January 25, 2002 · 10:00 PM PST ·
THREE QUICK COMMENTS before I return to something that pays money and is due...
1. Thanks for all the nice comments about my announcement that I'm terminating my Comics Buyer's Guide column. I'll explain a bit (not a lot) about my reasons in a day or two.
There isn't that much to explain...
2. Nice obit on Ron Taylor in The Los Angeles Times the other day. Here's a link. And here's a link to one that ran a few days ago about John
3. Hey, wasn't an "apparent suicide" just what the whole Enron scandal needed? Between the shredding and the death, a large
portion of America will never believe that someone hasn't destroyed evidence or a witness that would prove Bush and Cheney planned the whole thing
and maybe the 9/11 disasters as a diversion. Now, if only some photogenic woman will turn up who figures into it all, we'll never hear the end
of this one.
January 24, 2002 · 11:00 PM PST ·
A FINE ARTIST and a fine gentleman, Kurt Schaffenberger, died earlier this evening at the Shorrock Garden Nursing Home in Brick,
New Jersey. Kurt was 81 and had been ill for some time with an array of ailments including diabetes and heart trouble, so his passing was not
unexpected. Still, it comes as a blow to lose the man who will forever be "the" Lois Lane artist to those of us who grew up on his
comics. Kurt was born in Germany but grew up in Hartford, Connecticut where — here's a coincidence — he dated my mother's best
friend in high school. Even drew in my mother's yearbook! Shortly after getting out of school and to the surprise of no one who knew him,
Kurt got into comics, soon becoming one of the most important artists at Fawcett, ranking third among the Captain Marvel artists after C.C. Beck and
Pete Costanza. Many fans felt that Schaffenberger was the best of a good lot.
In the fifties, after the Good Captain folded his tent, writer Otto Binder got Kurt a try-out at DC and he became the main artist on
Lois Lane while also working occasionally on Superman. (He also worked for other publishers, including A.C.G., where he signed
most of his work "Lou Wahl," since DC frowned on the notion of their freelancers freelancing.)
In the late sixties, Kurt was moved over, against his will, to draw Supergirl. Then he got into trouble with DC management when
he became the only artist to join what has been termed "The Writers' Rebellion" — a move by several DC writers to band together and demand
things like reprint fees and a health plan. When the writers were tossed out, so was Kurt, who did a few romance comics for Marvel, then got
out of comics and into commercial illustration for a time. Finally though, DC lured him back and he again drew Superman, as well as
Super-Friends, Wonder Woman, Superboy and many other books. Some editors thought his style was "old-fashioned" and, for a time, they had
him inking other artists, especially the other great Superman artist of his generation, Curt Swan. To others, he was a classic comic artist and
they treasured the consistency of his work. (Offhand, I can't think of another comic artist whose work changed less over the years. 1960
Schaffenberger art was virtually identical to 1990 Schaffenberger art.)
Kurt himself was a charming gentleman who reminded you of a classic character actor of the forties. He was handsome, gallant and
impossible to dislike. My most vivid memory of him is from a convention in the mid-seventies when he started doing freebee sketches for
fans. Instantly, he was mobbed and, fearing someone would be trampled, he announced that he would stay until everyone around him got a
drawing...and he did. He stayed there for at least three hours, whipping out the neatest-looking Lois doodles you ever saw, complete with her
classic pillbox hat and the famous Schaffenberger smile. If you knew Kurt, you knew where that smile came from.
(My thanks to a fine artist of a younger generation, Howard Bender, for spreading the sad word about one of our faves...)
January 24, 2002 · 6:00 PM PST ·
I JUST SENT in my 382nd column for the Comics Buyer's
Guide. It is also my last. Ought to appear in a couple of weeks.
January 24, 2002 · 2:15 AM PST ·
HAD ANOTHER lovely evening at The Magic Castle, which is still the only
good reason I've ever found to put on a tie. Featured this week in the Close-Up Gallery is maybe the best close-up magician I've ever seen...a
gent named Johnny Ace Palmer, who is kind of the Picasso of Misdirection. I love
it when you see a guy who (a) has obviously practiced for zillions of hours and does what he does to perfection and (b) genuinely
enjoys performing. You know how great it is when you take friends to a terrific restaurant you've found and they love it so much, you feel as
proud as if you'd cooked the meal? Carolyn and I took our friends Gordon and Donna to see Johnny and received some of that "contact
pride." We sat in the front row and watched the guy make things appear out of the oxygen, right before our orbs. Even when you know where
they come from, he's pretty amazing.
OKAY, SO it looks like we don't get another O.J. Murder Trial...yet. I still can't get past the hunch that, one of these
days, that man is going to do something that all the Johnnie Cochrans in the world can't save him from. Daniel Petrocelli, the lawyer who won
the huge judgment against Simpson on behalf of the Goldman family, has said that he thinks O.J. will someday confess. Out of some mixture of
pride, guilt and pure insanity, he has been "confessing incrementally," letting little things slip, says Petrocelli. Maybe that's it...but the
story feels like it needs a more ironic Third Act. (Petrocelli, by the way, is the lawyer currently representing Disney in the Winnie the Pooh
case. Looks like this time, it's Petrocelli who's on the indefensible side.)
ENRON QUESTION: Didn't I read somewhere that, back in Texas, George W. Bush was involved in several business deals where the
company went under, investors and employees lost a bundle, but the guys at the top (i.e., Bush) made out like bandits? If this is so,
how long before Democrats and/or reporters start dredging up such stories, suggesting that, even in our President didn't do anything wrong
vis-a-vis Enron, the company was only following his business model?
January 23, 2002 · 12:00 PM PST ·
QUICK THOUGHT: Everyone says they want us to get back to normal in this country. Well, what could be more normal than ANOTHER O.J. MURDER TRIAL?
January 23, 2002 · 3:30 AM PST ·
MORE TV HISTORY on Game Show Network, where their Black-and-White Overnight series has been running old programs that, in
most cases, have not been seen since their original airings. This AM, they ran the 6/11/58 episode of I've Got A Secret that got its
producer, Allan Sherman, fired. This was before Sherman had much experience as a performer. He and a friend named Howard Merrill created
the panel show and took it to the Goodson-Todman people who recognized it as a cheap knock-off of their hit, What's My Line?
Fortunately, the game show moguls saw the wisdom of imitating themselves, bought the show and sold it to CBS. Sherman became Associate Producer
and later, Producer...and then he began to produce other shows, as well.
(That's him in the center of the photo above, chatting with I've Got a Secret
panel members and host Garry Moore.)
A few nights ago, GSN ran an I've Got A Secret wherein celebrity guest Phil Silvers plugged his upcoming special and mentioned
that it had been produced by Sherman. In fact, Sherman became so busy with other projects that — the story goes — he began
neglecting Secret, and the Goodson-Todman hierarchy got fed up with him.
The last straw was the episode GSN aired this morn, with Tony Curtis as the guest and Henry Morgan filling in as host for the
vacationing Moore. Sherman had come up with a spot that involved Curtis demonstrating games he'd supposedly played as a kid in the
streets of New York. Goodson and others at the office told Sherman it was a lousy idea and that it would make for a lousy show. Sherman
insisted it would be great and insisted on going ahead with it. He was wrong. The network, the sponsors and the folks at Goodson-Todman
all hated the episode and, only hours after it was broadcast, Sherman was fired. (Over on the game show news group, maven Eric Paddon just
noted one other item of trivia: "After ten minutes of seemingly pointless demonstration, Tony finally reveals he has a secret that the panel only
gets one question to guess. The secret is that he's about to become a father again. That child grew up to be his beautiful and talented
daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis.")
In the following years, Allan Sherman went through a series of producing jobs, primarily on game shows, getting fired from most of
them. His most humiliating experience came when he was hired and quickly axed as the producer of a syndicated talk show that Steve Allen
launched in 1961. Fortunately, a few months later, he recorded an album of song parodies called My Son, the Folk Singer. It
quickly became the fastest-selling record in history and he was a performer for the rest of his life. (He passed away in 1973)
January 22, 2002 · 5:30 PM PST ·
SPEAKING OF STATUARY from Dark Horse Comics — as I was, a few days ago — they've been issuing this wonderful set
called Classic Comic Characters. They're wonderful little figurines of your favorites from the funny pages, including (so far) Nancy,
Sluggo, Krazy Kat, Ignatz, Popeye, Prince Valiant, The Phantom, Olive Oyl, Felix the Cat, Fearless Fosdick, Terry (of "...The Pirates" fame),
The Dragon Lady, Flash Gordon, Little Orphan Annie, Beetle Bailey, Sarge, Li'l Abner, Daisy Mae, Mandrake, Blondie, Dagwood, Smokey Stover, Bluto,
Wimpy, Alley Oop and (coming soon) The Yellow Kid, Little Nemo and many more.
They've also issued a figure of Albert the Alligator (from Walt Kelly's brilliant newspaper strip, Pogo) and in June, the above
Pogo replica will join the ever-widening throng. Well, actually, Pogo will look even better than he does above. These are pics of
prototypes. The design of the Albert statue — which you can purchase right now from places like Bud Plant Comic Art — was improved a bit after the catalogue photo was taken and Pogo is still being even further
The statues are being sculpted by folks at Yoe! Studios, supervised by demon
cartoonist Craig Yoe, with these two under the intense scrutiny of my best friend in the whole world, Carolyn Kelly. She is uniquely qualified
to supervise Pogo stuff because not only is she a fine artist but she also sometimes sat on her father's lap as he drew the strip. The possum
is in good hands.
AND, YES, we're still sticking by our Enron prediction...though we're even a bit less confident about it. A lot of this
may come down to whether other, similar corporations (like Dick Cheney's Halliburton Industries) go the same way. But mostly, it may come down
to whether the public decides that all those campaign contributions represented a genuine quid pro quo betwixt Mssrs. Bush and Lay — and
someone has got to be working double-time coming up with dirty jokes that play off those names.
For those of you still trying to decide for yourself, here's a link to an article in The Washington Times that insists that Enron got
nothing for their money. And here's a link to a
piece by Robert Scheer that argues just the opposite. My current feeling is that if you wholly believe either, you're a ninny.
January 21, 2002 · 5:30 PM PST ·
HEY, WANNA HEAR hear Ron Taylor sing? I'd recommend the cast albums from the two shows I mentioned in the obit below but
if you don't have them handy, you can hear a song he performed for Channel Umptee-3, a cartoon show I worked on that managed to last a whole
season on WB without anyone ever seeing it. If you click on the link below — and you have RealPlayer installed on your computer —
you should be able to hear a song with lyrics by me, music by Brad Ellis and an arrangement by Walter Murphy. But most of all, you'll hear Ron
Taylor in all his glory...
Fear of the Unknown
(P.S. If you don't have RealPlayer installed on your computer, you can download a free copy here. However, two warnings: One is that the RealPlayer people are enormously eager
to sell you the "pay" versions of their products so you have to search their web pages carefully to find the spot where you download the free
versions. Also, some of their products transmit data to them about what kind of music and radio broadcasts you listen to, on-line. So if
that kind of thing bothers you, you might want to steer clear of their entire brand.)
January 21, 2002 · 4:00 PM PST ·
ANOTHER DAY, another damn obit. In the picture at
above left, the big black guy is Ron Taylor, who unfortunately is now the late
Ron Taylor. The photo is from the recent Broadway show, Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, which had Ron as a co-creator and one of the
stars. He earned Tony nominations in two categories and won much acclaim — a nice thing, for Ron had done excellent work for years in
jobs that left him largely unseen. Most notable was his voicing of the plant, Audrey II, in the original off-Broadway production of Little
Shop of Horrors, singing "Feed Me" with glorious abandon and treachery. That's Ron you hear on the cast album, and he functioned in that
off-stage capacity for something like a thousand performances around the country, bringing more to the role than anyone thought possible.
He was also much in-demand as a studio singer and you heard him countless times in commercials and doing back-up duties in your
favorite songs. (One of many where he stands out: Ron provided the deep bass voice on Billy Joel's a cappella hit, "For the Longest
Time.") Ron also did cartoon voices, which is how I came to work with him. He was a lovely man with a glorious voice.
January 21, 2002 · 3:00 AM PST ·
WE HAVE QUITE an interesting Time Machine operating on The Game Show Network's "Black-and-White Overnight" series. Tonight
(this morning), they ran an episode of What's My Line? that originally aired October 27, 1963. The Mystery Guest was Ethel Merman, who
was plugging It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World which was, she said, set to open in New York on November
17. GSN generally runs these consecutively but some shows are missing from their library and, once in a while, they jump from one period to
another for no visible reason. If they continue in sequence this week, they'll be running the shows just before and just after the
assassination of President Kennedy.
One assumes the "post" comments will be of interest, particularly those of panelist Dorothy Kilgallen, who later got involved in one of
the countless investigations of the murder. Two years later, following several trips to Texas to interview Jack Ruby, she was found dead in her
apartment. There were no indications of foul play but most J.F.K. conspiracy theorists want to believe that she was murdered because she was
about to blow the case wide open. Anyway, you might want to set the VCR or TiVo...
January 21, 2002 · 1:00 AM PST ·
TOPIC FOR DISCUSSION: An insurance company is covering the World Trade Center. The policy specifies a payout of up to 3.5
billion dollars for a terrorist attack. Since destruction is total, the maximum amount applies...but wait! On September 11, 2001, was
there one terrorist attack on the World Trade Center? Or were there two, for a total liability of 7 billion?
Three and a half billion dollars hinge on this answer. For more details, see this article.
January 20, 2002 · 12:30 AM PST ·
IT'S A GOOD SIX MONTHS from release but I thought I'd mention that Dark Horse Comics will be bringing out a "PVC set" of Groo
characters. These are little 4" tall toys made out of PVC polymer that come all painted and ready for display. Matter of fact, most
people leave them in the neat little box. Sergio has done elaborate model sheets for the sculptures and we're expecting them to look real
neat. A few other Groo items will be released before '02 — the year of Groo's 20th anniversary, can you believe it? — is over.
January 19, 2002 · 7:30 PM PST ·
I HAVE LOTS of talented friends. I can't do much more than write silly stuff and cook turkeys in my George Foreman
rotisserie oven. But I have friends who can sing, dance, juggle...even sound like other people. One who can do all those except maybe the
juggling is the incomparable Christine Pedi, who is oft-referred to as "Christine Pedi of Forbidden Broadway." She no longer performs in
that show but when she did, she won raves for her uncanny carbons and burlesques of celebs like Ethel Merman, Liza Minnelli and Elaine Stritch.
(I saw her do Liza at least a dozen times over the years and watched the impression get broader and broader. It's had to, since Liza is now
doing an increasingly-broad imitation of herself and Christine has to stay ahead of the real thing.)
You can read a nice article about her that ran in The New York Times by clicking here and another piece on TheatreMania by clicking here. And you can see Christine on your very own TV. She's
scheduled to do a number this coming Tuesday (January 22) on The Rosie O'Donnell Show.
Funny story how I met Christine: She was appearing in a production of Forbidden Broadway that was appearing at the Tiffany
Theater here in Hollywood — an excellent company that included Brad Oscar, who is now on Broadway, playing Franz Liebkind in The
Producers. (That is, when he isn't filling in for Nathan Lane as Bialystock.) I took a group of friends to the Tiffany to see the
show — a group that included Stan Freberg and June Foray.
After the performance, which we all loved, Stan wanted to meet the cast and, of course, they all wanted to meet one of America's great
satirists. So we all massed in the lobby and when Christine met Stan, somehow the subject of his career doing cartoon voices came up. She
said she wanted to get into the field and Stan pointed to me and said, "That's Mark Evanier. He does the Garfield cartoon show and he
can tell you all about the business."
So she came over to me, introduced herself, told me that she was fascinated by the business and asked me what June Foray was
like. I pointed to the lady standing next to me and said, "She's exactly like that woman." (I felt like Woody Allen: "I just happen to
have Marshall McLuhan right here...")
A friend who works for The Game Show Network assures me that they are going to rerun the two episodes of Press Your Luck in
which an unemployed air conditioning mechanic named Michael Larsen figured out a way to beat the "wheel" for over $110,000. And no, he doesn't
know when they're going to do this. Says he, several options are being considered. He's guessing the decision will be made any day
now. We can only hope.
SPEAKING OF TALENTED PEOPLE: I dropped by the Hollywood Collectors Show this afternoon. (It continues tomorrow.
Details are available here.) This is an event where celebrities
sit behind tables and sell autographed photos and memorabilia to their fans. Present today were Gary Owens, Ruth Buzzi, Alan Sues, Rip Taylor,
Hugh O'Brian, Dale Robertson, Jerry Vale, Lou Ferrigno, Robert Morse and many other folks. (Jonathan Winters had been there but had departed
before I arrived.) Biggest line, possibly because this was the first time she's done something like this, was for Carrie Fisher.
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME