February 19, 2003 · 7:30 PM PST ·
WE HAVE A WINNER! Thanks to several folks — especially Tom Alger — we seem to have pieced together the answer
to the most pressing question in America today: Where the hell did that silly music video with Leonard Nimoy
first appear? Here's the answer...
Malibu U was a music series which ran from 7/21/67 to 9/1/67 on Friday nights on ABC. It was hosted by singer Rick Nelson
and featured Australian vocalist Robie Porter, but the main attraction was a group of beautiful bikini-clad ladies. They were officially called
the Bob Banas Dancers but were also known as "The Malibuettes." Various singers and celebs appeared as "guest professors" to deliver
"lectures," which meant singing their numbers, usually on the beach. The segments on the show were more or less in the form we now call music
Here, obtained by Mr. Alger, is a database listing for one episode in the UCLA film archive...
Malibu U. [1967-07-28] - A Robert E. Petersen production in
association with Teen-Age Fair, Inc. and ABC; executive producer, Gene McCabe; producer, Al Burton; director, Jack Shea; writers, Milt Larsen, Bob
Summary: Host Rick Nelson's singing guests are Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek, Bobby Rydell, the Buffalo
Springfield, Mrs. Miller and Englebert Humperdinck. Location sequences filmed at Griffith Park in Los Angeles and the harbor at Balboa,
Highlights: "Bilbo Baggins" — Leonard; "Volare," "Dansero" — Bobby; "Bluebird" — Buffalo
Springfield; "Let's Hang On" — Mrs. Miller; "Release Me" — Englebert; "Balboa's Wet Set" — dancers.
As you'll recall, we thought it was 1968-1969. But further investigation reveals that the various Nimoy-oriented websites do not
agree just when he recorded "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins," and Alger came across info that the man who is not Spock also performed it in '67 on
American Bandstand. Perhaps the single came out in '67 and the album came out in '68. Or perhaps the fan sites are just wrong.
(A few of them list Nimoy as guesting on Malibu U, but the date they all give was a Thursday.)
Turns out, my friend Sam Tomaino has a pretty decent memory. He recalled it being on a short-lived summer series that aired on
Friday nights, and he was correct. He thought it was NBC but said in his e-mail to me that it might have been ABC. And he was right about
Mrs. Miller being on the show, though she seems to have performed a different number than he recalled. I'll bet he was also correct that the
dancers did "Come On Down to My Boat" on the series, if not in that episode (as their number) then on another installment. That song was
recorded by those one-hit wonders, Every Mother's Son, and was on the charts in 1967.
One other note of trivia: One of the Malibuettes on Malibu U was Erin Gray, making her TV debut, years before she appeared on
Buck Rogers, Silver Spoons, and other shows. I'm afraid I can't tell if she's one of the ladies in the clip but perhaps someone else can
recognize her or not.
In any case, I think this the mystery is solved of where the musical number appeared. Now we just have to figure out
February 19, 2003 · 2:00 PM PST ·
WE'RE STILL WORKING on the Leonard Nimoy mystery. My e-mail buddy Sam Tomaino remembers seeing the thing when it first
aired — on a show, he says, that also featured the infamous Mrs. Miller singing "Lover's Concerto" and another segment where bikini-clad ladies
danced to the tune, "Come On Down to My Boat." He thinks the show was on NBC on a Friday night — possibly some short-lived summer
replacement series. If true, I can't figure out what it might have been. In the meantime, some sources say that Nimoy's record came out
in '68, not '69. That broadens our search but it's still too late for Where the Action Is. The hunt continues...
WHO'S OUT THERE fighting for the First Amendment these days? According to this article, many of the surprisingly-potent combatants are librarians.
STARTING THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, the always-generous folks at Disney will let you download a complete Mickey Mouse cartoon (an
early one) from their website. See how valuable it is to come to
February 19, 2003 · 1:00 AM PST ·
JOSEPH HELLER reportedly once said, "It's better to eat a large, mediocre meal than a small, good meal." And if he didn't
say that, he should have — especially if he ever ate at a Hometown Buffet.
I did, yesterday. For reasons too boring to waste bandwidth on, I found myself lunching at one of them. For 7 and a half
bucks, I had all I could eat of what would probably pass for adequate food in a high school cafeteria. And to be honest, I've had worst buffets
in Las Vegas. It was better than the Imperial Palace but not as good as Harrah's; kind of like the Excalibur but without the tasteful
Actually, what made my Hometown Buffet experience rather pleasant was not the food but one of the gents who busses tables and gets you
mustard when you need it. He was a young black guy with a shaved head and he was awfully funny. As people carrying dishes of fried
chicken and pizza walked past him on their way back to their tables, he would point as if they'd made a grievous error and say, "Hey, you need more
food on that plate." (I saw one man, almost apologetically, go back and get more mashed potatoes in response.) The fellow was telling
little old ladies they needed their parents there — that is, they looked too young to be admitted without parental supervision — and as
people exited, he'd yell after them, "You're not giving up now!? There's chocolate pudding! There's brownies!"
At one point, he spotted my dish of baked whitefish and rice and told me I needed more food on my plate. I told him, "Don't
worry. By the time I'm finished, this place will be bankrupt." With flawless comic timing, the guy did a perfect take and began running
around to the other service folks yelling, "We have to go look for work! We're going out of business!"
It might not sound like much here...but folks who went to that Hometown Buffet were just expecting a lot of heavily-breaded entrees;
they didn't figure on a floor show. If I owned a restaurant that served unspectacular meals, I'd try to find employees like that guy.
Because of him, everyone there had a pretty good time. In spite of the food.
I'VE RECEIVED a few theories about the origin of the Leonard Nimoy video but no final answer.
Whoever introduced the clip to the Internet apparently got it out of a BBC special on celebrity embarrassments, but we still don't know where
they got it. Some have guessed it was produced for an ABC series called Where the Action Is, which was on from June of '65 to March
of '67. It looks like the kind of thing that was done for that show but "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" wasn't released until 1969 — on an
album called "The Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy" and the accompanying single. Several folks who know more about this kind of thing than I do say
that based on Mr. Nimoy's hair, this must have been done either while he was still doing Star Trek or just after production ceased, because he
soon changed his "look." Star Trek ended in '69, about the time the record was coming out. So the mystery continues.
I'VE ALSO RECEIVED my fourth TiVo, which is the first of their "Series 2" models, incorporating a faster processor and new
features. I sold my first TiVo to a local friend and will soon be doing the same with my second. If you are a local friend of mine and
are TiVoless and interested, let me know. (I say "local" not to discriminate against non-Angelenos but because I don't want to deal with
shipping one of these things.)
February 18, 2003 · 1:00 AM PST ·
PROGRAMMING NOTES. Bill Maher's new HBO show starts this Friday night. The Game Show Network special on the guy who
beat Press Your Luck for over a hundred grand airs March 16.
IT'S TUESDAY. Go read Paul Krugman.
And let's look at how not everyone is viewing the Iraq issue the way you'd expect. Here's a column by a conservative who thinks Bush is wrong. And here's a column by a liberal who thinks Bush is right.
February 17, 2003 · 6:30 PM PST ·
IT'S NOT QUITE as splendid as the legendary William Shatner performance of "Rocket Man" at that award show, but Leonard Nimoy
did himself proud with a recording of "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins," which hauls Mr. Tolkien's characters into the world of 70's pop tunes.
Here's a link to a music
video of the song as Nimoy performed it
...on...uh, I don't know. This file has been ricocheting around the Internet for some time. It seems to be available on at
least three dozen websites, yet no one seems to know what TV show it's from. The ladies dancing with him do not seem to be The Golddiggers, as
some have guessed. They look more to me like the female members of the Doodletown Pipers...or perhaps it's from the ABC series, Music
Scene. That show was on in '69, the same year Nimoy's record was first released. (My other thought was Johnny Mann's Stand Up and
Cheer, but that was 1971-1973 and I don't recall it ever doing location shoots.) Does anyone know for sure?
February 17, 2003 · 1:30 PM PST ·
THE MAGAZINE Entertainment Weekly is now regularly covering the comic book scene. It's a nice gesture but I have to
wonder when I read this in an overview
of Daredevil material...
"Essential Daredevil Vol. 1" collects his first 25 issues in cheap black and white, all of them snappily written by Lee but with
distinctive art only thrice — No. 1, featuring Bill Everett's hard-boiled figurations, and Nos. 12 and 13, sinewy collaborations between Jack
Kirby and John Romita.
Wally Wood and Gene Colan didn't provide distinctive art? O-kaaaay...
February 17, 2003 · 1:30 AM PST ·
I CAN ABSOLUTELY understand how some Broadway buffs were unable to tolerate the new TV-Movie of The Music Man starring
Matthew Broderick as Professor Harold Hill. Robert Preston's mesmerizing performance was captured in a fine motion picture, and it can be tough
to wrap your brain around another interpretation. And though you want to be open to new interpretations, some versions are so embedded in our
souls that...well, I found myself physically unable to listen to the new version of My Fair Lady with arrangements that sounded quite unlike
the original. Better or worse, it makes no never mind; it's just that some things comfort with their familiarity, and even an improvement can be
jarring. Just because it's different. That isn't what went wrong here.
I've seen The Music Man many times on stage and long since stopped saying, "Well, he's no Robert Preston" about each new
Professor Hill. I figure, if that's going to be the criteria, we might as well stop doing this show altogether. But I've liked other
renditions and I was prepared to like Matthew Broderick, at least in a different way. I tried — but ultimately, he lacked the charismatic
charm and the devilish con-man twinkle that the part seems to demand. He didn't even seem to have much going on behind his eyes. I never
got the feeling that Harold Hill was up to anything beyond what came out of his mouth, or that he changed one bit when he decided to go straight.
Still, you have Broderick's likeability with that bulletproof script and those wonderful songs, many of them nicely staged. Then
add in the rest of the cast, especially Kristen Chenoweth, who played Marian the Librarian with a lot more ice and spunk than usual, and Molly
Shannon as the mayor's wife, and I didn't have such a bad time. If it does well and prompts more musicals on TV, it will have been well worth
doing. Maybe they can even do some where Matthew Broderick is a bit more appropriately cast — because he really is wonderful. Just
not in this.
February 16, 2003 · 6:00 PM PST ·
JERRY BECK is a smart guy but I didn't know he was this
smart. (Note: That link currently redirects to a rave review of my book, Mad Art. In a few days, that link will probably take you
to a review Jerry has written of something else. He may not be as smart about that. The guy's watched a lot of cartoons, and we all know
what that can do to your brain.)
February 16, 2003 · 1:30 AM PST ·
LATELY, my pick for the funniest/cleverest program on television would be The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. In terms
of sheer gutsy comedy, it makes Letterman, Leno and all the other late night guys look like Bob Hope performing in front of a president he just
played golf with. If you haven't watched it lately and you get Comedy Central, give it a peek. One enormous source of humor has merely
been to run clips of our president trying to explain something, and then cut to Stewart looking utterly stunned or aghast. (Those who wish to
convince me this is disrespectful of the presidency will have to show me proof they felt that way when TV comics were playing with that clip of
Clinton denying he'd had sex with "that woman.")
All of the correspondents on The Daily Show are very funny, especially Stephen Colbert and Lewis Black. The
latter may well be the best "new" stand-up comedian of the last dozen years. I laughed a lot at his recent commentary on protest
demonstrations. The Comedy Central website currently has it online but they make it beastly difficult to link directly to a clip. If you
have RealPlayer installed and if I've figured out how to do this correctly, this link should bring it up on your screen. If it
doesn't, go to the Comedy Central website, go to the page for The Daily Show,
select "Featured Videos," then look for Lewis Black. It's worth the scavenger hunt.
HERE'S AN INTERESTING nugget of TV history — a ticket to sit in the audience of the Steve Allen
Tonight Show. The year on this would be 1955 and the location is a building that's no longer at the northeast corner of Sunset and Vine in
Hollywood. It was an NBC studio building that had been built for radio and converted — not very well, some said — for
television. In the late fifties, NBC broke ground on the complex they now have in Burbank. For a time, they did shows from both locations
until they finally finished the new place in 1962.
ENLARGE THE ABOVE PIC
At left is an old postcard of the NBC building at Sunset and Vine. You can guess the age of this shot based on the cars passing
by. On the left, you can see just a smidgen of Wallach's Music City, which was the biggest record shop in Hollywood. Up the street, you
can see an ABC facility which later became TAV, the video studio that Merv Griffin (as mentioned here) later
owned. All of these are now gone. The NBC complex later became a fancy bank building with a large fountain out front.
In the seventies, Steve Allen was doing one of his many talk shows from the TAV building (I think it had another name then) and for one
stunt, Steve put on swim trunks, ran across the street and took a bath in the bank building's fountain, which they had graciously filled with suds
for the occasion. This just demonstrates how much talk shows have changed. Today, if you worked for Dave or Jay or even Jimmy Kimmel and
suggested they do something like that, you'd probably be fired on the spot. The bank building now at Sunset and Vine is reportedly about to be
replaced with something new. There is also talk that NBC may soon abandon Burbank for a new facility to be built elsewhere.
A couple of other observations about that ticket: Even though the show was live to the East Coast, they apparently weren't too worried
about filling the house. They didn't tell people to get there an hour early, as most shows do these days. They also weren't concerned
about kids in the audience as long as they were over six. I'm not sure why anyone would bring a ten-year-old to a TV show they'd probably never
seen, but it was permitted. Today, you have to be at least sixteen to see Jay, eighteen to see Dave,
and they tape in the late afternoon.
Also, note that the show was not called The Tonight Show. On the ticket, it's just Tonight, and Mr. Allen's name is
not part of the title. His successors all had their monikers appended to the name of the program but not Steverino.
BOB INGERSOLL is an attorney, a writer and a columnist for Comics Buyer's Guide. You can read some of his columns,
which deal with the law — as practiced and depicted in comic books —
And he has another, somewhat more fleeting vocation. He was a "Phone-A-Friend" on an episode of Who Wants To Be A
Millionaire? It was taped last October but it appears this coming week. (This is the syndicated version of the show, which runs at
different times on different channels in different cities.) Bob is aiding a friend of his named Tom Condosta, who was the on-camera
contestant. Tom uses one of his lifelines to phone Bob on the show which airs...
Well, we're not entirely certain when it airs. Either Tuesday or Wednesday. But one of those days, you'll get to hear
Ingersoll. I won't tell you whether he gets it right or not, but I think you can assume that Bob wouldn't be telling people about it if he'd
cost a friend a bundle.
THE INFAMOUS Sergio made a cameo appearance in yesterday's installment of the newspaper strip, Non-Sequitur. Here's what it looked like. (Thanks to Don Hilliard for the
February 15, 2003 · 10:30 AM PST ·
I DON'T KNOW why we need terrorists. We're doing a fine job terrorizing ourselves.
STUDENTS AT Lee College in Baytown, Texas recently set the world's record for gathering together people wearing Groucho
glasses. While I'm sure we can all agree this is a worthwhile and important activity, it had its negatives. One was the shocking
revelation that a lot of college students have no idea who Groucho Marx was. Read all about it.
February 14, 2003 · 7:00 PM PST ·
THREE DIFFERENT FRIENDS whose opinions I respect suggested I post, read or link to yesterday's remarks by Senator Robert Byrd
about the prospect for war. I don't have a load of respect for Senator Byrd, but that doesn't mean he's wrong about this. So I've decided
to read and link to what he said...
...and also to this bogus movie
poster, courtesy of your friends and mine at Mad Magazine.
February 14, 2003 · 12:30 AM PST ·
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY. And among its many joys is that I am no longer subjected to a humiliating ritual of elementary
school. It was that on this holiday, we all had to buy valentines for everyone in our class, even of the same sex. I guess it was
someone's solution to the problem of avoiding the "Charlie Brown" problem of a kid not getting any, or not getting as many as someone else...or
something. But a week before 2/14, the teacher would pass out a list of all the students to everyone, and we all had to go out and buy those
boxes of cheapo valentines (usually depicting cartoon characters) and address one to each of our classmates, including the ones whose guts we
hated. One year I remember, we had 36 students in my class, plus I needed one for the teacher and two for the teaching assistants. I
didn't need one for me, so that meant 38.
Unfortunately, the stores I went to that year didn't sell boxes of 38 or even 40. They all seemed to be multiples of 25 or 30,
which meant buying two boxes. The extras were handy, though. Not wishing to send another guy a card with the slightest romantic
suggestion, I had to reject a lot of them. If it said, "Will you be my valentine?", I could send it to a girl but not to another boy. It
was just too embarrassing. If I'd given Louis Farrell the card that said, "Be My Valentine, Cutie," I'd still be hearing gay jokes.
Most of the other guys managed to find (or make) cards that just said "Happy Valentine's Day" to give to others of like gender —
but somehow, even the year I bought an extra box, I didn't have enough non-sexual ones for the males in my class. I had to sit there and decide
which guy was going to get the one that said, "Let's Be Valentine Buddies." It went to the one I figured was least likely to use it against
me. The card makers seem to have gotten hip to this dilemma and most of those I now see in stores are about as non-romantic as they can get and
still pass the things off as Valentine's Day cards.
The teacher usually assigned a student to tally everyone's valentines and make sure no one got shorted. If you were short —
say, you didn't fill out one for dumb ol' Sidney Passey — you had to quickly hand-make one. One year, a student enrolled in our class on
2/13 and everyone had to whip up a card for this kid who was darn near a total stranger to us. I wrote on mine, "Happy Valentine's Day, Whoever
I'm glad I don't have to do that anymore. Now, I look back and marvel at how the school system managed to take a neat idea like
Valentine's Day, drain it of all its meaning and turn it into an ordeal. But then, they did that with just about everything.
PLUG: About once a week, someone writes to ask what program I use to do the graphics on this site. Actually, I use several
which are listed here, but my favorite — and the one in which I design all the logos and borders and
such — is Xara X, which is a vector drawing program that does all sorts of
neat things. Here's a banner ad for it...
The Xara folks make a number of great graphics programs, including one called Xara Webstyle that provides an ultra-simple way to generate logos, backgrounds, menus and other images to
jazz up your website. I used Webstyle to make the first version of this site, and liked it tremendously. So I've decided to plug them
here and, yes, this is another one of those deals where this site receives a commission on your purchases. But if you know me, you know I can't
be bought. Rented, maybe. Leased, definitely. But bought? Never.
February 13, 2003 · 4:30 PM PST ·
YESTERDAY, Phil Donahue aired an hour with Dennis Miller, primarily talking about going to war — a topic about which those
two men vehemently (but respectfully) disagree. Not that he'll lose a wink of sleep over this or even read it, but I have to say that my
opinion of Mr. Miller has fallen off somewhat since his 9/11 conversion to "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. There are good, rational reasons for the U.S.
going to war against Iraq and maybe a few other hellholes. I'm not sure I concur that the pluses outweigh the minuses, or that we're getting an
honest assessment of either, but I grudgingly buy the argument that certain warlike actions may be warranted if all else fails.
What scares me — and what seems to be the sole mindset behind Miller's rants — is this notion that we have to go to war
because we're the Good Guys, they're the Bad Guys, and it's time the Good Guys killed a large group of the Bad Guys and scared the crap out of the
rest of them. If we go to war, let it be because that's our best course of self-defense, not because someone's testosterone deficiency has them
jonesing to beat up on a little guy. (And, though this does not relate to Dennis Miller: ...not because someone thinks it'll be good for
business and/or their approval rating.)
As with many who feel as he does, Miller did not seem to want to address minor points having to do with things like killing innocent
civilians, spending trillions of dollars, encouraging reprisals or that old bugaboo of what we may do to the environment. He urged that we
frighten Korea by conducting a couple of well-publicized nuclear tests and, when Donahue asked what that could do to the environment, Dennis said,
"The caribou will have to wait," and Phil, being polite and pressed for time, didn't ask if nuclear testing could conceivably affect, say, human
beings. Or even make someone feel more pressured to nuke us first.
But then, I don't get that some of these folks remember that actions have consequences. At one point on the broadcast, Miller
made a reference to having sex with sheep, complete with the "f" word, and then remembering he was on live TV, he turned to Donahue and asked, "We're on a delay, right? They're
bleeping me, right?" They weren't, at least insofar as the East Coast was concerned. During the next commercial, someone informed Miller
that he'd just said what he'd said on live, non-HBO TV and when they came back from the break, he muttered a slight apology and told his host
that it was stupid not to have a tape delay on a show of that sort.
Now, I don't think saying that word on MSNBC is going to matter one bit in the world. It wouldn't even matter if it was
uttered on a show that someone besides me was watching. But Dennis Miller was live on Saturday Night Live. Dennis Miller was live
on Monday Night Football. Dennis Miller was even live on Dennis Miller Live. The man understands the concept of live
television and has usually appeared on it without a tape delay. He has also spent an awful lot of airtime blasting people who don't accept
personal responsibility for their actions. But apparently, it's the Donahue show's fault that he was heard saying something he
said but didn't
mean to have heard.
And it's also the first time I've ever seen a professional comedian complain about not being censored.
February 13, 2003 · 12:00 PM PST ·
MICHAEL KINSLEY explains about the current Congressional battle
over seating new judges.
TV LAND has been running a great series on Sunday nights — The 60 Minutes Interviews. It recycles old footage
(including some never before broadcast) of interviews done on 60 Minutes with famous folks in the teevee biz. This coming Sunday is
their chat with Johnny Carson.
February 13, 2003 · 1:30 AM PST ·
ONE OF THE "new generation" of artists in Mad Magazine is my old pal, Bill Wray. I worked with Bill when he was
just starting out and trying to draw like all the artists he admired. Most fledgling artists do that and a few enlightened ones have a moment
of revelation and begin to draw like themselves. Bill, happily, had one and blossomed into a unique and imaginative presence in the
cartoon/comic world...to the extent that there are probably now fledglings trying to draw like him. They can get a nice look at his
on his new website, www.bigblownbaby.com, named for one of his more innovative
comics. Or if you're anywhere near Dallas, he's having his first art show (along with Miles Thomson) from March 1 through April 5 at the
Forbidden Gallery there. If I were anywhere near Dallas next month, I'd
EFFECTIVE IN 60 DAYS, cell phones and pagers are banned in Broadway theaters. This article doesn't give too many details but I assume the fine is levied if they catch you
talking on one or if yours goes off. I'd be interested in knowing if this applies to silent pagers or the use of cell phones during
Like all of you, I've always been annoyed when some audience member's cell phone went off during a performance — and I was
especially mortified once when it was mine. Two years ago, while seeing Follies in New York, I dutifully turned off my phone before the
show started but apparently, I accidentally bumped its "on" button and turned it back on. At a key dramatic moment in the second act, it rang
— and I thought everyone for six rows around was going to drag me into the aisle and throttle me. Which would have been more than
I didn't answer it. Instead, I ripped the back off and yanked the battery out. Since then, if I have my cell phone with me
at a show, I always remove the battery. Better that than having someone in the audience remove part of my insides.
JUST WATCHED the new DVD of Top Secret!, a movie I (and most people) thought had a rather clumsy storyline and jokes of
widely-varying mirth. It was fascinating to listen to the audio commentary track and hear the film's producers and directors say essentially
the same thing. The tone is along the lines of, "Jeez, why did we do that?" After experiencing too many self-congratulatory
narratives on DVDs, it was somehow refreshing to hear a bunch of talented guys discussing how and why things didn't work, and without trashing their
co-workers or blaming the studio. Actually, a lot of the movie does work, though not as well as Airplane!, which was the previous motion
picture most of the same people.
The DVD is well-assembled, with the usual kinds of special features and such. There's a gallery of storyboard panels, many of
which (they don't point out) were drawn by the acclaimed cartoonist, Carol Lay. There's also an "Easter Egg" special feature that is most
welcome. One of the sillier scenes in the movie is one that runs backwards so that the dialogue sounds like the actors are all speaking
Swedish. If you know where to look, you can
access a copy of that scene played forward — i.e., the way it was filmed.
Here's a link if you want to
buy this movie from Amazon.Com. I suggest this not only because I enjoyed the film but because if you buy it through that link, I get
money. And, speaking of me getting money...
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME