My hometown, Burbank, California, has some serious film noir credentials. Consider:
1.) Being home to Warner Brothers and the Columbia Ranch film set location, many fine noirs were filmed there. (Any 1940's/1950's Columbia movie set in what looks like New York City is really in Burbank.)
2.) The Mabel Monohan murder took place in town in 1953; it provided the basis for an excellent (if very biased) 1958 noir, "I Want to Live!" starring Susan Hayward.
3.) James M. Cain, a novelist who wrote in the hard-boiled style, provided the source material for many fine films noir, lived there for a time. In fact, he wrote the celebrated "The Postman Always Rings Twice" in Burbank.
4.) The excellent 1975 neo-noir "Night Moves" is set in Burbank; it was something of a thrill for me to recognize locations where I had grown up in the film.
And, as I discovered earlier this week,
5) In 1952 Burbank was the real life setting for a Kefauver-style crime and corruption clean-up effort. It's all described in an article that my friend and fellow researcher Mike found in an old copy of a Coronet magazine. It's very much a case of when real life resembles art; this very same story formed a basis for two good noirs, "The Captive City" (1952) and "Phenix City Story" (1955).
The Burbank Police Chief and members of the City Council controlled by the Mob... next time you see one of those 1950's productions decrying crime and mob takeovers in small town America, reflect that it actually happened!
I was digitizing some cassettes from 1995 last night, and stumbled across a song I used to like, the winsome Suzi Quatro's "The Wild One." Only this isn't the raucous, noisy version from 1974 that became a minor hit for her. This is a more restrained version - an alternative take of some kind. What makes it funny to me is how it starts, with the guys in her band singing "Sha-dosh." Not the usual "sha-boom" or "sh-bop," but "sha-dosh." It sounds like the name of a city in the Babylonian Empire, or a place in the Old Testament. I smile whenever I hear it.
Last night my wife Cari (a formidable Domestic Diva) hosted a church class on how to make peanut soup and pumpkin muffins, our traditional Christmas Eve meal. Peanut soup is a colonial Virginia dish. We first tasted it at the Virginia Inn in Occoquan, a place we sometimes went for our anniversary. As is her wont, Cari quickly found a recipe and adjusted it to taste... she also developed a killer Key Lime Pie that way.
While on the subject of pies I have to tell this story: One night many years ago we attended a church social for which Cari donated some of her justly celebrated home made pies. Imagine her horror when some sweet young Mormon wife accepted her pie, carried it to a table, took out a can of Reddi-Whip and proceeded to spray it on her pumpkin pie, thoroughly gilding the lily.
But the real terror was in a mint cream pie I tried. I took a bite and had to close my eyes as I swallowed. You see, we Mormons don't drink alcohol, and so some sweet young thing probably substituted the creme-de-menthe the recipe called for with mint extract, one-to-one! To this day I call it the "Mouthwash Pie." I offered the plate to Cari and invited her to take a forkful - the look on her face was priceless...
Cari occasionally takes part in women's cooking socials at church, where everyone bakes cookies, brings them to the social, and takes home a selection of cookies made by other women. I have always considered these the rawest of raw deals. Cari's chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles and shaped cookies represent the summit of continuous evolution and improvement over thirty years of marriage. You might find cookies these tasty and well-made elsewhere, but I doubt it. So what happens is, in the name of sociability she bakes up a batch of perfection, takes them to the social and brings home the flat, greasy, ill-formed efforts of lesser cooks. Boo hiss.
Church is not necessarily where Cari has gotten her best cooking ideas - in fact, quite the opposite. One autumn just after we were married the women did a social where the aim was to produce a seasonal something called "Dinner-in-a-Pumpkin," a vile, reprehensible concoction that looked unappetizing and tasted worse. Imagine a meal jammed into a small, hapless pumpkin. That was it, just as the name implied. Looking back on it, I am confident that the only cooking or baking missteps Cari has ever done were caused in some way by our church attendance.
But I do take pity upon men married to lesser cooks, I truly do. Every now and then Cari will bake her blueberry pie (if my house is where pies go to heaven when they die - and it is - the blueberry pie is the archangel) and give away slices to people. I don't begrudge this partitioning off of a valuable household product - at least not too loudly. There's one guy at church whose face positively lights up when Cari lets drop in a conversation that she's baking. I consider it Christian charity on my part.
Lord! How that woman can cook!
Is it lunch time yet?
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