In the eighties, landing free movie tickets made me think I’d near won the lotto.

I remember back in 1983 scoring a pair to the premiere of a film called BRAINSTORM. The trailer below makes it appear half way interesting. But I recall thinking at the time the minutes ticked by slowly. Very slowly. I also remember it was Natalie Wood‘s last movie.

Not to be confused with the 1965 B & W neo-noir thriller, starring Jeffrey Hunter (1926 – 1969) also called BRAINSTORM.

Natalie Wood died, aged 43, on November 29, 1981 from what the coroner at the time ruled was accidental drowning.  She had been on a weekend boat trip to Santa Catalina Island (near L.A.) Important to note is the fact she never learned to swim.

Also on board the motoryacht, named SPLENDOUR (after her 1961 movie SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS) were three other people – her husband at the time Robert Wagner, her BRAINSTORM co-star Christopher Walken and the boat’s captain, Dennis Davern.

Mystery has always surrounded Natalie Wood’s death. In 2013 the Coroner changed the official cause of death from “accidental drowning” to “drowning and other undetermined factors.”

Last year, Natalie Wood‘s sister Lana – who stood in for Natalie to finish remaining scenes on BRAINSTORM after her death – published her account of the life and death of her famous sibling. Throughout the book the death of her sister is referred to as a murder.

Her account kicks off with a story of her mother, who she describes as having been big into all things mystical, one day visiting a gypsy fortune-teller in China. She was told that one day she would give birth to a little girl who would become a famous movie star.

The gypsy’s other prediction, which Lana Wood says she and Natalie were told of when they were children, was that the life of that same extraordinary little girl would ultimately end in a tragic drowning in dark water.

Lana Wood writes that Natalie always believed every word that came out of their mother’s mouth and spent the rest of her life terrified of dark water, admitting to it in a number of interviews. Even pools frightened her.

In LITTLE SISTER, Lana Woods points the finger of suspicion for Natalie’s death at her husband at the time Robert Wagner. Audiences from more recent decades would know Mr Wagner from his role as ‘Number 2’ in all three AUSTIN POWERS movies.

According to Lana Wood’s investigations, which include speaking extensively to Dennis Davern, the captain on board the boat on the night of the ‘accident’, a violent argument broke out between Natalie Wood and Richard Wagner in their cabin.

Richard Wagner smashed a wine bottle and flew into a jealous rage over Natalie’s ‘closeness’ with her film co-star, Christopher Walken (also on board that night). If you take a look at even a few moments of the clip below, you can see the two play characters in BRAINSTORM – the movie they were near the end of filming at the time – who are very much in love with each other.

In his own autobiography, PIECES OF MY HEART, Wagner admits to arguing with Natalie on board the SPLENDOUR before she ‘went missing’, only to be found six hours later floating facedown in the Pacific Ocean.

Here is an excerpt from a 2018 interview with the SPLENDOUR’S captain Dennis Davern in which he tells what he thinks happened to Natalie Wood on that November night forty-one years ago –

And in more detail

Lana Wood says that Robert Wagner’s account of events that night simply ‘do not add up’. Wagner has always maintained that Natalie arose in the middle of the night to retie the dinghy that was banging at the side of the boat and in the process of doing that slipped and fell into the water.

Lana Wood writes in LITTLE SISTER that for anyone who knew Natalie that version of events is laughable. Lana proposes her sister would never in a million years think of venturing out of her cabin in what was a bitterly cold night in her socks and dressing gown (she was found deceased wearing both) to go anywhere near her life-long terror, dark water.

On top of that, Lana Wood says her sister was the archetypical movie-star in that respect and would not have attempted such a menial labour task that she had employed the boats’ captain to look after.

 Mention is also made of the official autopsy which showed injuries consistent with an attack, including more than 20 bruises covering Natalie Woods body. These injuries prompted Los Angeles detective Ralph Hernandez, who was interviewed for the 2020 Apple Podcast series THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF NATALIE WOOD to remark that Natalie Wood looked like she had been the victim of an assault prior to her death.

