Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

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Monday Morning Art: Pagoda Gazebo

This week our art is a pastel crayon drawing of a Pagoda Gazebo that I photographed in Chicago’s Chinatown a few years ago.  Looking at the photo on the screen, I drew the above piece with some new pastel crayons that were a Christmas present.

After finishing the drawing, I scanned it, and then cleaned up some smudginess and tweaked the saturation digitally.  I did a pencil drawing of this same pagoda a few years ago, but even though my fingers were working better back then, I feel it needed color to really do justice to the real thing. This small piece on paper for pens was done to try to limber up my fingers, but they never did quite come back for this. Still, even with the MG, I was happy with it.

To see it bigger try clicking HERE

We had planned to bring you all-new programming on The AIR this week but since there were technical issues with the stream over the weekend I made the decision to delay them a week while the bugs get worked back out.  There will be a new RFC on Tuesday, but otherwise we’ll be in reruns all week. As of Monday morning, The AIR is back up and running, but just in case, I don’t want folks tuning in for a new show and finding dead air.

So, Monday at 2 PM on The AIR, we bring you a recent episode of Psychedelic Shack, and then at 3 PM a recent edition of Herman Linte’s weekly showcase of the Progressive Rock of the past half-century, Prognosis.  You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on the embedded radio player elsewhere on this page.

Psychedelic Shack can be heard every Monday at 2 PM, with replays Tuesday at 9 AM, Wednesday at 10 PM, Friday at 1 PM,  and Saturday at 9 AM. You can hear Prognosis on The AIR Monday at 3 PM, with replays Tuesday at 7 AM, Wednesday at 8 PM, Thursday at Noon, and Saturday at 10 AM. You can hear two classic episodes of the show Sunday at 2 PM.

At 8 PM you can hear part four of David Mitchell’s history of British comedy on an encore episode of Comedy Vault.

Tonight at 9 PM the Monday Marathon presents five classic episodes of Prognosis. That’s all depending on our hosts getting their streams up and running.

Sunday Evening Video: Model Railroading

Last weekend Mel and I visited the KVRA Model Train Show at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center, and we shot video of some of the cool train layouts they had set up at the show.

I ran photos of the show HERE, but above you can see the toy trains in motion, set to some relaxing music. Zone out and enjoy the model railroading! We’ll probably another batch of photos sometime next week.

The RFC Flashback: Episode Sixteen

Rad rfc 16From March 2007, This episode of Radio Free Charleston is called “A Place Of Solace Shirt” in honor of the Huntington band who didn’t appear on RFC until many years later. Our musical guests on this episode are John Radcliff and Al Carey.

Radcliff is an old buddy from way back in my radio days, and Al was unknown to us, but submitted a music video with a striking, but dated and ham-handed political commentary. Rad sings the very XTC-like “Rainbows,” while Al provides us with a song which, in the intervening years, has pretty much lost any relevance that it had at the time.

Also in this show is animation by Stephen Beckner, a short film by Frank Panucci and a vintage Major Matt Mason toy commercial. Read the original production notes here.

A Return To The Kahiki and A Sad History

The PopCulteer
March 17, 2023

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day, and…I got nothing for that. Sorry.

Even though I’m almost half-Irish, I was never really able to muster any enthusiasm for this holiday. As a kid, all it meant was getting pinched if you forgot to wear something green. As an adult non-drinker, it’s a pretty useless day, since the only thing I ever binge-drink is water.

And if I want to celebrate my Celtic roots, I’ll do it at Celtic Calling, which happened a couple of weekends ago.

But that doesn’t mean I’m empty-handed for this week’s PopCulteer. Below we have a book to recommend and a TV series to avoid.

The PopCult Bookshelf

Kahiki Scrapbook, The: Relics of Ohio’s Lost Tiki Palace
by David Meyers and Elise Meyers Walker with Jeff Chenault and Doug Motz
The History Press
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1467152846

Five years ago I discovered and raved about the book, Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus, by the same roving gang of historian authors listed above. That book had been published in 2014, but I was late to the game and enjoyed it so much that I still reviewed it, even though it had already been out for four years.

At the time, my only complaint about the book was that I wanted to read more about this legendary Tiki supper club.

So I was pleasantly surprised last year when I found out that Meyers, Meyers Walker, Chenault and Motz were planning a follow-up book. Kahiki Scrapbook, The: Relics of Ohio’s Lost Tiki Palace is just out, and it’s a great supplement to their original visit to The Kahiki.

It turns out that, after the publication of Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus, the authors were inundated with much more information, photos, recipes and stories about this now-vanished Columbus institution.

As the publishers’ blurb says:

The Church of Tiki To aficionados of Polynesian Pop, the Kahiki Supper Club was and remains the touchstone for all things tiki. The epitome of a fad that started at the end of Prohibition, it has been rediscovered by each successive generation, with relics of the original ‘mothership’ proudly displayed in tropical restaurants and bars throughout the country. Years after its razing in August 2000, the legacy of the Kahiki continues to inspire artists, entrepreneurs, and other visionaries, many of whom never set foot inside the fabled tiki palace. From the authors of Kahiki Supper Club comes a new collection of more stories, more images, and more delicious recipes that explain why the Kahiki was such a historically, culturally, and sociologically important artifact of the twentieth century.

Kahiki Scrapbook, The: Relics of Ohio’s Lost Tiki Palace is a great follow-up, loaded with first and second hand recollections of the employees of the Kahiki, along with photos (including a color section), cocktail and food recipes and updates on the key players in both books.

If you loved the first book, you’ll want the second. If you haven’t read Kahiki Supper Club, this is still a good starting point. Any fan of Tiki culture should want to read Kahiki Scrapbook, The: Relics of Ohio’s Lost Tiki Palace. Maybe someday they’ll combine these books into a coffee-table book with full-color illustrations throughout.

You should be able to order Kahiki Scrapbook, The: Relics of Ohio’s Lost Tiki Palace from any bookseller by using the ISBN code, or take the easy route and get it from Amazon.

The History of the World Part Duh

I really wanted to like Mel Brook’s History of the World Part II, the eight-episode series that premiered on Hulu earlier this month.  It’s a sequel to the movie, History of the World Part I, from 1981, which is a mixed blessing because, while funny in places, the original movie is not primo Brooks.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Mel Brooks. I think it’s great that he’s still active at the age of 96, even if he only narrates and appears as a deepfake muscled up guy.  I really wanted this to be good.

But History of the World Part II, which is largely the work of writer/producers Nick Kroll, Wanda Sykes and Ike Barinholtz commits one of the cardinal sins of comedy: If you’re going to be stupid, at least be funny.

History Part II has the stupid part down pat. In fact, it’s fair to say that the writer’s room must be profoundly ignorant of history. Unfortunately that makes it difficult to create an effective parody of said history.

Most problematic is the Civil War sketch, which runs through six of the eight episodes. It’s based on two faulty premises: Ulysses S. Grant was a raging alcoholic during the entire Civil War, and West Virginia was a member of the confederacy.

A big chunk of this multi-episode sketch craps all over The Mountain State. The ignorance of basic American history is galling. This sketch has Grant’s Union Army based in Virginia (A confederate state) and sees Grant going undercover to go on a raid in confederate West Virginia, which for the sake of one decent gag (a callback to Blazing Saddles) is depicted as an Old West town, complete with a Saloon with swinging doors.

Possibly among the worst comedy sketches to ever air on television.

Given that Grant’s issues with alcohol were exaggerated and fictionalized as part of the “Lost Cause” mythology that sought to belittle his efforts and rehabilitate the traitorous South, you’d think that maybe the diverse and supposedly politically aware writer’s room might have chosen a different direction.

That they depict West Virginia as a racist confederate stronghold is just dumb as hell. I mean, yeah, the state is run by racists NOW, but back then this state split off from Virginia so we could remain with the Union. They literally had eleven genuinely confederate states to choose from, and picked a Union state for this bit. Would it have killed them to set this sketch in Virginia or North Carolina?

