Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Month: November 2019 (Page 1 of 6)

Gift Guide: Nobody’s Fool

Nobody’s Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead
by Bill Griffith
Harry N. Abrams
ISBN-13: 978-1419735011
$24.99 (or heavily discounted at Amazon)

Next up in The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide we have a biographical graphic novel about an obscure icon, Schlitzie the Pinhead, star of Todd Browning’s 1932 cult movie, Freaks. This heavily-researched tome is written and drawn by Bill Griffith, who was inspired by Schlitzie to create Zippy The Pinhead.

Recommended as a gift for fans of Griffith, fans of Freaks and people who enjoy engrossing real-life stories.

Nobody’s Fool follows the story of Schlitzie’s long career—from Coney Island and the Ringling Bros. Circus to small-town carnivals and big-city sideshows—which is one of legend.

Today, Schlitzie is most well-known for his appearance in the cult classic Freaks. The making of Freaks and Schlitzie’s role in the film is a centerpiece of the book. In researching Schlitzie’s life (1901–1971), Griffith has tracked down primary sources and archives throughout the country, including conducting interviews with those who worked with him and had intimate knowledge of his personality, his likes and dislikes, how he responded to being a sideshow “freak,” and much more.

This graphic novel biography provides never-before-revealed details of his life, offering a unique look into his world and restoring dignity to his life by recognizing his contributions to popular culture.

Bill Griffith is the creator of the syndicated daily comic strip Zippy. Griffith’s prolific output has been included in such publications as the VillageVoice, National Lampoon, and the New Yorker. According to Bartlett, Griffith coined the popular phrase “Are we having fun yet?”

Nobody’s Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead is an amazing read. You’ll be tempted to devour all 300-plus pages in one sitting. This will make a great gift for any fan of graphic literature.

I’ve been a fan of Griffith since I was a kid, buying underground comics that I was technically way too young to purchase. After years of reading his short form works and gag strips, it’s a revelation to see how well he’s mastered long-form storytelling over the last several years. This is really an incredible work that not only tells the life story of one of Griffith’s greatest inspirations, but also helps to repay his artistic debt to the man who provided the spark for the creation of Zippy The Pinhead.

You should be able to order this book from any bookseller by using the ISBN number, or check online for some heavy holiday discounts.

Gift Guide: Toy Trains and Automobiles

The PopCulteer
November 29, 2019

This week we’re turning over The PopCulteer to The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide, which was supposed to wrap up today, but instead will now run until December 13.

Below you find some gift suggestions for toy trains and slot cars. These are all priced over $ 100, but I’m suggesting them as gifts for kids, because the joy of bonding with a parent or older sibling while setting up a cool toy that requires adult supervision is not to be underestimated.

Here’s some great ideas for old-school toys that might just get the adults playing with the kids without the need of a gaming system.

Auto World 13′ Stock Car Showdown X-Traction Slot Race Set HO Scale HO Scale

Stock Car Racing…A sport built on speed, time and records.

Drivers and records come and go but two iconic racers have risen above the rest. They are Richard Petty and Bobby Isaac.

Both Richard and Bobby drove into stock car history in two of auto racing’s most memorable vehicles, both Chrysler products…Petty’s 1971 Petty-blue, Plymouth Road Runner and Isaac’s bright-red, 1971 Dodge Charger. Now you can enjoy the history and excitement of racing these two legends, straight to the winners circle!

Track and Slot Cars are 100% Compatible with all Auto World and AFX Race Sets

Included in the Set:


You can find this cool slot car set for $139 at Autoworld, or check local hobby shops.

Kato #106-0017 Amtrak P42 Superliner Phase IVb Starter set

N Scale model train sets are ideal for folks with cramped quarters and limited space. Smaller than HO Scale, these sets are compact, and can put away for storage more easily after playtime, while still lending themselves well to high-detailed model railroading.

This set, which can be for under two hundred bucks at ModelTrainStuff, features Amtrak cars.

