Archive for the ‘Classic TV and Movies’ Category
My symbiotic connection to the 1950’s continues to amaze even me. I don’t honestly know how this bit of trivia escaped my notice until now, but here goes:
I’ve been a die-hard fan of the Ozzie and Harriet TV show since I was a teenager. The early shows are undoubtedly the better shows for a variety of reasons, which include the appearance of Don DeFore as the Nelsons’ friendly neighbor, Thorny. He has truly always been my favorite character on the show.
Don DeFore is a little-known name among most people today, but he appeared in many movies and TV shows and served as the President of the National Academy of Television Arts from 1954-1955. He was instrumental in bringing the Emmy awards to be broadcast on television. He has a star on Hollywood’s walk of fame, and Judy Garland was maid of honor at his wedding.
In addition to his career in Hollywood, Don DeFore holds the distinction of being the only sole proprietor to ever run a business inside Disneyland. From 1957 to 1962, Don and his brother ran Don DeFore’s Silver Banjo Barbecue in Disneyland in a space formerly occupied by a mexican restaurant called Casa De Fritos. After 1962, the building became Aunt Jemima’s pancake restaurant, which eventually became what it is today – The Riverbelle Terrace.
Where do I fall into this story? Well, in 1988, and 18-year-old kid (an unlikely fan of Mr. Don DeFore) got a job at Disneyland bussing tables. Guess where my most regular assignment was. The Riverbelle Terrace.
I sent an email to Ron DeFore, the son of Don DeFore to inquire about any existing reproductions of Silver Banjo memorabilia. Apparently there are none…only the original sign, menu, etc, which are in his basement. He suggested if I was a millionaire collector, I might offer him an exorbitant sum. Alas, I am not and cannot.
It’s cool to think that in some dimension of fate, my life is linked to the 1950’s era I love so much. The Lost Transmission-Ozzie and Harriet connection is just the latest in my own “six degrees of separation” story to mid-century American culture.
So I was driving in the car with my three sons the other day when the subject turned to Batman. They had recently seen Tim Burtons’ Batman movie for the first time and were introduced to Batman with ridiculously-chiseled abs and pecs. Previously, their live-action Batman experience had been limited to Adam West from the 1960’s TV show.
So one of my sons says, “I like the new Batman better.” Another one says, “Yeah, the old one was fat.” The third chimes in, “And he always ran like he was tired.”
I laughed out loud at this last comment.
Then they moved to the costume. “He looks like he’s wearing a diaper”.
Here at Lost Transmission – a bastion of retro appreciation – I do have a sense of humor. It’s true about Batman. Adam West was a bit frumpy, and he did run like he’d just polished off a couple of Chicago dogs for lunch, but you have to love the original Batman.
Here’s one thing my kids agreed on…the old Robin was pretty good, but the villains in the original Batman were awesome. In fact, the boys are already plotting a “Batman villain” Halloween for 2011. They will be going as the Joker, the Riddler, and the Penguin…the TV versions.
I guess dad will have to dress up as Adam West.
On January 11, 2011, the last member of the original Ozzie and Harriet Nelson family passed away into history. David Nelson died at age 74.
Sadly, his passing went without much fanfare. His star had dimmed long ago, as had the rest of the Nelson family’s. Many Americans today probably have no real idea who he was. However, the impact of David and his family can still be felt in America. The phrase “Ozzie and Harriet” has become an American idiom meaning “the ideal family existence”, based on the longest running non-animated TV sitcom in history, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
We all have our favorite TV shows from the 1950’s and 1960’s. For some of us, it’s Leave to Beaver, The Donna Reed Show, Gunsmoke or others. For me it will always be The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. David’s passing leaves me feeling a bit sad, but also nostalgic about how deeply the Nelson family sitcom is woven into my consciousness.
I first started watching Ozzie and Harriet (O&H) in the 1980’s, when the Disney Channel began airing episodes. At that time, the Disney Channel was a great place to catch classic films and TV series from the 1950’s – things like Swamp Fox, Davy Crockett, The Mickey Mouse Club, and old animated short films. Its so sad the folks at the Disney Channel have forgotten their roots. Anyway, I taped dozens of episodes of O&H and still have them.
O&H was not a top-ten TV show. The Nelsons didn’t have the showbiz feel of Lucille Ball or Milton Berle. Even the Cleavers had a polished, Hollywood air, but the O&H show had an oldtimey, family feel. In fact, it felt more like radio on TV. That may not sound like a compliment, but it is. The dialogue carried the show. It had a few sight gags, but they were secondary to the straight-man and joke-man act of David and Ricky – great lines like these:
Ricky: …have you seen my muscles lately?
David: Whats the matter, can’t you find ’em either?
The sitcom was a showcase for Ricky’s musical talents, of course, skyrocketing him to rock and roll greatness in short order. O&H have been credited for creating the first “music videos” 30 years before MTV.
I spent so much time with the Nelsons, I am confident I use lines from the show almost weekly (as well as comedic lines from Jack Benny, Abbot and Costello and others located in my vast store of useless knowledge). By the way, I just realized “my vast store of useless knowledge” is a line from an episode of O&H delivered by Thorny (Don DeFore).
The most recent outbreak of my O&H obsession came in the form of my own version of an oldtime radio show…Hey, Dad. You can listen to my own family carrying on the tradition of the Nelsons at the link above or here. I hope to provide a new episode every now and then.
It’s a sad week for America, losing the last of the Nelsons. I hope their brand of optimistic, ideal family living and simple, dialogue-driven comedy is never completely lost from our collective consciousness. It won’t be from mine.
In tribute to David and his family, I’ll just say what Ozzie used to say at the end of the final Hotpoint or Eastman Kodak commercial. “Goodnight, folks.”
Totally random post.
I doubt very seriously that this first guy is really Italian. And his pizza doesn’t look so good either…
How about this for a not-so-catchy theme song?
Now this is a good commercial…
My nostalgic sensitivities are pretty-well evenly-split between Halloween and Christmas. I love both holidays, and nothing says “holidays” to me like the two classic Peanuts TV specials: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) and A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965).
I grew up in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I loved Peanuts comic books as a kid and read the Sunday morning funnies religiously (no pun intended…honest). I still have plenty of old Peanuts comic books lying around. I read them from time to time just to remind myself of their simple charm – part of which is the smell of the old, yellowed pages with their soft, worn edges and slightly smudged print ink.
It was Schroeder’s love of Beethoven that inspired a 12-year-old kid (me) to purchase a “Best of Beethoven” LP one year. I became a fan.
It was the entire Peanuts gang that inspired my regular use of “good grief” as an expression. That sure has come in handy over the years.
Above and beyond all this, it somehow renews my spirit to experience It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown each year. The CBS airing of this special officially ushered-in the holiday season during my childhood, as it may have yours.
The beauty of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is in its intelligent humor, its color, its spiritual depth, and of course its music.
Who doesn’t laugh at Charlie Brown’s repeated trick-or-treat lament of “I got a rock!”?
The sloppy animated artwork of these TV specials (the animation art was not done by Charles Schulz) has been blasted by critics, but over time there is a certain charm in the artwork and (particularly for me) the vivid colors in this special.
The spiritual (esp. Christian) undertones in all of Charles Schulz’s work is a beautiful thing as well. The Great Pumpkin only rewards sincere faith – not hypocritical “believers”.
Finally, the music of the incredible Vince Guaraldi Trio is just a treat in itself. My favorite selection from the Halloween special is this one…
Peanuts was such a huge staple in the 1970’s and 1980’s, hardly a day went by that kids weren’t reminded of the characters. I remember one of my favorite lunch treats when mom would buy them…rasberry Zingers. Remember the box that looked like this?
In support of this mass-marketing effort, during the Charlie Brown specials, they often aired commercials like this one…
Well, as you can see, Peanuts meant a lot to me as I was growing up. Maybe it did to you, too. This time of year always causes me to pause and reflect on these fond memories from childhood. Thanks for indulging me.
Now, I’m off to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I wonder if he’ll show up this year…