Monday, January 29, 2007

The Video Vault #4

It's time for this week's Video Vault - unusual video snippets that trigger memories from my past, thanks to YouTube!

One of the cool television memories for me in the early 1980s was sitting through Saturday Night Live until the end - just so I could watch Karen Scioli, who portrayed Stella, the Maneater From Manayunk, on what was easily one of the gayest local television shows of its time... Saturday Night Dead!

Saturday Night Dead was a television program that hosted B horror films - it began in 1984 and ran until the end of the decade and was a production of KYW-TV Channel 3 in Philadelphia (see last week's Video Vault post!).

Stella delighted in half-clad gorgeous young men and often had one or two hanging in her dungeon awaiting her pleasure. According to her biography, Stella was "born in North Libido, New Jersey, a small village outside of Atlantic City. She is the only child of traveling hecklers. Her parents dropped her in a plastic basket at Fifth and Skunk in front of Guido's Hair Weaving and Plumbing Supplies, but for all intents and purposes she was raised by a flock of pigeons". Reincarnated 37 times, Stella was just your typical "ghoul" next door.

In real life Karen was a South Philly actress and homemaker who weekly donned a pushup bra, slinky black dress, feather boa, false eyelashes and a mole on her right cheek to become the female vampiress. Other regulars on the program were Stella's canopied-bed called "Beda Lugosi" which talked and vibrated; Hives the Butler (Bob Billbrough); and a faceless dungeon monster named Iggy who ate anybody Stella didn't like.

The show was off the scale gay - with innuendos and the like ad-libbed through the skits. Stella was often seen in the gay nightclubs, as she was in high demand to host everything from movie nights to Halloween costume contests at Woody's. During these years, since I was the GM of Au Courant Newsmagazine, I was out taking pictures and quite often Karen and I would be at the same events at night.

Karen is a classy woman and I really enjoyed the time I had with her - she's still around but I've not spoken or seen her in years. Below is the opening of Saturday Night Dead ... note the four bodybuilders that drop Stella off at the corner of 4th and South Streets ... the one with white shorts is my friend James!!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Video Vault #3

A couple days late, since I hoped to post my weekly video every Monday, but work is taking control of life.

Moving on - with this post we explore my life-long fascination with local TV newscasts. From the earliest time I remember caring, I was a local TV news fan. I grew up as most Philadelphians did watching the leader - KYW TV 3 (yes folks, Action News wasn't ALWAYS the news leader in Philly) ... and I remember watching Vince Leonard, Mort Crim and Jessica Savitch deliver all the news that I was probably too young to care about. Those that study media refer to that newsteam and those years on KYW as the "Camelot of television news".

As I entered high school, I was introduced to weatherman Bill Kuster, Jack Jones (Philly's first black newsman), and more throughout my formative years as a teenager in Philadelphia. KYW news had also been home to Tom Snyder, who left Philly and moved to the network to host a late-night talk show for NBC called 'Tomorrow', a show I really enjoyed watching as a teen.

I couldn't tell you who was anchoring the news over at WCAU (not many could) and WPVI, which rolled out their new "Action News" format in the early 70s was not on in my house ... funny thing: I remember various friends parents being either an Eyewitness News or an Action News household. It was quite a popular discussion of the day as both KYW and WPVI went back and forth as to who was the local news leader. However, pop culture had its way: the fact was that WPVI had a powerhouse on salary - no, not their anchorman Larry Kane - but their weatherman Jim O'Brien.

Jim O'Brien came to Philadelphia in 1970 to become a disc jockey at the #1 station in the city, WFIL-AM. In 1976 he joined the Action News team as a sports anchor. He soon became the weatherman and became a local legend with his presentation of the weather, being the only Philadelphia area weatherman to use a pointer while on the air. O'Brien woke us up with the number one radio show in the morning on WFIL and then tucked us in on the news at night. O'Brien eventually anchored the Noon newscast, the local edition of Dialing for Dollars and the weekend magazine show Primetime. Sadly, he died during a skydiving accident in September of 1983.

But because of Jim's personality - just about EVERYONE sooner or later gave up watching KYW and moved over to WPVI ... it laid the foundation that Channel 6 has built upon for the past 30 years as a news leader.

But back to KYW - they went back and forth with WPVI in the mid-70s for the #1 newscast until 1977. It was the year that KYW began its freefall from first to worst and tried everything to shake what would be the unshakable reality. I remember a series of weird newscasts from a sports reporter with a bad wig and plastic flowers in his checkered lapel (comedy sports) to introducing a slew of new anchors (it was like a revolving door down there on 5th street) including stints from Maria Shriver and Maury Povich in the early 80s. (remember People Are Talking!?)

It was like watching a car wreck and I was hooked! I never missed a newscast and I was fascinated with how they promoted the upcoming changes (that were always upcoming) ... I remember when they brought Beverly Williams back to the anchor desk with new coanchor Patrick Emory and had them both wear black turtlenecks in a major marketing campaign - featuring Bev facing away from the camera and the words "BEV'S BACK" on her back ... classy.

But the worst (or best, in my eyes) was when KYW - who pretty much had nothing to lose - decided to make the news fit society and created a disco newscast, called DIRECT CONNECTION.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the actual promotional clip for KYW-TV 3's Direct Connection ... this is what news is all about! Clams on the halfshell and roller skate, roller skate! Good Times!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Vogue: The Way It Was

This video clip was shot last August at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC - the event was sponsored by House of Latex (a youth HIV awareness org) ... and this gem of a performer is from the legendary House of Ninja ... truly how it should be done!

Although new, this clip brings me back to the days of NYC in the early 80s!! Especially since it features as the performance number the one-n-only George Kranz and his huge #1 hit Trommeltanz -- better known as Din Daa Daa -- which became part of my soundtrack to 1984!!

Enjoy :)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Flashback: Music On The Go!

I was reading some older posts that I made here, back when I first launched this blog - and this post struck me as a classic tale of music and my youth. So, I decided to bump it to the front and share it with those that might have missed it the first time 'round ... enjoy!

In traveling back in time - it reminded me of how much music followed me, no matter where I went. I always had music on - still do to this day. Most nights I sleep with music on all night long.

But HOW I got the music to follow me was quite a transformation. Besides a home stereo or record player, the earliest memory I have of being able to take music with me was...

The ball radio. Every kid had one and you could listen to any of your favorite AM radio stations and it could hook to your handlebars of your banana seat bike, but you had to wrap it around a few times since it tended to bang all over the place. Additionally, wrapping it in duct tape was suggested so it wouldn't break when the chain finally popped off the radio, causing the radio to fall to the ground. On a good note, you could turn up the ball and then swing it around your head faster and faster... it sort of made the music sound better. And, of course, it served as a defense weapon in case you needed to hit someone over the head.

From that, I moved on to bigger and louder. I actually owned this very model...

The classic AM/FM/8-Track player. This baby kicked out the jams!! The coolest feature (besides the black widebelt strap that let you wear it like a purse), was the BUTTON. The big black button right there on the top. Pound that baby and you were on to another song on the 8-Track. Talk about convienent. Of course, the 8-track had 4 tracks and each in stereo (hence 8) and since it WAS tape, each track was the same length of time (since its all the same tape). So, quite often you would be jammin to that cool song from Loggins & Messina and it would stop - and the system would whir and click loudly and then go to the next track and pick up where it left off. Talk about a mood breaker.

But then, the world opened wide and cassettes were invented. Yes kids. Cassettes. They weren't ALWAYS around. Same with CDs... but that comes later. With cassettes I could toss away my trusty white cube above and get me ....

my very own Walkman F1. Now the Walkman started out as an FM-only thing, so I didn't much care for it, since I didn't much care for FM radio in the late 1970s. The only station worth its weight in salt back then was WXPN for its punk music and WCAU for its disco. But I had a stereo for both, and by the late 70s, I was swimming in a sea of cassette tapes. Everyone taped everything and everyone traded homemade tapes with everyone else. Bootleg Gone Wild. So when the Walkman F1 came out - I was on it like a fly to.. well, you get the idea.

But I needed more. The problem with a Walkman was summed up in what we all called it - a Walkmom. It was the radio your mom WANTED you to have, so she didn't have to hear that crap called punk anymore. So, the search continued and once I moved into Center City, I bought myself my very own...

Panasonic-rx5040 BOOMBOX baby! I was performing for the masses, whether they liked it or not! Just look at all those plugs on the side image - each just waiting for something to be plugged into it, to make the shit even bigger! This box of music followed me just about everywhere in the early 1980s. I could probably full a landfill with all the "D" batteries I went through, just to entertain South Street, et al. The thing took 8 at a time! For a while I recall actually having a second box to compete with my trusty 5040. That one was...

my Sanyo. This actually gave the best sound of all the boxes I remember. Plus the casette deck was in the upper corner, which was just cool. And it had red and green lights to prove to everyone else that you were in charge. I think I actually found this Sanyo in an alley off South Street one night on my way home from a club. All I know for sure is I beat the shit out of all these suitcases of music. Then the 90s hit, CDs became the norm and everything started to get small. Goodbye Mr. Music Man. Hello...

Mr. Librarian. Sure I had crystal-clear music. But no one could hear it!! Well, no one but me. So I dealt, just like the rest of society. I became a DJ ;) and with that money, I am two versions away from upgrading to this...

Next, I'll just have one of these installed in my brain...

The Video Vault #2

I have another post coming later today - but since it is Monday, it's time for my new weekly feature here at RRL, The Video Vault. (see the post below for the backstory).

Today is a national holiday dedicated to the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The fact is we all know something about Dr. King ... we all can toss a quote or two about this man. But recently I stumbled upon the raw footage of his famous speech, delivered on that hot summer day in Washington D.C. back in 1963 ... I was just two months old when this historic event happened.

As far as black Americans were concerned, the nation's response to Brown v. Board of Education was agonizingly slow, and neither state legislatures nor the Congress seemed willing to help their cause along. Finally, President Kennedy recognized that only a strong civil rights bill would put teeth into the drive to secure equal protection of the laws for African Americans. On June 11, 1963, he proposed such a bill to Congress, asking for legislation that would provide "the kind of equality of treatment which we would want for ourselves." Southern representatives in Congress managed to block the bill in committee, and civil rights leaders sought some way to build political momentum behind the measure.

A. Philip Randolph, a labor leader and longtime civil rights activist, called for a massive march on Washington to dramatize the issue. He welcomed the participation of white groups as well as black in order to demonstrate the multiracial backing for civil rights. The various elements of the civil rights movement, many of which had been wary of one another, agreed to participate. The leaders even agreed to tone down the rhetoric of some of the more militant activists for the sake of unity, and they worked closely with the Kennedy administration, which hoped the march would, in fact, lead to passage of the civil rights bill.

On August 28, 1963, under a nearly cloudless sky, more than 250,000 people, a fifth of them white, gathered near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to rally for "jobs and freedom." The roster of speakers included speakers from nearly every segment of society -- labor leaders like Walter Reuther, clergy, film stars such as Sidney Poitier and Marlon Brando and folksingers such as Joan Baez. Each of the speakers was allotted fifteen minutes, but the day belonged to the young and charismatic leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had originally prepared a short and somewhat formal recitation of the sufferings of African Americans attempting to realize their freedom in a society chained by discrimination. He was about to sit down when gospel singer Mahalia Jackson called out, "Tell them about your dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream!" Encouraged by shouts from the audience, King drew upon some of his past talks, and the result became the landmark statement of civil rights in America -- a dream of all people, of all races and colors and backgrounds, sharing in an America marked by freedom and democracy.

Take the time and watch this speech in its entirety - it's quite moving and oh so important ... especially today, as the nation recognizes Dr. King's legacy.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Video Vault #1

Well, it's been a year for this memoirs blog and, although I will continue to post my thoughts and memories in this space, I have decided to debut a new weekly feature: The Video Vault.

Every Monday I will post an unusual video that I have stumbled upon thanks to the blessing that is YouTube. These weekly video clips will come complete with a story. I hope you enjoy.

This first installment comes from late 1973 ... I first discovered this clip while searching for clips from The Mike Douglas Show, after his passing last August. Mike Douglas was a Philadelphia institution, hosting a national talk/entertainment program every afternoon, live from KYW's studios at 5th and Market Streets.

This clip is a live studio performance from songstress Dionne Warwick. As those who know, Ms. Warwick shot to stardom in the early 1960s with a series of hits from the hit writing duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who together molded some of the best contemporary songs of that time.

However, in '71 (after adding an 'e' to the end of her name thanks to the suggestion of her numerologist who felt it would be good) everything fell apart. She left the Scepter label (which was based here in Philly) and joined Warner, complete with Bacharach and David as her writers and producers. Soon after, Bacharach and David split up in the wake of the critical and commercial failure of their work on a musical remake of the film 'Lost Horizon'. Due to her contractual commitment, Dionne was forced to sue her old friends. A settlement was reached, but the three would not work together again for many years and Warwick's career suffered.

This appearance is in the heat of her lawsuit against Burt and Hal. Here she sings a powerful rendition of a song that the three made famous just six years earlier. The way she delivers each note - you can feel the pain of a broken relationship, of a ride that has come to an end. I watched this and was simply spellbound. Keep in mind that there is a live studio audience - you can hear a pin drop.

