Tag Archive | Bill Murray

Ghostbusters Book Graveyard

Here’s a collection of factoids, stories, and rumors I couldn’t squeeze into A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever (on sale now where ever fine books are sold).

— Sigourney Weaver and Meryl Streep both attended the Yale School of Drama in the early ’70s and a blurb in Spy magazine 20 years after the fact claimed these two students had beef; an anonymous source called it “an unspoken feud” but a feud nonetheless because Streep got all the play parts over Weaver; Weaver was apparently iced out for being too tall and too weird (it is said she sewed up her own “elf costumes” to wear around campus); as another source put it, “Sigourney and Meryl have never been friends…Sigourney has always been annoyed by Meryl’s great lady act”

— between 1974 and 1979, Ghostbusters composer Elmer Bernstein had a mail order soundtrack club where he re-recorded other people’s film scores; these re-recordings included Franz Waxman’s The Silver Chalice, Alfred Newman’s Wuthering Heights, and Miklós Rózsa’s The Thief of Baghdad; Bernstein’s son Peter he told me his father lost money on this project but Elmer didn’t care because he was doing it for the love of the music; Film Score Monthly released the entirety of Bernstein’s soundtrack club recordings on CD in 2006

— Walter Peck actor William Atherton used to claim that the philosophical teachings of Aesthetic Realism “cured” him of homosexuality; Atherton performed live testimonials about it around New York City and even went on “Donahue” in 1981 to discuss the “permanent” change he and hundreds of other followers made to heterosexuality (watch the episode here); obviously this was extremely controversial and many derided Aesthetic Realism as a dangerous cult; I’ve heard that Atherton himself eventually felt hoodwinked by the whole thing and disavowed it, which I hope is true; Aesthetic Realism still exists but they stopped promoting a “cure” for being gay decades ago

— in 1983, “Tonight Show” staple David Brenner filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros, Matty Simmons, Harold Ramis, and John Hughes for stealing the idea for National Lampoon’s Vacation from a 1979 script Brenner wrote called Goodbye Grandma; Brenner claimed he submitted his script to “one or more” of the defendants beforehand and he sought nearly $40 million in damages; it’s unclear how this was resolved

— according to Ghostbusters editor Sheldon Kahn, the levitation rig used during Sigourney Weaver’s possession scene belonged to Ivan Reitman’s old pal Doug Henning; I attempted to confirm this with Henning biographer John V. Harrison (author of the awesome book Spellbound: The Wonder-filled Life of Doug Henning) but he wasn’t sure; I also e-mailed Henning’s widow Debby but she never responded

— the hare krishna acolyte seen at the end of Ghostbusters is a guy named Stephen Friedland who had a recording career in the 1960s under the name Brute Force; no less than George Harrison was a fan of Brute and tried to get his quasi-obscene novelty ballad “King of Fuh” out on Capital Records and EMI; when those labels blanched, the Beatles pressed up 2,000 copies of “King of Fuh” on their own label Apple; it is apparently the rarest Apple release in existence

— because every aspect of his life was covered by the press, I can tell you Michael Jackson saw Ghostbusters on July 5th, 1984 with his brothers in Kansas City; the Jacksons were in town to play the first three shows of their Victory Tour at Arrowhead Stadium; considering how much acrimony erupted between the Jacksons during this tour, it’s possible Ghostbusters was the last non-contractual outing they all enjoyed together

— Tracey Ullman was complaining about the scripts she was being offered during a 1985 interview with The Toronto Star when she went on a rant about Ghostbusters, calling it “childish” and “rubbish” and a “who’s got the biggest willie” movie; this culminated in Ullman saying that Harold Ramis was “as funny as anthrax”; in all my years of research, this was the meanest thing I ever saw anyone say about Ramis; comedy is subjective, of course, and I don’t find Tracey Ullman very funny (I like her singing though)

— Mel Brooks asked Ray Parker, Jr. to write some music for Spaceballs but Parker turned Brooks down because he was, and I quote, “too busy fooling around, doing something, chasing girls or waterskiing”; yes, he regrets this

