Tuesday, October 30, 2018

On With the Show

Roy Clark wasn't born in Oklahoma but he's made it his home for many years and and his considered a bona fide Okie music legend.  Over a long career in country music, acting and comedy, he's racked up more awards and honors than you can shake a banjo at.  But perhaps one of his most illustrious honors came in 1978 when he was tapped to appear on one of the biggest TV phenomenons of the time:

Sure, the Muppet have kept a relatively high profile for the last few decades but in the late 70s/early 80s they were in their prime and the Muppet Show was a juggernaut.  Actors, comedians, musicians and the biggest celebrities of the day vied for a guest shot on the half hour variety show.

And in the third episode of the third season, Roy Clark got his shot.  Between Hee Haw and his musical comedy background, he was a perfect fit for the vaudevillian style troupe of frogs, dogs, bears and chickens and such.   Here's a breakdown of the episode:

During this season, the show always opened with the same type of gag: Scooter, the show's gopher (not literally, which normally I wouldn't feel the need to point out), would knock on the guest's dressing room door and let them know that the curtain goes up in 15 seconds.  Then the guest says or does something funny...and roll the intro!

This time, as Roy is getting dressed one of his duded up cowboy outfits, he asks Scooter where his pair of chaps are?  In walks a pair of British Muppets saying 'allo, 'allo!  Roy shouts out the Sooner state, "It's a far cry from Oklahoma."  And all of a sudden it's time to play the music...it's time to light the lights...

The episode's story involves a subplot with Fozzie misunderstanding the term "going country" and thus sending the crew into the woods.  With that subtle bit of Muppet mayhem in place, the first musical number begins:

Roy gets the chance to show off his multiple musical abilities by performing "Rocky Top" with Lubbock Lou and his Jughuggers.  With the help of some TV magic, he plays banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin and even whips out a trumpet briefly on the bluegrass classic.

Jim Henson was an early pioneer of experimenting with video effects and technology on his original kids show "Sam and Friends" and brought that that innovating spirit with him to the Muppet Show.

By today's standards, having multiple picture-in-pictures might seem a little dated but at this time, it was cutting edge.  It was also a rare chance for such a technically accomplished musician like Roy to really show off his abilities.

After such an exhausting performance Roy got to take a break but the show rolled on with a Swedish Chef segment.  Meanwhile the crew-less subplot continued as Fozzie figured out a way to set the theater on fire.  We follow that up with a "Pigs in Space" segment and then it was time to bring back the guest star:

Roy sings "Yesterday When I Was Young."  It was one of his signature hits songs and he became so synonymous with it that fellow Oklahoman Mickey Mantle asked him to sing it at Mantle's funeral.

The performance also includes a semi-regular Muppet bit that involves starting off with a real dog and then switching to a Muppet dog in the edit.  Why do they do this?  Beats me.

After a quick bit involving fire fighters showing up to audition instead of putting out the fire, it was time for the regular "Talk Spot" segment where Kermit chats with the guest.  The gag here involves Roy noticing that much of the cast would probably end up on a breakfast plate back on the farm.  As Muppet chickens, ducks, pigs and cows express their distaste for the idea, we move on to the "At the Dance" bit.

After some more fire fighting and a Gonzo the Great bit, the final musical number was "Sally Was a Good Old Girl."  I don't know too much about the song but it looks like it has been performed by a variety of artists, most notably Waylon Jennings.  Apparently all was forgiven with the Muppet farm animals since they joined him for the song. 

So all that's left to do is crack a couple of jokes, say some "thank yous," do a quick smoking fiddle bit and it's time to close the curtain.  Roy Clark has played a lot of prestigious (and maybe some not so prestigious) venues over his career but I'd like to think that the Muppet Show was one of his more unforgettable performances and gave him a chance to hold his own against some of the most iconic characters in history.  My only regret about this episode is that we didn't get Dueling Banjos with Roy and Kermit.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Top 5 Things For Sale at the Frontier City Gift Shop


Frontier City recently finished up their summer season but they're already prepping for their Halloween brouhaha.  I was out there recently shooting some footage (and dodging the rain) and when I was exiting through the gift shop, I remembered it's been awhile since I did one of these "Top 5 For Sale" list.  So with that uninspired preamble, here we go...

5.  Sweat Pants

This one may seem a little mundane but that's kind of the point.  I just can't imagine anyone buying sweat pants at an amusement park gift shop.  It's almost like it's both too big of a purchase yet too small of a purchase all at the same time.  "Those rides were super fun but now I want to pick up some sweat pants at the gift shop before we go home."  And if buying sweat pants at the gift shop is actually very common, please don't tell me.  I prefer to live in my own delusions.

4.  Bigfoot Magnet

Yeah, I know.  I keep beating the Bigfoot drum but no one else seems all that interested.  But Oklahoma really needs to play up its relationship to the mythical monster.  I'd like to see sightings increase and a flood of new Bigfoot related attractions across the state...or at least along Route 66.

3.  Frontier City Snow Globe

And speaking of the Mother Road, nothing says "old school kitschy souvenir" like the gold ol' snow globe.  Sure, the inside might contain a somewhat generic Ferris Wheel but the base is totally branded with a Frontier City vibe.  That lettering is definitely raised and that takes effort!  Effort I appreciate.

2.  Rainbow Squid Hat

Hats go in and out of style on all the time and non-fashion forward folks like myself can never keep up.  It's times like these when it's necessary to take a sledgehammer to the social customs of the day.  And that's where our colorful friends comes in.  He fits comfortably between, "I crave attention" and "I NEED attention."

1.  Dark Bison T-Shirt

Everything in the world is happening on this shirt.  An Oklahoma bison dressed just like Batman except not enough to have to pay for the rights to the character!  Is this a recurring character in Frontier City canon?  I don't know.  And it not only glows in the dark, it "High Def" glows in the dark!  What does that mean?  I don't know.  But it's the wise man who admits there is much he does NOT know...possibly.

Well those are my picks this time.  And the most important thing to remember here is: if you've bought sweat pants at a theme park gift shop, please don't tell me.

Monday, July 30, 2018

American Gods in Oklahoma


If you missed out on the first season of American Gods on Starz, you missed seeing a little bit of Oklahoma on the small screen.  The series is based on the novel by the great Neil Gaiman and, while it filmed in a couple of Okie locations, today I'm just going to take a look at a scene that features some of our distinct mountains (yes, there are mountains in Oklahoma).

In the first episode, our moody hero Shadow drives around Anywhere, USA being moody and whatnot.  In the background you can see the Gloss Mountains.  In the real world they're in the northwest part of the state, not too far from Waynoka or the Black Kettle Grasslands.

I didn't quite get my picture lined up with the shot from the episode but you can see the same "notches" in the mountains.  Plus, I took the picture before I saw the show so, all things considered, that's not too bad.

Shadow then takes a pit stop at Gloss Mountain State Park, to check out the scenery and to lament the death of his wife (spoilers...but it's the first episode so give me a break).  The production crew changed the signage to Shakamak State Park which is actually in Indiana.

A little bit later, if you look past Shadow screaming in torment, you can see some classic Oklahoma red dirt.  If you're ever on a road trip in the area, the park is a nice stop.  You can look at the dirt and scream, like our hero.

Like I said earlier, the show shot in one or two other locations in the state and when I track them down I'll deliver the goods.  Stay tuned...


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Top 5 Things for Sale at NWCC

Previous "Top 5 For Sale" Lists:

The fourth annual New World Comic Con was held yesterday in the Centennial Building at State Fair Park in OKC.  It was a great event that incorporated cosplay, kid's games and local artists.  And like all cons, there were a ton of vendors.  Since they mainly seemed to be from Oklahoma I thought it would be a great time to do another "Top 5 Things for Sale" list, so let's see what I found:

5.  Dick Tracy Collector's Case (Chris' Vault)

Dick Tray has Oklahoma roots since his creator, Chester Gould, was born in Pawnee.  The character has existed for decades put got his biggest marketing push when the 1990 movie was released.  The toys didn't do too well and now items from that line are sought after collectibles by fans.  Here's the collector's case for those hard to track down action figures.

4.  Geeky Pot Holders (Two Clover Charms)

I'm always happy to see custom made items for sale at conventions, particularly when they're functional and used in nontraditional geek settings like the kitchen.  There were other franchises represented besides Star Wars so you could probably find your particular favorite.  Throw in the fact that these babies come with a package of cookie mix and I'm all in.

3.  Rare Droids Figures (Valhalla Collectibles)

I didn't want to do two Star Wars items in a row, but here we are.  This is good example of finding something unique that you didn't know you wanted.  The Droids had a short lived Saturday morning cartoon in the 80s and these two were only available in Spain.  They can fetch a pretty good price on eBay so it's always nice to run into our boys in the wild.

2.  Geeky Kids' Dresses (Warehouse RoyGBiv)

Another great custom item.  These outfits feature the old standards like Wonder Woman, Batman Ninja Turtles, the Avengers and a few that are maybe more about the parents like E.T. and The Walking Dead.  Definitely what the well dressed mini-geek is wearing.

1. Comics!!! (New World Comics)

These days it's kind of cliche to lament the state of comics at comic book conventions but at this one they were well represented.  New World had multiple tables containing box after box of comics in the center of the floor, all for $1.  This groovy issue of Jimmy Olsen wasn't in the dollar section but for Sliver Age shenanigans I'm always willing to shell out a few bucks more.

So there are my top picks.  Only slightly less than a year (probably) until the fifth annual NWCC.  See you there...

Monday, July 16, 2018

Twilight Avenger Begins

There are certain potential problems when it comes to reading independent comics from several decades ago.  For one, the issues are hard to track down and, two, the nature of independent publishing is chaotic.  Publishers come and go as much as a volatile market allows.

But for creators, driven by the passion of their vision, the story must continue.  This rambling preamble is meant to explain how and why I'm reading the "Twilight Avenger" out of order. 

The last time I wrote about the pulp-inspired hero of Tulsa, he ran afoul of a zombie-creating mad scientist in a story published by Eternity Comics.  But the two issues I recently picked up on eBay seem to be the very first adventure of our boy and were published by Texas-based Elite Comics.

Issues 1 and 2 involve the origin of the Twilgiht Avenger as he investigates a kidnapping by the villainous "Centipede."  Like all classic heroes, he has a tragic moment that defines him and motivates his heroic career.

Yep, that's a wedding dress that goes flying after after that woman gets hit by a car.  What you're seeing above is college football star Reece Chambers' fiance tragically being put into a coma during yet another example of mob violence in 1930's Oklahoma.

Yeesh, just typing that makes me want to put on a costume myself and go on a one man crusade against crime!

And, with the help of his would-be father in law, that's essentially what Chambers does.  Thus, loaded up with tons of crime fighting gadgets, the Twilight Avenger is born!

One of my favorite things to do with Oklahoma movies and comics is to pick out the Okie locations used in the story.  Let's do that by checking in on Reece's comatose fiance, Dolores:

While a Saint Francis Hospital exists in real life, I've never been there so I'm not sure if they have a statue of the actual saint or if they ever did.  My policy is to only go to hospitals when I need to but I'll still have to go investigate when I get the time.

There's not too many other geographic points of interest in this or the second issue but the second issue does contain a few Easter Eggs in some newspaper headlines:

In addition to an article (with a New York byline indicating it was from a new service) about the corrupting dangers of "Swing Music," there's a headline about the Tulsa Oilers.  This is referring to the old minor league baseball team, not the current hockey team.

There's a mention of a "Fair" welcoming 30,000 school kids.  The timing of the story would indicate that this is when the Tulsa Fairgrounds Pavilion was relatively new (but still well before the Petroleum Expo and our buddy, the Golden Driller) and there was probably still a lot of excitement bringing crowds to the Tulsa State Fair.

There's also mention of a "M'alester" prison riot.  I take this to refer to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.  Maybe the city was referred to as "M'alester" in that time period?  Maybe it still is?  There was a major riot there in the 70s but I can't find any info about one in the 30s.  Maybe it's a setup for a future story line.

I'll let you know if it's ever followed up on as soon as I track down more issue...to be continued...

Friday, June 29, 2018

Batman Top 10 at the Action Figure Museum

Once or twice I've used the Toy & Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma as a shooting location for a couple of documentary projects.  It's a substantial collection of toys and served as a great backdrop for several interviews.  I recently made a quick stop there while I was on the road in the area.

 They still have tons of interesting rotating exhibits but, just as before, the biggest collection was of Batman memorabilia which is housed in the museum's very own Bat Cave.  So here's a look at what I thought was the Top 10 pieces in the Batman Collection.

10.  Batman Outdoor Fun Pack

You get a yo-yo, a kite and a "flying disc" (Frisbee is a brand name) in this kit.  Not to mention kite string.  You're going to need that.  What's not to like?  Now go outside and play!

9.  1874 Batman Talking Alarm Clock

Nothing will get you out of bed faster than the stern, forceful voice of the Dark Knight.  You can hear it HERE.  And as a bonus you get the Boy Wonder speeding by in a purple Batmobile.

8.  The Adventures of Batman & Robin Whitman's Sampler

Lots of choices in this candy kit between characters and, I assume, candy fillings.  What will you get?  Robin?  Nougat?  Poison Ivy?  Caramel?  Joker?  Smilex Fudge?  Take a bite and find out!

7.  1973 Batman Paint by Number Set

Let's face it, painting is hard.  Not as hard as crime fighting but, similar to crime fighting, it takes years of study to master.  Or you can just take the easy route and paint by numbers.  I mean, who's gonna stop you?

6.  1969 Big Little Book - Batman: The Cheetah Caper

Lot's of different characters appeared in types of books over the years and, of course, it was only a matter of time before the World's Greatest Detective got his shot.  You can check out some page scans HERE which seem to indicate that this Cheetah is not the Wonder Woman villain but some other weirdo instead.

5.  Batman Returns Happy Meal Display

Every time I see one of these in a fast food place I always think to myself that I should ask the manager if I can buy it once the promotion is done.  And of course, I never do.  When I see one in a collection it reminds me of the shame of my inaction.  That's why it's not higher than #5.

4.  Giant Lego Batman

There's no Batman like Lego Batman and thankfully this one was saved from the sad fate of rotting in a movie theater dumpster.  As a Lego, it falls into both the "toy" and "Batman" categories and a case could be made for calling Lego people "action figures" so this guy is right at home in the Toy & Action Figure Museum.

3.  The Adventures of Batman & Robin Colorforms

No character collection is complete without the obligatory box of Colorforms.  I would have thought the old school toy stopped being made by the time of this TV show but apparently they are still alive and well to this day.  I'm not sure what to do with that little realization...so let's move on.

2.  Batman Comics!

This may seem like a no-brainer to you and me but let's not forget that in the sea of toys, movies and cartoons, some of the youngsters might not even be aware that comics exist, much less that Batman is one of their top guys.  It's always nice to have a little reminder of his old school origin.

1.  Batmobile Coin-Op Kiddie Ride

There are a few different types of collectors and what separates the real deals from the wannabes is a piece like this.  I think this is the Batmobile from Batman Forever and it's made its way from outside the grocery store and right into our hearts.  I don't know what usually happens to these things after they are no longer wanted but I think we can all agree that this museum is the right place for this beauty.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Let's Go to the Zoo and Make a Mold

If you are a certain age and had a penchant for touristy destinations as a youngster, then you should probably be well aware of the Mold-A-Rama machines.  But for some bizarre reason, I had never heard of them until recently.

Family vacays to the Alamo and whatever crappy Florida beach we ended up at in '84 should have sculpted me into a hardcore Mold-A-Rama-Maniac but they were totally off my radar until their recent return to fashion alongside my precious penny smashers at various roadside destinations.

All that preamble leads me to today's topic:  "Hey, the Oklahoma City Zoo has a Mold-A-Rama machine!!"

Actually, they have several.  And actually, they seem to be called Mold-A-Matics now.  Above is a look at the beauty I had stumbled upon.  If you're like me (or like I used to be) and you're not particularly familiar with the Magic Souvenir Maker, here's a rundown by the Chicago Tribune.

The tl;dr version is that it's a vending machine of sorts that squishes a plastic souvenir for you as you watch.  The one I found makes a blue hippo. 

I knew they were making a comeback but didn't expect to see one anytime soon, so when I spotted this magnificent beast I immediately thought, "Hey, I can crap out a blog entry about this, can't I?" and couldn't cram in my credit card fast enough.

Three dollars later I had my very own hippo.  And while I'm not exactly sure where it is now, I'll always have the memories of carrying it around in my park during the rest of my trip to the zoo.

And if I see another Mold-A-Whatever at another Oklahoma attraction, odds are I won't think of it as losing three dollars, I'll see it as gaining a new member of my plastic menagerie.