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‘Bulba’: The terrible CIA sitcom pilot that starred a young Bill Hicks
03:30 pm


Bill Hicks

The 1980s were a miserable decade for standup comedy—based on the incredible success of men like Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, and Robin Williams, all of whom had an originating identity as standups, comedy saw a “boom” which really translated into bars across America labeling just about anything a “COMEDY SHOWCASE,” attracting MOR hacks everywhere to divert audiences with their “hilarious” Jack Nicholson impressions or their hackneyed thoughts about the packaging of airline peanuts. It was a decade defined by people such as Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reiser, talented men but none of them ever likely to, say, question the Reagan administration’s Central America policy.

Which brings us to Bill Hicks, one of the few comedic heroes that the 1980s produced. Hicks was a bumptious standup comedian out of Texas, one of few comedians of that era who could truly be said to owe Lenny Bruce a debt. He talked about the benefits of LSD, marijuana, and psychedelic mushrooms onstage, railed against the implacable conformity of Americans, and once put down a heckler by saying, “Hitler had the right idea; he was just an underachiever!” In a decade in which development execs constantly lusted after some debased version of the “edgy,” Hicks was the real deal. He sadly died of pancreatic cancer in 1994 at the age of 32, a tragic fate that has cemented his status as a countercultural icon ever since.

One of the events that caused Hicks to adopt a rather jaundiced view of Hollywood was his involvement in an idiotic spoof of the CIA called Bulba. A pilot episode of the show was filmed for ABC in 1981, but it was never picked up—for very good reasons. The show centered on the goofy goings-on at the U.S. embassy in Bulba, a fictional island near India, and the show absolutely reeks of the anti-establishment ethos typified by Stripes and M*A*S*H, but sadly it isn’t funny. At all. Hicks plays “Phil,” a bumbling Marine whose identifying trait is that he isn’t wearing pants.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa wants you to ‘vote like a beast’
01:50 pm


Frank Zappa

Vote suppression is in the news again. In August, Donald Trump, likely recognizing that he was going to lose the election, started talking about the need to prevent voter shenanigans in “certain sections” of Pennsylvania—“you know the ones,” he told them—clear code to his supporters that black people in Pennsylvania’s urban areas were plotting to steal the vote on behalf of “Crooked” Hillary Clinton.

The truth is something like the opposite. Acutely aware that it has a purchase on a dwindling minority of voters, the Republican Party has for some years used the specter of vote fraud to enact legislative measures that would require increased documentation at polling places, measures that are likely to have the effect of limiting the turnout of low-income and/or minority voters, both of which are reliable Democratic constituencies. The “voter fraud” scare is now widely seen as itself to be a voter suppression gambit, as some high-level Republicans are sometimes unwise enough to actuallly admit to in public.

The crucial importance of the vote can be seen in the centuries-long struggles over who gets to vote and who does not. In a sense, artificial or scarcely justified limits on the franchise are as American as apple pie, as Your Vote, a 1991 program for The Learning Channel hosted by none other than Frank Zappa, explains.

Frank Zappa was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1990, after the disease had progressed unnoticed for roughly a decade. Obviously, as he neared his untimely death, which eventually occurred in December 1993, Zappa’s illness restricted his ability to travel or undertake arduous projects. Zappa is hardly the vigorous figure here that he had once been, but his commitment to the cause of participatory democracy was such that he did the project anyway.

The show begins with footage of George Herbert Walker Bush and Michael Dukakis, the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees for the most recent national election in 1988. It would be easy to frame the story of franchisement in the United States as an optimistic one, with the vote being granted to ever more groups, but that is not the tone adopted here. In this program, the emphasis is squarely on the unjustifiable shenanigans that prevent people from exercising one of the most basic human rights.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Blistering footage of a young AC/DC blowing the roof off the sucker in 1978
12:15 pm


Rock Goes To College

Perhaps I’m guilty of overusing words like “blistering” or “insane” when it comes to describing a live performance by AC/DC, especially when the perpetually shirtless Bon Scott is involved. However in this case both words perfectly describe this footage from the band’s appearance on the short-lived BBC television show Rock Goes to College back in 1978. The gigs filmed for the show were intimate affairs—limited to a few thousand fans which you really get a feel for when you watch the young hell-bent Aussies (Angus Young was only 23 at the time and his brother Malcolm just 25) rip through songs from 1978’s Powerage (as well as the band’s live record If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It) from the same year), 1977’s Let There Be Rock, and 1975’s T.N.T. The resulting set is an absolutely titanic cross-section of the band’s already spectacular catalog. Also of note is the fact that in 1978 the band was still somewhat “under the radar” though they were already wildly popular in their homeland which makes this raw footage shot in the UK extra compelling.

See it after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Here you go, the first 16 episodes of the classic L.A. punk TV show ‘New Wave Theatre’
05:41 pm


New Wave Theatre

Last year DM alerted readers to the possibility of viewing all twenty-five episodes of the classic local music show that ran on Los Angeles area UHF station channel 18 from 1981 to 1983, New Wave Theatre. At that time we ended the post with the statement “Enjoy it before someone yanks it off of YouTube!” Well, sad to say, that warning proved all too apt, as the video has indeed since been pulled from YouTube.

In the intervening months I’ve received some requests as to where one could find the episodes, so I’m confident that there is some interest in this subject. It turns out that a YouTube user named TheSnappySneezer has uploaded first sixteen episodes of the show, so if you want to enjoy the punk and new wave madness, now’s your chance.

New Wave Theatre had an frenetic DIY vibe that perfectly mirrored the energy of the L.A. punk and new wave scenes. In Josh Frank’s book In Heaven Everything Is Fine, Ken Yas described New Wave Theatre as “Ed Sullivan on acid meets American Idol on cocaine.” New Wave Theatre provided a showcase for acts like the Angry Samoans, Dead Kennedys, 45 Grave, Fear, the Plugz, X, Circle Jerks, and many more.

It’s impossible to discuss the show New Wave Theatre without confronting its memorable host, Peter Ivers. Ivers was an L.A. musician who wrote “In Heaven (The Lady in the Radiator Song)” for David Lynch’s 1977 masterpiece Eraserhead (many years later, it was covered by the Pixies). In 1983 In early March 1983 Ivers was found murdered in his apartment, beaten to death with a hammer. The crime is officially unsolved but all indications appear to implicate one of his business associates.

After the jump, episodes 1-16 of New Wave Theatre….....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Forget ‘HyperNormalisation,’ Here’s Adam Curtis Bingo!
11:52 am

Current Events

Adam Curtis

Famed BBC documentarian Adam Curtis has a new documentary out. It’s called HyperNormalisation.

Maybe you’ve seen it?

If not—even if you’re just vaguely familiar with his films—you can probably guess what it’s all going to be about. Or at the very least what it will look like. You know, bits of seemingly non-related archival footage from the Beeb’s vast library of potent historical imagery cut together with ponderous shots of people looking worried standing by big-assed mainframe computers intercut with nuclear testing in the Pacific. And terrorism. Lots and lots of that.

In other words, what Adam Curtis does better than anyone else...

Which brings me to this wonderful idea created by Chris Applegate called Adam Curtis Bingo.

The idea is simple: Just check off each of the usual Adam Curtis trademark tropes while watching HyperNormalisation.

Things like:

“This is the story of…”

Presenting a dichotomy between order and chaos

5 minute video clip of some sort of atrocity

Trent Reznor track plays

BBC archive footage of “That’s Life!”



People in the 50s or 60s dancing

Mention of any of the bin Laden family

80s Russian punk musicians

Consequences of something turn out to be opposite of what was intended

You get the idea….

In fact, you could almost use this handy little bingo card to make your very own Adam Curtis documentary. Then who knows? maybe an “Adam Curtis documentary generator” which could utilize randomized retro YouTube clips and a limited arsenal of deep thinking quotes for the voiceover and graphics.

The full ‘Adam Curtis Bingo’ game, and more, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Plan 9 from Bikini Beach’: Glamourous beatnik ghoul girl ‘Vampira’ goths it up back in the 1950s

Maila Nurmi (aka ‘Vampira’) looking gorgeously goth at the beach with her umbrella, mid-1950s.
Maila Nurmi the captivatingly gorgeous Finnish model and actress with a tiny nineteen-inch waist, created an instant sensation when she attended a masquerade ball in Hollywood in 1953. She was dressed as the cartoon character created by longtime New Yorker contributor Charles Addams that would later become the inspiration for “Morticia Addams” in The Addams Family television series. After winning the top prize in the ball’s costume contest, Nurmi became “Vampira,” introducing—and often poking sly fun at—horror movies on her own local LA television program The Vampira Show on WABC. By the time that 1954 rolled around Nurmi was already a star. After doing time as a coat check girl in her early years, Nurmi was now rubbing elbows with everyone from Marlon Brando (who romanced Nurmi), to Surrealist photographer Man Ray (who shot her), to Antonio Vargas (who drew her) to James Dean (who wondered if she was possessed by something demonic). The evil “Maleficent” character from Disney’s animated Snow White was even based on her look (as confirmed by Disney), but her fame sadly didn’t last as long as it should have. She was cast in Ed Wood Jr.‘s Plan 9 from Outer Space in 1959, for which she was paid $200 but insisted on not saying a word of Wood’s lousy dialogue. It is for this mute role that she will eternally remembered.

After disappearing from the Tinseltown spotlight Nurmi continued to be a sort of real Hollywood vampire, even ghoulishly cavorting with the Misfits and performing with a pubk band called Satan’s Cheerleaders during the 1980s when she was in her sixties. At one point Nurmi got into some legal disputes stemming from the rights to Vampira’s image including one lawsuit Nurmi launched against Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson for ripping off her Vampira image, which was dismissed. Despite this, Nurmi’s “Vampira” character continues to endure since she conceived of her over 60 years ago. She was played by Lisa Marie in Tim Burton’s film, Ed Wood.

Somewhat rather underappreciated during her time, Maila Nurmi was lovingly profiled in the 2012 documentary Vampira and Me which featured newly restored kinoscopes of her TV appaearances. Some of the photos that follow (though tame) might be slightly NSFW because, bikinis.


More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Disgusting hyper-realistic busts of Ren and Stimpy
09:17 am

Pop Culture

Ren & Stimpy

The Ren & Stimpy Show, often simply called simply Ren & Stimpy, was a madcap and often subversive cartoon show produced by John Kricfalusi for Nickelodeon between 1991 and 1995. The sometimes controversial program featured Ren, “an emotionally unstable chihuahua,” and Stimpy, “a good-natured, dimwitted cat,” and was filled with gross-out humor and and jokes that only the adults in the audience were likely to get. The show paved the way for more adult-themed cartoons such as Beavis and Butthead and South Park, and still enjoys a large cult audience today.

Artist Andrew Freeman of Immortal masks has recently paid homage to Ren Höek and Stimpson J. Cat by creating “hyper-realistic” silicone busts of the duo.

The masks are absolutely grotesque, keeping in line with the original show which often featured disgusting close-ups of the cartoon pair. The intricate details on these busts are amusingly disturbing, from the gross rotten teeth to the “magic nose goblins” in Stimpy’s nostrils.

The full silicone busts were designed, sculpted and painted by Andrew Freeman with the assistance of his team at Immortal Masks, and the finished pieces are being displayed at Think Tank Gallery in downtown Los Angeles October 8 through the 31st

Happy happy, joy joy!


More after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
24 Hour Party People: New Order’s tongue-in-cheek 1984 TV documentary for ‘Play at Home’
05:48 pm


New Order

In the early to mid-1980s, Channel 4 in the U.K. had a series called Play at Home in which various bands were given an hour to do with as they pleased. Someone at Channel 4 had good taste: among the bands that participated were Big Country, the Angelic Upstarts, XTC, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Echo and the Bunnymen. The entry from Siouxsie was utterly singular, but the 1984 submission from New Order was unexpectedly fascinating and weird as well.

For one thing, there’s a high quotient of humor in this thing, some of it quite sophomoric—not exactly the headspace I was expecting New Order to put me in. The opening sequence (executed in part by Peter Saville) resembles one of the mock-lofty moments from Monty Python’s Flying Circus (the example in my mind is “The Semaphore Version of Wuthering Heights” for some reason but Python did plenty of voiceover-heavy exterior bits). With the camera trained on a comely bit of landscape, a stentorian voice intones, “Factory Records: a Partnership, a Business, a Joke.” In short order the authority of that voice dissipates as it reads the “cast of characters” in a ridiculous and rapid register.

The star of the proceedings is really Tony Wilson, which makes this movie an interesting companion piece to 24 Hour Party People, which also centered on Wilson (as embodied by Steve Coogan). Wilson spends much of the documentary in a bathtub (naked), and one of the first things that happens is that Gillian Gilbert jumps into the bathtub (clothed) and starts to interview him.

Gillian Gilbert and Tony Wilson
One of the most memorable moments is a bird’s-eye shot of the two of them in the tub, Wilson’s hands placed strategically over his privates, as he attempts to answer Gilbert’s question, which happens to be “Are you a capitalist?” That question, and the related question of Wilson’s financial relationship to the band, provides the seething subtext of hostility that percolates throughout the movie. At one point Wilson prefaces some banal point by saying “As Trotsky once said….” and sure enough, the band uses that line against Wilson elsewhere in the movie.

There’s a wonderful line uttered by Richard Boon in the context of the shortcomings of The Haçienda nightclub—co-owned by the group, their manager and Wilson—namely that it’s too well lit, doesn’t have a back room, and therefore lacks dark corners where a patron can go and hide:

“There’s got to be some sex and some threat.”

Watch after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
A young Steve Buscemi in ‘Borders,’ 1989 TV doc about the philosophy of Robert Anton Wilson
12:22 pm


Robert Anton Wilson
Steve Buscemi

In 1989 an hour-long movie called Borders about Robert Anton Wilson, author of The Illumnatus! Trilogy and the Cosmic Trigger series, was produced for public TV (WGBH Boston was one of the production companies behind it). The movie, directed by Merrill Aldighieri and Joe Tripician, is a blend of dramatic and documentary elements that also occasionally includes charmingly rudimentary computer graphics.

The first few minutes of Borders is an extended scene involving Ted, who is possibly a scientist named Ted who is doing something to subvert the company he works for—something like that. Whatever it is, his lack of integrity is enough for his girlfriend to leave the weekend house he has lined up for them. Unfortunately, we never find out what Ted’s situation was all about, because we’re never shown a second sequence to flesh out the promising start.

At first blush, the title Borders seems inapt for a documentary about a figure whose intellectual reach is as impressive as Wilson’s, but in short order its true significance becomes clear. As Wilson says, in his life he has passed through many conceptual borders—leaving the Catholic Church for Trotskyism, only to abandon that for agnosticism—and integral to his thinking is the project of detecting, decoding, and resisting the various “borders” that mankind erects for itself to keep up separated.

Early in the program Wilson expands on this idea:

Borders are a basic mammalian territorial imperative. All mammals want a territory, and they claim it by making excretions that make a topological outline, that’s the territory they claim. That’s why your dog pees on every tree when you take him for a walk. That’s the way the dog is marking his territory. Chimpanzees mark their territories with excretions too. The difference between human beings (or domesticated primates) and the other mammals is we mark our territories with ink excretions on paper—land titles, peace treaties, and so on. Every national border in the world marks a place where two gangs of domesticated primates fought until they were exhausted, and then made a territorial mark. That’s how national borders are created. We don’t throw excretions at each other like the chimpanzees, we throw chemicals and bombs and so on, but it’s basically the same mammalian process. The only intelligent way to discuss politics is on all fours.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Ramones, Butthole Surfers, Violent Femmes and more, covering Saturday morning cartoon theme songs

In 1995, MCA Records released Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits, a compilation of then current alt-rock stars and also-rans transforming the 30-60 second theme songs from classic children’s shows into three-minute pop songs, accompanied by a full length home video that featured all the songs on the comp with the linking device of Drew Barrymore watching them all and commenting with her central-casting Gen-X friends. It dovetailed both with the vogue for alt-rock tribute comps and the ongoing popularity of the Television’s Greatest Hits series, which by then had been around for ten years.

Though they win points for sporting cool Glenn Barr cover art, both the CD and video were pretty crummy overall, but naturally, amid the dross of tepid mid-’90s radio alt (Sponge, Semisonic, Collective Soul, Sublime—I’ll bet you just can’t wait to hear it now, right?) there were some terrific moments. How could the Ramones doing the unforgettable theme to those endearingly cheap 1967 Spider-Man cartoons be bad? IT CANNOT. Violent Femmes went on a marvelously weird tangent. Instead of covering the Jetsons actual theme song, they did a deep cut: “Eep, Opp, Ork, Ah-ah!” by the in-universe teen idol Jet Screamer. It’s pretty great. The Reverend Horton Heat did a roaring psychobilly medley of the Jonny Quest theme and another deep dig, “Stop That Pigeon” from the short-lived Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines. The Butthole Surfers, though they were well past the height of their powers by then, did a mindwarping take on the Underdog theme. And there’s perhaps the album’s most perfect pairing of artist and material, the Aussie folk-pop band Frente! doing a really charming “Open up Your Heart (and Let the Sunshine In),” a 1954 song about rejecting the Devil, which became huge when the infant Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm sang it on The Flintstones.
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
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