Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beach Blanket Bingo Film Here in '65

MALIBU -- At a beach near Malibu named after actor Leo Carrillo (Poncho on The Cisco Kid TV show) I am tracing the foot steps of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funichello who filmed the classic, “Beach Blanket Bingo” 44 years ago for American International Pictures (AIP) here.
Visible in he background is the rock where an aged Buster Keaton (or his stunt double) fished in the movie. “Sink your toes in the sand and get ready to rock and roll” with Frankie and Annette is the hype that an AIP publicist wrote but as you can see there wasn’t much barefoot action here on this December day with temperatures in the 50s.
I was living in Glendale when AIP made history with the beach movies but I might as well have been in Bangladesh for all I knew about surfing and the Beach Boys then. In recent years as I try to cope with Minnesota winters I have been drawn to anything that relieves the winter blues including beach movies. The movie is full of “fun, frolic and song” with Don Rickles, Harvey Lembeck, handsome John Ashley, Paul Lynde and a very young LInda Evans included in the star studded cast.
As luck would have it, Angelinos this day were experiencing what a Barbie doll reporter on KTLA cooed was “bitter cold” which translates to a low of 40 or a summer day in Minneapolis. Hearty Southlanders testified on Channel 5 regarding their brave efforts to stem the threat of frostbite which included firing up all appliances that emit heat.
Later I was on the patio at our Mailbu beach motel collecting my thoughts when a fellow traveler joined me, barely visible through a thick cloud of cigarette smoke with his portable radio blaring gospel music. All this was jarring my serenity until I learned that I was in the company of an erstwhile Hollywood screenwriter recently transplanted from England who was fairly confident about his chances to break into the movies or TV at the very least. Hope springs eternal.
So it was no surprise that when we stayed a night at the LAX Marriott no less than the frenzied followers of sci fi and horror had gathered to commune about their mutual obsessions at “LosCom”. I was invited to join the festivities. I repeatedly asked the attendees of all ages dressed as characters in a Hammer gothic horror movie if they were professional writers. Not a writer in the crowd but many I suspect have turned the pages of a few comic books. To be charitable, this event looked like a lot of fun with the Horror Film Festival featuring such luminaries such as Patrick Kilpatrick and possibly Sean Young who star in “Parasomnia” -- a cinematic effort about a psychic serial killer who invades the mind of a distressed damsel. Hasn’t this been done?
For those who worship at the altar of bad movies, this must be the place. I plan to return soon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Spirit Lake's Fireside Lodge in '48 Recalled

Mom, who is 95 years young, remembers summers at Spirit Lake Idaho and Fireside Lodge in 1948.
Fireside Lodge was probably at Settllemeyers resort on Spirit Lake and was basically a beer hall in 1948. I have fond memories of that time, going with my cousins to the beer hall on the resort and playing music on the jukebox. Later my Aunt Dora (shown in downtown Spirit Lake) and family stayed at nearby Conklin's resort which had a convenience "grocery" store where we shopped. We could walk between the two resorts and there was a burnt out cabin along the path which was quite spooky for little kids.
The July 4 hydroplane races were a huge event at the Lake and we watched. This attracted a lot of out of town beer drinkers as I recall. I stepped on a broken beer bottle in the lake and had to be taken to town where the doctor stitched me up and gave me a tetanus shot. Still have the scar on my foot.
We would go to the downtown movie theater (Auntie Dora standing in front of theater) where they showed "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" which Mom wouldn't let us see. The theater was quite primitive with folding chairs instead of theater seats. But that was before TV in post war times. There was a cafe in t own and no doubt a grocery store.
Spirit Lake is a short distance from Twin Lakes where we went by school bus for swimming lessons. Twin Lakes was more swimmer friendly with sandy beaches and a very gradual drop off.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oh Canada: Niagra Falls Plus Health Care

Richard Halliburton wrote about Niagara Falls in his book about the seven wonders of the world. I got that book for my bar mitzvah and now 56 years later I am up close and personal with Niagara. Here I was with the Prime Timers convention last Saturday. Other trip highlights were the gothic castle Casa Loma. Equally fascinating was the photos of Alex Trebeck and Lorne Michaels at the CBC broacast museum when they were much younger. Several current CBC series look interesting but unfortunately not available on Netflix, like “Little Mosque on the Prairie”.
Neil Diamond when he was in his 20s was revisited by a young performer at the convention and this was exciting. I also enjoyed touring the many ethnic neighborhoods in cosmopolitan Toronto.
Under 65, Canadians have $2 copay for prescriptions; over 65 no copay. Oh Canada!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Leaving Idaho September 40 years ago

It was 40 years ago this month that I left the beautiful snow capped mountains of Southern Idaho for the flat, flat, flat prairies of Minnesota in my ‘67 Plymouth Satellite loaded with all I owned in the world. That would have included a Magnavox portable radio, Smith Corona typewriter and a rather meager collection of clothing.
As someone remarked this summer: “You are a Minnesotan.” I resemble that remark but I cling to the fiction that I am an Idahoan, born in Spokane, scant minutes from the Idaho border where the men are men and you know the rest. Famous for their libertarian notions, Northern Idaho is a far cry from the more straight laced Mormon dominated Boise where I was a boy reporter for the Idaho Daily Statesman, a Federated Newspaper, for four years, Local option gambling was popular in Northern Idaho.
I had exhausted my possibilities in Boise, having won a national award for my reporting on air and water pollution. I was a member of the Capitol Jaycees, a post frat drinking society, where I produced a slide presentation with audio on pollution that I showed to community groups. (Lon Dunne at KIDO NBC Radio did the audio track). By the time I reached the four year mark I was researching a story on pop culture , interviewing the program director at KFXD Radio, which boasted a Sunday night underground rock extravaganza. I can’t believe that Jim Golden, the assignment editor, gave me time to do this. Nothing came of that story.
I was massively bored by this time and when my friend at the Statesman Ralph Nichols suggested I get a master’s degree I jumped on that, researching universities and getting valuable insight from Gene Byrd, a Marquette University journalism professor who later transferred to the University of Minnesota to initiate a urban affairs emphasis in the School of Journalism. Byrd soon ran into a brick wall and left for the University of Texas. It was clear that the U of M faculty disdained anything as faddish as urban affairs journalism. So that was my first mistake.
It was a gorgeous sunny fall day when I drove into Minneapolis on Highway 12 with AM radio tuned to KUOM where they announced a seminar on the Urban River at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, sponsored by the University. I had a wonderful supportive supervisor, Vern Keel, at the Agricultural Journalism Department where I worked as a graduate assistant. So Vern got the University to pay my way to the Urban River seminar where I floated down the grossly polluted Mississippi with Star columnist Barbara Flanagan and other community do-gooders. It was a super introduction to Minneapolis.
So as Jim Gilligan of the Statesman observed: I had “returned to the womb” at the glorious U of M, a graduate student in journalism taking inter-displinary classes related to urban and regional affairs. I was the right guy for Agricultural Journalism because economist John Hoyt was heading an initiative on regional development, a controversial issue supported by Gov. Harold Lavander, a moderate Republican unlike the strident ideologue Republican who now holds the office. My student days at the University were all I dreamed they would be and after graduation I was hired by the U, based on my great efforts as a graduate student.
Bottom line: It’s better to be a student at the U than faculty where you bump up against petty egos, back-stabbing and other drama. In 1981 I returned to the University staff at KUOM radio for a one-year temporary dreamy job as an assistant producer on a radio documentary series on psychology with Vickie Lofquist. I cherish those memories of KUOM where I used broadcast tools I learned at the University of Washington.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jack Malone Reunion, Spokane News

I recently wrote my grade school, high school and college buddy Jack Malone of Spokane and now Longview, Wash. for making the a mini-reunion last week in Seattle great and we need to do this again before another 50 years slip by. The fact that he could remember the names of all those Roosevelt teachers is remarkable. The aging Southern Belle spinster Lou Eckhardt was my favorite in third grade and she abandoned us for a mink coat, Cadillac and diamond ring to marry a decrepit former governor named Martin. Never forgave her.
Jack recalled that his family was one of the first to get TV in 1952 since his dad owned a hardware store. It was an Emerson and like most kids at that time he watched the test pattern on KHQ with easy listening music providing audio. On the other hand our family may have been the last to get TV and it was an Arvin (Google that one). Jack’s brother, Jerry, who lives in the family’s Spokane Wall St. home, is planning a Roosevelt Grade School reunion, although the school was torn down and replaced with an ugly modern building.
I hoped that his daughter Jennilee wasn’t too bored with our tripping down memory lane but she is a treasure with her super electronic devices, like the GPS that talks to her from the heavens. How creepy is that but it sure eases travel anxiety. It’s a given that young people are on the cutting edge of everything electronic. On the other hand Jack doesn't do computers or DVDs. I can’t use an IPOD, detest my cell phone and still have a turntable and LPs that I bought in Spokane at the Music Box or the Crescent in the 50s.
In the 80s after Mt. St. Helen’s erupted, Jack produced and was a creative force behind an LP that paid tribute to Harry Truman who did not leave home during this catastrophe. I can identify with that because moving is way too much of a hassle -- bring on the flood or hot lava. I have played his wonderful LP and the music is reminiscent of Garrison Keilor’s show. I have framed the album and it is now on my living room wall.
Former Spokanites will be happy to know that the historic State Theater is being restored and renamed the “Bing” after Spokane’s favorite son, Bing Crosby. Twin Cities film archivist and historian Bob DeFlores is my authority on this and Bob is helping Gonzaga University with its Crosby collection and will be on hand for the State’s grand reopening.