In Tune with June
Dec 04, 2013 | 2993 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I was tickled by comedian and actor Jerry Stiller when he appeared on “Seinfeld” as George Castanza’s father. Just looking and listening to him made me laugh. So I followed him to another sitcom -- “The King of Queens” -- where he did his shtick as the irascible Arthur Spooner. I even enjoyed his barking bank commercial “What do you have in your wallet?” Some of you might remember the comedy team of Stiller and Meara with his wife Anne. Only recently I started to be interested in their offspring, Ben. I learned that he is directing and starring in a new movie which will open this Christmas. It’s the James Thurber 1938 tale, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” The marvelous Danny Kaye starred in the 1947 film. Now an ambitious $19 million film has been made from Thurber’s 2000-word story. That this is a regular guy whose life goes on inside of his head is easy to relate to. I suppose everybody feels like that at one time or another so it’s easy to connect to the idea that what is inside Mitty is trying to get out and that he is trying to become who he dreams he should be somehow. In an interview Ben Stiller said he was very nervous but happy about his film. His life has been, if not a real-life fantasy, a long distance from humdrum. He’s quoted as saying, “I like to think I can do good work and not at the expense of hurting myself and others.” Mom Anne Meara and dad Jerry Stiller must be proud.

Do you like to sing? Do you like to dance? I most certainly do and I know just the place where one is encouraged to do both. For a relaxing musical treat (and delicious food, too), Broadway Thai on West 51st Street in Manhattan is the answer. The music and the encouragement to participate even without a drink is provided by jazzy clarinetist/singer Rick Bogart. His trio is made up of piano, bass, and clarinet. The three fine musicians are happy to support eager participating members in the audience. The personable Rick Bogart happily interacts with all of them. An affable talented singer himself, he encourages dancing, too. Being at Broadway Thai becomes a most relaxing way to spend an evening -- as the song goes, “I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.” The leader has a mellow sound -- a unique vocal style presenting songs from the American Songbook. On my last visit he even inspired my friend, Ruth Preminger, to get up and perform a graceful solo dance until a few more of the ladies in the audience joined in. Of course, I, myself, don’t need any encouragement and I sang a few songs and even had an enjoyable duet with the talented Rick Bogart. And here’s an important plus. The owner of Broadway Thai, Joon, greets her customers with a smiling “hello” and a smiling “please come back soon.” Yes, we will!

There’s a painting hanging in one of the consulting rooms in Dr. Ellen Black’s office. It’s a Norman Rockwell print from 1958 called “Before the Shot” and it depicts the bare behind of an innocent young boy at the doctor’s office. Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) is, as you probably know, a twentieth century American painter and illustrator. I easily recall some of his 322 covers for “The Saturday Evening Post.” For my younger readers, that was a popular weekly magazine. Most of those covers depicted homey small-time America. I remember “Saying Grace” and “The Gossip.” The first showed a crowded restaurant with a boy and an old woman bowing their heads in prayer. “The Gossip” is a finger-wagging montage of friends, neighbors, and even the artist himself. “Breaking Home Ties” is an image of a fresh-faced boy leaving home for the first time. Most of Rockwell’s paintings are just as relevant now as when they were made. Recently an engaging yet somewhat sad biography of the artist filling in the partly-known life of America’s famous and popular illustrator has been published. Just in case you’re interested, the book by Deborah Solomon is titled “American Mirror.” As for me, I can’t understand why a new accounting, especially a sad one, was needed. Rockwell’s light-hearted visual story-telling is all that I need. His ordinary scenes and narrative content in my view is a legacy of 19th century painting. He depicted cheerful and upbeat images -- Boy Scouts instead of demons -- reflecting America’s brightest hope. If you can make the trip to Stockbridge, Mass., where the Norman Rockwell Museum is located, you can buy Rockwell Christmas ornaments before the 25th. I plan to buy one of his calendars because his pictures will keep me smiling for twelve months.

There are two television series -- one upsets me and one makes me laugh. The first is shockingly violent and as cold and hard as ice. It’s “Boardwalk Empire,” currently airing its fourth season and it has been renewed for a fifth. The program has received critical acclaim particularly for its visual style and the fact that it’s based on historical figures. Actor Steve Buscemi’s leading performance as “Nucky Thompson” has also received many accolades. The program’s hail of bullets and other sordid happenings upset me. I find it all moody and forbidding. However, I must admit that I’ve watched and cringed at every episode. Just in case you are not aware, “Boardwalk Empire” is a period drama series from HBO set in Atlantic City during the Prohibition Era. Still, covering my eyes at times, I’ll probably continue to watch because I’m counting on Nucky’s not being killed. As an antidote that somewhat eases the violence caused by the HBO series, I have discovered an ABC program that I’ve been late in getting to. “Modern Family” tells of Jay Britchett, his second wife, his stepson, and his two other children and their families. It flips among three story lines -- smart, nimble, and, best of all, funny while actually making a point about the evolving nature of what constitutes family. Like “Broadway Empire,” “Modern Family” has been renewed for a fifth season. This program is one big, straight, gay, multi-cultural, traditionally happy family played out with an outstanding ensemble cast. So, if you react the way I do, you can tune in the violence and then tune it out to get a laugh.

You can e-mail June Sturz at

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