May 30, 2008

R.I.P. Harvey Korman

I nearly did a post on the passing of Alexander Courage (composer of the original Star Trek theme) earlier this week, but I hesitate to posts concerning such things. It would be too easy to blog about people passing away all the time, because it seems to happen so frequently, and I don't want to dwell on maudlin things. Yet I just couldn't fail to do something for Harvey Korman. I never missed an episode of The Carol Burnett Show on CBS when I was very young (6 or 7 years old). I think it came on Sunday nights, and my little sister and I thought he and Tim Conway were very funny. I felt like I knew them both. Obviously, he was brilliant in the Mel Brooks films Blazing Saddles and High Anxiety (his scenes with Cloris Leachman are hilarious), and as a kid, I also liked him in things like Americanthon and even Herbie Goes Bananas. And then there was his role as Count de Monet in History of the World: Part 1. On The Carol Burnett Show, he would play straight man to Tim Conway, and more often than not, "lose it" due to something Conway did (it seems like it was just yesterday I was watching these on a large, wood-paneled television set in my parents house):

"Speedo Airlines"

"The Dentist Sketch"

"Intermezzo for Two Pianos"

May 28, 2008

2008 11 Most Endangered

Boyd Theatre

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has just released its 2008 11 Most Endangered list. They are:

  • Vizcaya and the Bonnet House (Miami and Fort Lauderdale, FL) -- Development threatens vistas surrounding the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami and the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens of Fort Lauderdale.
  • Sumner Elementary School (Topeka, Kansas) -- Demolition is authorized for the school that was the center of the U.S. Supreme Court desegregation ruling (Brown v. Board of Education).
  • Boyd Theatre (Center City, PA) -- This vacant art-deco movie palace is vulnerable to demolition.
  • Charity Hospital and the Adjacent Neighborhood (New Orleans, Louisiana) -- The hospital, made famous by Hurricane Katrina, and nearby homes are planned for demolition.
  • Peace Bridge Neighborhood (Buffalo, NY) -- Expansion of the bridge threatens homes and parks dating to the 1850s.
  • The Lower East Side (New York, NY) -- Famed immigrant neighborhood is threatened by development.
  • Michigan Avenue Streetwall (Chicago, Illinois) -- Construction of large-scale towers threatens the 12-block facade of historic buildings.
  • California's State Parks (Statewide, CA) -- Budget reductions could force the closure of 48 parks.
  • The Statler Hilton Hotel (Dallas, TX) -- Nearby development threatens this fifty-two year old, modern hotel. Dallas is notorious (and brazenly shameful) for tearing down its history.
  • Great Falls Portage (Great Falls, Montana) -- A power plant is planned near the best-preserved section of the Lewis and Clark Trail.
  • Hangar One, Moffett Field (Santa Clara, CA) -- Cleanup of hazardous materials threatens the former Navy dirigible hangar.

    The organization made this short video featuring the endangered sites with The History Channel:

  • GTA IV stunt montage

    And I thought I was good at Grand Theft Auto IV! This person is particularly good at successfully completing the various, miscellaneous stunts the topography of Liberty City presents:

    You'll never look at that nearly iconic image of the "lollipop girl" in this post's opening pic after you realize she has six fingers on her right hand.....

    May 27, 2008

    "'Round Midnight"

    Info. from the Wikipedia entry:

    "'Round Midnight" is a 1944 jazz standard by jazz musician Thelonious Monk. It is thought that Monk originally composed it sometime between 1940 and 1941, however Harry Colomby claims that Monk may have written an early version around 1936 (at the age of 19) with the title "Grand Finale." "'Round Midnight" has been recorded with greater frequency than any other standard composed by a jazz musician.


    From the Thelonious Monk - Live in '66 DVD, here is the Thelonious Monk Quartet (Charlie Rouse on tenor sax, Larry Gales on bass, and Ben Riley on sticks) in Norway:

    May 24, 2008


    Along with Peter Pan (1953), Alice in Wonderland (1951) is one of my favorite Disney flicks. They are both from that great period in Disney animation history. Disney cartoons have always been about whimsy, and Disney didn't get much more whimsical than Alice in Wonderland. This trippy psychedelic mesmerizingly beautiful video and song was supposedly made by a nineteen-year-old Australian guy and is comprised of sampled bits from the film's soundtrack.

    May 23, 2008

    Indiana Jones IV....

    ....I loved it! I saw the 7:00 showing here (Nacogdoches) in a packed theater last night (Thursday the 22nd). Not a perfect movie, by far, but I thought it was wonderful. There were a couple of moments I just wanted to clap with shear joy. I find it hard to understand the bile and hatred spewed towards it in some of the reviews I've read. The first reviews out there (at Ain't It Cool News) were negative. So I stopped reading the reviews. I decided that I wanted to enjoy it and not let anybody influence my perception of it, or effect my expectations. It pretty much worked, because I liked most of it. Harrison Ford was such a hero of mine when I was a kid (I mean, c'mon, he was Han Solo and Indiana Jones), that it was a strangely touching experience to see the "old guy" do it again.

