Thursday, February 25, 2010

Happy, happy birthday…on this your special day…

Yes, another year has passed and today the Shreve family is celebrating the natal anniversary of its matriarch, who turns (inaudible mumble) today. So I present this picture of “Mumsy”—along with her favorite granddaughter—to commemorate this event.

Happy birthday, Mom! I love you!

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Atta way to go

4 inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame

By CHRIS TALBOTT AP Entertainment Writer

Ferlin Husky usually gets a lot calls in the spring from friends telling him this has to be the year he'll be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

"Every year I've heard that — for the last 15 or 20 years," Husky said with a laugh.

This time it's true.

The Country Music Association on Tuesday announced that Husky and three other genre-expanding country music stars will be new inductees to the Hall of Fame.

Husky joins fellow crossover pioneer Jimmy Dean, producer Billy Sherrill and top-selling singer Don Williams. The men will be inducted into the Hall in Nashville, Tenn., later this year.

Great choices this year, particularly Husky and Dean—both of whom reached out to pop music audiences with Gone, Wings of a Dove, Big Bad John and P.T. 109.

Of course, hearing about “the Gentle Giant” has just made my day.

Likely as not, there's been better weather
I feel real sure there's been better times.
Right here tonight, with you all around me
I'm so glad right now is mine.

So honey, tonight, make it alright.
Turn on your smile for me for a while
Take me away from where I have been.
I know you love me,
But love me over again.

You have the way of filling my emotions
Till there's not a word left in my mind.
Times get so hard, so confusing
You make now a so-much better time.

So honey, tonight, make it alright.
Turn on your smile for me for a while
Take me away from where I have been.
I know you love me,
But love me over again.

So honey, tonight, make it alright.
Turn on your smile for me for a while
Take me away from where I have been.
I know you love me,
But love me over again.

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“…the two most successful outlaws in the history of the West…”

Back in February 2007, Universal Studios brought the freshman season of the cult TV comedy-western series Alias Smith and Jones to DVD, which consisted of the first fourteen episodes and the original feature-length telepilot ("The Day They Hanged Kid Curry"). And after this release…nothing. (Which shouldn’t come as any huge surprise to fans; Universal claimed the mantle of King of “One and Done” a good many years back, as the aborted follow-ups to the 1967-70 version of Dragnet will readily attest.)

But according to TVShowsOnDVD.com, Timeless Media has announced that it’s picking up the slack with an upcoming June 8th release of the second and third seasons to DVD. The SRP is $69.98 and I imagine the collection will be hawked at Sam’s and Costco’s before finally venturing out to the online stores (where the price may come down a bit). Alias Smith and Jones was a fairly successful show at the time of its original network run (it had elements of Maverick and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)—particularly among young viewers—but the suicide of lead actor Pete Duel in December 1971 pretty much sounded the death knell for the series, which came to a halt in January 1973. It had a nice little run of repeats on the Encore Westerns Channel between 2007-2009, and can currently be seen on some RTV affiliates (including Atlanta’s WSB-DT, which runs it at 1:00pm on Saturday and Sunday afternoons).

Also at TSOD: an announcement that the Archive of American Television will let loose The Barbara Stanwyck Show: Volume 2 on May 18th, a 2-DVD set that will contain the remaining installments from the actress’ 1960-61 anthology series (Volume 1 contained fifteen shows, so I’m guessing its follow-up will feature the residual twenty-one). Amazon.com has this set listed for $20.99 (an even better value than the first volume, it would appear) and if you glance over at the right you’ll see a dandy cover with Babs as she seems to have raided Loretta Young’s wardrobe. (It looks better on la Stanwyck, though.)

Back in December 2008, I reported (thanks to TSOD) a blurb about a website devoted to the hilarious slapstick sitcom I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster (1962-63) that was created in part to drum up support for an eventual DVD release of the thirty-two episodes in the series created by Leonard Stern and starring a pre-Addams Family John Astin and Marty Ingels as a pair of inept carpenters. TSOD has some more information about this project but to cut to the chase, apparently a “tribute” DVD is in the pipeline for release later this year (sadly, this seems to suggest that it won’t be all the episodes, just selected ones). I have a small collection of Dickens/Fenster episodes tucked away in the “Rootpeg” section of the dusty Thrilling Days of Yesteryear archives but I am here to tell you that it is one of TV sitcoms’ buried treasures and even a tribute set is better than none. When more information rolls in, I will keep you posted.

The upcoming release of Leave It to Beaver: Season 3—coupled with Leave It to Beaver: The Complete Series—has been assigned a street date of June 15th but there’s still no word on whether or not Shout! Factory will release the fourth, fifth and sixth seasons separately so that those individuals don’t have to pony up the additional scratch to “re-buy” the first two seasons (which have already been released by Universal). To me, if you’re not going to have separate releases then it just makes sense to release one honkin' big set…but the world of TV-on-DVD often does not conform to logic and reason. I suppose it’s all moot as of this writing, because I don’t have the money to purchase that sort of thing even though I would love to introduce it to my collection. (The cover art isn’t too shabby, either.)

Other TV-on-DVD releases coming up fact for June include Mister Ed: The Complete Third Season (June 1st) and the 1982 cult adventure Tales of the Gold Monkey (June 8th). Shout! Factory’s Ed collections must be selling like wildcakes because the second season was released just three weeks back, so this is certainly encouraging to hear. I’m just hoping they haven’t abandoned The Patty Duke Show; I don’t think they will because there’s just one season left.)

And finally, if you’re in need of a Britcom fix, BBC/Warner Home Video has Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 1982-83 on tap for an April 27th release, which will spotlight thirteen episodes from the sixth and seventh series…with the exception of the Christmas cracker “All Mod Conned,” already available on the previously released Last of the Summer Wine: Christmas Specials 1978-82. I like the package art for this collection, too—and though I am a huge fan I’ll probably take a pass on purchasing it because I already have the contents on a Region 2 release. (But that certainly shouldn’t exclude you!)

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Notable passings

I titled my previous post “At Death’s door,” which sounds a bit alarmist, I know—but then that got to me to thinking that if that really were the case, I probably would have greeted these people who have recently left us along the way:

Singer-guitarist Dale Hawkins scored a top 30 hit in 1957 with Susie Q, a song that has since become a “rock-‘n-roll anthem”—having later been covered by such groups as The Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival (who took their version of the song to the top 20 in 1968). He finally succumbed to colon cancer (having been diagnosed with the disease a little more than four years ago) at the age of 73.

Hawkins’ Susie Q—a rockabilly number classified by many music historians as “swamp-rock”—influenced an entire generations of later rock ‘n’ rollers thanks to its incredible guitar lick courtesy of James Burton, who joined Hawkins’ band in 1955. Hawkins had a few smaller follow-up hits, notably My Babe and La-Do-Dada, and later on his career enjoyed success as a producer with charted smashes like Bruce Channel’s Hey Baby! and the Five Americans’ Western Union. (Talk about a song you do not want to get into your head…)

Dale was once quoted as saying: “Study the masters, man…grab the roots and see how it evolved and know what's real.” Amen to that. (A doff of the TDOY chapeau to cub reporter Larry Shell, who originally e-mailed me the notice of Dale’s passing.)

I was particularly saddened to learn of one of my favorite character actors shuffling off this mortal coil; the inimitable Lionel Jeffries, who passed away last Friday at the age of 83. Most people will remember Jeffries from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1967) as Grandpa Potts…and a few more will point out that Jeffries also dabbled in directing; particularly the beloved 1971 feature The Railway Children (for which he also the screenplay). But the reason why I chose the Jeffries picture to the right is because my favorite of his films is Murder Ahoy (1964), one of the four Miss Marple films released by M-G-M between 1961 and 1965 starring another British acting great, Margaret Rutherford, as the famous sleuth. Jeffries plays a by-the-book sea captain who finds himself saddled with Miss M and her attempts to solve a murder on board his vessel.

Jeffries also appeared in a fitfully funny film with Peter Sellers entitled Two Way Stretch (1960), with Sellers as a jewel thief who plans a heist behind prison walls and Jeffries as his frustrated police nemesis. (The two men teamed up three years later for an equally hysterical film with a slightly similar premise, The Wrong Arm of the Law.) Among Jeffries’ notable film appearances: The Colditz Story (1955), The Quatermass Xperiment (1956), Blue Murder at St. Trinian's (1957), The Nun's Story (1959), Tarzan the Magnificent (1960), Fanny (1961), The Truth About Spring (1965), You Must Be Joking! (1965) and Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971). He was also featured in several Britcoms, notably Tom, Dick and Harriet (which was “Americanized” as the short-lived sitcom Foot in the Door) and Rich Tea and Sympathy.

