Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You want FAME? ... Well, FAME costs.

In a world full of disposable entertainment about the trials and tribulations of being a talented teen, i.e. AMERICAN IDOL, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL and now GLEE, it's nice to see where this genre got it's start.
FAME (1980, directed by Alan Parker) was a gritty, realistic, R-rated Academy Award-winning film about a group of young entertainers struggling to make it through four years of New York's High School of the Performing Arts. The film was well written, expertly directed, wonderfully acted and featured some great music. I'll never forget Irene Cara's brave performance as Coco. Parker also directed powerful and poignant films like MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, SHOOT THE MOON, THE WALL, BIRDY, ANGEL HEART, MISSISSIPPI BURNING and ANGELA'S ASHES.
FAME (2009, directed by Kevin Tancharoen), on the other hand, is a weak blinged-out PG-rated re-imagining about a group of mostly annoying pretty people struggling to make us give a shit about them as they are berated by former sitcom stars over how talented or untalented they are. The hip-hop drenched soundtrack is joyless with the only good songs being the few swiped from the original film (and the enjoyable Black & Gold by Sam Sparro) Oh, and Tancharoen also directed a Britney Spears tour.
In between the two FAME films came a well-made weekly TV series that ran for six seasons (1982-87) and a short-lived spin-off/revival called FAME L.A. (1997-98). FAME also became a reality show (2003) and has been the basis for several stage musicals (FAME: THE MUSICAL, FAME ON 42ND STREET and FAME FOREVER).

Getting back to the current film version–which a saw this weekend as part of a birthday celebration for my good friend Dennis Hensley–it does have some merits. The opening titles were cool. It was good to see Debbie Allen included in the cast and the sampling of her famous inspirational mantra ("You want fame? ... Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying. With sweat.") was a nice touch, as too was the brief nod to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. I also think that Naturi Naughton (she plays Denise Dupree) has true star quality. Every time she is on screen, she shines.
But thanks to FAME (2009) I now know...
•....hand-held camera work doesn't guarantee grittiness - only nauseousness
•...there are no openly gay kids enrolled in the High School of the Performing Arts, unless you count the asexual boy who wants to be a ballet dancer.
• ...that it is always winter in New York City.
• ...where former sitcom stars (Charles S. Dutton of ROC, Megan Mullally of WILL & GRACE, Kelsey Grammer of FRAISER and Bebe Neuwirth of CHEERS) go to die.
• ...I will never request Ms. Mullally to sing "You Took Advantage of Me" when we go to karaoke together.
• ...every record producer, film producer and successful teen actor are out to take advantage of students from the High School of the Performing Arts.• ...all African American parents don't want their kids to be stars.
• takes exactly four years to resolve things that arise on your first day of class as an incoming freshman.• ...the loser kid who is told he'll never be a star and should return home to the farm in Iowa can be featured front & center in the big finale.
• ...a tribute to THE LION KING is no replacement for running and jumping and dancing through the streets of New York City.

Did I hate FAME? No. Would I recommend it? Hell no. But if you are a big fan of the original and/or the TV series you should check it out at some point.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Celebrating My 550th Post

Anniversaries, birthdays, season premieres - it's like we're always celebrating something these days. Well, I've been busy celebrating all sorts of good things all weekend long, so I've fallen behind on my blogging. Enjoy this vintage cookbook spread while I regroup and figure out what the hell I'm gonna blog about tomorrow.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

When TV Stars Sing - Part 3

I conclude my look at the vocal adventures of TV stars with a batch of vinyl gems from the ladies of action shows.MOD SQUAD star Peggy Lipton released a eponymous LP of mod tunes in 1968. Among the ditties on this disc was a little something by the great songwriter Laura Nyro: Stoney End, which was later famously and fabulously covered by a certain someone named Barbra.Not sure what this is, I'm thinking it's a reissue of the above album with an attempt to cash in on her sudden MOD SQUAD fame.
This single was released in 1970 and was written by Donovan (Mellow Yellow).
Peggy recorded another Nyro tune, Lu in 1970. This was the last recording made by the lovely Lipton to date. After the MOD SQUAD, Peggy married record producer Quincy Jones. Their beautiful and talented daughter, Rashida Jones has starred on TV in THE OFFICE and more recently PARKS & RECREATION.The late Farrah Fawcett (Majors) released a self-titled album in 1977 during the peak of her CHARLIE'S ANGELS fame. Not sure what songs she recorded. Can't really find any info on it other than the fact that it did exist. Wish I owned it.
In 1978, Cheryl Ladd replaced Farrah, and she was already a professional singer, having recorded vocals for Hanna-Barbera's JOSIE & THE PUSSYCATS earlier in the decade. This single featured the B-side Here is a Song for those people who were confused as what exactly was recorded on that piece of vinyl.
Cheryl donned her cowboy boots in 1979 for Missing You and Thunder in the Distance. Is it me or do the B-sides always sound much more intriguing than the A-sides?And evidently it was imported to Japan.
An finally, we have 1978's Portrait by Lynda Carter. Yes, the WONDER WOMAN star recorded an album of songs–two of which she performed on the series.In 1980 she released a single called The Last Song. This was not accurate since Linda continued to sing, both on television and in acclaimed concert appearances.
After WONDER WOMAN was cancelled, CBS awarded her with a string of musical specials: Lynda Carter's Special (1980), Encore! (1980), Celebration (1981), Street Life (1982) and Body And Soul (1984). After several years of performing on the cabaret circuit, the still-stunning Ms. Carter released a second album entitled At Last earlier this year. Suck on that Sally Field! (see Friday's post).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

When TV Stars Sing - Part 2

Continuing the trend that began in the 1960s, sitcom stars of the 70s also tried their hands at recording careers.
Doubtlessly inspired by the success of their Friday night neighbors, THE BRADY BUNCH boys all attempted to capture the success that THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY's David Cassidy had. In 1972, Barry Williams a.k.a. Greg Brady a.k.a. Johnny Bravo released something called Sweet Sweetheart. Sounds sweet. Williams later became a Broadway star (I regrettably saw him in something called ROMANCE, ROMANCE) and released an album titled The Return of Johnny Bravo in 1999.
Also in 1972 Paramount Records put out Meet Chris Knight - Over... whatever that means. Either Over... was a song title or instructions on what to do with the record once you played side one.In 1973, Peter Brady teamed up with Marcia, Marcia, Marcia for Chris Knight & Maureen McCormick. Jan must have been so jealous - after all she was Peter's "twin", not Marcia! Maureen had previously recorded a solo single with the songs Truckin' Back to You and the provocatively titled Teeny Weeny Bit (Too Long). She released a string of singles over the next few years. More than twenty years later McCormick released her first solo album, a country CD called When You Get a Little Lonely (1995). In 1997 she played country singer Barbara Mandrell in the television biography GET TO THE HEART: THE BARBARA MANDRELL STORY.
Not to be left out, the youngest Brady boy, Bobby released a single on Capitol Records in 1973 called Love Doesn't Care Who's In It with Gum Drop on the B-side. I wish I was just one song called Love Doesn't Care Who's In The Gum Drop.
No relation to Barry, HAPPY DAYS star Anson Williams (Potsie Webber) had a single in 1977 called Deeply. His co-star Donny Most (Ralph Malph) had a whole album (not pictured).
In 1976, LAVERNE & SHIRLEY stars Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams recorded an entire album of songs sung in character as loudmouth Milwaukee beer factory employees. Fun!
Later in 1979, their friends Lenny & Squiggy got their shot with Lenny & Squiggy Present Lenny & the Squigtones on Casablanca Records-the label who gave us Donna Summer and KISS!
Meanwhile, Jimmie JJ Walker had an album called Dyn-o-mite! I think this might have been a comedy record, but I'm including it anyhow. Jimmie's GOOD TIMES co-star Ralph Carter had a minor singing career (remember, he appeared courtesy of RAISIN) and a little-known castmember by the name of Janet Jackson also later scored a recording contract. Next ain't over till the dramatic TV actresses of the 70's sing.

Friday, September 25, 2009

When TV Stars Sing - Part 1

Long before "reality TV" contestants were burning up the Billboard Hot 100, TV stars have been capitalizing on their small screen success by using their vocal talents. I'll start with a look at sitcom stars of the 1960s. The late BEVERLY HILLBILLIES star and Republican whack-job Buddy Ebsen recorded Buddy Ebsen Says Howdy back in 1965. Among the tunes can be found classics like You Are My Sunshine and Your Cheatin' Heart, as well as curiosities with titles like and Keep A-Thinkin' Pretty and Dear Hearts and Gentle People. One wonders where his pretty and gentle thoughts were when he campaigned against co-star Nancy Kulp (Miss Jane Hathaway) when she ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Ebsen supported incumbent Bud Shuster, recording a radio ad for Shuster, labeling Kulp as "too liberal". Fuck him.
Not to be outdone, Hooterville neighbor Eddie Albert came out with The Eddie Albert Album in 1966. This bizarre offering was from Bob Dylan/Simon & Garfunkel producer Bob Johnston and featured The Green Acres Theme and Blowin' in the Wind.
Future Oscar-winner Sally Field, star of THE FLYING NUN (and SYBIL!) released the single Find Yourself a Rainbow in 1967. An album followed, and apparently you can download the tracks here at your own risk.
Patty Duke (whose voice was later dubbed in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS) released a bunch of singles and LPs during the run of THE PATTY DUKE SHOW. The 45 RPM Don't Just Stand There was her VERY FIRST RECORD!!!
The album Don't Just Stand There followed and the cover showed her sitting. On the floor. With her hand on her knee. Shouldn't it have been called Don't Just Sit There On the Floor with Your Hand on Your Knee ?
Next came Patty featuring a cover that probably drove Lesley Gore and Dusty Springfield nuts. I mean, I'm not a lesbian, but there's something really hot and butch going on there. Is it just me?
Evidently Patty had enough "hits" for United Artists to put out a Greatest Hits collection in 1966!
They later recycled the cover photo for TV's Teen Star Patty Duke in 1967 and I would think the track listing is pretty much the same too. MUNSTERS star Butch Patrick had to wait till 1972 (when he was almost 20) for his shot at music stardom. I.O.I.O. was the single, but B side I Want Sugar sounds like something I need to hear. Come back tomorrow as I look at 70's sitcom stars and their recording careers!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Big Bang Comics

It was only a matter of time before the gang from CBS's suddenly buzzworthy sitcom (which I first blogged about on 8/8/08) BANG THEORY showed up in comics. Here they are making a cameo in the pages of DC Comics' new hit POWER GIRL series.I would not be surprised if DC (or another company) officially licenses the characters to star in their own book. Now that the show is a Top Ten hit, I fully expect a ton of crappy merchandise to follow- as well as the requisite "jumping of the shark". Let's hope I'm wrong.

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Two Year Anniversary

DOUGSPLOITATION turned 2 years old over the weekend. What initially began as film reviews on my VELVET CANDY BLOG, then spun off into a blog called MOVIES THAT MAKE YOU SAY "HUH"?, this here blog is an ever-evolving work in progress. From it's humble origins of just reviews of bad movies, I've added posts about TV shows, music, comic books plus THE DOUGLAS MICHAEL SHOW featuring interviews with people I think are super cool.
I've had a few rants and a near meltdown after Prop 8 passed, but for the most part this blog has been all about fun.
I've had days when I've had over 8000 readers (thanks to a little something called SONSEED) and I've had days when I felt like there was no one out there at all.
There's also been days when I feel like I should just stop this silliness and put my time and energy into something that actually makes me money.
For now, I think I'll just keep on blogging as long as it's fun. When it starts feeling like a chore, it will be time to give it up. So, if you're out there and wanna drop me a line and let me know what you'd like to see on this blog, feel free to contact me via the "comments" button below.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

NBC Fall 1984 - Sundays & Specials

I conclude my look at the NBC 1984 fall line-up with Sunday nights and Specials. The sticky sweetcom SILVER SPOONS opened the night at 7PM.This four-season atrocity was like RICHIE RICH in sitcom form, except it wasn't funny and it felt like poor Erin Gray was waiting around to be rescued by BUCK ROGERS. Broadway hoofer Alfonso Ribeiro joined the cast this season and the premiere tried to cash in on the wave of Michael Jackson mania that was sweeping the nation at the time. Whatever happened to that guy?
Speaking of sweet, the sugar coma of TV comedy was PUNKY BREWSTER, a two-season oddity about a Little Orphan Annie-like who is taken in by a creepy old curmudgeon named Henry. An animated variation on the show aired from 1985 to 1989.
At 8PM, KNIGHT RIDER drove into it's third of four seasons. The show would return several times over the next few decades. KNIGHT RIDER 2000 aired in 1991 on NBC. KNIGHT RIDER 2010 aired in 1994, also on NBC. A new 22-episode series, TEAM KNIGHT RIDER aired in 1997 in syndication. Yet another two-hour KNIGHT RIDER TV-movie aired in February 2008, with a new KNIGHT RIDER series premiering in September 2008 and ending in March 2009. Not sure how many of these revivals featured appearances by David Hassellhoff. mostly because I just don't care.
For many years, THE MISS AMERICA PAGEANT was an annual event on NBC. Originating live from Atlantic City, the mother of all beauty contests aired on NBC for 30 years from 1966 to 1996. After that it aired on ABC until 2005, CMT in 2006 & 2007, finally finding a new home on TLC, the Learning Channel. Go figure.The late Nell Carter was a larger-than-life talent. The sassy Broadway star was scheduled to star in her own variety special during the 1984-85 season. Research shows that the hour didn't air until the following season. I always enjoyed Ms. Carter and still find it hard to believe she's gone.
Back to Hasselhoff, here he is again with co-host Jayne Kennedy hosting what appears to be the forerunner of today's reality competition shows: THE MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL IN THE WORLD.
Home viewers actually got the vote on the contestants - choosing one woman to be the winner.
25 Years Later....