Start your N Scale railroading experience with this sleek passenger set that includes an Amtrak P42 Locomotive #161, three Phase IVb Superliners (Sleeper #32054, Coach #34039 and Lounge #33003), a complete oval of Unitrack (12-3/8″ radius), grade crossing/rerailing track, special packaging with storage drawer for locomotives and accessories, and a Kato Power Pack.

– Phase V P42 Locomotive
– Locomotive Equipped with DCC Compatible Smooth Speed Flywheel Mechanism (DCC Decoder sold separately)
– 3 Phase IVb Superliner Cars
– Equipped with Knuckle Couplers
– Complete Oval of Track (12-3/8″ Radius)
– Grade Crossing/Rerailing Track
– Storage Drawer for Locomotives and Accessories
– Kato Power Pack

This is a great way to relive the joy of riding the rails with Amtrak without having to deal with the delays and downgraded food that they’ve become known for since the guy who ran Delta took over.

Bachmann Rocket Freight HO Scale Ready-to-Run Electric Train Set

HO Scale is the standard for fans of high-rail, ultra-detailed model railroading. For this scale, we’re going to recommend a good starter set, the Bachmann Rocket Freight HO Scale Ready-to-Run Electric Train Set, which can be found at a great price at Menard’s.

Hurtling down the track is the powerful Rocket Freight! Passing in a flash, you have to be fast to enjoy a glimpse of this commanding freight train as it makes its deliveries. Powered by a mighty GP40 BNSF Diesel Locomotive with operating headlight, the 68-piece Rocket Freight Train Set has everything you need to start your own railroad. This Menards Exclusive Train Set includes signs, telephone poles, and miniature people to let you quickly create an out-of-this -world model railroad display. Your complete Ready-to-Run Electric Train Set comes with GP40 BNSF Diesel Locomotive with operating headlight, Canadian Pacific Plug-Door Box Car, Texaco Single-Dome Tank Car, Union Pacific® Gondola Car, BNSF Off-Set Caboose, 47″ x 38″ oval of snap-fit E-Z Track®, 24 railroad and street signs, 12 telephone poles, 12 assorted figures, power pack, speed controller, and illustrated instruction manual.

68-Piece Rocket Freight Train Set has everything you need to start your own railroad
Powered by a GP40 BNSF Diesel Locomotive with operating headlight
Includes; Canadian Pacific Plug-Door Box Car, Texaco Single-Dome Tank Car, Union Pacific® Gondola Car, BNSF Off-Set Caboose
47″ x 38″ Oval of Bachmann Snap-fit E-Z Track®
24 railroad and street signs, 12 telephone poles, 12 assorted figures, power pack, speed controller
HO Scale: 1:87

The Lionel #1923020 NYC Flyer 0-8-0 LionChief Set w/ Bluetooth

O Scale is the grand-daddy of toy train systems, and we’d be derelect in our duties if we didn’t recommend a Lionel set. The Lionel #1923020 NYC Flyer 0-8-0 LionChief Set w/ Bluetooth can be found for under $300 at Trainworld.

New for 2018, but no stranger to the Lionel Ready-to-Run line-up, the New York Central Flyer is back and better than ever. Leading this great looking set is powerful 0-8-0, with upgraded drive rod assembly and Bluetooth® compatibility, followed by some colorful freight cars. This NYC set is a great addition to any existing layout or the perfect way to begin your journey in model railroading.

New York Central Railroad and other are trademarks owned by Consolidated Rail Corporation and are used here with permission.
0-8-0 Steam Locomotive and tender
NYC boxcar
NYC gondola with canisters
NYC caboose
Eight pieces of O36 curved FasTrack®
Two FasTrack® 10″ straight track sections
One LionChief® FasTrack® Terminal section
One Plug-Expand-Play® Power Lock-on section
Wall pack power supply
LionChief® remote for locomotive

Electric locomotive controlled by included LionChief® remote, LionChief® Universal Remote (sold separately) or Bluetooth® LionChief® app
Upgraded drive rod assembly
On/Off switch for sound
RailSounds® RC™ sound system with steam chuffing and background sounds, whistle, bell, and user-activated announcements
Operating headlight
Powerful maintenance-free motor
Operating couplers
Puffing smoke

Die-cast metal sprung trucks
Operating couplers
Opening doors on boxcar
Four removable canisters in gondola

Forward and reverse speed control knob
Three buttons to activate whistle, bell, and special announcements
Requires three AAA alkaline

I’ve tried to give you a sampling of different electric toy sets, from a variety of online retailers. You can find these at your local hobby shop, and maybe even find a set that’s more suited to give as a gift to the kid on your list. Remember that toy trains and slot cars qualify as STEM toys, and can spur a boy or girl onto a lifelong love of engineering and mechanics.

Keep in mind that, if your budget doesn’t allow for something as elaborate as these sets, you can find lower-priced and even battery-powered alternatives all over the place, even at Dollar General and Family Dollar stores.

That’s it for this week’s PopCulteer. Look for our regular features and check back for two more weeks of The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide.

Gift Guide: The Beatles Singles Collection

Black Friday is our “Big Ticket Day” here in The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide, and to kick it off we’re tying it in with an all-day marathon of Beatles Blast on The AIR, which you can listen to at this link, or on this embedded radio player…

Our next gift suggestion is expensive, and it’s a luxury. The people who will appreciate this gift are the die-hard Beatles collectors, not casual fans, but people who search out releases from different countries so they can get different sleeve and label designs, and maybe an alternate mix.

The Beatles : The Singles Collection is a collectible Boxed Set that presents  46 tracks on 23 7-inch vinyl singles, in faithfully reproduced international picture sleeves, accompanied by a 40-page booklet with photos, ephemera, and detailed essays by Beatles historian Kevin Howlett.

These singles, plus an exclusive new double A-side single for the mid-1990s-issued tracks “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love,” are newly remastered from their original master tapes and cut for vinyl at Abbey Road Studios for a new limited edition boxed set.

Keep in mind that this is the gift of an object, not the music. You can track down the individual songs on CD for under twenty bucks, instead of dropping over two hundred on this boxed set. However, for the die-hard collector, this box includes perfect reproductions of extremely rare singles in picture sleeves from 22 different countries. It would cost thousands of dollars to buy the originals. Plus I think this is the only commercial release of “Free As A Bird” on 7-inch vinyl.

It’s a pricey and specialized gift, but you may know the perfect person to receive it. Available where ever records are sold.

Happy Thanksgiving From PopCult And The AIR!

Happy Thanksgiving From PopCult And The AIR!

We want to wish all our readers and listeners a very Happy Thanksgiving, and to help you celebrate we have two very specials shows that you can hear at The AIR website on on this embedded radio player today at 3 PM…

First up, at 3 PM, we welcome Paul and Spike, The Too Grumpy Critics to The AIR, with their very cool Too Grumpy Critics Thanksgiving Special. This came up really quick, and we are honored to have Paul and Spike’s special on our humble internet radio station.

After that, at 3:30 PM, stick around for a special episode of Radio Free Charleston International, where your PopCulteer is joined by his wife, Mel Larch, for a 90-minute collection of music for which we are very thankful, as you can see here…

RFC International Thanksgiving

The Aquabats “Showtime”
The Blues Brothers “Sweet Home Chicago”
Book of Mormon “Making Things Up Again”
The Beatles “Free As A Bird”
Kate Bush “All We Ever Look For”
The Beautiful South “From Under The Covers”
The Bad Shepherds “Making Room For Nigel”
DEVO “Huboon Stomp”
The Aquabats “Playdough (Live)”
Mike Batt/Roger Daltry “The Pig Must Die”
Cherry Poppin’ Daddies “Yankee Pride”
Andy Partridge/Robyn Hitchcock “Planet England”
Andrea True Connection “More More More”
Cats “Invitation To The Jellicle Ball”
YES “Don’t Kill The Whales”
The Tubes “White Punks On Dope”
MST3K “Gamera Song”

We will be running these specials again Saturday, Sunday and Monday, on The AIR. Enjoy!

