, was the singer for The J. Geils Band. No, that would be Peter Wolf. But Geils founded the band in 1967 and played guitar on many of their hits, including “Love Stinks,” “Freeze Frame,” and “Centerfold.”

Tim Pigott-Smith was a veteran actor who appeared in TV shows like Jewel in the Crown, The Chief, and Doctor Who, as well as movies like Quantum of Solace, RED 2, V For Vendetta, Alexander, Victory, and Clash of the Titans. He passed away last week at the age of 70.

Peter Hansen was also a veteran actor. He played Lee Baldwin on General Hospital for close to 40 years. He also appeared in shows like Perry Mason, The Lone Ranger, Sea Hunt, Matlock, Magnum, P.I., and The Golden Girls, and in the movies When Worlds Collide, Branded, A Cry in the Night, and The War of the Roses. Hansen died Sunday at the age of 95.

Glenn O’Brien wrote the “Style Guy” column for GQ for 15 years, leaving in 2015 after a dispute with editors. He got his start working with Andy Warhol, wrote for other magazines, co-wrote Madonna’s book Sex, and was once the creative director at Barney’s. He passed away last week at the age of 70.

Charlie Murphy was Eddie Murphy’s brother and a fine comedian in his own right. He was a performer and writer on Chappelle’s Show, where he was famous for his funny “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories” segments. Murphy died earlier this week of leukemia at the age of 57.

Chelsea Brown was a cast member on the classic ’60s sketch show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. She also appeared on The Flying Nun, Mission: Impossible, Marcus Welby, M.D., Police Story, and the bizarre horror-comedy movie The Thing with Two Heads. She passed away on March 27 at the age of 69–74 — sources can’t seem to agree on her exact age.

You might not know the name Dorothy Mengering, but you know her son, David Letterman. Dave’s mom lived in Indiana and appeared on his TV shows many times over the years, reporting from various Olympic Games or appearing during holidays, where she would make a couple of her famous pies and Dave would try to guess what pies she had made that year (one of the great annual traditions on the show). She even wrote a cookbook, Home Cookin’ with Dave’s Mom. She passed away Tuesday at the age of 95.

Strike!

Where were you during the writers strike of 2007? If you miss those days when production of TV shows was shut down, or maybe you don’t even remember a 2007 strike, we may soon be getting a sequel. The Writers Guild of America is going up against The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for various reasons and may vote to go on strike on May 2.

A strike authorization vote will take place next week. Obviously this is a complex issue, but Ken Levine has two posts on his site that summarize it rather well, including a post that outlines what you should know about the strike and one that gives an issue-by-issue rundown on why the strike might happen.

Like Ken, I support the writers.

Popsicle Bike?

Every once in a while, we get a Wheel of Fortune answer that boggles the mind. Just two weeks ago, we had the guy who thought A Streetcar Named Desire was actually A Streetcar Naked Desire, which made host Pat Sajak remark that he’d rather see the contestant’s play than the original. Last week, the show had couples on and … well, I’ll just have Jimmy Kimmel explain what happened next. Watch the whole clip; he gives the couple a gift:

Maybe Wheel of Fortune could take this and use it as the basis for a “Really Difficult Puzzle” round on the show. The answers could be anything random. Monkey Crayons! Pickle Tables! Triscuit Envelopes! Make the money amounts on the wheel really outrageous since it will be harder for the contestants to guess what the answers are.

Happy Birthday, Turner Classic Movies

A few weeks ago I was thinking, if I could watch only one TV channel, what would that channel be? I could have picked one of the major networks because there are so many shows that I watch on them, or I could have picked one of the news channels because I would need to keep track of the news. But then I thought, I don’t need it to be one of the news channels because I could watch the news on one of the major networks.

Then I threw all of that away in my mind and settled on Turner Classic Movies. That’s the one channel that, if it went away, I would truly miss.

TCM celebrates its 23rd birthday today. They’re showing some classic films later today (well, they show classic films every day), including Mildred Pierce, Picnic, Magnificent Obsession, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. On Monday night, actor William Daniels will be a guest programmer, introducing the films A Thousand Clowns, 1776, and Dodsworth.

