Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Tuesday Weld files, vol. 1

Inspired by the example of the pseudonymous UK blogger Arthur Ignatowski and our friend Stephen K's cool scan-posts [both blogs gone by the 2010s], I thought I’d try to add to the ongoing “library” of articles found on the Net by scanning in some items about a major Funhouse favorite, Tuesday Weld.

Tuesday had two careers: in her first, she was a teenage “sex kitten” on TV and in the movies, but in the late Sixties, she decided she wanted to be a legit actress and carved out a wonderful group of adult performances (see, among others, Play It As It Lays). She remained a very reluctant star performer, however, and was well known for turning down major box-office successes (which were pretty much considered hits-in-the-making as they were being cast) like Bonnie and Clyde and Rosemary’s Baby

She gave belligerent interviews, appeared in fewer and fewer films, and these days is only seen in the occasional supporting role. But, for a minute or two, let’s return to her starlet phase when she was featured on the covers of magazines, as with this February 1960 edition of “TV Radio Mirror,” where she poses with a pre-plastic surgery Paul Anka. The issue includes profiles of Steve McQueen, Florence Henderson, and Charles Van Doren, in addition to Anka and Tuesday, but I figured we will keep Tuesday on our mind here. 

These are scanned on a consumer-grade HP Officejet 5610 all-in-one scanner at 150 dpi (the Klavan/Finch scans below are 100 dpi, which I think is what I'm going with in the future). The files became pretty sizable when I upped the dpi level (about half of the size of last week's Robert Vaughn video file), and I know space on Blogger is limited, so I thought I'd keep the file-size down. If anyone has any (friendly and constructive) advice on scanning old magazine pages, please do feel free to pass it along. I realize the one thing that is missing here is the beloved (by me, at least) smell of old magazine paper....


And a bonus pic, a full-page portrait of Ms. Weld from another mag:

Morning madcaps Klavan and Finch in "TV Radio Mirror"

In scanning for the blog post that follows, I found that the same Feb. 1960 issue that contained a cover story on Tuesday Weld also had an article on the NYC radio comedy team Klavan and Finch. I grew up listening to Gene Klavan on WNEW-AM in the Seventies (by that time Dee Finch had retired), and have very fond memories of his crazy characters (whom he would "converse" with). Thus, I couldn't resist scanning this article too and putting it "in the public record" for local radio fans.

Camp and schlock: very much alive

I wrote a few months ago about the very special media circus that the death of Michael Jackson created. Outdistancing even the “big nothing” coverage of the event that Larry King carried on for WEEKS is this amazing event, “Michael Jackson: the Live Séance,” an amazing show that aired on the Sky Channel in the U.K. A psychic “connects” with Michael and passes on his thoughts and answers to questions posed by a small group of devoted, crying fans. The longer version found on YouTube does include short interviews with the one Jackson “friend” they could dredge up, David Gest (aka the ex-Mr. Liza Minnelli), who is decked out in amazingly bad plastic surgery and a stunning skull-themed hiphop outfit. (It’s never too late for Halloween.) Thanks to Friend Tim for drawing this to my attention.

Post-Thanksgiving video feast

I haven’t linked to video finds on other blogs in a few weeks now, so I will correct that and point your attention to where blog-master Gene has posted a bunch of wonderful clips (full disclosure: yes, one recent post did come from a Funhouse episode). His recent uploads include ABC’s “Charlie B.” rap promo for It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and two terrific clips of Stevie Wonder funkin’ out on Sesame Street. Keep in mind that Stevie is a grizzled music-biz vet of 23 at this time.

Stevie is here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What is America to Me? (One of my all-time favorite clips)

Every year around this time I start thinking about one clip that I caught by chance back in 1986 because I am an avid fan of star-filled pointlessness, like… the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! The clip in question really does sum up the finer points of the U.S. in one neat little package. Formerly famous (you’ll never hear me saying “has-been”) TV actor gets the gig to read the U.S. Constitution to commemorate its 200th anniversary. Said actor doesn’t know the lines without cue cards — and then the clowns come over….

I have watched this clip countless times, and believe its effect intensifies the more you watch it in sequence. I can think of no better way to sum up what American means to me than to offer up Robert Vaughn being mocked by Macy’s employees dressed as clowns (watch them flock!) as he reads the Constitution to a befuddled and bored TV audience. The fact that host Pat Sajak tries to save his bacon by doing an impromptu intro to the segment (after Vaughn says on-mic, “you have the cards?"), and the fact that the director then tries to save Napoleon Solo once again by putting him in a little circle (in which you can still the bobbing clown heads) only makes this moment more of a patriotic godsend. I can offer no better treasure from my coffer of weird VHS moments to celebrate the “discovery” of this wonderful land (and yes, it’s available on YouTube, and that guy’s copy is far, far worse than this one).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A final goodbye to Soupy (for now)

I wanted to share two more moments from my 2002 interview with the Soup. So here is his take on the Ritz Brothers, whom some folks curiously prefer to the Marx Brothers. I asked Soupy to talk about the allure of Harry “don’t holler!!!” Ritz:

And here he talks about the Metromedia executives, whom he refers to as “the suits.” These bean counters bothered him so much that he quit his very popular afternoon show in 1966.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pachalafaka forever: Deceased Artiste Soupy Sales

The Soup has been gone for a few weeks now, but we never forget our favorites here in the Funhouse. This week I’m rerunning part two of my 2002 interview with him on the program, so I felt it was time to review the offerings online and pay further tribute to the one and only “Simple Pieman” of kids TV, who was a great performer and all-‘round nice guy.

First, we dispense with the obvious by offering a live version of his Top 40 single, “The Mouse” (go-go girls make everything sweeter):

Soup also performed with go-go chicks on Hullaballoo, but I now direct you to a clip I showed a piece of on my first interview episode, Soupy on I’ve Got a Secret when he had recently come out to L.A. to duplicate his Detroit show and wasn’t yet known by the celeb panel (which included Steve Allen, a very big fan of other comics):

And the introduction of the puppets. Here, from the Metromedia show Soupy did in NYC from 1964-66 (which was syndicated around the country), appearances by the immortal Pookie — for me, the seminal Soupy puppet, a wisecracking hipster lion — and White Fang:

A great representative episode from 1965 has been posted in its entirety. It includes “The Mouse” (with a Lugosi mask that won’t be seen anymore, thanks to Bela Jr.’s court case about celebrity likenesses), Frank Nastasi as “the Nut in the Door,” and the Words of Widsom:

A nice little tribute to the man who supplied the voices of Soupy’s puppets and who played “the Nut” on the Metromedia show, the late Frank Nastasi:

A clip that has gotten a lot of play over the years, but this is definitely the longest version I’ve ever seen: the time when Soup’s crew hired a stripper to replace “the Nut” and he didn’t know about it until he opened said portal:

Soupy quit Metromedia in 1966, and unfortunately didn’t have another regular daily series again until 1979. The networks didn’t exactly know what to do with him, and thus he made a bunch of pilots and specials that were pleasant but weren’t as entertaining as his daytime program. Here’s one cute moment from a 1966 primetime Soupy special, an appearance by Ernest Borgnine, subbing for Judy Garland — who eventually does wander out herself:

Another wonderful rarity, Soupy doing a pie-throwing sketch with Moe Howard (looking curiously like George Burns) and Mike Douglas on Mike’s daytime show:

Soupy’s own recounting on a nightclub stage of the infamous “little green pieces of paper” story, circa 1993:

Soup and Metromedia vets Sandy Becker and Fred Scott (the “commercial ranger” on Capt. Video), interviewed by the wonderfully wry Ch. 5 Metromedia movie reviewer Stewart Klein, who died many years ago but supplied me with many wonderful memories of very eager and nasty “pans” of bad mainstream flicks:

And being famous sometimes has its drawbacks — like Howard Stern deciding you need to be made fun of as a senior citizen. Thus one of Howard’s stooges came to interview Soup, but thankfully got an appropriately nasty response (and then took a pratfall — ya can see that Soup didn’t actually land him on his fat ass). It’s indeed a good thing that Howard went to satellite, where we never have to hear about him any more…. (He did apologize for having been shitty to the Soup, but it came too little, too late, when the gent was in his declining phase and the apology didn’t mean much.)

Now, on a happier note, Funhouse favorite Alice Cooper makes an appearance on the 1979 “comeback” series:

There’s no way I would end this tribute without a little Pookie. Here the rockin’ lion grooves the fuck out to a recording of “High Heeled Sneakers.” It’s no wonder that Soupy’s fans grew up to become the sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll generations of the Sixties and Seventies. Farewell, Mr. Sales (aka Milton Supman).

Friday, November 6, 2009

“This takes a lot out of an artist — it don’t bother me too much": Deceased Artiste Carl Ballantine

Carl Ballantine, the first great “comedy magician,” died this week at 92. His obits spoke about how he popularized the art of doing a terrible magic act (I vividly remember the drapery “made by mother” which proclaimed him “World’s Greatest Magishen”). Ballantine was a staple on Sixties variety and talk shows, but was best known as a regular on McHale’s Navy for the four seasons (1962-’66) that it was on.

The most interesting note in the obits was that he transformed the act from an early one in which he was billed as “the River Gambler” (Riverboat?), doing straight card tricks. Take a glimmer here at someone’s wretched but priceless VHS recording of his misbegotten magic act off some special hosted by Peter Graves (could this have been “Circus of the Stars”?):

Ballantine performed the act for over 50 years, and revived it for countless TV shows including the dreaded Eighties Cosby show and Donny and Marie (and yes, I realize that with my Mackenzie Phillips entry and this one, I’ll now have linked to Donny and Marie clips twice in one month….):

One of those oddities that YouTube is populated by, a nightclub puppet act that had a “Ballatine the Great” puppet:

And here’s a scary TV history, the Charles Nelson Reilly Saturday morning kids show parody, Uncle Croc’s Block, on which Ballantine guested as “Sherlock Domes”:

Newman and Cohen British TV documentaries online

British TV documentaries about the lives of celebrities routinely offer excellent “frames” for their biographies, which often include a portrait of the locale the subject lives/lived in (the Brits are heavy on context, and cities provide the most picturesque sort of context), or an “essay” on the impact the person’s work has had. In the links below, British documentarians tackle two of the most talented singer/songwriters alive, two gents who have always had name recognition but have never had Top 40 singles (except in the case of one “novelty” success….). The subjects are Randy Newman and Leonard Cohen. The Newman docu is a fan’s love-letter to Randy, who acts appropriately cranky and off-handed during the interview segments; the fan in question is Jon Ronson, who wrote the book that inspired the new movie The Men Who Stare at Goats and directed the documentary Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes. The docu, found on the World of Wonder site, is called “I am, unfortunately, Randy Newman”:

Randy can be found here.

The portrait of Leonard Cohen isn’t as blissfully musical as Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, but it does supply a good short-form intro to the cult of Leonard and its acolytes (of whom I am one). I recently sat in the nosebleeds at Madison Square Garden to see Len, and he gave one helluva show, offering three hours of solid classics (and the deft handling of a very fine hat).

Leonard can be found here.