Friday, September 6, 2019

KING KONG, THE ALVIN SHOW, and ROCK AND ROLL

CARL DENHAM’S GIANT MONSTERS
by Frank Dello Stritto

Fans of the 1933 motion-picture, King Kong, may go ape over a new 507-page book that combines both fiction and non-fiction. Carl Denham (played by Robert Armstrong in the movie) will be forever remembered as the man who captured King Kong, and brought the giant ape to New York. After Kong’s night of destruction in Manhattan, and the public’s outcry for Denham’s head, he fled U. S. jurisdiction, and “was never seen again.” Yet rumors of his whereabouts and doings spread among the close-knit and closed-mouthed community of explorers and adventurers. This book basically serves as Denham’s memoirs as told to author Frank Dello Stritto, providing us with more jungle adventures and further mythology in the King Kong lore.

Forty years after Kong’s night on the town, Frank Dello Stritto, his wife Linda were living in Jakarta, Indonesia, and occasionally visited the small resort island of Kotok. There they met an 80-year-old man living in a small, fenced house. They soon learned that their new friend was Carl Denham. Over the next two years, Frank and Linda met with Denham often, and learned of his many adventures before, during and after Kong. In the early 20th Century, Denham gained fame as a fearless documentary film maker. As a young man, he accompanied two-seasoned explorers to South America (Theodore Roosevelt’s River of Doubtexpedition, and Prof. Challenger’s Lost Worldexpedition). Denham then travelled across the Indian Ocean to film Lost Lemuria, and to Africa for On Safari with Gorillas. Both films are now lost, but contemporary reviews testify to their thrilling footage of exotic lands. Thus this book provides us with information about the production of those lost films. 

Those adventures prepared Denham for an expedition to unknown Skull Island, where he encountered and subdued Kong. Denham’s journeys continued after he vanished. Another trip to Skull Island (remember the sequel Son of Kong?), back to Africa and South America, then to the Himalayas, and to an unknown island whose location Denham refused to divulge. Between exploits, he hosted visits from explorers and scientists whose odd quests rivalled his. Denham sought more than adventure. Guilt over what he had done to Kong haunted him. He looked for one last exploit that might somehow, at least in his own mind, redeem him.

Attempting to merge fiction to real life are details about other explorers who discovered prehistoric creatures over the years that followed, including The Creature from the Black Lagoonand Godzilla, King of the Monsters! The book includes photographs, some created specifically for this novel while others are rare – some I have never seen before.

While work of fiction, this book serves as additional meat and potatoes for those who can never get enough of King Kong. The cover art on the dust jacket, eye appealing, was beautifully created by George Chastain.

SMOKY, SWEATY, ROWDY AND LOUD: TALES OF CLEVELAND’S ROCK AND ROLL LANDMARKS
by Mike and Janice Olszewski

Mike and Janice Olszewski published an intriguing 220 page volume documenting Cleveland’s legendary rock and roll landmarks including club owners, talent bookers, promoters and concertgoers from the 1950s through the 1990s. Cleveland is known for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a major tourist attraction, and the city might have more rock and roll history than any other in the country. Mike gathered tons of archival interviews and magazine articles to compile this book that will be relished by anyone who loves rock and roll. He documented The Agora, where Bruce Springsteen and so many other acts burst onto the scene. He documented the Coliseum of Richfield, erected in the middle of nowhere just in time for the arrival of arena rock. Details about the Musicarnival, the circular big-top tent that altered summer-stock with hard-rock, to the dismay of suburban neighbors. 

Yes, there are stories about Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Lou Reed, Paul Simon and others as recollected by talent bookers, promoters and owners of night clubs. Yes, there are more than 100 archival photos, never before published. But while most people focus on writing about the performers, Mike and Janice focused on the venues. In the same year Woodstock celebrates the 50thanniversary, this book focuses not on the acts but on the stage. Mike is a veteran Cleveland radio and television personality and curator and archivist for the Ohio Broadcast Archive and Museum. He also teaches media and communications classes at Cleveland State University, Kent State University, the University of Akron, and Notre Dame College. Janice has more than three decades’ experience in the travel and tourism industry. Her photography has been published in FilmfaxOutreand other national magazines.Together they produced a fascinating read. Who knew that such a book meant to preserve part of rock and roll history would be so entertaining? 

You can buy your copy on Amazon.com or at www.grayco.com


AAAAALLLVIIINNN: THE STORY OF ROSS BAGDASARIAN SR., LIBERTY RECORDS, FORMAT FILMS AND THE ALVIN SHOW
by Mark Arnold

In 1958, a down-on-his-luck songwriter with the unlikely name of Ross Bagdasarian plunged the last of his family’s savings on a multi-speed tape recorder and created two beloved and memorable songs: “Witch Doctor” and “The Chipmunk Song.”Both were Number One hits and changed the fortunes for his family and for his record label, Liberty Records, which was also on the verge of bankruptcy.
Bagdasarian previously had hits with Rosemary Clooney’s “Come On-a My House”and with his own “Armen's Theme,”released under his pseudonym of David Seville.
After “The Chipmunk Song” was a major hit, Bagdasarian parlayed this success into a series of record albums and singles and an animated television program called The Alvin Show (which ran from 1961-1962). This primetime animated series was produced by Format Films, an animation studio founded by former UPA studio personnel. The format kept up with UPA’s quality with The Alvin Show and other animated series like The Lone Ranger. The former known today not just for the chipmunks but for the middle supplement, Clyde Crashcupcartoons.
This book is almost 400 pages thick and documents the career of Ross Bagdasarian, including an entire chapter devoted to The Alvin Show. What I was impressed with the most was not just the intricate detail and devotion to documenting everything about his career, but the zillions of photographs of vintage Chipmunk merchandise from the 1950s. From newspaper and magazine articles to exclusive interviews, Mark was able to assemble and extensively document everything under one cover, while ensuring the book is a great read from page one to page 385. (Mark is also responsible for that great book about Total Television Productions, also available from Bear Manor Media.) Before you listen to “The Chipmunk Song” this holiday, consider this book so you can know all about the story behind the famous recording.


1 comment:

Dennis said...

Maybe the book explains why THE ALVIN SHOW has remained frustratingly unavailable on home video.

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