Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Music Blogging: 'Ode to W's Brain'

When I see our President on television, like many of us, I wonder just exactly what is going on inside his head. I don't have any solid answers about his thought process, but I have a feeling that inside the presidential cranium, it sounds something like this.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Photo Blogging

Window Planes

I had to grab this cool reflection from the window of the Art Emporium on Hale Street. It's got that whole disorienting thing going on.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Bodyslam The Director!

Last Saturday night, I had a wonderful time screening the film "In The Ringer" at the South Charleston Museum, located in the LaBelle Theater on D Street. As part of the "New Films from West Virginia" series, the Museum presented the debut feature documentary by Amy Trent, starring none other than noted WV filmmaker Daniel Boyd, and telling the story of his career....... as a professional wrestler.

I'm not making that up. Danny (who I've known forever) got involved in the Nitro-based XMCW wrestling promotion, and found himself in the ring. Just exactly how that happened is the story of this film. The short version is that Mister X, one of the XMCW wrestlers, was scarred for life when, as a child, he was passed over for a role in one of Danny's movies. When the esteemed Professor Boyd showed up to watch an evening of wrestling, he found himself involved in a life-changing confrontation with some surprising outcomes.

In-ring action

First-time director Amy Trent does a wonderful job of presenting this storyline, using in-depth interviews with the involved parties, along with some in-ring action to illustrate the key points. In professional wrestling circles, this sort of storyline is called an "angle," and this is as fine a delineation of an angle that I've seen. It helps that this is a credible, realistic story, unlike much of what you see on WWE television shows these days.

There's a surreal quality to watching somebody you know in real life, up on the big screen doing bizarre things, especially when he's sitting right behind you in the theater. But it's sort of fitting, since I usually get that feeling watching the movies that Danny directs anyway. You have to find an extra layer of the suspension of disbelief because you know so many of the actors.

Dan's films have been so entertaining that it hasn't been hard to remove myself enough from knowing everyone in them to enjoy them. Still, I can't quite wrap my mind around the idea of watching my tiny, old friend and college film instructor doing suplexes and taking chair shots to head.

Not to be missed

"In The Ringer" is not something to be missed. It was a wonderful, fun evening, and the air was thick with kayfabe. If you get a chance to see the film, don't pass it up. I'll keep you up to date on any further showings. I'll also keep you up to date on any further wrestling activities from "Stone Cold Danny Boyd" because I got the distinct impression that "In The Ringer" is only the beginning of the story.

And I also want to comment on how nice the restored LaBelle Theater is. They really have a nice thing going on over at the South Charleston Museum, and it'd be nice to see more people come out and support it. Steve Fesenmaier has been programming a terrific slate of West Virginia films for a year now, and it's a great thing to have in the area. This Saturday they're treating us to an evening of films devoted to Appalachian music featuring Jack Wright and the Carter Family.

You can read more about the films that Daniel Boyd has produced and directed here.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Art Blogging

"Virginia Street"

Digitally assaulted photograph

September, 2005

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Non-comic book scoop

So, the same day I get my first link from a cool comics blog (Heidi MacDonald's Beat), I find out that my scoop wasn't such a big scoop, after all.

I'm talking about the item below on the Marvel Comics Digests at Family Dollar. It seems that a version of these was announced last April, and those were offered to regular comics retailers first. This was covered by quite a few of the comic news sites at the time. They shipped in July. Googling seems to indicate that hardly anybody mentioned these after they were announced. That they were sold by Family Dollar was news. The versions on sale at Family Dollar have specially-printed covers, so they were probably just an extra printing done at the same time. Thanks to Brian Hibbs for setting me straight on that in the comments.

For the record, Marvel announced that there will be six digests, total, with the second batch of three including another Spider-man volume, one starring the Hulk, and one starring the X Men. I have no idea if the additional three volumes will also turn up at Family Dollar (or if they already have), but I plan to check regularly.

These are still a very good deal for classic comics. Might make great Halloween treats.

Brian, by the way, is a long-time comic book retailer who writes "Tilting At Windmills" for Newsarama, one of the best sources for comic book news on the web. Highly recommended.

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 20th: It's even less of a scoop than I thought. These are turning up at Wal Mart, for 97 cents. And they have all six of the titles. They're in the toy department. At least I discovered the rare Family Dollar variation.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A long wait for EVIL!

