Movie Time: American Street Kid

Today I am adding a “Movie Reviewer” hat to my rack. It seems my social media profile somewhere qualified me for this, so I have had the occasional offer of screeners for upcoming films. 

“American Street Kid” had a showing December 11 at Chicago’s Regal Webster Place, in advance of a wider run later. It’s a documentary that takes the often ignored subject of homeless children, here living in the streets of Los Angeles, around Hollywood and the Venice beach area.

Director Michael Leoni himself was rescued from a life on the street by friends and a girlfriend. He wrote a play based on his experiences, “Playground.” During its run, he discovered some homeless girls had been coming to see the play several times, telling him its was a realistic reflection of their own lives. But shortly after meeting Leoni, each girl was found dead on the streets.

Leoni took a camera to the streets, where the kids hung out, wanting to produce a two minute public service announcement. It took time to find a group of kids who would trust this small film crew enough to talk about their lives, but in their stories, we find common threads: none of the wants to be living like this; most of them ran away from abusive parents or were kicked out of the house, some for the “sin” of being gay. Or they were bounced around the foster care system until they aged out.

Most lived by a daily routine of “spenging,” or begging for cash during the days, buying or selling drugs, or themselves, then trying to find a safe “squat” for the night. This movie shows the group sneaking on to the rooftop of an apartment building, but most of the time they hunker in a viaduct or overpass. Most of them are on drugs, some are HIV-positive, some are pregnant and hoping that a baby will help them get services. The kids Leoni befriends are part of a larger group that sometimes tries to look out for each other. As one of the boys says…

“Everyone’s looking for the family they didn’t have growing up.”

Documentary films mostly maintain the “fourth wall,” just like dramas. The film crew rarely gets involved; and interview subjects may look stright at the camera while an unseen voice asks questions. But early in the project, Michael’s narration declares, “I’m gonna get every one of those kids off the street.”  From here on, we see more of him on camera, on the phone trying to connect to social services.

Becoming the Story

Leoni quickly learns that social services, food and outreach centers are only open a few hours a day. Counseling services are understaffed, have long waiting lists, and all volunteer-run. Leoni had already sublet his home home and was living in his garage to get funds for his PSA turned feature. He tries getting about six of the kids a motel rooms, but money for that runs out too soon.

As we get to know the kids, we find some are very eloquent and try to set definite goals, when they can stay sober. There’s an asiring guitarist and songwriter who actually gets some bookings. There’s the boy who manages to work for awhile with Leoni’s film crew. But many of them can’t get a job because they can’t get an ID or Social Security card… because they can’t get their birth certificates… because they can’t even find out what hospital they were born in. And there’s nowhere to go to wash up and become presentable for an interview. Drugs and booze are much easier to come by than help.

We can guess what’s going to happen from here on in: some success, but a lot of failures. Leoni is seen scrambling through nighttime streets when “his” kids get into trouble. Some of them die. Others simply disappear, one of them just as he’s been approved into a residential program. But some of the kids do make it, by getting sober, getting through school or landing a job and a place to stay. Leoni ends up starting Spare Some Change, a mentoring program that tries to reach the kids sooner than social services can find room for them.

This documtary offers a rare, close-up look of eight kids from across the country who ended up in California. While we walk through their stories, the stories are being re-enacted thousands of time, with 1.8 million homeless children.

    “American Street Kid” Movie web site.

TV Yesterdays: September 24, 1955

TV Yesterdays: Saturday, September 24, 1955

Times are Eastern/Central. Based on contemporary TV schedules.

7:00/6:00 p.m.

CBS – Gene Autry

Ransom Cross: Gene becomes involved in an archaeological discovery of an ancient Spanish cross, which causes a battle with crooks. With Pat Buttram (repeat from 1953).

7:30/6:30 p.m.

ABC – Ozark Jubilee

Starring Red Foley, live from the Jewell Theatre, 216 S. Jefferson Avenue, Springfield, Missouri

CBS – Beat the Clock

Quiz and stunt program with Bud Collyer

NBC – The Swift Show Wagon with Horace Heidt and the American Way

Bandleader Horace Heidt visits a different state in each show, featuring performers from that state.

8:00/7:00 p.m.

CBS – America’s Greatest Bands

Paul Whiteman hosts this summer series, greeting guests Harry James, Eddy Howard, Machito and Hal McIntyre.

NBC – Perry Como

Guests: Boxer Archie Moore, Patti Page, Peter Lawford and the wives of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball players.

9:00/8:00 p.m.

CBS – Two For the Money

Quiz show. Contestant pairs win money by giving alternating answers to questions, and chat with host Herb Shriner.

NBC – People Are Funny

Audience participation with Art Linkletter.

9:30/8:30 p.m.

