O’Hare.  Mention it to any business traveler, and you are likely to hear a groan and a war story about some travel mishap.

O’Hare.  The fifth-busiest airport in the world.  Named for World War II flying hero and Congressional Medal of Honor winner Edward Henry (“Butch”) O’Hare, who bravely faced down a group of bombers heading for his aircraft carrier.

O’Hare.  It’s unavoidable if you live in Columbus and need to go just about anywhere to the west.  You’re likely to be routed through O’Hare on the way out and on the way back.  You keep your fingers crossed that there won’t be a line of thunderstorms, or snow storms, or wind storms that blow out your travel schedule and bring the nation’s air traffic system to its knees.  Otherwise, you’ll find yourself wandering through one of the bustling concourses at O’Hare, wondering how you’re going to get to where you want to go.

O’Hare.  I spent the night there once, after my flight in from the west coast was delayed and I arrived at O’Hare at about 1:30 a.m. to learn that every hotel room in the airport was booked and my flight out would leave at 5:40 a.m.  There was no place to sleep and no where to go so I walked back and forth on the concourse, like one of the dazed passengers on The Poseidon Adventure, counting down the minutes until my flight left.  It was probably the longest four hours of my life.

O’Hare.  I’m heading there today, and I’m hoping it doesn’t rise up and bite me, again.

Ernest Borgnine

Ernest Borgnine died over the weekend.  He was 95, and he was one of those actors who just made Hollywood work.

Borgnine won a best actor Oscar for Marty in 1955, but was equally comfortable in supporting roles.  He was featured prominently in four iconic movies that I’ll gladly stop and watch whenever I see them on TV:  as the secretly delighted general in The Dirty Dozen, as the awesome Dutch Engstrom in The Wild Bunch, as the exasperated, then devastated, and ultimately heroic Rogo in The Poseidon Adventure, and as the cabbie in Escape From New York.  In each role — and in the many others he played during an acting career that spanned 60 years — Borgnine always brought something special and memorable to his characters.  Rogo’s intense, fuming responses to the constant chiding of Gene Hackman’s irreligious preacher and the whining of Red Buttons in The Poseidon Adventure are classic examples of an actor whose work can make a marginal plot more believable and a one-dimensional character much more intriguing.

In an era where there was a strict dividing line between movies and TV, Borgnine was equally comfortable on the big screen and the small screen.  His starring role in McHale’s Navy, and his work in countless other TV series, helped to break down that barrier.  Current stars who work regularly in both TV and film owe a tip of the cap to Ernest Borgnine.

The Delayed Flight, Empty Airport, No TV, Waiting Game Blues

I’m here at the Akron-Canton Airport, waiting for Russell’s AirTrans flight to arrive.

Why the Akron-Canton Airport, you ask? Because Russell’s flight to Columbus was first delayed, and then cancelled, and there were no other flights from LaGuardia to Columbus tonight. So we did some quick internet searches, saw an AirTrans flight to Akron-Canton that was open, and grabbed it. We figured we were coming up north for the reunion anyway, so why not just come up a night early? And, therefore, here I am.

The Akron-Canton Airport is probably like a lot of small, regional airports at 10 p.m. on a weeknight — that is, dead. Everything is closed. There is almost no one here, and no TV or other distractions to help pass the time. The only people you see stumble past like the dazed, misguided souls being led in the wrong direction after the ship capsized in The Poseidon Adventure.

Probably because there is nothing else to do, I can’t help checking the monitor repeatedly, where I see that Russell’s flight information is blinking — which means another delay. Arrrgh!

Help me! I’m in hell!

Goodbye, Frank

Actor Leslie Nielsen has died at the age of 84.  It is a real loss for anyone who enjoys movie spoofs and broad comedy.

Neilsen had a long career as an actor that included playing a stalwart astronaut on Forbidden Planet and the captain of the ill-fated cruise ship in The Poseidon Adventure.  He really didn’t come into prominence, however, until he was featured as the doctor in the classic Airplane! In that role — where he spoke the memorable line “And don’t call me Shirley!” — Nielsen perfected a deadpan comedic style that was well suited to the parody-type movies that made him a star.  He went on to star in the TV series Police Squad! where he first played Lieutenant Frank Drebin.  After the series was canceled, Nielsen played Drebin in three excellent Naked Gun movies.  Thanks to Nielsen’s deft comedic timing and talent for physical comedy, Drebin became an iconic character who was a kind of combination of Buster Keaton and Inspector Clouseau.  Although Nielsen went on to make many more movies, none returned to the level of Airplane! and the Naked Gun films.

Airplane! is now generally regarded as one of the best movie comedies ever made, but my favorite Nielsen movie is The Naked Gun 2 1/2:  The Smell of Fear, which featured Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson, and Robert Goulet as the bad guy.  The clip below aptly captures both Nielsen’s comedic skills and the nuttiness of the series.  Leslie Nielsen will be missed.