Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Month: July 2020 (Page 1 of 4)

The Stars Do Disco And Random Rumblings

The PopCulteer
July 31, 2020

2020 has proven to be the year of interesting times, and it’s hard to believe that we’re already at the end of July. We  have a handful of short items this week, so let’s dive in…

The Stars Go Clubbing On MIRRORBALL

It’s hard to believe, but we’re already up to our seventh edition of MIRRORBALL  Friday afternoon on The AIR. and that’s followed by two great encore epsodes of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat.  You can hear all this good stuff on The AIR website, or just click on this embedded radio player…

MIRRORBALL returns as Mel Larch takes you back to the days when everybody wanted to get in on the Disco act. In this episode The Stars Go Clubbing as we hear Disco tunes from such non-Disco artists as The Rolling Stones, Barbara Streisand, KISS, Paul McCartney, Blondie and more.

Check out the VIP playlist for this exclusive Disco party…


Rod Stewart “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”
Blondie “Heart of Glass”
Paul McCartney & Wings “Goodnight Tonight”
Ringo Starr “Drowning In A Sea of Love”
Diana Ross “Upside Down”
ELO “Shine A Little Love”
Rolling Stones “Miss You”
Barbara Streisand/Donna Summer “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)”
Johnny Mathis “Gone, Gone, Gone”
Leo Sayer “Thunder In My Heart”
The Jacksons “Shake Your Body”
KISS “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”
Cher “Take Me Home”

You can tune in at 2 PM and hear the latest edition of MIRRORBALL. The plan is to drop a new episode roughly every other Friday afternoon, until Mel gets tired of doing it, or people stop listening. Later today, it will go up in the Podcast section of The AIR website, so you can listen on demand.  MIRRORBALL will also be replayed Friday night at Midnight, Saturday at 6 PM (part of a marathon), Sunday at 11 PM and Tuesday at 1 PM. We’ll probably sneak in a few more airings during the week.

Still No Stuff To Do

The pandemic, ensuing shutdown and continuing seriousness of the situation have combined to pretty much wipe out local events. There are a few things happening, but your PopCulteer does not feel comfortable recommending them to anyone. I can’t really suggest that anybody attend any in-person event, and there are so many virtual online events that I can’t possibly keep track of them all. So my advice for Stuff To Do remains…stay safe, use common sense, and don’t fall for any crazy conspiracy theories that say this whole thing is a hoax. Herman Cain didn’t take COVID-19 seriously, and look what happened to him.

Wrestling With Ratings

WWE, the dominant wrestling company in the world had a secret that’s been hidden in plain sight for over 19 years. Their television ratings have been in a slow, steady decline, even as their television rights fees have exploded to new heights The current viewership, in the midst of the pandemic, is about one-eighth the size it was at WWE’s peak, twenty years ago. The average age of a WWE viewer now is in the upper 50s, as the wrestling company has failed to attract younger viewers to begin watching their programming. It’s been like this since WWE bought their rival WCW, and went into a non-stop victory lap. While the company has soared to its greatest financial heights, it’s happened with a steadily eroding fanbase.

Variety has finally noticed this and called attention to it yesterday.

They Still Got The Beat

Showtime is debuting a new documentary devoted to The GoGos this weekend. “The GoGos” gives the band the chance to tell their own story for the first time. It’s getting rave reviews, and Rolling Stone has a great interview with the director and members of the band. NPR offers up a review of the documentary HERE.

To get you in the mood, you can hear “Club Zero,” the band’s first new song in 19 years right here…

With that we shall beat it for the week. Check PopCult for fresh content every day and all our regular features.

A Super Dooper Voice Has Been Stilled

Howard Irving Russell, better known to generations of Charlestonians as “Super Dooper Charlie Cooper” lost his battle with cancer last night, and the world is poorer for it.

Charlie was a legendary Charleston DeeJay, coming to prominence with WKAZ in the 1970s (and before) and gracing the airwaves with one of the most-recognizable voices you’ve ever heard. After leaving radio, he established Admix, a company that provided voiceover services for ad campaigns and TV and Radio stations across the country. He created and produced commercials, infomercials and radio drama and continued to deejay live events.

He was also very generous with his time and advice, and while I did not work closely with him for long periods like some folks, I do have a few Charlie stories.

“Irritate The Hell Out Of Him.”

