I have had the honor of being invited to participate in the 2020 Vincent Price Blogathon. As such, this is a departure from the usual Manor On Movies fare (see the postscript), in that the reviewed movie is not a junkfilm.
The year was…long enough ago, I can’t pinpoint it.
Nicky Fanelli, the oldest member and consequently leader of our childhood gang, decided he was going to guide a small group of us to our local picture palace, where we would watch a monster movie. Ah, cooool!!!
This was a Big Adventure for us. The Waverly was a mile or so away—quite a trek for little-kids’ legs—and we’d never gone there without a parent dropping us off. But Nicky claimed to know the way; and, after needlessly cutting through a number of backyard hedges and zigzagging along the route, there was the Waverly marquee, in all its unlit matinee glory.
Because we were young sweethearts, we also had a Plan B: Nicky told us a monster was going to walk up the aisle; and, we were going to jump it and beat it up. Awww, weren’t we a bunch of darlings?
No monster ever appeared—Nicky was also a big fat liar—but, in actuality, our “leader” wasn’t far off the mark. The movie was The Tingler, directed and produced by master showman William Castle, notorious for promotional gimmicks such as skeletons flying over theater patrons’ heads, and nurses in the lobby for a film in which each audience member was insured by Lloyd’s Of London against “Death By Fright.”
Although, because we were seeing The Tingler in re-release, the Waverly wasn’t set up in the following fashion, during the scarepic’s first run, selected theater seats were rigged to give the inhabitants a minor electrical shock sensation at a designated point in the movie(!)
Few who saw the film actually “got a charge” out of doing so. But Castle wasn’t done there. Oh, no, he had a couple more scary gimmicks up his devious sleeve.
First off, the film was shot in black-and-white…EXCEPT for a segment where blood flowed through a bathroom sink faucet and filled a bathtub—and only the blood was in color, a high-saturation red, for full effect. A brilliant stunt, leaving such an impactful impression, I can still visualize it all these centuries after first witnessing the scene.
A second slick trick occurred later in the proceedings, this one tip-toeing along breaking the fourth wall. The scene involved patrons in a theater watching a movie—just like you, the Tingler viewer, were doing—when, suddenly, the film stock decayed and a silhouette of a “tingler” (sort of a supersized centipede) crossed the screen. Then, the film-within-a-film screen went pitch-black, which in turn put your theater in total darkness, as a panicky voice announced said monster was loose and the viewers’ only salvation was to “Scream, scream for your life!!!”
That was when the wired seats zapped the unsuspecting real-world theatergoers, an effect Castle labeled “Percepto” in ad copy guaranteeing a whatzit would “break loose while you are in the theater.”
Which bring us to the best “gimmick” of them all: the terrified speaker and star of the movie was Vincent Price.
(A good thing, considering how pointless the above intro would be if this were a blogathon dedicated to someone else.)
I am an advocate of avoiding what co-host Barry calls the “book report” form of review, i.e. going into a lengthy synopsis of a film’s entire plotline—and often “spoiling” it for those who have yet to see the flick. However, I’m not averse to providing some details to whet the appetite.
City pathologist Doctor Warren Chapin (Price) is convinced extreme fear has a physical manifestation, his obsession ruining his marriage to a two-timing tramp and hogging most of the spare time of his youthful assistant David Morris, who is also the fiancé of Doc Chapin’s live-in sister-in-law.
The Vin Man about to play another mad scientist type, right? Actually, in a rare twist, he is not, even though someone will literally be scared to death to help advance his research, and the good doctor tries out a little-known-about drug called LSD. (Yes, in 1959!)
Dr. Chapin’s theories prove to be valid, as he extracts a “tingler” from the spinal column of a recently deceased individual, hence the creature that escapes to terrorize the moviegoers.
And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Price “dials it down”—by Vincent Price Movie standards—being a consummate pro and understanding what the role requires. And beautiful Patricia Cutts shines in her small part as the scheming sluttty Mrs. Chapin.
If, while watching, you think “Hmm, ‘David Morris’ could pass for Dobie Gillis’ brother”…well, that’s because he is played by Darryl Hickman, older brother of Dwayne, star of The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis, the sitcom featuring Darryl as Dobie’s big brother Davey in three episodes.
Other cult-film faves in multiple episodes include William Schallert, John Fiedler, Yvonne Craig, Michael J. Pollard, Charles Lane and Lynn Loring, as well as some flash-in-the-pan kid zooming to obscurity and billed as “Ron Howard.”
Getting back to The Tingler, although it won’t scare you to death, it has an unusual premise, (at least) one VERY memorable scene, and solid performances; never insults the audience’s intelligence or requires them to ignore plot holes; and, features Vincent Price in nearly every frame.
As per always, Price commands the viewers’ attention—which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.
Even if their chair is wired to an electric generator.
ManorOnMovies.com is dedicated to rave-reviewing the very best of the very worst. I come to praise The Creeping Terror, not to bury it. If you are into the screwball fun of mostly obscure stinkeroos, yawta drop by. It is NOT your typical “bad movies” site, nor is my writing style typical. You’ll see.
By all accounts, the late artist and inspiration to countless thousands of amateur painters was a true sweetheart, just like he came across on television. But what if he decided one day “I’ve had it up to my ‘fro with the public. No more Mister Nice Guy!”? His program spiels may have taken a very dark turn.
“Remember my little pocket squirrel? He was delicious!”
“Here’s something a loser like you will never be able to duplicate.”
“Now take your fan brush and really load it up with paint. Then shove it up your ass.”
“These big old oaks are great for painting swastikas on.”
“As a young man, I met Pablo Picasso. Like all Spaniards, he was a total douchebag.”
*displays photo of viewer’s artwork*
“Here’s a painting by Shirley Mead of Des Moines. It looks like she puked on her canvas.”
“Mike Oswald of Lima, Ohio, sent this in. I’m not sure if he’s color-blind or retarded. Maybe both.”
“Here’s what I call ‘an UNhappy accident,’ the one mistake I’ve never been able to correct”
*introduces his son*
“This is a forest I visited in Maine. Before I set it on fire.”
“Rembrandt painted before slavery was abolished. The good old days.”
“In my off-TV time, I paint pornographic images—of yo’ mama.”
