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Vic Mizzy 1916 - 2009

Posted by Whitmore, October 21, 2009 10:22am | Post a Comment

American composer Vic Mizzy, best known for his absolutely note perfect theme songs for such iconic 1960’s television shows as The Addams Family and Green Acres, died of heart failure this past weekend at his home in Bel-Air. He was 93.
 
Mizzy’s brilliance has been indelibly etched in television history with his ability to accentuate the quirkiness of those shows with his own offbeat, clever sensibility. "They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're altogether ooky: the Addams family."
 
Born in Brooklyn on Jan. 9, 1916, Mizzy’s first instrument was a toy accordion, later he learned to play a real one along with the piano. When he was 14, he met fellow Brooklyn native Irving Taylor, the two began a successful writing partnership that continued while Mizzy attended New York University and through the Second World War when both Mizzy and Taylor served in the Navy. They co-wrote a number of hits, including "Three Little Sisters," There's a Faraway Look in Your Eye," and "Pretty Kitty Blue Eyes," and "Take It Easy." After the war, with another songwriting partner, Mann Curtis, Mizzy wrote more hits like "My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time," "The Whole World Is Singing My Song," "Choo'n Gum" and "The Jones Boy." His songs were recorded by celebrated pop vocalists like the Andrews Sisters, the Mills Brothers, Doris Day, Dean Martin, Perry Como and Billie Holiday.
 
However, he found his greatest success in his television work. Mizzy first wrote themes for the Shirley Temple Storybook, “The Enchanted Melody,” and The Richard Boone Show, but it was his ghoulishly fun theme song for the television classic The Addams Family that won him lasting fame. Based on Charles Addams' macabre New Yorker cartoons, it starred John Astin as the twistedly dapper Gomez Addams and Carolyn Jones as his sexy and devastatingly beautiful wife Morticia Addams. Mizzy chose to play a harpsichord to help conjure up the bizarrely unconventional air; he also punctuated the rhythm with some cool proto-beatnik finger-snapping which helped to define the peculiar humor of the show. When Filmways, the production company, refused to pay for vocalists, Mizzy simply overdubbed himself singing and looped in actor Ted Cassidy, who portrayed the butler Lurch, for the "neat, sweet, petite" section. Mizzy’s underscores were as comical as his themes; he had a knack for enhancing the lunacy of the characters and the situations with just the right instrumentation, just the right melody.

The following year Mizzy composed the title song for Green Acres, the 1965-71 comedy starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. For the Green Acres theme, Mizzy used the unique combination of a bass harmonica and a little fuzz laden guitar and an electric bass clarinet to create the loopy hoedown vibe. He also flawlessly explained the entire back story in the lyrics -- definitely a lost art! -- of the wealthy Oliver and Lisa Douglas chucking away their New York penthouse lifestyle so that Oliver could live out his fresh air dreams and be a farmer. One of Mizzy’s most brilliant moves, financially speaking, was retaining the publishing rights to Green Acres and The Addams Family themes. Not only have they both been in constant reruns for over four decades, but ownership enabled him to license them for use in commercials (like the recent M&Ms ads that featured the Addams Family theme). As he always joked, a couple of finger snaps paid for a real good life in Bel-Air.

Happy Birthday John Winston Lennon!

Posted by Whitmore, October 9, 2009 09:31pm | Post a Comment

About the Awful

I was bored on the 9th of Octover 1940 when, I believe, the Nasties were still booming us led by Madalf Heatlump (Who had only one). Anyway, they didn't get me. I attended to varicous schools in Liddypol. And still didn't pass-much to my Aunties supplies. As a memebr of the most publified Beatles me and (P, G, and R's) records might seem funnier to some of you than this book, but as far as I'm conceived this correction of short writty is the most wonderfoul larf I've ever ready.
God help and breed you all.
 
A Reason for Breathing


I pictured myself on a boat on a river with tangerine trees and nervous dysplasia. This was to be the final chapter in my life savings. I pulled the plug and boarded an Amtrak to nowhere. I had suffered insomnia all my life, but, like Isaac Newton, had put it down to apples. It was hereditary (so was my forehead). I wished to remain anonymous in a world of Philadelphians. I ticked myself off and put myself in my place, a two-bedroomed brownstone of ill repute. I was convinced I'd been here before. Call it what you will, I call it daft. Had I walked these same dusty springfields before? Or was I just a victim of circumnavigation? Yea, tho' I walk thru Rudy Valle, I will fear no Evel Knievel. Junk food made me silly; fast food slowed me down; I had to get off at the next stop. I alighted to the sound of a military bandit.

"Do you take this woman anywhere in particular?" the voice rang out. I panicked slowly and continued to exercise my discretion.
 
Interview

Question: How do you write your books?
Lennon: I put things down on sheets of paper and stuff them in me pockets. When I have enough, I have a book.
Question: Why do you kill people off in your books?
Lennon: That's a good way to end them. I suppose they were manifestations of hidden cruelties. They were very Alice in Wonderland and Winnie-the-Pooh. I was very hung up then. I got rid of a lot of that. It was my version of what was happening then. It was just the usual criticisms, as some critic put it.
Question: What were you really trying to say in your book? Why don't people understand it?
Lennon: I understand it. If I wrote in normal spelling there would be no point. I'm not saying anything. There is no message.

Happy Birthday Sheriff John!

Posted by Whitmore, October 2, 2009 05:57pm | Post a Comment

If you were a kid growing up here in Southern Californian and your family owned a television set in the 1950’s or 60’s, inevitably you watched Sheriff John's Lunch Brigade, which aired on KTTV-TV Channel 11 from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm, and a late afternoon show, Sheriff John's Cartoon Time. I spent many a day as a sickly child watching Sheriff John and cartoons like Crusader Rabbit, Tennessee Tuxedo (voiced by Get Smart’s Don Adams) and Underdog.
 
Today the host of those shows and one of the true originators and unsung pioneers in early kids television, John Rovick, is 90 years old. Born in Dayton, Ohio, October 2nd, 1919, he served in the U.S. Army Air Corp in the Second World War, trained as radio operator and gunner on a B25 Bomber -- he survived some 50 combat missions, even a mission when the plane had to ditch at night off the coast of Italy. He started as a staff announcer on KTTV when the station first went on the air in 1949. Starting in 1952 Rovick began portraying the Sheriff for Cartoon Time and in 1953 John Rovick won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program.
 
Sheriff John started each show singing as he walked through the door of his Sheriff's office, "Come on now, laugh and be happy, and the world will laugh with you." He then said the Pledge of Allegiance, read a daily safety bulletin, and for good measure threw in some health tips for the youngsters.
 
But the highlight of the show was always the birthday celebration. Sheriff John would read dozens of kids' names, roll out a cake, and sing the classic kids song "The Birthday Cake Polka." For a certain age group, a telltale sign of a native Angelino is the ability to sing the song, word for word. In 1970 both shows were cancelled, but Rovick continued to work as an announcer for KTTV until his retirement in 1981. For decades he was also a favorite in the Hollywood’s Santa Claus Lane Christmas parade. After retirement he moved to Boise, Idaho where he still resides. In 1998 Sheriff John made one last special appearance on the Emmy’s, being introduced by longtime fan and Culver City native Michael Richards.
 
Happy birthday, Sheriff John! Now everybody sing along!
 
Put another candle on my birthday cake
We're gonna bake a birthday cake
Put another candle on my birthday cake
I'm another year old today

Villanova Junction

Posted by Whitmore, August 18, 2009 10:05pm | Post a Comment

One of my favorite reads in any blog is the unquantifiable absolute statement ... "this is the consummate, best bla bla bla since the invention of sliced bread and Pepto-Bismol..."; well, 40 years ago today, August 18th 1969, the absolutely greatest blues jam ever captured on celluloid, bar none, absolute fact and sure as shit Sherlock-- Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock and a tiny, minor keyed, mellow and oddly intimate piece, only about three minutes long, so profoundly perfect I don’t think such artistry has been witnessed in western civilization since the days of Johann Sebastian Bach.
 
Hendrix was the headliner at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair but didn’t hit the stage till after the scheduled festival, Monday morning at dawn. The delay was due to the bad weather and an infinite number of logistical problems. By the time he arrived on stage, the audience, which had peaked at over 500,000 people, had dwindled to somewhere between 60,000 to 160,000 people, still a hell of a crowd. Hendrix would play a two hour set, the longest of his career. The official, historic, climax of the set was obviously his rendition of the "The Star-Spangled Banner," probably --and here is one of those absolute statements again -- the greatest musical pyrotechnic blast of the entire crazed decade of the 1960’s, hell, make it the entire second half of the 20th century, life was just never the same after detonation. But as far as I’m concerned the gem of the whole set, and the last song before the encore, is the Hendrix's free form, breathtakingly beautiful, soulful modal blues, "Villanova Junction." And yes, at times the piece has brought me to tears, what can I say, I tear up easily ... watch and listen.

The Second Weekend in August, 1969 ... Part Two

Posted by Whitmore, August 11, 2009 11:05pm | Post a Comment

Some observers see this second weekend in August, the 8th thru the 10th, 1969, as effectively the end of the sixties’ counterculture as seen through rose colored glasses. The Vietnam War (which was never formally declared a war) was grinding on. In 1969 there would be 11,616 US military deaths, the second highest count during the war; almost 22,000 Vietnamese soldiers would be killed that year. This week would see the deaths of 169 US military personnel, over the weekend alone some 84 US soldiers would die. And every night TV newscasts were blanketed with those images. Vietnam is often characterized as the "living-room war" or the "television war." It was the first war to be methodically documented nightly on television, and at a moment when TV was becoming a compelling presence in daily life.
 
Other news that weekend included the discovery of the missing plane, Hawthorne-Nevada Airlines, Flight 708, that crashed just west of Lone Pine on February 18, killing all 35 passengers and crew. It was found on the eastern slope of Mount Whitney at an elevation of approximately 11,770 feet.
 
On August 8, just six days after it was published in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Zodiac Killer’s first unsigned encrypted message was solved by a Salinas, California high school teacher, Donald Harden, and his wife Bettye. The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who operated in the Bay area in the late 1960’s. His name was coined by a series of taunting letters and cryptograms he sent to police and newspapers until about 1974. The initial 408-symbol cryptogram stated, among other things, that the Zodiac enjoyed "killing people because it is so much fun." Harden was an amateur cryptographer and he reportedly took about 20 hours to break the code. Navy cryptographers had attempted to solve it, but without success. Of course some 40 years later, the identity of the Zodiac Killer still remains unsolved.
 
On the 9th, President Richard Nixon announced the nomination of Helen D. Bentley as a Member of the Federal Maritime Commission. Nixon also addressed the nation about domestic programs and a tax reform bill following its passage by the House of Representatives.
 
That weekend also saw the deaths of Russ Morgan, orchestra leader as well as a long time performer at the Dunes in Las Vegas. Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, crackpot eugenicist and Nazi physician, died in an automobile accident. Nobel Prize Laureate Cecil Frank Powell died while walking in the foothills of the Alps; he was 66 years of age. A bench with a commemorative plaque can be seen near the site of his death.

On Friday the 8th, Disneyland opened their doors to the new and soon to be classic attraction, the Haunted Mansion. Adorned with wrought iron fencing and surrounded by creepy tombstones, Walt Disney had envisioned the ghoulish Southern-style mansion even before the park opened in the 1954. The Haunted Mansion was originally seen as a walk-through experience, with cast members walking their guests /victims from one scene to the next as the netherworld unfolds. “Welcome fooolish mortals to the Haunted Mansion. I am your host, your ghost host. Ha, ha, ha, ha ...”
 
Meanwhile, in sports, the New York Mets beat the Atlanta Braves behind the eventual 1969 Cy Young winner Tom Seaver. At this point in this, their Cinderella season, the Mets were still in second place, 8 and a half games back. The game on Saturday was 3 hours and 14 minutes long and the Mets won 5 to 3 on 13 hits. Seaver would finish his career with 311 wins, 3,640 strikeouts and a 2.86 era in a 20-year career. In 1992, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the highest percentage ever (98.8%).
 
As for my LA Dodgers, on Sunday they beat the Chicago Cubs 4 to 2 behind the pitching of Don Sutton winning his 14th game of the year, Pete Mikkelsen got the save. Sutton would also wind up in the Hall of Fame, selected in 1998 with a career won lost mark of 324-256.

The 1969 Pikes Peak Marathon, an annual foot race that begins at the base of Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and climbs over 7,700 feet to the peak at 14,115 feet, was won by Steve Gachupin, who in his career would win the event 6 times in his 21 tries up the mountain.
 
In professional bike racing news, the World Championship was won by Harm Ottenbros in Zolder, Belgium, edging out the favorite Julien Stevens by just a few centimeters.
 
But of course, the big news, the chilling news that weekend, was the seemingly random and grisly murders in Beverly Hills and the Los Feliz district...
 
On August 9th, a hot, quiet Saturday night -- one of the killers would later comment that you could hear the sound of ice rattling in cocktail shakers up and down the Benedict Canyon -- in a home rented by Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate at 10050 Cielo Drive in Beverly Hills, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring and Steven Parent and a eight and a half months pregnant Tate were murdered in violent blood bath, as bizarre, gruesome and insane slaughter of innocents that might ever occur in any dystopia. Less than two days later another grisly murder occurred in the Los Feliz district -- this time it was supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. Killed in a similarly ghastly manner, this time a fork was used to carve the word WAR on Leno LaBianca’s stomach and left sticking out of his corpse. Authorities would take nearly four months to track down Charles Manson and his Family. And when they were arrested and prosecuted, the world discovered a terrifying mix of a counterculture gone mad and staggering mind-control. Manson, Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel's trials ended in 1971; they were all given the death penalty, though later that was over-turned by the state of California, commuting their sentences to life in prison. Another family member, Linda Kasabian, who stood watch at the Tate house, turned states evidence and served no time.
 
Roman Polanski (The Fearless Vampire Killers, Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, The Pianist), who was out of town, was not Manson’s target. The victims were in the wrong house at the wrong time. Manson, an aspiring singer-songwriter and an occasional friend of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, chose the Cielo Drive house because he had once tried to get a record deal from a producer who used to live there, Terry Melcher, the son of Doris Day, and Manson knew the layout of the house. Past residents included Cary Grant and his wife Dyan Cannon, Henry Fonda, Mark Lindsay from Paul Revere & the Raiders and Candice Bergen. The final resident of the original Cielo Drive house was Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who moved into the house in the early 1990s and built a recording studio there. The studio dubbed Pig, or sometimes Le Pig, was an allusion to the fact that Susan Atkins wrote "Pig" in Tate's blood on the front door of the house during the murders. The Nine Inch Nails ep Broken and their classic 1994 album The Downward Spiral were recorded there, as well as Marilyn Manson's debut album Portrait of an American Family. In December 1993 Reznor moved out of the house, taking with him the original front door, explaining that "there was too much history in that house for me to handle." He insists that he didn’t know about the murders when he bought the house, though I thought there was a law on the books requiring brokers to tell buyers about crimes that may have taken place in a home; the real estate term is ‘stigmatized properties.’ Then again, what do I know? In the late 1990’s the house was demolished and replaced with a new mansion and a new street address of 10066 Cielo Drive.


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