Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pardo Me...I feel the LOSS of Jeopardy & Saturday Night Live voice DON PARDO

Don Pardo...he was probably THE greatest announcer in TV history.

He made it look easy, but like being a good quiz show host, being a good announcer is not easy. You can't just be a handsome guy to host a show well, or have a nice voice to be an announcer. Personality is needed.

Don Pardo had it. He pioneered it. Just as quiz show hosts gradually evolved to include wiseguys (Groucho Marx on "You Bet Your Life") and impish troublemakers (Bob Eubanks on "Newleywed Game") Don Pardo used his voice to color the bland world of products and names.

As the announcer on the original "Jeopardy," he gave an almost sardonic edge to the proceedings. His all-knowing, sly and mock-stern vocalizing let you know that Michael C. Fina silverware was crap, that Rice-a-Roni was crap, and that winning a bunch of useless junk was a fool's paradise. And wait, dear contestant, till you get that notice from the I.R.S. about taxes!

Pardo's style and importance led host Art Fleming to specifically mention Don's name. "Thank you, Don Pardo..." became part of the proceedings. How many other announcers were worth that? On "The Tonight Show," you eventually heard a modest, "And me? I'm Ed McMahon." And lately, Letterman's red-headed stooge makes sure to list the guests and then toss in, "I'm Alan Kalter." And why did he get the job? Because his leering style isn't too far from what Don Pardo created on "Jeopardy," which was adopted by earthy smartass Bill Wendell (another NBC staffer...who was Dave's original announcer for 15 years...even when Dave moved to CBS.)

Below...a sample of Don. Listen to the way he tears into a dimwit loser on "Jeopardy," courtesy of Weird Al Yankovic's parody of Greg Kihn's "Our Love's in Jeopardy." It's not far, at all, from how he announced cheesy prizes on that show in those pre-Trebek days.

A venerable staffer at NBC, after Art Fleming's "Jeopardy" left the air, Pardo was handed the assignment of announcing "Saturday Night Live." Naturally, writers were quick to use his almost-mocking vocals on the show, and even toss him some on-camera gags, too. You can find a multi-part interview with Don on YouTube, courtesy of the Archive of American Television, and if you're into voicework, it'll be a lot of fun for you to watch. There are also plenty of obits today where you can learn more about Don and his career.

I'll just add that today's news about his passing, even at the ripe old age of 96, saddens me greatly. At times, the most entertaining part of "Saturday Night Live" was Don's all-knowing, all-mocking reading of some names that were more interesting than the actors or actresses owning them. I ain't namin' names. Except that I think, in the most recent roster...he probably got a big kick out of "BROOKS WHELAN!" HOW many years did Don announce SNL? What now...Darrell Hammond taking over the job...or do they get some preposterous, tin-voiced ninny to do it? Maybe the guy who does Fallon's "Tonight Show" and who is really just imitating Andy Richter?

There was nobody who did it like DON PARDO. I know it may seem like a big fuss to make...but I admired the guy, and got such a kick out of him. Look, I even enjoy listening to Michael Buffer (not his bawling, warthog brother) and I even listen for when he's pitchy or when he eases the microphone away on the last syllable of "RUMBLE." So I beg your Pardo...but when SNL begins next month...he WILL be missed. So long, Pardner.

Here's Thomas Hurley III, Alex Trebek, Don Pardo, and WEIRD AL…all combining for….


Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes, wait time or "tip jar" for Paypal donations.

105 In the Shade: LICIA ALBANESE is at rest

In a close contest, it was Licia Albanese over Rise Stevens 105-99.

Basketball? Well, no, opera divas. The incredible Licia Albanese died a few days ago at the age of 105. Amazing.

Also amazing, is that she resisted playing the lead in Lucia De Lammermoor. You could imagine, ala "Oprah, Uma" David Letterman inanely standing on stage and shouting, "Licia! Lucia!" Or not.

Frankly, as regulars to the blog know, opera is not often covered here. It's not often covered anywhere, come to think of it, because what was once the peoples' art form…soon changed to operetta and finally Broadway musicals. Some might say that's a sign of the degeneration of culture in the past 100 years, but look, they won't say it for long. In another 100 years there won't be a planet. If it still exists, it'll be a planet of the apes, and musical history, as taught in "skooz," would begin with M.C. Hammer.

In other words, my autographed Licia Albanese record album, if I was alive, wouldn't fetch a buck on eBay, and my autographed photo of Rise Stevens even less.

Victoria de Los Angeles was probably my favorite, but Rise Stevens was up there, and because nobody cared about her, Jean Madeira, and because she went topless, Carol Neblett. Of the vintage performers, there was Licia, whose best work was done way before I was even born. Licia (short form of Felicia, July 22, 1909-August 15, 2014) came to prominence the year the Marx Brothers were "At the Opera," 1935.

She was known for "Madame Butterfly" first and foremost, and specialized, as one might expect, in Italian operas by Verdi and Puccini. Her love of Puccini led to her enduring "Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation," which gives scholarships and encouragement to young, struggling singers who have an unfortunate love for an archaic music form in an era of Viley Virus and Justa Beaver.

After touring her version of Madame Butterfly all over the world, Licia made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1940. She also performed at the San Francisco Opera, and on radio with Toscanini. Ageism being an old and familiar nemesis, Licia had a 26 year run at the famous Met…until the venue's ruler, Sir Rudolf Bing, decided to cut her down to only one role for the entire season. Licia's response to Der Bingle's decision was to gracefully walk away. She continued to play at other opera houses, and when her voice was no longer strong enough for opera, she switched to Broadway show tunes…appearing in various productions of Sondheim's "Follies" in the mid-1980's.

Though she wasn't as well known as the more flamboyant Maria Callas, or the amusingly-named Lily Pons, Licia Albanese was a favorite with the critics, especially in her most familiar roles, in Puccini's "La Boheme," "Madame Butterfly" and "Manon Lescaut." She also joined Rise Stevens for a recording of "Carmen" in 1951. Among the more recent artists who have acknowledged her as an inspiration…Teresa Stratas, who saw the great Albanese in a production of "La Traviata," a role that Stratas would play so well in the 1982 movie version opposite Placido Domingo.

Never forgotten, the legendary Licia received honors for her life's work, including the "National Medal of Honor for the Arts," becoming the first woman that Bill Clinton met and didn't hit on.

In keeping with blog policy on being obscure and contrary, your download isn't an aria by Puccini or Verdi. From the Parnassus vinyl, Licia sings an aria by Francesco Cilea...who is not a household name as a composer but still is beloved by Celiacs everywhere, and no diet of classical should exclude him.

From "ADRIANA LECOUVREUR" "Lo Son L'Umile Ancella"

ARLENE MARTEL - "Theme from Star Trek" T'Pring (& More)


Sounds like a bad phone app? "T'Pring" was the name of a "Star Trek" alien played by the bizarrely beautiful Arlene Martel. For better or worse, and she would've probably said for better…this was her main claim to fame. Betrothed to Mr. Spock (in one episode), T'Pring instantly became legend…and Martel was certainly one of the best remembered of the female guest stars on the show.

How well? On Farcebook…uh, Facebook…various fanboys rushed to post their pix. "Here's me and Arlene Martel! Classy lady to pose with me! RIP!" Well, yes, and at $20 a pop, or whatever she was charging, she had no reason not to be classy or at least tolerant. But in the world of memorabilia, it isn't that uncommon for some bitter beauties to feel a great deal of contempt for the overweight and/or geeky assholes who hand over a sweaty twenty while stuttering inane and predictable drivel. Having their smelly bodies come close to yours, as their brush with fame...could make you a little less pleased with the fame that brought you to the "collectors show." But Arlene Martel kept showing up, and always had a warm smile for the Trekkies were still boldly going...in search of some kind of a life for themselves.

The bottom line with most performers running a table at a memorabilia show, is "thanks for the extra money, thanks for remembering." There are a lot of 60's era actresses who aren't invited to the events and aren't identified with any show or any character at all. In that respect, the former "Arline Sax" was lucky.

A Jewish girl from the humble Bronx, the re-christened Arlene Martel had an air of confidence and dignity...which she needed to escape the "ghetto" (as she called it). She could play intimidating parts (including a lion-tamer on "Wild Wild West" and a super-sexy and scary "Room for One More, Honey" nurse on "Twilight Zone"). She could also play comedy, earthy women, peasants, just about anything.

Her list of credits…well, let's just say that the Trekkies probably were surprised to look down along her table and see, aside from the T'Pring portraits, pix of her from "Outer Limits," "Wild Wild West," "The Monkees," "Hogan's Heroes," and even a cult biker film she made long ago.

While I didn't know Ms. Martel, I've known several in her position...the kind who were, or are, grateful that they can always walk down the street and be called by name...or the name of their famous character. They get used to it. Most come to appreciate that it's better than nothing. Only a few find the double-edged Sword of Damocles hanging over their head and all the "if only I wasn't typecast" frustration that goes with it. What I'm saying is that as nice as it is for obese and clueless people to say "T'PRING" the past few days, it pisses me off that most of them never cared about anything else Arlene did.

