Archive - December 2005
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December 31st, 2005
Sometime this evening, between 9:30 and 10, this site will mark the completion of its third year clogging up the Internet.

Oh, I know I like to mark January 1st, 2003, as's official launch date, but the truth is, Lynn actually uploaded it a few hours before the ball was dropped in Times Square (AND before the pair of us got too loaded up ourselves!). I seem to recall there was about an hour there where not everything was coming up--Lynn's brother Bob was our Guinea pig, telling us, "I'm not seeing anything" shortly after we proudly (and mistakenly) informed him the site was up. Eventually, we (okay, Lynn), got all the glitches out, and we were in business! However, just to be official, the dozen or so emails we sent out to announce our arrival on the World Wide Web didn't go out until precisely at midnight, so yeah, New Year's Day will forever be known in this household as the date when we first learned how so much fun it is to work for so very little!

Well, that was three years ago, give or take a few hours, and I'd just like to mark the occasions with a few (relatively) brief remarks. Last year's New Year's Eve message read like an awards acceptance speech, so I'm not gonna name all you swell people again, except to say, if you've linked to me over the past twelve months, THANK YOU! If you visit here on a regular--or even semi-regular--basis, MUCHO GRACIAS! If you've ever bought any artwork--from our gallery or via the commission route--BLESS YOU!! And if you're one of those saintly individuals who sent in money merely as a way to say, "Thank YOU, Fred, for all the obvious love you invest in your site--we really DO appreciate it!", well, I'm almost TOO overcome for words, and fear that the tears that are welling up in my eyes will spill out and cause a short in my lap-top's keyboard, but hey, it'd all be worth it anyway cuz you're THE BEST!!

(And, my OTHER, comparatively tight-fisted friends, it's never too late to join that latter elite group! Simply go here for details. And we still have genuine water-damaged copies of some of my old Fantaco books for those of you willing to cough up twenty bucks or more, complete with autograph and quick sketch by moi on the inside front cover! Mold included at no extra charge!...)

Of course, if you're one of those folks who never has bothered to link to this site, and pretty much made a point of ignoring goings on here for the last thirty-six months, well, what more could I possibly say but a big ol' lusty "#@$% YOU! We'll do just okay wid' out ya--after three years, I KNOW who my friends are!"

('Course, I'm always hoping to make new ones, previous uncharacteristic outburst notwithstanding...)

Gotta mention Mark Evanier, though. Mark just celebrated five years of his News From ME a few weeks back, and not only would I like to offer my belated congrats, but to marvel at the fact that that means he's only been doing this about two years and two weeks longer than I have!! (Though I'm reasonably certain he had a web presence of some sort that predated his blog...) Mark's site was the one I modeled mine on, and though its clearly veered off in its own direction, wouldn't be what it is today without Mr.E's inspiration (AND continuous support! Clearly, Mark ISN'T one of those folks I was cartoon swearing at, uh uh...). So, thanks to ME--which almost sounds like the beginning of a bad Abbott and Costello routine, so let's move on quickly, shall we?...

The site's year in review? Not much to say. The big change was the inauguration of The Fred Hembeck Show, a weekly offsite column we folded into via this page. So far, we've posted 41 episodes, taking only last week off, when the entire IGN Comics crew themselves took a well deserved holiday break. Thanks to Ken Plume for the invitation to join in on the fun.

We posted something for just over a year straight, ending that particular compulsion back in early November. That was a blast, mostly, but it also got a little crazy at times. Posting frequently will be the order of the day--but we won't be under any orders to post EVERY day.

Of course, there are plenty of sections of the site that were unfairly neglected over the last twelve months, particularly the Classic Cover Redo portion. I'll try and get more of them posted in 2006, honest.

My big hope for 2006 is to post more of my art--NEW art--on this site. I also would like to sell more of my drawings, and find some clever new ways to rake in the cash via I did have the notion of turning this into a mostly porn site, but then had to stop and reconsider that decision. After all, how much of a market could there REALLY be for topless ladies with squiggles on their nipples? But hey, if the demand is there?...

Well, that's about it. Thanks for stopping by, as always. I appreciate your wading through my annual demonstration of shameless navel-gazing. And if you're one of those people I cursed out earlier, forgive me. Just like anybody else, I get a bit stressed out around the holidays. Sorry.

Now then, how about that link, huh? I'm not getting any younger, y'know...

(...I'm just gonna keep tryin'...)
December 29th, 2005
I'm a horrible typist.

I never actually learned the proper way to type, y'see. Back before getting a computer--and especially in the days before we launched this humble if wordy website--I probably spent no more than a dozen hours in front of a keyboard in MY ENTIRE LIFE!! In school--and later, when writing the rare comic book I didn't illustrate myself--I was able to weasel my way through by turning in my assignments (ahem) impeccably hand-printed.

That all changed when went out across the e-waves, but by then, it was way too late to teach this dog any new typing tricks. So I sit at the keyboard, looking down at the letters, furiously hunting and ever pecking. Over this blog's life span, I've developed a surprising amount of speed considering my decidedly backward methods. Of course, the wonder that is Spellcheck aids and abets me immensely, because after each and every one of my little literary forays, I have only to go back and allow Spellcheck to correct a good ninety percent of my careless typing errors. Mostly, we're talking either transposed or additional letters--and sometimes both. Good ol' reliable Spellcheck catches most of my boo-boos, happily compensating for a great deal of what's clearly lacking in my typing skills. Of course, SOMETIMES a stray, unintentionally placed letter spells out an actual word, and Spellcheck will thus let it get by, not knowing any better.

And that friends, is the prologue for today's SECOND Stan Lee-centric posting in a row!...

I've been lucky enough to make Stan's acquaintance on a number of occasions-- even working with him briefly back in 1990 on an animation project that never came to fruition (just my luck--the coolest entry on my resume doesn't actually exist!?!)--so when first I wrote up a little birthday tribute to him back in 2003, my good pal Jim Salicrup (sometimes known as Stan Lee's Evil Clone) suggested I send Stan an email letting him know about it so that he could read it. Which, naturally, I did. Much to my delight, Stan promptly sent back a very funny--and surprisingly lengthy--reply, one that didn't stint on the compliments, I report somewhat red-facedly.

So, I did it again last year, and much the same thing happened (Stan came up with a nickname for me that time--Hemby. Hey, ya gotta love it!...)

This is one busy fellow, you must understand. I make it a point of never bothering him throughout the year--that would be wrong. But as December 28th approaches, I plan my annual blog entry, and gleefully anticipate the reaction that'll invariably arrive in my email-box just a few short hours after posting it . So, last night, I wrote this year's piece, and then sat down to compose the cover letter I'd send to Mr. L, announcing my latest tribute (link included).

As usual, I banged merrily away at the keys, after which I summarily Spellchecked my first draft. Thinking I was done and ready to send, I stopped only to give the note a cursory read-through. Here's what I saw...

Time for me stand tall, face front, and offer my annual salutation:


"HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SATAN"?? Is that what happens when an extra li'l ol' "A" strays out off of the keyboard?

I gotta admit, sitting there, looking at my inadvertent mixing up of the architect of the House of Ideas with the Silver Surfer's arch-foe, Mephisto, I began to laugh uncontrollably! It was just so very, VERY wrong, which just somehow made it all the more hilarious! I ran off to tell Lynn, and she got as big a laugh out of my terrifying typo as I did. Eventually, I decided that The Man himself should be informed, so after changing the line up top, I added a short P. the bottom, explaining the wacky mix-up, and sent it off.

A few hours later, the expected reply arrived...

Hey, Hemby,

"Happy Birthday, Satan" huh? Well, you may not be far wrong!

...following which, Stan graced me with yet another nifty note, the contents of which I'll modestly refrain from sharing with you, as he went on to say some devilishly swell things about yours truly, by heck!

But mainly, I'm holding back so as not to anger The Dark Lord himself, for his wrath is boundless! For, if he says "Excelsior!" in just the slightest of menacing tones--POOF! One immediately becomes the living embodiment of a No-Prize!

Like I said at the end of our last installment, 'nuff said!...
December 28th, 2005
Begging your indulgence, here's an addendum--a final but important one--to a topic we covered here just a few short days ago: the so-called "War On Christmas".

One of the basic gripes of the folks who see this all as one big bad conspiracy is that by saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas", one is somehow down playing the significance of December 25th.


No, that's not it at all.

What these poor deluded individuals fail to comprehend is that by using "Happy Holidays" as the salutation of choice during the final few weeks of the year, its done so merely as to be inclusive of ALL the wonderful days various people celebrate roundabouts the winter solstice: Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, New Year's Day, and perhaps America's fastest growing NEW holiday...
That's right, gang, today, December 28th, is the birthdate of the none other than the man who introduced the "Marvel" to the "Comics", Stan Lee himself, and as such, is nigh unto a holy day for many of us!

Am I getting carried away, you may well ask? Perhaps, but let me ask you this--groups who strongly put forth the dubious notion that there's this "War On Christmas", is their REAL agenda not so much pro-Christmas as it is anti-Stan? Because are they not intimating that every time we intone "Happy Holidays", we might very well instead be saying "Happy Stan Lee's Birthday", and they don't want that, they don't want that AT ALL??

Could it be? Could it be that this whole "War On Christmas" nonsense wasn't actually a Fox News Channel plot to divert out attention from the indictment of the likes of (Swing With) "Scooter" Libby, but instead a carefully devised plan by none other than DC Comics themselves to keep comics fans from going out and forking over ever more good cash money for issue after issue of Ultimate Stan Lee (which, spirit-wise, describes pretty much any title Marvel is publishing these days, whether or not the contents bear any small resemblance at all to the work of their ground-breaking guru)? Could THAT be what's really going on here, bunkie?

Well, if such IS the case--and I'm beginning to believe more and more that it indeed is--I say thee NAY!!

I myself remain as ever, facing front towards the mecca that is Stan! We should all honor The Man on this, his day of days! I don't care what kind of carefully constructed mis-direction has been concocted by those who want us to overlook this glorious day, it'll never work on THIS life-long true believer! Nope, no way, uh uh, nein.

So Stan, worry not--I'll NEVER let those who would undermine the very core values that make our society the great one that it ever strives to be deter me from proudly--AND loudly--speaking the following words:

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY, STAN! Enjoy your cake!"


"War On Christmas"? Hah--NOW we know the truth.

'Nuff said!
December 26th, 2005
I don't usually do memes (which, despite Lynn's protestation's to the contrary, I still insist on pronouncing as "me-me", because after all, isn't that what it's all about? "Me! Me!"?...), but the one I found over at Bill Sherman's always entertaining Pop Culture Gadabout seemed both simple and interesting enough for me to try my hand at (as opposed to, say, wading through long, long lists of books or movies, which is NOT for me).

Any way, it's called The Meme of Four, so let's proceed, shall we?...

Four jobs you've had in your life:

Golf caddy (my first job, which I only did 3 or 4 times); grocery stock boy; gas station pump jockey (but with absolutely NO auto mechanic duties); the guy who walks door to door, leaving newsprint advertising flyers in plastic bags hanging on your doorknob.

Four movies you could watch over and over:

Superman (the first one, but NOT the sequel); Bride of Frankenstein; Treasure of the Sierra Madre; Elf

Four places you've lived:

Yaphank, NY (on Long Island); Buffalo, NY (near Canada); Troy, NY (mid-state), Woodstock, NY (groovy, man!) (I've only actually ever lived in New York state--also Kingston and at our current digs in Wappingers Falls, but I've covered over 500 miles, though I've never spent any time at all residing in the Big Ol' Apple itself. Go figure...)

Four TV shows you love to watch:

Currently : 24; Gilmore Girls, Late Night with Conan O' Brien; Curb Your Enthusiasm
Gone but forever to be rerun, at least on MY VCR/DVD player: Sgt. Bilko, Leave It to Beaver, Dick Van Dyke Show, Adventures of Superman

Four places you’ve been on vacation:

DisneyWorld in Florida; GovernmentLand in Washington, DC; the tropical island of Guadeloupe, where the ladies swim sans tops; Cape Cod, where they don't

Four websites you visit daily:

Mark Evanier's News From ME; Tom Spurgeon's The Comics Reporter; The New York Times baseball page; Ramblin' With Roger

Four of your favorite foods:

Bagel with cream cheese; pizza, Lynn's fresh baked vegetable pie; a turkey club sandwich

Four places you'd rather be:

In a higher tax bracket; in a lower weight class; in a younger demographic; and held in higher esteem

Four albums you can't live without:

Rubber Soul by The Beatles (U.S. version preferably); The Who Sell Out (expanded CD version); Sunflower by the Beach Boys; Bing Crosby and The Andrew Sisters: The Complete Decca Recordings (I kid you not--those are two red-hot swinging CDs!...)

..and just because, I'm gonna add on one last category of my very own:

Four comic-book stories you'll remember for the rest of your life:

"The Death of Superman" (1961 version), Spider-Man versus the JJJ robot, round one (ASM #25), "Ten Minutes" (The Spirit), "All Through The House" (Johnny Craig's homicidal Santa story for EC)

Well, that was fun! Anybody ELSE wanna try?...
December 25th, 2005
To quote the immortal John and Yoko,

"Happy Christmas! War is over--if you want it..."

Well, I want it, you want it, we ALL want it, so--with only a few short hours of December 25th, 2005 remaining--I'm here to declare a seasonal cease-fire!

Yes, friends--The War On Christmas is OVER!! least for the next ten and a half months, anyway...

In the meantime, we as Americans have far more important issues facing us.

Such as The War On Valentine's Day, The War On President's Day, and--most critically--The War On Ground Hog's Day!

But for goodness sake, if you should somehow accidentally encounter Bill Murray, PLEASE try and take him alive. After all, who needs to give them a martyr like THAT anyway?..
December 24th, 2005
That's Genie X from Ron and Justine Fontes' TALES OF THE TERMINAL DINER getting mixed reviews from the Big Man In The Bright Red Suit. It's a drawingI ( did for their Sonic Publishing entity about a year and a half ago, one that ultimately wound up on the cover of last winter's 163rd (!) edition of their Critter News flyer. I share it here with you in the spirit of the holidays--and because I was too darn busy hunting down Santa heads to draw anything new for THIS holiday season!

And if you need any further distractions while you await the Jolly One's arrival down your soot filled chimney (you really SHOULD get it cleaned out, y'know...), I suggest you check out Scott at Polite Dissent's 2005 Christmas Comic Cover Advent Calendar, the Greatest Team-Up Never Quite Published over at Robby Reed's Dial B for Blog, and Adam West and Burt Ward's stilted encounter with You Know Who over at SUPERFRANKENSTEIN!

Like I said, have a Merry Christmas, friends--or the holiday of your choice. Even those of you out there celebrating the teachings of the Grinch!
December 23rd, 2005

Remember how I told you that I added twenty new images to my little visual survey of Old St. Nick's hoary visage? Well, I just finished putting up another 76 scans! Yeah, I know--I'm nuts. But like I keep trying to convince folks (well, mostly my family), it's a GOOD kind of nuts!

So go look. I'm done for now. Over the next year, whenever I spy any appropriate illos, I'm just gonna post 'em the sly, and then, a few days before Christmas 2006, I'll announce the new total, and direct you all over to grab a gander. But until then, go look at the this year's version of The Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, MANY Faces Of Santa Claus!

And so, to all, a good night!
December 21st, 2005
See that comic over there? Well, that issue of DC's SUGAR AND SPIKE--number 62, January 1966--has the distinction of containing within its pages my very first scripting efforts.

I know what you're thinking:


Okay, so I was only twelve years old at the time. But I didn't say it was my first PUBLISHED scripting effort!

Still confused? Okay, okay, buckle up--here comes the long-winded explanation...
As those of you familiar with Sheldon Mayer's long-running series starring two toddlers who spoke their very own language might recall that, upon occasion, the cartoonist would include special activity pages in the book for his readers to exercise their creativity on. Not satisfied to merely foist black and white illustrations for his audience to color, Mayer would sometimes offer story pages not only devoid of hues, but of dialog as well! Yup, he gave you the pictures and you had to provide the words! (In fact, this was pretty much the same way Roy Thomas got his job scripting for Marvel, 'cept he worked over Jack Kirby FF panels, which I guess you could say was a slight difference...)
Now, in truth, I wasn't a regular reader of the book at the time this one came out, but, motivated by the cover's obvious Christmas theme, always festive Fred decided to pick up this issue, my first in several years at the time. While I was generally loathe to desecrate my comics, I figured, well, this was ONLY a kiddie book, so why not go ahead and take a shot at the challenge of filling in those lonely and empty word balloons? (The Crayolas, however, had long been retired by this point ...) Plus, I was in seventh grade at the time, and fancied myself the clever wise-guy, so I took out my trusty Bic pen and went to work...

Yes, you can actually read a much larger version of the page over to the right by going here. Apparently, I'm a masochist, as it's all awfully, awfully lame...
Nonetheless, here's a few notes to help you understand my ancient in-jokes to myself.

"Can we be sure?" was. for reasons I've long since forgotten, a sort of catch phrase I affected during those early days of Junior High. Marginally funny at first, I soon began delivering the line at any and all times, for no discernible reason, and my friends mild amusement soon turned to hostile annoyance. Hey, what can I say? It's a gift.

The two names I chose to give the characters--John Cabone and Bryan Magen--have wildly different derivations. The latter was a kid I'd met only months earlier upon entering seventh grade (and I'm pretty sure I misspelled his last name) who I thought was real funny. Only, not funny in a manic, silly way (that was more MY speed), but in a cool, "I could care less" manner. He never said much, but he never had to--it was all attitude. Ultimately, though, I drifted away from the guy, and have very little memories of him after those first few months, even though we went all the way through high school together.

John Cabone is another story altogether. Yes, Virginia, there IS a John Cabone--at least, that's what I was led to believe, though I never, ever met him. When my best buddy Chris moved to town in the sixth grade from Queens, he brought with him seemingly endless tales of this nigh mythical individual. I don't remember much about them at this late date, save for the fact that THIS JC wasn't the brightest bulb on the tree, but he might well've been the heaviest! (And on a side note, allow me to apologize for all the weight jokes--I was only twelve, for gosh sakes!). I was endlessly fascinated by Chris' John Cabone stories, and I thought the very name itself had a comedic ring to it, enough to make me laugh at its mere mention! Again, apologies to my Italian friends, but that was just my sense of humor in those days. One thing I do vividly recall was, when given the assignment to come up with a series of sentences for our latest list of vocabulary words, I used John Cabone's name in each and every sentence--after which I was told by my crusty old but otherwise previously indulgent sixth-grade teacher that she NEVER WANTED TO HEAR THAT NAME AGAIN! She didn't.

Unless she's reading this blog right now.

Though how many 106 year-olds surf the 'net, I'm not sure...

(And John if you're out there--no disrespect meant. I'm betting most of those tall tales were just wild exaggerations, y'know? Heh--no need to get lawyers involved, right? Or (gulp) anybody ELSE...)
December 20th, 2005
The Fred Hembeck Show, Episode Forty-One focuses on Christmas in Riverdale, a mythical town in which, despite an ever abundance of snow during the winter months, the teen-age girls that live there seem to wear nearly as little clothing as they do during the summer, as clearly evidenced by the festive Dan DeCarlo drawing above. Ho ho ho, indeed...

Peter Sandeson covers the less lascivious but always antic Christmas celebrations in Carl Barks' Duckburg in his 114th edition of Comics In Context, while our mutual buddy, Ken Plume, has some last minute suggestions for this season's gift-giving.

There's still time to vote in this year's A.H.O.Y. election. What IS A.H.O.Y.? Well, let's just say that in THIS particular contest, it's NOT all that much of an honor just to be nominated, so please people, no write-ins for yours truly, okay? All you need to know is contained here--and oh, WHAT a field to choose from!...

And speaking of voting, Chris Tamarri (who presides over his own Crisis/Boring Change web-page) has just set up a new site called The Comics Bloggers' Poll, its goal being, in his words, "an attempt to establish some kind of critical consensus as to the year's best books, as judged by comics bloggers, giving (bloggers) the opportunity to vote in a number of specific categories". Click the link to find out more, but it certainly appears as if Chris has given this idea a lot of careful thought. I appreciate him offering me an invitation to participate, and maybe, if I had read more than, oh, I don't know?--seven new comics this past year, I might well've. As it is, I'm clearly not qualified (nor is my pal, Roger Green), so I'll simply defer to those more knowledgeable about the current crop of comics, and watch with detached bemusement from the sidelines. Good luck, Chris!

That's all for now. I have important work to do, after all--got me an A.H.O.Y. list THIS long to whittle down!
December 19th, 2005

WHICH season is it again? Now I'm SO confused...

(Frankie's probably holding a half-eaten turkey leg leftover from Thanksgiving just out of camera range, making this the perfect transitional holiday image...)

However, because Santa Stein's a photo, sadly it doesn't qualify for inclusion in a little piece I came up with last December--and just today updated--my relentless collection of The Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, MANY Faces of Santa Claus!

Yes, it's back!

Barely. Y'see, after I compiled the original group of 84 different Santas (not counting the final, full-page, Dennis the Menace capper), I became a little, um, obsessed with the Jolly Old Fellow. I spent much of last January and into February searching out new and unique Kris Kringles, and I began to dutifully scan them in. I figured I'd easily double--maybe even triple--the original tally! Man oh man, it was gonna be something!

And then the computer where I'd stored all these carefully gathered festive images went kerflooey, and that was that. I suddenly had zero Santa heads. Bummer.

So I moved on. All my various subsequent scans wound up on my lap-top, but I never did get around to recompiling ol' St. Nick's noggins. Figured I'd leave well enough alone.

But recently, in an effort to return to their rightful homes all the books I've pulled out over the past year (yeah, things DO begin to pile up around here, don't they?), I came across a handful of the books that I'd used in my quest to add on to the Claus cluster, and I just didn't have the heart to put them away before once again scanning them--and ultimately--adding them to last year's total.

It's only twenty this time around--I probably had twice that done before the February meltdown--but at least it's something. They're all down towards the bottom, folks, just before Bizarro and David Seville. Bloody Santas, frozen Santas, gun-toting Santas, Santa skulls, and OTHER delightful holiday treats! Artists I missed the first time around, like Will Eisner, Jack Davis, Gene Colan, and John Byrne. And let's not forget Santa Metamorpho--they're all there!

I don't think I'll wait til next year to add more, though. When I see 'em--BAM!--up they go.

Gulp. The obsession appears to be back. Guess for me, there is no ho-ho-hope, huh?...
December 14th, 2005
What a day I had yesterday!

Look, I know better than to make a regular practice of this, but every so often, I feel the need to record a thorough run-down of the day's events, and this, (un)lucky readers, is one of those times! So, strap yourselves in! (...or go read another nifty edition of Progressive Ruin--it's your choice, after all...).

Well, boys and girls, it was by far the coldest morning of the season yet, with temperatures still in the single digits when I groggily got up at 7:35. Getting dressed and grabbing a quick cup of tea, I headed out with my daughter to drive her to school at 8:05. (Lynn works at home on Tuesdays and Fridays--she drops Julie off on the other days).

Julie's a tough one to get going in the morning--as usual, she was eating her breakfast out of a plastic dish in the car on the way during the fifteen minute trip. After letting her out, I headed over to the local Staples outlet. Y'see, I had three commissioned covers I needed to make copies of before I sent them out to their imminent owners. After chatting briefly with Bruce, the head copy guy who's also a comics fan, I drove back home, arriving just at 9.

Time for another cup of tea (Lipton, two sugars), and the breakfast I have EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR--a bagel and cream cheese! (Sometimes for just plain wild-eyed variety, I alternate types of bagels--poppy is a favorite, as is sesame, but yesterday, I merely had a plain one. They're good too, y'know...). And as is my custom, I enjoyed my morning repast in front of the tube, watching the opening segment of "Live With Regis and Kelly". This is by far my favorite part of the show--I love the chemistry between the two--with my attention going elsewhere once they come back from the first commercial break, as things soon transform into a rather mundane celebrity talk show after that. But I usually leave it on in the background, as I turn on my lap-top, and first check my email (Ken Plume sending me the preview version of that evenings new Fred Hembeck Show column being buried amongst the standard avalanche of spam), after which I quickly checked the web. First, I visited the sites of a few of the New York tabloids to see if the Mets had made any more blockbuster deals while I was sleeping. Seeing they hadn't, I made a quick survey of Evanier, Spurgeon, and MacDonald's sites (finding, among other things, a link to a bizarre photo of a life-sized blindfolded Santa doll hanging by the neck from a noose on a Florida lawn via the Beat that made for fine holiday small talk the rest of the day--thanks, Heidi!), as well as a hasty peek over at Rambling Roger. But I didn't have much time to waste--I had three covers to sign (which I never do until after I make copies) and package for mailing, and I needed to do it before 11:10, as I had to be back out on the roads again by then.

(And by the way, I'm happy to say I've achieved my goal of having ALL my commissions done before Christmas! That's right--I've completed 'em all! While I have a pair of folks--one promising payment later this week, the other right after the first--officially, my plate is clear! So if you've ever wanted to engage me in a little bit of art like stuff, now would be a super-duper swell time! End of commercial.)

Wrapping these things is no easy chore, mind you--first I score a large piece of foam board, fold it in half, insert the art and a short personal note, then tape on an additional piece of cardboard, salvaged from a box, to insure sturdiness, then cut apart two brown paper grocery bags, wrap them around the now formidable package, tape them securely on, and then get out a thick black magic marker and address them. While I'm doing this, I dial over to MSNBC for the latest updates. Turns out the Mets didn't make any news while I slept, but Tookie Williams did. Well, no time to get into thinking about THAT--it's already 10:50 when I finish my packing.

So I change my clothes, wash the dishes in the sink, chat briefly with Lynn, find something to listen to in the car, (The Carpenters Christmas collection--I maintain that Karen Carpenter has one of the most unforgettable voices in pop music history, and there are few who could ring the melancholy out of a tune like "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" the way she could. Too bad her gifts were never fully appreciated by the cognoscenti while she was alive...), gather my packages, and I then once again leave the warm confines of home, embarking on the day's central mission: shopping and having lunch with my ol' buddy, Terry Austin.

Used to be, for many, many years, we'd see each other every Tuesday night, at our weekly volley ball game (that being a prime motivation for Lynn being home on Tuesdays, to keep an eye on the younger Julie when I left mid-afternoon on the hour-long trek over to Woodstock), but since the rug was rudely pulled out from under us about a year and a half back now ( a whole 'nother story), Terry and I try to make a point of getting together in this manner at least every couple of months. My drive to the Poughkeepsie Galleria is a mere 11 minutes, so I left a few minutes early so as to run info the Hot Topic store to pick up a shirt (a JOHN LENNON shirt! Again, whole 'nother story) that Julie wanted for Christmas. Unfortunately, they didn't have it in her size, so I held off for now, but may go back and purchase it in the next size up.

I then rushed over to the Best Buy store, where we were scheduled to rendezvous. My timing was perfect, as Terry was just coming in the outside entrance I as I approached through the store, having come in from the inner mall doors. Terry likes to meet in this store because, frankly, the man is a DVD fiend! And like myself, he has a card that grants him points towards cash worthy reward coupons whenever we buy something there. Me, I buy a few DVDs myself, but believe me, I'm a piker compared to Mr. A!! (I've got him way beat on CDs, though!) I like to pick up stuff on sale the first week it's out because of the discounts, and this week's prime attractions for me were the two-disc version of "Sin City" and season seven of "The Simpsons", both of which I grabbed (and, just for the record, I went with the box version, not the plastic Marge head, of the latter).

It was no surprise that the store was packed. It was also no surprise that I was finished my shopping way before Terry was. I'm more the "get what I want and get the hell out" type of shopper, whereas Terry takes his time, languorously examining everything available, carefully pondering his choices. That's cool with me, though, because part of this whole deal is the hanging out component. Besides, I took a few minutes myself to slip off elsewhere to grab a little something for another member of the family to put under the tree, of which I'll say no more, in the unlikely event that she's reading this! (Gee, I wonder if ANYBODY is still reading this? Still, I trudge on...)

Already holding an impressive selection of new releases under his arm, Terry nonetheless was looking for some assistance in trying to locate a "Matt Helm" box set that had come out the previous week, but wasn't available at his local, smaller, Best Buy outlet (hey, I wonder--is it me he's coming to see, or Dino?...). While the blue-shirted employees had been swarming me earlier, suddenly there was no one in sight. Eventually,I tracked one down for Terry, but though their computer showed that there WAS a copy in the store, neither Terry nor his blue-hued buddy could find one. However, it was during this lull that I again slipped away, this time over to the CD section, and happened upon the recently released "Sometime In New York City" by John Lennon and Yoko One. Now, though I had eagerly bought a copy when it originally came out on LP back in the early seventies (my mistake, at least the "eager" part...), I could never quite commit to plunking down money for the double album when it was issued on CD as a double CD--at double CD prices!! Most folks consider it Lennon's worst record (at least, of the ones he actually sings on), and I just could never bring myself to pay near thirty bucks for it. However, on a single disc, with bonus tracks no less (including "Happy Xmas", which appears on about a half dozen of my other Christmas compilation CDs, so no big deal, but...), I figured the time was right. Thus, Terry's fruitless search for Dean Martin on film morphed into an opportunity to pick up a rare--and still not very good--John Lennon record on disc, which I guess is somehow ironic. Or maybe not--I can't always think straight while I'm doing holiday shopping...

By now, it was close to one. We got in line. It moved pretty swiftly, even if they did eventually separate us off into two different ones. Terry finished first, and called to me to meet him downstairs at Target. After I paid, I took my goodies--including the large, mysterious gift--out to my car, and drove down around to the Target parking lot on the lower level. Finding a space way, way, WAY out in the nether reaches, I rushed into he store, looking to find my pal in the toy section. His goal here was to find some Christmas gifts for the kids of our mutual buddy, Ron Marz, who'd very kindly invited the celebrated inker to spend the big day with him and his family. Only Terry didn't know I was coming in from outside, and was waiting for me by the interior door, which led to a few minutes of farcical mix-ups (nowhere near the French level, however). Ultimately, unable to find the proper Teen Titans toys or an Easy Bake Oven, he DID locate some Play Dough for Ron's youngest, and after he paid, he accompanied me on the long trek to my car, and then we drove the five minutes over to Red Lobster.

We seem to ALWAYS go to Red Lobster, don't we? That's okay--Terry likes his shrimp. Me, I don't much care for seafood on the whole, but I DO enjoy their Fish and Chips entree, so no complaints on the food from me. It took a while for us to be seated, however--like the two little old ladies who came in just before us, we were told we'd have to wait ten minutes or so. Fine, but considering there were a LOT of empty booths, I couldn't quite understand the thinking behind delaying us. When they eventually did seat us, there were five empty booths right around us! Appropriately enough, being in a seafood restaurant, I was beginning to get crabby...

Happily, swift service from our waitress--a pleasant young woman who kept calling us "gentlemen", causing me to have to constantly suppress the urge to reply, "Who came in?..."--set this ship aright, and soon Terry and I were deeply engrossed in some catch-up conversation (and no, we didn't discuss anything in Heinz-sight..). Yes, we gossiped, and yes, some of the names would be very familiar to the comics fans in the audience (IS there an audience left out there, I wonder? Hellooo!...), and some you wouldn't. None of which I'm going to share with you--sorry--and not because it was malicious, because it wasn't (well, mostly not...), but because it just isn't my place. Apologies, friends.

We DID talk about some recent comics, though (none of which I actually READ, I hasten to remind you). Terry informed of the latest peculiar doings surrounding my long time fave, Captain America. Seems Bucky's alive (I'm shocked!), and he's been trained to be a killer by either the Germans or the Russians, Terry couldn't recall (I'm REALLY shocked--though not at Terry's faulty memory. THAT'S always been, by his own admission, suspect)! This sordid revelation prompted me to share with him the main thrust of our mutual buddy, Peter Sanderson's, latest Comics In Context, number 113.

First, I pointed out to the computer-bereft Austin how Peter often takes something I've written in one of my IGN columns, and then expands on it, always making me sound far smarter than I have any right to be in the process! (...or maybe Peter is making himself appear a lot dumber than necessary by doing so, I'm not sure which. Probably the truth lies somewhere in the middle...). After agreeing that my praise for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 25 was entirely justified, Peter uses that as a jumping off point to examine--and castigate--AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 526. Not realizing Terry was actually following the series, I inadvertently gave away the ending to the story (SPOILER WARNING, chums): the bad guy reaches in, pulls out one of Spidey's eyeballs, AND EATS IT!!

My, things HAVE changed in a mere 501 issues, haven't they?

Luckily, Terry had finished his lunch by this point, and just as luckily, he didn't lose it! But there you have it--two more prime examples as to why I don't really miss reading my once beloved Marvel Comics.

It was now 2:10. Time to pay the check and leave. I drove Terry back to his car and said goodbye, thanking him for a swell visit. He was off to Media Play, probably in search of that elusive "Matt Helm" set, whereas I had a half dozen places to hit before I picked Julie up from school at 4:30 (generally, she comes home on the bus, arriving around 3:30, but on Tuesdays, she stays after for a life drawing class. Yes, with nude models! Private schools can get away with that sorta stuff, I guess...)

First up, a quick stop at the local health food store for some fresh produce, granola from the bins, and a bottle or two of organic cooking oil. Then, down to the bank, where I cashed several checks. Next came the Post Office. The line was formidable, but after about ten minutes, my packages were on their way to their ultimate destinations--hope you like 'em, fellas!

Stop and Shop was next on my decidedly frantic agenda. I only needed a few items, with Philadelphia Cream Cheese toppermost on the list. Did I mention I eat a bagel for LUNCH nearly everyday, too? Also bought some meat, frozen pierogies, and 9 Lives cat food. On the way out, I dropped some spare change into the Salvation Army's Santa's bucket. It sounded like it was a lot, but since it was mostly nickels--and a Canadian coin and a slug as well, if the truth be know--it didn't amount to much more than a buck. Well, I MEANT well, y'know?...

In the same plaza--but far enough away that I needed to drive over --was a Michael's craft store. I went in hoping to get some cheap foam board for future mailings. I'd bought a package of three at Staples earlier this morning since I was completely out, and it cost ten bucks. At Michael's, the sheets were sold individually for $1.96, so I managed to buy four for basically the same price I paid for three earlier. Note to self--buy your foam board from Michael's from now on, genius.

It was nearly 4, and my last stop was a brisk walk away, as I headed for Barnes and Noble. Nothing too interesting on the racks this week, save for an issue of CULT MOVIES I'd apparently neglected to order from my service, MEC Comics. Since it had George Reeves on the cover, I decided to pick it up, and after paying for it, headed over to Julie's school, which was five minutes away.

I listened to Karen Carpenter for a few minutes, as I waited for my daughter to exit the rear entrance and head for the parking lot. She soon did, and as the darkness began to creep in, we headed for home. As quiet as she is in the morning, just the opposite is usually the case in the afternoon, as she regaled me with information about the results of the mock PSAT she taken recently. (In a nutshell, math good, writing, not so good). But it was only practice, so at least now she knows which areas to concentrate on.

We were low on gas, so I stopped to fill up the tank. A week ago, it'd been at the recent low--$2.24.9. Now it was up to $2.33.9. I used my credit card--like I did for all of the days transactions--to pay the $30 plus bill.

We got home around 5. I went out to get the mail, and unpacked the groceries. Julie used fixative in the garage (as Lynn is sensitive) on two really nice chalk cat drawings she'd done earlier. Lynn had cooked a really nice cabbage soup while I was away, and after checking my email, doing the dishes (again), we sat down for dinner, which for Lynn was some soup and leftover chicken, with the still full me forgoing the chicken, and just having the delicious soup (Julie the vegetarian had soup and leftover ziti).

Julie tried to get a hold of her friend Sam to remind her that there was Girl Scout meeting that evening, but never managed to. Too bad. After eating, doing MORE dishes, and relaxing briefly, I drove Julie to her 7 o'clock meeting (listening to a New Wave Christmas compilation CD, a really great disc featuring XTC, Squeeze, The Pretenders, Root Boy slim, Bing 'n Bowie--natch--and plenty more), but only one of the troop leaders and her daughter ever actually showed up!! Usually, the meetings last ninety minutes or so, but tonight, the leader asked me to come back in an hour, due to the extremely low turnout. One way over to the church takes about seven minutes, so I just had time to go home, watch most of--but not all--of a one-hour TV program with Lynn, before I found myself back out on the road for the return round-trip. Luckily, the show was on tape, so we finished it up after I returned--finally--at 8:15. And THEN I took my shoes off! Slippers from there on in...

My head really WAS swimming by now, which accounted for yesterday's paltry entry. I would've skipped it entirely, save for the fact that my newest IGN piece was up, and I sure wouldn't want to deprive you people of that, y'know? But, I threw it hastily together, and, at 9:15, decided to watch a tape of that evening's recently concluded "Countdown With Keith Olbermann". Only Julie, who had ostensibly finished her homework, had begun working on one of her in-progress oil paintings, and was blasting David Bowie's Greatest Hits nearby, all in aide to her muse! I asked her to tone down the travails of Major Tom, and that stuttering guy with the diapers, but since I could still hear the former Mr. Jones,, even at a reduced volume, I resorted to headphones to hear Keith's latest take on the day's events.

Finishing around 10, I skimmed most of this past week's ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, paged through that CULT MOVIES mag I'd bought, and--aware from my conversation with Terry that I'm just not reading enough comics these days--I read four classic "Spirit" episodes from the second volume of DC's Archives series. Hey, they're GOOD!?! Guess I shoulda known that, huh?...

By now, it was getting late. Julie finally went to bed around 11:!5, with Lynn and I following near midnight, after another quick spin around the Internet--nope, the Mets STILL didn't make a deal. I set the VCR timer for Conan O' Brien, and the last half of Leno, as just by chance, I saw a commercial that informed me that long-time favorite Steve Martin was a guest that evening, both of which I'd watch when I got up the next day, and started this process all over once again. Except, I'll only be going out a single time today--AND I'm not going to write about it in any sort of detail--

--proving without a doubt that, yes Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus!
December 13th, 2005
Grimjack. Ted Baxter. Howard Stern. This unlikely trio get name-checked in The Fred Hembeck Show Episode Forty. Take a look.

More tomorrow--promise. Not right now, though--my heads swimming, and there's nary a floatation device in sight! Yeah, it's been a particularly exhausting day. It gets that way around this time of year sometimes...
December 10th, 2005
More on the Beatles.

(And no, that WASN'T "moron the Beatles"! Wise guys...)
December 8th, 2005
This issue of TWO-FISTED TALES--the last--always comes to mind on this date, and particularly this year.

But for the whole story, you'll have to travel over to this other corner of the site (December 8th, 2005 entry).

Yeah, a bad day, a very bad day....
December 6th, 2005
Above left you'll see my preliminary layout for the first page of 1982's FANTASTIC FOUR ROAST special, and right alongside it, the finished product, as interpreted by artists Ron Wilson and Joe Sinnott. Talk about your SPLASH pages, eh?...

For an additional half-dozen or so similar examples, plus behind the scenes anecdotes regarding that long-ago (gulp) twentieth anniversary salute to the FF, let me proudly direct you to this week's 39th episode of The Fred Hembeck Show. Regular readers may recall that last week's entry was little more that a glitzed up rerun, but I'm hoping that today's brand new comprehensive entry will silence any mild grumbling in the audience. Hey, if I do say so myself--and since there's no one else nearby, I might as well--it's a pretty good one!

(Please note that the subject matter was originally chosen to coincide with today's DVD release of the FF movie, and as such, I make several references in the column itself about having a copy of said film in my sweaty little hands. Well, that WAS the plan when I wrote the thing up this past weekend, but thanks to the timely intervention of Mark Evanier, I'm putting off purchasing the DVD until the spring, or whenever such time that it's decided to issue the, ahem, Deluxe Edition. Y'know--the one with the Jack Kirby documentary and all the other goodies I thought I'd be able to get ahold of today? Man, do I ever HATE this new trend with DVDs--AND CDs, too--where a second, expanded version comes out mere months after the initial release, only this second time, it's overflowing with all sorts of extra goodies that I would've been more than glad to fork over the additional cash for in the first place, if only I knew about it before I went and bought the initial stripped down version! Look, I REALLY dig that new Rolling Stones album. "A Bigger Bang", but as much as I'd love to have the three new extra tunes they've just pasted on to an expanded set--I could take or leave the bonus DVD, to be honest--I'm NOT buying the disc again (at a higher price, no less)!! "A Bigger Rip-off"--yeah, THAT'D about sum up the situation. So, much appreciation to Mark--and anybody else who got the word out--because, even at this eleventh hour, you saved a lot of people a bunch of money and/or frustration,,,)

Nice to see Peter Sanderson back with Comics In Context #112. Peter discusses the Walter and Gromit movie this time around, but he also takes a little time out to include his near weekly digression concerning both yours truly and SpongeBob SquarePants! ALWAYS illuminating reading, Peter, but I do beg to differ with you on one point. Referring to my admitted blind-spot concerning critters who converse, Mr. S has this to say...

Suffering from Hembeck's Handicap, Fred readily admits to his inability to appreciate or accept talking animals except for Barksian waterfowl and underwater invertebrates. It seems that Mr. Hembeck would prefer Beany without Cecil, Sherman without Mr. Peabody, Davey minus Goliath, and Calvin divested of Hobbes.

I'm with you on three out of four, Peter, but it took just a quick dip into the first volume of that beautifully produced complete cartoon compendium to suddenly recall how much I LOVED Calvin and, yes, Hobbes too! Maybe I found it easier to accept that tiger because he was really only just a product of Calvin's skewed imagination--or maybe it was simply because that strip was just so absolutely wonderfully done! Whatever the case, let the record show that Hobbes is exempt from my attitude of general disdain for animated animals. Just so you know.

I'd like to wish a belated birthday to John Firehammer, who turned forty only days ago. John is the force behind the This Is Pop! site, a page I personally find invaluable, as he does an exemplary job rounding up all sorts of newsy links, always accompanied by a lot of bright and cheerful graphics. I'm particularly indebted to him for including access to music sharing sites, a facet of the web that still remains mostly alien to me.

Thanks to John pointing the way, I was able to download and burn discs of four vintage Christmas albums. Anybody who loves seasonal tunes--like, say, my pals Roger Green and Ken Plume--might do well to get themselves a copy of "A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas" by the Three Suns, a disc as vibrantly goofy as its title hints at it being. Over here are three more old LPs, and while "Switched On Santa" didn't quite live up to the promise of its name, I'm still happy to add it to my collection. There's always great stuff over at John's site, and I heartily recommend you stop by on a regular basis, just like I do!

(And John? The American "Rubber Soul" is MY favorite Beatles album, too. But unlike you, I never did get over the absence of "I've Just Seen A Face" as the opening cut, and would rate the English "Revolver" over the English "Rubber Soul" as my fave of the ones currently available. Say, when the heck are they going to do The Capitol Albums, Volume Two, which would finally provide me with a little "Face" time?? Well, when they do, I'm sure I'll read about it in This Is Pop!...)

Lastly, Pete Doree is a young English cartoonist who finds himself somewhere between a rock and hard place regarding his career. Pete and I have corresponded a bit over the past few years, and he certainly seems like a nice enough guy (good cartoonist, too--I've seen his stuff). Well, the thing is, he came to me with his quandary a few weeks back, but unfortunately, it was right around the time our basement flooded, so I had to beg off from offering any assistance due to more pressing (and soggy) concerns. In truth, I honestly didn't know WHAT I could've done to help anyway...

Then, this very morning, I saw Pete's plight described over at Tom Spurgeon's The Comics Reporter. Well, I figure the least I can do is help get the word out, so, here in Pete's own words, is his situation...

Hi everyone, my name's Pete Doree, and I'm a cartoonist with a problem.

I've recently been accepted into The Kubert School for next year ('06), but am having trouble raising funding to attend.

As I'm a British citizen, I'm in a Catch-22 whereby I'm ineligible for UK or USA funding or loan programs, nor can organizations like Xeric or NACAE offer any assistance.

So does anyone out there have any advice they can offer? Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks

I'm hoping Pete and Tom won't object to me just lifting Pete's plea in toto. Maybe someone out there smarter than me (which covers a whole LOT of ground) can figure out a way to help Mr. D.

In any event, good luck , Pete--and don't keep it on the Q.T. when you become a Kubie, okay?...
December 5th, 2005
Just a few quick links that readers have sent me about some of my more well known obsessions.

The New York Times reports that good ol' SpongeBob is now in the process of conquering the world of fine art--SpongeBob ArtPants they're calling him. Thanks to the ever vigilant--and obviously sponge-smitten--Peter Sanderson for the tip.

And get this--our beloved Hayley Mills had been signed to co-star in a stage production of "On Golden Pond" with TV's erstwhile Dr. Kildare, Richard Chamberlain--with the pair taking on the Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda roles, respectively! Oh, BookSteve and Sleestak, we grow old, we grow old. Mucho gracias for the heads up. D. Puthoff--I think...
December 4th, 2005
My wife Lynn doesn't read comics' blogs (no, not even this one--at least, not usually). Instead, she surfs the web for REAL news (how novel, eh?) Occasionally, she comes up with something that she thinks I should see, and sends me a link. Yesterday she sent me this article that, as the headline would have it, suggests that the "GAO Confirms 2004 Election Was Stolen". Well, THAT'S quite the eye-opener, isn't it? (GAO stands for Government Accountability Office, by the way. No, I didn't know that either...)

I don't like to get too political around here, but this strikes me as a fairly important issue, one that doesn't seem to be getting much play currently in the mainstream media. So, if you're so inclined, go take a look. Don't bother writing me to debate the issue, though--it's up to you to make up your own mind. Me, I'm just gonna keep my mouth shut, and not finger any specific person for condemnation in this particular instance, and that's just the way it's gonna be, by George!...

Getting back to the wondrous world of comics blogs for a moment, I'd like to point you to this installment of the always entertaining Dial B for Blog. While each and every entry is worth any funnybook fan's time, I'm singling this episode out strictly for narcissistic reasons--in his overview of the legendary Composite Superman, webmeister Robby Reed chose to sneak in, right between all those lovely Curt Swan/George Klein panels, an old illo of the character drawn by yours truly for the long defunct AMAZING HEROES magazine, now fully colored by RR! Nice to be included, Robby--thanks!

That's today's links--pick your poison, people.
December 3rd, 2005
Five For Friday #58 -- Stripping

Name Five Great Comic Strip Collections (Single Volumes Only)

One of the five I myself listed was this slim magazine collection from 1987, and since I also made mention of its wonderful Alex Toth cover, I thought it only fair to share it here with you, alongside the link. Someday soon I'll try and put together a few words explaining why Leonard Starr's "Mary Perkins: On Stage" has long been my favorite dramatic newspaper strip, back since the mid-sixties in fact. I'm not saying it's the best ever, mind you--though it IS mighty doggone good--just that it's my favorite.

More to follow, eventually...
December 2nd, 2005
Okay, so he didn't do the Ashton Kutcher joke--I guess those finely honed show biz instincts he'd been perfecting for over half a century finally told Jerry Lewis it best to cut that gag from his current repertoire when he appeared with Regis Philbin this morning on "Live With Regis and Kelly" (curiously, Ms, Ripa was absent, and it was the first time where I've seen Philbin go solo, as opposed to the general rule of working with a substitute co-host when Kelly's away. Probably to give him more time to spend with Jerry alone...)
Over the last few years, I've heard Regis talk almost incessantly--and in an unabashedly adoring manner--of Dean Martin. My gosh, he's even brought in the latest issue of his members-only Dean Martin Official Fan club magazine upon occasion! He truly and sincerely loves the crooner. But y'know, I'd never really heard him talk about Jerry...

Turns out we find out the source of Regis's life-long fascination--directly after his high-school prom, Regis, his date, and some other friends went to see Martin and Lewis at the Copa. This was in the comedy team's earliest days, and Mr. P was overwhelmed. It was the greatest show he'd ever seen--or ever WOULD see! It was soon clear that, though he may lean towards Dean, Regis had all the respect in the world for Jerry, too (even if he did step all over his guest's opening gag--Jerry came out and asked Regis if he knew what mixed emotions were, and instead of saying, "No, what are they?", Regis starts going into a discourse about happiness and sadness, before Jerry hastily cut him off, chastised him for not properly setting him up, and then proceeds with a quip older than Ashton Kutcher himself: "It's when you see your mother-in-law driving over a cliff in your new sports car!" HAAAWW-HAAA!)

And what would a Jerry Lewis appearance be without a hopelessly outdated pop-cultural reference? This time around he baffled large segments of the audience by tossing out the name "Johnny Belinda". Gee, isn't that one of those new bands?...

Oh, and my favorite part--missing from his recent Conan and
"Hardball" stop-overs--his renewed insistence that the lovely Marilyn Monroe couldn't possibly have been spending sheet time with the Kennedy's simply because she was otherwise occupied--with HIM!! "She followed me around with a folding cot" was the way Jerry delicately chose to put it!! Somewhat embarrassed, Regis quickly moved on, and--Ed McMahon not withstanding--the REAL love story between the partners became the subject for the remaining portion of the interview.

Not bad, but, oh, the jokes Jerry chooses to drag out with him on these TV spots!?...

Now, just the other day, Julie called me from school with some small thing to tell me, and after she did, she mentioned that her friend Ilsa was nearby, and says "Hi". I don't know Ilsa very well, but I DO know she's very enamored with the rook duo, The White Stripes--almost as much, in fact, as Regis Philbin is with Dino. Right after getting off the phone, a custom-made joke came to mind, and when Julie got home, I suggested that tomorrow she tell her pal this fresh bit of "news" I'd learned about The White Stripes lead singer...

"Hey Julie, did you hear? Jack White is gonna star in a movie with that comedy actor, Jack Black. Yeah, they say it's gonna be the first ever Black and White movie filmed entirely in color!!"

Okay, so she refused to pass it along, and yeah, it's not that great a joke, but hey, I STILL think it's better that that Ashton Kutcher teething gag!

If you want some solid yocks--and on a weekly basis, to boot--check out Tom Peyer's every Thursday attempt to explain the headlines using comic book covers. This bunch teeters on the kinky side--though in an entirely G-rated manner--with my favorite, laugh-out loud one featuring a pair of robotic Kents. I had suggested Tom turn the Superfrankenstein brain-trust towards interpreting the news using solely Eros comics covers, but I suppose that would've worked better during the Clinton administration, wouldn't it?

(Or maybe for Jerry's NEXT book, "Marilyn and Me: A Lust Story"...)
December 1st, 2005
Jerry Lewis has been making the rounds on the tube lately, promoting his book, "Dean and Me: A Love Story". The day before Thanksgiving, he spent the last twenty minutes of that evening's "Hardball" broadcast on MSNBC being interviewed by host Chris Matthews, and the day after the nation's collective turkey was finally digested, he sat down for roughly the same amount of time with Conan O'Brien. Both shows were obviously taped days earlier than their air-dates, so it's hard to say which Jerry did first, which became a matter of some curiosity to me after watching them both. I'll explain later....

Matthews may be known for his political reporting, but it was easy to see the sincere admiration he had for Lewis, a beloved icon of his childhood who he was meeting for the very first time.
Noticeably enthusiastic about the book, the host conducted a spirited if somewhat deferential interview with the aging funny-man, focusing primarily on his nascent show biz days with ex-partner Dean Martin. Jerry was good-naturedly--if more than occasionally egotistically--answering Matthews questions, when suddenly, after going off on a brief tangent about comedy teams that didn't much like one another (Abbott and Costello were mentioned, as were Hope and Crosby), without missing a breath, Jerry says, "Did you hear about the Demi Moore-Ashton Kutcher wedding? Did you hear he was crying?", and without letting a beat pass to let the set-up register properly, Lewis follows with "HE WAS TEETHING!!"

Matthews, who can talk a mile a minute himself, never cracked a smile, and--without pausing--continued with "Okay, let me ask you about Dean Martin..." as Jerry let out one of his patented "HAAAW HAA!"s under the host's question. It was such an odd moment--clearly Matthews was thrilled to be talking to Jerry Lewis, but this WASN'T a comedy spot--and it wasn't a very good joke either, let's face it--so he did his utmost to ignore Jerry's detour, and keep things on topic.

Overall, not a bad spot, even though Jerry sometimes gave his host a look that said, "Who IS this guy? Why is HE talking to Jerry Lewis!".

Two days later, Jerry sat down to talk with Conan, and before he could even settle into his chair, he'd told his Ashton Kutcher gag! Being a bona fide comedy show, the host and the audience laughed, even if still, it wasn't much of a joke. But at least it was told in the right forum. I wonder if Jerry told it here first, and hearing the positive reaction, then decided to spring it on the host of "Hardball"--or did his failure to elicit a chuckle on THAT show in turn motivate him to try for some comedic redemption in front of a live crowd on the O'Brien show?..

Which leads me to this programming note--Jerry is scheduled to be a guest tomorrow, Friday morning, on "Live With Regis and Kelly". I'll be tuning in anyway, but you might want to as well, if only to see if he tries selling that tepid quip a THIRD time!!...

(And by the way, Monday on "Live With Regis and Kelly", Ed McMahon was hawking his new book about his years sitting alongside Johnny Carson. Ed made a point of saying that of all the great comedy couples--oddly, he called them "couples", not teams--they all hated one another (save for Johnny and himself), and he named Abbott and Costello (again), Laurel and Hardy, and then said, matter-of-factly, "...and we all know about Jerry and Dean, don't we?"!! No, Ed apparently we DON'T--is it a love story, as Jerry is telling anybody who'll listen these days, or the hate story we've all assumed it to be for decades? Please, before you and Jerry go on these shows, shilling your latest literary works, get your stories straightened out, okay? Geez, next thing you know, we'll find out George didn't really like Gracie all that much either! Well, at least he wasn't teething when THEY tied the knot!...)

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