OLIVER BROWN – HANGING WITH STRETCH

Foreword by Stan Lerner: as mentioned in a previous foreword, I’m working on the motion picture screenplay for our dear Downtown Oliver Brown, so I thought it a bit of fun to repost some of his classic adventures. Enjoy!!!

“Hey Oliver, slow down a second.”

I stopped half a block short of 7th on Flower so my homeless buddy Stretch could put a torch lighter to the pipe in his hand. I call him Stretch because he’s almost seven- feet-tall and looks like he weighs one-sixty or less. “Stretch, you know I don’t approve of you smoking crack.”

 “Oliver, I’m a homeless black man with HIV—give me a break. Smoking crack is the least of my problems.”

 “Well maybe you wouldn’t be homeless if you didn’t spend all the money you panhandle on drugs.”

 Stretch laughed. “Oliver, you spend more money on coffee than I do on crack.”

 “Not anymore, Howard Schultz sent me a Starbucks’ card with a couple of grand on it, for a signed copy of my last book.”

 “Does that mean you’re going to pay me back the money you owe me?” asked Stretch.

It was my turn to laugh. “I knew there was a reason I hadn’t told you about my Starbucks’ card.” I stopped at the corner and stared up at the Wokcano sign.”

Stretch looked at the sign as well, although thinking a completely different thought than my own. “I did some good business here when this was Burger King—it’s all about foot traffic for me,” said Stretch.

 I had a plan. “You really shouldn’t smoke crack on an empty stomach…Wait here I’m going to get you some sushi.” Continue reading

MOVIE REVIEW: WHIP IT

How many of you out there remember the Golden Ages of roller derby in the 50′s, the 70′s or even during the depression in the 30′s.  For me, coming from Philly, roller derby in the 70′s was a staple of entertainment – particularly for viewing on UHF television.  And while roller derby and the Philadelphia Warriors were banking those turns and jamming their way into the hearts of the crowd, my dad was reminding me of derby back in the 50′s.  But roller derby wasn’t just in Philly.  It was reigning supreme across the country because as Drew Barrymore describes it, “you don’t have to be a certain body shape or ethnicity or economical background.”  As things do, however, derby slowly faded only to be reborn in the late 90′s with a whole new look and feel.  According to screenwriter and roller derby diva Shauna Cross aka Maggie Mayhem of the LA Derby Dolls, in today’s roller derby, “the personas and the characters are very over-the-top, sexual, flamboyant and burlesque. Continue reading

INTRODUCING DOWNTOWN OLIVER BROWN

Foreword by Stan Lerner: as I began work today on the motion picture screenplay version of Downtown Oliver Brown I could not help but to think he should once again grace the home page of downtownster. And while all of Oliver’s adventures are available under the downtownster feature section there’s nothing like reading him off of the homepage — so enjoy, and I promise there will be some new adventures soon!!!

“I just dropped Kevyn off at the airport, so I can come hang out,” Joe’s voice rang out through my iPhone. “Where are you?”

 “I’m at Starbucks on 11th and Grand—come pick me up,” I answered back, wondering how I was going to get my hair cut at Salon Eleven and meet Joe in the same one hour time frame—oh well.

 Some background: Joe, like most of my friends, has become rich over the years. And yes he’s good looking too—whatever. So, now that he’s sold his luxury mansion rental business in Sun Valley for zillions he’s decided to come back to LA, specifically Downtown to get serious about business.

Who better to call than Oliver Brown? I’ve lived Downtown for fourteen years—that would be before it was cool and the Lakers were still playing in Minnesota or Inglewood or somewhere. Anyway, when my rich friends decide it’s time to get richer or cooler Downtown they usually call.

How did I come to live Downtown? I left the mansion I could no longer afford in Doheny Estates and moved Downtown. Somehow my failure to make enough money as a writer to live in twenty times more space than I needed has made me an artistic / business visionary. If I could have thought that one up and sold it to NBC I probably wouldn’t have moved.

Starbucks on 11th and Grand is as good a neighborhood hangout as one can ask for. I spend most of the day writing there. Continue reading

MOVIE REVIEW: THE BOYS ARE BACK

We are so used to seeing films with a predictable plot line of  mother wrangling unruly child or lonely miserable single mother trying to befriend her single child that we forget there are single dads out there, too.  However, when we do see them, they are generally divorced, a part-time only dad, and a girlfriend inevitably enters into the mix.   Which is exactly what makes THE BOYS ARE BACK  so refreshing, so enjoyable, so emotional and so entertaining, as it is the complete antithesis of these hackneyed worn out plot lines.  THE BOYS ARE BACK is filled with heart and love, the beautiful Southern Australian seaside of Adelaide, one of the best performances of Clive Owens’ stellar career, and a little six year old named Nicholas McAnulty who is guaranteed to not only steal every scene, but your heart as well.

Joe Warr is your average dad. Continue reading

AFGHANISTAN ALL IN

There is never an end to the building of a country. The United States has been and always should be under construction. And all should know it to be true that good construction requires a solid foundation.

Subsequent to the September 11th 2001 terrorist attack on the United States there was great need for building, but most Americans understood that the attack itself revealed tremendous flaws in the foundation of our country. Now, eight years later, the President and his top advisors are trying to decide what the objective and course of action of the United States should be with respect to the war in Afghanistan. So much of what afflicts this great country can be directly traced to this particular disrepair of its foundation, that it is incumbent on all Americans to achieve clarity as to what our national course of action must be.

In recent history Afghanistan has been known to the United States as a failed state. During the 1990’s an Islamic fundamentalist government, the Taliban, was allowed to gain power. This government once in power gave refuge to the terrorist organization known as Al-Qaeda—headed by Osama bin Laden. This history is well known to most and it should be easily concluded that this threat to our country would have, best, been dealt with at its inception. But because it was allowed to crest into what became known as 9/11 an entirely different course of compulsory action became required—and remains so until this very day. 

The removal of the Taliban and the disruption / destruction of Al-Qaeda, the stated goals of the Bush administration and the restated goals of the Obama administration, was not, is not, and never will be the solution to the threat the United States and other liberal democracy’s face from Islamic terrorism. The only way to end the threat is to UTTERLY DESTROY not only the enemy combatant of today, but their entire way of life, so that there will not be an enemy combatant of tomorrow. And make no mistake about it; we have done this before. President Lincoln ordered General Sherman not just to destroy the Southern Army, he ordered the destruction of the South and the Southern way of life—Sherman literally burnt the South to the ground. President Roosevelt and his successor President Truman gave neither Germany nor Japan the opportunity for anything other than UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER. And this was only achieved in both cases after the entire force of American military power was brought to bear on these heinous enemies of humanity.

The reason that President Obama suffers the quandary of Afghanistan is not of any kind of mystery to even the most slightly informed—eight years have passed and the enemies of the United States have yet to feel anything close to the full force of American military power. A few days after the attack of September 11th several people inquired as to my thoughts on an appropriate response. I shared my belief, then, that the size of the United States military would at a minimum need to be doubled and realistically should be thrice its peacetime size. I was definitive that the force, which needed to be sent to completely eliminate the threat in Afghanistan, was a force numbering one million soldiers with no less than three hundred thousand combat troops. I was also definitive that once the leadership of Al-Qaeda was tracked to a small enough geographical region the use of tactical nuclear weapons should be an option. ONE MILLION SOLDIERS AND EVERY WEAPON IN THE ARSENAL, I said this then and I repeat this now. Continue reading

Retreat to Advance

Have you ever experienced intense frustration trying to recall something? 

Perhaps it is the name of someone you want to call.  Sometimes it is a tune that is dancing around your mind just out of memory’s reach.  There was an item that my wife asked me to pick up at the store.  “Write it down so you’ll remember,” she said.  “Not necessary,” I replied.  And there I was wandering the aisles hoping I would see something that might jog my memory.

You scrunch up your brow; rub your temples with your fists, and contort your face into a bizarre mask of concentration.  None of this helps.  Finally, a disconnected thought pops into your mind or you run into an acquaintance and stop to chat.  A few minutes later you remember whatever it was that was tormenting you.

Isn’t it amazing?  All that sweating and stressing to remember and—nothing!  Then three minutes of doing something else, and bingo! Continue reading

MOVIE REVIEW: THE BURNING PLAIN

Charlize Theron: Oscar Winner.  Kim Basinger: Oscar Winner.  Guillermo Arriaga: Golden Globe Winner and Oscar Nominee.  Robert Elswit: Oscar Winner.  John Toll: Double Oscar Winner.  It is the collaborative effort of these great talents and more, that bring emotion, depth, intrigue and life to Guillermo Arriaga’s latest story of love and redemption.  Probably best known as the Oscar nominated screenwriter of “Babel”, “21 Grams” and “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada”, Arriaga now steps behind the camera to direct THE BURNING PLAIN, which I believe, is his most powerfully heartfelt and dramatic work to date.

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STATE OF RACE

Over the weekend the state of race relations in America came to mind…Seventy-five thousand protestors marched against President Obama’s agenda…Serena Williams had a meltdown at the U.S. Open…Kanye West went thug at the MTV Video Music Awards…And I attended my friend Kim’s Gospel Brunch in Beverly Hills. All of these events, except for my brunch, have been covered in the media as having a racial component. But interestingly enough the media seems to not understand the state of race in the twenty first century—it’s not what it used to be.

Kanye West (black) taking the microphone out of Taylor (white) Swift’s hands and proclaiming that Beyonce (black) had made one of the best video’s ever was not just rude as the media portrayed it—it was racism, black racism.

Serena Williams (black) outburst over a fault called by a line judge cost her a point on her serve and the match. Her outburst went something to the effect, “You don’t know me, I’ll take this fucking ball and shove it down your fucking throat.” She had already had one warning for unsportsmanlike conduct in the first set for smashing her racket—there was nothing subjective about what took place. She clearly violated the rules of tennis and she was treated as any player white, black or purple would have been. Yet, I sat at Starbucks 15th and Montana (SM) and listened to a woman (black) emphatically explain that, “they took the points away from Serena because they were afraid she was going to come back and kick that white girls ass.” For the record this was not a crazy woman—she works and lives in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the world. Apparently the fact that Serena had lost the first set and was down match point meant nothing—because she was black she would at will rise to the occasion and vanquish the white girl. Even Serena didn’t suggest this when she didn’t exactly apologize at her press conference, this woman’s statement—black racism.

When The Factor came on and Bill O’Reilly and guests watched as the all white crowd, seventy-five thousand strong, protested the Obama agenda in Washington DC, they concluded that they weren’t racist, but that it made sense as whites do make up the majority of the population. I stared on in wonder thinking, “is there really not a single black person in America that doesn’t agree with the Obama agenda”. And then I thought of every black person I know, and I know a lot, and I couldn’t think of a single one of them that didn’t vote for Barak Obama. Then I thought about Colin Powell (black), a Republican, a military man, who didn’t vote for his friend, fellow Republican, and military man John McCain. Forty-five million black people, if they voted, all voted for the President? Forty-five million black people, apparently, all agree with his agenda—black racism? Continue reading

The Pilgrims and Rosh HaShana

Rosh HaShana, the start of the Jewish year 5770, begins on Friday night. There could hardly be a more appropriate week to discuss the Pilgrims.

Those who sailed on the Mayflower were deeply religious and Biblically knowledgeable Christians. So it is astounding that in setting up the Plymouth Plantation, they agreed to an arrangement with their merchant sponsors that contradicted a vital Bible principle.

According to the terms of their agreement, the land and whatever the settlers built or produced belonged to the group in common, not to individuals. That idea was a miserable failure. Hard working members resented working to benefit the lazy. Why put in greater effort for no greater gain? Once they switched to private ownership and enterprise was rewarded, the colony began to flourish. Continue reading

MOVIE REVIEW: I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF

I have long enjoyed much of Tyler Perry’s work.  Generally one of the token Caucasian press at screenings or press junkets, I have often felt Perry’s work has elevated beyond that of a stereotypical caricature African-American and successfully crossed over into every demographic with character traits relatable to every ethnicity, demographic and religion. More than anything, though, I find his characterizations more deeply rooted in Southern culture and religion, a point on which my very Southern and very religious aunt, a Tyler Perry fan, agrees.  In essence, his characters and storylines have been relatable and entertaining to everyone; that is until I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF.

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