SkeletonPete’s Yester-Play #1: Star-Spangled Warriors

A SkeletonPete "Yester-Play" Tribute to the War That Time Forgot Series.

A SkeletonPete “Yester-Play” Tribute to the War That Time Forgot Series.

Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yester-Play…
Here’s a photographic homage to those thrilling days of “yester-play.” It’s first in a series I hope to continue as the muses allow. The idea is to periodically root through my old basement toy barrel for inspiration and attempt to artistically photograph whatever I pull out. The first “excavation” yielded this fanciful two-headed Tyrannosaurus and triggered a remembrance of one of my favorite comic book series, Star Spangled War Stories.

What It Is…
Some of my earliest comic book encounters came when my parents or grandparents would walk me to the corner candy store to peruse the newsstand and there before my wondering eyes would be a new issue of DC Comics’ Star Spangled War Stories. Why was Star Spangled so special? Well, because in May of 1960 (with Issue #90) DC began an incredible run of stories that mashed up World War II tales with a land-that-time-forgot motif. In other words, G.I.’s versus dinosaurs stories. Usually heralded by spectacular Joe Kubert or Ross Andru/Mike Esposito rendered covers, they launched me into innumerable hours of pitting my John’s Bargain Store green plastic soldiers against an onslaught from my Louis Marx dinosaur collection.

So here for your approval is my imagining of a Star Spangled tale never told. As with my Safari Ltd. “Good Luck Mini’s” tribute to King Kong, this shot was staged as a table-top tableau using bath towels, house plants and garden rocks for the scenery. The really neat metal tank was a serendipitous discovery in the local 99 Cent store, as was the G.I. in the foreground.

This Cover for Star Spangled War Stories #125 Typifies the Dinosaur Island Series.

This Cover for Star Spangled War Stories #125 Typifies the Dinosaur Island Series.

For more information on the original books, here is the Wiki.

All the great covers can be found in DC Comics’ Archive. The “War That Time Forgot” and “Dinosaur Island” stories began with Issue 90 and ended with Issue 137 (March 1968,) after which the book became a vehicle for the Enemy Ace character.
DC Comics recently announced plans to revive the Star Spangled War Stories title with issue #1 arriving in July 2014. Focus will be on a G.I. Zombie character, but I can’t imagine that the temptation to revisit the land of tanks vs. dinosaurs can be resisted.

Picture Yourself: Morrison Hotel Gallery Launches 50th Anniversary Beatles Photo Celebration

It Was 50 Years Ago Today, Literally…
I’m writing this at 11:12 AM on Sunday February 9, 2014. 50 years ago, at this moment, America at large was mostly unaware of a group of four long haired lads from someplace in England called Liverpool, though a persistent gnat-like buzz about something called The Beatles was infiltrating their consciousness via a building media feeding frenzy.

That evening, introduced on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Sunday night staple of family television viewing, 73 million people tuned in and everything changed.

The Morrison Hotel Gallery in SOHO NYC launched their Beatles 50th Anniversary Photo Celebration with a bustling opening night event.

The Morrison Hotel Gallery in SOHO NYC launched their Beatles 50th Anniversary Photo Celebration with a bustling opening night event.

Tell Me What You See…
As a February 1964-2014 celebration The Morrison Hotel Gallery has mounted a 30 image collection, curated by Julian Lennon, mostly focused the events of the Fab’s American arrival, first US concerts, and Sullivan show appearances.

Guests crowded the gallery’s opening night event, discussed their favorite images and the influence that The Beatles have had on their lives, to a background of the Sullivan show performances.

Gallery owner Peter Blachley greeted Pattie Boyd, the former Mrs. George Harrison, who has several images in the exhibition. Boyd was interviewed by Japan Broadcasting Company NHK. CBS’s Anthony Mason, who will host an online “warm-up” for tonight’s commemorative broadcast, was also in attendance. (Editor’s Note – 02.10.14: An overview of that event, featuring Pattie Boyd, Peter Asher, Andrew Loog Oldham, Neil Innes, Felix Calvaliere and many others can be found here)

Pattie Boyd discusses her photo work and Beatle lore with Erina Aoyama of Japan's NHK Broadcasting.

Pattie Boyd discusses her photo work and Beatle lore with Erina Aoyama of Japan’s NHK Broadcasting.

There are plenty of iconic images, like the Fabs’ emerging from the airplane in New York City to screaming fans, along with a nice selection of shots new to even those of us who have been following along since 1964. Of interest to photographers will be Robert Whitaker’s proof sheet from the Sullivan show appearance.

Along with the familiar on-stage and staged images we’re treated to a number of peeks at the group behind the scenes. These fly-on-the-wall moments, in the back of a limo or relaxing in a hotel room, nicely balance with the running, jumping, standing still PR confections. They are like a look inside the eye of a publicity hurricane.

Photographer Charles Trainor captured future world wide icons on the rise in 1964.

Photographer Charles Trainor captured future world wide icons on the rise in 1964.

Punch Brothers…
Charles Trainor’s documentation of “the boys” Goon Show style encounter with Muhammed Ali (then Cassius Clay) still stands as a brilliant, though last minute, press coup that in its time seemed to legitimize the careers of each burgeoning star.

SkeletonPete Says…
The Morrison Hotel Gallery exhibit includes the work of the aforementioned Trainor, Whitaker and Boyd, along with images by Curt Gunther, Terry O’Neill and Ken Regan. Limited Edition prints are available for purchase in a number of sizes. The exhibition runs through February at the Gallery’s Loft space, 124 Prince Street, 2nd floor, SOHO, NYC.

I was 9 years old when that first Sullivan Show appearance was broadcast. As with so many others, The Beatles became part of my personal timeline and their artistic growth always of interest, but nothing ever really matched the sheer exuberance of that experience.

As someone who in the past has surreptitiously used February 9, 1964 as the Facebook birthdate for my own band, it was great to meet so many people who have only experienced The Beatles in historical retrospect but are appreciative of that performance which turned into a cultural watershed.

Rumble in the Jungle: A Safari Photo Fantasy

king kong, safari good luck minis

SkeletonPete’s Photo Fantasy: Sarfari Ltd Good Luck Minis Prepare for a Rumble in the Jungle to Honor King Kong’s 80th Anniversary

The original 1933 King Kong – toys and miniatures – close-up photography. These are a few of my favorite things, and a bit of serendipity helped me mash them all up all into this one image.

Let Me Explain…
In the process of preparing continuing coverage of the 2013 American International Toy Fair I opened the little bag of goodies Safari Ltd offered to press folks reporting on their product line. Low and behold out fell a Tyrannosaurus Rex and great little gorilla, both part of Safari’s Good Luck Minis collection.

Since this coming weekend marks the 80th anniversary of RKO’s King Kong, I thought I’d have some photographic fun with the two Minis and a Polaroid close-up lens kit I purchased recently. I wanted to see how far I could push these simple screw-on adapters before shelling out for a “real” macro lens. I’ve also been contemplating what my first posting to Flicker’s Toy Photographers Group might be and this seemed a perfect opportunity to create a table-top tableau mimicking the thrilling battle between Kong and the T-Rex.

What It Is…
Using mostly household items, I did my best to recreate the mise en scene of Gustave Dore’s etchings which inspired the art direction of Kong 33’s Skull Island.

Along with the two Safari LTD. miniatures – which measure 7/8’s of an inch tall – there are brown and green bath towels as the foreground, plastic Christmas flowers that didn’t get stored away yet as the canopy, and a few slate drink coasters are the middle ground. A small acrylic painting of the Sedona, Arizona landscape I did twenty years ago is the distant background and some twigs from my front yard complete the effect. A frosted glass candle holder and a clear plastic bag were used to modify the output of a battery powered 126 LED light source.

Shot on a Nikon D300 with 50mm lens and +2 close-up adapter. I think the super-shallow depth of field produced by the adapter helps convey the look of an other worldly jungle. Aside from a slight crop the image is posted as shot, there’s no Photoshop post production.

Calling All Scream Queens…
Along with other “Kong-o-philes”, I’ll be celebrating the king’s birthday at NYC’s Film Forum screening this Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11AM. The event includes a Fay Wray “scream-a-like” contest which should be a highlight.

What’s Up Doc…
Also see my recent post about Altus Press’s soon to be released pulpy pairing of Doc Savage and King Kong on Skull Island.

How the Gretsch Stole Brooklyn: Street Sounds Hosts 2012 Music Event

Fountains of Wayne Headline Gretsch Guitar Day at Brooklyn's Street Sounds

Stole Brooklyn? Well stole our hearts certainly. Die hard BKLYN flag wavers like myself always appreciate and support home town heroes who return to their roots. The Gretsch Musical Instrument Company has made a point of celebrating the place of its origins (in 1883) by making Brooklyn’s Street Sounds an annual stop on their road show events. The “Fred and Joe Show” features company owner Fred W. Gretsch and Guitar Product Specialist Joe Carducci along with a troupe of Grestchites who offer up an afternoon of musical treats, giveaways, and signings. I thought the 2011 extravaganza (see it here) could not be topped but I was happily proven wrong on Saturday June 2, 2012 when proprietor Rocky Schiano and his family welcomed the Gretsch family – and the music community at large – to his Bay Ridge music outlet. Schiano has built his business into one of the leading Gretsch instrument depots on the planet.

Miles of Styles…
Last year the focus was on the reverently researched and replicated George Harrison DuoJet model. This year the show highlighted the breadth of styles played by Gretsch musicians. A full stage was erected in the midst of Street Sounds’ well stocked shelves and the show was broadcast live worldwide via the internet. In addition to the musical acts Ms. Kim Falcon, Gretsch’s very own pin-up gal, helped choose the winners of two beautiful guitars and signed copies of her newest poster.

Like a revival meeting preaching the soul of Rock n Roll, Fred and Joe introduced talented players from Austin, Nashville, Canada, another “outer-borough”, and just around the corner (literally.) The audience got a dose of fiery rockabilly from The Octanes, dazzling fingerpicking from Paul Pigat with his band Cousin Harley and some sparkling country harmonies from sisters Nik and Sam. The next generation of Gretsch players was represented by local gang The Foxy Studs who opened the afternoon with the iconic licks of The Beatles’ “Daytripper.” Performances were framed by fun 1950’s news clips decrying the awful effect of “the beat, the beat, the beat” on the youth of America. Oops, too late.

Headliners (and personal favorites) Fountains of Wayne powered up the proceedings with their signature style of bright pop melodies and witty word play. I’d call ‘em The Kinks of Queens. I was happy to hear them do “Red Dragon Tattoo” from the super Utopia Parkway album. Can’t get better than a tune that references the N Train, Coney Island, Basil Hayden Bourbon, Easy Rider, .38 Special and William Blake’s titular iconic engraving. It is that Red Dragon, right – or am I projecting? The compact set included crowd pleaser “Stacy’s Mom”, FOW’s 2003 radio hit, which had everyone singing along to its undeniable chorus. They clearly had fun extending their final tune “Radiation Vibe” with a medley of bits and pieces of everything from Frampton to Foreigner.

OK-Go Member Damian Kulash Personalized His Photos for Fans

OK-Go’s Damien Kulash signed autographs and chatted with fans while his band’s always unique videos played on the big screen. OK-Go used 300 Gretsch Electromatic CVT III guitars in the making of their wacked-out promo for “Needing/Getting.” Many of those actual instruments, battered but collectible and authenticated, are available via Street Sounds while they last. Check out the video and the story behind it here.

Have It Your Way…
Master Luthier Stephen Stern gave attendees a technical tour of the company’s wares. He detailed aspects of fit, finish and hardware and pointed out how the Gretsch Custom Shop can make the instrument of your dreams. In turn Stern got an up close and personal look at some vintage models brought out by local collectors.

Joe Carducci, Vincent Ottaviano and Fred W. Gretsch with Harrison DuoJet

Full Circle…
A very special surprise this year was a visit from Mr. Vincent Ottaviano. “Vinnie” was a driver for the Gretsch company in the heyday of its borough tenure and spent part of the afternoon reminiscing with Mr. Gretsch. He delivered Gretsch products; guitars, accordians and drum kits from the Williamsburg factory to music stores and distributors. In 1957 on one such trip to the legendary Manny’s music store on 48th street in Manhattan Vinnie delivered Gretsch Duojet Serial Number 21179. Sold to a merchant seaman, the guitar eventually found its way to Liverpool England and into the hands of teenage rocker George Harrison. You know the rest. It’s the kind of “butterfly effect” story that makes you realize how a simple everyday task can go on to change the world. You can read all the details here.

SkeletonPete Says… Eat To The Beat
Once again Gretsch and Street Sounds offered up an amazing get together.As if all the musical goodies were not enough to sate appetites, abundant trays of delicious culinary creations from the folks at Artisan Food Valley (conveniently located right next door to Street Sounds) were passed through the crowd. The tempting sandwiches of grilled vegetables, fresh mozzarella and sausages put the shoppe on my short list of must explore places. It was also great to see the always jubilant Joe Carducci beaming at the chance to savor a classic Brooklyn chocolate-covered cannoli.

A special thank you to Ken Pierce, of PiercingMetal.Com who graciously got me a singed Fountains of Wayne set-list, something I’m much too shy to attempt myself. His videos of the afternoon’s performances can be viewed here.

Nigel Hall Band @ Bowlive III

Nigel Hall @ Bowlive III : Night 5

Keyboardist/Vocalist Nigel Hall, who took the stage as a special guest during the early Bowlive III shows, also took a turn as opening act on night five of the ten night Soulive Brooklyn Bowl residency. Joined by Soulive members Neal Evans and Eric Krasno (on Bass guitar) Hall got the room percolating with a super energetic set. Backed by a stellar group of players including Adam Smirnoff of Lettuce, drummer Louis Cato and a full horn section (James Casey, Jennifer Hartswick, Matt Owen) Hall engaged the audience with smooth soul jams like “Too Sweet” and “Never Gonna Let You Go”. Singers Alecia Chakour and Mel Flannery added harmony and response vocals to the headline worthy set. Hall returned to Bowlive on night 10 (which I watched streamed via iClips) for a version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” sung with Ledisi.

Photos of Soulive’s night 5 performance (Saturday March 3, 2012) can be found here.