Back in 1989, just two or three weeks after I began doing Radio Free Charleston for WVNS radio, Charlie came in to record some kind of commercial spot (which was odd because he had his own state-of-the-art studio…and ours wasn’t) and I got to meet him and talk for a while. He suggested that I beef up RFC with a theme song and some jingles and interstitials to create a stronger identity. He hadn’t heard the show, but encouraged me to stick with it because “It’ll irritate the hell out of John Dickensheets (the sales manager at the radio station, and a legendary villain on the local broadcast scene).” I took his advice to heart, and it did irritate the hell out of Dickensheets.

“Substitute Announcer”

After RFC ended, I stayed in touch with Charlie for the odd announcing gig, including a disastrous attempt at imitating his voice while he was on vacation. Spencer Elliott was his assistant at the time, and he was in a pinch. One of Charlie’s regular clients, a regional department store, needed new radio spots on two days notice, and Charlie was nowhere near a microphone.

I got the call because I was able to imitate a wide variety of voices, but I never really came close to getting Charlie’s voice. On top of that, I didn’t know the name of the department store until I got to the studio.

Imagine my surprise when I was handed the script, and it was for “Aide’s Department Store.” My twisted sense of humor instantly kicked into absurdity defense mode, which triggered incessant giggling that did not abate one bit when Spencer informed me that, due to the disease, it was now pronounced “Eye-yeeeeeeeeds.”

About thirty takes later we had a semi-acceptable spot. Later Charlie thanked me for filling in. I told him that I thought I sucked on that job. He quickly piped up, “Oh, you did, real bad! You were so bad that they gave me a raise to make sure I only used my voice on their spots.”

Balloons And The Gulf War

A short time after that, Charlie was in a bind. This was when our country was on the brink of the first Gulf War. Half the country was under lock and key in fear of a terrorist attack. Security was heightened everywhere. Charlie had been hired by IBM to coordinate some kind of event at Capital High School.

He had ordered imprinted balloons, but they hadn’t been printed yet, and wouldn’t be ready until the afternoon before the event–and they needed them in hand just hours after that so they could get them inflated and in place. Express shipping was not an option.

The rubber plant was in Ashland, so Charlie called me and offered fifty bucks plus a quarter a mile if I could drive to the plant and pick up the balloons. I was driving a $500 1973 Cutlass Supreme at the time, but I was confident that the duct tape holding my exhaust system together would hold for the trip.

Luckily, I was meticulous enough to call the rubber plant to get directions and make sure I could get through security to pick up the balloons, and discovered that this particular rubber plant was not in Ashland, Kentucky, but was in fact in Ashland, Ohio–about an hour North of Columbus.

I totally cleared out the trunk and backseat of my car. I was going to be picking up 50,000 balloons and hoped that I would be able to fit them all in my car.

At this point, I had been dating Mel for less than a year, and this was a day when she was not scheduled to substitute teach so she was able to tag along on the trip.  I got up at the crack of dawn, picked up Mel and we headed North, listening to either of the two 8-Tracks I had, John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band or the first half of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass.

We made poor time due to construction but still got to Ashland about an hour before we were told the balloons were supposed to be ready. We grabbed lunch. I bought a guitar strap (still have it) and we killed some time before making our way to the highly secure rubber factory.

I had to show my driver’s license and a letter from Charlie to be let in to the loading dock. The country was in the grip of a mighty paranoia as our troops were lined up waiting to attack Iraq (or Kuwait, or someone).

I backed my car up to the loading dock, which was made for loading huge trucks, and Mel and I went in. I showed my ID again and signed some papers and asked where the balloons were. I expected a pallet stacked with boxes that I’d have to break down to cram into the car. The nice lady behind the counter pointed and said, “They’re under that chair over there.”

Pro Tip: Balloons don’t take up much space before they’re inflated.

I felt sort of silly carrying a single box that was maybe a foot wide, fourteen inches long and eight inches deep through the loading dock area. I sat it in the trunk where it looked like a BB in a boxcar. Mel and I took off and headed home.

On the way up, we had seriously discussed how Mel might have to carry some of the balloons on her lap, or under her feet, or both.

We drove home through Amish country on a particularly buggy-heavy day, and connected to I 77 North of Canton for a straight shoot home.

