Out Of Africa And Headed For Hollywood

April 3, 2009

I am a dog person.

I am a dog person sharing a home with a trio of cats.

There does seem to be much posturing between those who prefer canines and those who opt for felines, the two factions seeming to be only slightly less contentious than the Christian right and, well, everyone else.

Although I do prefer dogs, I have come to grow fond of the cats which Paloma has brought into my life.

I’ve often been inspired by television commercials to suggest that our cats might be able to get into that line of work. The animals jockeying for position on our couch seem to have as much personality as those shilling products.

The other night, I brought up the idea – again.

“I’ve heard the cats in commercials scheme,” Paloma assured me. She seemed mostly amused.

“We’ve got one on death’s door (she isn’t), one who’s overweight (she is) and one that’s a feral kitten (it’s true). And you want to put them on a set with a bunch of strangers and cameras and have them perform on command?”

Admittedly, her review of the plan, while accurate, made it seem slightly half-baked.

“Umm. Yes?” I replied.

On cue, Pizza, the kitten (see photo courtesy of Paloma), shot through the room in a blur of fur.

(Paloma brought her home as a stray and she is, literally, feral as we have discovered that she is a Savannah, a relatively new breed that is a cross between an African serval and a domesticated house cat)

Pizza’s mad dash ended abruptly in a collision with a chair. She flopped back on her haunches, blinked, turned, and darted off as quickly as she had arrived.

“So, are you going to have business cards printed that say ‘Cat Wrangler’?”

Maybe not quite yet.

Francis Dunnery – Everyone’s A Star
Some artists undeservedly slip from my radar, so it’s always welcome when something prompts a reminder. I’d kind of forgotten about Francis Dunnery until he was mentioned over at Fusion 45 recently.

I own two of Dunnery’s solo albums and both are well worth searching out. Everyone’s A Star comes from his debut, Fearless, which also includes Good Life, one of the most heartbreaking songs I think I’ve ever heard.

He also was a member of Robert Plant’s touring band and I got to catch him with Plant on the latter’s Fate Of Nations tour in ’93 or so.

James – She’s A Star
Another underappreciated act (at least here in the States), but James did find brief success with their song Laid.

She’s A Star comes from Whiplash, which was their first album after Laid was a hit. It failed to maintain their momentum even though they snagged a spot on Lollapalooza that summer.

Billy Joel – Say Goodbye To Hollywood
I’m strangely ambivalent about Billy Joel. If you asked me if I liked Billy Joel, I’d probably shrug and say something like, “He’s OK.”

But when I do hear one of his songs, I’m surprised at how often I pause, mentally list his songs in my head, and realize that the guy does have some truly fantastic tracks in his catalog. Say Goodbye To Hollywood is certainly (and always has been) one of my favorite songs (maybe the favorite) by him.

I never tire of hearing it.

Concrete Blonde – Still In Hollywood
I’ve realize that I’ve had the opportunity to see each of the acts in this post live. I’ve been quite fortunate that way.

I keep vowing to write about Concrete Blonde as the trio did produce some of my favorite music of the late ’80s/early ’90s. And as much as I adore Johnette as a frontwoman, I thought guitarist James Mankey never got as much love as he should have.

At Least Cooper Huckabee Got To Keep His Pants On

July 22, 2008

I was channel surfing the other day and happened upon a station where the closing credits to the movie Urban Cowboy were rolling. Perhaps because I can be amused by something as simple as a piece of toast, I watched as the names scrolled across the screen. One caught my eye – Cooper Huckabee.

It was an unusual name and it was nowhere near the top of the cast, but it made me wonder about this fellow as I had never heard of him and Urban Cowboy was released in the early ’80s. Was this Mr. Huckabee’s fifteen minutes of fame?

I wondered what his life was like during the time the movie was filmed. Was he a struggling waiter/actor who had finally landed a role in a major motion picture? Did he make excited phone calls home (maybe some small town in the hinterlands of Iowa) telling family and friends that he had finally made it? Did his parents breathe a sigh of relief? Did their disappointment that young Cooper had abandoned a college scholarship or their plans for him to take over the family feed store to pursue an acting career turn to pride? Did his hometown newspaper do a feature story on him and the mayor give him the key to the city on “Cooper Huckabee Day” as most of the town’s 2,000 residents watched?

Did he believe that this would be the stepping stone to his becoming the next Robert DeNiro or Al Pacino? Does he regret abandoning the family business now that it is a quarter century later and his career hasn’t followed such a star-bound trajectory?

I also wonder about Don McManus. McManus has appeared in over 80 movies and television programs in mostly bit parts, including an episode of Seinfeld. He also had a role in The Shawshank Redemption, a movie that is one of the most critically acclaimed pictures of all time.

If you’ve seen the movie, he appears in one of the iconic scenes, one in which Tim Robbins’ character locks himself in the warden’s office and plays an opera recording over the prison loudspeaker. It’s a powerful scene and one in which McManus gets most of his screen time. Unfortunately, much of that screen time consists of him sitting on a toilet, reading a comic book as he, in his character’s words, “pinches a loaf.”

I wonder if he has mixed emotions about being in such a pivotal scene of such an acclaimed movie with his trousers around his ankles. I wonder if his grandchildren will brag about his cinematic career, pointing to that scene as the highlight of his work.

Maybe my musings concerning these two fellows are rooted in wondering what it’s like to get so close to your wildest dreams only to fall just short of it being everything for which you might have hoped. Maybe I wonder if Mr. Huckabee and Mr. McManus consider it a blessing or a cosmic tease – the cruel fulfillment of a wish they once made where they said, “I want to be in the movies,” without being more specific or reading the fine print.

David Bowie – Fame

Crowded House – Fame Is

Mission Of Burma – Fame And Fortune

Fluffy – Too Famous