March 29, 2009

The Music of The Flintstones

Before Family Guy, before South Park, before The Simpsons, the very first prime time animated series was The Flintstones, which ran from 1960 to 1966 on ABC. I watched the reruns every day after school for years. Then suddenly, about ten years ago, I couldn't find the show anywhere on the dial. Come to find that the series' broadcasting rights in the U.S. had been acquired by Boomerang.

The Flintstones was groundbreaking in many ways. Among other things, it was the first cartoon series to include a laugh track and story arcs. The show was also revolutionary for its regular inclusion of guest star voices (Tony Curtis, Hoagy Carmichael, Elizabeth Montgomery, and James Darren, among others) and for its acknowledgement of and spoofs of pop culture icons and personalities. These included people like Alfred Hitchcock ("Alvin Brickrock") and Ed Sullivan ("Ed Sullystone") as well as TV and movie characters like James Bond ("James Bondrock") and Perry Mason ("Perry Masonary".) 

The Flintstones also made a point to recognize the current pop culture phenomena taking place, such as the British Invasion ("The Way Outs"), surfing, and even "The Twist" ("Twitch") dance craze.

One of the most unforgettable things about The Flintstones is its music, which incorporated everything from vaudeville tunes, to commercial jingles, to modern pop music. Around the time the first Flintstones movie was released in 1994 (and by the way, how badly did they miss the mark on that one? Thirty-two different writers and that's the best they could do?) I wandered into a long since defunct music store called The Wall and picked up The Flintstones: Modern Stone Age Melodies, which featured many of the most memorable songs from the show's six year run. My personal faves include "Rockin' Bird" (from the episode where Fred becomes singing idol "Hi-Fye") and "Open Up Your Heart and Let the Sunshine In" (which was later covered by the Frente.) 

As a bonus, the album also includes lots of dialog from the show and extra tracks consisting of instrumentals used for the show's transition and chase scenes, and also background music.

I only wish Modern Stage Age Melodies included the two songs Ann Margret performed when she appeared on the show in 1963 (the same year her breakthrough movie Bye Bye Birdie was released) -- "I Ain't Gonna Be Your Fool No More" and "The Littlest Lamb". 

Margret was on Phil Donahue's show many years ago and she fondly recalled her appearance on the The Flintstones. A woman in the studio audience then remarked on what a beautiful song "The Littlest Lamb" was and asked Margret to sing it, but she declined.)

You can download Modern Stone Age Melodies here.

March 26, 2009

More Belinda

Pleasantly surprised to see the positive reaction (both on this blog and on YouTube comments) about the Belinda Carlisle on Arsenio video I posted recently, so here's another.

This performance is from an MTV New Year's Eve Concert from 1988. That's quintessential 80s actress Jami Gertz (Square Pegs, Less Than Zero, Lost Boys) and Glenn ("The Heat is On") Frey hosting. Between them, their clothes, and the performers they announce (Poison, Loverboy, Richard Marx, Gene Loves Jezebel, etc.) this has to be the "eighties-est" video ever posted. Enjoy.

Part 1

Part 2

Related Posts:
Bye-Bye Belinda

March 20, 2009

Airline Magazines, Godfather III, and Madonna -- What's the Connection?

Was flipping through an in-flight travel magazine (Departures) and came across this cool ad for Louis Vuitton, featuring five-time Academy Award winner Francis Ford Coppola and his daughter Sophia.

I met Francis Coppola in the early 90s. I was at a really nice movie theater (at least it was back then) –- Loews Ridgefield Park, which is in northern NJ very close to Manhattan. This theater had ten screens, which back in those days was not very common. It was odd because all of the auditoriums were open to the public except one that was hosting a non-publicized special screening of Frankenstein, starring Kenneth Branagh and Robert DeNiro. I look over and there, by the concession stand, is the film’s producer, Francis Ford Coppola himself. He was doing nothing in particular, so I walked over and told him what a fan I was of his films in general (the three Godfather movies, The Outsiders, and The Cotton Club, in particular.) The greatest living American director (sorry Spielberg, Allen, Tarantino, and Scorsese) was then nice enough to autograph my popcorn bucket.

As for  Sophia, she was bashed a lot for ruining The Godfather Part III and when you watch the film, it’s painfully clear that her part was too much for her. Her father and others should have recognized this and recast the role. That pivotal part of Mary Corleone was supposed to be played by Winona Ryder. But Ryder was suffering from exhaustion (she had just shot Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael and Mermaids back-to-back) and dropped out of the picture last minute. Ryder had experienced some very long work days shooting Mermaids because the production had fallen behind schedule after the original director, Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules) had been fired. When Mermaids did finally wrap, Ryder began shooting G III in Rome, but her then boyfriend, Johnny Depp, reportedly wanted her back with him in the US. Ryder claimed exhaustion and dropped out a month into the shoot. Sophia, who had almost no acting experience, was cast by her dad (who had creative control of the picture) as a replacement. The part was rewritten to suit Sophia's age and the sexuality of the character was toned down. And all of this after principal photography had already begun. All of this considered, it's amazing G III turned out as good as it did.

After being skewered by the critics, Sophia pretty much gave up acting but did go on to write and direct the critically acclaimed The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Despite Sophia’s poor performance, Godfather III is still a must-see that’s better than 99% of the movies out there. It has an intricate, compelling story; maintains continuity with the two preceding films; features great performances by Andy Garcia, Joe Mantegna and others; and it was Oscar-nominated for Best Picture of 1990.

Here’s the extended trailer.

Lastly, if you’re a hardcore fan of The Godfather films, I recommend the The Godfather Companion by Peter Biskind, which has the complete story of the production of the three films and lots of interesting details about Part III in particular. For instance:
  • Diane Keaton wanted too much money to reprise her role as Kay, so Coppola was forced to cut her part down significantly.
  • Mario Puzo wrote the first outline for G III way back in 1978. In it, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is a Howard Hughes-like recluse; the Mafia and the CIA are at war; and the film's climax tales place during a Bicentennial parade. (All of this is drastically different from how the final screenplay turned out.)
  • During casting, Julia Roberts was the first choice to play Mary. Madonna was also considered but at 31, it was decided she was too old for the part.
  • Later, Madonna was seriously considered for the role of Grace Hamilton, the reporter who sleeps with Vincent (Andy Garcia.) At the time, Madonna was coming off the hugely successful Like a Prayer album and was arguably the biggest name in music. Perhaps partially because of this, she demanded a salary of more than half a million dollars (for what amounted to about 15 minutes of screen time) and the producers passed, eventually giving the part to Bridget Fonda.

March 18, 2009

Bye-Bye Belinda

Last night, Belinda Carlisle earned the dubious distinction of being the first person bounced off Dancing With the Stars. Jewel and Nancy O'Dell dropped out before the season even began, so we officially no longer have any interest in this this season of DWTS ... Okay, maybe we'll flip over every once in a while just to see what Edyta is (or isn't) wearing. In the meantime, we'll just watch this rare video from the Pop Culture Fiend Archives and remember Belinda in better days.

Related Links:
DWTS Official Site

March 16, 2009

Farewell to the Ticket Stub

This week I’m buying tickets for Wicked on Broadway (an anniversary gift for my parents.) These will be electronic tickets that you print at home, similar to the way you print boarding passes for airline flights. Moving forward, this looks to be the way all forms of ticketing will take place, which is sad in a way because the old box office machine generated paper tickets were nice souvenirs. Just for old times sake, I went into the Pop Culture Fiend Archives and dug out a few of my old stubs. 

(Click for enlarged view.)

USC vs Colorado at the LA Coliseum
Sept 2000

Muhammad Ali vs Larry Holmes
Oct 1980

The Bangles at the Beacon Theater, NYC
March 1989

Sting at Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, NJ
Feb 1994

Belinda Carlisle (her first solo tour) at the Beacon Theater
May 1988

The Go-Go’s at 4th and B’s (San Diego)
July 2004

Billy Joel (River of Dreams Tour) at Madison Square Garden, NYC
Oct 1993

Jacksons (Victory Tour) at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
July 1984

Madonna (Who’s That Girl Tour) at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
August 1987

March 11, 2009

Commercials We Love - "Be Like Mike"

Getting pretty sick of that "What's G?" commercial, where a bunch of recognizable (and not so recognizable) athletes simply scroll past a black background. First there was Gatorade, then somewhere along the line we got Gatorade Fierce, Gatorade Rain, Gatorade Tiger, Propel (also a Gatorade product), and G2. And now original Gatorade is just supposed to be called "G"?

Really people, how many versions of this product do we need?... IATSS! (It's all the same shit!) And now it's supposed to be called "G", as if shortening to just the initial is somehow hipper?

Get over yourself Gatorade. Get back to basics, ditch the fancy new advertising and resurrect this old school commercial.

Related Posts:

Commercials We Love - "You Will"
Commercials We Love - "Terry Tate: Office Linebacker"
Commercials We Love - "Laptop Hunters"
Commercials We Love - Super Mario Land 2
Commercials We Love - Cindy Crawford & Little Richard for Charlie
Commercials We Love - Fruit of the Loom and Big Fig

March 9, 2009

Pop Culture Fiend Handicaps Dancing with the Stars

Drop everything, read this, then get your bet down. (No joke, there's a legitimate line for this in Vegas.) The Pop Culture Fiend has studied, broken it down and come up with the odds for this season's DWTS contestants:

Lawrence Taylor (retired football star) – Maybe because they're so used to repetitive training and using their entire bodies, but athletes in general and football players in particular (Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Warren Sapp) always do well on this show. LT's also got personality, a great smile and experience in front of the camera. Odds: 4-1

Nancy O’Dell – Dropped out due to injury.

Jewel – Dropped out due to injury.

Holly Madison (Playboy model-reality TV star) - Madison comes to this competition straight off a collapsed reality show. She’s in this largely to remain in the spotlight and improve her Q-rating, but as a late replacement for Jewel, she's had less practice time and is at a distinct disadvantage. Odds: 15-1

Ty Murray (rodeo star) – When his wife Jewel dropped out due to injury, Murray’s chances went right with her. The novelty of seeing he and his wife competing against one another is now gone and Murray has zero name recognition on his own, thereby placing him near the bottom in terms of fan favorites. Odds: 40-1

David Alan Grier (actor-comedian) – Funny guys (Adam Carolla, Jeff Ross) don’t usually do well on DWTS. But Grier was recently on a radio show and  seemed like he was taking this competition pretty seriously. Call it a hunch but we have him as our best longshot. Odds: 10-1

Gilles Marini (actor) – Okay, we never watched Sex in the City so we have no idea who this guy is. We know he’s French (maybe that’ll help him?) and his partner is two-time winner Cheryl Burke, who may be the best of all the professionals. Odds: 8-1

Steve-O (reality TV star) – First off, great pick by the DWTS producers. Steve-O's irreverent personality has the potential to really liven up the show and also pull in an entirely new demographic of viewers. But even though he’s paired with Lacey, one of our favorites, we doubt Steve-O can dance or is interested in putting forth the effort needed to win. Odds: 35-1

Lil’ Kim (recording artist) – Just a quick side note: Lil' Kim was on one of the entertainment shows the other day, and she has had so much cosmetic surgery on her face and her body, she’s virtually unrecognizable from when she first started out in the rap game. Nevertheless, Kim's a performer who seems to love being back in the spotlight. It'll be interesting to see how she’ll click with her partner Derek Hough. Odds: 12-1

Shawn Johnson (gymnast) – The multi-medal winning Olympian has a lot going for her. She’s cute, used to competing, and her gymnastics background gives her all the athleticism, conditioning, discipline, balance and grace she needs to win. It’s all just a question of how well everything translates to the dance floor. Any way you slice it, she’s gotta be the favorite and a lock to make the top three. Odds: 3-1
Chuck Wicks (country singer) – Word is, Wicks has been dating Julianne Hough for awhile (the two opened for Brad Paisley on his last tour.) Hough, it seems, had made up her mind not to return to the show this season but was talked into staying because the producers agreed to have Wicks as a contestant and then pair the couple up. Julianne’s another of our favorites and she’ll no doubt pull out all the stops to get her and Wicks through each week. Even so, we say this duo's dancing (and their relationship) will both be over quickly. Odds: 10-1

Denise Richards (actress) – After running off with her friend Heather Locklear’s husband (Bon Jovi guitarist, Richie Sambora) Richards runs the risk of being unpopular among women viewers. She’ll need to not only dance well but also make nice with everyone in order to repair her image as a man-stealer and make it through. Odds: 8-1

Belinda Carlisle (singer) – Not only is she 50, but  the Go-Go’s singer came off as somewhat indifferent in previous reality show appearances on Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Celebrity Duets. Belinda will have to curb any apathy, be really engaging, and show a lot of personality to last even through the first few weeks. Odds: 25-1

Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) – He’s a gregarious guy but has too much girth and too little name recognition.

Related Links:

March 6, 2009

The Dichotomy of Nancy and Tonya

It was 15 years ago (almost exactly) that Kerrigan and Harding faced off at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Kerrigan, after being attacked and clubbed in the leg by an associate of Harding's at the US Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, could not compete. Harding took first place at the event and secured a spot on the Olympic team and, after she denied involvement in the Kerrigan attack, the USOC (with no proof to the contrary) had no choice but to allow Harding to compete in Lillehammer. Kerrigan, meanwhile, in an unprecedented move by the USOC, was given a spot on the Olympic team in place of Michelle Kwan, who had finished second at nationals. A media frenzy ensued as reporters and cameras followed Harding and Kerrigan's every move leading up to the Games.

The next month, Kerrigan and Harding had their showdown at the Olympics and the ladies figure skating final (broadcast in prime time) was one of the most watched television broadcasts in US history. An estimated 45 million people (representing about 48% of all households in this country that owned TVs) tuned to watch this intro and the ensuing drama.

When it came time for Harding to skate, she missed her first jump, then, to most everyone's amazement, interrupted her routine, skated over to the judges sobbing and explained that her shoelace had broken. Harding was allowed to fix her shoe and skate again later but in the end, Ukraine's Oksana Baiul won the gold medal and Kerrigan, who up until that time had been the media darling, came off as a sore loser while on the medal stand.

It's interesting to see how gracious, fulfilled and happy Kerrigan seems today, while Harding appears still bitter and resentful about everything that's transpired. Admittedly, she's had a much harder life than Kerrigan, both before these events took place and after -- for example, growing up poor and struggling to find the funds for training, alleged physical abused by her mother, a high school drop-out, banned for life by the US Figure Skating Association, multiple DUIs, claims of domestic violence committed against her by various boyfriends, failed boxing and singing careers, and to this day, she's still reviled by the public for her role in the plot against her rival. Even during last fall's Democratic Presidential primary, the two campaigns wound up referencing Harding in a negative way.

And of course, Tonya was also the star of one of the very first celebrity sex tapes. Way before Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian were on anyone's radar, Harding's ex-, Jeff Gillooly sold a home video of he and Tonya having sex on their "wedding night", though later it was revealed that they were just role-playing.

Related Links:
Tonya Harding interview on HBO Real Sports

March 3, 2009

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

Monday was Dr. Seuss' (Theodore Geisel's) birthday. Everyone knows his books and their lasting impact on our popular culture, but I dug into the Pop Culture Fiend Archives to find an example of how Geisel's writing style and his specific choices in his poetic meter have influenced and inspired other creative works. For example, in this clip from Moonlighting, watch David, Maddie (Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd) and a maitre d' go at it Dr. Seuss style.

March 2, 2009

If You Liked Planet Terror...

Was watching WWE Raw, the other night, saw a commercial for House of the Dead: Overkill -- a new zombie-killing, first-person shooter -- and was immediately struck by how much the graphics, gameplay, and characters reminded us of Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror feature from 2007's Grindhouse. Looked into it and it seems the game's creators were indeed "inspired" by Rodriguez's ode to good ole 70's exploitation splatterfests. Just like in the movie, there's a hospital setting, bulbous, gelatinous mutants that explode in sprays of blood, plus a stripper character that's a dead ringer for the film's star, Rose McGowan. And the entire game has that worn out B-movie film look. Even the game's packaging kinda looks like the movie poster.

Related Links:
House of the Dead: Overkill trailer
House of the Dead: Overkill reviewed on GameSpot