Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pop Culture Basement: The Phynx

When many people think about clueless films that sought to appeal to the 1960's counter culture, Myra Breckinridge and Skidoo typically come to mind. One film that is often overlooked is The Phynx. Quite possibly the strangest of all these types of films, it's likely that those who watched it thought they were on a hallucinagion.


The film featured a Monkees type band who were also super spies. They get called into action when an evil cabal of communists kidnaps a who's who of hasbeens in order to hold them for ransom. The shocking part of this plan was that any of they believed that any of these people would be missed. Most of them were celebrities who hadn't worked in years and were most likely presumed dead. Only a clueless film executive would believe that these were the sort of celebrities who would attract the young people of the day. 


Take a peek at this celebrity list; this cast was better suited for a retirement home than a film:

Patty Andrews
Rona Barrett
Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy
Busby Berkeley
Xavier Cugat
Cass Daley
Andy Devine
Fritz Feld
Leo Gorcey
Huntz Hall
John Hart
Louis Hayward
George Jessel
Ruby Keeler
Patsy Kelly
Dorothy Lamour
Guy Lombardo
Trini Lopez
Joe Louis
Marilyn Maxwell
Butterfly McQueen
Pat O'Brien
Maureen O'Sullivan
Colonel Sanders
Jay Silverheels
Ed Sullivan
Rudy Vallee
Clint Walker
Johnny Weissmuller

This cast hadn't been revelant in years; it was almost like the studio drove a bus to the show business retirement home and took the first batch of actors who wanted an easy payday.


Any still picture from the film is more bizarre than the last. What was Colonel Sanders doing in this film? Why were the kidnapped celebs so compliant? Who thought this film was a good idea? And why did Richard Pryor agree to be in this film?


Was this all a fever dream? Thanks to the Warner Archive, we can revisit this film again and again.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

McPop: Dances With Failure

When Dances With Wolves won the Best Picture Oscar, it not only inflated Kevin Costner's ego, it also inflated Orion's predictions of how many VHS videocassettes it would sell. The company made the then novel decision to mass produce videocassettes and sell them at a low price point, similar to the way Disney sold its animated features. It worked for Disney because its films catered to children who would wear out the cassettes with repeated viewings. Would it work for Mr. Costner's masterpiece?


It didn't. Orion was stuck with millions of copies that were returned by stores who couldn't sell them. Loathe to destroy them or dump them in a New Mexico landfill, Orion convinced McDonald's to market the film alongside its Big Macs and Egg McMuffins.


If a customer purchased a large burger or McMuffin, he or she could own one of three Orion films for just $7.99, a deep discount from the suggested retail price of $24.99. The promotion was a huge success and inspired a similar deal that coincidentally featured another Kevin Costner film- Field of Dreams.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cereal Murder: Morning Funnies


In the early 1990's, Ralston attempted to sell a cereal that didn't have a toy inside it and featured characters whose fans were in the Geritol generation. The idea behind Morning Funnies was that kids could read the comics which covered the back of the box and an inner pullout tab. What kid wouldn't want to read about long forgotten characters instead of getting a good toy? Many, it seemed.

The biggest issue with the cereal was that it would only take half a breakfast to read the lousy comics printed on the box. Plus, if the exclusive comics were all that interested the kids, they could easily read them without buying the cereal. The cereal only lasted for five "collector's editions" before being put out of its misery.

Monday, April 24, 2017

POD-Palooza: Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast


Where can you hear all about Cesar Romero's strange predilections, Groucho's atrocities committed solely for the financial benefit of his brother Chico and Danny Thomas' preference for glass coffee tables? On Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast!

Hosted by Gilbert Gottfried and Frank Santopadre, the podcast focuses on recording the stories and memories of Hollywood legends. A short list of guests includes Jerry Lewis, Dominic Chianese, Joey Pantoliano, Lee Grant, Jessica Walter and so many more legends of television and screen. Every episode typically has multiple revelations that you've most likely never heard before. Plus, there's Gilbert Gottfried's trademark irreverent humor! It's truly the amazingest, most colossalest podcast around!

Friday, April 7, 2017

POP Music: Hitsville, USA


Who knew that such sweet, sweet music could come out of such a regular looking house? So many dreams came true at 2648 West Grand Boulevard and those dreams soon inspired millions of people around the world to realize that we are not so different from each other. Why fight when we should be dancing in the streets?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Rest In Peace, Don Rickles


POP Music: The Temptations


They were the emperors of soul; audio and visual perfection. Despite a few initial stumbles, The Temptations became one of Motown's biggest acts, breaking sales records and racial barriers. 

The only thing smoother than their vocals were their moves and their discography features some of the most recognizable songs from the last century. My Girl, Cloud Nine, The Way You Do the Things You Do, Get Ready, Who's Loving You and Lady Soul are just a few of their mega-hits.

Regardless of line-up, the group has always featured band member Otis Williams who has seen the group through its decades of existence. Some of its more memorable members who are no longer with us include David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Melvin Franklin and Allie-Ollie Woodson who have provided hours of great listening to millions around the world.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

POP Music: The Funk Brothers


They were the unsung heroes of Motown- the house band known as the Funk Brothers that played on over 200 classic Motown songs. If they were a credited band they would be the greatest in history with countless gold and platinum albums and hundreds of millions of records sold.

The Motown stars owed their success to The Funk Brothers whose musical skills could make a good song great. Despite spending much of their careers in the shadows, they would eventually get their due when they were featured in an award winning documentary- Standing in the Shadows of Motown. 

In 2013 they were finally given a showbiz honor that had been granted to their Motown colleagues- a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was long overdue.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

POP Music: Gladys Knight & the Pips


Unlike their label mates at Motown, they got their start elsewhere, charting with the hit Every Beat of My Heart. They changed things up by trying out Motown, signing up to see what Berry Gordy could do for their careers. They charted with I Heard it Through the Grapevine, I Don't Want to Do Wrong and the immortal If I Were Your Woman. Gladys Knight & the Pips became one of Motown and the world's greatest acts.

Ms. Knight's silky, soulful voice is a gift from heaven; listening to her sing If I Were Your Woman is a revelation. What man could possibly resist a woman who sang to him like that? Gladys Knight was a force to be reckoned with. Not even Motown could fully utilize her talents. After a bitter breakup with the label, Gladys Knight & the Pips would find even greater success with their highest chart topper- Midnight Train to Georgia. Listen to Miss Gladys and just about any man would jump on that train with her.

Monday, April 3, 2017

POP Music: Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell


Separately, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell were aces. Together, they were heavenly. 

Motown had been looking for a singing partner for Marvin Gaye with okay success. Kim Weston and Mary Wells had been tried with mixed success, but when Harvey Fuqua decided to try out Marvin and Tammi, it was explosive.

Tammi and Marvin's voices melded together perfectly, making people believe that they were a real life couple. Their discography is essential listening- Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing, Ain't No Mountain High Enough & Your Precious Love were just a few of their many hit singles together. Both singers died tragically too soon, but their sweet, sweet music will never be forgotten.

POP Music: Motown Week!


Hitsville, U.S.A. was the epicenter of so many things- the mainstreaming of soul music, the beginning of so many huge careers and even the catalyst that would lead to the expansion of civil rights. Its enduring legacy were the sweet sounds that emanated from its walls. Luckily for us, the sounds were trapped on tape and pressed on wax, proving to be an enduring gift left to us for all time. This week we honor the little house on West Grand Boulevard that made it big, spreading the sounds of Motown to the four corners of the world.