Tag Archives: music

Mediatrocities #16: Criterion Requests and Remembering Leonard Nimoy

RIP Leonard Nimoy

RIP Leonard Nimoy

by Legendary Lew

TyPi joins me in the latest installment of “Mediatrocities,” the podcast of unusual media.  In this episode, we make an open request to Criterion DVD, asking them to take on our choices of films deserving top notch releases. The second segment is our tribute to the late great Leonard Nimoy, centering on his media work that was not Star Trek.

Give a listen and as always, this podcast is NSFW.

Included in the podcast is the audio for a Priceline commercial, the video of which is here:

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Remembering Leonard Nimoy’s Other Great TV Series

isonimoy1by Legendary Lew

When you bring to life one of the most indelible characters in the history of television, it’s tough to come up with an encore.  Leonard Nimoy, who will forever be known for his portrayal of Mr. Spock in the original “Star Trek” series and franchise, had a decent follow-up for two years on “Mission: Impossible” after the sci-fi series was cancelled. He even had a fine memorable role in a very good remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1978.

But the befitting subsequent TV series for the man with the great authoritative baritone was “In Search of,” the syndicated hit TV series which had its primary run from 1976-1982.  As the narrator, Nimoy presented examinations into strange occurrences and phenomena, such as The Bermuda Triangle disappearances or the discovery of Atlantis. It was a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream.

What I loved about “In Search of” was that all the topics were given equal weight, regardless of perceived veracity, whether it was climate change (mentioned in those terms back in 1978!) or Bigfoot. One of my favorites was the search into The Amityville Horror, the story of which was discovered to be completely bogus.

That particular episode began (as all of them did) with the famed intro:

“This series presents information based in part on theory and conjecture. The producer’s purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones, to the mysteries we will examine.”

With scenes of the recent hit horror film, The Amityville Horror, playing as background, Nimoy states seriously:

Most people think The Amityville Horror is a good, scary ghost story…what is not commonly known is that the film is actually based on fact. It is a true story.

I love me some good hucksterism and this particular episode, as some others, were hearty entertaining laughs. I just about lost it when the great Nimoy, describing the weirdness of the house, delivers the following solemn line:

“then they puzzled over a toilet that, when flushed…”

The sentence is unfinished. Instead, on the screen we see an opaque liquid make a flooded mess of the bathroom floor.

This series was a sort of continuation of the conspiracy exploitation genre, which pumped out popular 1970s movies like Beyond and Back and The Lincoln Conspiracy.  “In Search Of” was like a mini-version of those movies made better by editing out the fat that the feature films would leave in.

Leonard Nimoy’s performance as Spock was so transformative for him as a performer that he could record several albums of badly sung music and narrate an exploitative TV series without ever doing damage to his career. In fact, they simply added to his legend.

Watch the unintentionally hilarious “In Search of” episode, “The Amityville Horror”:

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.

Wild Yard Sale This Week Plus …Would You Like to Share an Apartment with a Co-Founder?

soundslikewoodstockThe Underground Multiplex moves from its current location, the Brain Kitchen, on Saturday!  History was made there as we’ve met with wonderful people, hosted jazz concerts, held interviews with TV news and radio stations, entertained partygoers with music and movies, and developed our philosophy of collectivism in art and art promotion.

The Brain Kitchen was a special place, but always a physically limited space, so we are off to plant roots in a new home TBD soon.

In the meantime, there are artifacts we will be selling in a wild and funky yard sale Wednesday 5/28 and Friday 5/30 from 3pm-8pm at our grand location at 1424 N Greenview in Chicago. Among the items being sold are Joe’s crazy artwork, some of my insanely cheap but interesting records. books, games, a super 8mm camcorder, a super 8 Sound FILM camera with telescoping mic and various other goodies.  However, please do note the following:

Please don’t ask what specifically we’ll be selling. I’m way too busy packing and working to reply. Just stop by.
NO, we are not selling marionettes.
NO, we are not selling Meinecke or related artwork.
No early birds. We begin promptly at 3pm. Early birds will be plucked and deep fried with a delicious golden brown beer battered coating.

Come on over and pick up a piece of Chicago newsmaker history!

PLUS–Lew, co-founder of TUGM, is still looking for a roommate for a West Logan Sq apartment sublet beginning June 1st – August 31st. Strongly preferring someone who will continue on with a lease on Sept. 1st. If you are serious and interested, email lewojeda@gmail.com for more details.

 

Underground Gallery Sells 30K in Excavated Art in One Night

In the late summer of 2013, year of the XTRACT, the sons of Tristan Meinecke partnered with The Underground Multiplex (TUGM) to resurrect the story of their iconic rebel parents.  TUGM is one of the Shy City’s most ardent supporters of local underground art, and the art of patriarch Tristan Meinecke was as underground as it gets- literally!

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Tristan Meinecke in his home studio, late 50s. Location of pictured art pieces still unknown.

The career of Chicago’s forgotten lunatic genius spanned over five decades and included successful forays into nearly every art medium available.  His mastery was well-known by those that knew of him, but mental illness and his commitment to his family led him to eschew the art world entirely.  He never stopped working, and after 88 years of pushing every boundary he ever encountered, Tristan passed in 2004.  Everything he ever made that wasn’t sold (about 1/3 of his total canon) was found in the basement of the building inherited by his sons, Brad and Scott.

VIDEO – First inspection of the Meinecke basement by TUGM co-founder Joseph R. Lewis

Their mother, Lorraine ‘Angel’ Casey was a television pioneer.  She was amongst the first wave of producers and performers to migrate to the nascent medium from radio.  At the height of Chicago radio’s popularity in the the forties, she was the Queen- literally!   Queen of Chicago Radio 1946!  She performed in over a thousand live tapings that year!

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Controversial bi-racial promo pic for Angel Casey’s “The Play House”

She produced and performed in the very successful “Play House” kids show in the mid-fifties and received death threats for demanding that bi-racial promotional material be developed to include the African-American audience in her viewership.   Just as Tristan withdrew from the art scene, Angel eventually withdrew from showbiz to focus on family.  They were married for more than fifty years.   Memorabilia and artifacts from Angel Casey’s reign as a Chicago media pioneer were discovered alongside the art of her husband…down in the basement.

The task of excavating the basement was immense.  Hundreds of pieces of art and records outlining the full careers of two iconoclastic Chicago rebels were packed into every crevice of this dark, dirty cave in West Rogers Park.   Together TUGM and the Meinecke sons designed a plan to unearth everything and coordinate the excavation with a focused transmedia promotional campaign leading up to an unprecedented DIY gallery opening in the very same basement and adjoining building where the discovery was made.  The Meinecke’s would build and manage the gallery, and TUGM would build and manage the media.

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On Friday, February 8th, 2014, year of the ELEVATION, the gallery opened.  It will stay open for a couple more weeks.  You should check it out.  XOX

READ MORE About the Gallery Opening in THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Watch the TUGM Excavation Videos
Read the full TUGM transmedia story
Learn more about the history of Tristan Meinecke’s art
See pictures from the career of Angel Casey

GALLERY OPENING PICTURES BELOW

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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The Jazz Castle of Tristan Meinecke

by Joseph R. Lewis

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“Meinecke remains one of the monumental artistic secrets of Chicago, a man whose contribution remains to be adequately understood and evaluated.”
John Corbett,  Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

“If they played jazz in Chicago, they came to my parents’ pool parties.” – Brad Meinecke, son of Tristan

When Tristan Meinecke arrived in Chicago back in the forties he fell in swiftly with the jazz swingers.  Tristan had already taught himself clarinet and alto sax and he worked the jazz dive circuit successfully here in this Windy City for many years.  He played in the first integrated jazz trio to hit the Northside clubs.  He hailed King Oliver and the entire royal court of jazz pioneers that forever changed the sound of music back in the 1920s from their impoverished neighborhoods on the Southside.

In an age of segregation and McCarthyism,  Tristan was an aggressive anti-racist. He threw more than a few literal fists into the figurative face of prejudice.

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In the fifties Tristan rose to great prominence as one of the cities most exciting and progressive visual artists.  He clashed ideologically and physically with the art world as only a true rebel artist would.  His low tolerance for BS was compounded by his disdain for self-inflation and this, as you can imagine, put him at odds with many of his contemporaries and curators.  Eventually he eschewed the whole dang scene and established a home for he and his family free from the confines and servitude of any traditional genre or lifestyle.

He built his castle on Cleveland Street.

tris_angel_60s_pool_sized_300His wife, Angel, a famous Chicago starlet from the earliest days of television, counted amongst her good friends the likes of Lil Hardin, wife to Louis Armstrong and a legendary piano player in her own right.

Lil played with King Oliver, too.  She, along with others from that famous musical round table could often be seen lounging at Tristan and Angel’s 10-year pool party, which they hosted from ’61 to ’70 at their double-lot dual-building property at 2022 N Cleveland.

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From that address, this Chicago hipster power couple entertained a celebrity guest roster rivaling that of the Playboy Mansion.  He taught art classes and sold his own work directly from his own home, bypassing museums and galleries completely.

baby_dodds_sized_315Instruments abound, Tristan designed the acoustics of the property himself, to optimize the allure of the music from street, drawing the neighborhood ever-towards him.

Here’s a Meinecke unfired bust of Baby Dodds, jazz drummin’ pioneer.  Tris and Baby were good friends.  Baby sat for the bust->

2B Continued…

THE RESURRECTION OF TRISTAN MEINECKE
Visit the excavated studio of lunatic genius Tristan Meinecke in it’s final days of existence…
Exclusive Gallery Hours coming  this February in Chicago, Illinois.

Stay tuned to follow the adventure at The Underground Multiplex and the official Tristan Meinecke portal.