I’m On a Podcast!


I was delighted to be a guest on Jason Klamm‘s fascinating podcast about the world of film extras, The Professional Blur. We talked about me sneaking onto the set of Airport 75, almost killing the president in a made-for-TV miniseries, and being cut out of the first Spider-Man movie by my good friend Sam Raimi (pictured). Among many other topics.

Listen to the episode here.

Ode to the Uptown

On March 13, 2020, America woke to the horrible news–no, not that horrible news, the news that the fabled Uptown Theater was closing. In fact, it was already closed. In the middle of everything else going wrong, this hits me hard.

A 1936 Art Deco palace, the Uptown building is still owned by the Pedas family; brothers, Ted and Jim ran the equally-cherished Circle Theater, which they built into a local powerhouse chain of 22 theaters, including the Uptown. So, while the landlord is sympathetic to the public’s outcry, that is no guarantee that the place will come back.

Indeed, Josh Levin, who rescued the plucky West End Cinema from the Cineplex Odeon chain (which had gobbled up Circle Theaters and was then gobbled up by current Uptown owner AMC Theaters) before having to give in to market realities, posted a thoughtfully pessimistic analysis on Facebook, delineating the many obstacles standing in the way of reopening the Uptown as a successful movie venue:

It’s a single-screen theater
Needs equipment, seating, and concession upgrades
It’s a single-screen theater
Probably needs to become a community nonprofit
It’s a single-screen theater
Probably needs a liquor license
It’s a single-screen theater

Yeah, that single screen is 70-feet-by-40-feet, but apparently watching movies on your phone is a thing. Still, there is a Change.org petition going around to try to save the place. I signed.

And with so many memories wrapped up in that theater, I made this video appreciation. Enjoy.

Express is Dead! Long Live Expresso!

So the Washington Post has finally stopped printing its weekday tabloid, Express, a mere 16 years after I tried to get them to give up on such a bad idea. In fact, I was so sure Express was foolish that I created a same-day-of-publication parody, Expresso, which was distributed at Metro stops right alongside the Post‘s confused hawkers. That is, I had the great help of the Washington City Paper staff, and its publisher, Jane Levine, who agreed to throw more than $10,000 at a fairly juvenile gag.

The inspiration for publicly mocking the Paper of Record came after reading the Post‘s article announcing why they decided to create the thing. Editors had noticed that half of Metro riders weren’t reading a newspaper. Their conclusion: That’s our market! My smug response from my breakfast table: No, those are the people you’ve already lost!

The Post seemed intent on creating a newspaper for people with no interest in reading newspapers. So I came up with the concept of “a paper for people who don’t like to read,” and the tagline: “Half the Content. Twice as Free!” And pretty much wrote all the content-free content, which was largely listicles, before that became a thing. Also took the photos of willing co-workers pretending to be goofs.

At the time, I was City Paper‘s Webmeister, in charge of its online music site, among other tasks. In addition to disliking the idea of what I perceived to be a dumbed-down news product — and note: I was also against the equally simplistic USA Today when it first appeared — part of my reaction against Express came from the fact that the mighty Post was marching into City Paper‘s territory, the free paper. In fact, Express’ initial rate card did undercut City Paper. I was not only opposed to Express on pretentious grounds, but also it was a real threat to my livelihood.

We printed 25,000 copies, I believe, along with bright yellow Expresso T-shirts for staffers to wear that morning at Metro stations around town. And we continued the joke by creating a website, u-love-expresso.com, which went to a gotcha page and then to City Paper‘s homepage. For all of this we won a “Format Buster” award from the Association of Alternative Newspapers.

Side note, as I was giving away copies at the Silver Spring Metro that morning, an older gentleman slowly walked up and, with a sad face, corrected me: “It’s espresso.”

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Going Deep With “Shallow”


Would you like 300 cover versions of the song Shallow from the film A Star Is Born? Of course you would. After exhaustive and exhausting research, I’m proud to present this list of some — repeat, some — of the too many cover versions of this Oscar-worthy tune, performed in the film by the Oscar-worthy Bradley Cooper and the Oscar-worthy Lady Gaga. Many of these renditions rival the quality and emotional resonance of the film version. Many do not. Some have thousands of views; others low single digits. Some are just inexplicable. Enjoy this time-suck. You’re welcome.

