Category Archives: Pop Culture

Kit O’Toole on Classic Pop Culture

Michael Jackson a name that will cemented in history forever. Kit O’Toole, author of Michael Jackson FAQ,sat down with Steve Ludwig of Classic Pop Culture to discuss the book in addition to how Michael revolutionized modern music and pop culture.


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00125022Michael Jackson FAQ takes a fresh look at Jackson’s four-decade career, covering his work in three acts – the Jackson 5, the Jacksons, and his solo years. Along the way, O’Toole reveals details such as Michael’s earliest musical influences; the Jackson 5’s start on the Steeltown label; the key players truly involved in the group’s discovery; Michael’s transformation in to a prolific songwriter; his explorations of genres, from soul to disco to pop and hip hop; the tours, videos, and notable television appearances; his best-selling albums (Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad, Dangerous); outtakes and obscure tracks; and more.

The purpose of this book was not to focus on the controversy surrounding Michael or even his life, this was to focus on him as an artist. Kit explained that so many books has been written about those topics, but she wanted to stress his contribution to music and pop culture instead.

He did so many thing and revolutionized music video. He made an impact opening doors for a lot of African-American artists.

-Kit O’Toole

The interview continued with O’Toole sharing 10 songs from Michael’s solo and years with the Jacksons going more in depth with a few sharing the art of the songs from his vocals to the writing and collaborations. Steve Ludwig went through each of the 41 chapters pin pointing a few here and there for further discussion. This interview zoned in on the art and musical genius of Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson FAQ also takes a long look at Michael’s work in films (The Wiz, Captain EO); his guest vocal appearances; and his collaborations with such music makers as Quincy Jones, Bruce Swedien, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, and Diana Ross.

The interview touched on Michael’s relationship with his brother, Jermaine, in reference to the chapter ‘Whenever You Need Me I’ll Be There: The Unique Singing Chemistry of Michael and Jermaine Jackson.’ O’Toole also discussed Michael’s friendships with Queen’s Freddie Mercury and producer/songwriter, Rod Temperton. The friendships that Michael Jackson created in the industry was displayed in his music as he was the pioneer of fusing Rock, R&B, and Pop.

Most importantly, Michael Jackson FAQ celebrates Michael’s legacy – his influence on countless artists from New Edition to Justin Timberlake, as well as his widespread impact on artistry across many media, from music to choreography to videography to fashion.

That’s what I hope that people walk away with is renewed appreciation of what he did, what he left us, and how his legacy is enduring.

-Kit O’Toole

Brian Solomon Talks Godzilla on Fox News

Brian Solomon, author of Godzilla FAQsat down with Fox News to discuss the godzilla character with the new release of Toho Films, Shin Godzilla. He briefly shares his thoughts on the character plus more.


The latest release of Godzilla by Toho Films is its first since 2004. That film, Godzilla: Final Wars, was intended to retire the character for at least a decade. Since then there have been 28 versions over the course of 62 years. This 2016 release, Shin Godzilla, hones in on the essence of the horrifying character that was created with the initial release in 1954.

The film is kind of not looking to remake that because it’s not a remake of the plot, but they’re looking to recapture that horror and kind of reinvent the character.

-Brian Solomon

godzilla_cvr_151237Brian was the perfect person to explaining the character and popularity surrounding it since he discusses Godzilla further in his upcoming release, Godzilla FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the King of Monsters. The book will explore the many facets of the monumental, fire-breathing radioactive lizard that has roared his way into our hearts over a 60-year reign of terror. But more than just a movie monster, he has become a pop-culture avatar, pervading our consciousness as few fictional creations have. Now, Godzilla FAQ take readers on a headlong dive into the depths of this unstoppable cinematic force of nature.

When asked if the Godzilla character was a metaphor to the United States, Brian shared how there were some parallels.

I enjoy the parallel of seeing Godzilla as a symbol of something else.

Godzilla FAQ will be released May 23, 2017. To preorder the book, click here.


Listen to the Fox News interview in its entirety here.


Brian Solomon is a former editor and writer for WWE, having worked on such publications as WWERaw, and SmackDown!, which he launched during his surreal seven-year tenure with the company. He is the author of WWE LegendsPro Wrestling FAQ, and has also contributed to Pro Wrestling Illustrated. He speaks publicly on his experience in the business as part of New York’s acclaimed Kevin Geeks Out series.

Extraterrestrials Want Your Body and It Isn’t Going to Be Fun

The following is an excerpt from UFO FAQ by David J. Hogan discussing Incubi and Succubi


00129007Alien abduction inevitably encourages conjecture about extraterrestrial interest in human sexual behavior. Ordinary criminal abduction is an intimate crime: abductors manhandle their victims, deprive them of their liberty, and force them to submit to an unsympathetic agenda. Alien abduction heightens the intimacy factor, particularly insofar as the victim endures confinement to a small, peculiar area (a ship) and is at the mercy of “strange” captors with an interest in the design and functions of the human body.

In this, sexual study and abuse during alien abduction exists in the realm of the scarily fabulous, rather like those regularly reported outbreaks of shrinking and disappearing male genitals in Africa and Asia. Societies the world over preserve venerable tales of rapacious ghosts, goblins, and demons. But the awfulness of alien abduction is unimaginable to those that have avoided it. The shock forces some victims into mortified silence, but moves others to shout warnings. As tales of alien sexual terror spread, the numbers of reported incidents rise. Many among the general public scoff at such claims, and sometimes, even sympathetic sources have their fill of alien sex, and go for all-out sendup, as Fortean Times magazine did in May 1999, by devoting its cover to “ALIEN SEX: Probing Close Encounters of the Intimate Kind.” An illustrated sidebar discusses “Alien Voyeurs.” A call-out deck on one page reads “For a three year period[,] they stretched his penis each night.”

ufo-blog-henry-fuseli-the-nightmare

An incubus takes liberties in Henry Fuseli’s famed 1781 painting, The Nightmare.

Abductees often report that sexual abuse happened while their minds were in an induced twilight state, or during sleep. A scenario in which a human intruder enters a bedroom through an unlocked window and ravages a sleeping victim is familiar enough, and justifiably distressing to contemplate, for it combines rape with “night terrors.” The Nightmare, a famed 1781 painting by John Henry Fuseli, conflates all of that into the mythic incubus that has (or is about to) sexually abuse a sleeping woman in her bedchamber. Fuseli’s blocky, humpbacked incubus is perched on the midsection of an unconscious young woman who epitomizes the Western feminine ideal of long limbs, golden hair, and creamy skin. (Le Cauchemar [The Nightmare], a marble sculpture completed by Eug.ne Thivier in 1894, brings the incubus/sleeping nude situation to unnerving dimensionality. And Reynold Brown’s poster art for a 1964 horror film, The Night Walker, directly references Fuseli.)

 

A similarly unwelcome sense of the sexually preoccupied “other” dominates numberless depictions of succubi, the female counterparts of incubi. Like an incubus the succubus dedicates herself to forced sexual intercourse. The victim is male, and he’s no more pleased about the violation than the victim of an incubus.

ugo-blog-extraterrestrial-succubus-mathilda-may-lifeforce

Mathilda May, playing the sinister extraterrestrial succubus disguised as a human woman in Tobe Hoopers demented and marvelous Lifeforce (1985).

Whether incubus or succubus, these are creatures with frightening, distinctly nonhuman faces and bodies. Batlike wings are common accessories; likewise elongated ears, fangs, goats’ or rams’ horns, hooves instead of feet, and sometimes a tail. (Incubi/succubi images from the late 20th century and after are usually blends of Outsider Art and the pin-up aesthetic, with succubi in traditional girlie poses.) Whatever the gender of violator and victim, the incubus/succubus depictions are akin to scenarios of sexualized alien abduction. And whether mythic or UFO-based, the situations reflect the common fear of sleep, and the even more frightening phenomenon of sleep paralysis, by which the victim can neither awaken nor resist.

Rape is an unconscionable violation. In some quarters, this kind of alien behavior is explained in the blunt terms of breeding (either as experimentation or as part of a vast, concerted effort to create a human-alien hybrid race). To some other observers, though, the alien violations suggest some not-unreasonable questions.

Are sexually aggressive aliens plain criminals? Practical jokers? Imps of the perverse? Shape-shifters? (To clarify: just how does alien equipment adapt itself to human bodies?)

Might extraterrestrials have long ago inspired the incubus and succubus figures of folklore and dreams?


UFO FAQ is an all-inclusive guide to UFO lore – hard science and hoaxes, sightings and abductions, noted UFO proponents and skeptics, and sanctioned research and purported government cover-ups. Readers will meet cultists and explore worldwide UFO “hot spots.” They’ll learn about UFOs in World War II, the Cold War, and the age of terrorism. And they’ll zip along with UFOs in movies, comics, TV, and other popular media.

This Month in UFO History

David J. Hogan, author of UFO FAQ, takes a look at a moment in UFO history from September 1964.


00129007September daytime temperatures in Sacramento, California, average about 87 degrees, with nighttime lows of 58. Typical September rainfall there amounts to less than half an inch. In 1964, that splendid weather, plus the allure of the heavily wooded Cisco Grove campground inside nearby Tahoe National Forest, encouraged a local boy, 28-year-old Donald Shrum, and two friends to head out for a late-summer weekend of bow hunting.

Not long after becoming separated from his companions (a common-enough occurrence among hunters), Shrum witnessed a brightly illuminated 150-foot cylindrical UFO—and then spent the long night of September 4-5 treed by a pair of extraterrestrial humanoids. The 4- to 5-foot-tall creatures stared up at Shrum and shook the tree. Shrum hung on tight. When they tried to scale the trunk, Shrum retreated higher into the branches.

Metal men

Perhaps anxious to get their hands on Shrum and then depart, the aliens brought out a burly, human-shaped robot—dully metallic, with a smooth, helmet-shaped head dominated by two orange glowing eyes and a hinged jaw. The thing had an intimidatingly expansive chest, broad shoulders, and large, articulated hands. Gusset joints at the robot’s shoulders, elbows, and knees allowed enough flexible mobility for some particularly vigorous shakes of the tree.

Hey, who’s hunting who here?

   Shrum tightened his grip.

A second robot soon joined the first, and for the remainder of the night Shrum floated in and out of consciousness when vapor emitted from the robots’ mouths drifted up into the branches and knocked him senseless. Shrum was an experienced hunter who knew how to sleep in a tree without falling out, so despite the blackouts, he stayed put. During waking interludes, Shrum notched arrows and fired down at the robots, striking sparks but doing no apparent damage.

Shrum found a pocketful of coins, which he methodically threw at the visitors.

Then the young hunter remembered his matches. He began to peel off his clothes (even his cap), and set each article aflame, dropping them onto his tormentors. By the time he was done, Shrum wore nothing but his socks and underwear, and that 58 degrees began to feel a little chilly.

The vapor periodically came up into the branches, and Shrum continued to pass out and then revive. Finally, as dawn approached, Shrum awoke—hanging from the tree at an odd angle and held in place by his belt. But the belt was with my pants. Did the spacemen finally drag me out of the tree? And if they did, why put me back?

iron-man-mark-1-suit-tales-of-suspense-39The Air Force has some ideas

In the tradition of many dramatic UFO/ET sightings reported since “flying saucers” became big news in 1947, Shrum’s account was his alone. Nobody but Donald witnessed the immense ship and its aggressive occupants. Disinclined to be laughed at, and fearful of losing his job at Aerojet Engineering, Shrum shared his story with his hunting companions but chose his other confidantes carefully.

Well, check that. He did say something about his adventure to his mother-in-law, who was on the phone to nearby McClelland Air Force Base in a hot minute. Soon after, when two USAF investigators paid Shrum a visit, the young hunter stuck to his account. The Air Force men listened, and instead of making threats—which seems to happen more often in movies than in real life—they made a heroic attempt to convince Shrum that he hadn’t seen aliens and robots at all. No, one investigator explained, You ran into a Boy Scout troop doing a prank.

Shrum ran that through his mind for a long moment. Why would he have spent all night in a tree, lighting his clothes on fire, for a bunch of Boy Scouts?

Doubt must have been painted on Shrum’s face, because the Air Force men quickly tried another tack: It could have been Japanese tourists. We get a lot of them around here. Japanese tourists. They’re pretty curious, you know.

Well, sure, that could be it. The Japanese tourists discovered Shrum up the tree and gathered ’round for some picture-taking. Japanese tourists. In the woods. All night.

Because Shrum suggested no eagerness to spread his story around, the Air Force investigators stopped offering explanations, and wrote Shrum off as harmless. But they did take with them the two arrowheads that Shrum had bounced off the robots’ metallic hides.

The Air Force never returned the arrowheads.

Make mine Marvel

Neither Donald Shrum nor his friends ever tried to profit from his harrowing experience. There is no solid reason to doubt Shrum’s truthfulness. Still, there is this:

The March 1963 issue of Marvel’s Tales of Suspense comic book (#39) introduced a superhero named Iron Man. As conceived by writer-editor Stan Lee and artists Jack Kirby and Don Heck, Iron Man wore a bulky, helmeted iron suit, dull gray in color with gusseted joints and large metallic hands. This so-called “Mark 1” suit—very like the ones described by Shrum—continued through Tales of Suspense #47, cover-dated November 1963 and on sale in late summer, just one year before Shrum’s ordeal.

Submitted here are the cover of ToS #39, and an anonymous artist’s rendering (with Spanish-language notations) of the robots described by Shrum. Could Marvel’s bit of pop culture ephemera have been deep within Shrum’s mind when he embarked on his hunting trip?

If anyone knows for sure, they’re not talking.

 

Shelly Peiken: A letter to her father

Shelly Peiken, Grammy nominated songwriter and author of Confessions of a Serial Songwriter,  was a contributor to The Huffington Post blog. In it she dedicated a letter to her dad in honor of Father’s Day, which happened this past Sunday. Read what she had to say in the excerpt below!


COASS-Final_CVR_152159Dear Daddy,

Since you’ve been gone the world has gone a little mad. I miss you so, but there are things I’m happy you didn’t have to witness.

In 2001, terrorists flew a plane into the World Trade Center and both buildings crumbled to pieces. We watched it in real time on TV. Thousands of people lost their lives. It was horrible, Daddy. I’m so glad you didn’t have to see that.

In 2012 this crazy kid stormed into an elementary school and shot 20 little children. Can you imagine their parents’ heartbreak? You’re lucky you didn’t have to.

I also take heart in knowing you didn’t have to read about the guy who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Florida. And a few days ago fifty people from the LGBT community (an acronym we now use for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgender), were gunned down at a nightclub and a young girl was a fatally shot signing autographs after her concert. I knew this girl, Daddy. I can’t stop thinking about her.

There’s so much gun violence…in movie theaters, shopping malls, army bases, college campuses, even churches. Nothing is sacred.

Then there were these two brothers who left a bomb in a knapsack at the Boston marathon. They were part of this extremist militant group called ISIS. I’ll spare you the details of what they’ve been up to.

What I’m trying to say is…as much as I wish you were still here I take comfort in knowing you escaped some very painful times. At least that’s what I tell myself when I want to feel better about missing you so much.

On a lighter note (or maybe not), the political climate is a circus. One of the big issues during the presidential debates this year was whose penis was larger. Can you imagine Kennedy and Nixon having that discussion?


Read more HERE

Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group Launches Backwing

backwing_screenshot

MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, long the reader’s first choice for books on music, film, theater, television, and popular culture, is proud to announce the launch of backwing, a new digital community for creatives and fans.

Backwing will provide visitors with a vast array of information curated by and for aspiring and established actors, artists, authors, gurus, musicians, songwriters, producers, luminaries, entertainers, and, most broadly, fans. Every article on the site also serves as an open forum for those interested in a sustained discussion of any given topic.

“For nearly seven decades, Hal Leonard has provided consumers with the highest quality information available,” said Group Publisher John Cerullo. “We know who our readers are and what knowledge they crave. Backwing offers us a dynamic new means of reaching them, responding to their feedback, and cultivating conversations around our content in real time.”

Backwing is comprised of three main components. The first two—exclusive content pertaining to or drawn from HLPAPG products and a resource database populated with all manner of performing arts-related materials—will feature, in tandem with a vivacious comment section, multimedia created by and for HLPAPG authors and the publisher’s myriad industry associates.

“Since we reside at an intersection frequented by all manner of clientele, from nonprofits, educational organizations, and professional coalitions to gear, equipment, software, and instrument manufacturers, our contacts quite literally run the gamut of the performing arts world,” Cerullo explained. “We now aim to bring these brands together at backwing for the exclusive benefit of visitors to the site.

The third component, a direct-to-consumer sales portal featuring daily deals, giveaways, contests, and a slew of weekly/monthly special offers (many of which are also available to third-party vendors), can be found at backwingstore.com—an entirely separate domain.

Why two distinct websites? For the sake of every visitor’s experience, according to Cerullo: “Since backwing was designed with the end user foremost in mind, we’ve decided against tangling content and commerce. As such, multimedia content and resources are hosted at the deliberately noncommercial domain backwing.com while consumer products and services are restricted to the backwing Store.”

Thus, while backwing.com visitors may elect to peruse the site unencumbered by crass commercialism, backwingstore.com is always available to those who wish to explore HLPAPG’s catalog of more than 2,000 titles, take advantage of promotions featuring new releases and backlist titles, and enter contests to win fantastic prizes.

To get backwing off to a rousing start, HLPAPG is giving away great prizes for devotees of the performing arts, including an Epiphone guitar for music fans; a Rodgers + Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music package along with gift certificates to digitaltheatre.com for theater lovers; subscriptions to online streaming services for film and television buffs; and Met Opera on Demand Gift Subscriptions for classical music and opera enthusiasts.

HLPAPG encourages all performing arts enthusiasts, regardless of their skill level, industry status, or background, to join the creative conversation at its new digital hub. Welcome to backwing!

Dave Thompson speaks with Mr. Media

Author of The Rocky Horror Picture Show FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Campy Cult Classic, Dave Thompson, spoke with Bob Andelman host of Mr. Media. They spoke in great length about The Rocky Horror Picture show, it’s impact on pop culture, and its many many fans. Click on the link below to hear the full interview!

>>Listen<<

00139671When assessing the cultural impact of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, author Dave Thompson does not pull his punches: “Forty-plus years on from its debut in a tiny London theater; four decades, too, from its transition to the silver screen, Rocky Horror stands among the 1970s’ most lasting, and successful, contributions to modern culture.”

Thompson’s latest contribution to the Applause Books FAQ series, The Rocky Horror Picture Show FAQ (April 2016, Applause Books, $19.99) is the in-depth story of not only the legendary stage show and movie, but of a unique period in theatrical history, in both the movie’s UK homeland and overseas.

Inside these pages, we see Rocky Horror as sexual cabaret and political subversion, as modern mega-hit and Broadway disaster. At the movie house, we learn when to shout, what to throw, and why people even do those things. Here is the full story of the play’s original creation; its forebears and its influences are laid out in loving detail, together with both the triumphs and tragedies that attended it across the next 40 years.

Packed with anecdotes, The Rocky Horror Picture Show FAQ is the story of dozens of worldwide performances and the myriad stars who have been featured in them. From Tim Curry to Anthony Head, from Reg Livermore to Gary Glitter, from Daniel Abineri to Tom Hewitt, the lives and careers of the greatest ever Frank N. Furters stalk the pages, joined by the Riff-Raffs, Magentas, Columbias, and all the rest.

The book also includes the largest and most in-depth Rocky Horror discography ever published, plus a unique timeline – The Ultimate Rocky Horror Chronology – detailing the who, what, where, and when of absolute pleasure.

Andy Babiuk talks Beatles Gear with AudioFanzine!

Author of Beatles Gear – The Ultimate Edition, Andy Babiuk, was interviewed by AudioFanzine, an online magazine with content and services in the fields of audio and musical instruments.   Here’s a sample of the interview.  Click on the link at the bottom to read the entire interview at AudioFanzine!


00333744Babiuk’s book, published by Backbeat Books, is a coffee-table style tome full of information, anecdotes, and tons of photos. This is the second edition of the book, significantly expanded from the original, which was published in Britain in 2001.

“I worked directly with Olivia Harrison and with Ringo,” says Babiuk about his research for the new edition, “and McCartney’s been really cool, and Yoko was great.” His other sources included the late George Martin, Geoff Emerick the late Neil Aspinall, and many others.

Babiuk owns a boutique guitar store called Fab Gear in Rochester, NY, and has played for a long time in The Chesterfield Kings, which he says was largely inspired by bands of the British Invasion era.

I really liked the way that the book weaves in the band’s history along with the gear info.

Thank you. I wanted it to be a story about the Beatles from their perspective as musicians. You’ve got to tell the story of the band, you can’t just make it a list of things. And also, I was very happy that we were able to put the album covers in. Because it’s another way to give perspective of what was happening and what was being used during different phases of the band. We all remember those records and the covers, and that helps tell the timeline of where you’re at.

