Thursday, April 30, 2009

Scranton Native Wins Over $120,000 So Far on Jeopardy This Week

Congratulations to Scranton native and former Dunmore resident Liz Murphy, who has won a total of $121,302 dollars on her five consecutive nights as champion on the syndicated game show Jeopardy. Murphy, who now resides in Arlington, VA, will be competing again tonight to retain her crown.

To read more, click here to read the Scranton Times article about Murphy.

Much thanks to the Twitterlicious Sheli McHugh for this reference.

UPDATE 5/1/09: Liz's winning streak ended last night, but her winnings of $121,302 could put her in the “Tournament of Champions” later this year.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Live With Regis and Kelly (Tuesday, April 21, 2009)

During the Mailbox segment toward the end of last Tuesday's episode of Live With Regis and Kelly (April 21st), Kingston, Pennsylvania resident Kathleen Jordan's email was read on the air--she told Regis he should wish someone a Happy Birthday for her (I think it was Don Rickles, but I'm not positive).

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Rasputin Relic by William M. Valtos (2004)

My groovy colleague Michele L. recently let me know that William M. Valtos's 2004 book The Rasputin Relic, which she is currently reading, features an abundance of references to Scranton and various locations in both Scranton and Lackawanna County.

Here is a synopsis of The Rasputin Relic from the back of the book:

"A severed hand turns up in a safety deposit box that hasn't been opened in more than 50 years. A note in old Slavonic on the wrapping says that this is the right hand of Rasputin-who was killed in 1916. Yet the hand is perfectly preserved and blood still drips from the wound!

The faithful believe that incorruptible remains-relics-have the power to cure. Yet in this case, those who come into contact with the hand begin to die of an unknown disease, a bizarre series of deaths that puts the chief of police of a small Pennsylvania town into a race against time.

Rasputin was a monk who became an influential adviser to the family of the last Russian Tsar. He was called a man of God with Christ-like healing powers-and also a charlatan and a drunken womanizer. Whatever he was, his is a lasting legend. As Chief Victor Rhostok investigates, he is pulled into a web of Russian mysticism and superstition.

In his search, Rhostok encounters Nicole Baron, a young widow. As he looks for answers in the no-man's land where science confronts religion, she seeks redemption for her sins at the hands of a priest who may be a false prophet. And in her past is the key to the mystery."

I'm not sure if I'm including every single reference from the book--if not, then it's one hell of a sample, if I say so myself.

Page 3: "'My name is Thomas O'Malley,'" he explained in a gentle voice. 'I'm the Lackawanna County coroner.'"

Page 23: "The cluster of golden onion-shaped domes in the middle of the Lackawanna River Valley had delighted Nicole when she first saw them."

Page 54: "'You're talking hundreds of miles of tunnels on nine different levels under the Lackawanna Valley,'" Rhostok explained. "'There's no way they could ever fill them all.'"
"'They filled the ones under Scranton.'"

Page 85: "The way the Scranton Times reported the story..."

Page 95: "The Scranton police didn't provide many details over the phone about the dead man."

Page 96: "His withered right leg, the result of Lackawanna County's last recorded case of polio, stuck out at an odd angle."

Page 154: "They reached the outskirts of Middle Valley, where it blended into an industrial flatland that marked the Scranton city limits."

Page 154: "They drove through the Green Ridge area...They drove through the heart of Scranton, past the old courthouse and its statue of John Mitchell..."

Page 154: "'The University of Scranton?'" she asked. "'That's where we're going?'"
"Ahead of them, a Scranton police car sat blocking the road, its roof lights strobing their red and blue warning."

Page 159: "'Tell you what. You go back down Capouse Avenue, back the way you came, make a left on Spruce, another left in the first alley you come to , which is one-way traffic."

Page 166: "The taxi deposited Nicole in from of the Lackawanna County Building, a red sandstone structure whose lawns were edged with yellow flowers shaded by maple trees."

Page 198: "Robyn Cronin lived in the Green Ridge section of Scranton, an area of historic stone mansions built by the mine owners a century ago."

Page 199: "'It must be the Scranton water in the ice cube,' she explained."

Page 207: "'Coming up on Action News, a devastating fire at the University of Scranton...and a Scranton baseball team ties for second place in the State High School playoffs.'"

Page 207: "'You're looking at live footage from the University of Scranton, where the fire has already consumed the upper floors of the science building.'"

Page 231: "His index fingers was growing numb as he scrolled through similar subcategories on Pennsylvania politics, Lackawanna County history, the latest census data, and dozens of other subjects."

Page 247: "'You're not aware that Nicole Danilovitch was rushed to Scranton Memorial Medical Center yesterday afternoon?'"

Page 247: "'She was found feverish and unconscious on a sidewalk in Scranton.'"

Page 327: "You were given his identity, a Social Security number was issued in his name, and they sent you to the University of Scranton as an undergraduate.'"

To place a hold on The Rasputin Relic, click here.

Thanks again to the awesomely vivacious Michele L. for this reference.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Isn't She Great? (2000)

The life of bestselling author Jacqueline (Jackie) Susann, whose novels Valley of the Dolls and The Love Machine (which includes a reference to Scranton) were bestsellers, was the focus of the 2000 comedy Isn't She Great. Based on the Michael Korda New Yorker article titled "Wasn't She Great," Isn't She Great stars Bette Midler as Jacqueline Susann and also features Nathan Lane, Amanda Peet, John Cleese, Stockard Channing, and David Hyde Pierce (who filmed the 2002 comedy Wet Hot American Summer in Honesdale, PA). Isn't She Great was a film panned by critics and ignored by audiences upon its release, but it remains an enjoyable light comedy about a literary (and cultural) icon. In addition, Isn't She Great features a reference to (and is briefly set in) Stroudsburg, PA.

One sequence in the film involves Susann going on a book tour by car with her husband Irving Mansfield (Nathan Lane) and publishing representative Debbie (Amanda Peet) to promote her first novel Valley of the Dolls. The first stop is Gladrey's Book Nook in Stroudsburg, PA. In the car, Debbie quizzes Jackie on the owners (it's the owner's wife's birthday) to be as personable as she can and, hence, sell more of her books:

Okay. Stroudsburg. GO!

Gladrey's Book Nook.

When they arrive at Gladrey's Book Nook, Jackie and company make a grand entrance, where she has the following exchange with the bookstore owner:

And when I decided to publish, the very first thing I told my publisher...

(interrupts) Henry Marcus.

...was Gladrey's Book Nook, STROUDSBURG, PA!

The trio then serenades his wife with Happy Birthday.

The Stroudsburg scene is available below from YouTube. The entire film is also available on YouTube--to watch the film from the beginning, click here.

Isn't She Great is also available to borrow on VHS from the Lackawanna County Library System. To place a hold, click here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Edie Adams (1927-2008)

Today, April 16th, would have marked the 82nd birthday of stage, screen and performing legend Edie Adams, a native of Kingston, Pennsylvania. Sadly, Miss Adams passed away this past October after a long battle with cancer and complications from pneumonia. Her eclectic work on the stage and in film and television have left a lasting impression on entertainment and popular culture.

Edie Adams was born Edith Elizabeth Enke in Kingston, Pennsylvania on April 16, 1927. The family relocated to Grove City, PA before settling in Tenafly, New Jersey. Edie took her mother's maiden name Adams as her stage name. She was often billed as Edith Adams as well as Edie Adams.

Edie earned a vocal degree from the Julliard School of Music and graduated from the Columbia School of Drama. After earning the title of the Miss US Television, she enjoyed guest appearances on Milton Berle's TV show.

Adam's professional career originated in television as a regular on Ernie Kovac's popular 1952 television show, which led to her becoming the spokesperson for Muriel Cigars; Adams actually went on to patent a cigar-holding ring she used in the television commercials., which ran for over 19 years.

Adam's work in television led her to the Great White Way, where she starred in the original Broadway productions of 1953's Wonderful Town with Rosalind Russell and 1956's Li'l Abner, which earned her a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.

Television was Edie Adams's main forte, where she appeared in episodes of some of the most popular TV shows of all time from the 1950s through the 1990s. In addition to I Love Lucy and the final episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, Adams has appeared in episodes of The Red Skelton Show, What's My Line?, Love American Style, McMillan & Wife, Police Woman, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, The Carol Burnett Show, Murder She Wrote, It's Garry Shandling's Show, and Designing Women. Adams also hosted her own television variety show Here's Edie from 1963-64, which featured appearances by the legendary Count Basie, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Eddie Fisher; Here's Edie was one of the earliest shows to feature a black man and a white woman singing and dancing onstage together. Edie also made numerous singing appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Her television film work include her role as the Fairy Godmother opposite Julie Andrews in Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, which originally aired in 1957, and the role of Ruby Miller (her last screen appearance) in PBS's controversial 1993 miniseries Tales of the City, based on the novel by Armistead Maupin.

Much of her film work was in supporting roles in what would go on to become classic films. She played Miss Olsen in 1960's Best Picture winner The Apartment (directed by the legendary Billy Wilder and co-starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray), Rebel Davis in 1961's Lover Come Back (with Rock Hudson and Doris Day), and Monica Crump in 1963's ensemble piece It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (with Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Milton Berle and Ethel Merman). She gained a whole new generation of fans from her hilarious turn as Mrs. Tempest Stoner is Cheech & Chong's 1978 stoner classic Up in Smoke.

Edie Adams married Ernie Kovac in 1955; they appeared together in Lucy Meets the Moustache, the final episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, in 1960; on the episode, Miss Adams performed the song That's All, a fitting tribute to the end of a television era. Sadly, Ernie were killed in a tragic automobile accident in 1962; Kovac's untimely death left his widow owing thousands of dollars in back taxes, which she paid off with film and television work and her huge draw as a nightclub performer. She was also married to photographer Martin Mills from 1964 to 1971 (they had a son, Josh Mills) and actor/musician Pete Candoli from 1972 to 1988. Tragically, twenty years after her husband's death, Edie's and Ernie's daughter Mia (an aspiring actress herself) was killed in a car accident in 1982.

After a long battle with cancer, Edie Adams died from complications of pneumonia on October 15, 2008 in Los Angeles. Click here to read her obituary from the New York Times.

The Lackawanna County Library System has many of Edie Adams's legendary film and recorded work to borrow in various formats: the DVD and VHS of The Apartment; the DVD and VHS of It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; the VHS of Lover Come Back; the DVD of Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (as well as the audio cassette of the soundtrack); the DVD of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City; and the VHS of the Lucille Ball documentary Finding Lucy. Her recording of "A Little Bit in Love" from the Broadway musical Wonderful Town is featured on the CD Broadway's Greatest Love Songs.

Happy Birthday, Edie!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wild Boys of The Road (1933)

Be it consciously or unconsciously, director William Wellman frequently puts tracking shots of maps to show his characters' journeys in his pre-Code Hollywood films. By some coincidence, these maps tend to highlight Pennsylvania, with Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Honesdale identified in big, bold print. He did it in 1933's Heroes for Sale, and he does it again in 1933's Wild Boys of the Road.

Wild Boys of the Road stars Frankie Darro, Edwin Phillips and Dorothy Coonan (who would marry director William Wellman after filming was completed) as everyday middle class teenagers hit with the realities of the Great Depression. As their parents lose their jobs, the teens no longer want to put financial burdens on their families. So they hop aboard a train and journey east to look for work. Along the way, they meet large groups of teens also facing the burdens of the Depression, and they set up makeshift communities at various stops, at the ire of local police and authority figures who run them off at every stop.

As the three make their way to New York and their dream of securing honest jobs, a map charts their journey---and, sure enough, there in big bold print on the screen, are the cities of Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, and Honesdale.

Unfortunately the Lackawanna County Library System does not have Wild Boys of the Road on DVD; if you'd like to see it, feel free to make a purchase request for Forbidden Hollywood: Volume 3 (which includes 5 other pre-Code films directed by William Wellman, including 1933's Heroes for Sale, which also references Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Honesdale in a "map panning shot") by clicking here. However, the library does have the first volume of Forbidden Hollywood (featuring Jean Harlow in Red-Headed Woman, Mae Clarke in Waterloo Bridge, and Barbara Stanwyck in the shocking-even-by-today's-standards Baby Face); to place a hold, click here.

To purchase Forbidden Hollywood: Volume Three, click here.

On an interesting side note, William Wellman also directed 1945's Lady of Burlesque, which also features a reference to Wilkes-Barre.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling to Shoot New Film "Blue Valentine" in Honesdale; Open Casting Call Monday, April 13th from 1-8 PM

Hollywood is coming to Honesdale as Oscar nominees Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain, TV's Dawson's Creek) and Ryan Gosling (The Notebook, Half Nelson) will be in Wayne County (as well as other parts of PA) to shoot their new romantic comedy Blue Valentine, to be directed by Derek Cianfrance.

The film centers on a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods.

An open casting call, ranging from paid speaking parts to extras, will be held on Monday, April 13th at the Wayne County Visitor's Center, Commercial Street in Honesdale, from 1 PM - 8 PM. If you can't make it but would still like to be considered, you can email your information (name, age, photo, and contact information) to

If you have any questions, you are asked to call the Casting Office at (212) 219-5094.

For more information about Blue Valentine and specific roles being cast, click here.

Much thanks to the fantastic Martina Soden for this information.

Entertainment Weekly (April 17, 2009, Issue #1043)

Scranton has a brief reference in this week's Entertainment Weekly in the Top Ten Funniest Actresses section which scrolls across the top of the cover.

The Office's Mindy Kaling (who was in Scranton last July to launch The Office's Official Board Game) is cited in the magazine (page 41) and online as one of the 10 funniest actresses today. It reads:

"Shtick Chirpy Valley-girl inflections; deep superficiality; injecting the often airless Scranton environs of The Office with random pop cultural references."

To see Mindy Kaling's entry on the EW website (changed from the Top 10 to the Top 25 Funniest Actresses for the online version), click here.

Entertainment Weekly (April 10, 2009, Issue #1042)

There was a brief reference to Scranton in last week's Entertainment Weekly, the issue with Jennifer Hudson on the cover.

Check out the article Poehler Express by Tim Stack (pages 33-35) about actress and comedian Amy Poehler and her new sitcom Parks & Recreation a new sitcom from the creators of The Office.

In discussion of the creation of the show, the article states:

"With that, Scranton was out, Indiana was in, and Poehler was set to play a striving deputy director of Pawnee's Parks and Recreation Department."

To read the full article (retitled Amy Poehler on Her New Sitcom on EW's website), click here.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Heroes For Sale (1933)

A few years ago, Warner Bros. Home Video began releasing DVD box sets titled Forbidden Hollywood, excellent collections highlighting several classic and rarely seen films of the pre-Code Hollywood era (from both Warner. Bros. and MGM). From 1930-1934, before Hollywood began enforcing a self-imposed Production Code, many films allowed for extraordinary frankness including nudity, adultery, prostitution, drug addiction, and what some say was the glamorization of characters with no redeeming social value without punishment.

While watching the recently released third volume of Forbidden Hollywood (a collection of pre-Code films directed by the legendary William Wellman), I was happily surprised to see the words Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Honesdale appear on the screen during a travel sequence in the film.

Heroes For Sale, starring Richard Barthelmess, Loretta Young, Gordon Westcott and Robert Barrat, was one of the first Hollywood films to deal head-on with the horrors of The Great Depression, and the overall theme of the film is that an honest man will always lose out in favor of a corrupt one.

Beginning in World War I, Heroes For Sale tells the tale of brave soldier Tom Holmes (Richard Barthelmess), who is captured by the enemy during battle when his Sergeant Roger Winston (Gordon Westcott) turns "yellow" and hides in a ditch. The coward Roger"earns" a medal of honor for bravery for turning in the enemy that Tom actually captured during gunfire, while Tom (now a POW) is badly hurt and is given heavy does of morphine by his captors.

Back at home, the drug-addicted Tom is working at a bank owned by the father of Roger, his former Sergeant. Though his work suffers, Tom remains honest and even refuses the temptation to steal from the bank to support his expensive habit. However, when called before the boss, Tom admits what really happened during wartime and that the medal Roger "earned" is rightfully his. To save face with his father, Roger calls Tom an insane drug addict and Tom is committed to an insane asylum to cure him of his addiction.

When released, a drug-free Tom moves to Chicago to start over. After getting a room at a boardinghouse above a restaurant, hegets a job as a salesman for a local laundry, where his honest dealings with his customers earn him a promotion. He also falls in love with his co-worker Ruth (Loretta Young), and they get married and have a son.

Also living in the boardinghouse is "crazy Red" Max (Robert Barrat), who believes in socialism, who yet becomes a tried-and-true Capitalist when his new invention is purchased for the laundry where Tom is now manager. The invention makes Max rich, but it also leads to mass layoffs, including one for Tom, at the laundry.

Tom is unwillingly carried off with the crowds of the now unemployed workers of the laundry. A riot break out, Tom's wife Ruth is killed in the stampede, and Tom is arrested and sentenced to five years in prison.

While Tom is in prison, Max's laundry invention becomes a standard across the country and Tom, an original investor, sees his bank account greatly expand while imprisoned. However, when he is finally released, the country is in the midst of the Great Depression. Tom donates all of his earnings on the invention to the restaurant (now a soup kitchen) below the boardinghouse where he once lived. However, the local police (and, ironically, Max the "crazy Red") accuse Tom of being a troublemaking Communist and run him out of town.

A map onscreen depicts Tom's (now a hobo) journey across the US to find work. As the map pans to Pennsylvania and Tom's destination of Harrisburg, the locations of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Honesdale are featured prominently on the screen.

The film concludes with Tom continuing his search for work, but now his fellow traveller is Roger, whose father's bank collapsed with the Stock Market Crash of 1929--leaving Roger a hobo himself.

Sadly, the existing version of Heroes For Sale is five minutes shorter than its original release version from 1933; the reason being that many pre-Code films--even those that were originally released with zero cuts--were required to make cuts to the films when they were eventually rereleased in theaters, and the 71 minute cut (as opposed to the 76 minute version) is all that exists today.

Unfortunately the Lackawanna County Library System does not have Heroes for Sale on DVD; if you'd like to see it, feel free to make a purchase request for Forbidden Hollywood: Volume 3 by clicking here. However, the library does have the first volume of Forbidden Hollywood (featuring Jean Harlow in Red-Headed Woman, Mae Clarke in Waterloo Bridge, and Barbara Stanwyck in the shocking-even-by-today's-standards Baby Face); to place a hold, click here.

To purchase Forbidden Hollywood: Volume Three, click here.

On an interesting side note, Wellman also directed 1945's Lady of Burlesque, which also features a reference to Wilkes-Barre.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

13 Most Beautiful...Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests (2008)

In a previous entry, I highlighed the excellent book Factory Made by Steven Watson, which vividly detailed the people and craziness of the Andy Warhol Silver Factory of the 1960s. It was stated at the end of the book that Andy Warhol's films were "resting safely in the Museum of Modern Art's film vault in a rural setting outside Scranton, Pennsylvania."

In 1997, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts donated the copyright of all of Warhol's films to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA; the original film material was donated to the Museum of Modern Art, and they presently reside in its film vault, The Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center, located in Hamlin, PA in Wayne County--approximately 18 miles outside of Scranton.

The Museum of Modern Art, in conjunction with The Andy Warhol Museum, is now making some of Warhol's rarely-seen films officially available on DVD for the first time. 13 Most Beautiful...Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests is an collection of Warhol's legendary screen tests he filmed of visitors and regulars at The Factory in New York City in the mid 1960s. Each screen test is 4 minutes in length and was shot at a speed of 16 frames a second. Dean & Britta, former Luna members Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, were commissioned to write and record new music to serve as background for each of the short, silent films, whose subjects include Lou Reed, Edie Sedgwick, Nico, Mary Woronov, Dennis Hopper, and several others. Dean & Britta have also been touring the country with 13 Most Beautiful... and performing live with the Warhol's screen tests projected in the background, similar to Warhol's own Exploding Plastic Inevitable with the Velvet Undergound and Nico from 1966.

13 Most Beautiful...Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests is available to borrow on DVD from the Lackawanna County Library System. To place a hold, click here.

Another of Warhol's short silent films, 1964's Mario Banana, was released on the DVD collection American Film Treasures IV: Avant Garde 1947-1986, which is also available to borrow from the library. To place a hold, click here.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Artist and Former Dalton Resident Louis N. Pontone to Be Exhibited at AFA Gallery Through April; Will Be At Gallery on "First Friday," April 3rd

Friday, April 3rd is the first First Friday of Spring 2009 in Scranton. Dr. Peter Cupple informed me of a very special exhibit and guest artist, former Dalton resident Louis N. Pontone, who will be exhibiting a number of his works in his one-man exhibit, Ut Pictura Poesis, at AFA Gallery (514 Lackawanna Avenue) from April 2nd through April 28th. In addition, Mr. Pontone, who is curating his own show, will be at the AFA Gallery on Friday, April 3rd from 6 PM to 9 PM for First Friday in Scranton. The Opening Reception on First Friday is free and open to the public.

An example of Mr Pontone's beautiful painting is above ("Hiding Place" 24" x 20", Acrylic - Linen - Panel), taken from the poster advertising the exhibit.

For more information, please call the AFA Gallery at (570) 969-1040 or visit them on the web at

Much thanks to Dr. Peter Cupple for information on this event.