Monday, January 26, 2009

Great Sex with The New York Times

Another sign of the apocalypse: the back cover of The New York Times Book Review for January 4, 2009, is a full page ad for sex videos.

To be precise, the ad is for "Great Sex for A Lifetime," a series of explicit instructional sex videos. I know this recession has got us all hurting, but is this the best The Times can do? Sex videos? (And DVDs.) I don't have any objection to sex videos, either instructional or porn, but do they have to advertise in the most elite section of our country's most august newspaper?

[Grammatical query: can you be more august, or is august one of those either/or descriptors like unique? Are their levels of augustitude, like august-auguster-augustiest?]

The New York Times has been the beneficiary of many long-term advertising contracts. For example, the jewelry store Tiffany & Co. has had a modest ad on page 3 of The Times for over 100 years! My memory of ads is hazy (unless it's a sexy lingerie ad, I tend not to notice them), but I believe that, for many years, the back page of The Times Book Review was for a book club. One of their major premiums was The Concise Oxford English Dictionary.

It's a long fall from The OED to sex videos.

Of late, the usual advertiser on the back page of The NYT Book Review has been Bauman Rare Books. Even though I'm not a collector of rare books, I have some affection for Bauman's. In years of applying for various jobs, Bauman's sent me the nicest, best-written rejection letter I've ever gotten. (Yup, that's all it takes to get on my good side. Reject me nicely. Supermodels, take note.)

Not that I expect to be buying anything from Bauman's anytime soon. Their autographed letter from Abraham Lincoln (just $78,000!) doesn't seem to be on my shopping list.

Bauman's is back on the back page of The NYT Book Review, and I hope it stays there.

And if The New York Times wants to run ads for sex videos, put them in the Business Section where they belong.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Claiming Andrew Wyeth

Painter Andrew Wyeth died in his sleep on Friday, in a home less than a mile from the one in which he was born. He was, by far, the most famous painter in the Brandywine Valley.

Of course, several locales claim Andrew Wyeth as a native son. He was born and died in Chadds Ford, which is in Pennsylvania’s Delaware County. But Chester County (where I live) also claims him, as does the state of Delaware: Chadds Ford is just a few miles from both. The Brandywine River flows through all of these. In fact, Wyeth's home town is named after John Chads' ford, which crossed the Brandywine River itself. Finally, Wyeth had a summer home in Maine (where he painted his iconic Christina’s World, above left). So Maine gets to claim Andy Wyeth as well.

Back when I was in college, I tried my best to become an artist. I spent countless hours sketching buildings and landscapes throughout the Brandywine Valley. Sometimes I drew right outside the Brandywine River Museum, as if the talent of three generations of Wyeths* would rub off on me.

But I didn’t have the talent. Now, I’m glad I abandoned drawing in favor of writing. I can still type despite the tendonitis in my hands. But I couldn’t sketch for hours, not anymore.

Despite the millions Andrew Wyeth earned (see Otherworld, above right, an unusual painting he made of the interior of his private jet), he was just pain Andy to his neighbors. He liked to eat at two inexpensive local places: Hank’s Place and Jimmy Johns’ Pipin’ Hot Sandwiches (not to be confused with the Jimmy Johns' Gourmet Sandwiches chain). I was never particularly impressed by Hank’s, but I loved Jimmy Johns’. I used to dream of their hot dogs when I lived out of state. (Apparently, so do others; Jimmy Johns’ displays photos of soldiers in Iraq wearing Jimmy Johns’ tee-shirts.)

Tourists sometimes stopped by Hank’s Place, hoping to spot the publicity-shy painter. He would pretend he was just another diner, telling tourists that “Andy was here, but he left…you just missed him.” He was popular enough with the staff and the regulars that no one gave him up. Now that’s popularity – when white folks won’t snitch on you!

* The collection of the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford includes works by Andrew Wyeth, his father N.C. Wyeth, and his son James Wyeth.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Surviving Opening Weekend

I know of few things more tiring than opening a new nightclub. Years ago, in Houston, I recall working for a week to get a nightclub called Nice 'n' E-Z open on time. We'd work until we just had to sleep, then we'd take a nap atop the pool table.

To make this opening more stressful, I managed to come down with a cold.

The new South Jersey Comedy Cabaret opened this past weekend. There was some chaos on opening night...people managed to enter from three different doors, and a waitress dropped a tray of drinks at my feet. But all in all, it went well.

The sound system needs work, but our sound guys are working on it tomorrow. (Why is it that you never know for sure how the acoustics will sound until you have a room full of people? It probably even makes a difference what time of year it is: a roomful of people in sound-absorbing winter gear will be different from people in summer wear.)

But it's open, and I survived. For more information, you can go to the Comedy Cabaret website and click on the South Jersey room.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year, New Comedy Club

As I have mentioned, on weekends I manage a Comedy Club in South Jersey.

After almost six years, we had to close down my old club, the Cherry Hill Comedy Cabaret at the Clarion Hotel. The Cherry Hill Clarion is being sold, and they wouldn't guarantee that we could stay. So I found a new room.

I've just returned from a tiring day, getting our new South Jersey Comedy Cabaret ready for its Grand Opening this Friday night. Instead of being in a hotel, it will be at an Italian Restaurant in nearby Marlton, NJ. It's only about 4 miles from the old location, so I anticipate that most of our old customers will come to this new venue.

The venue is the Casa Carollo Restaurant at the corner of Route 73 and Baker Boulevard. Friday's show is already sold out, so we expect to do well there. But there are hundreds of things that can go wrong, so I'll be happier a week from now, after our opening weekend.

For more information, you can go to the Comedy Cabaret website and click on the South Jersey room. Wish us luck!