Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

The way I look at it, if Sports Illustrated can have their own swimsuit issue, we can have one of our own to ring in the New Year!

Cyd Charisse
Clara Bow
Rita Hayworth.  I love this photo!
Dorothy Lamour
Mary Brian

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Norman Rockwell Christmas

Norman Rockwell never tried to capture small town America as it really was. He depicted life in his paintings “as I would like it to be.” I never went to a school to study art. I can admire shading and style like anyone else. But because Rockwell's paintings were always nostalgic, I have often found them appealing to the eye -- and thought provoking. From a Thanksgiving turkey, soda fountains and malt shops, ice skating on the pond, and small-town boys playing baseball... there was something about his work that remains fresh today.

From his first appearance on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1916 through his final publication appearing on the Post cover in 1963 and beyond, he delighted his viewers, frustrated his critics and tickled the collective American funny bone for most of his life. The most expensive and best investment would be a signed and numbered Norman Rockwell lithograph... or an original Rockwell painting.

If you plan to decorate the interior walls of your house with nostalgic Rockwell, there are many to chose from at, and, all reputable online merchants who offer a wide range of prints. They are not signed by Rockwell, of course, but they are worth framing and hanging. My wife and I like to decorate the house every December by replacing the framed photos with Christmas Rockwells. Adds a touch of nostalgia to the holiday season. allows you to glance through more than 700 paintings. Even if you have no time or money to buy and frame a Rockwell print, you can use their online catalog as a means of scanning through the paintings by enjoying on-line window shopping.

Here are a few of my favorites I would like to share, including some holiday offerings that also grace our house.

This one always hung in the doctor's office when I was a kid.
I caught a glimpse of this in an Amtrak magazine once. Loved it ever since.
Click to blow up the image and admire the work you cannot see in small size.
First Date
Jack Benny

And now a Christmas gift for you. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas in Hollywood

For those of you hoping I would continue with the annual tradition of featuring holiday glamour photos of Hollywood eye candy, you won't be disappointed. Randomly selected from the archive.... here you go!

Anita Page

Annette Funicello

1920s sexpot (and "It" girl) Clara Bow

How many of you want Joan Crawford coming down your chimney?

Loretta Young shopping for gifts

Who asked for Virginia Grey for Christmas?

Jayne Mansfield under the tree

Luci and Desi are both coming home. Don't wake the kids!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Two New Lone Ranger Books

Ever heard of Moonstone Publishing? Described on their website as "a fun little company who works ridiculously hard to bring escapist entertainment to the masses," they license trademarked characters such as The Green Hornet, The Spider, Honey West, The Phantom and other fictional heroes to life with reprints of old dime novels and new fiction from a number of award-winning authors. Among their latest exploits are two books that you might want to consider getting this Christmas season direct from their website, 

The Lone Ranger Chronicles is an anthology offering 16 short stories based on the exploits of the Masked Man and his faithful Indian companion. The stories range from whimsical to action-packed. Here, The Lone Ranger meets up with The Cisco Kid, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, among others. As with any anthology, the prose varies from one story to another -- as does the concepts of what each author had in mind when they were asked to contribute. You'll find many of the stories quite enjoyable; others a little bland. And which stories are worth reading is subjective -- I won't bother with my opinion because I am more of a purist at heart. If The Lone Ranger and Tonto do something in one of these stories that they would never have done on the radio or television program, that is because liberties were made to allow for artistic purposes. Like comic books, each run of script writers and artists allow for a different concept (or direction) where the story goes. And an artist conception is in the eyes of the beholder. 

I would like to say for the record that I wish more books like these about The Lone Ranger, with new prose, were published. We already have a few for The Green Hornet. I am almost done reading all the Big Little Books, Better Little Books and Grossett & Dunlap hardcover novels based on The Lone Ranger character. And I crave more. But before you buy this book, take note: remember that these stories are modern-day retellings of artist conceptions. There is a story that tells the origin of Tonto; another tells the origin of Silver. Fran Striker wrote an origin for both Tonto and Silver and because the creator of the radio program did so, these should not be considered true origin stories. That was established back in the 1930s. (The origin of Silver was dramatized on radio and a recording of that broadcast does exist in collector hands.) So do not add these stories to the official Lone Ranger lore... As long as you are aware of this, the book is worth the read. (I only state this because I will cringe the moment someone tells me the origin of Silver based on this conception and not Fran Striker's, who was the creator of the Masked Man.)

