Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Movie Review: Men Don't Tell (1993)

"It's not supposed to happen. But it does, more often than you think. And when it does..."

With Peter Strauss on my mind since last week's post, I decided to look up and watch the 1993 television movie Men Don't Tell, starring him and Judith Light. If you've never seen this film, I highly recommend checking it out on YouTube and approaching it with an open mind. Somehow I missed it the first and only time is aired on network television, despite its tense subject matter, which received a lot of buzz. You see, this is a movie about domestic violence--with a twist: the wife is the aggressor/abuser, and it was based on a true story. 

When it aired on CBS in 1993, it infuriated a lot of feminist groups. After all, women are incapable of being the abusers in a relationship, right? Wrong. According to recent statistics, up to 40% of domestic abuse victims (at least in the UK) are male (this doesn't clarify how many are gay men being abused by gay partners.) Despite the movie's rating success (coming in third behind Home Improvement and 60 Minutes and being seen by over 18 million American households) it has never been re-aired on network television, but it did receive some play on Lifetime. It has also never been released to DVD and to the best of my knowledge, no other film has covered the same subject matter since.

Another myth that the movie aims to dispel about male domestic violence victims is that they must be weak, wimpy excuses for men. Director Harry Winer purposely wanted a masculine actor for the role, but as he soon found out, even men were ignorant about the topic of the film. According to Winer, "Our first choice was an actor who said he was very offended that we sent him the script. He was angry at his agent for soliciting the script and forwarding it to him for him to read. Peter Strauss, a very bright man, accepted and did a very good job."

Indeed, Strauss looks very macho in the movie, sporting a mustache, biceps and (quite ironically) those underwear shirts known as "wife beaters." His character, Ed MacAffrey, works as a construction site manager and drives a pickup truck. Judith Light plays his wife, Laura. 

The movie opens with a police scene at the home of the MacAffreys. Laura is unconscious and taken away in an ambulance while Ed is detained by the police, who assume that he is responsible for his wife's injuries. In a series of flashbacks while being questioned, Ed reveals the incidents of emotional and physical abuse he suffered in the marriage with each event getting progressively worse as the storyline progresses. Fans of Who's the Boss? will admire Light's performance, but certainly not her character. Laura is controlling, neurotic, jealous, and quite possibly suffering from mental illness. An early clue of her behavior is seen at the beginning of the film when she dumps Ed's leftover birthday cake (with only a quarter of it eaten) into the sink. She's prone to emotional outbursts and jumps to conclusions easily, eventually believing that Ed is having an affair with a woman from the construction company. What starts out as a punch to his lip escalates into a rage-filled pummeling that results in a shiner. At one point she even cries, "Look what you made me do!"--a common excuse of many abusers. She also rams her car into his truck several times and tries to win him back with sex. 

As wrong as it sounds, I will admit that at many times throughout the abuse scenes, I really wanted to see Ed fight back. He certainly is capable of doing so; in one early scene he is nearly mugged in front of his daughter but fights the thug off, then tells the girl that what he did was stupid and wrong. Ed is not only concerned about the welfare of his daughter, who has been witnessing most of her mother's outbursts (there's also a young son but for some reason he isn't present throughout most of the movie) but knows that punching Laura back would be wrong. He also still loves her, although each fight really chips away at their relationship. Towards the end of the film, Ed finally does defend himself and the couple's daughter when Laura hits her during one particularly nasty fight.  

Another important light the movie shines on domestic violence is the lack of support and resources available to male victims. One of the most humiliating scenes is when Ed calls a women's shelter to make an appointment to talk to someone, and is immediately scorned as someone who is playing a prank, and hung up on. When Ed tells family members and friends that Laura punched him, they laugh it off in disbelief. His father, a retired police officer, even instructs him after one incident to tell the police that he was responsible for what happened but was also drunk. 

It isn't until the near end of the movie that the MacAffrey's daughter reveals to the grandfather and police what has really been going on ("Mommy hits Daddy") and Ed is finally vindicated. 

Reviews about the movie when it aired were very positive. Television critic Ray Loynd of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "The most sobering point about 'Men Don't Tell' is that we go into the story conditioned to make jokes about wives hurling rolling pins at their husbands and then starkly witness how unfunny and terrifying it really is. Light's vicious, insecure wife is a harrowing portrait, although ultimately, to the actress's credit, touched with sympathy. Her bleak image in the movie's last scene is shattering under the fine direction of Harry Winer. And Strauss' pummeled husband --whose wife flails him with sudden, sharp fists that are so realistic they make you flinch--is a study of a warmly masculine man who is no wimp, AND NO WIFE HITTER, either."

Something I noticed at the end of the film, unlike other made for television movies of its time that touched upon controversial subjects, was the lack of a hotline number that male domestic abuse victims could call to receive support. Perhaps it's because the notion was still so unknown at the time, that very few organizations that included or were aimed at men existed. Fortunately, that has changed--although many stigmas against battered men are still around. A few male domestic violence support groups tried unsuccessfully to get CBS to re-air Men Don't Tell 20 years after its release; hopefully this blog post will bring a bit more attention to the forgotten film. 

You can view the full movie on YouTube here or here

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Valentine for Peter Strauss

For the life of me, I will never understand why Peter Strauss never became a huge, bona fide movie star in every sense of the word. He had (has) looks, charm, talent, and class. Very little media attention was given to him in the 1980s and 1990s. The most I could find and get my hands on at the time were two interviews in the 1980s: one for US magazine and one for Parade. In both, he came across as an easy going, humble, sensitive, somewhat private family man whose other profession in addition to acting was the patriarch of his own orange farm, called The Peter Strauss Ranch.   

Perhaps that is why the Hollywood motion picture industry never came calling; at least not in full force (Strauss did star in a few big screen movies, including a slightly cheesy sci-fi called Spacehunter.) Strauss was scandal-free; to the best of my knowledge there were no addictions or dark secrets with this man. He was what you call a straight up guy. 

My first introduction to Strauss was in the 1985 TV miniseries, Kane & Abel, based on the best-selling novel by Jeffrey Archer. Up until that point, my celebrity crushes had included a wide variety of "types" that typically befall teenage girls...there was the rocker (Daryl Hall), the hunk (David Hasselhoff), the bad boy (Don Johnson) and the funny man (Bill Murray.) But Strauss was different. He was mature, classy, handsome...and he was playing the part of a Polish baron, complete with an accent. As a Polish American girl whose only point of reference of famous Polish men at that time included Bobby Vinton and Ted Knight, I immediately fell in love (OK, so Strauss himself isn't actually Polish. His background is German-Jewish. But so what? The point is, he played the part convincingly. And he was so handsome.) 

If I'm not mistaken, Strauss was known as "The King of the Miniseries" in the 1980s. It's easy to see why--he had made his television mark in the 1976-77 series Rich Man, Poor Man starring alongside Nick Nolte. Other series included Masada, Tender is the Night, and The Brotherhood of the Rose. There were also several notable TV movies including The Jericho Mile, Young Joe, the Forgotten Kennedy, Under Siege, The Penalty Phase, Texas Justice, and Men Don't Tell (a movie about abused husbands, co-starring Judith Light as an abusive wife.) 

I also think it's a shame that Strauss didn't star in a prominent TV series during this time, although he came close. One of his projects that I distinctively remember (namely because he had a nearly naked scene in it) was the 1989 TV film Peter Gunn--yes, that Peter Gunn, complete with Henry Mancini's score--the likes of which television audiences hadn't seen since the 1960s. It was supposed to be a pilot, but apparently network executives felt the movie was too underwhelming to develop it into a series. Strauss's Gunn wasn't the drinking, smoking gumshoe that Craig Stevens' portrayed in the original, but he was classy and cool, and looked sexy behind the wheel of a vintage car. He also appeared in one bathroom scene holding nothing but a towel over his private parts--which was a rather risque move for ABC at the time (and which caused my teenage ovaries to nearly self combust.) If someone out there ever uploads this scene to YouTube, I'll kiss the ground they walk on. 

Offscreen, Strauss has been married three times, most recently to actress Rachel Ticotin since 1998. He also has two sons from his second marriage to a French woman. But did you know he once dated Patti Davis, slightly disgruntled daughter of President and Nancy Reagan? Lucky beyotch...
It's been several years since I've watched Strauss in anything, and that's a crying shame. According to the Internet Movie Database, he just wrapped up what appears to be a minor role in a movie called Drawing Home, and has made appearances on Law and Order, as well as a few television series I'm unfamiliar with. I miss this man, and a visit to my library's website to make some DVD requests is in order. 

Happy Valentine's Day to all my readers and followers!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Turn and Face the Strain: Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

You may have noticed that Go Retro is suddenly being updated more frequently these days. There's a good reason for it.

A little over a week ago, my position at my full-time job was eliminated. I've been laid off before and thought the rodeo ride this time wouldn't affect me negatively, but to be honest I was a bit shell shocked and definitely not myself for the first few days after it happened (that's also why I just wasn't feeling the love for The Beatles' 50th anniversary in America, even though listening to the Fabs could have provided some much needed medicine.) I was worried about what the future might hold, and sad about suddenly being cut off from my usual social contacts during the work week. 

It wasn't until this past Sunday afternoon--when I picked up and started to re-read one of my favorite Law of Attraction/positive thinking books--that the fog finally began lifting. 

The good news is, I now feel a lot more like myself, and very optimistic about my next career venture, whatever that may be. Now's the time to start thinking about reinvention, and what it is I really want to do. I have a lot more skills under my belt compared to the last time I lost a job, including social media, blogging, and a few published freelance articles that I've sold to websites. I'd love to find a job that combines social media management, copywriting and blogging, but I also love the idea of getting into journalism, perhaps working for a local magazine. 

Also, there is another thing that I am absolutely sure of:

I am a good writer. 

Nay, I am an excellent writer.

I affirm that not from an arrogant, narcissistic standpoint, but as a comparison point from what my posts looked like when I first began this blog, back in 2007 (?) or so. I also have a good friend who told me recently, "You know, you always were a good writer in my opinion, but in the past few years or so you have really elevated to a whole new level." 

Thank goodness for Go Retro. If I didn't have this blog, I'd surely be starting one during this time--but 7 years of experience authoring it, resulting in 400 Google followers and 953 Facebook followers (as of this posting) isn't too shabby. 

Also, what does my layoff mean for the blog, anyway? It can only mean good things--especially now that I have more time to post, tweak the layout and work on a new banner. (Now if I could only do something about the quality of AdSense ads and their click value...)

So thank you, as always, for being a reader and a fan! I know that this post's title is from a David Bowie song, but being a bigger fan of Bobby Darin, his song "Change" resonates more with me:

Whatever you've done it's all over 
Wherever you've been is so strange 
Yesterday's long gone forever 
Damned if what you're feelin' isn't change. 

- Bobby Darin, "Change"

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How to Succeed with Brunettes

I never know when inspiration for a Go Retro blog post is going to strike. Earlier today I was watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (more soon on why I was home watching this show) when one of the questions asked about the title of a 1967 military etiquette video from the U.S. National Archives. The correct answer was "How to Succeed with Brunettes." Say what? Naturally, I had to check this out for myself!

It turns out that How to Succeed with Brunettes is nothing more than a dating etiquette training film for male military personnel, mostly full of common sense tips. Although, from some of the scary shit I've seen on OKCupid lately, some of today's men could use a refreshed course in some common dating sense. Basically the video keeps presenting scenarios--one that is the incorrect way for a man to conduct himself followed by the correct way. One of the scenes that cracked me up during an incorrect scenario was the fella using the restaurant table's candle to light his cigarette.

I also initially thought that the first actor at the beginning of the film was an African American man picking up a Caucasian woman, which would have been controversial in 1967. 

Of course, the film does beg the question why brunettes? Why not corresponding videos on how to succeed with blondes and redheads? It should have just been called How to Succeed with Women. Or, How to Be a Gentleman. Period. 

It's pretty mundane stuff, but here is the entire film, which is about 16 minutes long (only the first half is really worth watching for a few chuckles.) For something a little more entertaining, check out this military video aimed at female personnel that I wrote about a few years ago that includes a hot chick go-go dancing in a minidress. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bon Voyage On the Good Ship Lollipop: RIP Shirley Temple

I've never been a fan of child actors/actresses, and even less of a fan of today's mini-sized reality TV "stars" such as Honey Boo Boo. But a few weeks ago I caught the 1934 Shirley Temple movie Bright Eyes on TCM one evening and couldn't help but watch as the adorable Temple sashayed her way through one of her trademark songs, "On the Good Ship Lollipop", and fool an older spoiled brat she was living with. 

It was easy to see why Temple became a big screen favorite during one of the worst economic times in America's history, The Great Depression. A talented dancer by the time she was three, she could memorize and mimic choreography in a matter of seconds, and her dimpled smile and bouncy ringlet curls quickly won over movie audiences. In keeping with the times, she was often cast as an orphan to show audiences that even children could overcome adversity. By the time she was in her teens, however, film producer David O. Selznick warned Temple that she would be typecast, and her movie resume began to wind down.  

What is perhaps more remarkable, however, is what she did with her life long after her film career ended: there was to be no addiction, no downfall, no troubling adult life that so many child stars who came after her fell into. Instead, Temple enjoyed a happy, lifelong marriage to her second husband, Charles Black, became an U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia, and a breast cancer survivor. With breast cancer, she became one of the first female celebrities to speak openly of the disease, which resulted in over 50,000 fan letters and cards thanking her for making it acceptable and less fearsome for women to seek medical treatment. 

I admit that I have a lot of catching up to do with Temple's movies and career, but there's no doubt that she will be missed and adored for a long time to come. If I could, I'd toast her with a glass of her sweet, cherry flavored non-alcoholic signature drink, which my father introduced me to when I was a kid (and which I still love.) 

Here's a few of Temple's notable musical performances from some of her films--and I also recommend looking up on YouTube the made-for-TV movie about her career, Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story (which was based on her autobiography.)

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Save a Poster: An Interview with Andy Golub, Author of "Beautiful Colors"

Note: all images, photos and videos in this post are used with the permission of Andrew Golub. Big thanks for allowing me to share them!

Think you are a Duran Duran fan? Well, chances are you haven't met Andrew Golub. Golub's love for the group easily rivals that of all of my squealing, pin-wearing, locker wallpapering, Duran-mad friends from middle school combined. 

Andy Golub was 12 years old the day he heard the Duran Duran song "The Reflex" coming from the radio. Little did he know at the time that the hooky 1980s hit by the British band would spark a serious craving for all things Duran--earning him the nickname "Durandy" (a little twist on the moniker for the band's fans, Duranies) from a radio DJ after numerous requests from Golub for their songs. Soon he became the proud owner of the album "Seven and the Ragged Tiger" on cassette tape. Today he is the proud owner of more than 1,500 posters, over 10,000 pages of magazine articles, 150 books and several items of memorabilia all related to the endearing New Wave boy band. 

It's a superfan passion that culminated recently in the publication of a new book called Beautiful Colors: The Posters of Duran Duran--a lush, visual love letter to the group that showcases a selection of posters and printed memorabilia from the band's history, capturing them in their 1980s eye popping hues, hair gel wearing, makeup coated glory. It's a labor of love sure to satisfy the most diehard of Durandies, containing magazine promos, tour posters, A View To A Kill film posters and even memorabilia dedicated to spinoff bands The Power Station and Arcadia. Golub's fiancee, Christine Born, was the photographer on the project and the book includes a foreword by Nick Rhodes himself.  

Golub recently spoke to Go Retro about the book's inspiration and his admiration for the band:

Friday, February 07, 2014

Why I'm Just Not Having It With The Beatles' 50th Ed Sullivan Show Anniversary

Don't get me wrong; I love The Beatles. 

I just don't LOVE The Beatles. At least, not the way I used to. 

The 22 year-old in me is probably a bit pissed at my 42 year-old self about this revelation. You see, twenty years ago I was a full-fledged, self-confessed Beatlemaniac. I practically ate, drank, and slept Beatles (it also means I probably shat them out as well.) It all started when a high school friend and I went to see a cover band play--ironically--at our high school. I was 20 years old. Before the band hit the stage, my friend and I were just having a conversation about how absolutely batshit crazy we thought Beatles fans were in the 1960s: crying, screaming, idol-obsessed wackos, beating their hands against their breasts and crotches. 

Two-and-a-half hours later, I was probably bruising my own private parts with Fab Four-induced delirium. The Beatles bug had bit me--hard. But it wasn't just the fact that they were cute with their little dark moptops. It was the music, man, the music! So. Deep. I quickly took a liking anything they recorded after 1965. 

Later that year, I learned about a fun phone number called The Beatlephone, run by the late and great Beatles expert extraordinare, Joe Pope. Joe and I became friends and penpals (this was back in the day before email existed, so receiving a typed letter in the mail from Joe was a treat.) I also subscribed to his fanzine publication, the aptly named Strawberry Fields Forever. But the Beatlephone was a unique concept--a Boston-based phone number with a voicebox that Joe had set up where he could record about 2 minutes of the latest Beatles news, and allow fans to leave messages with their own news bits that he often passed along. Joe didn't realize at the time (well, none of us did) that he was pioneering social media with this concept. And Joe was a full-fledged RIOT; a creative, hilarious, talented man--all of which shone through in his magazine and phone commentary. I was a faithful caller and subscriber to SFF until he passed away of cancer in 1999. 

Joe's death definitely knocked the stuffing out of being a Beatles fan--he was so closely associated with the group in the Beatlemaniac community that it was as if a fifth Beatle or their manager you knew personally had died. After a few years, I moved on. I had no choice. I explored other vintage singers and bands--and became a big Bobby Darin fan as most people know. Once in a while, I did listen to a Beatles album on purpose--and to be honest, it hurt my heart knowing that Joe was no longer with us. 

Now the world is getting ready to recognize the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show--Monday, February 9, to be exact. The marquee outside of David Letterman's studio was revised to appear exactly as it did on February 9, 1964, and there will be a tribute show airing on CBS Sunday night called “The Beatles: The Night That Changed America-A Grammy Salute." 

Yawn. As the anniversary looms closer, I'm realizing how ambivalent I am about the whole occasion. It kind of narrows down to these reasons:

No Joe Pope around to provide witty commentary and news about the anniversary. 
It just plain sucks. No need to elaborate. 

We only have the Fab Two now. 
No offense to Paul and Ringo, but that kinda sucks. Even without John Lennon, I'd love to see a Beatles "reunion" on a stage if George were still with us. After The Beatles broke up in 1970, one would occasionally end up in another's music studio to play or sing on each other's songs. It just isn't anything special or remarkable. 

Paul McCartney's music ever since Linda passed away is pretty meh (in my opinion, anyway.)
I mean, have you heard this new "Queenie Eye" song? I'd rather listen to "Temporary Secretary." And "peace and love, peace and love, stop sending me fan mail you mother&^%ers" Ringo...well, we won't go there. I do love "Give Me Back the Beat" though. That should have been a bona fide top 40 hit!

Speaking of Linda, things hit the skids after she passed away, too. 
It took me a while to warm up to Linda but once I did, I admired her for her down-to-earthness and love of animals. After she passed away, the world was introduced to Heather Mills. Enough said. At least we still have Yoko, right? Hmmmm. (Just kidding. I actually have a ton of respect for Yoko, too.)

I don't really care for covers of Beatles music. 
It may be a strange thing, but I never really enjoy it when others cover Beatles music. A friend gave me the soundtrack to I Am Sam years ago and I only listened to it once. I think it's because the group added so many unique nuances to their tunes (unusual instruments, snippets being played backwards, etc.) that the songs are cemented in my cerebral cortex to sound best when played that way. Ain't nothing like the real thing, as the old saying goes. 

1964 Wasn't When the Band Was Actually Formed
Everyone is acting like the band didn't exist until their Ed Sullivan Show appearance, but in reality the band had already been making waves in the UK a year prior to that. British fans were already stir-crazy over them, and suddenly had to share them with us celebrity-obessed Americans. Ringo joined the band in 1962; hence, the now-infamous line up of the group was formed. But we're talking 1962--how come there wasn't more hoopla over the 50th anniversary of THAT date? 

Instead of watching the CBS special, I think it would be more interesting to watch the original Ed Sullivan Show that aired that night in its entirety. Besides a young Davy Jones, you get a feel for the torturous wait the producers put Beatles fans through as they had to sit through Ed talking to Topo Gigio and contortionists spinning plates on their heads (OK, I'm speculating on those last acts.)

I've always said that The Beatles are classic; you can put them away for a period of time and when you dust off and play one of their records, the songs are just as fresh and new as the first time you heard them. So maybe that's what I'm waiting for. Waiting for that passion to return. 

Are you excited about the 50th anniversary? Or could you care less? 

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