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1937 – 2015

“I meet women today who tell me that they grew up viewing Batgirl as an important role model. If they choose to know me in that context, well, I’ll take it.” – Yvonne Craig

The perfect combination of sexiness, sophistication and spunk, Yvonne Craig became the “first crush” of generations of fanboys.

Yvonne Craig had a face that launched a thousand pop culture articles.

I remember that it was a rainy day when I woke up at noon on July 16th, 2004, and due to a day of back breaking labor the day before, I woke up to a body was broken and bruised and my fingers were so raw that the skin had been torn from them. I only had enough strength to pull myself from my bed to the couch.  Flipping on the television, I was delighted to find the 1965 AiP Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman vehicle Ski Party on City-TV.  Light and campy, it was exactly what the doctor ordered.  But it wasn’t Frankie and Dwayne dressed in drag that grabbed my attention.  It was their beautiful co-star, Yvonne Craig,  as lovely co-ed Barbara Norris that made my morning just a little bit less stormy. You see, Yvonne Craig has always been a favorite of mine. Since I was a young boy I had a yen for Yvonne Craig and a flood of nostalgia of rushing home from school to watch Yvonne dressed in her famous purple and yellow costume on Batman came over me.  Well it inspired me to do I something I had never done before, but would go on to change my entire destiny.

A sexy, if not slightly “over the top” publicity photo of Yvonne Craig for AiP’s 1965 co-ed comedy “Ski Party.” A mid afternoon screening of the film would launch what would eventually become PCA.

I had found myself in a position in my life where I was starting to discover that I had a talent for expressing myself in the written word and, with “blogs” being a new found craze, I had recently created one.  At that time my entries were nothing more than narcissistic rants about whatever struck me as interesting about my life on that day.  Well, on the morning of July 16th, 2004 the most interesting thing in the world to me was Yvonne Craig.  Moving from the couch to the computer, I wrote a love letter to Yvonne Craig and put it on my “blog.”

That letter would be the first pop culture article to be published on the internet, long before PCA was even an idea.  It was the article that spawned over a decade of pop culture adventures, reviews, celebrity interviews, press rooms and a professional career as an arts and entertainment writer.  In fact, the letter is still housed at PCA here.

Before ever dawning the famous purple and yellow bat-suit, Yvonne Craig was one of the most prolific young character actresses in Hollywood.

With those deep eyes, dark hair, turned up nose and impish smile, Yvonne Craig was the perfect combination of sexiness, sophistication and spunk.  She had a good girl quality about her, but she was the kind of good girl that could lead a boy to do anything she wanted.  She was like that bad seed preacher’s daughter that prayed every Sunday, but talked you into stealing candy for her from the five and dime after church.  But most of all, thanks to her roles in some of 1960’s televisions most iconic cult programs, she became the first crush of generations of fan boys everywhere.

Of course Yvonne Craig will always be closely connected to playing the dual role of Batgirl and Barbara Gordon in the third and final season of Batman.  But what doesn’t always get recognized was her direct inspiration in the creation of the character.  It’s really sort of the “chicken and the egg” argument.  Who came first?  Yvonne Craig or Batgirl?

In a rare example of television and comic publisher’s working together in unison, Yvonne Craig was hired in 1966 to play the newly created Batgirl in an attempt to boost sagging rating for the third season of “Batman.”

After starting off hot in 1966, by the fall of 1967 Batman was on its final legs.  Batmania was dying off, the joke was getting old and rating were dropping fast.  Devoting two nights a week to their schedule for the past two seasons, ABC decided to cut Batman back to one night a week.  However, the producers felt that maybe a new gimmick would bring the ratings back.  Maybe a little bit of sex appeal would put the BAM and POW back into Batman.  Maybe it was time for a “Batgirl.”

Now in the comic books there had been both a Bat-Girl – Bettie Kane who was the niece of the more established Kathy Kane (aka Batwoman) who had only appeared in the comic a total of three times.  However, Batwoman and Bat-Girl hadn’t been seen in the comics for years, and establishing obscure comic characters wasn’t what TV executive William Dozier had in mind for his show.  Instead, he approached DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz with a concept that Batgirl should be the daughter of Police Commissioner Gordon and nobody should know her true identity. The idea was pretty original, and it was agreed that Batgirl would be reborn as Barbara Gordon.   Schwartz and his team got to work on the idea, and Dozier and his team hired Yvonne Craig to play the character.

Batgirl made her first comic book appearance in “Detective Comics #359,” followed by Yvonne Craig’s screen debut as Batgirl a few weeks later. Batgirl was an intant hit, and has become one of the most imporant and recognized female comic book characters in history.

In a rare example of a studio and a comic company working together in unison on the same concept, Batgirl would made her debut in Detective Comics #359 and a few weeks later Yvonne made her first appearance in the famous purple Bat-suit on television.  Although Batgirl was a definitely high concept novelty in the comics, Yvonne brought Batgirl to life with her high kicks and coy charm, exposing the character to an audience far beyond comics and securing her in the public subconscious. Even if they hadn’t read a comic book in their life, everybody knew there was a Batgirl.  Never in the history of comics, then or since, had the wide-spread knowledge of a character existed in the public mind.   Batgirl was an instant hit with readers and viewers alike and would become one of the most important female comic book characters in history.  Although it might have been possible that Batgirl would have made her on legacy in comic books alone, it was Yvonne Craig’s performance that made the character an overnight success and an instant fan favorite.

Yvonne Craig in 1964 making time with Elvis Presley in “Kissin’ Cousins.” This would be the second film she made with Elvis having previously appeared in “It Happened At the World Fair” (1963.

But what seems to be forgotten by the modern audience is that Yvonne Craig was far more than just Batgirl.  The reason she got the role in the first place was the fact that by 1966 Yvonne Craig was one of the most prolific young character actresses in Hollywood.  Likeable, subtle and fun, Yvonne Craig was the girl who showed up in just about everything.  She was a semi-regular on Dobie Gillis, appeared in two Elvis films (It Happened at the World’s Fair and Kissin’ Cousins), starred in the Tommy Kirk sci-fi stinker Mars Needs Women, was featured as a Russian ballerina in In Like Flint with James Coburn and made appearances in dozens of TV series including Gidget, Perry Mason, 77 Sunset Strip, Dr. Kildare, Wagon Train, McHale’s Navy, My Favorite Martian, Ben Casey, The Man from UNCLE, The Big Valley and My Three Sons long before she became Batgirl.

