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Gary Owens’ Connection to a Cult Music Icon

garyowensby Legendary Lew

Tributes went out after legendary announcer/voice actor Gary Owens died on Thursday at age 80.  Many have remembered his most famous gig as the announcer for the monumental TV comedy “Laugh-In.” Some younger viewers will also note his voice work as Space Ghost and Powdered Toast Man on “Ren and Stimpy.”

What may go unnoticed, however, is that if it weren’t for him, a cult music legend may have gone forever in obscurity.

As a disc jockey in the early 1960s, Owens recorded a very rare disc based on his radio show with goofy characters possessing funny names. The album was called “Song Festoons” and featured a track by a character named “Phoebe Phestoon.

Religious music director Fred Bock introduced the woman singing “Slumber Boat” on that album and Gary Owens went to work.  As Kliph Nesteroff of the great blog Classic Television Showbiz learned in an interview with the announcing great, Gary Owens created the persona of Mrs. Miller:

…a man named Fred Bock who was a musician; wonderful song writer; dealt mainly in religious music. He and Dick Friesen were friends of mine. The very first album I did was one calledSong-Festoons. I had a character named Earl C. Festoon who was kind of a dottering guy. “Earl C. Festoon here. Hello, Gary. Which way am I facing?” “You’re facing the microphone today, Earl.” “Oh. Hello.” Those kinds of things. Anyway, I did my first album and it was produced by Dick Friesen and Fred Bock. That’s how this all came about.

The album “Mrs. Miller’s Greatest Hits” on Capitol Records was born and Mrs.

Mrs. Miller doing her thing thanks to Gary Owens

Mrs. Miller doing her thing thanks to Gary Owens

Miller became a sensation of sorts in the mid-1960’s, appearing on American Bandstand, The Ed Sullivan Show, Hollywood Palace and repeatedly on The Merv Griffin Show as well as having a prominent role in the hip 60’s musical The Cool Ones.  Her name became synonymous with the “worst” in music (even though she eventually went in on the joke, making lots of money in the process) and her albums became the go-to starting point for anyone interested in creating a cult record collection.

So many thanks to Gary Owens for redirecting my record collection!

You can hear an episode of Mediatrocities featuring TyPi and myself recalling Mrs. Miller here.

Mediatrocities #12: Razzie & Oscar Surprises and Oversights and Remembering Kim Fowley

KimFowleyby Legendary Lew

Mediatrocities #12 is here with Legendary Lew, TyPi and Mountain Drew in their latest thrill-packed episode. We discuss what’s going on with some overlooked Razzie noms, why the Oscar noms are so damn white, and what exactly did legendary music producer claim he did to promote early Motown records. Give a listen and share. I think it’s one of our best episodes.

SNL’s “Cut” Ferguson Sketch Shows NBC Knows TV’s Dwindling Importance

Kip (Kenan Thompson) and Jenny (Cecily Strong) try getting through a horrible news morning on their sunny TV show. Courtesy: NBC/YouTube

Kip (Kenan Thompson) and Jenny (Cecily Strong) try getting through a horrible news morning on their sunny TV show. Courtesy: NBC/YouTube

by Legendary Lew

This past weekend, NBC cut a sketch from Saturday Night Live that it claimed the long-running series did not have time to perform.  The comedy bit in question was the airing of a local St. Louis happy morning “news” show called “Rise and Smile St. Louis.” Co-hosts Kip and Jenny (Kenan Thompson and Cecily Strong) struggle to make it through the show the morning after riots rocked Ferguson.

Although, there certainly will be buzz over whether the network was too nervous to show the sketch, its airing on television, I think, is a moot point, especially when the bit made it online to YouTube and will be eventually be watched by more people than it would have on just TV alone.

A bigger point to raise is that it did get released publicly online while Ferguson, Eric Garner’s death and further issues of police brutality are fresh in the public’s mind.  Think Progress astutely points out this is a rare instance when SNL goes for a controversial and deeply evocative emotional issue head on.  If Jon Stewart didn’t know what to say, SNL sure did and did so terrifically:

The skit reminded me of some political comedy classics recorded on vinyl back in Charlie Manna - Rise & Fall Of The Great Societythe late 1960s and early 70s, when LP’s were practically the only serious outlet for very biting social commentary like this.  One of the few examples I could find of a comedy sketch on rioting done while the memories were still fresh was “Park Avenue Riots” by comic Charlie Manna and co-written by future “All in the Family” writer Michael Ross.

In fact, the other major TV parallel example of riot satire I could think of is the famed Harry Belafonte appearance on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” in 1968. Singing a medley of some of his famous tunes beginning with “Don’t Stop the Carnival,” the lyrics were reworked to match scenes of the the Chicago 1968 Democratic National Convention and riots, which had taken place only a few weeks prior.

CBS snipped this performance from the show and eventually the Brothers’ legendary fight with the network’s censorship issues led the network to break their contract and cancel the series.

Contrast the network’s decision with today: Belafonte’s performance could not be seen for many years. The SNL skit, however, can be seen online and shared freely. NBC may be nervous about airing it on a medium with older audiences, but understands how younger viewers consume their media. This understanding is, in fact, blurted out by Jenny in the morning show when she castigates Chef Darrell (SNL guest host James Franco) for inappropriate comments he makes while cooking up a frittata:

“Too late. You said it, and now we’re all on YouTube forever.”

NBC didn’t “cut the skit” for time. They knew it would live with a longer life of its own online, and indeed it does with currently over 2 million hits on YouTube. That popularity is another indication that TV, in its traditional form, is a dying medium. It needs the reach and relevance of the world wide web to be vital to young audiences and to provide voices and views that counter the mainstream.

“Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” Cancelled by TLC. Strike That Line! Predicted It!

The future Baby Jane Hudson

The future Baby Jane Hudson

by Legendary Lew

According to TMZ, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” star mama June had a bit of trouble with her dating preferences, choosing a convicted child molester to fulfill her needs and Phil Robertson’s moral standards.

The Learning Channel, unable to learn from what should have been a somewhat predictable common sense disaster in the making, reacted thusly:

And so, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” is no more. It seems a shame to stop production, since you could have titled a potential new series, “To Catch a Predator’s Boo Boo.”

Oh well, looks like Honey Boo Boo will have to head the ways of Baby Jane Hudson by going insane and starving her sister to death in sixty years. But for now, you can hear how Strike That Line! predicted a catastrophe for fame hungry no talents in the episode “Tinkle Tinkle Little Star.”

Palin Drunken Brawl with Pictures (!) Found by the Strike That Line Crew!

The folks at Strike That Line! were able to find pictures from the scene of the recent Alaskan brawl involving the Palins. For the first time, see exactly what Bristol Palin was referring to in her statement to police. Please note that this video is NSFW:

 

 

“Scrapers,” a New Stoner Rom Com of Best Buds Releases Sneak Peek Video

scrapersThe Underground Multiplex is proud to present the first peek of Scrapers, a Capra Movie House production, directed by Jake Weisman. This preview takes the form of a short called “Bong Bong.”

In it, Hal (played by Dakota Loesch) sings his favorite song in the shower, a tune sounding somewhat close to the theme of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. He imagines himself and his best friend Mary (Sally Anderson) cracking cases in their own detective show on the eve of the #SaveBabyBenson episode.

Scrapers is a new Chicago indie, a romantic comedy for stoners who appreciate the importance of being best buds.

Take a hit off “Bong Bong”:

What You Won’t Learn from Most David Brenner Obituaries

David Brenner and Lesley Ann Warren starred in the doomed NBC sitcom, Snip

David Brenner and Lesley Ann Warren starred in the doomed NBC sitcom, Snip. Courtesy: remembermarilyn

by Legendary Lew

Master of comic observation, David Brenner, died March 15, 2014 from cancer. The greatest emphasis in remembering him by most media has been his numerous appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Gracing the stage there 158 times since his 1971 debut was quite the feat. It’s currently unmatched by any other guest.

A few obits will mention that Brenner was the star of a extremely short-lived NBC sitcom from 1976 called Snip. How quick was the demise of the show? NBC cancelled the show before a single episode was aired.  Normally, this would simply be an insignificant footnote in TV history. However, the story behind what happened is fascinating, leading me to believe that the network had some of the biggest assholes in charge during the 1970’s.

Davidbrennersnip2

Courtesy: remembermarilyn

Brenner was a very hot property by the mid-1970’s as one of the best stand-up comics around. Naturally, producers were keen to take notice and one of them, James Komack, was spinning gold as executive producer of the hit shows Welcome Back, Kotter and Chico and the Man. Komack developed a new sitcom called Snip, based somewhat on the box-office winner, Shampoo starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. Snip starred David Brenner and Lesley Ann Warren as divorcees who are reunited in a hair salon when he takes a job there. The show also starred Bebe Drake and Walter Wanderman as the salon owner.

NBC pulled out all the stops for promoting the show, saturating the airwaves with announcements of the new “hit” comedy. Although I’ve not seen them in almost 40 years, I recall seeing ads for it.  Snip was also buoyed by advance good reviews, presenting a strong case for the network having high hopes.

So why did NBC cancel the show almost literally at the last minute–so drastically that TV Guide didn’t have time to pull this spread from their Fall Preview issue?:

TV Guide's Fall Preview page announcing Snip, which had just been snipped from NBC's lineup

TV Guide’s Fall Preview page announcing Snip, which had just been snipped from NBC’s lineup. Courtesy: remembermarilyn

The answer: homophobia.

Snip would have presented the first regularly recurring gay character (played by Wanderman) in television history and NBC was not ready to take the chance. Throwing it into a strange limbo, NBC announced it would be cancelled, then it would be postponed, then it just simply died. NBC wouldn’t try having a gay character again until 1981, when they ran Love Sidney for a two-season run, but not before giving the lead a character castration so that his gayness would be quelled, lest viewers catch something.

The network’s dick move (certainly not the only one they pulled in the 1970’s–The Richard Pryor Show‘s tumultuous journey becoming legendary TV history) didn’t really hurt Brenner’s career. He continued to appear on The Tonight Show, even becoming rumored as a possible replacement for Carson when the latter showed signs of fatigue in the late 1970’s.

The cancellation certainly did, however, make NBC look heartless and it must have damaged Wanderman’s career, as he only made one final TV guest spot before disappearing. The subsequent successful airing of the existing five episodes on Australian television had to have inspired an interesting phone call between Komack and NBC. How I would have been a fly on the wall for that conversation.

Interview with Artist Dave Asher at Chicago Filmmakers

Dave Asher as Melody Nife in SCI FI SOL

Dave Asher as Melody Nife in SCI FI SOL

Friday Night VOLUME at Chicago Filmmakers kicked off it’s 2014 run with a January jam-packed with ray guns, video game car chases, super hero dance battles, and an album of music the Chicago Journal called, “a brilliant slice of bedroom pop, infectiously catchy and rough around all of the right edges”.  All of this, courtesy of featured attraction SCI FI SOL, the music video fantasy adventure.

The final screening packed an especially rare whollup, as it was announced that the original album of music that inspired and scored the movie would, in fact, not be heard.  Instead,  the movie was played alongside the upcoming new album by Sci Fi Sol creator Melody Nife.

Joseph R. Lewis interviews Dave Asher, AKA Melody Nife, AKA musical director of legendary Chicago comedy theatre iO and artist behind the music of Sci Fi Sol, the music video fantasy adventure.
Recorded live on January 31st, MMXIV as part of Friday Night VOLUME, a series programmed by Jake Weisman at Chicago Filmmakers.

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Happy Holidays from The Underground Multiplex

How appropriate for us is it to present to you as a holiday share this wonderfully strange Christmas short claiming “no Santa for animals.” Apparently, PetSmart didn’t exist back then. Happy Holidays!

Mediatrocities #8: Strike That Line! Podcast with Episode Titled “Tinkle Tinkle, Little Star”

DenturaEnterprises

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, are you lucky to have stopped by here today. Well, are you? You just happened to stop by when the radio play sketch comedy was christened with its new name, Strike That Line! Confused? Startled? Intrigued? Perhaps, my friends, you should give a listen as Ernie Tarte, the world’s least known film auteur, takes on the world of reality TV.

In this episode, Hollywood TV producer Cash Johnson teams up with Dolly Dentura, CEO of Dentura Enterprises and owner of all you see above (until she changed all the logos and trademark names) to present TV’s newest reality TV series. Feast your ears as Tarte tries to make art when he should have been making tracks.

Strike That Line! is a production of The Underground Multiplex.
Starring Tyler Pistorius, Joseph R. Lewis, Barry Brennessel and Lew Ojeda. Written by Lew Ojeda, Tyler Pistorius and Joseph R. Lewis. Theme music by Lucas Herzog. Special musical guest: Honey & The 45s. Produced and directed by Lew Ojeda.

This podcast is intended for mature audiences and those with highly dysfunctional families.