…and we’re back (and some updates!)

For all three who noticed we were gone for a little bit, thank you.

To ensure a more regular posting schedule, I would like to pose a question. As some may know, I also run a site Use Soap, that I use as a repository for my weekly review column at a local newspaper. I would like to propose that I run my reviews from that site on here, along with the regular features in Natsukashi. I still will post the podcast, as well as “Messing with Memories” and other various and sundry nostalgic movie morsels.

Please drop me a line and let me know what you think, I welcome any and all suggestions.

Also, you will notice a certain little logo at the top right of this blog. That piece of artwork is from none other than Flixster.com, one of the largest (and coolest) movie sites on the internet.

Our little blog has been invited to become part of the Flixster fam! Go us!

We are certainly excited about this move and hope that our incredibly inflated egos do not become even more drunk with power and end up snorting blow off the sweaty ass cracks of Malaysian ladyboys…again.

Sorry, where was I?

So we look forward to getting back into things, keeping everyone updated on upcoming remakes, hobnobbing with those in the industry who helped create the movie memories of our youth, and looking at films currently in release.

Thanks for sticking with us and, as always, your suggestions help keep us going, so please let us know what you think.

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‘Never Cry Wolf’ with writer Richard Kletter

Film:
Never Cry Wolf (1983)
Rated: PG
Directed by:
Carroll Ballard
Written by:
Farley Mowat (novel)
Richard Kletter (screenplay)
Curtis Hanson
Sam Hamm
Starring:
Chales Martin Smith as Tyler
Brian Dennehy as Rosie
Zachary Ittimangnaq as Ootek
Samson Jorah as Mike

By Bo from Last Blog on the Left (with special guest star Shelley Stillo)

Pre-screening memoriesNever Cry Wolf was an important film for me when I was a child.  An animal lover at an early age, I found myself seeking out those books and movies that focused specifically on dogs and their ilk.  Sounder was my favorite book, and when Never Cry Wolf arrived on home video, I was quick to find it.  What I wasn’t prepared for was the beauty of the film, the quiet and somber tone that was such a revelation to a young viewer. 

At that time, there was nothing political or environmental in my thinking, having been raised on a steady diet of cartoons and Sesame Street.  When I followed Tyler into the Alaskan Arctic, his revelations were my own.  The natural world, until then a patch of woods behind my home, became a reality, a world that I could only visit, at the time, through film, but one that I learned to value.  Additionally, the film inspired a love of the wolf that has remained to this day, admiring their familial and societal nature, the lonely howls, the eerily perceptive and intelligent eyes.   

New memories: To this day, I am a dog lover first and foremost.  Some of that, I think, is based on my first encounter with Caroll Ballard’s Never Cry Wolf and my fixation on the domestic canine’s wilder cousin.  There is a playfulness coupled with instinct that I still find fascinating in the wolf.  Looking back on the film, now, I have discovered the same amazement, the same awe that I first felt upon my initial viewing of the movie.  It is a stunningly gorgeous film, one that begs for a Blu-ray transfer, and a somber story of man’s progress and the effects of that progress on the world around him.   

There is a sadness in this film, too, made more melancholy by the exacerbated problems we see in the remaining wilderness.  I am forever torn between the Carlin-esque hopelessness for our species and the nagging belief that maybe, under the right circumstances, we could live in concert with nature.  This film poses no answers to this dilemma, but Never Cry Wolf beautifully illustrates the problems without lapsing into moralizing, and gives us a glimpse into a world of wonder that shrinks each day.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Never Cry Wolf’ podcast here

…or listen in the right in the comfort of this very site

Our featured guest: Screenwriter Richard Kletter

Richard Kletter began his film career as a producer on independent films including Cannes Festival winner, Northern Lights. Since then, he has written, directed and/or produced more than 20 films and TV movies. His films have received Golden Globe nominations and won awards at various festivals.

Kletter teaches screenwriting at USC School of Cinematic Arts. His feature credits include Dangerous Indiscretion (with C. Thomas Howell and Malcolm McDowell), and The Black Stallion Returns. Some of his television credits include the series The Magnificent Seven, the Lifetime movie She’s Too Young (with Marcia Gay Harden) the acclaimed films Odd Girl Out and Queen Sized.

He’s currently working on a script about a young girl of privilege kidnapped by a biker gang. Hell, yeah! We are soooooo there, Richard! Thank you for joining us.

‘Flowers in the Attic’ with director Jeffrey Bloom

Title:
Flowers in the Attic (1987)
Rated: PG-13
Written by:
V. C. Andrews (novel)
Jeffrey Bloom (screenplay)
Directed by:
Jeffrey Bloom
Starring:
Louise Fletcher as Grandmother
Victoria Tennant as Corrine
Kristy Swanson as Cathy
Jeb Stuart Adams as Chris
Lindsay Parker as Carrie
Marshall Colt as Father

By Shelley Stillo

Pre-screening memories: As with most American households in the 1980s, Shelley’s family bookshelf had room for a few titles from V. C. Andrews. The author was on her way to becoming a vertible literary industry, not unlike a certain ‘Twilight’ author today.

But Andrews tawdry Gothic tales were much more enticing to young readers, like Shelley, who would pull the copy down, crack the spine and read aloud some of the book’s more lacivious passages with her young friends.

Their mix of Southern Gothic, romance, fairy tale and horror were like a literary burrito for young Shelly.

New memories: After watching the film for the first time in 20 years, did it result in a flood of raunchy memories of late-night readings with friends? And, perhaps more importantly, just why the hell was such a novel that featured rape, incest, child cruelty, incest, death and a little more incest so popular in the first place?

You can download Natsukashi’s ‘Flowers in the Attic’ podcast here

or you can simply head to our basement below to listen on the site

Our featured guest: Director Jeffrey Bloom

Jeffrey Bloom does not count Flowers in the Attic as a high watermark in his directing career. Bloom’s cinematic career began in the early 1970s, writing made-for-TV films such as Snow Job (aka The Great Ski Caper) and 11 Harrowhouse (aka Anything for Love).

His first time behind the lens was the 1975 comedy Dogpound Shuffle, followed by Blood Beach and a host of made-for-TV films.

Flowers in the Attic was the last feature film Bloom directed, and once you hear all the behind-the-scenes events that took place, you may understand why.

Jeffrey pointed us to a student-made video of the film Flowers in the Attic, which will gladly repost here:

Jeffrey is now a professional photographer in Studio City, California.

‘The Legend of Billie Jean’ with cinematographer Richard Walden

Legend_of_Billie_JeanFilm: The Legend of Billie Jean (1985)
Rated: PG-13
Directed by:
Matthew Robbins
Written by:    
Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner
Starring:     
Helen Slater as Billie Jean
Christian Slater as Binx
Keith Gordon as Lloyd
Richard Bradford as Pyatt

 By Shelley Stillo

Pre-screening memories: I stayed home from school a lot when I was young. I don’t know if my parents were lazy (throw a big enough fit….), ’80s permissive, or if they were just sympathetic. I suspect it was sympathetic.

You see, from a pretty early age, I was the teased kid. I started watching horror and sci fi in grade school. By third or fourth grade I was identifying as a Dr. Who fan, conventions and all. By fourth grade, I had a best friend geeky enough to play “Lost Boys” with me on weekends (we would write our own elaborate, soap opera-esque plots for the “Lost Boys” characters and act them out. She was Michael’s (Jason Patric) girlfriend, I was David’s (Keifer Sutherland), though I think we both secretly lusted over the more age-appropriate Coreys).

I wouldn’t trade geekdom for the world. But it made for a rough childhood. 90% of the time, when I whined to stay home from school, it was because I was afraid of bullies, and my parents knew it. They had a heart; I had a lot of sick days.

That’s why you’ll hear me say, “I think I was home sick in bed…” so often on this podcast when I’m asked how I first encountered a movie. “Home from school” was where I was when I first encountered The Legend of Billie Jean. Before watching it again, I had very vague memories of this film. I remembered an image, and the themes, and that is it. The image I remembered was of the colossal Billie Jean statue burning near the end of the film.

slaterAs for the themes, I remembered that the movie was about outlaw teenagers in some kind of epic struggle. Despite the famous use of Pat Benetar’s “Invincible,” throughout the film, it took me years to figure out where these flashes of memory had come from (of course, once I did, I couldn’t hear the song without aching to see the film again). Now that I have seen the film again, I am not surprised that my bullied young self had such an affinity for it. Billie Jean might have been the town heart throb, but her family and her friends were outcasts, and I wasn’t at all shocked to find that the whole film is triggered in by an act of bullying.

New Memories: The plot has an element of absurdity to it that gave it an “only in the 80s quality” for me that I loved. But that absurdity is pleasantly mixed with a sense of earnestness—even when what is happening on screen is pushing silly, everything feels real and feels palpable.

yeardlyThe experiences Billie Jean and her friends, especially her little brother Binx (Christian Slater) and her overzealous young neighbor Putter (a pre-Lisa Simpson Yeardley Smith) are often dead serious even when the scenarios are not: Billie has to fight off an attempted rape, Binx is fascinated yet frightened by the possibilities of violence, and the needy Putter is the victim of abuse.

However, these instances are not the “issues” that drive the films, they’re simply the realities these characters contend with day in and day out. And as such, they ground the action without stifling it with “meaning.” There are also elements of Neverland (of the Peter Pan, not the Michael Jackson, variety) in the film that I’m sure appealed to me as a child, and appeal even helen short hairmore to me now, such as the character’s temporary home in an abandoned mini-golf course, or the introduction of the character Lloyd (Keith Gordon), whose home resembles a Universal horror film prop closet. These settings lend an air of Goonies-esque fantasy to this much grittier Texas based film.

But seeing it again has convinced me that it is the “golden rule” theme of how you treat others that appealed to me most when I caught this film during one of my numerous experiences with playing hookie. Now that I have seen the film, I can understand why I identified with its ethic of “fair is fair” treatment, and why such a mantra would have been so resonant that I have felt this film for so many years, more than I have remembered it.

Download Natsukashi’s: ‘The Legend of Billie Jean’ podcast .

or, you listen right here, because fair is fair:

Our featured guest: Richard Walden

truck shotWe here at Natsukashi love us our Richard Walden. How can you not?  The man is warm, gracious and always happy to help us walk through the films from his resume. Richard returns to join us after his Continent Divide podcast earlier this summer, and here dishes on working with the young cast of then-up-and-coming actors, the parallels between Billie Jean and another strong female protagonist who controversially cut her hair, Felicity (on which Richard also worked).

His most recetly worked on Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, from Harry Potterdirector Chris Columbus and starring Uma Thurman, Pierce Brosnan and Rosario Dawson. He’s also recently worked on Ramona and Beezus, a film adaptation from the popular Beverly Cleary “Ramona” book series.

‘Shocker’ with its star Camille Cooper

poster

Title: Shocker (1989)
Rated: R
Written and directed by: Wes Craven
Starring: Peter Berg as Jonathan Parker
                   Mitch Pileggi as Horace Pinker
                   Camille Cooper as Alison

By Shelley Stillo

chairPre-screening memories: If this site has taught me anything, it is that I witnessed far too many age-inappropriate movies as a child. I bore witness to more acts of violence, mayhem and destruction before I was even able to remove the training wheels from my bike.

I will leave the analysis of its effects for a therapist to deal with, but all that viewing has instilled in me a life-long admiration of the horror genre. And of all the beasts and boogeymen that made it into my living room television set, Wes Craven was the one I connected with most frequently.

glowy camiThere was something more under the surface of Craven’s brand of horror, commenting on our culture, or state of society. And even though my brain was barely beyond what was on the Saturday morning cartoon showcase, it still seemed to pick up the impulses of Craven’s transmitted messages.

Shocker was a film I discovered on the shelves of my local video store, after A Nightmare on Elm Streethad made its permanent mark on my mind. I would search for anything with his name affixed to it, and I eagerly grabbed it and brought it home.

It is a film that today divides its audiences, between those who ridicule its over-the-top scenario, its dime-store special effects, and its lapses in logic, and those who enjoyed it as a wild ride laced with a commentary on a television-obsessed society. I fell into the latter category, realizing that, despite its limitations, Craven still had more on its mind than just the standard slash-and-scream horror.

armchairNew memories: Time may not have been kind to its already-limited special effects budget, and there are certainly more than one moments that illicit an eye roll, but I still find myself connecting with the film’s message and its gritty charms.

Sure, Horace Pinker will never be synonymous with Freddie Kreuger, but he did, and still does, make an indelible mark on this young horror fan.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Shocker’ podcast with star Camille Cooper here

Or, plug in to our player on this very site below:

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Our featured guest: Camille Cooper

camiCamille Cooper has worked professionally in film and television for a number of years, starring in five films, including Meet the Applegates and Like Father, Like Son, and television series including General Hospital and Knots Landing. She has been featured in numerous commercials and print ads (for Coke, Milky Way and Campbell’s Soup, among others). She has been interviewed and photographed for such publications as Premiere Interview, Egg, and The New York Times, and has appeared on the cover of Working Mother. Recently she was a guest on a little program called The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Cooper quit the biz more than a decade ago and dedicated herself to speaking out about the effect of media on young women and body image

Since her show business retirement, Cooper has co-chaired the Committee for the Empowerment of Young Women since 1994, and has lectured across the country, educating and encouraging young women to question what they see, to define themselves by their abilities and their dreams, and to take action to promote positive change.

She was gracious enough to share her memories of working with Wes Craven and the Shocker set, and we thank for for her humor and recollections of the film.

‘Mischief’ with stars Doug McKeon, Catherine Mary Stewart

mischief-poster

Film: Mischief
Rated: R
Directed by: Mel Damski
Written by: Noel Black
Starring: Doug McKeon as Jonathan
                   Kelly Prestonas Mailyn
                   Catherine Mary Stewart as Bunny

By Rob R.

mischief1Pre-screening memories: Every kid has a list of films they can recall that were placed near the top of their parents blacklist.

Mischief was one that was vaulted to the top upon its release.

Perhaps it was the timing. The early 1980s had saturated the screen with temptations of “t and a” and the promise of illicit thrills for the hormone-drenched males.

Or, perhaps it was this trailer…

“There’s no time like the first time,” was the end tag. Seven words the sealed the deal for my parent’s watchful eyes.

The film could have walked off with more Oscars than Titanic, but there was no way in hell their son was going to see it. They would happily accompany me to another screening of Rambo, where flesh was on display the way it was meant to be seen: sweaty, bloody and being shredded apart by shrapnel.

Throughout the years, I was able to catch pieces of the film, but never in its entirety, only through late-night,interrupted airings and watered-down made-for-TV edits.

When I was old enough to see it, it had faded from memory and was no longer help the illicit thrill that it had been for the underage version of myself.

Kelly_Doug_MischiefPost-screening memories:I cannot express how wildly off the mark not only my parents were, but the entire marketing department at 20th Century Fox. For it was not the Porky’s-esque romp in raunch that it was purported to be, but possessed a tenderness uncommon for films of the era. Even today, its Wikipedia entry unfairly classifies this as a “teen comedy,” noted for a “full frontal” by one of its female stars.

Sure, as a youngster, this may have been the only mental notes I would have taken during a screening, but its grossly underselling a film that could soundly stand toe-to-toe with similar comedies at the box office today.

This crass bio unjustly lumped a film that overflows with heart, humanity, and male bonding seldom seen since.

___________________________________________________________

A note about the Natsukashi‘Mischief’ podcast:We had such a great time chatting with the fim’s leads, we had to break it into two podcasts. BothDoug and Cathy were more than gracious with their time, so we had to break  it up and make it a two-parter. We think their tales will make it well worth the listen.

Download the Natsukashi ‘Mischief podcast with Doug McKeon’ right here,

or listen in our player below

 

Download the Natsukashi’Mischief with Catherine Mary Stewart’ podcast here

or listen to part two in our player below

Our featured guests: Doug McKeon and Catherine Mary Stewart

doug and chrisDoug McKeon: Breaking into show business at an early age, McKeon had worked with the a number of industry legends before he was even old enough to graduate high school.

After starring in the soap The Edge of Night, Doug graduated to television films, in which he co-starred with Burt Young, Susan Dey and John Ritter. And for his first two cinematic projects (Night Crossing and On Golden Pond), he shared the screen with John Hurt, Jane Alexander, Jane Fonda, Kathryn Hepburn and Henry Fonda.

Mischiefwas his next big-screen role, but McKeoncontinued to share his demonstrate his talents on the small screen as well, starring as Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and co-starring with Jason Robards and Eva Marie Saint in Breaking Home Ties.

Doug has since ventured behind the camera, writing and directing the well-received The Boys of Sunset Ridge and directing the family drama Come Away Home.

____________________________________________________________________________

cathyCatherine Mary Stewart: If there was a cult-classic poster girl for the 80s, if Stewart did not have the crown, she was certainly in the running, starring in such beloved films as The Apple, The Last Starfighter, Night of the Comet, Dudes and Weekend at Bernies.

On television, she starred alongside Anthony Hopkins, Roddy McDowall, Candice Bergen, Angie Dickinson and Rod Steiger in the popular Jackie Collins mini-series Hollywood Wives.

Stewart continued to star in film and television in the years following, starring alongside some of the greats, but her primary focus was on raising her children. She has recently starred in the controversial The Girl Next Door and 2009’s Love N Dancing with Amy Smart and Billy Zane.

Thanks to both Doug and Catherine for lending us their time to chat about their film.

‘Christine’ with Alexandra Paul

christine

Film: Christine (1983)
Rated: R
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: Stephen King (story)
Starring:  Keith Gordon as Arnie Cunningham
                    John Stockwell as Dennis Guilder
                    Alexandra Paul as Leigh Cabot

By Shelley Stillo

Pre-screening memories: The first novel I remember reading for fun was by Stephen King.cujo  It was Cujo and I picked it up from around the house after my mother had finished reading it. I was intrigued by the cover: a snarling snout with teeth bared emerging from a dull beige background.  I was nine, I was terrified, and I loved every minute of it.  In these post-PMRC days, when parental warnings air even before shows on the Family Channel, some Natsukashi-readers might be horrified by the idea of an elementary school student reading Stephen King novels cover to cover, one after the other (or, given that you’re a fan of this site, maybe you aren’t!).

There was strong violence, horrific imagery, indecent language, and a surprising amount of sex (I’m still a little bit traumatized by the pre-pubescent gang bang in It).  But this was the 80s, and King was, well, king. It seemed that every novel he published was more acclaimed and more successful than the last.  And far from corrupting my youth or warping my psychology, being a pre-teen King fan gave me entrée in the adult world.  It was something I could talk about with my family and my parents’ friends.

My mother was a King fan (this was how I gained access to all of those novels—they were just there), my uncle was a King fan. For the first time, I had something in common with adults. We could talk about King novels on something like equal ground. I felt like I had knowledge and authority about a subject for the first time. It is likely significant that this equality was achieved through literature; I am sure it is no accident that I am an English professor today, even though some of my peers might balk at applying the “L” word to King.

christine2Some of my earliest cinematic memories are thanks to King as well.  Despite the appellation of the label “misogynist” to the horror genre, King often wrote about strong female characters a young woman, especially one who didn’t quite “fit in” could identify with. There was the intensely sad, yet satisfying, prom scene in Carrie, there was little Drew Barrymore, just about my own age at the time, in Firestarter.  Amidst this mini-King storm of my childhood was Christine, a novel and a film in which the strong female character is imagined with a hemi-sized twist:  “she” is a car, and one hell of a car.  I really don’t remember the particulars of my first viewing of Christine.  It was just a part of my “King phase,” and the details have blurred together with all the other King films I saw around the same time. I wouldn’t be surprised if, at that age, I preferred Maximum Overdrive to Christine:  the evil car in that film was almost cartoon-like, which I am sure would appeal to children more than the Detroit muscle car beauty of Christine. Besides, I was going through a bit of an Emilio Estevez phase back then as well, so I am sure his presence in Maximum Overdrive appealed to me on a completely different level.

inside carNew memories: In some ways, Christine is the male version of Carrie.  The nerdy, effeminate, and consistently bullied Arnie (Stuart Gordon) undergoes a transformation as a result of his relationship with Christine that allows him to become the coolest guy in school, to get the girl, and to avenge his enemies, but all of this comes at a tremendous cost.  Christine is a possessive lover, and she makes it difficult for Arnie to take full advantage of his new-found popularity by killing anyone who garners even the slightest of Arnie‘s time and affection. 

