A Tribute To “Woman”

She was one of the most beautiful valets in the history of the business and now she’s dead.  On June 25th, Nancy Benoit was murdered by her husband, professional wrestler Chris Benoit, who also killed their only child, 7-year-old Daniel.  Hours after committing those dispicable crimes, he hung himself. 
 
It’s a sad story we’ve seen time and time again.  A respected public figure who, behind closed doors, was a very different person, so different, in fact, that it’s unlikely he would’ve had such a successful career if his real-life dark side had always been exposed for all to see.  Few have much sympathy for men who abuse women.
 
And yet, with the notable exceptions of Toronto Star columnist Antonia Zerbisias, Edmonton Sun columnist Mindelle Jacobs and Howard Stern, tributes have poured in for the former WWE World Champion.  He was a great talent in the ring but, let’s not forget, he also killed his family.  Why is the former getting recognized more by friends, co-workers and fans than the latter?  Bret Hart, your lack of anger and outrage is stunning.
 
Lost in the coverage of the story are the victims, most especially, Nancy Benoit.  I first remembered her in the mid-1980s when I became an enormous pro wrestling fan.  She was a knock-out, a dark-haired vixen in the Bettie Page mold.  She looked great no matter what she wore or didn’t.  Her sex appeal was enormous.  While the WWF had the classy Elizabeth (also deceased), Randy Savage’s manager (and real-life wife), the NWA had Benoit, the villainous seductress who got her start selling programs at live events and participating in “apartment wrestling”, which involves sexy girls, wearing next to nothing, rolling around with each other while a photographer snaps away.  In one such memorable shot, she appeared to not be wearing anything (an illusion, most likely) while strategically hiding her best physical features with a blanket.  She sold her sexuality brilliantly.
 
In the numerous magazines I would purchase during that period, though, I first remembered her as Kevin Sullivan’s valet.  Sullivan had this devil-worshipping gimmick for a short time and Benoit was his “Fallen Angel”, a partner in crime, if you will.  They were so smitten with each other, they became a couple in real-life, marrying in 1985.  It was Benoit’s second go-round.
 
By the late ’80s, Benoit was given a new character to play.  In 1989, she started appearing at ringside during NWA TV tapings cheering on fan favourite Rick Steiner.  Her charisma camouflaged by a nerdy get-up, she was re-named Robin Green.  It was all a ruse to set up Steiner who, as the storyline went, was too in love with her to see what was coming.
 
According to Wikipedia, Green convinced Steiner to allow her to be in his corner during a televised tag team encounter involving Rick and his long-haired brother, Scott, and their opponents, Fabulous Freebird Michael Hayes and Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin.  Her interference in the match cost The Steiners, thereby exposing her as a dastardly imposter.  Taking on the name Woman and living up to the name, she represented Ron Simmons and Butch Reed, a tag team better known as Doom who ended up feuding with The Steiners.  In 1990, she moved on to help out Ric Flair during a number of his matches and accompanied other members of The Four Horsemen to the ring.
 
She would leave with her husband that same year and work with smaller, independent promotions like ECW until hooking up with former NWA territory, World Championship Wrestling, in 1996.  By 1997, her marriage to Sullivan was over.  In a storyline that would spill over into real-life, Woman became involved with Chris Benoit and wasn’t shy about rubbing it in Sullivan’s face.  The on-screen affair soon turned real.  Sullivan retired after being defeated by Benoit in order to concentrate on bookings and storylines.  Benoit married Nancy just a couple of days after giving birth to their son, Daniel, in February 2000.
 
By the mid-to-late 90s, wrestling was pretty much over for me, and for Nancy Benoit.  The Woman gimmick would be retired in May 1997 and she would end up managing her third husband’s career behind-the-scenes right up until he killed her.  The marriage was problematic and almost ended acrimoniously in 2003, but was literally on life support until this past Monday.
 
She’s yet another person from the wrestling business who never lived to see her 50th birthday, thanks to her asshole husband.  She was 43.  Her son, who suffered from something called Fragile X Syndrome, will never get to enjoy all the things about life we tend to take for granted, thanks to his father.
 
Woman will be missed.  Chris Benoit will not.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
8:20 p.m.
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Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood & Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

It takes a lot of balls to make a movie that’s essentially Psycho in reverse.  It takes even more cojones to follow it up with 7 dreadful sequels, all slight variations of the second chapter.  That’s what Paramount Pictures accomplished between 1980 and 1989 when they agreed to distribute the Friday The 13th franchise.  Beyond the second film, there’s been no point in continuing the series (not that Parts 1 and 2 were any good).  But because these stupid movies make tons of dough, especially on home video, Paramount couldn’t resist.  Horror was their crack.
 
After screening the first six in order (four in January, one in June and one in November) last year, I finally got through seven and eight earlier this evening. 
 
Before going any further, though, a quick recap is in order.  A young camper named Jason Voorhees, born with a disfigured face, accidentally drowns one summer while two overly horny teenage counsellors are busy getting busy.  Shortly thereafter, they’re murdered.  Years later, Camp Crystal Lake (nicknamed Camp Blood, for obvious reasons) re-opens but more counsellors get offed.  It isn’t until the final act that we learn the identity of the killer.
 
In the second film, even though he was supposed to be dead, Jason appears as a fully grown man with a score to settle.  Once he settles it, he goes on his first killing spree.  It says a lot about this character that there was nothing distinguishable about him until Part III (the only chapter filmed in 3D).  In a memorable scene, he appears out of nowhere wearing that old-school hockey mask where he commits his first murder in the new identity.
 
After finally getting killed off in The Final Chapter and taking a hiatus in A New Beginning, he was hilariously brought back to life in the most ridiculous of circumstances in Jason Lives.  (His first kill after being unintentionally resurrected?  Horshack.  Thanks, Jason.)  It was the last film to feature the Tommy Jarvis character, who, in The Final Chapter, is a kid who has a fascination with science fiction (he designs his own creature masks) and video games.  In A New Beginning, he grows up to be tortured by the hallucinatory presence of Jason to the point where he appears to be ready to take over for him by the end of the film.  But in Jason Lives, that plotline is completely dropped.  After Jason’s rebirth, Tommy squares off with him one last time and succeeds in vanquishing him.
 
And that brings us to The New Blood.  Part VII, if you’re keeping track.  Once again, despite the laws of science and the lack of imagination on the part of the filmmakers, the masked one is reborn once more. 
 
A little blond girl named Tina, who looks like she just walked off the set of Poltergeist, runs away after yet another fight between her mother and father.  Her dad has just slapped her mom and she wishes him dead because of it.  The next thing you know, he is dead.  The kid’s been suffering from terrible guilt ever since.  When we meet her as an adult, she has just finished dreaming about the tragedy after being released from a mental hospital.  We learn she possesses strange telekinetic powers that only work when her emotions become extreme.  (Example #1:  she can make stuff move without using her hands.  Example #2:  she can set a book of matches aflame with her mind.) 
 