In 1969 Yvonne Craig seduced fan boys everywhere in the role of Marta on the classic “Star Trek” episode “Whom God Destroys.” Painted green for the episode, her performance would become part of the pop culture lexicon.

And who could not forget her erotic performance as Marta the green skinned alien in the classic Star Trek episode Who God Destroys?  Seductive and insane, Yvonne Craig’s dance captivated millions of sci-fi fans and the role became a part of the cultural lexicon.  It was Yvonne Craig that made Captain Kirk’s “green skinned” woman a sexual fantasy of fan boys for generations.

So all of this was running through my head as I wrote a letter to Yvonne Craig about how, as a young boy, I fell in love with her watching Batgirl.  However, with a sudden moment of inspiration, I looked up Yvonne Craig’s web-site and shot a link to her contact e-mail.

Imagine my surprise when a day later I got the following message from Yvonne Grail:

“Dear Sam.  Thank you for the VERY flattering open letter.  It made me blush!  I would love to send you a copy of my book (for fun summer reading) if you’ll send me a snail mail address.  Enjoy what is left of summer. Best, Yvonne”

In 2000 Yvonne Craig released her memoirs, “From Ballet to the Batcave and Beyond.”

My heart burst with joy with this wonderful message.  Never before had my words found their way to the subject, and not to mention one that held a place in my heart.  The kindness of  her acknowledgement made me realize that I was not as far from my icons as I thought, and it had a huge impact on me continuing to write.

Well, I did send Yvonne my home address and a few weeks later I received an autograph copy of her autobiography From the Ballet to Batgirl and Beyond.  Inside was a personalized note that read “For Sam.  Enjoy!  Yvonne Craig.”  A fantastic read, the book captured the full extent of Yvonne’s illustrious career as she told very open and blunt about the people she loved (David McCallum, Bill Bixby, Elvis Presley) and the people she did not (Charles Bronson, William Shatner, Desi Arnaz).  A wonderful read, it was filled with stories of a working actress during one of television’s most exciting eras.  They were stories from a woman who was surrounded by the greatest pop culture legends of Hollywood and wasn’t afraid to talk openly about it.  The book was a wonderful gift from Batgirl to a boy who loved her.  The book still sits on the bookshelf in my office and is a cherished possession.

Yvonne Craig and I never met or spoke in person despite always being about one degree of separation from one another.  A few interview requests fell dormant, and a recent personal appearance was cancelled.  But there was one more article about Yvonne Craig left to write.  This morning I sat down and wrote my second article about Yvonne Craig.  This time it was her obituary.  Life is so bitter sometimes.

Since that rainy afternoon when I wrote my open letter to Yvonne Craig I have lived three lifetimes.  Everything has changed.  But when rereading my letter to Yvonne this morning, with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I realized that one thing that had never changed was how I felt about her.  Really, in all these years it pretty much still says exactly what I feel and, right now, it has more of an impact than ever before.  It strikes a well-aimed yellow booted high kick right to my heart.

As long as there is a Batgirl, a little bit of Yvonne Craig will always be alive in our hearts and our minds forever.  Holy bitter-sweet, Batman!




1922 – 2015

“Mrs. Peel, we’re need.”  – Tag line to The Avengers.

“I like clubs and pubs and bowler hats.  I like whiskey and lime.” – Patrick Macnee on the 1964 novelty record “Let’s Keep it Friendly.”

“Now don’t you worry John, things will be okay.  Just pick up your umbrella and bowler and go on your eccentric way.” – “The Ballad of John and Emma” by failed 17 year old poet Sam Tweedle.

Already a throw back when he took on the role of John Steed in the classic spy series The Avengers, actor Patrick Macnee became a symbol of British mod culture with his trademark bowler hat and umbrella.

In his 1988 autobiography Blind in One Ear, British character actor Patrick Macnee told of a morning in 1982 when he received a panicked phone call from his daughter Jenny who had just received news of his death.  Apparently, reports had gone over the news wires that Macnee, most famous for his portrayal of super spy John Steed in the iconic 1960’s spy series The Avengers, had died of “natural causes” and reporters were calling his family for comment.  At a healthy age 60, Macnee was still alive and kicking and the press had it all wrong.  Instead it was British actor Patrick Magee, who had been in A Clockwork Orange and Chariots of Fire, who had died.  The name was close, but Macnee had a lot of living left to do.

Thirty three years later the news wires have reported that Patrick Macnee has died again.  This time there was no mistake.  They got it right.  At age 93 Patrick Macnee died quietly at his home in Rancho Mirage, CA.  The world is a little less classy without him.

During the 60′s over-saturated spy craze, Patrick Mcnee carved out his own unique niche with an eccentric old world charm, differentiating him from such contemporaries as James Bond, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuyakin and John Drake.

I can’t even begin to explain the influence that Patrick Macnee and his portrayal of John Steed had on me growing up as a teenager.  During the 90’s, while my pals ran home to play guitars with their garage bands after high school, I was running home to watch The Avengers on A&E.  While they tried to emulate Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder, I was trying to emulate Patrick Macnee.  They dressed in plaid and doc martins and I wore jackets and hats.  They knew all the lyrics to Creep and No Rain, I knew all the lyrics to Kinky Boots and Let’s Keep It Friendly.  I even once attempted to buy a bowler hat but I sadly discovered that I looked more like Oliver Hardy than John Steed.  I decided to stick with the fedoras.

