War Of The Worlds (2005)

Steven Spielberg should be ashamed of himself for making this movie.  It’s hard to believe that this depressingly boring dreck was directed by the same man who made Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List.  It is quite a comedown.
 
Very loosely based on the terrific 1898 novel by H.G. Wells, this is a movie with an enormous identity crisis.  Although it takes place in a post 9/11 America, (there are a few, quick mentions of the word "terrorists", for instance), the characters behave as if that horrific real-life event never happened. 
 
Looking for smart, interesting characters to care about and cool technological wonders to get lost in?  Look elsewhere.
 
Tom Cruise plays a divorced father of two living in New York.  He has a job working on a port.  Early in the film, his ex (pregnant again, this time with her new husband’s baby) drops off their two kids at his cluttered residence.  Dakota Fanning plays his young daughter, Justin Chatwin is his teenage son.
 
It’s made abundantly clear that there are some unresolved tensions regarding this new arrangement.  (It doesn’t help that Cruise arrives home a half hour later than expected.)  His ex-wife (a wasted Miranda Otto) is highly critical of his messy kitchen and near-empty refrigerator while he appears disinterested in looking after the dietary and emotional needs of his children.  His son resents him and his daughter is more affectionate towards her new stepfather, as a result.
 
The ex and the new husband soon leave to return to Boston.  Cruise, exhausted from work and the stresses of his personal life, takes a much needed nap after instructing his children to order their own supper.  When he wakes up, Fanning tells him that her brother has taken his car.  Cruise goes to look for him but he’s nowhere in sight.
 
Then, the dark clouds appear, followed by intense, repetitive lightning.  But the wind accompanying this brewing storm is blowing in the wrong direction.  Something is wrong. 
 
Cruise eventually hunts down his miserable teenage son who hasn’t even got a proper driver’s license.  After Cruise tells him to go back to his place to look after his soon-to-be-terrified sister, the clueless father joins a large group of onlookers who wonder what has caused a hole in the road.  They soon get their answer.  A giant, mysterious, three-legged contraption wastes no time in causing general mayhem and panic once it manages to become unavoidably visible to the startled New York citizenry.
 
It doesn’t make any sense why these people take forever to do something that shouldn’t require any serious thinking.  You know, like, run!  Why they just stand there and stare at this menacing machine instead of fleeing as fast as they can in order to save their own hides is beyond me.  Once The Tripod, as it’s nicknamed, is free and out in the open, it doesn’t waste any time eviscerating these slow-witted folks with a laser so hot it reduces its victims to very fine ash, some of which ends up all over Cruise’s face, much to his utter shock and disbelief.  When he returns home in absolute silence, it isn’t until he’s splashed water on his face that he motivates his kids to quickly pack some things and get the hell out of there.  They’re on the move for the entire film.
 
Not too long after that, other Tripods surface and continue to declare war on the extras.  (It’s never believable that Cruise avoids getting incinerated when he’s so clearly in the line of fire.)
 
For the rest of the movie, he suddenly takes charge and tries to become a superdad after years of just going through the motions, a depressingly predictable plot point.  Halfway through the film, after his son decides to join The Resistance (which isn’t entirely inspiring), Cruise and Fanning are welcomed into an abandoned basement by Tim Robbins who is, easily, the most interesting character in the film.
 
Robbins doesn’t receive much screen time but like the consummate pro he is he makes the most of it.  This house that he’s taken refuge in (he’s on his own after losing his entire family) happens to be in a strategic location.  The alien Tripods hover overhead from time to time.  Robbins thinks the key to beating them is to do the same thing they’ve been doing to them:  attack them from underground when they least expect it.  (With what, exactly?  That rifle isn’t cutting it, dude.)  If the movie had revolved around this former ambulance driver instead of the miscast Cruise it would’ve at least had a stronger starting point, even if he is in over his head.
 
What a mess this is.  There’s no joy, no wit, no heroes to root for.  The villains have two functions:  killing humans and checking out stuff in that basement.  That’s it.  (And why do they look like cheap knock-offs of the ferocious space creatures in the Alien franchise?) There’s no imagination and the special effects while technically sound aren’t all that inspiring, either.  Was it really a good idea to try to use H.G. Wells’ 19th Century vision for the aliens in a 21st Century adaptation?  They’re not exactly frightening, guys.  This premise of utilizing old, antiquated ideas in a modern setting falls completely flat.  It’s as if no one in the movie has ever heard of science fiction or aliens or Independence Day or the original 1953 version of The War Of The Worlds. 
 
Intelligence is sorely lacking here.  Spielberg should’ve known better than to focus more on the way the movie looks and sounds instead of creating a compelling story with irresistible characters.  I haven’t seen all of his films yet, but, so far, this is his worst picture.
 
The faulty logic of the film inspires questions that are never satisfactorily answered.  Is it really plausible that an alien invasion can take place like this without being detected by NASA?  How come there isn’t a single politician character in the film doing something, even if it’s tomfoolery?  Why is Cruise’s character the only one who can figure out how to fix a car after the aliens manage to shut down every mechanical device in the city?  Why doesn’t that angry mob simply ask how he got the car to function properly again?  (They would’ve saved precious bullets.)  How come, in a post 9/11 climate, no one thinks to be prepared for another calamity of a similiar nature, even one as preposterous as this?  And really, why does Cruise pick a fight with Robbins?  Why not leave instead?
 
And that ending is such a dud.  Was all that tedious action merely a tease?
 
War Of The Worlds is an unnecessary remake in a period loaded with them.  Spielberg, you have some explaining to do.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, March 30, 2007
11:02 p.m.
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Published in: on March 30, 2007 at 11:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

WrestleMania III: 20 Years Later (Part Three)

Before their memorable encounter at WrestleMania III, Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant feuded years earlier under very different circumstances.  Back then, Hogan was the heel and Andre was the good guy.  On August 9, 1980, they wrestled in Shea Stadium during a famous outdoor show in New York.  Andre came out on top that night.
 
When Hogan returned to the WWF in 1983, both he and Andre were fan favourites.  Hogan was groomed to become the company’s first true world champion (The WWF, originally named The World Wide Wrestling Federation, was just a small territory in the beginning (it covered the Northeastern parts of America and even Canada) that was part of the NWA before becoming a global independent the year Hogan re-joined) and Andre was being sent to various promotions across the country to expand his already impressive reputation.  (His stays were purposefully kept short so he wouldn’t wear out his welcome.)
 
After The Iron Sheik put Hogan over for the title, The Hulkster was interviewed by Mean Gene Okerlund backstage.  As they were talking, Andre poured champagne all over Hogan’s head.  He shook his hand and congratulated him on his victory.
 
In 1985, Andre was feuding with Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy.  Hogan ended up becoming his tag team partner on a number of occasions to help him pound on his notorious foes.  Friends in and out of the ring by this point, the Hulk/Andre storyline was about to take a surprising turn 2 years later.
 
