Saturday, January 2, 2016

Announcing the 2nd Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon

Last year I hosted the Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon, in which bloggers wrote about their favourite episodes of their favourite classic television shows. The blogathon turned out to be very successful, so I decided to hold it again this year. This year it will take place from March 25-27.

Here are the ground rules:

1. Posts in the blogathon must be about an episode from a scripted drama. Episodes of reality shows, talk shows, game shows, and variety shows are ineligible. That having been said, posts can be on episodes from any genre of scripted dramas: animated shows, anthology shows, detective shows, police procedurals, science fiction shows, situation comedies, and so on. I also have to say that episodes can be from scripted dramas that aired any time of day. They don't have to be from prime time alone. If one wanted to write about his or her favourite episode from his or her favourite Saturday morning cartoon or daytime soap opera, one could.

2. Because this blogathon is dedicated to classic television and I think a classic is something that must have stood the test of time, episodes must be from shows that are at least 25 years old. That means one cannot write posts on episodes from shows that debuted after 1991 (nothing from Friends, let alone The Big Bang Theory). Now here I want to point out that the episode itself does not have to be 25 years old, only the show on which it aired. Cheers debuted in 1982 and ran until 1993, so that its final seasons aired after 1991. Because Cheers is well over 25 years old, however, one could still write about an episode that aired in the 1992-1993 season.

3. Given my love of British television, it should come as no surprise that posts do not have to be about episodes from American shows alone. Posts can be about episodes from any show from any country as long as the show is a scripted drama and debuted over 25 years ago. If you want to write about your favourite episode of The Saint, The Little Hobo, Jaianto Robo, or Escrava Isaura, you can.

4.  I am asking that there please be no duplicates. That having been said, if someone has already chosen to cover "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" from The Twilight Zone, someone else could still write about another Twilight Zone episode.

5. In keeping with ground rule no. 4, I am asking that if you participated in last year's blogathon that you write about a different episode from what you did last year. That having been said, you could write about an episode from the same show.  If you wrote about the Star Trek episode "Spock's Brain" last year, then you could write about the Star Trek episode "Turnabout Intruder" this year.

6. I am not going to schedule days for individual posts. All I ask is that the posts be made on or between March 25, March 26 , or March 27 2015.

7. On March 25 I will set up the page for the blogathon. I ask that you link your posts to that page. If you want you can use one of the graphics below or make your own!

If you want to participate in the Favourite Television Show Episode Blogathon, you can simply comment below.or you can get a hold of me either on Twitter at mercurie80 or at my email:  mercurie80 at

Below is a roster of participants and the topics they are covering. Come 27 March I will make a post that will include all of the posts in the blogathon.

MovieMovieBlogBlog: Date With the Angels  "Santa's Helper"

Coffee, Classics, and Craziness : Combat! "The Hostages"

Wolffian Classics Movies Digest: Doctor Who "The Tomb of the Cybermen"

The Wonderful World of Cinema: The Saint "The Golden Journey"

Caftan Woman: Maverick "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres"

Cinema Dilettante: Perry Mason "The Case Of The Weary Watchdog"

Once Upon a Screen: The Mary Tyler Moore Show "It's Whether You Win or Lose"

The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood: Alf "Strangers in the Night"

The Horn Section: The Phil Silvers Show "Hollywood"

Defiant Success: Star Trek "The Trouble with Tribbles"

The Moon in Gemini: F Troop "The Courtship of Wrangler Jane"

CineMaven's Essays From The Couch: The Twilight Zone "Walking Distance"

Old Hollywood Films: The Waltons "The Conflict"

The Second Sentence: The Virginian "Old Cowboy"

Hamlette's Soliloquy: Star Trek "Court Martial"

Barry Bradford--Speaking for a Change Homicide: Life on the Streets "Hate Crimes"

Love Letters to Old Hollywood: I Love Lucy "The Young Fans"

Love Letters to Old Hollywood: Remington Steele "In the Steele of the Night"

Cinema Crossroads: The Andy Griffith Show "Opie the Birdman"

Cinematic Scribblings: The Twilight Zone "It's a Good Life"

Musings of an Introvert: Scarecrow & Mrs. King "The Three Faces of Emily"

The Midnite Drive-In: Taxi "Jim: A Space Odyssey" and WKRP in Cincinnati ""Turkeys Away!"

