Saturday, December 20, 2014

Darlene Love Gets Her Groove Back! (Just in Time For Christmas)

Ever heard of singer Darlene Love? Unless you were a rabid fan of early-60s girl groups, that name is familiar because of something I got tricked into doing.

Every Christmas we hear that wonderful tune by Darlene Love 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),' her dynamic voice encased in a volcanic Wall of Sound by that crazy murderous musical genius Phil Spector. The song was included on his brilliant 1963 holiday album 'A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector.' When it was first released, on the day President Kennedy was murdered, it didn't do so well, nor did that single. Only somber Christmas carols were played on the radio that season. Retitled 'Phil Spector's Christmas Album' it was reissued by Apple Records in 1972 and charted as the 13th most popular Christmas album that year. 

A former co-worker Jay Lamey was a fanatic when it came to Spector, an evangelist if you will. He turned me on to a compilation album of The Crystals' 45s from the early sixties with (mostly) lead singer Darlene Love that blew me away - the crushing instrumentality, tenderly vibrant vocals, the audaciously inappropriate 'He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss). In late 1980, Jay and a musician friend tracked down Ms. Love, not an easy thing to do, to see if she would perform a nightclub gig, one night, to be professionally videotaped. They had a backup band who could pull it together quickly and the room ready to go... if she would agree. 

Jay asked if I could help them out. He had been negotiating with Ms. Love, who was working as a maid in Beverly Hills, but she was hesitant to commit. She'd been burned so many times, disappointed in so many so-called comebacks that she had become sick of show business. She'd also had it with touring as a backup singer for Dionne Warwick, apparently so much so she'd rather clean toilets.

Jay wasn't making the sale. He knew I was a smooth talker, professional in my manner as opposed to himself and his slovenly musician friends, and I was fluent in the language of show business. I don't know what possessed him to do so but he told Ms. Love I was a big music producer and asked that she call me so I could assuage her fears. 

Except I wasn't any kind of music producer at all, I had been writing a punk rock column for an LA gay bi-weekly (huh?) entertainment magazine. Close enough for show biz, right?

Not to mention Jay Lamey and I had a checkered history, especially after he pulled a switchblade on me one day at work and threatened to cut my throat. But I also knew the team he had assembled could do the job and it was a solid idea with little downside.

At the time I was working in a four person graphics shop, once or twice a week the secretary would take our orders and pick up lunch from the Marie Callender's. The half-hour she was out I answered the phone (because of my aforementioned gift of gab). I knew Darlene was likely to ring me any time, I just hoped she wouldn't while the receptionist was out. Of course she did so I had to explain why this successful music producer, as Jay built me up to be, was I answering the phones.

We had a nice conversation but she remained leery throughout, it was obvious the way Phil Spector had squashed her career and subsequent letdowns weighed heavy on her. Still, she expressed a strong desire for something that would lead to a renewed career, one she could finally be in control of. If anything, a strong dislike for the way she was treated by Ms. Warwick on the road was a prime motivator, that was the impression she gave me. Utterly charming, she ended the call in a non-commital fashion.

I must have said something right, a few days later Jay told me with great excitement that she had agreed to do the showcase.

The show was simply staged, singer and a five (?) piece band, in a club somewhere around Santa Monica with an audience of fans and low level music insiders sitting at round tables near the stage. She was phenomenal. We were cheering when she broke into 'He's a Rebel.' A standing ovation ushered her off the stage. This may have been her first performance since the 1960s and it was all captured on tape. This led to a gig at the Roxy on Sunset, bringing her more visibility. The music industry took notice.

Phil Spector's Christmas Album was once again re-released to great reception in 1981 on an obscure label, that's when I first heard it, the LP was very hot with the New Wave hipsters because of the ear-ringing, trippy arrangements. 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)' became a KROQ top request that December, back when 'The ROQ of the Eighties' was the shit. That the album was so well received was a surprise to all, Spector's overwrought style was considered hopelessly passe by then. Slowly, over the next decade as the unwashed masses discovered it, that LP became a Christmas staple.
Before long Steven Van Zant lured her to New York, this led to starring on Broadway, the Lethal Weapon movies, being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. David Letterman was so taken with her he had her perform  Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) every year on his late night program.

I never did know what happened to the video of that night but I did see it once, and myself in it. You're welcome Darlene Love for the career save...

This video clip is from a few years later, 1984 I guess because Darlene was wearing the same jacket I wore to a party yesterday, procured from Black Salad on Melrose that year or the next...

This is an update of a previous posting, recently found notes reminded me of the events and that I had the timeline off.

TVparty! Classic TV!

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Book About the Superstars of Classic Pro Wrestling

John Hitchcock's big book of grappling superstars is now available - just in time for Christmas. For folks who loved classic wrestling as presented and telecast on the east coast with the superstars that made the sport great. Wahoo McDaniel, Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Dusty Rhodes, Johnny Valentine, Killer Buddy, Rip Hawk, so many more.

Tons of pictures... here's a sample.

280 pages packed with over 100 rare, unseen photos along with a wealth of untold stories about your favorite grappling superstars!

Wrestling History of Greensboro 1960s-1990s!

Wrestling History of Greensboro 1960s-1990s!

Wrestling History of Greensboro 1960s-1990s!

Wrestling History of Greensboro 1960s-1990s!

Wrestling History of Greensboro 1960s-1990s!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Co-Creator of the Rudolph TV Special Has Died

He made magic with fragile paper puppets, creating one of the most enduring Christmas traditions of all time. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer co-creator Arthur Rankin, Jr. has died at age 89. The Hollywood Reporter obit.

Here's the behind the scenes story of the making of the Rudolph TV special, much of it will surprise you! It's written by Rick Goldschmidt the leading Rankin/Bass expert.

Babyland : Torture & Murder of the 1990's Rave King

For six months in 2014 I investigated the bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of Ed LeBrun, the leading east coast rave producer in the 1990s. It's a story that had never been told, not in print or on TV. I decided to take as long as necessary to uncover what the facts were, as much as anyone can for an event that happened 15 years ago. It's something I wanted very much to get right, there were so many misconceptions out there.

I didn't know Ed personally but an awful lot of my friends did. I didn't take a great deal of pleasure in telling this story, nothing 'Feel Good' about it - no winners here. I had extensive correspondence with Zachary Grimes, in the middle of a 30 year sentence for the crime, and spoke with people who were close to Ed and the perps. The story is included in my 2015 book Hamburger² .

Read the Torture & Murder of 
the East Coast Rave King (PDF)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How Hollywood Casts Blacks in Minor Roles That Look Bigger Than They Are

This is a trend that really kicked into gear in the 1980s and it still applies today.

If all your film's leads are white then the President, Police Chief, Mayor, whoever is in authority, will inevitably be black. This began as a response to cries that African-Americans were not being given the kind of exposure in the movies they deserved.

