Category Archives: television

“Bob Wilkins Blazed Trails and Helped Introduce Anime to the U.S. and Made Creature Features an Institution”

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“Bob Wilkins Blazed Trails and Helped Introduce Anime to the U.S. and Made Creature Features an Institution”

I write this in memory of the great Bob Wilkins who was the host of a Sacramento and San Francisco Bay Area television institution, Creature Features.  Most areas in the country had shows like this but none were as influential as the great Bob Wilkins version.  He had a massive following which included fans like Tom Hanks, George Lucas, & Vincent Price who he would occasionally interview.  It was shown on Saturday nights after the news.

Creature Features was created by Bob and it was originally shown in Sacramento KCRA television, until he was wooed over to San Francisco’s KTVU in 1971.  KTVU was a hip station that liked to try new and different things and the match was made in heaven.  Every 70’s and 80’s kid loved it and creature feature reruns were very popular in the 80’s and 90’s.

Bob Wilkins Interview with William Shatner

Creature Features on KTVU regularly had higher ratings in the bay area than the wildly popular Saturday Night Live which was in its heyday.  In time, Mr. Wilkins was credited with introducing Anime to the US television and movie viewer, showing things like Ultraman and other Japanese productions.  He was famous for his Godzilla and monster movie genre that he liked to show as well, along with Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robots.

The other networks laughed when Bob started showing the Original Flash Gordon series from the 1930’s in between the movies and he even showed the first Batman Series from the 1920’s called the Bat-Man or Dark Knight which was actually silent.  From Ed Wood movies to campy horror films, Bob would fearlessly show them all and his eager audience gobbled it up like freshly buttered movie popcorn.

Bob’s famous saying was, “Watch Horror films; keep America Strong!”  The funny thing was every nutcase would call Bob.  Many people claiming to be zombies, witches, warlocks and even a vampire would contact Bob.

A man claiming to be a real life Vampire once called him at the station and asked if he could be interviewed.  Bob agreed and told him to meet him at the studio the next day at 2 pm.  The vampire agreed.  Bob said, “Aha!  I’m not going to interview you.  How is it that you are a vampire and you want to meet in the middle of the day?”

Bob also would “warn” his fans if there was a bad movie.  In the promo’s for some of the bad movies he showed, he would literally say, “get some sleep tonight and don’t stay up late and watch our movie.  We have a real schlocker (bad) of a movie tonight with Billy the Kid versus Dracula.”  He would hold up signs showing the ratings of the bad movies with the letters PU.  Of course the more he ripped on the movie, the more viewers had to watch.  After the end of Jessie James meets Frankenstein’s daughter, he wiped tears from his eyes saying, “There isn’t a dry eye in the studio; that was a real tear jerker; or the worst movie ever seen on television!”

Bob’s sarcasm was way before it’s time, and he would show films that no station in their right mind would run.  Classics like Ed Wood’s Planet 9 From Outer Space and the Japanese cult classic, Attack of the Mushroom People were fan favorites.  Attack of the Mushroom people was barely released in the U.S. and he gained many Japanese movie fans for showing it.

Bob once said the movies were getting so bad that he was going to quit and start an ant farm which had more of a future.  He would also threaten to quit unless people stopped watching.  Of course the ratings went through the roof.

Bob was soon at every convention and gathering and was adored by his fans.  His big cigar and soft spoken, humble nature made him even more loved.  His wit was dry and he was always the coolest guy in the room.

Creature Features also had great movies in between the “schlockers”.  The amazing Planet of the Apes movies, Night of the Living Dead, The Fog, Vincent Price’s House of Wax and so many others were great films.  Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts was a huge hit as well.  He was the first person to give Trekkie news before it was a term and the fans listened intensely with Spock ears fully opened.

If you get a chance, look him up on Youtube.  He was a great interviewer and people called it a badge of honor to sit with Bob on Saturday nights.  He interviewed the likes of Vincent Price, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ray Harryhausen, and Christopher Lee just to name a few.

