Book Reviews: Two Books, One Author, and Tons of Horror

Cover photo courtesy of Ingrid Pitt

“Ingrid Pitt, Queen of Horror; The Complete Career” (McFarland, 2017) by Robert Michael “Bobb” Cotter, is a nice reference book for the fans of one of horror film’s famous actresses.

Pitt was one of the famous actresses in the Hammer Studios films in the 1960s and 1970s, appearing in films such as 1971’s “Countess Dracula,” and “The House That Dripped Blood,” and 1973’s “The Wicker Man.” She was also known for her role as Carmilla in the famous 1970 Hammer film “The Vampire Lovers,” which was part of the Karnstein Trilogy. She was also in episodes of “Doctor Who” and her voice was heard in one of the James Bond films.

The book is nice because it features not just the author’s writings on the films, but he also takes quotes from other sources by Pitt herself in commenting on some of her films. Pitt also wrote the introduction to the book as well.

Cotter takes the reader through Pitt’s early acting career from her stage roles, her first films, and her appearance in “Doctor Zhivago.” More of her earlier roles including films with Clint Eastwood, until she got major attention for her role as Countess Elizabeth in “Countess Dracula,” based on the legend of Elizabeth Bathory (which I discovered the story in Gary A. Smith’s “Vampire Films of the 1970s,” which is a must have book, also through McFarland). Cotter gives a full cast and crew listings, along with a short summary of the movie, before giving his take on the films. At the end of some of the sections (when needed) is Pitt’s quotes from her time on the set from interviews and other sources. There is a chapter on her television appearances, and her appearances in horror magazines, and her authoring several books. The collection also has some nice black and white photographs throughout from Playbill covers from her stage shows, to ads from her television shows, to on set movie pictures.

I didn’t know much about Pitt’s work before this book, but since reading the book, I have gotten to watch several of her films, including “The House That Dripped Blood” and “Countess Dracula.” I will hopefully seek out her Doctor Who appearances, being a fan of the show. My horror film knowledge of the actresses are limited, namely being a fan of Universal Studios horror films, and not much knowledge of other actresses except Barbara Steele (who I think is great) and Joanna Lumley.

The book is an easy read at 230 pages long. Cotter’s book, much like many of McFarland’s books I have gotten to review, gives a nice collection to an actress who I was not very familiar with, and this book should be added to the collection of movie horror films.

Front cover: Maila Nurmi as the host of The Vampira Show on KABC-TV in Los Angeles, 1954-1955.

Cotter’s second book  looks at some of the many female horror hosts in “Vampira and Her Daughters: Women Horror Hosts from the 1950s into the Internet Era (McFarland, 2017).

This encyclopedia format lists the many female hosts, including co hosts, that have been featured in the horror television history, where horror fans would stay up late on weekends to watch on their local access television, which was popular before Cable TV took over. The book covers the hosts who dressed up as vampires, mummys, and even Zombie looking cheerleaders. “Vampira” has a forward by host Penny Dreadful, who also gets her section later in the book, and has many question and answer interviews throughout, not just a listing of the hosts and where they were shown.

The Introduction section has a nice commentary where Cotter links the horror hosts back to the radio days, up to the current list of hosts on Youtube and other online sites. The book covers many hosts from 1970s hosts Doctor Shock and his young daughter Bubbles, to Marilyn The Witch (who appeared on many other television shows like Green Acres, Hart to Hart, and played one of the mothers in the original Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory), to the more famous characters like Elvira and, of course, Vampira.

Cotter’s research is intense, which includes hosts where he could not find any footage or information on, but they are still listed here. He covers hosts that had different actresses play the same person (like Misty Brew), and details a few interesting information about the actresses and how the created their gimmicks.

The Elvira and Vampira sections were a nice read, since everyone my age was a fan (and still is) of Elvira’s Cassandra Peterson, but was uninformed of the way she got her name (rumored to be because of the Oak Ridge Boys’ hit), and the lawsuit on her by Vampira over copyright issues. Cotter mentions that Vampira was the inspiration for Disney’s villain Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, which I never heard before.

This book is cover newer horror hosts, such as Roxsy Tyler, who has a rock and roll look, as opposed to just a vampire character, which became the norm for the female hosts, to Cleveland’s The Mummy and The Monkey host Janet Decay.

Fans of horror and television history would like the easy to read collection Cotter has put together, including the photographs and interviews that is added. It is nice to see that Cotter included former WWE and current Impact Wrestling’s Katarina Waters in the book, who is not only an actress and wrestler, but also has written some short stories in the horror genre. He even includes former Saturday Night Live actress Laraine Newman and her contribution to horror and USA’s Rhonda Shear. Although I hardly consider Shear a horror host, nor had a gimmick of anything horror related. The Newman part (where Cotter throws in a unnecessary jab calling Dan Aykroyd “ovearrated”) and Shear is oddly placed in the book, it does show that Cotter intensely researched his subject.

 

Both review copies were sent courtesy of McFarland Publishing.

Vampira and Her Daughters: Women Horror Movie Hosts from the 1950s into the Internet Era by Robert Michael “Bobb” Cotter (McFarland, 2017 ISBN:978-1-4766-6434-7 print and ebook:978-1-4766-2656-7)   can be found at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com or ordered at 800-253-2187

 

“Ingrid Pitt, Queen of Horror” by Robert Michael “Bobb” Cotter ( McFarland, 2017 ISBN: 978-1-4766-7230-4 eISBN: 978-0-7864-6189-9) is available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com and can also be ordered at 800-253-2187, along with their other titles.

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DVD Movie Picks You Need To See

The summer season of movies used to be when the big blockbusters would come out. It used to be a major event each summer, but that has changed. Movies put out blockbusters all year long, which can wear thin on some movie goers.  That is why some movies are expected to do well, and fail, or on the other extreme, movies that aren’t expected to do well, perform better than expected that leaves the so called critics scratching their heads. If you are tired of the normal movie trends that are out there right now, try taking these films in account. These are my suggestions on some great films that have been overlooked this past year that are all available for your home watching.

  1. “The Great Wall” (2016). There are not many films that I really like that stars Matt Damon, with the exception of The Bourne films (although I didn’t care for the last one , titled  Jason Bourne), but The Great Wall was a surprisingly good film. Even though this film was viewed as a disappointment at the box office, it still made over $300 Million worldwide (It did well in China).

Damon plays a mercenary in China, who ends up helping soldiers fight against monsters while searching for the secret to making gunpowder. The film has quite a bit of subtitles, due to the Chinese soldiers that they help, but the film was good overall.  Basically the film is a mix of Dungeons and Dragons meets Aliens. There are humorous parts in the film as well, thanks to Pedro Pascal’s character Pero, who is Damon’s best friend. The action is good, along with a unique fighting style that the soldiers use in the early fight scenes. This was an underrated Action/Fantasy film.

  1. “The Institute” (2017). I have never been a fan of James Franco’s work, but in this film, I enjoyed his work as a doctor who uses questionable methods to treat his patients. Franco stars and co-directs this film based on a true story about The Rosewood Institution in Maryland. Lori Singer, from the 1984 movie Footloose is also in this film.

A girl checks herself into the institute after her parent’s death and ends up seeing, and being subjected to, strange medical therapies, such as brainwashing and mind control. This film is almost like a throwback horror film, however there is quite a bit of nudity in the film. There are parts of this film that reminded me of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s film Eyes Wide Shut, dealing with a secret society. If you can get through the nude scenes, the film is really good. If you can’t, I suggest the film with Kate Beckinsale called  Stonehearst Aslyum that came out several years ago, which is similar to this film.

  1. “Morgan” (2017). This film was directed by Luke Scott and stars Kate Mara, who was not cast right in the reboot of The Fantastic Four, is a good actress.  The film is about an experiment named Morgan, who is a hybrid with an advanced growth rate. She looks around 19 or 20, but is really 5 yrs old. After murdering a researcher, it is decided that the Morgan project should be terminated. Mara plays a government agent sent to watch and then end the project. After it is determined the project should end, the chase is on with Morgan attacking other people and trying to escape the compound where the tests are being held.

The cast also includes Brian Cox, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Paul Giamatti. I thought the ending was predictable, but it doesn’t take away from the film.  It actually made its budget back, although it was not viewed highly. This film was underrated that is a good DVD watch.

  1. “Keeping Up With The Joneses.” (2016). With her success in the film Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot is the current “It “ girl in Hollywood. This film was shot after her debut of the character in Superman vs Batman, but before the solo Wonder Woman film. The film was a DVD library choice for me, and I actually enjoyed it. It also stars Jon Hamm, Zach Galifianakis, and Isla Fisher.

This comedy is about a couple (Hamm and Gadot) who moves into the neighborhood, with Fisher and Zach’s characters assuming that they are secret agents. Fisher and her husband start watching and following the new couple and chaos ensues when they get mixed up in the case.  When the trailer for the film came out, I thought it was a Mr. and Mrs. Smith remake, but the film was pretty funny, thanks to Gadot’s acting. She has some good comedy skills as well as being an action star. This film bombed at the box office, but don’t let it stop you from checking it out if you want to see more of Gadot.

  1. “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.” (2017). I first heard about this film when it came out, and then forgot about it. Several months later, I was listening to a Christian Radio Show that was giving out the DVD as a prize, and went to the library to check out the film. It was a great movie.

Some Christian films are too cheesy, and there is a reason why some only last 2 weeks in the theaters. However, this film was enjoyable and funny.

Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton from “Marvel’s Agents of Shield”) is a child actor who ends up in trouble for his excessive partying and must do community service in order to avoid jail time. He ends up going back to his hometown, where he takes work at a church, and lies about being a Christian in order to earn his time by playing Jesus in an upcoming play after seeing the bad acting during the auditions. Stone ends up meeting many people in the play, including  former WWE Wrestler Shawn Michaels (The film is put out by WWE Films, which is why Michaels is on the cover, but he has a small role in the film). Since the word “resurrection” is in the film, there becomes a coming of age moment for Stone and his lies.

The film is touching, yet funny. I remember reading some reviews of the film that some Christians did not like it due to scenes making fun of the typical Christian stereotypes and their church language, which is what I think makes the film enjoyable. If you have been a part of a church play or community theater, you know what unexpected things or ideas can come up, which makes the film even funnier.  You do not have to be a Christian to like this film, and just want to see a decent film without violence or cussing that the family can watch, this is a great pick.

  1. “War and Peace’ (2016 Miniseries). If you are a fan of the BBC type films, this is a must watch. This series, based on the Leo Tolstoy book, is so good, I not only watched most of it in one day, but makes me want to read the 1000 page book.  This show aired on the BBC, then on A&E, Lifetime, and The History Channel.  I picked it up on an impulse at my local library, and as mentioned earlier, couldn’t stop watching it. (I think I watched 4-5 hours in a sitting).

This series stars Paul Dano (who was also great in the Brian Wilson film Love and Mercy), Lily James (from Disney’s Cinderella) Brian Cox, and Gillian Anderson. The film does not have much war scenes in it until the later episodes, but the show draws you in, and makes you involved in the characters and their actions. James is just adorable in her role as Natasha, while Dano’s acting is great as Pierre (although I’m not sure what to think of the character overall-like him, hate him??) This is a series I highly recommend that people add to their movie collection.

 

On a final note, if you haven’t seen the film “Split” with James McAvroy, it is worth watching, although the trailers were misleading in making it look like a horror film-it’s more of a thriller. I didn’t rank it above since the film did very well at the box office.

 

Maybe these suggestions will help you the next time you are looking at Redbox, the library, or wherever you get movies to watch at home.  I have seen some good films (Wonder Woman) and some overrated films (Beauty and The Beast, Spiderman Homecoming, Get Out) to just bad (The Mummy).  Consider these films if you want something different or can’t decide the next time you go to watch a movie.  You may be surprised.

My Buddy: The Underrated “Nature Boy” Of Wrestling

Growing up a major wrestling fan in the 1980s, I tried to watch as many of the territories I could (for those that may not know, as opposed to today, there were many wrestling leagues throughout the U.S. and Canada before the WWE bought most of them out).  As a kid in junior high when I started watching, I was usually cheering for the fan favorites, aka the “Faces,” such as Hulk Hogan, Sting, and The Rock N Roll Express among many. However, there were a few of the bad guys, called “Heels,” that I always cheered for, like managers Jim Cornette and Bobby Heenan, and wrestlers like Nick Bockwinkel, The Midnight Express, Curt Hennig, and Bill Dundee (when they were Heels-they were also Faces too in their career) There was an wrestler who I enjoyed watching as a heel and thought he was so underrated, and that was “The Nature Boy” Buddy Landel.

Newer fans may not know that many wrestlers used the same nicknames when they were in the different territories, unlike today where a wrestler would leave, the league has copyright property to the name (there are times when the wrestler owns their name, but that is becoming rare).  This is why when fans think of “The Nature Boy” gimmick, they think of Ric Flair. Flair actually took the gimmick from Buddy Rogers, who was the first WWWF Champion in 1963 (losing to Bruno Sammartino) and the NWA Title in 1961. Other “Nature Boy” wrestlers were Flair, Paul Lee, and Landel.

Landel started wrestling in 1979 in Bill Watt’s Mid South territory, where he started out as a jobber and caught my eye when he joined Jim Crockett’s NWA in 1985. I remember my first issue I ever bought of the wrestling magazine Pro Wrestling Illustrated covering the Great American Bash of 1985 (before Supercards on PPV, this was Crockett’s big summer card). At the time, Landel was teaming with Cowboy Ron Bass as part of J.J. Dillon’s stable. The storyline started that Dillon was paying more attention to Landel than Bass, which created Bass to turn good and face Landel at the Bash, which was declared a draw. Although some people thought of Landel as a fake Ric Flair, I loved watching his matches and interviews at the time, along with his “corkscrew elbow,” which set up his other finisher, the Figure Four, which Flair and Rogers also used. Wikipedia writes that a match in 1985 between Flair and Landel broke a North Carolina record held by Elvis Presley, so Landel wasn’t just a wanna-be star.

Landel won the NWA National Heavyweight Title at Starrcade 1985 in a decent match against Terry Taylor, when Dillon grabbed Taylor’s foot when Taylor was trying to do his finish, a superplex off the ropes. I remember the NWA showing the match on free TV after the card weeks later, and even then I was rooting for Landel over Taylor, which went against most of my young views that the Heels were bad.

Landel left the NWA when he refused to show up for a TV Taping on time and was fired that day. Landel said on a podcast later that he was tired of the management and other wrestlers playing politics, although he admits that he was having drug problems on top. He claims on that podcast that plan was that NWA Champion Flair was to drop the belt to Landel, and he was to either drop the belt to Magnum T.A. or Tully Blanchard. He also states that Blanchard’s manager at the time, Baby Doll, was to manage him, while Tully was to be paired up with Dillon. Nonetheless, Landel was fired from what was his shot at the big time.

Landel then went to the Memphis area in 1986, and then back to WCW (for a small time), before going to Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and the WWF before getting injured, and released. Landel’s time in Jerry Lawler’s Memphis area was very exciting, where he had some of his best work, especially teaming with Bill Dundee. One of my favorite spots at this time was when Landel and Dundee decided that they would announce the matches themselves, instead of Dave Brown and Lance Russell, and brought out their own table that had a sign titled “The Bill and Buddy Show.”  I remember watching this 1986 Memphis run with Landel and Dundee fighting Lawler and Dutch Mantel.  This territory was so different from the WWF, AWA, World Class, and NWA that I was used to, and was actually annoyed when my TV Station would pre-empt the show during some weeks where I live in Ohio.

Landel was a major reason, along with The Rock N Roll Express and Jim Cornette, that I was a huge fan of the Smoky Mountain Wrestling territory in the 1990’s, run by Cornette.  Just like the Memphis TV Show, I was not able to see Smoky Mountain every week, but with the Internet, I have gotten see every Smoky Mountain show in order. Landel came in Smoky Mountain in 1992, and then again in 94-95 before the league closed. Landel was the Smoky Mountain Champion as a Heel, and right before they closed, Landel was a Face, going against Cornette’s Militia group. I asked Cornette via his podcast, “Corny’s Drive Through” Podcast on MLW Radio (March  14, 2017) if there was plans for Landel to win back the title if the league didn’t close. Cornette said that was the plan. A memorable Smoky Mountain moment was an interview Landel gave admitting to his past mistakes with drugs and being unreliable to the bookers. His run in Smoky Mountain, especially his second run, included a great match with  WWF Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels. His WWF run included matches against Bret Hart, a young Matt Hardy, and HHH.

One interesting time in his career that I forgot about, but then rediscovered, was his time in USA Championship Wrestling in Knoxville, Tennessee (1988), run by Ron Fuller. Landel was usually paired with Hector Guerrero. This TV Show was interesting because the wrestlers sat at the announcer’s desk for their interviews. Several of the Smoky Mountain Wrestling stars were here at the time, such as The Armstrong Family, The Mongolian Stomper, and Ron Wright. The wrestling was decent, ( I believe it ended up being a part of Continental Wrestling) but Landel’s character was that he had an injured arm and wore a black arm band, that he “loaded” it with some foreign object. Although the fans bought into the gimmick, yelling at the referee every time Buddy would turn his back to the ref, I think it diminished the fact that Landel really was a great in ring worker that did not need to use a cheap prop gimmick to get over.

Buddy Landel was one of the most underrated wrestlers of the 1980s-1990s. He was still wrestling Indy Shows after he was released from the WWF. He had a short stint in the AWA in 1987 as well.  Some of the big names he wrestled during his career were: Magnum T.A., Sting, King Kong Bundy, Tommy Rich, Jerry Lawler, Tully Blanchard, Bobby Eaton, Ron Bass, Kamala, Jim Duggan, The Rock N Roll Express, and more.

I asked Hall of Fame Announcer Jim Ross, via his website, his opinion of Landel and if he was underrated. He replied, “ Buddy was a naturally talented wrestler whose own demons hurt him but Buddy was a good hand without question.”

I also asked Slam Sports Wrestling’s Producer and Author Greg Oliver (who helped give me my break in writing about wrestling) his views on Landel. Oliver writes via email:

Buddy Landel was criminally underrated as a performer. He had all the skills to make it to the top — look, microphone skills, in-ring magic (the story he told me for The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels about wrestling The Invisible Man is proof he could do anything). What he didn’t have was discipline or his head screwed on straight. To his credit, he always owned up to his shortcomings later in life, never bemoaning what could have been.

 

Buddy Landel died in 2015, at the age of 53, due to complications of a car accident.  Even though he was one of the few “Nature Boys,” his work and interview skills were not of a cheap knock off. Wrestling fans, go back and discover this talent. He was not only one of my favorite wrestlers growing up, but even now, going back and watching his matches still entertains me.

If you’d like to be notified when a new post comes up, click the “Follow Button” and fill out the form. I do not see the information. Or better yet, tell your friends about this page! (Or tell a wrestler to really help my numbers!!)

 

A special thanks to Greg Oliver for helping contribute to this page.

You can find Greg Oliver, and the rest of the great Slam Sports Wrestling writers, at http://slam.canoe.com/Slam/Wrestling/home.html

Jim Ross at http://www.jrsbarbq.com , and Jim Cornette’s Podcasts at http://www.mlwradio.com .

 

Here is another one of Landel’s best promos.

 

 

 

 

Holy Heels!! Ranking Batman’s Villains!

Batman and Robin

One of the best DVDs released in the past few years was the long awaited collection of the 1966 Batman TV Series. Like many TV Shows that have not been released, the show was owned by several companies, so the legal battles to what company gets a certain amount of money took years to determine. The series was only 3 Seasons long, but the collection was separately sold in 4 sections, because of the Season 2 having more episodes than the others. Unless you bought the collection all at once in the DVD or Blu Ray packaging, which was over $100, it was sold separately by season (Part 2 was in two different packages) for anywhere from $19-$30 apiece.

Regardless of how many people ridiculed the cheesiness of the show and it’s unbelievable plots (especially how Batman and Robin got out of every cliffhanger), I still enjoy the show along with the music and actors.

In his book The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, author Glen Weldon writes that even though the show got made fun of for its plots, Season One had ten of its episodes taken from the Batman Comics, and Season Two had two of its stories from the comics (Season 3 had none). Those that thought the show was an insult to the character of Batman, some of it was straight from the comic, which Weldon says was one of the problems with the show, claiming  the studio did not adapt the stories and action to the screen and left it as a 3 dimensional version of the comics. But by Season 3, the budget for the show was cut drastically from Season 1, which may also have been a factor.

In researching this topic, I decided to contact someone who I knew was a fan of the show, Chris Yambar. Yambar has painter, cook, public speaker, and comic illustrator on his resume. He also has organized his own comic conventions.  A resident of Youngstown Ohio, he worked on The Simpsons Comics, is the Creator of Mr. Beat, and is well known for being a Pop Culture fan and expert.

Yambar says “The 1966 Batman was groovy and corny. Also it was designed to take the character mainstream. Let’s be honest; in reality, the whole concept of Batman and any costumed character is totally insane. So they decided to have fun with it.”

Many actors appeared during the TV Show’s run, including Bruce Lee, Liberace, Leslie Gore, Ethel Merman, Milton Berle, and Art Carney to name a few. There were several villains that were made just for the show, along with the comic book favorites. Here are my favorite Batman Villains in order.

egghead
Vincent Price’s Egghead.
  1. Egghead (Vincent Price). This character was created just for the TV Show, and is not a well known character when discussing the show, but is one of my favorites because of actor Vincent Price. Even though he had some Egg-aggerated comments, Price, like in his horror films, understood the humor in the role. I have always been a huge fan of Price, who did so many different things in his life from chef, painter, editor, actor, and Shakespearian expert.
riddler
Gorshin’s Riddler.
    1. The Riddler. This character was played by 2 different actors during the TV Series; Frank Gorshin (Season 1 and 3) and John Astin (Season 2). Although he wasn’t a favorite villain of mine in the comics or movies (Jim Carrey was just awful in his interpretation in the movies- like everything else he does), it is Gorshin that made me like the character in the show. Astin (who played Gomez in The Adams Family) came in Season 2 after Gorshin wasn’t available, but the writers even had plots written for Gorshin if he showed up (one story was used for Maurice Evan’s The Puzzler character in Season 2).  Austin’s Riddler was dry and not really entertaining compared to Gorshin’s. Also of note: Austin wasn’t the only Addams Family alum to be in the series- Carolyn Jones (Morticia) played Marsha Queen of Diamonds, and Ted Cassidy (Lurch) appeared in a wall climbing scene. Jones also was in the TV Show Wonder Woman, and had a small part with Price in House of Wax.  Of the two actors, Frank Gorshin was by far the better of the two, and came back in Season 3.
penguin
Burgess Meredith
  1. The Penguin. The rumor was that Spencer Tracy was going to play the lover of birds, but was denied after he wanted producers to agree to let him kill off Batman. Nonetheless, Burgess Meredith was cast, and was brilliant in his role. The Penguin has the most appearances in the TV series, which had to prove his popularity of the character. Just like Batman and Robin, the Penguin had many gadgets as well, such as his Pengymobile, various umbrellas, and other strange weapons. Unlike the Danny Devito’s dark and twisted version of the characters in the film, Meredith had a likeness to the character, even though he was a villain.
catwoman
Julie Newmar.
  1. Catwoman. There were 3 people who played this villain; Julie Newmar in Season 1 and 2, Lee Merriwether in the 1966 Batman Movie, and Eartha Kitt in Season 3. Merriwether took over the part for the movie when Newmar could not make the filming. Merriwether also had parts in the show as Lisa Carson in a King Tut episode. Even though Kitt was probably the bigger star when she was the character, my personal preference is Newmar, who in Season 2 showed more of her attraction to Adam West’s Batman than in the first season. Newmar’s costume is in The Smithsonian Museum, which shows her popularity of the character. Most people name Newmar when they think of Catwoman, with good reason. She was Purr-fect.

 

 

the joker

  1. The Joker. No surprise here. The character was Batman and Robin’s most famous enemy in the movies, TV, and comics. The TV Show was no different with the great Ceasar Romero playing the Clown Prince. Just like Vincent Price, the range of Romero’s acting shows in his character; the actor was in such films as The Cisco Kid, The Thin Man, and the original Ocean’s 11, opposite Frank Sinatra. Many laugh at the character’s face paint because the audience could see his mustache underneath the paint, but that was something Romero refused to shave for the show. To me, this makes the character even more off kilter and shows a somewhat insane look to him. Romero will always be The Joker, with Jack Nicholson coming in second of all the actors who’s played the villain.

 

There were many great actors that showed up on the TV Show during its run. At the time, the show was THE show actors wanted to be on, even though it only lasted 3 seasons. The skills of the actors are underrated due to comedic aspects of the show. Burt Ward’s Robin may have been known for his “Holy” comments, but Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl showed some female scrappiness to it (Let’s face it, she was in movies with Elvis Presley and was on shows like Star Trek, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, The Wild Wild West, and The Big Valley).

batgirl
Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl

Weldon writes in his book that the producers wanted a co-star that was “a young female who could offer the girls in the audience a strong role model and the dads a reason to tune in for the Non-Catwoman episodes.”

When Batgirl appears in Season 3 (which became my favorite hero of the show), the ratings were so bad that it did not matter. However, Weldon writes in the book that:

“Her Batgirl was forthright, no-nonsense and, when the mood hit her, flirtatious. Craig’s dance training translated into a combat style composed of high kicks and balletic spins. The producers’ intention had been to introduce a fresh, invigorating element to the show, and Craig delivered.”

It has only become in recent years that the TV Show has gotten a second look and some new fans. When Season 1 started, the Batman Merchandise made over $70 Million Dollars, and this was in 1966! After the show, there was a decline in sales until the Michael Keaton Batman movie appeared. In the book, Weldon says that:

“DC Comics, which until very recently discouraged its creators from making even oblique references to the show in its pages, has come around, granting rights for an animated series (Batman: The Brave and the Bold) that gleefully embraced the show’s sensibility and even publishing a tie-in comic (Batman ’66) written and drawn in the series’ distinctive style.”

There were plenty of skilled actors in the show. Maybe it’s time to check out the show again, even for nostalgia purposes.  To me, the Batman Series was underrated for a show, where today’s shows are all Reality Shows and shows with bad writing. At least in this show the audience knew they were getting funny lines and fight scenes.

Yambar listed his favorite villains, based on how “well they played into the classic designs established in the comics of the time.” His list: 1. Joker 2.Penguin 3.Gorshin’s Riddler 4. Catwoman (Julie Newmar, then Meriwether). He also lists Egghead and Bookworm as his “B Villains.” He also says “most of the others were just stupid.”

When I asked him to tell me his thoughts on the show overall, Yambar summed it up by saying “The Adam West dialogue was always the biggest keeper of the show. I loved the car, the cave, copter, boat gadgets. Mega-super infinity loved Batgirl. I still have a thing for librarians to this day. I have friends who are in the comics industry today because of the show, which they saw as young children. Before even having read comic books. “

Now if a respected person in the industry like Chris Yambar speaks highly of the show, shouldn’t you take another look at the series? Don’t just take our words for it, but TAKE OUR WORDS FOR IT. Or as Robin would say “Holy Binge-Watching!”

 

A HUGE thanks to Chris Yambar for contributing to this story and his support throughout the years. We are talking Stately Wayne Manor huge!

Glen Weldon’s book is available anywhere you get books.

(Weldon, Glen. “The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016. Print. )

 

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Review: Nelson’s Stranglehold on the Book World

 

 

StrangleholdEvery day when I was in junior high and high school, , I would run home and turn on ESPN to watch the daily wrestling shows that they aired, either World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) from Texas or one of my favorites, the American Wrestling Association (AWA) out of Minneapolis area.  Every day the AWA was on, I’d see announcer Larry Nelson welcome me to an hour of wrestling that was different from Vince McMahon’s WWF at time. The AWA focused more on wrestling and less on comedic characters, which was exciting for me (I loved all wrestling, but I still love watching the AWA).

This is the second time I have read Larry Nelson’s book, titled “Stranglehold: An Intriguing Behind The Scenes Glimpse Into The Private World of Professional Wrestling.” The book’s copyright is from 1999 by Chump Change Publishing. I decided to re-read the book after several mentions of Nelson have appeared on one of my favorite wrestling podcasts. The book has some good and bad in it, which I am going to review.

Nelson  (real name Larry Shipley) got his start in the radio business where he started interviewing wrestlers from the AWA as a way to boost ratings.  His first interview was Bobby Heenan who came into the studio thinking that Nelson wanted to fight Heenan. After the shows started to get popular, the station got pressured by the WWF to start having their talent on the air, not just the AWA Stars, which Nelson was not a major fan of because it was the AWA that helped them get started.  Through his work with the wrestlers on the show, he was hired to do some voice work for the AWA and some interviews, which led to his hiring full time with the AWA after the radio station dropped the wrestling show, which was on AM Radio, due to the popularity of FM Radio.

