Archive for November 2013

“PHILOMENA”–A MOVIE REVIEW   Leave a comment

Though famous on the English stage, TV and in English movies it wasn’t until Judi Dench played M in the James Bond movies and received a supporting actress Oscar for playing Queen Elizabeth that America fell in love with her and hasn’t stopped loving her, with her role in “Philomenia”  only solidifying that love.

We first meet the young Philomenia (Sophie Kennedy Clark) losing her virginity, never regretting it, only to become pregnant. Irish girls who bore children out of wedlock, embarrassing their parents, were generally sent away to Catholic church institutes  where the nuns kept them in servitude until they paid off the 1,000 pounds until they paid off their ‘debt’. The last time she sees her son Anthony is when, at the age of 3, he is being put in a car after being sold to an American couple.

Fifty-three years later we met the grown up Philomena (Judy Dench) who has been a nurse for thrity years, married, had a daughter and grandchildren but never forgot her Anthony nor did she ever lose her faith in the church. Writer Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), who is a lapsed Catholic to the point of now being an atheist, has recently lost his job. He is a man who likes to write about Russian history couldn’t care about writing a ‘human interest’ story which he sneers at so you know he will be writing Philomena’s story and will help her find her child.

There are many possible spoilers so to avoid them, and let you enjoy the twists and turns, let’s just say Philomena and Martin are complete opposites and travel together to America to find her son. Along the way subjects far and wide are touched upon from the church, to politics, to homophobia, AIDS, the British class system, unforgiving nuns, romantic fiction novels, sex, Jane Russell and even Philomena wanting to watch “Big Mama’s House” instead of going to see the Lincoln Memorial.

Written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, based on the true story written by Martin Sixsmith in the book “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee”, they, along with director Stephen Frears, avoids manpulating the audiende too much. They provide some good laughs while not staying away from the heavier topics.

Steve Coogan holds his own against Judi Dench but you eyes don’t leave her when she is on screen. She inhabits Philomena to the point that we understand this woman’s love, faith, loss, pain and, most of all, her wisdom, with her facial expressions. Sophie Kennedy Clark gets across Philomena’s anguish, especially in the scene where she sees her son taken away while Mare Winningham as a grown up woman who was adopted with Anthony and Anna Maxwell, Ruth McCabe along with Peter Hermann and Michelle Fairley all offer good support in what are almost cameo appearances. Barbara Jefford as Sister Hildagarde stands out.

There are beautiful scenes of Ireland, and Washington D. C., but this movie belongs to Judi Dench deservedly!

Posted November 29, 2013 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

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We all have many things to be thankful for but every Thanksgiving (and many times over the year) I am most grateful for people who have added to my life and are no more with my physically–I know they are my Guardian Angels looking over my shoulder every day of the year–though YOU may not know them they are a part of my family and I would like to share them with you. During the 80s I lost many friends due to AIDS but now as I am old I am losing many of them to natural causes from growing old.

Until the end BJ fought to stay alive but it wasn’t enough. I only knew her for a very short time over the years if I totaled them up but once you met her you never forgot her.

Then there was Robert who knew he would live for a very long time but it wasn’t long enough. I’ve written about him over the years and he and James who were together for over 50 years. We were close friends for over 30 years.

I miss Layde. She was fun and a great supporter of mine not to mention donating many hours to editing my books and, many times, my thoughts. We met in Tennessee and a few years later she moved to Dallas with her sister Nina and Nina’s partner Jean. She was always there for me with a joke or a shoulder to cry on.

Due to age many people here at Gateway have died. we lost Emily and Barbara and we lost we lost Carmen and Liz, both to cancer. Liz was an outgoing artist who volunteered every Saturday giving walking tours of the Bonnet House, an historical landmark in Fort Lauderdale. She did not suffer fools gladly and wasn’t shy about telling them off.

I have never seen a family matriarch as loved by her family as Carmen was and each child, both daughters and sons, were more beautiful, more handsome than the other. They were polite, well mannered and respected all adults even as they were adults themselves. Her grandson, a strapping 6 feet, 200 pound 13 year old, loved her so much he couldn’t but help show her every time he was near. She was caring, loving, positive and optimistic to all her family, friends and neighbors and had a wicked sense of humor.

They may just be names to you but along with many others they bring a smile and warmth to me whenever I think of them and I often do.  I hope Ladye, BJ, Liz, Robert and Carmen get to say hello to:

Albyn (heart attack), Flo (cancer), Joe (stroke), Ginny (cancer), Ronnie (heart attack) Bob B. (heart attack), John C. (AIDS), Tom L. (AIDS), Ray B. (heart attack), Buddy (AIDS), Michael Mc (AIDS),  Joe (heart attack) Bob/Dr K (heart attack), Vinnie (heart attack) Robert I. (phenomena)–just a few of my Guardian Angels!!!!

Unless I am old, and being forgetful, or not wanting to remember, I don’t recall losing anyone this year and hope I don’t/won’t.

Here’s also a piece of my heart for all those young people in their teens who have suffered and died from AIDS because their parents and adults don’t care about ‘kids’ nor do they want the government to spend money on helping them. I miss, and remember, each one of you. And to those who have had their life cut short whether they were teens or preyed on by others as they have aged you are missed.

Posted November 28, 2013 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

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I’ve got it all ready including the turkey. There are the cans of cream of mushroom soup, strings beans and fried onions to make a casserole. There are the pie shell and the can of pumpkin to amke the pie along with an Italian wedding cake for those who don’t like pumpkin–like me!  The stuffing, cranberry sauce, apples, peppers and oranges to place in the turkey and around it–the loaf of bread to break with friends!

In all probability I will roast the turkey over night at 225 degrees so when I wake up I’ll be greeted by the smell of the perfectly done turkey. Some years I baste it with orange juice and other years with diet soda so that’s one decision I have to make yet.

Actually I will probably do this all Friday evening so I can celebrate Thanksgiving all weekend as people stop by because, as we have done for a few years in the past, Allen and I will be going to the Isles Casino in Pompano Beach Thanksgiving Day to have their wall to wall buffet of which they added a new angle—I am getting so healthy eating all this ‘healthy’ food! LOL


By the way in case you didn’t know

Posted November 27, 2013 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

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I LOVE the theatre and have ever since I saw the original production of “Oklahoma” on Broadway in 1943 when I was 7 years old—okay I KNOW you weren’t born yet!!!– I wanted to be Alfred Drake who played the original Curly and then a couple of years later I wanted to be John Riatt when I saw him play Billy in “Carousel”–sadly I couldn’t carry a tune. In any case since then I have seen thousands of plays and musicals and the lights going down in a theatre before the show starts still sends a shiver down my spine!

Luckily, about 4 years ago, Corine, who has 2 show business related web sites– and–contacted me about reviewing toruing companies of Broadway shows and it is like being in theatre heaven for me. Tonight I will be going to see the opening night of the touring company of  “The Book of Mormon” in Fort Lauderdale at the Broward Performing Arts center and I can’t wait. Look for my review.

(An aside–before the show we will be having an early dinner/late lunch at the Dubliner Irish Pub not too far from the theatre!)

This a partial copy of the publicity release I received:


The producers of the national tour of the new musical THE BOOK OF MORMON , winner of nine Tony Awards including Best Musical announced today that tickets will be available at the Broward Center box office, 201 SW Fifth Avenue , Fort Lauderdale , FL   33312 , or by calling 954-462-0222. Group orders of 15 or more may be placed by calling 954-626-7814 or 954-462-0222.

 Attached please find a press release and production photographs for THE BOOK OF MORMON (see collage above)  coming to Broward Center for the Performing Arts November 26 – December 22 as part of the Bank of America Broadway in Fort Lauderdale 2013-2014 subscription series.

 Photo Credits:

Mark Evans - THE BOOK OF MORMON First National Tour (c) Joan Marcus, 2013.
Phyre Hawkins, Mark Evans, Christopher John O'Neill THE BOOK OF MORMON First National Tour (c) Joan Marcus, 2013.
THE BOOK OF MORMON First National Tour Company - THE BOOK OF MORMON First National Tour (c) Joan Marcus, 2013.



Posted November 26, 2013 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

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The positive things about this new restaurant are the service and the dining room in addition to the eye catching lit up sign over the counter spelling out KITCHEN!
They seem to have gone via the new fad of the customer coming up to the counter. ordering, paying and then sitting down with your food served by the cashier.
I do not know about ‘healthy food’ only if food tastes good or not, but this place seems to go way overboard with their prices.
We started off with Artichoke Fries servd with a citrus sauce on the side. They are spicy, which I like, but the portion is way too small for $6. It was sort of adding insult to injury when we got our main course with a ‘side’ of pickled veggies. Sorry but no way is that a side of veggies–they were served in a very small cup that normally butter or cocktail sauce would be served in. A side would either be on the plate or in a monkey dish which would have consisted of more than a teaspoon of veggies.Okay the fries didn’t taste healthy which, in a way, made them taste good to me.
Allen had a Berry Blast (strawberry, banana, blueberry) smoothie ($6) and I had an Exoctic Refresh (coconut, pineapple and banana) smoothie ($6)–there was a note about ‘make it a combo and get a smoothie for $5 but I let it go.
For our main course I had the Chic Which ($12) and Allen had the Steak Which ($12) with that teaspoon of veggies. Next time put a piece of fresh parsley or basil. The organic ezekiel sprout bread was delicious. The free range chicken breast with  ‘balsamicmaui onion, cured tomatoes, arugula mayo and melted brie (though I didn’t see or taste any of the latter) on the sprout bread was tasty but that $12 price is too much. Allen said nothing about his sandwich which isn’t a good sign.
We decided to share a banana split ($7) which came with blueberries, strawberries, a banana, chocolate syrup and with, what is says on the menu, vanilla ice cream. It tasted more like ice milk and/or ice refrozen a few times.
All in all the check came to $61.95, including tax, and with the groupon deduction of $16 the total was $45.94, far too much for what we got.
At these prices there should be full table service.
I have only been to one other ‘health food’ restaurant–the vegan restaurant Sublime which I, also, found overpriced–and I wonder if eating healthy means dying broke?
One on me–I just called the restaurant to complain about being overcharged on the bill–I was wrong!!!! I didn’t hesitate to apologize. LOL

Posted November 25, 2013 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

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Today was the last day of summer—officially! It was our last Thursday to take advantage of the Cafe Vico’s 2-4-1 summer luncheon specials. (Though they will be open next Thursday–Thanksgiving Day we will be going to the Isle Casino for their Thanksgiving buffet–the special will end.)

Since June 20 we have had 26 luncheons each for a total of 52 different dishes using both the menu items and the different specials. Whether it was fish like Tilapia or Flonder, veal, chicken, pork, shellfish and all items served with pasta varying from ziti, fettuccine or linguine or/and fresh vegetables there were only two dishes that I remember anything negative about. I found a pork special a little too salty and I think Allen said something about one of his orders but I don’t remember what he said or what the dish was.

I will say their lasagna is the best I ever had and their 4 cheese ravioli was a treat. I can never get enough of their shellfish piscatada in olive oil and garlic. The hot garlic rolls served with a heavy garlic dip is a meal in itself.

The service from the busboy(s) and waiter(s) is tops and reflects that of Mr. and Mrs Marco Vico that own the restaurant and are hands on when it comes to making everything run smooth. They are busy now building an addition of a piano bar which should be open in early 2014. They do have a movie and dinner evening one night a month and next month they will be having a cabaret night.

Cafe Vico has become my ‘go to’ restaurant if anyone is visiting from out of town. With excellent food and excellent service plus owners who care what could be better? In fact I am seriously thinking of holding my 20th Leap Year birthday there on February 29, 2016–keep tuned for further announcements!

Posted November 21, 2013 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

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Around 4-4:30 pm a group of people gather at The Point just to relax and talk. A group of us use to meet on the breezeway about the same time but since they built the pool rest rooms and the new rules don’t allow cocktails (which we use to have on Friday evenings and people would bring snacks), plus most of that group have died or moved on , we have moved. It is really pleasant sitting by the bay, watching the boats, board paddlers and kayaks go by.

As I have mentioned before I live in a residential community of about 300 seniors many of who don’t have any family and/or live far away from them. Holidays are a notorious time for old people who drink too much, commit suicide or just give up on life . As a group most of us try to help each other but some fall through the cracks.

Irene and John have been living here awhile and do a lot of volunteer work–John runs the library as an example–and Russ is a fairly new resident. Don’t know if you can read the notice but it starts, “With all the residents who have nowhere to go or spend Thanksgiving Day with well now you do.” On Thanksgiving Day afternoon at 1 PM they are offering a free buffet for anyone who wants to come.

As Allen and I will be doing our yearly ritual—going to the Isles Casino for their buffet spread–I won’t be in the community room with the folks but I will certainly be thinking of them.

Life is good folks when you are surrounded by people who care–don’t take it lightly!


Posted November 20, 2013 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

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A MAN TURNS 30–HAPPY BIRTHDAY   Leave a comment


I have been going over old blogs with intentions of deleting them when I came across this one that I wrote 7 years ago to a fellow blogger–he has come a  long since 2006 and is leading a life by example for those coming up behind him!
Hopefully your 30s won’t be as tumultrious as mine were but from what I have read, and talking to other men, it is 10 years of many changes.My 30s were a remarkable decade on a rollar coaster ride–I went from being a little fish in a HUGE pond to a HUGE fish in a small pond then back to the little fish in a HUGE pond again.
IF I had to pick one decade of my life that was the most interesting it would be the 30s.

I started off living in a very cramped studio apartment in NYC working as a waiter, spending every tip I made on booze and crusing–2 years later I was living in a magnificent townhouse in Memphis netting $90, 000 a year (remember this is 1970s money) with ALL expenses (food, clothes, car, etc.) paid for by the company.
I was interviewed on TV, the radio, in newspapers and magazines–traveling all over the States and the world.
5 years later I was in a very messy business, and relationship, divorce (too bad palimony wasn’t around then!) including appearances in court. I left the business and opened my own.
Left the lover/hater and met another.
I went through TA therapy (that’s when I read “Passages”) and learned who I was.
I was really at my peak physically–lost 100+ pounds (thank god for being young and the skin ‘elastic’)–modestly, a HUNK! And it was the time of real big changes in men’s clothing–see through shirts and trousers–but then there was the Neru suit.
I stopped lying–a big issue for my first 29 years.
I started to give up improbable dreams and faced reality. I became a man instead of remaining a boy. (If you aren’t familiar with it try to read or listen to the Charles Aznavour, a French singer and actor, “What Is A Man?” Or Paul’s–in “A Chorus Line”–monologue about discovering what a man is and there not being many.)
The 30s are the time you want to show the world what you have acquired–I was doing ‘bling’ before it was fashionable.
The most important questions I had–looking at myself, my friends, my world–were: 1) Is this what I want? 2) What do I want? By the time I reached 40 I knew the answers to both questions.

The only advice I can give you as you reach your 30s is to start taking care and being serious about your health–what you do or don’t do in your 30s will start showing up in your mid 50s to 60s.

Life goes faster as you get older so enjoy your 30s–the bad, the good and the ugly–get ready for changes–I wish you only the good!

Posted November 19, 2013 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

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I LOVE(D) BEING A WAITER…PART 6   Leave a comment

except for the customer!

Let’s talk about the customer for this post.

1) If you can’t afford to tip between 18-20% for service than don’t eat out or go to a fast food place where you can throw that dime in the jar!

2) There is no excuse for not tipping–is the service bad? Why are you putting up with it? Go to the host/hostess/manager/owner and ask for another server if you are not getting the service you feel you should be getting. Don’t sit there, shake your head, moan and groan, then either leave a small tip or no tip.

3) Please remember it is not the server’s fault if the food is bad. Yes some times hot food can be served cold and in some cases it can be the server’s fault as they were busy and left the food standing too long. Call them over, politely explain the problem and ask them to have it heated up.

4) I would never send food back WITHOUT ordering something else instead–just take my word for it!

5) In some, well most, cases the server will have to call over the manager as they are limited in what they can do regarding the return of food so be prepared for that.

6) When a server comes to the table and wants to know how everything is that is the time to complain if you have any complaints, not after you have eaten everything and mumble it wasn’t that good. Again, remember taht the server doesn’t cook the food so don’t ‘punish’ him/her if something doesn’t taste good.

7) Along those lines if a server does some table side ‘cooking’–making guacamole at the table or tossing a Ceaser salad, debones a fish, etc., I know, if it is good, I will leave a little somethign extra.

8) By the way one way to get good service is to start off by acknowleding the server’s “Good evening”, “Hi”, “How are you folks tonight?”, etc.Be rude and see the service you get!

9) In the 21st Century it is important to tell you GET OFF YOUR CELL PHONE in a restaurant, especially when the server is waiting to take your order for anything. Again be rude and don’t expect the attentive service you would like as you don’t deserve it!

10) One thing I have done many times and have gotten super service–I let the server order for me!! At first they are startled but remember tehy know what is good and what isn’t and which cook in the kitchen makes the same dish better than another cook. No, not if they are smart, will a server ‘push’ the special of the day if it isn’t good or just, automatically, give you the highest priced items. They are out to make money by gettign bigger tips and they get that by making you happy!

11) Along these lines if your darling brat throws/spills something on the floor and a bus person has to clean it up tip them a couple of bucks. When a waiter cuts your kid’s steak or pays extra attention to him/her tip them extra

12) By the way if a server gives you something ‘extra’ taht they should charge you for but don’t please, as happened to me, don’t tell the boss how sweet your server was by giving you that a la mode ice cream with your cake and not charging you for it! Yes it has happened to me! LOL

13) One of the best ways to get GREAT service if you go to a restaurant a few times be sure to ask for the same server the next time you go in. As most of you know Allen and I have been eating lunch at the Cafe Vico every Thursday for the past 3 months abd when we walk in, before we even get to our table sometimes, the busbof gets the hot rolls and garlic dip along with the coffee and iced tea we drink. I do not hesitate to throw the busboy and extra $5 every now and then.

14) Also if you are a regular at a restaurant take care of them at Christmas time- yes the wiater and busboy but if the host/hostess calls you by name or acknowledges you when you come in or the bartendar has your drink ready as you sit down a little holiday envelope would be appropriate and appreciated.

15) This should be common sense but too many times you will hear “…but I tipped on the check amount.” If you have a coupon, are the restaurant is offering 2-4-1 deals or you have become familiar with groupon tip on what the TOTAL check would have been before the deduction.

16) Though it is proper it raelly makes you look cheap figuring out what 20% would be before tax!! Come on, in Florida tax is 6% which means on a $100 check it is $6 which means we are talking about an extra 90 cents–if you can afford $100 for a dinner you can afford to be a sport for 90 cents. By the way 20% is not that hard to figure out–you don’t need to bring out your calculator!!

17) Talking about checks–something all customers should do is check the check to be sure you are not overcharged (or undercharged) or the server forgot to put an item on the menu. Even with computers many check mistakes happen. Also, and this bugs me, some places will put an automatic tip on the check and the server should tell you iof this is the case. You can always leave more!

18) This is a touchy subject but certain people are known to be bad tippers and in most cases it is true. The earlybird customer is getting a bargain on their dinners but they still tip 10% or don’t bother to figure out what it would have cost at regular prices. At a discount or regular price the server is bringing you your food, tip accordingly.

19)I won’t get into the lawyer, doctor, pipe smoker, friend of theboss, restaurant owner being the worst tippers or which ethnic groups or which genders, etc. are the worst tippers but, yes, some people are targeted for less than great service because the server has been ‘burned’ too many times. I am going to be politically correct in NOT naming the worst tippers but I will tell you, in most cases, males from New York City are the best tippers–they have been trained by the New York servers!! LOL

Posted November 17, 2013 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

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I LOVE(D) BEING A WAITER… PART 5   Leave a comment

I was given the best training as a server from Sam, Dorothy and Vinnie Piccolo which was proven by the tips I got–never less than 20% of my total sales. (An aside to servers of today–do yourself a big favor and declare your tips–whether years from now it is Social Security as we know it today, or another system, what you declare today will pay back for you then. Yes, I know, you are young and want to spend the money now but in your old age the money will come in handy! I know as I spent my tips and only declared what I had to so that is part of the reason I live below the poverty level!)

Years later when corporate owned restaurants started to have ‘rules’ I was already following them! Here are a few things all servers should do when you are their customer:

1) Stop right now and see how long 2 minutes can be–yes it is long. The first rule of a good server is to acknowledge a new customer even if it is only to explain that you will get to them very shortly. If they were seated when you were in the kitchen picking up something acknowledge them as you go to the other table.

2) Take a drink order and deliver it within 3 minutes unless it is alcoholic and you have to depend on the bartender. (Customers may not know it but in today’s world of restaurants servers have to tip a certain percentage of their tips to the bartender–plus a food runner, if the restaurant has one and a bus person–but more about that later.)

3) Their food order should start to be taken within 5 minutes–how long that will take depends on you the customer.

4) After serving a dish, whether appetizer, entree, salad or dessert always check back and ask how everything is–if you feel they are not too enthusiastic about something you possibly may change. If they are finished eating whatever you served it is too late to correct it. Many customers will eat something rather than complain–a good server will pick up on those vibes.

5) If a customer is drinking alcohol ask them if they would like another before they completely empty the glass as most drinkers don’t like waiting for another one.

6) If customer is drinking a bottle of wine, water, coffee, tea or soda be sure to refill when cup/glass is a quarter full. (In the case of tea many restaurants will charge for a second tea bag so either offer them more hot water or tell them there is an additional charge. Yes they will blame you but ti will be worse if you don’t tell them and they see it on their check!)

7) If the complete party isn’t finished a course be sure to ask the person who is if they would like their plate removed.

8) “Crumbing” of a table is a lost art in restaurants but show you know what you are doing by doing that, at least after the main course. If you don’t know what crumbing is it is basically removing crumbs, cleaning the table so it looks as near as possible as to when they first sat down. (I definitely tip extra if a server knows to do that!)

9) Always be a step ahead of your customer–if they are having a burger than ask if they would prefer mayo, mustard or catsup–bring Worcestershire or A1 when serving beef. Ask if they would like extra cream with their coffee, lemon with their tea, their salad dressing on the side or anything that will save you a trip and prevent them from having to ask for what they want/need.

10) To make your boss happy, and many times customers appreciate it, do some ‘suggestive’ selling–suggest an item that will add to the enjoyment of the meal or you feel the chef really makes special. Don’t suggest add-ons every time you open you mouth but maybe an item with dinner, a dessert or an after dinner drink. Yes it makes your check higher so possibly a higher tip and it makes your boss happy–it’s a ‘win-win’ situation.

11) It is not often the case these days but many restaurants now have patio dining so the few customers who still smoke can. Smokers don’t like dirty or full ashtrays so always keep an eye on them and when you do take the ashtray off the table do it the professional way–yes, there is a professional way. Top the used ashtray with a new one and remove both–this way you don’t have ashes flying out–and when you have them both away from the table put the clean one on the table.

12) After serving dessert or if they say they don’t want any, put the check down but be sure to let them know if they need anything else just to ask. Also it is your judgement as to who to give the check or where to put it on the table. In most cases if someone asks for the check they should get it but then who is doing most of the ordering or maybe you would be better off putting it in the center of the table–if you ‘read’ your customers you should know what to do.

13) Thank the customer when you put the check down AND when you bring the change or credit card slip AND when they get up to leave.

14) When working remember you are a part of a team–just as the bus person, bartender and food runner help you so does the other servers on the floor and you in turn should help them. Have a pot of coffee refilling your customer’s cup how much work does it take as you walk back to the side-stand or kitchen to fill up other cups? A customer asks you for something don’t tell them that you will tell their server but get it and if you can’t tell the server. If you and the servers who have a station on either side of you look out for each other the work will be easier and the tips better!

It may sound like a lot of work, or extra things to do, but a professional server does all the above without even thinking about it and certainly will get you better tips.

Hey customer if you see a server doing the above tip higher!



Posted November 16, 2013 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

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