Friday, May 29, 2009

By popular demand - The Defenders!

I posted this about 2 weeks ago, since then it's become even more timely. Please share it, post it, repost it, spread it around far and wide. As one of the producers, I'm glad that this is catching on, but I am also sad that it had to be made in the first place. The message is clear and is needed to be heard now more than ever. Thanks!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ann Magnuson: Back Home Again

This is where I'll be Saturday night...
A Surreal Romp through the Hills and Hollers of 'Almost Heaven' West Virginia

The Cavern Club Theater in Los Angeles is proud to host a workshop production of "Back Home Again (Dreaming of Charleston)", a new one-woman performance piece by writer, performer, Silver Lake resident and West Virginia native Ann Magnuson.

The show is a loving (if often twisted) reminiscence of growing up in WV with all of its hopes, dreams, good times, sad times and crazy times as well as notes from the long and winding road that took her from Charleston to London, New York, Los Angeles and nearly every continent in the world, always to return 'back home'.

"I have to return to West Virginia at least once every year," Ann has said. "Not only does it give me much needed perspective on this myopic business we call Show, it's a beautiful and often bizarre place that yields a treasure trove of material. And I'm not talking about the hillbilly stereotypes. There is much more to the place; something so unique, strange and, yes, even mystical about them thar hills and hollers that keeps me in its thrall. Like the mythical Brigadoon, Charleston is nestled in a difficult-to-reach valley and exists in its own special world with a colorful cast of characters who feel that they can never leave. Oxycontin abuse and mountaintop removal notwithstanding, "Almost Heaven" is often just that. It is one of the most beautiful states in the nation, yet it can also produce nightmares. Those two states of mind weave themselves into one doozey of a double helix and it's that particular wild 'n wonderful dream state that this mountain mama aims to explore on stage!"

In addition to those dreams, the show will include original songs (including a few Bongwater classics), poetic reveries, comedic monologues and music referencing everything from Disney to Debussy to The Moody Blues to Mae West. To enhance your down home psychedelic experience, Los Angeles- based musician Alexander Rannie will provide a suitable soundtrack with his heavenly harp.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Take the Good, Take The Bad

So today I found out that the California Supreme Court has decided that my gay marriage is still legal - only because I got married BEFORE a slim majority of voters decided to vote away the rights of others. Meanwhile, dear friends of mine who were married AFTER election day are instantly divorced. Is this America? I've said this before...human rights should not be left up to a popular vote. My right to marry is not a singing contest or a reality show. Unfortunately the only way to overturn Prop 8 now is another damn ballot measure. Just imagine if all the money that has gone into both sides of this debate was used to help sick or poor people??? It just makes me sick that people who call themselves Christian would rather prevent two people who love each from marrying than feed and clothe people in need. Really, what would Jesus do?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wayne Allwine 1947-2009

The voice of Mickey Mouse has passed away. Wayne Allwine was a very sweet man. I had the pleasure of working on a few projects with him and his lovely wife Russi. They were adorable together. I will forever treasure my memories of being in their presence.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Return of THE DOLLAR TREE Double Feature

From September 2007.On a visit to the local Dollar Tree Store, I found an entire endcap of TWO FOR A DOLLAR dvds. After digging through hundreds, I actually found only two worth buying...and reviewing. Ladies and gentlemen I bring you The Dollar Tree Double Feature.

First up...EVEL KNIEVEL! Ever wonder how (the late) motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel got his start? Well director Marvin J. Chomsky attempted to tell us all about it in this 1971 biopic which combines unintentional laughs as George Hamilton (looking a lot like Count Chocula) wears the helmet and real chills with clips of actual stunts (most of which end up with Knievel in the hospital). The film traces real events from Evel's life, from his early years as troubled young man to his success as the man with more broken bones in his body than anyone else.

There's plenty of white trash antics as we flashback to Evel's roots, and his career as a unsuccessful bank robber. At times I felt like I was watching an episode of MY NAME IS EVEL. The best scene involves young Evel busting into the all-girls home where his lady Linda lives. The den mother (let's call her Mrs. Garrett) seems more concerned that "there's a man in the house" than the fact that he's driving his cycle up and down the staircase and hallways looking for his gal. Another highlight is the decor of the apartment that Evel shares with his lady: one wall was black, one wall a brilliant blue and the third wall: wood paneling. The sofa? yellow leather! I kid you not. Just for that set decoration alone, this one gets 8 out of 10 "Huhs?". Also - there's a terrible theme song that we are treated to at least three times throughout the 90 minutes.

Our second feature has the unfortunate title IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME. Which of course, prompts one to ask "What time was that?". John Trent directed this 1976 Canadian romp which features John Candy (in his first film role) prominently displayed on the cover - despite him being in only two or three scenes.

The plot goes something like this: Anthony Newley (Joan Collin's real-life ex) plays a washed up writer is still shagging his ex-wife money-hungry Stefanie Powers, who is unhappily remarried to a wealthy construction contractor, who's sole aim seems to be to tear down her mother's house! Are you following this? Georgia then decides to support a candidate for mayor (Llyod Bochner, who married Collins on DYNASTY) by screwing him. Newley pulls a assortment of stunts in order to attract Stefanie's attention. Somewhere along the way, there's a crazy kidnapping scam, and two dopey cops (one played by Candy) show up to save the day. There's a madcap finale involving cops dressed as garbage men. Oh boy! Issac Hayes appears as Newley's artist friend and Yvonne DeCarlo (aka Lily Munster) has a few scenes as Stef's mother.

This is the kind of wild film farces that Americans and Brits made in the 1960s - it took our friends up north a bit longer to catch on. The tiresome slapstick is a bit much to take at times, as is seeing Newley with his shirt off. This one rates only about 5 out of 10 "Huhs?" - meaning it's bad, but not worth your time and effort to watch it. Even though it might seem like a good idea at the time...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Defenders

Here's a little project that I helped produce in response to California's Prop 8 passage which may have made my legal marriage invalid. (It's now up to the court to decide if the ban effects marriages performed before the vote). Could you believe that in 21st Century America people could vote to actually TAKE AWAY the rights of other people? It boggles the mind.

Friday, May 15, 2009

All About Rhoda

The first season of RHODA, the first and best spin-off of the MARY TYLER MOORE show recently came out on dvd. Despite that many of the episodes are the edited syndicated versions and not the uncut network originals, it's really good to see our old friend Rho again.The character of Rhoda Morgenstern first appeared in 1970 as Mary Richards' frumpy and sharp-tongued upstairs neighbor. Since saying to Mary, "Hello, get outta my apartment", Valerie Harper's portrayal has always been one of our favorite TV neighbors. RHODA begins with our heroine returning home to New York after living several years in Minneapolis (where it's cold and she figured she'd keep better).  By the time Rho moved back home, she had lost weight and now dressed in designer duds. The brilliant Nancy Walker and Harold Gould recreated their MARY TYLER MOORE guest roles of Ida and Martin Morgenstern, joining newcomer Julie Kavner as Rhoda's younger, frumpier sister Brenda, a bank teller. (Ignoring Rhoda's other sister Debbie - who got married in Episode 75 of MARY TYLER MOORE - which also featured Bret Somers as Rhoda's Aunt Rose).
Ida and Martin were typical Jewish parents. Ida was outrageous, overbearing and manipulative – and she covered her furniture in plastic! And martin was Rhoda's sweet, dutiful father.
In the very first episode of RHODA, we meet Joe Gerard (the sexy, swaggering David Groh), who seven episodes later would be her husband! The classic hour-long episode "Rhoda's Wedding" airined on October 28, 1974 and featured guest turns by the gang from Minneapolis.
In addition to Mary, Lou Grant (Edward Asner), Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel), and Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman) all attended the wedding - winning huge ratings in the process.
After the wedding, Rhoda returned to her career as a freelance window dresser by starting her own business called "Windows by Rhoda" with her old high school friend Myrna Morgenstein (the underrated Barbara Sharma).
Like many 1970s marriages, Joe's and Rhoda's did not last, nor did her career as a window dresser. By season 4, Rhoda was divorced and working at a costume company. Perhaps in an attempt to make RHODA different than MARY TYLER MOORE, they may have married her off too soon - and then when they ran out of story ideas for newlyweds - they split them up! Viewers were unhappy and abandoned the show in droves. What started out a promising run ended mid-way though the show's 5th season when CBS pulled the plug on the show.
Valerie Harper and Mary Tyler Moore were eventually reunited as Rhoda and Mary in an excruciatingly painful two-hour TV-movie for ABC on February 7, 2000. The less said about it, the better.

Valerie received 4 Emmys playing Rhoda, 3 for the MARY TYLER MOORE show and 1 for RHODA in 1975. Julie Kavner also received an Emmy for her supporting role in 1978. RHODA also received two Golden Globe Awards (one for Valerie and the other for the show itself) in 1975. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

PORNOGRAPHY: You Know You Want to Watch.

Here's the amazing trailer for a film called PORNOGRAPHY from my friends at Triple Fire.
Yours truly worked on this film as Production Designer and Property Master. PORNOGRAPHY will be hitting the festival circuit in the summer of '09.
World Premiere: Newfest, the New York LGBT Film Festival, June 8.
Frameline, the San Francisco LGBT Film Festival, June 21.
You Know You Want to Watch.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Brief History of Shazam and Isis

The Marvel Family (Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel, Jr.) have always been among my favorite comic book characters. With their beginnings at Fawcett Comics in the 1940s, the trio (along with their friends and enemies) were put out of business in the 1950s when DC Comics won a lawsuit which claimed that Cap was a rip-off of Superman.With one magic word, SHAZAM! (Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury) Boy reporter Billy Batson was transformed to Captain Marvel...and a sweater salesman. Not only were these sweaters BARGAINS - they were GUARANTEED and ONLY $2.95!
While Billy was selling cheap pullovers, sister Mary was "going green" - telling kids not to waste paper--for VICTORY!
Almost 20 years after DC silenced Billy, they decided to license (and eventually purchase) all the Marvel Family and Fawcett Comics characters - merging them into the DC Universe.Because Stan Lee's Marvel Comics Group appeared in the 1960s and launched an entirely different character named Captain Marvel, DC was not legally allowed to use the name "Captain Marvel" on the cover of any it's publications or merchandise.
Instead, the magic word SHAZAM became identified with the character - even though "Shazam" was also the name of the wizard that granted Billy his powers.The Filmation Saturday-morning TV series called SHAZAM introduced the good Captain to a new generation of fans (me included).
Though Mary and Cap Jr. only appeared in the comics. Mary also co-starred in this awesome Little Golden Book from the same period. 
THE KID SUPER POWER HOUR WITH SHAZAM! brought Captain Marvel back in 1981, this time with Mary and Jr. in segments which were much more faithful to the comic book than the live action series had ever been.
The second season of  the SHAZAM TV show welcomed a new character,  ISIS into the Marvel Family.
Portrayed by Joanna Cameron, Isis was to Saturday mornings what Lynda Carter's WONDER WOMAN was to prime-time.Isis was also awarded her own DC  Comic series. 
Unfortunately she only got to meet Captain Marvel in one issue of the Shazam monthly book.
Isis was lucky enough to get her own Mego action figure ...
...a View-Master 3-reel presentation...
...a Golden Book...
...and eventually an animated segment  called FREEDOM FORCE that was recycled on various Filmation long-form shows.
Both FREEDOM FORCE and SECRETS OF ISIS are now available on dvd.
Years later, the SHAZAM comic was relaunched by Roy Thomas and Tom Mandrake as A NEW BEGINNING.

The miniseries was not well-received, so Jerry Ordway was given a shot - and his POWER OF SHAZAM set the tone for The Marvel Family in the 1990s.
After the DC Universe's INFINITE CRISIS - Shazam the wizard was dead. 
Isis was finally introduced into the DCU via 52 and quickly became a fan favorite as a love interest for Black Adam, Captain Marvel's nemesis. Unfortunately Isis (and her brother Osiris) died during the weekly megaseries. Soon Billy Batson lost his mojo and was chosen to take the wizard's place at the Rock of Eternity. Freddy Freeman (Cap Jr.) was promoted to Cap status - now calling himself "Shazam" in a terrible miniseries called TRIALS OF SHAZAM
Meanwhile, sweet Mary Marvel turned bad girl in COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS
and became truly evil during the controversial FINAL CRISIS miniseries!

Thankfully recent events in JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA reset things for The Marvel Family. 
Shazam (the wizard) is back, Billy and Mary are normal again, Isis was returned to life (though both her and Black Adam are now stone statues). As for Freddy, we will see him in action soon in a new JUSTICE LEAGUE miniseries coming this summer.
Jeff Smith's Monster Society of Evil miniseries and Mike Hunkle's Billy Batson and The Magic of Shazam all-ages series harken back to the Marvel Family that longtime fans love.
What the future holds for Cap, Mary, Freddy, Adam and Isis remains to be seen. Marvel Family fans pray to the gods (Roman, Greek and Egyptian) that their glory days are yet to be seen.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Another crazy old magazine cover while I catch my breathe.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009