12/12/2010

item 1 >>> Been confusing food with people lately? You’ve come to the right place, my friend…we’ve got  ’em all. Rice Pilaf vs Edith Piaf (the sad-faced French songstress of “La Vie en Rose” and “Milord” fame.) Beef Stroganoff vs. Michael Strogoff (adventure novel by Jules Verne.) One recently brought to me attention: Zwieback crackers vs. Florian Zabach. He was American musician and TV personality in the 1950s, with a hit record in 1951, “The Hot Canary.” They once timed his fiddle on “Flight of the Bumblebee” at 12.8 notes per second. Zwieback crackers are technically a type of bread, like melba toast, made crispy by being baked (backen) twice (zwie). Used traditionally for baby’s teething, but I always liked to break them in pieces and eat w/milk like breakfast cereal. I’m afraid those days are over as Nabisco stopped making Zwieback in 2008, and other brands just ain’t the same. Bummer.

item 2 >>> A ton of great TV shows are dropping out of copyright and into the public domain, altho collectors have been trading tapes for years. But now DVDs are available “legally,” especially from a company called Mill Creek Entertainment. And one show I’ve been particularly impressed with is “Decoy.” Now I had known about this program for years, but never seen it. It stars Beverly Garland as a police woman in New York City, and descriptions never made it sound very exciting: I mean, how many episodes can she walk around in the park waiting for someone to snatch her purse. Well, it ain’t that at all…sometimes she’s in uniform, sometimes she’s undercover, but she’s always a gritty, Joe Friday-type no-nonsense cop. This was the 1950s? I thought women were supposed to be, you know, doing the housework in heels…well, not on this show, where the perp is as likely to be female as the victim. It was syndicated for one season, apparently didn’t make much of an impression on viewers, but talk about being ahead of its time. And if you only remember Garland from her “My Three Sons” fluff, you’ve got a pleasant surprise coming.

item 3 > This used to happen with me on the radio. I’d be trying to come up with a new feature, or an idea for a commercial campaign, or the name for a new character. Straining the old brain trying to devise the perfect thing, and it just wasn’t coming. Then, on the air, something spontaneous would happen, one thing leads to another, and there it is, just like that. Geez, that was easy. Reminds me of something I read recently about Fifties TV and radio funnyman Robert Q. Lewis. I got to wondering what the Q stood for. Well, in the 1940s, Robert Goldberg was calling himself Robert Lewis. He was introducing comedian F. Chase Taylor, whose main bit was a character named Col. Lemuel Q. Stoopnagle, and he just ad-libbed “…and I’m Robert Q. Lewis.” Like I said, that was easy. When asked, he used to say the Q stood for Quizzical.

item 4 >>> I was also reading an article about Yankee Candles, and one of the scents the had was called “Icy Air.” I was about to roll my eyes when I sheepishly recalled that the first cone of incense I bought back in the day was “Fog.” What did it smell like? Well, fog is really just a ground-hugging cloud, so maybe, like water?  Yeah, a cone…I even had this little brass cup or something with holes in the top to burn it in…didn’t everybody? Stolf,  they still have ’em,  they’re called, oddly enough, incense burners. Yeah, OK, that sounds right…

item 5 >>> Not for nothing, but is there any difference between fog and mist? Naw, only in the density, and resulting reduction in visibility.  And increase in spookiness.

item 6 >>> I mentioned the gritty police auctioneer “Decoy”…another great 50s black-and-white half-hour crime show was “Front Page Detective.” It was a whole lot snappier…the suave, mustachioed gossip columnist-cum-detective, despite being older, maybe fiftyish, employs the type of swaggering hipster palaver that Ed “Kookie” Byrnes would turn into a teen fad later in the decade. I jotted down a couple of things for future reference…”bulldog edition” was newspaper slang for an early edition. “Saltwater corn” I still haven’t decoded. But “He’s acting like the advance agent for Gloomy Sunday,” that I was gratified I already knew. This was a song written by Hungarian pianist Rezso Seress in 1933. It was extremely popular, being recorded by dozens of artists over the years, perhaps the definitive version by Billie Holiday. But there was a strange urban legend attached to this song: it was said listening to it made people commit suicide. Hundreds of suicides, they said. And even the composer killed himself in 1968. In fact, Billie Holidays’ version was banned by the BBC until fairly recently…what, just in case?  Am I the only one who smells a clever, if somewhat macabre, marketing campaign?

item 7 >>> I mentioned that great big comic section…the Funny Papers…from the Lynn Sunday Post…”8 Comics in Color”…Mandrake the Magician, the Little King, Hubert, Tiger, Johnny Hazard, good old Brick Bradford and this Time Top. His adventures in time and space began in 1933, his original girlfriend June Salisbury and sidekick Sandy being replaced by Saturn Sadie and Hoppy by the time I got to it in the late 50s. The strip ended in 1987, whereupon Brick and crew jumped in the Time Top and reappeared in newspapers dating from the 1820s…yeah, really…

item 8 >>> Remember the “clam house” in Woody Allen’s movie Sleeper? Not a prop, but a real building, in Genesee Park, Colorado, west of Denver. Built for his family by architect Charles Deaton in 1963, also called the “flying saucer house,” altho it’s official name is “The Sculptured House”. It was purchased in 2006 for 3.4 million, sold recently for…wait for it…1.5 million. Ouch! Well, 5 bedrooms, 5 baths, and they took one…

item 9 >>> God love the internet, but some things still get past it. Like when I was researching Jon “Bowzer” Bauman of Sha Na Na. Well, not since 1983 actually…the band has gone on without him, while Jon is still plugging away as Bowzer and the Stingrays. But bios, including that from Uncle Wiki, mention he once went by the stage name “Choo Wate.” Just that, no explanation, anywhere. People ask, get no answer. Speculation is it might have been derived from “Just You Wait….Choo Wate” but hoo nose? One thing tho, and I hate to bring this up because Lord knows, it’s happening to most of us, but old Bowz has beefed up quite a bit since probably the last time you saw him. Again, what the hell, that’s the way it goes, but my point is, for a guy whose trademark is being a skinny greaser in a sleeveless shirt…well, doesn’t he sort of owe it to his fans to like, I dunno, eat maybe just twice a week or something until the pipe-cleaner arms are back? I’m just sayin’…

item 10 >>> Miss Fanny Bright, by my side in “Jingle Bells”…a real person? “One Horse Open Sleigh” was published by James Lord Pierpont in 1857, renamed “Jingle Bells” 2 years later.  Believe it or not, they had “hit songs” way back then, and this wasn’t one of them, altho it grew on people over the decades. A good deal of research has been done, and no Fanny Bright identified…in fact both Boston MA and Savannah GA lay claim to the song, both alleging Pierpont was there when he wrote it. BTW, “upsot” is just an old-fashioned word for “tipped over,” pretty much what you’ve always asumed, I’d reckon. And of course “we” is sung twice to match the tempo…yeah, the wee-wee song. Also, in olden days, the tradition was to clink or “jingle” glasses while singing the chorus…ever come across that?

Wicked Ballsy


Candy and coffee for Christmas…wheeeee!


my true love gave to me…7 shameless plugs…

Podcasts at http://stolfpod.podbean.com and   http://thewholething.podbean.com

Daily blogs at http://stolf.wordpress.com and  https://deepfriedhoodsiecups.wordpress.com

More bloggage at http://travelingcyst.blogspot.com and  http://www.examiner.com/retro-pop-culture-in-watertown/mark-john-astolfi

Resume and audio samples at http://home.rr.com/mastolfi

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