Archive - March 2004
|March 28th, 2004|
|I was saddened to read of the recent passing
of Jan Berry. As some of you probably know,
along with partner Dean Torrence, he formed
the singing duo of Jan and Dean, and was
the guiding musical force behind several
of the most successful surfing and car-oriented
hit records released during the early sixties,
at least, outside of the absolute masters
of those twin genres, the Beach Boys. And
why not? Brian Wilson helped co-write, produce,
and sing on some of Jan and Dean's biggest
smashes, most notably, "Surf City",
that mythical South California paradise that
memorably promised "two girls for every
But what I remember most about the pair was their oft overlooked connection to my very favorite comedian, Jack Benny.
|That's right, Jack Benny. Who else do you
think inspired one of their most universally
beloved hits, "The Little Old Lady (From
Pasadena)"? This marvelously produced
paean to a notorious hot-roddin' granny has
its roots in what was already becoming, by
the time of the tune's release in early 1964,
a cliched punchline, but one that nonetheless
evoked a smile every time a master comic
like Benny uttered it (or, just as likely,
reacted to it). Y'see, somebody was always
trying to unload that proverbial seldom used
second-hand jalopy off on Jack, one that
was allegedly only driven on Sundays by a
little old lady from--yup--Pasadena.
Unlike many of the running gags Jack Benny and his ensemble would immortalize over the decades when they kept America chuckling--Jack's cheapness, his lousy violin playing, his insufferable ego, his age being forever stuck at a laughable 39--this is one joke that's not generally associated with the Benny persona any more. My guess is that the line was just too generic sounding, and not nearly specific enough to what we already knew about Jack. Still, it proved to be so popular in its day that it was picked up and used by virtually every wisecrackin' funnyman--or woman--in or out of show business. Why, it was even popular enough to spawn a gigantic rock and roll hit!!
|You may wonder what I'm basing this little
theory of mine on. After all, even after
checking the liner notes on several of my
Jan and Dean CDs, their entries in various
books recounting rock and roll history, and
even visiting the late Jan Berry's official web-site, the true lyrical origins of "The Little
Old Lady (From Pasadena)" don't ever
seem to be addressed in any sort of depth.
Still, I KNOW I read about the JB/J&D
connection somewhere, sometime, and if there's
any sort of concrete evidence that the more
dubious of you out there may be hoping for
as confirmation before you fully believe
me, I think I have it for you in the form
of the title of their followup recording:
"The Anaheim, Azusa & Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review and Timing Association"
What--you've never heard of it? I can't imagine why. Just a few short months after its predecessor peaked at number 3 on the charts, this musical mouthful stalled out at a stratospherically positioned number 77, probably putting the kibosh on any prospective work subsequently composing a tune called "Sue, Sy, and Si". Because let's face it folks, there's absolutely NO denying who transformed the California locales of Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga into comedic gold.
|Hearing Mel Blanc announce the impending
departure of various passenger trains off
to these evocative sounding locations, especially
when the off-screen voice grabs ahold of
the first syllable of that crucial third
and doesn't let go of it until you're certain
he doesn't have near enough breath left in
him to spit out the concluding "a-monga"--well,
friends, watching Benny's nonplussed reaction
to that small bit of verbal virtuosity evokes
a big laugh each and every time. And this,
folks, was a gag the Benny writing staff
relied upon regularly and often. I think
the mere fact that Jan and Dean worked such
an otherwise unlikely series of words and
locales into the title of their followup
release says it all.
The duo obviously loved comedy. Tracks such as "Horace, The Swingin' School Bus Driver" and "One-Piece Topless Bathing Suit" (worn by, wouldn't you know it, a 94 year-old erstwhile flapper!?!...) stood side by side with the aforementioned two singles on the LP that featured a photo of the boys with the ostensible clutch-poppin' oldster on its cover. Several years later, they even recorded an entire disc spoofing the latest craze sweeping the nation called "Jan & Dean Meet Batman". Despite their best intentions, as comedy writers, well, let's just say they weren't anywhere near as talented as those scribes who supplied their muse, the infamous 39 year old violinist, with HIS gags!!
Personally, I've always loved that particular tune, even though its only been in recent years that I realized its intrinsic connection to my favorite funnyman. It hit the air waves just a few short months after the Beatles gave me a reason to turn on my transistor radio, and "The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)" was solid proof that, yes indeed, not every Top Forty gem need be the responsibility of some musician from across the sea with an accent. Jan and Dean may never have quite reached the rarefied stature of their associate, Brian Wilson, but they provided the world with not only some great music, but perhaps the rock era's sole million-selling tribute to the man who once ruled radio in the days when comedy was king, and electric guitars were largely left unplugged.
Rest easy, Jan.
March 27th, 2004
|Can you REALLY blame Mr. Wilson for looking
furtively over his shoulder?...
After being commonly portrayed as the gruff, irascible next door neighbor to the Mitchells--AND their menacing yet pint-sized offspring, Dennis--how shocking would it have been for everyone if they had discovered that there was an entirely...DIFFERENT...side to George Wilson?
Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you, but even cartoon characters deserve to keep their private lives just that--private. Too bad Toole and Wiseman inadvertently outed the old fellow with this panel from 1964's DENNIS THE MENACE SPRING SPECIAL (#20).
(I shudder to contemplate what we may've found out about Margaret if they had continued to be as sloppily indiscreet with OTHER members of the cast. And what was REALLY going on with Henry at all those office Christmas parties that Alice and Dennis always seemed to be walking in on, apparently just moments too late to stumble upon any punch-fueled hanky-panky?...)
|Oh well, at the very least, this answers
ONE long-standing question: I always pretty
much figured Dennis' antics took place in
California, though I never knew exactly WHERE.
Now we know.
You know--the city where Tony Bennett left his heart, Scott McKenzie stuck a flower in his hair, and good ol' Mr. Wilson assembled himself a complete collection of GAYBOY magazines?...
March 24th, 2004
Earlier today, while sifting through a large stack of family photogaphs, vainly attempting to find some semi-decent pictures of moi for a project unrelated to the web-site (more on THAT when it gets closer to becoming a reality), I stumbled acrossTHIS little gem...
|Yup, that's my Julie (approximately 3 years
of age) standing next to George Reeves (approximately
43 years of age), both dressed essentially
the same! Sure, if her dad were a better
shutterbug, you might be able to get a closer
look at that hat she's wearing, one proudly
festooned with an iconic "S" symbol
as well! But hey, the important thing is,
there are smiles all around, which is generally
the case when my girlie's anywhere in the
She's 13 now, but still maintain's that photogenic smile of hers, and--even more amazingly, since she never really got into the whole comics scene--she ALSO owns a shirt with the Super-symbol emblazoned on it, one that she wears frequently to school! True, as a fashion statement of sorts, there are wisps of flame emanating from behind the Kryptonian triangle, but it's still an honest to Rao piece of Warners apparel, so apparently, SOME of my earlier brainwashing worked!?!...
Ah, if only I'd played the Beatles more when she was younger...
March 22nd, 2004
|That, folks, is just a small detail from
a fabulous Little Archie interior cover (don't
ask) drawn especially for the third issue
of the second volume of Jon Cooke's indispensible
COMIC BOOK ARTIST by the woefully-underappreciated-but-brilliant-in-spite-of-it-all
Bob Bolling, kicking off 21 pages devoted
to the fascinating history behind the character
and the folks who so skillfully brought him
to life on the pages of his long-running
comic book series (Dexter Taylor, the OTHER
Little Archie artist, gets his due as well,
Gary Brown helms the feature, and does Bob, Dexter, and the Little redhead proud! But don't just take MY word for it--go BUY the issue!
Mad Doctor Doom (and Chester, natch) will thank you!!...
|March 20th, 2004|
|Ah yes, the first day of Spring!!
So, naturally, yours truly is stuck inside with a nasty cold--hey, everyone ELSE had it around here, so why shouldn't I suffer, too, huh? Add to that a couple of impending deadlines, and I'm afraid we're going to have to go a little bit light on the solstice celebration!
Luckily, we have our old friends--Al Wiseman, Fred Toole, and good ol' Dennis Mitchell himself--ready to step in and spread a little cheer! That over there is a 1964 seasonal special cover featuring perhaps one of the most groan-inducing puns in the entire DTM canon!! But wait--the lead story in this all-new giant collection actually uses Dennis on springs to--you should pardon the expression--PROPEL the plot!! And, like most of what Toole and Wiseman produced for the feature's creator, Hank Ketcham, it turns out to be pretty darn funny!!!
Have a great day, folks! (...coff coff...)
March 19th, 2004
What're you doing over HERE?!? Aren't you at all curious as to what Scott Shaw! posted as his 1,000th Oddball Comics' entry? Well, go look--and then c'mon back here. You may ALSO want to take a peek at the latest pair of Dateline:@#$% strips that I'VE put on line. They would be the, um, 43rd and 44th ones to go up...
So we're not even close to a cool grand--so what? Tortoise and the hare, folks, tortoise and the hare...
(All kidding aside, big-time congrats to Scott for such a monumentally impressive achievement! Great job, Senor Shaw--and best of luck with the NEXT thousand!!...)
March 18th, 2004
Due, no doubt, to some cosmic alignment of the stars--or somesuch nonsense--my two favorite music magazines, MOJO and UNCUT, each showed up here at the Hembeck household within a day of one another bearing exclusive cover-featured interviews with my two favorite musicians who AREN'T Beatles (and are over the age of 19), Brian Wilson and Pete Townsend!
While I haven't as yet had a chance to do little more than glance through the two pieces, I couldn't help but notice some striking correlations between the pair of articles. To start with, both magazines have dipped deep, deep into their files for lustrously youthful late-sixties portraits of these now-elder statesmen of rock to plaster across their covers. And while the main subject being discussed in the former Beach Boy's interview appears to be the near-mythical "Smile" album--the legendarily ill-fated, never completed project that somehow managed to propel the fragile Wilson into decades of dubious mental health--the Who front man's chat seems thoroughly focused on his most notable achievement, the much-lauded rock-opera, "Tommy", an artistic endeavor that, if I'm reading the pull-quotes correctly, actually SAVED his sanity!
Oddly, each saga currently stands totally opposite of where you might well expect to find 'em. Wilson has been, in recent months, presenting--finally--a version of "Smile" to British concert audiences, receiving an overwhelmingly positive response. Townsend, meanwhile, has seen his reputation tarnished last year by sordid reports linking him to the act of accessing clearly undesirable material on the Net, a situation that turns out to have had its roots in some of Pete's own childhood experiences. Apparently, even though it wasn't an uncle, and his name wasn't Ernie, there WAS an "Evil Uncle Ernie" in the composers past, and this trauma sparked the creation of his most well-known work.
Aside from all the fine reading provided by these two periodicals, there's also music--REAL music--involved. However, while the March issue of MOJO has a free CD attached to it, the otherwise exemplary "Raw Soul" compilation--featuring the likes of Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, and a nearly a dozen others--has absolutely nothing to do with our cover boy.
|Conversely, UNCUT'S ride-along CD (as they're called when accompanying
a subscription copy such as my own through
the travails of the mails) is entitled "The
Roots Of Tommy", and features expertly
chosen selections from several of the rock-operas
that actually preceded "Tommy"
(The Pretty Things "S. F. Sorrow",
for one, something I'd long read about, but
never actually heard--until now), as well
as original versions of songs the Who either
incorporated into their extended opus (Sonny
Boy Williamson's "Eyesight To The Blind"),
or had intended to (Mose Allison's "A
Young Man", which later turned up as
"Young Man's Blues" on their monumental
concert disc, "Live At Leeds").
Pertinent cuts by groups you've heard of--The
Kinks, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Procol Harum,
The Zombies--and groups you haven't--The
Creation, Keith West, Nirvana (no, not THAT
Nirvana)--add up to make a fascinating package.
Why, there's even a slice of bawdy English
Music Hall from British vaudevillian Max
Miller entitled "I Never Slept A Wink
All Night", where the double-entendres
fly faster than a microphone twirling madly
in the air around Roger Daltrey's curly haired
locks ! And, of course, Pete's own "Pinball
Wizard" demo finishes things out properly.
Trust me--if you're anything close to being
a Who fan, you NEED this one-two print and
|So folks, if you have ANY interest in either
of these two gents and you spy the latest
MOJO or UNCUT at your local bookstore--smile! See them,
feel them, touch them, and most importantly,
BUY them! And for heaven's sakes, always
remember to eat your vegetables!?!... .
March 17th, 2004
|March 16th, 2004|
|Nothing beats a well orchestrated spit take!
It's pure comedy gold, friends. And far be
it from me to resist the chance to spew out
some yocks all over the page given half a
chance--and when you're cooking up a silly
little story set in a diner, well, it's only
natural that the coffee would go flying,
That would be The Terminal Diner, a nifty little creation of Ron and Justine Fontes. Comics fans may recognize Ron as a former Marvel Comics art director, and along with wife Justine--who's amassed an impressive list of writing credits all her own--they've recently launched their brand spankin' new Sonic Publishing web-site. Just a quick peek'll give you some small idea of the many wild and woolly concepts bursting free from this overly imaginative two-headed beast (...and I mean that in the nicest possible way, R and J!...heh...)
|One of which, incidentally, is an anthology
series--replete with continuing characters,
paradoxically--entitled TALES OF THE TERMINAL
DINER. The Fontes contacted me a while back,
y'see, about contributing a story to an upcoming
collection revolving around Sam, Genie, and
all of the others regulars manning the booths
at the good ol' Diner. Well, as evidenced
from a pivotal moment tactfully torn from
my very own cheery four-page episode, "Hero
Sub", you can see that I gladly took
'em up on their offer! But I'm hardly alone,
sidled up to the counter and sitting on my
metaphorical spinning stool--the likes of
Michael T. Gilbert, Don Lomax, Steve Skeates,
Eliot R. Brown, and the late, great Grass
Green are among those who're keeping me and
the Fontes' family company.