Wilkins was so popular that the 10 o’clock news on KTVU begged him to be their weatherman.  He did so but quit after 2 years saying he was kind of bored of it and it didn’t give him the freedom he wanted.  He did win an Emmy though due to a stunt he did when he was bored.

He did a ski report from South Lake Tahoe and put in footage of James Bonds skiing scene from the movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service without telling management. The newscasters could not stop laughing and the station couldn’t keep up with the phone calls of people saying how much they loved it.  The news at that time was very dry and straight forward on other networks but it was never a dull moment with him around.

Creature Features was the first television show to ever show the original movie “Night of the Living Dead” and John Carpenter’s classic “The Fog” on television.  KTVU got clearance to show Night of the Living Dead at the delight of the loyal bay area audience.  It was actually filmed in the bay area and it used regular people as extra’s. The movie is a total classic.  It had come out in theaters 3 years earlier and it was unheard of to have a movie shown on television that quickly.

Bob was a loyal guy to the local sports teams and KTVU had a real bias towards the Oakland Raiders.  He also wouldn’t be above giving a jab or two or ripping on a Raider opponent when the Raiders won, which was most of the time.

Bob’s last bay area Creature Features show was in 1987 when he came back to show The Fog.  It was like old times when Wilkins was given a piece of paper in the middle of the show saying that President Reagan had a really important message to give to the people of America and that it was directly from the White House.  Of course it was about 12:30 am in the morning and Reagan was probably either sleeping or on vacation somewhere.

It ended up being a commercial Reagan did years ago for Boraxo hand cleaner.  It was during the Iran Contra scandal, and after Reagan washed his hands and the commercial ended, Wilkins thanked the president for this important message commenting that it was the first time President Reagan had come clean about anything all year!

Bob also did a daytime show called Captain Planet geared towards kids and the Star Wars craze.  He dressed up in a space suit type outfit with his trusty side kick robot 2T2.

Bob launched even more Anime productions with the hugely popular Ultraman series, and even showed the kids the old serials like Flash Gordon.  He liked to show Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.  After two years he ended the show because he literally did everything he wanted to do.

Sadly on January 7, 2009 it was announced that at the age of 76, Bob Wilkins had passed away quietly in Reno, NV from complications of Alzheimer’s.  It ended the life of one of the most beloved men in bay area entertainment history.

Thank you Bob for all you did.  My dad worked hard and he used to work nights and it was a Saturday night ritual to mingle with him while he got ready for work during the start of Creature Features.

My mom and I had great memories of staying up late watching the good and bad movies late on Saturday nights right before he left.  A snack, Creature Features and Bob Wilkins was a guilty pleasure that even today makes me smile.  Rest in Peace my friend.  The joy you gave others will never be forgotten, and always be treasured.

“Potion of Motion” amazing & easy alcoholic & non-alcoholic punch

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Potion of Motion” 

My love for champagne is of legend and this is a great and tasty drink that is amazing for parties.  I still love it straight but this is a great summer drink for home parties or barbecues!

Ingredients:

-Drinkable bottle or bottles of brut champagne depending on how many people are drinking.

-for one part of the juices you can use cherry, pomegranate, cranberry, guava, mango, orange, grapefruit, or any other juice that you’d like.

-large can of pineapple juice

-tall glasses filled with ice

-sliced fruit of your choice

Directions:

Put as much ice as you’d like in a tall glass.  (per your taste) Add 1 to 1/2 ounces of pineapple juice. Then add 1 to 1 1/2 ounces of your favorite (or exotic) fruit juice (look above).  Fill the rest of the glass with champagne.  Enjoy!!

Tips:

-Add exotic fruit juices for a unique and great flavor.

-put all of the juices and sliced fruit on a side table.  Put the chilled juices and champagne on ice next to it and let your guests serve themselves.

-Use sparkling water instead of champagne for the kids.  Don’t leave them out of the fun!

Awesome!!

