1/6/2011

item 1 >>> Now Playing… the move I mentioned the UK group The Move the other day…here’s a song from their 1970 LP Shazam! It’s called “Cherry Blossom Clinic (Revisited)”…it’s the longer, psychedelic version of their earlier song “Cherry Blossom Clinic,” which had more of a Mersey-Beat sound.

item 2 >>> LQQK @ †h∆†! paper dragon This is uproariously cool…the Paper Dragon’s head appears to move and follow you, but it doesn’t really, it’s an optical illusion. But when the guy says “you can see how it does this”…well, you can see it is an illusion, but as to how it actually works…yeeesh!

item 3 >>> I did something today that I should have done almost 47 years ago but didn’t…and that was, thanx to a DVD, watch the debut of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, Feb 9, 1964…what I can B-Day, the day the 1960s actually began. Sure, I’d seen clips of their performance many times, but this was the whole show start to finish, with all the other acts, exactly as aired live that Sunday evening, complete with commercials! How did I miss this the first time around? Well, I was 13 years old, and the oldest of 5 siblings. We had only one TV, and so what we watched all together tended to skew younger. And we never watched Ed…it was always Walt Disney’s The Wonderful World of Color. And this particular night was the first installment of Patrick McGoohan in The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. Now I have stated in the past that of the 2, if I were to sit down and watch just one of them today, for sheer entertainment value, I’d pick the Scarecrow hands down. After viewing the Beatles’ debut in its entirety, my opinion still stands. I just frickin’ love the Scarecrow…Take this gold! Share it among you!…

item 4 >>> As you might recall, this was the first of 3 parts, broadcast on 3 consecutive Sundays…yes, blotting out all 3 of the Beatles “first” appearances on Sullivan. I wondered why such a strong show was held back until February, instead of being shown when the new season premiered in September. A little research provided the answer: both in the UK where it was filmed and here in the US, it was first released as a theatrical film, second-billed with another Disney movie, in theaters around Christmastime. It was then split up into 3 parts for it’s TV debut. It was based on a series of books written Russell Thorndike. The original was published in 1915, with 6 sequels from 1935-1944. Now not having watched the Beatles was a pretty embarrassing thing to admit, and it wasn’t until Walter J. Podrazik “came out of the closet” that I myself was willing to own up to it. Walter, along with Harry Castleman of Salem, Mass., wrote the first comprehensive catalog of Beatles records, “All Together Now” in 1975. The 3rd volume of this seminal reference work came out 10 years later, and it was then that Walter admitted that unlike Harry and it seems just about every other Baby Boomer on the planet, he was indeed watching Disney on B-Day. Gutsy move…the soldiers of the King fear his naaaame…Scarecrow!…

item 5 >>> Above, an interesting publicity shot of Patrick McGoohan in his double role. And below, the gang’s all here… Curlew, Hellspite, and Dr. Christopher Syn, Alias the Scarecrow, Vicar of Dymchurch-Under-the-Wall. BTW, a Curlew is a kind of waterbird, with a thin, down-turned beak. As to Hellspite, so far the mighty internet is mum…one meaning of “spite” is to pester or hinder…so I guess that would make sense for a parish Sexton, trying to give the Devil a hard time.

item 6 >>> The idea for the Dr. Syn stories came from real history, especially the notorious Hawkhurst Gang, smugglers who operated of the coast of southern England in the mid-1700s. They definitely were not altruistic Robin Hoods, nor were they lead by a Zorro-like minister, but they were nevertheless supported by the people to an extent…after all, their activities “stimulated the economy,” shall we say. What eventually turned the populace off, and lead to their demise, was their extremely violent nature. But such tacit public support is not surprising…it’s seen time and again, for instance with gangsters in the 1920s.

item 7 >>> Here’s something of interest to Scarecrow fans…the saga was filmed once before, by Britain’s Hammer Studios in 1962. The movie is called “Captain Clegg,” and it incorporates more of the back-story of Dr. Syn, here called Dr. Blyss for copyright reasons. An Oxford-educated scholar, he’s just settling into a placid life as a country cleric when his ex-best friend runs off with his Spanish-born wife. He takes to the seas after them, soon resorting to piracy, under the alias Captain Clegg, another name for a horsefly. Eventually he is shipwrecked off Southern England, and returns to his old life, altho smuggling is now in his blood, and we take it from there. Here you see Peter Cushing as the good Pastor, with that a-Death-Star-sure-would-come-in-handy-right-about-now look on his face. The two ads demonstrate how Hammer tried to palm this off as their typical horror fare, but it really wasn’t. When released in the US, they took this tack one step further, renaming the movie “Night Creatures.”

item 8 >>> But what about the stars of that other show, the Beatles, remember? Yeah, I’ll have a few things to say about them and the show tomorrow. For now, let’s consider the commercials. It’s said that there are about twice as many commercials on TV today as there were back in the 60s. Exaggeration? Well, today there can be 16 minutes per hour on the traditional networks, and as much as 24 minutes per hour on cable. Taking this one early 60s example, there were 6 commercial breaks…each consisting of exactly one minute…sometimes a 60-second, sometimes 2 30-second commercials. That’s it? SIX MINUTES? OK, 15-second announcer blurbs at the beginning and end of the show, but yeah, that’s pretty much it. Blink and you missed ’em.

item 9 >>> One of these days, probably as the 2011 baseball season approaches, I’ll look into the rich history of Minor League baseball in New England, right up to today the the “independent” leagues, what back in the day were call “Outlaw Leagues,” what few there were. But for now I’ll just mention that Bill Buckner has been named manager of the Brockton Rox in the Can-Am League. I’m not going to remind you what he did, or didn’t do, in the 1986 World Series…but just report that the team calls this a “great day for the Rox,” and Bill says he’s excited to return to Massachusetts, having suffered total amnesia in 2007 when hit on the head by a fungo bat…I mean, it must be something like that, nez pah?

item 10 >>> Anyway, here’s a Quickie Quiz from the Hot Stove League…what was Mookie Wilson’s real name? Mookingham? Um, no…actually it was William Hayward Wilson. Just as well he wasn’t Willie, since there was already a Willie Wilson at the time, right? Well, the interesting thing is, Willie really was that Willie’s real name: Willie James Wilson. And Butch Hobson’s first name was….if you said Clell, with 2 L’s on the end, you’re OK on my scorecard.

Wicked Ballsy

In the industry, they call it “trade dress”…what we would call “what’s on the package.” But for some inexplicable reason, it’s always fascinated me, ever since my Mom bought packages of Blue Bonnet margarine in the early 50s, with the Howdy Doody “Playroom Portraits” on the back. And I was very impressed with the colored “balloons” on the Wonder Bread wrapper too. This was one of my absolute favorites, from 1959. I liked everything about it…the straightforward picture of what your cake would look like if you did it right…the simple yet effective stylized swan logo…the different cake color combinations…even the name, suggesting a light fluffiness most appropriate to the white cake I suppose, but it worked for me.

And here’s the top part of the ad…gorgeous composition, if you ask me…heck, I even dig the “fonts”…not that they called them that at the time…what was it, typeface? typography?

shameless red 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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