Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The ghoul goes west, part two.

Well, ol' Uncle Forry is officially on his way.

Westward Fo'.

In two fair-sized but otherwise unassuming boxes, he is heading (get it?) to Burbank, CA. as you read this, unless you're reading after 2 pm PDT Friday because in that case it's already there and you are sort of time traveling now. Send me some racing forms.

To be more accurate, it's going to Northridge, CA., then to Burbank. Just so we're all clear.

I tried as best I could to pack tightly, durably, and with enough foam, packing peanuts and bubble wrap to make a fall from a fifth story window feel like a gentle recline on a feather bed.

I hope.

Nothing I can do now but wait to hear from the receiver...

Of course, you have to take precautions when you're packing up an animatronic talking skull that's supposed to look like a dead Forrest Ackerman but often looks like Vincent Price and in a parcel inspector's x-ray machine might at this moment look surprisingly like Del Moore after a long bender.

I wonder what all those parcel-post-mail people make of this sort of thing...

(Berni Wrightson artwork for the mail pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine)

It's not that I'm worried about anyone thinking it's a real skull or anything so unlikely (and stupid). It's more about the box of wires, metal tubes, servos, power supplies and batteries... I placed a giant note, quite readable by their x-ray machines, atop the mess just before I taped it shut:


I then placed a note in the second box:


Just trying to cover all the bases. I'd hate to have them tear open something and then not be able to put it back right because I really used every square millimeter of space.

And it still cost me $13,732.97 to ship. I suppose I didn't need to insure it for half a million dollars, but paranoia strikes deep.

At any rate, it will be awaiting my arrival the day before MONSTERPALOOZA opens, and then... well, I'll cross that particular creaking, treacherous suspension bridge when I get to it.

I am very excited, very nervous and completely baffled that just a week or so ago I had been planning to stay home this year.

Now I'm boxing up and sending one of my Hallowe'en hobby creations to what amounts to a three day museum exhibit to be displayed alongside the work of the best and brightest in the business, to be seen and enjoyed by the best and brightest in the business, all the while sitting among personal items from the Ackermonster himself.

I'm so there.

Who says traveling's never any fun...?

DDSP, everyone!

New tunes coming for April... but as it's still March:


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Even the Great Pumpkin is voting for...

Now, I know I've mentioned before that when it comes to appropriate topics for pub talk here at the Skull & Pumpkin, we hold fast to the mid-20th Century wisdom of one Linus Van Pelt:
"There are three things I've learned never to discuss with people -- religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin!"
However, in the case of this entire blog, we always exempt the last subject (there'd be no S&P, heck, no Hallowe'en, without the ol' Orange Gourd Overlord!)... and in the case of this post, I am exempting politics.

Well... okay, not really. This has absolutely nothing to do with politics in any manner whatsoever. I was just gunning for a way to get into the subject in some witty way.

I got to type 'ol' Orange Gourd Overlord', anyway.

Okay, listen up pubgoers -- this is the final week to cast your ballot for the


These purely-fan-driven Horror Awards were begun in 2002, the idea of David Colton and Kerry Gammill at the Classic Horror Film Board. They have no commercial sponsor, and any Horror lover can propose nominees and decide who gets one of these beauties, sculpted by Kerry Gammill (and cast by Tim Lindsey)...

... named, of course, in honor of one of the most iconic-yet-unsung 'heavies' in B-movie history, the acromegalic Rondo Hatton:

So... I want all of you to go here for the whole Rondo Awards story, and especially to copy/paste this year's ballot and submit it by the end of the week!

But I have another reason for begging your favor.

There's this buddy of mine, Max... another Hallowe'en and Horror nut who also happens to be a drunken severed head -- here he is with an old girlfriend:

Max here is nominated for TWO (2) Rondos this year.

Nomination #1 is for Best Blog

Now I suppose it's fair to ask "Is it in fact the best blog?", but then I'd have to say "Of course not, silly, that would be the ol' Skull & Pumpkin. What a stupid question."

BUT given that the Skull & Pumpkin truly resides in a realm far removed from mere awards, I am quite certain that of all the blogs actually on the ballot, you can't do better than Max's Drunken Severed Head blog. Seriously, please vote for him, would you?

Nomination # 2 is for Best Article.

Max wrote a tremendous (and tremendously loving) article for the June 2009 issue of Scarlet, The Film Magazine in posthumous tribute to one of the greatest artists in the genre, the late and very missed Linda 'Meek' Miller.
You can read the article and Max's annotations here.

Here's a sample of her incredible artistry:
I borrowed this image from artist Frank Deitz's Sketchy Things blog.

Linda passed in 2008 at a far too youthful age, and was one of the nicest, quirkiest, funniest ladies you could have ever known, and that was before you ever knew she was an incredibly gifted artist. Her hyper-realistic renderings of the classic icons of the Golden Age of Horror Film are finally being noticed by Horror fandom at large;  Max's article, along with his many tributes to her memory and her art at conventions and on the Web, are almost wholly responsible for the recognition her work is, at long last, beginning to enjoy.

Max's article is, in my estimation, the Best Article of the year without a doubt. I'm sure my brief but very fun and inspiring friendship with Linda 'Meek' Miller through the Universal Monster Army colors my view, but I sincerely cast this vote in Linda's natural Black & White. 
Won't you go vote for Max's blog and article in this year's Rondos?

I'm the proprietor of the Skull & Pumpkin and I approve this message.

O' ZOM-beeee!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The ghoul goes west, part one.

Sorry to have been away, but I know you can help yourselves and keep the place (relatively) clean and pub-like.
But I've been involved in some musical/recording work, a few voice-over sessions (more to come about that, very monstery-fun!) and now another very neat 'happenin'.

This is so cool.

I've just gotten off the phone with a kind fella named Eliot Brodsky who happens to own/run/organize a 'little' classic horror convention in Burbank known as MONSTERPALOOZA, which for 2010 is coming up in just a few weeks.

Click the name, go to the site, and understand that this massive convention was a huge success last year (I had a blast!), exhibiting some of the finest Hallowe'en and horror artists in the world, as well as the greatest make-up artists and mask makers (and collectors!) of the age.

Well, Eliot happens to be a fellow soldier in the Universal Monster Army (enlist now!) and recently happened upon pictures and video I'd posted there last Fall to display my dear, devilish Uncle Forry...

 ... and Eliot thought it would be a neat idea to have me come out to MONSTERPALOOZA with my Forry animated skull to display in the Forrest J Ackerman section of this year's monster Museum! 

He will be on display the entire weekend, amidst some of the real Uncle Forry's personal items and memorabilia, provided by Mr. Ackerman's long-time personal assistant Joe Moe. According to Eliot, Joe loves the idea and believes that Forry would have gotten a big chuckle out of my skeletal version of him.

I am so excited -- it will be a real thrill to be a part of such a fun and fine tribute to the late, great, pioneering hero of Horror and Sci-Fi (he coined the term!) fandom.

So, the Ghoul is going west. For a weekend.

I am now spending some serious time making sure he will work as reliably as I can make him work, and I will need to pack him very well and ship him out ahead (ba-dump-bump!) of time with all of his power supplies and so on. This all sort of spun up just in the last week so my head is swimming a bit.

Boy! I figured I'd just made him for a hobby project to run on Hallowe'en nights... and now this?
I'm so happy that I can extend the tribute to the people who really knew the man, and that I can give a little Hallowe'en Forry to the classic horror lovers attending the convention.

An honor, and a very high point for the Skull & Pumpkin.

Now pacing, praying that everything stays bolted, wired and running right!

This is one hell of an audience.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

What's that up there? (part three)

Oh that?

That tiny thing next to the register?

That, my friend, is a peculiar little treasure, one I had for years before I knew anything of its background.

It's called a Popsie:

Made in Japan by Pride Creations in the early '60s, these guys were designed by Rolly Crump.

This Rolly Crump. 

One of the first and surely the most unique of the legendary Disney Imagineers, Crump was a key designer for the look and effects of the Haunted Mansion, the Enchanted Tiki Room, the Adventureland Bazaar, and likely his most popular and best known design, the incredible clock and facade for It's A Small World. Few people who ooh and aaah at his work know the name of the artist who has just moved them so.

These little figures are also called Push-Down Popsies, because when you push them down...

... a little tombstone-shaped, irreverent message pops out of the figure's head!

In this case, it's like a little voodoo doll, a fetish figure, and I keep one of the needles in that message so that it doesn't retract back into his head. 

When I found this little guy at a junk shop some 12 years ago, I had no idea what it was. I'd never heard of the product line, and had certainly never seen one, and therefore had no idea it was associated in any way with Rolly Crump, one of my heroes.

Then again, I did see it from quite some distance, ran over to the shelf and grabbed it knowing it was a rockin' design, so the Crump influence must have been showing even if I was ignorant of it.

It was sitting on the shelf with the message retracted, and when I picked it up, I noticed the feet kind of bouncing, and knew I had to push down... and I fell in love with the odd little thing. I think I paid fifty cents for it, maybe seventy-five.

According to a number of collectors, there were some 175 or so different designs in this line. Some devils, bats, Frankenstein-type monsters (looking quite a lot like this fella) can be seen here and here.

Rolly Crump is still alive, still creating, still inspiring others to create.

I also recently had a collector tell me that the less-than-a-buck I paid, even a dozen years ago, was a pretty absurd little price -- apparently these guys are quite collectable.

As I began this post, I went looking for images of other Popsies, and now I'm very much afraid that I have a new obsession brewing.

Golly, Rolly... I think you deserve a lolly. Prol'ly.

Thinking of you...


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Starin' o the green.


A foine, foine day to be in a pub, aye?

And let's not be forgettin' that the Irish, upon coming to America, are most responsible for giving us Hallowe'en as we know it.

Ireland and All Hallow's -- it's almost like you can't remove the one from the other...


... and it might be exceedingly dangerous to try...

I found him! O'ZOM-BEEEE!

Happy Feast of Saint Patrick, dear S&P patrons; green-dyed libation on the house!

And Happy Birthday, Julie.


Monday, March 15, 2010

OH, and looky here, Donkey...

In the words of loyal S&P patron Miranda, who sent me this image:


The search for the Skull & Pumpkin's Easter Slogan is over.

Thank you Miranda.


Not that anyone was worried...

... but I feel like I've been away far too long.

An empty pub doesn't make for much excitement, does it?

I've been into other silliness elsewhere -- and a few of the features I've been planning are being held up a bit because of it. Makes me feel cold...

Of course, that doesn't mean you can't visit; our house is yours, you all know that. There are things you've probably not read or seen or heard still crouching in the shadows, lingering in hallways, hiding in the dark behind a candle flame.

Come haunt and hang. I reserve the blood red ruby port for myself, but every other bottle is fair game, and on the house until I return. 
(I'm pretty generous with the make-believe hootch, ain't I?)

Anyway, I hope you are all well and making ready for Spring to... uh, spring

We'll have a fine evening here for the Feast of St. Patrick, though with a decidedly All Hallowed's twist...


Friday, March 12, 2010

Just had to note...

... that this post is actually visit number twelve-thousand, three hundred and forty-five.

As in 12345.

HAH! I thought it was funny.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

What's that up there? (part two)

Yeah, I see you staring.
I was wondering when you were going to ask.

One of the stranger (and therefore cooler) bits of old school Hallowe'en detritus adorning the walls of this humble homely house:

I can't recall precisely when I found this, but it's been in the collection for many years. Neither do I recall exactly where I found it (one of a half dozen flea markets in my neck of the woods, no doubt) but I recall seeing the edge of it poking out behind a stack of LPs and thinking Score! Vintage Hallowe'en paper! but when I pulled it free it became part of a bizarre mixing of worlds for me.

Now, Linus had some good advice about the "three things never to discuss with people -- religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin!" Well, here at the S&P we discuss the latter all the time, but we do have a fairly strict policy about avoiding the first two; you know how pubs can get.

But in this case, I'm just having fun with Americana.

For some reason I can't seem to find out the election year for which this door hanger was made ('68 or '72), but about the message of the piece there can be no doubt -- the Great Pumpkin is a Nixon supporter.

Well... forgetting for the moment that there is nothing at all Republican about free handouts, the big laugh for me is that the greatest core tenet of the Great Pumpkin mythos is the utter sincerity of the pumpkin patch from which he rises. Yet somehow when I think Nixon-Agnew, 'sincerity' is not the first thing that comes to mind.

On the other hand, Nixon and 'pumpkin paper' do have a shared past so maybe it's not too big a stretch after all.

At any rate, one of my favorite pieces -- one heck of a fine piece of Americana and old school Hallowe'en, and a fairly rare one that doesn't have the name of a local political organization inked around the handle (and the perfectly intact handle is rarer still).

Now... aren't you glad you asked?


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Random picture #267

Old Bats.
Like Ralph Cramden's Mother In-Law.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Better late than never.

I thought I heard the doors rattling... glad you're here! I'm trying a little experiment.

See, I have been trying for a month now to somehow post a slideshow of an old book, but a slideshow that you, the viewer, can control on your own, and which (being a book) would be readable, legible, given the size of the post area on the average blog.

The book? Oh, it's that great '70s handbook for Monster Kids, Movie Monsters!
Published by (who else?) Scholastic Books in 1975,  it was the brainchild of one Alan Ormsby -- writer/actor (Deathdream, Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things), and Monster Kid extraordinaire. Ray Prohaska did all the fabulous and long-studied illustrations.

Alan Ormsby, by the by, also concocted the terrifying master-of-disguise puppet toy Hugo: Man Of A Thousand Faces:

For this act alone, Mr. Ormsby is worthy of many, many salaams.

The book was a staple for Hallowe'en and Horror Lovin' Kids in the '70s, and contains great images and short histories of the most famous of the Famous Monsters...


 ... an invaluable section on making your own incredible Monster Make-Ups...


 ... not just for the Guys but the Ladies, too...

 ... and even a short stage play to produce in your own livingroom, auditorium, or uncle's barn you can turn into a theatre...


There are also some very fun effects tricks in this playlet which are explained afterward...

This was a classic, inspiring book for young October Folk like me. 

So now, this slideshow thing... see, I have a nice but somewhat brittle copy of this book, which was a gift from a buddy, too... and I really didn't want to press it into a scanner, so I took pictures instead. Tripod, bright enough light, they came out quite fine (for not being scanned). 

The thing is I now have the entire book viewable, readable, on my hard drive. 

Others have written about this book, and I really can't add anything new to the praise; I just thought being able to have the whole long-out-of-print book available online somewhere would be really nice for Monster Kids and Hallowe'en Lovers (the make-up ideas are still very relevant and eminently usable with success for your own kids!)...

So go here to see a slideshow I've made of the entire book. Each page break can be paused, and enlarged, for perusing at your leisure -- hopefully I have the pages in the right order. Also, the slideshow should be public, and you should have no password prompt to view it.

Ah, I hope this works. But whether it does or doesn't, please inform me.  I don't like to experiment too often. Well, not on loyal guests, at any rate...

... that thing on the slab down in the basement is another story.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March-ial music.

A new month, a new jukebox.

Well, mostly new.

In honor of March, St. Patrick's Day and the Irish (things which are always good for a pub), I have given the S&P's jukebox a bit of a green spotlight...

After all, a pub needs real pub music every so often!

Certainly, we always begin with the Great Pumpkin Waltz, our official theme song... but then we are immediately treated to an atmospheric fusion of Celtic and classical with Something Of Time, a haunting 1989 release from Nightnoise.

Next, a set of Irish reels performed by The Chief Tones: Kilmalie, The Mountain Road, and the one which got them invited to the S&P jukebox, The Star Of Munster!

Then I have decided to bring back a piece I had playing when this jukebox was first installed in the ol' place -- Near Northern, a 1986 foot stomper in the jazzy 'newgrass' tradition by the Anger-Higbie Quintet. An absolute favorite which I am happy to return to the playlist.

Hhmmm... Green, Irish, Hallowe'en... ah! Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. You didn't know she had Irish blood in her? Read the book Wicked... it's quite true.
Here, from the musical, Elphaba sings with Galinda about destiny, friendship and change, and sweeps up a turning point in both of their lives by finally, at long last, Defying Gravity.

Continuing our little tribute to the Emerald Isle, I thought some good ol' fashioned pub fiddle was in order; Jerry Holland answered the call, and has graced us with a set of three fine pieces -- The Dandy, The Black Rogue, and Lakeview Drive. Pub tunes, played brilliantly.

I have left Pumpkintime where it is, because... well, just because I did. It's part of the landscape, the wood and tombstones now.

Lastly, an odd choice, but one I am proud to offer.

Named after a fine, Irish-blooded cornetist, Pete Kelly's Blues is the titular song from the Jack Webb film from 1955. I imagine that this would be just the kind of thing we'd be hearing all the time in this pub if we were a bit more of a jazz club and we were somehow taken back to the days of the Volstead Act, Kansas City gangsters and bar room jazz bands.

And on a more personal note, the lead trumpet on this recording (mimed by Webb himself in the title role of bandleader Pete Kelly) is actually a lifelong friend of Webb's -- my father, Dick Cathcart.

I tried to find a picture of him 'wearin' the green' on the Welk bandstand but no luck... I know it exists. One of these days...

Well. There it is. Some Irish music for the Irish month. 

Heck, if it weren't for the Irish, I doubt we would have Hallowe'en the way we've known it for many generations. Being a Hallowe'en Fanatic and an 'Ulster-Scot' myself, with my ancestors having left Cathcart in Scotland to live and scatter throughout County Antrim (Northern Ireland) before coming to America, I have always felt a strong bond with things Irish. 

Just tippin' me brim to 'em fer the toime beein'.

Thank you, Ireland, for bringing to the table so much that makes our living a little more fun, sentimental, and honest.