Is it “Binge” Worthy?

I am a sleep technologist full time.  Naturally, when I see articles related to sleep, I read them.  The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recently took a survey to find out what keeps us up at night.

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Coming in at #4 – Playing video games.  59% of men and 42% of women do it.

Coming in at #3 – Watching sports.  The survey says that 60% of us sometimes choose sports over sleep. (75% were men, while 45% were women)

The second thing that keeps us up at night is reading.  According to the survey 71% of women and 61% of men lose sleep because they couldn’t put down a book. (Personally, I LOVE when a book keeps me interested like that!)

So what was the #1 thing that keeps us up at night?  No surprise – Streaming TV shows or movies. A whopping 88% of us do this!  Of that group, 95% of the people were between 18 & 45 years old.

24 % of people in the survey said they usually are angry with themselves for putting entertainment over sleep.

The results got me to thinking.  As someone who rarely gets enough sleep because of my job, what TV shows would I consider to be “Binge Worthy”?

Since the birth of television, there have been thousands of TV shows!  With the availability of many of those shows on DVD and on streaming sites, which ones would I actually think about streaming or binge-watching?  I decided to break it down by decade.  I wrote down the first four shows from each decade that came to mind down.  So, here are the shows that I could easily “binge” watch:

The 1950’s

honeymooners

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twilight

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The 1960’s

TheDickVanDykeShow

trek

mission

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The 1970’s

sanford

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wkrp

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The 1980’s

cheers

dukes

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The 1990’s

friends

raymond

seinfeld

70's

The 2000’s

On_the_next_Arrested_Development

office

30 rock

House

Now it’s your turn.  If you want to Google it – go ahead, but I thought it was more fun to just think of the decades and write down the first ones that came to my head.

What are YOUR “binge worthy” shows??

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Holy Batman Day!

After a few serious blogs, I decided I needed to write about something a little bit less … deep.  This is about a silly and campy a topic as I can come up with.

Depending on the source, either September 15 or September 21 was National Batman Day.  Either way, I missed it.  It was to celebrate 80 years of the Caped Crusader.  Batman first appeared in the comics in 1939 and has been keeping the folks of fictional Gotham City safe from the onset.

Yes, there have been many different versions of Batman throughout the years, but for me, the version that will always remain my favorite was created in 1966.

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I was not yet born when it first aired on TV, but I watched it faithfully with my brother in reruns.  To be honest, as a kid watching this show, I had no idea just what the show did to pop culture in 1966.  It was HUGE!  Radio stations used the infamous Neal Hefti theme song for their jingles.  People were using onomatopoeias in every day conversations, along with “Holy” catchphrases!  Batman was everywhere!

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The phrase “Same Bat Time.  Same Bat Channel.” were used in everyday language.  It was a reference to the fact that the first episode would end with our heroes caught in a trap.  Certain death awaited the Dynamic Duo.  The cliffhanger episodes ended telling veiwers to tune in tomorrow to see IF they can escape (which they always did!).

The 1966 Batman was quite different than what had been seen on screen or in the comics.  The producers of the show did it with a campiness that was at times, just plain silly.  One has to wonder if the cast had been different, would it have worked?

Adam West played Batman (and Bruce Wayne) and Burt Ward was Robin (and Dick Grayson).

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The Commissioner Gordon of 1966 is SO unlike the Gordon of Fox’s Gotham.  He is played by the great Neil Hamilton.  Chief O’Hara is played like the stereotypical Irish cop from so many movies and radio shows by character actor Stafford Repp.

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In the comics, Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred, had been killed off before the show began.  Needless to say, his death was reversed.  He is played to perfection by Alan Napier.

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Aunt Harriet Cooper was played by Madge Blake, who many will remember from Leave it to Beaver.  Blake fell ill during the show and appeared less and less.

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In season 3, the two day back to back episode format was abandoned and the character of Batgirl (who was really Barbara Gordon, daughter of the Commissioner) was introduced.  She was played by the amazing Yvonne Craig.

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Outside of the campiness of the show, I think what made it such a hit was the villains.  Batman in the comics introduced readers to many of the Batman “staple” villains and so they were known to Bat-fans already.  Personally, I need to give kudos to whoever did the casting of the villains for the TV show!  In all honesty, it is hard for me to imagine anyone else playing these characters (although some have done quite well).

When you watch the show, you will notice that when a villain is on screen, the camera always shoots them at an angle.  The reason is that it was to convey that the villains were a bit off kilter or “crooked”.   By the end of the first season, Batman was such a big hit that celebrities were lining up to be villains.  Many stars just wanted to be ON the show (which explains some of the cameos).  While there are many villains, here are some of my favorites:

Cesar Romero – The Joker. Romero was known for playing romantic Latin lovers in many movies.  When asked to play the Joker, he refused to shave off his trademark mustache.  The cast him anyway and they painted the makeup over his mustache!  Look at the picture below and it is clearly visible.  His over-the-top performance as the Joker and his amazing laugh made the character so much fun to watch!!

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Frank Gorshin – The Riddler.  Gorshin had starred in over 20 films by the time he was cast in Batman as the Riddler.  Those included That Darn Cat, Where the Boys Are, and The George Raft Story.  He was popular in night clubs and on TV and was an amazing impressionist (He did one of the BEST impressions of Burt Lancaster!).  As the Riddler, he was like a cat high on catnip!  He was all over the place!  His laugh was perfect for the role.  The laugh was supposedly inspired by Richard Widmark’s character in 1947’s Kiss of Death.

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Burgess Meredith – The Penguin.  Burgess was called “one of the most accomplished actors of the century” and I would tend to agree.  There is very little that I have seen him in where he is not amazing to watch!  He and Cesar Romero are tied for the most appearances on Batman.  As the Penguin, he is just marvelous!  Penguin trivia:  Burgess had stopped smoking prior to taking the role.  He developed the “quack”ing to hide the fact that he wanted to cough because of the smoke.  Word is that he was so popular on the show, the producers ALWAYS had a Penguin script waiting for him.

burgess penguin

Catwoman – Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt.  Hands down, Julie Newmar is my favorite!  Her sultry voice fits the character.  The way she flirts with Batman, you can tell there is something there, but it can never be because one is good and one is evil.  Julie was a star on Broadway (and Tony Award winner) before Batman. She did many guest appearances on TV too (F-Troop, Route 66, Columbo, and more).  Her Catwoman costume is in the Smithsonian!

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Eartha Kitt makes my list because her take on Catwoman is SO different from Julie’s.  Her growl and the way she rolls her “r’s” is reason enough for her to be mentioned.

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Notice: Julie raised the belt on the costume a bit – so it enhanced her figure.

David Wayne – The Mad Hatter.  I always liked David Wayne as an actor.  He appears in one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes and was in many movies by the time Batman cast him.  He appeared in four films with Marilyn Monroe and also appeared with Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap.  Like the other villains, Wayne is over-the-top is his portrayal of the Mad Hatter.  His exact pronunciations of words with such great diction makes his performance that much more believable. How can you not dig his crazy hat with the eyes that pop up to hypnotize his victims to steal their hats?!

mad hatter

Vincent Price – Egghead.  Vincent Price was a star!  He was the Saint on radio, he had appeared in who knows how many movies, and narrated Michael Jackson’s Thriller!  Egghead was a villain that must have been created for the show, as I don’t know that he ever appeared in a comic book.  He was a super intelligent villain, maybe the smartest.  His language consisted of “eggy” puns.  He was just fun to watch.

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Rudy Vallee – Lord Marmaduke Ffogg and Glynis Johns Lady Penelope Peasoup.  I really don’t know why these two make my list.  They only appear in Season Three of the show and it does not take place in Gotham City.  The episodes take place in the fictional town of Londinium.  The entire Gotham crew, including Batgirl, are there (yet no one connects the fact that Batman shows up at the same time Bruce Wayne is visiting!).  I remember these episodes for a couple things – the fact that his pipe can fog up an entire town (or so it seems) and Robin is almost stung by this huge, and obviously fake, bee.  Watching Vallee in this role, you can see (like almost all villains) that he is having a lot of fun with the character.

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Shelley Winters – Ma Parker.  Here is another example of an actor/actress who just is amazing in anything she plays (check her out in Night of the Hunter).  Shelley Winters is brilliant as Ma Parker (an obvious parody of the real Ma Barker and her crime family).  She’s crazy and shows a wide range of emotions throughout her stint on Batman.  I really wish they had brought her back for more!

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Honorable Mentions – Mr. Freeze was played by three different actors – all very differently.  George Sanders, Otto Preminger, and Eli Wallach all took turns in the role.mr freeze

Milton Berle – Louie The Lilac – Uncle Miltie as a bad guy?  Yep.

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Victor Buono – King Tut.  Talk about an over-the-top performance!  Victor is said to have loved playing this role.  He said it gave him the ability to have fun and just be silly.

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Ethel Merman – Lola Lasagna.  What?!  Ethel Merman!?  Yep.  Bonus – she’s in an episode with the Penguin.

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Liberace – Chandell and Harry.  This one is just silly, which is why I love it!  Chandell is a criminal (known as “Fingers”), but only a criminal because he is being blackmailed by is evil twin brother Harry.  Liberace alone is enough, but Liberace playing a dual role – LOL!!!

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There were many other celebrities who played villains on the show – Art Carney, Cliff Robertson, Van Johnson, Carolyn Jones, Joan Collins, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Roddy McDowell, Ida Lupino, and SO many more!  All were great, but really only good for one stint.  The villains really made the show fun to watch.

The wait was long for the show to finally make it to DVD/Blu-Ray, and when it was released, I ran out and bought it!  As silly as it is, I still will watch it and love every minute of silliness!  Happy Belated Batman Day!

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“Made in 1938”

 

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Introduction

Since I started blogging about a year ago, I have stumbled on some great blogs that focus on old movies, film noir, music, books, and various other things that I find interesting.  Some of these blog sites have hosted Blogathons, and I have participated in a few of them.  A while back, the “Pop Culture Reverie” and “In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood” sites announced their “Made in 1938 Blogathon”.  The only real rule that was that whatever you wrote about had to be something “made” in 1938.  This blog is my contribution to this blogathon. I am posting a day early, but you can read the other participants blogs by clicking:

https://popculturereverie.wordpress.com/

or

https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/

At first, I began to look at movies from that year, hoping there would be one of my favorites from that year.  Then, because of the celebrity birthday page I had on Facebook, I wondered if there were any famous people born in ’38 that I might find interesting to write about.  In looking over the list of celebrities, three stood out as having a significant part in my life, so I chose to write about them.  I hope you find this blog interesting and entertaining. What follows is a brief salute to a great impressionist/comedian, a great radio personality, and a great actor.

Rich Little (Born November 26, 1938)

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Rich Little shares the nickname “The Man of a Thousand Voices” with the great Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc).  While they both have many voices that they do, Mel’s were more original voices and dialects for cartoons, while Rich did impersonations or imitations of real celebrities.  He claims to be able to do about 200 voices, and he has had quite a career “being” other people!  He even eludes to this in the title of his 2014 book “Little by Little:  People I’ve Known and Been…”

I remember when we first got cable TV.  HBO often featured stand up comedy shows and specials.  One of the first specials I ever saw was Rich Little’s A Christmas Carol. I was mesmerized by this guy!  This special was like an awesome dream come true – all these big celebrities playing the different roles of the Dickens classic – except, they were all done by one man, Rich Little.  Can you imagine WC Fields, Jack Benny, Peter Sellers, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Falk (as Columbo), Jimmy Stewart, Richard Nixon, Johnny Carson, Laurel and Hardy, and Groucho Marx all in the same show?!  He made it happen!

As a kid, not knowing what I really wanted to do with my life, and thinking I was funny, I thought maybe I could do what he did.  After watching him often, and listening to him, I began to try out voices on relatives.  I really thought I did an excellent Richard Nixon, but in reality, I was doing a bad impression of Rich Little doing Richard Nixon.   (Later on in my radio career, while on Honey Radio I did create a few generic voices that I used on our morning show, but never anything close to what Rich has mastered!)

I was always excited when there was some new Rich Little Special on HBO, whether it was his stage act or his take on Robin Hood (which is where I first saw him do his Carol Channing, which blew me away).  Every time he did a new celebrity I hadn’t seen him do, I would watch in awe. There was no shortage of people he could do.

One surprising fact that I was unaware of was one of my favorite singers played a big part in his American TV debut.  He was asked by singer Mel Torme’ to audition for the Judy Garland Show in 1964.  He did, made an impression (pun intended) and made his first appearance on American TV on her show.  He stated in an interview that if you watch this appearance, you should watch Judy.  She had never seen him perform before they taped the show and her reactions are very genuine.  He went on to appear on other TV shows like Love on a Rooftop, That Girl, The Flying Nun, and Petticoat Junction in guest roles.  He is probably best known for his appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Kopycats (a show featuring impressionists), and The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts.

Rich is often asked which impressions are his favorites.  He says he has many, but the two that stand out are Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Stewart.  His Reagan is just wonderful and President Reagan loved it too!  He did two albums as Reagan – “The First Family Rides Again” and “Ronald Reagan Slept Here”.  I owned them both, and they are very funny (one of them features a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards)! His Reagan is a great example of how Rich can find something unique about someone and use it in his imitation.  I’ll be honest, I never knew how many times Reagan started a sentence with the word “Well…” until I saw/heard Rich doing it in his act!

Jimmy Stewart was the first celebrity impression he worked on (and it is amazing).  Rich was on the dais of The Dean Martin Roasts when Jimmy was the “Man of the Hour”.  He got to the podium and began to school Jimmy Stewart on how to do Jimmy Stewart!  After Jimmy tries to do all the things Rich is telling him, Rich finally tells him that there is no hope for him and that Jimmy was doing “The Worst Jimmy Stewart” he’d ever heard! Rich even went as far as to have the audience stand up and do Jimmy, to which Rich tells Jimmy that everyone does a better Jimmy Stewart than he did!  Word is this was all ad-libbed and Jimmy, being the amazing guy that he was, went along with it all.

It would be hard for me to pick my favorite Rich Little Impressions, because they are all so good.  Among his best, in my opinion, are Reagan and Stewart (just mentioned), Richard Nixon, Jack Benny, Don Rickles, Raymond Burr, Truman Capote, James Mason, John Wayne, Paul Lynde, and Johnny Carson.  His Carson was so good, he was asked to play him in the movie about the David Letterman/Jay Leno feud called “Late Night”. After seeing Rich do an impression of him, Jack Benny sent him an 18 karat gold money clip  that was engraved; “With Bob Hope doing my walk and you doing my voice, I can be a star and do nothing!”

How good are his impressions?  When David Niven was ill, he actually dubbed in lines for Niven in a couple Pink Panther movies.  He did the same for James Cagney in the 1984 film Terrible Joe Moran and for Gene Kelly in a 1991 Christmas special.  I’m not sure how true it is, but some people say that there was some fierce competition between Rich and Frank Gorshin (The Riddler on TV’s Batman), who was also a good impressionist.  Those sources say that this little rivalry only made Rich work even harder to perfect his voices.

In researching for this blog, I came across a quote from Rich that really made me admire him even more.  He said, “I don’t like it when people imitate someone for political reasons or if they hate somebody.  I’ve never imitated anyone that I’ve really hated.  Usually, it’s people I admire.”

Thanks Rich, for the many laughs you provided throughout my childhood. Sorry about my Nixon impression!

Wolfman Jack (Born January 21, 1938)

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Radio Legend!  What more can I say?!  He was one of the best.  He knew what people wanted and gave it to them.  He was a master at talking to his audience.  He could be making you laugh out loud one minute, and crying  the next.  I never had the chance to hear a live show of his, but I was lucky enough to hear some of his syndicated stuff growing up.  I can tell you this, I can only WISH to be as good and as talented as he was! In my 30 year radio career, I have never come close!

With the creation of the Internet and access to YouTube and other radio websites, some of Wolfman’s radio stuff is available to listen to and enjoy.  I’m no dummy, I know that he must have done a lot of prep for his shows, but everything seemed so spontaneous and ad-libbed!  Maybe it was, I don’t know, but I do know that it was good.  His interactions with listeners were always entertaining.  His random thoughts about peace, love, and brotherhood always hit the nail on the head.  In this world where hatred runs amuck, we could use more people like Wolfman spreading the “love” on the air.

I got into radio because of the guys I listened to growing up (Paul Christy, Jim McKenzie, Richard D., Boogie Brian, Dick Purtan, etc…), and so did Wolfman Jack.  To keep him out of trouble, his parents bought him a radio and he fell in love with R&B music.  He listened to Jocko Henderson from Philadelphia, Dr. Jive from New York, the Moon Dog from Cleveland, Alan Freed (who coined the phrase “Rock and Roll”), and his mentor John Richbourg from Nashville.  He spent a year at The National Academy of Broadcasting and landed a radio gig in Virginia where his on air name was “Daddy Jules”.

Three years later, he took his “Wolfman” character to XERF, a Mexican radio station that broadcast at 250,000 watts (5 times the power of any US radio station), and people listened!  The station pretty much covered most of the US.  The music he played (lots of great R&B) and his vocal stylings started to make news. His popularity grew and there were feature stories about him in Time magazine, Newsweek, and Life magazine.  Newspapers from all over the country all wrote about him, too, wondering, “Who is this guy and where did he come from?!”

In 1972, he became the host of an NBC show called “The Midnight Special” where he co-hosted and interviewed musical guests.  Director George Lucas grew up in North Carolina and was a fan of Wolfman’s show growing up.  In 1973, he cast him in the film “American Graffiti” and made sure that he got a small percentage of the profits from the film.  The success of the film brought Wolfman to New York to do a radio show on WNBC, but the commuting back and forth to do TV and radio became a hassle, so he moved back to California.

Wolfman Jack became the first radio DJ to nationally distribute his radio show.  The show was heard on over 2000 stations nationwide and in 53 countries! Along with his radio work. he continued to do movie work  and appeared on TV shows like The Odd Couple, What’s Happening, Vega$, Wonder Woman, Hollywood Squares, and Married…With Children. He also appeared as himself in the 1974 hit single by The Guess Who entitled “Clap for the Wolfman.”

In 1995, he wrote his autobiography (a must read for people in radio) “Have Mercy:  Confessions of the Original Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal,” which received good reviews in The New York Times and LA Times.  On July 1, 1995, after finishing a broadcast from The Hard Rock Café in Washington DC he boarded a plane and flew home.  He had been away from his family for days promoting his book.  He told his limo driver as they pulled in front of his house that he was happy to finally be home.  He walked inside, hugged his wife, and collapsed after having a massive heart attack.  He was 57 years old.

To close this section of my blog – here are some of my favorite Wolfman quotes:

“We are put on this earth to have a good time.  This makes other people feel good.  And the cycle continues.”

“I know it may sound corny, man, but I like to bring folks joy and I like to have a good time.  I know folks like to be with someone who’s having a good time.  You sure as hell don’t want to be with somebody who’s having a bad day.”

“Love is not a matter of counting the years – it’s making the years count.”

“If you do right.  Everything will come out right.”

And my favorite quote, which I often used (giving him credit, of course) to close my own radio show:

“Remember to keep smiling because a smile is like a light in the window letting people know your heart’s at home”.

Thanks, Wolfman, for being an inspiration to young DJ’s like me, and for being a positive in a world full of negativity!

Christopher Lloyd (Born October 22, 1938)

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When I first saw the trailer for Back to the Future, I was filled with anticipation.  It was everything a 15 year old boy could ask for, action, adventure, and time travel! I’ve always been a fan of time travel stories.  I have a collection of old radio shows that all have time travel as a theme.  What kid didn’t wonder, “What would it be like to see my parents as kids?  What would it be like to go back to the past?”  I had to see this movie!

The Back to the Future trilogy remains one of my favorites (second only to the Godfather).  Looking back now, I can’t imagine anyone but Christopher Lloyd playing Doc Brown.  While there are great characters (and actors) in the film, Lloyd makes it all worth watching!  He’s the epitome of a crazy scientist!  He’s everything you expect one to be!  He’s manic!  He’s constantly moving!  He’s always thinking and processing!  In an interview he said that there were times he was so into the role that he didn’t know exactly what he had done until he saw it on screen!  Believe it or not, he almost passed on the role!!

In an interview I found, he said that when he was initially contacted about playing the role, he had some doubts about it and seriously considered passing on it.  He was in Mexico when his agent called to tell him that the producers wanted to meet with him.  “I was anxious to do a play that I had been offered back east, and I wasn’t sure this was something I wanted to get involved in at that point.”  Luckily, his future wife Carol reminded him that “I always told myself never to turn anything down without at least checking it out.” After the meeting he says he was “ready to put on the wig and hop into the Delorean!”

Doc Brown is probably one of two roles that Christopher Lloyd will forever be identified with.  The other is that of “Reverend” Jim Ignatowski on the TV show Taxi.  That character won him two Emmy Awards!  I have always appreciated when a TV show has a great ensemble cast – Taxi was one of them.  Each character stands out in their own way, and Reverend Jim never ceased to make me laugh!  One of the greatest scenes in this show is when Jim has to take his driver’s test.  Almost all of the gang is there while he is taking it and trying to help him.  If you’ve never seen it – it’s comedy gold! Here is the link:

Christopher is one of those actors who is believable in comedy roles as well as dramatic roles.  I have always felt that is what makes a great actor.  He reminds me a lot of Robin Williams, in that he can play comedy for comedy, play straight for comedic effect, and nail a dramatic role perfectly.  In his first movie role, as a psychiatric patient in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, he is brilliant!  It is one amazing performance!

He is one of those actors that has so many memorable roles.  It would be impossible to give space to each one of them.  One movie that sometimes gets over looked is the 1985 comedy Clue.  As Professor Plum, we are treated to Christopher playing straight for comedic effect.  In one of my favorite scenes, the characters are paired off to search areas of the house.  Plum is paired with Mrs. Peacock (played brilliantly by Eileen Brennan) and he looks at her and says, “It’s you and me, honey bunch.”  As strait as he says it, that line cracks me up every time!  What an amazing cast in this film!

As someone who doesn’t care too much for movie remakes, I was pleasantly surprised at the Addams Family films.  I loved Christopher as Uncle Fester.  I always felt like the TV show was more comedy than dark comedy.  The films were closer to the comic strips and I thought Christopher captured that dark comedy and mischievous aspect of the character in his portrayal of Fester. This is probably because he was a fan of the comic strip and claims to have always read the New Yorker Magazine (where the strip was featured in every issue).

Two of Christopher’s roles were so powerful they scared me!  The first being that of Klingon Commander Kluge in the 1984 film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.  He is just so vicious, and over the top in this film.  One of my favorite scenes is where one of his crew destroys a ship and he yells that he wanted prisoners.  The crew member says it was a lucky shot.  At this, his anger boils over and Kluge kills the crewmember.  After this, he simply says “Animal.”  He really does a great job of showing us how crazy the character is.

The other role that scared me was his role as Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?  As much as I hated him throughout the movie, when he snaps and goes nuts at the end, wow!  When he is run over by the steamroller you are almost happy!  When he melts, you are ecstatic! When an actor makes you hate a character he is playing that much – he’s done it right! He says that people come up to him often and mention how much this character scared them, so I am not alone.  He also says that he loves playing villains, because it’s a “license just to be as bad as the script allows you to be”.

There are many other movies that Christopher has played in that you may be familiar with, like The Dream Team, Dennis the Menace (Switchblade Sam is an awesome villain), and My Favorite Martian.  He has done so much more that I wish I had been able to see.  For example, in 2010, he starred as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman in a Weston House Production. I can only imagine how well he played this iconic role.   In 2008, he played Scrooge in a production of A Christmas Carol with John Goodman and Jane Leeves.  WOW – I would LOVE to see him as Scrooge!!!!  Many have played Scrooge, and played him well…but I know that Christopher’s interpretation would have been off the charts!

He continues to do voice work (my kids loved him as the Hacker on Cyberchase), television, and movies and is very active on social media. If you don’t already, follow him.

Thanks, Christopher for entertaining so many over the years!  You are a treasure!

In Closing

I want to thank the hosts of this blogathon, “Pop Culture Reverie” and “In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood”,  for allowing me to participate.  It was a lot of fun for me to think about these three influential men and their work, and ultimately write about them.  I hope that you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.