Just Way Too Boss: The Green Hornet "The Preying Mantis"

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood: Bewitched

A Shroud of Thoughts: Red Dwarf "Tika to Ride"

Serendipitous Anachronisms: Are You Being Served? "German Week"

Dell on Movies The Honeymooners  "The $99,000 Answer"

The Flaming Nose TV Blog: The Outer Limits "Architects of Fear"

Doesn't She Ramble: The Bionic Woman "Black Magic"

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year 2016

2015 has ended and the year 2016 had arrived. Here at A Shroud of Thoughts is customary to welcome the year with classic New Year's pinups. I hope all of you have a 2016 filled with health, wealth, love, and happiness!

Juliet Prowse is welcoming 1966 with a really big bottle!

Franciska Gaal was so anxious for 1938 to arrive she stuck her head through her calendar!

Nancy Carroll had a ball welcoming 1930.

Mary Brian welcoming the New Year!

Bonita Granville and what I am guessing is her list of resolutions!

And, course, it wouldn't be New Year's without Ann Miller!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: The Year My Childhood Died

Today is the last day of 2015. In some respects I have to say that it was an event filled one for me, at least with regards to this blog A Shroud of Thoughts, and my life as a classic film buff. Sadly, it was also a year that once more saw the deaths of many beloved stars of classic film, television, and music.

For me probably the biggest thing to happen this year was being chosen as a Fan Favourite on Turner Classic Movies. It was in January that TCM announced in posts on Google+, Instagram, and Facebook that they were looking for four more fans for their next Fan Favourites segment. I replied to their post on Google+ and explained why the film I chose was A Hard Day's Night (1964).  Needless to say, I was chosen as one of the four for TCM's spring Fan Favourites segment. On April 11 2015 I could then be seen on Turner Classic Movies introducing A Hard Day's Night. It was a very enjoyable experience and I have to thank Noralil (who is in charge of social media at TCM), Courtney, Mardy, and Ben Mankiewicz for insuring everything went smoothly! Here I have to point out that in 2014 I was a guest on the radio show Hollywood Time Machine With Alicia Mayer on which Josh  Mankiewicz was also a guest, which makes me think that I can only be on radio or TV unless a Mankiewicz is involved....

With regards to A Shroud of Thoughts, several days ago 2015 became the year with the second most posts (the year with the most was 2010, with a grand total of 272 posts). Given the way years fall on Blogger, I am guessing I will have a total of 264 posts for 2015. Here I have to point out that as far as Blogger is concerned, 2015 did not begin for A Shroud of Thoughts until January 4 2015 and won't end until January 2 2016! Anyway, this year once more saw a good number of classic television anniversary posts in September. Gunsmoke, Cheyenne, The Wild Wild West, I Dream of Jeannie, Get Smart, and several other shows celebrated anniversaries. Fortunately, I don't think September 2016 I will be quite as busy with anniversary posts!

Sadly, I also wrote all too many eulogies for those who have died in 2015. In fact, a number of my all time favourite television stars from my childhood died this year. In fact, so many passed on that it felt as if my childhood was dying all at once. For me there was no bigger star than the great Patrick Macnee. It is no secret that The Avengers is my favourite TV show of all time and, aside from his partner Emma Peel, John Steed is my favourite TV character. While I knew Mr. Macnee was 93 and hence fairly old, I still mourned him terribly. In fact, it is still difficult for me not to cry when I think about him being gone.

Of course, Patrick Macnee was not the only member of The Avengers cast and crew to die this year. Brian Clemens, the writer and producer who largely shaped the show as we know it, also died. Brian Clemens's death also hit me hard. He not only worked on The Avengers but several other projects I love, including the classic Hammer film Kronos (1974).

Unfortunately, 2015 wasted no time when it came to the deaths of my favourite classic television stars. In fact, Donna Douglas, forever Elly May on The Beverly Hillbillies, died on New Years Day of this year. As the year progressed yet more favourite TV stars from my childhood died. Leonard Nimoy, who played my favourite Star Trek  character, Mr. Spock, died in February. Martin Milner, star of one of may all time favourite shows, Route 66, as well as Adam-12, died in September. For many Baby Boomer and Gen Xer men 2015 was a year of heartbreak as their childhood crushes died. For many men Yvonne Craig, Batgirl herself, was their first crush. For others it might have been Melody Patterson, Wrangler Jane on F Troop. I must confess I always had a soft spot for Betsy Palmer, long time panellist on I've Got a Secret.

The list of classic TV stars who died this year is not a short one and I know I will miss many who died this year: Gary Owens of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In; James Best, who guest starred on many Westerns over the years (and starred on The Dukes of Hazzard); Jayne Meadows, star of television, stage, and screen; Dick Van Patten, a frequent guest star on Sixties and Seventies television (and star of Eight is Enough); Judy Carne of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In; Jack Larson, forever remembered as Jimmy Olsen on Superman; Al Molinaro,who was Murray the Cop on The Odd Couple and Al on Happy Days; David Canary, who played Candy on Bonanza; Nicholas Smith, the last surviving original cast member of Are You Being Served?; and Marjorie Lord of Make Room for Daddy.

The year also saw the deaths of several of my all time favourite movie stars. Among the biggest name movie stars to die was none other than Sir Christopher Lee. For me, like many others, he will always be the definitive Dracula, although he starred in many other films as well, from The Wicker Man to Lord of the Rings. In fact, according to Guinness World Records, Sir Christopher Lee holds the record for the most film and television credits of any actor ever. Sadly, Sir Christopher Lee died only a little over two weeks before his old schoolmate Patrick Macnee.

Of course, the biggest name in classic film stars to die this year was probably Maureen O'Hara. She was my mother's all time favourite actress and one of mine as well. Miss O'Hara starred in so many classic films I love that it is hard to name them all:  The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939); The Black Swan (1942); Miracle on 34th Street (1947); Rio Grande (1950); The Parent Trap (1961); and McLintock! (1963).  Aside from her sheer acting talent, Miss O'Hara was known as a feisty Irish redhead who did not suffer fools. In fact, she was the first major star to ever successfully sue a tabloid. Her lawsuit against Confidential was one of the factors that led to the decline of the magazine.

Dean Jones was not as big a name movie star as Maureen O'Hara, but he will always be fondly remembered by many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. He was the star of many Disney films in the Sixties, including That Darn Cat! (1965), The Ugly Dachshund (1966), and The Love Bug (1968). Of course, Mr. Jones made movies for more than just Disney. Among my favourites were Under the Yum Yum Tree (1963) and Any Wednesday (1966).

2015 saw the deaths of some truly big name stars. Lizabeth Scott was arguably one of the Queens of Film Noir. Among the films noirs in which she appeared were The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946),      Dead Reckoning (1947), Desert Fury (1947), Too Late for Tears (1949),  Dark City (1950), and many others. Rod Taylor starred in some truly classic films, including The Time Machine (1960), The Birds (1963), Sunday in New York (1963), Darker than Amber (1970), and many others. Colleen Gray was a beautiful and versatile star who appeared in such films as Kiss of Death (1947), Nightmare Alley (1947), Red River (1948), and Kansas City Confidential (1952).  For many Louis Jourdan will always be the personification of charm. He starred in such classics as The Paradine Case (1947), Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), Three Coins in the Fountain (1953), and The V.I.P.s (1963). Omar Sharif was a true legend who starred in such films as Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), The Night of the Generals (1967), and Top Secret (1984). Nova Pilbeam starred in such classic films as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and Young and Innocent (1937).  Ron Moody was actually a star of film, TV, and the stage. He starred in such films as The Mouse on the Moon (1963), played Fagin on stage in Oliver!, and appeared frequently on television. Other stars who died this year included Theodore Bikel, Joan Leslie, Wally Cassell, Movita Castaneda, and Setsuko Hara.

Of course, when it came to classic film it was not simply stars who died this year. For many the loss of director Wes Craven was heartbreaking. The quiet spoken, friendly Wes Craven was responsible for transforming the horror genre more than once with such films as The Last House on the Left (1972), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and Scream (1996). Haskell Wexler was widely regarded as one of the greatest cinematographers of all time. He won the very last  last Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Black & White)  for his work on Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). He worked on such films as The Loved One (1965), In the Heat of the Night (1967), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), and Bound for Glory (1976). Screenwriter  Don Mankiewicz, producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr., and movie critic Richard Corliss also died this year.

The year also saw the deaths of many major music stars. The one that had the most impact on me was the songbird Monica Lewis. This was not simply because Monica was an extraordinarily talented and extremely beautiful singer, but she was also one of the few famous people with whom I have ever interacted online. Monica Lewis was one of the sweetest people I have ever interacted with online and also one of the funniest. She had a wonderful, often self-deprecating sense of humour. In fact, I suspect most classic film buffs were just a little bit in love with her. Monica Lewis was a true multimedia star. She appeared in films, on television, and was the original voice of Chiquita Banana in animated commercials.

Lemmy was another major music star who died this year. One time bassist for Hawkwind and the founder, leader, and bassist of Motörhead, Lemmy transformed rock music. He would have an impact on such genres as punk, speed metal, and thrash metal, even though Lemmy insisted that he simply performed "rock and roll". Legendary blues artist B. B. King would have even a bigger impact on music, his influence being felt on whole genres (blues, rock 'n' roll, and rhythm and blues). He had an extraordinarily long career, performing his last concerts this year.

Lesley Gore was one of the biggest female pop stars of the mid-Sixties. Her song "It's My Party" would be a major hit, followed by such hits as "She's a Fool", "You Don't Own Me", and "California Nights". Cilla Black was one of the biggest female singers in Britain in the Sixties. She had several hits and was friends with The Beatles. Ben E. King had an extraordinary career, first with The Drifters and then solo. His song "Stand By Me" remains a standard. Chris Squire was a founding member of Yes and one of the leaders in the subgenre of progressive rock. Percy Sledge was a legendary R&B singer whose "When a Man Loves a Woman" remains a standard. With The Enemys and then Three Dog Night, Cory Wells became one of the best loved vocalists in rock music. Trevor "Dozy" Ward-Davies was the bassist for the highly successful British band Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Stevie Wright was the lead vocalist for The Easybeats, the first Australian band to achieve international stardom.

2015 also saw the death of beloved British author Sir Terry Pratchett. Well known for his Discworld series, he was extremely prolific. P. D. James was perhaps best known for her series of mysteries centred on Detective Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh. Fantasy author Tanith Lee was known for The Birthgrave Trilogy as well as her "Flat Earth" series. George Clayton Johnson wrote episode of The Twilight Zone, co-wrote the novel Logan's Run, and wrote many short stories. With regards to comic books, 2015 marked the end of an era. Irwin Hasen was known as the co-creator of the comic strip Dondi, but before that he had a career in comic books, working extensively on Green Lantern and co-created the superhero Wildcat. It is believed that he was the last surviving DC Comics artist from the Golden Age.

Of those who died in 2015, Stan Freberg was in a class all his own. He was a comedian, satirist, radio personality, voice artist, and advertising man. His career lasted seventy years and throughout it he did so many things that it is impossible to put him in one single category. One could call him "a jack of all trades", but he seemed to be a master of all of them. I figure he was a true renaissance man if ever there was one.

In some respects 2015 was a drab year with regards to popular culture. Once again theatres will filled with sequels and reboots. That is not to say that weren't a few things I would liked to have seen in theatres. Kingsman: The Secret Service looked to be an interesting take on the superspy genre. The Man From U.N.C..L.E. looked to be superior to most feature film remakes of TV shows. SPECTRE saw James Bond facing his old enemies once again (the first time since Diamonds Are Forever). I guess I don't have to mention that there is also a new Star Wars film out. The Force Awakens looks as if it is on course to become the highest grossing film of all time when not adjusted for inflation.

