June 13, 2002 · 5:00 PM PDT ·
WANT TO READ an article about attempts to recover the 18-and-a-half minute gap on Nixon's White House tapes? There's one
this month in Wired Magazine and here's a link to the
on-line version of it. Forgive me for sounding excited about this — I'm really not, since I'm not expecting results — but it's one
of the two lingering questions from the whole Watergate mess. The other, of course, is the identity of the Woodward-Bernstein informant, Deep
Throat, and that one will presumably be answered some day when the individual passes away...or, if all the suspects die and nothing's revealed, we'll
know the reporters just made him up.
The tape gap has no guaranteed answer, and it probably won't change any minds about Nixon. Plenty of evidence has come out since
indicating that Nixon did have advance knowledge of the break-in and that he did order the cover-up, and those who seek to believe otherwise just
ignore it or change the subject. Still, it might shed an interesting new light on an unresolved piece of American history. If they can unerase it, that is.
June 13, 2002 · 3:00 PM PDT ·
ANOTHER MOMENT of Show Biz History on the Game Show Network's rerunning of hoary but wonderful What's My Line?
episodes. Last night, they ran the broadcast of 3/5/67, which featured two mystery guests. The first was Jacqueline Susann, authoress of
the best-selling novel, Valley of the Dolls, which was (at that moment), "soon to be a major motion picture." Her appearance was
probably a trade-off; that is, the game show took her in order to also get the second mystery guest, Judy Garland. Ms. Garland was then signed
to play Helen Lawson in the movie — a humiliating role, some said, since the novel's ingenue (the role played in the film by Patty Duke) was
partially based on Judy and her legendary struggles with drink and drugs.
Nevertheless, Garland accepted the part of the older singing star based sorta/kinda on Ethel Merman. The night of 3/5, she was in
New York to attend the wedding of her daughter Liza to singer Peter Allen — gosh, how could that marriage not have worked? — and
was soon to begin filming Valley of the Dolls.
What's My Line? producer Mark Goodson later described that night's episode as the closest they ever came to invoking the
emergency, no-mystery-guest procedure, which was for him to fill that function. Garland showed up late for the live telecast, started drinking,
then disappeared. Panicked, Goodson donned his tuxedo and was literally standing in the wings, chalk in hand, ready to enter as the mystery
guest when Judy suddenly appeared. She was tipsy and Goodson briefly considered bumping her — but she barged on-stage and gave a
performance that did little to counter anyone's image of her as unreliable and alcoholic. Just before she exited, discussing the upcoming film,
she quipped that her character was the only one in the book who didn't drink or take pills. Ha-ha, very funny, what a great joke.
Less than two months after the game show appearance, Garland was fired from the movie after three days of non-productive filming.
She died a little over two years later. It was, like the death of so many rock stars and folks like John Belushi, a death that surprised no one
in the slightest. I'm not sure if those are more or less tragic than the ones that no one saw coming...
June 13, 2002 · 1:00 AM PDT ·
We've posted two more columns to this site. One is my obit for Lorenzo Music, which was expanded
from a piece that ran on this News Page. The other one is all about funerals.
Now then: I have a request of any of you who have extensively browsed this site or who followed the column I used to write for the
Comics Buyer's Guide, back before we parted company over — believe it or not — a penny a word. As you probably know, TwoMorrows Publishing is about to bring out a paperback collection of some of those columns
under the name Comic Books And Other Necessities of Life.
This week, I'm finalizing the list of which columns, and I'd welcome input. The book will only cover those about comic
book creation and collecting. (I'm still looking for a publisher for a collection of show biz columns.) Do you have a couple of favorites
you think I'd be a lunkhead not to include? They can be from those posted on this site but I'm more interested in whether you recall any from
CBG that you'd like to see again or think others might enjoy. I'm way too close to the forest to trust my own tastes. If you have
any thoughts, please send them my way in the next few days. Thank you kindly.
June 12, 2002 · 12:00 PM PDT ·
I AM ADMONISHED via e-mail for omitting the best anecdote about the Nixon-Frost interviews. The sessions were taped in a
private home (not Nixon's) in San Clemente and, one Monday morning, one of Nixon's advisors suggested to him that he was not being friendly enough
with the guys who operated the cameras and ran the audio equipment. Nixon, trying to show he was "one of the boys," wandered onto the set, went
up to Frost and asked, so the whole crew could hear, "Well, David...did you do any fornicating this weekend?"
The story always reminded me of a certain TV star I met in the seventies who was an enormously uptight fellow, utterly obsessed with
whether his tie was crooked or he was smiling too much. You know the type: Utterly paranoid about every word, every gesture...and wholly unable
to just talk to others like human beings. Someone had told him, I guess, that he was coming across too uptight and that the way to establish a
rapport with the crew on his show was to tell dirty jokes. Dirty jokes did not come naturally to this man so (his stage manager told me) he
delegated his assistant to dig some up and, each tape day before he came down to the set, he'd memorize one to tell the camera guys and grips.
We were waiting for taping to begin when the stage manager explained this to me and added, "Watch how he'll stumble over the dirty words."
Sure enough, when the star arrived on the set, he gathered a batch of staffers together...waiting until they were all there, so he only
had to tell it once. Then, displaying none of the professional ease he could muster on-camera, he told an utterly sexless dirty joke —
the kind of dirty joke that's only a dirty joke because it has the "f" word in it. And it might have been okay if he could have said the word
but he couldn't. He stammered on it and added about six "f's" to the beginning.
The crew laughed, more at his unease and to be polite, than at the joke. Then everyone dispersed and the star untensed, since he
had finished the part of his job he most dreaded and now only had to go out and appear before millions. I told the stage manager the anecdote
about Nixon and Frost and asked him how often he'd worked on shows where visiting dignitaries attempted such awkward small talk. He said, "All
the time. Every guy who ever ran for president in the last two decades has been on a show I stage-managed. Half of them have been like
[our star] who is totally phony about communicating with 'the little people' and half have been regular guys who talked to us like real human
I asked him, "So, do you vote for the guys who come off as real human beings?"
He said, "No, I vote for the ones who strike me as phonies. I figure, in politics, they're all phonies. And you're
safer with the ones who aren't as good at it." Maybe that explains the success of Richard Milhous Nixon.
June 12, 2002 · 3:45 AM PDT ·
DURING WATERGATE, I was a major wallower. One of my major regrets in life is that, the weekend of the Saturday Night
Massacre when the story exploded, I was away at a comic book convention and therefore out of touch with reality. But I read all the books,
watched all the documentaries and even once had lunch with Chuck Colson. (This was after he'd been "born again," long after the days when, he
said, he'd run over his grandmother to get Richard Nixon re-elected.)
Unlike those who sought the appearance of fairness by saying, "I think Nixon was a good president who did bad things," I decided he was
a bad president who did bad things with, of course, a few notable exceptions. But he was never not interesting...so I watched with relish, a
few years after his resignation, when David Frost conducted a series of televised interviews. Frost was a good, take-no-crap
interviewer...though even he had trouble getting anything of substance out of the ex-president. Initially, Frost was shrewd enough to insist on
over-taping — recording three or four times as much conversation as they'd need, so he could edit out all the stonewalling and red
herrings. Once the sessions began, he found he'd underestimated: Nixon could rattle on about dozens of extraneous topics, running out the clock
without addressing the essence of Frost's questions. After a day or three of this, Frost had to go in and renegotiate the taping
schedule. He demanded more hours of interviewing time. Nixon refused. Frost and his staff sat down and figured out the topics that
Nixon most wanted to discuss and have included in his "television memoirs" and said, in effect, "Well, then we'll have to skip those areas."
Outmaneuvered, Nixon gave in and granted the extra hours...and the final interviews were truly riveting.
David Frost, who is now Sir David Frost, has recently done a re-edit of the interviews to yield ten hours. Much of the material
was not included in the original broadcasts but it's in the shows which will begin airing next week (June 17) on The Discovery Civilization
Channel. The first two hours air repeatedly that day and the next, to be followed by more a few weeks later. I intend to TiVo them
In the meantime, technicians are working away on #342 of the famed Nixon tapes, attempting to use new technology to recover the audio
from the legendary 18-and-a-half minute gap. The tape in question was made June 20, 1972, just three days after the Watergate break-in —
the first time Nixon discussed the matter with his Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman. Nixon denied he'd erased that section of the tape — a
denial that no one ever believed. I'm skeptical that they can "unerase" the conversation but, if they can, it will be fascinating in one way if
it's incriminating and fascinating in another way if it's not. Even years after his death, Nixon can still fascinate.
June 12, 2002 · 12:00 AM PDT ·
CABLE MODEM'S working again! The folks at A.T.&T. Broadband, who were initially certain the problem was on my end,
came to their senses and decided the problem was on their end. What's more, they fixed it. But I'll tell you...accessing the Internet via
a telephone line...it was a hellish twenty-four hours there...
WHEN HE WAS a beginning actor, Stan Freberg did a number of odd roles. He has a small
but important part in Callaway Went Thataway, a lightweight 1951 comedy with Fred MacMurray, Howard Keel and Dorothy McGuire that runs early
Friday morn on Turner Classic Movies. (5 AM or 8 AM, depending on your time zone.) The film was produced, written and/or directed by
Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, who were responsible for — among other classics — the Li'l Abner Broadway
show and movie. It's most interesting for Freberg's brief appearance, a fine supporting
performance by Jesse White and
a brief cameo by Clark Gable.
BILL MAHER is setting up a website at www.billmaher.tv to keep folks up to
date on what's up with him. Not much posted there yet but you might want to bookmark it and check in soon.
June 10, 2002 · 11:00 AM PDT ·
SO MY BELOVED cable modem connection is out and I'm reduced to accessing the Internet via a primitive, Paleolithic-era dial-up
connection. Technology continues to spoil us. Once we have a cell phone, it's a major inconvenience of life to be without one...and just
how did people manage to function without super-fast computers, FedEx, fax machines, TiVo, DSS satellite, etc.?
The fellow at A.T.&T. Tech Support says they'll have to dispatch a technician to heal my high-speed Internet connection.
Unfortunately, it's not a high-speed technician. He won't be here 'til Friday afternoon.
Until then, we all suffer...you, because this site won't be updated much this week; me, because I won't have the patience to read most
of my favorite websites over a tortoise-speed telephone line hook-up. My e-mail responses will seem lethargic, as well.
So sad. So very sad.
June 10, 2002 · 12:30 AM PDT ·
IN 1987, I wrote, Sergio Aragonés drew and Marvel published a graphic novel entitled The Death of Groo. It
was one of my favorite Groo projects...or, at least, would have been, had we not had so much trouble with the printing. Tom Luth did his usual
terrific coloring job but when it went to press, it went to a low-quality color separator who did a poor job. No, let's be honest here: They
did a rotten job. There were folks at Marvel who, upon seeing the proofs, wanted to reject the separations and have them done over but
they were overruled. I suspect — no, we're being honest here. I don't "suspect." I was told that if this kind of work
had been done on a Spider-Man or X-Men project — or even by something written by someone on Marvel's editorial staff — there was no way
the separations would have been used. But at the time, Marvel was getting a certain amount of grief from dealers because some of their
higher-priced items were shipping late. Because of those complaints and because it was Groo, they went ahead and did the First Printing off the
After the book came out, they called and said, "Gee, sorry, this came out even worse than we'd anticipated. If the book sells
well enough to warrant a Second Printing, we'll redo the color separations and fix everything." At the time they made this promise, I think
they assumed the book would not sell well enough to require a Second Printing but, as it turned out, it did. One day a year or two later,
Sergio was in New York and he visited the Marvel offices where several folks told him the Second Printing would take place in a few months and they
assured him that the separations would be redone. He was pleased by this.
About a half hour after he left that day, I got an embarrassed phone call from a Marvel exec. It seems that, following Sergio's
departure, they'd reminded the Manufacturing Division that the color seps on The Death of Groo had to be redone before the book was
reprinted. The folks in that division had said, "Oh, didn't you know? One of our other graphic novels is running late and we had to send
something to press last week in its place. So we went ahead and did the Second Printing of The Death of Groo!" In other words,
when they were assuring Sergio that things would be fixed before the Second Printing, the Second Printing had already been done...from the old
separations that they'd promised wouldn't be used.
Apologies were made. We were told — I don't know if this part's true — that Marvel was going to fill the immediate
orders for the Second Printing but toss the rest of the press run away. Someone shipped me a few hundred copies, just to get them out of the
warehouse and whittle down the stockpile, the better to justify Pressing #3. Indeed, after a suitable interval, the separations were redone and
the Third Printing took place. This version still didn't look as good as the thing should have looked in the first place but it was leagues
ahead of the first and second runs.
So if you decide to scare up a copy of The Death of Groo, you have a number of choices, all with downsides. You can try to
find a First Printing, but these are all blurry and out-of-register with washed-out colors. You can search for a Second Printing, which looks
just as bad. The fact that it's not a First Printing is perhaps balanced by the fact that Second Printings are very rare...or, at least, they
will be until some day when I clean out my storage locker and unload a few crates on eBay. Third Printings have decent reproduction but they
are, after all, Third Printings.
And you have one other option. Bob Chapman runs a wonderful "boutique" operation called Graphitti Designs that issues fancy,
limited-edition books and t-shirts and toys. Often, the limited-edition books are designer editions of cheaper versions published by
others. He'll arrange to have the publisher run a thousand or more extra copies of the guts of a book, which will be delivered to Bob
unbound. Then Bob will add in more pages, end papers, signed bookplates and other extra features, bind it all in fancy and hard covers, slap on
a dust jacket, etc., and you'll have a real snazzy, deluxe permanent edition of the book. They're all beautiful and highly collectible.
This month, he is bringing out a snazzy hardcover that collects The Death of Groo and its sequel/prequel, The Life of
Groo. They're bound back-to-back with "flip book" covers and each has a special, signed bookplate prepared for this edition only.
(One is signed by Sergio; the other is signed by me and initialed by Sergio.) The printing on The Life of Groo is the same as an earlier
edition that Bob himself did, and it looks great. The printing on The Death of Groo is from the run of the Third Printing from Marvel
but if you get it in this format, it's not really a Third Printing or even a Fourth. It's the First Printing of the combination package.
This is not really a sales pitch since these books sell out rather quickly and Bob only has a thousand of this one to move, most of
which are already spoken for. However, if you wanna grab one, they're selling them at Bob's website, which is www.graphittidesigns.com. It's around $59 plus shipping but it'll probably cost you more than that to
visit Bob's site. It's full of other neat stuff you'll want to buy. (He's bringing out a new Groo t-shirt, soon...)
Attention, Jerry Beck! You and I are quoted on the subject of Scooby-Doo in an article about the TV series in
The Chicago Sun-Times. My mother will be so proud to learn that her son's an authority on something. Here's the link. And since I'm an authority, let me assure everyone that
there is no truth to the oft-circulated rumor that the four kids in the show were configured to each represent the character of some college.
The four kids were based — in the same way The Flintstones was inspired by The Honeymooners — on the old TV show, The
Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Fred was based on Dobie, Velma on Zelda, Daphne on Thalia and Shaggy on Maynard. It is also probably not
true that the name "Scooby-Doo" was inspired by the part of the record "Strangers in the Night" where Frank Sinatra sang, "Scooby-Dooby-Doo..."
It was actually another hit record, "Denise," a doo-wop classic by Randy and the Rainbows that still turns up incessantly on oldies stations.
Randy and his Rainbows sang, "Scooby-Doo" over and over, whereas ol' Blue Eyes kept putting that "Dooby" in there. Isn't it wonderful, the
things you can learn on this website?
June 9, 2002 · 10:30 AM PDT ·
I'VE ALWAYS been a big fan of Charles Grodin as an actor, an author and especially as a participant in talk shows, including the
one he hosted for a few years on MSNBC and CNBC. He tends to be very sarcastic, very candid and confrontational in a funny, as opposed to
hostile, way. When he's been on with Leno and Letterman — and before that, with Carson — it has usually resulted in the
all-too-rare interview that doesn't sound like both parties are reading it all off TelePrompters. He's also written several books, the best of
which was his first — a basic but fun autobiography entitled, It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here.
Subsequent books have suggested that Mr. Grodin said almost everything he had to say in It Would Be So Nice..., but there are
moments in each that make them worth a read. His third — We're Ready For You, Mr. Grodin — contained several points of
interest, not the least of which was a section in which he said he'd been too modest in the autobiography. He wrote...
I get the impression that most of the people in show business who read it take it as an inspiration to continue. The rationale
is, "Look how much rejection Charles Grodin dealt with." While I'm pleased the book inspires people, I meant it just as much as a
warning. I do say in there that you don't want to spend ten years in this profession and end up nowhere but ten years older. I say that
even if you're not publicly recognized, there must be plenty of signs along the way that you're really good to encourage you to keep
going. I did have a lot of praise in my unrecognized years, but I found it awkward putting all my compliments down on paper.
I found that refreshingly honest. As I wrote in an article posted here entitled The
Speech, I think too much false hope is sometimes given to neophytes; that it does them a disservice to tell them that if they keep at it and
don't give up, they will eventually get everything they want. Well, no. Very few people who enter show biz ever get the kind of career
they seek and most do not support themselves at all. Dreams should not be dashed but people should be reminded that there are no guarantees;
that it isn't the dumbest thing in the world to have a Plan B for your life.
While I'm quoting lines from We're Ready For You, Mr. Grodin, I'd like to quote a paragraph that made me laugh out loud.
It has to do with a production of Charley's Aunt in which Grodin appeared...
Charley's Aunt is almost a hundred years old, and although we had a good cast, the first ten minutes or so of the play can be
a little deadly — three Oxford undergraduates running around trying to figure out what to do about getting a chaperone as the girls are coming
to tea. The idea is hatched that one of us — me — dresses up like my aunt Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez. Here's the moment I love
and it's not onstage, but backstage. I come off to change into the woman's dress, but before I do I'd always look at the stagehands or whomever
was standing back there and say, "God, we're dying out there. We need someone to dress up like a woman or something!" Then I'd spot the
dress and as though I'd just gotten the idea, I'd say, "Hand me that dress!"
His newest book is called I Like It Better When You're Funny, and it deals mainly with his CNBC/MSNBC talk show and the various
TV executives who put it on, took it off and — at other networks — danced him around about a replacement show before he wound up doing
short commentaries for 60 Minutes II on CBS. If you need testimony that folks who run TV companies sometimes show bad judgment and
aren't completely honest, this book might come in handy. There are, of course, segments I enjoyed but, over-all, fewer than in Grodin's earlier
books. If, however, this one gets him out, making the talk show rounds to promote it, I'm all for it. I'm all for anything that gets
Charles Grodin in front of a camera, especially when he's playing that most interesting of all his characters, Charles Grodin.
June 9, 2002 · 12:30 AM PDT ·
INTERESTING TO LEARN that the forthcoming DVD release of 1776 will not be the 3-hour restored version that has only been
released on Laserdisc. Nor will it be the truncated 141 minute version that has been available on VHS or cable TV. As you may recall, the
Laserdisc material was reassembled from prints of varying quality and, at the time, folks though it was a miracle that even those scratchy prints
still existed. Well, it turns out that someone — bless 'em — found the original negative of the whole thing. This has
prompted director Peter Hunt to do a new cut, which he considers definitive and final. It's 166 minutes and includes all the musical
numbers. I'm told the video and audio are stunning and that Hunt's commentary on the audio track tells the amazing story of how this movie was
made whole. Click here to order it
I FINALLY GOT AROUND to finishing David Brock's book, Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative.
Brock is — do I have to tell you? — the former Conservative journalist/"hitman" who has renounced his past reporting on, among other
newsmaking topics, the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill skirmish and the claim that Bill Clinton had a quick tryst with a woman named Paula. Whether
or not you believe The New David Brock will probably depend on whether or not you want to. Clearly, most pundits and participants are out to
spin this to their advantage but if I had to vote, not so much on what happened but on how history will record it, I think I'd side with this article by Jane Mayer that appeared in The New York Review of Books.
GOOD ARTICLE on the cancellation of Politically Incorrect over at The American Prospect. Here's that link. I am hearing that Bill Maher is in serious
talks elsewhere for a new show with an expanded format — kind of half P.I., half Leno/Letterman.
is the forthcoming collection of Evanier's POV columns coming out in late July from TwoMorrows Publishing. Is anyone reading these plugs? Has anyone heard that there will be
terrific drawings by Sergio Aragonés and articles and essays about reading comic books, creating comic books and just living in a world of
comic books? If you have, then you might just want to buy a copy of the thing. If not, disregard this message.
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME