Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Expired clowns, Verne Langdon, and Me: Part One

These faces are the images people associate with clowns today. But it wasn't always so.

Clowns and the macabre have been on my mind for quite some time this year -- and not just because there are political campaigns going on right now! Obituaries of some famous clowns have appeared this year, the most famous of which was Larry Harmon, the man who popularized the character "Bozo." (A clown I watched a lot as a kid.) Harmon had gained notoriety in 2004 when the International Clown Hall of Fame in Milwaukee took down a plaque honoring him as Bozo. He had never credited the creators of the character, writer Alan W. Livingston and clown/actor Pinto Colvig, the first Bozo.

Harmon died on July 3.

In March, the world's oldest professional circus clown, Joe Vani, (a/k/a "Joe Sherman") passed away; he was loved and respected by other circus clowns. (Just typing that sentence made me think of the words "clown love", a phrase that has me laughing.) His obit (written by Verne Langdon) can be read here. In part, it reads, "Joe liked to recall one of their most popular acts, 'the hot doggie' - a clown steals hot dogs from a clown vendor and gobbles them down, then gets sick and has his stomach pumped by clown doctors and out comes a little dog! The audience cheers, the clowns take their bow and exit, followed by the dog walking on its hind legs."

A funny, though somewhat macabre (or at least weird) bit, but a classic!

If you'd like to buy a Vani t-shirt (one kind seen here, another here) -- send a total of $24.97 to Art Bausman, 2713 California Ave, Kettering OH 45419. All funds will go to the Shrine Hospital for Crippled Children in Tampa, FL. (That was Joe's Vani's wish.) There are only a few left and they are strictly while supplies last, so hurry. (In stock: B&W-- 2 L, 5 XL , 2XXL. Color: 10 XL.)

Finally I've been thinking of the Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey clown Harry Deems Dann. I remember seeing, as a kid, books, magazines, and circus posters with his picture on them. And I saw him at a circus performance as a child growing up in the hinterlands of Arkansas. But the celebrity memorial website Find-A-Grave will not allow a bio for Dann to be listed among bios of "famous" people, even though they do for such, uh, household names as clowns Felix B. Adler and Chester Sherman. (Dann is on the right on the book cover seen here.)

This is arbitrary, and sillier than any clown antics under a big top. One of Find-a-Grave's administrators dismissed Dann as worthy of inclusion as "famous", though Dann is mentioned at Wikipedia in three places, and at one entry, is described being among the most "august of the augustes." Also, this dissing dismissal comes in in spite of the fact that Dann is an inductee of the International Clown Hall of Fame, influenced other circus clowns, and when he was alive, was referred to by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus as "America's Picture Clown," as his circus character had appeared so often in the press.

Guess the Find-A-Grave administrator is a clown, too! He is certainly behaving like a bozo.

You can read Dann's "non-famous person" obit at Find-A-Grave here. Leave a sentiment of respect, or put up a link to the entry at your own website or blog, and maybe Find-A-Grave will reconsider.

I was never afraid of clowns as a kid. I liked 'em for much the same reasons I liked monsters: they were out of the ordinary and odd looking, which of course delighted me.

I talked with former professional clown Verne Langdon about all this not long ago. Coming in Part Two.


My last post had some well-done Photoshopped photos of people menaced by dangerous animals. But I forgot to include the mother of all such manipulated pics: the dramatic picture of a Great White Shark leaping to attack a soldier dangling on the ladder of an Air Force helicopter. This phony photo was circulated widely by e-mail in 2001. In case you haven't seen it before, this is the infamous image:

Looks like something out of a Jaws sequel! It was described in e-mails as a picture National Geographic had chosen as their "Photo of the Year."

To read more about the origins of this fun Photoshopped fraud, click here to read National Geographic's account of how the pic was created. To see the two photos it was created from, click here to see the web page on this picture posted at

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Which is real?

Which photo below is Photoshopped?

The answer: the first and second ones.

Not long ago, a friend sent me some photos that he put under a subject line titled "When it's okay to say "Oh sh*t!!" They were from a web site called, which features altered-photo contests for its readers. Then, a real news item about a leaping shark being photographed behind some surfers caught my attention, and I thought I'd run some of these photos together.

You can read about how the shark photo came about here. Below are two more photos of the leaping shark.

Finally, an amazing nighttime animal attack photo that has not been Photoshopped. I was once lucky enough to snap a photo of a Giant Clay Turtle attacking a woman just before she was pulled to safety:

Someday YOU may be attacked by a cold-blooded animal. So go out with style! Arrange in advance to be buried in this cool giant squid coffin!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rip Van Boy Man by David Patrick Kelly

David Patrick Kelly, one of my favorite actors, (and interviewed here) recently released a CD at CD Baby. It's titled Rip Van Boy Man, and I've heard it and love it, and want to recommend it here. He shows that not only is a considerable actor, but a talented singer/songwriter as well -- all songs on the CD but one were written by Kelly.

The album contains both new songs and material recorded in clubs in the mid-1970s (in Kelly's words on the CD sleeve, "New from Now and Live from '75"), but none of the tracks have been released before. Although the songs aren't weird, macabre or comedic like much of what I focus here at TDSH, the album certainly shows imagination and a sense of humor, and there are some dark elements in the poetic lyrics of a song titled "Seven Days".

I posted a review of it at the CD Baby site, and here's part of what I wrote:

"This CD collects some of Kelly's songs from his club scene days in the Seventies with some new material. We hear his youthful voice, when he sometimes sounded like an American John Lennon (esp. on "Lautrec in Mudlight"), to the smokier sound he has today. But in all the selections, his expressive voice has conviction and brings color and emotion to the lyrics, which often remind me of Lennon and Leonard Cohen. The lyrics of the title song 'Rip Van Boy Man', 'Seven Days', and 'Cupid and the Champ at Max's' are poetically memorable."

The title song alludes to the surprise of finding oneself older, and to the value in embracing both one's past and the present. "Cupid and the Champ at Max's" is a Paul Simon-like song about an ex-fighter the narrator knew once, and the impressions of joy they both felt in "lost moments." And the song 'Apologia' is a sly but honest embrace of one's flaws and the impossibility of being kind at all times to everyone in one's life, the narrator both amused and bemused at this condition we all find ourselves in. It is written in a style reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, and would do Cohen proud if he recorded it himself.

By a slight margin I liked "Seven Days" best (hard to say which is the best song, because I like all the original songs very much). I asked about Kelly about the song's melancholy lyrics that emphasize dream imagery, and which contain the refrain "Where are you?". He responded, "'Seven Days' is about people that I met in the former Yugoslavia in 1986. 'Where are you?' comes from a Serbian slang term meaning 'What's going on?' or 'What's Up?' but roughly translated is 'Where Are You?'."

Kelly uses the now non-existent country as a metaphor for his now-past youth, seemingly as marked by idealism and turmoil as the state he visited more than twenty years ago. It's a memorable piece of "alternative folk rock", the description Kelly gives to his songs on the CD. (It an e-mail, Kelly also described the album as "not thrash and burn...more lyrical like proto Radiohead.")

If you didn't click on the links above, be sure to click on the one below, so you can hear excerpts of the tracks-- and then place an order.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, James Whale!

Born in 1899, red-headed filmmaker James Whale (looking rather like comic book character Jimmy Olson in the above still) is still talked about and highly regarded. Director of classic films like Journey's End (1930), Waterloo Bridge (1931), Show Boat (1936), and The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), his career was brief for someone of his stature in film history. All his best work was done in a ten year period (1930--1939).

But, of course, I love his famous genre titles:
Frankenstein (1931), The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933) and, especially, Bride of Frankenstein (1935). The comic touches in the last three are among the most memorable moments in a life spent watching movies.

Because his horror movies are his most influential, his other films, while respected, are largely forgotten. This is a shame, and he will surely be "rediscovered" for the rest of his work.

Now, too, he is celebrated or remembered almost as much for his outsider status as an openly gay man living in a more repressive era as he is for his films. He himself must have appreciated the irony of the title of his penultimate film: They Dare Not Love (1941).

Speaking of ironies, I remember a magazine that had a "bio" of the director which depicted Whale leaving Hollywood to open a harpooning-themed bar called The Blowhole. Of course, that's a cheap irony*, but a post at TDSH would be nothing without a cheap joke, even in a birthday remembrance for a famous director.

A director celebrated for his sense of humor in his work! Happy birthday, James Whale!

An interesting birthday entry on Whale can be found here.

Learn more about Whale and see some photos of the man at these links:

The James Whale Nexus

Senses of Cinema


* Still, I slapped my forehead in disbelief AND smiled at the gag, just like you did!

Sunday, July 20, 2008


If you had the wisdom to buy your San Diego Comic-Con tickets in advance-- 'cause now they are SOLD OUT of the 125,000 available-- you can see this weekend three VIPS of the Imagi-Nation: Forrest Ackerman, Verne Langdon, and James Warren! Whatta lineup! Ackerman and Langdon worked together on the record "An Evening with Boris Karloff and Friends," and Langdon's masks and makeup appeared in or on James Warren's magazines, such as Famous Monsters of Filmland, edited by Ackerman.

But wait, there's more! Famed author Ray Bradbury, lauded master of imaginative storytelling, will there as well! If you are going to this con, then you've got a golden ticket, my friend!

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Blind Date of Coffin Joe

This is Jose Mojica Marins as Coffin Joe, ready to blind someone (presumably not a date.) In the '60s and 70s Marins directed and starred in several Brazilian cult horror films as this character.

And below is Raymond Castile as Coffin Joe. I took this photo of my friend Raymond, a reporter in the St. Louis area, back in 2003. In 2007, scenes featuring him as a young Coffin Joe were shot for Marins' 2008 Brazilian release Embodiment of Evil (Encarnação do Demônio). *

Raymond has produced his first short film, a parody called The Blind Date of Coffin Joe. It's a gasser, kids! Really funny. (Click on the title above to see the film.)

Here's the plot description from the host site: "Fan-made tribute to Coffin Joe (Zé do Caixão) and the films of José Mojica Marins. Coffin Joe has spent years and killed many people in his quest to find the "superior woman" to bear his child. Now he has come to the United States, where he will try a new approach - his own reality TV dating show. But where Coffin Joe is concerned, the line between "reality" and nightmare is indistinguishable."

An amazing first effort-- ya can't tell it IS his first! Raymond Castile: Rondo Award winner, journalist, and now comedian! AND friend of a drunken severed head! What a unique (in)human being!

* Click here to read the amazing story of how Raymond accidentally came to Marins' attention, despite living on separate continents, and wound up cast in Marins' latest film!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The severed head of NANCY

Can you supply a caption to this comic strip panel? I'm not sure it needs one-- it's sweet enough just to see the (seemingly) severed head of Sluggo's gal pal in a funny hat.

If you find any unlikely "severed head" pictures from old comic strips or comic books, send 'em to me!

I need to see Archie as a living severed head...or maybe Snoopy...

Update: I foolishly forgot to credit the source of the panel above. I found it at the excellent blogsite, Pappy's Golden Age Blogzine, specifically at this entry. The site is a favorite of mine.

Carnival of Souls -- the music video

Not a music video based on Herk Harvey's 1962 film, but a video by Kelly Mann with a creepy Verne Langdon musical (de)composition of the same name as its soundtrack.

The video is a montage of eerie images set to a theater organ/calliope version of the Langdon tune, heard on Langdon's CD release, The Carnival of Souls Collection. (Physical copies available for purchase here, and for download purchase here; brief previews of the tracks can be heard at the latter link.) Recommended.

Verne Langdon is the musician (and makeup artist, professional clown, and mask maker) who recorded the classic spooky records Vampyre at the Harpsicord and Phantom of the Organ, among others. (Some of you will recall seeing 'em advertised in the back of Famous Monsters magazine.) The music in Carnival of Souls will bring back fairground memories to its listeners, and probably Halloween ones, too.

That reminds me. One Halloween back in the '8os, I sat in a movie palace, The Orpheum in Memphis TN, and listened to the stage manager play strange and spooky music on the magnificent Mighty Wurlitzer organ for me and some friends. I can remember the vividly weird images the music brought to mind; it was one of my best Halloween experiences.

So go click on the link and get a little creeped out.

Update: If you like the Kelly Mann/Verne Langdon video linked to above, then you'll want the hi-rez, expanded video that will be on dvd! Coming out August 1rst, from Warren Music Group. Coming to an online retailer near you!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

25th Annual 24 Hour Ohio Sci-Fi Marathon: Part Three

The final batch of photos from this event was to be posted here, but some were lost in a computer crash. However, below are pics from the event's costume contest, which was fun.

Below are the finalists. As you can see, there's the Ro-Man from Robot Monster, Fido the pet zombie and his keeper from the recent film Fido, cartoon mouse genius Brain in his "human suit" from the show Pinky and the Brain, and Mothra from Mothra and other Toho films.

The contestants were judged by audience reaction, and the two most popular were Ro-Man and Mothra. A mock battle between the two made the crowd go wild (one of the highlights of the Marathon); finally neither entrant prevailed for the most audience applause and both were declared winners. Yaaaay!

Well, that wraps up my report on the 25th Marathon; there were nice topless female fotos I'd hoped to share from one of the previews of classic schlock sci-fi screened, but I lost 'em in the computer crash. So I'll just substitute a picture of another topless woman-- one who turned to stone!
This picture makes me think of food-- because when it comes to eating, you gotta hand it to the Venus de Milo!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Luau of the Living Dead

Last month, the Voodoo Queen and I went to the "Luau of the Living Dead", the world's first Hawaiian-themed, zombie-celebratin', rockabilly jam! The only thing that could have kept us from attending would have been a shot to the head.

Took a lot of pictures and thought I'd put 'em up here.

Sadly, I got no pictures of the first band, The Devilz in the Detailz, but they were very good. You can hear some of their songs at their MySpace page. Their song Cemetery Street was especially memorable, being a melancholy bit of Goth-pop, very different from the rousing psychobilly and kick-ass surf played by the other bands, The Ubangis and Forbidden 5.

The event was sponsored and hosted by friendly local zombie fanatic "Dr. Pus" (of the podcast "Library of the Living Dead") and the strange but congenial Prof. Emcee Square, Rondo Award-nominated host of the local The It's Alive Show! (And the winner of a Rondo for organizing the 2007 Pittsburgh Zombie walk.) And it all took place at Howlers, a local nightspot whose emblem is "The Gypsy Werewolf."

The place was packed; the event was sold out. I was told that it was one of the most successful shows at the joint. As you can see on the left side of the photo above, even ghosts attended!

This was one of the coolest shows we'd been to-- nowhere else have I seen so much cool stuff raffled off! (Original art, books, dvds, clothing, etc., and all zombie- and horror-related!) And three great bands! But, just as important, the undead hula stylings of the ZOMBIE GIRLZ!

I've never seen cold flesh look so hot! And they were giving free leis, too! GrrRRRRrrr!

When host Dr. Pus (seen in the photos below at far left) invited the crowd to join the gyrating zombie gals in a big dance, several people went up. (I mean went up onstage, though several male patrons may have gone up in other ways when these undulating undead began swaying their hypnotic hips.) I joined in the fun, too! Fortunately, Jane had insisted that she wouldn't carry me into the show, so I was wearing my rusty old prosthetic body. As you can see from the photos, I don't have good control over the thing, and my dancing was rather spastic.

The bands all seemed to be at their best, really ripping it up at full tilt. Bruce Lentz, lead singer the band Forbidden 5 and decomposer of their songs, seemed on the verge of a psychotronic meltdown, as you can see below:

At this point in the set, I thought a blood vessel would begin to throb on his forehead and the head of someone in the audience would explode...

The energetic music was a counterpoint to the mellow-fun vibe of the night. Another exception to the feel-good tone was the comedy set done by Prof. Emcee Square's sidekick, Stiffy the Clown, an edgy and daring insult comic, whose act was something of an intelligent cross between Don Rickles, David Cross, and Andrew Dice Clay. He got laughs, but was edgier than some in the audience wanted, and at one point an empty beer can was thrown at his head. (Don't look at me!) That was the lowest point of the evening. Fortunately, the music was cranked up again and saved the day-- I mean, night!

Here are some photos of the band The Ubangis, followed by pics of the pleasantly plastered putrifying patrons!

They're possessed!

Lead singer and drummer Brian Horrorwitz bangs his box!

Above: Saucy Randy, surf guitarist extraordinaire!

Besides me and Jane, there were other creepy cute couples, as you can see...

Isn't it cute? He's trying to twist her arm off! And below, another zombie shows his love...

I don't think these last two were a couple, but who knows? Nothing would surprise me! But I was surprised to see that zombies drink Pabst! I shouldn't be, I guess-- it certainly is the perfect drink for someone whose tongue is dead!

Host "Dr. Pus"-- in what is laughingly called "real life"-- is a dentist. He shoulda given a business card to this attendee:

Freebies were handed out at the door by this diminutive deadhead who greeted everyone at the door:
Luau-lovin' zombies found unique uses for the severed body parts strewn about!

Jane and I had a great time. I'll end here, and go find new uses for her parts...


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