Saturday, December 7, 2019

A Rock 'n' Roll Christmas Playlist

I feel a bit blue and under the weather today, so instead of a full-fledged blog post I decided to create a Rock 'n' Roll Christmas playlist for those of you who celebrate the holiday instead. Here are twenty song suitable for the Yuletide.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Godspeed Joan Staley

Joan Staley, who starred in such movies as Roustabout (1964) and The Ghost and Mrs. Chicken (1966) and guest starred on shows from Perry Mason to Batman, died on November 24 2019 at the age of 79. The cause was heart failure.

Joan Staley was born Joan Lynette McConchie on May 20 1940 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She grew up in Los Angeles. Her mother took her to a concert when she was only three, which led her to ask her mother for a violin. She was first chair/second violin in Peter Meremblum's Junior Symphony by the time she was six years old. It was as a child violinist that she made her film debut in The Emperor's Waltz in 1948. Her father eventually enlisted in the Army as a chaplain, so that she attended high school in Washington D.C., Munich, and Paris. She attended Chapman College in Orange, California for a brief time before working as a teletype operator at the William R. Stats brokerage firm in San Francisco.

Miss Staley joined the Little Theatre in Hollywood, appearing in productions of The Robe, Brigadoon, and My Sister Eileen. She made her television debut in an episode of Perry Mason in 1958. In the late Fifties she had small guest roles on Laramie, Maverick, Bourbon Street Beat, Not For Hire, The Detectives, and Shotgun Slade. She had bit parts in the movies Bells Are Ringing (1960), Ocean's 11 (1960), and Midnight Lace (1960).

In the Sixties Joan Staley had regular roles on the variety show The Lively Ones, 77 Sunset Strip, and Broadside. She guest starred on such shows as The Tab Hunter Show, Bringing Up Buddy, The Asphalt Jungle, The Lawless Years, The New Breed, Frontier Circus, Bonanza, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Untouchables, Tales of Wells Fargo, 87th Precinct, Hawaiian Eye, The Adventures of Ozzy and Harriet, Alcoa Premiere, The Dick Powell Show, The Real McCoys, Wagon Train, The Joey Bishop Show, The Jack Benny Program, Burke's Law, The Virginian, McHale's Navy, The Munsters, Batman, Pistols 'n' Petticoats, Mission: Impossible, Ironside, and Adam-12. She appeared in the movies Dondi (1961), Gun Fight (1961), The Ladies Man (1961), Breakfast at Tiffany's  (1961), Valley of the Dragons (1961), Cape Fear (1962), Johnny Cool (1963),  A New Kind of Love (1963), Kissin' Cousins (1964), Kisses for My President (1964), Roustabout (1964), The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966), and Gunpoint (1966).

In 1967 she married MCA executive Dale Sheets. In 1969 she and Mr. Sheets founded International Ventures Incorporated, a company for the management of talent. Afterwards she only made two more acting appearances, the first in an episode of Adam-12 in 1972 and the second in an episode of Dallas in 1982.

By her own admission Joan Staley played primarily shapely blondes in tight dresses, but she was capable of much more. On Batman she played Okie Annie, the henchwoman of Western themed villain Shame. In The Ghost and Mr. Chicken not only did she wear a brunette wig, but her role was slightly more demure than many she had played during her career. In one episode of Perry Mason she even played a murder culprit. Of course, it must also be noted that Joan Staley was a talented child violinist as well as a talented actress. She also ran International Ventures Incorporated until last year when her daughter took over. Joan Staley may have been best known for playing blonde bombshells, but she was capable of much more.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Late Great D. C. Fontana

Gene Roddenberry is credited as the creator of Star Trek,but as Trekkies well known there were others who expanded the Star Trek universe beyond his initial concept. One of those people was writer D. C. Fontana, who gave us much of what we know about Mr. Spock and Vulcans in general. So great were her contributions to the show that Star Trek as we know it would not exist without D. C. Fontana. Sadly, she died yesterday, December 2 2019, at the age of 80 following a brief illness.

D. C. Fontana was born Dorothy Catherine Fontana on March 25 1939 in Sussex, New Jersey. She grew up in Totowa, New Jersey. She was only 11 years old when she decided she wanted to write novels. She attended Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, where she graduated in 1957 with with an Executive Secretarial Associate degree. She then moved to New York City where she got a job at Screen Gems as a junior secretary to the president of the studio. She later moved to Los Angeles where she became part of the typing pool at Revue Studios. She was the secretary for writer Samuel A. Peeples while he worked on the TV Weseterns Overland Trail, The Tall Man, and Frontier Circus. It was while she was still working for Mr. Peeples that she sold her first story idea for television, the Tall Man episode "A Bounty for Billy." She also wrote her first teleplay for The Tall Man, the episode "Tiger Eye." She also contributed a story to Frontier Circus.

After Samuel A. Peeples left, D. C. Fontana returned to the typing pool. She then went to work as the secretary for Del Reisman, a producer on the drama The Lieutenant, which had been created by Gene Roddenberry. It was while she was working on The Lieutenant that she adopted "D. C. Fontana" to use professionally in order to avoid discrimination. She wrote episodes of Ben Casey and The Wild Wild West.

She also worked with Gene Roddenberry while Star Trek was in development. She wrote the episode "Charlie X" based on a story by Mr. Roddenberry. She also wrote the episodes "Tomorrow is Yesterday" and "This Side of Paradise." After the departure of Star Trek's first and second story editors (Steve Carabastos and John D. F. Black), D. C. Fontana became the show's story editor. She remained as the show's story editor until its third season. In all she wrote or co-wrote eleven episodes of Star Trek, continuing to contribute episodes even after she left as the show's story editor. Miss Fontana closed out the Sixties writing episodes of The Big Valley, Lancer, Then Came Bronson, The High Chaparral, Here Come the Brides, and Bonanza.

In the Seventies. D. C. Fontana served as the story editor on the science fiction series Logan's Run and contributed three episodes. She served as an associated producer on the animated version of Star Trek, contributing the episode "Yesteryear." She wrote episodes of the shows Assignment: Vienna, Ghost Story, The Six Million Dollar Man, Land of the Lost, The Streets of San Francisco, The Fantastic Journey, The Runaways, The Waltons, Dallas, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

In the Eighties Miss Fontana wrote several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. She also served as associate producer during the show's first season, but left due to clashes with Gene Roddenberry. She wrote episodes of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and War of the Worlds.

In the Nineties D. C. Fontana wrote episodes of the shows The Legend of Prince Valiant, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5, Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years, Hypernauts, Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys, Re-Boot, Earth: Final Conflict, Silver Surfer, and Beast Wars: Transformers. In the Naughts she wrote an episode of the fan created web series Star Trek: Phase II (later known as Star Trek: New Voyages). She served as a consulting producer on the show in the Teens.

D. C. Fontana also wrote several novels based on the original series of Star Trek, as well as the Western Brazos River, co-written with Harry Sanford.

The simple fact is that Star Trek as we know it would not exist without D. C. Fontana. She created much of what we associate with Vulcan culture, and was largely responsible for shaping Mr. Spock as the character we know. Of course, she also wrote episodes of many other shows and was even nominated for a WGA Award for the Then Came Bronson episode "Two Percent of Nothing." Miss Fontana was very versatile as a writer. While best known for her work in science fiction, she wrote episodes of everything from Westerns such as Bonanza to family dramas such as The Waltons to police dramas such as The Streets of San Francisco. It must also be pointed out that D. C. Fontana was also a pioneer with regards to women working in television. At the time that she started, there were very few female writers in the field. If D. C. Fontana is often counted as fans' favourite writer on the original series of Star Trek, it is with good reason.