The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Pam Grier (TV One’s ‘Unsung Hollywood’)

Fans of TV One’s documentary program Unsung, which shines the spotlight on performers whose mainstream profiles aren’t as substantial as they perhaps out to be, will be pleased to learn that the network is branching out with the series, expanding its coverage beyond the world of music and into the field of acting. Tonight marks the premiere episode of Unsung Hollywood, which kicks off with a look at the life and career of Pam Grier, and Bullz-Eye was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with Grier and discuss the episode and how it came about while also chatting a bit about her career…but without giving away too much about the program, of course.

Pam Grier as Kit Photo: Max Vadukal/Showtime Photo ID: LW3_21D-05

Bullz-Eye: How did you find your way to Unsung Hollywood? Did they pitch you on the idea?

Pam Grier: I had turned them down several times, because I wasn’t interested, but then I saw one of their episodes. My mom was so enthralled by one of the shows they had done on musicians – they did an excellent job – and she said, “I didn’t know that!” And, of course, no one knows what inspired the music and the tenacity of people to get their music played and all that except for the musicians. So we talked, and they said what they were going to do, and I said, “Okay, but you know it’s very difficult to get photographs.” Because as I learned from doing my book (Foxy: My Life in Three Acts), you have to have the rights if someone owns the photographs, and if someone else is in it, you have to get the rights from those people.

I said, “I don’t know if I can do that, because you’re going to get maybe five pictures, because a lot of people do not want to participate.” So I said, “I don’t want to marginalize it, but I can only give you so much, and I don’t know when I can do it.” But they kind of gave me an outline, and I said, “Oh, I think we can do this…so I just have to find the time!” And I did. And I think they did an excellent job.

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Drink of the Week: The Gimlet

gimlet cocktailIt’s the start of another July 4th Weekend, but we are forgiving folk here at Drink of the Week central. In fact, we’ll be big about our little armed disagreement that began in earnest back in 1776 and choose a drink that highlights the U.S./English special relationship. We’ll get into the whys and wherefores in a bit, first the drink itself.

The Gimlet

Two ounces gin
1/2-1 ounce of Rose’s Lime Juice

Pour contents into a shaker with plenty of ice. Shake as vigorously and as long as you can stand, and pour into a chilled martini glass. Make a toast to English/American friendship and sip at will.

Since Rose’s comes pre-sweetened, there’s no need to add any sweetener. However, if you have a huge sweet tooth, you may demand that you have an older version of the drink — equal parts gin and Rose’s. When we tried it that way, we found it a bit excessive.

Now, usually, drinks made with fresh juices are going to be a lot better, but the gimlet appears to be rare exception. We actually tried it with 1 ounce of fresh lime juice and a teaspoon of sugar, but it wasn’t as good as the version with Rose’s.

Now, the history: The source of the name of this very refreshing, very summer-appropriate, cocktail may be one Sir Thomas Gimlette, an English Royal Navy surgeon who eventually rose to the rank of Surgeon General in the early 20th century. It’s possible that part of what got him to that esteemed post was that, back in the later 19th century, he had popularized the anti-scurvy properties of Vitamin C-rich lime juice among his fleet by encouraging the men to mix it with a bit of London gin. Thus, he helped begat the not-so-flattering term “limey” for English sailors and, eventually, English people in general. Of course, the gimlet might also be named after the hand tool used for drilling holes, but we don’t find anything particularly refreshing about that.

Whatever its origins, the gimlet wormed its way into American culture and, perhaps because of the dry, warm weather, found some notable fans in our native metropolis of Los Angeles, a city that many notable limeys Englishman have called home over the years. One famed Angeleno gimlet fan was British-American mystery writer Raymond Chandler, the creator of detective Phillip Marlowe, who mentioned the drink at some length in one of his greatest novels, The Long Goodbye, which is also the widely quoted source of that original 50/50 gin/Rose’s recipe we mentioned above. (If our memory is correct, the drink isn’t featured in Robert Altman’s equally great 1973 movie quasi-adaptation. Nothing is perfect.)

Much, much lower on the artistic scale than anyone we’ve mentioned, Edward D. Wood, Jr. of “Plan 9 From Outer Space” was another gimlet hound. Wood, who drank even more in real life than he did in the Tim Burton-directed biopic starring Johnny Depp, apparently liked gimlets made with vodka so much that his “adult fiction”-writing pen name was Telmig Akdov.

As for variations on the Gimlet, we’ve already mentioned that it can be made with vodka, and we’d argue a rum gimlet might actually be superior to one with gin. One variation we’re not so found of, however, is that tendency to sometimes serve this drink on the rocks. Earlier this week, we tried a high end ($15.00!!!) version made at an ultra-glam Hollywood-area hotel. Despite the inclusion of both Hendrick’s Gin (possibly our favorite) and cucumbers, which always seems to improve cocktails made with that particular brand, it was a disappointment taste wise. We were not asked first if we would prefer it “up” and it was one option we should have been given. One more reason to cherish really good bartenders when you find them.

  

King of the world, again? Catching up with the inaugural class of Bullz-Eye’s Directors Hall of Fame

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In March 2007, Bullz-Eye inducted its first class into the Bullz-Eye Directors Hall of Fame. It’s an unconventional list, to be sure, and that was the idea. With all due respect to Howard Hawks, David Lean, Charlie Chaplin, Cecil B. DeMille, Akira Kurosawa, et al., they will just have to wait their turn.

So what has our illustrious founding class of directors been up to since their induction? As it turns out, they’ve been rather quiet, though one of them finally decided to make his first movie in 12 years, and would you look at that, he’s completely changed the game for a second time. Let’s take a look and our directors’ newest credits. And, in some cases, debits.

Alfred Hitchcock

Mr. Hitchcock has not been terribly productive lately – for anyone who just snorted that he’s dead, don’t say that; he’s just…unavailable – so his legacy remains unblemished. And thankfully we’re past the point of anyone speaking of one M. Night Shyamalan as the next Hitchcock. Those were dark days, indeed.

Tim Burton

Burton’s been pretty quiet since his induction. He unleashed the bloody good musical “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” in late 2007, and produced “9,” the animated film about a group of puppets in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, last year. He does have two tantalizing projects on the horizon, the first of which is the much-anticipated “Alice in Wonderland,” a live action 3D affair that has Burton teaming up with Johnny Depp for the seventh time and boasts one of the creepiest trailers we’ve seen in years (two words: Cheshire cat). Then, in 2011, Burton brings one of his very first creations to life on the big screen. Yep, “Frankenweenie.” And they damn well better not change that title.

Steven Spielberg

As director and/or producer, our resident manchild has racked up some monster hits since his induction…but at a cost. His lone directorial effort is “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which made $317 million but also coined the term “nuke the fridge,” which some view as the modern-day equivalent of “jump the shark.” He served as executive producer for both of Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies (insert your own explosion porn joke here), and God help him, he even executive produced “Eagle Eye.” There is hope on the horizon, though, as Spielberg is elbows deep into the production of “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn,” a motion capture adaptation of the Belgian comic book series starring Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, and Nick Frost. After that, Spielberg is scheduled to direct “Interstellar,” a wormhole and gravity-centric film co-written by Christopher Nolan’s brother Jonathan, and he is producing or executive producing eight (!) other projects, including the awesomely titled, Jon Favreau-directed “Cowboys and Aliens.”

Martin Scorsese

He finally got his Oscar. About damn time.

It was actually one of the funniest set-ups in recent Academy Awards memory; the award for Best Director during the 2007 Oscars was given out by Scorsese’s longtime friends Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and George Lucas, all of whom were looking at Marty as if to say, “Hey buddy, do you think they picked us to hand out this award for a reason?” The theater, of course, went nuts when they read his name, and as he made his long-overdue walk to the podium, it reminded us of when Michael J. Fox received an Emmy for his work on “Family Ties,” and said, “I feel four feet tall!”

Marty has only released one movie since 2006′s “The Departed,” the Rolling Stones concert film “Shine a Light,” but he directed a short Hitchcock tribute called “The Key to Reserva” as well as the pilot episode of the show “Boardwalk Empire,” the story of Atlantic City man about town Nucky Thompson. His upcoming thriller “Shutter Island,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was originally scheduled for last fall, but was abruptly bumped to spring. Usually that is an ominous sign; we’re hoping that is not the case here, but February is generally more hospitable to horror movies than it is to period-piece thrillers. Good thing “Shutter” has a supernatural element to it as well.

And just this Sunday, Scorsese was just awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award by the Hollywood Foreign Press at this year’s Golden Globe Awards. Everything’s coming up Marty. As we said before, about damn time.

James Cameron

So there’s this movie, you might have heard about it…

Love him or hate him, James Cameron does nothing by half, and once again, he swings for the fences, and once again he hits one that lands over the fence on the other side of the highway from the ballpark. “Avatar” only needed four weeks to become the second biggest worldwide box office hit of all time. This despite the fact that Cameron released his movie in the face of rampant speculation that he had finally bitten off more than he could chew, and the movie could not possibly live up to the 12-year hype. Whoops.

Is it finally time to give the man the benefit of the doubt? He now owns the #1 and #2 spots on the all-time box office charts – and yes, we readily acknowledge that 3D and IMAX upcharges have played a large role in “Avatar’s” performance – and has done so without pandering or playing it safe. He could use some assistance on writing dialogue, but we’re none of us perfect, and Cameron’s good points as a director far, far outweight his drawbacks as a writer. Let’s just hope he doesn’t take another 12 years to make his next movie.

  

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