The Coolest Guys to Ever Hit the Vegas Strip! 😎

Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.

The Rat Pack

This New Year’s Eve some of us movie junkies are staying in for the festivities. If you’re doing the same, I recommend adding to your viewing list, “Ocean’s 11.” It’s a great New Year’s Eve, buddy movie and heist caper all in one. What better way to ring in the new year than with the coolest guys to ever hit the strip. 

Ocean’s 11 (1960)

Ocean'sEleven(1960)Poster

I can just hear Sinatra’s proposal.  How about this, we’ll shoot a film during the day in Las Vegas then party and work the Sands Hotel at night.  Unanimous vote.  (EE-O-Eleven.)

 Look out Vegas, here we come!

The Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Humphrey Bogart (regarded as the greatest male star by the American Film Institute in 1999) originated the concept of the “Rat Pack” with his “Clan.”  He was “the man”, holding court nightly in the 50’s at Holmby Hills. (home of Bogey and his wife Lauren Bacall)  He passed the torch to Frank Sinatra, (an original member of Bogart’s “Pack” who served as “pack master.”)  After Bogey’s death in 1957,   Frank’s boys became his “Rat Pack.”

Humphrey Bogart

Bogart

Performers commonly associated with The Rat Pack:  Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford.

Angie Dickinson and Shirley MacLaine were often referred to as the “Rat Pack Mascots.”

Rat Pack all

(Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr, Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop, Dean Martin)

Danny Ocean isn’t really a fictional character, he is Frank Sinatra.  You better believe his boys would do anything for him. Except Dean, he was the only one who ever said no to old blue eyes.  Frank really dug Dean’s truthfulness.

The plot revolves around a group of former World War II army buddies (under the command of Danny Ocean) conspiring to rob, on New Year’s Eve, five casinos on the Vegas strip.  When Peter Lawford presented the story idea Frank Sinatra joked: “Forget the movie, let’s pull the job!”

 

Whenever one of the “Pack” was performing at a club in Vegas, the others would show up to support and usually put on an impromptu performance.  While they were in town, Las Vegas was jam packed with admirers hoping to catch a show.

ratpack

 And, over 50 years later, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. are still the coolest guys to ever hit the Vegas Strip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas 🎶🎄

A sweet little, probably lesser known Jim Henson (Muppets creator) gem – “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas.”

Emmet Otter Jug-band Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas joys is watching and sharing my favorite animated Christmas specials. This month will be dedicated to these wonderful specials and films.

The story is based on the children’s story of the same name which was written by Russell and Lillian Hoban. Jim Henson’s production of Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas premiered on HBO on December 17, 1978, as an hour long TV presentation. It’s the charming tale of Emmet Otter and his loving mom’s dream of presenting each other with the perfect Christmas gift. But unfortunately, Emmet and his Mom, a widow, scrape by on the small amount of money she gets from doing laundry and that Emmet gets from doing odd jobs around their home in the town of Frogtown Hollow.

As Christmas approaches, they hear of a talent contest in the nearby town of Waterville and separately decide to enter to afford that perfect present: the guitar Emmet dreams of, and a beautiful piano for Ma. However, in a twist on The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, they must sacrifice each other’s livelihood for the talent contest. Mom hocks Emmet’s tools for dress fabric while Emmet turns Ma’s washtub into a washtub bass for a jug band.

The special received a very positive review in The New York Times on December 15, 1980: “Jim Henson and the Muppets are on a dazzling winning streak these days… Mr. Henson has produced and directed one of the most charming Christmas specials of the last several years.

Emmet rehearses diligently for the contest with his bandmates and mom secretly practices her solo, However, a local band, Rivertown Nightmare Band enters the contest as well. I won’t spoil it, but the Nightmare Band is awesome!

The songs by singer/songwriter Paul Williams are wonderful and Jerry Juhl’s story is simple and sweet. I loved Jim Henson and miss him and his talent for capturing the imagination of not only children but of us all!

Jim Henson

Jim Henson

 

 

 

 

A Merry “Gremlins” Christmas!🎁

“Gremlins” June 8, 1984 Directed by Joe Dante

One of my favorite Christmas joys is watching and sharing my favorite animated Christmas specials. This month will be dedicated to these wonderful specials and films.

I have to start off by saying I know, “Gremlins” isn’t technically an animated film, but it is animated with Gizmo and some scary Mogwai.😊

I couldn’t resist featuring “Gremlins” because Gizmo is too darn sweet and Stripe and his cohorts are out of their minds. The story revolves around Billy, (Zach Galligan) a young man who spends his days working in a bank owned by the tyrannical, elderly Mrs. Deagle, (Polly Holliday) but he’s really an artist. A couple of days before Christmas, his father (Hoyt Axton) brings him a very special Christmas gift he purchased in Chinatown – a Mogwai – Gizmo. (voiced by Howie Mandel) His father explains there are 3 rules by which he must abide:

  1. Don’t get Gizmo wet.

  2. Don’t feed him after midnight

  3. Keep him out of bright light

Unfortunately, Rule number 1 (Don’t get Gizmo wet) is broken soon after when Pete (Cory Feldman) a neighbor friend accidently spills a cup of water on Gizmo while Billy is at his drawing desk. Immediately Gizmo begins to shake and convulse as furry looking balls eject off his back. We then find out why Rule number 1 is so important because the furry looking balls turn into other Mogwai lead by the villainous Stripe.

Stripe

Stripe

Rule number 2 (don’t feed after midnight) is just as powerful as number 1 because as a result of Stripe tricking Billy into the feeding the Mogwai after midnight, (except Gizmo) they turn into a bunch of “crazy Mogwai.” Yikes!

The “crazy Mogwai” begin their reign of terror at the local bar where Billy’s girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates) works as a barmaid. She barely makes it out of the bar by flashing them with a camera as the “crazies” proceed to get drunk, destroy the bar, and start shooting at each other, The bar scene even includes a flasher Mogwai. Too much!😄

My favorite scene is when the “crazy Mogwai” take over a local theater to watch “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” And just like regular people, they’re enjoying popcorn and snacks while singing “Hi Ho” along with the Seven Dwarfs. What a crack-up!

Rule number 3 (No bright light) is really crucial because the light kills Mogwai. Momentarily exposed, Gizmo cries out in the sweetest little voice, – “bright light, bright light.” Too cute.

Finally, Billy and Gizmo are charged with finding and eliminating the “crazy Mogwai” especially Stripe because he’s now creating more “crazies” by purposely getting himself wet.

gremlins- billy, kate, and gizmo

Billy, Kate, Gizmo

The fight with Billy and Gizmo forces Stripe – “crazy Mogwai” in charge, to pull out all the stops to keep up his goal of taking over the town. But Gizmo is no easy win and proceeds to give Stripe his money’s worth!

Gremlins- Gizmo Car

Gizmo’s car

The puppetry is great and the blend of human and puppets is totally fun! Steven Spielberg (Executive Producer) explained: “It’s one of the most original things I’ve come across in many years, which is why I bought it.” Because of the effects and original storyline, (by Chris Columbus), I include “Gremlins” as holiday worthy and recommend checking it out or revisiting if it’s been a while.

 

A Red-Nosed Christmas ⛄🎄

Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer Poster

Premiered December 6, 1964

One of my favorite Christmas joys is watching and sharing my favorite animated Christmas specials. This month will be dedicated to these wonderful specials and films.

“Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” is special to me for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a musical and I LOVE musicals. “There’s Always Tomorrow” sung by Clarice, Rudolph’s main squeeze (she thinks he’s cute), is top of my list because it’s such a sweet and tender song about pursuing your dreams. Plus, Clarice is a soprano like me – she may be the reason I started performing in Musical Theater.😀 “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” has been telecast every year since 1964, making it the longest running Christmas TV special in history

Favorite musical number? Who am I kidding, I love every number! “We’re a Couple of Misfits” sung by Rudolph and Hermey  – the elf who really wants to be a dentist – really sums up being different. And when Burl Ives (Snowman and Narrator) sings “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” you know the holidays have begun.