Television saw the end of two of my favourite shows of late. Mad Men is one of my favourite shows of all time. It is also widely considered one of the greatest shows of all time, with 16 Emmys to its name. It ended its run in a very good fashion (and fittingly with an iconic commercial). Downton Abbey also ended is run, although being in the U.S. I have yet to see it.

Of course, the big news in television may be the continued rise of streaming services. Netflix had several hit shows in the year, including Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Amazon Prime achieved its highest viewed original series with their adaptation of Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle. While I think it is far too soon to sound the death knell of broadcast television (in fact, I think it will take decades to die off), streaming television is certainly now a force to be reckoned with.

Right now it is impossible to say what 2016 will hold in store. I am certainly hoping Death will take a  holiday with regards to classic film and TV stars! I don't make resolutions myself (it seems to me resolutions are made to be broken), but I do make plans. Right now I plan to get my next book out early next year (with any luck). I also plan to post even more in this blog, if that's possible. And, of course, 2016 marks the centennial anniversary of actress Margaret Lockwood's birth. I have big plans for that. To all of you reading, then, "Happy New Year!"

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

In Memoriam 2015

This year marks the first time ever that I was seriously disappointed in Turner Classic Movies' "TCM Remembers" segment. The problem was not simply that they left out some people who died this year--it was that they left out some of the people whose deaths had the most impact on me and several others I know. Patrick Macnee, Martin Milner, and Monica Lewis were notably missing from this year's "TCM Remembers", for reasons I cannot fathom. Patrick Macnee was best known as John Steed on The Avengers (my favourite TV show of all time), but he did appear in his fair share of movies (notably the 1951 adaptation of A Christmas Carol in which he played a young Jacob Marley). Before Martin Milner went onto star on the TV shows Route 66 and Adam-12, he had some significant roles in movies, including Sweet Smell of Success (1957) and Marjorie Morningstar (1958), among many others. Monica Lewis was best known as a singer and the voice of  Chiquita Banana, but she made at least as many movies as some of those included.

Given my disappointment with this year's "TCM Remembers", it occurred to me that I could make my own "In Memoriam" video. I had wanted to use scenes from the various movies and TV shows of those who died, but I figured out that if I did that it would take literally days (maybe weeks) to complete (keep in mind my only editing software is Windows Movie Maker). The format of the video is then that of a slideshow, with photos of those who have died. Since A Shroud of Thoughts is dedicated to pop culture in general, I also included comedians, singers, musicians, and writers as well as actors. My one regret is that I did not include a lot of those people who worked behind the scenes in the movie industry, such as Samuel Goldwyn Jr., but then time really did not permit me to include everyone. The order is chronological for the most part, although I saved my absolute favourites for the very end. There was a practical reason for this, as I did not want to start crying midway through making the video!

As to the song, it is "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie.  Given the song's subject matter, it only seemed fitting.

Here then is my first ever "In Memoriam" video.

In Memoriam 2015 from Terence Towles Canote on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Late Great Lemmy

Lemmy, the legendary leader and bassist of Motörhead, who also played with Hawkwind and other bands, died yesterday, December 28 2015, at the age of 70. On December 26 2015 he had been diagnosed with an extremely aggressive cancer.

Lemmy was born Ian Fraser Kilmister in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire on Christmas Eve, 1945. He was only three months old when his parents separated. He, his mother, and grandmother then moved to Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire and then Madeley, Staffordshire. Lemmy was ten years old when his mother married former footballer George Willis, who had played for the clubs Wolverhampton Wanderers, Brighton & Hove Albion, Plymouth Argyle, Exeter City, and Taunton Town. The family moved to Benllech,  Isle of Anglesey, Gwynedd. He attended Sir Thomas Jones' School in Amlwch on the Isle of Anglesey, where he earned the nickname "Lemmy". While there he developed an interest in rock 'n' roll. The family moved yet again to Conwy, Clwyd in Wales.

