Saturday, 22 September 2018

A WALKING MAN TAKES STEPS

I am doing a little experiment to see how much walking I do as I go about my daily business. I think 10,000 steps per day is recommended, so on the basis of that, I have to up my game somewhat. For the record, here are the numbers for this month so far.

SEPTEMBER 2018 – STEPS & DISTANCE

Statistics taken directly from pedometer

Day
Steps
Km
1
7317
3.9
2
1141
0.5
3
1887
0.9
4
4250
2.0
5
1467
0.6
6
3167
1.2
7
4235
1.9
8
2693
1.3
9
6185
3.8
10
3497
1.5
11
3703
2.0
12
7080
3.8
13
7511
4.7
14
6724
3.4
15
2217
0.9
16
5396
2.8
17
1908
0.8
18
6838
3.6
19
2261
1.0
20
2772
1.1
21
5831
3.1
22
7207
4.1
23
9765
5.3























Hmmm. Must try harder for a run of 10,000+

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

HAPPY 85th BIRTHDAY TO DAVID McCALLUM



Scottish-born actor David McCallum seems to have been on the big and small screens forever.  His career spans over 60 years and he is still going strong as the popular medical examiner Donald “Ducky” Mallard in the hit US crime series NCIS.  Along the way, he has appeared in The Great Escape, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Colditz and Sapphire & Steel, amongst many other films and TV shows. This year he celebrates his 85th birthday, a prompt to look back at his amazing career.

David Keith McCallum was born in Glasgow on 19 September 1933.  His parents were Dorothy Dorman, a cellist and David McCallum Sr, a violinist, eventual leader of the Scottish Orchestra and later the London Philharmonic.  The McCallums lived by the Botanic Gardens, close to David’s grandfather’s house in nearby Clouston Street.  In 1936, the family moved to Hampstead as a result of David’s father’s work.  But almost a year into the Second World War, young David was evacuated back to Scotland to stay with his Aunt Margaret.  He lived for a time at Gartocharn, West Dunbartonshire, near Loch Lomond. 


As he grew older, David was encouraged to take up music and became an oboe player, but he did not have any serious ambitions to follow his parents into a professional music career.  However, after significant acting success in the 1960s, David McCallum did record several instrumental albums, as arranger and conductor, including A Part Of Me, A Bit More Of Me and Music – It’s Happening Now.  Some of the material on these albums was collected onto a cash-in album called Open Channel D, referring to the The Man From U.N.C.L.E. radio intro.  His father was a featured player on several tracks.

After a couple of performances on stage as a child, David liked the sound of audience applause and appreciation and began considering acting as an enjoyable way to earn a living.  He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and learned about stage management and production as well as acting.  Like many young actors at the time, he served his apprenticeship in repertory companies across the UK, doing bit parts on radio and not earning much money.  But, the handsome McCallum was soon spotted and, in 1957, he joined the Rank Organisation and immediately found himself in minor roles on the big screen.  In those early years, he appeared in Ill Met By Moonlight, Hell Drivers, Robbery Under Arms and A Night To Remember.

Around this time, he met and married Jill Ireland, herself a young actor in the early stages of a film career.  They worked together occasionally but divorced ten years later.  They had three sons.  Ireland later married Charles Bronson but died, sadly, of breast cancer at 54 in 1990.  Not long after the divorce, McCallum married his current wife, Katherine.


In the late 1950s and early 1960s, David McCallum worked in television dramas and feature films, gaining experience and becoming reasonably well known in the process.  He played Private Whittaker in The Long And The Short And The Tall, Steven Wyatt in Billy Budd and, a role fondly remembered by his fans forever, Ashley-Pitt (in charge of dispersal) in The Great Escape.  The latter film, oft-repeated on television, is a prime example of the starry era that David McCallum lived through.  The cast list is extraordinary – Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Gordon Jackson, John Leyton and so many more great supporting names.  McCallum (as Ashley-Pitt) had a dramatic death scene filmed at Fussen railway station in Ostallgau, Bavaria.  The Germans shot his character as he diverted attention away from some of his fellow escapees.  The Great Escape was an important career film to most of the aforementioned names and a key point in David McCallum’s professional life.

He was cast as Judas Iscariot in The Greatest Story Ever Told during Hollywood’s fixation period with epic movies as all of the studios tried desperately and expensively to find that successful Ben Hur ingredient from some years earlier.   In the Last Supper scene, Max Von Sydow as Christ is powerful but McCallum, sitting with the other eleven Apostles, at the end of the table hesitates when handed the chalice, not speaking but looking intense and remorseful as the betrayer.  If anyone assumes that David McCallum is an actor only in light roles, I urge them to watch this film.


But, it was a jokey, fun, almost cartoonish TV show that launched David McCallum into orbit as a major screen star.  The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ran for 105 episodes from 1964 to 1968.  Robert Vaughn was the handsome American hero Napoleon Solo and McCallum was his heartthrob Russian sidekick Illya Kuryakin.  Both characters worked for the United Network Command For Law Enforcement (U.N.C.L.E.) battling the evil enemy THRUSH (later defined clumsily in books as Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity).

The show was a global hit and both Vaughn and McCallum featured prominently in all the showbusiness magazines of the day.  The Man From U.N.C.L.E. run included several feature films that were basically TV episodes stitched together for cinema release.  The two stars enjoyed their moments in those crazy years of fan adoration that almost equalled the squeals and screams of Beatlemania wherever they went.  Some of the ensuing years must have felt like a return to Earth as Robert Vaughn and David McCallum took on a variety of roles and guest starring parts in television and film.

David McCallum returned to a hit TV series when he starred alongside Robert Wagner and Jack Hedley in Colditz in he early 1970s, followed by The Invisible Man and then Kidnapped, playing Alan Breck Stewart.  He appeared alongside Joanna Lumley in the quirky Sapphire & Steel before embarking on more guest starring roles in Hart To Hart, The A-Team, Matlock and Murder, She Wrote.


In 2003, he joined the cast of a new US crime show called NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) alongside Mark Harmon as boss Leroy Jethro Gibbs and a terrific core cast.  He played the Edinburgh-born and educated Donald “Ducky” Mallard, a medical examiner, slightly oddball and eccentric but also sympathetic and sincere.  In over 200 episodes, he became a huge star all over again.  It has been quite a remarkable career in such a fickle industry.

DENY. DENY. DENY. FEAR BY BOB WOODWARD



I am half-way through this fascinating book, Fear by Bob Woodward: Trump in the White House.

As someone who has worked for forty bosses over forty years (neat but true), I am intrigued by leaders and leadership. I have worked with a couple of quite brilliant people, a few very good ones, a lot of average plodders and more than enough idiots.

This paragraph (page 175) written by Woodward gives insight into aspects of Trump's personality and modus operandi:

Trump gave some private advice to a friend who had acknowledged some bad behaviour toward women. Real power is fear. It's all about strength. Never show weakness. You've always got to be strong. There is no choice. You've got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women. If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you're dead. That was a big mistake you made. You didn't come out all guns blazing and just challenge them. You showed weakness. You've got to be strong. You've got to be aggressive. You've got to push back hard. You've got to deny anything that's said about you. Never admit.

At least two of my bosses had a similar stance, not about how to treat woman, but about self-promoting egos, never admitting to mistakes and never apologising. The word 'fear' featured in the way they managed their teams.

I read on.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

JOCK MAHONEY - MY HERO'S IMAGE SHATTERED


















This is Jock Mahoney in a pose from the TV western series, The Range Rider which ran from 1951 to 1953, and was oft-repeated when I was a young boy in the late 1950s/early 1960s.

It was the very first television western show that I recall and I loved Jock Mahoney. He was tall, athletic and handsome. I wanted to be him. He was my first hero.

He made over sixty feature films, including two outings as Tarzan and many TV appearances. He was a sportsman and a stuntman as well as an actor.

Sixty years on, I still have fond memories of watching that show but this weekend I read something that shattered my admiration for him.





















Oscar-winner, Sally Field has written a book about her life. The Times Magazine - 15 September 2018 - ran a feature on In Pieces written by Helena de Bertodano who interviewed Fields. The two-time Academy Award winner (Norma Rae in 1980; Places In The Heart in 1985) has had an outstanding career and continues to deliver excellent performances on stage and screen.

Jock Mahoney was Sally Field's stepfather and the Times feature describes Sally as a very young girl being asked to walk on Mahoney's back and then his front: "I walked on his back," Fields is quoted, "until he rolled me over, commanding me to keep going. One foot in front of the other up his chest I tiptoed, my nightgown hanging loose as his hands slid over me legs, then moved up." She continues: "I'd turn my feet around, walking toward his stomach to be out of reach and he'd whisper instructions, "Lower". I walked on this much loved non-father of mine, carefully trying to avoid where he was aiming my feet....."

Later in the feature, around 1960, when Field was about fourteen, there is a description of a very creepy, sordid incident in a bathroom with Mahoney playing sexual games, making lewd advances on Field. "He loved me enough not to invade me. He never invaded me."

I found all of this very shocking.

Sally Field may well do the rounds of chat shows and media interviews so that we can hear her talk as much or as little as she chooses about her childhood with Jock Mahoney.

He was once my biggest hero but no more.







Friday, 14 September 2018

MINOR INCIDENT BETWEEN MY MOTHER AND THE REVEREND IAN PAISLEY

This happened sometime in the early 1970s in our Belfast living room.


In an uncharacteristic burst of anger,
my mother once took off her slipper,
concentrated hard, took careful aim
and let fly at the television set.

On impact, the vase on top wobbled,
we kids tranced between gasp and cough,
and the reason for mother's missile -
Ian Paisley shouting his mouth off.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

THE RETURN OF A DOZEN QUESTIONS

Earlier this year, I ran a series of questionnaires with creative people from Northern Ireland. I am so grateful to each and every one that took part. The motive? To attract visitors to my blog, to provide links to anything participants want to promote and to enjoy the answers to the 12 questions.

I am developing the next list of invitees and hope to share their comments on here in due course.

For the time being, I am sticking with my interest in Northern Ireland connections.

In the meantime, here's the premise and a list of the kindly souls who took part in the last series.

(Search the blog for individual answers).

If anyone would like to take part, please copy/paste the questions, add your answers and any promotional links and send to @joecushnan@aol.com And thank you one and all.






A DOZEN QUESTIONS
(NO.21)

The Pivot Questionnaire comprises 10 questions. I have seen it used on the television show Inside The Actor's Studio, presented by James Lipton. Apparently Proust was the original inspiration. The modern questions originated on a French TV show called Bouillon de Culture, hosted by Bernard Pivot. I have expanded the questions to 12.
  
(For the time being, this idea is restricted to Northern Ireland's creative artists in any field, literature, music, broadcasting, etc. If you are one and are interested in taking part as well as promoting your work, please get in touch via joecushnan@aol.com)

The 12 questions:


1. What is your favourite word?

2. What is your least favourite word?

3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? 

4. What turns you off?

5. What is your favourite song?

6. What is your favourite film? 


7. What is your favourite curse word?

8. What sound or noise do you love?

9. What sound or noise do you hate? 

10. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? 

11. What profession would you not like to do?

12. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Here's a list of the people featured in the previous series. Use the search box to read their answers.