When I was a kid, there was one toy that I wanted more than anything---the Dr. Evil Gift Set! It was really called the "Dr. Evil Lab Set", but "gift set" sounds so much funnier when matched with "Dr. Evil." Anyway, this set filled me with an early instance of what I have come to call "toy lust." I haven't managed to lose that affliction as an adult, either. I wouldn't write so much about toy collecting if I weren't so heavily under the influence of it.

This is not the lame Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies. I'm talking about the REAL Dr. Evil--the blue-skinned guy with the bug eyes and exposed brain who came from Alpha Centuari to fight Captain Action. (The guy in the movie is just a bald parody of Lorne Michaels.)

The blue Dr. Evil was Captain Action's worst enemy! Super-intelligent and capable of destroying the world, he could kick the movie Dr. Evil's butt.

Recalling Captain Action

As a reminder, since not many people remember him, Captain Action was a GI Joe-sized action figure made by Ideal Toys. His gimmick was that you could buy costumes (with cool, head-covering rubber masks) that allowed you to dress Captain Action as an impressive variety of other superheroes. A quick change of clothes and the Captain could turn into Superman, Batman, Spider-man, The Phantom, The Green Hornet, and other larger-than-life icons. He was one of the coolest toys every made.

But I digress.

For Christmas 1968 I really wanted the Dr. Evil Gift Set. It came with Dr. Evil, two disguises, a lab coat, and the evil hypnotic eye. In 1968, I already had Captain Action and I really wanted a bad guy for him to fight. Santa (in the form of my parents) had the not-so-good Doctor on lay-away at Arlan's Department Store (now the site of Sport Mart on the South side of the Patrick Street Bridge. But before they could pick him up, Arlan's burned to the ground. Nobody else in town had Dr. Evil, so for Christmas, and I wound up with a Marx Chief Cherokee. Talk about a letdown.

Evil Reappears

Fifteen years ago, a mint-in-box Dr. Evil Lab Set would set you back more than two grand. I haven't checked the price lately, but I think that if you want one now, you have to sweeten the pot with your firstborn or a kidney or something. So I went without Dr. Evil in my collection... until 30 years had passed.

In 1998, a company called "Playing Mantis" was making a name for themselves by bringing back some of the beloved toys from the '60s and '70s. They'd already revived Johnny Lightning cars and the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle, when word leaked out they were thinking about bringing back Captain Action.

I was jazzed. After tracking down and pestering their PR person, Suzi Klimek, I got the story in TOY TRADER Magazine and scooped the toy press in trumpeting the return of one of the most collectible toys from the '60s superhero boom.

And because I was writing a monthly column about action figures, I was sent complimentary copies of Captain Action and Dr. Evil to review.

I waited 30 years to get my hands on Dr. Evil, and of course I gave it a glowing review. You don't want to cross Dr. Evil!

Even without the goodies from the Lab Set (just to get the Hypnotic Eye on eBay will cost you more than a Kia), this was a very satisfying moment. As I type this, Dr. Evil is watching over me from his spot of honor in my office.

And that's why I collect toys. It's either the warm, fuzzy feeling of recapturing my childhood, or the trauma caused by not getting Dr. Evil when I wanted him. One of these days I'll tell you about how it took me 25 years to get a DEVO "Duty Now For The Future" T-shirt.

Evil is as Evil does

Since I never did get my hands on the Dr. Evil Gift Set, I had to swipe the photo for my other post from an excellent book by Michael Eury, "Captain Action, The Original Super-Hero Action Figure".

This is an exhaustive history of the brief life of Captain Action and his even briefer revival in the late 90s. I know Mike from the Captain Action email group at Yahoo, and would love to plug his book and send folks to buy it, but a quick check of his publisher's website shows that it is sold out. You can still track down a copy from Amazon, or perhaps a local bookstore might still have some in their warehouse.

However, since I owe Michael a plug, I'll take this opportunity to recommend Back Issue Magazine--edited by Michael, which is devoted the comic books of the '70s and '80s. I also want to tell you about a couple of other great books that Michael has written , "Dick Giordano: Changing Comics One Day At A Time", about the legendary artist and editor, and his most recent, "Justice League Companion", about the famed super-hero team. Great reads, one and all.

You can find all those and much more comic book history at TwoMorrows Publishing, the folks who are preserving the history of America's native art form.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Music Blogging

A couple of years ago, I started playing around writing music on the computer. As part of this blog, I plan to, share some of it with you. I would have to say that the best thing about my music is that it's usually mercifully short.

This first musical burst is a jumpy little thing I call "STOMPY."

If you have a high-speed connection, you can just click on it, and listen. Or you can right-click on the link, and hit "Save Target As", to download.

Comic Book Scoop

Since we recently mentioned Jack Kirby and Marvel comics, it's a good time to menion a cool thing I recently found at Family Dollar: Digest-sized black-and-white reprints of classic Marvel Comics from the early '60s, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the Avengers. They're 68 pages, and each reprints the first three stories from the first, early 60's issues of these classic comics. And they only cost a buck each!

What I can't understand is how these managed to slip under the radar of the comic book internet community, where any attempt to create a low-priced entry-level comic book is hailed as a major step towards saving the industry. You see, despite all the big success in Hollywood with comic-book-based movies like Spider-man, Batman Begins, The Hulk, X Men, and the like, comic book sales are just a tiny fraction of what they used to be back in the 60s and 70s. For some reason, the success of those movies didn't bring any new readers to the comics.

The main reason for this seems to be that comic books are no longer considered a disposable treat aimed at kids. They're fairly expensive, and the average age of a comic book reader is well past twenty--and rising! And with no comic books aimed at kids (at a price they can afford), you don't get any new readers. Some younger readers, raised on Pokemon, are drifting towards Manga (Japanese comic books, usually sold in bookstore collections), but not too many kids are getting hooked on traditional American comic books. Comic books have gone from being a universal element of childhood to being a red flag, warning of giant geekdom. Which is a shame, because, at their best, comic books can be just as good as any other medium.

So these little Marvel Digests at Family Dollar (they must be an exclusive to the chain--the Family Dollar price tag is printed on the cover) are a sign that, just maybe, the folks in charge are going to try to market comics to kids again. Still, regardless of the audience, these are classic Marvel Comics for a buck! Who can beat that?

And with nobody else noticing this, I get to scoop the entire internet comic book press.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Equestrian Statue

Took a pleasant stroll around downtown the other day, and thought I'd pay tribute to the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

The sky was fantastic that morning.

This is, of course, the statue of that Davis guy. I don't remember who, but I'm sure it wasn't Sammy.

More downtown photo blogging to come.
For more info on the Bonzos, go here.
For the lyrics to The Equestrian Statue, go here
For info on Nutella, the original creamy, chocolaty hazelnut spread, go here.

Art Blogging

"Scape Number Six"

One of a series. Collect 'em all.

Hail To The King

Okay, there are few things cooler in this world than the creative legacy of Jack Kirby (1917-1994).

This is the guy who co-created Captain America in the 1940s, and gave the comic book world loads of memorable characters like The Newsboy Legion, The Vision, Sandman, The Challengers Of The Unknown, among other classics.

With his partner Joe Simon, he was responsible for the first horror and romance comics. Simon and Kirby split up in the 1950s, and on his own, Kirby was responsible for great work for DC, Marvel, and newspaper comics.

Kirby teamed with Stan Lee at Marvel Comics in the 1960s, and together, they created the Fantastic Four, and laid the groundwork for the Marvel Comics empire. When you see The X Men, The Fantastic Four, The Silver Surfer, The Hulk, and almost all the other Marvel heroes, you're looking at Jack Kirby creations.

When he left Marvel to work for DC Comics, at an age when most cartoonists are contemplating retirement, he still had enough left in his tank to bring us classics like Kamandi, The New Gods, Mister Miracle, and Etrigan, the Demon.

Perhaps because he's not the one whose uncle owned the company, Kirby gets a bit of a short shrift when it comes to things like putting his name on blockbuster movies based on his Marvel co-creations (Fantastic Four, Hulk, X Men), and his estate doesn't even get paid royalties when Marvel reprints his classic work. Even when they do it in a coffee-table book called "Marvel Visionaries: Jack Kirby."

DC treats Kirby better, but he's responsible for so much of what makes up comic books today that he really deserves more acclaim.

So, it's really cool that Kirby now has a museum dedicated to his work. It's about time the guy got the credit he deserves. This is a guy who was creating memorable characters from the 1930s to the 1980s. Most of the modern-day universes of both Marvel and DC Comics are deeply-rooted in Kirby's concepts and creations.

The museum is an online presence for now, with the stated goal of developing a traveling retrospective of Kirby's work. Brought to life by Randolph Hoppe, Kirby's daughter, Lisa, and John Morrow (publisher of JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR ,along with other great books and magazines that preserve comic book history), the Jack Kirby Museum is a long overdue honor for the man who almost single-handedly created the modern comic book. Check out the Kirby Museum here

It's a good start when it comes to recognizing the plucky little Brooklynite, without whom we would not have two-thirds of today's most recognizable comic book favorites. And think how cool it would be if the Avampato Museum at the Clay Center could sign on to host the traveling retrospective when it starts in 2007.

Beatles Cover Alert!

So, I'm a Beatle freak. The group stuff; the solo stuff; the guest appearances on other artist's album--I eat that stuff up.

One thing I keep an eye out for is cover versions of Beatle songs--group or solo--the more obscure, the better. Well, we've got a pretty unusual one to listen to this time.

Eric Clapton, on his new album, "Back Home", has covered a song from George Harrison's self-titled 1979 album. Any Beatle fan knows that Harrison and Clapton are old buddies, even sharing an ex-wife between them. And Clapton has recorded several of Harrison's songs over the years (Harrison even co-wrote the song "Badge" for Clapton's group, Cream). Clapton was even the musical director for the Concert for George, held one year after his untimely passing.

So, it's no shock that Clapton would cover a song by his old, fallen, comrade. "Love Comes To Everyone" is a nice mellow little tune that has aged pretty well. It's one of those reassuring song about how cool love is. What's interesting is that Clapton's recording is slavishly faithful to the original version. With the exception of Clapton's lead vocal and guitar solo, and some female backing vocals, this is almost a note-for-note recreation of Harrison's recording. Clapton even brought in Steve Winwood, who played the synthesizer solo on Harrison's album, to recreate his performance on what sounds like the same '70s-vintage keyboard.

It's not an Earth-shattering new version of the song, but it is a nice revival of a forgotten gem from the quiet Beatle.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Sketchy Bio

Since we're going live with the Gazz, here's a quick rundown of who I am, and what I'm doing here:

First, off, I'm Rudy Panucci.

Twenty years ago, along with my brother, Frank, I edited an independent comic book called "Coda." It was the first nationally distributed comic book published here in West Virginia. I also wrote and drew the backup feature, "Spud."

Fifteen years ago, I hosted "Radio Free Charleston, the greatest (local) radio show in the history of this city (that's not really saying much). I played local artists, conceptual comedy bits, and any music that I felt like playing--I'm still proud of the time I segued from the Sex Pistols into Benny Goodman.

About thirteen years ago, I began co-writing "Animated Discussion" with Melanie Larch, which is still being published by the Charleston Gazette, whenever there's animation to write about.

Ten years ago, I began writing about action figures for Toy Trader Magazine. When Toy Trader was bought up and shut-down by Toy Shop (we were eating away at their sales, so they assimilated us), I moved over to, which is also the parent company of the GI Joe Collector's Club. My work can still be found there, covering topics like action figures, die-cast cars, and cheesy knockoffs. Action figures, especially GI Joe, are one of my main obsessions.

Nine years ago, I began writing for Non-Sport Update, the magazine devoted to non-sport trading cards--you know, the cool ones, like "Mars Attacks" and "Wacky Packages". I'm still writing for them and can even be seen in their upcoming 15th anniversary issue trying to hide my baldness under a hat.

For the last eight years, I have been caring for my mother at home. She suffered a massive stroke, and rather than park her in a nursing home, I brought her home where she can be healthier and happier than she could have possibly been elsewhere. It's been a bit of a challenge, and a crash course in medical procedures, but I don't regret it. It has curtailed my social life, but I was getting lazy about going out before that anyway.

Earlier this year, I had a health scare. I've come out of it in better shape than I went in, but it has made me more aware of how important it is to pay attention to what you eat.

So, that's about it. I may tee off on comic books, toys, movies, animation, health care, food, television, or anything else that strikes my fancy. I'll also share some of the artwork, photography, and music that I've been working on these last few years. Maybe along the way I can reconnect with some of my old Radio Free Charleston co-conspirators.

Hope you enjoy the ride.

Art Blogging

"At the Beach"
Digitally manipulated photograph, 2003

Let's Go Krogering

Kudos to Kroger

If you check out any of the recently-remodeled Kroger stores in our area, you'll find an impressive new section of organic and avant-garde foodstuffs.

It's nice be able to walk into a local store and find spelt flour, Organic soy milk, and all that other hippie-dippy crap that's supposed to be good for you.

So hat's off to Kroger for improving the quality of life in this area, just a little bit.

No more ordering in bulk off the internet.

Now if they'd only get Red Rock or Whoopee Cola, made with real cane sugar.

And Quisp. Sure would be nice to be able to buy Quisp locally again.

The Green Stuff

Okay, this is another Kroger find.

Earlier this year, I had a health scare that caused me to start eating like a responsible adult. As a result, I recently discovered that I actually like the taste of fresh spinach. I eat it without any dressing, just a dash of kosher salt and some fresh ground black pepper.

But I have a confession to make. The reason I found out that I enjoy this healthy food was soley because of the packaging. I bought it because it had Popeye on the bag.

Like the late legendary Charleston Gazetteer, James Dent, I am a huge fan of Popeye. I love the orginal comic strips by E. C. Segar. I love the stuff by his replacement, Bud Sagendorff. I even like the inferior comic books produced by George Wildman. And of course, to any animation fan, the Max Fleischer cartoons are like Beethoven. My fondness for the character extends to the point where I will pick up almost any product that has his picture on it.

So when I was strolling through the Kroger produce section one day a few weeks ago looking for salad, I found a bag of fresh spinach, washed and ready to eat, with Popeye on the package. I had to buy it, at least once.

Imagine my surprise when I developed a taste for the leafy green, and got hooked on it.

It turns out that Popeye brand fresh spinach is a Kroger's exclusive. You can't get it anywhere else.

I've tried other brands, but without the squint-eyed sailor man on the package, it somehow doesn't taste as good.

Now, this is not to be confused with the canned Popeye spinach, which is available everywhere, and is really pretty nasty. This is the fresh stuff, sold in a bag in the produce section.

Grab some and season it up--it's better than potato chips!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Seen at IWA--Danny Boyd

One of the really cool things about the IWA East Coast show was that I ran into my old buddy, Danny Boyd. I've known Danny for more than twenty years. In fact, I was one of his first film students at West Virginia State back in the long-ago 80s. Danny, of course, is the legendary local film maker of "Chillers", "Strangest Dreams" and "Paradise Park".

Danny was into wrestling long before I was, and even cast the great Dusty Rhodes in "Paradise Park". So seeing him at a wrestling show was no shock.

I hadn't seen Danny in years (I haven't seen a lot of people in years), and seeing him reinforced my feeling that the IWA shows give off the modern-day version of the cool vibe I used to get at the Charleston Playhouse.

I almost expected to see Bob Gates sitting in the middle of all the mayhem, asleep, with a Black Label in his hand.

But anyway, Danny was at the show working on a top secret project. I can't say anything about it, but you can decipher what you will right here

IWA photos

You can find some very cool photos from the September 6th IWA East Coast show at this blog,

Check it out and see what all the fuss is about.

Property Damage Guaranteed

IWA East Coast returned to the South Charleston Community Center September 6th with a killer show, "Property Damage Guaranteed". Despite a couple of last-minute changes to the card, IWA treated their fans to their best show yet, loaded with plenty of intense wrestling action, and some huge surprises.

The show opened with the inebriated Luchadore, El Drunko, facing Spyder Nate Webb. This was a great opener, with lots of comedy and some impressive high-flying action. El Drunko was accompanied by his handlers, Crowza and Woody Numbers (who were all over the show) and even though he didn't seem to be himself at times, he and Webb put on a very entertaining match that recalled the work of the legendary Detso Ritter. Webb was the victor, but both men shared a beer toast in the ring afterwards.

Next up was a women's match, with Japanese wrestling star Sumie Sakai facing IWA's Mickie Knuckles, who's probably been in eight of the top ten women's matches in this country so far this year. This was another great match, with Sakai playing to crowd, and both ladies getting cheers. After three German Suplexes, Mickie emerged victorious. This had better action than most men's matches that you see on TV.

Ironton's Trik Nasty took on the unstoppable monster Warpig next. This was a no-disqualification match. The action spilled out of the ring and into the stands, before Warpig won due to some interference from Warpig's Mentor/handler/creator Dr. Max Graves. This lead to a challenge. At the next show, Trik Nasty will face both Warpig and Dr. Max Graves in a handicap match.

At this point, Crowza and Woody Numbers returned to the ring, and introduced the homicidal, suicidal, genocidal legend, Sabu. Sabu's allegiance to IWA was declared, which brought out Rude Boy, a regular of Juggalo Champions**t Wrestling, who would later face Mad Man Pondo for the JCW title. After a brief dust-up, it was time for intermission.

A replacement match was up next. Ian Rotten, the hardcore legend of ECW and IWA Mid-South fame, has been taken out of action due to a recent skull fracture and could not wrestle (although he did attend the show and was great on the microphone). In his place, former WWE and current NWA TNA star Zach Gowen, the one-legged wonder, stepped in to face Ian's scheduled opponent, Ashland Kentucky's The Juggulator. Crowza and Woody Numbers also came to the ring with The Juggulator, and found themselves involved in the match a few times, even hiding Gowen's prosthetic leg under the ring.

Anytime you see a guy hopping around on one leg in the ring, you know you're watching something unique, but aside from the novelty, this was a top-notch match, with The Juggulator coming out victorious.

The crowd was disappointed to learn that IWA East Coast Heavyweight Champ Chris Hero was tied up in Europe, but in place of the Hero vs. Kudo championship match, Ruckus defended his CZW Heavyweight title against Kudo in a very fast-paced, action-filled match. Ruckus retained his championship, but both men did fantastic work. Combat Zone Wrestling is one of the top independent federations in the country, and this was a great replacement match. Hopefully we'll get to see Chris Hero defend his belt against both of these men in the future.

At this point, Crowza and Woody Numbers escorted Sabu to the ring for his match against 2 Tuff Tony. Crowza and Woody were ejected from ringside by Yuki, the Japanese lady ref, and the crowd was treated to an amazing spectacle of a tables match (you win by putting your opponent through a table). The action spilled out of the ring as wrestlers were thrown one way, and chairs were flung the other. Four tables bit the dust before 2 Tuff Tony emerged as the winner.

But the night wasn't over. Ian Rotten entertained on the mic for several minutes during the next intermission. One lucky fan walked away with a truckload of autographed goodies in a raffle which raised nearly three hundred dollars for hurricane relief. Finally, it was time for the main event.

Mad Man Pondo made his first defense of the JCW Heavyweight Title (which he won a few weeks ago by defeating the legendary Terry Funk at the annual "Gathering of the Juggalos", the wrestling and music festival held by the Insane Clown Posse). JCW's Rude Boy and Pondo faced off in a match where each man's hands were covered with broken beer bottles. The blood flowed freely, but Pondo retained his belt after an intense confrontation.

After the match, Pondo raised Rude Boy's hand in a show of respect, and as Pondo left, Rude Boy took the mic to return the favor. However, Rude Boy was rudely interrupted by none other than Sabu, who smashed Rude Boy with a steel chair and then hung him from the ropes in a vicious attack.

At this point, the crowd went wild. Violent J, from the Insane Clown Posse, made a surprise rescue and ran Sabu out of the ring. What happened next was even more surprising.

Rude Boy turned on Violent J, and beat on him with a steel chair. This set up the main event for the November 15th IWA East Coast show---Rude Boy vs. Sabu vs. Violent J in a steel cage match, with Shaggy 2 Dope, Violent J's partner in ICP, as the special ref.

That is going to be an incredible show. ICP has a rabid following, and with the addition of loyal Juggalos (fans of ICP) it's a sure bet that the South Charleston Community Center will see its biggest crowd, ever.

It was an incredible night, and I'll be posting more about it later.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Oh Boy, NEW TV!!!

For the first time in years, Charleston is getting a new television station. Well, sort of.

WHCP, the technical laughingstock of local broadcasting, is uprooting from Portsmouth Ohio, and moving to Charleston's West Side, somewhere around the old Duchess Bakery building. While it's cool that we're getting a new TV station, I have some concerns.

Don't get me wrong. I think it's great that WHCP is moving to the West Side. It always seemed sort of alien seeing these funky low-budget commercials for small businesses in other states. While they billed themselves as serving "Huntington, Charleston, and Portsmouth", it always seemed like Charleston got the short shrift. They should try to become a highly-visible presence and reach out and schmooze the community.

WHCP, in case you never noticed, has been on the air for five or six years, and is an affiliate of both the WB and UPN, which are known as "netlets" or "jokes" in terms of their stature among broadcast networks. The WB is notable for Smallville, and UPN is the home of WWE Smackdown! Aside from the fringe network programming, the hallmark of WHCP has been the sub-cable access quality of most of their local commercials and content.

That may end, with promises of massive upgrades from the new owners (who include Charleston-based legal eagles Mark Hunt and Margaret Workman, among others). At the very least, we may not see too many more commercials that use trademarked characters without any legal permission.

So, with WHCP moving to town, how about we welcome them with some sage advice? You listening, station owners?

First, get a new transmitter, preferably one that allows the transmission of stereo audio and hi-def video. The signal coming from the transmitter you use now looks like UHF coming in on a busted set of rabbit ears. Is that transmitter something you got second-handed from Public Broadcasting? Does that thing run on hamster-wheel power or something? You're moving to Charleston, don't forget to upgrade the broadcast quality to at least minimal professional standards.

Next, you want to do a newscast? Fine. I know that's where the real money is, but don't fool yourself into thinking that a fourth-place news program is going to be a cash cow. It'll take years to get folks around here to switch. Your choice of anchor will bring in a lot of blue-haired old lady viewers, but make sure you hire a designated driver to cart him around.

Now, with those issues nailed down, you guys have to make one major change to your upcoming plans. You need to kill the idea of a Ten O'clock newscast. We already have one, and this market has a news glut of biblical proportions. Instead of putting your newscast on at 10 PM, you need to run your WB programming from 7 PM to 9 PM, and do a Nine O'clock newscast. That way, you can do a full hour (if you have the staff), and still go into your UPN programming at 10 PM, like you do now. And I won't have to stay up past midnight to watch the end of Smackdown!.

To fill up that hour of news, you could do public affairs segments, like we used to get to see before the evil corporate media overlords took over local TV. Mark Hunt and Margaret Workman are going to be part owners of WHCP, so why not put them to work on camera, giving legal advice over the phone once a week.

Let local musicians come on and do a song to plug a festival or show. Do a live remote from a high-school football game. Just don't do what channel 13 does and try to take ten minutes of local news and stretch it to fill up two-and-a-half hours every day.

Now, on my dream wish list, just in case someone from WHCP is actually reading this: Actively seek out local talent and allow them access to the air, even if it's just a fringe weekend timeslot. There are lots of filmmakers and creative folks around here, and public access cable is not terribly friendly to Charleston-area peoples.

Oh, and you need to hire an announcer to be the "voice of the station". Your best bet would be to find somebody with a strong local connection, but a person who hasn't been on the air in, say, fifteen years or so. Find somebody with a distinctive voice that isn't your typical booming announcer's monotone. And pay him a ton of money to be your exclusive talent.

Get in touch, I may be able to...uh...find somebody for you.

Monday, September 05, 2005

My Hasil Story

While we're on the topic of great Boone county artistes, I thought I might share my Hasil Adkins story, tiny though it may be.

Back in 1989, when I was just starting Radio Free Charleston, one of the hooks that used to get my boss to let me do the show was that I would play local music.

However, at that time, I hadn't hooked up with any local musicians (that would change later). So to find some local music, I headed down to Elkins Record Shop on Central Avenue (you could actually go to Central Avenue without a bullet-proof vest in those days) and asked if they had any singles by local artists. Yes, these were still back in the days of vinyl, and Elkins was responsible for stocking most of the local Jukeboxes.

The only thing they had that wasn't off-tune gospel music was a 7" single by Hasil Adkins called "Big Red Satellite". I was stunned by the raw quality of the music, and Hasil was the very first local artist that I played on Radio Free Charleston.

Later on, George Rollins hooked me up with more Hasil music to play on the show, but it wasn't until after Radio Free Charleston ended that I actually got to meet Hasil and see him perform at the Empty Glass.

It was a singular experience. There are a couple of DVDs floating around that try to show Hasil in action, but nothing could possibly capture the energy and pure psycho mojo that poured out of this man. He sat alone behind the drum kit with a guitar, harmonica, and God knows what else, and he made the most astounding noise I've ever heard. It was like being in a holy-roller church, a livestock auction, a crackhouse, and a cell with Charlie Manson, all at the same time. I don't think I've ever been closer to real, pure rock n' roll than I was that night. "One-man band" does not do justice to Hasil Adkins. He was a one-man force of nature.

I got to meet Hasil and hang out with him briefly. I was later told that I was the only radio person he met that he didn't take an instant dislike to. So I don't have any stories about death threats or the brandishing of weapons. I just knew Hasil as a quiet, humble guy who made amazing music.

Hasil is gone now. He passed away in April. You can visit his official site and leave your condolences.

Whether you have a tear in your eye, or breath a sigh of relief, you have to agree that the likes of Hasil Adkins will not walk this Earth again.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

One night at the Playhouse

While I'm in a reflective mood, I thought I'd share an image with you all.

One night early in 1990, if I recall correctly, I knocked off work early, and rounded up my buddy John "Sham Voodoo" Estep, because he was going to host a Thursday night acoustic jam at the Playhouse. The Tuesday jam had been a huge success, but we wanted to try something a bit quieter.

The problem was that nobody told us that the Playhouse had already been booked that night.

Morgantown film maker Jacob Young and Michael Lipton had arranged for a performance by the then-unknown "dancin' outlaw" Jesco White.

It was quite a shock. After getting over the disappointment from the cancelled jam session, Sham and I found ourselves mesmerized by the unique dance styling of the Boone county legend. I had my camera (loaded with pretentious artsy-fartsy black and white film) and snapped the photo you see above.

At the time, I chalked it up as just another night of Charleston Playhouse bizzaromania. I also remember that the stage at the Playhouse was never the same after Jesco had at it with those cast-iron tap shoes.

It was surreal, and one of those things in life that seems like a dream. It was a year or more before the Dancin' Outlaw documentary was finished, and by that time, we'd all forgotten about it. In fact, this photo sat in my archives until last month, when I found it in while moving stuff around. Then I remembered, I was there the night they filmed Jesco for the documentary.

Another surreal moment was a few years later, when Jesco was the Grand Marshall of the annual Commode Bowl Parade in Dunbar. The parade route goes right by my house, and I took a moment from cooking a Thanksgiving turkey to look up and see Jesco, in full Elvis regalia, riding by my living room window on a fire truck.

I didn't get any pictures that time.

Darn it.

The Playhouse

The Charleston Playhouse was a magical place. It was only open for about year, but in that year it was a madhouse of art, music, and theater, tucked away in a hidden corner of Kanawha City. It was an oasis of music, food, comedy, and mayhem.

And ther was plenty of drama--not all of it on stage. There were what seemed like a few thousand people who owned a share of the Playhouse, and by the time they shut down, none of them were speaking to each other. It was a case of too many cooks.

However, all the cooks had interesting things going on. The rock and roll faction was responsible for the legendary Tuesday night jam sessions and weekend concerts. The theater crowd put on some of the best shows Charleston has seen--from "True West" to "Side by Side by Sondheim". The art crowd encouraged creativity by providing paper table cloths and crayons at each table. For its short life, the Playhouse was a nexus for all things cool in Charleston.

I even met Melanie there, at a Stark Raven album launch party.

Where else could you find Sondheim, Sam Shepard, Brian Diller, Clownhole, David Friesen, Duke Robillard, Go Van Gogh, Eraserhead, Danny Boyd's movies, and drunken Reggae renditions of the "Beverly Hillbillys" theme, all on the same stage?

But the creative schizophrenia was destined to burn out, and the playhouse gang all scattered to the four winds in the early 90s.

So, it's a little sad to see that the building that once housed the Playhouse has now become the home of a gambling parlor. It was probably inevitable. There never really has been a successful business in that location. Still, it's a little undignified that the business that moved in is not even an original gambling parlor, they swiped their name from a successful chain of money-suckers. I mean, geez, at least come up with an original name if you're going to defile the Charleston art community's holy ground!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Fake News Story

(notAP) New Orleans La.---Radio show host Melanie Morgan, and Move America Forward, a non-profit pro-government propaganda advocacy group held a press conference this afternoon to denounce the media coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"We are not getting the real story!" said Morgan. "The crazy liberal news media is portraying this natural occurrence in an overly negative light. Nobody is focusing on the good news, like all the people who didn't get killed and all the daring rescues. If you accept the story the way the far-left anti-American reporters are covering it, then you probably think that this hurricane was a bad thing that never should have happened. And that's just not the case!".

"Our National Guard is working their hearts out to rebuild things, and nobody's paying any attention to that, they're just concentrating on the suffering, the looting, and the devastation. These reporters must hate our National Guard, or they'd only report the good, government-sanctioned, news." Morgan went on to say, "Hurricane Katrina was an act of God, and all these reporters who are saying bad things about it must really hate God, a lot!"

When asked if she would organize one of her famous information-seeking tours to expose the good news coming out of this hurricane, Morgan replied, ", we're really too busy trying to smear Cindy Sheehan right now, but our hearts go out to all those poor people."

Weird Toy Blogging

A couple of years ago, one of the toy companies decided to release yet another series of action figures based on the Universal Monsters. For some reason, this is one of the most-licensed properties (with the least-impressive sales record) in recent years.

This company touted their very realistic sculpting, and launched their line with a figure of Bela Lugosi as Dracula.

Now, is it just me, or is that Dracula a dead ringer for celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse?

"Looooook into my eyes. You are in my power. BAM!"

Later, Rudy