Movies

The Academy Awards
The Academy Awards began as the brainchild of Louis B. Mayer. On January 11, 1927, the MGM studio chief invited 36 people to his home for dinner to discuss the creation of an organization to benefit the film industry.

The attendees included some of the biggest names in the industry including, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Cecil B. DeMille and Sid Grauman. Three months after that dinner, the State of California granted the Academy a charter as a non-profit organization.

The first actual awards were officially presented at a black-tie dinner at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on May 16, 1929. The rest, as they say, is history.

Tomorrow night people all over the world will be watching the 84 award show that will be broadcast from the Kodak Theater in Hollywood – directly across the street from the Hollywood Roosevelt.

Over the years we’ve seen many changes in the film industry. Too often art has given way to formulaic. Fortunately, there are always a few surprise films that stand out among the rest and this year’s surprise is Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. A sweet story, a good ensemble, a wonderful soundtrack and Paris. What more could we ask for in a movie?

Enjoy a cut from the soundtrack by Stephane Wrembel – Bistro Fada:

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Old Hollywood

Dirty Old Men
Last year, actor Morgan Freeman and his wife, Myrna Colley-Lee divorced after 26 years together. It was a nasty divorce and Ms. Colley-Lee is planning to write a tell-all book.

From LiveLeak:
If you recall 72-year-old Morgan Freeman was accused of having a decade-long affair with his 27-year-old step-granddaughter E’Dena Hines. That means she was 17 and he was 62. Hines is the granddaughter of Morgan’s first wife, Jeanette Adair Bradshaw, and the National Enquirer also claimed that it was Morgan’s affair with E’Dena that lead to the split with his second wife Myrna.

Now the tabloid claims Morgan is ready to start a family with E’Dena.

Maybe they can double date with Woody Allen and Soon-Yi.

Ray Charles – Hit the Road Jack:

The Chinese Propaganda Tour

Chain of Fools
State-controlled media in China have gone into overdrive to portray China’s Chairman Hu Jintao’s visit to the US as a resounding success and the start of a new era of bilateral relations, based on “mutual respect and mutual benefit.”

To prepare for the chairman’s visit, the Chinese Embassy put the word out to its network of front groups to mobilize a large welcoming presence.

Thousands of Chinese students and workers were paid to descend on Washington DC in a show of welcome for the Communist leader. The greeters’ transportation and food were covered by the Chinese embassy, and in addition they were paid between $20 and $80.

According to Epoch Times, a man who works as a dishwasher in Philadelphia said he was recruited by a community group to come to welcome Hu, so he didn’t have to work that day and was paid $55. An IT student from Philadelphia came because he didn’t want any trouble from the embassy. He was concerned that if he didn’t sign up, there might be consequences for his family in China.

At the gala White House dinner the Obama’s threw for Hu, the entertainment included Lang Lang, the China-born pianist who played a tune from a famous anti-U.S. Chinese film. Having the song, “My Motherland” played at the White House was seen as a great propaganda triumph in China.

“In the eyes of all Chinese, this will not be seen as anything other than a big insult to the U.S.,” says Yang Jingduan, a Chinese psychiatrist now living in Philadelphia who had in China been a doctor in the Chinese military. “It’s like insulting you in your face and you don’t know it, it’s humiliating.”

But wait, there’s more. Jackie Chan, the Hong Kong born marshal arts actor who has been an outspoken supporter of the Chinese Communist Party was there to greet the Chairman, as well as the usual bunch of Hollywood China supporters. Funny how human rights aren’t a problem when aging celebrities have an opportunity to rub elbows with world leaders of countries that have mobile execution squads.

Joe Cocker with Beverly Knight – Chain of Fools:

The USO

The USO Christmas Tour
The USO has been around since 1941, yet most people don’t know that it’s a private, non-profit organization. FDR gave his blessing to the group with the mission to boost the morale of U.S. military men and women by providing a “home away from home.” A place to go for dances and social events, for movies and music, for a quiet place to talk or write a letter home, or for a free cup of coffee and an egg.

Even though there are USO canteens throughout the world, the hallmark of the organization has always been the Camp Show – where Hollywood celebrities and entertainers take a little bit of  “home” on the road.

Last week I was making a music CD of popular songs from Word War II for my dad and had the opportunity to listen to some great big band music from the 40’s. Lately Pop has been reminiscing about his time in England during the war. He has some great stories and many fond memories – even the sound of the V-2 rockets whizzing by and exploding. Not all memories were good. Pop gets a sad look in his eyes when he says “So many people were killed. So many.”

Anyway, my dad still talks about the USO and how great everyone associated with the organization was when they brought a little bit of America with them on tour.  Bob Hope recruited all the stars from Hollywood to join him –  including everyone’s favorite trio, the Andrews Sisters.

Enjoy the girls singing Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B from the 1941 movie, Buck Privates:

Just Another Filthy Rich Anti-capitalist

The Amazing Jodie “Code Pink” Evans
At a recent fundraiser for Jerry Brown at her home in Venice, CA, Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans – the queen of protest, was shocked to find a dozen protesters in front of her house. Evans is well known for her famous comment to Debbie Lee, regarding her son, Marc Alan Lee of the United States Navy, who was killed in action in 2006:

“Your son deserved to die in Iraq if he was stupid enough to go over there.”

According to protester Melanie Morgan of pro-troop organization, Move America Forward, Evans did not handle being given a dose of her own aggressive protesting at her home on Palm Avenue. Jodie Evans confronted Morgan, angrily taunting Morgan, “you are on crack.”

In an apparent effort to avoid the dozen or so protesters, Jerry Brown was forced to leave the house from the back door and in a different vehicle from the not-so-green Dodge Durango that he arrived in and was kept running for the two hours he was there.

Evans relationship with Brown goes back to Brown’s first run for Governor. As a 22-year-old campaign worker for Jerry Brown’s 1976 gubernatorial campaign, Jodie worked under the tutelage of Nancy Pelosi. After Brown won, Jodie became his director of administration.

So, how does a political activist have the time and money to fly around the world to protest, hold fundraisers, and sit on boards of many non-profit groups? She was married to billionaire computer genius Max Palevsky until his death this past May. Evans was with Palevsky when he died at their home in Beverly HIlls.

One of the greats of the computer industry, Palevsky was one of the founders of Intel – started with some of the hundreds of millions he got when he sold Scientific Data Systems.

In addition to being a brilliant computer scientist and philanthropist, Palevsky was an avid art collector, director of the ACLU and a movie producer. He was also a member of the “Malibu Mafia,” a group of extremely wealthy democrats, who lived in Malibu Colony and used their influence to promote liberal causes and candidates. The Malibu Mafia, at the time, rivaled MCA chairman Lew Wasserman for domination of the left wing of the Democratic Party in Southern California in the early 1970’s.

Friend of Dictators
When she’s not working for Jerry Brown or bundling political donations for Barack Obama, Jodie uses Max’s millions to travel the world meeting with Marxist dictators, the Muslim Brotherhood and promoting anti-capitalism. Go figure.

During the 2008 Presidential campaign Jodie and Max helped rally the Los Angeles progressive community to Obama’s side by co-hosting the first Hollywood fundraiser for Obama in February 2007 along with the Dreamworks trio of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. Jodie Evans went on to be appointed a fund raiser for Obama.

The woman seems to show up in the most unusual places. As a founding member of the campaign for presidential nominee Barack Obama, Evans attended an  ‘invitation-only’ meeting at the UN with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sept. 24, 2008. The meeting included 150 U.S. activists, representing about 50 organizations.

On November 23, just three days after Obama was elected, Evans, along with Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, went to Iran to meet, once again, with Ahmadinejad.

Earlier this year, the rich and famous activist found the time to go to Egypt with Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn to meet with the muslim brotherhood to support hamas, visit with the President at the White House, bury a husband and host a Hollywood fundraiser for Jerry Brown. She is truly amazing.

In keeping with the pink theme, enjoy Natalie Cole – Pink Cadillac:

Follow the Money

Bollywood to Dalal Street
It has been 63 years since India declared it’s independence from Britain – big thanks to Mahatma Ghandi. One of every six people on the planet lives in India.

It hasn’t been an easy road for the country. The caste system still exists, although not outwardly. Religious violence continues. 80% of the nation is Hindu and 20% is Muslim. The two religions have been fighting for over 800 years and won’t be coming to the peace table anytime soon.

In spite of it’s problems, India has emerged as the fourth largest economy in the world. From the 1950s to the 1980s, India followed socialist-inspired policies which shackled the economy with extensive regulation, protectionism, and public ownership, which lead to pervasive corruption and slow economic growth. In 1991 the country moved towards a free-market economy and now enjoys an average growth rate of 7.5%.

Things must be looking good for India’s future because George Soros now owns 12% of the Indian stock exchange. Also, Soros’ former Quantum Fund partner, Jim Rogers, has recently been bullish on India.

On the entertainment side of the economy, Hollywood, in the past few years, has been looking to Bollywood for future projects. Meryl Streep is set to sign on with Bollywood director R. Balki to play opposite India’s great actor, Amitabh Bachchan. A romantic comedy of east meets west should do well on both sides of the globe. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have two actors who are not only talented but are good looking to boot!

What a voice! Amitabh Bachchan  – India Poised:

Hollywood Sign

Hugh Hefner Saves the Sign – Again
When Harry Chandler, Mack Sennet and a group of developers put up the Hollywoodland sign in 1923, Hollywood was already known as the film capital of the world. Originally intended to stay up for 18 months, the sign quickly became a symbol of the motion picture industry.

The Great Depression and crash of the housing market took it’s toll on the sign. In disrepair, the rights to the sign were ‘quitclaimed’ from the Hollywoodland Development Company to the City of Los Angeles in 1944. Five years later the last 4 letters of the sign were removed, and for the first time the sign simply spelled “HOLLYWOOD.”

In 1973 the sign became Cultural Historical Monument #111.

During the 1970’s, the Hollywood sign, again fell into disrepair. The “D” and the third “O” collapsed, and fell down the mountain. An arsonist set fire to the second “L” and one morning we woke up to the sign reading “HOLLYWeeD.”

By 1978, the third O had fallen over, and the sign could no longer be repaired. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce launched the “Save the Sign” campaign, and with help from Hugh Hefner, who hosted a gala fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion, over $250,000 was raised to build a new sign.

Last year, a group of land developers from Chicago, who bought the property behind the sign from the Howard Hughes estate in 2002, were planning to build 4 luxury homes on the site. Then, earlier this year, a crazy Danish architect wanted to transform the sign into a hotel. It was just a matter of time before the community rallied to save the sign.

With the help of Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge, the Trust for Public Land and donors from all 50 states and 10 foreign countries were joined by Hugh Hefner in raising the $12.5 million dollars to purchase the 138-acre parcel to the west of the Hollywood sign called Cahuenga Peak.

32 years later, Hefner has come forward, once again to save the sign that is recognized around the world as the icon of the entertainment industry and the postcard of the Southern California lifestyle.

Enjoy the studio chase scene from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: