Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
From one of the 1983 TEEN TITANS drug awareness public service comics, here's a ridiculous panel by veteran artists Ross Andru and Joe Giella who should have both known better! The character, not that you can tell it, is THE PROTECTOR, the blue-suited Robin clone who appears only in these three specials and is prone to making long-winded speeches espousing the anti-drug rhetoric of the moment (as these specially distributed comics were endorsed by Nancy Reagan). Don't get me wrong. He presents a lot of valid information in his rants. It's just that I'd be willing to bet that these were presented to the writers and told to insert "as is" into the storylines. Still, you'd think two talented artists could come up with some layout that didn't require this panel--the middle panel of three very wordy panels by the way--to not only be overwhelmed with dialogue but also to just plain give UP on attempting to even draw the character above his always open mouth! This looks more like what the kids might see on a bad trip!
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Barely a blip on anyone's radar, Harris' career continued going downhill for another decade or so but by the early 1990's he was a much-wanted character actor. Before his death in 2002, he became well-known to a whole new generation as Dumbledore in the first Harry Potter films. He had divorced Turkel in 1982 but she continued working steadily if not particularly memorably through the late 1990's. Borgnine, now in his 90's, has had several recent critically acclaimed performances. Art Carney never again rose to Oscar-level performances but remained for many years a familiar face and a beloved legend for his TV work of the 1950's. Character actor Anthony James retired from acting in the '90's to become a successful painter. Other supporting actors included the near-legendary Woody Strode and the prolific Seymour Cassel. The latter, although now in his 70's, lists no less than 10 performances this year alone on IMDB! RAVAGERS was directed by Richard Compton who had hit it big with MACON COUNTY LINE and RETURN TO MACON COUNTY. In the decades since, he was best known as a TV director whose work included lots of genre shows from BABYLON 5 and X-FILES to M.A.N.T.I.S. and SLIDERS. He died in 2007.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
In this case, the picture seems to have been a family affair. Co-written by Arkin's then-spouse, Barbara Dana, and featuring a number of other "Arkins" (Adam included) as you zip down through the cast. And oh, what a cast! The wonderful Carol Burnett in one of her several less than satisfying attempts at big screen success (THE FOUR SEASONS and ANNIE were others) aside, there are some amazingly enjoyable character actors listed for this one--Jack Warden, Vincent Schiavelli, Danny Aiello, Lou Jacobi, Vito Scotti, Dabbs Greer, Danny Glover (in only his second feature!), Steve McQueen's ex Neile Adams McQueen and SID F-ing HAIG!!
Directed by David Lowell Rich who had done some passable TV work for years but seemed stymied by transitioning to the big screen, the movie tells the story of a former big league baseball star turned homeless alcoholic as he's given the chance to try out for a minor league team if he can come up with the money for the trip. Local music teacher and street performer "Chu Chu" finds a briefcase with documents she's convinced will get him that money only to have the briefcase's owners attempt to take it back the hard way. Along the way, Chu Chu and the former Philly Flash fall in love.
Doesn't sound THAT bad and with all those great actors...still, would depend very much on the tone. Have you ever seen it? Apparently it was out there on cheap VHS at one point but I don't know if it's been on DVD. I'd be willing to bet that the most rabid fans of Arkin and Burnett have not seen this one.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
If you enjoyed yesterday's post on DRACULA A.D. 1972, here's a brief behind-the-scenes promo short. There was a time when these things popped up like nice little surprises before the main feature in theaters. Now we get full half hour versions of them on Showtime which, while well done and interesting, somehow still don't have the charm that these little half-reel wonders did.
Before NIGHT COURT, Harry Anderson was a fast talking con man/magician in night clubs, on variety shows and a few episodes of CHEERS. Here, from an HBO special of the early eighties, is a version of his crowd-pleasing "geek trick," the Needle Through the Arm Gag. I prefer the SNL version I have on tape somewhere but couldn't find it online. Should you wish to destroy the illusion, there are also several YouTube videos by others detailing how the trick is done!
A couple years back, I discovered the Pretty Things and couldn't figure out how I had never heard their music before. Recently, it happened again with the Texas band, the 13th Floor Elevators. The Elevators can best be described as a proto-punk/surf/garage/psychedelic group with a lead singer who had one of the most amazing voices of the day! Roky Erickson was described somewhere as a Twilight Zone Buddy Holly and I can see that! The group was a major proponent of the creative powers of LSD and, like Syd Barrett, it exasperated what may have been an already present tendency toward mental illness in Roky. Unlike Syd, Roky received many years of treatment and, while still struggling with issues today, has continued to make music. Here's a video of him in 1985, 16 years after the 13th Floor Elevators disintegrated.
Friday, June 19, 2009
The last issue of Marvel's FOOM fan magazine came out in 1978 and was put together by David Anthony Kraft (who would many years later have me interviewed for his COMICS INTERVIEW) and Jim Salicrup (who is now one of my Facebook friends!). Buried within its pages for those still reading it was an interesting interview with a man named Gene Pelc who worked in marketing and licensing in Japan for Marvel's then-parent company, Cadence. Within the article, there were several rather murky reproductions of photos which now, all these years later, seem to take on slightly more significance. The photos are of Marvel's own Stan "the Man" Lee being introduced by Gene to a couple of Japanese manga cartoonists on a seventies visit to the Far East. The first here is Stan meeting the young artist Go Nagai (not "Nagai Go" as printed) whose most popular creation remains CUTIE HONEY. The other shows Stan being introduced to the legendary Dr. Osama Tezuka himself, the father of Japanese Manga and creator, to American audiences of the day, of ASTRO BOY!
Okay, so me and my friend Terry, see, we'd been seeing all these TV ads for the new Christopher Lee Dracula movie back in '72, okay? All of the ads say that the audience will ACTUALLY PARTICIPATE in something called a "Horroritual!" COOL! We were all about the scary stuff at age thirteen, y'know? Hammer films, SCREAM IN on TV with the Cool Ghoul as host, FM, CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Alla that! And THIS particular Drac film was gonna update the series to our own modern world!! DRACULA A. D. 1972!! What a groovy idea! It just. Made. SENSE!
So anyway, we get to the theater, the RKO ALBEE in downtown Cincy. It was either opening day for the film or day two. Not sure. Now, the Albee had seen better days. Once the prestigious showplace of Cincinnati's Fountain Square, it had been just slightly up from a grindhouse for the last several years showing a mix of first run B movies, second run A pictures and blacksploitation flicks. It was kinda grungy looking by that point but with a nearly overwhelming air of lost grandeur.
VIDEO WATCHDOG's Tim Lucas informs me that his future wife Donna was most likely the person working the outside ticket booth that day. I wouldn't meet Donna officially for another two decades so we'll never know for sure. Inside the vast lobby behind the ticket booth, however, there was a coffin with a sign promoting the Horroritual! Next to it was a table with a mock newspaper promoting the picture and the Horroritual! We each eagerly grabbed one of THOSE babies as a collectors item! We were psyched, buddy! We had arrived way early and the auditorium was empty so we simply sat and rapped and read some of the stacks of comics we had both just bought on the next block at King's News. 20 cents! Jeez! Couldn't get nearly as many as we did just a couple years back for 12 or 15 cents! Maaaan!
Neither of us had a watch and eventually we had our bags and sweaters and all of our "stuff" just sprawled out across several of the hard, uncomfortable Albee chairs. No one else came in...ever. Well, that's not true--there were a couple old guys toward the back who seemed to have fallen asleep or somethin'. ANYhow, we knew time was getting close. We didn't know what the Horroritual would be but we were READY!
Then the lights dimmed....NO! As often happened in those days, then the picture started! It would be a few more minutes before the lights dimmed! The picture started...CRESCENDO! Awww, maaan! The second feature was on first! It was an okay suspenser with my favorite actress, Stefanie Powers and a creepy actor named James Olson ("Jimmy Olsen! Hahahahahhaha! We thought THAT was funny!). Awright, now...90 minutes later. That's out of the way! Bring on the Horroritual!
DRACULA, A. D. 1972! Wow! What an openin! All dark and gothic and creepy lighting with Van Helsing and Dracula tussling on a coach! One of the best scenes EVER in a Dracula picture! But then... Airplanes! Swinging London! Hippies! Just like real life in 1972! Hey, where's Chris Lee? We felt we knew him well enough to call him "Chris." Okay, THERE he is again...finally! What'd he do, just work, like, two days on this thing? Lots of distracting boobage, though. Good, good! Waitin' for the horroritual here. When's it happen?
After awhile, Drac gets killed...again...as expected. The lights come up aaaaaaaaaaand...nothin'! HUH??!! That must have BEEN the Horroritual, we thought...What a rip. What a cheezy way to sell a movie! Awww, maaaaan!
Cut to nearly twenty years later when I buy a cheap GoodTimes VHS of Zacherly introducing and just plain messing with a bunch of PD horror clips and trailers and what do I find hidden in this little gem? THE HORRORITUAL!!!! Well, at least the best parts of it.
The actual Horroritual which apparently the Albee projectionist simply decided not to run that day as there were only a handful of conscious people in the audience, is a short film made in conjunction with Dr. Donald A Reed's Count Dracula Society as away to cross-promote the film as well as the society. On-screen we see Barry Atwater (the vampire in that same year's TV-movie THE NIGHT STALKER) camping it up as a more traditional mittel-European-style vamp and he asks you to take the Oath to become...one of THEM!
In fact, as you probably already noticed, above is that very clip from that Zacherly tape--the Horroritual itself! The scans above are from the newspaper/flyer we picked up that day. Actor Atwater died 6 year's later. Donna and Tim Lucas got married and lived happily ever after. I haven't seen Terry since about 1990 now. Zach is in his nineties now and will probably live forever...assuming he was ever really alive at all! DRACULA A.D. 1972 is now rightly considered (except for that still awesome opening scene) one of the WORST and most dated Hammer films of them all and just last week, Chris...Ahem! Christopher Lee became SIR Christopher Lee! How time flies.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
UPDATE-6-19-Not even one guess? Good heavens people! If this were a real comic book the buyers and sellers would be all over it! Okay, fine. That's two clues. You tell me!
So there! Now go! Go back to whatever it is you were doing before! No more contests here! Grumble, grumble, grumble...see if I care!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I got to see Frank, Angelique and the two Wendys at a Seuling Con Sonja Contest in '77. That was the year they had to move the New York Con to Philadelphia for reasons I don't recall at the moment. In spite of the appearances of Berni(e) Wrightson, Barry Windsor-Smith, Jeff Jones and a ton of NYC pros, the only autographs I got that weekend were from Frank (who did a little sketch!) and Wendy Pini (whose chainmail was quite intimidating to 18 year old me). I think that's her husband and future ELFQUEST co-creator, Richard in the pic I snapped. I have a pic of Mr Thorne somewhere but it's AWOL at the moment. He was quite nice and rather soft-spoken but with a mischievous grin even during the brief moment we spoke. The only other surviving pic from the trip other than some Philadelphia monuments) is this not particularly good snapshot of my parents standing under the hotel marquee advertising the Con!
Check out http://bronzeageofblogs.blogspot.com/2009/06/frank-thorne.html for more details on Frank and a Thorne-drawn recollection of the Sonja shows!
Here are a couple of links to recent coverage of the BATMAN strip's 1966 debut in my own local paper, the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER--http://matttauber.blogspot.com/2009/05/sunday-funnies-1966-batman-and-robin.html
Monday, June 15, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Around that same time and completely unbeknownst to 12 year old rock and pop fan me, Skeeter Davis was continuing her long success on the country music charts with an autobiographical song entitled BUS FARE TO KENTUCKY. By 1973, she was having her own issues with the Grand Ole Opry. When she made a political statement onstage in Nashville in 1973, she was kicked out of the Opry. Unapologetic, it would be fifteen months later before she got enough support from longtime Opry members to be re-instated. Although it was the mid-seventies by that point, Skeeter considered her a hippie and a free-spirited flower child.
Originally, I would find out much later, she had been raised not that far from me here in Northern Kentucky. In the mid-1940's, the young Mary Frances Penick teamed up with her friend Betty Jack Davis and they began a successful radio singing career as The Davis Sisters (with Mary Frances using her childhood nicknname and adopting Betty Jack's last name). Signed and recorded by RCA in 1953, their biggest hit was entitled I FORGOT MORE THAN YOU'LL EVER KNOW. It took the two young girls on a whirlwind tour and up the charts. Fate being what it is, however, the pair were involved in an early morning collision with a sleepy driver in Cincinnati and Betty Jack was killed. There followed a complicated and complex series of family issues that left Skeeter doubting her sanity.
With other acts such as The Everly Brothers (also from Kentucky) successfully emulating the Davis Sisters' harmonies, legendary producer (and guitar god) Chet Atkins adapted or perhaps invented the concept of double-track voice recording in order to allow Skeeter to return to the charts with the trademark Davis Sisters harmonies intact by having her harmonize with herself. Skeeter Davis then began a long string of solo country successes with a couple of years of pop chart crossovers beginning with THE END OF THE WORLD in 1963.
In the early 1990's, her ex-husband, Ralph Emery, had written an autobiography in which he was vicious to Skeeter. When he did a booksigning at a Cincinnati area store (that I would actually take over years later), his negative comments on local girl Skeeter made the news with lots of yucks and nudges. I joked at the time that I wished Skeeter would write her own autobiography so WE could do a signing with her and hear HER side! At that time, she was already working on exactly that.
BUS FARE TO KENTUCKY by Skeeter Davis came out in late 1993 and at that time I was assistant manager at the Waldenbooks in Florence, Kentucky. As I was trying to track down (in those still pre-Net days for me) a way to get hold of her with my idea, her publicist called me! Seems Skeeter wanted to do a signing at the closest mall to where her relatives lived so they could all come by to visit as well as pick up a copy of her book. I ran with it. Her publicist, Leigh, was probably the easiest publicist I have ever worked with in any capacity and we quickly had chosen a date for a signing. She sent me posters, publicity material (some of which is seen here) and told me anecdotes about Skeeter on the phone. This was wonderful because, as anyone knows who's ever managed retail, we had virtually NO budget for that type of thing.
Then one day, she called to say that Skeeter was wondering if it would be okay to bring her guitar along and maybe strum a few songs. As you can imagine, I was all in favor of it but I told her I had best check with the mall manager and make sure it would be okay. Now here's where it gets interesting. Seems the mall manager not only HAD a budget but was a big country music fan. I put him in touch with Skeeter's people and within a short time, it was determined that Skeeter Davis would not only bring her guitar but her whole backing band, hot off a tour of American military bases in Germany and South Korea. The mall had already expected a big crowd that weekend for a planned car show and on extremely short notice, it was arranged for a mini-concert in center court...which was right outside my store!
By that point, though, it was less than a week away and there was very little time to publicize her appearance for anything other than the autographing. That's when I realized that the local oldies rock radio station was having their annual live concert in downtown Cincinnati the day prior to our event. I called them up and after a little bit of trouble convincing them that I was on the level, it was arranged for Skeeter to come in the night before and do a walk-on at their concert to promote our event. In exchange, what they wanted was the opportunity to display their banners at the store and at the mall and have two of their dj's do live cut-ins throughout the afternoon. Ummm...yeah. That worked for me.
On the day of the event, we had hundreds of copies of BUS FARE TO KENTUCKY but my boss was understandably worried that the whole thing had gotten out of hand. We opened on Sundays at noon. Nearly our full staff was scheduled that day and my wife, Rene, had even agreed to work as auxilary and handle photographing the event (both in color and in black and white for the press). The radio folks from WGRR had shown up early and immmediately set up shop at our storefront. They hung their banner over the autographing table and got their equipment going. About once every fifteen minutes, they did a live cut-in telling all of their listeners to come to the mall to see Skeeter for free!
Leigh arrived at the already crowded store about 12:30 PM and said that Skeeter and the band were wherever malls put such people before a mall show. At about 1 PM, the mall suddenly rocked with music when Skeeter took the stage just outside our store and stormed into an unexpectedly raucous version of SILVER THREADS AND GOLDEN NEEDLES. I was on the clock but felt justified in going out to get a close look while my wife was running up and down stairs snapping two rolls of pictures. The smooth voiced young lady I had first heard of some 22 years earlier had developed into a seasoned performer who could really rock! The audience ate it up! In the store, people started buying the book and lining up at the table for after the concert. I was called back in but made it out a few more times, particularly to see her perform a beautiful version of THE END OF THE WORLD as if it were the very first time she'd ever sung it.
The concert crowds built and we could hear her announce the signing between songs. Over the next couple of hours(!) she ran through a surprisingly diverse selection of pop standards, country hits, and some light rock! My boss kept askin me when she was going to be through as by that point we had a long line outside our store blocking the other stores down the mall. The managers of the other stores were not happy and we kept assuring them that we'd do something about it. We didn't. We secretly loved the crowd and the notoriety we were getting with the other stores.
Then I heard Skeeter say the darndest thing. From the stage, she asked, "Hey, where's Steve? Steve!" I stepped outside and someone pointed me out to her. She asked, "How long are we supposed to sing? Have we sung enough?" I was flabbergasted. Apparently I was in charge and no one had informed me! The gathered crowd cheered for more but it was by then after 3 PM so I nodded that they had done enough and gestured for her to come on over to the store.
The crowds were pleased to see her and, as she had hoped, there were a lot of relatives there. The cash registers were ringing constantly and the dj's began recording an interview between signings. My wife showed up with only a few pictures left to take and then she and I hung out with Leigh. Leigh's the woman with glasses next to Skeeter in the black and white photo seen here. Leigh was also hanging on to Skeeter's purse and after a short while, a very sleepy white dog popped his yawning head up out of said purse! Jack was the dog's name and we were told he'd been listless and hadn't eaten in days. Animal lover that she is, Rene went to the food court and got some fried chicken that she managed to get the dog to eat in the back room after tearing off the skin. Leigh was impressed and ran to tell Skeeter. Suddenly, my wife was Skeeter's favorite person! Leigh told us that Skeeter had apparently had a succession of similar dogs, some of whom appeared with her on album covers and all of whom were named Jack.
The sales, the reminiscing, the emotional reunions and the complaints from other stores continued for three hours until it was time for the mall to close at 6! The day didn't end there, however. Late in the day, two more disc jockeys from WGRR's sister station in texas arrived and it was arranged for them to interview Skeeter in the store's back room after closing! Some of the employees went home but my manager, Brenda, sat with Rene and I and just listened as the extremely animated star went on for another hour about dating Elvis, having Paul McCartney tell her her harmonies influenced the early Beatles, being fired from the Opry, getting cancer, marrying the much younger Joey Spampinato (from the always hip band, NRBQ) and, as expected, dissing Ralph Emery. After that she was anxious to actually spend a little time asking about US. She flipped through a photo album from her purse for us: "There's my Uncle! Oh, look, that's me and mama!" She flipped another one. "Oh, that's just Joey and Paul," she said, quickly moving on to, "Awww! There's my dog, Jack!" For the record, the "Joey" she glossed over was her husband who had just auditioned for touring bass player for the Rolling Stones (this was just after Bill Wyman's departure) and "Paul" was Mr. McCartney himself! Just a snapshot she had taken herself of the pair.
It had to be nearly 9 PM by the time we finally left. At the end, she invited us all to come to Nashville and stay with her some upcoming weekend. We presumed she was simply being polite in her folksy way so we all demurred. Leigh informed us that, no, Skeeter had been serious. She had often invited folks to stay for awhile...some of whom had stolen whatever they could get away with!
I went out and bought all of the Skeeter Davis albums I could find and got a few more (including her double act with NRBQ) at the Public Library. The store had Skeeter back five years later when she published a children's book but by then I had been promoted to another location. Her breast cancer resurfaced in 2001 and she died in 2004. In their obit, THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER stated that she had not performed in this area for decades. I didn't have many of the pictures anymore (we had sent some to Waldenbooks' home office and some to Skeeter) but I was able to correct them in a letter published a few days later detailing the day in 1993 when Kentucky's own Skeeter Davis, on very short notice, took Florence Mall by storm!