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Paul Shaffer: The Ultimate Sideman Tells a Swingin' Saga

paul shafferI just finished reading Paul Shaffer’s voluminous memoir “We’ll be Here For The Rest Of Our Lives,” and I must tell you, it’s the best read I’ve had this year! That Shaffer is one crazy cat and in is own words he’s got a “swingin’ showbiz saga” to tell.

One of my favorite Shaffer stories is from PR-man David Salidor, who years ago bumped into Shaffer and “Late Show” band leader asked him who he was.

Salidor said he was pop queen Debbie Gibson’s PR man, and, lo and behold, it was the topic of discussion that night on the Letterman Show. That’s the thing about Shaffer; he can take something like that and spin it into gold.

As I began the book and really starting grooving on it, I thought, I haven’t enjoyed a music read as much as this since Marvin Gaye’s tragic book “Divided Soul.”

Turns out, that both books were co-scripted by David Ritz, and together they weave great stories in very conversational tones. It’s all about the biz, but delivered in a manner anyone can read and appreciate.

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He’s not talking down to you, but, rather, to you!

Shaffer details his growing up in Thunder Bay Canada, how he got into music and the various characters and personalities that made it all possible.

There’s Harry Schearer, David Bowie, Paul Simon, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Phil Spector, Andy Kaufman, Sam Kinison, Don Kirshner, Gilda Radner, David Letterman, Lorne Michaels and Eric Clapton to name a few.

There’s also this interesting role of Artie Fufkin (from Polymer Records) in 1984’s “Spinal Tap,” a momentous moment in music if there ever was one.

Midway through the tome, safely ensconced in the whirlwind called Manhattan, the book begins to list his accomplishments. Yet throughout the book, his devotion and emotional connection to music is evident.

I particularly loved his talks of music-master Ahmet Ertegun, Spector and his unabashed love for Jerry Lewis.

I also relished his tales about the Blues Brothers and even more so, a Blue Brothers-cover band in Vegas. A terrific year, a true rock and roll epic!

There’s no one else like Shaffer, so, read and savor! Thanks to Tom Cuddy for hooking us up with a copy of the book.

Television in Transition: Goodbye Monk, CourtTV

Tony ShalhoubTV’s “Lost” moves to Tuesdays for its final season, kicking off Feb. 2. If I may, I’d like to observe what a fantastically rich and rewarding run it has been.

Not only did you care about the characters, but the plots begged to be viewed and critiqued again and again. JJ Abrams did just an outstanding job!

Shows that tried to reach for its crown, like “Heroes” and even “Flash Forward,” came disarmingly close, but Lost still won out time and time again.

Who knew that Matthew Fox and Michael Emerson were actors of a decidedly high caliber. Both were and are terrific. The world premiere of the pilot episode was on July 2004 at ComicCon in San Diego.

USA’s “Monk” finally finished its eight-year run last week, and I thought he final two episodes were darker than any others. Even Monk himself, Tony Shalhoub observed that fact.

They still retained still a deep resonance for its viewers. Shalhoub’s been on two hits shows now, “Wings” and “Monk,” and in the fall will be starting a play with his wife in New York City.

It was a tremendously endearing and engaging show and I’d be remiss not to mention Ted Levine’s efforts. He was the anchor of the show as the main characters boss-man, Captain Leland Stottlemeyer.

And, finally, this from Phil Mushnick in The New York Post: “Never has a once-vibrant and significant TV network died a more noiseless, anonymous death than did 18-year old CourtTV last month.

“The remaining 65 or so employees of what’s now truTV had their exit interviews at truTV’s Manhattan HQ, were handed their severance agreements and that was that.”

Said one exiting employee: “The entire ‘farewell’ process took five, 10 minutes, tops. Hand in your keys, IDs, cell phones. Sign your exit papers. No ‘thanks for everything.’ That’s the business this business has become.”

CourtTV launched in 1991, something of a novelty act. But quickly, starting with that year’s William Kennedy Smith trial, (recall the blue dots?) provided an important window into the judicial system. It’s live courtroom footage included coverage of the murder trials of O.J. Simpson, the Menendez brothers and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Sad!

Clint Eastwood Retrospective in DVD Coming

Clint EastwoodPlenty of Clint Eastwod arrives on Feb. 16 as a 35-film Clint Eastwood retrospective touted as the largest ever DVD box set ($179.98) featuring a single artist hits store shelves.

“Clint Eastwood: 35 Films, 25 Years at Warner Brothers” packs 34 Warner films that the star either headlined and/or directed.

The 19-disc set, including the “Dirty Harry” franchise and his more recent Oscar-winning “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby,” reaches back to 1975. That’s when Eastwood opened his own production company, Malpaso Productions, on the Warner lot.

The 35th included is Eastwood Factor, a short film by critic/historian Richard Schickel. The box set also includes a 24-page extract of Schickel’s upcoming book, “Clint: A Retrospective.” His latest movie “Invictus,” about Nelson Mandela arrives Dec.11, and looks like another winner.

Short Takes: Steven Segal, Brad Pitt, History Channel

I sort of liked the new Steven Seagal A&E show “Lawman,” but, I fear a “Saturday Night Live” skit is being written even now. Hard to believe he’s been a sheriff for 20 years, but these days everyone needs a second job!

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Brad Pitt and his company Plan B are developing a film based around the video game, “Dark Void.” Pitt could star as the lead combatant. Void centers on a cargo pilot named Will, who after crashing in the Bermuda Triangle, ens up in a parallel universe where a band of human aliens fight an alien threat. Will and the other humans are outmanned but have a number of weapons and powers to help them beat back the incursion. The game will be released in January for Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

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We also want to give a proper shout out to the History Channel, for its recent Beatles compilation (“In Their Own Words”). It was a dramatic triumph. The legendary pop-group is bigger than ever today. The documentary was culled from interviews, videos, workshops –all from the foursome themselves — as well as some pithy comments from producer George Martin. It was amazingly rewarding and informative. Yes, they certainly DID change the world. Listening to George Harrison’s “Cheer Down,” even as I write these words. Their music is timeless. Well done lads!

NAMES IN THE NEWS:

Jordan, Larry Stevens, Libian Seivers, Edward Bass, Robert Funaro, Mark Bego, Andrew Saffir, Lesley Stevens-George, Paul Cooper, Alan Rothstein, Danny Fried, MeBrown, Roxy Music, Randy Alexander, James Edstrom, Chip!

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