Scott Grimes pilots his way through a man-child life


Some people know Scott Grimes from the old "Critters" movies or the new Seth MacFarlane shows, from cartoons to "The Orville." But the first thing I remember was "Frog." That was when PBS had terrific family films under the "WonderWorks" banner; in this one (and its sequel), Grimes had a talking frog. Now, more than three decades later, his career continues to be busy; here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Some people might
argue that Scott Grimes' childhood ended the day he auditioned for
Broadway.

He was an
11-year-old kid who'd done some shows back home in Massachusetts.
Then came the “Nine” try-outs. “Three weeks later, we were in
the show,” Grimes said.

He's been working
ever since, so you could say he's had a shortened childhood ... or a
lengthened one.

Ever since, he's had
childlike fun. He's talked to frogs and a supercomputer; he's been
Robin Hood's pal and the farmboy who battled critters. He's voiced
Pinocchio, a midget assassin and Larry the Donut.

His main fun these
days involves piloting the spaceship in “The Orville,” which has
just started its second season on Fox. It's a dream job for anyone
who grew up on science fiction.

“I've always loved
it,” said Grimes, 47. “The first movie I saw was 'Forbidden
Planet.' My dad loved science fiction and he'd take me.”

And “Orville”
makes it easy to get into make-believe, with its realistic sets. “You
can turn 360 degrees and it all feels real to you.”

Others share that
feeling. “You're completely submerged into the world,” Mark
Jackson, who plays Isaac, said before the first season. “When I
first walked onto the set, I felt like a 10-year-old boy.”

That's the
approximate age when Grimes entered the world of grown-ups.

He was 9 when he did
a regional musical, 11 when he auditioned for Broadway director Tommy
Tune. “When I was leaving with my family, (director Tommy Tune)
said, 'Where are you staying?' We said the Sheridan and he said,
'You'd better get a place here, because you're in the show.'”

Grimes soon took
over the role of the boyhood friend of the central character.

At first, music
seemed to be his thing. At 14, he sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
on a Bob Hope special; at 15, he sang on a Carpenters record. “I
believe young Scott to have quite a future in music,” Richard
Carpenter wrote in the liner notes.

Actually, Grimes has
had a modest music career: He had an album when he was 18; a second
one, almost two decades later, included a song he co-wrote (“Sunset
Blvd”), which spent 10 weeks in the top 20 of Billboard's
adult-contemporary chart. He also has a band with Russell Crowe and
others.

But it was acting
that took off; like Ron Howard, this was a likable redhead who was a
natural for the camera. At 13, he starred with Mickey Rooney in the
TV film “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.”

His parents made the
move, first to New York City, then to Los Angeles, where his dad (a
business engineer) sometimes sang in folk clubs. “I have a real
good family,” Grimes said. “They taught me that if you have a
little bit of talent and do a lot of work, it will work out.”

Friendships helped.
When Corey Feldman was unavailable for “Frog” on PBS, Grimes
said, “he said, 'Hey, I have this buddy who can do it.'” It was a
clever talking-frog movie that even had a sequel.

Grimes has tended to
repeat work with a varied bunch of people. They've included:

-- Steven Spielberg.
First was “Band of Brothers,” with Grimes and Damian Lewis both
dying their red hair for the roles. Spielberg produced, “directed a
bunch of scenes,” and was on set a lot. “I love talking about
movies and so does he,” said Grimes, who later spent six seasons in
Spielberg's “ER.”

-- Crowe. Grimes has
been in three of his movies and they have that band, The Indoor
Garden Project.

-- Seth MacFarlane.
For 13 years, Grimes has done voices on his cartoons -- Steve in
“American Dad,” Kevin in “Family Guy,” other people or
doughnuts. “It's my kind of humor, my kind of writing.”

And yes, he always
knew MacFarlane wanted to do a space show. “He talked about it for
years.”

It finally happened
last season. MacFarlane captains The Orville, with Grimes as his
pilot and best friend. They fly between planets and zip between
drama, comedy and shoot-em-up adventures. They seem to have an
extended childhood.