    Shia LaBeouf was perfect. I think he must have spent some time trying to replicate Harrison Ford's facial expressions. The first scene with Indiana Jones and Marion (Karen Allen) from Raiders of the Lost Ark is so special....I think you'd have to have been the age I was when I saw Raiders its opening weekend back in '81. I need to quote Ain't It Cool News here, because he has such a great way of putting such things into words:

    Then there’s Indy’s reaction to seeing Marion for the first time. I couldn’t describe it to save my life. It’s about 40 different emotions all at once. And only Harrison Ford’s face could deliver that… effortlessly. And at the same time – there’s Marion’s reaction – and ya know… It’s a combination of relief & joy. When you’ve been captured by evil agents of the Soviet Empire and are threatened at Gunpoint… You want your life in the hands of someone that loves you like Indiana Jones.

    Honestly at that moment – that second of connection between the two of them. I honestly haven’t had the emotional impact anything like it in years. That look shared between them… suddenly it wasn’t just the entirety of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK – but suddenly it was a flood of what probably happened between that film and LAST CRUSADE. And you could tell that they fought… my god, it’s Indy and Marion.

    I was relieved to see that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg didn't go overboard with CGI effects. In fact, when CGI was used, it wasn't noticeable until the final third of the film, when it was definitely noticeable. Cate Blanchett is awesome, but what else is new? It was maybe a tad bit long, and I do have to wonder about things in it. Like, why were Indians hiding in the walls of rock in the Mayan-type pyramid at the end? They literally come out of the walls at one point. Neat, but one does have to wonder why. And the conclusion is also a tad bit hard to swallow, but it is, after all, just a movie. I read somewhere that it was "Jar-Jar Binks bad." That's definitely not true. In fact, I think Lucas may earn back some of the good will he has irrevocably lost from the nerdy fanboy community so frustrated by him after the Star Wars prequels (like me). Maybe he tried harder on it because of what happened with the whole Star Wars prequel debacle. Some commenter somewhere felt Steven Spielberg "walked" through it like he did with The Lost World (1997). But that's also definitely not true. Steven Spielberg is still the top director out there, as far as I'm concerned, for this type of movie. The ending felt a little bit like the ceremony scene at the end of Star Wars, and that's a good thing! People have to go see it. If you didn't grow up with the Internet, you'll love it.

    May 21, 2008

    Sinatra: post-Ava Gardner

    Frank Sinatra won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in From Here to Eternity, was nominated for a Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar for his work in Suddenly (1954), and earned praise for The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). I think he'd demonstrated he was capable of serious, dramatic acting.
    And then there's the painful overacting in the following scenes from The Joker Is Wild (1957). This must be what is meant by the expression "chewing up the scenery":
    I'm sorry, I love Frank, regular visitors to this blog know I do, but that's difficult to watch. Anytime I see that scene, I imagine Sinatra is tapping into the angst wrought by his infamously tumultuous relationship with Ava Gardner.
    They met in 1945, began their relationship in 1949, married in November 1951, separated in October 1953, and finally divorced in 1957. Legend has it, the 1950 recording Sinatra made of "I'm a Fool to Want You" during his last, career-waning days at Columbia Records was also possibly Ava-inspired. According to Will Friedwald's Sinatra! The Song is You: A Singer's Art: "After packing an opera's worth of pathos into a single thirty-two-bar chorus, Sinatra supposedly became so overcome with grief that he bolted from the studio in tears." (p. 191).

    Frank and Ava in 1953, between fights

    And then of course there's also In the Wee Small Hours (1955), Where Are You? (1957), Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely (1958), and No One Cares (1959).........

    May 19, 2008

    Step Lively AMC TV spot

    Step Lively (1944) was Frank Sinatra's second movie, after Higher and Higher (1943). It was also the last film he made for RKO before moving to M-G-M. Step Lively was a musical remake of the Marx Brothers' Room Service (1938). Witness "The Voice" at the pinnacle of Sinatra, v. 1.0:

    May 16, 2008

    "Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)"

    Inspired by Camille Paglia's "dirge" (as she puts it) about an obscure Donovan tune:

    As long as we're dealing with lost personal classics, I'll serve up another: Donovan Leitch's "Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness"), which I'm amazed to find on trusty YouTube. This acoustic blues song (which turns psychedelic at the end) is as obscure as it gets: Recorded in 1965, it was released in the U.S. the following year only as a single. But it made a huge impression on me in college -- that cracking bullwhip prefigured the Velvet Underground's 1967 breakthrough album, with its sadomasochistic motifs. Who was "Gyp," I wondered? One had heard that the lavishly talented Donovan, who would later become overexposed as a hippie guru, bummed around on his travels with a young man named Gypsy (later identified as musician Gypsy Dave). It did pique one's curiosity, shall we say.

    I don't think I'd ever heard this before, yet it sounds so familiar. I guess that's the quality many classic songs have. How the heck do you imagine he's managed to fight off all those car manufacturers(!)?? They've no doubt thrown some awfully tempting financial offers his way over the years to use it as a commercial jingle. Or is that how I've heard it? A bit of info. from Wikipedia:

    "Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)" is a song by Donovan. The name "Gyp" refers to his friend Gyp Mills. It has been covered by Eric Burdon and The Animals and The Soul Survivors.

    In July 1966, Hickory Records (USA) released the song as A-side (b/w "The War Drags On" 45-1417).

    May 13, 2008

    "Ebb Tide"

    From the Wikipedia entry:

    "Ebb Tide" is a popular song, written in 1953 by lyricist Carl Sigman and composer Robert Maxwell.

    It has been recorded many times, the best-known versions include those by Frank Chacksfield & His Orchestra (1953), a successful vocal cover in the same year by Vic Damone, Frank Sinatra (1958), The Platters (1960), Lenny Welch (1964) and the Righteous Brothers (1965). The Righteous Brothers' version was arguably the most successful, peaking at #5 in the US.

    Here is that beautiful Righteous Brothers rendition:

    But as is usually the case, if there is one, I'm rather partial to the Sinatra version. From the Chairman's "suicide album," Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, conductor/arranger Nelson Riddle perfectly replicated the sound and rhythm of tidal ebb and flow, with help of an orchestra, of course. Obviously, Frank nailed it, emotionally.

    May 10, 2008

    Ghosts of Shreveport

    I took just a small bite of Shreveport, Louisiana.....I intend to go back. There will be a second post featuring some of the old, vintage buildings and neon signs (I barely scratched the surface) I found there.

    green back ghost sign
    pampliset ghost in shreveport
    "Cream of Kentucky Blended Whiskey"

    goods-cage drug co. ghost sign
    wholesale druggists detail
    planters seed co. ghost sign
    planters seed company ghost in shreveport
    "uneeda biscuit building"
    uneeda biscuit ghost sign in shreveport
    full view of m.l. bath company ghost sign in shreveport

    May 9, 2008

    "800 more American centuries"

    I think I'll hitch my cart to this philosophy. There is so much doom and gloom out there currently, it's refreshing to read this quote from National Review by author Tom Wolfe:

    "Tom Wolfe and America? He loves the place, a position that puts him at odds with much of the charming aristocracy. He’s also an optimist about America — and American greatness. 'The biggest problem,' says Wolfe, 'is all the people who see a problem.'"

    Wolfe believes the world is "on the edge of about 800 more American centuries." In The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987) he all but predicted the Rodney King incident and the resulting Los Angeles riots a full four years before either occurred. This is a smart, intellectual guy, and I'd like to believe he is right. It's so easy to get mired down in the negativity all around. There is much reason to be negative, but I think it's really important to remain hopeful and forward thinking. This short interview with him by National Review is worth a look.

    "Ebony and Ivory"

    From the Wikipedia entry:

    "Ebony and Ivory" is a 1982 number-one single by Paul McCartney, performed with Stevie Wonder. It was released on March 29 of that year. At the simplest level, the song is about the ebony (black) and ivory (white) keys on a piano, but also deals with integration and racial harmony on a deeper level. The title was inspired by McCartney hearing Spike Milligan say "black notes, white notes, and you need to play the two to make harmony folks!". The song is featured on McCartney's album Tug of War as well as several of Wonder's greatest hits albums. The song reached number one in the UK charts in 1982.

    Although written by McCartney alone, the song was performed live in the studio by both McCartney and Wonder, though due to conflicting work schedules, both recorded their parts for the song's music video separately (as explained by Sir Paul in his commentary for "The McCartney Years" 3-dvd boxed set).

    "Ebony and Ivory" spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was the fourth-biggest hit of 1982. For McCartney, the song's run atop the chart was the longest of any of his post-Beatles works, and second longest career-wise (behind "Hey Jude" with The Beatles); for Wonder, it was his longest-running chart-topper.

    Here is the video most of us were/are familiar with:

    But, who knew there was an alternate version of both the video and the song? Not I. This is Stevie Wonder-less, and makes me question whether or not Stevie Wonder's inclusion was an afterthought. The concept behind this video is daft -- it seems a bit bizarre to have video for a song about people being "the same wherever you go" and learning "to give each other what we need to survive" set in a male prison, but maybe it's just me:

    May 8, 2008

    The Sinatra stamp

    The 42¢ Sinatra stamp debuts on Monday. Daughter Nancy (with the laughing face) and Frank Jr. will be present for an official ceremony Monday at Gotham Hall in NYC. Frank Jr. will also participate in a ceremony in Hoboken. It'll be almost exactly ten years to the day of his passing (can it really be ten years??). So, I guess I'm gonna sit right down and write myself a letter, put my Sinatra stamp on it, and make believe it came from you.

    May 6, 2008

    "Wives and Lovers"

    The song where male chauvinism and misogyny meet and trade notes!

    "Wives and Lovers" is a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David in 1963. I like the song for its retro/kitsch appeal, yet I can't hear it and not be slightly stunned (and a little amused) at the flagrant male chauvinism sprinkled liberally throughout. Lyrically, it comes uncomfortably close to stalker territory. Because Hal David wrote the lyrics, I'll blame him for the creepy quality of the words and overall concept....or was it just the times in which it was written? Is this how most men thought of women back in the early 1960s? I'm guessing it was. Let's have a look at those lyrics (with some translation):

    Hey, little girl,
    Comb your hair, fix your make-up.
    Soon he will open the door.
    Don't think because
    There's a ring on your finger,
    You needn't try any more
    For wives should always be lovers, too.
    Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you.
    I'm warning you.

    (I'm warning you! That's a little scary. It's surprising Hal David has the door being calmly opened and not busted down.)

    Day after day,
    There are girls at the office,
    And men will always be men.
    Don't send him off
    With your hair still in curlers.
    You may not see him again.

    (Never, ever age or be unattractive, women, 'cause if you do, we'll quickly dump you for one of the numerous, available, pretty girls who decorate our offices like candy, without even batting an eye. Men can't help it. Because they are men. You have been warned.)

    For wives should always be lovers, too.
    Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you.
    He's almost here.

    (Hurry up! He's almost here!! I can hear his footsteps on the walk!! Curlers out!!!)
    The well-used back of Jack's hand.

    Hey, little girl
    Better wear something pretty,
    something you'd wear to go to the city.
    And dim all the lights,
    Pour the wine, start the music.
    Time to get ready for love.

    (Ah yes, the wine. Perhaps the problem. Or is it the solution?)

    Oh, time to get ready,
    Time to get ready,
    Time to get ready
    For love...

    Jack Jones released his version in 1963 as the title track to the Wives and Lovers album, earning the 1964 Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male. It reached #14 on the U.S. charts as it cast a chill in the hearts of wives all across the country, each frantically removing their hair curlers and applying make-up so as to be young, girlish lovers, rather than facing the frightening consequences.

    Here's the great Julie London's version. Somehow, the fact a woman is singing it makes it worse.

    May 5, 2008

    "Para Vigo Me Voy"

    "Say 'Si Si'" was written by Ernesto Lecuona, the original Spanish lyrics by Francia Luban (its original title is "Para Vigo Me Voy"), with English lyrics written by Al Stillman. The song was published in 1935. The video features Chet Atkins playing it in 1956.

    May 3, 2008

    The Capitan Theatre in Pasadena

    capitan theatre detail
    This endangered theatre was completed in 1949, in the city of Pasadena (Houston). Texas Escapes has a nice picture of the neon at night. What really makes this theatre Deco is its interior. Houston Deco has some pictures of the interior.

    And of course there are my pictures of it at flickr.

    May 2, 2008

    Happy B-Day, Hump!

    Thanks to fellow Sinatraphile Michael Suzich for bringing to my attention the fact that today is Engelbert Humperdinck's 72nd birthday. In fact, Michael and co-workers are no doubt having their annual E.H. birthday celebration right about now. Incredibly, that is a stage name. Brave, to say the least. Along with Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, and Jack Jones, he's one of the last of the old-time crooners. The singer of "Lesbian Seagull," Humperdinck has the singular honor of preventing The Beatles from making it to the number one chart position with their groundbreaking, double-whammy, "Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane." According to Humperdinck's Wikidpedia entry:

    Humperdinck's version of "Release Me," done in a smooth ballad style with a full chorus joining him on the third chorus, reached the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic and went to number one in Britain, keeping The Beatles' adventurous "Strawberry Fields" from entering the top slot in the UK. "Release Me" also went on to become the longest running chart single in history. It spent 56 weeks in the Top 50 in a single chart run, a record that still holds to this day.

    Even in a year dominated by psychedelic rock music, "Release Me"'s success may not have been that surprising, considering Frank Sinatra's chart comeback that began a year earlier, and stablemate Tom Jones's success with a ballad or two in the interim, both of which probably opened some new room for more traditionally-styled singers. "Release Me" was believed to sell 85,000 copies a day at the height of its popularity, and the song became the singer's signature song for many years.

    And here is a charming clip of "Hump" and Dean Martin singing "Crosby, Sinatra, and Me":