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The Ramones on the Jerry Lewis Telethon
05:57 pm


The Ramones

Well here’s something kind of strange and wonderful: The Ramones playing on the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon in September of 1989. The choice of songs couldn’t be more appropriate: “I Believe In Miracles” and “I Wanna Be Sedated.” This was C.J.‘s debut gig with the band and it must have been a particularly surreal initiation for the newly adopted Ramone.

This was aired on WWOR-TV in New York City.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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‘Lose your mind and play’ Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd ‘live’ on TOTP, 1967

I type this as someone who has (perhaps obsessively) gone out of his way—for decades now—acquiring Pink Floyd bootlegs. I couldn’t get enough of them, always trading up in quality if possible. There was always an endless supply of them, with “new” ones popping up constantly. It was a disease like stamp collecting. I even paid a hundred bucks for one that I just had to have…

Since YouTube launched in 2005, of course, there’s been so much additional Pink Floyd goodness making its way to the public—an avalanche really—which is the only way to explain how THIS ONE got past me in the Floydian deluge… I’d read a few years ago that the British Film Institute had located tapes of two of Pink Floyd’s three Top of the Pops appearances in the summer of 1967 and that the quality was a little ropey. I promptly forget about it, but that footage turned up on YouTube about a year ago, even if I just saw it myself this morning.

True the quality isn’t great—only one of the tapes was watchable apparently—but who’s going to complain about catching a rare glimpse of a still functional Syd Barrett fronting Pink Floyd on TOTP in 1967??? Before this video was located, practically the only documentation of the group’s trio of appearances on the program was the color shot used on the Syd Barrett bootleg “Unforgotten Hero” as seen above.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Breaking Bad,’ the Opera
07:56 am


Breaking Bad

Just a couple nights ago, Breaking Bad beat out True Detective, Mad Men, and Game of Thrones to win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series for the second year in a row. Breaking Bad had a great night, picking up three acting awards and a writing award as well. The glorious and gut-wrenching fifth and final season, which came to an end last September 29, was an authentic cultural phenomenon, which the pile of Emmys merely confirmed.

One relatively unexpected product of Season 5 is an actual operatic adaptation of Breaking Bad. The composer, Sung Jin Hong, also the artistic director of One World Symphony, was so inspired by the series that he wrote the entirety of “Breaking Bad—Ozymandias” in the four or so months between the end of the series and its premiere in New York on January 26, 2014. “Ozymandias” is the title of the 14th episode of Season 5, and is a reference to Percy Bysshe Shelley’s 1818 sonnet of the same name, which touches on the fleeting nature of empire.

Sung Jin Hong was urged by his sister to watch “the best show ever” (she’s certainly not alone in this judgment), and before he knew it, the show had become “an addiction.” As Sung Jin Hong says, “The eureka moment probably occurred after I explored and exhausted many possibilities. I had been sketching for almost a month and had not committed to a motif or rhythm. After a long morning run in early November in Prospect Park, I felt as if I could hear my heart beating. I immediately committed to elaborating on what has become the Heisenberg chord and his rhythmic heartbeat in my composition.”

As with the series itself, one of the more attention-getting aspects of the opera has been the character Jesse Pinkman’s propensity for using the word bitch in conversation. “Breaking Bad—Ozymandias” features a “Bitch Aria” that requires significant audience participation (see video below). The opera was performed twice on January 26 & 27, 2014, at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea in Manhattan. The two performances required the use of folding chairs to accommodate demand, and the reviews appear to have been very positive.

On this page are two snippets of songs from the opera in a format that we unfortunately cannot embed here. The first song is called “The Moment,” and was inspired by “Fly,” episode 10 of Season 3. Here are a few lines from it:

That was the moment
that night
I should have never left home
Maybe things would have…
I was at home watching tv
Skyler and Holly were in another room
She was singing a lullaby
If I had just lived right up to that moment and not one second more
That would have been perfect

Soprano Dorothy Smith Jacobs, who played the part of Jane, Jesse’s drug-addicted friend from Season 2, said, “I think there is a need for operas to be 2014 scandalous, not 18th-century scandalous, while never ever sacrificing musical integrity.”

Perhaps emboldened by the success of “Breaking Bad—Ozymandias,” Sung Jin Hong has chosen as the inspiration for his next work another televised embodiment of pure evil: Hannibal Lecter.

“Bitch Aria”

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The ‘Fawlty Towers’ hotel meticulously recreated in LEGO
10:08 am


Fawlty Towers

One of the funniest and most enduring sitcoms ever made continues to have inspire fans almost 40 years after it was first broadcast.

Nathan Feist has painstakingly recreated the famous Fawlty Towers hotel out of LEGO. He included such precise details as the reception desk, the broken-antlered moose head, the fire extinguisher and even the design of the lobby’s tiling.

Originally Feist had planned to build the set of Number 6’s apartment from The Prisoner or the combat information center from Battlestar Galactica but, as these had either been built or the LEGO parts were not available, opted instead for the Fawlty Towers set.

Nathan’s incredible homage was exhibited at BrickFair Virginia–-an annual LEGO convention—held in July and August.
If you’re a fan of Fawlty Towers or even all things LEGO, then you might enjoy this little tribute video from a few years back.

H/T The Poke and Metro

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Men of Crisis’: Woody Allen’s 1972 PBS ‘mockumentary’ that was cancelled for political reasons

By the time Woody Allen made “Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story” in 1971/72, messing with found footage as well as the documentary form had become old hat for the restlessly experimental moviemaker. After all, his feature-length experiment of fusing new dialogue to existing footage, What’s Up, Tiger Lily? has been released several years earlier, in 1966. His first faux documentary (and one of the first “mockumentaries” in cinema history), Take the Money and Run, had come out in 1969.

“Men of Crisis” seems more than a little perfunctory. Wallinger is clearly a substitute for Henry Kissinger, but there’s really nothing about the Kissinger-Nixon relationship (as it was perceived in 1971) that was all that funny; the humor lies in the notion of Woody being “the second most powerful man in America.” The movie was supposed to be an hour long, but the final product delivered by Woody ran only 25 minutes long. Clearly the subject of the reprehensible Nixon presidency (pre-Watergate, of course) did not really animate Woody. The movie feels a lot like an extended sketch from HBO’s “Not Necessarily the News” in the 1980s, which usually juxtaposed perfectly normal footage of e.g. Ronald Reagan with concocted footage to produce a ridiculous effect. One thing that makes “Men in Crisis” noteworthy is that it marks the first occasion Woody Allen and Diane Keaton worked together on a movie. Keaton plays Wallinger’s ex-wife, “Renata Baldwin, who attends Vassar College, where she studies to be a blacksmith.” (As a Vassar alum, I’m pretty fond of this joke.)

Richard Nixon had a knack for annoying liberal elites that was very similar to that of George W. Bush. Woody Allen was never the most political of artists; even when dealing with politics, such as in “Men of Crisis” or Bananas, the essentially surrealist nature of his humor tends to run roughshod over any particular satire. One gets the feeling, watching “Men of Crisis,” that Woody has contempt for Nixon mainly because he’s not highbrow enough (witness the gag about Nixon and Agnew knowing “almost” all of the numbers from 1 to 10).

PBS was worried about running the program, they were right to be. After all, the Nixon administration was so famously thin-skinned that Nixon personally exerted pressure on Jack L. Warner to remove the song “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men” from the movie 1776 because it seemed to poke fun at conservatives. (You can watch the musical number on recent reissues of the movie; it seems pretty harmless.)

If nothing else, the cancellation of “Men of Crisis” had the effect of cementing Woody’s determination to work in feature movies, where outside interference could be minimized. He said afterwards that the incident had reinforced his preference to “stick to movies.” According to The Vanishing Vision: The Inside Story of Public Television by James Day, the cancellation of “Men of Crisis” went down as follows:

The politically charged atmosphere of the early seventies should have warned those of us at NET that the times were hardly propitious for political satire—and certainly not on the public medium. But so eager were we to bring an element of lightness, a laugh or two, to public television’s overarching solemnity that we unhesitatingly accepted Woody Allen’s offer in late 1971 to produce a special. We didn’t even pull back after learning that he intended to use the show to satirize the Nixon White House. Allen approached us after having produced two prime-time specials for the commercial networks, fully expecting the public medium to give him greater artistic license to write and perform the kind of humor for which he is justly celebrated. He was wrong.

…. In the opinion of the PBS legal staff, the Woody Allen show “presents fairness problems … personal attack, equal time and taste problems,” a solid guarantee that no public station in the country would risk airing it. Except, of course, our own WNET.

