Saturday Odds & Sods: Running On Empty

Carnival Tryptich by Max Beckmann

It’s been an uneasy week in the Big Easy. There’s much outrage at the local utility company, Entergy, for hiring actors to attend City Council meetings. The company has made it worse by continuing to lie about it. It’s called Astroturfing, it’s not illegal it’s just sleazy. The more Entergy lies, the longer the story persists. Lying seems to be contagious in the age of Trump. Knock it off, y’all.

In other Gret Stet news, we’re voting on a constitutional amendment to end non-unanimous jury verdicts. Louisiana and Oregon are the only two states that have this system and we’re in a race for repeal. The odds are good that voters will end the practice next Tuesday: there’s broad bi-partisan support for the change. It’s good when the Gret Stet good guys win one. In fact, it’s great. Hopefully, that Tony the Tiger-ish sentiment will help LSU when they play Alabama tonight. Geaux Tigers.

This week’s theme song, Running On Empty, was written and recorded by Jackson Browne in 1977. It’s been used in two movies: Forrest Gump and gave Sidney Lumet’s great 1988 movie its title. We’ll have more about *that* Running On Empty after the jump.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure. Both feature brilliant lap steel playing by the great David Lindley of whom I’ll have more to say at the end of the post. Holy previews, Batman.

We may be low on gas but there’s enough in the tank to jump to the break.

Jackson Browne is also known for his political songs. For America is a tune he wrote in 1986. Back then, many young people embraced Ronald Reagan as the nation’s grandpa. Anyone who embraces the Insult Comedian gets their pocket picked.

We begin our second act with a piece of history that is particularly resonant in 2018.

Fear Mongering With Tricky Dick: Donald Trump has taken fear mongering and mendacity to new heights but Richard Nixon got there first. Expecting bad results in the 1970 midterms, Nixon essentially incited a riot in San Jose, California. That was before it became a big city with a major airport and a hockey team. I guess that makes Tricky the original San Jose Shark. David Greenberg has the details at Politico Magazine.

Let’s turn our attention to an actor who might have become the biggest star in the world. He was halfway there when he died at the age of 23.

River Phoenix was the closest thing his generation had to James Dean. Like that legend, he was in a string of classics: Stand By Me, The Mosquito Coast, My Own Private Idaho, and Running On The Empty. The latter movie featured Phoenix as the child of Vietnam era radical fugitives Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti. It tells the story of how he tried to break loose without betraying his parents. If you’ve never seen it, make sure that you do. It’s a 4 star classic as far as this amateur movie critic is concerned.

Samantha Mathis was River Phoenix’s girlfriend and co-star of his last movie, The Thing Called Love. She has broken her 25-year silence about his death and told her story to the Guardian’s Hadley Freeman.

Peter Bogdanovich who directed River Phoenix’s swan song is the subject of the documentary featured in our next segment.

Documentary Of The Week:  Peter Bogdanovich was one of the most successful and interesting film directors of the 1970’s. He was both a film buff and historian who drew from a deep well of inspiration that included a passion for the movies of directors such as John Ford, Howard Hawks, Raoul Walsh, and Orson Welles.

Things started to go wrong for Bogdanovich in the early 1980’s with a series of misadventures including some self-inflicted wounds. He continued making movies but never regained the stature he had as the maker of The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon.

The documentary One Day Since Yesterday tells the story of Bogdanovich’s decline with a focus on his deeply personal movie, They All Laughed. It’s an underrated classic starring Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazzarra, and John Ritter. It was the film on which Bogdanovich met Dorothy Stratten whose murder has shadowed the director ever since.

Here’s the trailer:

I enjoyed One Day Since Yesterday. The Bogdanovich family co-operated with director Bill Teck, but it’s a warts and all project. I particularly enjoyed the running commentary of Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino who are both big fans of They All Laughed.

One Day Since Yesterday is currently streaming at Netflix. I give it 3 stars, an Adrastos Grade of B, and a venerable film buff thumbs up.

One more thing. Peter Bogdanovich was interviewed by Vulture’s Bilge Ibiri in September. They discussed Orson Welles, Buster Keaton, and Bogdanovich’s weird relationship with Burt Reynolds who starred in two of his movies.

Saturday GIF Horse: Since we’re on the subject of Peter Bogdanovich, here are two GIFs from his classic 1973 film, Paper Moon. They feature Oscar-winning actress and child superstar, Tatum O’Neill.

The Weekly GV: I still have Orson Welles on my mind. Orson and Gore Vidal were friends. Gore wrote an amusing tribute to Welles in 1989 for the New York Review of Books. Here’s a link to the piece in its entirety as well as this  quote wherein GV describes lunching with Orson:

Orson’s conversation was often surreal and always cryptic. Either you picked up on it or you were left out. At one point, he asked me to intervene on his behalf with Johnny Carson because there had been a “misunderstanding” between them and he was no longer asked to go on The Tonight Show and his lecture fees had, presumably, plummeted. I intervened. Carson was astonished. There was no problem that he knew of. I reported this to Orson in the course of one of our regular lunches at a French restaurant in Hollywood where Orson always sat in a vast chair to the right of the door. There was a smaller chair for one guest and an even smaller chair for a totally unprincipled small black poodle called Kiki.

“There is more to this than Johnny will ever tell you,” he rumbled. “Much, much more. Why,” he turned to the waiter with small cold eyes, “do you keep bringing me a menu when you know what I must eat. Grilled fish.” The voice boomed throughout the room. “And iced tea. How I hate grilled fish! But doctor’s orders. I’ve lost twenty pounds. No one ever believes this. But then no one ever believes I hardly eat anything.” He was close to four hundred pounds at the time of our last lunch in 1982. He wore bifurcated tents to which, rather idly, lapels, pocket flaps, buttons were attached in order to suggest a conventional suit. He hated the fat jokes that he was obliged to listen to—on television at least—with a merry smile and an insouciant retort or two, carefully honed in advance.

It’s unclear if the poodle was named for Kiki Dee or for baseball hall of famer Hazen Shirley Cuyler aka Kiki. Perhaps Orson named her after making one of these commercials:

Party on, Orson. 

It’s time for our favorite stolen feature.

Separated At Birth: This week’s pairing of Will Farrell and Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith has a River Phoenix connection. He made a cameo appearance in this 1992 video:

Back to the main event. Will Farrell and Chad Smith look so much alike that they’ve made public appearances together dressed like twins.

I don’t think Will brought Chad along to Georgia to campaign for Stacey Abrams:

Saturday Classic: David Lindley looks nothing like Will Farrell, but he’s a helluva musician whether he’s playing with Ry Cooder or Jackson Browne or fronting his own band El Rayo-X. Win This Record is Lindley’s second album with his band. FYI, I had to pay for my copy.

That’s it  for this week. While researching my Willie McCovey tribute, I stumbled into this  picture of 12-year-old Kurt Russell with 25-year-old Stretch. The picture gave me either the Kurties or the Willies. I’m not sure which. Anyway, they get the last word:

Another day, another last word fib. I figured I’d go arty since the campaign has gotten so surreal. Unfortunately, Dali *might* have liked Trump. He was a Franco fan, after all.

2 thoughts on “Saturday Odds & Sods: Running On Empty

  1. Sort of OT: Thought I should let you know that I like your weekend posts and their “pinballing-around” aspect. Thanks. Always something interesting in some of those corners.

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