Studios felt they were covered, "Hey, the President was black!" even though the roles were small ones. Check it out next time you watch a movie with a predominantly caucasian cast.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Get Over On The Buffet - Steak Dinners for $3.00 and Change!

I'm a light eater but I love buffets. Problem is, I eat about $3.50 worth of food and buffets are upwards of $10.00 or more. And you have to tip (although I tip half of what I normally would if I have to go get the food myself). How do I know I eat only around $3.50 worth? I started getting buffets to go and that's what the total will come to.

My point, I can't eat enough in one sitting for any buffet to be cost effective. But the buffet-to-go at Golden Corral (check your local fave) is only $5.40 at lunch, $5.70 for dinner. At 4:00 they throw 5 ounce steaks on the grill, that's around $2.30 for the steak by itself. When was the last time you paid $2.30 for a steak?

Be careful though - I've gotten steaks labeled 'medium rare' that were grey-dead-overdone and one so riddled with gristle I couldn't cut it with my sharpest knife, I had to gnaw at it like a dog—and you best believe I did. To avoid this, ask the grill master or mistress to cook one for you fresh, the way you want it. And it's nicely seasoned, with MSG no doubt, but they're very tasty at Golden Corral.

Not only that—people were taking home raw steaks at $5.79 a pound, around half the price in the grocery stores! Put it on your own grill, season to taste.

Add a salad and another item with your steak to go, that'll bring you up to around $3.50 and change. Try not to put anything in your tray that sells for less than $5.70 at the store. No bread, mashed potatoes, heavy deserts. Chicken wings come in around $0.90 apiece, not a great deal but okay; get the ones with the most meat, I've found the skin on their wings to be thick and inedible. The spinach mozzarella pizza doesn't weigh very much, delicious, filling, reheats nicely. A slice of pepperoni pizza will cost about a dollar.

I like liver every once in a blue moon but GC's is horrible. The spring rolls are alright, frozen I'm guessing, but they're lightweight. Pork barbeque, when they have it, is another good buy. I'm guessing ribs aren't the best deal, like wings you're paying for the bones you aren't going to eat—then again, rib meat can be pricey.

Don't forget to be nice, the manager knows damn well you're getting over on them.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Remembering Writer Pierce Askegren

Every once in a while I'll Google someone from the distant past, all too often I find they've died. That was the case for Pierce Askegren. I met him at Mendenhall Junior High the year he lived in Greensboro, NC. He was a year older than my friend John Hitchcock and I, read comics as we did, and was really into sci-fi. So we had that in common. He was very creative and extremely intelligent.

The one incident at Mendenhall I recall most was the time Coach Loflin made him run around the building for some dumb thing or another, maybe skipping gym class for an appointment, when he got back Pierce was having a full blown asthma attack and the coach was red-faced with embarrassment.

After Greensboro he moved to Northern Virginia and we kept in touch, at least until I moved to California in 1979. Pierce graduated from James Madison University that year and began writing stories for Warren Publications along with paperback novelizations of the Marvel heroes. He even gave a minor character my name in a story he wrote for 'Creepy' magazine ("Hell's Playground", illustrated by Leo Duranona in Creepy 108) and was a big fan of the comic strips I was writing & drawing.

He also penned reviews for 'The Comics Journal.' It was a critical review of 'The Illustrated Harlan Ellison' in 1980 that drew the ire of the famous science fiction writer, leading to an extended interview for that magazine where Ellison disemboweled Pierce in print, really tore into him. It was brutal, if you've ever read Harlan Ellison rant over some injustice or other you know what I mean, he takes insults to a whole new level. He's an artist that way.

By that point I'd lost touch with Pierce, I'm not sure how that public evisceration affected him but I know he stopped writing for publication. Being the kind of guy who was bullied at school I imagine Ellison's barbs stung pretty badly.

Now I know, thanks to Wikipedia and other sources, that as a youngster Pierce took part in his parents high-wire circus act until an accident ended that career for him at age 11. That would have been just a few years before we met.

After 1980 he became a technical writer, returning to comics in the mid-1990s, once again writing prose short stories for anthologies starring Marvel Comics characters, beginning with "The Broken Land" in The Ultimate Silver Surfer. A friend and collaborator wrote: "Pierce sent along a wonderful story for 'The Ultimate Silver Surfer.' I was impressed with his knowledge of obscure Marvel trivia, his excellent characterizations, and his fine writing style. I also got along with him personally, as dealing with him I quickly learned he had an amazing sense of humor."

Besides the Marvel books he also wrote TV show adaptations for 'Alias' and 'Angel.'

Wiki: "Outside the realm of licensed properties, he wrote the "Inconstant Moon" trilogy of science-fiction novels, about corporate colonies on the moon: Human Resource (2005), Fall Girl (2005) and Exit Strategy. His last short story, "Try and Try Again," appeared in the anthology Time Twisters, released posthumously in January 2007..[1] In 2010, his Buffy the Vampire Slayer novelization, After Image (2006), was rereleased, along with two other Buffy books.

"Askegren was found dead in his Annandale, Virginia, apartment on November 29, 2006, after suffering a heart attack on an unreported date." He was 51.

Pierce was a warm, funny, curious, loyal, and talented writer. I know he must be dearly missed by his friends and family.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Joan Davis : America's Queen of Film, Radio and Television Comedy

I'm always excited to discover a new book about a legendary performer that has been largely forgotten, buried in our modern slag heap of pop culture. Especially if that person was also an influential producer and trend setter. 'Joan Davis : America's Queen of Film, Radio and Television Comedy' is one such book.

Although Joan Davis, star of early TV's 'I Married Joan', may not be as famous as Lucille Ball - perhaps because her success came before the days of color TV - she was no less important in a time when women were more or less confined to lesser, subservient roles. No blushing flower, Davis possessed a brash personality, bowling over the men who got in her way with a signature sardonic, if somewhat daffy, tone.

'Joan Davis : America's Queen of Film, Radio and Television Comedy' author David C. Tucker does a marvelous job examining this pioneering woman's career with detailed synopsis of all of her films and various series and guest appearances. It's filled with wonderful photos and written in a casual, easy-going manner that is most pleasing.

By all means take time to look at this multi-media superstar's remarkable life in this important, deeply researched book. Anyone interested in 1940s and 1950s entertainment (Joan Davis died in 1961) will find it chock full of useful information about the heyday of network radio as it evolved into the early days of TV. And if you're curious about the role of women in developing the modern sitcom this book is required reading.

You can purchase the book from the publisher McFarland or from Amazon.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Classic TV Shows Coming Soon (or Now) To DVD!


These shows from the 1970s - 1990s with a devoted fan base are coming to DVD and Blu-Ray soon:

China Beach: Season 4

My Little Margie: Volume 3

Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (Kung Fu Season One is being re-released at a lower price.)

My Favorite Martian Season 1: Collector's Edition

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 10 Best 'Cowabunga Classics'

Twin Peaks: 'The Entire Mystery' Blu-ray

Diff'rent Strokes:  Seasons 1 and 2

Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: 'The Vault Series: Volume 6'

Gunsmoke: The 10th Season, Vol. 1 & 2 on DVD!

WKRP in Cincinnati: Season One (the last release in the 00's had fans howling over the music changes and I imagine there might be even more switcharoos on this release.)


Equalizer: The Complete Season 2

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol 30

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Grady : The First Sanford & Son Spin-Off

There were two 1970s spin-offs of NBC's hugely popular 'Sanford & Son' (1972-1977) the first of which was 'Grady'.

The character of Grady was introduced on 'Sanford & Son' during season three, he basically replaced Bubba (Don 'Bubba' Bexley) as Fred Sanford's Ethel Mertz. After the 18th episode of the third season Grady replaced Fred himself when Redd Foxx boycotted the series in a dispute over money and other issues.

Unfortunately for Foxx 'Sanford & Son' earned its highest ratings while Whitman Mayo was mouthing his lines. It was a natural for NBC to order a spin-off of their biggest hit and who better than Grady, at least from their standpoint, to anchor the series.

A pilot was incorporated into a bonus 25th episode to finish out 'Sanford & Son's fourth season, one of the rare, unfunny shows of the period. In it, Grady moves from Watts to upscale Westwood to live with his daughter, her husband and their two kids.

'Grady' was readied as a 1975 mid-season replacement, the first production from Bud Yorkin after his split with Norman Lear. A theme song that was close to the iconic Quincy Jones 'Sanford' theme was composed, titles were created using the same font that 'Sanford' used, and the guys who wrote and produced many of the best early 'Sanford' storylines penned the opening script.

What went wrong? A lousy timeslot for one thing - against 'The Waltons' and 'Barney Miller' - and a bland supporting cast, with the exception of Haywood Nelson as Grady's nephew.

Grady was never a well developed character anyway, just a utilitarian player with no remarkable qualities, so this sitcom lasted just a few weeks. Mayo's last episode of 'Sanford & Son' would be the first of the fifth season; after his show flopped Grady was nowhere to be seen until 'The Sanford Arms' debuted, the show that replaced 'Sanford & Son' when Redd Foxx left the production for good in 1977. 'Sanford Arms' also tanked and was gone in a few weeks.

Grady also appeared on two episodes of 'Sanford' in 1981. (Haywood Nelson moved over to 'What's Happening!!' in 1976 from the same producers as 'Grady'.)

 Whitman Mayo was a regular on two short-lived series - 'Hell Town' in 1985 and 'The Van Dyke Show' in 1988 but he was a guest star on dozens more.

In early 1996 Conan O'Brien instigated a national search to find Whitman Mayo and featured the actor on his show after weeks of build up. Coincidentally, Whitman Mayo died in 2001 at Grady Memorial Hospital in the city of Atlanta where he taught drama.

Did you know: Redd Foxx' real last name was Sanford.

More Classic TV Fun at TVparty!!

The Doris Day Show : She Didn't Want To Do It!

What a strange history this sitcom had - five years on the air (1968-1973) and four major format changes.

The show never should have happened. Admittedly "not a career minded person," Doris had no desire to do a TV show, in fact she was openly hostile to the idea. She'd been knocking out hit films and hot-selling record albums at a furious pace for two decades and felt she deserved a break from the business, maybe even retire altogether.

She was therefore surprised to discover after her husband's unexpected death that she was nearly broke and he had signed her - against her expressed wishes and without informing her - to star in a sitcom for CBS. To her shock and horror, filming was set to begin in just a few weeks.

"Oh, you know, I cried, but a series keeps one so busy," Doris told TV Guide in 1969, "I didn't really have time to be unhappy. And my son helped me a great deal, and still does, and I have a lot of good people around me."

Shows like Mayberry RFD and Green Acres were topping the ratings when this series debuted hence the 'country girl' approach.

From country girl to successful, sophisticated  big city gal. By '73 the country shows were gone so this season 5 opening might remind you a bit of The Mary Tyler Moore Show which was in the Top Ten on CBS at the time.

Read more about The Doris Day Show at TVparty!

Most Risque Answers from The Hollywood Squares

As a school kid summer not only meant swimming and hanging out it also opened up a world of television not available when your daylight hours are taken up with the three Rs. The Hollywood Squares on NBC was one of my summer faves.

It was a seventies thing - where genial host Peter Marshall and 9 stars brought laughs to America each morning at noon throughout the 1970s, leaving the air as the decade ended in 1980.

Center Square Paul Lynde was joined over the years by regulars Charley Weaver, Rose Marie, Wally Cox, George Gobel and John Davidson - guest-stars on the big Tic-Tac-Toe board included literally hundreds of television and movie stars, both the great and near-great.

In 1974, Paul Lynde was voted the funniest man in America in a nationwide poll. It was largely for his snappy answers on The Hollywood Squares. Everyone believed that Lynde came up with these pithy comments off the cuff when in fact most of the quips from the stars were scripted - celebrities were free to use the provided joke answers or come up with their own if they wished.

All the old folks in the seventies loved Paul Lynde, but I doubt if anyone could have told you why. Here are some of the most risque answers from The Hollywood Squares:

Whirlybirds : 1950s / '60s Syndicated TV Show

Whirlybirds is one of those TV shows I remember fondly - even though I only got to see it once a year as a kid. Our local station didn't carry this syndicated adventure program but a television station at the beach where we vacationed as a family did.

Whirlybirds aired from 1957 well into the 1960s,  a syndicated program with a huge juvenile audience. 111 episodes were filmed between 1956 and 1959 and reruns continued to be popular for many years afterward. I saw it in the mid-1960s. The ability to film a TV show in the sky was a new development in the mid-1950s, adding to the overall excitement for early tube watchers.

The half-hour adventures centered around Chuck Martin (Tobey) and Pete (P.T.) Moore (Hill), owners of 'Whirlybirds, Inc', and their faithful secretary Janet Culver (Sandra Spence).  Janet left after the first season and was replaced by Helen Carter (Nancy Hale) so I guess she wasn't so faithful after all.

Often the boys would be called in to help the police locate an escaped prisoner or save some stranded fool who wandered into the middle of nowhere. This would inevitably lead to one of the guys dangling at the end of a rope at some point in the episode - when they didn't just outright jump out of the helicopter. Don't try this at home!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Why I No Longer Believe We Went to the Moon

Watching 'Dark Side of the Moon' and other documentaries I have to admit I came away convinced, we did not go to the moon, it couldn't have happened and we couldn't do it today with existing technology. You can watch the film for yourself (on Netflix Streaming) or ignore it, either way. But it got me thinking about my area of expertise, television.

Have you ever seen a TV camera from 1969? They're big, heavy, bulky things that couldn't even transmit a signal to the engineer's booth just a few feet away. They required big, thick cables to get the signal from the studio floor to the director. How could the astronauts beam a signal back to Earth? It took a massive tower to broadcast a TV signal for a single county alone.

More on the Moon images:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Matt Bomer in The Normal Heart on HBO

Check out Jim Longworth's awesome interview with Matt Bomer, one of the stars in HBO's upcoming 'The Normal Heart', a drama that takes place during the 1980s AIDS epidemic. Here's an excerpt:

Bomer definitely knows about taking risks. While still the star of his own prime time drama series, he came out at the 2012 Chase awards ceremony. The year before he had quietly married Simon Halls and they now have three beautiful children. Of course, Matt was just a child himself when Kramer's play takes place, so I wondered if he could identify with the characters in the film.

MB: Absolutely. I think anybody who's ever come out can identify with that in some regard. Because YOU don't change, but the perspective of the way the world sees you, and the way other people see you, can change.

In my previous life time designing movie posters Barbra Streisand had the rights to 'The Normal Heart'. Before I left LA in '94 it was on our schedule - and was a go - when abruptly she moved over instead to 'The Mirror Has Two Faces'.

More TV fun at TVparty!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Two Paintings by Batman Artist Neal Adams for Steven Spielberg's HOOK


These two original 11 x 17 Neal Adams marker (or Dr. Martin's Dyes) paintings were unused movie poster designs for Steven Spielberg's HOOK, meant for a teaser poster. No more than a couple of dozen people ever saw these.

I worked for the company that commissioned these. When they moved from West Hollywood to Beverly Hills I rescued a few things from the trash, mostly random color xeroxes and a few large comps, and this was among them. I forgot I had these 2 paintings until I opened an envelope and discovered them 25 years later.

It's a miracle it didn't end up lost to the ages, I remember Adam's doing a bunch of spectacular paintings for 'Star Trek VI' hopefully they exist somewhere, I wish I had kept a set of color repros.

(I'm selling these now on Ebay along with two sketches Adams did for 'Double Impact'.)

Friday, May 9, 2014

How To Tell If Your Gay Friend is Secretly Attracted to You, a Straight Guy

In my youth I was a master at seducing hot guys, it helped being young and attractive myself. So many gay guys can't let go of that in later years, making a spectacle of themselves chasing what you can only get with money when you reach that certain age—a smokin' hot boy toy.

I enjoy hanging out with sexy straight guys in their 20s but found I had to take myself out of the game if I wanted to stay on the field. (I just can't make a play. The ball can roll right up next to my foot, all I can do is look away and whistle.) Any attraction I have for my friends is mitigated by the fact that they are so much more beautiful on the inside than they are on the outside—and that's saying a lot. I would rather have the connect to that exciting part of them that they share with their friends than try to initiate some forced sexual encounter that isn't going to happen anyway. By not lurking on the sidelines I'm surrounded by the best-looking young hotties I've ever know. And I worked in Hollywood!

I honestly don't have sexual feelings for them, if I did it would be nakedly obvious and we wouldn't be friends. In that spirit...

Here's how you can tell if your gay friend secretly wants to 
have sex with you and is playing the long game:

1) Every other thing out of his mouth is about sex and he takes your offhanded comments and twists them into crass sexual innuendos. He's hanging with you and has sex on his mind.

2) He manages to get you alone with him a lot, building an intimacy. And he likes to talk about things that make you emotional.

3) He reacts differently when he's alone with you as opposed to when you're with other people.

4) He gets undressed in front of you often. He's hoping you'll make the first move.

5) He gets you drunk to talk about pussy, an attempt to get you horny. The old joke: What's the difference between a straight guy and a gay guy? A six pack of beer. (That's actually a little harsh, a twelve pack is more like it.)

6) He has to hug you when you meet and you're not a touchy-feely kind of guy.

7) He's always super-critical of the girls you like. It's the two of you against the world kind of thing. If you're already getting laid you won't likely be so horny you'll consider having sex with a dude. That said, the first straight guy I had a relationship with had a girlfriend so it's not a deal killer.

Oh sure kids, things have changed a lot over the years, straight guys are a lot more open to gay sex today than they ever were for one thing. But the fundamentals of seduction will never change.

And if you're gay trying to get with your supah-fine straight friend... you're welcome! Gay/straight sex is awesome and no, it won't turn a hetero queer, nor does it mean he's secretly gay.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

That 70's Show Star Found Dead

Lisa Robin Kelly (Laurie Foreman in the sitcom 'That 70s Show') died Wednesday night following a battle with alcohol abuse. has reported that Kelly died while in rehab; last year she was arrested on suspicion of DUI. She was 43.

CW Greenlights The Flash, Rob Thomas' iZombie

The CW has unveiled their lineup for the 2014-15 season and it includes "The Flash" and Rob Thomas' "iZombie". DC Comics' venerable superhero (created in the 1940s) "The Flash" is from "Arrow" producers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns, the star is Grant Gustin (Glee, 90210).

From Warner Bros. Television "iZombie" is based on the DC Comics title of the same name from the producer of "Veronica Mars".

To make room for new upfronts "The Carrie Diaries," "Star-Crossed" and "The Tomorrow People" were cancelled. The CW passed on pilots "Identity" and its "Supernatural" spinoff.

Classic TV at TVparty!

Jet Magazine Ending Print Publication

Add Jet magazine to the list of former publications like McCalls, Newsweek and Saturday Evening Post that have moved online exclusively. Jet was a critical lifeline in the African-American community for 6 decades, especially so in the 60s and 70s.

“The print version is going away, but the franchise is not going away,” said Desiree Rogers, CEO of Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Company.

For more...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sky King : Saturday Mornings

One of the very first TV shows I remember watching as a kid was Sky King, Saturday mornings at noon. I recently watched a few episodes on DVD and enjoyed them very much - simple but effective early TV dramas with a western feel mostly shot on location in Southern California.

Based on a popular radio series, Sky King remains one of the most watchable of the 1950's kid shows with relatively realistic dramatic storylines that work thanks in large part to stoic star Kirby Grant who really gives it his all. Sadly, the show's rarely been seen since the 1960s.

Here's what Wiki says: The television show began airing on Sunday afternoons on NBC between September 16, 1951, and October 26, 1952. These episodes were rebroadcast on ABC's Saturday morning lineup the following year November 8, 1952, until September 21, 1953, when it made its prime-time debut on ABC's Monday night lineup. It then aired twice-a-week in August and September 1954, before ABC canceled it. New episodes were produced when the show went into syndication in 1955. The last new episode, "Mickey's Birthday", aired March 8, 1959. After that, the show turned up on the Saturday schedule, in reruns that played for several years.

Here's an entire episode of Sky King from season 2:

More on Sky King!

Johnny Otis talks Screaming Jay Hawkins, Dinah Washington

This is from 1984. I called in to Johnny ('Hand Jive') Otis' radio program, a phenomenal weekly show where he played Blues, gospel, R&B recordings and the like. I can't believe how meeeeellloooow I sounded then.

I asked Johnny about the legendary Dinah Washington, one of my fave performers. At the time I had no access to any info on her. Imagine my surprise at his answer.

Johnny told me later about Dinah Washington taking Little Eva out for an afternoon. Otis was horrified when they returned and Eva, a sweet innocent young girl, was all painted up like a whore and dressed like a tramp with Dinah laughing hysterically at the whole scene.

The SJH concert Johnny Otis talked about was at Madame Wong's not Club Lingerie, I was wrong.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sammy & Company : The Rat Packer's 1970s Daytime Talk Show

So many entertainers had variety and talk shows in the 1970s, many people don't know that Sammy Davis Jr. had a weekday syndicated program in the same vein as Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas and Dinah Shore.

The video won't embed but here's a link to an interview from Sammy & Company with another legendary singer, Minnie Ripperton.

Filmed from Vegas and Harrah's Lake Tahoe with orchestra leader George Rose, Sammy & Company never caught on and was gone after two seasons (1975-1977) but what a groovy DVD release that could be. This was Sammy at his peak and there were a wealth of guest stars to provide fascinating television.

Chita Rivera, Richard Pryor, Lola Falana, Wayne Newton and dozens of other casino entertainers appeared. I don't recall but doubt that fellow Rat Packers Dean & Frank ever appeared. Perhaps this series was a bit too Vegas-style for middle America, too nighttime for the daylight.

It didn't air in the area I grew up in, maybe Sammy being black made some Southern stations hesitant to pick the show up. But for two years the television eye captured an immortal entertainer at his peak hosting a wealth of amazing guest stars, let's hope the tapes survived.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How to Be a Jewish Son - Mel Brooks really runs with it!

Check out this amazing article about David Susskind -  and here's video from Susskind's legendary sit-down with Mel Brooks, David Steinberg, George Segal and others on—How to Be a Jewish Son. Fantastic!


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Best Season of the Classic DALLAS

Best Season of Dallas Ever!

Dallas: The Fourth Season

The fourth year of Dallas roared to a start by slowly winding up the 'Who Shot JR' story arc then jumped along from one tawdry storyline to another until a body was found floating in the pool at the end of the season. Like a trashy novel you take on vacation, with plotlines like these TV's most popular drama was the first post-modern nighttime soap opera, the show transcended the seventies to become a genuine eighties sensation.

Dallas re-defined network drama in 1980-81 when this fourth season aired. The stuck-in-the-'70's fashions and idealized apartments decorated in brown toned furniture and foil wallpaper provide a lurid backdrop for the wanton, drunken behavior that was elevated to high art here; on Dallas infidelity was a valiant pursuit.

Besides JR's sneaky moves (Larry Hagman's performance is a joy to behold) season four follows a sodden Sue Ellen chasing after her 'dead' lover Dusty, trashy Afton sleeping her way to local nightclub stardom, Lucy's luckless marriage to an uptight med student who rejects her family's fortune (idiot), Pam's pathetic attempts to hold her sham of a marriage together, Cliff Barnes' clownish attempts to upstage JR, and other assorted mayhem.

Its comedia-del-art with laughs from start to finish, including episode four - Who Done It? - which became the most-watched TV program of all time when it aired.

Dallas with Barbara Bel Geddes

For me family matriarch Miss Ellie, played by the marvelous actress Barbara Bel Geddes, gave Dallas its heart, along with the legendary Jim Davis, who was sadly dying of cancer while this season was shot. Davis grew more noticeably frail as the year progressed but he still retained that powerful presence that made him one of the motion picture western genre's finest actors. He passed away shortly before the end of this season.

Here are some highlights from later years:

If you only watch one season of Dallas on DVD I suggest this would be it. On the DVD set, as an extra, you get the 2-hour special 'Dallas Reunion: The Return to Southfork', which aired on CBS in November 2004 and included most of the original cast. This is one fantastic trashy trip back to the year 1980!

Dallas with Lucy Ewing and her husband Mitch
Lucy finds true love and eternal happiness in season 4 when she marries that twit Mitch. (Yeah, right!)

Match Game

Can you forgive me for being a fan of cheesy TV? You'll have to, I'm unabashed about it. Summertime weather like we're enjoying now makes me think of watching Match Game.

The 1970s version of Match Game (1973-1979 on CBS daytime) was based on The Match Game airing on NBC from 1962-1969; both shows were hosted by Gene Rayburn. The original series was a low key program, the seventies version got raucous and raunchy, at least by the daytime TV standards of the 1970s.

Revived in 1973, Match Game quickly became the number-one rated daytime show for the next several years. The premise: six celebrities answered salacious questions posed by Gene Rayburn, who was nominated for five Daytime Emmy awards during the series' run.

On the original series there were two panels each with one celebrity and 2 audience members; on the newer version two contestants compete with 6 celebrities answering the questions.

Match Game 1974 Regular panelists included Charles Nelson Reilly, Richard Dawson, Brett Somers, Fannie Flagg and Betty White with the other three slots occupied by random visiting stars like Jo Ann Pflug, Connie Stevens, Scoey Mitchell, Elaine Joyce, and Dick Martin.

Every January, the title changed to reflect the new year - all the way up to Match Game '79. There was also Match Game PM, new episodes that ran in syndication from 1975 -1982 with the same cast. The announcer was Johnny Olson.

Brett Somers / Match Game 74An entire week's worth of shows (6 in all) were taped in one day. A buffet with alcohol was served between shows; Brett Somers preferred sipping vodka and soda between shots. By the final taping, the cast would get pretty buzzed, including Gene!

Brett and Charles Nelson Reilly went from being second bananas on TV shows to household names with their popularity on Match Game. Betty White and Fannie Flagg were also given revived careers thanks in part to this daytime hit.

Gene Rayburn passed away on November 29, 1999. Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly both died in 2007, she was 83 and he was 76.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fabulous Lola Falana!

Pioneering Vegas Female Triple Threat Entertainer!

Lola Falana. This one woman blast of dynamite ignited the stages in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe, a multi-talented beauty that attracted high rollers searching for entertainment of the highest order. So much so she was billed as "Miss Las Vegas" on the casino marquees in the 1970s.

A protege of Vegas legend Sammy Davis Jr., Lola got her start on Broadway in the 1960s, later migrating with Sammy to the West Coast where she found success on television.

But it was her electrifying Las Vegas show that really set the public's heart afire. She danced as well as she sang... and her voice was soulful and sexy. Her sleek look was crafted by Bob Mackie, famous for his gowns for Cher.

Here is the lady singing 'Sunny' in Spanish: 

Lola was a popular guest star on network and syndicated variety shows. Here she is from Sha Na Na in the 1970s.


Lola! was a series of four ABC specials seen during January and March of 1976, produced by Allan Blye and Bob Einstein of Sonny & Cher and Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour fame.

Read all about Lola Falana's remarkable career on TVparty!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Full episode of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson from 1986

A (mostly) complete episode of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson from 1986 with guests Joan Rivers, Joan Embrey from the San Diego Zoo and Philip Michael Thomas from the big hit show that year, Miami Vice. And, of course, Johnny's monologue.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

High-larious Down South Prank Calls Y'all!

Get ready to laugh at these crazy calls - with a tangy Southern twist!

Willie P. Richardson pranks a lady about her dirty house. Doesn't everyone know a woman just like this? Down South we do!

A Roy D. Mercer classic - a call to a Navy recruiter about a dead hamster named Liberace.

Mercer (created by disc jockeys Brent Douglas and Phil Stone on radio station KMOD-FM in Tulsa, Oklahoma) pranks the Police Chief - hilarious! "She's been sexy harassed."

Teens with too much time on their hands commandeer the intercom at Walmart. Super silly - but they show you how to do it. Unleash your inner middle-schooler.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Lurid, Sexualized 1970s Dark Shadows Movies

Whenever a big screen adaptation of a TV show is released it's a disaster, for decades that's been the case. Dark Shadows with Johnny Depp being a prime example. But there was a string of motion pictures based on television shows that were as good or better than the originals. They tended to be the very first such adaptations - McHale's Navy (1964), McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force (1965), Munster Go Home! (1964), Batman (1966), and House of Dark Shadows (1970).

For me, House of Dark Shadows stands as the most effective TV adaptation to the big screen until Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan came along in 1982.

The daytime soap opera Dark Shadows struggled to find an audience before Jonathan Frid joined the cast as Barnabas Collins. This happened in 1967 just after Batman ignited in primetime; both Frid and Adam West became instant pop icons. Perhaps it was the success of the Batman movie that prompted MGM to green light a film version of Dark Shadows four years later.

The motion pictures House of Dark Shadows from 1970 and the sequel Night of Dark Shadows from 1971 finally appeared on DVD in 2012. Interest in the Johnny Depp film version briefly made the series super hot again. Who would have thought this daily soap opera would rise again after the failed primetime revival in 1991?

House of Dark Shadows is a faithful re-telling of the origin of Barnabas Collins straight from the soap opera plotline, only far more gruesome and bloody. Creator and producer Dan Curtis constructed a rock solid scenario so a blood curdling time was had by all. There are many creepy moments and genuine chills in this gothic tale of a vampire released after more than a century in captivity, consumed with a longing to romantically reconnect with his long-buried past.

Night of Dark Shadows, on the other hand, was schlocky and seemingly meant to go straight to the Drive-In circuit, the equivalent in 1971 of going direct to DVD. Like the television series, part of the film takes place in the past but there's no Barnabas - instead Quentin Collins (David Selby) is the center of attention, a silly prat possessed and in love with the ghost of Angelique.

Most of the cast of House of Dark Shadows returned except Jonathan Frid and Joan Bennett (Elizabeth Collins Stoddard). I guess she stayed dead after the last movie. Actors who played supporting characters that were offed in the first film were reincarnated with different identities in Night of Dark Shadows - but then that was a common thread on the TV show as well. This movie was a great deal more violent and overtly sexual that the previous, but not the least bit scary. I was left totally confused by the whole tawdry affair, being a fan of the show and seeing familiar characters in so murky a setting.

The director's cut of Night of Dark Shadows was announced in 2012 but I never saw it released, just the theatrical version. Night was directed by Dan Curtis but MGM forced him to rush cut over 35 minutes from his finished film. This might account for the lack of cohesion.

 Read more about the 1970s Dark Shadows movies!

WBIG's Legendary Morning Man Bob Poole : Poole's Paradise

Bob Poole was the morning voice on WBIG 1470 AM in Greensboro, NC for 25 years. He got his start at WBIG in the 1930s. After the war he became a broadcast sensation with Poole's Paradise on WWL in New Orleans where he could be heard coast to coast if you knew where to tune your crystal set on the AM dial.

Bob was the first to mix records, comedy and sound effects and became a template for the radio DJs that followed. After 4 years in New York Bob returned to Greensboro in 1952 where 'The Duke of Stoneville' reigned supreme, no other station could get near his ratings.

Gloria & Bob Poole on a mid-fifties cruise

These clips are from his stint on the Mutual Broadcasting System from 1948-1952. Poole's Paradise was a hit around the country at 2:00-3:00 weekday afternoons from 1948-1952 but did not air in New York City.

Poole's Parlor aired on WOR in New York, not a part of Mutual. This was an evening variety show that I think lasted one season. They made Bob out to be a ladies man - news to his wife Gloria and daughter Ashley who were listening at home!

Charmer in the Dell was a Sunday morning music program that aired in the summer of '49. A bit like The Lawrence Welk Show.

More from Poole's Paradise, including a mash-up with different versions of 'Jingle Bells.'

More Poole's Parlor, a half-hour program.

Here's my tribute to the great Bob Poole in O.Henry magazine.

More about Bob Poole at TVparty!

Sonny & Cher in Las Vegas

Sonny: Well, they tell me that you're the sex symbol on the show.

Cher: Only by default...

After Sonny & Cher's hit records dried up at the end of the 1960s Sonny Bono reinvented their act as a lounge routine, music with comedy folded in.

CBS programmer Fred Silverman was so impressed with this new Sonny & Cher he gave them an hour on the network during the summer of 1971. The show was a smash hit.

With a top ten television series and fresh hit records ("All I Ever Need Is You", and "A Cowboy's Work Is Never Done") burning up the charts in 1972, Sonny & Cher quickly moved from the small night spots into the big Casino showrooms on the Strip, playing to sell out crowds.

Their signature tune, 'I Got You Babe' was the number they always closed both their TV shows and their Vegas dates with. The duo released 2 live from Vegas albums, this is from the second, with Cher singing one of her solo hits from the 1970s:

Sonny and Cher went bust in 1974 when the duo divorced and their highly rated TV show was cancelled. Cher was given her own series on CBS while Sonny Bono got his production greenlit on ABC. Sonny's show was yanked after a 13 episodes, he pulled together a nightclub act with three background singers (including Darlene Love) but it was not well received in Las Vegas or on tour in places like The Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, NJ where the act was booed off the stage.

Cher had more luck on TV solo but after two seasons it was announced that Sonny & Cher would be reuniting for a new variety series. Las Vegas dates and a new LP were announced but they never came to fruition. Here's what the new version of the TV show looked like:

The Sonny & Cher Show lasted two seasons and was cancelled due to lackluster ratings. Cher once again jump started her career when she returned to Sin City as a solo act and a Disco hit, 'Take Me Home.'

Decades later she headlined a spectacular stage show in Las Vegas that enjoyed a long run before retiring from live performing. At least for now!

Eddie Murphy to Play James Bond?

Back in 1992 I was working on the movie poster for 'Boomerang' (art directed by Alex Swart), a film starring Eddie Murphy. Eddie was always a problem, he wouldn't do photo shoots and hired a relative to do the on set photography that we had to use. It was bad, especially for our use. So we were already severely limited.

 'Boomerang' was a romantic comedy but word came down from Paramount - Eddie had to be seen in a tux for the poster, and we should make him look as distinguished as possible - because Eddie wants to be the next James Bond. The last Bond film, 'Licence to Kill,' had been a disappointment in 1989 as was the star, Timothy Dalton.

The series was in flux, there was still no Bond sequel in production three years later. In fact, Timothy Dalton stated at that time, "My feeling is this will be the last one. I don't mean my last one, I mean the end of the whole lot. I don't speak with any real authority, but it's sort of a feeling I have."

 That's when Eddie Murphy decided he'd be perfect as the international super-spy and word went out he wanted the part.

As absurd as it sounds, in many ways he was the frontrunner. No other Box Office draw was stepping up, eager to claim the role. Industry insiders reasoned at the time that 'Licence to Kill' had been so deadly serious maybe a lighter approach was what was needed. Murphy's star was at its peak in 1992 and he had the clout; indeed if Bond had been a Paramount Pictures property instead of MGM/UA he would have secured the role.

 Despite the limitation of Eddie in a tux (a body double shot with a stripped on head that's basically an illustration so much work had to be done) 'Boomerang' netted $131 million at the box office but the role of James Bond eluded him, eventually going to Pierce Brosnan for 1995's 'Goldeneye', a successful reboot of the series.

Here's the extended trailer -  beware of trailers that give away too much of the film, it usually means the movie is baaaad. Dig those crazy shoulder pads - on the guys!

Classic TV fun at TVparty!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My David Brenner Story

The sad news came days ago that the brilliant comic David Brenner passed away, he was a favorite of Johnny Carson. No wonder, the comedian was an amazing storyteller. I remembered him mostly from some very funny game show and daytime talk appearances but he was best live in concert.

In the fall of 1977 I was 20, just out of college working as an actor when WTTG's Panorama noontime show announced they were having a David Brenner look-a-like contest. People always told me I looked like him so what the heck. WTTG was the closest thing to a cable network at that time, one of several superstations (including TBS and WGN) that could be seen in dozens of markets. Great exposure.

Panorama was a weekday live talk show with big name guests and musical segments so it had the feel of a laid-back variety show at times. A scaled down Merv Griffin Show. I was booked and told that David was co-host for the day and there would be a segment where he would interview us. Of course I told all my friends to tune in.

The most exciting part right away was being in the Green Room with comedy guests Al Franken & Tom Davis who I recognized from their work on Saturday Night Live. SNL was the hottest show on TV in 1977, they were writers and performers from the beginning. For myself, and everyone I knew, being on SNL was the greatest gig in show business. I was the only other person in the Green Room so they peppered me with a few questions, I could tell they were high and I guess they thought I was OK, so I sat back and watched while they did some hilarious schtick with the television set.

We were told David was running late so musical guests Gotham from New York were given an extra segment or two, they were an energetic band with guitars and horns, big in NYC.

It wasn't until 45 minutes into the live hour-long program that he made it through the door. That meant no couch time, just a pan across the four of us for the contest. The winner received tickets for the sold out performance that night at the Kennedy Center. It wasn't me. In fact, David said, "This guy looks nothing like me" but then I didn't want to win. I was just embarrassed I told my friends.

David talked with us after the broadcast, was really nice, apologized profusely then called over his business manager to put our names on the guest list. This North Carolina boy had never been on a big-time guest list before!

I didn't have anything else to do so I drove over to Kennedy Center a couple of hours early, have a look around, take in the beautiful surroundings. Eventually, and not at all by accident, I found myself on the stage that was set up for Brenner with a single mike, front and center. A worklight was the only illumination. I walked up to the mike, looked across that magnificent theater, standing where the greatest legends of show business have stood, feeling so big and so small at the same time.

As I was walking off stage, to cheers of 'Encore! Encore!' from the packed house in my mind, a stagehand stopped me but only momentarily. "Oh, sorry Mr. Brenner, go right ahead." I did, right into the dressing rooms.

When it came time to take our seats I was approached by a number of people who recognized me from the show earlier that day, from just those few quick shots. That was eye opening. As was the mob that surrounded me in the lobby after the concert when someone yelled, "I saw you on TV today!" Forty people gathered close around me in an instant, staring at my face trying to figure out who I was. Very scary.

Just in my brief exchange with David Brenner I could tell he was a good guy, and this was the peak of his career. Thanks for the tickets David!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Is This the Face of the Zodiac Killer?

Last month a guy in upstate New York claimed his best friend confessed to the Zodiac killings, he was (in this telling) Louis Myers who began his killing spree at age 17, inspired to do so because of a breakup with his girlfriend. That's why he targeted couples. Myers (apropos name, huh?) died in 2001.

There is evidence that puts Louis Myers in the right place / right time to have committed the twisted series of murders that took place in the Bay Area of California in 1968-69. Here's more on the story and a closer look at the killings.

Legendary Movie Trailer Voice Over Artist Hal ('In A World...') Douglas has died...

One of the kings of the movie trailer voice-over, known (along with Don LaFontaine) for his deep, resonant 'In A World...' teasers over the three or four decades, died on March 7, 2014. Unlike other masters of the genre Hal lived in Virginia, not LA.


Here's a great example that shows Hal at work, you'll also remember him from hundreds of TV show and cable network ads.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Not That Anyone Will Miss It - But Say Goodbye To Sbarro.

Billy Joel wrote 'Say Goodbye to Hollywood,' a song that captured an aching sense of longing for the great times of the past. Contrast that with this - Say Goodbye to Sbarro.  Two trends are converging that threaten to make one of America's best known restaurant chains - Sbarro - extinct. Notice I said best known, not best loved.

For one Americans are eating a lot less take-away pizza in general, in favor of other quick finger food options like Chipotle. And shoppers are avoiding malls as well, it's a trend that has finally run its course, thousands of shopping centers have been shuttered around the country over the last few years.

When your business model is predicated on selling sub-standard, bland pizza at the mall you're screwed. That's why Sbarro corporate is experimenting with new (hopefully better tasting) custom pies in stand alone stores. But when your name is synonymous with bad food you have a PR nightmare to overcome first.

And Sbarro filed for bankruptcy for the second time in 3 years today. This following the closing of 155 locations in February 2014. My only question - what took so long?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Johnny Carson Sex Tape Surfaces (No, For Real!)

News has surfaced of a Johnny Carson sex tape, and it appears to be legit.

Reportedly the film starts out with Johnny massaging his johnny poolside, as you do,  before his wife (no one's sure which one) enters the picture to give him oral pleasure. The scene then switches to the bedroom where Carson uses his porn star sized member to... well, you can guess the rest.