But there was little doubt that Patrick Macnee had a certain hold on me as a teenager, and I thought he was certified cool.  I mean, he was always an old guy.  Even when he made The Avengers in the mid 1960’s he was past his baby faced prime and already had a stodgy old world feel about him.  What the appeal of Patrick Macnee was, both in the 1960’s and through the decades, was the fact that he had a genuine eccentric appeal that was based entirely on charm and class.  With a wink in his eye, a bounce in his step and a sing song quality in his voice Patrick Macnee seemed to live life a little bit differently, and a little bit finer.  He was the embodiment of the Victorian dandy living in the world of the 60’s spy craze.  While Napoleon Solo used a gun, Steed used a fencing foil concealed in an umbrella.  While James Bond scored with the ladies with a blunt sexuality, Steed seduced them with subtle innuendos and whimsical ad-libs.   While John Drake fought hard with his fists, Steed seemed to be dancing a flamboyant waltz during a fight.  The Avengers were little bit camp and a little bit fetish, but it was all charm and class.

Patrick Macnee with actress Anneke Wills in the classic Avengers episode “Dressed to Kill.” According to Wills, when the cameras stopped rolling, Patrick Macnee continued to be John Steed. The man and the character were one and the same.

But where did the character of John Steed start, and where did it end?  Who was I trying to emulate – the actor or the character?  Well, according to one actress I spoke to, reality and fiction bled together between Macnee and Steed.  When I was 19 years old I went to a small science fiction convention (although, in reality, you could have barely even called it that) in the basement of a church in Toronto where they had flown in British actress Anneke Welles to talk about her time as obscure 1960’s Doctor Who companion Polly opposite William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton.  With most of her Doctor Who episodes missing, those in attendance were excited to know about her time on the cult sci-fi series.  However, I was enamored by her because she played the woman dressed as a pussycat that hung off of Patrick Macnee in the classic 1963 Avengers episode Dressed to Kill.  Clinging on to a photo of her and Patrick Macnee to get signed, I gushed when I asked her “What was Patrick Macnee really like?”  Anneke explained to me that Patrick Macnee and John Steed were virtually one and the same.  When the cameras stopped rolling, Macnee didn’t change.  She claimed that Macnee wasn’t even acting.  He was just playing the character as if it was himself.  That elegance, wit, charm and love for finery was an important part of his actual personality that the producers on The Avengers would even let him ad-lib as he went along.

In the roles of super spies John Steed and Emma Peel, Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg became one of the most unique screen couples in the history of television. A natural chemistry and connection between the actors allowed the characters to grow organically to the point that the producers allowed the pair to ad-lib their own banter.

Which was an important element in the magical chemistry between him and Dame Diana Rigg when they were paired as John Steed and Emma Peel in 1965.  Most casual pop culture fans don’t realize that Rigg was actually the fourth of Macnee’s Avengers co-stars, but her popularity was so immense that she would eventually out shadow him as the icon of the series.  But despite her popularity, you couldn’t have a Mrs. Peel without a John Steed.  He set it up and she knocked it down, and he retorted with an offbeat response.  It was the perfect chemistry and connection between those two wonderful eccentric actors that made the show such a cult classic.  The natural patter, the shared whimsical sense of humor, the chaste flirtation, the throw away double entrees and the freedom to ad-lib beautifully together made Macnee and Rigg one of the most original, and most delightful, screen pairings of all time.  It was so magical that when Diana Rigg left the series after three years, whoever ITV paired with Macnee didn’t have a chance.  It just wasn’t the same.

In one of his stranger screen appearances, Patrick Macnee appeared as music mogul Sir Denis Eton-Hogg in the 1984 comedy classic “This is Spinal Tap.”

Although John Steed was his iconic character, Patrick Macnee had a long and illustrious career on stage and screen.  He is one of the few actors to play both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in various productions.  He appeared in a ton of classic American television including Studio One, Rawhide, The Twilight Zone and Playhouse 90.  He thrilled spy genre fans when he teamed up with Roger Moore as James Bond’s “side-kick” Sir Godfrey Tibbet in A View to a Kill.  He even showed up in such unlikely productions as This is Spinal Tap, The Hardy Boys, The Howling, Battlestar Galactica,  Magnum PI, The Littlest Hobo, The Love Boat and the music video for Oasis’ 1996 hit Don’t Look Back in Anger.  But no matter what part he took on he couldn’t erase the charm and the class.  It was like a trademark that followed him from production to production.

He may have already been a Victorian throw back when he was in his prime, but he was also a beloved icon of British mod culture which has continued to teach us that a little bit of charm can you get you through the most dire death trap.  The only one I guess it can’t get you through is death itself.

We already miss you Patrick Macnee.  I hope the whiskey and lime flows endlessly wherever you may be.

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1931 – 2015

“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP” – Leonard Nimoy

I’ve never been much of a Star Trek fan.  Surprising, isn’t it?  It’s really one of the biggest misconceptions about me.  People have always assumed I was into Star Trek.  I’m always getting Star Trek stuff given to me, which I quickly regift or shamelessly put up on e-bay.  I suppose the reason people assume I’m a Star Trek fan is because it is so entrenched in pop culture lore, and it goes hand in hand with the geek culture that I am immersed in.  However, despite the fact that I’ve never really been much of a fan, I have seen my share of it and I respect the massive legacy of the cult sci-fi series, as well as the phenomena that is the fandom.  Star Trek IS pop culture.

So, with that in mind, I gladly paid over a hundred dollars to see Leonard Nimoy speak in Toronto during the summer of 2002.  Even at that time paying that sort of money to do a Q & A session with an actor was considered a lot, but you were guaranteed an autograph photo and it was during a period where Nimoy was claiming he was retiring from the autograph show and sci-fi convention circuit (he would come out of retirement a few years later and appear at many more shows).  At the time I figured it’d be the only chance I’d have to ever see Leonard Nimoy and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to witness one of the biggest legends in pop culture history.

Now it was a different time back then and I was a different person.  I was younger, more cynical, more hard hearted.  PCA did not yet exist and I hadn’t even started writing professionally and, although I had been collecting autographs and having celebrity encounters for a few years, I had not yet done a celebrity interview.

I was ushered into a small convention hall (much smaller than the ones they use today at massive comic conventions) with approximately two hundred Star Trek fans.  It was exactly what you’d expect to be like.  There were Vulcans and people in Starfleet uniforms, and one guy in a very detailed Klingon costume and another guy who was cosplaying a pretty mean James Doohan.  There was a buzz in the air as we all waited for the appearance of our hero Leonard Nimoy.

Well, we didn’t wait long and with a thunder of applause Leonard Nimoy took the stage.  Even with my seat near the back of the hall, peering through my dim eyes, did I notice how old Leonard Nimoy looked.  He was dressed casually in a dark button up sweater, much like one that Mr. Rogers would wear.  He thanked us for the warm greeting and then, to all of our surprises, launched into a rambly speech about whales.  That right.  Whales.  At no point did any of the organizers tell us that we were paying over a hundred dollars to hear Leonard Nimoy talk about whales.   I can’t say that it was very interesting, but hey, it was Leonard Nimoy talking in that distinct serious baritone of his which was enough to give any geek goose bumps.  It was what it was I guess and, well, I was guaranteed an autograph picture at the end of the presentation.  So the audience listened politely as Nimoy talked about whales for forty five minutes of the hour that we had with him. Then, once he was finished, he opened the floor for questions.

Two hundred hands went up.

Leonard Nimoy picked someone in the front row who asked a questions about Star Trek.  You could tell Leonard Nimoy was a bit annoyed having expected a question about whales.  I don’t remember what the question was, but he politely answered.  Then he asked for another question.

One hundred and ninety nine hands went up.

Leonard Nimoy said “Yes….you in the back…..in the hat.”

I looked around for the guy in the hat.  Leonard Nimoy said “Yes…you in the black hat.  You.”

I pointed at myself in disbelief.  Leonard Nimoy said “Yes, what is your question?”

I stood up to get some leverage and to allow my voice to carry across the convention hall.  “Hi Mr. Nimoy” I said.  “Thanks so much for coming to Toronto.”

“I’m glad to be here” Leonard Nimoy said to me.

“Yeah” I said, looking at him.

And then that’s when it got a bit surreal.  I was looking at Leonard Nimoy, and he was looking at me.  I was talking to him, and that distinct voice of his was answering me.  Suddenly I sort of blanked out and I thought back to that old Mego Mr. Spock doll I had as a kid, and wondering whatever happened to it.  I then became aware that all the eyes in the room was on me.  A camera from Space: The Imagination Station was pointed at me and, most of all, Leonard Nimoy was staring at me and waiting for my question.

Well I had a question for Leonard Nimoy in mind but, to this day, I don’t remember what it was.  I do know whatever it was, it wasn’t about whales.  But instead of what I was going to ask I decided to ask the question that I knew all of us REALLY wanted to ask.

“Well Mr. Nimoy,” I said meekly, “I was on the computer and I found a video of you on a beach singing about The Hobbit surrounded by go-go dancers in Spock ears.”

“Did you now?”  Leonard Nimoy said with a smirk.

“Yes I did,” I said, “Well….what the fuck Mr. Nimoy? What the fuck?”

The whole convention hall burst out in laughter.  Leonard Nimoy stood on the stage, half annoyed and half amused.

“You found this on the internet?”  he said to me.

“Yes I did sir” I said.

“Somebody get me my lawyer” Nimoy replied to more laughter, and then I knew that my moment was over.

Today I’d never speak to a performer so uncouthly as I did Leonard Nimoy, but I was impressed with the way that he handled my question.  I’d never say I met Leonard Nimoy as much as I’d say we had a brief encounter.  A small moment in time where we looked at one another and exchanged a few words.  It wasn’t my finest hour but I’ll admit that I did ask the one question that burned in me the most.

Behind the desk that I write this is an autographed photo of Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock that I got that day in Toronto.  It is a keepsake from my brief encounter with one of the true giants of the pop culture journey.

Speed be with you Leonard Nimoy as you boldly go where no man has gone before.

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Play all my records, keep dancing all night, but leave me alone for a while. – Lesley Gore “It’s My Party”

While all the other kids in my elementary school were listening to Duran Duran, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue, I was up in my bedroom listening to Lesley Gore.  The sounds of her sunshine bubblegum pop music came out of my little childhood record player from a scratchy old LP which was purchased by an Aunt, but handed down to my mother, and eventually rediscovered by me in the pile of barely played records in the corner of the rec room.  While getting ready for school each morning, despite what new record I might own, The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore somehow ended up on my turntable.  I knew the words to each song on each side of the LP by heart – It’s My Party, Judy’s Turn to Cry, Just Let Me Cry,  Hey Now…..each moment and note change.  I’d sing them all.  As a result, Lesley Gore became a touchstone in both the musical and pop culture evolution of my life.  Although my musical tastes would radically change, a Lesley Gore song could always tug on the strings of my heart hard.  I can still sing each line to each one of her songs.

That’s why, with tears still in my eyes, my heart is broken as I type these words right now.  Lesley Gore obviously still had a very strong hold on my heart.

At age 17 Lesley Gore became the most famous teenage girl in America when she hit the top of the Billboard charts with “It’s My Party” in 1964, paving the way for future pop princesses.

When Lesley Gore hit the radar in 1963 rock/pop was just starting to come of age.  Elvismania was over and the Beatles weren’t even a blip yet.  The sophomoric era of Fabian and Bobby Vee was coming to an end, making way for the more sophisticated pop sounds by Gene Pitney and The Righteous Brothers under the watchful eye of Phil Spector, the evolution of Motown and the surf rock out of California which was greasing the wheels of the rock explosion to come.  Enter Lesley Gore.  Prim, proper, cute and perhaps a tad bit naive, Lesley Gore became music’s original pop princess, paving the way for future superstars such as Madonna, The Spice Girls, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift.  But unlike those who came after her, Lesley Gore needed no gimmicks or auto tuning.  Armed with a string of catchy pop hits from the Brill building and the powerful backing of producer Quincy Jones, Lesley Gore became the symbol of the all American every girl, and her music and image would find mass appeal to both male and, especially, female fans alike.

In 1964, at the height of her popularity, Lesley Gore appeared in the concert film “The T.A.M.I Show” in which she was given ten unedited minutes to perform a string of her biggest hits. Despite sharing the stage with The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Marvin Gaye and The Supremes, Lesley Gore got the biggest audience reaction.

