Wednesday, December 26, 2012

something missing

Gina and I bought our house in Southside the week before Katie was born over sixteen years ago.  The house has a fireplace upstairs and downstairs.  We use the downstairs fireplace because I don't particularly care for toting logs up a staircase.  All these years we've lived here, I've regretted not having a mantel around Christmas time.  Neither of my fireplaces have a mantel.  We always put up our Christmas tree downstairs.  I'm always disappointed that we don't have a place to hang stockings by the chimney with care.

Growing up in our house on Scenic, we had a beautiful mantel over our fireplace.  There was a beautiful old antique clock perched upon it.  Around Christmas, Mom would trim it with boughs holly.  Candles looked great up there too.  On Christmas morning we'd find our stockings hanging on the mantle stuffed with goodies.

After all these years living here, I  still feel something is missing.  I know it's just aesthetics and me being a little nostalgic, but it matters to me.  I've pondered many ways to put a mantle downstairs.  The rock on the wall (upstairs and down) are very uneven.  Nothing made would be able to fit flush against the rock.  At least nothing that I would be able to make.  One of these days I'll figure out a way, or pay someone to figure out a way for us to finally have a mantle over our fireplace.

One day I'll get my mantle, and it's going to be a big one, and home is going to feel more like home.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Disco Noel Hell

This album grates on my nerves.  My mother in-law had an 8-track of it when Gina and I were dating and early in our marriage.  She over-saturated her house with novelty disco music every Christmas.  Somewhere along the line the tape broke or her player broke.  I was happy to hear the news, but she wasn't.

I'm posting this song for Mrs. Betty Hale.  We nearly lost her last month.  The big thing that I am grateful for this Christmas is that she's back home and recovering.  We love her so much and happy to have her with us this Christmas.

About ten years ago Gina asked me to hunt Disco Noel down on CD.  The album never made it officially to CD, but I was able to find a bootleg burn of it on eBay.  We gave it to her as part of her Christmas that year so her house could once again reverberate with Disco Noel.  God help us everyone.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


When I was young, we had Christmas traditions.  Every Christmas holiday seemed to unfold the same way surrounded by the same familiar faces.  As time passed, traditions faded, new traditions established to later change again.

For quite sometime now, I find myself without Christmas traditions.  Each Christmas holiday season, every day seems to be just a reaction to what is transpiring immediately around me at each moment.  Most days I don't know how to respond other than try to go along with the flow of whatever happens next.

With a crazy economy, we have less to give.  With much sickness, we have less time and energy to think about having a Christmas like the ones we used to know - or would like to know.  I feel like a deer in a headlight these days.  I miss the tradition, but have little time for it.  I'm a little lost.  All I know to do is seize each day for what it's worth and enjoy the warmth of home and the love of family.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Santa's mug

We all have keepsakes of Christmas past.  I have a small assortment of these cups in various sizes.  I remember receiving a mugs like this from an elementary school teachers.  I remember them being presented to the class filled with peppermint.  I also remember receiving a few from my aunt Florence who had also happened to be an elementary school teacher.  These were inexpensive items purchased from five and dime stores, but meant a lot to the children who received them.

My Santa mugs usually stay in the box and are rarely used to drink from or for seasonal display.  For some reason I can't pull myself to letting them go, so once again they remained packed away Christmas holiday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The real Santa

Back in the 1960's, the only place in Etowah County to see the real Santa Clause was in the store front window of Sears and Roebuck on Broad Street.  Children would line up for almost an entire block to get their chance to sit on Santa's knee.

The highlight of every family outing was to see Christmas lights was to drive by Rainbow Mattress Company to see St. Nick sound asleep in his bed.

Friday, December 7, 2012

holly jolly burl

As a kid, Burl Ives seemed to be a fellow who had been around since the beginning of time.  His presence seemed to be everywhere, on movies, on television, on vinyl.   I remember my dad expressed admiration for Burl Ives multiple talents.  He was a big presence on the screen, but it was his singing that stood out the most.  He was a genuine troubadour with an unforgettable voice.  As a folk musician, Burl Ives music was loved by young and old alike.

I remember a record album in our stack of records of his folk songs.  I believe I listened to that the most.  Songs included Blue Tail Fly and Robin Red Breast.  Most folks will remember the animation Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer that included a snowman likeness of Burl, voiced by Burl himself.  Two songs were featured on the cartoon that became holiday classics: Silver and Gold and Holly Jolly Christmas.

Those two songs embedded Burl Ives in our Christmas celebration ever since.  People may no longer recognize his face or name, but they are sure to remember that silver and gold voice.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Specials

I don't know if they would go over today like they did yesteryear, but I remember Christmas Specials.  Sure they have Christmas Specials today, but not like the ones we used to know.  I remember Bob Hope's Christmas Specials, and Bing Crosby's Christmas Specials.  Any celebrity who already had a regular variety show in those days had their own Christmas Special too.

My mind though usually goes back to Bob Hopes or Bing Crosby's specials.  They weren't mere shows, but seasonal events.  You didn't watch them alone.  The family would gather to watch them together.

Bob Hope's Christmas Specials were unique in that he tied many of these shows in with his USO entertainment efforts.  Bob Hope had entertained the troops through World War II, Korea, Vietnam and on up to The Gulf War.  His Christmas show to the soldiers fighting in Vietnam brought a great deal of controversy for those who were against the war.  Nevertheless, Bob Hope ignored the criticism and continued to reach out to the troops.

Whether he was entertaining the troops or not, we always looked forward to seeing our favorite king of one-liners come Christmas time.  Most shows he'd sing Silver Bells (from the Lemon Drop Kid) with one of his female guests. And yes, he'd always end each show with a song that was unmistakably and uniquely his.

Maybe we'll never see Christmas Specials like the ones we used to know.  We live in a different world. The audience has changed.  Yet, many of us, will still keep those warm memories for many Christmases to come.  Thanks for the memories!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Charlie Brown Christmas

I have been a Peanuts fan since I was a peanut myself.  I was an avid follower of Schulz.  Peanuts was the first comic strip I read in the Comics each Sunday.  I saved my money and bought the paperback collections of Peanuts and read them over and over again.  I still have the hard bound Peanuts Treasure on my bookcase.  The pages are barely hanging to the binding.  I wore it out three decades ago.

