Friday, June 4, 2021

Top 5 at the Twister Museum


There are several contenders for "Great Oklahoma Films" but nothing holds a more special place in my wind swept, debris-strewn heart more than the 1996 F-5 of a film, Twister!  It was filmed primarily in Oklahoma with a few scenes showcasing the town of Wakita.  And that's where the Twister Movie Museum has been ever since.  

Since this year is the 25th anniversary of the film, I thought it was time to go back for a visit for the first time in several years.  And since I was there, why not pick another Top 5 List?

5.  Twister Pinball Machine

This eye-catching piece is near the entrance and sets the tone for visitors.  I would have it much higher on the list but it's not functional.  Which is a shame, because you just know it had plenty of movie sound effects like wind, shouting and maybe that evil weatherman getting his face smashed in and whatnot.  For now, we'll just have to imagine.

4.  Twister the Ride Smashed Penny

Anybody that knows me knows that I love to smash a penny or two.  While the museum doesn't have its own penny smashing machine, it does have this smashed beauty from Universal Studios' Twister ride.  They shut the ride down in 2015 but it's nice to have a tiny little memento from it on display.

3.  Twister Trading Cards

The main reason I included these is because I'm constantly looking for them on eBay and can never find them.  They're a throwback to the days when just about everything got their own collectible trading card set regardless of their level of success or popularity.  I'd still like to pick some up if I ever see them in the wild, if only to finally get ahold of that Philip Seymour Hoffman rookie card.

2.  Twister Storyboards 

The makers of the film donated several items to the museum from the production including several storyboards.  It's a nice way to see what they envisioned for a few scenes and shows some of the talent involved in movie making before they ever start rolling cameras.  

1.  Dorothy

Yep, there she is.  The most famous Oklahoma movie prop is front and center when you walk in.  There were a few Dorothys used by our ragtag weathermen heroes and several Dorothy props made for the film.  The nice museum lady said this was the "Damaged Dorothy" and was used for scenes when the old girl took a beating.  

Nothing beats a small town, roadside museum and there's nothing better than a small town with a cool gimmick.  The Twister Movie Museum combines the best of both.  And as an added bonus, here's another visitor I spotted who showed up for the 25th Anniversary:

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The League of Extraordinary Oklahomans

 Years ago, in a magical time known as the 80s, there was a popular toy line of tiny pink monsters, wrestlers, robots and weirdos known as M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.  They were small, collectible and, best of all, fun!  I used to have a big bucketful of them and made them take part in legendary battles in the sandbox.

Since everything old is new again, the M.U.S.C.L.E. figures of the past seem to have been the inspiration for O.K.I.E.S. figures of today.  

 Made by Flying Rabbit Studios, these little guys are made in the image of some of the most famous real Oklahomans as well as a few larger than life Okie statues.  Let's take a look at the line up of the "Stay Gold" edition:

Golden Driller - "Petroleum Protector"

You'll recognize this guy as the guardian of the Tulsa Expo Center.  He's become a symbol of the state and the impact the oil and gas industry has had on it as well as a popular roadside icon that attracts visitors from all over the world.

Bass Reeves - "The Real Lone Ranger"

Born a slave, Bass Reeves became one of the most legendary lawmen of the wild west by bringing thousands of criminals to justice.  His heroic efforts have been claimed to be the inspiration for the Lone Ranger.

Will Rogers - "OK's Favorite Son"

Actor, writer, and overall comedic performer Will Rogers is next.  Rogers may be the most famous celebrity to come out of the Sooner State.  Whenever you have some free time, drive across the state and count how many buildings, roads and institutions are named after him.

Wiley Post - "Pioneer of Aviation"

 "Adventurer" is probably the best description of Wiley Post.  He's best known for working in the wild blue yonder and is seen here wearing the pressure suit that he frequently wore on high altitude flights. 

Buck Atom - "Space Cowboy 66"

Tulsa's own roadside rocket man rounds out the list.  The former muffler man was installed along Route 66 a few years back and his distinctive design and accompanying gift shop has been a Mother Road "must-stop" ever since.

Not a bad lineup, huh?  I'm 100% on board with these little guys and am holding out hope for a Saturday morning cartoon series, additional actions figure waves (I've heard rumblings about a Belle Starr figure) including play sets and vehicles and, of course, a breakfast cereal.  Anything less is unacceptable.  Make it happen, Universe! 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Ask Jeeves

Previously: "An Idiot Abroad" Comes to Oklahoma

In 2008 British actor and comedian Stephen Fry decided to hop in his London cab and drive across America, seeing all 50 states in the process.  That was the premise of the BBC mini-series "Stephen Fry in America."  When he reached the middle of the country (around the middle of the series) he took some time to explore Oklahoma City.

His first stop was at the Oklahoma City Salvation Army where he discussed the every-growing need for the charitable organization.  Speaking with some of the staff, he learned how common it was becoming for their assistance to be sought by families in the area.

A tour of the Salvation Army facilities was given by "Heidi" who had another gig that led to Stephen's next stop.  I'm not exactly sure which restaurant this is but the outside boldly proclaims "Shishkabob Restaurant."

Honestly I'm not positive if that's the name of the place or just part of the advertising.  I Googled and couldn't find a place called "Shishkabob" and I guess I'm too culinary boring to have eaten there.   But "Heidi the Salvation Army Lady" has been there and made a special appearance performing a belly dancing routine.

She breaks down some of the misconceptions of the art with Stephen and does plenty of demonstrations of the dance involving swords, gyrations and whatnot.   She also explains the distinctions between belly dancing and exotic dancing and where exactly patrons should place their tips on her person. know...pretty educational.

Next up: it's rodeo time!  It's not specifically mentioned which rodeo this is or if Stephen is still in Oklahoma City but he continues to maintain the "stranger in a strange land" fascination with what us locals might consider to be mundane.  

The focus of interest on this rodeo wasn't bronc busting or bull riding but on mutton busting.  A few rides were shown with determined tykes bound to stay on their steeds.  I can imagine the British TV audience scratching their heads in bewilderment.  

And that was all the time that could be spent in the Sooner State.  Stephen headed down south to Texas next to explore the Houston socialite scene.  With only six hour-long episodes, there wasn't a lot of time to stay in one place but I think some Okie pride came across to folks across the pond.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

I Think the Wrong Guy is on This Mural in Ada

Okay, this one takes a little bit of explaining.  If you visit the "Arts District" of Ada, Oklahoma you'll notice a couple of murals in town that celebrate the artists who came from the area.  Actors, musicians, writers and other creative types are grouped together on a few buildings.  Here's the one I'm interested in today:

Take a look at the guy second from left.  He's credited as "Tom Allard."  Recognize him?  Tom Allard is a very tall actor from either Ada or Big Cabin, depending on who you ask.  There's not a lot of information on him online.  Here's one of the few pics I was able to find of him:

Big guy, right?  That's him with Kathleen Turner in the 1991 film "V.I. Warshawski."  She's not exactly short herself so you can tell he's a tall drink of water.  His height has led to being cast as tough guys, enforcers and just generally intimidating characters.

But it's also led to being cast as monsters, aliens and whatnot.  He had a recurring role on a a "Land of the Lost" reboot in the 90s as a great big Dino-Man.  He also played a tall alien in the 1991 film "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey."

Put aside the lingering butt shot for now (if you can).  Does anyone in that clip look familiar?  Keep in mind, our Oklahoma guy Allard is inside the alien suit.  Let's take a closer look at the mural:

Looks like the Grim Reaper character from the movie, right?  But he was played by New York native William Sadler.  So what's going on here?  Here's my theory:

The artist needed visual references for all the people he was painting.  Remember how I said there wasn't a lot of info about Allard online?  I found maybe two pics of him and neither we of any quality.  So I'm thinking the artist looked up Allard's credits, saw that he was in the Bill & Ted movie and then mistook Sadler's "Death" character as Allard.  (Death is very tall in the film.  The actor is probably wearing lifts so that he can loom over Bill & Ted.)

So we've got the wrong guy on the mural, right?  What do we do about it?  Anything?  Probably can't repaint the whole thing and just painting over the one guy might look weird.  I say we leave it and we have ourselves a brand new roadside attraction!  Your thoughts?

Friday, March 13, 2020

Miller Time

These days it's easy to forget about the classic 90s Saturday morning comedy "Saved by the Bell."  But in its day it surpassed "hit show" status and became a full on franchise. The original cast graduated to prime time (briefly) and the powers that be decided to keep the Saturday morning train rolling so we got...

Yep, out with the old and in with the new class.  What does any of this have to do with Oklahoma?  Well, the opening episode of season five guest starred one of the Sooner State's most decorated athletes.  Our story begins with the gang looking for jobs at the mall.

They all do well by getting various wacky jobs at various wacky mall stores except for Katie who gets fired from the "Suncoast" type store (remember those?) for lying on her resume.  She wants to get a job at the gym but the head gym guy isn't convinced she's right for the job.  Needing to prove herself and lacking the confidence, she runs into some inspiration:

Yep, Olympic gold medal winning champion Shannon Miller (from Edmond, OK) has stopped by the mall for a book signing.  She gives Katie the old "get your poop together" pep talk and Katie gets inspired.  After a brief run in with Mall Security Guard Screech (who's still on the show for some reason and way more annoying that I remember) Miller eventually makes it to her signing at the non-Suncoast.

Well that pep talk worked and Katie decides to market herself for the gym position by staging an impromptu workout class/membership drive in the middle of the mall.  Mall Security Guard Screech, who has had a problem with literally every single thing that every single character has done in this episode so far, doesn't seem to mind.

And it works!  Presumably she gets the job but more importantly she gets the high five and approval of an Olympian.  This seems to resolve everything, the credits role and we all learned a valuable lesson, probably. 

It might not be high art but definitely a gold medal winning outing for an Oklahoma legend.  Also, Mr. Belding was there.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

An Idiot Comes to Oklahoma

So "An Idiot Abroad" is a British travel/comedy show produced by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.  The premise seems to be that they send their buddy Karl Pilkington on wacky adventures across the globe.  I've seen exactly one episode of it so I might not have the best grasp of it.  The second season has a "Bucket List" theme and, as you've probably guessed, it includes a stop in Oklahoma.

This episode's item on Pilkington's Bucket List was to drive Route 66.  He started on the Santa Monica end and most of the episode focuses on the western portion of the Mother Road.  The Brits seemed quite taken with the Western motifs of the culture so there was a lot of shots of cacti as our protagonist did American things like panning for gold, shooting guns and hanging out at a hippie commune.

But there was also a stop in the Sooner State to see the Catoosa Blue Whale.  Since most of the episode took place in California (and possibly Arizona) they never mentioned Oklahoma by name.  If they had, the audience might have noticed they were seeing roadside sights out of order.

He's a deadpan kind of guy but I think he liked the a way.  He was interested that it was built as an anniversary present by Hughes Davis to his wife but also concerned that future anniversary presents would most likely pale in comparison. 

Other than a few more shots from the road (including the shot above in Chelsea), that's pretty much it for Oklahoma.  Pilkington moves on to hang out with with some Amish folks and do some stunt flying in an American flag emblazoned plane. 

There were only a few minutes of screen time for Oklahoma but I think we made a good impression on our friends across the pond.  Maybe the whale can expect a few more Brits to stop by and say hi. 

As a bonus, here's a look at the Blue Whale's cameo on this season of the ABC comedy "The Goldbergs":

Friday, February 14, 2020

Top 5 Smokey Bear


Beaver's Bend State Park in the southeastern part of the state is in the middle of a heavily forested area that has been a big part of the lumber industry for years.  That industry, and its history, is celebrated at the park's museum.  Several displays include large murals painted by artist Harry Rossoll.  If you don't recognize the name, you'll definitely recognize his most famous creation:

Since good ol' Smokey Bear fits right in with the Forest Heritage themes of the museum, they have a display of Smokey memorabilia.  I'm a sucker for advertising mascots (like the Michelin Man I spotted in Ardmore) so, as I sometimes do, I decided to rank them in a Top Five List.  Let's get started with...

5.  The True Story of Smokey Bear Comic

I've covered this comic before on another blog but I think it's worth mentioning here.  Several product mascots have appeared in comic format before (although not nearly enough) but this one chronicles real life events that led to the Smokey Phenomena.  It's a great piece of an American legacy.

4.  Smokey & His Friends One Act Play Kit

I've never been a huge theater guy but I'd love to see a production of this.  I'm guessing it would be kids in cardboard cutout masks portraying various woodland creatures with an overall message of "Don't light stuff on fire" and that's really all it would need to be.

3.  Little Golden Book

Slight breach of etiquette here with the inclusion of "the" in Smokey's name but the Little Golden Book franchise is legendary and being included is quite the feather in his famous hat.  I've never seen the Pillsbury Doughboy or the Green Giant in one of these things (even though I'd love to) so Smokey is breathing rarefied air.

2.  Sheet Music

Smokey is not the only ad icon to have his own theme song but he may be the only one with a song that has four verses.  Gather round the piano with the rest of the choir and belt out the Ballad of Smokey...what could be better?

1.  Special Edition Doll

Look at this thing!  I wish there was something in the shot for perspective to show how big it is.  It's pretty good size, maybe slightly smaller than a Chucky doll (for lack of a better comparison).  I don't have any real info on it other than it's a "Special Edition," but it's clearly the star of the display.

Smokey's had a long and distinguished career and his influence has spread to a variety of mediums.  These few examples are hopefully just the beginning of of an even longer influence for years to come.