Wednesday, March 26, 2008
  Missed Opportunities

In Blazing Saddles when Cleavon Little rides past the Count Basie band in the desert, why doesn't Basie say, "One more time... One more once!"?

A Francis Ford Coppola adaptation of Marcia Davenport's My Brother's Keeper could have been a great film; the option to Davenport's novel floated about among different individuals for decades.

At the end of Into the Wild, an aerial shot and a map could have shown how the real-life Christopher McCandless would still be alive if he had simply walked a few miles in the other direction toward cabins and a road, as explained by Jon Krakauer in his book Into the Wild (1996).

Since all of the actors in The Magnificent Ambersons were alive during the 1960s, there was industry talk of reshooting the film's lost ending. Further, the actors had aged appropriately, so no makeup would have been necessary. However, no one stepped forward and gave Orson Welles the financing to begin the project. Control click "Missed Opportunities" heading to hear Orson Welles' October 29, 1939 radio production of ''The Magnificent Ambersons" with Walter Huston.

Dave Wallis' dystopian novel Only Lovers Left Alive (1964) tells of a bleak future in which people over 45 commit suicide. Teen gangs run wild, but eventually they have to learn survival skills. In May 1966 the Rolling Stones announced that they would appear in a film adaptation to be directed by Nicholas Ray. Since Ray made films about young people in the 1940s (They Live By Night), the 1950s (Rebel Without a Cause) and the 1970s (We Can't Go Home Again), there's an unfortunate gap.

Promoting The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), Anthony Minghella said, "More than anything else, it's Chet Baker that makes you feel the late '50s." So why didn't he direct Matt Damon in a Chet Baker biographical film?

Driving Miss Daisy has some interesting shots of the countryside during the road trip but no location shots when they arrive in Mobile. According to Google Maps, a drive from Atlanta to Mobile should take about five hours, so why is it night when they get to Mobile? To disguise the lack of location scenes? Perhaps a recreation of old Mobile will reach the screen if someone makes a biographical film drama based on Mobile native Eugene Walter's book with Katherine Clark, Milking the Moon: A Southerner's Story of Life on This Planet (2001).

Why didn't Bert Stern make a documentary film about Lambert, Hendricks and Ross?

George Stevens, after the death of James Dean, had Nick Adams dub some of Dean's lines in the banquet speech near the end of Giant to make the dialogue more clear. Watching the scene, one can easily spot where Adams' voice begins. Thus, Dean's true intention for that scene was obliterated.

Ken Burns said he owned "maybe two" jazz CDs, so why Ken Burns Jazz? In fact, his disinterest in music is evident in his other films, mixed so words take precedent and the music is a minor element or not authentic. "Ashokan Farewell" is not a song from the Civil War as many believe. Why not Anthony Minghella's Jazz? Terry Zwigoff's Jazz? Bert Stern's Jazz?

Who allowed Little Iodine (1946) to become a lost film?

Monday, March 24, 2008
  SI Vault

Control click heading above to hear audio of Howard Chace's "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut."

As far as I know, only three magazines have made their entire back issue archives available on discs. These are Mad, National Geographic and The New Yorker. Now here comes a whole new ball game.

Sports Illustrated just made its archives available online with an easy-access reader employing scrolling thumbnails and a simulation of page turning. One can read straight through an issue with easy zoom or search. Type Favre into the search engine, and you'll get back over 1656 results (436 articles, 181 photos, 24 galleries, 1000 videos and 15 covers). The SI Vault has some 50,000 stories, 2,800 covers, 500,000 photographs and a Wiki for entering corrections and "building a world-class sports encyclopedia" plus video clips from ESPN, NBC Sports, NFL, AOL and other sources.

I decided to test the advanced search function. I remembered that the first issue in the mid-1950s had a short item about Howard L. Chace's "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut." I tried both his name and the title of his book, Anguish Languish (Prentice Hall, 1956). I got an August 17, 1959 issue with an article on Chace but not the first issue of Sports Illustrated. However, the 1959 article enabled me to figure out the date of the debut issue (August 16, 1954) and going through the first issue page by page, I found the Chace item, titled "Parlor sport," on pages 25-26.

If you begin at the first issue, you can click through each of the 1954 covers and also email covers.

This is all so impressive that one is left hoping they will do the same with Life, and sure enough, at the Life site it appears they are about to turn Luce a similar set-up. The site has a large notice:

Who was Howard L. Chace? In addition to providing organ music accompaniment for silent film screenings, he was a professor of Romance languages at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) who stumbled onto the fact that virtually any syllable in the English language can be replaced by a similar sounding syllable. As Chace later explained, "an unbelievable number of English words, regardless of their usual meanings, can be substituted quite satisfactorily for others."

With that realization, he began to write familiar nursery tales and rhymes into what he called Anguish Languish. Chace's creation first surfaced in Gene Sherman's "Cityside" column in the Los Angeles Times and moved on to the San Francisco Chronicle before it was picked up by Sports Illustrated.

In 1995, Dorothy Behlen Heinrichs recalled that "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut" was "written by my great aunt Iola's second husband, Howard Chace, a professor of English at Miami University. I have a copy of it somewhere that he gave me one Thanksgiving. He was also a gifted organist. He used to play organs during silent movies to provide the excitement. My father was crazy about him and gave him the key to our house to come over and practice on our organ anytime."

With publicity from Sports Illustrated and Arthur Godfrey (who read "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut" on his program) there soon was such a demand in 1955 that it led to Chace's book, Anguish Languish. The somewhat inert and passive cartoon illustrations were by Hal Doremus, who usually illustrated cookbooks. Chace never became a media personality and never explored the merchandising possibilities, so interest in Anguish Languish faded away until some of his writings were revived on the Internet during the 1990s. Another Chace tale, "Slipping Booty," begins like this:

Lessen, poisoned gulls, ditcher wander hair annulled furry tell a boarder Slipping Booty? Hoecake? Wail, heresy starry. Wants dare worsted putty ladle prances hoe hat ban putter slip furry hunter cheers buyer wicket an shellfish furry gourd murder. Dish putty gull, pimple set, worse line honor bet, sounder slip, inner bet rum off annulled gloaming casserole, saturated inner lodge, dock florist.
"Slipping Booty" is copyright ©2008 by the Howard Chace Estate

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008
  "Write if you get work."
Control click on above heading to hear Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding. Or click here for Bob and Ray's Encyclopedic Book of Wonder.

The NYC Paley Center has an upcoming (3/31) Bob and Ray panel discussion with Bob Elliott (now 85), Chris Elliott and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. The connection is that Olbermann's "Worst Person in the World" segment is based on an old Bob and Ray routine.

The other cast members on the Bob and Ray television series (1951-53) were Cloris Leachman and Audrey Meadows. Above: Meadows plays a game of Duplication with Bob and Ray. The game required Peppermint Patties, cards, checkers and cribbage boards. The series was also known as Club Embassy.

NPR interview with Bob Elliott.

Thanks to collector Ira Gallen, here's a 1952 clip from the series involving a pitch for the Bob and Ray Burglar Kit.

When you click to enlarge Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular (RCA LSP 1773), you can see that on this 1958 Living Stereo record jacket Jack Davis managed to squeeze in almost every performer and group heard on the album. (The only one I don't see is the Percussion Ensemble.)

Listen above for episodes of Bob and Ray's Mary Backstayge, Noble Wife. When I was last at the Museum of Television & Radio (now the Paley Center), I saw they had a huge amount of uncataloged Bob and Ray shows. In 1954 I stayed up until 11pm to listen each night to their late night series, a bit more informal than their daytime shows, yet I never see that series mentioned in print and never run across any CDs or MP3s specifically noting the late night series. Odd. Does anyone know if this is around somewhere? Another item I recall: the Bob and Ray newsletter, available if one wrote in and requested to be placed on the mailing list. Has anyone ever seen this?