Gift Guide: MARY A Rock Opera

A Charleston tradition is our next pick in the 2019 PopCult Gift Guide. Mark Scarpelli and Dan Kehde’s rock opera, MARY, opens the day after Thanksgiving, and you’ll have nine chances to see the 23rd production put on by Charleston Youth Arts Company. You can sample previous a production in the video at the bottom of this post. This year MARY moves to a new home, at the Elk City Playhouse at 218 W Washington St, Charleston, on the city’s historic West Side.

Scarpelli and Kehde’s rock opera MARY follows the life of Mary, mother of Jesus, during the final 9 months before the birth of Christ. A driving score and vibrant young talent brings the story to life on the stage of the new Elk City Playhouse. Accompanied by a large orchestra and chorus, MARY has become a seasonal tradition in the greater Kanawha Valley.

This year the production is filled with fresh faces, as CYAC continues to discover and bring to the stage the brightest new talents the area has to offer. One of the great joys of seeing MARY every year is the glimpse into the future of Charleston’s theatre scene that it gives us.

It’s a testament to the depth of talent that can be found in this city that CYAC manages to mount such impressive productions of this show each year.

This is an experience, a wonderful gift of music and theater that is perfect for the person on your list who isn’t just interested in material things. Tickets are $8.00 Students and $15.00 Adults.  Seating is limited in this new venue, so, while CYAC has reserved a few tickets to sell at the door, they strongly suggest you buy your tickets online at Showclix.

You can see Scarpelli and Kehde’s MARY: A Rock Opera at 7 PM November 29 and 30 and  December 5, 6 and 7. And there are 2 PM matinee performances on November 30 and December 1, 7 and 8.

This is the perfect gift for the local theater-going patron of the arts on your gift list. It’s a world-class show that really has to be seen in person to be appreciated. CYAC is hard at work making this 22nd production special and theater lovers, music lovers as well as followers of the Christian faith should make it a point to attend, and it’s such a special show that it makes a perfect gift.

Gift Guide: Record Store Day

Our next gift suggestion in The 2019 PopCult Gift Gjuide is that you head out for this this year’s Black Friday Record Store Day, the national movement to get people into records shops by offering hundreds of exclusive releases on one day each year, has expanded to a second day in recent years with a smaller, but still impressive slate of exclusive limited edition vinyl releases on Black Friday.

Locally, Budget Tapes and Records (3708 MacCorkle Ave SE, in Kanawha City) and Sullivan’s Records (1588-A Washington Street East on Charleston’s Historic East End) are participating, with special vinyl reissues from Todd Rundgren, Madonna, Frank Zappa and the Mothers, and dozens of other great artists, and new and unreleased music from history’s greatest musicians. You can find a full list of available records HERE.

And don’t forget that Budget also carries a huge range of other cool gift ideas, from clothing, to smoking accessories to adult novelties, and Sullivan’s now has a used bookstore in the back, so it you want one-stop-shopping, you can’t go wrong at either place (but hit both of them, and Elk City too).

Elk City Records (311 W Washington Street on Charleston’s West Side) won’t be carrying the new releases, but they will be running specials on their great stock of used vinyl, so you’ll want to hit them up, too. Plus they’re just around the corner from Kin Ship Goods and Base Camp Printing, and a short walk across the street from Void and Gonzoburger, so you can just make a whole West Side shopping day of it.With any of today’s three suggestions, you can SHOP LOCAL, support our local merchants and give the gift of music.

Gift Guide: Eat Local

Since Thanksgiving is a traditional day of feasting, our 2018 PopCult Gift Guide pick for today follows our tradition of inspiring you to get out and support locally-owned places of dining. Most of our suggested restaurants offer gift certificates or cards. Even if they don’t, you can still take your giftee out and treat them not only to a great meal, but also to the pleasure of your company. Food is a great gift, and you don’t usually have to wrap it.

Charleston is blessed with a wide variety of great, independent eateries. Take that into account when choosing one for the gift-giving experience. You have a lot of great options. Contact info can be found in the links with the names on our list.

New to the list this year is Mountain Pie Company, with locations in Jefferson and Hurricane. Mel and I just started eating here a couple of months ago, but they’ve been doing great business for five years. They have fantastic gourmet pizza and great sandwiches, and most importantly, they will make your food to order, and not quibble over your eating restrictions or desires.

You can find all kinds of great places to grab a bite in town:  Gonzoburger, with their gourmet burgers in the old Chris’s Hot Dog location; Void, just across the street, is a new, hip coffee shop; Also on the coffee front, we have Mea Cuppa Coffee in Charleston, Cafe Crema, now in Dunbar along Route 25, and Coal River Coffee Company on Old Main in Saint Albans. Plus there’s Rock City Cake Company, on Capitol Street, blending cakes and treats and live music.

We are happy to report that Caffe Romeo in South Hills, an authentic Italian-style place where you can get Gelato, Expresso, Sorbet and several other treats is stil as wonderful as we said it was a while back.

The Olive Tree Cafe and Catering, is already a reliable favorite on the Charleston culinary scene. Their tasty Mediterrean fare is top-notch and the service is quick and friendly. They offer up great salads and sandwiches, and their shawarma is the stuff of legend. The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday from 11 AM to 7 PM. It’s a casual dining atmosphere and they have lots of other deli goodies for sale.

Other restaurants you might want to consider for a fun, gift-style special meal are The Block and Bricks & Barrels. And of course, there are all the old favorites. You can buy gift cards or certificates for Bluegrass Kitchen, Tricky Fish, Starling’s Coffee and Provisions, Leonoro’s, Mi Cocini De Amor, Pies & Pints, Lola’s, Bridge Road Bistro, Adelphia, Fazio’s, and Taste of Asia.

These are the stores that we know off the top of our heads offer gift certificates or cards. Your PopCulteer does not get around as much as he used to, due to health issues related to Myasthenia Gravis. You might want to ask around to see if your favorite local restaurant also offers gift certificates. If they do, please feel free to tell us about it in the comments section.


by Thomas Wheeler
Independently published
ISBN-13: 978-1711719665

Next up in The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide we have the first novel from my friend and fellow pop culture journalist, Thomas Wheeler. Thomas is well-known for his expertise with toys such as the Real American Hero: GI Joe and Masters of the Universe, but STARCHILDREN is his first novel, and it looks to be lots of fun.

This would be the perfect gift for fans of old-school science fiction and adventure. It’s a throwback to the golden age of science fiction, with echoes of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne, but with an modern setting.

Here’s what the Amazon blurb says:

Enter a new world of science-fiction adventure! A mysterious island has appeared in the Pacific Ocean. A pair of scientists is sent in to determine its origin and purpose. What they discover may change the world forever – assuming the world survives the threat that is looming. But is the threat from the island, from somewhere else, or somehow – both?

From the author: This is a concept that I first created forty years ago. Finally, it has been revised, enhanced, and published in book form! If I were to describe the tale in one sentence, it would likely be, “Jonny Quest meets Star Trek”. I hope you will find this book fun, exciting, and enjoyable.

Thomas just published this book through Amazon, and it’s bound to be a fun read, inspired by the great works of Science Fiction.

Gift Guide Flashback: Lights of Broadway Show Cards

I first told you about Lights of Broadway Show Cards last year in The PopCult Gift Guide, but we’re going to remind you of that gift idea today because they have just released a new series of cards and they have several exciting projects on tap. Also, it’s a good way to tell you that you can hear Curtain Call, our musical theater show hosted by Mel Larch, every Wednesday at 3 PM, with several replays through the week, and marathons Sunday evenings at 6 PM and overnight Wednesdays at Midnight.

You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

With that premable out of the way, next up in The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide is a trading card set that I wrote about here and in Non Sport Update last year. The Lights of Broadway Show Cards feature the artwork of Broadway’s reigning caricaturist, Squiggs, and present the stars, theaters and shows of The Great White Way in trading card form. This is the absolutely perfect gift for the theatre fanatic on your holiday shopping list.

The Lights of Broadway Show Cards celebrate Broadway theatre. The stories and the storytellers, the art and the artisans, those who make it all possible and the community embracing it. Shows, actors, directors, writers, designers, and all else in the spotlight or behind the scenes who keep the theatrical world spinning.

Over at The Lights of Broadway website, you’ll find special deals where you can get packs of their new 2019 Edition, with dozens of new faces showing up in the series for the first time. You’ll also find deals on binders and starter kits (which include an illustrated binder and several packs of cards).

If you want to go whole hog, you can find entire boxes of 36 packs, to shower your theatre fanatic with loads of great cards. You can even find single-show packs for Fiddler on The Roof, Fun Home and Dear Evan Hansen. They have everything from stocking stuffers to mid-sized gifts to BIG TICKET items.

The cards are beautifully printed and feature the amazing art of Squiggs. If you’ve got a theatre kid on your gift list, this is where you need to go. You can order directly from The Lights of Broadway Show Cards website, or go to New York and look for them in Schubert Alley and The Drama Bookstore.

This is the perfect gift for the Broadway Baby and die-hard theatre buff on your holiday shopping list.

Gift Guide: The Abbey Road 50th Anniversary Boxed Set

Our next entry in The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide can be previewed in part Wednesday at 2 PM on The AIR, as we bring you the fiftieth episode of Beatles Blast, which coincidentally celebrates fifty years of Abbey Road. You can tune in to The Air website or listen on this embedded radiophonic widget…

The deluxe boxed set of Abbey Road has three CDS and a Blu Ray Audio disc with a brand new mix of the classic Beatles album. It is the perfect gift for any Beatles fan, any sane human who enjoys fantastic music, and young peoples who have yet to be exposed to this work of genius.

The album — the last that the group recorded together, but released on 26 September 1969, before 1970’s Let It Be — are available in new stereo, 5.1 Surround and Dolby Atmos mixes. Its 17 tracks have been newly mixed by producer Giles Martin and mix engineer Sam Okell, accompanied by 23 session recordings and demos, most of them previously unreleased. These are presented on the Super Deluxe and Deluxe vinyl box sets in chronological order of their first recording dates.

This is the first time Abbey Road has been remixed and presented with additional session recordings and demos. To create Abbey Road’s new stereo, 5.1 surround, and Dolby Atmos mixes, Martin and Okell worked with an expert team of engineers and audio restoration specialists at Abbey Road Studios. This Super Deluxe Edition of Abbey Road features the new stereo album mix, sourced directly from the original eight-track session tapes. To produce the mix, Giles was guided by the album’s original stereo mix supervised by his father, George Martin.

Abbey Road’s Super Deluxe box set presents 40 tracks – including “The Long One” Trial Edit & Mix for the album’s epic Side 2 medley – on three CDs (stereo) and one Blu-ray disc (Dolby Atmos, 96kHz/24 bit high resolution stereo, and 96 kHz/24 bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1).

The four discs are housed in a slip-sleeved 12” by 12” 100-page hardbound book with McCartney’s foreword; Martin’s introduction; insightful, in-depth chapters written by Beatles historian, author, and radio producer Kevin Howlett covering the months preceding The Beatles’ Abbey Road sessions, track-by-track details and session notes, the cover art and photo shoot, and the album’s reception upon its release; plus an essay by music journalist and author David Hepworth looking at the album’s influence through 50 years.

The gorgeous book is illustrated with rare and previously unpublished photographs, including many taken by Linda McCartney; never before published images of handwritten lyrics, sketches, and a George Martin score; Beatles correspondence, recording sheets, and tape boxes; and reproduced original print ads.

If that doesn’t convince you to buy this for the Beatles fan on your shopping list (or for yourself) just tune in to The AIR at 2 PM Wednesday at 2 PM, with replays throughout the next week, to hear some of the gems in this set. It’s available at most retailers who carry music for under ninety bucks, which is a bargain, considering what this is.

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