Category Archives: Good, Bad, and Ugly

DOUBLE THE MONEY ON THE MONEY—AGAIN

“I’m having a midlife crisis, do you want to go see Eddie Money at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez?” read the email from my childhood friend Lisa.

“I have an important meeting from 1:30 to 2:30 this afternoon, but if a car just happened to be driving by and I somehow fell into the front seat…” I wrote back.

So by 3:00 that Thursday afternoon, I was sitting shotgun with my buddy Lisa doing the speed limit up the 10 freeway, which for those who understand Los Angeles traffic, a very good omen this was.

When dealing with a midlife crisis, in the great state of California, it’s very important to immediately drive up Pacific Coast Highway—the moment one’s car emerges from the tunnel, which transitions traffic from the 10, the symptoms begin to fade.

If I may wax clinical for a moment, there are two types of midlife crisis that are most prevalent. The first: a fairly minor case that comes and goes usually triggered by one particular aspect of a person’s life. “The I hate my job!” kind of thing. The second: a major systemic failure of a life—the kind of midlife crisis that I can personally speak to in great detail. Now the great thing about suffering from the latter is, that it is fairly simple to cheer up those that suffer from the former. And I personally find some satisfaction in the circumstance of being the guy people want to hang with when they think, they’ve got problems…

After driving a few miles up the coast the thought, “What the f*** I’m I stressing about dancing in your head,” it’s time to stop at The Fish Grill, in Malibu, and get some fish tacos, which Lisa and I certainly did. Continue reading

LA LIVE’S SAINT PATRICK’S DAY MASSACRE

FOREWORD BY STAN LERNER: Downtownster does not celebrate its first birthday until February, but I still feel compelled to post the TEN BEST downtownster blogs of 2009. And while I think all of our blogs have been great, these are the ones that readers read the most and gave us the highest level of props for writing. This particular blog gave the community notice that AEG LA Live wasn’t the beneficent benefactor that, for many years, they made themselves out to be.

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Okay, I didn’t work on the script, and didn’t raise the $500,000.00 I was supposed to in order to spin downtownster.com off from its’ parent company Lerner Wordsmith Press today… Sorry shareholders, but it was a SAINT PATRICK’S DAY MASSACRE and I had to get in the middle of it—and yes like all good downtownster.com writers (Vaughn Blake) I’ve been drinking Guinness. So as Elvis would say “My boy! My boy!”

It started simply enough; I met Carlos our programmer to go over the pictures that will soon be uploaded to the coming soon downtownster.com store. That would be right here on this very website. Our initial collection of Downtown Oliver Brown clothing will no doubt be a big hit and be an even greater distraction to my screenplay and novel writing than blogging, but enough about me and downtownster. We were working and having a coffee at The Farm at LA Live…As usual there was nothing going on in the plaza. Apparently it was crowded the day before with 450 people trying to get 45 jobs in what AEG calls a job fair and the rest of us call a publicity stunt to lure CNN into using the place as a backdrop.

<Click Here: To Buy Books By Stan Lerner> 

It was this very quiet nothing going on for the community atmosphere that we have all become so used to that struck me as I stood in the city’s other cement bunker, albeit with trees and a fountain, Pershing Square. And yes I know that the city is working on some multi-million dollar study to determine how to spend a few hundred million in funds we don’t have to make the place feel not so Cold War Era, but I’m actually of the belief that we’re headed back into a cold war with Russia, so that the current state of Pershing Square is just fine. Anyway, I took in the fountain that poured green water and smiled. Then walked to the area where the Young Dubliner’s were rocking the house. Continue reading

MOVIE REVIEW: EVERYBODY’S FINE

What is about dysfunctional families that are so attractive to us?  For me, as I am certain for many of you, it’s because we relate, because we are at times mired in it.  I think most of us are the products of, or participants in, familial dysfunction.  And not that that’s always a bad thing.  It certainly isn’t when it comes to EVERYBODY’S FINE, Kirk Jones’ remake of Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1990 “Stanno Tutti Bene”.  For me, this is one film that resonates so close to home, so much so that my heart aches watching it, but in a good way. You could lift my entire family and insert it in place of the characters in the film.   Thankfully, Kirk Jones didn’t make that fatal mistake but instead called upon the impeccably perfect Robert DeNiro along with Kate Beckinsale, Drew Barrymore and Sam Rockwell to hold up a mirror to each of us and then instill more guilt than a Jewish mother with every adult child out there  (I would say parents will be guilted as well but I don’t think pigs are flying yet.)  The result is a beautiful and touching portrait of a family trying to reconnect physically and emotionally and make “everybody fine.” Continue reading

A BLAST FROM THE PAST IN LAS VEGAS – NOT EXACTLY

“So you’re in Vegas staying at Fat Andy’s house?” asked Norm Rosenstein, my accountant, whom I put in charge of all of my former business interests from way back in my empire building years of insanity.

“Yeah, he has an extra bedroom,” I responded…Norm usually gives me the business about my lack of interest in the business around this time of year.

“You have fifty-seven unoccupied houses, two in Vegas, why are you crashed out at Fat Andy’s?”

Frankly, I had forgotten about the houses in Vegas. “That many houses? I didn’t realize…I get lonely, I prefer to stay with friends…”

“Stan, fifty-seven houses, one hundred and four automobiles, a G-4 and a Citation all costing money and nothing you seemingly have any interest in. Besides my fiduciary responsibility as the trustee that you appointed, some of your friends and family are calling me…”

“C’mon Norm you’re stressing me out…Why don’t you come out and have some fun?”

“I read your blog last week along with a million other people…You don’t really think that the ghost of Howard Hughes is riding shotgun with you these days?”

I looked over at Howard who was indeed sitting next to me in the Benz…Apparently he really likes my car. He mentioned, that had he not died, he would have designed this exact car.

“Norm, I was kidding about Howard…I’m delusional not crazy! Anyway, I need to pull into Starbucks and do some writing can we pick this up tomorrow?”

“Stan you have to grow up again…I mean what happened, you used to be a business machine?”

“Money is base Norm…It bores me. To be continued…” I hung up the iphone.

Howard gave me a thumbs-up. “I thought you handled that superlatively,” he grinned that haunting grin.

“Norm means well. And he’s made me like a billion dollars or something, but I just can’t get into it. I like to write, it’s my passion.”

“I know, I felt the same way about flying…You will be confronted with the catalyst for your change (awakening) you know—sooner or later.” Again that haunting grin.

So as I sat at Starbucks updating my facebook status it really was no surprise that the last girl I had wanted to marry, before giving up on the conventional empire building life that Norm wishes I would regain my zeal for, popped up with a comment. I don’t know how Howard knows the answers to everything from curing zombie fever and if I may digress for a moment, I don’t know what’s better, having sex with the zombie girl who keeps on biting me or the antidote of sleeping with the married midget who looks like a mini Megan Fox, but this is, in no small part, why I haven’t gone back to LA…Anyway, Howard was right again, we all have our own path, but there are circumstances that for better or worse influence how we get to where we are meant to go.

Out of kindness I’ll just call this girl G…

“Vegas baby! I’m in Vegas for my Birthday!” Read the comment on my facebook status.

Since we hadn’t spoken, but for a chance meeting ten years ago in Central Park, for fifteen years, I found this to be an incredible coincidence. But the fact that we had become facebook friends surely meant that there was still some type of closure needed…I accepted her invitation to meet her and her friend at Tao for dinner. Continue reading

MOVIE REVIEW: DISNEY’S A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Originally published in 1843, Charles Dickens’ “ A Christmas Carol” is believed to be one of the greatest Christmas stories ever told.  And I have to agree.  Next to “Oliver Twist”, “A Christmas Carol” is my favorite Charles Dickens novel.  I still remember on reading it back in my elementary school days,  how I was drawn to the darkness and grit of story and the characters, and how from the darkness sprang a beautiful hopeful light and joy. And it seems that I am not the only one touched by the tale as over the years there have been countless incarnations of Dickens’ masterful work, from children’s book adaptations to knock off stories to cartoons to animated films to no less than 70 theatrical films and made for tv movies with everyone from Mickey Mouse to Vanessa Williams and Mister Magoo, Reginald Owen, Alastair Sim, a 1910 Marc McDermott,  Tim Curry and Bill Murray, all being visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.  Now Disney enters the fray, yet again (you may recall the adorable “Mickey’s A Christmas Carol) and together with Robert Zemeckis, brings us one of the most authentic adaptations to the Dickens’ classic that I have ever seen Continue reading

MOVIE REVIEW: BOONDOCK SAINTS II: ALL SAINTS DAY

Ten years ago a cult phenomena was borne from the fertile imagination of Troy Duffy.  Essentially an ode to vigilante justice, a topic on which Duffy speaks quite passionately (as he does about filmmaking) harkening back to the Bible and certain circumstances which warrant “an eye for an eye”, the stories of Duffy and the Boondock Saints are themselves the things on which Hollywood legend is made.   

A bartender/barback, the magical light of Harvey Weinstein shone down from above, blessing Duffy with cash and a too-good-to-be-true production deal for this longshot idea.    Calling on rootings of Catholicism and the Irish-Catholic community of the Boston area, the Saints made a name for themselves not only with their myriad of killings (all warranted mind you and all inflicted upon the dregs of society whom we shall not miss) but the manner in which they killed.  Brothers, Connor and Murphy MacManus (the Saints), believe in right and wrong, moral consequence, faith, loyalty, family and each other.  Doing everything in tandem, complete with stylized killings and a calling card of prayers before pulling the trigger and pennies covering the eyes of the deceased, they became legends.  Great basic story, right?  Guns, action and good looking guys, great selling point, right?  But, as we all know, if the deal seems to good to be true, it generally is, and by the time SAINTS was made, legal wranglings abounded and theatrical release was “limited” at best.  Also adding to the 1999 problems was the Columbine incident which caused many to “blacklist” THE BOONDOCK SAINTS.   But, according to Duffy, thanks to Blockbuster as, “they gave us a real big, uncommon release that put 60 to 120 copies per store in all their stores because they felt this was a much bigger movie”.  As a result, the word got on these bad ass, kick ass, fine looking gentleman and the legend, and explosive groundswell cult following of THE BOONDOCK SAINTS began. Continue reading

MICHAEL JACKSON – THIS IS IT

Foreword by Stan Lerner: in general blogs about Sin City / Las Vegas should read fast and fun. This blog won’t, because Michael Jackson “This Is It” is a brilliant film born from an incredible loss to the world—the musical genius of Michael Jackson.

This story, for me, begins with a text message on my iphone that read “Michael Jackson has passed away,” which I received thirty minutes before other media sources. I decided not to break the story. It’s just not the type of blogging I personally aspire to.

After several days of friends and readers asking me to write something about the death of Michael Jackson, I acquiesced and did so. I chose to define the thru line that the media would take, given the enormous amounts of money that would inevitably be at stake. I said that the King of Pop’s personal life would be faded and his music both rediscovered and celebrated. Good business and frankly the preference of the public.

As I sat in Jerry Olivarez’s beautiful suite on the 32nd floor of the Palms Hotel’s Fantasy Tower, Michael Jackson “This Is It” was the furthest thing from my mind. Jerry is the Executive Director of PR for Brenden Theatres and I was there to discuss blogsincity business. But as things go Jerry, Joe and I began to discuss the premiere of  “This Is It”, which was being held at the Brenden Theatre just off the casino in the Palms. Because this particular theatre is home base to Johnny Brenden himself it is by definition the company’s flagship. And although it had nothing to do with what I was there to discuss I accepted Jerry’ s gracious offer to attend the premiere.

The event began as anyone would expect, there was lots of press on hand to witness—Johnny Brenden presenting Joe Jackson with a star on the Brenden Theatre walk of fame. And while Johnny himself could be a Vegas reality show, which I’d gladly produce, this blog really takes a turn in a different direction—the movie.

AEG who put up the money for the “This Is It” tour and myself have butted heads on a couple of issues regarding their LA Live project in Los Angeles in the past. The fact that they sold the rehearsal footage to be used for the movie to Sony for sixty million dollars, well added to my discomfort given AEG’s claim of having no financial interest in holding a Michael Jackson funeral event at Staple’s Center. But all of that being said it’s a great thing that Kenny Ortega was given the opportunity to put the footage together into “This Is It” because it answers a lot of questions. Continue reading

MOVIE REVIEW: ASTRO BOY

In addition to my love and mesmerization with movies from small on, a key visual element in my youth was cartoons – and not just your standard Bugs, Tweety, Taz or Tom & Jerry.  No I went full bore along with my brothers for the early Japanese anime complete with dubbed voices.  Part and parcel of a 60′s era Philadelphia tradition, Wee Willie’s Cartoon Corners was the only place to get your afternoon fix of  futuristic adventure complete with Speed Racer and my fave, the 1960′s black & white Osuma Tezuka classic, ASTRO BOY.  So ingrained was ASTRO BOY in my youth that the television theme song was even used for a choreography routine in our second grade school play.  Already long beloved in Asia, ASTRO BOY had universal appeal with his goodness, adventure and excitement that permeated the 60′s cartoon culture. After all, how many of you wouldn’t want jet rockets for legs and incredible strength to power through rock walls with just your fist, and still be a darn good friend, although I think we all agree that Astro’s shirtless speedo look wasn’t exactly what we could wear to school. Continue reading

An Education – Movie Review

As the school bell rings the start of another day, let me say this – AN EDUCATION is some kind of education!

Jenny is your average 16 year old schoolgirl.  Attending a private school in the London suburb of Twickenham, her father pushes her to be the best, get those straight “A’s”, study, study, study, earn that scholarship to Oxford.  And after all, you need to go to college to find a husband. (I know, I know.  What do you expect in 1961?)  Between classes all day and cello practice every afternoon compounded with extra Latin homework every night (Cogito Ergo Sum), Jenny is left little time for any social life.  Yet, she still finds time to dream of the day she leaves home, venturing out into a world filled with excitement and adventure.  Sprawled on her bedroom floor singing along to the sounds of Parisian singer Juliette Greco, Jenny’s teenage angst is blossoming.

Then one rainy day, Jenny’s wish for excitement and adventure is prematurely answered when a stranger named David, driving a fancy Bristol roadster, takes pity on this poor girl toting a cello walking in the rain. 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