My life in mugs · pop culture

Every mug tells a story #10: “Hello, Dali”

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The penultimate mug in our series comes from the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. “The Dali” is dedicated to the works of the famous/infamous surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

The museum gift shop had many appealing items but this one caught my eye because the statement was amusing and provocative.

I once brought it to a work meeting at which I knew would be sitting across from an angry colleague who had me in his cross hairs.

I placed the mug directly in front of him and watched as he stared and squinted, looking at the mug and then me, trying to parse the meaning of the inscription and wondering if I was sending him some sort of message. He became increasingly unnerved and sat silent for the entire hour.

It was a good meeting. Thanks, Dali!

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McBarronBlog Bonus

Of course, the museum is temporarily closed, but you can visit virtually, via the Dali Museum app.

Dali had a huge impact in a variety of media. Including as a painter…

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… and as filmmaker. With the great Luis Bunuel, he made Un Chien Andalou a surreal fantasy

Un Chien Andalou has no plot in the conventional sense of the word. The chronology of the film is disjointed, jumping from the initial “once upon a time” to “eight years later” without the events or characters changing. It uses dream logic in narrative flow that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes.’

If you missed seeing this in college, or when it was used as the “opening act” for David Bowie concerts in 1976, you can watch it now.

Note: It’s weird, wild and contains (simulated) violence and lots of other crazy stuff.

Oh yeah, he also did album covers.

 

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My life in mugs · pop culture

Every mug tells a story #8 “Looney”

Today’s mug was acquired when we toured the Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, CA a few years ago.

I’m old enough to remember when Saturday matinees at the movies included at least one cartoon. Sometimes there were hours of them.

Time well spent.

Bugs, Daffy and the other Looney Tunes characters were a huge part of my childhood. I have never outgrown my love of the cartoons of my youth.

With a little extra time on my hands, I might need to do a deep dive back into the classics. IMG_1551

There are lots of cartoons available on YouTube. My favorite posted comment from one collection:

a lot of people grew up with these cartoons and turned out to be decent human beings

Is there a better testimonial than that?

McBarronBlog Bonus

Someone has posted a high quality compilation of “The Top 10 Best Classic Looney Tunes Cartoons,” based on YouTube viewings. Everyone’s list is different, but these are all pretty good.

I don’t know much about classical music, but I probably would know nothing at all if not for the use of the music of Mozart, Wagner and other geniuses in hilarious cartoon shorts. I’m sure, if they were with us today, the great composers would feel honored.

 

Growing up · My life in mugs · pop culture

It’s a bird. It’s a plane! It’s Cup #6 “Super”

(I have a cupboard full of mugs, each of which represent…something.  In this space, until I run out of mugs, I’ll try to explain what that “something” is)

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I picked this up on a family vacation to Universal Studios Theme Park, but this story isn’t about the vacation. It’s about what Superman meant to me as a boy.

In a word: “Everything”

I watched a lot of TV as a child. A whole lot.

My mother (who used the TV as my babysitter, for which I will always be grateful) would say “You’d watch an armpit licking contest if it was on TV!”

“What channel?,” was my standard response.

My mother was right, I would watch anything. But, by far, my favorite show as a child was The Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves as Superman (secret identity, Clark Kent, “…mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper”). I couldn’t get enough of that show and I still love it even though, as an adult, I can’t help but notice the low budget sets and the corny plots and dialogue.

What I liked best about the show was that Clark Kent (tall, dark hair with tortoise shell glasses) looked like my dad. As far as I was concerned, there was an excellent chance my father was, in fact, Superman. When I was little, I repeatedly asked him to admit this.

 

He denied it about 500 times a day.

I was obsessed. As soon as I could read, I asked for Superman comic books and studied them like the Dead Sea Scrolls. But what I really wanted, no, needed, was a Superman costume.

I remember seeing one on a shelf during a trip to Marshal Field’s with my grandmother. I never had wanted anything as badly as I wanted that outfit. My grandmother was incredibly kind and indulgent, but, for whatever reason she would not buy it.  Surprisingly, “But it has a cape!” didn’t move her.

It was the greatest disappointment of my life until the 1969 Cubs came along.

I’ve told my wife that, if I had a Superman costume that fit me, I’d wear it around the house.  Every day.

Yet, still no costume.

Strange.

But I do have this cup, which reminds me of a boy who desperately wanted to believe his dad was a Superhero.

McBarronBlog Bonus

A good father tries to ensure his children have the things he himself was denied.

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The Adventures of Superman had a classic theme and opening credits. This is the open of the first episode (1952). George Reeves isn’t in it because it’s the “origin story,” but it’s quite entertaining.

It was always amazing that no one recognized that Clark Kent looked exactly like Superman. That was his real super power. Here’s a reel of Clark/Superman in action.

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Each Clark Kent had his own style of eyewear

 

My life in mugs · pop culture

Every cup tells a story #3 Late Show

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(I have a cupboard full of mugs, each of which represent…something.  In this space, until I run out of mugs, I’ll try to explain what that “something” is….)

From August 30, 1993  until May 20, 2015, David Letterman reigned as TV’s top late night talk show host. CBS’s The Late Show with David Letterman wasn’t the highest rated talk show during that time, but it was the funniest and the most interesting.

That’s not my opinion. That is a scientific fact.

Before coming to CBS for Late Show, Letterman presided over Late Night With David Letterman from 1982 until 1993.

Sadly, I never was in the Ed Sullivan Theater audience for The Late Show, though I did visit some of the nearby businesses that benefited from the show’s presence. One of these was the Hello Deli, operated by Rupert Gee, who became world famous through Late Show exposure.

I was kind of a Letterman evangelist in those days, so, when business took her to New York shortly after The Late Show launched, a PR agency colleague picked up this cup for me. I have always treasured it.

This mug simply represents that I was a huge fan of David Letterman whose shows helped shape comic sensibility for a generation. His shows brought me incalculable pleasure over the years.

The Good News: Those shows can do the same for you, thanks to Letterman Super fan DonZ (aka Don Giller) who taped, literally, nearly everything David Letterman did on TV and offers it to the world free of charge on his YouTube channel!

If you have some time on your hands lately, and think you could use a laugh right now, check out DonZ’s channel.

McBarronBlog Bonus:
One of my favorite Letterman moments was the last ever joint appearance of Sonny and Cher, on Late Night. Here’s the whole show:

 

My life in mugs · pop culture

Every mug tells a story #2: “Trivial”

(I have a cupboard full of mugs, each of which represent…something.  In this space, until I run out of mugs, I’ll try to explain what that “something” is….)

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Today’s mug is tied to a board game that became incredibly popular in the 1980s.

Trivial Pursuit is a board game from Canada in which winning is determined by a player’s ability to answer general knowledge and popular culture questions. Players move their pieces around a board, the squares they land on determining the subject of a question they are asked from a card (from six categories including “history” and “science and nature”). Each correct answer earns a plastic wedge which is slotted into the answerer’s playing piece.

Trivial Pursuit was the game of the 80s because it made the knowledge of useless information useful, at least in the sense one could prove to family and friends that you had acquired/retained more of it than they had.

The game became so popular that tournaments were set up. I was working as a radio reporter in Springfield in the mid-80s when one such event was held on a Saturday morning in a local bar. I partnered with a friend and colleague, John Hawkins (@jhawkins54), who was as obsessed with Trivial Pursuit as I.

Honestly, we were pretty cocky about our chances. Being in the news business means knowing a little about a lot of things. At the tournament, we dominated our competition.

Until we didn’t.

We were pitted, for the championship, against a couple of jamokes jerks guys who, apparently, did nothing all day and night except memorize the questions and answers in Trivial Pursuit.

Every time a question was read, they would answer before the sentence was completed. Sometimes answering after just two words were read.

It was highly annoying. We took a beating.

I’m almost over it.

But, at least I got this great mug.

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McBarronBlog Bonus:

By the 90s, Trivial pursuit was declining in popularity. As an indication of that, The Family Channel aired a version with classic game show host Wink Martindale. Apologies for the video quality.

 

My life in mugs · pop culture

Every mug tells a story #1: “Mickey”

Now that we all have some time on our hands, I’m looking for creative ways to entertain myself and others.

Until I succeed, I will will try to post to McBarronBlog.

The premise is simple: I have a cupboard full of mugs, each of which represent…something.  In this space, until I run out of mugs, we will try to explain what that “something” is….

(Note: I’d like to point out that I had this idea before I saw that my friend, Jay Pearce, had done the same thing. You and Jay probably don’t believe me, but don’t we have more important things to worry about right now?)

Up first is this classic Mickey Mouse mug (my “Sunday mug”), purchased on a Disneyworld vacation when our kids were small and when going to “The Happiest Place on Earth” was a very big deal. This is my favorite because of the memories from the vacation, but also because it has a classic early Mickey Mouse image.

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Mickey’s not so popular with the kids these days but, when I was a boy, he was one big rodent. His cartoons were still seen on TV shows like Walt Disney Presents and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (we had to take their word for the “color” part).

Mickey was omnipresent. I loved that mouse.

Also, a big part of my childhood was The Mickey Mouse Club.

Image result for original mickey mouse clubI’m guessing one of the first words I could spell was M-I-C-K-E-Y, ala the show’s closing theme song.

The original Mickey Mouse Club included a bunch of attractive kids, some of whom were talented and went on to actual careers in show business. For example, Cubby O’Brian had a great career as a drummer, notably for The Carpenters live shows.

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Bobby Burgess danced on The Lawrence Welk Show for more than 20 years.

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Many a boy’s first crush was Annette Funicello.

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(sigh)

As the kids grew up, we watched a lot of TV together, which included lots of time spent with Mickey.

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The kids have moved out, but every Sunday, Mickey and I get still together.

Why? Because I LIKE him!

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McBarronBlog Bonuses

The evolution of Mickey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5yLBt2EfLc

Mickey Mouse Club Open: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7W7BPt9rK0

Classic Mickey Mouse cartoon from 1941 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REHJ1lz_HLQ

 

 

 

 

Brush with greatness · pop culture

That time I met (the real) Batman

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Adam West @ Prairie Capitol Convention Center, Springfield, IL, January 1, 1987 (Photo: Randy Miller)

 

in the late 1980s, the big draw for the World of Wheels show in Springfield, IL was the “The Original Batmobile” along with, “TVs Batman, Adam West.”

The crowds weren’t exactly breaking down the doors to see the show or Adam West when I stopped by with my tape recorder for a radio interview. Yet West could not have been nicer or more accommodating when we spoke during his break.

He was wearing “the suit,” with a flight jacket draped over his shoulders. The Batman cowl was pulled back and he was wearing aviator glasses.

The fact I knew some of his non-Batman work (like this, which he was proud of, and this, which he was less proud of) helped the conversation flow.

The elephant in the Springfield convention center that day was how absurd it was for a grown man to be wearing a Batman costume. West didn’t complain about it. His attitude was, “it’s all show business.”

Besides, even in his late 50s, the Batman costume looked good on him.

We talked about then in-production new (Tim Burton) Batman movie. I was incredulous to learn no one had spoken to him about a cameo. Without irony, I blurted, “But you’re Batman.”

He agreed.

West told me many people he’d spoken to said they would be boycotting the movie because he had been treated so shabbily.

If those folks boycotted the movie, which starred Michael Keaton as the Cowled Crusader, most people did not. It was a huge hit.

In my interview, and in every interview I ever heard/read with him, Adam West came across as a very nice, self aware man with a great sense of humor. I wish I still had the tape. I wish I had taken a picture.

For me, he’ll always be Batman.  And if that wasn’t enough (it was for me), he also was Ty Lookwell.

If you’ve never seen the unsold tv pilot, LOOKWELL (created by Conan O’Brian and Robert Smigel), WATCH IT NOW:

If you don’t think LOOKWELL is one of the funniest things ever made for TV, you and I will never be friends.

Adam West died one year ago. I’m glad I was able to spend a few minutes with him and tell one of my childhood heroes how much he’d meant to me.

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McBarronBlog Bonus

Adam West wore the Batman costume in many unusual settings, like this British Public Service Announcement for pedestrian safety.

From WIRED: Adam West – Batman Forever