February 28, 2001
IF IT'S BEEN MENTIONED anywhere in the press, I've missed it...so let me remind/inform you that in the next few days, your local
PBS station will be airing a two-hour special in which Carl Reiner receives the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Award. I haven't seen it but, given
the event and the guest list (Dick Van Dyke, Jerry Seinfeld, Mary Tyler Moore, et al), I can't imagine it not being worth tuning in or
programming your VCR or TiVo. To find out when it airs in your area, you can visit one of the many sites that list TV schedules, like search/tvgrid.com or tvguideonline.
Or better still, root around at www.pbs.org. You'll want to search for "Kennedy Center."
I REDESIGNED some sections of this site to make them easier to navigate and/or quicker to load. So if things look a bit
different, no, your browser is not deceiving you.
ONE OF THE PERKS of having a web presence is that old friends find you. In the last two weeks, I've heard from three
people I hadn't talked to in a long time...in one case, since high school. Of course, it helps to have a weird last name. It used to be
that when folks mauled "Evanier," I envied the Mike Smiths of the world. No longer. If you enter my name into any decent search engine,
darn near every hit is me or my cousin David. It would not surprise me if, in the future, we saw fewer and fewer people with odd surnames
change them to something simpler.
February 27, 2001
I HAVEN'T RECOMMENDED a book on comics lately so here's one. If you're the least bit interested in the history of EC
Comics, you must, must, must have Tales of Terror! by Grant Geissman and Fred Von Bernewitz. It's an exhaustive and entertaining
compendium of info, interviews and insights about one of the two-or-so greatest lines of comics ever produced. They couldn't have done a better
job with this one. This is one of those books I started flipping through, figuring I'd sit down later and read it through. I got hooked
and wound up spending an hour or three flipping through it. Buy a copy and see if the same thing doesn't happen to you. Reading this book
is almost as much fun as reading an EC Comic.
JUST ADDED another old column of mine, this one dealing with the 1973 San Diego Comic Convention and Love's barbecue
restaurants. You'll have to read the piece to understand the connection...which you can do by clicking
here. It's a bit outta-date in that I'm not sure there are any Love's restaurants open and operating now. Their website lists
several that I've driven past and found to be defunct, though I haven't checked out the one in Indonesia. This is a shame because, though I
gave up eating in them when they went downhill, I still bought their sauce by the case — and I mean by the case. I just finished
off the last bottle of my last case and would love to stockpile more. Alas, when I call their corporate offices, I get voice mail and no one
returns my calls. A sad end (?) for a good place to eat ribs.
SPEAKING OF CONVENTIONS: I don't do many these days but I've agreed to show my puss at this year's Wondercon in Oakland, which
is April 20-22. You can get more info at their website and you can get there by clicking
here. These are good, friendly gatherings that remind me of the early San Diego gatherings. When one speaks of comic conventions,
there is no higher praise.
THIS LAST ITEM is for those of you who have money riding on the XFL — not on the games but on the ratings. Let us
review: First week, they had a 10.3 in the overnights, which went down to a 9.5 in the nationals. Second week, they had a 5.1 that dipped to a
4.6. Third week, they had a 3.8 which became a 3.1 in the nationals, making it the lowest-ranked prime-time show on any of the four major
networks for the week. Could it get worse than that? Yes. The overnights for last Saturday were at 2.9, so the nationals will come
in around 2.6 or below, which is wrist-opening time. (Remember: The guarantee to advertisers is 4.5) Ratings on the XFL's UPN broadcasts
aren't much better so we may be looking at the biggest flop in the history of professional sports and in network television at the same
time. Looks like the cheerleaders will all be back at their clubs offering table dances any day now...
February 25, 2001
A PROGRAM NOTE: Next Sunday, March 4, the Arts and Entertainment Network is running a two-hour documentary called It's
Burlesque, filled with clips of great burley-q routines and performers, including Abbott and Costello, Phil Silvers and Mae West. I mention
this because some of you may like it and because it gives me an excuse to put up this great photo I found of Lou Costello. I always liked
Costello in spite of a lot of bad movies and worse anecdotes in show biz biographies. I'm not saying the anecdotes probably weren't true but
they sure didn't help me like him more.
INCREASINGLY, cartoon voice artists are finding it advantageous to establish personal websites upon which one can hear their
demo reels and, sometimes, view other fun stuff — like photos, résumés, advice to beginners, etc. In case you're a casting
director — or just a fan of folks who make silly sounds for a living — here are some sites I've encountered...
- Corey Burton — A fine announcer and character voice who is more or less
ubiquitous on the airwaves. His site also contains some wonderful nuggets of advice for those entering the trade.
