Thursday, May 31, 2007

My First Concert-Tony Orlando and Dawn

Earlier, in my Beverly Hills Supper Club post, I noted that "Wild Honey" reminded me of Dawn and that the event took place at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati. All of this got me thinking about the very first actual concert I ever saw which happened to be at that same venue about a year and a half earlier.

The Coliseum was new and I wanted to see what it was like. The first act I wanted to see was Sammy Davis, Jr in concert with Freddie Prinze as opening comedian. For reasons lost to time, that never happened. Instead I talked friend Terry (and his mom again) into attending Tony Orlando and Dawn's concert at the Coliseum in 1975.

In 1976, I was into the Beatles, Wings, the Monkees, the Moody Blues, and was just discovering FM radio. I loved AM pop though and Tony Orlando and Dawn had arrived in force with a string of big hits from "Candida" to "Knock Three Times" and the monster hit that was "Tie a Yellow Ribbon." Originally Tony with a couple of girl backup singers he had never even met, the records were first released under the group name of Dawn. Tony's charisma got his name up front quickly, though and luckily, when he met the girls, there was an amazing chemistry. Joyce Vincent Wilson and most especially Telma Hopkins were savvy, funny women who rode their success high as Orlando's million dollar smile lit their way.

Given their own TV variety show in 1974 (perhaps as a replacement for the now divorced and thus unfunny Sonny and Cher?), Tony and Telma each showed a marvelous flair for comedy and absolutely no lounge singer ever worked a crowd like Tony Orlando!

In early 1977, Freddie Prinze who had become quite friendly with Orlando after dozens of lookalike jokes brought them together, killed himself. Not long afterwards, Tony Orlando had a nervous breakdown on stage and the hit factory he headed slammed to a stop. Tony recovered and its still a treat (however infrequent) to see him today. Joyce went back to session work and eventually, I've heard, retired. Telma ("When I was a kid, mom told me to get the 'H' outa there!")reinvented herself as a popular comedic actress in sitcoms.

The Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire

Another, much sadder, anniversary this past week was that of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire. The third largest nightclub fire in US history, 165 people were killed that night including the parents of the young woman who sat directly in front of me in my Senior Geometry class...a week away from our graduation. Everyone in this area knew someone who was connected with this terrible tragedy. Four months later, in a much more uplifting moment, Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum hosted THE CHILDREN'S BENEFIT CONCERT to raise money for the families of the victims.

My parents and I attended. John Davidson had been the headline act on the night of the fire and repeated that role at the Concert. A favorite of mine since Disney's HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE, he was charming and entertaining. This was more than could be said of Dirk Benedict (later of THE A TEAM) who came out on stage and faced away from my side of the audience for the entire time. Not known as a singer, he nevertheless sang one song.

Local celebs Nick Clooney and Bob Braun put aside their (exaggerated anyway) rivalry and co-hosted the event. Others who appeared included comics Teter and McDonald who had been onstage at the moment the fire was announced and other supper club regulars Tony Darrow, Donna Cellini, John Gary, Patti Pivarnik, Marilyn Maye and the Van Dells. Frankly, I don't remember any of them at all except for the Van Dells, a good Sha Na Na type group who apparently were feuding amongst themselves and were soon to lose one member. One act I do recall was Ron Townson and Wild Honey. Ron was the big guy from the hitmaking Fifth Dimension, here briefly attempting a side career with a group of four "Dawn"style female backup singers. According to the souvenir book, "He tittilates the ear with a sound that really sends you." Oookay then.

Here's a link to more info on the fire, itself:Beverly Hills Supper Club fire - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

More Star Wars

Yesterday, I wrote of my first time seeing STAR WARS. Today, strangely enough, my cousin Rick at On My Mind writes about my THIRD time seeing it! Meanwhile I found this absolutely fascinating piece at Making movies thanks to one of many interesting STAR WARS links from the always enjoyable Tony C over at Mah Two Cents :: Main Page. Seen here are the free booklet Rick writes about as well as THE STAR WARS ALBUM that was sold in stores a few months later.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Alan Hanley's Star Trek

The fanzine pages of the early 1970's were filled with two things--Star Trek cartoons and Alan Hanley artwork. Here, thanks to one of our readers, we have a little-seen combination of both. The late Mr. Hanley's skills as a caricaturist are on view and the cartoons aren't as lame as some of the hundreds that flooded the market in those days. Uhura's gag by the way was lifted from E. Nelson Bridwell's famous MAD gag in which Tonto offered the same response when the Lone Ranger complained that the Indians were attacking. Were these ever published anywhere? The originals of these are for sale by the gentleman who shared these images with us. If anyone is interested, please email me here and I'll put you in touch with him.

Star Wars

I would be remiss if I didn't say something about STAR WARS before the end of its 30th anniversary month so here we are. I saw STAR WARS (or if you insist, "THE NEW HOPE") 8 times in 1977-78. It opened only at one hard to get to (when you didn't drive) multiplex outside of town so even though I'd been eager for it thanks to smallish plugs in STARLOG magazine for months I had to wait until that first Sunday when I talked my friend Terry into having his mom take us to an evening show. It was packed (which was unusual in those days!) and I remember well the feeling of awe that I got in our tenth row seats when that loooong spacecruiser first moved upscreen. THIS was what I had wanted nearly a decade earlier from that pretentious 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY! This was entertainment on a grand scale. I loved every second of it! My local theater was locked into playing something else for another month having taken a pass on this STAR WARS thingie. By the time it was hot they were kicking themselves and undoubtedly firing people. Once it did finally open there however it would set new records by running more than a year! As such, just to deviate from the now-classic Hildebrandt poster artwork, we would sometimes see newspaper ads like the tongue-in-cheek one seen here from the Christmas 1977 season 8 months after that opening. My wife tells me that every date she had that year said, "Hey, ya wanna see STAR WARS?" Being the geek I would eventually meet and marry, she of course said yes every time.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


BATFINK is coming! To DVD that is! In July, the complete 1967 series is being released on DVD. For many years, BATFINK was my cartoon Holy Grail. As a child, I saw it regularly listed in TV GUIDE but on a channel we couldn't get! The title and the fact that it was identified as a cartoon made it obvious that it was a BATMAN parody and I was all things BATMAN at that time. I longed to see this show! I drew ( long lost) pictures of what I thought the character would look like and patiently scoured each week's listings to see when my local channels would pick it up. This never happened. I may even have written to them but I'm not sure. Every once in awhile, when atmospheric conditions were just right, I could aaaaallmost pick up that out of town station and once--just once--I saw BATFINK!! If, that is, you can say it was seeing BATFINK when all I could make out were ultra-grainy images and all I could hear was the ocassional fading in and out appearance of the title character's heroic voice.

That voice, I would find out much later, was provided by a multi-talented man named Frank Buxton. Buxton is the co-author of the seminal Old-Time Radio book, THE BIG BROADCAST. As an award-winning writer/producer/actor/director, he has worked with Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Jonathan Winters and even fellow blogger Mark Evanier on an episode of his GARFIELD AND FRIENDS. For more on Frank Buxton, here's a link to a Mark Evanier piece:news from me - ARCHIVES

With the coming of cable, BATFINK finally surfaced on a channel I could get only about twenty or so years after I had obsessed over it. It was worth the wait. Like many limited animation cartoons of the sixties, Hal Seeger's BATFINK made up for its shortcomings with some genuinely amusing super-hero parodies and funny voice acting. I watched it regularly and was able to introduce my son to it. Check out this episode I found online this morning PistolWimp - Batfink: Hugo The Crimefighter. Then check out this cool BATFINK site: Batfink. Me, I'm gonna see if I can get somebody to send me a review copy of that upcoming DVD set!

A Couple of Great TV Specials

Here's a couple of great TV specials from the early 1980's.

The first, THE FANTASTIC FUNNIES, featured WKRP IN CINCINNATI's busty Loni Anderson as a Daisy Mae type in a survey of classic comic strips. The special featured new animation (in some cases the ONLY animation some of these characters would ever receive) and some rather lame comedy bits. Clearly designed for the casual comic strip fan and as nostalgia for older folks rather than for us buffs, it was nevertheless an entertaining bit of fluff. In spite of my at times spooky memory, though, I'm at a loss to remember exactly what part POGO played in the show. Was there POGO animation here?

The other show, WHEN THE WEST WAS FUN, had Glenn Ford introducing an old-time western saloon full of TV cowboys and Indians from the fifties, sixties and seventies. This one I have on tape somewhere and while there really is zero substance to the whole thing, it's so much fun for boomers to see all their old heroes in costume again. LAWMAN'S John Russell and Peter Brown, SUGARFOOT's Will Hutchins, THE RIFLEMAN's Chuck Conners and Johnny Crawford, Clayton Moore's LONE RANGER and a couple dozen others appear. Stars of THE VIRGINIAN, WYATT EARP, THE HIGH CHAPPAREL, LAREDO and even the short-lived DIRTY SALLY (radio and TV star Jenette Nolan). There are some clips, too, but the fun is in seeing the old stars reenact their old roles...if only for a few moments.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Won Ton Ton, The Dog Who Saved Hollywood

The other day we revisted THE PHYNX, one of the worst films ever made but notable for its large and esoteric collection of old-time stars. Many of that same crowd came together once more just a few years later in 1976's WON TON TON, THE DOG WHO SAVED HOLLYWOOD. Intended as much more of a major release than its predecessor, WON TON TON failed almost as badly.

The story is a clever one about a young woman trying to become a star in the early days who is upstaged by a Rin Tin Tin-like German Shepherd. Madeline Kahn stars, fresh off her triumphant appearances in Mel Brooks films. Longtime movie villain Bruce Dern was in his brief goodguy phase (that included Hitchcock's final film) and TV comedy legend Art Carney had been a surprise Best Actor Oscar winner the previous year. Unfortunately, they all ended up in a rambling plot under the ham-handed direction of future UK restaurant critic and TV personality Michael Winner, best known for violent action films like DEATH WISH!

The only things that makes this dog (literally) worth seeing are the ever so brief star cameos. The stars repeating from THE PHYNX are Edgar Bergen, Joan Blondell, Johnny Weissmueller, Georgie Jessel, Huntz Hall, Andy Devine, Fritz Feld and Rudy Vallee. Other notable appearances come from Jimmy Ritz, Rory Calhoun, Henny Youngman, Doodles Weaver, Aldo Ray (later in the porn western, SWEET SAVAGE), Ann Rutherford, Walter Pidgeon, the great Louis Nye, Dennis Morgan, Ricardo Montalban (KHHHAAANNN!!!!), Ann Miller, Mike Mazurki, Keye Luke (who dubbed the villain's voice in ENTER THE DRAGON), Victor Mature (also in HEAD), Virginia Mayo, Guy Madison, Peter Lawford, Sterling Holloway (the original voice of Winnie the Pooh!), Dorothy Lamour, the wonderful Stepin Fetchit, Alice Faye, Cyd Charisse, Dennis Day, Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester!), John Carradine, Broderick Crawford, Milton Berle and Richard name a few! Thow in the lovely Terri Garr and Phil Silvers in more substantial roles and film buffs might actually enjoy WON TON TON,THE DOG WHO SAVED HOLLYWOOD in spite of itself!

How To Be A Civilian

HOW TO BE A CIVILIAN by Morton (no relation that I know of) Thompson was a 1946 book written with the idea of helping the thousands of returning servicemen fit back into non-military life. It is at the same time a humor book and a serious how-to book. The author, himself a recently returned vet, writes in a combination of uncensored military slang and the instructional voice of a teacher.
Chapters in the book include:
Why Are We Peaceing?
What Are Girls?
Bucking and Bitching
How to Get in Bed With Your Wife
How to Talk Civilian

The book looks at being a civilian as (sadly) simply a break between wars. Thus, the main thrust of the book is how to fit in while you need to and before you are recalled for the next war.
As I said, it is uncensored…to an extent. Lots of "damns" and "hells" and "bitches," sexual slang and references to prostitutes as a recreational activity. For 1946, this would have been considered pretty extreme for a civilian book! On the other hand, the word "tuck" appears occasionally where a similarly spelled word would seem more appropriate (if still inappropriate). Also the term "chicken shed" (sic) appears in context that might be interpreted with a similar sounding word instead. Were "tuck" and "shed" really used as curse words in postwar America? WTF? That’s a load of chicken sh**!!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

True Grit

Amongst the other anniversaries this past week, John Wayne would have been 100 years old! Kind of hard to believe. Wayne had grown from a utility actor in B Westerns to a full fledged A list movie star to a virtually review proof film icon by 1969. He was big, he was gruff, he was John Wayne. Past the fifties, that's pretty much all the Duke was allowed to be in movies and it seemed like enough to us fans. In 1969, however, director Henry Hathaway encouraged or allowed Wayne to do something different and he did. The book TRUE GRIT (front and back covers of the movie tie-in papernack seen here) had been a modest hit but the movie became a true event. John Wayne, perhaps for the first time in a decade, was not playing John Wayne-He WAS Rooster Cogburn, a half blind, whisky swilling, washed up, fat old lawman. In a bit of stunt casting, singer Glen Campbell, then at the height of his TV fame, plays a Texas ranger. He's not horrible but in this film he's completely overshadowed by Wayne's bravura performance. That said, young Kim Darby, giving a very mannered performance as the young woman who hires Cogburn because he has the title "true grit," keeps up every step of the way in what would inexplicably turn out to be her one real shot at the big time. Wayne got the Oscar for best actor that year and smiled ear to ear. You could say it was perhaps for his whole career but then you see the performance again and realize that no, this guy deserved it! After TRUE GRIT, Duke reverted to type, playing his stock character in westerns and police potboilers for another five years or so before another turn at Rooster and then the self conscious eulogy for the western film that was THE SHOOTIST. After that rather obvious ending, in spite of talk of more movies, John Wayne retired to deal with cancer. He died in 1979, ten years after his most public triumph. Watch for Wayne's movies all over the TV this weekend but particularly on Encore's Western channel.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Donation Request

Here's me still sick (and half asleep in this picture!) after more than a month. Just a reminder that the Paypal tip box to the right really does help us keep this little non-profit enterprise going. Today is payday and my entire paycheck and more is going toward fees for restructuring our mortgage so we can finally get our home out from under the threat of foreclosure. There's still the threat of our water being cut off next week and a major plumbing issue we've had to ignore even if we salvage that! The donations that trickle in from time to time really help with all of this and what passes for my sanity so if you like all the pop culture goodness we dole out here at the Library on a more or less daily basis, please consider a Paypal tip as it would REALLY help right now. Thanks and keep reading. The best really is yet to come!

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye-The Barbara Payton Story

First of all, in the interest of full disclosure, John O’Dowd, the author of the book reviewed today, is also my co-author in the ongoing and upcoming Christa Helm project. His book is KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE-THE BARBARA PAYTON STORY. I’d be willing to bet that unless you’re a particularly knowledgeable film buff you might never have even heard of Barbara Payton. If you have you, like me, might have just considered her as a sad dirty joke punchline in the history of Hollywood scandals. This book has definitely changed my image of Ms. Payton.

To sum up her story, she started at the top, co-starring with Jimmy Cagney and Gregory Peck in late forties films, had a controversial love triangle with actors Franchot Tone and Tom Neal (talk about opposites!) and due to alcohol and what is now believed to be a bipolar condition, she ended up turning tricks in Tinseltown less than fifteen years later. Barbara Payton died in 1967.