“I hold seminars across the country during the summer. You should see the sad sacks that attend them.”
“Be sure to practice, practice, practice. You suck now.”
“This looks a lot like where I buried those campers I stabbed.”
“Think I’ll add a shitty cabin right about here, so you’ll follow suit and screw up your painting.”
“Whenever I see a lake like this while hiking, I always make sure to poison the fish.”
“Andy Warhol should have been painting pansies, if you get my drift.”
“You can’t tell at home, but I just cut a fart that smells lie a dumpster behind a seafood store.”
“Because a lot of you twerps requested I paint this guy, we’re going to do something different today.”
*goes over to model dressed as Batman, knees him in the groin*
“Got interviewed for The View last Tuesday. That Barbara Walters is really into anal.”
“Wrestling has evolved” has become the pat reply to anyone with a grievance against the current product. But I believe a more-accurate appraisal is that the definition of wrestling has evolved—to a certain portion of the audience.
Advocates of the more traditional style often claim, while certain techniques (e.g. an Irish whip) require some very cooperative suspension of disbelief, the overall structure of a wrestling match should come off as plausible, regardless of the fact it’s worked. They point to modern spots—such as where one man remains motionless for several seconds blatantly just waiting for his opponent to deliver some splashy blow—as ludicrous. And, personally, I agree.
Let’s not get into “Well, Don Muraco laid on the mat all that time while Snuka climbed to the top of the cage for the legendary MSG Superfly Splash, and nobody complained about that.” First off, The Rock had taken a beating, putting him on his back, semi-conscious. Secondly, it set up the finisher, not a kick-out spot.
We could go back and forth for thousands of words, citing old and new examples. Which would constitute entirely missing the big picture. What the traditionalists most oppose is how clearly modern grapplers send out the message “We laid out every step of this selling-free 60-second barrage of 36 moves and counters, nothing spontaneous- and, hence, realistic-looking about it.”
The argument generally is “It looks like a dance routine. That’s not wrestling.”
This brings us back to my comment about the DEFINITION of “wrestling.” And it’s become clear to me that—“right” or “wrong”—some people now consider wrestling to be any form of activity that transpires within a three-roped ring. So, to them, something that resembles a fight scene in a kung fu movie is perfectly acceptable as “wrestling,” and they sincerely don’t know what the fuss is all about.
Proponents of the spot-heavy style are prone to claim those knocking the style have not kept up with the times. But what’s really the case here is simply a matter of human nature. What sparked a new fan’s love for a particular hobby—and this is by no means exclusive to wrestling—is a set of components that greatly appealed to that person. And, be they shredding guitar solos, bone-jarring quarterback sacks, braggart rappers or glimmering full-length ring robes, when those elements get phased down or out, OF COURSE the product is going to have less appeal.
“Stuck in the past” has such a negative connotation, implying stubbornness and bitterness, it is not a fair description of the perfectly reasonable act of preferring a product when it contained more of the elements that inspired one to get hooked on it in the first place.
Okay, traditionalists let’s look at the Golden Age, when the Flair-Steamboat series was electrifying and you’d much rather see the Midnight Express face the Road Warriors or Fantastics than watch something like the Young Bucks vs. Private Party. Wrestling was firing on all cylinders, but the flippity-style guys have really dragged it down, right?
Wellllll…I became a dedicated wrestling fan in the Seventies. In that era, it was acceptable for Muraco to call Pedro Morales “a greaseball” during an interview, TV matches were primarily quick squashes, a victory could come via a near-lethal “brain claw,” and about 20-percent of the men had bleach-blonde hair.
It was wildly absurd, considered “lowbrow,” politically incorrect (by later standards)—and I couldn’t get enough of it.
As such, Golden Agers, am I not within my rights to say the lengthy athletic Dragon vs. Nature Boy matches “really dragged it down”?
[For the record, I enjoyed both Superstar Graham winning via a bearhug and the Flair-Funk “I Quit” match. Just trying to make a point.]
And let’s be real, fellow long-time fans. What was incredibly entertaining decades ago would be a complete bore now, if promotions and wrestlers were still doing the same things that floated your boat way back when. If the Beach Boys were still around, only the most fanatical completist would be rushing to buy their 318th song about a surf bunny.
Some Related Points
*Nostalgia fills auditoriums. The “latest thing” fills football stadiums. That’s always been the case for every form of public performance, and will never change. Accept it.
*Nostalgia is nice—in manageable doses. (We really don’t need a seemingly bimonthly DX “reunion.”) But if you have zero tolerance for it, just shut up. The whole world isn’t about you. This also goes for close-minded members of the opposing camp who can’t stop droning on and on about the past being “so much better,” while their selective memory forgets PN News on a scaffold. Every era has its stinkers. That’s not up for debate.
*Neither side is “right.”
*If you don’t like a particular style, don’t put all the blame on the wrestlers. The fans, bookers and promoters who encourage it are equally to blame. The boss says he wants more/less/none of something, that’s what appears on the card. Period.
Intro: Admittedly, this story may be strictly a shrug-inducer for those who are not guitarists or have never been in bands with guitar players. But if you are an axe-slinger or a musical associate of one, hang on for “the big reveal.”
My sister Sandy–living in a nearby duplex with her future husband Rich until days before–had packed up the essentials, the couple now permanently moved to Florida. After they’ve settled in, Sandy phones to tell me Rich left his guitar behind for me, it resting atop some discarded carpets in the garage they shared with the upstairs tenants.
This came as a double-surprise. First off, I’d been in a hundred bands (or so it seemed), but never played guitar…though I appreciated the kind gesture and had knowledge of what constituted a quality guitar, via hanging around with (at least) a hundred guitarists.
Secondly, I had no idea Rich played.
“He took lessons long ago, but didn’t stick with it.”
Okay, I’m figuring it’s a beginner’s acoustic, and almost blow off picking it up. Then I thought, “I have screwed around with friends’ guitars a bit; maybe someone will teach me a few chords, and I can have a bit of fun with the thing.”
Over to the duplex I go, surprised and concerned that I was able to make my way to the garage without encountering any locked doors. Anyone else could have done the same, easily swiping the instrument. Or, for that matter, one of the upstairs tenants may have already done the deed.
Fortunately, neither occurred.
