Richard Roeper Blog

Archive for May, 2009

First pitch goes horribly wrong.

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Major League Baseball has nixed the YouTube video of Gary Dell’Abate’s now-infamous first pitch disaster last weekend at Citi Field, where the lifelong Mets fan unleashed a soft toss that looked like something from the Wild Thing’s arsenal in “Major League.” It was about nine feet high and another nine feet outside.


Poor Gary. Due to his status as the longtime producer and frequent on-air presence on Howard Stern’s show, he’s been on the fringes of fame for years—-and he’s a major figure in Stern Nation, where ball-busting is the real national pastime. Dozens of local and national sportscasts ran with the video, and Howard, Robin and in particular Artie have had a field day on the show this week, spending hours dissecting the moment, ¬†erupting into gales of laughter at Gary’s expense. They even had a phone interview with Yankees’ outfielder Johnny Damon, who said it was among the worst ceremonial first pitches he’d ever seen. (Damon did his best to avoid Artie’s comments about A-Rod, steroids and women.)

UPDATE: Thanks to Ian for this link.


This is the thing about those ceremonial first pitches: the potential downside is about a thousand times bigger than the upside. I know exactly what Gary was going through in the weeks leading up to his first pitch. He was fretting on and off the air about making a fool of himself—and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I guarantee you, if he goes to the mound at Citi Field next week with nobody in the stands and no cameras rolling rolling, he probably throws a strike right down the middle. But it’s the knowledge that you might f— up and it might become a YouTube moment that plays games with your psyche.

I know it sounds stupid and silly, but YOU go out there and throw a first pitch, especially if you’re in a situation like Gary’s, where you know that if you screw up, it’s going to become a part of Stern show lore for the rest of your life. I had similar apprehensions last year in the days leading up to my stint on the mound at U.S. Cellular Field. I’m an OK baseball player—I still play a passable second base in 12-inch softball leagues in Chicago and I still go to the batting cages once in a while. I play catch with my 9-year-old nephew and rarely even feel a twinge in the area where I had rotator cuff surgery a few years back. When the White Sox extended the invite for me throw out a first pitch before a key September game on a Friday night in Chicago, I was thrilled—-but I also knew if I messed up, I’d become a YouTube “star,” at least on a minor level. More than a few people would probably enjoy seeing a video headlined, “Movie Critic Sucks on the Mound.”

I got all kinds of advice from people. Go into a full windup. Pitch from the stretch. Don’t wind up at all—-just toss it. Aim high. Aim low. Goof around so it doesn’t seem like you’re worried.

The Sox were nice enough to give me a custom-made jersey, and also a green St. Patrick’s Day jersey with Jim Thome’s name and number. They also let me bring my nephew onto the field, where he posed for a photo with Ozzie Guillen and received a signed game bat from catcher Toby Hall, who delivered the treasure unsolicited. (What a cool thing to do.)

And then it was time for me to get out there and throw that ceremonial first pitch to Sox ace Mark Buehrle. (There’s a pic in the Photos section.) My form wasn’t exactly Bob Gibson circa 1968—but I managed to get the ball over the plate, a little bit above the strike zone. Buehrle came out and signed the ball, we took a picture, I thanked the Sox and I went up to the stands to join my friends and family, relieved that I had survived the moment without becoming a YouTube punchline.

I can’t help but laugh at some of the jokes they’re enjoying at Gary’s expense on the Stern show, but I’m also feeling his pain. He’s showing an awful lot of grace by taking the countless hits and only occasionally snapping back, but inside it has to be killing him. If he throws a strike, it gets two minutes of airtime on Monday’s show and it’s forgotten. But he tried to aim the ball and he over-thought the moment, and his worst fears came to pass. I honestly feel terrible for him. In the grand scheme of things, it’s no big deal, but in Stern World, oy. There but for the grace of God…

I’m thinking of making this the cover of the book.

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Took this shot with my iPhone when I was at the friggin’ dog races in Kenosha, Wisc. (Ah, the glamor!) Note the scribbling that says, “I truly suck at picking these fucking dogs.” Didn’t even realize I’d made that notation until I downloaded the pic.


Book today, movies and poker tonight.

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Working on the book all day. Then I’m heading over to 600 N. Michigan Ave. to introduce a special screening of “Star Trek.” Gotta help these little indie cult films! After that I’m going to the Hard Rock Hotel for a charity poker tournament to benefit Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago.

Poker tourney info

Have a great Friday!

The Michigan fork.

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

A million years ago, David Letterman did a bit on his show where he’d hold up a giant prop fork and say, “This is a big fork. It’s just plain BIG.” Because it was David Letterman and he has one of the best deliveries in the history of comedy, there was something funny about Dave holding that fork and proclaiming, “It’s just plain BIG.”

Behold the Michigan fork.




It’s like a regular fork, only…bigger. I came across this fork in a diner in New Buffalo earlier this week, and I couldn’t help but chuckle. This is what America needs—-a larger utensil to scoop up even more food to shove down its collective throat?

Porn actress acts with non-actors in real movie.

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Sasha Grey is a porn actress. She is short. She is cute. I’d never heard of her until she was cast in “The Girlfriend Experience,” which is not a porn film at all but a small-budget project from Steven Soderbergh, who loves to alternate between ambitious films with big stars, and experimental works shot for a million bucks or so.

If you turn off the SafeSearch mode on Google and type in “Sasha Grey,” you will see this young woman engaging in all manner of hardcore fare. It’s not particularly sexy, but it’s more than a little depressing. I’m not Mister Anti-Porn Crusader, but you watch even a minute of this stuff and you think: what happened to this girl that made her want to do THIS at the age of 18? Grey considers herself something of an intellectual. She says her hardcore porn scenes are “performance art.” No, they’re hardcore porn scenes. There ain’t an ounce of art in the room my dear.

In “The Girlfriend Experience,” Gray plays Chelsea, a fashion-conscious, emotionally detached sex escort in New York City in the fall of 2008, when everyone was talking about the election and the economy. (Now we just talk about the economy.) At first I thought the film was going to be a thinly veiled take on Eliot Spitzer and Ashley Dupre. Gray bears a slight resemblance to the briefly famous escort, and in some early scenes in the film, we see her recording her mundane thoughts and doing an interview with a journalist.

But “The Girlfriend Experience” isn’t about plot. Shot digitally and running for just 77 minutes, it’s a rambling, slice-of-life docudrama that jumps back and forth within a brief time period as get to know the escort, her live-in boyfriend and about a half-dozen of her clients. Although the movie is about a sexual escort and it features a porn star, Grey is clothed for nearly all of the film, and the sex scenes aren’t much raunchier than the love scene in “Wolverine.” I suppose that’s one of the reasons Soderbergh was intrigued with casting Grey: you can see her on the Internet doing everything imaginable (and some things you’d probably never imagine), but here you see her—-or at least the character she’s playing—when she’s NOT ‘on the job.’ Anyone with a stack of cash can have their way with the escort, but only a select few ever get to see what she’s like when the workday is done.

All of Grey’s co-stars are non-actors. The film critic Glenn Kenny is hilarious as a skeezeball who writes reviews of escorts for an influential web site. A journalist plays a journalist. A personal trainer plays a personal trainer. And so on. The end result is a film that often seems like a documentary—and sometimes plays like a poorly acted film shot on a very low budget.

As for Ms. Grey: she is not a good actress. She photographs well. She does a decent enough job of hitting the on/off switch in her eyes when she’s feigning interest in a man—and when she’s tired of his narcissistic ramblings. (Like almost all johns in the movies, these guys have at least as much interest in talking about themselves as they have in the sexual act itself. Some don’t even consummate with Chelsea. It’s the old cliche about the man who pays a woman for her time so she can give him oral, but also because she HAS to listen to him go on and on about his problems at work, etc. She doesn’t have the girlfriend/wife option of saying, “Will you PLEASE just shut up!”) But her line readings are flat, and a pivotal scene in which she has to display authentic emotion rings false, especially because it’s shot mostly from a distance, as if Soderbergh knew Grey couldn’t handle too many close-ups on her face. Faking an orgasm onscreen is one thing; conveying true heartbreak is something else.

I like most of Soderbergh’s experimental journeys. I’d rather experience something uneven but ambitious such as “The Girlfriend Experience” than sit through another trite rom-com or standard-issue actioner. But I doubt this is the vehicle that will enable Sasha Grey to make the leap from porn star/pop culture novelty to genuine mainstream actress.

Ow. My ears.

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

Chicago-area native Denise Richards was once an actress. Her career peaked somewhere after a guest shot on “Seinfeld” as the teenage daughter of an NBC executive (“Get a good look, Costanza?”) and her role in “Wild Things,” one of the great-bad movies of all-time.

These days Richards is known for her tabloid life, which was chronicled in a painfully uninteresting reality series. On Saturday she showed up at Wrigley Field, the latest in a long, long, long line of celebrities to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.

It was one of the 10 worst performances in Wrigley Field history.

Danny Gans, R.I.P.

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Danny Gans, 52

TMZ and others are reporting that Las Vegas superstar Danny Gans has died at 52. I remember seeing a “60 Minutes” feature on Gans a few years back, after I’d seen him do his one-man show in Vegas. In a 90-minute set, Gans would whip through maybe a hundred impersonations—-everyone from George Burns to Bill Clinton to Michael Jackson. His act was pretty corny (“Here’s a scene from ‘On Golden Pond’ “) and not all of the imitations were spot-on in a Frank Caliendo kind of way, but Gans was an undeniably talented and charismatic performer, and a real crowd favorite.

Gans was unique in that he didn’t seem to have any interested in expanding his empire beyond the Nevada state lines. I don’t remember seeing him on the road, and as I recall, the “60 Minutes” piece said he often turned down overtures to do TV. (He did play Dean Martin in a TV movie about Frank Sinatra in the early 1990s.) A former minor league baseball player, Gans was cast in “Bull Durham” but was cut out of the film. Mostly, though, he seemed to be ¬†content making tens of millions of dollars in Vegas (the Mirageeventually built the Danny Gans Theater for him) and living a relatively quiet life.

Gans always seemed to be in great shape and appeared to be the picture of health. News of his death this morning is a real shocker. May he rest in peace.

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