Archive for the ‘Fictional DC’ Category

The More The Merrier

Hey, all you classic film buffs out there! Hey, all you folks who enjoy seeing films set in our very own city! Tomorrow’s TCM “Road to Hollywood” event is made just for you.

As companion events to its Classic Film Festival that’s taking place in Hollywood, Turner Classic Movies has organized several one-night-only screenings around the country, with each city showing a film set there. So, Bostonians can watch The Verdict, or Chicagoans can watch The Lady from Shanghai.

But we here in DC might be the luckiest of all! Tomorrow night at the Avalon Theatre, TCM will be showing The More The Merrier (1943). This classic of the screwball comedy genre stars the always hilarious Jean Arthur (whom you’ll recognize from that other DC-based classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) and Joel McCrea, and features an Oscar-winning performance by Charles Coburn. They’re all jammed together in one tiny apartment, when DC was stuffed full to the gills with war workers and soldiers during World War II. Naturally, hijinks ensue!  If you’ve ever lived in those thousands of housing units that popped up all over the District and its immediate environs during the war, you’ll have a special appreciation.

The More The Merrier is hilarious, but it’s all in service of a great love story. It’s famous for one of the most romantic and sexy scenes in all of classic cinema:

We’ve all had a moment like that, right?  When you don’t want to say goodbye, or hang up the phone, or close the door at the end of the night.

The screening will be hosted by TCM’s weekend host, Ben Mankiewicz and George Stevens, Jr. Tickets can be downloaded for free here, but seating is limited and first-come, first served so get there early! I know I won’t miss it.

DC to Be Dan Browned-And What to Do About It

Lost Symbol cover

With the advent of Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol” this coming  Tuesday, the secret societies of the DC area are bracing for a sudden onrush of tourists to their places of…secrecy, I guess?  As early as Tuesday night (Seriously-how long does it take to read a Dan Brown book?) throngs of Dan Brown devotees could be showing up at your local Masonic lodge asking if they could just “poke around a bit.”  This story in yesterday’s WaPo (while taking shot after shot at Dan Brown and his audience) details how even little places like Rosslyn Chapel Trust see an explosion in tourism based on their supposed (and by supposed I mean created for a work of fiction by a writer of fiction, but it sounds real) connection to the lost mysteries of Christ.  Where Professor Robert Langdon goes, so go the masses.

No doubt, there will be an increase to some of these probable locales (THANKS Matt Lauer!) and you’re likely to get some folks bugging you with stupid half right facts about secret societies for the next two years (just in time for a movie to come out and start it all over again), it doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun.  For your entertainment, here are some ideas for how to deal with tourists in search of a “Secret Washington:

1.) Stage an argument near one of these likely destination.   Have one person imploring desperately for help from another.  Just as it reaches a fever pitch, and just as your target is in ear shot, say “Will no one help the Widow’s Son?”   Then cast shifty looks all around, and sneak off together to go do something Masonic-y.

2.) Go on one of the inevitable tours that will blossom from this, and while looking at something old and mysterious (there is bound to be something), bend over and mutter “Oh my God..” just loud enough for others to hear.  Bring a little make-up brush and start dusting something carefully and say “Oh…it just can’t be!”  Feel free to exclaim “I found it” (specify it if you have read the above book and know something that could have been found) as you rush away from the tour.  Bonus:  Have two friends ready, dressed very neatly in suits, come “collect” you when you make your discovery.  Be sure to protest the entire time you are being escorted out-especially that the others “have a right to know!”

3.) Striking up a conversation with one of these folks, start to mention some of the “rumors” you’ve heard of hidden places in DC, full of “mystery” and “wonder.”  When they inquire as to where these places are, say you’ve only heard rumor (and maybe, saw on a map just once) of places tourists never get to see-places only referred to “NorthEast” and “SouthEast”…or was it “SouthWest”, you can’t really remember.  (And let’s face it, most of NE and SE are hidden, mysterious places for tourists despite some of the neat things they offer).

4.) When a Fan-Tourist (Foorist?) tells you something that is clearly wrong or made up from the novel, but wants to pass it off as half truth, say “pfft.  That’s not how it happened in National Treasure.”  If they press you that National Treasure was “just a movie”, well, I think you can figure out what to do from there.  (Side Note:  Why didn’t National Treasure create this kind of fervor?  Those movies were pretty fun!)

5.) Get some sidewalk chalk and just start writing stuff that sounds mysterious on the sidewalk like or “AOFACFSOA FSZWBEIC EIOA ZOHSFWQWOA OQQSDW” other things from the book’s twitter page. (note:  that might actually be illegal or considered defacing property-so be warned).

6.)  Introduce them to the people still in line at Five Guy’s and Ray’s Hell Burger from when President Obama went there.  Have them exchange stories of obsessiveness.

7.) Tell them “Walk left, Stand Right.”  Nothing to do with the book, but they are likely to be tourists.

Other suggestions?

An evening of DC Noir

I savor a good short story like other people devour gourmet cupcakes. And one of my favorite collections has published a sequel.

Tomorrow night, George Pelecanos will be at Busboys and Poets (2021 14th St, NW, Washington, DC 20009) with anthology contributors Rhozier “Roach” Brown and James Grady.

D.C. Noir 2 includes classic tales by Edward P. Jones, George Pelecanos, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, James Grady, Julian Mayfield, Marita Golden, Elizabeth Hand, Julian Mazor, Ward Just, Jean Toomer, Roach Brown, Larry Neal, and others.

The authors will discuss and sign copies of the book at 6pm. This event is free and open to all.

George’s basement

I was flipping around area websites, looking for possibilities for the weekend (even though it’s supposed to be rather frigid, it’s nothing compared to my winters in Chicago) and stumbled upon this tidbit of info.

Seems that Mount Vernon has been capitalizing on the success of the recent Nicky Cage movie, National Treasure: Book of Secrets. If you’re not familiar with the movie, there’s a scene where our intrepid puzzle-solving hero (Cage) decides he needs to kidnap the President of the United States (played by Bruce Greenwood) and does so at a garden party at Mount Vernon. And it revolves around a ‘hidden passageway’ in one of the estate’s basement rooms.

When I first saw the movie, I do remember commenting to my wife afterwards that in all likelihood, we’ll see several D.C. sites jump on the ‘free’ marketing bandwagon and promote themselves along with the movie. And lo and behold, Mount Vernon did indeed.

This weekend is the last available date you can go visit the site for the scene. There’s no additional cost – it’s included in the regular admission and you can only visit that space on the weekend. General admission to Mount Vernon is around $13 for adults and is well worth the cost – it’s a beautiful estate right on the Potomac.

It’s interesting – as usual – how movies portray things that are out of context with the real world. The room used in the movie, according to the website, was actually “designated as the ‘Cellar Kitchen’ on a plan prepared by George Washington at the time he planned additions to both ends of the building in 1774. This space appears to have been used as a kitchen for the slaves assigned to serve the Washington household.”

No mention of a secret passage, however. And I would suggest if you go check it out, don’t try – I’ve a sneaking suspicion that Hollywood made it all up…

Music moves us in ways trains cannot.

Reading this Express article about Metro I-pod overflow reminded me of a story I wrote last year. Here’s a response to their article by way of an excerpt:

Music moves us in ways trains cannot. Thump thumping ear-buds drown out clickety-clacks while swooshing doors vomit suited lemmings onto poles of indifference. Garbled voices warn tourons of doors closing, babies squeal, children nag, the homeless hum. The sub-audible spillover of a thousand I-pods floats through the throng, passing well-toned legs so smooth, between jacketed shoulders brushing together slightly. The sound that isn’t. Unnoticed songs mingle silently, quietly fucking, to conceive – in static-charged air – new music: hybrid mixes that no one seems to hear. Save me.

Jack Bauer Spotted in Georgetown

The only person on the planet who can possibly kick more ass than Jack Bauer is Chuck Norris, but unlike Chuck, Jack is smart enough to never venture into Texas. He prefers to use brains over brawn but isn’t afraid to bust out his glock if one of his hot girlfriends is being kidnapped by terrorists, if his dumb, hot daughter has gotten herself into trouble, or if POTUS asks for him by name in desperate time of need. Jack Bauer is perhaps the most dedicated US citizen to ever serve this great country, and it’s been rumored that he is walking amongst us.

In an effort to add some legitimacy to the show, the producers of “24” have decided to actually film some scenes in DC. After all, the show is centered around the President (who for some reason seems to spend a lot of time in L.A.), so it makes sense to start integrating some DC scenes into the show. I only hope that they don’t try to pull some TV trickery by having Jack run into the Georgetown Metro stop and somehow pop up inside of the White House. DC is watching you, “24”. Let’s try to make this season better than the last or you may be losing your viewership to “Heroes”.

Photo by kmf164.

I Like To Watch

being there If you enjoyed last year’s Top 25 Fictional DC Residents, then this is bonus material. I was making a mental list of my favorite older movies the other day, and of course Being There was on it. Then it hit me (smacks forehead), of course! How could I have forgotten about Chance (the) Gardener?, a brilliant character played by the equally brilliant Peter Sellers.

Based on the novel of the same name by one of my favorite authors, Jerzy Kosinski (who also wrote the screenplay), it’s the story of “Chance,” a man who had been adopted by a rich Washingtonian as a child, and who worked as his gardener. When the “old man” dies, Chance is cut loose from the estate and his first encounter is with a gang of young hoodlums. I wish I knew where this scene was shot, anyone?

Described by the black housekeeper who raised him, Chance was “stuffed with rice pudding between the ears.” He could neither read nor write and “likes to watch TV.” After being struck by a towncar occupied by the wealthy Eve Rand (Shirley MacLaine), Chance ends up at the Rand home where his simple take on life, based on watching television and his life as a gardener, is taken by Eve’s politically influential husband Ben (Melvyn Douglas) as profound and highly insightful. This eventually leads to Chance meeting the president (Jack Warden), who quotes his garden metaphor in one of his speeches.

