Archive for February 22nd, 2013
To this day, I’m unsure if the mother of one of my college friends was actually a KGB operative in the 1980s and early 90s.
The woman was a gorgeous former ballerina with long, velvety red hair who grew up in Soviet-controlled Poland and emigrated to the US, ultimately becoming a flight attendant for Pan Am back when that job was still pretty much the equivalent of being a supermodel. She’d vanish here and there for long periods, and whenever she’d resurface it would be in remarkable proximity to some Cold War-related event that just happened to explode in the news as she was setting her bags back in her closet from her return flight home. After Gorbachev’s toppling and the subsequent dismantling of the former “Evil Empire”, she sort of lost her zip and drive…and seemed permanently disappointed . She stopped flying soon after that…and was honestly never quite the same.
This is all one of those in-jokes amongst my college friends, and has been for years…with us speculating as to whether or not this woman really was a KGB field agent operating under a flight attendant’s cover. Usually, when we’d get on the subject, we’d ultimately decide that “Nah, she couldn’t be. Someone would have put it together. But she sure SEEMS like she could have been KGB. But, NAH…” It didn’t help, of course, that whenever asked about it (in a roundabout way) she’d either be evasive…or would firmly deny it, but with a quick wink at the end that she’d ALSO deny was anything other than “just a blink”.
There’s a new show on F/X that’s well worth your time, called The Americans. It stars the woman who played “Felicity” — back when America was enthralled with her hair (until she cut it and destroyed so many psyches) — and the guy who played Sally Field’s gay son on Brothers & Sisters (obviously, he was one of the brothers, but he ended up with a better guy than any of the sisters…and I’m not just saying that because the character “Scotty” totally reminds me of my own boyfriend, Justin, and some people say I look like this actor). The two of them are KGB agents who were selected for a longterm, deep cover operation in suburban Washington where they pose as a husband and wife team…complete with children who have absolutely no idea that their parents are Russian spies. Kind of, maybe, like my college friend (we think).
The Americans is set in 1981, which is an awful lot of fun for me to watch as it’s just shy of the earliest period I can remember in life. I was around 4 or so when Ronald Reagan was shot, and I don’t remember a thing about the assassination attempt or his recovery. I can remember the 1984 presidential election…but anything earlier than that is just memories of school and family vacations and birthday parties. So, in a way, shows like The Americans kind of fill in missing memories for me of a time when I was alive but just not paying attention to the world outside my little bubble in Cleveland.
I have a strict rule for any show, in that I don’t recommend it to someone else unless I’ve seen three or four episodes and it holds up. A lot of shows have great pilot episodes…but then no follow through or real course ahead. The Americans is fascinating…and just gets better as the episodes progress.
It’s interesting to see Felicity and the Gay Brother ducking down to their laundry room to send coded messages to their handlers…while a few doors away there’s actually an FBI agent and his family who just recently moved in…and the big mystery of this season, for me, is whether that FBI guy really knows these people are spies and that’s why he moved there. It could all be a big coincidence, and the FBI guy might ultimately figure things out…or he could go the entire series without ever having a clue. I love a show that has so much room to twist and turn.
And I also like how the show very much reminds me of trying to figure out if my friend’s mother was a KGB agent…or if she really was just a flight attendant who enjoyed messing with people.
I also sort of nostalgically miss the Cold War, because everything seemed so much simpler back then. Some people like to say “we were all so afraid of nuclear war”, but I don’t remember the 1980s like that. I never had any fear of a nuclear strike because I knew that if the Russians were dumb enough to hit us they’d just seal their own doom. That mutually-assured destruction policy made me sleep easy at night.
It’s such a far cry from today, where the great enemy of our nation (and the West in general) is “the religion of peace” that is Islam, which is neither a religion nor peaceful. Islam is a militarized death cult patiently waging a clandestine, guerrilla war for world domination…and the Ministry of Truth that is our national media gleefully runs cover for them. Hollywood won’t use Muslims as villains even in movies with terrorist-takeover themes…instead employing North Koreans as, supposedly, the biggest threat to civilization today. Ridiculous.
I miss the days when our enemy was rational, sane, and afraid of retaliation from us. With Islam, not only are our enemies insane and motivated by pure hate…but they know we will never hit them back. New York and Washington DC are hit with major terrorist attacks…and, yet, Mecca and Medina sat unscathed. The Soviets knew if they ever pulled a stunt like 9/11 that Moscow and St. Petersburg would have been parking lots.
We’re in this weird holding pattern with Islam where far too many people are scared to death of speaking the truth about “the religion of peace”…in much the same way that the cowards of the 1930s were terrified of saying anything bad about the new regime in Berlin and the lunatic who was calling the shots there. It’s so much scarier living in Chicago in the year 2013 than it was being a kid in Cleveland in the 1980s because today could be the day that Muslims decide to bring jihad to the shores of Lake Michigan and blow something up in spectacular fashion…when I never for even one day ever thought that the Soviets would ever send a missile into the Midwest.
I really think you’d get something interesting out of watching The Americans. I like it so much that I bought one of those season passes from Amazon Instant Video, which I rarely ever do. With most things, I just wait until Netflix gets the show or I read the recaps that people do of programs that are on cable. Hulu had a few episodes of The Americans but it stopped getting the new ones…and so I signed up for the Amazon pass. It’s totally worth the $2/episode they charge because I end up watching the episodes several times.
It’s very rare for Justin to watch a show with me because he has a touch of ADD and it’s hard for him to sit through a TV program…but he’ll walk through the living room when I have The Americans on and he’ll get mesmerized…and then, of course, he’ll spend the rest of the episode asking me questions about everything that’s happening (which is a Justin trademark).
I really can’t say enough good about this show or the fascinating things I learn or end up thinking about after watching it. I really hope at some point they have a character on it who is a flight attendant for Pan Am…based on a certain person I know…so I can say “I KNEW IT!” and think of someone winking at her TV wherever she’s now retired.
QUESTION for COMMENTS: Have you seen this show too? If so, what do you think of it?
A few days ago, I stepped into the offices of Chicago law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson to appear as a witness in a major discrimination suit working its way through federal court involving a prominent Chicago gay bar that’s been accused of persecuting its Christian employees (which is the height of hypocrisy, considering that the owners of this bar vociferously accuse Christians of persecuting gays). As often happens here in Chicago, a mystery fell into my lap while I was sitting on a couch in Hinshaw’s waiting room…because there before me on the floor on either side of the large reception desk was the filthiest carpeting I’d ever seen in my 36 years on this planet. In the grand scope of all the mysteries that are out there today, “The Mystery of the Filthy, Filthy Carpet” isn’t the grandest of them all…but I’m just personally boggled by the fact that a purportedly prestigious law firm in Chicago in a very expensive office building could have carpet this filthy in its waiting room. And not seem to care!
Yesterday, I wrote to the Senior Partners of the firm to ensure they knew about the filthy and unsanitary conditions in their offices…but I haven’t heard back from them yet. No doubt, men like Donald L. Mrozek and J. William Roberts are very busy so it might take them and the other Senior Partners a few days to address how filthy their carpet is and how unsanitary and disgusting their men’s washroom was on that same floor. They probably are a little sheepish about the whole situation, too, because I took pictures of how filthy the carpets are over there and showed them to everyone. Though, honestly, they knew I was coming to visit that day and they know I’m Editor-in-Chief of a popular website…and a reasonable person would have supposed I’d have some sort of photographic device on my person in the year 2013. So, they really should have had foresight to clean the carpets and tidy up the washroom before someone like me arrived for an appointment in the building (and was cleared through security to come up to the third floor!).
‘The Mystery of the Filthy, Filthy Carpet” fascinates me because it’s a real commentary on how Chicago itself operates…because it’s on one level this vast garden of shiny steel and glass spikes zooming up to the sky for as far as eyes can see, with tourists clamoring for the best view of all the architectural beauty and historic landmarks…but underneath all that beauty there’s real rot and decay in this town that the political system and media here endeavor to hide under rugs.
That’s why I find it a perfect metaphor for this city to step into a suite of offices in a very shiny and spectacular office building on LaSalle, in the middle of the Loop no less, and find the reception area of a prestigious law firm to be filthier than the one in Beetlejuice, when Geena Davis and a surprisingly attractive version of Alec Baldwin went to the ghost world for an appointment they had with Sylvia Sidney. You remember that scene: the two bewildered, recently deceased humans arrive and find themselves in a diseased room covered in creepy stains, afraid of sitting in something gross, with the whole thing being Tim Burton’s grotesque version of a waiting room in purgatory. Like this:
Only, Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin were lucky because they had each other to comfort them in all that filth…but I had to sit there in the Hinshaw & Culbertson offices and stare at all of those mysterious, moldy stains all by myself!
I actually thought to write to Sylvia Sidney (who played Juno, the ghost caseworker) in Beetlejuice to ask her how Tim Burton and his design team so convincingly replicated the Hinshaw & Culbertson offices from the year 2013 in a movie they released back in 1988, but I’d (fittingly at this point) need a ouija board to reach her. Then I thought I’d ask Geena Davis what she thought of Hinshaw & Culbertson’s filthy reception area carpeting and if it reminded her of working on Beetlejuice, but while looking up her agent’s address I decided that I’d do a really good deed today and bring these filthy carpets to the attention of someone who could really help Mr. Donald Mrozek and Mr. J. William Roberts with their cleaning and sanitation problems. With a reception area this filthy, I should really enlist the heaviest hitter I could think of in ‘The Mystery of the Filthy, Filthy Carpet”…Ann B. Davis, the woman who played housekeeper extraordinaire “Alice Nelson” on The Brady Bunch.
VIA US MAIL — 2/22/2013
Ms. Ann B. Davis
c/o The Artists Group
1650 Broadway — Suite 1105
New York, New York 10019
Dear Ms. Davis,
I am writing to you because many years ago you portrayed the world’s greatest housekeeper, “Alice Nelson”, on the television program The Brady Bunch. As you no doubt recall, there was absolutely no mess your character couldn’t clean up, no matter how filthy any of the (six!) Brady children were in any episode of that classic TV program. If “Greg” threw the football around and broke something, you’d pick up the pieces and restore order. If “Marcia” was sloppy and got makeup all over her vanity, you’d degrease the glass in an instant (using nothing more than vinegar, lemon juice, or magic). Whenever “Peter” spilled his drink on his textbooks like an inconsiderate and sloppy little pig, you’d dry them out and politely admonish him for being so stupid. “Jan” was just one big walking mess, but yet you always found a way to clean up after her too; FEMA can’t even do something like that today. ”Bobby” and “Cindy” were pretty much just wild all the time and had that dog “Tiger” for a while that just disappeared at one point (or, more interestingly, slipped into an alternate reality where he became a tiger named “Dog”).
I can only imagine how, before he vanished and was never spoken of again, “Tiger” probably made the most messes of any member of the “Brady Family” (apart from “Cousin Oliver”, naturally)…but your character “Alice” kept the “Brady” household’s shag carpeting and other interesting 1970s decorating choices looking resplendent. I know that you were just an actress playing a role written for you by men at typewriters chain-smoking like fiends, but I’m hoping you were at least somewhat method in your craft and that while portraying “Alice” you also were imbued with some of her best spot-cleaning attributes.
I have absolutely no authorization to do this and am not affiliated with them in any way, but I would like your help in solving “The Mystery of the Filthy, Filthy Carpet” that exists in the Chicago offices of the law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson. I believe this falls under my duties of “concerned citizen” and “local busybody” and is, of course, a manifestation of my First Amendment rights and my dedication to cleanliness in general.
Recently, I had an appointment at Hinshaw & Culbertson and was shocked by the filthy carpeting they have in their reception area. Here is a photo of exactly what I am talking about so that you can channel “Alice” and help address this with me, as concerned citizens and characters that people have strong opinions of:
I know it looks like the young man in black is part of some kind of cult and is dancing in front of a giant cupcake with a maraschino cherry on top, but he’s just a cater-waiter setting up for a cocktail party function that Hinshaw & Culbertson hosted on 2/20/2013 (as bizarre as it is that they’d host a major catered event in space that has such filthy carpeting). It also looks like there’s a disembodied head just floating right there to the immediate left of the cater-waiter, but that’s really a mustachioed man with glasses whose full body is hidden by the oversized reception desk (it kind of looks like he’s sitting in an elaborate shipping crate or animal pen, but I believe there’s an open space on one side for him to escape). Now that I look at it closely, it also appears that the cater-waiter’s arm ends at his elbow and that he’s firing some sort of blast of psychic ball-lightning at the floating head, like he’s a male version of the video game character “Samus” from the old Metroid series on the NES. But that’s probably just a trick of the light and an optical illusion. My boyfriend Justin really loves video games and he pointed this out to me, so don’t feel bad if you didn’t automatically get the reference because you are 80-something now and I’m 36 and this didn’t immediately leap out at me either.
Those filthy stains on the carpeting of Hinshaw & Culbertson’s waiting area aren’t tricks of the light, however. They sure aren’t “treats” either…but they’re scarier than anything I’ve ever seen at Halloween or in movies such as Beetlejuice (which you weren’t in, obviously, but you should have been in because you are really funny as an actress).
I am wondering if you ever saw stains like the ABOVE on the carpeting of the “Brady Family” house while you were part of that bunch…and not just on the set itself, but also in the backstage production areas where the Teamsters no doubt trucked around lighting, camera equipment, those fancy directors’ chairs, and all the other heavy-duty accoutrements that are needed for television production (and they probably dropped stuff and made a big mess, because they are Teamsters and that’s how they roll). I imagine the back corridors of a TV studio get pretty filthy…and I am wondering if the carpeting backstage on a 1970s sitcom production set was ever filthier than the reception area carpeting of a major law firm in Chicago in the year 2013.
How on Earth would your character “Alice” ever begin to clean filthy carpeting like this?
On the show, whenever one of those “Brady kids”, their dog “Tiger”, “Sam the Butcher”, or other characters on the show made any kind of mess “Alice” would react for the camera, make some kind of funny face, say something hilarious, and then get right to work with a bucket and some kind of scrubbing utensil. And then she’d make pork chops and apple sauce for everyone (except “Tiger”, because he’d get dog food out of a can because he was a dog).
I’ve looked through old episodes on YouTube and I have been unable to identify what sort of utensil “Alice” most usually favored for cleaning up filthy messes…or if such a utensil would be good on carpet like that found in the reception area of Hinshaw & Culbertson. I have no way of determining if this is quality carpeting or not…but I’m tempted to guess it couldn’t have been all that expensive if Hinshaw & Culbertson seemingly can’t afford to get it properly cleaned. That’s an assumption I am making based on the fact that their carpet really and truly is filthy…and I can’t imagine a firm would purposefully choose to allow carpet to get this filthy in a waiting area unless they just financially couldn’t afford to have it cleaned professionally. And that assumption leads me to believe they probably couldn’t have afforded very expensive carpeting to begin with.
But, you know the old saying of: When you assume, you make an “ass” of “you” and “Alice from the Brady Bunch”…so I should just really focus on how filthy their carpeting is right here and now and ask if you have any suggestions at all for how they could clean this up. Mind you, they have not asked for my help so this is more of a Good Samaritan effort, kind of like trying to figure out how Lindsay Lohan can get her life back on track or how Liza Minnelli can stop marrying gay guys. It’s the sort of unsolicited intervention for the hapless that all the “Bradys” should have done for “Jan”.
Since I went to their offices for a meeting but the meeting didn’t happen because the man who asked for the meeting ended up not being prepared to meet that day (I think the day got away from him and he got distracted because they were going to be having a big party that night and he might have been excited because a party was happening), I believe I will be back in their offices again soon for another meeting that will probably happen this time…and when I go I’d like to be able to share with them any advice you might have for how they can make their offices less filthy.
Hinshaw & Culbertson also has a serious problem with their men’s washroom (which you can read about here), but that’s really something that a whole lot of Clorox bleach, Windex, a mop, and some elbow grease can fix…so the real mystery is how they can clean their filthy carpets so that they look like the carpeting at every other law firm that exists here in Chicago…or any other professional business, really.
I believe your character “Alice’s” boss on The Brady Bunch was an architect and he worked from home in an office he designed himself. I also remember it always looked very professional in there, which was no doubt directly attributable to the hard work and dedicated cleaning skills of “Alice” herself. I am not sure if the producers made you stay in character and clean the whole set after filming was done for the day, but if that is remotely the case then you did a really good job with “Mike’s” office because it really does sparkle.
Perhaps working together we can impart some of “Alice’s” cleaning tips and know-how to Mr. Donald L. Mrozek and Mr. J. William Roberts of Hinshaw & Culbertson at some point so that they can clean their filthy carpet and have it look as nice as “Mr. Mike Brady’s” carpeting in his architectural office.
Thank you for your time, Ms. Davis, and for being such a valuable resource in this matter from so deep in our nation’s vast pop culture universe. You have brought me so much joy through the years while watching reruns of The Brady Bunch and I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity now to express gratitude to you on behalf of my readership for your talented depiction of America’s favorite housekeeper, “Alice Nelson”.
Awaiting your much-needed counsel to solve “The Mystery of the Filthy, Filthy Carpet”,
Longtime Fan of Your (and “Alice’s”) Work
Read the rest of “The Mystery of the Filthy, Filthy Carpet” on our “Mysteries” page HERE.
QUESTION for COMMENTS: What other people, companies, or fictional entities do YOU think could help us in “The Mystery of the Filthy, Filthy Carpet”?