— if you’ve seen the 1988 film Storm Warriors starring Mark Keyloun, Marlise Richards, and Gozer herself Slavitza Jovan, consider yourself lucky because it was never released; in fact, Storm Warriors was axed shortly after the trailer debuted at Cannes; the ad they ran in Variety for the film has me intrigued so let’s hope an unearthing occurs soon

— Ivan Reitman said once or twice that Julia Roberts auditioned for Ghostbusters II when it appeared Sigourney Weaver wouldn’t be coming back; Roberts was 21 at the time, so as a love interest for Bill Murray that was probably a little too Blame it on Rio

— in 1990, Dan Aykroyd had a project with Al Franken and Tom Davis called “Nixon in The Navy,” a five part comedy series about Richard Nixon’s military service; he imagined they’d put it on basic cable

— I wanted to interview the women who wrote the 1995 movie Casper for my book because I had questions about Dan Aykroyd’s cameo as Ray Stantz; they said no, we have nothing to say, it’s just a silly joke people blow out of proportion; that’s not a direct quote because they asked not to be quoted

Ghostbusters: The Video Game mastermind John Melchior told me a little bit about working on Simpsons: Hit & Run, specifically that Hank Azaria was the easiest “Simpsons” actor to work with and that Harry Shearer threw a fit and walked out mere seconds into his first recording session when he saw a grammatical error in the script

Unsolicited Landsharking On “SNL 40” (Schwing, It’s Pat)

– watching this special you’d never know exactly how rebellious “Saturday Night Live” was at its inception or various other points in history; every clip package was a parade of smash cuts set to a steady beat, like a home run highlight reel, which robbed many classic moments of the comedic tension that made them so memorable in the first place; three and a half hours and they didn’t even show the very first “SNL” sketch in its entirety (“I would like to feed your fingertips to the wolverines”), the program’s mission statement, still one of the weirdest things that’s ever been on television

– there was so much hoo-ha about Eddie Murphy making an appearance, finally burying whatever cold hatchet he had with “SNL”/his “SNL” legacy, but he didn’t do anything, he just came out and expressed some gratitude while making very awkward clapping gestures; maybe Eddie does have a disease that prevents him from being funny these days

– Joe Piscopo seemed as stiff and unhappy as the real elderly Sinatra; I’m sure he was hoping for a tearful on camera reunion with Murphy; I’m sure he burst a blood vessel during Chris Rock’s monologue about Murphy being “SNL’s” Superman (Rock wasn’t wrong, though)

Wayne’s World remains the most profitable “SNL” spin-off so we’re going to have to endure Wayne and Garth reunion sketches (no matter how pointless or meandering) until Mike Myers and Dana Carvey are both dead (if Carvey dies first I’d put major cash on Myers replacing him with Bill Hader); I wish they’d let the characters age, I’m far more interested to see Wayne at fifty

– Kanye seemed pretty excited to be caught in Wayne’s World

– the best part of “SNL 40” was of course an unscripted moment: Norm Macdonald trying to swerve the Chevy Chase introduction into the nearest ditch, a fine reminder of how brutally unsentimental the show can be (times like that are when “SNL” is tops) and how you can always rely on Norm

– related to that last point: it was wild to see the varying levels of talent on display, in the sense that you have to give Fred Armisen some kind of prop or character but Norm or Bill Murray can just come out and be themselves and everyone’s delighted

– it was cool to see Jane Curtain Weekend Updating with Tina and Amy

– it was cool to see Ellen Cleghorne

– it was not cool to see famous people “covering” their favorite characters

– I don’t know how to feel about Miley Cyrus as an entertainer or a human but she clearly has talent, by which I mean she made me give a shit about a Paul Simon song; I’d buy that rendition on vinyl

– the audience kept the applause at fair levels throughout the dead person montage; doesn’t feel like anyone was slighted, and they chose really wonderful/wonderfully evocative photos of each figure

– all those fucking montages and not one devoted entirely to the rich history of musical performance on “SNL”; sorry, legendary artists who so often were the only bits of the program worth watching, this “Californians” sketch has to be eight decades long

– ego probably prevented a lot of great comedy from happening

– “SNL” has constructed a successful enough business model that it may never go off the air; I’d like it to, only to see if another comedic incubator of its caliber would ever come along

– what a shame [obscure cast member] didn’t get any shoutouts

Unsolicited Free Floating Vapors On Feigbusters (GhostFeigers?)

The original Ghostbusters crew had 25 years to make a third movie. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen (and now it can’t happen because Harold Ramis is dead). It’s actually a little weird Sony didn’t force this beloved (and enormously profitable) property into someone else’s hands sooner. I know Murray, Ramis et al had something of a tontine when it came to the rights, but everyone has a price. Chinese Democracy came out before Ghostbusters 3. Do you really believe Axl Rose is more reasonable than Bill Murray?

Still, fans are apoplectic over the announced reboot, as if Paul Feig will simultaneously be erasing the first two movies from history. It’s difficult to comprehend some of the ire. Complaints have already surfaced from die-hards who are upset they’ll now have to share convention space with people cosplaying as Feig’s Ghostbusters; the new technology, you see, will clash with their expertly recreated 1984 proton packs. Guess these costumers never stopped to consider how much some of us detest seeing guys with goatees and backwards Yankee hats parading around as “Ray Stantz.”

I love Ghostbusters so much I’m currently working on a book about its entire history, but I have no problem admitting that up to this point the series has been a rigid boy’s club where female characters aren’t given much to do (even Gozer only takes the form of a woman for about one minute). Paul Feig’s decision to “star hilarious women” in the reboot is refreshing and fun and much needed, and fans who are disagreeing need to cop to their own throbbing sexism. Female-based entertainment is not “a gimmick.” The fictional activity of ghostbusting is not “too rigorous” for women.

Key point: ghostbusting is fucking imaginary. Gender bias in real life is bad enough. Extending it to the land of make believe, that’s insane. “You can pretend to be anything, except this one thing that makes me uncomfortable for some dumb reason, because I’m threatened by change even in a fake world where marshmallow creatures go on rampages.”

I think it’s also worth noting that Katie Dippold, the scribe for Feigbusters, works on “Parks & Rec,” a show I’d consider female-centric but one that also boasts some of the funniest, most fleshed-out, and just plain interesting male characters available. The door swings both ways.

Admittedly, this reboot could crash and burn. Previous experience doesn’t mean jack. Dan Aykroyd has to wake up every day knowing he made Doctor Detroit. Yet, even if Feigbusters turns out to be the new Heaven’s Gate (are my references dusty enough for you?), who cares? It’s just one movie. It’s not meant to replace anything. If it’s really atrocious we can just pretend it never happened, like Rocky V or the Halloween with Paul Rudd or Rob Zombie’s Halloweens or the Dumb & Dumber prequel or Ace Ventura Jr.

My only real investment: I hope they make the Ectomobile cool. I don’t have any suggestions because I’m not really a car person…just make it cool. You know, like stylish but also kinda nerdy. Like the original.

A Big Fat Stupid Love Letter To “Late Night w/ David Letterman”

“Good evening. Certain NBC executives feel it would be a little unkind to present this show without just a word of friendly warning. We are about to unfold a show featuring David Letterman, a man of science who sought to create a show after his own image without reckoning upon God. It’s one of the strangest tales ever told. I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even horrify you. So, if any of you feel you don’t care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now’s your chance to…well, we’ve warned you.”