Nelson writes throughout the book about his partying habits (scotch and cocaine), which escalated by hanging out with professional wrestlers. When he was working on the interviews, which took place in Winnipeg Canada, the wrestlers would try to keep themselves occupied when on the road as well. Nelson writes about Rick Martel and Curt Hennig amateur wrestling each other in the hotel rooms, Larry Zbyszko would hide in his room and play the game Battleship, Nick Bockwinkel stayed in his room, and the wild activities of Wally Karbo, Stan Lane, and Road Warrior Hawk.

Nelson talks about his relationship with another AWA Announcer Ken Resnick, who was not liked by the other AWA Wrestlers or staff , and how Resnick walked out of the company the day of their big event WrestleRock,  after finding out that he was going to share the announcing duties with Nelson. Since the card was to have a concert to help promote the event, Nelson was asked to help suggest some acts due to his radio background. He suggested the rock band The Fabulous Thunderbirds, who were starting to break after the song “Tuff Enuff” hit radio. Owner Verne Gagne decided on Waylon Jennings due to his affordable salary and the music executives at the meeting also thought that Jennings could bring several fans of different genres to come to the event.

A few other great stories in the book talks about how wrestler John Nord and Greg Gagne (Verne’s Son) almost got into a fight at a interview taping over payment, Curt Hennig and Playboy Buddy Rose’s luck at the casinos when the AWA moved the tapings to Vegas, and how Bruiser Brody threw a mop bucket filled with vomit onto the owner of The Showboat Casino, where the tapings were held. He also describes the time The Midnight Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty)  danced by themselves at a club, when NWA Champion Ric Flair tried to pick up and out drink Kathy Gagne (Verne’s son), and when Stan Hansen and Brody decided to go overhead bowling.

In re-reading the book, I was curious to see what Nelson’s take on the decline of the AWA.  He blames the major sign that the league was falling apart in competing with the WWF was the loss of the ESPN TV deal. He also states that when a toy company made the AWA action figures, the fans didn’t buy them and were a flop. He claims that he was never paid when the AWA made home videos trying to keep up with the NWA and WWF. Not being paid for his services, turning all his work into one day instead of three and four days, and bad business deals with Verne Gagne and other businesses all played a role in the league failing. Because of some of these events, Nelson decided to move to Florida with no notice to the AWA, and was then replaced by Eric Bischoff.

Larry-Nelson
Larry Nelson

The bad parts of this book deals with its editing. I know Nelson’s book is printed by a minor company or even self published company; however the editing could have been better. Most of the photographs “unless noted” are from Nelson’s personal collection, including the cover. The photographs, though, look like they were copied on a Zerox machine. Many of them are blurry, including the cover which features Nelson and Brody.

Another problem I have with the book is some of the inaccuracies in the book and typos. Nelson talks about wrestlers John Nord as “John Ord” and Michael Hayes as “Hays.”  He also says that Nick Bockwinkel vs Stan Hansen at WrestleRock was to be the rematch between the two, that Hansen “won the title from Bockwinkel in Chicago before a huge crowd”  (Hansen beat Rick Martel in 1985 in East Rutherford, New Jersey and WrestleRock wasn’t until 1986).  Another error stated in the book is Nelson telling the reader that the famous Bockwinkel vs Curt Hennig match that went an 1 hour draw on ESPN was “live from The Cow Palace in San Francisco” (It was at The Showboat Casino in Vegas in 1986, which is now found on the Curt Hennig WWE DVD).

Another match error in the book is when Nelson states that during the AWA merger with the USWA and World Class Wrestling, AWA Champion Jerry Lawler and Kerry Von Erich each won a match and wrestled two times.  “Lawler won the championship in his home territory of Tennessee, then wrestled Von Erich later in Texas, where Von Erich won.”

Just my research alone, Jerry Lawler beat Hennig for the title. He then fought Von Erich in a series of unification matches before the bloody SuperClash match. Lawler fought him in 1988 in Tennessee (which I assume this is the match he’s talking about) in 1988. Kerry and Jerry both punched the first referee for a DQ finish. The match was restarted by a second referee and Kerry pinned Lawler with a piledriver, which was banned in Tennessee. So Lawler was declared the winner by DQ, which in World Class Wrestling, the champion could lose the belt during a DQ. Both wrestlers left with their respected belts regardless.  Then there was a “Texas Death Match” at the Cotton Bowl in Texas, which the AWA refused to recognize Kerry as the winner due to a bias referee. Kerry then fought Lawler in Texas again for a TV Taping, where announcer Terry Garvin got involved when he threw a chair into the ring. The big match was at SuperClash, which Lawler won due to the referee stopping the bout due to Kerry’s bleeding. The way the writer writes Nelson’s take, Von Erich won the AWA Title, which he did not. And this was more than wrestling only two times.

Yet another error in the book details the ending of the AWA. Nelson says:

“A few key people stayed until the bitter end. Greg Gagne remained because he and his father, Verne, were the owners. Larry Zbyszko, who had married Kathy Gagne, hung on out of family loyalty. Nick Bockwinkel, with twenty years invested in the AWA, was also loyal to the end.”

Yes, Gagne and Zbyszko stayed (Zbyszko was the last AWA Champion), but Nick Bockwinkel was working as a road agent for the WWF in the last years he was in the business- the AWA folded in 1991, and Bockwinkel was in the WWF from 1987-1989. He was out of wrestling in 1991 from my research.  Bockwinkel even wrestled in 1987 at a WWF Show-a legends battle royal in the Meadowlands in New Jersey. This may sound like a small detail, but it shows that even Bockwinkel was gone from the AWA before it closed.

 

One interesting quote in the book is when Nelson talks about WCW, where Eric Bischoff was running the league at the time of the writing. Nelson writes, “If Bischoff’s ego trip continues, it is likely Vince McMahon’s WWF will win the current wrestling war.”  WCW ended up being sold to McMahon in 2001.

Overall the book is a good read besides some of the errors in it. Nelson very briefly states a sentence or two throughout the book about his partying, but it does not distract from the book, say like Sunny’s book did, which I reviewed for Slam Sports Wrestling (you can find that link in the March 2016 Archives at the side of this site). At 152 pages, one could read it in one sitting if one wanted. I do wish there were more stories about Bockwinkel, Zbyszko, Sgt. Slaughter, and others, but it is still filled with good tales. I think the AWA gets a bad rap in the wrestling world and whatever few books I can get on it, I’m going to enjoy it, and I enjoyed most of Nelson’s book.

 

A Special Thanks to The Great Brian Last for providing me with some last second information.

(Larry Nelson’s book is available at Amazon.com)

 

(Nelson, Larry and Jones, James. Stranglehold: An Intriguing Behind The Scenes Glimpse Into The Private World Of Professional Wrestling. Denver: Chump Change Publishing, 1999. )

 

 

The Hall of Fame Icon: My Salute to Steve “Sting” Borden

crow sting
The Crow Sting look.

 

It was 1986 when I first heard of the wrestler named Sting. I was in junior high school talking to one friend who was a wrestling fan (who I frequently traded old comics books for his wrestling magazines), and he told me of a guy in the UWF that had his face painted and was managed by “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert. Since I was only familiar with leagues such as NWA, WWF, AWA, World Class Wrestling, and occasionally Mid South Memphis area, I did not get UWF on television, so I didn’t think much of it until 1987 when Sting appeared in Jim Crockett’s NWA after the UWF merged with the NWA.  From that day on, Sting became my favorite wrestler, especially after buying 1987’s Starrcade home video on VHS, where the UWF was featured merging with the NWA.

I remember cheering for him at the first ever Clash of the Champions on TV as he battled Ric Flair to a draw.  I loved his tag team with Lex Luger, and then when he and Lex fought against each other when Luger made many heel turns, even though I was a fan of Luger’s, I still had to side with Sting. Since I was mainly a WWF fan at that time, the very first Non WWF Merchandise I ever purchased was Sting’s “Fatal Encounter” T Shirt, which I wore proudly.

 

wcw merch 1
I still have my WCW Merchandise Catalog, where I got my first Sting shirt-the one that he is wearing here when I was in junior high.

There were many memorable matches Sting had in the early NWA days, from his TV Title run against The Great Muta, to him becoming a member of The Four Horsemen, and his U.S. Title and his World Title runs. He had great matches against Rick Rude, Cactus Jack (Mick Foley), The Dungeon of Doom, The Dangerous Alliance, and Vader (I never like Vader from the days I saw him in the AWA as “The Baby Bull” but when he went against Sting, I disliked him even more).

Most fans remember the Crow Sting, which was created once Hulk Hogan turned heel and started The New World Order.  Sting hid in the rafters of the arena, did not speak, not wrestling for almost a full year. This was my favorite incarnation of Sting. I purchased several black scorpion T Shirts that WCW (which was renamed after the NWA was sold to Ted Turner).  I taped WCW’s Monday Nitro and Thursday Night Thunder television programs every week while I was at college, while I had my parents tape WWF’s Monday Night Raw at their house. Normal wrestling fans started tuning into the Monday Night Wars between the WWF and WCW, each having their own favorite alliance. I also collected as many of the wrestling magazines that had Sting on the front cover or an article on him at this time.

Sting Mag Covers
A few magazines that I collected with Sting on the cover.

Even though Sting was the top guy in the WCW, never leaving to go to the WWE, when others WCW Stars like Flair, Luger, The Steiner Brothers all headed to McMahon land, he was stuck in several bad booking angles at the time, but still managed to work with what he had been given. Several bad booking ideas he was a part in was the Robocop association (which Sting made a great joke about it at his recent WWE Hall of Fame speech), The White Castle of Fear, the Barry Windham fake Sting (which was recycled years later during the NWO angles),  the infamous Shockmaster , his rotten program with Vampiro in WCW’s New Blood story, TNA’s Aces and Eights angles, and losing the TNA Tag Titles to NFL Football player Pac Man Jones, without Jones being allowed to have any physical contact in the ring.  Even though some liked the version of the Sting character, I never approved of the red faced Wolf Pac Sting. I thought I would see some great matches in 1998 when Bret Hart came to WCW and had a small program with Sting, but the booking somehow dropped the ball on this idea between my two favorite wrestlers.

wcw and christian mag covers
Some more magazines that I collected, including a Christian Magazine.

I enjoyed Sting’s TNA run with his matches against Kurt Angle, AJ Styles, Abyss, and Jeff Jarrett. I liked the idea of the original Main Event Mafia angle starting in 2008, but did not think bringing back the group in 2013 and including an MMA fighter in the group was a great idea.

 

 

sting dvd covers
My TNA DVD’s with Sting on the cover, and the WWE Blu Ray.

On a vacation trip to Florida in 2006, I got to see a TNA Impact TV Taping at the Impact Zone (where I met Jimmy Hart), hoping that I would finally get to see Sting wrestle in person, since the NWA/WCW did not come around to my area of Ohio that often. When WCW and TNA came to the Youngstown, Ohio area, Sting was not there at the WCW House Shows in 1998 and 2000 when I attended, along with the 2008 TNA show in Niles, Ohio.  Sting was at the tapings in Florida, but was up in the rafters doing promos, so I never did get to see him in action live.

sting t shirts
I kept one WCW T Shirt, and the recent WWE Shirt with Sting. I got rid of the WCW Scorpion shirts that I owned back in the day.

 

I was one of the few people that did not want Sting to go to the WWE after his TNA run was over. It was nothing against me not seeing my favorite wrestler again, but I did not think that the WWE would give Sting the character justice, must like Steve Borden (Sting’s real name) mentioned in a TNA Video, stating that the WWE buried former WCW wrestlers when they came to the league. Many people were critical of Sting’s Wrestlemania loss, which I admit I did not think the WWE made him look good and only wanted to promote their WCW footage on the WWE Network, Sting got his Wrestlemania moment that he claimed he wanted.  Even though some critics wrongly report this, Sting’s WWE Record ended up being 2-2, which was not that bad considering how little he was used.

Steve Borden ‘s appeal was apparent outside the wrestling ring as well with his acting. He appeared in his own movie about his life called “Moment of Truth “ in 2004,  2000’s “Ready To Rumble” and “Shutterspeed,” 1994’s “Thunder in Paradise” and 2001 “Walker Texas Ranger” TV Shows, and in Christian Films like 2011 “The Encounter,”  and 2013’s “Revelation Road” movies. He also hosted Christian Shows on TBN, and was in another movie called “The Real Reason Men Commit Crimes” in 1998, which is the only movie I never seen of his. I enjoyed the movie “Shutterspeed,” where he plays a cop , along with actress Daisy Fuentes. Not many former wrestlers or current wrestlers have had the skills or the exposure to be able to do that many movies at that time. I also enjoy the fact that Borden discusses his Christian faith in interviews and takes the time to do some of these movies, where several wrestlers would not. Not to judge them, but Borden is a great role model for people that look up to the wrestlers.

sting odd merch
A few odd books and DVDs . A signed photo that came with the Sting book/DVD “Moment of Truth,” WCW trading card, and his Christian film “The Encounter.”

There are many that wonder why Sting was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and some so called “experts” question whether or not Sting was a successful wrestler that brought in successful runs. I will only say that in my biased opinion, some of the people that are in the WWE Hall of Fame had less success that Sting did, and had a less time span that Borden did. Many wrestling fans dressed like Sting during Halloween and bought plenty of his merchandise. Sting was the face of WCW for years.  Some of his titles won were NWA Champ (1), TV Champ (1), International Champion (2), U.S. Champ (2), WCW World Champion (6), WCW Tag Champ (3), TNA NWA Champ (1), TNA World Champ (4), TNA Tag Champ (1), UWF Tag Champ (1) and WWA World Champ (1).  That’s a pretty impressive resume to me. Sting also was a select few wrestlers that have changes their images and still was successful with the times, no matter if it was blonde flat top surfer, The Crow, Wolfpac, Mafia, or Joker Sting.

Even though I never got to see the man in person, Steve “Sting” Borden will always be my favorite wrestler of all time (for those wondering Bret Hart is my number 2). I am glad he decided to retire at the Hall of Fame Ceremony. I did not want to see any further injury to him, and even though he did not get his WWE Match with The Undertaker (who he wrestled in WCW), Steve Borden still had a great career and hopefully I will see more of him in movies. Thanks for the great years Stinger!!

 

 

Nick Bockwinkel: A Tribute

When people find out I am a professional wrestling fan, they always ask me who my favorites are. I tell them Sting, Bret Hart, Curt Hennig, Nick Bockwinkel, and Bobby Heenan would be my top 5 growing up. We lost Hennig a while ago, and this weekend the news came that Nick Bockwinkel died at age 80.
For people who did not grow up watching wrestling in the 1970s-1990s, before the WWE became pretty much the only major league in the world, they were in the top 3, along with the NWA, and the AWA. There were other territories, but those were the big three. The champion of those three would travel to certain territories that were in partners with the leagues and trade talent every several months (for instance a wrestler who was in Minnesota would be sent to Oklahoma for 6 months if they promoters were under the AWA banner).

bockwinkel
Nick Bockwinkel AWA World Champion

Bockwinkel was one of the major staples of the AWA based out of Minnesota and under the promoter Verne Gagne. Before Vince McMahon Jr. started buying up the talent and going national with the WWF in the 1980s, the AWA had stars like Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, Bobby Heenan, among others.
Just some of the talent Nick Bockwinkel wrestled in his day were: Bruiser Brody, Verne Gagne, Rick Martel, Ric Flair, Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, Terry Funk, Randy Savage, Jerry Lawler, Dusty Rhodes, Stan Hansen, and Magnum T.A. among others. Managed by Bobby Heenan in the AWA days, they were the perfect heel couple. They looked like they hung out together; both hailing from Beverly Hills, California, blond hair and wearing fancy suits.
Bockwinkel held the AWA World Title 4 times, along with the AWA Tag Team Titles 3 times with Ray Stevens, fought then WWWF Champion Bob Backlund , was WCW Commissioner and WWF road agent. He was also on the TV Shows Hawaii 5-O, The Monkees and was a winning contestant on The Hollywood Squares.
The thing I liked most about Bockwinkel was no matter if he was a heel or a face he kept a monotone voice when he talked during his interviews, using big words to convey his message, as opposed to some of the other wrestlers of the day who would yell and scream at their opponents. He was a classy heel, wearing suits during some of his interviews.

bockwinkel with whip
In the mid 1980s, I remember being able to watch wrestling every day of the week, with help from ESPN, which would air either the AWA or World Class Wrestling from Texas weekday afternoons. I remember Bockwinkel’s legendary feud with a Pre-Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig on those TV Shows, where one match in particular went a 1 hour time limit draw. Hennig beat Bockwinkel, with help from Nick’s rival/tag partner at times Larry Zbyszko handing him a roll of coins, for the AWA World Title. Hennig was a edgy babyface character until that match where he turned heel, which he carried the momentum with his Mr. Perfect character in the WWF. The matches with Hennig were not only entertaining matches, but great storytelling.
Bockwinkel was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007, and also became the President of the Cauliflower Alley Club, which is a club for boxing and wrestling people.

heenan and bockwinkle
Bockwinkel and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan in the AWA

Bobby Heenan wrote in his first book in 2002 with Steve Anderson that Nick was “the only guy I know that if you ask him what time it is he tells you how to build a watch.” And that “Baron Von Raschke always told Nick ‘You’re living proof that a man can be educated beyond his means.’”
For the wrestling fans my age, they know what a talent Bockwinkel was. I always felt he was underrated when it came to best in ring technicians and interviewers. For those that missed out of that era, go to youtube and watch some of his matches (especially his ones with Hennig) and his interviews. It’s too bad I never got to see him wrestle live (the AWA never came around my area), but going back today and watching some of his matches brought back childhood memories of a true legend. I know that word gets passed around lightly, but it definitely fit Mr. Bockwinkel.