Archive for September, 2013

Marc Bolan (T. Rex)

Posted in Music, Rock and Pop, Television, TV variety with tags , , , , on September 30, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of the late Marc Bolan (Mark Feld, 1947-1977), the Father of Glam, and thus also partially the little rivulets that spring from this Edenic source (minor trends such as punk, metal, and even certain aspects of disco).

To create T.Rex’s highly unique sound, Bolan borrowed from his own 50s guitar influences (I hear a lot of Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry in there), played with a relentless, insistent, sugar-cereal fueled energy, then distorted in a manner much similar to what John Lennon was doing with the Plastic Ono Band at the same time. Backing him could be such interesting elements as Melotron, full string sections, saxes and Conga drums. Above this, he was a psychedelic poet of sorts (at least he fancied himself one. His stage name “Bolan” was said to be a contraction of “Bob Dylan“, whom he also adored.) And then there was the visual style, the glitter, feather boas and top hats. Bolan influenced everyone from several ex-Beatles (he even collaborated on a movie and a record with Ringo), the Stones, Elton John, David Bowie, Kiss, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and rock musicals of the era like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Phantom of the Paradise. Then there is that lithe, sylph-like presence, that silvery smooth double-tracked voice (reminds me a little of Donovan or Arlo Guthrie) and the post-electrocution hairdo.

His day in the sun was short, after a few years of struggle in the late 60s, he blazed across the sky like a comet in the early 70s. He had many hits in the UK, although his only bona fide hit song in the US was the #1 “Bang a Gong (Get it On)”, which…if you’re only going to have one hit song that would be the one to have. But several of his albums did well, and several other of his songs have crept into wider public consciousness by other means (e.g., “Children of the Revolution” is currently being used in a tv commercial). At any rate, my T. Rex song of the past year or so has been this one…it won’t leave my head. I love this clip from German tv. Bolan’s girlish histrionics can be a little embarrassing in their earnestness at times (given the lyrics he’s singing), but check it out — I’ll be damned if the germ of Frank N. Furter isn’t in performances like this:

To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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Angie Dickinson is “Police Woman”

Posted in Forgotten Shows of My Nonage, Television, Women with tags , , , on September 30, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Angie Dickinson (b. Angeline Brown, 1931), a fitting time to remember her groundbreaking tv series Police Woman (1974-1978).

Police Woman was ground-breaking, and yet it wasn’t. In the 1970s, the notion of a female police officer was still somewhat exotic. At least as far as representation on television went, things had progressed very little since TV’s earliest days. Nearly every cop show (serious or comic, from Adam-12 to Barney Miller) would occasionally but fairly rarely depict a female police officer, but only under special circumstances. Much as when you’d suddenly shine a spotlight on a Chinese cop when a crime is going down in Chinatown, the lady cops would be brought in for “lady things”: vice, perhaps; meter maids, of course; and any crime when someone needed to have a fistfight with a female perp.

So Police Woman represented a welcome change, and the historical importance of the show did not go unnoticed at the time.

The reason I say it was and it wasn’t ground-breaking, is that Dickinson was not just a police woman, she was (even at age 43) a police FOX.  (There was precedent here too; Peggy Lipton’s undercover hippie on The Mod Squad was hardly anyone’s idea of homely). Dickinson was a former beauty queen (she got her start in show business by taking second place in a beauty pageant) and was known for playing babe parts such as dance hall girls in westerns and the token moll of the Rat Pack in Oceans 11.  As police sergeant Pepper Anderson, she remained ladylike and beautiful at all times, no matter what the circumstances. It occurred to me that what Police Woman immediately paved the way for was Charlie’s Angels (1976-1981): ludicrous scenarios about pretty ladies packing heat.

But the war of the sexes was on. Change was slow and reluctant. I often think of Tyne Daly’s role as Dirty Harry’s partner in Clint Eastwood’s The Enforcer (1976), a nag, a nuisance, a drag, a worthless police officer, someone Harry constantly needs to bail out. Eventually the only thing significant she does is get killed. Luckily, Police Woman had Earl Holliman on deck to provide machismo and balance, lest anyone think ladies could or should really get down and dirty — break a nail, say, when putting the cuffs on. It wasn’t until the various iterations of Law and Order that something like realistic lady cops would be regularly seen on tv (I have to concur with TV Guide’s Top 12 Female Cops of All Time, which puts Mariska Hargitay at number one).

Still, everything in its own time:

To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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The Legends of Burlesque Panel at NYBF

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Burlesk, Contemporary Variety, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, Women with tags , , , , , , on September 30, 2013 by travsd

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“Free” and “I’m already in the same neighborhood or at least the same borough” are a couple of important preconditions for my attendance at an event…but add into the mix a chance to see real live burlesque legends from back in the days of the original burlesque, and of course I’m there in a heartbeat!

On Saturday, the New York Burlesque Festival presented a “Legends of Burlesque” panel at the Slipper Room, featuring former burlesque stars April March and Tiffany Carter, moderated by Dr. Lucky.  Myself, about two dozen twentysomething young women in vintage clothes (and a couple of fellow male lummoxes) sat at the feet of these veterans to hear tales of Back-in-the-Day. Both April and Tiffany are what you might call “in-betweeners” — too young to have been on the old burlesque circuits, but already long-retired when New Burlesque first reared its pretty head. (April’s career extended from the 1950s through the 1970s; Tiffany’s from the 1960s through the 1980s.) L.A. and Las Vegas seemed to be their primary stomping grounds (although according to April, on one occasion following a rare pre-show margarita, she stomped right off the runway) but both have danced all over the world, and rubbed shoulders with some of the legends of their own field, as well as some of the famous men who sat anonymously in the audience.

Because April bore a resemblance to Jackie O. for a time she was billed as “The First Lady of Burlesque”:

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Tiffany has come out of retirement to dance and teach again:

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Neither has lost the old charm. Dr. Lucky kept the questions coming and kept it moving like the practiced M.C. she is. All in all, a Saturday afternoon well spent!

To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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Wilton Lackaye: The Original Svengali

Posted in Broadway, Hollywood (History), Melodrama and Master Thespians, Movies, Silent Film, Stars of Vaudeville, The Hall of Hams, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Wilton Lackaye (William Andrew Lacky, 1861-1932). Lackaye was a major star of the legitimate stage starting with Francesca da Rimini in 1883. The biggest role of his career was that of Svengali in the original Broadway adaptation of George du Maurier’s Trilby in 1895; he re-created the role 20 years in the silent film starring Clara Kimball Young. Among dozens and dozens of other plays he was in on Broadway through his death in 1930, he also appeared in productions of Quo Vadis, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Trelawney of the Wells. He also appeared in nine films between 1914 and 1925 including an adaptation of Frank Norris’s The Pit. 

Vaudeville was also a very lucrative place for legit actors to ply their trade. Between 1912 and 1918, Lackaye made several tours of big time vaudeville, with the one act playlets Quits and The Bomb. 

To find out more about vaudeville past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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Renée Adorée: The Big Parade, etc.

Posted in Child Stars, Circus, Frenchy, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Renée Adorée (Jeanne de La Fonte, 1898-1933). She started out performing in French circuses with her parents at the age of five, migrated to theatre in young adulthood and made a couple of films in Britain before coming to Hollywood in 1921. She was a major star of the silent and early sound era; her biggest film was King Vidor’s The Big Parade (1925). Her previous stage experience served her well during the sound period, although to bolster her rep in 1928 she did undertake a tour of big time vaudeville, Her last film was Call of the Flesh (1930) with Ramon Novarro; she died of TB shortly after its release.

Here she is in a portion of the carnival story The Spieler (1928) with Alan Hale and Clyde Cook:

To find out more about vaudeville past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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Lily Morris

Posted in British Music Hall, Comediennes, Singers, Singing Comediennes, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Lily Morris (Lilles Mary Crosby, 1884-1952) a great singing comedienne in the English music hall who also scored big in American vaudeville. She started out in panto at age ten; and was a big star by the mid 1890s. She was known for wearing comical hats and dresses. Her signature tunes were “Why Am I Always The Bridesmaid?”, “Don’t Have Any More Mrs. Moore” (the title of which referred to alcohol), “I Don’t Want to Get Old”, “What You Gonna Do About Salena?” and “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree”. You can see her sing in the 1930 revue film Elstree Calling (I just found a bunch of clips). This 1932 clip shows her working an audience and has a nice intro:

To find out more about vaudeville past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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Gene Autry: Back in the Saddle

Posted in American Folk/ Country/ Western, Crackers, Hollywood (History), Movies, Music, Radio (Old Time Radio), Television, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of the original Singing Cowboy Gene Autry (Orvon Grover Autry, 1907-1998). Autry was a one man empire, star of radio, movies, television and the recording industry, and also owner of several broadcast stations and the Angels MLB team (through its many incarnations). His recordings remain popular to this day (although they are mostly Christmas songs “Here Comes Santa Claus”, “Frosty the Snowman”, and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer).

Autry represented the pinnacle of entertainment excellence to my dad, who grew up in rural Tennessee listening to Autry on the radio, watching him in B movie westerns and serials and later watched him on television. It occurs to me in retrospect that when Autry’s tv show went off the air in 1955, there was NOTHING (or increasingly little) in pop culture specifically tailored to my dad’s tastes. Westerns grew increasingly “adult”, “issued oriented” and “liberal” (for a time anyway), and music became dominated by rock and roll. The innocence embodied by someone like Autry became as extinct as the do-do. Today as a general rule even children’s entertainment contains something to offend everybody, one way or another.

To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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