April 29, 2008

The Ballad of the Cherokee Theater

full sideview of cherokee theatre, evening
Over the last two years, I've taken several pictures of the Cherokee Theater in Rusk, Texas, and its wonderful, vintage neon sign. The theater was built back in 1946, so I had very little hope that the sign would actually still work. On a whim, I Googled "cherokee theater + rusk," and found that it's now the home to a local theater group. And at its website, there's a picture of the theater. At night. Lit up. I have for the last three months been emailing, and even calling them, hoping to get someone to tell me when the sign is turned on. Is it every night (like the SFA Theater, here in Nacogdoches), or just on the evenings of its little skits? But, for whatever reason, nobody was willing (or able) to respond to my emails.
cherokee theatre eveing marquee
I might have just concluded they turned it on only on the nights of performances, but I was in Rusk a couple of months ago, on a performance night, and I drove by the theater - and the sign was dark....So, I drove back to Rusk this past Saturday night (a performance night of one of their little skits), and got there just a little before 7:30 (the time the little skit was set to begin). And, voilà! Thar she blew, all lit up like a birthday cake. I contained my excitement and took these.
cherokee theatre neon, close at evening the cherokee theatre neon sign
Wanting to take some after dark, I bid my time by walking around the square and taking a couple of shots of the 1941 era, Moderne style Cherokee County Courthouse. I also sat on a nearby bench and looked over the pictures I'd taken. After about ten minutes (now the time would've been 7:45-ish) I walked back to the theater, but the lights were no longer on. So I made it just in time!
cherokee theatre, downstreet evening

April 26, 2008

Fancy Meeting You Here

Come Fly with Me it ain't (although, it does feature "Brazil" and "Isle of Capri," also on the Sinatra album), but I'm sort of enchanted by it. Some of it is very good. My current favorite is "Say 'Si Si' (Para Vigo Me Voy)," near the end of side two, which features a great example of Billy May and Orchestra's "big, brassy sound," and Crosby and Clooney's voices sound really great together. The concept of the album came from Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, two guys who wrote several of Sinatra's best known songs, including "Come Fly with Me."

back cover detail crop
back cover detail

Fancy Meeting You Here was conceived as a project for Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, and was recorded in 1958. The arranger/conductor was Billy May, who just so happened to have also done Sinatra's Come Fly with Me (1957), as well as Come Dance with Me! (1959), Swing Along with Me (1961), and Come Swing with Me! (1961).

According to the Wikipedia entry:

In its review, Time magazine called this album, "An infectious musical dialogue between two of the sassiest fancy talkers in the business. C. & C. give slick and witty readings to a selection of retreads — 'On a Slow Boat to China,' 'You Came a Long Way from St. Louis' — and introduce a punchy, potential hit named 'Calcutta.' One of the most intriguing vocal entertainments since Noel Coward had his famous chat with Mary Martin."

fancy meeting you here
cover of fancy meeting you here

April 25, 2008

Ghost of Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper

I took a different route to a place I've driven numerous times, and was rewarded for doing so.

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Going through a small town I'd never heard of, Shiro, Texas, I drove right by this:
coca-cola ghost with sprite
Obviously, I turned around and pulled over (more like skidded to an abrubt stop), and needless to say I was very pleased. It only goes to show why one should always have their camera with them, although I was on a road trip, so I definitely had mine! You just never know when you are going to come across something like it.
What's really cool about this one is the use of the presence of the Sprite Boy character. This would help to date this sign from either the 1940s or 1950s. Sprite Boy was created in 1942 to introduce the name "Coke" and to help the consumer associate Coke with Coca-Cola.

Closer to home, but on the same route and same trip, I pulled over in Groveton, Texas, to get a shot of this, at a different time of the day than a previous time:
dr. pepper ghost sign in groveton

My experience here in Texas is that Dr. Pepper ghost signs are much rarer than Coca-Cola's, so they're nice to find!

April 23, 2008

Careless whipsers

Dean Martin sings "Blue Moon" on the December 30, 1965, episode of The Dean Martin Show

Return to Gladewater

former sinclair station
A former Sinclair station, now being used as the office for the "Retro 50's" Dixie Motel.
sinclair in gladewater
sinclair pumps

The motel:
"50s retro" dixie motel
country girl collections
a girl and her calf

The ghost of a ghost sign:
shoe store ghost in gladewater
gladewater ice house
old ice house

allen's(?) liquor neon sign
green frog drive inn neon sign

  • Previous visit
  • April 21, 2008

    Favorite Harrison Ford action films

    I'd start this list with Star Wars (1977), but it was Harrison Ford's break out role. It wasn't his film the way these were:

    The Empire Strikes Back (1980) had such a profound impact on me back when I saw it for the first time in May of 1980. To say I was "into it" would have been a gross understatement. I literally walked out of the theater thinking somehow Han Solo was out there somewhere, frozen in carbomite. I really did. And learning Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father was a complete surprise. I think I saw it either at the Houston Galleria, the Baybrook Mall theater, or most likely, the Galvez Mall theater (sadly, that theater and mall are long gone). It's hard to remember, because I saw the film in each of those theaters, seeing it five or six times, that summer. John Williams' musical score for the film is some of my favorite music, period. I will probably never be quite as moved by a movie ever again.

    I was very excited about seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). It was one of the movies (other than The Empire Strikes Back and others) in which I can remember people applauding and cheering in the theater. You knew you were watching an instantly classic film. Again, John Williams' soundtrack sealed the deal.
    An interesting book made into one of the greatest science fiction films ever made. I love how footage from The Shining was used in the original release, which is when I first saw it in June of '82. Blade Runner blew me away. From the Vangelis soundtrack, to the special effects, and Rutger Hauer's performance, it's amazing -- strangely dreamy and realistic

    By the time Return of the Jedi (1983) came out, I was just about too old to enjoy a Star Wars movie the way I had with the first one and Empire. But I, like nearly everyone else in America, wanted to see resolutions to the numerous cliffhangers of Empire. The entire segment involving the rescue of Han Solo from Jabba ranks up there with any of the best scenes in the original trilogy. A good film, but the entire Ewoks plot was a harbinger as to the type of filmmaker George Lucas would become.

    Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) was another one of those big event films you just sort of had to see back in the 1980s. For one thing, it was another Harrison Ford/Indiana Jones movie. No brainer. He could do no wrong. Still, the whole "monkey brains" dinner scene is a bit much. I also remember being sort of irritated at the way it starts with the "Anything Goes" sequence. I appreciate it more now though.

    Billed at the time (1986) as Harrison Ford's "greatest adventure yet," The Mosquito Coast (link goes to original trailer) was/is a very dark and depressing film. But the first hour is pretty riveting. Along with more dramatic roles like Witness (1985) and Presumed Innocent (1990, this is one of the Harrison Ford films where you can see he could actually act.

    I never saw Frantic (1988) in the theater, so I've only seen it on a TV. It's one of my favorite Harrison Ford movies. It's director Roman Polanski doing a Hitchcock film. It may be my favorite Ford performance. He really pulls off the sort of character Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant used to do in those classic Hitchcock films -- a regular guy thrown into the middle of some kind of potentially disastrous international scandal/controversy. Ford's presence really serves as a believable anchor of stability in the middle of the unraveling, downward spiraling chain of events the plot serves up. Additionally, I love the Parisian setting. Obviously, the language barrier made Dr. Richard Walker's (Ford's character) search for his missing wife even more difficult. Definitely a film worth a second (or maybe first) look!

    The Fugitive (1993) was the ultimate mix of what the movie going public had come to expect from Harrison Ford and a "Harrison Ford movie" - great acting and ass-kicking action from Ford. Tommy Lee Jones deserves a lot of the credit for the success of The Fugitive, but it was clearly Ford's vehicle. I see it as the end of an era, and the last of the big, blockbuster action flicks he would make (to date!).

    Air Force One (1997) featured his "GET OFF MY PLANE!" line, and it gave moviegoers a reminder and a little charge of the old Harrison Ford electricity. But with films such as Patriot Games (1992), I think he is really just playing himself playing a cinematic action hero (not to mention he was taking over the role from another actor). I've always felt the Jack Ryan films were beneath him. And I'm not overlooking Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).

    April 18, 2008

    "Johnny Angel"

    From the Wikipedia entry:

    "Johnny Angel" is a song written by Lyn Duddy and Lee Pockriss and recorded by Shelley Fabares. It hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 7, 1962, during a 15-week run on the chart. The song is an expression of a teenage girl's romantic longing for a boy who doesn't know she exists, to the point where she declines other boys' propositions for dates because she'd rather concentrate on the boy she loves. The song premiered on an episode of Fabares' sitcom, The Donna Reed Show, and was released on Columbia's Colpix Records label. The song also has a sequel song entitled "Johnny Loves Me" (which tells the story of how the girl won Johnny's heart). The song had previously been recorded by Georgia Lee on the Decca label.

    Darlene Love and her group, the Blossoms, sang backup vocals on the track. Fabares is quoted in The Billboard Book of Number One Singles by Fred Bronson as saying she was intimidated by Love's group and their "beautiful" voices and was terrified at the prospect of becoming a recording artist, as she did not consider herself a singer.

    Although Fabares' career as a singer came to an end (though her career as an actress stayed strong for three decades) within a few years of "Johnny Angel" after she was unable to come up with another Top 20 hit, the song has become an oldies radio airplay favorite. The Carpenters covered "Johnny Angel" in 1973 as part of a medley of oldies on side two of their album Now and Then.

    April 17, 2008

    "Nice 'n' Easy"

    From his 1960, Grammy Award for Album of the Year Nominated Nice 'n' Easy record, here is the title track. Written by Alan Bergman, Marilyn Keith, Lew Spence (I suppose it took three of them to come up with couplets like "The problem here of course is/to simply hold your horses"), it was a last-minute substitute for the originally planned "The Nearness of You," that wouldn't be included until the CD release. The only non-ballad on the album, it is Frank at his finger snappin' finest:

    April 16, 2008


    From Shorpy (The 100-Year-Old Photo Blog) comes this whimsical photograph by Russell Lee of a man for whom every second counted. I love how he has that block of ice there, ready for the next customer (who'd better hurry!). Shorpy's caption:

    February 1939. "Ice for sale. Harlingen, Texas." View full size. Medium format negative by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration. Here we have a very concise study in what you need for an ice business: Telephone, cash register, tongs, ice pick and a big block of you-know-what. Not to mention plenty of twine.

    April 15, 2008

    "This Is the Day"

    Anytime I was part of a band, way back in "the day" (the '80s), one of the hardest things to do usually seemed to be coming up with a good band name that wasn't already taken. When I heard about The The, I at first thought "how lame" and "how unoriginal." But I now see the pure, simple brilliance of it. I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now. I never heard any of their music....until that M & M's ad with "This Is the Day." This must be their best, or best known song, because it's sort of the name of their official website. And I think it's a damn good, catchy little tune. I can see why the M & M brand wanted to use it. It's very upbeat and instantly evocative of that "happy" era, the 1980s.

    Matt Johnson of The The

    Reading about them, it would seem the group has actually always been primarily a guy named Matt Johnson. "This Is the Day" was on their/his 1983 album Soul Mining. And someone had the courage to upload it to YouTube (yay!):

    It's nice how I can hear this and not think about the M & M's ad.

    April 14, 2008

    Palestine revisited

    anderson county jail
    Former Anderson County Jail
    anderson county courthouse
    Anderson County Courthouse, c. 1914, Renaissance Revival style
    coca-cola ghost in palestine
    Sometimes I impress even myself - that's a Coca-Cola ghost sign
    dr. pepper ghost sign in palestine
    I overlooked this Dr. Pepper ghost somehow on my first visit
    dr. pepper ghost in alley
    the redlands hotel
    The Redlands Hotel, c. 1914
    redlands hotel lobby entrance
    c. e. dilley building
    The C.E. Dilley Building, c. 1882
    sacred heart church
    Sacred Heart Church, c. 1890
    tex-ann motel
    I think I may have driven right by this beautiful neon sign the last time I visited Palestine. Hard to believe. It certainly made the return trip worthwhile!
    tex-ann motel office
    tex-ann motel neon signage