Monday, February 24, 2014

Jack Webb Gone Wild

Jack Webb had two successful spin-offs with Dragnet; Adam-12 and Emergency!.  In 2005, during the fourth season (episode 22) of Emergency!, Jack tried to launch a new spin-off that he directed himself.  905 WILD was very much like Emergency!.  It featured an LA Animal Bureau Control officers instead.  Like all Webb productions - it was going to have the same format as his previous productions.  It's the worst episode of Emergency! and I don't know what in the world was on Jack's mind to even think that a show would go anywhere but to the birds.

Seeing this episode last night, I immediately recognized a very young Mark Hamill.  He's kind of goofy looking.  The other Animal Control officer was played by Albert Popwell.  This wasn't his best work, nor was it any other actor on this pilot.  Popwell played in all but one of Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry movies.  David Huddleston plays an animal doctor in this show.  He's a character actor I've seen countless times on both small and large screen.  Huddleston played supporting roles in Rio Lobo, Blazing Saddles, The Big Lebowski and on and one.  He's also been in a plethora of television shows throughout the decades.  Gary Crosby (Bing's son) also had a part in this show that just wasn't to be.  Gary had just finished a regular part on Adam-12.   Even though 905 WILD had a good cast - the acting was mediocre.  It was doomed from the start.  Not to worry, all of these show's cast members went on to bigger and better things...well...all of them except Bing's boy.

You can watch this episode on Hulu that I've linked here.  I'll warn you that this is a terrible episode.  The part where the a dying baby goat was taken to Rampart Hospital is just too silly and sappy for my liking.  As cute as it is, my heart won't bleat over an unconcious baby goat.  Sorry Jack - this show was dead on arrival.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

flexible flyer

My children have missed out on sledding.  They have no idea as to what it's like to fly down a steep snowy hill, negotiating the turns, avoiding the trees, the ditches, those bare spots, feeling the chill and the thrill on a sled.  I'm sure Katie and Kelsey have seen pictures in storybooks, but doubtfully seen the real thing. 

I know they've never sanded and waxed the runners; sandpaper or steel wool, an old candle or a bar of soap. They've never chosen the perfect place to start.  They've never mounted atop a genuine sled, push off with their toes and slide quickly forward - no brakes.  They've never had to stop by pulling hard to one direction and rolling into a snowy awkward end and laughing and laughing at the foot of the hill. 
I hope they get a chance while in their youth. I hope they get a chance at such a memory.

I still have mine.

Monday, February 10, 2014

made by Marx

The original Stony Smith by Marx
 Marx Toys made those little green army men we used to play with as kids.  When Hasbro introduced G.I. Joe in February of 1964, Marx saw the need to get in on the act. They introduced a big green army man called Stony Smith.  Now Stony wasn't the man of action that G.I. Joe was because the early design of Stony didn't have as many articulating body parts as Joe.  The legs were as stiff as a little green army man.  The elbows could articulate, the head could swivel and the hands could grasp guns and grenades.

I got a later version of Stony in which the legs could move, but could not bend at the knee.  Marx Toys just didn't know how to compete with Hasbro's hero that had nineteen pivotal contact points.  Marx kept coming up a minute late and a dollar short.  The idea behind an action figure is so the figure can pose in various positions.  Marx simply could not compete with Hasbro's soldier because of their product's limited moveable parts.

The idea behind G.I. Joe was to sell a product to accessorize with more gear and vehicles.  Stoney came with the green fatigues he was molded with as well as a lot of really cool gear.  All his equipment was as green as Stony's plastic flesh.  Joe's gear came painted for realism, but you had to buy Joe's gear separately. 

The more articulate Buddy Charlie by Marx
Marx tried to make various improvements to make their action figure more articulate, but in the meantime, Hasbro established their product as THE action figure to buy.  Marx finally came out with a more moveable action figure with a flesh color body that a kid could dress as he pleased, they called him Buddy Charlie. 

It was too late for Marx to compete with G.I. Joe.  They eventually took the Stony Smith head and stuck it on a brown cowboy body and called him Johnny West.  They did pretty good with the Western action figures. They stuck to their idea of stuffing lots of stuff in the box that came with their figures.  I had a Stony Smith, Johnny West, Captain Maddox and a Custard.  Of course I didn't play Cowboys and Indians with The Best of the West characters.  I put fatigues on them, handed them an M-I and made them fight Nazis.

Rat Patrol television characters by Marx
Besides all the extra gear that came with Stony Smith, there was another feature that I appreciated about the Marx figures.  Aside from Stony and Johnny sharing the same head sculpt, all the rest of the Marx figures had different faces.  G.I. Joe had the same facial features with different colored hair.  Marx also started marketing action figures associated with popular television shows such as The Rat Patrol, Man from Uncle, Lone Ranger and others.  Marx found their niche after trying to compete with Hasbro and losing.

Personally, I liked Stony Smith.  He was one of my favorite guys.  Even when his legs fell off, I found a way to keep him in the story by making him Captain- issuing his orders from his sleeping bag.  At one point I tried to tie his legs back on, but never got them tight enough to where he could get back on his green feet and back into action.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The first A-Team

Hasbro stopped marketing their successful selling 'fighting soldier' as the Vietnam War seemed to become 'unpopular'.  A lot of stores were slowing down marketing war related toys.  Hasbro started de-emphasizing the military aspect of G.I. Joe and started emphasizing 'action' by selling G.I. Joe as members of the Adventure Team.  Joes were dressed and equipped with gear for high adventures in mountains, deserts, jungles and the oceans.  Joes no longer fought Japs or Nazis, but rather lions tigers and bears - OH MY!

These Joes didn't look like the old Joes either.  They came with 'life-like hair, kung-foo grip.  Some had super human abilities such as Eagle Eye and Bullet Head to play off the then popular action Six Million Dollar Man action figure made by Kenner..

I remember being disappointed with the new Adventure Team Joes at that point.  I especially didn't get into super human guys.  The Mike Powers, the one that was competing with the bionic man Steve Austin.  It looked like a Ken doll and I didn't want a bionic dude fighting Nazis.  Sorry Mike.

Adventure Team Fuzz Heads
I never wanted any of the Adventure Team mission gear.  I did acquire some of the life-like hair, kung-fu grip Joes.  They didn't go hunt white tigers or wrestle alligators, they were drafted into my army. I removed their AT dog-tags and AT sticker on their shirts and issued them M-1 carbines and ordered them to fight Nazis.  The military gear was now in short supplies at the stores.  I could still get guys, but I had to make due with military ordnance.  I didn't have enough rifles and machine guns to go around.  There were plenty of times when one Joe died in a firefight, the weapon was on to one of the fuzzy faced new guys that needed a gun.  The Adventure Team Joes did come with a sidearm, a shoulder holster with a revolver.  Those were pretty cool, but I had plenty of boots on the ground, but JC Penney and Sears were on an anti-war kick, and weren't selling the supplies I needed for the war effort.

One cool thing about the kung-fu grip Joes, I could take an X-acto blade and separate the trigger finger of the hand so the new Joes could grip a firearm better.  I wished all my Joes had that kung-fu grip.

The Adventure Team guys were okay, but I gave my old Joes seniority and preference over the fuzzy headed ones.  I wasn't pleased that the military aspect was being phased out. I wasn't happy that Hasbro had changed their soldier into an adventure guy.  I was just a kid.  I wasn't a hippie mad at Uncle Sam for Vietnam.  I wanted wanted my G.I. Joes to stay G.I.'s!  Was that such a terrible thing to want?

Friday, February 7, 2014

fighting man from head to toe

An old Joe stands guard upon my studio shelf.

In 1964 our family was visiting relatives in Columbia, SC for Christmas.  I'd never heard of a G.I. Joe before that day.  I never asked Santa for one.  Boy was I a happy kid to find a little fighting marine under the tree that year with all that gear. I was ecstatic.  There wasn't a Christmas or a birthday throughout the rest of my childhood that I wasn't asking for another Joe, another accessory, or vehicle.  I had the biggest army in the neighborhood.

I spent countless hours with these guys lost in my vivid imagination, acting out all kinds of adventurous and dangerous scenarios.  Most of my friends had Joes too.  Every now and then we'd combine forces for massive battles.  My G.I. Joes were my most prized possessions as a kid, my all time favorite toy.

G.I. Joe is turning 50 this month.  Happy Birthday soldier!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

when worlds collide

Dixon Hayes writes a terrific blog called TV When I was Born. He shares his blog with us at the Boomerville,USA facebook group.  This week he wrote about The Beatles.

I'm a little older than Dixon, but I was also a too young to remember much.  I don't remember the Ed Sullivan show or ever seeing The Beatles appear on television during the first waves of the British Invasion.  I do have a memory, the first time I ever heard a Beatles' song.  The first time I heard it,in 1964, wasn't from The Beatles, but rather from the lips of my older brother and sister Brooky and Jennie. The song was I Want To Hold Your Hand and I heard it while sitting in the living-room of my aunt Jennie Llew's house in Columbia, South Carolina.

All my aunts and uncles were in the house. Most of them had been trained in classical/traditional music by their mother who was a voice and music teacher. Brook and Jennie weren't performing the song for them, but were just excited children moving about the room singing the song as they played. I remember the reaction from the grown-ups present which was a look of "What kind of song is that?"  It had a catchy tune and lyrics a six year old could sing so I started singing it too.  The second Beatles song I learned was She Loves You
At six I became a rock and roll fan.  Rock and Roll had been around before I was born, but it was The Beatles that moved me. 

Growing up I soon realized that the music our generation loved to listen to and sing wasn't what they thought was music.  I didn't know that back when I first heard Brooky and Jennie started singing that song. Looking back, to me it's ironic that the first time I heard that song was in a room packed with dad's classical music loving siblings.  Throughout my life, whenever they heard me sing a song I wrote, they'd often say I had such a pretty voice to be wasting on such music. I knew they had to have said this to my other singing siblings.  Don't get me wrong, they weren't trying to be hateful or discouraging, but rather were trying to encourage us to sing the right kind of music.

It just wasn't going to be.  This is the music of my generation.  Dad never said much about the music I sang.  Rock albums, guitars and amps eventually came into his household.  I don't think dad cared for the type of music his children played.  I'm sure he had to silently tolerate much of it, but maybe he related.  After all, his Pop wasn't a fan of the Swing/Dance music that he drug into the house.

It wouldn't be long until the Jesus Movement influenced Westbrook's children.  Our love for Jesus and the music of our generation came together like chocolate and peanut butter.  We played our songs youth groups, street corners, coffee houses and eventually before congregations.