Saturday, June 16, 2012

Adverts June 1940

Anyone familiar with my radio show knows that toward the end of a program, I usually include a big band broadcast from the same week, just a different year. And I usually read a bit from the local newspaper that was published the day of the broadcast. I love reading some of the old advertisements. Here's a few examples from the Daily Reformer of June 13th, 1940 (or thereabouts - I do take a little artistic non-exact date license with the advertisements - small town newspaper, not a lot of pages).

God, I'd love to have that car!

Of course you can right click (open in new window - then left click on the image again) to enlarge....

I'd rather not watch for them, thank you.

Friday, June 15, 2012

More notes in passing....

One of things I had intended to do while I was on vacation was a thorough cleaning of my teeny tiny studio. It is easily the dustiest place I have ever lived. So much so that the winter and spring cleaning require moving what few pieces of furniture I have left in order to get at the harbingers of dust apocalypse. The wiring for all the electronics, so carefully laid out to make changes easy, had become an obstruction sapping the life-force of progress. I'd been having my normal "no, you -will- work" argument with the wifi device. I pulled it out of its front of the tower usb port and pushed it back in. The computer shut down. The monitor flashed a message that there was no input and that it was going to sleep. The power to the tower would not turn back on. I kept trying, but there was no response. In the ensuing panic I moved everything so I could get to the surge suppressing outlet adapters. Still powered. I unplugged., sweating beads of desperation and despair. I waited. I bided my time. I plugged back in. I pressed the on button again. It lit. I'd made it.

The experience was not without cost. Passwords and screen id names to websites had melted into the ethernet. I could cope. I also cleaned as I went Being sick all week, I knew I wasn't going to get a deep clean done. But I'd done little bits here and there. Now the area where I sit  has been cleaned up back to the baseboards. It cheers one up to have the floors clean, the dirt swabbed up off the linoleum in the galley, no dishes in the sink. Guest chairs which can actually be used for such purpose instead of temporary storage. The change was gradual and will hopefully continue. It helps.

This week has seen the passing of people whose time here impacted my own, and I must note them. At the beginning of the week, I learned that Frank Cady had died. Anyone who grew up in the 1960's in a house with a television would recognize him instantly. Aside from prolific appearances as a character actor in  movies and on tv, he was Sam Drucker, the storekeeper back home on The Beverly HillbilliesPetticoat Junction, and Green Acres. It was a great character. He knew it, and seemed to inhabit it effortlessly.

The beginning of the week also saw the passing of Nolan Miller. I'm not a fashion maven, and what interest I have in the subject now is in retrospect. But in the 80's, Mr. Nolan designed the costumes for one of those life among the super-rich nighttime super soap operas, Dynasty. The first season had some glamour, and had ended with the head of the clan on trial for killing his son's male lover. There was a commotion in the courtroom as the camera revealed a pair of elegantly shod legs slinking towards the bench. We had to wait until the next season to learn that the legs belonged to Joan Collins. Her character, wealthy first wife, started a glam war with the second wife. Nolan Miller designed those costumes. It would not surprise me to learn that they were enough to make Cher cry. It was all great fun.

First glimpse in the courtroom...
Nolan Miller with Joan Collins 
typical high fashioned Dynasty

Ann Rutherford passed away. She'd been Scarlet's youngest sister in Gone With the Wind. And she was Polly Benedict, the (girl next door with sass) romantic interest of Andy Hardy. And she was the moon faced and starry eyed female lead of the Glenn Miller movie, Orchestra Wives, who stared so dreamily at trumpet player George Montgomery.

And Wayne Roberts has died. I'd never heard his name before. But I knew his work. Everyone in New York City in the 1970's did. Not that any images conjured themselves, memory was not helpful. And then I saw it - the tag. Stay High 149. It was instantly recognizable, you just never really "saw" it because it was so ubiquitous. It was everywhere. In the era of 1970's New York City budget cutbacks, graffiti was not being removed, and it started changing. No more block letters of names denoting a neighborhood. A look and style began to develop. Wayne Roberts was one of the people who made that happen. He tagged everything. He went everywhere (turns out he was a messenger). His was the first work to have a logo - a stuck figure like the one from the tv show The Saint, except this one was smoking what had to be a joint.

His tags began to be noticed and he began to get a bit of press. He started using entire sides of subway cars as a giant canvas. Norman Mailer featured him in a coffee table picture book celebrating ghetto art for rich white liberals who wanted to be with it. They should have just tried using the subway or actually walking around the side streets where things weren't so pretty and the real people were. At any rate, his picture got published, and he got arrested. The attention brought problems, and he disappeared into a world of drugs where he wouldn't be found. In 2000, someone recognized him. He learned that he had followers, and that he was accorded respect. And his work was being shown in galleries. He cleaned himself up, and made a little money selling his tags. He had a few good years before passing this week of liver disease. He was 61.

While it was easy to applaud the sheer gall and the in your face statement of existence of his surreptitiously and  nocturnally accomplished monumental graffiti, there was another side of it which made me sad. It wasn't that I was concerned about the destruction of public property. It was more the side effects, the proliferation of disrespect - for buildings, for conveyances most people used every day, for our immediate world. The decaying urban environment was gritty enough, it didn't need this visual pollution that grew to infect even small out of the way towns like Brattleboro. 

Graffiti became a movement. And it became the backdrop and artwork of an explosion of urban black creativity that channeled into dance and music. Rap. Hip Hop. Like anything else real and vital it quickly became a commodity to be sold and managed. It was linked to the growing image of thug culture, another sales job that too many people bought into. With the addition of cheap drugs, the new way of things, the image of cool, a veritable lifestyle, would trap and destroy more than just one generation. It's a cynical style that has cheapened our world and our culture. And I hope its time is passing, too.

The need to be done with that era is kind of like cleaning up your living space after a burst of drop and go. Cleaned up, things are a little nicer. Not so depressing. It helps, if only a little.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Center Square

I can't quite remember where I first saw Paul Lynde. I -think- it was in the role of Ann Margaret's father in the Bye Bye Birdie movie (a role he had originated on Broadway). He was Uncle Arthur on Bewitched. And then he became the center square on the Hollywood Squares game show. His snarky persona was as famous as his quips, which were unbelievably outrageous for their time. He was, by many accounts, an unhappy person. Today is his birthday, and I just wanted to take a moment to remember a man who made (and still makes) me laugh.

A few of his more famous lines from the center sqaure:

Q: In the movies, Frankenstein's monster was always big and ugly. And he had lots of scars. What was his biggest fear?
A: That the girls would be turned off by his big nuts.

Q: According to the old song, "At night, when you're asleep, into your tent I'll creep." Who am I?
A: The scoutmaster.

Q. Do female frogs croak?
A: If you hold their little heads under water long enough.

Q: Paul, can you get an elephant drunk?
A: Yes, but he still won't go up to your apartment.

Q: Prometheus was tied to the top of a mountain by the gods because he had given something to man. What did he give us?
A: I don't know what you got, but I got a sports shirt.

Q: Is Billy Graham considered a good dresser?
A: No, but he's a terrific end table.

Q: Is using an electric vibrating machine a good way to lose weight?
A: That's what I told the saleslady, but she just winked.

Q: When is it a good idea to put your pantyhose in the microwave oven for two minutes?
A: When your house is surrounded by the police.

Q:  If the right part comes along, will George C. Scott do a nude scene?
A:  You mean he doesn't have the right part?

Q: What do you call a man who gives you diamonds and pearls?
A: I'd call him "darling"!

Q: Oh, Paul, what would we ever do without you?
A:  Replace me with Charles Nelson Reilly!

Q:  Paul, according to the World Book Encylopedia, what is the main reason dogs pant?
A:  Because they can’t talk dirty!

Q: When you pat a dog on its head he will usually wag his tail. What will a goose do?
A: Make him bark.

Q: What is the name of the instrument with the light on the end, that the doctor sticks in your ear?
A: Oh, a cigarette.

Q: It is considered in bad taste to discuss two subjects at nudist camps. One is politics. What is the other?
A: Tape measures.

Q: Paul, in ancient Rome, bakers were required by law to bake something into each loaf of bread. What?
A: A Christian.

Q: What is a pullet?
A: A little show of affection.

Q: According to the French Chef, Julia Child, how much is a pinch?
A: Just enough to turn her on.

Q: Paul, why do Hell's Angels wear leather?
A: Because chiffon wrinkles too easily. 

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lynde.
And Thanks for all the laughs.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's complicated

My little blog is under attack again. Some time back this site was discovered by spam bots which post voluminously and mercilessly at times. Their favorite choices for attack are "Uh, oh", which has (in two segments) a great piece from the Daily Show class warfare files, and "A Meditation on Valentine's Day". Most of their droppings push pills at discount prices. We are now knee deep in synchronicity, folks. Over at Austanspace Laura posted about the poor, and finished up with a clip from the movie "Caberet" in which Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey perform "The Money Song". As I was web gliding (I'm becoming more of a glider than a surfer these days, 'surfing' sounds too active), I chanced upon a blog with a video of Minnelli, Michael York, and Joel Grey at an event for a restoration job on the movie. All I will say is that time is not on our side. Oh - the restored footage chosen for the video was of "The Money Song". Liza, of course, is the daughter of Judy Garland. And you have no idea what restraint I am exercising in letting that description stand as is. The Meditation on Valentine's Day post used a song lyric written by Johnny Mercer. He wrote it to Garland as in, well, as in a love song. (Rather inconvenient as he met Garland at the time of her wedding to David Rose, but that's all another story. Maybe. It's complicated.)

Anyway, this past Sunday, I noted a couple of my personal reverberations for this time of year and the date of June the 10th. I left several things out (historically speaking, it's a busy day). The 10th was Judy Garland's birthday. To be honest, I avoided mentioning it because I didn't quite know what to say or do.

Garland was born on a June the 10th and died on June the 22nd. A friend of mine noticed that if you count it, as on a calendar, there are Twelve Days of Judy. "...on the sixth day of Judy my true love gave to me, six numbutol, five black bea-u-ties, four seconal, three... and a vodka chassseeerrrr". Well, you get the idea even if I can't sing.

What is there to say? The world has changed so much. Does the story still resonate with people today? Her parents vaudevillians who ran a movie house. Onstage at and from the age of two. Had to move when the stories about her father and the ushers started getting around. Resettled to the California promised land with a stage mother determined to give Rose Hovick a run for her money. Or in this case, her child's money. Under contract to the biggest, most powerful movie studio of the day, where the studio chief famously referred to her as his "little hunchback", and where she was given pills to keep her going, and pills to go to sleep. Hell of a story. Proclivity for drugs, alcohol, marrying gay men. Proverbial train wreck, multi car pile up. Pathos and bathos. It's one of those "when the legend becomes fact, print the legend" kinds of things. The story, and all that goes with it, the whole mythos, none of it really matters. What matters is that she was probably the best Goddamned entertainer who ever lived or who will ever live. For her last two birthdays, I unintentionally posted the same clip. Last year, I titled the post "Once every eternity". That about sums it up. See folks, this is what matters:

Happy Birthday, Judy. 

and Thank You.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

time of the year

Last night, after having done what felt like a good radio show (a birthday salute to Cole Porter), I walked home at dusk as the scent of stock and gilliflowers perfumed a slight breeze. It was a beautiful evening, and I was suddenly 6 years old, catching fireflies in a jar in the backyard of the house on Allen Street. After arriving home I made repeated trips to the back door, peering out into the growing dark looking for fireflies, but there were none. Perhaps they are delayed due to the lengthy bout of rainy weather. Perhaps time has passed them by.

Today is the first day of a week long vacation. So, of course, late yesterday afternoon I started sneezing. By late last evening and overnight, half of my head was inflamed, glands were swollen, and so on and so forth. My friend Larry, who gets married this afternoon, has pancreatic cancer and has just started chemotherapy. It would not be a good idea for me to attend  his celebration. Ah, well.

This time of the year has any number of reverberations in my memory. My father passed away on June the 8th, 2000. It was in what, 1993? or 1994? while living in Boston that I went into hospital for a week with a very bad case of pneumonia. I've never been the same since. I almost missed the show of peonies in my garden. I had a plot in the Back Bay Fens, in what had been the WWII Victory Gardens. That was a rather wonderful garden, if I do say so myself. With the old roses and the peonies in bloom at the same time, you could smell my garden at least 100 feet away.  I won an award for it.

And it was on a Monday, June 10th, 1968 to be exact, that I graduated High School. I received a special
award for being the "most dependable". No one in my family ever congratulated me or commented on it. Back then, I was the only  student who could be in the hallways between classes without an official pass. I was head of the audio visual department, as well as the managing editor of The Dragon, our school newspaper.

Those were heady and disturbing times. In just the few days before graduation, a woman named Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol, Robert Kennedy -  running for President - was assassinated, and the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr. (who had been shot two months before) was arrested. There had been riots in Paris when the police cracked down on striking students. The Vietnam War was always in the news, as was 'Black Power'. The musical "Hair" had opened on Broadway. Simon & Garfunkel were singing about Mrs. Robinson, and Otis Redding was (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay. There was a cake melting in MacArthur Park, The Ohio Express had embarrassed the world with a song called "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy", Aretha (who was was to be on the cover of Time Magazine by the end of the month) was getting lots of airplay for her song, "Think". The Beatles started a new company called Apple Records. A new house cost $14,950.00 in a time when the average income was  $7,850.00 a year (minimum wage was $1.60 per hour). The average cost of a new car was $2,822.00, and gas was 34 cents a gallon. It cost you $1.50 to go see "2001, A Space Odyssey", "The Odd Couple", or the movie everyone was waiting for which opened later that week, "Rosemary's Baby". 

Salvador Dali created the cover of that week's TV Guide, which felt appropriate, as tv was often surreal between the news and the  variety shows, cop shows, and crazy comedies. There was Ed Sullivan, Lawrence Welk, the Hollywood Palace, the Kraft Music Hall, Jackie Gleason, Carol Burnett, Jonathon Winters, Red Skelton, the Smother's Brothers, Dean Martin, and Laugh-In. There were big star recent release movies being shown every night of the week in prime time. You could also see shows like Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, Peyton Place (which was on twice a week, and which had just made the change to color from black and white), My Three Sons, Hogan's Heroes, Mission Impossible, a Flying Nun, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Green Acres,  the Avengers, Mod Squad, That Girl, and Star Trek. We didn't know it then, but the first Big Mac would be sold the following September, forever changing food and creating a world of chain stores. 

That was the world into which I was being ejected. I was glad to be done with High School, and glad to be done with my little town. In a few days, I would leave my father's home forever as I went to find work for the summer in Ocean City. It occurs to me now that I also went off in search of myself.

Over the years, I've often heard people wish to be 17 (as I was when I graduated) or 18 again, or want to relive the '60's. Not me, once was enough, Thank You.