Thus spoke a sotto voce Larry “Bud” Melman thirty years ago this evening at the top of the very first episode of “Late Night with David Letterman.” Initially, Larry’s grave prologue (cribbed from Frankenstein) seemed little more than a throwaway gag, but the ensuing years of “Late Night” would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that our bespectacled friend was right to warn us of forthcoming strangeness. Truth be told, the strange began just seconds after “Bud” concluded his monologue; the camera quickly disolved from Melman’s solemn expression to a cadre of peacock feathered showgirls who began a synchronized dance routine to a hypnotic salsa beat. The shift in tone from stark popcorn house horror to ritzy Vegas-style fanfare was a tad (if not completely) jarring. It was also just the tip of the gap-toothed iceberg.

It’s hard to impress upon anyone raised in the post-cable television world just how much of a game-changer “Late Night with David Letterman” was, a program that without question thrilled, shocked, and yes, sometimes even horrified its audience. Up to that point, a certain level of decorum was expected on talk shows. Johnny Carson may have made jokes about poop on “The Tonight Show,” but “Tonight” never booked rock bands (or anyone who even looked like Jerry Garcia, really) and the general dress code was East Hamptons wedding reception. Do you honestly think Ed McMahon was comfortable wrapped up in all that polyester for his entire life on Johnny’s couch? Probably not, but he couldn’t ever cop to it. That’s because he, like Johnny himself, was of the old school. They were putting on a show. They were entertaining the people.

Enter Letterman in ’82, a walking/smirking breach of conduct. Here was a shaggy haired guy who wore sneakers on his set and dressed like an unkempt college senior in remote pieces. More importantly, Dave didn’t kowtow to all that Hollywood ass-kissy bullshit. He’d make cutting remarks to his guests, poke fun at the audience, and be outright nasty to his own staff on air if things went awry—and it was all genuine. Going back to that first “Late Night” episode: Right after admonishing a producer for not being on his mark following a commercial break, Letterman welcomed a playful Bill Murray. Murray spent most of the appearance teasing Dave about the newly minted host’s alleged abuses of power. Dave refused to go along, and the results were hilarious.

MURRAY: Well, I wish that you would quit tryin’ to run my life, Dave. No, I mean this…you’ve got everyone here under your spell, it’s obvious…I don’t like to see it…you can’t play God with people. When are you gonna get off the high horse, smell the coffee brewin’?

LETTERMAN: [mock cheerful] So, do you miss “Saturday Night Live?”

David Letterman would have far more contentious confrontations—Cher would famously brand him an asshole during an interview, and the host’s tangles with Harvey Pekar and Crispin Glover are the stuff of legend—but the guy always came out the victor because of his ability to convey that powerful Midwestern “everyman” charm. Letterman smartly balanced endless minutes of celebrity ball-busting with bizarre, slack-jawed segments in which he’d gleefully crush household items in an industrial press, or whiz through the same McDonalds drive-thru window twenty-five times in a row (“Has the shake machine ever gone nuts and killed a guy?”). You couldn’t brand Letterman as some sneering Ivy League intellectual because so much of “Late Night” was dedicated to grassroots weirdness and his own flat-out stupidity.

Every kid in the world has an unhealthly obsession with staying up past their bedtime, and I’m sure I’m not the only child of the ’80s who had extra incentive because of “Late Night with David Letterman.” This show struck me as literally the craziest thing happening in the world at the time. What was more outlandish than this grinning Letterman character throwing guacamole off the twenty-fifth floor of some abandoned building in New Jersey, or forcing Larry “Bud” to recite lengthy diatribes when it was apparent the guy’d have difficulty spitting out his own address? My other favorite TV show that I wasn’t allowed to stay up for at that time, “Saturday Night Live,” was fun and exciting, but it offered basically the same thing every week: somebody famous dressing up and doing theater. “Late Night with David Letterman”—man, I really never knew what to expect. They did shows upside down, they did shows on airplanes, they even did a show from Dave’s house while he waited for his cable to be installed.

Alas, that kind of silliness is par for the course today in our six hundred channel “On Demand” world. Throwing guacamole off a roof is almost meaningless now because even the guys on ESPN want to be irreverent. Back in the Dark Ages, though, “Late Night” was like some sort of oasis. I definitely looked at Dave Letterman not only as my TV pal but as my cool, witty older brother who sometimes let me into his basement digs to witness the monkeyshines he engaged in with friends such as Larry Melman, Paul Shaffer, that preening jackass Chris Elliott, and eternally depressed Flunky the Late Night Clown. These days I of course know there was a massively talented and mostly anonymous writing staff behind all those monkeyshines (lead for the majority of “Late Night” by program co-creator Merrill Markoe, who is a remarkably funny person in her own right).

“Late Night with David Letterman” died a very public death in 1993. While I believe Dave retained the basic spirit of his NBC venture upon moving to CBS for “The Late Show with David Letterman,” it wasn’t really the same. “The Late Show” from its inception was Dave as conquering hero. He wasn’t in anyone’s shadow anymore. Rescued from his shoddy treatment at the hands of NBC, those first years of the CBS program were like one long (albeit funny) victory lap. The honeymoon only lasted so long, though, and at some point in the mid-nineties Dave started to phone it in. His show became an uncomfortable void, which lead to slaughter by younger, edgier comedians. It really stung the first time I saw Norm MacDonald doing his takedown of Dave on “SNL.” It was fair, though. Sometimes it felt like the only joke Dave ever made during the Clinton Administration was “Ya got any gum?”

Yet I come not to bury David Letterman, but to praise his genius between the years of 1982 and 1993! “Late Night” boasted such a unique comedic voice during a decade that generally appeared to be more interested in lazy, cookie cutter entertainment (case in point: six Police Academy movies were released while Letterman was on NBC). The show left a massive stamp on television and made a huge impression on yours truly in the sense that it suggested you could succeed in life without conforming. You didn’t necessarily have to “play the game.” You could be rude to Cher, and then go smash canned peas in a warehouse, and America would still embrace you.

Happy thirtieth anniversary, “Late Night with David Letterman.” You helped make this country what it is today.

An Important Plea Directed At Hollywood

Unless you’ve been trapped under Louie Anderson for the past few years, you are most likely aware the movie industry in this country is currently waist-deep in another wave of 3-D, the headache-inducing view technology that shames you with dorky facial accessories. Apparently there have been some major breakthroughs since I first strapped on cheap paper glasses to watch John Wayne’s Hondo in the marvelous third dimension all those years ago on WPIX Channel 11. 3-D technology is now better than ever, they say, which is why studio bigwigs are tacking the shiz onto every major release they can think of.

Yes, my friends, it looks like 3-D might be here to stay this time. People are going so nuts over it they’re actually going back to old two dimensional movies and repurposing them for maximum screen-poppin’ action. While I welcome a new Star Wars prequel franchise where I can actually reach out and touch Hayden Christensen’s awful performance or a My Dinner With Andre where Wallace Shawn’s spittle seems to soak the top of my head, there’s actually just one film from my lifetime that I feel desperately warrants a transfer to the third dimension.

Of course I’m talking about Stripes, the 1981 Bill Murray army comedy which also featured Harold Ramis, Sean Young, and John Candy.

Just imagine how grand the illusion would be, to be magically find yourself IN Bill Murray’s apartment as he angrily plays basketball with himself and attempts to do five pushups. For the first time, you could actually taste the sarcasm dripping off every quip Harold Ramis delivers. Judge Reinhold’s pudgy, youthful face would be almost close enough to kiss (you know you’d try, don’t even front). Plus, Sean Young and P.J. Soles in 3-D? Homina homina homina HOW WOW!

I suppose the true selling point would be the film’s ending, wherein Murray and Ramis invade what is now the Czech Republic in order to save their hapless platoon. There’s explosions, there’s gunfire, there’s gratuitous Joe Flaherty. Who doesn’t want to see all those elements flying out at dangerous speeds towards their general ocular area? Communists, that’s who. Communists and mental patients.

Come on, Hollywood. Don’t let us down. Give us Stripes in 3-D. I want to see Sergeant Hulka fall off that training tower right into my lap. Make the dream a reality instead of shoveling all this animated crap up in our noses.

You see Bill Murray there? He’s pointing at you, powerful studio bosses. He want you…to do the right thing.

Stripes in 3-D. The time is now. Let’s make this the most significant event of 2010.

Unsolicited Caddyshack Review

Starring: Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight
Directed by Harold Ramis

Ah, Caddyshack. The ultimate golf movie. A cinematic postcard of a simpler time, a time when Chevy Chase was still a fresh new face on the Hollywood scene, a time when Brian Doyle-Murray still had some color in his hair, a time when it was perfectly acceptable to bookend a major motion picture with scenes of a fake gopher dancing suggestively to the music of Kenny Loggins. How I long for those days. If you ask me, there just aren’t enough creepy rodent puppets squirming around to Reagan-era soft rock in any medium today (film, television, theater, professional billiards, etc).

So this movie is basically ninety-eight minutes of Chevy Chase being Chevy Chase (asshole), Rodney Dangerfield being Rodney Dangerfield (loud asshole), Ted Knight being Ted Knight (rich asshole), and some half-baked subplot about a young caddy’s college dreams thrown in for good measure. Bill Murray’s in there too, of course, doing his now-famous Carl Spackler character. Oh, and the aforementioned gopher, truly an achievement in the field of ground squirrel anthropomorphication.

I’m not knocking this formula—it was obviously the right one to produce a cult classic. However, with most of the actors basically playing themselves, it’s kind of hard to become engrossed in Caddyshack. You sit there watching it and think, Man, when exactly did Chevy Chase stop being funny? or I wonder if Ted Knight was like that in real life. Rarely do you say to yourself, Gee, I hope Ty and Al knock the stuffing out of Judge Smails and Dr. Beeper in the big game! The plot kind of fades into the background when you have Rodney Dangerfield saying shit like, “I almost got head from Amelia Earhart!”

The young caddy angling for a scholarship from Knight’s uptight judge character is played by curly-haired “Waltons” vet Michael O’Keefe. O’Keefe, it should be noted, went on land such plum roles as Sgt. Mike Fitzgerald in the 1988 made-for-TV flick “Disaster at Silo 7” and Jackie Conner’s long-suffering boyfriend Fred on the popular “Roseanne” program (yes, I purposely called it “the popular ‘Roseanne’ program”). O’Keefe is likable enough in Caddyshack, but it’s easy to see why he never exploded in the same way as a Tom Cruise or a Ralph Macchio. He just lacked that je ne sais quoi a true star possesses. He also had that horrible white guy ‘fro. Mike’s been on “Law & Order” a handful of times in recent years, so don’t worry, he’s still working.

The rest of Caddyshack’s minor players never really amounted to much, except for Cindy Morgan (who played Lora in TRON) and Scott Colomby (that son of a bitch was in all three Porky’s movies AND an episode of “The A-Team”—Tony D’Annunzio FTW!!). Heck, for a lot of these folks, Caddyshack would be their only credit. Can you believe Hollywood ignored the talents of John Barmon, Jr., a.k.a. Spaulding Smails? I’m really only half-joking! That kid was kinda funny! Surely Paige Coffman, the little girl who screamed, “DOODIE!” during the infamous pool bit, could have parlayed her brief moment in the sun into at least one game show appearance. Not even the woman who played Ted Knight’s wife went on to do anything else. Goddammit! So many wasted opportunities.

Caddyshack holds up pretty well all these years later despite some painfully executed fart/crotch jokes and just a smidge of unnecessary race humor (did Rodney Dangerfield really need a camera-happy Asian companion named Wang?). Chevy Chase has some great one-liners, I enjoyed seeing Cindy Morgan’s nipples, and who can ever argue with a film that prominently features Journey’s “Any Way You Want It?” This is one DVD I do not regret owning (as opposed to The WWE’s Greatest Ringside Injuries Volume 2: Mercy Takes A Holiday).

Final Score: Three Shunununununununas (out of four).

Remember that time I said I was going to come up with a unique unit of measurement for these reviews? I fucking LIED.