I know nothing about them (I know nothing about most contemporary bands on the local circuit) (in fact, I know nothing in general!), but when I asked a co-worker "Who's Poor Greedo?" she started laughing. "What a great name," she said. "That was one of those disposable aliens in Star Wars."
Poor Greedo the disposable (and poseable) LEGO alien
OK, I only saw the first three Star Wars movies (full disclosure: and I even saw the horrendous Star Wars Holiday Special!) - and really liked the first two - but I'm not Star Wars expert, and I certainly didn't remember the Greedo character or his shootout scene with Han Solo in Chalman's Cantina in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977). But apparently, I am alone. There's even a Wookieepedia entry for Greedo! According to this fact-filled site, "Greedo, son of Greedo the Elder, was a Rodian bounty hunter. He lived in Mos Espa alongside the young Anakin Skywalker and W. Wald circa 32 BBY. Although his father had been an esteemed hunter, and the chief rival of Navik the Red, the younger Greedo had little of his father's prowess and was easily killed by Han Solo in Chalmun's Cantina on Tatooine."
OK, now I remember. But I had no idea there was such a cult following for Greedo's Cantina shoutout scene in Star Wars - and such controversy over who shot first. You see, Lucas-the-anal-historical-revisionist went back to re-edit the scene in 1997 to make it appear that Han Solo was merely defending himself when he blasted Greedo, sparking Original Version Purists (OVPs) to shout "Han shot first!" whenever the edited scene (as shown below) played.
OK, but when I tried to find music videos of the band Poor Greedo, the first thing that came up on YouTube was this LEGO reeanactment of the Cantina Calamity, which is pretty funny (not to mention most curious)!
This past Saturday I was all set to head down to the Baltimore Book Festival to get my read on, when my girlfriend Amy asked what our Manic-About-Town friend Dave Cawley was doing. "Oh, he's going to one of those conventions out at the Marriott in Hunt Valley, something like Nostalgia Con or something," I replied, adding, "He said Davy Jones of the Monkees is gonna be there."
"Davy Jones is in town?!?" Amy exclaimed excitedly. "We have to go see him!!! He's from Manchester [Amy loves all Mancunian pop stars] and he went to the same high school as Steve Diggle [Amy loves anything to do with pop-punk legends Buzzcocks or with their guitarist Steve Diggle]!!!"
"Davy Jones is in town?!?" Amy goes ga-ga for the littlest Monkee
Amy-the-Beatles-Completist then pointed out that there was even a Fab Four connection to the diminutive Monkee, to seal the deal with me.
"Davy Jones was on the same Ed Sullivan show as the Beatles during their first American visit in 1964," she said. "Remember? He was in the original cast of Oliver! - I think he was the Artful Dodger." [I believe another little frontman, Steve Marriott of The Small Faces, also played the Artful Dodger in a stage production of Oliver!] Amy, of course, was right, as the YouTube clip below of the cast of Oliver! on the Sullivan show (about 30 seconds in) proves:
As you can see, listening to pipsqueak Davy's mellifluous voice is akin to hearing an opera pour forth from the mouth of a flea. Ah, from the mouth of babes...no wonder the other Davy Jones had to change his name to Bowie. No competition.
Another Pleasant (Hunt) Valley Saturday
And so the die was cast. Our rendezvous with History awaited us in Hunt Valley at the convention dedicated to nostalgia (and where many aged attendees apparently suffered from neuralgia, as well); additionally, we made plans to rendezvous with Dave Cawley and Video Americain manager nonpareil Scott Wallace Brown at the Hunt valley Marriott on Saturday morning. In anticipation, Amy scurried about trying to find any Monkees records (that she didn't sell to Chick's Legendary Records back in the day) that she could bring to get signed by the former little Artful Dodger in Oliver!. The only thing she had was this Colgems picture sleeve 45 (featuring the very Tom Warner-ish looking Peter Tork - MY fave Monkee because he was the "dumb one" like me - on the cover):
For my part, I got into the spirit of things by revisiting Bob Rafelson's one-of-a-kind cinematic headtrip (and, ultimately, The Monkees' commercial deathtrip), Head (1968), yet another cult classic penned by Jack Nicholson (The Trip; Drive, He Said) with help from Rafelson. While SWB waxes poetically about the opening and closing song from this magna Monkee opus (Goffin and King's psychedelic "Porpoise Song" with solarized slo-mo visuals), my fave scene remains the Mike Nesmith birthday discotech scene, set to Peter Tork's "Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again? " (as shown below):
I've never been to Soul Night at SoWeBo's Lithuanian Hall, but I'd like to imagine that this is exactly the kind of swinging party a go-go that goes on there (with Davy Cawley filling in for Davy Jones on the dance floor, of course!).