It all began in January 1987.  It was decided that Hogan would receive a trophy for being World Champion for 3 years on Piper’s Pit.  Andre was there for the presentation, as well.  The next week, Andre got a trophy.  Colour man Jesse “The Body” Ventura noted that his trophy looked much smaller than Hogan’s.  During the presentation to Andre, Hogan came out and said a few words about his longtime friend.  Looking less than thrilled about the Hulkster’s presence, Andre left abruptly in the middle of his own ceremony.
 
The following week, Ventura said he would convince Andre to appear on Piper’s Pit to talk about the trophy controversy.  Piper promised he would produce Hogan.  During the next Piper’s Pit a week later, however, Andre shocked everyone by appearing with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, the manager of his former enemies, Ken Patera, Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy.  Then, he made a direct challenge to the world champion.  He wanted a title shot at WrestleMania III.  As the storyline dictated, Hogan didn’t understand what was going on.  Andre had to rip his tear-away t-shirt and his cross to get his message across.
 
Finally, on yet another Piper’s Pit, Hogan accepted the challenge from Andre.  After all that tremendous build-up, the main event took place in the early evening on Sunday, March 29, 1987.
 
Neither wrestler was known for their scientific skill.  It was their charisma that made them.  After guest ring announcer Bob Uecker introduced the combatants, it was on.  There was a staredown.  Andre, with his feet firmly planted in the middle of the ring, stared intently at Hogan who started talking to him, his body moving uncontrollably, his eyes widening all the while.  Soon, Andre had enough.  He shoved him.  Hogan threw a couple of punches and then, immediately, attempted a bodyslam.  As planned, Andre wouldn’t allow him to lift his enormous girth into the air and as a result, they fell to the canvas with Andre on top.  The late Joey Marella (yet another car accident victim) slapped the mat twice and was about to do it for a third time when Hogan managed to get his shoulders off the ground.
 
Heenan complained.  Andre held up two fingers (a mistake, it should’ve been three), thinking he had already won.  He quickly got to his feet and controlled the tempo of the match which was slow but steady.  The excitement of the match overshadowed any pacing problems.  Steamboat vs. Savage, it wasn’t.  But it was exhilarating, nonetheless.  Who was going to win?  Hogan’s long reign looked doomed.
 
Andre, in his methodical manner, bodyslammed Hogan twice.  He choked him numerous times.  He punched him again and again.  He chopped him.  When Hogan was flat on his back he literally walked on him, as well.
 
At one point, the action went down to the floor.  Hogan removed some of the gymnastic mats that were strategically placed outside the ring area and attempted to piledrive Andre.  He never even got his legs up in the air before Andre slowly backdropped him gingerly to the ground.
 
When they got back into the ring, Andre pummelled him some more.  At one point, he got him in a bear hug.  Soon, after being manhandled for virtually the entire contest, Hogan was about to bounce back.  He got out of the bear hug and started bouncing off the ropes, slugging Andre.  At one point he threw the big man into the corner, but when he ran towards him he was met with a big boot to the face, which sent him crashing to the mat.
 
At some point, after regaining the momentum he temporarily lost, Hogan was able to knock Andre off his feet, the first time he was able to do that the entire match.  Then, he hulked up.  The most spectacular finish I’ve ever seen was about to take place.
 
Much to everyone’s utter astonishment, he bodyslammed Andre right in the ring.  Then, he ran to the ropes and delivered his patented leg drop.  He placed his body on top of the fallen Giant’s and 3 seconds later, he did the unthinkable.  He won.
 
Contrary to what was said at the time, Andre was not undefeated.  He had been beaten on occasion in the past (yes, smaller wrestlers actually pinned him, though it was a rare occurrence) and I remember seeing him lose a battle royal on The Best Of The WWF, Vol. 2 videotape.  Still, what a dramatic way to end a fantastic night of wrestling.  Andre had essentially passed the torch to his good friend, Hogan.  They would remain friends until 1993 when the retired Andre (he was just too sore and ill to maintain an active wrestling schedule in the 1990s) died of a heart attack in his sleep.
 
Hogan would eventually lose the title to Andre nearly a year later live on prime time Television.  The feud would continue throughout 1988 until the Hulk/Randy Savage storyline took over.  Andre stayed a baddie right up until 1990.  By that point, he was barely wrestling.  At WrestleMania VI, he had very little to do during the World Tag Team Title Match against Demolition.  (Andre and partner Haku, better known as The Colossal Connection, would lose the titles that day after almost 4 months as champions.)
 
He made his final appearance at WrestleMania VII in 1991.
 
Meanwhile, Hogan would win and lose the world title four more times before moving on to WCW (another former NWA territory turned independent company).  Still occasionally active in the WWE, Hogan remains one of the most popular grapplers in the company’s history.  He is the Nirvana of wrestling, the wrestler that took an underground business and made it a worldwide phenomenon.
 
After WrestleMania III, more WWF supercards were introduced.  Later in 1987, there was the first Survivor Series.  Then, in 1988, we got our first taste of The Royal Rumble and SummerSlam.  All four supercards remain annual traditions all these years later.
 
But WrestleMania III remains a benchmark, a moment in time that proved that when you combine old-fashioned storytelling with first-rate wrestling talent, you create a timeless classic.
 
Really, how can you top a main event like Hogan vs. Andre?  Answer:  you can’t.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, March 29, 2007
11:57 p.m.
Published in: on March 29, 2007 at 11:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

WrestleMania III: 20 Years Later (Part Two)

Danny Davis desperately wanted to wrestle in the WWF.  But all the company would give him were refereeing jobs.  Fortunately, they made him a crooked ref.
 
On February 8, 1986, he “officiated” an Inter-Continental Title Match between champion Tito Santana and challenger, Randy “Macho Man” Savage.  Savage ultimately won the title by pulling a tiny foreign object out of his tights and using it on Tito’s head as the champion tried to back suplex him back into the inside part of the ring.  (It was the exact same finish used by Savage during his match with Ricky Steamboat at the one and only Wrestling Classic the previous year.  Davis wasn’t the official in that one, though.)
 
Nearly a year later, Davis was responsible for another “controversial” finish.  The British Bulldogs defended their championship belts against The Hart Foundation.  The Dynamite Kid didn’t really participate much in the match because he was still severly injured from that December 13 encounter with The Magnificent Muraco and Cowboy Bob Orton in Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum.  As a result, he spent most of the match outside the ring.  That left the late Davey Boy Smith at the mercy of Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart.  (How amusing to find out all these years later that Neidhart, Smith and Kid were all Bret’s beloved brothers-in-law at the time.)
 
Smith took a pummeling and within a very short period of time, The Harts were the new champions.
 
Later on, Davis was suspended for life by “President” Jack Tunney (he was just a Canadian promoter).  Finally freed from the shackles of refereeing, “Dangerous” Danny Davis became Jimmy Hart’s newest protege.
 
