Diana Ross self-titled album returns on vinyl. Shall we and she have a drink?

Remembering Lenny Bruce, a fucking genius

Joan Rivers worshipped him. Many people hated him. Fighting for freedom of speech was nothing new to foul-mouthed Lenny Bruce, whose raw language often got him in trouble. Or fired. Or arrested. During a 1964 obscenity charge for using foul language in a Greenwich Village nightclub act, Bruce fired his lawyers and botched the appeal. The conviction on the misdemeanor obscenity charge made it almost impossible for him to get work; he declared bankruptcy and was found dead on August 3, sitting on the toilet with his pants around his waist, a needle in his arm, and his lifeless body surrounded by drug paraphernalia. He was 40 years old.

Collection of Alan Petrucelli
Wife Honey, Bruce and their daughter Kitty

But in 2003, nearly four decades after the comic died, he got the last laugh when on December 23, he was posthumously pardoned by New York Governor. George E. Pataki, 39 years after being convicted of obscenity.. The governor said the posthumous pardon—the first in the state’s history—was “‘a declaration of New York’s commitment to upholding the First Amendment.”

No comment from the dead Bruce, but his daughter Kitty Bruce gushed, “Isn’t this wonderful? Isn’t this a great day in America? Boy, has this been nuts or what? This is what America is all about.”

lb3
Lenny at rest

Visit Bruce at Eden Memorial Park Cemetery in Mission Hills, California.

Want more Lenny Land? Da Capo Press is reissuing How to Talk Dirty and Influence People ($16.99), Bruce’s classic autobiography to mark the 50th anniversary of the comedian and counterculture icon’s death, with a new preface by Lewis Black and a new foreword by Howard Reich.

unnamedThe book remains a brilliant account of his life and the forces that made him at once one of the most important and controversial entertainers. “His scathing attacks on organized religion, politics, the death penalty, race and the ways in which we have chosen to live, made me laugh and made me think,” writes Lewis Black in a new preface. “This book gives us a solid context of what Lenny lived through and had to face. (We complain about the politically correct environment that makes comedy difficult? Are you kidding me?) We are talking about not even being able to tell your jokes without the threat of imprisonment.”

lb4
Lenny’s death scene

In 1964, after being arrested on multiple occasions, Lenny Bruce was prosecuted because of his words and convicted of obscenity. In this book, “Bruce in effect is still arguing his case, unflinchingly pointing out what his accusers have done to him, even while they held great legal power over him. The bravery of that act should inspire us all,” Howard Reich writes in a new foreword. “If there’s a central lesson running through all of this, perhaps it’s Bruce’s apparently boundless respect for everyone else’s rights, even as his own were being so grievously violated.”

Assembling his musings in essayistic chapters, Bruce writes candidly of the drama of his childhood; his Navy service and the postwar boredom that led him to seek a discharge; his emergence as a comic and how he virtually invented stand-up comedy as we know it today; and the substance abuse that tragically claimed his life. “Equally important, though, is the heady range of ideas Bruce dares to take on in this volume,” adds Reich. “The man was hell-bent on proclaiming the absurdities he saw but others didn’t or wouldn’t.”

Nazis score 0, “The Boys of ’36” score 100 . . . another fuck you to the German bastards

Those who continue to hate the Nazis and all their terror will thrill at the true story of the American rowing team that triumphed against all odds in Nazi Germany with PBS Distribution’s DVD American Experience: The Boys of ’36. The documentary was inspired by Daniel James Brown’s critically-acclaimed book The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which has been on The New York Times bestseller list for 95 weeks.

The book (and DVD) DVD  is the story of nine working-class young men from the University of Washington who took the rowing world and the nation by storm when they captured the gold medal at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. These sons of loggers, shipyard workers and farmers overcame tremendous hardships—psychological, physical and economic—to beat not only the Ivy League teams of the East Coast but Adolf Hitler’s elite German rowers. Their unexpected victory, and the obstacles they overcame to achieve it, gave hope to a nation struggling to emerge from the depths of the Depression.


Featuring interviews with Daniel James Brown, historians and surviving children of the 1936 Washington team, the program will be available

The DVD will be available on August 16 in conjunction with the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro and the 80th anniversary of the miracle crew’s triumph.  The documentary will also be available for digital download.

 

Forget the lions and tigers; it’s merely polar bears converging at Kaktovik

Each summer, an increasing number of polar bears are converging at Kaktovik, a tiny Alaskan town on the shores of the Southern Beaufort Sea, to feast on the remains of whales left on a nearby beach by the Inupiat tribe.  Those who crave witnessing the experience can spend lot$ of money and go to the state . . .  or take a gander at PBS Distribution’s DVD The Great Polar Bear Feast.

The program documents the immense struggle that polar bears face in the wild and how a unique relationship between the bears and the local village is shedding new light on the future of this iconic animal. The filmmakers accompanied the U.S. Geological Survey lead polar bear scientist, Dr. Todd Atwood, as he and his team fit one dozen female bears with satellite tracking collars to gather data on them over the several months and witness never-before-seen behaviors.

 

The program tells the story of Southern Beaufort Sea polar bears as they face the challenges of the Arctic summer, the time of year when the sea ice they depend on for hunting melts at an increasingly rapid pace. Using the satellite data, the film follows two female bears and their cubs as the ice begins to melt.  One mother, with two cubs, travels south to Kaktovik and is able to partake in the feast of whale blubber. The other, with a single cub, stays put and then must swim several hundred miles to the north to reach the nearest ice.

David Bowie is still alive . . . at least in Pittsburgh. At least for one night.

 

Considered by critics, musicians and fans as an innovator, David Bowie’s career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, with his music and his stage presence impacting popular music. Guest conductor Brent Havens, vocalist Brody Dolyniuk, the Pittsburgh Symphony and Windborne Music (described by the powers that be as “a full rock band”) will take audiences on a symphony musical odyssey that explores the incredible range of Bowie’s music including the hits “Space Oddity,” “Changes,” “Under Pressure,” “Heroes,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Fame,” “China Girl” and more.

elitedaily-youtube-davidbowie-800x400
The concert begins at Heinz Hall on July 22 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, ranging in price from $25 to $65, can be purchased by calling the Heinz Hall box office at 412.392.4900 or visiting pittsburghsymphony.org/summer.

 

 

Thelma Adams’ “The Last Woman Standing” is an exciting meld of fact and fiction

There’s a great deal to be said about Thelma Adams’ book “The Last Woman Standing (Lake Union Publishing, $14.95) . . . and all of it good. Very, very good. A feminist western mixing real and fictional characters, and totally defiling the era and prevailing attitudes of the times is no easy trick to pull off, and Adams does it with humor and, lord help us all, charm.

 book

 

Adams has been writing features and criticism of the entertainment industry for quite a while. Her first novel, “Playdate”, a gossipy tale of a steamy community, won high critical acclaim. But here, in “The Last Woman Standing”, we have something special. Twenty years after the Civil War, a young daughter of faintly repressive Jewish immigrants escapes from San Francisco to Tombstone, Arizona to join wheeler dealer boyfriend Johnny Behan.

However, it is the legendary Wyatt Earp who steals her heart, aggravating Behan, and, well, we get a lady’s eye view of the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral in the bargain. Part of the enjoyment of the work is the combined epic and the immediacy and tenderness of the tale is extraordinary.

The era is plagued by the memories of the Civil War, the steal steam animosity between the Lincoln Republican and Democrats, and the discovery of silver (and millions) in Tombstone. It may seem like an enormous leap, but Josephine Marcus, our heroine here, is at least the cousin if not the sister of Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett. Spunkier (what an awful word!) and forced to deal with a bit more violence than the Austen heroine, her bravery, humor, and humanity shine forth in a novel well worth reading. Adams’ creation will stay with the reader for a good, long time.

‘Tab Hunter Confidential’ opens his closet (once again) to tell all

He was one of Hollywood’s male heartthrobs during the ’50s. In dozens of films and on the pages of countless movie magazines Tab Hunter’s good looks and golden-boy sex appeal drove his (mostly female) fans into screaming, delirious frenzies, making him the prototype for all young matinee idols to come. Bristling against being just another pretty face and wanting to be taken seriously, Hunter was one of the few to be able to transcend pin-up boy status. He earned his stripes as an actor to become a movie star.

Hunter’s career was launched with “Island of Desire” in 1952. He was cast in a lead role opposite screen legend Linda Darnell. Both the movie and Hunter were panned by critics, but teenage girls went wild for the shirtless blond hunk with the dreamy face and the steely jaw. Overnight, with only one role under his belt, Tab Hunter erupted into a media sensation.

Suddenly, an army of photographers charts his every move as he squires glamorous actresses like Natalie Wood and Debbie Reynolds from event to glittering event. Several more low-budget films came his way, and Hunter began to taste the intoxicating perks of stardom. And the pressures. In private he began a secret affair with figure skater Ronnie Robertson, but in public he was required to date Hollywood’s most eligible starlets. Tab was deathly afraid the party could end at any moment, and equally apart by the contradictions.

But behind the scenes, Tab’s life was in turmoil. His mother Gertrude had a nervous breakdown and had to undergo electro-shock treatments. And he finally broke with agent Henry Willson–who had done surprisingly little for his career and wanted to bed the boy like mad . . . always to rejection. A furious Willson got his revenge by feeding the scandal magazine “Confidential” a story about Hunter’s arrest years earlier at a gay party. Willson provided “Confidential” with all the lurid details of Hunter’s “disorderly conduct” charge. The headline read: “The Truth About Tab Hunter’s Pajama Party” and the story mentioned “limp-wristed lads” and “queer romps”. Suddenly, everything Hunter had worked for was about to be cruelly snatched away. But an odd silence followed. The mainstream media said nothing and the scandal quietly faded away. Part of the reason may be his loyal adherence to Hollywood’s so-called “Gentleman’s Agreement”, dating women publicly and keeping his private life private.

roddy

Now, the actor’s dramatic, turbulent and ultimately inspiring life story is told in “Tab Hunter Confidential”, a documentary directed by Emmy-winning filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz. The film has the unique advantage of exclusive, unprecedented access to Hunter who shares first-hand, for the second time, what it was like to be a manufactured movie star during the Golden Age of Hollywood and the consequences of being someone totally different from his manufactured image. We will trace Tab’s dizzying rise to Hollywood super-stardom, his secret life in an era when being openly gay was unthinkable, and his ultimate triumph when the limelight finally passed him by.


After a year on the film festival circuit and a theatrical run across 50 cities in the United States, the acclaimed documentary, based on Hunter’s “New York Times” bestselling memoir, is available to rent or own nationwide on Digital HD. A DVD release is planned for later this summer.

Punctuating Tab’s on screen presence will be rare film clips and provocative interviews with friends and co-stars including John Waters, Clint Eastwood, George Takei, Debbie Reynolds, Robert Wagner, Noah Wyle, Connie Stevens, Lainie Kazan, Rona Barrett and Robert Osborne. “Tab Hunter Confidential” is an important piece of Hollywood’s hidden history that is more relevant than ever in today’s obsessive, star-driven, sexuality speculating media.

“Tab Hunter Confidential” concludes with Hunter and the film’s co-producer Allan Glaser living their lives in Santa Barbara, where he spends time with his horses and is “happy to be forgotten.” Now, Tab Hunter’s secret is out and he rides into the sunset a happy, healthy survivor of Hollywood’s roller coaster.

Hank Williams is celebrated in film and a must-have ‘Mother’s Best Flour’ set

Hey good lookin’ . . . yes, I am talking to you. Country music fans will cherish “The Complete Mother’s Best Collection” (Time Life), a treasure trove of recordings by the legendary Hank Williams. Long regarded as one of the most significant and influential American singers and songwriters of the 20th century, Williams was one of America’s first country music superstars. Before his tragic, early death at 29, Williams’ almost single-handedly set the agenda for country music with classic standards such as “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Hey, Good Lookin'” and “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.”

HWsetHW3

His life story was recently put on the big screen in “I Saw the Light“, a biopic starring Tom Hiddleston as the father of contemporary country music; it’s being released on July 5. But for a rare, informal glimpse into the heart and soul of country music’s greatest star look no further than “Hank Williams: The Complete Mother’s Best Collection.” This must-own 15-CD + 1 DVD Collection features 142 performances from the “Mother’s Best Flour Radio Shows” (1951); the DVD features behind-the-Scenes conversations with Williams’ daughter Jett and two members of Hank’s band, Don Helms and Big Bill Lister.

At the peak of his career in 1951, Williams recorded 142 songs for the Mother’s Best Flour Company. The best-known and most sought-after Williams recordings, The Mother’s Best Flour Shows featured the legendary musician and his studio band laying down his chart-busting hits, as well as songs he never recorded commercially anywhere else. Broadcast over the Grand Ole Opry’s parent station, WSM, in Nashville every morning at 7:15 a.m., the format was consistent: Each 15-minute show consisted of one country song, one instrumental or guest vocal and a gospel song to close the show. Recorded in an intimate and casual setting, “The Mother’s Best Shows” highlighted Williams personality, and his relaxed patter was filled with wry, self-deprecating wit.
HW2

 

For the very first time, “The Complete Mother’s Best Collection” brings together all of the surviving recordings in a single set. Featured among the rare performances are Hank’s greatest hits including “Cold, Cold Heart,” “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You),” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Move It On Over,” and many more. Hank also sings then-current hits by other artists, including “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain,” “On Top Of Old Smoky,” “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” and “Cherokee Boogie” among others. Williams also loved the old hymns, and here he sings sacred classics like ‘Softly and Tenderly,’ shouts out Southern gospel classics like ‘I’ll Have a New Life’ and ‘When the Saints Go Marchin’ In,’ and many he never sang anywhere else such as “Lonely Tombs” and “At the Cross”.

As Colin Escott writes in the liner notes: “Imagine finding a half-dozen unreleased Beatles LPs or a stash of previously unheard Elvis Presley recordings. That’s how significant these ‘Mother’s Best’ Hank Williams radio shows are”. Bravo!

Tesla fans can feast, again, on ‘Psychotic Supper,’ hitting vinyl in July

It’s more than a supper. Think of it as a feast. Tesla’s third album, “Psychotic Supper”, the band’s third studio album (it was released on August 30, 1991), was the follow-up to the live “Five Man Acoustical Jam”. The album peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, featuring an aggressive change in direction from the previous disc, landing an impressive five songs on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, including “What You Give” (which went to No. 7 and even cracked the Billboard Hot 100 at No. #86. Other memorable songs include “Edison’s Medicine,” which spotlights how its subject received credit for harnessing electricity over the band’s own namesake, Nikola Tesla, which climbed to No. 20 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks, along with “Call It What You Want” (No. 19), “Song & Emotion” (No. 13) and “Stir It Up” (No. 35).

Produced by Michael Barbiero–who also helmed the band’s first two studio efforts–the album was eventually certified platinum in 1993 by the RIAA, and was included in Germany’s Rock Hard’s book of “The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time.” The band themselves have been quoted as considering “Psychotic Supper” their best record. To help mark the album’s 25th anniversary in August, UMe is reissuing the album for the first time as a two-LP standard issue vinyl set on July 22.

 TESLA

Tesla was formed in Sacramento in late 1981 by bassist Brian Wheat and Frank Hannon, with lead vocalist Jeff Keith, drummer Troy Luccketta and guitarist Tommy Skeoch joining them by 1984, settling on the name Tesla two years later. Their debut album, “Mechanical Resonance”, came out in 1986, with many of the band’s themes and song titles inspired by the electrical engineer who gave them their name. In the early days of their career, the band toured extensively, opening for David Lee Roth, Alice Cooper, Def Leppard and Poison.

On “Psychotic Supper”, the band largely eschewed the live album’s acoustic bent and let loose with a stripped-down production that enhanced the band’s bluesy take on rock and roll. “Edison’s Medicine” is highlighted by Jeff Keith’s frenetic, yet soulful vocals and some scorching guitar solos by Tommy Skeoch and Frank Hannon. Skeoch also rocks out on theremin, while Hannon straps on a bass for a memorable solo.

A quarter of a century after its release, “Psychotic Supper” still holds up for its impressive musicianship by the band and its mix of hard rock and anthemic ballads.

Anchor Bay Entertainment delivers the latest chapter (six) of “The Walking Dead”

They walk. They talk. They eat. They are dead. With the end of every season comes the bittersweet knowledge that we must wait with bated breath until the next ride. To keep your “The Walking Dead” appetite satiated, Anchor Bay Entertainment proudly continues the tradition of offering fans an opportunity to relive the so satisfying series by delivering “The Walking Dead: The Complete Sixth Season” on Blu-ray + Digital HD and DVD on August 23. Welcome back new cast members and guest stars for season six including Merritt Wever as Dr. Denise Cloyd, Ethan Embry as Carter, Corey Hawkins as Heath, Thomas Payne as Jesus and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan. Watch, savor and save another date: “The Walking Dead” Season 7 premieres on AMC this October.

WAKINGDEAD

Just like the previous award-winning home entertainment releases, “The Walking Dead: The Complete Sixth Season” will take fans down a memory lane that refuses to be a dead end: All of the season’s most haunting and indelible moments, including never-before-heard audio commentaries, deleted scenes, six new featurettes, additional extras and the highly anticipated Alternate Negan Scene, live on Blu-ray and DVD.

Writer/producer Scott M. Gimple revealed that the sixth season would continue to remix material from the comic and explained that there would be a flashback backstory to some of the characters: “”There are other people that we’re going to see throughout the season from the comics, and I’m excited for people to see it, but I don’t want to tell them now. I think a few minor remixes, but some direct stuff from the comic as well, as far as these characters go. I think there’s a really cool aspect to the first half of the season that serves almost as a prequel to some direct comic stuff in the second half of the season. I think there’s a way that Robert did some of the story that we’re reaching that had a real past to it, where people are referring to some things in the past in the comic. And we’re able to portray some of that backstory in some ways that you didn’t get to see in the comic.”

Petrucelli Picks the best in books, music and film . . . and then some