News starting out good but going downhill fast

It’s a happy moment at CohenConnect.com.

(Online definition of moment: “a very brief period of time.” The italics are mine.)

up arrowSeptember’s blog numbers were high with more than a thousand views, despite the fact I only published four posts. (I know. I have to do better on that. And I can’t complain about the time, but each takes many hours to get – hopefully – just right!)

And near the end of the month, the blog got recognition and links on three more popular ones! Thanks to Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia (Sept. 25); FTVLive.com’s Scott Jones (Sept. 27); and Laura Nachman (also Sept. 27).

Growing means there are stories some newer readers haven’t seen yet, and I just happen to have some follow-ups for those of you who are longtime readers.

‘A’ for Amazon from minimum wage workers

Amazon has been under fire for a lot of things, from low wages to working conditions, but the former is about to change.

This morning, the company announced it’ll pay all of its U.S. employees a minimum of $15 an hour. That includes full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees. (And like all subsidiaries, Whole Foods workers.) That’s also more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Amazon claims the median salary for a full-time employee in the U.S. is $34,123, and not the $28,446 figure Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) claimed when he proposed a bill that

“would impose a 100 percent tax on government benefits received by workers at companies with 500 or more employees. For example, if an Amazon employee receives $300 in food stamps, Amazon would be taxed $300.”

Amazon stressed the lower number reflects its employees’ pay worldwide, not just here.

bernie sanders jeff bezos
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos

NPR reports Amazon has more than 250,000 employees, and expects to hire 100,000 more for the coming holiday season.

Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said,

“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead.”

Click here for details on pay and benefits from Amazon.

That’s a win for Amazon’s lowest-paid workers, but there’s a loss for Warner Wolf (not that he works at Amazon).

“Let’s go to the verdict!”

I’ve said many times I don’t want to live in Florida and that was even when I lived there. I think the Sunshine State has nothing to offer except a short time to thaw out at the beach in the winter. Oh, and low taxes and some family.

And now, legendary New York sportscaster Warner Wolf lost his age discrimination lawsuit against Don Imus precisely he lives down there! I first brought you this story back on Feb. 18.

Wolf is best known as the sportscaster who popularized the phrase “Let’s go to the videotape!”

He claimed he was fired from shock jock Don Imus’ radio show — which went off the air earlier this year — due to age discrimination.

According to yesterday’s New York Daily News,

“In a ruling released last week, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice James d’Auguste wrote that the 80-year-old Wolf’s residence in the premier state for retirees means the suit fails on jurisdictional grounds.

“‘Due to the fact that Wolf is a Florida resident that worked in Florida, he lacks any viable claims…since the impact of any alleged discriminatory conduct would have been in Florida,’ d’Auguste wrote.”

The judge also noted Imus lives in Texas and at 78, he’s in the same age category.

The Associated Press had reported Wolf’s suit claimed

“Imus once said it was time to put Wolf ‘out to pasture’ and ‘shoot him with an elephant dart gun.’”

Wolf’s firing happened in 2016, months after he moved to Naples, Fla., and contributed to the show from there.

“We tried it. It sucks,” Imus emailed shortly before Wolf’s final appearance. “If you’re in the studio in New York … it’s terrific. Anything else is not.”

But Imus himself left the Big Apple a year earlier, in 2015, to live on a ranch in the Lone Star State! The rest of the crew worked out of New York.

That included controversial sportscaster Sid Rosenberg for the show’s last year and a half.

As planned before the suit, the sun set on “Imus in the Morning” on March 29.

Wolf’s lawyer says they’ll appeal.

From radio and TV, to your computer and smartphone.

Sunday was a big day and not just for football fans. This involves every single one of you who uses the Internet.

black laptop computer keyboardLast December, the Federal Communications Commission under President Trump’s appointed chairman Ajit Pai repealed many net neutrality rules passed in 2015 during the Obama administration. Those rules prohibited internet service providers (ISPs) from slowing down or blocking content, or charging for access to certain sites. Consider it Internet freedom and equal access. You pay for a month and should be able to use it as you like.

In January, 22 state attorneys general sued, claiming the FCC’s decision was “arbitrary,” “capricious” and “an abuse of discretion.”

ajit pai jerry brown
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (R), California Gov. Jerry Brown (D)

Finally, Sunday, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill to restore Obama-era open-Internet rules in the Golden State. According to Deadline, it “forbids Internet providers from blocking legal websites, intentionally slowing down Internet traffic or demanding fees for faster service.”

apple applications apps cell phone
Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on Pexels.com

But later Sunday, the Justice Department sued to prevent the law from taking effect. It argued broadband communications are interstate commerce and that’s regulated by the federal government, not the states.

The FCC wants to deregulate the industry and its repeal actually, specifically forbids states from passing their own net neutrality rules. Pai, a former Verizon lawyer (think Fios), claims net neutrality stifles investment and burdens ISPs with regulation.

The feds’ net neutrality rules are set to take effect in January for the rest of us.

angry woman
https://pixabay.com/

Unfortunately, this post isn’t ending as happily as it started.

I’ve watched and studied politics for decades, and written about it many times here. But lately, I’ve come to hate the subject. Any wonder why?

TV news anchor Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch) probably had a similar feeling in the 1976 movie Network.

We may even be at the point where he screamed,

“We know things are bad — worse than bad. They’re crazy!”

(Let me know in the comments section below.)

The line

“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

became so popular, it ranked number 19 on the American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 movie quotations in American cinema, released June 21, 2005, for the organization’s 100th anniversary. Network itself came in number 66 in the movie category. (The number 1 quote was Clark Gable as Rhett Butler saying

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”

in Gone with the Wind. The number 1 movie was Citizen Kane.) Movie fans, click here for a complete look at all of the AFI’s lists.

And thanks, Todd, for having me watch this years ago. New readers will come to learn I’m not the best with movies. Last month, I finally watched another 1976 movie classic, shot right across the street.

Rocky became the highest-grossing film of the year (spawning six sequels) and went on to win three Oscars, including Best Picture. As for the AFI, it’s movie number 78, number 2 in sports after Raging Bull (click here for genres) and quote number 80.

(“Yo, Adrian!”)

And the scene there last week, if you follow me on Twitter, or just look at the feed on right side of this page (below on mobile):

Now, what you can do (rather than sticking your head out the window in the rain):

The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 midterm elections – just 35 days away – is a week from today (Oct. 9) in Pennsylvania, two weeks from today (Oct. 16) in New Jersey, next Saturday (Oct. 13) in Delaware, next Friday (Oct. 12) in New York, and next Thursday (Oct. 11) in Florida (and I meant what I said). That should cover most of you. (Click here if it doesn’t.) Make sure you’re registered, learn about your candidates, and take a moment to note Tuesday, Nov. 6, on your calendar right now. (You may even get a sticker!)

Again, please leave your comments in the section below, and don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennycohen

Advertisements

Cher’s surprise: Stopping by The Cher Show while it gets ready for Broadway

Hi! This is Lenny with the first of what I’m hoping will be regular guest columns. Just use the contact form to let me know if you write up something you’d like to share here. I’ll be happy to post it if the work is all yours and may appeal to the audience. Then, you’ll have something published on the internet! This review was originally written for Cabaret Scenes.

Feature Cher Teal Wicks Stephanie Block Micaela Diamond from Todd
(L-R) Teal Wicks, Stephanie J. Block and Micaela Diamond. Photo: Todd Sussman
Cher Wikipedia
Wikipedia file

I’m not going to lie. After the real Cher made her entrance from the back of the Oriental Theatre to thunderous applause (you see, they forgot to dim the house lights) and took her center orchestra seat, I was a bit distracted as Act II began. Sonny & Cher was the first act I ever saw in concert, and I have followed Cher’s career from the early television days to Las Vegas to the Broadway stage to the Oscar win to the farewell tours. Now this iconic, charismatic, beautiful, compelling presence (who is not only the subject of the show but also its most famous producer) was watching her story unfold just a few rows behind me, and I had to look back to read her face, if only for a few moments. Who wouldn’t look back?

A second device that takes a bit more time to warm up to is the re-imagining of the multitude of Cher’s greatest hits as they are placed in the mouths of other real-life characters. Sometimes this works, for example, when Gregg Allman (Matthew Hydzik) duets with Lady on Just Like Jesse James. Sometimes, it is too much of a stretch, like when Cher’s mother Georgia (Emily Skinner) sings Half-Breed. The audience showed the most love when the hits stayed with their originators. Sonny and Babe singing their signature I Got You Babe was easily an Act I showstopper. Jarrod Spector, who recently played music man Barry Mann in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, is an instantly winning Sonny and gives a standout performance. Skinner as Georgia is also the perfect sounding board, support system, and moral compass in the mother role.

Sonny Cher Wikipedia 1971
Wikipedia file from 1971

Scenic designers Christine Jones and Brett J. Banakis pay homage to the memorable studio set where Sonny & Cher’s hit TV series first took flight, with the recurring circular logo bearing their faces and bringing us back to the 1970s. Here’s one suggestion that may add some expense to the budget, but would be well worth it. In Cher’s 1975 solo TV outing, she opened each show by strutting down a moving runway that delivered her into the audience. The runway has not been resurrected for this Chicago run. Please bring it back, pronto.

The truly unbeatable eye candy of The Cher Show is the extravagant fashion parade of famous costumes designed by Cher’s long-time designer, Bob Mackie, each one more elaborate and glittery than the next. You can’t have a show about Cher without sequins, feathers and color saturation, and these costumes are surefire crowd-pleasers. By the way, Mackie designed all of this show’s costumes; it isn’t too often that the designer is also a character in the show. Michael Berresse as Mackie has fun one-upping the censor with his daring, sexy, and ratings-boosting creations.

Act II feels a trifle less organic as the three Chers narrate her real life’s second act trials and tribulations – tackling Broadway, finding her audience as a serious film actress, and eulogizing Sonny. However, throughout both acts, Elice and director Jason Moore do an insightful job of capturing Cher’s relationships with her three primary love interests: Bono, Allman, and Rob Camilletti (Michael Campayno). They spotlight the built-in conflicts and drama—the struggles, respectively, of being married to a business partner, married to a drug addict, and dating a much younger man who cannot fathom the fishbowl existence of a megastar.

cher show poster
Poster for The Cher Show in Chicago. Photo: Todd Sussman

With so much story to tell, this glossy production opts to gloss over (or altogether ignore) some of the more personal events that made the headlines. Cher’s early grappling with her daughter Chastity’s sexual orientation and subsequent transgender status is left unaddressed. Similarly, even hints of Cher’s political activism (and frequent tweets) are nowhere to be found.

However, The Cher Show is packed with enough music and storyline to keep an audience absorbed. One Act II keeper is the presentation of chart-topping dance hit Believe as a reflective and melancholy ballad, giving Block another chance to demonstrate her vocal and acting chops. Of course, it’s the full-fledged, feel-good original dance version (appearing for the bows) the audience is clamoring for. This musical’s honest and outspoken subject has already admitted to some needed tinkering prior to the Broadway debut. But I think a large portion is already good to go.

Tickets for The Cher Show are on sale now. Previews at the Neil Simon Theatre (250 W. 52nd Street, New York) will begin Nov. 1, with an opening night slated for Dec. 3.

Click here to see the review as written for Cabaret Scenes.

todd pic

Todd Sussman is a graduate of Columbia University, where he studied journalism and film. A longtime entertainment writer, he is the author of the Blockbuster Video books, The Greatest Movies of All Time and The Greatest Movies of All Time, Volume 2. He began his writing career as the film critic for The Miami News and soon became the editor of Blockbuster Video Magazine. For his work on the magazine, Todd received an Addy Award for Best In-House Publication, one of several Addy honors he holds. The Walt Disney Company commissioned him to write an interview promoting the film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (for which Todd wrote the questions as well as the answers, in character as the beloved Roger Rabbit). More recently, he had the privilege of working on two hit projects for Barbra Streisand: Todd is the Liner Notes Editor for Streisand’s 11th number one album, Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway, and for the tour program from her acclaimed concerts, Barbra: The Music… The Mem’ries… The Magic! He is also a contributing writer and editor for the international fan publication, All About Barbra. In 2016, Todd edited the booklet for Capitol Records’ prestigious compilation CD, A Capitol Christmas. He reprised that role for A Capitol Christmas Volume 2 in 2017.

Click here to see The Chicago Tribune‘s interview with Cher.

cher chicago