Facts revealed in the new Mr. Rogers biopic

The new movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” stars Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, beloved Pittsburgh icon, influential children’s television programmer and one of the best-loved American personalities of all-time.

Here are some of the startling facts depicted in the movie, which opens this week:

  • “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” originally debuted on network radio as “The Johns-Mansville Asbestos Hour Starring Ed Wynn.”
  • “Lady Elaine Fairchild” was not, as most people believe, a puppet, but an actress named Gladys Pryzebelich from Wilmerding who had a rare growth hormone deficiency. When she died in 2014 at age 94, she was buried in a New Balance shoe box.
  • In a 2001 referendum, residents of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe rejected as “too expensive” a proposal from then-City Council candidate Bill Peduto to add bike lanes.
  • Since retiring, X the Owl works occasionally as a docent at the National Aviary on Pittsburgh’s North Side. In his spare time, he enjoys catching voles and other small rodents.
  • For an April Fool’s Day prank in 1973, two PBS staples, Fred Rogers and William F. Buckley Jr., hosted each others’ shows. But the episodes never aired after PBS executives concluded that while Mr. Rogers vastly improved the quality of “Firing Line,” Buckley was easily outwitted by Daniel Striped Tiger.
  • Until budget cuts during the Reagan administration, the Neighborhood Trolley ran along the Parkway East and U.S. 30 to Rogers’ hometown of Latrobe, making the round trip in 28 hours and 14 minutes.
  • Fred Rogers’ red zip-up cardigan sweater, handmade for him by his mother, is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. His sneakers were purchased by Dr. Scholl’s as a laboratory standard and are used to test all of that company’s various orthotic products.
  • Stay seated until the closing credits to see scenes from the next thrilling installment in this new Marvel Comics franchise.
Posted in (sad trombone), Tongue Firmly in Cheek | Leave a comment

What to expect during the impeachment hearings

Impeachment is a congressional investigation into alleged misconduct by the President of the United States. At the end of the process, the House of Representatives refers any evidence that has been gathered to the U.S. Senate, which then holds a trial.

In the history of the United States, only two Presidents have faced impeachment — Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon resigned before formal impeachment proceedings began.

Here’s what to expect as Congress begins impeachment proceedings against President Trump:

  • Each day’s testimony introduced by the “Let’s get ready to rumble!” guy
  • Members of House of Representatives will be trying out catchphrases, like “That’s-a good-a testimony!” and “The indictments don’t stop ’til we reach the top!”
  • “Baby Trump” balloon bouncing around in the gallery like a beach ball at a Phish concert
  • Administration officials holding oversized fedoras in front of their faces to avoid photographers wielding Speed Graphics and giant flashguns
  • Witnesses trying to come as close as possible to describing a crime without going over, then risking it all on a “Daily Double”
  • NPR’s Mara Liasson and Susan Davis on the red carpet outside the Capitol, describing who’s hot and who’s not
  • A free small “Frosty” at participating Wendy’s locations if any of that day’s witnesses present evidence that Trump is a Russian operative (limit one per customer)
  • U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams in a neutral corner, getting ready to throw in a towel if proceedings become too violent
  • Kellyanne Conway becoming so enraged that she stomps her right foot into the ground, then rips herself in two trying to pull it out
  • An overwhelming sense that the end of American democracy is getting closer and there’s sweet f-ck all that we can do about it
Posted in (sad trombone), Rants, Tongue Firmly in Cheek | Leave a comment

CMU never closed due to weather, until it did

This one goes out to all of my CMU-affiliated peeps, in honor of the #PolarVortex.

I see people on social media griping about Carnegie Mellon University being closed due to extremely cold weather. Some people think CMU wimped out, while others think they should have closed sooner.

Well, kids, grab your cup of cocoa and settle in as Uncle Jay tells you a story.

It was January 1994 — exactly 25 years ago — and I was an undergraduate commuting by bus from the Mon Valley to Carnegie Mellon.

And it was cold. Not cold like today.

Cold like the heart of your student-loan collection agency.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Uncle Jay’s TV Reviews: “Murphy Brown”

The reviews of the “Murphy Brown” re-boot are in, and they’re not kind. I watched it with very low expectations — and I laughed a lot, to my own surprise.

(Spoiler alerts follow)

Continue reading

Posted in Uncle Jay's Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

Uncle Jay’s Movie Reviews: “Murder on the Orient Express”


We saw “Murder on the Orient Express” last night.

Capsule review: I had very low expectations, because the reviews have been mixed. It exceeded all of my hopes.

It is a very faithful adaptation of the original Agatha Christie novel — probably more faithful than the famous 1974 movie starring Albert Finney.

And the cinematography is wonderful.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncle Jay's Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

Movie review: “The Nice Guys”

During my day off yesterday, Denise and I saw “The Nice Guys.”

Capsule Review: Denise liked this a lot better than I did. Set in the late 1970s in Los Angeles, Ryan Gosling is a hapless private eye (think Richie Brockelman in “The Rockford Files”) who’s coerced into working with a tough guy enforcer played by Russell Crowe.

The reluctant duo is paid to find an aspiring porn film star who’s on the run from mobsters and a federal agent.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncle Jay's Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

The Feb. 20 show is only online

The Saturday, Feb. 20 show is only on Internet radio www.wmck.fm, and if I do say so myself, it’s three hours of smokin’ radio.

(Our flagship station, WRCT 88.3 FM, is doing “Massive Music Weekend,” and you should totally check that out, too.)

And hey! Please check out WMCK.FM when Jay Thurber isn’t on, because it’s a lot of great, new alternative and independent rock, soul, R&B and pop.

There are plenty of ways to listen right here … http://wmck.fm/?p=listen

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment