Wholesale Heroes

How do you know you’ve made it as an American icon? When your birthday’s declared a national holiday, as is Martin Luther King Jr.’s this coming weekend? No doubt. But only when your birthday is associated with shop-till-you-drop sales do you become a true American legend.

I Googled King’s birthday. Along with biographical information, “Cheap flights Martin Luther King Day” and “The best 15 sales of MLK Day” also popped up. When he made his inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech, I doubt he dreamt of being associated with BOGOs and half-off sales.

But King isn’t alone. Prodded by retailers and travel groups, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968, when George Washington posthumously had his birthday bumped from Feb. 22 to the third Monday in February. Columbus Day and Memorial Day were also moved to three-day weekends, with MLK Day added later. Congress declared it would bring “substantial benefits to both the spiritual and economic life of the nation.”

I’m not sold on the spiritual part, but there’s no doubting the economic boost the three-day holidays give retailers.

Presidents Day is officially designated Washington’s Birthday in New York, while called Washington-Lincoln Day in Colorado. In Alabama, the date is known as George Washington’s and Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, even though Jefferson was born in April. Guess they’re not big fans of Lincoln, for some reason.

Meanwhile, do we really honor America’s great leaders by running mattress sales? In recent years, some marketers have gotten a bit carried away, from Hennessy cognac advertising “drinks MLK Jr. would be proud of” to a “Freedom 2 Twerk” dance party in Michigan with a flier superimposing King’s head onto the body of a man wearing a thick gold chain, according to cbsnews.com. The event was eventually canceled.

You can’t blame retailers for holding sales on days when we have time to shop. But would it be too much to keep them in good taste?

So enjoy your three-day weekend. And while you’re out shopping or whatever, it wouldn’t hurt to spend a few minutes thinking about the message of the man it supposedly honors.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Trump’s Lack of Humor Far From Funny

If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at? Certainly not the president elect!

While most Democrats and a number of Republicans (even some who voted for him) are wary of Donald Trump for a number of reasons, including his coziness with Russia, mocking of a disabled reporter, etc., my gripe is a bit different.

As someone who started my creative career writing material for Rodney Dangerfield, a man who made a living joking about the lack of respect he gets, I have always been suspicious of those who can’t laugh at themselves.

A great example of someone who can’t take a joke or any criticism is Russian president Vladimir Putin. When the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot tried to make a satirical video entitled “Putin Will Teach You to Love the Motherland”, they were brutally attacked by the Cossack militia, whipped and hospitalized.

That type of behavior is foreign to us. Going back to Mark Twain, satire is as American as apple pie. Whether in politics or personal friendships, the ability to take a joke means something, and being thin-skinned is frowned upon.

Saturday Night Live has been mocking our presidents for decades, and most have been good sports about it.

Until now.

Chevy Chase made a name for himself playing former President Gerald Ford as a total klutz, doing clumsy pratfalls in a more extreme satire than Alec Baldwin’s impression of Trump.

But in a recent SNL sketch making fun of Trump’s impulsive tweeting, our president-elect instantly tweeted “Unwatchable! Totally bad! Not funny!” Irony, anyone?

Trump actually can be humorous, which helped him win the election. Unfortunately, that sense of humor doesn’t seem to extend to himself. So here’s some unsolicited advice: people soon tire of those who seem like they can give it, but can’t take it.

Mr. President-elect, after your mocking of President Obama and both Clintons, not to mention Republican primary opponents including Rick Perry (“he puts on glasses so people will think he’s smart”) and Mitt Romney (a “choker” who “walks like a penguin”) you should know more than anyone__that’s part of the deal. You “don’t get no respect?” Welcome to the club!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2017 Should Be a Wild Ride

My friend the Brooklyn genie, who sleeps all year in a magic lamp on the Coney Island beach, emerges again to make his annual predictions__and he’s got some real doozies for 2017. So if you don’t like them, blame the genie.

January 20th, 2017. Donald Trump is sworn in as our 45th President. The Inaugural Ball entertainment is provided by Kanye West and Ted Nugent, who harmonize beautifully on “Ebony and Ivory” before getting into a fistfight and being dragged out by the Secret Service.

February 2nd: Visiting Staten Island on Groundhog Day, Mayor Bill de Blasio flashes a “thumbs up” when told that he has no credible opponent in the 2017 mayoral race. Meanwhile, groundhog Staten Island Chuck Jr. avenges the demise of Staten Island Charlotte (who died after de Blasio dropped her on her head) by chomping on the mayor’s extended thumb.

March 11th: Responding to Trump’s relentless Twitter attacks on him for his devastating impression of the president on Saturday Night Live, Alec Baldwin announces that he will run for president on the Democratic ticket against Trump in 2020__and will campaign wearing the blond wig.

April 18th: The new administration reveals that the last prisoners have been moved out of Guantanamo Bay. In a related development, Trump Kids Inc. announces that they will be turning Gitmo into a “fabulous, world-class resort__the best!” President Trump says he was “surprised and delighted when my children told me about it this morning.”

June 4th: A Saudi prince visiting the White House purchases $3 million worth of bangles from the Ivanka Trump jewelry collection. The president growls at the perception that the prince is buying influence: “He just knows great jewelry when he sees it. The best!”

July 8th: Former NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly enters the mayoral race, using the slogan “Thumbs Down on de Blasio!”

August 21: The world braces for the first total solar eclipse since 1979. When it again gets light, we discover Trump has disappeared from the White House, tweeting “Who needs this aggravation? Good luck, Mike!”

August 22nd: Mike Pence is sworn in as our 46th President.

November 7th: Ray Kelly is elected mayor of New York. De Blasio consoles himself with a lovely carriage horse ride around Central Park.

Happy New Year, and good luck to us all!


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Did You See This Coming In 2016?

Only someone awakening today from a coma can’t name the most shocking event of 2016. Donald Trump is president-elect of the United States!

But Trump’s stunning victory (and the emerging drama about Russia’s meddling in our election process) wasn’t the only notable story of this tumultuous year. Here are some others:

Pokemon Go Craze: While the Brexit vote in England, Trump’s rise and other momentous events captured the world’s attention, many were blithely wandering around parks, beaches and malls capturing Pokemon creatures. Nintendo stock zoomed, as our collective IQs plunged.

Millions of Americans with eyes glued to their smartphones, totally oblivious to the world around them, seems a perfect metaphor for what happened politically in 2016. Then summer ended and people went back to school and work. Pokemon? What’s that?

Chicago Cubs Finally Win World Series: Women couldn’t vote. The Titanic wasn’t built. You couldn’t watch the games at home, because TV hadn’t been invented. That’s 1908__the last time the Cubs won the World Series before now. Since the oldest person in the United States is a 114 year old woman from New Jersey, that means there wasn’t a Cub fan alive and rooting for both championships. Maybe the NY Jets can win the Super Bowl again before we find ourselves in the same situation.

Second Avenue Subway Poised to Open: Speaking of long hoped-for events that took about a century to happen, how about that Second Avenue Subway? The MTA has until December 31st to keep its promise of the first three stations on the line (96th, 86th and 72nd Streets) opening in 2016. Hate to be a party pooper, but will that get anyone to work? When there’s a Second Avenue subway completed that can actually take us all the way downtown to our jobs, wake me up.

The Passing of Icons: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Muhammad Ali floated away to heaven in 2016, and the world is worse for his passing. And I will miss seeing David Bowie happily roaming his adopted city of New York. Ali, Bowie, Prince, Arnold Palmer__ this was a particularly tough year for our sports and music icons. They will be missed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

PC Clause Is Coming To Town

Oh, the weather outside is frightful — but not as frightful as what’s being done to traditional holiday tunes.

A Minnesota couple has rewritten the classic song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” to fit 21st century sensitivities, according to CNN.

Josiah Lemanski and his girlfriend, Lydia Liza, have changed the original call-and-response duet, which begins, “I really can’t stay/Baby it’s cold outside,” to “I really can’t stay/Baby I’m fine with that.”

