Have You Started Your Christmas Shopping?
If my local supermarket and TV commercials are any indication, it’s never too early to think about Christmas, even if Halloween is still a few days away. But my sister asked me back in August what I wanted for Christmas this year (I didn’t have an answer but should have said “cold weather”), so people do think about what to buy weeks, even months, in advance. Many of us are still shopping on December 23.
But if you’re Christmas shopping now, you can peruse the new Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogue for ideas. This year’s list of gifts include limited-edition Rolls Royce cars for $439,625 (blue) and $445,750 (orange), a fancy handbag and a vacation in Paris for $45,000, and a private New Year’s Eve party for you and 300 of your friends (Facebook or real-life) at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City for $1.6 million.
Honestly, I don’t want anything that extravagant. I don’t need much. Just put $1,000 in an envelope with a card and I’ll be happy.
And the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor Goes to…
David Letterman has been in the news a lot the past few weeks. First came the announcement that he had signed to do a new talk show on Netflix, and then last week he was a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live, along with Paul Shaffer. This week Letterman received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center. On hand to honor Letterman were Kimmel, Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Amy Schumer, and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder.
PBS will televise the event on November 20 at 9 p.m.
There’s a New Magnum, P.I. Coming
Last September I told you about a reboot of Magnum, P.I. that ABC had in the works. I don’t know the status of it now, but it was going to be a reboot, not a remake, with Magnum’s daughter living in Hawaii and solving cases. Since Tom Selleck wasn’t going to star in the show, this was a means to do things in an updated way while letting Selleck and the rest of the original cast make guest appearances. I was so happy ABC wasn’t going to try a straight remake.
Guess what? CBS is doing a straight remake.
The network has announced that the team behind shows like the new Hawaii Five-0 and MacGyver remakes are working on a new, updated version of Magnum, P.I. There will be a new, younger Thomas Magnum, and this time the character of Jonathan Higgins will be a woman, Juliet Higgins. That last bit of news makes me cringe a bit, but I’ll hold my opinion until it premieres. I’m more worried about the fact that the show is going to be done by the people behind the Hawaii Five-0 and MacGyver reboots, two shows that, well, just aren’t that good. I have this feeling they’re going to try to fit the show into the CBS template you see on Scorpion and NCIS, focusing more on the “team” aspect and not the lead character. Part of what made the original so great is that it wasn’t just a dumb ’80s action show with car chases and girls in bikinis. It had depth and drama, and you really cared about the characters.
I hope they can somehow re-create the tone of the original. Otherwise, this could turn out to be nothing more than Magnum, P.U. (Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! Don’t forget to tip your waiter.)
Scared to Death
People often throw around the phrase “scared to death” in a casual way. When something minor and mild happens, they’ll say, “I was scared to death!” They don’t mean it literally (if that were true, they couldn’t actually speak those words), but can a person actually be scared to death?
Katie Heaney at The Atlantic wondered the same thing after watching the movie It, so she contacted several experts to find out if someone can actually be so frightened that they die. She hoped the experts would tell her she had nothing to worry about, but they actually told her “any heightened emotional state … can kill you.” Even watching the Super Bowl can kill you by inducing heart attacks.
In related news, Justin Timberlake is going to be the halftime act at the next Super Bowl in February. If Janet Jackson shows up, that might give NBC executives a heart attack, though maybe it’s time for a reunion.
What’s Your Favorite Scary Movie?
If there’s a movie that could scare you to death, it just might be Trilogy of Terror, the 1975 TV movie with Karen Black playing several roles in three different stories. The last story, where a little devil doll chases Black around her apartment, completely freaked me out when I watched it alone at the age of 9. In all honesty, it still freaks me out when I think about it as an adult.
Turner Classic Movies is having a horror movie marathon all day on the 31st, with such hallmarks as Poltergeist, 13 Ghosts, and House on Haunted Hill. Here’s the full schedule.
Besides Trilogy of Terror, other scary films I like that are actually scary are Horror of Dracula, Psycho, Evil Dead 2, and of course the original Halloween. What’s your favorite movie to watch in the dark? Let us know in the comments below.
RIP Fats Domino, Robert Guillaume, Walter Lassally, Brent Briscoe, Paul Weitz, Ben Bates, and Warren Burton
Fats Domino was one of the iconic, influential stars in the early days of rock ’n’ roll, with such hits as “Blueberry Hill,” “Ain’t That a Shame,” and “I’m Walkin’.” He died Tuesday at the age of 89.
Robert Guillaume was probably best known for his role as butler Benson on the sitcom Soap and the spinoff show Benson, though he was also a fantastic stage actor and equally good in the short-lived Aaron Sorkin show Sports Night. Guillaume also died Tuesday, also at the age of 89.
Walter Lassally was a cinematographer who won an Oscar for his work on Zorba the Greek. He also worked on such films as Tom Jones, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Stone Pillow, and many documentaries and shorts. He died Monday at the age of 90.
Brent Briscoe was an actor who appeared in such films as Sling Blade, Mulholland Drive, A Simple Plan, and The Majestic, as well as TV shows like ER, Parks and Recreation (where he played JJ, the diner owner), and the recent Twin Peaks season. He died last Wednesday at the age of 56.
Paul Weitz was an astronaut and the commander of the space shuttle Challenger on its maiden flight in 1982. He was also a member of the first Skylab crew in 1973. He died Monday at the age of 85.
Warren Burton appeared on many soap operas over the years, including All My Children, Guiding Light, Another World, and Santa Barbara. He also appeared in films such as Gettysburg and Green Lantern. Burton died October 2 at the age of 72.
This Week in History
Walt Disney Testifies to HUAC (October 24, 1947)
HUAC stood for House Un-American Activities Committee, the group organized in the late 1930s to investigate whether U.S. citizens, government employees, or companies had any communist ties. Even Walt Disney had to testify during the hearings.
Harry Houdini’s Last Performance (October 24, 1926)
The great magician and escape artist was known for being able to take a punch to the stomach. But he wasn’t ready for the punch from a college student just before a show in Montreal. Even though he was injured, he refused to go to a hospital and spent the next week doing shows. He died in Detroit a week later — on Halloween — of peritonitis and a ruptured appendix, though some aren’t sure if the stomach blows led to his death.
Some groups actually hold séances on Halloween night to contact the spirit of Houdini, which is funny, considering he devoted much of his life to debunking such things.
This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “Teddy the Pumpkin” (October 26, 1912)
This cover by J.C. Leyendecker depicts the face of Theodore Roosevelt, who ran for president against former friend William Howard Taft in 1912, even though Roosevelt had already held the office from 1901 to 1909. Neither won the election, and Roosevelt died seven years later.
If Roosevelt’s face isn’t immediately recognizable to you, I think David Letterman kinda works too.
I’ve never understood the adult fascination with Halloween. I can understand kids getting excited by dressing up and getting five pounds of free candy, but I don’t get why October 31 is such a popular holiday with adults. I know people who spend more on Halloween than they do on Christmas. The night has changed a lot since I dressed up as Batman, and I think we should give it back to the kids.
But that doesn’t mean adults can’t enjoy the food of Halloween. How about this pumpkin-is-vomiting Guacamole Dip from Food Network’s The Kitchen? Or how about, from the same show, a Halloween Party Cake that looks like a graveyard, complete with headstones and dirt? Kids might like these Mummy Cookie Pops from Recipe Girl, and if you’re over 21 and fancy a cocktail, HGTV has a great list, including a Morgue-A-Rita and a Mr. Hyde Potion.
And if you find yourself at certain Taco Bell locations in Wisconsin (oh, if I had a dollar for every time I found myself at a Taco Bell in Wisconsin), you can try their new Chocoladilla, which is melted Kit Kat or Twix bars inside a grilled tortilla.
Next Week’s Holidays and Events
The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special (October 28)
Last year, Saturday Night Live had a really goofy but undeniably funny sketch involving Tom Hanks as “David S. Pumpkins,” part of a “Haunted Elevator” Halloween ride. Now comes an all-new animated Halloween special, which airs Saturday at 11:30 p.m. on NBC, just before an SNL Halloween “best of” episode. Any questions?
Mischief Night (October 30)
We never knew about Mischief Night when I was a kid. If you wanted to decorate a home with toilet paper or a car with fresh eggs, you did it on Halloween night. You mean to tell me we could have done it two nights in a row?
Movember Begins (November 1)
“Movember” is the official name of the month devoted to men’s health. It’s also the month that the guys on Today, including Matt Lauer and Al Roker, stop shaving to support the effort and look like hoboes for 30 days.
You are standing on a corner in New York City, waiting to cross the street. Lost in thought, you aren’t paying much attention to the world around you. Suddenly, a man puts his hands over your eyes and says, “Guess who?”
Nobody’s played this game with you since elementary school. It would be alarming, except that the voice is familiar. You can’t quite place the speaker, but you’re pretty sure he’s a friend.
You whip around and see, much to your surprise … international film star Bill Murray. He is taller than you expected, and his shirt is wrinkled. You sputter, groping for words, unable to process the unlikelihood of this situation. Bill grins, leans in close, and quietly says, “No one will ever believe you.”
Variations on this story began to circulate widely around 2010. Sometimes it happened in New York, sometimes in Austin, Texas, or Charleston, South Carolina. Sometimes Bill wasn’t blindfolding people with his fingers — instead, he was stealing a french fry off somebody’s plate or grabbing a handful of popcorn from a stranger at a movie theater. But the punch line was always the same, underscoring that this encounter was an eruption of surrealism on an otherwise ordinary day, meant to be enjoyed for a few flickering moments: “No one will ever believe you.”
For years, it was unclear whether this was something that Bill Murray actually did, as part of a personal campaign to make the world a better, odder place, or whether it was an urban legend that had grown large enough to have its own zip code. Asked point blank about it in a magazine interview, Bill artfully managed not to unravel the mystery. “I’ve heard about that from a lot of people,” he said. “A lot of people. I don’t know what to say. There’s probably a really appropriate thing to say. Something exactly and just perfectly right.” Bill considered the rhetorical tightrope he was walking, and then he smiled: “But, by God, it sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Just so crazy and unlikely and unusual?”