French artist Julien Knez has whipped up a handful of delightful VHS covers for popular post-DVD-era TV series and movies like The Walking Dead or The Wolf of Wall Street. Anyone who was around in the early 1980s, when VHS tapes were first widely introduced to the market and cable TV dramatically expanded its audience will remember cheesy-ass covers just like these.
On his Instagram feed Timeless VHS, Knez has uploaded several of the lovingly re-created what-if VHS covers. As evidenced by the bottom picture in this post, Knez actually made these in real life, rather than just as Photoshop mockups. Unfortunately, he’s only done nine of the gorgeous covers, and hasn’t uploaded any since early April. We’d love to see more!
Knez has done a truly remarkable job recreating the “magic” of a bulky, plastic VHS cassette cover that spent most of its time on a shelf in a store with a name like “Super Video Palace.” VHS distribution was a pretty bottom-up business (Hollywood had initially regarded home video as a threat to its movie theater business, and only belatedly embraced VHS as a second, thriving channel of distribution), and the puzzling array of companies represented in these covers (“Regal Video, Inc.”) is a spot-on evocation of the wild and woolly world of home video during that era.
A generous and kind soul uploaded all 25 episodes of New Wave Theatre the incredible local TV show that extensively covered the Los Angeles punk scene. The show ran from January 1981 to March 1983, and was abruptly stopped in its tracks when its host, Peter Ivers, was found beaten to death in his apartment. Within a few months of its premiere, the crucial USA Network program that aired late at night on Fridays and Saturdays, Night Flight, provided a national showcase for the show.
The show was created and produced by David Jove, who also wrote the program with Billboard magazine editor Ed Ochs. Ivers’s murder is officially unsolved, but according to this page the prime suspect for the crime was Jove.
Ivers was a very interesting guy—among other things he wrote “In Heaven (The Lady in the Radiator Song),” which appears in David Lynch’s 1977 movie Eraserhead and many years later was covered by the Pixies. Among the bands that appeared on New Wave Theatre are the Angry Samoans, Dead Kennedys, 45 Grave, Fear and The Plugz, X, and Circle Jerks.
In Josh Frank’s book In Heaven Everything is Fine, Ken Yas, a friend of David Jove, memorably called New Wave Theatre “Ed Sullivan on acid meets American Idol on cocaine.”
Here’s the series in its entirety. Enjoy it before someone yanks it off of YouTube!
When streaming players boast about their huge numbers of channels, I’m generally even less impressed than I am by the “wealth” of offerings on the grossly overpriced wasteland that is cable TV. I have absolutely no use for thousands of impossibly granular channels like The Christian Comedy Channel, Firewood Hoarders, NRA Women, and Cruise Addicts. Those are all real. But in their favor, I don’t have to pay $75 a month to not watch them.
But sometimes, that nanoscopic specificity does pay weirdness dividends. The Shout Factory channel proffered by the music/video label of the same name holds some treasures, as do the handful of channels that compile old cartoons that have passed into the public domain. And not so long ago, I ran across a channel, called Stop It Or You’ll Go Blind!, devoted exclusively to old sex ed films, with some “educational” exploitation thrown in. (Why is “Sex Ed-sploitation” not a term? It’s a thing, it needs a word…)
Unsurprisingly, a lot of these are a riot. There’s “Miracles in Birth,” a graphic depiction of live births shot in grainy black and white so blown-out it looks less like a miracle and more like outtakes from Begotten. There’s “Dance Little Children,” a creepy VD scare flick directed by Carnival of Souls auteur Herk Harvey, which teaches us all a valuable lesson about not letting slimy rich dudes boink us on the first date. The 1938 Sex Madness, Dwain Esper’s follow-up to Reefer Madness is streaming, as is the bizarre Test Tube Babies, a tale of swinging and sterility. And the ‘60s classic “Perversion for Profit” is there, the notorious and INSANE 30 minute anti-indecency screed in which L.A. newsreader/talk show host (and, later, NewsMax columnist *shudder*) George Putnam blames pornographers for everything from juvenile crime to child molestation. The brilliant thing about “P4P” is that if anyone actually held on to even half of the smut rags displayed for *ahem* viewer edification, they could be an eBay millionaire today.
As I write this, Showtime and David Lynch have been going back and forth on the possibility of new episodes of Twin Peaks, the strikingly original TV show that aired on ABC in 1990 and 1991, setting a new bar (that has never really been surpassed) for brazenly experimental programming in an utterly mainstream context. A month ago Lynch made it known that “not enough money was offered to do the script the way I felt it needed to be done.” However, Twin Peaks fans rejoiced when Lynch tweeted the following message last week:
Dear Twitter Friends, the rumors are not what they seem ..... It is !!!
Happening again. #TwinPeaks returns on @SHO_Network
A new web project called And The World Was Paper is dedicated to the task of recreating bits of famous video using nothing but artfully cut-up pieces of colorful paper (somewhat like South Park). There are only two videos up at this point, but weekly installments have been promised, with new episodes on the way “every other Monday.” One video re-creates the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the other is the Twin Peaks title sequence.
I must say, this is very nicely done. It took some creative positioning of my browser windows, but I was able to watch the cut-paper version and the real version side by side, and it’s uncanny how perfectly the homage matches the original.
It never occurred to me before how much of the title sequence is just footage of things happening in factories.
David Letterman’s last show is tonight and so I thought it would be a good time to post a musical highlight from the hundreds, if not thousands of bands that have performed on his show. I searched the ‘net for awhile and found plenty of memorable performance I could I have linked to for your enjoyment. But thanks to The Gothamist, I came across something altogether different than what I set out looking for: a band described—by one of its own members—as “the worst to ever air on the show.” We’re talking about Guns N’ Roses cover band… Mr. Brownstone.
Dave Godowsky (Izzy Stradlin in the group) writes quite candidly and hilariously of what it was like to make a complete fool of himself on late night TV on November 19th, 2008:
I remember taking a shot of whiskey while being escorted to perform on the stage of The Late Show with David Letterman, and a hair from my wig was stuck in my mouth. Having a hair stuck in your mouth is gross and annoying, but the combination of A) wig hair and B) an impending audience of millions can exacerbate that. I plugged in my guitar but no sound would come out of the amp, the production crew was scrambling. I looked up desperately and saw Paul Shaffer just staring at me, confused. In hindsight his confusion was probably less about my inability to turn on an amp and more about why the hell a Guns N’ Roses cover band was playing there.
You can read the rest of Godowksy’s foggy recollections of that historic night at The Gothamist. It’s a blast.
It’ll be hard for me to imagine life without David Letterman on the tube. He’s been on late night TV since 1982, and as someone who was a tween during that era I’ve been watching him since probably 1984 or so. In high school he was one of my main heroes, and a lot of what I think I know or appreciate about comedy can be traced back to obsessive late night viewings of Brother Theodore, Pee-wee Herman, Marv Albert, Chris Elliott, Harvey Pekar, Biff Henderson, et al. on the kooky public/secret clubhouse he had going on NBC for quite a while there. At the risk of editorializing, I have found Dave’s CBS show far less essential, to the point that I don’t even really care that much that he’s retiring; the turning point in that process may actually have been the institutionalization of the top ten list, which started out as just another random segment, just like viewer mail. The problem besetting his show post-1988, say, is the same syndrome that has happened to the rest of the late night talk spectrum, which is that watching ultra-prepped actors winkingly play beer pong with Jimmy Fallon (or whomever) has basically no relation to the truly unscripted, fairly snide, and attitudinally aggressive antics that used to occur around 1 a.m. most weeknights during the 1980s.
After Late Night with David Letterman had been around a year or two, a lot of savvier people began referencing it. It felt during this time like renegade entertainment, an unusual commodity that was obscurely about the entertainment industry if not quite of it, and therefore it became a kind of a trope, if you could work “David Letterman” into your story you added a slight buzz of disposable knowingness, much like referencing some of the guests he had on (Pee-wee etc.). In effect, Letterman became a kind of punchline for the smarter set. The idea of John McEnroe or Charlie Brown or Tootsie or Hulk Hogan visiting Letterman’s NBC was a joke in and of itself.
Case in point, issue 239 of the Avengers from Marvel, the January 1984 issue, which trumpeted on its cover, “THE AVENGERS ON LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN!” See? It was mildly ridiculous, as everything that appeared on Late Night was mildly ridiculous.
In the issue, aspiring actor Simon Williams (a.k.a. Wonder Man) gets booked on Late Night, whose producers request a larger cast of Avengers to appear. A few of the reserve Avengers join Wonder Man on the show, not knowing that serial pest Fabian Stankowicz seeks to sabotage their appearance by planting various booby-traps around the set. Eventually Letterman konks Stankowicz on the head with a giant doorknob.
Here are a few images from the issue—if you click on them, you’ll get to see a slightly larger version.
The climactic scene in last night’s Mad Men occurred at an unnamed (at least that I heard—a big deal is made in the episode that nobody in the narrative knows where it is, etc.) yoga retreat on the California coast. The year is 1970, and anyone who knows the area will recognize the terrain as Big Sur, while Don’s yoga retreat was clearly the Esalen Institute.
In the show the retreat is presented as a semi-joke (paunchy Upright Citizens Brigade Theater standout Brett Gelman is on hand to provide the requisite loser/poseur quotient), but its real-life model wasn’t, indeed isn’t, much like that. SFist usefully helps with some of the background of Big Sur and Esalen as well as of the episode. Last year Monterey County Weekly reported that the Mad Men crew had been spotted at Big Sur to get some footage. The institute was founded in 1962, the same year that Jack Kerouac published Big Sur, his novelistic treatment of the area.
The people who have visited Esalen over the years is a lot more “counterculture pantheon” than “Brett Gelman”—examples include Abraham Maslow, Buckminster Fuller, Ansel Adams, Ray Bradbury, Ken Kesey, Joan Baez, Bonnie Raitt, Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. One resident closely associated with Big Sur is Henry Miller, who famously lived there for a time. Of course, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner is perfectly within his rights to gently make fun of the place, and truth be told, the retreat is presented as a prod for authentic change, even for the likes of a damaged soul like Don Draper. (Burnt out businessmen seeking to regroup were a mainstay of Esalen’s visitors at the time, this much, too, is historically accurate.)
Remarkably, you can still attend the Esalen Institute: It is still in existence as a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, and weekend workshops have a minimum price of $1,750, covering subjects from mindfulness to permaculture and ecological sustainability. Even more incredibly, if you can get a larger group together (like 25 people), you can experience the marvelous hot springs at the convenient slot of 1-3 a.m. at a much more affordable price (about $30 per person).
There was an annual music festival on the grounds of the Esalen Institute from 1964 to 1971—the 1969 concert was turned into a documentary movie called Celebration at Big Sur, which was released in 1971. The movie featured performances by CSNY, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, John Sebastian, and Mimi Fariña. You can watch it below.
Michael O’Donoghue, AKA Mr. Mike, the demented head writer and performer from the “original cast” era of Saturday Night Live (back when it was simply known as Saturday Night) was the man who made comedy dangerous. His writing was feral, sharp, blasphemous, morbid, sardonic and taboo-breaking. It was O’Donoghue seated in a chair reading a newspaper who viewers first saw in the very first cold-opening of that long-running show. He was often seen on SNL doing imitations of famous showbiz personalities (nice-guy talk show host Mike Douglas, singer Tony Orlando) after they’d had six-inch metal spikes shoved into their eyes, and telling his creepy “Least Loved Bedtime Tales” (Sample title: “The Little Train That Died”).
Before SNL, O’Donoghue had a celebrated tenure at National Lampoon, where he co-wrote (with Tony Hendra) the classic Radio Dinner comedy album and published things like “The Vietnamese Baby Book” and “The Churchill Wit,” a portion from which is quoted below:
Churchill was known to drain a glass or two and, after one particularly convivial evening, he chanced to encounter Miss Bessie Braddock, a Socialist member of the House of Commons, who, upon seeing his condition, said, “Winston, you’re drunk.” Mustering all his dignity, Churchill drew himself up to his full height, cocked an eyebrow and rejoined, “Shove it up your ass, you ugly cunt.”
When the noted playwright George Bernard Shaw sent him two tickets to the opening night of his new play with a note that read: “Bring a friend, if you have one,” Churchill, not to be outdone, promptly wired back: “You and your play can go fuck yourselves.”
At an elegant dinner party, Lady Astor once leaned across the table to remark, “If you were my husband, Winston, I’d poison your coffee.”
“And if you were my wife, I’d beat the shit out of you,” came Churchill’s unhesitating retort.
You get the idea. I recall falling out of my chair laughing, when I first read this. In my defense, I was probably ten or eleven years old.
Mr. Mike and “friend”
In 1979 O’Donoghue directed Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video (the title, logo and theme music—even the overall loose format—was meant to conjure up Prosperi and Jacopetti’s notorious Mondo Cane documentary). It was originally made for NBC to air as a “special” during one of Saturday Night‘s hiatuses, but when the network brass actually saw it they blanched and shelved it. Eventually it was licensed by New Line Cinema, who transferred it to 35mm film and added some “Mr. Bill” segments to pad out the running time for theatrical release of “the TV show you can’t see on TV!”
Admittedly, after hearing about this legendary film and wanting to see it for years, I saw Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video when it was released on VHS in the 80s and aside from a few very good laughs, I was generally pretty disappointed. Comedy often ages poorly, but in actual fact, I don’t really think Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video was all that funny to begin with. It’s interesting because of what it is and who is involved (Tom Schiller, O’Donoghue’s writing partner Mitch Glazer, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, Bill Murray, Don “Father Guido Sarducci” Novello, Gilda Radner, Carrie Fisher, Root Boy Slim, Margot Kidder, Teri Garr, Paul Shaffer, Debbie Harry). It’s an odd curio with some odd stuff in it (Dan Aykroyd probing his (actual) webbed toes with a screwdriver and declaring “I am proud to say that I am an actual genetic mutant”; an appearance by Klaus Nomi; Sid Vicious performing “My Way”; Jo Jo the Human Hot Plate, etc.) but it’s just not… that funny for the most part.
Nevertheless, take a gander at certainly one of the strangest things ever produced with the intention/assumption that a TV network would air it and try to imagine what NBC’s execs were thinking when they watched this for the first time.
Here’s something I thought I’d never see: Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny singing a duet of Neil Young’s “Helpless” at The Cutting Room in New York. This all went down last night. Apparently Duchovny just released his first solo album titled Hell Or Highwater. You learn something new every day, I guess. I haven’t researched the reviews, or heard it, so I can’t tell you if it’s any good or not. BUT that’s beside the point, IT’S DANA SCULLY AND FOX MULDER SINGING A NEIL YOUNG SONG!
And as every X-Files fan knows by now, the show is going to return to FOX as a six-episode event series which is set to premiere on Sunday, January 24, 2016. All is good in the world.
Here’s a little something that will likely make your day; an incredibly life-like, fully accessorized 1/4 scale version of actor Rowan Atkinson as master mumbler and chronic bumbler, Mr. Bean.
Part of the HD Masterpiece Collection for Enterbay, Mr. Bean comes with many of his belongings that you will surely recognize from his television show. Among them are the steering wheel from “The Trouble with Mr. Bean” (season one, episode five), the white underpants from “Tee Off, Mr. Bean” (season one, episode twelve), an extra head for the figure fitted with the turkey from “Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean” (season one, episode seven), and of course TEDDY. In my estimation, and perhaps yours, the only thing missing from this to-die-for collectable is Mr. Bean’s yellow 1976 Leyland Mini 1000.
As you might imagine, you won’t find this fully-articulated version of Mr. Bean slumming around with other action figures at your local toy shop. Available through Enterbay’s online store (and other places such as eBay), the figure comes with a price tag that only serious collectors would consider throwing down for, a cool $422.
More fantastic images that are so detailed it’s a bit uncanny, after the jump…