PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Curtain Call’s Hypothetical Tony Awards Came True

Wednesday afternoon at 3 PM The AIR brings you an episode of Curtain Call from June that was billed as a special show devoted to the Tony Awards that weren’t. Now that The American Theater Wing has decided to proceed with a virtual Tony Awards, it seems that Curtain Call host,  Mel Larch, was not far off the mark. You can tune in at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

3 PM sees an encore of Mel Larch’s 2020 Tony Award Nominees show on Curtain Call.  This was rather tricky to assemble, since the fate of the 2020 Tony Award was uncertains, and there haven’t been any live performances on Broadway since the middle of March.

So with no nominees and no shows currently running, Mel brought you the hypothetical nominees, with selections from several shows that could have been in the running for the Tony Award for Best Musical, had the awards been awarded on schedule. The 2020 Tony Awards ceremony still has not been scheduled. However, last week The Wing did announce their nominees for the 2020 Tony Awards, and as you can see, if you compare Mel’s show to the list that was announced last week, she pretty much nailed it except for American Utopia, which was not submitted for consideration. However, since it’s just recently turned up on HBO Max, it still works here.

You will hear selections from Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, Jagged Little Pill, Six, American Utopia and Moulin Rouge. In the background of Mel’s introductions you’ll hear Oscar Peterson playing “Something’s Coming,” from the musical, West Side Story, which just missed being in contention for best revival of a musical, unless it was as bad as everybody who saw it in previews said it was. This was as close as we could get to bringing you the annual Curtain Call Tony Nominees show back in June.  I think we did a pretty good job of guessing the nominees.

Curtain Call can be heard on The AIR Wednesday at 3 PM, with replays Thursday at 8 AM and 9 PM, Friday at 10 AM and Saturday at 6 PM. An all-night marathon of Curtain Call episodes can be heard Wednesday nights, beginning at Midnight, and an additional marathon can be heard Sunday evenings from 6 PM to midnight.

Tuesday on The AIR we deliver an ecologically-responsible episode of Radio Free Charleston.  In order to hear this three-hour blast from the recent past, you simply have to point your cursor over and tune in at the website, or you could just stay on this page, and  listen to this convenient embedded radio player…

It’s time for a sort of newish Radio Free Charleston at 10 AM and 10 PM on The AIR.

This week your PopCulteer is slacking off a bit again. I know, I’m getting really good at this. Since I’m trying to get ahead on The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide, I needed to take some time off from radio this week (yeah, just like last week), so I’m recycling episodes of Radio Free Charleston and Radio Free Charleston International from the week of April 15, 2018, to fill up our three-hour timeslot this week.

We do open with one new track, by The Bounty, a Columbus band that was a fixture on the Charleston music scene back around 1990, and now count one John “Sham Voodoo” Estep among their ranks. They reunited for a new album last year, Everybody Loves A Second Act, and “Stop” is one of the songs we hadn’t gotten around to playing yet from it.

Our other afternoon programs are shiny, gem-like encores today. Trust me, it’ll still be fantastic. Check out this playlist for our eco-friendly RFC

RFCv5 034

The Bounty “Stop”
Mark Beckner Group “Nigh”
Speedsuit “Long As Yesterday”
Sheldon Vance “Melody”
John Radcliff “Useless”
Farnsworth “Free Me”
Hawthorne Heights “Chemicals”
Emmalea Deal “Sacred”
Ptolemy “Spin Wrench Non”
Poor Man’s Gravy “The River”
Kerry Hughes “Copycat Blues”
Byzantine “Incremental”
David Synn “The Horror”
Feast of Stephen “Blinded Baby In A Cage”
Hasil Adkins “I Don’t Want Nobody The Way I Want You”

hour two
John Cale “Changes Made”
They Might Be Giants “Black Ops”
Dirty Heads “Oxygen”
Green Day “Bang Bang”
John Anderson “Midnight Dancing”
Frank Zappa “Uncle Remus (Mix Outtake)
Peter Garrett “Homecoming”
DEVO “I Love Ur Gun”
No Doubt “Snakes”
Kate Pierson “Guitars and Microphones”
Neil Young “Vampire Blues”
Mi Sex “Not Such A Bad Boy”
Sabaton “Camoflauge”
The Who “Cook’s County”
A Day To Remember “Bullfight”