As we approached Ripley, I needed to stop for gas. The 1973 Cutlass Supreme is not exactly known for getting great milage. While gassing up, Mel asked if we could listen to the radio instead of the same two (great) 8 Tracks that we’d been listening to all day. I turned on the radio and we drove to Capital High School, well after dark, listening to the reports that the bombings had started in Kuwait. Back then bombing another country seemed like a much bigger deal than it does now.

When I got to the High School, it was minutes before 10 PM and Charlie was wondering where the hell I’d been. He seemed a bit surprised by the fact that all the balloons were in a single box, and told me to bring my invoice by in a couple of days.

After some initial confusion over why I arrived so late with the balloons and why I was claiming so much milage we discovered that Charlie had not been aware that he’d sent me to Ashland in Ohio instead of Kentucky. He then cut me a check and we both had a good laugh over it. He didn’t realize that, when I showed up with the balloons, I’d been on the road for fourteen hours.

The last time I saw Charlie was at a car show in South Charleston about five years ago. I hadn’t seen him for quite some time, but as we got caught up, he looked at me and said, “I swear, I thought I was sending you to Ashland, Kentucky.” Almost 25 years after the fact, we were still laughing about it.

Charlie Cooper was one-of-a-kind and he will be missed. A Facebook Page dedicated to memories of Charlie has been set up (it’s where I swiped the image of Charlie at the head of this post), and it’s quite the celebration of a life well lived.

Superman Fights For Truth, Justice and the American Way

The PopCult Comix Bookshelf

Superman Smashes The Klan
writen by Gene Luen Yang , art by Gurihiru
DC Comics
ISBN-13: 978-1779504210
$16.99 (discounted at Amazon)

First off, Superman Smashes The Klan is a terrific Superman adventure. It presents the iconic, original superhero at his best, fighting bigotry and injustice and other anti-American ideals in an engrossing and entertaining story. Secondly, the story frames this adventure in a nuanced and intricate tale that explores the immigrant experience in post-World War II America. Lastly, it makes it clear that The Klan are the bad guys, something that cannot be repeated often enough or loud enough these days when White Supremecists seemingly have allies in very high places.

Written by American Born Chinese author and MacArthur Fellowship recipient Gene Luen Yang, with art by the Japanese art duo known as Gurihiro, Superman Smashes The Klan is a very timely story, executed in a near-perfect style. While totally appropriate for younger readers, the story has enough complexity and characterization to satisfy any adult reader.

Based on a summer 1946 story arc from The Adventures of Superman radio show, this is the story of Superman coming to the aid of a Chinese-American family that has just moved to Metropolis, and finds themselves under attack by The Klan of the Fiery Cross.

That radio story was created in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League, and is credited with doing serious harm to the KKK’s recruitment efforts. The Klan even tried to organize a boycott of Kellogg’s, the radio show’s sponsor, which failed, proving that boycotts only work when they’re justifed and moral.

Yang keeps the 1946 setting, but updates and expands the story to address additional themes of the immigrant experience, and manages to very effectively tie them to Superman’s Kryptonian origins, which Clark Kent confronts for the first time in this (non-canon) story. He re-centers the story with a focus on the Lee family, and adds a daughter, Roberta (Lin-Shan) who is really the star here.

In this story Superman’s confidante on the Metropolis Police Force, Inspector Henderson, is depicted as African-American. In the regular comics he has been race-flipped before, but here it’s particular effective and greatly adds more layers of depth to the story.

This story does not only show the racism of the Klan, but also touches on the sensitive relations within the Asian community and between Asians and Blacks. It even addresses the concept of “passing,” in ways that are particularly touching. That it does so without clubbing the reader over the head with it is a testament to the talents of the storytellers.

Being that this is a stand-alone tale not set in any established continuity frees Yang from having to deal with any of the heavy baggage that 80-plus years of Superman adventures bring with them. This an old-school, liberal plea for tolerance and acceptance, the kind that bigots and demagogues despise.

A major subplot involves Superman discovering his roots for the first time, which is a new take on a story that’s been often told, and then retold before. This fresh take is really well-done.

In addition to a great script, the art by Gurihiru is perfectly suited to the story, combining the look of the Max Fleischer animated shorts with Superman: The Animated Series, and a hint of Manga, to create a slick, clean, yet detailed world that makes perfect sense.

Originally published beginning last year, this three-issue series was recently collected into one volume, and it’s a great 220-page story that can be read without any prior exposure to the Superman mythos. The end of the book contains a great essay by Yang that gives the background of the original radio story, the history of The Klan and his own experience as an Asian-American.

If you enjoy great Superhero adventures without a ton of continuity issues, but with a clear and important underlying theme, then Superman Smashes The Klan is the book for you. Available where books or comics are sold.

And before anybody starts crying about how it ruins Superman to make him political, keep in mind that doing what’s right is not political, and Superman has been fighting for what’s right all along, as you can see in this comic book ad from 1950…

New Music From John Ellison and David Bluegene Frazier Highlight a New RFC

Tuesday on The AIR we deliver a brand-new episode of Radio Free Charleston, that’s loaded with new music from John Ellison, David Bluegene Frazier, Taylor Swift and more. Plus we have classic tracks, rare cuts and a extra-large helping of West Virginia-based artists.  In order to hear the show, you simply have to find your way over and tune in at the website, or you could just stay on this page, and  listen to this neat-o keen embedded radio player…

We have yet another three-hour Radio Free Charleston at 10 AM and 10 PM Tuesday.  This week it’s yet another all-new show jam-packed with great music from Charleston and the whole world.  This week we open with a brand-new and extremely relevant song by legendary West Virginia native, John Ellison (composer of “Some Kind of Wonderful”) and contine with loads of great local music plus new tracks by Taylor Swift (sounding like Kate Bush), Pretenders and Fuschia. This week I felt like packing in way more local music than usual, and it all fits together into a three-hour slice of musical nirvana.

Check out the playlist to see all the goodies we bring you this week…

RFCv5 026

John Ellison “Wake Up Call (Black Like Me)”
David Bluegene Frazier “Waiting For A Signal”
Fuschia “The Nothing Song”
Taylor Swift “Epiphany”
The Dead Daisies “Unspoken”
Todd Burge “Chocolate Pud”
Jay Parade “Misery”
Lady D “Love Will Find A Way”
The Naked and the Famous “Easy”
Dread Zepplin “Stairway To Heaven”
Seth Allen Holmes “Mystery Man”
Pretenders “The Buzz”

hour two
Bon Air “Like You’re Still Here”
Holly and the Guy “Not The Only One”
John Radcliff “Right Where We Started”
Farnsworth “Free Me”
Speedsuit “So Do I”
The Carpenter Ants “I Feel Like A Woman”
The Science Fair Explosion “Before It Ends”
Feast of Stephen “Needing Only Me”
4 OHM MONO “Crisis Actor”
Hawthorne Heights “Chemicals”
Byzantine “Map of the Creator”
Stark Raven “Terminal Lunch”
The Company Stores “Little Lights”

hour three
In The Company of Wolves “Universal Breakdown”
Speedsuit “That’s When I Feel The Weight”
Poor Man’s Gravy “A Smoke and a Gun”
Johnny Compton “2 Mad 2 Fall 2 Drunk 2 Stand”
Sheldon Vance “This Round’s On Me”
Joe Vallina “Tiles”
Payback’s A Bitch “Do You Wanna Go Out”
Esmerelda Strange “Love Bug”
The Changelings “Xenoglass”
Renaissance “Lock In On Love”
Unawoman “In Pinks and Golds”
The Ruins “It Was No Use”
dog soldier “Goldtown Motel”
Farnsworth “Already Written”
The Irreplaceables “Digital Age”

Radio Free Charleston can be heard Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM, with replays Thursday at 2 PM, Friday at 9 AM and 7 PM, Saturday at 11 AM and Midnight, Sunday at 1 PM and the next Monday at 8 PM, exclusively on The AIR.

Monday Morning Art: Timed In The City


This week our art is a timed drawing. I gave myself twenty minutes to do a pencil sketch based on a photo from a trip to New York City. I would describe this sketch as being a sketchy depiction of a big building, and a medium-sized building, with a few other buildings in the background. It is much sketchier than a typical piece that I would use for Monday Morning Art, but adding the element of time–mainly to keep me from burning out my Myasthenia Gravis-afflicted hands like I did last week–made this one acceptable.

