Well, this is a dark fargin’ day in local radio: my longtime friend and former Diner producer Jeremy, aka the Dark Chef, better known perhaps as Kodiak, was canned from KSTP.  The entire station seems to be in the same hell as other media outlets, and I can understand why they got rid of half the morning team – they also fired a guy who managed to had a sour persona, no sense of humor, and the intellectual curiosity of a ceramic vase – but Jeremy has been a voice on the station for every ten years. I repeat this to program directors everywhere: PRODUCERS ARE TALENT. If they’re good. PRODUCERS ARE PERSONALTIES. If they’re good. And he was. You want to attract a younger demo, by the way? Don’t axe the only person at the station with a foot in geek culture. Don’t become the all-grumbly-geezer station.

So, damn. I called him up today to ask a question – we heard a rumor some “Morning Team” was giving our TV spots the business, and was keen to know who, so we could go on and defend ourselves. Wasn’t KSTP, but as soon as he told me that he said he’d been fired.

As for his mood, well, it took us about 12 minutes before we were off talking about Carnivale and Rome and Firefly, so the old Jeremy is still there, in good spirits.

Still. Crap. Damned recession. I’m just glad it’s already one quarter-to-one-third-to-one-half-or-maybe-one-fifth over. I know that sounds like I’m whistling past the graveyard, and everyone else thinks that we are actually in the graveyard itself, wondering why the ground suddenly is level with our sternum, but I was tired of pessimism in the boom times, and I’m not in the mood for additional servings now.

I don’t know why they say “busy as a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest,” because he would have fallen over right away and been six arses behind by the time he got up. “Busy as a two-legged man in a butt-kicking contest mostly dominated by four-legged men” would be more accurate, especially if the four-legged guys were configured so they could simultaneously kick in three directions. Right? But then it would be difficult to imagine how anyone would have kickable butts. So they’d have to bring in people to be the kicked butts. Can’t see how that would work. Unless they were running around, trying to avoid the four-legged ass-kickers. You couldn’t blame them.

Anyway, busy. Back at the anchor desk tomorrow, too – and this might be agonizingly long, since apparently they’re going to go until they’re done and I may not be able to leave. Ah. Well.

Could be worse. Could be led to the blood-stained stump and told to place my neck on the warm, sticky top.

Anyway, I have little here today of note, except the following:

A 55 minute Christmas Diner

Christmas Kitsch

100 Mysteries


Bag of larval Santas.

One more? Sure. Don't you love him? Unfortunately, he has no idea his head is on fire.

They sold these guys by the billions in the 60s and 70s, I think - cute happy waving snowmen. They went straight to the heart of the housewife shopping for seasonal items at Ben Franklin or the drug store. They trip every baby-switch you have.

Now, our weekly attempt to chew through the "100 Mysteries" DVD box set.

Good news: no one says Ah So.

Is this the mysterious Mr. Wong, or the double of some character actor from the 80s who was always irritated in a comic, impotent fashion common to short men with grizzled beards? You know who I mean. And not Robert Reich.

Is this Wong?

Yes! But in disguise as Ly Sol, or something. Dead ringer for my grandpa as a young man. Me too, for that matter. Here he is in full Wong form:

Bela looks as Chinese as F. Murray Abraham playing Idi Amin.

Wong is looking for the 12 coins of Confucious. Legend say he who bring all coins together have great power. Legends are always saying things like that. No legend ever says “Man who reunites the coins of Buddha will have the power to make songbirds feel as though they have just eaten.” It’s always power over the world.

Lugosi is generally bad – he’s malevolent enough, but the accent is all wrong. Here’s a brief example. (Flash vid; mouse over for controls.)


If you say so, boss.


Much has been made of Lugosi’s sad career, his descent into dope-fiend hell, his typecasting, his bad breath, his morbid dread of drug-store scales that gave your fortune, etc. It was self-inflicted. You can understand a fellow making a movie like this ten years after his big hit picture, and the inevitable Sad Decline. But he made this one four years after Dracula, and made it for Monogram, a studio so cheap you’re surprised the movies don’t start running backwards with different dialogue halfway through the picture.

How cheap? Well, everything was done in one take, I suspect. This fellow has been poisoned, and he’s dying hard.

He falls down, stone dead  . . .


 . . . but he manages to get one hand up to stop himself. 

See it? I can watch this clip over and over.


For all its cheapness and hokey Confucious-say view of Chinese culture, it’s not bad. Thank this guy:


Wallace Ford. He strolls through the picture with weightless nonchalance – a remarkable accomplishment given the dire circumstances of his early life. He’s wearing a dead man’s name, for heaven’s sake.  Ford plays a newspaper reporter who writes breezy dismissals of all this Tong hooey:

He also has a classic 30s dame by his side – a newspaper switchboard operator who’s single, cynical, mercenary, but really all sweetness and goo on the inside. Well, maybe just goo, of varying densities.

That’s Arlene Judge, who had about 38 husbands, once of who was co-owner of the Yankees.

Worth it? At the time, sure – it had that Dracula guy, a room with a secret passage, a dungeon, a girl tied up in ropes, some snappy patter, a loveable Oirish Policeman who shorr is annoyed by them there Choinaman mahrders.

Racial sensitivity? Well, when the reporter hails a cab in Chinatown, the cabbie asks where he wants to go.

“America!” says the reporter.



See you on the air at startribune.com, starting at 8:55 AM. Hit the link also to find Friday's column; scroll down a bit.

Oh, right!

The Diner. Here, or below.

Have a grand weekend!