Old Hollywood Tales

It's true that old people have a hard time with change. I am currently adjusting to a new work schedule that keeps me at home, and it's a royal pain. I now have daytime hours that are foreign to me. I get to spend a lot of time Web-surfing but I have also become quite friendly with the day shift at the local convenience store. I personally know the staff at Vulcan Video south, though I have rented almost every one of their costume dramas and they no longer even pretend to be interested in my suggestions. The cheapest gummi bears are at Sam's Club in the seven-lb bags. Starbuck's chocolate blueberries rule. It's easier to get a parking space at Whole Foods weekdays.

I have also become even more cable-savvy. I have a mind like a marginally rusted steel trap when it comes to programming and have learned a lot lately just by watching. The TV goes on when John Aielli goes off the airwaves (except I am getting addicted to the jazz shows) and the IFC is my new favorite channel. It's kinda like having a Dobie screen in your home. I can tell you that when Dragnet begins its weeknight run on TVLand on February 22nd, the 8:30pm episodes will be different from the midnight ones, so you know I have been paying attention. That's why it was frightening to go over the schedule for the next week or so and try to drum up some enthusiasm for the junk being dished out.

This admittedly jaded attitude has less to do with quality of programming ñ I truly believe that there are plenty of good programs ñ than with the sheer amount of viewing available. How does one even remotely begin to keep up with what's out there? For a while, I received lots of press releases from TV networks and channels, and it was great ñ all that info at my disposal! In advance! I followed the Nielsens and reported on ratings and news. Then I began to drown in faxes, urgent phone calls about new WB shows, and press releases about "special television events," so I started watching cartoons and old black-and-white films. And I discovered others did the same.

Speaking of Dragnet, a reader named Monty writes in to say that, "He Walked by Night [is] the real inspiration behind Dragnet. [It] opens up with long shot of L.A. with voice narrative about the number of people (two million) and even has the disclaimer 'to protect the innocent.'" Monty also goes on to point out that "Martin Milner was the bad guy in 13 Ghosts, my favorite ghostbusters flick of all time." Yeah, but it's hard to top his role as the nebbish Mal in Valley of the Dolls, Monty.

Another e-mail was from Steve in regard to the recent column on Elizabeth Taylor and Lana Turner, was very flattering. "Do you know all these things about all these movie stars or do you read them from press releases?" Well, Steve, I'm glad you asked that. Except for checking some film dates, I wrote the Liz and Lana column from memory. Of course, I also just completed a book called Movie Stars Do the Dumbest Things with Bill Crawford for Renaissance Books and had plenty of info at my disposal.

All that research comes in handy when I am cruising the TV schedule and run across a film like Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (2/19, 9:15pm, TCM) with Tom Ewell and Jayne Mansfield. Jayne Mansfield, who shaved her pubic hair into a heart shape and dyed it pink! Jayne, who wanted just about everything pink, including her house and her swimming pool! Elvis even gave her a pink motorcycle! She attended UT and made her stage debut here in Austin! And she wasn't beheaded in that car accident but her wig was yanked off and thrown away from her body!

And here's Sophia Loren in Prêt-à-Porter (2/19, 11:15pm, ENC)! "Everything I am I owe to spaghetti." Lordy, the way she looks, who can argue? Why, she once caused a near-riot when she went shopping for brassieres in Rome. A crowd of men mobbed the shopping plaza and the fire brigades. Loren engaged in a mudslinging war with fellow Italian sex symbol Gina Lollabrigida over their respective bust sizes. "It is true that my measurements excel Gina's, but is that a reason why she should be so furious with me?" Sophia wondered aloud.

Let's not forget that Mansfield and Loren had a Battle of the Bosoms going, either! That famous cover shot from Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon of Mansfield spilling out of her dress was taken at a Hollywood reception at Romanoff's for Loren. Mansfield crashed it and gave the performance of her career bending over Loren as cameras snapped away at her breasts. Actor Clifton Webb was seated by Loren. "Please, Miss Mansfield," he cautioned. "We're wine drinkers at this table."

Okay, so I digress. The Grammy Awards (2/24, 7pm, CBS) are broadcast next week so naturally E!TV will have their usual Grammy Awards Post-Show (2/24, 11pm, E!) with commentary that will reveal staggeringly little about the music business but displays fine attention to fashion detail (and hey, isn't that what music is more and more about?). Look for slightly more intelligence at VH1's Grammy Post-Show (2/24, 10pm, VH1) but not too much. Those who have no interest in such things can turn to Citizen Kane (2/24, 11pm, TCM) and avoid all the hoo-rah.

I am hoo-rahing for Lucinda Williams, of course, and pretty much anyone who is nominated from Texas. Not the most scientific method let alone professional but there you go. If you wanna catch some of the hoo-rahing on Lucinda (this is not a good place for me to rail about the esteemed Greil Marcus, who recently decided to announce that Counting Crows were more important than Lucinda Williams), catch her on Hard Rock Live (2/20,11pm, VH1).

Those efforts to sway sweeps ratings keep a-coming. ABC wants advertisers to believe people watch their channel, so here's And the Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher Story (2/22, 8pm, ABC). CBS has the could-be-dishy-if-done-right Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke (2/21, 8pm, CBS) with the estimable Lauren Bacall playing one of the richest women in the world. Conveniently, A&E's Biography (2/22, 7pm, A&E) the following day is on Doris Duke. Duke is more interesting than her contemporary Barbara Woolworth Hutton but wasn't necessarily smarter about her money. Leave it to television to posit fact and fiction just for us.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Jayne Mansfield, Sophia Loren. Grammys, Sweeps, Lucinda Williams, Tv, T.v., Television, Channels, Channel Surfing, Stations, Network

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