News of the Week: Influential People, Landline Lovers, and the Most Expensive Dirty Jeans in the World

The Time 100

The annual Time 100 list celebrates “the 100 most influential people in the world.” But I think these lists are just an excuse for a publication to hold a big party where the people on the list have to come wearing fancy dresses and suits.

So who made this year’s list? Who is considered influential in 2017? Well, the obvious people are in the “Leaders” category, including President Trump, Pope Francis, and General James Mattis. But you’ll also find “Celebrities” like Emma Stone, “Icons” like writer Margaret Atwood, and “Titans” like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Each person on the list has a little essay written by another famous person that accompanies their photo, such as Buzz Aldrin’s essay on Bezos and Oprah Winfrey’s essay on writer Colson Whitehead.

I don’t know if I learned anything from the list, except for the fact that ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is considered an “Icon.”

The Saturday Evening Post could probably come up with a list like this every year, but the people on it would all be dead presidents, artists, and writers, and the red carpet arrivals would be really boring.

Call Me

I’ve ranted several times in this column about the tyranny of smartphones and my love for landlines (you can also read Ron Carlson’s excellent essay about his love for them in the March/April issue). Robin Bernstein loves landlines too, and says in this Boston Globe essay that she still has one and she’s not apologizing for it.

Her reasons are not only emotional and nostalgic (and those are reasons enough to hold on to something in your life), but also logical. Landlines are more dependable and reliable than smartphones. They sound better, and they’re better for actual conversations. They’re the “sensible shoes” of the phone world, and there are many reasons to hope they never go away.

I still remember the big, black rotary phone that we had in the kitchen when I was a kid. Younger people today wouldn’t have liked the fact that it was heavy, you rented it from the phone company, and it wasn’t portable because it was attached to the wall by a wire, but I still think that’s the best phone I’ve ever used, and I miss it.

RIP Jonathan Demme, Erin Moran, Dick Contino, Cuba Gooding Sr., Kate O’Beirne, Chris Bearde, Kathleen Crowley, Robert Pirsig, Albert Freedman

Jonathan Demme was an acclaimed director, writer, and producer who could direct almost anything, from an episode of Columbo in the ’70s; to movies like Silence of the Lambs (one of the very few movies to win Oscars in all the top categories), Melvin and Howard, and Philadelphia; to concert films like Stop Making Sense and Storefront Hitchcock. He died earlier this week at the age of 73.

Erin Moran played Joanie, Richie’s sister, on Happy Days and the short-lived spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi. She also appeared in shows like Daktari, Family Affair, Gunsmoke, My Three Sons, The Love Boat, and Murder, She Wrote. She died last week at the age of 56.

Dick Contino was not only a famed accordionist, he was in one of the classic movies Mystery Science Theater 3000 took on, Daddy-O (“Must be Harry-O’s father.”). He was also in The Beat Generation, Girl’s Town, and I Was a Teenage Beatnik and was the subject of a James Ellroy novella, Dick Contino’s Blues. He passed away last week at the age of 87.

Cuba Gooding Sr. was the father of the Academy Award-winning son of the same name. You might remember him singing this great song with his band The Main Ingredient:

Gooding died last week at the age of 72.

Kate O’Beirne was a writer and editor for The National Review for many years. She also worked in the Department of Health and Human Services under President Reagan and was a regular panelist on the CNN politics show The Capital Gang. She died Sunday at the age of 67.

Chris Bearde created The Gong Show and was a writer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and other shows. He also produced That’s My Mama and variety shows like The Andy Williams Show, The Bobby Vinton Show, and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. And he co-wrote Elvis Presley’s famous 1968 comeback special on NBC. Bearde died Sunday at the age of 80.

Kathleen Crowley was an actress who appeared in sci-fi/horror films like Target Earth and Curse of the Undead, as well as the classic drama Downhill Racer. She also appeared in dozens of TV shows, such as Perry Mason, The Donna Reed Show, 77 Sunset Strip, Bourbon Street Beat, Hawaiian Eye, Route 66, Batman, and seemingly every TV western ever produced. She died Sunday at the age of 87.

Robert Pirsig wrote the experimental novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It was rejected by 121 publishers but is now considered a classic. He died Monday at the age of 88.

Albert Freedman was the producer who got Charles Van Doren on the game show Twenty-One in 1956 and later coached Van Doren on the questions he would be asked on the show. This led to the infamous quiz show scandals and Freedman’s eventual blacklisting from television. (Hank Azaria played Freedman in the movie Quiz Show.) He later went on to work for Penthouse. He died on April 11 at the age of 95.

For Sale: Marilyn Monroe’s House

I could have sworn that the house where Marilyn Monroe died had been torn down years ago, but apparently it wasn’t. In fact, if you have $6.9 million, you can buy her Brentwood, California, hacienda. It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a swimming pool, new additions to the kitchen and other areas, and a rather interesting history.

It was also once owned by Hill Street Blues actress Veronica Hamel, but I doubt that’s a real selling point.

For Sale: Muddy Jeans, Never Used. $425.00

If you can afford Marilyn’s house, you can probably afford these jeans, though I wouldn’t suggest buying them. They’re called PRPS Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans, and they’re absolutely filthy. I’m not insulting them, they’re actually filthy. They look like someone dropped a hot fudge sundae on them and then never washed them. They come that way, for all of you jeans-loving consumers who are too lazy to do any actual work that would get your pants all dirty and muddy.

I used to think that buying jeans that came with a hole already in the knee was ridiculous, but these jeans easily top those. Soon you will be able to buy jeans that are so ripped and dirty and frayed and filled with holes that the moment you take them out of the box, you immediately throw them away and buy another pair.

This Week in History

William Shakespeare Born (April 23, 1564)

I bet you’ve always wondered what happened when William Shakespeare tried bubble gum for the first time. Al Graham has the answer.

Library of Congress Established (April 24, 1800)

The Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. Its website is one you probably don’t think about visiting, but you really should. It has a ton of fascinating information.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “Romance Under Shakespeare’s Statue” (April 28, 1945)

Romance under Shakespeare’s Statue from April 28, 1945
Romance under Shakespeare’s Statue
April 28, 1945
Mead Schaeffer

Speaking of the Bard, this cover is by artist Mead Schaeffer. He had to paint it twice because the Vermont set was so cold his canvas froze. He put his daughters in the picture: one daughter is the woman on the bench with the man, and the other is the nurse near the baby carriage.

National Blueberry Pie Day

What’s your favorite pie? Mine is a really boring choice: apple. Actually, I don’t know why I call apple a “boring” choice. It’s predictable and obvious, but a lot of favorite things in life are predictable and obvious. My favorite movie is It’s A Wonderful Life, and I love pizza.

But this isn’t about Jimmy Stewart or pepperoni, it’s about blueberry pie. Today is National Blueberry Pie Day. Here’s a classic recipe from Allrecipes, and here’s a Cream Cheese Blueberry Pie from Taste of Home.

You ever notice that when a pie-eating contest is depicted in a movie or a TV show, the contestants are always eating blueberry pie? That’s probably because it’s easier to show blueberries on someone’s face than apple or pecan. And it’s funnier, too.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Star Wars Day (May 4)

Why is it Star Wars Day? “May the fourth be with you!” Here’s the trailer for the next film in the series, The Last Jedi, which opens this December:

Cinco de Mayo (May 5)

This day celebrates the Mexican victory over French troops at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. But please don’t confuse it with Mexican Independence Day, which is a completely different thing.