Back in the early 1960s, Dave MacDonald and I traveled on the subway from Manhattan to Fordham University in the Bronx where we taped a routine for Chris Steinbrunner's WFUV radio series. The premise of this hoax was dreamed up by Marty Jukovsky, but his schedule prevented him from joining us.
Interviewed by Steinbrunner at the WFUV studio, MacDonald and I claimed to be two film buffs who believed the true art of cinema was expressed not in feature films but in the coming attractions trailers. We improvised around the concept, bolstering our case by citing current and classic trailers, notably Jack Webb’s shotgun blast at the audience in the trailer for the first Dragnet (1954) movie.
After the taping, we met Steinbrunner's other guests, the author Allen Churchill (Remember When) and the film critic Parker Tyler (Classics of the Foreign Film). Churchill, who had been listening in the adjacent room, admitted that he had fallen for the hoax and thought we were serious.
I had read Churchill's The Improper Bohemians (Dutton, 1959), a history of Greenwich Village's Golden Age and such legendary Villagers as Maxwell Bodenheim, Max Eastman, Mabel Dodge, Louis Untermeyer, John Reed, Ben Hecht, Lincoln Steffens and Edna St. Vincent Millay. I told Churchill I was fascinated by a chapter in which he described parties held in the 1930s atop the Washington Square Arch. In 1916, Marcel Duchamp and his friends had gone to the top of the Arch and declared the park the "Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square." How did they all get up there? After reading Churchill's book, I had walked over to Washington Square and discovered the padlocked door I had never noticed before. One can see what look likes a door in Everett Shinn's windswept painting, Washington Square (1910), but the door I recall is inset into the base on the other side of the Arch. Smashing the lock didn't seem like a good idea. I walked away, wondering what it was like on top of the Arch.
About a year later, I was walking through Washington Square when I observed an event at the fountain, a taping for TV’s Hootenanny or something similar. It seemed logical the director might have put a camera on top of the Arch. I looked up, and sure enough, there was a camera aimed down toward the fountain. Could the door at the base be unlocked? As soon as I saw the camera atop the Arch, I immediately dropped what I had planned for the day and walked through the crowd toward the Arch. The lock was open, hanging loose on the hasp, and no one was standing around guarding the door. Everyone was grouped around the fountain folksingers. I knew this was my chance. I opened the door, stepped inside and quickly closed the door, hoping no production assistant had spotted me.
I was standing in blackness, but that brief flash of light when the door was open revealed a spiral staircase. I reached into the darkness and found the handrail. Feeling like a character in a Poe tale, I put my foot on the first step. The small step was triangular with the inside about one inch wide and the outside edge slightly smaller than a shoe. I began climbing in the darkness, and looking up I could see light at the top. The small steps made climbing awkward, so I went slowly.
With each step, Inge by Inge, the dark at the top of the stairs diminished, and more light became visible. Finally, I reached a floor level and looked into a room, the interior of the top of the Arch, fairly well lit from skylights on the roof. Inside this room were stacks of lumber covered in chalky dust, materials left over from the 1892 construction. Graffiti on the walls indicated various visitors from previous years. I continued upward, reached a height of 77 feet and emerged from an open trapdoor onto the roof. The cameraman was quite friendly, and we talked for about 20 minutes. The folksingers below might have been "On Top of Old Smokey," but I was on top of the Arch. Before I left, I turned and looked north, imagining what those 1930s nighttime parties were like with the sparkling lights of Fifth Avenue receding in perspective while ice clinked in tumblers.
Why did I do this? For the same reason the British mountaineer George Leigh Mallory wanted to climb Everest: “Because it was there."
Above: Stewart Wilensky's Village Sunday (1960), narrated by Jean Shepherd. To read excerpts from Ross Wetzsteon's Republic of Dreams, control-click here. In 2004, as part of the Arch's restoration, it was given exterior and interior lighting, so the spiral staircase is no longer in darkness.
Click title above to hear Southern Soldier, the 2nd South Carolina String Band's recreation of a Civil War era camp band.
Beauregard! is a comic strip Jack Davis created in 1961. The setting was the Civil War, a favorite subject of Southerner Davis. Never syndicated, it was handled briefly for four months by the McClure Syndicate, which dropped it after discovering that Southern newspapers did not consider the Civil War to be a joking matter. Davis later ran the strips as a feature in Help! and Sick. Here are two successive days.
Luis Ortiz has been doing an important series of biographical art books, beginning with Arts Unknown: The Life & Art of Lee Brown Coye (Nonstop Press, 2005). With 350+ illustrations, this is the first full survey of the phantasmagraphical eccentric Coye (1907-1981), a muralist and watercolor artist who exhibited at both the Whitney and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in addition to his outré illustrations for Weird Tales. For models Coye brought into his studio skeletons, dead animals, live rats, and human body parts from a medical college.
Ortiz writes, "Coye was an art machine and an American Original. As a child he was considered a 'holy terror'. As an adult, after a hard day of doing medical illustrations, he thought nothing of walking into a bar carrying a decapitated human head under his arm, placing it on the counter and buying his guillotined 'friend' a drink. On another occasion he 'borrowed' the finger-bone of a saint (a holy relic he was building a reliquary for) from the Catholic Church in his hometown of Syracuse, New York. The Syracuse diocese was beside itself and had to send clergy to perform a blessing on Coye's studio since the relic could only travel to holy places."
When Coye was young he was in upstate New York and found an oddity while wandering in the backwoods near an isolated, abandoned farmhouse. Surrounding the house were strange arrangements of crossed sticks. Coye never forgot this and later drew arrangements of sticks into his illustrations, suggesting something sinister. The horror writer Karl Edward Wagner used the incident as the basis for his award-winning short story, "Sticks", with twigs grouped in lattice-like patterns. Adapted by Tom Lopez into a memorable, chilling ZBS audio production, aired in 1984 on The Cabinet of Dr. Fritz, Wagner's story was an apparent source for The Blair Witch Project (1999). As a promotional device for that film, Manhattan's Angelika and other movie theaters put sticks into lobby display cases.
Nonstop followed the Coye collection with a biography of author Carol Emshwiller and illustrator-filmmaker Ed Emshwiller, along with previously unpublished art, in Emshwiller: Infinity X Two: The Art & Life of Ed and Carol Emshwiller(2007), also from Nonstop. These are the first two volumes in the publisher's Library of American Artists.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Ed Emshwiller was both an abstract gallery painter and a Hugo Award-winning illustrator for science fiction magazines and paperbacks (using the signature Emsh and sometimes Emsler). In the early 1960s he moved into filmmaking, serving as a cameraman on several features (Hallelujah the Hills, Time of the Heathen) and documentaries (The Streets of Greenwood) while also creating his own experimental films/video and pioneering the new tools of computer animation. CalArts is the school founded by Walt Disney, and in 1979, Emshwiller became dean of the School of Film/Video at CalArts where he founded the school’s Computer Animation Lab in 1983. I first became aware of Emshwiller in the early 1950s with his illustrations for Galaxy Science Fiction, notably his clever June 1952 cover depicting a futuristic energy crisis as described in Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth's The Space Merchants (then called Gravy Planet). In addition to more than 700 sf covers, he also did a great number of black-and-white interior illustrations, including some which were masterful in their storytelling and dramatic tension. (The one above illustrates "The Dark Side of the Moon" by Sam Merwin, Jr. from the June 1953 issue of Space Stories. Click to enlarge and see details in the inking.) Oddly, no more than two or three of his superior b/w illustrations bob to the surface of the entire Internet.
I met Emshwiller in 1961 when I was booking short films into the Charles Theater on the Lower East Side. We screened his Dance Chromatic (1959) which combined abstract paintings with the movements of a dancer. He explained how this was all accomplished in the camera; he would rewind to get the double exposure. So there was an element of guesswork involved, yet the finished result appeared to have been carefully planned. At a New York Film Festival press screening a few years later, I was taken aback when he mentioned that my own film, The Year the Universe Lost the Pennant (1961), had been an influence on his stunning Relativity (1966), a film he noted as "something that deals with subjective reality, the emotional sense of what one's perception of the total environment is -- sexual, physical, social, time, space, life, death."
On another occasion we were judges together at the American Film Festival (an annual event of the Educational Film Library Association), where we laughingly pointed out that the program had far too many films in which water was the main focus of interest. The librarians were not amused. Below is his award-winning trance-like Thanatopsis (1962), which he described as, "The confrontation of a man and his torment. Juxtaposed against his external composure are images of a woman and lights in distortion, with tension heightened by the sounds of power saws and a heartbeat." When I asked him how he had achieved the vibratory effect in Thanatopsis, he refused to reveal his trade secret, claiming that advertising agencies were stealing techniques he had invented. (Somewhere the technique is described as "multiple single-frame exposures.")
Forthcoming from Nonstop are the Sketchbook of Fantasy & Science Fiction Art(Fall 2008), Earl Kemp's Encyclopedia of Cult Magazines: A Compendium of Culturally Obsessive and Curiously Expressive Publications (2008) and Comic Brut (2009) which includes Otto Soglow (The Little King), Carl Anderson (Henry), Irving Phillips (The Strange World of Mr. Mum), Antonio Prohias (Spy vs. Spy), Jim Woodring (Frank), Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward, Marjorie Henderson Buell (Little Lulu), Harry Hanan (Louie), Mik (Ferd'nand) and Ernie Bushmiller (Nancy).
Above is Emshwiller's portrait of Robert Silverberg.
In October 2005, shortly after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Neufeld spent three weeks as a Red Cross volunteer in Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi and later did a book, Katrina Came Calling, about his experiences. Smith magazine wanted to tell the story of Katrina from the POV of people who lived through it. After reading Neufeld's book, editor Larry Smith contacted Neufeld, and the two traveled to the Gulf Coast to do the audio/video interviews that became the research for the graphic novel. The characters are real people with dialogue taken from direct quotes. Many panels have links beneath to relevant sites.
The wall of water that destroyed Biloxi, leaving a devastated landscape resembling Hiroshima, did not wash away my memories of staying in the White House Hotel at 1230 Beach Boulevard where my family vacationed during the 1940s. Fans whirred in the heat, while footsteps echoed down the hall. In the gaming room near the lobby my brother struck it rich with a cascade of coins, as he recalled, "Slot machines were in a small room off the lobby. I put some nickels in and won. All these nickels came falling out. I filled up all my pockets in my short pants. I ran by the front desk and told the desk clerk, 'I hit the jackpot.' He or she said, 'You weren't supposed to play those.' I kept on going toward our room."
Smells of oysters and the sea drifted through the open window in our first floor room overlooking the shade of the hotel's rocking-chair front porch, the towering white Corinthian columns, the manicured sunlit lawn, the shimmering ocean. I could cross Highway 90, run the length of the wooden pier and gaze over the Gulf of Mexico (which Tennessee Williams renamed the Gulf of Misunderstanding in Sweet Bird of Youth). On grey rainy days one could see far distant lightning over water. The history of the hotel is captured in the pre-Katrina website, White House on the Gulf. The site details the $23 million restoration that was underway when Katrina struck.
The Beau Rivage video (10:22): Storm surge engulfs Biloxi during Katrina as shot 30 August 2005 by an unknown person inside the Beau Rivage Casino parking area.
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 165 MPH...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. KATRINA IS A POTENTIALLY CATASTROPHIC CATEGORY FIVE HURRICAZCZC MIATCPAT2 ALL TTAA00 KNHC DDHHMM BULLETIN HURRICANE KATRINA ADVISORY NUMBER 24 NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL 4 PM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005
...POTENTIALLY CATASTROPHIC HURRICANE KATRINA HEADED FOR THE NORTHERN GULF COAST...
A HURRICANE WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR THE NORTH CENTRAL GULF COAST FROM MORGAN CITY LOUISIANA EASTWARD TO THE ALABAMA/FLORIDA BORDER...INCLUDING THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS AND LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN. PREPARATIONS TO PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY SHOULD BE COMPLETED THIS EVENING.
A TROPICAL STORM WARNING AND A HURRICANE WATCH ARE IN EFFECT FROM EAST OF THE ALABAMA/FLORIDA BORDER TO DESTIN FLORIDA...AND FROM WEST OF MORGAN CITY TO INTRACOASTAL CITY LOUISIANA.
A TROPICAL STORM WARNING IS ALSO IN EFFECT FROM DESTIN FLORIDA EASTWARD TO INDIAN PASS FLORIDA...AND FROM INTRACOASTAL CITY LOUISIANA WESTWARD TO CAMERON LOUISIANA.
FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA...INCLUDING POSSIBLE INLAND WATCHES AND WARNINGS...PLEASE MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR LOCAL WEATHER OFFICE.
AT 4 PM CDT...2100Z...THE CENTER OF HURRICANE KATRINA WAS LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 26.9 NORTH... LONGITUDE 89.0 WEST OR ABOUT 150 MILES SOUTH OF THE MOUTH OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER.
KATRINA IS MOVING TOWARD THE NORTHWEST NEAR 13 MPH...AND A GRADUAL TURN TO THE NORTH IS EXPECTED OVER THE NEXT 24 HOURS. ON THIS TRACK THE CENTER OF THE HURRICANE WILL BE NEAR THE NORTHERN GULF COAST EARLY MONDAY. HOWEVER...CONDITIONS ARE ALREADY BEGINNING TO DETERIORATE ALONG PORTIONS OF THE CENTRAL AND NORTHEASTERN GULF COAST...AND WILL CONTINUE TO WORSEN THROUGH THE NIGHT.
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 165 MPH...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. KATRINA IS A POTENTIALLY CATASTROPHIC CATEGORY FIVE HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE. SOME FLUCTUATIONS IN STRENGTH ARE LIKELY UNTIL LANDFALL. KATRINA IS EXPECTED TO MAKE LANDFALL AT CATEGORY FOUR OR FIVE INTENSITY. WINDS AFFECTING THE UPPER FLOORS OF HIGH-RISE BUILDINGS WILL BE SIGNIFICANTLY STRONGER THAN THOSE NEAR GROUND LEVEL.
KATRINA IS A LARGE HURRICANE. HURRICANE FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 105 MILES FROM THE CENTER...AND TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 230 MILES. SUSTAINED TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS ARE OCCURRING OVER THE SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA COAST. SOUTHWEST PASS...NEAR THE MOUTH OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER...RECENTLY REPORTED SUSTAINED WINDS OF 48 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 53 MPH.
A NOAA HURRICANE HUNTER PLANE REPORTED A MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE OF 902 MB...26.64 INCHES.
COASTAL STORM SURGE FLOODING OF 18 TO 22 FEET ABOVE NORMAL TIDE LEVELS...LOCALLY AS HIGH AS 28 FEET...ALONG WITH LARGE AND DANGEROUS BATTERING WAVES...CAN BE EXPECTED NEAR AND TO THE EAST OF WHERE THE CENTER MAKES LANDFALL. SOME LEVEES IN THE GREATER NEW ORLEANS AREA COULD BE OVERTOPPED. SIGNIFICANT STORM SURGE FLOODING WILL OCCUR ELSEWHERE ALONG THE CENTRAL AND NORTHEASTERN GULF OF MEXICO COAST.
Y! LiveYahoo!'s new Y! Live just launched. Good title, sharp logo, attractive design, slick and smooth, but so far, when the web traffic gets heavy the fine functionality slows and, to borrow E.M. Forster's phrase, the machine stops. Surely it will repair itself. It can only go from beta to better.
Webcams are being used in some unusual ways. Along with their CB radios, truckers have now added webcams, as evidenced by the several truckers on Camstreams, which also carries the Online Piano Bar from Florida. Tom Green's House Tonight combines celebrity guests with call-ins from viewers who have Skype and webcams. In the summer of 2007, Justin Shattuck set out across the USA, giving rides and taking people wherever they wanted to go. Viewers followed his journey via his webcam and also with a GPS unit showing his location as a moving dot on a Google map.
Here are services offering live, streaming web video:
Click header above for Irving Berlin's "Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee" (1932) with Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians (vocal by Chuck Bullock and the Three Waring Girls) from WFMU's Charlie.
Just around the corner, There's a rainbow in the sky, So let's have another cup of coffee And let's have another piece of pie.
Here's a stunning 1932 photo of New York's Roxy Theater from the Fred Waring Collection at Penn State in State College, Pennsylvania (where Waring died in 1984). He studied architecture there until 1922 when his music caught on, followed by the hits "Sleep" (1923) and "Collegiate" (1925), the sound film Syncopation (1929) and his initial success on radio in 1933 on The Old Gold Hour (CBS). Dennis Potter incorporated Waring into the soundtrack of The Singing Detective (1986) with the unforgettable "Dry Bones" (1947) production number. Fascinated with gadgets, "The Man Who Taught America How to Sing" also made kitchens whir when he successfully marketed his Waring Blender during the 1930s. However, the term "Synco-Sympho" faded into such obscurity that Google produces not a single result.
Waring was also a major collector of cartoons and comic strips, and these are part of Penn State's Fred Waring Collection. Click here for the story behind Waring's collection and his association with the National Cartoonists Society and also this Mike Lynch post.
Michael Gambon and Joanne Whalley in the magnificent
"Dry Bones" production number from The Singing Detective