It was A Charlie Brown Christmas that I first heard voices of the Peanut characters...and the voices fit.  After seeing this special, Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy had a voice.  Each time I read a comic strip, I heard them speak in the voice they were given on film.  It was A Charlie Brown Christmas that I first grownups given trombone wah-wah voices.  It was also very unusual hearing jazz as the soundtrack for a cartoon - unusual but it fit. Vince Guaraldi gave a wonderful atmosphere that stuck.
A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired on CBS on December 9, 1965.  It was so much more than a kid's cartoon.  As a young child of eight, I empathized with Charlie Brown.  I followed the story and related to his relationship with his peers.  The story was endearing and my young mind took in every frame of it.  Schulz unfolded a bitter-sweet story with a climax of Linus explaining the true meaning of Christmas.  

CBS executives were horrified that a television special would have such a blatant Christian message. Producer Bill Melendez tried to talk Schulz out of using Biblical references.  Schulz reportedly won him over by saying, "If we don't do it, who will?"  As it turned out, Linus' recitation was hailed as one of the most powerful moments in this highly acclaimed special.

These days there's a more anti-Christian/politically correct stance within the media.  A show like A Charlie Brown Christmas would be possible today.  I'm glad Sparky did do it!  To this day I am moved by this artful piece of animation.  A Charlie Brown Christmas is a timeless work for both young and old and generations to come.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Great Duvall

Though John Wayne felt James Garner was the best actor America had to offer, he should have taken some notice of Robert Duvall.  I can't name all the incredible rolls Duvall played. When the camera is on this fellow, you don't see the actor, you meet a tangible character. He makes his characters real.  In every movie he's been in, whether a primary or supporting roll, he's the glue.  He becomes the people he portrays.  When I see Duvall act, I don't think of Duvall acting, I'm relating to the person he's portraying.  Go rent The Apostle or Tender Mercies, you'll see what I mean.

There is one movie that I didn't care for, but Robert played his part so believably well.  The movie was Deep Impact.  In the movie a crew of specialists had to be pulled together to rocket up into space to save the world from a mammoth planet-killer comet. I know-I know, Armageddon  another big budget movie that  starred Bruce Willis came out about the same time with the same premise and was equally as mediocre.  The only difference twixt the two is that Deep Impact had Robert Duvall behind the wheel.  He played a seasoned astronaut who knew how to pilot the shuttle and kept the diverse crew together to complete the mission.  The only reason to watch this movie over Armageddon is to watch Duvall.

Here I am writing about a picture of his that I don't really rate much as a good movie.  Go back to To Kill A Mockingbird, The Godfather (one and two), Apocalypse Now, Second Hand Lions, Sling Bland and many-many more.  I've seen him in classic television shows from The Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, The Fugitive, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Combat.  He's been around for quite sometime, and has never disappointed his least not me.

My favorite movies of Duvalls is when he puts on a cowboy hat. The Lonesome Dove mini-series that people still talk about.  Eventually I'll own it on DVD.  I'm also a fan of Tommy Lee Jones...the two were great together.  The movies Broken Trail and Open Range became instant Western classics - right up there with all my old favorite Westerns.  Now I love John Wayne, but John Wayne movies were John Wayne movies.  People went to see John Wayne (at least in his later pics).  When you go see a Robert Duvall movie, you don't see Robert Duvall.  I'm just wondering if John Wayne was wearing that eye patch and missed the great talent of Bob Duvall when making True Grit.

Duvall played a wonderful General Lee in Gods and Generals. I read where Robert Duvall served in the military and has the right to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery when he dies (if so he chooses).  For those of you who do not know, Arlington National Cemetery was Robert E. Lee's estate before the war.  The land was seized by the Union when Lee chose to side with Virginia.   The American dead were literally buried at Lee's front door.  Robert Duvall said he was proud to take on the roll of the great Confederate general because his folk haled from Northern Virginia, in fact, Robert Duvall is a descendant of Robert E. Lee.  What a great thrill it must have been to portray his ancestor.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


James Garner had been around long before I became a fan.  I didn't watch Maverick much as a kid.  I loved the movie Great Escape, but my eyes were on Steve McQueen and his great motorcycle stunts rather than Jimmy.  It wasn't until Rockford Files came along that I really took notice.  Television in the seventies was over saturated with cop/detective shows.  This show stood out because of Rockford's down to earth demeanor and wit.  Sharp writing and an excellent cast...still one of my all time favorite television series.   

Ever since Rockford Files, I have since watched just about everything Garner's done.  It's not that all his movies are great, I just like seeing him at work.  Maybe the reason I had overlooked him was because I just never cared much for the pretty boys.  There have been so many of them.  I had categorized James Garner as a great face more than great talent.  I was wrong.  It wasn't until Rockford Files that I truly saw the guy's talent.  In a 1973 interview, John Wayne said that James Garner is the best American actor. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

everybody was kung fu fighting

I was all about Kung Fu (1972-1975) when I was a kid.  No, I didn't know kung fu, I watched it on television. I had a friend recently tell me that the concept for the television show was originally an idea that the late great Bruce Lee pitched to Warner Brothers and Paramount.  Bruce said that he wanted to bring martial arts to the old West.  At the time the television executives didn't think a real China man should play one on television.  Execs didn't think it would go over.  They felt that people would be turned off by a Chinese leading man.   It would've been great if television would've opened it's mind to the a different kind of hero.  The kids back in those days loved Bruce Lee as Cato in The Green Hornet.  I don't think it would've been a hard sell.  There's a dispute about who's concept was who's, but for sure, Bruce had been a contender for the leading roll.  When he lost the part, he went back to China and made a name for himself well as the rest of the world.

Warner Brothers eventually produced a series with the same basic concept, only with the American actor David Carradine.  David is the son of well known character actor John Carradine.  By the time Kung Fu was half way through it's first season, David Carradine had managed to become even more famous than his father.  John by the way, was featured in three of Kung Fu episodes.  The show was very unique, an Eastern Shaolin monk fugitive who escaped to the American wild West. Kwai Chang Caine was a very peaceful fellow who by the end of each episode had to open a can of whoop-ass on some bad guys.

David shaved his head only once for Kung Fu.  The viewer was always seeing flashbacks from show to show...a lot of David's bald dome.  You can tell how far into the series you might be watching by the length of his hair.  Kwai Chang Caine got really hippie looking by the third year.  Most folks know that David was into martial arts.  He started the show out only as a dancer, not with any martial arts training.  He started getting into it by the third and final season of the show, doing much of his own fighting/stunts by that time.

Television westerns were fading in the seventies.  Kung Fu came along and offered something completely different to the audience.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Can you do a banana split?

There are certain things that remind us of our childhood.  The Banana Split does it for me.  I don't know when the last time I actually had one.  I do remember having a lot of them as a kid.  They were the keeper candy I'd find in my Trick-R-Treat bag or in my stocking on Christmas morning.

If I had change jingling in my pocket and I was wanting to fill a bag with penny candy at Cartee's (a mom & pop store in my old neighborhood), you'd bet there'd be a handful coming home.  I remember having to go to the dentist because of eating one once.  It made a filling come out.   Do you remember Banana Splits?  What were some of your favorite penny candies of your youth?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bond, James Bond

Gina and I went to see the new Bond flick, Skyfall, the third movie starring Daniel Craig as Agent 007.  I must say, I was thoroughly entertained.  I knew before Casino Royale that Craig was going to be a good pick because I really liked him in Layer Cake (2004).  I never thought I'd say this, but Craig equals Sean Connery.  Every Bond actor that's come along has had to compete in my mind as with Connery.  Craig and Connery portray two different Bonds.  They are both equally good.  Connery, after seeing Daniel Craig would play Bond in Royale said, "Fantastic...marvelous in the part...he really get's the danger element to the Bond character".  Craig went into not trying to imitate any other Bond actor.  His favorite Bond was Sean Connery, his favorite Bond movie was From Russia With Love.

Seeing Daniel Craig in Bonds shoes make me think what it would've been like to have had Steve McQueen play the roll.  He's as cool as McQueen ever was, and favors him a little.  Craig isn't the tall dark and handsome pretty boy like most of the other men who portrayed James Bond.  He is a brawny looking fellow like Connery, and you get the feeling he could beat the crap out of every James Bond that ever was.  He takes care of business and doesn't play the suave and debonair agent.  
This Bond is tough as nails and can be as cold blooded of a killer when it comes down to it.   I can't help but think that Ian Fleming would've liked Craig's portrayal.

This is a story that Fleming did not write, but every bit as good.  
I enjoyed Skyfall probably just as much as I did the early Sean Connery Bond films (Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger).  Skyfall starts the movie with an injured 007.  Bond isn't at his peak performance, but he's got to jump into the fray nevertheless.  His abilities are limited from the start.  I like it that this movie isn't filled with a bunch of hi-tech gadgets.   This is Daniel Craig's best Bond movie yet, and vies for the top title of the best Bond movie ever.  If not first - at least second...or third.  It's up there nevertheless.  You be the judge.   

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Wolfman

I clearly remember his gravelly voice, his unchained alter ego.  I didn't know what the real man looked like on the other side of the microphone until I saw his cameo on American Graffiti.  He was mythic, legendary and a mystery to young listeners all across the U.S.of A.  I'm not going to attempt to tell anyone who wasn't living on this the planet at the time - what radio was like back then.  Wolfman Jack was everything a Rock and Roll DJ should be.  Those days are gone; the music is gone, and he is gone.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Werewolves of Landon

I remember this show.  Michael Landon played the youngest of three brothers.  His mom had died a long time ago, but his "Paw" was still kicking.  In fact, his paw was a very rich cattleman who owned a ranch called The Ponderosa.  They would be considered greedy one per-centers by today's standards, but it was admirable to have wealth in those days. 

Anyway, there would be nights were they would all turn into werewolves and go devour cattle.  The next day they would wake up to discover that some of their cattle had been killed by wolves.  They'd all ride out looking for the animal that did this to their livestock but could never find and kill it.

Every show was basically the same.  There would be romantic interests along the way, but somehow their girlfriends would mysteriously get killed by that rascally wild wolf that they never could seem to find. Little Joe would often ride into town and hook up with his teen friends and sing-sing-SING!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Peter Lorre

Peter Lorre is a long time favorite of mine.  Who doesn't like him?  I can't name all the movies in which I've thoroughly enjoyed seeing him.  At the top of the list is 'Maltese Falcon' and 'Casablanca' along with Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet.  Peter also played in the classic Frank Capra comedy 'Arsenic and Old Lace' with Cary Grant.  These are movies that all should see.  Here's an interesting bit, It was Peter Lorre who convinced his friend Bogart to go ahead and marry Lauran Bacall in spite of the age difference by saying, "Five good years are better than none." 

Who can forget him in Disney's '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' with Kirk Douglas.  It was the first science-fiction film produced by Walt Disney productions as well as the only science-fiction film produced by Walt Disney himself.  20,000 Leagues casts Lorre against his bad guy type, making him a good guy, giving him a chance to interject some humor into the adventure.  Good stuff!
Peter Lorre was a fellow that kept his presence out there even when film opportunities diminished. His distinct and sinister voice continued on in radio.  He later took to television then returned to principle film rolls in returned in a string of horror movies produced by Roger Corman.  Peter Lorre played many a creepy character, but he was loved by all.

"All that anyone needs to imitate me is two soft-boiled eggs and a bedroom voice."

-Peter Lorre

Saturday, October 27, 2012

hair of the dog that bit him

Resting during a break with his dog during the shooting of The Wolfman.
Lon Chaney, Jr followed in the roll of his father.  He put on the make-up of undesirable, horrendous monsters. He tried to portray creatures who tried to cling to their humanity in spite of their curse.  During his acting career he portrayed all of the popular creatures of his day: Werewolf (there wolf), Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and The Mummy.  Later in his career he played mute characters due to his battle with throat cancer.  Lon Chaney, Jr worked until he physically could no longer work due to alcoholism and a heart condition. 

enjoyed the horror genre, but disappointed with where it was heading.  He didn't like the new monsters that came along, the movies that showed blood for blood's sake.  He thought that horror should be more than gore.  Maybe that's why I don't really care for 'slasher' films of the last twenty-five years.  I like my spooky movies old school.

Friday, October 26, 2012


No Halloween could be complete without seeing this guy's face on the screen.  I don't care for 'slasher' horror movies.  Freddy and Jason can take the backseat to this guy.  Bela Lugosi turned down the roll of  the 'Monster' in 1931's 'Frankenstein' that launched the career of Boris Karloff.  From that day on, Boris became a household name, he could do scary.  Karloff had appeared in eighty films before he became famous playing Frankenstein's monster.

Karloff had injured his back during the making of Frankenstein and eventually had do perform most of his latter rolls in a chair/wheelchair due to it being so uncomfortable for him to remain on his feet for extended periods of time.  Some directors accommodated him by adapting the scripts to have Karloff's character seated.

In real life, Karloff was far from the sinister characters he portrayed on film.  He adored children.  He was known within the film industry for his kind and gentle manner.  Karloff gave generously, especially to children`s charities. Beginning in 1940, Karloff dressed up as Santa Claus every Christmas to hand out presents to physically disabled children in a Baltimore hospital.

I love those old Karloff movies.  Boris was in John Ford's WWI movie 'The Lost Patrol' (1934).  Baby-boomers will most definitely remember him as the narrator of 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas'.  A few nights ago Turner Classic Movies aired 'The Raven' (1963), produced by Roger Corman starring Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Jack Nicholson.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

hill house

"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.  Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”
-Shirley Jackson
The Haunting of Hill House

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ashes to ashes

Yul Brynner died of lung cancer October 10, 1985.  Until then, it seemed quite fashionable to smoke.  Growing up, all the big stars smoked.  Seeing smoke rise across the faces of the black and white celluloid images seemed to add a mystical ambiance.  John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant...they all smoked.  It wasn't until the late seventies that people as a whole started looking at smoking differently - as hazardous.  Remember the Ads that stated "More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette" and "20,679 physicians say Luckies are less's toasted" and "Dentists recommend Viceroy". 

John Wayne started making commercials for The American Cancer Society until his death due to lung cancer.  Yul Brynner had turned down requests by The American Cancer Society to do a commercial; he did however go from talk show to talk show sharing about his illness and urging people not to smoke.  On one of these interviews, on Good Morning America (1985) he seized the opportunity at the end of the interview to address the television audience.  He earnestly pleaded for people not to smoke as he had throughout his life.  Brynner had smoked since he was 12 years old.   The clip was replayed the day of his death and The American Cancer society asked Yule Brynner's wife if it was okay if they used the clip of her late husband in a commercial.  To me, this commercial  was the final nail in the coffin.  It was The king of The King and I, speaking from the grave.

Yes, people still smoke...stars still smoke today...but after losing so many stars to lung cancer...the American people finally got the message (from the grave).   After Yul's post-Morten plea message, cigarettes much of it's appeal and almost all of loose the glamor.

Brynner was cremated and his ashes buried in a remote part of France, on the grounds of the Abbey of Saint-Michel de Bois Aubry

Friday, October 19, 2012

stereo console, the way to go

I don't remember when we got it.  It was just there amid my childhood.  Our stereo console was docked in the dining room like an aircraft carrier.  It was a big piece of furniture.  Our console had an AM/FM radio and record player. The amp and speakers were built into furniture. To access the stereo equipment, all one had to do was flip up the hood.  There was even a concealed cubby for our record collection.  I don't remember the brand or make of the console. I don't remember dad or mom using it much.  I do know that all the Finlayson kids enjoyed playing our 45's on it.

We had a Burle Ives folk music LP that I enjoyed listening to.  We had a Civil War album that featured Ralph Bellamy.  I listed to that a lot.  There was a Disney album that had songs from the movies Peter Pan, Son of The South, Jungle Book (and more).  I was first introduced to the story A Christmas Carol on that console.  Someone had produced a dramatic reading and I was fascinated by the tale and how it was told.

Somewhere in the seventies, these consoles no longer were the thing to have.  We learned a lesson about consoles, if one part dies, like the radio, all you've got is this huge unit housing only a record player.  By that time we had a smaller record player and didn't need an aircraft carrier sized record player.  The funny thing about these stereo consoles, is once everything breaks or burns out, you don't really want to throw it away because it's like throwing away a nice looking piece of furniture.

When it was time to get rid of it, Dad had me take a screw driver to it and salvage the screws, braces, the wood and wot-nots.  Dad liked to salvage hardware, store it for future workshop projects.  So for years the wood from the console leaned against the wall of the garage for years.  Eventually our stereo console faded from memory - until today.

As the eighties rolled around, I had my own cool component stereo system.  I didn't want to hide all the buttons and knobs and switches.  It all stacked on top of each other and I liked laying there listening to the music with the lights of each component...watched the LED pulse to the rhythm pumping from the power amp.

These days I've come full circle.  I don't want to look at electronics.  I'd prefer my sound equipment out of sight.  There are people these days who hunt down the old stereo consoles from the 60's and work them to house new sound reinforcement technology.  A turntable is a must, AM/FM (of course), a CD player, USB docking station for MP3s.  It would be a great place to put a charging station for many of the other electronic devices we use today.   I think it would be real nifty to have the best in tech enclosed in something retro.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

cock-eyed cowboy

Jack Elam was a character actor that played in many film classics.   He could play the meanest  cold-blooded bad guy as well as the most loveable-grizzled good guy.  I wonder if Jack would've gotten noticed if he had not have had that accident back when he was was 12.  Some sources say it was an accident in Boy Scouts by a kid carrying a pencil.  Other sources say he got on the wrong end of a pencil in a school yard fight.  No matter, there was a pencil involved and poor Jack got his left eye poked out.  His handicap had to have contributed to his acting career.  If there was ever a need for a cock-eyed cowboy, Jack was your man.  One eye or two, Jack was one of the best character actors that ever came out of Hollywood.  He seemed to always be up there on the silver screen (or on television) - always standing out and always a great performance.

