When Tommy Lasorda Coached “Danny Kaye”: An Ethics Tale

Brian and Tommy

I wrote about my friend Brian Childers, a brilliant actor, singer, and all-around great guy, in this post, “An Act Of Kindness, Danny Kaye And Me : An Ethics Case Study,” from five years ago. It’s worth reading, if you haven’t already or don’t remember it. Brian continues to have a thriving career in New York City, with a successful album, roles in plays and musicals, and periodically, thrilling audiences with his dynamic recreation of Danny Kaye’s legendary one-man performances, the legacy of an adventure he and I set out upon over two decades ago.

I was recently tagged in a Facebook post by Brian, who related for the first time a revealing encounter he had with Tommy Lasorda, the Hall of Fame manager of the LA Dodgers for many years and legendary for his leadership abilities, lovable personality and positive attitude. Tommy died recently at the age of 93, and baseball fan that I am, I had been trying to justify mentioning him in an ethics post. Well, Brian took care of that with his usual flare.

He wrote in part,

I had the enormous privilege to meet this sports legend while performing at the Hollywood Bowl for 3 nights in 2008. The event was called “A Ball at the Bowl” and it was celebrating 50 years of the Dodgers in LA. I was there to sing Danny Kaye’s “D-O-D-G-E-R-S” song and one other with the LA Philharmonic.

Tommy’s dressing room was right across the hall from mine. On the first night, Tommy, whom I had never met, surprised me by knocking on my dressing room door. He introduced himself and was incredibly friendly. When he asked what I was doing in the event, I said I would be singing Danny Kaye’s Dodgers song with the orchestra.

He was ecstatic, but IMMEDIATELY put on his coach’s hat. “ You gotta go out there and you gotta sing great! You gotta go out there and knock em dead, Just focus on the song and you are gonna knock it out of the park,” he said, just like I was a rookie getting ready to play my first game. I thanked him for his encouragement.

While I was performing, I could hear Tommy in the wings yelling and clapping. When I walked off stage, he pounded me on the back, shouting, “Great job! You hit a home run buddy!”

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New Year’s Ethics Warm-Up, Entertainment Edition

Thats enter

1. “That’s Entertainment!” Once again, Turner Movie Classics ran all of the “That’s Entertainment!’ series as its New Year’s Eve programming. Last time TCM did this, primary host Ben Mankiewicz won ethics points for having the guts to say, as his fellow hosts were gushing about MGM musicals between “That’s Entertainment!” 1 and 2, that he regarded movie musicals as in the same category as super-hero movies today: diverting fluff, but not cinematic masterpieces. I don’t completely agree with him, but as Mankiewicz has shown before, he has integrity as an expert analyst, and does not hesitate to register opinions that his audience might not like. (Where Ben is wrong in his comparison is that the old movie musicals showcase astonishing talents that we are unlikely to see the like of again—Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, Julie Andrews and others—while the super-hero movies merely display special effects that we are doomed to see repeated for the rest of our lives. In support of Ben’s point, I have to admit that watching “That’s Entertainment” one is struck by how few truly great movie musicals there were.

Last night, Ben scored again as a truth-teller. After mouthing the conventional wisdom that Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire were regarded as the greatest dancers in Hollywood history, he added, “Of course, Eleanor Powell and the Nicholas Brothers might disagree.” As an early clip in “That’s Entertainment!” shows, a dance-off between Astaire and Powell, she could match Fred step for step. The Nicholas Brothers, who only appear briefly in TE1, never had a chance to impress white audiences, but when you watch them, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that they could perform feats of feet that neither Kelly nor Astaire could match.

