September 22, 2006

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'Vowel' Play [NOTE: THE VIDEOS BELOW WERE RECORDED AT A WEAK VOLUME, SO SENIORS READING THIS BLOG SHOULD TURN UP THEIR HEARING AIDS TO "11" IMMEDIATELY] [NOTE #2: SOME BLACK SPOTS ACCOMPANY THE BEGINNING OF THE YOU TUBE CLIPS. IGNORE THEM. BECAUSE I CAN'T BEAT THE INTERNET AT ANYTHING.] Being the overly ambitious child I was (read: kissass), and having spent weekends writing to any “celebrity” whose address I would rip from the pages of The Big Address Book, the gift that would keep on giving (to personal assistants of C-list celebrities), I was no stranger to writing letters. I constantly wrote friends and family, kept pen pals, and collected autographs via the aforementioned hobby that resulted in a bulletin board tacked with signed glossies from Luther Vandross (I was weird), Fred Savage (I was gay), and Brooke Shields (I was really weird and really gay). Having already received autographs from Vanna White and Pat Sajak, I decided to step it up and write a fan letter proclaiming my nightly allegiance to Wheel of Fortune. Several weeks following, the tolerant producers, upon receiving what was surely a ridiculously cute and mildly obnoxious letter, left a message on our answering machine, requesting that I attend an audition for the show at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan. Delighted, my parents and I drove to the audition (for which I left school early to a classroom of applause) although why they let me out of the house in a full body heather grey sweat-suit that advertised the city of Santa Fe, continues to remain a baffling mystery. I did, in fact, make it onto the show, and months later flew with my family to Orlando, Florida to tape the show at Walt Disney World with my math teacher, Mr. Howe for "My Favorite Teacher Week": Sadly my wardrobe blurred the distinction between teacher and student. My first immediate fuck up was when I nervously referred to him as my “mass” teacher instead of “math.” Nice start. Whatevs. At least I didn’t look like Erin: The moment she opened her mouth, Erin managed to define for me the concept of what it meant to come from “rural Pennsylvania.” Yikes. Paula Poundstone would be proud. Anyway, things did not bode well. Besides not being able to spin the wheel myself (it was quite heavy for a little shrimp like myself), the main problem was Noah and his science teacher, Martin. Actually, the main problem was really just Noah. Noah, who will forever be etched into the collective memory of my family and friends as “That Douche,” somehow gained consistent control of the wheel. Plus, he may have also had luck on his side, as well as, my mom some might argue, the advantage of age, as he was three years older than myself and Erin. Many will claim there to be no skill necessary to successfully play Wheel of Fortune, but that’s a flat out lie. When there’s that much money on hand, you’d better know your English, and you’d best be prepared to gamble accordingly. Noah and Martin did just that, too. Somehow, they avoided every last one of the traps on the wheel, managing to score (and keep) $10,000 the moment that piece was added: At one point, Mr. Howe and I did gain control, and the situation seemed to be moving in a healthy direction with $2150, until Noah and Martin later used a free spin to take control of the game, solve the puzzle, and clean up shop. Erin and I both did a terrible job hiding our disappointment (I looked ready to cry, and she actually did). Even Peggy, Erin’s teacher on whom I’d developed a minor crush, had to let go of the smile, even if it was for just a moment. She’s faking it here. Of course, Noah and Martin went on to solve the final puzzle (which, for the record, was “AUTHOR”), thus securing them each total winnings of over $46,000. And a new car. For both of them. In 1995. When Noah was 14. There would be many, many days in the coming years when I would take pause each time my old Saab broke down or sat in the shop, just to think about what Noah was doing at that exact same moment. He was definitely still a douchebag, I’d decided, and that’s only on the small chance that he’d lived through the inevitable car accident that completely destroyed that terribly unsafe and ugly, doorless vehicle. Fuck you, Noah. I’ve got a blog. (Plus, I walked away with a year’s supply of prune juice and Centrum Silver. Huzzah!) It was a rough game, and a true blow to the ego of a pompous adolescent who, if anything, would make friends through appearing on a nationally syndicated version of Hangman (but with money at stake). In the end, however, the experience was a memorable one for many reasons. But, of everything I can remember from when I was on Wheel of Fortune, one moment vividly sticks out in my mind, one which also proves why Pat Sajak doesn’t entirely suck ass. Throughout the whole game, the avid "Wheelwatcher" (I think I just grew a pussy!) could easily pick up on Pat’s dislike of Noah. Noah was rude, curt, and obnoxious, and Pat made sure to point it out. Me, however, Pat liked, and in the final moment before I exited the stage for good, and just as the cameras were cutting to commercial, this happened: Barely audible over the applause of the audience, Pat Sajak walked by me, and, perhaps noticing the unmistakable defeat on my face, patted both hands on my shoulders and said, “Good job, Eliot.” He knew I tried. Pat Sajak knew I tried, and kindly acknowledged the fact, too. In the end, what is $45,000 when compared to the warm cupping of Pat Sajak's palm on my right shoulder? I was "cupped" by Pat fucking Sajak!
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Toss 'The Boss' I never much cared for Who's The Boss? I mean, it's not as if I've never seen an episode. I've caught a couple here and there in syndication. And I've never grow old of randomly shouting "An-ge-LUH!" at friends into the ears of friends ...and strangers. For kicks. Tony Danza never left any sort of impression on me. He was, as far as I’d gathered a two-bit sitcom actor who found success by playing an extended version of himself, after which he appeared on other failed shows before taking his "cabaret" show on the road (while squeezing She’s Out Of Control into his fine canon of work). For two years before Rachael Ray, The Tony Danza Show held the 10:00am spot on WABC. After Rosie O'Donnell was unsuccessfully replaced by subhuman assclowns Caroline Rhea and Wayne Brady, the spot was then handed to Big Tony. Danza was placed against The Ellen Degeneres Show and, despite Ellen's undeniably warm carefree charm, Tony Danza reigned victorious in the New York market. This stunned me, and so I paid a little more attention to Danza to see exactly what was drawing in viewers. Who or what could have driven people, some of whom I may have personally known, to voluntarily watch a show hosted by a man whose claim to fame was speaking poor English and dancing with brooms? Upon checking out the show a couple of times, it became clearer: it wasn’t necessarily Tony Danza shepherding a mass audience to follow his antics as a television personality. Rather, it was a niche audience that, through strength in numbers, provided enough support to keep the show afloat. Who was watching? Oh. These gals fucking love Danza. And this is more than a gaggle of elderly broads (plus a sleepy husband or two). These are bored, middle class women between fifty and ninety who don’t mind taking public transportation into Manhattan if it means getting to spend sixty minutes watching a Good Ol' Boy from Brooklyn perform a poor man’s version of another poorer man’s version of modern cabaret. This became key to the show when, as I noticed toward the end of its ill-fated two year run, The Tony Danza Show seemed to shift focus away from traditional morning show chatter (celebrity interviews, cooking segments, games, contests, and human interest stories - none of which were entirely abandoned), toward old-fashioned “song and dance” segments starring the man himself. After all, did it really matter that he couldn't really sing, forgot song lyrics and acted [as my mom actually assumed he was for so many years] “slightly retarded”? Was that what he was going for? Was he pulling a Dane Cook on us all by just playing a dope, or was this guy for real? At first glance, it might be hard to say, but this may help you make up your mind: After watching Tony Danza “rap” to a parrot named Rocky (where, oh where, could he have come up with such an original name? Why not Corleone, Canolli, or Ricotta? Keep breaking down those ethnic barriers, Danza!), it’s hard to argue that the man hasn't endured brain damage. Maybe spending all those years as a boxer, during which he fought under the pseudonym “Dangerous” Tony Danza (a name that naturally scared off countless opponents), makes his case more understandable. The loss of brain cells, perhaps? Can that actually happen? Unlike Mike Tyson, Danza doesn't appear eager to rape a dozen women and chomp off an ear or two in the process, but it’s fair to say that he is especially dim. No wonder the bird doesn’t respond to Tony - he'd rather save the twenty minutes of life during which Danza would wax nostalgic about Danny Pintauro. Besides his being an egomaniacal imbecile, why do I consider Tony Danza, former talk show host, an absolute monster? Cool It With The Tap Dancing, Buddy I’m not quite sure when exactly Tony Danza took an interest in tap dancing, but it’s a shame he didn’t leave the duties to Gregory Hines and Savion Glover. Witnessing Tony's tapping, during which he wears a facial expression that combines smug self-satisfaction with surprise (“I’m actually doin’ it!”), is like witnessing a grizzly bear dip an infant in mayonnaise before eating it like a piece of string cheese: it’s so ugly and repulsive, yet equally bizarre, that it must be seen (of course, as a result of your very poor taste). It can't go on for too long, though, unless you possess a very strong stomach (or, like me, a masochistic need to watch a manbaby perform softshoe). Get Over It: You’re No Longer The ‘Boss’ Exactly when did Who’s The Boss become a "classic" sitcom? And is it just me, or is Judith Light the type of skinny WASP with a voice so grating, so artificial, so utterly condescending, that she must automatically be pegged an awful human being? Plus, Mona's got to be dead by now. She makes Rue Maclanahan look like Jessica Simpson. Whatever the case, Danza apparently cannot let that shit go. In my search through YouTube and iFilm, I found a clip (now removed) of Light and Tony performing a cold open for The Tony Danza Show where Tony "mistakenly" introduces himself with the surname of his character on their old sitcom, followed by Light asking him, “Can I see you in the kitchen?” apparently something we're meant to recognize as a signature moment from the Who's The Boss? Another clip involves Light "surprising" Tony when she calls into the show to wish him a happy birthday, for which Tony (who treats the occurrence as a “complete surprise" by actually saying that no phone calls were mentioned in that morning's "meeting") acts flattered to hear from his "other wife," to whom he continually refers to as "My Judy." (I just threw up in my mouth, accidentally swallowed it, and threw it up again.) More Judith Light clips pop up elsewhere, as well, as do several clips from Who’s The Boss reunion(s?) starring the show’s former cast members. One clip even pits Tony against Light in a game called “Do You Know Who’s The Boss,” where Tony, unaware of how pathetic it may make him look, proudly wipes the floor with his opponent...in a game of Who’s The Boss trivia. You can only lift so many weights before re-watching old episodes, huh, Tony? LET IT GO. Read A Book, Douchebag If our President can’t speak English well, it’s tragic. Danza's job is nowhere near as important (or crucial to the future of the world) as Bush’s. However, making fart noises with your hands to the sound of dead air and a comatose audience (although, what did they expect) shouldn't cut it. But it does. Although this moment, alone, should teach children the importance of literacy: An Ambitious Italian Boy From Brooklyn Does Not An Ambition Italian Boy From Hoboken Make Apparently, Tony Danza never got the memo that his “song and dance” routine is pitiful. Talk-singing has never passed as a credible form of entertainment (except for Bea Arthur, whose masculine growl is often considered to be highly sexy). Danza’s queer vibrato, filled with the frequency of a shaken Slinky, is nothing but strangely feminine and cringe-inducing. Hearing Tony Danza sing is like a bad trip, which I’ve never experienced, but hearing him sober is enough to make me question whether hard drugs would be a better option. (Answer: Yes.) I could go on forever, citing Danza’s vain self-obsession, the fact that all his young female “sidekicks” are exclusively Italian girls, and his consistent need to call celebrities “personal friends,” thus reflecting a transparent quest for relevance among an audience of people whose vaginas didn't dry up decades ago. Instead, however, I'll leave you with a clip that illustrates the depths of Tony Danza's brain, one in which we truly see how he believes himself a brilliant improviser upon being handed a vacuum cleaner: The Daily Danza [Best Week Ever] Put The Poop In The Bucket [Brian M. Palmer]

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