Big Weekend

Big weekend, blasting "The Sound of Music" and that darn Gretl. 

The revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's soaring musical concluded its Atlanta performances, part of a big stage tour, last evening. I was not in the cast. My lederhosen wept.

Anyway, that's what I'm telling the dry cleaner.

As you may know, a sincere, lifelong dream of mine has been to play the demanding role of Gretl, the teeniest of Von Trapps. I've fully confessed the quest, the craft, the whining like a little girl.

See: "The Sound of Mikey" | "Meanwhile..."

I was never extended so much as a phone call inviting me to audition. Thus, you know what that meant. No "Thank you, Mr. Durrett, nice gams."

I'm not getting any younger here, producers. You are forcing me into Plan B. I've written a sequel, "The Sound of Hip-Hop," wherein Gretl (Mike Durrett) and the kin kiddies (Some Fresh-Faced Brats) flee Austria to revolutionize Motown with popping, locking, and B-boying. Feel da funk. Word. Edelweiss.

Then, stardom in my claws, I'll mount "The Sound of Kabuki" with me as most honorable G. and kimonoed kiddie kin (Some Other Fresh-Faced Brats).

In the short term, however, I get livid when I think of this year's fruitless toil, the expense, the tappity-tappity-tappity-tappity-tappity-tappity-tap taps.

Even the elementary Botox® injections were for naught. At least, I have three months of pre-schooler pouty lips left to carry me through the indignation and appearances on GretaWire.

And now, seriously, before my blood pressure rises any higher, I need to go phone the pediatrician....


100 Things About Me #180

Spring Has Sprung
 I've been pondering the toys of childhood. One of the greats is the Slinky. 

The Slinky was a must-have item for me. I had to have a Slinky or I could not go on. It was as simple as that — and so be it.

I was presented my first Slinky, all silvery and metallic, on Christmas morn of Mikey's fourth or fifth year on the 1950s planet. It was a grand occasion and I immediately raced from our living room, up the ominous staircase to the second floor, and encouraged the virginal Slinky to "walk" down the steps, all the way to the bottom.

Metal slinky.Image via Wikipedia

Success! What a sight to behold! Bravo, Slinky!

I descended, grabbed the Slinky and toddled back up to do it all over again.


Then, I was done. As wonderful a toy as it is, Slinky is good for only about 90 seconds of enjoyment. I don't recall playing with the lovely gift ever again.

On a nostalgic whim, I purchased a colorful, plastic Slinky in 1992. I sent it down our steps once and crossed the springy coil over to the opposite hand and reversed the motion three or four times. I put the marvel into its carton and that was that.

I still own Slinky. Somewhere. Probably in a big mystery box in a closet.

I saw the toy in 1999, when we moved to our current home. I did not play with my Slinky. The 90 seconds of seven years prior continued to satiate me.

One moment.

Okay. I've huddled with myself. Sorry, Slink.

In a related memory from the titanic tot era, I fell down those early wooden steps in a nasty tumble.

Bump! Bump! Bump!

I instructed the survivors to dub me "Mlinky."

100 Things: #1 | Previous | Next


Joy Story 3

During "Toy Story 3" at the Fox, I found myself caught up in the sentimentality and nostalgia of the film for the playthings of our youth. It got me reminiscing about my favorite childhood toys. I can name the triumvirate, which provided hours upon hours of fun. I've written of Kenner's Give-A-Show Projector, so that leaves Pepsi and pickles.

"Pepsi Commercial 1960s" via YouTube

"Heinz Pickles Commercial 1960s" via YouTube


'Toy Stories 3'

All of these movie projection systems -- which to see? 

There are Disney Digital 3-D, Disney Digital 2-D, 35mm 2-D, and 70mm dual-strip IMAX 3-D. I didn't like any of them, so I made up my own. 

Not "Toy Story 3-D," but "Toy Story 3 2-D Déjà View": 

Swan Drive-in Theatre, Blue Ridge, Ga., June 2010

Fox Theatre, Atlanta, Ga., August 2010



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My Recent Confessions and Observations on Twitter, Where Everything Must Be Said in 140 Characters or Less 

Sheesh. This is why I don't drink. Usually. One little indiscretion and now I gotta marry the Hoveround Collapsible Grabber.

Monday. A strong sense of foreshadowing hovers over my week. My car is in the shop and our bananas are speckled.

@screencrave sez: "Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter to Close New York Film Fest" ... I didn't even know he was sick.

There's a big Revival underway down the road. They're trying to bring the church school fruit punch back to flavor.

Gov. Blagojevich is coming over. We're having a Moe-Off.

Just reflecting, I have been out of radio for three decades. Not once, not once have I missed Sugarloaf.

Why is it, as I age, my eyebrows get bigger? They're huge. They oscillate. They make a high, shrill noise. They're a '50s sci-fi movie....

Today's Quote: "You'll be glad you did." -- David Oreck

I've penciled in Errol Flynn films for Saturday. I like to see movies made before my birth and I changed the world.

"Apply to be a beta tester & get the first look at upcoming Facebook products." That means I'll be first to read who's "going to bed now."

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A Confederacy of Coincidences — And That Brings Us Back to Mo

Two weeks ago, it was my nice  fortune to be a projectionist on duty when we presented a rare showing of "The General" (1926) in the Atlanta Fox Theatre, accompanied with a live musical score performed on our powerful Moller pipe organ. Buster Keaton's classic Civil War comedy is based on the actual 1862 incident when Union soldiers and sympathizers stole a Confederate train, setting off a dangerous locomotive chase through Georgia.

I learned of "The General" booking in late spring, about the time my wife and I renewed our season tickets to Theatre in the Square, a small, professional venue producing plays in nearby Marietta, Ga. TITS, as we like to call it (Donna said it first! Donna said it first!), announced their line-up of shows, but I paid minimal notice. I get so much more out of theatregoing by not immersing myself in details of the productions in advance.

Sunday, 12 evenings after "The General," I found myself in our second row seats at Theatre in the Square, watching the world premiere of "Stealing Dixie," a gripping drama —

(One moment. Let me copy and paste this...)

— based on an actual 1862 incident when Union soldiers and sympathizers stole a Confederate train, setting off a dangerous locomotive chase through Georgia.

"Stealing Dixie" promo, Marietta.
I was bewildered. This largely unknown historical event provided the frameworks for two entertainments I was essentially summoned to attend less than a fortnight apart.

The coincidences continue.

Theatre in the Square is located one storefront away from the Marietta railroad tracks. Standing at the entrance, one can glimpse the former Kennesaw House, maybe 200 feet yonder. It was inside that building, depicted explicitly in "Stealing Dixie," where the Union men holed up the night before their crime. The boarding of The General, I assume, occurred mere yards away, too.

Western & Atlantic Railroad No. 3, The General on display in Kennesaw, Ga.

Until yesterday, the above material was enough of a weird story for me to ponder. Then, out of the blue, things took another turn.

Accomplished theatre organist and silent film enthusiast Dennis James uncovered my previous article on "The General" at The Fabulous Fox. He sent a note of kind remarks and shared his memories.

I had projected "The Phantom of the Opera" (1925) for one of Dennis' special Fox appearances, around 25 years ago. He was at the keys of the "Mighty Mo" organ, supporting the motion picture.

Dennis wrote:

I well remember our sellout screenings of Lon Chaney's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA over the years, and the TCM presented Erich von Stroheim THE MERRY WIDOW that we also recorded for the cable channel periodic broadcasts. What a house, what an organ!

I was pleased to hear from him and startled I had somehow missed his connection to "The Merry Widow." I had no idea he had provided the soundtrack, recorded at the very same Fox console. How did I miss this development? Turner Classic Movies, after all, is my second home. I practically live inside the channel.

I dropped what I was doing and immediately moused my way over to TCM.com. I would have TCM send me an Email Alert in advance of their next presentation of "The Merry Widow." They occasionally broadcast silent films. This one would be back around within a year or two.


What is going on here? "The Merry Widow," I read, was scheduled to be aired:

Tue, Aug 24, 2010 8:30 AM EDT

That was THIS morning, only 14 hours later.

Screen credits from "The Merry Widow" (1925), as seen on TV

I recorded the movie. Does the story end here?

I don't know because I seem to be back at the Fox. I'm going to enjoy running "The Merry Widow" on my television, but with one begrudging caveat. I should be paid to listen to the Fox organ, you know. I have always been paid to listen to the Fox organ, working there and all. It's what I do.

Play it again, Dennis....

Train photo courtesy Harvey Henkelmann.


Big Weekend

Big weekend, salivating over Pop-Tarts World. 

Pop-Tarts World has opened in New York City. I'd surely enjoy the thrill rides, but I don't care to "FASTEN YOUR FRUIT FILLINGS."

How dare they say that to me?


Photo courtesy of Diaper, Creative Commons license.


Sux and the Mikey, Too

Although the Fox Theatre marquee publicized the wrong film, we played "Sex and the City 2" recently to an appreciative, mostly female audience.

The afternoon before, the hostage me, the all-by-myself all-male audience, sat alone in the immense auditorium to observe the feature's Digital Cinema print during a technical run-through. Someone had to do it and that someone was Projector Boy.

I rue the day I mentioned I had liked a chick flick. Word got out and here I was, against my will, force-fed widescreen botox and wall-to-wall twatters (which are below-the-belt titters).

Not even slightly assuaged by my presence on the company payroll, I persevered, borderline horrified from the first frame of the picture until the final fade, trapped within an 146-minute "Eek!"

"Ohmigod, it's Liza Minnelli."

"Ohmigod, it's Liza Minnelli impersonators.

"Ohmigod, it's only the first reel."

"Ohmigod, they're being Beyoncé."

"Ohmigod, 'Single Ladies.'"

"Ohmigod, put a ring on it."

"Ohmigod, if you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it."

"Ohmigod, oh oh oh."

"Ohmigod, put a bazooka on it."

"Ohmigod, I'm thinking of doilies."

"Oh! My! God!"


'Singin'' 'n' the Train

ATLANTA, Ga. — After running Buster Keaton's locomotive "The General" (1926) for the lucky Fox Theatre throng, my projection partner and I stayed after hours to conduct a tech screening of "Singin' in the Rain" (1952), the next program in the 35mm summer film series.

Watching my favorite musical from the observation window, I was struck by how this night's unintended double feature is so perfect together. Each is one of the best comedies of its respective silent or sound eras, machinery propels both yarns, inventiveness is key, and rails play roles with either a train or a trolley. Furthermore, the plot of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's "Singin'" cleverly depicts Hollywood's growing pains, changing gears and moving moving pictures into the talkies era.

Gene Kelly dancing while singing the title song. Gene Kelly image via Wikipedia

I first experienced "Singin' in the Rain" at age 18, through the good fortune of my high school's film appreciation course. I was also, naturally, the class projectionist, enabling me to get my hands on the 16mm print a few days before the students' viewing. I had planned to screen a minute or two for grins, but the snowball effect kicked in and I rolled the entire film down to "The End."

What a superlative movie. I've seen it, perhaps, two dozens times in the intervening years and plan to collect a few more, preferably with large, appreciative audiences, a practice I shun with lesser attractions.

Here's a moment, one of the many exceptional musical numbers spanning "Singin' in the Rain." I recall being alone, slouched in the darkness of my school's auditorium, looking on as 26-year-old Donald O'Connor (who would portray The Great Stone Face in "The Buster Keaton Story") made 'em laugh and took my breath.

"Singin' in the Rain: Make 'Em Laugh" via Google Video


The General on 'The General'

It did me good to hear the boisterous cheers and laughter coming from the large audience during the Atlanta Fox presentation of Buster Keaton's "The General," an 84-year-old silent movie, "the number 18 greatest film of all time," according to the American Film Institute.

Clark Wilson, resident organist of the Ohio Theatre in Columbus, was the nimble guest performer at the keys of the powerful Mighty Mo. He accompanied the film with his rousing, tender, and patriotic musical score, weaving together appropriate melodies of The War Between the States period. I found the evening moving. I was proud and happy for Buster.

As a projectionist, "The General" was also excellent because we had no need for the usual, somewhat tedious regimen of sound checks and adjustments. Boys and girls, silents are our friends!

"Buster Keaton Performing Stunts in 'The General'" via YouTube


Big Weekend

Big weekend, brooding, beaming brooding to beaming brooders.

We finished the annual Fox Theatre summer film festival with a downtown Atlanta showing of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," but I was still miffed over the events of a few days prior when I drew the occupational short straw, requiring me to be the one to pre-screen the motion picture. We projectionists troubleshoot related technical issues through this practice in advance of the public attending a film.

People say to me, "Oh, you get paid to watch the movies!"

True. I do. And to those people, I say, "Ernest Scared Stupid."

Not having seen the first two episodes of the "Twilight" franchise, I was at a loss as to what was unfolding before the balcony — something hotsy about commingled, overly-coiffed vampires, werewolves, and Dakota Fannings.

When the bite fest concluded, I sprinted a few blocks down Peachtree to the nearby hospital emergency room for a precautionary blood test and a good, old-school leeching. I avoided looking in mirrors and serpentined to sidestep any aloft silver bullets.

For the record, the series of rabies shots to the gut were less painful than my required pre-screening of "Sex and the City 2."

Yeah, hotsy.



Follow Mike on Twitter

My Recent Confessions and Observations on Twitter, Where Everything Must Be Said in 140 Characters or Less 

As of today, I have acquired all 190 Three Stooges comedy shorts -- and is there a pie in this house? No! There! Is! Not!

Sharing some 3 Stooges love, @WH2H_Radio threw me a virtual pie, which my wife intercepted. I'm off to Virtual Divorce Court & Laundromat...

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is super. I, The Boy With the Dragon Breath, connected with it. I give it four Tic Tacs.

Judge ruled it's OK to lie about military service. You know, I was in the Navy to get the gravy & the Army, I got the beans.

Actual Headline: "Suspect wore fake breasts, clown pants" ... Some days, I am afraid to read the news....

Tonite's Movie: THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS (2009) was like staring at goats.

I need to correct a previous post. Full disclosure: Watching THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS was like staring at eyelids. The inside of eyelids.

Why I Do What I Do: Because I am the only person posting to my accounts, I always get to sit in The Legs Chair.

I believe my Bruce Willis Eau de Parfum is a knock-off. It has a hair in it.

Press Release: "An Evening with Garrison Keillor, Wednesday, Nov. 17," Atlanta. Well, that explains the loud snoring noise over N. GA today.

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Big Weekend

Big weekend, shepherding an intervention with Justin Bieber on pitfalls of the comb-over. 


Off the Wall

Saving Facebook: My Confessions: 

On International Intimate Apparel Week 

I'm going to need my tortoise suit back. Don't forget the wax snapper lips and turtleneck dickey.

On Snapshots

[Looking at] photos of my high school reunion, taken shortly before they threw me out of the A/V Club and yanked the loop on the back of my shirt.

I missed [out on other events] to attend my high school reunion, however I doubt I would have received the nine noogies.

On Current Events

Friend Ray
It's tough deciding which I care less about, Mel Gibson or Chelsea Clinton gettin' married! Guess I'll flip a coin.

If it lands on its edge, that means Lindsay Lohan.

On Our Mammoth Southwestern USA Vacation

Friend Jeremy
Glad to see the trip getting some web-site time. I hope Silt wasn't the most interesting place you went...

Silt, of course, was scintillating, but the other places were cute, too. I'll get around to writing on them. Time's in short supply this week though. Memories of Silt will carry me through. Be Silt my heart....

On Late-Night Television 

Who exactly is watching POKER AFTER DARK? Huh? TV card games? C'mon, MOONBAT PARCHEESI is much more action-packed.

Friend Mark
Maybe if they had an all-women STRIP POKER AFTER DARK version???

I prefer to play STRIP YAHTZEE. I never like to hear "no dice."


The Fox and the Cats

ATLANTA, Ga. — Yesterday, I was there at The Fab, working on computer files for several upcoming movie events.

At the end of the afternoon, we pair o' projectionists strolled through the empty auditorium, observing the quiet stage festooned with the trashy set from "Cats," the musical appearing that night in its umpteenth engagement at the theatre.

Cats: Complete Original Broadway Cast Recording
"Is this the national Broadway tour?" I asked my associate.

"Yes," he said.

"Good grief, this play has to have been on the road for more than 20 years! Are those poor cats using walkers with tinkle bells in 'em?"

Scott kept moving along the aisle through the orchestra seats.

"I bet Rum Tum Tugger is plum plum tuckered," I said. "Do they require orthopedic catnip? I think I smell Tabby Pampers."


"You are rather non-verbal."

"I don't want to be on the Internet."


We passed through the doorway to backstage. The unmistakable aroma of cats was in the air. I took keen interest in the placement of my feet.

"Is this play in English?" I asked.


"I'd come to see it if it were in Kitty."

"You mean, 'Meow, meow, meow?'"

Cats - The Musical (Commemorative Edition)
"Sure. I'd like to hear the show in its native tongue, with some vigorous yawns and implausible wild scampering not altered for the locals." I looked at the employees' time clock and punched out.

"Two hours to curtain," said a six-foot-tall cat stirring from a nap near a coil of rope. She flicked out her tongue with the precision of a switchblade and commenced to bathe before us, fluffing her coat and extended leg fur contortioned behind her neck and pointy ears. I was beginning to feel sympathy moist.

Another feline snooped about the Production Office. He wore street attire -- a big, black, rhinestone collar with "SKIMBLESHANKS" on it. I think there may have been a tattoo of The Aristocats in his tramp stamp region.

Amazingly, and absolutely true, he asked if we had a can opener.

Scott produced one, while I wondered, "Doesn't Fancy Feast have pop-tops?"

"Thanks, man," the mouser said, strutting away on two legs. "Down with IAMS!"

His declawed fist #4 was in the air with defiance. Then, I saw it.

A thumb!

Something was not right with these immensely overgrown, poetry-reciting pussycats. I phoned Animal Control, Homeland Security, and Blofeld.


Screen Fest

ATLANTA, Ga. — Stagehands remount and hang the movie screen at the Fox Theatre, days before the continuation of the summer film series.

Due to space demands of the larger Broadway tours to appear here, like the recently concluded "Phantom of the Opera," the vacationing screen, which prefers to hover overhead backstage, is sometimes dismantled and packed under the floorboards between flicks.

As a staff projectionist, I have the same deal. Thanks, my union!

In this photo, a few minutes after our presentation of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," the crew "flies" the screen up and away, and lowers the movie speakers, which sit on an elevator, to the basement until next time.

All of this is preparation for a live run of the musical with those human-sized "Cats." The stage will be cleared, ready and dreading the forthcoming fur ball mayhem.

And, yes, the orchestra pit will be lined and filled with kitty litter.



I am a movie projectionist.

During "Caddyshack," mysterious technical issues arose. People called me "crazy," but my suspicions were correct....

"Sabotage!" via YouTube

Caddyshack [Blu-ray]


'Caddy' Shock

One thing projectionists hate is for the movie sound to fail unexpectedly. During the "Caddyshack" show, we jumped hurdles in seconds and manually overrode the pesky system when it muted itself.

"What's going on here?" I asked my partner.

"The processor needs to reboot," he said, but I knew better.



Big Weekend

On the first evening of the film's release in 1969, 17-year-old me sat in the Fox Theatre's orchestra section to watch "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." I thought of my strong desire to operate the projectors in this movie palace, Atlanta's largest and finest. It was a personal goal and seemingly uncrackable.

More than four decades later, including 1978, the year I gained entrée, Butch and Sundance and the Fox and I reunited, with me looking on, all comfy from the projection room stool.

Big weekend.
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