PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9, 2014) — First, for all you movie buffs, tonight at 5:30 p.m., K-111, on the campus of Berkshire Community College, Prof. Valenti shall be screening The Haunting. The 1963 classic, directed by Robert Wise, is being shown as part of ENG 102, Composition II. The class has just finished reading Shirley Jackson‘s novel, The Haunting of Hill House, upon which the film was based. It is a faithful adaptation, vastly superior to the horrible re-make in 1999.

Jackson, by the way, earned her B.A. degree from Syracuse University, one of THE PLANET‘s beloved alma maters. There, she met Stanley Edgar Hyman, who became a professor at Bennington College.

Clair Bloom (Theo), Russ Tamblyn (Luke), Julie Harris (Eleanor), and Richard Johnson (Dr. Markway) in “The Haunting.”

The couple made frequent trips to the Berkshires. Jackson got inspiration for Hill House from a number of old Berkshire “cottages.” Indeed, she set the story in Berkshire County, although she changed the community names. One cannot read The Haunting of Hill House, though, without seeing the Berkshires evoked into life by the deft descriptions of the landscape.

The Wall Street Journal called Jackson’s novel “the greatest haunted-house story ever written.” Indeed, the 1959 novel was a finalist for the National Book Award, unheard of for genre fiction. The Wise film, likewise, has been given top honors by critics and film historians, ranked in the “horror” category second only to Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining.

The Haunting stars Richard Johnson, Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, and Russ Tamblyn. Actually, one could ask if it’s a horror film as much as a mystery, or a mystery as much as a psychological thriller, or a psychological thriller as much as a look at the woman’s descent into madness.

The exterior “Hill House” still stands, as the Ettington Park Hotel, Stratford-Upon-Avon, England.

All great films work on several levels, and this is one of them. Filmed in glorious black-and-white, this “dark old house” offering convinces as much by what it doesn’t show as much as it shows, making the most of the superiority of suspense over shock.

The Professor — who has tried his best to make the sale of this film to a generation that has come to expect films to be day-glo in color, deafening loud, looking like video games, and full of non-stop CG special effects — invites one and all to join us this evening.  Popcorn is on THE PLANET.

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License to Kill

Speaking of pictures, today’s entry focuses on a series of images that have come across our desk here at the FORTRESS. “Visuals,” or “graphics,” to use the more generic term, have become increasingly important in a world that overloads the senses.

Our first pair of photographs is sent to us by MM, who writes, “Uncanny resemblance or separated at birth? Sean Connery and Dan Valenti.” This isn’t the first time the comparison has been made (always by the fairer sex, we are pleased to say), and we must admit we see the ocular echoes. By the way, we like ours stirred, not shaken. One should never aerate a good martini.

The REAL 007

Our Word is Our Bond













A Brush and a Bucket

Our next picture comes from ES, who has supplied the caption. It depicts the mayor in his role as house painter. History reminds us of another temporal leader who began as a housepainter, some cat nicknamed Schicklgruber, after his dad, Alois, who bore that surname prior to lopping off two syllables and beginning it with the eighth letter of the alphabet. We can find no resemblance beyond the painter’s cap.

Couldn’t we have found a minority to do this job? (Photo: iBerkshires)

Anyways, that caption is a good one. THE PLANET invites anyone to try to top it. LEt’s see how funny you can be!


Nixon’s The One

Those who have been ’round these parts long enough remember a few glorious baseball seasons where the Pittsfield home nine wore uniforms the tops of which bore the script, “RED SOX.” The Pittsfield-Berkshire Red Sox played at Wahconah Park from 1965 through 1969. In 1968, featured 13 players on the roster who went on to play in the Major Leagues, most of them for Boston. They include Luis Alvarado, Dick Baney, Chris Coletta, Billy Conigliaro, Carmen Fanzone, Dave Gray, Bobby Guindon, Gerry Janeski, Al Montrreuil, Russ Nixon, Mark Schaeffer, Bill Schlesinger, and Ken Wright.

Of these, Nixon (one of three with the presidential last name to play for Boston — Willard and Otis being the other two) had the most time in the Bigs. Nixon played 12 seasons (1957-68), seven with the Red Sox. He split 1968 between Boston and Pittsfield. We stumbled on these two pictures on Ebay. They are both from 1968, in his Boston home whites and his Pittsfield road grays.

Nixon is the answer to one of THE PLANET’s favorite trivia questions: “Who was the first man in baseball history to be traded for himself?”

How did it happen? On March 16, 1960, the Sox traded catcher Sammy White and infielder Jim Marshall to Cleveland for Nixon and a “player to be named later.” White, however, retired from baseball rather than report to the Indians. On March 25, the commissioner voided the trade. Nixon went back to the Indians. Later that same year, on June 13, the Red Sox sent Ted Bowsfield and Marty Keough to the Indians for Carroll Hardy and the “player to be named later” from the voided White deal. The player named later turned out to be Nixon. The only other time a player was traded for himself, again involving a player to be named later, came in 1962, with Harry Chiti being the duplicated self.


Tres Amigos

Recognize these three lads? They are, from left, Hubert “Whitey” Whitney (Stanley Farfara), Larry Mondello (Rusty Stevens), and Gilbert Bates (Stephen Talbot). They lived in a town called Mayfield, and were friends of Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver. This photo came up following a class discussion (Comp II) on the theme “Family and Memories.”

THE PLANET had his Whitey, Larry, and Gilbert. They were Tony Lagroterria, Mario Panetti, and Gerry Packard. We also lived for a time in our own version of Mayberry.

In our discussion of “Family and Memories,” The Professor mentioned Leave It To Beaver. Everyone in the class had heard of the show and just about everyone had seen it. One late-teen-something remarked that it was a work of fiction. Correct, we said, but it depicted like pretty much the way it was in the late 50s and early 60s in Hometown, USA.

“Really?” she asked. She then mused that she wished she had lived back then. We asked her why. The answer: “I don’t know. Everything seemed so clean and quiet. Slow. Simpler.” We asked the class to come up with one word that summed up what the student was trying to convey. The class selected the word, “Decent.” The word “innocent” also received careful scrutiny.


Ring In The New

Finally, we give you a close-up view, courtesy of ZC, of the ring given to the World Champion Boston Red Sox on Opening Day this year. In 2013, the team won the World Series for the third time in the past 10 years.

THE PLANET passes it along with ZC’s message of Boston being title town and its baseball team being the “first dynasty of the 21st century.”

THE PLANET has long since moved on from our years as a baseball writer, but we nonetheless can still appreciate and enjoy fan enthusiasm in others.


 “You ask me if it’s right to love another guy. First I say ‘Yes’ and then I ask ‘Why?'”Nils Lofgren, “Moontears,” (1972)




  1. Ron Kitterman
    April 9, 2014 at 5:21 am #

    Dan you forgot to mention the ” Boomer ” George Scott, hopefully its not a racial mistake.

    • ed shepardson
      April 9, 2014 at 5:46 am #

      I think Scott played in 1965. Not 1968.

      • danvalenti
        April 9, 2014 at 8:07 am #

        Yes. The Boomer won the Eastern League Triple Crown by homering on the final day of the season. That put him one ahead of teammate Owen Johnson. The last-day win, during which ace Pete Magrini threw a CG against Earl Weaver’s Elmira Pioneers, clinshed the EL title for Pittsfield. I attended, along with my cousin David and thousands of others. After the final out, we stormed the field. I got Magrini’s autograph, as well as The Boomer’s. What a great day that was.

    • oldtimer
      April 9, 2014 at 5:47 am #

      I think Reggie Smith was there also

      • oldtimer
        April 9, 2014 at 5:59 am #

        Reggie was also in 1965

        • danvalenti
          April 9, 2014 at 8:04 am #

          Right you are, OLDTIMER.

    • Thomas More
      April 9, 2014 at 6:24 am #

      He referred to the 1968 roster only. I taught math at BCC many years ago. In those days the part time help (double dippers) were referred to as teachers. When did they begin elevating the part timers to the rank of professor? A professor was a lofty title. To become one you had to spend much of your time on research and then publish. Publish or perish was the byword where I studied. Finally, Adolph Hitler’s last name was never any thing but Hitler.

      • ed shepardson
        April 9, 2014 at 6:35 am #

        Hitler’s father, Alois Hitler, Sr. (1837–1903), was the illegitimate child of Maria Anna Schicklgruber.[2] Because the baptismal register did not show the name of his father, Alois initially bore his mother’s surname, Schicklgruber.

        • danvalenti
          April 9, 2014 at 8:01 am #

          Correct. Thanks, ED.

      • danvalenti
        April 9, 2014 at 8:04 am #

        Well, we certainly have spent a lot of time on research and have been published (and have been publishing) for five decades now! You are correct about Hitler. It was always Adolph’s only surname. Shicklegruber, however, as ED points out, was the name of his father’s mother. Hitler’s dad, Alois, had that surname for the first few years of his life. During WWII, satirists liked to point to this aspect of H’s family tree, and in derision, he began to be called “Schicklegruber.”

        • eddiep
          April 9, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

          Now I know what the reference on Blazing Saddles was referring to.

    • danvalenti
      April 9, 2014 at 8:08 am #

      Uh, no, RK. Boomer wasn’t on that ’68 team. Gee, you wouldn’t be trying to “stir the pot,” now, would you?

  2. Bull Durham
    April 9, 2014 at 7:45 am #

    It’s said that Jackson used the Jennings Mansion in Bennington as the basis for Hill House. She lived in North Bennington, close to the old mansion, which is now the music building at Bennington College. It’s reportedly haunted by the ghost of Mrs. Jennings, who committed suicide. She has been ‘seen’ by many students and faculty, who report a blue light descending the grand staircase near the entry to the house. It’s a beautiful old stone building, and at night certainly gives you the effect she was looking for.

    • danvalenti
      April 9, 2014 at 8:01 am #

      Yes, I had heard that, as well. From what I’ve read about Jackson’s sources for the writing of the novel, “Hill House” was an amalgamation of houses. It would appear, then, that the Jennings House was one of the primary models.

      • Bull Durham
        April 9, 2014 at 8:04 am #

        Her husband taught at Bennington College and they lived very near the campus. You’ve inspired me to read a classic I had never read before, Dan. I just uploaded it to my Kindle. Good reading for the upcoming spring and summer thunderstormy evenings. My apologies to the English Professor in you for making up the word thunderstormy.

  3. Nota
    April 9, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    My favorite Pittsdield Sox player was Yaz.

    • danvalenti
      April 9, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

      This has to be an example of irony,yes? (Please say yes)

  4. Ron Kitterman
    April 9, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    Sorry Dan, I should have known better than to try and play the base card on the Professor.

  5. maxwell edison
    April 9, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    Caption: “You were right, Tony. Krol fit nicely in that wall.”

    • Dave
      April 9, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

      lol Maxwell

      I fell asleep, what happened with the vote with the appropriation for the buses? Vote was 7-3 with an abstention(Caccamo). They took a 5 minute recess, unfortunately when I woke up it was over.

      If it went through, I would be surprised because I believe Clerk Tyer stated that it failed- and as far as I know she is correct because 2/3 rds majority is councilors present regardless of who has to abstain.

      If it was defeated, I think that was the right call and it can be brought back if so desired.

      If it was tabled, it was already a done deal and either a certain councilor will “be on vacation” and absent or another councilor will “see the light” and change his vote.

      Irony would be if the first vote that councilor Caccamo had to abstain from kept “the children” from getting new buses. But we all know that will never happen….ante up taxpayers.

      • danvalenti
        April 9, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

        The measure went down to defeat, 7-3-1. THE PLANET laid out this very scenario when the Caccamo controversy first came up. As a double-dipping city employee (spare the boring lecture: Yes, I know he is not taking a council salary), he cannot vote on school department business. His constituents in Ward 3 were thus left out of the bus discussion entirely. They didn’t have a vote, and as it turned out, it made the difference between victory (borrowing for new buses) and defeat. We called it, exactly.

    • danvalenti
      April 9, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

      Truth in humor? Thanks for a clever riposte.

  6. Scott
    April 9, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    How can I keep up on my property tax increases if the rich politicians and connected folks do all thier own painting??? @ Maxwell, very good!

    • B
      April 9, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

      It looks like the Mayor does his own painting because we know he isn’t in the office. The mayor should be good at painting it seems like he has the motion down pat, arm goes up-and-down up-and-down and keep repeating, just like handshaking. No brain needed for that motion.

      • danvalenti
        April 9, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

        The “slot machine” fling.

    • danvalenti
      April 9, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

      Good one, too, S!

  7. Nota
    April 9, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    Whutdu mean no more paint, take it out of free cash.

    • danvalenti
      April 9, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

      Ooooh, good one, NOTA!

  8. Nota
    April 9, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    What is that badge he’s wearing?

  9. joetaxpayer
    April 9, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

    Change of subject, why do athletes think we care a rats @ss if they are gay. Breaking news UMass basketball player is gay. Who cares.

    • Dave
      April 9, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

      maybe because people bring it to others attention when otherwise no one would even think or care about it . I had no idea about this but if you want to perpetuate it .. what is his name?

  10. joetaxpayer
    April 9, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    His name is Derrick Gordon, he is a dedicated athlete, who always gave it his all on the court. Never got in trouble doing the things that other college athletes do.He is a fantastic example of a college athlete. The fact that he is gay does not interest me , tmi!

  11. Scott
    April 10, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    They use these guys as examples for tolerance on a social level. People relate to him and except him because he’s good at sports and does the right thing without judging him for his sexual preference. Kind of ole saying ” see you can tolerate gays if they have something to offer” but realistically we all have something to offer the world if we stop contending and judging others. That doesn’t mean as a society we should embrace homosexuality or any abnormal behavior but we do have to let the individual make his own destiny as long as it doesn’t harm others. I’m still undecided on whether or not homosexuality “harms” society. I think when like anything else when you go overboard with political correctness and force things on people it can have harmful effects. It’s ok to be if still love my own children if they were gay but I certainly wouldn’t encourage it.

  12. Scott
    April 10, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    Sorry for any typos I’m working. I’m very fortunate to have private citizens in need of my services.