Category Archives: WayBack Machine

Two Women (Goddesses?), with Great Minds and Great Style…Toni & Angela

I saw this pic on The Silver Girl, author Tayari Jones’ tumblr site, and HAD to share it at SCOTT TOPICS™. Partly out of respect to Tayari–if you haven’t read her beautiful first novel (and Hurston/Wright Award winner for Debut Fiction) Leaving Atlanta, you haven’t read a good novel in years, for one thing–and partly out of respect to the two beautiful, ground-breaking sistas strolling through the city in this photo. You can read Tayari’s blog here. And her new novel The Silver Girl is coming from Algonquin Books next year. (Thanks Tayari!)

Toni Morrison and Angela Davis, in all their funky, intellectual, Afro-wearing glory…one can only IMAGINE what they’re talking about!!!…Hope this pic inspires you like it’s inspired me!

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WayBack Wednesdays: The Brady Bunch

Quote of the Day: “Something always happens whenever we’re together/We get a happy feeling when we’re singing a song…” “Come On Get Happy” by The Partridge Family


For some reason over the last few days, I haven’t been able to get the lyrics to the Brady Bunch song “Time to Change” out of my head. I think it’s because I was flipping through an old journal recently and I came across an entry I wrote a coupla years ago about devastatingly blonde Eve Plumb and a memory I had about her Brady-busting role in the classic TV movie/cautionary tale Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway (not to mention her command return performance in the sequel Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn.) But I digress…

So I’m walking across campus the other day, singing “When it’s time to change you’ve got to re-arrange, who you are into what you’re gonna be! Sha-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na (sha-na-na-na-na)!” Then last night a buddy of mine compared himself to Marcia Brady to make one of his pop culture-saturated points about life and–coincidence? I think not–I knew that meant that WayBack Wednesday had to be a salute to the singing/dancing/superstar sextet who, if nothing else, taught us one of life’s biggest and best lessons–always be nice to the maid/nanny and never take her for granted. Otherwise you’ll get a mean, emotionally-empty, fun-hating lady named Kay to take her place and always sternly remind you, “But I’m not Alice. I’m Kay.” But again, I digress…
The Brady Bunch sang or put on a show as often as they could (remember that absurdly post-modern Snow White they performed in the backyard to raise money for retiring schoolteacher Mrs. Whitfield?) but it was with their wannabe pop group moments that they left their deepest impression on my suburban heart and mind. So I give you the Brady 6, getting down and funky as America’s (not-quite) Next Pop Star Family…
* “Dough Re Mi” from Season 3, in which Greg writes a song for the kids, but Peter’s voice starts to change right before they’re meant to go into the studio and launch Greg’s pop career–which wouldn’t have been a problem if they had Pro-Tools, right?–so Greg rewrites the number (such a nice big brother!) to incorporate Pete’s pubescent croaking into the mix…(They also sing a cute little ditty called “We Can Make the World a Little Brighter” in this episode). Don’t you just love Cindy’s white boots? And Greg’s so-mod-it-hurts suede jacket? I begged my mother for a suede fringed jacket after seeing Greg in his. She said no, because 5th graders didn’t suede fringed jackets to Ludlum Elementary School–what would the other mothers on the PTA think, for Christ’s sake? So I got back at her years later and bought one sophomore year at Brown, charging it to the credit card that I was only supposed to use for textbooks. I ended up slipping down in a Charlesfield Street puddle three days later and ruining my precious purchase. Suffice to say, after that, I started calling my mother “Mother Nature”   because I was sure that my fall was her sorcery at work all the way from Long Island. (But, naturally, I digress…)

* “Ameteur Night,” from Season 4, in which the Brady 6 morph into The Silver Platters, in order to win a talent show and buy their wonderful understanding parents an anniversary present. I love Alice’s excited convo with Mrs. Brady: “The kids are on TV,” she shouts. “What kids,” says Mrs. Brady. “Yours!” shouts Alice. “His! Ours!”

Here’s the actual performance on the Talent Show. They lost. I think it was because 1) this song was NOT as good as the one they used to audition (see above!) and 2) those atrocious track-suit/twin sets they donned made them look like a lost Olympic team in search of an event. Such wasted potential…

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Filed under Eve Plumb, music, The Brady Bunch, WayBack Machine

WayBack Wednesdays: Schoolhouse Rock

Quote of the Day: “Wave your little hand and whisper so long dearie…” — from Hello, Dolly!‘s “So Long Dearie”

On February 8, it was reported that Blossom Dearie had passed away. Dearie was a singer and songwriter who was known for a wispy, little-girl voice that nonetheless had a real power to it, so different it was than most of the other cabaret-bound, standard-singing voices around her. She was, to some, the personification of Downtown Hip, an real insider’s taste.

My introduction to Dearie came when I was about 8 years old, sitting in bed on Saturday morning, watching ABC cartoons. It was during the interstitial moments between shows (and commercials) that I was most entertained. Because that was when I discovered Schoolhouse Rock, the three minute shorts that educated kids on everything from grammar to government to gobbledygook of numbers.

If you’re anywhere around my age—creeping up on or just past the big 4-0—you know about Schoolhouse Rock: it’s probably where you learned how to recite the Preamble to the Constitution or what a Veto was or who invented the lightbulb. It didn’t take the place of school, but it sure made learning fun. (A memory: I remember being at a New Year’s Eve party at Dave and Cynthia’s in Brooklyn back in the 90s. Someone had found Dave’s VHS tape of Grammar Rock and by the third video, the bedroom was crammed with a bunch late-20s revelers, sipping Champagne, singing along with the tunes–and sharing Schoolhouse Rock memories…)

So in honor of Ms. Dearie, and to celebrate all of our lost youths, I present you three episodes of Schoolhouse Rock, all performed by Blossom Dearie…

1. “Figure Eight,” in which we learn how multiply numbers by 8. This, I think, is actually one of the best melodies written for the entire series.

2. “Unpack Your Adjectives,” in which we learn how enhance nouns with those words we “use to really describe things”…
3. “Mother Necessity,” in which Blossom is joined by pretty much all the Schoolhouse Rock singers to narrate the history of the world’s greatest inventions.
What were your favorite Schoolhouse Rock episodes? Leave a comment!

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WayBack Wednesdays: The Flintstones (Sing!)

Quote of the Day: “And so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby…” — “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone


I love cartoons. When I was a kid, those few hours on Saturday morning were a kind of pre-pubescent entertainment haven—nothing was better than eating a big bowl of Apple Jacks or Capn Crunch and being hypnotized while the major networks rolled out their deluxe model cartoon series like Hong Kong Phooey and Josie and the Pussycats, (click those links for theme songs) not to mention ABC’s educationally-aimed Schoolhouse Rock clips. This stuff was mine, I thought, not like the shows on prime-time TV that were either too adult or just simply too boring for my eyes and ears. The elasticity of animation is what did it to me—and to most kids—I think: the fact that fantasy could exist in such a real, candy-colored, action-packed context made everything okay with the world.

Same thing for after school entertainment. Before I was sophisticated enough, say 12 or 13, to truly indulge in the daily doings in Port Charles or Monticello, reruns of old school cartoons like Magilla Gorilla and Tom and Jerry kept me fully occupied before homework called me to the kitchen table where my mother cooked dinner and glanced over my shoulder every few minutes to make sure my fractions were being divided correctly.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, grabbed at my young brain like The Flintstones, that pre-historic family with the loudmouth father and casually sarcastic mother, and the next door neighbors who were always ready for an adventure. I suspect I fell hard for the Bedrock family because I was such a fan of I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners. And not just because The Flintstones abide by the classic and mythical Comedy Rule of Four (four main characters playing out any story with symmetrical hilarity–see Seinfeld, The Golden Girls, Sex and the City et al). The show also mixed the sort of daily domestic dramatics I loved with the eternal comic longings of an ambitious dreamer—Fred, a lot like Lucy Ricardo and Ralph Kramden—who dreamed so hard he often pushed his desire way past the line of nightmarish possibility.

I have favorite episodes: Fred stunt-doubles for Cary Granite (!) in a movie (“The Monster from the Tar Pits”); “The Prowler,” in which Wilma and Betty take judo lessons; the one when Wilma became “The Happy Housewife” (“Keep your hubby happy with Glockenschpeel!”); when the Gruesomes move in next door…way too many to name, really. But nothing did it for me more than the many times music was featured on the show, whether it was “The Bedrock Twist” (“There’s a town I know where the hipsters go called Bedrock! Twist! Twist!”) or when real life singing group The Beau Brummels appeared as themselves singing “Laugh, Laugh” on a Shindig takeoff called Shinrock a Go Go

Here’s some of my other favorite music-themed Flintstones eps…Hopefully you remember—and love—them too…

“Ann Margrock Presents”—Season 4 opener, in which superstar Ann-Margret gets the Stony Curtis/Cary Granite treatment, appearing as Annie, a shy young babysitter for Pebbles, who is really a celebrity in hiding before her big show. She literally rocks the house with “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Fool.” Watch how at :18 Wilma and Betty are surrounded by friends and onlookers, but by 1:15, there’s no on there except them and Pebbles! Where’d everybody go!?!

“No Biz Like Show Biz”—Season 6 opener, in which Fred dreams that Pebbles and Bam Bam become pop stars after they’re found rocking out in the backyard like a Stone Age toddler version of Sonny and Cher singing the classic and sublime “Open Up Your Heart and Let the Sun Shine In”…Love love love the “frown” on Pebbles’ face at :51, when she sings “Smilers never lose and frowners never win.” She looks like she could rip someone’s heart out—and still keep her bone barrette in place.