Looking rushed is part of the charm. I also did not use a ruler to get straight edges in this one, which should explain the absence of any straight edges. I didn’t even clean up any smudges after I scanned it. This was sketched on copy paper using my now-trusty Blackwing Palamino pencil.

If you want to see it bigger, just click on the image.

Meanwhile, Monday on The AIR, we are extending the all-night Sunday marathon of The Swing Shift from 7 AM to 3 PM. You’ll get eight bonus episodes to go with the seven that ran from Midnight to 7 AM right before. This is because people like the Swing music, kids.

At 3 PM on Prognosis, Herman Linte brings us a show devoted to the solo and other group music made by members of YES. That’s followed by a classic Prognosis and an evening of NOISE BRIGADE and Radio Free Charleston.

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

Sunday Evening Video: Snowman In July

This week we are going to re-present a previous animated film that we featured in this spot six-and-a-half years ago.

Originally I posted this in the middle of a series of snow storms in January. This time I’m being all aging-hipster ironic and presenting it at the tail-end of a month-long series of heat waves. This weekend, instead of copying all the “Christmas in July” sales that the retail websites are hitting you with,  we’re bringing you the classic animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ children’s book, “The Snowman.”

This version has the original opening, featuring a spoken word intro and brief appearance by Briggs himself. The OSCAR-nominated “The Snowman” was produced by John Coates and directed by Dianne Jackson, both of whom worked on The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.” It’s a classic of 1980s animation, and it might just help you cool down a bit before our country plunges into a depression.

The RFC Flashback: Episode 31

Let us take you back to late November, 2007 for an episode of Radio Free Charleston hosted from the La Belle Theater in South Charleston that features music from Raymond Wallace and Doctor Senator, plus animation from Frank Panucci and news about then upcoming events in South Charleston, which are now many years in the past. .

This episode of RFC is loaded with promos for upcoming events that, of course, already happened. You’ll see your host (and blogger), Rudy Panucci, give heartfelt plugs for The No Pants Players annual Christmas Show and IWA East Coast’s double-show, where they ran a high-flyer’s tournament and the first Masters of Pain show on the same day. This show also includes a promo clip for the “Best of Radio Free Charleston Night” at the LaBelle and a brief appearence by Kitty Killton before she was Kitty Killton. We never did get around to doing “Mad Man Pondo’s Celebrity Run-in” though, but it was a great promo.

Our musical acts were Raymond Wallace, recorded in the lobby at LiveMix Studio, and Doctor Senator, recorded at The Sound Factory. Those two venues, sadly, are no longer with us. You can read the original production notes for this show HERE.

Five Months

The PopCulteer
July 24, 2020

Five months ago today was the first time I used the word “Coronavirus” in a PopCult post.

It was in a February edition of Monday Morning Art, and I was explaining that the Haversham Recording Institute programming on The AIR would likely be disrupted as our British friends took on more freelance reporting jobs covering the then-incubating pandemic, along with other stories like Brexit. I thought it might be time to look back at the year that seems like a decade already, but isn’t finished yet. Think of it as a post-apocalyptic status update.

I’d been aware of the virus since late December. I forget whether it was before or after Christmas, but my contacts in the toy industry were already well aware that supply lines were going to be disrupted and 2020 was going to be a huge question mark in terms of production and delivery of goods from Asia.

Mel and I had big travel plans for 2020, but we began having second thoughts. I made the decision in early January that we would not be attending the International Toy Fair in New York as planned. The thought of mingling with tens of thousands of people from all over the world while I’ve got a compromised immune system suddenly didn’t seem like such a great idea.

We did manage to fit in a late-February hit-and-run theatre trip to Chicago. We saw two shows in two days and made it back home in time for Mel to perform in one of the last live theatre performances in Charleston before the shutdown, Titus Andronicus.

By this point, I knew that a lockdown was inevitable, and to be honest, I was surprised (a bit) that international travel restrictions had not been put in place back in January.

I found out about the potential scope of the pandemic in late December, and we now know that the adminstration had been warned at least as early as November of last year that this crisis was looming.

On March 11, things got real and within days events started shutting down. ToyLanta had to pull the plug on short notice, but it was absolutely the right thing to do. With Broadway shut down, our planned trips to New York City fell by the wayside, and as bleak as things looked there in March and April, we didn’t regret it one bit. Within a matter of days the whole country had pretty much been put under lockdown. With the supply of toilet paper in doubt, the end of civilization seemed very possible.