If they wanted to do something funny about the Civil War, why didn’t they just hire Mark Metcalf (Douglas C. Neidermeyer in Animal House) to play Stonewall Jackson, and show how the bumbling general was shot by his own troops, and had his arm amputated and buried in a different state from where he was ultimately interred. That’s comedy gold waiting to be mined. But no, they took the Jay Leno/Rosie O’Donnell/Whitney Cummings tack of punching down on West Virginia any chance they can get.

The startling ignorance of their chosen subject matter is one of the major downfalls of History Part II. They do a sketch about Genghis Khan’s proclivity for fertility tied into an ancestry service, which is a really funny premise, but then they ruin the joke by confusing Genghis Khan with his grandson, Kublai Khan.  Also the sketch is eight times longer than it needed to be.

Johnny Knoxville, easily the best part of the series.

Yet another weakness of the show is that every single sketch, save for Johnny Knoxville’s appearances as Rasputin, goes on way, way, way too long. A sketch about the Russian revolution would have been really funny at one-fourth the running time. A brilliant parody of Shirley Chisolm’s campaign for president, done up as a Black 1970s sitcom, overstays its welcome by its second installment.

A running sketch about Jesus goes on and on and on and confusingly jumps from being a parody of Curb Your Enthusiam to The Notebook to The Beatles Get Back to a Superhero movie. The first installment was pretty funny. The rest should have been left on the cutting room floor. The idea of an historical figure using modern social media is a funny idea…once. They milk that premise for gags so many times that by the fourth episode it induces groans.

That’s the biggest problem with History Part II…it needed a strong editor, someone who would look at at an eight-minute sketch and say “It’s done after two minutes.”  Or somebody who would say, “That isn’t as funnny the fourth time you do that gag.”

As it is, I don’t think that there’s an hour of good material spread across the eight episodes. By the sixth episode Melanie and I were yelling at the TV because sketches that weren’t funny to begin with (“statue removal service,” I’m looking at you) were brought back four, five or six times and seemed to go on for hours.

If brevity is the soul of wit, History Part II is soulless.

Jack Black as Stalin

There are some nice cameos in this series, Jack Black is great as Josef Stalin. Josh Gad is interesting as Jack Black doing Shakespeare. Johnny Knoxville as Rasputin is brilliant and is easily and by far the best thing in the entire series. David Duchovney does a great, make-up assisted imitation of Howard Cosell. Taika Waititi is hilarious as Sigmund Freud…in a sketch that could have easily been trimmed by half.

Other cameos are wasted. Margert Cho and Sarah Silverman are seen briefly in throw-away gag roles. Andrew Rannells manages to be somewhat funny, but in a sketch that horribly overstays its welcome. Jason Alexander shows up so late in the Civil War sketch that you just can’t care anymore.

Taika Waititi as Freud

Like I said, I really, really wanted to like Mel Brook’s History of the World Part II. Evidently most critics bent over backwards to be overly kind to this show. It currently has a 73% positive critic’s score at Rotten Tomatoes.

The audience score is only 30% positive.

It seems like the show is largely written by the folks who do Big Mouth for Netflix. Melanie enjoys that show. It doesn’t do much for me. I’ve enjoyed the work of Kroll in other things and Sykes is one of the bright points of History Part II (until the sketches she’s featured in run too long), but I think History Part II is a mostly a swing and a miss.

Hopefully, if there ever is a Part III, they’ll let anybody else take a crack at it. Maybe give it to the writers of Mr. Show or Upright Citizen’s Brigade or Kids In The Hall.

Mel Brook’s History of the World Part II does acurately reflect the real history of the world in one respect…it’s mostly disappointing.

That’s this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for all our regular features and fresh content every day.


Train Show Photos: First Look

The Kanawha Valley Railroad Association held their annual show last weekend at The Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. This was their second show at the Coliseum, and your PopCulteer and his wife were there to enjoy the show, take photos and shoot video.

This was the 17th annual KVRA Model Train and Craft Show, and it was a rousing success.  Hampered by a bum knee and back, your humble blogger missed the first day, but we got there early Sunday and had a great time.