2. “That’s Entertainment!” (cont.) The series is as good an example as one could find of why sequel are cheats most of the time. The first in the series was perfectly conceived: at a time of national cynicism in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam, during a period where movies were becoming violent and bloody and MGM, once the “Dream Factory,” was being sold off. Jack Haley, Jr, the son of Judy Garland’s Tim Man and an MGM executive, had the idea of using old clips and old stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age to show a new generation what thrilled their parents and grandparents. In part because of Haley’s clever choices of material and his editing, the movie worked better than anyone could have imagined. I saw it in D.C. grand Uptown theater (it just closed it doors forever, killed by the lockdown) with a packed house of Baby Boomers. During the opening credits, the audience broke into spontaneous applause as each names of the co-hosts, past their primes all (except for Liza Minnelli), appeared on the screen. Donald O’Connor! (Applause)…Mickey Rooney! (Applause). I’ve never witnessed anything like it.

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And THIS Is Why Celebrities Should Shut Up And Act, Sing, Dance, Look Good, Or Whatever They Did To Get Famous . . .

Banks

Elizabeth Banks, a B+ movie actress whose career zenith was either playing Jeff Bridges’ wife in “Sea Biscuit” or a supporting role in “The Hunger Games” movies, decided to rant about “Stand your ground” laws last week. The impetus was the Ohio legislature passing a version of the law, thus joining about half the states. Banks responded by tweeting, to her

“Stand Your Ground is BS. We used to play hide and seek all over the neighborhood on summer nights. Intent was to play. We were kids but some of my cousins were big guys. There were a few easily-jumped fences in the neighborhood but also houses with no fences at all. A new neighbor moved onto our street. Apparently he mistook us hiding behind trees in his unfenced yard at 9pm for … burglars? Predators?” All of a sudden, an arrow was shot into the tree behind which we hid. From a professional bow and arrow. This guy didn’t yell out ‘who’s there’ or ‘get off my property or I’m calling the cops’ or any other question or warning. He just shot at children. He hit the tree so it was seemingly a warning shot. Message received, WE yelled out that we were just playing and could he let us please run away without shooting. Then we ran.”

“Also sometimes our dog got loose. We would go into yards looking for her. All I can think about when people pretend Stand Your Ground is about anything other than permission to kill people are those moments when I myself stepped onto a neighbor’s property. Where is the evidence that Stand Your Ground does anything but endanger your neighbors, their dogs, their kids? It helps nobody but people who want justified reasons to use a deadly weapon. If I’d been shot and killed playing hide and seek, would that new neighbor have been able to just shrug his shoulders while living across the street from my grieving parents? With laws like this, probably yes.I don’t want to live in a world where we fear our neighbors so much that we can’t freely lose a ball/dog/frisbee or cut through somebody’s yard to avoid harassment — all things I have done. What yards did you wander into and why?”

Observations:

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/15/20: Bye-Bye Bill Barr!

bye bye

1. Bill Barr’s resignation. The Attorney General is leaving, and so would I, in his place. Unlike his predecessor, who endured unprofessional and destructive sniping from the President, Barr decided enough was enough. He issued a respectful letter of resignation, and said “bye-bye.” This was in contrast with other digruntled Trump officials like Mad Dog Mattis, who lived up to his name with a resignation letter guaranteed to give the Trump-hating media more fodder. I assume the final straw was Barr raking fire for correctly not using the Hunter Biden investigation as a GOP campaign weapon. With even half-competent and responsible news media coverage, the Justice Department’s silence about what they are supposed to be silent about would never have been an issue.

The President’s lack of loyalty, respect and gratitude toward his staff and associates is one more ugly character trait that motivates his critics.

2. Another unethical bait-and-switch. I have written about this issue too many times to devote a whole post to it again.. Yesterday Republican Michigan Rep. Paul Mitchell told CNN that he will change his party affiliation to Independent because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 presidential election and

Mitchell said he has put in a request to the Clerk of the House to change his party affiliation to “independent,” in an interview with CNN, and in a letter it is “unacceptable for political candidates to treat our election system as though we are a third-world nation and incite distrust of something so basic as the sanctity of our vote.” CNN, being incompetent, did not ask the necessary question, which is “Since you are lecturing the President and your party on ethics, why do you think it is ethical to run for re-election as a Republican, get the votes of Republicans in your district, and then change your party affiliation a month later?”

The ethical way to do it is to resign, and then run again under the new banner. A few party-switchers in the past have had the integrity to follow this procedure, notably former Senator Phil Gramm of Texas.