Also reprinted is Fran Striker's Lone Ranger Creed, and an introduction by Dawn Moore, daughter of television's Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore. Oddly, she receives no credit on the cover of the book for writing the introduction (which should have been listed as a "foreword"), no acknowledgment in the table of contents and which must have been included in the manuscript hap-hazardly as three grammatical errors are obvious in the page and a half. I feel sorry for Dawn but I suspect this book was put together rather quickly to cash in on the Disney movie starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. (I am not sure if that would have increased sales any more than had the book been published a year after the movie's release.) This book is also "unauthorized," unlike most of Moonstone's books, which means the copyright holders of The Lone Ranger property were never approached.

Moonstone also published a novel, The Lone Ranger: Vendetta, which stands alone from the anthology described above. Howard Hopkins wrote what is probably the most accurate depiction of The Lone Ranger and Tonto, in the closest representation of Fran Striker's creation. So good that with the exception of a sex scene with the villain, Fran Striker himself would have approved of this novel. It is a sequel to the Butch Cavendish legend (which evolved over the years with each re-telling of Striker's typewriter), again unofficial. 

The retail price for the novel is $4.99 and if you had to choose between this book and the anthology ($19.95), grab the novel. Not because of the price, but because of how good it is. I wrote to Howard Hopkins following the completion of this novel, praising the good job, only to discover he since passed away. A darn shame because if he was still alive and announced another Lone Ranger novel in the works, I would have been the first in line to buy a copy.

If I seem to be on the pedestal for a moment about "authorized" and "unsanctioned," the reason is only because while I do not condone "unsanctioned" works, fans need to -- at the very least -- be aware of what they read. The recent print-on-demand service has also created a number of complications. Namely, cheap knockoffs that seem to benefit no one but the author who hopes to gain a few extra bucks in his or her pocket... with careless regard for the property they write about. A few months ago I purchased The Lone Ranger: The Unofficial Biography and Reference by Jennifer Warner. Sixty-six pages (the book is the width and length of a small dime novel) with information that was obviously "borrowed" from websites such as Wikipedia. (CBS is listed inaccurately as CBC at least twice in the book.) This same book was recently passed around at the SPERDVAC convention and everyone was shaking their heads and commenting how horrible it is. But I guess for less than $6.00, what can we expect? The $2.99 Kindle version is 40 pages and comes with a different front cover image.

More people every year are jumping on the bandwagon, browsing websites such as Wikipedia and cutting and pasting the info into a text file, then uploads their 40 or 50 page "book" to a print-on-demand system and... whola! Easy pocket money pours in. Books sell because they are cheap and customers are finding themselves ripped off. A friend of mine said he bought one about a rock group and quickly discovered how he was ripped off by his purchase... and I fear that trend will continue to grow. So beware of books with a low page count... I am not sure how else I can help steer you from those money pits. Remember that oftentimes you get what you paid for. A page count of less than 80 should be a tip-off. But don't take my word for it... check out the reviews on these two web pages.


And having now saved you from throwing away $6.00, go and buy The Lone Ranger: Vendetta today.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Comes Early in Woodland Hills

When you visit California, pop culture geeks tend to flock to two stores. Larry Edmund's Bookshop and Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee. The former managing to keep afloat against  internet commerce by making themselves the premiere venue for West Coast autographs when celebrities have their latest autobiography published. But there is a third venue that isn't talked about as frequent and before you visit eBay this week, asking the vendor questions, shopping for the best prices and wondering if what you are buying off the internet is represented honestly in the item descriptions... consider Dan and Scott Schwartz at Baseball Cards - Movie Collectibles, Inc. in Woodland Hills, California. I had the privilege of visiting the store, and meeting with Schwartz, a Brooklyn-born native and owner, who offered to assist me with anything my heart desired.

A vintage advertisement of The Cisco Kid on radio and television? Check. Two Big Little Books of The Lone Ranger which I did not have in my collection? Check. Looking for Hopalong Cassidy merchandise? He has an entire glass case filled with Hoppy toys and puzzles and books. From Disney's Davy Crockett to Zorro, Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, press books, magazines... it is all here.

I searched his massive photograph collection to discover he had at least three thick files of photos (with press releases) from the Golden Age of Radio and it only took a few minutes to find a publicity photo of Rosemary Rice from The Adventures of Archie Andrews. If you need photographs for a magazine article, book or simply to use for mounting with a piece of Hollywood memorabilia, this is the place you want to contact. 

His phone number, before I forget, is 818-610-2273 and his e-mail is 

Sure, there was sports memorabilia and sports cards on display, but while I enjoy a good baseball game, I was really there to check out the merchandise.

One of the cool things about attending conventions such as the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention is a room consisting of 200 vendor tables of merchandise ranging from celebrity autographs, movie posters, lobby cards, arcade cards, vintage toys and other collectibles. A brick and mortar store containing this kind of stuff is becoming obsolete and restricted to people's basements where they operate a business from their computer. So you can imagine my pleasure when everything I could ever want was hanging on the walls. The photo above shows an autographed photo of Loretta Young, a custom painting of Tom Mix and an original movie poster for a Roy Rogers movie.

There were a few surprises such as an autographed letter of Clara Bow, the silent screen actress, framed with two glossy photos of her on each side. Retail value is hard to determine because the cost of autographs is relative between seller and buyer. Asking price? $300. And I have never seen an authentic Clara Bow autograph before with my own eyes.

Imagine my surprise when I came across Harry Lauter's Silver Boot Award. I am sure there is a story behind this one. You don't come across these every day and they are considered among the most treasured a screen cowboy could ever receive. Sure, it was slightly damaged, but I would have bet dollars over donuts that this would have been something never found on display in a collectible store. 

Big Little Books (later renamed Better Little Books) are not easy to find in good condition. If the cover is torn off, the book is worthless. But a tight spine and covers less worn add value. Certain topics like Mickey Mouse and The Lone Ranger go for more money than you would pay for other Big Little Books. As they age, the paper becomes more brown in color so try to find ones without a brown age and you might have something of value.

Comics are also a highlight of collectibles and the more expensive issues were on display high above the ground. You needed a ladder to reach them. But expensive issues are not only an investment, but require theft protection as well -- hence the display above.

The photo above makes me long for the metal lunch box I had when I was a child, including the plastic thermos that kept my milk cool. Over the years, lunch boxes were made of plastic instead of metal. Metal rusts -- so finding lunch boxes without rust is a plus. And color fades from use and wear and the sunlight so the brighter the color, the more value the lunch box has. 

Displays of old magazines protected in plastic remind me of the conventions where these issues were very expensive. Now, if you shop around and have patience, you can get them for a few bucks a piece. But beware of who is featured on the cover... that causes the value to increase... even if there is no article about them inside the pages.

Old radios and PEZ dispensers next to each other? Never thought that would happen. 

These bookshelf albums contain lobby cards and glossy photographs. And this might be the source you want to check out. Next time you need a photograph for a magazine article, book, or simply to collect for the purpose of framing with your treasured item (remember the Clara Bow piece above?), give them a call. They know their stuff and they might surprise you!

From action figures, board games, Disney memorabilia and other cool retro pop culture collectibles... the kind of stuff you normally find in vendor rooms at conventions... this was the kind of store you expected to snap your fingers and find it magically disappear as if you lived a dream. In the 30 minutes I spent in the store, I purchased five items (three rare photographs and two Big Little Books) and I knew I had to leave quickly before I found other items I could not live without. If you have empty display cases, book shelves or simply a bare wall, consider a quick drive over to Woodland Hills and add some decor to your house. And if you don't live close enough to drive over there, remember this place and the next time you venture to the West Coast, give them a call in advance to make sure they haven't moved to a new location and stop by and browse. For those of you who cannot fly to California, the photos here should give you a guided tour of the place.