Thursday, May 12, 2005

This Is The End

Two things ended yesterday, too good things. One lasted decades, one months.

Dennis Miller's program, taped in LA, will disappear after Friday. It wasn't hard to see this coming--his ratings hardly registered. Yet he had one of the liveliest political talk/humor shows around. (It didn't hurt that he regularly featured friends of mine like Nick Gillespie and Amy Alkon.) His one sin: being on CNBC. Quick now, what channel is CNBC? If this show had been on the Fox lineup, it'd be beating Larry King.

More surprising, and much longer in coming, was theatre critic John Simon being booted from New York Magazine after 37 years. Simon, almost 80, has also been a regular film and book critic. Rarely was the word "critic" more fitting--he didn't like anything. Okay, a slight exaggeration, but Simon was a true highbrow critic, who felt if it isn't art (his exalted concept of art), or at least superior entertainment, he wanted nothing to do with it. For instance, I've read about 30 years of his theatre criticism and I literally cannot remember a single Shakespearean production he liked. I'm sure there must be a few, but none stick out in my memory.

Simon may have been the most hated man in the business. I often disagreed with him, but in a world awash with middlebrows easily impressed by "important" subjects and populists all too ready to wallow in trash, he was a breath of fresh air.

Simon was known not only for his severity, but his way of expressing it. For instance, he regularly mocked the looks of stars he found wanting, describing Liza Minelli and Barbra Streisand in terms that would have gotten him slapped in person. His vocabulary was such that you actually needed a dictionary to follow some of the insults. I recall he described Joey Lauren Adams as "batrachian"--froglike.

Simon also had an unstoppable weakness for puns and plays on words, which I enjoyed. I'm guessing the actors, directors and writers he regularly cut down didn't appreciate it as much.

I own one book of his theatre reviews (Uneasy Stages), two of his film reviews (Something To Declare, Reverse Angle) and have borrowed others. He was tough from the start and has never softened. In what may be his last review, here's his summation of a revival of David Mamet's modern classic, Glengarry Glen Ross:
"Of course, there’ll always be reviewers and audiences who groove on Mamet’s cloacal litanies, cataracts of cacology, and the nastily clever—but not all that clever—verbal power games that all gleefully indulge in. Whoever wants this is welcome to it; mud wrestling also has its dedicated fans. But what are we to make of a theater—of a culture—that considers this stuff high art?"
Simon is still in full possession of his faculties. I think it would be great if The New York Times would hire him just so we could see the theatrical world up in arms.

PS "Cloacal" means sewerlike. "Cacology" means a poor choice of words.

PPS Over at the Huffington Post (scroll down to Tuesday to see what I think of it) David Mamet has taken the time to mark John Simon's departure: "I have just heard that John Simon has been fired from the post he long disgraced at New York Magazine. In his departure he accomplishes that which during his tenure eluded him: he has finally done something for the American Theatre."

Pajama Guy responds: Everything on Fox beats Larry King. The real question is if Miller were on Fox could he have given O'Reilly a run for his money? It's not a far-fetched scenario: At the time Miller signed with CNBC he was doing a weekly commentary on Hannity & Colmes.


Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Okay. It's 8:36 EST and 5:36 PST, but your post on that cacology guy says 12:26 a.m. May 12 (tomorrow). S'up, Mr. Albom?

5:41 PM, May 11, 2005  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I meant to "save" it as a draft and publish it tomorrow, since I'm busy tonight doing other things, but I pressed publish by mistake and so you get the early edition.

Hey, I always buy my Sunday Times on Saturday, so it's no big deal. Dennis Miller is still leaving and John Simon is still fired.

6:01 PM, May 11, 2005  
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