This Week in History

Joseph Pulitzer born (April 10, 1847)

The man whose name is engraved on the awards mentioned above was born in Hungary and passed away in Charleston, South Carolina in 1911.

President Lincoln Assassinated (April 14, 1865)

Saturday Evening Post Archives Director Jeff Nilsson looks at a Post editorial, titled “The Murder of President Lincoln,” that appeared in the pages of the magazine just seven days after the assassination.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “Late Night Hat Check” (April 13, 1957)

Woman admiring her new hat at 3:40 am

Late Night Hat Check Constantin Alajalov April 13, 1957

I’m trying to figure out what’s going on in this cover by Constantin Alajálov that appeared 60 years ago this week. Is the husband confused because his wife is waking him up in the middle of the night by doing something as silly as trying on her Easter hat? Or is he slowly coming to the realization that, oh, great, my wife spent money on another hat? Probably both.

National Eggs Benedict Day

I worked at a breakfast and lunch place for several years, and one of my least favorite things to make was Eggs Benedict. The eggs had to be poached just right, the English muffins couldn’t be too soggy, and if I let the hollandaise sauce sit around for too long it would thicken up, and I’d have to whip it up again furiously so I could pour it on top. I love Eggs Benedict myself, but I often thought, standing in that hot kitchen, do you really have to order this? How about some toast or maybe a nice bowl of fruit instead?

This Sunday is National Eggs Benedict Day, which is appropriate because Eggs Benedict is a very Sunday-ish thing to have (and it’s Easter). Here’s a classic recipe from Allrecipes, including a recipe for the hollandaise sauce. If you want a variation on the classic recipe, swap some spinach for the Canadian bacon to make Eggs Florentine, or make Eggs Hemingway by using salmon. If you want to keep the toppings the same, you could try replacing the English muffin with something like a buttermilk biscuit, bagel, corn muffin, or a Krispy Kreme chocolate doughnut.

Just kidding about the doughnut — although, if you go that route, let us know how it comes out.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Easter (April 16)

Philip Gulley has a funny story on how the vacations he used to take as a kid around Easter have really changed.

Patriots’ Day (April 17)

The holiday is only officially celebrated in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Maine, though the way it’s celebrated in each state is different. And to make it even more confusing, the punctuation on the holiday name is slightly different in Maine.

Newspaper Columnists Day (April 18)

You can celebrate this day in many ways. You could read your favorite columnists, buy a subscription to a newspaper, or support The National Society of Newspaper Columnists. You could even buy an expensive gift for your favorite Saturday Evening Post columnist. Even though it’s not technically a newspaper, it still counts.

Tax Day (April 18)

Because the 15th falls on a Saturday this year, and Emancipation Day will be observed on the 17th in Washington, D.C., we have an extra three days to get our taxes in the mail. If you’re like Homer Simpson, you’ll get them to the post office just before the doors close:

 

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  • The United Airlines incident is just the latest in a long list of airline travel-related nightmares that are occurring with greater frequency all the time. Unfortunately they have SO much money that a multi-million dollar PR nightmare is almost an inconsequential loss to them.

    The ‘air travel isn’t what it used to be’ link here is worth reading. I put in a comment stating there would be plenty of lawsuits if this were to happen to me. Re-thinking that now, being accosted and dragged seems unlikely making lawsuits unnecessary, I would hope.

    A $5k check + free air travel (economy is fine) to my destination & back home would be MORE than reasonable on my part for the inconveniences they’d be causing me getting bumped. Oh, and Harrison Ford is the last person to be making plane jokes considering the irony of his private plane disasters in L.A.!

    I’m really sorry about clicking the Kendall Jenner Pepsi debacle link here. I turned down the sound quickly. Pepsi, fanning the flames of our country’s tragic turn of events is REALLY despicable. The most normal, likeable member of the Jenner-K family is Caitlyn, by a wide margin.

    Sorry to hear about the passing of David Letterman’s mother, Dorothy. She was a neat lady who always added so much to his show whenever she appeared on it. Sad to hear about Chelsea Brown as well. She was on the Post’s Laugh-In cover in late 1968, probably 25 then, making her 74 now, which seems about right. It’s fun watching her and the Laugh-In gang nightly on Decades TV when I’m home to catch it. Unwinding with them is a fun, drug-free “high” for sure, then and now!