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Saturday, March 15, 2008
  Hecht on Bodenheim

Ben Hecht

Four minutes into this clip from Art Ford's Greenwich Village Party (1957), Ford interviews Ben Hecht, who talks about his decades-long friendship with the poet-novelist Maxwell Bodenheim (1892-1954). Bodenheim's earliest writings drew praise from Carl Sandburg and William Carlos Williams, who called him "the young genius poet." Between 1918 and 1934, Bodenheim wrote 13 novels, eight books of poetry and contributed to The New Yorker and other magazines. In later years, Bodenheim lived in poverty in the Village, a homeless derelict. Bodenheim and his third wife, Ruth Fagin, were murdered February 6, 1954.

The opening line below about hot sauce refers to a WWI incident in which Bodenheim attempted to drink lye in order to get out of the military. Most of his taste buds were burned away, so when Bodenheim got a dinner invitation, he usually arrived with a small bottle of Tabasco sauce in his pocket. 

From Ben Hecht's Letters from Bohemia (Doubleday, 1964):

Bodenheim came to dinner in my house, having promised to forego sauce bottles and salt and pepper shakers. It was a party of welcome to a new writer for The Chicago Literary Times. Its staff to date had remained only Bodenheim and I. I thought it time to add another worker.

His name was John Armstrong. He had sent me the manuscript of a novel written while in detention at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station at Lake Forest. It was a fascinating manuscript, detailing the miseries and frustrations of life in the Navy. Sailor Armstrong was under detention in the lunacy ward of the U. S. Naval Hospital.

After some discussion, the Navy doctors admitted that Armstrong was not seriously insane, but only too oddly behaved to serve in the U. S. Navy. His chief oddity was that he was inclined to go off into fits of laughter that lasted for hours. He could be quieted only by powerful drugs. The officer in charge of the Naval base agreed to release him into my custody with three provisos. I was to give him employment on my weekly paper; to provide sleeping quarters for him in my house; and to do all I could to keep his novel from being published.

At the dinner table welcoming the new literary find were Margaret Anderson, Sherwood Anderson, Burton Rascoe (the critic), and several opera singers whose names I have forgotten. And Bodenheim. 
Bodenheim ponders his next poem.
A discussion of music circled the table despite Bodenheim's insistence that the art of music had no relation to the art of conversation. His further efforts to swing the talk around to a discussion of himself, or at least, of poetry in general, were ignored. But literary find John Armstrong suddenly sided with the poet.

"Mr. Bodenheim is right," said Armstrong, "one doesn't talk about music. One listens to it."

Armstrong left the table and headed for the phonograph in the living room. The music he selected for listening was Chaliapin's record "The Song of the Flea" from Boito's opera Mefistofele.

In the middle of the record Chaliapin unlooses a burst of Satanic laughter, for a half minute that seems like an hour. Sailor Armstrong kept putting the needle back and playing the passage over and over. Finally, rolling his pants up to his knees (why, I don't know) Armstrong joined Chaliapin in his laughter. Putting the needle back to replay the passage, Armstrong finally outlaughed the great baritone in range and volume.

We all listened and watched from the dining table. "A fascinating sort of dementia," someone said.

"It is rarely you see an American writer," said Margaret Anderson, "who is not hopelessly sane."

There were other comments about the laughing genius with the rolled-up pants whom I had been clever enough to add to my paper's staff. Please, we were very young that night.

It was all too much for Bodenehim. At least our lonesome poet made a canny bid for our attention. Having emptied his tenth wineglass, he proceeded to eat it. He bit of chunks of his fragile goblet, chewed and swallowed the bits of glass as if they were the finest of desserts.

The diners turned one by one to watch the poet's amateur and gory performance as a glass eater.

"Good God," someone said, "you'll kill yourself swallowing that glass. You're a poet, not a circus freak." "Every poet is both," Bodenheim answered aloofly.

He continued to talk of poetry, and to recite some of his own latest work, holding the diners fascinated by the stream of blood and words from his mouth.

A half hour later, Bodenheim's triumph was completed. A doctor arrived to inject a powerful drug into John Armstrong, who had never stopped laughing. Our literary find went back that night to the detention ward at the Naval base. Bodenheim, after some minor medical attention, remained as my sole colleague on the Literary Times.

Bodenheim wrote a few novels for Liveright, Georgie May, Replenishing Jessica, Naked on Roller Skates. They were hack work with flashes of tenderness, wit, and truth in them, and some verbal fireworks in every chapter.

He spoke of his novels without enthusiasm. "Millions of people are reading my prose effusions," he said - millions and thousands were the same general number to Bogie - "but I'm not actually happy. I am returning shortly to writing poetry."

He did. His royalty checks dwindled. His brief fame as an odd, erotic novelist evaporated. And the Greenwich Village Bodenheim emerged. A homeless wino started reading his poems in saloons and picking up the pennies and nickels thrown to him. Occasionally an editor bought one of his poems and rewarded him with a 25-dollar check.

He continued trying to strike it rich by entering all the poetry contests. Prizes ranging from a hundred to a thousand dollars were to be snatched by the winners.

Bodenheim had entered, since his youth, 223 such contests, and been defeated by other poets in all of them. He used to sign his letters to editors, "Maxwell Bodenheim, 224th ranking U.S.A. poet."

The Greenwich Village Bodenheim had no allure for me. I preferred to remember the Chicago version. One rainy day I ran into Bogie on Broadway. His face was gaunt, most of his teeth were gone. But there were some things unchanged about him. He was wearing the same army overcoat, carrying the same worn and bulging brief case; and his eyelids still fluttered disdainfully when he spoke.

In a saloon, Bogie showed me the poems he had written in the last ten years. They covered several hundred pages of typing. They were no longer poems full of fragile and unexpected metaphors, poems that used to seem written not by a human being but by some brilliant Jack-of-Diamonds.

The new Bodenheim output in his ten New York years was full of coherently phrased love for shop girls, laborers, and all underdogs and castaways. There was no hint in them of the poet's own travail, of his despairs, hungering days, attempted suicides. Written during hangovers, during illnesses that kept him out of saloons that still tolerated his presence, they were the poems of an observer, never a victim. They were also in sonnet form, and rhymed. But their unexpected imagery was unchanged.
--Ben Hecht

Slavko Vorkapich created this unforgettable montage sequence of "The Furies" for the opening of Crime Without Passion (1934), written and directed by Charles MacArthur and Hecht.

Re clip at top, this is from the Village Voice (July 17, 1957):

Art Ford to do a Weekly TV Program on the Village

A weekly television show based in the mind of its producer on the real Greenwich Village is to be unveiled over WABD-Dumont, Channel 5, around September 1. The producer is radio’s Art Ford, 34-year-old m.c. of the “Make-Believe Ballroom” and “Milkman’s Matinee.” His new project is to be entitled “Art Ford’s Greenwich Village Party.”

The program will focus on Village music—folk, jazz, bongo, and classical—on Village art and artists, and on then off-Broadway theatre and night-club entertainment. “It will not try to encompass the whole Village,” Ford last week told the Voice, “but what it does encompass will be as accurate and real as we can make it, not a stereotyped caricature of Greenwich Village.”

His plan is to open each week in a simulated Village studio-apartment where a party will be in progress attended by real Villagers—entertainers and just plain people—invited for the occasion. Spontaneity will be sought for by not informing the guests when “live” cameras are putting them on the air.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Hulu launches today with with 250 TV series and 100 feature-length films. Here's a short (5:54) sample. Don't worry. The ad at the bottom of the screen will go away after 30 seconds. Click on side of image to go to the site and expand to full screen. Click on center of image to watch here on Potrzebie. Any comments?

Sunday, March 09, 2008
  Funny Face
At the EC offices during the early 1950s, Bill Gaines and Harvey Kurtzman look over a completed story.

One influence on Harvey Kurtzman was the Yiddish entertainer Aaron Lebedeff (1873-1960), who was born in Gomel, Belarus, and immigrated to America via Shanghai in 1920. A star of the Yiddish theater and a comedic lyricist, he was still performing in the 1950s. In Mad #4 (April-May 1953), the name of the character Lamont Shadowskeedeeboomboom in Kurtzman's parody of The Shadow is directly inspired by a Lebedeff riff. Control-click on title above to hear a fragment of  Lebedeff singing "A Yiddish Leidele."

The article below in which Harvey Kurtzman explains the origin of Alfred E. Neuman was syndicated to newspapers February 6, 1975. He mentions Bernard Shir-Cliff who later became a contributor to Mad and Help! 
He did his own humor anthology, The Wild Reader (1956), before moving on as an agent and the editor of Warner Books. For more extensive research into the "What, Me Worry?" kid, see Maria Reidelbach's Completely Mad (Little, Brown, 1991).

Another of Kurtzman's inventions was the hand with six fingers. He drew this in an ersatz engraving style which added to the illusion. It must have been effective, because he was disappointed that no Mad readers commented on the extra finger.

That Face on Mad

by Harvey Kurtzman

There’s a question that nags wherever I go. Again and again I am asked, Where did Alfred Neuman come from? For those of you who didn’t hear a bell ring at the mention of Alfred N., he is the face you see on the covers of Mad magazine. And for those of you who ring, let me put the eternal question to rest, once and for all.

The face first came to my attention when I was doing the comic book
Mad for publisher William Gaines in the middle fifties -- I think it was 1954. We were working with Ballantine paperback books on the first of a series of Mad reprint collections.

Since I was
Mad’s chief cook and bottle washer at the time, there wasn’t a moment of my waking life that wasn’t devoted to the search for more and more Mad material. In this condition, and while passing the time of day in the office of an editor, Bernard Shir-Cliff, I noticed on the Ballantine Book bulletin board a postcard with this face. The card had some ad message--I don’t recall what. And the face itself was printed alongside in a space, maybe an inch by an inch and a half. The face was not unfamiliar. I associated it with the funny picture postcards in Times Square penny arcades and tourist traps, this one with the caption “What, Me Worry?” under the bumpkin portrait -- part leering wiseacre, part happy-go-lucky kid.

But what interested me about this Ballantine version was that of all the reproductions I remembered, this one looked like the authentic, original-source portrait -- the real goods. While everything I’d seen before was cartoon, this seemed to be a photograph of the actual face! So I pocketed the card and rushed back to the workshop where I inserted the “What, Me Worry?” face on and in subsequent issues of
Mad magazine. I was very fond of plastering Mad with inanities -- items like Potrzebie, Melvin Cowznofski, Alfred E. Neuman. The readers apparently liked them.

The word "Potrzebie" pasted into Mad #13.
Potrzebie was a word clipped at random from a Polish language newspaper. Melvin was borrowed from the old Ernie Kovacs Show, as Alfred E. was borrowed from Hollywood by way of the old, old Henry Morgan show.

Alfred Newman (the late) was in reality a movie-music man whose credits were legion on the silver screen. Morgan would use the name for various innocuous characters that passed through his show, and I did in
Mad, after Morgan’s fashion. And even though the face was, and ever would be, to me, a What, Me Worry? Kid, our fan mail insisted on calling him Melvin Cowznofski and Alfred E. Neuman.

As a matter of fact, in the ensuing fan enthusiasm over the face, we ourselves became curious as to his genealogy, and in our letters page we asked the readers for whatever source information they might have.

The answers were astonishing. The face dated back to the 19th century. It was supposed to have been used for selling patent medicine, shoes and soft drinks. The kid was depicted as a salesman, a cowboy, a doughboy, and was rendered in dozens of slight to grossly altered variations. But the answer I have always liked to believe was that the face came from an old high school biology text -- an example of a person who lacked iodine. Whatever the truth might be,
Mad adopted the face as its mascot, and we used it like a trademark on all our covers.

With the success of
Mad, disputations arose. Readers laid copyright claim to the face, and eventually the issue went to court -- not to just any court, but to the Supreme Court of the land. In this lofty council, Mad won, once and for all, the right to use the face. The What, Me Worry? kid was permanently baptized Alfred Neuman by Albert Feldstein, the editor who came after me.

So that’s the story, once and for all. Don’t ask me any more.

                                                       --Harvey Kurtzman

This is the title page of the Mad Style Guide which I edited for Mad in 1994. Notice Alfred at top and Bill Gaines in the upper right corner. In the lower left the border art is signed, "Kurtzman and Elder." The scan crops off the foot at upper right which has the word "Introduction" and was die-cut to go outside the trim edge of the paper.

Circulated for use by potential licensees, the book's three-ring binder format displays numerous images created for use on T-shirts and other products. Along with Mad words and catchphrases, it contains color guides, model sheets, logos and icons, plus new artwork by Sergio Aragones, Tom Bunk, Dave Manak, Angelo Torres and George Woodbridge. Some past covers of Mad were recycled by Torres who drew new versions of those covers as black-and-white line art for the Mad Style Guide.

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Monday, March 03, 2008
  Vivian Kubrick's Making The Shining
Vivian Kubrick was 17 years old when she made this documentary for BBC Arena. It runs 34 minutes, 59 seconds. Curiously synchronistic to post this right after the previous post, inasmuch as Jack Nicholson once did an interview where he revealed that in The Shining he was attempting to recreate the crazed characters he remembered from reading EC Comics. The documentary shows his preparation for the ax-wielding scene, getting into an EC frame of mind and looking not unlike a panel from Crime SuspenStories.

For Jerry Saravia's review of the documentary, click here.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008
  Ghoulishly Yours

Where did people go for fantastic tales before EC Comics? Click heading above to hear five 1948-49 episodes of Wyllis Cooper's Quiet Please.

With the recent press release announcement about a forthcoming film biography of Bill Gaines, Ghoulishly Yours, William M. Gaines, one can speculate on the casting of EC staffers and how they will be depicted. In this Wally Wood drawing from  "EC Confidential!" (Weird Science 21, September-October 1953), we see (l to r) most of the EC crew: Jack Kamen, Joe Orlando, Johnny Craig, Harvey Kurtzman, Graham Ingels, Al Feldstein, Bill Gaines, Wally Wood, Al Williamson, Jack Davis, Bill Elder, John Severin and George Evans. Missing from the line-up here are Bernard Krigstein, Reed Crandall, Frank Frazetta and Roy Krenkel. EC colorist Marie Severin (sister of John Severin) is seen at far left. The other women who worked in the EC offices were Gloria Orlando (married to Joe Orlando in 1951), Nancy Siegel (married to Gaines in 1955) and receptionist Shirley Norris. Tatjana Weintraub (married to Wally Wood in 1950) was an uncredited artist on some EC pages. Here's the 2/14 press release about the movie:

John Landis (National Lampoon's Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Masters of Horror) has been attached to direct the authorized feature biopic, Ghoulishly Yours, William M. GainesLandis will develop the project with Joel Eisenberg, who is penning the screenplay based on the life of the titular EC Comics' publisher (Tales from The Crypt, Mad). Pic will revolve around the banding together of an anti-establishment group of artists and writers, led by a reluctant Gaines and cohort Al Feldstein, as they produce their controversial yet hugely popular line of comic books. At the peak of his success Gaines becomes an unwitting First Amendment figurehead, defending his livelihood against the U.S. government amidst accusations of perpetuating juvenile delinquency. Landis most recently helmed Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project for HBO. Eisenberg is a partner in production concern EMO Films, LLC with Tim Owens and Eugene Mandelcorn. Project is authorized by William M. Gaines Agent, Inc. 

Feldstein has signed on as the Creative Consultant of Ghoulishly Yours, William M. Gaines. In this photograph from the early 1950s, Gaines and Feldstein take a lunch break after spending the morning at 225 Lafayette Street writing and proofreading EC Comics. Cartoonist Vince Musacchia (see link at right) notes the photo was probably taken inside Patrissy's Restaurant, located in Little Italy at 98 Kenmare Street, just around the corner from 225 Lafayette Street, and indeed, Patrissy's is mentioned in both Frank Jacobs' The Mad World of William M. Gaines (Lyle Stuart, 1972) and Digby Diehl's Tales from the Crypt: The Official Archives (St. Martin's, 1996). "We'd plot in the morning, then go to Patrissy's, the local Italian restaurant," remembered Feldstein. "We'd gorge ourselves on spaghetti and manicotti and bread. I got fat. In a very short time I ballooned from 150 to 180." Feldstein soon chose to have melba toast and cottage cheese at the office instead of scanning the Patrissy's menu daily. Patrissy's opened in 1906, and eight decades later Danny Patrissy sold his restaurant to Arnold Magliaccio in 1995. It became NoLita's (a portmanteau since 1994 from "North of Little Italy") when it was taken over by Nicholas Barnes in 2000. So we are looking at a photo of the restaurant where EC stories were discussed and developed, leading to the question: Will Patrissy's be recreated for the movie?

Frank Jacobs' book was in the hopper for a film adaptation by HBO, as Jacobs recalled in 2006:

My book, The Mad World of William M. Gaines, was optioned six years ago by HBO. They held onto it for five years, then Fox/Searchlight productions, a division of Fox, took over, and now they’re finding that they don’t have enough in their budget for the film we want. So now it looks like Fox is selling the rights to another studio. I don’t know where it’s at right now, but I’m still waiting for the movie to be made. And it (the book) still has a good cult following, which pleases me. I get nice comments about it from time to time. So far as Oliver Platt goes, he seemed the choice early on. It had to be a young actor who was portly, who could pass for Bill Gaines because the script of the movie starts with Bill Gaines coming in knowing nothing, developing EC, and coming up with the horror comics. It covers the whole horror period, and the script ends with Mad becoming a success. It also covers the Harvey Kurtzman incident, you know, when Harvey demanded 51 percent, couldn’t get it, and Feldstein took over.

Patrissy's also figures into David Hajdu's new book, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, published this month (3/18) by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. With impeccable research, Hajdu covers reactions to comic books in the 1950s, the impact of Fredric Wertham, Gaines' confrontation with the Kefauver committee and other events we might expect to eventually see dramatized in Ghoulishly Yours. To write this detailed, authoritative overview, Hajdu spent six years interviewing over 150 comic book artists, writers, editors and publishers. The bibliographic notes alone fill 62 pages. An appendix includes the names of hundreds of artists, writers and others "who never again worked in comics after the purge of the 1950s." Surpassing past accounts, this is the definitive history of the comic book controversy and all levels of those involved, from censors to readers.

The clip below shows Bill Gaines  and Mad writer Dick DeBartolo on To Tell the Truth in 1973. DeBartolo was a writer for Match Game and other game shows. During the early 1960s he invited Match Game guests to go on the roof where they performed in DeBartolo's  8mm films. He once had a showing of these films in a Manhattan hotel ballroom.

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Masquerade of the albino axolotls

My Photo

is the editor of Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood (2003), reviewed by Paul Gravett.

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