Behold my dear, deceased, ferociously talented old friend Jan Leighton—a classically-trained actor who secured Guinness Book of World Records recognition for mastering more than 3,000 historically significant personae. These included George Patton, Fidel Castro and the Greek philosopher Plato…as well as Margaret Thatcher and nearly a dozen of America’s most iconic (or tic-ridden) presidents.
It’s a long tape. However, as it says at the beginning, it is the last, best demo reel for a genuinely skilled fellow who sharpened his bag of tricks again and again over the course of 60 years. I miss him every day. But watching this tape reminds me that more than 3,000 parts of him will never truly die.
Every day I commute three miles by jitney to a Blind Rehab facility on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. Invariably, I wear another man’s pajamas, issued to me by the nursing home that serves as my overnight domicile and semi-permanent address. If there’s good news here, it’s that I also get to wear an ultra-expensive pair of Oakley sunglasses (just like the ones Roger Daltrey used to sport in music magazines).
Given my new wardrobe, it would be easy for me to convince myself that my biggest disabilities are accidents of fashion. But, of course, my real disability is much much worse: I’m a totally blind man, approaching age 65, and I live inside an empty skull which is populated these days by random, uncatalogued sound effects for which I have no visual reference to provide context or meaning. My world is dark and noisy and—often— a baffling place where formerly-reliable senses either don’t work at all or provide me with only unreliable data regarding my environment.
That’s why I danced a jig (metaphorically) when I heard this song on the local Vend-O-Mat of Top 40 tunes and enduring Soft Rock. With their punchy percussion, lilting guitar and repetitive Ho-Hey mantra, these guys remind me of the creative goof I used to be back before I lost my eyes. And that’s particularly true ever since Mrs. Polly described their outfits to me—white T shirts, black suspenders, and pork-pie hats. The Lumineers are dressed for a long walk on the Boulevard Of Dreams, somewhere on the Left Bank of Wackiness.
God love the Lumineers for making complex music with simple tools. My heart leaps with joy when I hear them…and I hope all my ‘Roaster buddies will share the bon temps with me!
I knew from the get-go that it wasn’t James Earl Jones lending gravity and heft to Darth Vader’s Jedi armor back in 1979. The only question—which I never asked—was what extremely large and sturdy stunt double would allow himself to be swanned around on-camera for ten years without so much as a single shot of the actor’s actual face. (Anonymity is generally a useless P.R. tool.)
As it turns out, Vader (or at least his clanking physical presence) was portrayed by British weightlifter David Prowse, a robust bodybuilder who helped train Christopher Reeve:
He helped train Christopher Reeve for the role of Superman in the 1978 film and its sequels after lobbying for the part himself. In a television interview, he related how his response to being told “We’ve found our Superman” was “Thank you very much.” Then he was told that Reeve had been chosen and he was only to be a trainer.
as well as training Cary Elwes for The Princess Bride.
Little to my beknownst, I first encountered Prowse a few years earlier, when he played the nearly naked pleasure-boy Julian in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
It ain’t politics, and it ain’t funny, but here’s hoping I just cleared up the deepest mystery of your brain with Mr. Prowse’s own workaday website.
With the exception of Margaret Dumont in a white toga performing her plus-size version of the Rites of Spring, nothing makes Classical Occultism less appealing than Stevie Nicks levitating in a cloud of silken Underoos. Needless to say, I was never any kind of Fleetwood Mac fan until I discovered “Tusk” on the B side of a 45 RPM Top 40 single. Talk about relentless rhythm!
Think of this as today’s rock n’ roll sorbet. Cleanse your palate. Enjoy the interplay of exotic pop riffs, and don’t thank me just because the band isn’t dancing all over the YouTube video.
This probably ranks up there in things that had to be done eventually. Canadian space cadet Chris Hadfield, floating in a tin can, faaaar above the world, gives us his styling of Bowie’s 1969 megahit, backed by a fabulous invisible cheesy celestial rock orchestra.
This raises a few questions, like: What sort of payload snafu lets him cart a grand piano up there, but not a Stylophone? And is it an astronaut’s discipline that doesn’t allow him to break “the rules” and go thumb-over for the barre chords in the C-F-G-A guitar bridge, which would have totally nailed it? And would it have killed the budget to let the poor guy take along a guitar strap?
By the time I met Harlan Ellison in 1975, he had been a powerhouse of American science fiction and pop culture for about 15 years. Unfortunately, I met him on the day he was booked to make an SRO presentation to students at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. i had just picked the lock on a glass display case in the student union and was helping myself to autographed copies of Ellison’s publicity photo.
Suddenly, Ellison stuck a steel index finger into my 17th vertebra. “You’d better wait ‘til this guy is dead before you start pilfering his promotional totems.” Without turning to look behind me, I improv’d fastest, dumbest retort I could think of: “Why should I bother? As near as I can tell, this midget is no bigger than you are, Shrimpie!”
On that note, Ellison spun me around. “Do you know who I am?” he growled. “No,” I said, “but I’m pretty sure your owner is losing his or her mind right now. Come with me, and I’ll take you down to the Lost and Found.”
What can I say? I have a magic way when it comes to making first impressions.
Crackling with infectious energy, :Harlan Ellison: Dreams With Sharp Teeth” pays homage to the dark prince of American letters, Harlan Ellison. Master of his craft, Ellison has heroically produced over 75 books and more than 1,700 classics of fiction and non-fiction on one of his Olympia manual typewriters, including the single most popular Star Trek episode (“City on the Edge of Forever”) —from Trailer’s promo
Yes, indeedy. Floyd The Barber, Gomer Pyle, Deputy Dimwit And Baalok the drunken alien nemesis in a futuristic chaise-longue. Ron Howard’s slightly older brother Clint returns after nearly sixty years to reprise his tiny tippling tyrant in the Star Trek episode, “The Corbomite Maneuver.”
Priceless, endless, thoroughly no-strings-attached thanks to Betty Cracker for the much-needed ST inspiration. I hadn’t thought much about America’s first dusty Western in outer space in a very long time, but now I can’t escape the feeling that I’m vibrating on a Barcalounger filled with Tribbles!
While most of us were hoisting a cerveza to celebrate Cinco de Mayo [or Cinco de Mao, if you prefer], this weekend, the NRA was hosting its annual member shindig in Houston, TX. Because the NRA is all about selling guns, ammo, gun accessories, gun paraphernalia, gun books, gun art, gun everything the George R. Brown Convention Center was packed with the people who make and sell all of those things and the peaceful, law-abiding responsible citizens who buy them for peaceful, law-abiding, gun-loving fun, utility and sport.
By now, we’re all pretty familiar with the notion that there are two kinds of gun owners/users: good guys and bad guys. And, according to the NRA, there’s nothing much we can do about the bad guys except outnumber and outgun them . . . and keep our heads down and our kids inside when the firing commences.
The NRA doesn’t actually endorse shootouts in the streets of America’s towns and cities, they just expect them, and therefore they want all Americans to own the firepower necessary to stay alive in 21st century America. Children should have guns. Nuns should have guns. Hookers should definitely have guns—in fact, all God’s women should have guns. Nerdy guys, conspiracy theorists, neighbors, teachers, clergymen and pizza delivery guys should all have guns so that fewer of them die at the hands of “bad guys.” Even lying socialist Lie-bruls should have guns [and then maybe they’‘d wise up?]. Limiting access to guns won’t help because the bad guys will always be able to get them, therefore the good guys needs mo’ gunz!!
Because it seems inevitable that guns are in our future, in a big way, I’m concerned that perhaps the NRA bad guy vs. good guy profile of gun-owners is a little too simplistic and, perhaps, we need to expand it a bit to take in all possibilities. I’m proposing this breakdown: bad guys, good guys, freaking idiots.
I’d also like to propose that instead of expanded background checks, Congress should consider IQ and EQ (a test for emotional maturity) testing for gun permits. Now, I know that this will be an equally hard sell to the NRA because some percentage of gun manufacturers’ market share is clearly Freaking Idiots and, if my proposal were adopted, gun manufacturer profits could plummet. The upside would be that we wouldn’t have four-year-olds receiving rifles for their birthday, or folks firing off 8,000 rounds to get a stiffie on a Sunday, or people killing their own kids while: cleaning, sighting, pretending to be James Bond or practicing their quick draw.
Without my walking stick
I’d go insane
I can’t look my best I feel undressed
Without my cane
With two broken vertebrae, a dead sciatic nerve, and my maiden aunt Bernice’s choking fear of nightfall, I had enough walking canes, sword canes and decorative Civil War cudgels to equip the road company of Red Badge Of Courage. By and large, that all happened before Leon released Without My Walking Stick, a tune I grew to love like a rock n’ roll groupie.
Now that I am additionally tied to several different flavors of Blind Guy canes as tall and thin as a willow rod, this song is practically my marching theme.
One last thing: the actual provenance for “Without My Walking Stick” precedes Leon Redbone by at least forty or fifty years. Below the fold, you’ll find a 78 RPM version of the song recorded by Tommy Dorsey. Oh, and BTW, you should never forget that the tune was written by (*gasp!*) Irving Berlin!!!
When I was a kid, I collected Phil Ochs albums. Phil was a protest singer who never seemed quite certain whether the songs he sang were political or simply topical…but as this commenter notes, there was never any doubt in the listener’s mind:
Seasass 1 year ago
How about an update in light of recent events at Penn State:
“Oh, look into the shower, there’s a schoolboy being raped
I saw the old man dogging him, but now he has escaped
Guess I could have done more than call Dad and tell JoePa
But what do lowly grad assistants know about the law?
And I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody …”
In April, 1976, Ochs hanged himself after a long period of depression and creative exhaustion…so he “ain’t marchin’ any more,” but obviously his tunes are still strutting across the politcal frontier. Bravo, Phil!
Jacques Brel is well-known as a hellacool songwriter who redefined many genres of love songs in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.
Everyone who knows Brel has a favorite tune already. However, ‘70s legend Scott Walker may have claimed a new title with this version of “Mathilde”—a bipolar Apache dance of a love ballad that’s punctuated by impossibly complex instrumentation you couldn’t duplicate with a computer algorithm.
Take my word for it, gang—you have no choice but too enjoy this tune. Scott Walker was the greatest neglected talent of the last forty years. And now the movie, folks:
Forty years after the National Lampoon was a monthly addiction for snarkologists, Cheech Wizard remains an Amusement Destination for those of us who like our snark mixed with rare plant juices, stage magic and acute testicular swelling.
Even in clunky computer claymation, the Zydeco Hat is the Cultural King of my g-g-generation. DUCK, LIZARD!