Monday, April 30, 2007

Something A Little Happy To End April On

Check this out. This is the Buddy Rich memorial concert from the mid-80's, and here's Dave Weckl sitting in with them on the Rich chart of "Mercy Mercy Mercy". At least he knows the chart!

Here's That Rainy Day

We've just learned of the death of saxophonist and arranger Tommy Newsom this past Saturday. He was the butt of many of Johnny Carson's jokes, but man could he play that saxophone. This was from perhaps his last TV appearance, in January of 2005, shortly after the passing of Carson. David Letterman paid tribute to the man he almost replaced by bringing in Newsom on tenor sax, Doc Severinsen on fluegelhorn, and Ed Shaughnessy on drum set - three "Tonight Show" band veterans - as well as a full string section, on Johnny's favorite song, "Here's That Rainy Day". If I'm not mistaken, I think this was arranged by Newsom. Please enjoy.

(Newsom, of course, was one of many fine musicians who populated the Tonight Show Band. You also had Ernie Watts and Pete Christlieb in the sax section, the trumpets were led by Snooky Young and Conte Candoli, and Gil Falco led the trombones. A very tight sound!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

7178: As Far As You Can Get From A No-Hitter

Five Mets pitchers scattered a grand total of 20 hits in the 11-5 debacle attended in person by the Mackey Brothers today. Cruddy weather and subpar expensive food - plus seats under the canopy in the Loge - combined to make this one of our least memorable ballpark experiences. Perhaps we should wait for Citi Field to be finished?

Monday, April 23, 2007

7178: See You There!

Yes, Dave and Robair will be at Wednesday's Mets game, against the Colorado Rockies. I think Pelfrey's going for the Mets that day. Of course, the weather could change things... stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


current mood: what do you think?

7171: Maine Flirts, While Buehrle Flirts Harder

As we remind you every day here at, the New York Mets have never thrown a no-hitter. And this is one of the nights where it could really hurt.

John Maine took his no-hitter into the seventh inning before being broken up by the Florida Marlins' Miguel Cabrera.

And in Chicago, Mark Buehrle is about to take his no-hit bid in the ninth inning. As a Mets fan who's never tasted the glory of this rare baseball feat, I have no choice but to put on the whammy hex. See you in a few with the results.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Black Mark In Warner Bros. Cartoon History

Perhaps the only Warner Bros. cartoons not worthy of the name were the Road Runner cartoons produced by Format Films (acting as subcontactor for DePatie-Freleng Enterprises) under the mis-direction of Rudy Larriva. (They were bracketed by two far better cartoons actually produced at DePatie-Freleng with Bob McKimson directing.)

As his April Fool's joke, animation scholar Thad Komorowski has given us a pretty good overview of why Larriva's work is so rank. Sure, Larriva had at least one of Chuck Jones' animators aboard (Bob Bransford), but the other artists - which at times included even the great Virgil Ross - couldn't make a silk purse out of a coyote's ear. To borrow from my WB filmography, "Watch these cartoons and you'll know that WB censored the wrong 11 films!"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Day At Millionaire: Update

My last green-room friend, Pittsburgh public radio personality Katherine Fink, played her game today and won... $8,000. I was hoping she'd go a little further, but congrats to her. She got tripped up on a question about what the actual name of the Prisoner of Azkabam (from the Harry Potter book) was.

Also, grab a copy of today's Ocean County Observer. There's a great piece about my appearance on the show and, surprise surprise, this very website is plugged! (Bonus!)

Cell Phone And Biggest Loser Update

If you're one of those lucky few who communicates with me via cellphone, you're going to be in for a wait of about a couple weeks. I have to wait until then to get a new phone and not pay a penalty to my carrier. My current cell phone, alas, is on its way out. I have a sentimental attachment to it, because it was the last gift Nancy ever gave me before she died. I'll probably keep it, although it doesn't work as well as it used to. So be patient if I don't get back to you right away, or call me on my regular phone. I'm in the book (I think).

Also, Biggest Loser update! MC is now officially out of the competition due to her pregnancy. (Yahoo!) We don't know about TC, and TM is busy counting inches, but for me, I've lost so far a total of 16 lbs. Meaning, I'm looking a lot less like Jerry Lewis on Prednisone than I did when I was on "Millionaire", taped five months ago.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Day At "Millionaire": 2

When last we left you, our merry band of wannabe millionaires was examining the set of the "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" game show. We tested out the hot seat, taking the advice that the butt is always the first and last thing to go into or out of the chair. By this time, we're all wearing what we will be seen on TV, with one more outfit in reserve if we're called back a second time. Meredith has enough clothes for five shows and maybe more in her dressing room, all courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue.

We retreated to the Green Room and watched a tape of a memorable "Millionaire" contestant. This was the gentleman who ran a music store on Staten Island and suffered considerable property damage in a flood. He won $250,000, placing him squarely in the pantheon of "Millionaire" legends. By this time, Meredith Vieira is in her dressing room at ABC and the audience, including girlfriend Tracy, is in and getting their warmup. Lunch-type food is brought out. Our day is almost half over and we haven't even taped a single show yet.

Time was when the job of game show announcer and warmup guy were one and the same. Now, since most game shows have dispensed with the announcer position, warmups don't have to worry about reading prize copy. The warmup guy for "Millionaire" is very entertaining and puts the audience in the proper mindset to enjoy five episodes taped back-to-back. Meantime, a bunch of us are backstage taping those bumpers you sometimes see of contestants waiting to go backstage, and also promos for all contestants outside of New York City (Channel 7 does not run contestant-specific promos for the show).

Finally, 12 noon occurs, the set lights brighten, and we are on our way to taping Episodes 881-885 of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire". We have an air feed in the Green Room so we can watch the shows as they're being taped. The returning contestant has a companion in the audience. When director Matt Cohen gets a shot of her, Tracy is there in the background! "She's here!" I think to myself.

Shortly after the first game commences, contestant producers randomly pick the next three players to be on deck. One of those three will again be randomly chosen to go next into the hot seat. When the pool is down to two, another one is whisked out of the Green Room. This, plus random selection of question stacks, helps keep the show from being "fixed". I'm one of the lucky ones to be called! Yahoo! I'm going to be playing the game in a few minutes. (Or so I think.)

Show 1 ends. I'm still backstage.

Show 2 ends. I'm still backstage.

Show 3 ends. I'm still backstage.

After the third show there is a union-mandated meal break for the crew, so we are treated to yet more food in the Green Room. Our continuing contestant must remain separate from the rest of us, so she's eating in the hair/makeup area.

Show 4 begins taping. Our hidey-hole is a backstage area with a small black-and-white monitor, and no mikes. We actually talk and answer questions during the taping, but no one can hear us on stage because the music and PA is so loud in the studio. There are a lot of questions I know, including one about an electronic musical instrument called the Theremin. I'm thinking... "Wow! Hope my questions are that easy...."

"The next contestant is.... DAVE!"

Showtime. Before I even have time to think, I'm out of my backstage hot seat chair, and the only thing holding me back from rushing the stage and claiming Meredith Vieira for my own is the right arm of stage manager Smith Sumroy. (His dad, Jack, did the same job 30 years ago for "The $20,000 Pyramid" for ABC. I feel his heritage.)

Smith drops his arm and I rather awkwardly lumber on the stage. Like a child who's just beginning to realize he can run. I shake Meredith's hand and land in the hot seat, butt first, just as we were told.

What you saw on TV was pretty much what happened. I can share with you this tidbit... during the Phone a Friend, you can see Meredith and I talking, and you can only hear the phone sounds. What Meredith was asking there was if Bob was my identical twin, and I replied, "Yes he is."

About 15 minutes later, it was over. My ignorance on Monegasques kept me from enjoying more money than I did. We did a pickup on one of Meredith's question reads, and then I was ushered backstage by Adam Matalon to meet Tracy and fill out some forms. Tracy greeted me with a hug and kiss and said she was proud of the job I did. I filled out some tax forms, gathered up my things, and headed back with Tracy to the Lucerne. It was a lovely fall day, more like summer. We had alfresco dinner (in the middle of November, no less) with very expensive wine. Time to celebrate. I had reached my goal of getting on "Millionaire", and I'd do it again if I could.

But I can't. I can only be on the show once.

So look out "Jeopardy!", here I come!

© 2007 Dave Mackey

Dave with his $8,000 fake check. Photo by Tracy Meyer

Friday, April 06, 2007

A Day At "Millionaire"

My "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" day began months ago, with a contestant exam at the Millionaire studios in New York City. It was late June, the summer warmth just beginning, my brain bursting with all sorts of facts. The test passed, I talk to a producer. Apparently he sees something in me that wasn't picked up on when last I passed the test, so I get the postcard telling me I'm in the contestant pool.

All through the summer, I think nothing more of the postcard, as "Millionaire" isn't to tape until August. I know that the season dates have been moved up somewhat to accomodate host Meredith Vieira's new schedule with "The Today Show" so they get a lot of their taping done before Meredith even starts on "Today". So, as September turns to October, I don't think my chances are that good of getting on.

Until Monday, October 30, when a qualifier calls to tell me that I've made the show and I'm to appear at ABC Studios in New York on November 9 for a taping. Yahoo! My girlfriend and her daughters are ecstatic. We make all the necessary arrangements with the Lucerne Hotel and gather up all the paperwork we need to satisfy "Millionaire" producers that I am indeed me.

We arrive in New York the night before, on a rainy Wednesday. I have a bit of a contretemps with a pedestrian who thinks I've intruded upon his sacred crosswalk. I mutter various anatomic-derived nicknames for the man as I finally give up trying to find a parking space in upper Manhattan and give the valet my keys.

The "Millionaire" day begins in earnest at 7:00 a.m., when about a dozen contestants gather outside the studio on West 66th Street. My cab pulls up right at 7:00. We size each other up for the first time, grateful we aren't playing each other, then are led to the Green Room, where we'll be spending a LOT of our day. Meredith Vieira, meanwhile, is trading verbal ripostes with Al Roker and Matt Lauer over at 30 Rock.

We meet with our respective contestant producers. I am assigned to the senior C.P., Darren Atlee. Great guy who really knows how to create interesting stories and craft good material for Meredith to work with. We do get to know some of the other folks. One of the associate producers has come down with a very nasty cold and is debating whether or not to call it an early day. I try to steer clear of the poor girl.

We have a nice breakfast spread in the Green Room, decorated with many pictures from "Millionaire" history. While most spot Nancy Christy, Kevin Smith and John Carpenter, I'm the only one who recognizes Eddie Timanus, the USA Today sportswriter who was the first blind undefeated champ in "Jeopardy!" history.

Rich Sirop, the show's senior producer, comes in and tells us about the rules of the game and gives us some useful hints. He also notifies us the shows taping today will air the week of April 2, 2007. And yes, Meredith Vieira is hosting today, in the wake of press reports that have indicated that Meredith is bringing in guest hosts for a few weeks this year. (I can't get any more information out of Darren as to whether the guest hosts will include the rumored Tom Bergeron, so I leave it at that.) NOTE: Tom Bergeron indeed was a guest host the week of May 14-18, 2007.

The show's attorney, Francesca Harewood, comes in and tells us of the legal ramifications of being on the show and has a whole bunch o' releases for us to sign, including the caveat that will rule my life for the next five months: I am not to reveal the outcome of any games I experience, including my own. Publicity maven Trisha Miller comes in and tells us about what kind of answers we can give interviewers, and has some more forms to fill out about what local station we watch the show on and the names of our local newspapers and radio stations.

Stage manager Adam Matalon then gives us a tour of the set, so we can see the hot seat close up and walk on that precarious-looking glass floor. He tells us our eyes should be fixed on either the screen or Meredith at all times. We are taught the specific technique to get in and out of the hot seat chair, several of which are going to be backstage for practice.

Part 2 tomorrow! Lots more to tell.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Not Quite A Million, But...

Well, the "Millionaire" experience has come and gone. Recognizing that not all markets have seen the show yet, I can't say too much more about it. However, I had a blast, and from all reports both schools I teach at were thrilled to see one of their own on a game show.

I'll be doing a radio interview tomorrow on WOBM; you can listen live at the station's website about 6:40 a.m.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Scrappy Birthday, Harry

As we always do on April 2, we wish a happy birthday to our longtime pal Harry McCracken, editor-in-chief of PC World Magazine, and proprietor of his own sites, including Scrappyland, the web's best resource on that famous Columbia cartoon character of the 1930's. Cheers to you and we're all looking forward to seeing you in San Francisco this summer!