CBS – Ford Star Jubilee

The Judy Garland Special. The debut of CBS’s first color series is a 90 minute musical revue with Judy Garland, produced by Judy’s husband Sid Luft. In Judy’s TV debut, she sings a medley of “Carolina In Tne Morning”, The Trolley Song” and “Get Happy”. With guests David Wayne she duets on “A Couple of Swells” from her film Easter Parade, debuts a new song, “This is the Time of the Evening,”  sings “Swanee” and “For Me and My Gal,” and ends with a tearful rendition of “Over the Rainbow.”

NBC – Texaco Star Theatre

With sponsorship of Tuesday night’s Milton Berle program taken over by Buick, Texaco sponsored this half-hour series, with Jimmy Durante hosting in rotation with Donald O’Connor. From “Club Durant,” Jimmy greets singer Toni Arden and boxer Max Baer.

10:00/9:00 p.m.

ABC – The Stork Club

Sherman Billingsly hosts talk and music from his legendary New York City nightclub.

NBC – And Here’s the Show

This summer replacement for The George Gobel Show. Ransom Sherman and Jonathan Winters, with guest Sue Carson.

WBKB – Tom Duggan Show

A nightly talk show from Chicago’s local ABC affiliate (now WLS). Tom Casey, Judy Jones, Betty Bryan and Buddy Charles visit.

10:30/9:30 p.m.

NBC – Your Hit Parade

Snooky Lanson, with singers Dorothy Collins, Giselle MacKenzie and Russell Arms.

Musical Cheese Archive: 28 February 2012

I guess this has been pretty low on my list of priorities, but I do slog along with it. In 2012, while attending an evening computer class at Illinois Institute of Technology, I was able to host a radio shift on the campus station, WIIT. For the first time in nearly 30 years, I was back on the radio, with “Musical Cheese”.

Last time I was on the air, everything was still turntable based. There were CD decks, but not a lot of discs to play them on. Now music came not only from CD’s but I could play music from my laptop, or from a memory card. As much as I was intrigued by the idea of replacing my heavy crates with a memory chip the size of a postage stamp, that I carried in my cell phone, the only drawback was that I couldn’t crossfade songs if they were both on the SD card. And I wanted to improvise by keeping a larger music collection on my laptop, and a big crate of CDs. I even brought in a few tunes from Spotify, and managed not to let any of their ads on. Continue reading “Musical Cheese Archive: 28 February 2012”

Can You Tame Wild Wimmen: Gotham by Gaslight

Just as I finally decided to get my dormant url to point to this section, I also got approved as an iTunes affiliate. So, If I can offer some musical cheese stories good enough to get you to click on and buy the music indicated, I might get a nickel or so.

Gotham by Gaslight

While the latest movies adapted from DC Comics have been somewhat hit or miss, they have had several animated videos produced for the home market. Many of these are adaptations of some of the comics’ graphic novels, like “The Killing Joke” or best-known storylines. But rather than being straight adaptations, they twist away from the source material in interesting ways. Continue reading “Can You Tame Wild Wimmen: Gotham by Gaslight”

Eclipse Journal 2: August 21

Sean & Mark McDermott

I probably am not going to be able to hide the fact that I’m writing this story about the August eclipse seven months later, in the midst of a February snow system. Very well. Let me just cop to that fact, and my need to put some interesting “cornerstone copy” on my site that’s a little less than five years old.

Eclipse Day Wakeup

From our campground in DuQuoin to out viewing site in Murphysboro. Just a few seconds less than maximum totality further south and east.
I believe I had set the alarm on my phone for about 7 am on Monday. But I probably didn’t need to bother. I was getting perhaps an hour of sleep at a time. Sean tried to sleep sitting outside in the muggy night, even though he was being bugged by mosquitoes and whatever other insects are out at that place and time. Continue reading “Eclipse Journal 2: August 21”

Eclipse Journal 1: August 20

DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, before the 2017 Eclipse

I have been fussing with the transfer of this blog to WordPress, and with trying to make it current. But let’s start pitching in some new content, first by catching up to a momentous road with my son. This is adapted and expanded from my beer-centric eclipse coverage at


My son Sean and I set out at about 9 am Sunday morning to cross the State of Illinois—the long way—to experience the total solar eclipse of 2017. Our route would involve cutting from one interstate to another along an hour’s worth of rural highway so the Boy could practice his driving. Continue reading “Eclipse Journal 1: August 20”

Time to come clean.

I have spent some years trying to build my own web page from scratch; one that doesn’t look like butt.

But I have finally decided that it will be impossible to keep up with everything I would need to learn just to put a decent piece of web up there.

I’ve now decided that it would be easier to learn to wrangle WordPress. And to see what I can do with a basic WordPress theme, currently “Twenty Seventeen.”

I’m working to put access to my entire World Wide Web wandering on here. So keep an eye open.