Betty's Attic
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Friday, June 23, 2017
On June 26, 1997 the U.K. was introduced to a young wizard named Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling's now famous first book, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone", was the start of a worldwide phenomenon that soon led to blockbuster movies, TV, games, and more. To date, the books have been translated into 67 languages and sold over 500 million copies worldwide. Even people who have never read the books or seen the movies (are there such people?) know who Harry Potter is.

Even so, there are a few things you might not know about the young wizard's creator:
  • Eight publishers rejected Rowling's book before Bloomsbury picked it up, one of them writing "don't quit your day job". 
  • The day before publication, Bloomsbury asked Rowling to adopt a "gender-neutral" pen name. They believed boys wouldn't a book about a boy wizard if it was written by a woman.
  •  When U.S. publisher Scholastic bought the American rights, they changed the title to "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" because "philosopher" didn't sound "magical" enough.
I didn't know any of this until after I had read (and re-read) the series and seen every one of the movies. Finding out what Rowling had to go through to bring her series to life and share it with us made me love it even more. There's nothing like a good "underdog comes out on top" story - whether it's in a book, a movie, or in real life!

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, June 16, 2017
Wonder Woman Fleece ThrowI've been waiting (not so patiently) since January to see the new Wonder Woman movie. But I waited a little too long to buy my tickets so I missed the June 2nd premiere. Seems I was just one of many, many fans eager to relive childhood memories of the warrior princess. I finally secured a seat last weekend and WOW! was it worth the wait!

With a take of $450 million to date, DC's new movie crushed the box office just like its Amazonian hero flattens bad guys. The film easily overtook The Fate of the Furious and Logan, landing right behind Guardians of the Galaxy for top spot at the box.

Cash counting aside, Wonder Woman is a smash for good reason: it's movie-making at its very best. The characters are skillfully drawn, the acting is superb, and the story is both new and familiar. It's cleverly funny, action-packed, and perfectly paced. Two hours went by like twenty minutes. When the credits rolled, you could feel the collective "Awww....it's over already?" from the audience.

My friends and I left the theater dying to see Wonder Woman 2. There's no word yet on when it's coming out, but Diana will be back. With plenty of unanswered questions - Did Ares really die? Was he lying about Diana's origins? Is she a god or not? - there's enough material to make two or maybe even three sequels. I don't know when the next movie will be released, but I know one thing: I'll be watching the clock. This time I plan to be first in line to get tickets for opening night!

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, June 9, 2017
It's almost summer, which means it's my favorite reading season. Don't expect to find me with my head buried in the classics, either. I read those heavy tomes during the winter months - during the 'school year'.

Nevermind that it's been quite a few years since I've been in school. Old habits die hard.

When summer arrives, I read comic books and tell-alls. I read gossip and glamour. Inside side stories about music and movies and the people behind the scenes. At this time of year, I don't read to comprehend, underline, highlight, and remember. No way! It's summer after all. 

My summer reading list is pure 'brain candy'. If I just happen to read something historical, I can guarantee it won't be something you'll find on a classroom quiz. Unless they start teaching pop culture trivia. If they did, I might just go back to school - I'd ace that class!

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, June 2, 2017
In the summer of 1967 the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco was the place to be. Especially for hippies, beat poets, artists, dancers, musicians, or anyone who wanted to follow Timothy Leary's advice to "turn on, tune in, drop out".

It was the Summer of Love and San Francisco was its unofficial headquarters.

Over 100,000 Flower Children migrated to the city that summer, starting at the beginning of Spring Break. They studied new religions with yogis from far away shores. They protested in the streets, voicing their suspicion of (and resistance to) the "establishment" way of doing things. They created new forms of poetry, literature, music, and art. They ditched most of their clothes (remember the bra burnings?) and spent the summer listening to the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Otis Redding, and Jefferson Airplane at huge gatherings like the Monterey Pop Festival.

The country had never seen anything like it. The papers and and television news reported on the phenomenon daily as San Francisco struggled to cope with the influx of young people. Walking through "Hashbury" (as Hunter S. Thompson dubbed the neighborhood) you might run into any number of famous "drop outs", including Joplin, members of The Dead, or Leary himself.

Fifty years later, I remember that summer well. Though I wasn't able to join the hippies in the Haight, my attic is packed with old 45s, including the Mamas and the Papas' theme song for the historic summer: "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" sung by Scott McKenzie. I still have stacks of books filled with beat poetry and psychedelic art. Stored in my closet are tie-dyed t-shirts, flowing skirts, and bellbottoms. And when I visit San Francisco, I do wear flowers in my hair - because along with "peace, love & music" hippie fashion never will never go out of style in Haight Ashbury.

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, May 26, 2017
Fans of DC Comics have suffered a confounding year of new movie announcements, director defections, and production pitfalls. The Batman seems to be the most frustrating and confusing of all.

Ben Affleck stepped down as director, which left Warner Bros. in the unenviable position of quickly and (not so) quietly searching for a replacement. Matt Reeves agreed to step up, but rumor has it that Reeves has yet to fulfill his obligations on War for the Planet of the Apes. To make things even more complicated, Reeves wants to rework the script to include as many Bat villains as possible, including the Penguin, Scarecrow, Deathstroke, and my personal favorite the Joker. Rumor has it that every bad guy you ever wanted to see in a movie will be there to challenge the Dynamic Duo.

Luckily I have my favorite Batman of all to keep me company while I wait: episodes of the original television series. I love the campy humor, the silly costumes, and the edge-of-your-seat cliffhangers. "Will Batman survive? Can the Boy Wonder save him in time? Will Gotham fall into the hands of the nefarious villain?" To find out you'd have to "Tune in next week, same bat time, same bat channel!"

If they ever find a way to make the film, I'll be there on opening night along with Bat-fans everywhere. Meanwhile, we're all left in the dark - except for Internet rumor mills and tidbits of teasers released Warner Bros. To quote Robin: "Holy Hollywood!" This is the biggest Batman cliff-hanger of all.


 
Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, May 19, 2017
On this day in 1962, Marilyn Monroe sang her famous birthday tribute to John F. Kennedy Jr. It was the beginning of what would later be called Monroe's "summer of hell", which would end with her untimely and suspicious death on August 5.

I was a kid when it happened. I didn't fully understand the significance of the "birthday song moment". I couldn't fathom the weight of Marilyn's death just a few months later, or the tragic assassination of JFK himself the following year. As I got older, I finally came to understand only one thing about that time in history: in politics - as in Hollywood - things are seldom as they seem.

For example, it wasn't even the president's birthday. The event was a "super fundraiser" for the democratic party. JFK's early birthday celebration was just part of the staging. No one seems to know (or want to tell) whose idea it was to have the blonde bombshell delivery the breathy birthday tribute. Just as no one seems to know where Marilyn was when Peter Lawford tried unsuccessfully to bring her to the stage with not one, but three introductions. His final introduction, "Mr. President, the late Marilyn Monroe", drew laughs from the crowd, but in hindsight seemed an eerie harbinger of what was to come. (Or perhaps, as many now believe, a slip of the tongue on Lawford's part.)

There remain untold stories about John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, both separately and together. Still lingering in the public imagination is the unsettled sense of unsolved mystery - of something gone horribly wrong just offstage where we can't quite glimpse it.

My mom used to say "secrets always come to the light", but I'm not so sure. For five decades, authors and historians have tried to dust off the facts, presenting theories, explanations, and wild conjecture. It's nice to believe that someday we'll know the whole truth, but here's another thing I learned as I got older: some secrets do come to the light, some secrets are partially revealed, and some secrets never see the light of day.
Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, May 12, 2017
The house from A Christmas Story just opened for overnight rentals. Ralphie's house has been up for rent before, but the occupants were chosen by contest. Which meant only one winning family per year got a chance to stay in the iconic movie home.

All that changed this year when the house opened for rentals beginning June 1st. According to the official Christmas Story House website, "overnight guests have use of A Christmas Story House’s private third floor loft for the entirety of their stay and use of the whole house from an hour after closing until 9 am the following day."

The house stays open for visitors during business hours, but after that, it's all yours. You can sleep in Ralphie and Randy's twin beds. Read a book by the light of the famed Leg Lamp. And of course watch A Christmas Story on DVD, which is thoughtfully provided along with cable TV and other amenities.

Rates are less expensive in the summer ($395 - $495 per night), but if you want to spend Christmas there, it will cost you. The rate on December 24 and 25 jumps to $1995 per night.

Ralphie and his family gave our family some of our best Christmas memories over the years. I think it would be a great holiday vacation - if you've got that kind of money.  Reservations opened in May and it's already booked for this holiday season. Which means there's plenty of time to save up for next year!

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
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