Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Eve 1947 Massacre

Christmas Eve 1947 was one of the most unforgettable in Greensboro, NC history - a madman on a murderous rampage with the city on lockdown. Relive the puzzling events of that night.  Also: Nationally renowned firefighter Calvin "Moon" Wyrick was the city's beloved Santa for generations... why did he abruptly stop wearing the suit in 1969?  It's the cover story in the latest Yes! Weekly. 
Peering into the kitchen, the shadowy figure first notices Mrs. Ollie Martin, for whom this Christmastime is so very merry. With sugar and flour shortages a thing of the past, three multi-layer cakes sit cooling on the piano. After some last minute shopping for her two baby grandchildren Mrs. Martin is overall quite happy with the carefully wrapped packages she’s placed under the tree. She’s ironing her husband’s Santa Claus suit for a big to do in the morning when, from outside the window, DeSantis unloads his shotgun twice into David Martin who’s relaxing nearby in his rocking chair. Two more rounds tear through Martin’s daughter-in-law Madella as she tries to stand. Attempting to make it out of the home, Ollie Martin cries out when the gunman appears in her path, pumping two buckshot charges through the glass front door. She falls backward into the gaily decorated entrance hall spattered now in blood and shards.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A 'Poole's Paradise' Christmas with Bob Poole!

Take the ratings for every locally produced morning radio program, total them all together and you still won't come close to the audience share Poole's Paradise enjoyed for a quarter of a century in Greensboro, NC. Bob became a sensation in the 1940s broadcasting a nighttime show from New Orleans that forever changed radio. He was the first modern radio DJ - first to combine (corny) jokes, guests, live bands and recorded music.

He made no bones about being a small town boy at heart. In fact, he made it his schtick and paved the way for The Andy Griffith Show that came years later on television.

Bob moved to New York in 1948 to join the Mutual network. Although his down-home program wasn't heard in The City Poole's Paradise was a nationwide smash hit. By the time he left in 1952 the Mutual network was beginning to unravel. Bob Poole imitators were flooding local radio markets all around the USA, eschewing expensive network programs. That's when Poole returned to his radio roots, WBIG.

When Bob Poole moved back to Greensboro, NC he became the reining morning radio man there until poor health forced his retirement in December of 1977. He died weeks later.

Gloria & Bob Poole on a mid-fifties cruise

This is from the December 10, 1948 broadcast of Poole's Paradise on Mutual:

This clip has a clever mash-up of different versions of Jingle Bells that I believe he brought, along with his theme song, to Greensboro.

Poole's Parlor, a half-hour variety show on Wednesday nights over WOR in New York. I believe this program aired from the fall of 1948 until January 1949. These clips are from the New Year's end show, December 28, 1948.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Rat Pack Christmas Specials!

For the Christmas outing of The Frank Sinatra Show in 1957 Bing Crosby joined Ol' Blue Eyes for a half-hour of the most popular holiday songs of that era. This was the rare 1950s program shot in color. Although Frank's series failed to catch on, this Christmas celebration remains one of the finest, in terms of music, that the medium ever produced.

A decade later - the December 21, 1967 Christmas episode of The Dean Martin Show with guest star Frank Sinatra hit another high note.

Here are two performers that really enjoyed performing together. Dean was used to working with a partner (Jerry Lewis) but Frank wasn't - this led to some very funny ad-libbed moments. Everything Frank and Dean did together had a spontaneous feel; they didn't need rehearsals... so they didn't. With decades performing before live audiences they were prepared for anything. Sammy Davis Jr. makes a surprise appearance as well—doing his Amos 'n' Andy impression which, in hindsight, isn't terribly PC.

Also a part of this family show are Frank's kids Nancy, Tina, and Frank Jr. along with Dean's offspring Claudia, Craig, Dean Jr, Deana, Gail, Gina, Ricci, and Mrs. Martin. The highlights are tunes crooned by Dean and Frank, separately and together.

I Almost Bought Cher's Gown, Wish I Had

A storefront opened on Santa Monica Blvd in 1981 (I think) that purported to sell outfits once worn by stars and sure enough I recognized a number of outfits from TV shows and specials dating back to the 1960s, but it was all women's clothing.

There were a half dozen dresses I immediately remembered Cher wearing on the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, a Bob Mackie creation with loads of glitter caught my eye, one of the iconic gowns from the show, similar to this photo (if not the actual). It was maybe $200.

It came out in the news that most of the clothes had been stolen by household staff, after that the shop closed, it was open only a few weeks. I passed on buying anything, couldn't see myself wearing those dresses, but wish I had now... because imagine what it would be worth!

