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Groucho Marx roasts Johnny Carson, 1968
04.21.2015
08:25 am

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Television

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Groucho Marx “honors” Johnny Carson at his Friars’ Club roast, broadcast on The Kraft Music Hall program on October 23, 1968. Six years prior (October 1, 1962), Marx introduced Carson on his very first Tonight Show.

Others there to “honor” the talk show king were Don Rickles, New York’s then-mayor John Lindsay, Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen, Dick Cavett and host Alan King.
 

 
Carson gets roasted by Dean Martin, Redd Foxx, Truman Capote and many others after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
John Belushi, Christopher Guest & Chevy Chase parody Woodstock in National Lampoon’s ‘Lemmings’
04.20.2015
01:16 pm

Topics:
Music
Pop Culture
Television

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“Long hair… Short hair… What’s the difference once the head’s blown off?”

A while back I was adding things to the Netflix queue, when I noticed, to my surprise and delight, that there was a video document of the 1973 Off Broadway production of National Lampoon’s Lemmings. Lemmings notably starred a very young John Belushi (who was 23 or 24 years old at the time), Christopher Guest (then 25), and Chevy Chase (30, with long hair). It was chiefly written by Tony Hendra (the manager in This Is Spinal Tap, who also co-directed), National Lampoon co-founder Doug Kenney (he was “Stork” in Animal House) and P.J. O’Rourke.

The first surprise was that it even existed in the first place. I’d known the record since I was a kid, but who knew there was a video of this? Well, there is and it’s fascinating, if not exactly all that funny. It’s interesting because it’s got these three great funnymen seen before they would achieve fame a few years later with SNL and also because it’s a wild period piece. If you don’t go in expecting it to be the best thing you’ve ever seen and don’t expect belly laughs (there are a few) then you’ll be able to appreciate Lemmings more on its own, slightly rumpled terms. Comedy doesn’t tend to age very well, but that’s not why you want to watch this. One strong disclaimer, though, for “younger viewers”: most of the references are going to be completely incomprehensible unless you’ve seen the Woodstock documentary.
 

 
The “plot” of Lemmings, as such, is that the audience is supposed to be present for a Thanatos-celebrating rock festival, “Woodshuck: Three Days of Peace, Music & Death.”  A Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young spoof (“Freud, Pavlov, Adler, and Jung”) sees the group singing a parody of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” (with Rhonda Coullet doing a perfect Joni Mitchell) but the lyrics have been changed to “We are lemmings”—instead of stardust—and Belushi, as the MC makes constant references and updates about members of the audience killing themselves and snuffing it (“The brown strychnine has been cut with acid.”). Near the end, as the heavy metal group “Megadeath” (yes, Megadeath) are playing, a groupie asks “Did you know that pure rock sound can kill? Isn’t that far out? So the thing to do is go over to the amp and put your head there.”
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Elvis Costello and Terry Gilliam shill for Philip K. Dick
04.20.2015
08:48 am

Topics:
Books
Science/Tech
Television

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In the days just before the dawn of the World Wide Web, those wanting to prove the relevance of Philip K. Dick’s visionary books were likely to point to the prevalence of advertising everywhere and CNN’s coverage of the first Gulf War. More than twenty years later, in a world in which drones annihilate enemies of the American state, smartphones can decode spoken instructions, Netflix can accurately predict the next movie you want to watch, and so on, it would be folly to argue that Dick’s prescience has been any less than astounding.

In A Day in the Afterlife, a 1994 hour-long documentary made for the BBC series Arena on that great fucked-up writer, director Nicola Roberts employed a clever metaphor of a fictional product called “PKD,” complete with lightning-bolt corporate logo, to help illustrate the strongly artificial, alienating, and commercialized landscape of Dick’s works. The logo pops up at unpredictable intervals throughout the movie, and there are also cheeky “commercials” featuring Elvis Costello and Terry Gilliam as well as British novelist Fay Weldon.
 

Elvis Costello: “Featuring such classics as ‘Lies, Inc.,’ ‘The Man in the High Castle,’ ‘Ubik’.....”
 
