Saturday, February 24, 2007

Celebrity Snippets: Dan Quayle

Once a week long-time radio producer and author Rick Kaempfer shares his favorite brushes with greatness in a feature he calls “Celebrity Snippets.”

The Academy Awards are tomorrow night. For the first time ever, a former Vice President of the United States could win an Oscar. I never met that Vice President (Al Gore), but I did meet the man who held the office before him: Dan Quayle

Dan Quayle had been out of office for less than a year when I met him at a Marshall Field's book signing. I was the only member of the press to show up.

I'm not kidding.

To be fair, the press was told in advance that former VP Quayle wouldn't be taking any questions--he was just there to sign books and meet the public. That scared off everyone else. That, and the fact that he was already considered old news. He had just become an ex-Vice President.

Of course, I went for comedy reasons. I figured that I would get him on tape, or I would get someone on tape telling me to get lost. It was win-win.

When I arrived at the store, the PR person told me politely that there wouldn't be any questions. I promised her that I didn't have a lot of questions...only one. It would literally take one minute. The Vice President overheard me say that, sighed, and nodded to her. I had the go-ahead.

Unfortunately, I didn't really have a question ready. I was certain I would get the brush off--so I hadn't properly prepared for success. It wasn't until moments before the Vice President waved me up, that I finally thought of a question. His first question to me, however, changed my plans.

"Are you with a wacky morning show?" he asked when he saw my microphone and recorder.

I admitted I was.

"Is your question going to be crude?" he asked, his eyes looking for the PR person to intervene, just in case.

"No," I promised. "Nothing crude."

"Are you going to make fun of me?" he asked.

"No," I promised, and frantically searched my brain for a replacement question.

"OK," he said. "What is your question?"

It came to me at the last second--only because as far as I'm concerned--I had never heard a good answer to the question. I knew he was from Indiana, so I asked...

"What is a Hoosier?"

He smiled, and launched into his answer without hesitating or stumbling. It was a lengthy answer, with many layers, about a contractor named Hoosier from the 1800s, who preferred hiring stout and sturdy workers. He found that those kind of men tended to come from Indiana, so over time, "Hoosier" became shorthand for 'Indiana workers.'

(When I was writing this, I went on the Internet to find out if Quayle's definition was correct or not. Apparently no-one can answer that question definitively, there are several different definitions, but I did find his definition elsewhere. At least he wasn't making it up.)

When he finished answering the question, he leaned over and hit the stop button on my tape recorder. Then he smiled and said "Thanks. You had me nervous there."

"Are you kidding?" I said. "I was the one that was nervous. I was talking to the Vice President."

He waved his hand modestly. "Happy to do it."

I have to be honest, my overall impression of the man was very positive. Of course, I still had comedy obligations, so when he officially retired from politics just before the 2000 Presidential election, I still wrote the following song...

AUDIO: "So Long Dan Quayle"
(Vince Argento on vocals, Dan Quayle on malaprops)

It's nothing personal. Just doing my job.

Tomorrow's Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres was previously featured on Celebrity Snippets

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Half Empty: Movie Rental Tips for Wives

They say that when you hit your 40s, your life is half over. We prefer to think of it as HALF EMPTY. Our age has finally caught up with our outlook on life. Remember, it is possible to turn that frown upside down...but you might pull a muscle.

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

Whenever the Oscars come around we are reminded of two things.

1) No one has the right to wear shoes worth more than the combined worth of our two homes.
2) Our only hope of seeing a movie we actually want to see is by uttering the following phrase: "I'll go to Blockbuster, thanks."

Our wives often volunteer to run this errand for us, but history shows that they are completely unable to choose a film worth watching. Most DVD boxes have gigantic flashing red lights saying "DO NOT RENT THIS MOVIE!", but our wives don't see those lights.

We figured that our wives may not be the only wives that don't see the lights, so we've volunteered to spell it out more clearly on behalf of husbands everywhere. No need to thank us. This is another free service of Half Empty.

Ladies--when you see the following types of movies, keep walking...

Disease Movies -
A movie about cancer? DO NOT CHOOSE THIS MOVIE. Do you really consider this appropriate Saturday evening relaxation? In fact, any and all life threatening illnesses are not acceptable. Consider this one of the golden rules of movie renting. The only exception to this rule is if the film is based on the real-life relationship between teammates Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers. Now that’s a disease movie.

“Period” Pieces –
1) If the words “Victorian England” are found anywhere on the box, step away from the movie immediately. If for some reason you didn’t bring your glasses or you're having trouble reading the fine print, if the cover has a woman wearing a foofy dress or carrying a parasol: DO NOT CHOOSE THIS MOVIE.
2) If the movie stars Helena Bonham Carter, Daniel Day Lewis, Judi Dench or Ralph (prounced “Raif”, what a blowhard) Fiennes: DO NOT CHOOSE THIS MOVIE. By the way, Meryl Streep is this/close to getting put on the list.

Triumph of the Human Spirit Movies

He has no arms and legs and becomes a great painter. Very impressive, but...DO NOT CHOOSE THIS MOVIE. We’re really not interested, thanks for asking. Don’t get us wrong, we think it’s inspiring when the guy with no arms and legs becomes a great painter. It's just that we have fully-functioning limbs and can't spread cream cheese on a bagel without cutting ourselves--and we really don't need the limbless painter rubbing that in our faces.

Foreign Films

Wow, you really don’t know your husbands at all, do you? If we wanted to read a book we wouldn’t have rented a movie. The only acceptable movie with subtitles is Airplane. The only acceptable movies with accents must contain the words, “Monty Python’s” in the title. However, if the movie contains a sticker with the words: "NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN UNDER 17," we will probably relax the no foreign film rule.

Black and White Films

Three Stooges, OK. Everything else, not so much.

Breakfast at Tiffany's
DO NOT CHOOSE THIS MOVIE! We know, we know, Holly Golightly is the craziest heroine ever. She also never shuts up, and she never makes any sense. If she was one of your friends, we would beg you never to invite her to our home.

Movies about dancing
Have you noticed that we’ve never taken you dancing and that we flop-sweat at weddings? Here’s a little secret, WE HATE DANCING. We don't like doing it, and we really don't like watching it. That means we hate musicals, too. The only exception is a musical about Hitler written by Mel Brooks.

See how simple this is?

Please keep these simple rules in mind next time you choose a movie, and you won't have to put up with us snoring through another one of your picks.

Unless, of course, that was your intention in the first place.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Suburban Man: The Suburban Oscars

By Rick Kaempfer

I’ll be watching the Oscars just like everyone else this weekend. Unfortunately, for the third year in a row, I haven’t seen a single one of the nominated movies (other than those in the animated category). I’ll be watching strictly to see if either Martin Scorsese or Peter O’Toole becomes the Susan Lucci of the Academy Awards.

Because those of us with children tend to feel a little left out on Oscar-night (we don’t get out much), I’ve decided to create the Suburban Oscars.

To qualify for a Suburban Oscar, an actor or actress must have performed in a film that takes place in the suburbs. The film also cannot be a new release. Any film less than two years old is disqualified.

Winners of Suburban Oscars will receive a trophy and a suburban gift basket, but only if they fly me out to Los Angeles to hand-deliver it. (I will also accept a flight by the company that released the film.) Otherwise the trophies and gift baskets will be kept in a safe place for next year’s winners.

Without further ado, I now present the Suburban Oscars.

The nominees for most for “Most Precocious” performance by a child in a suburban-based film are…

Jonathon Lipnicki in “Jerry McGuire”
Peter Billingsley in “A Christmas Story”
McCauley Culkin in “Home Alone”
Drew Barrymore in “ET”
Heather O’Rourke in “Poltergeist”

And the Suburban Oscar goes to: This precious child

The nominees for “Best Teen Angst” performance in a suburban-based film are…

Sissy Spacek in “Carrie”
Toby McGuire in “American Beauty”
Mary Stuart Masterson in “Parenthood”
Ally Sheedy in “Breakfast Club”
Sean Penn in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”

And the Suburban Oscar goes to: Really?

The nominees for “Best Rich Teen Angst” performance in a suburban-based film are…

Tom Cruise in “Risky Business”
Matthew Broderick in “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off”
Timothy Hutton in “Ordinary People”
James Dean in “Rebel without a Cause”
Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate”

And the Suburban Oscar goes to: Him

(You’re welcome, ladies.)

And last, but not least, the nominees for “Best Teen Time Travel Performance” in a suburban-based film are…

Michael J. Fox in “Back to the Future”
Keanu Reeves in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”
Kathleen Turner in “Peggy Sue Got Married”
Krispin Glover in “Back to the Future”
Alex Winter in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”

And the Suburban Oscar goes to:You know it's not Kathleen Turner

Congratulations to all of our winners.

Each of you can have your people contact me at the “E-mail Me” link on this page. When you plan my accommodations for delivery of the award, please keep in mind that I have three kids, so I’ll need five airline tickets, and at least two hotel rooms. We’ll handle all other incidentals, including mini-bar.

(By the way, the real winner for “Best Rich Teen Angst” would have been him, but he’s not able to fly me to Los Angeles at the moment.)

Next year, come on back for our second annual Suburban Oscars, when we'll honor more performances you've actually seen. If you have any suggested nominees for "Best Suburban Mom" or "Best Suburban Dad" performances, feel free to send them in to Suburban Oscar headquarters.

In the meantime, enjoy the real Academy Awards this weekend.

I have to rememeber not to go to the bathroom during the "In Memorium" segment this year. The Anna Nicole Smith tribute is going to be heartbreaking.

If you'd like to read my previous Suburban Man columns, I collect them here: