Madrid, Aug. 16, 2016

Recently my son alerted me to a documentary about Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus which he thought old muggs might find interested. I viewed the 100 minute documentary made in Australia in 2014 and it brought back so many memories about the two men I called “the chutzpah boys”, whom we met every year at the Cannes Film Festival in the 80s, that I thought I’d pass on the discovery to other muggs who may not have heard of it.

The film is called “Electric Boogaloo” (an unfortunate title, in my opinion) subtitled “The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films” and is a no-holds-barred history of the rise and fall of Cannon Films. Many of us personally witnessed the amazing spectacle of their filmic saga, and knew the cousins first-hand, even if it was only doing an interview with one, or selling them ads, or collecting them (a more difficult proposition), or sitting opposite Menahem slurping his soup.

Certainly, Cannon was one of the biggest advertisers in Variety. Mort Bryer recalls doing a 50-page section on Cannon for the fifth anniversary of them taking over the company. “I even went to Israel,” he writes, “where some people called them crooks.  They wanted to know who DID NOT support their section.  I gave them a report almost every week.  Aka blackmail. They were our best customers for years and used to run a huge number of pages of ads in each year’s Cannes issue as well as at the MIFED and the American Film Market.”

The documentary traces the careers of Menahem and Yoram from their beginnings in Israel to their apotheosis in the States. At their high point they owned a huge building in LA and had bought theatre circuits in Holland, Germany and Italy. In the UK they snatched up the ABC Cinemas circuit and at one point owned 40% of cinema screens in the country. The budgets of their films starting getting higher and higher, and near the end it wasn’t just Van Damme, Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson actioners, with little stories and lotsa special effects and violence, but even Sylvester Stallone. According to the documentary they paid him $14 million for one film, far from the one million plus budgets of their old days, which, they claimed, could not fail to make a profit when sold worldwide.

Electric Boogaloo was made in Australia and premiered at the Melbourne Film Festival in August 2014. It was written and directed by Mark Hartley, who interviewed close to 100 persons all over the world, ranging from dozens of thesps who appeared in the Cannon films over the years to Hollywood executives and film critics.

While at Variety we closely covered the evolution of the boys’ progress and later its downfall and gave them the appropriate space in the paper. As is done by some of those interviewed in the documentary, we’d often mimick their  speech. “Ya vanta make a deal?” The film touches on the time that in Cannes Menahem signed a pact with Jean-Luc Godard on a napkin in a restaurant, which I, too, remember and was the talk of the festival one morning. And it touches on other outlandish incidents, with many of those interviewed lambasting the couple and their schlock films. And then there was Paretti… I remember on one occasion Menahem hosted a gigantic reception in the largest salon in the new Palais, handing out invites to just about everyone at the festival. I think it was to announce some new “blockbuster” with Roger Moore. After Menahem made his pitch, the mob was served trays full of ….potato chips! That was all.

After Yoram and Menahem separated, the latter started up a new company, 21st Century Films, and I recall him waiting for customers in front of his stand in the Cannes film market, a  very small stand, not like the huge ones Cannon had in its glory days. He was still trying to make the old schlock, but by now his light was fast fading.

In the documentary there is a shot of the two men where Menahem looks old and beaten. At the end of the film it is noted that both declined to be interviewed. Menahem died on Aug. 8, 2014 in Jaffa. Yoram, who is now 75, probably still lives in Israel.

Finally, for those interested, I came across another documentary made on Cannon back in 1986 by the BBC. It was when the Chutzpah Boys were at their peak.

Both films seem to be available on YouTube, for those nostalgic enough to want to have a look-see.


PS: If anyone out there wants to send his own recollections of Menahem and Yoram, please forward them to me for posting on Simesite.



Upon the recent death of comedienne Joan Rivers, Variety posted the following item on its webpage, reproducing a night club review the paper ran in 1965. Unfortunately the “sig” of the reviewer is not mentioned, but in all probability it was Joe Cohen, Jose, who penned most of the night club reviews at that time. He was one of the first muggs axed when Bart became editor.

Aside from the interest in its early appreciation of Rivers’ talents, the review is a jewel showing the kind of Varietese lingo used in 1965.

Sime returns to Variety masthead

Los Angeles, Dec. 27, 2013.

Sime Silverman is back where he belongs! Variety, under new owner Jay Penske, astutely returned the publication’s founder to the masthead, after his name was dropped shortly after Peter Bart took over the editorship back in the dark days of the late 1980s. The entry is: “Sime Silverman, Founder 1873-1933” and contains a nicely-done portrait art of his face.

French Mag traces expression “WHODUNIT” to Sime

London, Sept. 19, 2013

Our “man in London”, Ian Watkins, has spotted an item in a French online mag (Les Voyageurs du Soir) titled “La Whodunit, What Is It?” which delves into the question of exactly who first came up with the expression.

Here’s a rough translation of the contents of the article:

“Per Webster’s New World Dictionary the contraction Whodunit first appeared in the period between the two world wars, in 1930, from the pen of a certain Donald Gordon in the bibliographical magazine American News of Books,

“However, considerable controversy still rages about who really was the father of the expression. Thus, in the April 25, 1942 issue of the Daily Telegram its coining is attributed to having been first used in a Variety article in 1932. In an item published in the Toledo Blade on June 3, 1985, the inventor of the contraction is given as Sime Silverman in 1936 in Variety (which is patently wrong, since Sime died in 1933!  PB), while another source, the Milwaukee Journal of June 10, 1946, claims it was a certain [Variety staffer) Wolf Kaufman who came up with the expression in 1935 or 1936 while writing about the film Murder of an Aristocrat, when he was seeking a term shorter than “mystery story”. The term definitely appears in the Aug. 28, 1934 issue when talking about the film adaptation of Recipe for Murder, by British writer Arnold Ridley. In any case, Variety’s use of the word Whodunit refers to a film and not a novel.”

