Godspeed, Leonard Nimoy

Mark Clark, author of two Star Trek books for the Applause FAQ series, pays tribute to both Leonard Nimoy and his most famous role.

00314873I knew it was coming. Leonard Nimoy was 83 years old and had been in declining health, suffering from chronic pulmonary disease. He had officially retired from the screen years ago, although he continued to make occasional cameo appearances, including in the two J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek movies. Nevertheless, when word of the actor’s death arrived this afternoon, I was stunned. It seemed unreal, impossible. How could immortal face of one of the greatest entertainment franchises in history, a source of comfort and inspiration for millions of fans, really be gone? Wasn’t there some way to ship his body to the Genesis Planet for regeneration?

That’s when I realized that I was confusing Nimoy with his most famous character.

I was hardly the first to do this. Even Nimoy struggled to keep his personality separate from that of his Vulcan alter-ego, as evidenced by his two memoirs, one titled I Am Not Spock and a second titled I Am Spock. The confusion is understandable. Nimoy was not Spock, but Spock is Nimoy. Although created by Gene Roddenberry, the half-human, half-Vulcan first officer was animated by Nimoy’s personality – intelligent, unflinching, analytical, yet approachable. The actor improvised many of Spock’s trademark expressions and gestures, including the FSNP (“Famous Spock Nerve Pinch”) and the split-fingered Vulcan salute (derived from a rabbinic gesture of blessing); the character’s indomitable spirit was Nimoy’s too. And Spock, more than any other character, came to embody the essence of Star Trek.

Although Nimoy is gone, Spock remains. He stands as an eternal testament to Nimoy’s ability to craft a complex, nuanced, believable character.

However, Spock is far from the only testament. I wrote extensively about Nimoy’s life and career in my books Star Wars FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the First Voyages of the Starship Enterprise and Star Wars FAQ 2.0: Everything Left to Know About the Next Generation, the Movies, and Beyond. As I noted there, although none of them earned him fame, Nimoy authored several remarkable performances in television roles prior to Star Trek (on shows like M Squad, Combat!, and The Lieutenant) and he did the same in later, non-Trek movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). He also had a successful career as a writer, producer, and director, helming Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, along with the comedy smash Three Men and a Baby, among other pictures. Nimoy declined the opportunity to create what became Star Trek: The Next Generation due to the demands of his feature film career. And movies were only one of Nimoy’s pursuits. He was a restless, polymorphously creative individual who also enjoyed careers as a recording artist, poet, and fine art photographer.

The pressures that arrived with fame led him to alcoholism during the making of the original Star Trek series. But he eventually found sobriety, and in later years always seemed to have a smile and a handshake ready for fans and castmates alike – even his onetime rival, William Shatner, with whom he belatedly developed a deep and abiding friendship. I confess that it brings a smile to my face to picture Nimoy being reunited, somewhere, with DeForest Kelley.

Surely Spock must be embarrassed by the outpouring of emotions displayed by fans and colleagues today, following Nimoy’s  passing. But Nimoy, I’m certain, welcomes and appreciates all the affection.

 

Listen: Stephen Tropiano on Pop Culture Tonight!

Stephen Tropiano, author of Saturday Night Live FAQ talks with Patrick Phillips of “Pop Culture Tonight” to discuss the recent 40th anniversary celebration as well as take a look at the show’s history!

>>LISTEN HERE<<

00315538Television history was made on Saturday, October 11, 1975, at 11:30pm (ET), when Chevy Chase welcomed America to the first episode of a new late-night comedy series. With its cutting edge satire and cast of young, talented performers, Saturday Night Live set a new standard for television comedy while launching the careers of such comedy greats as John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey.

Saturday Night Live FAQ is the first book to offer the show’s generations of fans everything they ever wanted to know (and may have forgotten) about SNL. Beginning with the show’s creation in the mid-1970s by Lorne Michaels and the Not Ready for Prime Time Players, SNL FAQ takes you through the show’s in-depth history.

 

Dale Sherman: Armageddon Films FAQ Update

00122479With the upcoming release of Dale Sherman’s latest FAQ book (Coming in March!), Quentin Tarantino FAQ, Dale is celebrating by going back to his previous books in the series to pull up some new details for readers! This week, he has provided additional information on Armageddon Films FAQ!

From the pages of ARMAGEDDON FILMS FAQ: Childhood’s End – the Greatest Apocalyptic Movie Never Made

The first chapter in my book about end-of-the-world movies, Armageddon Films FAQ, deals with ten classic apocalyptic novels that had never been turned into movies. To show why such books have remained landmarks in science fiction and horror, as well as why they keep getting passed over by Hollywood, the chapter takes on the voices of those arguing such points at a studio – with a reader giving details about the book, an agent pushing the project, and a studio bean-counter attempting to find all the reasons to avoid it. As mentioned in the chapter, although passed over, many of the novels had been cannibalized left and right over the years for various other apocalyptic movies, with Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End being a prime example for such usage. 

In September 2014, the cable network SyFy Channel announced that they planned to finally take Clarke’s 00333849novel out of that list, with a miniseries adaptation to be filmed in 2015. Having Matthew Graham, co-creator of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, on board sounds intriguing (he also wrote the Doctor Who episode “Fear Her” but … well, he created Life on Mars, so let’s not hold it against him). However, the plot-points given by the cable channel seem to play the miniseries up as rather like a variation of V (what appear to be friendly aliens are anything but, and now humanity must fight the same alien race they once welcomed), but let’s hope that this is just shorthand for more than chase-scenes with aliens for six hours.

No doubt, when reviewing the book, the studio – in this case Universal – brought up several of the same issues as seen in this excerpt from Armageddon Films FAQ. As readers will see, my own conclusions are not quite what has come about, but time will tell if I’m closer to be right than they are.

Script Reader’s Analysis: For many years Arthur C. Clarke was considered one of the “Big Three” in Science Fiction, along with Robert Heinlein (Starship Troopers) and Isaac Asimov (pretty much everything else … okay, that’s a rare joke from this reader, but Asimov was prolific as a science author and Science Fiction writer, including I, Robot, which was adapted as a hit movie for Will Smith). Clarke (1917-2008) may not have been quite as busy as Asimov, but certainly contributed in abundance to the printed page, with written pieces on scientific advances as well as his short stories, novellas, and novels over the years. Best known is his collaboration with Stanley Kubrick on the movie and novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was originally pitched between the two as an adaptation of his short story, “The Sentinel,” although there are certainly aspects of Childhood’s End in the finish work as well. Besides 2001Childhood’s End and “The Sentinel,” Clark created some of the better known short stories and novels in the genre, from Rendezvous with Rama to “The Nine Billion Names of God” (an apocalyptic short story) to The Sands of MarsChildhood’s End has been seen as written by Clarke when he still had some aspects of wonder pertaining to the paranormal (beliefs he discarded later in life, although they led to his use of telekinesis as a plot-device in the novel), but namely his early conviction in the wonders of science and how advancements in the field can deem mostly positive instead of negative results. Although aspects of Childhood’s End could be seen as being gloomy, Clarke champions that such treks into the future could be of amazement and for the positive.

Check out the rest of Dale Sherman’s blog post here!

 

Dale Sherman: KISS Update

00122479With the upcoming release of Dale Sherman’s latest FAQ book (Coming in March!), Quentin Tarantino FAQ, Dale is celebrating by going back to his previous books in the series to pull up some new details for readers! This week, he has provided additional information on KISS!

In KISS FAQ I cover the making and ramifications of the notorious television movie, KISS Meets the Phantom of the ParkThe chapter of the book certainly held no surprises to readers in the acknowledgement that the movie contains wooden acting, a bizarre musical soundtrack (namely in the televised version; not as much in the later theatrical one), bad special effects, and a clunky script, but one myth that was put to rest was of KISS Meets the Phantom being one of the highest rated television programs of 1978. NBC certainly wished that had been the case, as they pre-empted a showing of their popular cop series, CHiPs for the movie in hopes of gaining a good chunk of young viewers.

It was a gamble that NBC needed, as they were floundering; the network had only two 00333153programs with ratings high enough to place in the top twenty-five programs of the 1978-1979 television season: the family-oriented drama about frontier life, Little House on the Prairie, and the police series CHiPs. Even so, a gamble on using the CHiPs timeslot earlier that October for a two-part showing of Rescue from Gilligan’s Island had earned a 40 share for NBC, making Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park in the same time the last Saturday of October a seemingly good risk.

However, when the ratings came out, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park was nowhere near the Number One slot. It wasn’t even in the top 25 for the week. It finished at #45, leading to Variety , to proclaim “NBC had its worst Saturday of the year,” with the KISS movie being the reason. Its failure in drawing interest as a television movie was only the starting point of concern for those connected to the film, as it was about to be released as this type of filmic albatross in theaters overseas. But that story and other details about the movie can be found in the pages of KISS FAQ.

Check out the rest here!

Tom DeMichael on “Escape from New York” Remake

Twentieth Century Fox recently announced they will be remaking the film, Escape from New York. Modern Sci-Fi Films FAQ author Tom DeMichael weighs in on this announcement in the following post!

00120811Let’s be honest – a guy named “Snake” is always going to raise a few suspicions.

Imagine the parents of a young girl when they’re introduced to her new beau.

“Mom…Dad – This is Snake, and we’re engaged!”

Hoo-boy.

The Snake in our case is, of course, Snake Plissken. He’s the ex-soldier, turned bad guy (then turned good guy) in John Carpenter’s 1981 sci-fi action flick, Escape from New York. Set in 1997, World War III has left America in shambles (the long-recurring dystopian future sci-fi setting) and the Manhattan Island in New York has become a maximum security prison (in other words, the Big Apple has a lot of worms in it.) The US government recruits a reluctant Snake to save the President, who has become a hostage of the inmates. He accomplishes the task, but the whole affair leaves Snake in a more cynical state than when he started.

Escape from New York offered a pretty enjoyable cast, with ex-Disney star Kurt Russell as the eye-patched Snake. Other performers included Donald Pleasance, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton, and Adrienne Barbeau. It did well at the box office in 1981, grossing more than 25-million dollars and prompting a sequel fifteen years later. Escape from LA brought back Snake, with a new cast of supporting characters. Budgeted at 50-million dollars, the sequel bombed by grossing only half that amount. 

Now, in the opening weeks of 2015, 20th Century Fox has secured the rights for a remake once more. But this isn’t the first rodeo for a remake of Escape. Since 2007, remaking the film has been a recurring topic, first with Gerard Butler slated to play Snake, then Jeremy Renner mentioned. But many movie projects can languish in “development hell” for years, so there’s no guarantee that Snake will be escaping any city very soon.

Understand that movies are remade – not to improve on the original (which hardly ever happens anyway) – but to introduce a “new” product to a new audience. Even with the multitude of alternative sources for films (video-on-demand, DVD/Blu-Ray, digital download, Hulu, etc.,) folks younger than forty or so were barely in kindergarten when Snake first attempted to Escape from New York

So, with Fox obtaining the rights for a remake, they’re hardly concerned about how fans of the original will react – heck, they’re in search of new fans, from a different generation. And, as long as there’s another sci-fi film to keep us engaged and entertained for a couple of hours, that’s all that really matters anyway.

Happy Birthday, Elvis Presley!

Elvis Presley would have turned 80 today so in honor of his birthday, here are a couple of fun fact excerpts from Elvis FAQ books, Elvis Music FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the King’s Recorded Works by Mike Eder and Elvis Films FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll in Hollywood by Paul Simpson.

His breakthrough hit was Heartbreak Hotel, released in 1956 – a song inspired by a newspaper article about a local suicide:

00333500“A record that altered the path of so many people and things, “Heartbreak Hotel” is the song that put Elvis on the map. It was written by Mae Boren Axton, who was inspired by a story her friend Tommy Durden told her about a John Doe who left a suicide note reading, ‘I walk a lonely street.’ Axton gave Tommy and Elvis a third of the credit and royalties on the song, the latter because Axton felt sorry for the kid from Memphis who just escaped from poverty. “Heartbreak Hotel” stands out as a composition because of Axton’s use of imagery. The hotel is at the end of ‘Lonely Street'; there’s a crying bellhop, and a desk clerk dressed in black. The music matches the glum mood of the lyric, with the piano of Shorty Long sounding, in the immortal words of author Robert Matthew-Walker, like ‘sad-rain.’ Elvis sings with distress in his voice and a newly honed sense of the dramatic. Still mysterious and alluring, “Heartbreak Hotel” is an incredibly unusual song. Teens could relate to the feeling of bottomless despair, and moreover Elvis made anguish sound cool. As “Heartbreak Hotel” slowly became a phenomenon, it gave young people something of their own to hold on to. Elvis launched the whole rock-and-roll image – he talked the talk and walked the walk. He wasn’t going into this thinking he was going to change things in society; he just wanted to be good at what he did, make enough money to give his parents the things they wanted, and, most of all, find some personal redemption. After all, how many people who are considered outcasts actually bend society to their way of thinking?” – Elvis Music FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the King’s Recorded Works

In 1956, he began his film career with a western, Love Me Tender:

“…Presley made his screen debut in the B western Love Me Tender, originally titled The Reno Brothers, which 00314953had been revamped to give him a significant supporting role in which he could sing four songs. The cast and crew on his first movie weren’t sure what to make of him. His love interest Debra Paget summed up Hollywood’s preconceptions when she said later: ‘Before I met him, I figured he must be some sort of moron.’ On set, his humility, charm, and industry overcame such skepticism, but it could do nothing to shield him from the critical abuse that greeted the movie’s release on November 21, 1956. The Hollywood Reporter dismissed Presley as ‘an obscene child’ but did note that the new hero possessed ‘mannerisms by Brando out of the Actors Studio’ and concluded: ‘The new hero is an adolescent. Whether he is twenty or thirty or forty, he is fifteen and excessively sorry for himself. He is essentially a lone wolf who wants to belong.’ That last line pretty much sums up Elvis’s status in the movie industry as his film career progressed and, you could argue, the tragedy of his life and death.” – Elvis Films FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll in Hollywood

 

 

5 Marketing Methods That All Musicians Who Want to Succeed Should Be Using

Bobby Borg, author of Music Marketing for the DIY Musiciandetails several helpful marketing methods for musicians in his latest article from SonicBids!

5 MARKETING METHODS THAT ALL MUSICIANS WHO WANT TO SUCCEED SHOULD BE USING

Execution is the art of getting things done. It involves adopting the right policies to help you close the gap between what you want to achieve and what you deliver. But many musicians fail to execute, and as a result, they never get to that next level of their careers. They create master plans to rule the world, but they fall short of seeing these plans through effectively. What a waste of time! As Ralph S. Larsen, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, said, “The best thought-out plans in the world are worthless if you can’t pull them off.” Here are five music marketing execution tips that can help get the results that you want.

1. Utilize reminder marketing techniques and multiple mediums

Many artists send out one marketing communication before their show (e.g., an email two or three weeks before), and expect their fans to remember to show up. The result: they experience poorly attended shows, which means unhappy promoters and missed opportunities. Look, you’ll get nowhere by believing that you’re at the top of your fans’ minds 24/7. To be successful, you must send out several notices spaced out evenly over two to three weeks before your gigs or releases, and use a variety of mediums (postcards, phone calls, face-to-face selling techniques, etc.) to get the job done right!

2. Be persistent (and nice) when you follow up

It takes a lot more than just one email to that blogger to review your music, or to that talent buyer to get a gig. Sometimes it even takes calling back at a specific date and time as requested by a certain contact. Tenacity and patience, in this regard, are extremely important! After sending off your initial correspondence (e-mail, tweet, or whatever), follow up in a week if the intended receiver hasn’t replied. Repeat this technique or attempt to use another means of communication (phone, letter, etc.) if necessary. Keep notes of your attempts in an Excel spreadsheet. And remember to always be nice in your correspondences. The world owes you nothing.

Click here to view the rest of the article!

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