It might be difficult to understand the star power that Lesley Gore had during the first two years of her career.  Simply put, she was the biggest musical star in America. In the commentary track to the DVD of the 60’s concert film The T.A.M.I Show, director John Landis, who attended the infamous 1964 showcase concert held at the Santa Moncia Civic Auditorium as a seventh grader, states that Lesley Gore got the biggest reaction from the audience despite sharing the stage with legendary acts such as The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Supremes and The Beach Boys.  Although these other acts would go down in history for their social and artistic importance, to the audience of primarily young teenagers it was Lesley Gore whose songs they were hearing on the radio.   In fact, the year before she was nominated for a Grammy for best song for It’s My Party, was given the Billboard prize for song of the year and had just recently won the Cashbox award for female vocalist of the year.  Furthermore, she had eight hit songs on the charts within fifteen months.  Lesley Gore was the most famous teenage girl in America.  As a result, the producers of The T.A.M.I Show dedicated ten solid unedited minutes to Lesley’s performance, allowing her to perform six songs back to back and uncut.  It was Lesley Gore at her finest hour, and she was able to hold her own against the other dynamic acts in the film.

Throughout her early hits Lesley Gore’s music had a disturbing subtext of repression and emotional abuse, which hit home with a generation of young girls who were still pushed down by societies norms. However, she evened out the playing field when she recorded “You Don’t Own Me” in 1964 which would go on to become a feminist anthem.

However, when looking back at many of her songs, there was a disturbing subtext of repression and emotional abuse in many of her biggest hits.  Right out of the gate with It’s My Party Lesley was already in the role of the victim.  It was a disturbing trend which would continue through Maybe I Know, Just Let Me Cry and, most viciously, That’s the Way Boys Are which had illusions of mental and physical abuse and put forth an idea that it was okay, and even expected, for men to cheat on women.  But in the pre-feminist era of America, these were the sad social reality of the teenage girl who still hadn’t yet found her voice.  It was painful, and Lesley Gore harnessed that pain and put it into song and millions of girls worldwide could relate to it.

Thus, when Lesley released You Don’t Own Me in 1964, that song was such a massive juxtaposition for not only her body of work, but the music being sung by women in the pop scene in general.  It was a song of liberation sung by a nice girl which had never been done before in pop music.  The song was more up to the speed of a tougher girl band like The Shangris-Las, but Lesley Gore’s girlish rendition of such a powerful song brought the idea of self-respect and liberation to the normal American girls who were not readily exposed to the budding women’s liberation movement which was growing in large city centers and university campuses.  It was an extremely early musical moment in feminism from an unlikely source proving that Lesley Gore had more strength and clout than the public might have realized.  In retrospect, You Don’t Own Me was Lesley Gore’s most important recording.

In 1967 Lesley Gore appeared opposite of Julie Newmar as Catwoman’s sidekick Pussycat in a classic episode of “Batman” in which she premiered her minor hit “California Nights.”

But of course, there was an interesting real life drama going on in Lesley’s life that nobody knew at the time and added another powerful subtext to her songs.  During a time when homosexuality was still deemed to be deviant in society, it was unthinkable that America’s premier pop princess might be gay.  Lesley Gore would publicly say that she didn’t realize that she was gay until she attended Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York, but I have a conflicting story to this.  During the 1960’s Lesley Gore was often escorted to premiers and parties by actor Aron Kincaid, who I got to know on a personal level near the end of his life.  Aron and Leslie appeared together in a few films during the mid 60’s including Girls on the Beach and Ski Party where Lesley can be seen paying special attention to him while singing Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows.  During one of our visits I asked Aron if he knew that Lesley was gay during this time and he replied “Yes I did.  She had told me, so I helped guard her secret as her date for a while.”  It was also Aron who said to me “Lesley Gore was the smartest girl I ever knew.”  This painted a fuller picture of a young woman who obviously was keeping a very guarded secret during a time where it was one thing to be repressed as a young woman, but another to be repressed as a lesbian.  Perhaps the angst that Lesley brought to her songs weren’t just about boys, but about her own repressed sexual identity as well.

Over the years I tried many times to contact Lesley Gore for a PCA interview but our connections never seemed to come together.  She always seemed two steps ahead of me.  It hurts my heart that we always seemed to be only a few degrees of separation from each other but never spoke.  So tonight I dug out that old copy of The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore that my Aunt bought decades ago and which still is in my record collection to this day and lay it once again on my record turn table.  It’s still has that scratchy sound and the occasional skip, but I still know all the lyrics.  I still can sing all the songs.

Tonight it’s not just Judy’s turn to cry.  Tonight the whole world weeps  for Lesley Gore.

Hide every lovely flower from my sight,
Don’t let that dreamy moon come out, oh, tonight.
And please don’t let me see two lovers kiss,
Don’t let me be reminded what I miss.
He said good-bye,
Just let me cry.

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Although his face may not be recognizable to most pop culture fans, Felix Silla has had one of the biggest careers of anyone ever to participate in a PCA interview.

Standing 3’11”, stunt man and actor Felix Silla may be the smallest person ever to give an interview to PCA. However, there is little doubt that he has had one of the biggest careers. Although his face may not be recognizable to the public, he has worked beside some of the biggest stars in television and film history, and has had a behind the scenes presence in some of televisions biggest shows and films biggest blockbusters. His television appearances include Bonanza, Petticoat Junction, The Monkees, Betwitched, HR Pufnstuf, Lidsville, Bewitched, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Star Trek, Night Gallery, The Dukes of Hazzard and Married with Children. Meanwhile, he has played various role as well as did stunt work in Planet of the Apes, The Towering Inferno, Poltergeist, The Black Bird, The Manitou, E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Howard the Duck, Return of the Jedi, The Golden Child, Under the Rainbow, The Sting II, Spaceballs and Batman Returns. Few film professionals can claim a resume with as many memorable productions as Felix Silla.

Although he only appeared in seventeen episodes of “The Addams Family,” Felix Silla’s character Cousin Itt became one of the most beloved and iconic creatures from the series.

But it was behind an elaborate costume made of hair that Felix made his biggest mark in pop culture history when he played the role of the mysterious and beloved Cousin Itt on The Addams Family. Joining the series twenty episodes into its first season, Felix made only seventeen appearances as the strange little creature without a face, but he immediately become one of the show’s most popular characters. Still a beloved iconic television character, Cousin Itt gave Felix Silla solid immortality in the history of television.

A few years later Felix Silla got the role of another popular character when he took on the role of Twiki the Robot on Buck Rogers. Although the character was voiced by legendary voice actor Mel Blanc, Silla worked opposite Gil Gerard and Erin Gray over two seasons of the popular sci-fi drama. A favorite with young viewers, Twiki was merchandised and became a popular character for kids hungry for Star Wars type fare, and gave Felix another landmark role to his already monumental career.

Appearing in 80′s film franchise such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Felix Silla also took on the popular role of Twiki the Robot on “Buck Rogers.”

Originally from Rome, Italy, Felix Silla came to North America at age 16 and got a job working for Barnum and Bailey Circus. But after a few years under the big top, he realized that the circus wasn’t the place for him. Settling down in Los Angeles, Silla eventually found a new career doing stunts and stand in work for children in television and movies. With his short stature and circus training, Felix Silla became a commodity which opened the doors to some of the biggest productions in movie history which led him to appearing on the other side of the camera as well as behind it.

A great man and a fantastic storyteller, it’d be impossible to fit all of his Hollywood stories into a single interview, but for an hour and a half Felix gave it a go.  The result is an interesting journey through film history from a man with a truly unique perspective.


Pop culture’s original bad boy, “Leave it to Beaver’s: Eddie Haskell, portrayed by Ken Osmond.

With a perfidious compliment and over the top delivery, Eddie Haskell was pop culture’s original bad boy.  Sneaky and shallow, the smirky best friend of Wally Cleaver on the classic TV sit-com Leave it to Beaver not only became a pop culture favorite, but slowly made his way into the cultural lexicon as the archetype of society’s shifty and insincere wise-guys.  Eddie Haskell was the kind of kid that you would hate if you met him, but you couldn’t help but love watching him get his pals in trouble.  For over fifty years Eddie Haskell has remained to be one of the most popular supporting characters in television history.

When Eddie Haskell first appeared on television screens in 1957 nobody would predict how much of a cultural icon he would become.  Behind that smirk was fourteen year old actor Ken Osmond who had been appearing in films, television and commercials since the age of four.  However, the break out role of Eddie Haskell would become his most famous role, making him a household name for decades to come.

In the role of one of television’s most endearing characters, Ken Osmond is a favorite at autograph shows world wide and always reading to brush Eddie Haskell off for one more screen appearance.

Ken Osmond jeered and connived his way through six seasons of Leave it to Beaver where he became just as popular, and questionably more popular, then the shows stars Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow.  Highly quotable, his bad boy persona was ground breaking compared to the sugary sweet characters that were often played by teenagers on television during the golden era of television.  However, his popularity would take its toll on his career and when Leave it to Beaver wrapped up in 1963 Ken Osmond found that he was faced with typecasting so crippling that it was preventing him from getting the roles he wanted.  By the end of the 1960’s Ken Osmond realized that he could no longer make a decent living as an actor.  Shifting gears completely, Osmond joined the Los Angeles police force where he spend the next thirty years patrolling the streets of LA.

However, between his law enforcement career, Ken Osmond was always willing to brush the character of Eddie Haskell off for token appearances where he reprised the role on an episode of Happy Days and Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, a McDonald’s advertising campaign, the ill-fated and much forgotten big screen remake of Leave it to Beaver and 101 episodes of the syndicated series Still the Beaver from 1983 to 1989.

Currently retired from the LAPD, Ken Osmond is still a favorite at autograph shows across the world and has recently wrote an autobiography alongside writer Christopher J. Lynch titled Eddie: The Life and Times of America’s Preeminent Bad Boy.  I met Ken Osmond at the Hamilton Comic Convention where he took a few moments to talk to me about his career and his smarmy alter ego.


Ginger or Mary Ann? It’s enough to give anybody a headache. Poor Gilligan never had a chance.

Ginger or Mary Ann?  It’s the kind of pop culture problem that could give Sigmund Freud a headache.

When Gilligan’s Island premiered on television fifty years ago, the critics quickly dismissed it, stating that it was one of the worst television shows ever made.  Little did they realize that it would become not only a beloved television staple, but would entertain generations of kids for decades to come.  Part of the success of the show was creator Sherwood Schwartz’s creation of some of televisions most beloved characters – Gilligan, the Skipper and the other stranded castaways.  But they were more than just an eccentric gathering of odd ball characters.  They were broad stereotypes taken from a cross section of society – the fool, the leader, the intellect, the elite, the vamp and the all American girl.  These social archetypes have managed to transcend the years, giving Gilligan’s Island a timeless appeal.  The characters are as relevant today as they were five decades ago.

In the role of Mary Ann Summers on “Gilligan’s Island,” Dawn Wells became a genuine pop culture sex symbol and a cultural archtype for the all American “good” girl.

As genuine pop culture sex symbols, Ginger and Mary Ann, played by Tina Louise and Dawn Wells, became the first crushes for kids watching throughout North America.  The juxtaposition of the two characters were so broad that they became opposite ends of the sexual ying and yang – the good girl/bad girl, the virgin/whore, the girl you bring home to Mom/the girl you don’t.  Perhaps Schwartz didn’t plan it that way, but there was a lot more going on on that Island then maybe met the eye.

But what messages did Ginger and Mary Ann give to girls that grew up on the show?  Well, as Dawn Wells reveals in her new book, What Would Mary Ann Do: A Guide to Life, perhaps today’s society needs a lot more “Mary Ann’s” and a few less “Ginger’s.”

Raised by a single mother is Reno, Nevada, Dawn Wells, a former Ms. America contestant, made her way to Hollywood in the late 1950’s where she appeared on TV programs such as Bonanza, Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip before taking the role of Kansas farm girl Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island in 1964.  Pretty, bright eyed and enthusiastic, the role made her a cultural icon.

