St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri on September 24, 1993 · Page 90
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri · Page 90

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Friday, September 24, 1993
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8EV ST. LOUIS HOST-DISPATCH l-HIUAY, StKl tMBEH 24, 1993 Still Sexy After All These Years Boomer love is blooming in the marketplace By Jennifer Foote 1993, Newhouse News Service T'S SAPPY. It's simplistic. It's the butt of smarty-pants lit-crit jokes. But the "Bridges of Madison County is about to break the 3 million sales mark and it's still in hardback. Why is the teensy fairy tale about no-fault adultery in its second year at the top of the best-seller list? Because Francesca Johnson is 45 and Robert Kincaid is 52. Because he is "a graceful, hard male animal" and she is ; "big-time elegant." Because Francesca might be a bored Iowa farm wife, but she doesn't let a transcendental passionfest wrench her from her family. And Robert, that old-fangled cowboy, he loves her anyway, until the day he dies. "Bridges" isn't great literature, but it is demographically correct. Now a multimedia empire unto itself, the slim megaseller is one of a whole slew of entertainment vehicles tapping z into an aging mass The whole market huAn7 fr . . -jji romance. And when concept of middle boomer love age is becoming very blooms, millions jazzy and very buy. sexy. 9 9 "The whole , concept of middle Ad exec JANE FITZGIBBON age is becoming mmmmmm very jazzy and very sexy," says Jane ) . Fitzgibbon, senior vice president and director of ad agency Ogilvy & Mather's ; Trendsights unit in New York. "The idea is that life is far from over when you can no longer call yourself young. That may be ' because 76 million baby boomers are J ' rationalizing, but for whatever reason, ' middle age is taking on a whole new luster I along with the notions of love, romance and ; sexuality after 40." That luster has legs and it travels. L While Bob and Franny romp in an Iowa !, farmhouse, the graying heroes and . heroines of romance novels are finding new roads to romance in nearly a half dozen new books every month. Hollywood has taken the cue, snapping up film rights to "Slow Waltz at Cedar Bend," the next flight of middle-aged extramarital fancy by "Bridges" author Robert James Waller. Warner Bros. already has an option on "Bridges," slated to be directed by Steven Spielberg. Barbra Streisand has just optioned the harder-edged boomer love story by Anita Shreve called "Where or When" with hopes of a reunion with "The Way We Were" co-star Robert Redford. And in among the fractured family fare of the new TV season is "It Had To Be . You," a half-hour comedy pairing Faye Dunaway, 51, with Robert Urich, 46. She is a snappy book publisher; he is a carpenter and single parent bringing up three sons. Innuendo and sex puns rule the half-hour. "Everyone is going for the same audience," says Brigitte Weeks, editor in chief of the Book-of-the-Month Club. "They aren't as young as they thought they were and they want romance and sex as tools to fight off mortality." In "Bridges," the carnal rescue is hot, heavy and victimless. "It was like the opposite of 'Fatal Attraction,' " says Jack Olnick, an associate professor of sociology who teaches a course in popular culture at Columbia University. Best of all, it was love "profound and complete" and everlasting. "So many of us have been involved in one-night stands at some point in our lives and it wasn't the real thing," says Karen Meredith, founder and president of the American Association of Boomers, a national group dedicated to promoting the interests of the baby boom generation. "To find out that some people were so bold and it was the real thing, actual eternal love, I mean, how romantic can you get?" Pretty darn romantic. But boomers like their fantasy with an age-appropriate twist. Even romance novels, long the preserve of the 20-year-old virgin in distress, now feature protagonists with a few wrinkles, the odd divorce, or a brood of stepchildren. One of Harlequin's recent best sellers and winner of a Golden Medallion award from the Romance Writers of America is "The Silence of Midnight," the story of an 18-year marriage rocked by infidelity. "The romance is about how they overcome the conflict," says Harlequin senior editor Marsha Zinberg. "The happy ending is that they put the marriage back together." Not the classic bodice ripper of yore, but a winning formula. "We don't tell our writers what to write," says Zinberg, "but they are up on what is going on in people's minds. They've aged, too, and their own concerns become the concerns that permeate the books." At Zebra Books, the "To Love Again" line makes a direct play for the jackpot of boomer book buyers. In an industry that generates $750 million a year about 46 ' percent of the mass market paperback fiction sales it pays to be demographically smart. A test run of the line two years ago brought an instant and overwhelming response, says Ann LaFarge, editor of the "To Love Again" books. Zebra was flooded with letters from readers and manuscripts from published and unpublished writers. "The authors said that we set them free," says LaFarge. "They always wanted to write these stories, but there wasn't a place for them." Zebra now publishes two "To Love Again" romances each month. Starting in October, the covers will feature the "To Love Again" hunk James Fox winner of a male beauty contest at a recent romance writers convention. Happy endings are guaranteed, but not conventional. "If the woman dumps the guy and says 'Sayonara, pal. You opened my eyes to a whole new life and now I'm going to go around the world in a canoe,' that is a happy ending," says LaFarge. Heroines are "people you could easily know," she adds. "They don't get to be president of the United States, but they achieve their goals." In one, the heroine, a lawyer, falls for a mechanic after she crashes her dead husband's Ferrari; in another, the heroine has a sexually charged reunion with a childhood love in a funeral parlor at his wife's wake. "They're raunchier and funnier than the ones with the 20-year-old airhead virgins or the 30-year-old yuppies," says LaFarge, who describes herself as "fiftysomething." "Ourtimehascome." By raunchy, however, LaFarge does not mean kinky. Boomer love is not about kink. "All that explicit and experimental sex makes middle-aged people feel that their lives are without excitement," says Weeks of Book-of-the-Month-Club. "What they m o - ( ' ' l i ., " ; - The new TV comedy "It Had To Be You," pairing Faye Dunaway, 51, with Robert Urich, 46, appears to be aimed at aging baby boomers. want is to add a mystic dimension to their lives something comforting, not titillating." In "Where or When," Charlie Callahan and Sian Richards, both 46, have an extramarital affair some 30 years after a summer camp tryst. When their love blossoms, it is of the straight sex and warm glow variety. Descriptions of their encounters include passages like: "She does not exercise, and, somehow, this appeals to him." Shreve writes of Charlie, "It is not so much, he knows, that he or she, or they together, are particularly skilled or adventurous; it is rather that their bodies want each other, fit, are trying to say something that cannot be said with words." Shreve has received hundreds of letters from readers of "Where or When" who are positively grateful that Shreve has portrayed Charlie and Sian as sexual beings. "We have tended to think of middle-aged people as sexless and unromantic," says Shreve. "Many women who have written have said that they feared that when they got to this age that they couldn't enter a love affair because they couldn't allow themselves to be seen." Which is not to say that they have ruled out the possibility of an affair. Both "Bridges" and "Where or When" are about adultery pure and simple in the former, messy and complex in the latter. Part of the appeal is a "what if" fantasy, sort of a harmless cure for the aforementioned 30-year itch. "A lot of people who have been married for years want to indulge in romances about people who have extramarital flings," says consumer researcher Judith Langer of Langer Associates in New York. Jack Klugman Returns ' ji Jack Klugman (left) and Tony Randall appear in "The Odd Couple: Together Again" on Channel 4 tonight. Throat cancer battle ends in triumph By John Engstrom 1993, Seattle Post-Intelligencer WHEN Jack Klugman talks, people who haven't heard him lately just listen. Not so much for what he's saying, but how he says it. , It's no longer the familiar sound of Oscar Madison or Quincy, the TV roles that made Klugman famous. Only hints of those characters remain, since Klugman lost one of his vocal cords to cancer surgery 4Vz years ago. For nearly two years after the operation, he lived asa recluse with nothing but a whisper. f'T couldn't get my voice back," he says. "I couldn't adjust." But eventually he did. Now his words tumble out in a thin, raspy, deep rattle that cracks into dog-whistle octaves when he gets excited. Speaking by phone from his condo in Malibu, Calif., Klugman, 71, prattled like a proud dad about the sound he gave birth to after months of scream-therapy vocal exercises. He also recounted the long history of his throat problems: from his first cigarette as a 12-year-old South Philadelphia tough, through a 40-year smoking habit, to his 1989 surgery. Now he has a happy ending and a new beginning. At 8 tonight on Channel 4, he returns as a TV actor with Tony Randall in a CBS reunion movie, "The Odd Couple: Together Again." ' When Klugman's cancer appeared, after 25 years of throat ailments, one doctor wanted to slice out both vocal cords. Klugman got a second opinion and chose to lose just one, risking that the cancer might return. "But I couldn't get my voice back," he said. "I went to five or six doctors