-- “The Orville,”
Fox; second season began Sunday, Dec. 30, then moved to 9 p.m.
Thursdays

Decades after her death, memories of Gilda Radner stir warmth and humor


By Mike Hughes

At first, this was
just some research into the noisy little life of Gilda Radner.

“I was sort of my
hobby project,” Lisa D'Apolito said.

And after
four-and-a-half years, it became much more. “Love, Gilda” drew
praise at film festivals and in movie theaters; now it has its cable
debut is New Year's Day on CNN.

The difference,
years into the project, came when D'Apolito went back to Detroit to
talk to Michael Radner, Gilda's brother. “I asked if there was
anything else he might have that would be helpful.”

There was. After
Radner's death (in 1989, of cancer at 42), her widower (Gene Wilder)
had sent boxes of Gilda's things, including endless journals. “She
was an amazing writer,” D'Apolito said.

And far more
complicated than people realized. Her food problems – which were
“only a couple paragraphs” in her memoir, D'Apolito said – were
a key subject. “I'm exhausted and confused,” Radner wrote in her
journal. “I weigh 104 pounds and I think I'm fat.”

She was fat for a
while, during a privileged childhood. A belated daughter for a dad in
his 50s, she felt constantly loved. But her mom couldn't stand
Michigan winters; for four months each year, the family lived in
Florida. “I couldn't get attached anywhere,” Radner said. “I
overate constantly.”

At 10, she was
taking diet pills. At 12, she saw her buoyant father rapidly fade
with a brain tumor; he died two years later. “It was too great a
loss of a person I adored,” she said.

But her fallback was
humor. “Even when she was in a dark place, Gilda was funny,”
D'Apolito said.

She had savored
going to shows in Detroit with her dad; she loved doing them at an
all-girl school in Detroit and then at the University of Michigan ...
which definitely wasn't all-girl.

“She was very
boy-crazy,” D'Apolito said. “She had tons of boyfriends” at
U-M.

Her journals are
full of guys she dated. Radner once said she didn't enjoy seeing
“Ghostbusters” because, except for Rick Moranis, she had dated
every guy in the movie.

That's how she
happened to move to Toronto, because her boyfriend (a sculptor) was
moving there. She tried to stop performing ... then discovered the
city's vibrant comedy scene. “She would walk into the room and all
the energy would go to her,” Martin Short, another ex-boyfriend,
says in the film. Radner was the first person hired for what became
“Saturday Night Live.”

For D'Apolito, that
meant binge-watching five “SNL” seasons. “It was a kind of a
mish-mash at first of Muppets and music” and films and odd
sketches, she said. But the audience loved Radner.

Like other “SNL”
originals, Radner left after five years and had mixed success with
movies. She also did a Broadway show (“Gilda Radner – Live From
New York”) that became a movie. She married G.E. Smith (the
guitarist on the Broadway show and, later, on “SNL”) and then
Wilder.

Then came the
illness. During remission, D'Apolito said, Radner talked to former
“SNL” writer Alan Zweibel. “She said, 'Can you help me make
cancer funny?'”

He wrote a Garry
Shandling episode for her. She wrote her memoir, charmed friends,
then relapsed. “She said, 'For a little while there, I thought I
was going to get away with this,” D'Apolito said.

The book (“It's
Always Something”) came out shortly after her death and was a
best-seller. Six years later, the first of 17 Gilda's Clubs opened,
helping cancer patients and their families.

“I just fell in
love with the Gilda's Club in New York,” D'Apolito said. “The
people there had such a deep connection with Gilda's life.”

D'Apolito, who is in
advertising, began doing films for the club, then began that
four-year “hobby.” The big change, she said, came with the idea
of having current stars – Amy Poehler, Cecily Strong, Bill Hader,
Maya Rudolph – read the journals in the film.

That brought fresh
interest. “Love, Gilda” opened this year's Tribeca Film Festival
and won the audience prize at the Cinetopia Film Festival. Almost 30
years after her death, people still love Gilda.

-- “Love, Gilda,
CNN; debuts New Year's Day (Wednesday), repeats Saturday (Jan. 5)

-- Each is 8 p.m.
and 11 p.m. ET (5 and 8 p.m. PT), barring breaking news

How the Trump stole Christmas


(With apologies to
Dr. Seuss, this was posted at midnight on Dec. 21, the night the
lights went out in Washington. Please feel free to pass it on.)

Every Who down in
D.C. liked Christmas a lot ...

But the Trump, who
lived in Mara Lago (mostly), did NOT!

The Trump hated
Christmas! The whole Christmas season!

Now please don't ask
why. No one quite knows the reason.

It could be,
perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.

Or it could be Fox
News shoved him to the right,

But I think that the
most likely reason of all,

Was that his heart,
like his hands, was two sizes too small.

But,

Whatever the reason,
his heart or Fox News,

He sat there in
transit, just hating the Whos,

Staring down from
his Lear jet with a sour, Trump frown,

At the warm, lighted
windows, on the poor side of town,

For he knew every
Who down in D.C. beneath,

Was busy now hanging
a mistletoe wreath.

Then he growled with
his tiny fingers strumming,

“I MUST find some
way to stop Christmas from coming.”

Then he got an idea!
An awful idea!

THE TRUMP GOT A
WONDERFUL, AWFUL IDEA?

“I'll raise all
the tariffs and lower my taxes,

“I'll tweet a
whole bunch and ignore all the factses.

“I'll sully the
water, mess with the air,

“Give breaks to
the rich; that really seems fair.

“I'll pay no
attention to global warming,

“I'll claim the
border has hordes that are swarming,

“I'll show who
really has the clout,

“By firing anyone
who raises a doubt.

“I'll create all
kinds of mass hysteeeria,

“And then abandon
the people in Syria.”

“And one thing
more,” said this orange clown,

“I'm even going to
shut the government down.

“I'll close down
the parks, the helpers, the dome,

“I'll even sneak
into every DC home

“I'll end their
jobs, their pay, their hope

“And chuckle a
litle, as they try to cope.”

Then he did that,
wearing the Trumpiest frown,

He snuck into homes
on the poor side of town,

He slithered and
slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,

Around every room,
and he took every present!

But he turned around
fast, and saw a small Who!

Little Cindy-Lou
Who, who was not more than two.

She stared at the
Trump and said, “President, why?

“Why are you
taking our Christmas hopes? WHY?”

But, you know, that
old Trump was so smart and so slick,

He thought up a lie,
and he thought it up quick!

“Why, my sweet
little tot,” the fake Santy Claus lied,

“There's a problem
with all the folks from outside.

“I'm taking your
Christmas,” he said with a straight face.

“And something
outstanding will be in its place.”

And the one
governmen grant

That he left in the
house

Was a check that was
even too small for a mouse.

“Pooh-Poo to the
Whos!” he was Trumpily humming,

“They're finding
out now that no Christmas is coming.”

But when he looked
down, the Trump popped his eyes!

What he saw was a
shocking surprise!

He hadn't stopped
Christmas from coming!

IT CAME!

Somehow or other, it
came just the same!

And what happened
then ...?

Well ... in DC they
say

That Trump's small
heart and his hands

Grew three sizes
that day!

And ...

Well, who are we
kidding? Actually, he hurried to Mara Lago for the rest of his
scheduled 16-day vacation. He played a lot of golf, swapped stories
with three guys named Sergei, bought Melania something gold in hopes
of getting lucky, tipped his Latina maid 35 cents and decided that
life just isn't fair to really terrific guys like him.

Burt Reynolds: A life of mistakes and grand triumphs


(There are two versions of this story, but this is the national one. For the Lansing State Journal, the story focuses on Burt Reynolds' Lansing roots. This is the second version, which I sent to other papers.)

By Mike Hughes

Burt Reynolds' life
will flash before us, one more time.

On Wednesday (Dec.
26), Turner Classic Movies has a six-film marathon. It reminds us
that Reynolds – who died in September at 82 – had a richly varied
career.

At 10 p.m. ET is his
favorite. “If I had to put only one of my movies in a time capsule,
it would be 'Deliverance,'” Reynolds wrote in “But Enough About
Me” (Putnam's, 2015). It was “the best movie I've ever been in.
It proved I could act, not only to the public, but to me.”

But surrounding it
are two “Smokey and the Bandit films (8 p.m. and 4:15 a.m.) and
“Hooper” (2:15 a.m.), all directed by his friend Hal Needham, a
former stunt man. They were entertaining enough, but Reynolds kept
repeating himself with “Stroker Ace” and two “Cannonball Run”
films.

“I'd chosen too
many films because I liked the location .... Or the leading lady,”
Reynolds wrote. “Or because I'd be working with friends. If the
script was crap, I rationalized that I could make it better. And I
usually did, but it was just better crap.”

He could do
intensity and comedy, as TCM shows with “The Longest Yard” at
midnight and “Best Friends” at 6 a.m. His resume and his life
were huge; people weren't even sure where he was from.

“Burt always told
me that he'd been born in Waycross, Georgia,” Sally Field wrote in
“In Pieces” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018). “Whether that's
true or not, I do know that he grew up in (Florida).”

Well ... sort of.
Reynolds spread the Waycross story, which fit his good ol' boy image.
He later granted that he was born in Lansing, Mich., but said he was
young – 5 or 6 or 7 – when he moved South.

But his first book
(“My Life,” Hyperion, 1994) talks about the family's 1946 move to
Florida, where his dad would become a small-town police chief. “He
wanted to make something of his life,” Reynolds wrote. “And at
ten years of age, I wanted to discover mine.”

They were
Northerners, suddenly in Florida. “It was in the dead of summer,”
Reynolds said in 1990. “And my sister, who's six years older than I
am ... got out and she said, 'Dear God, I'm in Hell!'”

This was a new world
for them. “It was segregated then,” he said in '90, “and it was
an incredible experience to grow up in a small town that way, having
a family that wasn't prejudiced.”

But he soon found
his image, despite his dad's approval. “I was a big rebel,” he
said. “I was constantly in trouble all the time, kind of like being
a preacher's son. And then I found athletics, which saved me.”

He did well as a
running back, got a Florida State scholarship, had a good start in
his first season (134 yards on just 16 carries), then was stopped by
injuries and, later, a car crash. Acting was Plan B.

Reynolds eventually
soared -- the No. 1 box-office star for four years and a talk-show
favorite.

“He was incredibly
charming,” Field wrote, “adored at the time for being who he was
– a funny, self-deprecating, good ol' boy .... But he was also a
man engulfed by a massive wave of instant notoriety.”

He seemed
controlling and jealous, she wrote. He advised her to skip the Emmy
ceremony or “be prepared to lose again.” (She skipped it and
won.) When he read the “Norma Rae” script, he proclaimed it “a
piece of (crap)”; she won an Oscar in it.

In his second book,
Reynolds offered his regrets: “I'm sorry I never told her that I
loved her and I'm sorry we couldn't make it work. It's the biggest
regret of my life.”

He made many
mistakes, but he also thrived. “There's one thing they can never
take away,” Reynolds wrote. “Nobody had more fun than I did.”

Burt-athon

-- Wednesday on
Turner Classic Movies

-- 8 p.m. ET,“Smokey
and the Bandit” (1977); 10, “Deliverance” (1972); Midnight:
“The Longest Yard” (1974); 2:15 a.m.; “Hooper” (1978); 4:15
a.m.: “Smokey and the Bandit II” (1980); 6 a.m.: “Best Friends”
(1982)

True Christmas spectacle: Sutton, Hugh, 17,000 pipes and 21,000 souls


Size and spectacle are key parts of many Christmas celebrations. It takes flair to decorate a mega-tree or to soar onto rooftops with eight or nine reindeer. And few events match the joyous spectacle of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's annual PBS and cable concert. Here's the story I sent to papers, looking at this year's event through the eyes of performers Sutton Foster and Hugh Bonneville ... known to TV viewers via "Younger" and "Downton Abbey.:

By Mike Hughes

Sutton Foster and
Hugh Bonneville are used to ruling big occasions.