In her new book “What Would Mary Ann Do?: A Guide to Life,” actress Dawn Wells is talking to girls about why they should be a “Mary Ann” instead of a “Ginger.”

Drawing from a combination of personal life events and plain common sense, Dawn Wells uses her famous role as a symbol in her new book to talk to modern girls about values and morals .  As she explains, it’s not about being a “goody two shoes” as much as making good decisions.  While “Gingers” may seem to have more fun, but “Mary Anns” are the ones who get married.

Dawn Wells has been touring North America with her new book and talking to girls from coast to coast, proving that there is still a lot that can be learned from Ginger and Mary Ann.  While on tour she took a moment to talk to me about how her own experiences helped shape this book and how Mary Ann has become a good pop culture role model for girls and women of all ages and generations.



I often find it difficult to create a yearly “best of” list for films because I always feel that I have yet to discover the hidden gems of the year due to the fact that I live in a city where the local cineplex bring in comic book movies, family films and rom-coms until the Oscar nominations come out.  2014 was a year where the films I anticipated the most disappointed me, and too many sequels bogged up the landscape.  However, that didn’t stop a few remarkable films from crossing my radar.  If you don’t see the films you loved the most this year please e-mail me your personal favorites at popcultureaddict@gmail.com so I can preview what you saw and loved.  I still think I have a lot yet to discover from 2014.


Richard Linkletter’s epic coming of age film, Boyhood, is potentially the most groundbreaking film in decades.  Experimental and highly original, it was an experiment that was doomed to fail but, miraculously, it didn’t. The result is a a beautiful time spanning journey through the life of a broken family unit.  Nothing like this has ever been filmed before.

The many faces of “Boyhood”star Ellar Coltrane from seven to eighteen. Twelve year in the making, “Boyhood” is the most intense coming of age film ever made. Watching the characters grow up before your eyes is incredible.

In 2002 Richard Linkletter began filming Boyhood and for the next twelve years, would bring his cast back together creating a natural time lapse which allows the audience to see the same people age and change within a three hour film.  Of course the most radical change perceived by the audience is that of the film’s young stars, most notably Ellar Coltrane as the film’s protagonist Mason.  Seven years old when the film began, the audience watches him grow and mature to the age of eighteen in front of their very eyes.  As time ebbs and flows through his emotional and physical journey, he is joined by Patricia Arquette as his bright but emotional mother who is prone to making poor relationship decisions, Ethan Hawke as his weekend father who the audience watches grow from loveable slacker to responsible family man, and newcomer Lorelei Linkletter (Richard Linkletter’s daughter), as Mason’s headstrong and often bossy older sister Samantha who, in the same way as Coltrane, ages from nine to twenty in front of the audience.

“Boyhood” isn’t just about the coming of age of one boy, but also how time affects a broken family unit played by (left to right) Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Libby Vallari and Lorelie Linkletter. Lorelie Linkletter also gives a remarkable performance as the audience watches her grow up from seven to twenty through the course of the film.

Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linkletter are incredible actors and it is amazing that Linkletter was able to keep them under the radar for so long.  With Boyhood being the darling of the Golden Globe’s, and with Oscar nominations written all over it, hopefully we’ll see both of the films’ young stars move into other roles within Hollywood.

Just like real life, the story seems to change focus and goes into different directions as time goes on.  Instead of being a story, it is more a character study of a sensitive and artistic boy, as well as his family unit.  The passage of time is the factor that makes the film so unique and is a testament to the creative passion of Linkletter and the devotion of his team.  Twelve years in the making, Boyhood is a triumph and it’s unlikely it could be done as successfully again, although I am sure that many copycat directors are about to try.  A true masterpiece in film, Boyhood is something truly original in an industry that often lacks originally.



Although many may argue that Gone Girl is nothing more than another formula thriller, I’d argue that it is a well pieced cat and mouse mystery filled with suspense, twists, turns, and surprises which, if he were still alive, Alfred Hitchcock would have filled himself.  Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, a bar owner in a small town who returns home on his anniversary to find his wife Amy, played by Rosemond Pike, is missing.  A minor celebrity, due to being used as the prototype for the main character in her parent’s popular children’s books, a media frenzy occurs with both the TV news and the police looking at Affleck as being the killer.  As the story of the couple’s past unfolds in flashbacks, Affleck is just smarmy enough to make the audience wonder if, just maybe, he did it.  But a mid-movie twist turns the whole thing on its head, which is preventing me from revealing much of anything at all.  Director David Fincher uses the advent of modern 24 hour news channels and combines it with yellow sensationalist journalism that dates back to William Randloph Heart.  The result goes beyond being a thriller but making the audience reexamine their relationship with news media. Gone Girl has its flaws, but it is one of the strongest thrillers in years and Pike and Affleck are terrific.  In fact, Affleck is so good that you almost thing that maybe….just maybe….he might be able to pull off Batman after all.  Maybe….


This great little Australian horror flick didn’t get a widespread release in North America, but has gained massive popularity due to it being included on so many “Best of 2014” lists, and rightfully so.  Writer/director Jennifer Kent creates a bizarre and truly frightening experience with her horror creation The Babadook.  Essie Davis stars as Amelia, the widowed mother of a troubles autistic boy Samuel, played by Noah Wiseman.  Pushed to the limit of a near nervous breakdown due to both her grief and the alienation that she receives due to her son’s erratic and often bizarre behavior, Amelia discovers a creepy children’s book called The Babadook left in her house.  The story of a “boogeyman” who lives in closets and under beds that come to take away little children, the book terrifies Samuel who begins to obsess about it, claiming that The Babadook is real and in their house.  First disregarding Samuel’s outburst as being part of his overactive imagination, Amelia begins to suspect something supernatural may be in her house after all.  Is there really a Babadook, or is she just going mad due to exhaustion and the demands of her unstable child?  A haunting film, The Babadook is stylishly filmed, especially a terrifying nightmare montage reflective of the style of silent horror director Benjamin Christensen.  Sure to please horror fans, the film adds elements of drama, pathos and its own horror as Amelia descends into madness due to her inability to cope with her own child.  An emotional and terrifying journey, I see sequel written all over this one.


For the most part, the American output of horror films was disappointing, with the films being either dull or idiotic.  The exception was John R. Leonetti’s Annabelle.  A prequel to the hit 2013 film The Conjuring, Annabelle tells the origins of Annabelle the haunted doll.  However, while The Conjuring is based on a true story from the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and while Annabelle is a real haunted doll that is owned by the couple, the origins of the doll are unknown.  Thus Leonetti relied on the imagination of Gary Dauberman to flesh on a fictional origin of the doll for this film.  But either fiction or fact, the film works.  Ward Horton and Annabelle Wallis play a young couple, Mia and John, whose home is invaded by Satanic cultists.  Pregnant with their first child, Mia barely survives the attack, but the cultists are killed by police.  However, in their wake, they have left something behind.  A vintage doll that John had bought for Mia which they named Anabelle is acting strangely, as if it now has a mind of its own.  Basic Hollywood popcorn thriller, Annabelle has some truly terrifying moments, and it will make you question ever bringing a doll into your home again.


Okay.  So everybody that ever saw Guardians of the Galaxy pretty much loves it.  It truly is the action/adventure film of the year.  But let’s be blunt about what’s really impressive about Guardians of the Galaxy.  As a comic books go, Guardians is truly a D list franchise.  Even Stan Lee himself admitted that he wasn’t sure who these characters were.  As someone who has been reading comic for thirty years, I can tell you that I have never read a book with the Guardians of the Galaxy in it.  However, due to expert casting, lovable characters, a witty script, some action, adventure and a lot of fun, Guardians of the Galaxy is now one of the most profitable comic book franchises in the world today.  Starlord, Groot and Rocket Raccoon are now household names and the film eclipsed classic heroes like Captain America, Spider-Man and The X-Men at the box office this summer.  But just because you’re popular doesn’t mean you’re good.  Well, Guardians of the Galaxy is that good.  Look – I am tired of the superhero film genre.  It’s over played, has become dull and repetitive and for the most part they just aren’t good movies.  I don’t want to see another comic book movie.  Truly I don’t.  But with that said, why am I on pins and needles waiting for a Guardians of the Galaxy film?  Because it’s just that good.  Perhaps other directors and producers will learn from Guardians and realize that dark and serious isn’t how you create a successful comic book movie.  You need to add a little element of fun into the mix too.  I am Groot!

Coming in 2015 – Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

What to Watch for in 2015 – Two words – Star Wars.  With George Lucas handing the reins to JJ Abrams Star Wars fans are finally going to get the sequels that they deserve.  There is no way on God’s green Earth that Abrams can screw the franchise up more than Lucas did with the ill-fated prequels.  With Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford back in the roles of Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, hopefully the bitter taste left in the mouths of fans worldwide can finally be cleansed.  Admit it – you got emotional when you saw the Millennium Falcon in the trailer.  I know I did.  Peanuts returns to the big screen for the first time since the death of Charles Schultz in a new computer animated full length feature.  With the Schultz estate hands on with the project, including Schultz’ son Bryan as one of the writers of the film, this could be a rejuvenation of a beloved comic franchise.  The previews shown thus far are delightful.  The Woman in Black 2 is coming, and it could go either way.  A brand new story based on Susan Hill’s ghostly character, the last film featuring the story was mediocre and lacked the subtlety of the original book, stage play and 1989 teleplay.  But it’s a favorite franchise of mine so it’ll be interesting to see which way it goes.  We’ll have to wait and see.  And speaking of horror franchises, Samara returns in Rings, a prequel to the popular The Ring films.  Little information has been released yet, but The Ring, as well as the original Ringu films from Japan, are amongst my favorites and I can’t wait for the creepy little well girl to return to the big screen.



Although the world came to love him in the role of Ralph Malph on “Happy Days,” Don Most has worn many hats as an entertainer working in television, theater, film and music.

Performance is something that runs through Don Most’s blood.  Throughout the past five decades it is something Don has proved again and again in each step he takes along the pop culture journey.  The world first got to know him as Donny Most in the role of Ralph Malph on the iconic 70’s sit-com Happy Days.  Under his red locks and through his freckled face, Don was the wise cracking member of the Happy Days gang.  One of the most successful television shows of all time, Don had his face on everything from action figures to animated programs where he and Anson “Potsie” Webber played sidekicks to Ron Howard’s character Richie Cunningham and hung out with Henry Winkler’s enigmatic character, The Fonz.  But when Don Most left Happy Days in 1980, marking the end of the classic era of the series, he often found himself sitting in the shadow of Ralph, preventing him from getting the kind of acting roles that he wanted.  As a result, Don Most had to reinvent himself and his career.  Between taking guest starring roles on favorites like Love Boat, CHIP’s, Murder She Wrote and Baywatch, Don turned to voice acting, heater and directing as a way to continue a career in show business.

Still maintaining a strong fan following from his role in “Happy Days,” Don Most has recently turning to music, bringing his revue “Singin’ and Swinging’” to jazz clubs across America as he performs some of the great standards of the American Songbook.

Although still recognized as Ralph Malph today, with time distancing himself from his Happy Days character, Don has been popping back on the pop culture radar again.  Recently taking a reoccurring role on Glee as Jayma Mays’ father, Rusty Pillsbury, Don has made appearances on Bones and Men of a Certain Age and appeared in the independent films Chez Upshaw and Campin’ Buddies.

Now Don is turning another corner in his career by putting his focus in a new surprising venture that has taken fans by surprise.  Don Most has put together his own musical night club act, Singin’ and Swingin’.  Backed his own band and performing some of the great jazz classics from the American song book, Don Most has been taking his act to clubs from New York to LA, singing the songs that he loves and getting a warm reception from audiences.  Catching Don on the road between gigs, Don revealed to me that while we think of him as an actor, he really entered show business through song as a teenager.  Music is still something that has a strong hold on his heart, and now he is bringing the music he loves to his fans.


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