Thanks for the confirmation and reminiscence, my friend. Indeed, the planet gets a little smaller every time I turn around. Best from Peggy-n-me to you and Susan, with a second scoop to Susan for a speedy recovery.
The Best BBQ in Missouri -- LC's, in Kansas City
You're lookin' for LC's BAR-B-Q, in East K.C. Their address is:
5800 Blue Pkwy
Kansas City, MO 64121
They actually made it onto somebody's Food Radar, recently showing up on an online list of 33 Best BBQ joints in America:
And, yeah, their penchant for smoking nearly _every_ damn thing they cook makes it taste that much finer. Their ribs -- and, as you well know -- burnt ends are the best in K.C.
Funny thing is, a lot of people in K.C. figure that's a dicey part of town. I never saw it as being any worse than other parts of K.C.; then again, when I worked linen delivery in Corpus Christi, TX, as a "youngster", they gave me a route that nobody wanted 'cause it was mostly Chicano-owned businesses. But _I_ never got hassled, even made a few friendly acquaintances.
There are a handful of things that most of the "foodies" in oz don't know how to properly concoct: like pancakes (you have to got to the Pancake Parlour to get anything close to American pancakes), and good old-fashioned yellow cake with chocolate icing (I miss that), a REALLY good, juicy burger, and, of course, properly BB-Qed ribs. We recently did our best -- with only an oven, no grill or smoker -- to make some, and Marcia (being an ex-KC native) did a fantastic job! I finished one slab, and bit more, almost by myself (my four-footed buddy, Irving, helped).
Whether you visit in person or get it shipped to ya, raise a rib, or a piece of crackle -- in BBQ-soaked salute -- in my direction,and enjoy!
My best to you and Susan. Missing you as well -- and thoroughly enjoying ALL of the products of this Ongoing Third Act (and I only LOVE the design/concept for the CAN/CAN'T collection).
Warm wishes from Oz (from the weather reports you can use them),
REPLY TO FINDERDOUG
You're dead on. Same Bela W. Von Block.
Met him, knew him, we were both writing for the mini-digest-sized men's magazines at the same time. Magnum Publications published INFINITY and SUSPECT along with the men's QUICK-sized digests where I did so much anonymous writing and captions for Bettie Page pictorials, et al. Bela was a standard operative in the men's true-action sphere, and was a regular at Magnum, where Larry Shaw bought my first story, "Glowworm" for INFINITY and "Riff" (horribly and redundantly retitled "Riff Tune" for SUSPECT.
I'd run into Bela frequently after Larry hired me to do the editorial scutwork on the mini-mags, and I was in the (wait...was it Magnum?...no, it was Royal Publications) offices five days a week. Bela was older than I, as was everyone, and a bit grizzled, but he was a shoeleather hardworking plowman who sold everything he was assigned or freelanced.
Ain't it a small world, old chum.
Yr. Pal, Harlan
DORMAN IN OZ
Old companion, mio, Shindelah:
Cast memory back. If you remember.
The sensational BBQ joint whereat we had the Crackle.
Was it in St. Louis or K.C.?
Can you summon up the name of the joint?
I need to know before January, if you can.
That was one of the best dining memories of my life.
Thank you, I miss you, chum of yore.
Yr. Pal, Harlan
No matter who wrote/performed "Jingle Bell Rock", it is NOT a Christmas (or even Xmas) song. Neither are "Jingle Bells", "Winter Wonderland", "Frosty the Snowman", "Sleigh Ride", "Baby, It's Cold Outside", and quite a few others that end up on "holiday" albums, and are therefore packed away just as they are coming into season.
As for Jean Shepard, the loss of Hawkshaw Hawkins must have been quite a shock. And the sense of humor works better in print than on the Opry. (j/k)
Hey Harlan -- can I pester you with a question?
Lately, in between other bursts of writing and having the entire house re-piped, I've been cataloging two boxes of photos, albums and papers left behind by my aunt Elaine when she died. In her first album from the Korean War (she was assigned to the 8167th Army Hospital, Tokyo at the start of the war), there's a photo with a long inscription to her on the back from a Sgt. B.W. Von Block.
Given the distinctness of the name, I suspect this sergeant could be the same Bela (B.W.) Von Block who later ghost-wrote for J. Paul Getty. Might not be. Could be someone entirely different. I haven't turned up a lot of biographical info on Von Block the writer, so I don't know if he's also Von Block the 1st Cavalry soldier, outside of an appropriate date range match.
But given that Von Block the writer also appears to have been born in Cleveland, wrote here and there for men's magazines in fifties, had titles published by paperback houses such as Lancer in the 60s, and didn't pass away until 1991, I was wondering if you and Von Block ever crossed paths, given the somewhat overlapping thematic spheres.
Not an item of critical importance - merely a side-curiosity to an odd intersection discovered in a dusty 60 year old album - but I thought I'd ask while it was front and center in my head.
SUNDAY MORNING ANSWERING TO FRIENDS' POSTS
1. Had a helluva day yesterday. Visited by 3 Notables: the divine Carol Cooper, from New York, writer, Village Voice correspondent, ex-Clarion student-of-mine, gorgeous hottie; and
Naren Shankar and his exquisite wife, Shireen, he who just took leave of the tv series ALMOST HUMAN (hello, "Brillo'" you're
baaaack!), who adapted my and A.E. van Vogt's "The Human Operators" for OUTER LIMITS and won the Canadian Writers Guild best teleplay award for both of us. Super good company.
2. The Electric Baby is still under the weather. Woman has had what I ken to be a mild "walking pneumonia" for at least two months, and everyone we know, including Josh and Nancy, are trying to get She Who Must Be Obeyed to hie herself via me and/or Sharon, to more more more doctors to end the sneezing, nose-dribbling, achiness, weariness, wooziness. She thwarts me, shuts me down, is just like YOUR spouse--never a frown or groan or complaint, just "Ill be fine" and the blow-off--always staunch and Wee Wonderful...and I worry.
3. IAN AITKEN: What an absolutely cheery wistful wonderful thing to hook-up in memory. My honey and I hug'n'smile 'pon you, me old china!
4. There was a sequel film to A CHRISTMAS STORY with a completely different (save one character, Ralphie's schoolteacher) cast. Darrren McGavin was replaced by Charles
Grodin, and the sublime Peter Billingsley as Ralphie was reenacted by one of the Culkin kids. It was called IT RUNS IN MY FAMILY, and apart from elaborating on the Darren McGavin sight-gag of "the Bumpus Hounds," it ain't even a distant whisper of the everlasting glory of Jean Shepherd's A CHRISTMAS STORY. Check your Maltin.
5. MARK GOLDBERG and ADAM-TROY CASTRO: in re Six Degrees of Separation Between Harlan Ellison (1934) and Marlene Dietrich in BLONDE VENUS (1932)...very good tries, very informed and accurate and yes, very true...but NO.
6. JAN IN THE EU: much closer, but still not the amazing REAL even closer still less-than-six-degrees connection.
Everyone should keep trying. These alternate trail-cuttings have me utterly ensorceled.
As for me, in case anyone was wondering: I am peachykeen, writing as fast as I can, got a report back from the Writers Guild-Industry Medical Center in Toluca Lake, that the urine specimen they requested last week, that I pissed, bottled, and sent, was apprised by the Whiz-Doctors On High and found to be jolly, translucent, uncontaminated, high-yaller and healthy.
How bereft were my liaisons with the universe before the moot Internet. Have a good weekend.
Yr. Pal, Harlan
I'm off on the road again today, but only a couple days out this time.
Love seeing all of the A CHRISTMAS STORY memories. It was, for me, an iconic film from the first time I saw it as a young man at USC. A few friends and I were massively into films, and while A CHRISTMAS STORY spoke to me it was rapidly dismissed as a chick-flick by my buddies -- as young men will do at that age.
But I loved the film, particularly one scene at the end of the film as Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon cuddle together in the dark of a very exhausting day.
I wondered if and when I would ever discover my life the way the two of them had. It tugged at me in a way I cannot adequately describe, but I SO wanted that kind of a life. To have someone to share it with me.
Only one year later I was engaged to Cris. I am happy to report that every year we dim the lights, light the Christmas tree and watch A CHRISTMAS STORY as we cuddle on the couch -- usually with a mug of hot chocolate or cider.. And every year I get choked up as I watch that scene remembering the young guy who sat in a dark theater wondering if he would ever have that. I got that.
Happily, A CHRISTMAS STORY is not the only Shepherd tale to be adapted for film. There were at least two done for PBS in the 80s, and this is one of them, about the same family with an older Ralphie: OLLIE HOPNOODLE'S HAVEN OF BLISS. Add this to your CHRISTMAS STORY viewing and you will be a better person for it.
It's the full film, divided into 9 parts, and apparently rescued from someone's old VHS tape.
And one more treat: here's a clip where Jean takes us on a guided tour of the junkiest, most craptastical hellhole of a highway in New Jersey (which is saying something): the legendary Route 22, as I knew it best, in its late-70s heyday. Jean's narration is wonderful and hilarious and dead on the money. (Interestingly, I first saw A CHRISTMAS STORY on Rt. 22.)
Dietrich to Ellison in Two
Marlene Dietrich was in JUDGMENT AT NUREMBURG with William Shatner.
Lorre and Dietrich knew each other socially, no need for Grant to get in the way. Also they both worked for von Sternberg, with whom Harlan attended a film festial in Brazil (cf. Hornbook). Lorre could also be seen on Hitchcock Presents (Man from the South) with Steve McQueen (who carried Harlan through the desert), as well as in Joe Pevney's Congo Crossing.
Marlene Dietrich & Harlan
Allow me to take a shot at the connection:
1) Marlene Dietrich was in Blonde Venus with Cary Grant
2) Cary Grant was in Crime in Punishment (1935) with Peter Lorre
3) Peter Lorre was Comm. Lucius Emery in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
4) Harlan wrote the episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea titled "The Price of Doom"
How'd I do?
Also, for Harlan and any other comic fans, I am reading a really excellent comic from Oni Press titled Letter 44. The concept is that the incoming President receives a letter from his predecessor, a man almost universally reviled because he brought the US into several wars and nearly bankrupted the nation.
The letter provides some context for those decisions as we are told that an alien craft was detected in the asteroid belt early in his presidency. The first issue is available to read online here, and features a doozy of a final page. The second issue is just as good and I would encourage you to pick it up:
Happy Holidays to all,
Whilst we are on the subject of the great Christmas hoo haa.
I'm from Glasgow, in Scotland... Yeah I am a Scotsman. Also an atheist, thanks to my parents, probably more to my grand parents, both of whom were communists, but that is beside the point.
Anyway, I now live in Dumfries, near the border with England, but it has two claims to fame. Robert Burns wrote some of his most notable poems here. And JM Barrie (he of peter pan fame) grew up and went so school here.
Ok we also have Calvin Harris but we dont talk about him, like I dont talk about going to school with Wet Wet Wet.
But being a Glaswegian train driver.... I can look at The Central Hotel and think, my favourite writer met his wife there.
So, Merry non-religious mid-winter festival people.
Love ya all
A Few Thoughts...
Seeing the recent posts about "A Christmas Story" has had me thinking about the belief in Santa Claus in general...and it has also prompted me to remove what I thought was a friend from my Facebook page...
Facebook of late has been the stomping ground of many an ignorant mind. (Thank goodness for David Gerrold, Steve Barber and a few close friends of mine who make it a nice place to visit.) One of these individuals chose to display their insensitivity and ignorance by proclaiming that it was "sad" that children talked to Santa instead of "praying to God". They also went on to say that there is so much more to learn, their young minds must absorb other things, etc, etc.
That came off as condescending and downright disrespectful of other people. It's not sad that kids talk to Santa...if that's what they want to do, fine. Of course they'll learn that he's not real, but in the meantime, why find it sad? Heck, the kid in "The Christmas Story" believed in him enough to keep asking for that Red Ryder BB gun...sure enough, he got it. So what if it was actually his dad who bought it? To me, the spirit of Santa was there in that story, and that makes him real enough for me.
I have since taken this friend off my list because as of late, they have displayed such lack of understanding of the world around them and show little interest in doing their research. I would have rebutted rather hard against such an insensitive statement, but they also decided that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist and murderer. After that post, I decided enough was enough.
Believe in what you will, folks. As long as one has faith in something, or just has faith period, then that's good enough for me. And even if one doesn't believe in Santa, did it ever occur to them that he might believe in them?
To end this Christmas post, I send this one out to Shagin, as I take out "The Twelve Ways of Christmas" to read again...some drummer and eleven of his buddies are still complaining that you haven't fulfilled some sort of promise you supposedly made them, and would I mind taking a crack at it?
I told them you're the writer, take it up with you, and would they kindly leave me alone? (That was the censored version...man, they were pushy!)
Peace out folks...and Happy Holidays.
Dear H & S:
Thank you both for a memorable evening.
I could have danced all night. :-)
A CHRISTMAS STORY
Many years ago I brought my Dad a copy of A CHRISTMAS STORY.
He looked at it askance. "I don't wanna see a Christmas movie."
"It's your life," I told him.
"I know that. Christmas is the smallest part of it. It's about family. It's about universal childhood experiences. You will love it."
Burned by any number of sickly-sweet family movies, he was dubious. "It can't be THAT good."
"Yes. It can be. TRY. Watch."
He sighed and in the manner of a guy doing me a favor, watched.
The man kvelled for two hours.
He has seen the movie a couple of dozen times, I think.
Lead on Rhys Cooper
Yo--I gave this a quick, sloppy shot on the way out of the office Friday. Heard back from Mr. Cooper's web dude, John Harris, who says:
If Harlan wants to contact Rhys ask him to contact me on this email. Regards.
That address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, Jean Shepherd was the lone voice of wisdom in the radio wilderness for me when I was growing up on the East coast.
Do check out his lovely tome WANDA HICKEY'S NIGHT OF GOLDEN MEMORIES (AND OTHER DISASTERS). You will be swept away.
LE IN BEAUTIFUL (yeah, I gotcher "beautiful") NORTHRIDGE
Who d'ya think yer tawkin'to here, dawg. I've BEEN to Northridge.
Many words of description obtain, but "beautiful" is reeeeleeee stretchin' the trope, sweetie.
That's not why I came here to answer your post.
That was a drift.
I came here to tell you that you will love me like Santy Claws for having turned you on to A CHRISTMAS STORY, which is one of the greatest, funniest, most divinely human movies ever made, from the Golden Mind of Jean Shepherd, who narrates voiceover, thus leading you to Jean's books, the easily-available CDs of his many radio broadcasts, and a world of wonder you may not have known still trembles with life BEYOND Beyonce and Duck Dynasty.
Yr. Pal, Harlan
Northridge....mmmmm......rassafrassen peckalomer...(Villain farts)
Xmas P.S. to Frank
Frank, I meant to type sang, as in Helms also sang, not wrote, "Fraulien" and "Special Angel". But I did make the mistake of thinking he wrote your favorite Xmas song, "Jingle Bell Rock", when he didn't. He just sang that one as well.
Consider this a bit of mistle for your toe.
Peter Billingsley lived 8 houses up from Harlan? Weird. The house where they filmed A CHRISTMAS STORY in Cleveland was 12 blocks away from the house I grew up in.
Re; A CHRISTMAS STORY
I have never seen A CHRISTMAS STORY, but wow, if Mr. Ellison, the man who wrote that great essay "No Offense Intended, but Fuck Xmas," likes it...
There is an eBay listing for an ex-library copy of DEATHBIRD STORIES. What I found interesting was that it shows a hand-writtten and signed postcard, dated 30 Oct 1989, from SUSAN ELLISON answering a query and saying they did not have any tapes of Mr. Ellison's "roast" on hand. Link to listing is below.
First Art Sale
Haven't talked to you in eons. I don't think I've ever shown you or even mentioned my art. I've been painting since the 1990s but never showed except to friends. Well, over last weekend I sold a painting at a local convention, so I is now a artiste. I got a bottle of absinthe but haven't figured how to pour it through the little doohickey with the sugar cube. Hints?
Oh, you can see the painting on my web site www.johndechancie.com. In fact you can see all my art if you click on "John's Art." Hey, I don't expect you to like it, just letting you see the Renaissance side of me, man.
Triple Dog Dare
My favorite Christmas movie, too; I have the BB gun.
I have the lamp, albeit a miniature version ...
Jingle Bells...Frank's research smells
Mr. Church! You may claim you are too young to know better, but since it was written before I was born, there's no excuse -- no matter what you think of the song -- for being so wrong, again.
Hall & Oates? Not only are they NOT the ones who wrote the song -- that was Bobby Helms, who also wrote "Fraulein" and "My Special Angel", in the 1950s -- Hall & Oates weren't the first to record it. That would, of course, be Helms, who actually had a top ten hit with it. After that, everyone and his or her gramma recorded it, well before your favorite singing duo.
If one such as I can learn to use the internet when I'm unsure of things -- to at least rouse suspicion I might be wrong -- then so can you, Frank.
Now, stop being such a maroon, and get yourself off to Jingle Bell Square, and do some dancing and prancing. It'll make you fell better.
And Merry Christmas!
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