“The Masquerade Party”—also Season 6 (actually the episode before the Beau Brummels appear—that was quite a singing season in Bedrock!), in which Bedrock is taken with a new teen pop sensation, The WayOuts.

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WayBack Wednesdays: The Girl Most Likely To…

Quote of the Day: “I don’t steal and I don’t lie/But I can feel and I can cry/A fact I bet you never knew…” — “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” from Grease




Long before the great Stockard Channing was winning Tonys and Emmys and getting nominated for Oscar; a few years before she was the sizzling hot, torch-singing Betty Rizzo

of Grease fame; long before she embodied Ouisa Kittredge, the ultra-sophisticated Park Avenue doyenne of Six Degrees of Separation or was stealing scenes on The West Wing and captivating Broadway audiences, she was a frumpy coed named Miriam Knight.

Miriam was the lead character of an ABC TV movie (back when made-for-TV movies meant something) called The Girl Most Likely To… Written by comedian Joan Rivers, it’s the story of a fat, unattractive girl who just wants to be loved. She’s the butt of jokes, used and abused by the beautiful people around her, too nice for her own good. Then she’s in a car accident and everything changes. Not only is Miriam now beautiful–thanks to some ace plastic surgery–but she’s also bent for revenge.

I saw this hilarious movie a bit after its first run in 1973; I think it was on the “The 4:30 Movie” after doing my homework through General Hospital and The Edge of Night. I became hooked and never missed it whenever it re-ran. And, no lie, I became Stockard Channing’s biggest fan. (Anyone who can score a brotha some tix to Pal Joey on Broadway, shout me out!)

It’s hard to talk too much about The Girl Most Likely To…without giving too much away. But if you want to catch a ridiculous, funny, sorta sad, but oddly, cynically uplifting flick, get it—it FINALLY made it DVD a coupla years ago. If you love 70s TV, especially when it’s served up as cleverly as this, with a typical I-Love-The-70s TV cast of actors like Ed Asner, Larry Wilcox, Jim Backus, and The Love Boat’s Fred Grandy, you’ll enjoy this flick. But if you were ever teased—for how you looked, for the things you liked, for where you came from or the baby fat you carried around, even to college—you will LOVE this flick. If you were the teaser, well, I’ll just say, revenge (and good movies about revenge) can be a real motivator for some…so watch out!

Here are some scenes from The Girl Most Likely To…:
When she was fat and treated like crap…

Back to Get Even…

And just as an added bonus…”There Are Worse Things I Can Do,” to my mind, one of the finest, realest moments in Grease:

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WayBack Wednesdays (On a Thursday): SPARKLE

Quote of the Day: “Living in a world of ghetto life/Everybody around seems so uptight…” — “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” by Aretha Franklin

Well folks, now that the great celebrity photo op Inauguration business is behind us, maybe we can get some actual stuff done! Yesterday I wasn’t able to post my usual Wednesday WayBack Machine, cause I was so crazy making up for all the stuff I didn’t get done Tuesday while I was sitting on my couch perched in front of the TV like a proud grinning-and-sobbing fool, so I’m posting it today and hoping you enjoy it as much as I do.


Way back in 1976–before Dreamgirls–there was a movie about three girls in a struggling singing group called Sparkle. A friend of mine calls it the True Ghetto Classic. Not because it takes place in the ‘hood, but because anyone you ask about it gets all head-rollingly old school about how much they love it. I love it because it blends so many movie genres it could make your head spin. It’s part blaxploitation flick, part backstage melodrama, part musical, part family saga. Inner city kids with a yen to perform get involved in the music business and all their dreams come true as they realize the nightmares of real life. (If you don’t remember the movie, I know you remember the soundtrack featuring Aretha Franklin singing some of Curtis Mayfield’s finest radio-ready r&b?)

Sparkle starred the insanely great actress as Mary Alice, playing mother to the three girls who make up a Harlem singing group: the beautiful and tragic Sister, played by the lovely and talented Lonette McKee; Delores (Dwan Smith); and of course, babysister Sparkle, played by a post-Aaron Love Angela, pre-Fame, Irene Cara.

The flick was the first screenplay by Joel Schumacher, the director of some of my personal favorite Hollywood pulp fictions like St. Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys, Flatliners, and the VERY underrated Flawless. (And who became, he told me in a fun interview I did with him upon the DVD release of Sparkle in 2007, the “go-to” black writer in Hollywood for a few years after writing Sparkle and Car Wash…Schumacher’s a Jewish guy from New York City, by the way).

Schumacher told me in the interview that there was a whole lot more to Sparkle when he first wrote it (“after flaming out of art school”) in the 70s because he loved r&b and knew people just like Sparkle and nem while he was growing up. The movie in his mind was meant to be a real epic and so much got cut out along the way. Says Schumacher: “The Dorian Harewood character [Levi] was arrested, and he was in jail, and he found God, and he became a Jesse Jackson-like figure, and then, of course, the Phillip Michael Thomas character [Stix] was my version of Berry Gordy. It wasn’t based on Berry, but it was influenced by that. And Sparkle certainly wasn’t based on Diana Ross, because Sparkle is an innocent, whereas Diana has always been very driven, and ambitious—and I mean that in the best possible sense—whereas Sparkle is a child, she’s a pure soul in a world of turmoil around her, and remains true to herself. And Delores, the third sister, who gets very smart; she became political, and she goes down south and becomes an Angela Davis type figure.” (By the by, Schumacher was the original director of Dreamgirls when it was in the pipeline years ago–and in my opinion, should have directed it, but it wasn’t meant to be…His dream cast at the time? Lauryn Hill for Deena; Don Cheadle for James Thunder Early; and Kelly Price, “with that fabulous voice,” as Effie. “Maybe Sparkle is my Dreamgirls,” he told me. “I just sat down and wrote what I loved. I never thought I’d be talking to a journalist about it thirty years later!”

So there’s some background for you to savor as you watch some scenes from Sparkle and think about that Saturday afternoon you first saw it with your people at that local around-the-way movie house (in my case, the Hempstead on Fulton Street), probably paired with a re-release of Amazing Grace, starring Moms Mabley or Let’s Do it Again.

“JUMP”: Youthful enthusiasm; Sister steps up to prove who the real star in the group is…

“HOOKED ON YOUR LOVE”: The group is a hit, and the hits WILL keep on coming, poor Sister…

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WayBack Wednesdays: FAME

Quote of the Day: “I’s young, I’s single, and I loves to mingle!” — Leroy


So you’ve probably heard by now that MGM is re-making one of the classic flicks in classic studio’s vault—the high school musical of musicals Fame. Yes, Fame, as in going to live forever and going to learn how to fly…high! That saga of students singing and dancing and emoting their way through Manhattan’s High School of Performing Arts—apparently so durable a brand that it’s been an 80s TV show, a 90s LA-based TV show, a stage musical some years later, and even a variation on a Debbie Allen-hosted reality show—is coming back to a multi-plex near you.

I think Fame would be a hard flick to remake. Because I think you should only remake bad movies with no cultural life—good movies last forever and stay fun to watch even as they grow old—uh, paging The WomenFame still has cultural life (see list of examples above!). I’m not saying that Fame was some sort of masterpiece; it wasn’t, but even with a script that gets vague and choppy sometimes, and some very unrealistic dancing in the streets, it really works. Mainly because of the spot-on city-kid casting, the ace pacing and slick atmosphere-building of underrated, (arguably) soon-to-be-great director Alan Parker, and by golly, the music. And come on, how can you remake that nastily exploitative topless “eh vous, Coco, eh vous” scene between Irene Cara and the slimy “filmmaker” Francois Lafete? Or that fab monologue by the rejected/dejected homegirl who brought Leroy along for moral support: “I’m through? I don’t have to dance anymore? Where you going, Leroy? He’s in and I’m out, right? Fuck you, Leroy! This was my audition, remember? You’re not into high school. We were rehearsing to get me into this school, not you, you fucker! It’s not fair! I didn’t want to come here anyway. This school sucks. You’ve done me a favor, shithead. You saved me four fucking years from this ass-licking school! You looking at one happy lady! Who wants to go to a fucking school to learn to dance, anyway?” Ahhhh, just sublime…

So get into The WayBack Machine and check out  two of my favorite scenes from one of my very favorite movies ever…(For all you die-hards, check out a cute Fame quiz after the jump…)

“I Sing the Body Electric” — Favorite details: The “serenade Venus” harmony of the two black vocalists who lift the song even higher (@ 2:19); Leroy loosening his shoulders, waiting for his entrance (@ 3:01); the ecstatic Twyla Tharp-ish extension of the dancers toward the chorus (@ 3:42); and the reaction shots of Bruno’s dad and Doris Finsecker’s mother with the camera (as well as Doris Finsecker getting old gospel-soulful in the choral singing)…

“Hot Lunch Jam”: Favorite details: The entire loose-limbed cinema-verite style of the scene, but especially, Doris Finsecker’s “through the looking glass” expression as she approaches the door of the cafeteria; Coco’s “this is MY moment”-vibe, slipping on the glamourpuss sunglasses to sing the song (@ 2:47); the cash register lady getting into the groove (@ 3:37); the two drama students trying to have a conversation amid the fray (@ 3:50)…and, for all you show-biz history buffs, various shots of a very pre-New York Undercover Michael DeLorenzo dancing his ass off…

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