Personally, my favorite scene is the one in which Eve attempts to seduce Chance. After all, her husband is considerably older and more or less on his deathbed. Yet Chance has no knowledge of or experience with sex and all he seems to be interested in is the TV, repeating that he “likes to watch.” Interpreting this as a cue, Eve launches into an autoerotic session while Chance flips through the channels oblivious to the whole thing.

By the end, there is even talk of him running for president. The blooper reel during the ending credits is also hilarious. If you have never seen the film, or read the book, both are musts.

Top 25 Fictional DC Resident: #1 Agents Mulder and Scully

Names: Agents Mulder and Scully, FBI
FBI Badge Number: JTT0331613 (Dana Scully); JTT047101111 (Fox Mulder)
Last Known Location: New Mexico
Current Status: Presumed Dead

Helen of Troy’s face launched a thousand ships. Mulder and Scully launched ten thousand fan fics.

The relationship between the man of faith and woman of science simmered warm for most of the series, bubbled up occasionally, but never came to the boil we wanted. But, here in DC, a city packed with singles, we especially celebrate that most elusive of qualities: chemistry.

Then there were the actual X-Files: shapeshifters, clones, ghosts, vampires, lycanthropes, telepaths, you name it. Evey week we watched Mulder and Scully leave their dimly-lit basement office in the FBI building to discover a different side of America. And it was freaky.

And of course there were aliens too. “The truth is out there,” Mulder swore, but the truth around the alien conspiracy was murkier and more sinister than we expected. As Mulder and Scully moved closer to understanding the mystery, it enveloped their lives. Both were abducted for a time. Scully offered her baby up for adoption to protect it from the constant surveillance in her life. Mulder was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in a kangaroo court. After a narrow escape, Mulder and Scully learn The Truth: The alien invasion begins 2012. Shit, we didn’t want to know.

Other Fictional DC Residents

Top 25 Fictional DC Resident: #2 Agent 99 & Maxwell Smart

Names: Maxwell Smart & Agent 99
Residence: Classified
Occupation: Spies for CONTROL
Memorable Quote:
Agent 99: Oh, Max, how terrible.
Maxwell Smart: He deserved it, 99. He was a Kaos killer.
Agent 99: Sometimes I wonder if we’re any better, Max.
Maxwell Smart: What are you talking about, 99? We have to shoot and kill and destroy. We represent everything that’s wholesome and good in the world.

As top spies for CONTROL, a little-known US spy agency formed to battle the dastardly KAOS, Maxwell Smart and 99 have everything spies could need- shoe phones, coworkers stashed in mailboxes, a red convertible, the Cone of Silence, lipstick remotes, you name it. With Max as the bumbling lead agent and 99 as his competent assistant who constantly saves his bacon, they thwarted KAOS’ plans to take over the world for 5 years.

After years of saving the day after Max nearly lost it, 99 actually married the guy. They had twins, a boy and a girl. Max’s shoe phone is now on exhibit at the International Spy Museum.

Other Fictional DC Residents

Top 25 Fictional DC Resident: #3 Jack Ryan


Name: Jack Ryan
Education: BA, Economics – Boston College; Doctorate of History – Georgetown University
CV Highlights: Second Lieutenant (United States Marine Corps); Stockbroker (Merrill Lynch); Professor of History (United States Naval Academy); Analyst (CIA); National Security Advisor; President of the United States of America.

[Note: Not to be confused with the other real-world politico whose Senatorial career imploded after divorce details became public. ]

When I was growing up on Long Island, there was always a Tom Clancy novel on my father’s nightstand. He would read the books slowly, very slowly. Come to think of it, I never actually saw him with the book in hand, reading, but every two or three years I’d notice he had moved on to the next volume in the series. In researching Ryan for this post, I understand now my father’s persistent if leisurely-paced dedication to the series: Jack Ryan is the Republican Jed Bartlett, the clever, conservative, media-savvy war president that could unite red, blue, and purple states.

It’s hard not to get excited about Ryan after reading his resume. After a post-college military career cut short by injury, Ryan made millions investing in stocks. Reluctantly pulled into government service, Ryan eventually embraced this career and rose from CIA analyst to NSA to VP and ultimately to the Presidency when a terrorist action destroyed the Capitol, killing the former president and most of Congress and Cabinet. In his government service Ryan foiled numerous terrorist plots and mostly famously assisted the defection of a USSR submarine crew. He also negotiated a workable Mideast peace plan and won a land war in China.

While the the world we live in isn’t as chaotic as Clancy’s (the US fights wars with a merged Iran-Iraq, Japan, and China in less than a decade), I look around us and I wouldn’t mind a Ryan presidency navigating our geopolitical waters.

Other Fictional DC Residents

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