Friday, August 31, 2007

Vaughn DeLeath - Banana Oil (1925)

In this week's 'Reasons To Be Cheerful' post I made reference to 1920's 'screwball' cartoonist and writer Milt Gross, and included an example of one of his 'Banana Oil' comic strips.

It got me to thinking more about the phrase and that perhaps it bore further exploration.

Gross' 'Banana Oil' strips all had the same pay-off following the first few panels of set-up:
The pay-off reveals the antithesis of the set-up, and a character disputes the statement we now know to be false by exclaiming 'Banana Oil!'

It was 1920's slang for 'B.S.' or 'Baloney'.

A definition of the idiom listed at Answers.Com says - -
"Nonsense, exaggerated flattery, as in 'I should be on television? Cut out the banana oil!' The precise analogy in this idiom is not clear, unless it is to the fact that banana oil, a paint solvent and artificial flavoring agent, has no relation to the fruit other than that it smells like it. Possibly it is a variation on snake oil, a term for quack medicine that was extended to mean nonsense."

(See also listing at the Urban Dictionary of Slang. -click for link-)

As to the 'actual' substance in question, an entry at the Mental Floss Fact Library lists Amyl Acetate as - - "a colorless liquid ester derived from amyl alcohol, and although its scent strongly resembles that of bananas (hence the name) it is not found naturally in the fruit of the banana tree.

"It’s used in various products, from perfume (for its odor) to chewing gum (for its flavor) to nail polish remover (for its solvent capability)."

Which brings us to singer Vaughn DeLeath, 'The First Lady of Radio' in the Twenties.

I dug through some old cassette tapes of mine until I found her song from 1925 that pretty well lays to rest any lingering confusion that might exist as to the phrase's meaning and usage.

Read more about Vaughn DeLeath at the AllMusic listing. (click for link)

Listen to: Vaughn DeLeath - Banana Oil (1925)

(click for audio)

Ben-Wa Products Wholesale Order Form, 1989

Back in the 1980's I worked for about a year in a huge warehouse for an adult novelties mail-order catalog.

(click on form to engorge on a new page)

Every day I'd help unload truckloads of the various rubber, plastic and vinyl toys and appliances, lotions, cheap sexy lingerie, adult books and videos and other sundries that appeared in the glossy pages of the company's quarterly catalog.

I'd help unpack the cartons, sort, bag, apply barcodes, and place them in their warehouse locations while the order pickers would deplete the stock almost as fast as I could replenish it.

It had been a Fortune 500 company for several years running
(before their ill-advised relocation to California).

(click on either form scans or page numbers to enlarge)

Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6

For most of my time working there, it was one of the most enjoyable jobs I've ever had. Lots of funny and colorful stories...

It was hard work, but down on the warehouse floor, among the products and the hive of folks working there, it was difficult to take anything too seriously.

This wholesale list from one of the catalog's suppliers is sadly the only souvenir I have from those days.

Really it's just like any dry and boring order form, but something about the flavor of the product names make it sound at times almost like poetry.

Maybe it'd be the same for any catalog, if you arranged the items correctly...

Ben-Wa is of course still in business, and of course has a website, where many of the items still exist in one form or another.
Some things never go out of style.
Check it out if you (are of age and) have a need to 'place the faces to the names'.

Reasons To Be Cheerful: week of 08/31/07

Another year older, and likely none the wiser, here's a few things that have shown up on my radar this week...

1. Feeling well-celebrated by friends and family gives a great warm & fuzzy feeling.
Duh! Of course it does!
It's good to get the occasional reminders of the practical and emotional benefits of staying in touch with those people...

2. So - - Do you Bean?

I've been surprised at the number of negative reviews I've encountered for the new film, 'Mr. Bean's Holiday'.
I liked it very much.

That my local paper's main critique seemed to be that the story was 'implausible' indicates to me that some people may be missing the point.

Granted, I'm a sucker for Rowan Atkinson, going back to the various Black Adders and 'Not The Nine O'Clock News'.

I love the way he's equally adept at both highly verbal and exclusively visual comedy, and will often turn in performances that almost completely divorce one from the other, or blend them artfully.

Did you see him in 2005's charming 'Keeping Mum', with Maggie Smith? You should...

The original Mr. Bean TV series is an absolute treasure, even if later episodes are not as good as earlier ones.

I personally can't go anywhere near the Bean animated series. For me, it's unwatchable.

That first feature film, 'Bean: The Movie' from 1997 was a horrendous train wreck in my opinion, despite having a couple of superb Bean moments.

After experiencing diminishing returns,
Bean-wise, I had understandably low expectations for the new film.
I was SO pleased to discover that there's still room in the world for a grand new Bean movie.

Many of the pitfalls of the first movie are deftly avoided, as there's relatively sparse dialogue for much of the new film.

The supporting cast works well, especially a perfectly awful character role for Willem Dafoe, and a great cameo for French film star
Jean Rochefort.

I found the biggest surprise of 'Mr. Bean's Holiday' to be that the film is a visually stunning and very loving travel brochure for France. From Bean's arrival in Paris, all through his derailments through the French countryside en route to Cannes, my reaction was 'Yes, please' while wondering about getting my passport in order.

So, if by chance you haven't yet Beaned, check out the DVDs of the original TV series or this film.
If you have prior Bean experience, it's now safe to Bean again.

(click on image to ENLARGE)

3. I've already lost track where I just recently first saw a notice of increased Milt Gross ⬆ activity happening at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive, (click for link) but it's exciting news.

Marc Deckter of Duck Walk has generously lent them a couple of hundred vintage Milt Gross Sunday and daily comics pages that they are in the process of digitizing.

There's many of these classic 'screwball' comics already posted there. It's quite a trove.

Again, not unlike the above-mentioned Rowan Atkinson, I marvel at Gross' vesatility. His comics are true humor - - not just the rhythms, the situations, the punchlines, he just drew *funny*. A pleasure to take in.

He could convey much wordlessly, as evidenced in his 1930 'He Done Her Wrong' (reprinted as 'Hearts Of Gold') a 'silent' parody of 'The Great American Novel'.

But he was equally adept at verbal wit, as evidenced in his diabolically mesmerizing 'Yinglish' dialect books from 1926 and '27, 'Hiawatta witt no odder poems', 'De Night in De Front From Chreesmas', 'Nize Baby' and 'Dunt Esk'.

Here's a small and typically perplexing excerpt from 'Nize Baby'... ⬇ (click on image to ENLARGE)

Great fun, but how so ever, you must to be watchful if you are reading at length, yet.

Wit a gosshen, wit care det you mite should beguine to spikkings in zotch ha menner, nu?

See also an illustrated Milt Gross bio page at the Bud Plant website.
(click to link)

4. Have you yet run across Australian 'Unusualist' Raymond Crowe?

Have you perhaps already seen the video clip of his hand-shadow performance set to Louis Armstrong's 'What A Wonderful World'?

Follow the above links if you haven't.

Now if we can just get him to do hand shadows to 'Anarchy in the U.K.' or 'Pay To Cum'...

The Sunglows - Happy Hippo (1963)

A good and bouncy little instrumental that sounds very much a product of 1963.
Sort of Tex-Mex Gulf Coast surf...?

From the All Music Guide entry by Ed Hogan:

"Sunny & the Sunglows were formed from students at
Burbank Vocational School in
San Antonio, TX, in 1959.

"Its members were lead singer Sunny Ozuna (not on this track), Alfred Luna, Tony Tostado, Gilbert Fernandez, and Jesse, Oscar, and Ray Villanueva.

"Their sound was a mix of
Tex-Mex, blues, country, and mariachi.
"The band started their own Sunglow imprint in 1962."

(click on All Music link for further background info)

Listen to: The Sunglows - Happy Hippo (Sunglow Records 45, 1963)

(click for audio)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wham! and the hazards of auto-reverse cassettes: 1986 news item

When this small news item appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on August 1st, 1986, vocalist George Michael was already beginning work on his solo career, following the break-up of Wham! a couple of months earlier.

I'll give young Gordon Pickrell the benefit of the doubt, and guess that his car crash had nothing to do with any reaction to the news of Michael's professional split with former singing partner, Andrew 'The Other Guy' Ridgeley.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tony Bruno - I'm Feeling It Now (1969)

Here's Tony's second LP, following up on last week's focus on his background and his first album, 'An Original By Bruno'.

(Follow link for more info on Tony Bruno)

For 'I'm Feeling It Now' he retained Artie Ripp as his producer in his move to Capitol.

The song choices and Roger Kellaway's arrangements would lead to a *slightly* more mainstream sound than on his previous recording, though I'd say this album carries a more 'baroque' quality to it, and still has many of its own perfectly 'off' or extreme moments.

(click to ENLARGE ▼ )

As to the bombastic side of Bruno's voice and delivery, I think this LP better highlights his practice of continuing to vocalize beyond the parameters of lyrics.
Small groans and sighs, a vowel pitched into bonus syllables, etc.

Actually, I suppose he employs some of the same technique in his more hushed moments, too.
There's also more of his studied 'Billie Holiday' intonations to be found on this record, which suit him surprisingly well.

(click to ENLARGE ▶ )

Tony's the coolest, grooving in his own orbit.

It makes me happy to have the opportunity to share him with you.

"C'mon! Get freaky, GET FREAKY!!"

From Tony Bruno's 'I'm Feeling It Now' LP,
(Capitol Records, 1969)

Listen to:

Little Men And Women
Rhoda Mendelbaum
You Can't Do That
Reason To Believe
Soft Summer Breeze
We'll Be Together Again
It Happened So Suddenly
You Don't Know What Love Is
Little Green Apples
I'm Feeling It Now
Didn't We

(click for audio)

- - OR download all 11 tracks in one 32 Mb zipfile.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bendix Table Radio-Phonograph, 1947 print ad

"...Watch a miracle happen!"

(click on image to ENLARGE)

Home audio as furniture.

There's probably a comment lurking here somewhere about ambient music, or sonic wallpaper, but let's skip it for now.

I like the ad copy's liberal use of superlatives.
Indeed, the set does bear the stamp of 'decorator smartness'.

A couple of points regarding the set design for the ad - -

Other than the fake flowers and 'incidental furniture' in the foreground, please note the barest suggestion of 'home';
The sketch of a bookshelf on the wall, and the drapery rising to infinity.

- - And check out the kicky print on her blouse!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

78s fRom HeLL: Polly Possum and Joe Wolverton - Sin In Satin (1952)

I didn't know a thing about this disc when I found it years ago.
This was another example of my gambling a few cents on a mysterious old record with an intriguing combination of song title and artist name.

As is thankfully often the case, the gamble payed off beautifully!

Polly Possum was the stage name for country vocalist Polly O'Neal.
I'm not able to find much info on her (or The Dog Patch Boys) beyond her involvement with
Joe Wolverton.

Wolverton's name usually comes up in reference to his relationship with guitar and recording legend Les Paul.

Joe Wolverton (1906 - 1994) had mentored Les Paul, and was his guitar teacher in the early 1920s. The two performed together as a duo into the early '30s. They split over artistic differences in 1933 - - Paul wanted to move to playing more jazz and going electric, and Wolverton's interest at the time lay with acoustic country music.

Wolverton played in radio bands in the 1930s, and in 1943 was leading a 'kountry korn' band called The Local Yokels when he was enlisted by Spike Jones to become one of his City Slickers.
He performed with the band on and off between '43 and '46, and his guitar can be heard on some of the 1943 Spike Jones Standard Radio Transcription recordings.

Following his tenure with Jones, he played (now electric guitar) on several Polly Possum records, which all seem to date from the early 1950s.

For much more info regarding Joe Wolverton:
Click over to a bio page written by Eugene Chadbourne at AllMusic*, and there's also a remarkable bit of research on display at this 2003 forum query page at Google Answers. (click for links)

Listen to:
Polly Possum and Joe Wolverton with The Dog Patch Boys
- Sin In Satin

(Columbia 78, 1952)
(click for audio)

- - and by request, the flip side!
Listen to:

Polly Possum and Joe Wolverton with The Dog Patch Boys - Don't Talk To Me About Men
(Columbia 78, 1952)
(click for audio)

- UPDATE, 5.29.09: Bonanza!

Click over now to Uncle Gil's Rockin' Archives for 'Sad Singin', Slow Ridin''; #76 in The Hillbilly Researcher series.

As of this writing, 20 classic Polly Possum and Joe Wolverton tracks tracks are available for download as WMA files.
(I found I was easily able to convert them to mp3s after visiting here.)

- *UPDATE, 5.29.09: Sadly, the Allmusic Guide link to Eugene Chadbourne's Joe Wolverton bio seems to be dead.
Fortunately I was able to grab it from a Wolverton MySpace page erected by a musical protégé, Kathleen Williamson, who studied and played with Wolverton from 1978 - '86.

(There are also a couple of photos of Joe to be seen via her website.)

I've posted Chadbourne's text below...


Every person who straps on a Les Paul guitar owes a debt of gratitude to Joe Wolverton, got that?

This Midwesterner was Les Paul's guitar teacher in the early '20s, but never once tried to take credit for inspiring the invention of the electric guitar, as many a lesser man might. The great man's biographers do not try to dodge the influence of Wolverton, admitting that Les Paul had studied with "regional players like Pie Plant Pete and Sunny Joe Wolverton."

The latter guitarist used Sunny Joe's name while playing in a Western band, which is what he was doing when the youthful Les Paul went to hear him and stood drooling by the bandstand. Wolverton was doing something Paul had never seen a guitarist doing before: playing above the third fret.

Wolverton, impressed with the kid and ticked off with the band's vocalist, convinced his boss to fire his enemy and hire Les Paul in his place. Wolverton apparently gave his new protégé the suggested stage name of Rhubarb Red. Paul continued doing a hillbilly act in Chicago in the '30s as Rhubarb Red and his first records in 1936 were even issued on the Montgomery Ward label as Rhubarb Red. The name did not catch on, or a lot of guitarists might be playing the Rhubarb Red model axe instead.

At any rate, Wolverton and Paul continued working together as a duo, Sunny Joe and Rhubarb Red, with the latter picker covering guitar, jug, harmonica, and piano while the former played guitar, banjo, and fiddle; both sang. The combination became a hit through the two's non-stop Midwest touring, including gigs at radio stations, clubs, fairs, theaters, and dancehalls.

One of the first PA systems ever constructed was built by Paul during these tours as a gadget in order for the duo to announce upcoming shows whenever they would hit a new town. The pair broke up after the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. It was by then an artistic conflict, with Paul wanting to play jazz and go electric, while Wolverton wanted to remain country and acoustic.

Wolverton's country career would largely consist of some recording with Polly O'Neal, a country vocalist who also used the stage name Polly Possum, and led a group called the Dogpatch Boys. Heading for California, the Wolverton story now includes a clear example of him having had an original idea that others took to achieve great success and glory.

He played guitar with Spike Jones & His City Slickers for two years beginning in 1943 and again briefly in 1946, and had been working on the radio behind singer Betty Bennett when the madcap bandleader found him.
But it was apparently Wolverton who gave Jones the entire idea for developing a new kind of band. Wolverton shared Jones' cornpone sense of humor, to the point of already having his own group, entitled the Local Yokels, that played goofy instruments. This novelty combo had already appeared on the NBC radio show One Half Hour. If Jones had had his way, it would have been Spike Jones & the Local Yokels, because this was apparently his first choice for a group name once he heard and saw what Wolverton was up to. He even tried to buy the name from the guitarist, who refused, but did sell Jones some of the wacky instruments his group was using.

Wolverton officially joined the new Jones band on banjo and guitar when it set out on its second concert tour. He was featured with the band on broadcasts of the Bob Burns Show in 1943, much of which was recorded for the Standard Transcription library and later released on CD anthologies.

Following a tenure with Jones, Wolverton worked something of a dream job for a single guy as one of the only male members of the all-girl orchestra, the Polly Ship. He did a tour of Japan with the group in 1953, apparently a rare example of a ship taking a plane.

Around the same time, he was involved with the aforementioned Polly Possum, but whether this was also Polly Ship or whether Wolverton was just plain polly-jolly is unknown. The country recordings, including the songs "Sad Singin' Slow Ridin'", the enticing "Sin and Satin", and "Just Five Years Ago" were issued by labels such as Columbia on various 78s or 45s, and are said to be an interesting blend of country & western swing.

Later that decade, the guitarist returned to the Orient, touring military bases with a solo act. In the late '50s and early '60s, he worked in a guitar duo with Joe Wolfe out of Las Vegas.
~ Eugene Chadbourne, All Music Guide

The Saga of The DC Comicmobile

In 1973, there was no internet commerce and there were almost no comic book shops.
If you wanted to buy a comic book, you likely went to a drug store, supermarket, or news stand.
Depending on where you lived, if you were a collector it was common to have difficulty finding specific comic book issues you were looking for.

During the Summer of 1973, DC Comics tried a bold marketing experiment...

Earlier in the year, DC ran a promotional blurb for the 'Comicmobile' in the 'news bulletin' column of their books with a February release date. ▼ (click to ENLARGE)

The plan was to eventually have a fleet of vans dispatched all over, targeting areas that had under-served comics distribution. The hope was that through direct contact with their consumers, the comics publishing giant would get quick and important feedback on which titles were selling, which weren't, and why.

They started with one leased van full of comics and decorated with their characters, which they sent out from their NYC offices, on a route that included parts of New Jersey and Long Island.

Predictably, with most comics priced at 20 cents each, they didn't garner enough sales to cover the running expenses of the van and the cost of gas, and when kids returned to school in the Fall, the Comicmobile venture was later retired.*

Still - - How FREAKING EXCITING would that have been as a kid (hell, an adult!) to hear the Comicmobile rolling into YOUR neighborhood?!?
Running down the street, waving your dollar, gleefully shouting - 'The comic van is coming! The comic van is coming!!'

The following year, there was a fun article about the Comicmobile printed in the second issue (Sept. '74) of DC's self-published fanzine, The Amazing World of DC Comics.
(An interesting magazine, with a title not nearly as sexy as 'FOOM'.)

That article was written by two of the van's former drivers, both of whom would go on to long careers in the comics industry, Michael Uslan and Bob Rozakis.

(Presumably, that's Bob Rozakis in the super-shirt on the right. ◥ On the left as Wonder Woman is the future Dr. Laurie Rozakis.) (click to ENLARGE)

Click on page numbers to read the article - 'It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Super-Van':

Page 1
Page 2
Page 3

Via his encyclopedic knowledge, for many years Bob Rozakis has been known in the comics world as 'The Answer Man', and has had an online presence as such online in one place or another since the early 1990's.

A few years ago he revisited his memories of The Comicmobile in several entries to his column at
Silver Bullet Comics:
(click for links)
Here Comes the Comicmobile (Part 1)
The Comicmobile (Part 2)
The Comicmobile (part 3)
The Comicmobile (Part 4)
The Comicmobile (Conclusion)

(I found these links via The Comic Treadmill. Many thanks!)

Rozakis' recollections are fun, and I personally can forgive him if he gets bogged down in ranking the relative sales of the DC comics released at that time.
Judging by his list, I realize that it was probably late '72 or early '73 when my life-long interest in comic-book collecting 'officially formalized'. I'd have been around nine years old, so that sounds right.

Regardless, I remember vividly and fondly the specific issues he discusses - -
Back when The Shadow and Shazam and Swamp Thing and the Secret Origins titles were becoming popular at DC.
When their sci-fi books, 'Black Orchid' in Adventure Comics, and reprints of the Metal Men,
Boy Commandos and Legion of Super-Heroes were failing.
When 100-page Super-Spectaculars were TOTALLY kick-ass cool, and so was 'PLOP!' and Kirby's run on Kamandi.
When 'Champion Sports', 'Strange Sports' and their glut of 'Weird' titles seemed ill-advised.
When the big treasury-sized comics for $1.00 seemed like a crazy idea that just might work.

*As to the fate of The Comicmobile itself, Bob Rozakis says that after his tenure with the van, it was shipped off to Bruce Hamilton in Arizona, who drove it for a few months. A key figure in comcs fandom at that time, Hamilton would go on to become publisher of Gladstone Comics, reprinting many of the Disney comic book titles.

I'm curious how that part of the story came about, and the timeline... Any info, anybody?

The Comicmobile apparenty met its final end in Arizona, after a collision with a semi-truck.

It's a shame.
Seems like it belongs in a museum or something. The flagship of a fleet that never was, a talismanic vehicle of fantasti-graphic power, like a comic geek's version of Dr. Hofmann's bicycle.
What visions would a seeker have, sitting in the back of The Comicmobile?

IF YOU or anyone you know had the experience of purchasing from (or encountering) the Comicmobile back in the day, I'd love to hear about it, and I'm sure others would too.

Drop an e-mail or comment on this post. Thanks!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gloria Becker with Lalo Guerrero - Sixteen Pounds (Housewife's Lament) (circa 1956)

When Chicano music legend Lalo Guerrero passed away at age 88 in 2005, he had already been officially recognized as a US national treasure.

In the 1940's he was the first to bring Mexican-Spanish language and slang to American swing music and R&B.

But in fact, throughout his long and varied career, he always performed many different styles of music, from stirring Mexican folk to jump boogie woogie and rock & roll, and he was also very adept at pop music parodies.

Outside of those who are familiar with the full range of his work, he was most famous for his mid-1950's parody of 'The Ballad of Davy Crockett', which he turned into 'Pancho Lopez'.

Merle Travis first recorded his song, 'Sixteen Tons' in 1947, but it was the 1955 cover version by Tennessee Ernie Ford that became an insanely popular hit.

It would appear that
Gloria Becker's presence on this record may have occured only because Lalo Guerrero needed a woman's voice for this 'housewife's lament' parody version to work.
(Though he does give himself one spoken interjection)

The only clue I've found so far relating to background information on Ms. Becker is from a small anecdote appearing in Skip Heller's article,
'The Lalo Guerrero Story', originally printed in 'Cool And Strange' Magazine. (click link for article)

It makes reference to a story Lalo tells from 1972, in which he had made a phone call to 'his friend Gloria Becker', who was then a theatrical booking agent in Palm Springs, California.

As to the B-side of the record, Ms. Becker sings the schmaltzy 'Adios To Mexico City', a song Lalo had previously recorded himself. Let's call her performance unspectacular and leave it at that.

A couple of Lalo links: There's an interesting-looking documentary floating around film festivals and PBS - - 'Lalo Guerrero, the Original Chicano'.

Here's a link to a 'preview' clip over at YouTube.
- - And here's a link to the website for the film.

Listen to: Gloria Becker with Lalo Guerrero and the Don Ralke Quintet - Sixteen Pounds (Housewife's Lament) (Real label 45, circa 1956)

(click for audio)

Friday, August 24, 2007

US-Imported Fiat Station Wagon print ad, 1965

"All the 'extras' at no extra cost", it says...

...So presumably then, the woman was a stock accessory, not an optional add-on?

If she was shipped with the car direct from the factory, did she at least get to ride *inside* the car during the trip over on the container ship?

Who handled the insurance for that? Did that cost factor in to the price of the car?

Wouldn't the station wagon need to be cleaned upon arrival? I mean, after this woman had been living in it, or on top of it for a while?

Would she have needed a passport? A green card? Or a pink slip?

Was she under warranty?

This ad leaves SO many unanswered questions...

Reasons To Be Cheerful: week of 08/24/07

We live in a strange world. Whether on a personal scale or a global one, we all do what we can to make it a better place, but war and famine and all the other little horsemen will continue to ride.

I feel that part of staying sane in our modern age is to embrace and celebrate the absurdity of the world we live in, and don't forget to share.

Here's another small batch of little 'reasons to be cheerful' for this week.
They exist in the world simultaneous with natural calamities, scandal, intolerance, pointless death and other distractions.

1. This world used to contain Ian Dury.
- - Or rather, it tried to.
He checked out in 2000, at age 58.

An amazing performer, his music still puts a smile on my face, and of course, he's the inspiration for the title of this weekly (weakly?) feature.

In case you missed it, the song was
'Reasons To Be Cheerful, Pt. 3', first released by
Ian Dury and the Blockheads in 1979.

- Here's a link to an audio-only live recording of the song at YouTube.

- Here's a link to the text of the elusive lyrics, and another to a scholarly analysis of their meaning.

- Here's a link to actual moving video footage of
Ian Dury and the Blockheads, performing
'What a waste' under the end credits of the old British TV show, 'Revolver', as introduced by the giant video head of emcee Peter Cook.

2. I've had this bookmarked for several years now.

I only wish that when and if the day ever arrives that I've attained the proper financial and spiritual resources in my life to acquire my own 9-foot tall authorized facsimile of The Lawgiver statue from Planet of the Apes that they will still be available.

People think I'm kidding.
Nope, not kidding.

Hopefully I'd be able to have a spot for it someday that will do it justice.

I'll let you know if it ever happens...
(Don't hold your breath waiting)

Meanwhile, get the full skinny at Apemania - The Official Planet Of The Apes Tribute Website.

3a. I'm so thankful for GOOD fresh produce when I can get it, and I sure miss it when I can't.
I've been missing the variety (and caliber) of food that was available when I lived in the bay area. Which leads to...

3b. I'm happy for successful improvisation in the kitchen, on those occasions when I can pull it off.
I have a small repertoire of some good staple recipes I'm mostly satisfied with, but sometimes one is faced with few options among the leftovers in the fridge, y'know?
This evening for dinner I cobbled together a quick 'naive' Oyakodon - - naive, as in I didn't know what I was doing. So perhaps it was more of a 'O-mock-odon'.
Okay, okay, so truth be told, it was really just a soft scramble with some green onion, leftover bits of chicken, and a dash of soymilk and other stuff dumped over hot brown rice.
No proper sauce or nothin'. But it was hearty, filling, and most importantly, it did manage to put me in mind of some of my favorite Japanese food I haven't had in so long.

So maybe 'success' in the kitchen is all relative?

4. Planned for an October release, Chronicle Books is issuing the first english-language book on the life and career of Japanese special-effects pioneer Eiji Tsuburaya.

Among the hundreds of films he helped create, Tsuburaya worked on the original 1954 Godzilla movie, originating the 'suitmation' process - - puting a man in a suit and making him appear giant-sized while stomping on miniature cities and battling other Kaijū creatures.

In the mid-1960's, it was his production company that created the 'Ultraman' TV series and exported it around the world.

The new book is titled, 'Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters: Defending the Earth with Ultraman and Godzilla', and you can read a blurb about it over at Sandbox World.

Looks like the biography will also include lots of production stills, concept art, and fun behind-the-scenes photos.

Sounds like a good time to me!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tony Bruno - An Original by Bruno (1968)

Does the word 'nuance' still apply if the distinctions in question are not subtle?

As in: 'It's the overt and blatant nuances of singer Tony Bruno's histrionic vocal phrasing that make his recordings stand out so brilliantly.' - - ?

I found this album many years ago in a thrift shop.
I hadn't a clue, took a chance, it's been a favorite ever since.

At first whiff, Bruno performs in an Engelbertian Vegas style, - - only more so.
His vocals slide from languid to pensive to bombastic to overwrought, often within moments.

His renditions of familiar cover tunes bear his stamp, and his originals are unique. By definition, he is too cool, to the point that it goes beyond schtick into a strangely earnest realm of offbeat hip.

In 1960, Tony Bruno was working in the Brill Building in New York, pretending to be a record producer.
In fact, his label, Nomar Records, was a front for a New Jersey bookie with whom he was acquainted.

Nevertheless, when singer Maxine Brown walked into his office with a demo recording, Bruno found himself producing her first record, 'All in My Mind', which sold 800,000 copies and kick-started his career as a successful record producer and songwriter.

The Nomar label was bought by the Scepter/Wand record label, where Bruno would work over the next several years with Gene Pitney, Chuck Jackson, and many others.

His singing career also began as something of an accident.

In 1967, he had recording studio time booked for an artist who failed to show up. When Bruno stepped in and recorded his own vocals, Artie Ripp, an executive with the Buddah record label liked what he heard and started the wheels turning for Tony's first album.

That first album was one of the first LP releases for the Buddah label, issued as 'The Beauty of Bruno'.
When the record failed to sell, Artie Ripp sold the master to Capitol Records.
The album was re-issued in 1968 as 'An Original by Bruno', with different cover art and minus the sound of a long toke on a joint that introduces the Buddah version (and sets an incongruous mood).

There was a second Tony Bruno LP released by Capitol the following year. I hope to post selections from it here in the near future.
(Here 'tis, 'cuz no one demanded it!)

Heading into the 1970's, Bruno turned his efforts to scoring film soundtracks.
He supplied music and made an appearance in 'Hell's Angels '69', but most of his other scores were composed for adult films.

See also:

- In 1972, using the name 'P. Vert', Bruno released an odd, 'under-the-counter' X-Rated novelty record called 'Stickball'. Follow the link to Probe is Turning-on the People, and scroll down to 'session 34'.

- I've been enjoying my copies of Bruno's LPs for years, but for much of the background info here, I turned to the one and only print piece I've ever seen on the subject.
In 1998, issue #7 of Scram Magazine included an article, 'Beguiled By Bruno', written by Gene Sculatti. Short of finding a copy of that issue, the truly curious also have the option of subscribing to the 'Rock's Back Pages' online library, where one can find Sculatti's complete article archived.

**P.S.: Pssst! If you happen to have a color photo of the original Buddah 'Beauty of Bruno' LP cover you can share, I'd love to post it!

From Tony Bruno's 'An Original by Bruno' LP,
(Capitol Records, 1968 - - originally issued as 'The Beauty of Bruno', Buddah Records, 1967)
Listen to:

My Yellow Bird
Somewhere There's Someone
Hard To Get A Thing Called Love
The Grass Will Sing For You
They Say (I Don't See)
What's Yesterday
Slow Up
That Lucky Old Sun
Small Town Bring Down
I'll Be Seeing You

(click for audio)

- - OR download all 12 tracks in one 31.9 Mb zipfile.

UPDATE, 2/25/10:
Still not finding any good cover images of the 'Beauty of Bruno' album on the Buddah label, but did just come across an old
full-page ad printed opposite a page of Bruno puff pieces that appeared in the back of the January 6th, 1968 issue of Billboard Magazine.

At right, ▶
Bruno and Artie Ripp inking a deal with Capitol Records.

Click on images below to read text of Billboard articles enlarged in a new window. ▼

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Virgil 'VIP' Partch Wheaties advertisement, 1945

This ad was part of a series that ran in Liberty Magazine, with a different cartoonist supplying the pitch for Wheaties breakfast cereal in each issue.

Virgil Partch has long been one of my very favorite single-panel cartoonists.

About a month ago I posted a small spotlight on his work, pointing out various places around the web where you can see more of it.

Click here to check it out and follow those links.

Since that post, there's also been a further installment of great cartoons from VIP's book, 'The Wild, Wild Women' posted at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive website. Go take a look at that, too!

See also: More info (and further links) regarding Liberty Magazine at Wikipedia.

The Stereos - Stereo Freeze, Parts 1 & 2 (1967)

WIth their origins going back to Steubenville, Ohio in the mid-1950's, The Stereos had been through several changes in name, personnel, and record labels by the time this 45 single was released on the Cadet label in 1967.

Click over to
Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks and read how a vocal harmony group, The Montereys, became The Hi-Fi's, and then The Buckeyes, before scoring their one, nearly all instrumental national hit years later as The Stereos.

Session Line-up:
Vocals - Ronnie Parks
Tambourine - Bruce Robinson
Bass - Jerry Williams
Guitar - Nathaniel Hicks
Guitar - Solomon Huffman
Drums -Dan Walters

Listen to: The Stereos - Stereo Freeze Part 1 (Cadet Records 45, 1967)

Listen to: The Stereos - Stereo Freeze Part 2 (Cadet Records 45, 1967)

(click for audio)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A slightly puzzling Femicin ad, 1968

I came upon this little 1968 magazine ad a couple of months ago, but I've continually held off on posting it.
Maybe I've been chicken...

(click on image to ENLARGE on a new page)

No, it's nothing amazing, but the ad struck me as being particularly significant of - - something.
So I've been occasionally pondering what that something might be, and also pestering a few people for their opinions.

Certainly it has some kitsch value, and resonates a bit of a historical 'time capsule' feeling, but there's something more.

I thought about giving this post a funny or somehow ironic title, but that misses the mark too, I think.

What keeps coming to me, beyond the initial simple 'juxtaposition double-take', is that I really don't think you could get away with running an ad like this these days.

In '68, it was still sort of new and 'progressive' (?) that you'd dare to mention menstrual cramps candidly in an advertisement.

Leaving aside his mixed messages for a moment, the husband is portrayed as making an earnest attempt at sympathy.

So what's changed? What's changed in advertising, and our culture?

One friend of mine said that she thought the ad could run now if it featured a *woman* stating - - 'My husband also suffers from my menstrual cramps', but not otherwise.

As to what the husband is saying and NOT saying, here's what another friend had to say:

"Hmmmmm. Seems like pretty backhanded sympathy.

"The issue which would 'cramp' the style of modern feminists is how the ad plays on 1960's wives' insecurity about what their husbands thought about them. 'She now acts like the woman I married'.

"WOW! That's loaded.

"It would seem that despite the sexual revolution, back then a husband was the ultimate prize and attractiveness was the only bait."

- - A notion which immediately puts me in mind of Burt Bacharach & Hal David's 1963 song,
'Wives and Lovers':

"Hey, little girl, comb your hair, fix your make-up, soon he will open the door.
Don't think because there's a ring on your finger, you needn't try anymore..."

(Click here to head over to YouTube for an oddly appropriate pairing of Nancy Wilson's recorded cover version of the song, linked to a slideshow of vintage cheesecake pin-ups.)

So - - Significant? A waste of time? Funny? Tragic?
What do you think?
Any thoughts you might have regarding this ad, this topic are most welcome. Thanks!

Monday, August 20, 2007

78s fRom HeLL: Ernie Felice Quartet - Oodles of Boodle and Batches of Scratch (circa 1948)

Here's a mello-roonie little number with lyrics chock-full of vintage hipster lingo.
Dig it!

In the 1920's, Ernie Felice began studying the accordion as a child, while growing up in and around San Jose, California.

By the time he'd graduated high school, Felice had already begun to develop his unique 'orchestral' style of arranging compositions for the accordion.

In the late 1930's he was playing and touring with a San Francisco-based group, The Four Sharps.

Felice spent WWII playing in an Air Corps entertainment unit, and post war he was a member of Benny Goodman's orchestra.

His quartet signed with Capitol Records in 1947.

(Background info came primarily from a 1949 feature article on Felice that ran in an issue of 'Accordion World', on view at the JANPress website for accordion instructional materials.)

See also: 'In Tune With Fun'
- - an 8-page accordion-positive comic book from the 1950's, archived for viewing at Comics With Problems. (click for links)

Session Line-up:
Vocal, Accordion - Ernie Felice
Clarinet - Dick Anderson
Bass - Chick Parnell
Guitar - Dick Fisher

Listen to:
Ernie Felice Quartet -
Oodles of Boodle and Batches of Scratch
(Capitol Records 78, circa 1948)
(click for audio)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

(link:) A quick Herbie Popnecker web round-up

During the tumultuous decade of the 1960's, there was a benchmark for quirkiness being quietly established in the pages of 'Herbie' comic books.

Published by ACG, Herbie's adventures began in 1958 as a curious back-up feature in 'Forbidden Worlds', a fantasy anthology.

After a handful of appearances over the next several years, Herbie landed his own series in 1964.

The title ran for 23 issues, until 1967, written by ACG editor Richard E. Hughes (under his pseudonym Shane O'Shea), with artwork by Ogden Whitney.

Herbie comics were partly wry super-hero parody, partly broad, cornball antics, and part surrealist playground.

Herbie himself was a cypher - - a "little fat nothing", emotionally blank with little to say, but incongruously charismatic and capable of amazing feats.

The perfect unlikely hero.

Many fans around the web have commented on the power and mystery (and don't forget - - FUN) of Herbie and Herbie Comics.

Here are some links to just a few, all with additional compelling images...

- A cover gallery at The Grand Comics Database Project

- A profile of Herbie artist Ogden Whitney was included in the book, 'Art Out Of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900 - 1969'.
In a 2006 preview that ran at The Comics Reporter, some quotes from author Dan Nadel are included regarding Whitney's "so generic it's unique" drawing style.

- Scott Shaw's Oddball Comics archives at Comic Book Resources has several Herbie Covers and story synopses available, from a 2003 week-long focus.

- A small tribute at Silver Age Comics

- 'This Is Herbie Popnecker', at Chris's Invincible Super-Blog

- Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine presents 'Herbie Hallucinates In Hell' - - and posits a theory regarding the final Herbie story to run in Forbidden Worlds.

- DIAL B for BLOG's spotlight on Herbie's costumed alter-ego, 'The Fat Fury'.

(ADDENDUM, 12/14/07 - Follow this link to an archived reprinting of the 9-page story 'Professor Flipdome's Screwy Machine', originally presented in Herbie #4. Currently on display at Again With the Comics.)

ADDENDUM, 8/30/07 - ▼ Just found this slightly poor black & white reprint of another old Herbie ad.
It was on the back cover of a 1997 reprint of a '50's issue of 'Eh!' - one of several 'MAD' knockoffs - that had originally been published by ACG.

ADDENDUM, 4/20/08 - Some welcome news:

Due for release later this year is the Herbie Archive Volume 1 hardcover edition, to be published by Dark Horse Comics.

224 pages in full color, collecting the character's earliest appearances.

Herbie available to the masses again, not merely the intrepid collectors!

ADDENDUM, 8/01/08 - Wow! Thanks to Gary Perlman for sending along a link to his scholarly website,
'Herbie Popnecker: Examples of Recurring Themes'!

A frighteningly thorough examination that catalogs over 1000 examples of 48 different recurring themes in Herbie Comics!!

Freshly-stirred links