Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bob Denver

Lately what I have had on my mind is Bob Denver and Dusty’s Trail. For those of you who have never seen this TV show it was really a western version of Gilligan’s Island. In his autobiography “Gilligan, Maynard & Me”, Mr. Denver admits that it was Gilligan goes west. Mr. Denver played Dusty the guide of a wagon train headed to California. Of course it turned out Dusty was a rotten guide and they were just going around in circles. Forrest Tucker was the Wagon Master. He was like the Skipper on a horse. Ivor Francis and Lynn Wood played Mr. & Mrs. Brookhaven the wealthy Howell types. Jeannine Riley played Lulu the saloon girl. She was something of a less glamorous Ginger. Lori Saunders was the Mary Ann of the show as the school teacher named Betsy and Bill Cort the Professor as the engineer named Andy. Ironically both Jeannine Riley and Lori Saunders had starred in Petticoat Junction in the 1960's. Miss. Riley was on it from 1963-1965 and Miss Saunders was from 1966 till the end of the series run. Dusty's Trail was shot on a syndicated budget since it was not on the network schedule. The humor was the same but the quality, and yes for the 60’s Gilligan’s Island was a very good quality show, was not. The chemistry between the actors is good but at times it seemed forced when compared to GI. Rumor has it that Forrest Tucker was half drunk when they shot the episodes. Only 26 of them aired in 1973 and then the show was seemingly forgotten.
One of Mr. Denver’s best memories from the show was the run bys. It meant that all of them had to run by the cameras in one shot. It was so huge they had to stop traffic on the lot and people came from all over to watch. Forrest Tucker rode out first then Bob. The stagecoach was next and finally the covered wagon. As the wagon came out one side Forrest Tucker has circled around and was re-entering on the other side. When the covered wagon was coming back in Mr. Tucker and Bob were coming out on the other side again.
Bob said the show was canceled as it was seen by few and disappeared. He said he hoped that it would be resurrected one day as some of the episodes were pretty funny. He is right. While it pale when compared to GI there were some funny moments. Unfortunately Mr. Denver is dead but I did find some of the episodes on DVD. You can get them if you click here. Also you can get some of the episodes edited together as a movie called the Wackiest Wagon Train in the West.
Bob Denver’s career in TV started out on a high note when he played Maynard in the Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. He was the break out character as he played Jughead to Dwayne Hickman’s Archie like character of Dobie. His next show was Gilligan’s Island when he was cast after Jerry Van Dyke turned down the part to star in My Mother the Car. GI was a big hit with kids and stayed on for three years but runs forever in syndication. Since then Mr. Denver had a hard time getting cast in anything that didn’t resemble Gilligan’s Island. Even as Maynard he was a little bit like a teenage Gilligan and Dobie like the Skipper. Except Gilligan didn’t mind working but Maynard worked hard to avoid working. Other people who stood next to him in the Skipper type of role were Herb Edelman on the Good Guys, the above mentioned Forrest Tucker, Chuck McCann on the live Saturday Morning show Far Out Space Nuts. That was sort of like Gilligan and the Skipper in space. Alan Hale Jr. played Skipper once more in the TV movies as well as on the two cartoon versions. One was the New Adventures of Gilligan which was a faithful transition of the show for Saturday morning audiences. Later they took them on another cartoon adventure to Gilligan’s Planet.
Mr. Denver was a good actor but never got to do any drama. The closest that he got was when he played himself on the comedy Evening Shade and gave a speech to the high school graduation class. He did make people laugh and was closely associated with two successful characters. That is pretty good for any actor.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Remembering Lennon

On December 8th 1980 John Lennon was leaving that morning to work in the studio. Just outside his front door he met a man who asked Lennon for an autograph. As always Lennon signed the album that he had. He asked the gentleman if that was all. The man said yes and John got in his limo and drove away. The autograph seeker was Mark Chapman and John narrowly escaped death. As we all know Chapman was there to kill John Lennon. That morning he had the gun with him but was having second thoughts. Later that day when Lennon came home Chapman changed his mind again and shot Mr. Lennon to death. A tragic ending to a musical life.
In the sixties Lennon and Paul McCartney were the songwriting talents behind the Beatles. Paul was the pop music showman with business sense. Lennon was the personality with the wit and some would say a brilliant madman. With McCartney’s business sense, Lennon headline grabbing antics on social issues and both of their talents in music the Beatles reigned over the music world for 10 years. They continued that reign as four individuals after the band broke up. While McCartney, Harrison and Starr all seemed to become just three more pop musicians, Lennon continued as the voice of his generation. He was always challenging the government. He did it so well that they tried to kick him out of the country.
Paul McCartney is my favorite of the Beatles. However, John was their leader who brought them all together and spearheaded the changes that came about in the 1960’s. Without realizing it John Lennon became a world leader and found out the hard way that he should weigh his words carefully and that actions really spoke louder then words. While most of the world may not agree with how John did things he did bring to light things that the public would not know about otherwise.
John died while coming out of five years of retirement from the music business. He said he heard some of the music that was being made back then and didn’t like the path pop music was taking. In true Lennon style he took an active part to show the younger generation the path they should be taking. Turn on top 40 radio today and you may think we still need someone like Mr. Lennon to lead us down the correct musical path.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Pledge of Allegiance.

In honor of our troops over seas and in memory of those who were at Pearl Harbor and the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 I am directing you to this site. It is where Red Skelton tells about the pledge of allegiance.

Justice League Spin Off From Smallville?

According to Comics Continuum there may be a Justice League spin-off from the hit show Smallville. My bet is that there will be a Green Arrow series but perhaps it will be the JLA. Click on the name or the title above to read the article.

Happy Anniversary to The Defenders

This month is the 35th anniversary of Marvel Comics super team The Defenders. They were first published in Marvel Feature #1 in December of 1971. They were billed as a non-group. The super team book for people who hate super team books. That last statement never made much sense to me but that is one way they were billed. While my heart for super teams belongs to the JLA and the Avengers I have a feeling if I were a superhero I would be more at home in the Defenders. When I was in high school I never fit in with jocks as I never cared much for sports. I tried out for football and basketball teams only because my friends did and it was something to do. I didn’t have the heart for sports and it showed so I never made the teams. I was asked to be the manager of our freshman basketball team. I guess Coach Davis figured since I was tall I would get better and make the team next year. However, I didn't even try out for the team after my Freshman year. Now in my school the more popular kids were the smart kids. While I was never dumb, it would have been a closer fit to be in this clique. But they were also more into partying then I was and therefore I really didn't fit into that group either. The group I wound up fitting into more was sort of a non-group like the Defenders. The guys and girls I ate lunch with and hung out with after school for a year or two were the ones who didn’t fit into the above mentioned cliques. As a result most of their personalities were close matches to mine at that time in my life. That is why I think I would have fit better into the Defenders. Namor and Hulk proved they would never fit into Fantastic Four or the Avengers. With Dr. Strange and company they were considered welcome additions. Like my group in school they welcomed any new members. Membership was very fluid in the Defenders.
It started with Dr. Strange, Namor and Hulk joining to fight a common evil. They agreed to a loose knit friendship and to join each other when ever called to fight evil. As time went on it seemed like almost every character in the Marvel universe had been a Defender at some point in their careers. When you ask two fans who the line up of the Defenders were you won’t get the same answer between them. They almost will certainly say Dr. Strange, Hulk and Sub-Mariner but the rest of the group is up for grabs. For me the others are Nighthawk and Valkyrie. The rest of the line up over the years was Silver Surfer, Hellcat, Luke Cage, Cela, Moondragon and others. By the time issue 152 came around the ride was over and the book was canceled. When the series ended even the three mainstays were gone. It’s members at the end were Valkyrie, Angel, Beast, Iceman and Gargoyle. The membership now made the book look like it was a spin off of the X-Men.
There seems to be renewed interest in The Defenders. In the past few years there have been new mini-series based on the group. I tried them but the fun was no longer there for me. It is nice to know they are fondly remember by others and I hope for new comic book fans they will be back on a regular basis. Till then you can buy the Essential Defenders and go to this Defenders message board.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Hey remember seeing these advertised in Marvel Comics. They were self portraits of the artist who worked on the comic books that we all loved so much. I remember seeing this one of John Romita Sr. and couldn’t help but notice he drew himself to look like Peter Parker. Years later I saw a photo of John Romita Jr. and he must look like his Father because he looked like a real life Peter Parker. The first time I remember seeing this one and other of Kirby and Trimpe was when I was part of the Merry Marvel Marching Society. It was in catalogue that they mailed out to the members. I was about 6 or 7 at the time and couldn’t afford to buy anything from the book but I loved getting it. It felt like I was seeing something before the rest of the world got a look at it. To see the creators surrounded by all of the characters they created each month was fascinating. I imagined that was the way it really felt when they were working with well defined characters. This drawing brings fond memories to me and I hope it does to you too.

Monday, December 04, 2006


This book brings the Spirit into modern times as he and Batman meet for the first time. They team up to get their friends Commissioner Gordon and Commissioner Dolan out of trouble. In order to properly view this book I had to try and ignore my memories of the Will Eisner stories. Those stories may have taken place in the 1940’s but they were so well done that they still stand up in todays market. The real star of the book was The Spirit not Batman. You could have teamed him up with Hourman and gotten the same reaction.
With the updating nothing had to change. Ellen still pines away for The Spirit. The Spirit still live underground in the graveyard and Dolan still keeps The Spirit’s secret. I’ve always wondered how much of a secret it could be when he goes out in the daytime. The idea to update The Spirit was given the thumbs up sign by Mr. Eisner before he passed away. So I am sure that he would be happy with the way the art turned out. It is almost as good as Eisner’s but not nearly as close as when Kitchen Sink produced new stories based on The Spirit. One aspect that I am glad to see the artist kept in was the inventive way he used the Spirit’s name on one of the splash pages. That was one of Eisner’s signatures on the series. In this one the Spirit falls from the top of a building and the letter from the sign that fall with him spell out Spirit as they fall to the ground.
As you can see it was impossible for me to ignore memories of Eisner’s version. However, I did enjoy reading this book. It was well written and drawn and I can’t wait for the new series to come out later this month. I just hope they don’t turn Ebony into a computer whiz.
If you want to buy it you can go to it's auction site by clicking on the title above.