Major sporting events were canceled, and are only now starting back up without any fans present. For the first time in its 50 year history, Comic Con International at San Diego was canceled. It’s going on virtually right now. Most major pop culture and toy conventions and shows have been canceled this year.

Most television and movie production was also shut down. Live concerts and theatre were shut down, as were most movie theaters. Major motion pictures were either delayed or re-routed to Video-on-Demand or streaming services. Toy lines based on blockbuster movies, though delayed a month or two, are hitting stores months, or even a year before the movies will be released. Hundreds of millions of dollars of marketing plans and advertising campaigns have been tossed out the window.

Movies theaters had planned to reopen about a week from now, but with major movies like Tenet and Mulan being pulled back by the studios, most are delaying reopening until August or September at the earliest.

With almost every comic book shop in the country closed, Diamond Distribution shut down for several weeks and the comics industry went into a bizarre hibernation. When it emerged, the landscape had changed considerably. Output had been greatly reduced as printers slowly flickered back into operation.

DC Comics exited Diamond, helping create two new distributors to carry the load, and they shifted their new comics on-sale day to Tuesday from Wednesday. Several other publishers bolted from Diamond, opting to sell directly to stores and customers. Free Comic Book Day didn’t happen, and the books produced for that event are being doled out weekly throughout the summer.

Record Store Day was rescheduled from April to June, then divided up into three monthly dates, with the first being August 29.

Magazines and print media in general are in dire trouble as advertising dries up. That’s also hurting websites and television. There is way less money to go around to pay for fresh content.

Halloween is looking doubtful for this year, as the idea of sending kids door-to-door during a pandemic is even more ridiculous than the idea of sending them back into schools. Costume makers have already started dumping costumes, selling them as “cosplay” or “dress-up” sets. Zulilly is practically choked with this stuff. Candy makers are scaling back production, as are beer companies, who see Halloween as a big drinking holiday.

I have no idea what Christmas will look like, but I suspect it will involve way less caroling and way more Amazon. 2020 may wind up being the year without a Black Friday.

Pop culture has been disrupted.

Feeling a bit stir crazy, Mel and I went out of town in June. We met with some friends in Wheeling during what would have been The Marx Toy Convention and did our best to keep our masks on and not get too close to anyone. On the way home we veered West and did some shopping in Columbus, also trying be as safe as possible.

It was fun, but we spent the following two weeks expecting to get sick. It was great to get out and be responsibly social, but I’m not sure it was worth the anxiety after we returned.

The Kentuckiana GI Joe and Toy Expo is happening this weekend in Louisville, and we had planned to go this year, but I just can’t justify the risk. It would be great to see so many of my friends, but so many are traveling from Covid-19 hotspots that it’s not wise for me to go there, even though the Kentuckiana crew is going above and beyond to promote social distancing and responsible mask-wearing. This one hurts, but this is the world in which we now live. Hopefully, next year we can make it.

The key word there is “hopefully.” Some events scheduled for next year are already being delayed or postponed. Due to the ineptitude of our current leadership, we have not yet managed to flatten the curve nationwide on the first wave of this pandemic.  It’s happened regionally, but the ill-advised rush to reopen caused the virus to spread in areas that had not been heavily hit back in the late winter and spring.

At this point, a second national shutdown seems unlikely, but several regional shutdowns seem inevitable. With economic aid to tens of millions ending after this weekend, the economy looks to be on the verge of a major disaster. Over thirty million people will suddenly see their income plummet to next to nothing, and that will have a ripple effect on the economy that will seem more like a tsunami.

Retail is going to go from being shut down to wishing that they were still shut down, as consumer demand drops far below profitable levels.

And we are not yet through the first wave.

There is some reason for optimism. Conventional wisdom among epidemiologists has been that the second wave may coincide with the start of flu season, which comes with the winter months. However, reports from the Southern Hemisphere (where it’s winter now) indicate that the precautions taken to curb the Coronavirus have had the side benefit of reducing the number of flu cases to less than 5% of last year’s totals.

If we take the same measures here (that means wearing a mask and restricting travel), then we may have an almost non-existent flu season, which means that our hospitals are less likely to be overwhelmed. If everybody started wearing masks now, we may be able to avoid, delay or reduce the size of a second wave.

And that could mean getting back to something close to normal. If we can pull together and stop politicizing common-sense measures like wearing masks or schooling kids remotely, maybe in a year we can all look back on this time and…not laugh…but maybe at least breathe a sigh of relief that we got through this.

We need to write off 2020 in terms of life going back to normal. We need to listen to the doctors and scientists and do whatever is necessary to find a new normal, with luck, in 2021.

That we are just a few months in is more than a bit daunting. It seems like a lifetime ago, and it seems like yesterday–at the same time. It’s hard to believe it’s only been five months since I first wrote “Coronavirus” in this blog. This year can’t end fast enough.

And that is this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for fresh content every day. It’s not like I have anything else to do.

New Monsters From McFarlane Toys Coming To Walmart

The PopCult Toybox

Toy and Comics impressario, Todd McFarlane has struck a deal with Walmart to sell a line of toys based on characters who first appeared in his comic book series, Spawn. Cy-Gor, a cybernetic gorilla was the result of experiments done on an Army buddy friend of Al Simmons, before he became the avenging undead superhero known as “Spawn.”

This is not Cy-Gor’s first appearance as a toy, but now he’s the star figure in a line of cybernetic animal hybrids with human minds, known as RAW 10.

Yesterday, as part of the kickoff to the Virtual SDCC, McFarlane Toys announced a new McFarlane designed creature toy line, RAW10 (gotta love the bad pun), coming exclusively to Walmart. McFarlane and the award-winning McFarlane Toys’ design team have created a brand-new toy line and online comic series for creature and monster fans of all ages. This is a delightfully cheesy B-movie concept executed in glorious plastic that reminds me of some of the acid-trip toys we had back in the 1960s.

“I’m excited to get back to creating and designing creature and monster toys,” Said Todd McFarlane, McFarlane Toys CEO and Creative Force. “Fans, collectors and kids alike can enjoy the new RAW10 world, upcoming online RAW10 comic series and collecting all the creatures.”

In the near future, the worlds of Super-Science and Primal Savagery have merged. Hidden away from prying eyes, the secret laboratories of RAW10 have created powerful warriors: part beast, part machine! But some have rebelled against their creator and have chosen to fight on the side of Humanity! Who will prove to be the strongest!

The first line of RAW10 toys features McFarlane’s classic and fan-favorite comic gorilla CY-GOR, and brand-new McFarlane designed monsters and creatures. McFarlane Toys RAW10 creature toy line will be available exclusively at Walmart. The online pre-orders are mostly sold out, but the line is coming to store shelves on August 1.

The initial four figures look great, and are a real treat for collectors of monster toys.

SPECIES: Silverback Gorilla
ATTACKS: Power Slam, Monkey Punch, Rage Attack

The CY-GOR large set features moveable arms, legs, and head and comes with a FREE CY-GOR mini-comic poster. MSRP $19.99

CY-GOR is the pinnacle of the Robotic Animal Weapon (RAW) labs’ science. He is the perfect combination of beast and machine. Designed as a test subject for RAW’s newest cybernetic enhancements, CY-GOR exceeded his potential to become RAW’s greatest success.

His brute strength is augmented with metallic muscles, and his intellect, instincts, and reflexes are perfectly tuned with his built-in combat matrix. He was created to be a next-gen warrior. Now, the perfect weapon is on the loose and out of control.

SPECIES: Great White Shark
ATTACKS: Power Jaws, Frenzy Strike, Fin Attack

The FREN -Z large set has an articulated tail and moveable jaw and comes with a FREE FREN-Z mini-comic poster. MSRP $9.99

FREN-Z is the king of the ocean—every ocean. He is a mix of robotics and the DNA of a Great White Shark combined with the prehistoric Megalodon Super Shark for extra terror.

FREN-Z was created to be the prototype for a new breed of aquatic weaponry. But the dangerous minds at the Robotic Animal Warrior (RAW) labs did their job too well, and FREN-Z escaped. Now he stalks the oceans, an unstoppable hunter—part-shark, part-machine, all-deadly. If he had a freakin’ laser on his head, he could rule the world!

SPECIES: Velociraptor Dinosaur
ATTACKS: Claw Strike, Tail Whip, Power Bite

The RAPTAR features movable arms, legs, and head and comes with a FREE RAPTAR mini-poster. MSRP $9.99.

RAPTAR, and his wicked velociraptor brothers, were created in the top-secret Robotic Animal Warrior (RAW) labs. Combining ancient dinosaur DNA with advanced cybernetic machinery, the mad scientists in charge of RAW labs wanted to create the ultimate hunting party.

The result was a trio of vicious beasts led by RAPTAR. Using linked intelligence coding, the brothers hunt as one, taking their commands from RAPTAR, and can track any target over any terrain. Alone they are dangerous. Together, they are unstoppable.

SPECIES: King Cobra / Rattlesnake hybrid
ATTACKS: Coil Strike, Fang Strike, Hypno Gaze

The BATTLESNAKE small set comes with a flexible tale, moveable jaw, and articulated slide-out tongue and a FREE BATTLESNAKE mini-comic poster. MSRP $9.99

BATTLESNAKE is the product of mad science. Fusing reptile DNA with radical cyber-technology and self-powered Ion Core Energy systems, the engineers in the top-secret Robotic Animal Warrior (RAW) labs created a real monster. Possessing genius-level intelligence and futuristic combat programming, BATTLESNAKE can hypnotize his prey before striking with his piercing “techno fangs.”

His super-steel underbelly and reinforced hood protect him from attacks, and his sinister mind makes him a threat to all living things.

The RAW10 are truly a force to be reckoned with and you will be able to take home all 4 of these warriors very soon. Collect all the RAW10 creatures; CY-GOR, FREN-Z, RAPTAR, and BATTLESNAKE. All Figures sold separately.

You can visit the RAW10Toys website to experience the RAW10 World and be on the lookout for the upcoming online RAW10 comics series coming soon.

Our info, quotes and pictures come courtesy of McFarlane Toys’ PR. Once we get our hands on these, we’ll post a detailed review.

Remembering Nick Cordero on Curtain Call

Wednesday afternoon The AIR brings you a new episode of our showcase of musical theatre, Curtain Call, which pays tribute to Nick Cordero, who lost his three-month battle with Coronavirus earlier in July. You can tune in at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

Mel Larch opens and closes a new episode of Curtain Call, debuting Wednesday at 3 PM on The AIR, with performances from Nick Cordero’s star turn in A Bronx Tale.

Sadly, we lost Nick Cordero on July 5th, due to complications from COVID-19. He appeared in such shows as Waitress, Rock of Ages, and the musical adaptation of Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway, where he received his Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. He was a much loved member of the Broadway community, by fans and his colleagues alike, and all of us at PopCult and Curtain Call extend our sympathies to his wife, his son, and his family.

Nick Cordero had no serious health conditions when he was hospitalized in March of this year with COVID-19. This disease basically ravaged his body, resulting in him being placed on a ventilator, his right leg being amputated and suffering major lung damage. A little over three months after being hospitalized, he died way too young….at the age of 41.

This edition of Curtain Call ends with Mel delivering an impassioned plea for people to follow the advice of experts and take measures to help beat this virus so that life…and theatre, can get back to normal.

In addition to the songs by Nick Cordero, Curtain Call also presents a mix of new and classic showtunes. Check the playlist:

Curtain Call 090

“Roll ’em” Nick Cordero from A Bronx Tale
“Candy” from Octet
“Something Is Wrong In Jeruselam” Your Arms Too Short To Box With God”
“Guys And Dolls” Title song
“Bobby and Jackie and Jack” from Merrily We Roll Around (1994)
“Just Leave Everything To Me/I Want To Laugh” from Tap Your Troubles Away
“Drive” from The Lightning Thief
“Maggie Mae” from Tonight’s The Night
“Whoa Mama” from Bright Star”
“I Walk The Line” from Million Dollar Quartet
“One More Angel” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
“Nothin’ Up” from The Robber Bridegroom”
“Muddy Water” from Big River
“Fly Me To The Moon” from 2 AM at the Sands
“One of the Great Ones” Nick Cordero from A Bronx Tale

Curtain Call can be heard on The AIR Wednesday at 3 PM, with replays Thursday at 8 AM and 9 PM, Friday at 10 AM and Saturday at 6 PM. An all-night marathon of Curtain Call episodes can be heard Wednesday nights, beginning at Midnight, and an additional marathon can be heard Sunday evenings from 6 PM to midnight.



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