News of the Week: Miss Universe, Miss Betty White, and The Most Uninteresting Story of the Week

There She Is … No Wait, THERE She Is …

You’ve probably seen the video of Miss Universe pageant host Steve Harvey mistakenly naming Miss Colombia as the winner of the crown instead of the real winner Miss Philippines. It’s cringe-inducing live television at its best, and it certainly livened up a show that a lot of people probably don’t care about anymore. Here’s the moment if you missed it:

The latest? There are people who actually think the whole thing was staged, for ratings and attention. I don’t doubt things like that happen — especially in this day of viral videos and hashtags — but I really don’t think that’s the case here.

What I would like to know is why did Harvey add that line about the audience not blaming the contestants? Why would anyone blame them for Harvey’s mistake? Sounds like he was trying to deflect blame a little there.

Donald Trump says that if he were still in charge of the pageant this wouldn’t have happened (because when he had the pageant he personally typed up the cards the host used, or something), and many say they should let both women share the title. I think that’s a terrible idea, but I think we can expect to see a TV commercial soon with one or both of the women spoofing what happened.

A Betty White Christmas

Betty White at The 2005 Writers Guild Awards, February 19, 2005 Everett Collection /
Betty White at The 2005 Writers Guild Awards, February 19, 2005
Everett Collection /

For the past week or so, the game show channel Buzzr has had a marathon of Betty White game show episodes, showing everything from black-and-white episodes of What’s My Line? in the ’50s to later shows like Match Game and Super Password. Today they’re doing a full-blown Betty White Christmas 24-hour marathon. Instead of watching basketball or that A Christmas Story marathon for the 9,000th time, how about teaching the kids about this incredible woman Betty White?

It’s amazing the longevity White has had, isn’t it? Someone who had her own TV show in 1952 is still on the air. Wow.

James Burrows Hits 1,000

Speaking of amazing TV achievements, director James Burrows just directed his 1,000th episode of television, an episode of NBC’s new sitcom Crowded. You may remember seeing Burrows’s name in the credits of many TV shows because he has directed, well, practically every TV show you could name. Besides directing almost every episode of Cheers, Taxi and Will & Grace and many episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show, he directed the pilot episodes of Friends and Newsradio and The Big Bang Theory and Mike and Molly and …

You know what? I could list all of the shows Burrows has directed but there’s not enough room on this site. Check out his IMDb page.

The Most Uninteresting Story of the Week

I think we’re all impressed that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has made so much money, breaking records left and right. It made $248 million in the U.S. opening weekend and $529 million worldwide. It also broke several single-day and preview-day records. But is this really an interesting story?

Is there anyone who predicted that the movie would fail or not break records? This is Star Wars we’re talking about, not Sisters or Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip. We’re talking about a franchise that’s been massively popular for decades. Sure, pop culture websites and magazines have to report the news that the movie did so well, but the coverage has been so breathless and filled with exciting, over-the-top phrasing that they’re making it sound like this is a case of man-bites-dog instead of dog-bites-man. Now, if Star Wars: The Force Awakens had bombed at the box office or was universally panned, that would have justified 50,000 social media posts.

Here’s a prediction I’ll make a few years in advance and you can quote me: The next Star Wars movie is going to make a ton of money.

Sarah Palin’s Revenge

Tina Fey brought back her Sarah Palin impersonation on last week’s Saturday Night Live and now Palin has her revenge, starring in a 30 Rock spoof titled 31 Rock. She even got John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and 30 Rock’s Kevin Brown to appear in the fake trailer. It really is uncanny how Fey can play Palin and Palin can play Fey and you actually believe it for a few moments.

And while we’re posting SNL holiday clips, this sketch from last week made me laugh out loud (or LOL, as they say).

The Meaning of Words

My friend Ken Levine has a post on his blog about words and phrases we still use even though their use doesn’t make sense anymore. For example, people still use the phrase “don’t touch that dial!” even though your TV probably hasn’t had a dial in years.

Sometimes I wonder if younger people know what the hell people are talking about when they hear certain words and phrases. Do they know what “half-past the hour” means or even what “hands” are on an analog clock if they’re used to a digital readout on their computers and phones? I still use the word “tape” when I talk about recording a TV show, even though I now use a DVR instead of a VCR. I just can’t seem to make myself use the word “record.”

Can you think of any others? I agree with most of what he says, but I think kids do know what albums are because so many live disc jockeys still use them and so many ads still play that record album “scratchy” sound.

The Great American Novel Map

What novel is your state famous for? Check out the Great American Novel Map, a chart that lists several famous American novels and puts them inside a map of the United States so we can see it visually. This is one of those Web things that is equal parts “cool” and “irritating.” You know that people in New York are going to be upset that their favorite novel doesn’t represent their state. The same with California and Florida.

The map is incomplete. I mean, I’m from Massachusetts and could list other Massachusetts novels besides Moby Dick, but even beyond that, if you’re going to do a fun map like this and want everyone to be interested in it, wouldn’t you make sure every state is represented at least once? What, no classic novels have been set in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, the Dakotas, Montana, or Iowa?

Christmas Leftovers


You’re probably reading this on Christmas night or maybe even a day or two after Christmas. That’s okay. I know you’re busy and have things to do and places to go and things to eat. But by this time you probably have a lot of leftover turkey and you want to do something with it besides make the usual sandwich (though there’s nothing at all wrong with a good turkey sandwich). Here are a few different things you can try.

This Turkey Pumpkin Chili is probably something you never thought of making, and great for a winter’s night. Or how about a Turkey Noodle Casserole? I might make this Next Day Turkey Primavera, because I don’t make enough things with the word “primavera” in them.

Or maybe you’d like a turkey dessert? And I don’t mean a dessert that happens to be shaped like a turkey. This Thanksgiving Turkey Cake looks like a typical cake with frosting, but it’s actually made out of turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and gravy. Put it on the table next to the pumpkin pie and cookies and brownies and see if anyone freaks out.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from everyone here at The Saturday Evening Post.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

Radio City Music Hall opens (December 27, 1932)
There’s still time to see this year’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes (it ends on December 31).

President Woodrow Wilson born (December 28, 1856)
The 28th president brought back the spoken State of the Union Address in 1913. It had started as a speech in 1790 but between 1801 and 1912 it was written and delivered to Congress.

President Andrew Johnson born (December 29, 1808)
Johnson became the 17th President after President Lincoln’s assassination.

Roberto Clemente dies in plane crash (December 31, 1972)
The baseball great was on a small plane headed to Nicaragua to help with earthquake relief when the plane crashed into the water.

Ricky Nelson dies in plane crash (December 31, 1985)
The accident that killed the singer and five others was probably caused by a heater on board the plane.

New Year’s Eve (December 31)
If you’re like me and hate going out on New Year’s Eve, you can watch the ball drop in Times Square on ABC, NBC, or CBS. Or you can head on over to CNN to see how Kathy Griffin will embarrass Anderson Cooper this year.

Royal Deceiver: The Story of “Prince” Harry Gerguson

Imposters are a recurring theme in American literature. The two strongest contenders for the title of Great American Novel  both concern imposters who assume exalted roles. Jay Gatz becomes the Great Gatsby and posed as a gentleman of culture and accomplishment to give a respectable front for a New York gangster. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, con men — the Duke and the Dauphin — commandeer Huck and Jim’s raft. Both men are suspicious characters, ragged and dirty, treacherous, and often drunk — but Huck and Jim accept their story because, having heard stories of romance and chivalry from Tom Sawyer, they are ready to believe any outlandish act from aristocrats.

In 1943, The Post ran an article on a royal pretender who lived from one scam to the next for years, yet kept a wide circle of friends and admirers who knew of his imposture. In “The Downfall of Prince Mike” (March 20, 1942) [PDF], Alva Johnston informed readers that Prince Michael Romanoff, the leading imposter of the twentieth century, had degenerated into a successful businessman.”

During the 1920s, “Michael Romanoff” traveled between New York and Hollywood, posing as the last living member of the Russian royal family. He lived off the generosity of people who were flattered to extend credit to a man claiming to be a cousin of Czar Nicholas. In addition to walking off with these loans, he also pocketed the proceeds from the sale of paintings, which he brokered for an art dealer.

Then, in 1927, while working for movie studios as an expert on Russia, he was denounced by a real Russian emigré. He told the studio executives that the Prince was, in fact, Harry Gerguson, an orphan from New York’s lower East Side.

Harry had been resettled to a small Illinois town, where he had grown up without family or identity. Hungry to be recognized and respected, he noticed how people quickly deferred to anyone they considered their social superior.

Having observed that the Oxford accent was the heaviest social artillery a man could have, he crossed the Atlantic on a cattle boat in order to acquire it. He spent years in England doggedly polishing himself. In 1915 he tried himself out prematurely on English society under the name of Willoughby de Burke and landed in jail. Ordered out of England in 1921 for impersonating and marauding, Mike became a spot of color at the Ritz bar in Paris, where he was taken up by wealthy Americans. Bad-check trouble in France caused him to migrate to the United States.

Arriving at Ellis Island, he made the mistake of overplaying his part of a wandering British noble. He bragged to immigration officials that he had spent eight years in a German prison for killing a German baron in a duel. He was immediately detained and ordered to be deported. Before the officials took action, though, he stowed away on a ferry and slipped into New York.

A few days after his escape, Mike changed into Prince Obolensky. New York newspapers printed a sympathetic interview with Obolensky on the troubles of an impoverished nobleman seeking employment. Everybody thought it a hilarious joke, he said, when he offered himself as a secretary, a clerk or a laborer. The interview won him some gaudy week ends, but no work. From there he went to St. Paul, where he was féted by railroad and lumber kings. One of his rich friends sent him to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard.

It was a patten that repeated throughout his life. People continually offered favors and opportunity to this faux noble.

When he felt he had milked the one coast enough, he moved to the other. In time, his charade became public knowledge, but no one seemed genuinely angry with him. Celebrities ‘adopted’ him. He became a pet of the social elite. Some of his victims even forgave his debts.

Harry might have been a con man, but he was a professional. He knew when it was time to give up the game. So, in the 1940s, he opened a restaurant and abandoned his royal scams. He never fully abandoned his persona, but he stopped trying to convince people of his title. In time, he even became something of an expert on imposters.

One day when he was haranguing about the incompetency of the current crop of phonies, the Prince was asked what advice he would give to a young phony just starting out.

“I would advise him to stay out of it,” said Mike. “There’s too much competition.”

Read “The Downfall of Prince Mike” (March 20, 1942) [PDF].