The Sky Just Got Another Star

Regis Philbin dies — TV host was 88 - Chicago Sun-Times

As if this year hasn’t proven hard enough on our collective psyche, now the angels steal Regis Philbin from us. And yes, he lived a long, good life and he leaves behind a legacy that would be the envy of the most heralded of Popes. But still, his passing makes for one less thing that’s good with the world.

Regis was one big deal, a Bronx born kid who made good on the biggest stage after breaking into show business as a page on the Johnny Carson show. But his story speaks to the value in holding onto your dreams. Because his road to stardom sure as hell wasn’t paved in gold, and the signs, at least early on, were telling him to get lost.

He moved into Steve Allen’s time slot with a talk show of his own in the early sixties, and tanked. And when it looked as if a national brand was not in the offing, he never stopped being Regis. In the seventies, he did a variety show in St Louis and he also hosted a morning talk show out of Los Angeles. In 1981 he hosted a variety show on NBC with Mary Hart that lasted all of four months. It would take four more years for him to catch some much deserved lightning in a bottle when he paired with Kathie Lee Gifford for a morning show, after which things would never be the same for Reeg.

Or for us either.

Thing about Regis, he never took the ebbs personally. He knew that nothing was given and he considered it a privilege to simply be in the game. So when he got busy making all sorts of history on the flip side of syndication for his show Live, he never considered himself a big deal. Even though he was. In an industry where he won awards and produced big ratings, to setting a Guinness world record for most hours on camera in 2004 to hosting Who Wants to Be a Millionaire– helping to usher in a new age of game shows in the process.

To his lasting credit, the guy never changed. And it’s what we came to love about him most of all. Let’s face it, when you can make Kelly Ripa bearable, you’re doing something right. Regis did that, he made friends . . with everyone. From Presidents to soccer moms, from rappers to writers to Howard Stern. He made everyone believe the world was a better place. And as a fan of the Miami Hurricanes, I couldn’t even hold it against Regis for waving the flag of the Fighting Irish. Yeah, he was that good.

So now the mystic gets him, and I bet he showed up in one of those fantastic suits of his, sporting that signature smile. I sure hope that St Peter gives his people a couple weeks paid vacation for landing Regis.

They deserve it.


Taking the Reboot to Godfather III

Having grown up in John Gotti’s neighborhood, I am admittedly a fan of the wiseguys. And as such, mob movies have a special place in my cold, dark heart. Specifically, the Godfather franchise. Based on the Puzo novel, Francis Ford Coppola created a genre which helped set the standard for mob movies. Until his rush job with the third installment effectively killed what should have been the triumphant conclusion to a hall of fame collection.

Many would argue that Godfather III wasn’t horrible, and they are completely missing the point. No, it wasn’t horrible. In fact, as a stand alone mob flick, it was fine. But here’s the thing, fine isn’t what made the first two pictures all timers. Fine is what Casino is. And that, is just not good enough.

I blame Coppola, who took the money and ran. He had resisted a third go round for more than a decade before finally agreeing to it in the late ’80’s. I wish he would have left plenty well enough alone. To those of you out there who remember the great Willie Mays, Godfather III was the New York Mets version of the Hall of Famer. Not the same.

For one thing, the story line was hard to swallow. Michael Corleone wanting to go legitimate by getting in bed with the Catholic Church? So . . he stops doing dirty by doing business with more dirty? Come on! And the poison canoli scene . . how do you subject sister Connie to that kind of Murder She Wrote ridiculousness?!

The casting was another miss. Not bringing back Duvall because of the money is just plain dumb. Made all the dumber when they switched him out with George Hamilton. And Sofia Coppola, bless her pretty little heart, was no substitute for Winona Ryder. The first two movies were packed with Academy award winners, and so will this reboot.

A quick summary . . .

The year is 1986 and the Italian mafia finds itself at a crossroads. The Corleone family, while still prominent, is no longer the most feared crime syndicate. Their power structure has eroded for a variety of reasons- no legitimate ‘heir’ to the empire, the rise of other crime organizations and an Attorney General who is banking his political future on taking down the mob.

The other players are intent on taking their time with Corleone, who is more negotiator than enforcer now, out of necessity. The Barzini family rules the original five families, led by John Sangiovese, who takes command after assassinating the Boss outside a Manhattan restaurant on Christmas Eve.

Edgar Donovan is the new face of organized crime. Rising from the tenements in the Bronx, he has gained a foothold in the drug trade. But it is his control of the political machinery that once belonged to the Corleone family that proves most troubling to Michael. Donovan is the voice of reason, the bridge to how organized crime bosses do business in the present day. He doesn’t fly off the handle, he simply gets shit done. He is perfectly content to join forces with certain of his enemies in order to gain traction in the ever expanding world of crime syndicates.

Add to this an Attorney General hell bent on bringing down the mob, a former consiglieri (Tom Hagen) who turns state’s evidence, an estranged nephew out for revenge and a rising news anchor who happens to be in bed- literally- with the enemy, and things are looking grim for Michael Corleone.

Enter John Sangiovese. He is a fashion plate gangster every bit as ruthless and cunning as a young Michael Corleone. If he bears a remarkable resemblance to the late John Gotti, that’s because he is that guy- in fictional splendor. He belongs to the Barzini crime family- the new king of the five original families. And he’s coming for Michael Corleone.

Sangiovese has a button man who also serves as his second in command. And here’s where things get spicy. His right hand man- Salvatore Corleone- is the illegitimate son of one Fredo Corleone. So yeah, there might be a Hail Mary or several in Michael Corleone’s future.

And if you’re looking for the Luca Brasi character in all of this, that would be Nicolo Stassi. He is on Michael’s speed dial for a reason.

Here then, the cast of Godfather III. 

Al Pacino

Michael Corleone- I won’t be standing for the crew cut look Pacino sported in the original 3. No, in mine he goes with the parted, longer locks. He’s a more studious looking individual, but he’s still a python.


John Sangiovese- Leo is the guy. Reason being, he’s got the Al Pacino effect. You understand he is a monster, but he is so fucking cool about it that you can’t help but appreciate his blood lust.


Edgar Donovan- Denzel made his bones in the mob movie genre with his turn in American Gangster. He is the face of the modern day gangster in that he will take your ass out before finishing his breakfast. But he would rather do business, seeing as how blood is a really big expense.

Robert Duval

Tom Hagen- Robert Duval’s character- Tom Hagen- is the character who goes legit. He turns state’s evidence and quickly becomes a media darling. He scores a show on cable as a talking head and retires to Connecticut to write his mob memoirs.

Sandra Bullock

Victoria Sangiovese- Sandra Bullock as Mafia Milf. What’s not to love? She will be the wife of the new Boss; a tough, great looking mob mom who doesn’t meddle in the family business unless it concerns her children. In which case, hell ain’t hath no kind of fury like hers.

Michael Shannon

Nicolo Stassi- Michael Shannon is a fucking crazy man. Like him or loathe him, you can’t say he doesn’t bring it to every single role. He is the perfect modern day Luca Brasi. As the Corleone button man who replaces Brasi in the late seventies, Shannon’s character will go rogue after Michael is taken out. He will lurk in the shadows . . waiting for his opportunity.

Daniel Day

Peter Greco- Daniel Day as the fictional Rudy Guiliani. He looks quite comfortable dressed in sharp suits and political ambition. It’s easy to see him in the role of Mob Slayer with dreams of a Mayoral run in the offing.

San Sebastian Film Festival: Steve Buscemi

Salvatore Corleone- Steve Buscemi as button man in Leo’s rise to the top? Hells yeah. He may not be the imposing figure that Sammy Gravano was (Believe me, I know first hand), but he is a reckoning in his own right. As my pal Dale remarked when we chatted about Buscemi, God was in a bad mood when he created him. Oh yeah, this guy is plenty capable of making peeps disappear.

Anne Hathaway

Savannah Kelly- What self respecting mob flick doesn’t feature a hot side dish? Which is what Anne will be to Denzel. Theirs is the tightly sealed affair that is borne out of a subcommittee hearing in which the two meet. She, the fiery upstart representative from Manhattan and he, the bullet proof gangster. They use each other to get to the top, because in the eighties . . if it ain’t greed, it doesn’t lead.

My Godfather III is set in the ’80’s and as such, it will have a killer soundtrack. Blondie, Phil Collins, Prince, Billy Joel, Falco, Laid Back, Talking Heads, The Sugarhill Gang, John Lennon. I could go on and on.

When the original came out in 1990, it was quickly trounced at the box office by Goodfellas, which boasted a better cast, story line and soundtrack. Well guess what? The Godfather is taking it back. And so, let’s start with this tune, to open things up.