Wonderful Behind The Scenes TV Stories From Prolific Director Ralph Senensky

I’d forgotten that Don Rickles once played a villain on The Wild Wild West, and rewatched that episode today. And then in looking up some stuff about it online, hoping to find perhaps links to outtakes and blooper reels where he became Don Rickles and commented on the mystical evil magician dialogue he’d been given or on Robert Conrad and Ross Martin, I came across this behind-the-scenes story on the filming of the episode written by its director, Ralph Senensky.

Senensky directed TONS of television from the 1960s thru the 1980s, logging episodes of so many of yours & my favorite shows that’s there’s too many to mention here – and it turns out he’s been blogging for years on his memories of them, and has a fantastic website containing all that material, organized by show and episode.

This site is a GOLD MINE! Senensky writes beautifully about what working in television was like back in the days of my favorite old reruns. He brings to life assorted names you’d see on numerous credits of numerous shows – Gene Coon or Quinn Martin and so forth – as well as including interesting stories dealing with both the technical limits & possibilities of the industry all those years ago.  His entries on specific episodes (and check out that sidebar menu for the sheer volume of ’em) include scans of script pages with rewrites & director cues…. amazing stuff, especially for photographic memory geeks like me who can replay the episode in my mind while I’m reading.

And not just the Star Treks he did, either. I can do a lot of the others because ALL I DO IS WATCH TV.

For anyone interested in TV history, or just the old shows & stars & writers you follow in your little nerd-heart-of-hearts, this stuff is indispensable. I can’t believe I didn’t know about it until now.

To quote Spock: “Fascinating.”

Oh, and Rickles? He didn’t disappoint…. Senensky tells us that inbetween takes, he went the full Vegas act on everyone, even making Billy Barty jokes about Conrad’s height. Rickles remains my fuckin’ hero.

And it looks like Ralph Senensky celebrated his 95th birthday a week ago. Happy Birthday, Director!



A New Treasure Trove

I just discovered this site, The Pop History Dig – loaded with interesting articles on all things American pop culture history.

I’ve been exploring it for a while this evening, and it’s loaded with stuff on silent film, sports, advertising… all sorts of cool stuff, well researched, documented & presented. Big thumbs up!

A Treasure Trove Of Victorian Funnies

bringingupfatherCourtesy of an old student of mine who might hold the record for understanding EVERY single obscure reference I’d throw into whatever I said in class comes the wonderful Barnacle Press website made up of assorted newspaper strips from long long ago.

An early favorite is the one he sent to me – The Outbursts of Everett True, where panel one depicts someone pissing Everett off and panel two depicts Everett beating them up. My hero!

So if you’re maxed out on Sally Forth or Cathy, why not surf on over to Barnacle Press and enjoy Everett True beating the crap out of various people that annoyed him a hundred years ago? He’s like my grandfather with a bigger vocabulary, now that I think about it.

I Personally Disprove Myth #12

beerHere’s a relatively new blog I’ll be visiting frequently, especially if they continue to post reviews of beers I’m curious about trying. In the meantime, this post debunking numerous beer myths is pretty interesting.

By the way, I can recommend a Croatian beer I recently tried at BevMo, Karlovacko, that had a good flavor due to some strong malts. It also had decent hoppiness and a nice finish (like Bugs Bunny on viagra, I suppose).

You can’t read the Karlovacko site? Trust me, nothing is lost in translation.

I’d Buy That For A Dollar

Just when I thought they had packed up and gone away forever when the space became the always-dreaded seasonal Halloween store back in October, the every-book-for-a-dollar store has RETURNED to beautiful downtown Burbank! What a pleasant surprise for me as I walked to the post office & bank the other day to run some leisurely errands.

It looked like they were about 80% of the way through restocking the shelves from the boxes of books they had packed up in storage, and after about an hour of systematic browsing through the place, I came up with a few good finds: The first was another one of those “Introducing….” whatever series, this one on Stephen Hawking, which does a pretty decent job of simplifying his ideas on the origins of the universe and the nature of black holes. I put it next to their volumes on Quantum Theory & Chaos so I could have a mini-row of the incomprehensible together (perhaps I’ll put the Bruce Vilanch autobiography I got as a gag gift next to it as well, to continue the theme).

I also found & already devoured the enjoyable The United States of Arugula by David Kamp, a cultural history of how foodie culture in America has pretty much developed in the last 50 odd years or so, beginning with James Beard, continuing with Julia Child, and blossoming into our current Food Network/celebrity chef/gourmet market/every ethnic food you can imagine sold all over culture. I’ve read numerous books on culinary history, mostly ones that cover the development of various styles of cuisine or cooking in general over the ages, going back to Rome and Medieval times – this is the first one I’ve found on the modern American food & cooking culture that does a thorough (and entertaining) job on the subject. Shortly after I graduated Brown, I returned for a reunion and met Kamp. He had inherited the editing post of the only real humor publication on campus at the time from the people who had inherited it from me. I remember reading the guy’s stuff, not only for the humor publication, but also longer articles he’d written for a couple of the college magazines, and thought that he was probably the best pure writer to hold the job. Kamp’s sharp wit & impressive command of the language was obvious from the first few sentences. It’s not surprising to see he’s had a nice career at Spy and GQ and Vanity Fair. His blog is pretty good too. I doubt he remembers me, unless someone reminds him of that angry little guy who once wrote the bulletin before him who made endless jokes about wanting to nail Phoebe Cates (and I think I’d still tap that, if you’re curious).

The last two finds were a short investment guide centering on when to sell a soon-to-be falling stock by William O’Neill, the chief guru behind the Investors’ Daily. It’s heavy on chart analysis which I’ve always felt was a great example of 20-20 hindsight in action, but his general ideas on stock screening and the database his paper provides are extremely valuable. I have a vibe that this might be a good time to actually buy stocks, looking at Obama’s economic team picks and seeing that they are surprisingly not a bunch of lefto whackjobs, but then again, I’m the guy who picked Vanderbilt two weeks in a row. Don’t listen to anything I say.

On the other, more artistic end of the Wagstaff interest scale, I found a first edition hardback of the 1982 version of Danny Peary’s very first Cult Movies, a book I remember endlessly reading & rereading in college as I tried to see as many of those movies as I could, back in those pre-Netflix & Eddie Brandt days of waiting for the local repertory theater to get them or scanning the TV listings to see what was going to turn up at 2AM on Channel 5. I’ve seen most of the movies in the book, nearly all the ones I think I actually want to see, but then again, now I’m OLD.

Welcome back, dollar bookstore! Glad to see you looking healthy again.

Those Lowlife Lying Scumbags!

Unless you’ve been paying close attention, you haven’t been eating actual milk chocolate every time you’ve downed a Hershey Bar or some Kisses – just some vegetable oil concoction brought to you via the chemists at Hershey. They don’t use cocoa butter anymore for the texture because that way they can squeeze more money out of us all WHEN CHOCOLATE IS A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT.

Okay, it isn’t. But I’d like it to be. And that’s practically the same thing.

Do I have to start reading the labels on every friggin candy bar I buy from now on like I’m some sort of LAWYER??? Bah.

At least the dark chocolate m&ms that I’m addicted to are made with real chocolate. And there’s always the pricey designer dark chocolate that they sell at Trader Joe’s. Sometimes the higher-end stuff even turns up at the 99 Cent Store. And don’t get me started on Sky Bars, which evidently can only be found at Galco’s Sodapopstop out here in Los Angeles…. unless I buy ’em in bulk and have them shipped… Tempting tempting…..

Want more candy? Check out Candyblog! Yum!

Just don’t forget to brush & floss….

Joe Jackson

This week I read the excellent A Cure For Gravity, Joe Jackson’s memoir/autobiography of his life and career that leads up to the release of his first album Look Sharp in 1979. What makes the book especially notable (besides its good writing) is how the book is really about the meaning of music in Jackson’s life, and how he listens to it, composes it, and generally reacts to it. It’s as much a book about the place of music within the mind as much as it’s about Jackson’s education, upbringing and experiences playing in various bands before finding and developing his own ever-expanding eclectic styles of music composition and performance. Jackson’s tastes range from classical through jazz to ’70s-era British New Wave. Now while (like many others) my favorite material of Jackson’s comes from his first 2 albums, I also liked his later jazz/crooner influenced Night & Day, and his more recent regrouping of his original band, Volume 4.

To someone only glancing at Jackson’s career, it’s easy to say that he only followed the same path that his contemporary Elvis Costello did – starting out with energetic, often angry pop/rock, experimenting with jazzier styles and crooning, and then returning to his roots – but Jackson is actually more complex than that, and I think the parallels between him and Costello are merely the result of them coming out of the same foundry of British music at the same time. Unlike Costello, however, Jackson has classical training via the Royal Academy, and as much as I’d expect a book by Costello to be as insightful as to the meaning of music, reading Jackson’s book shows you how much of a musicologist and professor he really is, especially in the passages where he describes listening to various pieces by Beethoven, Stravinsky or Mahler and how he interprets them.

Jackson is an excellent writer, and has very definite opinions on various topics associated with music. He was never crazy about making videos for his songs, and elaborated on those thoughts very well in this piece back from the mid 1980s.

Much of my record collection is filled with Jackson and his British contemporaries of the 1970s – Graham Parker, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, XTC and so on… all of whom seem to followed similar trajectories in the ways in which the amount of what I can only describe as urgency & aggression in the sound of their music mellowed over the years. Funny, I like a lot of the brand new material from Jackson, Parker & Costello, but Nick Lowe (always a favorite of mine) has lost me with his recent country/mellow/loungue type sound. Ah well.

I saw Jackson live at the small Rhode Island College auditorium way back in 1979 (I was barely out of my crib, really… ) when he was touring for Look Sharp and dropping in a few new tunes that would turn up on I’m The Man. It was a great show to be sure, and here’s a taste of it, a video someone made on that very tour at some other venue, with Jackson & the band performing an early version of “I’m The Man”

Notice how the song’s tempo is slower than on the album or on later live performances. The band was still learning it, I guess!

Good stuff.

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