But, hmm, this guitar case with a generic brand name emblazoned on it seems too small to house an acoustic. As soon as I lift it, the weight confirms my suspicion. That’s cool. I already have an amp for my synthesizer and would much prefer to goof around on an electric, regardless of whether it was an off-brand. It’s not like I need a “genuine rock star guitar.”
Still, curiosity inspires me to pop open the case then and there rather than when I get home. I immediately learn why it weighs so much, having spent decades helping bandmates lug this model around.
Because it is a LES PAUL!!!
Good thing those carpets were there to prevent my lower jaw from hitting the concrete floor.
Once home, I run the serial number through the identification engine on the Gibson website, to confirm it isn’t merely a knock-off, as they abound. Nope, on top of it being the real deal, it is a rare model called “The Paul,” only produced from 1978 to 1982. (Mine is a ’78.)
Because Rich didn’t play it very long, it has no pick scratches or buckle rash, and the neck is super-straight. There is some minor oxidation on the Humbuckers, though it isn’t enough to affect the sound. And I believe it even has the original strings(!)
Guess it was a pretty wise decision not to blow off fetching it, huh?
If you have yet to hear the word, while huddled around the enormous living room radio with your parents and siblings, I, Stately Wayne Manor, am The World’s Most Conceited Man.
The use of upper-case in that last phrase is not some affectation. It’s there because the epitaph is “official,” thanks to yet another tragically fading-quickly form of print journal, the most important literature ever, the supermarket tabloid.
Briefly, for the youngsters not around in their heyday, tabloid newspapers with names like The Tattler and (still-existing) National Enquirer were stacked in abundance by the cashier lines in food markets–and on some newsstands. They attempted to grab attention, the more lurid the headline, the better.
It could be a gut-churning photo of a man mauled by a lion, scare tactics like “Flying Saucers Poised To Attack Los Angeles,” or celebrity dirt-shoveling a la “Is Liz Taylor Cheating On Her New Husband?”
Oh, yes, they used real names. Which eventually resulted in real lawsuits.
Libel suit settlements cost the publishers millions, driving some of the “scandal sheets” out of business. By the late Seventies, the tabs came across as sleazy relics, dismissed as trash for vapid gossips.
Everything changed when the Weekly World News exploded as a pop culture phenomenon.
The News was not hoping readers would fall for dubious nonsense. It embraced the absurd and supercharged it. Complete with photos and illustrations so goofy, there was little question the editors were yanking readers’ legs.
Sample headlines. “I Was Bigfoot’s Love Slave” “Vampire Sues Employer for $120G—Because They Won’t Let Him Work In The Dark” “A Pterodactyl Bit My Arm Off” and ”Man Grows World’s Longest Nose Hair!”
Celeb screwiness also abounded. “Karl Marx Was One Of The Marx Brothers!” “Jay Leno’s Chin Is Fake” “Oprah To Replace Lincoln On $5 Bill” and of course plenty of Elvis sightings.
Additionally, regular features were a howl. There was a right-wing nutjob columnist named Ed Anger (long before MAGA brought out the real nutjobs.) An “advice” columnist with a thoroughly bitchy attitude. And numerous articles on their creation-turned-star Bat Boy, part-bat, part-human, allegedly discovered in a West Virginia cave.
The Weekly World News (WWN) was essentially a send-up of its tawdry predecessors. It was a highly creative and side-splitting—and I wanted in.
Which is exactly what I did.
Before “branding” was anything but what ranchers did to identify cattle, your Future Rock Star narrator had devised a gimmick that was a blend of fellow drummers’ reputation for cockiness, and shtick performed by “bad guys” in the rekindled hobby of my childhood, professional wrestling.
I reckoned there was no sense in doing it halfway; therefore, “World’s Most” was appropriate. I also figured it was wise to come up with a hook few if any would be willing to contest. Thus, The World’s Most Conceited Man came into being.
My pseudonym already in place, I “dressed the part” by having a jacket embroidered in the style of a wrestler’s ring jacket, with “Living Legend” in large letters across the back, and “E.G.D.” (Every Girl’s Dream) on one sleeve.
Although I had yet to perfect the role, I had enough of it down and enough pro writing experience to approach the News about having Stately make his national debut on their pages. And they went for it!
Here’s the first feature…
It made total sense—and is poetic justice—that The World’s Most Conceited Man would pen the piece about himself, even if someone else (and fictional) would get the byline. To my chagrin, only a portion of the original manuscript was incorporated, some of the swapped-in material not true to my gimmick.
But still, woohoo, I MADE IT INTO THE WEEKLY WORLD NEWS. In fact, one editor claimed I was once in contention to make the front page.
Mission Accomplished? Sort of. But I noticed a recurring News theme, the “one year later” sequel; so, I pitched a follow-up several months after the first piece, and was delighted the WWN was game.
This time, the published text was nearly all mine. Consequently, I had begun occasionally submitting feature articles to Wrestling World magazine. After being with WW for a year, I told the editor about my alter ego, the News publicity, etc. and suggested we begin a pro-villain column to rile up the readers.
That suggestion blossomed into what became a 29-year uninterrupted run (between Wrestling World and Power Slam) of being on newsstands around the globe, a world’s record for wrestling magazine columnists.
The News piece also led to me guesting on morning drive-time radio stations in Philadelphia and New York City. The combination of the above opened the door for me to become a wrestling manager and commentator, “completing the circle” of a fan imitating the men in the ring to becoming one of them.
Just goes to show what you can do with one clever idea, eh?
So, Mission Accomplished with the secondNews feature, right? Welllll, it so happened that the WWN had a sister publication, The Sun, slightly less wild but still open to daffiness.
This go-round, I got the bulk of a full page.
Sadly, neither publication exists anymore. Nonetheless, the book “Bat Boy Lives!” is worth seeking out, as it contains nearly 200 pages of articles from the News’ 1979-to-2007 existence.
The following is an entry in the above blogathon, in which I am very flattered to be included as a participant.
Cash On Demand (1961)
dir: Quentin Lawrence
When you think of Peter Cushing, you think horror movies. When you think of Peter Cushing and Hammer Studios, you think, um…horror movie double feature.
<adopts completely fraudulent Australian accent> But what if I were to tell yeeoo Peter Cushing starred in an excellent holiday movie from that very steeyoodio?
That would be 1961’s Cash On Demand, a drama with a dash of caper flick, directed by Quentin “Not That Thief Tarantino” Lawrence.
Care for a detailed breakdown of the film’s many twists and turns? Well, too bad. This is a review, not a book report. Nonetheless, magnanimous Mister Manor will supply a brief synopsis to provide a general idea, rather than spoil all that transpires, before you see the damn movie. (Glaring at you, Eighteen Paragraphs Of Plot Summary Person.)
Just before Christmas, the vault flush with pound notes, staid spit-and-polish bank manager Harry Fordyce (Cushing) is visited by Colonel Gore Hepburn (Andre Morell), an inspector from the firm’s insurance company, who arrived in town so recently, he’s still toting luggage.
Eyeing the books and touring the premises, tailed by the nervous Fordyce, everything seems to be in satisfactory order. That is until a seemingly casual conversation in the manager’s office reveals Hepburn’s true intentions.
The inspector is an imposter and ringleader of a criminal enterprise, insisting Fordyce stuff said suitcase with a load of loot and not make a single hoot that will alert the bank staff or police. To ensure Fordyce’s cooperation, the gang has kidnapped the manager’s son and wife; and it will take but a simple hand signal out the window to have one of Hepburn’s henchmen murder Mrs. F and the boy.
Though that snippet of storyline may make Cash On Demand seem like a crime drama or suspense—and there are elements of both in play—it’s much more about the interaction between two central characters almost casually doing their jobs. Don’t expect Die Hard: London Calling. Or even a glimpse of a weapon—besides the old gray matter.
Peter Cushing, as per usual, shines and works masterfully with a foil, slowly transforming from an aloof to a sympathetic character. Understandably distraught, and clearly devoted to his family—and thus humanized—Fordyce maintains as much composure as could be expected under the circumstances. Peter C plays it perfectly, concerned but courageous, without getting melodramatic. (After all, this guy killed Dracula; so, he knows a bit about “never let them see you sweat.”)
Cushing’s counterpart Andre Morell (who was in Oscar-winners Bridge On The River Kwai and the 1959 version of Ben Hur) hangs in there with his co-star blow-for-blow, acting-wise, his Hepburn bordering on affable, by screen baddies standards.
Putting aside the whole kidnappy-murdery aspect of his personality, that is.
Like Cushing, Morell reels it in, providing just enough villainous overtones without venturing into sinister psychotic territory. It’s almost like “I’m the bad guy, you’re the good guy. My job is to threaten and intimidate people for other people’s money. Nothing personal.”
And the two leads knowing exactly how to interpret the roles makes the whole thing work.
Of course the screenplay and direction deserve “credit” as well. Director Lawrence weaves in enough of the rest of the cast to give each of the bank’s staff a touch of depth, from Fordyce’s harped-on subordinate to the office playboy.
By doing so, it not only inspires viewers to care about those potentially in harm’s way, but it also breaks up what would otherwise be an 84-minute two-man show and very likely grow tedious, even with the stellar performances of Cushing and Morell.
Except for a brief trip to the vault, Cash On Demand takes place in Fordyce’s office and the bank office visible to the public. Consequently, while viewing the film, I could envision it as a stage production or perhaps one of those live TV broadcasts. (One creepy critic called it “claustrophobic.”) As it turns out, it was a telecasted presentation, Cash On Demand being a cinematic reworking of the British television series Theater 70 episode “The Gold Inside”…co-starring Andre Morell.
Considering all the remakes constantly cranked out and how the bulk of them are based on already overexposed characters and scenarios…well, it’s just a thought.
With the number of Tinseltown movers and shakers always drawn to Barry’s blogathons and the way these same Hollywood pests hang on my every word, we’ll have to wait and see if there will be another C.O.D.
It’s the mid-Seventies glitter-rock era, and I am drumming in a band with keyboardist Dominic and bassist Art. We somehow got wind of a music store opening that very night, it being a unique enterprise at the time: the store stocked nothing but electronic keyboard instruments.
So, it was off to hoity-toity Ardmore for the three of us, blending in as well as Joe Pesci’s character in My Cousin Vinny. Which was especially ironic considering, other than us and the store employee, the place was filled with Main Line snobs who were there supporting their moneyed friend, the owner, and wouldn’t know a clavinet from a clarinet. In short, we three were the only ones present that even remotely stood a chance of ever patronizing the business.
We were a flamboyant lot, used to disapproving sneers and not ones to let it annoy or intimidate us. Also wise enough to recognize when we were on someone else’s turf and, consequently, to remain on our best behavior. Dominic even played a bit on an electric piano, making it clear we were musicians, not some riff-raff there to rob the place, or whatever these bluebloods imagined “our kind” got up to.
Still, when the owner locked the doors (with us inside the store), there was a touch of trepidation on our part. It was all for naught, as the real reason for doing so was the start of the private Grand Opening ceremony, with a special guest speaker and demonstrator.
When the owner introduced Dr. Robert Moog, three jaws hit the carpet simultaneously,
Although it was early days for synthesizers—so much so, developers had yet to figure out how more than one note at a time (e.g. chords) could be played on the instrument—we tuned-in Future Rock Stars knew we were in the presence of a certified genius and a pioneer in a whole new form of sonic expression.
In 1968, performer/composer Wendy Carlos sent shock waves through the recording industry with the release of the triple-Grammy-winning album “Switched-On Bach,” classical music with a MAJOR difference—every note was created by a Moog synthesizer.
Following her lead, more-experimental rockers such as Frank Zappa and Keith Emerson had begun exploring the possibilities of the original Moog synthesizer, a large panel loaded with an assortment of wires plugged into it, more resembling a telephone switchboard than a musical instrument.
The Minimoog synth, a compact, simplified version of the original rig had recently been released, and major musical acts were gobbling them up, both for the new sounds they produced and the portability that made the Minimoog ideal for a touring band.
The synthesizer had yet to revolutionize the music and movie industries (more on that later), but it had made enough inroads that Dr. Moog’s presence was A Very Big Deal to my trio, despite the remainder in attendance being oblivious.
“You won’t believe what happens next!”
Bob, as he preferred to be called, was a very affable host, going around the room explaining, in laymen’s terms, how some of the electronic keyboards worked, including the mellotron (which, to this day, those writing about music often get wrong.)
This, of course, built up to him showcasing his invention, demonstrating how the Minimoog could mimic the sound of a traditional string instrument, play unending rhythmic sequences with a touch of one key, make all the boops and beeps of a UFO landing, and so on.
Art, Dominic and I occasionally made jocular comments to each other; and, during one particular sequencer passage that closely resembled a drum beat, one of my bandmates ribbed “We don’t need you anymore.” Little did we know what was to come.
After demonstrating the vast variety of sound the keyboard could trigger, the good doctor remarked “I know there’s a drummer in the room”—apparently overhearing the earlier wisecrack—and, with that, produced a small drum that plugged into the synth.
Then invited me to play it!!!
With someone holding the drum in place, I tapped away with my fingers (there were no drumsticks present) as Bob threw various switches and twiddled dials, creating all sorts of sounds beyond those expected to come out of a drum.
Your humble narrator was already a very advanced drummer by that point and thus I adapted my riffing to beats best suited for whichever tone Dr. M conjured up. At one point, after we had really gotten in synch, I glanced up, only to catch Bob smiling and bobbing his head to the rhythm.
So, for just that brief moment, I stood there completely awestruck, thinking “Hot damn, I’m jamming with the inventor of this revolutionary drum, it’sRobert freakin’ Moog—and he’s digging what I’m doing!”
And all of this transpired simply because we got a tip-off about a store opening and casually decided to kill an hour one bored evening, before getting up to our usual shenanigans. Crazy, huh?
It was no hyperbole when I mentioned how the now-deceased Dr. Moog and his invention changed the world of entertainment.
You know how a different musical style will come along and be considered “a new sound”? Dr. Moog (and a few others on the same path) quite literally created new sounds, ones that had never been heard before in the entire history of mankind.
Eventually, polyphonic—meaning multiple keys could be played simultaneously, like an organ or piano—synthesizers were developed. As were pre-sets. In simple terms, rather than having to set dozens of knobs and switches in order to change over to a desired sound, the player could dial up an assigned number.
This combination was a tremendous boon to live performance. No longer did a keyboardist have to fumble around in a mad dash under poor lighting between songs, hoping to replicate a desired tone. Or worse yet, the band having to attempt to play along with a tape, often a disaster.
Instead, Kenny Keyboard can calmly flip to Preset 3, press both hands on a group of keys and fill the hall with the lush sounds of a string section, then swing over to Preset 9 for a “flute” solo. If you have attended a rock, pop or hip-hop concert with a keyboard player onstage, you’ve likely experienced a synthesizer “in action.”
Though you may not realize it, synths are employed in many hit records, as well as familiar TV and movie theme songs. But it goes well beyond theme songs. Synthesizers often create background sounds and music, and simulate storms, battlestar shootouts, and so much more. They are also incorporated in radio and television commercials, and may even be heard over the sound system at the local supermarket. In other words, odds are quite high that synthesizers are a part of your daily life.
None of which may have ever come into being if not for some extremely bright individuals seeking to wed electricity to sound.
Was just reminiscing about (picture temporarily goes out of focus, harp arpeggio plays) all us Mohawked young lads jumping in the mosh pit at CBGB, spit flying everywhere, during the punk rock explosion.
The reason I added the cinematic touch to the above is because, in real life, except for the punk rock explosion itself, none of this ever happened.
At least not at first.
Unless you were one of two members of The Plasmatics, you didn’t have a Mohawk on the 1977 New York punk scene (England being a different kettle of fish and chips.) There were no mosh pits. And if you spat on someone, you were liable to get decked.
I don’t care what you “heard.” Or even what you may have seen in the movie CBGB, loaded with utter nonsense such as Genya Ravan being a key player on the burgeoning punk rock scene.
I knew Genya at the time and even did some freelance work for her Polish Records label. She adamantly turned down my crew’s invitation to join us when we were venturing out to catch acts at the punk/new wave venues.
And the reason I knew the New-York-based Raven is because I, a member of the Philly punk rock scene, spent an average of two weekends a month in NYC, spending every single night checking out multi-band bills in all sorts of holes in the walls.
Was also a musician, so saw thing from that side of the equation as well.
Now, you can trust the account of an actual participant in the real punk rock explosion, or shake your head like an imbecile, too stubborn to believe you got conned by: revisionists; people who weren’t even there but are trying to “look cool”; a music journalist that never heard of The Clash until “Rock The Casbah” became an FM radio hit; or similar frauds.
If you chose the second option, beat it. No one will miss you. As for everyone remaining, let’s examine facts.
First off, some odds and ends. Although I’ve focused on the scene in New York—a city on the brink of bankruptcy and with the Son Of Sam on the loose at the time—there were also vibrant punk scenes in Philadelphia, DC, Baltimore and Boston. I’ll use OPR to represent “Original Punk Rocker” and generalize a bit for the sake of a manageable word count.
New Wave, though you’d never know it from current coverage, was just as big as punk rock, with emerging bands such as Blondie, Devo and The B-52s. There were also bands on the cusp, like XTC and Magazine, i.e. they weren’t as poppy as the New Wavers but more musically complex than, say, The Dictators and Ramones.
All of the above (and their lesser-known contemporaries) played the same venues, were equally far from the mainstream, only seemed to get airplay on select college radio stations and press in a small number of niche publications, and, if they had a record deal at all, it was almost always with a small indie label. As such, I’m putting them all under the punk rock umbrella for this piece.
If you were a young man in the first half of the Seventies and didn’t have long hair, you were likely a puss still under your parents’ thumbs, a straight-arrow, a sell-out for some Squaresville job, or maybe even a narc. You were distinctly in the minority and definitely not cool.
From the Sixties hangover through the Glam/Glitter Rock period, you didn’t see much more than the lobes of ears, male or female.
And that’s why chopping off your flowing mane was a Very Big Deal.
Shearing your curls was making a major commitment because you knew, if you regretted doing it, there was no reverse switch. It may take a year or more to grow back your luxurious locks. In the meantime, you’d have the appearance of a narc or any of the other above undesirables.
Furthermore, with the relative brevity and the haphazardness of the typical punk rock ‘do, you looked like someone who either just woke up or got electrocuted, and unlike anyone else around, be they a short- or a longhair.
Prepare for the stare.
Which was fine, despite the rudeness of others, because your hair was a statement, not just some new fashion trend, in plain sight around the clock: “I reject conforming to the norm of the squares and the hipsters, and hope you don’t like it.”
It took guts to walk around figuratively flipping off the general public, quite intentionally adopting an appearance hardly anyone else had at the time.
Of course getting that look was a challenge in itself. When I decided to shed my full Ital-fro, I brought along the latest Punk magazine (issue 6, published June, 1976), it containing a photo-illustrated comic-book-style story featuring punk pioneer Richard Hell visible at many angles.
And why did I do this? Because virtually nobody outside of the minute OPR circle had ever heard of punk rock in the Bicentennial year!
I was going to a pricey crimping establishment at the time, with some of the top stylists in Philly, not Joe The Barber with a little shop around the corner. And when I mentioned punk rock, it drew nothing but blank stares.
Additionally, I knew of only one store downtown where I could get my leather jacket.
That should give you an idea of how underground the scene was when it was first breaking, and the effort it took to adopt the look.
As far as shirts and blouses, you might rummage through thrift shops and fine some dayglo shirts at an Army-Navy/hunting store. Better still, alter your existing tops via tears, cuts, staples, chains and burns, so they were suitably repulsive to those you were hoping to offend.
Maybe you were lucky enough to know someone adept at silkscreening, who could make something offbeat. And it was fairly common on the UK scene to break out a felt tip and write right on the fabric.
DIY—Do It Yourself—was extremely significant in the early days, whether it was decorating your jacket or making up posters for a band’s upcoming show. On one hand, this inspired a lot of creativity. On the other…well, you had no choice.
There weren’t any Hot Topics or home PCs on which to create slick graphics and iron-ons, no internet or eBay. Unless you were a trust fund baby, you couldn’t afford a professional service. So, DIY it was. Besides, mass-produced was the antithesis of what punk rock stood for.
IN OTHER WORDS, currently having neon-colored hair like ten million others, and buying a Joan Jett T-shirt at the mall does not make you any more “punk rock” than your 10th grade homeroom teacher.
Some OPRs are old enough to have kids who have kids. Meaning you may be dressing and wearing the same styles as your grandparents. Oooh, how “rebellious”!!!
The Rock Portion Of The Equation
Aside from glam, in the early portion of the decade, the music scene of the Seventies sucked more than all the Hoovers in a vacuum-machine store combined.
Prog kings Emerson, Lake & Palmer were playing football stadiums, accompanied by a full orchestra. Fleetwood Mac spent a million dollars—a million!—taking a year to record “Tusk,” an album so cutting-edge that college marching bands were performing its title track. Former Bowie and Yes keyboard man Rick Wakeman toured with a full ice show presentation. And once-radical Jefferson Airplane morphed into Jefferson Starship, releasing radio-friendly horrors such as “We Built This City On Rock And Roll.” (Sure you did.)
Then there was the vehemently despised–by OPRs and diehard rock ‘n’ rollers alike–disco, assembly line dross cranked out for self-centered zombies who didn’t know they were dead.
“Weeee, the world has turned to shit, but we can slip into our official disco uniforms, snort some coke and dance, baby. Screw everyone else! Look how much fun I’m desperately trying to have.”
By 1975, rock bands who were once fresh and innovative had settled into a safe formula; replaced key members with hired hands; adopted clichés like the automatic encore to play their big hit, and the arms-around-each-other-then-bow-to-the-audience patronizing exit move; and, grown rich and flaunted it with private jets and limos—and/or died.
The vibrant inventiveness of the late Sixties had gone full-corporate, musicians attending board meetings, fortunes being at stake and spent.
You and three friends decided to buy instruments and form a band. Even after you got competent enough to perform a set-full of songs, what chance did you have of even getting considered for a recording contract or played on the radio, when competing against established acts with a half-million-dollar light and sound rig and a string section? Especially with record companies and radio station programmers also in full Playing It Safe Mode, more interested in clones than in anything breaking the mold.
Worse yet, you could no longer relate to one-time heroes, there was such a vast chasm between the high-living rock gods and your crowd.
Punk rock and New Wave came in and said, to quote Johnny Rotten, “Fuck this and fuck that.”
It was all about streamlining the bloated mess rock had become. Short, simple, fast and loud, and most of all, fun to do. Never mind if the guitarist didn’t know a diminished ninth (chord) from a vodka fifth.
So much about punk rock was a reflection of the times. And the mid-Seventies weren’t pretty. New York City verged on collapse, and the streets were mean in many other urban American cities. Our British brethren were getting out of school and going straight on the dole, there were so few “career opportunities” offered.
The “fall of Saigon,” signifying the inglorious end of the Vietnam War, did not occur until April, 1975. That in turn meant young men of punk’s Blank Generation had had the “opportunity” to be drafted into the Army when they were age 18; and if they lucked out and weren’t selected, they’d spent years seeing friends and family return from Nam in a box, maimed or carrying a nasty heroin habit.
Both sexes of the Blank Generation were too young for the Summer Of Love and Woodstock. Instead of the utopia of freedom and free love slightly older Baby Boomers filled our adolescent heads with, by the time we reached adulthood, we got stuck cleaning up the garbage left behind by embittered, sometime drug-addled flower children turning in their beads and incense for a three-piece suit.
Watergate and Tricky Dick Nixon’s shenanigans destroyed any remaining trust in the US government. Britain’s monarchy was considered a not-so-funny joke.
So, what you had circa 1976 was a group of disillusioned, understandably hostile young adults with either no or entry-level, minimum-wage going-nowhere jobs. (I worked for the local municipality, climbing down manholes to place bricks of rat poison.)
Alienated from society as a whole, loaded with youthful energy and no outlet for it, and no longer buying into hippie hyperbole about peace, love and understanding. A volatile mix in very bleak times. Little solace in music anymore, either.
Here’s the VERY important part, younger readers.
If the first half of the Seventies “sounds brutal”—which it was—imagine living it 24/7. And imagine is all you can do because YOU DID NOT LIVE IT and therefore cannot fully grasp what it was really like.
Sure, you may have conjectured. But that’s all. Additionally, the information you based your impression upon may be inaccurate, wildly exaggerated, romanticized or wishful thinking.
Before you break out the Grandpa Simpson memes, this is not “You kids today have it easy, sonny boy” or “Yelling at clouds.” It’s about context.
The late teens through early twenties is no joyride, regardless of birth year. I am not claiming everything is sunshine and lollipops today. Nonethless, some periods of history are much worse than others—and the mid-Seventies blew.
We were irate young people who got tired of hearing crap from others and decided to get aggressive. Screw being defensive. It was time to be offensive. “You don’t approve of my red no-name sneakers and this girl’s torn-up fishnet stockings? Good!”
The thing is, punk rock was OUR reaction based on OUR environment. If you weren’t around for it, get your OWN damn sound and look reflecting YOUR environment. Wearing Doc Martens and a Mohawk as a youth in 2019 makes you no more “punk rock” than donning moccasins and a feather headdress makes you Native American.
If we agree cultural appropriation is a serious offense, what do you think you’re doing?
“But, Stately, times have changed.”
Precisely—but you haven’t, mimicking the sights and sounds of an explosion that detonated forty-plus years ago!
You know who’s more “punk rock” than you? For starters, the people behind the Giphy GIF-creating site. It’s about streamlining, DIY, not merely accepting things as they are, and being creative, as well as simple enough that anyone can do it. That’s a hell of a lot more punk rock than wearing the same ripped jeans Johnny Ramone did in 1977.
The original spirit of the punk rock movement was about rejecting tradition and “acceptable” appearance, not establishing them.
We had a party—which, incidentally, ended decades ago (a whole different story)—and unless you were a young adult in the late Seventies, you WEREN’T INVITED.
None of us has a choice of when we are born. As such, maybe you missed out on the legitimate punk rock movement. Conversely, we missed out on growing up with all the fantastic digital technology half-taken for granted by all of us. Those are the breaks. Doesn’t make one group better than the other. It simply separates reality from fantasy-based posturing.
You might be, say, 23 full of vim and vigor, and “living in shitty times,” much like we were. Understand I do “get” the frustration that spawned punk rock persists. I will also readily admit it’s not like we invented and thus have some sort of patent on youthful rebellion.
Like you, we believed we inherited a crappy world from our elders, Just like the beatniks did in the Fifties to early Sixties. And the founders of biker gangs did, post-WW2. And groups of people before them throughout history.
That didn’t give us the right to wear berets and shabby sweatshirts, play bongos at coffeehouses and call ourselves beatniks any more than you have the right to claim to be punk rockers.
Don’t like reading that? Too bad. What makes you think I care?
If you’ve read my Sigma Kids recollection (http://bit.ly/293BtGs), you already know I was friendly with David Bowie and members of his band, during the mid-Seventies.
Bowie et al returned to Philadelphia in late 1974, as part of the tour introducing the world to Young Americans and the singer’s new direction. As could be expected, I attended the concerts. Before one show, Elaine, a very attractive Sigma regular but not one of the small group eventually invited into the studio, introduced me to her acquaintance Debbie,
So, our story picks up after said concert, outside the Barclay hotel, where David and the musicians are once again lodging. To my surprise, Debbie, who I’d never seen at any of the Bowie fanatic activities in the past, showed up at the hotel. To my dismay, it was minus Elaine.
Still, Debbie was cute, we were both single, the ice had already been broken via the earlier introduction, and we were mildly flirting. Bowie guitarist and super-nice guy Carlos Alomar came out of the hotel, greeted me and then informed us (presuming Debbie was my girlfriend, I suspect) “Don’t tell anyone, but we’re having a party at a place called Artemis, if you know where that is. And you can come as guests.”
I most certainly was familiar with Artemis, a Center City side-street watering hole where the lights were always way down low (read: “cheaters bar”.) The narrow establishment had an upstairs area with a full bar and sound system, occasionally rented out for private parties and never open to the public.
And as you can imagine, I was not about to blow off such a superlative invitation.
Jump forward one hour. David and his paramour Ava Cherry were seated at a table with a few others from his entourage, so I didn’t get much change to interact with him beyond a wave and a “hello.” Nonetheless, drinks were flowing, good music was playing, and Debbie and I were among those dancing, the overall mood being quite festive.
Until the Philadelphia Police Department decided to crash the party.
This was during the Police-Commissioner-turned-Mayor Frank Rizzo era, when the cops were as hard-nosed as their boss and had a national reputation for playing rough. Music suddenly stopped, lights turned up and strapping lads with guns and badges at the door had everyone on edge.
I was under the legal age to be drinking alcohol in a bar, had a joint in my cigarette pack, and my pocket contained a taped-up chain I carried for protection at the time—otherwise known to the legal system as “carrying a concealed weapon.” Backup singer Tony Hinton was terrified, telling me he had not registered for the military draft, a federal offense.
Nobody had the slightest idea what to do.
Even the normally very composed Bowie looked (understandably) nervous and frightened. As he snaked through the crowd as though looking for another exit, I called out “David” when he got near, eliciting a highly out-of-character curt “What?”
When he looked over and saw it was me, I went “You’ve got…” miming “something on your face,” it being a lipstick trace. Knowing I could be trusted, due to the whole Sigma party secrecy pledge, his tone softened as he asked if I wouldn’t mind wiping it off. After I complied (yes, fans, I have touched David Bowie’s face), he smiled slightly and said “You’re all right!” which just about made my decade.
We all essentially stood around or meandered, no one wanting to run the risk of antagonizing the police by attempting to slip out. It remained a mystery why they were even there. The music was not loud enough to disturb the few neighbors, there were no fights or similar security issues, Artemis was fully licensed, and it’s certainly not against the law to throw a private party.
Granted, a few of us were underage. However, since there wasn’t any “probable cause” for the cops to intrude, any resultant arrests would have been thrown out of court.
But who the hell wanted to spend the night in jail, regardless of celebrity company, and have to hire a lawyer to sort out the mess?
Ultimately, the Artemis owner worked his magic with the police, and we—nerves frazzled, tired and resentful over the unwarranted intrusion that sucked all the life out of the room—were “allowed” to leave, none of us in handcuffs.
Oh, and after such a hot “first date,” Debbie did become my girlfriend. At least until she returned to her coven in Salem.
(This completes my “Bowie trilogy.” The first being the aforementioned Sigma recollection; the second, found here: http://bit.ly/29ahKUM. Oh, and there’s also a brief story about spending time in David’s hotel room, it within this article: https://bit.ly/2JxkHCn)
Person A: You can’t be considered a wrestling expert if you’ve never taken a bump.
Person B: I’ve never directed a movie, but that doesn’t mean I can’t review one.
(With the option of “(Famous promoter’s name) never took a bump. Are you saying he’s not a wrestling expert?”)
Full disclosure. During the late Eighties-early Nineties newsletter boom, I contributed (to a small degree) to the Observer, Torch and a couple of other minor “sheets,” and subscribed to several. By 1994, I subscribed to only the Observer; and by 2010, no longer subscribed to any.
For 30 years (1984-2014), I wrote for Wrestling World and Power Slam magazines, primarily as a heel columnist, though also did many WW features. The heel persona opened the door for me to do color commentary, manage and perform in-ring skits a la Piper’s Pit. And, yes, I’ve bumped.
In short, I have the rare perspective of one who’s been in both camps.
So whom do I “side with” in the seemingly eternal debate?
I have to go along with Person A…mostly.
First, we need to clear up some semantics. The term “taking a bump” is shorthand for “being involved, as aparticipant, in at least some rudimentary aspect of a wrestling show.”
Person B and colleagues can take Person A’s quote quite literally as a means to dismiss it—though I suspect some know very well what the quote means and are essentially playing dumb.
As for the Famous Promoter defense, yes, Vince McMahon, Sr. and Sam Muchnick did exceedingly well in the sport without ever once getting decked within the squared circle. However, by the intended figurative definition of A’s phrase, they most certainly do qualify as experts.
Nonetheless, Person A, you’re not completely off the hook. A number of the newsletter editors past and present have participated in licensed matches before paying audiences. No matter which definition is chosen, they have “taken a bump.”
Furthermore, at the top of the newsletter food chain, there are publishers who routinely go in the back at top-promotion shows, have served as consultants, made phone calls to get wrestlers employment, and similar tasks that define them as “inside.” If “never taken a bump” is not going to be taken literally for the inclusion of promoters, TV announcers and so on, it also applies to said top-rung newsletter journalists.
Granted, they are few, but they do exist. And of course they’re not about to print anything that would directly reveal their connections, or destroy their good standing with promoters or wrestlers by publishing very private dirt they have been privy to.
Which brings us back to you, Person B. Because those publishers withhold information, reading the newsletters by those individuals doesn’t mean you too are a bona fide expert. And that’s without factoring the possibility those writers have biases or agendas.
Again, I’ve been referring to the top “sheet guys.” From what I’ve seen via clicking Twitter links, once you get past the upper echelon, there is a substantial drop-off in credibility, understanding of the business, and journalistic standards.
I have been published in a variety of journals outside of wrestling; and, believe me, no professional editor would ever go to print with “news” articles loaded with speculation and editorializing, which I see regularly on B-list wrestling sites. (Unless the article was clearly presented as an editorial column rather than hard news.)
I will readily admit that, back when I was reading many newsletters, I too thought I was “smart.” That all went out the window the first time I got involved as a participant. So much so, I later publicly apologized in a Power Slam column.
Once you step behind the curtain, as it were, there are so many revelations that simply do not appear in the newsletters and related sites.
Who does the promoter pal around with. Who is a great athlete but can’t cut complicated promos because he’s low in the IQ department. Which fly-ins work surprisingly cheap—and those who are not worth their fee. Which veterans are very helpful to the young workers or keep the locker room mood upbeat with their larger-than-life personalities.
Who has heat with another worker and refuses to put him or her over. What popular-with-fans wrestler drives the booker nuts because he constantly varies from the way the match is laid out. Who the boys love or hate to work with, dependent upon how stiff, cooperative or limited that man is in the ring, or whether he has a penchant for risky spots.
What less-than-stellar wrestlers are constantly booked on locals shows because 80 of their friends will buy tickets, they own the ring or lighting rig, they’re the nephew of someone of importance, they can get the promotion plugged on local radio, or they graduated the promotion’s training school and were promised a public match when they enrolled.
Who is a troublemaker or brown-noses the brass. Who nobody wants to ride with. Who, out of character, is radically different…for better or for worse. Which refs are excellent ring generals. Whose push is directly related to sexual favors. Who you do not want to be around at post-show bar gatherings. And, conversely, who’s popular with the bosses and the rest of the talent because he always draws women to the latter.
What a promoter will do to “sell his house.” Who among them is more driven to get written-up favorably in the sheets than to run profitably. People in the organization whom outsiders never heard of but have much clout.
Getting the picture?
And I haven’t even gotten into the intricacies of what also transpires at TV tapings and PPVs.
It’s natural for a fan to be puzzled as to why certain less-talented wrestlers or managers get pushed. Or why one promotion can run a loaded show while another can’t. Or why “some old-timer” is even employed. Many—seemingly most, online—fans think they could book a promotion better than the people running the show.
But, with all due respect to the better news providers, you are never going to learn all the variables outlined above, by reading newsletters and listening to podcasts. These are all factors that, in some form, affect the product presented, and the promotions believe—and rightly so—are “none of the fans’ business.”
Consequently, the only way a person is going to be in an environment where he or she can absorb all this knowledge is to (figuratively) “take a bump.”
POSTSCRIPT: My conclusion won’t sit well with some. “What about my friend Mike, who can recite every Wrestlemania match and NWA World Champion in chronological order, and subscribes to three streaming services? Are you saying he’s not an expert?”
What I’m saying is, Mike is a wrestling historian—and that’s excellent.
This article is not implying there is anything remotely wrong with being a historian or superfan who can’t get enough of the King Of Sports. A good portion of them are more knowledgeable about wrestling history and up to date on current goings-on than some full-time wrestlers constantly on the road.
The conflict arises when those on the outside looking in see the proverbial tip of the iceberg and, making presumptions based entirely upon it, declare themselves experts. Being the best driver in the county doesn’t make someone a master mechanic. They are two different specialties.
What about wrestling magazine editors and contributors? Thoroughly discussed the subject in a previous On Manor’s Mind http://bit.ly/2nbaFKQ