Monday, August 31, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Bugs Bunny in "Glen or Glenda"
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The movie had an odd effect on me and I'm not sure if I like it overall. The jury's still out. Essentially, there are three (or is it four?) different stories taking place and the one with Brad Pitt and his Jewish Nazi killer guerrillas is surprisingly NOT the main one. In Tarentino tradition, the stories all converge in the end but they really don't all mesh that well.
Throughout the film, major scenes are foreshadowed but then avoided leaving us to see only the aftermath. In other cases, we are NOT shown the aftermath of important scenes that we do want to see. There are amazing liberties taken with history that are unexpected but too over-the-top to be easily accepted. The disjointedness of the plot is perhaps unavoidable by virtue of the overlapping storylines. Even PULP FICTION had a trace of that but the flashiness there tended to cover it up better.
Story one deals with a young Jewish girl who escapes an SS Colonel. We later find her running a cinema in Paris and being courted by what appears to be the Nazi version of Audie Murphy, a war hero turned film star.
Story two introduces us to "the Basterds." This all Jewish group of Nazi-killers led by the very winning Brad Pitt with a Tennessee accent. We're introduced to them one by one but as a number of them don't last long, there seems no reason. Handsome Producer/Director/Writer/Actor Eli Roth stands out as "The Bear Jew" who beats a Nazi senseless in one of the film's few instances of Tarentino's trademark over the top violence.
Story three deals with an OSS plot to kill high ranking Nazi officials as they gather in Paris.
A thread that runs through all of these is a charismatic but sadistic SS Officer who may or may not have his own agenda.
In the end, none of those stories matter.
What matters with INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is the filmmaking art. Although ultimately not as coherent as one might like, this is pure and enjoyable filmmaking, borrowing styles from everyone from Sergio Leone and various Italian and French directors to Leni Riefenstahl (who gets name-checked a number of times) herself.
The well-played opening sequence in which Col. Landa shares a friendly but tense visit with a farm family is strongly reminiscent of various spaghetti western sequences while the climactic scene in the theater reminds one of the great controversial documentaries of Riefenstahl. The pacing, direction, acting, lighting, photography and set design all are notable with even the colors seemingly chosen to fit each scene perfectly. Actor Christoph Waltz gives the standout performance throughout although Pitt's twang is fun to hear. When the ending comes after a long and leisurely paced buildup, it comes too quickly and we are shown nothing of what would most likely have been a weirdly fascinating retcon. I predicted the film's punchline about ten minutes before the actors got to it.
Bottom line--I enjoyed nearly all parts of this film...but I still can't decide just how much I enjoyed them when they were all strung together...but I'm pretty sure I still enjoyed the 1978 INGLORIOUS BASTARDS more.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Here's Roger Miller's opening theme song to the early 1990's LUCKY LUKE film starring Terence Hill. This same song and footage was used in its subsequent spin-off TV series. Although never shown in the US, the lighthearted family-friendly western series was a lot of fun and frequently featured unheralded guest turns from actors such as Madeline Kahn, Julie Hagerty, Jack Elam, Ruth Buzzi, Abe Vigoda and Rene Auberjonois. Regulars included the late Ron Carey as the leader of the stooge-like villains, the Dalton Brothers and John Ritter's then wife Nancy Morgan as "Lotta Leggs." The closing theme was Arlo Guthrie's "The Lonesomest Cowboy in the West."
A 1972 take on jazz pianist Brubeck's signature tune, TAKE FIVE, written by his long-time collaborator , saxophonist Desmond. Always easy on the ear, this version is a treat to watch as these old pros throw their heart into it one more time with a poised sense of mastery and fun...especially the drummer.
This 9 minutes Cliff's Notes version of the first two episodes of the Adam West/Burt Ward BATMAN (albeit with out of order scenes)was essentially a pilot used to sell the series either to the network or advertisers or both in late 1965. While much of it is familiar, you'll note some different music, additional narration and correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that a scene of Bats without his eyeballs showing--just like in the comic books!--at approximately 6 and a half minutes in? Just little white slits! If you've read anything about the series, you may recall that West had a tough enough time seeing out of the cowl as it was. No doubt the concept of whited out eyes would have been nixed early on.
One of the reasons I've been doing light posting and videos lately is that after last week's computer problems I fell victim to a pretty bad cold. Sitting still is the only time I feel even reasonably okay lately so I've been watching a lot of films, most recently Timothy Carey's infamous THE WORLD'S GREATEST SINNER (mentioned by Frank Zappa just the other day in a video post here). Here's a bizarrely wonderful (or wonderfully bizarre) late interview with the ever-eccentric Carey in which he discusses both SINNER and BEACH BLANKET BINGO which, of course, featured last week's interview subject, Donna Loren.
