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Alice Cooper loses his head & Danny Elfman (with Oingo Boingo) loses his mind on ‘The Gong Show’

Alice Cooper, the late Chuck Barris, and a devilish Danny Elfman.
Like everyone else of a certain age, I spent time this week mourning the loss of Chuck Barris, the one-of-a-kind game show king and the host of often questionable “talent” competition The Gong Show. I was old enough during the show’s run in the late 70s to never want to miss Barris’ antics, as well as the never-ending parade of hopeful weirdos who flocked to the show. If you’re young enough to be unfamiliar with The Gong Show, the best case scenario was that your act didn’t get “gonged” before you were done. Worst case scenario you got frantically “gang-gonged” by all three judges, but still got to fly your freak flag high to much of America. The prize for not getting gonged and coming away with the highest collective score? $516.32.

As I was busy being nostalgic watching a few vintage clips from the show, I came across a couple worth sharing. One features Alice Cooper (who called Barris one of his “favorite people in the world”) serenading him with “Goin’ Out of My Head” while stuck in his trusty guillotine. The other is a wildly out-of-control performance by cinema maestro Danny Elfman back in his Oingo Boingo days who at the time were still called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. Elfman and Oingo Boingo’s antics on stage were judged by none other than Gong Show regular Buddy Hackett, a solo Shari Lewis (Lambchop must have had the night off), and actor Bill Bixby of Incredible Hulk fame. Apparently, they loved what they saw as the Mystic Knights won the contest that episode.

Watch Alice Cooper and a young Danny Elfman on ‘The Gong Show’ after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
When Quentin Tarantino played an Elvis Impersonator on ‘The Golden Girls’

In 1988, before Quentin Tarantino had sold his scripts for True Romance or Natural Born Killers, leading the way to secure a deal to direct his first film Reservoir Dogs, he appeared for a few seconds as an Elvis impersonator at Sophia’s wedding in an episode of The Golden Girls.

Tarantino discussed the appearance in a 1994 Playboy interview:

“Well, it was kind of a high point because it was one of the few times that I actually got hired for a job. I was one of 12 Elvis impersonators, really just a glorified extra. For some reason they had us sing Don Ho’s ‘Hawaiian Love Chant.’ All the other Elvis impersonators wore Vegas-style jumpsuits. But I wore my own clothes, because I was, like, the Sun Records Elvis. I was the hillbilly cat Elvis. I was the real Elvis; everyone else was Elvis after he sold out.”

Indeed, Tarantino’s Elvis look doesn’t seem too far off from the look he sports in his 1987 unfinished directorial debut, My Best Friend’s Birthday, in which a character he plays in the film seems obsessed with Elvis (a theme that would carry on through other films in Tarantino’s body of work).

See QT in action as Elvis after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Revealed: David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, Lemmy can’t play without the little diagrams with the dots!
11:32 am


French and Saunders

In 1991 the British comedy program French and Saunders showed an amusing sketch that involved several prominent British rock musicians, including David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, and Lemmy of Motörhead.

It’s a simple and repetitive premise, but it works wonderfully. Most of the sketch is a dream sequence, imagining a court case (being England, that means wigs!) against the publisher of a book of “easy” guitar guidance that doesn’t even include the little diagrams with the dots to tell you where on the fretboard to place your fingers!

The prosecution calls to the witness stand several luminaries of rock, the three gentlemen mentioned above plus Level 42 bassist Mark King and former Thin Lizzy axe-slinger Gary Moore—all of whom freely testify that they can’t read music and can’t really play any notation that lacks the little finger-placement diagrams. Each of the five witnesses struts to the witness stand in the act of playing a signature tune—”Money for Nothing,” “Ace of Spades,” “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”—only to produce atonal garbage as soon as the offending diagram-less primer is placed in front of them.

See the sketch after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Chuck Barris is dead, but the scandalous ‘Popsicle Twins’ will live forever
10:05 am


TV Hell
Chuck Barris

Well, the CIA lost their greatest assassin today. Gong Show host Chuck Barris has died, aged 87.  Dumb but beautiful and entirely emblematic of the decade in which it flourished, The Gong Show was quintessential 1970s junk TV, a swirling, whirling dimestore cocktail of low-watt celebrity worship, vaudeville schmaltz, and punk ferocity. Half game-show, half freakshow, it allowed ordinary knuckleheads a chance to shine on national television while D-grade stars like Jamie Farr, Jaye P. Morgan, and Rip Taylor mocked them. It was like American Idol, except for that everyone was in on the joke. Lording over the whole chaotic enterprise was game-show impresario Barris, a bucket hat wearing goofball who could not care less if anybody won or if anybody died. It was so, so good, a riot of polyester, bubbles, desperation and abject failure. It made legitimate stars out of unlikely characters like Gene Gene the Dancing Machine and The Unknown Comic.

It was everything the 1970s promised and more.

‘Gong Show’ greatness: Gene Gene the Dancing Machine
Barris also created The Newlywed Game and The Dating Game and, according to his kooky autobiography Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (!), he ran his media empire while working as a spy-slash-assassin for the CIA. The CIA denied it, but of course they would.

Anyway, let us not mourn the man’s tragic passing, but celebrate his most towering achievement: the 1977 Gong Show appearance of “Have You Got A Nickel” AKA the Popsicle Twins. We could analyze it, but that’s not what Chuck would’ve wanted. All you really need to know is that sometime in 1977, The Gong Show featured 17-year-old twins eating orange popsicles on stage—that’s it—and the whole country almost had a heart attack.

Rest in peace, Chuck. You truly were a Dangerous Mind. Gong, but not forgotten…

Watch the Popsicle Twins after the jump…

Posted by Ken McIntyre | Leave a comment
See what North Korean TV is really like with an uncut hour of weird propaganda programming
01:56 pm

Current Events

North Korea
Kim Jong Un

It’s painful to contemplate the relentless gauntlet of oppression and misery the citizens of North Korea have endured for decades now. The reign of autocratic terror hatched by Kim Il Sung, his son Kim Jong Il, and his grandson Kim Jong Un is an occurrence we can only hope ends soon and is never repeated again. The three Kims are held up as something akin to deities, while most of the population starves.

In North Korea, the Korean War of the 1950s may as well have happened yesterday. There is no such entity as “South Korea,” it is all simply “Korea,” with the southern half temporarily occupied by American imperialists, who (as the propaganda never stops emphasizing) started the Korean War and have been intent on killing and raping North Korea ever since, an outcome stymied by North Korea’s dominating military forces.

By chance I’m in the middle of a pretty decent murder mystery set in North Korea—it’s called A Corpse in the Koryo, and it’s written pseudonymously by a westerner with access to the country.

For that reason I was extra-interested to learn that an hour of North Korean TV programming found its way onto YouTube yesterday. As might be expected, the programming is equal parts rousing, patriotic, and grim.

From the 10th to the 18th minute there is an amazing story, told entirely in the medium of dance, of a boy and his mother being brainwashed by a Catholic priest. After the priest kills the boy, the mother avenges the boy’s death. After the story is over, the text “Do not forget the brutality of American things” appears on the screen. Because the United States is all about murderous clergymen!

There’s a documentary segment about a clothing factory, followed by one about mining. Around the 35th minute we begin to get the truly demented patriotic pageantry that is associated with North Korea. A loud and uplifting song is played while stirring images of prosperous and colorful North Korea pan and fade in and out. For the first time we see copious images of the Glorious Leader Kim Jong Un.

The last chunk is dedicated to North Korean children engaging in music and dance. Two small children play a duet on a piano—this is followed by a solo dance of a young boy dancing with a stick.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
How to make an acid house classic: British doc looks at the business of Happy Mondays’ ‘Bummed’
11:24 am


Tony Wilson
Happy Mondays

In 1993 Steve Albini published a memorable screed with the title “The Problem with Music,” in which he detailed—in excruciating detail—how the economics of making money off of music make it very likely that the average band just trying to put out some records is going to get the shit exploited out of them. Five years earlier, Factory Records released the Happy Mondays’ second album Bummed, which was the band’s first real breakthrough, and the Granada TV show Information Technology in the U.K. released an episode depicting, in a far gentler register than Albini’s testimony, the business decisions that went into what proved to be one of the touchstones of acid house culture.

The documentary, which lasts about 20 minutes, takes us—most obliquely—through three “Decisions,” those being “Recording Budget,” “Promotion Budget,” and “How Many to Make.” The strategy the filmmakers adopt is mostly fly-on-the-wall, so viewers have to glean information as best they can.

The affable Tony Wilson is our guide through some of the process, during which we see Tony Michaelides, Factory head of PR, grumbling about Shaun Ryder and Co. failing to appear for a radio interview; the esteemed producer Martin Hannett twiddling knobs at a console while the band lays down tracks; and manager Nathan McGough patiently explaining that Happy Mondays are worth the trouble even though they are a pain in the ass.

We also see the band and their friends at Central Station Design deciding on the album artwork as well as what the first single should be. (It was “Wrote for Luck.”)

The program unfortunately does not show what had to have been an extremely interesting conversation, specifically what the inner sleeve of the album would look like.

So many music documentaries stress the extraordinary nature of the subjects, how sexy and cool and talented they are—it’s quite refreshing to see the other side of it, band as cog in a system fulfilling a specific economic role.

Get Happy after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Badass ‘Twin Peaks’ skateboard decks
01:32 pm


Twin Peaks

I like this. A lot. David Lynch has teamed up with Habitat Skateboards and created these wonderful skateboard decks as an ode to the Twin Peaks series. The skate decks feature the Log Lady, Dale Cooper, Laura Palmer, and Audrey Horne.

The decks sell for $54.99 here.

As you are all probably aware of at this point, the premiere of Twin Peaks on Showtime is set for May 21. I can’t wait!


Photo by Jason Ritter.


Photo by Jason Ritter.
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Two superfans just created a movie-length version of ‘Breaking Bad’
09:46 am


Breaking Bad

It seems quite likely that history will single out Vince Gilligan’s majestic Breaking Bad as the pre-eminent narrative of the Obama era.

Breaking Bad‘s debut as an AMC show took place on January 20, 2008, precisely one year before Obama’s inauguration as president of the United States. The pilot aired to little fanfare; thanks to the Writers Guild of America strike occurring at the time, the show’s first season was a truncated one—only seven episodes—which made the feat of Bryan Cranston winning an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series all the more impressive, a sign of things to come. By the time the show ended, on September 29, 2013, the series had become a national obsession—the saga of Walter White/Heisenberg could be found absolutely everywhere.

Despite this intense bout of national fandom, there are people out there who still haven’t seen it.

If you’re like me, every few months you find yourself having one of those “You haven’t seen Breaking Bad?” conversations. As great as it is—and it is great—it’s a tricky thing to ask someone to dedicate 62 hours to a narrative he or she likely has no actual investment in. You can hear the excuses before you finish your schtick: But I’m so busy—Raising nine children—Two jobs and night school too—I’m still catching up on ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘House of Cards’ and ‘The Walking Dead’—the bar exam is coming up…....

If this scene is familiar, then you will be grateful for a recent editing feat pulled off by Gaylor Morestin and Lucas Stoll, who somehow have taken 62 episodes of high-quality TV episodic drama and transformed it into a tight, 2 hour and 7 minute crime drama of the kind Hollywood puts out in movie theaters, just like Carlito’s Way or something. The original show took approximately 3,000 minutes to consume (!)—this one takes 127 minutes, which means that only 4% of the original footage is in the “movie” version.

On their creation, Morestin and Stoll write:

After two years of sleepless nights of endless editing, we bring you the answer to that very question. A study project that became an all-consuming passion.

It’s not a fan-film, hitting the highlights of show in a home-made homage, but rather a re-imagining of the underlying concept itself, lending itself to full feature-length treatment.

An alternative ‘Breaking Bad,’ to be viewed with fresh eyes.

Naturally, the “feature” version loses a lot of the fun scenes that depended on Gilligan’s masterful use of the slow burn—I’m thinking in particular of the season 2 scene in which Badger gets busted by an undercover DEA agent on a park bench. Still, “Breaking Bad: The Movie” does a great job of supplying the general ups and downs of the saga of Walt/Heisenberg and all the people he affects in his drive to become Albuquerque’s #1 producer of crystal meth.

One advantage of the plot compression is that the (in retrospect irrelevant-feeling) “airplane” subplot of Season 2 is entirely absent.

Watch ‘Breaking Bad: The Movie’ after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Images from John K and Spumco’s mid-90s Terrytoons ‘reboot’ pitch

Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi had a lot of early gigs in the late 1970s and 1980s, including stints at Filmation and Hanna-Barbera and DIC Entertainment—he later characterized this work for shows such as Heathcliff as “the worst animation of all time.” Legendary animator Ralph Bakshi “saved” John K in the 1980s. In 1987 Bakshi spearheaded a successful revival of Mighty Mouse, and John K worked on that project.

Terrytoons was responsible for a number memorable characters in the 1960s and thereabouts, including Heckle and Jeckle, Mighty Mouse, Hector Heathcote, Possible Possum, and Deputy Dawg. Six years ago John K posted on his blog art that he and members of his team had put together for pitches a few years after the founding of Spumco in 1988.

As John K writes:

Here is some presentation art from a pitch we did at Spumco in the mid 90s. I wanted to get Paramount to let me revive the Terrytoons characters. I would have shown some of this stuff earlier but it had all suffered water damage. But now, thanks to Alex, Jojo and Tommy, some of it has been restored through the magic of insufferable digital technology.

John K doesn’t claim perfect memory on who drew which of these images, but he credits Mike Fontanelli, Shane Glines, Rick Altergott, and Richard Pursel as some of the people who probably worked on these.

In one of the stories, Petey Pate, a boar cat with a bald spot, “steals all the eyebrows from the mice in Mouseville and Mighty Mouse has to come save the day.”

We’ve all been there….....


More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Murder, She Wrote’ guest star trading cards
02:15 pm


Murder, She Wrote

TV’s Jessica Fletcher, as iconically portrayed by actress Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote, was either the greatest fictional sleuth of all time or else the most prolific uncaught serial killer American television has ever known. I’ve long harbored the suspicion that all of those murders happening in her hometown of Cabot Cove—and whenever she went on vacation (think about it!)—were not a coincidence. Occam’s Razor, people. The simplest explanation is always the best.

For some reason, Dangerous Minds guest contributor Jason Toon decided that the world needed some Murder, She Wrote “guest star” trading cards and took it upon himself to make that happen. As you will see below, he had a lot to work with:

Murder, She Wrote was on for a long time. Twelve seasons, 264 episodes, four TV movies: that’s a lot of dead bodies, a lot of murderers, a lot of witnesses, a lot of innocent bystanders and jilted lovers and wrongly accused rivals. And a lot of special guests to play them.

Some were familiar stars in the twilight of distinguished careers. Others were young nobodies who would someday be somebodies. Because I am a ridiculous man, I’ve made fake trading cards honoring 16 of the all-time greatest.

Collect ‘em all!



Many more ‘Murder, She Wrote’ guest star trading cards, after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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