“Summer Ginger Splash” drink recipe

 

 

 

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Summer Ginger Splash” 

For a refreshing and unique twist try this great drink.  I like adding maraschino cherries and a slice of lime or lemon.  Add a zest of fresh ginger on top of each glass and you are in heaven!

Ingredients:

-fresh mint leaves (add 1 tbsp. of mint per glass; more or less per your taste)
-1 cup cherry juice, OR cranberry juice, OR pomegranate juice OR Guava, OR Peach, etc….
 

-4 tablespoons lime juice
-3 cups ginger ale

*add a tbsp of sugar if you are using pomegranate juice

Directions
Add the desired amount of mint to each glass. Mash the mint with the back of a wooden spoon or crusher. In a large pitcher, add the cherry and lime juices. Stir. Add the ginger ale. You can either fill the glasses with ice or the pitcher with ice.  Pour into glasses, and garnish with any fruit you like.  Place fruit on a tray and let your guests choose!

TIPS:

****For garnish, after pouring into glasses put a thin slice or a small mince of fresh ginger on top of each glass.  I like it with a slice of lime and maraschino cherries as well!

-Slice up various amounts of fruit.  Peel oranges or grapefruit and cut into slices or chunks,  Use cherries, mango, lychee, blackberry, blueberry.  Use your imagination!

Yield: 4 servings  Enjoy!!

 

“In 3 Minutes the Two Most Famous Goals in World Cup History Shocked the Soccer World”

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While Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi rule the soccer world today, if you were to ask historians who the greatest soccer player of all time is, you would probably get two answers.  For many, the majestic and magical Pele’ may be their answer. To others though it would be the great Diego Maradona.  While in today’s soccer world athleticism and speed is a huge tool for players like Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, Pele’ and Maradona used their ball handling skills and imagination to delight the world of soccer. They were more than soccer greats, they were artists.

The 1986 World Cup quarterfinal in Mexico between Argentina and England had a deep rooted meaning of anger and bitterness. In 1982 the Falkland War between Argentina and the UK had begun.   It was a 3 month war that created extreme friction between the two countries. This game meant so much to both teams.

Maradona had electrified crowds with his vision, cunning, and amazing ball handling and playmaking skills.   Listed at 5′ 7″ tall, in reality he was only 5′ 5″ tall but he had a strong, stocky build with muscular legs. He led Argentina into the quarterfinals with dominating expertise on the pitch.

The talented England squad had a lot of expectations. They had their only World Cup win in 1966 when they were the host country. England and Argentina were both soccer crazy countries and if you add the Falkland War into the mix, this game meant much more than a World Cup semi final birth.

On June 22, 1986, Estadio Azteca in Mexico City was magical. The place was rocking with an amazing 105,000 people jammed into the stadium. Chants, songs, and every noise device known on earth were in full effect from the fans. On a warm, sunny day the electricity in the crowd along with all the beautiful colors would create a once in a lifetime experience.   Half Wizard of Oz, half religious experience, this game would be one for the ages.

The first half was a feeling out period for the most part. Both sides being wary of the scoring talents of the other. England’s star Gary Lineker was watched closely by Argentina. Lineker would later win the Golden Shoe award for the highest scorer in the World Cup.

In the second half Argentina came out more aggressive. In the 51st minute, Maradona went on one of his patented drives.   As he entered the goal box, he attempted a give and go move to his teammate. The English defender intercepted the pass but kicked the ball toward the English goalie. Maradona; who had kept going in the hopes of getting a return pass; jumped up in front of the goalie and hit the ball. GOAL!   But was it? The England team protested wildly saying that he had hit the ball with his hand. The referee said he did not see that and allowed the goal.

Later when he was interviewed and asked about the goal, the Argentine star said that the goal was scored, “A bit with the head of Maradona and another bit with the hand of God”. From then on in sports lore, this goal was known as the “Hand of God” goal.

