Tag Archives: Bob Hope

A Day at the Races: Birthday Fun at Santa Anita Park.

Club House and Grand Stand Santa Anita, Los Angeles Turf Club ArcadiaDSC_6796 - 2013-02-16 at 14-12-58DSC_6805 - 2013-02-16 at 14-18-03(Color photos by Steve Stroud.)

Damon Runyon would have loved it: a splendid day at Santa Anita, the crown jewel of So Cal horse racing.

RUNYON-DAMON-PHOTOOf course, Runyon was a New City habitué, following the ponies at Aqueduct rather than the historic track at the foot of the mountains in Arcadia, California.

But the guys and dolls who gathered at The Turf Club to mark our great friend Jim Newton’s 50th birthday were the kind of colorful characters that Runyon would have loved to populate his classic stories.

It’s fitting that Runyon was a newspaperman, because “Gentleman Jim” Newton — and so many of our dear friends who joined us at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, February 16th — are journalists who have toiled at The Los Angeles Times.DSC_6914 - 2013-02-16 at 17-17-59

the-lemondrop-kid-bob-hope-william-frawleyIt felt a bit like a scene from Sorrowful Jones or The Lemon Drop Kid as this Pulitzer Prize-winning group of writers and reporters were soon turned into a bunch of rabid horseracing railbirds.

My wife Victoria, daughter and I were attending Santa Anita Park for the first time – nearly eight decades after the oldest racetrack in Southern California opened on Christmas Day 1934.
img_5288-dress-code-signMovie producer Hal Roach – the guy who brought us Laurel & Hardy and The Little Rascals – helped to open The Turf Club: the very same swanky section of the park that we gathered to celebrate Jim’s birthday.

We were all dressed appropriately for the venue — and ready for an afternoon of adventure at the track.

Carol "Lucky Lady" Stogsdil peruses the racing form in search of a winner.

Carol “Lucky Lady” Stogsdill peruses the racing form in search of a winner.

Henry "The Horse" Weinstein makes notes on his next wager.

Henry “The Horse” Weinstein makes notes on his next wager.

hollywood-park-inglewood-curtis-burnett-grantIn its glory days, Santa Anita attracted Hollywood luminaries including Betty Grable, Lana Turner, Jane Russell and Cary Grant. Bing Crosby and Al Jolson were among the stockholders. Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, and “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek have owned horses that raced at Santa Anita. (One of horses racing the day we were there is owned by pro golf great, Greg Norman.) Santa Anita was the place where, in 1940, the legendary racehorse Seabiscuit won the Santa Anita Handicap in his last start.

021912-opinions-history-internment-matsumoto-gallery-4-ss-662wOf course, historian Jim Newton was quick to inform me that from 1942 to 1944, Santa Anita Park was used by the U.S. government as a transport center for nearly 20,000 Japanese-Americans bound for internment camps like Manzanar in California’s Owens Valley.

Unlike those unfortunate internees during that infamous episode in Santa Anita’s history, we came to the racetrack voluntarily – and once we beheld the glorious view from the grandstand, gazing out across the exquisitely groomed grounds to that mountainous backdrop – it was hard to understand why, after more than 20 years of life in Los Angeles, we’d never been to Santa Anita before.DSC_6924 - 2013-02-16 at 17-54-54

Spending the day at The Turf Club made our Santa Anita experience even more special. You can’t find a better place to people-watch between races.

DSC_6807 - 2013-02-16 at 14-27-15Ordering a drink at the luxurious Turf Club bar or placing your bets at the club’s private wagering windows, it’s easy to conjure the excitement and glamour of Santa Anita’s heyday.

With its dress code strictly enforced and its aura of opulence and classic, old school charm, the Turf Club is a bastion of civilization in a rapidly changing time.

And then there are the horses.DSC_6734 - 2013-02-16 at 13-32-47

DSC_6749 - 2013-02-16 at 13-44-50Over the course of the 10 races that day, Victoria and I placed our wagers on thoroughbreds with names like God Of War, Smil’n From Above, Great Hot (an 8-1 shot that earned Victoria $80 on a $10 bet), Camille C, Jubilant Girl, Jesse’s Giacomo and Hard Buns.

DSC_6854 - 2013-02-16 at 14-50-43I should have bet on Judy In Disguise to win in the 8th race. My rock & roll instincts told me to go with the filly named after the 1968 hit song by John Fred and his Playboy Band (also covered by Gary Lewis & The Playboys later that same year) – but I second-guessed myself. Judy in Disguise won the race going away.

One of the horses was named Ghost of a Chance. C’mon. Really? How can you put your money down on a horse his owner calls a Ghost of a Chance?

By the time the last horse crossed the finish line, Victoria and I broke even betting on the ponies – but our day at races was a clear winner.

And here’s a sure bet.

It won’t be another two decades before we pay our next visit to Santa Anita Park.

Birthday boy Jim Newton celebrates a winner!

Birthday boy “Gentleman Jim” Newton celebrates a winner!

Our photographer, Steve "Shutter Bug" Stroud, at The Turf Club.

Our photographer friend, Steve “Shutter Bug” Stroud, at The Turf Club.

Our hosts, Jim & Karlene: the First Couple of Cool.

Our hosts, Jim & Karlene: the First Couple of Cool.

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Filed under Beauty, History, Sports

Farewell, Cleveland! Thanks for the Love and Laughter!

Cleveland, Ohio is often associated with laughs. My hometown is often the butt of jokes — including many made by its steady crop of homegrown comedians, from Bob Hope to Drew Carey. Much of the laughter is well-earned: you set fire to a river JUST ONCE and it’s hard to escape the jokes.

But while Cleveland has been laughed at many times, it’s a city with a great sense of humor — and there’s nothing like being in a room full of Clevelanders enjoying a laugh. That’s what I rediscovered during our recent run of “The Vic & Paul Show” at the 14th Street Theatre in Cleveland’s Playhouse Square.

Every night, Clevelanders got every joke in the show — and the laughter flowed with warmth and recognition. Even when we performed some songs and sketches during an afternoon appearance at a local Senior Citizen Center, it was obvious that Clevelanders enjoyed a joke no matter what their age.

So, while Cleveland has often been laughed AT — we were delighted to be laughing WITH Cleveland this past week. And it wasn’t a one-way street. For all the laughs Victoria, Steve and I delivered from the stage — we were treated in return to a steady stream of wit and riposte from audience and crew members, family, friends, former classmates, teachers and coaches of mine — and even passersby! (Especially that guy in the car who shouted out, “Welcome to Cleveland” with a wide smile as we pulled up next to him.)

I’ll be publishing a longer report on my whole summer adventure as soon as I catch my breath. But I wanted to shout out to my hometown while all those laughs are still ringing in my ears.

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Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation

Oscar Night Highs & Lows: A Poll

The 2010 Academy Awards, celebrating the film industry’s best and the brightest, have been doled out to the winners and, for the most part, I can’t argue with the choices made by the Academy voters.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that I won last night’s Oscar Party poll. Because even though I managed to watch “The Hurt Locker” the day before the awards ceremony – and I knew at once that Kathryn Bigelow’s film deserved all the Oscar buzz it was getting – I still couldn’t resist voting for “Avatar” and the amazing world James Cameron created.

As it turned out, Cameron’s $300 million dollar film was amply rewarded for the stunning world it created with Oscars for Visual Effects, Art Direction, and Cinematography. But Bigelow’s much smaller budget war movie about an American bomb disposal unit working the shattered, nervous streets of Baghdad won for Best Picture, and not even James Cameron seemed to mind.

Who would've imagined that the first woman to win Best Director would win it for a war movie?

Aside from a couple of unnecessary lines of dialogue in a couple of scenes toward the end of the film, “The Hurt Locker” is a contemporary classic: something that every American should see. And now that it’s picked up a slew of Oscars, millions more will see the film in this country and around the world.

Think about it. What would a Best Picture Oscar have meant to “Avatar”, which has already earned $2.6 billion dollars worldwide? That’s more than 120 times what “The Hurt Locker” has done at the box office so far.

It can’t hurt to have more Americans watch Jeremy Renner and his fellow cast members portray heroic young soldiers risking their lives to protect their fellow soldiers — and an ambivalent, if not openly hostile Iraqi populace — from sudden, ultra-violent death. There’s no glorious war to be seen in this movie. Just serial carnage.

Bravo, Bravo Company!

As for the rest of the awards and the ceremony itself, the good far outweighed the bad. It was great to see one of my all-time favorite actors, Jeff Bridges, take home the gold.

And everyone in my family knew I’d be pulling for my cinematic sweetheart, Sandra Bullock – in a successful sports movie, no less! (That’s a two-fer!)

Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin were the kind of hosts for a major TV event we haven’t seen since the golden days when Bing Crosby and Bob Hope casually knocked out vaudeville one-liners with effortless comic precision and old school show biz bonhomie.

Bob and Bing show us how it used to be done, Back in the day, you had to be triple threat to be a star.

And who didn’t love the brilliant, recently-discovered Cristoph Waltz in “Inglorious Basterds” — playing the most loveably entertaining yet thoroughly evil Nazi we’ve seen since TV’s “Hogan’s Heroes”. This award was never in doubt. They could have handed Waltz his golden statuette right after Quentin Tarantino’s offbeat World War Two revenge fantasy opened last summer.

And did anyone seriously think that any animated feature film other than “Up” was a contender? Personally, I was happy to see “Up” win two major awards, just so they could keep cutting back to Ed Asner – which, I’m sure, gave right-wingers a conniption all evening. (Come to think of it, just about everything on Oscar night gives conservatives a pain.)

But, among the generally satisfying symphony of elegance and good taste on Oscar night, there were, alas, a few discordant notes. If you saw the show – you know what they were. But what was the most sour note of all? You may not have gotten a chance to vote for the Academy Awards, but you are welcome to vote in our poll…

And just so we’re not dwelling unduly on the negative, I also invite you to cast your vote on a positive note…

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Filed under Polls, Random Commentary