and tried, and they said, 'Forget about it. Be thankful you beat the cancer and forget about acting.' That was pretty hard to do." For nearly two years he hung out alone at his beach home. "I missed acting terribly," he said, "so I was a recluse. I wasn't miserable, and I wasn't happy either. I just didn't want to see anybody." About a year into his self-imposed exile, Klugman learned that the tabloids were preparing stories about hfs voice problems and hemit's life. "They would have had tle dead," he said. "So I called 'Entertainment Tonight' and I said, 'Look, I'll give you an exclusive, but here's what I want to say.' "I was feeling great that I had beaten the cancer, and I wanted my friends to know that, yes, I had an operation, but I was fine." Not long after the TV interview, he got a call from vocal coach Gary Catona, who had seen the show and thought he could help. Klugman was skeptical. "At that time I talked like this," he said, demonstrating a faint whisper. "There really was no sound at all. But Gary said, T hear a sound.' "I said, 'You're full of .' He said, 'Look, you don't have to pay me, but I hear a voice.' " Catona gave Klugman several vocal exercises to practice in daily sessions, something he does to this day. The violent roars were designed to strengthen the muscles that would help his remaining vocal cord create a sound instead of a whisper. At about the same time, Randall, who had teamed with Klugman in ABC's sitcom "The Odd Couple," called to ask if he'd do one performance of the original Neil Simon play as a benefit for Randall's theater company. "I said, 'Are you crazy? I can't even talk to you on the phone,'" Klugman recalled. "And he said, 'You can do it. I know you can do it.' And I said, 'Tony, forget it' " After five more months of excercise, Klugman said, "I heard a little voice, so I called Tony back and I said, 'Tony, look, this is the only voice I have, and it's not very good, but I'll give it a shot if you want me to.' " After seven more months of vocal work, Klugman stepped on stage in New York. T said my first couple of lines," Klugman recalled, "and you could hear and feel the audience shifting in their seats, feeling that it hurt me, and they became uncomfortable." But soon he spoke one of the play's jokes. It got a ' big laugh. "I swear, you could literally hear the audience sitting back in their seats, saying, 'Yeah, OK,' And in five minutes they'd adjusted to and accepted my voice." i Cable From page one sexist and very politically incorrect." During other infamous episodes, Parisi has staged food-poisoning attacks at local restaurants, spliced footage of National Pa'rk rangers throwing him off the VP Fair grounds with Nazi newsreels, and run around in pajamas and a beanie with a propeller at the state mental hospital on Arsenal Street. What's in this for him? "I am making people think, get excited, get happy," Parisi said. "It's like I'm on the top of the roof screaming and people are listening to me. That's my reward. The reward for doing the show is doing the show." If you think you'd rather leave Parisi, take Harold Ziegler. Please. Henny Youngman has been featured on Ziegler's half-hour Ze-Grup TV show. So have dozens of stars of yesteryear such as Buddy Ebsen, Frankie Lane (pre- and post-heart surgery) and Cesar Romero. Ziegler, 60, lives in Granite City. He has been a star hound since he was a kid with an autograph book. Collecting autographs led to collecting books about movie stars, amassing a film library and eventually to making his own films. To support his hobby, he works as an account clerk at Missouri Pacific Railroad. He has taped Jacques Cousteau, Joe Garagiola and Mickey Carroll "the munchkin." He filmed Liz Taylor hawking perfume at the Galleria, Gene Hackman driving race cars in Granite City. He got Clarabell, the mute clown of "Howdy Doody" fame, talking (on his way to a tavern). Ziegler's method is simple. He watches the paper and listens to the radio to find out what stars are coming to town, then boldly calls their agents. Amazingly, most agree to be taped. "Ninety-five percent of them are average people," Ziegler says. "The only ones we couldn't get are the ones who were too tired." Librarian by day, film maker by night, Mike Lynch is searching for the soul of the artist in his weekly half-hour program, "Television Slam." Lynch seeks out poets, dancers, musicians and artists to talk about what they do and why they do it. "I try to capture the human-interest side of what they are doing," says Lynch, a 31-year-old former TV producer from Mountain Home, Ark. "I call it amateur TV at its best, or professional TV at its worst." Like other film makers here, Lyncli is angry at "repressive, conservative, established, religious, fundamentalist . . . Victorian" St. Louis. St. Louis doesn't support or appreciate its artists, he says. "It's time to recognize there are arts and humanities Guide From page one Making a show will take much longer than you think. Film makers say they spend anywhere from three to 60 hours a week shooting and editing their programs. Don't get discouraged. If you're not sure anyone is out there watching, "knock on doors if you have to" to promote the show and get feedback, counsels Mike Lynch, producer of "Television Slam." "Otherwise," he said, "it's like performing to an empty theater." Here's how to contact area the cable companies: American Cablevision: David Rowley, access manager, 524-6823. Double Helix Corp.: Mort Hill, program director, 361-8870. TCI Cablevision of Missouri: Donovan Lloyd, production technician, 361-2135. Crown Cable Television: Larry Hart, programming director, 997-7570. Continental Cable: Rich Boizan, program manager, 727-6810. -Christine Bertelson here besides the Muny," Lynch says. "To be an artist and be real creative and do wild things is not acceptable if you want to get any type of funding. One day I hope St. Louis wakes up to see it has a lot of great talent to exploit." Marilyn Goforth Holland and Jean S. Kotchka share Lynch's dedication to unsung local talent. Holland's focus is comedy, Kotchka's is country-Western music. Both women became video producers knowing next to nothing about the medium and the process. Didn't matter. They were driven. A music teacher and songwriter, Kotchka started filming her show, "Country Western Dance Scouts," last December. After deferring her dreams of a career as a model or a songwriter (and raising children instead), "I said to myself, 'If you don't do it this time, when are you going to do it?' " Kotchka said. "I'm driving harder than I've ever driven before to give these people in music a break." Kotchka's show features original country-Western music that songwriters all over the country send her, patched behind footage of dancers at Jersey Lil's, a local nightclub. If it sounds simple, it wasn't. "I think of all the hollering and screaming and kicking and jumping up and down I did, and it was worth it to me," Kotchka said. "I am proud of myself." . . Holland, a 38-year-old substitute teacher in Edwards-ville, began by filming her girlfriend's landlord at a local comedy club. He bombed, she got hooked. Her passion for comedy turned into 17 segments of "Comedy Connection," filmed at several local comedy clubs. She comes armed with her Sony 8mm Handycam. "I'm a soldier for comedy," Holland said. "I truly believe comedy heals the soul." Brad Straubinger, 17, and two of his Mehlville High School buddies, Kevin Cloninger and Brad Shannon, shoot "Sportstalk" in Straubinger's living room in Mehlville. Straubinger's father, "Big Al," is the cameraman. The show was an outgrowth of guy stuff. "When we'd go to our lockers, we'd talk sports every day," Straubinger said. "One night we were at a hockey game and said, 'Why don't we put on a show?' " Straubinger's show is cheap, even by public access standards. His only expense is gas for his '84 Celebrity, the "Batmobile," which gets him to the Crown Cable studio in Olivette to edit his film. What does he have over the network competition? "This is fans telling you about sports, not the media," Straubinger said. "The media all kiss up to the teams. We tell it like it is." Straubinger has his eye on a network job as a sportscast-' er. And although few public access film makers make the big-time, it does happen. It happened this summer to John Cunningham, whose maverick "Driveways of the Rich and Famous" has become a rave hit in Hollywood. Cunningham, 35, rides his bicycle around Beverly Hills interviewing gardeners, trash haulers, mailmen to the stars and, occasionally, an actual star. He films with one hand and holds the microphone in the other. He was featured recently in the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and on ABC, NBC and CNN. He has just struck a six-month deal with an unnamed hot Hollywood producer, who gave him "a magic wand." "They actually called it my magic wand," said Cunningham, interviewed by phone from his home in Hollywood. "They offered to pay all my overhead for six months to make shows for public access, with a promise to let them turn it into a weekly series after that. They gave me a driver, a secretary, an office and all expenses. I would be a fool to say no to that." Cunningham went to New York to do the talk-show circuit this summer. While he was there he shot "Doormen of the Rich and Famous," featuring Madonna's and Arnold Schwarzenegger's. He also talked to the guy who sells bananas to Al Pacino. Success hasn't spoiled him, Cunningham says. But he may spoil it. "I go into this with mixed feelings," he said. "Before it was take it or leave it. Give me a sponsor and make it a weekly series and I am going to be looking over my shoulder and wondering if they think it's funny." His advice to his cable cohorts? "Believe in your dream," Cunningham staid. "That's why I love my shbw so much. I did it just for me." i ,-:-V.

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