I would support a law requiring any elected official who switches party mid-term to have to resign. As the Ethics Alarm credo goes, “Where ethics fails, the law steps in.”

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Distracted Ethics Warm-Up, 11/24/2020: “A Website, Two Governors And An Actress Walk Into A Bar…”

distracted

I’m writing this while simultaneously watching an Ethics Rock Extreme Zoom replay and answering typed-in questions from participants. Boy, I hate watching and listening to myself….

1. Unethical website? www.everylegalvote.com is labeled by the New York Times as “promoting claims of fraud, built on fantasy.” I’d call the big map showing Biden with 214 Electoral votes and the President with 232 misleading. I also find the Times’ constant refrain in headlines and stories that the President is “trying to subvert a free and fair election with false claims of fraud” an outright lie.” The 2020 election was not “fair” because of biased and manipulated reporting by the Times and most of the media, and there is no question that many of the allegations of fraud are accurate, with legitimate reasons to suspect broader corruption.

The site is also serving valid purpose since the news media isn’t reporting the current controversies objectively.

2. And this is why most celebrities and actors should shut up, because they make people stupid. Here is actress Kristen Stewart’s response to a interviewers question on how she feels about gay activists demanding that only gay actors should be allowed to play gay characters (Stewart decided she was gay mid-career. Whether she stays gay —think Ann Heche—is an open question. It’s all about branding…) :

I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience. Having said that, it’s a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law. I think it’s such a gray area. There are ways for men to tell women’s stories, or ways for women to tell men’s stories. But we need to have our finger on the pulse and actually have to care. You kind of know where you’re allowed. I mean, if you’re telling a story about a community and they’re not welcoming to you, then fuck off. But if they are, and you’re becoming an ally and a part of it and there’s something that drove you there in the first place that makes you uniquely endowed with a perspective that might be worthwhile, there’s nothing wrong with learning about each other. And therefore helping each other tell stories. So I don’t have a sure-shot answer for that….Sometimes, artfully speaking, you’re just drawn to a certain group of people. I could defend that, but I’m sure that somebody with a different perspective could make me feel bad about that — and then make me renege on everything I’ve just said. I acknowledge the world that we live in. And I absolutely would never want to traipse on someone else’s opportunity to do that — I would feel terrible about that. So my answer is fucking think about what you’re doing! And don’t be an asshole.

Thanks for that clarification, Kristen..

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Ethics Dunce: Unethical Groveler Kelly Stafford

It’s really simple. If you don’t have the fortitude to stand up for your opinions, resist bullying and tell the social media mobs to go fry an egg, then shelter in your metaphorical womb, check with the Woke and The Wonderful about their latest agenda items and directives so you can parrot them accurately, and shut the hell up.

At least Galileo was threatened with torture by an authority that wasn’t bluffing before he retracted what he knew to be true. What was Kelly Stafford, the wife of Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, afraid of? Yet she quickly followed up her video, which was 100% correct, with a nauseating retraction on Instagram, as she wrote,

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: Cher

Cher

“Right now our country’s gloomy
Fear is in the air
But when Joe’s President
Hope is everywhere
Troubles fly away
And life will easy flow
Joe will keep us safe
That’s all we need to know….”

Cher, singing a really bad parody of “Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe” a Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg song from the 1943 all-black film musical “Cabin in the Sky,” at the 2020 “I Will Vote” Concert last night.

The original lyrics were,

“It seems like happiness is just a thing called Joe
He’s got a smile that makes the lilacs want to grow,
He’s got a way that makes the angels heave a sigh
When they see little Joe passing by…”

It’s not fair to hold campaign songs that put new lyrics to popular tunes to too high a standard. They are all pretty dreadful, and since rap and hip-hop took over popular music, the once-common practice has almost become extinct.

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High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 9/11/2020: Thoughts While Wondering How Progressives Will Try To Reconcile Honoring First Responders With Their Demonization Of Police Position

I know the current Democratic Party and its agents, the mainstream media, are immune from self-awareness, but I would think pious reflections on the bravery of the heroes of 9/11 would be so flamingly insincere coming from them that they would just explode from internal and irresolvable inconsistency.

1. Then there’s the NFL…The current demonstrations by NFL players on the field, resuming yesterday as the pro foot ball season “kicked off,” and the leagues’ pandering to them, are, I read in the Times, due to the “killing of George Floyd” and the “shooting of Jacob Blake, and are meant to address “systemic racism” and “police brutality.” However, there is still no evidence that the death of Floyd was a result of racism, and increasing evidence that  Officer Chauvin’s admittedly brutal treatment didn’t kill him. As for Blake, he was not profiled or singled out for his race, but confronted because he was threatening a black woman whom he had previously raped and assaulted. Although the investigation isn’t complete, there is a significant chance that no “police brutality” will be found to have occurred in Blake’s shooting.

Meanwhile, David Bernstein identified the following people who were killed as a result of the Black Lives Matter/ antifa riots and looting: Continue reading

Shut Up And Sing, Joan. OK, You Can Paint If You Want To…

Joan Baez, the iconic folksinger, painted that, posted it, and wrote,  “Dr. Fauci continues to be disrespected & marginalized by the administration’s lack of commitment to science. My painting offers the message to TRUST FAUCI. We can put our faith in science & truth, not lies, smoke screens & snake oil.”

It is amazing to me that so many people who continue to blame President Trump for the  results of the Wuhan virus simultaneously exonerate and extol Dr. Fauci, whose advice the administration has almost completely followed, who has frequently contradicted himself, who was saying in March that there wasn’t much to worry about, who initially said not to wear masks and then admitted that was intentional disinformation, and did this:

Moreover, the argument that policymakers should blindly follow the opinions of scientists is ignorant,  and indeed infantile. All a doctor is going to care about is the disease; he will not consider the practical aspects of his advice in other areas, like wrecking education, strangling the arts, crashing the economy, and indeed, that is something to which his expertise does not extend. Dyed in the DNA  liberals like Baez want a virtual dictatorship by scientists because of climate change, which Baez almost certainly knows nothing about other than what people like Al Gore have told her. Continue reading

Ethics Escape, 8/24/2020: The “Not Watching The GOP Convention” Edition

The fact that Bill Clinton was going to speak at the Democratic National Convention was sufficient to justify my personal boycott of that event, and the fact that Scott Baio (“Happy Days,” “Charles in Charge,” “Joanie Loves Chachi”) is speaking at this convention is enough to to keep me away from the Republicans. I assumed that Scott was a speaker the last time because the Republicans were shunning Trump, forcing the nominee to scrape the bottom of the barrel, but he’s the President now. I refuse to accept that there aren’t better choices than Scott Baio available. He’s not only a washed up actor, he’s a washed up actor whom other actors never liked when he wasn’t washed up. He couldn’t even get along with Dick Van Dyke! Baio starred in one of the most degrading reality shows yet—that’s saying something—in which he visited all of his old girlfriends who he had abused when he was a star, admitted how horribly he had treated them and begged for forgiveness, resulting in about half of the women excoriating him on camera. Baio also has been accused of sexually assaulting one of the teenage girls Charles was supposed to be in charge of. Nice.

“the best people…”

1. I don’t understand this story at all, but I do know that the people who run the Susan B. Anthony museum are grandstanding jerks.  Last week President Trump pardoned suffragist Susan B. Anthony, who died in 1906, for her conviction in 1872 for voting before it was legal for women to do so. I wrote about it and rated the pardon a cynical move even for Trump, and a transparent sop for  feminists. Then, based partly on the completely unproven theory that  Anthony would not have wanted to be pardoned, and partly on the now familiar efforts of “the resistance” to deny the President the opportunity to engage in the most benign uses of his legitimate power without being attacked for it,  the leaders of the Susan B. Anthony Museum declined the pardon on her behalf, and the news media dutifully reported that the order had been declined.

The museum has no more power to decline a Presidential pardon for Anthony than I do. Continue reading