HomePublicationBurbankChris Erskine: Tweedy Warmth and Bow-Tied Decency

Chris Erskine: Tweedy Warmth and Bow-Tied Decency

A critic once said Barbra Streisand’s angular face “had the essence of hound,” which I guess is a compliment, though I could see how a diva could take that the wrong way.
For the record, I think Streisand is uncommonly lovely, her nose a ski jump, her cheekbones the white cliffs of Dover. Hello, gorgeous! You may be nuts, Babs, but you’re my kind of nuts.
And beautiful beyond words. To me, you’re bigger and better than Elvis ever was.
By the way, have you ever seen an actual critic? I have. In no way should a critic ever weigh in on anyone’s appearance. Most critics look like apples. They cut their hair with kitchen knives. And they still wear the Hush Puppies they had in college.
Tom Shales died the other day, a reviewer I actually admired, not for his looks but for his crisp TV criticism in the Washington Post.
“Kathie Lee sings songs like she’s mad at them,” Shales once wrote about Kathie Lee Gifford. “What did they ever do to you?”
RIP, Tom Shales.
RIP, witty writing in general.
As you may have heard, large metro papers are in a bit of a bind. No one is buying them anymore, satisfied instead with the wisps of news you get on social media. Can you blame them?
Listen, it’s a very tough world for journalists. They just need to be slightly more interesting than some TikTok a 12-year-old kid just posted while sitting on the toilet.
Good luck with that!
RIP, too, to Charles Osgood, the cello-voiced essayist from “CBS Sunday Morning.” His passing leaves the world a lot less soothing and sapient.
Man, I already miss his bow-tied decency, his tweedy warmth. Writers like Osgood should never die in winter when we need them the most.
You know, soon I will have no real heroes left, besides Bittner and my attorney, Billable Bob. And Streisand, who took deep, cleansing breaths — as if inhaling all the world’s heartbreak — and belted out songs that melted the microphone.
Meanwhile, I will take deep breaths and continue to write my little mash notes to Los Angeles and Chicago (it’s like an open marriage … a lovefest … a juicy triangle).
No secret I’m smitten with both cities. I love the heartland’s crazy deep-dish cuisine and the way snow falls on Michigan Avenue (it’s almost musical).
I love the L.A. seascapes and the yipping of the coyotes — my idea of great opera.
In L.A., coyote mating season comes right at Valentine’s. I mean, isn’t love lovely?
“There ain’t nobody poor,” cooed Sinatra, “long as love is sure, on the street of dreams.”
In the meantime, SOS to any book club out there looking for a lounge act (me) to come dazzle you with talk about black bears and love.
In fact, coming off a nice book club session the other night in Westlake Village, something I volunteered to do way out there in the woods, don’t know why.
Maybe I like free wine. And love-song coyotes, which yip-yip-yipped as I arrived.
Anyway, as you know, I don’t care much for men who are more successful than I am – monetarily … spiritually … athletically. I just don’t like them.
My motto: “Trying is the first step toward failure.”
Successful people don’t get that.
But this book group was pretty cool. I could tell by the wines they brought that they were quite accomplished. Right away, distinctions were set.
Anyway, it was mostly dudes, which is rare for a book club. Generally, guys gather in groups only to declare war on struggling countries. Or to play golf. Same basic impulses.
To be honest, I don’t recall much from the evening — there was so much wine, and Dr. Greg brought a single-malt bourbon that futzed my frontal cortex. Single-malt bourbon? Is that even possible?
Hello, gorgeous!
Eventually, the bear book came up in conversation, the recent bestseller about The Bear Whisperer, the wise and vulnerable Steve Searles, whom I have dubbed the “most interesting idiot in the world.”
Steve would agree.
So, it’s last call to any book club that would have us in to talk about bears, an odd topic, by a couple of very odd men. I handle the low country (Los Angeles); Steve handles the hills (Mammoth and the Eastern Sierra).
Look, I’m like a reluctant old Brit who inherits a rundown farm, then falls in love with the Charolais cows and the wild strawberries and the way the pump water tastes on sweaty afternoons.
That’s writing for me. That’s the joy of books and the spirited surprise of the written word.
That’s the high road. In a world full of hounds.

Im drawn to the heartlands deep dish cuisine and the way the snow falls on Michigan Avenue

Please honor my late wife and son through a special fund that supports parent education and struggling families throughout the region. To donate, go to bit.ly/parentedgala24 then scroll down to “Cathy and Christopher Erskine Compassion Fund.” Or send a check made out to LCPC Parent Ed, La Cañada Presbyterian Church, 626 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada, CA 91011. Thank you.

First published February 1-3 in Outlook Newspapers.


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