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DICK CLARK: A TRIBUTE

April 18, 2012

I wrote this for my blog in January, 2008…

THE MAGIC OF MR. CLARK

The comic character Wolverine often says, “I’m the best at what I do.” Well, whenever I hear that quote, I think of the one man I’ve known who’s always been the best at what he does, and that’s Dick Clark.

I remember once when I attended the taping of a pilot for a new talk show Dick was producing. Before the show got underway, Dick came out into the audience and asked everyone to be quiet for a moment. Suddenly you could hear a buzzing noise coming from one of the lights. Dick was the only one who noticed it, but you know it would have shown up on the tape if he hadn’t.

I’ve worked for dick clark productions on and off for the past twenty years. The first thing you learned about Dick was that his most precious commodity was his time. He was always involved in so many projects as a host, producer and businessman that he was literally scheduled for every single minute of the day.

One of his rules was never to offend any segment of the public by giving his opinions on politics or even music. He didn’t want anyone to have an excuse not to want to watch his shows. Dick played to the broadest possible audience, which is why when he did a show full of clips of say famous teen idols, he never showed the stars in chronological order but mixed them up instead to make sure whether you were young or old, you didn’t get bored.

He also never praised one star over another because you never knew who you might want to ask to guest on a show in the future. While some might say it made him bland as a personality, I think it helped add to his longevity as a performer.

So did his sense of humor about himself. He certainly didn’t take himself seriously on camera. You can see that in the promotional photos he took for shows like “Bloopers And Practical Jokes” with his eyes popping out of his head and a goofy grin on his face.

Dick was also a great interviewer. He always listened carefully to whoever he pointed that famous microphone at, whether it was a teen in the bleachers at “Bandstand” or one of the hottest stars in music. Many interviewers put the spotlight on themselves, but that was never Dick’s way.

None of this is to say Dick was the perfect boss. He certainly had a temper, although I was fortunate enough never to see it. Once when I was working as a researcher for “American Bandstand’s 50th Anniversary” TV special, I was supposed to fax Dick (who was in New York at the time) some research on what happened to the various Bandstand dancers over the years. About an hour later, one of the producers on the show called me into his office and said Dick had just yelled at him because he didn’t receive what he had expected. I asked why Dick hadn’t called me himself and the producer said Dick had to yell at somebody and didn’t want it to me (as it turned out, the fax machine didn’t print out all the pages I sent. I re-sent them and this time Dick got them all).

I got to spend some quality time with Dick when my friend Fred Bronson got the job of co-authoring with Dick a book on “American Bandstand.” Dick agreed to give us three interview sessions of two hours each, which was a huge allotment of time in his busy schedule. It was very special to hear Dick reminisce about his career and the many music stars he crossed paths with over the years. He even finally admitted what his favorite music was: disco!

The last thing Dick ever said to me was at the backstage offices of The American Music Awards a few years ago. He asked me to close a window. Even though I had known him for years, I still marveled that he actually remembered my name.

Not long after that, Dick had his stroke and pulled back from his on-camera duties. But he’s still there every New Year’s Eve, and as long as he is, I’ll still tune in and silently thank him for all the chances in life I’ve had because of him.

I’LL BE BACK

August 3, 2009

Just wanted to let everybody know that I won’t be posting for a few weeks, as I’m off on my annual summer trip to the East Coast. As the song says, “See you in September”…

DUBAI TO YOU

June 3, 2009

So I promised you the adventures of Brian, International Courier. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds, unless you think a 17 hour flight in Economy Class is glamorous!

I was hired by a company called Filmworks Dubai to bring four astronaut costumes from California to the Middle Eastern city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. There are signs of construction everywhere you look in Dubai, and one of the things they’ve built is an amusement park with a space theme called Stargate. They needed the spacesuits to shoot a commercial for the new attraction and they needed them fast.

Of course, when I informed my friends that I was off to Dubai on just a day’s notice, a few of them feared for my safety. I wasn’t too worried and when I actually got to Dubai, I found the city to be even safer and more comfortable than I imagined. True, I was getting the tourist’s eye view, but much of the city’s economy is geared towards tourism and the service is top notch. Every single person I met spoke at least some English, plus all the signs are in English as well as Arabic. What really amazed me was in the Hallmark Store at the Dubai Mall, every single card was in English. Every single one!

I had a few days to check out the city during the production of the Stargate commercial and saw quite a bit. My first stop was Souk Madinat Jumeirah. A souk is a traditional Arab market, although this particular souk, while designed with a traditional Arabic look, is part of a beautiful new resort and has many modern restaurants and bars which open out onto patio seating on a beautiful lagoon with a view of the famous Burj Al Arab hotel. The first thing I saw upon walking into the Souk were outlets for Cinnabon, Baskin Robbins and Starbucks. See what I mean about feeling right at home? Although I was a bit more experimental with the meals I had there, eating dinner at a Japanese noodle house and lunch at a Lebanese restaurant.

