Category Archives: Dearly Departed

Goodbye, Janie’s Dad.

Ed Lauter, esteemed character actor whose name you probably never knew, who was such a good actor who has been known as Susan’s dad from “Real Genius,” Murray from “Youngblood,” or Mr. Kelly from “Gleaming the Cube”… he was even in “Automan” back in the day (but who wasn’t?). Mostly, he was that Militaryish Tough Guy With a Heart.

The man was in 204 movies and TV shows. Seriously.

But you and me, we know him as Janie’s Dad.

He's OK with her sneaking out of the house as long as it's in pursuit of a job.

He’s OK with her sneaking out of the house as long as it’s in pursuit of a job.

In his honor, I invite you to re-read my first-ever SlumberPartyMovies post, entitled “Slow, Slow, Quick-Quick Slow,” a treatise on why Girls Just Wanna Have Fun was the greatest 80s teen movie.

If you don’t have time for that, just watch this. Aw, Dad.

Dammit Janet!

Paint the Internet black. No. I don’t know how you would do that…I guess we could just shut it all down and then pour some tempera down those tubes that Ted Stevens was talking about. It doesn’t matter. I’m not in the mood to argue.  Janet Jackson quit showbiz because she married a rich religious guy. So? She was already rich and religious…why you gotta quit on us Janet? Why?

Is it because people keep mentioning that you were on Fame?

 Dammit, Lerlines! I will make you love this show.

Yes. We mention it because you were awesome on it–in your modified Dorothy Hamill haircut and your button up Oxford shirts, and your signature brilliant dance move which can only be described as a grapevine into booby shimmy.

Is it that we mention that you were Willis’s girlfriend on Diff’rent Strokes? So? You were, and you were the best God damned thing that ever happened to that constantly upstaged beanpole.

The guy on the right is waaaay out of his league.

The guy on the right is waaaay out of his league.

Is it because we post pictures of you as Penny on Good Times with a band-aid on your head. So? That little abused bundle of sass was the best thing to happen to Wilona since she had the good sense to put the words buffalo and butt together.


Now Penny, remember to always match your hat and scarf to your low-cut dress. Always.

Oh…do not even get me started on that time you were the best thing to happen to Eddie Murphy since the 80s because I promised myself I would not cry.

Makes you almost want to watch this movie...doesn't it?

Makes you almost want to watch this movie…doesn’t it?

Oh Janet. You know how we feel about you.  So please…don’t leave us, but if you must…leave us with three things to remember you by: A band-aid, a button-up Oxford, and a zoot suit. …We promise not to sell them on Ebay.

RIP Roger Ebert. Hope Siskel saved the aisle seat for you.

Oh come on, Gene! He was an angry guy....He lost his son. Joshua.

Oh come on, Gene! He was an angry guy….He lost his son. Joshua.

Sigh. Roger Ebert has died, and here I thought he was going to beat cancer. In tribute, I’ll post about War Games yet again. Here is an “At the Movies” review of War games. He and Siskel sound like they’re arguing, but they’re both right.

Tuesday Tribute: My First Mix Tape (Warning: Sadness.)

I got horrible news a few weeks ago, during the presidential debate. No, not that Obama had been replaced with a pod person, although I can see how you’d think that. Rather, an old friend, Jim, got in touch with me–the first time in 20 years–to tell me his cousin, Drew, had kidney cancer, and was in pretty bad shape. He wanted me and my sister to know. For a few summers in the early 90s we spent nearly every entertaining moment with Jim and Drew, and while I hadn’t heard from them in years, I was thoroughly upset.

Jim told me Drew’d love to get letters from Samantha and I, and I told him I’d write to him. And then the week happened, and I suddenly realized it was the next Friday, and I knew that after work I’d have to sit down and write to Drew.

Only I opened Facebook Saturday morning to find I was too late. The cancer they’d discovered four weeks earlier had finished its work, and Drew with it. He was 38, and newly married, and he was gone just like that.

We wrote to each other my senior year of high school. He was a freshman at PSU, so I kind of had a college boyfriend, even if it was of the no-touching long-distance kind. We talked on the phone a lot. He was magnificently hilarious, incredibly intelligent, and could be petulant and moody in the way that 18-year-old guys are–especially 18-year-old guys who are still shedding the last vestiges of high school dorkiness. But lord, was he funny.

At the time I was deep into my Broadway musical phase, and after an especially spirited discussion about How Broadway Sucks, I sent him a mix tape of my favorite show tunes. He was unimpressed, although he did like “One Night in Bangkok” and thought “Master of the House” would be well-performed by Muppets, a comparison I still hang onto this day. Accompanying the rest of his blistering rhetoric on the awfulness of West Side Story, Hair, and Les Miserables, though, came his own mix tape, compiled from years of poaching his older brother’s music collection, and, I suspect, a few John Hughes movies.

