Tuesday, June 30, 2009

That's My Little Margie

We all knew her as Margie on the popular television show of the fifties. But there was a lot more to Josephine Owaissa Cottle (April 5, 1922 - June 27, 2009), better known as Gale Storm, than that role portrayed.

Born in Bloomington in Victoria County in southeastern Texas, Josephine was the youngest of five children. Even as child, her talent was evident. She learned to be an accomplished dancer and became an excellent ice skater at Houston's Polar Palace. At Albert Sydney Johnston Junior High School and San Jacinto High School, she performed in the drama club. When she was a 17-year-old senior, two of her teachers urged her to enter the contest on Gateway to Hollywood, broadcast from the CBS Radio studios in Hollywood, California. The first prize was a one-year contract with a movie studio.

She won, and she was immediately given the stage name Gale Storm, while her performing partner (and future husband), Lee Bonnell from South Bend, Indiana, became Terry Belmont. After winning the contest in 1940, Storm made several films for RKO Radio Pictures, the first of which was Tom Brown's School Days. She worked steadily in a number of low-budget films released during this period. In 1941 she sang in several Soundies, three-minute musicals produced for "movie jukeboxes." She acted and sang in Monogram Pictures' popular Frankie Darro series, and played ingénue roles in other Monogram features with the East Side Kids, Edgar Kennedy, and The Three Stooges.

American audiences warmed to Storm and her fan mail increased. Altogether, she performed in more than three dozen motion pictures for Monogram. The early exposure from these film appearances paved the way for her success in other media. Storm became an American icon of the 1950s, starring in two highly successful television series, and it was in this decade that her singing career took off.

Her television career skyrocketed from 1952 to 1955, with her starring role in My Little Margie. The show, which co-starred former silent film actor Charles Farrell as her father, was originally a summer replacement for I Love Lucy on CBS. After becoming a hit, the show ran for 126 episodes on NBC and CBS. In an unusual move, the series was broadcast on CBS Radio from December 1952 to August 1955 with the same lead actors. Only 23 episodes of the radio show are known to survive. If you look at the right sidebar you'll see a video of a 1952 episode of My Little Margie.

Storm's popularity was capitalized upon in The Gale Storm Show (aka Oh! Susanna), featuring another silent movie star, ZaSu Pitts. This show ran for 143 episodes between 1956 and 1960. Storm appeared regularly on other television programs in the 1950s and 1960s as well. She was a panelist and as a "mystery guest" on What's My Line?

In Gallatin, Tennessee in 1954, a 10-year-old girl, Linda Wood, was watching Storm on a Sunday night television comedy show hosted by Gordon MacRae, singing one of the popular songs of the day. Linda's father asked her who was singing and was told it was Gale Storm from My Little Margie. Linda's father, Randy Wood, was president of Dot Records, and he liked Storm so much that he called to sign her before the end of the television show. Her first record, "I Hear You Knockin'", a cover version of a rhythm and blues hit by Smiley Lewis, in turn based on the old Buddy Bolden standard "The Bucket's Got a Hole In It", sold over a million copies. It was followed in 1957 by the haunting ballad, "Dark Moon" that went to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Storm had several top ten songs and headlined in Las Vegas and appeared in numerous stage plays.

In 1981, Storm published her autobiography, I Ain't Down Yet, which described her battle with alcoholism. She was also interviewed by author David C. Tucker for The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms, published in 2007 by McFarland and Company.
Storm lived alone in Monarch Beach, California, near two of her sons and their families, until failing health forced her into a convalescent home in Danville where she died June 27, 2009 at the age of 87.

Gale Storm has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to recording, radio, and television.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Crazy Max

Max partied too much last night. I heard him clattering around in the kitchen when he got home trying to find some fruit. He doesn't do it very often, but when he does he gets forgetful.

He remembered where his bedroom was, but he forgot to put the charger on the Wayback Machine. So we're not going to go anywhere today. We could. But we could only get back to someplace in the sixties. We could see Beatlemania take over the world, and everything else that was related to it including the hairstyles and the clothing fashions. And the shoes.
We could see Neal Armstrong walk on the moon toward the very end of that decade. Unless we were at Woodstock, in which case, we probably would be more interested in listening to a very young Bob Dylan sing in that crazy voice he has. And watch hundreds of young people sliding naked in the mud. I'm kind of glad I didn't go. But if we went any of those places, we wouldn't be able to get home because the Wayback Machine wouldn't have enough power to bring us back. It's king of like the DeLorean. If you don't have 1.4 jigawatts, you're not going anywhere. And I really don't want to get stuck in the sixties. Do you?

So, we're going to stay home tonight. And, yes, Max has plugged the Wayback Machine into the charger so we'll be ready to go tomorrow. Dumb monkey.
But Max has a solution to occupy your time. Some of his cousins have been doing videos and I'm going to provide links below. I know you'll love everyone of them, and so does Max. So click away and be whisked to the new location where you can see several member of Max's family performing. Here you go...

This is Max's famous cousin. he's a private detective. http://snupes.blogspot.com/2009/06/lancelot-link-and-reluctant-robot.html.

Here's another distant relative that's currently trying to make his way in Hollywood. He's very good but can't seem to find the right part. http://marshmallowpeeps.blogspot.com/2009/06/its-jungle-out-there-jobs-are-hard-to.html.

And here are a couple more cousins who have actually found gainful employment in another country. http://marshmallowpeeps.blogspot.com/2009/06/blog-post.html.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

JFK assasination - new info

There has long been theories of conspiracy regarding the assasination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas back in November of 1963. This scientist has worked out a new theory that may have some validity. You decide.

Please feel free to leave your comments and opinions on this, or other theories.

To the Moon, Alice!

During the fifties, America was introduced to The Honeymooners when it made its television debut. The first episode of the new half-hour series aired Saturday, October 1, 1955, at 8:30 pm, opposite Ozark Jubilee on ABC and The Perry Como Show on NBC.

The show was sponsored by Buick, and the opening credits ended with an advertisement ("Brought to you by your Buick dealer. And away we go!"). The show concluded with a brief Gleason sales pitch for the company. All references to the car maker were removed when the show entered syndication.

It was immediately popular and quickly garnered the #2 position in the ratings. However, competition was stiff, and production ended after only 39 episodes The final episode aired on September 22, 1956. Despite its relatively brief run, The Honeymooners is considered a premier example of American television comedy, and it has inspired successful television comedies such as The Flintstones and The King of Queens.

The episodes focused on its four principal characters. Let’s meet them.

First we have Ralph Kramden, played by Jackie Gleason. Ralph is a bus driver for the Gotham Bus Company, although we never actually see him driving a bus. He’s frustrated because success continues to elude him, and he continually thinks up get-rich-quick schemes, which is a continuing theme. He has a quick temper and is prone to tossing insults and threats. His anger usually results in a hollow threat of “You wanna go to the moon? Bang! Zoom!”

However, beneath that rough exterior is a man with a golden heart who loves his wife and is devoted to his best pal. After an angry encounter with Alice, he typically hugs her and says, “Baby, you’re the greatest,” as the closing music comes up on the audio track.

And speaking of his wife, here’s Alice Kramden, played by Audrey Meadows. She’s a patient woman. But after putting up with Ralph for 15 years, she has developed a bit of a sharp tongue. She’s easily capable of returning Ralph’s insults. Although sometimes sarcastic in her delivery, her level-headed nature comes through when she tries to convince Ralph of the stupidity of his various schemes.

Ralph’s best friend, who lives upstairs, is Edward “Ed” Norton, played by Art Carney. Ed is a New York City sewer worker. He’s a bit more good-natured than Ralph. However, he does trade insults with him on occasion. Ralph typically refers to him as Norton, and he usually gets mixed up in Ralph’s schemes. His dimwitted nature results in Ralph showering him with insults and throwing him out of the apartment. Ed and Ralph are both members of the Raccoon Lodge.

Thelma “Trixie” Norton is Ed’s wife and is played by Joyce Randolph. Although she doesn’t appear in every episode, she’s usually depicted as being a bit bossy to Ed. In one episode she is depicted as a pool hustler.

The Kramdens' financial struggles mirrored those of Gleason's early life in Brooklyn, and he took great pains to duplicate on set the interior of the apartment where he grew up (right down to his boyhood address of 328 Chauncey Street). The Kramdens and the Nortons are childless, an issue never explored, but a condition on which Gleason insisted.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cheesecake Dance from the Fifties...

This video is from She Demons released in 1958. It's rather interesting if you watch it all the way through. I'm seeing some reminders of the scene from Pulp Fiction in which John Travolta and Uma Thurman dance the twist to the song C'est La Vie. Also, there's something in the soundtrack of this video that is strangely reminiscent of Michael Jackson's Thriller.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sweet Memories

Let’s talk about candy. Didn’t we love it back in the fifties? Don’t we still love it? Of course we do. One of my favorites from my childhood was the Valomilk Cups.

If you’ve never eaten one, you need to, because there are nothing like them. If you bite into one and the liquid marshmallo filling drips off your chin, you know you've got the real thing.

Here’s a little history on this legendary candy. Originating in 1931, a Valomilk is a liquid marshmallow filled milk chocolate cup manufactured by the Russell Sifers Candy Company in Merriam, Kansas. The fifth generation of the Sifers family still uses the original family recipe along with much of the original equipment.

In the late 1950's, Valomilk launched a promotion to celebrate the inclusion of Alaska and Hawaii into the union. Cardboard disks with the names of the capitals of all 50 states of America were placed on top of the candy cups and shipped to stores. Anyone who collected 30 of the disks could send them to the Valomilk company and receive a tube of 10 free Valomilks. Today, collections of all 50 state capitol disks are a rare find on eBay. Valomilks are currently the only candy still made by the Sifers company.

Since it’s getting close to Halloween, I’m going to add this additional information. I no longer dress up in a costume and go door to door to collect candy from the neighbors. But up until six years ago we lived in Kansas. Every Halloween I would walk around the corner and knock on the door of my neighbor, Russell Sifers. He was then, and remains, the owner of the Sifers Candy Company. He always handed me a couple of Valomilks. I had to fight my wife for them when I got home. Then we moved to our present location, and I don’t get my Halloween Valomilks any more. (Sigh)

You can still buy the original Valomilk Cups today. And they taste exactly like they used to. Google it, and you’ll find their website with all the information you need. If you want to order some on the internet, here's a great site. They have everything you remember from the fifties, including the Skybar, Candy Lipstick, Saf-T-Pops and Fizzies. It's called Oldtime Candy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Duck and Cover

If you’re a Baby Boomer, you’re probably familiar with the term “Duck and Cover.” You may have seen the video (actually it was probably a 16mm film back in those days) when you were grade school. The video above is from the original 1950 airing.

We have a lot of unexplained mysteries today. The Mayan calendar predicts the world to end in 2012. Apparently, the government is building facilities to house and protect the "chosen ones" should this occur. The rest of will have to fend for ourselves.

And if you've never visited the Denver Airport, that's a whole different mystery in itself. Jesse Venture has investigated it and he seems to think there's something strange afoot.

So, with the threat of nuclear war still at our threshold, just as it was then, I thought it might be a good time to revisit those instructions, just so everyone knows what to do.

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's a Major Award - But where did it come from?

Ralphie Parker's dad won this "Major Award" in the movie "A Christmas Story." I know it's June, and Christmas is a long way off, but it will be here before long. And the next time time you watch the movie, you'll kow a little more about the situation. So, read on.

I've watched that film over 50 times, and I thought I knew it well. But in doing some research, I ran across something related to that story that I was totally unaware of. I’d like to share it with you loyal readers so we’ll all know it and be wiser because of it. It involves the “Major Award” won by the Old Man. By the way, you can get your own Major Award if you'd like. They are available on the Internet. Just Google "leg lamp."

It all started when the Chero-Cola company added Nehi Cola to its line of sodas in 1924 in order to offer more variety of soda flavors.

An instant success, Nehi quickly began outselling Chero-Cola entirely. Because of that popularity, the company changed its name to Nehi Corporation in 1928.

In the early 20th century, the advertising logo of Nehi was a picture of a seated woman's legs, in which the skirt was high enough to show the stockings up to the knee, suggesting the phrase "knee-high." I'm not sure where the chick on the right driving the boat came from but I bet she isn't wearing stockings. (Click that link for a history of womens hosiery.)

Now, here comes the connection. Most people don't realize it, but Nehi was the sponsor of the contest that the Old Man (Ralphie Parker’s father) wins, by knowing the name of The Lone Ranger’s nephew’s horse.

The answer, Victor, is actually supplied by the wife. While this is not made clear in the film, it is explained in Jean Shepherd’s book, “In God We Trust — All Others Pay Cash,” on which the film is based. And there you have it. And I dare you to keep it a secret. I triple dog dare ya!

I also was not aware that Nehi was available in 16 flavors (plus something called Dr. Nehi). Does anyone know what Radar O’Reilly’s favorite flavor was? Leave a comment if you know.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Remember Geritol?

One of our loyal readers sent me a question regarding a post about the game show scandal involving Charles Van Doren. He mentioned the Geritol logo that was prominently displayed on the set in the video. I told him I would look into it and see if it was still around. Turns out that it is, although I haven’t seen a bottle of it in years. I’ll have to check my Walmart pharmacy.

For any of you dear readers too young to remember Geritol, it was a US trademarked name for various supplements, past and present. Geritol was introduced as an alcohol-based, iron and B vitamin tonic by Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in August, 1950 and primarily marketed as such into the 1970s. Geritol was folded into Pharmaceutical's 1957 acquisition of J. B. Williams Co., founded in 1885. J. B. Williams Co. was later bought out by Nabisco in 1971. Since 1982, the Geritol product name has been owned by the multinational pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline.

Geritol is currently a brand name for several vitamin complex plus iron or multimineral products in both liquid form and tablets, containing from 9.5 to 18 mg of iron per daily dose. The name is derived from the root "geri-", meaning old (as in "geriatrics") with the "i" for iron. The product has been promoted from almost the beginning of the mass media era as a cure for "iron-poor tired blood". In the early 20th century, many medical doctors and other health professionals felt that much of the tiredness often associated with old age was due to iron deficiency anemia.

The earlier Geritol liquid formulation was advertised as "twice the iron in a pound of calf's liver," and daily doses contained 50-100 mg of iron as ferric ammonium citrate. The Geritol tonic also contained ca 12% alcohol and some B vitamins. The subject of years of investigation starting in 1959 by the Federal trade Commission, the FTC in 1965 ordered the makers of Geritol to disclose that Geritol would relieve symptoms of tiredness only in persons who suffer from iron deficiency anemia, and that the vast majority of people who experience such symptoms do not have such a deficiency.

Subsequent trials and appeals from 1965 to 1973 concluded some of the FTC demands exceeded its authority. Even so, Geritol's claims were discredited in court findings as "conduct amounted to gross negligence and bordered on recklessness.” The manufacturer was penalized with fines totaling, $812,000, the largest FTC fine up to that date (1973). However, Geritol was already well known and continued to be the largest American selling iron and B vitamin supplement through 1979.

In the early days of television the marketing of Geritol was involved in the quiz show scandal, as the sponsor of Twenty-One. After that, for many years Geritol was largely marketed on television programs that appealed primarily to older viewers, such as The Lawrence Welk Show, Hee Haw, and Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour.

I'm thinking maybe the alcohol was the key ingredient. Even if you didn't need the iron input, that amount of alcohol might give you an excuse to feel tired. It's kind of like the old Vitameatavegamin product. And if you haven't seen that video, you really should take a look at it while you're here. I've added it to the sidebar for your enjoyment. It's as funny today as it was back in the fifties.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Buddy Holly

Although his music career was short-lived, Buddy Holly remains an icon of the fifties. Charles Hardin Holley was born in Lubbock, Texas to Lawrence Odell Holley and Ella Pauline Drake on Labor Day, in 1936. He was always known as Buddy to his family.

His first known recording was created in 1949 when Buddy made a recording of Hank Snow's 'My Two-Timin' Woman' on a wire recorder "borrowed" by a friend who worked in a music shop (not, as is often reported, a home tape recorder). During the fall of that year he met Bob Montgomery in Hutchinson Junior High School. They shared a common interest in music and soon teamed up as the duo "Buddy and Bob." Initially influenced by bluegrass music, they sang harmony duets at local clubs and high school talent shows. His musical interests grew throughout high school while singing in the Lubbock High School Choir.

Holly turned to rock music after seeing Elvis Presley sing live in Lubbock in early 1955. A few months later, he appeared on the same bill with Presley, also in Lubbock. Holly's transition to rock continued when he opened for Bill Haley & His Comets at a local rock show organized by Eddie Crandall, who was also the manager for Marty Robbins. As a result of this performance, Holly was offered a contract with Decca Records to work alone, which he accepted. It’s reported that his public name changed from "Holley" to "Holly" on 8 February 1956, when he signed the Decca contract. Among the tracks recorded for Decca was an early version of "That'll Be The Day", which took its title from a phrase that John Wayne's character said repeatedly in the 1956 film, The Searcher.

Back in Lubbock, Holly formed his own band, although at that time it had no name and would only later be called The Crickets. The band began recording at Norman Petty's studios in Clovis, New Mexico. Norman had music industry contacts and believing that "That'll Be the Day" would be a hit single, he contacted publishers and labels. Coral Records, a subsidiary of Decca, signed The Crickets. Soon after, they signed Holly as a solo artist. This put Holly in the unusual position of having two record contracts at the same time.

The ambitious Holly became increasingly interested in the New York music/recording/publishing scene, while his younger and more easygoing bandmates wanted to go back home to Lubbock. As a result, in 1959 the group split.

Holly began a solo tour with other notable performers, including Dion and the Belmonts, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. After a performance in Green Bay, Wisconsin at the Riverside Ballroom, on 1 February the tour moved on to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa on 2 February 1959. Afterwards, Buddy Holly chartered a Beechcraft Bonanza to take him and his new back-up band (Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings) to Fargo, North Dakota, enroute to play the next leg of the Winter Dance Party tour at the Armory in Moorhead, Minnesota. Carl Bunch missed the flight as he had been hospitalized with frostbite three days earlier. The Big Bopper asked Jennings for his spot on the four-seat plane, as he was recovering from the flu. Ritchie Valens was still signing autographs at the concert site when Allsup walked in and told him it was time to go. Valens begged for a seat on the plane. Allsup pulled a 50 cent coin out of his pocket and the two men flipped for the seat. Allsup lost.

The plane took off in light snow and gusty winds at around 12:05 A.M., but crashed a few minutes later. The wreckage was discovered several hours later by the plane's owner, Jerry Dwyer, some 8 miles from the airport on the property of Albert Juhl. Although the crash received a good deal of local coverage, it was displaced in the national news by an accident that occurred the same day in New York City, when American Airlines Flight 320 crashed during an instrument landing approach at LaGuardia Airport, killing 65. Don McLean referred to it as "The Day the Music Died".
We've got a couple of his hits in the Jukebox. Feel free to punch them up and listen.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Spanning Generations


That’s the selection I've picked for you today. It just might spark a memory for a few of you dear readers. Perhaps some of you younger readers may find it familiar also. This recording was played in the 1986 film, Stand By Me, as our four adventurers walked along the railroad track. So click number two on the Jukebox (on the right sidebar) and take a trip down memory lane, all the way back to 1958 (or 1986) depending on your generation.

While you're listening to this classic, here’s a little inside info about the group. The original members included Janet Ertal, Carol Buschmann (Janet’s sister-in-law), Dorothy Schwartz, and Jinny Osborn. But those aren’t the girls you hear singing the song in today’s video. Dorothy Schwartz was replaced by Lynn Evans in 1952. And in 1953, Margie Needham replaced Jinny Osborn, who was having a baby, although Jinny later returned to the group.
Starting out performing locally in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, they appeared on Arthur Godfrey’s radio program, Talent Scouts, and won. That was in 1949. They became the featured act on his daily program and later signed a recording contract with Columbia Records.

Their contract with Columbia was purchased in 1953 by Archie Bleyer, founder of Cadence Records. They had several hits with Cadence, their biggest coming in 1954 with Mr. Sandman. Janet Ertel married Archie Bleyer in 1954, and her daughter, Jackie, married Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers. (I need to get those boys on here sometime soon, too.)

On August, 1957, the Chordettes appeared on American Bandstand. It was the first episode aired on the ABC Network. The group broke up in 1961 when Jinny Osborn left and they were unable to find a suitable replacement.

In 2001, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Klatu. Baratta. Nikto.
And Nikto on the new version.

I went to Red Box and rented the new version of this classic film last night. It was, to say the least, quite disappointing. Since the original version was so good, I felt the new film would be even better. Brother, was I wrong. Sometimes "New and Improved" simply means new.

It's the original version that I love, the one produced in 1951. Being only two years old at the time, I did not see it in the theatre when it was released, but I've enjoyed watching it several times in the past few years.

I'm a bit confused by the movie poster however. I don't remember Patricia Neal having long auburn hair in the movie. Also, if you get a chance to watch it (the original version, not the remake with Keanu Reeves) be sure to notice Bobby Benson. He's played by Billy Gray, aka Bud on Father Knows Best. I need to put a post on here about that program, too.

Check the right sidebar for the video trailer of the original version.