I'd recommend you all buy yourselves a copy when the TALES FROM THE TERMINAL DINER collection is published in the oh-so-near future--I'll clue you in when I'm actually grasping a copy tightly in my ever-sweaty hands--but until them, why not visit the Sonic web-site? You're sure to learn much, much more about the Diner denizens.
Just one thing, though...
If you discover that the aforementioned Genie is, well, kind of a VAMPIRE while drinking your morning coffee, for heaven's sake, try NOT to spit it all over the place, okay? Remember, that's only funny in the comic books!...
(...I can only hope...)
March 15th, 2004
|Beware the eyes of March!
Fredric March, that is, noted silver screen thespian, fellow Fred, and--were he to somehow become aware of today's gag-inducing gag--currently a chagrined corpse doing a cha-cha in his comfy if crowded casket!?!
But no one ever said we're not authentic here at Hembeck.com, oh no, as March's peepers were purloined from a "Middle Of The Night" (1959) still, a Paddy Chayefsky play brought to the screen co-starring the lovely Kim Novak!
(And speaking of eyes--beware of what happened to Sammy Davis, Jr. (allegedly) because he had the temerity to date the aforementioned delectable blonde starlet, way, way back in a more unenlightened time!?! Ouch, baby, OUCH!?!... )
Say, did Nick Fury ever call on Ms. Novak, I wonder?...
March 14th, 2004
|Remember the Supergirl movie? Remember Helen
Slater? Remember THE ELECTRIC COMPANY magazine?
Well, if you don't, just take a peek over
Yeah, I KNOW it was a lousy movie. It made that Richard Pryor entry into the Superman film series look like "Citizen Kane" by comparison, no argument there, but by golly, as someone who grew up all moony-eyed reading the exploits of Jim Mooney's Maid of Might in the back pages of ACTION COMICS, Helen Slater just looked so gosh-darn cute bringing Kal-El's cuz to life on the silver screen--so much so that, well, she actually moved me to buy my one and only copy of this PBS inspired periodical.
(Oh yeah, there is indeed a short four page story starring long-time Electric Company associate, Spider-Man, inside as well--Steven Grant/Alan Kupperberg/Mike Esposito/Rick Parker/Nel Yomtov at your service--but I'd be fooling absolutely NO one if I said that contributed in any way towards my decision to fork over 85 whole cents (!) for this mag twenty years back. No, the prospect of meeting Supergirl was more than enough for THIS long-time admirer...)
And folks, that's all I got on THAT! Enjoy the picture while I give my poor battered keyboard a rest, okay?
|Incidentally, if you're the sort who just
checks in on this section of the site from
time to time, you might possibly be interested
to know that yesterday I posted a little
piece over in the Fabulous Foursome section about the way Beatlemania was satirized
in MAD, SICK, and CRACKED magazines, circa
1964/65, and to help illustrate my earnest
essay, I scanned in several vintage featurettes,
including artwork by the likes of John Severin,
Angelo Torres, Al Jaffee, Bob Clarke, and--oh
Pardon the Stones reference, but yup, we're digging into Yesterday's Papers!...
March 11th, 2004
|While I certainly don't purport to be on
top of today's music scene--and by and large,
I don't even CARE to be--every so often something--or
SOMEBODY--comes along that just knocks me
off my feet and flat on to the, well, soft
side of my own malleable moon! But its been
a long, LONG time since I was so unexpectedly
thrust into an involuntary sitting position
with as much full-blown force as I was just
the other day! What--or WHO--is the object
of this overheated hyperbole, you might well
A nineteen-year old singer/composer/pianist by the name of Nellie McKay.
|Until last Friday, like most of you, I had
never even heard of Ms. McKay. Luckily for
me, though, I just happened to be watching
"Live With Regis And Kelly" that
fateful morning (though Philbin's wife Joy
was in, subbing for regular co-host, Ripa).
Curiously, for someone who enjoys listening
to music as much as I most definitely do,
I find that I almost inexplicably show extremely
limited interest in actually WATCHING it
being performed. Now, obviously, there are
some notable exceptions to that unwritten
dictum (you can start THOSE listings, not
surprisingly, under the letter "B"...),
but by and large, I pay scant attention to
new acts performing on the handful of talk
shows I've been known to watch on a semi-regular
basis. But there was just something about
the way Regis, bless his li'l heart, plugged
that morning's guest vocalist's upcoming
stint later in the show (i.e. towards the
very end)--he held up her debut CD and mock-incredulously
barked out the seemingly incongruous title
bestowed upon it by the fresh-faced blonde
broadly smiling on the cover:
"Get Away From Me"!!
And when he went on to say critics are calling her an unlikely cross between Ella Fitzgerald and Eminem, well now, THAT'S when he had me once and for all! No way I'm gonna miss checking THIS out! So I stuck around, and as the show wound down to its final quarter, the Philbins turned and introduced the young songstress to the audience. Sitting alone at the piano, she began aggressively pounding the keys, spewing out the rat-a-tat-tat lyrics to a cheery little ditty with the somewhat sarcastic refrain, " All I want is inner peace". The delivery was sharp, the words were clever, the music was compelling, and her voice more than managed to sell the whole package. If the performance was a little less than polished, McKay's sincerity compensated nicely for any rough edges. And as impressive as she was singing, she cut an even more intriguing figure in the short interview segment that followed...
Regis and Joy good-naturedly inquired about the twisted and rocky road that led her this point in her young life, and her honesty--not to mention, mild stammering--was all too refreshing for a "celebrity" chatfest. Hardly seeming anything near like your typical pre-packaged teen-temptress (for one thing, she was fully dressed, and remained that way throughout), her plain spoken answers pegged her as someone who was always the smartest girl in the class, but not always the most popular. Now, you've gotta imagine, she clearly understands that, yes, she certainly deserves all this attention, but at the very same time, there's a part of her that--whoa, Nellie!--can't truly BELIEVE that she's actually getting it!?!
Back from commercial one last time, she launched jauntily into a snazzy, jazzy little tune called "The Dog Song", clearly demonstrating the OTHER end of her enviable range as the shows' credits rolled. She'd barely made a dent in the song before the plug was pulled, but no matter--I'd seen enough to know that I HAD to grab a copy of "Get Away From Me", and quick!
Well, it took me until the following Tuesday, but now I've got one!
And, y'know, it seems like I've been playing it repeatedly ever since! The sheer breadth of this whiz-kid's artistic achievement is stunning--one minute she sounds like Peggy Lee, crooning a somehow unfamiliar standard, only to zoom in with a cutting couplet of her own imagining just when you've been lulled into a false sense of easy listening! Next, she's spitting out her sardonic lyrics at a rapid rap-like pace, banging away at the ol' 88s all the while, swooping vocal overdubs dropping in to embellish the syncopated sounds. And if that weren't enough, just for good measure, a fair share of the album's 18 tunes would have to qualify as gorgeously glistening pop--power and otherwise--each matched up perfectly with eminently intelligent yet decidedly skewed lyrical content. Any minor quibbles I may've had with her singing from watching her on the tube are nowhere in evidence here, as her voice--both lead and multi-tracked backups--comes across with an appealing strength and a rare expressiveness.
I'm not going to get into individual tracks here. If you're at all curious, you can easily check out Nellie McKay's web-site for some samples, as well as more of her fascinating back-story. For instance, you comics fans out there may well be interested to learn that her mom was an actress, one who appeared in "Superman Two". Exactly WHICH role was hers is never quite specified, but hey funny-bookers, it's a connection, however tenuous, y'know? And Beatles-geeks--oh boy!--I've got an even BETTER one for you: the disc's producer/engineer is none other than the gent who sat behind the sound board for the Fabs last half dozen albums--including the landmark "Abbey Road"--Geoff Emerick! One time through, and you can readily hear his expertise at play, infusing the expert musicianship with a well-deserved clarity, giving each track its own individual voice. But, please--let's not overlook our girl's hardly insubstantial contribution, okay?
The booklet's tiny print credits her with (deep breath now) all vocals, piano, organ, recorder, vibes, chimes, glockenspiel, xylophone, synthesizer, AND the ever-popular additional percussion! She was solely responsible for the arrangements, as it turned out, and she even managed to garner a "co-producer" credit right there alongside Macca's ol' buddy, Geoff. And, of course, she wrote ALL the songs, words and music...
...Did I mention she was 19?? Years? Old? Whew!...
The only thing that puzzles me is just WHY this was released as a double-disc, as both combined only total about an hour's time running length. They could've easily fit it all on a single 79 minute-plus CD, and it's not as if they've separated the songs thematically, as each disc contain 9 compositions of varying musical moods. Huh. Seems an odd choice to me, but the GOOD news is that it's being sold for the price of a standard single CD, so I guess there's no REAL complaints in that area.
And don't be TOO freaked by that "Parental Advisory" glaring out at you from the cover--8 or 9 swear words tops, sneaking onto maybe three or four cuts, never gratuitously and always to the benefit of the saga unfolding. Hey, REAL rappers use more expletives than that when they get up and gargle in the morning than sweet-n-sour li'l Nellie uses on her entire album, so no need to go getting all excited, dig?
The last time I was THIS taken by a fresh new face--and this is gonna sound like one of my silly little jokes, but I assure you that it most certainly isn't (check out the "Fred Sez" entry for March 19th, 2003, if you dare doubt me)--was when I first watched an episode of "SpongeBob SquarePants"!! Just as when I first saw this talented young songstress on "Regis", my sense of connection to that bright yellow cartoon character was virtually instantaneous. Thanks to my daughter, Julie, I was well aware of SpongeBob for months, if not years, before the rest of the adult world, and, yes, people laughed at me when I vainly attempted to proselytize the animated sponge's undeniable (at least, to ME) appeal.
Well, as we all know by now, the general public eventually--if belatedly--caught up to moi on THAT particular matter. Going purely by my Bikini Bottom-honed instincts, I've gotta tell you, THIS is the first time that I've felt anywhere near as strongly about a personality since then, so, pop culture-vultures, consider this a heads up! Y'know, if there's ANY justice in this big old world of ours, this kid is gonna be big, REAL big--okay, maybe not Beatles-big, but SpongeBob big!!
Now, if she'd just pen a tune about goin' Jellyfishing, THAT'D be perfection!...
March 10th, 2004
Despite evidence to the contrary--specifically, last month's singular focus, both on this site, and in my home's ever-busy CD changer--man can not live by Beatles alone, melodically speaking. And to prove just that--AND to keep all you comics fans from fleeing in droves--I'm going to share with you two extremely rare illustrations of a pair of my favorite OTHER musical legends done, in turn, by another pair of long-time cartooning legends...
|I've loved The Who since Santa brought me
a copy of "Tommy" for Christmas
of '69. Although I bought the next four releases
fresh off the racks as they arrived in stores--"Live
At Leeds", "Who's Next", "Meaty,
Beaty, Big And Bouncy", and "Quadrophenia"--it
wasn't until their entire catalog was sonically
upgraded and invested with generous amounts
of bonus tracks on what turned out to be
only their INITIAL round of CD reissues in
the early nineties that I became TRULY obsessed.
It was discovering the duel joys of their
pre-rock opera disc, "The Who Sell Out",
plus luxuriating in the vastly expanded "Live
At Leeds" that REALLY sealed the deal
for me! After that, I was grabbing for anything
and everything head Who, Pete Townsend, had
ever associated himself with! Hey, for what
MY opinion's worth--no jokes, please--he's
right up there with the likes of Lennon and/or
McCartney and Brian Wilson as the most outstanding
songsmith to come out of a sixties rock group.
Say what you will about all the justly heralded singers who had their roots in folk music, but is there a more perfect song about politics than "Won't Get Fooled Again"? Between that title, and the refrain, "meet the new boss, same as the old boss", doesn't that pretty much say it all? And rivaling even my beloved Beatles, has any group ever released a sequence of albums as wildly varied in tone and approach--and yet still definitely of a piece--as "The Who Sell Out", "Tommy", "Live At Leeds", "Who's Next", AND "Quadrophenia", each one of them an acknowledged classic??. And Mick--better break the news to Keith: regardless of what your publicity people may have us believe, The Who are the World's Greatest Live Rock and Roll Band! And folks, you know if I say it, (...ahem...) it MUST be true!...
But what about that picture, you ask? Well, it first appeared on the cover of the fifth issue of Tony Dispoto's COMIC ART SHOWCASE. The story behind it goes something like this: ROLLING STONE magazine engaged the incomparable talents of Neal Adams to provide them with a cover for a book on the group they were planning to publish. Smart move. But, at the last moment, the art director got cold feet and summarily decided that the public would better relate to a photo that an illustration, so Neal's fine work went unseen until art dealer Dispoto printed it as the cover of his deluxe sales catalog. Dumb move. That was way back in 1976, and the asking price THEN was a cool thousand bucks. If it was ever actually published--or what sort of fee this piece would command these days--I couldn't rightly tell you. Whatever the asking price, I doubt very much it would be...a bargain! (..."the BEST I've ever had"? HAH! Not bloody likely...)
|Then there's Der Bingle, my all-time favorite
crooner. Actually, it was due to my buying
a Bob Hope CD, one that featured his Road
movie partner prominently on several duets,
that sparked my apparently latent interest
in the music of Bing Crosby sometime back
during the late nineties. Imagine the shock
and disdain felt by the other members of
my erstwhile happy little family as my Who
obsession segued illogically and pervasively
almost overnight into a non-stop airing of
Crosby recordings!?! Instead of enduring
seemingly endless variations of "Tommy"--several
concert bootlegs, primitive demos, the Broadway
cast, Ken Russell's movie soundtrack, Lou
Adler's all-star version, even, yes, the
original--rotating all hours of the day,
suddenly Lynn and Julie came home instead
to non-stop spins of the double-disc complete
recordings of Bing and The Andrews Sisters!?!
Which, incidentally, is STILL, for my money,
one the greatest collection of happy, peppy,
toe-tappin' sides as you're ever likely to
find! Don't scoff at these sentiments, oh
sophisticated musicologists out there, until
you've heard Crosby and the Girls barrel
their way through numbers like "Ciribiribin",
"Is You Is, Or Is You Ain't Ma' Baby",
"Pistol Packin' Mama", "Don't
Fence Me In", and one you've really
gotta experience yourselves to fully appreciate,
"The Yodeling Ghost"? Have eerie
sound effects masterfully combined with expert
yodeling EVER been used towards a cheerier
end? Allow me to answer that one: NO!
But as Crosby fans go, I'm nowhere NEAR fit to slip into one of Joe Sinnott's gaudy Hawiaan shirts, much less launder it for the funnybook field's undisputed King of Crosby admirers! Like the eminent embellisher, yours truly is a member of The International Club Crosby (founded in 1936, this august if somewhat ancient organization is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's longest running fan club, don'tcha know?...), but unlike Joe, I didn't have one of MY drawings adorning the back cover of the 135th--and latest--issue of BING magazine, as he did. Apparently, this holiday-themed illo was done especially for the members-only mag, and I sure hope no one involved takes umbrage with me sharing it with an audience rife with potential non-believers.
I pray, please understand, that I didn't make an inexcusable boo-boo-boo-boo!!...
March 9th, 2004
...So, for no real good reason, I dreamt up this joke the other day, and I thought maybe I'd share it with you, okay? (Pardon me--HOW much did you pay to get in here? All right then--just settle down, and listen up...)
|Much to the surprise of seasoned observers
everywhere, one fine day, Bullwinkle, and
his close personal associate, Rocky the Flying
Squirrel, call a sudden cease-fire in their
long and ongoing adversarial relationship
with the alleged foreign spies, Boris and
Natasha, and instead jet off to war-torn
Curious as to their motives, American journalists question the pair as they disembark from their flight...
"Bullwinkle! Bullwinkle! WHY did you come to Iraq??..."
"That's simple", he answers, "I felt I had absolutely no choice after I heard President Bush go on the TV and announce that they were hiding Weapons of MOOSE Destruction over here!..."
But HERE'S the joke, gang:
Try as they might, they didn't find any of THOSE, either!?!...
March 8th, 2004
|I came in exactly one decade after the fact.
MAD was ten years old. I was nine. This "Special Anniversary Issue"--which wasn't, in reality, particularly special at all (which was the joke, I suppose...)--was the very first one I'd ever bought. It turned out to be a false start of sorts, as I didn't buy another issue until a year and a half later, but after THAT, well now! I didn't miss one again until the iconic satire rag's 20th anniversary was looming...
Oh, sure, as a kid, I'd seen the magazine around, but it always made me vaguely uncomfortable. For one thing, it was in black and white. For another, the word balloons were set in cold upper and lower-case type, not the warm, friendly looking all-caps hand-lettering I was so used to finding in my beloved standard-sized comic books.
|And mostly, MAD seemed to deal with a whole
slew of topics that, well, I just plain didn't
understand!?! Remember folks, nine year olds
were a whole lot less savvy back in '62 than
they are now, and in any event, yours truly
has NEVER never stood at the head of the
"savvy" line, or even anywhere
close! So I shied away from MAD, and probably
wouldn't have bought this issue either, if
it hadn't been for a very special hook hiding
|Or rather, OLD Superman. He led off a feature
called "If Comic Strip Characters Were
As Old As Their Strips", written by
Earle Doud, and drawn by the incomparable
Wallace Wood. Come to think of it, this most
likely was my very first exposure to the
joys of Woodwork, which is always a special
moment in a young comic fans life! Anyway,
besides our Kryptonian pal, the aging process
was amusingly(?) applied to the likes of
such stalwarts as Dick Tracy, Popeye, Li'l
Abner, Mandrake the Magician, Tarzan, Henry,
and another favorite of mine, Dennis the
Readers were treated to haggard versions of the spinach swilling sailor and his perennial rival, Bluto, fighting tirelessly for the privilege of bestowing Olive with some fresh flowers, an act that took on a distinctly macabre twist when we discover, in the last of four panels, that they're destined for Ms. Oyl's GRAVE!?! What exactly WAS the proper response, I wondered--"Ha ha" or "Brrrr"? Probably both...
|The Superman sequence wasn't nearly as disturbing
as that, but apparently, there WAS one thing
about it that really bothered me--its lack
of color! So, of course, I got out a couple
of red and blue ballpoint pens, and proceeded
to do what I could to alleviate the problem.
Undoubtedly soon realizing the enormity of
the task I had before me, I never quite made
it past that first panel. But take a gander,
folks--there it is! Truthfully, the first
time in my long and checkered career that,
yes, I EVER worked on Superman! (And, hey,
does that make me the assistant Woody never
knew he had?...)
The legendary illustrator and the high-flying crimefighter were what, despite my initial misgivings, kept me coming back to MAD in the months ahead. First, it would be Wood's landmark "Superduperman" parody from the original EC Comics that persuaded me to purchase "The MAD Reader" paperback, and it was Wally once again, helming a double page spread speculating on what a "Comic Strip Character's Christmas Party" might be like in the first edition of the MAD Follies reprint series (Winter 1963) that got me hooked for good...
But, sadly, Wood's long gone, as are my days of buying MAD on any sort of regular basis. Oh, I pick up the occasional issue from time to time, just to sorta check in, y'know? But when I heard about something special coming up not too long ago, I made it a point to keep my eye out for their 438th issue. Superheroes again, y'see, but in the absence of the sorely missed Mr. Wood, this parody would be illustrated by some of the biggest names currently working the genre: Frank Miller, John Byrne, Art Adams, Jim Lee, Dave Gibbons, J. Scott Cambell, Mike Allred, and John Romita Jr.
Okay, okay--I KNOW I should be well past buying stuff like this merely for the sake of artistic oddities, but well, you saw yesterday's entry--I'm NOT. So, seeing the headline, "Rejected Superheroes", peeking out at me, I pulled a copy of MAD 438 out from the rack at my local Barnes and Noble, and THIS is the cover that greeted me...
|Uh huh. Michael Jackson. And as long-time
readers here at Hembeck.com well know, I've
got me a 13 year-old daughter who is, quite
simply, wacko for Jacko!! (Although, by playing
nothing but Fabs' recordings--and cover versions--for
the entirety of February's self-proclaimed
"Beatles Month", a great deal of
otherwise unwelcome melodys have nonetheless
surreptitiously seeped into Julie's noggin,
to which I can only comment, "Heh heh
Yup, as soon as I showed it to her, she became instantly entranced by that creepy cover image. Julie swiftly had the issue opened up to the mock MJ press release, and laughed uproariously as she struggled to contain her composure and read it, first to herself, and then aloud to Lynn and I! Oh, the fun! It wasn't long before she had her partner in Never-Neverland-worship, Courtney, on the phone, giving her all the juicy details. And then, finally, that topic exhausted, she looked at the REST of the magazine. Much to my surprise, she deemed it hilarious.
|"Buy more of these, dad!"
Inasmuch as she's shown near zero interest in any and all comics related material over the years (save for a fondness for the truly wonderful Little Lulu stories of John Stanley), this was music to my ears! Of COURSE I'll get more! The trick is, will she find the future NON-MJ issues to be of any real interest to her? I guess we'll just have to wait and see...
|Meanwhile, I came across the latest CRACKED,
and who do you suppose was gracing the cover
of THAT interminable--and apparently indestructible--MAD
imitation? Right the first time--Tito's little
brother! So I snapped it up, figuring it'd
give my kid a few more yocks at the expense
of her idol, AND strike another blow for
the pictorial medium. Well, sir, Julie up
and surprised me--she showed more than a
modicum of taste, because after just a brief
glance through the CRACKED I'd bought for
her, she pronounced their gags nowhere near
as funny as the ones found in the clearly
superior--to both me, a grizzled veteran,
and her, a virtual neophyte--MAD magazine!
So apparently, taste runs in the Hembeck
And if THAT doesn't bring an icky image to mind, hey, I just haven't been trying hard enough, now have I?...
If you're interested in reading an amusing recounting of how Noah Smith and friends DIDN'T get in to see the taping of this past weekend's "Saturday Night Live" episode--replete with some photos of the cast streaming out onto the streets of NY City after the show--well, you know what to do by now, don't you? Better luck next time, Noah!...
March 7, 2004
|...Y'know, considering how loaded her old
man is, it never occurred to me that Veronica
Lodge would ever have to concern herself
with anything so plebeian as the SATs?...
AND finding them to be a "cinch"? Whoa--even harder to comprehend. I would've thought Betty Cooper more likely the one to sail blithely through these exams, not her less intellectually motivated romantic rival?
As for the rest of the gang, well, we can only assume Dilton Doiley finished early and is already headed home, hoping to find a good text-book to curl up with once he gets there. Reggie Mantle was undoubtedly bounced out on his butt by Miss Grundy when she inevitably caught the slick-haired sneak trying to cheat.
And Big Moose?
He slept in. After all, what on earth would Big Moose be doing attending a college board entrance exam? Why, that would be as unlikely as, well, someone like ME buying a copy of "The Atlantic", y'know?...
Just HOW I happened to get ahold of a copy of this particular issue is a little story in itself, albeit not that interesting a one. Still, this IS my site, so here goes (I'll try to keep it short, okay?...)...
Back when we lived in Kingston, there was a Library Fair fund-raiser every year. We attended annually for any number of reasons, not the least of which was that we had a good friend on the Library Board, Hilarie Staton (better known to some of you funny-book fans out there as the one-time scripter of First Comics late-lamented REAL GHOSTBUSTERS series, and, incidentally, wife of the near-legendary Joe Staton). While three year old Julie was out in front of the building, helping plant a tree--AND getting her picture in "The Kingston Freeman" in the process--and Lynn was looking through some REAL books, I was hunting down ephemera like this.
After fishing this out of a huge stack of unfamiliar magazines--the sort I usually paid scant attention to--I think I paid all of a dime for this slightly beat up subscriber copy. Obviously, you all know WHY I parted with a tenth of a dollar for this unique 1980 issue of "The Atlantic"--the swell Dan DeCarlo cover. Apparently, someone in editorial thought using such...ahem...kitschy images on the front of their otherwise brainy periodical might make for some--how you say?--zeit-geist infused irony. They were probably right. Me, I just got a kick out of seeing my Riverdale pals thrust into an altogether fitting yet still undeniably unfamiliar setting.
Did I ACTUALLY read any of the articles inside? Hah! Remember, I went to college for art, folks!
Like Big Moose, I slept in! (...or was that just DURING the test?...)
March 5th, 2004
I just learned me a valuable lesson--NEVER mock a mythological God! Because if you do, you might very well end up like the poor sap who callously proclaimed, "I Laughed At The Great God, Pan!", and suffer a fate worse than the Smith Brothers at a Nair testing facility!?!...
It's all part of a tremendously cool site I discovered yesterday, Monster Blog! This clever little Internet destination is dedicated solely to the 188 pre-hero monster stories the legendary Jack Kirby conjured up for the not-quite-Marvel Comics of the late fifties, early sixties. Besides including scans of ALL those swell Atlas covers, and biographies of each and every creature accompanied by a typically dynamic Kirby splash page, there's perhaps the site's GREATEST treat: the "Never Before Reprinted" section!
Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like--a complete listing of all the Kirby creature-features that have, as yet, remained unseen to all but those few lucky (or rich) enough to own the originals since the time of their initial publication. UNTIL, that is, now! Because by visiting Monster Blog, you give yourself the opportunity to read 37(of the 39 total) never before reprinted stories, and folks, what a rare delight! And THAT'S how I realized I should never, ever make fun of a short goat-hoofed dude playing some crazy pipes, dig?...
Proprietor Philip Parodayco should be proud not only of the site's rich content, but of the impressively eye-pleasing manner in which it's presented as well! It's bright, it's colorful, it's Kirby--what's NOT to like? And outside input is heartily encouraged in the form of a reader participatory message area--uh huh, an actual Monster Blog! Clever!
Maybe I'm getting a little TOO excited here, but I've always been fascinated by those halcyon pre-Marvel Universe fantasy tales for many reasons, but a chief personal one being that they just narrowly predated my days down at Heisenbuttel's General Store buying up the earliest of Stan, Jack, and Steve's radically reinvented super-heroes. The fact is, during the initial transitional period, melodramatically monikered monsters were more often than not regularly seen facing off against the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Thor, and the rest of the brightly bedecked characters that would soon supplant them. (And let's not forget the snappy sci-fi shorts that still filled the back pages of STRANGE TALES, TALES TO ASTONISH, TALES OF SUSPENSE, and JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY during the change-over...)
|Whether it's comics, pop music, movies or TV, I've always been inordinately intrigued by what came immediately before the time when I myself got totally and utterly involved with the various genres. I'm somehow left sorta half-wondering what my impressions may've been and how they may've changed my overall outlook had I picked up on things just a teensy-weensy bit earlier. And with Marvel, that means "Groot" instead of The Tomorrow Man. NOW there's a place on the web where I can go and contentedly dream my little dreams of yesteryear, and friends, so can you...|
|Ah, the web. It's not called that for nothing,
you know. I first heard about Monster Blog when I stopped by for a regular visit to
The Johnny Bacardi Show yesterday--and head-honcho David Allen Jones,
in turn, credits something called Sugar-n-Spicy with tipping HIM off! Where the S 'n S site
spied it from, I couldn't tell ya, but it
sure is one tangled web we're all caught
up in here, ain't it? Let this be both a
blanket thanks AND apology to any and all
whom I capriciously steal links from! Just
trying to get the word out, folks, is all...
And now a few words of correction, dating back to the fast and furious fun we all had during Beatles month. In my February 21st entry, I mistakenly characterized Dave Puckett--the fellow who identified that English comic with the Ditko cover that Ringo was so happily reading--as a British citizen, only to be later informed by his pal, the OTHER (aforementioned) Dave that he is in actuality a resident of the good ol' U S of A!! Oops. Sorry, Daves. Next time, I'll get my facts jolly well straight, guv'nor! Righto!...
My facts on February 25th were decidedly crooked, however, as, towards the end of that little piece, I intimated that Paul McCartney's new bride, Heather Mills, was in truth the sister of George Harrison's 1964 movie date--and renowned child actress--Hayley Mills. Well, no, they're NOT related, not even a little bit, and yes, I was fully aware they weren't. It was, you see, my attempt at a little joke, but since it's been brought to my attention that at least one person bought what I was selling at face value, I thought it best to clear up any misconceptions I may've inadvertently given anyone else out there. My bad.
But heck, forget sisters--Heather's young enough to be Hayley's DAUGHTER!?! And, staying on the kiddie-star track, young enough, for that matter, to be Shirley Temple's GRAND-daughter?
All of which somehow brings Mickey Rooney and Pan back to mind, but in an effort not to confuse matters any further, I'll just let you all work on your OWN joke, okay?...
March 3rd, 2004
Turns out our friends in the funny costumes were pretty big in the TV talk show arena last night.
First, following an extended edition of "Nightline" (covering the not-terribly-surprising results from the Super Tuesday balloting), ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" opened with a sight gag arguably as lame a bit as I myself tried to get away with hereabouts yesterday: as is his tradition, the host ambled up the sidewalk and into the program's theater, but not before passing a voting booth just as, yes, Batman himself stepped out, with Wonder Woman and Superman anxiously awaiting their chance to get in and cast their all-important votes. Cute. Predictable, sure, but cute. Two words that definitely don't come to mind as I contemplate describing what was about to happen not an hour later over on NBC...
The always outrageous Andy Dick was ensconced in "Late Night With Conan O'Brien"s guest chair, and after a few minutes of chatter irrelevant to this recounting, brought up the somewhat startling fact that he's recently been plagued with a stalker. Not just any stalker, though, but a celebrity stalker. And not just any celebrity, but Tobey Maguire! Conan feigned astonishment at this notion, noting that, well, Maguire was an honest-to-gosh movie star--why the heck would he be trailing someone who's basically a cult television personality? Good question. As Andy calmly began to explain the situation to Conan, the camera suddenly shifted and we all witnessed someone in an ill-fitting Spider-Man costume rush out from behind the curtains!
Before anyone on stage had a chance to say anything, our determined--and demented--web-spinner leapt up on the chair next to Andy, grabbed the comedian's head, and began thrusting his overly-friendly groin area onto the neighborhood of the back of Dick's noggin, repeatedly, much in the manner a heat-crazed canine might approach a temptingly desirable leg! After about 10 seconds of this, Conan shooed "Spidey" away, as Andy ripped off his cowl to reveal that, omigosh, it wasn't the big-screen wall-crawler at all!
"What have you done to Tobey?", the bespeckled comic screamed as the impostor hastily scurried off the set. With no answer forthcoming, folks, much the confused amusement of both the studio audience and the host, it became obvious to all that--phew!--the bit was over.
As a comics' fan, one can only fervently hope this doesn't have the same ripple effect Ms. Jackson's randy revelation had, or we may well never see costumed crimefighters on the boob tube--you should pardon the expression--ever again. Or, at the very least, never in the company of Andy Dick. THAT, I suppose I could live with...
Now, if, like me, you'd like to occasionally hearken back to a time when the notion of a Lee/Ditko character humping a mid-level celebrity on national television was but only a dream, and not a reality, well, might I suggest you take a peek at a nicely written entry over at Bill Sherman's "Pop Culture Gadabout" site examining that wackiest of all early FANTASTIC FOUR issues, number 11? In case you've forgotten, that's the one featuring the fan-pleasing visit with the FF feature, as well as the group's initial encounter with the pride of the planet Poppup, The Impossible Man. Bill's retro-review nicely captures the unorthodox feel this special issue engendered in readers way back when, and I'm happy to see that he appears to be in my camp when--with all due respect to Galactus, the Silver Surfer, the Inhumans, and Tomazooma (...okay. maybe NOT Tomazooma...)--he heavily implies that those early FF issues are the BEST! To which I can add naught but a hearty, "YAY!" Go take a look--but don't stop there, as Bill always covers a myriad of other topics, and covers them well!
And if you've ever wondered just exactly HOW Superman has been able to maintain that secret ID of his all these years merely by donning a flimsy pair of specs, well, DC had themselves an explanation way back in the seventies, one that made a certain amount of sense, but one that, after proudly publishing the story putting it forth, they, um, never mentioned again! If you want to see actual panels from this forgotten four-color landmark, you need go no further than check today's entry over at Mike Sterling's "Progressive Ruin" site. Mike is a man who knows how to use his scanner AND his extensive comics collection to the best of their mutual advantage, and applies an affectionate sense of humor to the oft-times silly comics he's focusing his attention on!
Yeah, go grab yourself an evefull, but ALWAYS remember:
So, folks, until next time--and there WILL be a next time!--SEE YA!
March 2nd, 2004
You'd think the media could get their facts straight, but no...
All I'm hearing today, no matter WHICH channel I tune into--CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, even the cheesy local news outlets--is "Super Tuesday this, Super Tuesday that"!!
People, I thought we cleared this matter up two days ago--the Man of Steel's birthday was the 29th, Super SUNDAY!?!
Geez, all those high paid reporters--you'd think they'd be able to get a simple thing like that RIGHT! All I can say is, if you want the truth, thank Rao for the Internet!....
March 1st, 2004
The telecast of the 76th Annual Academy Awards last night held virtually no surprises.
"Lord Of The Rings 3: It's FINALLY Over" won everything it was nominated for--and probably got a fair share of votes for things it WASN'T as well--having previously racked up only a handful of so-called minor awards for the first two chapters, leading one to suspect that everyone in Hollywood got together a few years back and covertly decided, "Hey, let's all wait until the last one comes out and then we'll pour on the votes big-time, okay?" Everyone, except, of course, the poor schlemiels who had to run up against it, helplessly serving as cannon fodder...
Billy Crystal was top-notch hosting the event--again, no surprise--with Michael Moore's self-deprecating cameo the highlight of the opening filmed piece, and Crystal's ode to Clint Eastwood the funniest portion of his standard-but-always-superb song-a-logue.
Charlize Theron--glamor girl plays ugly. Give that woman a statue. No surprise.
Big surprises? None. Small ones? A few, as well as a handful of small pleasures and minor items to contemplate. Such as...
A nice tribute to Bob Hope. While it may seem odd that Chuck Braverman's well-done clip reel concentrated solely on his record 18 tours of duty hosting Oscar, totally ignoring his rich screen history, I think it was appropriate. After all, you would've had to have been vacationing in outer Mongolia not to have witnessed a plethora of now-familiar film clips on the day ol' Ski-nose passed away last year, so why not concentrate on his role as the Academy's longest tenured host? Worked for me.
And then later, when the inevitable "In Memoriam" montage rolled, did anyone else out there besides me notice the curious juxtaposition of the great--but still controversial--Elia Kazan leading directly into--LENI RIEFENSTAHL?!? You know, that lady who made promo films for Hitler? I'm to believe it was all just a coincidence, and it was just luck of the draw that somehow, say, John Ritter didn't wind up nestled between the two? Uh uh--THAT I'm not buying...
Biggest non-Crystal laugh came from Adrien Brody. His opening line about restraining orders was worth a chuckle, but when he knowingly paused to take out and use a breath spray just before announcing the Best Actress Winner, well, it was at once inspired, obvious, and a beautifully delivered piece of comedy. Y'know, for a guy who won an Oscar starring in a true-life Holocaust drama, he's a pretty funny guy!...
Then there was the woefully unrecognized Will Ferrell (I'm STILL hoping maybe some ballots were lost behind a filing cabinet down at the Price-Waterhouse offices and there may yet be a slim chance for a well-deserved "Elf" write-in!!...). You'd think adding lyrics to the traditional orchestra play-off music for poky winners, sung with fellow presenter Jack Black would be funny enough, but uh uh--I got me a couple even bigger laughs when, first, Ferrell, having finished the bit, immediately went blank-faced, deadpanning the line "And the nominees are..." with a wonderfully unemotional tone in his voice; and secondly, alternating with Black reading the songwriter nominations, cracking up even his co-presenter when, after reciting the last tune's title, sinuously caresses the composer's name, slyly saying, "written by Ssssting".
I mean, I love the rock and the roll, but really--WHAT kind of name is Sting, anyway? Where's Bite, Cut, and Gash, I have to wonder? And as an old rock fan, well, who'da thought a couple decades back that Hollywood's most prestigious night would feature songs written by the lead singer the new wave band, the Police, angry punk-popper, Elvis Costello, the gender-confusing Eurythmics leading lady, AND a duet between two SCTV cast members of a song written by Lenny WITHOUT Squiggy? They say there's no business like show business, and folks, let this be exhibit A!...
The acceptance speeches? Well, they were generally sincere but not overly memorable. The exception might be documentary film-maker Errol Morris's almost mock exasperation at having the Academy FINALLY recognize him after years and years of amassing a celebrated body of work ("The Thin Blue Line" being perhaps the most prominent). He was precariously perched to mirror Michael Moore from a year back--get 'em laughing, and then get 'em booing--but he managed to avoid Moore's fate by walking a fine line with his strong but well-tempered political remarks, relaying them in such a way that made it difficult for those in disagreement to do little more that stew silently in their seats. Good for him--but this DOES mean he won't get that opening sequence guest-shot with Billy next year, I'm afraid...
And call me an old sentimental sap if you like, but when the fellow who won for "Finding Nemo" ended his speech by recounting how he first told his wife he loved her with a note he passed to her in the 8th grade, and now all these years later, he's telling her in front of a billion people, well now people, THAT'S a love story! But, sadly, the likes of Ben and J.Lo makes for better copy...
When Sean Penn won his award, and everyone rose to their feet, including exuberant fellow nominees, Johnny Depp and Jude Law--as well as a respectful but somewhat more contained Ben Kingsley--where was Bill Murray? Slumped, one assumes, in his seat, as the cameras carefully avoided him. Look, can you blame him? Kingsley's already got his, Law's been nominated before, and just like Depp and Penn, highly likely to be so again. But WHEN'S Bill gonna get another meaty role to sink his teeth into? "Caddyshack 3:The Swing of the Tiger"? Sadly, that might indeed be his best shot...
And as someone who hasn't yet seen a "Lord Of The Rings" film (but I will someday, this I swear!) can ANYONE explain to me the excerpt chosen to represent the film in it's featured spot? The one with several short guys wearing vests, all standing in a line, and looking downright uncomfortable? After the dramatic introduction to this clip, all I could say was, "Huh?...". Unfamiliar as I was am the scenario, the clips that ran when the sound guys won seemed infinitely more representative than THAT odd little moment?!?...
Finally, because the orchestra played a brief snippet of the song John Lennon wrote for his late mother, "Julia", as Julia Roberts ascended the podium to introduce a Katherine Hepburn tribute, it enabled me to somehow work a-not-quite-but-almost-gratuitous reference to the Beatles into my annual Oscar report! Thanks, pretty lady!
Well, that's all for now! See you next year, overpaid Hollywood phonies!
If you're at all interested in reading a nicely written piece celebrating Superman's recent birthday. may I direct you over to the February 29th entry in Noah Smith's web-log? While okay, sure, he DOES link back over to several of my very own Man of Steel entries, I assure you this is more than a courtesy link on my part. Noah's writing tends to be both amusing and heartfelt, and his Super-overview is no exception. Hey--anybody who can make me laugh utilizing puns associated with the names Boring, Swan, Sprang, and Schaffenberger (..."Schaffenberger"??...) is A-ok with me!
But Noah--what about the regular penciller of "Tales Of The Bizarro World"? Wouldn't you have to say his Forte truly was drawing ugly monsters, hmm?...
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