Caroline McWilliams was one of many actors/actresses who benefited from exposure on the venerable soap opera warhorse The Guiding Light (she played Janet Mason Norris on the daytime drama from 1969-75), parlaying her hard work into guest shots on some of the more popular prime time shows like Kojak, Quincy, M.E., Barney Miller and The Incredible Hulk. But McWilliams—who’s gone on to her rich reward at the age of 64 from complications of multiple myeloma—exceeded expectations, going on to an impressive stage career (both performing and directing), work in feature films (White Water Summer, Mermaids) and plum roles on classic television sitcoms like Soap and Benson—perhaps her best-known TV showcase.

McWilliams had played a character named Sally on writer-producer Susan Harris’ comic parody of daytime dramas, Soap, when Harris tabbed her to play the role of secretary Marcy Hill on the spin-off series Benson—which transplanted the character of sardonic butler Benson DuBois (Robert Gillaume) to the mansion of Governor Eugene Xavier Gatling (James Noble)—the brother of his former employer, Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond). (McWilliams and Gillaume weren’t the only two actors from Soap to “jump ship”—Inga Swenson, who was also featured in a brief story arc on the show, joined the Benson cast as housekeeper Gretchen Kraus.) McWilliams’ cheerful and supportive Marcy appeared on Benson’s first two seasons; she was married off at the beginning of the series’ junior year and for all intents and purposes was never heard from again. I don’t know that much about the history of Benson (a subject that I must admit doesn’t interest me much) but I always got the impression that Caroline’s departure from the series was due to the fact that the Marcy character was a bit too nice…and as such, dull. (She was put to better use on Soap, where Sally was a particularly nasty piece of work.)

But Caroline continued to work on the cathode ray tube; she co-starred alongside Eric Idle in a justifiably short-lived sitcom, Nearly Departed, and also had short gigs on the likes of St. Elsewhere, Sisters, Beverly Hills, 90210 (as LuAnn Pruit) and Judging Amy.

I know celebrity passings shouldn’t be a popularity contest—but the death that had the greatest emotional impact on movie fans and bloggers belongs to Kathryn Grayson, the operatic singing star of popular M-G-M musicals like Anchors Aweigh (1945), Show Boat (1951) and Kiss Me Kate (1953). She was 88.

Because I’m not much of a musicals fan, I can’t really comment too much in depth on Grayson’s career—I’ve only seen Boat and Kate, and the Abbott & Costello vehicle Rio Rita (1942), which features Kathryn (it was made at M-G-M). But she remains a favorite with musicals fans; among her better-known films are Thousands Cheer (1943), Two Sisters from Boston (1946), Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), The Kissing Bandit (1948), Lovely to Look at (1952), The Desert Song (1953) and her final feature film, The Vagabond King (1956). She made occasional appearances on TV after King; including three guest shots on Murder, She Wrote between 1987 and 1989.

R.I.P, Messrs Hawkins and Jeffries…and fare thee well to Ms. McWilliams and Grayson. The four of you will be sorely missed.

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At Death’s door

“It looks like you’re getting some color back in your cheeks…if ‘grey’ can be considered a color…” – Mrs. Ivan’s mother, last week

I thought I’d tried to get something up on the blog today before it starts becoming known as “Lame Cartoons That For Some Odd Reason Make Me Laugh.” (Andrew Leal once asked me what my fascination is with Basic Instructions, the web comic written and illustrated by Scott Meyer which Andrew describes as “the strip featuring the smartass with the shaved head and goatee.” What can I say? I think it eerily parallels my own life.) I was down for the count last week and this past weekend with a malady that I really haven’t been able to name—I have cold-and-flu like symptoms (persistent cough, phlegm of indescribable proportions—that stuff that’s supposed to make those cartoon snot-people vacate your body in a thrice is bullshit, by the way) along with added features like nausea and what I like to lovingly refer to as “the trots.” (The “creeping crud” is the best description I’ve come up with so far.) My mother invited me to dinner three times last week and immediately noticed that I had no appetite for anything. My sleeping patterns were completely out-of-whack and I unfortunately how to bow out early on the For the Love of Film blogathon because I simply couldn’t locate any reservoir of energy to complete any of the essays I had planned. (Apologies to both The Siren and Ferdy, by the way.)

But now I’m feeling worlds better, and even managed to eat some sustenance without running to the facilities an hour later. I wouldn’t say TDOY is at full strength yet, but I am reassured by the fact that I appear to be able to write something for the blog without wanting to take a power nap afterward. I’m optimistic that posts will not be as few and as far between for the remainder of February, and once again I apologize for the slack.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

And now, a plug for film preservation...

Greg Ferrara at Cinema Styles gets the kudos for this wonderful "commercial" for this week's For the Love of Film blogathon...and since I'll be occupied with other projects for the rest of today (including lunch and dinner at the 'rents) this will have to hold you until I resume blogging.


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The wonderful world of Facebook #39

Sunday, February 14, 2010

“Because he lived and wrote and acted here, this land will always be a saner place to live. That fact is his true monument.” – Herman Wouk

This is the first post in what will eventually be three entries (knock wood) in the For the Love of Film Blogathon being hosted from February 14 to February 21 by Farran Smith Nehme of Self-Styled Siren and Marilyn Ferdinand of Ferdy on Films. The blogathon seeks to remind both bloggers and their readers on the importance of film preservation, and will hopefully spur on individuals to donate to this all-too-valuable cause in care of the National Film Preservation Foundation. Thrilling Days of Yesteryear is pleased as punch to be allowed to participate in this remarkable event.

Ask any individual at random today to tell you who Fred Allen was, and as likely as not you’re bound to get a blank stare or two. But if you were to ask the same query during Radio’s Golden Age, chances are you’d receive an answer faster than you could say “One Long Pan.” Allen, a veteran vaudevillian and stage comedian who stuck his toe in radio’s wading pool in the fall of 1932 and ruled the roost over the ether for nearly two decades, was one of the medium’s premier funnymen; an individual about whom writer James Thurber once memorably commented: “You can count on the thumb of one hand the American who is at once a comedian, a humorist, a wit, and a satirist, and his name is Fred Allen.”

One of the reasons why Fred hasn’t maintained a presence in the public memory in the way that other old-time radio comedians (Jack Benny, Burns & Allen, Bergen & McCarthy) have managed to do is that while Allen was popular on radio, success in other mediums eluded him. He never managed to get a toe-hold in television, spending most of his time on the cathode ray tube as a panelist on What’s My Line? (1954-56) or appearing on programs like The Colgate Comedy Hour (1950), Chesterfield Sound Off Time (1951-52) and the talent show Judge for Yourself (1953-54). (In Allen’s defense, the comedian had suffered from hypertension for many years, so his participation on television was limited due to this condition.) The same thing could be said about Fred’s film career; he appeared in only six feature films—Thanks a Million (1935), Sally, Irene and Mary (1938), Love Thy Neighbor (1940), It's in the Bag! (1945), We're Not Married! (1952) and O’Henry’s Full House (1952; “The Ransom of Red Chief” segment)—and while some of these get short shrift (particularly Million, a Fox musical starring Dick Powell as a crooner who runs for governor; Allen plays his manager and is delightfully paired with Patsy Kelly) the rest can be summed up with the appellation Allen once dubbed Sally: “Sally, Irene and Lousy.”

Of Allen’s film appearances, It’s in the Bag! is considered by most fans to be his finest moment on the silver screen. Fred plays Fred Floogle, a flea circus owner who learns that he’s the heir to a $12 million dollar fortune left to him by his late uncle—and upon hearing the news, goes on a mad spending spree. Floogle gets a rude awakening when his uncle’s lawyer (John Carradine) informs him that because of his uncle’s profligate spending; the estate has been whittled down to a pool table and five chairs (with the pool table to be held in trust). Floogle authorizes his son Homer (Dickie Tyler) to sell the chairs to an antique dealer, but later learns from his dead uncle (via phonograph record) that $300,000 (and the evidence needed to convict the killer) is hidden in the lining of one of the chairs. This leads to a merry chase to track down the individuals who purchased the furniture: memorable encounters with housewife Pansy Nussbaum (the beloved character from Allen’s radio show, played by Minerva Pious), Jack Benny (one of the film’s highlights), Don Ameche, Rudy Vallee, Victor Moore (these three are part of a barbershop quartet at a nightclub) and William Bendix (as a vitamin-popping gangster). There are also fine comic contributions from Binnie Barnes, Robert Benchley (as Floogle’s would-be in-law), Jerry Colonna, Sidney Toler (as a police detective), George Cleveland, Ben Welden (as “Monty the Gonif”—I still can’t believe they got that past the censors), Johnny Arthur and John Miljan…and even appearances from some of Fred’s old radio cronies like John Brown (“Immediate seating on all floors!”), Walter Tetley and Harry Von Zell.

It’s in the Bag! was released on VHS in 1998 by Republic Pictures after undergoing some restoration work at the UCLA Film & Television Archive in the mid 80s, and that’s probably how I managed to see the film for the first time (on VHS, that is). I grabbed a copy of the film by taping it off American Movie Classics sometime in the late 90s…and that’s when I discovered a curious thing: the AMC copy played slightly different from the VHS version. At the close of the opening credits, the movie continued on in its usual fashion but I noticed that there was now a commentary from Fred Allen that could be heard over the main body of the film:

(INT. TRUMBLE ESTATE – NIGHT

FADE IN on a SHEET OF PAPER, clearly marked “Last Will and Testament.” At the bottom of the page a man’s hand signs the name “Frederick Trumble.” A lawyer’s name is also visible: “Jefferson T. Pike.”)

ALLEN (voice-over): The old man signing the will made his fortune with one invention. It’s a soap that doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t bubble, lather, or foam. If you’re lonesome while you’re bathing, this soap just keeps you company in the tub.

(FREDERICK TRUMBLE, a white-haired old man in a smoking jacket, sits at a desk in his posh mansion and finishes signing the will. His disapproving lawyer JEFFERSON T. PIKE hovers into view…)

PIKE (sniffily protesting): But as your lawyer, Mr. Trumble…

TRUMBLE: I know what I’m doing, Mr. Pike. If I want to change my will I can change it.

(Trumble TEARS UP the old will.)

PIKE: But suppose…suppose you don’t find this grand-nephew? Who gets the money?

TRUMBLE: I’ll find him!

PIKE: Well, let’s hope so.

(Pike heads out the door…)

ALLEN (voice-over): You know, I like a commentary with a picture. You don’t have to watch the screen to know what’s going on.

(Trumble watches Pike exit, then collects the papers from his desk, and crosses to a painting on the wall…)

ALLEN (voice-over): Now, if you’re reading a newspaper or a magazine, you go right ahead. I’ll let you know if anything happens.

(Trumble moves the painting aside to reveal a wall safe.)

ALLEN (voice-over): This is a moolah refrigerator. It’s a device that keeps cool cash cooler.

(As Trumble opens the safe, a sinister figure appears silhouetted in a window. From the wall safe, Trumble removes a gigantic wad of cash, an envelope and a photograph.)

ALLEN (voice-over): I counted this currency to save you the trouble. It’s exactly three hundred thousand dollars. Now, if you don’t believe me, watch the picture the next show and count it yourself.

(Trumble looks at the photo. Inscribed on the back: “Frederick F. Trumble—Age Eight Months.” He flips it over to reveal the picture: an eight-month-old baby with the face of Fred Allen, bags under its eyes, etc.

Trumble closes the safe, replaces the painting, and crosses over to a table. Five identical antique chairs surround the table. Trumble inspects the undersides of the chairs, chooses one, and starts to stuff the money into the seat.)

ALLEN (voice-over): Uh uh uh, you see, the old boy’s ready for inflation. He thinks stuffing the chair with money will be cheaper than buying excelsior.

(The sinister figure at the window hovers outside.)

ALLEN (voice-over): Don’t be frightened. That shadow behind the curtain is only the director’s brother-in-law. You see, the director has to find a job for his wife’s brother in every picture.

(The figure slowly opens the window.)

ALLEN (voice-over): Now, if he stays behind the curtain, he gets ten dollars a day. If he comes out, he gets five.

(The figure points a gun through the window [and] FIRES. Trumble clutches his chest and staggers.)

ALLEN (voice-over): Oh! They’re using real bullets. Well, that’s one way to get a relative off the payroll.

(Trumble collapses to the floor, dead. After a moment, the figure approaches and places the gun in Trumbull’s lifeless hand.)

ALLEN (voice-over): This is the plot stuff. You old moviegoers think you know what’s going on. But this trick still fools the police. You’ll see. The cops will think the old boy committed suicide…

The film continues on in this same manner, with whole chunks of dialogue rendered inaudible due to Allen’s stream-of-consciousness voice-over. Some Allen fans prefer this version to the original, enjoying what is essentially pure, undiluted Fred (and oddly, the “alternate” version plays very much like a modern-day DVD commentary track) while others think too much Allen isn't necessarily a good thing. The peculiar thing is that having watched this version, I begin to be a bit convinced that I might be possibly losing my mind; a purchase of the Republic VHS from eBay soon assured me that my mental faculties were sound. (Well, reasonably sound, anyway.)

In the entry for It’s in the Bag! in UCLA’s Film/Television database, there’s no mention of there being two versions of the film—even Stuart Hample’s wonderful compilation “…all the sincerity in hollywood…” (from which the script excerpt was culled) says nothing except that Bag comes closest to “the full range of [Allen’s] wit,” referring to the alternate version. It would be great to have both versions available on DVD but such a project has not yet been forthcoming—it’s a little murky as to who actually owns the copyright on the film; I would assume that since the movie was released by Republic Video it would be part of the Paramount library but the IMDb says the distribution rights are owned by Teakwood Video. (The movie is available on DVD from either The Nostalgia Merchant or Nostalgia Family Video—though I can’t verify if they’re legitimate releases or no.)

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I report, you decide #4




Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Half-Assed Gourmand #9: Gumby’s Pizza edition

It hasn’t been a very productive work week here at Rancho Yesteryear. My particular area of Athens lost power on Wednesday morning, and when it finally came back on I had to deal with restoring the juice in my own domicile because the outage ended up tripping a few circuit breakers…not to mention dealing with a power surge extension that had finally given up the ghost and was responsible for my not being able to restore power to the guest bedroom, where my computer is set up. (To make matters worse, I plugged the protector into an outlet near my microwave to see if was still working and ended up taking out the kitchen lights as well.) Now, I called the company I rent the apartment from and asked if they could send somebody out to help me with the problem. What I did not know is that I had actually fixed the problem myself—I just carelessly forgot to check the power again after I re-tripped the breakers—so the guy basically came out here on a fool’s errand, and I felt bad about that. It did, however, produce one golden moment of hilarity when the maintenance man found my surge protector and asked me if it was the one that was fried. I replied, “Yes, it is,” but before I could stop him he plugged it into another outlet…resulting in taking out the power to my television. (No biggie, I just had to re-trip that breaker.)

I don’t normally endorse the concept of reality shows, but you couldn’t create a more entertaining one if you just basically set me loose with a household problem for a half-hour and waited for the wacky complications to ensue. I am notoriously inept when it comes to fixing this sort of thing, which is one of the reasons why when somebody scoffs at the obstacles in a Three Stooges short I’m always quick to defend Curly, Larry and Moe. (“Hey…that could happen!”) I’m planning on calling this program The Dumbf**k Handyman…though for obvious reasons it may undergo a name change by the time it eventually gets to the small screen. I used to feel a little self-conscious about my inability to resolve the simplest of household setbacks, but when Jim Neibaur told me that he puts his house up for sale every time a light bulb burns out I felt a bit better.

Thursday presented a passel of new problems: not only was the bathroom toilet clogged again, but so was my kitchen sink. I went at both of them with a plunger (one that my father purchased at Lowe’s the last time it happened) but my efforts proved to be textbook examples of utter futility. So I call the landlords again and had them make out another work order; but when my father came by on one of his TV-inspired surprise visits he grabbed the plunger (one-handed!) and within minutes had both sink and terlet restored to normalcy. (I joked to the landlords that they ought to put him on the payroll, particularly when the person I spoke to seemed genuinely surprised that he was able to solve the problem. He fixed it? Why, we were convinced he was a handyman savant…”)

The only problem I had on Friday was that I had to tell the maintenance guy from Wednesday that the sink and toilet were fixed—and this kind of ticked me off because I called the renters to ask them to tear up the work order. Maintenance Dude just sighed and remarked, “Yeah, they do this a lot. No communication in that office.”

Anyway, I seem to have strayed a bit from the original subject of this post, which is another review of some of the exquisite cuisine to be found in the city of Athens. I mentioned some time ago in an obituary on Gumby creator Art Clokey that his Claymation character had become the mascot of a series of take-out jernts specializing in pizza, wings, subs, etc. and that these franchises were usually open until 3:00 in the a.m. to accommodate the munchies brought on by the activities engaged in by your typical college student. I thought with the kitchen sink clogged that preparing dinner would be a bit of a hassle so I decided to splurge a bit and order some eatables in honor of the fallen animator.

If you go to the main Gumby’s website and click on the UGA link for ordering info, you’re immediately whisked away to another site entitled Campusfood.com…which shows you the menu and allows you to place an order online. Since I had a bit of difficulty in deciding, I went with an order of pepperoni rolls, a 12” chicken-and-bacon sub, and an order of chicken wings with fries. A pretty hefty requisition, to be sure—but I figured I could nosh on these items for the next two-or-three days and that it would relieve me of any kitchen duties for a while…particularly since the weather forecast called for snow. So I set up an account at Campusfood, and ordered the grub.

I had a sneaking suspicion that I would get a call from the Gumby’s people (a lot of these places call you to make certain your order is legit and you’re not just blowing sunshine up their skirt) so I had my cordless phone handy when I received the phone call. The gentleman I spoke to on the other end drops the bomb on me without pussyfooting around—he tells me I live outside the delivery area, so I will not be receiving any of Gumby’s grub anytime in the future.

Fortuitously, I’ve experienced this sort of situation before and so I took the time to research this issue before placing the order. I went to Google maps to see how far away my humble environs at Castle Yesteryear were from the pizza place, and Google clocked it at 4.4 miles. Most of the places around here won’t deliver beyond a five-mile limit, so I figured I was pretty safe on that. But the only delivery restrictions—according to Campusfood—was that Gumby’s wouldn’t deliver to the Jennings Mill Parkway section of town…and since I don’t live there, I figured everything was copacetic.

Silly me. The guy on the phone still continues to tell me “no dice.” So I tell him—and I wasn’t trying to be an asshole, I was just pointing out the hideously obvious—that the Jennings Mill restriction is the only thing present on the website, and he responds that I need to take that up with the Campusfood people. He bids me a good night, and cuts me off.

I guess I don’t have to explain how much that cheesed me off. I went back to the main Gumby’s site and anything I click on regarding delivery information leads back to Campusfood.com. So as I see it, they’ve pretty much ceded that issue to Campusfood, which gives me a way to argue, in a legal-like fashion, that they need to assume responsibility for making sure that info gets to Campusfood. Bottom line: this guy thinks he won the argument, and it is my sworn duty to show him that he’s full of shit.

So I call Gumby’s back, and this time a woman answers the phone. I explain to her as quickly as I can the situation, but she’s going to stick with what works in the past—they don’t deliver out this way, and I should just deal with it. But I’m beginning to wear her down with logic and reason, and I can tell by the tone of her voice that she’s regretting even answering the phone. Finally, she blurts out the real reason why they won’t deliver out this way (and I knew why, I just wanted to hear her say it): my neighborhood is considered a “dangerous one”—one of their delivery drivers was robbed not too long ago, and they’ve assured the rest of their crack Gumby’s pizza crew that no one has to be out this way if they don’t want to be.

“Sounds like you need to add that to your website,” I joked dryly. Then I got serious with her: “Look, ma’am—I’m sorry that one of your people was victimized by another individual unaware that the weed of crime bears bitter fruit. But that’s just something you have to deal with when you’re running a business like this. I’ve worked on and off as a night auditor for hotels most of my life, and I sympathize. But writing off an area for delivery due to that kind of racist fear is just plain wrong.”

There’s a dramatic pause. Then she puts me back on the phone with the guy I talked to originally. He tells me not to sweat it; he’ll deliver the order himself—he asks me for a few details to complete my order, and then arrived at my domicile a half-hour later. I should probably point out at this point that this is not the first time I’ve run into this kind of thing; I had a guy from Loco’s once give me the same kind of static…but I didn’t press him on the details because he brought my order and told me this purely as an afterthought. (“I made an exception here, but next time…”) He also cheerily told me that if I were to call during their non-peak hours they wouldn’t be as shirty about delivering—which essentially means that if I don’t mind eating lunch at 3pm the situation is squared. Frankly, I was a bit surprised at the turn of events re: Gumby’s; I can understand someone being reticent about venturing into certain neighborhoods but this is Jaw-Ja, ferchrissake—where if you’re not packing heat it’s considered bad manners.

As to the grub: well, it’s not bad but it’s also not worth the hassle. Their pepperoni rolls are probably the best thing on the menu (though they’re a tad doughy and they skimp on the pepperoni); the wings are good (though you might just want to order them separately—I got them with French fries and the spuds were ice-cold by the time they arrived) and I’ve yet to run across a take-out place with substandard subs (I make little joke). (I’ve always believed that the sign of a truly awful restaurant is one that can’t even make a decent ham-and-cheese sub.) If you want a great pepperoni roll, however, you need to either beg my mother to make some or visit West Virginia—preferably Clarksburg or Fairmont—as the pepperoni roll is one of the Mountain State’s great contributions to pop culture, along with Don Knotts, Brad Paisley and women with honkin’ big hair.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Archival entertainment

Radio Archives/Nostalgia Ventures has just released a new collection in continuation of their tenth anniversary celebration, and it’s a pip—a fourth volume of twenty more long-lost broadcasts (on ten CDs) of O’Henry’s “famous Robin Hood of the old West” starring Jack Mather in the titular role, and Marvin Miller at the announcer’s mike. The shows also feature the legendary “man of a thousand voices,” Mel Blanc, in role of Pancho—having taken over the role when actor Harry Lang passed away in August of 1953. Now, copies of The Cisco Kid series have been in the hands of old-time radio collectors for many years, of course…but here’s what makes these broadcasts so special:

However, a few years ago, Radio Archives uncovered a large collection of original "Cisco Kid" syndication discs in Des Moines, Iowa -- uncirculated and seldom played 16" vinyl transcription recordings which had for many years been carefully preserved by a local advertising agency. These programs have, for the most part, been unheard since the 1950s and most have never been available to collectors - until now, that is. In addition to their rarity, a unique feature of these restored broadcasts is the reintegration of regional commercials, voiced by well-known announcer Marvin Miller ("The Whistler", "The Railroad Hour"). The series was sponsored on a number of Midwestern radio stations by the bakers of Butter-nut Bread, and the program recordings we found were accompanied by separate discs containing a virtual raft of original commercials - three uniquely created spots for each individual broadcast, in fact, that even today can inspire a listener to get up and make a peanut butter and jelly on white bread. As presented in this set, the commercials have once again been edited back into the programs, allowing you for the first time to hear these shows just as they were originally aired in the mid-1950s.

So for those collectors who are always on the hunt for uncirculated shows, this new CD set is just the tonic for you. Of course, Radio Archives has other goodies available—including a new edition of Doc Savage pulp fiction reprints—variety with series like The Big Show, The Lux Radio Theatre and The MGM Theatre of the Air. (And in keeping with my enthusiastic acquiescence with the Archives’ new CD covers, check out the one for Birds’ Eye Open House with Dinah Shore to your right—and read up on this series of music and mirth back in the halcyon Salon days of TDOY.)

While I’m on the subject of entertainment, I have a few TV-on-DVD announcements to pass along, courtesy of the good people at TVShowsOnDVD.com: Virgil Films and Entertainment will release a small collection on April 13th entitled The Donna Reed Show: The Best Of. This set is a value-priced collection of four shows (101 minutes total) that will retail for $14.99 SRP, which means you might find it online for a bit cheaper. David Lambert goes on to speculate that this doesn’t necessarily mean that Virgil Films has given up on the series; just a little something for fans who don’t particularly want the Full Donna of season-by-season sets (of which we have seen three so far).

MPI Home Video has announced that they’ll be releasing two of The Honeymooners specials originally telecast during the 1970s on May 4th: The Honeymooners: Second Honeymoon (1976; Ralph and Alice Kramden are getting ready to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary…but Ralph becomes convinced that Alice is great with child and Norton takes it upon himself to teach him how to take care of a baby) and The Honeymooners Valentine Special (1978; Alice is secretly buying Ralph a suit for Valentine’s Day…he mistakenly believes she’s measuring him for a coffin and is seeing another man…wacky complications ensue). Both of these will retail for $14.99 SRP and contain “Bonus 1960s ‘Color Honeymooners’ Sketches” not seen since their original airings.

Finally, an update on The Goldbergs and what is being touted as “The Ultimate” collection: the set—which will contain 71 episodes (and 12 radio broadcasts)—will be on six DVDs available in mid-March…but will not, unfortunately, be available in stores. It’s a Shout! Factory release, and as such will only be available online through the company’s direct-to-consumer program. How’s that for a vote of confidence?

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