On Leonard Nimoy.

Leonard Nimoy!

My wife and I once, and only once, stood in the same area code as Leonard Nimoy. On Thanksgiving weekend 2001, Nimoy was one of the most special guests at Indianapolis’ annual Star Trek convention, during the dark-ages period when it was run by a notorious out-of-state company. The autographs and fleeting moments with all non-Nimoy actor guests were included in the ticket price, years before al-a-carte autographs at skyrocketing prices became the industry norm. In-person autographs from the esteemed Mister Spock were permitted only to VIP attendees who paid extra for the Saturday evening “Dinner with the Stars” gathering; all other attendees like us received non-personalized pre-signed photos with admission.

That’s ours scanned and shown above. At the time Anne and I were best friends with separate low-rent apartments and not much disposable income to pool together. The VIP package was beyond our means, but we were thrilled simply to inhabit the same building as the greatest science officer in pop culture history.

We had terrible seats at his Sunday Q&A, near the back of the long, long ballroom. We have no live photos of him from this occasion because our primitive 35mm cameras were useless against the vast gulf of heads between us and the stage. And yet…what mattered most was we were in the same room as The Leonard Nimoy.

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On Robin Williams.

Robin Williams

Aladdin. Dead Poets Society. Good Will Hunting. Good Morning Vietnam. Insomnia. Awakenings. The TV shows. The talk show appearances. The Academy Award. All the other movies, good or bad or awesome or regrettable, seen in multiple reruns on basic cable or seen only in their trailers.

Everyone has their favorite segment from the life of Robin Williams. Continue reading

Top 10 Things I’ll Remember About Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem!

I’m 95% certain I owned every single on this 1984 Top 10 list, even for the one song I hated.

Today’s celebrity passing news: at age 82, legendary radio DJ, animated voice actor, TV host, and professional list caretaker Casey Kasem passed away early this morning after extended illness and an unsightly captivity in unsavory media headlines that I didn’t want to read. Lord willing, it’d be awfully swell to see all that in-fighting between his relatives disappear from our front pages forever.

As previously cited on Midlife Crisis Crossover in an entry about the joys of writing lists: “Casey Kasem’s American Top 40…had a profound impact on my childhood.” Syndicated reruns of that long-running radio show are still airing each week on both commercial and satellite radio if you know where to tune. Here in Indianapolis, they’re on B105.7 Sunday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon, pleasant accompaniment for my early drives.

But that impact went beyond my list-making proclivities…

Siskel & Ebert at/and/with/for/vs./because of the Movies

Most Internet users already heard the news: longtime film critic Roger Ebert passed away Thursday at age 70 after yet another bout with cancer. His passing comes fifteen years after that of his TV comrade, sparring partner, and dear friend Gene Siskel.

I can’t remember what impressionable age I was when I first encountered their popular syndicated movie-review series Siskel & Ebert at the Movies. Our local affiliates sometimes aired it on Saturday afternoons, sometimes in the dead of night, and occasionally found it useful for filling any programming holes outside primetime. I’d never seen anything like it; thirty minutes of two movie fans sitting in a deserted theater balcony and telling viewers whether they thought the latest movies were good or bad. It sounded like a dull concept for a TV show. I could imagine the fun if they were brandishing weapons, but just sitting there? Talking? Why?

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A Moment of Anti-Silence for MCA

Today the Internet reposts its favorite Beastie Boys videos as tribute to Adam Yauch, a.k.a. MCA, passed away too young at 47. The group notified fans on their official email list about his cancer a few years back, when it arose during the original Hot Sauce Committee recording sessions. I thought it had gone into remission months later. I was unaware of the unfortunate status change.

My vote for tribute is the first song that convinced me they had any intent of becoming Serious Artists instead of languishing as party-chasing musical pranksters. Licensed to Ill seemed at the time like novelty rock. I never “got” Paul’s Boutique, though I can understand why it has its fans. To me, Check Your Head seemed like a stronger leap forward, particularly the first single, “Pass the Mic”, though our local corporate alt-rock station prefers endless revisits to “Sabotage” and “So Whatcha Want”. It’s a rarity of sorts in that MCA leads off for once instead of batting cleanup.

One last pass of the mic, then. Note the dominoes at the end for unintended, retroactive gravitas.

To be honest, the first apropos tribute that sprang to mind was “Bodhisattva Vow”, the closest he ever came to a solo performance (as far as I’ve experienced, anyway). My beliefs aren’t Buddhist by any stretch, but I was intrigued by the passion that drove him to compose such a complex expression of what drove him. Sadly, the only linkable upload I could locate was a live version with muddled sound. My own copy of Ill Communication is a dub cassette that does it little justice.

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