The Carson Trust has threatened to sue the owner of the video if it is mass produced and distributed (because Carson owned the copyright on his sex acts, right?) so some lucky (rich) collector will end up with it. Of course, everything finds its way to the net eventually.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dramatic & Emotional 'Coming Out' Videos

Why do people put their most intimate moments online for everyone to see? I have no idea - what could be more personal and private than the moment you come out of the closet to your parents? And yet here we are...

This young man breaks the news to his relatives during a game of Spades. It's a remarkable moment of reluctance and acceptance; not unlike coming to the realization that you are gay in the first place. Amazing.

This fellow takes a more aggressive approach:

An emotional build-up to telling mom, he's stating the obvious but how sweet...

One of the most compelling coming out videos from a few years ago, a nervous serviceman breaks the news to his father in Alabama.

And then he tells his mom who's "more conservative" than dad...

A heartbreaking ending... but you have to give the poor family members credit, it's not something many people can process easily, over the phone. Sometimes it takes years to accept.

Then there's showing up at church with your boyfriend in Gibson County, TN. When your Daddy's the Pastor? Gunshots break out!  Weeks later the Pastor was arrested on charges of theft. Hey, 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' IS in the top ten - but not being gay isn't.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cool New Classic TV Podcast

Comedian Ken Reid has a cool new Podcast, check it out! "It's called 'TV Guidance Counselor'. The premise is this, I own every TV Guide from 1980-1995 or so. Someone comes over my house, picks a random TV Guide, writes down everything in it that they want to watch in prime time (8-10pm) and then the podcast is us discussing their choices."

Bette Midler's 1970's Albums

Bette Midler in the 1970s

After an initial rush of success in 1972-73, Bette Midler lost her footing as a recording artist, her LPs for the rest of the decade were hit and miss.

Midler's first two albums, produced (mostly) by Barry Manilow, were both top ten hits that yielded a smash #1 single 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy' and another top 40 hit 'Friends.' By 1974, Barry Manilow was beginning his phenomenal rocket to stardom leaving Bette Midler to languish on vinyl, a great talent stifled by poor musical choices, erratic management and heavy handed producers.

Released in 1976 (after a 3 year sabbatical her advisors warned could be - and was - career crippling) Bette's third album 'Songs for the New Depression' failed to reach a large audience despite some nice moments like a duet with Bob Dylan and a cover of Tom Waits' 'Shiver Me Timbers.'

The single, a disco version of 'Strangers in the Night', went to #7 on the dance charts but failed to sell many copies.

Next a live version of 'Love Says It's Waiting' from The Promise Suite.

'Songs for the New Depression' was originally slated to be a double album but Atlantic Records stepped in and re-worked what they saw as a troubled project. Two superbly nostalgic songs that were cut from the previous albums - 'Old Cape Cod' and 'Marahuana' - were by far the best material on this slab of vinyl. A disjointed musical journey.

The LP peaked at #27 on the Billboard Album charts but came and went quickly. Bette's luscious version of 'Old Cape Cod' was released as a single backed by 'Tragedy' but it went nowhere. "I was spooked by the difficulties I had making my first two albums," Midler told a reporter at the time, "and Rolling Stone's extremely negative review of my second album scared the daylights out of me."

In 1977 her best album of the decade was released, Live At Last, a soaring concert LP that captured the star in her element, at her peak, in front of a live audience. One of the best live albums of all time, it only made it to #49 on the charts but attracted a legion of fans and has never been out of print.

Here's the show stopping 'In The Mood' - the studio version of that song from the second album was released as a single but didn't chart.

The single from the live album, 'You're Moving Out Today,' was a studio track stuck on to the LP as an intermission. It limped to #42 which meant little to no radio airplay.

1977's Broken Blossom continued the trend of throwing every musical style against the needle to see what grooved. Little did. The LP was, for the most part, poorly received. Talk about running the gamut, Harry Nilsson's 'Paradise' was covered on Broken Blossom as was Sammy Hagar's 'Red' - here are both tunes, but I'm going to give you the vastly superior live versions, the first from the motion picture Divine Madness, the second from Rolling Stone magazine's spectacular 10th anniversary TV special.

There were wonderful moments on this album - 'Make Yourself Comfortable' is a pitch perfect lush life refrain as is her cover of Edith Piaf's 'La Vie En Rose.' Midler also dueted with Tom Waits on a honky tonk jam called 'I Never Talk To Strangers' that soared. Tom and Bette were good buddies during this period.

Other songs covered on Broken Blossom (with mixed results) include 'Empty Bed Blues,' Disney's 'A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes' and Billy Joel's 'Say Goodbye to Hollywood.' The LP only hit #51 on the Billboard Album Charts; 'Storybook Children' and 'Paradise' were released as a single but didn't make a ripple.

The diva told Circus magazine, "All right, I made some funny little records, but I liked them. They are certainly not like a recording anyone else would make."

PART TWO of BETTE MIDLER in the 1970s!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What I Watched During Snownado 1969

Years ago A.J. McWhorter from Television Archives asked what Holy Grail I might have, something I hadn't run across in my research. If he had it, he'd burn me a copy. What I really wanted, I thought impossible to get, was a hour long daytime show called 'Life With Linkletter' hosted by Art Linkletter and his son Jack, it only ran for the first eight months of 1970. Why that one?

In January 1970 we had a snownado in North Carolina. I was 13, school was out, everyone in the neighborhood spent days sledding Northwood Street or down the hill and across the pond at the Greensboro Country Club. (Boy, were they pissed at the muddy ruts we left behind on the golf course. Now it's a thing, they serve hot chocolate.) It was one of my fondest memories. Before they started brining and plowing the streets, the city surrendered to the frost.

On a break from sledding (to put our gloves and boots near the radiator to dry out) I caught an episode of a new daytime concept on NBC that mixed current events and entertainment fluff. It was high tech (for the time), fast paced (for the time), I was fascinated by it. TV was evolving but with dinosaurs at the helm, the push/pull was obvious even to me.

Just months before its debut Art Linkletter's daughter, who was featured prominently in his earlier series, plunged to her death as a result of an acid trip. That was the official story, more about that here (read to the end).

NBC was notorious for destroying all their daytime shows, including the entire run of 'Hollywood Squares', so when I asked if A.J. had an episode 'Life With Linkletter' I never expected him to actually dig one up, from January of 1970 no less!

The opening to 'Life With Linkletter':

Segment on Sugar Ray Robinson:

A look inside the Nixon administration, you'll see familiar faces from the GW Bush era:

Commercials - including one with Rocky Graziano for Wishbone Italian Rose:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

One of the Greatest Dramatic Scenes in Movie History

Any time I'm doing a close, dramatic scene, I watch this perfect piece of acting / cinematic magic. No cuts.

This scenario was all too true, Garland ended up in the hospital under these same circumstances. She and Dirk Bogarde re-wrote this scene themselves.

The entire role was most certainly based on Judy's downwardly spirally life, an okay film overall with a number of remarkable scenes - but then the star did walk away before it was finished. It was her last motion picture.