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Joe Corey’s PARTY FAVORS - 11/2005

Posted by Ken in Party Favors (November 1, 2005 at 12:50 am)

LEASBURG, NC – No. Ty isn’t here.

If you can say that 8,436 times, then you could have done most of my job when I went back to work for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

We arrived in the early hours to surprise Bobby, a 101st paratrooper who lost both of his legs when the troop transport rolled over a roadside bomb. I’m not sure how many details I need to hide from you since all shall be revealed on Dec. 11 during the show’s “Pay It Forward” special. But I can say that once again, this is the only job I work where at the end of the shoot, I felt like I’ve brought some good into another’s life. We’re not merely making television or foolish entertainment. We’re helping a person get one major problem out of their life so they can focus on bigger issues. When we arrived his house looked like it was was the Douglas’ home on “Green Acres.”

I better wait until December to give you the real skinny. I worked with Paige Hemmis. And if you’re curious, she does wear a lot of pink in person. It’s like she should be sponsored by the pink fiberglass folks.

So I better not tell too many tales about what went on during the shoot - not yet. Is that enough teaser? You should be able to spot me in crowd scenes since that was the best place to hide from the camera. But I do have two other tales from the world of being the Creepy P.A.


Ever work with a man who cursed your life without him knowing it?

When I was in college, people used to compare me with professional know-it-all Cliff Clavin on “Cheers.” We both were notorious for being able to spout trivia at the drop of a beer coaster. Indeed I feared becoming Cliff so much that I retracted my job application at the Post Office when they were looking for Christmas help. I just couldn’t get that close to becoming that character. I didn’t want to live with my mom for the rest of my life.

I was hired to work on a video presentation about Smart Houses - wiring your house with copper so you can control every aspect of your life through remote control. Cliff…I mean, John Ratzenberger is the spokesman for them. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I feared we’d get into “the Incas actually were the first to…” matches. But John isn’t quite like Cliff.

First off, he’s grown a goatee. He looks like Cliff doing Shakespeare in the Park. He also didn’t wear a postal uniform. While he can’t carry mail, he showed me his Deputy badge for Allegheny County in Pennsylvania. I asked him why he didn’t arrest Tommy Maddox for impersonating a Steelers quarterback. He laughed. Although I was pretty serious about cuffing Maddox so his hands won’t be tempted to pick up a football.

At one point I was involved in cue cards for Ratz - we called him that whenever he was in his trailer. It was strange to think that there was Cliff reading my crummy handwriting. Yet, like a true master thespian, he was able to decipher my chicken scratch. No wonder he was nominated twice for an Emmy. And once when the wrong card went up, I learned that at least one person at Cheers knew my name.

What was interesting was that adults recognized Ratz from his 11 seasons on Cheers. The kids knew him as the voice of the pig from “Toy Story.” Geeks wanted to know what it was like to be in “Empire Strikes Back.” And freaks mentioned he was in “House II: The Second Story.”
Ratz appeals to everyone. I think he should run for senate. But he’s still a busy man.

Ratz’s big focus at the moment is “Made In America,” his show about American factories. He spoke of how he felt that Hollywood was demeaning to factories. We spoke about trying to do an episode about the company that makes the sabers for West Point cadets. Hopefully
something will come of it.

While some sitcom stars are prima donnas, Ratz did whatever was necessary to make the shoot work. When he realized his black shirt had a red pocket tag with a logo, he asked for my Sharpie and blacked it out. He knew how to make the people he was interviewing about their
houses feel relaxed. I doubt any of that footage will make it onto the final project.

While we didn’t have time to share a beer and chat, he did ask if I’d ever visited the Bull and Finch, the Boston bar that inspired Cheers. I recounted the night we stepped into the bar and two strides later hit the far wall. It’s a broom closet with a tap. “You’ve been there,” he replied.

It was hard to not think of him as Cliff. Indeed I started getting that George Wendt feeling. And when I finally recognized him as Ratz, during the middle of a take he unleashed, “Do it prah-pah. Make it Cah-pah!” He was Cliff. And I was eager to have a beer.


I’m hanging around one of NASCAR WInston Cup champion Terry LaBonte’s garage and it strikes me that this is the first grease monkey heaven I’ve visited that had a gift shop. Under the hot lights were Terry (champ in 1984 & 1996 in a Kelloggs car), his brother Bobby (champion
in 2000) and his son Justin. We were doing a PSA for the Coast Guard, Justin’s Busch car sponsor.

I showed up early and got a nice tour from the guy in charge of the Labonte’s three garages. He told me that the late great Dick Trickle had a working cigarette lighter in his car. The man was never seen without a smoke - which in a world that deals with gas being spilled around, shows what a thrillseeker Dick was. Remember when NASCAR was all about cigarettes? I hate how today’s NASCAR announcers declare former champs as “Nextel Cup Winners.” I saw Terry’s trophy case and the biggest cups read “Winston.” Will someone ever write a book entitled “When NASCAR was smoking?”

While you might be complaining about the price of gas, a gallon of the high test that goes into a NASCAR racer went for $6 pre-Katrina kick. While the juice is free on race day, you do get charged for the test laps.

Among the odd things found in the garage was Kenny Schrader’s old 36 M&Ms car (before Elliot Sadler took over the ride). Turns out Terry sends out old cars for exhibits at malls and such. In order to minimize expenses, the engine had been removed. That cuts down on idiot kids reaching in and cranking the engine.

The three LaBontes spent most of their downtime during the shoot trying to figure out their travel arrangements for the coming months. These guys don’t stay still for long. Terry has lightened his load running only selected races, but he was still crisscrossing the country. This
isn’t a sport for weekend cruisers anymore. The garage guy remembered back in the days when he’d help out as part of the pit crew. He didn’t seem to envy the guys hauling the tires over the wall today. They now practice everyday as they shave milli-seconds off the pit times.

I did ask Bobby about the tire blowouts at Charlotte Motorspeedway. He pointed out that most of the racers that had problems were notorious for tire difficulties cause they push the Goodyears in the wrong direction. The two brothers weren’t too gabby about NASCAR since they don’t want to get fined. Recently NASCAR hinted they might restrict the number of cars a race team can field. I joked with Terry that NASCAR might limit the number of racers with the same last name. He just smiled. Can the France family fine for smiles?

It was strange to be in a garage that was completely useless to my own car. There was nothing I could palm. Tires were already bald. And the extra hoods weren’t my color.

I’m not sure what the tour schedule of the garage is, but if you plan on visiting the High Point area to buy furniture, you might call over. Just don’t bring any smokes.


While theater goers get antsy in anticipation of Peter Jackson’s remake of “King Kong,” I’m getting a bigger buzz from the Kong-mania that’s flooding the DVD section of your local Big Box Store. Never in the history of DVDs has every major studio drafted on a blockbuster title.
Everyone is looking to make hairy big cash off the giant ape. And they can count on collecting a few dollars out of my wallet.

When I was a teen, Thanksgiving meant three things: Turkey, Godzilla and King Kong. Back when WOR was a real superstation on cable, this New York channel would bring a two day celebration known that would show the giant reptile and ape duking it out. It was a battle that took over the afternoons on both Thanksgiving and Big Sale Friday. They showed all the RKO movies and a few of the best Toho classics including Godzilla “Vs. The Smog Monster” and “Vs. Megalon.” But of course the highlight of the day was “King Kong Vs. Godzilla.” After a turkey leg and pumpkin pie, I was ready to pull the lever on the La-Z-Boy and watch a battle in the pits that was better than Lions Vs. Bears. This was as much a Corey family turkey day tradition as watching Jack Lord introduce the parade in Honolulu. Or taking bets that the Underdog balloon would get stuck on a lightpole during the Macy’s parade. But in 1985 WOR stopped running the love and it became a nostalgic memory. We were stuck watching the Lions suck. You can read about this beautiful moment in television history at Plus they have the newspaper ads.

Thankfully this year the folks at Warners have gotten smart and instead of waiting till Jackson’s Kong is released in December, a boxset featuring the original Kong and its spinoffs will be released on Nov. 22, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I suspect somebody in Burbank had
cable. The boxset will contain “King Kong,” “Son of Kong” and “Mighty Joe Young.” All three films feature the miniature work of Willis H. O’Brien. There’s no CGI here. It was all about Willis moving the model around frame by frame. Besides the films, there’s also a feature length documentary about the making of the original Kong. Plus there’s an hour long documentary about Merian C. Cooper (who co-directed the film with Ernest B. Schoedsack). There’s also a special tin collection that just has “King Kong” DVDs and a bunch of reproduction items from
its original release - including an offer to get the movie poster.

Universal has also joined in WOR Turkey days memory by not only putting out “King Kong Vs. Godzilla,” but also including “King Kong Escapes.” Unfortunately it doesn’t hit the shelves until Nov. 29 so it won’t be in the DVD player on Pilgrim’s day. Even though Universal is on a
DVD-18 flipper disc binge, these films will each get their own DVD. I’ve been told these are the American cuts of the film. While some folks demand the uncut Toho versions, I want to see the versions I remember. Recently I rented “Godzilla Vs the Smog Monster” or Hedorah as he’s now called on this Sony release. It wasn’t nearly as freaky as the butcher AIP version. The Toho King Kong isn’t nearly as cool Willis’ work. But both DVDs can be nabbed for $14 total. Why nitpick?

Paramount brings us Dino DeLaurentiis’ 1976 remake of “King Kong” on Nov. 22. This is appears to be a repackaging of the DVD that’s been out for several years. But there’s a 3 hour cut of this movie that was used for TV runs so that it could be split in half allowing a TV station two nights at 2 hours. It would be nice if Paramount puts this out, but I can’t tell from the scant info the studio has released. It’s not hyped on the cover. Contrary to what people think, this remake was not a box office turkey. It made a tidy profit for Dino. When his Kong died, he cried all the way to the bank. Plus it was Oscar nominated. The film is noted for giving Jessica Lange her big break. She did an amazing job as Kong’s first girlfriend. The film brought Rick Baker to the public. The man would go on to win an armful of Oscars for his make up work. This wasn’t even his first Ape action - I liked how he transformed John Landis into “Schlock.”

Fox presents the follow up “King Kong Lives.” This is already on the shelf. I had a chance to talk to screenwriter Ronald Shusett (also co-wrote “Alien”) about how this project came about. Ronald said Dino had just passed on a script idea when he threw up a last gasp idea in order to get a gig. “How about a sequel to King Kong?” Ron suggested. Dino asked how could that be since King Kong died at the end of the film. “He gets an artificial heart!” Ron declared. Dino’s eyes lit up and he green lit the project. Ron left the office elated that he had made a deal and dreading that he had to figure out how to pull this off. The film has a soft spot in my heart because it was filmed in Wilmington and a couple pals showed up in crowd scenes. It also has
Linda Hamilton in the lead. I don’t think she puts this on her resume.

MGM-Sony goes across the Atlantic to present “Konga.” This formerly Midnite Movie VHS will be put out as a regular MGM DVD on Dec. 6. In this film a mad botanist returns to England with an African baby ape and strange plants. Guess what happens when he combines them? Well it’s a big monkey terrorizing London on the DVD cover. Sony is also putting out the complete animated King Kong series on Nov. 15. I don’t remember this cartoon as a kid. But judging from a few still captures - it looks really painful. Warners might out do the pain with “Kong: King of Atlantis” surfacing on Nov. 22. It’s animated feature about a Kloned Kong. How did we miss this at Oscar season?

What about Disney? You don’t remember them having a King Kong clone (although they did do that hideous “Mighty Joe Young” remake)? Well they don’t have one proper. But through Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder label, they’ll be pimping “Mighty Peking Man” in Kongmania. This Shaw Brothers flick shows that Hong Kong needed to get some King Kong lovin. Although it’s not quite Kong, it still features a blond and a giant ape and rampaging through a model community. You can get this for under $7.

The indie DVD players are also getting into the Kong action. Image Entertainment has “A*P*E.” If Ed Wood Jr. had found South Korean backers for a rip off of “King Kong,” this would be that movie. It so cheesy, it should have been shot in Wisconsin. There’s a great scene
where the guy in the really bad ape suit wrestles a rubber great white shark. It reminds me of the octopus scene in “Ed Wood.” I can almost see Johnny Depp near the camera asking that the monkey shakes the shark more to make it look alive. “Perfect!” It was also shot in 3-D although
the print on the DVD isn’t. So be impressed by stuff coming straight at your face. Joanna Kerns plays the blond that has ape troubles. You might remember her from Growing Pains as the mom. She went by Joanna DeVarona for this production - probably something to do with Witness protection. This is a film that needs to be relished for its badness. Damn shame Mystery Science Theater 3000 didn’t get to give this the “Manos” treatment. Image also gives us the double feature DVD featuring “Mighty Gorga” and “One Million AC/DC.” The second film is a caveman sex comedy done by Ed Wood Jr. “Mighty Gorga” is a guy in a really bad ape suit. Plus they also have the double bill of “Queen Kong” and “Kong Island” on a second collection.

Now you might be wondering, doesn’t it stink to be Peter Jackson and miss out on all this DVD action that’s tagging onto your marketing machine? Well don’t shed a tear for the Kiwi. He’s putting out “King Kong - Peter Jackson’s Production Diaries.” For under $30, you can buy
all the bonus features on Dec 13, right before the movie comes out.

When Peter Jackson’s Kong dies, everybody profits!


Did the NBA season really just start? Honestly I can’t remember who won last year’s title. Wasn’t the team that had the gal from Desperate Housewives sitting next to them? Speaking of that woman - why are we fascinated with such a lame celeb? Whenever I catch her on the
entertainment shows, she’s so dull. Bea Arthur’s farts give more personality on the red carpet. Well at least we know who will be turning the letters when Vanna White’s elbows give out.


Has anyone seen John Norris’s new rug? It’s Shatneriffic.


I’m watching “Catwoman” on HBO. This film was amazingly lame and stupid. Will the executives who greenlit this film please have their testicles removed. This isn’t entertainment - it’s inhuman. Where is a Senate subcommittee investigating how the American public was expected
to like this.


So I bought a box containing 11 packs of the second series of Wacky Packages - the next generation. And amazingly enough of the 67 stickers, I had a complete set of 55. Pretty frightening when that works out. The best card of this batch is “Count Funkula.” This time he
has only one gold tooth. I’m still not sure why the Count Chocula went monotooth. Nobody at General Mills will go on record to the bad oral hygiene from their bloodsucking superstar. I also nailed a magnet containing the classic “Hawaiian Punks.” The weird thing is that the bonus card if you buy the big box at WalMart is “Poop on Pop.” This has to be the grossest Wacky Package ever. Look it up on google images.


I’m not catching on to any of the new shows. Who thought “Freddie” would be entertaining? I’m also disgusted at “Run’s House” cause it’s so staged that he should move to Laguna Beach. Something sad in seeing a once badass rapper turned into a lame version of Bill Cosby. Do I
really need to see this much of his life? And I’m not buying the woman president show. How about a show about a drunk jerk who finds himself as the president? Imagine him showing up in the New Orleans destruction and demand “No boobies - no FEMA!” Why doesn’t HBO put on “The Horny President?” What if a Billy Carter won the election? How about they mom got their names confused and it turns out America didn’t elect the sensible brother?


Has anyone bought the Kabballah vs. Scientology chess set?


Somebody at Paramount needs to get a nice fat gutshot for the “War of the Worlds” Special Edition DVD of the George Pal version. They did an amazing job of cleaning up the image and giving us a great vibrate image. But someone didn’t notice that they also made every wire holding up the space ships visible. It’s so tacky that Ed Wood would call it amateur hour. While I’m normally not one for CGI on classic films, it ould have been nice if they’d hid the wires.


Did you notice that after the big oil companies confessed to their record profits that prices at the pumped dropped. This must be part of their distract us with little drops. You can’t blame big oil for sticking it to us - they have to pay for the 2006 elections. Graft don’t come cheap in the 21st century.


Why exactly is the Underdog show on Boomerang missing all the opening themes to the various cartoons? It’s insane, I say. Are they just trying to save a dollar by not paying the songwriters? I want my real theme to Commander McBragg.


You have been given the baby version. It’s the one that appeals to the MPAA and the networks. But don’t worry cause Steve-O is coming.


The next column will be coming from Graceland. Seriously. We’re going to Graceland! Graceland! Graceland, Tennessee!


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