Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Joe Palooka Statue

Built in the 1940s and still there today, comic strip boxing champ Joe Palooka has a statue on Indiana! Not a very GOOD one if you ask me, but... Eight feet tall and "can be seen for miles???"

Joe also appeared in a couple of long running low budget movie series as well as a TV series and various comic books. When Harvey Comics pocked up the rights to Joe, it's said that his book--and its several spinoffs-- saved the company. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Scream-In, Starring Mr. Whopper-1968

Longtime readers may recall the autograph at right that I got from seven-footer "Mr. Whopper" when I was 8 years old. Today on Facebook, comics writer/artist (and actor) Craig Boldman reminded me of a long buried memory. Before Cincinnati's iconic Cool Ghoul came along to host WXIX-TV's SCREAM-IN Saturday night horror movie show, it was hosted by a "ghoulish couple" that 
included...Mr. Whopper!

Mr. Whopper was Bill Engesser, a former (you guessed it) basketball player turned small time actor and spokesperson for Partridge Meats "Whopper" franks.

As an actor, he got the parts that were turned down by Ted Cassidy and Richard Kiel, ranging from the werewolf in the now classic nudie film HOUSE ON BARE MOUNTAIN (under the name Abe Greyhound) to Bigfoot on TV's Saturday morning superhero series, ISIS. His biggest credit was in the Burt Reynolds/Lauren Hutton picture, GATOR.


Memories are unclear and old newspapers aren't helping as to sorting out when the "ghoulish couple" ended and the Cool Ghoul began. If anyone has any more info (or photos!) please let me know! Thanks!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

R.I.P. Greg Theakston

I first saw the name Greg Theakston in connection with Jack Kirby as Greg inked a lot of the King's later work (including THE HUNGER DOGS). A longtime fan, he became a friend and advisor to Jack. He even put out two books on Kirby, one on the '70s and the second volume in the '70s.

He also published fanzines like PURE IMAGINATION which covered in great depth the origins of Spider-Man. And an ambitious book project, THE COMPLETE JACK KIRBY.

And more books on Wallace Wood, Lou Fine, and other comics legends.

And THE BETTY PAGES! Greg was part of the cult of men a certain age smitten with the vanished 1950s pin-up queen. Unlike most, he was determined to find her. He published several issues of the digest sized BETTY PAGES as well as a couple volumes of a full-sized "annual" edition.

Bettie returned but not because of Greg but he did, at least, get to speak with her.

He continued publishing books, including the two seen here on Jack Kirby, both of which were proofread and edited by me (although Greg would sometimes choose to ignore my suggested changes or corrections).

A few years ago, he left Facebook and little was seen or heard from him anywhere until this week's report of his passing.

Greg Theakston was loved by some, reviled by others. He was a controversial figure in every sense of that word but he was a unique presence in comics fandom and a first class historian.

May he rest in peace.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Review: Stan and Ollie

My wife and I had to run by Walmart this morning  to pick up something and this caught my eye. Already on DVD? And less than $15. I had to pick it up. After all, I had bought my first Laurel and Hardy book around 1971. There were quite a few books on them in the years that followed and I ended up with nearly a full shelf on the boys in one bookcase. By this time, I had followed the making of the movie, and seen my more learned Facebook friends criticize some of the less than factual scenes in it.

The problem with any biographical motion picture is that a person's life (or in this case, two people) simply can't be condensed into a couple hours or less so you have to hit just the highlights. Inevitably, it's boiled down to just some almost random dramatized moments and incidents. And then there's the issue of the filmmakers creating entirely new scenes that never happened in real life. Sometimes with entirely new characters.

The trick with making a good bio-pic is knowing that the reality is not as important as the truth. Rather than just showing a series of disconnected facts in a person's life, show the audience the truth of what that person's life meant, both to them, and others.

The folks who made STAN AND OLLIE get this. Clearly. The film doesn't attempt to give us their lives but rather the ultimate love story at the heart of their later years. After a brief 1930s opening, we cut to Messrs. Laurel and Hardy in the 1950s, touring the UK as their career hits low point after low point. The general audience learns only enough about them to feel what the filmmakers want them to feel.

Central to many classic Laurel and Hardy pictures are the duo's marital relationships. Their real world wives were also central to their life stories and the ones that were there in the 1950s become also major characters here. Delightfully so.

In the end, this one is designed to be all about the feels and I think that works out just perfectly. And all of that begins and ends with the astonishing performances of John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan. It's not just imitations. They absolutely capture the nuances of voice but also the body language. You aren't very far into the picture before you come close to forgetting that you aren't watching the real Stan and Ollie.

If you're a Laurel and Hardy fan, you should appreciate it more than most but even if you've never heard of the team, the deeply human emotions should resonate.

Booksteve recommends!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Jack Benny On the Air--1930

Jack Benny's official history says he made his radio debut in 1932 with Ed Sullivan. I've read, however, that he actually did a show in 1929. Here. though, we see a 1930 Jack Benny radio appearance that I don't recall seeing listed anywhere! Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and the Our Gang kids also made their radio debuts on VOICES FROM FILMLAND.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Help Annette Heinz

Seen above is Ms. Annette Heinz. I do not know her personally although she lives in the next town over but I remember reading about her back in the day when she was appearing in adult films. I actually don't believe I ever even saw any in which she was featured. 

But now, long retired from that business, she lives in a 100 year old home with some severe structural damage that she is afraid will soon leave her homeless. 

With our own problems with leaks and pipes and roofs and siding and chimneys in just the past few years, I can somewhat relate. In our case, though, insurance took care of most of it.

Ms. Heinz and I have several mutual friends on Facebook which is how we learned of her plight.
My wife, in her capacity as a disabilities advocate here in Kentucky, is attempting to get her some assistance, but a GoFundMe has also been set up to help.

If you were a fan of Ms. Heinz's films back in the day, or if you just want to help a fellow human being down on their luck, please consider a small donation. 


Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Henry Boltinoff

A couple years ago, I interviewed author Mark Voger for the FORCES OF GEEK website. Here's Mark Voger in 1994 interviewing cartoonist Henry Boltinoff, a ubiquitous presence in DC Comics for   more than three decades.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

1966-67 TV Pilots

I'm a sucker for "what might have beens" so I'm always attracted to TV pilots that didn't sell, didn't air, or, in some cases, didn't even get made. Here we have a couple of articles from VARIETY giving hints of shows we never got to see as well as shows we eventually did, but that didn't necessarily last long enough to be remembered. Some interesting stuff here.

THEM MONROES made it on, somewhere along the way announced as WILD COUNTRY before settling for the more grammatically correct THE MONROES. It only lasted one season but maintains a fan base as evidenced by then six year old Tammy Locke's autograph show appearances all these years later.

Sally Kellerman guest starred on many of the shows listed here that season but her own series with Darrin McGavin never happened.

Donna Butterworth was a cute, popular child star of the moment, but she never ended up getting her own series.

The weirdly titled MEN AGAINST EVIL got rebranded as THE FELONY SQUAD and had a healthy run of several seasons although I don't believe it was ever syndicated. 

If I recall correctly, Paul Lynde would have been Bill Asher's "poor man's Sherlock Holmes." Had Van Williams gotten the series noted here, who would have been the Green Hornet? Of course, THAT GIRL and THE PRUITTS OF SOUTHAMPTON made it to series, one an influential hit and the other a legendary flop. Star Phyllis Diller's name doesn't appear to be yet associated with the latter here.

Surprised he Irwin Allen series didn't make the cut as everything he touched seemed gold around this time. MR. TERRIFIC came and went but interesting to note here the original plan for BATMAN style serialization. Also interesting to note so many of Jack Benny's writers involved.

The PERILS pilot...may have been the movie eventually released to theaters with Pat Boone. IT'S ABOUT TIME and RUN BUDDY, RUN! got a green light but neither lasted beyond one season. The former remains memorable for its theme song.

Looks like I'm missing a segment here. Sorry. 

PISTOLS was a great show, ended prematurely when star Ann Sheridan succumbed to the cancer she had been hiding when she took the series. JERICHO ran briefly and, naturally, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE...but...Wally Cox??

HERO IN THE HOUSE became just THE HERO, fondly remembered by some, but from the one episode I've seen recently, not so good. The LI'L ABNER pilot is on Youtube but wasn't particularly funny. I liked HEY, LANDLORD a  lot. "THE" CAT was T.H.E. CAT, another nostalgic favorite for many but a short run. And THE MONKEYS (sic). HAH!

JOURNEY INTO FEAR, produced by BATMAN's William Dozier and written by novelist Eric Ambler (according to some online sources the original BATMAN scripter) was expected to make it but didn't. It would be the reason Jeff Hunter, beyond the first pilot, could not have starred in STAR TREK, which you may have heard of over the years. Presumably the DICK TRACY listed here was also Dozier's pilot, now readily available and not too shabby. THE SAINT was an import, and Mike Henry dropped out of TARZAN on TV after being injured by an animal on his third and last feature as Tarzan. 

Friday, April 05, 2019

Mark Twain and the Monkees

When the Monkees finally came to an end in 1970, the last "group" LP, CHANGES, was left with only two Monkees--Davy and Micky. After that, the pair, who had bonded like brothers but also held a sibling-like animosity toward each other at times, went their separate ways for good. Briefly. 

Within just a couple of years, they began re-teaming for various projects, the most notable of which was the short-loved Dolenz, Jones, Boyce, and Hart supergroup that attempted with some small success to attempt to re-create the Monkees music AND humor. 

It was right after that, though, that they did this, one of their least known collaborations--Davy as Tom Sawyer and Micky as Huck Finn!