Monday, November 2, 2015

Pheaturing Gary Gerani

Hey, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Monday. How are you?  Let's start with a story about a middle school that was put on lockdown because of one creepy man's love of Justin Bieber. A guy who just wanted to sing Justin Bieber songs into a microphone ended up terrifying Bieber's real fanbase: middle school students. Dunbar Middle School in West Virginia was put on lockdown... a scary, serious precaution... when a crazy dude burst into the school. "ABC West Virginia" described the incident, "On Tuesday morning, police said a man did enter the school and came into the main office while the morning announcements were being made. The man said he wanted to sing Justin Bieber songs to students." Students went on a precautionary lockdown before police could come to the scene. The aspiring singer was put in handcuffs, and taken to the hospital. This is what karaoke bars are for, man.  The "Titanic Cracker" is not just a hilarious thing to call Leonardo DiCaprio, it also refers to a real food item that unbelievably survived the sinking of the famous ship back in 1912. Someone who's probably not Billy Zane bought the 103 year old cracker for $23,000 at an auction in the U.K., where they call them biscuits. The Titanic Cracker is now the world's most expensive cracker, and it's not even gluten free. The Spillers & Bakers Pilot cracker was taken from the survival kit of one of Titanic's lifeboats by James Fenwick, a passenger and food hoarder, on the Carpathia. (Carpathia helped rescue Titanic passengers after the "unsinkable" ship hit an iceberg, causing the death of over 1,500 people.) Fenwick took the cracker and instead of shame-eating it, put it in an envelope labeled "Pilot biscuit from Titanic lifeboat April 1912." Dude must've been cutting carbs. The existence of this century-old cracker raises so many questions, like, why didn't bugs eat it? How'd they keep it from getting crushed? Why didn't Rose share the door with Jack? OH MY GOD, WHY THOUGH? Whatever the answers, one thing's for sure: The Titanic still captures the imaginations and wallets of many. Which is lucky for Fenwick's heirs, who are $23,000 richer. I bet they're glad he held on to the treasure and didn't just toss it overboard like some old people we know...  Forty-three year old Gregory White paid a steep price for stretching out his villainous balls on the New York City Subway's A train... he's going to jail. And lest you think New York has suddenly become a fascist police state, you're only half right. He's paying for crimes way worse than airing out his crotch in public. Early in the morning on October 28th, transit officers at Manhattan's Columbus Circle spotted White manspreading and were preparing to write him a ticket for disorderly conduct. In case you're behind on your train etiquette, manspreading is the practice of men (or women) stretching out their legs on public transportation, taking up more than one seat. Although it's always been an annoyance for any city overrun with commuters, in the past few years it has become a hot button issue on the Internet because of its implications for gender politics. Which makes White's case all the more symbolic. When the cops ran White's name through their computer to write his ticket, they found that he was wanted for the murder of his girlfriend, 58 year old Victoria Hammond. Hammond was found dead on January 24th in her Coney Island apartment, the victim of 24 stab wounds. White had been wanted for questioning since the incident, but had evaded police successfully for nine months. That is, until he unwisely decided to spread his junk. When White was brought to the station for questioning, where he admitted to the murder, but claimed he was acting in self-defense (once again, 24 stab wounds). After such a long wait, Hammond's family is relieved that someone will finally face trial for Victoria's murder. And they owe it all to Manspreading: The Misdemeanor That's Best at Identifying Who's Secretly a Felon®.  Okay, I have to tell you a story that made me laugh... A few nights ago, a bearded male passenger was seated on a plane next to a stranger that looked exactly like him. His wife's friend Lee Beattie, posted the picture of the man and his doppelg√§nger on Twitter. Check it out...

There are of course a few differences in features between these guys, but everything else down to the length of their ginger beards and how they part their hair is exactly alike. Even from the head shot it looks they share the same weight and frame. The magic of smart phones and social media now helps document these weird incidents. There's even a website that helps people find strangers that look exactly like themselves. It's great that everyone had a good time with this. Even another passenger a few rows back is enjoying the spectacle. But there was a wasted opportunity here! If you ever sit on a plane next to your twin stranger, say you're them from the future and that you have a dire warning about what happens after you land. Then inform them that they must follow your exact instructions once you depart the plane. At the airport, take them to one of those fancy Best Buy vending machines and have them buy you some sweet headphones. Not for leisure, but because they contain a part that you need for your time machine to return to the future.  Buffalo Sabres coach Dan Bylsma tossed a puck over the glass behind the bench during a recent game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The puck was intended for a cute little guy behind the Sabres bench, but instead it was intercepted by a demon or lesser imp from hell disguised in a human suit. At first, everyone assumed this grown man didn't notice the kid. But he totally noticed and knew exactly what he did, because he tucked the guilty proof in his pocket immediately. Fans watching the game from home immediately began tweeting at the Penguins, and they quickly went to work. The Penguins were absolutely on it, and they totally redeemed humanity by overloading the kid with fantastic (and expensive) NHL merchandise. It was hand-delivered by Iceburgh, the Penguins mascot.It worked out much better for the little Penguins fan in the end. He received hugs, fist-bumps, and even the chance to give high-fives to players as they come out from the locker room. As for the guy that snatched the puck, the other fans likely treated him to audible and profanity-laden insults for the rest of the game.  So, do you guys like video games as much as my son? There's a new game out called "Fallout 4," which I have no idea what it is, but someone for his hands on one and is very happy.

I think he's happy. Haha.  I have to show you this, workers in Nebraska I think it is put up this sign on the side of the road.

I think it's cool.  So, there's someone else running for President that I didn't know about.

I'd vote for him if I could.  So, people are talking about the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer not having Luke in it. He is in the trailer, and I have proof...

Hahahaha. That's brilliant.  I said yesterday I like to follow rules. If a sign says don't step on the grass then I won't do it. I am not a rule breaker. A bunch of you that know me pretty well are laughing right now. Anyway, here's another example of someone breaking a rule...

After Eight! My favorite chocolate! I used to get a box in my stocking every Christmas! I haven't had one of those in years. Now I need to go on a quest and find a box. My son is in town and we were talking about how we used to watch "Sesame Street" together. Now he's 15 he doesn't watch that show. It's a good thing as it's kinda different now. That's why I have a pheature called...

Bert is amazed that a drop from this height didn't tear Elmo's head off. Ernie just glad that they helped him hang himself.

That's so stupid. And now let's see who went Tango Uniform.

Fred Thompson 
August 19th, 1942 — November 1st, 2015
Yeah, yeah... he was a senator from Tennessee. But did you see his incredible portrayal of Bernie Oxbar in the 1991 blockbuster Curly Sue? He CRUSHED that.

This is an easy one. If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, it's fall, and in fall it's good to eat snacks. Ha. That's so stupid. Anyway, here's a pheature called...

This straw holder.

If you can resist peeling the tab off, that is. Okay, it's Monday and time to talk football with my good friend Jeff.

Me: Jeff, hey there. Congrats on your new book! How are you?

Jeff: It's always great to be back on the Phile. Thank you. I can't believe I have three books out now! All in under a year!

Me: That is pretty good. So, did you have a good Halloween?

Jeff: My Halloween was rather boring actually. How about yours?

Me: It was okay. Logan and I went to see The Last Witch Hunter. So, any NFL news?

Jeff: Well, we saw two major returns in Big Ben in Pittsburgh and Dez Bryant in Dallas. We saw a few more injuries like Leveon Bell in Pittsburgh. We saw some blowouts like the one in London and then we saw a game where neither team remembered to bring their defense. I'm of course talking about the Giants game. It was a very weird week. That's for sure.

Me: Don't remind me about the Giants defense. Alright, how did we do last week and what are our exact points? I was ahead by four.

Jeff: Each of our teams lost this week. And we both went 1-1. So as it stands you maintain your 4 point lead 22-18 over me.

Me: Cool. Okay, let's pick for this week. I say Patriots by 15 even though I don't want them to win and Falcons by 2. What do you say?

Jeff: My picks for next week is the Bengals by 6 points and Packers by 3 points.

Me: Okay, I'll see you here next Monday.

Jeff: Have a great week.

Kansas City
Kansas City is proof that the most exciting thing about Kansas isn't even in Kansas.

Today's pheatured guest is is a screenwriter, author, noted film and TV historian, and children's product developer. His book "Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One" is the 40th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club. Please welcome to the Phile... Gary Gerani.

Me: Gary, welcome to the Phile. I am so excited to have you here. How are you, sir?

Gary: Great! I'm 62 years old but still feel like a fanboy. What can I tell ya?

Me: I have interviewed so many different people over the years, and a few I have been jealous of... Graham Parker being one of them. You have done and succeeded in so many things I wish I could do... screen writer, author and have worked on Star Wars projects. I just have this stupid little blog... and a fake band called Strawberry Blondes Forever. Anyway, what out all of your professions and things you have done came first?

Gary: Growing up in Brooklyn, I always thought I was going to be an artist. I eventually rode the subways every day in the late '60s to attend NYC's High School of Art and Design. Anyway... Although I had talent, I was intimidated by fellow students who seemed so much better than I was. Then, a short while later, I happened to sell my first piece of professional writing... a "Monster Times" article... which everyone loved. So I put art aside for a while, majored in journalism and became a non-fiction writer. But eventually I wound up art directing a number of projects for Topps, so my background and love for visual creativity came in handy.

Me: What do you prefer to do out of all your jobs?

Gary: Screenwriting is the toughest, and most rewarding, of the creative challenges I've faced. My writing parter Craig Welch and I just finished Trading Paint, a John Travolta racing car picture that should start filming next year. We hope!

Me: Cool! Your book "Fantastic Television" was the first book to talk about sci-fi on TV I think. I remember having that book sometime in the 70s. I still have it somewhere. I looked for it but couldn't find it, but here is what it looks like...

Me: What made you decide to write that book, Gary? Was it your idea?

Gary: My old neighborhood buddy and writing partner Mark Carducci (now deceased) and I used to hang out waiting for his bus, playing Remember the One? It was like, "remember the 'Twilight Zone' episode with Agnes Moorehead and those little spacemen, or the 'Outer Limits' with that cool one-eyed blob sitting in a box?" Somebody had to put all of this information between two covers, and I decided that would be me. The popularity of "Star Trek" in syndication is what sold the "Fantastic Television" project to Crown/Harmony Books.

Me: Sci-fi always had a problem on TV... what do you think of TV shows presently? Do you have a favorite show?

Gary: Honestly, there's too much out there right now, in too many venues. "The Strain" looks interesting. And these new DC shows are supposed to be good.

Me: How has sci-fi changed over the years on TV and in the movies?

Gary: Having endured both the Depression and WWII, the Greatest Generation developed a heightened sense of reality. They thought science fiction was either for weirdos or little kids... my dad loved the "Flash Gordon" serials when he was young, but had no use for "Star Trek" or "2001."  Today, Boomers and Gen Xers are calling the shots, so everything is over-the-top fantasy adventure, the legacy of Star Wars and the video game revolution. Which is fine, but I'm glad to see that more cerebral, less action-oriented science fiction movies like The Martian and Ex Machina have an audience, as well.

Me: You have worked on not only sci-fi stuff, but also the horror genre, co-writing Pumpkinhead. I am not a horror fan, so I have never seen that movie. Anyway, how did that project come about? 

Gary: Mark C. and I had played around with a "Demon of Revenge" concept in the mid-'70s, when we were making (or trying to make) amateur movies. Ten years later, an actual producer (Billy Blake) had the rights to a poem called "Pumpkinhead," and wanted a spooky movie to go along with it. Mark suggested we use our revenge demon concept for what would be perceived as a boogie man-style horror picture, but with rich, Lovecraftian atmosphere.

Me: Was it fun to be part of?

Gary: Oh, yes. I was in Brooklyn working at Topps during the shoot, but I did fly out and spent some time on the set.

Me: Did you like the way it came out and its sequels?

Gary: The first one was embraced as a gem by the horror elite (Stephen King, Anne Rice, etc.), and even Woody Allen is a fan. The sequel wasn't very good, because the first film's mythology was ignored; the producers pulled Mark and I in as consultants at the last minute. We wanted to write a "correct" script from scratch, but that didn't fly. So we tried to unite their ideas with ours, which really didn't work. At least one of those Sy-Fy Channel TV incarnations honored the original source material, emulating the rich, textured visual look of Stan Winston's film. They were also smart enough to bring Lance Henricksen back into the mix.

Me: Your new book which is a part of the Peverett Phile Book Club is "Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series Volume One." I love this idea, and I had to have those cards when they came out. I think I still have a few. Anyway, how did this whole book project come about?

Gary: Abrams has been talking to me about it for years. Nailing the deal with both Topps and Lucasfilm took time.

Me: Did it take you a long time to out together?

Gary: Not very long, once the deal was made.

Me: You used to work for Topps like you said. What did you do for them and how long did you work with them for?

Gary: I'm still doing freelance jobs for Topps; just finished writing and photo-selecting the Warcraft movie cards, and I'm smack in the middle of The Force Awakens. Amusingly, I've enjoyed a professional creative relationship with this cool company since 1972. I guess Topps likes my work! 

Me: Okay, so, I have to ask you about a certain card in this series featuring C-3PO... I showed that card on the Phile under my Mindphuck pheature. The card shows what looks like Threepio has a penis or something. Here is the card...

Me: Gary, that is not a screen from the movie, right?

Gary: Ah yes, the most infamous trading card of my career. It was unit photography, not a frame from the movie.

Me: Where did that pic come from, and how did it get through the censors?

Gary: It was just a slide I selected from the Lucas photo archives back in '77, and no one noticed 3-P0's mysterious "erection" until it was too late (an on-set gag? Who knows).

Me: That card goes for a lot of money, am I right? Do you talk about the card in the book?

Gary: Not sure about the money thing, but it wouldn't surprise me. You can read more about this crazy card in the Abrams book, or in the various articles I've written about it over the years.

Me: You have done a few Star Wars related projects, and even had Lucas write an intro to one of your books. Have you ever met Lucas?

Gary: Back in the day, and briefly. A very quiet, shy fellow.

Me: So, my readers know I am a huge Star Wars fan... I am taking you are as well. What's your favorite Star Wars movie? Mine is Empire...

Gary: I guess the first Star Wars remains my favorite, because it has the loose, "hot rod" cinematic feel of Lucas' early work. The dogfight following the Death Star escape is still the best-edited sequence of any Star Wars movie.

Me: Are you excited about the new movies, Gary?

Gary: Sure. New creative blood, new excitement. And more freelance work for me!

Me: So, this book is volume one... and there's going to be two other volumes. Were they all put together at the same time?

Gary: Well, there wasn't much waiting time in between books... we knew we were doing the first three movies, and "Galaxy."  For starters, anyway.

Me: I have to ask you about the Topps company... it was founded in the 30s, right? Was it started originally as a baseball card company?

Gary: It started with sports, and related confections. Bazooka Joe gum and comics soon established the company's persona... "Young America's Favorite."

Me: How did it get into the film business and TV business to to speak?

Gary: Pop cultural hits like Davey Crockett and Elvis in the '50s probably launched them into the movie/TV tie-in business. The Beatles and Batman continued the trend a decade later.

Me: Did you collect cards like I did growing up?

Gary: Yep. The candy store on my block was a Topps test store, so we saw goodies there that often weren't widely released. Loved Mars Attacks, of course; years later, after Pumpkinhead, I optioned the property from Topps and tried to set it up as a serious sci-fi movie. Mark and I were told by major studios in 1990 that "We don't think War of the Worlds is coming back." Now we have alien invasions in every filmed venue you can think of. Sigh... 

Me: Do you have a favorite Star Wars Topps card?

Gary: Star Wars Widevision (covering the '77 movie) is my favorite Star Wars trading card set of the dozens and dozens I've done for Topps over the years. As for a single card, I'd have to think about that one...

Me: Gary, I have so many questions to ask you. Would you be able to come back when the next book comes out? And then the one after that?

Gary: Sure, of course!

Me: Do you have a website you like to mention?

Gary: I'm on Facebook, so folks can find me there.

Me: Gary, thnaks so much for being on the Phile. This was a big honor for me and I hope you'll come back soon. All the best.

Gary: My pleasure. Take care!

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guests Jeff Trelewicz and Gary Gerani. The Phile will be back next Sunday with Natalia Yanchak from The Dears. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

I miss our dogs who are up in Pennsylvania so I thought I'd post some pictures this weekend in case you were curious.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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