Thursday, September 20, 2007
'Hello, I'm Johnny Cash'
I miss Johnny Cash.

The man was modest, sincere and direct. He delivered truth: Truth with his songs, truth with his talk. You can sense it any time you hear "Folsom Prison Blues," "Ring of Fire" or "Man in Black." (Especially "Man in Black.")

For two years in the late '60s and early '70s, Johnny Cash got to host a network variety show. It was called "The Johnny Cash Show" and it displayed the same combination of fearlessness and modesty characteristic of Cash himself. Cash booked acts rarely seen on TV, including Bob Dylan, a very young Joni Mitchell and Derek and the Dominos -- not to mention the cream of Nashville. (He even shot the show in Nashville, at the Ryman Auditorium, which was not exactly TV-friendly at the time.)

On Tuesday, Sony/Legacy released "The Best of 'The Johnny Cash TV Show,' " a 2-DVD set containing 66 performances. They run the gamut of styles and personalities: Creedence Clearwater Revival performing "Bad Moon Rising," Louis Armstrong joining Cash on "Blue Yodel #9" and Carl Perkins -- then with Cash's band -- jumping in to match guitars with the Dominos' Eric Clapton on "Matchbox." Also priceless: the Everly Brothers, accompanied by their father, doing "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine."

But what's most revealing are the clips of Cash away from the show. During one episode from Vanderbilt University, a student asks Cash his thoughts on marijuana. Cash genuinely considers the question. "I don't really know," he responds, finally offering only his own disapproval. Then another student asks about problems with drugs in the music business. After saying that there was a problem in Nashville, Cash pauses.

"I learned the hard way about drugs," he says matter-of-factly. "I courted death with it. ... I took my chances and tried a little bit of anything there was to try. ... I was lucky enough to survive."

No lectures, no judgments. Just Johnny Cash: Nothing but the truth.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
The end of the Summer of Love
They called it the "Summer of Love," though in retrospect it's hard to see what was so lovely about it.

Yes, there was the music -- the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper" (which came out June 1, 1967), the Doors' "Light My Fire," the Monterey Pop Festival and the rise of the San Francisco scene -- but the summer of 1967 was also the Long, Hot Summer of urban riots and Vietnam War protest.

Much was made this summer about the 40th anniversary of that summer, to little avail. But it would be a shame to let three events go unsung:

- Today marks the release of "Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970" (Rhino), a 4-CD collection of Bay Area music. Here you'll find the Airplane and the Dead, yes, but also the Mojo Men, the Count Five, the Charlatans, Blue Cheer and the Flamin' Groovies. The packaging, incidentally, is gorgeous, with essays by Gene Sculatti and Ben-Fong Torres and dozens of glorious photographs.

- Speaking of photographs, San Francisco's San Francisco Art Exchange gallery is running a show, "67 68 69: Years that Molded a Generation," with photographs by Joel Brodsky, Michael Cooper (including his Rolling Stones "Satanic Majesty" cover), David Fenton, Elliott Landy, Gered Mankowitz, Tim Page and Baron Wolman, among others. The show runs through October 13.

- And on Sunday, The New York Times' Charles Isherwood paid homage to "Hair," the "American Tribal Love-Rock Musical" that may have marked the last gasp of the best-selling Broadway cast album. (Two years after the show's 1967 off-Broadway debut, covers of five of its songs -- "Easy to Be Hard," "Hair, "Good Morning Starshine" and the "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" medley -- had hit the Billboard Top Five, which no doubt helped the album's sales.) An interesting reflection on a groundbreaking show.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Emmys backstage: ... and that's a wrap
You know you've reached the end of the night when the press sessions with the winners get shorter and shorter.

Actually, you know it's the end of the night when the show starts rolling credits, but the work going on backstage continues -- at least until the after-party begins.

Just a few questions -- three or four at the most -- then the stage is cleared and up comes another winner.

Here comes James Spader ... oh wait, no sorry -- now it's Conan O'Brien -- boy, that was fast ... hey, it's Tina Fey and the cast of "30 R--" -- say, isn't that Steve Schirripa?

In fact, the only people at this stage taking their time are the members of the press, dutifully asking very detailed questions.

The only question anybody wants an answer to at this stage is "Where is the bar?" And: "What happened in the Chargers-Patriots game?"

Now, that's an important question.

Good night, everybody.
Emmys backstage: Oscar preview
Backstage, we're still in the middle of one awards show, yet we're already talking about the next one. Apparently, our attention span has shrunk to microscopic levels.

Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show," was asked what he plans to do differently as he returns to host this year's Academy Awards. (Those would be the awards set to run on February 24, 2008 -- almost six months from now.)

"I don't know if I'll do so many 'Brokeback Mountain' jokes," he said. "I don't think they'll get nominated again."
Emmys backstage: Why we still really, really like Sally Field
Sally Field, who won outstanding lead actress in a drama for her work on ABC's "Brothers & Sisters," made a big impact on stage during an acceptance speech by making the only politically charged remarks during the Emmys' live telecast.

Asked how she felt about the possibility that her speech would be the subject of much discussion in the press the following morning, the actress simply said, "Oh well ... I've been here before."

In her role on the series, Field plays Nora Walker, a woman whose son is in the military in Iraq. She took the opportunity to pay tribute to real-life mothers, saying, "If the mothers ruled the world, there would be no g--damned wars in the first place."

Backstage, there was speculation that Field's remarks would be censored during the rebroadcast of the show in the West. Her response, again: "Oh, well."
Emmys backstage: Gore on Britney?
Al Gore. The former vice president. Winner of the popular vote in 2000.
Star of an incredibly important and Academy Award-winning documentary.
Now, an Emmy winner for achievement in interactive television for his Current TV network.

And the first question from the esteemed members of the press?

"You've survived numerous media firestorms, what can Britney Spears learn from you?"

Seriously.

You COULD'VE asked if he was planning on running (again) ... but alas ...

Ever the politician, Gore took the opportunity to thank the TV Academy for his award and went way over a few people's heads about Current TV's mission and place in time as being a "transformational moment as we to try and open up the television medium."

Given the nature of the first question from the press, I'd say -- just as he did with "An Inconvenient Truth" -- he's just in time.
Emmys backstage: Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...
Thomas Haden Church, winner of an Emmy for his work in "Broken Trail," was characteristically down-to-earth as he answered questions for the press backstage.

Asked "where do you find your inner strength" -- presumably because of the strength his of character he displayed on-screen in "Broken Trail" -- Haden Church replied, his Texas-tinged baritone edged with just a touch of sarcasm, "I don't know ... fiber?"

He's refreshingly un-Hollywood. When he's not working in L.A., he lives on a ranch in Texas.

He described his golden statue as "so pointy, it's like a barbecue fork!" He then said he was considering keeping it in his tool shed.

Answering a question about the resurgence in popularity of the Western, Church said he believed it was because "it's uniquely American."

The same could be said about him as well.
Emmys backstage: Out of tune
Let me just say, and for the record, musical numbers at the Emmys are a bad idea.

Tony Bennett notwithstanding, but really ... what the -- ?

The incredible Mr. Bennett I can understand. His musical special, "Tony Bennett: An American Classic" won an Emmy in 2006. Plus, he's Tony Bennett. Class, class, class.

But the cast of the "Jersey Boys" doing a musical tribute to "The Sopranos"? It was moment almost as head-scratching as the cut-to-black end of the series itself.

Oh wait, I get it -- the Four Seasons and "The Sopranos" -- they're both from Jersey! So is Bon Jovi, but you don't see them on the Emmys.

(Though come to think of it, given the classic rock soundtrack the show often employed, it might have made more sense.)

I can't wait for Kanye West ... I wonder if he'll throw another tantrum when he finds out he's not going to win an Emmy tonight.
Emmys backstage: You've got Gold
The always lively Jeremy Piven, who picked up his second Emmy for playing agent Ari Gold on HBO's "Entourage," told the press he was "really, really nervous" as he accepted his award. That's a far cry from his Type-A alter-ego.

He explained the difference between Ari and himself by describing Gold as "a professional ball-buster."

Piven, on the other hand, is far less combustible. "When people meet me, they're really bored with me. I'm just kind of a softie character actor from Chicago and I will bore you to tears."

Asked if he thought it was strange that he was winning an award for material that aired more than a year ago, Piven explained that he wouldn't have a problem accepting an award for work he did in grade school. "I'd do a victory lap -- and hold a press conference."
Emmys backstage: What's on winners' minds
Backstage at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards is a very different scene from the polished, scripted scene on stage during the telecast.

Terry O'Quinn, outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for "Lost," revealed that as his category was being announced he had more pressing matters on his mind than winning. "I was thinking when this award is done, I get to go to the bathroom."

Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series Jaime Pressly -- a first-time Emmy winner -- talked more about her excitement for her new family (she recently gave birth to her first child) than about her Emmy for her work on "My Name Is Earl."

Regarding her golden statue and where she planned to display it in her home, she said, "I didn't plan on winning it, so I didn't plan on putting it anywhere."
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