I get it. You want the autographed photo of her as T'Pring, not an autographed photo of how she looks today. Not how she looked in some other TV show that didn't involve THAT uniform or THAT make-up. It's just sad that most of the tributes have been about THAT one show and character she was in...as if nothing else mattered. There was an actual person inside that costume. Nostalgia shouldn't have such blinders on, but it usually does.

Her death a few days ago, at the age of 78, was a tragic loss. She could still have made memorable TV appearances if any casting director had the sense to make a call. She was "giving back" to fans by advising them on healthy foods to eat and reminding them of ecology and the debt owed to THIS planet, not to T'Pring's. She was apparently working on an autobiography that would've answered a lot of questions about her fascinating life (she was quick to mention her first love was the ever-fascinating to some people James Dean) as well as her marriages, healthy lifestyle and interesting views on the inner self. It would've probably also covered the requisite fanboy topics (what was it like to work with Leonard Nimoy, Bob Crane, Rod Serling…)

As to the item below…one has to go with a "Star Trek" theme (over "Twilight Zone," "The Monkees" or "Hogan's Heroes) but which one? Here at the blog of less renown, it would have to be a peculiar version…and Ferrante and Teicher, with their cascading manipulation of elephant tusks, mated to a thumpy disco beat…is insidiously down to Earth.

Ferrante and Teicher STAR TREK THEME


He was one of those busy actors in the 60's and 70's…who was more a face than a name. Handsome in a flawed way, often playing jealous husbands, arrogant businessmen and corrupt politicians, Ed Nelson (December 21, 1928-August 9, 2014) had come to television by way of cheap horror movies. He was in "Teenage Cave Man" (with Robert Vaughn), "Attack of the Crab Monsters," "Bucket of Blood" and "The Brain Eaters."

The man from Louisiana was an authentic presence in virtually every TV western of the late 50's and early 60's (The Rebel, Paladin, Black Saddle, The Tall Man, Maverick, Wagon Train, Laramie, Gunsmoke, The Rifleman). He also turned up in The Twilight Zone,Outer Limits, Thriller, The Eleventh Hour and Perry Mason. His only major starring role was as Dr. Rossi in the night time soap opera "Peyton Place," which is now mostly known either for its theme song, or its reference in the country hit "Harper Valley P.T.A." At the time, it was a big deal for a "woman's" show about dreary romances and scandals to have such a high profile.

Nelson's profile sank after the show left the air in 1969, and only his more ardent fans recall that he appeared in daytime soap operas, had a local talk show, and toured as President Truman in a one-man show originated by James Whitmore. A bright guy, he didn't have to suffer the indignity of waiting and waiting for a guest spot on a TV show…he became the mayor of San Dimas, California, and at 71 graduated from Tulane University. He spent his retirement years at home in Greensboro, North Carolina.

"Peyton Place," which launched the careers of Mia Farrow and Ryan O'Neal, is now pretty much forgotten. In its day, not only was it a hot show that would spawn a variety of "chick lit" romance series, even the sweetly sappy theme song was popular, with or without the lyrics. You get either or both…the reliable Frank Chacksfield of Project 4 fame or the ubiquitous Vikki Carr.



BOB CRANE swings "F-Troop"

These days, Bob Crane is best remembered for "Hogans Heroes" and for his infamous death, which most agree had something to do with somebody jealous or angry over his conquests as a ladies man. At 49, he was still gettin' it on, even if his sitcom fame was far behind him and his round, still attractive face was seen only rarely in a guest spot on a "Quincy" or "Love Boat." Crane was still a STAR when he turned up in small towns during the summer months. He was on the "straw hat" trail, playing lead in some familiar Broadway comedy people might want to see. He brought along his video equipment to record his romps with starstruck fans…single or married.

Before "Hogan's Heroes," Crane was a hot prospect and something of a hipster. He was a radio personality with a cool sense of humor. In fact one of his very first TV appearances (uncredited) was as a disc jockey on a "Twilight Zone" episode in 1961. He was also a good drummer, and once "Hogan's Heroes" was a hit, he was able to indulge himself with a record deal and a band…and material that referenced both his show and many other hit TV series of the day. He covered "Get Smart" (even piping up with a "Sorry About That…" at the end), and a jazzy take on the western comedy "F-Troop." Yes, Bob was way too cool to just record TV themes and not make 'em swing. Well, he was always a bit too hip for his own good…