Are you fine with that?

“I’ve always had a big problem with the song,” Lemanski told CNN. “It’s so aggressive and inappropriate.”

Sorry, Josiah and Lydia, but the song is not about consent, let alone date rape. It’s about a couple in conservative 1944 America. Although she plays it coy, they clearly both want to hang out together. And no, the guy is not Bill Cosby.

But the two Minnesotans are steadfast that the lyrics are offensive and must be cleansed. You know who agrees with them? Sayyid Qutb of the Muslim Brotherhood. In his book “The America I Have Seen,” he described with disgust the “arms circling waists, lips meeting lips” he observed when the song was played at a Colorado church dance he attended.

Other seasonal tunes that supposedly “will add a dash of sexism to your holidays,” according to The Huffington Post, include The Weather Girls’ “Dear Santa,” which includes the terribly offensive line, “I need a man this Christmas.” OMG! Huffington huffs, “Let it be known that women don’t need a man at Christmas to truly shine!” Give me a break.

If the PC crowd gets so worked up over Christmas songs that are at the very least open to interpretation, what will it do on Valentine’s Day with that sexist ditty “My Funny Valentine?”

Written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, the song’s lyrics range from the general insult (“Your looks are laughable, unphotographable”) to the specific (“Is your figure less than Greek? Is your mouth a little weak?”). BTW, lyricist Hart stood under 5 foot and was rather chunky. How dare he write such insulting lyrics!

So let’s update the song for him: “Oh your figure’s fine with me, ’cause your mouth is so PC.”

You’re welcome!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

75 Years Later, Pearl Harbor Still Resonates

Today is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. I’ll bet half the people reading this column have little idea what that means. It marks the 75th anniversary of the devastating attack on our naval fleet stationed in Hawaii that catapulted us into World War II.

December 7, 1941 is, to those alive at that time, what September 11, 2001 is to us. On that date, Japanese planes swarmed across the harbor and bombarded the fleet, sinking or seriously damaging eight of our battleships and killing 2,388 Americans. A day later, we declared war against our mortal enemies of that era, Japan and Germany.

Those who fought and died in that war would be startled to know those two nations are now among our closest allies. Imagine Iran and North Korea being our nation’s besties 75 years from today.

In the 1990’s I spent a week in Honolulu, and felt a pull to visit Pearl Harbor. I boarded the ferry that glided me across the water to the USS Arizona Memorial site, and noticed that one of the tour guides was an older gentleman who was a survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack__an eyewitness to history.

He cautioned us that the memorial was “not just another tourist attraction” and to be respectful, delivering first-hand testimony to what happened the morning of what President Franklyn D. Roosevelt called “A day which will live in infamy.”

Tourists took photos of the memorial, which sits atop the sunken battleship Arizona, the gravesite of about 900 service veterans still entombed in its wreckage.

I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of the tourists were Japanese.

After watching the smiling group snap their pictures, I asked the veteran if this bothered him.

He paused a moment, his eyes staring into the distance. “No, it wasn’t them,” he replied. “Maybe their fathers, their grandfathers, but not them. You have to move forward, move on, and not blame the innocent.”

Forgiveness and compassion. We could use a large helping of that in 2016.

As for the brave U.S. servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives to protect our freedoms of speech, the press, petition, assembly and religious expression on that mournful day, let’s make certain that they are never forgotten.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

November Brought Major Surprises for New Yorkers

In a New York minute/ Everything can change . . .”

Written and sung by the Eagles’ Don Henley, “New York Minute” is about how quickly and drastically life can turn. Thought to be inspired by the stock market crash of October 1987, the lyric also fits what has happened to New Yorkers in November 2016.

As the month ends, let’s look at a few examples:

Just weeks ago, New Yorker Huma Abedin was preparing to spend lots of time at the White House in 2017 and beyond as the indispensable aide to president-in-waiting Hillary Clinton. Blindsided by FBI Director James Comey’s reopening of the investigation into Clinton’s e-mails because some were found on estranged husband Anthony Weiner’s computer, Abedin was left behind when Clinton took a last-minute national campaign swing.