- Scott Innes — When Don Messick passed away, Scott (a disc jockey by
trade) turned up with the most dead-on Scooby Doo simulation imaginable. And he now does Shaggy, as well.
- Dan Gilvezan — Another good announcer/character guy. Once upon a
time, he was the voice of Spider-Man and Dennis the Menace's father, among zillions of other roles.
- Hal Rayle & Maggie Roswell — He's a terrific mimic and cartoon voice
thespian; she's a fine comedienne, heard often on The Simpsons. Together, they're a top writing/performing team of, among other things,
wonderfully inventive commercials.
- Beau Weaver — One of the workingest "promo" announcers around,
but he also dabbles occasionally in cartoon voices. (He was Superman on the Ruby-Spears series, for instance.)
- E.G. Daily — One of the three-or-so most popular voice actresses, most often
heard as little kids. She's also a terrific singer.
- Townsend Coleman — He was one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
and he's also has one of those voices you hear on eight jillion commercials.
- Nancy Cartwright —
aka Bart Simpson, though she's done a lot more than
that. I met her when she was one of Daws Butler's prize students and he'd be very proud to see what's become of her.
- Thurl Ravenscroft — Here's a man who's had an incredible
career as a singer and cartoon voice actor, including many decades as Tony the Tiger. And just try and spend a day at Disneyland without
hearing him half-a-dozen times.
- Keith Scott — The top voice guy in Australia, the new voice
of Bullwinkle, the replicator of many other classic voices and a fine historian of animation and animation voices.
I have about 50 more of these, so maybe I'll post more or even compile a big, permanent list here. And then again, I may
not. There's no telling what I'll do.
WANNA SEE what's happening in Times Square at this very moment? You can at Earthcam's Times Square webcam. If the site included the sickly sweet smell of
honey-roasted nuts, it would be your complete New York experience.
February 23, 2001
JUST ADDED a column about my days — all five of them — as a radio personality. You can read it by clicking here. I also changed the wording on the search feature because I realized that some
users didn't understand that it searches this site. (By the way: The search database gets updated every Monday morn around dawn.
So, for example, if you search for some keyword in the radio article before early on 2/27, it may not be found.)
AND I JUST wrote the foreword for DC's forthcoming trade paperback of Jack Kirby's Mister Miracle. This will be the
fourth collection of Jack's Fourth World series, this time reprinting #11-18 of Mister Miracle in, alas,
black-and-white again. I don't think this is Jack's strongest work — his heart went out of the project when the other two books were
cancelled — but even weak Kirby is head-'n'-shoulders above most other comics, past and present.
Actually, the original plan was to also reprint The Hunger Dogs in this fourth collection. That was the graphic novel Jack
did years later to ostensibly wrap up the Fourth World saga — probably an impossible task. (Imagine an author who plans a 100-chapter
epic novel, gets stopped about a fourth of a way into it...and then is asked to come back, years later, and wrap it all up in one or two more
chapters.) No one, Jack included, was too happy with how it came out so at DC's request, he redid it, expanding the thing and adding new
pages. No one seems to feel the revised version was much better than the first and some of us feel it was inferior. What we were going to
print in this new book was the first version, which has aged very well, I think. At least, I like it now a lot more than I did then.
Unfortunately, various complications are preventing its inclusion...so now we all have to lobby DC to put out another volume, preferably in
color. Spread the word.
February 19, 2001
WHILE ROAMING about my harddisk the other day, I came across a file I downloaded a few years ago — a day-by-day diary of
the second O.J. Simpson trial (the one he lost, the one with the wide-awake jury), kept by Harry Shearer. Engaged by Slate to cover the festivities, Shearer turned in one of the best pieces of writing I've encountered, among those
done wholly for the web. Anyway, though the case is ancient history, I started reading his account and got sucked into digesting the whole,
long (almost 100,000 words) mesmerizing tale again. I just checked and you can still read it on the magazine's website. Here's a link to Shearer's first dispatch and then you can find your
way from there. Harry, in case you don't know, is a writer-actor with stellar credits and, of course, is presently best known for what is
probably his easiest gig, which is as a voice actor on The Simpsons.
But he's been involved with wonderful TV shows and movies and has a fine radio program called Le Show, which I wish I could
catch more often. He also, needless to say, has a website and here's the link to it. Check out his on-line video files of clips from broadcasters saying odd
things in front of the camera but before the broadcast commenced.
WELL, IT LOOKS like Eric Boehlert was right about the XFL. The first week, its NBC Saturday night broadcasts notched a
10.3 rating (it started higher but declined throughout the evening). The second week, they were down to 5.1 which, at least, was still above
the 4.5 guaranteed to advertisers. But the overnights for Week Three came in at 3.8 and are expected to drop to around a 3.5 when the final,
national ratings are tallied — disaster by any measure. Meanwhile, the games themselves are becoming something of a laughingstock.
Best line I've heard so far was uttered by Bob Costas on NBC's own Late Night with Conan O'Brien. It was something to the effect of, "I
recall musing years ago that what TV needed was to take really mediocre high school football and combine it with the atmosphere of a tawdry strip
club." With so many in the biz eager to see both Vince McMahon and NBC exec Dick Ebersol cut down a few notches, it's all probably heading for
the record books as a big, costly fumble.
TODAY'S New York Times has a good article about Dan DeCarlo and his
dispute with Archie Comics. Here's the link but (a)
you have to register to access the Times website, which you oughta do, anyway and (b) this will probably expire soon. Needless to
say, I am solidly in Dan's corner on this one.
February 16, 2001
JUST BACK from another Vegas trip, mostly for recreation but also to get some work done. In case you haven't been there
lately, the new trend in gaming is for "name" slot machines, themed around TV shows. Some are based on game shows, like Jeopardy! and
Wheel of Fortune, and I lost an entire two bucks playing a Press Your Luck slot. (Press Your Luck was a terrific game show
which went off the air in 1986. It was never a huge hit but I guess they figure someone remembers it.) There are also I Dream of
Jeannie machines (with great pictures of Barbara Eden all over them), Addams Family machines and Munsters machines, while
Beverly Hillbillies and Bewitched are said to be on the way. If you hit big on the Beverly Hillbillies machine, you could win
enough to move into the big house next to the Drysdales and have your own cee-ment pond and a whole back yard full of critters. Old TV programs
used to just fade quietly into obscurity on Nick at Nite. Now, they move to Las Vegas and get into professional gambling.
Funniest Thing I Encountered in Vegas This Time: No, not a Windows error. Walking the length of the Strip, I paused
to take in the buffet at the Stardust, resulting in an upgrade of its rating on our Buffet List here. (The things I do for you people...)
Then I wandered past the Westward Ho, which is a dump of a casino next door. I noticed that, while the Stardust — hardly a class act,
itself — is featuring Wayne Newton, the 'Ho (as locals call it) is featuring Rusty Davis, a Wayne Newton impersonator. A gent outside was
trying to hustle folks to go in, gamble, eat cheap shrimp cocktails and see Rusty. I asked him, "Why would anyone want to see a Wayne Newton
impersonator when they can walk right across that parking lot and see the real Wayne Newton?" Without pausing to mull, the man responded: "Our
Wayne Newton is thirty dollars cheaper and comes with a buffet." Hey, works for me.
I HEREBY RECOMMEND a peek at Michael Kinsley's two recent columns about the Reagan Legacy. Here's the link to Part One and here's the link to Part Two.
Those Wacky Websites: If you live in Los Angeles and love it when they break into normal TV programming to show
high-speed police pursuits, sign up at www.pursuitwatch.com. When one happens,
they'll phone you or your pager and alert you to hurry to a television somewhere to savor the moment. They have a 3-month free trial offer and
then the subscription fee kicks in. And if you live outside L.A., don't feel left out! They're expanding across the nation and may soon
be serving your area, too!
February 13, 2001
A COUPLE OF FOLKS have written to say they wish I had more here on The Dick Van Dyke Show. So do I, so do I.
(Here's a link to the one piece I do have.) In the meantime, while I write something else, you might want
to check out the website of Vince Waldron. Vince, who I think owes me a lunch or maybe I owe him, authored one of the best books on that fine
series, and is an expert and historian of others, as well. You'll find lots to peruse at www.classicsitcoms.com that's right up the line for those who find this site of interest.
IT'S STILL TOO EARLY to tell if Eric Boehlert's predictions about the XFL will come to pass but, based on ratings for the second
Saturday night airing, few are likely to wager against him. One of the key points he makes in his latest article (which you can read by
clicking here) is that the game ran over,
delaying the 11:00 news and bumping Saturday Night Live to a post-Midnight start on the East Coast. The XFL will have to make a
lot more money in prime-time before NBC will allow it to endanger the health of one of their most lucrative — and network-owned —
programs. My guess is that someone has already sworn to Lorne Michaels that it will never happen again.
IF YOU'VE READ my Las Vegas Guide here and are planning a jaunt to said city, you might
want to check it out again. I'm always doing little tweaks and updates to the text there, on everything but show prices, which are escalating
too rapidly to track. (Advance tip: Tim Conway and Harvey Korman are playing the Las Vegas Hilton March 8-10, along with my pal, the brilliant
impressionist, Louise Du Art. One forgets how truly funny Mssrs. Korman and Conway are, and Louise is always terrific. If you can't make
it to Vegas, they may be coming to your neck o' the woods soon. You can track their appearances — and other swell acts which may be
wandering near you — over at www.pollstar.com.)
February 10, 2001
OVER ON the Comics page here, you'll find an article that I wrote about a great, unsung cartoonist
named Owen Fitzgerald. (Oh, hell...I'll save you the trouble of searching for it. Here's a link.)
I just stumbled across a neat website run by an animation artist named Shane Glines. He calls it The Cartoon and Illustration Paradise
and it's where he posts examples of some of his favorites, including Erich Sokol, Hank Ketcham and Russell Patterson. He has a section on Owen
which includes a scan of a comic book story — "Moronica," about a hopelessly stupid blonde lady.
It's not Owen's best but it's still wonderful and will show you his famed inability to draw a figure that wasn't funny and/or
interesting. Go hunting around at www.shaneglines.com and, while we're on the subject,
here are some links for...
- Hank Ketcham — the man behind Dennis the Menace.
- Chris Browne — who carries on his father's Hagar the
Horrible along with his own creation, Raising Duncan. (Chris has some good, interesting essays about cartooning on his site.)
- Mike Peters — the Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist and creator of
Mother Goose & Grimm — has samples of both, plus fun web animations to offer. (Hi, Mike!)
- "Uncle" Fred Lasswell — who has been drawing Snuffy Smith since the time
- Bob Montana — the man who was the main Archie artist for years, is no
longer with us but his family is selling prints and displaying artifacts of his life at their website.
- Rube Goldberg — another late, great cartooning legend, and the world's
I'll post more of these in a few days so you won't spend all night surfing cartoonist websites.
February 9, 2001
I MOVED of January's "news items" (the stuff that goes in this section) onto one page which you can access by clicking here. Most of the links thereupon should still be good but the longer you wait, the more likely you are to wind up in
CyberLimbo when you try to follow one.
ONE OF MY BEST buddies, Paul Dini, is among those highly-responsible for some fine cartoon shows that have emanated from Warner
Brothers Animation, lo these last few years. More recently, he has combined his two main interests in life — Christmas and Women Who Mean
Trouble — to create Jingle Belle, daughter of Santa and star of her own, occasionally-issued comic book from the fine folks at Oni Press.
You can read all about her (and even see what she's up to at this very moment, via webcam) by visiting her fun-filled website. Here's the link! And do yourself have a Merry Christmas, whenever that holiday
actually is. Around Paul, it seems to be all the time.
ERIC BOEHLERT, who authored the XFL article for Salon I mentioned a
few days ago, has a fascinating article there now about the fuss over the gifts received by Bill and Hillary upon their departure from the White
House. Actually, it's about the press coverage of the gifts which, if we believe Mr. Boehlert, has been spectacularly inaccurate. Give it
a read by clicking right here.
FORGET ALL previous tips here about how to get your daily dose of syndicated comic strips via the Internet. Andy Ihnatko
has the answer, at least for those of whose faves are among the 120+ strips carried online by the San Jose Mercury-News. You want to
visit their website by clicking here, then sign up for what they call a "passport"
(it's free) which will allow you to build your personal funnies page of only the comics you want. Thereafter, it's a piece o' cake to log in
and get your fix. Thanks, Andy!
EARLY YESTERDAY A.M., we went over 3000 hits here, according to the free counter provided by honesty.com. And of course,
you can trust a web business called honesty.com. I mean, they couldn't call it that unless they were honest, right? Anyway, thanks to
everyone for your patronage and if you keep spreading the word, I'll keep sticking up stuff you might want to read.
February 8, 2001
EVERY MARCH, the Museum of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills stages its annual William S. Paley Television Festival.
For two weeks, great TV shows of the past and present are saluted with presentations — one per evening — that feature the stars and
makers of those shows. In years past, I've attended some wonderful evenings there because they always pick superb shows and then assemble a
spectacular array of guests to discuss their contributions...
...until now. The last few years have declined in glory but even last season, they managed a terrific evening on The Carol
Burnett Show (with Carol, Harvey, Tim, et al) another on M*A*S*H (with all the people you'd want to see at such an event), one on
Outer Limits, an evening with Garry Shandling...well, you get the idea. The lineup for the 2001 festival, however, is a major
disappointment, dealing mainly with current or recent shows. Among them are Gideon's Crossing, Gilmore Girls, Judging Amy, Boston Public,
Malcolm in the Middle and, for God knows what reason, Survivor. Some of these may turn out to be classics but they've yet to stand
that test o' time, and their inclusion feels more like promotion than any earned honor. The only real "old" shows being spotlighted are Dark
Shadows and a couple of specials.
One of the specials is Eric Idle's wonderful Beatles parody, All You Need is Cash, better known as The Rutles. Mr.
Idle, who is brilliant and very funny, is scheduled to appear (along with others who helped him make the film) so I bought tickets for that and also
for an evening with Michael Moore, about whom I have mixed more feelings. On the phone today, a lady selling tickets for the festival had a lot
of trouble figuring out how to enter my order in her computer. She volunteered that this was because, though tickets went on sale last
Saturday, they haven't had many orders yet. So perhaps the folks behind the Paley Fest will get the message for next year, but I'm not
The museum's website has the whole schedule but it's a bit hard to
find. Go there, click on the word, "exhibitions" at right. Then, when you get to the next screen, click on the words, "William S. Paley
Television Festival." And I hope you find more there to get excited about than I did.
February 6, 2001
FIXED MORE more typos and HTML errors, which is kinda like trying to sweep the beach clean of sand.
SINCE AROUND the time of the Louisiana Purchase, I've been collaborating with Sergio Aragonés on comic books of a very
silly nature, many of them issues of Groo the Wanderer. About 90% of these have featured superb coloring by the talented and brave Tom
Luth. Why "brave?" Because coloring Sergio's ornate, well-populated work is like trying to sweep the beach clean of sand or count all the
gardeners in L.A. named "Juan" or correct all the typos and HTML errors on this website. I once had to fill-in for Tom for about a third of an
issue, back when we did it all by hand and...well, if not for a drop-dead deadline, I'd still be at it. Just when you think you've tinted every
last figure on the page and you rinse your brush, you find eight more. Now that it's all being done on computer, Tom isn't rinsing brushes but
he's probably saving very little time since he is doing more precise, intricate coloring...and Sergio and I couldn't be happier with the results.
All of this is leading up to a link to his website, www.thomasluth.com, where
you can see samples of his coloring, as well as many other artistic endeavors, such as illustration and book design. Take a peek and see what
else Tom can do besides rendering our nonsense.
I'VE BEEN playing with a free software program that was written by a fan of newspaper strips. It's called WinComics and
the way it works is that you pick your favorite current strips from a list in its setup program...then you run the main program and it logs into
various syndicates' sites and downloads today's installments of those strips. This is a terrific idea and, if you can get it to run right,
better than the e-mail delivery that Universal Press has arranged for their strips. If you want to experiment with WinComics, you can download
it by clicking right here. (I have nothing to do with it, so I assume
no responsibility, nor can I help you with setting it up. You're on your own...)
February 4, 2001
JUST ADDED an early column of mine that was composed of letters I exchanged with the News Director of a local TV station.
You can read it by clicking here.
AND I ALSO added something else. I get a lot of inquiries from folks who want to know what an animation script looks
like. A year or three ago, I selected, almost at random, one of the eight zillion scripts I did for the CBS series, Garfield and Friends, and I've been e-mailing it to anyone who has asked. Well, I've now posted it here, along with a
page of notes and explanations. If you're among the interested, you can access it all by clicking here.
Note: The uploading of said script should not be taken as even the slightest nugget of encouragement for anyone to consider
seeking out a career as an animation writer. Due to the vagaries of network-buying, as well as the closure of dozens of dot-coms, the animation
business is presently in the midst of a staggering spell of unemployment. I know folks of awesome talent who have gone more than a year,
sans work, and it's hit the writing end as hard as anywhere else, if not harder. I'm posting the script for those who want to see how it's
done, not to inspire anyone to quit their day job and commence cobbling up spec-scripts. Please do not dismiss this paragraph lightly.
I HAVE ABOUT as little interest in football as you could have on a subject, but I sometimes like to follow ratings games.
It is only on that basis that I'm intrigued by what will happen with the new XFL venture. Eric Boehlert wrote a piece for Salon that argued that it can't possibly succeed...and argued it so thoroughly that I found myself thinking,
"Hmm...even NBC can't be that far wrong." (You can probably read his piece by clicking here.)
It's too early to tell if he'll be proven right. Overnights on the first broadcast were huge — as you can see by clicking
here — but they went steadily down as
the evening progressed...and, anyway, Mr. Boehlert forecast a strong start. He may yet turn out to have made one of the most on-target
predictions I've seen in the field of TV journalism and analysis. Or maybe just the opposite.
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME