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Saturday, June 24, 2006

ERIC STEWART and GRAHAM GOULDMAN,
(L-R, both in foreground) were the driving forces
behind 10 cc, one of the great '70s bands (10 cc)

A FEW THINGS JUST HAPPENED TO CROSS MY MIND

by Jim McAllister

A little bit of this, that, and the other thing or musings, miscellaneous ramblings or whatever...I was getting a haircut this morning at my friendly Supercuts haircut factory. By the way, do you know the difference between a Supercuts haircut and a $40 haircut? Answer: $27, but I digress. Anyway, Yvette, the girl cutting my hair and I were talking about great rock musicians and the cost of concerts now and years ago. In 1971 my wife and I saw Foghat at the Cowtown Ballroom in Kansas City for $3.00! Throughout the ‘70s we would see the best of the day for $10 to $15. Bands like The Electric Light Orchestra, 10cc, Eric Clapton, Frank Zappa, and many others. Today, secondary acts are getting $50 and higher, and acts like The Stones and Paul McCartney get $100 or more. No thanks, that’s ridiculous and I won’t pay it although I hear that Roger Waters is coming to Phoenix and doing a whole Pink Floyd show including the entire "Dark Side of the Moon" album. I might relent for that! I am so weak!...Those of you who are into the vintage movie scene probably know that director Vincent Sherman died this past week at 99. He directed a lot of the top stars in his day including Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, and Claude Rains. Also recently deceased is character actor Arthur Franz. Right now you are saying, "Who’s he?" Unless you are a close follower of old films and the tube, you may not know Franz by name. He was a handsome guy who was on about every TV show there was in the ‘50s in addition to many movies. The name may not sound familiar, but if you saw him you would probably say, "Oh, that guy! I remember him!" Arthur Franz was 86...I watched "The lost Weekend" (1945) last night on TCM.. That movie still packs a punch. Ray Milland was not the first choice for the lead, and he didn’t consider himself capable of it either. But after Cary Grant and Jose Ferrer (Jose Ferrer?) turned it down, Milland gave it a shot and won the Best Actor Oscar for 1945...I like the BP ads on television. They are trying to make us believe that they are a bunch of Albert Schweitzers in dealing with energy. Notice also that they never mention that "BP" stands for British Petroleum. Could it be that since a lot of the UK is hostile towards us they don’t want to advertise that they are British?...Cadillac has sure changed their ads also. They used to appeal to the older set with very sedate advertising including country club scenes and soft music. Now they show the younger folks doing wheelies to the sound of rock music. It looks like an MTV video. It seems to be working, sales are up...The number one car on my "most disliked car" list continues to be the Cadillac Escalade. Coming in a close second is the Hummer. These two heaps illustrate what gluttony, greed, and waste are all about...Congratulations to Scottsdale, the embarrassment of "The Tuesday Night Book Club" is over. Much to our relief, CBS canceled this mess after two shows, so those bimbos will have to seek out something else to do with their lives. Thanks to all who didn’t watch this silliness; you renewed my faith in the taste of the American public...Flash! Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton hate each other! Does anyone care other than rags like PEOPLE? As talentless as Lohan is, at least she does work. Hilton is just a perpetual partier. By the way, don’t invite her and Robert Redford to the same party...Is it annoying to you to have to push "1" on the phone to hear English? This is the USA, right? This is supposed to be an English speaking country. Hopefully, English will never be demoted to "2" on the push button. I have no problem with LEGAL immigrants but when you move here, take a shot at English. That’s what we do here. Remember the old saying, "When in Rome,......". The same goes for the USA...
ARTHUR FRANZ and PEGGIE CASTLE in BACK
FROM THE DEAD
(1957). Arthur Franz died

at 86 recently. He was a busy guy in TV and movies
for many years. (20th Century Fox)
The frustrated members of the canceled THE
TUESDAY NIGHT BOOK CLUB. Supposedly
living in Scottsdale, one lived in Chandler. After
cancellation one of these Einsteins actually said,
"The audience thought were were actually going
to read books." Uh.......Yeah. (CBS)
"Dead or Alive" is an interesting site if you want to keep up with celebrity deaths. I know it sounds a bit morbid, but it is a good research tool with some interesting features. Recently they listed all the TV dads from the 1950's and what their status is. Hugh Beaumont, who played Ward Cleaver, died in 1982 at 73. Beaumont was a good character actor in the 1940’s but is usually only remembered for his role on "Leave it to Beaver"...The critics are killing "Nacho Libre", the latest from Jack Black. Most of them see it as a bunch of flatulence jokes, no real story line, and supposed "pie in the face" type nonsense. As usual, that’s good enough for audiences as it did $28 million for its first week. Never underestimate the taste of the American public!...In other current movie news the latest Poseidon remake seems to have flopped doing only about $60 million, and Tom Cruise’s latest Mission Impossible flick has not lived up to expectations at the box office. I guess all of Brooke Shields’ fans are boycotting it!...See you next week, I have to go mourn the U. S. A. soccer loss to Ghana. Ghana?! (Comments? azjimmcallister@cox.net)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

DENVER HAS A TREASURE IN WRITER JOHN DUNNING

(Author's note: This column was also published in the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, Denver edition on June 17, 2006)

by Jim McAllister

John Dunning is the best mystery writer that I have ever read and my favorites, other than Dunning, are no slouches: Robert B. Parker, Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, Tony Hillerman, Michael Crichton, and others of the same level. Why, then, would I pick Dunning over those guys who have much longer resumes and, in general, are more well known?
It started in 2001 when my wife was at a Border’s store in Scottsdale and came across Dunning’s novel for that year, "Two O’Clock, Eastern Wartime". She knows that being a history major, specializing especially in American history and the period of the 1940's, I enjoy stories pertaining to that period. I also like anything that involves old time radio. After perusing Dunning’s book, she noticed that not only was it a mystery, but was involved with the early days of World War II (1942) plus some strange happenings occurring at a radio station along the Jersey shore outside of New York City. She bought the book, I immediately read it, and have been a John Dunning fan ever since.
Mr. Dunning has also written a series of mysteries involving fictional former Denver cop and now bookseller, Cliff Janeway. His first in the Janeway series was "Booked to Die", which was published in 1992. Happy just to be published, Dunning figured to sell the initial printing of 6,500 hardback first editions and maybe go through a small second printing. After all, he hadn’t had a published work in ten years. What actually happened was "Booked to Die" had its initial printings sold out immediately and from 1992 through 2000 has had four more hardback and nineteen paperback editions.
BOOKED TO DIE...John Dunning's
surprise best seller that introduced
ex-Denver cop Cliff Janeway
(Old Algonquin Books)
THE BOOKMAN'S WAKE by
JohnDunning. Number two in
the Cliff Janeway series. (Old Algon-
quin Books)
Since that time he has written four more Cliff Janeway mysteries: "The Bookman’s Wake" (1995), "The Bookman’s Promise", (2004), "The Sign of the Book" (2005), and "The Bookwoman’s Last Fling" (2006). Two other good mysteries are "The Holland Suggestions" (1975) and "Looking For Ginger North" (1980). Also in 1980 he published a sprawling novel about his adopted hometown called simply, "Denver". It covers the lives of some fictional families in Denver and the effects of the Ku Klux Klan on them during the 1920's. The last three selections are excellent but are long out of print. I was lucky and found used copies on Amazon.
John Dunning was not always a successful writer. In 1964, after something of a nomadic lifestyle, he settled in Denver working at a glass shop and later at some horse racetracks. By 1966 he was working in the library of "The Denver Post". That job led to a reporter’s job. During that time he also was in the process of collecting recordings of old radio shows which he turned into a 25 year long radio show in Denver and the publication of "The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio", a must for radio enthusiasts.
JOHN DUNNING, author of TWO O'CLOCK,
EASTERN WARTIME at a book signing (Jon Jordan)
In addition, Dunning owned the Old Algonquin Bookstore in East Denver from 1984 to 1994. He closed it at that time and has been in the book business on the internet since its closing.
I think that is a pretty good resume for a guy whose formal education consists of a GED high school diploma from South Carolina in the early 1960's.
If you like good mysteries combined with a bit about the book business, John Dunning’s books are for you. He writes in a clear, concise, style with well defined characters, interesting storylines, and great endings.
Yes, Denver, you have a treasure in writer John Dunning.

Monday, June 12, 2006

CATCHING UP AND A COUPLE OF MOVIE REVIEWS

by Jim McAllister

This week I am going to take a step backward to catch my breath. It has been a busy time! Last Tuesday THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC published the piece that I had originally done in April of 2005 about the ghost army of World War II. It was published in conjunction with D-Day, June 6, and was focused on a member of that group from Scottsdale, Dr. Harold Laynor. The REPUBLIC liked the article so much that they have asked me to write opinion pieces for them at a rate of three per month. These pieces will concern things that are going on in the northeast part of the Phoenix metro area (Scottsdale, Arcadia, Salt River Indian Community, Carefree, Cave Creek, Fountain Hills, Paradise Valley). I have also been keeping in touch with my old buddy from the INDEPENDENT of Scottsdale/Paradise Valley, Brendan Leonard, who is now with the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS in Denver. I am posting a blog in that paper which has been receiving a nice bit of attention with a lot of responses and a 5 star rating out of a possible 5 stars by readers. Along with that, I am trying to keep up with this blog and possibly contribute something to my good friend, Emily Soccorsy, at the INDEPENDENT without whose help, along with Brendan, I may have never made it to the map. Thanks to all you readers and supporters, I appreciate you all!
BACK TO BUSINESS....Have you seen the recent British import flick, "Kinky Boots"? If you enjoyed "The Full Monty" or "Calendar Girls", you will love "Kinky Boots". Yes, this story has been done in the aforementioned, but it is still a funny and heartwarming film.
This time the action is in Northhampton, an industrial town of the UK. The local shoe factory, which has been around for generations, is about to go under. Their products are boring and sales are down. The 62 year old owner has just died and his son Charlie (Joel Edgerton), who is lost in space in the shoe business, has taken over. He contemplates selling off the company assets but reconsiders after realizing how that would affect the long time loyal employees. What to do, what to do...after stumbling into a gay bar full of female impersonators, he meets Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who has a hell of a time trying to find a decent pair of women’s shoes to wear. The lightbulb goes off in Charlie’s head! Maybe there is a market in shoes for cross dressing men! He goes for it along with Lola’s help and the rest is predictable along with the ending at the big Italian fashion show. However, it is so well done, flashy and funny, it makes for great laughs and a feel good feeling. Ejiofor steals the film with his over the top portrayal of Lola, Edgerton is good playing Charlie in a low key, and cutie Sarah Jane Potts is good as Charlie’s factory worker girlfriend. There are some good musical numbers too. Nothing complicated here, just an enjoyable 107 minutes. Rated PG-13, limited distribution, check the art houses.
CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, SARAH-JANE POTTS and JOEL
EDGERTON star in KINKY BOOTS (Miramax)
Another recent film that will probably be found at the art houses is DOWN IN THE VALLEY which is a bit too long at 125 minutes (rated "R"). It is also a downer but it contains some very good acting by Edward Norton, Evan Rachel Wood, Rory Culkin, and David Morse. Norton plays Harlan Carruthers to the hilt as a cowboy from South Dakota who, somehow, has wound up in the San Fernando Valley. He is a rope carrying, cowboy hat wearing, western epithet speaking character that is totally out of place in this "gag me with a spoon" environment. While working in a full service gas station (those still exist somewhere?) He meets Tobe (Wood), a gorgeous typical SFV teenager, and her girlfriends as they are on their way to the beach. Tobe invites Harlan along and, after one thing leads to another, they fall in love. Harlan seems like a good, albeit naive, guy but Tobe’s father (Morse) detects another side to him and discourages his daughter from seeing him. Harlan’s intensified feelings for Tobe and dislike of her father, start the story in another direction.
EVAN RACHEL WOOD and EDWARD NORTON
in DOWN IN THE VALLEY. Cowboy meets San
Fernando Valley teen with unpredictable results.
(Element Pictures)
DOWN IN THE VALLEY plays the L. A. scene to the hilt with good photography of the confusion and overbuilding of the place as compared to the hayseed mentality of Harlan. It’s a long movie, I wish I had brought a pillow to sit on when it inched past the two hour mark, but I liked it enough that I would recommend it to those who like a show with a psychological twist.....Upcoming flick not seen yet but on my list: A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. Garrison Keillor’s NPR show comes to the big screen. A niche movie for sure but down my alley.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