Right after Clinton’s shocking loss, Abedin was spotted on a Brooklyn street with tears streaming down her face.

Meanwhile, after nearly a 100-year wait, the Second Avenue subway is poised to launch! Sort of. The city promised to open the first leg of the line before the end of 2016. “We’re working very judiciously to meet this date,” MTA chairman Tom Prendergast has said.

The latest effort has cost $4.5 billion, and it has resulted in the completion of a grand total of three new stops (96th, 86th and 72nd). For that sum, every rider could’ve been personally picked up by limo and driven to work for years. Thanks, MTA!

Last week, President-elect Donald Trump (talk about a drastic change) said his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, might be the ideal person to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since Kushner has zero foreign policy experience, one can only assume Trump believes this because Kushner is Jewish. Kind of like thinking singer Paula Abdul would be the perfect person to solve the crisis in Aleppo because she’s of Syrian descent.

Finally, Trump said his wife, Melania, and son Barron will not join him in the White House, but remain in Trump Tower. For us, this means endless midtown traffic mayhem and an ongoing $1 million-a-day security price tag.

What a lovely surprise.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Keep Trump Off the Thanksgiving Menu

Carving knives, alcohol and Donald Trump — what could possibly go wrong?

Thanksgiving 2016 promises to be uniquely challenging. Fresh off an angrily contested election, family members you see perhaps once a year might hold political views that, to quote our president-elect, make you bleed from your eyeballs, or your wherever. Relatives who will either be clucking with glee at Trump’s victory or seething with rage at Hillary Clinton’s defeat might be ready to leap across the table at uncle Ralph when he instructs them to, “Get over it!”

Yep, a perfect recipe for Thanksgiving family disaster!

How to avoid it? Here’s a handy guide to keeping the peace while trying to keep your family in one piece:

Don’t talk politics! I know, easier said than done. Phrases such as “What kind of a racist jerk would vote for Trump?” or “Whiny liberal sore losers make me laugh” are out of bounds — at least until you’re on your way home.

Phrases to avoid while serving the turkey: “I assume you want a left wing?” or “Of course, you’d want only white meat!” are sure to lead to desperate, misplaced calls to the turkey hotline.

But if you still believe battling it out is the way to go, a large drumstick makes a handy weapon. However, I suggest curbing those impulses and seeing the good in the other side. Yes, I mean that!

More than ever, people tend to associate with those of similar beliefs, read the same articles and watch the same networks. Those who offer opposing views on Facebook are too often unfriended. But you can’t unfriend family.

Or can you? I’ve heard more than one story of relatives canceling out on Thanksgiving or not being invited because of their political beliefs. And that’s a shame.

I happen to know some really nice people who voted for Trump. Believe me, I don’t get it either. But this is neither the time nor place for an angry, self-righteous rant from either side. Think of your host. Your grandma. Your digestion. Leave the bashing to the NFL players on TV. And stay away from the liquor cabinet!

So happy Thanksgiving, damn it!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

First Review of Senior Moment–Very Gratifying

Theater Review (NYC): ‘Senior Moment’ by Mike Vogel

Please Share…Print this pageTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Tumblr0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Bob Ari as Jack and Ian Lowe as Larry in 'Senior Moment' (photo by Michael Portantiere)

Mike Vogel’s new play Senior Moment is a charming comedy with serious undertones, especially for two of today’s mushrooming groups, the elderly and the “sandwich generation.”
It centers on a beautifully nuanced performance by Bob Ari as 77-year-old widower Jack, a grouchy stick-in-the-mud who blossoms into something like his full true self only after oh-so-reluctantly trying out the retirement community/assisted living life, at the urging of his aggravated, uptight, but devoted son Larry (Ian Lowe).
Discovering a ratio of four women for every man at the new residence, Jack finds himself in heavy social demand, first and especially by Violet (Marina Re), an impossibly peppy, uninhibited flirt with unexpected depths.
Vogel steers clear of schlock and schmaltz, stripping his characters to their more-or-less lovable essences while revealing what seems a hopeful, even sunny view of human nature. It’s a refreshing dose of positivity in a city blindsided by recent realities.
Malka (Amanda Kristin Nichols), a 35-year-old facility employee, scrounges to support herself and her young son by earning extra money giving off-the-books shoulder massages to whiny, randy old resident Chet (Brad Bellamy). Malka is a wonderful creation who has the proverbial heart of gold – and hers gets a crush on old Jack. Nichols does a marvelously focused seriocomic job with the juicy and appealing role, Russian accent and all.
Lowe makes us root for touchy, repressed Larry, whose lifelong failure to live up to his father’s expectations will ring so widely true. Fizzily independent Violet surprises herself by genuinely falling for Jack, so that when their happy future turns out to be not so assured, it’s a crushing sequence, as Jack has become so memorably endearing.
Even Chet, always feeling threatened and cheated, merits sympathy in Bellamy’s funny, sincere portrayal. He reminds us that while a blossoming old age is possible for some, others never rid themselves of their accrued anxieties and resentments. Without that bit of balance, the story as a whole might have acquired a slightly treacly taste.
The script also digs into Jack and Larry’s family drama. Even as Violet romances him, Jack carries a photo of his late wife – but it’s from their wedding, before innocent hopefulness gave way to a half-century-long passionless marriage.
When Malka calls Jack “youthful” it’s a poignant reminder of how much of life he’d sacrificed over all that time.
In a last confrontation with his father, Larry pulls out the heavy weaponry: “You were never warm and you didn’t do shit with us.” That is, indeed, the Jack we met in the opening scene, when the “true” Jack was still as locked up and frustrated as his apparently socially inept son.
A good deal of credit must also go to director Donald Brenner for drawing out such strongly convincing performances. And Fan Zhang’s costuming is dead-on for these New York “types,” who quickly become fully rounded human beings in this warm-hearted but coolly observed comedy.
Senior Moment runs through Dec. 4 at Theatre Row’s Lion Theatre. Tickets and information are available online, or for tickets call 212-239-6200.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Trump’s Victory Sends a Chill Through Restaurants

Immigration enforcement agents recently swooped down on a small restaurant in Buffalo and arrested Sergio Mucino, the owner of La Divina, a Mexican market and taco counter. Mucino was charged with housing workers who are in the country illegally in residences around Buffalo, transporting them to jobs at his restaurants and paying them off the books, according to The New York Times.

Immigrant groups fear such raids will be more common under a President Donald Trump, who vowed to deport 11 million immigrants here illegally.

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has said that if Trump follows through, “Every restaurant in America would shut down.” He calls immigrant workers the “backbone of the industry.”

Earlier this year, soon after Vetri Family Restaurants in Philadelphia were acquired by Urban Outfitters, employees were put through the screening process E-Verify, which certifies a worker’s legal status. As a result, 30 employees were terminated.

“It just sucks,” former owner Marc Vetri told Philly Magazine. “You have second- and third-generation immigrants who have raised families here, and there’s still no real road for them to get legal.”

A tough but fair immigration reform bill would offer such a path, but hopes for that seem dim. Many are waiting to see whether raids such as the one in Buffalo are a preview of things to come.

But it’s not just Latino workers here illegally who are worried. In NYC’s Chinatown, agencies with names like Successful Restaurant Employment Agency screen a steady stream of potential Chinese restaurant employees.

“There are only three jobs a Chinese immigrant can get without papers,” a woman from Beijing told The New Yorker. “You can get work in a massage parlor, you can work doing nails, or you can work in a restaurant.”

Tom Bauerle, a conservative-radio talk-show host in Buffalo, told the Times many of his callers strongly supported the actions of the agents who raided Mucino’s Mexican restaurants.

“At the same time,” Bauerle added, “they are disappointed because apparently these places made awesome tacos.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment