A Commercial Recording Release By The Bambino and The Iron Horse
Recently I was reading an old New York Times column from October 7, 1956 by Gay Talese in which he wrote about the history of baseball records. Not home run or pitching records, but baseball related music and spoken word records.
In the article Talese mentions that one of the first record companies to release a baseball record was Pathe records in 1928 when they got Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to make a recording explaining how they hit home runs. It did not sell very well. Almost all baseball related recordings have traditionally done poorly with sales, with the exception of Take Me Out To The Ballgame written in 1908 by Albert Von Tilzer and Jack Norworth. Incredibly neither Von Tilzer or Norworth had ever attended a baseball game prior to writing their hit song.
So I searched for the Ruth – Gehrig recording on youtube and couldn’t find the exact recording mentioned in the article, but came up with this version instead. (Click on the youtube video below). Apparently it is the exact same record as in the Talese article, but Talese is mistaken about the content and the date.
W.C. Fields Died On A Day He Pretended To Despise, Christmas Day 1946. When His Will Was Read, It Had A Peculiar Racial Provision In It
Movie star comedian W.C. Fields is not well remembered by today’s generation, his cerebral brilliance generally going unappreciated or unrecognized. But those who know comedy such as Monty Python’s John Cleese said of Fields, “At a time when political correctness often stifles honesty and impulse to laugh and genuine wit is in such short supply, I think nothing could be healthier than the re-discovery of this most original, perceptive and unrepentant of comedians.”
When Fields died 68 years ago today on December 25, 1946, his will provided small amounts for family members and friends with the $800,000 remainder of his estate being left to establish “The W. C. Fields College for White Orphan Boys and Girls Where No Religion of Any Kind is Ever to be Taught.”
This strange racial provision seemed completely out of character for a man who treated blacks as equals and stood up for racial equality long before it was popular. It was at W.C. Fields insistence that his Zigfield Follies friend, the great black vaudeville star Bert Williams, be allowed to join Actor’s Equity. Williams was finally admitted to the association. Fields said Williams was, “The funniest man I ever saw and the saddest man I ever knew.”
This year September 26, marks the 50th anniversary of the premiere of one of television’s all-time classic shows.
Gilligan’s Island originally ran on CBS from September 26 1964 until April 17, 1967 and will be seen forever in re-runs. It spawned an unforgettable theme song and a cast of actors that for better or worse became synonymous with their characters.
Nowadays merchandising and licensing for nearly every quasi-celebrity is the norm. But Gilligan’s Island never took advantage of the popularity of the show and issued albums on behalf of the cast members.
But looking around the web you will find a few albums related to the cast of the show.
Alan Hale’s incredibly titled album, Skipper Alan Hale’s Roman Orgy, would not inspire many of the eleven-year-old fans of the program to purchase it.
Batman which originally aired on ABC from 1966-1968, has been wrapped up in licensing, clearance and legal tangles for years and a whole generation knows Batman primarily from the most recent set of movies and DC comic books.
But for anyone who grew up in the 1960’s or 1970’s, Batman meant the campy TV series starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin, along with many guest star villains and celebrity cameos.
Presented here on Youtube (until it is ordered taken down by some corporation) is a compilation of all the cameo appearances of celebrities who happened to coincidentally look out the window just when Batman and Robin were climbing up or down a building. They then would proceed to have a bizarre conversation with the dynamic duo. This simple stunt was accomplished by having Adam West and Burt Ward walk on the floor hunched over while the camera was tilted on its side as the celebrity pops out of the floor disguised as a window.
Some of these celebrities like Dick Clark, Jerry Lewis and Sammy Davis Jr. are still recognized by younger audiences today, but many are forgotten such as Suzy Knickerbocker. Take a look for yourself.
The celebrity cameos are in order of appearance on the video:
When certain celebrities pass away it hits me hard. Sid Caesar was always one of my favorite comedians. His death at the age of 91 in Beverly Hills, CA on February 12, 2014, closes the book on the big TV comedy stars during the golden age of prime time television of the 1950’s. Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Red Skelton, Ed Wynn, Jackie Gleason, Ernie Kovacs, Phil Silvers – they’re all gone now.
Sid Caesar’s meteoric rise at breakneck speed from 1950-1954 on Your Show of Shows and from 1955-1957 on Caesar’s Hour was offset by a steep fall into depression with drug and alcohol problems, which took him many years to recover from.
To modern audiences Caesar may be best known for his movie appearances in Grease (1978) as Coach Calhoun and It’s A Mad, Mad Mad, Mad World (1963) as one of the treasure pursuers. But I would say for most people under the age of 40, the name Sid Caesar will draw a blank stare when mentioned. That is a shame.
Here is a sketch that pre-dates the current health food craze by sixty years.
What Sid Caesar accomplished besides entertaining millions with his hilarious sketches that the common man could relate to, was to bring together a staff of talent that influences modern comedy to this day.
The writing and performing staff included Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, Lucille Kallen, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, Danny Simon, Mel Tolkin and Larry Gelbart. It is no exaggeration to say the annals of comedy would not have been the same without Sid Caesar.
A list of Mr. Caesar’s writers over the years reads like a comedy all-star team. Mel Brooks (who in 1982 called him “the funniest man America has produced to date”) did some of his earliest writing for him, as did Woody Allen. Continue reading →
Jon Thor Covering (Butchering) Sweet’s Hard Rock Classic “Action”
What is the worst cover song of all time? Of course that is subjective and debatable, but this may be it.
If you can stay with this five minute video, it will be worth it for its jaw dropping kitschiness.
On national television, with Merv Griffin doing the introduction, from 1976, here is Jon Thor straight from the Aladdin Hotel’s Red, Hot and Blue Show doing his “Muscle Rock” rendition of Action.
For those who do not know what the original song sounds like, because any resemblance of Jon Thor’s version to a real rock song is purely coincidental, here is Sweet’s original version recorded in 1975.
If you are wondering whatever happened to Jon Thor, in the early 1980’s he eventually transformed his act into “Thor,” a quasi-metal act that is still active today according to his web site.
This rare trade card from 1908 – 1909 advertises a vaudeville group known as “The Four Nightingales.” Two of them went on to worldwide fame. Can you guess who they are?
Scroll down for the answer.
A huge clue is “Minnie Marx Manager”
It is The Marx Brothers. From left to right: Milton “Gummo” Marx, Harpo Marx, Groucho Marx and Lou Levy.
Gummo Marx never appeared in any Marx Brothers film. He retired from the act after World War I to be replaced by brother Herbert “Zeppo” Marx. Gummo later did manage the brothers and was an agent for many Hollywood stars.
Little is known about the act of The Four Nightingales. They began as a singing act and bits of comedy eventually were worked in. Gummo said, “we would sing what were the popular songs of the day – until we sang them”.
SCTV cast 1982 clockwise from top left; John Candy, Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Andrea Martin and Dave Thomas
Canada’s SCTV (Second City Television) was one of the most brilliant comedy sketch shows ever created. The ensemble cast featured John Candy, Robin Duke, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Catherine O’Hara, Harold Ramis, Tony Rosato, Martin Short and Dave Thomas.
Airing weekly on late night television from 1976 -1984, the show never achieved critical mass appeal but had a strong cult following.
Having been off the air for nearly 30 years most people under the age of 35 have never seen or heard of SCTV. That’s a shame. Because even though there are some obscure references to celebrities, shows and movies of the past, the comedy holds up pretty well today.
Here is a sample of one of the funnier sketches from 1977, a take-off of the stereotypical 1950’s All-American family TV show Leave It To Beaver, with John Candy playing “The Beaver” in Leave It To Beaver 25th Anniversary Party.
For those who want to experience SCTV, seasons 4 & 5 which aired on NBC are available on DVD. A best-of DVD featuring episodes from seasons 2 and 3 is available as well. The remaining episodes and seasons have yet to be released.
SCTV is not for everyone. If you like Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Marx Brothers – I’ll bet you ‘ll like SCTV. As the lead commenter on this youtube video says “There are 2 types of people in the world. People who understand and appreciate SCTV’s humor, and those who are utterly stupid morons.”
UPDATE 4/19/13 – Actor Frank Bank who portrayed Lumpy Rutherford on Leave It To Beaver did just pass away at the age of 71 on April 13, 2013, not as Catherine O’Hara says on the SCTV video, “Lumpy died 7 years ago when he jumped in front of that train.”
Jackie Cooper, June Marlowe, Shirley Jean Rickert, Norman Chubby Chaney, Dorothy DeBorba
Norman “Chubby” Chaney, a star for Hal Roach’s Our Gang comedies, (aka the Little Rascals) had been buried in an unmarked grave at Baltimore Cemetery since 1936. He was the first former cast member to pass away.
Chaney appeared in the early Our Gang sound films from 1929 – 1931, winning a lookalike contest to replace Our Gang heavyweight Joe Cobb.
One of the the most beloved short films of the series that Chaney starred in was where he was competing with Jackie Cooper for their teacher, Miss Crabtree’s (June Marlowe), affection and attention. In that film, Love Business (1931), Chubby said the immortal words, “Don’t call me Norman, call me Chubsy-ubsy.”
When Chaney died at the age of 21 in 1936 following an operation to correct a glandular disorder, the family had no money to put up a marker in the cemetery.
Finally last year through the efforts of Detroit musician Mikal C.G., money was raised through online donations to put up a headstone. The unveiling ceremony on November 10, 2012, was attended by less than a dozen observers. Whether or not Chaney attracts visitors to his grave, his performances preserved on film will be viewed and enjoyed by countless generations to come.