Her doctor, Terry Kiser (yep, the dead guy from both Weekend At Bernie’s movies), thinks it would be best to go back to Crystal Lake to revisit the scene of her father’s death.  He wants to push her into these extreme emotional states so he can observe and study her unique powers.  Is it just me or is this guy a quack of the highest order?  Someone should’ve checked his credentials before agreeing to this extremely bad idea. 
 
Meanwhile, a group of teenagers are planning a surprise birthday party for a friend who, unsurprisingly, never arrives.  How come?  Well, Tina, the tortured daddy-killer, tries resurrecting her father from the same lake he drowned in years earlier (didn’t they find the body and bury it?) but, shock of all shocks, she ends up restoring the killing impulses of Mr. Jason Voorhees instead.  Gotta love those telekinetic powers, eh?  No wonder she passes out at the sight of the masked one who, once again, is back to brutally murdering archetypes including the above-mentioned birthday boy.  Can’t a lad take a whiz without losing his life?  Are you with me, people?
 
One by one, Jason reduces the cast of mostly unknowns (a sci-fi nerd here, a couple of stoners there plus a token black couple and an unapologetic bitch), although I did recognize a couple of future soap stars.  Each killing makes you wince automatically without any thought whatsoever, which makes perfect sense since there was absolutely no thought put into any aspect of this story.  The New Blood is more disturbing than scary, more ridiculous than serious and more pointless than anything else, just like Parts III through VI.
 
But if you think that movie is lacking a brain, you should try Jason Takes Manhattan on for size.  This might be the most unintentionally hilarious installment since A New Beginning.
 
Once again, we have a troubled heroine stuck in the past.  This time, it’s an aspiring writer named Rennie who has this fear of water.  She also keeps having these bizarre visions of a young boy drowning and crying out for help.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who that young boy is.  But, then again, this is a Friday The 13th movie and it takes forever for these characters to figure out what the audience already knows.  They’re all allergic to common sense.
 
Rennie lost her parents in a car accident years ago and as a result, she’s been in the care of a couple of teachers who act as her legal guardians.  Rennie wants to join her high school class of graduates on a boat trip to Manhattan which displeases Mr. McCulloch (veteran TV actor Peter Mark Richman), one of the aforementioned guardians, who might be the most inept authority figure ever to appear in a horror film.  (Incredibly, in one ridiculous scene, he allows himself to get seduced, albeit temporarily, by the very slutty, coke addicted and extremely desperate prom queen who thinks painting internal organs on her admittedly nice body is the equivalent of a thoroughly researched high school biology paper she needs to hand in before the end of the trip.  Did I mention part of their shenanigans are caught on tape?)  He doesn’t think it’s a good idea because of her water phobia but there’s nothing he can do about it.  Along with her dog, Toby, she’s along for the ride.
 
Meanwhile, that pesky Jason has been unintentionally brought back to life again.  (Does electrocuting a drowned man underwater really restore his vital signs?)  Somehow, he manages to sneak onboard Lazarus (get it?) without alerting the passengers.  In time, he’s killing one underdeveloped character after another.  (Would you believe Kelly Yu is one of them?)
 
The situation looks especially grim when the ship’s captain and his first mate are brutally slaughtered in the middle of a bad storm.  The surviving kids and the two teachers are at odds about what to do.  Some of the grads, led by an aspiring boxer, want to kick some ass, but they’re the only ones gung-ho about that doomed idea.  (They must’ve missed Parts 1 through 7.)  The ever helpful Mr. McCulloch, despite increasing evidence to the contrary, can’t possibly believe that a murderous maniac has gotten onto the ship and gone on a killing spree.  No, it must be that weird shipmate who keeps telling everybody they’re gonna die.  Right.  Good thinking, Mr. M.  Here, take this flare gun and go find that hunky crew member who’s already dead.  He’s sure to offer advice in your time of need.
 
Despite one ongoing disaster after another – a dead CB radio, a dangerous fire in the engine room, flooding, all those murders – it takes forever for the survivors to get the hell off the boat.  This causes much unintentional hilarity, especially when some of the actors seem emotionally indifferent to the general awfulness enveloping them.  (Lots and lots of water onboard?  Meh.)
 
But wait, it’s gets better.  At one point, the female teacher gathers a few students into the dance room and tells them to wait until she comes back with the others.  But then, she bumps into Rennie, Mr. McCulloch, and Rennie’s love interest (future soap star Scott Reeves) who are not the least bit interested in saving their friends.  So, what do they do?  They get in a lifeboat and leave those poor kids on Lazarus with Jason!  Although that boxer guy, who Jason tosses overboard, manages to appear out of nowhere to catch that much-needed ride with Rennie and company, we never know what happens to those kids in the dance room.  Screw you guys, we’re going to New York.
 
After rowing endlessly during the night, our heroes end up in Manhattan.  Would you believe Jason manages to catch up with them?  (Did he ever dispose of those remaining passengers?  We’ll never know.)  How can a guy who has drowned more often than any other film character I can think of suddenly make Mark Spitz crap his pants?
 
After an exploitive and deeply disturbing mugging sequence that almost leads to an attempted rape (classy, right?), it’s back to the hilarity.  The boxer throws dozens of punches to the head and stomach of Jason during a rooftop confrontation.  How pointless and silly.  His hands bloodied and his energy drained, Jason pulls a Mortal Kombat fatality on his ass and decapitates him with one punch.  Scorpion would be proud.
 
More dopey stuff happens.  A helpful flashback Rennie experiences makes us question Mr. McCulloch’s sanity even further.  No one bothers to save yet another character, for some unknown reason.  Jason appears to move at the speed of light in Manhattan (Kelly Hu makes that discovery, herself, in an earlier scene on the boat.)  And there’s even a pitstop in the sewers.  How lovely.
 
All in all, it’s hard to fathom the heartlessness and chronic stupidity of this eighth installment.  When there are more laughs (a couple of intentional moments, it should be noted, along with the unintentional ones) instead of genuine scares, you’ve reached the end of the road, a cold, hard fact even the greediest of movie executives couldn’t deny any longer.  But then again, none of these films ever made a serious effort to be good in the first place.  With dwindling box office totals and increasingly bad reviews, even Paramount knew the jig was up.  Sure, home video sales and rentals were highly addicting but it was time to go cold turkey.  Now Jason is New Line Cinema’s problem.
 
I haven’t even mentioned the bizarre fixation this series has with killing young lovers.  It’s not an original point, by any means, but the uber-conservatism of the Jason character is baffling.  Rarely is a female killed with all her clothes on.  And while earlier installments in the series have had male characters espouse mysogynistic dialogue (totally unnecessary and demeaning to the audience), men and women are both killed in equally appalling ways.  You often wonder if the filmmakers even like their fellow human beings.
 
Still, the Friday The 13th franchise, appalling in so many respects, is not nearly as bad as the Police Academy movies.  As The New Blood and Jason Takes Manhattan prove, at least they make you laugh.  Too bad it’s for all the wrong reasons.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, June 25, 2007
3:10 a.m.
 
CORRECTION:  It has taken me 6 years to realize that I misspelled Kelly Hu’s last name.  I originally had it as Yu.  My apologies for the error.  The correct surname has been added to the original text.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, October 12, 2013
7:22 p.m.
Published in: on June 25, 2007 at 3:10 am  Comments (4)  

The Catholic Church Hates Car Sex

The Associated Press has an interesting story about The Catholic Church.  The Vatican has announced an updated version of The Ten Commandments, specifically for drivers.  (You can read the story, which includes the complete list, here.)
 
Remarkably, most of them are rather reasonable.  (This is The Catholic Church, after all, an organization with a long history of insane ideas.)  They cover safety, respect for other drivers, charity and compassion for those wounded in accidents and other sensible edicts that don’t really qualify as commandments, or edicts, for that matter.  Basically, good, intelligent drivers already know this stuff.
 
Then, there’s this one, number five:
 
"Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin."
 
Translation:  We don’t care how much women get turned on by your sweet ride, no fucking in the back seat, buddy.
 
Really, this isn’t terribly surprising from an organization that has long had difficulty accepting the realities of human sexuality.  Let’s go through the list, shall we?  Sex outside of marriage?  (That sounds like too much fun.)  Gay sex?  (That’s an exit, not an entrance.)  Safe sex?  (Eww, condoms.)  Masturbation?  (Too weird.  We’ll stick with child molestation, thank you.)
 
You get the idea.
 
It wasn’t always like this.  Before a major change in the 4th Century, Catholic priests were free to marry and raise families as they wished.  But because The Church liked the idea of inheriting valuable crap from its servants, the only way to make that happen was to prevent future ministers of God any opportunity to create heirs, the rightful, future owners of their stuff.  As a result, The Church became very wealthy, acquiring the possessions of its deceased priests.  Good luck changing things back.
 
But back to that bizarre commandment.  It speaks to the heart of the problem with The Church and with hardcore religion, as well.  There’s this long discredited idea that sex is a bad thing, that touching yourself in a provocative way is sinful, that getting it on consensually with another adult is immoral (unless it’s with your heterosexual wife or husband and you’re trying to create a new Catholic) and that being an actively gay man or woman is the worst thing you can be.  Even moderate conservatives know that’s a bunch of bullshit.
 
The Catholic Church has long had one thing going for it:  irrational fear.  And we’ve all lost count the number of times they’ve used it to try to prevent people anywhere in the world from exploring their sexuality and ultimately, to feel better about themselves.  The best way to counter their sexual propaganda has always been to know the truth.  That’s what made Alfred Kinsey’s groundbreaking studies in the 1940s and 1950s so important.  It forever changed the way we few ourselves and our sex lives, and, thankfully, reduced the power of fear spread by The Church.  As Kinsey, the excellent 2004 biopic, noted, human sexuality is much more than just marital babymaking, and it also includes boffing in cars.
 
I’ve not had the pleasure of doing anything "inappropriate" in a vehicle, whether it’s stationary or on the move, and I know I’m missing out.  So many people have so many entertaining stories to tell about fooling around in an automobile, especially when they were eager and curious teenagers.  I’m not one of them but I’d like to be, now that I’m far more comfortable with sex.
 
Nevertheless, isn’t it about time The Catholic Church acknowledged that they’ve long been wrong about sex, especially in cars?  They can’t be that stubborn, can they? 
 
Never mind.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
5:29 p.m.
Published in: on June 19, 2007 at 5:29 pm  Comments (2)  

In Praise Of Facebook

Making friends is easy.  Keeping them has always been difficult.  There are always circumstances beyond your control that greatly interfere with your social life.  People come and go and it’s not always possible to stay in touch, even if you make a Herculean effort to do so.  And I haven’t, until I started this website.
 
Sometimes, there’s a rift which makes a reunion very difficult.  (Despite the passing years, hurt feelings can endure.  It’s tough to let go.)  Sometimes, there isn’t, but, there are times when both parties don’t want to continue the friendship.  Some platonic relationships just aren’t strong enough to survive every possible change in life.  It’s sad but true, as Metallica once put it.
 
And then, there are those instances where you reconnect with someone from your past and the experience is very positive.
 
Last night was pretty special.  You couldn’t have planned it.  It just happened.  Two former classmates talking and listening to each other for hours, reunited by technology.  And to think, it would never have taken place were it not for Facebook.
 
For months, I had long resisted joining the site.  My cousin sent me an email invitation to join earlier this year.  I just deleted the message.  An old friend from college, who I’ve been exchanging emails with since last summer, also invited me.  By that point, though, I was in a relationship and wanted to concentrate on that, but I saved that second invite.  You never know.
 
When it abruptly ended, I needed a distraction.  Obsessiveness is the family curse and when it infects your every being, you need an immediate cure before it dangerously disrupts any momentum you’ve been building with your life.  Joining Facebook became a priority.
 
It was the best decision I’ve made in a while.  In the two weeks since becoming a member, I’ve reconnected with a number of old friends, many of whom I hadn’t heard from or even seen in a decade or longer.  Among them:  my old bowling buddies, Kevin and Phil, who were also my high school chums (Phil was also my campaign manager during the 1992 Student Council elections when I ran for President.); friends from college, more high school pals, fellow community TV and radio volunteers, a famous fan of my site who’s become a good friend and even family members who I rarely see.
 
It’s wonderful to hear from them all and to find out what they’ve been up to.  One friend, Dave, who I last saw with his then-girlfriend at the downtown public library sometime in the 1990s, is long out of that relationship and now happily married to a woman he met at Mohawk College.  He’s been furthering his education successfully and I’m happy for him.  They go on trips to exotic places.  He posted some photos of one such journey and you wonder why the guy never became a photographer.  He took terrific snapshots of what looked like a trip of a lifetime.  I’m sure he has lots of memories about that vacation.
 
It’s weird to learn that a number of my female friends are either married, engaged, in a relationship or have kids.  I haven’t even left home yet and their independent adult lives are thriving.  It makes me wonder if I’ll ever catch up.
 
Inevitably, the best part about reconnecting with old pals through Facebook is reliving old times.  It’s amazing how much you remember and how much your friends remember.  Add it all up and the past comes to life again.  As a result, I come to life again.
 
And that brings me back to that phone call from last night.  Heather was a woman I had a mad crush on when I was a teenager.  I thought she was beautiful and sexy (the warmer the weather, the hotter the outfits she wore in high school), and when I got to talk to her in and out of class, smart and comforting.  I always loved her laugh, too.  I was really floored when she wanted to go to a movie with me but, long story short, we never got to go.  In retrospect, I was more disappointed than upset but she did the right thing.  She saved me from a lot of unnecessary heartache.  (It was nice to get a “yes”, though.)
 
As I found out during a walk we shared the day before we were supposed to go out, she went through a lot of hard times.  In fact, in the years since that late summer day, there have been more difficult moments for her.  We’ve been exchanging messages through Facebook since I added her as a friend, as well as MSN Messenger, and that’s been a lot of fun.  It was one such chat session yesterday that led to that late night conversation.
 
She’s back in town visiting family for the Father’s Day weekend and she gave me her mom’s home number in case I wanted to talk.  Earlier that day, she also invited me to come over and visit but I had a pretty bad headache so I didn’t go.  After I started feeling a bit better, I called her before 11:30.  We chatted until almost 4 in the morning.  It was the longest phone conversation I’ve ever had in my life – nearly 4 and a half hours – and it was endlessly entertaining.  There were plenty of laughs, sad moments, dramatic moments, intriguing moments, sweet moments, revelations, juicy tidbits and even a little flirting, not to mention my voice echoing at times when it reached a certain volume.  (That was rather interesting.  It was like being at the Grand Canyon when that happened.)  I had forgotten how sore your hands and arms can get from holding a phone that long but it was worth it.  I’m really glad I made that call.  And my arms and hands are feeling just fine today.  I slept well, too.
 
I realized as I was listening to all these fascinating stories she was telling me that I could listen to her all day long.  (She said that I wasn’t the first person to suggest she compile all these stories for a book.  Too bad she has no real burning desire to write.  She’s got a plethora of material and she has talent.)  I learned a lot about her last night and I hope we stay in touch.  She’s a really good friend and I’m lucky to be talking to her again after last seeing her 6 years ago.  I’ve noticed that, despite living very different lives, we are very similiar which probably explains why we’ve always gotten along, then and now.
 
That’s just one reason why signing up with Facebook is a great idea.  You’ll never know who you’ll find on there.  I highly recommend it.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, June 17, 2007
2:06 p.m.
Published in: on June 17, 2007 at 2:06 pm  Comments (2)  

Doom

Video games haven’t been the same since the arrival of Doom, the original first-person shooter.  Released for the PC in 1993, it allowed the gamer to literally become the character he/she was controlling, to see through his eyes and walk around blasting enemies.  I’ve never played the game, myself, but I have played numerous imitations like Alien X and Starbase Defender.  It’s an enjoyable way to pass the time.
 
I wish I could say the same for the film version of Doom.  Released just before Halloween 2005, it’s a cross between Aliens, Night Of The Living Dead and The Island Of Dr. Moreau.  It has "B-movie" written all over it, but the filmmakers are too lazy and uninspired to transform this routine story into something unusual and exciting.
 
As the movie begins, we learn, through a helpful narrator, about a mysterious portal that was created by an equally mysterious civilization on Mars.  It was discovered during an archeological dig in America in 2026.  Very quickly, through a really cool transition, we are planted right in the middle of a chaotic scene.  Something has scared the bejesus out of some normally mild-mannered scientists who all run for cover down the halls of a research facility on the red planet.  Dr. Carmack (Robert Russell), at the expense of one of his colleagues, – he slams the door on her arm – communicates for help through a laptop.
 
And then we meet the rescue team, a typically ragtag group of special-operation marines led by The Rock.  None of them you really care about.  One guy’s a sleazeball who needs better pick-up lines and another is so religious that when he says "goddamn" he carves the symbol of the cross in blood on his arm.  (Now that’s devotion!)  Among the rest (and I know I’m leaving out some characters), there’s the obligatory rookie who’s a nervous nellie and needs pills (helpfully supplied by the aforementioned sleazeball) to focus properly, a couple of brotherly black guys and then, there’s John Grimm (Karl Urban).  His fraternal twin sister, Dr. Samantha Grimm (the lovely Rosamund Pike), is still pissed at him for blowing off a career in science which their now-deceased parents – they died in an unexplained accident when they were kids – were grooming them for.
 
The mission is pretty straightforward:  rescue the 85 people stuck in the building, kill any threats and retrieve important data.  What they don’t realize is that there are very few civilians to actually rescue, and shadowy creatures lurk everywhere making the mission that much more difficult to accomplish.  Once the team arrives on Mars to secure the area, they spend much of their time tediously going from room to room in almost complete darkness doing a sweep with their gun lights where they sometimes find survivors and other times, generic movie monsters with a fetish for human necks.  In the early going, you wonder if the power is out.  However, when we catch up with Dr. Carmack (who soon pays an homage, of sorts, to Vincent Van Gogh), The Rock simply switches on a light and for once, we can see clear images on the screen.  For most of the film, however, good luck following the action.  And yes, inevitably, the power does go out.
 
It’s never a good sign for a movie like this to have constant scenes with low lighting.  Let’s just say the real reason we’re barely able to see many of the monsters and zombies attacking our heroes is because they’re not worth looking at.  They’re not scary, they’re not interesting, why bother showing them at all?
 
At one point, one of the main characters does a complete 180 and turns into a villain.  At first, you think this is insane.  There’s no legitimate reason for that particular marine to turn against his men.  Then, you think this happens because he got bit by one of the monsters.  But it isn’t until later that we actually notice a neck wound so there’s a disconnect.  Furthermore, there’s no prior indication of this character possessing psychotic tendencies which makes one wonder if this was a last-minute script revision to try to save this floundering movie.
 
Like I said, this could’ve been something special.  It has all the elements of a decent guilty pleasure.  But without heroes to root for, without interesting villains to loath, without decent creature effects, without much of a sense of humour and without consistently good action sequences (there are some effective moments, if you squint hard enough), there’s not much to chew on here.
 
One thing is for sure.  The Rock is a movie star.  He passes Gene Siskel’s famous test.  He looks good in close-ups.  But he’s gotta be smarter when it comes to choosing his future roles.  There’s something there that hasn’t quite been tapped yet.  You see glimpses of it in Doom and even in past efforts like The Scorpion King.  With Arnold Schwarzenegger looking after California these days and other veterans like Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Jackie Chan getting too old to compete with the more death-defying younger generation, there’s plenty of room in Hollywood for a larger-than-life, old-school action hero.  The Rock should consider that when he picks his next project.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, June 10, 2007
8:21 p.m.
Published in: on June 10, 2007 at 8:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Wedding Date

The Wedding Date is one of those formulaic romantic comedies you can see a mile away.  Regardless of its basic predictability, it fails two basic tests.  There isn’t a single convincing romance among the pairings nor are there enough laughs.  4 such guffaws are not enough to recommend this depressing mess.
 
Here’s the set-up:  a beautiful redhead (Debra Messing from Will & Grace), still hung up on a jerk who dumped her years ago and surprisingly incapable of finding a suitable replacement to start anew, contacts a highly sought after male escort (Dermot Mulroney).  Her younger, self-absorbed sister (Oscar nominee Amy Adams), is getting married in England and her former fiance, the aforementioned jerk, is the best man.  Messing’s hired Mulroney to play her new boyfriend, a therapist.  The idea is to drive her ex so jealous that he’ll somehow beg for her to come back to him (or does she just want to show him that she’s moved on?), which speaks lowly of her character.  She still has the engagement ring, among other mementos from that pitiful relationship.
 
When we meet her former fiance we wonder what she ever saw in him.  We also wonder why we should care whether they stay separated from each other or rekindle their uninteresting romance.  It’s clear right from the get-go who she’ll most likely end up with, anyway.  Too bad she generates zero chemistry with Mulroney, as well.
 
Messing is the disappointment of her family.  Despite being the popular girl in high school years ago, she now works at an airport in New York.  Not exactly glamourous, even though one wishes Air Canada had customer service representatives as understanding as her.  (Despite her boss’s protestations, on the day she’s supposed to fly out to Europe, she gives an angry customer a full refund and 10,000 free air miles because of an inconvenience he suffered.)  Her mother (a literally wasted Holland Taylor) tries to make a toast at a public get-together before the wedding but ends up embarrassing her eldest daughter by basically bemoaning the fact she’s still unmarried. 
 
She’s also a doormat.  There’s a scene early in the film when Amy Adams wants Messing’s alcoholic beverage and she won’t drink it until her older sister slides it right to her on a particular spot on the table they’re both sitting at.  It turns out they’ve had a frosty relationship since a boy came between them when they were kids.  We later find out this isn’t an isolated incident.
 
Messing pays Mulroney 6000 dollars cash to keep her company during her entire stay in England.  Sexual activity costs extra.  Inevitably, there are scenes where they appear to be developing real feelings on the inside for each other while simultaneously "pretending" on the outside for the benefit of the family and Messing’s ex, not to mention obligatory moments of arguing.  That all leads to an unsexy love scene in a boat where the "fake" naked couple simply canoodle.  And that leads to an argument about whether they actually went all the way or not and whether Mulroney should be compensated for these extra services.  They go to a dance lesson with the future bride and groom with their ridiculous dispute still unresolved.  After moving about on the dance floor, though, all is forgotten.  That would’ve been effective if they actually had an authentic chemistry together.
 
You can tell this is a bad chick flick when there’s an obligatory "I can’t believe I saw his penis!" scene.  Mulroney jumps out of the shower and Messing gets a really close view of his private parts.  The way she reacts you would think she was a 13-year-old making a shocking discovery.  Like that famous portrait of Cosmo Kramer, she cannot look away.  I’m guessing Ron Jeremy was a stand-in.  No wonder she’s single.
 
In the movie’s third act, a betrayal is revealed which actually leads to a terrific dramatic scene involving Messing and Adams.  It also leads to the film’s funniest sequence.  Unfortunately, it’s all for naught.  Let’s just say if I learned something devastating about someone I was minutes away from marrying, no promises of life long "make-up sex" would ever make me go through with the ceremony.  Call me crazy but I would have a hard time trusting that person after hearing that last-minute confession and I would be too pissed off to pretend it’s not a big deal, either.
 
The Wedding Date is not a complete waste.  I liked Messing’s British stepfather, who is the sweetest character in the film, and Mulroney has his moments playing the handsome, mysterious escort completely in his element among swooning females.  There’s even some good musical selections (although, we could be spared from all those Michael Buble songs).  But the film is miserable to watch.  There’s very little joy to get swept up in.  Despite clocking in at a tight 89 minutes, it crawls to the finish line.  Almost all of the jokes bomb, there’s not one romance worth cheering for and this is not exactly a film loaded with surprises. 
 
And honestly, is it really believable that, one, Messing would even need to pay for a date, and two, Mulroney would give up a lucrative career for her?
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, June 8, 2007
12:39 a.m.
Published in: on June 8, 2007 at 12:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Surprisingly Single Again

It’s over.  Just like that.  Two and a half months of mostly warm "conversations" down the drain.  It came out of nowhere.  It wasn’t anticipated, not detected by my emotional radar.  Sure, we had our problems, but we always worked things out.  Always.  Not this time.
 
No matter how it happens, whether it’s in person, by phone, email, fax or instant message, getting dumped stinks.  Ask anyone who’s been there and they’ll tell you the same thing:  "It’s not fair."  In my case, it’s hard to fathom.
 
It’s been about 24 hours since my then-girlfriend attempted to break it to me gently.  I knew something was on her mind when she wanted to go over something "important" with me.  I felt a sense of dread in my stomach after I read what she typed.  Uh oh.  Was her abusive, meddlesome ex-boyfriend back to his old tricks again?  Would we be back where we were just a week earlier where I had broken up with her because she refused to do something about him?  (That crisis was averted not too long after she told her brother about him and he proceeded to ream out her ex over the phone in no uncertain terms, telling him to back off or he would find himself in a world of hurt, legally and literally.  With him out of the way, we decided to try again without any further interference.)
 
I would soon have my answer.  She told me she had been thinking about last week and came to the rather sudden conclusion that it was "unrealistic" for us to continue being a couple.  It should be noted that she’s 18 and I know what you’re thinking.  It wasn’t that kind of a relationship.  When it was good, it was sweet and comfortable, perfectly normal and drama-free.  "We’re good for each other," she was fond of saying.  We got along great, we shared some laughs, a lot of smiles, and had long talked about getting together for proper dates.  Yes, I never met her in person.  With the exception of a few, short phone calls, it was mostly an online relationship.  I know.  It’s just not the same.  But we were working on taking it offline and making it more authentic.  That is, until she rather abruptly ended things last night.
 
It also didn’t help that she knew what I looked like immediately and I never did get a pic of her, even though I was very understanding of this.  Had she not called it quits with me, I was anticipating the arrival of brand new photos of her in my in-box the day before my birthday. 
 
Like I said, it’s not fair.
 
It will always remain a mystery why she decided to end our burgeoning romance and offer friendship in its place.  Why the sudden change of heart?  The night before, everything seemed fine.  I noted how I was looking forward to seeing her face for the first time.  She seemed happy.  I know I was.  We usually talked about how great it was going to be to meet and see what we had offline.  I was prepared for anything and everything.  I wasn’t prepared for a premature conclusion.
 
Both of us knew it was going to be difficult.  We’re in different cities, for instance.  But she always told me she could drive down to see me.  (She’s less than an hour away, although she said it was 15 minutes.)  She also told me we’d have the whole summer together.  That’s why last night was so puzzling.  Suddenly, I was going to be a distraction for her when she goes to University this September.  That was a new one.  "We’re on different paths," she said.  Although, in the beginning, I was under the impression that she wanted to be married and have kids, both of which I’m not interested in, she made it clear right away that it wasn’t at the top of her list of priorities and wouldn’t be for many years, which put me at ease.  As a result, I felt that she wasn’t really sure what she wanted in that department.  (Either you desire those things or you don’t.  When I asked her last night why she wanted to be married, she oddly answered, "I don’t know.")  She was most interested in getting through University and then, seeking a job.
 
So, there I was, reading this horrible news, line by line, trying to persuade her to keep things going.  It was no use.  She had made up her mind.  Her promises of a summer romance were reneged.  We wouldn’t be meeting after all.
 
When she offered me her friendship instead of what we had, well, one can’t help but be insulted by such an offer, especially after everything we talked about.  It was a demotion, more than anything, and it wasn’t what I wanted.  Also annoying was the fact that she was saying the same sweet things she had always said about me even though she didn’t want to try our luck offline.  That just got me angrier and angrier.  When I realized that it was truly the end, the sarcasm of my words practically dripped off her monitor.  I finally reached my breaking point.  I told her I didn’t want to talk to her anymore and I said, "Goodbye."  I deleted her as a contact and put her on block.  And by the end of the night, I also deleted Yahoo Messenger and even my ID.  She was the only reason I re-downloaded the program in the first place.
 
It has been an ongoing frustration in my life, this chronic inability to have a long-term relationship with a woman.  I’ll never understand it.  I’m not abusive, I do everything in my power to be supportive, kind and flirtatious and yet it’s never enough.  I’m tired of obsessing about supposed mistakes I’ve made.  I’m tired of wallowing in anger and sadness.  I’m just plain tired of failing.
 
I once thought that meeting women online was a lot easier than doing it in a public place.  God knows there’s plenty of them in chatrooms and on instant messenger programs who are more than willing to talk to you sight unseen.  But it turns out it’s way harder.  First, you don’t always know who you’re dealing with.  Second, the line between fantasy and reality can get blurred rather easily.  Third, there’s no guarantee it’ll work offline.  And fourth, good luck finding someone in your city.  Distance is almost always a problem.
 
Getting involved with a woman online is an act of faith.  Sometimes you know what they look like, sometimes you don’t.  Sometimes they’re honest, sometimes their words are empty.  Sometimes you have more chemistry online than you do on the phone or in person.  You just don’t know for sure until you take a chance and find out.  Of all the women I’ve met on the Internet, I only met one offline.
 
Unfortunately, I won’t have that chance again this summer.  It was taken away from me, as it has been numerous times in the past.  That makes me wonder if continuing to chat to women online is such a good idea.  I don’t do it nearly as often as I did a few years ago – the frustration can be unbearable at times – but I continue to harbour mixed feelings about it.  As a result, I end up chatting for a bit then taking a break for several months.  No matter how many times I declare "the chat era" to be over, I always get sucked back in.  10 years after I started doing this and I’m back to square one again.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, June 3, 2007
9:28 p.m. 
Published in: on June 3, 2007 at 9:34 pm  Comments (2)  

Sgt. Pepper Trivia

It was 40 years ago today that The Beatles changed the direction of the music business.  Prior to the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the album (or long-player (LP), as it was more commonly referred to back then) was considered less important than the single.  True, thanks to Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, and Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention, among others, that was slowly changing.  But Sgt. Pepper expedited that change in 1967.
 
Music historian Alan Cross recently noted that the rock and roll era can be summed up in two, distinct periods:  pre-Sgt. Pepper and post-Sgt. Pepper.  Ironically, in 2007, it feels like the pre-Sgt. Pepper era has returned.  Singles, particularly digital downloads, are gaining momentum while full-length CDs, the format that inevitably killed off vinyl and cassette tapes, are on the decline.  Like politics, music is a cyclical force in our popular culture.  And it’s only a matter of time before albums once again regain the worldwide respect and blockbuster status they achieved for many decades.  What isn’t known is how and when that will happen.
 
In the meantime, let’s look back at the record that transformed an industry.  Here are some bits of trivia you may or may not be aware of:
 
1. Sgt. Pepper was “officially” issued June 1, 1967 in the United Kingdom and was such an enormous hit that it overshadowed the self-titled debut solo album of a short-haired folk artist named David Bowie, which was released the same day.  8 years later, Bowie released the Young Americans album.  On the title track, his back-up singers reference A Day In The Life by singing the famous opening line.
 
2. Speaking of A Day In The Life, which was the final proper song on the album, it’s Ozzy Osbourne’s favourite track of all time.
 
3. The album popularized the concept album even though, as John Lennon and producer George Martin have pointed out, beyond the first two songs on side one and the last two songs on side two, there was no thematic thread connecting all the songs together.  But, as Lennon noted, because The Beatles said it was a concept record, people believed them.
 
4. According to author Ray Coleman, who knew Lennon for nearly 20 years, John hated The Rolling Stones’ album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, because he felt it was a bad imitation of Sgt. Pepper.  Majesties, which was released in December 1967, featured a 3-D cover that paid homage to Pepper’s famous cover shot.
 
5. Sgt. Pepper was the first Beatles studio album to feature a complete lyric sheet.  The White Album was the last.
 
6. With the exception of the hidden track, this was the first Beatles album to be released in both North America and Europe with an identical track listing.
 
7. Even though it was “officially” issued on June 1st in the UK (June 2nd in North America), copies of the album were already available for purchase as early as May 26, 1967 because of high demand.  How high was the demand in Great Britain?  Try one million advance orders.
 
8. The album was first heard publicly on Radio London, a highly influential pirate station that broadcast the entire album from beginning to end on May 12, 1967 starting at 5 p.m. England time.  Eight days later, DJ Kenny Everett previewed the album on his BBC Light show, Where It’s At.  That same day, The BBC announced the banning of A Day In The Life.  The network’s reason for forbidding airing of the song on any of its TV and radio programs?  The song’s supposed promotion of drugs.  The ban has long since been lifted.
 
9. The title of the song, It’s Getting Better, was a favourite phrase of Jimmy Nicol, the drummer who briefly replaced Ringo Starr during a tour in June 1964 after the Beatle fell ill (he needed his tonsils removed).  Nicol played exactly 6 shows before Ringo was healthy enough to return.  He declared bankruptcy the following year.  Despite continuing to work as a drummer through the end of the decade, he would never find commercial success on his own.  (Also, he didn’t die in 1988, as was falsely reported.  The Daily Mail, a UK newspaper, reported in 2005 that he was long out of the glare of show business and keeping out of sight in London.)  According to Beatles’ biographer Hunter Davies, “After every concert, John and Paul would go up to Jimmy Nicol and ask him how he was getting on.  All that Jimmy would ever say was, ‘It’s getting better’.  That was the only comment they could get out of him.  It ended up becoming a joke phrase and whenever the boys thought of Jimmy they’d think of ‘it’s getting better’.”  (from A Hard Day’s Write, pg. 124.)
 
10. Contrary to popular belief, there are only two actual drug references on the album:  the line, “I get high with a little help from my friends,” from With A Little Help From My Friends and “found my way upstairs and had a smoke” from A Day In The Life.  The latter doesn’t refer to marijuana but rather to an inexpensive cigarette produced by a UK tobacco company called Woodbine, which Paul McCartney liked to smoke at the time. 
 
11. Lennon’s first born son, Julian, was deeply smitten with a girl in his nursery school.  To show his affections for her, he made a picture he called Lucy – In The Sky With Diamonds.  Lucy O’Donnell, who was 4 at the time, didn’t realize the artwork inspired the song of the same name until she was a young teenager.  Her friends didn’t believe it was about her.  Like many, they thought it was simply code for LSD.  She went on to teach children with special needs, according to author Steve Turner.  Today, she’s Lucy Vodden, a middle-aged housewife still living in the UK.  Julian’s famous painting had never been seen publicly until it was published in Turner’s book, A Hard Day’s Write, which you can see on page 123.
 
12. During an on-location video shoot for Strawberry Fields Forever, Lennon and Tony Bramwell, who worked for Apple Records (The Beatles’ label), visited an antique store in Knole Park.  It was there that Lennon purchased an 1843 poster from the Victorian Era that advertised a circus put together by Pablo Fanque, the first black man to run such a business.  (By the way, that wasn’t even his real name.  He was born William Darby, according to author Steve Turner.  Check out his unusual moustache in a rare photo published on page 128 of A Hard Day’s Write.)  Much of the wording on the poster became the lyrics for Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!, although Lennon did take some liberties.  It ended up being passed on to his youngest son, Sean.
 
13. Joe Cocker’s cover of With A Little Help From My Friends, the best known version of the song, was used as the opening theme for every episode of the hit ABC series, The Wonder Years.  It first appeared on his debut album (also called With A Little Help From My Friends) in 1969 and later, on the original Wonder Years album soundtrack.  It can be also heard during a scene in episode 68 of that series.  (Another cover version, this one an uncredited instrumental featuring just an acoustic guitar and piano, played over the end titles.)  He played it at Woodstock.  It became a number one smash in the UK.  Wet Wet Wet covered the song 20 years later for charity (as did Billy Bragg).  As a result, over half a million pounds was raised for ChildLine, an organization that helps out abused kids.  It, too, went to number one in the UK.  Bon Jovi performed the song live on The Howard Stern Show in 1992 which officially ended their short-lived feud.  (The band had snubbed Stern’s widely successful terrestrial radio program, one of the few shows to accept them as guests before they were famous, during a promotional tour which infuriated the New York-based comedian who frequently badmouthed them on the air.)  The original title of the song was Bad Finger Boogie because one of Lennon’s fingers was hurt at the time of its composition.  Biographer Hunter Davies witnessed the songwriting process firsthand.  The band, Badfinger, who went on to have a hit with a Paul McCartney composition called Come And Get It, took their name from that working title.
 
14. In 2000, VH1 asked over 700 music industry bigwigs for their choices of the greatest rock songs of all time.  The American music channel listed the top 100 vote getters and The Beatles had the most entries with nine.  A Day In The Life, the only Sgt. Pepper song, was number 20.  Strawberry Fields Forever, which was recorded in consideration for the album, was number 61.  (Hey Jude (#9), Yesterday (#12), I Want To Hold Your Hand (#23), Let It Be (#32), Twist And Shout (#57), She Loves You (#59) and A Hard Day’s Night (#79) were the others.)
 
15. Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever never made the cut for Sgt. Pepper as intended because EMI, their record label, wanted to release them as a double A-sided single instead.  Curiously, they were later included on Magical Mystery Tour in late 1967.  The only other outtake from the sessions was Only A Northern Song, George Harrison’s dig at his publishing company, which wouldn’t surface until 1969 when it appeared in the animated Yellow Submarine movie and on both soundtracks (the original release, with a handful of new Beatles tunes and George Martin’s score, and the 1999 30th Anniversary “Songtrack”, which added other Beatles songs and scrapped the orchestral numbers altogether).
 
16. The album cost 45,000 English pounds to produce, $25,000 in American dollars.
 
17. Sgt. Pepper was the only Beatles record to win the Album Of The Year Grammy.  The LP won 3 additional trophies on Leap Day 1968 for Best Contemporary Album, Best Album Cover (Graphic Arts), and Best Non-Classical Engineered Album.  The title song lost Best Group Vocal Performance and Best Contemporary Vocal Group to The Fifth Dimension’s Up, Up, And Away while A Day In The Life lost the Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) prize to Jimmie Haskell’s version of Ode To Billie Joe.  Overall, they batted 4 for 7 that night.
 
18. U2 and Paul McCartney kicked off the 2005 Live 8 global series of day-long concerts on July 2nd at Hyde Park in London, England with a live rendition of the title track.
 
19. Production began November 24, 1966 and ended April 21, 1967.  Add it all up and the album took 129 days to complete.
 
20. When I’m 64 was Paul McCartney’s tribute to his father, Jim, a working musician during The 1920s and 30s.  The song was actually written in the late 50s not too long after he hooked up with John Lennon’s grammar school skiffle group, The Quarryman.  Jim was 56 at the time of its composition.  When the song finally was recorded and issued on Sgt. Pepper, Jim really was 64 years old, a total coincidence.  The song can be heard in episode 47 of The Wonder Years.
 
21. The Sex Pistols considered paying homage to Sgt. Pepper’s hidden track by putting a short, looped version of Problems in the play-out groove on both sides of Never Mind The Bollocks.  But the idea was scrapped before the album’s release in 1977.
 
22. Big Daddy covered the entire album in 1992 as if it were a 50s recording.  A Day In The Life features bits of Buddy Holly songs and even a report of the famous plane crash that killed Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Popper in 1959.
 
23. Jimi Hendrix stunned Paul McCartney during a 1967 concert in England by playing the title song only days after the release of the album.
 
24. EMI were not happy about the proposed cover (the cardboard cutouts of famous figures, in particular) but, for the most part, Peter Blake, the man responsible for putting it all together, was able to bring it to life.  The iconic shot was captured March 30, 1967.  He requested that The Beatles come up with a whole list of names to choose from for the cutouts.  Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ were on that list but both cutouts were removed for fear of further “offending” Americans who were pissed at Lennon’s “We’re bigger than Jesus” remark the previous year.  Also, because of this, Gandhi’s face was painted out.  (Look for the black space to the right of Marlene Dietrich.)  Actor Leo Gorcey’s cutout was removed entirely (He was to be featured beside The Varga Girl and one of the Bowery Boys.  You’ll just see a space that exposes the blue background on the actual cover.) because he requested money.  (EMI were worried that others would make similiar demands, hence their objection to the cover.)  The only drug paraphenalia featured is a hookah which is right in front of the wax figurine of George Harrison.  The inclusion of Marlon Brando in his Wild One costume is particularly sly.  (He’s right above the wax “replica” of Ringo Starr, who looks more like Pete Townshend than the former Richard Starkey.)  A group of characters in the movie inspired the name of the band.  Unfortunately, the band thought it was the name of one of the gangs.  “The Beetles” were actually their girlfriends.
 
25. Like Rubber Soul in 1965, no singles were issued from the album.
 
26. Sgt. Pepper would never have existed were it not for Pet Sounds, the highly acclaimed Beach Boys album which, itself, was inspired by Rubber Soul.  (When Pet Sounds was issued in May 1966, The Beatles were almost finished working on Revolver and only one song on that record was directly influenced by Wilson’s opus:  Here, There, & Everywhere.)  Among the Sounds references on Pepper:  the use of animal noises on Good Morning Good Morning, the high pitched tone at the end of side 2 (Lennon’s idea) that only dogs could hear (This was a “response” to Brian Wilson’s dogs barking at the end of Caroline, No.  Speaking of that song, Wilson’s vocals were sped up in order to make him sound younger, on the advice of his father.  The Beatles used that technique on When I’m 64 and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.), the use of an orchestra on A Day In The Life, the general atmosphere of melancholia throughout much of the album and the distinctive sounds during the verses on Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (which sound like they were inspired by You Still Believe In Me).  When Wilson heard The Beatles’ response to Pet Sounds, he became crestfallen.  However, he wasn’t completely deterred.  He started writing material for the next Beach Boys LP, “a teenage symphony to God”, he would famously call it.  But the sessions proved difficult, thanks to Wilson’s deteriorating mental health.  As a result, Smile would become the most famous unreleased album in music history.  (Smiley Smile, a reworked version that included Good Vibrations, would surface in September 1967.  A number of the unreleased tracks – some original, some re-recorded – would surface in official and bootleg releases over the following decades.)  He would re-start the project nearly 40 years later and release the new, completed recordings as a solo album, even reinstating the original title.  Back in 1967, however, Sgt. Pepper proved to him that he could never successfully compete with The Beatles on such a grand scale ever again.
 
27. It’s been claimed that on older model record players, if you play the hidden track backwards, you’ll hear one of The Beatles saying, “We’ll fuck you like Supermen.”  The Beatles have categorically denied putting any hidden messages in that hidden track (although McCartney has said you can clearly hear that line) which was recorded April 21, 1967, the last day of production.  It took two hours to record the silly chattering (McCartney’s idea) that follows the high-pitched tone.  Only two seconds were actually used.  It it not clear what is actually said.  It only appeared originally on the first British vinyl pressing because it was so difficult and time consuming to put on record.  It had to be manually manufactured on each individual disc and it had to be done precisely or it would ruin the 12″ vinyl.  It would not be released in North America until 1980 when it was credited as “Sgt. Pepper’s Inner Groove” on The Beatles Rarities.  (The high-pitched tone wasn’t included.)  In 1987, for the first time, the complete mystery track was included on every CD edition of the record where it plays for about 20 seconds.
 
28. According to episode 6 of the home video version of The Beatles Anthology mini-series (originally aired in 3 parts on ABC in November 1995), George Harrison was not a fan of the album.  He ultimately contributed only a single track, Within You Without You, which reflected his burgeoning interest in Indian music.  No other Beatles appeared on it.  Harrison invited some Indian musicians to play instead.
 
29. Mike Nesmith of The Monkees, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, and Jagger’s then-girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull, attended the orchestra recording session for A Day In The Life on February 10, 1967.  If you listen closely to those sections of the song, you can hear George Martin counting in the background.  (You can hear his echoey voice a lot better on Anthology 2.)  The other parts of the song were recorded first and as a result, they needed to allow space for those particular bars to be filled in later.  Because the album was originally recorded in mono, once everything was laid down and mixed, there was no way to erase Martin’s voice without affecting the finished song.  Curiously, background chatter can be heard on Pet Sounds, as well.  Because it was also recorded in mono, actual conversations that took place during the making of the album couldn’t be removed, either.  (However, they were excised for the stereo version of the album which was included in The Pet Sounds Sessions box set in 1997.  The stereo Pet Sounds has since been reissued twice:  in 1999 and 2006.)
 
30. Rolling Stone paid homage to the famous cover in 2006 when it put together a special 3-D front page for its 1000th issue.  It features important pop culture figures from the last 40 years including The Beatles.
 
31. Fixing A Hole is not about heroin.  It’s actually about Paul McCartney’s frustrations with a leaky roof in a dilapidated Scottish farm house he purchased sight unseen in June 1966 on the advice of his accountant.  Despite being a dump, McCartney and then-girlfriend Jane Asher (a famous red-headed British actress who he would be briefly engaged to) found the perfect place to escape the pressures of fame.  According to author Steve Turner, not many people knew he lived there on the west coast of Scotland and as a result, not a single fan bothered them.
 
32. Sgt. Pepper was the first album the band made after quitting touring for good in 1966.
 
33. Melanie Coe was the inspiration for She’s Leaving Home.  She was a troubled teen who ran away from her parents after being tired of constantly fighting with them.  She had been missing for a week by the time her story was mentioned in the February 27, 1967 edition of The Daily Mail.  (Coe told author Steve Turner that her parents found her about a week and a half later and took her home.)  McCartney read the article and mostly got the details right in the song’s lyrics.  (His only errors?  Coe didn’t meet a guy from “the motor trade” (he actually worked in a casino) and she really left home sometime in the afternoon while both her parents were working, not in the morning while they were home in bed.)  She was a regular dancer on the British TV series, Ready Steady Go!  On October 4, 1963, the same day The Beatles made their debut on the program, she won a mime competition.  McCartney actually presented her with an award for her efforts, which he had forgotten about when he wrote the song.  Coe ended up marrying that croupier she met at age 18 to permanently escape her home life but the marriage only lasted a little more than a year.  Afterwards, she briefly lived in the United States before finally returning to England where she resides today.
 
34. Rolling Stone writer Langdon Winner travelled across America in early June 1967 and reported in a famous essay that no matter where he went, someone was playing the album.  The most famous line from the piece?  “The closest Western Civilization has come to unity since the Congress of Vienna in 1815 was the week ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ was released.”
 
35. It is not known how many copies were actually sold worldwide since the album was issued 24 years before the implementation of Soundscan, the technology that accurately keeps track of every music purchase.  A conservative estimate of between 10 and 20 million copies bought in the last 40 years might not be far off the mark.
 
36. Rolling Stone magazine named it the best album of the last 20 years in a 1987 issue.  Nearly 20 years later, it topped another list, The 500 Greatest Rock Albums Of All Time, in the same magazine.  A 2006 British survey placed it at number one on its list of the Top 100 albums of all time in honour of the 50th anniversary of the UK Album Chart.  Curiously, in 1998, a poll in Melody Maker magazine named it the worst album of all time.
 
37. John Lennon references Meet The Wife, a 1963 black and white English sitcom that aired on BBC Television, in the song Good Morning Good Morning.  According to this article, it’s the only time a TV show was ever name-checked in a Beatles song.  By the way, the title of that song was taken from a jingle used in a British Kelloggs’ Corn Flakes TV ad.
 
38. On the sixth season finale of American Idol, a number of past Idol winners and the Top 12 finishers of 2007, paid tribute to a number of tracks off the album.  2002 winner Kelly Clarkson sang Sgt. Pepper backed by Aerosmith’s Joe Perry on guitar, 2006 winner Taylor Hicks did A Day In The Life, 2005 winner Carrie Underwood performed She’s Leaving Home, and 2003 winner Rueben Studdard did Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.  The Top 12 collaborated on With A Little Help With My Friends.
 
39. The BBC announced plans in April 2007 to invite current bands to re-record songs from the album for a special anniversary program to be aired on June 2nd.  Oasis and The Killers are among the participants for the BBC Radio 2 program.
 
40. The album inspired the infamous movie of the same name which featured Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Steve Martin, George Burns, Peter Frampton, Bonnie Raitt, The Bee Gees and many others.  Released in 1978 and loosely based on a 1974 off-Broadway production called Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band On The Road, the MGM musical was a critical and commercial disaster.  Not a single Beatle appears in the movie.  It was quite a comedown for The Bee Gees, in particular.  The previous winter, they were riding high on the success of Saturday Night Fever, one of the biggest selling and acclaimed movie soundtrack albums of all time, which was also Gene Siskel’s favourite movie.  They performed most of the songs on the Sgt. Pepper soundtrack (now available on CD) which also includes covers of tracks from Abbey Road.  (Lovely Rita and Within You Without You, not to mention the hidden track, were the only Pepper tracks not performed.)  The movie is available on DVD.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, June 1, 2007
12:28 a.m.
Published in: on June 1, 2007 at 12:32 am  Leave a Comment