Monday, December 22, 2014

The Douglas Michael Show with Juul Haalmeyer

Here's a Juultide treat from 2009.SECOND CITY TELEVSION or SCTV in all it’s incarnations (in syndication, on NBC and on Cinemax) is remembered as one of the funniest TV series of all time.This outrageous Canadian sketch comedy import launched the careers of such greats as John Candy, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Catherine O’Hara, Harold Ramis, Martin Short, Dave Thomas, Joe Flaherty and a few others – including Juul Haalmeyer. Chances are if you've ever seen a SCTV sketch, you've seen Juul's work.Juul Haalmeyer was SCTV's resident costume designer, who was also featured on the show as the choreographer of Melonville's top dance troupe, the Juul Haalmeyer Dancers, a pathetically incompetent ensemble of variety show dancers made up mostly of writers and crew on SCTV. I consider Juul one of my comedy heroes and a unsung TV legend!!!Over the years, Juul also worked as a costume designer for many movies, TV shows, theatre and concert productions. He's done all the classics from ALL MY SONS to LONG DAYS JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, his designs have dressed everyone from Jack Lemmon to Alice Cooper, from Shari Lewis to Jethro Tull, from Dolly Parton to Anne Murray, from Bobby Vinton to Bobby Bittman! It is with great honor that I welcome my guest, Juul Haalmeyer!!!
DOUG: Hi Juul, first of all let me say thank you for all the laughter you and the folks at SCTV have given me over the years. The show is a true classic. I watched it from the very first episode (on WOR TV channel 9 in New York) to the very last Cinemax episode. In fact I subscribed to Cinemax just to watch SCTV! Now exactly when did you join the show?

JUUL: Well, unfortunately I didn’t do the first season because there just wasn’t enough money; and I thought that there was way too much material to get out per week for me to be able to handle. It just looked too scary and daunting and I thought I’m not going to kill myself over a show! That’s my biggest regret with SCTV because it did turn out to be the most rewarding and enjoyable experience of my career.DOUG: Well, thankfully you we able to join the show for season 2. I read somewhere that it took 100 hours a week to make one of the 90-minute NBC shows. Is that true?

JUUL :Yes it did, and sometimes more. It was a real slog, and after each three month cycle, you just had to scrape yourself off the floor and pray the next cycle would be easier. But it never was; it just kept growing bigger!DOUG: Bigger and BETTER-If you ask me! So who was your favorite character or player to design for?

JUUL: ALL OF THEM! The cast of course were all very special people and each one of their characters were very endearing. The challenge came in the situations they wrote for themselves as to how complicated the sketch would become from a wardrobe point of view. Could not have done it without the incredible help of Luigi, the head cutter at Malabar costumes, Eva Richter, who always had an impossible shopping list, and my mother, Trudy Haalmeyer, who cut and sewed everything on set.
DOUG: With all the crazy folks that passed through the doors of SCTV - was there any character that stands out as being the most creatively challenging? I somehow think John Candy as Divine must have been a case where you had to top what the real Divine was already wearing!

JUUL: Again, it was my support staff that saved my ass on everything; whether it was "Shake and Bake" (twenty nine period costumes in primary colours in three days) or Edith Prickley as Queen Elizabeth (the first with two days notice),Divine as Peter Pan, or Divine On Ice; You name it! The challenge was always the time frame within which we had to get it together, and again, my team deserves all of the credit.

DOUG: That Divine On Ice number - Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me is still one of the most hysterical things I've ever seen. And you and the boys are featured prominently in that segment. So, how did the Juul Haalmeyer dancers come about?
JUUL: Well, you can’t hire people to be as bad as we were, so when Lola Heatherton needed dancers she (Catherine O'Hara) remembered that I had done musical theater. But they would let me sing, turn the light off, and yank me offstage, because I just didn’t move well, as you’ve seen. It became a group of writers, sometimes cast, grips, propmen, whoever was available that day. God, it was fun though. Nice to know that anytime you need a bad actor, loud singer, or really lousy dancer, you can depend on someone on your crew to come through! Voila!
DOUG : Did you ever have any formal dance training?

JUUL: What are you smokin' dude?????? Of course not! I did take a Dancercise class one year to get some excess poundage off, which worked, at The Roland and Romaine Academy of Dance,but they always made me move to the back of the class because I always farted with the first bend down in the warmups!
DOUG: That's hysterical. What makes you think I was smoking something while watching SCTV? LOL. It's great that people all over the world are rediscovering the magic of Juul Haalmeyer!JUUL: I'm on Facebook now (I had never heard of it before), and guess what turned up? A Juul Haalmeyer Dancer fan club based in ICELAND! I hope they're not just now getting SCTV! I have gotten more notoriety from the bad dancing than anything I have ever done as a costume designer in the last 40 years.
DOUG: Iceland! How cool is that? Do you keep in touch with any of the cast members?

JUUL: Not really. It was great to see all of them at a very generous 'Benefit of Laughter' reunion show they did last year to set up an SCTV alumni fund for ailing participants of the show. I did get to work on the Disney film COOL RUNNINGS (1993) with John–which was a real privilege and an absolute blast. Ten weeks of poker and dominos in the sun!DOUG: Aside from the charity performance, do you think there would ever be a SCTV REUNION SPECIAL? And if so, would the Dancers come out of retirement?

JUUL: I don’t think that’s in the cards, with everyone’s careers as diverse as they are, but it would be nice. As for the dancers, I don’t think we can get enough day passes issued out of retirement homes at the same time to let all of the dancers come together again! Although I hear that Ellen Degeneres wants to challenge us to a Dance Off!

DOUG: LOL - I'd love to see you and Ellen go at it! So, what have you been up to since SCTV left the air? Are you still doing wardrobe these days?

JUUL: In a way. I still have my costume company, Homemade Tarts, and I rent out vintage clothing to the movies, but I don’t do any designing anymore; couldn’t handle the stress of it all. Back in those days they were all wonderful people to work for who appreciated your craft, but now the shows are mostly in the hands of bean counters, who just want to get it done as cheaply as possible, to heck with creativity. I stopped about nine years ago after I won an Emmy for NODDY AND FRIENDS, a childrens show for PBS.DOUG: That's awesome. Belated congratulations on that Emmy! And lastly, is there any truth to the internet rumor that you are going to be on DANCING WITH THE STARS?

JUUL: Ha Ha! That was a very clever and funny piece someone posted and I got over one hundred e-mails from people who actually believed it! Had a lot of fun with that one! Found the guy who wrote it and he’s just a big fan of the show.

DOUG : Well, you never know with internet rumors. Once something is out the in the universe, it could very well happen! Thanks again for being a guest and being so entertaining!
JUUL: Thank you, It’s been great talking with you!

Friday, December 19, 2014

My Wall of Christmas Music

Here's an old chestnut from 2010...

Regular visitors to the humble home of Dougsploitation know that the "LP wall" is a revolving gallery of the finest long playing record art imaginable. The holiday season is always the hardest time of the year to decide what records to frame because I own so many great ones - and I acquire new ones each year. This year's six:
Not to be confused with the STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL, Christmas in the Stars is the STAR WARS Christmas Album. I found this recently at Amoeba Records, and didn't have time to listen to it before it made it to the wall. It features the original voices of R2D2 and C3PO!
As a companion I have the soundtrack to the 1977 Nelvana animated holiday special, A COSMIC CHRISTMAS featuring songs and music by Canadian Crystal Gayle lookalike Sylvia Tyson.
Christmas: A Gift of Music Vol 3 featuring a creepy collection of Christmas dolls and a selection of songs from a variety of artists from Dinah Shore to The Korean Orphan Choir. Those orphans can really sing!
Next up is last year's favorite Sing with Marcy. I won't go on about her again. I swear.
Santa and the 3 Bears is another animated soundtrack. This one is from a 1970 low-budget theatrical release which turned up on local stations in the late 70s as an hour-long special. The album came with a dimensional Santa decoration (still intact) !
Last, but certainly not least is Elvin The Little Black Elf from 1982, described as "A Musical Christmas Special About Our Newest Christmas Hero." I don't think the special was ever made, but it's nice to know the soundtrack was released. I love Elvin. Here's a few of my other favorites that didn't make this year's wall.
Four exciting Christmas adventures of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN. Bionics and Christmas go together like Superheroes and Christmas...
Exciting Christmas Stories starring Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. I miss Peter Pan Records.
Christmas at Home starring a big, scary baby.
Christmas with the King of my childhood obsessions.
Christmas with Colonel Sanders - he brought the world greasy, artery-clogging fried chicken so therefore he must know a lot about Christmas.
So much so that he even had another Christmas album - though it looks like the old guy may not make it through the evening.
Speaking of not making it through the night, I always read this album's title as "Merry Christmas from the Hillside Stranglers."
And finally, one of my all-time favorites, Imagine the Joys of Christmas presented by Sylvania light bulbs and featuring a family that clearly forgot to pay their electric bill. Sad.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

King Family Revisited

Last night I met Cam Clarke, son of the great Alyce King. Here's a rerun of a post from Easter 2009.When I was a kid I was obsessed with The King Family.The King Family was this humongous group of clean-cut, mostly-blond, well-dressed white folk who sang cover versions of songs made famous by other people. These were mostly showtunes, spirituals and patriotic songs like Climb Every Mountain, He's Got the Whole in His Hands and America the Beautiful. Sometimes they all dressed alike and sometimes they even dressed like royalty!
The King Sisters (Donna, Yvonne, Louise and Alyce) and their extended musical family had their own ABC prime-time variety series from 1965-66. It was sort of like THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW if Lawrence had fathered everyone.

In all, some thirty-seven members of the King family, ranging in age from seven months to 79 years, were featured on the show. I wanted to be one.

A short-lived 1969 revival, also on ABC, focused on the younger, hipper King Cousins. Don't they look cool? Back in 1969, channel 11 in LA ran a special Thanksgiving themed hour featuring the King Family - right after an hour of THE BARBARA McNAIR SHOW! Man, sometimes I wish I had a time machine. Actually, I do - it's called PBS.
After this blog post original ran in April 2009 I received several emails and comments from people who also grew up watching the King Family. additionally, a producer of a King Family Christmas special for PBS contacted me.  Visit their officiall website here for more info about the talented clan. Also the DVDs of the shows and specials are available through Cam Clarke, son of Alyce King. Visit his website for more info.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

ELO - The Electric Light Orchestra

With news that Jeff Lynne is working on a new ELO album. I thought maybe it was time for me to rerun this post from May 2009. Hold on Tight!
The Electric Light Orchestra is my all time favorite rock group. I can't explain why, I just knew the first time I heard an ELO record that it was what I liked. A lot. The seamless blend of rock n roll and neo-classical music just spoke to me. With their epic, cascading string sections and over-the-top vocal pyrotechnics, every song was like an aria. 30 years later, just seeing the Jet Records logo gives me goosebumps.
A product of the 1970s, the timeless songs of ELO are now being rediscovered by a new generation of music fans through covers, remixes, sampling and the seemingly endless use in on the soundtracks of films, ads and TV shows.
ELO, under the guidance of Jeff Lynne, recorded 12 studio albums and released 28 hit singles. At their peak between 1974 and 1981, ELO had 9 gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums.
The band also holds the unusual distinction of having the most Billboard Hot 100 Top 40 hits of any band in U.S. chart history without ever having a #1 single.
During the 70s and 80s, ELO was one of the biggest arena attractions, with spectacular shows that included a massive flying saucer stage set, fog machines and state of the art light and laser shows. I luckily got to see them perform twice.
ELO begin humbly in the earlier 1970 as offshoot of 60s UK band The Move. Roy Wood was behind the initial concept of a rock band augmented by a string section that included cellos, violins, horns and woodwinds . The resulting debut album The Electric Light Orchestra was released in the UK in 1971 (in the US as No Answer) - if you listen to it today, you can hear that they were struggling to find their sound.
After Wood left the group - Lynne stepped up to lead the band, with Bev Bevan on drums, joined by Richard Tandy on the Moog synthesizer. ELO released their second album, ELO 2 in 1973, and had their first U.S. chart hit, a rousing cover version of the Chuck Berry classic Roll Over Beethoven.

On the Third Day was released in late 1973, with the string-infused Showdown becoming a hit single.
With Eldorado, the band's fourth album, Lynne hired an orchestra and choir - and their sound had now fully evolved into symphonic rock. The first single off the album, Can't Get It Out of My Head became a U.S. Top 10 hit and the album became ELO's first gold album. This was the first ELO album I bought, it might have had something to do with the Judy Garland/Margaret Hamilton cover photo. The awesome burlesque-inspired Nobody's Child is my favorite track.
Kelly Groucutt (who recently passed away) joined the band as a bassist and vocalist for Face The Music and the hit singles Evil Woman and Strange Magic soon followed. The instrumental Fire On High, with it's creepy Satanic-sounding backward masking is a masterpiece.
. Other great tracks include Nightrider and Down Home Town.
1976's A New World Record gave the band 4 top 10 hits Livin’ Thing, Rockaria!, Telephone Line and a cover of The Move's metal athem Do Ya - making them international stars. Tightrope and So Fine are also outstanding songs.
1977’s Out Of The Blue, a double-album was a worldwide smash and featured global hits Turn To Stone, Wild West Hero, Sweet Talkin' Woman (which was released on clear purple vinyl) plus Lynne's greatest musical achievement, Concerto for a Rainy Day which culminates with the epic Mr. Blue Sky.
By 1978 ELO was one of the most popular acts in the world, appearing on TV shows like NBC's MIDNIGHT SPECIAL. 

Around this time future Pixar songsmith Randy Newman recorded a parody/homage to ELO titled The Story of a Rock and Roll Band.
Discovery in 1979 consolidated that worldwide success with the singles Shine A Little Love, Don’t Bring Me Down, and Last Train to London -which was re-imagined as a catchy pop hit in the 2000s by Atomic Kitten as Be With You.

In 1980 came the film soundtrack Xanadu

 Despite the film's poor box-office showing, the soundtrack went double platinum.At the time some ELO fans were mortified that the band was part of a pop music collaboration with Olivia Newton-John - but time has shown that the songs Lynne contributed to the film (and eventually the Broadway show) are as timeless and beloved as any of the tunes that came before. Don't Walk Away is possibly the best song Jeff Lynne ever wrote - and as performed by super hunky Cheyenne Jackson on Broadway - a true classic.
ELO took a turn towards rockabilly with the hit Hold On Tight from the sci-fi concept album Time.

Other standout tracks included Twilight, The Way Life's Meant to Be, Here Is the News and Ticket to the Moon.
The silly rockabilly ditty Rock ‘N’ Roll Is King was a hit from 1983's Secret Messages, though the title track is infinitely more satisfying. That same year Bev Bevan left ELO and joined Black Sabbath while Jeff Lynne and Richard Tandy contributed songs to the Electric Dreams soundtrack.
Lynne, Bevan and Tandy returned to the studio in 1985 for Balance Of Power–the final ELO album. The single Calling America was a minor hit. 
From 1987 onwards, Jeff Lynne became a highly sought-after songwriter and producer, collaborating with artists such as Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Brian Wilson. With George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Del Shannon and Bob Dylan, he formed the Grammy-award winning supergroup Traveling Wilburies.
Meanwhile, Bev Bevan in 1989 formed ELO Part II, with Louis Clark (Hooked on Classics). Former ELO members Mik Kaminski and Kelly Groucutt joined them for a second album, Moment Of Truth, in 1994. The remaining members continue to tour and record as The Orchestra.In 2000 Jeff Lynne released an 3-disc ELO box set, Flashback, containing–among other things–a new, unplugged version Xanadu. In 2001, Lynne released a new ELO album called Zoom. Richard Tandy was back, with George Harrison and Ringo Starr as guests.
In 2004 a tribute album wincingly titled Lynne Me Your Ears, this cover anthology featured ELO standards performed by artists such as Todd Rundgren, Sixpence None the Richer, and a host of others.
Another tribute to ELO, L.E.O., features songs are written in Lynne's style and mimic ELO's orchestration and production. The Pussycat Dolls even sampled Evil Woman in their hit Beep

Most recently, Surrender, a lost song from 1976 was released as a single, followed by Latitude 88 North, another lost song. So if you are looking for a lyrical escape from the sorry state of music in 2009 - turn back the clocks to a time when The Electric Light Orchestra changed what rock music sounded like and Roll Over Beethoven.