Someone’s dead relatives just got a makeover. Artist Alex Gross takes discarded vintage photographs, paints on them and turns them into portraits of pop culture icons like Batman, Superman, Electra, Wonder Woman, Super Mario and Marge Simpson. These mixed media paintings raise questions about the relevance of history, family and memory in our neo-liberal consumerist world—where fictional characters have far more currency and longevity than familial ties or dead relatives.
The world that I live in is both spiritually profound and culturally vapid. It is extremely violent but can also be extremely beautiful. Globalization and technology are responsible for wonderfully positive changes in the world as well as terrible tragedy and homogeneity. This dichotomy fascinates me, and naturally influences much of my work.
I like Alex Gross’s paintings. I like his ideas. He is painting a narrative to our lives—and like all good art he is questioning our role within this story and the values we consider important in its telling. More of Alex Gross’ work can be seen here.
A 12-inch version of Boy George made by toy company, LJN in 1984.
Back in the magical year of 1984 toy company LJN put out a 12-inch version of a prominent member of the New Romantic movement, George Alan O’Dowd—otherwise known as Boy George—which came ready to party dressed in a “Color By Numbers” themed outfit.
A print ad for the Boy George doll by LJN.
Billed on the box as “The Original Outrageous Boy of Rock!” the toy Boy was fully poseable and his long hair came styled in one of his signature looks—braids tied with colorful ribbons to match the makeup on his face. Little Boy George also came with a microphone, hat and “posing stand.” Noted as an appropriate plaything for ages four and up, had I received a Boy George doll when I was a kid I would have promptly burned all of my Barbies in the backyard while Boy and I twirled around the fire to the sounds of “Karma Chameleon” playing on my boom box. Good times.
If you’re like me and had no idea that this delightfully dolled-up version of Boy George even existed and now must have one of your very own, you’re in luck as I found a few for sale on eBay. During my very important “research” for this post I also came across footage from a UK television show doing a feature on a Boy George doll (that came in two sizes—one rather alarmingly large) put out by a UK Culture Club fan club during which the gorgeous looking Mr. O’Dowd is presented with one of his very own—which he holds while singing a version of Cliff Richard and The Drifters song “Living Doll.” You can see that surreal event below along with a few images from die-hard CC fan, Flickr user KAZZ who went the extra mile and created custom outfits for her Boy George doll. All of this proves once again that the 80s were indeed much cooler (and a lot weirder) than most of our collective memories give it credit for. Enjoy!
Okay, so there’s this letter floating around the Internet supposedly written by Joan Crawford addressing Bette Davis’ (allegedly) offensive body odor. The letter is dated August 11, 1962, so that would have been during the filming of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. The letter is written to “Bob” which is probably director Robert Aldrich. Now I’ve tried to find its provenance and if this thing is actually real and came up empty handed. I couldn’t find anything except for an Instagram account that posted the image.
Could this be an Internet hoax? Absolutely. But I must add, the two were known to have an extremely icy relationship.
File under “two celebrity names you wouldn’t expect to hear uttered in the same sentence,” but here we are.
This is fascinating simply because you’d probably not expect the avant-garde performance artist and front-person of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV to be on the TV funnyman’s radar at all, but in a recent episode of this season’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld and Margaret Cho have a discussion on identity politics which leads to Cho bringing up P-Orridge’s Pandrogeny Project.
In the popular web series, Cho refers to P-Orridge as “punk rock royalty” along with h/er wife, the dearly departed Lady Jaye, and explains to Jerry their Pandrogeny Project in which the pair underwent body modification to resemble one another, in order to identify as a single pandrogynous being.
Jerry takes it all in and suggests that a “new word” is needed to describe what happens when you, in his words, “transgender into your wife… and she…[turns] into him.”
The giant stone ‘marquee’ on the first drive-in movie theater in Camden, New Jersey that opened on June 6th, 1933.
83-years ago this week (June 6th, 1933 specifically) the very first drive-in movie theater opened for business in Camden, New Jersey. Originally conceptualized and patented in 1933 by entrepreneur Richard Hollingshead who astutely recognized that despite the failing economy (the Great Depression was in full swing) people were still going to the movies and would cut back on basic necessities such as food for the opportunity to escape their bleak day-to-day existences in a dark theater for a few hours. Hollingshead’s outdoor theater cost only a quarter a car (plus 25 cents for each occupant) and the sound from the speakers broadcasting the films to the 400 car capacity lot were so loud that they could be heard miles down the road.
A print advertisement for Richard Hollingshead’s new drive-in theater in Camden, New Jersey.
According to a historical reference noted by the University of Michigan not everyone was happy about Hollingshead’s invention of the drive-in—and aparently a group of teenage girls actually took to protesting its creation as it put a big dent in the booming tween babysitting business since families were now bringing their infants, toddlers and young children along in the car to see the latest celluloid offerings from the comfort of their car. Drive-in theaters started to proliferate all over the country from Massachusetts to New Mexico and by 1942 there were 95 drive-ins with locations in 27 states. Ten years later there were approximately 5000 drive-in movie theaters in operation across the U.S. When the decade of spandex and neon otherwise known as the 80s rolled around drive-in theaters began their decline thanks to urban sprawl and technological advancements such as cable TV and the cheaper price of that in-home movie machine, the VCR.
These days (and according to an article published in 2014) there are still 338 drive-in theaters in operation including one of my favorite haunts in my younger days, the 67-year-old Weir’s Beach drive-in in New Hampshire. Tons of images of drive-ins from the past follow.
West Virginia, 1956.
A ‘carhop’ at the Rancho drive-in, San Francisco, 1948.
“We want you to be nostalgic about the future again.”
Even I, a man so tight he wouldn’t buy a pair of shorts for a flea, broke down over the holiday weekend and purchased a $35 Roku streaming stick.
And what, you ask, prompted this uncharacteristic liberality? Some athletic contest to be broadcast on a Roku station, perhaps? A Fourth of July H.R. Pufnstuf marathon? Or was it one of those deals where we only had 24 hours to save the orphanage from the wrecking ball and the whole town came together to peddle stolen A/V gear, raising just enough money to foil the evil millionaire’s plans as the old clock tower struck twelve?
No, it was something far more wonderful: the OSI 74 network. Launched last Halloween, Outer Space International brings together all the late-night TV and VHS-collector weirdness that has been missing from my life since public access vanished and I indignantly cancelled my Time Warner subscription. “We’re channeling the great pioneers of UHF, home video, and early cable,” network host Mr. Lobo says in one of their bumpers, and not a moment too soon! As far as I know, OSI’s only rival in this territory is the resurrected Night Flight, also available on Roku for $2.99 a month. (OSI is currently free, and every show has a virtual “tip jar.”)
So far, I’ve only watched a tiny fraction of OSI’s goods. A glance at their schedule reveals a massive hoard of fun: episodes of Criswell Predicts, Friday night movies hosted by GWAR manager Sleazy P. Martini (Sleazy Pictures After Dark), a soap opera starring drag sensation Bunny Galore (Pantry Manor), a Saturday morning rock ‘n’ roll monster dance party (Ghoul A Go-Go), a conspiracy show (Paranoia Magazine Presents), the pilot for a new cartoon series (The Paranormal Idiot), Monster Creature Feature, Cult Movies TV, Monster Madhouse, Cinema Insomnia, Midnight Frights...
But if you want to know what really squeezed the $35 from my wallet, it’s the significant portion of OSI 74’s programming that’s dedicated to the video ministry of the Church of the SubGenius. In addition to classics like the recruitment video Arise, the network’s got deep SubGenius weirdness such as the entire 1984 devival at which J.R. “Bob” Dobbs was assassinated, a compilation of news and talk show appearances called As They See “Bob,” and a retrospective episode of the Dallas public access show The Hypnotic Eye. Perhaps the greatest treasure in the SubGenius collection is The Obvious (Sex and Violence), an absolutely insane one-hour megamix of tits and squibs from 1980s softcore, action, sci-fi, and horror movies that must be seen to be disbelieved. There’s also a weekly feature film chosen by the Church, the “Bulldada Movie of the Weak” [sic]. Recent offerings include Wojciech Has’ The Saragossa Manuscript and The Hourglass Sanatorium and Shaw Brothers’ The Super Inframan.
Some of OSI’s programming is up at Vimeo. If you have a Roku, the station is listed under “Streaming Channels”; alternatively, you can follow these instructions to add it to your home screen. Linked here is a 30-second, very NSFW clip from The Obvious (Sex and Violence)
“Page Three” might not mean much to readers outside of the UK. It was a term used to describe the photographs of topless (sometimes naked) glamor models published on the third page of tabloid newspaper the Sun. It was first introduced by (who else?) Rupert Murdoch as a way to increase sales of his newly acquired but failing newspaper. The Sun was in decline having gone from the popular Daily Herald to a less successful rebrand as the Sun in 1964 before Murdoch bought it in 1968. Old Rupert thought sexy glamor models would bring more male readers to his paper. It did but Page Three wasn’t truly successful until editor Larry Lamb made them topless models. The Sun then started to sell by the millions. Lamb launched the first Page Three in November 1970. “I don’t think it’s immoral or indecent or anything,” said Rupert Murdoch later said of Page Three.
But show it to me in any other newspaper I own. Never in America, never in Australia. Never. Never. Never. It just would not be accepted.
Though it did increase sales and made several of the Page Three models rich and famous it was never quite fully accepted by everyone in the UK. Page Three was a source of great controversy and considerable feminist anger—leading to one famous campaign to have Page Three banned. Eventually the Sun agreed it was no longer suitable and the Page Three girls stopped appearing in the paper in 2015.
Glamor model and former Page Three girl Jilly Johnson on the cover of ‘Hot Hits Volume 19.’
Being a Page Three girl was like being a Playboy Bunny—it was a means to achieving a better career. Among those many women who became famous from appearing topless in the Sun were Samantha Fox (who went onto become a pop star and actress and infamously co-hosted the Brit Awards with Mick Fleetwood), Debee Ashby (who had a fling with Tony Curtis—“He wanted company. It wasn’t just my boobs…”), Geri Halliwell (aka Ginger Spice of the Spice Girls), Penny Irving (who became an actress in Are You Being Served? and House of Whipcord), Melinda Messenger (now a TV host and celebrity), Jayne Middlemiss (TV host) and Jordan (aka Katie Price who’s now a multimillionaire TV star, celebrity and author).
Glamor model and former Page Three girl Nina Carter on the cover of ‘Top of the Pops Volume 44.’
Nina Carter and Jilly Johnson were two of the early Page Three girls. Both were highly successful glamor models in their own right and were famous from their work on fashion shoots, magazines and album covers. Nina and Jilly were two of the best known glamor models working in Britain during the 1970s—both earning the nickname “The Body” long before Elle Macpherson—though they probably weren’t the first.
But wait—we’re not here to talk about Nina and Jilly’s long and successful modeling careers but rather about the time they formed a band in the late 1970s called Blonde on Blonde.
Blonde on Blonde ‘Whole Lotta Love.’
Blonde on Blonde was a short-lived pop band that made little headway in the UK but was a big hit in Japan. “We have Japanese men coming up to is and begging us to let them be our slaves!” Nina told the Evening Times in 1978. Nina and Jilly were serious about their pop career but as Nina explained at the time:
Unfortunately we are having difficulty persuading the music business in this country to do the same. People tend to dismiss us a gimmick.
A wig based on the gravity-defying hair of A Flock of Seagulls vocalist, Mike Score.
Although summer is officially in full swing I’m one of those people who likes to plan ahead for Halloween. I’ve got a group of friends who really take this holiest of unholy holidays very seriously (last year I went out as Adam Ant—let that sink in) and believe that it’s never too early to start thinking about who you’ll pretend to be on October 31st. So as a child of the 80s, my head nearly exploded when I came across this wig that will allow you to cultivate the impossible hair once worn by Mike Score—the vocalist and keyboardist for New Wave band A Flock of Seagulls. Say what?
The gravity-defying wig can be yours for a mere $20 bucks over at the site 80s Tees.com and according to some of the testimonials on the site some folks even thought that it was real hair when they saw it. All I can say is that this thing would have come in handy when I got thrown out of A Flock of Seagulls show (after sneaking in when I was fifteen on a dare) because everyone would have clearly known I was “with the band.” It’s unclear if Mr. Score—who was a professional hairdresser before starting the band—has anything to do with his signature 80s hairdo being sold as a wig to the masses so if you (like me) know you can’t possibly live without this amazing head-topper, you might want to act fast!
More photos and the video for my favorite AFOS jam “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)” from the band’s 1982 record Listen follow after the jump…
When The Beatles split-up in 1970 the music press divided the pop world into two camps: those for John Lennon and those against Paul McCartney (who, coincidentally met each other for the first time 59 years ago today). That both camps were basically the same thing meant McCartney had rough ride from “hip” musos over the next decades.
McCartney was painted as straight, safe, vanilla and very very bland—the sort of music yer mom and dad listened to when riding an elevator. It was fueled in large part by his former songwriting pal John Lennon’s vicious public spat with him. Lennon excoriated McCartney in his song “How Do You Sleep?” claiming the only thing he’d done was “Yesterday.”
Lennon was perceived as cool. McCartney was seen as square, fake and lacking any real artistic credibility—whatever that may be. He was the lesser half of the writing partnership Lennon & McCartney. This was how the music press in general and the British music press in particular painted the former Beatles. Of course it was wrong—very wrong. McCartney was the cool one, the smart one, the one who was hanging out with all those avant garde artists on the edge. He didn’t have to try on different party hats to find out who he was—he knew instinctively. The way the music press wrote about him you would never have known. But then again music journalists only write for themselves and their tiny band of fellow journalists—they do not write for the public or really understand that popular music is meant for all—the clue’s in its name—it’s not an exclusive club.
How McCartney weathered it all while starting out on his solo career, raising a family with his wife Linda, then forming the band Wings reveals just how strong and determined a character/a talent is James Paul McCartney.
Understandably, post-Beatles McCartney was always cagey about giving interviews. He knew (and knows) how interviewers turn words to fit their own preconceived opinions and how interviewers like to make themselves the star of the interview.
One of McCartney’s best ever interviews came in 1978, when he was featured in a short film for Melvyn Bragg’s The South Bank Show.
McCartney and Melvyn Bragg, 1978.
The South Bank Show was devised by Bragg as an arts magazine show that would cover high and low art—from TV and films to theater and pop music. This seems utterly run-of-the-mill now but back in the seventies this hi/lo concept was considered shocking. Pop music was in no way comparable to classical music. Television was never in the same class as theater, etcetera etcetera. Bragg was challenging the perceived orthodoxy when he kicked the whole thing off with The South Bank Show in January 1978, creating the kind of mix of high and low culture we take so very much for granted today.
The South Bank Show was originally a magazine program that featured one or two short films, plus a studio interview and usually some kind of performance. During the first series this morphed into one hour profiles of artists, writers, film directors and performers which remained the format.
Paul McCartney appeared in the very first episode in a short insert documentary filmed during the recording of the song “Mull of Kintyre.” McCartney is open to Bragg’s questions and even goes so far as to explain how he writes, giving examples of some of his best known songs. He also discusses the hurt he felt over the bust-up with Lennon and ends by explaining how he gets a thrill from hearing people whistling his tunes—or as he goes on to say, how he once heard a bird whistling a riff from one of his hits.
The following is the whole interview repackaged for Bragg’s The South Bank Show: Originals series recently broadcast on Sky Arts. It opens with Bragg talking about his memory of interviewing McCartney and contains comment from journalist Clive James who rightly describes Paul McCartney as a genius.
A few years ago I blogged about these really cool 3D models of pop culture icons that I mistakenly thought were actual vinyl toys. A lot of people’s hopes of owning those fantastic vinyl toys went down the drain. Well lo and behold, someone actually has turned a few of the 3D models into the real McCoy and now you can own them!
Not all of my favorites were made, but a lot of cool ones do exist. The only thing I found a bit disappointing is the lack of vinyls of female characters. C’mon! There are a few!
I’ve linked to where to buy each vinyl toy under its image.
‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ Brad Hamilton vinyl. Get him here.