What I and a brace of our attorneys screened with nervous interest was a mock documentary, Men of Crisis, that mimicked the style of the old March of Time, in which authentic news footage was combined with dramatic elements, a technique Allen later perfected in his feature film Zelig. The original hour-long script had been trimmed to the twenty-five-minute “documentary,” and the balance of the hour had been filled by an interview with Allen on the nature of comedy. Men of Crisis managed not only to lampoon the Nixon White House but to needle both the president’s foes (Humphrey and Wallace) as well as his friends (Agnew, Hoover, Laird, and Mitchell). Allen himself played the fictional Harvey Wallinger, high-living confidant and counselor to the president, whose resemblance to National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger was more than coincidental. As might be expected, the show included moments of questionable taste. Allen explained that “it is hard to do anything about the Administration that wouldn’t be in bad taste.”

I withdrew the show after the screening, hoping to find a broader context to make Men of Crisis acceptable to the system, perhaps by marrying it with other satiricial pieces that took aim with prudent impartiality at a broader range of political icons.


Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy’: Regrettable TV movie about Robin Williams’ big break
08:54 am

Pop Culture

Robin Williams
Mork & Mindy

In the mid-2000s NBC must have been noticing the ridiculously stiff competition coming from HBO in the form of The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and The Wire, because at some point the traditional networks (that’s CBS, NBC, ABC, and I guess maybe Fox, for younger readers) started to give up altogether. One sign of this was that the networks started casting, filming, and broadcasting docudramas about famous sitcoms from the 1970s. On May 5, 2003, NBC ran a movie that I would assume was a successful venture called Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of ‘Three’s Company’ with Brian Dennehy as ABC executive Fred Silverman. It couldn’t be clearer that this represented the ultimate cannibalizing strategy of a dying entertainment ecosystem. Right?

I remember watching that Three’s Company movie, which was, well, a disappointment. Two years later, April 4, 2005, NBC went for the gusto all over again, with Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of ‘Mork & Mindy’. I don’t remember this one. Playing the impossible-to-portray Robin Williams is Chris Diamantopoulos, who is probably best known for portraying Moe in the recent Three Stooges full-length feature by the Farrelly Brothers (I also saw him recently on an episode of Hannibal). That Diamantopoulos makes a young Robin Williams moderately watchable is something akin to a miracle, if you think about it. So it must be conceded that Diamantopoulos did a very good job. Playing Garry Marshall is Daniel Roebuck, best known to me as the guy who played Jay Leno in the 1996 HBO movie The Late Shift, a project superficially similar to this Mork & Mindy thing. Roebuck had a recurring role on Lost and weirdly, that Three’s Company movie too.

“Henry Winkler,” “Garry Marshall,” and “Penny Marshall”—of course
I should be up-front with the fact that this is not a good movie, but it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why. The main actors are fine (Erinn Hayes also does a fine job as Pam Dawber), but the action of the movie is uninteresting and unconvincing, that’s the main thing. Whereas that Three’s Company movie at least had “drama” in the Jersey Shore sense of the word, The Unauthorized Story of ‘Mork & Mindy’ does not. We hear a lot about shocked censors (!) and cocaine (!!) and extra-marital sex (!!!), but the main plot emphasizes the efforts of the executives (that cannibalizing thing again) to tinker with what was obviously a very effective formula ... sorry, I actually fell asleep while writing that sentence, there. For no real reason they hired actors to play Richard Pryor and John Belushi, for whatever that’s worth.

All in all, this is the kind of movie that cries out for the razzle-dazzle of a Bob Balaban.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Dame Edna’s alter ego: Sir Les Patterson and the Chinese Year of the Trouser Snake
07:58 am

Pop Culture

Barry Humphries

The “Aussie Ubu

The legendary Australian comedian Barry Humphries is a satirist whose subject is the monstrosity of decent middle-class people. Though I love his most famous character, Dame Edna, my favorite will always be the superlatively obscene Sir Les Patterson, who claims to be Australia’s cultural attaché to the Far East. From his loose, drooling grin to his loud, puke-stained clothes, everything about Les is repulsive. 

John Lahr’s page-turner, Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilization: Backstage With Barry Humphries, devotes a chapter (‘Sir Les Patterson and the Chinese Year of the Trouser Snake’) to the character. Here’s how we meet him:

Sir Les bursts the seams of the real. He is a rollicking, tumescent theatrical creation whom Humphries has described as ‘on a sort of bacchic trip’. His cock, a pendulous eight inches of padded cotton, dangles beneath Humphries’ upholstered belly to his knees, making Humphries look for all the world like an Aussie Ubu. [...] Sir Les’s record Twelve Inches of Les and his book The Traveller’s Tool all draw attention to his most salient anatomical feature, which he refers to variously as ‘the pyjama python’, ‘the one-eyed trouser snake’, ‘my not-infrequently-felt-tip’, and ‘the enormous encumbancy which I’m holding down at the moment’.


Channel 4’s 1991 special A Late Lunch with Les
Sir Les has never appeared on stage or screen in the United States; Humphries, who announced his retirement in 2012 and is currently giving a farewell tour, seems to think the character wouldn’t play well here. Though Les appeared at the farewell shows in Europe, it looks like he’ll be absent from the tour’s US dates, which is too bad for us. (Of course, that doesn’t mean you should pass up your last chance ever to see Humphries live, which is the way to see him—his gift for spontaneous comedic creation is unrivaled.)

Sir Les Patterson live in 1988

His career started with Dada. In 1952, when he was a student at Melbourne University, Humphries put on “the first Pan-Australian Dada Exhibition.” Among his works on display were packages of a fictitious platypus poison (“PLATITOX”), a pair of Wellingtons filled with custard (“Pus and Boots”), and an image of Queen Elizabeth II with stubble (“Her Majesty’s Male”). Other pieces were made out of cake, lambs’ eyes, shoes, and tomato sauce.

From there, Humphries moved on to disruptions of everyday life. These were not performed for an audience or documented in any way, just carried out like acts of terror. Lahr describes one such action:

In one notorious escapade, Humphries had his accomplice, John Perry, dress as a blind man and take a seat in a non-smoking compartment of a Melbourne commuter train. Perry had dark glasses, his leg in a cast and was reading from a piano roll that looked as if it was braille. Humphries entered the compartment and began to smoke. He was dressed garishly and reading a foreign newspaper. Later, as he got up to exit, he unleashed a barrage of foreign-sounding gibberish, grabbing the ‘braille’ and tearing it, kicking at the ‘blind man’s’ leg, throwing his spectacles to the floor and leaving. ‘Commuters were invariably transfixed in horror,’ Humphries says. ‘No one ever pursued me. Mind you, I ran as fast as I could. People tried to comfort John Perry. He would always say, “Forgive him.” It was also very funny to do, and very hard not to laugh. It’s a bit hard to say what effect the stunt was meant to have, since it was meant to amuse us, a kind of outrageous public act.’

And another:

Later, Humphries would get himself banned temporarily from Qantas flights for tipping a tin of Russian salad into a sick bag, loudly feigning illness, and then eating his ‘vomit’. ‘If an air hostess sees you,’ he said, ‘it can produce what I call the Chain Chunder. Five minutes later the pilot is throwing up.’


Sir Les’s autograph
In his official capacity as cultural attaché to the Far East, Patterson reported on the 1997 return of Hong Kong to China for the BBC. He approached the story with the cultural sensitivity for which he is famous.

More of Sir Les after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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The Standells rock with Bing Crosby, 1965
06:20 am

Pop Culture

Bing Crosby

There’s a TV law of nature that describes a very nearly universal tendency in sitcoms: if a show stars a performer already well known from an entertainment industry sector other than television, and the main character’s first name is the same as the performer’s, and that shared name is not “Bob” or “Lucy,” odds are extremely high that the show will fall somewhere between unrelentingly bland and totally unwatchable.

So did you even know Bing Crosby had an eponymous domestic sitcom for two years in the ‘60s? Despite his extremely high stature as a widely beloved singer and movie star, his completely unexceptional show was apparently no one’s favorite. Crosby played Bing Collins (there’s your red flag), a former singer who gave up the limelight to teach at a small college. His wife hated campus life and craved a return to showbiz glitz. They had two daughters, an airhead and an egghead. I got bored witless just typing that—care to sit through a few episodes? I think I’m safe in guessing not. In fact, while Der Bingle’s feature films and Christmas specials are readily available on DVD, I’m unable to find evidence that his sitcom was ever anthologized for home video in any format.

But just as bright children can be born to dull parents, even this puddle of middling televisual goo begat a moment worth preserving. In the aftermath of the Beatlemania bankability exploison, when countless also-ran bands could land on TV simply because anyone with guitars and shaggy hair would do, The Bing Crosby Show aired an episode guest starring the godfathers of garage rock, the Standells. Before they became known for their seminal single “Dirty Water,” that band made a fair few TV appearances, including on The Munsters and the medical drama Ben Casey. On Bing, they portray the Love Bugs, a not-trying-very-hard counterfeit of the Beatles. (That sort of thing was even more blatant in their Munsters appearance—they actually played “I Want to Hold Your Hand!”) Girls scream. Teenagers frug. Parents don’t quite get it. Blah blah blah. It’s worth it for the mimed performances of early tunes like “Come Here,” the inspired “Someday You’ll Cry,” and a take on the oft-covered Leiber/Stoller classic “Kansas City” with an amusing vocal turn by Crosby—it’s almost enough to make you forget what a twisted child abuser he was! Luckily, the YouTube user who posted this cut out most of the dismal sitcom crap in-between the tunes.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Vintage MTV: ‘Punks and Poseurs: A Journey Through the Los Angeles Underground’
09:29 am

Pop Culture

The Dickies

This kid.

Knowing firsthand that MTV didn’t always totally suck asswater really dates you. When I have occasion to mention how, once upon a time, that justly-reviled network actually played some seriously cool shit, I half wonder if I’m coming off like my grandma used to when she talked about the Great Depression. But it’s true, even before long-running bones thrown to the weirdos like 120 Minutes and Headbanger’s Ball found their footing, MTV broadcast stuff like IRS’ The Cutting Edge and Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes, which often rivaled even the USA Network’s mighty Night Flight for genuinely informative freak-scene value.

One jaw-droppingly excellent MTV show was the one-off special Punks and Poseurs: A Journey Through the Los Angeles Underground. A big mover behind its production was Charles M. Young, who, as sad fate would have it, passed away this week after a standoff with a brain tumor. He’s the guy at the beginning of the video, speaking with early VJ Alan Hunter, and while he looks for all the world like an unreconstructed Little River Band fan, don’t be faked out by appearances. Young was one of the first mainstream music journalists to take punk’s aesthetic merit as a given, and for that, we owe him a debt of gratitude. May he rest in peace.

At its core, “Punks and Poseurs” is a narration-free concert film, but it’s cut with terrific interview footage that explores the changing nature of punk, from insider and outsider perspectives. There’s a lot of great footage with writer/performers Pleasant Gehman and Iris Berry, torpedoing the influx into the music scene of neophyte phonies who just didn’t get it, explaining title of the program. (After this first aired in 1985, a bunch of the new waver/Durannie chicks at my high school—which is to say all the girls who were trying their suburban Ohio best to look like Gehman and Berry—started calling everyone “poseurs,” which was pretty funny.) There’s also a hilarious interview with employees at a store called “Poseur,” which sold punk fashions and accessories—people had to get that shit somewhere before Hot Topic forever banished punk to the mall, no?  Also keep an eye out for the kid giving a primer on how to fashion liberty spikes with Knox gelatine.

The performance footage mostly focuses on excellent, high-energy sets by The Dickies and GBH —the latter of whom were quite radical by MTV’s regular programming standards (and British, contra the program’s subtitle, but the concert took place in L.A., so whatever, I guess). There’s also an early glimpse of the excellent and still active Italian hardcore band Raw Power. I harbor serious doubts they’ve ever been spotted on that network again.

Many thanks to upstanding journalist and total fucking poseur Mr. Erick Bradshaw for this find.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
‘Way USA’: Sleazy punk comedy travelogue is the greatest cult video you’ve probably never seen
The time Ian McKellen jammed with the Fleshtones on MTV in 1987
Debbie Harry, Ramones, Nick Rhodes, Courtney Love and more on MTV’s ‘Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes’

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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‘Twin Peaks’ opening credits in glorious 8-bit
11:19 am


Twin Peaks

The tireless folks over at Welcome to Twin Peaks inform me that a Twin Peaks video game was rumored to be on the table in the early nineties, but never came to fruition. It’s never too late to live your dreams, however, as evidenced by both the recently designed (and free!) Atari-style Twin Peaks game, and by this 8-bit intro of the iconic Twin Peaks opening credits, complete with chiptune Angelo Badalamenti!

The attention to detail is exquisite! Now, could we get a chiptune “Dance of the Dream Man,” maybe with a dancing, 8-bit Michael J. Anderson?

Via Welcome to Twin Peaks

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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