RIP Annette Funicello, 1942-2013

Annette FunicelloMy older sister and I used to play Mickey Mouse Club. She played Darlene and I played Doreen, mostly because we liked having cute matching names.

In our games, Annette was the popular girl who kept getting all of the good dancing and singing parts because Master of Ceremonies Jimmie Dodd liked her best. It was always just the two of us playing, so all the other characters were always offstage, so to speak. Our games always opened with one of us pretending to run into our dressing room, saying something like You’ll never guess what Annette just said!

Our stories usually had the same plot: Darlene would finally get a chance to star in a big musical number because Jimmie suddenly realize that she was a better singer and dancer than Annette. (Or sometimes because Annette broke her leg or something.) My role as Doreen was to be Darlene’s sidekick and backup singer, and to say things like Oh, Darlene, you’re way more talented than Annette and way less show-offy! Darlene would have moments of triumph but then somehow Annette would be back on top, so in the next episode Darlene would once again start as the plucky underdog.

We played this off and on for a year or more. It was an adaptable game — sometimes we played for an hour or two, with a lot of singing and dancing. Sometimes we’d just slip into dialogue for a few minutes, more like a private joke than a game. We usually played at home, but sometimes on car trips we’d whisper back and forth to each other, pretending to be on the Mouseketeer bus on our way to a special audition. We’d put the game aside for month or more and I’d think it was all over, and then one day my sister would look at me and say something like Annette is getting a special dressing room with her own swimming pool! and off we’d go.

Annette Funicello died today, and now I feel a little guilty because of the role we always gave her in our games. Through the last several years, I have read and seen reports on her declining health and she seemed to live with grace and courage. Rest in Peace, Annette, and I’m sorry I called you “show-offy” so many times. You couldn’t help being the star of the show.

Ozzie’s Busy Christmas

This is one of my favorite Christmas sitcom episodes. Ozzie Nelson is just not feeling the Christmas spirit, and decided he wants to keep things simple this year. No Christmas lights on the house, and the Christmas tree can wait. He finds himself tricked into singing with a group of carolers, but that’s all he’s going to do. But then he gets talked into playing Scrooge in the Men’s Club production of A Christmas Carol, and playing Santa at the Christmas Eve party at the orphanage. He finds himself practicing saying “Christmas! Bah, humbug!” and singing the bass part of “Deck the Halls” while climbing the ladder to hang those lights, and getting more and more worried about how he’s going to fit everything in. But Harriet, David and Ricky pitch in and help, and everything works out just fine.

This is the 1956 Christmas episode of the Ozzie and Harriet program, as rebroadcast in 1964 with an introduction and postlude. We get to see how the Nelsons changed in the intervening eight years, and see David and Rick’s wives and children, and hear the dreamy Rick sing “The Christmas Song.”

Philco PC

Here’s a beautiful redesign of the personal computer from Dave Schultze of Schultzeworks, his design studio known for “lots of mostly bright ideas.” The design was inspired by the classic 1954 Philco Predicta, old typewriters, and the steampunk movement, and it’s a sleek and lovely work of modern minimalism, certainly the coolest device ever to run Windows.

I want to run right out and buy one, and design my home around it. Unfortunately, that’s not possible quite yet. This was designed for a contest sponsored by V-Ray, makers of 3D rendering technology for the Rhino modeling software, and the computer itself doesn’t actually exist yet. But it was awarded one of the top three prizes and has been getting a lot of attention, and I’m sure that one of the computer manufacturers will want to bring this beauty to market.

Philco PC from Dave Schultze on Vimeo.

Grandpa’s Christmas Visit

“The Bob Cumming Show” (known as “Love That Bob” in reruns) was a racy 1950s situation comedy starring Bob Cummings as California fashion photographer Bob Collins, surrounded all day (and most nights) by beautiful models. He’s the coolest guy in town, but instead living in a bachelor pad he lives with his widowed, respectable sister Margaret (played by Rosemary DeCamp) and her teenage son Chuck (played by Dwayne Hickman). Margaret and Bob’s sensible secretary Schultzy (played by Ann B. Davis) do their best to keep bachelor Bob out of trouble.

“Grandpa’s Christmas Visit” was broadcast on December 22, 1955, during the show’s second season. Grandpa Collins comes from Joplin, Missouri, to visit Bob, Margaret and Chuck. He looks an awful lot like an older version of Bob, and has the same way with the girls, and, as you might imagine, much merriment ensues…

Grandpa’s Christmas Visit from the Internet Archive:

A Stop at Willoughby

Gart Williams is a New York advertising executive who is burnt out. His boss, Oliver Misrell (All-Over Miserable?), is a tyrant whose motto is Push-Push-Push, and his wife Jane is a cold, selfish woman who doesn’t care if he’s happy as long as he keeps making money.

After a terrible day at the office, Gart gets on the commuter train home to Connecticut. It’s dark and snowy outside, and the weary Gart drifts off to sleep. When he wakes up, the conductor is calling out the stop for Willoughby. The train has been transformed into something from the nineteenth century, and when he looks out and sees a summer afternoon in a small town of 100 years ago, with a band playing, a couple of barefoot boys walking by with fishing poles, and a horse-drawn wagon waiting at the station. When he questions the conductor about the town, he’s told it’s a quiet place where a man can slow down and “live his life full measure.” When he goes to the steps to look out, the train jars back into motion, and Gart wakes up in his seat, back in the present.
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RIP Gale Storm

Gale Storm, best-remembered from her 1950’s program “My Little Margie,” died on June 27 at the age of 87.

Born Josephine Cottle, her career began in 1940 when she won a national talent contest called Gateway to Hollywood. The official prize was a movie contract RKO contract under the name Gale Storm. She fell in love with contest’s male winner, Lee Bonnell, who she married in 1941.

In the 1940s, Gale Storm appeared in many B movies but her big break came in 1952, when “My Little Margie” premiered as a summer replacement for “I Love Lucy.” Both shows were set in Manhattan and revolved around madcap women and their crazy schemes which often involved dress-up and deception, always backfired and both amused and exasperated the men in their lives.
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