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Sunday, September 5, 2021

"COLUMBO" - 50th Anniversary Celebrating Peter Falk as TV's Favorite Detective

by George Haloulakos

This month marks the 50th anniversary of when "COLUMBO" began airing regularly as a major network TV show, running from 1971 - 1978.  However, this endearing and much celebrated fictional police detective, actually had three separate runs, and herein, are some interesting plot twists that equal some of the wonderful scripts that featured Peter Falk in the starring role.

   Created by Richard Levinson and William Link, it was originally thought by the two writers that either Lee J. Cobb or Bing Crosby should play the role of Columbo.  However, with Cobb unavailable and Crosby declining the offer, director Richard Irving convinced Levinson and Link that Peter Falk would be an excellent choice as the fictional homicide detective for the Los Angeles Police Department.  This decision was part one of Peter Falk's association with the character he became inextricably connected with for the remainder of his career.  In the late 1960s, NBC was airing full length, made-for-TV movies featuring major film and television stars.  As part of this lineup in 1968, a one-off TV-Movie-of-the-Week, "Prescription: Murder" featured Peter Falk in his debut as Lt Columbo matched against a psychiatrist (played by Gene Barry) who murdered his wife (Nina Foch).  This one-off film proved so popular that network executives requested that a pilot for a potential series be made to determine whether the character could be sustained on a recurring basis.  This was part one of the Peter Falk / "COLUMBO" saga.

  Part two began with the pilot "Ransom for a Dead Man," a 1-1/2 hour film featuring Lee Grant as the killer that aired in 1971.  The popularity of the pilot prompted the decision to create a regular TV series but with a few notable twists or real points of difference that helped catapult both "COLUMBO" and Peter Falk to legendary status.  With the series now given the go-ahead, thereby beginning its second run (the first being the aforementioned one-off "Prescription: Murder") it was decided to air "COLUMBO" about once a month as part of The NBC Mystery Movie, a rotating series that not only featured Peter Falk as "COLUMBO" but Rock Hudson in "McMillan & Wife," Dennis Weaver as "McCloud" and Richard Boone as "Hec Ramsey."  As a motion picture star, Falk refused to commit to a grinding schedule of filming a new episode every five days.  The extra time now available led to a much higher quality product since each "COLUMBO" episode was essentially filmed and aired as a full-length, made-for-TV film!  Given the stellar line up of guest stars (including Academy and Emmy Award winners from Hollywood's storied past), each "COLUMBO" movie was truly a special event.

   For the next seven years, "COLUMBO" dominated its time slots: in its first year, it was shown on Wednesday evenings, but in its second year it moved to Sunday evenings, where it remained a fixture in the NBC lineup.  The season premiere episode for Fall 1973, "Any Old Port in a Storm," proved so popular that NBC made the unusual decision to broadcast an encore just a few weeks later!  This episode featured Donald Pleasence as an eccentric winemaker who murders his brother to maintain financial control of the family winery, only to have the crafty Lt Columbo -- whose new-found knowledge of wine was shared with the TV viewer -- create an elaborate trap revealing how the murder was committed.  Counting the original one-off 1968 "Prescription: Murder" and the 1971 pilot "Ransom for a Dead Man," a total of 45 "COLUMBO" episodes (full-length made-for-TV films) were made from between 1968 - 1978.  This was part two of the "COLUMBO" / Falk saga.

  Part three ran from 1989 - 2003, as the ABC TV network revived the series with Peter Falk returning as Lt Columbo in 24 "specials" that aired over a fourteen year period.  In this sequence, our favorite homicide detective showed that like a fine wine, he improved with age.  Many of the stars who had previously been on its original 1971-1978 series, rejoined Peter Falk to tantalize audiences with new variants of a time-honored formula as Lt Columbo continued to match wits with the rich, famous, powerful and amazingly gifted perpetrators who invariably underestimated the keen intellect of their police adversary.  With vintage or classic TV, there is obviously a treasure trove of trivia to unpack.  But with this month's GNN blog, we hope this will inspire you to check out the many websites devoted to Peter Falk in his signature role as "COLUMBO."  You may also revisit "COLUMBO" by watching ME TV every Sunday which is airing the entire series sequentially, or watch on DVD or streaming.

   If you have special memories of "COLUMBO" and Peter Falk that you would like to share, please post to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site..  Please connect with me via LinkedIn (where my active following is now 1,100+ and steadily growing).  View my profile at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rev-protodn-george-haloulakos-cfa-bab6b43


Sunday, August 1, 2021

"Sixty One in '61" : Roger Maris: A Man for All Seasons

by George Haloulakos

Baseball is a game that marks the passage of time.  This summer as we celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Roger Maris hitting 61 home runs in 1961, we are reminded there is so much more than just a number when taking the measure of a man.  Baseball analytics, which views the game on the diamond through the prism of statistics and metrics, reveal a very good player that in a twelve year career (1958-1967) slugged 275 home runs with a .260 batting average and 850 runs batted in (RBI).  According to Baseball-Reference.com, this record generated 38.3 wins above replacement (WAR) that enabled Maris to earn two Most Valuable Player awards (1960-61) and appear in seven major league All-Star games.  At the peak of his career, Maris posted three consecutive seasons with 100 or more RBIs (1960-61-62) while helping the New York Yankees win three American League Pennants and two World Series Championships in that same period.  But these are just numbers, for with the passage of time we can appreciate Roger Maris as "A Man For All Seasons."


Maris was a player whose peak occurred at a time of enormous cultural, demographic and political change.  The mixed response to his pursuit of Babe Ruth's single season home run record at the outset of the 1960s reflected a generational divide along with the emergence of athletes as celebrities.  The onslaught of media coverage created such enormous pressure and public consternation for Maris that his only refuge could be found on the playing field.  In the decades since his record setting 1961 season, Maris can now be appreciated for not only being a man who placed team above self but a devoted husband and father who led an ethical life both on and off the field.


Since the decade of the 2000s, ongoing revelations of alleged use of steroids by many of the pursuers of baseball's home run records, the seemingly endless news reports of players committing physical abuse against loved ones, cheating and the like have helped to enlarge and affirm not only the magnitude of Maris's accomplishments on the field but demonstrate he was a man of honor, dignity and integrity.  When Maris hit his record setting sixty-first home run in a 1-0 season finale over the Boston Red Sox, it demonstrated for all time that beyond mixed press relations or controversy about Hall of Fame worthiness this was a man who was committed to being a good teammate dedicated to winning with integrity.  This carried beyond his Yankee tenure as Maris finished his career with the St Louis Cardinals helping the Redbirds win two National League Pennants and a World Series in his final two seasons (1967-68).  It was through his association with St Louis that Maris was able to launch a very successful career with a beer distributorship set up by Cardinals owner Gussie Busch.  Life after baseball proved to be most fulfilling for the man who is best remembered for 61 in '61.  In 1984, one year before his passing, the Yankees honored Maris by inducting him into the hallowed Monument Valley in Yankee Stadium with an inscribed plaque featuring a subtitle "Against All Odds."  

Although Maris's playing career occurred in the crossfire of cultural, demographic and political changes of the 1960s, the memory of the type of person he was seems to have transcended that most tumultuous time.  While his grave site commemorates 61 in '61 (along with the US Postal Service doing the same with its 1999 commemorative stamp for its century series), thanks to wonderful articles, books and films we are able to appreciate the life story behind those numbers.  The man who starred with baseball's most legendary team while receiving accolades from the President of the United States was able to retain the common touch by having life-long friendships with teammates and fans alike.

To learn about the person forever associated with the number 61, here are some recommendations for summertime reading and/or viewing pleasure.

Roger Maris.  By Maury Allen.  Donald I. Fine, Inc. 1986.

61* -- an HBO film directed by Billy Crystal (2001).

"Roger Maris and Me."  By Andy Strasberg.  Reader's Digest - May 1990.  Pages 65-68.


There is of course, much more.  But these three are my personal favorites, and perhaps this will encourage many of you to find other such treasures.  If you do, please post to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site..  Please connect with me via LinkedIn (where my active following is now 1,100+ and steadily growing).  View my profile at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rev-protodn-george-haloulakos-cfa-bab6b43

Sunday, July 4, 2021

"RIDERS ON THE STORM": Remembering Jim Morrison & The Doors

by George Haloulakos

Believe it or not, July 3rd marks the 50th anniversary of the unexpected passing of Rock Music legend Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors.  Despite being one of the most iconic and influential figures in Rock & Roll music history, his passing almost went unnoticed by the general public at that time.  Keep in mind this was decades ago, long before 24/7 digital social media.  Yours truly recalls reading about Morrison's passing in a column buried deep in the main section of a leading Southern California metropolitan newspaper that not only reported the death of this rock legend but that he had already been buried in the Poets Corner of the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France!

  With this rather quiet, almost eerie exit, the stature of Jim Morrison & The Doors grew in the ensuing decades as their supernatural, mystical sound remained timeless if not transcendent.  The Doors were formed in 1965 with Morrison as the lead vocalist, Ray Manzarek as keyboardist, Robby Krieger as guitarist and drummer John Densmore.  Manzarek's keyboard artistry and versatility provided the bass when needed.  Taking its name from Aldous Huxley's book The Doors of Perception, The Doors became the first American band to accumulate eight consecutive "gold" LPs (Long Playing Records).  For those of us who grew up in Los Angeles, The Doors have forever been viewed as an "LA band" because of its inextricable connection with The Whiskey a Go Go, a Sunset Strip nightclub that only helped launch The Doors but also The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Frank Zappa and others while powering the LA music scene for over 50 years.  

   The members of The Doors were a fusion of varied musical backgrounds that included Jazz, Rock, Blues and Folk genres.  With Morrison's distinctive voice, poetic readings and very dynamic personality, The Doors and their music appear to have aged much better than their peers from the Summer of 1967 when The Doors released their self-titled debut album the same year as other major releases by The Beatles and The Airplane.  In a period associated with mayhem and counterculture, The Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek observed that while The Beatles were singing "All You Need is Love" it was The Doors who sang "Light My Fire" thereby affirming a real point of difference versus their British counterparts and perhaps providing a more definitive, transcendent pop culture image.  When listening to the other songs from that 1967 self-titled debut album -- "Break On Through (To the Other Side)" which featured an uptempo bossa nova style with mambo influence, or the dramatic 12-minute "The End" (later heard in the epic 1979 film "Apocalypse Now") -- The Doors sound as fresh and unique now as they did more than 50 years ago!  The same cannot necessarily be said for other bands from that era whose musical style (as good as it was) is inextricably locked into a time warp.  This is analogous to an expression used in sports about various players who could succeed in any era.  The Doors are timeless and would fit in any era while also defining the decade of the 1960s with their very special music. 

   My personal favorite from The Doors is "Riders on the Storm."  Released in 1971, "Riders on the Storm'' was the last song recorded by all four members of the band as well as Morrison's last song released in his lifetime.  With the sound of waves crashing against the shore and Manzarek's cool jazz  keyboard playing in the background, Morrison recorded the main vocals and then whispered the lyrics over them to create a gothic echo effect.  The memorable line from this song "into this world we're thrown" would seem to reflect German philosopher Martin Heidegger's concept of thrownness (in which humans' individual existences are described as being literally thrown into the world).  With The Doors, there is so much more, as we have only touched upon just a few highlights.  But hopefully this will stir up memories!

   In this month's blog we have offered, so to speak, a sniff of the cork on a truly iconic rock band from Pop Culture history.  There are so many threaded discussions that can be derived from this column and we invite you to share your thoughts via posting on to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Moreover, there are a number of books and video accounts about The Doors as well as Jim Morrison, and we would encourage our Galaxy audience to check them out on their own.  Finally, do know that I am always receptive to connecting via LinkedIn (where my active following is now 1,100+ and steadily growing).  View my profile at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rev-protodn-george-haloulakos-cfa-bab6b43

Monday, May 31, 2021

The "Play's The Thing": Why We Love Stage Plays

by George Haloulakos

The gradual nationwide re-opening in the aftermath of the public health crisis sparks a resurgence to engage in social activities that have been either in stasis or were only permitted on a limited scale.  This includes such recreational activities like attending or visiting theme/amusement parks, major sporting events, concerts, movie theaters, stage plays and many more!  During this period we have come to miss such activities because of the wonderful memories that are made when getting together with loved ones, friends and colleagues while witnessing great exhibitions or memorable  performances.  In particular, the shutdown of Broadway plays in New York City was especially distressing because of its iconic status that transcends multiple generations and cultures.  While the collateral impact of the shutdown was not confined solely to New York City, the world of stage theater has long been inextricably associated with Broadway and its symbolic leadership role in Fine Arts.

    The expression "The Play's The Thing" comes to mind as we celebrate the return of live stage theater.  This popular expression actually comes from William Shakespeare's Hamlet (Act 2, Scene 2)  in which Hamlet refers to using the play as a means by which to touch the conscience of Claudius (thereby letting Claudius know that he - Hamlet - actually knows who killed his father).  Whether you are a fan of the grand stage (i.e., a Broadway play), summer stock, dinner theater, school or neighborhood plays, there is indeed something very endearing, if not special, when attending a live stage play up close and in person!  So for this reason, "The Play's The Thing."


With this in mind, it would be great to hear from you, the wonderful GNN audience, about your favorite memories connected with stage plays!  In the spirit of good fun and as a conversation starter, I would like to share three very special memories that affirm why watching live stage theater remains a unique experience, even in the midst of our high-tech world.  

    My first special memory was attending the 1974 opening night for "Clarence Darrow" (featuring Henry Fonda in a one-man play) in which America's most acclaimed attorney took us on a lifetime journey of landmark court cases from the Scopes "Monkey" trial to the Leopold-Loeb child murder case.  By the end of the evening I came to feel like I had met Mr Darrow himself as these milestone cases in jurisprudence were recounted by Henry Fonda in the role of this larger-than-life American hero.  My second memory occurred just one year later and having the exact same exact experience when watching James Whitmore portray the 33rd US President Harry S Truman in his one-man play "Give 'Em Hell, Harry!"  Mr Whitmore allowed the audience to appreciate what this remarkable Man From Missouri experienced when rising to the highest elected office in the land and then having to make some of the most difficult decisions in our nation's history.  My favorite memory, however, was watching "Phantom of the Opera '' noted for its deeply moving songs and the crashing giant chandelier scene.  Every time I hear one of the great songs from "Phantom" I am immediately transported back to that wonderful evening of watching the mystery unfold right on stage!


    What are your special memories on why you love stage plays?  Are you planning to attend one or more as such public events now reopen?  Please share your thoughts, plans and memories via posting on to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.

View my LinkedIn profile at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rev-protodn-george-haloulakos-cfa-bab6b43  

Friday, April 30, 2021

The 80th Anniversary of "CITIZEN KANE"

by George Haloulakos

With the Academy Awards having just completed its annual recognition of the best film productions for the prior year, we thought it might be fun as well as timely to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of what the American Film Institute (AFI) has ranked the Number One movie of all time: "CITIZEN KANE."

Before we begin, here is a fun question for you to think about: As the Number One movie of all time (according to AFI), how many Academy Awards do you think "CITIZEN KANE" won?  More than five?  More than ten? The answer is at the end of this month's blog.

Released in 1941, "CITIZEN KANE" was directed, produced and co written by Orson Welles, who also starred in the lead role.  Much has been written and discussed about "CITIZEN KANE," including its groundbreaking film making techniques such as the innovative lighting and close-up / focusing methods of cinematographer Gregg Toland and the dramatic, sharp editing style of Robert Wise.  At  the time of its release, Welles was just 25 years old but already a media star because of his famous radio show Mercury Theatre on the Air, that had stirred the imagination of an entire nation with its "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast a few years earlier that sounded so realistic, large segments of the listening audience actually thought an invasion by the planet Mars was actually underway!

Essentially, "CITIZEN KANE" is a biography of the rise and fall of a fictional publishing magnate Charles Foster Kane, that closely resembled William Randolph Hearst.  This in itself, is an entirely separate multi layered story but is worth reading as it involved behind-the-scenes efforts by Hearst aimed initially at stopping its production and then later suppressing publicity of the film following its theatrical release.  If you have never viewed this film before, now would be a great opportunity to appreciate the iconic status "CITIZEN KANE" as the film follows the efforts of a news reporter to unveil the mystery of the word "Rosebud" - the last word uttered by Kane just prior to his passing.  In the process, we learn about Kane's entire storied life beginning with his childhood.  While the news reporter does not himself find out the true meaning of "Rosebud" the viewer is allowed to learn (or rather "see") that "Rosebud," is in fact, the name of Kane's beloved sled from his childhood.  A childhood that sadly and poignantly was taken from Kane at a young age, and that he vainly sought to regain for the rest of his life, even while rising to the heights of financial success.

The dynamics of political ambition, media and gossip of the day provide a flashpoint to "CITIZEN KANE" that is eerily similar to the 24/7 digital media of the 21st century.  As the viewer will see, the dark side of such a world is very much the same in 1941 as it is in 2021.  Human nature really has not changed all that much!  (The famous photo of Kane seeking political office is posted above.)

For those of you in the Galaxy Nostalgia Network audience who enjoy watching ME TV which airs classic TV programs from the 1950s - 1970s, one of the most endearing aspects of "CITIZEN KANE" is to watch members of the stellar supporting cast (all of whom were part of Welles' Mercury Theatre) before their memorable TV roles shine forth as star contributors in this landmark film.  Before they became stars, the following people made their mark in this classic film:

> Agnes Moorhead (who played Endora the witch in "Bewitched") -- portrays Mary Kane, the mother of Charles Foster Kane!

> Ray Collins (Lt Tragg on "Perry Mason") -- as James W. Gettys, arch political rival to Kane.

> Everett Sloane (who starred in a variety of dramatic roles in "Patterns" and "Twilight Zone")  -- as a lifetime business associate of Kane.

And here is one more thing to listen as well as look for when watching "CITIZEN KANE" -- that familiar, wonderful, deep, friendly voice coming forth from the shadows (where there are numerous news reporters gathered in a conference asking questions about the life of Charles Foster Kane) is none other than Alan Ladd (famous years later as the good samaritan gunfighter "Shane"), in an uncredited role.  Look closely in the closing moments of the film and you will see Mr Ladd's silhouette as he is sporting a hat and smoking a pipe in his reporter role!

Finally, the answer to our question on how many Academy Awards did "CITIZEN KANE" win is ......one (1) Academy Award, for Best Screenplay.

Do you have any special memories or thoughts about "CITIZEN KANE" and its memorable cast of actors?  Please share your thoughts and memories via posting on to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.


View my LinkedIn profile at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rev-protodn-george-haloulakos-cfa-bab6b43  

Sunday, April 4, 2021

"TALKIN' BASEBALL" (Willie, Mickey and the Duke)

by George Haloulakos

Springtime marks the beginning of baseball season and this year's new season brings forth a very special celebration: the 40th anniversary of Terry Cashman's song "Talkin' Baseball."  Mr Cashman wrote and performed this song in 1981 in which he describes the history of Major League Baseball (MLB) from the 1950s to the very early 1980s.  Released in the midst of a nearly 2-month MLB strike, the song provided a wistful remembrance of the summer game as fans eagerly awaited the return of their heroes on the diamond.  Inspired by the memory of when New York ruled the baseball world from the late 1940s through the late 1950s -- [from 1947-1956 either the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers were in the World Series] -- with each of the teams having a star center fielder [Willie Mays with the Giants, Mickey Mantle for the Yankees and Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers], it was the perfect blend of nostalgia and celebrating excellence.  



Roger Kahn, a famed newspaper columnist and best selling author who was a native New Yorker, wrote a wonderful book on the subject in which fans debated which of these eventual Hall of Fame center fielders was truly the best at their craft.All three of these wonderful players (appropriately known just by their first names) were enormously gifted athletes, personally popular and accessible to fans everywhere, but especially in New York, where they lived and played.  Mr Cashman's song begins with the first ten notes (in a synthesizer version) of the song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" before he begins singing.  



What makes "Talkin' Baseball" so compelling is the many players and managers referenced throughout the song, some by their full name while others it is either a partial name or nickname -- all them instantly recognizable, even to the most casual baseball fan.  

In short order, one is treated to over three decades of baseball history through the prism of the many wonderful, iconic players from that era.  Here is a very small sampling:

                                                              - "The Man" (Stan Musial)

- "The Barber" (Sal Maglie)

- "The Newc" (Don Newcombe)

- "One Robbie Going Out" (Jackie Robinson) 

  - "One Robbie Coming In" (Frank Robinson)

-  Hank Aaron

-  George Brett

Mr. Cashman also manages to pay tribute to his childhood friends in the song by referring to them as "The Bachelor" (Mike Green) and "Cookie" (Bobby Cook).  Iconic teams (the "Whiz Kids" - a nickname for the Philadelphia Phillies 1950 National League Champions), great moments ("Bobby Thomson had done it" - the Giants winning the pennant in the final inning of their 1951 final playoff game versus the Dodgers) and great managers ("Well Casey was winning" - referring to Casey Stengal piloting the Yankees to 7 World Series Championships and 10 American League pennants in 12 years) are all mentioned in this song, along with much more.

The much more includes a couple of US Presidents:  "And Ike was the only one winning down in Washington '' (Dwight Eisenhower - POTUS - 1953-61 -- while the Washington Senators were a perennial loser in the same period).  "And the great Alexander is pitchin' again in Washington" is a double reference to Ronald Reagan (POTUS - 1981-89) who was inaugurated shortly before the release of Cashman's song and who in his former career as an actor portrayed Alexander in the 1952 motion picture "The Winning Team."

In the years since its release, "Talkin' Baseball" gained such great popularity that not only was Cashman honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011 but the original sheet music is a part of the Baseball Hall of Fame Collection in Cooperstown, New York.  In addition, Mr Cashman has written many alternate versions that are team-specific while being periodically updated and rewritten to reflect lineup changes or major events.  No matter the version, the song brings a smile to the listener's face as baseball marks the return of yet another spring season, that is immediately followed by summer and autumn!

Are any of your favorite players mentioned in the original version?  If so, who are they?  Is there a particular memory of one of those players that stands out above all others?  Who do you think is the best among the Hall of Fame New York center fielder trio that make up the subtitle of this song: Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle or Duke Snider?

Please share your thoughts and memories via posting on to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.

View my LinkedIn profile at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rev-protodn-george-haloulakos-cfa-bab6b43  

Monday, March 1, 2021

"THE HUSTLER" Winning and Losing: On and Off the Pool Table

by George Haloulakos

This year marks the 60th anniversary of The Hustler, a modern classic film featuring Paul Newman as "Fast" Eddie Felson, a pool hustler who seeks fame and fortune by staking his talent and ambition against the formidable odds associated with this high-stakes / high-rolling indoor sport.  The Hustler was both a financial and critical success for its exploration of winning and losing through the prism of Eddie as he strives to break into the "major league" of professional pool hustling while ultimately paying an enormous personal price.

Featured with Mr Newman is fellow Academy Award winner George C. Scott as Eddie's unscrupulous manager Bert Gordon.  Jackie Gleason delivers a tour de force performance as the legendary Minnesota Fats, the best pool player of them all.  Piper Laurie plays Sarah, the love interest of Eddie.  Along with these wonderful actors, the viewer will see famed boxer Jake LaMotta (known to sports and movie aficionados as "Raging Bull") portraying a bartender where the high-stakes pool games are played.  Also seen in a cameo is 15-time World Pool Champion Willie Mosconi as the character Willie who holds the stakes for Eddie and Fats's games.  Throughout the film, the various pool games provide the venue to witness the strengthening or rather hardening of Eddie's character while also exploring his dynamic relationships with Bert, Sarah and Fats.   Filmed in Black & White, The Hustler has a rather harsh and brutal edge, reflecting the enormous personal cost Eddie endures to fulfill his ambition.  In the interest of eliciting interest rather than being a spoiler, let us simply observe that the grand finale in which Eddie and Fats face off is a reminder that the very best rivalries in life as well as sports are when both rivals are made better through their competition while having mutual respect.  

While Eddie and Fats demonstrate great sportsmanship by genuinely complimenting each other as players, the viewer feels great sadness having witnessed the enormous price that both men must pay in order to be the best at what they do.


In the years that followed, a nationwide resurgence in the popularity of pool unfolded as championship billiards games were seen on ABC's Wide World of Sports and later on ESPN.  Yours truly recalls that Time Magazine featured a major story on the 1972 World Pool Championship between Irving "The Deacon" Crane and Lou "Machine Gun" Butera. During the 1990s on ESPN, Jeanette "The Black Widow" Lee earned accolades as the world's number one female pool player.

While Baby Boomers associate Newman's portrayal of "Fast" Eddie with The Hustler, Generations X and Y are more likely to associate Mr Newman with this very same lead character in the 1986 sequel The Color of Money.  There are many film critics and cinema buffs who believe that Mr Newman won the Academy Award for Best Actor in The Color of Money as much belated recognition for his performance in The Hustler.  What do you think?  Let's have a conversation on this and any recollections you have about the wonderful game of pool!


Please share your thoughts and memories via posting on to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.

View my LinkedIn profile at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rev-protodn-george-haloulakos-cfa-bab6b43  

Thursday, February 4, 2021

"WAR AND REMEMBRANCE" 30th Anniversary of The Gulf War (Operation Desert Shield/Storm)

by George Haloulakos

Believe it or not, this month marks the 30th Anniversary of Victory in Operation Desert Shield/Storm for a US led military coalition that liberated Kuwait while exemplifying courage, honor, sacrifice and striving to do the right thing.  The passage of time and selective memory tends to obscure the uncertainty and challenges associated with this war, including the threat of biological and chemical weapons on a massive scale.  Operation Desert Shield/Storm is unique in American history for having occurred not only between the Vietnam War and the War on Terror, but coming into play as the Cold War was reaching its climax with the dissolution of the USSR.

A memorial to Desert Shield/Storm is scheduled to open later in 2021 in the National Mall in Washington, DC and so we take this opportunity to pay tribute to all those who served and fulfilled this mission three decades ago.  A topic such as this cannot be fully appreciated in a short column such as this, but we can, so to speak, offer a "sniff of the cork" in reflecting upon a couple of outcomes associated with The Gulf War that resonate to this day.


Our parents experienced war through radio news broadcasts (some of which were transmitted live by Edward Murrow and his colleagues covering the London Blitz and D-Day in World War II).  The weekly news magazines such as Time and Life carried in-depth war coverage as well.  As baby boomers, we watched vintage newsreel footage of World War II combat integrated into major dramatic films and TV shows.  In our coming of age, we can recall seeing the Vietnam War shown on the prime time evening network TV news broadcasts with commentary from correspondents on the scene.  Similarly, the aforementioned news magazines offered detailed insights.  Few of these accounts we or our parents were tracking via print, radio and TV were unfolding in real time.  We were learning after the fact.


By the early 1990s, 24/7 cable TV news coverage became part of the many offerings available to consumers of news content.  Therefore, the Gulf War is remembered by most people as an event that was viewed by millions of viewers worldwide as events unfolded in real time.  This had a dramatic effect that has only accelerated now in the Internet Age, namely that print media found itself replaced by 24/7 cable TV news as the primary source of information for mass market consumption.  As such, subscription rates and readership for the iconic news magazines and major newspapers declined sharply in the decades since causing many such publications to either rebrand / restructure themselves for the digital age or simply cease operation!  If one includes both Desert Shield/Storm together, the Gulf War essentially began in the summer of 1990 and ended in February 1991, or roughly six months.  Yet the continuous 24/7 news coverage made it seem much longer if not more intense compared with how we followed similar events in prior generations!  If you had friends or loved ones who were deployed, the passage of time marking their absence seemed interminable.


Another memory of the Gulf War was the full unveiling of the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk Stealth attack aircraft that has forever changed our national defense capabilities.  Who can forget seeing the nighttime coverage shown of the F-117s in the midst of a hornet's nest of anti-aircraft fire in which the Nighthawks delivered their ordnance on target and with little or no collateral damage while returning all of the pilots safely home?  As one who vividly recalls reading or watching classic newsreel footage of World War II bombing groups (B-17s, B-24s and B-29s) and watching news accounts of the B-52 bombing missions in the Vietnam War, I was struck by the enormous attrition or loss rate of those historic aircraft and their brave crews.  While bracing myself to expect the same with the Gulf War, the highly advanced F-117 stealth aircraft completely and forever changed that scenario.

I started this Blog noting that it was hard to believe it has been 30 years since Desert Shield/Storm.  Now I will close by sharing a poem that reflects this observation.
" It lasted so long
it went so fast
it seems like yesterday
it seems like never. " 
— “A Career,” from Days Like This, by Dan Quisenberry  

What are your memories about Desert Shield/Storm?  Please share your thoughts and memories via posting on to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.

Monday, January 4, 2021

"REPEAT PERFORMANCE" Reliving the Year All Over Again (Film Noir Style)

by George Haloulakos

As we ring in the New Year, have any of you ever wondered what would happen if you could relive the prior year with the goal of trying to avoid repeating the mistakes made?  This theme of reexamining one's past is found in both literature (e.g. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol) and film (e.g., Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life).  The outcome of such stories typically enable the central character to come to terms with the past while looking to the future with renewed faith and optimism.  It is usually during the Holiday Season when such journeys of the mind and spirit take flight due to the confluence of nostalgia, self reflection and making New Year's resolutions!

  While the aforementioned titles are well known to fans of both great literature and film, we would like to add Repeat Performance -- a film noir set in a "noir-ish" New York City Broadway Theater society setting from the same era -- to your list of must-see film classics.  The film opens on New Year's Eve 1946 with a woman named Sheila (played by Joan Leslie) killing her husband Barney (Louis Hayward) with a gun.  Sheila fervently wishes she could relive 1946 and avoid the mistakes she made throughout the year that led to such a tragedy.  Since Sheila made her wish exactly at the stroke of 12 midnight, her wish is magically granted and she is transported back in time to the beginning of 1946 with her husband alive.  As such, Repeat Performance is a fusion of film noir crime with fantasy / paranormal elements.

  Our heroine (or perhaps more accurately, anti-heroine) attempts to relive the year without making the mistakes both she and her friends made throughout the year, but numerous events repeat themselves despite her best efforts to avoid missteps, leaving her to wonder whether her fate is permanently cast in stone.  Classic film buffs will observe how Repeat Performance evokes the image of Alfred Hitchcock's Rope by immediately opening with the murder and then as the central character attempts to relive the year with the goal of achieving a happier ending, we witness parallels to All About Eve and A Star is Born with its voyeuristic view of the ego maniacal worlds of stage and film.  Along with Joan Leslie and Louis Hayward in the lead roles, there are some truly stellar performances by other very familiar actors:

> Tom Conway as John, the producer;

> Virginia Field as Paula, the haughty playwright;

> Richard Basehart as William, an unhappy poet but a very loyal friend to Sheila;

> Natalie Schafer as Eloise, a very wealthy, but treacherous and nasty patron of the arts.

While it would appear that the year 1946 will have the exact same tragic ending as before, a few twists are in store.  Sheila's repeated efforts at altering the mistakes that occurred during the year end up leading her abusive husband Barney to believe that she wants to destroy him.  On New Year's Eve Barney has a violent confrontation with Sheila.  It turns out that the only person who actually believed Sheila's account about reliving 1946 and the climactic murder that would occur at the end of the year was William, the aforementioned unhappy poet but loyal friend (played by Richard Basehart).  This is the crucial element in Repeat Performance for it is William who emerges upon the scene when Barney is about to harm Sheila, and it is William that ends up shooting Sheila's husband with her gun!  Thus Sheila's wish comes true, but with far greater difficulty than expected!

   Repeat Performance is a much darker film than either the film versions of Dickens' A Christmas Carol or the variants of Capra's It's A Wonderful Life.  This haunting and hypnotic film noir classic is something that would fit nicely into Rod Serling's Twilight Zone.  Moreover, fans of classic TV will enjoy seeing Natalie Schafer (most famous as Mrs Thurston Howell III from Gilligan's Island) initially taking Richard Basehart (known for playing Admiral Nelson on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) under her patronage but then doing him great harm.  This tour de force from the film noir era is a glamorous if perhaps under appreciated treasure.  As we ring in the New Year, take a walk down film noir memory lane by checking out Repeat Performance.

If you wonder what it would be like to relive a specific year all over again, please share your thoughts and memories via posting on to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.

View my LinkedIn profile at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rev-protodn-george-haloulakos-cfa-bab6b43