Saturday, May 25, 2024

Roddy McDowall in 1963

I've called Roddy McDowall one of my favorite actors since the early '70s. Unlike many child actors, he actually took acting lessons as he grew and conquered the stage, then worked his way back to television and movies. This look back from 1963 was five years before PLANET OF THE APES.


Monday, May 13, 2024

Doctor Who Does Yellow Submarine

SPOILER ALERT: My son just told me he read this online and it makes SO much sense to me. The Beatles episode of DOCTOR WHO, "The Devil's Chord," is an updated adaptation of YELLOW SUBMARINE!

You have the androgynous, over-the-top villain in blue who wants to take all music away. 

We're shown the dark, gray results of this. The heroes arrive in a most unusual mode of transportation and have to save Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and bring back LOVE.

When they learn that newer meanies are on the horizon, they even do what the Beatles did--they go out singing! With a bunch of other people! All Together Now!

There's even a Butterfly Stomper (although it's in the previous episode)! Foreshadowing!

Thursday, May 09, 2024

Archie and Bob Montana


Saturday, May 04, 2024

Stan Lee's Film International, 1975

Here's something one rarely hears about. In 1975, Magazine Management--formerly Martin Goodman's publishing empire--put out at least 4 issues of an odd hybrid magazine called FILM INTERNATIONAL. The covers of issues 1-4 could pass for adult mags, and about half of the content could as well. An article about Kirk Douglas, for instance, is followed by a nostalgic piece about Greta Garbo, and then a feature on XXX film star Jamie Gillis, complete with lots of naked pics! Every issue mixes porn articles and reviews with typical mainstream movie star articles of the day.

The kicker here is that Stan Lee is the publisher, and even writes some of his notoriously unfunny captioned photos! His old Marvel cohort Sol Brodsky is VP, his wife Joan is listed as Art Assistant, and some of the other names I recognize from Marvel mags as well.

PLAYBOY film critics Hollis Albert and Arthur Knight are the only names I recognize among the writers. Leonard Maltin reviews books and gossip columnist Army Archerd shares gossip. I wouldn't be surprised if their pieces were reprinted from elsewhere. Maybe not. Alan LeMond, who also edited MM's NOSTALGIA ILLUSTRATED at the same time, is the editor.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Now Available to Order--Set Sail With McHale


 McHale’s Navy (1962-1966) was a popular ABC-TV half-hour sitcom that ran for four full seasons (after a one-off hour-long pilot) and even had two feature film spin-offs at the time as well as a modernized reboot movie more than three decades later. Like M*A*S*H, Taxi, and Barney Miller, McHale’s Navy had a great ensemble cast and was nominated for and even won numerous awards during its run. 


So why isn’t McHale’s Navy spoken of in the same breath as The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy, or The Andy Griffith Show? The answer is simple—World War II. The military comedy premiered less than 20 years after V-J Day so all but the youngest fans of the show would have remembered what the world was like then. The show itself, steeped in the tradition of great Naval comedies from Abbott and Costello In the Navy to Mister Roberts, nevertheless had a wartime setting and thus there were occasional dead bodies. Never on-screen, mind you, and always the enemy! 


The enemy, by the way, at least for the first three years, was problematic. Set in the South Pacific in 1942, the Japanese were the enemy and our heroes never thought twice about blowing away their boats, their subs, or their island bases. It was literally why they were there. The racist word “Japs” appears only twice in the episodes, generally replaced by the similar, equally unacceptable term, “Nips.” 


By1962, however, Japan had long since become one of America’s greatest friends and staunchest allies. Emperor Hirohito had undergone a major public relations campaign throughout the 1950s and was by the ‘60s seen as a gentle soul and a benevolent ruler. That made it a bit hard for him to be treated in the series as the inhuman monster he was portrayed as in 1940s propaganda. 


A number of Japanese and Japanese-American actors appeared multiple times on McHale’s Navy, most notably the singularly named Mako, who would soon thereafter be nominated for an Oscar for his role in The Sand Pebbles. Mako went on to be a prolific performer on stage, screen, and cartoon voices. He appeared nine times on McHale’s Navy but did not speak particularly highly of it in later interviews.


When the series was in its first run, no one gave much thought to the casual racist aspects of it, let alone to the off-camera deaths of Japanese and German sailors and soldiers. What they paid attention to, and why McHale’s Navy still matters, was its cast, and its comedy. 



Academy Award winning actor Ernest Borgnine took the lead as Lt. Commander Quinton McHale. Although he was the main character, and top-billed, the show had not one but two comedy secret weapons—Tim Conway and Joe Flynn.


Conway had been discovered in Cleveland by singer/actress Rose Marie and made his national debut on several episodes of comedian Steve Allen’s early ‘60s show under his real name, TOM Conway. 


Flynn considered himself a jinx to sitcoms, appearing on several just before they were canceled. On The Joey Bishop Show, though, HE was the one canceled, fired after only a couple months of episodes after critics started writing that he was finnier than the show’s star.


The 1962 pilot for McHale’s Navy was called ‘Seven Against the Sea” and was a serious drama with some comedic bits. The characters played by Conway and Flynn didn’t even appear. Instead, you had McHale and a ragtag group of sailors sitting out the war on a South Pacific island where they had been stranded after their PT boat was damaged. They had become jaded and set up their own little microcosm of society, interacting with the island’s natives. Into their little pseudo-paradise falls (via parachute) a by-the-book officer ordered to get them back into the war, something in which they have no interest. His conflicts with McHale and his men make up the show’s plot and would have continued into the planned series, then to be called “McHale’s Men.”

 Instead, a random suggestion that the show be turned into a flat-out comedy led to producer Edward Montagne, Jr. retooling nearly everything. McHale’s men would still live on an island and interact with the natives, but now that island would be adjacent to a small South Pacific naval base, commanded by a new character, a high-strung former yacht club captain reluctantly brought back into service for the duration. Stuck with all the responsibilities, the captain envied McHale and that envy came out as hatred and mistrust of him and all his men, especially because they were always trying to get around his orders and edicts. 


The no-nonsense lieutenant of the pilot was replaced by a by-the-book ensign who was also lovably na├»ve, bumbling, and easily led astray by McHale’s men.


Only two of those men from the pilot continued on—Johnny Wright and Gary Vinson. Wright, also known as Bobby Wright, was a country singer, the son of Nashville legend Kitty Wells. He would tour with his parents and have numerous solo hits in a long and successful music career but he rarely acted again.  


Vinson was a hot young actor from 1950s JD movies as well as the hit series The Roaring Twenties. He would continue acting right up until 1984 when, beset by legal troubles, he committed suicide.


The rest of the regular cast included future Love Boat captain Gavin MacLeod (who went AWOL after the second season), former Sgt, Bilko sidekick Billy Sands, con-man/stage magician the Great (Carl) Ballantine, opera-singing muscleman Edson Stroll, and Yoshio Yoda, who played Fuji, who opted to sit out the rest of the war as the gang’s Japanese chef…as long as they could hide him from the captain, anyway. 


Rounding out the regulars was the prolific radio, TV, and film actor and singer Bob Hastings, who teamed with Joe Flynn as the captain’s nervous, overly-sycophantic sidekick. 


Add to this mix a whole bunch of admirals, occasional nurses, friendly island natives, a town full of Italians and colonels (in the fourth season) and guest stars such as Don Knotts, Pat Harrington, Jr., Yvonne Craig, Raquel Welch, Claudine Longet, and Jerry Colonna, and you’ve got a can’t miss cast of winners!


Behind the scenes, there were more winners including writers from The Dick Van Dyke Show, Barney Miller, and Star Trek along with playwright Neil Simon’s brother, comedy legend Groucho Marx’s son, and the author of the classic Catch-22!


A few years ago, Denny Reese—author of Gomer Says “Hey!”—decided to fill the gap of information on this fading comedy classic by writing a book on the series. I helped him do some research early on. In time, he had more or less hit a wall and was ready to abandon the project. He asked me to step in. I proceeded to take what Denny had already written, add to it, binge the entire series and it’s three related motion pictures, do considerably more research, rearrange and edit the text—both his and mine—find acceptable photos, arrange for the brilliantly perfect cover (designed by award-winning author/designer Craig Yoe around Mad magazine great Tom Richmond’s licensed artwork!) and proofread the book numerous times. I got Denny to add more to it as well, along with making sure he agreed with any and all changes and additions I made, so the resulting volume is truly a collaborative effort. 


Set Sail with McHale is now available for order here:

Monday, April 15, 2024

McHale Ads

One of the things I've been up to during my hiatus is making daily Facebook ads touting the upcoming SET SAIL WITH McHALE book I've written with Denny Reese. I have 37 of them this far. Here are some of my favorites. Still no definite date on the book but soon!


Saturday, April 13, 2024

Exclusive Interview with B.E. Nance, Author of Whispering Hooves


And we’re back! Late last year WHISPERING HOOVES, a book I edited and ended up co-writing with my old friend, B.E. Nance, was published. I’m credited as the rather obvious Stefanie Thom. While the book is categorized as a romance set in the modern western horse world, it’s also a character study of many years in the life of a remarkable woman who refuses to let continued adversity keep her down. 


B.E. Nance is an old friend so I know some of her backstory but I recently sat down with her and asked her to share some of it with you.



Can you tell our readers some of your background? 



Certainly. I have a deep-rooted connection with horses that has been woven into the fabric of my life since childhood. Growing up in the northeast, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to ride and bond with these magnificent creatures, finding solace and joy in their presence. However, my passion for horses truly blossomed when my family relocated to the south when I was very young.


During my adolescence, I spent formative years in the Midwest, attending high school and immersing myself in the equestrian world. After graduating, I seized an incredible opportunity to work for a ranch in Wyoming, where my journey with horses took on new meaning. Over time, I honed my skills and dedication, eventually rising to the position of lead horse trainer.


Throughout my life, I've embraced the role of mentor and guide, sharing my love of horses with others through teaching and training. While I never pursued competitive riding, my joy came from riding for pleasure and helping others discover the same sense of fulfillment and connection with their own horses.


Whispering Hooves is a deeply personal project for me, as many of the events that unfold in Cassie Donovan's life mirror my own experiences. Like Cassie, I faced challenges and trials during my childhood and adolescence, some of which remain shrouded in mystery due to memory loss of an undetermined nature. Yet, amidst the hardships, I found love and solace in the presence of horses, much like Cassie finds refuge in her passion for animals.


Just as Cassie meets the man who steals her heart, I too encountered a love that transformed my life, echoing the profound connection and enduring bond portrayed in the novel. Whispering Hooves is not just a story; it's a reflection of my journey, my passion for horses, and the resilience of the human spirit. 



In what area of the country are you now located? 



Ah, the whereabouts of my current homestead are a bit of a well-kept secret, shrouded in the enchanting mystery of the desert winds and the whispering hooves (plug intended!) that grace our land. Let's just say, we've found a haven nestled amidst the rugged beauty of the American Southwest, where the sunsets paint the sky in hues of crimson and gold, and the desert breeze carries tales of old and secrets untold. 



Okay, we know you love horses but why do they figure so prominently in the book? 



Horses hold a special place in Whispering Hooves for both emotional and logical reasons. Emotionally, horses symbolize freedom, strength, and the untamed spirit of love. They represent a connection to nature and a source of solace and companionship during times of adversity. For Cassie Donovan, and indeed for many of us, horses become not just animals, but trusted confidants and steadfast companions who understand us in ways that words cannot express.


Logically, horses serve as a powerful narrative device. Their presence enriches the story, adding depth and authenticity to Cassie's journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Through her interactions with horses, Cassie learns valuable lessons about trust, patience, and the transformative power of love, guiding her towards her healing and redemption.


Ultimately, though, horses are more than just characters in Whispering Hooves; they are integral to the fabric of the story, embodying the timeless beauty and untamed spirit that resonates deeply with readers' hearts. 




How would you describe the plot of Whispering Hooves?



Whispering Hooves is a powerful odyssey that traverses the landscapes of the heart, from the serene hills of Ohio to sun-drenched Florida, and ultimately finding its resolute spirit amidst the rugged majesty of Wyoming. It's a narrative that mirrors the ebbs and flows of Cassie Donovan's life, from the innocence of childhood to the crucible of adolescence, and finally, the transformative journey of self-discovery.


From the warmth of familial bonds to the searing pain of shattered dreams, each chapter pulsates with the raw emotion of the human experience, drawing readers into Cassie's world with an intimacy that is both heart wrenching and healing.


However, it's important to note that Whispering Hooves also delves into explicit realms, exploring the depths of Cassie’s passion and desire with raw honesty. Intertwined with moments of intimacy are scenes of profound vulnerability, including instances of sexual assault that are depicted with unflinching realism. These scenes are not included for shock value, but rather as a testament to my belief that victims of sexual assault deserve to have their stories heard and understood, without shame or stigma.


I firmly believe that survivors of sexual assault should never be silenced or marginalized, and by depicting these harrowing experiences within the narrative, I strive to foster a greater understanding and empathy towards those who have endured such trauma. Through Cassie's journey of healing and resilience, readers are invited to confront the harsh realities of sexual violence and to stand in solidarity with those who have survived it, recognizing their strength and courage in the face of unspeakable adversity. 



Would you agree that parts of the book are autobiographical?



Yes, I would agree that parts of Whispering Hooves are indeed autobiographical. While the novel is primarily a work of fiction, it draws heavily from my own life experiences and emotions, particularly in regards to Cassie’s journey. Many of the events and emotions portrayed in the book echo my own experiences, albeit often through a lens of fiction and artistic interpretation.


Cassie's struggles, triumphs, and moments of vulnerability are deeply rooted in my own personal trek, from my upbringing in various regions of the United States to my deep connection with horses and the transformative power of love itself. So, yes, while Cassie's story is unique and distinct from my own, there are undoubtedly elements of autobiography woven throughout the narrative, adding depth and authenticity to her character. Ultimately, Whispering Hooves blurs the lines between fact and fiction to create a story that is as emotionally resonant as it is compelling.




What have you written before this first novel? 



Before Whispering Hooves, I wrote several complete unpublished novels that served as stepping stones on my way to being a writer. These earlier works were diverse in genre and theme, reflecting my explorations as a storyteller and my evolving understanding of my own voice as an author.


Among these unpublished novels were a couple based on the beloved Star Trek franchise, where I delved into the realms of science fiction and adventure. These projects allowed me to immerse myself in the rich lore and captivating characters of the Star Trek universe, honing my skills in world-building and narrative structure.


Additionally, I embarked on a couple of historical romance novels, although they remained unfinished and unpublished. These projects allowed me to delve into the intricacies of love and longing across different time periods, exploring themes of passion, duty, and destiny.


While these earlier works never saw the light of day, they were invaluable learning experiences that paved the way for Whispering Hooves. It took me many years to realize that the story of Cassie Donovan had been simmering in my heart all along, waiting to be told. With Whispering Hooves, I finally found the courage and clarity to bring that story to life. 



We met when you were a bookseller. Sell me on your book.



Step right in, my friend, and prepare to be swept away by the breathtaking tale of Whispering Hooves! This novel isn't just a story—it's an emotional rollercoaster, crafted by two remarkable authors who know just how to tug at your heartstrings and keep you on the edge of your seat.


Picture yourself transported from the tranquil hills of Ohio to sunny Florida, and then thrust into the rugged, untamed beauty of Wyoming. Through the eyes of Cassie Donovan, you'll experience a whirlwind of emotions—love, loss, passion, and redemption—all woven together in a tapestry of unfiltered human experience.


But hold on tight, because Whispering Hooves isn't just about the places you'll go—it's about the journey you'll take. With every page turn, you'll feel the ache in Cassie's heart, the sting of her tears, and the fiery passion that drives her forward against all odds.


What sets this novel apart is its unflinching honesty and authenticity. These authors bare their souls, delving deep into themes of trauma, healing, and the enduring power of love. It's a story that will grip you from the very first page and refuse to let go, leaving you breathless and craving more. Whispering Hooves is a book you won't soon forget—one that may well leave you forever changed. 



What are your future plans as an author?



As I look to the future, I'm filled with excitement about the possibilities that lie ahead.


Reflecting on our conversation about my background and previous writing endeavors, I'm reminded of the diverse paths I've explored and the stories I've yet to tell. While Whispering Hooves marks my debut in published fiction, it's just the beginning of what I hope will be a long and fulfilling career as an author.


Building on the themes of love, passion, and resilience that we've discussed, I'm eager to continue exploring new genres and themes, drawing on my past experiences and interests to inform my future work. Whether it's delving deeper into steamy romance fiction, revisiting my love for science fiction, or venturing into uncharted territory with historical romances, I'm excited to see where my writing journey takes me.


And of course, none of this would be possible without the support and encouragement of partners like yourself. Your enthusiasm for storytelling and your willingness to join me on this adventure mean the world to me, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to share my stories with you, “Stefanie.” 



How would you describe your editor. AHEM... 



Ah, Steven, my dear friend and partner in literary mischief, let me tell you a bit about our esteemed editor. Picture this: a steady hand guiding us through all the twists and turns, with a keen eye for detail and a knack for bringing out the best in our work.


Steven, you've been the backbone of Whispering Hooves, offering invaluable feedback, catching those pesky typos, and helping us refine our prose to perfection. But it's not just your editing prowess that I admire—it's your unwavering support and friendship that truly make you stand out.


With your good humor and down-to-earth approach, you've made the editing process a breeze, turning what could have been a daunting task into a collaborative and enjoyable experience. Your insights and suggestions have pushed us to new heights, and I'm grateful for the time and effort you've dedicated to our project.


So, here's to you, Steven, my trusted editor and cherished friend. Whispering Hooves wouldn't be the same without you, and I'm grateful to have you by my side as we bring our story to life.


Booksteve: Aw, shucks, B.E. Thanks. And I can’t wait to read what you come up with next!


Whispering Hooves is available through the usual sources—Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. It can be purchased in hardcover, trade paperback or eBook format.