Nothing to see here. It’s just ‘Wonder Woman’ actress Lynda Carter in a blonde wig holding a massive golden barbell back in 1975. Yawn.
When actress Lynda Carter got the good news that she had landed the starring role in the television series Wonder Woman, she was apparently dead broke and had already made the decision to move back Phoenix, Arizona. For the first movie-length episode of season one in 1975, The New Original Wonder Woman Carter donned a long blonde wig and a barely there white dress with her other female pals on Paradise Island—a dreamy sounding mecca inhabited only by women. So far, so good!
During the episode, Carter takes on the Nazis, has a catfight with sexy Stella Stevens (who most memorably starred opposite the late Jerry Lewis in 1963’s The Nutty Professor), and hangs out with Cloris Leachman who played the fantastic “Queen Hippolyta” aka Wonder Woman’s mother. In an interesting side-note, Leachman was paid an astonishing $25,000 for one day’s work on the set.
As is the case throughout the WW television series, the episode is about as campy as they come and still holds up a staggering 42 years later much like the lovely Ms. Carter herself who continues to defy the laws of aging entirely. I’ve posted images of the very blonde Carter in her wig below. I’ve also included footage of her sexy skirmish with Stella Stevens which is said to have inspired the claws-out brawls between the fictional divas “Krystle Carrington” and “Alexis Colby” in the epic 80s television soap, Dynasty. And because I just couldn’t resist, you can also watch an amusing clip of Carter in her more traditional WW get up flying around in her invisible jet with a shirtless with “Steve Trevor” played by the red-hot actor Lyle Waggoner. It’s all too much!
Cloris Leachman and Lynda Carter on the set of ‘The New Original Wonder Woman.’
Tom Snyder’s late-night talkfest The Tomorrow Show was one of the more reliable sources of stimulating programming in the 1970s and early 80s. Snyder was a lanky Midwesterner with an emphatic speaking style and a certain fearlessness about presenting off-kilter content on TV. When John Lennon and the Clash appeared on the show in 1975 and 1981, respectively, the result was frankly riveting television. It didn’t always click to that extent, such as the Ramones’ visit to the Tomorrow studio, primarily because Snyder himself was on vacation, with regular guest host Kelly Lange stepping in.
Lange seems like a perfectly nice lady but in all honesty she didn’t really make much sense as a guest host for a show that highlighted the “provocative” so strongly, and she was certainly not a very good choice to interview the Ramones! The Ramones were supporting Pleasant Dreams and they were firmly in their permanent state of disappointment in terms of generating sales after the Phil Spector-produced End of the Century, which was widely interpreted as a move to shake things up. Pleasant Dreams features at least one stone-cold Ramones classic, in “The KKK Took My Baby Away,” but the sales didn’t live up to expectations.
The Ramones’ segment on The Tomorrow Show starts with a rendition of “We Want the Airwaves,” after which we get a few minutes of fairly innocuous chitchat. After the conversation the Ramones re-take the stage and play “I Wanna Be Sedated” and “The KKK Took My Baby Away.”
We liked The Tomorrow Show because an interview with Tom was not standard fare.
Tom sat you down like a guest in his own living room and plunged headfirst into your situation like a half-journalist/half-shrink. If three million or four million people happened to be watching, so be it. He laughed hard, he scoffed hard, and he set the bar for a good interview right around the bar for good sex—nothing short of sheer exhaustion was acceptable. Once Dan Aykroyd of Saturday Night Live had captured the manic flap of the head and arms in his brilliant impression, Tom Snyder was permanently etched into the brain of everyone who stayed up past eleven thirty.
The official name of The Tomorrow Show was Tomorrow with Tom Snyder, but that applied to tomorrow, not today. Tom was out, so for our afternoon taping we were getting the substitute host, Kelly Lange. Lange had done the news with Snyder out in Los Angeles and was a fairly regular stand-in, but she was no Tom Snyder. We didn’t care. We were happy to get a national spot.
Sensitive Joey, however, may not have been able to shrug it off so easily. According to Joey’s brother Mickey Leigh in his book I Slept with Joey Ramone: A Punk Rock Family Memoir, Joey said of the appearance, “We waited all these years to come on The Tomorrow Show and meet Tom Snyder, and we find out he was on vacation. Tom doesn’t even show up!”
One of the best things in this clip is the tight close-up of Marky’s nervously bobbing Chuck Taylor—if you watch you’ll see what I mean.
George Romero, director of Night of the Living Dead and its sequels, sadly passed away in July of this year. In researching a different topic related to Romero, I stumbled across a short but informative interview with the director that appeared in SFGate in 2010.
In this interview, Romero discusses getting his start in filmmaking, working for Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fame.
Romero describes Mr. Rogers as “the sweetest man [he] ever knew,” and the first person who ever trusted him to shoot film. According to Romero, most anyone working in film in Pittsburgh got their start with Mr. Rogers.
Remarkably, according to Romero, Mr. Rogers had seen both Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead and enjoyed them both. On Dawn of the Dead Mr. Rogers remarked: “It’s a lot of fun, George.”
But, most mind-blowing to me was the revelation that Romero had originally wanted to cast Betty Aberlin (“Lady Aberlin” from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood—MAJOR childhood crush) as the lead in Night of the Living Dead. Unfortunately, Mr. Rogers was not keen on the idea.
According to Romero, “he wouldn’t let me use Lady Aberlin.”
Well, another season of Game of Thrones has come and gone, leaving boffo ratings, now-useless .mkv downloads, and millions of thrilled fans in its wake. It’s enough to make you feel like you’ve been brained by the Mountain himself (who seldom seems to brain anybody, by the way, have you noticed that?).
A raven recently brought dispiriting news that we might have to wait until 2019 (!) for the next season, but if that’s true we can at least take for granted that the six (extra long) new episodes that remain will be chock full of awesome shit. In the meantime, we have little recourse but to ponder the fate of Tormund Giantsbane (he died, right?) and enjoy amusing GoT/rock music mashups such as those perpetrated by the Why the Long Play Face Instagram feed.
Usually this feed is dedicated to Star Wars album cover inspirations, but in honor of the big season finale on Sunday, they put up a few Game of Thrones versions instead. Perhaps we can send whoever is responsible to undertake further such labors in the Citadel, where grim lectures from Archmaester Ebrose punctuate the day (but we benefit, at least).
In April 1967, a then little-known San Francisco group, Big Brother & the Holding Company, appeared on their local public television station, KQED. This was a few months before their legendary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival—which would make Joplin a star—and the release of their first album, which came out later in the year. Their live set for the KQED cameras is now appreciated for its documentation of Joplin pre-fame, but the highlight of the footage doesn’t involve her at all. It’s her band’s untamed interpretation of a nearly 100-year-old piece of music that made for unusually great TV. Still does!
“In the Hall of the Mountain King” was written by Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg. It was commissioned for Peer Gynt, an 1876 play concerning the vagabond life of the title character. The Grieg piece is played during a fantasy sequence in which Grynt sneaks into the castle of the Mountain King.
The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra sets the scene:
The music begins with the tiptoeing theme in B minor, played slowly by the cellos and bassoons, indicating Peer Gynt’s careful footsteps as he creeps into the castle. A second statement of the theme, played at another pitch and on different instruments, represents the king’s trolls, who eventually give chase to Peer. The tempo gradually escalates, and the music gets faster and faster and louder and louder. A series of crashing cymbals and thunderous timpani rolls silence all the other instruments, as the mountain tumbles to the ground and destroys the trolls who have been chasing after the fleeing Peer.
Even non-classical music fans will probably recognize the piece.
On April 25, 1967, CBS ran a special documentary that had been put together by David Oppenheim called Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution. The program was significant on a number of fronts. First, the hour-long program has been called in some quarters the first documentary about rock and roll ever made. There had certainly been ample treatment in feature films (mainly the Beatles) of the new forms of pop music that were budding in that decade as well as ample news coverage—whether Inside Pop merits this distinction I will leave for others to debate.
What is clearer is that the program represents almost certainly the first sustained effort to make a positive case for pop music to a mainstream audience on national TV. In other words, if the generational divide caused all cultural matters to be filtered through an “us” versus “them” filter, Inside Pop made no bones about debating the aesthetic and cultural merits of Herman’s Hermits, the Hollies, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, etc. from “their” perspective, from the perspective of those who had not instinctually embraced the new music.
Oppenheim’s resume up to that moment neatly illustrates the point, having made his reputation through working with figures such as Igor Stravinsky and Pablo Casals. Not long after making this program, Oppenheim was hired as Dean of NYU’s School of the Arts, which he has been credited with transforming into a first-rate cultural arts institution. (His son Jonathan Oppenheim edited the groundbreaking documentary Paris Is Burning.)
The program is divided into two halves. The first half is given almost entirely over to Leonard Bernstein, whose credibility as a cultural commentator to the mass audience at that moment can hardly be overstated. Bernstein had been music director of the New York Philharmonic for roughly a decade and had also composed the operetta Candide as well as West Side Story, and if you had asked ten moderately informed citizens in 1962 what American was best known for his work in classical music, probably all of them would have named Bernstein.
As stated, the first half of the program belongs to Bernstein—he is seated at a piano, playing snippets of songs by the Monkees, the Beatles, the Left Banke, and so on, and making observations about unexpected key changes as well as the skillful manipulation of Lydian and Mixolydian modes, whatever they might be. Bernstein goes out of his way to call 95% of pop music “trash” but nevertheless, his essential curiosity and openness to new forms would be impossible to miss. It would have been difficult indeed for such a presentation to be entirely devoid of fuddy-duddy-ism, but it’s truly an impressive performance—if only TV nowadays had similar semi-improv’d disquisitions on music by qualified commentators. Oh, and halfway through it all Bernstein brings in 15-year-old Janis Ian to sing “Society’s Child,” her hitherto blacklisted song about an interracial relationship, which incidentally soon became a hit after being heard on national television.
The second half of the program is a conventional narrated documentary focusing on the West Coast music scene with some British Invaders mixed in. Frank Zappa pops up and says a few sardonic things. Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits and Graham Nash of the Hollies get into an animated post-gig debate about the efficacy of pop music in bringing about societal change (Noone pessimistic, Nash optimistic). Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, still going by “Jim” at that point, materializes to tell every adult in America that “the drug revolution is just coming about and there are gonna be a lot of heads rolling from it,” which I’m sure went over like gangbusters.
The program gets a little boring around the 2/3 mark by focusing too long on Herman’s Hermits, who whatever else their virtues are don’t make a good case for groundbreaking trends in music, but hang on because Oppenheim saves the best for last, an extended in-studio rendition of “Surf’s Up” by Brian Wilson. Recorded on December 17, 1966, Wilson’s performance is made much more haunting because we have information the home audience did not, namely that Wilson was undergoing severe psychological stress at the time, that the Beach Boys nearly broke up over the Smile album (for which “Surf’s Up” was composed), and that more than three decades would pass until said album would reach the public in its final form.
What were you doing when you were 15? How many movies had you appeared in? How many singles had you put out? How many books had you written? (Or read?)
That Jodie Foster, in 1977, was an unusual 15-year-old isn’t news. By that time she had already appeared in at least one box-office hit, Bugsy Malone, as well as arguably the most bracing and accomplished product of the New American Cinema ever committed to film, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. She was attending a French lycée which she once described to Andy Warhol in the pages of Interview thus:
It’s great, man. All the teachers are like 21 or 22 and have long hair and beards and everything. Being in this school, you don’t have to do anything.
A minute later Warhol offers Foster a Bloody Mary (she was 14 at the time). Foster may not have been “doing anything” at that lycée, but two things are clear: she was perfectly fluent in French by that time, and her education was at least good enough to enable her to attend Yale as well as become one of the top actresses in the world as an adult.
In 1977 Foster flirted briefly with pursuing a career in pop music. She released a couple of singles and made some appearances on French TV as a singer. She appeared on the soundtrack for a movie called Moi, fleur bleue (in America the title was Stop Calling Me Baby!) singing a song called “When I Looked at Your Face.” She released that track as a single and also put out another single called “Je t’attends depuis la nuit des temps.”
Watch the video after the jump, along with Foster’s rendition of a famous Serge Gainsbourg song…...
Telescope was a half-hour Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) television series that aired from 1963-73. Hosted and directed by producer/actor Fletcher Markle, Telescope featured examinations of various topics, as well as profiles of notable figures. Their two-part look at the career of director Alfred Hitchcock, “A Talk with Hitchcock,” aired in 1964. The program was assembled as the auteur was working on his latest picture, Marnie, and we’re treated to on-set footage of the man, along with Marnie stars Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. But the focus of the special is the interview with Hitch—shot in his Hollywood office—in which the master of suspense is quite candid, casually discussing his oeuvre. It’s very cool to see him so relaxed, conversing with Markle as if there are no cameras present.
Hitchcock cohorts Joan Harrison and Norman Lloyd also appear, as does legendary composer Bernard Hermann. Hermann scored a number of Hitchcock films, including Psycho, a picture made all the more terrifying thanks to Hermann’s heart-stopping compositions. I especially enjoyed learning, by way of Hermann, the Psycho murder scenes were originally intended to be silent, though Hermann disagreed. Once Hitchcock watched the scenes without music and then again with what Hermann had come up with, the director changed his mind. It’s hard to imagine the iconic “shower scene”—as impressive as it is visually—lacking Hermann’s brilliant, hair-raising piece.
“A Talk with Hitchcock” was released on DVD, and though it’s now out of print, a copy can still be had by way of Amazon.
The two-part Telescope episode was recently added to YouTube as a single upload. It’s a fascinating peek into the mind, work, and life of one of cinema’s greatest directors.
Blondie is, per Kirsty Young, “the most successful American band ever in the UK.” In December of ‘79, having just topped the chart yet again with Eat to the Beat, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein paid a visit to the BBC’s Saturday morning kids’ show Swap Shop—apparently a rival of Tiswas whose full legal name was Multi-Coloured Swap Shop—where guests offered swag to lucky contestants who wrote in with the correct answer to a trivia question. Some of the dry goods on this episode come from the recently completed “rock and roll comedy” Roadie, in which Blondie’s co-stars were Meat Loaf, Alice Cooper, Roy Orbison and Art Carney.
During the best parts of the episode, Chris and Debbie press phones to their ears as the tiny, halting voices of English schoolchildren blurt out questions and wishes for a happy Christmas:
Ian Rutledge: I wanted to ask Debbie, did she participate in any sports?
Beverly Chinnick: Um, Debbie, who designs your clothes, and um, do you choose them?
Samantha Jarrett: Um, um, Debbie, did you name your group after your hair?
Paulette Baker: Can I ask Debbie a question? Was her hair always that fair color, or was it brown like the other members of her group?
Because the proceedings are so sweet, the mention of the disgraced TV host Jimmy Savile, who was revealed to have been a serial rapist of children shortly after his death, is startling. Brace yourself. (Savile does not appear on the show, though the gross likeness of his gross hair does.)
If Wikipedia is right, BBC wiped its archival tape of this episode in the late eighties. Three cheers for home recording.
Fumio Miyashita was the leader of one of Japan’s most far out space rock units, The Far East Family Band, which also included the future new age composer, Kitaro. The Boffomundo Show was a Los Angeles public access television show focusing on prog rock in the late 70s and early 80s. Boffomundo producers Aaron Weiner and Ron Curtiss partnered with a well-connected guy named Tony Harrington of a label called All Ears Records to create The All Ears Boffomundo Show, which is how Fumio Miyashita came to appear on the show, twice, all of which is soon getting a release on vinyl by Drag City.
I asked Ron Curtiss a few questions via email:
First off, tell the readers about The Boffomundo Show.
Ron Curtiss: Aaron Weiner and I started The Boffomundo Show in 1979, which featured sit-down interviews with our progrock heroes. As cable television expanded, it mandated a “public access” broadcasting option allowing local subscribers to produce their own shows. Boffomundo roughly means “big world.” Watching the TV show, Happy Days, and hearing Fonzie say “correctomundo,” I replaced the “correcto” part with “boffo,” which refers to high grosses in show biz talk and voila! At a progressive music festival in Downtown LA we met a former A&R executive from Atlantic Records called Tony Harrington, who had traveled the world in the mid-70’s with King Crimson, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Genesis. He provided us with a brilliant litany of guests: Robert Fripp and John Wetton (King Crimson); Bernardo Lanzetti (PFM); Phil Collins and John Goodsall (Genesis and Brand X) and of course, Fumio Miyashita. The show continued after Tony, into the 80’s and 90’s, where we interviewed King Crimson’s Adrian Belew, Bill Bruford (Yes, Genesis, King Crimson) and fusion guitarists, Larry Coryell and Al Di Meola.
How did you come into contact with Fumio Miyashita and arrange for him to be on the show?
Ron Curtis: Tony Harrington had his own record label called All Ears Records. He had connections to progressive bands in Japan, including Fumio, whose Far East Family Band was already legendary. The award-winning synthesist, Kitaro, was a member and they had the honor of having Tangerine Dream’s Klaus Schulze provide production work on several of their albums. Tony brought Fumio to Los Angeles in 1978, where a new version of The Far East Family Band performed at the world famous Troubadour for two nights in March of that year. In 1979, Tony invited us to Fumio’s home, where we discussed a solo appearance on The Boffomundo Show. We had never tried live music before. The studio was the size of a small bedroom, but that didn’t stop us!
Anything notable that happened behind-the-scenes during the taping?
Ron Curtiss: Fumio showed up at Theta Cable Studios in Santa Monica, CA with many synthesizers, gongs, mixers and various percussion. Somehow the Theta Cable staff pumped all the sound through one small bookshelf speaker. The speaker sat on a wooden stool with a single microphone! The sound quality was very good considering nothing like this had never been done in that studio before. In 1980, Fumio with a guitarist and bass player, graced The Boffomundo Show a second time. Both performances are brilliantly captured on the new album.
How did the release of this come about?
Ron Curtiss: Last August I got a message on our Boffomundo Facebook page from Scott McGaughey at Drag City Records. It seems that he and Animal Collective member, Brian “Geo” Weitz were fans of the show and of Fumio in particular. They wanted to remaster the sound and edit together portions of both the 1979 and 1980 shows for vinyl. Vinyl is perfect. We are honored to have these shows memorialized and dedicate the record to the memories of Fumio Miyashita and Tony Harrington.
Will there be more like it?
Since we remastered the old shows and posted them on YouTube some years ago, we have close to a million hits. The old fans and new prog kids support us all around the world. The shows were not seen by a lot of folks at the time. They capture the end of the original progressive rock movement. The highlights are the fresh memories of these amazing musicians, avoiding the softening of opinions over many years. We offered the musicians a forum to tell their tales on TV, in an intelligent, uncommercial venue. A few years ago I was approached to do a book, Robert Fripp The Boffomundo Interview 1979 and now a record! We are humbled by the reaction to the old shows and always welcome original ideas to present them to an even wider audience.
Fumio Miyashita Live on the Boffomundo Show comes out on September 22 from Drag City. Pre-order it here.
An excerpt from Fumio Miyashita’s appearance on ‘The Boffomundo Show’