Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Mickey Mouse Club

One of my earliest favorite programs was THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB, a series that had gone off the air before I turned one year old but stayed around in syndicated reruns throughout much of my childhood. Basically, there was a bunch of kids who all seemed pretty cool, a couple of non-threatening adults, some silly cartoon characters, songs, educational bits and serialized dramas. It was like a whole day of TV programming wrapped up in just a half hour and all for kids! Like me!

Jimmie Dodd looked and acted younger than his age but he was actually the same age as my DAD! That would make him 50 when the show went off the air!

Former Disney animator Roy Williams seemed like the friendliest guy around. 

No matter what age you discovered her, Annette (whose last name, "Funicello," must have seemed too hard for kids to pronounce as she usually went by her first name only) was the show's golden girl--lovely and talented and with a genuine air of sweetness.

I was always a big fan of Darlene, too. She was like the big sister I never had. 

Doreen was, surprisingly, the one who geew up and posed her mouse ears.

I knew Bobby from one of my Mom's favorite shows, THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW, where he was the main dancer for many, many years after his mouse days ended.

THE HARDY BOYS was one of many dramatic--but not TOO dramatic--serials featured on the show and starred a young Tommy Kirk and Tim Considine.

My favorite part was the cartoons. Didn't even matter that they were in black and white because we only had a black and white TV set anyway! ALL of the early cartoons I saw were in black and white. 

And then there was that wonderful, memorable, closing theme song.

Cubby and Karen were the littlest Mouseketeers and stood out at the close. Cubby would go on to perform with The Carpenters in the seventies.

Poor Donald. Seemed like nothing ever went right for him. 

Oh, and here's Paul Peterson, kicked off the show early for fighting.

Paul revisited the old gang in 1977 with this book, an excellent look at old friends, some who were aging well and some who weren't. 

I was always pleased with the chapter where he realizes that Annette really was as genuinely sweet as she had always come across.

In the late 1990s, with Mickey now having a whole channel and not just a club, my infant son became addicted to the same 1950s episodes of THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB that his Dad had enjoyed so many years before. He simply refused to go to sleep until the show went off the air every 12:30 AM!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

R.I.P Time Again

We lost three of our TV friends today--Dave Madden from LAUGH-IN and THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY.

Russell Johnson who inspired so many to become scientists on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND.

And Roger Lloyd-Pack, familiar from ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES, HARRY POTTER, DR. WHO and one of my all-time favorites, THE VICAR OF DIBLEY.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Kip King and Donna Loren On Batman, 1966

A few years back I spoke with actor Kip King and singer/actress Donna Loren, both of who played Joker henchmen in an early BATMAN episode in 1966. Here are portions of our talks pertinent to that experience.

Kip King On His Batman Role
B-Wow. Well, let's move up to 1966. What about BATMAN?


B-Were you familiar with the show at all? Had it already become the phenomenon that it became?

K-It was JUST hitting its peak. A friend of mine, Stanley Ralph Ross, had written some of the scripts. I don't know if you know who he is?

B-Oh, of course!

K-He was a good friend and he just called Larry Stewart who I knew from before and he was casting it and Larry called me in for this BATMAN show and I had seen it. I liked it and I read for this know it just fit like a glove. It just was one of those things! I've done several shows that just fit! MY FAVORITE MARTIAN and a lot of work on the Desilu lot after I did a lot of live TV. I did all the live shows for seven years. Then I started doing filmed stuff like BEN CASEY...well, anyway, let's stick with Desilu. Well this wasn't Desilu, this was...


K-Yeah. Where I did TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH. So....I got the part and it just turned out to be enormously supportive. The rest of the cast except for Cesar Romero who was pretty much of an asshole.


K-Well, okay, I won't call him an asshole. He wasn't a bad guy. He just was removed. Didn't want to participate with anyone else. "AH, yah! This make-up hurts. I'll do it and get outa here!" He didn't visit. So strike "asshole." Sorry, folks. Cesar Romero was not an asshole!

I wrote THE BETTY HUTTON SHOW...I'm sorry to keep digressing but I was hired as an actor, became her lover and wrote the show so that's an interesting story in itself.

B-I was going to ask how you got involved in writing and why you never did more of it.

K-(laughter) Well, because I wrote during the writers' strike! Wasn't a member of the union!

B-Thaaaat would explain that.

K-Well, I wrote this show for her and Cesar Romero and (on BATMAN) I said, "I wrote that show for you, remember?" and he said, (in Cesar Romero's voice), "I do so many." The Joker worked very well for him, though, didn't it?

B-That's very true but according to some sources, that role was originally meant for Jose Ferrer!

K-Was it?? (laughter)

B-That's what I've read.

K-Quite possibly true. He didn't do any of those though, did he?

B-No, which is too bad because his son, Miguel, went on to be a big comics fan. Imagine if his dad had been the Joker! Up close could you see Cesar's mustache?

K-Oh, of course.

B-Maybe it's because I was a kid but I never did and now that's all I see when I look at him in that makeup! My son and I have been watching a lot of old episodes lately.

K-How old's your son?


K-Oh my God, cool!

B-The whole thing is that some of them were just ridiculous and silly but the early ones especially were really entertaining and good! Most of the humor in them came from everybody being serious. You, on the ot

her hand, actually managed to be funny in it on purpose.

K-This was an ideal situation, to play a character who was...well, to play a character! Literally, a character. I WAS serious but I was able to do it in and out of the box at the same time.

B-Well, it stands out because so many of the other episodes those henchmen are just there. Sometimes two, sometimes four.You never know anything about them but their names and that's often only because they wear them on their shirts! But you actually got in a characterization.
K-Yeah, it really worked. I mean, I had a crush on Donna character did. Everything was working. Also, we all got along very well. Would you know who that other guy was...the big guy who played the oaf with me? I can't remember his name.

B-(Greg Benedict)

K-Very nice. Quite removed and I know very much into psychedelics I think.

B-Well, it was that time, wasn't it?

K-Adam I knew from THE DETECTIVES and he was one of the nicest people I know. He had a sense of humor about his lack of ability all the time. Ever since he started. I mean, he has made a living NOT doing it well! BATMAN worked out so well for him it just was a miracle. It's wonderful. He's the sweetest guy in the world. He'll do anything Cesar Romero didn't do!

B-I remember at the time we all believed in Batman. All of us kids took him seriously when he said, "Make sure you buckle your seat belts, citizens," and all that. Wasn't like he was being silly at all or being ironic about it.

K- It was good stuff. Worked on so many levels.

B-During the fight scenes, how much of that was you and how much stuntmen?

K-I would say, almost 50-50. Obviously the close-ups were me. The heavy stuff was the stuntmen. I took the last few punches and fell but the medium and long shots were them.

B-When they did the two episodes that were on Wednesday and Thursday, did they shoot them as one and just cut them into two?

K-No, each part was shot...part one first, then part two.

Donna Loren On Her Role In the Same Episode:

B-I'm surprised you didn't do more as an actress. You really had a good delivery. In the BATMAN episodes for instance, I thought you were great. Really fun and funny! You had a real character and funny lines and you stood up to the Joker.

D-(laughter) Uh-huh!

B-What did you think of Cesar Romero?

D-Well, he was a mega-movie star to me. I was just entranced by how his posture was, being an older gentleman--so elegant and so extremely professional. Again, it was all work. It was symptomatic of me always being chaperoned and being a minor and all that. At the time I guess the reason I didn't do more acting was because I was always on the road for Dr Pepper so I wasn't in L. A. enough. Looking back, I never, ever, ever dreamed that anything I ever did would become a part of our pop culture. I just thought they were light hearted fun and I never took any of it all that seriously. Like I said, it was the sixties and seeds were planted for this time period of more appreciation so it actually is good to be here. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

George Reeves At 100

George Reeves died when I was less than 1 year old but he's been my hero my entire life. I can't even remember a time when I wasn't a fan of TV's ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN. I knew the TV Superman long before I ever saw the comic book version.

George was quite a good actor and famously appeared in GONE WITH THE WIND but his career proceeded down to B movies from there.

Then came Superman with Reeves replacing Kirk Alyn as the character moved from serial to series. Although it was a kids show from the beginning, the first season black and white episodes had more of a Noir feel that was later purposely lost.

The revelation in the series was Clark Kent. Unlike the character in all other versions, George Reeves' version was a hard-hitting reporter and not really all that meek and mild-mannered at all! Plus, he could really rock a hat! If anything, I liked Clark more than Superman!