Monday, August 21, 2017

Jerry Lewis, 1926-2017, and Dick Gregory, 1932-2017, R.I.P.

Today's post is obviously not the post I meant when I said in my last post that "my next post is even stranger!" That post is going to be postponed indefinitely.

I'm going to attempt to keep this dual tribute article brief, because I've been doing a lot of different internet chores today, and I'm not done yet! I've been here at the library since 9:30 a.m., and as I began writing the text portion of this post, two p.m. passed by me!

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1. Jerry Lewis, 1926-2017, R.I.P.

Jerry Lewis, who died Sunday at the age of ninety-one, evoked a number of different reactions from everyone who knew of him. He was considered a genius, abrasive, hilarious, insulting, humanitarian, and more adjectives than I can include here and be true to my promise to keep this post "brief." I was a huge fan of his when I was a kid, and I've found it rather discouraging over the years as I learned unfortunate personal things about his words and actions  -- I once had a co-worker who said Lewis insulted both himself and his elderly mother -- but I've always been able to separate his personal quirks from his various performances.

Lewis (fifth from left), Ed Sullivan (ninth from left), and Lewis' then-partner
Dean Martin (tenth from left) on the premiere episode of Ed Sullivan's CBS-TV
variety show, Toast of the Town (later renamed The Ed Sullivan Show), in 1948.

Another shot of the team of Martin and Lewis, before their 1956 break-up.

Dean and Jerry were enormously popular, and even got their own comic book series.

After their 1956 split, DC Comics went with the comic half of the former
team and retitled the book with issue #41 to shift its focus to Jerry alone.

One of my favorite issues of The Adventures of Jerry Lewis,
which parodied the story of The Wizard of Oz.

Jerry's first solo film outing, 1957's The Delicate Delinquent. This remains one of my favorites
of his.  Lewis is flanked by Martha Hyer and Darren McGavin in this lobby card photo.

I absolutely loved 1958's The Geisha Boy when I
first saw it on television sometime in the early 1960s.

Probably Lewis' most-loved and critically acclaimed film, The Nutty Professor (1963) re-worked the
Jekyll and Hyde story to hilarious effect. It also inspired the 1996 remake starring Eddie Murphy.

Ed Sullivan, Lewis, and Jerry's son Gary. Gary was a mid-1960s pop sensation,
with Top 40 hits like "This Diamond Ring," "Count Me In," and "Green Grass."

Lewis, of course, hosted the annual telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association
from 1966-2010. He helped to raise many millions of dollars over the years, although
facing controversy over portraying people with disabilities as subjects of pity.

A scene from the never-released The Day the Clown Cried, a World War II-era film.

Frank Sinatra, a mutual friend of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, arranged a live, on-the-air reconciliation
between the two former partners on the 1976 MDA Labor Day telethon. The two hadn't spoken in twenty
years. I can proudly say that I was watching this historic moment as it happened.

Lewis delivered a critically-acclaimed turn as a dramatic actor in Martin Scorsese's 1982
masterpiece, The King of Comedy. He is pictured here with the film's star, Robert De Niro.

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2. Dick Gregory, 1932-2017, R.I.P.

Comedian and activist Dick Gregory has died at the age of eighty-four. I don't have a lot to say about him. I saw him on television a few times as I was growing up, and I read his autobiography, nigger [sic], sometime well after its 1964 publication, probably in the early 1970s. At a time when most African-American comedians (such as Red Foxx, Moms Mabley, and Slappy White) played to mostly black audiences, comedians like Dick Gregory and Godfrey Cambridge appealed to white audiences as well and more or less paved the way for later acts such as Bill Cosby, Flip Wilson, and Richard Pryor. Starting in the early 1960s, Gregory became more and more involved in political activism. He died of heart failure on August 19th.

An early shot of Mr. Gregory performing stand-up comedy.

With Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dick Gregory's autobiography, nigger. I love the inscription to his mother at the bottom of the cover.

With sports legend Muhammad Ali, known for a bit of "political activism" himself.

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Thanks for your time.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Get Your Archers Straight! (A "David'Z RantZ" Post)

Today's post is admittedly a little strange, and my next post is even stranger! I'll probably be away from any computers all weekend -- I'm attending a comic convention Saturday, for the first time in at least twenty years -- but I'll answer any and all of your comments when I return, probably on Monday.

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Ever hear a song called "Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)?" It was originally performed by the group called Squeeze and appeared on their 1980 album, "Argybargy."

Here 'tis:

Personally, I love the song, but one thing about it has always bothered me. Here are the lyrics of the chorus:

But behind the chalet
My holiday's complete
And I feel like William Tell
Maid Marian on her tiptoed feet
Pulling mussels from a shell
Pulling mussels from a shell

Now, I ask you, fellow babies, what the hell does Maid Marian have to do with William Tell?!? William Tell is a folk hero from Switzerland, while Maid Marian was the girlfriend of the British folk hero, Robin Hood!

Get your archers straight, people!

Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Forty Years Ago Today (Edited and Reprinted from 8/17/2010)

Forty years ago today, he died.

He was -- arguably -- one of the greatest entertainers ever.

He has been -- inarguably -- one of the biggest influences on music and musicians for roughly sixty years.

His legion of fans is still increasing. People who weren't even born yet when he died love the man and his legacy of music.

He is one of the most well-known people who ever lived. Worldwide.

And if you doubt that, explain to me why you know whom I'm writing about, although I haven't said his name, and the images above don't show his face.

Thanks for your time... or, rather, "Thankyuhverramuch!"

Monday, August 14, 2017

More "Short Shorts"

1. Joseph Bologna, 1934-2017, R.I.P.

Sad to hear that writer/director/actor Joseph Bologna, perhaps best known for his portrayal of "King Kaiser," a character based on Sid Caesar, in 1982's terrific My Favorite Year, has died at the age of eighty-two from pancreatic cancer.

In My Favorite Year, with John Welsh and Peter O'Toole.

With Valerie Harper, Michelle Johnson, Demi Moore, and Michael Caine in Blame It on Rio, 1984.

With wife Renee Taylor in 1974. Love his hair!

In Transylvania 6-5000 with John Byner and Carol Kane, 1985.

Another shot of Joe as King Kaiser in My Favorite Year, with villain Cameron Mitchell. Mitchell
played gangster Karl Rojeck, whom Kaiser was spoofing as "Boss Hijack" on his variety show.

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2. More on Glen Campbell

I wanted to post a few YouTube videos showcasing the late Glen Campbell's talent as a guitarist! The songs below are some of my all-time favorite tunes.

Let's start off subtly. Carl Jackson is really the "star" of this rendition of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," while Glen accompanies him.

Next, from a 1977 episode of the Donny & Marie show, here's Glen doing the "William Tell Overture," which makes the inevitable connection to its use as the theme for The Lone Ranger on movies, television, and radio. I don't know whose idea it was to include the idiotic clips making fun of TLR, but they only distract from Glen's incredible guitar work!

Finally: One of my most beloved songs -- I own at least seven or eight different versions, and I'm always open to buy more -- is "Ghost Riders in the Sky." Here's Glen doing it with living legend Roy Clark, and yes, I do mean "living!" Thankfully, Roy is still with us.

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Thanks for your time!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Glen Campbell, 1936-2017, R.I.P.

Singer, songwriter, musician, actor, and television host Glen Campbell has died at the age of eighty-one from Alzheimer's disease.

I was not quite twelve when I first became aware of Glen Campbell, several years into his career, via his hosting 1968's The Summer Brothers Smothers Show, a summer replacement for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. In 1969, his show The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour debuted, and ran until 1972.

Campbell had a long string of hits during the 1960s and 1970s. The first lines of several of those songs stick in my memory.

"It's knowing that your door is always open and your path is free to walk..." ("Gentle on my Mind," written by John Hartford.)

"I am a lineman for the county, and I drive the main road..." ("Wichita Lineman.")

"By the time I get to Phoenix, she'll be rising..." (It shouldn't surprise you to learn that that was the first line of a song called -- what else? -- "By the Time I Get to Phoenix.")

"Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea winds blowin'..." ("Galveston," of course.)

"One day, little girl, the sadness will leave your face, as soon as you've won your fight to get justice done..." ("True Grit," the title song from the [original] movie of the same name.)

"I've been walking these streets so long, singing the same old song..." ("Rhinestone Cowboy.")

Of course, he had many other hits, including "Where's the Playground Susie," "Southern Nights," "Dreams of the Everyday Housewife," "Honey Come Back," and numerous others. Dearer to my own heart are three lesser-known songs which found their way into my record collection, "I Knew Jesus (Before He Was a Star),"* "Try a Little Kindness," and his medley of two pop standards "Don't Pull Your Love / Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye."

(*I never understood why "I Knew Jesus (Before He Was a Star)" wasn't called "I Knew Jesus (Before He Was a Superstar)," since that's the actual line in the song, as repeated several times, and it was a reference to the whole "Jesus Christ Superstar" phenomenon of the  early 1970s!)

Glen's music and comedy variety show was usually pretty light-hearted. As I remember it (and I'm going totally on memory here), it used to begin with Glen and some other musicians -- I believe John Hartford was one of them -- standing up at various places in the audience, with Glen himself saying "Hi! I'm Glen Campbell!" In occasional later episodes, other performers or guest stars would stand and claim to be Campbell, for humorous effect.

I remember a lot of jokes about Campbell's hair during his TV show. His hairdo looked somewhat indestructible back then, perhaps due to an excessive amount of hairspray. In fact, I recall one episode in particular where guest Paul Lynde accused Glen of being in a bad mood, and said "What's the matter, did you fall down and crack your hair?"

Campbell is also credited with helping to launch the careers of performers such as Jerry Reed and Anne Murray. (I suppose I can forgive him for that second one...! I also suppose I can forgive the song "Rhinestone Cowboy" for purportedly inspiring the god-awful 1984 movie Rhinestone!)

A sad as it is, Campbell's passing is not really a shock. He'd announced that he had Alzheimer's, that insidious s.o.b. of a disease, in 2011. But it's still quite unfortunate to lose someone whose music and television presence was so much a part of my life during my early adolescence. In fact, I hadn't realized quite how much that show meant to my Sunday night viewing habits until news of his death was released and I started recalling all his hits.

With John Wayne and Kim Darby in 1969's True Grit.

With Tom and Dick Smothers. Love that outfit, Glen!

Another Smothers Brothers photo, obviously from the same scene as
the previous image, where Tom musses the famous Campbell hair!

With Elvis and Priscilla Presley.

With the Beach Boys. Glen toured with them and played on their innovative "Pet Sounds" album.

With Tanya Tucker. The two were a couple for a few years in the '80s,
and their somewhat rocky relationship occasionally made tabloid headlines.

A more recent photo of Glen.

With Dean Martin.

With Merle Haggard.

With David Cassidy.

With Cher.

With Joe Namath in 1970's Norwood, in which Campbell was reunited with his True Grit co-star Kim Darby.

With The Summer Brothers Smothers Show regulars Pat Paulsen and iconic hippie Leigh French.

Yep, the line is "I knew Jesus before He was a superstar," but the song's title is...

Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Don't MS. the Point...

Before I get into this post, let me say this: Somewhere in your travels, you've probably heard that Wonder Woman graced the cover of the first (standalone) issue of Ms.

Well, she didn't. She was on the cover of the second issue (pictured above).

The illustration below shows the cover of the actual first issue.

Anyway, other than the above bit of trivia and an unrelated photo at the bottom of this post, today's post isn't really about Wonder Woman at all. (Yeah, me, writing a non-comic-book-related post. Who'da thunk it?) And today's post isn't really about Ms. (the magazine), either. Not exactly.

A month ago, more or less, I read an obituary for a woman named Sheila Michaels. (Today's post isn't quite a "tribute" post because I didn't know of the woman until then.) Ms. Michaels was the woman who took an old, relatively-forgotten honorific -- "Ms." -- and brought it into wider use. Click on her name if you want to read the whole interesting story.

Now I want to share a related story, an anecdote about an argument I had with my then-fiancée, back in the late 1980s or early 1990s. (I won't use her name for reasons of privacy, not that she herself would ever encounter my blog.)

When I met and began dating my ex -- we'll call her "Faith Salami" due to a private joke I won't get into here -- she was a divorcée who'd been married once before. She'd kept her husband's surname when she'd divorced him, mainly to eliminate confusion where her two children were concerned.

Every so often, she'd receive a mailing from the church she and her two kids belonged to, and the letter was always addressed to "Mrs. Faith Salami." She often commented that it wasn't supposed to be "Mrs." since she was divorced. It should be "Ms.," because "Ms." was the proper term for a divorced woman.

I explained to her that technically, it was proper for the church to write "Mrs." because she'd kept her husband's last name, but naturally, "Ms." was also correct from Faith's standpoint because the whole idea of the term "Ms." was that a woman could use it regardless of her marital status. In fact, that's the whole raison d'être of the word.

I also explained that the use of "Ms." did not automatically signify that she was divorced. Again, "Ms." purposely did not inform anyone of the woman's marital status.

Faith replied with those words I often heard from her during a disagreement: "Well, that's your opinion."

I swear, to this day, some twenty-five to thirty years later, the woman still doesn't comprehend the difference between "fact" and "opinion." (Her granddaughter recently confirmed that to me, in an out-of-the-blue comment, with no prompting from me!) I used to tell Faith, "If I say that two and two is four, that's a fact, not an opinion."

She never understood that.

And, since the internet was a long way away in what was then the future, I couldn't look up the word "Ms." online to prove my point. So, I had to go to the public library instead, find the definition of the word "Ms." in a dictionary, and make a photocopy of the page that contained the entry in question. I brought the photocopied page to Faith and showed it to her.

Guess what she said.

"That's just the opinion of the guy who wrote the dictionary." (Emphasis mine.)

This was the kind of situation that was common enough to insure that our engagement didn't last long enough to become marriage!

Anyway, since I used a pseudonym for "Faith's" real name, I suppose that telling that story doesn't exactly ridicule her.

So, today's post wasn't really about Wonder Woman, wasn't really about Ms. magazine, wasn't really a tribute to Sheila Michaels, and wasn't really designed to embarrass my former fiancée.

I guess it "wasn't really" a post, then, right? And for this I "bumped" my tribute post to June Foray?

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Oh, lest I forget: Last but not least, speaking of Wonder Woman, this is just... wrong.

What the hell were they trying to say?!?

Thanks for your time.


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