Regis: Now, that's the way to go


OK, now I see some of the charm of Regins Philbin.

I've never been particularly a fan of his, but on this morning's farewell episode, he showed his skill -- an ability to keep it fun and to not overload the emotion.

Philbin promised he wouldn't cry and he didn't come close. By comparison, Kelly Ripa's voice choked several times. She had trouble reading (apparently) from a TelePrompter and reading from a paper, acknowledging: "It goes agains everything you've taught me -- to not write anything down and to speak from the heart."

By comparison, Philbin stuck to his own rule and kept deflecting excessive sentiment. Compared to Oprah Winfrey's preachy farewell, this one was low-key and fun.

The worst moments came when the "honeymoon story" didn't live up to its advance hype and when Ripa inadvertently made it sound like the president of the United States was there. Instead, it was the president of Disney -- the company that hit a negotiations impasse with Philbin, leading to this departure; he had nothing to offer except a plaque on the wall.

The best? Maybe the montage of Regis impersonators. Or maybe the current cast of "Rent," adapting its lovely opening number to say "995,600 minutes."

That's approximately the amount of time Philbin has spent on TV so far, in a low-key and fun way. At 80, he remains vibrant; his plans are indefinite, but he should easily pass the million-minute mark.

 

 

Electric cars start their comeback


Lined up in Ann Arbor, Mich., were
pieces of the transportation future.

These were electric vehicles – a
Chevy Volt, some Ford Ryders, a mini-car, some electric motor
scooters, even some standard gas-gulpers that had been converted to
electric. It was all very modern, very futuristic … except that in
the middle of this was a 1916 beauty.

Yes, 1916. “Before 1920, there were
more electric cars than gas ones,” its owner said.

Maybe that will happen again. The cars
were in front of the Michigan Theater, which has (through Thursday,
Nov. 17) “Revenge of the Electric Car”; ultimately (after many
twists) it's a feel-good film.

It's from Chris Paine, whose previous
movie (“Who Killed the Electric Car?”) was a feel-bad film. It
told how General Motors botched and then crushed (literally) its
electrics.

GM was attacked in that film, but still
let Paine in for another. Why? He said it could be because:

– GM's reputation had already hit
bottom. “They had nothing left to lose.”

– He patiently got back into the
company's consciousness. “We filmed every news event, even if we
weren't going to use any of it.”

– And Bob Lutz had become GM's
vice-president. An amiable man, he didn't agree with the defensive
approach that most auto people take to interviewers. He also did a
turnaround in his mid-70s, becoming GM's most important advocate of
electric cars.

Payne began following several
electric-car possibilities. He scuttled some – including an
ambitious push in Israel – when they stagnated; then he focused on
four.

There was Lutz and the Volt … Carlos
Ghosn and the Nissan Leaf … Elon Musk and the Tesla … Greg
“Gadget” Abbot and his conversion cars at Left Coast Electric.

These were promising stories, filled
with detours. Abbot's business (uninsured) burned down, forcing him
to start over. Musk sank a reported $190 million into Tesla, yet
teetered near bankruptcy. “For a while, we joked that this would be
'Curse of the Electric Car,'” Paine said.

He kept his faith, even ordering his
own Tesla. (It took a year for the $100,000 car to arrive, he said,
but his Tesla has worked splendidly in its first three years.) In Ann
Arbor on Saturday, he fended off a criticism that the cars would sap
too much electricity. Most owners plug in at night, he said, when
electricity is underused; besides, the oil distilleries use up lots
of electricity themselves.

Most of the people in his film –
Musk, Ghosn, Abbot – are busy now making electric cars. The
exception is Lutz, 79, who has retired to his sprawling “Lutz Farm”
outside Ann Arbor. He'll be in town today (Sunday, Nov. 13) to talk
to the audience with Paine. It should be interesting; details are:

– Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor;
www.michtheater.org

– 8 p.m. today (Sunday, Nov. 13);
Paine and Lutz will talk to the audience afterward

– 4:45 and 9:45 p.m. Monday

– 4:45, 7 and 9:45 p.m. Tuesday and
Wednesday

– 8 p.m. Thursday

– The fourth annual Michigan Electric
Vehicle Show will be next June 9; the Michigan Electric Auto
Association is at www.michiganeaa.org

A dance master at his peak


Imagine you're at a "Transformers" movie and you realize that America's dance master is sitting nearby.

It's possible. Bill T. Jones admits a fondness for action adventures and more. He's an amiable guy in conversation; a fiercely imposing one at work. Now he's featured in a PBS special tonight; here's the story I sent to papers:

By MIKE HUGHES

Rich contrasts ripple through the world
of Bill T. Jones, the dance master. He's:

– An amiable man who's fond of action
movies. He's also imposing – tall and taut, able to control any
room with his physical and verbal presence.

– A star, the winner of two Tonys, a
Gish Prize, a MacArthur “genius” prize and more. Still, his field
(dance) is often overlooked. “I come from a very poverty-stricken
art form,” he said.

– Someone who's done spartan work –
“me on an empty stage, gesticulating and talking.” But on PBS'
“American Masters,” we see see him develop a complex piece,
swirling with film, music and words.

Then there's his relationship with the
history of Abraham Lincoln – which is what he's doing in the PBS
film. He was commissioned to create a piece for the 200th
anniversary of Lincoln's birth in 1809.

Jones had grown up thinking of Lincoln
as “this man who is like Santa Claus or Jesus Christ, a secular
saint.” He leaped into the flip side, reading debunkers who said
Lincoln was merely being political.

Then, he said, came “a moment when I
realized, 'Bill, you've gotta lead with your heart.'”

His heart felt Lincoln was a good man
in an awful era: “Can you imagine that?” Jones asked. “Coming
into office and two weeks later having the bloodiest battle this
country has ever seen happen on your watch (and) some people say you
set it off ….Mrs. Keckly, the freed slave who was (his wife's)
seamstress, describes him doubled over with anxiety in his
nightshirt, literally doubled over.”

So Jones created an elaborate Lincoln
piece, with cameras following its development.

“We were actually there the day …
everybody arrived at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Ill.,” said
co-director Bob Hercules, “all the way to the premiere of the
piece, almost two years later.”

Cameras showed Jones teaching, molding
and, on occasion, fuming. “It really demonstrates what it takes to
be an artist,” said Susan Lacy, founder of the “American Masters”
series, “the kind of commitment, … the difficulty, the
self-doubt.”

Yes, doubt. “Like most artists, we
are incredibly self-involved (and) I'm full of insecurity …. I go
in the studio, I gotta start all over again and prove it again to
me.”

Now PBS viewers will see him work at it
from the start.

– “Bill T. Jones: A Good Man.”
under the “American Masters” banner

– 9-11 p.m. Friday, PBS (check local
listings)

 

 

In defense of Rick Perry


Aren't we being a little too hard on Rick Perry?

Sure, he slipped up in Wednesday's presidential debate. He said he would eliminate three federal-government  departments, but then could only remember two of them.

But seriously, haven't we all been there? Who hasn't, from time to time, forgotten the name of a major governmental unit we wanted to destroy?

I'm assuming this won't happen when he takes over as president. He won't forget which ones to eliminate and just name three at random -- somehow choosing Treasury, Defense and State, thus leaving us penniless, defenseless and unstated.

Politicians have a lot to remember these days. I won't mention any names, but a previous president:

-- Forgot who started the Sept. 11 attacks and invaded the wrong country.

-- Once he got there, forgot where his friends said all the weapons of mass destruction were hidden.

-- Forgot to get everyone back home again.

Hey, it happens. (Especially, perhaps, to Texas governors.) People forget things. Perry only forgot for 53 seconds; another candidate (again, I won't mention names) spent the better part of a day before remembering he'd been accused of sexual harassment and had signed a pay-off agreement. You just can't remember everything.

Change for the Oscars? It's a good deal


So now the Academy Award telecast is in flux. Brett Ratner is out as producer, after drawing criticism for remarks; Eddie Murphy promptly stepped down as host.

Is this a tragedy? Probably not. Murphy was an odd choice and there would be lots of better ones. Steve Martin is, as always, my top choice. I'd also go with Neil Patrick Harris or Chris Rock or Hugh Laurie or ... well, lots of others. Given the right choice, the Oscars will be fine.