Monday, April 27, 2009

R.I.P. Frankie Manning (1914-2009)

I absolutely, positively can't stand being the "R.I.P. Blog", but, alas, the incredible Lindy Hop dancer Frankie Manning - a truly awesome talent deserving of more recognition - just passed away at 94. Frankie, a great artist like Bill Robinson, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse, taught swing dance into his 90's. Here he is (Frankie's the mechanic) doing amazing acrobatic moves in Helzapoppin', as part of the jaw-droppingly great Whitey's Lindy Hoppers troupe.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Still More Beer Ads: Featuring The Fabulous Hamm's Bear

Here's one of my favorite commercials, starring the immortal "Hamm's Bear" (of course, he's immortal - he's a freakin' cartoon character), from the land of sky blue waters (waters)."






Too bad cartoons were considered to be for kids in the 60's, since Yogi Bear (Ed Benedict design) would have been the perfect animated spokesperson for a delicious frosty brew! And if marijuana had been legal and advertised on prime time TV, Yogi would also have been a fantastic plugger for what the great Louis Armstrong dubbed "New Orleans Golden Leaf". Yogi would have been WAY less expensive than Satchmo, Bob Marley or Peter Tosh and almost as entertaining.



Just imagine: "hey BooBoo, pass that pipe over to me, heeheehee. . . I'm as hungry as a bear, hey hey hey, maybe we could have some simply scrumptious Kellogg's OKs!"

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Beer Commercials With Nichols And May

This blog wishes Elaine May a happy birthday and salutes her many contributions to the comedy universe. These Nichols and May ads for Jax and Narragansett Beers are right up there with the Bob & Ray commercials for Piels Beer.





Although, come to think of it, my favorite beer ad ever is the 1961 beaut with beer cans sitting in a stream while the jingle rhapsodizes, "refreshing as springtime, Old Milwaukee beer!"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Scopitone Alert!

Big thanks to Dash Riprock (A.K.A. "Ross The Boss", "Our Man In Thailand") for this early 60's French Scopitone singing the praises of "copacabana". Obviously, Barry Manilow's agent asked the Scopitones people for too much money. And that's just as well.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Saturday, April 18, '09: The KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival Returns



Indeed, it's true - the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival returns, against all our better judgment, to the hallowed halls of DeAnza College (Foothill College, our home from 1992-2008, is still closed for renovations).

KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival starts with such pungent ingredients noted in Michael Weldon's "Psychotronic History Of Cinema"(the encyclopedia of grindhouse B-films) as monster movies, horror films, science fiction and rock 'n' roll musicals, and adds the unintentionally funny educational films seen on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. And we then throw in a whole mess more spices - vintage TV commercials and theatre ads, cartoon rarities, double-entendre packed pre-Code comedies, Soundies, Scopitones, silent movie clips, kidvid gone wrong - to the gurgling pop culture cauldron.



The first half of the show focuses on short films. Among other things, we have included trailers from truly wretched movies, well-meaning 50's educational films, schlocky drive-in movies with guys in stupid-looking robot and gorilla suits, Pre-Code cartoons, Japanese monster epics, all kinds of obscure musical shorts, serial chapters, WWII-era puppet animation, unintentionally funny ("craptastic") made-for-TV Synchro-Vox cartoons - and more. I'm not kidding, more.



The festival is a reaction against all rules of film programming. We aim to be as all over the map as humanly possible ("And Now For Something Completely Different" would be the credo), as opposed to concentrating on one genre, series or director.



The weirder, the more obscure, the lower the budget, the more under-the-radar, the more the audience responds with a WTF?, the better. If a subject link or a Monty Python-esque visual or verbal link can tie together the segments, great, but this is not absolutely necessary. We also improvise the show in real time; archivist-producers Bob Ekman, Scott Moon and myself essentially create this cinematic cornucopia on the fly, responding to audience reaction and that sense of what film selection will or will not work in that moment.


The next KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival will occur on Saturday April 18, from 7:00 PM to 11:30 PM, in the Forum building on the DeAnza College campus. There will be a $5 donation which benefits KFJC 89.7. You'll also need $2 for parking.



Rob Emmett, host of KFJC's "Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show", emcees with aplomb and bon mots to spare. We also hear that Mr. Lobo and Ernie Fosselius from Cinema Insomnia will be on hand for the festivities, as well as to help give away cheesy door prizes at the intermission.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mound City Blue Blowers, 1929

Red McKenzie (no relation to Bob or Doug) sings "I Ain't Got Nobody" and makes the kazoo and that soup can he's scatting through sound like a muted trumpet in this entry from the Vitaphone Varieties series. I also like the banjo player who does a 1920's variant of the fret-tapping technique used 50+ years later on electric guitars by Stanley Jordan and Eddie Van Halen.




If you enjoy this and want to see more of these one-reel musicals from the dawn of "talkies", there's a whole DVD of 1926-1929 Vitaphone Varieties on the Al Jolson: The Jazz Singer - Three Disc Deluxe Edition. And check out The Vitaphone Project for more info on these historic musical shorts.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Offering: A Swedish Musical Excerpt

What would Easter be without a production number from Brokida Blad (produced in 1930, released on New Year's Day 1931), the Swedish attempt to create an MGM-style early talkie musical on a miniscule budget? This blog's favorite Swedish flapper, Vera Nilsson sings "I Love You My Darling" and does her gosh-darned best to be perky n' peppy. Could only be better if the indescribably bizarre American-born Swedish dialect comedian El Brendel was there doing something really, really goofy.

Friday, April 10, 2009

One Of Our Favorite Flappers: Zelma O' Neal

The genuinely charming musical comedy star Zelma O' Neal sings "I Wanna Be Bad" with good humor and exuberance in this production number from the classic early talkie Follow Thru (1930, Paramount). Zelma was a big star on Broadway and only made a few films, but made the most of her opportunities. She must have been a blast to see onstage.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bill Watterston = Nostradamus



I extend a stylish tip of the Jimmie Hatlo hat to Lazy-Eye Raspberry Kennedy for sending me this prescient 1994 cartoon by the great Bill Watterston. Although, come to think of it, the current version of Calvin would charge 1500 bucks for the 6 oz. glass of lemonade, call those who choose not to pay that much "losers" and the accurate phrase for the final panel would be "I demand to be subsidized".

Monday, April 06, 2009

It's April '09 - Play Ball by Paul F. Etcheverry

The major league baseball season commences today, and as one of that species known as the San Francisco Giants Fan – a punishment-loving cult after the Marquis de Sade’s own twisted heart – I have no choice but to devote a blog entry to MLB. So once a year, I do boring Giants talk, only of interest to that select but ever-masochistic breed.

I found myself with a lifetime membership in said breed by witnessing the likes of Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Gaylord “The Dry Look” Perry, Willie McCovey, Bobby Bonds (Barry’s dad and the Alfonso Soriano of his day), Joe Morgan, Jeffrey "Hackman" Leonard, “Will The Thrill” Clark, Kevin “Boogie Bear” Mitchell, Dave Dravecky, Rod “Shooter” Beck, "Rapid Robb" Nen, Matt Williams and even the loathed but highly skilled, unbelievably focused, fierce and fiercely competitive Barry Bonds (and more) do amazing things in a misbegotten, cold and windy baseball park named Candlestick decades ago.

First and foremost, it doesn’t matter to me that the Giants sucked donkey baby makers for the last four seasons. Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a crap! In matters of romance and baseball, hope, even totally unsupported by evidence, springs eternal. Only in the former does it not spring quite as often as the decades march on (although, come to think of it, the equivalent of Viagra and Cialis for devotees of unrelentingly wretched major league baseball teams could definitely make big bucks for big pharma). And the Giants, ladies and gentlemen, have the 2008 Cy Young Award winner, hard-throwing mighty mite Tim "Lights Out" Lincecum. It'll be worth going out to the ol' ballpark just to see Timmy throw heat.


To address the faint but undaunted hopes of Giants’ fandom, here’s what I’d like to see in the 2009 season:

  • Pablo Sandoval plays a decent third base and lives up to his nickname of "The Round Mound Of Pound".

  • Left fielder Fred Lewis improves his defense and hits .290+ with some pop (90+ RBIs).

  • Travis Ishikawa plays superb defense at first, proves can he hit big league pitching and slams a few dingers out o’ the joint in the process.


  • The clutch-hitting, slick-fielding Edgar Renteria who personally annihilated the Giants in the 1997 and 2003 playoffs, not his over-the-hill identical twin who played so badly in 2008 that the Detroit Tigers made no effort to re-sign him, is the one we get in a Giants uniform. If the Giants end up with the latter, trade him at mid-season, move Manny Burris to shortstop and give Kevin Frandsen a shot at second base.

  • Manager Bruce Bochy rests Aaron Rowand at times, whether he likes it or not. And Aaron, don't worry about hitting homers (you and most MLB hitters won't get many in the cavernous dimensions of A T & T Park), just play a solid center field and hit for average the way you did for the Phils and White Sox.

  • New relief pitchers Jeremy Affeldt and Bob Howry do something the horrid "arson squad" bullpens of 2006-2008, with the exception of Brian "Don't Call Me Beach Boy" Wilson rarely did: actually hold a lead.

  • Among the very few worthy holdovers from the ‘08 pitching staff's horrific relief crew, Sergio Romo and Merkin Valdez, return from injuries, protect leads - and kick ass doing it.

  • Should the crosstown Oakland A's wuss out and trade Matt Holliday at mid-season (instead of signing him to a long-term contract), deal him to the Giants!

  • Find Manny Mota and arrange for him to have dinner with Rich Aurilia. Since Richie's going to get plenty of chances to pinch hit with the game on the line, have the veteran Giant talk pinch-hitting strategy with the best, as long as Manny isn't working for the Dodgers.


  • Someone teaches Barry Zito the Don Sutton variation on the "cut fastball". No straight-as-a-string fastball means 15+ wins for Barry in 2009.

  • Note to Matt Cain and Barry Zito: pitch inside! Yes, that means throw at guys. A.K.A. channel the confrontational "just try and hit this, sucka" spirit of Sal "The Barber" Maglie or the fearless Bob Gibson.
  • Note to position players: score some runs for Matt n' Barry this year, PUH-LEEEZ!
PLAY BALL!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Kitten On The Keys World Premiere



While I'm unquestionably a week too late with my blurb, I strongly encourage the San Francisco Bay Area readers of this blog to get their collective derrieres to Mama Calizo's Voice Factory this weekend to check out Kitten On The Keys' one-woman show.

Kitten did a fabulous turn at last January's Pre-Code Follies extravaganza with her charm, good humor, "Punk Rock Betty Boop" persona and genuine tunes from the Roaring Twenties. She will be hitting the footlights Friday, Saturday and Sunday, no doubt with outrageousness, numerous one-liners and wonderfully goofy original songs.



To quote Kitten's press release:


"San Francisco's own Kitten On The Keys (A.K.A Suzanne Ramsey) is a frisky one ma’am band. Her new one woman musical: Does This Piano Make My Ass Look Big? follows the hi-jinks of a dorky suburban girl who is insecure, addicted, and socially impaired. Her life changes for the better with the discovery of punk rock and a burlesque rock & roll lifestyle.

This world-premiere romp replete with sequins n' sass, told through original songs (written and performed by Kitten) and video,
will tickle your funny bones and stir your nether-regions. Kitten on the Keys is a little Judy Tenuta, Mae West, and a dash of Shirley Temple optimism rolled into one perky package. She writes all of her own material and plays the piano, accordion, and ukulele."




Sounds like tons o' fun for grownups who have decided NOT to get stodgy, conservative and old. Get out to Mama Calizo's and support local theatre!

Does This Piano Make My Ass Look Big?
A limited engagement

co-directed by Dwyane Calizo & Suzanne Ramsey
Friday and Saturday at 8PM, Sunday Matinee at 2PM
Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory
1519 Mission Street (Van Ness & 11th Sts.)
San Francisco 94103.
Tickets are $15 & $20 (no one turned away for lack of funds) -- and available at the door or at Brown Paper Tickets.
NOTE: Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids and this show's for adults!