Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Community Idol

Star of the day who will it be?

Back when I was a youngster in the plush green of suburban New England there was a local television talent show that came on every Sunday morning called Community Auditions. It was the precursor of American Idol, but with a low-budget cheesiness. I never missed a show.

It was hosted by local radio celebrity Dave Maynard, and it ran for decades.

The format was pretty simple. Maynard would introduce a contestant who would come on stage and perform. There were six contestants per week, and at the end of the show viewers were encouraged to send in their postcards -- this was pre-Internet, pre-cell phone, the dark ages of technology -- to vote for their favorite act. The following week the winner would be announced, and would perform once again, and leave with a grand prize; usually a gift certificate to a local merchant.

To be STAR OF THE DAY was an honor to behold.

One time a student from my junior high school was a contestant. I remember sitting perched on the edge of the couch ecstatic that I knew someone who might be the next STAR OF THE DAY. In his navy blue blazer he strode across the barren stage and sat at the piano. His chubby little fingers caressed the ivory keys as he played the opening to The Beatles' "Let It Be." I recognized the song. That was a good thing. And then he sang. That was not a good thing. He must've repeated the phrase "let it be" a million times.

My loyalty got the best of me and I sent in my postcard praising his performance. He didn't win, but he did become a minor celebrity at school for about a week. He eventually gave up his musical aspirations (thank goodness) and pursued a career in pharmaceutical sales.

I always wanted to go on Community Auditions and sing one of the more popular songs from AM radio, possibly the Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You." I'd start soft and slow and build to a crescendo that would rip the roof from the rafters. Of course with my boy-child tenor voice I cannot imagine myself ever soaring with anything but an off key shriek that would force the loyal audience to turn the volume down or turn the TV off, or burst all the television screens like shattered glass.

I never auditioned.

At the end of every show the contestants would proudly stand center stage and sing the theme song:

Star of the day who will it be?
Your vote may hold the key
It's up to you
To tell us who
will be star of the day

Oh the joys of local television.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A DVD Must See

Lately I’ve been enjoying the benefits of my Netflix membership. For me it’s so much easier to browse online than to stop by the video store, usually when I’m in a rush and the store’s about to close, and make an important “film choice” decision.

My queue currently has a smorgasbord of over forty titles waiting patiently to make the journey through the postal service and into my DVD player.

The other night I watched an incredible French film from 2005 called “A Love To Hide” (“Un Amour a Taire”). Somewhere I’d read a blurb about it and jotted the title on my list of movies to watch, and while browsing Netflix I added it to my queue. I’m so glad I did.

It’s a love story between two young men and a young Jewish woman they hide and protect from the Nazis in 1940s Paris. This beautiful love story doesn’t stay beautiful for long. One of the lovers ends up arrested (his jealous brother wants to “teach him a lesson”) and because he’s on a list naming him a homosexual his release doesn’t go as planned and he’s sent to a concentration camp where torture and death are a way of life.

The reality of Nazi hatred of homosexuals comes in some heart wrenching scenes that had me angry and shocked and full of tears. How did this happen, and most importantly why? Atrocious acts were committed against innocent people whose only crime was loving someone.

Director Christian Faure does an excellent job and the actors, Jeremie Renier, Louise Monot, and Bruno Todeschini all give outstanding performances.

Next time you’re browsing Netflix, or searching your neighborhood video store, please grab this title and watch it.