The story of cult film actor Neal’s fistfight with the classier Tone (Joan Crawford’s ex and also involved in the Black Dahlia case!) over Barbara makes some film noir histories, Barbara’s notorious alleged affairs with Bob Hope and others can be found between the lines in others but who was Barbara Payton and what the hell happened to her? Until this book, that answer was pretty hard to come by.

With KISS TOMOOROW GOODBYE (named after one of her biggest films), John O’Dowd shows a commendably obsessive drive to find out the true story. In his years of efforts, he has talked with everyone from her relatives to her former neighbors to Dr. Joyce Brothers and come up with a portrayal of a beautiful, talented, complex woman who didn’t know how to deal with her mental problems and so fell into promiscuity and alcohol. At times vain, mean and not incredibly likable, we see a full-blown portrait of this hard to understand woman that often succeeds in making one feel the pain she must have felt.

The author juxtaposes her life and career in a fairly straightforward fashion, moving through her early successes in films to lesser roles in no budget westerns and Sonny Tufts comedies. The meat of the story, however, lies in her personal life as we see her go through a succession of men looking for love and constantly showing hope that her career would rise again even as the alcoholism robbed her of her youth and beauty.

As I read the book and became more and more familiar with Payton and her issues, I strangely began to recognize some of them in people that I know now or have known over the years. Suddenly, incidents that touched my own life began to make a little more sense. You can’t help but feel sorry for Barbara as she spirals ever downward in deepening desperation. The jokes about her and her nudge-nudge, wink-wink sexual antics just aren’t funny by the time you realize where they fit in her overall makeup. You just want her to get a little treatment but then that wasn’t readily available or even understood in her day.

Without sensationalizing the story, O’Dowd has succeeded in fleshing out Barbara Payton in a way I might not have thought possible had I bothered to think about it at all. It gives me hope that we can and will eventually bring the equally ill-fated Christa Helm back to life for readers who never got to know her sass, her drive and her love for life. Thanks for introducing us to the real Barbara Payton for the first time John. She was a remarkable woman! If you call yourself a film buff, then KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE-THE BARBARA PAYTON STORY really needs to be in your library. Get it at BearManor Media.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dynabrite Comics

Here's a comic company that I seem to have completely missed. Never seen an issue. From what I've discovered, though, Dynabrite Comics was a Whitman spinoff from the late 1970's that reprinted two previously published Disney, Warner Brothers of STAR TREK comics on better paper with brighter than normal coloring. They retailed for 69 cents at a time when regular comics were still about 50 cents and had cardboard fronts with blank white inside covers. Sort of an early version of Baxter paper comics?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Japanese Luchadore Memos

In the book I reviewed last week, MONDO LUCHA A GO-GO, it's noted that the Japanese adopted and adapted the whole lucha concept to their own shores. Well, as if to underline that, here's a nifty l'il Japanese notepad given to me yesterday by my close personal friend (she collects Steves) Cassandra. Thanks, Cass!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


The low budget 1959 Vincent Price thriller, THE TINGLER featured showman producer William Castle’s notorious gimmick of having seats in the theater wired to give filmgoers an unexpected jump at certain moments during the picture. It was not a popular gimmick and by all accounts didn’t even work all that well.
In 1974, however, Universal Pictures decided to try it on a major scale with Sensurround. The picture was EARTHQUAKE, a by the numbers disaster flick featuring the genre’s demi-god, Charlton Heston along with an all-"star" cast that featured Marjoe Gortner, Ava Gardner, Victoria Principal and Richard Roundtree as Evel Knievel. Seeing this film in first run theaters was an experience. The Sensurround process depended on the theaters being rigged up with a sound system that caused the very theater to seem to shake at appropriate moments. It also gave the viewer quite the headache and, as I recall, a bit of nausea, too.
The latter was definitely emphasized for me on the second Sensurround feature, ROLLERCOASTER. Gimmicky though it may have been, this was a sharp mystery by COLUMBO’s Levinson and Link featuring George Segal (one of my favorite seventies leading men. What happened to his career anyway?) as the good guy and Timothy Bottoms as the bad guy. Henry Fonda was in there somewhere in one of those glorified cameos he did in between GAF commercials during that period. The shaking was well-timed but I HATE rollercoasters! I get motion sick if I turn around too fast!
MIDWAY came next, this time teaming Heston and Fonda with Robert Mitchum, Glenn Ford and even Japanese legend Toshiro Mifune…all of whom were pretty much left with glorified cameos that took a back seat to the spectacular wartime special effects. That’s where the Sensurround came in on this one, rumbling like planes and explosions throughout the meat of the picture. What a headache!
Sensurround’s final bow was with the theatrical release of TV’s BATTLESTAR GALACTICA pilot, re-edited and shown in theaters with an eye toward some of that STAR WARS money, Universal hedged its bets by throwing in its noisy, unpopular and even controversial gimmick. I’ll be honest, I barely recall it even being used on this one, however. It was certainly not used again, being retired to the status of trivia question. Four mediocre films…four headaches that lasted the rest of the day. Ugh!
Nowadays, of course, I'm reminded of this long ago gimmick every time I play video games with my son and lose because my controller abruptly rumbles in time with the on-screen action!