The article goes on for another 500 words or so giving a recap of the whodunit genre, its history, and some of its most famous examples.

If anyone want to read the original French text, click on to:

A news junkie’s confessions


Larry Michie’s recently-posted Simesite piece “Happy Talk Instead of the News”, jogged my memory of what tv news was like in ancient times, meaning before the Second World War. I scraped away the cobwebs and I actually remembered seeing my very first tv news program, which I caught in the lounge of the Trans-Lux Newsreel theater, at Broadway and 72nd street, on the evening of September 3, 1939. I went to the theater with my father to see the latest newsreels from Europe, since that very morning the Brits and French had declared war on Hitler’s Germany. There was no footage yet on the actual fighting, since in those days it took about a week to get film over the Atlantic, usually, I think, via the Pan Am clipper from Lisbon, but there was background material and photos.

At that time, there were either two or three tv stations broadcasting in New York. According to Google, there were only about 1,000 tv sets in the whole metropolitan area. These were scattered around a few wealthy homes, bars and theater lobbies.

I still remember that the anchor man that night in ’39 was seated at a plain regular desk and merely read off the latest bulletins, probably from the Associated Press or the United Press wire services. But the announcer did hold up blow-ups of the photos that they had received from overseas showing Germans advancing rapidly through Poland and the Poles speedily retreating. You could see photos of bombs hitting Warsaw and pictures of Chamberlain making his famous declaration of war speech. It was a fascinating experience to actually see all this on a screen, instead of just hearing a voice telling it to you on the radio or reading it in a newspaper.

To fast forward to 2007 and Larry’s story, which in my opinion was right on, I’ve been watching the same network news program in the mornings for over three decades and am now ready to pack it in. Two giggling gals do the anchor job and, as though that weren’t annoying enough, they then switch from a cackle to a very serious puss at the drop of a body. And there have been lotsa bodies dropping lately.

Nowadays, I frequently switch to Fox, which is always lively, if not objective, and also CNN. These two cable operations remind me of the Hearst vs. Pulitzer feud during the years of yellow journalism in the late 19th century.

My local burg, Norwalk, Connecticut, has its own station, with a complete news staff, anchor person, weatherman and even a sportscaster, though I have a sneaking suspicion, at the end of day, they all get handed brooms to clean the station. Said anchor person looks like his suit was picked up at our local Wal-Mart, but it is a conservative stack of threads. Excellent for local news and commercials for neighborhood emporiums.

However, being an incorrible news freak, I try to watch all the channels I’m fed by cable service, including the BBC, French news, Deutsche Welle, Polish news, RAI, Spanish language stations (lotsa them around nowadays), and if I need a snooze, PBS, a sure cure for insomnia.

I find the Beeb fairly objective, and their half hour news program or “programme” well produced, courtesy of the U.K. taxpayer.

French news, also on for a half hour at 7 pm, with subtitles in English, is my favorite news program for the past few years. Very mature, objective. I find some of the local news quite interesting. Typically of the French, there are frequent programs on Gallic grub. Last week, they interviewed some French troops stationed in Kosovo, and they shot the program during a chowdown. The camera focused for a few seconds on the food, which looked quite tasty, especially compared to the swill served to our brave lads and lasses in the armed services. In my second life, I want to serve in the Boy Scouts, otherwise, the French army. Moreover, the troops were drinking WINE, though one wimp insisted on chug-a-lugging beer. Doubtless he hailed from Alsace. If you served wine or beer to our brave warriors in Iraq, I bet there would probably be a congressional investigation. Booze is just for officers and politicos! At home, I usually try to organize it so that I’m about to sit down to dinner before French news starts. Sort of an aperitif.

Alas, RAI Italian news and Polish news do not have translations, but both look quite interesting and the commercials on Polish news, advertising local New York sawbones, dentists and beaneries, I find amusing, and occasionally prompts from me a guffaw. Stash, pass the kelbosi!

Spanish language news programs, also no translations (I understand a bit of pigeon Spanish) can also be amusing, especially the commercials. “Un gran Mac”, “Bebe Coca Cola” or one for “Boogerking” are a gas. Lotsa more blood and guts on their shows, than on OUR newscasts, by the way.

Deutsche Welle, German, but for some odd reason, broadcast out of Brussels, is very well done, in my opinion, with their anchor Herren speaking perfect English. The other night, they did a piece on a German sub, deep sixed off the Norwegian coast in ’45 and now leaking mercury, much to the alarm of the locals. And with still the bodies of over 70 swabbies aboard.

Finally, if you live in the States and have problems catching your forty winks, I suggest you tape one of the PBS news programs and watch it at bedtime. I predict you’ll be in the arms of Morpheus posthaste.

As a postscript, let me add that I was in Virginia about ten days ago and a local station in Hampton Roads covered the massacre of the students at Virginia Tech. The anchor fellow, an immense hulk of a guy, said with a drawl: “Those students are now upstairs”. That to me was a new way of describing splitting for St. Pete’s gate.

Love the news, the more, the merrier! Next trip south, I must check out the local station in Picayune, Mississippi!