Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Unfinished Works: Pizza Blogging

For the most part, I think people know that I spent a good part of my early "adult" years working as a cook, then manager at Pizza Hut. I started there in 2005 at 18 and worked in various capacities until 2013. 

I really enjoyed it in the beginning and thought I was doing something really important. I literally felt a sense of pride when I was 18 putting on my Pizza Hut uniform. That pride didn't last long, as I grew to become very disenfranchised with a corporate pizza world. 

I knew how to do everything involved with running a Pizza Hut, and I have said often that had nothing else in my life worked out, being a General Manager of a Pizza Hut would have been a profitable way to make a living. I think the funny thing is that I actually make less money as a journalist than I would have as a GM. But, anyway...

I do think running an independent pizza store that catered to the area it was located in would be a fun way to waste some time if I ever came into an abundance of start-up money and free time. That's another story for another time, though.

I enjoy niche journalism. USA Today, the New York Times, etc... that's the mainstream stuff that everybody can pick up and read. Pro Wrestling Illustrated is just for wrestling fans. High Times magazine is just for 420 enthusiasts. Car magazines. Baby-care magazines. Cat magazines. I'm sure by now you get the idea and don't need me to keep going. Golf Digest?

Anyway... Pizza Hut had a subscription to "PMQ," which used to stand for Pizza Magazine Quarterly, but since it's not quarterly anymore they just call it the Pizza Magazine. I don't know why Pizza Hut had the subscription -- it's a trade magazine that a corporate entity doesn't need. If you're starting up a pizza place, you could buy an oven through them, you could do uniform stuff, etc... Pizza Hut does all of their stuff in-house, so they don't need it. 

PMQ also had feature articles that were related to pizza. A winter issue would have something like best ski resort pizza places. Gene Simmons opened a pizza place or something once and was interviewed there. Best Chicago slices. And, the like.

I enjoyed it. I read it every month. Most of my co-workers made fun of me for being excited when the latest PMQ came in. But, most of the Pizza Hut employees I worked with weren't exactly what we could call "readers."

They especially made fun of me when PMQ called Pizza Hut while I was the manager and asked if I wanted to renew the subscription. They asked what name I wanted it under. So, every month, the latest PMQ was delivered to Chris Slater c/o Pizza Hut.

Much like a dream of mine as a wrestling fan was to one day write for a wrestling magazine, I thought a cool way to meld my love of journalism with my knowledge of the pizza industry was to write for PMQ. I looked up their site, followed their twitter, and started trying to understand how it all worked.

The PMQ site has a blog section. I had an idea to write blog posts from the viewpoint of a former "corporate" pizza employee and share my thoughts on a variety of pizza-related experiences. I wrote a "demo" post -- a piece about how I had lost my passion for the pizza industry and sent it to a lady from the PMQ site who looked like the one to go through.

I got an email back from her saying that wasn't her area and she told me to email another guy. I don't remember who, and I'm sure I still have the emails somewhere if I really want to go searching for them. To make that long story short, I emailed him asking if I could contribute to the site's blog a few years ago and never heard back from him.

It wasn't something I felt too strongly about pursuing, so I left it at that and moved on from that idea.

* * *

That brings us to why we're here -- the 8th installment of my old "Unfinished Works" series. I have a lot of ideas in my head. I have a lot of things I want to write. My old "B-Sides" book is about stuff I never finished writing or released in any way. Side note: the pizza piece I wrote to PMQ is going into volume 02 of that book. That's still happening.

The unfinished works posts are a series where I look at some notes I wrote and never got around to finishing. The past entries can be found here:

- Led Zeppelin -

- Lance Armstrong -

- Thought Catalog -

- Music with meaning -

- Beatles on iTunes -

- Raven's Redemption -

- Random ideas -

I have tons of stuff like this sitting around. Maybe actually writing them instead of writing about them would be more interesting. I don't know. In that email I sent to the pizza people, I included some ideas about stuff I could write about in the future. They are in the sheet that is part of this edition of "unfinished works," since I never actually wrote any of them.

Enclosed is the sheet of paper. I don't remember why I started doodling on the paper, but I do remember that I was sitting at Starbucks while I was doing it. I'll list each point and give a couple sentences about it; a synopsis of the full post I was going to write.

First job at 18 ... Summer of 2005, I was 18 and sitting around every day watching Maury Povich and the Price is Right. My mom suggested I get a job. My Pizza Hut interview consisted of three main questions: Do I have reliable transportation? (I didn't have a car, but I lived down the street). Do I get sick a lot? (I couldn't remember the last time). Was I okay with shaving my goatee and sideburns? (Not really, but I said yes).

First time being around dropouts, "losers," etc ... I had always learned that you go to high school, then college, then you get a good job. That was the first time I had ever been around peers who weren't living that lifestyle.

Being "seasonal" and transitioning to full time ... My first couple years, I just worked during the summer. After a couple years, I noticed that their lives never changed. They did the same thing constantly and I popped in for a few months. My fun job for extra money was their life. And, then it became my life.

Making "work friends" ... They start out as your co-workers and then you're eventually friends. Is it a real connection that brings you together? Or, as I reason, most of them are miserable together and are drawn together because of that. How many former co-workers do you really keep up with once you no longer work together?

Romance at work starting & ending ... Those two could either be the same post or separate. Again, is it a real connection? Or, do you both just need somebody to hold at night? I would tell the funny story of how the manager found out that myself and a fellow employee were becoming "friendly."

Becoming a member of management ... I resisted it for so long, but eventually I got tired of being a "cook" and I wanted more: more money and recognition. I got a little more money, but not much of the other one, which transitions into...

Dealing with corporate ... A multi-million dollar corporation is heartless. They look at the bottom line -- if it makes dollars and cents, it doesn't have to make sense. Good wordplay, eh? They manage with instruction books and not their minds. I would tell the story about how one of the higher-ups came into the restaurant and rearranged a bunch of things because his flowchart told him it was more effective. I held out the flowchart and said "The oven is here on this paper. Our oven is over here. This doesn't work for us."

The time the bathroom roof caved in ... Now, that was a crazy day. Again, going to the corporate mentality -- they didn't want to fix a small leak, because a small leak wasn't an issue. You can put a bucket down and catch it and not spend any money. Well, the leak was a lot worse than we thought, and when the roof caved in one morning when it was only me and the cook, Dylan, that became the fodder for a hilarious story. The response I got from corporate became a running joke between me and the other managers. Anytime we needed a shocked response, we used what he said to me when I called him: "You've gotta be shitting me!"

Hiring and disciplining friends ... Ah, the pitfalls of becoming a member of management and hiring your friends. You ultimately wind up having to discipline them. And it can get weird. Especially when they notice hypocrisy and improper treatment.

Regular customers ... I still remember the middle-aged lady who would order the medium pepperoni pan pizza, an order of breadsticks, and a 20 ounce Mtn. Dew. I remember the guy who would give me a couple dollars for making him a salad off of the salad bar with his takeout order and "loading it up" for him. You do grow attached to people. I literally watched a kid grow up. I was there for 8 years, and I saw him go through his teens, since he was there every couple weeks.

Long term employees ... Every place has that waitress who has been there forever and has no plans to leave. And this would try to shine a light into why -- why has the delivery driver been doing this job for over 10 years? Does he like it? Is it all he knows how to do? Is he happy?

Customer complaints ... Cue the eye roll emoji. And maybe that one where it looks like flames are coming out of your face because you're so angry. I've had people yell at me over a missing container of ranch dressing. I've had a guy call the cops; you should have seen the cop's reaction when he realized why he was there. I had a woman throw a pizza at me before. You see a lot when you deal with customers.

Growing up into your job ... I was 18 the first time I put on a Pizza Hut uniform. I was 27 or 28 the last time I took one off. A lot happened in that 10 years I was alive and the 8 years I worked there. I had two separate stints.

Leaving & going back ... Transition from the previous post. I left Pizza Hut after feeling more disrespected than I ever had in my life. I came back a couple years later when all of my options had run out and I had nothing else. You can't have pride when you can't pay your bills.

Getting fired by your friend ... Again, the corporate mentality comes into play. I got fired for the dumbest of reasons. And it wasn't my boss's decision. Years earlier, I had interviewed and hired her. By the time I left and came back, she had worked her way up to the top of the totem pole. Then, I did something dumb, her boss found out about it and told her to fire me.

Drinking and drugs at work ... Menial positions aren't known for producing the best mental health. By the end, I wasn't happy there. A lot of people weren't. Some turned to pot and pills. I dabbled with all of that, but that wasn't for me. My vice was the booze. It was so easy to get drunk and run a Pizza Hut. It wasn't a smart decision, but I wasn't about smart decisions back then.

Health inspections: critical vs non-critical ... I've failed several health inspections, but that doesn't mean that the food is unsafe. There are two types of issues -- critical and non-critical. Critical is the important stuff: expired products, cleaning products near food, the refrigerator not cold enough, etc. Non-critical is a crack in the counter where your register was. We didn't get that fixed for years, so we got a point deducted every month or other month the health inspector showed up. I would want to write and explain that failing a health inspection isn't really the harbinger of doom that some people think it is. Consistently failing health inspections is.

* * *

And, those were the ideas that I had for my pizza blog, or whatever my relationship with PMQ would have turned into. Obviously, it turned into nothing. I've thought about doing some of those things on my own. Or making it into a podcast kind of thing. I already have the one podcast idea I'm working on, that I've blogged about in the past, the service-industry one. Some of those same ideas could work there.

I don't know. We'll see what happens with any of those. If anybody wants me to elaborate on any of those and write about a certain topic, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Reflections: Page News and Courier articles

The "Chris is living in Luray Virginia and working at the newspaper there" experiment is over. I definitely enjoyed most of my time there. It was a nice area, nice people, and a nice place to work. What's an adjective beginning with "n" that I can use to describe my time there? Hmmmm... Nifty!

I came to the Page News and Courier in November of 2015 as a nervous, awkward person with a passion for journalism. I left as the exact same person, but the last 16 months did see a lot of personal and professional growth.

Overall, I'm glad that I made the move to Luray. I made a few friends that I'll have forever, and I made several fun acquaintances. As I posted on Facebook when I made the announcement that I was leaving, it never felt like home. But, that's not a bad thing, per se. It wasn't home, but Luray wasn't a bad place to get a career started and spend some time in.

My time in Luray started off on an ominous note -- my first apartment I had tried to rent fell through so I moved to the area without a home. After a few days at the Budget Inn, I found a spot up on the hill at West Main Street.

This is the part where the people from Luray start laughing, and the out-of-townspeople ask what's so funny.

My literal first night, my boss and I went out to dinner. Afterward, he's driving me around giving me a tour of the town. As we're heading up West Main Street, he says to me, "And this... uhhhh... well, I don't call it this, but some people do... this is, uh, 'N-Word Hill.'"

He went on to explain that back in the day when the town was segregated, the black community lived on West Main Street. And, today, it's home to some of the sketchier spots in Luray.

The next week, when I was telling him where I lived, the complex didn't have an actual name, so I was trying to explain where it was.

Me: "It's up the hill there, past that gas station. It's a white building."

Randy: "The gas station past the hospital? Yeah, you should move."

I eventually did... 9 months later...

I will say, though, that I made some of my best friends in Luray over at "The Hill."

I always thought it was a weird juxtaposition -- I was the respectable newspaper reporter hobnobbing at these fancy dinners and meeting all of these important people. Then I go back to my apartment and hang out with my buddy who is 32 and has spent 6 years of his life in prison.

* * *

I got to cover a lot of fun articles. 

Probably the biggest and best thing I did on the staff was my feature looking at the controversy with the bike races -- locals hate them, but the town officials love the tourism money they bring in.

Writing about government bureaucracy holding up the replacement and construction of a new bridge on Main Street doesn't sound very exciting. But I wrote like seven articles about it. Summer 2019, the new bridge should be open for business.

Page County has so many parades, it borders on the ridiculous. All three towns have at least two major parades throughout the year. They're either really cold Christmas parades or super hot summer parades. 

I unwittingly walked most of a 5K through my work on the paper. Covering the "mudurance 5k" event, while walking around taking pictures of people, I walked 85% of the course. The quads were a little sore the next day.

I learned so much about the Blue Ridge Heritage Project and what they're doing to honor the memory of the families who were forcibly displaced by the creation of Shenandoah National Park in the 1930s. That's a sad story to look into, but they're trying to make it have a happy ending. Groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial sometime in April at Stanley's Ed Good Park.

Luray has Ralph Dean park. Stanley has Ed Good Park. In Shenandoah, the first time I ever heard of their park was hearing the town council speak about it. My first thought: "Who's Big Jim?" It's Big Gem Park.

The "protest march" against Donald Trump was fun to cover, in the sense that it was nice to see people out doing something. It was cool to see the group of dedicated people on the left marching for what they believed in, and it was interesting to see the meet the folks on the right with their "Trump Pence" signs and how all of that went down.

I hung out for 90 minutes one day with a 93-year-old blind lady, Anne Morrison. That was a neat article about how she was able to live her life for like 50 years, despite not being able to see. She was also the first name that I recognized in the obituary section of the newspaper. 

And the ribbon cuttings. So, so, so, so many ribbon cuttings.

* * *

There were a few leads that I tried to cover but we never got to report on it for whatever reason. 

The bookstore flooded in a huge rain that we had back in June or July, maybe. I went to interview the owner -- we were expecting the article to be about how the bookstore was gonna be closed indefinitely and how the business next door may have caused it to happen. But, the bookstore was literally open like five days later -- with a messy carpet that was eventually replaced -- and while I think the two business owners had some talk with their lawyers, nothing worth noting ever happened.

The biggest thing that went nowhere was the claim that a newly-elected town council member didn't actually live in Luray when she filed the paperwork to run -- which is a felony. As the PNC revealed a couple weeks ago, the state police are looking into that. It will likely go nowhere, but at least it's out there.

I think something to explore at a later date would be all of the article ideas that I suggested that we never reported on, for whatever reason. 

I may pop back in at a later time with some more reflections from my 16 months as a reporter with the Page News and Courier. Good stopping point for now.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week: Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee

This week's "Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week" is the trailer for Norm's January appearance on Jerry Seinfeld's popular web series "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee." What is it? That's basically it. The show actually started as an extended car commercial type of deal. Then it became really popular. A deal was recently signed to begin streaming new season of the show on Netflix.

Seinfeld hangs out with a comedian and they talk about comedy. Sometimes they talk about cars. And they drink coffee. Simple premise, and the episodes are short enough to digest easily without investing a lot of time.

This is a good one. The highlight is when Seinfeld laughs way too hard at a Bill Cosby rape joke that Norm makes. And his Richard Nixon impression is great.

Here's the link to the full episode - http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com/norm-macdonald-a-rusty-car-in-the-rain

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week: Norm's thoughts on Howard Stern

This week's edition of the Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week is from an appearance a few months back that Norm made on the podcast of Greg Fitzsimmons. I've listened to the full interview - it's a great look into a funny mind.

This clip has Greg and Norm looking into the change that Howard Stern has undergone over the years, as he's become a more mainstream personality. Norm is happy to see the changes, as he didn't like a lot of the raunchier parts of Stern's show - specifically the stuff he would do with lesbians and masturbation.

Norm discusses the transition that Stern has made into a great interviewer, and also gives his theory as to why sports journalists make for the best journalists. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Troubled Times

November 8, 2016 was a busy day for me. In addition to the Presidential election, it was also the local elections for the three mayors and town council offices in Page County, my home for the last year-plus. As a reporter at the county's newspaper, it was my job to cover all of that. 

The elections were on a Tuesday and the newspaper is printed on a Wednesday. So, my Tuesday night was spent trying to figure out who was the mayor of Luray, and whether or not the woman who had been a town employee in Stanley since 1969 would get another four years on the town council, among other issues.

I wound up not getting done with everything until around 1 a.m. and as I was walking down the street from the newspaper office to my apartment, I finally got my phone out and began checking up on the Presidential election. All I knew at that point was that we still didn't have a 45th President.

I'm not as liberal as people think I am. But, I believe in common sense and equal rights. For years, I would make the point to anybody who would listen that gay marriage would be our generation's civil right's movement. Our grandchildren will literally be shocked and dumbfounded that a man wasn't able to marry a man. I don't give myself a political label, but I will say that off the top of my head, I don't know if there has ever been a Republican candidate for any office that I've ever supported.

I remember the first political debate I ever got into. It was in the ninth grade and it was in the lead up to the 2000 Election. This kid named Andrew said in his thick southern accent, "Al Gore's gonna take our guns away." Right away, despite only being 14, I knew that was the stupidest thing I had ever heard in my life. The only thing stupider than that comment was the fact that in the nearly 17 years since, I have heard that exact statement repeated ad nauseum but only with a different Democratic candidate's name in place.

The first presidential election I voted in was 2004. I had been in high school for September 11, 2001 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The idea of a war was scary for somebody my age in a different way than somebody older or younger -- my peers were going to Iraq and Afghanistan. I voted for John Kerry for two reasons: he wanted to end the war, and he was not opposed to stem cell research.

To look ahead, I see why "Make America Great Again" worked for a lot of people. Back in 2008, I was looking for "Hope" and "Change." And I got that. A lot of people did. 

I remember the feeling of January 20, 2009. It was the first day of the spring semester of my fifth year of college. And it was such a feeling of positive vibes. I remember walking around campus with my girlfriend and every television was on the inauguration and everybody seemed so happy. 

I remember feeling opposite of that in 2016 as I stared at my phone in disbelief after learning that Donald Trump had acquired enough electoral votes to become the 45th President.

I think now about the young college kids who won't have that feeling of optimism as they see the new leader of America sworn in. 

Healthcare. Women's rights. LGBTQ rights. All of these and more are in trouble. There's a feeling of uncertainty in America. I hope that the new President isn't as much of a train wreck as all signs are pointing that it will be. I'm also hopeful that Trump can inspire a nation of young people to grow up and be the opposite of him and his beliefs.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Newspaper and Podcast Updates

I had a guy call me in my office recently. He was an older guy and asked about a picture I took that was on the front page of the newspaper. He asked if it was current. I told him yeah; I took that picture two days before it was printed. "So, it wasn't five years ago?" No, it wasn't. He thought a lady with her back to the camera was his deceased wife.

When I first started working here, I was given a timeline -- the first year will see me doing this, then the second year etc... It was an unofficial kind of thing; the first year will see me being confused, trying to understand how the town works, then year two will see me knowing more and having an opinion on things. As I begin my second year on the Page News and Courier staff, I see that being true.

I'm fully into covering a lot of things for the second time. When I first noticed it happening, I thought I would be burnt out on it. "This group is holding their annual late-november thing. Write about it for the second time." That's not too exciting. But, as I see some of my bigger stuff happening again - talking to the mayors in the three towns, for instance - I'm excited about that. Last January, I spoke to them about their 2015 and I knew nothing that I was talking about. "Ask them about X, Y, Z. Those were the big things that happened." Now, I know what the big things were and I can accurately speak about those.

I'm still trying to find the time to balance my personal and professional projects. My podcast about restaurant life; talking to servers and cooks and whatnot, is still slated for an early 2017 launch. I had talked to a few people close to me earlier in the year to see if that was an interesting idea. They all agreed that it was. I sat on it for a while, and then broached the subject in a Facebook post asking for opinions. I was very surprised to see a lot of positive feedback from both friends and casual acquaintances.

I still have ideas on how to better utilize my somewhat-dormant YouTube channel. I was working on a project with a partner in the early fall of 2015, but then that got put on hold when I got the job at the PNC and moved four hours away. I told a few people about it, and they seemed to like it. And, then I told a few others and they were a bit confused.

But, I've noticed that I'm not great at pitching things. Saying what I want to do and describing why it is awesome is something that I need to work on. I'm much better at showing a finished product and saying "See? Isn't it cool?"

Maybe that's a resolution for 2017: get better at pitches.

My YouTube idea was cool, and I can always go back to it. It will never not be relevant. So, you may hear more about that one day. But, the podcast is definitely something that I'm working on. There are a few titles for it in my head. I have a few people unofficially lined up to talk to, and I have a million more people that I want to chat with. It will be fun. I'll keep everybody posted on that.

Good stopping point for now. [insert thumbs up emoji]

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week: fiddling around in John Glenn's ass

Timely video after last week's death of the first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn. During a 2003 appearance on Conan O'Brien's show, Norm Macdonald began talking about his issues with TSA agents at airports. This was right after the heightened security measures following 9/11 were passed.

At that time, Glenn had been screened for a random check by the TSA while trying to board a flight. Norm makes a factual error, but the point is still there: "He walked on the goddamn moon! You think he would get a pass!" He didn't walk on the moon, but still, he was making a good point about how absurd it is that John Glenn needed to be searched as a potential flight risk.

The full interview is above, and they talk about other stuff, including his "hilarious" Star Trek impression and his apartment building's doorman's reaction to seeing it on SNL, looking at jokes about Norm's alleged Polish background, and the infamous Kitchener Leslie railroad hobo story.

The 30 seconds of the John Glenn interview is below.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Top 10 ECW Moments

Every so often, WWE goes through a wave of ECW nostalgia. Extreme Championship Wrestling was the small group that started as a small independent promotion in 1993 with a lot of buzz behind it and ultimately grew into a legit promotion with video games, a cable tv show, pay per views, merchandise. Above all else, they had a lot of influence on the wrestling industry. The famed "WWE Attitude Era" would not have happened had they not looked at ECW's "Extreme Revolution" and thought "why don't we do that?"

WWE recently aired a discussion of ECW on the WWE Network with Paul Heyman, Tazz, Tommy Dreamer, and the Dudleys. That was fun. Lots of neat stories, then some emotion at the end where they describe what ECW meant to them. Tommy Dreamer especially had an emotional moment. 

It coincided with the release of "The Top 50 Incidents in ECW History." This was originally supposed to be a DVD release, the third in the "OMG: Top 50 Moments" sets, after a WWE and WCW release. The problem with those sets was that they were played more for comedy. I watched the WWE set and didn't care for it. I saw the trailer for WCW's version and didn't care to check it out. So, I didn't have a lot of high hopes for this ECW one.

But, they have actually changed the format. It's not the happy-go-lucky version of the other two. It has a different title. And instead of releasing it on DVD it's a special feature on the WWE Network.

What we're going to do in this space is look over the Top 10 moments and see how we feel about them.

10) Sabu vs Terry Funk, Born To Be Wired ... This is honestly one of the grossest matches in wrestling history. There are bloodier matches. There are more violent matches. But this is the only match where I've seen one of the competitors rip his arm open on a piece of barbed wire, tape the wound shut while the match is still going on, then continue like no big deal. The ropes are replaced with barbed wire, and 50-year-old Terry Funk and Sabu proceed to rip each other to shreds during the match, culminating in the two of them having to be cut out of the barbed wire by the ring crew.

9) ECW invasion of WWE ... The wrestling world was a much different place in 1997. WWE was not at the top of the world like they had been through the 1980s and like they would be by the end of the 90s. They were the number two promotion behind WCW. And at one of their Philadelphia shows, where ECW is based out of, the WWE heard several loud "ECW" chants throughout the night. Vince McMahon got curious, and a brief working relationship was formed. It saw several ECW matches on WWE Monday Night Raw, as well as a great in-ring debate between Paul Heyman and Jerry Lawler. Lawler wound up making a few ECW appearances, dropping a match to Tommy Dreamer.

8) Brian Lee vs Tommy Dreamer Scaffold Match ... As a match, it was a cool brawl. Brian Lee is famous mostly for being the "Fake Undertaker" in the SummerSlam 1994. He was also in the nWo for a spell. But he had a small run in ECW. As a match, this was nothing special. But, as a moment to live on in highlight reels, it is crazy and amazing. The idea of a scaffold match is to fight atop the scaffold and throw your opponent off of it. This one is different in that there are like 15 tables stacked on top of each other in the entire ring. They're around 20 feet above the ring, and Lee winds up falling through four tables. Awesome visual, and a genuinely shocking moment.

7) Sandman canes Tommy Dreamer ... In the early 90s, there was a media storm over an American tourist who got in trouble in Singapore and his punishment was a public caning; the get smacked by a cane. Paul Heyman fed off that and created the "Singapore Caning Match" between Dreamer and Sandman, with the loser having to receive 10 smacks with the cane. Dreamer ultimately wound up being the heart and soul of ECW; the hero on the white horse who always did the right thing. But, in the beginning he wasn't respected by the hardcore ECW crowd. This match, and Dreamer taking his caning like a man, helped him earn that respect that is still there over 20 years later.

6) Ring collapses ... This was always a fun moment that made all of the early highlight reels. There was a tag team called Public Enemy. They liked to have fun and dance. At the end of their matches, they would bring some audience members into the ring to dance and it was always a fun moment. In this instance, the ring entirely filled with fans and they are all jumping around and dancing. The ring kind of moves for a second, then after another moment it entirely collapses and the probably 50-ish people all crash to the ground. There's a brief moment where everybody all looks around confused, then realizing that nobody is hurt they all start dancing again. Just a fun moment that is a great visual demonstration of how much the crowd enjoyed themselves in ECW.

5) Tazz vs Mike Awesome ... This is interesting from a historical perspective. Tazz had been a former, dominant ECW superstar; a world champion and beloved by the audience. In the fall of 1999, Tazz left and signed with WWE, ultimately debuting in early 2000. Mike Awesome had been a journeyman wrestler who had made a name for himself in Japan, but was getting his chance to be a star in America, on his second reign as ECW Champion. WCW came calling and convinced Awesome to leave while still ECW Champion, through a loophole in his contract. He showed up on WCW television and they acknowledged that he was the ECW champ. ECW and WCW worked out an agreement to let Awesome go back and lose the title. Paul Heyman called in a favor to WWE and they loaned him Tazz. So, in an ECW ring there was a WCW wrestler losing the ECW title to a WWE wrestler.

4) Sandman crucifixion ... Raven and Sandman had been in the middle of an intense feud. Raven decided that the next step would be for him to crucify Sandman publicly. The irony is that Sandman had been a carpenter before getting into wrestling and he actually constructed the cross. The two had a brawl, then Sandman's lifeless body was tied to a cross, with a "crown of thorns" aka pieces of barbed wire placed on his head. In interviews, everybody involved has basically said this was the one time ECW went too far. They didn't expect the backlash against using religion to further a wrestling program. Paul Heyman sent Raven back out to the ring to apologize, and he did. He has since remarked that his apology was insincere.

3) Shane Douglas throws down NWA title ... The National Wrestling Alliance is a governing body that looks over several regional promotions. The most popular in the 80s was the Mid-Atlantic promotion, whose top star was Ric Flair. The short story is that Mid-Atlantic became WCW. They initially used the NWA title, but eventually split with that group. They regrouped and in 1994 were looking to crown a champion in Shane Douglas, star of Eastern Championship Wrestling. He won the tournament final and with the NWA title in his hands, Douglas mentioned the prestige of the title and what it represented, then he named several famous NWA champions - Kerry Von Erich, Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Ric Flair, Rick Steamboat... "And they can all kiss my ass!" as he threw down the NWA title and grabbed his ECW championship. The promotion then changed its name to Extreme Championship Wrestling.

2) Lesbian kiss ... ECW wasn't just extreme in its in-ring action. The stories were extreme too. Part of the Raven vs Tommy Dreamer feud involved a lady named Beulah. It's multi-layered and went on for years, and was just very well told. Beulah started with Raven and ultimately ended up with Dreamer. Life imitating art, they actually got married and have twin daughters. It came out that Beulah had been cheating on Dreamer. He was crestfallen and asked "Who is he?" Shane Douglas, who had been egging it on, replied "Oh, it's not a 'he' at all!" to which a lady cleverly named Kimona Wanalaya yelled "It's me!" Beulah and Kimona then proceeded to make out in the ring. Dreamer then got on the microphone and said "I'll take 'em both, I'm hardcore," then left with both, implying... well, you know. In 1995 this was a very controversial moment and ECW got in a lot of trouble, getting dropped by several of their syndication partners.

1) The chairs ... This has gone down in history as one of the most famous moments in ECW history. What's the difference between ECW and WWE? Watch this clip. In 1994, Terry Funk and Cactus Jack (aka Mick Foley) were having a brawl with the Public Enemy. All four were in the ring and Cactus asks an audience member to throw him a chair. One does, then another follows suit, then within moments, there are literally over a hundred chairs being thrown into the ring. It's absolute insanity; such a dangerous moment in hindsight, but so cool to watch.

It's a fun 2.5 hour list with a lot of new interviews from the former ECW stars who lived through it. Do I agree with the list? It's all subjective. I would say Shane Douglas throwing down the NWA Championship should probably be at the top. That was shocking and had long-reaching ramifications. In terms of just *hushed gasp* shocking moment, maybe the crucifixion should be at the top.

There were a lot of moments that didn't make it, and I think that is mostly because WWE is a PG company trying to look at this TV-MA group. The special was rated TV-MA and a lot of language and blood and scantily-clad ladies made it onto the show. 

But, there's no mention of the Mass Transit incident. A 17-year-old dressed like a bus driver and going by Mass Transit lied about his age and got on the show, then was purposely cut by wrestler New Jack and created one of the most gruesome moments ever. Blood was shooting out of his forehead and it was insanity. Lawsuits were filed, and ultimately New Jack and ECW got off the hook, since Mass Transit allowed himself to be cut and knew of the dangers of doing that.

The fire incident isn't included. Cactus Jack wrapped a towel around a chair, doused it in kerosene, then lit it on fire and went to the ring. He swung the chair at Terry Funk, but the towel flew off and onto Funk. As they tried to get the towel off of him, it got thrown into the audience and around a couple audience members. Lawsuits were filed over that one.

The Bubba Ray Dudley in-ring interview from summer 1999 in Ohio isn't included. It was absolutely shocking in terms of what he said to audience members and how close a couple came to jumping the rail and trying to attack him. It was an awkward, uncomfortable moment that he really took too far.

All in all, it's a good list. A couple things missing. A few things out of place, in terms of ranking. But, if you love ECW, or just want to learn more about it, check out the list.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week: Norm Ruins The View

This week's "Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week" looks at Norm's disastrous late-2000 appearance on "The View." It's a disaster in the sense that Norm sabotages it on purpose. He's since said that was his intent; he just made up stuff to make them angry. And, it works.

This was during the contested Bush-Gore election, and Norm immediately talks about how much he likes Bush, noting that he wants to get the murderers out of the White House. The hosts are confused, prompting Norm to say "You know Bill Clinton killed a man, right?" Barbara Walters is shocked and immediately tries to change the subject, with Norm continuing to pressure her. "You mean, you never heard about that?"

While they're talking, a phone begins to ring. The hosts seem confused and ask if Norm has his phone with him. Norm suddenly realizes the ringing, pulls his phone out and asks if he should answer it. He mumbles "Hello?" before admitting "The producer thought it would be funny if I brought a phone out and pretended to talk." They cannot believe that he just admitted that they staged a prank during the interview. 

It's so awesome to see him just make them hate him.

One ironic note: they bring up Bill Cosby, and ask Norm for his story. It's likely the same hilarious story he once told on David Letterman's show, but Norm starts it by saying "Bill Cosby, now that's a man who has no accusations against him," referencing his Bill Clinton stunt from earlier. 

Comedy doesn't always have to feature laughs. Norm isn't telling jokes or playing along with any stunts, but he's hilarious here.

Check out Norm's new book. It's hilarious.