Saturday, February 25, 2012

In the Fine Bestoink Dooley Tradition...

Just found out that MeTV (which stands for Memorable Entertainment Television), a syndicated carrier of old television programming, films, etc., has returned to the fine tradition of horror hosts with their addition of SvenGoolie to their Saturday night lineup. Suddenly I have memories of the late, great Bestoink Dooley, as well as Dr. Shock, Dead Ernest, and other fine and foolish horror hosts from late-night television in the bygone days.

When Universal Studios made a large selection of films from their horror library available as a syndicated package to local television stations, they became a staple of late-night TV... and along with the flood of horror films came a wide array of whimsical horror hosts. Here in Atlanta, Channel 5's Bestoink Dooley was the host of Big Movie Shocker. In Chattanooga, it was Doctor Shock and his Shock Theater on Channel 9. I lived in Rome, located midway between the two cities, so we got both horror shows on our local television.

I figured that horror hosts were a part of the past, since today's viewers can watch horror films whenever they want on DVD, Netflix, etc. Apparently, though, the tradition survived in Chicago, where a host named SvenGoolie has continued to do his bit on late night television. And now MeTV has picked up SvenGoolie, adding him to their Saturday night lineup. Tonight, he's doing his schtick during a showing of The Invisible Woman. I'll watch it, just for the sake of nostalgia, even though it's not a very good film... one doesn't watch these things for the sake of the film, but for the overall experience.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tome It May Concern

A few months ago, Susan and I bought the house adjacent to ours; it was up for short sale, and the price was too good to pass up. For various reasons, the house became an extension and expansion of our current residence (we briefly had other plans, but they didn't work out, so here we are!). We spent a couple of months doing some repairs and renovations, having bookshelves built, installing an upgraded security system, etc. Now that I've finished with that, I've been gradually setting up a library there, and in the process I've uncovered books that I forgot that we had, and discovered others that I remembered but haven't seen in years.

Revisiting the past through our books is fascinating; the oldest quality hardcovers date back to 1975, when Susan and I first began earning enough money that we could afford to buy real (that is, non-book-club) hardcover editions of some of our favorite authors' works.

I lost interest in most science fiction back in the 1980s, at which time I got rid of thousands of paperbacks and hardcovers--but it's interesting that I chose to keep most of the books that we purchased during the mid-70s, probably because I remember how carefully we had to budget, and how we had to make careful choices as to which books we could buy in hardcover and which would have to wait for paperback editions.

I also began investing in specialty books and hardcover limited editions at this time; I have more Donald M. Grant editions than I realized, as well as most Arkham House editions from those years. Each of those books carries a story beyond the one printed on the pages; each book is a tangible link to our lives at the time we bought it, and I can even remember carefully placing each volume on the bookshelves that I had built and finished in the summer of 1974. I had planned ahead, spacing some shelves for the larger hardcovers that I knew we would be able to purchase once I finally finished my student teaching and got a full-time job as an English teacher. (It's been more than a third of a century since I constructed those shelves, but I can still remember which shelves where reserved for non-fiction, which shelves were for art books, which were for SF, which were for fantasy, which were for mystery...)

Thus far, I've chosen not to move my 1974 bookcases to the other house; we're using them in the basement here instead. We do have substantial bookshelf space there, though, having added 9 bookshelf units, so I've been able to expand and reorganize a lot of books that had been clustered, stacked, or boxed since we sold the Horseleg Creek home back in 1999 and moved everything here.

There's not much furniture in the second house; there really doesn't need to be, since we're not living in it as such. We made some upgrades to the HVAC system and did a few other things to make sure that it is perfectly liveable should we ever choose to spend more time there, but for now, it's a very comfortable expansion of our current home, just a few steps away.

My Sabbatical Is Over...

As you've noticed, I took almost two months away from the ol' blog, and am just now returning with a couple of posts. Suffice to say that there have been some things happening that have occupied my time, along with some issues that sapped my motivation to write. Sometimes, I find myself withdrawing when troubles arise; this was one of those times, and I just couldn't bring myself to face the keyboard.

The troubles are still there, but we're coping with them as best we can, and I decided now was the time to begin writing again. I can't promise I'll be here every day, but I'll make an effort to update not much'a nothin' more frequently than I have in the past few months.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

A Life in Four Colors (Part Thirty-Six)

While my comic book reading was in four colors, my television viewing in 1965 was purely in black and white... at home, at least.

I felt lucky to have a television of my very own, a 13" black and white set; my parents bought it for me in late mid-1965 so that I could stay up late on Friday nights and watch WAGA-TV's Big Movie Shocker, hosted by Bestoink Dooley. Mom and Dad said that they did this so that I wouldn't keep them awake watching the large television in the living room, but I don't think that worked out the way they envisioned. While the living room was 15 feet down the hall from my parents' bedroom door, my own bedroom was directly across the hallway from them, only about 4 feet away. Thankful to have my own television, however, I was glad to play the television at a sufficiently low volume that Mom or Dad had to tell me to turn it down no more than three times every Friday night...

I soon discovered that there was much more to watch than Bestoink Dooley. 1965 was a wonderful year for television: The Man from UNCLE, The Wild Wild West, Amos Burke-Secret Agent (a reboot of Burke's Law designed to take advantage of the James Bond-inspired fascination with secret agents of all sorts), The Addams Family, Dick Van Dyke, Andy Griffith, Gomer Pyle, the Smothers Brothers, Honey West, Gilligan's Island, Lost in Space, Bewitched, F Troop, The Munsters, My Mother the Car... so many choices! Of course, in those pre-VCR-or-DVR days, choices had to be made: if I wanted to watch The Addams Family, then Hogan's Heroes had to wait until summer reruns, since they aired at the same time. The Flintstones were skipped in order to watch the entirety of The Wild Wild West. Difficult choices indeed...

My television was black-and-white, as was the family television that we all watched in the living room; color televisions were very expensive at the time, and our family budget didn't allow for one. (This may be hard to believe, but color televisions were such a rarity that many programs were still aired in black and white; the situation was similar to the situation with HDTV in 2003 and 2004, when less than half the network's prime-time schedule was broadcast in HD because there weren't enough sets to make it cost-effective.) However, the grandmother of my best friend, Gary Steele, did have a color television--a big 19" set--and she was perfectly willing to have her grandson and his friend spend the night with her on the occasional Friday night. Even better, she was willing to spoil us with hamburgers, hot dogs, and french fries made from real potatoes, thick-cut and crispy fried with enough ketchup to satisfy the tastes of two adolescent boys. Mrs. Davis lived about a quarter-mile from my house, so it was always convenient for Gary and me to meet at my house, gather our stuff, and walk to her house for dinner and a night of color television viewing.

A typical Friday at Mrs. Davis's house saw us packing up all of our comic book acquisitions for the week, along with some drawing paper, pencils, and pens. We'd read some, talk comics, eat, watch television, and then produce a few pages of our own comics. We'd stay there until mid-day on Saturday, at which point we'd head over to my house for more comics, more food (sometimes Mom would have a can of Poss's Brunswick Stew for us, knowing it was a favorite; other times, it was a can of Campbell's Tomato Soup, which was a more than satisfactory second choice), and more drawing.

My color television options expanded dramatically in early 1966, however, when Mom and Dad bought their first color television. It wasn't a family set; it was an 11" General Electric Portacolor television, and it was my parents' television set, placed atop the chest of drawers in their bedroom. If I wanted to watch a show in color, I would sit back there on the edge of their bed, about 18" away from the set, and stare enthralled at the tiny screen and all of its wonderful colors.

And what a perfect time to get a color television set! Early 1966 saw the debut of a series that I simply had to see in full color: ABC's Batman. The earliest commercials for the show made it appear that it would be a serious television version of Batman, complete with an ominously somber voice-over by Adam West, reciting that whole bit about striking fear into the hearts of criminals. The show, of course, was less than serious, but it didn't matter--for a comic book fan, it was television nirvana, and soon after the series debuted, I was able to watch it in glorious (albeit tiny) color!

The quality of the color left a little bit to be desired, unfortunately. If I didn't know better, I would have sworn that Robin's costume was red, yellow, and blue/turquoise; if I adjusted the sets colors sufficiently to make the green parts of the costume truly green, then everyone's skin took on a sickly pallor, and the yellows were skewed. That was the problem with color television then; it seemed to approximate colors rather than reproducing them vividly. That was okay, though--it wasn't black and white!

Gary and I continued to spend the night at his grandmother's house on the occasional Friday--after all, her color television was larger, and there were still those wonderful french fries (I have always been a french fry aficionado--and by aficionado, I mean addict, of course...). But in 1966, I no longer had to leave my house to see a television show in color... and the networks must have gotten the word regarding our new color set, because beginning with the 1966-1967 fall television season, almost every network program was aired in full color!