Dionne Warwick on The Mike Douglas Show - 1973

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Musical Salvation

As you know, radio is in my blood. I've had a passion for wanting to work in radio since I was a child; preparing mock radio shows in my bedroom, complete with stacks of my father's LPs and a portable turntable. When given a chance, I would lug the turntable downstairs to the dining room - plug it in and play selected songs for whatever captive adults that happend to be visiting.

As I grew older I discovered WXPN - which at the time was the far-end of patchwork freeform programming and was similiar in style to other freeform stations of the day ... I enjoyed the oddity of hearing music I had never heard before; punk, space, folk and classic harmony R&B. And, as fitting as it is that I just celebrated my 19th year employed at WXPN, there's a bit of sadness knowing those types of stations are far and few between. Times change and stations like WXPN had to change to survive. It still is easily the most unique station in Philadelphia and one of only a few unique stations in the larger region (nods to WPRB).

But then there is WFMU.

WFMU first went on the air on April 24, 1958, and was formerly affiliated with Upsala College, in East Orange, New Jersey. Shortly before the closing of the college in 1995, WFMU purchased its license from Upsala, and is now fully independent. It relocated to Jersey City, NJ, into a building which the station purchased with donations from listeners. WFMU's license is now owned by Auricle Communications, a nonprofit group made up of current and former WFMU staff members and listeners. Although heard throughout north Jersey, NYC and eastern PA, it can be accessed online as well at

This brings me to why I am writing tonight.

This week I finished a wonderful book called Turn The Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco. This book not only lays out the creation of disco as a genre (as well as the collapse and the rise of genres like new wave and such), but also the history of the discoteque and the development of the DJ ... there are actual people credited for everything from the first person to play records in a nightclub (back in the 40s in Paris), to the first person to mix, the creator of the 12" single etc ... it's an incredible and informative read!

While reading it - it mentioned Frankie Crocker - easily one of the best (and most influential) radio DJs of the 1970s and 1980s when it comes to soul, R&B and dance music. So, I decided to Google the late, great Frankie and stumbled upon a link to an aircheck of a special that was done saluting Frankie shortly after his death in 2000. It was from WFMU and was hosted by someone named Monica.

So - I listened to the aircheck and enjoyed Monica's knowledge and passion for music. Upon clicking around, I saw she had posted the playlists and real audio files of all of her past programs going back several years!!!

I clicked on a few and I fell in love with Monica's unique taste in music - one set alone would feature everything from old R&B, to a classic French tune, to disco, to some field recording of a children's choir from the South back in the 1940s to classic jazz standards ... it was hypnotic radio and I was like a kid in a candy store! Each show is three hours long and here were pages of links ot thousands of hours of commercial free, freeform radio!

Natually I've spent much of the weekend listening to Monica - but I was curious who this one name DJ was? So I did a bit of unique Googling and discovered that she's not just some housewife that likes music ... instead she is Monica Lynch, co-founder of Tommy Boy Records!!!

Aside from shaking up dance music when everyone thought it had died in 1982 with tracks like Afrika Bambaataa's 'Planet Rock' etc., she and co-owner Tom Silverman launched everyone from Queen Latifah, Coolio, De La Soul, Stetsasonic, 808 State, Naughty By Nature, House of Pain, Soul Sonic Force, Digital Undergound, and one RuPaul André Charles among others.

This chick knows her shit!!

So - if you are a musicholic, or just want to stretch your mind and listen to some truly incredible radio programs, visit this page and explore some of the radio airchecks that Monica has online going back to 1999! (Real Audio is required - but all links are free to listen to!)

For those really interersted in dance music history - check out this particular show she did with special in-studio guest Tom Moulton (the man credited with creating the 12", and remixing just about everything from 1972 through today!)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Loose Joints Revised

If you haven't stumbled upon Cazwell - get in the loop! Cazwell is probably the coolest queer white rapper out there - he was producing tracks for Amanda Lepore - then his manager tossed him the messy disco track "Is It All Over My Face" by Loose Joints, which came out way back in 1980 ... a Garage classic (thanks to Larry!) and one of my favorite dance tracks of all time ...

So, once he heard it - and saw just how much it connected with his dirty, sex-filled musical canon, he wrote some lyrics and made it his own! Check it out - it features Amanda Lepore, Flawless Sebrina, Kim Aviance and more of today's NYC downtown squad, getting ready to hit the clubs of NYC!

This is a 'clean' version - after you get done screening, click the link below to watch the uncut version - along with a couple other new videos from Cazwell!