Monthly Archives: June 2010

If Larry King’s quitting, then so am I. No, please don’t get up, I’ll find my own way out.

I’ve decided.

This is my last day of full, balls-to-the-wall committed living. For now anyway. As from tomorrow, July 1st 2010, I’m quitting regular life for a whole two months. Nine weeks. Sixty-two days. During which time, I’ll be letting go of the tiller, lifting my nose from the grindstone, shutting down the computer, ignoring my cellphone, and generally freeing my mind and hands to do more interesting things.

And by “more interesting things”, I mean “nothing at all.”

My brain is mush, kids. It’s just a fact. This realization came to me a few days ago after I completed another book – about travel and health – which I wrote after completing a novel, which I wrote after completing the previous travel book, Naked in Dangerous Places.  This on top of doing the weekly BBC thing and occasional pieces for NPR. At some point recently there came a moment when it dawned on me – I wasn’t living, I was just working. Working, eating, sleeping, and working again. That’s not a life, it’s a prison. Admittedly, a prison in which you get to eat a lot of cake and drink coffee and chat with friends and watch movies when you’re really supposed to be writing, but a prison nonetheless.

The need for this was driven home even more forcefully when I saw a very tired and deflated-looking Larry King announce last night that he’s leaving CNN after 25 years and 50,000 interviews “to attend more of his son’s baseball games.” But that’s not the real reason. The poor guy’s been a host on CNN since 1873. Recently, his ratings have slipped horribly, there are pretenders waiting in the wings to grab his chair – he has to go. It’s just time.

And that’s how I feel. It’s time. Time to stop, rest, reevaluate.

So I’m giving it up for a while. Not to attend more of my son’s baseball games – I’ve not attended a single one yet, why should I start now? – but simply to relax. To loosen the reins and stand back from Twitter, Facebook, my website, and my cellphone. I’ll check my email now and then, I suppose, when curiosity overcomes me, but certainly not daily. And I don’t even plan to watch a lot of TV, although, since I’m a TV reviewer on the BBC, quitting it completely would be setting a dangerous precedent. Eventually listeners might notice. It’s not guaranteed, but they might. I can’t take that chance.

What will I do instead?

I told you – nothing. I’m starting a tiny little film project tomorrow that should be heaps of fun. I’d also like to try being a movie extra – they’re always advertising on craigslist for “background artists” – and I’d be so very good at just standing there in the background doing nothing – it’s actually a gift I have. That would be great.

Oh, and you know what else? I’d like to return to handwriting analysis.

Don't click to look inside. I'm just sayin'.

Haven’t done that in ages. I authored three books on the subject years ago, and for a time was on TV a whole lot with it – Entertainment Tonight, The View, Montel Williams. I was really good too. But I got sidetracked, dammit, and let it go. Now it’s time to revisit it.  I’ll post something on FB or here in the next few days explaining how you can get your handwriting analyzed, if you want it done – because, quite honestly, who’s more fascinating than you?

[UPDATE: I have now made this so. Go to my website and take a look. Prepare to be amazed) 

The rest of the time I shall meditate, do yoga, and attend raw food classes. There are beaches to visit, cafes to lunch in, movies to see, and I may even go on the new 3D King Kong ride that Universal Studios has added as part of its tram tour. Ooooh.

Summed up, then, I’m taking off.

I have big plans for the fall, including starting a small company making health and nutrition videos. Also, my one and only novel, Force of Habit, will be published, and the raw food documentary I started making last year will be available finally. So that’s all to come.

In the meantime, have a wonderful summer, everyone.  See you back here in September. Be good.

TV Swami – he gone.


Filed under Television commentary

The Worst Album Covers EVER – a Retrospective.

There is a fantastic website I want to refer you to. I’ve mentioned it before, but here it is again,  because it’s constantly being updated, and each time I go there I find myself struggling to breathe afterwards.

The concept is simple and unelaborately done, which is part of its strength. Basically, there’s a guy called Steve Carter. Don’t ask me who he is, I have no clue, but I have a feeling I’d like him a whole lot. He collects the worst album covers of all time. It was he who first drew our attention, for example, to the Handless Organist:

But really, there are so many more.  Albums such as this Wayne Newton classic:

And this one by Orion, the guy in the Muppet mask:

And who can forget (or remember) Maddy Genets and her fabulous attempt to become popular by relying solely on her looks?

Then there’s Dick Black, bless him, who probably doesn’t even know why his album’s so hilarious, it just is.

And finally, my personal favorite: All My Friends are Dead. A concept album that would put even the best marketing team in intensive care as they tried to figure out how to sell it to people without making them suicidal.

It goes on and on.

Believe me, this is just a taster. For a whole bunch more, and for a regularly updated gallery of the worst album covers EVER, bookmark, and if you have a really bad day ever, go back to it. It’s guaranteed to raise your spirits.

TV Swami – he laughing too much to write a blog today. Sorry.

Leave a comment

Filed under Television commentary

Psst. Over here. There’s a naked man with a book to sell.

Today’s a tentpole day in the world of British literature, or so I like to think.

Despite the fact that the publishing industry is crumbling around our ears, and even though spotting someone reading these days is about as rare as restaurants that still have unicorn burgers on the menu since the ban, I can reassure you of one thing at least: quality books that are worth your time and money are still occasionally being published.

That said, allow me to draw your attention to the following:

Today in the UK, John Blake Publishing Ltd, the noble and esteemed institution behind such instant classics as Ant and Dec: The Story So Far and Chopper 10: A Fool and his Toes are Soon Parted, is releasing the British version of my travel book Naked in Dangerous Places, which they have decided to call Stranded in Dangerous Places. Same book, but with one big difference. Can you spot what it is?

Anyway, it’s about a grueling 15 months I spent living with various tribes and cultures around the world, from Cambodia to Dubai, Russia to Australia, a journey that scared the bejesus out of me, put me in hospital three times, and eventually led to me having an organ removed. Now seriously, who wouldn’t want to read about that? Though in case you’re still on the fence, the cover carries a depiction of me running naked with my underpants around my ankles, making it an instant collectors’ item.

Stranded in Dangerous Places by Cash Peters –  read it, love it, buy a second copy as back-up, in case you soil the first one laughing.

In fact, I’m so convinced you’ll laugh at this book that if you don’t, the publishers will give you your money back. Probably. Just check with them first to make sure that’s the case.

TV Swami – he support this message.


Filed under Television commentary

So long, Rue McClanahan, horniest TV nymphomaniac ever, we will miss you.

Seems we lose one every year.

2008 claimed Estelle Getty, taking her down with Alzheimer’s. 2009 proved to be possibly Bea Arthur’s worst year ever – she died of cancer, aged 86. Now it’s 2010 and Rue McClanahan’s turn. I don’t know about you, but I can’t take much more of this. It’s almost an annual tradition now to wake up one day and find that another Golden Girl’s dropped off the twig. Given this startling trend, I’m beginning to worry about Betty White. In fact, if you have anything approaching a heart, then you are too, so get praying.

Eddi-Rue McClanahan had been around a while. She made her debut on Broadway in 1969 alongside Dustin Hoffman in the musical Jimmy Shine, which I’ve never heard of, then moved on to acting in TV soap operas, including NBC’s Another World (which I’ve never heard of either). On the show, she played Caroline, apparently, a nanny to young twins Michael and Marianne Randolph. In the storyline, she fell in love with the kids’ father and spent most of her free time poisoning their mother. It’s a soap. That’s what nannies do on soaps. Anyway, somehow the writers managed to spin this threadbare yarn out for a year, before Caroline was finally charged and tried for kidnapping the twins and Rue ran screaming from the show. Another World was later axed. Justifiably, by the sound of it.

Despite her best efforts, and aside from a sparkle of notoriety among the kind of dim people who find time to watch daytime soaps, Rue didn’t even make so much as a blip on our sonar until 1972. That’s when she bagged the role of Vivian Harmon in Norman Lear’s popular but surprisingly forgettable sitcom Maude, playing opposite Bea Arthur. Only later, after escaping Maude, did the two of them finally hit their stride, with a stroke of good fortune that every actor begs for. In 1985, they found themselves part of a classic show – The Golden Girls. And that, my friends, was when the world grew to adore Rue McClanahan.

But not really.

The person they really adored was Blanche Devereaux, the carefree, conniving, saucy temptress we all wish we could be, and the woman who single-handedly made nymphomania among Florida senior citizens fashionable again, becoming one of the greatest sitcom characters ever created. For her part in this process, Rue won an Emmy.

She starred in other things too – movies, plays, TV series – usually to mixed reviews. Luckily, nobody remembers those. Nor do we care. Because by the time she got to play Golden Girl #4, Rue was locked into TV history, and will be remembered forever more as the horniest old person ever to grace our screens.

But back to the death thing.

I happen to know Betty White. Every year she takes me and my partner as her guests to the L.A. Zoo for a function called The Beastly Ball. It’s a grand affair, an all-you-can-eat buffet that I always  get wasted at, usually while stuffing myself with more free food than a human body can reasonably hold. In that respect, I take this function very, very seriously.

Meanwhile, as I’m gorging like a prize hog, Betty is on her feet being the focus of all the attention. Somehow that’s always the case. The woman is a phenomenon. Everyone loves her. Except maybe Bea Arthur, who was a closet drunk and quite mean in real life, and apparently despised Betty for her popularity as well as her Emmys, maintaining her distance to the very end. Betty and Rue, on the other hand, got along well, probably because they had something in common – a passion for animals and animal rights.

What’s odd, given today’s horrible news, is how the death of the Golden Girls cast is like an ominous clock ticking down to something, but to what? Estelle Sher-Gettleman (Estelle Getty) went first, aged 84. As Dorothy’s mother (even though Getty was two years younger than Bea Arthur in real life), she was the least important character. Then Bea, the second least important, went in 09. And now it’s 2010, time to lose another. God’s picking them off one by one. Accordingly, Blanche Devereaux is no more.

This is why I urge you to get praying, people. Betty’s enjoying a fresh resurgence in popularity. She’s by far the most treasured, iconic comedy actress of our time – and I’m not just saying this because she takes me to the zoo every year – as well as being a wonderful human being. If God has her in his crosshairs and is even thinking of taking her in 2011, we need to start petitioning now. As things stand, she seems healthy and happy and just as vibrant as ever. So she’s in with a chance of beating this thing. But we mustn’t get cocky.

Rue, in contrast, was dogged by health problems in later life. First a run-in with breast cancer in the 70s, which she overcame, boldly marching on until 2009 when she had triple bypass surgery and suffered a small stroke, losing her power of speech. That was bad enough, but today she  had another, much bigger stroke. This one, tragically, was enough to see her off altogether. She died, aged 76, early this morning in a New York hospital.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but there are certain public figures who, after they’re gone, seem to take a small piece of me with them. We’ve invested so much time and energy in their art that they’ve become an important part of us. Rue McClanahan was like that. She created something wonderfully memorable with her life and her craft and made millions of people she didn’t know very happy. We should all be able to say that when we go.

TV Swami – he still grieving the loss of Gary Coleman, so this another big blow. What’s with everyone dying all of a sudden?

Leave a comment

Filed under Television commentary