Saturday Odds & Sods: And Through The Wire

Photograph by Stanley Kubrick

Climate change is real. For the second consecutive week, New Orleans was under a tornado watch. This time, one struck about 80 miles north of Adrastos World Headquarters. This sort of severe weather outside hurricane season used to be rare. Repeat after me: Climate change is real.

Another thing that’s real are my allergies. I’ve felt like a giant bloodshot eye the last two weeks because of all the pollen stirred up by the wind. The answer my friend is wheezing in the wind. Achoo.

Peter Gabriel wrote this week’s theme song for his 1980 album Peter Gabriel III or Melt as the fans like to call it. The Jam’s Paul Weller played guitar on the track giving it a New Wave edge. Rock on, Paul.

Here’s Mr. Peter Gabriel with And Through The Wire:

Apparently, there’s a Kanye West number called Through The Wire but I’m not going there. I don’t associate with Trumpers or Kardashian exes who want to be called Ye. Ye gods.

In lieu of Ye, The Kinks with a Dave Davies song:

In case you’re wondering what happened to the tightrope songs, here’s the less obvious one:

We begin our second act with a tale of food and crime or is that vice versa? Beats the hell outta me.

Chef Wise Guy: The estimable Vanity Fair writer Gabriel Sherman scooped the universe with a candid interview with David Ruggiero. That’s not his real name he was born Gambino. I think you’ve heard of his cousin Carlo.

Cue The Godfather theme song.

David Ruggiero was a made man with a passion for food. His crew boss insisted that his guys all have real jobs, so Ruggiero became a chef and a damn good one. He had a teevee show in the early days of the Food Network. I am not making this up.

Ruggiero’s double life finally caught up with him and he went to jail. He was reluctant to speak about his time as Chef Wise Guy until recently.

Gabriel Sherman has the details at Vanity Fair.

We continue our life of crime with our next segment.

The Murders At Starved Rock: One of the most sensational murders of the early Sixties occurred at Starved Rock National Park in rural Illinois. Three middle aged women from Chicago were killed. It caused a sensation. Eventually, a 21-year-old former Marine named Chester Weger was convicted of the crime. He maintained his innocence then and still does after six decades in jail.

One reason the Starved Rock murders attracted so much attention is that the young Chester Weger had a James Dean vibe:

There were efforts by the Weger family and others to prove that Chester didn’t kill anyone. The evidence did not support the prosecution’s theory that Weger acted alone. If he was involved, he had help. I’m inclined to think he didn’t do it.

Our Chester-fest is two-fold. First, an article in Chicago Magazine by Jake Maloney who deftly covers the crime, Chester’s incarceration, and quest for vindication. The results of the DNA tests sought by Weger, and his high-powered lawyer Andy Hale are due later this month.

Second, there’s a three-part HBO documentary, The Murders At Starved Rock. It’s a fascinating look at the case through the eyes of David Raccuglia the son of Anthony Raccuglia who made his name prosecuting the Starved Rock murder case. Anthony wanted his son to be a lawyer, instead David became a successful hairdresser. I am not making this up: the hairdresser as investigator.

David Raccuglia is not exactly a true believer in Weger’s innocence but has serious doubts about his guilt. Some of the best scenes of the film are interview sessions the son conducted with his father. Amazingly enough, it did not destroy their relationship.

Do I think Chester Weger is not guilty? Like David Raccuglia, I’m not a true believer but I have a reasonable doubt as to his guilt. There’s no way an unarmed man could subdue three grown women in the way described by the prosecution. It doesn’t make any sense.

Here’s the trailer:

The Murders At Starved Rock has everything: allegations of police misconduct, sloppy evidence storage, and a Greek American alternate suspect, George Spiros.

Spiros was the son of the owner of the hotel at which some of the action took place. His father was a big fish in this small pond so there have always been whispers about power plays and other dark deeds.

It’s grading time. I give The Murders At Starved Rock 3 1/2 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B+. It’s well worth three hours of your time.

I gave myself the obvious earworm as I wrote about Chester Weger. The last word of our second act goes to The Band with the Staples Singers:

Wait a minute Chester, our third act begins with our favorite stolen feature.

Separated At Birth Casting Edition: Chester-fest continues with the actors who played one of our more obscure presidents, Chester Arthur.

Charlie Pierce wrote a fun piece about President Arthur recently. He was so stylishly attired that he was called The Dude in his day. His lone major accomplishment was instituting the civil service system. Now Republicans such as the Impeached Insult Comedian and Rick Scott want to undo his handiwork. Another bad idea from the GOP.

There’s actually a song about Chester Arthur by Electric Needle Room. Who knew?

That concludes our Chester-fest.

The Movie List: I saw Hour of the Gun for the first time recently. It stars James Garner as Wyatt Earp and Jason Robards as Doc Holiday. I started off wondering why the director of Gunfight at the OK Corral wanted to do another Wyatt Earp movie. It’s because John Sturges wanted to tell the rest of the story. That led to this list.

My Top Ten Favorite John Sturges Movies

  1.     The Great Escape
  2.     The Magnificent Seven
  3.     Bad Day At Black Rock
  4.     Gunfight at the OK Corral
  5.     Hour of the Gun
  6.     Mystery Street
  7.     The People Against O’Hara
  8.     Jeopardy
  9.     The Hallelujah Trail
  10.    Joe Kidd

Sturges was one of the premier action movie directors of his time. It was an era when intelligent action films were commonplace instead of the dumbass blow stuff up action movies of the 21st Century.

The Best Of Johnny: Here’s the great Albert Brooks killing it on The Tonight Show in 1983.

Anybody know where I can score an impersonation kit?

Tweet Of The Week: This week, a funny story from my friend Kyle about his late father Alan (The Wiz) Melancon and the Teletubbies. I am not making this up, neither is Kyle.

Notice how I got through that without a single drummer joke, Kyle? Have fun in Alaska. Let me know if you wrestle a bear.

Here’s a very young Kyle in his Dash Rip Rock days:

I guess I should show a more mature Kyle playing drums with the aforementioned band:

Let’s close down this virtual honky tonk with the GIFs that keep giving.

Saturday GIF Horse: I made a Munsters reference the other day. My memories of that show are entwined with another sitcom of the same vintage, The Addams Family. Put your hands together for Thing and Cousin It.

 - Find & Share on GIPHY

That’s all for this week. The last word goes to John Sturges and Yul Brynner on the set of The Magnificent Seven the #2 movie on the Sturges list.