I’ve been reading a lot of Poe and Hawthorne lately, so the first thing that struck me as I re-viewed this film for the first time in 20 years was how frequently male anxiety is displaced onto the female body in the Gothic genre.  In Poe and Hawthorne, men grapple with scientific advances, with male competition in the workplace, and with their own psychology in the presence of dead and dying women.  In Christine, Arnie and  best friend, popular jock Dennis (John Stockwell) grapple with their emerging sexualities, their position in the intense social hierarchy of high school, and male competition through their highly charged relationship to a feminized automobile.  In a way, the character of Christine turns this male-centered Gothic trope on its head.  In one sense, it is very traditional—the female, sexualized body, Christine, serves as a sort of lynch pin for male anxiety. 

From another perspective though, Christine is a highly ironic feminized symbol, being that cars, especially sexy cars like the stingray, have long been associated with male sexual and social identities.  King is able to parody the Gothic’s use of femininity and America’s “masculine” obsession with the automobile in one character.  This parody troubles the typical 80s high school stereotypes in the film.  As a friend of mine pointed out to me (Christianne from http://krelllabs.blogspot.com/), Arnie and Dennis look like traditional types initially, the cool guy and the loser, with the cool guy as white in shining armor.

But not only are their roles quickly reversed by Christine’s influence on Arnie, King immediately emasculates Dennis’s jock hero when his character suffers a debilitating injury during a football game early in the film, a scenario that could be read as a symbolic castration.  As with many of the 80s films we have discussed on this site, Christine provides an ironic commentary on the genres—horror, teen flicks, high school dramas—from which it is fashioned. 

carIn addition to the complex gender issues in the film, the other thing I will take away from my recent viewing of Christine is how beautifully made it is.  Christine is a exquisite car, she is the kind of car any exploitation film fan dreams about at night (eat your heart out, Quentin Tarantino), and she is photographed beautifully throughout the film.  The camera angles early in the film render familiar scenes, of high school hallways and family living rooms, uncomfortable and hint at the horror to come, suggesting to viewers that terror is always lurking at the edges of the familiar.  One scene in particular, of Christine, engulfed in flames, running down one of Arnie‘s tormentors, is one of the most beautiful sequences of film I’ve seen in a long time. And I couldn’t help but wonder, as I watched this moment, if it was the inspiration for Radiohead’s ethereal “Karma Police” video? 

honda civic(Ed. note: I was extremely happy to re-view this, as the first car I ever owned had an appearance in the film, briefly. It was a canary yellow 1975 Honda Civic with a pull choke.  And yes, she had a name: Charo, for she shook when she got really excited.)

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Download the ‘Christine’ with Alexandra Paul podcast here

…or, steer into our little on-site player below:

______________________________________________________________________________________

paulOur featured guest: Alexandra Paul

Christine marked one of Ms. Paul’s first big-screen outings, where she played Leigh, the new girl in school and the “other woman” to a 1958 Plymouth Fury.

Since then, Ms. Paul has been active both on screen and off, starring in such big-screen films as American Flyers, Dragnet, 8 Million Ways to Die, and Spy Hard. On television, Paul has performed on Melrose Place and has hosted  Outdoor Life Network’s Wild Watersand We’s Winning Women.

But perhaps her biggest pop-culture legacy is that of Lt. Stephanie Holden on the globally popular Baywatch series.

But Paul’s passions run deep and she has carved a formidable path for herself away from the camera as well, signing up voters well before she was age to cast her own ballot, co-writing and producing JamPacked, a documentary on overpopulation, as well as The Cost of Cool, about simple living. As an owner of an electric car since 1990, Paul was also featured in the riveting documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?, where she strapped herself to the last GM EV1 to be taken off the Burbank lot.

And if that were not enough, Paul is an award recipient from both the ACLU and the United Nations.

And dare you doubt her Baywatch athleticism, she is a finisher in the grueling IronMan Triathlon competition (Ed. note: time to rethink the title of that race!), an accomplished swimmer who has propelled herself in distances ranging from 6.2 to 10 miles in the water (and preparing for another this year, as you will hear in the podcast).

We are truly honored to have Ms. Paul join us to reflect on a film that many of our listeners recall so fondly and wish her the best in all her future endeavors.

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