PODCAST: Inventors of Mr. Freeze & Beach Party Movies

Direct Download: Final Taxi Podcast

This week the Final Taxi talks about Max Hodge who took an unknown comic villain and turn him into on of Batman’s most remembered rouges, Mr. Freeze.

Also we follow the life of Tony Caras who after working in horror films with Rodger Corman and made film history in the 60s with ‘beach party’ movies.

Frankie and Annette

The Nitwits: Jim Carlson

If you remember the show Laugh-in or have watched it in reruns you may remember a skit where a dirty old man (called Tyrone and played by Arte Johnson) would ask little old lady ( named Gladys played by Ruth Buzzi), “Do you believe in the hereafter?”
“Yes,” replies an innocent Gladys.
Tyrone would then say, “Then you know what I’m here after.” This then had Gladys bopping Tyrone over the head with her handbag.

Another would have Tyrone ask “ Would you like to go to a play? Gladys hits him with her bag.Final Taxi Logo
Tyrone: “Would you like to go to a concert?” Gladys hits him again.
“Would you like to go to a funeral?” Tyrone would say as he falls off the park bench.
It was a regular running gag on the show.

NBC collectively called these two characters The Nitwits when they went to animation in the mid 1970s as part of the series Baggy Pants and the Nitwits. Buzzi and Johnson both voiced their respective roles in the cartoon. This series was animated by Warren Batchelder. (Listen to Final Taxi podcast on Batchelder)

These classic characters were created by the mind of Jim Carlson. He created other characters and jokes for Laugh-In and other shows. Jim Carlson has taken the Final Taxi at age 75.

A long-time writer for this and many other series, it was Carlson’s mentor, who was comedian Morey Amsterdam, that saw his talent and helped him get into the comedy business.

Besides Laugh-In, Carlson wrote for such live-action TV series as Hee-Haw, Adam-12, Emergency!, CHiPs, The Bionic Woman and the original Battlestar Galactica.

He and Terrence McDonnell were frequent collaborators. Together they wrote the 1986 ABC special The Mouse And The Motorcycle. Combining animation and live action, it earned Churchill Films and ABC Entertainment a Peabody Award that year. Their 1987 TV special Dorothy Meets Ozma Of Oz also combined animation and live action.

They wrote the 1988 theatrical animated feature Pound Puppies And The Legend Of Big Paw, which featured the voice of Nancy Cartwright the year before The Simpsons debuted. ( Cartwright is the voice of Bart Simpson)

They were executive story editors of the 1987 animated series Spiral Zone for Atlantic-Kushner-Locke. Based on a line of toys, it aired for 65 episodes in syndication.

I will try to forgive Carlson for one of the stinker he gave us as he was one of many writers for the 1993 MGM incarnation of The Pink Panther, which featured a talking panther and aired in syndication over two years. I don’t understand the reason Pink Panther or Tom and Jerry need to talk.

The writing team also worked for the animation show Beetlejuice, and the X-Men cartoon.

He was still actively working on his next television show at the time of his death. He was also to have been a faculty member at the Rock-Solid Writing writer’s conference in Castle Rock.

Jim Carlson left his legacy in writing over 700 episodes of comedy, drama, children’s and family programming as well as four feature films and countless video programs.

Crematory Holds 19th Century Feminist’s Remains Hostage.

Is a crematory in Queens holding hostage a pioneer in woman’s rights?

Article on Lisle LesterLisle Lester was a reporter in the 1800’s who had a rocky career in publishing. She was widely known for her strong opinions on many topics and her tussles with the male typographical unions. She worked for the Milwaukee Sentinel and in 1863, Lisle took charge of the Pacific Monthly, a woman’s literary magazine previously known as the Hesperian. During her career she burned many bridges and pissed off more people than one should during a lifetime.

Miss Lester took that final taxi in June of 1888 in New York. What was worst is that no one claimed her cremated remains. There was no next of kin and one wonders about friends or loved ones. Did she really make that many people mad in her lifetime by standing up for her beliefs in women’s suffrage?

Her remains have sat there for over 119 year on a shelf at the Fresh Pond Crematory in Queens.

The plight of Lester remains were found out by an author who wrote a book about her. Fay Campbell Kaynor was doing research for her 2001 book, “Lapdogs and Bloomer Girls: The Life and Times of Lisle Lester, 1837-1888” and found Miss Lester’s ashes at the crematory but they would not release them until a storage fee was paid. The bail was set at $5000. Kaynor contacted the Fond du Lac County Historical Society and explained what the crematory wanted to release this historic figure.

