Thursday, February 23, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean is Closing

The day is upon us:

The Pirates of the Caribbean ride that we all know and love is closing its doors at Disneyland. Forever.

Sure, it'll re-open at the end of June... but it won't be the same show. The ride's new version will include an audio-animatronic robot of Johnny Depp's "Captain Jack Sparrow" character from the Pirates of the Carribbean movie.

I have a couple of concerns:

Why are they doing this? Why mess with a classic? If Disney want's to add a few more non-descript pirates to keep things fresh, fine. I get it. But add the likeness of a real-life person? Bad idea.

"Why," you ask?

Two words: Michael Jackson.

Didn't Disney learn the lesson of what happens to their wholesome image when an accused pedophile is let into its gates (with repeated Captain EO showings at 9, 10, 11, Noon, 1, 2, and 3pm!!!)?

Look, I get the feeling that Depp is an OK guy in real life, and that he loves his kids. But what happens when he releases a movie with an NC-17 rating? What if his career hits the skids and he's doing cheesy direct-to-video releases? Is that the related baggage you want floating through tourists minds as they glide past the 'Johnny the Jump Street Pirate'? Will they give him a coke-snorting, Kate Moss look-a-like audio animatronic wench by his side? Maybe his character can hang-out by a nightclub where the River Phoenix pirate can take a stumble into the fake river (this will replace the lovable bloke lying in the mud with his robotic kittens). Come to think of it, 'ol Johnny has played a lot of pervs (think: Ed Wood... Don Juan DeMarco... etc., etc. Perfect person for the kiddies to encounter on their trip to the Happiest Place on Earth).

I bet Johnny Depp replaces the dashing auctioneer. Maybe the Imagineers can conjure-up the blonde Wynona Rider from Edward Scissorhands (as the 'new' gal in red getting auctioned away).

Here's another thought: Depp has - on numerous times - publicly expressed his dislike for America. He's repeatedly said that he is embarrassed about being an American and has vowed to never raise any of his children here in the states. Take THAT all of you annual passholders!

Yes, pirates really existed, Virginia, but that was a long time ago. So long ago, in fact, that they seem like a fantasy-- just like Disneyland's magic kingdom. Nobody has any first-hand memories of Bluebeard running around with scissors attached to his hands or trashing hotel rooms.



The ride closes on March 6th, and re-opens around June 24th. If you're planning a visit to pay your final respects, I highly recommend the following:

If you can, avoid Disneyland's crowds on Fridays and Saturdays. If you must attend on a weekend, Sunday is generally the least busy day. Here's the reasoning:

Tourists tend to arrive on Friday and feel compelled to hit the park as soon as they get settled into their hotels. Local kids visit on Saturdays and fill the park by using their annual passes. Most folks give the parks a rest on Sunday thinking that there will be smaller lines on Monday. THAT'S where they're wrong. Monday is generally LOADED with tourists.

And, of course, Tuesday - Thursday is the best time to visit Disneyland & California Adventure.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Houston, We Have A Poopy

Seems there's always been a certain fascination among casual NASA observers as to how astronauts take care of 'business' whilst aloft. Come to think of it, the concern extends even further back: apparently the first question King George V asked Lindbergh after he landed was, "How did you pee?" The answer was left somewhere on the shoulders of the Frenchmen that hoisted the lad from St. Louis above the adoring crowd. I guess Thirty-plus hours in the air turns anyone into a pants-wetter.

Aah, the glamorous life of the brave young men and their flying machines.

When the shuttle takes orbit today, the crew uses a multi-million dollar gadget that resembles a normal toilet. No water is involved (as things would likely float away and into the nooks and crannys of some critical keyboard). Instead, the commode uses spinning blades (YIKES!) to FLING whatever you've... um, discarded... into the void. Sorta the Benihana of B.M.'s.

If you want really fun potty-time action, you have to go back to the height of the 1960's space race.

In the beginning, space shots were simple, half-day affairs. Original engineers and mission planners never considered that astronauts would have a need to void. Alan Shephard's first flight was nearly cancelled because he literally peed himself.

Astronauts lay in a head-slightly-lower-than-their-legs attitude on the launch pad, and all of Shephard's urine immediately rolled down towards his helmet and completely soaked his back. The temperature spike threatened to overload his spacesuit's cooling controls. After "Operation Let 'Er Rip," Shephard reported back to Mission Control in his best Jose Jimenez accent, "Now I really am a wet back."

After Shephard, NASA provided the astronauts with a urine control device. It was a simple contraption that consisted of a collection bag, rubber tube (that ran down the astronaut's leg), and a condom. Originally the condoms were categorized as small, medium or large.

The astronauts didn't care for the labeling, and most went for the ones marked, "large." Suffice it to say, there were a lot of leaks. In time, management readjusted the way condoms were categorized. The new system carried only, "Large, Extra Large or, Double-Extra Large."

Later, astronauts were hooked directly to a tube that vented directly to the vacuum of space. When a valve was opened, everything was sucked out into the ether. Astronauts say it was a unique feeling-- the gentle tug they felt was a reminder that they were connected to the universe in a way unlike anyone else.

The real trouble on orbit came when astronauts found themselves having to do a "Number Two."

Gemini and Apollo spacecraft were pretty tight confines. Privacy was non-existent. It's reported that frogmen actually fell backwards after opening the hatch on Gordon Cooper's Gemini 8 mission. After 191 hours aloft, the stench was that bad.

Defecating was a bit of acrobatics. First you had to strip completely naked (including your rings and watches because you never knew what would happen). Then you attached a plastic bag (lined with an adhesive flap) to your bottom... and then WENT. Remember: the astronaut is floating... the bag is floating... and, that's right, so is the feces. Niiiiice image. There are stories that on one mission, a stool went commando. Imagine the panic. Sorta like the Baby Ruth-In-The-Pool scene from Caddyshack.

It's rumored that Apollo 8's Bill Anders was so freaked by this incident, he gave himself a mega-dosing of Immodium for his 'round-the-moon shot in 1968. Watch the footage, post landing, on the deck of the recovery ship: He's WADDLING. Anders still holds the longest No-Bowl-Movement record: three quarters of a million miles without a poop.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Locals Only, Please

Regarding Sunday's L.A. Times article ("Little Goes a Long Way") on the Dodger's new manager, Grady Little:

We learned that Grady likes to talk about his love of North Carolina. We also got to see Grady buzzing the Caroline backroads on his motorcycle.


A Word of Advice to Grady: You're now the skipper of the LOS ANGELES Dodgers. It's time to act like a local. Start making like you actually care about L.A.

Grady, I hope the next shot I see of you on your bike is while you're cruising PCH.

Take a look at the guys who acheived long-term success in this town. Tommy not only bleeds blue, he lives right here in the Southland. Walt Alston did the same.

See, Grady, we prefer to think that our managers actually have a connection to LA. We want to know you care about the city you represent-- and whose name you wear across your chest.
We don't like feeling that some outsider has snuck-in to run our beloved team (Hey, wait a minute! Doesn't the guy sitting in the owner's box really want to run the Red Sox?!?)

Bottom Line: Who wants to feel like you're somebody's second choice?

Sure, Tommy was originally from Pennsylvania -- and Walt was from Ohio -- but take notice of the past-tense usage. Both adopted LA as their own. Want to take a place in the local hall of fame? Ditch the talk about the Carolinas, and make yourself a regular around town.

Instead of being spotted at the local Piggly-Wiggly, let's start seeing you at Musso & Franks. Or Phillipe's. Maybe grab a Dodger dog at the Citywalk before you catch a flick.

Of course, Grady, if you REALLY want to be loved by the local fans, do something that hasn't been done (on a regular basis, anyway) since Tommy was at the helm: Win some games and stay in uniform through October.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hollywood Landmark Goes Bye-Bye

Yeah, sure, we live in a town that doesn't cherish its past. People have written endlessly on the topic, so I won't add to the pile of words.

What I WILL do, however, is give you a heads-up so you can bid farewell to another old friend.

The Old Spaghetti Factory on Sunset Boulevard is about to be pulled-down by a wreckers ball. The old Studebaker showroom (and garage) is scheduled for demolition sometime after the summer of '06. Condos are to replace the restaurant.

If you've never been, I recommend a visit. The food is decent, and the prices are very reasonable. They've got a fun bar... but the main reason for going is to catch a glimpse of old Hollywood. The furnishings are gaudy-- but fun. Take the kids and grab a seat in the old trolley car.

Oh, yeah... the host is a hoot. Reminds you of the stiff manservant in "Sunset Boulevard."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Death Of A Baseball Dynasty

An opening statement:

Hollywood Thoughts is a longtime LA Dodgers rooter. Contrary to most LA baseball fans, Hollywood Thoughts still reserves judgment regarding the management practices of current owner, Frank McCourt. To his critics, one thing can definitely be said in his defense: Anyone is better than former owners FOX.

One of the saddest days for any LA Dodger fan occured the moment Peter O'Malley announced he was selling the team.

Peter Daly (l), Peter O'Malley (r)

O'Malley publicly said that he was selling the team because his children weren't interested in running the club. He also said that Major League Baseball was fast turning into a money losing proposition.

There might be some truth to these notions, but Hollywood Thoughts believes there are bigger, darker reasons behind O'Malley's departure.

Peter O'Malley -- and his father before him -- represented the finest ownership in all of professional sports. Possibly only the Pittsburgh Steeler's father & son team (Art and Dan Rooney) compare. Regardless of your interest in baseball, anyone in LA who knew the name O'Malley understood that this family was a class act. The O'Malley's always sought to deliver winning seasons to the city that supported their operation. The stadium was always tidy... the food good... and the team found ways to invest and give back to the community.

A myth continues to float across the Southland to this day that the O'Malley's were responsible for upending poor (mostly Latino) families from Chavez Ravine (the home of Dodger Stadium). Not true. Houses were leveled and families were evicted from the hilly enclave long before the O'Malley's considered moving the ball club from Brooklyn. The LA City Council orginally earmarked the acreage for a housing tract shortly after World War II. The Dodgers moved to LA in 1958.

I digress.

Here's the reason why the Dodgers lost Peter O'Malley:

Several years had passed with LA having no professional football team to calll their own.

Published sources say that Mayor Richard Riordan approached Peter O'Malley with a question: Would O'Malley entertain the idea of becoming an NFL franchise owner? Would O'Malley build a football stadium on Dodger Stadium property?

Reports say that O'Malley eventually spent a million dollars of his own money to finance environmental impact studies and architectural drawings for the proposed stadium. The Dodgers also purchased additional property around Dodger Stadium (in theory to support additional parking spaces to replace lost acreage for the new football stadium which would have been built near the old LAPD Academy site).

The NFL had a long-standing rule against its owners having a stake in any other profesional league. They made an exception for Peter O'Malley. The NFL rightly considered him a "catch"-- and recognized him as a way to add polish to their image.

For a brief while, it seemed that pro football was headed back to Los Angeles.

Then Mark Ridley Thomas and politics entered the picture.

LA City Councilman Thomas ruled over the area that encompassed the LA Coliseum-- former home of The Rams, Raiders and the 1932 & 1984 Olympics.

The garnd old stadium was in decline... and sat empty most of the year.

When he caught wind that the NFL was looking at Chavez Ravine for their new home, Thomas began a very public campaign to keep the Coliseum as the only site to be considered for a football team. There were whispers that a move to abandon the downtown coliseum was an admission of racism. Leave the coliseum, and you're turning your back on your (mostly African-American) constituency.

Riordan didn't abandon the Coliseum. He left O'Malley holding the bag.

Private sources indicated that O'Malley felt jilted. Why stick around? What's the point if your own Mayor won't support you? O'Malley never asked to be considered for an NFL franchise. His Mayor (and some members of the city council) approached HIM. Being the good team player, O'Malley jumped into the project.

When the politicians dumped him for fear of being labeled as racists, O'Malley took one for the team. He never publicly uttered a negative word against Riordan or the others.

In retrospect those were the opening days of the decline of the LA Dodgers. We lost O'Malley... and were forced to endure a horrible management team backed by Rupert Murdoch. We lost the promise of an NFL franchise... and have seen a revolving door of managers, players, and executives. There's also been an increase of schlocky outfield ads, promotions and prices at the souvenir and food stands.

Remember how the guys hawking programs used to shout, "Program! Get Yer Program! Ya can't know the players without yer programs!" I used to think that was a silly line. I didn't need a program! For nearly a decade we had Garvey, Lopes, Russell, Cey and Yeager in the infield. We had a TEAM. Who needed a lousy program!

Those were the golden days. NOW you definitely need a program since players leave on an almost daily basis for more lucrative contracts. Hell, these days the LA players don't even have names on the backs of their jerseys. OF COURSE I NEED A PROGRAM!

LA mourns the loss of tradition... a classy ownership... and the death of a dynasty.

Monday, February 13, 2006

How The Lone Ranger Built Disneyland

Before I start, know that Hollywood Thoughts is a very big fan of Disneyland.

That said, our friend from Tabloid Baby visited Disneyland yesterday but didn't have the time - or the inclination - to visit the neighboring Disney theme park called 'California Adventure.'

He's not the first.

Let's face it: to most folks, Disney's California Adventure (DCA) is a misfire.

Bit-O-Trivia: More than fifty percent of Disneyland's guests are locals (arriving from within a 50 mile radius).

Armed with that knowledge, I ask you this question: Who wants to make the drive from Santa Monica (or Tarzana... or Long Beach... or Inglewood... or from any nearby locale) to watch a pair of humanoid Watts Towers dance down the parade route (like I did)? Or gaze upon mini replicas of Hollywood Boulevard buildings? Or get blasted with the fake stink of pine trees whilst 'paragliding' over a northern California forest?

Hey, Disney, I live here. I can get the real deal everyday of the year... for free. I don't need a $50 'park hopper' to enjoy real California pine trees.

Yeah, yeah. I know. DCA was also built to satisfy foreign travelers who don't have the time to see and experience all that California has to offer. A second 'gate' also keeps visitors on Disney property for more days. More days, more Disney dollars spent.

That said, ever wonder how DCA got built?

The Lone Ranger's dad died.

But let's get started by getting into our Astro Blasters and zip back to 1954:

Jack Wrather was a prominent figure in Hollywood. He was also married to former actress, Bonita Granville. When Walt Disney ran short of money during the very early days of Disneyland, Wrather offered to build the Disneyland hotel. The two men were pals and Disney gladly accepted the offer. Now he could relax knowing his visitors would have a nearby decent night's lodging. To sweeten the pot, Disney later extended a spur from the monorail to the hotel's entrance-- a unique feature that set Wrather's carpet joint apart from the ricky-ticky overnight dives that lined Harbor Boulevard.

Flash forward several decades to Wrather's death.

The newly widowed Bonita Granville phoned the Disney studios with an offer: now that her husband was dead, Bonita wanted to unload most of his holdings. They included his entire film and TV library (of which the "Lone Ranger" series was a part). Wrather also held the operating contract for the Long Beach Queen Mary... and, of course, the deed to the Disneyland Hotel.

Disney agreed to pay for the film library and the hotel.

Bonita played hardball. 'Take everything... or nothing.' Disney wanted absolutely nothing to do with the run-down and under-visited Queen Mary. In twenty years time, several operators of the floating hotel had come and gone. None were able to generate success in Long Beach.

Bonita threatened to sell to the highest bidder (you go, girl!).

With visions of a monorail depositing tourists to some sort of cheesy lap-dance-and-all-you-can-eat-buffet bistro, Disney capitulated and bought-out Bonita. Disney could now rightly claim the namesake hotel as their own. They also got a giant boat in the port of Long Beach.

Disney, like the others before them, could find no way to generate additional dollars through the Queen's turnstiles. A second gate-- a seaside theme park (similar to the old Pacific Ocean Park) was suggested as a way of getting more visitors to the Long Beach landmark. Plans were drawn, and hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on designing every aspect of the new Disney/ Long Beach park.

Disney thought they had a slam dunk concept: the new "Disney Seas" would revitalize Long Beach and keep the Queen alive. Who wouldn't want a Disney theme park with an ocean view?

Apparently the Long Beach city council.

Disney was told to get lost. Cutting their losses, The Burbank-based company dumped the Queen Mary contract as quickly as possible, and floated their Disney Seas concept to Tokyo Disneyland. Japan's Disney Seas park is a hit.

The Queen Mary continues to struggle.

Interestingly, Disney was also snubbed around the same time by the residents of Virginia when they tried building a "Disney's America" theme park within sight of some historic Civil War battle sites. I guess a bloodied, bandaged, and kepi-wearing Mickey Mouse was too much for relatives of Great-great-great Grandpas lost in the Battle of Spotsylvania.

Final Stretch: Our trip returns to Disneyland's parking lot-- home of DCA.

From the get-go, DCA has been regarded by critics -- and guests -- as being a failure. The park is accused of being derivative. Many feel that DCA is too "off the shelf"-- a term that refers to the attractions as not seeming 'uniquely Disney.'

Here's my prediction:

DCA ultimately fails to bring-in the requisite operating dollars. Disney will get their "America" park. DCA's Santa Cruz boardwalk will be transformed into a turn-of-the-century Coney Island. The San Francisco section will be made over into Boston's waterfront (can anyone say, "Tea Party Flume ride"?). The Edwards Air Force Base ripoff will suddenly become, "The Kennedy Space Center Moon Shot," and the Hollywood land section will be shoved outside the park's security fences (where the general public will be allowed to visit free of charge like today's Downtown Disney). It's here where wrung-out 'Tourist Daddys' (the kids safely tucked-away for the night in the Disney Hotel), will be able to hire a 'Disney Escort' for a fun-filled Disney-night.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Grammys Are A Bore

Sly had the right idea.

He just walked-off the stage when he had enough of the loud, screeching mess.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Reese Witherspoon Paparazzi Vanishes... And Then Is Found

From the UPI News Service on January fifth:

"A search is under way for the photographer who skipped
out on his bail hearing. Witherspoon and her children
were allegedly accosted by Todd K. Wallace at Disney's
California Adventure park in September. He allegedly
struck one child with his camera and shoved Disney
employees who tried to come to the aid of the group.

He missed his Dec. 19 bail hearing on child
endangerment and battery counts brought in the
Witherspoon case and a Dec. 27
arraignment on a separate felony petty theft charge,
The Los Angeles Times reported.

"We have no idea where he is right now," Patrick Ahle,
an Anaheim prosecutor handling the Witherspoon
case, told The Times. "He is in the wind."

He's in the wind, allright. Uh... ashes to ashes sorta stuff. Todd just turned-up on Super Bowl Sunday. Enjoying the day all by himself. Rotting away on his couch. Dead for quite awhile in his apartment. Mmmm. Pass the dip, buddy.

His last public appearance was Dec. 6 on MSNBC's "Rita Cosby Live & Direct," during which he defended celebrity paparazzi.

I Guess Reese will miss him on this year's Oscar Red Carpet walk.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Is Everyone Blind To The Truth?

Remember the name Sports Sims-- and run in the opposite direction from their IPO.

Here's a snippet from their Friday press release regarding Sunday's Super Bowl:


Defiance, OH — With a record
of 14-4 in past Super Bowl
simulated the Super Bowl 40,000
times to determine this year’s champion.

“We may see the first ever Super Bowl
overtime. The results of the simulation
show amazingly close scores.” The average
points scored: Seattle-25.2,
Pittsburgh-24.6. "(Sports Sims experts)
...entered the players’ actual season statistics
into their simulation engine rather than using
subjective player ratings to get the most
accurate results possible.

In 40,000 simulations, the Seattle Seahawks
won 53% of the time. When the Seahawks won,
they outscored the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24.
In the 47% of the games where Pittsburgh won,
they outscored Seattle 24-21.

Shaun Alexander, on the strength of his 29 carries
for 125 and two touchdowns,
is named the Super Bowl MVP."

Is it just me, or does it seem like these guys could find a better use of their energy than running a flawed software system 40,000 TIMES??!!??

I don't want to hear any belly-aching about bad officiating; the better team won. If you reversed all the "bad calls," Pittsburgh still comes-out ahead. Bottom Line: the Steelers made 2 or 3 more good plays than Seattle and they go home Champions. Seattle had plenty of lost opportunities... is that the fault of a guy wearing stripes???

Since I correctly predicted the outcome of last night's game, here I go out on another limb: Steelers play in either the '07 or '08 Super Bowl.

Like I've said: The NFL dynasty is shifting from Massachusetts and heading to Pittsburgh.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Superman Curse Hits ABC

Word to the wise: If David Westin offers you the ABC Nightly News anchor gig, JUST SAY NO.

First it's Peter. Then it's Woodruff. Catch my drift? Think Christopher Reeve and George Reeves. Think: the Darren's on Betwitched. If you love your kids, just don't go there. Say no, and start backing away.

Godspeed, Elizabeth Vargas. Oh, wait! YOU'RE pregnant... one month into your new gig, and YOU'RE GONE, TOO!

Yikes! Can ABC just patch-in Bob Schieffer's CBS feed at 6pm???

Big Ben's Ready To Go!

Being a Pittsburgh Steelers fan born and raised in Los Angeles has been a long and lonely existence.

That said, I have noticed an uptick in Black & Gold apparel in the Southland over the past few years. Nice to see.

Here are a couple of shots of Big Ben Roethlisberger-- Pittsburgh's first, 'real-deal' quarterback since Bradshaw.

I don't know when these shots were taken, but I hope it's NOT Ben's idea of a training regimen for Sunday's game in Detroit...

In any event, Steelers by 10.