Some of the band’s early instrument choices were influenced by how difficult it was to get American brands in England, right? For instance, Paul’s choice of the Hofner bass.

Well the Hofner was more because they were in Germany. You’ve got to remember the mentality and the age of these guys when this was happening. McCartney was a teenager. He was either going to be out of high school and into some sort of art college or something, or he was going to go with his buddies and drink beer and pick up chicks and play music all day in Germany for months at a time. “Screw it, man, let’s go have a party!” That was the mentality. But along with that, they didn’t have any money. They were all living in a room together with a candle. It was wacky. Hofner was a German company. They were in the center of Hamburg. There were a lot of music stores there. So the Beatles were actually able to access and look at instruments that were available. The “violin” bass was unique because it was symmetrical. And McCartney said this himself. Most basses, like Fenders and others, are asymmetrical.

Oh right, because he needed to flip it over to play it lefty.

He saw it and said, “Gee, you could flip this over it would be the same.” I’ll guarantee you this, and everybody from that time period told me this, you could never, ever walk into a music store and see a left-handed instrument. It was just never going to happen. So McCartney was thinking, “Hmm, I’m in Germany, this is a German company. Can they build one and put the electronics on the other side?” The guy said “sure.” He was just trying to make a sale. He called up Hofner, “Hey, we’ve got a sale for a lefty, can you build one” “Sure.” And there you go, it’s as simple as that. And plus, it wasn’t expensive. It was a German-made bass, and they weren’t really sought after. Nobody played them.

And yet Paul ended up sticking with the Hofner for the most part, right?

Yeah, he did. And I think a lot of it has to do with that it was lightweight. He told me that. It doesn’t weigh anything. You can have it on your shoulder for two or three hours and it’s not pulling on you, it doesn’t weigh anything. And the other thing, too, if you’re a guitarist you’ll relate to this, when you have an instrument that you’re really familiar with, you tend to like to play it, because you know everything about it. You don’t have to look at the neck and you know exactly where the fifth fret is. You can just feel it.


Read the whole article HERE.

Baseball On The Big Screen

Tom DeMichael’s book, Baseball FAQ All That’s Left to Know About America’s Pastime, is a lot more than just a lot of stats and records. It’s about baseball in every way imaginable — on TV, the Movies,  its history, and more! Tom De Michael talks about Baseball’s integration with Hollywood in a chapter he titled, “Baseball at the Movies.” Read an excerpt of the chapter below, and get your copy today!


00131156The love affair between Hollywood and the game of baseball has been long, torrid, and very public. Even pioneer inventor Thomas Edison made the game a subject of his early filming efforts, shooting less than a minute of a Newark team playing an unidentified opponent in 1896.

Called The Ball Game, it was the precursor to Edison’s silent version of Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat” poem filmed in 1899. Titled Casey at the Bat or the Fate of a “Rotten” Umpire, it was a dramatization of the verse, shot on the inventor’s New Jersey lawn. It would be the first of at least seven versions of the story, including two feature-length films in 1916 and 1927, and five short films.

The growing popularity of cinema ran parallel to the growth of baseball in the early 1900s. Shorts like 1909’s His Last Game and 1912’s The Ball Player and the Bandit—both just twelve minutes each—combined baseball with the Wild West. Before long, it wasn’t unusual to see many baseball stars appearing on the big screen, acting as . . . well, acting as ballplayers.

Pitchers Chief Bender and Jack Coombs showed up in a 1911 comedy short, The Baseball
Bug, while Frank “Home Run” Baker starred in a 1914 short, curiously titled Home Run Baker’s Double. Pitching great Christy Mathewson appeared in Love and Baseball and Matty’s Decision, in 1914 and 1915, respectively.

Ty Cobb got in the act, starring in Somewhere in Georgia in 1916. Based on a not-so-original story by sportswriter Grantland Rice, the film features Cobb as a ball-playing bank clerk (years later he probably owned the bank). Discovered by a scout for the Detroit Tigers, the bank clerk leaves his sweetheart—the banker’s daughter—behind to play ball and steal bases, while a sneaky coworker tries to steal his girl. When Cobb is kidnapped
by thugs hired by the competing cashier, the Georgia Peach beats the bejesus out of
them, then arrives at the big game in time to win it, and his girl. Cobb made a cozy $25,000 for the two-week project.

It wouldn’t be long before the Bambino himself—Babe Ruth—brought his broad face
and big personality to the screen. With only one season under his (then-slim) belt with
the Yankees, Ruth starred in a seventy-one-minute 1920 feature called Headin’ Home. Once more, the story was not complex. A simple country boy named Babe (what a stretch . . .) doesn’t play baseball very well, until he blasts a long homer one day against the local team. Branded as a traitor to his town, he moves to New York and becomes a Yankee. With a return to his hometown, Babe is now a hero.

BaseballFAQmovieRuth’s cinematic career continued as his success with the real Yankees grew. He starred in two comedy features in 1927 and 1928, Babe Comes Home and Speedy. The Babe also showed up in half a dozen shorts in the 1930s, making his final film appearance as himself in 1942’s Pride of the Yankees.

Early feature films focusing on the game included The Pinch Hitter in 1917, The Busher in 1919, and Slide, Kelly, Slide in 1927. The Great Stoneface, Buster Keaton, went out for baseball in 1927’s College and performed a masterful baseball pantomime in 1928’s The Cameraman. A real fan of the game, he was known to assemble pickup ball games with the film crew whenever there was a break in the shooting.

In the early 1930s, comic Joe E. Brown—he with the loving-cup ears and saucer-sized mouth—a former semipro ballplayer who passed on an offer to play with the Yankees, made three baseball films: Fireman, Save My Child in 1932, Elmer the Great in 1933, and Alibi Ike in 1935. In all three films, Brown was a simple man with a passion for baseball. As an interesting afterfact, Brown’s son eventually became the general manager with the
Pittsburgh Pirates.

Ever since then, dozens and dozens of films with a baseball theme have captured the attention (and, more often than not, the admission price) of millions of moviegoers.
Some of the cinema stands out more than others, just like the ballplayers portrayed on the screen.

For many fans of the game, certain scenes and certain quotes remain, long after the projector has been shut down and the stale popcorn is tossed in the bin. For me, two particular moments stand out, both from films to be addressed in just a few paragraphs.

A key exchange in A League of Their Own, between manager Jimmy Dugan and star player Dottie Hinson, reaches far beyond the game of baseball. The catcher has decided to quit because, as she puts it, “It just got too hard.” Jimmy replies with a corny but still very true observation: “It’s supposed to be hard! If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard . . . is what makes it great.” Trite? Yes. Sappy? Yes. But a challenge to always reach higher? Yes.

In The Natural, slugger Roy Hobbs—confined to a hospital bed with his childhood sweetheart Iris Gaines at his side—reminisces about his life. Very simply, he pauses and quietly says, “God, I love baseball.” Truer words were never spoken, even if they’re just on film.

Stephen Tropiano on Pop Culture Tonight!

Stephen Tropiano, author of The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV, spoke with Patrick Phillips host of Pop Culture Tonight. They talked about the book, the impact that shows like Will & Grace and Ellen have had on today’s society in general and the LGBTQ+ community in particular. Listen to the podcast below to learn more!

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00314533Television history was made on April 30, 1997, when comedian Ellen DeGeneres and her sitcom alter-ego Ellen Morgan, “came out” to her close friends and 36 million viewers. This groundbreaking episode represented a significant milestone in American television. For the first time, a TV series centered around a lesbian character who was portrayed by an openly gay actor. The millions of viewers who tuned in that historic night were witnesses to a new era in television. THE PRIME TIME CLOSET offers an entertaining and in-depth glimpse into homosexuality on television from the 1950s through today. Divided into four sections, each devoted to a major television genre, this unique book explores how gay men and lesbians have been depicted in over three hundred television episodes and made-for-TV films. These include medical series, police/detective shows, situation comedies and TV dramas. THE PRIME TIME CLOSET also reveals how television’s treatment of homosexuality has reflected and reinforced society’s ignorance about and fear of gay men and lesbians. At the same time, it celebrates programs like Ellen and Will & Grace that have broken new ground in their sensitive and enlightened approach to homosexuality and gay-related themes. This book is witty and insightful, accessible and illuminating, a look into what has become an integral part of American media culture.