He called it “Unfathomably Good Music,” and I was blown away by it. I listened to it ALL the time, and made my sister a copy. It introduced me to the music of many bands of which I’d only heard, and several that were previously unknown to me. It  traveled with me to college, to New York, to San Francisco, and back to Pittsburgh again. It lost its cover en route, but the tape is still listenable and intact.

So when I found out about Drew, I ran downstairs, into the last remaining box of cassette tapes, and unearthed “Unfathomably Good Music.” The tape lost its cover over the years, so I had to listen to it again to pull together the full playlist. As a result, I’m kind of a teary mess at the moment. But here you go, folks: the playlist of the first mix tape I ever received from a boy.


  1. Ceremony by New Order
  2. Into the Mystic by Van Morrison
  3. Pictures of You by The Cure
  4. Never Let Me Down Again by Depeche Mode
  5. So in Love by OMD
  6. Motion of Love by Gene Loves Jezabel
  7. Just Like Heaven by The Cure
  8. Satellite by Echo and the Bunnymen
  9. Chorus by Erasure
  10. Put the Message in the Box by World Party
  11. Learning to Fly by Tom Petty


  1. No Woman, No Cry by Bob Marley
  2. Lips Like Sugar by Echo and the Bunnymen
  3. Dead Man’s Party by Oingo Boingo
  4. Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order
  5. Love Will Tear Us Apart Again by Joy Division
  6. Every Day Is Like Sunday by Morrissey
  7. This Is How It Feels by Inspiral Carpets
  8. One More Time by The Cure
  9. See a Little Light by Bob Mould
  10. The Perfect Girl by The Cure

I know what you’re thinking, San Francisco friends, and you’re wrong. I submit to you track 1 of Side B, “No Woman, No Cry,” aka, the anthem of freshmen who want to get laid by girls. Drew wasn’t gay. He just had really, really fabulous taste in music, in all senses of the word, and it’s because of this mix tape that I knew how to turn on The Cure when I really wanted to get my cry on. It’s because of Drew that I entered college with any kind of musical street cred.

Listening to these songs again, I felt nostalgic and sad, of course. I saw myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom, crying to “One More Time” after I’d called it quits with him. But the song that really killed me–the one that had me sobbing hardest–was this one. It’s the exact opposite of sad. It’s joy and beauty and heavenly boys spinning madly in a mirror-balled dance floor, and harmonizing with choirs of synthesizers. It’s life and fun and the exact opposite of cancer.

Drew started a blog to write about his experience with illness, and called it He only had time to write two entries, but he never thought for a minute he wouldn’t come back again. I thought he would’ve, too, or I wouldn’t have taken so much time to sit my ass down and send him a letter.

So fuck you, cancer. This is what I think of you. Take your bad cells and your short notice and stuff it in the back dumpster at The End-Up, because your kind is not welcome here. These boys are here to harmonize your ass back to hell.

Phyllis Diller. Gone too soon!

You see how you suck? You suck in comparison to Phyllis.

Seriously. Wasn’t it just a little over a month ago that I posted about Phyllis for Tuesday Tribute’s Surprisingly Still Alive edition? And then yesterday, I was surprised to be surprised to hear of the older-than-toilets-that-flush comedian’s death. Today, instead of posting another tribute to Lady Frizzelda,  I’ll tell you about another time I paid tribute to her. A few years ago, I worked for Foot  Comedy Walking Tours, giving a tour about some famous women of San Francisco called Go West Young Woman!* I had stops for museum magnate Alma Spreckels, dancer Isadora Duncan, topless pioneer Carol Doda, a poisoned-rum-punch slinging bartender pirate by the name Pigeon-Toed Sal and, at The Purple Onion, the spot of her first stand-up routine (at the ridiculously young age of 38), I paid tribute to the old girl herself. Instead of just blathering on about Phyllis’s life, I decided to illustrate the fact that the fast-talking funny gal was famous for spewing out 12 punchlines in about a minute by forcing the tourists to read 12 classic Diller lines from a Foot-brand index card (such as “I put on a peekaboo blouse. He took a peek and booed.” and “Cleaning the house while your children are growing is like shoveling the walk while it’s still snowing.”). I had to encourage them, telling them not to worry…we’re all friends…no one was going to make fun of them…blah di blah di blah. I timed them. It usually took them about three minutes. I spent the next two minutes making fun of those tourists, telling them in great detail how much they suck in comparison to Phyllis Diller. And they still do, Phyllis. They still do.

*The tour is still there and still funny and fabulous, but someone else is giving it.