The other reason I enjoy “Rudolph” is because it teaches a great lesson; don’t treat people like lepers because they’re different. It’s a lesson Rudolph’s father (Donner) had to learn – he made Rudolph wear a fake nose so people wouldn’t see how his glows. Even Santa had to learn to appreciate Rudolph’s shiny nose – mainly because the snow storm of the century hits and Christmas gets canceled because the reindeer can’t see. Oh, now you need Rudolph!

Santa and Rudolph

To tug at your heart, the “The Island of Misfit Toys” is just sad. Perfectly good toys, except each, because of an anomaly are relegated to an isolated island (basically thrown away). Adding to their pain, Santa passes them by every year. Bad Santa.😒

"The Island of Misfit Toys"

Toys from”The Island of Misfit Toys”

It’s also a coming of age tale with Rudolph learning what he’s made of on his perilous quest to find his parents.

This is a fantastic movie for the entire family. Maybe it brings back childhood memories or making new memories with your children. I predict when you watch, you’ll fall in love with this timeless classic.

Happy Holidays!

 

Don’t Be So Mean Grinch!

“Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot,
But the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did not.
The Grinch hated Christmas — the whole Christmas season.
Oh, please don’t ask why, no one quite knows the reason.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”

 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas joys is watching and sharing my favorite animated Christmas specials. This month will be dedicated to these wonderful specials and films.

 

Theodor Seuss Geisel aka Dr. Seuss is one of the most significant authors in American literature. His classic book, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” has been a lifelong favorite. Known as a children’s author, Dr. Seuss’ cadence and rhyming style (anapestic tetrameter) is both renown and his signature. I believe his gift lies in his ability to convey his philosophy of life in a playful, endearing way. Most of us grew up reading Dr. Seuss and escaping into the wonderful worlds he shared. His other bestselling books bring back precious memories: Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and Horton Hears a Who!


How the Grinch Dr. Seuss

 

On December 18, 1966 “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” premiered as a television special and has continued to entertain and touch my life and the lives of countless children both young and old. It relates the tale of the Christmas plot of the mean ole Mr. Grinch to steal the joy of celebration from the residents of Whoville; it’s Seuss’ spiritual lesson for the true meaning of Christmas.

 

How_the_grinch_stole_christmas_1966_print_ad_premiere

Print ad of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 1966

Narrated by the legendary Boris Karloff – also the voice of The Grinch – we are introduced to the world of Whoville and that nasty wasty Grinch.

 

How the Grinch Boris

Boris Karloff and The Grinch

You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch.
You’re a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk.
Mr. Grinch!
[spoken] The three words that best describe you are as follows and I quote:
[sung] “Stink! Stank! Stunk!”

 

In this version of the story, we don’t really know why The Grinch hates Christmas and the residents of Whoville. Just that his heart is 2 sizes too small. However in the Jim Carrey movie version of Dr. Seuss “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,”we see the flashback of The Grinch as a child and how because he looks different: green and hairy as an eight-year-old he is taunted and teased by his classmates.

“Little Grinch” makes a Christmas present for his crush and tries to shave his face for the presentation but ends up with toilet paper stuck all over. Everyone laughs at him, so he storms out the room climbing up to his mountain exile. Not seen for years, he becomes an urban legend. Flashing forward to The Grinch and his now adult classmates, it isn’t hard to understand why Whoville isn’t his favorite town and additionally, the Whos love of Christmas has become a major thorn in his side.

 

How_the_Grinch_Stole_Christmas_film_poster

So, The Grinch gets this inspired idea after seeing his dog Max get snow on his face that sort of looks like a beard. The plan becomes to dress up as Santa, sneak into Whoville and rip off all the houses of presents, toys and even a piece of cheese from a mouse. So low down. Hence “stink, stank, stunk!”