The next day I headed downtown for a look at two of the city’s new malls. First up was the Dubai Mall, billed as the world’s largest, and I believe it! It featured such highlights as a two story aquarium, dancing fountains like those at the Bellagio, and the biggest food court I have ever seen. And while I was stunned by the food court, most visitors would have probably been more impressed by The Gold Souk section within the mall, which features over 180 jewelry stores, one after another!

I next took a taxi to the Mall Of The Emirates. While not as amazingly large as the Dubai Mall, it does have an impressive claim to fame, an indoor ski resort called Ski Dubai whichhad attracted large crowds of teens and children skiing, snowboarding or just throwing snowballs.

Both malls were full of the same chain stores you see here in America. In fact, walking past the stores, you might not have realized you were even in a foreign country except for the many men and women in traditional Arabic clothes. I have to hand it to them: as a Muslim, you are suppoed to wear modest clothing to cover up your body. What this translates to is wearing long pants and long sleeve shirts in one of the hottest places I’ve ever been.

And speaking of hot, the next day I hit the beach and was in turn hit by a mild case of sunstroke. The problem was the water temperature. While in the U.S., you jump in the ocean to cool off, but in Dubai, it’s warm in the water. There was just no getting away from the heat, at least until I left the beach and recovered in a nearby covered courtyard with jets of cool water rising from the floor.

Sunday I visited Shindagha, the original site from which Dubai grew and which is preserved as a living history museum. Nearby is Dubai Creek, home of the traditional markets the Gold Souk and the Spice Souk. I also ate lunch at a cafe in Bastakiya, a site of traditional courtyard houses and art galleries. The cafe had complimentary copies of the local English language newspaper, The National, and I was happy to read the Lakers made it into the NBA Finals.

Finally on my last full day in the city, I checked out the Stargate attraction (which is due to open in three weeks and was full of workmen adding finishing touches) and watched the filming of the segment of the commercial using the astronaut uniforms I brought to Dubai. I’ve been on quite a few sets in my life and none of them have used the amount of bottled water they needed to keep the crew hydrated in Dubai!

After a long flight back to California, fortunately I was still awake enough to convince the customs agent that the astronaut costumes were not being imported for sale and should not be locked up until I can pay a broker to get them for me. I just hope that 32 hours after I woke up this morning in Dubai, this post is every bit as coherent as my argument!

YOU WILL BELIEVE A MAN CAN SING (WITH HIS MOUTH CLOSED!)

April 5, 2009

The other night I got to see singing ventriloquist Terry Fator’s new show at the Mirage, and I can’t recommend it enough! I had never seen Terry, the winner of the second season of “America’s Got Talent,” perform before, so for the first fifteen minutes of the show, I sat there with my mouth open in amazement… unlike Terry, whose gift is to sing incredibly well with his mouth closed. It’s astounding, especially since so many of his imitations are spot on. And it’s one thing to do an impression of a star but it’s even more impressive to sing like them.

Terry Fator is also a very smart performer, mixing things up with different puppet characters throughout the show. It won’t be long before you’re applauding for the puppet as if it’s a real person. Terry also brings a member of the audience onstage and cleverly turns them into a human puppet.

So if you’re in Vegas and want to come out of a show smiling, try seeing “Terry Fator And His Cast Of Thousands.” You won’t be sorry!

COUNTRY TIME

March 27, 2009

So in the end, I did twelve phone interviews with various performers that are scheduled to appear on our show. Everyone had great stories to tell about George Strait and certainly seemed to be in awe of his talent.

You know you’re working with country music stars when they apologize profusely for missing their appointed interview time. Dierks Bentley had just gotten off the road and took off for a relaxing day in the mountains, where he discovered his cell phone wasn’t working. Needless to say, he sounded mighty sorry the next day when we connected. Another country superstar, Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn, was under the weather and called me anyway. John Rich took time out from doing publicity in New York City for his brand new album that had been released that very day. LeAnn Rimes called from a recording session, while Jamie Foxx (hey, he is from Texas) called from a movie set.

Tomorrow we pack up the production office in order to move to Las Vegas to work on the show onsite. I’ve got my plane trip and room booked, I’ve got my meal vouchers and I’ve got my per diem. All I have to do now is remember I’m there to work…

WORK STOPPAGE

March 7, 2008

I’m headed for Las Vegas tomorrow. I would have went today, but I had some work to finish so I put the trip off. It looks like I’ll be finished with the project by midnight, so I’ll be able to leave with a clear conscience.

The main reason I’m going this weekend is I have the chance to see Neil Sedaka in concert at the Orleans tomorrow night. Neil is one of a very few of my favorite artists that I haven’t seen in concert. I was hoping to hear Neil perform my favorite song of his, “The Immigrant,” but it happened to pop up on my Ipod today and I realized the anti-illegal immigration crowd might take offense even though the song came out in 1975. It will be interesting to see if Neil plays it.

In other news, I’d have to say America got it right with the Idol eliminations tonight. I did like Asia’h Epperson, but I like Syesha Mercado more, so I’m glad things went the way they did. Of course, the question is if their positions on the show last night were reversed, would Syesha be the one going home?

Look for a report on my trip on Tuesday. I’ll also be covering some fun junkets at the end of next week, featuring George Clooney and Kristin Bell. You know I’ll be taking my “Veronica Mars” Season 1 DVD along to get signed! Hmm, maybe I should change my log line to “Adventures Of A Celeb Autograph Seeker”…

STARRY EYES

February 12, 2008

One of the friends I grew up with in Pennsylvania loves show business. To Keith, the stars are real icons, people worth listening to and emulating (of course, he grew up in the heyday of Stallone and Schwarzenegger). So Keith was very excited when he first came out to visit me back in the eighties, only to have his starstruck eyes opened at every turn.

Right after I picked him up at the airport, we headed to Westwood for a bite to eat. While walking around, we saw soap star Kin Shriner of “General Hospital” in front of us. Keith was amazed that Kin was just wandering around with no bodyguards and no one bothering him.

A few days later, I was assigned my very first interview as part of my job as researcher for Dick Clark’s radio show, “Countdown America,” and I took Keith along. I was supposed to attend a rehearsal for a tribute to Oscar Award winning music in order to interview Burt Bacharach. While I went off and talked to Burt in the lobby, Keith sat in the audience of the theater and watched the rehearsal, which included Bob Hope, who was part of a salute to his longtime co-star, the late Bing Crosby. Keith told me later that Bob and a friend sat down right in front of Keith. Keith overheard Bob’s friend ask Bob what he was doing at the show. Bob complained that whenever anyone paid tribute to Bing, he was forced to be there. Keith couldn’t believe that Bob was putting down his fellow star!

But the crowning moment came when we bought a star map and headed out to Malibu to see if we could find the home of one of Keith’s favorite TV actors (who shall remain nameless). We parked on PCH and soon found the address we were looking for, although there was no proof the actor lived there. Then a man in scuba gear came walking up the beach. My friend went up to him and found out he was a stunt man practicing diving for a movie. Then Keith pointed at the house and asked, “Do you know if ___ ___ lives there?” The stunt man answered, “Do you mean the old drunk?”

But in spite of having his respect for the stars trampled in the mud at every turn, Keith still had a good time during his visit. He’s a huge fan of the “Planet Of The Apes” movie series and when we went to take a look at the old set of “MASH” at Malibu Creek State Park, he realized we were walking through the area where they filmed the original “Planet Of The Apes” movie. Of course, the stars were long gone, which was good because who knows how his love for the acting of Roddy McDowell would have been besmirched …

ODDS & ENDS

January 26, 2008

I think I’m going to do an Odds & Ends segment once a week for my ideas on things that just aren’t long enough to be their own entry (like what I wrote about “Hairspray” yesterday).

For instance, a month ago I was at a gas station and saw a box of Reese’s  Peanut Butter And Banana Creme Cups, decorated with a picture of Elvis Presley on it. At the time, I wasn’t in the mood for candy, but I’ve been on the lookout for the product ever since. After all, I love peanut butter and banana shakes, so I had to try this.

Well, I was at the grocery store yesterday and there it was in the candy display at the cash register, so I bought one (at three for a dollar, how could I resist?). And yes, they were excellent! Just like a chocolate banana shake at Mel’s Diner! Truly food fit for The King!

I also want to point out that Fred Bronson, who is often mentioned here, has returned the favor in his weekly “Chart Beat Chat” column at Billboard.com. A reader wrote Fred an e-mail full of praise for his new book, the fourth edition of “Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits.” The reader complimented Fred and his team, which of course is Fred and me! You can read what Fred wrote at Billboard.com’s “Chart Beat Chat.” The letter is headed “Hottest” Stuff. Google that together with Billboard.com and you should be able to go right to it!

COMMENTMENT!

January 4, 2008

Hey, to everybody who’s commented so far… thanks for reading!  I didn’t really do much reading about WordPress before I started the blog, so I didn’t know I had to approve the comments for them to show up, but now that I know, I’ll keep an eye on them. Next up, putting up a bio so you know why I care so much about Alvin when my name isn’t even Bagdasarian!