Although there is still a few weeks left in this calendar year, 2019 is just around the corner. When the first day of that year rolls around, one will see and hear about special occasions and event that will make that year noteworthy.
Among the many elements that will be called upon the welcome of ’19 will be anniversary dates, noting that the year 2019 will mark a place in time where an event took place recalling a specific anniversary date.
This article is focus upon one event that would change how this nation communicates with itself. It will mark the 35th anniversary of the start of the breakup on the telephone industry where The Bell System a.k.a. “Ma Bell”, was officially dissolved by way of the Federal Communications Commission. (FCC). This meant that The Bell System and many of its companies including AT&T, Western Electric, and many of the regional Bell companies that provided phone service in various cities, states, and regions, would be broken up leading to more of a competitive service.
Before long, companies that offered long distance services such as Sprint, MCI, and other firms would be offering cheaper rates to make calls that were out of their region. Other companies could make and sell aftermarket phones for people to actually own, rather than leasing them from the Bell System’s regional phone service.
There was a lot of speculation going around at the time of the breakup on how phone service would be for the years after this official “divorce” with Bell and everyone involved. Some stated that rates would increase, while others were stating that phone service would be worse off. Time proved that phone service didn’t necessarily get worse. It just meant that choices would be more diverse than ever before!
Over time and tide, phone service took on new companies, new names, and newer offerings. Cell phone service started to become available shortly after the breakup date. However, such services were very limited. They were only made available to those that had a real need for it, usually related to what business the prospective subscriber was involved in. Usually their jobs involved something that was on a high intensive scale, such as doctors, lawyers, executives within a company that always had to be in touch with company top brass, and other folks that were high within their business ranks.
Cell phone service was only offered by local or regional companies located in big cities. Their rates offered so many cents per minute on a yearly contract basis. Equipment was sometimes included, but often, it was sold separately. Phone devices built inside of passenger cars were the most common where the handset, connected by way of a cord to the base, was located left of the driver’s seat. It was powered by the car’s battery system and was active when the car’s engine was running. Of course, if the car’s ignition wasn’t turned over, the phone didn’t work. Thus, if one was stranded in a mechanical breakdown, one couldn’t use the phone! This gaff was later modified to having the phone’s power independent to the car’s operation. But again, mobile phones and its services were limited to a few and was not addressed for the casual user.
That was in the 1980’s and through much of the 1990’s. By the later 90’s, cell phones could now be held by hand. However, phone service was still pricey for what they were, and its quality of calls sent and received was anywhere from tolerable to totally unreliable! But again, it was meant for usage by those that needed it.
By the 21st century, everything started to change. Phones became smaller, service began to become more competitive, and its regular usage started to trickle down from the high power user to the middle range consumer. By the middle 2000’s, cell phones became to become more mainstream where nearly anyone is most walks of domestic lifestyles would have access to a cell phone, mostly to keep in touch with business colleagues, family members, friends and associates, and others that wanted to always stay within the communications loop. Two year contracts were still the norm, and many call plans were based upon so much usages per billing cycle. Some companies offers “free” minutes between selected hours that would not count on the minute-per-use plan, such as unlimited talk between 7:00 PM-7:00 AM on the weekdays, and between 7:00 PM Friday through 7:00 AM the following Monday. Text message services were also available, assuming one had a phone that can indeed send and receive messages through a text system. That was ideal when users needed communication when talking wasn’t practical, or if the text user didn’t want to use their voice when communicating.
Then the smartphone hit with Apple introducing their iPhone in 2007. It would become Apple’s biggest hit of them all, far surpassing the iPod device introduced a few years before. Little did anyone suspect that the iPhone, or “smartphone” as its generically called, would mark the beginning of phone use as this society would ever know about.
Today, nearly the entire population of this nation (Canada, too), has access to a cell phone, with smartphones taking a majority of the slack. (Standard flip phones, the type that was common in the pre-smartphone era, are still in use and are still made available, but only on a very limited scale that is now confined to specific demographics.)
Countless articles have been written in the media (this newsletter included) about the many pros and cons about smartphones and its usages. Many are of and for the good, while others are its total opposite! But one element is for sure. Smartphones and the way they set themselves in these life and times, are here to stay forever. It’s within the same methods when television first came around some 70 years ago. What was first a novelty became a way of life.
In today’s field, the Bell System and all of its applications, have been transferred into something else, or perhaps totally forgotten. It’s advertising line made popular in the 1970’s that went “Reach Out and Touch Someone” was created to encourage folks to make long distance calls to family or friends that was part of somebody’s life. Of course, those TV spots would encourage those to make those calls when the rates were low(er), usually after 5:00 PM local time or on weekends. Those ads were created to make these phones a lifeline to loved ones. That notion in today’s landscape is now just an afterthought! One can get an app to do all of that reaching out just by a simple tap or swipe!
Ma Bell would be stirring in her grave–or is there an app for that?
NEWS AND REVIEWS
Continuing for its midweek run at The Whitefire Theatre is John Stysik’s VILLAINY or H.H. Holmes’ Own Story, a true tale about America’s first recorded serial killer, and the story that made him infamous during the “gay 90s”.
Chicago, 1893. The city is hosting the Columbian Exposition, the World’s Fair that introduced such invention as the zipper, Jacob Best’s “Blue Ribbon” beer, and Nikola Tesla’s demonstrations of electricity. Lurking about is physician Herman Webster Mudgett (Tor Brown). He begins his journey into his devious deeds by seducing women, eventually being married to three at one time. Now taking an alias of Henry Howard Holmes (portrayed by Eric Keitel)-using the last name after a popular detective in the fiction of the era, he goes into the murder of these woman, using his skills in the medical field by disassembling the bodies and selling the skinned skeletons to medical institutions. He even has his own place he calls as a castle, complete with darken rooms, narrow passageways, a pharmacy stocked with chemicals, and a torture chamber. The newspapers of the time was reporting on the details of his evil deeds, even calling him “The Devil in the White City” as he lived near the World’s Fair site. Shortly before he would be caught and tried in a court of law and to be exacted by hanging, newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst offered Holmes to write a confession of his many crimes into a memoir that was later published in the Hearst papers, making his macabre story a media sensation.
This single-act play written by John Stysik tells this little known story of a serial killer using two actors as the man and his alter-ego killer-Tor Brown as the mild mannered Herman Mudgett and Eric Keitel as the notorious H.H. Holmes. Although the latter was the evil one, his portrayal is presented just as mild mannered. It shows how much he was willing to murder his victims–the women he would eventually marry by seducing them while taking advantage of their ignorance through the willing of any property that may had access to by transferring those plots to his name, while continuing to torture them by way of his vast medical knowledge.
The ensemble cast that play Holmes’ wives and later victims consist of Jennifer Novak Chun, McKenzie Eckels, Tanya Raisa, and Nathalie Rudolph.
Jeff G. Rack, known for his set decoration skills as seen in many local stage productions performing within the region, directs this show using minimal sets. What is seen on stage are the ones that would fall within the clutches of Mudgett/Holmes, as well as the one that is the killer himself! Shon Le Blanc provides the period costuming that shows the fashion of the 90’s (1890’s that is) where the ladies were in style, and the men were just as dapper, although a sense of evil still remains throughout.
Also to note is the pre-performance musical interlude by Jennifer Novak Chun on the cello, setting the scene to what will unfold.
Serial killers are mostly known to be active during the second half of the 20th century, bleeding (pun?) into the new millennium. VILLAINY shows that such multiple killings did occur back when opportunity was ripe to only those that knew what they were doing, rather than being the works of an amateur. And unlike the evil to the killings, nothing graphic is seen on stage. It’s up to the imagination of the audience to witness what was set within the mind of Holmes fulfilling his quests of power and eventually infame.
VILLAINY or H.H. Holmes’ Own Story, presented by VP Productions and the Whitefire Theatre, performs at The Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd. (at Sunnyslope), Sherman Oaks, until November 7th. Showtimes are Wednesday nights at 8:00 PM. For ticket reservations, call (800) 838-3006, or via online at
The Bucket List Theatre company presents SILENCE! THE MUSICAL, a tuneful romp about an FBI agent in training using the knowledge of a locked up serial killer to capture another serial killer on the loose.
Amanda Conlon is FBI rookie agent Clarice Starling. Her assignment is to capture a serial killer calling himself Buffalo Bill (Nick Dothee). A person that knows his ins and outs of his business is another killer who dines on people–Hannibal (“The Cannibal”) Lecter (Jesse Merlin). It may not be easy to complete this assignment, but thanks to her skills as well as a greek chorus of lambs, Clarice is there the save the day, and to “earn her wings” to become a real G-(wo)man!
This single-act stage musical with book by Hunter Bell and music & lyrics by Jon Kaplan and Al Kaplan, is very loosely based on the feature film (and non-musical) The Silence of the Lambs, and creates a musical comedy that is very witty and played for laughs, with a musical score that is pretty lively to boot. It doesn’t have much gore in spite of the premise. But what lacks for blood and guts makes it up for fun and frolic! It features a very large and robust ensemble cast to sing the praises of how an FBI agent receives her first big assignment. That ensemble cast consists of Julie Ouellette as Catherine, Brian Dyer (altering with Patrick Pizzolorusso) as Crawford, Kevin Michael Moran as Dr. Chilton, Courtney Bruce as Ardelia, Philip McBride as Papa Starling, Suzanne Slade as Senator Martin, Michael C. Silva as Miggs, Jeff Lagreca as Bimmel, and Jesse Gavin as Stone Rockbrockmanrock.
Edgar Cardoso provides the musical direction on the keyboards, Nick Foran is on helm with the lighting, while Amanda Conlon directs, choreographs, and presents the production design. Granted, the sets are not much to speak of as the backdrop is as black as the setting. However, that shard of dark just adds to the overall flavor to what this musical is–a parody of a thriller that shows more comedy that chills.
For those that hasn’t seen the feature in a while (if at all), then this musical will make up for miss. It’s a fun show to see, and just in time for All Hallow’s Eve season, too! SILENCE! THE MUSICAL is the trick to treat!
SILENCE! THE MUSICAL, presents by the Bucket List Theatre, and performs at the Let Live Theatre, 916 North Formosa Avenue, Los Angeles (West Hollywood adjacent), until November 3rd. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM. For tickets and for more information, visit http://www.BucketListTheatre.com
BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE (Fox) takes place in a once lavish resort called The El Royale located off Lake Tahoe, right smack dab in the middle of the California-Nevada border. Since it lost its gaming license, the place has gone down the tubes, although much of its visual luster still lingers.
It’s the late winter of 1969, and a group of strangers check in all at the same time. There’s Farther Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges) a Catholic priest who is returned from his leave of absence, Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo) a “negro” back up singer that is seeking to go as a solo R&B vocalist, Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson), a radical rebel woman sporting a “bad girl” attitude who brings along as her “guest”, her younger sister (Caileen Spaney), and Laramie Seymour Sullivan (John Hamm), a vacuum cleaner salesmen that speaks in a southern drawl. They are met by the person in charge at this hotel, Miles (Nick Offerman), who appears to be the only employee on duty, serving as front desk clerk, manager, bellboy, and maintenance man. Although each guest are not known to one another, everyone present (Miles included) holds a secret past they must face. Why are they stating at a hotel resort that has seen better days? Why is Emily treating her sister not as a guest, but as a kidnap victim? Is Darlene there for a vacation or for something else? Why did Father Flynn take a leave of absence from the church? Is he looking for something outside of faith? Is Laramie really a vacuum cleaner salesman, or is he there for other reasons? And what is the obsession of Miles’s guests? All of these notes are followed by yet another visitor Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth), who is out looking for Emily and her sibling. This little vacation spot is anything but a vacation, and perhaps just a place to reside while one of these guests, if not all, receives their chance for redemption!
This feature, written and directed by Drew Goddard, takes a number of elements from other features as written and/or directed by Sam Peckinpah, Joel and Ethan Coen, Paul Thomas Anderson, (among others for sure), and presents this film that holds plenty of action, suspense, trills, a dab of comedy, and plenty of violence! (Heavy on the violence!) The characters are very amusing, somewhat cartoon like (not necessarily “funny” per se, but entertaining), and are likable for who and what they are! Although Jeff Bridges as the man of the cloth appears to be the male lead, Cynthia Erivo as backup singer Darlene Sweet stands as its female lead. She does have a chance to sing a verse or two of the period R&B hits, but her singing doesn’t make this title a musical! There are lots of period music heard on its soundtrack from rock to “soul”, at many times as heard from a 1940’s Wurlitzer jukebox found within the hotel lobby that spins out tunes from the 1960’s on 78s! (There are as many as thirty people listed in the Art Department credits that made this movie a great looking one with its furnishings and related props and stylings!)
This title, as well as a number of others, are part of the first series of “gimmie a Oscar” features that’s going to make the rounds between now and the end of the year. These are movies that the studio that made it, and/or the distributor that’s making their movies available at the more refined multiplexes and stand-alone “art” houses, that contain heavy drama, complex story lines, as well as those actors that the Motion Picture Academy (as well as the other related movie award giver organizations) tend to honor. However, it’s October as this writer is churning out this review, so there is plenty of time for those movies to make their mark!
BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE is rated “R” for cussing and violence. Now playing at all the neighboring multiplexes.
FIRST MAN (Universal) dwells upon the story of Neil Armstrong, (Ryan Gosling) who as a test pilot for NASA, became involved in the USA’s space program and eventually became the first (hu)man to walk on the moon’s surface.
The story opens in 1961 as Neil flies a jet that nearly leaves the earth’s atmosphere, landing it successfully. Outside of Neil training to become an astronaut, he holds a domestic life as well, being a father to two sons and a young daughter that died of a fatal cancer. Claire Foy is Janet Armstrong, a woman who serves as wife and mother as Neil goes through his missions that are dangerous and rather unsettling to her.
Told in a fast paced quick-cut semi-linear fashion, this feature displays the tension that Neil and his fellow astronauts goes through as the USA is out to beat the Soviet Union into the game of what has been called “The Space Race”. Although many of the others astronauts are portrayed in this feature, including Pablo Schreiber as Jim Lovell, Shea Whigham as Gus Grissom, and Neil’s fellow astronauts who joined him on Apollo XI, Lukas Haas as Michael Collins and Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldren, the real focus is Neil as a person the attempts to balance his domestic life and his profession one–the kind of image that the NASA program was attempting to show the public that these men into space are just like the people that may exist as your next door neighbors!
Damien Chazelle, who hold an impressive track record for directing films at his younger age (thirty two to be exact) whose directorial work La-La Land made him an audience favorite (and winning the Oscar to boot), directs this feature that holds more than enough of extreme tight and edgy moments taking advantage of the said fast cuts as provided by picture editor Tom Cross, that increases the excitement at each cut. The use a lot of extreme close-ups add to the tension, an application that is rarely used nowadays in theatrical features. These close ups are just applied as this movie will eventually be viewed on smaller sized screens (as compact as 3” across via a smartphone), but serves as a tool to heighten the moments what Neil encounters as a test pilot, an astronaut, and the battles he faces between NASA executives, engineers, and his own spouse.
Josh Singer’s screenplay adapts James R. Hansen’s book of the same name that uses Neil as a key player without totally drawing attention to him and him alone. His character may be in the center of the conflict, but the others that support this mission to make the USA the winner of the journey to “the final frontier” creates this movie as just what it is: An action-packed film that is comic book-esque in flavor. This time, it’s not of fantasy. It’s all for real!
This feature can also serve as a “bookend” movie between two other titles that also tell the true epic of the flights to the unknown void of solar space: The Right Stuff, and Apollo 13. Although this movie stands out as its own, it’s ideal to view these two titles (available through streaming via Netflix), to really get one in the mood. For those that recall the times when the challenges that NASA faced in the 1960’s were in the headlines, this film will be a nostalgic trip. For the rest of those that may not have been around back then, the feature serves as a great intense thriller. Would it be a spoiler alert to note that it does conclude with a happy (or happier) ending?
This feature is rated PG-13 for intense scenes and situations. Now playing at all of the multiplexes nationwide.
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