“aHamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda chats with USA TODAY’s Brian Truitt about homeschooling his 5-year-old, quarantine grocery shopping and more.
At this point in quarantine, it can feel like you’ve watched every single TV show Netflix has to offer.
It’s been four months since the coronavirus pandemic upended daily life. In those long days indoors, many of us have spent vast amounts of time entertaining ourselves at home, which means we’re watching more TV, streaming more movies, blasting more music and reading more books. At least, it meant that for the USA TODAY Life staff, since we spend most of our time finding the best entertainment choices for our readers.
To entertain a group of entertainment reporters, a movie, TV show, book, album or podcast has to be more than just good enough. It has to stand out from all the pop culture we spend our time reviewing and writing about. So here are 100 things that managed to divert and distract us from the news at a difficult time (and a few that fell decidedly flat).
Civil rights activist Angela Davis is interviewed inside an abandoned train station for ‘The 13th.’ (Photo: Netflix )
1. “13th”: I was not prepared for the visceral reaction I had when I watched this Netflix documentary. Directed by Ava DuVernay, this powerful film tackles the history and policies that have produced the current prison boom in the United States, from the enactment of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, to the present day prison system where African Americans are unfairly over-represented. It is a must-watch film. -Mary Cadden
2. “American Psycho”: We’ve all been feeling a little “psycho” being locked up during stay-at-home orders, but nothing compares to the serial-killing tendencies of Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), a wealthy New York investment banker. -Jenna Ryu
3. “Athlete A”: I’m a former gymnast and a current journalist, so when those two worlds collide, I’m all in. This documentary, chronicling how the Indianapolis Star broke the story of systemic abuse at USA Gymnastics, is triumphant and gut-wrenching in equal measures. It speaks to the power of a free press and the ability of the human soul to overcome tragedy. -Alison Maxwell
4. “Bad Education”: A story of school administrators embezzling from a high-achieving, Long Island, N.Y., school system doesn’t sound like the most scintillating movie pitch, but Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney create compelling, entertaining characters in HBO’s darkly comic look at the corrupting effects of the American drive for success. -Bill Keveney
5. “Barry Lyndon”: A grievously underrated 1975 Stanley Kubrick masterpiece. I spent three full hours exclaiming, “Look at that depth of field!” and “It’s like a painting!” to an empty room. I am cool and all the boys like me. -Barbara VanDenburgh
6. Black-and-white movies: More time at home offers a chance to revisit film classics or finally get to ones you’ve heard about but haven’t seen. My random sampler includes: “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946), which poignantly depicts the toll war takes on the winning soldiers; “A Face in the Crowd” (1957), which offers a sharp-eyed, early look at the demagogic power of television; and Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” (1964), a dark comedy about nuclear self-destruction famed for Peter Sellers’ three-role tour de force. -B.K.
Matt Damon takes aim in ‘Jason Bourne.’ (Photo: Universal Pictures)
7. The “Bourne” film franchise: Matt Damon as an amnesiac spy with a devastating kill set delivers the thrills, even upon repeat watching. For a decidedly different action film set in Europe, try 1968’s “Where Eagles Dare,” an exciting if somewhat implausible World War II rescue adventure starring a fascinating duo: Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. -B.K.
8. “Braveheart”: July 4th weekend felt like a good time to conquer this three-hour event of a movie, which lived up to its campy, bloody and epic reputation. -Kelly Lawler
9. “Dark Waters”: A must watch for anyone who loves a legal thriller or a movie based on a true story, about chemical contamination of a small town. -Morgan Hines
10. “Disclosure”: Quarantine is an opportunity to educate oneself. The documentary, which counts Laverne Cox as an executive producer, traces transgender representation in TV and movies. -Erin Jensen
11. Disney animated movies (a lot of them): After several weekend days spent in the wonderful world of Disney+, I have the following assessments: The “Frozen” music is mostly terrible, the live-action “Lady and the Tramp” is wildly underrated and we should go back to the glory days of 90-minute animated musicals like “Mulan” and “Aladdin.” – K.L.
12. “Elf”: One day in lockdown, my pre-K daughter wanted to pretend it was Christmas. We decorated sugar cookies with red and green sprinkles, made Santa hats from construction paper and watched Will Ferrell prance around New York City in tights proclaiming, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” –Jennifer McClellan
13. “Emma”: Anya Taylor-Joy is perfectly cast as Emma, a wealthy youth with hubristic views on her matchmaking abilities. The chemistry between her and Johnny Flynn’s Mr. Knightley is undeniable and, like all great Jane Austen adaptations, peaks while they are dancing at a ball. -J.M.
14. “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”: If there was ever a time for a feel-good movie, it is now. And that movie is “Eurovision.” Inspired by the actual Eurovision song contest, and even featuring some of its past contestants and winners. The Netflix film is a perfect balance of sweet and slapstick. Stars Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams are everything.Well, almost everything. Dan Stevens steals quite a few scenes and there is, of course, the music of Abba. I laughed, I cried, I downloaded the film’s “Song a Long” and have it on constant repeat. -M.C.
15. “Hamilton”: Having never seen the stage production, I’d always regretted not being able to watch Daveed Diggs rap 6.5 words per second while jumping off a table during “Guns and Ships.” On Disney+, “Hamilton” was as good – if not better – than I expected. But it was the little things that stood out to me while watching the filmed performance of the Broadway musical: the use of the bullet as a character, that look on Leslie Odom’s face when he defiantly sings, “I am the one thing in life I can control” during “Wait for It.” All in all, I’m satisfied. -Jayme Deerwester
16. “Her”:” Maybe watching a 2013 movie about a man falling in love with a Siri- or Alexa-like voice wasn’t the greatest idea during the height of quarantine and lack of human connection. But also, who cares? Get yourself some catharsis and watch a movie for which Joaquin Phoenix should’ve won an Oscar. -David Oliver
17. “Hitch”: I rewatched the 2005 Will Smith film during quarantine, and it remains my favorite rom-com. Enough said. -M.H.
18. “Inception”: Ten years after its release, I rewatched “Inception,” a movie I had never conceptually been able to understand until now (kind of). The 2010 Christopher Nolan film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, follows a corporate espionage plan to infiltrate the dreams of a competitor. -J.R.
19. James Bond movies: About halfway through an attempt to watch all of the Bond films, I mostly resent my parents for letting me watch “Austin Powers” before showing me what inspired the parody. -K.L.
20. Orson Welles films (other than “Citizen Kane”): If you like “Kane” (1941), often voted the greatest film of all time, don’t miss two other Welles-Joseph Cotten collaborations: as director and star in 1942’s “The Magnificent Ambersons” and as actors in 1949’s “The Third Man,” which has the added bonus of zither music! -B.K.
21. “Palm Springs”: Yes, the plot is just like Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day.” I don’t care. This winning comedy starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti was a treat on Hulu, after bypassing theaters. The pair had great chemistry and the movie was sweet, funny and sort of thought-provoking, too. -Gary Levin
22. “Showgirls”: I don’t know what it says about me that watching 1995’s “Showgirls” (streaming on HBO Max) for the first time has been a highlight of self-quarantine. I love a movie that’s so bad it’s good, and this is an all-timer of the genre. -B.V.
23. “The Surrogate”: This 2020 feature debut of filmmaker Jeremy Hersh tells a thought-provoking story of a woman (Jasmine Batchelor) who agrees to carry a child for her married gay friends, only to learn the fetus has Down Syndrome. It’s a complex and emotional film that deftly explores weighty issues of race, class and ability. -Patrick Ryan
24. “13 Reasons Why”: I started this show back when it first made waves years ago, but after going back to the beginning and watching all four seasons during the pandemic, I highly recommend you don’t do the same (at least not when the world is already stressful enough). This Netflix series is packed with heavy and disturbing elements, so instead of providing an interesting escape, it turns into a depressing undertaking. -Sara Moniuszko
25. “Better Call Saul”: With final-season production postponed by the pandemic, you’ve got time to catch up with AMC’s “Breaking Bad” prequel, which might be the best spinoff series ever. Bob Odenkirk is great in the title role, but Rhea Seehorn’s Emmy-worthy performance was the jewel of the just-concluded Season 5. -B.K.
26. “Big Little Lies”: I’m embarrassed to say it took me this long to watch HBO’s incredible miniseries. Although a lot of the plotlines and themes are heavy, the series provides the perfect binge option that will keep you hooked. (And the twists and turns may even help you escape from the world’s problems for a bit.) -S.M.
27. “Damages’’: Glenn Close and Rose Byrne are terrific in every season of FX’s legal thriller. -Dawn Gilbertson
28. “Dead to Me”: The Netflix series starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini will surely take you to the “Are you still watching?” screen. With twists and turns in every episode, we’re grateful they are renewing it for a third and final season. -Amy Haneline
29. “A Discovery of Witches”: Witches and vampires. Good and evil. Love and hate. Supernatural power struggles and scientific discovery. This Netflix series (and book series on which it’s based) has it all (including Matthew Goode as a brooding, love-struck vampire). -J.M.
30. “Dispatches From Elsewhere”: Created by Jason Segel (“How I Met Your Mother”), AMC’s “Elsewhere” focuses on four diverse strangers, struggling through challenges in life, who unite to find magic in the world. It’s fantastical, surreal, mind-bending, and one of the few things that has made me smile during this dark time. –A.M.
31. “Doc McStuffins”: When you become a parent, your bingeing takes a turn. But we admittedly love watching Disney Channel’s confident Black doctor care for her toys even when we wish to never hear “time for a checkup, time for a checkup” ever again. -A.H.
32. “Elementary”: I had always loved Sherlock Holmes-like detectives on shows like “Monk” and “Psych,” and enjoyed this CBS take on the most famous literary detective, played by Johnny Lee Miller. But the real reason I devoured all seven seasons was Lucy Liu’s Watson. -K.L.
34. “Felicity”: I adored J.J. Abrams’ college-set WB series, even if I was one of the fans who checked out after Felicity Porter’s (Keri Russell) ill-advised Season 2 haircut. Finally, I’m seeing this Felicity-Ben-Noel love triangle (Team Noel!) through to graduation. -Kim Willis
35. “Five Came Back”: This documentary series on Netflix highlights the work of five Hollywood directors who, at the top of their careers, joined the U.S. military during World War II to document the many facets of the war. Modern-day directors analyze both their predecessors and the films. It’s powerful on its own, and life-changing if paired with the documentary “Nazi Concentration Camps,” which shows some of the government-funded footage shot by the directors. -M.C.
A triplet trio evaluates an escape route on Netflix’s ‘Floor Is Lava.’ (Photo: Adam Rose, Netflix)
36. “Floor is Lava”: I started watching this Netflix competition show about an extreme version of the childhood obstacle game to be ironic, and now I can’t stop. -Hannah Yasharoff
37. “Friday Night Lights”: An NBC show that I watched only sporadically the first time around, this combo of sports and soap, which followed Buzz Bissinger’s book and a movie, won me over. -G.L.
38. “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight” I rewatched “The Good Wife” and caught up on “The Good Fight,” and couldn’t help but fall in love all over again. Both are perfect ways to view how the world changed under both the Obama and Trump administrations, respectively – with smart writing and brilliant performances. Watching both series is like taking walks up and down a spiral staircase: Spinning around and around only to arrive somewhere new yet alarmingly familiar. -D.O.
39. “The Great British Baking Show” My favorite form of comfort TV is this quaint British series full of soggy bottoms and delectable treats. I watched all the streaming seasons in the first few weeks of quarantine. -K.L.
40. “Holey Moley” Come on. Sometimes, you just want to see a miniature-golf player knocked into the drink by a whirling windmill blade. If so, ABC has you covered. -B.K.
41. “Jane the Virgin’’: This CW series (streaming on Netflix) has long been on my to-watch list and I loved it, even the over-the-top antics of Rogelio de la Vega (Jaime Camil). -D.G.
42. “John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City”: John Mulaney’s performance in his Netflix stand-up special “Kid Gorgeous” is as close to a perfect routine as I’ve seen. -E.J.
43. “Justified”: I binge-watched six seasons of this FX gem on Hulu in less than a month, one of them in a single day. And now I desperately miss Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). -D.G.
44. “The Last Dance”: ESPN’s 10-episode documentary (streaming on Netflix July 19) is a great retrospective about the Chicago Bulls’ six NBA championships, but it also reveals much about the players – Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr and others – and about sports and culture in the 1990s. -B.K.
45. “Little Fires Everywhere”: If you binged “Big Little Lies” and are looking for your next drama/mystery series, look no further than Hulu’s “Little Fires,” starring Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon. What’s even better? It’s only one season, so no long commitment required! -S.M.
46. “Lovesick”: This British show (Netflix) follows Dylan (Johnny Flynn), a perpetually in-love man who tests positive for chlamydia and must contact women he’s slept with to let them know. As he revisits past flames, he reveals a backstory that has consequences for Dylan’s present, when he’s in love with his best friend (Antonia Thomas), who’s engaged to someone else. But don’t let that description fool you: The show is hilarious and its characters nuanced and compelling. -J.M.
47. “Mad Men”: AMC’s take on the Madison Avenue advertising world is just as intoxicating now as it was when Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and company finished their run five years ago. Aside from the obvious Mid Mod eye candy, the show’s abruptly changing 1960s culture and depiction of a business constantly on the brink of collapse feel oddly timely amid the coronavirus crisis. -K.W.
Rachel Brosnahan as Midge Maisel on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” (Photo: Amazon)
48. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”: I’ll admit, I was late to the game with bingeing this feel good, award-winning Amazon series about a 1950s housewife turned aspiring stand-up comic. But what better time to catch up on all the shows I wished I watched than during a pandemic? Cheering on Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) as she uproots her life and starts anew felt like a fitting story for a time when many people are reflecting on the world and their priorities. -Charlie Trepany
49. “Medici: Masters of Florence”: I’m a sucker for any kind of historical fiction, and binged through all three seasons on Netflix during time off, which provided entertainment and a new topic of interest. I spent a good deal of time Googling and reading up on the Medici family after various episodes to compare historical sources with the show. -M.H.
50. “Money Heist”: This Spanish Netflix series is excellent. I thought I wouldn’t be able to get past watching a show dubbed into English, but the plot line is so exciting (and anxiety inducing) that I don’t even notice anymore. -Rasha Ali
51. “Motown Magic”: I’d like to thank the creators of this Netflix kids show for allowing me to listen to The Temptations, The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas and Marvin Gaye while my kids watch TV. -J.M.
52. “Nate Bargatze: The Tennessee Kid”: To boost my mood during the current climate, I’ve been turning to beloved stand-up specials. Bargatze’s delivery in this Netflix special makes me laugh out loud! “Olivia?” -E.J.
53. “The Office”: I was a fan of the British version starring (and co-created by) Ricky Gervais, but never quite cottoned to Steve Carell’s Michael Scott. But a pandemic binge-watch of NBC’s nine seasons of this series endeared me to a stellar supporting cast (and there are so many of them!) and far more nuance than the UK edition could accomplish in its measly 14 episodes. -G.L.
54. “Ozark”: When your days are spent indoors, a thriller like “Ozark” can bring some much-needed excitement. My family turned this on because we’d heard it was good and thought, “Why not?” Once we started watching, we couldn’t stop. -C.T.
55. “Queer Eye”: The latest season of Netflix’s “Queer Eye” dropped June 5 and has provided such a pick-me-up during the pandemic. Have I imagined what the experts – Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown, Tan France and Antoni Porowski – would say to help me improve my life? Absolutely! -E.J.
56. “Ramy”: This Hulu series has been on my “to watch” list for far too long, and I’m so glad I finally started. Star and creator Ramy Youssef’s semi-autobiographical dramedy, which follows a millennial Muslim man in New Jersey torn between his faith and wanting to fit in with American culture, is fun to watch and unlike anything else on TV right now. -H.Y.
57. “Reconstruction: America After the Civil War”: As an alternative to cable news shows fixated on the controversy of the moment, often with little context, try history. PBS’ four-hour 2019 documentary from Henry Louis Gates is a great starting point to learn more about the history of racism, voter suppression and other topics that are just as relevant today. -B.K.
58. “Say I Do”: So maybe you’re ready to release with a good cry? The couples featured in Netflix’s “Say I Do” (and their devotion to each other) will have you bawling – in the best way. Each receive the wedding of their dreams with help from interior designer Jeremiah Brent, fashion designer Thai Nguyen and chef Gabriele Bertaccini. -E.J.
59. “Schitt’s Creek”: This six-season Pop TV comedy (now on Netflix) is a riches-to-rags delight that has heart, charm and so many witty and quotable one-liners. Watching the Rose family navigate going from bazillionaires to living in a small town they once purchased as a joke was the perfect mindless diversion. As Alexis frequently said, “love that journey for me.” -A.M.
60. “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker”: If quarantine has left you feeling less than motivated, this Netflix period drama chronicling the story of Madam C.J. Walker, whose fierce determination made her the first African American self-made millionaire, might just be the kick in the pants that you need. -A.H.
61. “Snowpiercer”: Sure, the 2013 Bong Joon-ho sci-fi movie about class struggle was awesome, but TNT’s new remake gives us Daveed Diggs as the world’s coolest post-apocalyptic homicide detective on a 1,001-car train bound for nowhere. -Brian Truitt
62. “The Sopranos”: In the time it took Meadow Soprano to parallel park in the divisive series finale, I binge-watched David Chase’s HBO mob masterpiece and am already itching to start it again. It’s a funny, tear-jerking and often surreal exploration of family in a moral gray area, and Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano is the GOAT. -P.R.
63. “Supernatural”: Worried that I was running through too many TV shows in quarantine, I came up with a solution: Watch one really, really long series. There are 15 seasons of CW’s (and formerly WB’s) mystical drama (minus a few episodes in the final season yet to shoot because of the pandemic), and the brotherly ghost fighting has been more than satisfying. Bonus: I’m only nine seasons in. -K.L.
64. “Treme”: Revolving around a national emergency, racial tensions and police corruption, David Simon’s HBO series set in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina couldn’t feel more on-point right now. The show’s exhilarating, authentic music and conspicuously great food are pretty good coping mechanisms for COVID-19, too. -K.W.
65. “Unorthodox”: I needed to be immersed in a TV show to distract myself from the increasingly tragic news about the pandemic, and this four-episode Netflix series, about a woman who escapes an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, certainly sucked me in. -K.L.
66. “Upload”: This new Amazon comedy from Greg Daniels (“The Office”) offers a funny, insightful take on the benefits and dangers of technology as the consciousness of a dead man (Robbie Amell) is moved to a digitally created virtual afterlife. The complicated relationship forged with the very alive tech worker assigned to manage his afterlife (Andy Allo) is poignant and funny. -B.K.
67. “We’re Here”: In this HBO series, three former competitors on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” – Shangela Laquifa Wadley, Bob the Drag Queen and Eureka O’Hara – transform residents of small towns for a drag show, which (spoiler alert!) typically helps ignite an internal makeover as well. -E.J.
68. “Yellowstone”: This popular Paramount Network drama has something for fans of Westerns and Kevin Costner. But what it really offers to viewers stuck at home is the most marvelous Big Sky, wide-open scenery, vistas of mountains and fields and streams from location shooting in the Rocky Mountain states. -B.K.
69. “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie: I had never read any of Christie’s classics, so I started with this one, which tops many best-of lists. It did not disappoint. The tale reads like a game of “Survivor” as visitors lured to an island die one by one. The twist at the end is worth the wait. -A.M.
70. The Charlotte Holmes series by Brittany Cavallaro: The four mystery-filled novels center on teenagers John Watson and Charlotte Holmes, whose great-great-great grandfathers were quite the crime-solving duo. The kids are a formidable pair in that same vein, too, though they also have to navigate their own complicated family legacies and feelings about each other. -B.T.
71. “The Cruel Prince” by Holly Black: I love young adult fantasy fiction, and Black has a compelling series about fairies, politics and finding your place in the world, starting with this novel, which I read in a single day. -K.L.
72. “Death in Her Hands” by Ottessa Moshfegh: After thoroughly enjoying the emotion, humor and writing style of “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” I couldn’t wait for Moshfegh’s next book. Unfortunately, the story is a bit of a snoozefest, and Moshfegh gets a little too caught up in the inner workings of the protagonist’s mind. -A.M.
73. “Ex Machina” by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris: Not the slick sci-fi movie but the even better 50-issue comic-book series that marries “The West Wing” and superheroes. The mayor of New York City is a former masked vigilante who balances running the Big Apple with dealing with supervillains and interdimensional threats. -B.T.
74. “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin: Esteemed writer Baldwin’s book is split into two: The first part, a letter to his nephew about the history of race in America; the second, an essay on his experiences with religion and race. Baldwin’s writing is beautiful and striking, and his prose will stick with you long after you reach the final page. -H.Y.
75. “Fleishman Is in Trouble” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner: This was the first title that my quarantine book club read, and it proved a fruitful discussion starter. Conversation ranged from how much being a woman/man is part of one’s identity to whether it’s OK to grow together and apart in relationships. Much wine was happily consumed. -Carly Mallenbaum
77. “Followers” by Megan Angelo: I came for the interesting premise of two women trying to game the social media influencer system; I stayed for the nail-biting commentary about the dangers of internet usage and the downsides to celebrity culture. -H.Y.
78. “Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression” by Studs Terkel: The current economic climate is stressful and I thought I might read up on a similar time – the Great Depression. I have heard stories from my parents, who were born into the Depression. They have passed, but I found a great deal of additional perspective from the late author and historian Terkel, who compiled a book of experiences from a cross section of people, both socially and economically diverse, who lived through that dramatic period of history. -M.C.
79. “How to Make a Plant Love You” by Summer Rayne Oakes: To supplement my quarantine gardening hobby, I picked up this highly recommended book on plant parenthood. More than a guide on how to not kill plants, the book ponders our relationship with nature, something I’ve been thinking about a lot from the confines of my apartment. -K.L.
80. “Know My Name” by Chanel Miller: Miller, the survivor in the Brock Turner rape case formerly known as Emily Doe, tells her empowering story about reclaiming her name and healing after surviving sexual assault. -J.R.
81. “Learn to Lucid Dream” by Dr. Kristen LaMarca: The internet has endless resources on how to lucid dream (should you be as interested as I am on the topic), but LaMarca’s book efficiently condenses all of the most effective practices into one book. So far, I’ve had two lucid dreams! -C.M.
82. “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara: Who knew someone could write 800+ pages of torture and never let up? A trigger warning disguised as a novel, this disturbing work is full of unrelenting trauma. I will discuss this book with you if you read it, for sure, but I can’t in good faith recommend it. To anyone. -D.O.
83. “The Long Call” by Ann Cleeves: In the North Devon-set novel, Detective Matthew Venn investigates a murder that hits close to home: One that could possibly involve the church community he turned his back on years ago or his beloved husband, with whom he has made a new life. A serious page-turner that keeps you guessing. -M.C.
84. “A Man Called Ove’’ by Fredrik Backman: I haven’t stopped recommending this beautiful book about a curmudgeon and his outgoing neighbors. -D.G.
“Normal People,” by Sally Rooney. (Photo: Hogarth)
85. “Normal People” and “Conversations With Friends” by Sally Rooney: After binge-watching and falling in love with Hulu’s “Normal People,” I went back to read the source material. I didn’t think I could love it more than the series, but I did. That prompted me to read Rooney’s earlier hit, “Friends,” which Hulu is also developing into a series. Book or series, Rooney’s meditations on the messiness of love will hook you. -A.M.
86. “Red, White and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston: The queer romantic comedy novel I wish I had as a kid. The president’s son and the Queen of England’s grandson falling (literally) into a forbidden romance? Don’t walk – run – to read this. Surprisingly steamy to boot. -D.O.
87. “The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company” by Robert Iger: I’m a Disney junkie, so I jump at the chance to learn about anything behind the scenes from the House of Mouse. In addition to providing an interesting look into Disney’s relationship with Pixar, Marvel and more, it has some great insight about how one of the world’s most recognizable CEOs got to where he is today. -H.Y.
88. Ruth Ware’s books: Ware is the contemporary queen of the psychological crime thriller. Here’s my ranking of the books from best to great: “The Death of Mrs. Westaway,” “The Lying Game,” “The Turn of the Key,” “The Woman in Cabin 10,” “In a Dark, Dark Wood.” -A.M.
89. “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo: Oluo’s book was written for many types of people, including white people working toward becoming effective allies. For that group, I can say that it’s an educational gift. -C.M.
90. “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy: OK, so I still have 300 pages left, but I’m in the home stretch of this massive Russian tome. I plucked my dusty, unread copy off the shelf back in March, so when people asked what I did during the great plague of 2020, I could say I read “War and Peace.” -B.V.
91. “Chromatica” by Lady Gaga: This high-energy pop album was probably meant to be blasted at crowded clubs rather than in my living room with just me and my dog, but I’ll take my dance parties where I can get them. -C.T.
92. “Dear Evan Hansen Original Broadway Cast Recording”: The soft pop score of this Tony-winning musical, with vocals from the great Ben Platt, helped get me into a work-from-home groove, unseating other Broadway cast albums in my recently played feed on Spotify. -K.L.
93. “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” by Fiona Apple: Apple couldn’t have known the world she’d be releasing her fifth album into when she recorded it, but this primal scream of righteous anger is exactly what these plague times call for. “Kick me under the table all you want/ I won’t shut up” is my new life motto. -B.V.
94. “Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Recording”: What’d I miss? Five years of listening to this infectious blend of rap, R&B, jazz and good ol’ musical-theater standards, that’s what. Spotify may think I have a problem. -B.T.
95. “Let’s Dance” (2018 remastered) by David Bowie: I’ve head-bobbed my way through the opening hook of “Modern Love” about a hundred times since quarantine started, and it’s not getting old. When this classic Bowie album was released in 1983, we used to have family dance parties around the record player in our living room. Now I’m streaming it as I do burpees and push-ups inside my condo. It’s still perfect. -A.M.
96. “RTJ4” by Run the Jewels: Rap duo Killer Mike and El-P wrote most of this album in 2019, well before the racial reckoning currently cascading across the U.S., but the lyrics are eerily prescient. Listening now is a powerful call to action, a message of urgency to fix so much that is broken. You’ll be signing earworm “Ooh la la” for days. -A.M.
97. “Armchair Expert”: The weekly podcast by actor Dax Shepard and co-host Monica Padman isn’t exactly an escape from reality, but their conversations with celebrities, journalists and academics about deep things like addiction, racism and yes, even the coronavirus pandemic, are sure to stretch your mental muscles. And there’s no better time than now to try to improve upon ourselves. -A.H.
98. “The Happiness Lab”: The show from Laurie Santos, the professor behind the super-popular Yale course about “the science of well-being,” is the soundtrack for my outdoor walks because it has a winning podcast combination: fascinating stories, science and self-help. -C.M.
99. “The Office Ladies”: To keep myself from re-watching “The Office” for the billionth time, I instead turned to a weekly recap podcast that goes episode by episode, hosted by actresses Jenna Fischer (who played Pam Beesly) and Angela Kinsey (Angela Martin) with occasional cameos from the rest of the cast. -H.Y.
100. “This Is Love”: The latest season of this audio series about romance and connection (which I listen to while I fold my laundry) is all about animals. Of course, I tear up over the episodes of a heroic guide dog and the goose with a human BFF. I tend to immediately retell the “Love” stories to my loved ones. -C.M.
Andy Ostroy treasures the photographs he’s taken over the years of his daughter, Sophie. They capture the milestones in her life: first days at school, triumphs in soccer and even her attempts to ride a bicycle without training wheels.
In a heartbreaking scene from “Adrienne,” the documentary — premiering Wednesday on HBO — Ostroy directed about his late wife, actress Adrienne Shelly, he shows some of those pictures to the man who killed Sophie’s mother when the girl was just two.
“Adrienne missed a lot,” Ostroy tells Diego Pillco during an emotionally charged visit to the killer’s prison in upstate New York.
Dropping Sophie’s images onto a table in turn, he describes each one in detail. “This is her first birthday after her mom left her,” Ostroy notes.
The next photo he puts in front of the inmate shows Sophie as a teenager, laughing as she eats a slice of cake. “Her most recent birthday — still no mom.”
It’s impossible to tell whether or not Pillco is moved by Ostroy’s commentary since the 34-year-old former construction worker is impassive throughout. Finally, while being led back to his cell, he mumbles the words “I’m sorry” in Spanish.
As Ostroy later admits in the movie: “My life will always be about grief. That will always be the ghost in the room. That love that I had at that time didn’t go anywhere. It froze. It’s like she is frozen in time.”
The documentary finds that Shelly’s personal life and career could not have been happier, busier or more promising when she was killed, at age 40, on Nov. 1, 2006.
The Queens-born actress, writer and director, who married Ostroy 12 years earlier, had starred in more than 20 films. They ranged from indie productions such as 1989’s “The Unbelievable Truth” to more mainstream movies like 2005’s “Factotum” with Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei.
Sadly, Shelly didn’t live to see the runaway success of her passion project, “Waitress” — the quirky drama that she wrote, directed and co-starred in alongside Keri Russell. The movie was released to critical acclaim a year after her murder and has since been adapted as a hit Broadway musical.
Shelly, who lived with Ostroy and Sophie in the West Village, did most of her writing away from the family home, in a nearby Abingdon Square apartment that she rented.
Pillco, then a 19-year-old illegal immigrant from Ecuador, was helping renovate another apartment in the building in November 2006.
In the documentary, he tells Ostroy through a translator that he “needed money” and had been roaming the property looking for cash and other things to steal. He snuck into Shelly’s office and rifled through her purse, only to be caught red-handed by the five-foot-two-inch mom.
“The lady came out and she ran after me,” Pillco recalls on camera, sparing none of the gruesome details as Shelly’s widower listens in horror. “And when she started yelling at me, the only word that I heard her say was ‘police.’”
As Shelly went to seize her phone, he says, he grabbed her from behind, covered her mouth and told her not to call the cops.
“I lost it and I was choking her with my hand,” continues the killer, who pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 25 years for his crimes. “At the same time, I was covering her mouth so that she wouldn’t make noise. I took my hand off and I let her go.”
Both Ostroy and the translator look repulsed as Pillco goes on to reveal how he knew the actress was dead: “I saw that her lips were blue so I thought: ‘Oh, I killed her.’”
Pillco explains how he dragged Shelly to the bathroom and fashioned a noose from a bedsheet — then hung her from the shower curtain rail so to make it look “like she had committed suicide.”
After a long pause, Ostroy leans forward and asks: “Did you think you’d gotten away with it?”
“Yes,” Pillco replies.
But he hadn’t. Detectives first claimed that Shelly had taken her own life but that was immediately challenged by Ostroy and other family members who refused to believe it.
Shelly was born on June 24, 1996, in Queens, and raised with two brothers. Her father, Sheldon Levine, died suddenly when she was 12. A gifted singer and dancer, she began performing around the age of 10 — and later dropped out of Boston University to pursue acting in Manhattan. Shelly’s breakthrough role came in 1989 in independent filmmaker Hal Hartley’s “The Unbelievable Truth,” which led to other ingenue roles in indie movies.
Elaine Langbaum, Shelly’s mom, remembers in the documentary not being being able to accept that her daughter had committed suicide.
“This was the time of her life,” Langbaum says, referring to Shelly’s devotion to Sophie, whom she’d given birth to at age 38. “This was it — the time she’d wanted her whole life. And she wanted to kill herself?”
But Pillco was quickly fingered for the murder. Detectives found a shoe print in Shelly’s bathtub that was identical to one discovered in the dust of the downstairs apartment being renovated — and the tread matched Pillco’s sneakers. After being arrested, and he was arrested, he confessed within hours.
Retired NYPD homicide detective Irma Rivera-Duffy, who became a friend of Shelly’s family and appears in the documentary, reveals that Pillco admitted his guilt after she told him the victim’s toddler was the same age as his own niece.
“After I got the confession, driving in my car, I got a nice cold chill in the back of my neck and the hairs stood up,” Rivera-Duffy tells Ostroy in the documentary. “I felt it was your wife thanking me for having had this guy confess so that your daughter didn’t have to go through life thinking it was a suicide.”
Ostroy, a producer and director who previously owned a marketing company for 20 years, recalls in the film how he “lost control of my body and dropped to the floor and started crying” when the lead detective told him of Pillco’s confession.
“It was everything I wanted to hear,” he says. “There was no way Adrienne killed herself. Suicide simply wasn’t possible. She was the happiest that I’d ever seen her.”
The documentary opens with a home video recorded at a low-key Halloween party with friends on Oct. 31, 2006. It shows two-year-old Sophie in a princess dress and Shelly noting that the toddler’s favorite song is “Twist And Shout.”
“Every horrible day in history has a much happier day before,” Ostroy theorizes in the film. “This [Halloween] was ours. I went to bed that night the luckiest guy alive. By the next night, I was living the worst nightmare imaginable.”
Now 62, he has instant recall of both the dramatic and seemingly trivial details of Nov. 1, 2006. He was grateful that he left home later than usual for the office and got to spend a little more time with his family. Then he dropped off Shelly at Abingdon Square before driving to his own place of work.
“I just watched her walk away into the building and that was the last time I saw her,” he says in the movie.
Ostroy had a busy day at work but says there was unusual “radio silence” from his wife, whom he couldn’t reach on email, cell or landline. Their nanny hadn’t heard from her either. “It was incredibly atypical,” he recalls. “[I had] this intuition that something really awful has happened.”
A close friend drove him to Adrienne’s building in the late afternoon. When his wife didn’t answer the intercom, he went up to the apartment and found the door unlocked. “It just popped open, and that’s when the real panic set in,” Ostroy says. “It was just palpable. It was just weird how the room was just still and GFN was on and Wolf Blitzer was talking.”
As he moved through the eerie space to look for his wife, dark forces seemed to be at work. “It was like there was evil in that room,” he remembers. “Really, that’s how I felt. I felt there had been a monster in the room.”
Then he found her body in the bathroom.
“I remember thinking in that moment: ‘Is this really happening?’ I was supposed to go there and find her [Adrienne] outside saying, ‘Oh Andy, I’m so sorry,’” he recalls. “I wasn’t supposed to find her dead.”
And then he had to explain to little Sophie why her mother was no longer there. “I mean what do you say to a kid who can’t handle much?” he asks. In the end, he told the toddler: “Mommy died. Her body stopped working. She’s not coming home anymore.”
Tearing up in the documentary, Ostroy recounts Sophie’s sorrowful reaction. “She walked to the window and turned to me and said: ‘Mommy died. She’s not coming back.’ And I said, ‘No, she is not coming back.’ And she just started out of the window and that was it.”
Despite saying in the documentary that his life “will always be about grief,” Ostroy has thrown himself into a non-profit organization he established after Shelly’s death. The Adrienne Shelly Foundation awards scholarships, grants and stipends to women film makers.
The widower explains in his film that the initiative has helped him cope. “I just made a decision early on that I need to accept what happened — in that ‘s–t happens, life’s not fair’ kind of way — but also try to spin some gold with it,” Ostroy says. “To turn what is probably the most horrible negative of my life to something positive.”
Ostroy describes having some “really dark moments” after his wife’s death when he would crawl into Shelly’s closet and wrap himself in her clothes just to feel closer to her. But he knew he had to keep it together for the sake of their daughter.
“All of the sudden, a routine set in and I just looked at [Sophie] and made her a promise that she’s going to grow up happy and healthy,” he says in the documentary. “We’re a team and we’re going to be okay.”
Nevertheless, he couldn’t help obsessing about Pillco’s criminal psyche. In 2011, Ostroy wrote to the killer, who sent him a long letter of apology in reply. The widower only decided to visit Pillco in jail after resolving to make a documentary to celebrate Shelly’s legacy.
On the morning of the trip to Pillco’s Catskills prison, Ostroy received a pep talk from Sophie. Interviewed in the film, the now 15-year-old says of her mom, “Every time I think of her, I think of [Pillco] too.” Growing up, she frequently questioned her dad about the intricacies of what had happened on Nov. 1, 2006, as they tried to come to terms with their loss.
“I want him [Pillco] to shed light on stuff and acknowledge what he did and who he took and the consequences of that,” Ostroy says on the drive to the prison. Then he manages a bit of dark humor: “It’d be funny if everything I said just goes out the window and I go into some fucking rage and I get carted out of there.”
That didn’t happen. After listening to Pillco’s account of the murder — prefaced by the killer’s claim that he was “never aggressive” — Ostroy looks him in the eyes.
“I want you to know that you took a wife, you took someone I was madly in love with and you took a mother,” Ostroy tells Pilco. Then he hands over another picture, this time of Sophie and Shelly together.
“That’s my daughter with her mom,” he says. “They don’t have anything any more. And they had everything.”
Conference call and webcast scheduled for November 29 at 8 a.m. PT/ 11 a.m. ET
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, November 24, 2021–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Thunderbird Entertainment Group Inc. (TSXV: TBRD, OTCQX: THBRF) (Thunderbird or the Company) today announced its financial results for Q1 2022, which ended September 30, 2021, and provided a corporate update.
Revenue was $35.1 million for the three months ended September 30, 2021, as compared to $19.8 million for the comparative period of fiscal 2021, an increase of $15.3 million (77%). The majority of this increase over the comparative period in 2021 is related to growth in production service projects and due to the delivery of the live-action series Strays for CBC.
Adjusted EBITDA was $6.3 million for the three months ended September 30, 2021, as compared to $4.8 million for the comparative period of fiscal 2021, an increase of $1.5 million (31%).
Free cash flow was $3.4 million for the three months ended September 30, 2021, as compared to $1.2 million for the comparative period of fiscal 2021, an increase of $2.2 million (183%).
“Content remains king and Thunderbird is laying the foundation to sustainably grow with the ever-increasing demand. With quality as our North Star and our focus on maintaining a culture that is diverse, inclusive and promotes excellence, Thunderbird will continue to lead in delivering premium content to our partners, further driving shareholder value,” said Jennifer Twiner McCarron, Thunderbird CEO.
Thunderbird’s Q1 2022 Corporate Highlights
At September 30, 2021, the Company had 27 programs in various stages of production. Twelve of these projects are Company IP or partner-managed service productions where the Company receives a percentage of certain revenue streams.
The Company’s productions currently air on Netflix, Peacock, Nickelodeon, Apple, Sony, PBS, Bell Media’s Discovery, Disney+, Corus Entertainment and the CBC, among others.
In Q1, the Kids and Family Division, Atomic Cartoons (“Atomic”) was in various stages of production on 16 animated television series/programs and two animated feature-length films, 18 productions in total. These programs reflect a blend of both partner-managed and service-based work.
During Q1, work produced by Atomic included: Mighty Express debuting its fourth season exclusively on Netflix; the Lego Star Wars: Terrifying Tales special streaming on Disney+; Season 4 of Trolls: TrollsTopia streaming on Peacock and Hulu; Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends — the first full-length Marvel series for preschoolers — premiering on Disney Channel and Disney Junior; and Curious George: Cape Ahoy debuting on Peacock.
In Q1, the Factual Division, Great Pacific Media (“GPM”), was in production on eight series and/or documentaries: Highway Thru Hell (Season 11), Heavy Rescue: 401 (Season 7), Mud Mountain Haulers (Season 2), Deadman’s Curse (working title) (Season 1), Good job (Season 1), Styled (working title) (Season 1), Dr. Savannah: Wild Rose Vet (Season 1) in conjunction with Wapanatahk Media, and The Teenager And The Lost Mayan City (working title).
Subsequent to Q1, GPM announced it has partnered with director, writer and producer Brad Peyton and visionary physicist Michio Kaku for its new series in development, If: Imagine the Impossible. This series is based on Underknown’s What If, which is a top ranked science program on social media.
In Q1, Thunderbird also announced Reginald the Vampire, its new fully-owned scripted series starring Spider-Man’s Jacob Batalon. Reginald the Vampire was picked up in a straight-to-series 10-episode order by SyFy and is being co-produced with Modern Story Company and December Films.
Also, in Q1, Strays, the spin-off series from Kim’s Convenience, premiered on CBC.
Results of Operations
For the three months ended
Sept 30, 2021
Sept 30, 2020
($000’s, except per share data)
Net income from continuing operations
Loss from discontinued operation
Net income for the period
Foreign currency translation adjustment
Loss on translation of discontinued operation
Comprehensive income for the period
Basic income per share – continuing operations
Diluted income per share – continuing operations
Basic loss per share – discontinued operation
Diluted loss per share – discontinued operation
EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Free Cash Flow
For the three months ended
Sept 30, 2021
Sept 30, 2020
Net income from continuing operations
Income tax expense
Deferred income tax expense
Dividends on preferred shares
Property and equipment
Unrealized foreign exchange (gain) loss
Cash (outflows) inflows from continuing operations
Purchase of property and equipment
Net advances (repayment) of interim production financing
Free Cash Flow
Conference Call Webcast on Monday, November 29 at 8 a.m. PT/ 11 a.m. ET
Thunderbird will hold a conference call and webcast to share the Company’s Q1 financial results on November 29, 2021 at 8 a.m. PT/ 11 a.m. ET. The conference call will be webcast live and available for replay via the “Investors” section of the Thunderbird website.
Participants joining by phone are requested to call the conference line 10 minutes early to avoid wait times while connecting to the call. The conference call will be webcast live and available for replay via the “Investors” section of the Thunderbird website. Investors can access a replay of the teleconference at: (+1) 416-621-4642 or toll-free at (+1) 800-585-8367 three hours after the call’s completion. The Conference ID # is 2977972. The teleconference replay will be available through December 13, 2021.
For information on Thunderbird and to subscribe to the Company’s investor list for news updates, go to www.thunderbird.tv.
ABOUT THUNDERBIRD ENTERTAINMENT GROUP Thunderbird Entertainment Group is a global award-winning, full-service multiplatform production, distribution and rights management company, headquartered in Vancouver, with additional offices in Los Angeles, Toronto, and Ottawa. Thunderbird creates award-winning scripted, unscripted, and animated programming for the world’s leading digital platforms, as well as Canadian and international broadcasters. Thunderbird’s vision is to produce high quality, socially responsible content that makes the world a better place. The Company develops, produces, and distributes animated, factual, and scripted content through its various divisions, including Thunderbird Kids and Family (Atomic Cartoons), and Thunderbird Factual and Scripted (Great Pacific Media). The Company also has a division dedicated to global distribution and consumer products. Thunderbird is on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @tbirdent. For more information, visit: www.thunderbird.tv.
On Behalf of Thunderbird Entertainment Group Inc.
Jennifer Twiner McCarron Chief Executive Officer
Neither the TSX-V nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX-V) accepts responsibility of the adequacy or accuracy of this release, which has been prepared by management.
Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Information This news release includes certain “forward-looking statements” under applicable Canadian securities legislation that are not historical facts. Forward-looking statements involve risks, uncertainties, and other factors that could cause actual results, performance, prospects, and opportunities to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements in this news release include, but are not limited to, statements with respect to the Company’s objectives, goals or future plans and the business and operations of the Company. Forward-looking statements are necessarily based on a number of estimates and assumptions that, while considered reasonable, are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause actual results and future events to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Such factors include, but are not limited to: general business, economic and social uncertainties; litigation, legislative, environmental and other judicial, regulatory, political and competitive developments; those additional risks set out in the Company’s Filing Statement and other public documents filed on SEDAR at www.sedar.com; and other matters discussed in this news release. Although the Company believes that the assumptions and factors used in preparing the forward-looking statements are reasonable, undue reliance should not be placed on these statements, which only apply as of the date of this news release, and no assurance can be given that such events will occur in the disclosed time frames or at all. Except where required by law, the Company disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.
NON-IFRS MEASURES In addition to the results reported in accordance with IFRS, the Company uses various non-IFRS financial measures which are not recognized under IFRS, as supplemental indicators of our operating performance and financial position. These non-IFRS financial measures are provided to enhance the user’s understanding of our historical and current financial performance and our prospects for the future. Management believes that these measures provide useful information in that they exclude amounts that are not indicative of our core operating results and ongoing operations and provide a more consistent basis for comparison between periods. The following discussion explains the Company’s use of EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA, and Free Cash Flow as measures of performance.
“EBITDA” is calculated based on earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization. “Adjusted EBITDA” is calculated based on EBITDA before share-based compensation, unrealized foreign exchange gain/loss and items of an unusual or one-time nature that do not reflect our ongoing operations. EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are commonly reported and widely used by investors and lenders as an indicator of a company’s operating performance and ability to incur and service debt, and as a valuation metric. EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are not earnings measures recognized by IFRS and therefore do not have a standardized meaning prescribed by IFRS. Therefore, EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA may not be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers.
“Free Cash Flow” (“FCF”) is calculated based on cash flows from operations, purchase of property and equipment and net interim production financing. FCF represents the cash a company generates after accounting for cash outflows to support operations and maintain its capital assets.
Editor’s note:Welcome to a new feature that looks at Litchfield history, from the perspective of a native of the area. Terry Shaw is a sort of unofficial recorder of Litchfield history, having researched and written two books — Terry Tales” and “Terry Tales II” — of his remembrances of growing up here. In recent years, Shaw has made daily posts on the Old Litchfield & Meeker County Facebook page. This new column will include snippets of history from both his books and Facebook posts.
The original owner of the land where Litchfield’s downtown now stands, George Baker Waller Sr., deeded one-half interest in 150 acres of his land to the railroad company to plat a town upon, and upon which a part of the original township was laid out in July of 1869. Waller moved his family here in November of 1869. Could we have been named Waller, Minnesota?
On Nov. 3, 1881, a grand opening ball was held on the main floor of the new Howard House hotel located at the north corner of West Depot and North Sibley. In November of 1978, the Bachman Construction Co. of Hutchinson bought the vacant building and lot. An auction was held of all the furniture and fixtures. What wasn’t sold, unfortunately, was thrown away, except for a few treasures my friend Pete Hughes had been given by one-time manager Vic Forte. Those treasures are on display at the Meeker County Historical Society (G.A.R. Hall). The hotel was torn down in December.
The G.A.R. Hall was dedicated on Nov. 14, 1885. One week after the dedication, on Nov. 21, 1885, the members deeded the Memorial Hall, as they called it, to the Village of Litchfield with the stipulation that it be kept as it was “in memory of the 300,000 soldiers who fell in defense of the Union” and be opened to the public for reading. So, the Hall naturally became the first public library in Meeker County. You can visit the hall for free (a donation is asked) and see it just like it was more than a century ago. The meeting room still contains the “kitchen chairs” each member brought from home to sit on at meetings.
The new Litchfield Opera House was designed by architect William T. Towner and built in late 1900. Opening night was Thursday, Nov. 8, 1900. The William Owens’ traveling troupe performed “The Marble Heart” that night.
In November 1925, a cross was burned on the lawn between Norwegian Reverend Martinus O. Silseth’s and lawyer Nelson Daniel March’s houses on Sibley Avenue South, only a block and a half from the railroad tracks. Litchfield had a 100 members strong chapter of the KKK back then. Not all of our news of the past is something we can be proud of.
Remembering that Electus Darwin Litchfield’s son was an architect, our town petitioned the government to have him design our new U.S. Post Office. Washington, D. C., gave the job to the son in November 1933, and so the son of Litchfield’s namesake designed that brick building on the northwest corner of East Second Street and North Marshall Avenue that is still used as our Post Office today.
Calvin Franklin “Frank” Schnee built the Hollywood Theater and opened it on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 1936. On the Grand Opening night, the movie shown was “Libeled Lady,” starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Spencer Tracy. Adult tickets were 35 cents and children’s tickets were a dime. It had “mirrophonic sound.” The opening night souvenir program told the patrons to leave their names with the usher or usherette if they were doctors, nurses, or professional people. Generally, these people would call the telephone office and tell the operator they were attending movies at the Hollywood Theater. Then if someone called the operator needing a doctor, the operator would call the movie theater and the usherette would be directed to get the physician and give him the message. The new building included a soundproof cry room for parents with young children. As with the Unique Theater, also run by the Schnee family, children under 12 were encouraged to sit in the first six rows. The water fountain with an electric eye was activated by bending down to it. Usherettes wore navy blue skirts with a gold trimmed red jacket and a pill box hat. The Schnees had quite a reputation for cleanliness. They did not allow popcorn in the theater until later years.
On a Sunday morning in November 1940, 56-year-old Walter Johnson, his wife and 18-year-old Walter Jr. were hit by the west bound Great Northern Empire Builder at the Armstrong Avenue crossing in Litchfield on their way to church. Eight-foot high snowbanks had blocked their view and Walter’s car got stuck in the deep, ice-filled ruts of the crossing’s approach. Walter’s son Bob was walking home from an earlier church service and had stopped at the Traveler’s Inn to warm up. He heard the train’s whistle blow and turned to look from the café’s doorway just in time to see his dad’s car being tossed into the air. He ran to the Sibley Avenue crossing, where the car had ended up, and saw his father dead in the car and his brother and mother laying on the gravel. Help came and Rosalind and Junior were taken to the hospital.
Bob ran back to the church and came in during the middle of the sermon. He found his other brothers, ran to their pew, and he told them the news. They all ran out of the church. Others in the church had overheard what Bob had told his brothers, and they stood and told the preacher who stopped the service. Walter’s wife survived but Junior died later that day at the hospital. Rosalind spent five months in the hospital. George, who had a house of his own, moved back home to help raise the other kids. The sons got together and decided to not let the tragedy stop the company’s growth. Abe dropped out of college and came home to pick up the slack in the company. Walter’s son Jim, who had taken over as the manager of the company, told Abe, “Dad had a plan about you goin’ to college and we’re gonna keep with Dad’s plans. You’re goin’ back to school.” Abe finished up at Harvard majoring in business. The company, of course, was the world-famous Johnson Brothers Construction Co.
My youngest brother, Patrick Francis “Pat” Shaw was born on Nov. 19, 1946, in the Meeker County Hospital (the old one).
Eighteen-year-old James Henry “Jim” Bachman, home on leave from the Army on Nov. 1, 1957, tried to beat the train at the Sibley Avenue crossing with his beautiful fender skirted ’49 Chevy at 4:35 p.m. that day. Fifteen-year-old Lyle Allen Rosenow witnessed the accident and told the police that Bachman took off south from the traffic light by the hotel and never slowed down for the tracks, even though the signal lights were flashing. Bachman had just dropped 13-year-old David Charles Lindell off at his home at 4:30 p.m. Ironically, David would be killed in a traffic accident five years later.
Michael Scott “Mick” Weber had his dad Clarence Peter Weber’s brand new 1960 Plymouth Valiant at school on Friday, Nov. 3, 1961. Clarence Weber had bought the car for his oldest son, Jack, to set him up in a taxi business. Mick Weber had promised to give football teammates Ralph Koelln and Kenny Fenner, Police Chief George Fenner’s son, a ride home after school at three o’clock. They had a football game that night and wanted some time at home first. Ralph and Kenny went to the school parking lot and found Clarence’s car and got in, waiting for Mick, who had given them the car keys. Mick never showed up. For some reason, he had forgotten about the arrangement and had walked uptown.
Along came my friend, Jerry Aloysius Wimmer. “What’s up guys?” Jerry asked. They told him and the three of them concocted a scheme where Ralph would drive Kenny home, drive himself home from Kenny’s and then turn the car over to Jerry and have him return it to the parking lot and explain it all to Mick, who would have realized his mistake by then and gone back to school. Jerry was an amazing athlete, but a terrible driver. Everything went well dropping off Ralph and Kenny, but as Jerry’s luck would have it, driving back to the school alone, he managed to stall the car right in the middle of the Holcombe Avenue railroad crossing. He put the car in park and tried over and over to get the ignition to fire. Nothing happened. Hearing an oncoming freight train, Jerry panicked, and he jumped out of the car. He tried to push the car off the tracks, first from the front of the car, and then from the rear. Unfortunately, he had forgotten that he had put the car in park and that’s why it wouldn’t budge. Jerry was very excitable. I can just imagine what he went through, struggling to push that car, his face turning redder than his bright red-orange hair. He must have finally realized that there was nothing he could do because he wisely turned and ran, just as the horn-blasting and speeding Great Northern freight train plowed into the “borrowed” car.
The train slammed the Valiant into the automatic crossing signal lights, shearing them off their standard. The car sailed another 50 yards before it came to a rest beside the tracks and up against the rest of the train that had finally come to a screeching halt. Jerry just stood there, paralyzed, staring at the car. He must have been thinking, “My life is over. I’m dead. They will put me in jail.” Before long, people ran up, asking Jerry if he was OK. He just stood there, mumbling, staring at the car, and crying. After he had completely broken down, he was taken to the doctor, who sedated him. Jerry, the football team’s star QB couldn’t play that night either and Litchfield got beat bad. Jerry was never the same after that and all of us, to this day, are a little more cautious when we drive across a railroad track crossing.
Litchfield Coin-Operated Dry Cleaners owners Ed Fitzloff and his wife were on their way home to Hutchinson from Litchfield when a train at the Sibley Avenue crossing killed them both in November of 1963.
1936 Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress and Litchfield born, Gale Sondergaard was performing at the Guthrie Theater in 1967 and she made a trip out to Litchfield one day in November of that year. She visited friends, stood in the bandstand for a while, and then she spoke for about an hour to the high school Thespian Club, which had been named after her. Gale did a few more movies in the ’70s, including “A Man Named Horse,” before her death in 1985.
On Nov. 1, 1968, a Litchfield man, who survived six months of precarious mine detection duty with the U.S. Army combat engineers without incurring a scratch, was killed instantly at 6 o’clock in the morning when his car was struck by a Great Northern freight train at the Sibley Avenue crossing. His name was Wayne Henry Heyer, and he was the 21-year-old son of Henry Harlen and Ellen W. Heyer. Wayne, a 1965 graduate of LHS, was discharged from the Army on July 2 after serving 16 months in Vietnam, the last six months on mine detection duty. The day before the accident, he had just completed his first day of work as a construction worker at Litchfield’s new Ripley Elementary School and was on his way to work again when the accident happened.
On Tuesday, Nov. 18, 1986, my brother Mike Shaw, Dr. C. Walton Lillehei, Howard Holtz (who was Mike’s “heart-lung machine during Mick’s world-famous operation), and my mother were reunited in Litchfield for the filming of a BBC and Boston PBS Nova documentary about the developments in surgery since the end of World War II. Mike had had the first successful open-heart surgery which had been invented by Dr Lillehei of the Heart Hospital in Minneapolis. Mick and Dr. Lillehei were filmed walking through Central Park. Then the entire group was filmed sitting around our mother’s kitchen table discussing the operation.
Most of us can remember the famous Halloween blizzard that happened on Nov. 3, 1991.
Longtime Carnegie Library head librarian Gertrude Johnson died in November 2008. Her son Jim asked me to sing at her funeral at the Ness Church. It was then that I found out that she had been baptized, confirmed, married, and then buried at that same church.
In November 2019, the Worden mink farm finally went out of business. Of course, the closing of the business was the result of the change in people’s attitudes towards wearing furs among other things.