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!