In the seventh match of WrestleMania III, Davis and The Harts took on The Bulldogs and Santana in a six-man tag team match.  It was very entertaining.  Davis got piledrived, bodyslammed and backdropped all over the place.  But he would have the last laugh.  When the ref’s back was turned, he struck The Dynamite Kid with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone and got the 3-count.  It was the biggest victory of his brief stint wrestling for the WWF.
 
Very quietly, despite the high profile “suspension for life”, Davis eventually went back to refereeing again.  A few years later, during a Madison Square Garden show, which was broadcast on the MSG network, colour commentator Hillbilly Jim referenced that old storyline wondering if Davis could be trusted.  Gorilla Monsoon responded by saying that he believed in giving people “second chances”.  Right.
 
“The Natural” Butch Reed easily disposed of Koko B. Ware in the next battle.  A couple of side notes.  Koko made an embarrassing verbal gaffe during a Copps Coliseum show one time.  He got on the microphone and said, “It’s great to be here in Toronto!”  He was roundly booed.  Reed almost became the Inter-Continental Champion on June 2, 1987.  Ricky Steamboat was supposed to drop the title to him but he was a no-show.  Hulk Hogan suggested his good friend, The Honky Tonk Man, replace The Natural as Steamboat’s opponent.  Honky went on to become the longest reigning I-C champ in history.
 
Meanwhile, after the Reed/Koko confrontation, Reed’s manager, Slick (a preacher before he replaced Fred Blassie, believe it or not), was manhandled by Tito Santana.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember why the Mexican superstar wrecked The Doctor Of Style’s attire.  There was a good reason but it has escaped it.  (If anybody knows, email me at dennischarlesearl@hotmail.com.)
 
The best match of WrestleMania III, bar none, was the ferocious battle for the Inter-Continental Championship.  Randy Savage had gotten into a great feud with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.  It all started during a TV title match in late 1986 where, at one point, Savage took the timekeeper’s bell, climbed the top turnbuckle (his speciality) and proceeded to drive it right into Steamboat’s throat.  (The referee was incapacitated at the time.  Naturally.)  He also took Steamboat down to the floor, had him hanging over the steel railing, climbed the top buckle again and double ax-handled his throat into the railing.  It was a masterful illusion.  Steamboat was never seriously hurt but the whole incident was sold beautifully.  Steamboat stayed out of action for a while (he probably appreciated the nice rest) and then came the classic WM III confrontation.
 
George “The Animal” Steele was Steamboat’s corner man.  He, too, had a terrific feud with Savage.  (That 1986 storyline was fueled by Steele’s infatuation with Savage’s manager, his then-wife Elizabeth.  She died of a drug overdose many years later while in an abusive relationship with Lex Lugar.)  He ended up playing an important role during the memorable encounter.
 
What made this match stand out more than any other during WM III, and the entire decade, for that matter, was the speed of the action and the number of suspense-filled false finishes.  There were so many 2-counts I lost track of the final tally.  It was absolutely gripping.  Here were two of the most talented wrestlers of all time at the height of their powers electrifying millions.
 
Once again, the referee was knocked out cold and Savage decided to do his timekeeper’s bell routine since it worked so well previously.  But The Animal was ready for him and he shoved Savage right off the top turnbuckle sending him crashing to the mat.  Just then, the ref started coming to.  Wincing to sell the idea that he hurt his back, Savage attempted to bodyslam Steamboat.  But The Dragon wrapped him up in a beautiful small package and ended The Macho Man’s 13-month title reign.  What a glorious ending to a superb match-up.  Too bad the plan to make Steamboat a longterm champion never happened.  His reign would last just a little over 2 months.
 
In the tenth match of the event, The Honky Tonk Man (just a few months away from beating The Dragon for that very same championship) went up against Jake “The Snake” Roberts.  Alice Cooper was recruited by the company to be in The Snake’s corner.  Jimmy Hart was in Honky’s.  This storyline was hatched during a TV segment called The Snake Pit.  Like Rowdy Roddy Piper, Roberts had his own interview segment.  In early 1987, The Honky Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart were guests.  When he least expected it (as the storyline went), Roberts was slammed hard in the head by one of Honky’s breakable acoustic guitars.  Egged on by the always devious and hilarious Hart, Honky kept “playing a tune” on The Snake’s head.
 
While Honky would use the top rope to help him defeat The Snake, Jake and Alice got the last laugh by terrifying poor Jimmy Hart who was rescued by his man just in the nick of time.  (Alice was about to put Damian, Jake’s pet snake, all over him.)
 
The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff, former tag team champions, wrestled The Killer Bees in the second-to-last match of the evening.  At one point, Hacksaw Jim Duggan came down to ringside, much to the crowd’s delight.  (He would end up becoming one of the most popular stars of the late ’80s and early ’90s.)  The match was rather uneventful until Duggan found himself in the ring (after chasing either Slick or Nikolai Volkoff, I can’t remember now) and noticed that The Sheik had one of the Bees in his infamous Camel Clutch submission hold.  He took his trusty 2X4 and wacked the “unsuspecting” Iranian, thereby costing The Bees the match.
 
Although, Duggan and The Sheik were supposed to be “feuding”, in reality, there were good friends.  A few months after WM III, they were driving together to get to the next show when they were pulled over.  Both were caught harbouring narcotics.  At the time, it was a huge no-no for wrestlers to break character and for “good guys” to associate in public with “bad guys”.  (That wrong-headed policy has long since been rescinded.)  Because Duggan was a ‘face and The Iron Sheik was a heel, this was a huge public relations problem.  Vince McMahon decided to suspend both of them.
 
Fortunately for Duggan, his suspension was brief.  He was reinstated sooner than planned because a famous promoter requested his presence at his retirement show.  The embarrassing incident was never mentioned on TV and soon, Duggan got involved in major feuds with Andre The Giant, Harley Race and Randy “Macho Man” Savage.
 
The Iron Sheik, curiously, would not return to the WWF until sometime in 1990 when he became part of a storyline involving Sgt. Slaughter (who he once feuded with in the early ’80s) and Hulk Hogan (the man who beat him for the world title in 1984).  (He maintained his most famous gimmick during the rest of the ’80s in both the AWA and NWA.)  Even though he’s a proud Iranian (who has made some controversial public statements in recent years), he played an Iraqi named Col. Mustafa who teamed up with Slaughter, the Iraqi sympathizer.  (Remember, this all occurred during the first Gulf War.)  There wasn’t much use for The Sheik’s new gimmick once the Slaughter/Hogan storyline wrapped up (Slaughter eventually became a good guy again and renounced his anti-American stance) and inevitably, he left the company.
 
He would have one more great triumph.  At WrestleMania 17, The Iron Sheik won the Gimmick Battle Royal.
 
By that point, 11 matches had been contested at WrestleMania III.  Only one remained.  It would turn out to be a fitting finale.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, March 29, 2007
10:31 p.m.
Published in: on March 29, 2007 at 10:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

WrestleMania III: 20 Years Later (Part One)

March 29, 1987.  What a day for professional wrestling fans.
 
My father, my best friend and I spent the late afternoon and early evening hours, along with thousands of other excited Hamiltonians, inside Copps Coliseum that day where we witnessed probably the best card of wrestling ever put together.
 
Even though the enormous live event took place many miles away in the Pontiac Silverdome in the state of Michigan, we got to see everything as it happened on a large closed-circuit Television screen.  Nothing beats the real experience but this was an acceptable compromise.
 
With the 23rd edition of the most famous annual supercard happening in three days, how likely is it to top the spectacle of WrestleMania III?  I mean, think about it.  You had Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant battling it out in the main event.  Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Randy “Macho Man” Savage putting on a clinic in perhaps the best match of the 1980s.  Brutus Beefcake turning babyface, Alice Cooper putting a snake on Jimmy Hart, King Kong Bundy bodyslamming a midget, and on and on and on.
 
In the end, there were 12 matches.  I have memories of all of them.
 
After Aretha Franklin sang America The Beautiful while playing piano to kick things off, a tag team match opened the third WrestleMania.  Long before he was The Model, but a year after he was the world champion in the American Wrestling Association, Rick Martel teamed up with Minnesota wrestler, Tom Zenk, to form The Can-Am Connection.  (Martel is French Canadian.)
 
Their opponents:  former Inter-Continental Champion The Magnificent Muraco and Cowboy Bob Orton (accompanied by their wiley manager, Mr. Fuji).  Orton, named after his father who also grappled professionally (and now, the father of current superstar, Randy Orton), was, for 2 and a half years, Rowdy Roddy Piper’s trusted bodyguard.  After a storyline that had him turn on Piper in order to look after the ironically named Adorable Adrian Adonis (a gimmick thrusted on him by WWF owner Vince McMahon as punishment for bad behaviour), he was teamed with Muraco.  (As an aside, they wrestled the then-WWF Tag Team Champions, The British Bulldogs, on December 13, 1986 for the titles.  My dad, best friend and I watched the match live at Copps.  Something went wrong and The Dynamite Kid got seriously injured when it was over.  As a result, they had to drop the titles to The Hart Foundation during a TV taping sometime in January 1987.  But they remained champions on December 13 after winning their match.)
 
It was an entertaining opener and the team of Zenk & Martel, who ultimately won the encounter, proved themselves worthy of the big stage.  It’s too bad the team would split sometime later in the year.  Zenk was never happy with the steroid situation in the WWF and has since been one of its most vocal critics.  He never returned to the WWF.  Martel, who had some success in the early 80s in the company, teamed up with Tito Santana later that year.  Both had been Tag Team Champions with different partners previously.  They would beat The Hart Foundation in the fall of 1987 to become champions together.
 
Orton and Muraco would split up in either the spring or summer of 1987.  Muraco would become The Rock Don Muraco, a good guy, and appear more chiselled than his previously flabby “Beach Bum” persona.  Orton would accompany Adrian Adonis to the AWA after the televised split.
 
In the next encounter, Billy Jack Haynes (whose moniker was inspired by the famous film character that Tom McLaughlin portrayed in a series of films) battled Hercules.  Originally named Hercules Hernandez (the now-deceased Florida-based wrestler was born Ray Hernandez) and the last wrestler to be “represented” by the late Fred Blassie, his “beef” with Haynes was that he was the real master of the full nelson.  Hercules’ original finishing move was what Lex Luger called The Human Torture Rack.  (I don’t exactly remember what Hercules called his version.)  But during an early 1987 TV taping, he challenged Haynes to let him put on the full nelson.  It started “the feud”.
 
The most memorable moment of their WM III fight was the end.  After both were counted out of the ring, Hercules used his big chain on Haynes and immediately, you could easily see his bloody forehead.  As far as I can remember, that was pretty much the end of that storyline which, in retrospect, didn’t have much going for it.  Haynes would move on to briefly team with former Inter-Continental Champion (and ex-con) Ken Patera through the first half of 1987.  He would leave the company before the end of that year.
 
Match #3 was pretty odd.  A mixed six-man encounter where a fully grown wrestler had two midgets for partners.  The only rule was midgets wrestled midgets and the regular-sized wrestlers battled each other.  Thankfully, that rule was broken when the wonderfully evil King Kong Bundy easily threw Little Beaver square into the mat.  He then gave him a big elbow drop for good measure.  Colour commentator Jesse Ventura openly wished that one of the midgets would get squashed by Bundy.  Too bad Eric The Midget wasn’t participating.  Hope he doesn’t call Johnny Fratto to order a hit on me, having said that.
 
Unsurprisingly, the team of Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver and The Haiti Kid defeated Bundy, Lord Littlebrook and Little Tokyo by disqualification.  The encounter was quite a comedown for Bundy.  In WrestleMania 2, he battled Hulk Hogan inside a steel cage for the world title.  (Hogan won.  Saw that entire card with my best friend and father on closed circuit TV, as well.)
 
Despite losing to “The King” Harley Race (a former 7-time National Wrestling Alliance world champion), The Junkyard Dog ended up having the last laugh in the fourth match.  It had an unusual stipulation.  The loser had to bow in front of the winner.  JYD actually did a curtsy (before eventually bowing properly) and then he took out Race big time.  After doing his thing, much to the crowd’s delight, he left the ring in one of those mini motorized versions complete with Race’s cape and crown.  After a few more years in the business, JYD died tragically in a car accident after attending his daughter’s graduation.
 
Race would stick it out a couple more years, as well, before switching to managing and finally, retirement.
 
Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine were dubbed The Dream Team.  The pinnacle of their success was their 8-month reign as WWF Tag Team Champions (August 1985 – April 1986).  Nearly a year after dropping the belts to The British Bulldogs during a famous encounter at WrestleMania 2, The Dream Team were on the outs.  The late Dino Bravo was recruited by manager Johnny V to join his very small stable of wrestlers.  At the end of WM III it was clear where things were going even if the execution was a little strange.
 
Beefcake and Valentine were battling The Rougeau Brothers, the French-Canadian team they had been feuding with for almost a year.  I’ll never forget the finish for the match.  The Rougeaus did their special signature move (turning around, Ray scooped up Valentine’s legs, holding him up high, and then Jacques Jr. nailed his face crotch first) and looked like they were going to win.  But the referee was distracted (aren’t they always?) and while Ray had covered Valentine for the victory, Bravo leaped off the turnbuckle crashing onto Ray.  He then placed The Hammer on top of the fallen Rougeau Brother and got the hell out of the ring.  The ref slapped the mat three times and The Dream Team cheated their way to another victory.
 
What happened next has never made any sense to me.  Beefcake stayed in the ring with The Rougeaus while Bravo, Valentine and Johnny V started yelling at him.  Bravo gave him a famous variation of “Up yours!” and then all three “beauties”, as the late Gorilla Monsoon called them that afternoon, got into that motorized mini-ring and left ringside.  It has never been clear why the team split up in this manner.  (More on Brutus in a moment.)
 
Next up was Rowdy Roddy Piper’s retirement match (or so we all thought at the time).  Piper was always my favourite, even when he was a heel.  His “final” storyline involved his short interview segment, the infamous Piper’s Pit, which was unceremoniously replaced by the less engaging Flower Shop.  The latter was hosted by Adorable Adrian Adonis who Piper soon feuded with.
 
Besides being the “last” match of his career, regardless of the outcome, his battle with Adonis was also a Hair Match.  The loser would have to be shaved bald by the winner.  It all came to an end when Adonis was put in a less-than-convincing sleeper hold and Piper was declared the winner.  Brutus Beefcake ended up taking care of Adonis’ dyed blonde locks while Piper took care of the fat one’s manager, Jimmy Hart.  (At one point, he knocked him to the ground, then placed his foot on his back so he couldn’t save his wrestler.)
 
Why was Beefcake, now a babyface, so eager to shave down Adonis?  Not too long before WM III, there was a six-man tag team match on Television.  Adonis and Beefcake were on the same team.  At one point, thinking he had grabbed the head of an opponent, Adonis whipped out a pair of scissors and accidentally trimmed some hair off Beefcake.  This was the origin for his new gimmick, The Barber.  He would remain a fan favourite for years.  (He’s now retired and a happily married father of a young daughter.) 
 
Adonis, unfortunately, died in a tragic car accident on July 4, 1989 while en route to an independent wrestling show in Newfoundland.  Contrary to his awful final gimmick, he was a married, family man.  Valentine would stick with the company until the early 1990s.  Johnny V would briefly manage Demolition (before Barry Darsow became the second guy to play Smash) before going on to manage the AWA World Tag Team Champions, The Destruction Crew (later known as The Beverly Brothers in the WWF).
 
Piper retired to pursue a career in show business.  Things didn’t quite work out for him (although They Live, his highest profile film project to date, did get some strong, critical notices in 1988) and after two years, he returned to the WWF.  (He still does the occasional acting gig, by the way.) With longer hair and less bulk, he hosted a special Piper’s Pit during WrestleMania V.  His guests were Brother Love (remember the red-faced preacher?) and controversial, chain-smoking talk show host, Morton Downey Jr. (now deceased).  Piper would stick with the company until the early 1990s.  (He was briefly Inter-Continental Champion in early 1992.)  Since then, he’s drifted in and out of the company (now known as WWE).  Late last year, he announced his current fight with cancer.  May he beat it swiftly and completely.  He remains one of the great characters of wrestling.  He has always been my favourite.
 
And to think, this was only the first half of WrestleMania III.  Even more interesting things happened in the second half.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, March 29, 2007
8:38 p.m.
Published in: on March 29, 2007 at 8:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sun TV Union Continuing Talks With Management

After an unexpected delay there is finally an update in the ongoing Sun TV saga.  On the official Canadian Media Guild website, the union is reporting that after two days of negotiations – Monday, March 26 and Tuesday, March 27 – “the two sides”, meaning the union and Sun TV management, “engaged in a constructive dialogue”.  (To read the entire update, click here.)
 
As noted on this website previously, things had gotten so bleak the union went to the federal government for assistance.  Two mediators were appointed by Federal Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn to get the negotiations back on track.  (The union had only requested one.)  They had until March 27 to work out a deal.  According to this latest update, though, despite the fact that the deadline has now passed, talks are continuing.  (“The two sides have agreed to extend the conciliation process.”)
 
After many frustrating months of inactivity, this move by the union has finally achieved something significant.  It has convinced Sun TV management to put forth its own proposals at a negotiating session, an unfathomable idea previously if you’ve been following this story closely over the last several months.  The union notes in this latest update that the station’s bigwigs have offered “nine proposals”.  Unsurprisingly, because of the sensitive nature of these talks, it is unknown what those proposals actually are and whether or not the union will find them acceptable.
 
“Negotiations are scheduled to resume on Thursday, April 5 with further meetings every Thursday in April,” notes the union.  This is a very surprising development.  For over a year now, the union has been working to reach a collective bargaining agreement, their first, with management.  Obviously, getting those federally appointed mediators involved in this difficult process has brought Sun TV back to the table and convinced them to take the union seriously.  The union should be commended for its efforts.
 
It is unknown what will happen if a deal is not reached after these month-long weekly bargaining sessions have concluded.  (The union notes its regret in not securing more face time with management.)  But this is the first bit of positive news this website has observed since commencing coverage of the story late last year.  Perhaps a deal can be reached after all.
 
However, regardless of what happens next month, Sun TV, the station, faces an uphill battle in an overcrowded market.  Facing stiff competition from CFTO (CTV’s Toronto station), CBLT (CBC’s Toronto affiliate), CITY-TV, Global and the two OMNIs, its chances of survival are slim at best.  It can’t expect to improve its stature if it’s solely dependent on old programming and American simulcasts.  It needs to be different.  It is desperate for an identity that will make it stand out from the rest.  But that will cost money and talent. 
 
Are the station’s managers and the union willing to work together to make the necessary changes in order to see this transformation through?  If history is a guide, the outlook is worrisome.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, March 29, 2007
4:20 p.m.
 
CLARIFICATION:  This piece originally stated, “For over a year now, the union has been working without a collective bargaining agreement.”  While not untrue, the new version of that sentence is more accurate.  After The Canadian Media Guild successfully unionized Sun TV workers in 2005, they began to negotiate on their behalf for their first ever CBA late that year.  Employees had solo contracts with station management prior to the emergence of the CMG.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, September 21, 2007
11:08 p.m.
Published in: on March 29, 2007 at 4:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Val Gibson’s Firing A Bloody Disgrace, All Quiet On The Sun TV Front

The Toronto Sun Family Blog is reporting more untimely exits from the long suffering tabloid.  The fifth paragraph of the article, in particular, caught the attention of this website:
 
Valerie Gibson, a colourful and controversial Lifestyle writer and author, introduced Sun readers to the ‘cougar’ way of life for older women dating younger men. Valerie, a major contributor and reader favourite since 1983, was told today her Sun contract will not be renewed. Valerie’s Sunday Sun column was axed recently, leaving her with S&M, the Sex and Money feature with Linda Leatherdale, and a Friday advice column.”
 
And now, she’ll have nothing.  What a bloody disgrace.  An important question has to be asked:  what did the lovely British lass do to deserve such awful treatment?  Answer:  absolutely nothing.
 
She was one of my favourite Sun writers for years.  A champion of men, fiercely independent, funny, intelligent and deeply devoted to animals and her only daughter.  The stylish, red-headed divorcee with those killer gams paved the way for women like Demi Moore and Cameron Diaz to consider younger men suitable for sexual trysts and even, serious relationships.  That is a good thing.  She bore the abuse for years so that others would not in the future.  She is a true pioneer in this regard.
 
She tirelessly raised awareness of a draconian Canadian law that once forbid handicapped people from immigrating to this great country.  (Val’s daughter is “mentally challenged”, to use her phrase.)  It has since been struck down since it was successfully challenged by a rich businessman in a similiar situation.  (Because her own daughter was very much settled in her native Britain, Val decided not to bring her over.)
 
There was the sad story of her kidnapped cat.  (Val has quite a few of them at her place.)  Despite many pleas in her columns and even tips and support from devoted readers, Patience remains missing.  (Someone scooped the kitty right off Val’s property.  Can you believe the nerve?)
 
She once relayed an uncomfortable experience appearing on Ed’s Night Party, Ed being Ed The Sock, the puppet that frequently appears to be channelling Howard Stern in a harsh grunt of a voice but without the charm, originality or comedic consistency.  Speaking of Stern, Val once named him one of her Top 10 Valentines in 1997.  (She would make a great guest now that the program is uncensored on Sirius Satellite Radio.)
 
She talked about her 5 failed marriages, her ongoing troubles finding her way in the modern age of dating, and she was good-natured and open-minded enough to discuss such varied subjects as dogging (a British term for sex in parked cars), vibrators, swinging (aka The Lifestyle), post-date etiquette (example: she likes it when a man calls her after an outing has ended) and many, many others.
 
She devoted 24 years of her life to talking about sex, writing about sex, giving mostly sound relationship advice to anonymous readers who requested it, lusting over numerous men and enlightening anyone who would listen on how to live a fulfilling life, all through her appearances on Television and in The Toronto Sun.  I’ve learned a lot about women, sexuality and relationships thanks to her strong writing over the years.  I emailed her several times offering opinions of my own.  (I still have a reply she sent me.  She is one of the nicest ladies working in media today.  And also, one of the smartest.)
 
There is absolutely no good reason why this great lady is out of a job today.  None whatsoever.  (And that goes for all the other names mentioned in that Toronto Sun Family piece.)
 
She exhibits class, oozes charm, and glistens sexuality.  May she find another job writing about sex right away.
 
 
 
Meanwhile, it’s all quiet on the Sun TV front.  As I’ve noted in this space on a number of occasions, the Canadian Media Guild has been trying in vain to work out a deal with Quebecor for over a year.  According to the union, the company has been stonewalling.  Left with no better options, the union formally requested a federal mediator be activated in order to get both sides to the table and reach a deal.
 
Federal Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn appointed two.  According to the last official CMG Sun TV update, which was posted online almost two weeks ago, the mediators’ appointments were to end March 27th.  A series of marathon bargaining sessions was scheduled to take place on the 26th and 27th.  Curiously, there is no update on what has happened, if anything happened at all.  The deadline has just passed and there’s been no word as to whether or not Quebecor and the CMG have reached any kind of consensus.  There has been no word about whether more time will be granted in order to carry on this unbelievably excruciating process.
 
One thing is for sure.  The silence is troubling.  Also, Toronto Sun Family reported that Canoe Live, the suppertime, experimental newscast, will lose 30 minutes of its original hour long running time starting Monday. 
 
Is Quebecor planning to lock out its employees?  Will there ever be a resolution to this ongoing mess?
 
Stay tuned.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
12:52 a.m.
Published in: on March 28, 2007 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Ian Harvey & Jim Jennings Speak Out On Toronto Sun Family

4 days ago, this website offered a straightforward proposal to past and present employees of The Toronto Sun:  speak out about the sorry state of the 36-year-old tabloid newspaper by using The Writings Of Dennis Earl as your open forum.  Anonymity was offered for those too timid to attach their real names to their real views.  The offer is still on the table, by the way.
 
Although that article has been accessed numerous times over the last several days, there has not been one posted comment nor a single email addressed to me from any staffers willing to comment publicly on the pressing matter at hand.
 
However, people are speaking out, just not on this website.
 
A couple of hours after the original proposal was posted, John Cosway of The Toronto Sun Family Blog made a similiar plea to readers of his excellent site.  He made note of a comment left on another entry by Antonia Zerbisias, the well-informed media critic for The Toronto Star, who also wanted inside information about the state of the paper.  The following day, March 24th, the Fading To Black Blog made note of all of these public efforts to bring Sun employees, past and present, out of the shadows.  (The links to these sites are included in updates in my original story.  Just scroll down to the bottom and you’ll find them.)
 
Already, two ex-Sun staffers have left detailed comments on The Toronto Sun Family site.  Here’s hoping more are on the way.
 
First up, Ian Harvey, a 21-year veteran reporter for the tabloid who last worked there in 2000.  On March 25th, he offered some very strong criticisms:
 
“Readers want more than the same old same old wire stories about the current flavour of the month celeb in rehab.

They want news about their city and the people who live there.

With 24 [Hours, Quebecor’s free transit paper] looking more and more like the Sun and the Sun looking more and more like 24 almost everyone sees the writing on the wall…and it’s obscene.”

Harvey refers to Luc Lavoie, Quebecor’s spokesman, as Pierre Karl Peladeau’s “lapdog” – “PKP”, as Harvey calls him, is the CEO of the company -and further stated “if Quebecor is serious about the Toronto Sun, they need to put their money where their mouths are.”

He continues:  “All they seem to care about is seeing how few people they can actually get away with in putting out a paper, how they can farm out as much of the layout and news gathering responsibilities as possible so they can break the union.

Oh, and getting reporters and photographers to do two jobs and pay them as little as they can.”

On a roll, he continues to rip Quebecor a new one:
 
“Sadly Quebecor seems to believe the content component of a newspaper/website/TV channel is a secondary thought.

Instead of hiring the best in the business they go for cheap and few and invariably cover the same old ground.

Those talking head hosts on Sun TV are an embarrassing joke. I’ve seen sheets of toilet paper with more gravitas.

Even CITY TV wasn’t this weak when it launched back in the day with fewer resources.”

To read the complete comment (and it is a great one), click here.  He speaks for many.  Personally, he could’ve gone even further in his complaints.  This website has long maintained that The Sun’s two biggest problems, besides its horribly misguided treatment of its workforce, are the growing absences of accountability and credibility.
 
Earlier today, Cosway printed an email he received from The Sun’s former Editor-In-Chief Jim Jennings (now employed with The Globe & Mail).  (Check out the entirety of his remarks by clicking here.)
 
Jennings takes a more diplomatic view of the situation within Sun Media.  (He’s not nearly as critical of Peladeau, the man, and dismisses any unflattering assessments of him.)  But, like Harvey, he isn’t happy about the state of the newspaper.
 
Early on, he references the famous Benjamin Disraeli quote about there being lies, damn lies and statistics.  He correctly notes there should be a fourth category:  “newspaper [circulation] numbers”.
 
Recently, the results of the annual NADbank (Newspaper Audience Databank) survey were released.  As always, all the Toronto dailies proclaimed victory on some scale.  The Toronto Sun was no exception.  Jennings, however, isn’t buying the cheery news:
 
“I would argue that the only real barometer of a newspaper’s performance…is the fully ‘paid’ [circulation] number…This is a number that isn’t being touted…Could it be that overall performance continues to decline? You can argue, if you goes [sic] back to using the NADBank numbers that [new Toronto Sun EIC Glenn] Garnett selected, that overall readership of the Toronto Sun is off 30-plus percent since Quebecor took over. Paid circulation is off significantly over the period as well.

I wonder what effect the decrease in the number of journalists in the newsroom has had on these numbers? It would be interesting to overlay investment in content (i.e. journalists, news hole, etc.) with readership and circulation figures. My guess is the resulting graph could be used as a blueprint for the downhill ski run for the Vancouver Olympics.

I realize that there are times where adjustments in newsroom staffing levels are not only needed, but also required. That is a part of the evolutionary cycle of our business. Removing resources by replacing local content with mass produced generic content is hardly a recipe for growing the business.”
 
It’s only a matter of time before this reality hits Quebecor square in the face.  But is it too late to change direction, to retrieve what’s been lost?  Will the stubbornness of the company overrule common sense?

The growing evidence is not reassuring.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
10:47 p.m.
Published in: on March 27, 2007 at 10:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Housesitter

Not too long ago, I posted my assessments of Batman Returns and The Silence Of The Lambs.  The original, handwritten drafts of these reviews were completed in June 1992 and March 1993, respectively.  But they weren’t very good.  A lot of revision was required.  I did manage to type up a second draft of the Batman review but was still unsatisfied with what I had written.  Finally, after all these years, the reviews were completely overhauled and corrected.  The rough drafts were thrown away and the final versions are now exclusively available on this website.  It only took half of my life to finish off these particular pieces of writing.  No biggie.
 
Both reviews were written specifically for this unpublished book of critiques I was working on at the time entitled The Movie Critic: Book One.  Over a 9-month period, I screened and reviewed 152 movies.  Batman Returns was the first selection, The Silence Of The Lambs was the last one.
 
Housesitter, a very funny romantic comedy from the summer of 1992, was the second review.  After completing the first draft in ink I decided to type up the next draft.  For some unknown reason, only half of the review was typed.  (Come to think of it, it was probably the result of chronic laziness, an impossible, bad habit of mine to break.)
 
That brings us to right now.  After much contemplation, I’ve decided to post a reworked version of the original review.  Gone are all the excessive plot descriptions, an annoying technique I used at the time.  The review is much tighter and breezier, as a result.  The essence of the original assessment has been maintained despite added lines and all those omissions.  Enjoy.
 
 
Housesitter
Parental Guidance
102 minutes, 1992
Starring:
Steve Martin — Newton Davis
Goldie Hawn — Gwen Phillips
Dana Delany — Becky Metcalf
Donald Moffat — George Davis
 Julie Harris — Edna Davis
Peter MacNicol — Marty
Roy Cooper — Winston Moseby
Christopher Durang — Reverend Lipton
Produced by Brian Grazer
Screenplay by Mark Stein
Music by Miles Goodman
Directed by Frank Oz
 
Newton Davis is deeply in love with his steady girlfriend, Becky Metcalf.  How deeply?  Well, he convinces her to wear a blindfold.  Then, he drives her to a very special destination in his red convertible.  Once they arrive, the audience immediately gets a strong sense of what Newton is up to.  We discover that he is a terrific architect who has built a beautiful dream house for himself and Becky.  (It even has a giant red ribbon strategically placed on the front.)  He removes her blindfold and proposes marriage.  But to his dismay, she blurts out, “No!”.  Newton is never the same after this moment.
 
That’s the opening set-up for Housesitter, a very funny romantic comedy that isn’t entirely surprising.  Nonetheless, this second collaboration between former-Jim-Henson-puppeteer-turned-movie-director Frank Oz and comedian Steve Martin is a successful one.
 
Three months after Becky (Dana Delany) rejects Newton (Martin), we meet some really funny, supporting characters.  First, there’s Marty (Peter MacNicol).  He’s also an architect who is kind of a romantic advisor for Newton.  He tells Davis (everybody, with the exception of his parents, calls him by his last name) to get over Becky and hunt for some cheap, sweaty sex.  Newton isn’t interested.  He’s too heartbroken to move on.
 
Marty constantly and humourously sucks up to his boss, Winston Moseby (Roy Cooper), the head of their architectural firm.  His most memorable one-liner:  “I want to get my lips permanently sewn to his ass!”
 
Then, we meet Gwen Phillips (Goldie Hawn).  When Newton meets her in a quaint, little cafe one night, he thinks she’s Hungarian.  He sticks around after business hours have concluded to talk to her.  Still depressed about Becky’s rejection he doodles a picture of his beautiful dream house on a serviette before making his move.  Then, he realizes she’s just an American with a pretty good handle on a difficult accent.  Lonely and horny (and possibly remembering Marty’s advice), he makes his play for her.  His pick-up line is very funny:  “So, Gwen, gwere would you like to gwo?”
 
Long story short, they have a one-night stand in Gwen’s apartment on top of the cafe.  By morning, Newton has disappeared but his dream house noodle has been accidentally left behind.  Gwen smells a glorious opportunity, a “long con”, if you will, and decides to check out the empty property for herself.
 
Soon, she settles in quite comfortably.  While doing a grocery run in a local store, she informs the clerk that she’s Mrs. Davis, which is a big shock to Becky who just happens to be right there to hear the news.   Word spreads quickly and when Newton goes to the dream house to put up the “For Sale” sign, he is stunned by what he sees.  However, he senses a glorious opportunity of his own.  He convinces Gwen to keep the con going so he can try to make his ex jealous and win her back.
 
This is a clever comedy with many hilarious twists and turns that I would dare not reveal.  Otherwise, I’d be spoiling your fun.  What makes it so wonderful are the equally hilarious performances by Hawn and Martin (although Martin does overact in spots).
 
The supporting actors are good, too.  Donald Moffat, Julie Harris and Peter MacNicol are all witty and convincing.  Having a pretty good script helps, naturally. 
 
However, Housesitter isn’t entirely original or close to perfection, not by any means.  It is predictable in spots (some scenes are obvious), the Dana Delany character is a standard girlfriend role and it’s not quite clear why the Newton character is so taken with her.  She is unlikeable and uninteresting.  Hot?  Yes.  (Newton really enjoys poking her breasts with his finger, at one point.  I know I would, too.)  But where’s the personality and the warmth?  It doesn’t help that there’s limited chemistry between the two actors, either.  Thankfully, that doesn’t matter.  The real love story, the one we’re really interested in, is effective.
 
Despite its flaws, this is a very funny film.  It’s ideal for couples on their first date.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, March 25, 2007
10:29 p.m.
Published in: on March 25, 2007 at 10:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Come Out Of The Shadows, Sun Employees, And Speak Your Minds

While reporting on the recent cuts at the non-unionized Calgary Sun, John Cosway of The Toronto Sun Family Blog had this to say at the end of one such piece entitled Sun Deja Vu (which you can read in its entirety by clicking here.):
 
“It is really quite amazing how most of the Sun staffers who have resigned, or have been turfed since Quebecor bought Sun Media in 1999, have opted to remain mute about their experiences.

The rise and fall of the Toronto Sun and its sister tabloids is a major Canadian media story, but incredulously most of the people with stories to tell are failing to communicate. That is a peculiar trait to be saddled with in the communications business.

Their silence is deafening.”

For the most part, this is sadly accurate.  I know of one professional journalist who is having a hell of a time trying to get on-the-record comments from Sun employees for a column that’s been in the works since late last year.  Whether this planned piece this particular writer is researching will ever surface remains a real mystery.  Too many pairs of lips are firmly fastened.
 
Another one I know has been trying in vain to investigate some of the lesser-publicized firings from Quebecor’s community properties.  Again, no one has been willing to shed any light on the subject and, as a result, readers are continually kept in the dark.
 
Thankfully, there have been exceptions.  This website has been fortunate when it comes to hearing from professional Sun writers.  Bill Brioux wrote a lovely email that gave readers tremendous insight into how bad the work atmosphere has deteriorated in The Toronto Sun newsroom.  His remarks were published in their entirety in a piece called Bill Brioux Responds, which remains the single most accessed entry on here.  It inspired a passionate rebuttal from Jim Slotek, whose angry comments, curiously, haven’t been seen by as many pairs of eyeballs.
 
Lydia Lovric, formerly of The Winnipeg Sun, is the only other writer I’ve heard from.  (To read her views, click here and scroll down to paragraph 14 of the middle section, which is the Sun Media Update portion of the piece.)
 
I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve decided to make an open proposal to current and former employees of Sun Media.  This website wants to hear your views on what’s going on behind the scenes.  I will offer you complete anonymity if you are worried about having your name attached to strong criticism.  If you are one of the few brave employees willing to sign your name to your own views, that would be even better.  You can send your comments to dennischarlesearl@hotmail.com, or you can simply leave a comment directly on this website.  In fact, if you want to go that route (anonymous or on-the-record), please add your comments to this particular entry.
 
When you send an email, please indicate if you wish to have them published with your name intact or anonymously.  That will save time asking for permission in order to avoid any kind of messy situations.  It’s not legally necessary to get the go-ahead from an emailer to publish comments with a name attached to it, but it is a courtesy I want to extend to those who are willing to speak out.
 
So, come out of the shadows, Sun employees, and speak your minds.  What do you have to lose?
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, March 23, 2007
5:07 p.m.
 
UPDATE:  Toronto Star Media Critic Antonia Zerbisias left an interesting comment on The Toronto Sun Family Blog.  Like this website, she wants Sun Media employees to come forward and speak out about the deplorable state of the tabloid newspaper chain.  You can reach her at az@thestar.ca.  John Cosway even wrote an entry about her remarks on TSF and urged Sun employees, past and present, to get in touch with Antonia.  “It is time to communicate,” he concluded in his March 23rd piece.  Indeed.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, March 24, 2007
2:37 a.m.
 
SECOND UPDATE:  The Fading To Black Blog has picked up the story.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, March 24, 2007
9:07 p.m.
Published in: on March 23, 2007 at 5:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Airing Adult Entertainment A C.E.M.

The funny things you remember when you were in college. 
 
Ken Wallis was one of my professors during my three years of participation in the Television Broadcasting program at Mohawk.  He had worked in TV for decades and frequently shared entertaining anecdotes about the business.
 
He also made sure we were absolutely prepared for any potential dangers we might face upon entering our chosen field.  One time, he taught us two important acronyms that I’ve never forgotten:  CLM and CEM.
 
A CLM is a Career Limiting Move.  Let’s say you’re working for a major network.  Great gig, great pay.  Everything’s going the way you want it to.  But something happens, maybe you unwittingly get into a verbal disagreement with a bigwig off-the-air and behind-the-scenes.  Let’s say instead of venting quietly to a trusted co-worker over lunch you fire off an intensely detailed email to that same person instead.  But accidentally, the message gets sent to everybody with an address within the company, including the aforementioned bigwig you just tossled with. 
 
Chances are, you would lose that great network gig and greatly reduce your future prospects.  But thankfully, you haven’t been completely blackballed by the industry.  Why?  Because what happened was most likely kept behind closed doors.  Word might leak out within parts of the industry but no further than that.  The public-at-large would never learn the truth.  Other companies might think twice about hiring such a foolish and disgruntled blabbermouth who appears to have a huge problem dealing with authority but because it’s not the worst thing you could do and it was likely a one-time incident, you might be given a second chance.
 
However, that wouldn’t be the case if you aired adult entertainment on Television.
 
Last week, in Phoenix, Arizona, local station KPPX-TV was airing a special prime-time news program that featured Tom Brokaw.   (Here’s the original report.)  At some point during the broadcast, which was about national health care, viewers got a literal eyeful when a scene from an adult movie suddenly popped onto their screens.  It is unknown what viewers actually saw and what movie the footage was from.
 
The station was flooded with complaints and an investigation was conducted immediately.  There were worries that those 30 seconds of booty-slapping action had been witnessed by a national audience.  Fortunately, for the so-called “family-friendly” station, only viewers in Phoenix saw the carnal surprise.
 
Eventually, an unnamed employee responsible for the sabotage was fired and, according to the station, is not completely out of the woods yet.  He’s also facing “further legal action” according to a spokeswoman.  (Here’s the rest of the story.)
 
This would qualify as a CEM, a Career Ending Move.  In fact, it’s exactly what Professor Wallis warned all of us TV students about over a decade ago.  He said that the surest way to kill your career in TV is by putting hardcore pornography on a station that isn’t supposed to be airing hardcore pornography.
 
Even though we don’t know the name of the fool who did this, what are the chances any TV station would give him a second chance?  That’s something he should’ve thought of before making that fatal error.  And the funny thing is, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.
 
Then again, maybe this was more a CLM than a CEM.  In his defence, his employer was Cox Communications.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
8:54 p.m. 
Published in: on March 21, 2007 at 8:55 pm  Leave a Comment