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Phynx Revisited

Courtesy of ace researcher DEREK Tague (aka the king of the dyslexic joke and the mayor of Etherville), here's a nice cast photo and a couple of contemporary reviews (or in one case half of one) of the barely released 1970 film, THE PHYNX, a true contender for the coveted title of worst film ever made. Just a quick recap, many of the world's pop culture icons ( the Bowery Boys, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Colonel Sanders, Dorothy Lamour, etc.) are kidnapped by an enemy nation. The US forms a Monkees-style rock group (naturally) and has them trained as secret agents (by Richard Pryor and Dick Clark amongst others) to be sent to rescue the plethora of out of work guest stars. Hilarity ensues...or presumably might have if the otherwise talented folks behind this misfire hadn't made nearly every possible mistake along the way.
In the picture you have-Kneeling l to r, The Phynx (Ray Chippaway, Dennis Larden, Michael Miller, Lonny Stevens), Pat O'Brien, Fritz Feld, Rudy Vallee
1st row standing- Butterfly Mcqueen (barely visible), Joe Louis, Andy Devine, Ruby Keeler, Lou Antonio, Patty Andrews, Louis Hayward, Dorothy Lamour, Georgie Jessel, Busby Berkeley, Joan Blondell, Colonel Harlan Sanders, Jay (Tonto) Silverheels, Johnny Weissmuller
Back Row-Joseph Gazal (??), Xavier Cugat, Huntz Hall, George Tobias, Leo Gorcey, Marilyn Maxwell, Cass Daley, Maureen O'Sullivan, Edgar Bergen
Not seen here but also in the film were Clint Walker, John Hart (as the Lone Ranger) and Charlie McCarthy!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Draw Captain America

Here's a cool CAPTAIN AMERICA ad for a contest held back in the mid-forties. That was pretty good prize money back then, too! Say, if anyone wants to enlarge the ad, print it out and draw YOUR version of the Golden Age Cap, scan it and email it back to me and I'll be happy to run it here. So get out your pencils and crayons and get to it! Don't expect any of that prize money out of me, though. In fact, if anyone wants to drop a tip into the Paypal tip box to the right, it would be greatly appreciated as we're still struggling here. ThanX!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mondo Lucha A Go-Go

Okay, I finished MONDO LUCHA A GO-GO last night and I have to say I have mixed feelings about it. Visually, it certainly is a treat. Lots of black and white and color pictures that take you from the earliest days of the Mexican wrestling traditions to the present with marvelously psychotronic asides on the tie-in comic books and especially the several hundred Mexican wrestling hero movies! Even if you don’t like wrestling in any form, it’s a fascinating story!

In these pages you meet the legendary El Santo, Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras and a number of lesser known luchadores, all given their own individual biographies as well as having their stories told in the context of the overall sport. In the ring these masked men fought each other in representations of good and evil that thrilled and inspired generations. In the cinema, they fought mad scientists, aliens, monster, vampires, robots and zombies defining an entire subgenre of the Mexican horror film.

The problem that I have with the book is the writing style. Author Dan Madigan, although listed as a novelist, screenwriter and TV producer who has, himself, worked in professional wrestling, writes in an annoyingly repetitive style, almost as if each chapter were written as a separate article. There are obvious grammatical errors and what, to me, is an odd mix of conversational style and professional style.

The story he tells makes it worthwhile, though. Like Clayton Moore and William Boyd in the US, both of whom based their lives around the values of the cowboy heroes they played on TV and in film, Rodolfo Huerta BECAME El Santo to the point where he was buried in his mask! Same with Blue Demon. In both cases, their sons carried on their good name.

The best written sections of the book are the brown sidebar sections that explain how American wrestling never really "got" the luchadores and, my personal favorite- as election of gospel truths of Lucha movies.
If you like weird and wacky pop culture, it doesn’t really get much weirder and wackier than this and MONDO LUCHA A GO-GO is the most mainstream book on the subject to date so in spite of my caveats, I do recommend it. If you find yourself hypnotized by the cinematic versions of these "real-life" super guys, here’s a link I found for a whole bunch of Mexican Wrestling DVDs.SANTO AND FRIENDS: MEXICINE DVD Can’t personally vouch for ‘em but if I weren’t fighting financial evils right now, I WOULD order from them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


The first Mexican wrestling superhero I ever saw was called Neutron. Neutron was the black masked star of a series of low budget black and white movies filmed south of the border in the early to mid-1960’s. In the early 1970’s, the local UHF channel in Cincinnati ran several if not all of these films (it’s hard to tell as many were similar) and they were unlike anything I’d ever seen. Atmospheric in spots, static in others, they reminded me of the first season George Reeves SUPERMAN episodes at times. The shirtless hero, never seen without his trademark mask, was a superhero who made his living as a professional wrestler. At least twice in every film, the plot stopped dead for a wrestling match! And what plots they were— evil dwarves, clunky robots, mad scientists wrapped up like mummies! They even inspired me to make my Captain Action into a version of Neutron!
Wolf Ruvinskis is credited as Neutron and according to IMDB he really was a Mexican luchador. That said, Neutron has the barest cameo in the new book I’m reading, MONDO LUCHA A-GO GO (watch for a review when I’m finished!) a history of that bizarre world both off-screen and on. Apparently next to the big guns like El Santo and Blue Demon, Neutron was an also-ran as a professional wrestler.
Ruvinskis, however, lists an impressive film career without his mask, also. This is something those other guys never dared do. Apparently, Wolf doffed his black mask in 1965 and went on to become a successful character actor, even appearing in an episode of American TV’s I SPY. His acting career continued until about a decade ago and he died in 1999.
Mexican wrestling movies I’ve seen since are bigger, weirder and certainly kitschier but I’ll always have a soft spot for those long ago Saturday evenings watching Neutron put wrestling holds on mad scientists.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bob Shreve and Me on the Net

Awhile back, I wrote about my long ago adventures in show biz as a member of the comedy troupe, the Ohio River Swim Club in 1980. Our one TV gig was on BOB SHREVE'S PAST PRIME PLAYHOUSE, an overnight movie show hosted by local TV veteran Bob Shreve. As a child, Bob was one of my favorite people as he hosted daily shorts with the 3 Stooges and even some silent comedy. In the last couple of years the long since deceased Mr. Shreve has become the subject of a growing Internet cult initially fostered, I'm told, by the long-forgotten footage of my TV debut as provided to the Bob Shreve Fan Club. Now, however, the estimable talents of computer expert Jeff Kidwell have come up with digitally remastered copies (from my original Beta cassette!) and posted it online! Jeff has, in fact, edited my footage together with footage from other sources to come up with something approximating the true Bob Shreve experience...without the movies. Thus if you wish to see the single worst TV debut ever, you can check out 21 year old Booksteve currently at Of the three sketches by ORSWIC, I wrote the Baseball Announcers, I wrote and co-star in The Easy Street Loan Company and I had nothing to do with the Doctor sketch other than later dating two of the girls in it. Let me know what you think!

Superman's Forgotten Weakness

Okay, we all know that Superman is vulnerable to kryptonite and to magic. Every school kid knows (or used to anyway) that. In the early seventies, however, when Julius Schwartz took over from longtime editor Mort Weisinger, it was decided that the man of Steel needed some new weaknesses. First they had this sort of sand Superman who was taking power away from the real guy issue by issue. Eventually, though, that storyline played out. Less remembered is the OTHER big weakness that writer Cary Bates attempted to give Supes.

In 1972’s issue 249 of SUPERMAN, we learn that throughout his life, Clark has had mysterious crying fits followed by major meltdowns. Why? Because it’s his birthday, naturally! Seems that on Krypton, birthdays were sad events that for centuries involved ritual crying jags that eventual became so ingrained that Clark continued them on Earth without ever knowing why. In this issue, he uses one of his hundred or so Krypton time viewing devices to discover all of this and then superhypnotizes himself into forgetting his birthday, thinking this will eliminate the problem but no…Thus, his depressive breakdown hits just in time for the debut appearance of Terra-Man, a not particularly well remembered space cowboy who was intended to become a major villain in the canon. The big guy is so busy bawling uncontrollably that the new bad guy almost beats him. Luckily, our hero manages to use his disadvantage to his advantage and saves the day as usual.

With marvelous art from the Swan/Anderson team (note the cameo from TV’s Archie and Edith), this story comes off pretty well but to the best of my knowledge, the birthday "curse" was never mentioned again. The issue also features Bates’ origin of Terra-Man as delineated by the unusual art team of Dick Dillin and Neal Adams! This was a good period for SUPERMAN comics but fairly quickly fell into filler stories by lesser writers.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Comics Code Blinked

Okay, cut me some slack. I've just started on heavy meds. Still, I found it hilarious that the Comics Code, way back in 1985, would let this rather obvious (and lame) erectile dysfunction joke get through in one of Keith Giffen and Robert Loren Fleming's AMBUSH BUG stories in ACTION COMICS! I doublechecked the front of the comic, though and it is most definitely Code-approved. Sigh.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Diagnosis

Well, it’s official. After nearly a month of being sick without quite being able to figure out what I had in order to treat it, today I consulted with two more trusted physicians, Doctor McCoy and Doctor…well…McCoy. It seems that I have been dealing with walking pneumonia! (Not even Rockin’ Pneumonia! Sheesh!) Thus, I am now on five different medicines for treatment of same and associated symptoms (as well as new high blood pressure medicines) and the only thing I felt like blogging today was this rather crudely grafted image. More tomorrow...hopefully!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Christa Again

Thanks to Ilya from Once and Never Again for some interesting news on the late Christa Helm but don't just tease me! Can you get me a scan of it?? Please!

Justice For All Includes Children-Superman

Here's a SUPERMAN PSA from the late seventies, apparently number seven in a series (collect the whole set!) featuring everyone's favorite Man of Steel with artwork credited to Continuity Associates which, of course, is Neal Adams and crew. Neal's influence is clear here but then it would be. Not sure if he actually had anything to do with this one at all. Jerry Bingham? Our friend Mike Netzer? Some anonymous assistants? Either way, a nice one.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

American Pop

The other day we wrote about David Dachs and his 1968 book, INSIDE POP. Well, a year later he was back with a somewhat more ambitious look at the American music scene in AMERICAN POP, another Scholastic publication. This time, the author attempts to give his presumably school-age readers a full overview of the different types of music that were popular by highlighting certain performers in each style. Thus we have individual chapters on Folk, Tin Pan Alley, Pop, Jazz, Country and Western, "Mod Country," Broadway and Hollywood, Rock and Gospel Soul.

Artists whose work gets at least touched on here include Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Stan Getz, Bobby Goldsboro, Johnny Cash, Skeeter Davis (Have I blogged my Skeeter Davis story yet?), Robert Morse, William Daniels, Blood, Sweat and Tears, the Jackson Five, the Fifth Dimension and Aretha Franklin.

Quite frankly, I think he bit off more than he could chew this time knowing he had less than 200 pages with which to work. Still, I can imagine the seventh grader in those pre-Net days who got ahold of this book and at least began to discover the wonder and the history behind what he /she was hearing on the radio.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Super Friends Digest

Yesterday, I used the term "super friends" in reference to the new JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA # 0 and it reminded me of this. Before the days of trade paperback reprints, comics fans in the seventies and early eighties often had to settle for digest sized reprints. These were small, compact, easy to carry and (especially nowadays!) virtually impossible to actually read! DC’s digest line was fairly successful, though and often reprinted some choice material that would not have otherwise seen the light of day again. This SUPER FRIENDS edition, edited by Julie Schwartz, reprinted three of the delightful (and a tad more mature than the TV series) SUPER FRIENDS issues by E. Nelson Bridwell, Ramona Fradon and Bob Smith. Also, though, you get the classic (if heavy-handed) Fox/Sekowsky JLA story, "Man, Thy Name is Brother" as well as a TEEN TITANS story written by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman and featuring the original, male character Starfire. All of this nifty goodness came wrapped in a splendid cover (seen here at nearly its original size!) credited to the great Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Bob Smith and Joe Orlando. And for less than a buck in 1980! Seems like only yesterday.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Free Comic Book Day

To say I’m having a rough weekend would be putting it mildly. What with me on week four of being sick, other severe illness in the family, having to cut off the water to the house due to a burst pipe, missing SPIDEY 3, work problems that have followed me home, and missing friend Kim’s birthday it would almost be a total loss if not for FREE COMIC BOOK DAY.

We dropped my wife at a Doctor appointment yesterday and 10 year old Bookdave and I decided to hit up the local comic book shoppe for the annual freebies. The problem was that so did everyone else! I have never seen their parking lot so crowded. Even the secret parking spots in the back were filled with more waiting to take their place. Undaunted, we moved on, looking to find a nearby parking lot where we could avoid towing long enough to hike over.

After a couple of attempts and nasty looks from folks who may well have been chasing off others all morning, we ended up on the fringes of a shopping plaza some 3-4 blocks away and on the other side of the wide and busy thoroughfare. Now, BD is still recovering from his knee giving out more than a week back but he wanted to try so we walked back toward our goal…as it began to rain.

About fifteen minutes later (and after one HECKUVA time getting across the road with him dragging one leg) we arrived to find Sonic the Hedgehog big as life posing for pictures! Inside, we perused the Free Comic Book Day offerings and chose a combined total of eight. While resting up from our walk, we also found the DC SHOWCASE featuring the LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, Dave’s favorites from a very early age. In the dollar box, I was pleased to find a brittle but complete copy of DC’s 1952 FLIPPITY AND FLOP # 1! Hey, you get excited about what you want to get excited about. I got excited about this, okay?

Anyway, the FCBD offerings we ended up with were LITTLE ARCHIE (thanks for the tip, Fred!), BONGO COMICS, BUZZBOY AND ROBOY RED (never heard of it but enjoyed it immensely!), MICKEY MOUSE MEETS ROBIN HOOD, NEXUS’ GREATEST HITS, LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, the great UNSEEN PEANUTS, HOW TO DRAW and JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA # 0.

All of the above were good but I must say that I was surprised, pleased and amazed to find the JLA issue to have more substance than I expected. Essentially the story of three super-friends who and their various encounters over the years, told in a mix of art and writing styles echoing the past and previewing the future, it is a powerful look at true friendship and how it really can transcend all other issues. Art comes from a dozen different illustrators and fits perfectly everywhere. The story itself is the latest from best-selling novelist Brad Meltzer. It’s almost enough to make me want to follow the new series.

Anyway, the comics were the highlight of my day so thanks to the publishers and the creators. When all seems darkest, comics can always shed a little light on the subject!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Inside Pop

This 1968 Scholastic book, INSIDE POP, was sold exclusively in schools. Author David Dachs gives a chapter of background on the constantly changing musical scene of the times, then devotes individual chapters to his choices for the top ten American groups of the period (apparently in no particular order). It’s an interesting list:

The Lovin’ Spoonful-John Sebastian and crew certainly deserve their Hall of Fame status but are remembered today mostly for their oldies station standards rather than for the folk-rock pioneers they were.

The Mamas and the Papas- A major force behind the California sound and also the instigators of the Monterey Pop Festival, they’re also primarily remembered as oldies station fodder sadly.

Diana Ross and the Supremes-Diana the ultimate Diva songstress, presented here arguably at the peak of the group’s popularity. They would hold onto their legend status even as they inspired DREAMGIRLS but few today can probably name the other (equally talented) ladies. An acquaintance of mine heard Mary Wilson speak and sing just recently and was blown away by her talent and beauty. Diana’s personal legend has not fared so well.

The Beach Boys-In spite of their sad deterioration, Brian Wilson has emerged as one of the true innovators and survivors of the sixties. Told here is the rise to fame of the group itself with hints and snippets about Brian and his move to behind the scenes and "avant garde" music.

The Four Seasons-In 1964 they were big enough for someone to fake up a BEATLES VS. THE FOUR SEASONS album but, if you’re like me, the group’s street corner style never set well in the sixties and that falsetto of Frankie Valli’s holds up even less today. I’ll switch to Fergie if I hear BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY on the radio these days!

Paul Revere and the Raiders-Hard to believe this gimmicky band was popular enough to make the top ten! Not quite a manufactured band but their behind the scenes associations with Dick Clark undoubtedly boosted their stock. They were all over TIGER BEAT and SIXTEEN but I mean, seriously, can you even name one of their hits besides KICKS? You don’t even hear these guys on the oldies station anymore!

Sonny and Cher-Still a few years away from their hit middle class TV variety show, they were on the surface the quintessential hippie couple. In actuality, of course, the savvy (but not all that hip) Sonny was Cher’s Svengali, taking her out of her shell and making her a star. Always ambitious, Sonny surprisingly found his way into Congress while the ageless Cher attained legendary Diva status and is now in year sixteen or so of her incredible farewell tour of the galaxy!

Simon and Garfunkel-One mousy little poet with delusions of grandeur and a tall frizzy-haired singer with the voice of an angel was hardly the ultimate teen dream but these two proved their brilliance over and over and are rightfully placed high in the rock pantheon even today. I couldn’t come up with 150 bucks to see them when they toured with the Everly Brothers a couple of years back but I’m sure they were worth it!

The Monkees-Hah! Maybe now they’re looked down on but in this book, they’re treated like a real rock group which, no matter any argument to the contrary, is what they had become by that point! The Monkees sold records, sold magazines, sold merchandise, got good ratings and sold out concerts. They wrote songs, played their own instruments (more than some other groups anyway!), had groupies, were admired by their peers (including the Beatles) and everybody remembers dozens of their hits. They deserve to be on this list!

The Young Rascals-Many people do recall their songs but not necessarily who did them. Not a day goes by when I don’t hear them on the radio in between Matchbox 20 and Gwen Stefani on those stations that play lighter hits and oldies. Still, as big as their image was on TV in ’68, I doubt the average person would recognize even a vintage clip of the group with the sound turned off.

Overall, INSIDE POP picked a good mix, though. Hard to argue any of the choices really and while there’s always a "But what about…?" this book serves as a nice time capsule of popular music in the public eye at the beginning of one of the most influential years of the twentieth century.

Friday, May 04, 2007

My Living Doll

Recently I was privileged to see several episodes of a rare TV sitcom entitled MY LIVING DOLL for the first time since I was six years old. Not that it’s all that good, mind you. It’s horribly sexist and ridiculously unrealistic even within its own fantasy structure. It was, however, a favorite of mine as a child and was long thought to be non-existent as supposedly all prints were contractually destroyed when it finished its prime-time run. In 1981, I missed a question about the show on SCREEN TEST, the game show I appeared on, and it cost me the remainder of my first season. Okay, I know that I should just let these things go but I didn’t, alright??!! Anyway…
MY LIVING DOLL was part of the fantasy sitcom craze of the sixties that brought us BEWITCHED, THE MUNSTERS and even MY MOTHER, THE CAR. Here the premise was that government psychiatrist Bob Cummings has custody of a lifelike female robot played by a pre-Catwoman Julie Newmar. The fantasy aspect enters into it when Cummings, a notorious womanizer in previous sitcom roles, simply wants to make her act like a proper young woman. Yeah, right.
Cummings was an old hand by this point but his performance is a bit too mannered. The revelation is Newmar who is quite adept with a quip or a computer reference usually delivered totally deadpan. She’s hilarious!
For me, though, the most fun was in seeing that all of the episodes seemed to be directed by Ezra Stone, radio’s Henry Aldrich. My wife and I performed with Ezra in Cincinnati in what turned out to be one of his final public appearances. After radio, he had gone on to direct such shows as THE MUNSTERS, LOST IN SPACE and DIANA (the Diana Rigg sitcom). Even better is that one episode featured Parley Baer as a judge. We actually worked with Parley a number of times, most notably in a re-creation of a SUSPENSE episode in which he attempted to murder his wife (played by MY wife) and I, as their teenage son, helped save her!
So here I was, age 48, watching a sitcom I hadn’t seen in 42 years and finding two very personal connections I could never have imagined when I first saw the episodes in 1965. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE…but that’s another story.
Oh, one more bit of speculative trivia for STAR TREK VOYAGER fans--Although later called Rhoda, Newmar's robot, as you can see in this picture, is designated as project AF 709. Throughout the first episode, she is referred to as "709" as in "7 o' 9" as in "7 of 9. " Hmmm... an obscure nod from one statuesque female computer to another? You decide.