‘We have a lot of evidence that tends to point to a very suspicious death” said Hernandez, “and would certainly indicate the possibility of foul play.’

LITTLE SISTER (2021) is an utterly fascinating yet ultimately tragic read.

For a complete change of pace, why not see what’s bee-bopping over at HAPPY DAYS : The First Five Seasons

Yep, all this investigatin’ got me to eventually reunite with BRAINSTORM, courtesy of an internet DVD order.

Fight Club

Some people might remember I used to run a site called LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE.

Spending in excess of three years re-watching and ‘writing up’ all 83 episodes of the show, the final post was published in January of this year. It was a project that brought me a lot of joy. It was something I was proud to have done.

Time then to officially ‘grandfather’ the site, meaning, there would be no more active contributions from me but LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE would continue to live on amidst the vast expanse of the free-floating ethernet.

Nine months later a stranger came knocking at the door. Only this was no polite knock. This was a Gonna huff – gonna puff – gonna bloooooow your house down type of entry. Swat team with battering ram. And those guys don’t pay for damage after they leave.

I somehow ended up going four rounds with this fellow before he finally lost interest and walked away. I don’t like the word ‘troll’ so internet goblin is the term I’ll use to describe the creature who burst through the door on this day.

I’ll let you judge whether I was right to react the way I did. Afterall, the poor guy was only trying to help. Or was he? I mean, Jack the Ripper was only trying to ‘help‘ public awareness of the dangers of late night walking in 1880’s London, wasn’t he? Well, wasn’t he?

Like a lot of fights, when it’s done and dusted with usually both combatants left nursing injuries, you’re often left wondering, “What was THAT about?. This disagreement was over the accuracy of a plot synopsis I wrote nearly four years ago for a Season One episode of LOST IN SPACE. The episode, as with the entire original series, is now more than 50 years old.

The internet goblin (real name: Michael Grant) was intent on taking me to task about a detail included in the plot summary I had written for the episode.

Try keeping a straight face when I tell you this person was do-or-die adamant that the character Dr Smith was evicted from the campsite at the beginning of the episode because he failed to rescue Don and John from the quicksand – NOT as I had implied (not wrote but implied, which is an important distinction I believe not fully grasped by Michael)) because of missing cans of deutronium.

Absolutely no one should bother clicking on the actual post (HERE) that caused all the hoopla in the first place. But on the chance there’s any rigorous fact-checkers out there, then this one’s for you.

I told you it was ridiculous. And now you know just how ridiculous. Anyway, to be clear, I am certainly not above being corrected. I have a wife, teenage daughter and a posse of bosses and supervisors at work who all ensure I get regular practice in receiving feedback and corrections. I also have a collection of supremely knowledgeable twelve-year-olds in my life who ensure it happens on a regular basis as well.

No, the objection came from the unfortunate manner in which it was carried out. A manner lacking the least bit of humility. A manner inflated with ego and swagger. A manner that, in the worst tradition, was emboldened by the anonymity of the internet.

But enough commentary. This is FIGHT CLUB. And that ‘Ding Ding’ that just sounded is most definitely the bell…

Before GLEN writes his LIS synopsis… He should WATCH THE EPISODE from beginning to end and know what he’s talking about… It’s very simple Glen.. Just plug in your bluray or DVD and WATCH IT and then WRITE… Your synopsis always have glaring mistakes… In this synopsis you wrote that Dr. Smith was thrown out of the Jupiter 2 camp because of missing dutronium canisters… WRONG!… He was thrown out for almost letting John and Don die in the quicksand when they fell in and he casually walked away without helping them…

Thanks for the stern lecture Michael – delivered all school teacher-ish like. Seems like you’ve got a bee in your bonnet about something… but I wish you well in any case. It’s all about LOST IN SPACE enjoyment for all of us. Probably better to concentrate on that positive aspect, I reckon.

Couple of things to note here – (1) What you’re reading are the exact, word-for-word transcripts of the exchange between The Goblin and myself. Nothing has been changed, embellished or altered in any way. (2) From the opening round you can see Michael is quite fond of his shouty capitals. Again, nothing altered here. This is exactly how his emails were written and sent.

No… I’m not a teacher… I’m just someone that believes that if someone is lucky enough to have a tv or movie blog that the public read… That they should put in the little bit of time it takes to Get Things Right before they go to print… And if that means having to watch the movie, or tv episode again fresh… Then what’s the big deal? Fans who are all very familiar with the ins and outs of all the tv shows and movies that they are reading about DO RECOGNIZE WHEN MISTAKES ARE MADE IN DISCUSSIONS and wonder : “Why does THIS GUY have a blog? He doesn’t even seem to watch this stuff”…. This is all written to you in a HELPFUL MANNER and I hope you as a writer can take constructive criticism… If not, then you are in the wrong line of work.

The ‘ol ‘constructive criticism’ card, eh? Then I guess you won’t mind being on the receiving end of some yourself Michael – only it won’t come from me in this case. Generally, I steer clear of delivering the euphemistically named ‘constructive criticism’ to anyone other than perhaps children, believing that taking on the role of advising other adults how they might improve themselves or their performance is not an area I wish to stray into. I know not everyone feels the same. I think most people would agree however that if you WERE going to go down that route, you definitely wouldn’t want to do it in a snarky, sarcastic and superior-sounding way while you are a guest in that person’s on-line home. Delivering ‘constructive criticism’, if that’s what it was (am tempted to say it had more the feel of, at least in parts, venom-infused outrage and ‘glass half full’, punchy nitpicking) is an artform – and experience guides us to knowing if that is what’s going to be served up, then it absolutely needs to be done with gentleness, tact and genuine good intention. Thanks also for more snark at the end there with the ‘then you are in the wrong line of work’ suggestion. That one was a bit of a right ‘ol crackup for me. But more ‘constructive criticism’, right? Lets end by saying it’s a plus point to see LOST IN SPACE can still inspire discussion and, dare I say ‘passion’, more than 50 years after it first went to air.

The basic tactic here is to counter boxer-style punches directed my way with Aikido sourced redirections and use-your-opponent’s-own-energy-against-them moves. Engaging but not really engaging, if you will. And in defense of The Goblin’s scurrilous barb about not watching the episodes… wrong! ‘The Great Re-Watch’, as I dubbed it, saw me sit down with pen and notebook in hand, transfixed like a kid-all-over-again for every second of every minute of every episode of the 83 show series.. I could have lifted the plot synopses straight off the internet – they’re most definitely in abundance there – but where would the fun in that have been? To attempt to muddy a person’s credibility like that because you see a plot point differently, well… a Goblin would do something like that, now wouldn’t they?

I reckon The Goblin delivers a correction (and as you’ll see he’s only throwing mere jabs at the moment – the haymakers come later) with a similar air of menace to how Grady the Butler ‘corrected’ his daughters and wife in THE SHINING (1980). In the words of not-so-fine English gentleman Grady, Michael has given me ‘a good talking to’ and the ‘bit more’ is, trust me, still on it’s way.

Classic LIS is very new to many new generation viewers since it plays weekly on the popular national network ME-TV.. and after the success of the reboot LIS on Netflix, many new generation viewers are just now experiencing LIS classic on ME TV every week for the first time… (btw I’ll TELL YOU when I’m being snarky and not constructive) … Ok : NOW I’M GOING TO BE SNARKY : You sound like an old guy who while on a on a public blog can’t stand being corrected… Notice how with all your responses you never admitted my main complaint.. That the reason your blogs have so many mistakes inside the synopsis is because YOU DON’T watch them fresh before you write the synopsis… You seem to write them from memory.. Which is fine for conversation but Not for publication

Bro, this is gold!
The possibilities here are starting to appear downright buttery. If we can just find a way to harness the willful energy of that wanton critical eye of yours, I think you and I can go places together. Truth is, I’ve been on the lookout for a while now for a… how best to describe it… ‘efficiency expert’. Someone – and I picture this ‘leader’ type individual as possibly possessing a strong jawline and dressed in a high-priced suit (or scrubby jeans – doesn’t really matter) – who can effectively shape and mold me and help me reach the true potential I know is inside of me. Are you that person Michael? I couldn’t afford to pay you much – at least at the beginning – but under your tutelage I know I could become more ‘efficient’ and successful in quick time. My earning potential could – and I emphasize ‘could’ quickly rise to match my new found abilities. And then more back to you. Are you starting to see the potential as well?

With a straight face I will say your fault-finding powers are priestly bro (I’ll confess I’ve shared our comment exchanges up till now with a few other sets of eyes and the general consensus is that a person such as you, with your rare abilities, doesn’t come along every day) and I know I’m ready to take the next step to self-empowerment and yes, self-improvement. Who needs Tony Robins when I can have you? Right? Well…right? Please contact me again if you’re prepared to take me on as a client – under your wing, so to speak. My true potential – a mistake-free me, if you will – is waiting to be developed. By you. The deutronium (god, is that even how you spell it?) cans/quicksand debacle will all be a thing of the past. Promise. I know I can be better. And I know you know I can be better too. But a steady hand to guide me is what I need. What I’ve always needed, but up ’till now been maybe afraid to admit to. Whadya say Michael? Will you ‘grant’ (little pun – based on your last name – from me there, but I know I can do better under your guidance) me that wish, take me on and see what magic can happen?

Marks to the Goblin here for being fully present. When he directs me to “Notice how with all your responses you never admitted my main complaint..” he is indeed beginning to see things correctly. Frustrating your opponent – engaging but not engaging – and fighting a battle on your own terms is a tried and true military strategy endorsed by no less than Sun Tzu – author of the seminal THE ART OF WAR. Grinding down one’s adversary seems the way to go in a drawn-out style battle. However, a frustrated opponent is an unpredictable opponent. And the Goblin is about to unleash one last desperate flurry of kicks, punches and elbows – street-fighting style – in his bid for what I’m pretty certain he would view as a ‘victory’.

Ok, end in sight. We’ve made it to the final round. The little snippet above us is one thing, but to mentally prepare oneself for the low blows about to come, a more lengthy revisit back to 1997 and the infamous Holyfield vs Tyson ‘Bite Fight’ may be useful prep.

I suspect you’re between 65 to 70 years old… Probably a MAGA person and overweight with a substandard I.Q. (Don’t let it get you down though because I remember that your leader Trump said often “I LOVE ALL MY UNEDUCATED” and thousands of you stood up in the bleachers and applauded and cheered).

I take it that’s a ‘no’ ?

Looks like the cushioned blows of those dreamy constructive criticism’ days are long behind us now. Admit I had to look up MAGA. The old thing? Well, yeah… old enough to recognize when I’m dealing with someone who appears to have a lot of growing up to do and might also benefit from what could be humorously termed ‘sensitivity training’. Overweight? Egads! If only our headstrong heckler knew how wrong he was on that front. And while I don’t partake in the sport of ‘Trump Bashing’, l’m just as unlikely to label myself a fully fledged fan as well.

The battle between the Goblin and myself stretched across three days. Why did I allow it? After all, I had to manually ‘approve’ each comment prior to it making it’s way onto what was effectively an abandoned internet site.

Amongst other reasons, I was enjoying two weeks holidays and so I had the time. I’ll admit there was a part of me that also relished the verbal sparring.

A sadder admission is, engagement like that, as negative and insult-strewn as it was, had me feeling more alive than the usual wall of silence and indifference that greets pretty much every post – apart from regular offerings from a couple of very loyal and articulate comment-artists. That’s not a complaint, just a statement of fact.

Fellow bloggers can relate, I’m sure.

Anyway, the whole messy dialogue took place on disused grounds. My hope is our gabby Goblin doesn’t try his luck gaining entry to the far more hallowed turf of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK. Michael Grant, if you’re out there, this door is firmly bolted.

How would Fonzie have handled this? No doubt very differently to how I handled it. Click HERE to unlock the Fonzie way.