Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Fickle Finger of Fate by John Keel

Most folks, if they remember the term, "the fickle finger of fate," at all, remember it from ROWAN AND MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN. But that classic series didn't start until 1968. There was also a very forgettable movie starring Tab Hunter. Before either of those, however, was this satirical novel by John Keel with cover and illustrations by the great MAD artist Al Jaffee.

Lava Lamps

When I was 7 in 1966, I was occasionally late to school. Why? Well, I had to walk 3 and a half blocks to get there and along the way there was a flower shop. In the window of that flower shop was one of these--a lava lamp. They weren't really new that year but as the psychedelic generation was beginning, they reached a new peak in popularity. I stood and stared each morning at the one in that window. I was absolutely fascinated by it. Oddly enough, I was still a straight A student in spite of all the times I was late because of my lava lamp obsession.

Carry On Cowboy

The "Carry On's" were a series of progressively more risque comedy films made in the UK for two decades beginning in the late 1950's. Although each and every film had a different setting, they developed a wonderful ensemble cast, many of whom would appear over and over and were more often than not better than the quality of the material itself.

CARRY ON COWBOY came out in 1966 and is both one of the best and the most unusual entries in the series. Part of the fun is listening to these old music hall and radio veterans attempting and often failing at American accents.

Sid James heads the cast as the Rumpo Kid and series favorites Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims and Charles Hawtrey are hilarious. Future Dr. Who Jon Pertwee, at one time known as the British equivalent to Danny Kaye, also appears as does Jim Dale, in recent years a worldwide favorite of children and adults as the voice of JK Rowling's Harry Potter audio books!

The Carry On series never really caught on in the US and, in fact, many of the pictures weren't even released in this country. For some their silly, low-brow humor is a hard taste to acquire but once you do, you're a fan forever.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Loretta Lynn--You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)

Country music was still a couple of years away from its big period of pop crossover acceptance but there were quite a few classic country tunes out that year including this one by one of the great legendary women of country, Loretta Lynn.

00 Division # 7

On Broadway # 2

CABARET was a huge Broadway hit with songs by Fred Ebb and John Kander. Actress Jill Haworth created the role of Sally Bowles, a British entertainer in pre WWII Germany. Later game show host Bert Convy was the young American man in her life. (In the later film version, those countries would be reversed)

Jack Gilford and Lotte Lenya not only co-starred but took the Tony nominations for best Actor and Actress.

Underneath it all was Joel Grey in his career-defining role as the creepy, enigmatic emcee. Grey would be the only one of the original cast retained in the 1972 film version which became a signature vehicle for Judy Garland's daughter, Liza Minnelli.

The Cartoonist Cookbook

Originally posted at BOOKSTEVE'S LIBRARY in 2006 in a slightly different form.

THE CARTOONIST COOKBOOK from 1966 features new artwork from many of the famous strip cartoonists of the day, all with the theme of food. The first half of the book is an alphabetical listing of the creators themselves, giving a picture, a brief bio and usually a food-related anecdote before listing their favorite foods and offering a drawing of their famous strip creation. The recipes themselves appear in the second half of the book. The real treats here are the vintage photos of the various artists as well as the probably never seen anywhere else artwork. Comic book legend Neal Adams was still turning out his BEN CASEY medical strip (long after the source TV series had ended) and so leads off the listing with the page and rare art seen here. Also seen here is Chester Gould’s pasta-loving DICK TRACY, Alfred Andriola’s KERRY DRAKE and Leonard Starr’s lovely ( and soon to be reprinted. Yay!) MARY PERKINS ON STAGE. Elsewhere in the book you’ll find Charles Schulz, Al Capp, Mort Walker, Johnny Hart, Al Jaffee and the rest of the A-list along with more-or-less forgotten creators whose strips were having some success during the mid-sixties. These include Pete Hansen (LOLLY), Bill Lignante (LET’S EXPLORE YOUR MIND) and Harry Haenigsen (PENNY).

Patty Duke Game

THE PATTY DUKE SHOW was one of the most memorable sitcoms of its day. Essentially a TV version of the Disney film, THE PARENT TRAP, it doubled as a vehicle for the brilliant former child actress who had scored so winningly as Helen Keller in THE MIRACLE WORKER. In the show, as explained in its memorable theme song, Patty plays lookalike cousins...but cousins who are completely different in most ways. She actually managed to play the roles so well that many thought they really were two separate girls. THE PATTY DUKE SHOW game came out in 1966, the last year the show aired new episodes before a lifetime of reruns that continues today.

Tony Bennett-The Shadow of Your Smile

The ever-popular Tony Bennett with my very favorite of his songs. In fact one of my favorite songs in general. From the movie, THE SANDPIPER, this is Tony on THE ANDY WILLLIAMS SHOW in March of '66 doing a rather low-key version of THE SHADOW OF YOUR SMILE.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Enterprise Crew

I first saw STAR TREK in 1966 but I didn't watch it regularly until the first round of seventies reruns. I saw enough of it to know who the crew members were, though, so memorably played by actors who would become oh so familiar. Over the years, I've had the pleasure to meet or at least see in person the entire main Enterprise crew except for Shatner and Nimoy.

I saw DeForrest Kelley in person at the height of the STAR TREK afterlife success. It was at Omnicon in Louisville, KY in 1976. I stood next to him while he was being interviewed by a local television news reporter. Later that evening, I watched that clip on TV in my hotel room.

It was about fourteen years before I saw another Trek star in person and that was George Takei, oddly enough in Louisville. I was working for Waldenbooks and we actually had a table at the Con so I was just able to watch him speak but he was incredibly charismatic and funny and well-deserving of the odd celebrity success he's encountered in recent years.

My wife had just had her gall bladder removed a couple of years on but wouldn't let that allow her to miss a STAR TREK Convention so we rented a wheelchair and went to see James Doohan. He had no way of knowing she wasn't permanently in the wheelchair so he had her led up front to sit next to him as he met with other signers. He was very, very friendly but rather vitriolic when he was talking about Mr. Shatner.

As a young girl, my wife, like many of her age no doubt, related most to Nurse Chapel and her unrequited love for Mr. Spock. We saw Majel Barrett Roddenberry at a downtown Cincinnati Convention and she was a hoot! Scheduled signings had lines forming way in advance but we caught her just sitting at a table casually meeting with fans and signing things so we stood and waited our turn. When my wife got up to her, Ms. Roddenberry asked her name...and all she could do was go 'homina...homina...homina..." I told her that her name was "Rene." She smiled and signed. My wife currently writes Spock/Chapel fanfic and has a cool Nurse Chapel action figure.

There was a huge snowstorm and we thought sure a Trek Con north of Cincy would be canceled but we called the hotel and they said it was on. We slowly and carefully made our way out only to hear that Nichelle Nichols' plane had been delayed by the weather. Late in the day, however, she arrived, looking absolutely the vision of loveliness. We heard her speak and then watched a thousand people line up for autographs. Instead, we sat across from her as she met with fans and she would constantly make eye contact with us and wink and smile as if everything she said to the fans she was actually saying just to us. That was neat!

Walter Koenig was recovering from a minor stroke when we saw him at a Cincinnati Con. He was, as are all the Trek veterans, a delight but he seemed to tire quite easily. We spoke with him later and my wife spent a lot of time chastising him for not staying home and resting and coming out another time. That made him laugh.

Leonard Nimoy was rumored to be the upcoming guest at the second STAR TREK CINCINNATI con organized by one particular group but that group went out of business instead. William Shatner came through my airport bookstore one day a few years back but he was, I'm told quite petulant and actually almost ran from fans. I missed him by about ten minutes.


Soft drinks were a big part of the ambiance of the 1960's. Around here, we just called them that--soft drinks. In other areas they were known as pop, soda or generically, after the most popular one, as Cokes. They only came in glass bottles, maybe three different sizes. You could buy cartons of six and then return the bottles later to be washed out and recycled. The corner grocery would actually give you a little money if you returned an empty bottle you found in the gutter! At amusement parks, they had metal racks for you to park your emptied bottles.

Cokes cost a dime for the classy, curvy bottle I considered just the right size. Fountain cokes at lunch counters were even better! There was no caffeine-free Coke, no Diet Coke, no Cherry Coke, no canned Coke, no Coke Zero. Not even Coke Classic. Or rather, ALL there was was Coke Classic!

Andy Warhol helped contribute to the concept of Coke as part of pop culture when he used the bottles in his art the way he had previously used soup cans.

All vintage ads are fun to look at but Coke has had more than its share of groovy print, radio and TV ads. Here are just a couple from 1966. Over the years it's cost me a few teeth and added more than a few pounds but Coca~Cola is still the Real Thing. In fact...I'm drinking one now.

Batman Gum Cards

One of my very favorite things that summer was the BATMAN gum cards! I used to carry my set--and yes, I quickly amassed the whole set with tons of duplicates--in my pocket by the time Second Grade started. It was a big thick stack rubber banded together. I got quite a bit for 'em when I finally had to sell them just a few years ago.

Below you'll find a link to the art from all 55 of the cards of that first series!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Beatles at Candlestick Park

Their final official concert performance!

Paul Revere and the Raiders--Kicks

History hasn't been too kind to Paul Revere and the Raiders and that's too bad. They really were one of the biggest groups of the sixties with a number of Top 40 hits, an enormous amount of TV exposure, a gimmicky stage presence and a charismatic lead singer. What's not to like? This was one of their most memorable and successful hits and it came out in 1966.

Strange Tales

Here we have the year's run of STRANGE TALES. Originally an anthology of fantasy stories, the title became the home to an ultimately unsuccessful series starring the Fantastic Four's Human Torch. Quietly, in the back, Doctor Strange began his series by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. When spies came into vogue, Marvel cleverly took the heroes of its WWII series, SGT FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOES and updated them to the modern-day espionage world. NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. replaced the Torch series in '65. Originally the S.H.I.E.L.D. strip would alternate covers with the DR STRANGE strip but for some reason, throughout most of this year, the spies won out.

This was too bad as Ditko, in his waning days at Marvel,pulled out all the stops and delivered some of his best work. The S.H.I.E.L.D. strip while well done and interesting, didn't really hit its stride until late in the year with the arrival of new artist Jim Steranko who would go on to be the most influential new talent of the decade in the comics field.

Ozzie and Harriet

Perhaps exemplifying the change brought on by 1966 more than anything else was THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET.

Bandleader Ozzie Nelson and his wife/band singer Harriet Hilliard took a chance at a radio sitcom in 1944 and it turned out to be a hit. Like many radio stars they played thinly disguised versions of themselves, complete with their own names. Their two sons, however, were originally played by actors. As the show reached a peak in popularity, there was a feature film called HERE COME THE NELSONS. When television boomed, THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET with its gentle humor and family values was an easy and successful transfer.

With the boys, David and Ricky, now playing themselves, America literally watched the kids grow up throughout the fifties. By the end of the fifties, the easy-going but savvy Ozzie had allowed Ricky to stretch his chops as a rock 'n' roll singer on the show. The lines of fiction and reality blurred as Ricky became a real-life teen idol at the top of the charts. Into the sixties, both sons married in real life and their real wives played "themselves" on the show.

But even though the Nelsons were America's favorite family, THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET finally came to an end on TV in March of 1966. After 22 years all told. Even some color episodes toward the end couldn't hide the fact that the Nelsons represented the black and white fifties...and by 1966, that was a looong time ago.


One person for whom 1966 was most definitely an up and down kind of year is Bob Dylan. On the one hand he was fresh off his best received album to date. On the other, he was still being severely chastised in some quarters for his decision to "go electric" the previous year. In 1966, Bob teamed for the first time with Levon and the Hawks, the band soon to be known as...well...The Band! In summer, his double album, BLONDE ON BLONDE came out to widespread critical praise and he was elevated even higher in some quarters by both critics and peers. Not long after that, however, Dylan was involved in a motorcycle accident and his recovery would keep him on the sidelines and out of public view for the next couple of years.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Call Me--Donna Loren

Donna Loren was the Dr Pepper Girl in the sixties. In fact, she was the ONLY Dr Pepper girl! She also appeared in several of Frankie and Annette's BEACH PARTY films as well as in a memorable role as Susie the corrupt cheerleader on a 1966 Joker episode of BATMAN! I had the great pleasure to interview Ms. Loren a couple of years back. A delightful and talented lady who has recently started singing publicly again. Here's a link to our talk:

This clip is from Milton Berle's failed, short-lived attempt at a comeback variety series in '66, on which Donna was a regular.

Superman On Candid Camera

On the stands at teh end of 1966, this issue of ACTION COMICS continued the tradition of Superman meeting celebrities that had already included, among others, Perry Como, Orson Welles and John F. Kennedy.

In this case it was allen Funt, the friendly/smarmy host of TV's CANDID CAMERA. Originally on radio (as CANDID MICROPHONE) and seen as a series of short subjects in theaters, Funt was an early proponent of the entertainment value of what we now call "punking." He'd set up a situation and then voyeuristically record and comment on how various ordinary people reacted to it. In this case, the ordinary person was Clark Kent who, luckily, was able to pull a switch on the sneaky host.

Funt would later produce the feature film, WHAT DO YOU SAY TO A NAKED LADY?. Scandalous in 1970 (with a great theme song that actually got radio play), it's now a quaint document of how folks reacted to suddenly seeing an attractive young miss in her birthday suit in elevators, parks, hallways, etc.

Batstuff # 5

Sparkle Paints! I dearly loved sparkle paints! They had sets with drawings of flowers and dolls and animals and such but best of all, they had Sparkle paints with superheroes starting in '66! Both Marvel and DC made the cut with the most popular ones undoubtedly being the Batman ones seen here.

David Wayne For American Motors

Actor David Wayne shilling for 1966 American Motors cars. Later in '66, he would appear memorably as The Mad Hatter on BATMAN!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spies, Spoofs and Super Guys

This was a one-shot magazine that cashed in on several of the trends of 1966 at the same time. It was very popular in my circle of seven year olds for several years in fact as it was one of the few places for info on the OUR MAN FLINT films, the Matt Helm films and the Harry Palmer pictures. It also covered the TV spies of GET SMART, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., SECRET AGENT and I SPY as well as, obviously, BATMAN! While some of the articles may have been new (probably the BATMAN ones) I believe the rest were reprints from other Dell movie and TV mags of the day.

A lot of great black and white pics including some naughty (to a seven year old) images from the spy pics, SPIES, SPOOFS AND SUPER GUYS remains a nostalgic treat!

Johnny West

Marx's Johnny West was a cowboy action figure that first appeared in 1965. I got mine (the first of several) for Christmas that year, along with his Indian friend, Chief Cherokee. In fact, for pretty much every Christmas following for the next decade, I received more and more of the many, many additional human and animal figures that became available. These included General Custer, Captain Maddox, Geronimo, Jane West, kids and some absolutely beautiful but hard to store horses!

The Beach Boys--Good Vibrations

Without a doubt one of THE great pop musical masterpieces of all time.

Bill Cosby--Wonderfulness

Bill Cosby was one of the first black faces on television for many growing up in the sixties. Although his popularity grew with I SPY, he was, at heart, a comedian and, as such, put out a number of memorable and hilarious record albums which is what comedians did in those days.

WONDERFULNESS contains one of my favorite Cosby routines, "Chicken Heart."

Bill would remain a TV fixture and, in time, THE COSBY SHOW would cinch his place in television's Hall of Fame.