There were several displays with working train layouts and dozens of vendors selling model railroading supplies, toys, clothing and related cool train stuff. We’ll show you more of the vendors next week.

For information about next year’s model train and craft show visitKVRA’s Facebook Page or visit their website. Sunday you’ll get to see video of some of the train layouts, and next week we’ll bring you more photos from the show. But now, here’s the first look…

Walking into the hall early Sunday morning, we just saw a hint of the wonders that lay within.

There was a cool mix of working train layouts scattered throughout the large room, interspersed with several vendors.

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St Patrick’s Day Weekend STUFF TO DO

You should know the drill by now.  There’s plenty of STUFF TO DO in Charleston and all over the Mountain State as folks indulge in the stereotypical drinking of the green this weekend, so let’s just soak in this partial list of suggestions.

A new short play by Dan Kehde runs this weekend at the Elk City Playhouse. It’s the first graphic below. Details are HERE.

Live Music is back at Taylor Books. There is no cover charge, and shows start at 7:30 PM. Friday it’s Jonathan Sartin. Saturday Matt Thomas entertains the crowd at Charleston’s beloved Bookstore/Coffee Shop/Art Gallery.

The Empty Glass has some great stuff through the week to tell you about.  Thursday from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM, Swingstein and Robin play fiddle and piano and sing swing and early jazz standards. Each week they donate their tips to a local nonprofit (as you’ll see below, this week it’s a really good cause).  Sunday the post-Mountain Stage Jam, hosted by The Carpenter Ants kicks off at 10 PM. Next week they’ll have an open mic Monday night, and Songwriter Showcase on Tuesday. Other shows that have graphics are listed among the images below.

Please remember that the pandemic is not over yet. In fact, it’s sort of surging again. Many people who have very good reasons are still wearing masks, and many of us, understandably, are still nervous about being in crowds, masked or not. Be kind and understanding  while you’re out.

If you’re up for going out, here are a few suggestions for the rest of this week, roughly in order.

Continue reading

ArtWalk Returns Thursday!

Your humble blogger is taking the week off from doing a new Radio Free Charleston, but we do have something really cool to tell you about today.

Thursday, March 16, Charleston’s ArtWalk returns from its long Winter hibernation. The Downtown Charleston ArtWalk is the Capital City’s premiere art event bringing you fine art, fashion, crafts, antiques, food and much more by downtown businesses and organizations and the Downtown Charleston Association.

As in previous years, it’s a free self-guided walking tour of Charleston’s shops, galleries and businesses featuring regional art and performances. Typically held the third Thursday of each month, participating shops and organizations extend their hours for browsing, shopping and mingling.

This month it’s happening the day before St. Patrick’s Day, so there will likely be some Celtic influences on this fun, free event.

Participating shops are located along Quarrier, Capitol, Lee, Summers and Hale streets in Downtown Charleston and feature a variety of art – from paintings and sculptures to photography and music. Attendees can stroll along at their own pace, dip in and out of stores and stop off along the way for a bite to eat at a downtown restaurant.

This well-loved family-friendly event takes place from 5 to 8 PM, Thursday, and attracts art aficionados as well as folks who just want to get out and try something new.

A new ArtWalk website is live now, and if all goes according to plan, it’ll be complete with a list of participating venues, and a map so you can find you way around.

This is a great way to get out, experience Charleston’s surprisingly robust arts environment and support the local scene.

(Note: One of the participating merchants is Oddbird Gifts on Hale Street, from whom I swiped the graphic you see above. Stop in and thank Naomi for me).

Monday Morning Art: Imaginary Girl

This week’s art is a small acrylic painting of a lovely girl’s face.  It’s not based on anyone real, but a few folks who have seen it guessed that it was.  I’ve never been great at drawing faces, so I wanted to try painting one from scratch without photo reference or a live model. I chose a limited pallete to work with, and tried a combination of very thin and very thick paint. I was going for an oil paint look, without the mess of actually using oil paints. I like the way it came out, but I’m not sure about my “lighting.”

I used a few traditional brushes but supplemented my arsenal with makeup sponges and dental brush picks, which I’ve been using a lot lately.  Those were great for the hair detail. To be honest, most of her hair detail was created by adapting Bob Ross’s “happy little trees” technique.

I tried scanning this, but it kept creating bizarre moiré patterns with the grain of the canvas, so I wound up photographing it and then color-balancing it to make it look closer to the original.

To see it bigger try clicking HERE.

Meanwhile, Monday at 2 PM on The AIR, we bring you a recent episode of Psychedelic Shack, and then at 3 PM a recent edition of Herman Linte’s weekly showcase of the Progressive Rock of the past half-century, Prognosis.  You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on the embedded radio player elsewhere on this page.

Psychedelic Shack can be heard every Monday at 2 PM, with replays Tuesday at 9 AM, Wednesday at 10 PM, Friday at 1 PM,  and Saturday at 9 AM. You can hear Prognosis on The AIR Monday at 3 PM, with replays Tuesday at 7 AM, Wednesday at 8 PM, Thursday at Noon, and Saturday at 10 AM. You can hear two classic episodes of the show Sunday at 2 PM.

At 8 PM you can hear part three of David Mitchell’s history of British comedy on an encore episode of Comedy Vault. Part four, the concluding chapter, will debut Wednesday night.

Tonight at 9 PM we kick off a thirty-six hour marathon of Radio Free Charleston.  Your humble blogger has not taken a week off from RFC in three months, and with a doctor’s appointment and magazine deadline looming, Something had to give. So to let folks play catch-up, in this marathon you’ll  hear every episode of RFC from 2023 (so far) plus a few from last December, tacked on because I counted wrong when I was adding things up.

Sunday Evening Video: Rock & Rule

This week we’re bringing you one of my favorite animated features from the dark ages of feature animation (between Disney’s Jungle Book and The Little Mermaid). Nelvana’s Rock & Rule was a bright spot from the innovative and creative Canadian animation studio when it was released in 1983, sadly, to little mainstream attention.

It was a classic case of an independently produced feature being acquired by a clueless Hollywood studio (in this case, MGM/UA) who then decided not to bother marketing the film.  If Night Flight hadn’t shown big chunks of it, I might have never heard of this fantastic rock and roll cartoon.

You would think that an animated feature with original music written and performed by Cheap Trick, Debbie Harry, Earth Wind and Fire, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop might’ve attracted more attention in 1983, but the truth is that aside from a promotional cassette there was never a soundtrack album released.

In fact, only some of the tracks from the movie were ever even released commercially, and then only after several years, or decades, had passed.

I have raved about the film in this blog and before I even had the blog for years. The version of Rock & Rule you see above is the version I’d seen.  But there is a different version. One of the things that MGM/UA insisted be changed before they took the film out in the backyard and buried it, was that Greg Salata’s voice for “Omar” be replaced by Paul LeMat’s, and in the process, most of the profantity the character spouted by santized.

What you see at first in the above player is the American version of the film, which is also about four minutes shorter than the original Canadian cut.  If you follow this link to to the Internet Archive, you can see the Canadian release, but for some reason, I can only embed the entire collection, so if you want to see the original cut and all the BluRay extras, you’ll have to skip ahead on the player above and restart it for each new video or go watch it at The Archive.

Or you can just zone out for almost four hours and get the full experience. Rock & Rule is a great post-apocalyptic musical science fantasy, and if you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat If you have seen it…chances are you havent seen the original version or all the extras.

The RFC Flashback: Episode Fifteen

This week we hop back over sixteen years ago, to February, 2007, for a classic episode of Radio Free Charleston, and one of the rare cases where the show is named not after what host, Rudy Panucci, is wearing on his shirt, but instead it’s named after his entire wardrobe.

“Black and White” is packed with music from The Heydays (Douglas Imbrogno and Paul Calicoat) and The Appalachain Celtic Consort, and a Pentagram Flowerbox cartoon, this episode is also noted for explosions and chaos in downtown Charleston, which was inserted by Frank Panucci in post-production without Rudy Panucci’s knowledge.

For some reason this episode has a double letterboxed effect. One of these days I’m gonna have to re-remaster it.

Original production notes can be found here.

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