The granddaddy (or is that grandmommy) of all Spring Break films is Where the Boys Are! Released in December of 1960, this was an “A” picture for MGM, shot in Technicolor and CinemaScope.
The movie’s advertising billed it as “The HILARIOUS Inside Story of Those Rip-Roaring Spring Vacations!” Let’s look at the plot. We have a date rape (laughing yet?), a girl wandering out into traffic and getting hit by a car (a chuckle maybe?) and the film’s two leads going their separate ways at the end of the picture (side-splitting, right?).
Actually, this baby is pretty damn melodramatic. What few laughs there are belong to Frank Gorshin as a very nearsighted musician committed to “dialectic jazz.”
The film’s title allegedly came from a remark a college girl made when a reporter asked her why she came to Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break. The plot was based on a novel by Glendon Swarthout.
Mousketeer Roll Call: Darlene Gillespie
The story of Darlene Gillespie is not one that would lend itself to a Disney movie.
She was the daughter of a Canadian song and dance team. In 1943, her parents relocated to the Los Angeles area when Darlene was just two and began grooming her for a career in show business. By 1955, she was already an accomplished singer and dancer. She passed her audition for The Mickey Mouse Club and became one of the core cast members who stayed with the show during its entire first run.
What we at home never knew is that she was involved in an intense backstage rivalry with Annette Funicello. Dueling sets of stage parents put their friends and relatives up to flooding the Disney studio with fan mail for each of the respective girls. While Darlene did get to star in one of the Mousketeer serials (“Corky & White Shadow”) and play a major part in the second “Spin & Marty” serial, as the show progressed (along with Annette’s bustline), it became obvious who was the top Mousketeer.
Gillespie did cut a couple of albums for Disney, just like Funicello, but they didn’t receive the push from Disney’s marketing arm that Annette got.
When The Mouse Club ceased production, Disney kept Annette under contract, but Darlene had to go her own way. Her acting career quickly fizzled. Over the years, she made a few stabs at re-launching a singing career, but nothing really came of those.
Darlene worked for many years as a nurse and, in fact, greatly assisted her fellow Mousketeer Karen Pendleton when Karen had the car accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down.
Sadly, her last bit of notoriety came in 1998 when she was arrested in a securities fraud scheme that she cooked up with her husband. Darlene was sentenced to two years in prison, but wound up only doing 3 months. In 2005, she and her husband were back in court on charges of fraud. Those charges were eventually dropped. The husband who landed her in the slammer passed away in 2008.
Darlene is still with us, living in relative anonymity having finally reached a financial settlement with the Disney Company after a years-long battle over royalties she claimed she was owed for her work on that TV show. Sadly, that protracted legal battle led to an estrangement with the rest of the surviving Mousketeers.
A Guide to Howdy Doody Books and Video
For a show that ran for 13 years and was one of the mainstays of Baby Boomer culture throughout the entire 1950’s, there are surprisingly few ways we can relive those memories today.
There have been books and DVDs about The Howdy Doody Show released over the years, but few remain in print as of this writing. Nevertheless, here’s a rundown on what’s been produced.
The Life & Times of Howdy Doody - Part 5
We all know that childhood can’t last forever (unless your name is Bart Simpson). So too, for our favorite childhood television shows. The last network telecast of The Howdy Doody Show took place on September 24, 1960. The following Saturday on NBC, many of us were entertained by Shari Lewis, Lamb Chop and Charlie Horse.
But whatever happened to Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob? Keep reading and find out.
Imagine a TV series where Miss Hathaway from Beverly Hillbillies, Alice from The Brady Bunch and Dobie Gillis all hung out together. There was such a series in the 1950’s, originally called The Bob Cummings Show, but better remembered due to the name it adopted for its far longer tenure in syndication, Love That Bob!
Bob Cummings starred as Bob Collins (continuing the long-standing but frankly puzzling sit-com tradition where the lead actor uses their real first name but a fictitious last name).
Cummings played a glamour photographer who was always surrounded by stunningly gorgeous models, many of whom he loved and left. Back then, he was a rakish playboy. Today, we’d call him commitment-phobic. Bob’s character was also interested in aviation.
In real life, photography and flying private planes were two of Cummings’ major interests. We suspect dating beautiful women was also an interest as he was married five times.
Beach Party movies, why limit them to summer? That must have been the thinking among the brain trust at American International Pictures. Apparently, nobody in the room said, “Because most of the drive-ins in America are closed during the winter!”
That’s how we wound up with this unalloyed gem of a movie, a combination of Some Like It Hot and Beach Blanket Bingo – only in parkas – called Ski Party.
The 6th entry in the Beach Party series has everything – except Annette. Or at least Annette is only around for two quick scenes in the beginning. She is there in the beginning of the movie as a college sex ed professor (!) who gets into some inappropriate behavior with one of her students.
Her replacement on this ski trip is Deborah Walley, who clearly lacks two of Ms. Funicello’s major attractions. I mean Annette’s singing voice and big helmet of black hair (really, get your mind out of the gutter).
The Life & Times of Howdy Doody – Part 4
The puppets on The Howdy Doody Show were fairly easy to control. The flesh and blood actors, not so much. And it was a group of these cast members who almost brought the show to a screeching halt, resulting in the infamous 1953 “Christmas Eve Massacre” as the show was wrapping up its 5th year.
It's time once again to go behind the scenes and discover who was really pulling the strings on It's Howdy Doody Time!
Every Baby Boomer remembers Mister Ed, the talking horse who caused trouble for his owner Wilbur Post. But Ed was actually a rip-off, a cheap TV imitation!
Before Ed ever opened his mouth there was Francis the Talking Mule!
Frances was created by U.S. Army Captain David Stern III. He was in charge of an Army newspaper during WWII. Bored by a lack of news one afternoon, Stern wrote four pages of fanciful dialogue between a U.S. solider and a stubborn Army mule. Intrigued, he expanded the idea into a series of short stories that were subsequently published by Esquire magazine. Stern wrote the stories in the first person and adopted as a pen name, Peter Stirling, the 2nd lieutenant who Francis befriended in the stories.
by Allen B. Ury
There are two kinds of TV series. I'm not talking about "drama" vs. "comedy." Or "prestige" vs. "popular." Or even "good" vs. "crap." I'm talking about "Teflon" vs. "sticky."
Teflon series are those you watch -- and may even enjoy -- but their impact slides away like eggs off a greased skillet. Some Teflon series are highly rated. Some Teflon series even win prestigious awards. But in the end, Teflon series tend to fade into obscurity like some exotic avian species, what minor fossils they leave behind to be carefully picked over, studied and debated by small cadres of dedicated media historians, but otherwise forgotten by later generations.
And then there are "sticky" series. Sticky -- in the modern marketing vernacular -- refers to ideas or concepts that not only tap into the current cultural zeitgeist, but have true staying power. Many "sticky" TV series are low-rated. Some last only a few seasons. They may even be critical pariahs. But, even in cancellation, they refuse to go away. They become part of us. Part of our cultural DNA. And thus part of our shared memories. (As well as topics for endless Internet click-bait articles.)
The Baby Boomer era for popular culture -- roughly 1950-1975 -- was rife with both Teflon and sticky TV series. This was the era that critics called both "TV's Golden Age" and "a vast wasteland." It produced series that, at the time, won critical plaudits but which today are all but forgotten. (This is particularly true of 1950s era dramatic anthology series like Playhouse 90 and Studio One, prestige programs that were broadcast live and thus never syndicated.) It also produced shows that were critically reviled yet are still held warmly in the hearts of aging Boomers (e.g. My Favorite Martian, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Brady Bunch, Hogan's Heroes, etc.)
Here’s my list of the Top 10 TV Shows for Baby Boomers. Presented in chronological order, the list represents what I believe are the "stickiest" shows from this 25-year period. Like all lists, it's woefully incomplete and probably not reflective of everyone's tastes. But I suspect you'll find several of your favorites in this collection. And some wonderful memories as well.
Think there are some bad reality TV shows on the air now?
Back in the summer of 1950, Toni Home Permanents (remember those?) actually sponsored a 15-minute prime time show that featured twins with the audience having to guess which one had had her hair styled professionally and which had used Toni’s home hair care products. In other words.
The only reason anyone should remember this show is its host – a young guy named Jack Lemmon!
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