Diego Maradona had just started. Three minutes later he took a simple pass on Argentina’s side of the field. Maradona then took off like a jet and dribbled through 5 English defenders and went the length of the field. English goal keeper Peter Shilton could do nothing as a rocket shot went past him. The Argentina crowd went crazy and the stadium was electrified. Famous Spanish Speaking announcer from Argentina, Victor Hugo Morales, was going nuts actually thanking God for seeing such a goal. Immediately people knew they had seen something special. In 2002 FIFA and the soccer world voted this goal as the goal of the century and the greatest goal ever scored.

Argentina was up 2-0 now but England was not going to go away quietly. At the 70th minute England substituted in John Barnes.   Immediately his energy and passing skills changed everything. Barnes began to pound the goal area with crosses. England looked like a different team and in the 81st minute a cross was put in the goal by Lineker. It wasn’t over yet. At the 87th minute with the crowd on their feet, another great Barnes cross was sent over the middle to an open Lineker but it was inches out of his reach. A few minutes later the crowd roared when the three whistles of the referee marked the end of the game. The game meant so much that many in Argentina felt this was partial revenge for the bitter military conflict between the two countries.

After the game the media and the soccer world was buzzing. People knew they had seen something special, and the charismatic Maradona fueled that fire on and off the field.

To this day Maradona is celebrated by most fans, especially in Argentina where he has icon status. For Americans to understand what a star Maradona is; especially during his heyday; think Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth; COMBINED. And that isn’t an overstatement.

Some fans though are also disappointed and embarrassed by his lifestyle and mistakes.   He was suspended for 15 months in the Italian league in 1991 when he tested positive for cocaine and he was also sent home from the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. for testing positive for stimulants. He owes millions in back taxes in Italy and has had more than a few run ins with the law, the press, and even soccer officials in his own country.

For all the turmoil Maradona has created in his life, the 1986 World Cup will always be his shining moment.  To this day just the sound of his name brings back great memories to Argentina and the soccer world. And in a 3 minute span, he created sports history that will be talked about forever.

 

 

After 41 years of pain, the nightmare from the Indy 500 for Swede Savage’s daughter ends in Smiles

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I truly believe Swede Savage would have done for Indy, what Dale Earnhardt Sr. did for Nascar.

I never was much into auto racing until I saw a story that was done by ABC sports about 5 years ago.  It was about an up and coming driver that had passed away in 1973, but he was unlike any other driver of his day.

David Earl “Swede” Savage Jr. was not your typical southern good ol boy race car driver.  With most drivers coming from the south or midwest, Swede was the typical Southern California boy.  He was tall, good looking and had a cool way about him.  He was nice and humble and many felt he would be one of the huge break out stars in the indy circuit.  Swede was a four sport athlete with a racers heart, first racing as a 5 year old in the soap box circuit.  Many were predicting the 1973 Indianapolis 500 to be his coming out party to stardom.  He was the guy girls wanted to date, and the racer guys wanted to be like.  Dale Earnhardt had that marketing aura and I think Swede was a marketers dream.

More than a few race fans felt that the 1973 Indy 500 was cursed. The rain was a huge factor cancelling the race for two and a half days.  There had also been a fatal accident during a practice run.   Salt Walther was critically injured on Monday with some spectators having to be hospitalized for burns from the fuel.  At the end of the race, 3 people would be dead, one racer critically injured and several fans were hospitalized.

In one of the most horrific wrecks you will ever see, on lap 58 the rear wing of his car came loose and it made the car unstable.  Jim McKay’s voice raised immediately when he saw this and it’s hard to listen to.  Swede’s car turned directly into an infield retaining wall at full speed hitting head on.  The car exploded and a huge plume of fire and smoke rose.  He ended up near the upper wall and the fuel leaked all over and caught on fire; debris was everywhere.  It seemed like a lifetime before they could get the fire out with fans screaming for the firemen to hurry.

 

Here is rare footage of the accident from the wall.

If the nightmare wasn’t bad enough crewmember Armando  Teran ran across the infield to help the drivers.  He was run over by a fire truck driving at 60 MPH and was killed instantly.  He was hit so hard his body flew high up into the air and the Indy 500 crowd screamed in horror.

 

When Savage began to move, Jim McKay was stunned.  Swede actually was joking around with those helping him and he went into the hospital with hopes for a recovery.  Sadly in 33 days he was gone.

There still remains a mystery on what killed him.  Doctors said it was tainted blood that gave him hepatitis and caused his liver to fail; or his kidneys failed. His father said it was pulmonary damage from the fire and the lack of oxygen that was given to him.  We may never know the real story.

Sadly Swede Savage left an unborn daughter.  His wife eventually would give birth to Angela.  They had another daughter Shelly who tragically died in 1995 from Leukemia.  Swede also had a son John.

His daughter Angela has lived with pain for a long time.  She said she was born with a broken heart and never got over the loss of her dad.  She once said she thought she’d be sad forever.  She had battles with drugs and alcohol as early as 10 years old and never had peace.

On the coaxing of a race car fan who wanted her to see why her father loved Indy racing so much, she began to think of going.  With a groundswell of financial and moral support, social media friends raised money for her to go to the Indy 500 this year.  When Indianapolis Motor Speedway Management found out about it, they contacted her and paid for the basics of the trip including a memorial car for her to drive in honor of her father.

Angela went with her husband Scott and Swede’s brother Bruce.  A documentary book and movie are now in the works for all of Swede’s loving fans.

I had always been a little bitter that Indy did not do more to commemorate Swede but I can understand it.  I was very happy though to see many Indy people and former racers embrace Angela and Bruce during interviews. You could see their joy in talking about him. I think this gives the fans, as well as his family the closure they’ve longed for.   Angela was all smiles and she wore her fathers old racing uniform today.

Angela stated in an article,”What I want to do now is to take the open wound, sew it up and celebrate; cap it off with joy!”.  For Angela, the drivers and the fans, the closure and celebration of his life heals many wounds.

Swede Savage, his adoring fans, and his family deserve nothing less.

“Andy Kaufman: From Wrestling to Hoaxes: He Would Have Broken The Internet”

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Andy Kaufman was not a comedian.

When you ask a comedian what their goal is they will say to make people laugh. Andy Kaufman was different. His goal was to make himself laugh and to make you wonder if what he was doing was real or not. His goal was to watch people squirm in the realm of wonder.

Many people have said that Andy was a trail blazer for comedian’s, but I disagree. When it came to comedy, he saw the darkest and deepest path and took it.   No one then or since has ever followed him and taken that same path.

Andy once said he felt more like a song and dance man, but in reality he was so much more. From the beginning of his career you knew you were watching something unique. I’ve talked to a few people that saw Andy in clubs and the words they use to describe the shows are funny, uncomfortable, and thought provoking,

He stirred the pot and he wanted to mess with your mind by making you wonder if what you were seeing was reality or not. Life was a big prank to him and he would go to any lengths to make it seem real. Andy wanted to make himself laugh and to create a world where nothing was for sure. How many times did he do a routine where he was down and out with a hard luck story and when the crowd laughed he would smirk and say, “you shouldn’t be laughing because I’m being serious”. The crowd would then be quiet and you could feel how uncomfortable they were. Of course he wasn’t serious, and of course Andy loved it.

Some people felt disappointed when he did the television show Taxi, but he did that on the coaxing of his manager George Shapiro. Even though he hated sitcoms, it gave Andy the money and the fame to do what he wanted to do. In an interview with Tony Danza that is online, Danza said that Andy rarely came to the set during weekly rehearsals and that he stayed private. The cast of Taxi was a friendly environment and it brought an heir of animosity when Kaufman would just show up to the final reading, and then the day of tapings. What made the cast even more angry is that Andy never made a mistake.

Andy’s most famous antics to this day are still being debated. In one of his earliest appearances on David Letterman, he showed up saying he was financially strapped and needed help. David asked him what he was working on and Andy said nothing.   Letterman then asked about his bookings and Andy said he had none. He was unshaven and disheveled and had large amounts of mucous under his nose.   Letterman gave him tissue before Kaufman pleaded with the crowd to give him money to help him out. He walked out into the crowd and people started to give him money before security sent him away. Letterman wasn’t laughing.

The character Tony Clifton was pure genius. Andy created a character that was a lounge singer who was below the belt nasty with little to no talent.   In his contract, Andy actually had it written in that Tony was do to a handful of Taxi episodes. Clifton would show up each time to the Taxi set with a hooker on each arm, both being at least 6 feet tall. He then stated that the hookers would now be a part of the show.   Clifton was fired but he would not leave the set. The media; which Andy called; had a field day when Clifton was made to leave.

The first real deep storyline in wrestling history was the famous Andy Kaufman v.s. Jerry Lawler feud. Andy had spent months on Saturday Night Live wrestling women and began calling himself the inter gender champion.   Kaufman said that women were superior in cleaning, washing potatoes and carrots and scrubbing floors. People were incensed.

Andy contacted Vince McMahon Sr. to see if he could get involved in the New York wrestling scene. Mr. McMahon Sr. was very sensitive to bringing anything fake into the wrestling world; the term sports entertainment hadn’t been invented yet; so he declined thinking it would ruin wrestling. Andy had a wrestling photographer friend in Bill Aptos, and he had Andy call Jerry Lawler in Memphis wrestling.

Lawler being a great showman knew this was a huge opportunity. He and Andy conspired to fool the world. Over time Lawler would coach a female wrestler to wrestle Andy. When Andy won, Lawler then challenged Andy.   In the famous first match Lawler did 2 pile drivers; a hold that powers your head into the mat; and Andy looked like he was dead but was only slightly hurt.

In a funny story, after the 2nd pile driver, Andy lay motionless on the mat. His partner in crime, writer and producer and sometimes Tony Clifton character Bob Zmuda, asked Andy if he was ok. Bob was actually the referee during the match. With the crowd roaring their approval, Andy quietly told Bob to call an ambulance. Bob then walked over to Lawler and told Jerry what Andy wanted to do. Lawler who is known for being frugal, said no way because it would cost $300. Zmuda walked over to check on Andy and told him what Lawler said. Andy whispered, “I’ll pay for it”. When Zmuda told him Andy would pay for it, Lawler said go get an ambulance.

Andy also did some very short lived television shows that were not overly supported by the networks due to his unpredictability. In one show Andy actually had the network mess up the vertical hold on the program.   This would make viewers at home think something was wrong with their tv’s.

Andy’s dream was to do a show at Carnegie Hall which he did in 1979. Saturday night live actually did a small story about it on their program that was very touching.

In a tender moment he brought out his “grandmother” who sat on the side of the stage to watch the show. She took a bow. At the end of the show his grandmother got up and clapped and then took off her mask. It was none other than his friend, fellow comedian Robin Williams.

Andy also had an elderly woman die on stage only to have him come back out as an Indian. He did a dance to revive her after the doctors pronounced her dead.  At the end of the show he wanted to thank the crowd and he had 24 busses take them out for milk and cookies and invited anyone who wanted to meet him to come to the Staten Island Ferry the next morning. He did some more bits and met his adoring fans.

Within six months of being diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer, Andy Kaufman sadly died on May 16, 1984.   His friend Jerry Lawler was in attendance. Even then, tabloids, fans and the media wondered if this wasn’t another huge hoax. He had talked about faking his own death for years, but unfortunately this was not a hoax.

He was before my time but he always fascinated me and I loved learning about him.  And with so many nominally talented people being famous for sex tapes, being sleazy or vulgar; or for just being attractive; you wonder what a talented person like Andy would have done to the social media world of today.

Could you imagine all of the twitter discussions or the YouTube videos proving or disproving things he said or did?  With social media he would have reached millions in a blink of an eye in a way no comedian ever could.  He would have had the world scratching it’s head but laughing all the way.  And in true form, nothing would have been more pleasing to the great Andy Kaufman.