Monday, October 14, 2013
Happy Birthday to my favourite "Fire-Eating Mermaid", the lovely MeduSirena Marina, who performs weekly at The Wreck Bar in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I have written about having recently met this lady here in this previous post. Marina is a favourite among all of we fans of mid-20th Century kitsch and especially Tiki Culture!
Here she is in all of her aquatic splendour!
Thursday, August 15, 2013
The show actually started out a bit differently in its first season, with Joe Mannix working for a technology-based detective agency called Intertect, run by Lew Wickersham, played by the always reliable Joseph Campanella. The huge banks of massive computers utilized by Intertect would seem quaint by today's standard of small desktop computers, but back then it would have been very impressive.
By season 2 however, it was decided that Mannix needed retooling to appeal more to viewers, so Joe was now a private detective operating out of a swanky, Spanish-style office in a well-to-do area of Los Angeles. He also now had a loyal and efficient private secretary, Peggy Fair, played by Gail Fisher. This was notable for that period in the 60s, as Peggy was a young black woman, and race was still a somewhat touchy subject on TV, though things had certainly progressed a lot by then. She was the widow of a policeman friend of Joe's who had been shot and killed in the line of duty, so Joe hired Peggy out of compassion and respect for his friend, and also did what he could to be a surrogate father figure to her young son, Toby. The show was not shy in confronting race issues on several episodes, and I think it did a lot in improving relations, evolving into the more enlightened 70s, where black actors stepped up to play leading roles in their own series.
What I love about Mannix and many other cop shows of the era, is the combination of authority and elegance that the various detectives had. One couldn't help but like and admire such characters as Joe Mannix, Steve McGarrett, or my personal favourite, Jim Rockford, as they were truly heroic and chivalrous men. They were unapologetic modern-day white knights, back before TV started to take a turn for the worse, eventually giving the viewer highly flawed "heroes" like what we have today. Frankly, I like my TV heroes to be good, decent, upstanding fellows, thanks just the same. In future blog posts I plan on paying tribute to more of them!
By the way, this Mike Connors tribute is dedicated to a fellow named Dave J. who had emailed me several weeks ago to request I do a caricature of Mannix, as he's also a big fan of the series. Thanks for the request, Dave - it was my pleasure!
Here is the opening title music to Mannix, a melodic, jazzy number by Lalo Schifrin, who also wrote the memorable theme to Mission Impossible:
Friday, July 19, 2013
Any time I noticed in the TV Guide that Vikki was appearing as a guest on a variety or talk show, I made sure I had my trusty VCR set up to record her performance. I still have all those taped appearances, now transferred to DVD for posterity (I hope!) I was also a member of her fan club for many years, and looked forward to the quarterly newsletter. One time in 1979 or so, while reading the newsletter, I was thrilled to learn that Vikki would be appearing in Hamilton as a guest on the show, The Palace, a revival of sorts of The Hollywood Palace from the 60s, that was being produced in Canada and hosted by singer Jack Jones. I talked my parents into a trip from Ottawa to Hamilton for the taping of the show and sent away for tickets.
Before heading out, I had painted a caricature of Vikki and had it framed up in the hopes of finally meeting her. My folks and I went to the box office to make enquiries as to maybe meeting her after the show that evening so that I could present her with my artwork. I remember the woman at the desk being very nice and summoned Vikki's manager to find out if that would be possible. He smiled when he saw the caricature and said they were currently in rehearsal inside the theatre, but thought she might be able to take a break to meet me right then.
Sure enough, he came back with Vikki Carr herself and I was in heaven. She seemed thrilled with the art and gave me a big hug and kiss in accepting it. She was as sweet as could be as she took the time to chat with me and my folks for several minutes before she had to be back on the set. Yep, I was a pretty happy guy at getting to meet this warm, wonderful lady!
As the times were changing, and traditional vocalists were finding it harder and harder to compete with pop/rock types for radio airplay by the mid-80s, Vikki Carr, along with so many others, found her career in mainstream music being severely challenged. Being of Mexican descent and always having proudly maintained a warm relationship with her latin audience, Vikki managed to find new success in concentrating all of her energies on the latin market, releasing many albums of Spanish songs over the years hence. I always felt it was a shame that, through no fault of her own, Vikki came along just as the final wave of the truly great vocalists of our time was being phased out, and quite frankly, the pop music industry has not appealed to my tastes since. I'll continue to listen to my alltime favourite vocalists like Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Peggy Lee.... and lovely Vikki Carr! Happy Birthday to you, Vikki!
(PS: One of the trickiest things in drawing this caricature of Vikki was her hair. I think she's had more different hairstyles over the years than any other woman I know of! This caricature was drawn from a guest appearance she made on The Dean Martin Variety Show in 1971, and as such, the hairstyle may not be her typical look.)
Friday, July 5, 2013
|Me with MeduSirena Marina and her pod of Aquaticats|
Two weeks ago today I was down in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, having succumbed to the siren song of MeduSirena Marina, a real live mermaid whom I had only known up until now through a several year long friendship on Facebook, due to my interest in all things tiki. Marina and her pod of Aquaticats swim every Friday evening at The Wreck Bar in The Sheraton Beach Hotel, right along the sunny shores of Ft. Lauderdale, and I'd long been wanting to meet her in person so I decided to make that my summer vacation destination this year.Mai-Kai, a wonderful A-frame tiki restaurant that has been a part of Ft. Lauderdale's colourful pop culture since 1956.
Bachelor Pad Magazine, in which she was featured on both the cover and in the main pictorial inside. I suspect the magazine increased its subscription sales as a result of Marina's appearance, as she has fast been becoming a cult figure in the retro lounge/tiki scene, appealing to those of us who are nostalgically passionate about mid-20th Century kitsch!
|From left to right in foreground: lovely Hina, Kika, and Kami|
|Here I am with two of the performers from the Polynesian show|
After dinner and the show, we all headed out to the Mai-Kai's tiki gardens for much taking of photos. The management know Marina well, so they were happy to indulge us lingering there for awhile after all the other guests had headed out. Here's just a few of the pics I took that night:
|Marina served on the half shell!|
|Me with my new flames, Kami and Kika|
|Kika lets her drink go to her head!|
|Marina gives some competition to the ship's maidenhead in the Mai-Kai's Molokai Bar|
|Ah, this is the life I was meant to lead!!|
Monday, June 17, 2013
Saturday, June 1, 2013
Back when I was a 14 year old kid, I drew caricatures of all four principal characters on the show and sent them to the actors care of CBS studios, hoping they'd receive them. I'm sure at the age I was then, my drawings were not that great, but I was so happy when I got this nice reply from Jean Stapleton sometime later. I think it may have been one of my first celebrity autographs. Anyway, this sweet note convinced me that Jean must be a really nice lady, and I publish it here in loving memory of this fine actress.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Happy birthday to Yvonne Craig, perhaps best known for portraying Batgirl/Barbara Gordon on the Batman TV series from the 60s. Being a child of the 60s, I was most definitely a member of the original TV generation, and TV sure was a lot more fun and friendly back then! Batman was probably my favourite live-action show as a kid, and I suspect that Yvonne Craig's Batgirl was my first prepubescent crush. Though quite sexy in her batsuit, Yvonne also played her as very demure and feminine. I thought she was just adorable.
In later years I would take notice of Yvonne in the various guest spots she made on a lot of other series as well, usually small but memorable roles. Now that I'm enjoying so many of these great shows on DVD, I've been able seek out a lot her guest spots on my favourite series like Mannix and Wild, Wild West.
Here's a montage above of shots of Yvonne alongside Robert Vaughn in One of Our Spies is Missing, one of the several Man From U.N.C.L.E movies that was created by cobbling together episodes of the TV series. I used video reference from this appearance as the basis for my caricature of Yvonne, although the yellow turtleneck I grabbed from some other pics I found of her.
She was certainly best known for playing Batgirl, but I'm sure many Star Trek fans hold her in high esteem for her memorable role as the green, dancing, slave girl, Marta in the episode, Whom Gods Destroy:
Though primarily a TV actress in later years, Yvonne did do a few movies earlier in her career. Probably her best known movie is the 1964 Elvis Presley film, Kissin' Cousins, in which she and equally lovely Pamela Austin play a couple of cute backwoods sisters who fall for Air Force officer Elvis. Off screen, Yvonne and Elvis were dating at the time.
Yvonne still does a few personal appearances at fan events in tribute to her Batgirl role. I'm hoping that she'll make it to Toronto's Fan Expo someday so I can meet her! Happy Birthday, Yvonne!
Saturday, May 11, 2013
By the way, for those out of the loop, here's the silly controversy I'm referencing regarding a perceived makeover of Merida from Disney/Pixar's Brave. And here's my take on the subject that I had posted on Facebook that I think is worth reposting here:
I must admit I feel that everybody is getting their knickers in a knot unnecessarily about this supposed makeover of Merida. I suspect it is nothing more than a less than faithful final rendering done by an outside illustrator based on a much better and accurate drawing by the talented Jennifer Gwynne Oliver, not a deliberate, insidious attempt to sex her up at all. Part of the problem is that, in order to fit into "The Disney Princess" merchandising program, Merida (like Rapunzel before her) has to be translated from CG to drawing to be consistent with the others. In so doing, some of the subtleties of the design are lost, notably the complex frizzy hair, as well as the need to define her eyes more graphically with an outline.
I think it's fair to say that even the traditionally animated Disney girls have lost some of their likeness as they've been homogenized into a consistent art style for this merchandising program. Aurora in particular has been rounded out more from her original, more graphic design. To be honest, I've never much liked the mentality of "The Disney Princess" program to begin with, as it takes these characters out of context of their respective cartoon universes, as well as away from the unique variety of shapes and sizes of their respective co-stars. It then places them together alongside their similarly shaped sorority in what looks like a Vanity Fair photo shoot, not allowing any of them to acknowledge or interact with each other in any way. Artistically it's a pretty dumb concept, however little girls just love it and, since they're the target market for all the dolls and accessories, I say let it be. Personally I don't give a rat's ass about them being "role models" - that's just a lot of ultraliberal claptrap.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
|James Garner as gambler, Bret Maverick|
Happily that situation has now been rectified, as the complete first season of Maverick was released on DVD this past year, with season two due out very shortly. The character of Bret Maverick is a professional gambler and sometime conman, though only conning those whom he believes are deserving of being brought down a peg or two. He is always a champion of the underdog, and will go out of his way to see that an innocent person receives justice. Though a fast draw and crack shot with a pistol, Bret often manages to get himself out of most tight spots on his wits alone. As a gambler, he has learned to read a man pretty well, anticipating correctly what he's likely to do and being able to cleverly bluff his way through a situation as if he were dealing with an inferior poker player. I love the quirkiness of the series, where no character seems to follow the conventions of the traditional TV western. Even some of the baddies may adhere to some code of honour.
Ironically, though I had never seen the original Maverick, it was when Jim reprised the character 20 years later on Bret Maverick that I first became aware of who the character was. It was also on the set of that TV show that I was able to realize my longtime dream of meeting Jim Garner. You can read about that visit to the set on this previous post.
Jim Garner is in his 80s now, and pretty much retired from acting, but I hope he knows how many people he's brought great enjoyment to through his numerous film and TV roles. His legion of longtime fans are extremely loyal and still watch him onscreen every chance we get. Incidentally, a special thanks to Robert Howe, who was fortunate enough to have worked on The Rockford Files back in the mid-70s for a couple years, and who has recently written a new book reminiscing on that time, as well as having created an official Facebook fan page dedicated to Jim. If you're a fan too, please check these out!
Happy Birthday, Jim - we love ya'!
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Yes, today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Marc Davis, one of "The Nine Old Men", Disney's celebrated group of veteran animators. Andreas Deja has been writing up some great posts on his blog, so I'm not about to compete with that. But I also love and admire the work that Marc did after his career as an animator, when he moved on to design and create many of the best attractions at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Attractions such as The Haunted Mansion, It's A Small World, and The Pirates of the Caribbean were all a big part of my childhood in those early years of family road trips from Ottawa, Canada, down to the brand new Walt Disney World in Florida in the early 1970s. Actually, though, my personal favourite attraction that Marc designed was The Country Bear Jamboree, that had its debut at Walt Disney World before also being built for the Bear Country area in Disneyland.
|Marc Davis concept art.....|
At that time in the 70s, both my Dad and I were big fans of country music, so The Country Bear Jamboree was a well appreciated parody of Nashville's beloved Grand Ole Opry, with its caricatures of familiar character types from that era of country in the form of cartoon bears in various shapes and sizes. To this day I still love vintage country music (although not its vapid pop/rock incarnation as "New Country"), and The Country Bear Jamboree in its heyday remains a favourite of mine. Sadly, I hear that the show has been recently pared down in length by the philistines who currently run Disney, as they feel that they can get more performances crammed in per day in this abbreviated form.
|....Translated into the actual show!|
|Marc Davis working on The Western River Expedition model|
|Concept art for the saloon scene|
The room was on the second floor, but Marc, though walking slowly with a cane, did not want to take the elevator and insisted he could make it up the stairway, which fortunately had shallow wide steps. The hotel had recently been renovated, and there had been some panels of park concept art put up as decoration, so when Marc and Alice arrived at the top of the stairway, there facing them on the landing were a series of large panels featuring the above concept art from the never built Western River Expedition with the masked desperadoes on their horses, also comically wearing masks. I'll never forget Marc's reaction to seeing this art he'd created so many years before. He gazed slowly across the panels, then gradually smiled and started to quietly chuckle to himself. I could tell that he was getting some great amusement from seeing his work again and seemed quite touched that it was on display quite large for people to enjoy. I only met Marc Davis that one time, but I'll never forget witnessing that sweet moment with Marc and his wonderful cartoon art. Happy Birthday to Marc Davis, a genuine Disney Legend!