Thursday, April 19, 2018

Paper Towns (2015)

A brief reference to Scranton is featured towards the end of the 2015 film Paper Towns, based on the bestselling YA novel by John Green.  Click on either link to place a hold on the DVD or Blu-ray.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Book: Outrageous! Monologues and the Odd Scene by Charles Busch (2017)

Meeting my favorite writer.  Playwright/actor Charles Busch and me following a performance of his play The Divine Sister February 13, 2010 at Theater for the New City in New York.

Have you ever met your favorite writer, one you just wanted to tell how much you loved their work, and they were just as wonderful as you hoped they would be?  And has said author ever included a reference to your hometown in one of his works? For me, that writer is actor/playwright Charles Busch.  I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Busch in February 2010 after a performance of his play The Divine Sister, and I must say he was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.  Also, he includes a reference to Scranton in a revised monologue from one of his first and most successful plays.

Now, if you’ve never heard of Charles Busch: first, tsk tsk tsk; and, second, Charles Busch is one of the funniest and most talented actor/playwrights who has ever graced the New York stage. 

For nearly 35 years, Charles Busch has been a successful playwright, actor, and staple of the New York City theater community.  A theater major and graduate of Northwestern University, Charles Busch actually began to write his own plays out of necessity, both to give himself great parts to play and casting himself as the leading lady, magically channeling the ladies of the stage and screen he so admired all his life—actresses from the stage (Eleanor Duse and Sarah Bernhardt) and screen (Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Mae West) he had admired since he was a young child. 

In 1984 Charles Busch (with his talented group of friends including Julie Halston, Andy Halliday, Theresa Marlowe, Kenneth Elliot, Arnie Kolodner, and the late Bobby Carey and Meghan Robinson) formed his acting troupe Theater-in-Limbo (at the Limbo Lounge in the East Village), where he wrote and performed several plays that led to Off-Broadway transfers.

Among Charles’s most successful plays is Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, which ran for five years and remains one of the longest running off-Broadway plays in theater history.  Charles’s other hit plays include: Psycho Beach Party (originally Gidget Goes Psychotic); The Lady in Question (a tribute to Nazi war films of the 1940s); the Christmas-themed Times Square Angel; and  2010’s The Divine Sister (a parody of every Hollywood film featuring nuns), which ran for over eight months off-Broadway.  

Charles is also a Tony nominee for his 2000 play The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, which ran for 777 performances on Broadway and starred theater legends Linda Lavin, Michelle Lee and Tony Roberts. Charles recently adapted his play for an upcoming film version, which is set to star Bette Midler and Sharon Stone.

Charles adapted his play Die, Mommie, Die! (winning the 2003 Grand Jury Prize for Best Film Performance) and Psycho Beach Party (featuring future Oscar nominee Amy Adams in only her second film appearance) into successful feature films.  In 2006, Charles made his directorial debut, wrote, and starred in the film A Very Serious Person.

He is also the author of the 1993 semi-autobiographical novel Whores of Lost Atlantis.

In 2017, Charles published the book Outrageous! Monologues and the Odd Scene   - “a collection that puts the spotlight on the hilarious monologues and two-character scenes from his many plays that have kept audiences in stitches for more than three decades. It is an invaluable resource for actors seeking unique audition or competition material but can also be appreciated by readers simply enjoying the work of a brilliant comic imagination."  The book also features selections from previously unpublished plays, as well as insightful commentary on each of the monologues.

The Scranton reference occurs on page 37.  It is featured in an expanded and revised monologue from Busch's first major success, 1984's Vampire Lesbians of Sodom.  The play tells the story of two aging actresses battling over two centuries.  The Scranton reference occurs in Act Two of the play, set in the 1920s.  In the monologue, aspiring actress Renee Vain is not-so-delicately dumping her actor boyfriend King Carlisle in favor of one of the vampire lesbians, La Condesa.


Please go away, King.  You don't understand.  You can never understand.  Our dreams are different.  You started out as a scrawny little boy from Pennsylvania.  You may have become a great big movie star, the idol of millions but you're still a hick from Scranton.

Charles Busch is currently starring in his new play The Confession of Lily Dare, playing a limited 24-performance run at the Theater for the New City in New York.

Copies of Charles Busch's Outrageous! Monologues and the Odd Scene are available for purchase exclusively from Dramatic Publishing; click here to purchase a copy.

Two films written by and starring Charles BuschDie, Mommie, Die!, and Psycho Beach Party, as well as the excellent documentary The Lady in Question is Charles Busch --are available to borrow for the Lackawanna County Library System.  Click on any of the three titles to place a hold.

To see Charles Busch in his element, click here to watch an extended clip of his 2010 hit play The Divine Sister.  You can also click here to watch an interview with Charles Busch.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Book: Teen Idol on the Rocks: A Tale of Second Chances by Bobby Rydell (2016)

Legendary singer Bobby Rydell stopped by our very own Library Express on Saturday, August 26th, 2017 to meet fans and sign copies of his 2016 autobiography Teen Idol on the Rocks: A Tale of Second ChancesRydell includes a reference to Scranton in the book.

Bobby Rydell had a string of hit songs in the late 1950s-early 1960s (including Volare, We Got Love, Wild One, and Forget Him).  He also starred with Ann-Margret in the 1963 film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie.  He continues to tour all over the world.  He was also memorialized in the 1978 movie Grease with the high school's name, Rydell High.

Rydell mentions Scranton on page 178 of his autobiography, discussing his change in management:

"Besides, I had some other big challenges that were complicating my life.  One was small; the other would take three decades to work out.

The small one was fixed in a day.  Stan Seidenberg was out.  In 1986, I performed a benefit concert in Scranton, Pennsylvania for a close friend, a priest named Father Joseph Sica.  I didn't like the way Stan handled the finances and we had a falling out.  When I fell, it was right into the arms of Dick Fox, who has been my manager for the last thirty years.  If only he knew back then what he was getting into."

Teen Idol on the Rocks: A Tale of Second Chances by Bobby Rydell is available to borrow from the Lackawanna County Library System.  Click here to place a hold.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Book: Theft By Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris (2017)


October 20, 2001
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

"Where do I start with Wilkes-Barre?My hotel is located on the town square, which is bedecked with hanging electric flags, those interspersed with regular cloth versions  the size of beach towels.  They hang from wires, lampposts, and a huge metal armature built to support the dozens of speakers used to broadcast a looped tape of patriotic songs and marches.  I arrived to 'The Battle Hymn of the republic,' which was followed by 'God Bless America,' 'America the Beautiful,' and, strangely enough, 'Dixie.'  After these came a number of marches, including the song played when the president enters the room and something I recall hearing once on a coffee commercial.  When finished, the tape returned to 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic' and started all over again.  The hotel feels like a indoctrination center.

'Our mayor is crazy,' everyone says.  'He's completely lost his mind.'  Wilkes-Barre is shut tight by six o'clock, but still the music blares, playing for an audience of no one."

Click here to place a hold.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The Facts of Life (Season 3, Episode 16)

"The Four Musketeers" is episode 16 of the third season of the classic 1980s sitcom The Facts of Life, and it features a brief Scranton reference.

The episode revolves around Blair, Natalie, Tootie and Jo finishing up their their six month probation living with Mrs. Garrett after stealing a school van.  The four girls are finally allowed to move into the Eastland dorms.

Does anybody know Lila Oliver?

I do.  She's a junior from Scranton.  Not very pretty.  Below average intelligence.  Sloppy.


You were MADE for each other.

Monday, December 08, 2014

It Happened One Night (1934)

One of the first and best-loved "screwball comedies," Frank Capra's 1934 classic It Happened One Night features a reference to Wilkes-Barre.

Opposites attract with magnetic force in this romantic road-trip delight from Frank Capra, about a spoiled runaway socialite (Claudette Colbert) and a roguish man-of-the-people reporter (Clark Gable) who is determined to get the scoop on her scandalous disappearance.

Released in February 1934 (a mere four months before the Production Code was fully enforced), It Happens One Night was the first of only 3 motion pictures to win "big 5" at the Academy Awards (the other 2 being 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and 1991's The Silence of the Lambs):  Best Picture, Best Actor (Clark Cable), Best Actress (Claudette Colbert), Best Director (Frank Capra) and Best Screenplay (Robert Riskin).

39:25 minutes into the movie, Peter (Clark Gable) and Ellie (Claudette Colbert) are staying overnight at an autolodge, due to a washed-out bridge on their bus trip.   When her father's spies approach their shared room, Peter and Ellie pretend to be a married couple in the midst of an argument:

"Yeah, yeah.  I, uh...I got a letter from Aunt Bella last week.  Uh...she said if we don't stop over to Wilkes-Barre, she'll never forgive us."

It Happened One Night is available to borrow on DVD from the Lackawanna County Library System.  You may place a hold by clicking here or clicking here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Ghost Breakers (1940) Available To Borrow From Library; Features Scranton Reference

The 1940 horror-comedy The Ghost Breakers is now available to borrow on DVD from Scranton Public Library.  The film features a brief reference to Scranton, spoken by none other than comedy legend Bob Hope.

Directed by George Marshall (Marlene Dietrich’s “comeback” film Destry Rides Again, as well as Bob Hope and Lucille Ball in the film Fancy Pants and Ball again in episodes of her TV series Here’s Lucy) this breezy, timelessly amusing comedy re-teams Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, who two years earlier appeared together in The Cat and the Canary.

Mary Carter (Goddard) has just inherited a castle owned by her great-great grandfather off the coast of Cuba and said to be haunted. Despite warnings and death threats, she accepts the inheritance.

She is joined by radio broadcaster Larry Lawrence (Hope) who, believing he has killed a mob boss, flees New York with his butler, Alex (Willie Best). She enables him to escape by stowing him in a trunk bound for Cuba. In return, he promises to help rid her inherited castle of the ghosts and ghoulish creatures said to inhabit it. Once on the island, the three explore the eerie castle and search for the key to the castle's treasure while being haunted by the ghosts of Mary's ancestors.

Hope proves yet again that he is the master of the one-liner. The following dialogue is spoken as Mary and Larry descend a staircase into the dungeon of the castle--the scene takes place at the 1:21:14 mark, in the last five minutes of the movie:

Look at these railway tracks running through here.

Reminds me of my hotel room in Scranton.

Click here to place a hold on The Ghost Breakers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson (2013)

Local references related to legendary actress Barbara Stanwyck are numerous on this blog, from movies like Remember the Night and Lady of Burlesque to books like the excellent A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson.  The first in a two-volume set (Volume Two is due in 2015), this 1000+ page is a thorough exploration of the life and career of the legendary actress.  Alas, a local reference was bound to appear. 

In the early 1930s, between filming movies, Stanwyck would often tour the country with her then-husband, vaudevillian Frank Fay. The following description of one such tour appears on page 358 of the book: 

"Through the late winter and spring (1932-1933), Barbara and Fay traveled with Tattle Tales, a 'gay gorgeous musical revue,' on its 'transcontinental' tour, to Portland, the Metropolitan in Seattle, Spokane, playing each city two or three nights and then moving east to Billings, Cheyenne, Colorado Springs, Denver, Omaha, Kansas City, the Shubert in Cincinnati, the Hanna in Cleveland, Wilkes-Barre, the Lyceum in Rochester, Philadelphia, the Capital in Albany, making their way to the Broadhurst Theatre in New York." 

A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel True 1907-1940 is available to borrow from the Lackawanna County Library System; click here to place a hold. 

The uncensored version of Barbara Stanwyck's 1933 film Baby Face will kick off the upcoming "Ladies of Pre-Code" Film Series at Scranton Public Library on Wednesday, July 30 at 6 PM.  Click here for more information. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Out of the Furnace (2013)

My dear friend and colleague Anna Kilcullen recently told me about a passing reference to Scranton in the critically-acclaimed 2013 movie Out of the Furnace, directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart). 

Filmed mostly in Braddock, PA (located in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh), Out of the Furnace follows hard-working Russell Blaze (Christian Bale) as he takes matters into his own hands to seek justice after his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) mysteriously disappears and law enforcement doesn't follow through fast enough.

About 10 minutes into the movie, Russell and his girlfriend Lena Taylor (Zoƫ Saldana) are lying in bed and discussing future plans:

Wanna run away somewhere?

Don't change the subject.

I want to run away somewhere.  Let's do it.


I don't know.  I've never been east of Scranton, but... 

Out of the Furnace is available to borrow on both Blu-Ray and DVD from the Lackawanna County Library System

Much thanks to the fantastic Anna Kilcullen for this reference.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Purge (2013)

One of the things I really love about doing this blog is the fact that eagle-eyed movie fans like Eric Drago pick up on local references that are easy to miss.  I've seen last summer's sleeper hit The Purge starring Ethan Hawke, but I never noticed the Wilkes-Barre reference hidden on a TV monitor in the background -- Eric did :-)

Directed by James DeMonaco, The Purge refers to a futuristic crime prevention concept of a 12-hour period in which any and all crime is legalized.  During this period, a wealthy family is held hostage for harboring the target of a murderous syndicate.

Eric emailed me the following:

"In the film The Purge, there are a number of scenes where we are shown camera footage from different locations throughout the country. One such scene shows camera footage belonging to Wilkes-Barre, PA." 

The Purge is available to borrow on DVD from the library; click here to place a hold.   

Much thanks again to the ultra-groovy Eric Drago for this reference. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Lady of Burlesque (1943) Available To Borrow on DVD From Library

The 1943 classic film Lady of Burlesque, starring Barbara Stanwyck, is now available to borrow on DVD from Scranton Public Library.  Based on the novel The G-String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee, the film features a passing but memorable reference to Wilkes-Barre, spoken by Stanwyck herself (who plays dancer Dixie).

Eleven minutes into the film, an unnamed burlesque dancer enters the shared dressing room of the strippers and complains of the bathroom facilities at The Old Opera House:

That settles it! We GOTTA have a new one!

New what?

(gestures towards the off-stage ladies' room)

Oh, the museum piece. I haven't seen one like that
since the Wilkes-Barre Regal.
Click here to place a hold on Lady of Burlesque.

If you are a fan of Barbara Stanwyck, Scranton Public Library will be screening the long-lost uncut version of 1933's Baby Face on Wednesday, July 30th at 6 PM in the Community Room (basement of Lackawanna County Children's Library).  Baby Face kicks off a weekly month-long film series devoted to the "Ladies of Pre-Code Hollywood".   Click here for more information on the film series.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The English Teacher (2013)

Released in 2013, The English Teacher is a dark comedy about a single English teacher from Kingston, Pennsylvania who helps a former student and budding playwright by presenting his latest play at Kingston High School.  The film stars Julianne Moore, Michael Angarano, Greg Kinnear and Nathan Lane, and it is narrated by Fiona Shaw.

The film includes numerous references to Kingston, as well as Scranton and other areas/places in NEPA.

"She lived in Kingston, Pennsylvania, not too far from where she was born. 

Teacher Linda Sinclair (Julianne Moore) accidentally pepper sprays her former student Jason Sherwood (Michael Angarano) when he approaches her at an ATM at night.
"Who uses pepper spray in Kingston?"

Linda gives Jason a ride home.
"Jason Sherwood.  What ate you doing back here in Kingston, Pennsylvania?  I thought you'd be tearing up Broadway by now."

Sign: "Welcome to Kingston High School.  The Pride of Kingston, PA.  Go Monarchs!"

Drama teacher Carl Kapinas (Nathan Lane) defends a production of Oklahoma done in masks.
"It was in the traditional Japanese nose style, for your information.  And Lydia Plutka at the Times Leader called it 'profoundly imaginative,'" 

"You wanna sell the board?  You wanna sell the parents?  Then sell them on Jason Sherwood, a former Kingston High School student who came back to inspire the next generation."
"We'll double normal ticket sales.  You'll see.  The people of Kingston are hungry for something new." 

During rehearsals for the play.
"And now, Mr. Sherwood, may I say on behalf of the entire Kingston High School Theater Department, it is an honor to have you with us."

Jason is offended by a comment from a student regarding the play.
"Oh, come on!  He's a kid.  He's just an insecure kid from Kingston, Pennsylvania and you're a New York playwright."

"I did keep at it.  That's how I found my way to Kingston and to all of you."

(Greg Kinnear)
"Listen,  so you know.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he's supposed to be taking LSAT prep tests up in Scranton."

Linda's bank statement reads charges from Kingston Gas & Electric, Kingston Wardrobe Supply, and Kingston Fabrics and Drapery.

Shot of Kingston High School opening night sign for the play

"If it's not too weird for you or me, Walter Mosley's speaking over at Wilkes next week, and I thought maybe..."

In the end credits,  a special thanks is given to WNEP - Newswatch 16 at 6 PM.

The English Teacher is available to borrow on DVD from the Lackawanna County Library System.  Click here to place a hold