September 07, 2006

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'Duet' It and 'Duet' It and 'Duet' It Well I couldn't tell you much about Little Richard. I could go to Wikipedia or Google, but I'm tired. It's Friday. And my post is worlds apart from music journalism. Simply put, my base of knowledge regarding the man is that he's a legendary rock star who plays piano and shrieks. A lot. I would guess he helped pioneer the school of popular music in which musicians provided both sound and imagery, excess and eccentricity. But, really, what's the guy good for? Oh, right: he's a judge on Celebrity Duets. In watching this clip, one might wonder what Simon Cowell, the show's creator, was thinking in roping a legend into a gig such as this. Throughout the premiere, we witness the likes of other successful singers onstage including Gladys Knight and Peter Frampton, all of whom could easily sit on the panel, as well. But why throw such a mentally unstable, towering trannie "loose cannon" into the mix? Oh, right. Because he's a Crazy Motherfucker: I don't doubt, for a moment, that the the producer of this brilliant Geico commercial instructed Richard to do nothing more than "sing what you hear." Excellent job, sir/ma'am, wherever you are. I'm not much a fan of reality television. I was glued to the first two seasons of Survivor, but the excitement died soon after. I'm not even that interested in American Idol, either, but the concept of Celebrity Duets - something so simple, so vapid and potentially disastrous - was pain meant to be endured. And by making Wayne Brady emcee, the folks behind the show know exactly what they're doing. I should admit that I was forced to fast forward through most of the sets. Hearing Lea Thompson warble a death rattle alongside Randy Travis or watching Cheech Marin (who, according to Valerie Cherish clone Marie Osmond, "makes people smile") forget lyrics while Peter Frampton strums his guitar is television from which I voluntarily turn away. Luckily for me, TiVo allows me to avoid the real heart of the competition so that I can jump ahead to hear Little Richard squeal with confused, [mildly ambiguously] gay delight before, appropriately enough, ending his commentary with an indifferent "It was good." Was it good, Little Richard? Because by the sound of your staccato, breathless shrieking, I was positive you were about to whip out adoption papers after gymnast Carly Patterson moaned an off-key rendition of the song from An American Tail with James Ingram. But the most cringe-inducing moment of the evening didn't come from Little Richard. Nor did it come from guest singer Michael Bolton (who, apparently, arrived in a time machine from 1993, as the proudly displayed chest hair sprouting from his unbuttoned shirt suggests). It didn't come from Smokey Robinson, who I'm still convinced can see people's souls with his terrifying, electric peepers. No, the feller who really delivered the most nauseating, uncomfortable moment of the show came from Jai Rodriguez who, in his first of two songs, sang "Since I Fell For You," a song written as "musical foreplay" between two tired lovers (the second being an overacted, pitifully homosexual attempt at "urban sass" when he sang "Say My Name" with the third wheel of Destiny's Child). Although the quality is poor, you should be able to spot Jai's cocky facial expressions as he goes "totally Rent" on our asses. Gladys Knight, who seems nicer than a woman of her success might often be, brings out an attitude to match Jai's imitation of ...Gladys Knight. And the heterosexual disinterest between Jai, a C-list celebrity known best for...being gay and useless, and Gladys Knight, an legendary Grammy winner and performer, comes off as tart and showy. And, oh yeah, the fact that he's a lithe, jaunty gay and she's an older, stout Black woman? Well, that actually makes the performance that much more bizarre. (For a clearer video of the performance, go here.) It looks like reality television is back in my life. When the possibility of seeing Cheech Marin sing "Endless Love" with Taylor Dayne becomes a plausible event, "appointment television" is born.
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What's Wrong With My Brain? Six years ago, I came upon a report on CBS's newsmagazine 48 Hours that focused on actor Nick Nolte. This was pre-DUI arrest, pre-date rape lawsuit Nolte. At the time, I wasn't necessarily familiar with him outside of his work in films such as The Prince of Tides and Blue Chips, I was immediately drawn in. Nick Nolte, I realized, was a total crazy. In went the cassette tape. I pressed "record," which, upon doing so, has since provided me with a small piece of subversive media that will forever remain dear to my heart. The report focused exclusively on Nolte's determined attempt, at the time, to (wait for it) halt the aging process. Yes, Nolte (formerly declared by the reputable staff at People Magazine as The Sexiest Man Alive, a designation as important to our country as christening Regis Philbin with having The Most Brittle Pubes In Town) is set out, with tenacity and purpose, to live the life of a thirty-five year old man in the body of a sixty year old. The concept of the piece, alone, was enough to satisfy someone as snarky as myself (and my friends, to every one of whom I've shown this video since). But, like any good reporter, Peter Van Sant (and his brilliant editors) delved deeper into learning about how Nolte went about achieving a goal some might call "unreachable" or "illogical." Or "absolutely fucking nuts." Items of Note: “I defy those people that can eat six portions of vegetables a day and six portions of fruit,” says Nolte, who spends thousands of dollars a year in his quest to live forever. “I accept the dying process. I would just like to be as healthy as I possibly can at each step and phase along the way." And, oh yeah, he smokes. Whatevs! The story is reported from such an editorial distance that one must wonder how this isn’t an Ed Helms piece. It’s even a challenge to decide who’s being victimized: a seemingly helpless, naive, and trembling Nolte, or the witch doctor who is undoubtedly robbing him of house and home, but only while voluntarily wiping the drool from his patient’s mouth as he walks on a treadmill. Nolte’s first “test” takes place on the aforementioned treadmill, a scene that reporter Van Sant blindly refers to as “[something] out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Yeah, I'm going to venture to say that the real thing might be a tad more disturbing. For a sixty year old man, it’s safe to say that, without his shirt on, Nolte looks...perfectly fine, if not in excellent shape for a man of his age. He, however, disagrees and half-jokingly claims he’s come to terms with his “decrepit existence.” Well, when you put it that way... Credit is due, though, toward Nolte. He's obviously very dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle, and clearly wants to prove to himself that he can maintain a young, virile body. But the best part - for me - comes during Nolte's face time with the automated computer test. The quick cuts to Nolte banging away at buttons are smiliar to watching a diapered monkey fingerpaint (cute, yet sad), but it's during the breath capacity test that Nolte really drives it home. One cannot help but feel for this man, as right before he passes out, he actually takes a moment to look up at the computer screen just to check on his progress, as if he's even near the state of mind to evaluate the scientific nonsense that surrounds him. Dr. Renna proves the idiocy of both himself and his patient by summing up all the procedures, pill-popping, and tests as “a beautiful thing.” According to him, Nick Nolte, at sixty, is functioning with the “brain composite” of a 45-year-old man. Apparently, Nolte is simultaneously functioning with the “brain composite” of a 13-year-old Japanese girl, as well: Although you might actually feel bad for Nolte, focus should be shifted toward the real victim here: Nick Nolte may appear to be a rubbery ex-addict on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but no dog should have to endure being that man's best friend. Especially in an Elizabethan fucking collar.

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