Sunday, April 29, 2012


I loved this show. I was just getting into the old movie serials and, especially in the seventies, was into all things Dracula! An innovative NBC series from 1979 that got lost in ABC's seemingly unstoppable ratings domination, each week's CLIFFHANGERS offered a new chapter of a series done up in the style of the old movie serials. The most popular was perhaps THE CURSE OF DRACULA segment with Michael Nouri as a suitable vampire Count. Susan Anton's STOP SUSAN WILLIAMS!  ended up with a TV movie to finish up its abandoned plot when the series was canceled fairly quickly. The third weekly feature, THE SECRET EMPIRE, was more or less a remake of Gene Autry's cowboy sci-fi serial, THE PHANTOM EMPIRE.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Girls of Petticoat Junction

PETTICOAT JUNCTION ran for seven seasons in the sixties and I enjoyed it immensely even though it didn't age particularly well. It was ostensibly about a life in and around a rural hotel called the Shady Rest. However with three beautiful girls seen bathing in the title sequence, the term "Petticoat" Junction which wasn't used in the show at all and the town named Hooterville... I think one can guess what the show was really about. 

Like the Three Stooges, the three Bradley sister were made up of more than three actresses. The best known group was Linda Kaye Henning (as Betty Jo), Loris Saunders (as Bobbie Jo) and Meredith McCrae (as Billie Joe)

Previous Billie Jos were Jeannine Riley and Gunilla Hutton (both of whom later ended up on HEE HAW), Pat Woodell was the first Bobbie Jo.

At one time or another, I had a major crush on each of the girls--first Billie Jo, then Betty Jo and finally, well into seventies reruns,  Bobbie Jo. 

Above with June Lockhart who essentially replaced the late Bea Benaderet in the matriarch role, although playing a much different character.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Shazam! (Without Gomer)

In the seventies, I was a big CAPTAIN MARVEL fan. The first issue of DC's revived series featuring the World's Mightiest Mortal, called SHAZAM, was, in fact, the first comic I ever put into a comic bag! It was a fun series, light-hearted and whimsical but filled with memorable characters and lots of action and adventure.  By the time a TV series version came along on Saturday mornings in mid-decade, I was SO ready for it. 

...and SO disappointed. What the hell were they thinking? The only elements taken from the actual comic books were Billy Batson's name and trademark red shirt, the magic word "Shazam" and...well, that was it. Captain Marvel himself at least was well-cast with actor Jackson Bostwick looking very much like the Big Red logically (??) they recast him after the first season with a pug-nosed football player type in John Davey.

The first thing one had to get past was Billy's hair. I mean, I know it was the seventies but what happened to actors having to make concessions for the part. Michael Gray, though, in spite of a vague ethnicity one never ascribed to the comic version, was the best thing about the series and became briefly a teen heartthrob. 

  Radio and TV veteran Les Tremayne provided a familiar face and voice as "Mentor." Mentor was...well...Billy's Mentor. That's pretty much all we knew although I seem to recall hints that at one time he had been a super hero himself. The pair traveled around the country in a giant RV. No idea how they ever got any money for food or gas or anything. In the comics, they had Billy's faux Uncle Dudley grow a mustache to approximate the Mentor character and tried having the pair travel the US there, also. Ugh.  

Unlike the comics, every episode was a heavy-handed morality lesson. Once in every episode, Billy would find himself in a situation where he would have to yell his magic word. Usually, he'd also have a brief conversation with "the Elders." The Elders were a cartoon pantheon of the folks who made up the SHAZAM acronym. There was no old Wizard, remember.

Bostwick looked perfect except for his slightly too long hairstyle--so perfect that his picture even ended up on one of the DC Treasury edition reprint collections during his run on the show. 

He still appears at celebrity shows today. There;s his Treasury edition in the background of this shot.

I've read why he was replace but I can't recall the reason at the moment. His replacement, Davey, was a better actor, not that the role called for much. But he just didn't look the part to me. 

It was during this period that the same folks premiered ISIS with Joanna Cameron. Needless to say, the pair DID team up. At DC, ISIS even appeared in an issue of SHAZAM. Since the company didn't actually own teh rights, that issue has had to be skipped over whenever a run of SHAZAM has been reprinted.

I once described the TV SHAZAM as "dull, modernized, cheap-looking and incredibly preachy." But I watched it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tony Orlando and Dawn

Tony Orlando, after an early career as a singer, had become a record company executive by 1970. That year, though, he ended up recording a demo of a song called CANDIDA and its B-side, KNOCK THREE TIMES. Both became surprise hits, credited to the fictitious group, Dawn.

After  awhile, Orlando waned to go on the road again so he hired back-up singers Joyce Vincent Wilson and Telma Hopkins--neither of whom had sung on the records--to tour with him as Dawn.

Eventually, they went into the studio together to make more hit records. In the wake of Sonny and Cher's divorce, in 1974 CBS offered the renamed Tony Orlando and Dawn their own variety hour,

With his seventies mustache, sartorial style and a million dollar smile, Tony quickly proved to anyone and everyone that he was a real find for TV. He excelled in comedy as well as music and had an absolutely amazing rapport with the audience that was showcased in a popular segment in every episode of the series. 

Telma also proved adept at comedy as well as singing and had a great television presence. She would go on to a long and successful acting career in various programs. 

The series was quite a hit and was going along well. Additional hits were helped along by the show and in turn, the show was helped by the music. 

Tony, Telma and Joyce went on tour in 1976 and their appearance at the newly opened Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati became the very first concert I ever attended. The concert was much like the show as far as Tony's interactions with the audience. 

Late that year, in the wake of various personal issues, Tony Orlando had a breakdown and the show suddenly went did the group itself. 

In time, he healed but the moment was passed. Tony Orlando and Dawn have gotten together off and on in the years since and Tony had a long and successful Vegas run but for one brief moment in the mid-seventies, Tony Orlando really was one of the world's greatest entertainers...or at least it seemed that way.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Andy Williams

When I was a kid, I loved Christmas specials on TV and my very favorite was always Andy Williams' annual Christmas special. He and his beautiful French wife and their kids would get together at a ski lodge or something and sing and tell stories and play and have fun and open presents. It was an idyllic Christmas to me. Andy's holiday specials ran for years. To my recollection, they even continued to run for a couple years after his friendly divorce from wife Claudine (Andy would stick by her during her later scandal and legal troubles, also). 

Andy had been a singer with his brothers (who often appeared on his TV specials, also) for years but split off with a series of hit records that defied the odds and made the top of the charts in the rock 'n' roll era. He continued making bestselling albums throughout the sixties.

Andy had several incarnations of THE ANDY WILLIAMS show in the sixties and seventies, the earliest frequently showcasing a young barbershop quartet consisting of four brothers named Osmond. Their little brother Donny would appear after a while, too. Just about everyone who was anyone--at least in "old" show business-- guested with Andy during the sixties version of his show.


Andy also served as the long-running amiable host of THE GRAMMY AWARDS (until a rather unfortunate faux pas when he said to Stevie Wonder via a live remote, "Can you see me?" He hosted other Awards shows, too, as well as a golf tournament and occasionally guesting on everyone else's program.

An early proponent of Branson, Missouri, Andy set up a theater there where he performed for many years to appreciative audiences as his hair turned grey but his eyes still twinkled.