Saturday, March 13, 2021

The Late Great Michael Stanley

It is safe to say that Michael Stanley was to Cleveland what Bruce Springsteen is to New Jersey, although he would never have the mainstream success that Mr. Springsteen did. That having been said, he was a superstar in Cleveland and had a fiercely loyal following elsewhere. He had a gift for storytelling in his songs and his lyrics were often intelligent. He certainly was not afraid of big words. At the same time, his music was populist in nature. Michael Stanley was recognizably from the middle class in the Midwest, and his fellow citizens of Cleveland loved him for it. Sadly, Mr. Stanley died at age 72 on March 5 2021 from lung cancer.

Michael Stanley was born Michael Stanley Gee on March 25 1948 in Cleveland, Ohio. His father, Francis Stanley Gee, was a local radio personality. He was still attending Rocky River High School when he began playing in bands. He played in a group called The Sceptors and then The Establishments. After graduating high school, he attended Hiram College, where he majored in sociology and comparative religion. It was while he was at Hiram College that he played in a band called The Tree Stumps. The Tree Stumps would be signed to ABC Records and their name would be changed to Silk. Their only album, Smooth as Raw Silk, was released in 1969.

Michael Stanley's first, self-titled solo album was released in 1973. It was followed the same year by Friends and Legends. He formed The Michael Stanley Band in 1974. Their first album, You Break It...You Bought It!, was released in 1975. The Michael Stanley Band proved popular, although they never reached the heights of mainstream success as some other artists. They would have two top forty hits, "He Can't Love You" (which peaked at no. 33 in 1979) and "My Town" (which peaked at no. 39 in 1983). They would have five other songs that reached the Billboard Hot 100. In total they released eleven albums from 1975 to 1986.

After the dissolution of The Michael Stanley Band, Michael Stanley returned to his solo career. From 1996 to 2017 he released released. 16 albums. From 1987 to 1990 he was the host of PM Magazine on Cleveland station WJW. He was on the station for one more year, in 1991, on Cleveland Tonight. He was on the Cleveland radio station WNCX as a weekday afternoon and Saturday morning DJ.

Michael Stanley was very much a part of the fabric of Cleveland. He saw success in rock music, yet he never left his hometown. He could regularly be seen at fundraisers held in Cleveland, and he worked with the sports team in the city. Beyond being the local boy who made good and one who consistently gave to his hometown, Cleveland loved Michael Stanley because he was a genuinely good person. Michael Stanley was known for his kindness and graciousness to his fans. His fans loved him and he loved them back.

Michael Stanley might not have had the success that some rock musicians did, but he will be remembered in his hometown of Cleveland and beyond. He was a talented songwriter and performer whose material should really be better known. I have to think he will be remembered even after some better known artists have been forgotten.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Nicola Pagett Passes On

Nicola Pagett, best known as one of the stars of Upstairs, Downstairs, died on March 3 2021 at the age of 75. The cause was complications from a brain tumour.

Nicola Pagett was born Nicola Mary Pagett Scott on June 15 1945 in Cairo, Egypt. Her father worked for an oil company, so she spent most of her childhood away from her family's native Britain. She spent portions of her childhood in Hong Kong, Cyprus, and Japan. In 1962 she enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in Britain. She studied acting there for two years.

In 1964 she appeared in productions with Worthing Repertory Company. She toured with Vivien Leigh in the play La Contessa. In 1965 Nicola Pagett appeared in the Thursday Theatre episode "The Flowering Cherry." In the late Sixties she guest starred on such shows as Danger Man, Gideon's Way, Armchair Mystery Theatre, Hereward the Wake, The Spies, Armchair Theatre, Mr. Rose, Sexton Blake, Man in a Suitcase, Softly Softly, The Avengers, Vendetta, The Wednesday Play, Wicked Women, ITV Saturday Night Theatre, and Special Branch. Miss Pagett appeared in the mini-series The Caesars. She appeared in the movies The Viking Queen (1967), Some  Like It Sexy (1969), Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), and There's a Girl in My Soup (1970).

In the Seventies, Nicola Pagett played Elizabeth in Upstairs Downstairs. She played the title role in the mini-series Anna Karenina. She also played in the mini-series Napoleon and Love and The Timeless Land. She guest starred on Barlow at Large, The Persuaders!, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, The Sweeney, BBC Play of the Month, The Sunday Drama, and Do You Remember?. She appeared in the TV movie Frankenstein: The True Story. She appeared in the movies Operation: Daybreak (1975) and Oliver's Story (1978).

In the Eighties Miss Pagett starred in the TV show A Bit of a Do. She appeared in the mini-series A Woman of Substance. She guest starred on the shows Live from Pebble Hill and Screen Two. She appeared in the TV movies Scoop, Hand in Glove, and Beryl Markham: A Shadow in the Sun. She appeared in the movie Privates on Parade (1983).

In the Nineties she starred on the TV show Ain't Misbehavin'. She appeared in the mini-series Up Rising. She guest starred on the TV show Dangerfield. She appeared in the movie An Awfully Big Adventure.

Nicola Pagett was a remarkable actress. She was impressive as Elizabeth on Upstairs, Downstairs, who endured a loveless marriage during the run of the show. In the movie Operation: Daybreak she played the historical figure Anna Malinová. Through the years,, Miss Pagett played a number of roles and gave a number of great performances.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Joan Collins in "The City on the Edge of Forever"

(This post is part of the Joan Collins Blogathon hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews)

Today Dame Joan Collins is probably best known as Alexis Colby on the TV show Dynasty and her many roles in films. Among her most famous appearances is likely a single appearance on a popular television show. The Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever" is counted by many as the greatest Star Trek episode ever, and it remains one of the most popular. Harlan Ellison's original version of the teleplay won the Writers Guild of America award for Best Episodic Drama on Television. The episode also won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

In "The City on the Edge of Forever," Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) is treating Mr. Sulu (George Takei) and accidentally injects himself with an overdose a drug when the Enterprise is buffeted by a distortion in time. Experiencing delusions, McCoy flees the bridge and then transports to the planet below. He is followed by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and a landing party. There they encounter The Guardian of Forever, a sentient portal to other times. It is while the Guardian of Forever is displaying images of Earth's history that McCoy escapes through it and into the past. After being informed by the Guardian of Forever that McCoy has changed the timeline, Kirk and Spock then go back in time to 1930s New York City in an effort to retrieve McCoy and restore the timeline. This proves to be tragic for Kirk, as he meets and falls in love with Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), the operator of the 21st Street Mission. Unfortunately for Kirk, in order to preserve the timeline, Edith must die.

While "The City on the Edge of Forever" was the second to last episode of Star Trek's first season, the episode originated several months before the show even hit the air. Creator Gene Roddenberry wanted established genre writers to write episodes for the show, and so he approached Harlan Ellison. Mr. Ellison then developed a ten page outline in which Captain James T. Kirk travels back in time and falls in love with a woman who must die in order to preserve the timeline. Harlan Ellison turned his outline in on March 21 1966. This was well Star Trek's writers guide, the show's bible with information on its characters, its setting, and so on, was written, something that would present problems with the episode going forward.

To some degree Harlan Ellison's original outline for "The City on the Edge of Forever" ran contrary to Star Trek as we know. The outline involved a crewman involved in illegal drug trafficking, who kills another crewman when he finds out. The crewman is then taken to the surface of a planet to face execution by firing squad. Gene Roddenberry would object to the idea that drug trafficking would exist in the 23rd Century, and it would later be established that the Federation was very reticent about the death penalty. In fact, in the entire series the only crime mentioned for which the death penalty existed as a punishment was for visiting the planet Talos IV (mentioned in the two-part episode "The Menagerie"). Other problems with the outline was the fact that the Enterprise had to wear spacesuits on the surface of the planet, and the planet was inhabited by 9 foot tall Guardians of Forever. Both the spacesuits and the 9 foot humanoids would have made the episode prohibitively expensive.

The first outline was revised and it was after the second outline that Harlan Ellison was given the go-ahead to write the script. This script would still present problems for Star Trek's staff. Part of the problem remained the sheer cost to shoo the episode. Another part of the problem was Kirk and Spock acting out of character, with the two even getting into an argument about the barbarism of human beings. Associate producer Robert H. Justman then asked Harlan Ellison to revise the script. Unfortunately, Mr. Ellison's revised draft would also prove to be too expensive to film. The script would see revisions by producer Gene L. Coon, story editor D. C. Fontana, and Gene Roddenberry himself. None of them were credited for their work on the episode. Harlan Ellison was angry about the revisions and even expressed the desire to have the episode credited to "Cordwainer Bird," the pen name he used when he was unhappy the way a teleplay had turned out. Gene Roddenberry was able to dissuade Mr. Ellison from this, although animosity existed between the two men for the rest of their lives.

At the time that Joan Collins was cast in "The City on the Edge of Forever," she was already an established movie star, having appeared in such films as The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955), The Opposite Sex (1956), and The Bravados (1958). In fact, she was so much a movie star that Star Trek would be only her fourth guest appearance on a TV show, after appearances on The Human Jungle, Run for Your Life, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. At the time she was asked to appear on Star Trek, she was not even familiar with the show. She then asked her children about the show. Her eldest daughter spoke up and said that she do it and it was a great show. She read the script and thought it was very good, and she found it interesting. As it turned out, "The City on the Edge of Forever" would be a very pleasant experience for Joan Collins. She got along very well with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Deforest Kelley.

Even with the extensive re-writes to reduce the cost of the episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever" went over its budget. Budgeted at $191,000 (which was already over the normal cost of first season Star Trek episodes, which was $175,000), it ultimately cost $245,316. Much of "The City on the Edge of Forever" was shot at Desilu Forty Acres (formerly the RKO Forty Acres), which had previously been used for the episodes "Miri" and "Return of the Archons." Desilu Forty Acres was a popular lot for sitcoms to be shot, with such classics as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Andy Griffith Show, My Three Sons, and Hogan's Heroes. In fact, fans of classic television will probably recognize the New York City of "The City on the Edge of Forever" as Mayberry from The Andy Griffith Show. Floyd's Barber Shop even appears in several scenes of the episode. Other scenes were shot where My Three Sons usually was.

"The City on the Edge of Forever" would be well received even as it first aired. As mentioned earlier, Harlan Ellison's original version of the teleplay won the Writers Guild of America award for Best Episodic Drama on Television and the episode itself won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The Star Trek crew and cast have consistently named it was one of the greatest Star Trek episodes ever made and it consistently ranks in lists of the best Star Trek episodes, often in the top five.

As to why "The City on the Edge of Forever" continues to be so highly regarded, much of it is the script. While it may have ultimately been written by committee, it turned out to be one of the strongest scripts of any Star Trek episode. It not only successfully recreates New York City during the Depression, but it also provided a believable romance for Kirk, one that must end in tragedy in order for history to be preserved.

Of course, much of the reason for the episode's success has to be Joan Collins's performance as Edith Keeler. As played by Joan Collins, Edith Keeler was not only beautiful (Miss Collins cannot help but be beautiful), but intelligent, compassionate, and ahead of her time. Joan Collins made it believable that Edith Keeler, a woman living in 1930s New York City, would be a pacifist who foresaw a time when there would be no more war. What is more, Joan Collins and William Shatner had real chemistry. The friendship that developed between the two resulted in genuine affection on screen.

"The City on the Edge of Forever" remains one of the best loved Star Trek episodes, as well as one of Joan Collins's best remembered appearances on television. It is in many ways a complex episode, one that not only demonstrates the dangers of time travel, but also gives us one of the most believable and most tragic love stories ever told on the series.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Geoffrey Scott R.I.P.

Geoffrey Scott, who appeared on the TV shows Dark Shadows, Cliffhangers, and Dynasty, died February 23 2021 at the age of 79. He had suffered from Parkinson's disease for many years. 

Geoffrey Scott was born on February 22 1942 in Hollywood. He grew up in the San Fernando Valley and lived on the same street as John Wayne and Clark Gable. He was signed by Dick Clayton, the agent who also signed James Dean and Burt Reynolds.

Geoffrey Scott made his television debut on Dark Shadows in 1970, playing Sky Rumson, a wealthy man loyal to the Leviathans. He also appeared on the short-lived soap opera Where the Heart Is.  Later in the Seventies he was the lead on the Cliffhangers segment "The Secret Empire," playing a marshal in the Old West fighting aliens. He guest starred on the shows Cannon, Adam-12, The Wide World of Mystery, Kojak, Harry O, Barnaby Jones, and Dallas

In the Eighties Mr. Scott was one of the leads on the short-lived TV series Concrete Cowboys. Late in the decade he had regular roles on Dynasty and 1st & Ten. He also appeared on the soap opera General Hospital. He guest starred on the shows Fantasy Island; It's Your Move; Hotel; Matt Houston; Night Court; The Love Boat; Webster; Married with Children; Hooperman, She's the Sheriff; and Murder, She Wrote. He appeared in the movies The Morning After (1986) and Under Crystal Lake (1990). 

In the Nineties Geoffrey Scott guest starred on P.S. I Luv U, FBI: The Untold Stories, Baywatch, Murphy Brown, and The Guiding Light. His last appearance on screen was in the movie Hulk (2003).

During his career Geoffrey Scott also appeared in several commercials, including ones for Marlboro, Camel, and Maxwell House.