I couldn’t find much evidence that Costello is a Dick-head (aside from his appearance in this very movie), but Gilliam’s enthusiasm for Dick’s books is well documented. (Unlike Costello, Gilliam consented to contribute a few more typical talking-heads bits.) In this 2008 interview with HitFix, Gilliam discussed his high regard for Dick’s work and his plans, never realized, to adapt Dick’s little-known 1956 novel The World Jones Made (Gilliam has the title slightly wrong):
 

Terry Gilliam: I mean, like, “Brazil”... I was even more determined it had to end that way because of “Blade Runner” having betrayed me at the ending.  I felt betrayed because I loved that until the end of the film.  Now all of a sudden, the android’s going to live forever?  What the fuck are you talking about, man?  You create a world that’s very solid, and then you… that’s why Philip K. Dick is always been one of my favorite writers.  He doesn’t go where that road takes you.

HitFix: I am convinced that someone will eventually make “The Man in the High Castle.”  There is such…

Gilliam: I’m actually meeting his daughter tomorrow.

HitFix: Are you?  Are you?  That is just a phenomenal book and so ripe in terms of the way it talks about how we process reality and the way we tell ourselves stories about history.  I think now is a great time to remind people of some of the things Phillip had to say.

Gilliam: One of the things that is… there’s another one that people don’t know called “The World According to Jones.” Do you know that one?

HitFix: Mm-hmm.

Gilliam: That really fascinates me… where we’re in a world where basically everything is relative.  It can’t be black and white because there’s a more religious fundamentalism that we’re talking about.  So now everything is relative.  And then the idea that a guy comes along that can see the future, and it is not relative… that intrigues me, and I don’t know exactly how to do it.  His other books… Ubik is always fun.  But again, so much of his stuff has been stolen already and used…

 
Obviously, the HitFix interviewer, one “Drew McWeeny,” was entirely correct that The Man in the High Castle would be adapted into a movie—earlier this year Amazon Prime dropped the pilot for a forthcoming miniseries based on the book. (As an aside, it’s wonderful that Dick’s greatness has been embraced by the Library of America, which in 2009 added Dick to its slate of great American authors like Whitman, Hawthorne, and Melville.)

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Someone rammed ‘Night Court’ up Daredevil’s ass
04.17.2015
06:59 am

Topics:
Amusing
Television

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Marvel’s Daredevil only debuted on Netflix a couple of weeks ago, and it already seems poised to assume Breaking Bad levels of fan chatter and devotion—it’s got sharp writing, excellent acting, and it’s unsparingly grimy in its depictions of the underworld and its brutality, with intense and furious fight scenes that push at They Live duration. If it keeps up to the promise of its first season, I could just watch the shit out of it forever—I haven’t read superhero comics since I was probably 12, but Vincent D’Onofrio as Kingpin? God DAMN, pass the popcorn!

So I got a big laugh out of the frisson of this video that recuts Daredevil scenes to parody the affably goofy intro sequence of the ‘80s ensemble sitcom Night Court. Pretty much exactly like that video from a few years ago that perfectly transformed Kubrick’s horror classic The Shining into a heartwarming family comedy, this totally jettisons the dark feel of its source material to hilarious effect. Opportunities were missed, though—the screamingly obvious visual joke of Richard Moll’s “Bull Shannon” and Kingpin goes bafflingly unmade, but it’s still well worth 40 seconds out of your life.
 

Seriously, with this, they did NOTHING?
 

 
H/T John Kalman for this find.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Real total war has become information war’: ‘This Is Marshall McLuhan’ wild experimental NBC TV doc
04.15.2015
01:01 pm

Topics:
Media
Television
Thinkers

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In the 60s and the 70s, Marshall McLuhan, the pithy and eminently quotable Canadian philosopher of media and electronic communications occupied a rarefied niche (along with R. Buckminster Fuller) that really doesn’t seem to exist much in American culture anymore, that of the “public intellectual.” More to the point, McLuhan, who never met a TV camera he didn’t take an immediate liking to, was an intellectual celebrity.

Marshall McLuhan was once such a ubiquitous part of the media landscape that you could turn on the TV and see him hamming it up on the Today show or read Sunday funnies where cartoon characters debated his ideas. McLuhan even appeared as himself, employed as a human punchline in Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning Annie Hall. These days only someone like Slavoj Žižek has anything even close to that same sort of “smart guy” star power, but it’s difficult to imagine NBC devoting an entire hour to his work, like they did with 1967’s This Is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium Is the Massage.
 

 
An episode of the NBC Experiment in Television series, this was in fact pretty experimental stuff. A quasi-documentary cum visual essay (based on McLuhan and graphic designer Quentin Fiore’s best-selling coffee table book, The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects) it was heady and decidedly avant garde programming for middle America in 1967. Just how avant garde was it you ask? Well, it’s got Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman in it for starters. She’s not playing her cello topless here of course, but is seen wrapped in plastic. Artist Allan Kaprow, father of “the Happening” also makes an appearance. There’s a long quoted passage from John Cage and the piece is littered with Pop art trappings and evocative visuals. The producers, Ernest Pintoff and Guy Fraumeni, were obviously making a sincere effort to be forward-thinking. And it was, and is still very much a satisfying viewing experience nearly half a century later. The only thing I can think of today that would be similar in any way would be one of Adam Curtis’ films. (There’s one section where the VO discusses how all pervasive the mediasphere is on all of our lives while onscreen hands are seen kneading dough as a stand-in for our collective brains. It practically screams Adam Curtis.)

McLuhan reveals that many of the subjects he investigates are things that he in fact finds irritating and exasperating, causing him to wish to mentally “take apart” things like television and radio. It’s might seem counterintuitive to view him as a Luddite, yet here he all but describes himself that way (which makes him even more fascinating, if you ask me.)
 

 
Topics include the “causes” of go-go dancing and “the discothèque,” the passing of one style of humor in favor of one favored by younger people (Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart and Bill “My name — José Jiménez” Dana are shown as examples of the new!), how politics had become show business, why teens often seek out corporate involvement for their fashion trends, the influence of the Beatles, Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman and Pablo Picasso, how images of abundance (things as commonplace to us as refrigerators) seen worldwide via our television programs would have inevitable and far-reaching consequences in poorer nations who would perceive themselves as deprived of something which they would then aspire to.
 

The Velvet Underground and Nico make an appearance in McLuhan and Fiore’s book in this two page spread.

We hear McLuhan’s blunt musings on the Vietnam War, the first televised war, which the nation was then in the middle of. Also touched upon is how the media revolution would eliminate entire classes of jobs. That would have seemed an eerie thought at the time, a sci-fi prediction if you will, but flash forward to today and we’re living in that future.

As Tom Wolfe once asked “What…if…he…is…right?” In retrospect, McLuhan was right about practically everything! From the perch of nearly fifty years ago, he was extraordinarily prescient. His track record as a futurist is much better than… well, anyone’s, when you get right down to it.
 

 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Do you remember ‘Night Flight’?’
04.10.2015
12:38 pm

Topics:
Music
Pop Culture
Punk
Television

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This is a guest post written by Kevin C. Smith, author of Recombo DNA: The story of DEVO, or how the 60s became the 80s.

“Do you remember Night Flight?”

It’s a seemingly innocuous yet ultimately loaded question for the culturally adventurous of a certain age. For Night Flight was the sort of cultural touchstone that—if one was lucky enough to have experienced it firsthand—one is not likely to forget and can even serve as a sort of secret handshake decades later. Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre has gone so far as to claim, “I learned about punk from this cable show called Night Flight” and Richard Metzger, co-founder of this very blog, described his intentions for Dangerous Minds to the New Yorker as, “a late-night television network for heads, like Adult Swim, but different. Do you remember Night Flight in the early eighties? Something like that.”

A lot has been made of MTV’s launch on August 1, 1981, but Night Flight—appearing on the fledgling USA Network—beat them to the punch by nearly two months premiering on June 5 of the same year. Though Night Flight played its fair share of videos and music films, its scope was much broader encompassing all manner of cult films and shorts extending back over several decades. However wide-ranging its programming, though, it was always informed by a subversive, outsider sensibility. The show had no host, just a disembodied female voice accompanied by (at the time) cutting edge computer animation of the Night Flight logo (unsettlingly similar to the 80s cheese rock band Night Ranger’s own logo) flying over darkened landscapes.
 

 
The show ran every Friday and Saturday from 11PM to 7AM but actually only contained four hours of programming simply repeating the previous four hours again at 3AM. This inevitably led to hordes of teenagers making the ill-advised decision to stay awake for at least four additional hours to catch anything they missed the first time around (especially if they had the VCR cued up with a blank tape). Imagine that kind of dedication in today’s on-demand generation. Just what you would see when you tuned in was anyone’s guess. It could be a contemporary rock documentary such as the Clash’s semi autobiographical Rude Boy; Urgh! A Music War featuring performances from the Cramps, DEVO, X, Pere Ubu, and Gary Numan amongst a host of other; or Another State of Mind documenting Social Distortion and Youth Brigade’s ill-fated cross-country tour (an education in punk rock indeed). Or it could be 1938’s The Terror of Tiny Town, the world’s only musical Western with an all midget cast; cheesy Japanese tokusatsu TV show Dynaman (dubbed with completely different parody dialogue); Reefer Madness; Proctor and Bergman’s J-Men Forever! or classic 1919 German Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. There were plenty of brand new music videos (like The Residents’ “Three-Minute Movies”) as well including a segment dedicated to Britain’s Some Bizarre Records (Coil, Foetus, Einstürzende Neubauten, etc.) or the popular “Take Off” segments (how about “Take Off to Sex” featuring Duran Duran’s uncensored “Girls on Film” video?), or live in studio performances courtesy of Peter Ivers’ (originally cable access) New Wave Theatre from the likes of Fear, Circle Jerks, or Suburban Lawns.

So who, you might ask, was behind this creation? The show was the brainchild of Stuart Shapiro who had run a film distribution company which had specialized in cult films (“pretty much horror films and music films” he has said) many of which had ended up in the eccentric yet social atmospheres of midnight screenings. While the nascent cable networks offered a great deal of promise bordering on hype for expanding television’s horizons, they were yet to deliver on that promise. “At that time there was this sort of evangelistic attitude that cable was really gonna come out and be another world for alternative programming,” Shapiro recalled.

Cable television promised to reach niches previously underserved. “It was gonna be the birth of a freer reign of programming.” One key area that Shapiro saw was sorely lacking was the late night time slot. Many channels simply stopped airing content after 11 or midnight. From seeing the films he distributed performing well on the midnight movie theater circuit, Shapiro “knew that there was a culture of late-night [moviegoers] that were hungry for programming late at night on the weekends. In the beginning, the cable system was going dark late at night - there was really nothing on, so I felt it was a wonderful opportunity to try to put cool hip programming on television.” Shapiro’s business partner, Jeff Franklin, happened to have a friend at the USA Network and when they pitched their idea there they already had the bulk of their programming in Shapiro’s quirky catalog. In addition to the go ahead from the network, USA exerted no control over the pair’s programming choices. “It was the height of freedom,” Shapiro recalls. (What’s more, the network had no way to track which segments were driving the show’s overall ratings.)

Night Flight played a large part in exposing people to up and coming bands (and not just those on major labels with mainstream commercial potential) as well as the new format of the music video but they did even more by putting those videos in perspective by placing them in the larger context of underground video art. In time, of course, they would come to be seen as nothing more than advertisements selling a product. But Night Flight represented the kind of free form spirit embodied in places like college radio where ratings and revenue were not factors but trust in your favorite DJ was enough to for you to give them an hour or two of your time to see where their idiosyncratic taste would take you. It was an approach that would not last through the decade with Night Flight’s final episode airing on Saturday, December 31, 1988.

MTV’s corporate and unadventurous programming would eventually win the day and become the future (and eventual demise) of music video programming. “Discovery was the most important ingredient about Night Flight,” Shapiro would later recall. “You could come and sit down and know that you would be turned on to discover something, no matter what segment it may be.”

Night Flight Odds n’ Ends”:

 
More ‘Night Flight’ after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The all-drag version of ‘The Facts of Life’
04.10.2015
09:29 am

Topics:
Queer
Television

Tags:


 
If you’re of “a certain age” (or older), you surely remember and quite possibly even loved the show The Facts of Life, which ran on NBC for quite a while along with its somehow-related show Diff’rent Strokes.

The Oasis, on 298 11th Street in San Francisco, is a cabaret that offers “the best of gay culture and an unforgettable San Francisco nightlife experience in our 6,000 square foot venue.” At Oasis the performers have a healthy sense of pop culture: the venue’s calendar features tributes to Madonna and Beyoncé and elsewhere on the site are references to drag versions of Sex and the City, Friends, and Roseanne.

Starting April 23, and playing most Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays until May 16 is The Facts of Life Live!, which is an all-drag version of the Reagan-era sitcom staple The Facts of Life, which they identify as “the longest running sitcom of the 1980s.” (It ran from 1979 to 1988, which is very impressive.)

The Facts of Life was about four teenage girls who attend “Eastland School,” a boarding school, and Edna Garrett, often called “Mrs. G,” who is the housekeeper of the space where the girls live. (It never really occurred to me before, but the device of the boarding school allowed them to have a “family” sitcom with anyone being related to each other.) To its credit, The Facts of Life was one of the more obviously feminine, not to say feminist, sitcoms of the era and also served as a launching pad for the careers of talents as diverse as Molly Ringwald and George Clooney. Also just like X-Men, it was set in Westchester County, N.Y. (in this case Peekskill, about a fifteen-minute drive from the town in which I grew up).
 

 
The Facts of Life Live! is directed by D’Arcy Drollinger, who co-founded Oasis and also plays Blair Warner (original actress: Lisa Welchel). Tamale Ringwald plays Natalie (Mindy Cohn), Daft-nee Gesuntheit plays Jo (Nancy McKeon), and James Arthur M. plays Tootie (Kim Fields). The show consists of two episodes.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Ted Flicker: ‘Barney Miller’ creator, improv theater innovator, blacklisted by J. Edgar Hoover
04.09.2015
12:08 pm

Topics:
Art
Movies
Pop Culture
Television

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This is a guest post from Doug Jones

Twelve years ago I found myself at Cinefile Video in West Los Angeles when I happened to notice a movie poster on the wall for the 1967 film, The President’s Analyst. The duotone pink and green poster depicted James Coburn wearing a `60s mod wig and sunglasses holding two gong mallets in his hand with the tagline, “Is your football helmet crushing the flowers in your hair?” What the hell kind of movie is this? I had recently developed a fascination with James Coburn after discovering the sixties spy-spoof films Our Man Flint, and the sequel, In Like Flint. Perhaps it was due to exposure to late `90s pop culture references like the Beastie Boys album Hello Nasty or the movie Austin Powers (both of which named dropped the character Derek Flint) that Coburn had been embedded into my subconscious at that time.

I went home that night and watched The President’s Analyst. It was absolutely fantastic in the way it ridiculed virtually every important `60s institution—establishment and anti-establishment alike. But unlike most 1960s-era political satires and comedies, it was surprisingly fresh, relevant, and still laugh-out-loud funny in the present age. A man I had never heard of named Theodore J. Flicker was credited as the film’s writer and director. After repeated viewings I began to wonder: who is Theodore J. Flicker? How come nobody’s ever heard of him? How is it possible for someone to make a film this good and then vanish completely from sight? The lack of information available on the internet only fueled my interest, but I eventually learned that Mr. Flicker had been blacklisted from Hollywood. But why, how could that happen? I would end up going to great lengths to answer these questions, including a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico to find Flicker, who spent the last twenty years of his life as a sculptor.
 

Ted Flicker in Santa Fe, Sept 2013. Photo by Doug Jones

After failing to open a theater of his own in New York City, Theodore J. Flicker headed to Chicago in 1954 to check out the improvisational Compass Theatre by recommendation of his college friend Severn Darden. According to Flicker, the Compass was in terrible shape when he entered: the players were unprofessional, wore street clothes, had a lack of respect amongst their fellow performers, and were basically “all over the place.” However, Flicker saw potential in the company and in 1957 he launched his own wing of The Compass Players at the Crystal Palace in St. Louis. Mike Nichols and Elaine May arrived in St. Louis, and Flicker auditioned Del Close who had come highly recommended by Darden despite the fact that he had no previous improv experience. Ted hired Del on the spot after seeing him perform a fire-breathing act from the work of Flaminio Scala. They all felt that the “meandering” Chicago style of improv did not sustain the audience’s attention for an entire show. Realizing that new techniques were needed if improvisation were to transform from an acting exercise into an art form, Flicker began developing a new technique which he referred to as “louder, faster, funnier”… the audiences responded. His goal was to re-create the Chicago Compass without any of the people involved and without the experience of Viola Spolin’s teachings, Flicker wanted to invent his own way. Every morning after a show, he would sit down with Elaine May and examine what went wrong the previous night and then determine how it could be corrected. Through these sessions “The Rules” for publicly-performed improv were formulated, including the importance of the Who? Where? and What? of each scene needing to be expressed, avoiding transaction scenes, arguments, and conflict as they usually lead to dead ends, and playing at the top of one’s intelligence. “We came up with a teachable formula for performing improvisation in public in two weeks,” Flicker said. These new rules differed greatly from the rules of Viola Spolin, who wasn’t a performer and explored improv only as an acting exercise. This was a new era of improvisation.

Following the collapse of The Compass Players, Paul Sills launched the successor troupe “The Second City” in 1959. Nichols and May went on to become a smash hit on Broadway. Del Close moved back to Chicago and spent the rest of his life developing, refining, and experimenting with Ted’s rules. Del became an improvisational guru for three decades with a student roster that included Dan Aykroyd, John and James Belushi, John Candy, Bill Murray, Chris Farley, Andy Dick, Harold Ramis, Mike Myers, Bob Odenkirk, Stephen Colbert, Amy Sedaris, Andy Richter, Tina Fey, and all three founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade (Matt Walsh, Matt Besser, and Amy Poehler.) Unquestionably some of the biggest and most influential names in the comedy world, and it all circles back to Flicker. “I never could have done it without the sheer force of Ted’s will and discipline,” Close said.

But what was next for Theodore J. Flicker? In the sixties he wed Barbara Joyce Perkins, television actress and star of dozens if not hundreds of commercials, and the two set their sights on Hollywood. Theodore’s first feature film The Troublemaker, which he co-wrote with Buck Henry, described as an “improvised adventure” and was a moderate success, and the next thing he knew the phone started ringing. He was offered to write a feature film to launch the careers of Sonny and Cher; however, when the project fell through Flicker instead penned a screenplay for Elvis Presley, the 1966 “racecar musical comedy” Spinout.
 

 
It was Paramount Pictures that gave Flicker a chance to write and direct a major motion picture studio film in 1967, the first movie Robert Evans greenlit as a studio executive. The President’s Analyst was a fantastic, on-target satire. James Coburn plays Dr. Sidney Schaefer, who is awarded the job of the President’s top secret psychoanalyst. When Dr. Schaefer’s paranoia sinks in and he realizes he “knows too much,” he decides to run away and the film becomes a fast-paced action adventure romp involving spies, assassins, the FBI, CIA, a suburban family station wagon, flower power hippies, and even a British pop group. An unusual sci-fi plot twist reveals the movie’s most surprising villain: The Telephone Company (referred to in the film as “TPC”).
 

 
Problems began when the FBI got ahold of the screenplay. Robert Evans claims he was visited by FBI Special Agents who didn’t appreciate their unflattering and incompetent portrayal in the film. When Evans denied their request to cease production, they began conducting surveillance on the film’s set. Evans refused their demands, but increasing pressure led to extensive overdubs during the film’s post-production phase: the FBI became the FBR, and the CIA became the CEA. Even the Telephone Company got wind of their negative portrayal in the film, and Evans believed that his telephone had begun to be monitored by either the Bureau or the phone company. Evans’ paranoia would ironically mirror that of James Coburn’s character in the film’s storyline.
 

 
The President’s Analyst hit theaters on December 21st, 1967, the same day as Mike Nichols’ The Graduate. Both films were instant hits and received critical and box office praise. Roger Ebert called The President’s Analyst one of the “funniest movies of the year.” However, two weeks later Flicker received an unsettling phone call from his agent who told him, “You’ll never work in this town again.” Apparently FBI head J. Edgar Hoover had seen the film and was outraged by 4’7” actor Walter Burke whose character name Lux (like Hoover, a popular brand of vacuum cleaner) as the head of the “FBR” was blatantly poking fun at him. J. Edgar called the White House who called Charles Bluhdorn at Paramount, who called Flicker’s agent to inform him they were pulling the movie from theaters immediately. “What the hell are you trying to do to me?” Bluhdorn said on a phone, “But we have a hit!” “What the hell do I care about your hit, I have 27 companies that do business in Washington?” A millionaire at age 30, Charlie Bluhdorn didn’t just own Paramount; he owned Gulf and Western, Madison Square Garden, and Simon & Schuster publishing. As Flicker delicately put it, “The shit hit the fan.” Overnight he was officially no longer part of Hollywood’s A-list. He and Barbara had to foreclose their home and his agent stopped returning his phone calls.

More on the life and times of Ted Flicker after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
For his ‘reverse Top of the Pops,’ Tony Wilson lists his top 32 U.K. punks of 1977
04.09.2015
08:01 am

Topics:
Music
Punk
Television

Tags:


 
Anyone who knows punk history in the U.K. is doubtless familiar with So It Goes, Tony Wilson’s remarkable program on the Granada network that provided so many vital punk bands, including the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees, with their first TV exposure. The sheer volume of terrific live footage that appeared on the program is mind-boggling, including virtually every prominent British act of the era, as well as a good number from the United States. Wilson obviously went on to found the Hacienda nightclub in Manchester and was one of the key figures in the inception of Factory Records. In the movie 24 Hour Party People, Steve Coogan, playing Wilson, inhabits a re-creation of the So It Goes set. (In addition to being portrayed by Coogan in 24 Hour Party People, Craig Parkinson also played him in Anton Corbijn’s 2007 film Control.)

In this whimsical and brief clip from what must have been the final episode of the show or close to it—Wilson says “Happy Christmas” and the last full show aired on December 11, 1977, so this may have been tacked on to that final show? In any case, this clip seems to be a mashup of two clips, one with the punk poet John Cooper Clarke and the other featuring Tony Wilson’s curious “countdown” of the top punk acts to enhance So It Goes in 1977.
 

 
The title of this video is “Granada so it goes reverse TOTP countdown 1977” which manages to set up the “countdown” as a vague alternative to Top of the Pops, which is fairly plausible. Watching it, it’s hardly clear what the 1-32 ranking is supposed to mean, and the positioning of the Clash as the #32 and last entry suggests that further down the list meant “better,” insofar as it meant anything.

If nothing else, the list (aside from a couple of puzzling entries like “Sooty”) isn’t a bad starting point for an exploration of the galvanizing U.K. music of 1977 and beyond. 
 

1. Van Morrison
2. Buzzcocks
3. John Cooper Clarke
4. Elvis Costello
5. Penetration
6. John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett
7. Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias
8. Nick Lowe
9. Iggy Pop
10. The Movies
11. Roy Hill
12. Tom Robinson Band
13. The Stranglers
14. Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers
15. Free
16. Mink DeVille
17. Sad Café
18. John Dowie
19. The Jam
20. Muddy Waters
21. Poly Styrene
22. XTC
23. The Pirates
24. Siouxsie & the Banshees
25. The Dregs
26. Sex Pistols
27. Dave Edmunds
28. Magazine
29. Sooty
30. Steel Pulse
31. Ian Dury
32. The Clash

 

 
If you’d like to see the live Clash clip that gets cut off at the end, I think it might be this “embedding-disabled” clip.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
WHAM!‘s Japanese Maxell ads are like taking a drug that transports you back to the 1980s
04.09.2015
06:53 am

Topics:
Amusing
Drugs
Music
Television

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Japan’s reputation for baffling weirdness and its wont to use Western pop culture figures in advertising has resulted in some amusing confluences, especially in the pre-Internet era, when said popcult figures could do an ad in Japan for some easy money with reasonable confidence that none of their fans back home would ever see it.

Now, of course, we enjoy the fruits of a global network containing damn near every stupid thing that ever came down the pike, available instantly and for all time or until Prince complains. And so today, even we gaijin can enjoy the three headfuckingly lysergic TV ads the British pop duo WHAM! made in 1985 for Maxell audio cassettes. These were part of a campaign that included some pretty weird and acutely ‘80s print collateral, as well:
 

 

 
Images are of ad spreads for sale by eBay user tokyotim

If you were alive and reasonably sentient in the ‘80s, you know WHAM!‘s material whether you cared to or not just by dint of radio and MTV saturation play, so you’ll notice that in the TV spots, they change their songs’ lyrics—probably for licensing reasons—but that’s not what’s really important here. What’s really important is that you drop a heroic dose and stare deeply into Andrew Ridgeley’s eyes until you see the FACE OF GOD.
 

 
More of this madness after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
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