ALAN FREED AND ROCK AND ROLL

by Jim McAllister

It’s the kids that make it work. If Benny Goodman was still alive he would tell you that statement is true after his Oakland and Los Angeles, California experiences in the late 1930's. His band was on the verge of breaking up while on a failed tour until they reached California and the ballrooms packed with kids wanting to jitterbug to Goodman’s new swinging sound. His late night broadcasts to the West Coast from New York had won them over and they were ready to party.
Rock and roll had a similar beginning since, once again, it was the kids that made it work along with help from rock and roll legendary promoter Alan Freed. Freed was born in Pennsylvania in 1922 and by the time he finished college he had developed an interest in music and radio. After World War II he went to work as a disc jockey for several stations in the Ohio-Pennsylvania area before finally ending up in Cleveland in 1949.
ALAN FREED...credited by many as
the originator of rock and roll through
his Cleveland radio show. (alanfreed.com)
One day a local record store owner contacted Freed and said that for some unknown reason his teenage customers were starting to buy a lot of black rhythm and blues records and that it might make his show more popular if he began playing some of these tunes. Freed took his advice and in 1951 he started playing black rhythm and blues to a white teenage audience. The response was immediate as his show skyrocketed in popularity. He coined the term "rock and roll" from a song done by a black group of the day as a means to appease those who held a prejudice against black music.
This success led to Freed’s "Moondog Coronation Ball" in Cleveland in 1952. It was held at a hall with seating for 10,000 and featured popular black acts of the time. Another 6,000 stormed the gates for a total attendance of 16,000, two thirds of which were white.
By 1954, Freed had outgrown Cleveland and moved to New York to work for WINS radio. Once again his show took off and was soon rated number one. He also starred in a series of rock and roll movies which further increased his popularity.
CHUCK BERRY...He will be 80 this year
and is still at it. He was once promoted by
Alan Freed (Yahoomusic.com)




By 1957, the bloom was beginning to leave the rose. ABC-TV had given Freed a nationally televised show. On one episode, black singer Frankie Lymon danced with a white girl, virtually a no-no for that era. The ABC southern affiliates were incensed by this and the show was canceled. Next came a show he promoted in Boston where he was charged with inciting a riot. Although cleared of the charges, WINS let him go.
Freed was now mired in bankruptcy and his troubles were just beginning. He was convicted in the payola scandals of the late 1950's where disc jockeys were accused of accepting money and gifts for playing certain records. Although his sentence was a small fine and no jail time his career was basically finished.
He worked briefly at stations in Los Angeles and Miami and tried to cash in on the "twist" craze of the early 1960's. When that fad passed, he was out of work again and drinking heavily. In 1964, while broke and barely existing in Palm Springs, California, the Federal Government charged him with income tax evasion. Shortly afterward, Freed entered a hospital suffering from uremia and eventually died on January 20, 1965 at the age of 43.
ALAN FREED surrounded by a collage
of stars that he promoted (rockabillyhall.
com)
Freed was like a comet: one day he was here and the next day he was gone. Anyone who loves rock and roll should know about Alan Freed, for without him the genre might never have existed. Alan Freed, radio, and the kids made rock and roll work and caused great rock stations to evolve like WHB in Kansas City, KXOK in St. Louis, and the all night 50,000 watt giants like KOMA in Oklahoma City, WLS in Chicago, and KAAY in Little Rock. Many a kid went to bed at night with their transistors tuned to these guys.
Alan Freed loved rock and roll until the day he died and supported the black performers who played the hits he loved over the "clean cut" white cover versions. He was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. (If you would like to receive my column automatically on a weekly basis, send me a note at azjimmcallister@cox.net with your email address and I will add you to my bloggers list.)