Dear John Hughes: Sentimental Fun for Gen-Xers March 8, 2015

Let’s face it: getting through Wisconsin winters is pretty rough. Most days I come home from work in the dark and cold and am in my pajamas by 6:00 sharp. That is, if I don’t lie down for a “little nap” first. I find my lottery ticket purchases skyrocketing, and I watch way too many episodes of House Hunters: Bargain Beachfront Bargain Hunt.

So when I saw that Dear John Hughes, a musical celebrating (what else?) the incredible music featured in John Hughes’ teen flicks of the mid 80’s was coming to Chicago, I jumped online and ordered tickets. What better way to pull me out of my winter funk than listening to the soothing sounds of Psychedelic Furs, Oingo Boingo and The Smiths? Truth be told, I had no idea if there was even a plot to this show, but it also starred Rumer Willis…and if there’s one thing I am, it’s a celebrity whore. Sold! (At about a hundred bucks a ticket – ouch!)

My fellow celebrity whore/pop culture-loving friend Becky and I took the train to Chicago, scarfed down a quick lunch, then high-tailed it to the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. Despite the 2:00 pm start time, the crowd was already enjoying some pre-entertainment beers, which is always a good sign.

I immediately loved the pre-show music selection, featuring lots of new-wave and lesser-known 80’s music, along with some songs clearly from Hughes’ movies but not featured in the performance. So far so good.

So now – on to the details.

The set was simple: several risers with compartments/room for the live band, with one single “framework” piece along the top for different characters to pose in front of (for the whole silhouette effect). This particular theater also had two very high balconies on both side of the stage and two little mini platforms as well, which were well-used by the cast. Cast members also often used the aisles in the theater, which made it extra exciting when Rumor Willis was nearby (sorry – the whole celebrity whore thing again).

So basically the show is divided into five chapters: The Princess and the Athlete, A Criminal and a Basket Case, The Geek, Prom, and Detention.  Each chapter uses lines and characters from Hughes’ most-loved teenage films:  Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Weird Science. (The latter is used the very least.) In order to maximize the use of the most classic Hughes’ movie lines, the themes may use a Sixteen Candles line one moment and then a Pretty in Pink line the next. I’ll admit it took a little getting used to, but in the end it just worked…largely because Hughes distinctly understood the different personas of the teenage world, and these movies all had recurring character types. You’ll see just how easily these characters could cross into each other’s worlds.

It was also difficult when a particular actor would deliver a line with a totally different inflection than the original Hughes’ movie actor. Let’s face it: When you’ve seen Sixteen Candles as many times as I have, you’re expecting Farmer Ted’s lines to be delivered just exactly like Anthony Michael Hall. One actor had the unenviable task of doing Stef from Pretty in Pink…and didn’t come close. But honestly, it’s pretty hard to top James Spader’s brilliant rich kid smarminess…because Spader is just so good.  The one notable exception to this was Ruby Lewis, who could do a very convincing Edie McClurg as Grace (“They think he’s a righteous dude”) as well as Annie Potts as Iona (“Applause. Applause. APPLAUSE.”) Lewis probably had the strongest voice in the bunch, but Michael Thomas Grant was a close second when he really did a fantastic Ducky singing Otis Redding’s Try a Little Tenderness.

As for Rumer Willis, I was pleasantly surprised that the girl can sing…and I liked her impressions of both Watts and Ally Sheedy’s “Basket Case” as well as Jeannie from Ferris Bueller. In fact, her biggest song of the show, Turn to the Sky by The March Violets, was one of my favorite moments. (By the way, this show just made me love the music of Some Kind of Wonderful even more – not to mention this movie was highly underrated and must be seen by more people. Please. Just do it. You won’t regret it.)

The show keeps a good balance of feel-good songs that everyone knows (Twist and Shout) along with some lesser-known ones that resonate with die-hard Hughes fans. I was particularly happy to hear Left of Center by Suzanne Vega, Young Americans by David Bowie, Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths, and We Are Not Alone by Nik Kershaw. If You Were Here by The Thompson Twins is also one of my all-time favorites (although there is another version of the song by Cary Brothers that just blows me away).

Overall, the show was fun and sentimental-packed. You’ll wish it was 1985 again and you were popping in that VHS tape of Breakfast Club that just came out. I know I am.


Why Kids with Thick Southern Accents Creep Me Out December 21, 2012

Filed under: Entertainment,Humor,Pop Culture — aniederkorn @ 11:10 am
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Today we are digging out of a blizzard. We’re talking a full-out, crazy-ass blizzard that makes the snowstorm in The Shining look like light flurries. In my book, that movie is pretty much one of the creepiest movies of all time. Those twins, the guy in the dog costume, “Red Rum”…it all just bothers me. Almost as much as high school boys with moustaches. Let’s just say those guys are never getting babysitting jobs. Oh, and rat-tails.  However…I am equally skeezed out by something else: Little kids with thick southern accents.

Lately, thanks to Toys ‘R Us commercials, I get to listen to some twelve-year-old southern boy do a mock news report about the hottest toys. That southern accent just opens the floodgates for all kinds of creepy memories, including this initial incident (to use a fab literary term) which inevitably gave me this phobia.

The year was around 1996. A friend and I had just gotten home from a night of barhopping in illustrious Green Bay, Wisconsin. While having our late-night munchies, we stumbled upon a documentary about children’s beauty pageants. Now you have to remember, this was long before Toddlers and Tiaras. Needless to say, we were mesmerized. We sat there devouring our Doritos in utter shocked silence. Except for one part, when we basically wanted to run screaming from the room. We then had to watch The Shining, just to calm us down.

I remember the documentary featured two little girls who had clearly run into each other on the pageant circuit many times before. The underdog, named “Asia” had a perpetually frustrated mother whose sole ambition was to beat out this other little gorgeous and privileged girl. I can’t remember her name, but let’s call her “Tanqueray”. It was basically the Tonya Harding vs. Nancy Kerrigan scenario of children’s beauty pageants, where you had the talented-but-poor girl versus the perfect, wealthy princess. I had to admit, I was rooting for Asia since Tanqueray clearly had the advantage of good breeding and loads of cash. But there was another reason why I could not root for little Tanquie: her pure creepiness.

At one point during the documentary, the crew decided to interview her after a particularly grueling dance rehearsal. I could tell the producers were probably hoping she would crack and admit to them that she hated the pageants and her mom and the whole deal. Instead, this is what happened:

Now you have to picture this girl first. She was a Jon Benet lookalike, which meant that she looked like one of those possessed dolls you’d find in any movie with the word “Chucky” in it.  The narrator simply asked Tanqueray what she liked best about pageants.

Cut to T., who then mechanically moves her head like a doll in a Poltergeist-infested bedroom.

She looks into the camera before drawing out her answer for about five seconds, even though she only spoke two words. The two southern accent-laced words that will be forever etched in my brain.

Western wear…”

I rest my case.

Author’s Note: This post is dedicated to my friend Becky Roever, who was equally scarred by this event. She is almost as afraid of kids with southern accents as she is of birds. And sorry about booking us a hotel room at The  Flamingo that one time. I forgot they had a bird sanctuary.


Anne Hathaway Saved Me from a Painful Decision November 1, 2012

I almost choked on my Halloween candy when I heard the news.

Anne Hathaway is scheduled to make an appearance in my own little town of Ripon, Wisconsin, on Thursday! I was stoked! Normally I have to buy a ticket to L.A. or New York in order to stalk celebrities, but here is one that will literally be a mere few blocks from my house! Would it be too much to put “Welcome, Anne” signs in my front yard, much like Linus did for The Great Pumpkin?

But wait. Before I could even plan my outfit and prepare my strategy on how to meet her, I saw that she was coming to town to campaign for Obama.

Cue the universal noise for buzzkill.

Now if you know me, you know that the chances of my attending an Obama rally are about as likely as Leonardo DiCaprio dating anyone who’s not a model. As much as I love my celebrities, it just won’t happen.

The thing is I really like Anne Hathaway. She seems like a nice person, after all. Plus, we both spell our names with an ‘e’ at the end, so we have that bond. (On a side note: If you ever encounter someone named Anne, please ask how she spells it. Most of my life people have omitted the ‘e’.)  And I do understand how she wants to use her celebrity to endorse things she believes in. However, I also think it would be foolish for anyone to base their political opinions on celebrity endorsements.

I realize that there are a kajillion more entertainers that share Ms. Hathaway’s opinions, and therefore this sometimes makes it hard for a pop culture-obsessed person like me not to get a little frustrated. Back in 2008 I attended a Stevie Wonder concert at Summerfest in Milwaukee, where I was treated to Stevie’s gushing support for Obama which even included a musical chant. To say I wanted to stick a fork in my eye was an understatement.

Now I am afraid that I am going to run into the same thing this weekend in St. Paul. I am going to see Madonna in concert, which has basically been on my bucket list since junior high school. I respect Madonna for her work ethic and amazing entertainment abilities; that woman can put on a show. However I also know that she has been very political on her latest tour; and this is something I am dreading. The people of New Orleans recently booed her after she told them they better vote for Obama. I can only hope she learned her lesson and will tone it down a bit, although we’re talking Madonna here. Subtlety is not in her repertoire. However, I paid good money for those tickets and I don’t want the night to be overshadowed by politics.

And so I’ve had to train my brain to separate the performers from their beliefs. Entertainment is such a huge part of my life, that if I didn’t separate them I’d miss out on so many enjoyable, incredible things. My radio would be silent except for Ted Nugent.  It would be 24/7 Clint Eastwood movies. (Hmmm that may not be such a bad thing, but still.) Don’t even get me started on all the musical theater I would miss.

I would need to get a bigger yard sign for Anne Hathaway. I was thinking something along the lines of this:

Welcome, Anne! You are a talented actress and I thought you did a great job hosting the Oscars even though some people thought you were way too hyper. But honestly who wouldn’t look hyper next to a stoned, self-absorbed James Franco? And I totally stuck up for you when people said they hated your short hair. You cut it for your amazing upcoming role in Les Miserables! That is artistic integrity! In any case I think it’s lovely and gamine and you have the bone structure to pull it off. Plus I also liked your wedding headpiece by Mr. Valentino, even though most people hated that as well. I will continue to support your amazing career, but I’m afraid I can’t support your presidential candidate.


Your Fellow Anne

Update on late Wednesday night via Twitter: Apparently Anne Hathaway has cancelled her appearance in Ripon (and in all of Wisconsin, for that matter.) I guess Anne Hathaway saved me from a painful decision…along with a lot of poster board and paint.


I’ve Gone Hollywood, Part 3 of 3 (AKA OHMYGOD I MET JOEL MCHALE!) April 1, 2012

Day Five:  Just in case we didn’t see too many celebrities walking down the street or sitting next to us at restaurants, we had a back-up plan.  That is, we scheduled events where celebrities were a sure thing.

First up was a visit to the filming of The Soup (one of my favorite shows) starring Joel McHale.  Everyone knows that there is only one thing better than celebrities, and that is making fun of celebrities.  McHale and his team of writers have this down to an art form, and for that I thank them.  (Again, another dream job of mine.)

The Soup’s studio is really a quite smallish room room with orange chairs, a huge camera in a the middle, a large green screen in the front and two monitors on each side (to show clips from different TV shows).  The audience is small, maybe 60 people at the most, and it includes a few cast members from the show Community which Joel also stars in (where does this guy find the time to do all this and still appear in stand-up at every casino within a 100 mile radius of L.A.?) 

When Joel actually appears, I am smitten and mesmerized.  He is taller, thinner and better looking in person.  Before the actual taping begins, he runs in place to pump himself up.  And here’s what I learned:

  • People reading from teleprompters screw up.  A lot.  That smooth delivery you see on TV may have taken many, many takes.  A twenty-one minute show may take well over an hour to tape.  In McHale’s case, he flips off the camera and swears every time he messes up.  Not in an angry way, but more in a goofy way.  Then he entertains us by cracking jokes until everyone is ready for the next take.
  • The original jokes may not work.  If it sounded good on paper but not so much out loud, then a break is taken while an alternative joke is either selected or written right there on the spot.  And then you have to wait for the teleprompter to be changed.
  • A lawyer is present to catch little things, like revealing the Apple logo on air (that’s a no-no).  One segment had to be re-shot with a newly-covered iPad.  Joel’s response:  “As if people at home are going to wonder, ‘Hmmm what’s that he’s using?’””
  • That guy you always hear laughing the loudest during The Soup?  That’s Tom, the stage manager, who sits right next to the camera.  He’s also in charge of keeping Joel in line when he gets too goofy and off track.
  • Some people will laugh at anything a comedian says, even when it’s not funny or even meant to be funny.  Dane Cook at Madison Square Garden, I’m especially talking to you.

Joel McHale was very nice and stayed to talk to us and take pictures.  I was so nervous and sweaty you’d think I was about to play a game of dodgeball against Chuck Lidell. When he heard we were from Wisconsin, he asked if we were from Door County and then asked if we liked clam bakes.  I had to correct him and say it was fish boils.  I’ll forgive him though; knowing Door County is pretty impressive.

Me trying not to hyperventilate while meeting Joel McHale

Day Five, Evening:  Every March the Paley TV Festival hosts casts from several popular television programs.  Each night of the festival features a different show, and some nights there are special VIP parties.  We were lucky enough to get tickets to see the entire cast of Modern Family (my favorite show!) plus its creator, Steve Levitan.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Out of the entire cast, Julie Bowen and Eric Stonestreet talked the most.  Sofia Vergara talked the least.
  • Like her character Gloria, Sofia Vergara hates working with the dog on the show.  “They gheev heem the doggie treats all day…and thain hees breath smells like the doggie treats.”
  • When Ty Burrell gets nervous he blinks both eyes constantly; whenever he would answer a question from the moderator and all eyes were on him, we could see this.
  • Sarah Hyland (Hailey) proclaimed she was just “happy to have a head over her roof.”  This garnered a few chuckles from the audience.
  • “Luke” proclaimed that “everyone is always messing with my hair.”
  • You know that episode where Claire slips and falls over spilled eggs in the kitchen?  Not part of the script.  However, since it was realistic and she didn’t want to waste such a good fall, Julie Bowen still said her next line.
  • A gay fan told Eric Stonestreet this story:  “When I came out to my mom, she asked me if I was a Cam or a Mitchell.”

    The cast of Modern Family at the Paley TV Festival

Day Six:  As our Hollywood trip came to an end, we celebrated with some authentic Hollywood cuisine:  Pink’s.  The wait in line was worth it.  Check out the processed goodness in these chili cheese dogs.  I hope my thighs forgive me some day.


After that meal, we rolled ourselves back to The Grove for more shopping and a movie.  However, we could also kill some time by watching the filming of Extra, the Hollywood gossip show.  The hosts are the incredibly beautiful Maria Menounos and hunky dimple boy Mario “AC Slater” Lopez.  Their job is to look good and show up to read from the teleprompter while everyone stands and admires them.  Here are the beautiful ones in action:

Mario Lopez checking texts in between his strenuous takes on “Extra”

The lovely Maria Menounos taping “Extra”

Well that’s it for my Hollywood tale.  Until next time…Niederkorn out.


I’ve Gone Hollywood (Part 2 of 3) March 28, 2012

If you read my previous post, you’ll know that this is a continuation of my recent trip to Hollywood with my friend Becky.  Thus far in the trip our celebrity sightings had been limited to a guy from Lost, but we knew the next few days would satisfy our cravings for some real live Hollywood stuff.

Day Four:  As part of our vacation package, we received a V.I.P. Tour of Universal Studios and Theme Park.  This was a big deal because not only did it mean we’d get preferred seating and front-of-the-line privileges in the park, but we’d be part of a limited number of guests who saw the inner workings of the studio itself.

Here are some of the interesting things I learned that day:

  • The town square set from Back to the Future is fully intact and is still used by other shows and movies.
  • Entire houses are constructed inside sound stages, and many inside walls and half walls are moveable to allow for cameras and crew members.
  • Most Mexican food and restaurant commercials are filmed on one set over and over again.
  • The ravaged street from War of the Worlds is still intact.  Maybe because they don’t know what to do with a wrecked 747.
  • Set design guys can make realistic “brick” walls that are really made out of a rubbery material; they can also make a carpet that looks like a dirt road.
  • Nine-year-old boys nowadays do not know how to dial a rotary phone.  (I learned this during a visit to the prop room.)
  • The costume department prefers to work on ancient Juki brand sewing machines.
  • There’s a reason why the ladies on Desperate Housewives look so spectacular in their jeans:  everything is tailored to fit perfectly.  As if being a size 00 wasn’t enough!
  • Even if a roller coaster takes place in the dark, I will still squeeze my eyes shut.
  • I should not ride roller coasters that go backwards.
  • Universal is able to recoup some of its losses from Water World by using the still-intact set as an audience attraction/show.  What’s next?  Ishtar, The Desert Experience



I’ve Gone Hollywood (Part One) March 20, 2012

Celebrities are my guilty pleasure.  I never met a True Hollywood Story that didn’t suck me in like a good pair of Spanx.  Pair me with my friend Becky and we are a dream team for The World Series of Pop CultureTMZ and Us Weekly are our porn.  In actuality we are educated members of society with respectable jobs.  However, beneath our professional exteriors lie the souls of two chicks who long to be panelists on VH1 Specials that celebrate the 80’s.   

Naturally, when it came time to plan our annual trip together, we gravitated toward Hollywood.  If anyone was meant to hobnob with the stars, it was us.  Luckily we attended a charity auction where one of the items was a “Live Like the Stars” package to L.A.  Those other bidders didn’t have a prayer.  That trip was ours.

So now without further adieu, let me take you on a journey of two celebrity-obsessed Wisconsinites as they hurl themselves onto the Hollywood scene, stopping at nothing to live out the glamorous lives they so obviously were meant to have.

Day One:  After arriving at our hotel in North Hollywood, our Casper-like bodies soak up rays by the pool before getting ready for dinner at Koi.  We pull up to the valet in our rented Mazda 6.  The car behind us was a Ferrari.  (I bet the valet who took our car was kicking himself.)  Although dinner was delicious, we didn’t spot any celebrities.  Don’t get me wrong, though. There was plenty of “acting” going on, namely by the young twenty-somethings pretending to be interested in their 50-year-old dates.  That means you, Mr. Ferrari.

Day Two:  Our first celebrity sighting is at The Grove, a beautiful ritzy outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment area.  Becky spots actor Nestor Carbonell from the television series Lost.  (No obscure celebrity is safe from her eyes.)  Per Becky, he’s the one “who looks like he’s wearing eyeliner, but he’s really not.”  Apparently this is a hot topic.  A search for “Nestor Carbonell Eyeliner” nets 7,490 hits on Google.

After dropping too much money on fancy workout clothes that will really be used for running errands, we head to Melrose Avenue for a performance by The Groundlings.  If you’ve never heard of them, they are the L.A.-based equivalent of Chicago’s Second City.  Their performance enthralls and intrigues me at the same time.  On one hand I was immensely entertained, but on the other hand I kept thinking how there was no way in hell I could ever do what they do.  Then again, I bet they couldn’t help implement a complex ERP system.  (God is that nerdy…and so un-Hollywood). 

Day Three:  Okay so part of our prize package included tickets to the L.A. County Museum of Art, The Page Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits.  Seeing as though we already technically paid for these things, we figured it would be good to do something educational on the trip.  So blah blah blah, Mexican Surrealist Exhibit, Frida Kahlo with unibrow and mustache, lots of angry women lamenting their place in society, etc.  Good thing I watched that Salma Hayek movie.

As for the tar pits, seeing dormant, fully excavated tar pits was a bit of a letdown, but seeing the giant mastodons inside the Page Museum was mind boggling.  To think that thousands and thousands of animals (and one human) were uncovered in tar pits right in downtown L.A. is downright nutty.

Day Three (Evening):  Okay, enough of this educational stuff.  We make ourselves as chic as can be, then head out to huge celebrity hangout Chateau Marmont for dinner.  Despite online reviews claiming the service is about as warm as an interview with Prince, we find the hosts to be devastatingly beautiful and our waiter to be friendly enough.   We are seated in a lovely outdoor patio area with cozy seating, tents and portable heaters.  Unlike the rest of the patrons who are too busy wearing fabulous clothes and having fabulous conversations, our eyes are discreetly (read: desperately) roaming around the patio, trying to find someone famous.  When that fails, we find people who just resemble celebrities and pretend they are the real deal.  (“Look, it’s Martin Scorsese!”  Why yes.  Yes it is.) 

And in case you were wondering, we managed to leave Chateau Marmont without overdosing on heroin or hooking up with Adam Levine. 

Stay tuned for my next blog entry, which is actually packed with real celebrity encounters and pictures.  In the meantime, I leave you with my Top Ten List of Least Heard Phrases in the Greater Hollywood Area.  Enjoy!

“Look, free parking!”

“Everyone here is so down-to-earth.”

“We’re lucky to have such a low cost of living.”

“I don’t care how big my neighbor’s house is.”

“Canine Social Club is a silly, pretentious idea and a complete waste of money.”

“The truth about how I got this skinny?  I don’t eat.”

“I hope my Bentley isn’t too conspicuous.”

“Why would I bring my dog to a five-star restaurant?”  (Or, “We’d be insane to bring our pet pit bull with us shopping at The Grove.”)

“I’m really dating the elderly guy for his money.  This whole thing is a sham.”

“Look at those hot moms visiting from Wisconsin.”


Top Five Ways Madonna Could Die February 2, 2012

This weekend Madonna is performing during halftime of the Superbowl big game.  Now if the Packers had actually made it this far, this would have been my absolute dream scenario.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  However, I have not given up my dream of seeing Madonna perform in person.

Madonna needs to do me a big favor and go on tour (and fast).  I’m tired of waiting for something as epic as the Blonde Ambition Tour to come around again.  It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t have another album to promote; trust me, people will come.  Secondly, until that time comes, she needs to keep herself out of harm’s way.  I can’t have her dying too young like another pop icon that I will (sadly) never get to see.  I was pretty devastated by that.

Now, I figure Madonna is way too healthy to die of anything related to clogged arteries or lack of exercise.  If she is going to go anytime soon, it would be either purely accidental or under suspicious circumstances. 

Just in case, I have put together a small list of things Madonna should look out for.

Top Five Ways Madonna Could Die

1)      Taken out by the Gay Mafia after its leader Elton John loses another award to her.

2)      Mysteriously disappears from the public eye.  Months later, a super buff and veiny-armed Rosanna Arquette emerges with an adopted foreign toddler in tow and starts making crappy movies.

3)      Suddenly keels over in private yoga class; toxicology reports find cause is massive amounts of poison found in lifetime supply of lacey fingerless gloves.  (Kind of gives new meaning to Arsenic and Old Lace, am I right theater geeks?)

4)      Not to be outdone by Lady Gaga’s “meat dress”, makes appearance in John Paul Gauthier-designed catnip dress, only to be attacked by rabies-infested feral cats.

5)      Accidentally overdoses on wheatgrass while playing drinking games with frenemy Gwyneth Paltrow.

Please be careful, Madge!