Monthly Archives: September 2010

Fifty Years of Fred Flintstone

Always love a little alliteration.

When I was a wee lad, I took The Flintstones at face value, just another entertaining and colorful cartoon with great characters, fun sight gags and lots of puns. It wasn’t until later that I realized the hit cartoon was based upon The Honeymooners, the landmark sitcom from the mind of Jackie Gleason.

Creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera publicly disagreed about the influence, although the similarities are too numerous for it to have been accidental. Pompous man with sane but dominant wife, goofball neighbor, blue-collar job, constantly scheming for something better and screwing up every time? Legend has it that Gleason wanted to sue but decided not to when told he’d be vilified as the guy who got the show pulled off the air.

The show ran for six seasons and was a hit for the first three years. Cartoons and animation have come a long way since the days when a chase scene passed the same tree and rock every second, but like any form of entertainment, without great writing it’s worthless. The Flintstones was usually corny, occasionally subversive, but it always had some great puns and tons of heart.

And damned if that theme song doesn’t sound great, even after fifty years.

Great cartoon. But avoid the live action films like the plague.

In the Flintstone world they would be mourning the passing of Stoney Curtis, but here in reality it is actor Tony Curtis who left us yesterday, unfortunately completing the trifecta with Greg Giraldo and Arthur Penn.

A bona fide movie star, Curtis was adept at both comedy and drama, and although the studios sought to capitalize on his handsome face in lighter fare, his dramatic roles probably left a bigger impression on me. Athletic and rugged, he was solid and believable in films like Trapeze, Spartacus and Houdini.

He was never better than his brilliant comic performance opposite Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot and his fawning, soulless hustler in Sweet Smell of Success (parrying with an equally brilliant Burt Lancaster).

After the 70s, his film career waned – there’s actually a film called Lobster Man From Mars on his resume – but he became an accomplished painter and writer. It is almost inconceivable to me that Curtis was 85 years old; then again, today also marks the fifty-fifth anniversary of James Dean’s death. I guess I always think of both of them as young and indestructable. Dean lived fast and died young, while Curtis was truly one of the very last of the old guard.

Time is a bitch.

Tomorrow, a TGIF tribute to Arthur Penn.

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R.I.P. Greg Giraldo

I was all set to type an essay about Arthur Penn, the distinguished director who just passed away at 88, when I received word that Greg Giraldo passed away this afternoon. Arthur, you’re going to have to be patient with me.

I was saddened to hear that you passed on today, but you’ve had a long life filled with achievements and recognition. When you’re pushing 90, the news is sad but not shocking. Giraldo, on the other hand, was literally half your age. This year, thanks to some major network face time, it seemed like his career was finally transcending from revered cult audience to the widespread acclaim that he so richly deserved. And now he’s gone, forever, four days after being rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

I am heartbroken.

My condolences to his family and many friends, as well as the millions of people around the world whose days – hell, lives were brightened by his comedy.

Video: Just For Laughs

Greg, I hope you are finally at peace.

I hope you can tell Mitch Hedberg how much we miss him. Please give Richard Jeni a hug, and I’ll bet Robert Schimmel could use one as well.

And please confirm that Andy Kaufman is really up there. If Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix could hold their tongue for two years, there’s still a chance Andy is laughing his ass off somewhere in Minnesota. With Elvis.

There will be a hole in my heart every time I watch a Roast knowing how much better you would have made it. But I can only imagine how great the roasts are on the other side, with Hedberg and Kinison and Pryor and Hicks and Lenny and Carlin and Rodney…that room is a little too full, if you know what I mean. Tell the people in charge we need the giants down here, especially now.

And thank you for every smile you put on my face, every laugh that overtook me, every tear that flowed from my eyes because I was doubled over and gasping for air. You had a gift and you shared it with me. I’ll have to make do with the albums and DVDs and internet videos…and memories.

Rest in Peace, brother.

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Rocky Horror Glee Show

There are some things that I’ll never understand.

I don’t get the fascination people have with reality television and celebretards. Nor do I get why there have been seventy-six editions of the Now That’s What I Call Music series to date, with no sign of stopping.

I also don’t understand how the CD releases from Glee have sold over five million copies so far, presumably to the same people who watch the show religiously. They’re simply collections of cover songs, organized by theme or artist, marketed to the same people who watch the show and buy the DVDs. (And Gleeks, you know that you are buying the DVDs and all the CDs.) Television hasn’t sold music this well since The Monkees.

The songs are well produced and arranged, of course, and the vocals are usually very good but (1) they’re usually straightforward covers, not reinvented arrangements and (2) the thrust of the show is the melodramatic, over-the-top theatrical production surrounding it. You’re not capturing that on an audio CD.

But I soon might have to make an exception.

 In October, Glee will broadcast a Rocky Horror Show episode. After wading through terrible rap tunes, Lady GaGa drivel, overblown Journey crap and an entire episode of Madonna dreck (saved only by the brilliant Jane Lynch performing “Vogue“), I’m thrilled that the majestic, fantastic Richard O’Brien opus will get its due. Hell, thirty five years later it’s still an iconic classic whose songs never fail to get me going…high praise after dozens of post-midnight screenings with props and audience participation.

The full track listing for  ”Glee: The Music, The Rocky Horror Glee Show” is as follows:

  1. Science Fiction Double Feature
  2. Damn It, Janet
  3. Whatever Happened To Saturday Night?
  4. Sweet Transvestite
  5. Touch A Touch A Touch A Touch Me
  6. There’s A Light (Over at Frankenstein Place)
  7. Time Warp

Glee has had three consecutive number one album releases and I suspect this will be their fourth. Hell, I might even have to break down myself and grab one.

I think my cat is reading my diary.

Meantime, tonight I will survive an onslaught of Britney Spears horse shit just for the ability to see the incredible Heather Morris (who plays Brittany, the dimmest bulb on television) get her turn in the spotlight. That should hold me over until Neil Patrick Harris returns for another guest spot.

Admittedly, my initial enthusiasm for the show has waned, but Lynch and Morris are consistently funny and the dynamic between gay Kurt and his dad (Mike O’Malley in a flawless performance) is some of the best work on TV, period.

And please…can Tim Curry make an appearance on October 26th?

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Pulling For Greg Giraldo

Greg Giraldo is in critical but stable condition in a New Jersey hospital after reportedly collapsing from an accidental prescription drug overdose.

Giraldo is a comic’s comic, a razor-sharp wit who might be best known for his scathing appearances on several Comedy Central Roasts, although he’s appeared regularly on Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn, Root of All Evil, Last Comic Standing and his own failed sitcom Common Law (Giraldo is no dummy – he’s a Harvard Law School graduate).

Many comics deal with depression, and Giraldo has fought addiction issues most of his adult life. As you can imagine, the press vultures are all over this, claiming it was a suicide attempt. Giraldo’s management says it was an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. Only Giraldo knows the truth.

I wrote recently about how many brilliant comic minds have left us too early, and I am hoping and praying that I don’t have to add Greg Giraldo to the list. Whatever the reason for the overdose, the important thing at this time is for him to survive and recover. If he does, knowing Giraldo, he’ll turn this episode into classic dark comedy.

So give a listen to Good Day To Cross A River or Midlife Vices today and please keep a warm thought in your heart for this brilliant comedian.

VIDEO: Giraldo performing September 24th

Greg Giraldo Wikipedia page

Greg Giraldo website

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Just When I Thought I’d Seen Everything…

…I saw this.

I think we need to redefine fantasy sports. Enjoy your Sunday.

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Happy Birthday Don Adams

Don Adams died five years ago today.

Get Smart was one of the funniest television shows of its time, combining puns and double-entendres with great sight gags. Of course, they had a ripe playing field to run around on. Spy movies were big at the time – from the apex of the James Bond films to the more serious (and better scripted) classics like The Ipcress File and The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

Of course, with writers like Buck Henry and Mel Brooks, how could it not be funny? Catchphrases “Would you believe?”, “Missed it by that much!” and “Sorry about that, Chief” became part of the lexicon. It’s no accident that Steve Carell played the Maxwell Smart role in the recent big screen adaptation; both comic actors have a knack for sarcasm and deadpan humor. By more or less playing it straight, their buffoonish characters are that much funnier.

Adams’ distinctive voice was also immediately recognizable as the lead character in a pair of well-known cartoon classics – Tennessee Tuxedo and Inspector Gadget. Not much acting there – each sounded exactly like Maxwell Smart hiding behind an animated costume, which made watching either of them a surreal experience for me.

But sometimes lightning in a bottle is just that. The Get Smart films Adams made were amusing but paled in comparison to the show, as did the Carell film (which had its moments but completely blew the tone). Adams and Barbara Feldon even tried to re-launch the series  thirty years after the initial program debuted (with Max as chief!) but it  floundered and died. Thankfully, the studios finally released the complete set of the original Get Smart episodes two years ago…it’s amazing how much of it holds up after forty-five years.

Don Adams Wikipedia page

Get Smart on DVD

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Bangers That Mash

Those too young to remember the allure of full-sized vinyl album covers (not to mention the functionality of the gatefold sleeve) cannot appreciate the passion of those of us who enjoyed spending hours perusing through a record store’s racks. Flipping cover after cover, the myriad or art ranged from the structure of classic jazz titles to the simplicity of an early rock album to the wonderscapes that bellowed forth from the mind of Roger Dean.

But then again, those were days when album credits could make or break the sale of an album – who was the producer, what musicians added their talents as guest artists, who wrote the songs…for those used to the process, it was both an enjoyable diversion and an educational process. Of course, the store employees actually knew something about the music they were selling – “can I help you?” was a sincere question that could be followed up with actual information rather than “Oh, the new Rush album…did you look under R?”

In the waning CD age we still have wonderful art, just smaller. I realize my eyes aren’t perfect, but some of the mouseprint font on CD jackets requires a microscope. Then again, a generation of people now only knows music as files with a name and title display. Progress, I guess, but something has been lost in the translation.

I did notice that hard rock bands haven’t lost the allure of the cover, knowing full well their target audience is primarily young men. But some pop bands figured that out, too…if you want to get noticed, use the visual to get their attention, then hopefully seal the deal with the audio.

So here are Ten Bangers That Mash…ten artists who might flaunt the flag of sexual innuendo but at least have something…um…under their covers to reward you with. And since they’re mostly headbangers, I framed them with a prog rock band from the 70s and one of the best pop bands around right now.

01)  FlashIn The Can

02) ZO2Ain’t It Beautiful

03) Poets and PornstarsPoets and Pornstars

04) Bullets and OctaneIn The Mouth of the Young

05) American SixgunThe Devil in Your Bones

06) WhitestarrFillith Tillith

07) Asphalt ValentineStrip Rock and Roll

08) American HeartbreakAmerican Heartbreak

09) StereosideSo Long

10) FratellisCostello Music

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