In media news that may be considered as “boring but important”, Netflix, perhaps one of the be-all-to-end-all media streaming sites found in the video world, recently announced that they will finally crack down on subscribers domestically that have been sharing their passwords for others to gain access to their subscriptions.
Some five years ago c. 2017, Netflix used the line “Love is Sharing a Password” suggesting to those same paid subscribers that sharing a password was indeed showing their signs of “love” to those that considered it as “OK” to ride on their account.
However, it appears that “love” is starting to turn into a breakup. Netflix is now giving a line something to the effect of “..a Netflix account is for people who live together in a single household”. This means that you can still share your password with your Uncle Looie or Auntie Muriel, just as long as your Uncle Looie and Auntie Muriel are shacking up within the same place one hangs their hat.
But if you want to share your passwords with your “BFF”s, and those BFFs live somewhere else, then Netflix won’t seem to like that idea. So if they want to keep up with the latest installment of Stranger Things, they either have to watch those shows in the same house the subscriber lives in, or the BFFs better pony up with their own subscribing antics.
This notion of watching content on somebody else’s subscription used to be labeled as “theft of service”. This was a long time concern with cable TV companies who once dominated the TV programming services industry that thrived from the late 1970’s well into the 2000s.
When yours truly used to work in the CATV domain, we used to be trained on theft of service, or “TOS” as is was called on occasion even through TOS was always confused with a cable channel that used three initials such as HBO, USA and TBS, long after Turner Broadcasting dropped the “W” from their channel nmae. Employees within Group W as well as other CATV companies were taught on how to spot folks stealing cable. And there were ways that they did this bit of thievery.
The way it was done was through a process of connecting a coax cable from a junction box that was located inside of a metal box placed along neighborhoods that was usually placed on the ground surface. (A few were placed on an electric line pole high above the ground, but most were on the surface for easier access.) People would tend to break into these boxes assuming they were locked up, but most were not as locks were either previously broken in or missing from the door assemblies. These same folks would connect a cable that was formally unconnected by screwing the coax head into a coax outlet. This would give them access to the basic services. The pay or “premium” channels, such as HBO, Showtime, and the like had their signals scrambled, meaning that one would see a scrambled video picture, but were able to hear the audio portion of the video.
But in order to “steal” those scrambled channels, there was another method to do so. There were these mail order outlets that sold electronic descramblers that one can connect with a cable TV box between the box and the TV set. These descrambles would sell for around $100.00 through many companies that advertised them in small classified ads appearing in such magazines as Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and other publications that dealt in electronic gadgetry.
Anyway, each descrambler would work based upon the cable distribution operating system that the CATV company used. Group W Cable, the outlet I once worked with, uses a system run by Scientific Atlanta. There were other companies such as Blonder-Tonge and Zenith to name a few that CATV companies used to get their coax signal through, but SA was Group W’s choice to serve their communities.
Considering that it would cost $12.95 per month to get let’s say HBO. For a year’s time, one would have to pan out $155.40 (give or take) per season. With a return of investment (or “ROI” since we seem to be initially happy within this article), the cable descrambler would pay itself off in a few months. And considering that there was more than one pay TV channel to deal with as Group W offered HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, The Movie Channel and The Disney Channel with DTV being a pay service at the time, one can get five or six channels for a fraction of the cost. And when Group W offered Pay-Per-View services, one can see WrestleMania for the same price (‘free”) as the World Wrestling Federation would charge some $59.95 to see those 1980’s-era WWF stars have at it on the mat–if they didn’t take their grudges outside of the ring!
All of these episodes as described above flourished for a number of years. The gig was up when the CATV companies switched their coax cable signals from analog to digital around the 2010s. This was also around the time when streaming services started to become available with Netflix leading the way. Nowadays, many of the existing companies that dealt with TV services (Spectrum for one) still offer traditional cable TV, but are now pushing for video services via streaming. So those descrambling boxes one once paid $100 for back in the day to steal HBO are now deemed worthless. But it was all fun (and “free”) while it lasted!!
But then again, Netflix isn’t the only player in town. Within the last ten or so years, other outlets have spring up offer their set of programming for those to take advantage of. So if one wanted to “Netflix and Chill”, one can do so without the Netflix. However, using the term “Paramount + with Showtime and Chill” doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it!
And did yours truly ever “steal cable?” Yes and no. When I was with Group W, they did give me free basic service, but I did get one of those descrambler boxes from an electronics firm located in Receda, California operating out of a mail drop service as I learned from looking for the address once located on Receda Blvd. many years later. So for a few years, I did get HBO, etc. without the higher ups at Group W knowing I was getting pay TV without paying for it. And I still have the original descrambler box as well as the cable box that I should have returned to Group W way back when. They are both sitting inside of a cardboard box with other forgotten electronic devices that I store inside of a storage area found inside a crawl space. They both still function (I think!) But with so many video programs to watch, who has the time to watch TV? I’m still holding on to videotapes I have yet to view. I’ll get to looking at those video programs when I get around to it maybe!
The Sierra Madre Playhouse in Sierra Madre continues its mini series of solo shows with Kayla Boye starring as Elizabeth Taylor in CALL ME ELIZABETH, focusing on the time of her life when she was a star on the big screen and to take on a role in a big epic picture as a queen on the Nile.
The setting is a modest suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Elizabeth, as she wants to be referred as, is speaking to a writer that is creating her autobiography. It’s c. 1961. She just completed her marriage with Eddie Fisher who took off for a gig in Las Vegas. She speaks about her life as it stood at the time, telling about her moments as a child star at MGM playing roles that showed her youthfulness. She continues to wallow about her professional life appearing in notable features such as National Velvet (about a girl and her horse) opposite Mickey Rooney, Father of the Bride (playing the bride) opposite Spencer Tracy, A Place In The Sun, opposite Montgomery Clift who she adored, as well as a few film vehicles she had to do because her film contract demanded it. Then she speaks about her series of marriages. Her first one was with Nicky Hilton, heir to the hotel chain. That partnership ended right away since Nicky wasn’t as kind to her as expected. Her second with British film star Michael Wilding came and went. Her third marriage go round was with film producer and engineer Michael Todd that ended with his death from a plane crash. Her fourth one (so far) was with vocalist Eddie Fisher. But Elizabeth wanted to divide herself between being Liz as the press knew her as, and as Elizabeth that is more toward her personal side. Her health was also on a flux as well, still recovering from an horse riding accident while shooting National Velvet a few years back, and nearly dying from a bout of pneumonia. Thus, Elizabeth has experienced more in her life within her first thirty years as others experienced for longer periods. So the time is ripe to create an autobiography!
This solo show features Kayla Boye as the younger version of Elizabeth Taylor, a product of was would be later called “Old Hollywood” where film stars were indeed stars created by an industry that treated these movie folks as protected property, always making sure that they looked and acted (for real) as appealing to their fans and the media alike. In this production, Kayla holds the same mannerism that Elizabeth had while she was still in her younger days, always being robust while keeping her youthful side up. Using her extensive research about the life and times of Elizabeth, Kayla expresses her title character as the “poor little rich girl” that had her many ups and downs in her life as a professional in the “biz”, while experiencing as many emotions that the cameras didn’t capture.
Erin Kraft directs this show as a seventy minute bio tale of Elizabeth and what she mastered so far. Of course, there will be more about her life that she will face in her second half as this stage tale concluded with her (future) appearance in the epic production of Cleopatra, featuring British film stars Rex Harrison and Richard Burton, her next suitor. This may be the focus of a follow up show that brings Elizabeth far beyond her post Old Hollywood era. But for now, it’s just plain ol’ Elizabeth!
CALL ME ELIZABETH, presented by and performs at The Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 West Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, until February 19th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM.
For ticket reservations, call (626) 355-4318, or online at http://SierreMadrePlayhouse.org
GARBO’S CUBAN LOVER, Odalys Nanin’s play about the hidden affair between screenwriter Mercedes de Acosta and film star Greta Garbo during the glory days of Hollywood, performs at the Casa 0101 Theater in east Los Angeles.
The setting is Hollywood in the 1930’s. At Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, Mercedes de Acosta (Odalys Nanin) was employed as a contract screenwriter churning out scripts for this movie making factory. At MGM, she gained access to many of the stars that were connected to this studio. With the suave and grace she had inherited from her Cuban born father and mother of Spanish heritage, Mercedes had a series of romantic flings with these stars, or to be precise, starlets! These romantic affairs ranged from Pola Negri, Eva Le Gallienne, Talulah Bankhead, and Ona Munson to name a few. But one star that held an attraction was with Greta Garbo. (Lydie Denier). With her Sweetish roots, Greta was more of a leading lady with a stone face rather than another “girl” appearing as a pretty picture. This attraction between Garbo and Mercedes continued through an on again-off again basis. Mercedes pitched story ideas to her boss, MGM head executive Irving Thalberg (Skip Pipo) with Greta in mind as its lead. Their relationship fell into rough patches, especially with Mercedes’ new fling with Marlene Dietrich (Kate Patel). But with Hollywood as it was, this affair didn’t stay too far from the glamour of Tinseltown, though it was something one didn’t hear about through the columns of Hedda or Estelle, or the fan mags of Modern Screen or Photoplay.
This play, written by its star Odalys Nanin and co-directed by Angelia Nicholas and Nanin, takes a look of one of the many hidden aspects of Hollywood where studios protected their stars as they were valuable property just because they were considered as “property”, especially at MGM where this industry custom was pronounced. If any of their stars were involved in these forms of situations, their careers could be ruined. But as depicted, Mercedes in her approach was attracted to Garbo and vice versa as the two worked professionally and personally. (The only one who was “ruined” was Mercedes due to her choice of multiple lovers of the female persuasion!) It’s a story that can be called a love story far from one that’s traditional. Yet it shows the impact of how a relationship could develop, even if it’s one that is a bit out of the ordinary.
This play has been part of the Hollywood circuit for a little over twenty years. This version as seen on the Casa 0101 Theater stage is a reimagined production, meaning that it features additional theatrics with more music, dance, and multimedia visuals. These elements enhance the story and the program that takes its lead character Mercedes into a romantic spiral with a woman who didn’t desire to be let alone.
Marco de Leon’s set design shows its stage backdrop as an appealing art deco setting. Angela Nickolas’s costuming dresses its cast with outfits from the period. The character of Mercedes is the best dressed one of them all, sporting at times a fitting white tux while she holds a cigarette in its holder that shows as striking a pose. And its choreography of tangos were created by Cate Caplin and Monica Orozco, giving this stage piece its fluid and sexy flavor.
In addition to the above named cast, this production also features Kesia Elwin, Bruna Bertossi, and Saige Spinney/Myeva Surjic.
GARBO’S CUBAN LOVER is another untold tale about Hollywood at its peak. It wasn’t a Hollywood for every life and style in its real life. It was one that was for make believe. But this tale is just as thrilling and melancholy as any picture of this style. It’s just another love story that makes its match not too far away from the bright lights and greasepaint.
GARBO’S CUBAN LOVER, presented by MACHA Theater/Films and performs at Casa 0101 Theater, 2101 East 1st Street, Los Angeles, until February 25th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 5:00 PM. For tickets, order online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/garbos-cuban-lover-tickets-467303747087
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