At age 17 he followed a girlfriend to Stockport in Greater Manchester. It was there that he joined such bands as The Rainmakers and The Motown Sect. It was in 1965 that he joined The Rockin' Vickers, playing guitar in the band. The Rockin' Vickers released the singles "Stella", "Dandy", and "It's Alright" while Lemmy was with the band. They were also reportedly the first British bands to perform in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Lemmy left The Rockin' Vickers in 1967 and moved to London. In 1968 he joined the band  Sam Gopal. With Sam Gopal he recorded the album Escalator, on which he was billed as Ian Willis. In 1969 he joined the band Opal Butterfly. He only recorded one single with the band, "Groupie Girl", before Opal Butterfly broke up.

It was in August 1971 that Lemmy joined Hawkwind. Even though he had spent his career up to that time as a rhythm guitarist, he became the band's bassist. Because of his experience with rhythm guitar, Lemmy would develop a distinct style as a bassist. Rather than playing single notes as most bassists, he instead utilised chords and double stops. Lemmy's bass was then one of the factors that contributed to the unique sound of Hawkwind.

Arguably Lemmy was with Hawkwind at the height of their success. He contributed songs to their albums Doremi Fasol Latido (1972), Hall of the Mountain Grill (1974), and Warrior on the Edge of Time (1975). In addition to playing bass he also occasionally sang lead vocals. In fact, he sang lead vocals on Hawkwind's highest charting single, "Silver Machine".

It was in 1975 that Lemmy was arrested at the border between Canada and the United States for possession of a powder. Authorities thought the powder was cocaine, but it was actually amphetamine. After five days in jail in Windsor, Ontario, Lemmy was released as he had been charged with cocaine possession rather than possession of an amphetamine. Regardless, the arrest led to his dismissal from Hawkwind.

Afterwards Lemmy formed a new band with guitarist Larry Wallis (formerly of The Pink Fairies) and drummer Lucas Fox called Bastard. When Lemmy was informed that the name Bastard would never get the band on Top of the Pops, he renamed it Motörhead. Lemmy's wanted Motörhead's music to be fast and loud, to be "fast and vicious just like the MC5." Lucas Fox soon proved unreliable as a drummer and was replaced by  Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor.  "Fast" Eddie Clarke was hired as an additional guitarist. It was not long afterwards that Larry Wallis rejoined a reformed Pink Fairies. The classic  Motörhead line-up was then in place.

Motörhead's head self-titled, first album was released in 1977. It peaked at no. 43 on the UK album chart. Motörhead saw even more success with their next album, Overkill, released in 1979. It peaked at no. 24. Motörhead were at the height of their success with the albums Bomber (1979), Ace of Spades (1980), and Iron Fist (1982). Their 1981 live album, No Sleep 'til Hammersmith, went to no. 1 on the UK album chart and became their most successful album over all.

The line-up would change following Iron Fist, with Fast Eddie Clarke leaving the band. Phil Taylor left the band following the album Another Perfect Day (1983). Regardless, Motörhead would continue to be successful with their albums ranking in the top 25 into the early Nineties. Through it all Lemmy remained the band's lead vocalist, bassist, and leader.

The album March ör Die, from 1992, signalled an end to Motörhead's chart success for a time. The band's next four albums did not chart, and for the rest of the Nineties their highest charting album was We Are Motörhead, which peaked at 91. Fortunately the Naughts would be a kinder decade to Motörhead. Inferno from 2004 went to no. 95. Their next two albums, Kiss of Death (2006) and Motörizer (2008) performed even better. This year would see Motörhead return to their earlier success. Bad Magic peaked at no. 10 on the UK single chart. This is perhaps fitting, given it is the band's final album.

Motörhead's final live performance (and hence Lemmy's as well) was on December 11 2015 in Berlin.

In addition to his work with Motörhead, Lemmy also collaborated with Ozzy Osbourne.  On Ozzy Osbourne's album No More Tears. he contributed to the songs "I Don't Want to Change the World",  "Mama, I'm Coming Home",  "Desire", and "Hellraiser". He also played with fellow former Hawkwind member Robert Calvert, including on Mr. Calvert's 1974 concept album satire Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters. He played and recorded with the rockabilly band The Head Cat as well. In 2005 he worked on an unreleased solo album Lemmy and Friends.

Over the years Lemmy made several appearance in various films, including Hardware (1990) and Airheads (1994). He appeared in several Troma Entertainment films, including Tromeo and Juliet (1996). In 2010 the documentary Lemmy, about the legendary rock star, was released.

Lemmy was the archetypal rock star. He was well known for his love of Jack Daniels and having had sex with reportedly thousands of women. He wore leather and had enormous mutton chop whiskers. He was known to be charming in person, gifted with a self-deprecating sense of humour. Regardless, he was one of the greatest bassists in the history of rock 'n' roll, as well as a true innovator. His bass style was singular. He played chords rather than single notes and, more often than not, he played very fast. And while Motörhead was often referred to as "heavy metal", the band's inspiration drew upon such rock 'n roll classics as Gene Vincent and Elvis Presley, while at the same time drawing upon MC5. Before The Ramones or The Sex Pistols, Motörhead were playing hard, fast, loud, and very straight forward rock music. There were absolutely no frills in Motörhead's songs, although there was often a good deal of humour.

Ultimately Lemmy and Motörhead would prove to be very influential. Just as MC5 had been an influence on Motörhead, so too would Motörhead be an influence on punk rock. And while Lemmy eschewed the label "heavy metal" (he preferred to think of Motörhead as plain old rock and  roll), Motörhead would be pivotal in the development of the subgenres of thrash metal and speed metal. 

The term "legend" is often bandied about, but in the case of Lemmy it is perhaps the best description. He never set out to be a pioneer or innovator. He never set out to do anything but play straight forward, fast, and vicious rock and roll. In doing so he changed rock music forever. Lemmy was never one to take himself too seriously, and he was one who never took his fans for granted. It should be no wonder that he will be missed.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Late Great Meadowlark Lemon

Meadlowlark Lemon, possibly the most well-known of the Harlem Globetrotters, died yesterday, December 27 2015, at the age of 83.

Meadowlark Lemon was born George Meadow Lemon III on April 25 1932 in  Lexington County, North Carolina. It was in 1938 that his family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. Mr. Lemon learned to play basketball at a local boys club. Unable to afford an actual basketball hoop and ball, as a boy he made his own hoop from an onion sack and used a Carnation milk can for a ball. He attended Williston Industrial School and then Florida A&M University before he was drafted into the United States Army. He served for two years in the military and was stationed in Austria. When the Globetrotters toured Europe he played a few games with them. He impressed them enough to get a try out after he was demobilised. He was assigned to the Kansas City Stars, the Globetrotters' developmental team, before officially joining the Globetrotters in 1954.

With the Harlem Globetrotters Meadowlark Lemon filled the role played earlier by Goose Tatum, who combined comedy antics with basketball. Mr. Tatum left the team about the time that Meadowlark Lemon joined the Globetrotters. It was not long before Meadowlark Lemon assumed Goose Tatum's title as the "Clown Prince of Basketball". He was known for such routines (or "reams" as the team calls them) as imitating a baseball batter and mimicking a baseball game with the other players; doing funny walks; dribbling above his head; and threatening both audiences and referees with buckets of confetti (and sometimes water). Meadowlark Lemon was not simply a clown, however, but he was also a skilled athlete. He was well known for his hook shots from half-court, as well as his incredible passing ability. Like all of the Globetrotters he was skilled in basketball legerdemain, doing tricks with the ball that even some NBA players would find challenging.

Arguably Meadowlark Lemon was with the Harlem Globetrotters at the height of their fame in the Sixties and Seventies. Not surprisingly he and the team appeared frequently on television. He appeared as a mystery guest on the panel show What's My Line in 1956. He appeared on the 1970 Saturday morning cartoon Harlem Globe Trotters. With the rest of the team he was a regular on the variety show The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine.

After 22 years with the Globetrotters Meadowlark Lemon was dismissed from the team in 1978 due to a salary dispute. He starred in the geography educational film Meadowlark Lemon Presents the World in 1979 and that same year joined the cast of the sitcom Hello, Larry, on which he played himself. He also guest starred on Diff'rent Strokes, The Hollywood Squares, The Mike Douglas Show, The Merv Griffin Show, Here's Boomer, and Alice. He played Rev. Grady Jackson in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh (1979).

In 1980 Meadowlark Lemon formed his own touring basketball team, the Bucketeers. He later played with the Shooting Stars and Meadowlark Lemon's Harlem All Stars. In 1994 he rejoined the Harlem Globetrotters and played several games with them. In 1986 Meadowlark Lemon became an ordained minister. 

The Harlem Globetrotters occupy a unique place in popular culture. They are a basketball team beloved by many who would never dream of watching an NBA game. They are as much superb entertainers as they are superb athletes. This was truer of none more so than Meadowlark Lemon. Charismatic and gifted with impeccable comic timing, Meadowlark Lemon was always guaranteed to put on a good show. Indeed, so great was he at keeping crowds enthralled that it seems likely that had he not become a basketball player he might have become a comedian.

That is not to say that Meadowlark Lemon was not a great athlete. He may have been the Clown Prince of Baketball, but he could play better than most professional players. His half-court hook shots were incredible, and would be difficult for even the best players. His passing ability was unmatched by all but the very best. In 1999 when Wilt Chamberlain, who played with the Globetrotters and Mr. Lemon before joining the NBA, was asked who the greatest basketball player of all time was, he replied, "For me it would be Meadowlark Lemon." Ultimately Meadowlark Lemon did what few sports figures ever have. He transcended the popularity of his sport to become a universally beloved entertainer.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Godspeed George Clayton Johnson

George Clayton Johnson, who co-wrote the novel Logan's Run and wrote classic episodes  of The Twilight Zone, died on December 25 2015 at the age of 86. The cause was cancer.

George Clayton Johnson was born on July 10 1929 outside Cheyenne, Wyoming. His parents separated when he was young and as a result much of his childhood was spent with other relatives. He left school when he was in the eighth grade. From 1946 to 1949 he served in the United States Army as a telegrapher and later a draughtsman. He studied architecture at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) and worked for a time as a draughtsman.

In the early Fifties Mr. Johnson moved to Los Angeles. His first work in television was the episode of "I'll Take Care of You" for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. It aired in 1959. With John Golden Russell he developed the story for the film Ocean's 11 (1960). His short story "All of Us Are Dying" was adapted by Rod Serling as the Twilight Zone episode "The Four of Us Are Dying". Rod Serling adapted another one of George Clayton Johnson's short stories as the episode "Execution" for the the show. Mr. Johnson would go on to write four episodes of The Twilight Zone himself, including the classic "Kick the Can".

In the Sixties George Clayton Johnson also wrote episodes of the shows Route 66, The Law and Mr. Jones, Mr. Novak, Honey West, and Star Trek (the first episode of the show aired on NBC, in fact). He co-wrote the 1962 animated short "Icarus Montgolfier Wright" with Ray Bradbury, based on Mr. Bradbury's short story of the same name.  He wrote several short stories during the decade, and co-wrote the novel Logan's Run with William F. Nolan.

In the Seventies Mr. Johnson wrote an episode of Kung Fu, as well as several more short stories.  He co-wrote the short film "The Jungle of Jules Levine" (2015).

George Clayton Johnson also appeared in front of the camera. In 1961 he guest starred on the TV show Sea Hunt. He appeared in the films The Intruder (1962), The Boneyard Collection (2008), Crustacean (2009), and Saint Bernard (2013).

George Clayton Johnson was a talented writer and certainly one with considerable range. While he was often counted as a science fiction writer, it must be pointed out that he also wrote non-genre material, including the story for Ocean's 11 and episodes of Route 66 and Mr. Novak. His work often had depth, with philosophical underpinnings. He also tended to often address mortality in his work. This was seen not only in Logan's Run, but in the Twilight Zone episodes "Kick the Can" and "Nothing in the Dark". More than anything else, however, Mr. Johnson was capable of creating characters of considerable depth. His stories and TV episodes were always driven more by character than plot. It is for that reason he will be remembered as a writer.