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Category Archives: Kitsch

Ethel Smith’s Busy Fingers

Enjoy Ethel Smith performing her signature song “Tico Tico” in the Esther Williams musical Bathing Beauty (taken off an old VHS tape, apparently). I love Ethel Smith. There’s something about the combo of her hyperactive hands and the cheesy “roller rink” sounds emanating from her Hammond organ that is so weirdly compelling. I couldn’t locate any video of her doing “Blame It on the Samba” in the 1948 Disney film Melody Time, a proto-psychedelic whirl of live action and animation. Trust me, it’s wild. More on Ms. Smith, who died in 1996, can be found in this Cool & Strange Music Magazine profile.

Doo What?

The Washington Post has a small article on the beachside ’50s-’60s motel revival in the Wildwoods section of New Jersey. The locals call this architectural style “Doo Wop,” which bugs me since Doo Wop is a musical style and I always thought “Googie” is the accepted term for that kinda stuff. The Wikipedia entry for Googie lists Doo Wop as another term for it, though, so maybe it’s correct. At least they’re preserving this stuff nicely — check the Doo Wop Preservation League Gallery.

Getting Gay with Kids Is Here

Another embedded video to share because I’m too lazy to write anything substantial, I know, but this one’s a real kitschy gem. Back in 1986, NBC celebrated its 60th anniversary with an all-star special which somehow escaped my notice back then. The clip below showcases Nell Carter, Bea Arthur and others (Punky Brewster!) singing “Family” from Dreamgirls. Now, read that last sentence again and tell me how terrifically gay that sounds. Then watch the clip and mourn a little that today’s TV networks would never in a million years do these glorious displays of outright earnestness. “We are a family, like a giant tree.” Yeah, right, until your series gets cancelled, bucko.

Cheap Thrill: Joan Crawford on The Sixth Sense

Here at Chez Scrubbles we’ve been getting a few jollies from a new channel that popped up on our DirecTV lineup earlier this year — Chiller. Chiller broadcasts lots of heavily edited ’80s vintage fright flicks, but constant repeats of Friday the 13th: The Series, Tales from the Crypt and shows of that ilk form the bread and butter of its programming. My favorites are the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Night Gallery, a show that I haven’t seen in ages. I didn’t realize until now that the Night Gallery repeats also include the full run of The Sixth Sense, a short lived paranormal series hosted by blow-dried future talk show host Gary Collins.

Joan Crawford, 1972Which brings me to the episode we saw last night — Dear Joan: We’re Going to Scare You To Death. This one was originally broadcast on September 30, 1972 and wound up providing the final onscreen role for Joan Crawford. In it, she plays a lady who is haunted by images of her daughter’s drowning death. She gets lost and ends up stranded in a house run by Mansonesque hippies who want to use her as a guinea pig for a fatal psychic experiment! Poor Joan spends the whole time trying to escape her captors and having asthma attacks, tentatively breathing from an inhaler as if using a Binaca breath freshener (maybe she didn’t want to smear her lipstick or something). As if that weren’t enough, the whole thing has that migraine-inducing early ’70s look — lots of polyester ensembles, foo-foo furniture and grossly mismatched colors. Joan is a big hoot throughout, but actually she delivers a pretty good performance. There’s also the hilarious coda in which Miss Crawford, out of character, discusses with Gary Collins her own experience with psychic powers. I’m sure other Sixth Sense episodes don’t have the same impact, but what a doozy this one was. Watch out for it!

Mold-y Oldies

plastic radioNicely photographed vintage plastic items from the collection of Brazilian designer and flickr user Gerson Lessa. Gotta show this to the s.o., curator of PlasticLiving.com. If it was poured into a mold, he loves it.

Via the newly WordPressed Robot Action Boy.

Bollywood by Ear

Bollywood CD coverSwapatorium shares a few nuggets from Musical Highlights from R.K. Films, an LP which appears to be an early compilation of Indian film music for the English-speaking audience. Coincidentally, I was in the mood for some cool Bollywood music this month, so I used some of my eMusic credits to download 2005’s Bollywood: An Anthology of Songs from Popular Indian Cinema comp. I just sampled the first disc of this double-disc set, which covers the years 1949-1977. Although four tracks overlap with the Rough Guide to Bollywood CD I already had, it’s a nicely kitschy and diverse set with plenty of vocals from the ageless and legendary Asha Bhosle. My all time fave song of that sort still has to be Ms. Bhosle’s “Dum Maro Dum” from 1971’s Haré Rama Haré Krishna. The hugely popular film served as Bollywood’s comment on the shallowness of the Western hippie movement, and that tune came as wild and wooly as it got. The sheer number of movies/soundtracks that Bollywood churns out is mind-boggling (eMusic lists an astonishing 4,020 albums under that genre), but those two comps serve as good introductions for the adventurous Western listener.

Bonus goodie: “Dum Maro Dum” on YouTube. Dig it.