Thursday, May 25, 2017

Booksteve Reviews-PLRKNIB by Alex Bernstein

In 1980, at age 21, I answered a newspaper ad from a guy in Cincinnati who was forming a comedy group. I had just completed an acting course and had always wanted to be a comedy writer so this seemed perfect for me.

Over on the other side of town, Alex Bernstein, a few years younger, may have felt the same thing. Only Alex already had some street cred with a comedy radio series of his own on a local station.

From April to October of that year, both Alex and I became major players in the group. Sometimes it felt like we were the only ones taking it seriously. We both wrote sketches and performed and it seemed like we rehearsed endlessly. Being underage, Alex was unable to participate in the club shows we did but I took the lead in a sketch he wrote when we played on Fountain Square and he both wrote and starred in one of the three sketches we performed on television in August of that year.

None of that, however, is in PLRKNIB, Alex’s recently published memoir of his comedy beginnings. Why? I don’t know. To me, it was THE major part of my life that year. When the group fell apart, I kept on seeing two of the young women for a couple years and even briefly had my own offshoot comedy group which appeared twice on Alex’s radio show! He even came by the house and bought some comic books from me. Maybe that’s why I get a “thank you” in the book when none of our other group members are mentioned.

It just wasn't as big in Alex's life as it was in mine. Turns out Alex was busier than we thought that year, struggling with school, parents, a therapist, impending adulthood, etc, but also with an absolute determination to make it as a stand-up comic...even though he was too young to even get in a bar!

We fell out of touch as I, too, got swallowed up by adulthood, but Alex stuck to his dream and, against improbable odds, he really did become the youngest successful stand-up comic in Cincinnati history! This is THAT story.

PLRKNIB is an old-fashioned warts and all, behind the scenes, show biz story, the unusual title tying in to his ace killer joke. A young, gangly, James Franco (with glasses and wacky hair) would play Alex. We meet his friends, fellow students, and fellow struggling comedians, many of whom I recall from back in the day but most of whom are fleshed out here just fine for those who weren’t present.

He successfully channels his younger self’s insecurities and offers enough of his routines and jokes for the reader to get a feel for what it was like. After he made it here, he headed east to make it there. A tougher gig.

CINCINNATI Magazine ran an excerpt from the book last month and next month, Alex returns to the Queen City for a reunion of the old D.W. EYE comics at the 20th Century Theater and a booksigning at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati. He left home a successful performer all those years ago and returns a successful writer!

I suggested “getting the band back together” but of our core members, one woman denies ever being in the group, stalking another reveals several recent tragedies, and most of the rest seem to be just plain MIA.

Maybe that’s why Alex left us out completely. If so few actually remember it, did it really happen?

PLRKNIB happened, though. It’s happening now. And anyone who likes a good show biz underdog story will enjoy it.

Booksteve Recommends!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

My Secret Uncle Sam

As a kid in the mid-60s, I really wanted the MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. weapons briefcase. It's not that I watched the show all that often but it sure did look cool! One Christmas, though, I received instead the SECRET SAM knock-off weapons briefcase. But that's okay! It turned out that the one I got came with a REAL camera that used REAL film! I was 7 and it was the first time I had ever been a photographer!  I took shots of my pal Jimmy, my dad, my babysitter, and some random kids walking through the alley behind our apartment house. Cut off nearly everyone's head! Film was expensive! It was about 8 years before I was allowed to touch a camera again!

Forty years later, of course, I was briefly a professional photographer! Nowadays, though, you take 800 digital shots, delete the 700 that didn't quite work and you're considered a genius for the good ones that are left!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rich Buckler R.I.P.

Rich Buckler and I got off on the wrong foot. A long time fan, I had written something referring to his chameleon skills, his impressive ability to channel other artists’ styles without specifically swiping their work. He took offense. Later on, though, I contacted him about his work on the 1980s revival of the Archie superheroes for the Archie 70th anniversary book and he said he didn’t remember the earlier incident. He ranted about the behind the scenes issues at Archie but then gave me more moderate soundbytes that I could use...only to have the entire chapter get cut from the final book. After that, we stayed in touch for a few years, with Rich writing from time to time just to chat, or wish me a Merry Christmas, or to rant about this or that, or to discuss ideas for his autobiography which he said he wanted me to help him write. Then, as often happens, we fell out of touch.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Christa Helm Warning

There is a new "book" out on Christa Helm, self-published in April via Createspace. It's overpriced at $7.99 for a mere 44 pages but it also STEALS most of its contents from the above online bio of the murdered actress that John O'Dowd and I co-wrote ten years ago. 

I'm not going to name the author but I am warning you now. No matter how interested you are in Christa's case, save your money, don't support thieves, and read almost the exact same thing online here:

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Wood Book Nominated for Eisner!

 Just saw where THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WALLACE WOOD, Volume 1, the revamped anthology biography for which the late, lamented Bhob Stewart drafted me to write a new chapter on MAD Comics, has been nominated for a 2017 Eisner Award! Yay, team!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Be Happy-Go Juggy-1951 Ad

Ostensibly a take-off on the famous American Tobacco Company ads that dotted the radio and early TV airwaves--perhaps best known as Jack Benny's longtime sponsor, Lucky Strike cigarettes. LSMFT becomes JCMFC. Silly? Sure. But the color-accented chests of our teenage cheerleaders here give a whole new meaning to the term "Juggy." And don't think it wasn't done on purpose. And don't think Archie's young fans didn't pick up on that.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Reefer Madness Comics

Six times for me and it was 36 years ago. That's all. Didn't do anything for me at all so I figured, why bother? That said, I had great fun working on this new book with Craig Yoe. I did a lot of the research for the introductory text and some of the writing.

For Immediate Release. 

4/20 Announcement: Reefer Madness Hits the World of Lurid Comic Book Collections

4/20, April 20th, celebrates marijuana in some smokey circles and there are calls across America for legalization, while some at the Federal Government level resoundly condemn the controversial weed. 

Degradation! Crime! Madness! Hysteria surrounded marijuana as a perceived gateway drug from the 1930's to the 1950's and beyond! Reefer Madness Comics takes it’s name from the infamous anti-drug propaganda film. This full color volume collects Pre-Code over-the-top comics about how evil weed turns innocent teenagers into suicidal hot-rodders, crazed ax murderers—and worse—pot makes our youth sexually permissive!  

Stories Include Satan’s Cigarettes, Dope Menace and I Was Teenage Racket Girl for Hollywood! The art is by greats like Frank Frazetta, Jack “King” Kirby and you’ll see the work of Superman’s creator Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in these lurid tales! You’ll witness superhero, romance, crime and government propaganda comics all exposing the weed with its roots in Hell! See how marijuana was perceived in the days of ignorance before it was legalized by the visionary people of Oregon, Washington, and Colorado!

Eisner Award winner and old hippie Craig Yoe brings us his newest collection of wacky, wild, and culturally relevant and always entertaining comics. Yoe says, "This is one of the most fun books I've ever put together. Some of the writers and artists that created these comics must have been smoking something to concoct these ludicrous and looney tales of youth gone bad! The comics will serve up lots of lusty laughs for those who partake of contraband 'giggle-smoke.' Others attempting to snuff-out wicked marijuana cigarettes, that they are sure unleash unbridled passions, will see these comics as moral tales of dire warning!"

Monday, April 10, 2017

Eddie Green Book Up For Award!

EDDIE GREEN, A book I recently reviewed favorably here has been nominated for an award. I've since become friends with the author, Eddie's daughter. Congratulations, Elva! An important book that deserves to be recognized as such.  Here's the press release. 

ALBANY, Ga. – March 29, 2017 — BearManor Media is pleased to announce that Eddie Green: The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer by Elva Diane Green is a 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards finalist in the Biography (Adult Nonfiction) and Performing Arts & Music (Adult Nonfiction) categories.
Eddie Green: The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer by daughter Elva Diane Green tells the rags-to-riches story of Green’s determination to rise above and triumph against all odds to become a pioneering Black filmmaker, and renowned songwriter, composer, radio icon, and movie actor.
“As soon as I heard [Elva] was working on this book, I sought her out to be her publisher,” said Ben Ohmart, President of BearManor Media. “It’s an important story that deserves telling, and I was determined to be a part of that.”
In an era when Black entertainers struggled to gain a foothold in show business, Eddie Green rose from poverty to prominence. Green wrote Roaring Twenties blues standard “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” which was recorded by Sophie Tucker, Bessie Smith, Louis Prima, Frank Sinatra, and many others; starred in multiple Vitaphone short films and in 1939 Broadway musical The Hot Mikado; headlined at The Apollo; appeared memorably in two of America’s most popular long-running radio series, Amos ‘n’ Andy and Duffy’s Tavern, and rivaled Oscar Micheaux for honors as a pioneering Black filmmaker.
Talent and desire propelled Eddie on stage, over the air, and into films with Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, Hattie McDaniel, Thomas “Fats” Waller, Jackie “Moms” Mabley, and James Baskette (Uncle Remus in Walt Disney’s Song of the South), Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, and Louise Beavers.
Foreword INDIES winners will be announced during the 2017 American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago on June 24, 2017.
Eddie Green: The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer ($31.95, 204 pages, 6″ x 9″, hardcover, ISBN:  978-1593939670 / $21.95, 204 pages, 6″ x 9″, paperback, ISBN: 978-1593939663) is available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and BearManor Media.
Elva Diane Green is the daughter and biographer of Black filmmaking pioneer and legendary songwriter and composer Eddie Green. She wrote Eddie Green: The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer to prove to her grandson that a person can succeed no matter the obstacles. Elva currently resides in Los Angeles.

BearManor Media is the award-winning and Pulitzer-nominated press publishes cutting-edge entertainment books, audio books, e-books, CDs, and DVDs on movies, television, radio, theater, animation, and more. Founded in 2001 by Publisher Ben Ohmart, the BearManor Media catalog now features more than 900 outstanding subjects from the obscure to the eminent.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Mickey Braddock-1956

Ten years before he became a Monkee, Mickey Dolenz was CIRCUS BOY!

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Bela Lugosi in Arsenic and Old Lace-1944

A few clippings regarding Bela's taking on of the Karloff role in the touring company of the 1940s Broadway hit, ARSENIC & OLD LACE.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Karloff Article-1968

Here's a lovely article on the great Boris from just 9 months before his passing. Posts have been rare here lately, partly due to the fact that I've been working on a Karloff-related assignment.