 

How the Grinch Santa outfit

Poor Max wasn’t really down with the plan but was forced to play his part as a reindeer.

 

Enter my favorite resident of Whoville, Cindy Lou Who. I’ve loved her all my life. Her innocence and open heart are a testament to – as John Lennon once wrote: “All you need is love.”

 

Ah, but not even the innocence of Cindy Lou could discourage The Grinch from following thru with his wicked plan.

 

How the Grinch stealing presents

However, The Grinch would come to realize that Whoville is no ordinary town. Even without presents, toys or roast beast, Christmas would still come.

 

How the Grinch Who singing

 

 

 

 

This timeless message of appreciating what you have in friends and family is a gift often lost in this world of envy and greed. Matthew 16:26 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Let’s remember the true meaning of Christmas not only during the holidays but every day of the year.

 

Merry Christmas!

A Charlie Brown Christmas ⛄🎁🎄

charlie brown christmas

Premiered December 9, 1965

One of my favorite Christmas joys is watching and sharing my favorite animated Christmas specials. This month will be dedicated to these wonderful specials and films.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is celebrating its’ 50th Anniversary this month and will always have a special place in my heart for its honesty, faith, humor and appreciation of a child’s intelligence. I’ve watched every year since its premier in 1965. I fell in love with Charlie and the Peanuts gang, relating to the familiar relationships we all had as children.

 

charlie brown

Charlie’s sad little Christmas Tree

Charlie Brown is the quintessential “nice guy.” Sweet, awkward and sincere. All the traits that guarantee a life of hell for an 8-year-old boy on the playground. In this musical special, Charlie is depressed about the commercialism of Christmas and seeks ways to enjoy the true meaning of the season; the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Charlie confides his feelings to his best friend Linus who’s also sweet, but also philosophical.

 

 

After Linus tells him to stop being so ” Charlie Brownie,” Chuck seeks the advice of his nemesis Lucy (aka Dr. Lucy). We’ve all had a Lucy in our lives. The kid who takes tremendous pleasure in the humiliation and torture of the sweet, awkward and sincere kid on the block. You know – Charlie Brown.

 

 

Charlie takes Lucy’s advice to become involved in a Christmas project and becomes the play’s director. However, his vision is the complete opposite of Lucy’s vision of becoming the Christmas Queen. (hey, don’t judge; what’s your fantasy?)  Result, my favorite scene:

 

 

OMG!! The dance scene is hilarious. Everybody who’s ever seen this has their favorite dancer. I see myself as one of the twin girls with their head and individual hair strands swinging side to side. They look so happy and diggin’ the groove. I love it! My other fave is the little boy doing what I call the Frankenstein. His arms are out in front of him and he’s doing some sort of “running man” dance move. Go ahead baby, get your dance on!

charlie brown christmas dance

For Charlie, the play’s a disaster. His decision for a Christmas tree being even worse; failing to bring any of the holiday spirit to Charlie Brown.

But ever faithful, his best friend Linus tells him what Christmas is all about and gives the most memorable soliloquy of my young life. (the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, verses 8 through 14 from the Authorized King James Version)

I was raised in the church and heard this passage before but never in the context of a cartoon or animation. Quoting the bible in this realm was a bold move but is one of the reasons why I have such respect for the creator, Charles Schultz, and this project.

It reminds me, to this day, don’t forget the reason we celebrate Christmas; it’s the birth of Christ.

 

 

Even though Charlie’s day started with doom, gloom, and humiliation (including his dog Snoopy laughing in his face); in the end he finds joy and empathy from his friends.

Let the choir sing:

“Hark the Heralded Angels Sing”

 

 

I raised my children on this timeless classic and they continue the tradition. A Charlie Brown Christmas touches my heart in so many ways. The innocence of childhood, the unbridled excess of commercialism on what is a holy holiday. But also the friendships, experiences, and faith that shapes our lives forever.

 

A Christmas Miracle – The Making of a Charlie Brown Christmas.

Happy Anniversary, Charlie Brown!