A legend in Europe for decades, the great French singer/songwriter Charles Aznavour had an all too brief attempt at American acceptance in the early 1970's which included TV specials, concert tours and a guest star turn on THE MUPPET SHOW. Here is my favorite of his songs as taken from a later Carnegie Hall concert.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Earlier today, I was teaching my son about Cab Calloway and his unique position in 20th century pop music. We were watching Cab's appearances in animated Max Fleischer cartoons with Betty Boop. Here, though, is the real thing with the surprising song REEFER MAN (which is about exactly what you think it's about!) from the film INTERNATIONAL HOUSE.
This is a quick little commercial to plug the time changes on three of ABC's 1966-67 sitcoms. These included two of my all-time favorites, THAT GIRL and BEWITCHED as well as the now-forgotten LOVE ON A ROOFTOP, an okay romantic comedy with a pre-LAUGH-IN Judy Carne and a pre-ALIAS SMITH AND JONES Pete Duel. The coolest part of this, however, is just seeing Ann sitting on the couch with Sam. Somehow, I just knew all of these sitcom characters hung out together when they weren't on the air entertaining the viewers, didn't you?
Here we have the now legendary Frank Zappa as a novelty guest on THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW of the early 1960's using a bicycle as a musical instrument. In later years he would play even weirder items in front of symphony orchestras throughout the world! Frank spends quite a bit of time here plugging Tim Carey's infamous 1962 low-budget film, THE WORLD'S GREATEST SINNER. Steve milks it for laughs. Outside of a few showings at the time, that film was not commercially available until the late seventies (early eighties?) when it turned up on the collector's market. With music by Zappa, it is now considered a pioneering Independaent film.
Sadly, the biggest exposure Julie Driscoll ever got with Brian Auger and the Trinity in the US was probably on the little seen 1968 MONKEES TV special, 33 1/3 REVOLUTIONS PER MONKEE, the last thing done by the Pre-Fab 4 as a quartet. In fact, if you've seen that little gem since it came out a few years back from Rhino, y0u know that Julie and keyboard whiz Brian arguably appear more than Peter, Davy, Mickey and Mike! That same year, though, in England, they were the toast of the town and had hits with Dylan and Danko's THIS WHEEL'S ON FIRE (which Julie later redid with Adrian Edmonson as the theme for ABFAB) and this wonderfully pop art video of Donovan's SEASON OF THE WITCH.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
So well, in fact, that I'm not even here to write about that. No, in fact, that story sent me back to reread a few seminal issues in Archie's relationships with the opposite sex and that's where I noticed this odd scene in CHERYL BLOSSOM # 1. Archie and Reggie are lounging on the beach wearing nothing but trunks. Arch is clearly in the middle of a sentence when all of a sudden Cheryl comes by and kind of trips over him. The typical teen rolls over with an "Oof!" but as he does...he's now wearing a pink shirt! WTF?? The shirt stays for the rest of the page and it's obviously not just a coloring error so the question is how in the world did somebody not catch that? Or maybe they did and just figured it wasn't that big a deal?
Friday, August 21, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Donna has been designing clothes in Hawaii in recent years and is now poised to make a musical comeback. She will also soon be sharing the fascinating story of her life and career with us all in more depth through her upcoming autobiography. She very graciously agreed to speak with me last week, though, to share some of her memories and some of her optimism for her own future and ours, too!
After you've read our talk, check out all the clips at Donna Loren's own nifty site at
http://www.donnaloren.net/oren.net/ You can also order her "new" eighties album (along with other cool stuff) at
B-Hi, Donna! I really enjoyed your new video (posted here at the Library recently). Thanks so much for sending me that.
D-Well, you're quite welcome. I enjoyed doing it!
B-That song, "It Only Hurts When I Cry," has always stuck with me from BEACH BLANKET BINGO. It's what they call an earworm--It's easy to get stuck in your head. In the film, though, you've got the silly bit with Jody McCrea crying and then you see he's just peeling an onion. It's such a lovely song, though, and I think that comes across more in the new version.
D-Why, thank you. It was interesting, actually. I was introduced to this fellow who does all the compilations for Starbucks. His name is Maurice Gainen and he has a nice little studio in Los Angeles so when I was visiting I was introduced to him and I was thinking, "Hmmm...What would I like to begin with if I decide to do a current album?" Now I'd written quite a few original tunes lately and I'd like to do that but, y'know, something told me to link the past to the present and I hadn't sung that particular song for...well...eons! So I just tried it and that's what we came up with. Then a friend of mine, Jeffrey Abelson, who used to be really active in the MTV world, decided to pitch in and he liked it, too! So it sort of caught fire a little bit. We went in and put it down and here we go!
B-I've had a couple of emails from folks who saw it on my website and really quite enjoyed it.
B-You do realize what a big fan base you have on the Internet?
D-Well, you know...actually I've been extremely quiet my adult life and only since I remarried within the last decade...My current husband looks all over the Internet and he sees and tells me a little bit here and there but he knows he can be objective and it's totally the opposite for me. When I decided to retire at such a young age there were a lot of personal reasons and...It's taken all this time. Last year there was a moment, almost exactly a year ago on August 14th--it just happened to be a full moon!--and I received an email that just totally inspired me! The email was from India, from a Guru in Chennai and something happened! Something transformed my thinking from being very reclusive to wanting to participate.
B-Well, your fans like that decision.
D-(laughter) Sad to say, I've been a real closet case just singing to myself in my living room sort of sporadically over the years. I would even wait for my husband before I'd go out and take a walk or something. I just felt like it was something just so incredibly personal and then when it changed last year suddenly I opened my door to my neighbor--a sweet lady from Hamburg. She was so receptive and then I asked another girlfriend to come in and she was so supportive. Then, like I say, I met this man, Maurice, and then my friend Jeffrey stepped in so...It's sort of continued like that over the past year. I feel like there's a threshold and with the changes that are happening on the planet...you know, there's one passage in the Bible. I'm not a religious person but I really subscribe to "the meek shall inherit the Earth," y'know? Even with all the tumultuous behavior, I still feel that most of us want to live peacefully and be creative and have love in our hearts but everyone's been going about their business very quietly and now, if we don't speak up, if we don't molecularly connect, necessary changes will occur. I live on the big island and I'm living 200 miles away from an active volcano. It's been erupting since 1983. Right now, it's calmed down a little and the air is beautiful and the sky is blue. It's a direct reflection of what I call the Goddess Energy in this Earth that wants to nurture life. For thousands of years that energy has been opposed. I get together with a friend of mine who's very literary and since I had a limited education, I just try to teach myself as I go along. She's a wonderful asset in my life and we talk about the Goddess energy a lot but not in a sort of...well...quote-unquote, "Woo-wooey" kind of way. Literally the nurturing quality in every man and woman and in every living being. Part of the DNA on this planet is just crying for stuff like that. Just from listening to your voice I can tell you're a peaceful person and I totally suck at war and fighting and all that.
B-Well, in the sixties you obviously had that wholesome, "girl next door" image. It sounds like a lot of that was more or less true.
D-I would say my intentions were being honored on a high level but in the meantime...well...I sort of call it the lasagna effect--just many, many layers. You know, like some people call it peeling the onion. There have just been so many layers to my life. I've been in the process of revealing them to myself and some to others. It's just been a very, very interesting process. The superficial choice, let's say, of my image? That was all dictated by others so...if left to my own devices...(laughter) I had an incident when I was 18. I was feeling a little bit more empowered as an individual and I thought, "Okay, I'm gonna jump in here and become a little bit more of a feminist." Not militant at all, mind you, but you know. I don't know if you know this but usually I made my own clothes. I was inspired to make something that was a little less rigid and so I went onstage without a bra! And because I was still under contract to Dr Pepper, they called me on it!
B-Why am I not surprised?
D-They were all, "Don't you ever do that again!" I was totally reprimanded and completely put back in the box. Put back the bra, put the gloves on, put the hat on...you know. Keep yourself as our little warrior. You can't express yourself.
B-So the thing that made you almost a household word with all the TV ads was also incredibly limiting to you?
Donna Loren - Dr Pepper Equestrian Commercial (circa 1964)
Uploaded by S60SGUY. - Classic TV and last night's shows, online.
D-In a way and yet obviously it gave me the tremendous opportunity to meet so many people. That was an incident that told me again NOT to rebel. If that's a limitation then I understand big time that this was pushing it too far. But in the meantime, when I connected with people it was great. They had me out on the road all the time. Mother would literally pack a suitcase, meet my adopted father and I at the airport, trade suitcases and we'd be off to the next location. I really did get to connect with a lot of people one to one. That was really rewarding. That's my favorite part.
B-You had been in show business pretty much your whole life by that point. Did you already have an understanding of how the whole contract thing worked or did you just stay out of all that?
D-Ohhhh...All I can say is business is business. I think it was basically an agreement that was almost forced upon me because a child can only take on so much responsibility unless they're put into survivor mode. That's basically how I was operating. Something in me gave me enough sense of responsibility to cooperate. I was always of a very obedient nature. As I said, I'm NOT a fighter. I knew that when I was a little girl. I realized that it was not an area where I excelled. It was just unconscious.
B-For most of my life, I've been a big fan of all of the Beach Party movies and I think something many people think of when they remember them is you because of your showcase spots. You made a very big impression on people. So many people when they think of the sixties think of Woodstock, the Beatles, the moon landing, assassinations, hippies and drugs but to me, I also think of silly sitcoms, Herb Alpert music, Batman and the beach movies. I think you're really limiting that great and weird decade if you just concentrate on any one part of it.
D-(laughter) And look at how pervasive the music has been. Not just the music, either. That whole mid-century era has been pretty much put on a pedestal by...I know MY kids even! Mid-century houses, mid-century furniture...It's like somehow the seed was planted then. I received other information about the Age of Aquarius...,when Jupiter aligns with Mars. To think that it began in that period of time, just 40 years ago...That's a blink in terms of the manifestation that's occurring now. It was like a prophecy! I don't think we've reached the tipping point quite yet but it's comin' (laughter)!
B-Let's talk about some of the people you worked with in the sixties.
D-I can talk about Annette. She and I met when I was ten years old and she was fourteen. Literally when I was on THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB, I stood more than a head shorter than her.
B-I've seen a picture from that episode.
D-(laughter) I really looked up to her and her energy was so gentle. I never really talked to her on an intimate level so I don't know how she felt about being a child star. She seemed to be sort of okay with it.
B-Have you ever read Paul Petersen's book about the Mouseketeers?
D-Oh my gosh, no! Of course I know Paul but...
B-Well, he has a marvelous book called WALT, MICKEY AND ME that he wrote back in 1977 in which he went back and interviewed as many of the former mouseketeers as he could and some were bitter, some were jaded but then he gets to Annette and she surprises him by coming across as wholly genuine. He concludes that she was kept totally separate from any of that and was just very, very genuine.
D-That's how she came across to me, too. Paul told me...I think he lasted six weeks and then got kicked out (laughter).
B-Oddly, I was watching him in HOUSEBOAT with Cary Grant on TV last night.
D-I attended Paul's wedding to Brenda Benet and actually Cary Grant attended as well so I had a chance to actually see him up close (laughter)! Paul and I still stay in touch. He's literally like a brother. When I moved to Hawaii, I had three little doggies and the quarantine rules were just very stringent. They would have just perished and he and his wife took two of the little doggies. So that's how close we are. But let me get back to Annette.
D-So then when I was brought into the beach party scene, Annette was just beginning her courtship with Jack Gillardi who in my memory was my first agent when I was maybe eight or nine years old. I was always protected and guarded by my mother, my father...I really didn't socialize with anybody but if I would go to lunch there I'd be in a booth or something and I'd see Annette and Jack courting. In the eighties when they were talking about doing a beach party revival, I did speak with her and I heard something strange in her voice. I don't know if she'd been diagnosed at that time but it was gravelly. (Booksteve-Annette was diagnosed with MS in 1987, the same year that BACK TO THE BEACH was released) It sounded so not like her. It sounded like a very dark energy. That leads me to believe that she probably had one of these marvelous personalities where she maintained her sweetness but I really have to say that when someone harbors feelings that it does manifest physically whether it's genetic or acquired or whatever. I think she's a living testimony to someone who on the surface wants to please everyone and be very sweet but internally something very dark was going on.
B-I would assume then that because of all the traveling you never got a chance to be close to very many of the people you were meeting?
D-Well, Paul was number one. On SHINDIG, Bobby Hatfield. It's very strange. Bobby Hatfield ended up being just a lovely man. We never dated but he escorted me to some event, some awards show or something. He stood in the wings when we were on the show. He would be one who I would consider a peer, who would give me kudos. Rather than being strictly surrounded by an agent or, well, my parents.
B-How about Tommy Kirk?
D-Oooooooooooh, Tommy Kirk. He was always very much to himself as so many people are on set. Is he still with us?
D-Has he ever come out?
D-Well, back then I don't think he had. There was an incident that I witnessed and since I was so sheltered I wasn't really into his sexuality but I was into his emotions and I really felt bad for him. That's a story for my book. As I say, I was extremely sheltered but I was on set and I was an observer. The only person other than Annette that I really had any contact with on set was when we did "Muscle Bustle," Dick Dale. We did a rehearsal at his house. Other than that, everybody pretty much stayed to themselves, did their work, had their own agendas, you know. (laughter)
B-I'm surprised you didn't do more as an actress. You really had a good delivery. In the BATMAN episodes for instance, I thought you were great. Really fun and funny! You had a real character and funny lines and you stood up to the Joker.
B-What did you think of Cesar Romero?
D-Well, he was a mega-movie star to me. I was just entranced by how his posture was, being an older gentleman--so elegant and so extremely professional. Again, it was all work. It was symptomatic of me always being chaperoned and being a minor and all that. At the time I guess the reason I didn't do more acting was because I was always on the road for Dr Pepper so I wasn't in L. A. enough. Looking back, I never, ever, ever dreamed that anything I ever did would become a part of our pop culture. I just thought they were light hearted fun and I never took any of it all that seriously. Like I said, it was the sixties and seeds were planted for this time period of more appreciation so it actually is good to be here. I've been so removed from all of it for so long. I got married two weeks after I turned 21 and I was still under contract to Dr Pepper but it all unfolded very quickly. By early summer of that year, 1968, I just retired. The decisions were based on my family. There was only one time I was not chaperoned in my entire career and that was when Morrie collapsed while I was doing DR. KILDARE and my mother opted to go to the hospital to be with him and my director wouldn't release me! That energy was very pervasive with my agents, my producers, the directors. There was a very dominant energy that was pervasive. I was sort of locked in. I was basically victimized but I didn't realize it, you know?
B-Your recording career comes across that way to an extent also. There was no one person guiding you, no one producer or...not even any one style of music so while it was all well done, it was also all over the board.
D-Yeah...That was a combination of me complying with all the manipulation. My priority was supporting my family. My form of obedience was cooperation. That's what's so interesting now since over this past year I've been sort of exploring more music and writing more music. It seems to have finally shed itself away from me and I feel like for the first time I've been able to really express myself. Just sing songs coming from me! It's taken a looong time!
B-A lot of people remember you and your music and I think that if marketed to the right circles, new music from you could do quite well.
D-Thank you. We're on the threshold of releasing a CD of the music I recorded in the eighties. That was a bad time for me. I was going through a divorce from my first husband and I opted not to go into therapy--I went into the studio! (laughter) I had married into the Warner Brothers family. I was a Reprise artist when I met my first husband. I sort of adopted his life and I had access to Amigo Studios. A dear friend of mine, James Burton, was in my life at that time helping me make music and once a month or so we would go into the studio--there were other people also--over the two year period and sort of...I did what I could do to stay in the present state of mind and not just totally freak out because I was getting a divorce.
B-Sometimes everyone needs a lifeline and it sounds like music was what you latched onto.
D-I did. (laughter) This is something else that happened within the past year. My current husband was going through boxes in the garage and discovered all these tapes and things and he's, like, "What are these? Do they even play? Do you mind if I listen to them?" So he started a project of listening to everything and he even discovered a video from when I was invited to go to Japan and ended up sort of spontaneously performing there. It was very haphazard but I took ten or eleven songs to this musician I met recently who has his own studio about ten or fifteen minutes from where I live and he cued everything from the old tapes and we decided to put together an eighties collection. Someone told me recently, though, "When I think of the eighties, I think of Blondie and David Bowie and...This doesn't sound like eighties music." So my eighties collection is songs I sang then but I didn't sing them to be public except for one. That was "Wishin' and Hopin'." That was released. Oh, and I did sing "Somewhere Down the Road" on THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW. All of these things were at the time just very haphazard. I was just tapping into old energy and I realized that was not where I belonged so I moved on. That's sort of where my focus is right now. Even though that music was a product of a difficult time in my life, it is a little bit more of who I am, especially my original tunes.
B-Well, I'm sure you know that a lot of great songs come from troubled songwriters.D-Oh, yeah, but that's starting to change. That whole thing about how great art comes from struggle? I really think that when you relax into your creativity that that's when the creative juices really start flowing.
B-Thank you for spending some time speaking with me today, Donna.
D-You are so very welcome! Au Revoir!