Jun 30, 2023

How Old Is This Guy?

BBC Two (1981)
This is the last day that I'm going to be able to make this reference, so I've got to take advantage of it.

Jun 29, 2023

Uncle Charlie Night

Wednesday, June 28, 2023
Results: Red Wings defeated Iron Pigs7-6

My wife gave me an amazing early birthday present.  The Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, who are the Triple A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, invited Charlie Manuel to the ballpark for last night's game against the Rochester Red Wings.  They also had a VIP package that included a ticket to the game, an Iron Pigs Hawaiian shirt (which was the giveaway that night), an Iron Pigs baseball, and the opportunity to meet Mr. Manuel before the game.  I can't begin to explain how happy this made me.  If you told me that you could arrange it so that I could meet any one person from the Philadelphia Phillies that I wanted, my answer would have come with zero hesitation: Charlie Manuel

(left) 1970 Topps - Card #194
(right) 1976 SSPC - Card #86

If you told me that you could arrange it so that I could meet any one person from the Philadelphia Phillies that I wanted, my answer would have come with zero hesitation: Charlie Manuel.  He played for the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969 to 1975 before going on to have one of the best careers of any American to play in Japan.

1979 TCMA Japan - Card #44

He helped lead the Yakult Swallows to their first championship in franchise history before moving on to play for the Kintetsu Buffaloes.  He finished his first season with the Buffaloes with a .324 batting average with 37 home runs and 94 RBI and was the first American player to be named the Pacific League MVP.

1985 TCMA Orlando Twins - Card #22

Injuries cut his playing career short and he returned to the United States where he began his post-playing career as a scout for the Minnesota Twins.  He took on his first job as a manager for their Single A affiliate Wisconsin Rapids Twins in 1983, and he continued to manage for minor league teams in the Twins organization for the next five years.

(left) 1991 Line Drive - Card #99
(center) 1993 Fleer ProCards - Card #559
(right) 2002 Topps - Card #301

In 1988, Charlie Manuel was hired by the Cleveland Indians, and for the next 11 seasons, he went back and forth between working at the MLB level as the Indians hitting coach and as a manager for their Triple A affiliates in Colorado Springs and Charlotte.  The Cleveland Indians named him as their manager in 2000 giving him his first taste of managing in the big leagues, and he led the team to the AL Central Division Title the following season.

Charlie was brought into the Phillies organization in 2004 and became the team's manager in 2005.  In his third season managing in Philadelphia, he led the team to the NL East Division Championship.  The following season, he led the Phillies to their second World Series Championship in franchise history.  I still remember that season like it was yesterday.  I never had as much fun as a baseball fan as I did during the Charlie Manuel years in Philadelphia.

Charlie Manuel signed autographs for fans who attended the meet-and-greet prior to last night's game in Lehigh Valley.  Since my wife and I both went, he signed two baseball for us and we gave one to my dad.  Don't get me wrong with what I'm about to say.  I'm very happy to have his autograph, and I will treasure this baseball for as long as I live, but the real value in this experience is that I had the opportunity to shake the man's hand and thank him for some of the happiest memories I've ever had as a Phillies fan.  This baseball isn't a collectible or a piece of sports memorabilia... it's a memory of the time that I got to meet one of my baseball heroes who I respect and admire, and I'm happy to say that he was every bit as kind and genuine in person as he seemed to me when I'd watch him during the games, and in the post-game interviews, and when he'd talk about the science of hitting.  I honestly never expected to have the opportunity to meet him, and I'm very thankful that I did.

A less emotionally charged perk of the VIP package is that our tickets were each loaded with $20 of credit that could be used at the concession stands.  I had the Porker Pierogi Bowl from the Blast Furnace Grill.  It was a dish of pierogies topped with pulled pork, coleslaw and bacon, and a bucket of crab fries from Chickie's & Pete's.

And, of course, there was a ballgame!  I don't care how old I get - I always turn into a little boy at the ballpark.  You know that if I'm lucky enough to live to an old age, I'm going to be one of those old men at the ballpark who tells younger fans about the time I saw Pedro Martinez pitch for the Phillies against the Mets.

Charlie Manuel threw out the first pitch, and I'm pretty sure that he stayed for the entire game.

The Iron Pigs lineup featured a lot of players that were very recently in the big leagues with the Phillies.  Right handed pitcher Nick Nelson, who pitched over 68 innings out of the bullpen for the 2022 National League Champions, started the game.  He went six innings, but got roughed up by the Red Wings, giving up five runs on 8 hits, including a pair of two run homers to Franmil Reyes in the top of the 1st and to Blake Rutherford in the top of the 3rd.

Luis Ortiz relieved Nelson in the 7th and pitched a clean inning.  The Phillies claimed him off of waivers from the Giants over the winter, and he was effective in nine games in Philadelphia this season, pitching to a 3.46 ERA and earning his first MLB save on June 13th.  The Phillies sent him back to Lehigh Valley four days later, but I expect that we'll see him back in the big leagues later this year.

Andrew Bellatti pitched a scoreless 8th inning for the Iron Pigs.  He was pitching out of the Phillies bullpen for the first month and a half of the season, but he's been pitching in Triple A since the third week in May.  Ben Bowden came on to pitch the 9th, but before I get into that, let's talk about the Iron Pigs offense for a bit.

The Iron Pigs got on the board in the bottom of the 3rd on a Darick Hall solo home run.  The next inning, Cal Stevenson hit a ground ball to shortstop that scored Simón Muzziotti from third to bring the score to 5-2.  The Iron Pigs tied the game at 5-5 before the fourth inning was over, with Weston Wilson hitting a two run single, and Darick Hall hitting a single to center field that scored Jake Cave from third base.

The score remained tied at 5-5 until the top of the 9th.  Red Wings right fielder Blake Rutherford came back to haunt the Iron Pigs again with a two RBI single off of Ben Bowden to put Rochester up 7-5.  It looked like Lehigh Valley had a chance to come back to win in the bottom of the 9th.  Weston Wilson reached first base on an error, and Darick Hall hit an RBI single to bring the score to 7-6 with no outs.  Unfortunately, Drew Ellis struck out, Simón Muzziotti flied out, and Rafael Marchan struck out to end the ballgame.

Well, you can't win 'em all, but it was an excellent game.  The Iron Pigs managed to come from a 5-0 defect to tie the game, and although they lost the lead in the top of the 9th, they made it interesting at the end.

Click To Enlarge

Jun 28, 2023

That's A Big Freakin' Slice

Lorenzo and Sons Pizza
Philadelphia, PA
I'm told that a "Philly Taco" is when you wrap one of these around a cheesesteak.  Believe me... it's tempting, but even I have to draw the line somewhere.

Jun 27, 2023

See You At The Party

Total Recall
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
This is a movie that premiered in theaters a month before my tenth birthday, but I didn't get around to seeing it until I worked at Blowout Video when I was a teenager.  I'm not sure why, but I've only watched it maybe two or three times in the years since I first saw it, and I've grown to appreciate it more each time.  Getting to see a 35mm print of it projected on the big screen at the Mahoning takes this movie to another level.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

Total Recall doesn't get nearly as much credit as it deserves.  It tends to get lumped in with the action/sci-fi flicks of the 80's and 90's, but it's more than that.  There's a pretty heavy social commentary going on, but it's coated in humor so effectively that it takes a few viewings before you can really appreciate the world that they're showing to you, and the story has a psychological thriller slant that was many years ahead of its time... like a blending of the elements that made Robocop, Starship Troopers and Inception great.

Jun 26, 2023

Showtime At Sundown

Showtime At Sundown
Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company (2022)
Last season, the Mahoning Drive-In Theater partnered with the Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company to produce a lager that they describe as a throwback beer with a light malty body, a hint of sweetness, and a dry finish.  It's brewed with 2-Row Malt, flaked rice, and corn sugar with a touch of Herkules and Tettnang hops.  It's called Showtime At Sundown.

Showtime At Sundown was announced in April 2022.  It was introduced at the Mahoning on a weekend last season that we weren't able to make it out to, but the folks at Neshaminy Creek had a table set up on Friday.  We picked up a case which I split with my dad, and I tried it for the first time yesterday afternoon while we were watching the Phillies game and it's very good!

The can label for Showtime At Sundown is a work of art.  It shows folks sitting on top of their vehicles for Weekend Of Terror 3 at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater with the silhouette of Elliot flying his bike in front of the moon with ET in his basket.  They took a few creative liberties with the mountain range behind the screen, and I strongly advise that you do not sit on the roof of your car, but it's an incredible label nevertheless.

Jun 25, 2023

It's Saturday, I'm In Love

The Cure: Shows Of A Lost World tour
Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia, PA
For many years, The Cure have been at the top of my bucket list of bands that I wanted to see live in concert.  They haven't performed in Philadelphia since they played at the Spectrum over 15 years ago.  I was in college with very limited funds at the time, so I wasn't able to see them.  That feels like a lifetime ago at this point.  At the time, I figured that I'd be able to catch them next time they came to town, and next time finally came around last night at the venue that replaced the Spectrum.

Each stop on the Shows Of A Lost World tour has its own poster.  The poster for our show was designed by Matthew Jacobson in the style of the Rocky poster, and it is absolutely perfect.

Getting tickets to this show was a bit challenging.  The band was hell bent on stopping ticket scalpers from buying up the seats and price gouging the fans, so you had to enter a "verified fan" lottery and have your name picked just to have the opportunity to buy tickets.  They also took extra measures to prevent the tickets from this tour from being resold by anybody (including holding back on the delivery of the tickets until 72 hours before the show).

I understand why they came up with this policy, but I'm not convinced that it didn't do more harm than good.  For as much as I dislike ticket scalpers and the astronomical fees that they charge, they at least make tickets available without forcing me to take a day off work, drive to Philadelphia, and stand in line at the venue for hours like fans had to do in the 80's and 90's.  They charge a premium, but it's usually no more than I would have missed out on for taking the day off work, not to mention gas to the venue and back, plus the time it would take me to stand around waiting and hoping that decent seats would still be available by the time I got to the box office.

My name wasn't picked in the first round, but I was put on a waiting list of fans who would have an opportunity to buy whatever was left over after the fans who won the lottery had purchased theirs.  As it turned out, the best tickets that were available were in the nosebleed seats - the second to last row in the entire venue.  Just to put this in context, there was a kid sitting in the row in front of us who couldn't have been more than 12 years old who was afraid of heights and had a full on panic attack when he and his family got to their seats.  One of his relatives had to take him back to the concourse before the opening act took the stage, and we didn't see him for the rest of the show.

I don't mind sitting in the cheap seats, especially if they're in the center like our seats were, but these tickets were certainly not cheap.  In fact, they were significantly more expensive than tickets that I had bought off of scalpers to see other bands on my bucket list over the past ten years.  So, long story short, ticket selling policies that may seem fan-friendly on the surface aren't necessarily all that they're cracked up to be.

We settled into our seats with plenty of time before the start of the opening act, so we naturally took a bunch of selfies and pictures of the venue.  The banners from the Philadelphia 76ers championship seasons, including their most recent NBA Championship and the only one to happen in my lifetime, the 1982-83 season.

The opening act was a band from Scotland called The Twilight Sad.  Their first album came out in 2007 and they've released five studio albums in all, but this was the first time that I've heard them.  They're pretty great!  I'm going to have to dig back into their catalog and hear more of what I've been missing.

The Cure took the stage at quarter to nine and performed 29 songs over nearly two and a half hours.  They were absolutely incredible, but I'm running short of time as I write this, so I'll update this paragraph later on this week.

Here are the setlists for The Twilight Sad and The Cure:

Jun 24, 2023

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back To The Drive-In

Screenwriter Spotlight: Jaws and The Jerk
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
Friday night's double feature at the drive-in may look like an odd pairing at first glance, but the 1975 thriller and the 1979 Steve Martin comedy flick do share one important fact in common: they were both the work of legendary screenwriter Carl Gottlieb.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

The event was more than just a celebration of Mr. Gottlieb on the big screen because the man was there in person to meet fans, sign autographs, and tell stories about his time as a writer, director, and actor.  The list of projects that he's worked on is truly impressive.  He wrote for quite a few highly successful television shows, including The Smothers Brothers for which he won an Emmy in 1969.  He also wrote for The Bob Newhart Show, The Odd CoupleThe Dean Martin Comedy World, and The Flip Wilson Show, among many other shows.  He appeared on screen as one of the actors, both in shows that he has written for, as well as several shows and movies that he isn't credited as having written for, including M*A*S*H, Baretta, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, The Long Goodbye, Cannonball, and Clueless.

In 1975, Mr. Gottlieb crossed over from television to movies as the screenwriter for Jaws, which became the highest grossing movie of all time until it was overtaken by Star Wars.  He also wrote Jaws 2 and Jaws 3-D, as well as the 1977 Richard Pryor comedy Which Way Is Up, and the 1983 Dan Aykroyd comedy Doctor Detroit.  He also wrote and directed the 1981 comedy starring The Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, Caveman.

Mr. Gottlieb also wrote several books, including the one that was the subject of our book club meeting before Friday night's double feature: The Jaws Log.  It's a detailed account of the making of the film which was written and published in 1975, and its a fascinating read for anyone who is a fan of Jaws or of movies in general.  It has sold over two million copies since it was published and has had several expanded and anniversary editions released in the 48 years since it first hit store shelves.

In the weeks leading up to the event, Sandy mentioned that Mr. Gottlieb might have a moment to pop in to our book club meeting to say hello and maybe answer a question or two about The Jaws Log.  What I didn't expect is that he would spend the entire hour with us, not only to talk about his book, but to share stories about his time working on Jaws and on other projects.  He even took a moment to speak about the tragedy of the OceanGate exploration of the Titanic that has been in the news for most of the week.  Mr. Gottlieb is an incredibly kind man and was extremely interesting to speak with.  His memory at 85 years old is far superior than what mine is at age 42.

I can't begin to express how incredible of an experience this was for my wife and I.  Jaws is one of our favorite movies.  We've watched it so many times that I think both of us know every word of it, and rarely a week goes by where we don't make a reference to it to each other.  Being able to not only meet the man who wrote the movie, but for him to take an hour to sit down and chat with us about it just a few hours before we got to see it projected from 35mm at the drive-in is an experience that I will never forget.

We ended up taking a few photos with Mr. Gottlieb, and I couldn't decide which one I liked more, so here are both of them.  The first one was before our book club meeting in the projection booth (the one on the right).  He had come early to meet fans and take photos sitting in front of the Simplex projectors that would be showing his movie, with the 35mm film canisters from the film on the floor next to him.

Later on in the day after our book club meeting, we stood in line to ask Mr. Gottlieb to sign our book.  Our friend Louie, who volunteers at the drive-in, was taking photos of fans with the writer after he signed their book.  I said I had already taken a photo, but Louie said "naaw, go ahead!", so that's how we ended up with the second picture.

Here is the book that Mr. Gottlieb signed for us.  It's the same one that Angie ordered and read for our book club meeting.  I ordered one too so that we could both read it at the same time, but it seemed greedy to me to ask him to sign my copy of the book too, so we asked him to sign this one to the two of us.  We're getting quite an impressive collection of signed books since we became regulars at the Mahoning

Another special guest on the lot last night was the Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company with two of their IPAs: a beer with a Mahoning Drive-In Theater theme called Showtime At Sundown and a Jaws-inspired sour ale called Summer Dollars.  I bought a good amount of both.  Dad and I are going to crack open some Showtime At Sundown on Sunday, but I tried the Summer Dollars on the lot and it was very good.  I wish I had bought more of it.

There were a lot of folks who showed up to the lot in cosplay, while others decorated their car to celebrate Jaws.  The bottom photo is our friend Kate.  I mentioned her last month during The Muppets Take Mahoning when she and her husband surprised Angie and I with our own custom-made puppets.

The t-shirt for last night's event was designed by artist Tom Bifulco.  It was available in both blue and white, and as both a regular t-shirt and as a tank top.  I wanted to get a blue one, but I was a bit too late to get one in my size, so I'm the proud owner of a white t-shirt featuring Jaws gobbling up a bucket of popcorn, a cup of Moxie, and a 35mm film reel.

The special concession item was a beverage called the Shark Bite, which was a blue juice mixed with grenadine and some gummy shark candies.

Carl Gottlieb gave a nice introduction before the opening trailer reel, and he seemed to genuinely enjoy the fact that the entire lot honked their horns in appreciation for his film and for the fact that he joined us on the lot for its screening.  Next up was the trailer reel, which was comprised entirely of movies that Mr. Gottlieb had worked on throughout his career, and then a screening of a beautiful 35mm print of one of the most iconic movies of all time: Jaws.

In addition to having written the screenplay for Jaws, Mr. Gottlieb was one of the actors who appeared in the film.  He plays Amity Island reporter Harry Meadows, who serves as the right hand man of the mayor throughout the movie.  In several of the scenes when the mayor is arguing with Chief Brody, you'll see Meadows drop in lines like "It's happened before" when the mayor suggests that Chrissie Watkins was killed in a boating accident instead of a shark attack, and "We've never had that kind of trouble in these waters" when Chief Brody suggests closing down the beaches for public safety.  Mr. Gottlieb is the man in the center of the screen standing in front of the car behind the mayor in the picture of the screen above.

A short film called The Absent-Minded Waiter was shown between the two features.  The seven minute film was directed by Mr. Gottlieb and released in 1977.  It stars Steve Martin as the worst waiter, and it's pretty damn funny.  It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 1978.

The second half of the double feature was the 1979 comedy The Jerk.  It was written by Carl Gottlieb and directed by comedy legend Carl Reiner, and it features Steve Martin what I believe to be his first starring role in a full-length feature film.  Before I saw it last night at the drive-in, I had always thought that I watched this movie once before, but I think that I had it mixed up in my head with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels because I didn't recognize the movie at all as I was watching it.  It's a different kind of humor that you don't really see in movies these days so I don't know if I'd recommend it to everybody, but I thought it was very funny.

Mr. Gottlieb also appears on screen in The Jerk.  He's only on screen for a few seconds, but when you're cast as Iron Balls McGinty, you only need a few seconds to make an impact.

This was definitely a memorable night at the drive-in.  The rain held out during the screening of Jaws, so we were able to enjoy the movie from our camping chairs.  It drizzled a little bit during The Jerk, but it only lasted for a couple of minutes.  When you consider that they were calling for a 90% chance of thunderstorms all night, that's a win, and it helped contribute to another great night at the drive-in.