While doing your Christmas shopping, a lot of you must wonder if life can get any better than this. Honestly, how are they ever going to top the battery-powered screwdriver, or the pot that brews tea on one side and coffee on the other. Or my personal favorite, the eggbeater kind of thing that turns your bathtub into a spa. Great gifts. Necessities really in the '80s, like the Veg-o-matic was in the '70s. Browsing through items like these should convince you that all the truly innovative leaps have been made. So what will they think of next?
Yogi At The Movies.
That's right, that cinematic savant Yogi Berra will be reviewing films for what is being described by Yogi's press agent as "a nation hungry for concise, penetrating and easily understood movie reviews." Undoubtedly, in words of two syllables or less. (Yogi has already done a pilot, in which he reviewed "Fatal Attraction." Throughout the review he referred to Glenn Close as "Glen Cove," a city on Long Island.) As Yogi so penetratingly and concisely says about movies, "I love movies . . . if I like 'em." Adios, Pauline. Don't want to be a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard.
Starting in April, you'll see Yogi syndicated on TV, in 30-second bursts, reviewing films. He'll discuss each film for about 20 seconds. (How much time do you really need? Take a movie like "The Deer Hunter." You boil it down: Guys, guns and girls. Three pals from Pittsburgh go to Vietnam. One finds economic opportunity and stays. One ends up in the loony bin. And one gets the hots for Meryl Streep. Lots of good cursing.) Then, Yogi rates the movie on his own inimitable scale: Single, double, triple or home run.
Siskel, Ebert, sit down and shut up.
"Who the hell are Siskel and Ebert, anyway?" huffed Tom Villante, the brain behind this deal. Villante used to be a Yankees bat-boy. He's known Yogi for 40 years. "Within a year Yogi will be the most important man in cinema," Villante predicted.
I can see it now. AFI will have a seminar. William Goldman will talk about screenwriting. Steven Spielberg will talk about producing and directing. Robert DeNiro will talk about acting. Lawrence Peter Berra will talk about criticism. (And later, for you baseball fans, he'll spit on your shoes.)
What does Yogi know about movies?
"You know what Yogi knows about movies?" Villante said. "He knows enough."
(I'm sold. How about you?)
"And you know what else?" Villante added. "Yogi won't give you that effete, artsy stuff. He'll talk to the everyday guy."
(Thank God. I was afraid he'd be way over my head, like Rona Barrett.)
Dear, sweet, lovable Yogi. You've seen him playing poker with Battlin' Bert Lustine. Does the camera love that puss, or what? "Who doesn't like Yogi?" Villante asks. Indeed, who doesn't? Certainly not Joe Garagiola, who got his start in TV by making up malaprops and saying they came from Yogi's mouth.
Since Yogi is credited with so many of what are now called, in his honor, "Yogi-isms," I'd be remiss not listing a few -- these courtesy of writer Roy Blount Jr., a hoot and a half himself -- for it's precisely these amusingly off-kilter remarks that so endear Yogi to us:
It was, Yogi who, after receiving a check stamped "Payable to Bearer," said to a friend, "You know me all these years and you can't spell my name?"
It was Yogi who, explaining why he no longer patronized a once favorite restaurant, said, "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
It was Yogi who, upon watching a rerun of a Steve McQueen television show, observed, "He must have made that before he died."
It was Yogi who, while rooming with Yankees third baseman Bobby Brown when Brown was a medical student, would be reading a comic book as Brown studied a medical text, and when both closed their books Yogi would ask, "How'd yours turn out?"
It was Yogi who, after attending a state dinner here, left disappointed in the cuisine and told friends that he distinctly remembered being invited to "a steak" dinner.
And it was Yogi who, upon being asked what time it was, answered, "You mean right now?"
My favorite Yogi story, though, is about the time he was a guest on a radio talk show, and before the show started the host said, "Yogi, if you don't mind, I'd like to play 'free association' with you on the air. I'll say a name, and you say the first thing that comes to your mind. Okay?
"Okay," Yogi said.
The show started. And the host said, "We've got Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees here, and he and I are going to do some free associating. I'm going to say a name, and Yogi's going to say the first thing that pops into his mind."
After a slight pause, the host said, "Mickey Mantle."
And Yogi quickly said, "What about him?"
Personally, I can't wait for "Yogi At The Movies." And if it works, why not a "Yogi At The Summit," or "Yogi In The Kitchen," or "Yogi And Geraldo Ask Each Other About Great Books And Compare Haircuts." My only worry is that Yogi might not be contemporary enough. According to Villante, Yogi says his favorite comedy team is "The Four Stooges," and his favorite movies are westerns, which, as we know, they're not making anymore. But I say, give Yogi a chance. If nothing else, he proves what your father always told you: Everybody's a critic.