Sergio Leone used Elam at the first of his western epic Once Upon A Time in the West.  When Jack Elam comes to mind, I think of that extreme tight close up of his face.  Him waiting at the train station with his desperado friends...Elam catching that fly in the barrel of his pistol.  Leone sure knew how to draw back the curtain for one of his shows.  Leone knew how to begin a story with immediate curiosity and anticipation.  It was a perfect moment for Elam

Jack worked under the direction of the best; Don Seigel, Robert Aldrich, Andrew McLaglan, Anthony Man, Howard Hawks and dear old friend Burt Kennedy.   Directors liked working with him and so Jack found himself always in demand.  Jack rode along side film greats like Gary Cooper, James Stewart, John Wayne, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and the list goes on and on.  Jack guest starred on oodles of television shows like Bonanza, Twilight Zone, The Rifleman, The Untouchables.  He starred in over 100 TV episodes.  If there was a TV show back in the 60 and 70's - Elam was sure to show up in at least one episode.  Jack Elam was everywhere.  I never got tired of him either.  To this day, I enjoy seeing him ride into the scene.  He was a great actor and a good fellow.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Halloween memories

Man, as a kid I loved Halloween.  I loved dressing up and getting to go out into the spooky night.  I am one of six kids.  We'd usually all go out trick-r-treating together.  I don't recall having any fancy bags - a brown paper grocery bag did the trick just fine for me.  We'd use the ones with the twine handles.  I'd often take markers and do my own Halloween design on the bag.  I was pretty good at drawing bats and jack-o-lanterns.

There were two big Halloween events.  The first of course was Halloween itself.  The second was the BIG Halloween Carnival at R.A. Mitchell Elementary.  It was the ONLY time I enjoyed going to school.  This was ages before people started calling them Fall Festivals and having Trunk-R-Treats.  I had a terrible experience at school, school being a hellish time in my life.   It was very appropriate to host a Halloween Carnival at the scariest place on earth - a public school facility.  That being said, R.A. Mitchell's must've been the biggest and best extravaganza in all of Etowah County because it seemed everyone in the county seemed to show up those nights.

When you go to a Fall Festival today - you don't get bona fide cakes at cake walks.  Back in our day cake-walkers could score the real deal - a two layered chocolate cake!  Man-O-Man!  I think I mentioned in a past post that our school actually owned a casket and kept it stored behind the stage (lunchroom area).  That's right.  They would have a haunted walk back there where a guy in a casket would rise up and scare little kids.  Yep, R.A. Mitchell was good at that, and they really shined on Halloween.

Halloween night itself was always a great adventure.  We'd all walk close together on the cool crisp night from house to house.  Every now and then we'd come across a stretch of road that we'd have to travel with little to no street light.  I remember feeling a little uneasy, thinking maybe it was a place real creatures of the night would find appealing.  Real monsters would like this kind of place.   They could sit there in the darkness and shadows of the dense foliage and wait for some kids like us - waiting and watching for just the right moment to jump out and pounce on their terrified young treats.  Maybe it would go for the kid with the flashlight....the kid with the flashlight would be the first to go.  He would be the one quickest to see to eat!

Hey Cindy, would you like to hold my flashlight?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Got your ears on?

I didn't understand the CB craze of the 1970's.  Truckers used citizens' band radios before the advent of cell phones so they could let other OTR's know where the next filling station was located - or 'Smokeys'.  All I know is that many of my friends got real obnoxious with their handles and CB banter on and off the air.  I couldn't stand being in a car with someone going back and forth.  What made things worse was all those cheesy movies, T.V. shows and songs that came out based on CBers, Truck'n and Smokeys.  I'm glad all that's all in my rear-view mirror.

Hey look, there goes a pregnant roller skate.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

He's not an actor, he's a MOVIE STAR!

Peter O'Toole just announced that he is retiring from show business.  What a start he had - as T.E. Lawrence in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia!  So many great movies and what a fine stage presence.  Have you seen My Favorite Year?  You really must.  It might not be considered his most memorable- but what an enjoyable romp.  Goodbye Mr. O'Toole!
I'm a working stiff, baby, just like everybody else.
-Peter O'Toole

Monday, July 9, 2012

goodbye to one of the good ones

01/24/1917 to 07/08/2012
Ernest made a good heavy.  Yet when we saw that big smile rise on his broad face, we knew that this big man was really a good guy after all.  Ernest Borgnine played hundreds of roles throughout his 70 year career, but he'll fondly be remembered by us boomers as our favorite fictional P.T. Boat Commander Lt. McHale in McHale's Navy.  It is said that it's the role that was closest to who this soul really was. Ernie was one of the good ones.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mayberry in the rearview.

This is a response to a Boomerville, USA Facebook Group query about how it would be nice to bring Mayberry back.  I know the comment was in fun, but it caused me to ponder about where we have come, where we are, and going..

So many remakes being made today of previous television shows/old movie classics. The original Andy Griffith Show actors, to me, are cemented to the characters they played. Even when the original characters reunited for 'Return to Mayberry' in the 80's - it fell flat. Even the original characters seemed out of step in their own shoes.  Eventually Andy left town and the show was renamed Mayberry RFD.  The lead roll was given to the very talented and down to earth fellow Ken Berry. The show was good, but Mayberry just wasn't the same anymore. Andy was gone, Barney was gone, Floyd was gone.  I just lost interest in Mayberry.  All my friends had left. 
The town just wasn't the same anymore.

A few years after leaving the show Andy Griffith tried to recreate his prior success with The New Andy Griffith Show that also fizzled. The New Andy Griffith Show had many of the same actors but not the same names/characters. The town was Greenwood, NC and Andy played Andy Sawyer.  It didn't have the depth.  It just wasn't the same.

Today's ethics/values/morals have gone down the tubes. Even if someone could capture the time, place and people - it just wouldn't be the same. My mind goes to the movie Pleasantville. Here an era was captured but the wholesomeness of what we desire in a picture would more than likely be bastardized by the perverted minds of today. Andy would be fornicating with Ellie Walker. Opie would be suspended from school because he was found with a slingshot in his back pocket. Gomer would come out of the closet. Thelmalu would be a feminist pushing her NOW pro-abortion agenda. Poor Barney would become a  basket case because his masculinity would be completely stripped because of his love for Thelmalu. If it's up to Hollywood - there would be an underlying twisted agenda that we see everyday on the big and little screen. I seriously doubt if the Hollywood today could make something as good and wholesome as the original.   I don't know if you can really return to Mayberry.  That's the bad news.  The good news is...we'll always have reruns.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

loved by all

Everyone here in Boomerville, USA are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend Andrew Jackson Taylor.  We will all remember the happiness you brought to each of us in our youth.  We will remember the lessons you taught.  We will remember your gentle ways, your laughter, your songs, and your smile.  We will all miss you Andy.

David B. Finlayson
Mayor of Boomerville, USA

Sheriff Andy Taylor, Mayberry, RFD

Friday, June 8, 2012

government issue

Not too long ago I drove out to Cumming, GA to visit my beloved relatives.  My cousin Eric Chunn lives out there.  Erick and I spent a lot of our childhood together.  We shared a lot in common.  We liked G.I. Joes.  We liked little green army men.  We liked army comics Erick favored Sgt. Rock.  I favored Sgt. Fury. We liked watching army movies and army t.v. shows.  We liked guns.  We liked grenades. We liked playing army.  One of our favorite places to go shopping was the Little Army Store that was located on Broad Street in Downtown Gadsden.  It was always a real treat to go to an army surplus store.  It was a bigger treat to have some money in our pockets to spend at an army surplus store.  When we were kids, we liked to buy real G.I. supplies for our backyard battles.

During my visit to Cumming, Eric asked me if I'd like to go to a genuine army surplus store that was in the area.  Most surplus stores theses days are stocked mostly with hunting equipment.  The establishment Eric took me to is the real deal.  The Military Depot even had that old war surplus smell that took me back to my gallant youth.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

LOOK, up on the screen...

Christopher Reeve was a great pick for Superman.  I enjoyed the first two movies of the franchise.  I watched the second with my nine year old daughter last night.  We both had a good time.  She's big into super heroes, Superman is at the top of her list.  My favorite of all the Super Man movies made in the '70's and '80's is Superman II.  Terence Stamp played the evil General Zod.  Stamp stole the show with his villainous presence and dirty deeds .  Superman II was Christopher Reeve's favorite of the series too.

The first two Superman movies still hold up after all these years.  The third and forth installment are terrible.  Christopher Reeve contributed to the fourth installment, having the theme focused on nuclear disarmament.  The show bombed at the box office and Reagan ended up saving the day.  Superman IV was an embarrassment for Reeve.  He didn't want to talk about it.  After IV he was through with the role and ready to move on.  No need to fear though, he did a great job as the Man of Steel in the first two flicks.  He was fortunate not to be typecast playing Superman as his predecessor George Reeves had been.

Out of all of Reeve's work, it isn't his role as Superman, it was his time traveling romantic  role in Somewhere In Time that he really shined.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

He put the K in custom.

Geroge Barris started out with a hobby of tricking out his model car kits.  He (and his brother Sam) were given a 1925 Buick for helping at the family restaurant.  They both took the heap and got her running and commenced to trick it out.  Eventually they were asked to customize other cars which led him to customizing/designing cars for television and the movies.

Every boy from Boomerville, USA might not know the name George Barris, but they clearly remember his creations for television which include The Batmobile, The Black Beauty (Green Hornet), The Munster Mobile and so many more.  Almost every custom car seen on television then and since are designed/tricked out by Barris Kustom Industries.  Back in my day, you couldn't turn on the television without seeing a Barris creation. 

When we were serving time at R.A. Mitchell Elementary in the '60's, my pal Jim Young would constantly ask me to draw pictures of a hot rods.  I'd usually try to draw him something weird and wild with a Barris influence.  Either like Barris like a Rat Fink car art.  Kid's from Boomerville, USA saw George Barris works on television, on t-shirts, bubble gum cards and yes - plastic model kits.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Oh to have riden with John Wayne

In 1971 I was twelve years old.  I clearly remember being in a classroom (during a break) looking over a spread in LIFE magazine about John Wayne's up and coming movie.  The article had lots of pictures about a movie that was in the works.  I had heard that the people who were producing the new movie were looking for some boys to be cowboys in Wayne's next venture entitled The Cowboys!  I really wanted to be in that movie.  I remember filling out little form to apply for the part.  I don't remember where I got the form.   I'm sure millions of boys did the same.  The world seems much smaller to me at the time and so I guess I thought I had a chance.  I never told anyone about it, but I could just see myself riding along side THE DUKE himself.  I remember that the call from John Wayne never came.   I was very disappointed when the movie came out without me.

As it turned out, the boys that were cast were either bona-fide actors or bona-fide reall  little cowboys.  The young actors helped coach the young cowboys how to act and the young cowboys helped teach the young actors how to ride horses and do other cowboy stuff.  I could do neither and I know that John Wayne probably looked over my name and figured I was just a city kid that he'd have to spend extra time teaching how to act and ride horses and shoot a gun. Shucks. I wouldn't have minded in the least.

I was thinking as I watched this movie again a few nights ago, about how this script would've been the better story for John Wayne's last film rather than The Shootist.  In The Cowboys, John Wayne's character, Wil Anderson, lost his seasoned cattle drivers due to a gold rush.  They left him short handed.  Wil had a limited time to move the cattle and had to rely on young boys to drive herd across 400 miles of territory before Winter.  The boys had to quickly and literally be shown the ropes before saddling up for the venture.  John Wayne became a father figure to the boys and taught them to be men along the way.

Who could forget Bruce Dern in this movie?  Bruce Dern played a cold-blooded character 'Long Hair' who shot John Wayne in the back.  The story I heard was that John had told Bruce before production that
"America will hate you for this."  Dern wryly replied, "Yeah, but they'll love me in Berkeley."I guess the reason this would've made a better final film for Wayne is because he was a father figure for so many of us boys.  We all looked up to him.  He was more than a screen legend.  He was a role model. He was the giant good guy that we all grew up watching. My heart sank when I saw that giant fall after Dern shot'm in the back.  Those boys though, those young cowboys, they buried that old man and went about to finish the job they promised to finished.  They had become men along the way.

Cimarron: They didn't even dig him a decent grave.
Wil Anderson: Well, it's not how you're buried, it's how you're remembered.

This is not Wayne's best, but it's good.  I've got to close for now - "We're burning daylight!"

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What an actor!

George C. Scott was a great actor.  There are two movies that reveal the versatility of his acting abilities.  In the movie Dr. Strangelove or How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Scott is the glue that holds Stanley Kubrick's dark comedy together.  The movie is chock full of great talent, but Scott is simply genius when he's acting and when he's across the room reacting.

George C. Scott could deliver very funny as well as very serious. The other movie that immediate comes to mind is Patton (1970), where George C. plays General George S.  I've talked to veterans who served under General Patton, and each one of them stated that George's Patton was very close to the real deal.

There is another movie that comes to mind.  The List of Adrian Messenger (1963) starred Scott and was directed by the renown John Huston. The first time I watched this movie it took me in completely.  It's a clever murder mystery with a surprise ending.  In the List of Adrian Messenger, not is all what it appears to be.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Hey you wanna go for a ride?

There were some great movies that were released in the eighties.  Sure Lucas and Spielberg entertained us, but there were some unusual little masterpieces that were born during that decade.  David Lynch brought us the very surreal film-noir Blue Velvet (1986).  Dennis Hopper did a lot of incredible during his lifetime.  His portrayal of a very creepy and very disturbing Frank Booth gave all viewers the willies.  Dennis was a little to real in this flick.

The movie pealed back a facade of what seemed a normal life to an nightmarish underworld experience - like maggots eating away beneath flesh - termites inside a wood.  I didn't just watch this movie when it was first released.  I was drawn into it. It was hypnotic to watch it.  It was like a wicked carnival ride that I couldn't get off until it was over.  I had to know how it ended.

It's been a couple of decades since I saw Blue Velvet.  I remember foul language poured from Booths mouth that would make a sailor blush.  I remember it was noir as noir could get.  The tone was so creepy that I don't know if I ever want to go back there and watch it again.  It was that good.

Friday, May 18, 2012

funny show from long ago

 My brother in-law Dan Noojin and I used to hang out a good bit in the early eighties.  If we were in front of the television on a weekend night, it was for Night Flight and Second City Television Network.  SCTV was a little bit of Saturday Night Live and Monty Python's Flying Circus rolled into one.  SCTV introduced us to the talent of John Candy, Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin and Martin Short.  I enjoyed much of the early SNL days, but low budgeted SCTV blew the doors of SNL during the early eighties.It was SCTV that inspired me to start doing my own Floyd the Barber impersonation.  I make a lot of humorous references to the show that no one these days seem to get.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

it started as a bet

Issue #1 / May 1963
During the Silver Age of Comicdom, Marvel Comics was publishing solely superhero stories.  Until Nick Fury came along, WWII was fought by Captain America, Sub-Mariner etc.  In the early sixties, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (both WWII vets themselves) decided to launch a different kind of war mag - Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos!

It all started with a bet. Stan Lee has described the series Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos as having come about due to a bet with his publisher that the Lee-Kirby style could make a book sell even with the worst title. Stan Lee said at the time Marvel didn't have a title that were six words.  'howling' is a long word, and 'commandos' was a really long word.  Lee went with the name Howling Commandos because their really was a group called 'Screaming Eagles'.

I was just a little guy in '63.  It was big brother Brooky that brought home the early issues and would read them hot off the press.  Brook had the early copies, but mom tossed a box of them during one of her blitzkrieg clean-ups. 

Brook is the one that got me into doing voices.  It all started with him reading Sgt. Fury to me.  He had a voice for all the Howling Commandos as well as the evil Nazis.  I loved it when Hitler was foiled by the Howling Commandos.  Brook seemed to have a great time reading and sounding like a very furious f├╝hrer.  To this day whenever I read to my kids, I read with all the dialects/accents/voices within my vocal arsenal.  I can also attribute my enjoyment for reading to my brother and this particular comic book.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

the face of 1966

I never understood the Twiggy thing.  She was this skinny young Brit chic.  Twiggy always seemed to me something of a fashion cartoon.  I don't have much to say on the subject, just that while thinking back, she's still living in the funky past, next door to Peter Max.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mayberry Daily News: Goober Pyle Obituary

Goober Pyle (83) a native of  Mayberry, North Carolina", died Sunday, May 6th due to a brief illness. Goober was born in Mayberry at the home of Jedediah & Mable Pyle September 17, 1928.  He was a graduate of Mayberry High School.

Goober started working on cars with his father and later taught his cousin Gomer Pyle to work on cars as a hobby. His cousin Gomer said, "Goober never got his education from schooling, but learned how to fix cars because he loved fix'n cars. He sure was pleased when the Fayetteville Technical College awarded him an honorary Automotive Master Mechanic degree in 1994. He sure was proud of that!"  

Goober was a shade tree mechanic until he was hired by Wally's Garage and Gas Station in 1964.  Goober managed the business for his owner until Randall 'Wally' Wolford offered to sell the business to him. Goober Pyle left the name Wally's Garage until his cousin (Maj) Gomer Pyle retired from the United States Marine Corps. Gomer offered his cousin part ownership and changed the name to G and G Garage.  They always jokingly argued about whose initial was first.

"Everyone in Mayberry knew and loved Goober." stated his old friend and former Mayberry Sheriff Andrew Taylor. "
I am happy to say that as we found ourselves in our eighties, we were not afraid to say, 'I love you.' That was the last thing Goober and I had to say to each other. 'I love you.'"

Read more here:

A special memorial service will be held Saturday, May 13th at the Mayberry Town Hall followed by a marching band parade to the old town Gazebo where everyone is invited for music and a covered dish picnic. Gomer Pyle wanted to sing favorite songs of Goobers, and share stories of his cousin he knew and loved as a brother.

Both Goober and Gomer Pyle attended the First United Methodist Church of Mayberry. Both stood next to each other when singing in the choir and always involved in every charity outreach of the church. "Goober loved Mayberry and served the community in every way he knew how." stated Gomer.
"He's going to be missed by everybody around here - especially me."

Visitation will be held at First United Methodist Church of Mayberry on Wednesday, May 9th. Grave side service will follow at church cemetery with Rev. Opie A. Taylor, Jr officiating.

Funeral arrangements by Ernest T. Bass and Son's Funeral

Friday, May 4, 2012

dark shadows

I wasn't a big fan of the show, but my geek friends in school couldn't wait to get home to watch it.  If you don't recall, Dark Shadows was a goth soap opera that starred a vampire named Barnabas Collins.  I rarely watched the show because I didn't care for soap operas even if it had vampires and werewolves.  Even though I didn't see it much, that Barnabas Collins was a haunting fellow.  He was played by Canadian actor Johnathan Frid who just  recently passed away on Friday, April 13th.

Gina and I went to the movies last weekend and I saw a large cardboard standup in the lobby of Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins.  I had read where Depp had been a huge fan of the show when he was a kid - wanted to be Barnabas.  Well, here's his chance.  Director Tim Burton was also a fan of Dark Shadows as a kid (figures) and I'm sure it will be an interesting show.  Tim and Johnny always make a great team.

I'm sure the movie will go over well.  There's a lot of kids out there that are drawn to creepy goth motif like a moths are to a flame.  Tim Burton is really talented when it comes to creepy goth.  I remember Tim's early work Frankenweenie.  I have always enjoyed Burton's twisted world.  Dark Shadow's is right up his dark alley.  I hope though that the movie steers from being the soap opera and more of a macabre comedy.  I'll go without expectations and let him surprise me.

Here's to Frid though, may you finally rest in peace. Just seeing this image of him replays the opening theme of Dark Shadows in my mind!!!  If anything, the movie has to open with the sea crashing against the shore and the silhouette of a castle against the night.  That music, that whistle bleeding through the sound of the crashing waves.  It must start like that.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

your Father knows best

A lot of folks have criticized old family television shows like Father Knows Best.  Personally, I enjoy watching it.  Though most of the actors had their personal flaws - the family unit portrayed in these shows reflected a lot of love and adoration for each other.  I guess you could say that the show reflected a high standard of sorts for fathers and families everywhere.

Jim Anderson was a wise and commonsensical father that everyone in his household could count upon.  He was the kind of dad that once took on the paper route on a rainy day when Bud was ill.  So Jim Anderson not only offered advice in a loving manner - but he illustrated his love with daily sacrifice. 

I sat at the breakfast table this morning and found myself calling my daughter 'Kitten' - like Jim used to call his youngest TV daughter.  Kelsey smiled and nestled into my shoulder for a hug.  Kelsey liked the reference, but had never seen the show.

As a father I know I am not perfect or as wise as that TV dad of long ago, but I'd like to be.  I want my kids to always feel as if they can come to me when there's trouble or in need a hug.  I know no dad is perfect - but we should do our very best to be.

I believe that we as fathers are training wheels for our ever wise and truly perfect Heavenly Father.  I hope that when I am gone, my children will always run to Him in times of trouble - and when they need some loving attention.  As men, we are flawed, but this doesn't mean that it's impossible to pursue wisdom and goodness with our lives.  We too have a Father who knows best and who can help us be good dads.

Monday, April 23, 2012

story teller extraordinaire

I loved Jesus Music.  I was exspecially drawn to the singer/songwriters of that era who could tell as story.  Most folks know Noel Paul Stookey as a member of the folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary.  Paul started coming out with Christian albums in the late seventies.  Real to Real was released in 1977, the year I graduated high school.  Real to Reel is a live album that Paul strings together songs with stories.  It was a very influential album for me, because I wanted to do what he could do.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

we loved this man

Long before some members among  my generation decided that people over thirty were uncool and didn't understand them, we had this sweet old fellow.  His name was Art Linkletter and everyone of all ages loved him.  I remember watching his television show called Kids Say The Darndest Things.  Art Linkletter could take your average everyday run of mill backyard puddle stomping kid and ask him/her a question (I happen to know that little girls like to stomp in puddles too).  He'd just ask the questions and let the kid answer and philosophize with their small imaginative minds.

Art Linkletter had a kind and honest face, the kind of face and presence that any kid couldn't help but trust.  I guess you could say that Art was right up there with Red Skelton, Walt Disney and Santa Claus.  I was just a wee tike when I was first introduced to that man who appeared on our old Zenith in black and white.  At that time I was too little to understand what was so funny about what the children were saying.  I did  appreciated the fact that that nice grownup seemed to take so much interest in what us kids had to say.

Bill Cosby came along years later and tried to revive the show.  Bill is a friendly fellow, but no one will ever be able to replace the place in our hearts for Art.

I wonder how many people today remember him today?  He was a big star in his time whose name was known in every household.  He was a big star that seemed so down to Earth.  Not many television or movie stars today would I care to have come into our home for a visit.  Art Linkletter was an exception.  He was a super star that most families wouldn't have minded joining them at the supper table.