NPR delves into Charles Addams today, interviewing author Linda H. Davis on her new bio of the delightfully dark cartoonist. Addams’ people obviously had an image of being sinister and macabre, but mostly they’re just misunderstood. Take the witchie on his Halloween 1986 New Yorker cover, considerate enough to share a sample of bubbling brew with her black kitty. I’m looking forward to reading Ms. Davis’ book. This review from the New York Observer was written by Addams’ fellow New Yorker cartoonist Edward Sorel (via Emdashes).
Also on NPR — Neal Gabler appeared on yesterday’s edition of Fresh Air with Terry Gross to talk about his new biography of Walt Disney. Now, normally I think Terry Gross is a lousy interviewer; her bizarre obsessions with spirituality have seriously crippled her shows in the last couple of years. But she did well on this one, and amazingly the woman doesn’t bring up religion once during the conversation. I liked how Gabler mentioned the suprisingly un-Disneylike messages in 1960’s Pollyanna starring Haley Mills. I saw that one recently and it really is a caustic film, taking on religion and small town hypocracy. Another bio to look out for.
Being something of a country music novice, I’m grateful to Derrick Bostrom for posting a series of well-chosen country collections on his weblog. The latest one is called Disco Goes the Country, covering the crossover period of the mid ’70s when Nashville was trading in authenticity for pop hooks. The songs aren’t terribly disco sounding, but they do have entertaining “kick” and they can even be touching at times. The collection might be the best one yet, in fact.
Actually the songs on that comp are strikingly similar to a new obsession of mine — watching repeats of Pop Goes the Country on the RFD-TV network. I vaguely remember this show when it was originally broadcast; now it’s a hoot watching gnomish Ralph Emery introducing all these sometimes great, sometimes creaky performers. One week they’d have Marty Robbins or Loretta Lynn, the next week they’d have Geri Reichel (fake Jan from The Brady Bunch Variety Hour) or some anonymous blue-jeaned belter that nobody’s ever heard of. I love the music and the tacky disco-like sets. Don’t forget that the show was produced by Showbiz Entertainment, a subsidiary of Holiday Inns, Inc.!
Disney history blog 2719 Hyperion is currently doing a series of posts on the 1939 New York Worlds Fair.
Were I sent back in time to the ’39 Fair, I would probably make a beeline for the Donut Pavilion, where fairgoers could eat a plate of donuts served by waitresses in donuty costumes. The restaurant was sponsored by Mayflower Donuts and Maxwell House Coffee; eBay has the menu up for auction. My mouth is watering just thinking of it.
Dusty Springfield: “Make the Man Love Me”
ABC-Dunhill recording session, 1974 | BUY
Doris Day: “Oo-Wee Baby”
Columbia Records UK single, 1964 | BUY
Gerry Goffin/Carole King may have been the most innovative and Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich were most attuned to teenaged trendiness, but it’s Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil who have proven to be the most durable of the Brill Building’s power songwriting couples. The duo have 40-plus years of huge hits to prove it, but here I’m sharing a couple of their more overlooked songs. Cher sung the winsome ballad “Make the Man Love Me” on her Dark Lady LP, but listeners would have to wait nearly 30 years for Dusty Springfield’s subtler version to surface (recorded for her stillborn ABC-Dunhill LP Longing). “Oo-Wee Baby” was more typical Mann-Weil, only instead of a faceless girl group we have a frisky-sounding Doris Day singing the praises of her imperfect guy (gee, I wish Doris recorded more of this kind of stuff). Barry and Cynthia’s official site has a lot more info on this incredible duo.
By the way, I will be retiring Gruesome Twosome after a year with this post. I might double-post album reviews here with my Rate Your Music account.
Muppet Central reviews Sesame Street Old School Volume 1, which makes me wanna rush out and buy it instead of waiting for the rental discs to arrive. The 3 DVD set contains the premiere episodes for each of the first five Sesame Street seasons (1969-74), along with various popular sketches and bits from that period. Apparently some of the episodes are not complete, probably due to music licensing issues, and there are no retrospective documentaries. That’s a bummer, but I’m sure “Pinball Number Count,” Kermit T. Frog’s reports, the klutzy baker, and orange Oscar the Grouch will make up for the losses.
Speaking of Sesame Street, PBS’s Independent Lens will be presenting The World According To Sesame Street this week. The program examines various S.S. productions throughout the world. Check out the photo tour of the Bangladesh version, Sisimpur, on that website — fascinating stuff!
Whenever I think about Doris Day, I just smile. So geniune and multitalented, but also projecting just enough artifice to make you question whether that genuineness is truly what it is (know what I mean?). That’s what came to mind for me while taking in The Doris Day Special, recently issued on DVD from MPI Home Video. This DVD presents a clear and lovely copy of Miss Day’s 1970 TV outing, The Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff Special, augmented with a load of interesting outtakes. Watching the DVD was fun, and strange. But mostly fun.
If anything, this show is a time capsule of the era’s proudly un-hip, grownups-only entertainment. The special presents an overly tanned and made up Day singing some of her earlier hits (“It’s Magic”, “Sentimental Journey”) alongside more contemporary fare like Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” She and a laconic Perry Como frolic on a giant set dressed like an outdoor park, at times joined by Rock Hudson or a phalanx of her beloved pet dogs (in fact, it’s the dogs’ unpredictability that provides the most enjoyment on the outtakes). There’s also a cool/kitschy filmed opening medley and fashion sequence to keep the eyeballs busy, but it’s clearly Miss Day’s show all the way. The world of 1970 may have been filled with war and political unrest, but you’d never know it watching Doris in her crisp orange knee-length dress with matching ribbon. One smile from her is an escape from the humdrum — then and now.