Oh, and speaking of Chick's Legendary Records (erstwhile holders of Amy's Monkees back catalog on vinyl)...
Chick Veditz mans his classic trading card collectibles table
I didn't expect to see Chick Veditz at a Nostalgia Convention, but I should have known better. Longtime "Collector of All Things" Harry C. "Chick" Veditz - best known to Baltimore music lovers as the former owner of Chick's Legendary Records in Mt. Washington - got into trading cards back in the '90s when he ran Chick's Records Tapes & Baseball Cards in Pikesville. And here he was selling vintage pop culture artifacts like Monkees bubblegum cards. "With Davy Jones here, a lot of people are buying individual cards for him to sign," canny capitalist Chick commented, alliteratively.
Wacky Monkeemania on display
Alas, as it turned out we - HORRORS! - missed Davy Jones (but did manage to catch his Wacky Wobbler likeness at a vendor's booth, as shown above)...Thinking he'd be there all day (instead of booking right after lunch), we dawdled when we should have hustled, looking at DVDs (me) and Liverpool Cavern Club t-shirts (Amy-the-Beatles-Completist) and other convention paraphernalia and talks - like a great hour-long presentation called "The Mystery of the Enchanted Forest" (more on that later!). But Dave Cawley, who leads a charmed life, not only saw Mr. Jones, but pissed right next to him ("Boy, he's really short!" Dave quipped, non-sequitarily, referring to little Davy's vertical size) when the former Monkees hearthrob was Head-ing out. Dave Cawley had also spotted Davy Jones earlier at his signing table and when we asked if there were long lines of adoring fans gathered 'round him, replied "No, he was sitting all alone. No one was talking to him."
Ouch! Stab us in the heart with that descriptive dagger and let us twist slowly on it, Big "belittling" Dave Cawley!
Davy had left the building, but his aura was all around us. Thus, Amy spotted the Monkees reinvented as Stooges on this t-shirt vendor's tee (I like to imagine that the Stooge equivalent of "cutesy" Davy Jones in this 100% cotton triptych is frontman Moe!):
Hey hey we're the Stooges!
Dave and Scott Wallace Brown fared much better in their celebrity encounters, with SWB scoring a signed 8x10 glossy of Karen Valentine (who was seated right next to her principal on Room 222, Michael Constantine) for his buddy Carey, while Dave had a long chat with former child star Billy Gray (Father Knows Best, The Day the Earth Stood Still). Not only did Dave get Billy to sign his 8x10 still from The Day the Earth Stood still with the inscription "To Dave, Klaatu Barada Nikto," but he also gave Dave an unbreakable guitar pick - one that music buff Billy himself invented! (Billy Gray the inventor - who knew?) So excited were we all by these celebrity stories, that we forgot Sir Larry Storch (Corporal Agarn on F Troop, the voice of Phineas J. Whoopie on Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales) was also in the house! (In fact, I was surprised that I didn't run into Steve Liebewitz here, since he's the president of Baltimore's "Larry Storch Fan Club"; maybe he was still doing his own celebrity signing tour for his excellent book Steel Pier, Atlantic City: Showplace of the Nation.)
Of course, I blame myself for wasting time looking at too many DVDs. Following Dave Cawley's lead, we spent a great deal of time at vendor (and filmmaker) Ted Moehring's table, where one could find some rare Eurotrash and Asian cult oddities for $7 a pop or 3-for-$20. I kowtowed to Dave Cawley on his Japanese DVD recommendations (Ultraman Tovah, Gorath, and Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell.) But as I am currently on a Euro comics kicks (Dylan Dog, Diabolik, Modesty Blaise), I had to fall back on my Eurocentric instincts and also pick up something called Kriminal (1966).
I knew nothing about this character or film other than the cover depicted the protogonist (Glenn Saxon, who looks like a Dutch Tab Hunter) wearing a yellow skeleton suit that reminded me of John Phillip Law's screen depiction of Diabolik in Mario Bava's Danger: Diabolik (1966). But I'm glad I got it because right from the opening credits on...
...it's great! We're talking a swinging '60s soundtrack, a bounty of beautiful babes, and a succession of exotic locales (traipsing from London to Madrid to Istanbul, a la a James Bond adventure). And, like Diabolik, Kriminal was an 1960s Italian comic series; Kriminal was created by Magnus and Max Bunker (who also created Satanik - a DVD I passed up at Moehring's table).
According to Wikipedia:
Kriminal is an English master thief, Anthony Logan, who dresses in black and yellow costume with a fearsome skull face for his adventures. The character was directly inspired by the contemporary (and more successful) Diabolik, with whom he shares the ability to use masks that allow him to assume any identity. In the earliest adventures, Kriminal was a near sadistic killer fighting for revenge against the criminals who had pushed his father to commit suicide. Having also lost his mother and sister, Logan spent his youth in a reformatory, from which he managed to escape, intent to pursue vengeance.
Kriminal has a female companion, Lola Hudson, who was once the wife of Scotland Yard Inspector Patrick Milton, his main enemy. Gradually over time, Kriminal's most extreme villainous features were toned down, and in the later stories he assumed more positive and heroic connotations.
The series was also notable as one of first to employ continuity in Italian comic books, as any new story would begin exactly at the point the previous had ended, and the characters' lives continually evolved (in contrast to Diabolik). Logan himself married and had a child, who soon died.
The series ended in November 1974, after 419 episodes.
Skeleton-clad Kriminal is ready to rock some bones
The comic depiction of this same scene
But unlike Diabolik, Kriminal is a real badass! As Cinema Nocturna reviewer Nick Frame points out, "While Diabolik was nicknamed "Il genio del crimine" (the genius of crime), Kriminal on the other hand is "il genio del male" (the genius of evil); he is the anti-Diabolik, a little more sadistic." I'll say; this guy not only steals and kills - he murders people, even pouring acid on one guy's face to disfigure him. Oh, and he tries to blow up his ex-wife (the lovely Tina Louise lookalike, Maria Luisa Rispoli - aka "Susan Baker"), as well.
"Ginger"-haired Maria Luisa Rispoli
Kriminal was adapted for the big screen several times. The DVD I picked up was by Umberto Lenzi. A sequel, Il Marchio di Kriminal ("The Mark of Kriminal") was directed by Fernando Cerchio and followed in 1968.
The standout eye candy in this film was German beauty Helga Line, who appears not once, but twice. That's right, she portrays twins Inge and Trude. And she turned up (as a new character) in the second Kriminal film, 1968's Il Marchio di Kriminal. Seemingly drawn to films based on masked master criminal Italian comic strip characters, she also appeared in 1967's Mister X (aka Avenger X). Line, who later relocated to Madrid, subsequently appeared in two early Pedro Almodovar films: Labyrinth of Passion (1982) and Law of Desire (1987).
Kriminal intent: Glenn Saxon konspires with Kraut kutie Helga Line
Double your pleasure, double your fun with Helga Line
All very fine and good, but for me the day's highlight was that morning's one-hour talk and screening called "The Mystery of the Enchanted Forest." Though the program guide credited the talk to Bruce Barrett, Barrett actually only worked the laptop to project a new DVD showing highlights of the Enchanted Forest as it stood in 1987, one year before closing. Rather, the featured speaker was former longtime employee Norman Cavy, who was flanked by his cousin Patsy Selby and Barrett. Also in attendance (in fact, seated right next to me) was Linda Harrison, daughter of the original owner (not the Linda Harrison who played Charlton Heston's mute galpal "Nova" in the original Planet of the Apes).
The Enchanted Forest was the second-ever fairytale/storyland theme park in America (after Uncle Walt's Disneyland, of course) and everyone from my Baby Boomer generation seems to have a fond memory of going there as a kid. Even John Waters. Speaking of fuzzy memories of bygone utopias of childhood, here's the Enchanted Forest scene from John Waters's Cry-Baby (1990) to set the scene.
But Enchanted Forest wasn't just for kids. In fact, back in 1975 when I was in high school, all the Senior Class Stoners (we called ourselves the "St. Paul's Bowling Team") made a field trip there to smoke hash in Ali Baba's Cave (inspired by the Barefoot Jerry song "Ali Baba"; we stopped the boat that went through this water cavern so many times to light another bowl, that the attendant came out to see what the problem was - geeze, I hope it wasn't Norman Cavy!). I also seem to recall someone feeding a cigarette to the goat on the island where Mt. Vesuvius once stood. But I digress...
From the Nostalgia Convention program's description:
On August 15, 1955, The Enchanted Forest opened for business in Ellicott City, Maryland. Appealing to families with small children, the theme park had a nursery rhyme theme and thousands flocked to see the pumpkin coach, Mother Hubbard's shoe and wave at Humpty Dumpty. Sadly, the theme park was forced to close in 1989 when much larger and elaborate attractions such as Kings Dominion and the mouse house in Florida gave people more bang for their buck. For a full hour, preservationists will show us what the park was like in its heyday, with photos and scale model, the history behind the theme park itself, and the sad state of affairs as the monuments today are still crumbling and falling apart, with neglect to any kind of restoration.
The Enchanted Forest in its heyday
Naturally, as a hoarder and amateur archivist, I had to purchase the DVD. Sure, it's a totally amateur production, but it's a labor of love by the folks who were there (and not, thankfully, but some Johnny-come-lately hipsters appropriating yet another swath of retro pop culture).
The "original" Enchanted Forest DVD (accept no substitutes!)
And, more importantly, it's a thorough guide to each and every ride, building, and character that was still standing at the Forest in 1987. Mother Goose, the Black Duck, Cinderella's Pumpkin Coach, the Crooked House and the Crooked Man, the Little Red Schoolhouse, Little Toot, the Easter Bunny's House, the Giant Mushrooms (many a drug user's fave!), Jack's Beanstalk with the Giant at the top! Ah, a veritable treasure trove of memories!
The Enchanted Forest today on Route 40
Enchanted Forest closed in 1988 when the original owners sold the property and construction of the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center began. In 1994, the park was reopened by JHP Development and it 1997 Mid-Atlantic Realty Trust (MART) became the owners. In late 2003, Kimco Realty Corporation merged with MART to take over as Enchanted Forest caretakers. Today, Old King Cole greets shoppers at the original park gate, which is still guarded by a dragon that, according to the Nostalgia Convention program notes, "warns trespassers away."
King Cole points the way to the shopping center
In 2005, most of whatever Enchanted Forest installations could be moved, were relocated to nearby Clark's Eliok Farm off Route 108 in Ellicott City. Hence, Norman Cavy and Bruce Barrett have carefully labeled their DVD and their preservation efforts as being on behalf of "the original Enchanted Forest."
Now, I don't know the exact relationship between Martha Clark of Clark's Eliok Farm and local artist Charlene Clark (charleneclarkstudio.com) - or even if they're related - but whenever I see Old King Cole it always makes me think of Charlene's wonderfully nostalgic Enchanted Forest prints; I keep reminding Amy that she needs to hang the King Cole prints I bought from Charlene at the Hampden Festival years ago.
Charlene Clark's King Cole
I came, I saw, I reminisced. And with that, I bid you all addio. My train of thought is now pulling out of Memory Lane.
At this past weekend's Baltimore Book Festival, "I, Hoarder" limited myself to two purchases (I was, after all, financially challenged after that day's earlier trek to the Nostalgia Convention!), both for $2 a piece: a second edition copy of P. Adam Sitney's experimental cinema tome Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde 1943-1978 (because they just don't write 'em like that any more!) and, even-better-yet!, the Alex Fine-curated limited edition zine, Hairy Baltimore.
Hairy Baltimore zine
John Waters famously called Baltimore "The Hairdo Capital of the World," though his generation grew up with the ducktails, mullets and beehive hon-do's that pre-date a lot of the 40 "Nouveau Balto" hairstyles depicted in this booklet.
Naturally, (young Nikola Tesla lookalike) Alex Fine, Baltimore's finest artist in my humble opinion (see Alex Fine Illustration for further proof), is himself depicted in the pages of Hairy:
As were other local luminaries and icons of the current film and music scene, like Dan Deacon and Reaction!'s Amanda Otto.
I hardly know any of the youngsters displayed in Hairy Baltimore, but I'm learning thanks to this handy who's who guide to the current crop of unusually coiffed scenesters of Charm City. Oh, if you missed picking up a copy at the book festival, try asking at Atomic Books. After all, iconic co-owner Benn Ray (looking like a cross between Charles Manson and actor John Hawkes) is also included in the zine. His likeness was drawn by Noah Patrick Pfarr.
Kevin Cowherd's "Baltimore Hockey Classic" piece in today's Sun had some wonderful verbiage about the 1st Marina Arena, which will always be the Baltimore Civic Center in my retro-fitted mind's eye. His comments about what it would take to get a minor league hockey team (and by extension, any "big time" indoor sports team) are not just funny, but spot on.
So let's say the city gets serious about attracting a minor league team. First thing you need: a new arena. 1st Arena Arena won't cut it anymore. It's the "Ugly Betty" of arenas. And this Ugly Betty is now in her late 40s, wearing support hose and troweling on the mascara to keep people from noticing how she's aged.
After all, the place was built in 1966, opening as the Baltimore Civic Center. The Beatles played there in 1964. In fact, that should be one of the criteria when assessing the state of any arena. If the Beatles played there, it's time to tear the joint down and put up a new one. If Elvis played there, the wrecking ball should be crashing through the doors right now.
"It's just an obsolete arena," Lewis [Howie Lewis, president of Baltimore Bandits Booster Club] said of 1st Mariner. "I don't want to use the word 'dump'..."
"But any building that has a stage at one end," Terri Lewis said.
Yep, that's the kind of charm it exudes now. Sometimes it smells like the circus just left. Or worse, like the circus is still there.
There's a new kid in town as far as all-you-can-eat buffets go: Tokyo Seafood Buffet at Security Mall. My omnivorous girlfriend Amy Linthicum and I checked it out last Friday on our way back from Catonsville's Trax on Wax record store - where Amy once again scored some primo vinyl discoveries (three XTC 12-inch EPs that she, the XTC Completist, had never seen, plus an XTC B-sides compilation) and got a CD burn of Paul McCartney's younger brother Mike McGear's out-of-print McGear LP (an LP that pleased 10cc Completist Amy to no end as it was recorded at 10cc's Strawberry Studios and features backing vocals by Lol and Creme; Amy the Beatles Completist was also pleased by the Macca connection, as Sir Paul wrote and produced the record with musical backing by Wings!).
But I digress...Exhausted by literally thumbing through every record bin at Trax on Wax, we plunked down our $8.49 (not as cheap at Hibachi Grill's $6.99 buffet price, but cheaper than Ruby's on Joppa Road) and partook of the plethora of pan-Asian and seafood delicacies on hand in this huge space that I think formerly housed Teppanyaki Grill & Seafood Buffet. I can now report that this is our favorite new Asian buffet! I limited myself strictly to seafood, while Amy's "I am curious carnivorous" nature insured that she added the transcendent delight that was the Korean-style beef ribs as well.
"The beef ribs are to DIE for!" says Amy in between chomps
Everything was grand, with the worth-making-the-trip-solely-for-this standouts being: the cooked mussels in black bean sauce, coconut shrimp, garlic spinach, ribs, and the cilantro and pork dumplings. And I almost forget the tasty kimchi! (There's a decidely Korean bent to the selections on hand here, despite the "Tokyo" in the restaurant's name; never be fooled by the alleged national origins of Baltimore's Asian restaurants, I've learned, especially after years of frequenting Towson's dearly missed Korean eatery "Tokyo Express," whose owner was the former chef at Joung Kak down on 20th Street. Most eateries around town are run by Koreans but often employ Japanese or Chinese names because their cuisine is more familiar to or popular with local non-Asian yokels.)
Tokyo Seafood Buffet's impressive external edifice looks like a North Korean Government Building
Call me easy, but I feel welcome at Tokyo Seafood Buffet!
Inside we saw many Asians queuing up - always a good sign!
All this - for me???
All Asian buffets have a surplus of cute waitresses (who are not included in buffet cover price)
My half-eaten plate: Dim sum, garlic spinach, stringbeans, mussels in black bean sauce and coconut shrimp. Who could ask for anything more?
"I swear this is not my third trip back to the buffet!" lies Amy
"OK, it's my fifth plate - but now I'm taking SMALL portions" admits Amy
Besides the usual soup, salad bar and ice cream buffet selections, Tokyo also boasts an open kitchen which includes a sushi bar and a hibachi (or is it teppanyaki?) grill where you can watch the chefs prepare your Korean BBQ, yakitori beef and chicken, Peking Duck, soups, prime rib, oyster, salmon and other delicacies. We plan to go back to try EVERYTHING because, well, Amy is also an Asian Buffet Completist!
OK, my dumb brain FINALLY figured out how to upload all these pix and vids from my much smarter "smart" phone. Here they are - duly uploaded so I can clear out some space on my smarty pants phone.
What, no ironic trucker hats???
I've seen this kinda garb on women before - late night, talking to truckers on Pulaski Highway!
Wine and Alchemy
The Texas-based "world fusion" group Wine and Alchemy was the first band Amy and I encountered upon entering the Renaissance Festival. They caught our eye because one guitarist (multi-instrumentalist Mark Varelas, as we learned later) was playing a sitar - and playing it quite well! While his sitar gently weeped, an attractive (and very fit) bellydancer did her thing on stage, which screamed "photo op" to me. I certainly enjoyed her body of work. Her name was Megan, as we learned later when Amy purchased a Wine and Alchemy CD from her, as the hard-working Megan walked through the crowd hawking Wine and Alchemy's wares.
Human Slinky Megan bellydanced to the accompaniment of Wine and Alchemy
"Wow, I think I wanna learn bellydancing," Amy commented afterwards.
"You could combine it with your hooping workouts," I countered. "You could belly-hoop - for an exotic and aerobic workout."
That's another body of work I would enjoy immensely.
Spidey Springsteen covers The Boss at Hampden Idol karaoke contest
"Vote for me!": Spidey schmoozes with Hampdel Idol judges after his karaoke performance. They would not be trapped in his web of persuasive glad-handing!
And now, the true star of Hampden Idol: Scott Wallace Brown!
For me, the true star of the day was my friend Scott Wallace Brown's rendering of Dan Hill's "Sometimes When We Touch."
Dan Hill: Was he the forerunner of the Geico Caveman Look?
Full Disclosure: I can't recall ever hearing Dan Hill's "Sometimes When We Touch" (a revelation that seems to shock my friends and associates), maybe because its sacharine sentimentality sounds similar to so many other '70s emo-ballads. But now that I've heard SWB's rendition, I'm sure the original pales in comparison!
"Dammit, Dave Cawley," Scott Wallace Brown scowls. "Don't sext me right before I'm ready to go onstage for Hampden Idol karaoke! Wait, is that what I think it is? Ohmigod!"