While she worked with the Fond du Lac County Historical Society on the release, Kaynor died leaving the task to Jack Copet a publications coordinator. He wrote letters back and forth to the business and the storage charges grew to $7,522. According to a price schedule sent to him, the fees went up significantly over time. For instance, between 1902 and 1957 storage cost $12 a year. That was up to $300 a year by 1991.

Copet contacted Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin where Lester studied in the 1850s. The school offered “oral and written support for your project at this time,” but no money. The Wisconsin Historical Society also said no. Copet wrote to the National Organization for Women about the post-mortem plight of this early feminist, but so far hasn’t heard back from them.

The Fond du Lac newspaper wrote and article and eulogized Lester and said her writing was “racy, pungent and of good literary style.”

It wrote that Lester was born Sophia Walker in New Hampshire and later moved to the Fond du Lac area of Wisconsin and adopted the pen name. She came to Milwaukee and worked at the Sentinel in 1863. Lester served there as a printer and trained other women for the job, much to the chagrin of men who dominated the field.

Twice divorced and career-driven, Lester led the Badger Journal in Wisconsin. She went on to San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York and other cities, making her living as a columnist, dramatist, civil rights advocate, editor and theater critic. Her death came during a bout of pneumonia. She was 50.

It is a shame that there is no memorial to this noteworthy woman and that she is being held hostage because of greed. As she fought for the equality of women we should fight for her to be released and be given final peace.

Bow-wow- not only cats sense death.

A few blogs back I talked about Oscar, the Rhode Island feline who spookily holds death-bed vigils for residents at Providence’s Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre.

 It appears it’s not just cats who have the gift of sensing when that Final Taxi is drawing near. We now read about Scamp, a Schnauzer from Ohio, who goes to the bedsides of the dying elderly.

Scamp prowls the corridors of The Pines nursing home in Canton and “tries to raise the alarm when he gets the feeling that one of the seniors is at death’s door”.  Staff member explain that the dog will run around a room or bark at the room when he knows that something is going on.

Director of nursing Adeline Baker said Scamp had forecast “practically every one of the 40 or so deaths that have occurred in the three years”, including that of Andrew Popa. Popa’s friend Yvette Notturno has heard about the dog’s “gift”, and “when she got a call from a nurse that Scamp wouldn’t leave her friend’s bedside, she came right away knowing that her friend didn’t have long”. Popa duly died shortly after.

The Schnauzer owner, Deirdre Huth, stresses that Scamp’s presence was welcomed by residents  of the Pines. They know that he is not a grim reaper.  Baker has said, “It’s kind of comforting to know that maybe at the end of our lives, if we don’t have family members, there will be somebody there to be with us.”

The king is still dead.

ELVIS Presley fans across the world will unite in tribute today to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of The King.

Thousands of fans have made the pilgrimage to Presley’s home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee, where the event will be commemorated over several days. Fans are even dying to see Elvis’ grave. An unidentified woman from New Jersey was found Wednesday by family members in a tent in an RV park down the street from Presley’s Graceland mansion. The heat index had reached 113 and no relief is in site.

I will not be driving down the road the 3 plus hours from my home to see this. Not just because of the heat, I was not much of a fan. I respect what he did for rock music but there were a few underhanded deals he made to try to stop music proression. ( Trying to get The Beatles banned from visiting the US is one.) But he does have a place in music history.

Presley began his career as one of the first performers of rockabilly, an uptempo fusion of country and rhythm and blues with a strong back beat. His novel versions of existing songs, mixing “black” and “white” sounds, made him popular — and controversial — as did his uninhibited stage and television performances. He recorded songs in the rock and roll genre, with tracks like “Jailhouse Rock” and “Hound Dog” later embodying the style. Presley had a versatile voice and had unusually wide success encompassing other genres, including gospel, blues, ballads and pop. To date, he is the only performer to have been inducted into four separate music halls of fame.

He made  thirty-three movies — mainly poorly reviewed musicals. His death, at the age of 42,  on August 16 1977 shocked his fans worldwide. For months after you saw lots of Elvis crap being sold to make a buck off his name. Tons of “best of” records were pushed on late-nite TV.

I got pretty tried of it real fast so when the band Peter and the Test-tube Babies came out with a punk song called “Elvis Is Dead” I couldn’t wait to play it on my radio show. I didn’t make friends with the Elvis fans.

Elvis Is Dead Lyrics

Elvis had an heart-attack, ‘cos he got too bleedin’ fat.
He weighed nearly half a ton, he looked more like a pregnant mum.
Elvis is dead, Elvis is dead.
Elvis had a gammy leg, he had a gammy head.
He had a gammy kidney, he’s better-off dead.
In August 1977, Elvis met his fate.
But he couldn’t get into heaven, ‘cos he couldn’t get thru the gate.
Elvis is dead, Elvis is dead

The Flexi-pop of Factory Records – Tony Wilson

My first encounter with Factory Records was in 1980 when I was given a flexible plastic single by the band Joy Division. It was a little different than the punk rock I was listening to. Mainly at that time of my life I was buy Rough Trade singles no matter what they were.

Factory Records was founded by Tony Wilson who took the Final Taxi at the age of 57.Final Taxi Logo

Born Anthony H. Wilson on February 20, 1950 in Salford, England, he went on to become a renowned broadcast journalist, band manager, record label executive and nightclub owner.

As the Factory Records boss, he was responsible for signing legendary bands including Joy Division and New Order to his label.

Also, as owner of the renowned Hacienda nightclub in Manchester, he played a key role in the Madchester scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s that mixed indie rock and dance music and included artists such as Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses.

Wilson reportedly became involved in the Manchester music scene in the 1970s when hosting the culture and music program ‘So It Goes’ on Granada Television.

After covering a Sex Pistols performance in June 1976, he described the experience as “nothing short of an epiphany.” According to popular accounts, the bands Joy Division,
the Fall, the Smiths and the Buzzcocks were all formed by people who had attended that same Sex Pistols concert. Wilson booked the Pistols for one of the first television broadcasts of British punk rock.

From signing the likes of Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays, to being a general support of exciting an innovative music, Wilson established himself as a true indie music hero.

My favorite Merv Griffin moment-

As most know by now entertainer turned TV mogul turned real-estate tycoon Merv Griffin took his Fianl Taxi this week at the age 82. Merv Griffin won ten Daytime Emmy Awards and was nominated for another 22! He received a Lifetime Achievement Awards at the 2005 Daytime Emmy Awards. Merv Griffin began his career as a singer. As the singer for The Freddy Martin Band, Mr. Griffin scored a huge hit with the 1949 novelty song “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.”
It was in television that Merv Griffin left his mark on the industry. His talk show “The Merv Griffin Show” ran in several incarnations between 1962 and 1986. It was during this time that I remember many a summer in the 70’s watching his show through the porch screen while stringing green beans or peeling corn. It was a show my mother enjoyed watching except when that scantly clad Charo would be his guest.

Millions of TV fans are endebted to Merv Griffin for creating the hit game shows “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune.” The shows brought Mr. Griffin a real fortune when Coca-Cola and Sony bought him out for $250,000,000.00 in 1986. Mr. Griffin then expanded his business interests into hotels and resorts. Merv Griffin appeared in a few films including “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” “Phantom of the Rue Morgue” “Slapstick,” and my favorite appearance of him… when he played with Steve Martin in “The Man With Two Brains.”

PODCAST: Pink Panther Animator & ‘Charles In Charge’ Grandpa.

Listen to this week’s Final Taxi:  Direct download MP3

Warren Batchelder, animator of well over 200 Warner Bros. and Pink Panther cartoons. Though uncredited, he was an animator for the main titles of the 1963 feature film The Pink Panther — which led to doing the cartoons. He was an animator for such TV series as Super President (1967), Here Comes the Grump (1969) and much more. For Marvel he was a sequence director for Transformers (1984) and G.I. Joe (1985).

James T. “Jimmy” Callahan, was an actor best known for playing the cranky grandfather on television’s “Charles in Charge,”Between 1959 and 2007, he appeared in more than 120 films and TV shows. He was featured in several episodes of “Dr. Kildare” on NBC in the early 1960s and played a press secretary on “The Governor & J.J.,” which aired on CBS from 1969 to 1972.

Forget Charles, James T. Callahan Was In Charge!

Many people will remember the 80’s syndicated TV show Charles in Charge. It was one that I didn’t watch that much since I was not a Scott Baio fan at all. The US  sitcom series broadcast on CBS which starred Scott Baio as Charles, a 19-year-old college student working as a live-in babysitter. It left the network and was syndicated from January 3, 1987 until December 8, 1990. 126 original episodes were aired in total.James T. Callahan

 One of the only reason I watched Charles in Charge was the rest of the cast.  One actor that shown brightest was James T. “Jimmy” Callahan, an actor best known for playing the cranky grandfather, Walter Powell, a retired Navy man, on the show. He is now a final taxi rider at 76.

 I remember Callahan when he played Doug Kirk on the episode #132c of the Twilight Zone called “Ninety Years Without Slumbering”.  This is the one where the old man believes that when a grandfather clock he has owned all his life stops, he will die.  I also remember him a Office Holt in the old Dennis the Menace TV show.

 He was featured in several episodes of “Dr. Kildare” on NBC in the early 1960s and played a press secretary on “The Governor & J.J.,” which aired on CBS from 1969 to 1972. In other roles he was in Wendy and Me (Danny Adams), Convoy (Lt. Dick O’Connell),& The Runaways (Sgt. Hal Grady).

He played in episodes of Perry Mason, Route 66, Have Gun-Will Travel, Stoney Burke, Ben Casey, My Favorite Martian, Twelve O’Clock High, The Time Tunnel, The Fugitive, Run for Your Life, The Invaders, The F.B.I., The Untouchables, Adam-12, Longstreet, Marcus Welby, M.D., M*A*S*H, Love, American Style, Barnaby Jones, Cannon, Police Story, The Rockford Files, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Bosom Buddies, Alice, Lou Grant, Simon & Simon, Quincy, Remington Steele, Fame, The A-Team, Knight Rider, Newhart, Highway to Heaven, Growing Pains, Amazing Stories, Doogie Howser, M.D., The Golden Girls, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Picket Fences, Caroline in the City, Cybill, The Practice, ER, Medium, 7th Heaven to name just a few.

 More recently, Callahan had appeared on several episodes of the medical drama “Body & Soul” on the Pax TV network.

 One of his favorite film roles was as the band leader in “Lady Sings the Blues” (1972), his wife said. He also portrayed a country-western singer in “Outlaw Blues” (1977) with Peter Fonda. I laughed when he played the role of the general who was out to destroy all the zombies in “Return of the Living Dead III” (1993)

I saw  recently as a jury foreman in one of my favorite shows called” Medium.”

 I look forward to seeing him in his final film, a horror movie called “Born,” that has not been released yet.

The Boots Are Walkin’ – Lee Hazlewood

As one of the most iconic figures in 20th century pop and underground music, Lee Hazlewood was a major influence on musicians of all genres. The reclusive songwriter and producer was behind a slew of hits by Duane Eddy, Nancy Sinatra, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in the 1950s and 1960s. His most successful was the song by Ms. Sinatra that because her No. 1 smash “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.

That song has since been used in scores of movies, television shows and commercials, and performed or recorded by hundreds of artists.

Lee Hazlewood has taken his Final Taxi this week at the age of 78. In a diverse career spanning five decades, the legendary singer became widely respected as the pioneer of ‘country-rock’, as well as a major contributor to the sound known as ‘Cowboy Psychedelia’ or ‘Saccharine Underground’. His distinctive baritone voice told tales of society misfits, wonderers and damsels on death row, set to catchy but unorthodox melodies produced using groundbreaking recording techniques.

 Hazlewood was born in Mannford, Oklahoma, in 1929. He  served in the Korean War and after found work as a D.J. in Arizona, where he met the guitarist Duane Eddy.

 In 1955 Hazlewood  wrote  a rockabilly song for Sanford Clark called “The Fool,” his first hit as a songwriter.Meanwhile, as Mr. Eddy’s co-writer and producer, Mr. Hazlewood helped invent twang-rock  and  also helped develop country-rock; he released an album by Gram Parsons’s early group the International Submarine Band on his LHI label in 1968.

After an underappreciated solo album, “Trouble Is a Lonesome Town,” in 1963, Mr. Hazlewood, who had relocated to Los Angeles, found himself embraced by the Rat Pack.  He produced two hits for the teenage trio “Dino, Desi & Billy’ and a chart-topper for Dino’s father Dean Martin. At Frank Sinatra’s request, he began working with his daughter Nancy. Hazlewood told her to sing in a lower register, giving her instant success with ‘So Long, Babe’ in 1966. In the same year, he wrote ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking’, the song that established Sinatra as one of the hottest pop stars of the 1960s.

In 1970, at the peak of his career, Hazlewood made a shock move to Sweden, where he released almost two albums a year before retiring in 1978. But in 1993 he was persuaded to return to the US, where he was surprised to discover he had obtained cult status. His albums were reissued by popular underground bands, he toured again with Nancy, and in 1999 and 2002 he headlined The Royal Festival Hall in London. In 2006 – almost half a century after his debut record, Lee Hazlewood released his acclaimed final album, ‘Cake or Death.”