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  • Gary Coleman, comic books & other disasters: Raging Slab were the assmasters of the 1990s
    02:00 pm



    Assmaster cover
    It sorta all shook out the same way, really. Promising start followed by a long, slow slog to oblivion. While it might’ve been a one-off goof, Gary Coleman’s appearance in a 1993 video by New York boogie-rock champs Raging Slab was essentially the last real flash of light for both of ‘em. It’s probably the second thing on a pretty short list of what most people remember about Gary Coleman and the only thing most people remember about Raging Slab. And that’s a drag, because they both deserve better.

    Raging Slab might be one of the most ill-starred bands this side of their spiritual and musical forebears, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band was formed in NYC in 1983 by husband and wife team Greg Strzempka and Elyse Steinman (vox/guitar, slide guitar). The earliest incarnation of the band included future Warrior Soul riot-starter Kory Clarke on drums and one DJ Dimitri (later of house music legends Dee-Lite), and their aggressively retro southern rock style flew in the face of 80’s new wave and glam metal. Nobody wanted to sound like Foghat in 1983, not even Foghat. But Raging Slab did.

    Despite their twirly mustaches and mid 70’s hustle, the band eventually carved out their own niche, and in 1987 they released their first album, the audacious-in-every-way Assmaster. It came with its own comic book, created by Marvel artists Pat Redding and Pete Ciccone, portraying the band as groovy, muscle-bound superfreak superheroes. It sounded like a comic book, too.  Much like dope metal heroes Monster Magnet, the band embraced 70s junk culture with religious fervor, creating a brightly-colored alt-world splashed with boogie vans, pot leaves and American flag motorcycle helmets with riffs that could topple evil space tyrants from the Forbidden Zone. They were like Elvis, the Fonz and Evel Knievel jamming on “Freebird” at the Grand Canyon forever and ever… And Assmaster was a stone-cold classic. No doubt about it.

    Raging Slab signed to RCA and released a self-titled follow-up in 1989. It was a fitting successor to their debut, filled with tasty slide guitar and crunching riff-rock. Lead single “Don’t Dog Me” had a hot hit video, and the band toured the country, sometimes with southern rockers like Molly Hatchet and sometimes with glam-bangers like Warrant. Things were looking up, despite rapid turnover in the ranks, particularly in the drummer department. But RCA hated the next two records and didn’t even bother releasing them, eventually dropping them/pawning them off to Rick Rubin and Def American. Raging Slab been slipping below the radar for years so when comeback album Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert was ready to hit the bins in spring of ‘93, it was preceded by a single so infectious and a video so over-the-top that no one could resist it. “Anywhere But Here” featured the chick from the cover of Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain album (sorta), funky 70s puppet “Lester” (sorta) and real Diff’rent Strokes star Gary Coleman running around a magical mini-golf course while the band rocks out in front of a candy-colored castle. There’s fire and bubbles and shiny gold medallions and everybody looks like they’re having the time of their lives. Which is good, because that’s the best it got for all involved.

    Gary Coleman starred in Diff’rent Strokes for eight seasons. Stricken with a rare kidney disease, Coleman stayed kid-size well into adulthood. Piles of sitcom cash would’ve lessened the blow but his parents mismanaged his fortune and left him in the unenviable task of being really famous and really broke. So sure, get dwarf-tossed by a couple of Mexican muskrat (?) marionettes on the set of a rock video, why not? Could be the start of something big.

    It wasn’t.

    Keep reading after the jump…

    Posted by Ken McIntyre | Leave a comment
    KISS, Sparks, & rock ‘n’ roller coasters: The legendary ‘Magic Mountain’ theme park of the 1970’s
    12:21 pm



    On an incredibly hot memorial day weekend in 1971, Magic Mountain opened in Valencia, California just 18 months after construction began. The “theme” of this theme park was not entirely clear and it only had one roller coaster, however the park’s other offerings—the fireworks, rides, laser shows, arcade games, and nightly concerts—made “fun, magic, and rock ‘n’ roll” the name of the game. By the time the park was sold to Six Flags at the end of the decade, Magic Mountain had cemented a place in rock ‘n’ roll history by giving many young Southern Californians their very first live concert experience. Its three venues (7-Up / Dixi Cola Showcase Theatre, The Gazebo, and Kaleidoscope) were home to many great acts such as Fleetwood Mac, The Carpenters, Sonny & Cher, The Jackson 5, The Everly Brothers, and KISS who attracted a long-haired, beer can drinking parking lot crowd that didn’t meet Disneyland’s strict dress code and could afford the $5 admission price.

    Sonny & Cher performed nightly from Sept 2nd-12th, 1971 at Magic Mountain’s 7-Up Showcase Theatre
    When it first opened Magic Mountain secured a short-term deal from Warner Brothers to use their Looney Tunes characters, however when that agreement expired in 1972 a lineup of very unmemorable troll characters were introduced: Bloop, Bleep, King Troll (aka King Blop) and the Wizard. These bizarre, colorful, psychedelic looking walk-around characters became the most recognizable symbols of the park throughout the ‘70s. They greeted guests, posed for photographs, and appeared on all manners of merchandise and advertising before being discontinued in 1985.

    “Trolls & Fountain” 1977 Magic Mountain postcard
    By the mid-1970’s the park begun introducing faster and scarier rides such as The Electric Rainbow, Galaxy, and Jolly Monster. However, it was the Great American Revolution (the first modern, 360-degree steel looping coaster) in 1976 that gave the park its first real thrill factor. At the time Universal was filming a disaster-suspense movie called Rollercoaster about a young extortionist (played by Timothy Bottoms) who travels around the U.S. planting bombs on roller coasters promising horrific casualties to those who don’t meet his one million dollar ransom. The film’s climactic final sequence takes place during a huge rock concert celebrating the grand opening of Revolution. While teen-idol fan magazines Tiger Beat and Sixteen reported to their readers that the Scottish glam-rock band the Bay City Rollers were to perform in this film it was actually Los Angeles’ own Sparks who accepted the role having just relocated back to L.A. from England.
    Sparks were documented on the big screen prior to their breakthrough commercial success during a strange transitional period for the band when they briefly dropped their quirkiness and demanded to be taken seriously. Concerned at the time that their music may have become stale, the Mael brothers left their synthesizers behind for a more “American” guitar sound on their Rupert Holmes produced album Big Beat. Although Rollercoaster was a modest success despite fierce competition from Star Wars at the box office that summer, Ron & Russell Mael of Sparks now look back upon the film with embarrassment. “Yes, you did see Sparks performing ‘Big Boy’ and ‘Fill’er Up’ in the film Rollercoaster during your last airplane trip,” said Russell Mael in the September 2006 issue of Mojo Magazine. “No, we didn’t know that the film was going to turn out like that. Rollercoaster movie proves that you have to be continually careful of what you do… You never know what’s going to last and what’s going to fall by the wayside, and man, does that last!” Sparks’ cameo in Rollercoaster is brief but fun and energetic, especially when Ron Mael gets rowdy and smashes his piano stool on the stage.

    Russell Mael of Sparks performing in front of Revolution in the 1977 disaster film ‘Rollercoaster’
    In 1978 at the height of KISS’ massive popularity, Hanna-Barbera Productions produced a made-for-television movie for NBC titled Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. Filmed on location at Magic Mountain, the film’s poor script revolved around an evil inventor living underneath the theme park whose nefarious plans are thwarted by an other-galactic rock ‘n’ roll group with superpowers (played by KISS). Despite the fact that all four members were given crash courses on acting, much of the dialogue recorded was unusable and had to be re-dubbed in post production. Ace Frehley was said to have become increasingly frustrated with the long periods of downtime normally associated with filmmaking and stormed off the set one day leaving his African American stunt double to finish his scenes (which made for perhaps one of the most noticeable and unintentionally hilarious continuity errors in the history of cinema). KTNQ’s “The Real” Don Steele (one of the most popular disc jockeys in the U.S.) gave away 8,000 tickets to see KISS perform live at the Magic Mountain parking lot which was filmed for the movies big dramatic rock ‘n’ roll concert ending.
    Keep reading after the jump…

    Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
    Francis Ford Coppola and Brian De Palma have a conversion about ‘The Conversation,’ 1974
    11:46 am

    Pop Culture


    1966: Francis Ford Coppola was working as a scriptwriter when he had a conversation with director Irvin Kershner about spy movies. Espionage films were big bucks in the mid-sixties with the unequaled success of the James Bond franchise, the escalation of the so-called Cold War between the West and Soviet Russia, and the NY Times best-seller list filled with spy stories like The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The IPCRESS File and A Dandy in Aspic.

    Kershner was making A Fine Madness with Bond star Sean Connery. Coppola was learning his trade writing screenplays like This Property Is Condemned and Is Paris Burning?. As he later recounted in an interview with Brian De Palma for the magazine Filmmakers Newsletter in 1974, his chat with Kershner was the moment he first had the idea to write The Conversation:

    We were talking about espionage, and he said that most people thought the safest way not to be bugged was to walk in a crowd. And I thought, Wow, that’s a great motif for a film—and it started there, around 1966. I actually started working on it around 1967, but it was an on-again, off-again project which I was just never able to beat until 1969 when I did the first draft.

    The Conversation follows surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) who is hired to monitor a young couple. From his covert recordings Caul thinks he may have uncovered a possible murder as the couple’s recorded dialog includes the phrase “He’d kill us if he got the chance.” Caul plays and replays the tape in his obsessive and paranoid attempt to decipher the dialog’s real meaning.

    Coppola was influenced by Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966) which used a similar plot device—in this case a young photographer (David Hemmings) thinks he may have captured evidence of a murder with his camera.

    I got into THE CONVERSATION because I was reading [Hermann] Hesse and saw BLOW-UP at the same time. And I’m very open about its relevance to THE CONVERSATION because I think the two films are actually very different. What’s similar about them is obviously similar, and that’s where it ends. But it was my admiration for the moods and the way those things happened in that film which made me say, “I want to do something like that.”

    Every young director goes through that.

    Coppola and Hackman on location during filming for ‘The Conversation’ in 1973.
    Coppola didn’t want to make a rehash of Blow-Up or a token movie version of Hesse’s cult novel Steppenwolf—though he did take some inspiration from the book’s central character Harry Haller—“a middle European who lives alone in a rooming house”—and his delusional fantasies. (The book also contains a significant role played by a saxophonist.) Coppola was more interested in approaching his script as a puzzle:

    I have to say [The Conversation] began differently form other things I’ve done, because instead of stating to write it out of an emotional thing—the emotional identity of the people I knew—I started it as sort of a puzzle, which I’ve never done before and which I don’t think I’ll ever do again.

    In other words, it started as a premise. I said, “I think I want to do a film about eavesdropping and privacy, and I want to make it about the guy who does it rather than about the people it’s being done to.” Then somewhere along the line I got the idea of using repetition, of exposing new levels of information not through exposition but by repetition. And not like RASHOMON where you present it in different ways each time—let them be the exact lines but have new meanings in context.

    In other words, as the film goes along, the audience goes with it because you are constantly giving them the same lines they’ve already heard, yet as they learn a little bit more about the situation they will interpret things differently. That was the original idea.

    De Palma is a good interviewer. He gets Coppola to open up on his filmmaking technique where many other interviewers may have failed. The whole interview was published (including a few spelling mistakes) in the seminal magazine Filmmakers Newsletter in May 1974 and has been uploaded by Cinephilia and Beyond. Click on the images below to read the whole conversation between De Palma and Coppola.
    Read the whole interview between De Palma and Coppola, after the jump…

    Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
    All-too-realistic serial killer jacket covered in latex skin, ears & human faces can now be yours!
    09:34 am



    A jacket inspired by murderer Ed Gein made by Kayla Arena.
    Not only can you own a jacket that that would make “Buffalo Bill” forget all about putting the fucking lotion in the bucket shout “shut up and take my money!” you can have it customized to your precise measurements. Because nothing looks worse than a poorly fitting blazer made of authentic looking body parts.

    The inspiration for this creation by Kayla Arena and Toby Barron was, according to their Etsy page,  “American Murderer and Body Snatcher, Ed Gein.” If you’re unfamiliar with Gein’s handiwork, Arena and Barron are referring to the career of one of the world’s most infamous murderers. Ed Gein’s life and nefarious activities have provided storylines for numerous films including Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Silence of the Lambs. After Gein’s mother died he descended into a poor mental state and became a regular at local graveyards searching for body parts which he collected in great numbers. Gein would return the bodies to their resting spots sans a few limbs with such care that his grave robbing went unnoticed for several years. When he escalated his after-hours activities to include the murder of two women in 1957, he was arrested, tried, and convicted for his crimes. Gein would die at the age of 77 in a psychiatric facility in Wisconsin.

    As a full-time ghoul myself, I enthusiastically applaud Arena and Barron’s commitment to making this odd piece of outerwear as realistic as possible. Arena has worked as FX talent on several films since the late 2000s. According to her Etsy page it takes 8-10 weeks to make one of these babies which will ship to you from her homebase of Australia for $1100. In addition to the jacket she also sells many more gorgeously grotesque items on her website such as hats, lamps, handbags, shoes and a retro-style chair all constructed with the same “fabric” (which includes details synthetic hair and false eyelashes) as the Ed Gein jacket. Yikes!

    A close look at the back detail of Arena’s Ed Gein jacket.

    YOU could be wearing this!
    More after the jump…

    Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
    ‘Sex Around the Clock’: The darkly sleazetastic pulp art of R.A. Maguire
    09:03 am



    Illustrator R.A. Maguire was a prolific genre paperback cover artist noted for romance novels and westerns in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but he built his reputation as one of the most skillful and evocative renderers of femme fatale figures for pulp crime/erotica novels, beginning in 1950.

    On returning to the US after his military service in WWII, Maguire worked a connection to become a student of Frank J. Reilly’s at the Art Student’s League in NYC. Reilly was a noteworthy illustrator in his own right, but is much better known for perfecting a method of teaching anatomy that impacted generations of professional commercial artists and eventually earned him his own eponymous school. Maguire was recommended to Reilly by the father of a friend, and he related the experience thusly:

    It was a miracle because there were so many people waiting to get in. I hadn’t even heard of Reilly at all so it was quite a bit of luck that I got in. I knew quite a bit about the Pratt in Brooklyn but not much about the Art Student’s League. It was actually a democratic institute run by students. The League is a classic school. You read an artist’s resume and 9 out of 10 of them studied there on 57th Street.

    I remember my first day in class and I was relegated to a seat in the back of a class of about 60 people. It was a dark and rainy day and they had an elderly black man sitting and I could hardly see him. From where I was and because of the day, all I could see were his eyes and his teeth when he smiled. I was all ready to go home. But I stuck with it. The next week we had a classic woman model. It was 9 months to a year before you could learn how to draw classically as Reilly wanted us to do. We always tried to laboriously copy the model and you just cannot do that. You have to learn from the way the model poses, the line of action, and that took almost the whole year. Very few failures. An astonishing performance rate. Reilly said he could teach you in about a year and it was true.

    Maguire’s career in pulps followed almost immediately from his graduation from the ASL, beginning with the October, 1950 issue of Hollywood Detective.

    By his death in 2005, Maguire had painted over 1,000 book covers, which were collected in the book Dames, Dolls, and Gun Molls. The web site R.A. Maguire Cover Art has undertaken the ambitious endeavor of not just collecting his covers, but also his original paintings and the reference photos from which he worked. Many of the images shared here were culled from that site, and are mildly NSFWish.


    More after the jump…

    Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
    Porny, provocative pop-art mashed up with pharmaceutical packages
    08:38 am



    A painting by Ben Frost.

    Birds shit wherever they want ‘cause they all know it’s crap down here.

    Words by artist Ben Frost inscribed on his 2005 piece “Birds and Bad Things”

    Artist Ben Frost hails from Australia and has spent time living in Japan. His subversive pop-art contains references to Japanese Manga as well as a myriad of well-know commercial images such as a box of McDonald’s famous french fries that has been layered with a erotic image of a Lichtenstein-esque looking woman being whipped by a proper female Victorian-era librarian during her off time. And that’s one of Frost’s more demure works of art.

    Frost himself is as risky as his boundary-pushing paintings. In 2000 the artist faked his own death as a publicity stunt to promote his solo-show of the same name and invitations to the event consisted of Frost’s “faux funeral” notice. Later that same year a painting at the show “Colussus”—a collaboration with fellow artist Rod Bunter—was slashed apart by an attendee.

    It’s not hard to understand how Frost’s work might stir some intense emotions with his confrontational art, because the concept of mixing propaganda with pornographic images, Dracula or Ren and Stimpy on a box of Epinephrine is perhaps a little out there for some people. However if everything about that statement makes perfect sense to you, then you’re going to really enjoy looking over the images of Frost’s work included in this post. From time to time Frost sells his artwork on his website Ben Frost IS DEAD.

    A few of the paintings are NSFW.



    Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
    ‘Mickey Mouse in Vietnam’
    04:07 pm



    Mickey Mouse in Vietnam is a (very) short animated anti-war film produced by Whitney Lee Savage and the great American graphic designer Milton Glaser, creator of the “I♥ NY logo,” the famous 1966 poster of Bob Dylan with swirling rainbow hair, the Brooklyn Lager and DC Comics logos and countless other things. Glaser, now 87, was the co-founder of New York magazine, has been the subject of museum level career surveys the world over and is the first (and so far only) graphic designer to receive the the National Medal of Arts, which was bestowed upon him by President Obama in 2009.

    The plot of the Mickey Mouse in Vietnam—which is about a minute long—is simple: Soon after arriving in Vietnam, Mickey is shot dead.

    The film was long assumed to be lost when it was uploaded to YouTube in 2013 and went viral. Around that time Milton Glaser was asked about the short in an interview that appeared on the Carl Solway Gallery’s blog:

    Milton Glaser: It was for a thing called The Angry Arts Festival, which was a kind of protest event, inviting artists to produce something to represent their concerns about the war in Vietnam and a desire to end it.

    How did you get involved with, the director, Lee Savage in making this short?
    Milton Glaser: Lee Savage was a good friend of mine, and he was in the film business of one kind or another, doing small production films — and with a little experience in animation, and all the things you have to know to produce a modest film the way we did.

    What was the audience’s reaction when it was screened at the festival?
    Milton Glaser: It was very moving — people responded strongly to it. But within the context of many such events and many presentations, it didn’t quite have the power that you experience when you are seeing it in isolation. But it was moving.

    You know, I was just talking about it this morning, because I have not seen it many, many years. It just shows you the power of symbolism, because in some ways it’s much more powerful than seeing a photograph of dead GIs in a landscape — something about the destruction about a deeply held myth that moves you in way that is unexpected.

    Speaking of symbolism, is that why you picked Mickey Mouse in particular?
    Milton Glaser: Well, obviously Mickey Mouse is a symbol of innocence, and of America, and of success, and of idealism — and to have him killed, as a solider is such a contradiction of your expectations. And when you’re dealing with communication, when you contradict expectations, you get a result.


    Watch ‘Mickey Mouse in Vietnam’ after the jump

    Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
    Mondo freako: Meet the Italian progrocker weirdos who influenced a young Peter Gabriel
    02:25 pm



    In one of those “one minute I was looking at this one thing, and then suddenly I was looking at this totally other thing” moments the Internet is so fond of bestowing upon us, this morning I was on eBay looking for posters of 60s/70s Eurobabe actress Barbara Bouchet (as I do…a lot lately) when I saw a listing for the soundtrack for Milano Calibro 9, a bloody and brutal 1972 poliziotteschi she co-starred in. The music for Milano Calibro 9 is a collaboration between the celebrated Argentinean-born composer Luis Bacalov—who is best known for the soundtracks to Django, Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew, the Oscar-winning score to Il Postino and his work with Italian progressive rock groups—and the Italian progressive rock group Osanna.

    I downloaded this soundtrack a few years ago—and I love it—but I never knew what Osanna looked like. And I wondered if maybe there were any vintage performance videos of the group in their prime that had been posted on YouTube? The answer to the first question is “total freaks” and to the second “yup, plenty!”

    Apparently Osanna were one of the very first groups anywhere in the world to do a full on “theatrical rock” thing and they sound like a Neapolitan-tinged combination of Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, the Mothers of Invention, Focus and Moody Blues with a sonic palette consisting of heavy guitar, flute, 12-string acoustic interludes and mellotrons. What’s more, if you look at photos of Peter Gabriel in 1971 vs. 1972, there’s a fair case to be made based on the available visual evidence that the lad was “influenced” by the opening act—that would be Osanna—that Genesis toured Italy with in 1972.

    Osanna broke up in 1974, reformed again in 1977 and then broke up again two years later. They reformed again in 1999 and have performed and toured sporadically since then, including playing the entire Milano Calibro 9 soundtrack onstage in Japan in 2012.

    “L’ Uomo” from 1971.
    More after the jump…

    Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
    This Jazzercise supercut from 1983 is what the world needs RIGHT NOW
    10:20 am



    I follow Hint Fashion Magazine on Facebook, and every once in a while they’ll post some obscure video footage from the 70s or 80s that is truly bust-a-gut funny. Like this one for example: It’s a supercut of Let’s Jazzercise from 1983. The host is Judi Sheppard Missett and the jazzercise routines she instructs are truly something to be seen. The music, the constant change of costumes and the dance routines make this video worth your while. I honestly have no words.

    I did find the original Let’s Jazzercise on YouTube. It’s an hour-long. I couldn’t take more than five minutes of it. I think the supercut, below, is far superior. I mean how else could you possibly repackage Let’s Jazzercise to make it interesting (and even relevant again, if only for the LOLz) in 2017?

    via Facebook

    Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
    Farting Monkeys, Devilish Imps, Grotesque Beasts and other Bizarre Creatures
    08:53 am



    A good imagination beats any psychedelic drug. Take a look at these drawings by 17th century Dutch artist Arent van Bolten featuring weird, grotesque hybrid creatures—part human, part cat, part dragon, part demon, part who the fuck knows….?

    The last part is a fair description of what we do know about Arent van Bolten—which is little more than birth, marriage and death:

    He was born about 1573 in Zwolle. In 1603 he there married Brigitta Lantinck. They had eight children. Some of them established themselves as solicitors in Leeuwarden where Brigitta Lantinck’s sister had married but remained childless so that the children of van Bolten became her heirs. Arent van Bolten must have died about 1625, for he is still mentioned in 1624, whereas in 1626 we read only of his widow.

    Even his death date is uncertain as some put it up as far as 1633—which may have come as a surprise to his wife if she was already a widow in 1626. Apart from this slim entry we know he was a silversmith by profession, was in Italy 1596-1602, and left behind “a great deal of silverware and plaquettes.”

    He may well have been one of those craftsmen who themselves made both the model and the finished article and perhaps even the original design which was not the normal practice at this time.

    Van Bolten sculpted religious and rustic scenes and knobbly weird bronzes of “squat, ponderous” mythological beasts. It is for the latter that he is now best known—in particular his 400+ drawings of surreal and grotesque creatures compiled by an unknown collector circa 1637 which are currently held by the British Museum. 

    It’s unknown what Van Bolten’s intention was in creating these rather fabulous beasts but the drawings do reveal the eye of a man who was a sculptor rather than a painter. His line relishes building up the layers, curves, depths, and organic growths rather than just offering a mere representation. Van Bolten’s grotesques have a solidity that makes it appear we could actually touch them.
    More of Arent van Bolten’s beasties and grotesque creatures, after the jump…

    Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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