May 12, 1980: The Empire Strikes Back is released

30 years ago today, The Empire Strikes Back, one of the greatest sequels of all time was released as part of one of the greatest movie franchises of all time. It was the darkest movie of the original trilogy, but it is usually listed as the most popular of the Star Wars films among fans. The movie started 3 years after the destruction of the Death Star. Darth Vader was obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker, and tracked him along with the Rebel Alliance on the planet ice planet Hoth. While patrolling near the base, Luke is attacked and captured by an ice creature called a Wampa. The you see Luke use the force to free himself. He then saw a vision of his friend and mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi who told Luke to go to the Dagobah system to train to become a jedi under a Jedi Master called Yoda.

He is rescued by Han Solo, and it isn’t long before a great battle on Hoth begins. The rebels escaped from the evil empire, and Luke and R2-D2 go their separate ways from Han, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO.

We are introduced to one of the most popular characters of the franchise – Yoda. He was a green puppet who was voiced by Frank Oz.
While Yoda was training Luke, Darth Vader was looking for Luke’s friends to capture them and draw out Luke.

He blackmails another new popular character in Cloud City – Lando Calrissian, Han’s best friend, played by the smooth Billy Dee Williams – and is able to capture Han, Leia and Chewie.

Luke senses that his friends are in danger and leaves his training early, so that he can rescue them. As he is leaving, Obi-Wan and Yoda are talking, and Obi-Wan said, “That boy is our last hope.” And then Yoda replied with the bombshell – “No. There is another.”

Han is frozen in carbonite, so that Darth Vader could confirm that the freezing process worked before he tried it on Luke. Han survived, and was taken to gangster Jabba the Hutt by another new Star Wars character – Boba Fett, who is a fan favorite.

Luke and Darth Vader battle it out in a light saber duel. Vader cornered Luke, chopped off Luke’s hand, and then dropped another series bombshell by telling Luke that he was Luke’s father. And that he wanted Luke to join him to destroy the Emperor, and rule the galaxy as father and son. Rather than surrender, Luke jumped down the pit that he was standing over, and was eventually rescued by Leia, Lando, and Chewbacca. The movie ended with Lando and Chewie leaving to go find Han Solo.

Even though the movie was dark, with Han being captured, Luke getting his hand cut off, and C-3PO being shot into pieces (then being put back together), this is considered by many to be the best Star Wars movie.

At the time, people were wondering who Yoda was talking about when he said there was another. People were guessing that Princess Leia was Luke’s sister, but nobody knew for sure at the time. And nobody was certain if Darth Vader was really Luke’s father, or if he was just saying that to trick him.

We had to wait three long years for The Return of the Jedi, to come out. And then we finally found out that Luke and Leia were brother and sister (and forever scar you when you see them kiss in The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars. And we also found out that Darth Vader wasn’t lying, and was actually Luke and Leia’s father.

UPDATE: 5/24/10 – Check out The Empire Strikes Back Commentary
from the ForceCast
.

Bret Michaels back in the hospital

The following is from the USA Today: Rocker and Celebrity Apprentice finalist Bret Michaels is back in a Los Angeles hospital after having what doctors are calling a warning stroke.

According to a message posted on Michaels’ website, he “was readmitted to the hospital this week after suffering numbness on the left side of his body, predominantly his face and hands, which doctors described as a transient ischemic attack, or warning stroke.”

In addition, tests showed that Michaels, 47, has a hole in his heart, called a patent foramen ovale.

His physician, Joseph Zabramski, called the diagnosis “devastating news to Bret and his family.”

“The good news is that it is operable and treatable, and we think we may have diagnosed the problem that caused the transient ischemic attack,” Zabramski says. “However, we feel it is highly unlikely this is connected to the brain hemorrhage he suffered a few weeks earlier.”

On Michaels’ site, his rep, Janna Elias, thanked fans for their support. “Even though these last few months have been tough on him and his family, especially this most recent setback, he is in good spirits, great medical hands and is positive and hopeful that everything is going to be OK. He is up, walking, talking, continuing his daily rehab and very happy to be alive.”

Most of the Sunday Celebrity Apprentice finale was taped last fall; the reveal of the winner was to be broadcast live. NBC had said it was “cautiously optimistic” Michaels would appear, but his latest setback leaves that in question.

May 20, 1993: Cheers finale airs

Cheers, one of the highest rated sitcoms throughout the ’80s, aired its final episode this day in 1993. The show started in 1982, and lasted 11 seasons. It was almost canceled after the first season due to low ratings. But the show went on to become a top 10 hit in 8 of its 11 seasons. It was part of NBC’s “Must See TV” Thursday night lineup. The show was set in a Boston bar (influenced by the Bull & Finch Pub in Boston) owned by retired baseball player, Sam “Mayday” Malone, played by Ted Danson. There was a great cast of characters that backed him up:

Coach – Coach Ernie Pantusso was played by Nicholas Colasanto. Coach was the bartender and former coach of Sam Malone. Coach was a bit slow and forgetful, but lovable. Who can forget “Albania, Albania. You border on the Adriatic”:

After Nicholas died in real life, he was replaced by:
Woody – Woody Boyd was played by Woody Harrelson. In the first episode of the fourth season, Woody Boyd comes to Cheers in search of Coach, explaining that they were pen pals (exchanging pens rather than letters). Sam is forced to explain that Coach died some months ago. Boyd replaces Coach, who had sponsored him in a correspondence course in bartending. He had a lot of the same character traits as Coach.

Diane Chambers – Played by Shelley Long. In the first epeisode, her fiancé leaves her waiting at the bar while he goes back to recover his wedding ring from his ex-wife. When he never returns, she realizes she’s been jilted and takes a job waitressing at Cheers to try to rebuild her life. Diane was a pretentious snob, and was the exact opposite of Sam. But, as they say, opposites attract:

After she left the show, she was replaced by:

Rebecca Howe – Played by Kirstie Alley. Rebecca Howe entered Cheers as the manager assigned by the bar’s new corporate owner. She started off as a tough, no-nonsense corporate type. As the series went on, she became more neurotic and clumsy. Rebecca constantly throws herself at the feet of rich men, first Evan Drake and then Robin Colcord, but she eventually sleeps with Sam when the two of them decide to conceive a child together. In the penultimate episode, Rebecca meets a plumber named Don Santry (played by Tom Berenger), whom she marries in the series finale.

Carla Tortelli – Played by Rhea Perlman. Carla grew up in the Federal Hill section of Providence, RI. Her father’s name was “Benito” and her mother’s maiden name was “Mussolini”. By the time the show ended, she was the mother of eight children: Anthony, Serafina, Gino, Anne Marie, Lucinda (all fathered by Nick Tortelli), Ludlow (with Dr. Bennett Ludlow), and twins Elvis and Jesse (fathered by Eddie Lebec). Carla was known for being both feisty and also highly superstitious.

Cliff Clavin – Played by John Ratzenberger. Cliff was a know-it-all mailman. He annoyed everybody by acting as if he knew everything about everything.

Norm! Peterson – Played by George Wendt. He was a regular customer with his own seat at the bar. He was also best friends with Cliff. He also had a wife Vera, who was never seen by the audience. This is the closest we came (at the 4:40 mark):

Everytime Norm walked into the bar, everybody shouted “Norm!” Then whoever was bartending would ask Norm a question, and he would come up with a funny remark. Here are some quotes:

“How’s a beer sound, Norm?”
“I dunno. I usually finish them before they get a word in.”

“What’s shaking, Norm?”
“All four cheeks and a couple of chins.”

“What would you say to a nice beer, Normie?”
“Going Down?”

What would you say to a beer, Normie?”
“Daddy wuvs you.”

“What’d you like, Normie?”
“A reason to live. Give me another beer.”

“What’ll you have, Normie?”
“Well, I’m in a gambling mood Sammy. I’ll take a glass of whatever comes out of that tap.”
“Looks like beer, Norm.”
“Call me Mister Lucky.”

(Coming in from the rain)
“Evening everybody.”
Everybody: “Norm!”
“Still pouring, Norm?”
“That’s funny, I was about to ask you the same thing.”

“Whaddya say, Norm?”
“Well, I never met a beer I didn’t drink.”

“Hey Norm, how’s the world been treating you?”
“Like a baby treats a diaper.”

“Can I pour you a beer, Mr. Peterson?”
“A little early isn’t it, Woody?”
“For a beer?”
“No, for stupid questions

The theme song is #1 on my list of top sitcom theme songs.

NBC dedicated a whole night to the final episode of Cheers, following the one-hour season finale of Seinfeld (which was its lead-in). The show began with a “pregame” show hosted by Bob Costas, followed by the final 98-minute episode itself. NBC affiliates then aired tributes to Cheers during their local newscasts, and the night concluded with a special Tonight Show broadcast live from the Bull & Finch Pub.

In the last scene of the show, after telling a late arriving customer that the bar was closed, Sam walks to the back of the bar. On his way, he pauses to straighten a framed photograph of Geronimo. This picture belonged to Nicholas Colasanto and was hung in the bar after his death in his honor.

May 18, 1980: Mount St. Helens Erupts

Iceland has their volcano Eyjafjallajökull, which wreaked havoc recently. But we had our own natural disaster 30 years ago today when Mount St. Helens in Washington erupted, causing a massive avalanche and killing 57 people. Ash from the volcanic eruption fell as far away as Minnesota. Seismic activity at Mount St. Helens, which is 96 miles south of Seattle, began on March 16. A 4.2-magnitude tremor was recorded four days later and then, on March 23-24, there were 174 different recorded tremors. The first eruption occurred on March 27, when a 250-foot wide vent opened up on top of the mountain. Ash was blasted 10,000 feet in the air, some of which came down nearly 300 miles away in Spokane. The ash caused static electricity and lightning bolts.

Throughout April, scientists watched a bulge on the north side of Mount St. Helens grow larger and larger. Finally, on May 18 at 8:32 a.m., a sudden 5.1-magnitude earthquake and eruption rocked the mountain. The north side of the peak rippled and blasted out ash at 650 miles per hour. A cloud of ash, rocks, gas and glacial ice roared down the side of the mountain at 100 mph. Fourteen miles of the Toutle River were buried up to 150 feet deep in the debris. Magma, at 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit, flowed for miles.

Millions of trees were scorched and burned by the hot air alone. When the glacier atop the mountain melted, a massive mudslide wiped out homes and dammed up rivers throughout the area. The plume of ash belched out for nine hours; easterly winds carried it across the state and as far away as Minneapolis, Minnesota. The falling ash clogged carburetors and thousands of motorists were stranded. Fifty-seven people died overall from suffocation, burns and other assorted injuries. Twenty-seven bodies, including that of the stubborn Harry Truman, were never found. Mount St. Helens went from 9,600 feet high to only 8,300 feet high in a matter of seconds.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan and the U.S. Congress established the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, a 110,000 acres area around the mountain and within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Following the 1980 eruption, the area was left to gradually return to its natural state. In 1987, the U.S. Forest Service reopened the mountain to climbing. It remained open until 2004 when renewed activity caused the closure of the area around the mountain.

The Monitor Ridge trail, which previously let up to 100 permitted hikers per day climb to the summit, was closed. However, on July 21, 2006, the mountain was again opened to climbers.

Check out the web cam of Mount St. Helens.

R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio – July 10, 1942 – May 16, 2010

Heavy Metal legend Ronnie James Dio died peacefully yesterday after a battle with stomach cancer. Dio was known for replacing Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath as well as being the founder of the group Dio. Not only is he legendary in the metal world for his music, but he also popularized the “devil horns” sign. He said that the sign had come from his grandmother who used it to ward off evil.
Dio was in the original lineup of the band Rainbow along with former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. In 1979, Dio left Rainbow to replace Ozzy in Black Sabbath, and released the album Heaven and Hell which revitalized the band. He was with the band on and off several times. After the first 2 years of his first stint with the band, he started up his own successful band – Dio.

On January 17, 2007, he was inducted into the Rock Walk of Fame at Guitar Center on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard.

Dio revealed last summer that he was suffering from stomach cancer shortly after wrapping up a tour in Atlantic City, N.J., with the latest incarnation of Black Sabbath under the name Heaven And Hell.

He was married to Wendy Galaxiola, who also served as his manager.
On March 14, 2010, Wendy posted an online update on his condition:

“It has been Ronnie’s 7th chemo, another cat scan and another endoscopy, and the results are good – the main tumour has shrunk considerably, and our visits to Houston (cancer clinic in Texas) are now every three weeks instead of every two weeks.”

On May 4, Heaven and Hell announced they were cancelling all summer dates as a result of Dio’s ill health.

Dio died at 7:45 am (CDT) on May 16, 2010.

Here is my favorite Dio song, “Rainbow in the Dark”:

Ronald Reagan Quote of the Week – 5/17/10

* I have never given a litmus test to anyone that I have appointed to the bench…. I feel very strongly about those social issues, but I also place my confidence in the fact that the one thing that I do seek are judges that will interpret the law and not write the law. We’ve had too many examples in recent years of courts and judges legislating. They’re not interpreting what the law says and whether someone has violated it or not. In too many instances, they have been actually legislating by legal decree what they think the law should be, and that I don’t go for. And I think that the two men that we’re just talking about here, Rehnquist and Scalia, are interpreters of the Constitution and the law.
o Interview with LA Times (1986-06-23)

May 13, 1981: Pope John Paul II is Shot

29 years ago today, Pope John Paul II. The following is from the History Channel:

Pope John Paul II is shot and wounded at St. Peter’s Square in Rome, Italy. Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca, an escaped fugitive already convicted of a previous murder, fired several shots at the religious leader, two of which wounded nearby tourists. Agca was immediately captured.

Agca claimed that he had planned to go to England to kill the king but couldn’t because it turned out there was only a queen and “Turks don’t shoot women.” He also claimed to have Palestinian connections, although the PLO quickly denied any involvement. Detectives believed that his confession had been coached in order to throw investigators offtrack.

When his trial began on July 20, 1981, Agca tried an unlikely legal gambit: He maintained that Italy did not have the right to prosecute him since the crime occurred at the Vatican. Although he threatened to go on a hunger strike if his trial wasn’t shifted to a Vatican court, his request was denied and he was found guilty two days later. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Many people argued that the very unusual and short trial must have been an effort to cover up evidence of a conspiracy. In fact, Italian authorities had their own suspicions but did not want to disclose them in a highly publicized trial. Instead, they conducted a relatively quiet investigation into the connection between Agca and Bulgaria’s KGB-connected intelligence agency.

The motive behind an alleged Soviet-inspired assassination must be viewed in the context of the Cold War in 1981. Pope John Paul II was Polish-born and openly supportive of the democratic movement in that country. His visit to Poland in 1979 worried the Kremlin, which saw its hold on Eastern Europe in danger.

Although the exact extent of the conspiracy remains unknown today, Agca reportedly met with Bulgarian spies Sergei Antonov, Zhelio Vassilev, Todor Aivazov, and Bekir Celenk in Rome about assassinating Lech Walesa, the Polish labor union leader. However, this plan was abandoned when Agca was offered $1.25 million to kill the pope.

Dana Plato’s Son Commits Suicide

Almost 11 years to the day that Dana Plato committed suicide by overdosing on painkillers at the age of 34, her son Tyler Lambert committed suicide. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in Kellyville, Oklahoma. Dana Plato died on May 9, 1999, and her son Tyler died on May 6, 2010. He was 25.

Lambert’s grandmother (Plato’s former mother-in-law) Joni Richardson said that “Tyler wanted to be with his mother,” according to the National Enquirer. “His father Lanny is devastated.” His body is to be cremated and no memorial is being planned. Tyler was a cameraman and aspiring songwriter. Richardson also told people.com “It’s a shame that such a talented human being would do this with his life,” and “He had all the opportunities in the world and we just can’t understand it,” she added. “Our lives have just been wrapped around him. … It’s just devastating.”

References: UPI.com

E! Online

Sitcom Theme Songs of the ’80s

Remember when television sitcom theme songs were more than a few seconds? They used to show the premise of the show and introduce the starring characters. Sure, some of them may have been corny, but the opening theme was just about as good as the show itself.

Here are some of my favorites from the ’80s:

10. Happy Days
The original song was Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock”. Then from 1976 through 1984 the show had its own original song written by television theme writers Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox, who also wrote the themes for Wonder Woman, Laverne and Shirley, and Love Boat. The song was sung by Jerry McClain and Truett Pratt, who were also known as Brother Love.

9. Golden Girls

This song was “Thank You for Being a Friend”, and was written by written by Andrew Gold. It was actually a #25 hit on the Billboard charts in 1978. You can see him perform it here.
The television theme version was recorded by Cynthia Fee (who is also known for her 1984 duet with Kenny Rogers, “I Don’t Want To Know Why”).

8. The Facts of Life

“The Facts of Life” theme was written by Growing Pains dad Alan Thicke, Days of Our Lives star Gloria Loring and Al Burton, and was sung by Gloria Loring.

7. Silver Spoons

The show’s theme song titled “Together” was written by Rik Howard and Bob Wirth. It was sung by The Archies’ alumni Ron Dante.

6. Punky Brewster

This theme song is “Every Time I Turn Around”, and was written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo and sung by Portnoy. Here is the version from seasons 3 and 4. To see the first season version, check out the Punk Brewster article from May 6 .

5. Charles in Charge

There were 2 versions of this song, even though the lyrics were the same. They are both good.

Season 1:

The rest of the seasons:

4. The Jeffersons

This song is “Movin’ on Up” and was written by Jeff Barry and Ja’net Dubois, and performed by Dubois. I dare to not move your hands or feet to this song!

3. Diff’rent Strokes

Like it’s spin-off, The Facts of Life, this song was written by Alan Thicke, Gloria Loring and Al Burton. This was sung by Alan Thicke.

2. Growing Pains

This song is “As Long As We Got Each Other,” sung by B.J. Thomas and Jennifer Warnes, and was written by Steve Dorff and John Bettis.
B.J. Thomas had hit songs such as “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” and “Whatever Happened to Old-Fashioned Love”. Jennifer Warnes was a very successful duet singer as she had hits with “Up Where We Belong” (with Joe Cocker, from the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman) and “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” (with Bill Medley from the 1987 film Dirty Dancing).

1. Cheers

This is “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”, and was written by Gary Portnoy (who also wrote and performed the Punky Brewster theme) and Judy Hart Angelo and performed by Portnoy. I like the long version. The short version usually gets played for the reruns now.

Does anybody else have any favorites? Three’s Company? Laverne and Shirley? Perfect Strangers? Family Ties?

Betty White was great on Saturday Night Live

Even though Saturday Night Live is not as good as it used to be, I still have it on my TiVo’s Season Pass. This was the first episode in a very long time that I did not fast forward by a single skit. The “music”, on the other hand, was a different story. Here are the clips:

1. The opening skit: The Lawrence Welk Show.
It’s not too often that the host appears in the opening skit, but Betty White appears here. I’m not a big fan of Kristen Wiig. I like her Target lady, and her Kathie Lee. This is also a great character she plays.

2. Opening Monologue. Her opening monologue was better than most:

3. MacGruber skits. I can’t believe they are actually making a full length movie of this sketch. But these are really funny. These were played throughout the episode:

4. “The Delicious Dish”. This is an instant classic. Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon returned this week, and were just awesome in this skit. This sketch goes into great details about Betty White’s “muffin”.

5. The Manuel Ortiz Show. This would normally be a skit I would go by, but even this was pretty good. Check out Betty’s moves! Sorry for the bad video quality:

6. Gingey. All the ladies of Saturday Night Live were in this skit, where Betty White was trying to open everybody’s eyes and let them know that Amy Poelher is a lesbian. Amy Poelher is awesome in this sketch. I love that old fasioned voice she does:

7. Weekend Update. There are way too many skits during Weekend Update these days, and I end up scanning through most of them. But Molly Shannon and Betty White are hilarious here:

8. Scared Straight. This and “What Up With That” are two of my favorite Kenan Thompson sketches.

Click here to view the sketch.

9. Digital Short – Thank You for being a Friend. Awww, this starts off so sweet! Then your mind gets blown away!! If you thought the rapping granny in The Wedding Singer was cool, check out Betty White’s Death Metal!!

10. Census. The last sketch of the night is usually the worst sketch of the night, and the show is pretty much over by the time you get to this point. But this sketch could be one of the first sketches in any other SNL episode. Betty White is wacky and awesome with poor census taker Tina Fey.

Click here to view the clip.

80's Pop Culture and News

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