Also, in a thrift shop on Third Street, I saw Helen Reddy's gold record for 'I Am Woman' up on the wall for about $500. Her husband had run through her entire fortune and she lost everything at auction, this was around 1984.

For more on Cher on TV

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Racist Batman Sketch With Green Hornet & Kato

Milton Berle was the hottest thing on the tube in the early fifties but TV audiences cooled to him quickly. Fortunately, he had negotiated a 'pay or play' contract with NBC for one million dollars a year; an exclusive, unprecedented 30-year deal.

In 1966 rival network ABC gave the comic an hour in primetime for one stinkeroo of a variety show. Problem was, no one thought Berle was a funny as Berle thought he was. So he lazily fell back on outlandish costumes and blatant stereotypes for laughs - as he does in this lame skit with guests Adam West (Batman), Van Williams (Green Hornet) and Bruce Lee (Kato).

Milton Berle had been previously seen with the Dynamic Duo on the ABC Fall Preview Show in 1966 and would later appear as a villain on Batman, Louie the Lilac.

Classic TV at TVparty!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Behind the Scenes : 1970s Sitcom Writer / Producers

Here's a collection of interviews that will take you back to the creation of some seminal 1970s sitcoms, arguably the finest period for the genre. These are writer/producers that threw off the old 'I Dream of Jeannie / Gidget' mindset to forge half-hour comedies that stand the test of time.

Carl Reiner was a comedy guy for Sid Caesar before creating The Dick Van Dyke Show. He discusses the producer's job, working with other writers and also touches on his process for writing and re-writing.

James L. Brooks talks about writing for the groundbreaking drama-comedy Room 222, one of the first TV series to feature a predominantly black and brown cast. Brooks went on to create and/or co-create The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, The Simpsons - should I go on?!? Not to mention his movies, Terms of Endearment, Soap, Broadcast News - should I go on?!?

Allan Burns was partnered with Brooks in 1969 for a good period of time at CBS where they were responsible for some of the funniest sitcom episodes of all time for MTM.

Garry Marshall had his first writer / producer success with The Odd Couple in the late 1960s, first of the post Dick Van Dyke, adult oriented comedies to come. Then he begat Happy Days, LaVerne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy. He begins with stories about breaking into television out of the nightclubs in the late-1950s in New York.

He's had one of the most erratic but storied careers in TV and movies. Buck Henry is considered best of the best with scripts for The Graduate, directing Heaven Can Wait, and co-creating the hit series Get Smart. He started out in the trenches of weekly TV, writing for Gary Moore's variety show, one of the most clever musical comedies in TV history.

 Classic TV at TVparty!

Monday, September 14, 2015

I Lie When I Drink - Dale Watson live at the 2015 National Folk Festival

The 2015 National Folk Festival held in Greensboro was a roaring success and the breakout star was honky-tonker Dale Watson from Austin Texas. Here he plays 'I Lie When I Drink', talks about playing sports as a kid with Michael Jordan, then sings 'H'yaa!'

Nashville Rash - Dale Watson live at the 2015 National Folk Festival

The 2015 National Folk Festival held in Greensboro was a roaring success and the breakout star was honky-tonker Dale Watson from Austin Texas. Here's the opening number from his 3rd performance of the weekend, 'Nashville Rash.'

2015 National Folk Festival blues jam feat Phil Wiggins on lead, Dale Watson, Henry Butler & more

A jam performance from the 2015 National Folk Festival held in Greensboro on September 13th featuring Phil Wiggins on harmonica, honky tonk rocker Dale Watson, Marquis Knox, Henry Butler, the Harris Brothers and Jeff Little.

2015 National Folk Festival blues jam feat Dale Watson on lead, Phil Wiggins on harmonica, Henry Butler

A jam performance from the 2015 National Folk Festival held in Greensboro on September 13th featuring Dale Watson on lead, Phil Wiggins on harmonica, Marquis Knox, Henry Butler, the Harris Brothers and Jeff Little.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Last Days of Jayne Mansfield

This is my latest for O.Henry magazine - one of the most remarkable Hollywood stories of all... its never been told until now. Just as movie star Jayne Mansfield was speeding towards washed-up status she takes an unlikely gig in a sleepy southern city that turns everything around and sends Hollywood reeling. Back on top, soon things begin to unravel again leading to her near decapitation death just four years later!   Read: The Last Days of Jayne Mansfield.

TVparty! is Classic TV!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dumbass of the Week Soon to Be Rich No Doubt

Gallery owner Anthony Harris in Macon, Georgia is flying the flag of the Nazi Party after coming under criticism for flagpoling the Stars & Bars of the Confederacy. The savvy businessman can't understand the fuss, he was waving the Celtic Cross, a fave of racists everywhere, before the Confederate flag was fronting his building. "This was last week’s flag at SEVEN — The Celtic Cross, which has been co-opted by a skinhead group. No one complained an iota about this one. Two words: Media Propaganda." 
Or maybe, because most folks aren't virulent racists, no one realized what it was. I wouldn't have recognized it as such, unless of course it was the version that includes the phrase: “White Pride World Wide.”  I'm pretty sure the media would have been out post haste if that was the case!
He apparently doesn't realize he's owning the notion that these 3 flags symbolize the same things, that they are all symbols of hate, rendering his argument mute. Let me guess what's next. He'll be "Hounded out of business" then raise a ton of money on a crowdsourcing site. More lucrative than a Going Out Of Business sale that's for sure...

Monday, August 3, 2015

What the Hell is the 'Gay Lifestyle'?

When someone says they don't approve of the 'gay lifestyle' I have to confess I have no idea what that means. Is there some notion out there that gays are some monolithic group that marches in lockstep?  There are a lot of us of a certain age who like Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland, I'll give you that, but I'm single, spend most of my time writing, all of my close friends here are straight, haven't been to a gay bar in this century and (sadly) haven't had sex more than 10 times during that period.  

Is it the Castro / West Hollywood leather boys? I'm pretty disdainful of them as well but to each his own.  Is it the pervs trolling park bathrooms for sex? I've got news for you the majority of those guys are generally closeted married men and ministers. I've only known one person in my entire life that did that (and that Detroit motherfucker will be liking this post).

There is no more a gay lifestyle than a straight lifestyle. Not approving of the 'gay lifestyle' I'm guessing is akin to saying you don't approve of black people but like your black friends, we all know folks like that. Is it anal sex you don't condone? I don't go for it myself but who gives a fuck what people do in bed, you don't have to clean the sheets. That two people who love each other can get married, cohabitate? Why would it make any difference to me or you?

Is it that homos are controlling the narrative? Looking over Wikipedia's list of prominent American gay activist I don't recognize 90% of those names, they certainly aren't on your TV every week like dozens of anti-gay commentators are. A majority of those running for President have made being anti-gay a major plank in their platform.

Is it the drag queens? They're easy to avoid. I haven't been to a gay pride event since 1994 but it's just one weekend a year, obviously easy to avoid because I never even know when it is! Is it the gay small business owner who employs dozens of people, gay and straight, then devotes time to charity? Musicians like Michael & Spider who enjoyed a 40+ year committed relationship but are denied pension benefits a straight couple takes for granted... or those old guys in Texas who've been together 54 years and can now finally make it legal? 

Effeminate guys and butch ladies? There are plenty of hetero examples. Hell, I can't tell half the time who's gay or straight anymore and it really doesn't matter much because odds suggest I'm not getting any! Sex obsessed men cruising Craigslist to hookup? Again not limited to this side of the aisle (you wouldn't believe the number of married men posting on Casual Encounters m4m).

Who represents this 'gay lifestyle' - Ru Paul, Chaz Bono, Billie Jean King, Lindsey Graham, George Takei, Barney Frank, Elton John, Dan Savage, Dr. Smith on Lost in Space? Me? What have any of us done to offend... just exist?

Friday, July 31, 2015

Artist Musician Ron Artis

At least half the time I google someone from my past they are passed away, this was no exception. My exploration started after watching The Wrecking Crew documentary. Gold Star Studios in 1981 was no longer the powerhouse it had been in the previous 3 decades where hundreds of hits were recorded so they would rent studio time to anyone. I think overnight was $90 an hour.

Living in North Hollywood my next door neighbor in '81 was Ron Artis who was in Shalamar, one of those late-70s LA bands that had like 14 members, they had a soul hit but shed members every album like my cat sheds hair. Or so he said, he may have just done a session for them, he a world class bullshitter. As you do. Ron would have Taka Boom over to his home to record, I met her there, he was really serious and passionate about music - jazz, rock, new wave, soul. He turned me on to Millie Jackson. You couldn't help but come under his sway, he connected in a way few can. The guy on the corner who owned a pizza parlor (best slices I ever tasted) was really impressed with Ron, wanted him to record an album and offered to pay for studio time at Gold Star, late night hours. 

Susan and I went to visit that first night. He invited everyone to come by the studio which I thought was strange, how would anything get done but whatever. When we arrived after midnight cocaine was flowing and Ron was teaching some kid, on studio time, to play a guitar. Not play the song... he was teaching basic fundamentals of how to play a guitar! Needless to say nothing came of those sessions. 

