March 15, 2003 · 4:30 PM PST ·
HBO FAMILY is running the Li'l Abner movie (the good one, the one based on the Broadway play) on Monday night and again
on March 27. I mention this because, since it's not out on DVD and the VHS tape is long out-o'-print, some of you might like to record
it. But I also mention it because it's an excuse to run some pictures of Julie Newmar, which always increases donations to this site, hint
hint. As you may know, we have articles posted about this movie and about the stage musical from whence it came. You can read them here and here. We are also glad that HBO Family is running it because it's the perfect
movie to introduce kids to the idea of musicals — hummable songs, colorful characters, energetic dances, a plot that even a resident of
Dogpatch could follow. Recently-announced plans to revive the show for Broadway seem to have evaporated. But one of these days, someone
will do it and it'll probably be a very big hit. Even if that version won't (sadly) have Julie Newmar.
March 15, 2003 · 1:30 AM PST ·
MY OCCASIONAL EMPLOYERS, Sid and Marty Krofft, have built some incredible things: Costumes, puppets, even an entire amusement
park. Every so often, they downsize their warehouse a bit and sell off a few items which are snatched up by folks who grew up on the likes of
H.R. Pufnstuf and Lidsville. One such auction is being held tomorrow, conducted by the Butterfields people. Here's a
direct link to the listings in case you want to bid on one of Hoodoo's old top hats...or just want to window-shop.
IT'S TOO BAD that on the entire Worldwide Web, you can't find a site devoted to the wearing of hats made out of meat. Oh,
wait. You can. Thank God.
March 14, 2003 · 11:30 AM PST ·
CHECK OUT this cartoon by Peter Bagge. It's all about
copyright and intellectual property. And it's truer than one might imagine.
March 14, 2003 · 1:00 AM PST ·
WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND two books about Gil Kane, both compiled by a perceptive gent named Daniel Herman. Gil Kane: The Art
of the Comics features history and analysis. Gil Kane: Art and Interviews features conversations that helped inform the first
book. And both feature a lot of wonderful artwork by one of the great comic book illustrators of all time. Note that I am recommending
both books. Like love and marriage, you can't have one without the other. (Well, you can. Dealers like Bud Plant will sell you either one or both. But you shouldn't get just one of them. Between the two
volumes, you get a good portrait of a fascinating artist and an erudite, wise gentleman.)
I DID a slight redesign of our new TV Tickets gallery that will allow it to expand. This
section is very much a work-in-progress. I've rewritten a number of the captions to add in more information or correct things that weren't
quite right. (Thanks to TV producer Joel Tator — a man I've never met but whose name I know well from so many end-credits — for
sending in some valuable corrections.) Many of you have also sent in scans of tickets that will be added when I get more time.
ALSO DID a slight update over on Sergio's website.
March 13, 2003 · 1:30 PM PST ·
HERE'S A BLIND ITEM from the highly-competitive world of TV talk shows. Let us imagine that a certain talk show is seeking
to promote an attention-getting feud with a rival talk show that has much higher ratings. They decide it might be a funny stunt to hijack some
or all of that other show's live audience. The idea is that they will send a bus over to the other show's studio, to where its audience members
line up to get in. The hijackers, either through fibs or bribes, will seek to get some of those folks to get on the bus and to go out and be
wined and dined or otherwise entertained, then brought to the studio of the lower-rated talk show to see it, instead. This will be humorous, the
producers think, and will also promote the notion that the home audience ought to forsake the higher-rated show and watch the lower-rated one, which
they otherwise don't seem to be doing.
But what happens is that a staff member at the lower-rated show tips off someone at the higher-rated show, which promptly changes the
location where its audience members line up. Instead of outside on the street, they are moved into the midway on the lot, past studio guards,
where the hijackers cannot get to them. The plot is foiled, but the lower-rated show isn't giving up.
Wouldn't it be interesting if that had actually happened the other night? And how come a TV talk show seems to have better
Homeland Security than Tom Ridge has been able to give this nation?
March 13, 2003 · 4:30 AM PST ·
FOR A FEW YEARS NOW, a group of filmmakers have been compiling a documentary on the life and art of the great fantasy
illustrator, Frank Frazetta. It's said to be almost finished, with screenings now being scheduled, including one on April 6 at the comic
convention at the Shrine Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles. In the meantime, you can view an online trailer for the film by clicking here. And what the hell am I doing updating my weblog at this ungodly
March 13, 2003 · 12:30 AM PST ·
LET'S GO TO the mailbag. "Waltstar" writes to ask...
The other night on his show, Conan O'Brien did a bit where he brought on an artist who does graphics for NBC. It was a fellow
named Pierre Bernard and I think he's been on the show before. It's been driving me crazy where I know that name from. I thought if
anyone would know, you would.
I do. Back around 1980, Pierre Bernard Jr. was a letterer for DC, Marvel, and other funnybook factories. He now does a lot
of the distinctive (and very striking) graphics for Late Night and Saturday Night Live, as well as other clients. So if you're a
comic book reader, you probably recall his credit from back then. Nice to see the guy doing well, as he seems to be quite creative.
March 12, 2003 · 4:30 PM PST ·
MY PAL Earl Kress (who's at Disneyland so often, he oughta be registered to vote there) read this earlier
item about the old guy who played Mickey Mouse at the Magic Kingdom and sent me this...
That gravelly voiced, old Mickey Mouse worked at the park for many, many years. I was told by an ex-character that he had been
hired by Walt and therefore was untouchable — so much so, that he was the only costume character, besides the "face" characters (those not
wearing giant heads like Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan), that was ever allowed to talk. Even though he sounded nothing like Mickey, he would
greet people with his gravelly voice, saying, "Hiya, kids! Hiya! Hiya!" I'm not sure how parents ever explained that voice.
Mickey Mouse hits puberty?
I wonder if the Disney folks ever experimented with or considered hiring folks who could do a decent Mickey impression to wear the
costume. It's not a difficult voice to do. Maybe they figured that since they wouldn't be able to have all the walkaround characters
talk, it was better not to have any do so. And why didn't they consider switching the gravelly-voiced guy into the Grumpy suit or
I think about this kind of thing. And it worries me that I do.
March 12, 2003 · 1:30 AM PST ·
IF YOU'RE STILL unsure of the arguments pro and con the impending war with Iraq, here are two pretty clear statements by two men
who are widely respected for their personal integrity. John
McCain tells us why the war is just and necessary. Jimmy
Carter tells us why it isn't. This is not to suggest either of them is completely right.
AS WE ALL KNOW, William Randolph Hearst once told one of his reporters, "You furnish the pictures, and I'll furnish the
war." Well, he apparently didn't say that. Spinsanity (one of the saner websites) debunks that story here.
AS WE ALL KNOW, George W. Bush once told an audience, "The war on terror involves Saddam Hussein, the history of Saddam Hussein
and his willingness to terrorize himself." Well, he apparently didn't mean that.
Spinsanity (still one of the saner websites) debunks
that story here.
TODAY, I RECEIVED scans of more than 75 old TV tickets from readers of this site. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I've posted a few more over in our new TV Tickets section and will be getting more up there in the weeks to come.
March 11, 2003 · 4:00 PM PST ·
YOU KNOW, just when Americans are nervous and worried that our elected leaders don't have a clue how to prevent the world from
erupting into nuclear holocaust, it's comforting to see someone in Congress come up with a mature, truly effective way to deal with a tense
diplomatic situation. And if we really want to punish the French for disagreeing with George Bush, we could make more jokes about them not
bathing, and maybe even throw up an embargo on Jerry Lewis movies. That'll show 'em.
March 11, 2003 · 11:15 AM PST ·
JIM KORKIS sends the following to add to his earlier comments about the Mickey Mouse costume at Disneyland. It's long, but
I think it's worth the space...
I checked my notes at the office this morning and here is a brief background on Disney costume characters. I was wrong about
Mickey's puffy shoes. They came in 1963 not 1968 but up until that time, he was in just regular-sized black shoes.
In 1955, Mickey became the official host at Disneyland but since Walt had financial challenges, he couldn't afford to build
character costumes. He borrowed them from John Harris's Ice Capades which was then touring with a segment of "Peter Pan." (Ice Capades
had featured a Disney segment since 1948 with "Snow White.") That's why the costumes look so horrendous. They were made for ice skating
so needed to be light and have a lot of vision.
In 1961, Animator Bill Justice (who did lots of animation on Donald Duck and Chip 'n' Dale) was brought in to design the costuming
and make them more in proportion and to look more like the animated characters. Bill did the parade costume designs for characters like the
marching soldiers from Babes in Toyland and the reindeer with the tongues hanging out as well as many others from 1961-1979. Bill
designed 130 character costumes over the years.
Bill designed the first good Donald costume. He found a guy who was 4'6" and photographed him from all angles, blew up photos
to full size, put tracing paper over the photos and designed the Donald Duck costume. The guy saw all the work involved and wanted $200 each
time he put costume on, so they got someone else. That's one of the reasons characters are now designated by height rather than by a particular
The early sixties showed a brief revision of some costumes for characters like Mickey who became shorter, fatter and with a
tremendously oversized head. That lasted less than a year and settled into the "look" we know today, although for a while, Mickey wore a top
hat and a huge bow tie ribbon around his neck and later just a huge bow tie to again try and play with the concept of size. Mickey got the
puffy shoes in 1963 and Minnie got a satin dress in 1973. For the 50th anniversary in 1978, Minnie got the polka dot dress.
Over the years, many experiments were done with the character costumes. Disney briefly experimented with air conditioning on
advice from the Kennedy Space Center but it added weight and couldn't be hidden in the odd shape and design of most characters. They
experimented with tape players inside the costumes — Br'er Bear singing "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah," Mickey with approximately six phrases — "How
are you?" and "What's your name?" for instance. But characters have to be international and the limit of phrases also limited
interaction. In 1996, they experimented with new tiny video cameras as small as a ball point pen. The cast member wore glasses to show
the camera's view on the lens.
Abby Disney, granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, once told me this story about an experience she had as a child at Disneyland:
"Just outside the employee's parking lot, there was a little cafeteria for the employees. I looked over and saw Mickey having a cup of coffee
with Snow White. His head was on the table and he was smoking a big cigar. He was very short and old and had this gravelly deep
voice. He came over to my grandmother and gave her a big hug. "Edna! Edna! Glad to see ya!" That's how I remember
Mickey Mouse. He's emblazoned on my brain that way."
Great story and info, Jim. There's probably a whole book to be written about those costumes. The cast member mentioned in
this column here and the others I've encountered all have had incredible tales to tell, plus I don't think many
people know about the programs where Disney exec-types dress in the costumes and wander the park for a little while on the theory it will give them
some new understanding of what Disney is all about. Someone will do that book.
JUST MADE another change over on the first TV Tickets page to note something Dave Mackey pointed
out to me. On the ticket for Mr. Belvedere, the name of star Bob Uecker is misspelled. Oh, well. At least it wasn't his
March 11, 2003 · 1:00 AM PST ·
IN 1984, an unemployed air conditioning mechanic and ice cream truck driver named Michael Larsen won a staggering amount of cash
on the CBS daytime game show, Press Your Luck. But it wasn't luck: He'd figured out a way to beat the show's high-tech game board.
Ordinarily, a single game of PYL was completed in enough time to air one per half-hour and whoever won went home with (usually) cash and
prizes in the mid-to-high four figures.
Not so with Mr. Larsen. He racked up more than a hundred grand, and his game ran so long that the producers had to figure out how
to break it up into two half-hours. (Larsen did his voodoo during the show's final round, and the show's rules had not allowed for commercial
breaks during a round because no one ever expected it to be necessary. The producer-director, Bill Carruthers, hastily rigged up freeze-frames
and had host Peter Tomarken tape some explanations and introductions.) CBS was embarrassed by the whole incident and tried to downplay the
My tapes of the Larsen episodes have long been a "video fave" of visitors, most of whom find it amazing and real in a way that no
so-called "reality show" ever seems to be. This Sunday and Monday, Game Show Network is airing those two episodes as part of a two-hour
documentary that includes interviews with folks who worked on the show. (Larsen passed away in 1999. Bill Carruthers, sadly, passed away
a week ago, but had been interviewed for the special before that happened.) Game Show Network is hyping it as a great "scandal" — which
it really isn't — but it should still be worth watching.
However, I have a suggestion! If you aren't familiar with the way Press Your Luck is played, it will all have less meaning
for you. The game is a bit complicated and I think you need to see a couple of "normal" games before you can fully appreciate the magic of this
abnormal one. Game Show Network runs an old episode every morning, seven days a week. It's on at 8:30 AM on my satellite dish but it may
be different on your set. If you're going to tune in and see the special — Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal — on
Sunday or Monday night, I suggest you first watch one or two where the contestants don't break the bank.
Bill Carruthers, by the way, was a very important person in television history. He directed TV shows for the likes of Steve Allen
and Ernie Kovacs, helmed the Emmy Awards for 14 years, directed events like the famous Frank Sinatra prime-time concert, and even aided
presidents. A staunch Republican, he directed TV spots and consulted with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and George Bush, and
declined offers from several of them to work in the White House. Even more important than that, he was Soupy Sales's first director. The
one time I met Mr. Carruthers, we talked about Michael Larsen and about Soupy...and didn't breathe a word about those other, relatively unimportant
I JUST ADDED another batch of old TV tickets to our new section. Some of them were added in
the middle so if you already went through the pages there, you may want to make another pass. But that's okay because I also expanded and
corrected some of the text, as well. Several folks have written to promise me scans of TV tickets in their possession, and that's great.
Whatever you have, I'll probably want.
GOOD ARTICLE over in the L.A. Times about the way situation comedies have changed since "the old days." Here's the
link and you have Vince Waldron to thank for it. So
go visit his website about great situation comedies.
March 10, 2003 · 1:45 AM PST ·
IF YOU missed the first Clinton/Dole debate on 60 Minutes, you can see it online by clicking here. If that link doesn't work, go
to the CBS news website, look for the 60 Minutes page and you oughta find it. But
don't spend a lot of time on this. I usually find both men to be interesting speakers, and you'd figure they could offer some viewpoints and
insights we don't hear from everyone else. But they came across as stilted and dull, and had nothing new to offer. Maybe it was opening
March 10, 2003 · 1:00 AM PST ·
ONE NOTE about What's My Line? and the death of Fred Allen. This one comes from Elie Harriett, former music
teacher, current jazz aficionado, and lifelong Groo fan. (Well, two out of three and all that...) Elie is writing about the
episode which aired one day after Mr. Allen passed away while not walking a dog...
The last guest of the evening was a very young Toshiko Akiyoshi: one of the most celebrated female jazz composers in the past
forty years. She and her husband: Tonight Show Band's (Doc Severinsen's era) tenor saxophonist Lew Tabackin formed a jazz group in the
1970's which gained worldwide recognition for Ms. Akiyoshi for her style of merging traditional Japanese musical ideas with modern American
jazz. She has numerous compositions and arrangements to her name, several albums have been released with her band, and there are a couple of
solo piano albums out. If I am not mistaken, within the past couple years she also received a major award by the City of New York for improving
the general quality of life for New Yorkers with her music (sorry, the name of the award escapes me at the moment).
I especially enjoyed watching her on the show sign her name in Japanese and see a shyness about her that inevitably went away over
the years though constant performance.
I did a search and found this bio of her, which says
she received New York City's Liberty Award. I'm not sure what that is but she sure has come a long way from being the "extra" What's My
Line? contestant — the one who only gets on if the show's running short. Thanks, Elie.
March 9, 2003 · 8:00 PM PST ·
IN A probably-futile attempt to organize my e-mail and cut down on Spam, I have changed my e-mail address. The new
one is located here and, as you'll see, I am instituting a new policy: Anything you send to that address is subject
to being quoted on this site unless you indicate otherwise. Lots of you send me stuff that's well worth quoting and, this way, I don't have to
ask and wait for your reply.
Please send all e-mail that relates to this site and its contents to that address. Friends who are continuing personal
correspondence can use the old address. They both go to me but via slightly different routes that will enable me to filter out some of those
e-mails that ask me if I want to borrow money, enlarge or shrink any part of my body, marry a Russian woman, help a Nigerian get his family's money
to the U.S., or see hot pix of teenage girls performing unspeakable acts. You notice nobody ever spams you to offer anything that doesn't
presume you're broke, horny or physically unattractive?
Bonus thought: How long will it be before some enterprising soul takes the scam where they tell you they're trying to get millions of
dollars out of Nigeria, and converts it to some relative of Saddam Hussein trying to smuggle his wealth out of Iraq?
March 9, 2003 · 12:00 PM PST ·
MORE ON THAT DISNEY PHOTO. My longtime pal Jim Korkis, who works as an instructor down at Walt Disney World, informs me
that the picture posted earlier was the last "official" photo of Walt taken before his death. This, Jim says, is why it's so prominently
displayed down in the "One Man's Dream" attraction down in his neck of the woods at Disney/MGM Studios. He further notes that in the pic,
Mickey has four fingers and a thumb — the style of glove he wore back then. The Mouse also wore regular-size black shoes back then, the
big yellow ones coming along later, closer to the character's 40th birthday. Thanks, Jim.
TERRY JONES of Monty Python fame keeps writing rather funny political commentaries for the The Observer. Here's his latest.
A MAN was convicted of first-degree murder. A considerable amount of new evidence shows that several of the witnesses
against him lied due to the prosecution coaching or paying them to do so. Some people still want to execute the man. This kind of thing is happening way too often for it not to rebound
against the Death Penalty. Matter of fact, I think people who support the State's supposed right to terminate lives should be lobbying the
hardest to eliminate these apparent miscarriages. For some reason though, a lot of them treat evidence of an unjust conviction as some sort of
bothersome technicality that shouldn't get in the way of a good execution.
THE EPISODE of What's My Line? with Fred Allen's last appearance did indeed air the other morning — or at least,
most of it aired. As Len Wein pointed out to me, the print Game Show Network ran was devoid of its Mystery Guest spot and padded out with
around seven thousand commercials. This kind of thing occasionally happens on their Black & White Overnight shows, as some of the
old kinescopes are incomplete. In this case, the Mystery Guest was Dinah Shore and we don't know what became of that footage.
Meanwhile, the final word (I assume) on the matter of Fred Allen not having a dog was sent to me by "Booksteve." He writes...
Not to stretch this out even further but, according to Robert Taylor's 1989 Fred Allen bio, Broadway columnist Leonard Lyons was one
of the folks who happened on Allen after his attack and made the assumption (apparently in his column) that Fred had been walking a dog. The
book points out that this was erroneously reported as fact ever after by researchers who didn't realize Fred Allen's dislike of the canine species
and presumed Lyons knew what he was talking about. Apparently Gil Fates was citing Lyons or one of these other sources.
Leonard Lyons had a pretty bad track record when it came to knowing what he was talking about, as did most of the Broadway columnists
of the time. His column was called "The Lyons Den" but many referred to it as "The Liar's Den." In any case, there's the original source
of my erroneous impression, and we can now move on to less important topics — like war in Iraq, war in Korea, Michael Jackson's voodoo
March 9, 2003 · 1:30 AM PST ·
ENLARGE THIS PHOTO
THAT DISNEY CHECK I posted here brought a lot of e-mail about Walt, so I thought I'd post my
favorite photo of the man. I never met Mr. Disney but over the years, I had the pleasure to hear him discussed by many close associates,
including Floyd Gottfredson (who drew the Mickey Mouse newspaper strip for several dozen years) and Al Levitt (a blacklisted writer who wrote
screenplays for Disney under a pen name). All spoke warmly of Walt, and described a man quite unlike the reactionary, mercenary executive that
has sometimes been described, usually by folks with little or no first-hand intimacy. I have therefore never really believed the negative
portraits. I think they have more to do with some folks' emotional problems in dealing with "father figures," and perhaps with some of the
company's business practices, especially post-Walt.
Someone wrote me to ask if the story was true about Disney wearing a conspicuous Goldwater button while receiving the Medal of Freedom
from then-President Lyndon Johnson. The main Internet debunker of urban legends says it's not so, and I note that at the time of the ceremony, Walt was employing Al Levitt to write
films like The Misadventures of Merlin Jones and The Monkey's Uncle. Insulting the President that way doesn't seem likely for a
man who would concurrently employ a writer who'd been accused of being a Communist. There are a lot of stories about Mr. Disney that I suspect
are not exactly true. He wasn't frozen, he could draw (at least a little), he didn't pre-film lectures to his staff to be
shown at five-year intervals after his death, etc.
Like so many things that have borne the Disney name, Walt was larger than life, and a good subject for fantasy and legend. He was
also a mass of contradictions: An artist who largely gave up drawing; a businessman who did some pretty uncommercial things; an adult who not only
indulged his inner child but built the kid an 85-acre amusement park. Fifteen months ago, I sat in an
audience full-to-overflowing of grown-ups who felt a professional and personal connection with a man most of them had never met, almost begging for
insights from those who had. I suspect that long after Mickey and Donald have faded from memory, the world will still remember Walt. And
they'll still be making up stories about him.
SPEAKING OF Floyd Gottfredson, as I was just a minute ago, here's a link to a tribute site where you can read some fine articles and see many samples of his work.
WANT TO learn all about your neighborhood? You can find out all sorts of data, courtesy of the 2000 census, by clicking here and entering your address.
HERE'S ANOTHER PLUG for my new book. Please forgive these. They're our entire advertising campaign.
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME