Category Archives: entertainment news

‘I may be old, but … ‘

A Facebook “memory” I posted this morning brings to mind a personal anecdote I want to share briefly on this blog.

The memory was this, from Feb. 10, 2013: Best bumper sticker of the day: “I may be old, but at least I saw all the cool bands.” You go, dude!

I am now 68 years of age. I graduated from high school in the Summer of Love, which would be 1967. My life took a dramatic turn the following year when I shipped out after being inducted into the U.S. Army.

It took yet another marvelous turn in 1971 when I married a girl who had appeared before my eyes, like a vision. The rest, as they say, is history.

But in 1965, I got to watch the all-time greatest rock ‘n roll band. It was the very first rock concert I ever attended. I tell folks that today and they are shocked and amazed, I tell ya. The Beatles came to my hometown of Portland, Ore., in August 1965. It was their second U.S. tour.

They played at the old Memorial Coliseum, built in 1960 at a cost of $8 million. When it opened, the “Glass Palace,” as it was called then, was considered a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue. These days, you can’t repair the plumbing in such a venue for what it cost to build the Memorial Coliseum.

John, Paul, George and Ringo came to Portland back then. They played in front of a hysterical crowd of about 10,000 fans at the Coliseum. My sister and I sat at the center of the front row.

My most vivid memory of that event isn’t so much the music The Beatles played. It is the brevity of the event. They played 10 songs. The “concert,” if you want to call it that, lasted about 30 minutes.

They came onstage, they hooked up their instruments, played some songs and then were gone. Poof! Just like that.

I’ve been able over the years to see many more such events. The Association, Toto, the Doobie Brothers, the Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, the Beach Boys, the Monkees, the Grassroots. I’ve seen some others. Those just stand out.

Oh yes, I also saw Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney perform solo shows long after The Beatles broke apart.

Yes, we Baby Boomers got to see some “cool bands.”

Rock on, y’all!

MPEV ground broken; city bolts toward brighter future

A crowd of about 200 or 300 folks came today to a vacant lot across from Amarillo City Hall. There was some back-slapping, congratulatory wishes and plenty of smiles to be seen.

And for a very good reason.

They broke ground today on a $45 million entertainment venue — aka The Ballpark — that is likely to help lead downtown Amarillo toward a future that few of us thought was possible.

I do believe the future is a bright one.

The multipurpose event venue has been called a “catalyst” that would spark downtown Amarillo’s revival and rebirth. They lit that catalyst this afternoon. May the spark now light an economic fire.

City officials welcomed executives from the Elmore Group, owners of the new AA minor-league baseball team that will play ball at the MPEV when it’s done, no later than April 2019. Elmore execs declared their intention to make Amarillo the nation’s top minor-league baseball city.

Given the hope and optimism I witnessed today under a bright winter sun, I have a hunch many of those in attendance today believe that high-minded goal is well within reach. I hope it comes true.

I am acutely aware that a big crowd at a ceremonial groundbreaking doesn’t guarantee success. Construction has to proceed quickly. It should be done at or under budget.

The MPEV will need to open with lots of people sitting in its seats to watch the baseball team that is moving here from San Antonio. Many high-profile supporters of the MPEV — and I can cite retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney as one of them — have contended that Amarillo is a “good baseball town.” We will determine the legitimacy of that claim in due course.

The catalyst also is slated to bring more business into the downtown district. It will help fill a shiny new hotel and a parking garage across the street from the Civic Center. It also might become a good promotional tool for the city to lure more convention business, which will bring presumably deep-pocketed visitors to Amarillo.

That’s all in the immediate future for a city that has embarked on a serious makeover of its central business district.

Today, they broke ground on the next big step on the city’s journey toward a brighter future.

Now … let’s get busy.

Porn queen playing media as fools

I have a suggestion for these talk show hosts who are inviting porn actress Stormy Daniels to their shows.

Disinvite her.

Or at least disinvite her until she decides to stop playing these stupid mind games with the American public.

It has been reported that Daniels allegedly engaged in a sexual relationship in 2006 with Donald J. Trump, who at the time was newly married to his third wife, the first lady of the United States. The talk show hosts ask her: Did you have an affair with the future president of the United States? She dummies up.

It also has been reported that Trump paid her $130,000 to be quiet about the affair. The hosts ask her: Did you get hush money from Trump?

Again … she ain’t talking.

My question is this: What the hell is the point of bringing this individual to your show if she’s going to play footsie with the questioners?

Tom Hanks: Man of many IDs

Tom Hanks has become the go-to actor to portray historical — even iconic — figures.

I heard today he’s been cast in the role of Fred “Mister” Rogers in a new biopic that tells the story of how the late Presbyterian minister rose to fame as a children’s storyteller.

It’s clear to me that Hanks has emerged as the preeminent male actor of our time, or perhaps of any time.

Look at the record.

The guy has won two best-actor Oscars. Back to back!

Get a load of this, too: He’s portrayed the late U.S. Rep. Charles Wilson, with whom I became acquainted while covering him in East Texas; Chesley “Sulley” Sullenberger, the “hero of the Hudson River,” the jetliner captain who made that astonishing landing in New York — on the water; the late Ben Bradlee, the famed editor of The Washington Post; Jim Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13, the space flight known for the dramatic rescue of the three-man crew after an in-flight explosion on its way to the moon.

I spoke with Rep. Wilson not long after the 9/11 attack. I called him for some perspective on al-Qaeda, given that he worked to supply arms to the mujahadeen in their fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Wilson was damn-near giddy at the news that Tom Hanks had agreed to portray “Good Time Charlie” in the film titled “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

I never met Bradlee and I don’t know Lovell or Sulley.

Still … I give Hanks huge props for landing this opportunity to portray yet another American icon.

I am sure Mister Rogers would applaud this bit of casting.

Downtown recovering much of its past glory

I watched as my friend Beth Duke was beaming the other day while she discussed the progress being made along Polk Street in downtown Amarillo, Texas.

Duke, executive director of Center City of Amarillo, has been at the forefront of Amarillo’s downtown resurgence. She was telling a TV news reporter about the planned opening of a number of new eateries coming into the central business district.

It is occurring to me that what used to be known as the “business district” is about to become the city’s “entertainment district.”

And yet …

I keep hearing the muted rumblings of discontent from some Amarillo residents about he progress that’s occurring in the heart of a city that is on the cusp of achieving the 200,000-resident mark.

Some businesses are moving around, relocating along Polk Street. The city also is welcoming a number of new establishments.

Polk Street, where teenagers used to “cruise” back in the day, is being given new life. It’s no longer the retail corridor it used to be during the day. Instead, it will become a magnet for nightlife.

It’s all part of of a municipal long-range strategic plan, according to Duke, who has brought a unique blend of enthusiasm and deep knowledge of the players who can breathe life into a community where she was born and has spent the vast bulk of her adult life.

And while Polk Street is undergoing its extreme makeover, so is the block on which City Hall sits.

If you look south from City Hall’s front door you see a lot of dirt being moved around. Crews are leveling the property that once contained the Coca-Cola Distribution Center, which was demolished and relocated to a business park at the northeast corner of the city.

Construction will begin very soon on the multipurpose event venue, aka “The Ballpark.” The MPEV doesn’t yet have a name. It will have a significant new tenant by the spring of 2019. It will be a AA baseball franchise that’s moving here from San Antonio. They’re going to play hardball at the MPEV/Ballpark.

What’s more, that storefronts being developed along Polk Street will be bustling with activity.

My wife and I likely won’t around when they throw out the first pitch at the MPEV. We will have relocated to an unknown destination in North Texas. However, we are going to remember how downtown looked when we arrived here in early 1995 and we will compare that desolate memory with what we’re witnessing these days.

What I see happening today are the signs of progress that, to be candid, I didn’t foresee when we first laid eyes on Amarillo more than two decades ago.

I am delighted to the max at what we’re seeing.

I also am proud of my friend Beth Duke, who has witnessed — and played a key role — in the rebirth of her hometown’s central business/entertainment district.

Again I ask: How in the world can we gripe about that?

It was 20 years ago … Oprah won a big victory

Now that we’re all agog over Oprah Winfrey and whether she’ll run for president of the United States — which I hope doesn’t happen — let’s flash back for a moment when the media mogul came to the Texas Panhandle for an extended stay.

Oprah had gotten herself sued by Texas cattlemen over remarks she and others made on her TV talk show. She had an animal rights activist on her show in the spring of 1996 talking about bovine spongiform encephalopathy, aka Mad Cow Disease, suggesting that improperly cooked beef could lead to the potentially fatal disease.

That’s it, Oprah blurted. She said the discussion “has just stopped me cold from eating another burger. I’m stopped.”

The cattlemen, led by legendary Panhandle cattle baron Paul Engler, were furious. So was then-Texas Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry. Engler ended up suing Winfrey. He took her to federal court right here in Amarillo, Texas.

Oprah decided to move her TV show here, too. She rented the Amarillo Little Theater, had it redone to suit her show’s format. She played to packed houses every night after sitting in a courtroom all day — for weeks on end!

The Texas Tribune reports that the community was “split” about the trial and the reason for the lawsuit. Some folks thought the remarks on TV were out of line, according to the Tribune. Others applauded Oprah, given her high public standing in the community at large.

My recollection at the time was that Amarillo opened its arms to Winfrey and her staff. Her show was immensely popular among those who wanted to see it in person at the ALT. I heard stories about how phone lines choked up and damn near croaked with heavy call loads from people looking for tickets. I heard one anecdotal story about how someone called his or her family in the Dakotas, who then called the ALT for ticket information — because the the local caller couldn’t get a call through to the theater office.

Well, Oprah won a victory. The federal court jury dismissed the lawsuit. She stood in front of the courthouse in early 1998  in downtown Amarillo and cheered her hard-won — and deserved — courthouse victory.

Oprah Winfrey likely would have rather spent her time elsewhere than in Amarillo two decades ago defending herself in a lawsuit brought by some cranky cattlemen. My recollection, though, is that she was treated like the TV royalty she was at the time.

She won many more friends than foes here. Those were the days …

Celebrity candidates for POTUS?

Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States has ushered in a new era in American politics.

It’s the Era of Celebrity Candidates.

The latest such celeb to rise to the top is none other than Oprah Winfrey, who brought ’em to their feet Sunday night at the Golden Globes award show. Her fellow entertainers are all agog at the prospect of Oprah running for president against the incumbent.

Indeed, Trump once told talk show host Larry King that Oprah Winfrey would be his ideal running mate. In 1999, Trump called Winfrey a “very special woman,” “really fantastic.” Do you think he’d say the same thing now? Don’t answer that.

More celebrities set to run for POTUS? Oh, please

I’ve heard the names of other celebrities mentioned. The actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and singer and celebrity husband Kanye West to name just three. Doesn’t just make your heart start fluttering? Me, neither.

Trump’s election brought the country to a new threshold. It teaches us that anyone can be elected president. I mean, if someone with no understanding of government, or any interest in learning about it, or someone with the load of personal baggage that Trump packed around can get elected, then anyone can.

Has the president’s election in 2016 unleashed a horde of celebrities who want to follow his footsteps into the Oval Office.

I sincerely hope we can catch our breath long enough to ponder whether any such candidate has what it takes to do the most difficult job on Earth.

The current celebrity officeholder keeps demonstrating — at least to yours truly’s mind — that he is not up to the task.

Oprah in 2020? Umm, no thank you

Oprah Winfrey has just elevated herself into the discussion of possible presidential candidates for 2020.

I want to douse this notion with a tanker full of cold water.

Do not do this, Oprah!

The talk-show queen/billionaire businesswoman/partisan activist brought the house down Sunday night at the Golden Globe award ceremony. No more “me too!” she bellowed. Men who abuse women no longer will be tolerated, she exclaimed. Their time is up, she said.

Some pundits suggest that was the start of her campaign for president. I am presuming she would run as a Democrat.

Pleeeaase! No!

The United States of America already has elected someone with zero political experience. Donald Trump parlayed a successful real estate career into a successful reality TV show, when then led to his successful presidential campaign in 2016. He has spent his entire professional life for one purpose only: personal enrichment. He has succeeded. Trump then managed to persuade enough voters in battleground states that he was the man for the job.

Trump has demonstrated what we’ve all thought, which is that “anyone can be elected president.” I do not want just anyone to hold the nation’s highest, most exalted public office.

I am kind of old-fashioned in this regard. I want my president to take office with at least some semblance of government/public service experience. Trump had none of it. His lack of government experience — let alone knowledge of government– has been shown repeatedly during his first year in office.

What in the world does Oprah Winfrey bring to this discussion? Nothing of substance. Not a single thing.

She is an iconic figure to millions of Americans. Winfrey didn’t inherit any of her parents’ money to get started. She worked her way to uber-wealthy status on her own. She was abused as a girl. She came from poverty. Winfrey is a commendable celebrity.

However, she is a celebrity. Winfrey stands on a platform from which she can bring change. She is no more qualified than Donald J. Trump to become commander in chief, the head of state, head of government and leader of the Free World.

One more time: Don’t run for president, Oprah.

An R-rated Christmas movie? Really?

I just witnessed a TV trailer for a film the announcer called a “Christmas comedy.”

It’s titled “Father Figures.” Then I was jolted a bit when I saw the text on the TV screen that told me the film is R-rated. That’s one step removed from NC-17, which used to be called “X-rated.”

I asked my wife, “Isn’t it a bit ironic for a Christmas movie to be rated R?” She believes as I do. Yes. It is ironic, indeed.

It’s also a bit weird.

I remember watching “The King’s Speech,” the Oscar-winning film that depicted Britain’s King George VI — portrayed by Colin Firth — struggling to cope with a debilitating stutter. That film was R-rated, too. As I watched the film, I kept wondering, why is this film R-rated?

Then came this scene in which the king started blurting out a stream-of-conscience rapid-fire barrage of “F-bombs” as he sought to cure himself of the stammer. Right there. That’s it. That scene turned “The King’s Speech” into an R-rated masterpiece. It was hilarious to boot!

How, though, do filmmakers turn a Christmas movie into an R-rated piece of art? Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen “Die Hard,” which some folks consider a Christmas movie as well. NYPD Officer John McClane blurts out an F-bomb or two in that one, too. I don’t know that promos called it a “Christmas movie” at the time of its release.

This one, “Father Figures,” puzzles me. I don’t know how a “Christmas movie” — released during this holy holiday — can carry an R rating. Someone help me understand.

Build the ballpark, the stores will come

I got a glimpse of a headline on Amarillo.com that reveals how the retail space in the newly built parking garage on Buchanan Street in downtown Amarillo likely will remain empty for the foreseeable future.

I couldn’t read the whole story because the pay wall popped up; since I don’t subscribe to the Amarillo Globe-News, I couldn’t read it.

The retail spots are going to remain empty until the ballpark gets closer to completion, which is about all I could see of the story.

I am reminded of the line from “A Field of Dreams,” where the Kevin Costner character is told, “If you build it, they will come.”

So it well could be when they break ground on the multipurpose event venue, aka The Ballpark. The MPEV is taking shape as a sort of “field of dreams” for city, business and civic leaders who consider the project to be the gateway to a brighter future for Amarillo.

I happen to agree with that view.

Thus, it doesn’t worry me in the least that the garage’s ground floor row of retail space will remain empty for the time being. It makes sense.

Why install an establishment that won’t reap the reward until after the MPEV is open for business and attracting crowds into the downtown business/entertainment district?

If that’s the prevailing theory, then it makes perfect sense to yours truly.

I remain optimistic — and you can remove the “cautiously” qualifier from that description — about the future of the MPEV and its impact on Amarillo.

The Local Government Corp. has negotiated a deal to bring a AA minor-league baseball franchise to the city. They’ll break ground soon on the MPEV. It will open no later than April 2019, just in time for some hardball to be played.

The MPEV will be built. I remain quite confident that the retailers will come.