In 1994 I was wandering around Beverly Hills when I came across a shop that had just closed, I believe it was Ron Artiz Studio Gallery where they offered original air brush t-shirt designs. I wondered if it was the same guy, that he once again found someone to get behind his big dreams. It was.

Not long after that Ron moved to Hawaii, becoming famous there as an artist, especially popular in the Haleiwa surfing community. A really exceptional muralist and a brilliant pianist and composer with a large discography, much of it recorded with his kids. (He had 11 children which surprises me not a bit, the ladies loved him.) When I knew him he had a wife and two lovely kids Susan and I felt close to who separated from him during the year we lived there. Ron was wrong wrong wrong but Ron was Ron Ron Ron.

He died in 2010, an exciting, gifted fellow living to the fullest who possessed the talent and the chops to back up his grandiose schemes. Played the game like a champ and ultimately won. That's the Ron Artis I wish I'd known...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Julia Roberts on Heroin!

In a piece about Actors No One Wants to Work With Julia Roberts' name comes up. Death & Taxes says:  Apparently, when she was 23, Julia Roberts was a hot mess on the set of “Hook” in 1991. She fought with director Steven Spielberg, according to the New York Times, which many suspected was her emotional outlet for a “Fellini summer” of drugs followed by a nervous breakdown after splitting with Kiefer Sutherland. People Magazine at the time suggested that all the celebrity visits to the set, which included Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Prince, may have been to see if “Tinkerhell,” as crew members nicknamed Roberts, “was as emaciated and emotionally fragile a Tinkerbell as rumor insisted.”

She was a mess all right. I was working on the poster for Hook when Julia Roberts' photos from the set came in, the crew did their best in lighting and camera but she was a toothpick, haggard. The next day someone came to my drawing board and asked for all of the prints with Julia in them, then confiscated the lot. 

Production was shut down on her scenes, I was told, so she could go into recovery, put aside the needle. Reportedly she met Lyle Lovett, a heroin addict, on a flight after her break with Kiefer Sutherland and was strung out come time to shoot Hook. Footage and photos from the set were destroyed to protect her career and the big budget movie. Now I wish I'd kept a copy of those pitiful pictures.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Funniest Facebook Burn Eeeeever!

Interview with Tony Horowitz Trumpet Player in Louis Prima's Last Band

Tony Horowitz begins talking about how Sam Butera and Louis Prima developed the modern lounge act.  He backed Prima in 1974-75 when the Vegas legend changed his sound with electric keyboards. Horowitz had come from playing with Ray Charles.  Tony also arranged most of Louis Prima's last LP.

Tony joined up with Butera and Prima when Prima's band members left to form The New Goofers high wire comedy act.  Hear what it was like to travel with Louis who refused to fly. And about the death of one of the greatest entertainers of all time. 

Towards the end Tony talks about working with Ray Charles.

Also: Do you know the story behind the John Denver song 'Leaving on a Jet Plane?'  It may surprise you! This interview took place in 2010. Sorry about the background noises, this was recorded for transcribing to text.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Guitarist Marty Walsh on Recording with Sinatra Arranger Don Costa

Guitarist Marty Walsh worked with renowned composer and arranger Don Costa including a session with Frank Sinatra. Costa arranged some of Sinatra's finest and best selling recordings including the seminal album 'Sinatra and Strings' and singles like 'My Way' and 'New York, New York.'

I had discovered a Costa session that Marty played on for Sinatra that he thought was lost forever. From According to the session sheet for July 17, 1978, Sinatra and orchestra gathered at TBS Studios in Burbank, California, from 7.30 to 12 pm. The orchestra was conducted by Vincent Falcone jr. It included a large string and brass section (40 musicians incl. one harp, all listed by name) plus Tom Hensley and Bill Miller on piano, Tim May, Al Viola and Marty Walsh on guitar, Milton Kestenbaum, Milton Nadel and Gene Cherico on bass, Ronnie Tutt and Irving Cottler on drums, and Alan Ester and Larry Bunker on percussion. This team, according to the sheet, recorded three songs with vocals by Sinatra 'That’s What God Really Looks Like' (Reprise master #WCA 8129), 'Remember' (#WCA 8130) and 'You And Me' (#WCA 8131). No take numbers for the masters are indicated.

No take numbers? Frank rarely did more than one take!

Marty Walsh on the Death of Sinatra Arranger Don Costa who died in 1983.

History of Downtown Greensboro Hotels : Restauranteur Minas Dascalakis

Minas Dascalakis, owner of downtown Greensboro's Matthew's Grill at 223 North Elm Street near the original O'Henry Hotel, talks about what Downtown Greensboro was like in the 1950s and 60s. Matthew's was a hub for city leaders, the movers and shakers.

Also heard is Aleck Alexiou, his father owned the Princess Cafe on South Elm, located where Cheesecakes by Alex was before the expansion. Downtown Greensboro in the 1950s was Aleck's backyard growing up.

(This first installment dealt with Minas' childhood in a war ravaged Greece before immigrating to America.)

In this video Minas Dascalakis takes us on a virtual tour of Elm Street in the 1950s, explains how the O.Henry & King Cotton Hotel got their start and why the Guilford Building failed as a hotel. (The Guilford building was virtually identical to the King Cotton.)

What life was like in Hamburger Square and all the hotels in the vicinity. Then details about the demise of the O.Henry:

What It Was Like to Live in War Torn Greece in the 1930s & '40s.

Minas Dascalakis, owner of downtown
Greensboro's venerable Matthew's Grill at 223 North Elm Street near the original O'Henry Hotel. Matthew's was a hub for city  leaders, the movers and shakers.

In this portion of my interview Minas talks about childhood in a war torn Greece and immigrating to America. (The focus will be on Downtown Greensboro in its heyday in future videos.)
Also heard is Aleck Alexiou, his father owned the Princess Cafe on South Elm. Downtown Greensboro in the 1950s was his backyard growing up.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Legendary Golfer & Crooner Don Cherry Talks About Dean Martin and Jerry Vale

Dan Jenkins, Golf Digest; "Contrary to popular notions, Jimmy Demaret wasn't the best golfer who could sing and Bing Crosby wasn't the best singer who could play golf. The all-time best golfer/singer, singer/golfer is Don Cherry."

Don Cherry, singer, golfer, author Cherry's Jubilee: I came to Las Vegas in 1952 with Peggy Lee the third week the Sands was open. In '52 there were only about 40,000 people, there were only two streets. There's about two and a half million now. Even back when Dean and Frank showed up it was just completely different, it was so much classier then. Now you see everybody walking around, they don't have on suits, some of them wearing shorts, they go to the shows dressed terribly.

I tell you something, for eleven years Dean was the dearest friend I ever had. He was Italian, I told him one time, if I could have just been Italian think of how much more famous I'd have been. Dean said, "Let me call Chicago and I'll call you back in thirty minutes." Like he was going to make me Italian.

We played golf every single day at the Country Club. We played golf everywhere he went, if he would go somewhere like Lake Tahoe or something, they would book me up there. I worked at the Riviera, I worked at the Sands, I worked everywhere when Dean was there. He was about a ten or twelve handicap which is not bad, he was that good a player. I played the Masters nine times, I almost won the US Open in 1960; to me singing and golf came together naturally, I never drank or smoked so I could play golf all day and sing all night. I only needed about five or six hours of sleep, it was perfect for me.

Vic Damone and I did the summer replacement show for Dean in 1967 and I did Dean's show about six or seven times myself. I can't tell you how much he meant to me, really. It was so simple, they didn't have much rehearsal but they had the cue cards so you'd know what you were doing. I enjoyed it more than anything. I guess Dean did more for my career in those days than anybody else ever did.

I'm on the show one time and Dean looks at me and says, "That's the worst hairpiece I ever saw. You go over to Max Factor and get you another hairpiece." Well, I went over there and found a good looking hairpiece and I wore it back to the show. I walked back over to Dean and I said, "Dean this is it." He said, "See the difference? What a wonderful toupee that is." and he called over there and he said, "This is a great hairpiece. I'm going to get this for Don Cherry." They said, "That used to belong to John Wayne." He was singing and had a great sense of humor but I think the thing he'd rather do was play golf.

I worked with Jerry Vale at the Amory in Cleveland, I would do my show and then Jerry would come on. Bill Randall, who was a disc jockey in those days, came to us and said, "There's a guy down in Memphis, Colonel Parker, who has a kid that he's promoting who made an album, do you mind if the kid plays in between the two of you?" So they put Elvis in between the two of us. That was the first time anyone ever heard of Elvis. One night in a nightclub in Queens Jerry Vale came over to me, he hadn't even started yet I think, and said, "Everybody says I sing like you." He never forgot that. He said that was one of the greatest compliments he ever got, that he sang like Don Cherry. He's a very nice guy, he's a wonderful singer, he likes to play golf, too. (Jerry Vale passed away in May of 2014.)

Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra; "We think that Mr. Don Cherry sings the Country Western music better than anybody in the business, but how he can do it so well and not "DRINK" is something we can't figure out. But he is Great."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

To My Friends Thinking about Suicide

When I was 20 years old my best friend killed herself and it sent me into a spiral of depression that left me awash in suicidal thoughts. After the pointless therapy and the useless drugs I realized this wasn't something that could be talked out or drugged away. The only reason I didn't do it - I knew it would kill my mother and by extension my family. I just couldn't be that much of an asshole. Instead I ended my life by moving to California, tossed everything off to let fate have its way with me. I was rewarded with the kind of life I'd always dreamed of and I had big 'D' dreams. I did it again when I moved back to NC and later when I chucked everything moving to London - events that led to the best years of my life.

There's little solace in knowing when your life is swirling down the toilet that you were the one who pulled the handle but it sure beats having the handle pulled for you. Still, it all leads to the same place - where you needed to be all along. You young folks contemplating ending your lives, you don't have to kill yourself . End your life in a positive way then reap the rewards that await you. I know it's a whole lot tougher for you than it ever was for me, when a job that paid little more than minimum wage was enough to live on and have your own place in LA. When two days looking for a job offered intriguing choices and not last resorts. But that fire inside of you that has you confused, lonely and mentally messed up is what will carry you to your destination and trust me, you do not want to miss out on what's ahead. 

Had I killed myself at 20 I never would have hung out in the punk clubs when the seminal bands you only wish you could have seen (Chili Peppers, Fishbone, Minutemen, Social D) were just bubbling up, never thrived as an artist (with no training) in the motion picture industry, watched the sun go down over the hills above Sunset Boulevard from my deck with the Hollywood sign to my right and downtown LA on the other side, never been the first to create the experience that we all take for granted on the internet (I'll likely not get credit for that!), never written to great acclaim with reviews one can only dream about, learn it's true life begins at 50, never had the most awesome sex and discovered I was the hottest guy in the room, never gone out on a book tour that landed me TV shows on VH1 & Bravo, never discovered what real love is all about (that only recently and I'm single), never been taught, the hard way naturally, to be strong enough to let go of what I can't have.

If you're suicidal there's little anyone you likely know can say or do to help you, certainly not your parents. Those that tell you they've been in your shoes are well-meaning but they have not...  in the same shoe STORE maybe but your situation is unique to you. Just realize if you have three close and dear friends you've beaten the odds already. Lean on them for a while if you are so lucky. If you have to close the blinds and take what time you need before opening them again, fine, wallow if you have to - but you'll be better off in the sunlight. Follow your heart goddamn it, take risks, if you want to kill yourself anyway what do you have to lose? Pretend you did commit suicide then treat the rest of your life as borrowed time, stick your finger in the icing for your sad little cake that you would have missed out on. 

You need a pep talk come to me, stop me and let's go for a walk, I promise I have nothing better to do. I don't come across as the warmest person on the outside, plagued as I am with insecurities and doubts, but if you're reading this I honestly love you and would do anything for you. I mean that. I wish I had the ways and means to give you what little you need, an opportunity to be the person you desire to be and express what you have inside that's pushing to get out. So that you can be the light in other people's lives.

Today is not, as they used to say, the first day of the rest of your life but tomorrow is. Relax behind today. It's not a race, thank God. So many times what looks like a hopeless situation reverses course with just one phone call. Be there for that call, that chance meeting, that unknown opportunity waiting right around the bend. What you need you have been given, you just don't know it yet.

Dark thoughts and unfulfilled longings? The only people that don't experience those are sociopaths and I'll bet we both know a lot of those. So many they skew the view and make the world look like a happier place than it is. Take your lumps, work it out over time, forgive yourself, forgive others on a minute-by-minute basis, be more authentic not less which is the tendency when you're ill.  I know you won't believe it when I tell you to smile more, you'll actually be happier. When a friend told me that I set out to prove him wrong, going around with a smile on my face for a week. Prove me wrong. More people than you know want you to be healthy and happy. Or at least as happy as anyone can be in this fucked up stew we're in...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Nichelle Nichols, Billy Ingram, Rob Corddry on TV's Evil Twins

Oh that old TV cliche - someone's evil twin shows up to create confusion & choas. Not to mention cat fights! Plus... could you survive the Agony Booth?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Jack Kirby's Reason Dr. Doom Wore a Mask Will Surprise You!

1985 interview with Jack Kirby conducted by John Hitchcock in 1985.

Creating Captain America in the 1940s:

Jack Kirby talks about his unique style:

Kirby on saving Marvel Comics in the 1960s:

Why Dr. Doom Wore a Mask - the reason will surprise you! It was not accepted by Stan Lee however so it's not a part of Marvel mythology...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Amos 'n' Andy : Fine & Dandy?

Here's a free sample (PDF) of my book Hamburger² - a chapter on media phenom Amos 'n' Andy. I didn't realize what a startled reaction would result for including this, prompting me to go back and write an intro to the book (also included) where, among other things, I addressed why this series is important on many levels, including locally. 

Amos 'n' Andy was on radio and or TV for 40+ years yet resonates as a somewhat positive but mostly negative drag on society. Any search for truth means happily embracing controversy, as I pointed out in the introduction, "it’s important to recognize the unfortunate media landscape that existed leading up to the Civil Rights era. We need to autopsy the injuries, pick at the sores, otherwise we’re left with modern day assumptions based entirely on images."  

I would love any feedback you might offer. Here's the link to the Amos 'n Andy (PDF) article I spent the better part of a year researching... thank you!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tour Las Vegas During the Go-Go Era!

Las Vegas in the 1960s - a desert boom town, a destination not just for roulette and card games, it was an era of class where everyone dressed to impress on the casino floor, by the pool, or in the glittering showrooms. This video offers a ride down the fabled Las Vegas Strip, home of the world's tackiest casinos.

Flashy neon signs and spectacular architecture was part of the allure. And everything in the city that Blackjack built was affordable, buffets were practically free during the golden years, so were drinks... and there were plenty of cocktail waitresses on hand so you never lacked for a strong alcoholic beverage. That pretty much disappeared in the eighties when you could still get free cocktails but you had to wait as there were only a very few waitresses (yes, they were all women).

Las Vegas was first coined by Raphael Rivera, a scout for a New Mexican trading party. It wasn't just gambling that attracted the crowds, with the greatest entertainers in the showrooms tourists flocked to see Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis and the others superstars that frequented The Strip. Of course, if those audiences dropped some coin into the slot machines or a few bills at the card tables that was great too. In fact, that was the whole idea behind having first rate entertainment... it brought in people in that wouldn't otherwise be in a gambling town. In 1964 the city saw a boost in attendance when the hit movie 'Viva Las Vegas' rocketed a 45rpm single by Elvis Presley to the top of the pop charts. The song was on everybody's lips in the sixties and is still the unofficial theme song of Sin City.

Of course, the sixties was also the heyday of the Rat Pack - Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and a few others on the side who came and went like Peter Lawford and Judy Garland.

Compare with Las Vegas in 1988:

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Being a Grandmother Will No Longer Absolve You of Your Sins (Like It Used To)

My favorite news headlines are the ones that have to do with Grandmas:  "Grandmother Caught Selling Drugs."  "GamGams Swept Up in Prostitution Ring,"  "NaNa Shoplifts Roast Beef in Her Granny Panties."  We're past the time when someone being the parent of a parent is a get-out-of-jail free card now that Baby Boomers are of age... and plenty young enough to get into all kinds of shenanigans.

When I was a boy my gray-haired Mema would walk down the block to our home carrying a basket of fresh baked goodies covered over with a gingham cloth, wearing a modest blue dress and pearls.  Today's grandmothers are more likely to be found in those embarassing photos taken of real people at Wal-mart, gelatinous asses hanging over motor scooters with a basket full of Cheetos and Capri Sun juice boxes. Or the emaciated harridan arriving home from the gym after a rendevous with her best friend's husband.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Madonna's Isolated Vocal Track from the Grammys is Completely Bogus

This video purports to have the isolated vocals, just Madonna's microphone feed, from her recent Grammy Awards performance. It's obviously a stripped down mix. How could the track she's singing to, selected background vocals, and a minimized beat be coming through loud and clear, become more pronounced as the song progresses?  That's not how it works.

 Nice try... performers going back to Linda McCartney in the 1970s have been embarrassed by someone sharing their isolated vocal feed.  Madonna rightfully knows this will bring her added attention but it doesn't make it authentic... shame on the train jumpers who blindly accept what's obviously a promotional stunt.

One day Madonna will do a Christian album of her catalog and substitute the word 'God' for 'love'...


Monday, January 12, 2015

49 Years Ago Bat-Mania Started!

1966 Batman TV Show
Billy Ingram

Batman comic book As 1964 rolled around, National Periodical Publications (also known as DC Comics) was poised to make a momentous decision. The venerable comic book publisher had been in business for decades, pumping out the comics kids loved best. Superman. Wonder Woman. The Flash. Justice League of America. Batman.

Batman, see, that was the problem. That comic book line ceased making a profit some years earlier, Batman and Detective Comics (where the character debuted in 1939) were going to get canned after a quarter century on the stands.

As a last-ditch effort, the books were assigned to the editor of DC’s science fiction line, Julius Schwartz. His mission - move Batman into profitability within six months or else. The team he assembled did the trick, turning the Caped Crusader into more of a high-tech sleuth and less of a costumed clown. Colorful villains like Catwoman and The Joker were resurrected and given new life in stories by John Broome and Gardner Fox, illustrated by Carmine Infantino and various artists under the “Bob Kane” byline.

shindig TV ShowThat same year, 1964, Shindig! debuted on ABC-TV. A prime-time rock music show that featured live (not lip-synced) performances by the biggest acts, Shindig! was a sensation at attracting the youthful crowd the network was courting. The show did so well, it was expanded to an hour midseason and in the fall of 1965, split into two half-hour shows a week. This two episodes a week format was not unheard of; ABC had been doing it for a few years as a way of milking their hottest shows. Peyton Place was broadcast two nights a week in 1964 and three nights in 1965.

Unfortunately, the audience unexpectedly deserted Shindig! after that first season leaving two gaping holes in ABC’s already desolate schedule. In an act of sheer desperation, they rushed one of their most promising shows forward for a midseason debut. This was a risky move because, while there had been other shows that premiered in the winter, they were never terribly successful.

None of them.


1966 Batman TV show castBatman starred Adam West as the Caped Crusader and Burt Ward as his youthful sidekick, Robin. West was last seen on The Detectives (1961–62), Burt Ward an unknown. Proving to youngsters at an early age that life isn't fair, Batman was scheduled opposite Lost in Space on CBS.  

Together with screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr., executive producer William Dozier crafted a show that could be enjoyed by adults as well as kids. Batman debuted on January 12, 1966. Within the first few weeks, the telecast was attracting fifty-five percent of the viewing audience, with a surprising two-thirds over the age of eighteen.

Batman TV Show on ABC photo on ABCThey called it "Camp," ironic comic perfection. The key to Batman was in the lead actors playing outlandishly fantastic situations with a straight face, and the stunt-casting of hot TV personalities like Julie Newmar (as the Catwoman) along with aging movie icons like Cesar Romero (as the Joker) and Frank Gorshin (as the Riddler). Before long, every star in Hollywood lined up for an opportunity to be the costumed kook-of-the-week on the top show in the nation. "These people (stars) would call up, or send their agents around, saying, can't so and so be on?"

William Dozier bragged to a reporter, "Gloria Swanson, I remember, called me from New York, but we couldn’t find the right part for her. Everybody came out of the woodwork; we never had to go after those people. A lot of them I had known personally, and they would call and say that they would love to do one of those because 'my kids want me to do it.'

"Up to twelve years old, they take Batman seriously. From thirteen on, we've got them chuckling in their beer." Indeed, Dozier (who was also the show's announcer) instinctively knew this pop-art froth had a short shelf life, just how short? Network rivals were betting Batman was another hula hoop craze. "They gave it only ninety days. I gave it two years."

At the end of just six months, Bat-mania was in full flower. $75,000,000 worth of Batman books, capes, toys, coloring books, bubble gum cards, and weaponry had been sold, with Batman's face plastered on every conceivable product whether it had any relevant practicality or not. Never before had the world been bombarded by such a ridiculous assault of loosely branded products. Batman candy. Batman bicycles. Batman lunch boxes. Batman bath soap. Batman race cars. Batman lamps. Batman every-damn-thing-you-can-think-of!

Batman comic book And those Batman comic books DC almost stopped publishing two years earlier? They could barely keep up with demand, any comic book with Batman on the cover could be counted on to sell up to a million copies a month. Editor Schwartz had done his job well since many of the plots for the TV program were taken directly from his four-color stories.

Batman changed the course of television in a profound way by proving that a program could debut midseason and still be a hit. From 1966 forward, all three networks began seriously programming a second season.

"Batman will fade, of course," Dozier correctly predicted in the Saturday Evening Post, at the height of the show's popularity. "We won't keep all the adults we have now. We have to think ahead."

Dozier was right to be concerned about audience erosion, he reasoned that adults would soon defect once the novelty wore off. By the fall of '66, Batman was the number-one show in the nation but adult ratings had dropped to half what they once were. Not surprisingly, ABC was more than willing to give the producer another slot on their fall schedule, Batman was the biggest hit in the network's history.

To recapture lost adult viewers, Dozier decided to try the super-hero genre without playing it for laughs. To achieve this, he revived one of the most successful super-heroes from the radio era - The Green Hornet.

Read Part Two: The Great Superhero Glut!