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Lost in the Sauce: Feb. 16 - 22
Welcome to Lost in the Sauce, keeping you caught up on political and legal news that often gets buried in distractions and theater. (the previous edition can be found here if you are super behind). House-keeping:
How to read: the headings will guide you through this piece. The Main Course covers the “big” stories and The Sides covers the “smaller” stories. IF YOU FOLLOW THE NEWS CLOSELY: you likely know about the stories in the Main Course section, so you will be best served by scrolling down to The Sides portion.
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Let’s dig in!
Trump’s war on the intelligence community: 10 days under an authoritarian administration
I wrote a stand-alone piece covering the biggest news from last week: Over the past 10 days, we've seen Trump fully indulge his authoritarian impulses in an attempt to stamp out any inkling of facts that he dislikes - whether that be for personal, egocentric reasons or to shore up political strength. This began with a briefing given to the House Intelligence Committee that Russia is seeking to re-elect Trump. In response, Trump purged the Office of the Director of National Intelligence of officials he perceived to be disloyal, installing loyalists in their place. Also covered: how Trump gets away with a cabinet full of acting officials, Richard Grenell’s numerous dis-qualifications, a pardon offered to Julian Assange, and the hunt for “Never Trumpers” in the administration.
Sunday night update
On Sunday, Trump made a veiled threat toward House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff while claiming without evidence that the Democrat had leaked information from the Russia briefing on Feb. 13: “Somebody please tell incompetent (thanks for my high poll numbers) & corrupt politician Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff to stop leaking Classified information or, even worse, made up information, to the Fake News Media. Someday he will be caught, & that will be a very unpleasant experience!” tweet Later, while speaking to reporters, Trump called for an investigation into the leak - more concerned about the public learning of the briefing than he is about Russia’s repeated interference in U.S. elections. “They leaked it, Adam Schiff and his group. They leaked it to the papers and - as usual - they ought to investigate Adam Schiff for leaking that information,” Trump said. Schiff responded: “Nice deflection, Mr. President. But your false claims fool no one. You welcomed Russian help in 2016, tried to coerce Ukraine’s help in 2019, and won’t protect our elections in 2020.”
Authoritarians also dispense largesse, but they do it by their own whims, rather than pursuant to any system or legal rule. The point of authoritarianism is to concentrate power in the ruler, so the world knows that all actions, good and bad, harsh and generous, come from a single source. (The New Yorker)
Last week, Trump granted pardons and commutations to 11 people with one thing in common: connections. Trump bypassed the process of formal procedures typically used to determine who is given a pardon, instead relying on connections to his wealthy friends and political allies.
Former governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of soliciting bribes from candidates to replace Barack Obama in the Senate after Obama was elected president, knew Trump personally from his appearance on The Celebrity Apprentice. Trump falsely claimed that former FBI Director James Comey was involved in Blagojevich's prosecution; Comey did not take over at the FBI until years after the Blagojevich case.
Illinois' entire GOP congressional delegation—Darin LaHood, John Shimkus, Adam Kinzinger, Rodney Davis, and Mike Bost: "Blagojevich is the face of public corruption in Illinois, and not once has he shown any remorse for his clear and documented record of egregious crimes that undermined the trust placed in him by voters...Blagojevich is the face of public corruption in Illinois, and not once has he shown any remorse for his clear and documented record of egregious crimes that undermined the trust placed in him by voters." (source)
Former San Francisco 49ers team owner Eddie DeBartolo, who was convicted of “failing to report a felony” in 1998 after he paid a $400,000 bribe for a casino license, was pardoned as a result of the lobbying of New England Patriots owner and frequent Mar-a-Lago guest Robert Kraft.
Michael Milken, the so-called junk bond king who was convicted in 1990 of securities and tax fraud, knew Trump personally and frequently spent time with him at Mar-a-Lago. In his first memoir, Trump called Milken “a brilliant guy.” Many of Trump’s inner circle also lobbied for a pardon for Milken, including Rudy Giuliani, Jared Kushner, Steven Mnuchin, and developer friends Howard Lorber and Richard LeFrak. In fact, last year Mnuchin “flew on Mr. Milken’s private jet from Washington to Los Angeles and helped secure a real estate tax break that could benefit Mr. Milken.” A key backer of Milken’s pardon, hedge fund manager (and executive of Wendy’s) Nelson Peltz, held a record-breaking fundraiser for Trump’s re-election campaign at his home just 3 days before Milken was pardoned.
John K. Carroll: “As one of the lead prosecutors on the Milken case, I am outraged — not at the specific result here but at what the pardon process says about the way justice is served in our country...What outrages me, and what I think should outrage others, is the process that brought about the pardon. In as guileless an admission as I have ever seen of rich man’s justice, the White House bolstered its decision by listing a murderer’s row of Republican donors and billionaires who provided “widespread and long-standing” support for Milken’s pardon. Sheldon Adelson, Tom Barrack, my old boss Giuliani and others are listed as supporters of the pardon. If I had to prove that the scales of justice tilt toward the rich, I would offer that list and then sit down and wait for the jury to convict.”
Former New York City police commissioner Bernie Kerik, who was convicted in 2009 of lying to federal investigators and committing tax fraud, knew Trump personally and had Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera sign a letter on his behalf requesting a pardon from the president. In 2004, Trump called Kerik “a friend of mine” and “a great guy.” Rudy Giuliani also supported the request, as Kerik once served as a senior vice president at Giuliani Partners.
"The pardon cancels out $103,300 in restitution that Kerik still owed the Internal Revenue Service as part of his sentence, according to a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan." (source)
Paul Pogue, a construction company owner who pleaded guilty to underpaying his taxes by $473,000, did not know Trump and did not have any Fox News personalities lobby on his behalf. Instead, Pogue’s family appears to have purchased a presidential pardon. Pogue’s son and daughter-in-law made over $200,000 in contributions to the Trump Victory Committee last year. The couple also made several large donations to the Republican National Committee and each donated $5,600 to Donald Trump for President Inc.,” according to FEC filings.
Roger Stone going to prison
Perhaps not coincidentally, Trump’s pardoning of corrupt public officials like Blagojevich occurred just two days before Roger Stone’s sentencing for lying to investigators, obstructing a congressional investigation, and witness tampering. Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Stone to 40 months - or 3.3 years - in prison, much lighter than the original 7-9 year sentencing recommendation made by career prosecutors who withdrew from the case in protest of AG Barr’s intervention. Lawfare has a great line-by-line breakdown of the sentencing hearing, if you’d like the nitty-gritty details. But if you only have time to read one excerpt from the hearing, I suggest the following:
Judge Jackson: “The truth still exists. The truth still matters. Roger Stone's insistence that it doesn't, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the very foundation of our democracy...The dismay and the disgust at the attempts by others to defend his actions as just business as usual in our polarized climate should transcend party. The dismay and the disgust with any attempts to interfere with the efforts of prosecutors and members of the judiciary to fulfill their duty should transcend party. "Sure, the defense is free to say: So what? Who cares? But, I'll say this: Congress cared. The United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia that prosecuted the case and is still prosecuting the case cared. The jurors who served with integrity under difficult circumstances cared. The American people cared. And I care."
Judge Jackson pushes back During the hearing, Judge Jackson said that the jurors in the case "served with integrity." Stone’s lawyers took this statement and moved to disqualify the judge from the case, claiming that her remarks “rendered her unable to fairly rule on his bid for a new trial.”
"Stone’s Motion for New Trial is directly related to the integrity of a juror. It is alleged that a juror misled the Court regarding her ability to be unbiased and fair and the juror attempted to cover up evidence that would directly contradict her false claims of impartiality," his lawyers argued. "The premature statement blessing the “integrity of the jury” undermines the appearance of impartiality and presents a strong bias for recusal," they added.
As expected, Jackson denied the motion to have her disqualified... A pardon for Stone? But the goal may be to reach the ears of the president instead. According to Politico, a former senior administration official who remains in contact with Trump and his senior advisers says about a pardon for Roger Stone: “It’s not a question of if; it’s when.” Following the sentencing, Trump argued that Stone’s jury was “tainted” and said that “Roger has a very good chance of exoneration.” On Sunday, Trump was asked about the possibility of a pardon for Stone and instead took the opportunity to attack the jury forewoman, again:
"That juror is so biased and so tainted, that shouldn't happen in our criminal justice system… You have a juror that is obviously tainted. She was an activist against Trump. She said bad things about Trump and bad things about Stone," the President claimed without evidence. "She somehow weaseled her way onto the jury and if that's not a tainted jury then there is no such thing as a tainted jury."
More info on Stone’s lenient sentence
In the week since four prosecutors withdrew from Stone’s case in protest of AG Barr’s interference, we have gotten a slow drip-drip of new information. A piece by The New York Times Sunday summed it up nicely: Timothy Shea, appointed to replace Jessie Liu as head D.C. attorney, was sent to the office specifically to steer cases to the president’s benefit after previous efforts failed.
A new boss, Timothy Shea, had just arrived and had told them on his first day that he wanted a more lenient recommendation for Mr. Stone, and he pushed back hard when they objected, according to two people briefed on the dispute. They grew suspicious that Mr. Shea was helping his longtime friend and boss, Attorney General William P. Barr, soften the sentencing request to please the president. ...The tensions between the office, the Justice Department and the White House date back further than the tumult in the Stone case. They have been simmering since at least last summer, when the office’s investigation of Andrew G. McCabe, a former top F.B.I. official whom the president had long targeted, began to fall apart. Mr. Shea’s predecessor, Jessie K. Liu, a lawyer whom Mr. Trump had appointed to lead the office in 2017, pressed the McCabe case even after one team of prosecutors concluded that they could not win a conviction. After a second team was brought in and also failed to deliver a grand jury indictment, Ms. Liu’s relationship with Mr. Barr grew strained, people close to them said. She left the position this year, though she and Mr. Barr have both stressed to associates that her departure was amicable.
Undoing Mueller’s work
Trump’s efforts to derail the sentencing of Stone can be seen as part of a larger campaign to rewrite history, and specifically, erase the findings of the Mueller investigation. Roger Stone’s indictment shows that Stone was acting on Trump's personal order to find Hillary Clinton’s campaign emails stolen by Russia. In order to cover-up his role in the Russia-Wikileaks-Trump network, Stone lied to investigators and threatened a witness. By claiming that Stone did not commit a crime, Trump is attempting to reverse the findings of the Mueller report and make himself the victim. Last week, Trump embarked on a rambling Twitter thread calling for all cases stemming from Mueller’s probe to be “thrown out.” He continued, saying: “If I wasn’t President, I’d be suing everyone all over the place.......BUT MAYBE I STILL WILL. WITCH HUNT!” Hours later, while discussing the spate of pardons he had issued that day, Trump made the astounding assertion that he is “the chief law enforcement officer of the country” and thus has the “legal right” to interfere in criminal cases. “I’m allowed to be totally involved,” the president added. While technically he is incorrect - the Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer - in practice Trump has been proven right. A lawless chief executive is in fact in charge of enforcing the law when the Attorney General acts as his personal fixer.
This is in the style of autocrats across the globe, who weaponize the law to help themselves and their friends and hurt their enemies. The nation’s legal system is now run by a man who has spent his life mocking it. (NYT Editorial Board)
Meanwhile, the president’s allies have reportedly been urging him to fire anyone who was involved in Mueller’s investigation:
The MAGA punditry’s outsized influence over the president means their campaign against the so-called Mueller “holdovers” is likely not falling on deaf ears, especially given Trump’s fixation with what his defenders and detractors are saying about his administration in their frequent appearances on his favorite TV programs. “It's totally unclear to me why any members of the Mueller team need to remain in the Trump DOJ,” the pro-Trump conservative blogger Will Chamberlain wrote after news broke of the Stone sentencing recommendation. ...GOP operative Arthur Schwartz, a close friend of Donald Trump Jr. who has been described as the eldest son’s “fixer,” said of the career officials in question: “I think they should all be investigated.” ...John Dowd, a former Trump lawyer who remains in touch with the White House, characterized the line attorneys in the Stone case as “insubordinate,” and “the same crowd of prosecutors wedded to the Mueller agenda” who need to be “cleaned out” from DOJ. “And Bill Barr is doing that,” Dowd said.
What can be done about the politicization of the DOJ? In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School suggests that “Congress should transform the Justice Department into an independent agency, legally immunized from the president’s day-to-day control.”
Public charge rule takes effect
The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allow the government to implement new “wealth test” rules making it easier to deny immigrants residency or admission to the United States if they might depend on public-assistance programs. Legal challenges will continue in lower courts in the meantime. Doug Rand, co-founder of Boundless Immigration who formerly worked on immigration policy in the Obama White House, estimates that as many as 400,000 people every year could be denied green cards or visas because of the new rules. Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a written dissent that was sharply critical of both the federal government and her conservative colleagues, warning that they are “putting a thumb on the scale in favor of” the Trump administration. Read her full seven-page dissent here.
The justice wrote that granting emergency applications often upends "the normal appellate process" while "putting a thumb on the scale in favor of the party that won." Targeting her conservative colleagues, she said "most troublingly, the Court's recent behavior" has benefited "one litigant over all others." "Claiming one emergency after another, the Government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases," Sotomayor said. "It is hard to say what is more troubling," she said, pointing to the case at hand, "that the Government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the Court would grant it." CNN
Justice Department’s new rules benefit Giuliani
In a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, the DOJ indicated that the agency has implemented another layer of approval that would make it difficult for prosecutors to widen their probe into Rudy Giuliani:
The Justice Department revealed Tuesday that law enforcement officials running Ukraine-related investigations must seek approval before expanding their inquiries — a move that could have implications for Rudolph W. Giuliani, as President Trump’s personal attorney pushes for scrutiny of the president’s political foes while facing a federal probe into his own conduct. Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote to Nadler that the department had tapped two U.S. attorneys to assist in the process — Scott Brady in Pittsburgh to receive and assess new information, and Richard Donoghue in Brooklyn to help coordinate personnel throughout the Justice Department involved in Giuliani’s case and others with a focus on Ukraine. An accompanying internal memo, circulated by Rosen in January, says that he and Donoghue must approve expansions of any inquiries.
Related: The Hill admits John Solomon’s columns were misleading
The Hill’s review of Solomon’s work can be found here. I have found the review itself to be overly generous to the publication (no surprise), so I will quote from a WaPo summary of the review:
In effect, the Hill said Solomon amplified an inaccurate and one-sided narrative about the Bidens and Ukraine that was fed to him by Giuliani, “facilitated” by businessman Lev Parnas, who was working with Giuliani at the time, and reinforced by Solomon’s own attorneys, who also represented clients embroiled in U.S.-Ukraine politics. But the Hill stopped short of retracting or apologizing for Solomon’s articles, nor did it say it shouldn’t have published them. It also didn’t characterize Solomon’s motives in presenting what appears to be a largely debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine. “In certain columns, Solomon failed to identify important details about key Ukrainian sources, including the fact that they had been indicted or were under investigation,” said the internal investigation, which was overseen by the newspaper’s editor, Bob Cusack. “In other cases, the sources were [Solomon’s] own attorneys” — Victoria Toensing and Joseph DiGenova, who have also represented President Trump and Giuliani, who was also a key source for Solomon’s columns. Solomon didn’t disclose this connection in his columns nor did he disclose to his editors that he shared drafts of his stories with Toensing, DiGenova and Parnas, the review noted.
Trump tries to block Bolton book
The Washington Post reports that Trump is attempting to block the release of former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s book, instructing aides that it should not be released until after the November election.
Trump has told his lawyers that Bolton should not be allowed to publish any of his interactions with him about national security because they are privileged and classified, these people said. He has also repeatedly brought up the book with his team, asking whether Bolton is going to be able to publish it, they said. Trump told national television anchors on Feb. 4 during an off-the-record lunch that material in the book was “highly classified,” according to notes from one participant in the luncheon. He then called him a “traitor.” “We’re going to try and block the publication of the book,” Trump said, according to the notes. “After I leave office, he can do this. But not in the White House...I give the guy a break. I give him a job. And then he turns on me,” Trump added during the West Wing lunch. “He’s just making things up.”
Susan Rice tells Bolton the truth
During a panel discussion at Vanderbilt University on Wednesday, Bolton shared the stage with Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice. Bolton made excuses for his failure to testify in Trump’s impeachment trial, blaming the House for committing “impeachment malpractice.” Rice challenged Bolton repeatedly, denigrating his decision to promote his book instead of testify:
"I thought a lot about if I had been in that position how would I have approached it, and I'll be honest: It's inconceivable to me that if I had firsthand knowledge of gross abuse of presidential power that I would withhold my testimony from a constitutional accountability process.” "I can't imagine withholding my testimony, with or without a subpoena," Rice said. "I also can't imagine, frankly, in the absence of being able to provide the information directly to Congress, not having exercised my First Amendment right to speak publicly at a time when my testimony or my experience would be relevant. And, frankly, when my subordinates ... were doing their duty and responding in a fashion consistent with their legal obligations to provide information." "I would feel like I was shamefully violating the oath that I took to support and defend the Constitution."
Trump corruption update
President Donald Trump’s choice to stay at his own Las Vegas hotel each night during the western states swing that wraps up Friday likely cost taxpayers a million extra dollars as well as diverted thousands of them into his own cash registers.
Breaking with precedent, Trump flew back to Vegas to stay every night at his Trump International Hotel, despite his day activities taking place in California, Arizona, and Colorado.
Had Trump held the same events but done so in a geographically logical order ― starting in Beverly Hills and finishing in Colorado Springs, but overnighting each day in the city where he would begin the following morning ― Trump would have spent four fewer hours aboard Air Force One, thereby saving taxpayers about $1.1 million. ...Indeed, the repeated overnight trips to Las Vegas may have forced the Secret Service and other support personnel to keep a motorcade there for a full four days, rather than move it to the site of an upcoming presidential trip
This week, Trump has a whole new country to focus on: India, home to the largest portfolio of Trump real estate projects outside North America, according to the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. According to The Washington Post, since the elder Trump’s last trip to India in 2014, two of his business partners have encountered massive legal and financial trouble. During Trump’s time as president, the Trump Organization has vigorously promoted their properties in India, earning millions of dollars in royalties:
In 2018, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr. — who runs the Trump Organization with his brother, Eric Trump — spent several days in India promoting the family’s developments, attending a champagne dinner with condo buyers who plunked down $39,000 deposits and bringing in millions of dollars in new sales. While there, he also met with Modi behind closed doors. The next year, Trump’s Indian business partners flew 100 early buyers of his luxury condos near Delhi to visit Trump Tower and Trump Ferry Point golf course in New York City as a way to generate interest in the properties in India. One attendee gushed afterward about meeting the son of a U.S. president on the trip.
Trump 2020: Cambridge Analytica and Facebook
President Donald Trump’s campaign is bringing on an alum of the controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica...Matt Oczkowski, who served as head of product at Cambridge before it went bankrupt and shut down in 2018, is helping oversee the Trump campaign’s data program...Oczkowski, who also worked on Trump’s 2016 effort, joined the reelection campaign in January, and payments to his company, HuMn Behavior, are expected to show up on Trump’s next campaign finance disclosure later this month. (Politico)
An Axios report revealed where most of Trump’s re-election campaign is spending its advertising budget: on Facebook ads. “Last fall, the campaign urged Facebook to keep the same tools for political advertisers that they make available to companies...Facebook ultimately decided not to change its policies around microtargeting.” However, unlike in 2016, the campaign is also diversifying, “testing new strategies on several dozen platforms, including YouTube, Google, ad exchanges, publisher networks and conservative podcasts.”
Side note: The IRS is suing Facebook for $9 million in back taxes, alleging the social media company undervalued intellectual properties when selling them to an Irish subsidiary in 2010. Ireland has lower corporate tax rates than the United States, so the move reduced the company’s tax bill.
Erik Prince investigations
There is apparently another investigation into Blackwater Founder - and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos - Erik Prince. The FBI is reportedly investigating Prince “for his 2015 attempt to modify two American-made crop-dusting planes into attack aircraft — a violation of arms trafficking regulations...The planes became part of private military services Prince proposed to sell or use in mercenary operations in Africa and Azerbaijan.” This new investigation adds to Prince’s legal problems, though he insists that he is untouchable “under this guy,” referring to Trump. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Justice Department is “in the late stages of deciding whether to charge” Prince for allegedly lying to Congress in its Russia probe and violating U.S. export laws in his business dealings overseas.
Trump blocking prominent climate change warning
The United States is against mentioning climate change in the communique of the world’s financial leaders, G20 diplomats said, after a new draft of the joint statement showed the G20 are considering including it as a risk factor to growth...G20 sources said the United States was reluctant to accept language on climate change as a risk to the economy. Reuters
On Sunday, it was announced that the U.S. ultimately agreed to a less-prominent placement for the risks of climate change. It will now appear in language referencing the Financial Stability Board’s work examining the implications of climate change for financial stability.
One of the G20 sources said it was the first time a reference to climate change had been included in a G20 finance communique during Trump’s presidency, even though it was removed from the top of the joint statement. U.S. officials have resisted naming climate change as an economic risk since Trump took office in 2017. One of his first acts as president was to announce Washington’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.
Last week, two men were arrested in separate incidents involving threats to President Trump’s perceived opponents. A Michigan man, Brittan J. Atkinson, was arrested on Thursday for sending death threats to Mark Zaid, an attorney for the Ukraine whistleblower. Atkinson sent the threats in November, on the day that Trump held up a photo of Zaid and read some of his tweets at a rally in Louisiana.
"All traitors must die miserable deaths," Atkinson's email read in part, the indictment says. "Those that represent traitors shall meet the same fate[.] We will hunt you down and bleed you out like the pigs you are. We have nothing but time, and you are running out of it, Keep looking over your shoulder[.] We know who you are, where you live, and who you associate with[.] We are all strangers in a crowd to you[.]"
On Wednesday, Salvatore Lippa of New York was arrested for threatening to assault and murder Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Chuck Schumer in voicemails last month.
Lippa started the threatening message by calling the congressman "Schiff, Shifty Schiff," invoking the nickname used by President Donald Trump for Schiff, the lead House manager during Trump's impeachment trial. ...When questioned by U.S Capitol Police, Lippa admitted to making the threatening calls to Schiff and Schumer because he said he was upset about the impeachment proceedings, prosecutors said.
Washington Post: A second court has temporarily blocked North Carolina’s new voter identification law on the argument that it discriminates against African Americans. The ruling reduces the likelihood that the rule will be in effect in a key swing state during November’s elections. A three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that intent to discriminate was a “primary motivating factor” behind the voter ID law, which passed the Republican legislature in late 2018.
CBS News: Florida cannot bar felons who served their time from registering to vote simply because they have failed to pay all fines and fees stemming from their cases, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
CNN: Mississippi's law banning abortions at the detection of a fetal heartbeat -- as early as six weeks into pregnancy -- will remain blocked, a panel of circuit judges ruled on Thursday...The three-judge panel on the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's ruling that the Mississippi law unconstitutionally prohibited pre-viability abortions.
Tampa Bay Times: A curious request arrived in the inboxes of Florida tax collectors last week from an employee of the Republican National Committee. He asked for “all email addresses that have been collected and are in the possession of the Tax Collector’s Office.” He also wanted any names, property addresses and phone numbers connected to those emails in their records. If the tax collectors had complied, the Republican Party would soon have a valuable trove of personal information for millions of Floridians as it gears up for the 2020 election: A detailed database of many taxpayers’ emails plus the name, address and phone number tied to that email.
Associated Press: Most Republican lawmakers refused to attend a Tuesday night session of the Oregon House of Representatives amid a slowdown over anger at a sweeping bill on climate change. Earlier, Republican lawmakers, who are a minority in the House, insisted that bills coming to the floor be read in their entirety instead of being summarized, which slowed things down substantially. The 2020 session of the Legislature lasts only 35 days, being an even-year short session.
Q13 Fox News: Efforts to expel a controversial state representative from the Washington Legislature are likely over after no Republicans would sign a letter calling for state Rep. Matt Shea’s expulsion. The Spokesman-Review reports that all 98 members of the state House of Representatives were asked Thursday to sign a letter calling for the expulsion of Spokane Valley Republican. All 56 Democrats signed the letter, but no Republicans did.
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms OR Fluffy's Birthday Party
Saturday, December 18th I wake up and my back is fucking killing me. Megan closed the spa last night and she's quitting her (shitty) second job and her last day is Saturday so she's gone in early to get everything wrapped up and her exit interview. I decide to clean up my garage a bit and get some work done around the house. The morning starts off with some eggs and breakfast sausage with a tall glass of simply grapefruit. Life isn't great, but it could be a lot worse. We are all having a little chat about life, weekends and women as I move charcoal and my dads tools around the garage when suddenly my good buddeh u/fluffy_butternut tells everyone that regular women are not damaged enough for me to enjoy. Not only is this HIGHLY insulting to me, but it reflects poorly on Megan as well. rewind to several months before Mrs. Fluffy emailed the whole reddit gang and told us we are invited to a surprise birthday party for the big guy. She gave us instructions/time/place, etc and everything. She did a TON of work to plan this and it shows. I was under the gun at the courthouse with a trial and I wasn't able to commit to the event and all of us have stuff going on so the odds of anyone being able to make it were not good. However, I kept her email, and her cell number on a burner. cut to present https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyLdtG7KZvw Did he really go there? He really went there. It's fucking on like Donkey Kong. I pull out a burner and send a message to Mrs. Fluffy asking her if the plans are still the same. She tells me when he will be arriving at the venue and I tell her I'm gonna make a big fucking scene. She is ecstatic at this idea. I grab my packed bag from the closet and jump in the F350. I grab two organic bean to bar 88% endangered species chocolate bars for Megan and I stop by her work. She's busy, so I leave the chocolate for her at her station. I give her co-worker a note to hand to her when she gets out. "Dear Megan, out for revenge. Back tomorrow - Will." I start driving to MSY and traffic down I-10 isn't bad for a saturday. I phone Delta on the way there and book tickets for the flight. The only thing available is MD88 service connecting in Laguardia. In First. Being no stranger to the slightly elevated service and highly elevated price business model, I book the flight. I'm a little early so I make my way to the nearly brand new Delta Sky Club at MSY. It's new, the gumbo is tasty, the wifi is fast. Life isn't bad. Until I get the phone call from Megan. Me: Hi sweetie Megan: what the fuck does "out for revenge mean?" Me: It means I'm out for revenge. I gotta do some things. Megan: What things? We're supposed to have dinner with my brother tomorrow night! Me: Uh. It's a long story. How was your exit interview? Megan: It was fine. I'm leaving early today. Me: Did you go back to your station yet? Megan: No Me: You should stop there again before you leave. Megan: Why? The airport PA screeches boarding announcement for my flight. Me: They're calling my flight. I gotta run. Megan: Flight? What? Me: Gotta hop. Buy potatoes. See you tomorrow night! I hang up and hightail it for the gate. I pop in and see the pilots before we leave and ask them what are the odds we get 31 via the expressway today. He says he was just loading it into the box. I tell him the last time I did 31 via the expressway into LGA at the Delta Museum sim, it was not good. In fact it was the worst thing to hit new york since a bunch of muslims on a tuesday in September. He laughs. The ride into LGA is smooth as the HMG STG delivery schedule. New York is WINDY as fuck today and bumpy. I peer out the window of the left side of the plane and I get a beautiful close up photo of the statue of liberty and Ellis island. Wait. We're supposed to get 31 via the expressway. We should be on the localizer for LGA runway 4. That puts us right over my aunts place in Bay Ridge looking at the Verazanno. We're not getting 31, they're probably going to take us up over central park, back over da bronx and then in via 22. Sure enough, we land on 22 and I ask the pilots what happened and they said the winds shifted and they had to turn the airport around. Eh, no biggie. I've seen it once, I'll see it again. It's a great approach to fly and if you ever get to experience it, it's fucking magical. We land at LGA a few minutes late and the weather is cold, crisp and windy. I have a short connection but I head to the LGA sky club in terminal D. Life is good. I crack the laptop and do some work and as I close the laptop as they call my flight I see the very beginnings of light snow. I'm from Louisiana. I've never seen snow before. This scares me. I walk to the gate and I board in group 1 and take my first class seat. The plane is half empty. I walk up and chat with the pilots and they tell me that with the snow we are going to deice with type 1 fluid and anti ice with type 4 fluid. We will be a little delayed. As I gaze out the window from my seat, it's snowing and blowing even more. Ten minutes later, the boarding door closes and we start to push back. Conditions have worsened significantly. We can't see the next plane in front of us, things have turned into not quite whiteout but very concerning to this southern boy. The pilots tell us we are number 3 for the deicing truck and I gaze out onto the runway. It's whiter than an Ohio MAGA rally. Fuck me to tears. We deice as I check the weather in Pittsburgh. Rain/Freezing rain/Snow/wintry mix. I've never driven in snow. Fuck. Pucker factor increasing. I pull out my burner and send a message to Mrs. Fluffy and tell her I'm at the deice pad and will be there soon. We have a bumpy ride all the way across Pennsylvania and land about 30 minutes late. Hertz has me in the presidents circle but there is not a single car with local plates. I downgrade to a 2020 white Toyota Corolla since it's the only thing with PA plates on it and I hightail it to the venue. I talk to the waitstaff and tell them I'm crashing the party and ask them to get me a tray and a vest with a nametag. The staff is laughing their ass off at my idea. I message Mrs. Fluffy and she thinks the idea is HYSTERICAL. She can't wait. I tell her I'll be there at 645. T minus 60 minutes until Fluffy Arrival I've never been to this part of Pennsylvania. To be honest, I am a Philly guy. The people there are angry, drunken, profane and love cheese steaks. They're my kind of people. I've never been to a Sheetz or Primanti Brothers. However, fluffy tells me some stories about how he and his wife have a good time over at the meadows. I have NEVER been to a racino before, and ever since I was nearly arrested at Wynn Las Vegas - I've been a little scared. However, it's just down the road and as some of you know, I just came into a shit ton of money. This is not going to end well. I drive down interstate 79 and whip into the north parking garage at The Meadows. My pre-packed bag has four days of clothes, underwear, socks and PJ's, two kruggerands and $10,000 in cash just in case i need to flee the country. I pull out the ten dimes and make my way into the racino. The Meadows is HUGE. I get past the security checkpoint and walk around and I don't see any table games. I see a large well appointed poker room and see two craps tables working at the other end of the hall. I have no idea what table limits or odds are. I saunter up to the table. Me: How's the temperature guys? Degen1: Eh it's up and down. Me: As long as it's not as cold as outside amirte? Degen2: haha yeah yinz been outside today? freezing rain and that! Me: I don't know these words but whatever. The point is on 6. I drop $10,000 on the table. Me: Change only. Gimme 1 small and 9 thousands. Pit Boss: do you have a players club card? Me: never played here before, don't worry about it for now. Pit Boss: Okay! The dice come out, it hits jimmy hicks and the dealers pay out all the bets. I look at the table, the minimums are $5 and everyone has pass line and numbers. NOBODY has true odds. Fuck it. Time to show them how it's done. I drop $10 on the pass line. Dice are out. Point is four. I look up and down the table and nobody is making odds bets. I look down at my rack and drop $100 behind my bet. Dice come out. Six hard. Me: Hey pit boss! How much can I put behind the line? Pit Boss: We'll let you go to 10x, so we can take $100 on your pass line. It looks like you got $100 there but we'd count it out and if you were over we'll give you the extra back. Me: solid, thanks! I look down at my watch. Fluffy is due to arrive at 1900hrs. I told Mrs. I would be there at 1845. It's 15 minutes to drive from the garage to the party which means I need to be on the highway at 1830 which means I need to be out of the casino and cashed out and walking to the garage by 1825. She sends me a message asking me where I'm at. I tell her I'm at the meadows and.....fuck it's 1821. Fuck it. Go big or go home. I take my pass line up to $500 and shove $5000 behind the line. Everyone at the table is looking at me funny. I give $2400 to the dealers and tell them to split me the 6/8. Pit Boss: are you SURE you don't want a players club card? Me: no time! throw them bones! The whip slides the dice over to the fella next to me. He throws. Dealer: Four hard, four the hard way, four. Everyone at the table is looking at me funny. My $500 pass line bet has paid even money. The $5000 behind the line pays true odds on a 4, at 2:1. I look down at my watch. 1829. The dealers are stacking and distributing chips with a fervor. Me: Take down my 6/8 and color me up. Dealer: You got it boss! As they color up my chips, I tell Mrs. fluffy I just won a ton of money at the meadows and I'm cashing out now. I take a $100 chip, hold it up and ask if the dealers want to play it or drop it Dealer: It's up to you man, we don't mind. I plant the chip down on the pass line and tell them put half on the pass line ferda boys, drop the other half. They all LITERALLY clap and thank me. Me: One more thing, where's the cashier? They point me to the cage with the aplomb of a new airport ramper. I leave the casino with a giant wad of cash bulging in my jeans. There's no line and they count out all my cash quickly. I look down at my watch as she's counting out the last of the small bills. 1835. Fuck. I'm going to be late. I hate being late. I jog out to the north garage and hightail it back up interstate 79. I have never driven in snow, at night, or for that matter driven in Pennsylvania before until now. It's snowing, it's dark, the speed limit is 55 and I am the SLOWEST guy in the right lane at 80 and people are passing me going WTF ARE YOU DOING GET OFF THE ROAD judging by the horns and the flashing headlights. I am HAULING ass back up to the venue and I park the Toyota in a handicapped spot as I race into the venue. I find Harriet, the party planner she hands me a vest with a nametag. My transition from Will the gun dealer to Mario the waiter will completed as soon as he arrives. I get fluffy's favorite drink and a plate of some food set up on a tray and I hide in the back waiting for his arrival. Here's a photo. https://imgur.com/yZP2FuI As if it were choreographed to the minute, Mrs. Fluffy walks him in the front door at 7PM to a room full of people as a birthday surprise. He had not seen it coming. He begins making the rounds seeing everyone and saying hello. It's a big party so it takes some time. I hang back for a few minutes and let him do his thing and I give my phone to one of his friends and tell them to get this next part on video as I put on the vest and adjust the nametag. Friendo: Sure thing "mario" Me: shut up and just do some good camera work! I take the tray of beverage and minature charcuterie plate over to fluffy as he's greeting the party guests and sneak up behind him. He's taking his grand old time working the room. In my best italian Pittsburgh native accent I can muster, I'm holding the tray and I walk in front of him and put on a great big smile. Me: Can I get yinz something to drink? Or some charcuterie and that? Fluffy: ....... (I now feign anger) Me: OR IS THIS FOOD AND BEVERAGE NOT DAMAGED ENOUGH FOR YOUR LIKING?!?!?!??!?!?! YOU FAT DIABETIC OLD FUCK! Fluffy: What.....are you.........doing here? Me: Mrs told us about it and I figured I should give you a hard time after your comments this morning. Would you like some food? You know, airplane noises make the food taste better. Or are you a little too old for that? Lets give it a try! (I grab a carrot stick and fly it into his face by making very loud airplane noises in a ballroom full of fluffy's closest friends and family making a gigantic scene with people wondering is this a joke or what horrors are about to come next. No, this is not a joke, this really happened. Ask anyone who was there.) Fluffy: I'm good thanks Me: you sure? (more airplane noises followed by a carrot slice raping his mouth) Fluffy is shocked and awed. I tell him to go work the room and to have a happy birthday party. There's an open bar and I help myself to a double ginger ale, neat. I find some millennials and we chat about Hawaiian shirts and stuff and they think my comedy is HILARIOUS. Unlike most of reddit. Fluffy saunters over and we chat some more and he's wondering WTF. I told him the wife planned it all months in advance. Fluffy: You know u/xxxwirtydhorexxx is here. Me: That's really funny. Fluffy: No, he's really here. Me: Bullshit. Then where is he? Fluffy: He's right in front of you, 12 o'clock. I don't see him. Then I look down and there's a guy in a boonie hat. I didn't recognize him without the dress. Me: Oh dear god. He's really here isn't he? Wirty gets up and walks over and he's like HI! I THOUGHT IT WAS YOU! We have a bunch of really really awkward conversation that involves him inviting me to sit next to him and me running over to Mrs. Fluffy asking her to save me from wirty. She finds a spot at her table by her kids for me. I forget his present, even though his wife said no presents and there's a table full of booze, scratchers, and gun stuff. I drive back up to the hotel to grab it and give it to him. He has no idea what it is. You all should ask him about it. I give it to him and Wirty starts complaining about normies. Fluffy: Where are you staying? Me: The Hilton just down the street Fluffy: Oh, the one on the top of the hill? Me: That's why it's the HILL-ton. Everyone groans. Me and wirty talk and he weirds me out and demands to stand next to me in the group photo. I tell more jokes and the millenial group loves me. We close the place down and head back to fluffy's hotel. BOY HOWDY LET ME TELL YOU.........if you thought MY stories were longwinded and pointless you have not met some of fluffy's friends! His local raconteur buddy was telling us at 145AM his story about being fucked by the Virginia state police for speeding. Yeah. I dump him off at his hotel and I head back up to my room. It's 3AM by the time I shower and sleep. SUNDAY JANUARY 19TH 2020 My alarm wakes me up at 9AM. My back is killing me. My head is pounding. It's 21 degrees outside. Fuck this noise. I go back to sleep. The hotel phone rings. Me: Go for Hayden Operator: I have a fluffy butternut on the phone for you. Me: Go ahead and connect us Operator: Thank you (sound of dial tone) I'm not making this up. I grab my phone and call fluffy and we have brunch at the meadows with the mrs. It's fun, we talk guns, life, liberty and the pursuit of extra sides of marinara. I hang out with them at the slot machines until it's time to head to the airport. I gas up at the sheetz next to the racetrack and I fly back home in coach since my status on delta is radioactive dirt. The incoming flight is late from Atlanta which means we leave late for Atlanta and i get back home 2.5 hours later than I expected. Laundry is running and I am unpacking as Megan walks in the door. Me: Hi! Megan: Hi. Back from revenge so soon? Me: Yeah. I'm actually late. How was dinner with your brother? Megan: Good. He took me to olive garden. So tell me what was so important you had to go out for revenge and come back the next day? (I tell her the story) Megan: Wait a minute. Your friend insulted you as a joke, so you bought a last minute first class ticket to new york and pennsylvania to fly to his surprise birthday party to yell at him in person, in january in 21 degree weather? Me: Yeah. Megan: Why would you do that? Me: Well he said that you're damaged goods. He wasn't insulting me, he was insulting you. I didn't like that. Megan: You cannot be serious. Me: I am serious. Megan: and don't call you Shirley? Me: You're weird. Megan: I'm not the one that just flew across the country to go "out for revenge", and I'm the weird one? Me: (goofy smile) Megan: (goofy laughter) Have a lovely holiday weekend everyone!
The Prestige: The prestige is about two stage magicians and their journey from partners to rivals. In this Christopher Nolan masterpiece these two men find themselves at odds following a catalytic tragedy. A usual stage trick of theirs involved Julia, Robert Angier’s (played by Hugh Jackman) wife, being tied and locked up then lowered into a locked glass cage filled with water, which she then would escape from. Starting off all as friends, things were going peachily until Alfred Borden (played by Christian Bale) decided to change up the act and use a different and more difficult knot for the trick. This was against the wishes of Angier but Borden still wanted to go through with it. That night on the stage Julia wasn’t able to get out. In one of the most frustrating scenes I can think of in cinematic history, Borden and Angier (Batman and Wolverine) watch idly by in horror as Cutter (played by Michael Caine, or more famously known as Alfred) is trying to break the glass detaining Julia. Because Borden made the change without Angier knowing beforehand this caused a rivalry that continued to spiral end escalate throughout the years. As competing magicians they continually and tirelessly worked to disclose each other’s new tricks and sabotage their acts. The actions of sabotage eventually lead them to extremes which result in tragic consequences. It starts with tricks such as catching a bullet. Once Angier discovers the trick he sabotages Borden, ultimately leading to Borden losing a finger. The final magic tricks from each involves cloning, prison, and murder? A star studded cast of Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson and many more, this is one movie that deserves to be watched by all. Thor Ragnarok: Thor Ragnarok in my opinion is the greatest of all 23 currently released marvel movies. Taika Waititi is a creative genius and was allowed to use those skills in his adaptation for this movie. The aesthetic makeup of this movie is bold, vibrant and quite simply childish, exactly something you would anticipate the inner workings of Taika’s mind to be like. What makes this film different from all the rest is the lightheartedness and quality humor that percolates throughout the entirety of this theatric masterpiece. Snide humor such as Thor and Hulk’s reunion in the arena of Sakar when Thor says “we’re friends from work” to the spectators. This line was a from a Make-A-Wish child who suggested it for the scene when he visited the set. Nearly every scene with Korg is an instant favorite, filled with one-liners made even better by the New Zealand accent. To top Korg off he is played by none other than director Taika Waititi. One thing that I did find irksome however was highlighted when watching “how it should have ended”. In the film Thor is easily incapacitated by a shocking device that is planted on him by Valkyrie. It makes you question how, if the device works so effectively on Thor then why wouldn’t they use it on Hela? The biggest change in this movie from the others, for Thor’s character perspective at least (pre endgame), was when Stan Lee hacked off his luscious locks. It seemed to completely change my image of the character but for the better. Originally, I hated that they would do such a thing. However, I like the new look and once he went back to long hair I found myself almost longing for the short haired version. When people who are against Marvel/ Superhero movies for some reason this is the film to suggest. It isn’t like all the others which cause you to feel almost comatose because the atmosphere, storyline, or whatever is not the same. Instead of responding to the question of “how was the movie” with “it was a typical superhero flick” Thor Ragnarok warrants a better response, a positive response, one that doesn’t group it with all the other superhero movies. The Patriot: Mel Freaking Gibson. This film is a journey and a half of the American Revolutionary war. Here’s the storyline given on IMDB “It is 1776 in colonial South Carolina. Benjamin Martin, a French-Indian war hero who is haunted by his past, now wants nothing more than to live peacefully on his small plantation, and wants no part of a war with the most powerful nation in the world, Great Britain. Meanwhile, his two eldest sons, Gabriel and Thomas, can't wait to enlist in the newly formed "Continental Army." When South Carolina decides to join the rebellion against England, Gabriel immediately signs up to fight...without his father's permission. But when Colonel William Tavington, British dragoon, infamous for his brutal tactics, comes and burns the Martin Plantation to the ground, tragedy strikes. Benjamin quickly finds himself torn between protecting his family and seeking revenge along with being a part of the birth of a new, young, and ambitious nation.” One of the greatest cinematic antagonists Col. William Tavington is the catalyzing factor for all sorts of emotional highs. Being the cause for the deaths of Benjamin Martin’s children at the onset of the movie, you find yourself cringing each time he makes an appearance. If you’re familiar with the Game of Thrones T.V. series then you will understand well when I say he gives the same emotional trauma as King Joffrey did. It’s not only because he killed Eddard Stark but the way he did it that caused you to despise him, among other things, that draws remarkable contrast to the emotional “attachment” you feel towards Colonel Tavington. It doesn’t help that one of the son’s he kills is portrayed by the late Heath Ledger. Two fun facts about Heath Ledger in relation to this film are such: · “He didn’t work for a year because he only got offers for teen heartthrob roles. He was about to quit acting, and return to Australia, when he was cast in the film.” (And thank goodness because he is an incredible actor and we would have missed out on the greatest villain portrayal of all time in the Joker had he not remained in the acting world) · “Heath Ledger said researching the American Revolutionary War for the film answered his question of why Americans “wave their flag so high.” “It’s because they went to hell and back to build their country.” Being an American this film promotes ample feelings of patriotism and pride. Despite the fictional aspects it is always a great addition to any movie when applicable. Something about being reminded that the United States of America is the greatest and most skilled, powerful and dangerous militaristic forces can’t be undersold (some other great movie examples are Lone Survivor, 13 Hours and American Sniper) Warrior: Crying can be defined as: “to utter inarticulate sounds, especially of lamentation, grief, or suffering, usually with tears.” This emotion is not an unusual one to experience when watching your typical rom-com or drama, even a pixar or dreamworks animation can cause the waterworks to start flowing. Maybe there is something wrong with me but I have never been brought to the point of tears while watching a movie. Not when they put down Marley in Marley and Me, nor when Iron Man died at the end of Endgame, not even when Mufasa was killed by Scar in the Lion King (and we all know that that is at least in the top 3 of the saddest cinematic scenes of all time). So, how is it that the closest I got to crying was in a movie whose storyline is: “Two brothers face the fight of a lifetime - and the wreckage of their broken family - within the brutal, high-stakes world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting in Lionsgate's action/drama, WARRIOR. A former Marine, haunted by a tragic past, Tommy Riordan returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh and enlists his father, a recovered alcoholic and his former coach, to train him for an MMA tournament awarding the biggest purse in the history of the sport. As Tommy blazes a violent path towards the title prize, his brother, Brendan, a former MMA fighter unable to make ends meet as a public school teacher, returns to the amateur ring to provide for his family. Even though years have passed, recriminations and past betrayals keep Brendan bitterly estranged from both Tommy and his father. But when Brendan's unlikely rise as an underdog sets him on a collision course with Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront the forces that tore them apart, all the while waging the most intense, winner-takes-all battle of their lives.“ Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is not the most emotionally stimulating category but yet this movie was able to bring me nigh unto tears, twice. The first was a scene involving Tommy Conlon (portrayed by the talented Tom Hardy) and his father Paddy Conlon (played by Nick Nolte). Throughout the film you feel bad for Paddy as he is just trying to make amends for the terrible father figure he was, on his journey to find his way back into either of his sons polar opposite lives. It climaxes for him when he is at the casino and is emotionally destroyed by his son. You next see him in his hotel suite listening to a tape recorder and drunk (which destroyed his sobriety that he had been working so hard on so he could be allowed back into Brendan Conlon’s life). Tommy takes over and helps his father get into bed then comforts him as he sobs himself to sleep in his son’s arms. The second scene is the finale. Brothers Tommy and Brendan fight their way through a major tournament to ultimately meet each other in the championship. Here’s the script of the final scene: “Brendan climbs into the cage as the house LIGHTS DIM. The crowd is going bonkers. And they EXPLODE when Tommy appears at the end of the tunnel with his hoodie up and begins his march toward the cage. The Marines shower him with cheers and "Hoo-ahs." The girls scream. The rest of the audience stamps their feet and chants his name. But he acknowledges no one, and the hard look on his face never wavers. INT. COLT'S PITTSBURGH FIGHT CLUB - MOMENTS LATER Fenroy and the crew on the edge of their seats, all staring at the big screen. ON TV SCREEN: TOMMY GETTING GREASED UP AND CLIMBING INTO THE CAGE. INT. TAXI - SAME A nervous Paddy sits in the back of the cab as the DRIVER navigates through holiday traffic. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA CAGE - SAME And here it is. The two brothers face to face in the middle of the ring, staring each other down. Tommy with his usual controlled fire, Brendan intense, searching his brother's eyes for some flicker of recognition. JOSH ROSENTHAL Gentlemen, this is the final. Five rounds. I expect a clean fight. Obey my commands at all times. Defend yourselves at all times. Touch gloves, go back, let's do this. As Rosenthal finishes his instructions, Brendan peers into Tommy's empty corner. BRENDAN Where's Pop? Tommy turns without answering. All business. Brendan returns to his corner. Looks at Tess. So much emotion on her face. 96. JOSH ROSENTHAL Gentlemen, are you ready? Are you ready? Let's go to war! Tommy comes right after his brother. Just like with his previous three opponents. A natural wrecking machine. Frank screams at Brendan to stay calm, but Tommy is all over him, POUNDING on him with savage intensity. As bad as the other fights were for Brendan, this one is worse. EXT. STARLIGHT DRIVE-IN - SAME The crowd is tense and subdued. It's not going well. ON MOVIE SCREEN: TOMMY KEEPS TATTOOING BRENDAN WITH HEAD SHOTS. BEATS HIS BROTHER WITH MALICE. IT'S HARD TO WATCH. INT. COLT'S PITTSBURGH FIGHT CLUB - SAME Fenroy and company thoroughly enjoying themselves. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA - SAME Tommy continues to batter Brendan, then he swoops in, picks him up, and SLAMS his big brother into the ground. Then he does it again. And again. And again. Brendan, the wind knocked out of him, is on his back, trying to protect himself from Tommy, who mounts him and starts blasting away with a BLUR of lefts and rights. The only thing that saves Brendan is the HORN. Which Tommy ignores, blasting his brother with a brutal CHEAP SHOT to the jaw well after the round had ended. TESS What was that! FRANK C'mon, Josh! Brendan lays on the ground as Josh Rosenthal pulls Tommy off him and admonishes him for the cheap shot. Tommy stares at Brendan. You want more? Frank runs into the cage with the stool and Brendan limps over to him and sits down. Brendan stares at Tommy, who paces in his corner like a caged animal. FRANK (CONT'D) Sit down. Look at me. Look at me, Brendan! Let it go! Breathe. (MORE) 97. FRANK (CONT'D) Beethoven. He's coming hard, just like we planned. I want you to angle out, hit, and move. BRENDAN Angle out, hit, and move. FRANK Good. Breathe. Relax. He's not your brother, right? He's just a guy who's in the way. Josh Rosenthal claps his hands. It's time. Frank glares at him as he picks up the stool. FRANK (CONT'D) I'm taking a little more time for the cheap shot! Do your job, Josh! Tess sits uncomfortably in her chair. Her husband's face is a mess. In front of her, Callen and Sheridan commiserate. J.J., the TapouT crew, and Colt Boyd look on. The electricity in the crowd is greater than ever. They want a champion. EXT. STARLIGHT DRIVE-IN - MOMENTS LATER Very quiet at the Drive-In. It's tough for everyone to watch what's happening to Brendan. ON MOVIE SCREEN: ROUND TWO. A REPEAT OF ROUND ONE. TOMMY JUST WHALING ON BRENDAN AND BRENDAN TRYING TO HANG ON FOR DEAR LIFE. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA - SAME The Marines in the crowd are all on their feet, screaming for Tommy to end it. The chant starts up again. 15,000 strong. "Tommy! Tommy! Tommy!" Frank tries to instruct Brendan, but he can't hear him, and he's too overwhelmed. Tommy presses Brendan against the cage and does the same thing Koba did. He lifts him off the ground, carries him on a dead run, and body SLAMS him so hard the cage shakes. Then Tommy mounts him and starts pounding away again. The HORN sounds ending the round, but this time it's Brendan who pops up and pushes Tommy. Tommy shoves him back. Rosenthal has to separate them as the crowd roars its approval. 98. CALLEN (V.O.) Here we go, Mom! Time to lock up your china, the boys are at it again! INT. COLT'S PITTSBURGH FIGHT CLUB - LATER Fenroy and company watching the big screen. ON TV SCREEN: ROUND THREE. MORE TOMMY DOMINATION, BUT BRENDAN IS SOMEHOW TAKING IT. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA CAGE - SAME Again, Tommy is on top of Brendan, trying to ground and pound him into submission. Frank, leaning on the apron nearby, screams at Brendan. FRANK Switch! Switch! Tommy tries to pound Brendan out, but Brendan latches on to Tommy's arm, wraps his legs around him, and REVERSES position, just as he did with Midnight, the Dane, and Koba. Tommy is in deep trouble. Brendan pushes him face down on the canvas and cranks his shoulder. There's no escape. SHERIDAN (V.O.) Oh my God, that's a deep omoplata! CALLEN (V.O.) He's doing it again! Conlon's doing it again! This is going to be over! Brendan applies intense pressure. Tommy's shoulder is contorted, WRENCHED backwards, and his face is a mask of pain. Tommy's in agony, but he won't give in. BRENDAN Tap, Tommy! Tommy SHRIEKS like an animal, but still won't quit. In fact, he elbows Brendan in the face in defiance. Brendan in turn cranks the shoulder even more. It's at the breaking point. BRENDAN (CONT'D) Tap! The shoulder twists. Twists. And then, audible only to Tommy and Brendan, CRACK. Dislocated. Then the HORN ending the round. 99. Brendan, worried he hurt his brother, leans over to see if Tommy's alright, but Tommy, like a wounded animal, leaps up and grabs Brendan around the throat with his one good arm. He shoves him all the way across the cage and into the fence, and it takes Rosenthal and Frank to separate them. EXT. STARLIGHT DRIVE-IN - SAME The crowd fired up by Brendan's comeback, and mesmerized by what's taking place in the cage between the brothers. It's complete and utter chaos in there. ON MOVIE SCREEN: TOMMY PACES IN HIS CORNER, HIS SHOULDER WRECKED. JOSH ROSENTHAL TRIES TO SEE IF HE'S ALRIGHT BUT TOMMY TURNS AWAY. HE'S NOT QUITTING AND NO ONE'S GOING TO TELL HIM HE HAS TO. INT. COLT'S PITTSBURGH FIGHT CLUB - SAME Sheer amazement that Tommy didn't submit. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA CAGE - SAME Tommy, flap down, tears of pain pouring down his face, stands defiantly in his corner. In the other corner, Frank attends Brendan. In the crowd, Tess covers her mouth. She can't believe what Tommy allowed to happen to him. Frank puts the stool down and gives Brendan some water. Brendan's face is wracked with guilt and concern over his brother. BRENDAN I popped his shoulder. FRANK Relax, breathe. BRENDAN I heard it tear. FRANK You popped his shoulder? Good. I want you to pop his other shoulder. This is not what Brendan wants to hear. He looks over to Josh Rosenthal. BRENDAN Josh! 100. Frank snaps. Grabs Brendan by the face. FRANK Hey! Hey! No Josh! Look at me! You got two rounds left! You need both rounds! Go in there, kick him in the head, take him down, and finish him! Rosenthal claps his hands. Frank exits the cage. The wounded Tommy stands in his corner, his ruined left arm hanging low. Brendan makes eye contact with him. BRENDAN Tommy! What are you doing? TOMMY Shut up! C'mon. BRENDAN What are you that crazy? JOSH ROSENTHAL Let's go to war! The BELL sounds. Round Four begins. Tommy throws useless right jabs. He's one handed and has no chance. Brendan stays away from him, not wanting to hurt his brother. BRENDAN What are you doing? It's over! Frank screams at Brendan from cageside to take the wounded Tommy out, but Brendan is reluctant. BRENDAN (CONT'D) It's over, Tommy. C'mon. We don't have to do this. Tommy and Brendan circle each other. Tommy throwing rights and wincing in agony at any movement. Brendan stares at him. Everything about him says "Quit, Tommy." But Tommy won't. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA TUNNEL - SAME Paddy runs up the tunnel, his All Access pass around his neck, and enters the arena. Sees Brendan and Tommy in the cage. Quickly figures out what the situation is. 101. EXT. STARLIGHT DRIVE-IN - SAME Zito and the kids staring at the screen, imploring Brendan to take the helpless Tommy out and win the championship. INT. BOARDWALK HALL CAGE - SAME Brendan continues to circle and not engage. Frank is livid. He knows he'll lose the fight on the judges' scorecards if he doesn't do something. FRANK Finish him! You finish him! Tommy keeps throwing defiant right jabs at Brendan. Finally, with no choice, Brendan fires back. He batters the defenseless Tommy up against the cage and POUNDS away at him, blasting his left shoulder with punches that make Tommy wince in pain. It's anyone's guess how he can take it. Brendan presses his brother up against the cage. Begging him to quit. But Tommy merely responds by elbowing Brendan in the face again. This sets the older brother off, and he resumes pounding on Tommy until the HORN sounds and Rosenthal pulls Brendan away. JOSH ROSENTHAL Break! Break! Brendan heads back to his stool as Tommy leans against the cage in agony. The Marines scream for him, but his eyes are glazed over. It's unthinkable that he hasn't broken yet. From near cageside, Paddy looks to the corner and makes eye contact with Brendan. They exchange a small look of understanding. A NOD. They both know what needs to be done. EXT. STARLIGHT DRIVE-IN - SAME The crowd wants a victory. Tito and the boys start the "Mis- ter C!" chant again. ON MOVIE SCREEN: FRANK ADMONISHES BRENDAN IN HIS CORNER. IT'S OBVIOUS WHAT HE'S TELLING HIM, BUT BRENDAN'S EYES ARE FAR AWAY. HE'S NOT LISTENING TO A WORD. INT. BOARDWALK HALL CAGE - MOMENTS LATER Tommy and Brendan stand for Round Five. Tommy's face is battered after Round Four and Brendan's face is ruined. 102. In the crowd, the "Tommy" CHANT begins in earnest. In fact, it may be louder than ever. Having done the impossible and carried on with one arm, Tommy is more superhuman and heroic than ever before. But his face tells another story. Soaked in pain and anguish. All his stoic walls crumbling down. INT. COLT'S PITTSBURGH FIGHT CLUB - MOMENTS LATER All eyes riveted to the screen, where the brothers circle each other as in the fourth round. ON SCREEN: MORE PAINFUL STABBING JABS FROM TOMMY. BRENDAN GIVES HIM ONE LAST, LONG LOOK, BUT TOMMY RESPONDS BY KICKING HIM IN THE LEG. FINALLY, LEFT NO CHOICE, BRENDAN SWOOPS. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA CAGE - SAME Brendan SLAMS Tommy to the ground. His face is contorted in merciless pain. Brendan slips his forearm under Tommy's neck and squeezes. Tommy struggles, but he's got one arm and there's NO ESCAPE. His face getting red from lack of oxygen. As an anguished Tess and a shaken Paddy look on, Brendan CHOKES his brother. As he does, he pleads with him. BRENDAN I'm sorry, Tommy! I'm sorry! Tommy continues to struggle. BRENDAN (CONT'D) Tap, Tommy! Tap! Tears pour down Tommy's face. Brendan is crushing his wind pipe. Tommy's eyes bulge. BRENDAN (CONT'D) I love you, Tommy! I love you! Tommy, about to pass out, no more air to breathe, slowly opens his left hand, looks at Brendan, and TAPS his shoulder on the Conlon family crest. Finally submitting. EXT. STARLIGHT DRIVE-IN - SAME While most of the crowd erupts in celebration and the kids leap into each other's arms, Joe Zito stares at the screen. ON MOVIE SCREEN: AS PEOPLE ENTER THE RING, BRENDAN AND TOMMY STAY ON THE GROUND, BRENDAN CRADLING HIS BROTHER IN HIS ARMS. 103. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA CAGE - SAME Frank makes eye contact with the jubilant Tess. Indicates she should meet them in the locker room. Meanwhile, people pour into the cage. Frank pushes them aside, keeping them away from Brendan and Tommy, who remain on the ground, exhausted. Tommy to begins to WEEP. INT. COLT'S PITTSBURGH FIGHT CLUB - SAME Silence at Colt's. Everyone spent from what they've seen. ON TV SCREEN: CHAOS IN THE RING. BRENDAN HOLDS TOMMY IN HIS ARMS AND PUSHES AWAY A DOCTOR. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA CAGE - SAME Tommy buries his head in Brendan's chest. A torrent of sobbing gushes from him, years of pain pouring out in heavy bursts. From the crowd, Paddy stares into the cage and watches as Brendan comforts his little brother, then helps him to his feet. Callen, Sheridan, and J.J. Riley make their way inside for the post-fight interview, cameras trailing behind them. With Frank continuing to run interference, Brendan pushes through the crush of people, arm around Tommy, and exits the cage. The crowd parts for Tommy and Brendan. Paddy watches them, a tear in his eye. He's overwhelmed by the sight of his two boys together again. As the noise from the arena fades, the brothers walk through the wild crowd and continue on through the tunnel, arm in arm... THE END For me, the part the just punched me right through the gut was when Brandon started talking to Tommy, “I’m sorry, Tommy! I’m sorry!... Tap, Tommy! Tap!... I Love you, Tommy! I love you!”. As soon as this is all over Today by The National begins to play and it just causes you to melt inside. Warrior Is A Cinematic Masterpiece! And, if it can almost make me cry then it has my respect. Batman Trilogy: Batman Begins – The Beginning of one of the greatest trilogies out there. Christian Bale accepted the mantle of portraying the caped crusader and brought us one of the finest live action superhero movies. In a reversed dogmatism, the first film of the series was the worst of the three. Were I to make any changes to batman in general, in all the adaptations out there, the “batman voice” is one of my least favorite things. Why in the world does he need to talk like that? If people aren’t able to piece together who he is then changing his voice is more so just an awkward attempt to add another aspect to the film. Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors in Hollywood and Batman is no exception. Liam Neeson is a legend and making him the main villain, Ra’s Al Ghul,, made me happy. The Dark Knight – The Dark Knight is the best of the three, and that is because of Heath Ledger and his genius take as the Joker. Chalk full of one-liners his performance was so great that he won an academy award. - “Do you wanna know how I got these scars?” - “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” - “How about a magic trick? I’m gonna make this pencil disappear. Ta-daa! It’s… it’s gone.” He showed off more talents than with just his acting. He directed both homemade videos that The Joker sends to GCN. As Christian Bale takes this journey of toeing the line with one of the greatest villains you’re constantly on edge, as is typical of a Christopher Nolan movie, wondering how close Batman is really going to get to breaking his one rule of killing someone. One dislike or complaint that I had for the movie was the casting choice for Rachael. Although she is Jake Gyllenhalls sister, I don’t have much care for her as an actress and feel like they could have, and should have, cast someone else in the role, especially since she does play an important part in not just The Dark Knight, but through into the next movie as well. The Dark Knight Rises – The voice of Bane is a heavy favorite among people. Plenty of memes have been created using Tom Hardy’s portrayal of him. Despite being just 5 foot 9 inches and Christian Bale 6 foot, the camera work makes it seem as though bane is a behemoth of a man compared to him. He was too big (tone wise) from his role in Warrior so in the dark knight they made him put on a little bit more of mass to make him look like he did in the movie. I remember the scene where he picked up batman and broke his back and his dialogue “I was wondering what would break first, your spirit, or your body”. The scene sent chills throughout my body and now every time the movie is on, no matter where I am or who I am with, there is without fail at least one person who will say the line along with him. When I first heard that Anne Hathaway was going to be playing catwoman I was a little upset. However, she did an incredible job and I ended up really liking her performance and my mind was changed. In this concluding film of the trilogy I was left at the end hoping that they were going to make another film with Robin since they teased him but unfortunately that never came to fruition. Peanut Butter Falcon: Top 3 movies of all time. Peanut Butter Falcon is the story of three people, Zak (Zack Gottsagen), Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) and Tyler (Shia LaBeouf). Let’s start with Zak. Zak is a down-syndrome kid who is confined to a nursing home because he has no family. He loves wrestling and wants to attend his favorite wrestler’s (Salt Water Redneck) wrestling school. One night with the help of his roomie, Carl, he covers himself up with lotion and slips through the bars that were put on his window since he tried to escape just a few days prior. As he is hiding out in a boat, in just his whitey tighties, the boat is suddenly boarded and takes off through the marshes. Eleanor. Sweet Eleanor, a nursing home employee is responsible for Zak. Upon his runaway she is commanded essentially by her boss to find him before he has to report it to the authorities and government. Tyler. The getaway boat driver is the main character. He lost it all essentially when his older brother died in a car crash. In an act of retaliation he burns down a fishers equipment and jumps on his boat to escape from them. This boat had a stowaway hiding in the back who almost got him caught, that stowaway was Zak. Initially Tyler is trying to get rid of Zak as soon as they get to some civilization but since Zak is determined to get to the wrestling school Tyler agrees to help him get there (after a few unfortunate events that sort of force him into it.) So Zak and Tyler, Shia LaBeouf and a down syndrome kid, brodies, set out on their journey with Eleanor trying desperately to find Zak. Tyler and Zak develop a very special and close bond with each other as they are trekking to their destination. Eventually Eleanor catches up to them and is livid at Tyler since she ran into him a few days before and he lied about knowing anything about Zak. Zak forces Eleanor’s hand into coming with them on their journey as he throws her keys into the water. The three of them set out and become a makeshift ragtag family. This is just one of those movies that you can watch multiple times a year and not get sick of. Additionally, it is because of this film that Shia LaBeouf has started to make a resurgence into the film industry and recreated himself. If you watch an emotional video you can see how much Zak changed Shia’s life and it only adds to the connection you feel to them and their characters as you embrace this heart warming adventure tale
Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives. PREVIOUS YEARS ARCHIVE:1991 • 1992 • 1993 • 1994 • 1995 • 1996 • 1997 • 1998
Dave has officially declared the Monday night wars over. Obviously, both shows are still going on. But WWF is riding an incredible wave of success while WCW is free-falling in self-destruction and he doesn't see that changing anytime soon. Sunday Night Heat did a record 5.09 rating, followed the next night by Raw doing a monstrous 6.46. At one point, Raw was more than doubling Nitro's ratings during certain segments of the show. Add in all the mainstream publicity (Sable in Playboy, TV Guide doing another 4-part covers series but only WWF this time, etc.) and just weeks away from Wrestlemania which will undoubtedly be the biggest money event in WWF history and the biggest non-boxing event in the history of pay-per-view, and WWF is simply on fire right now.
On the flip side, there's WCW. For the last several weeks, Eric Bischoff has apparently been on vacation in France (Dave gets an AWESOME line here, saying it would be more appropriate if he was in Rome playing the fiddle). That left Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan in charge of Nitro this week and Dave says it was possibly the worst TV show put on by a major promotion in history and that Nash and Hogan used the show as a way to get themselves over and went to absurd lengths to basically bury everyone else in the company. When asked about it, Bischoff has basically said he's giving full control to Nash and giving him the chance to sink or swim on his own. Most people feel that Bischoff has pretty much given up and mentally checked out of the company and is looking for a way to get off the Titanic before it sinks. Dave thinks Nitro had to have been designed to fail this week because it takes a lot of thought to actually present a show that terrible, it couldn't have been an accident. He talks about how WCW has had a long tradition of bad booking, dating back to the mid-80s Crockett days where everyone did heel/face turns until the fans didn't care about anyone, screwjob finishes, and the booker pushing himself as the top star (Dusty) and obviously, nothing has changed in the last 10 years. Locker room morale is at rock bottom. Scott Hall is pretty much planning to sit out right now and has talked about suing WCW because it was a WCW employee who ran over his ankle a few weeks ago, injuring him. Benoit, Malenko, guys like them have been forgotten. Bret Hart's burial is complete and he's a midcard nobody now (he worked a 10+ minute match against Van Hammer this week, in case you're wondering). Arn Anderson, one of the top 3 promo guys in the biz, is being phased out. Billy Kidman, arguably the brightest new star in WCW in the last year or so, is barely on TV anymore. Same with Juventud Guerrera, who is the single best wrestler in the U.S. at the moment. Chris Jericho has potential to be the next Shawn Michaels or Ric Flair and he's booked like a nobody and is almost certainly WWF-bound when his contract ends. But we still have nonstop Scott Steiner, Buff Bagwell, Nash, and Hogan. Goldberg is still being booked strong because even WCW isn't foolish enough to totally bury him, but he's not going to be pushed above Hogan (who is turning face) and Dave wouldn't be surprised if they do something stupid like turn Goldberg heel (still a year away from that awful idea). With Ric Flair now being booked as the top heel (at 50 years old) and Hogan as the top babyface, it does nothing to dispel the notion that WCW is the elderly, out of touch company, while WWF is the hot, cool product. People who recently re-signed contracts are wishing they could get out of them and Dave expects nearly anyone who has a chance to go to WWF when their contracts expire will probably make the jump. But aside from all the comparisons of 1999 WCW to 1988 Crockett, Dave says there's one big difference. In 1988, even though morale was bad and the product was suffering, the performers didn't quit. They still tried to put on good shows. But now, in 1999, everyone from the wrestlers, to the announcers, to the front office...all of them have already mentally quit. Almost everyone is just collecting a check and phoning it in at this point and it's never been more obvious. And for that reason, Dave says the game is already over. WWF has won the war.
Vader became the first wrestler in history to win both New Japan's IWGP title and AJPW's Triple Crown title after defeating Akira Taue to win the title recently vacated by Toshiaki Kawada after an injury. Dave says this puts Vader up there alongside Lou Thesz as one of the only wrestlers to hold more versions of major league championships than any other wrestler ever. Vader held the CWA title in Europe in the 80s, which was a bigger deal then than it is now. The UWA title in Mexico (back when they were the top promotion there). IWGP in Japan, 3 times, and the WCW title 3 times, among others. At one point in 1990, he was the CWA, UWA, and IWGP champ all at the same time, which probably makes him the only wrestler to ever hold 3 major world titles on 3 different continents at once.
At the latest UFC PPV, Tito Ortiz got into a confrontation with Ken Shamrock, who was cageside for the fight. After Ortiz won his fight against Shamrock's protege Guy Mezger, he flipped off the Lion's Den corner and then pulled out a t-shirt that said "GAY Mezger is my bitch." Upon seeing the shirt, Shamrock jumped up and climbed the cage and started yelling at Ortiz, saying that if he put the shirt on, he would rip his head off and chastising him for poor sportsmanship. Due to UFC being afraid of any negative publicity these days, the camera pulled away from most of it, but Ortiz had to be pulled away and Shamrock nearly climbed into the cage and had to be restrained. For what it's worth, Shamrock has talked about wanting to fight again, but of course, he's still under WWF contract. He's had discussions with Vince McMahon about allowing him to fight, perhaps sometime this year but no word if it's led anywhere. And Shamrock reportedly wants to fight for the UFC title, and doesn't necessarily have any interest in fighting Ortiz, although now there's obviously some intrigue if that fight were to ever happen. But right now, UFC doesn't have enough visibility on PPV to even be able to afford to bring in Shamrock. But there's talk that UFC is making headway with the PPV providers and they seem confident that they may be able to start getting unbanned soon.
The career of Lizmark, one of Mexican wrestling's all-time legends, may have come to a sudden end due to heart problems. He'd been dealing with chest pains recently and finally checked himself into a hospital only to find out it was bad news. Doctors then told him he absolutely could never wrestle again because he would be risking his life. Dave gives a brief recap of his career, talking about him as one of the innovators of out-of-the-ring dives that have become so popular in Lucha Libre ("tope suicida!") and how his son Lizmark Jr. currently wrestles in WCW. He's 49 and had already been talking of retiring anyway but was holding out hope that he would get to wrestle his final match with his son but the WCW/CMLL deal fell through and they're in different promotions so it looks like it won't happen. In fact, Dave says Lizmark's mask is one of the most famous in Mexican wrestling history and that legacy is the reason Lizmark Jr. has repeatedly refused to lose his mask in WCW, which is why they never push him. (Turns out this wasn't the end for Lizmark. He took about 6 months off and then resumed wrestling a slightly lighter schedule but still pretty regularly for the next several years. And in even better news, he did get to wrestle with his son a bunch of times during those years. He ended up retiring in 2013 and died in 2015).
There's a quiet power struggle taking place within AJPW between Mitsuharu Misawa and Motoko Baba, the widowed wife of Giant Baba. Apparently Motoko Baba wants to oversee everything Misawa does while he wants to be left alone to run the company as he sees fit. He also wants to modernize things a bit. If you're recall, Giant Baba wasn't exactly the most in-touch guy when it came to the modern day wrestling business. (This behind-the-scenes power struggle goes on for the next year or so and eventually, Misawa leaves and takes almost the entire AJPW roster and office staff with him to form Pro Wrestling Noah which damn near puts AJPW out of business overnight. But we'll get there...)
For the first time in AJPW history, Stan Hansen won't be part of the upcoming Champion Carnival tournament. Dave explains how in sumo wrestling, when a grand champion can no longer compete at the highest level, they are usually forced into retirement in order to spare them the indignity of losing to low level fighters. AJPW is basically doing the same thing here. Stan Hansen is without a doubt the biggest foreign star in the history of Japanese wrestling but he's 50 years old now and he simply can't hang with the newer generation of stars. And since it wouldn't make sense to push him as a top star anymore, they don't want him in the tournament losing to midcard guys and looking bad. So to preserve his legendary status, they are simply not putting him in the tournament at all.
Shinya Hashimoto was expected to return to the ring for next month's big NJPW Tokyo Dome show but he won't be ready. He had major reconstructive surgery on his nose after getting it shattered to pieces in the Jan. 4 match against Naoya Ogawa and won't be medically cleared in time for the show.
Riki Choshu has announced that he plans to come out of retirement. It's got a lot of people concerned about the financial condition of NJPW because, when he retired last year, Choshu vowed he would never come back unless the company was in such bad shape that they needed him to. Soooo...now he's coming back, so obviously people are questioning things. NJPW is denying that there are any money issues and in fact, most of the wrestlers who recently re-signed were given big raises. But house show business in the last year or so has declined so who really knows. No word on who or when Choshu will wrestle again (must have been some confusion here because Choshu stayed retired for another year-plus before finally coming out of retirement in mid-2000).
Kenzo Suzuki, a former collegiate rugby star, has started training at the NJPW dojo and will likely debut for the company later this year (he doesn't last long in NJPW. Spends a couple of years in WWE during the mid-00s, and then ends up back in AJPW for most of the last decade).
Nobuhiko Takada is still not giving up the dream of being a real MMA fighter and will face UFC fighter Mark Coleman at the next PRIDE show (this ends up being one of the more notorious "fixed" fights in MMA history, with Coleman clearly taking a dive for Takada).
Speaking of Mark Coleman, WCW offered him $50,000 to come in and work a match against Goldberg and to put him over. But Coleman's people advised him against it and then Kevin Nash also shot down the idea, saying what if Vince McMahon offered Coleman $100,000 to double-cross WCW and shoot on Goldberg live on PPV and embarrass the company? Dave says the obvious answer to that would be to tape the match in advance just in case. But either way, it's not happening now.
Legendary retired sumo wrestler Akebono has been denying rumors that he plans to get into pro wrestling now that his sumo career is over (took him a few years, but yeah he eventually becomes a pro wrestler).
Women's boxer Shannon Hall reportedly has an offer to sign with WWF. She's also a former American Gladiator (she does sign with WWF but never makes it out of developmental).
Dave finally saw the A&E Biography episode about Andre The Giant. He says it was a very well-produced fairy tale. Definitely entertaining, but about 80% inaccurate, at least about his wrestling career. There were some good interviews with his family members and friends about his childhood and personal life but as far as his wrestling career goes, most of it was revisionist bullshit.
Legendary women's wrestler Mae Young has been playing the role of Sean Stasiak's mother on Power Pro Wrestling in Memphis. She had a wrestling match with Stacy and, at 75 years old, that makes her the oldest person to have a match that Dave is aware of (Lou Thesz had one at 74 a few years back). She took a few bumps and then faked a heart attack before sneak attacking Stacy with a purse.
A 17-year-old kid named Andre Verdun made news in Ventura, CA for his backyard wrestling group where him and a bunch of other kids were having barbed wire matches and jumping off rooftops on each other through tables and whatnot. The principal at Verdun's school was furious at the newspaper that ran the story, saying all they did was give the kids more fame and notoriety by publishing it. Verdun was apparently signing autographs at school after it happened and now there's TV shows wanting to do interviews with them (I googled the guy and it looks like he did a bunch of garbage backyard death match shit for years. There's some videos on YouTube. He also played a big part in a 20/20 piece about backyard wrestling that also interviewed Mick Foley and others. Anyway, looks like this Verdun guy is all grown up and he's a lawyer now. I can't find the local news piece, but here's the 20/20 story from later in the year which features Foley).
ECW paychecks are finally starting to clear now that they got the big influx of cash, so morale is better but no one is betting on the future. Even Tommy Dreamer, thought to be the most loyal guy in the company, went on a radio show this week saying that he only has a handshake agreement with Paul Heyman, not a contract, and said that if a serious offer came along from either WWF or WCW, he would take it.
ECW also lost their TV deals in several major cities due to financial issues. Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh TV deals were all lost. They're working on getting Boston back. They voluntarily gave up the Chicago TV deal because they were paying $3,000 a week for TV there but they've never actually run a show there so they decided it wasn't worth the cost. Same for Atlanta, although they're looking for a new TV deal there. Pittsburgh dropped them due to bounced checks.
Tammy Sytch and Chris Candido still aren't being used by ECW. They have told Heyman that they are in counseling and doing an outpatient drug rehab program. Tammy's mother also went to court this week and got a restraining order against her daughter extended (she was arrested a few weeks ago for violating it).
ECW TV this week kept taking pathetic shots at WCW. Once might have been okay but it went on and on throughout the whole show and came off as whiny and desperate. They talked about WCW ripping off ECW's gimmick with the "Uncensored" PPV. Talked about the three-way match between Raven, Hardcore Hak, and Bigelow saying they are using ECW wrestlers for an ECW-style match. And they knocked the Hogan/Flair barbed wire cage match, saying that the match will suck because both guys are 50 year old millionaires who won't take risks and besides, the barbed wire is fake anyway and in ECW they use real barbed wire. Then they showed the famous Terry Funk/Sabu barbed wire match (not bothering to mention that Funk is older than both Flair and Hogan) and basically just spent the whole show knocking WCW.
As if this week's episode of Nitro wasn't bad enough, they also failed to sell out the show in a 12,000 seat arena. It's been a long time since Nitro failed to sell out an arena that size. A few days later, a Thunder taping only drew 4,000 fans to a 15,000-seat arena, which was disastrous (they'll be happy to draw 4,000 fans to any show a year from now). During Thunder, they aired 2 promo videos hyping next week's Nitro and both clips featured Sean Waltman, who has been gone from WCW for over a year now and is, of course, currently in WWF. The wheels are falling off this company.
Also on Thunder, the crowd was chanting "steroids!" at Scott Steiner and at one point, he legit lost his cool and ran into the crowd after a fan, which they had to edited out before broadcast.
In a magazine interview with Goldberg, he was asked his thoughts on WWF and said it was "shock TV" and said he would retire from wrestling tomorrow rather than ever go to work there. Sure thing, buddy.
WWF injury/illness Report: Mankind is dealing with knee issues and will need time off soon. Billy Gunn missed a few shows due to fluid in his lungs and a respiratory infection. Steven Regal is still in rehab with no plans to return soon.
Regarding rumors that Raw will be expanding to 3 hours, apparently it was discussed several months ago back when the ratings war with Nitro was still neck-and-neck. They didn't like that Nitro had a 1 hour head start and talked about adding a third hour to Raw. But now that Raw is dominating Nitro, they don't feel the need to do it anymore, so it won't be happening. Whew. Could you imagine?
Kurt Angle will be sent to Memphis to work for Power Pro Wrestling for a bit before they put him on WWF TV.
Luna Vachon was fired this week due to several separate incidents. She has had a lot of heat with Sable, Marc Mero, Jacqueline, and agent Jack Lanza. She also complained about not getting a push because she wasn't as pretty as Sable (which she also said on TV and it was more shoot than work) and she even challenged Marc Mero to a fight backstage at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre PPV. Basically, she's just been pissing off too many people and none of the other women were comfortable having her around because she's kinda wild, so they fired her. Funny enough, she was booked to face Sable at Wrestlemania and was even booked to win the title, but that's obviously off now and Sable will likely face Tori instead.
WWF is considering doing their own women's wrestling show patterned after the old GLOW promotion of the 80s. They're holding a casting call in Los Angeles next week to bring in more pretty women for it (this never got off the ground but they ended up signing a few of the casting call women to developmental deals).
CBS wants to do a Movie of the Week type deal with Steve Austin playing the same character he played on his recent Nash Bridges episode, since that did such a huge rating. And of course, if the movie does good, it would possibly lead to a full blown spin-off TV series. Austin's guest spot on the show opened a lot of eyes in Hollywood since it did such a big rating, more than even Hogan or Piper could have ever done on network TV.
Public Enemy has a good bit of heat in WWF already, with most people feeling like they don't belong and are out of their league. They had a match against the Acolytes on Sunday Night Heat where both guys (Bradshaw especially) were stiffing the hell out of them. It was reportedly meant to be a message to PE and was approved by the office (yeah this match is BRUTAL and pretty much ended PE's run in WWF).
Sable has been making the media rounds to promote her Playboy issue. She was on Howard Stern this week and will be filming a role for La Femme Nikita next month. She was also interviewed by the New York Daily News and had this to say in regards to WWF's product: "As a responsible parent, I choose not to let my child watch it (Raw). My child is very young. She has a bed time and she's in bed when our show comes on. To me, that's being a responsible parent. Ultimately, it's the parent's decision. If you do not wish your child to watch the WWF, change the channel. It's not our place to put on a show that's supposedly for your children. It's your place as a parent to monitor what your children watch. Are they saying it's not okay to see the characters we play beat up each other but it's okay to have your child watch a movie where a famous actor blows away 100 people with an M-16?" When asked if she felt her character is degrading to women, Sable responded, "I feel I'm being a strong, stand-up woman. People don't have to like what I do or agree with what I do because they don't have to live my life. I would much rather my daughter when she grows up, do what she wants to do because she wants to do it, not because of what someone else thinks." When asked about turning heel recently but still not getting booed, Sable pointed to her chest and said, "Why would they boo this?"
The idea with Jim Ross acting like a heel lately is because they want to transition him into being Steve Williams' manager and also because they're trying to transition Michael Cole into the new main announcer for Raw. However, Ross' promos had the opposite effect and got over huge and he got big cheers. So they've dropped the heel act but the plan is still for him to do the talking for Steve Williams and there's no plans for him to replace Michael Cole anytime soon.
Remember that hotel and casino that WWF bought in Las Vegas? Well, the plan is to tear it down and rebuild since the building isn't right for what they want (they want to be able to hold shows in it, but the structure isn't built for it). Anyway, whenever they do finally demolish it, there's been talk of turning it into a wrestling angle and having Austin press the button, with the storyline idea being that Austin just destroyed a multi-million dollar piece of property that Vince owns (didn't happen but that would have been awesome).
Someone writes in and chastises Dave for being so mean to WCW. The guy basically says, yeah WCW sucks right now but do you have to keep ridiculing them for it? Someone else writes in and shits all over Mick Foley, saying he's a glorified stuntman and doesn't belong in a wrestling ring and he hates this new era of jumping off cages and crashing through tables and all that stuff. He wishes someone with a lot of money would come along and promote wrestling the way it used to be in the good ol' days. He signs his name "Duane Mason" but I know a Jim Cornette letter when I see one!
MONDAY:WCW Uncensored fallout, a look at how many world titles Ric Flair has actually held, Shane Douglas and Flair take shots at each other in interviews, and more...
We have had a few threads posted in the last few days about where to go in Pittsburgh, where to eat etc., from first time visitors. I want to put together a collection of all of that in one spot, so when these posts come up in the future, we can just point users to this thread. I will update the body of this post with your suggestions. Hopefully we can do this once per year, so it stays up to date also. For suggestions on what to post, I would say things to see/do for first time visitors, hotels, or areas that would be the best places to stay, food places that are a must have in the Pittsburgh area, bars that would be a good spot to go, places to go with a family, best spot to tailgate, best way to get tickets etc. For people reading this, the North Side. is where PNC Park, and Heinz field are located. The North Shore is the neighborhood of the North Side where they are located. Bars
Peppi's. Home of the Roethlisberger. If you aren't a fan of the Steelers, if you eat enough of these, you may become one. Also have the Joey Porter "bella", and the Heath among other Pittsburgh sports themed sandwiches.
Hotels/Areas to stay
North Shore Area. Where the stadiums are, and should be easier to get into, and out of them, especially if you stay within walking distance. If you use Expedia, you can search for hotels near Heinz Field fairly easily.
Downtown Pittsburgh. is also within walking distance of Heinz field provided you are willing to walk a mile or two. You can also search for hotels in this area on Expedia.
Station Square. A decent amount of bars, and restaurants in this area, with a subway stop, and the Monongahela Incline within walking distance. Walking to the stadium from here would likely be an issue.
The inclines/Mt. Washington. A nice spot to overlook essentially the whole city. Also Station Square is at the bottom of the Monongahela Incline, and their are a lot of bars, and restaurants in that area.
If you stay in the North Shore area, you should be able to walk to the stadium, the Carnegie Science Center, the Andy Warhol Museum, and bars, and restaurants in that area. If you are in downtown, you can likely walk there, although it will be slightly further.
Yellow Cab is available for taxis, among other companies.
Rapid City Journal (RCJ) - January 21st Edition 1965–1970: Early career Influenced by early-rock-and-roll and rhythm-and-blues artists, including groups such as The Beatles, The Drifters and The Four Seasons, he favored tightly-structured pop melodies and down-to-earth, unpretentious songwriting. After seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, Joel decided to pursue a career in music. In an interview he said of the group's impact, "That one performance changed my life … Up to that moment I'd never considered playing rock as a career. And when I saw four guys who didn't look like they'd come out of the Hollywood star mill, who played their own songs and instruments, and especially because you could see this look in John Lennon's face – and he looked like he was always saying: 'F--- you!' – I said: 'I know these guys, I can relate to these guys, I am these guys.' This is what I'm going to do – play in a rock band'." Joel joined the Echoes, a group that specialized in British Invasion covers. The Echoes began recording in 1965. Joel (then 16) also played piano on several records released through Kama Sutra Productions and on recordings produced by Shadow Morton. Joel played on a demo version of "Leader of the Pack", which would become a major hit for the Shangri-Las. Joel states that in 1964 he played on a recording of the Shangri-Las' "Remember (Walking in the Sand)" but he is unaware of whether he played on the demo or master version; The released single included a co-producer credit for Artie Ripp, who later was the first to sign and produce Joel as a solo artist after Michael Lang, who had given Joel a monetary advance, passed Joel along to Ripp to focus his attentions elsewhere instead. In late 1965, the Echoes changed their name to the Emeralds and then to the Lost Souls. Joel left the band in 1967 to join the Hassles, a Long Island group that had signed with United Artists Records. Over the next year and a half they released four singles and two albums (The Hassles and Hour of the Wolf). All were commercial failures. Joel and drummer Jon Small left the Hassles in 1969 to form the duo Attila, releasing an eponymous debut album in July 1970. The duo disbanded the following October when Joel began an affair with Small's wife, Elizabeth, whom Joel eventually married. 1970–1974: Cold Spring Harbor and Piano Man Joel signed a contract with the record company Family Productions (owned by Artie Ripp but backed by Gulf + Western), with which he recorded his first solo album, Cold Spring Harbor (a reference to Cold Spring Harbor, New York, a town on Long Island). Ripp states that he spent $450,000 developing Joel; nevertheless, the album was mastered at the wrong speed and as a result, the album was a technical and commercial disappointment. The popular songs "She's Got a Way" and "Everybody Loves You Now" were originally released on this album, but went largely unnoticed until being released as live performances on Songs in the Attic (1981). Columbia released a remastered version of Cold Spring Harbor in 1983. Joel began his Cold Spring Harbor tour in the fall of 1971, touring with his band (Rhys Clark on drums, Al Hertzberg on guitar, and Larry Russell on bass guitar) throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, opening for groups such as the J. Geils Band, The Beach Boys, Badfinger, and Taj Mahal. Joel's performance at the Puerto Rican Mar Y Sol Pop Festival was especially well-received; and although recorded, Joel refused to have it published on the Mar Y Sol compilation album Mar Y Sol: The First International Puerto Rico Pop Festival. Nevertheless, interest in his music grew. During the spring of 1972, the Philadelphia radio station WMMR-FM began playing a concert recording of "Captain Jack", which became an underground hit on the East Coast. Herb Gordon, a Columbia Records executive, heard Joel's music and introduced him to the company. Joel signed a recording contract with Columbia in 1972 and moved to Los Angeles; he lived there for the next three years. For six months he worked at The Executive Room piano bar on Wilshire Boulevard as "Bill Martin". During that time, he composed his signature hit "Piano Man" about the bar's patrons. Despite Joel's new contract, he was still legally bound to Family Productions. Artie Ripp sold Joel's first contract to Columbia. Walter Yetnikoff, the president of CBS/Columbia Records at the time, bought back the rights to Joel's songs in the late 1970s, giving the rights to Joel as a birthday gift. Yetnikoff notes in the documentary film The Last Play at Shea that he had to threaten Ripp to close the deal. Joel's first album with Columbia was Piano Man, released in 1973. Despite modest sales, Piano Man's title track became his signature song, ending nearly every concert. That year Joel's touring band changed. Guitarist Al Hertzberg was replaced by Don Evans, and bassist Larry Russell by Patrick McDonald, himself replaced in late 1974 by Doug Stegmeyer, who would stay with Joel until 1989. Rhys Clark returned as drummer and Tom Whitehorse as banjoist and pedal steel player; Johnny Almond joined as saxophonist and keyboardist. The band toured the US and Canada extensively, appearing on popular music shows. Joel's songwriting began attracting more attention; in 1974 Helen Reddy recorded "You're My Home" (Piano Man). 1974–1977: Streetlife Serenade and Turnstiles In 1974, Joel recorded his second Columbia album in Los Angeles, Streetlife Serenade. His manager at the time was Jon Troy, an old friend from the New York neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant; Troy would soon be replaced by Joel's wife Elizabeth. Streetlife Serenade contains references to suburbia and the inner city. It is perhaps best known for "The Entertainer", a No. 34 hit in the US. Upset that "Piano Man" had been significantly cut for radio play, Joel wrote "The Entertainer" as a sarcastic response: "If you're gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit, so they cut it down to 3:05." Although Streetlife Serenade is often considered[by whom?] one of Joel's weaker albums (Joel dislikes it himself), it contains the notable songs "Los Angelenos" and "Root Beer Rag", an instrumental that was a staple of his live set in the 1970s. In late 1975, Joel played piano and organ on several tracks on Bo Diddley's The 20th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll all-star album. Disenchanted with Los Angeles, Joel returned to New York City in 1975 and recorded Turnstiles, the first album he recorded with the group of hand-picked musicians who became the Billy Joel Band. Produced by James William Guercio (then Chicago's producer), Turnstiles was first recorded at Caribou Ranch with members of Elton John's band. Dissatisfied with the result, Joel re-recorded the songs and produced the album himself. "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" was a minor hit; Ronnie Spector recorded a cover as did Nigel Olsson, then drummer with Elton John. In a 2008 radio interview, Joel said that he no longer performs the song because singing it in its high original key "shreds" his vocal cords; however, he did finally play it live for the first time since 1982 when he sang it at the Hollywood Bowl in May 2014. Though never released as a single, "New York State of Mind" became one of Joel's best-known songs; Barbra Streisand and Tony Bennett have each recorded covers (Bennett's a duet with Joel on Playing with My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues). Other notable songs from the album include "Summer, Highland Falls", "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)", "Say Goodbye to Hollywood", (a live version of which became a Top 40 hit), and "Prelude/Angry Young Man", a concert mainstay. 1977–1979: The Stranger and 52nd Street Columbia Records introduced Joel to Phil Ramone, who would produce all of Joel's studio albums from The Stranger (1977) to The Bridge (1986). The Stranger was an enormous commercial success, yielding four Top-25 hits on the Billboard charts: "Just the Way You Are" (#3), "Movin' Out" (#17), "Only the Good Die Young" (#24), and "She's Always a Woman" (#17). Joel's first Top Ten album, The Stranger was certified multi-platinum and reached number two on the charts, outselling Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge over Troubled Water, Columbia's previous best-selling album. The Stranger also featured "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant", an album-oriented rock classic, which has become one of his best-known songs. The Stranger song "Just the Way You Are" — written for Joel's first wife, Elizabeth Weber — was inspired by a dream and won Grammy awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. On tour in Paris, Joel learned the news late at night in his hotel room. Rolling Stone ranked The Stranger the 70th greatest album of all time. Expectations were high for Joel's next album, 52nd Street, which he released in 1978, naming it after Manhattan's famous 52nd Street, which, at the time of its release, served as the world headquarters of CBS/ Columbia. The album sold over seven million copies, propelled to number one on the charts by the following hits: "My Life" (#3); followed successes from the album were "Big Shot" (#14), and "Honesty" (#24). A cover of "My Life" (sung by Gary Bennett) became the theme song for a new television sitcom, Bosom Buddies, which featured actor Tom Hanks in one of his earliest roles. 52nd Street won Grammy awards for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male and Album of the Year. In 1979, Joel also traveled to Havana, Cuba, to participate in the historic Havana Jam festival that took place between March 2–4, alongside Rita Coolidge, Kris Kristofferson, Stephen Stills, the CBS Jazz All-Stars, the Trio of Doom, Fania All-Stars, Billy Swan, Bonnie Bramlett, Mike Finnegan, Weather Report, and an array of Cuban artists such as Irakere, Pacho Alonso, Tata Güines and Orquesta Aragón. His performance is captured in Ernesto Juan Castellanos's documentary Havana Jam '79. 1979–1983: Glass Houses and The Nylon Curtain The success of his piano-driven ballads like "Just the Way You Are", "She's Always a Woman", and "Honesty" led some critics to label Joel a "balladeer" and "soft rocker". Joel thought these labels were unfair and insulting, and with Glass Houses, he tried to record an album that proved that he could rock harder than his critics gave him credit for, occasionally imitating and referring to the style of new wave rock music that was starting to become popular at the time. On the front cover of the album, Joel is pictured in a leather jacket, about to throw a rock at a glass house (referring to the adage that "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones"). Glass Houses spent six weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard chart and yielded such hits as "You May Be Right" (used as the theme song, covered by Southside Johnny, for the CBS mid-1990s sitcom Dave's World) (#7, May 1980), "Don't Ask Me Why" (#19, September 1980), "Sometimes a Fantasy" (#36, November 1980) and "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me", which became Joel's first Billboard number-one single (for two weeks) in July 1980. "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" spent 11 weeks in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and was the 7th biggest hit of 1980 according to American Top 40. Glass Houses won the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male. It would also win the American Music Award for Favorite Album, Pop/Rock category. The album's closing song, "Through The Long Night" (B-side of the "It's Still Rock & Roll to Me" single), was a lullaby that featured Joel harmonizing with himself in a song he says was inspired by The Beatles' "Yes It Is". In a recorded Masterclass at the University of Pennsylvania, Joel later recollected that he had written to the Beatles asking them how to get started in the music industry. In response, he received a pamphlet about Beatles merchandise. This later led to the idea of Joel conducting Q&A sessions around the world answering questions that people had about the music industry. His next release, Songs in the Attic, was composed of live performances of less well-known songs from the beginning of his career. It was recorded during larger US arenas and intimate night club shows in June and July 1980. This release introduced many fans, who discovered Joel when The Stranger became a smash in 1977, to many of his earlier compositions. The album reached No. 8 on the Billboard chart and produced two hit singles: "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" (#17), and "She's Got a Way" (#23). It sold over 3 million copies. Though not as successful as some of his previous albums, the album was still considered a success by Joel. The next wave of Joel's career commenced with the recording of his next studio album, The Nylon Curtain. With The Nylon Curtain, Joel became more ambitious with his songwriting, trying his hand at writing topical songs like "Allentown" and "Goodnight Saigon". Joel has stated that he wanted the album to communicate his feelings about the American Dream and how changes in American politics during the Reagan years meant that "all of a sudden you weren't going to be able to inherit [the kind of life] your old man had." He also tried to be more ambitious in his use of the recording studio. Joel said that he wanted to "create a sonic masterpiece" on The Nylon Curtain. So he spent more time in the studio, crafting the sound of the album, than he had on any previous album. Production of The Nylon Curtain began in the fall of 1981. However, production was temporarily delayed when Joel was involved in a serious motorcycle accident on Long Island on April 15, 1982, severely injuring his hands. Still, Joel quickly recovered from his injuries, and the album only ended up being delayed by a few months. In 1982, he embarked on a brief tour in support of the album. From one of the final shows of the tour, Joel made his first video special, Live from Long Island, which was recorded at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York on December 30, 1982. It was originally broadcast on HBO in 1983 before it became available on VHS. The Nylon Curtain went to No. 7 on the charts, partially due to heavy airplay on MTV for the videos to the singles "Allentown" and "Pressure". "Allentown" spent six weeks at a peak position of No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it one of the most-played radio songs of 1982, pushing it into 1983's year-end Top 70, and making it the most successful song from The Nylon Curtain album, besting "Pressure" which peaked at No. 20 (where it resided for three weeks) and "Goodnight Saigon" which reached No. 56 on U.S. charts. 1983–1988: An Innocent Man and The Bridge Joel's next album moved away from the serious themes of The Nylon Curtain and struck a much lighter tone. The album An Innocent Man was Joel's tribute to R&B and doo wop music of the 1950s and 1960s and resulted in Joel's second Billboard number-one hit, "Tell Her About It", which was the first single off the album in the summer of 1983. The album itself reached No. 4 on the charts and No. 2 in UK. It also boasted six top-30 singles, the most of any album in Joel's catalog. The album was well received by critics, with Stephen Thomas Erlewine, senior editor for AllMusic, describing Joel as being "in top form as a craftsman throughout the record, effortlessly spinning out infectious, memorable melodies in a variety of styles." At the time that the album was released, WCBS-FM began playing "Uptown Girl" both in regular rotation and on the Doo Wop Live. The song became a worldwide hit upon its release. The music video of the song, originally written about then girlfriend Elle MacPherson, featured future wife Christie Brinkley as a high society girl, whose car pulls into the gas station where Joel's character is working. At the end of the video, Joel's "grease monkey" character drives off with his "uptown girl" on the back of a motorcycle. When Brinkley went to visit Joel after being asked to star in the video, the first thing Joel said to her upon opening his door was "I don't dance". Brinkley had to walk him through the basic steps he does in the video. Their work together on this video shoot sparked a relationship between the two which would later lead to their marriage in 1985. In December, the title song, "An Innocent Man", was released as a single and it peaked at No. 10 in the U.S. and No. 8 in the UK, early in 1984. That March, "The Longest Time" was released as a single, peaking at No. 14 on the Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. That summer, "Leave a Tender Moment Alone" was released and it hit No. 27 while "Keeping the Faith" peaked at No. 18 in January 1985. In the video for "Keeping the Faith", Christie Brinkley also plays the "redhead girl in a Chevrolet". An Innocent Man was also nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy, but lost to Michael Jackson's Thriller. Joel participated in the USA For Africa We Are The World project in 1985, capping off a series of successful singles. Following the success of An Innocent Man, Joel was asked about releasing an album of his most successful singles. This was not the first time this topic had come up, but Joel had initially considered "Greatest Hits" albums as marking the end of one's career. This time he agreed, and Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and 2 was released as a four-sided album and two-CD set, with the songs in the order in which they were released. The new songs "You're Only Human (Second Wind)" and "The Night Is Still Young" were recorded and released as singles to support the album; both reached the top 40, peaking at No. 9 and No. 34, respectively. Greatest Hits was highly successful and it has since been certified double diamond by the RIAA, with over 11.5 million copies (23 million units) sold. It is one of the best-selling albums in American music history, according to the RIAA. Coinciding with the Greatest Hits album release, Joel released a two-volume Video Album that was a compilation of the promotional videos he had recorded from 1977 to the present time. Along with videos for the new singles off the Greatest Hits album, Joel also recorded a video for his first hit, "Piano Man", for this project. Though it broke into the top ten, Joel's next album, The Bridge (1986), did not achieve the level of success of his previous albums, but it yielded the hits "A Matter of Trust" and "Modern Woman" from the film Ruthless People, a dark comedy from the directors of Airplane! (both #10). In a departure from his "piano man" persona, Joel is shown in the video playing a Gibson Les Paul. The ballad "This is the Time" also charted, peaking at No. 18. On November 18, 1986, an extended version of the song "Big Man on Mulberry Street" was used on a Season 3 episode of Moonlighting. The episode itself was also titled "Big Man on Mulberry Street". The Bridge was Joel's last album to carry the Family Productions logo, after which he severed his ties with Artie Ripp. Joel has also stated in many interviews, most recently in a 2008 interview in Performing Songwriter magazine, that he does not think The Bridge is a good album. In October 1986, Joel and his handlers started planning a trip to the Soviet Union. He became one of the first American rock acts to play there since the Berlin Wall went up, a fact not lost on history buff Joel. There were live performances at indoor arenas in Moscow, Leningrad and Tbilisi. Joel, his family (including young daughter Alexa), and his full touring band made the trip in August 1987. The entourage was filmed for television and video to offset the cost of the trip, and the concerts were simulcast on radio around the world. Joel's Russian tour was the first live rock radio broadcast in Soviet history. Most of that audience took a long while to warm up to Joel's energetic show, something that had never happened in other countries he had performed in. According to Joel, each time the fans were hit with the bright lights, anybody who seemed to be enjoying themselves froze. In addition, people who were "overreacting" were removed by security. It was during this concert that Joel, enraged by the bright lights, flipped his electric piano and snapped a microphone stand while continuing to sing the current part of the set. He later apologized for that incident. The album КОНЦЕРТ (Russian for "Concert") was released in October 1987. Singer Pete Hewlett was brought in to hit the high notes on his most vocally challenging songs, like "An Innocent Man". Joel also did versions of The Beatles' classic "Back in the U.S.S.R." and Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin". It has been estimated that Joel lost more than $1 million of his own money on the trip and concerts, but he has said the goodwill he was shown there was well worth it. 1988–1993: Storm Front and River of Dreams The recording of the album Storm Front, which commenced in 1988, coincided with major changes in Joel's career and inaugurated a period of serious upheaval in his business affairs. In August 1989, just before the album was released, Joel dismissed his manager (and former brother-in-law) Frank Weber after an audit revealed major discrepancies in Weber's accounting. Joel subsequently sued Weber for $90 million, claiming fraud and breach of fiduciary duty and in January 1990 he was awarded $2 million in a partial judgment against Weber; in April, the court dismissed a $30 million countersuit filed by Weber. The first single for the album, "We Didn't Start the Fire", was released in September 1989 and it became Joel's third and – to date – most-recent US number-one hit, spending two weeks at the top. Storm Front was released in October, and it eventually became Joel's first number-one album since Glass Houses, nine years earlier. Storm Front was Joel's first album since Turnstiles to be recorded without Phil Ramone as producer. For this album, he wanted a new sound, and worked with Mick Jones of Foreigner fame. Joel is also credited as one of the keyboard players on Jones' 1988 self-titled solo album, and is featured in the official video for Jones' single "Just Wanna Hold"; Joel can be seen playing the piano while his then-wife Christie Brinkley joins him and kisses him. Joel also revamped his backing band, dismissing everyone but drummer Liberty DeVitto, guitarist David Brown, and saxophone player Mark Rivera, and bringing in new faces, including multi-instrumentalist Crystal Taliefero. Storm Front's second single, "I Go to Extremes" reached No. 6 in early 1990. The album was also notable for its song "Leningrad", written after Joel met a clown in the Soviet city of that name during his tour in 1987, and "The Downeaster Alexa", written to underscore the plight of fishermen on Long Island who are barely able to make ends meet. Another well-known single from the album is the ballad "And So It Goes" (#37 in late 1990). The song was originally written in 1983, around the time Joel was writing songs for An Innocent Man; but "And So It Goes" did not fit that album's retro theme, so it was held back until Storm Front. Joel said in a 1996 Masterclass session in Pittsburgh that Storm Front was a turbulent album and that "And So It Goes", as the last song on the album, portrayed the calm and tranquility that often follows a violent thunderstorm. In the summer of 1992, Joel filed another $90 million lawsuit against his former lawyer Allen Grubman, alleging a wide range of offenses including fraud, breach of fiduciary responsibility, malpractice and breach of contract but the case was eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. In 1992, Joel inducted the R&B duo Sam & Dave into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That year, Joel also started work on River of Dreams, finishing the album in early 1993. Its cover art was a colorful painting by Christie Brinkley that was a series of scenes from each of the songs on the album. The eponymous first single was the last top 10 hit Joel has penned to date, reaching No. 3 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart and ranking at No. 21 on the 1993 year-end Hot 100 chart. In addition to the title track, the album includes the hits "All About Soul" (with Color Me Badd on backing vocals) and "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)", written for his daughter, Alexa. A radio remix version of "All About Soul" can be found on The Essential Billy Joel (2001), and a demo version appears on My Lives (2005). The song "The Great Wall of China" was written about his ex-manager Frank Weber and was a regular in the setlist for Joel's 2006 tour. "2000 Years" was prominent in the millennium concert at Madison Square Garden, December 31, 1999, and "Famous Last Words" closed the book on Joel's pop songwriting for more than a decade. 1993–present: Touring Beginning in 1994, Joel toured extensively with Elton John on a series of "Face to Face" tours, making them the longest running and most successful concert tandem in pop music history. During these shows, the two have played their own songs, each other's songs and performed duets. They grossed over US$46 million in just 24 dates in their sold out 2003 tour. Joel and John resumed the Face to Face tour in March 2009 and it ended again, at least for the time being, in March 2010 in Albany, New York, at the Times Union Center. In February 2010, Joel denied rumors in the trade press that he canceled a summer 2010 leg of the tour, claiming there were never any dates booked and that he intended to take the year off. Joel told Rolling Stone magazine: "We'll probably pick it up again. It's always fun playing with him." Joel performing in 2007 in Florida On August 25, 1994, Joel and second wife Christie Brinkley divorced, but they remained friends. 1997's "To Make You Feel My Love" and "Hey Girl" both charted from Joel's Greatest Hits Volume III album. Joel wrote and recorded the song "Shameless" that was later covered by Garth Brooks and reached No. 1 on Billboard's country charts. Joel performed with Brooks during his Central Park concert in 1997. To add onto his achievements Joel was inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. Ray Charles made the induction speech and mentioned the duet Joel wrote for the two of them, "Baby Grand" (a track on Joel's album The Bridge released in 1986). On December 31, 1999, Joel performed at New York's Madison Square Garden. At the time, Joel said that it would be his last tour and possibly his last concert. Two of his performances from that night, "We Didn't Start the Fire" and "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" were filmed and featured that night as part of ABC's special New Year's Y2K coverage. The concert (dubbed The Night of the 2000 Years) ran for close to four hours and was later released as 2000 Years: The Millennium Concert. In 2001, Joel released Fantasies & Delusions, a collection of classical piano pieces. All were composed by Joel and performed by Hyung-ki Joo. Joel often uses bits of these songs as interludes in live performances, and some of them are part of the score for the hit show Movin' Out. The album topped the classical charts at No. 1. Joel performed "New York State of Mind" live on September 21, 2001, as part of the America: A Tribute to Heroes benefit concert, and on October 20, 2001, along with "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)", at the Concert for New York City in Madison Square Garden. That night, he also performed "Your Song" with Elton John. In 2003, Joel inducted The Righteous Brothers into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, noting that his song "Until the Night" from the album 52nd Street was a tribute to the duo. In 2005, Columbia released a box set, My Lives, which is largely a compilation of demos, b-sides, live/alternate versions and even a few Top 40 hits. The compilation also includes the Umixit software, in which people can remix "Zanzibar" and a live version of "I Go to Extremes" with their PC. Also, a DVD of a show from the River of Dreams tour is included. Billy Joel with his band performing in California On January 7, 2006, Joel began a tour across the U.S. Having not written, or at least released, any new songs in 13 years, he featured a sampling of songs from throughout his career, including major hits as well as obscure tunes like "Zanzibar" and "All for Leyna". His tour included an unprecedented 12 sold-out concerts over several months at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The singer's stint of 12 shows at Madison Square Garden broke a previous record set by New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen, who played 10 sold-out shows at the same arena. The record earned Joel the first retired number (12) in the arena owned by a non-athlete. This honor has also been given to Joel at the Wells Fargo Center (Philadelphia) (formerly the Wachovia Center) in Philadelphia where a banner in the colors of the Philadelphia Flyers is hung honoring Joel's 46 Philadelphia sold-out shows. He also had a banner raised in his honor for being the highest grossing act in the history of the Times Union Center (formerly the Knickerbocker Arena and Pepsi Arena) in Albany, New York. This honor was given to him as part of the April 17, 2007, show he did there. On June 13, 2006, Columbia released 12 Gardens Live, a double album containing 32 live recordings from a collection of the 12 different shows at Madison Square Garden during Joel's 2006 tour. Joel visited the United Kingdom and Ireland for the first time in many years as part of the European leg of his 2006 tour. On July 31, 2006, he performed a free concert in Rome, with the Colosseum as the backdrop. Joel toured South Africa, Australia, Japan, and Hawaii in late 2006, and subsequently toured the Southeastern U.S. in February and March 2007 before hitting the Midwest in the spring of 2007. On January 3 of that year, news was leaked to the New York Post that Billy had recorded a new song with lyrics—this being the first new song with lyrics he'd written in almost 14 years. The song, titled "All My Life", was Joel's newest single (with second track "You're My Home", live from Madison Square Garden 2006 tour) and was released into stores on February 27, 2007. On February 4, Joel sang the national anthem for Super Bowl XLI, becoming the first to sing the national anthem twice at a Super Bowl. and on April 17, 2007, Joel was honored in Albany, New York, for his ninth concert at the Times Union Center. He is now holding the highest box office attendance of any artist to play at the arena. A banner was raised in his honor marking this achievement. On December 1, 2007, Joel premiered his new song "Christmas in Fallujah". The song was performed by Cass Dillon, a new Long Island based musician, as Joel felt it should be sung by someone in a soldier's age range (though he himself has played the song occasionally in concert.) The track was dedicated to servicemen based in Iraq. Joel wrote it in September 2007 after reading numerous letters sent to him from American soldiers in Iraq. "Christmas in Fallujah" is only the second pop/rock song released by Joel since 1993's River of Dreams. Proceeds from the song benefited the Homes For Our Troops foundation. Joel with Mike DelGuidice in 2016 On January 26, 2008, Joel performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra celebrating the 151st anniversary of the Academy of Music. Joel premiered his new classical piece titled, "Waltz No. 2 (Steinway Hall)" arranged by Brad Ellis. He also played many of his less well-known pieces, with full orchestral backing arranged by Mr. Ellis, including the rarely performed Nylon Curtain songs "Scandinavian Skies" and "Where's the Orchestra?". On March 10, 2008, Joel inducted his friend John Mellencamp into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Joel's staying power as a touring act continues to the present day. He sold out 10 concerts at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut from May to July 2008. The casino honored him with a banner displaying his name and the number 10 to hang in the arena. On June 19, 2008, he played a concert at the grand re-opening of Caesars Windsor (formerly Casino Windsor) in Windsor, Ontario, Canada to an invite-only crowd for Casino VIPs. His mood was light, and joke-filled, even introducing himself as "Billy Joel's dad" and stating "you guys overpaid to see a fat bald guy". He also admitted that Canadian folk-pop musician Gordon Lightfoot was the musical inspiration for "She's Always A Woman". On July 16, 2008, and July 18, 2008, Joel played the final concerts at Shea Stadium before its demolition. His guests included Tony Bennett, Don Henley, John Mayer, John Mellencamp, Steven Tyler, Roger Daltrey, Garth Brooks, and Paul McCartney. The concerts were featured in the 2010 documentary film Last Play at Shea. The film was released on DVD on February 8, 2011. The CD and DVD of the show, Live at Shea Stadium were released on March 8, 2011. On December 11, 2008, Joel recorded his own rendition of "Christmas in Fallujah" during a concert at Acer Arena in Sydney and released it as a live single in Australia only. It is the only official release of Joel performing "Christmas in Fallujah", as Cass Dillon sang on the 2007 studio recording and the handful of times the song was played live in 2007. Joel sang the song throughout his December 2008 tour of Australia. On May 19, 2009, Joel's former drummer, Liberty DeVitto, filed a lawsuit in NYC claiming Joel and Sony Music owed DeVitto over 10 years of royalty payments. DeVitto had never been given songwriting or arranging credit on any of Joel's songs, but he claimed that he helped arrange some of them, including "Only the Good Die Young". In April 2010, it was announced that Joel and DeVitto amicably resolved the lawsuit. 2011 marked the 40th anniversary of the release of Joel's first album, Cold Spring Harbor. According to Joel's official website, to commemorate this anniversary, Columbia/Legacy Recordings originally planned "to celebrate the occasion with a definitive reissue project of newly restored and expanded Legacy editions of the complete Billy Joel catalog, newly curated collections of rarities from the vaults, previously unavailable studio tracks and live performances, home video releases and more", although this never fully came to fruition. The album Piano Man was re-released in a two-disc Legacy edition in November 2011. In 2012, Joel signed an exclusive worldwide publishing agreement with Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), and its subsidiary Rondor Music International. Under the agreement, UMPG and Rondor replaced EMI Music Publishing in handling Joel's catalog outside the U.S. Additionally, the agreement marked the first time since Joel regained control of his publishing rights in the 1980s that he began to use an administrator to handle his catalog within the U.S. The agreement's focus is on increasing the use of Joel's music in movies, television programs, and commercials. On December 12, 2012, Joel performed as part of 12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief at Madison Square Garden, a concert held for all the victims of Hurricane Sandy. He changed the lyrics to "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)" to make it relate to all the damage caused by Sandy. In May 2013, it was announced that Joel would hold his first ever indoor Irish concert at the O2 in Dublin on November 1. He subsequently announced his return to the UK for the first time in seven years to perform three dates in October and November. Joel played two arena dates in Manchester and Birmingham plus a very special show at London's Hammersmith Apollo. In October, Joel held a surprise concert on Long Island at The Paramount (Huntington, New York) to benefit Long Island Cares. The venue holds a capacity of 1,555 and sold out in five minutes. Joel headlined a solo arena concert in New York City for the first time since 2006 when he performed at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on December 31, 2013. In 2015, Joel performed 21 concerts (in addition to his Madison Square Garden residency) from January 7 to August 2 in various cities around the U.S. and Canada. On December 3, 2013, it was announced that Joel would become a franchise of Madison Square Garden, playing one concert a month indefinitely, starting with a date on January 27, 2014. Joel performing at Madison Square Garden in 2016 On January 7, 2014, the Billy Joel in Concert tour began. Joel kicked off the 2014 New Year in the Amway Center (in Orlando, Florida) and performed several cover songs such as Elton John's "Your Song", Billy Preston's "You Are So Beautiful" (in tribute to Joe Cocker), The Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends", "Can't Buy Me Love", and "When I'm 64", Robert Burns' "Auld Lang Syne", and AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" (with Brian Johnson). Rufus Wainwright joined Joel during the concert to sing "New York State of Mind". Joel also performed an unusual set, including the song "Souvenir" (from 1974's Streetlife Serenade) and excluding "We Didn't Start the Fire". On August 4, 2015 Joel played the final concert at Nassau Coliseum before the arena underwent a $261 million renovation. On April 5, 2017 Joel played the first concert at the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum. On June 24, 2017, he returned to Hicksville High School fifty years after his would-be graduating class received their diplomas, to deliver the honorary commencement address. It was also the 25th anniversary of receiving his own diploma from the same High School.
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