hollywood squares, debolts, signman signs off

Thursday, sep. 26, 2002   |   0 comments

I just watched the last five minutes of the new “Hollywood Squares”, something I’ve never, ever, never done before. Well, maybe I’ve seen like two seconds’ worth … however long it takes a person to dive for the remote control as though her eyes were being jabbed out by pointy, little gnome hats. But apparently a lot has changed since I last flicked in, and for the better, maybe:

- While the show still answers to “Hollywood Squares”, it also goes by the nickname “H2”. And when the host said, “Welcome back to H2,” he used that sexycreepy whispery voice of someone announcing a show on the SciFi channel. Atch twoooooah!
– Hoopie isn’t captaining the middle square anymore. Where are you Hoopie?
– Who’s the new Hoopie? Ellen DeGeneres! This might make you not like me so much, but sometimes I think Ellen is kind of funny. (I’m not gay.)
– The other squares, and this is where things got really strange, were filled with one of the most bizarre mixtures of people I’ve ever seen. Little Richard. Chaka Khan. Engelbert Humperdinck. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Anna Nicole Smith, her trainer/personal assistant/lover, and her dog, Sugar Pie, all squeezed into one square. (Do you think there was comedy gold smelting between Triumph and Sugar Pie? YOU BET.) Isn’t just the idea of all those people stacked on top of each other intrinsically comical? They almost didn’t need to speak at all.

I don’t know what’s going on. I always thought “Hollywood Squares” was the place where stars go to die, each box a little career coffin. But maybe H2 has become fertile ground for funny? What’s happening?

Wait, wait. I just went to the official Hollywood Squares site. First of all, Henry Winkler is co-executive producer. (Wow, meeting me did something to you, didn’t it, Henry?) OK, and according to his bio, he also “hosted and served as Co-Executive Producer for the 1977 Academy Award-winning documentary, Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?” I can’t believe it! The kids at my grade school used to call each other “DeBolts” (the children the DeBolts adopted were all heart-breakingly damaged in one way or another), but whenever I try to fun about the DeBolts, no one knows what I’m talking about. (Come on, the “DeBolt Institute of Technology”? Peep?) I was beginning to think that the movie was test-marketed in my school and my school only. But no! The Fonz received an Academy Award for the it. I’m not crazy. I’m not an alien. I’m made out of people!

It also turns out that the center Hollywood square rotates — Burt Reynolds is on deck for next week. So Ellen isn’t the new Hoopie. Good news for Ellen’s career. Though maybe all it takes is a week on H2 to ruin everything? I’ll be watching your next steps carefully, Ellen.

And Burt aside, the squares lined up for next week (Jillian Barberie? Christopher Lowell?) don’t seem as primed to soar as they were this week. So it looks like tonight’s show was just a fluke. And I find that very comforting. Because really, I hate change.

Like Rick the “Mad Sign-tist and Chron Prince”. He’s closing up shop, after 24 years selling papers at the Embarcadero BART stop. The Chronicle is pulling the plug on its PM edition, which is what Rick was all about, so now he’s out of a job. Shit. I’ve been loving his freaky, punny signs for years now:

- “Man Waves Uzi in Bank — Uzi think he is?”
– “Kuwait oil wells on fire (Orson arson Wells) — goodness, gracious, Kuwait balls of fire”
– “John Wayne Bobbit was dickcapitated”
– et cetera

All this week, he’s had a sampling of his signs from over the years lined up in the BART station.

Some of the puntastic signs Rick’s been making since 1978.

Rick is on my list of “Things I Heart Real Bad in SF”, along with the five-foot rubber band ball and the thunder and lightning in the Safeway produce aisle and the chalk outlines someone’s drawn around the shadows on the sidewalk in my neighborhood so that when the sun is in the exact right spot, the shadow of the post box or whatever lines up perfectly with its outline.

But now he’s gone. Double shit. Change! I am full of rage at you!

Rick the Mad Sign-tist is out of a job as of this Friday.


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