  1. Alyssa Shouse
  2. Allie Sherlock
  3. Moniqué, Justinas Jarutis
  4. Brian Justin Crum
  5. Jess & Matt
  6. The JLP Show
  7. Kurt Hugo Schneider
  8. Cimorelli
  9. Mackenzie Johnson
  10. Lynnea M.
  11. Flavie Léa
  12. Angela Vazquez
  13. Lewis Capaldi
  14. Alexander Stewart
  15. AJ Rafael ft. Shoshana Bean
  16. Fran Coem & Andrea Guasch
  17. Cheska
  18. Lyrical Jazz’s choreography of Cheska cover of Shallow
  19. Fran Lopez
  20. Sonny & Hannah Grace
  21. Cody & Lexy
  22. Emma Heesters
  23. The Marlows
  24. David Alvareeezy & Alex Aiono
  25. Greg Gontier
  26. Kingdom Street
  27. Maria Demian
  28. Sophia Scott
  29. Sam Woolf
  30. Nguyen Kien
  31. Madysyn Rose Cover Ft. Tyler Ward
  32. New Hope Club
  33. Lyam Neal
  34. Sam Mangubat ft. Gidget dela Llana
  35. Always Alessandra
  36. funtwo
  37. Ben Siskin
  38. Valerie Varela
  39. Tayla Mae
  40. Rajiv Dhall
  41. Leadley
  42. Lawrence Park & Ali Brustofski
  43. The Light Parade
  44. Sofía y Ander
  45. Žan Sercic & Sara Lamprecnik
  46. Melissa Y Eureka
  47. Hannah Alex
  48. Della Firdatia ft. Felix
  49. Victoria Skie
  50. Cheryl K
  51. Jasmine Clarke
  52. Konah Raynes
  53. Luiza Gattai
  54. Sophie Pecora
  55. Melissa Walker
  56. Fatma Rizaldi
  57. Lisa Onuoha
  58. Chase Fouraker & Lena Stone
  59. Gabriela Toklowicz
  60. Casi Joy
  61. Jake Mackay
  62. Davi Music Official
  63. Arlene Zelina & Printz Board
  64. Renn Miko & Ashira
  65. Peter Gergely
  66. Toni Pirosa
  67. Voncken
  68. Luis Busho / Monsster Holland
  69. Robert Grace
  70. Eduard Freixa
  71. Kevin & Karla
  72. Musicality
  73. Carla Laubalo y Claupasal
  74. Heru Lee
  76. Valentin YOMBA
  77. Kyle Meagher and Dalila Bela
  78. Demi van Wijngaarden
  79. Alexander Stewart
  80. Kitty Kathusky
  81. Sydney Simpson
  82. Fiddlerman
  83. Liv Bevan
  84. Break Out The Crazy
  85. Siren Gene
  86. Madu Hisaoka
  87. Jake Davey & Kylie Jane
  88. Steph La Rochelle
  89. Andres Colin & Kindred
  90. Bella River
  91. Mario Spinetti
  92. Fun Factory TV
  93. Evynne Hollens & Peter Hollens
  94. Francesco Parrino
  95. Ethan
  96. Lily Schub
  97. Ellina Styliadou
  98. Yuval Salomon
  99. Denis Kalytovskyi
  100. Camelia Crisan & Titus Homei
  101. Ben Woodward
  102. Ben Platt
  103. Gabriela Toklowicz
  104. Nanda Pratiwy ft. Troy
  105. Alex Kautz
  106. Maria Pina Cavezza ft Claudio
  107. Maíra Amorim
  108. Josh Lewis
  109. Katharina Schwerk & Guillermo Campoy
  110. Justin Capps and The Cavaliers ft. Erin Newman
  111. Yasam Chyne
  112. Lloyd Griffiths
  113. Halyss & Marina Odessa
  114. Šárka Tonarová feat Cory Smallegan
  115. Jaune Papillon
  116. Hannah Hobbs
  117. Brooklyn Duo – cello and piano
  118. Zoe Moreton
  119. Axelle Thays
  120. Omar Afuni
  121. Evi Christina, Liset Michel & Silvester Pool
  122. Abby and Sarah
  123. The Lars
  124. Nika Zorjan
  125. Julia Carlile // merseygirls
  126. Jimena Amor y Álvaro Hdez
  127. Emeline
  128. Shelley Mill
  129. Charlee Polidano
  130. Signe goffygang
  131. Logan Alexandra
  132. Amy Astrid
  133. Rei Cover Videos
  134. Jerry & Yuki
  135. Georgia Box
  136. Dani Octa
  137. Morgan Mattheis
  138. Aaron Odell
  139. Luke Moskowitz
  140. Jahne Dreams Jesse Linn
  141. The Oceanic Aria
  142. John Buckley
  143. Danny Rey
  144. Suzanne Samson
  145. Charlotte Hannah
  146. Jon Pumper
  147. Line Gosselin
  148. Trent Bell
  149. Katia
  150. Kfir Ochaion
  151. Gara González
  152. Alec Chambers
  153. Zainab Darong
  154. Sup I’m Bianca
  155. Maximedro
  156. Giselle Rivera
  157. Cecilia Pascal
  158. Cherry Lita
  159. Deborah Ghiddi
  160. Megan Tara
  161. Alexis Pinney
  162. Macià Pallarès Pallarès
  163. Abigail Frances
  164. Chiara Cami
  165. Taylor Duarte
  166. Gary C
  167. Jackie Foster
  168. Beth O’Reilly
  169. BTWN US
  170. Alessandra Patané, Salvatore Alderuccio
  171. Nischal Nepal
  172. Harmonie London
  173. KarLita Dinni Kadiin
  174. Wesley Li
  175. ELISKA + Martin Cisar
  176. Jon G.
  177. Kolton Stewart and Abigail Winter
  178. Malgowski Michel
  179. Marko The Piano Man
  180. heather_xoxo _101
  181. Chad Graham Feat. Fallon Graham
  182. Joyful Luisa
  183. Léo Quentin
  184. Amir Brandon
  185. Alison Sparrow
  186. Cerita Nusantara
  187. Thomas and Audrey NVH
  188. Ania Deko & Grzegorz Hyzy
  189. Toni Pirosa
  190. Itcho Pcelár
  191. Little Lyrebird
  192. Dylan Fraser
  193. Bagus Cahya Wibawa
  194. Sara Bentes
  195. Omar Chirinos
  196. Mandy Dickson
  197. Adriana Colón
  198. Fabiana Sousa
  199. Will Faust
  200. Sophie Hastings
  201. michiamberg
  202. Jonathan Tilkin
  203. Disney65Fan
  204. Micle’s Piano
  205. BALÉ_TV
  206. Nayara Portela
  207. Brae Cala
  208. Andrey Sado & Yuliya Dementyeva & Damien Safronov
  209. Saskia Eng
  210. Fergie Lian
  211. Lina Frances Music
  212. Jamie LeRose
  213. Frank Cotty
  214. Hannah Adams
  215. Mark Fantasia
  216. David Stanyer
  217. Kaiennenhawi Cross
  218. Melissa Martin & Alex Grenier
  219. Laís Araújo
  220. swiftcovers
  221. Evan & Mary-Jane
  222. Ana Horvat & Dino Antonic
  223. Larve Limbagan
  224. Vi Franks
  225. we winqa
  226. Natalie & Chloe Music
  227. Emily Price
  228. Elliott
  229. Erica Lazo
  230. Matthew Lin
  231. Celine Norambuena
  232. George Cisneros
  233. Alexandre Gallet & Inès Serra
  234. Ari Nao
  235. Victoria Anthony Music
  236. Iva Curic
  237. Thames Band
  238. Michelle Vinic
  239. Davina Michelle
  240. Amelia Rosa Butterworth
  241. AMÉ
  242. Steph Willis
  243. Bruno Araujo
  244. Matty Queen Bee
  245. Maddison Mian
  246. Bree Lenehan
  247. Julia Omelko
  248. munyehkels
  249. Tyler Costin and Siena Streiber
  250. Emily Summers and Leo Luck
  251. Ria Ritchie
  252. JD Larsen
  253. Ellen Dowse (Elliott Dowse)
  254. Maria Laroco
  255. David Calabrés
  256. Osher
  257. Aine Carroll
  258. Allie Sealey
  259. Giuseppe de Simone e Claudia Irto
  260. Jett Blyton
  261. Emma Jayne
  262. harmonyjo
  263. Aimee Music Official
  264. Dalton Russell
  265. Riyandi Kusuma
  266. Chandler Berardi
  267. Amanda Defacendis
  268. Rapluvi
  269. Jonash
  270. It’s Alex
  271. Adelia Mahaffee
  272. Junior Paez
  273. Dani Octa
  274. Anastasia Papas
  275. Daphne Snow
  276. Yoel Sanchez
  277. Simon James
  278. Claire Rxse
  279. EKA SPS
  280. Zoe Alexander
  281. Paulene May
  282. Lynsay Ryan
  283. Arno K
  284. Sergio Tur
  285. Lise DARLY
  286. Spence Cater
  287. Yazmin Aziz
  288. Savannah Van
  289. Oly Green
  290. Yahto Kraft
  291. Daphné R.
  292. Christian Oscarsson
  293. Marisol Luna
  294. OMJamie
  295. Daniel Alkato
  296. SeriouslyChris
  297. Darien Bernard
  298. Caitlin Simone & Lloyd Snyder
  299. Elle Smarzinski
  300. And of course, this:

  301. Wanderson Prudencio oficial

Loco in MoCo


Please enjoy this Q&A I did with the prolific author Mike Sacks (I reviewed him here and here) about his latest literary outrage, Randy: The Full and Complete Unedited Biography and Memoir of the Amazing Life and Times of Randy S.!

Sacks claims that the book is a “self-published memoir of a thirty-something from Maryland found by me at a garage sale and that’s being re-published ‘as is.'” As the interview reveals, the work is really a vulgarly heartfelt homage to Maryland — largely Montgomery County — from a native son who strayed far from home.

One may also follow “Randy” on Twitter at @RandyIsDaMan, where the occasional reward is witnessing Randy’s Twitter feuds with the likes of Justine Bateman. What a world.

Maryland Native Mike Sacks’s New Novel Is The Most Montgomery County Thing Ever

For Whom the Belmont Tolls


Happy to have my first byline in Washingtonian magazine, an oral history of the Belmont TV jingle (“Whatever you want, think Belmont!”)

This extends my previous trifecta with Washingtonian. For several years, my band played the magazine’s annual “Best & Worst” gala, a swanky soiree based on its issue celebrating and castigating what the editors considered the high and low points of D.C. culture. The live event featured only the high points, where “Best” winners, mostly restaurants, were invited to host a booth and offer their wares. My band, I should note, was certainly not the best in D.C. Not sure how we got the gig, but they were usually fun.

As for low points, my group, Travesty Films, was once named the “Best Vanity Project” for our crowd-pleasing though admittedly low-brow comedy films. Thanks, I guess.

And then one year I was invited to be a judge for the Best & Worst issue, lending my expertise to the category of Best Movie Theater Popcorn. Arch Campbell was also a judge. We set up at the Uptown Theater to sample the snacks, including some microwave popcorn, which I didn’t think should have qualified. I can’t remember who we gave the prize to, but I recall being underwhelmed by all the options. For the record, the best movie popcorn was at the old Cineplex Odeon Wisconsin Avenue, which proudly boasted real butter — until the scolds at the Center for Science in the Public Interest released a “study” that declared buttered popcorn to be a health hazard. Cineplex countered with a statement pointing out that most Americans only go to the movies a few times a year and thus were hardly in danger of contracting heart disease from the multiplex. And then the company caved and changed the recipe to the same dreck as everyone else. Thanks, “science”!

As is often the case in journalism, one learns as much about oneself as the subject of one’s article. Though I’d been listening to the jingle for its entire 40-year history, I didn’t realize until I made the calls that I knew everyone in the band: Pete Kennedy on guitar, Shannon Ford on drums, high school classmate the late, lamented Wade Matthews on bass, and Jon Carroll and Margot Chapman on vocals.

Anyway, the article was fun to do. I got to use my clever Olympus TP-8 Telephone Pick-up Microphone, which I picked up after learning that Ryan Lizza used one to record his insane conversation with disgraced political nutjob Anthony Scaramucci.

Click the link to get the earworm stuck in your head all over again. You’re welcome.

R.I.P Dick Gregory

I had the honor of interviewing Dick Gregory for WPFW radio in 2008. Basically, I said “Hello,” and he pretty much filled the next hour with wonderful anecdotes of his pioneering days in comedy and philosophical stories on all manner of subjects. Gregory was a very sweet fellow in person, happy to pose for a photo with some random white dude. The interview was for a pledge drive and the goal was met, for which I can take no credit.

Gregory’s importance in comedy cannot be overstated. Follow Kliph Nesteroff on Twitter; he has been posting amazing stories about and pictures of Gregory for the last couple days. Nesteroff is the author of the essential book, The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels & the History of American Comedy, and clearly can see into the future as well as the past.

Here is the Washington Post‘s excellent obit.

Inside the Nuttycombe Archives

I open the electrofied doors to welcome you into the Nuttycombe Archives. Behold the wonders and imagine owning a piece thereof. Seriously, all offers considered. This may be the first step in an upcoming Kickstarter campaign to finally monetize a lifetime of collecting and just attracting all manner of exotic cultural flotsam, jetsam, and Jetsons figurines.