The things a star will do when denture ads just won’t pay the rent! #nostalgia

POP HAZMAT-RETRO presents CAMPY CARTOON VILLAIN-OF-THE-WEEK by JONATHAN KIERAN

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: “Benita Bizarre” (The Bugaloos, 1970-1971, NBC)

"I swear ... it was this or a commercial for denture tablets. Don't judge me, beeotches!"

“I swear to God … it was this or a commercial for denture tablets. Don’t judge me, beeotches!”

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Martha Raye

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Denture commercials were clearly not paying enough cold hard $$$ to keep an aging Hollywood train-wreck in the style to which she had become accustomed in the 1970s. All Martha Raye needed back then was enough nickel to buy Tanqueray, some ciggies and maybe a new speedo for the occasional escort, but Polident Green must’ve been giving Martha a case of the Poor-House Heebie Jeebies with the $125.00 they were probably offering to shell-out so she’d show America how to scour their big yellow falsies in a cup. I bet Martha even had to soak her own fake choppers in her super chlorinated flesh-melting backyard pool overnight in Bel Air. Polident Green kept their budget LEAN … and probably didn’t even give their National Spokeswoman a lifetime supply of tablets that could sizzle the rotting bits of gristle from betwixt the cracks of her Take-Out Teefs.

dentures

Drastic measures were required and Martha Raye, being a rough-and-tumble survivor of the Big Studio System of the 1940s, took the most drastic measures ever known in the world of entertainment: She got fitted for a costume on one of Sid & Marty Krofft’s abominable kiddie-show productions. Yes, Martha Raye hopped right into economy-class on the Bullet Train to Embarrassment-Land when she took the role of “Benita Bizarre” on the Bugaloos — a masterful piece of Pure Televised Glory in which several British “fairies” in bellbottoms and psychedelic tee-shirts dwelt in a magical forest, seeking a record company dumb enough to pay them actual dollars for the Offensive Musical Slop-Sounds emanating from their obscene orifices.

bugaloos

Martha Ray’s character, Benita, was sort of a cartoon-land cross between Phyllis Diller and Pia Zadora: a repulsive, untalented bag who cracked jokes, wore low-rent versions of the ridiculous crap Lady Gaga later became famous for and surrounded herself with sleazy morons who convinced her she was the greatest singer the world had ever known. Martha Raye’s shrewd essay of the “Benita Bizarre” role featured a lot of disorientation: staggering; stumbling; mugging and mumbling, as well as gratuitous displays of Martha’s spindly legs sprawled-out like some diseased chicken’s getaway-sticks beneath skirts trimmed with ostrich feathers. The plot of every Bugaloos episode was the same: Benita was jealous of the Bugaloos (who always looked as if they hadn’t bathed or brushed their gnarly English teeth in weeks) and she plotted ways to thwart their dreams of recording hit after unspeakable hit, employing henchmen named “Tweeter” and “RatFink” in her Evil Campaign.

I’d like to have been a fly-on-the-wall the day Martha Raye’s Greyhound racetrack bookie agent (probably a guy named “Morty”) first presented her with the Bugaloos script. You know the meeting took place in Martha’s bedroom and you know she knocked back a whole tumbler of gin and then threw the glass at poor Morty, who wasn’t nearly swift enough to duck in time to avoid lacerations to the forehead. Then, after Martha fished her dentures out of the tingly Polident bubbles on the bedside table and inserted her fangs, she let Morty really have it:

mrtha in bedMARTHA RAYE: “What’s this two-bit hippy fairy garbage you’re asking me to play, huh Morty? Saturday morning kiddie shows about Bugs? Bugs? This is all you can do for the great Martha Raye? I’m supposed to play in a show about British insects? I can barely keep the roaches out of this cracker-box on the salary those Polident bastards are offering to give me, Morty!

bookieMORTY: “But Martha, these Krofft boys have a great track record with the public, and this Benita Bizarre person … well, she could be the start of a huge comeback for you. Sump’n big. America’s starting to get a little tired of looking at the inside of your mug in them falsie-scrubbing ads, I gotta tell ya, Martha. Focus groups have been saying that your tongue looks furry and some people even claim they can smell your halitosis through the television screen.”

martha madMARTHA RAYE: “That’s outrageous, Morty! I make sure to suck on five or six of those wintergreen Polident tabs before every shoot. Damn things burn like battery acid and now I got a big infected hole in the roof of my mouth, but those white tabs get rid of the gin-breath in five minutes flat. I swear, Morty! Besides, people can’t smell anything through a television screen.”

bookieMORTY: “You know that and I know that, Martha, but what was it Louis B. Mayer used to tell you? ‘Perception is everything,’ especially in the entertainment racket.”

martha aghastMARTHA RAYE: “God, Morty, you’re right. He did say that, right after I fell off the soundstage and passed out in a pool of my own puke while filming Four Jills in a Jeep. Oh, that was one helluva week, I can tell you, Morty. Say, what are they gonna pay for this Boogerloos gig?”

bookieMORTY: “It’s Buggerloos, honey, and now we’re getting to the good part. They pay $175 an episode, which is twenty-five clams more than you’re making for them denture spots, and best of all you get to keep the entire wardrobe from each show. They also say you can smoke and drink all you want on the set.”

martha askingMARTHA RAYE: “I can?!”

bookieMORTY: “Yes. In fact, the Krofft boys told me they’d actually prefer it if you came in as shitfaced as possible.”

martha drunkMARTHA RAYE: “Say, that sounds like a sweet deal, Morty!”

bookieMORTY: “What can I say, Sugar? They want the Martha Raye that all of America has come to know and loathe …er … love. Yeah.”

mrtha in bedMARTHA RAYE: “I’m in, Morty. Here. Help me out of this puddle of bile around the pillows and kick those empty Seagram’s bottles over to the door. Consuela will pick ’em up when she comes next month to clean. I’m going down to NBC to sign that deal on the dotted line. Today! Wait’ll those wiseguys over at Polident get a load of me on this hot new show. We’ll be able to milk at least another C-note, per commercial, out of those stingy turds. Bring my limo around while I hunt for a clean turban, Morty. We’ve got a deal to strike.”

bookieMORTY: “I … uh … I had to pawn the limo last week, Martha. Your dog hasn’t doin’ so good down to the track and you owed a lot of dough. I asked the Polident people to maybe give you a little advance and, boy oh boy, their wallets suddenly got tighter than a nun’s ass.”

mrtha in bedMARTHA: “You don’t say. A nun’s ass, eh? Well, screw that. I’ll get the last laugh with those high and mighty bigshots when Benita Bizarre becomes the most beloved character among the children of the United States of America. Don’t just stand there, Morty. Call me a cab and pour me a fresh one while we wait! Hey … have you seen my upper set lying around anywhere? Damn that Polident!”
____________

The Bugaloos ran for one excruciating season on NBC (17 episodes) but found a cult-following in syndicated reruns. Martha Raye (a tirelessly dedicated –even decorated– performer for World War II Troops and genuinely beloved comic icon from Hollywood’s Golden Era who did later make bank schlepping denture tabs) lived out the rest of her tempestuous personal life in Bel Air until 1994, seven times married and (sadly) legless. She generated some controversy toward the end of her days by marrying a bisexual man three decades her junior, suing Bette Midler for allegedly “stealing her life story” and disowning her only child, Melodye, to leave a $3 Million legacy to boy-toy/husband, Mark Harris, who has since made the rounds of shock-programs like The Howard Stern Show to regale people with personal details from the life of Benita Bizarre. Sounds like the work of British fairies with a grudge. Still, you just know those Brits are all wearing dentures now and scrubbing them with Polident, so maybe Martha had the last laugh, after all. One can only dream.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: The Intro of Infamy …
__________________

If you’re bored and don’t have any Japanese eyeballs to lick, hop on over to Jonathan Kieran’s Official Facebook Page and give it a Like!

Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, Friends, if only for a few hours. A sweeping modern fairy-tale is born with the Rowan Blaize series of books. Click on the book covers to the right or have a look below …

Watch the Rowan Blaize Book Trailer HERE.

Book One = The magical cornerstone – a lavishly illustrated epic narrative poem … a genuine “spell” for the young and young-at-heart to treasure for a lifetime, telling the story of sorcerer Rowan Blaize’s battle to regain his magic powers. (Think Beowulf-meets-Dr.Seuss or an epic story-in-verse of a scope similar to Tolkien’s soon-to-be-released The Fall of Arthur, only contemporary.)

Book Two = The rip-roaring novel that continues the adventures of Rowan Blaize and introduces the three hilarious witches of the Ancient City, along with its dysfunctional werewolves, wraiths, ghosts, vampires, dryads, banshees and a beauty pageant brat that just might destroy the world.

Book Three = The next novel that finds Rowan trapped by a spell in another world, caught between a faery-squashing sorceress who’ll stop at nothing to conquer the kingdom … and a feisty teenage prince who’s determined to get it back.

Click here to purchase the Kindle e-books and watch a video of Jonathan discussing his work.
__________________________________________
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound
Books-A-Million
Rowan Blaize Official Website
Goodreads

He-Man & She-Ra: Proudly fostering body dysmorphic disorders since 1983!

POP HAZMAT RETRO HALL OF FAME presents Wonderfully Warped Children’s Television!by JONATHAN KIERAN

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: He-Man (1983-1985) and She-Ra (1985-1986)

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: He-Man, She-Ra, Skeletor, Battle Cat, Teela and all the elves working Mattel’s Everlasting Assembly-line of Dysfunctional Dreams.

He-Man and She-Ra ... Padding the bank accounts of psychologists specializing in Body Dysmorphic Disorders since the 1980s!

He-Man and She-Ra … Padding the bank accounts of psychologists specializing in Body Dysmorphic Disorders since the 1980s!

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: If you were a trendy child growing-up in the 1980s and early 1990s, there’s little chance you escaped the pop-culture gravitational pull of He-Man and She-Ra, who were basically two sword & sorcery action-figures with their own animated Saturday morning infomercials thinly disguised as kids’ TV shows. He-Man came first as you were spooning Cap’n Crunchies into your spellbound face and dripping sugar-saturated milk all over your jammies and onto Mother’s new JC Penney area-rug. But you could hardly look away when He-Man sauntered across the screen in all of his garish, stilted-animation glory. He-Man was essentially a warrior-type dragged from any garden-variety epic fantasy novel, stripped of every piece of clothing a warrior would need, except for a colorful jock-strap and boots, pumped with a regimen of steroids that’d make Lance Armstrong look like a dilettante and armed (of course) with a magic sword.

Or maybe the magic sword was the talisman of She-Ra, He-Man’s twin sister, who got her own spin-off show/infomercial so the little girls and the gays would have something to razzle their dazzle while masticating Cocoa Puffs and Pop Tarts from 9AM til Noon on weekends. She-Ra was as overblown as He-Man, for these were the days when slightly doughy or out-of-shape heroes (like TV’s Batman and Robin or the skinflint “Shaggy” from Scooby-Doo) just couldn’t cut the cartoon mustard any more, so kids were being presented with progressively exaggerated images of the human body and schooled in the importance of having Big-Gulp secondary sex characteristics when the time came to transform into one’s crime-fighting alter ego. Thus, She-Ra was stacked like a particularly earnest Hooters waitress working the Halloween shift in a costume she spent maybe ten minutes putting together out of a tablecloth and some ornamental napkin holders from the Pic-N-Save. Her boobs were honeydew-perfect and seemingly attached to her chin, which looked like the surgically sculpted masterpiece of some sought-after Beverly Hills body butcher. Those Power Ta-Tas did not flinch an inch when She-Ra was conquering the forces of evil! In fact, it was probably her chi-chis that poked Skeletor’s eyes out … though the series never addressed that likelihood, to my knowledge.

Skeletor ... Blinded by the Mighty Meemies of She-Ra or just a rip-off of Ghost Rider in Dungeons & Dragons drag?

Skeletor … Blinded by the Mighty Meemies of She-Ra or just a rip-off of Ghost Rider in Dungeons & Dragons drag?

She-Ra’s gargantuan hairdo was a thing of splendor in and of itself — daunting enough to make all 43 of the weaves and assorted clip-on wigs atop Beyoncé’s head writhe like Medusa-snakes in anger and envy. He-Man actually had even bigger and more ridiculous breasts than She-Ra. His torso looked like an airbrushed Smithfield ham balanced atop the legs of a Clydesdale draught-horse, with a baby watermelon stuffed in his red bikini.

For about fifteen minutes during the ’80s, we all loved these shows and couldn’t get enough of the ADHD-inducing drama, much less of the action figure tie-ins and “accessories sold separately.” Then we grew up, as well-adjusted children ought to do, and we moved on — thoroughly prepared for a culture of pervasive internet porn, rampant body dysmorphic disorders, obsessive workout regimens, bodacious breast augmentations, fake hair, fake names, fake intelligence, fake values, indiscriminate displays of physical violence and a vast gallery of narcissistic smartphone “selfies” taken in front of bathroom mirrors by the millions. It’s a lot easier to work for a set of ripped abs or buy a smokin’ hot rack than to fight the Forces of Darkness, these days. Fighting evil with magic swords? Nah, we didn’t bring that part of the show into the new millennium. We just brought the hotness and the Evil.

Thank you, Filmation!

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: Here’s 10 indispensable He-Man quotes steeped in the kind of wisdom that explains exactly why your kids turned out the way they did.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: The classic He-Man Intro. Note how the “pre-transformed” Adam (Prince of Eternia) appears to be voiced by a 59-year-old Presbyterian radio-announcer from Topanga with a deviated septum.

______________________

Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, Friends, if only for a few hours. A sweeping modern fairy-tale is born with the Rowan Blaize series of books. Click on the book covers to the right or have a look below …

Watch the Rowan Blaize Book Trailer HERE.

Book One = The magical cornerstone – a lavishly illustrated epic narrative poem … a genuine “spell” for the young and young-at-heart to treasure for a lifetime, telling the story of sorcerer Rowan Blaize’s battle to regain his magic powers. (Think Beowulf-meets-Dr.Seuss or an epic story-in-verse of a scope similar to Tolkien’s soon-to-be-released The Fall of Arthur, only contemporary.)

Book Two = The rip-roaring novel that continues the adventures of Rowan Blaize and introduces the three hilarious witches of the Ancient City, along with its dysfunctional werewolves, wraiths, ghosts, vampires, dryads, banshees and a beauty pageant brat that just might destroy the world.

Book Three = The next novel that finds Rowan trapped by a spell in another world, caught between a faery-squashing sorceress who’ll stop at nothing to conquer the kingdom … and a feisty teenage prince who’s determined to get it back.

Click here to purchase the Kindle e-books and watch a video of Jonathan discussing his work.
__________________________________________
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound
Books-A-Million
Rowan Blaize Official Website
Goodreads

Sally Field cringes today at her Flying Nun career-choice, but it inspired Richard Branson’s Virgin Air. #NOT

GOODREADS MEMBERS Click Here for a Chance to Win a Giveaway Copy of Rowan Blaize and the Hand of Djin Rummy by Jonathan Kieran. The Contest runs until June 10!

Watch the Rowan Blaize Book Trailer HERE.
__________________________________

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF FAME presents LOVABLY TWEE TV! by JONATHAN KIERAN

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: The Flying Nun (1967-1970 ABC)

Oscar-winner Sally Field may slash herself a bit around the wrists in regret for taking this role, but her Flying Nun career choice meant 30 minutes of amiable, starched-white whimsy to millions in the '60s and 70s.

Oscar-winner Sally Field may slash herself a bit around the wrists in regret for taking this role, but her Flying Nun career choice brought 30 minutes of amiable, starched-white whimsy to millions in the ’60s and 70s.

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Sally Field, Alejandro Rey, Marge Redmond, Shelley Morrison

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: A novice nun has the ability to fly when wearing her aerodynamic habit. Her convent is always short on funds to help the poor but “Sister Bertrille” is spunky and a tad conniving … in a beatific “milk & cookies” sort of way. Fundraising gimmicks, yacht-dwelling playboys and weekly villains abound. The setting is scintillating Puerto Rico. Hijinks ensue. You can see the strings when she soars. A CLASSIC IS BORN.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “If Mr. Trouble comes knocking on my door, it’s usually Sister Bertrille that gave him the address.” (“Carlos Ramirez” as played by Alejandro Rey)

BRUSH WITH GREATNESS: Two of this cute little fluff-show’s stars went on to greater fame and fortune outside the confines of the Convent San Tanco. Sally Field wowed audiences and awards-committees playing everything from the archetypal MPD/DID sufferer (Sybil) to the archetypal Southern factory-gal cum union rabble-rouser (Norma Rae). Millions came to like her; they really really liked her. Shelley Morrison later made big bank and gave millions of gay men a lifetime supply of withering one-liners as sybarite Karen Walker’s wisecracking maid, Rosario, on the groundbreaking Will and Grace show.

LEGACY: Flew the flag for virgin air-travel long before Richard Branson hit his stride. BE WARNED: Nuns with Magical Headgear inspire people to become either billionaires or Nick at Nite addicts covered in the clammy flopsweat of obsessive nostalgia … somewhere in the dreadful dark of Mom & Dad’s basement.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: They sure don’t make nuns like they used to. We would’ve been much more attentive in school if Sister could pull stunts like this.
_____________________________________

Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, Friends, if only for a few hours. A sweeping modern fairy-tale is born with the Rowan Blaize series of books. Click on the book covers to the right or have a look below …

Book One = The magical cornerstone – a lavishly illustrated epic narrative poem … a genuine “spell” for the young and young-at-heart to treasure for a lifetime, telling the story of sorcerer Rowan Blaize’s battle to regain his magic powers. (Think Beowulf-meets-Dr.Seuss or an epic story-in-verse of a scope similar to Tolkien’s soon-to-be-released The Fall of Arthur, only contemporary.)

Book Two = The rip-roaring novel that continues the adventures of Rowan Blaize and introduces the three hilarious witches of the Ancient City, along with its dysfunctional werewolves, wraiths, ghosts, vampires, dryads, banshees and a beauty pageant brat that might just destroy the world.

Book Three = The next novel that finds Rowan trapped by a spell in another world, caught between a faery-squashing sorceress who’ll stop at nothing to conquer the kingdom … and a feisty teenage prince who’s determined to get it back.

Click here to purchase the Kindle e-books and watch a video of Jonathan discussing his work.
__________________________________________
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound
Books-A-Million
Rowan Blaize Official Website
Goodreads

Classic Retro-Kids’ TV On-the-CHEAP! MR. DRESSUP #exposed

Watch the Rowan Blaize Book Trailer HERE.

___________________________________________

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF FAME: CHILDREN’S TV ON-THE-CHEAP! by JONATHAN KIERAN

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: MR. DRESSUP (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 1967-1996)

A single adult man who keeps a biologically unrelated little boy living in a tree in his backyard? Welcome to kids' TV from the CBC!

A single adult man who kept a biologically unrelated little boy living in a tree in his backyard? Welcome to kids’ TV from the CBC!

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Ernie Coombs (Canada’s answer to Mr. Rogers … only a lot more caffeinated and likely to bounce off the cardboard walls)

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Nothing touches the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for producing tatty but creative kids’ shows that were built to last and rife with mangy-looking puppets suffering from Borderline Personality Disorders! As a bumpkin-child in the woods of upstate New York, I couldn’t wait to fill my impressionable mind with that one-of-a-kind brand of folksy Canadian Crazy that the CBC pumped into our living rooms on a daily basis via programming like The Friendly Giant and the legendary Mr. Dressup.

Mr. Dressup was probably the “King” of cheesy children’s TV, at least for youngsters in our region who depended upon the seemingly limitless pipeline of entertainment thrift utilized by producers just across the border — producers who had to stage a show with nothing but four or five Ping-Pong balls, construction paper, two asbestos oven-mits and maybe a ukulele. The brain-trusts in Toronto knew how to BRING IT! I only wish today’s bloated and shiftless TV execs could do in an hour with their $9 million budgets what Mr. Dressup’s team obviously did in 10 minutes for a few bucks and a six-pack of Carling-O’Keefe.

Mr. Dressup ran daily from 1967-1996, amassing over 4,000 episodes packed with wanton childishness. That was the whole point! Like most children’s TV programs since the days of Caesar and Cleopatra, the setting and context of the actual characters on Mr. Dressup lacked verisimilitude. Wait. Scratch that. The set-up made absolutely no freakin’ sense whatsoever. First of all, you had a loner-type adult person with no fashion-sense and no apparent prospects for marriage (Mr. Dressup) living in a tiny house crammed with semi-magical knick knacks and strange outfits that were kept in something called a “Tickle Trunk” while, out in the back yard, a child biologically unrelated to the adult lived in a tree.

Uh huh.

On the Mr. Dressup show, the treehouse-dwelling child was a freckled puppet named “Casey”. Casey looked like an unfinished Lady Elaine Fairchilde marionette stolen from the Mr. Rogers set, fitted with a blond page-boy wig and wrapped in a tea-cozy. A parade of disheveled, disoriented and equally unrelated puppet-people streamed constantly through the door of the little house to visit the adult loner and the boy he kept in the backyard tree. This highly unusual and improbable “family unit” was unexplained and therefore taken for granted by the viewing public at the time. We called it “the magic of children’s television.”

Today they call it “a particularly disturbing episode of Law and Order:SVU.”

But that’s how kids’ programming rolled in the days before unseen parents allowed their irritating real-life children to play in the park unsupervised with an obese purple dinosaur on Zoloft that taught them to chant endless verses of black magic composed by Lucifer, Lord of Hell.

In terms of plot, the Mr. Dressup show was rather formulaic and predictable, which was an attribute beneficial to a developing child’s mind, I believe. That whole dynamic has certainly changed. Mr. Dressup, ever-exuberant in his bow-tie and suspenders, would greet his friends in TV Land and prepare them for a morning of storytelling that always involved the retrieval of some indicative costume from the Tickle Trunk. The costume was usually made out of colored gauze, tinfoil and discarded candy wrappers, but we didn’t care, as kids. Sometimes, to our horror, the Tickle Trunk wouldn’t even open, forcing Mr. Dressup to actually “coochie-coo” the damn thing until it coughed-up the goods. That trunk was a coy little tramp.

Once Mr. Dressup donned the Kleenex cape or the fake beard made out of cotton yanked from a thousand Q-tips, he would tell some brief fairy tale that sent us all off to Imagination Town in our pea brains. After that it was time to head out into the backyard for a visit with Casey in the treehouse. The best part about Casey was actually his constant companion, Finnegan the Dog, who looked like an unlaundered sailor’s sock after a nine-month tour of duty. Finnegan the Dog was great because he was entirely mute. Couldn’t bark a note. Couldn’t growl. Couldn’t talk. He was the only silent creature of Irish extraction I ever saw. Mr. Dressup or Casey would talk to Finnegan or ask his opinion about something and the puppeteer would merely make Finnegan’s “mouth” move silently and he would whisper the answer in Casey’s ear. Casey would then translate/interpret Finnegan’s response. He was the original Dog-Whisperer, that Casey.

The entire, belovedly creepy Mr. Dressup crew -- l. to r. the clearly "out of it" and obviously overmedicated Aunt Bird, Alligator, Mr. Dressup, Casey, and Finnegan the Dog

The entire, belovedly creepy Mr. Dressup crew — l. to r. the clearly “out of it” and obviously overmedicated Aunt Bird, Alligator, Mr. Dressup, Casey, and Finnegan the Dog

An assortment of guests would soon follow. An alligator-puppet cleverly named “Alligator” might drop by to yammer-on about God-Knows-What and at least once a week you could count on a visit from Aunt Bird, who was the show’s requisite “dazed and confused” elderly puppet. Poor Aunt Bird never made much sense, always looked like she had possibly been mauled in an alley by Finnegan the Dog’s more aggressive canine relations, and she was a definite candidate for Lady Rogaine or whatever it is they recommend for women with unsightly bald patches. Sometimes in tow with Aunt Bird was her niece, Miss Biz, a bug-eyed specimen who was as neurotic and disconnected as Elaine Stritch. Miss Biz, with only about a dozen strands of pink, wispy boa-feathers protruding from her lumpy head as “hair” clearly inherited the Female-Pattern Baldness gene from her dizzy aunt. I always figured there must’ve been an ostrich or maybe a vulture in that follicle-challenged bird-family’s woodpile. Anyhow, after all of this pointless but riveting Goodness, Casey and Finnegan would go to sleep in the treehouse, Aunt Bird and Miss Biz would fly off to whatever sorry, hair-lined nest they called home and Mr. Dressup would conclude the show with a consultation of the Wise Old Owl, which was a framed picture of an owl that would magically come to life and open its cardboard eyes, roll them, say: “Who, who, to-wit, to-woo …” and then offer some word of encouragement to insecure children all over the world … or at least within a 150-mile radius of Toronto, Ontario.

It’s amazing how such low-budget yet creative and lovingly crafted productions had the power to mesmerize children, once upon a time. These characters became as familiar to us as friends when we were young and life was a bit simpler. It all went down not that long ago — as noted, the Mr. Dressup show racked-up 29 years of whimsical entertainment and over 4000 little episodes before the Tickle Trunk demanded a cut of the syndication profits or went on the fritz and refused to reveal its secrets for the unappreciative ADHD demographic of the burgeoning Cyber Age. That’s okay. When the asteroid hits and the Zombie Apocalypse is unleashed upon what precious little is left of civilization, we’ll all be forced to live in treehouses with pets rendered mute by radiation poisoning. I figure I’ll be one of the few who’s ready.

Thank you, Mr. Dressup.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “Three little birdies, happy and gay. Three little birdies fly away.” (Classic chart-topping Mr. Dressup lyrics)

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Ernie Coombs, who played Mr. Dressup for almost 30 years on the CBC, went on to become a popular figure on the college lecture circuit, especially for generations of students who had “grown up” with the beloved children’s program. Ernie Coombs passed away in 2001. RIP, Mr. D.

Casey from the Treehouse

Perhaps scarred by a youth spent living in the backyard tree of an unrelated adult male, Casey found the transition to adulthood somewhat difficult. Between government checks and visits to his parole officer, he still finds time to audition for local children's theater and enjoys macaroni art. He lives in Winnipeg.

Perhaps scarred by a youth spent living in the backyard tree of an unrelated adult male, Casey found the transition to adulthood somewhat difficult. Between government checks and visits to his parole officer, he still finds time to audition for local children’s theater and enjoys macaroni art. He lives in Winnipeg.

The discombobulated Aunt Bird

WARNING GRAPHIC: This is a photo from the Ottawa Police Department's homicide unit, taken Thanksgiving Day 1996. It is the last known photograph of Aunt Bird. Her surviving family members refused to speak to Pop HazMat about the murder, which appears to have been related to the infamous "Savory Stuffer's" string of serial killings that terrorized Canada in the late 1990s.

WARNING GRAPHIC: This is a photo from the Ottawa Police Department’s homicide unit, taken Thanksgiving Day 1996. It is the last known photograph of Aunt Bird. Her surviving family members refused to speak to Pop HazMat about the murder, which appears to have been related to the infamous “Savory Stuffer’s” string of serial killings that terrorized Canada in the late 1990s.

Tickle Trunk

Of all the Mr. Dressup cast-members, the Tickle Trunk appears to have fared the best in private life. Tickle Trunk (pictured on the left) is now owned by Lance and Bartholomew,  a fabulous Greenwich Village couple who specialize in restoring worn-out receptacles of all shapes and sizes. "We needed a place to keep our collection of damask napkins and, well, we certainly love to tickle," said Lance. "It was really a no-brainer."

Of all the Mr. Dressup cast-members, the Tickle Trunk appears to have fared the best in private life. Tickle Trunk (pictured on the left) is now owned by Lance and Bartholomew, a fabulous Greenwich Village couple who specialize in restoring worn-out receptacles of all shapes and sizes. “We needed a place to keep our collection of damask napkins and, well, we certainly love to tickle,” said Lance. “It was really a no-brainer.”

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: Casey and Finnegan … Classic Moments to Treasure.

______________________________________

Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, Friends, if only for a few hours. A sweeping modern fairy-tale is born with the Rowan Blaize series of books …

Book One = The magical cornerstone – a lavishly illustrated epic narrative poem … a genuine “spell” for the young and young-at-heart to treasure for a lifetime, telling the story of sorcerer Rowan Blaize’s battle to regain his magic powers. (Think Beowulf-meets-Dr.Seuss or an epic story-in-verse of a scope similar to Tolkien’s soon-to-be-released The Fall of Arthur, only contemporary.)

Book Two = The rip-roaring novel that continues the adventures of Rowan Blaize and introduces the three hilarious witches of the Ancient City, along with its dysfunctional werewolves, wraiths, ghosts, vampires, dryads, banshees and a beauty pageant brat that might just destroy the world.

Book Three = The next novel that finds Rowan trapped by a spell in another world, caught between a faery-squashing sorceress who’ll stop at nothing to conquer the kingdom … and a feisty teenage prince who’s determined to get it back.

Click here to purchase the e-books and watch a video of Jonathan discussing his work.
__________________________________________

Barnes and Noble
IndieBound
Books-A-Million
Rowan Blaize Official Website
Goodreads

HAZMAT-RETRO HOF Presents CHILDREN’S TV ON-THE-CHEAP: “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” posted by Jonathan Kieran

Tomorrow will feature another Character Profile from the World of Rowan Blaize (check out yesterday’s profile of Aunt Ariadne) but today we’re taking another voyage into the razzle-dazzle of CHILDREN’S TV ON-THE-CHEAP! Oh what fun it shall be.

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF FAME (CHILDREN’S TV ON-THE-CHEAP) by JONATHAN KIERAN

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (NBC 1973-75, Original Run)

Sea Monster ... Or Your Granny's Favorite Bath-time Scrubby?

Sea Monster … Or Your Granny’s Favorite Underarm Bath-time Scrubby?

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Sid and Marty Krofft (producers), Johnny Whittaker (“Johnny”), Rip Taylor (“Sheldon”)

(HARDLY) RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Wow. If you were unlucky enough to be born after the 1980s, when fabulous rerun-blasts of artistic genius like Sigmund and the Sea Monsters radiated out of Saturday morning TV sets to teach your brain the true meaning of Wonder and Awe, then I pity your emaciated soul.

I absolutely understand the importance of any cinematographer working feverishly to stay within a certain budget. You know, getting “creative” with set-design in order to cut costs here, trim a bit of production fat there. But if anybody on earth could apparently bag a 25-minute kids’ show on a major network for under twenty bucks an episode, it had to be the thrifty team of Sid and Marty Krofft. Give those boys a can of spray paint, a wedge of foam rubber yanked from the seat-cushion of a Nash Rambler, six or seven plastic ficus-tree leaves and a box of shredded newspapers, and Sid & Marty would give you an EXTRAVAGANZA.

Sigmund and the Sea Monsters was perhaps the most successful, if not the most well-known of the Krofft Brothers’ forays into children’s programming. Unlike on-the-tat classics H.R. Pufnstuf, Lidsville, and the Bugaloos, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters actually ran for two entire seasons. I guess NBC figured it could afford to spend the extra $350. Lord, I would love to have seen the catering-table on that set. Saltines and Tang. No wonder Johnny Whittaker was such a skinny, anemic-looking child who burst into songs that could only have been triggered by the delirium of hunger.

The premise of Sigmund was as weird as it gets. Johnny and Scott Stuart are two brothers who discover and befriend a sea monster named “Sigmund” who has been thrown out of the family cave by uncaring parents because he is too timid to frighten humans. Considering that Sigmund looked like an overused green exfoliating-glove you might find in any old lady’s shower, I think the sea monster parents were being a trifle harsh on their offspring. But the creepy motif of neglectful parenting was not limited to sea beasts on this show. Oh no. Johnny and Scott themselves were evidently abandoned by their parents in the care of a dominating, suspicious killjoy-of-a-housekeeper named “Zelda.” To be sure, it was explained that Mom and Dad Stuart were merely on vacation. Mom and Dad, however, never returned and were never seen for two whole years. That’s some “vacation.” The boys didn’t even get a lousy phone call from their folks throughout the duration of the show and, believe me, I watched that program like a hawk, waiting for those parents to “touch base” and throw-down some severe disciplinary threats upon their out-of-control twosome. I don’t even think there was a phone on the Sigmund set. NBC wouldn’t cough-up the shekels for a prop. Even Zelda the housekeeper jumped-ship after Season One to be replaced by an even more merciless harridan named “Gertrude.” Who HIRED GERTRUDE? The parents? How? By carrier pigeon? I lay awake at night worrying about these things so you don’t have to.

The whole twisted cabal ...

The whole twisted cabal …

Anyhow, every single one of these enthralling episodes revolved around Sigmund’s bumbling inability to stay out-of-sight and hidden in the Stuart brothers’ clubhouse. He was always escaping and I don’t blame him: who knows what sick, twisted things those two kids were doing to him in there? They were probably exfoliating each other with his tentacles or something. Invariably, Sigmund would get caught in some snafu after breaking out of Club Perversion and Johnny and Scott would have to think mighty fast on their feet to keep Sigmund away from the prying eyes of Zelda (or Gertrude) and the fiendish plots of Sigmund’s psychotic brothers, Slurp and Blurp. It was harrowing stuff. By the end of every episode, Johnny and Scott would manage to get Sigmund safely back into the clubhouse to await God-only-knows-what horrors they had in store for him, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief that the boys could continue to keep their dirty little secret.

As a child of six, I would pretty much buy into anything peddled on Saturday morning TV as long as it was remotely ludicrous, featured a goofy monster of some sort and was sponsored by the most tooth-rotting Sugar Death cereals in Kellogg’s repertoire, but even I had to balk when the Sigmund producers had the questionable judgment to introduce none other than Rip Taylor as a mincing, prancing, green leotard-wearing, giggling, glitter-bombing “sea genie” in Season Two. Sheldon the Sea Genie made his home in a conch and was even accompanied by a preschool-aged “nephew genie” named Shelby.

Rip Taylor and a five year-old boy living together in a pearly-pink seashell? I don’t think so.

You just KNOW Rip Taylor's shell was far more fabulously decorated than the interior of Jeannie's bottle. It apparently had a well-stocked liquor cabinet, as well.

You just KNOW Rip Taylor’s shell was far more fabulously decorated than the interior of Jeannie’s bottle. It apparently had a well-stocked liquor cabinet, as well.

One of the most ironic things about the Sigmund program was that most of the set was destroyed in a fire at the end of Season One and the Krofft brothers were reportedly forced to work with “minimal sets” for the remainder of the run. “Minimal sets” … ? What? How in the hell did they describe that set before the fire? Did they think it was decked out like an Esther Williams MGM Technicolor classic or something? I have to admit: we loved and cherished everything the Krofft Brothers scissored-out and Elmer-glued together, including Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, but this particular show confounded our household. Maybe Sid & Marty were trying to tap into some sort of mid-’70s strung-out zeitgeist with the dysfunctional themes of sea monster abuse (environmental degradation?), shamefully unsupervised minors (the breakdown of the American family?) and Rip Taylor in sea-genie drag (gays “coming out” of their … shells?), but my guess is that they were maybe just chooming some really fabulous stuff, back in the day. Long live the Krofft Brothers, wherever they are. It wouldn’t have been a proper Saturday Morning parked in front of the tube in your jammies without them.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “Get out there and scare a human!”

BRUSH WITH GREATNESS: Without question, Sid and Marty Krofft were great (after their own fashion) as producers and creative forces in children’s television programming, but this show was touched by the presence of other legends, as well. The magnificent Billy Barty occupied the Sigmund “costume” and Margaret Hamilton, the Wickedest Witch in All of Cinematic History, made a few guest appearances as the boys’ neighbor, Mrs. Eldels.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Johnny Whittaker, well-known for a number of roles as an American child star (including his participation in the classic Family Affair TV series) is now supposedly a certified drug and addiction counselor.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: Let Johnny Whittaker bring back the innocence as you listen to his adenoids regale you with the theme song and video intro for Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, Friends, if Only for a Few Hours. Get acquainted with the comparatively sane world of Rowan Blaize …

One witty 2,800 year-old warlock. A suspicious storm that hurls him to earth near London. A goddess who wants to destroy the world. The catch? She needs Rowan’s face. REMOVED.

A deliciously twisted magical adventure is born with Rowan Blaize and the Enchanted Heritage Chronicles. Use any of the Rowan Blaize book icons on the upper-right (or use the links below) to learn more or purchase with an enchanted click.

Amazon Kindle Version (Only $0.99 Each!)
Book One
Book Two
Book Three
Amazon Author Page (Kindle and Paperback versions)
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound
Books-A-Million
Rowan Blaize Official Website
Goodreads

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF LAME (LOVABLY BAD TV) “Day of the Animals” posted by Jonathan Kieran

A rather arrogant goddess wants to skin the face off the most down-on-his-luck warlock you could possibly imagine. YOU can save him for only $0.99. Click HERE.

"Don't worry, Lynda! My man-boobs are more than a match for this crazy beaver coming at us."

“Don’t worry, Lynda! My man-boobs are more than a match for this crazy beaver coming at us.”

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF LAME (LOVABLY BAD TV) posted by JONATHAN KIERAN

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: Day of the Animals (1977)

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: (The Late and Beloved) Leslie Nielsen, Lynda Day George, Christopher George

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Oh, this is so much fun! If you were a kid growing up in the ’80s, chances were good that the schlockiest TV “Movie of the Week” offerings from the 1970s were still being rerun several times a year to remind 1980s people how lucky they were to escape the ’70s with their intellects intact! Of course, adults in the ’80s went on to fry those intact intellects with the suburban discovery of cocaine, so getting through the ’70s was a bit pointless it seems, after all, but that’s an entirely different blog.

Today we’re talking about the very idea of “survival” enshrined in what has to be one of the best BAD TV MOVIES that dazed and confused Hollywood writers ever managed to burp from their brains while nursing hangovers amid overflowing ashtrays, broken glass and strewn underwear at some daybreak poolside party they didn’t even remember attending. Afterward (say, an hour later) they cobbled the whole thing together as they guzzled margaritas in a Topanga biker-bar to fuel the creative supernova.

WRITER 1: “Yeah. Oh, yeah, man. Animals going, like, CRAZY, man! I mean owls and eagles and weasels and shit like that. Attacking. Just, like, for no reason. Chickens! Chickens pecking peoples eyes out and stuff like that.”

WRITER 2: “So cool, man. But, like, the animals can’t go berserk for no reason. This is where our story’s got a serious hitch, dudes. I mean, so many different animals flippin’ their lids? You gotta have a reason for that.”

WRITER 3: “You two need to become troubleshooters if you’re ever gonna make producers. Look. Only animals above an altitude of 5,000 feet go bonkers and start killing a buncha hikers and we blame the whole thing on the ozone layer. Ozone layer’s hot topic right now. So’s Leslie Nielsen. We find a way to throw him in the mix.”

WRITERS 1 & 2: “Whoah. Man, you are so up to speed. We got ourselves a movie. Bartender! Three more margaritas! And make ’em Cadillacs.”

And Greatness was thus (possibly) born.

Forget the Killer Animals ... Who Survived the Shame of WATCHING this Fabulousness?

Forget the Killer Animals … Who Survived the Shame of WATCHING this Fabulousness?

Day of the Animals was indeed a 1977 film about a group of mid-level Hollywood SAG members getting unexpectedly attacked by every furred and feathered creature imaginable while hiking precisely above an elevation of 5,000 ft. because the depleted ozone layer was allowing Nutzoid Radiation Rays of Rabidness to penetrate animal “minds”. The setting for this nonstop terror-fest was (surprise!) “somewhere in Northern California” because that’s where all the ozone-layer neuroses on Earth emanate from addled human minds like a great pulsating Doom-Ray — a Doom-Ray which, ironically, has burned a hole in the ozone layer that didn’t previously exist. But that’s another blog. Movies of the 1970s were especially obsessed with exploiting any kind of crap that might possibly petrify Paul and Pamela Polyester from Peoria: sinking ocean-liners; burning skyscrapers; angry pubescent girls with telekinetic powers; bee swarms; possessed cars; earthquakes (lots of those); and anything with a tooth in its head sharp enough to bite, really. TV movies distilled this sort of “mundane disaster-phase” in the American zeitgeist to perfection with Day of the Animals.

Leslie Neilsen fights a grizzly bear. Lynda Day George (who must’ve been in every freakin’ TV Movie of the Week in the ’70s) screams and runs, screams and runs, fights-off an owl or two. German Shepherds wild with Ozone Cray-Cray corner everybody in an isolated cabin at the end (of course). Frankly, it all sounds like just another ordinary day in Idyllwild or Eureka or Hemet, California, but that, too, is another blog. Suffice it to say that TV-zombies were inconceivable, back then. Who needed ’em? You had ANIMALS! With beaks and claws and things! You had a hole in the ozone layer turning the galldarned bunny rabbits against you! Enough said. Terror was never, ever so deliciously bad.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “God sent a plague down on us because we’re just a bunch of no good fellers.”

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: 32 seconds of RELENTLESS, BONE-CHILLING F.E.A.R.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, Friends, if Only for a Few Hours. Get acquainted with the comparatively sane world of Rowan Blaize …

One witty 2,800 year-old warlock. A suspicious storm that hurls him to earth near London. A goddess who wants to destroy the world. The catch? She needs Rowan’s face. REMOVED.

A deliciously twisted magical adventure is born with Rowan Blaize and the Enchanted Heritage Chronicles. Use any of the Rowan Blaize book icons on the upper-right (or use the links below) to learn more or purchase with an enchanted click.

Amazon Kindle Version (Only $0.99 Each!)
Book One
Book Two
Book Three
Amazon Author Page (Kindle and Paperback versions)
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound
Books-A-Million
Rowan Blaize Official Website
Goodreads

HAZMAT-RETRO Hall of LAME: The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

The Holiday of Eternal Shame

The Holiday of Eternal Shame

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF LAME (LOVABLY BAD TV) posted by JONATHAN KIERAN

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Director Steve Binder, CBS and every single participant … from Harrison Ford on down to the inexplicably cast Nightmare from Hell that is Bea Arthur.

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: This bizarre attempt by CBS to cash-in on the Star Wars phenomenon by condensing some of the “mythology” into a cute holiday special goes down as one of the most heinous acts of mass psychological pop-butchery in the history of television, up to and including the Skanks Who Shall Not be Named. No one currently alive seems to know exactly why, how or by whom this id-damaging abomination was initially conceived and greenlighted (imagine sitting around that table of creative geniuses), but whoever did was clearly on something terminal and soul-sucking, and The Star Wars Holiday Special’s infamy lives on in fetid whispers and baleful sighs passed from geek to geek at fan conferences and confabs across the world. Rumor has it that this “special” is single-handedly responsible for the hole in the ozone layer, global warming and the Advent of Honey Boo Boo, combined. I would not be inclined to challenge this theory. Plot? You need only to know that Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and sidekick Chewbacca are speeding through space to the wookie’s home planet to celebrate “Life Day” with Itchy, Malla, and Lumpy. While those names might apply quite nicely to Mark Hamill, George Lucas, and Carrie Fisher today, these were in fact the sorry-a$$ monikers given by writers to Chewbacca’s father, mother and son in 1978. “Life Day” sounds like something a group of wailing, bare-breasted, utterly anemic vegan librarians might celebrate in an asparagus field at dawn somewhere near Santa Cruz, CA on the day after Halloween. The rest is the stuff of lamentable legend. Almost all the main players from the 1977 film make stultifying guest appearances while clearly steeped in the agonies of self-mortification. Particularly egregious offenses against human decency are committed by Jefferson Starship caterwauling one of their late ’70s washed-out attempts at sonic rehabilitation and Dorothy Zbornak putting the old “Marlboro Croak” on a saucy little number called “Goodnight, But Not Goodbye.” Even my parents had the good sense not to let me watch this travesty as a child, perhaps intuiting further decades of emotional scarification that would have ensued. That’s saying something. Thanks, Mom & Dad. Having viewed the show as an adult, however, I can safely assure the citizens of Earth that this Wobbling Tower of Unconscionable Stink is still more genuinely entertaining than any of the putrescent “prequel” films. Therefore, the holiday special secures its everlasting place in the HazMat’s Lovably Bad TV Hall of Fame.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “That’s the spirit! You’ll be celebrating Life Day before you know it! Stand by. Here’s where we say goodbye to our unpleasant friends.” — Han Solo (as embarrassed by Harrison Ford)

BRUSH WITH GREATNESS: A cartoon interlude during The Star Wars Holiday Special provides the only remotely redemptive feature of this execrable exposition: inter-galactic bounty hunter Boba Fett is officially introduced. The “Dog” of his day (only without the dapper social graces, exquisite skin and gleaming cascades of natural blond hair), Boba would come to enjoy a certain elite cultus and mystique of his very own within the ranks of Star Wars character fan-freakdom.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: George Lucas has decided to emulsify the entire future of his still-hallowed creation amid the gnashing blades of Di$ney’s Cuisinart of Craptastica, which probably couldn’t hurt at this point. Carrie Fisher is a genius writer, one of our most belovedly wry cultural wits, and we wish her buckets of Wellness, but lately she’s taken to scooping dog poop off cruise-ship cabaret stages whilst in meltdown mode. Get it together, honey. You can wear that Jabba concubine-bikini again, I just know it. Harrison Ford, G-d help us, is 70. Still feel young? Thought not.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: A harbinger of poor Carrie’s future … or the effective Sealing of Her Doom? You be the judge.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

One witty 2,800 year-old warlock. A storm that hurls him to earth, powerless. A goddess who wants his face. REMOVED.

A twisted magical adventure is launched. Click on any of the Rowan Blaize book icons to the right and buy with an enchanted click at Amazon (Kindle or paperback).

Amazon Author Page
Rowan Blaize Official Website