She stars on
Broadway and in symphony halls; he runs Downton Abbey. They know
pomp, circumstance and spectacle ... but hadn't seen anything like
their Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert.

“I had that
feeling when I got out on stage,” Bonneville said. “The audience
adds to the emotion.”

And that's a lot of
people. “It's very overwhelming,” Foster said. “There are
20,000 people there.”

It's 21,000,
actually. That's more than 10 times the size of her Broadway theaters
... more than 200 times the size of his “Downton Abbey” dinner
parties. The concet also had a 300-voice choir, an orchestra ... and
a 7,667-piece pipe organ.

Foster sang
Christmas songs – from “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World”
to the tune from “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” her avorite holiday
show. Those will be in the PBS version, Dec. 17; for a longer version
(Dec. 20 on the BYUtv cable channel), she adds a “Willy Wonka”
song, plus “Jingle Bells” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” by
John Denver. “He always represented goodness,” she said.

Bonneville avoided
singing. “I'm not a musical person,” he said, despite having sung
quite regally as the pirate king in “Galavant,” for ABC. “I sat
in awe of the performances.”

His skill is
speaking in a precise, lord-of-the-manor voice; you might imagine him
delivering a sermon. Bonneville did study theology at Cambridge ...
but upper-crust Englishmen do that with no intention of being vicars.
“I always say I entered it as an atheist and came out as more of an
agnostic.”

The son of a surgeon
and a nurse, he was more interested in acting than studying. Before
Cambridge, he did the National Youth Theatre; afterward, he studied
acting in London and ranged from movies and TV to the Royal
Shakespeare Company.

Back then,
Bonneville was doing comedy and even playing villains. It would take
a while to age into being the earl in “Downton Abbey,” in six
seasons on PBS and in a movie that recently finished filming. “We
had a lot of fun getting back together.”

At 55, he has the
age and the voice to stand before the Tabernacle crowd, reading Luke
2 and the story of Horatio Spafford, a Chicago lawyer who faced
devastating tragedies, before writing the hymn that says: “Whatever
my lot, Thou hast taught me to know/It is well, it is well with my
soul.”

What Foster shares
with Bonneville is the passion for performing. That peaked when –
after having roots in Georgia and North Carolina – she moved with
her family to a Detroit suburb. “It was an interesting move for me;
I was 13, in 7th grade; that's a tough time in your life.”

Her solution was
theater; “I found a place to fit in.”

She did school shows
and more. She competed in “Star Search,” auditioned for “The
Mickey Mouse Club” and left school early, to do “The Will Rogers
Follies” on tour. “I have absolutely no regrets. I was safe and I
was taken care of .... I was a very young 17; it taught me a lot.”

She graduated via
correspondence, even got to her prom -- the tour happened to be in
Detroit that week -- and beat all the odds against a theater career.
“I just plowed forward and kept going.”

After losing for
“Star Search” and such, she would become a winner – six Tony
nominations (winning for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Anything
Goes”), a Gracie Allen Award (for TV's “Bunheads”) and several
nominations for “Younger,” which starts its sixth season next
spring.

Now she lives in New
York with her husband Ted Griffin, the writer of “Ocean's 11,”
“Tower Heist” and the “Terriers” cable series. Last
Christmas, their adopted daughter was 9 months old and very approving
of the Rockefeller Center tree; this year, Emily can watch her mom
sing on TV.

-- “Christmas With
the Mormon Tabernacle Choir”

-- 9 p.m. Dec. 17 on
most PBS stations; some (check local listings) will rerun it at 9
p.m. Christmas Eve and 10:30 p.m. Christmas Day

-- That's a
60-minute version; a 90-minute one debuts at 8 p.m. Dec. 20 on BYUtv,
which is on cable, Dish, DirecTV and apps

-- Each telecast is
from the concert the previous year. This year's concert – Dec.
13-15, with Kristin Chenoweth as both singer and narrator – will
air in December of 2019