Singer/songwriter Mandy Bingham – 17 January 2018
Poet Colin Dardis – 18 January 2018
Writer & Independent Researcher Anne-Marie Quigg – 19 January 2018
Broadcaster Gerry Kelly - 20 January 2018
Writer George Larmour – 22 January 2018
Journalist/writer Geoff Hill – 23 January 2018
Singer/Songwriter Janet Henry - 24 January 2018
Broadcaster Lynette Fay - 25 January 2018
Actor Michael Smiley – 26 January 2018
Singer/songwriter Paddy Nash – 27 January 2018
Singer/songwriter Edelle cMMahon – 29 January 2018
Broadcaster Kathy Clugston – 30 January 2018
Singer/songwriter Brigid O’Neill – 31 January 2018
Singer/songwriter Stephen Dunwoody – 1 February 2018
Writer Colin Breen – 2 February 2018
Singer Mairead Healy – 3 February 2018
Harpist/comedian Ursula Burns – 5 February 2018
Actor Charlie Lawson - 6 February 2018
Singer/songwriter Simon Murphy - 7 February 2018
Singer/songwriter Anthony Toner - 8 February
Radio presenter Stephen Clements – 2 March 2018

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

CARRY ON CARRYING

Carrying
A phone,
A bottle of water,
A bag of dog shit,
A sausage roll,
An e-cigarette,
A handbag,
A man-bag,
A carrier bag.

Carriers
On the move,
Wishing for a third hand.

Carry on Carrying,
Sid James is laughing.

OPEN FOR WRITING COMMISSIONS 2018/2019

Open for Writing Commissions 2018/2019
JOE CUSHNAN

FREELANCE WRITER/MEDIA CONTRIBUTOR

        joecushnan@aol.com          @JoeCushnan


SELECTED PUBLISHED FEATURES (SAMPLES AVAILABLE ON REQUEST)
Most of my published pieces have appeared as two-page features in the Belfast Telegraph.

On the death of my brother;
On a 1928/29 Belfast tourism guide;
On my mother;
On the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC);
On homelessness and begging;
On my education;
On my runaway father;
On family history;
On the closure of retailer BHS;
On my father;
On actor James Ellis’s short stories;
On the golden age of television;
On singer/songwriter David McWilliams;
On leaving Belfast in 1976
On the actor Sam Kydd
On the singer/songwriter David McWilliams
On the film star Stephen Boyd
On collecting autographs
On the history of the Ulster Hall
On junk mail

SELECTED BOOKS

Retail Confidential (2010) – career retrospective
Much Calamity & The Redundance Kid (2011) – coping with job loss
Stephen Boyd: From Belfast to Hollywood (2013) – the star of Ben-Hur, etc.

MOST RECENT RADIO APPEARANCE

BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live (2018)

BLOG

Link to Dropped The Moon blog: https://droppedthemoon.blogspot.com

I can write seriously or with humour on shops, shoppers and shopping; nostalgia; old Hollywood and television; personal experiences, general lifestyle, and about my hometown, Belfast. I write reviews of non-fiction books.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

SALUTING SINGER/SONGWRITER JOHN STEWART


Here's a salute to one of my all-time favourite singer/songwriters, John  Stewart, born 5 September 1939 (died at 68, 19 January 2008).

He came up through the American folk scene in the 1950s and 1960s. He was in The Cumberland Three and then The Kingston Trio whose records included Tom Dooley and Greenback Dollar. In 1967, he turned solo and scored pop music gold by writing Daydream Believer, a massive hit for The Monkees.

I saw him at the Apollo Theatre in London in 1979, around the time his album Bombs Away Dream Babies came out. Some of the tracks on it feature Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.

There used to be a fanzine called Omaha Rainbow, after one of his songs, about John Stewart. The issue after the two nights at the Apollo contained a comment that the second night was the best show. The first night was a bit nervy and tense. The comment: "The first night was like getting a phone call in the middle of a fuck."

My favourite song of his by far is July, You're A Woman, from the California Bloodlines album (apparently recorded in the same studio at the same time as Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline.


One of my all-time favourite live albums is The Complete Phoenix Concerts

Here's a gallery of some album covers.












Cheer up sleepy Jean............