hour three
DGM “Animal”
Placebo “Twenty Years”
Faith No More “Why Do You Bother”
Paul McCartney “Check My Machine”
Ultravox “There Goes A Beautiful World”
Shakespeare’s Sister “Catwoman”
Screamin” Jay Hawkins “Frenzy”
King Grizzard and the Lizard Wizard “Mr. Beat”
George Harrison “Party Seacombe”
Kate Bush “James And The Cold Gun”
The Temptations “Ball Of Confusion”
Strawberry Alarm Clock “Blues For A Young Girl Gone”
The Radio Department “The Thing Was Bored”

Radio Free Charleston can be heard Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM, with replays Wednesday at 9 AM, Thursday at 3 PM, Friday at 7 AM and 7 PM, Saturday at 11 AM and Midnight, Sunday at 1 PM and the next Monday at 8 PM, exclusively on The AIR.

At 1 PM we’ll bring you an encore episode of Curtain Call, hosted by Mel Larch. 2 PM sees Nigel Pye with Psychedelic Shack, and we revisit some of our recent “History of Swing” episodes of The Swing Shift at 3 PM.

The plan for next week is to have all-new episodes of our music specialty shows, including an all-new Radio Free Charleston which will open with a lovely new song by Stacee Lawson Stanley.

Monday Morning Art: Shapes


This week’s art is geometric abstract what’s done been all Warholed up. I decided to do a simple digital painting using basic shapes and primary colors and then I kept going off on tangents, creating six images that I liked equally, but without any becoming a particular favorite. So I slapped ’em all together into one big image, turned that sucker on its side, and hoo-boy, you got you some art, buddy.

I guess I’m just in digital cowboy mode this week, art-wise.

If you want to see it bigger, just click on the image.

Meanwhile, Monday at 9 AM on The AIR, the Monday Marathon brings you six hours of Beatles Blast, which follows the regularly-scheduled repeat of last weeks Big Electric Cat at 7 AM. Today’s marathon was carefully chosen because I didn’t want to run six hours of dead air. You’ll like it. I host it and it’s all Beatle-y and crap.

At 3 PM on Prognosis, Herman Linte brings us an edition of Prognosis, that opens with Carl Palmer, who really should have been the top drummer in the recent PROG magazine poll. That’s followed by a classic Prognosis and an evening of NOISE BRIGADE and Radio Free Charleston. You can hear replays of Prognosis Tuesdays at 7 AM, Wednesdays at 8 PM, Thursday at Noon, and Saturday at 9 AM. 

You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

Sunday Evening Video: Chuck Berry, Live In London 1972

The legendary father or Rock N Roll was born on this day, 94 years ago. So we’re bringing you the man himself, Chuck Berry, live in concert, from 1972.

The RFC Flashback: Episode 201

This week we go back to October, 2014, for a Radio Free Charleston video show featuring music from WATT4 and Super Heavy Duty, plus animation from Third Mind Incarnation and a short film by Frank Panucci. It’s a killer episode, and you can find the original production notes HERE.

WWE Firefly Funhouse Bray Wyatt Photo Review

The PopCulteer
October 16, 2020

This week The PopCulteer is devoted to a PopCult Toybox photo review of the Ringside Collectibles Exclusive Firefly Funhouse Bray Wyatt WWE Elite Action Figure by Mattel.

This is only available online, and it’s a real treat because it depicts WWE’s most bizarre wrestler, Bray Wyatt, in his Mr. Rogersesque Kid’s Show host mode, complete with his puppets and a cardboard backdrop of the Firefly Funhouse set.

If you’re not familiar with WWE, Wyatt is a talented wrestler who used to do a sort of swamp-based backwoods cult leader gimmick. After spending some time off TV, he returned in April 2019, first in a bizarre series of “Firefly Funhouse” videos, which spoofed kid’s shows, but had a really dark edge. Over time, the Funhouse segments got darker and darker, until it became apparent that Wyatt had multiple personalities, which manifest themselves as his three main pupppets, Abby the Witch, Mercy The Buzzard and Ramblin’ Rabbit (who has been killed onscreen many times). His darkest alternate personality is The Fiend, which is Wyatt dressed in gear that looks like Beetlejuice meets Mad Max, sporting a grotesque monster clown facemask, which was designed and built by Gore Effects legend, Tom Savini.

The Fiend is very popular with fans and has had an action figure or two made of him already. But this is the first time we’ve gotten an Elite figure of Wyatt as the host of The Firefly Funhouse.  As you can see in the photos below, this is a really cool action figure.

This six-inch-plus tall figure is exclusive to Ringside Collectibles, and is currently on back order, but it should be back in stock in time for holiday gift giving. Not Halloween, though. I meant the other holiday.

The Firefly Funhouse segments are a surreal, very meta, commentary on Wyatt’s career, and at times a puppet of WWE head honcho, Vince McMahon, sporting devil’s horns, turns up to make things even more bizarre.

At the most recent Wrestlemania Wyatt and The Fiend took on John Cena in a surreal “Firefly Funhouse Match,” that was probably the strangest thing WWE has ever aired. Depending on what you think of the gimmick, you either hated it, or thought it was brilliant.

Being in the thinking the Funhouse is brilliant camp, I decided to spring for this figure, and here’s what you get (photos by your PopCulteer, except for a few clearly labled pics that were swiped from the Ringside Collectibles website)…


The packaging is deluxe, with perforated opening flaps, which you can swing open to display your figure in the box. Or you can leave it unpunched, and slip him out the top, like I did. Above you see the front, back and side panels, and above that on the left, you see what it looks like with the flaps open.


Once opened you get a figure with an amazing likeness of Wyatt (minus any visible tattoos), on a figure with 19 points of articulation (range of posability is somewhat limited by the sculpting, though), a set of interchangeable hands, and four of the Funhouse puppets, Abby, Mercy, Ramblin’ Rabbit and Mr. McMahon. The puppets each fit on the end of the figure’ s arms, which is a nice feature even though none of them ever appear manipulated by Wyatt on TV. You also get a decent little folding backdrop, with an opening door and little windows for the puppets.


The backdrop is a really nice touch.


In this swiped photo you can see it in action.


I have to admit, it was the puppets that sold me on this set. The likenesses are dead-on, and the paint jobs are pretty impressive for such tiny pieces.


Here you can see them in action. Many a wrestler has wanted to ram his fist where Wyatt has his right hand.


With his jazz hands reattached, Wyatt can show off his articulation with some high-class truckin’.


A closer look at the three main puppets. Sadly, we did not get the gluttonous pig, Huskis.


But we do get the devilish Mr. McMahon puppet, who made this all possible.


With one last look at that amazing headsculpt and slightly imprecise paint job, we take our leave this week.

Be sure to check PopCult for all our regular features, and prepare yourself for new shows, returning next week on The AIR, following our week of Swing Music this week.



The Autobiography of An Underground Filmmaker

The PopCult Bookshelf

American Exxxtasy: My 30-Year Search for a Happy Ending
by John Amero
with Ashley West and April Hall of The Rialto Report
FAB Press
ISBN-13 : 978-1913051068

American Exxxtasy: My 30-Year Search for a Happy Ending is a real treat for non-snobby film fans. It’s the life story of John Amero, who is not exactly a household name, but he’s led a fascinating life as a pioneer of underground cinema and has even flirted with mainstream success. If you are not offended by the idea of treating people who worked in the porn industry as real folks, then you really ought to enjoy this book.

This is the first book published with a co-imprint of The Rialto Report, the website I’ve written about here previously that documents the golden age of porn via articles and podcasts. Amero was their first contact when they began their mission, and it took years of prodding by them to convince him to tell his life story.

It’s a pretty wild life story: A young man from a small New England fishing town grows up to become one of the most influential exploitation filmmakers in the 1960s, and then goes on to pioneer hardcore straight and gay porn, before winding up his film career producing a mainstream documentary for NBC. Mainstream audiences may not know of such films as Body of a Female, Diary of a Swinger and The Corporate Queen, or they may pretend not to know about Blonde Ambition and Every Inch a Lady, but these were all very profitable independent film releases. They just aren’t quite the “art films” that are discussed in “polite company.”

The remarkable thing about American Exxxtasy is how positive and upbeat Amero has managed to remain. Growing up in a family ripped apart by mental illness, being confused about his sexuality and eventually coming to grips with being gay, and then living in New York City through the eras of Stonewall, LGBTQ rights and AIDS, one would expect Amero to be at least a little bitter or embattled, but that is not the case here.

Some of the tragedies of his life are presented with no small amount of humor, like where he gets hit on by the priest at his father’s funeral. Other deaths, such as his brother, his companion and his best friend, are touching, but not morose. You don’t get the feeling that Amero is a person who wallows in hopelessness.

That probably explains why he was able to produce movies on a shoestring budget, finding shortcuts to get around lean financial times and always managing to eke out a living with paying gigs to keep the movies coming. It takes a ruthless optimism and no small amount of mental toughness to fight against the odds to follow your dreams.

In American Exxxtasy, the meaty parts about the actual filmmaking process are engrossing. This is not like reading about how many hundreds of special effects artists worked on a Spielberg movie. This is about buying cheap film stock and running around New York, shooting without a permit, while trying not to get busted for filming topless women. This is the story of guerilla filmmaking back before anybody called it that.

We also learn of Amero’s childhood, and his early life in New York in the late 1950s, working in menial jobs at CBS and ABC, and how his story includes encounters with Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Andy Warhol, Montgomery Clift, Anthony Perkins, and Olympia Dukakis.

Exploitation film aficionados will eat up the stories of his partnership with his bother, Lem, and his friendship with fellow underground filmmakers Michael and Roberta Findlay. Plus they’ll get a kick out of reading about his dealings with various, possibly mob-connected, grindhouse film distributors.

Ashely West and April Hall are credited as co-writers, but as they do with The Rialto Report, their voices are not evident. I’m certain they did a heck of a lot to guide and edit Amero, but the story is his to tell, and they step back let him tell it splendidly.

American Exxxtasy is a true American success story told with wit, humor and genuine emotion. It captures a moment in the film industry that we will never see again. This is a first-person account of a cultural and sexual revolution played out in one man’s life. Perhaps Amero’s happy ending is that he has enjoyed a life well lived and can share his story with the world.

American Exxxtasy: My 30-Year Search for a Happy Ending will be available from any bookseller on November 1. You can order it using the ISBN code, or you can get a signed first edition now, directly from the publisher.

“Gimme Some Truth” Finds John Lennon ReImagined

The PopCult Music Review

GIMME SOME TRUTH: The Ultimate Mixes
[2 CD/Blu Ray Deluxe Boxed Set]
John Lennon
Remixed music produced by Sean Ono Lennon
Universal Music Group

To mark the 80th anniversary of the birth of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Sean Ono Lennon and Universal Music Group have released Gimme Some Truth: The Ultimate Mixes in a variety of formats and prices. We’re going to look at the 2CD/Blu Ray version because it’s got the most cool stuff with it.

We begin with the PR blurb:

The definitive new Best Of John Lennon – 36 tracks completely remixed from master tapes, giving these classic songs a new life for generations to come and sounding better than ever before. 2 CD/Blu-ray features 36 tracks in hi-res stereo 96/24 PCM, new 5.1 surround mixes and Dolby Atmos for the ultimate immersive experience. With an incredible 124-page book with rare photos and extensive notes from John, Yoko and more. Foldout 2-sided poster, 2 postcards and GIMME SOME TRUTH. bumper sticker.

If you are a fan of John Lennon and The Beatles, you will enjoy this reminder of the musical genius we lost almost forty years ago. This is also a good reminder of how wide-ranging Lennon was as a songwriter. Gimme Some Truth has everything from rockers to ballads, protest songs to pop masterpieces, introspective soul-revealing epics to silly love songs. You’l find everything from the proto-metal scream of “Cold Turkey” to the tender fatherly ode of “Beautiful Boy.”

The remixes, using analog equipment and the original master tapes, are a bit of a sonic revelation. There are no major shocks or surprises here, but the new mixes have a remarkable clarity and sound absolutely pristine.

I can quibble a little about the song selection. The set includes all of Lennon’s chart hits, and several great album tracks, but the track line-up is dominated by just three albums, with four tracks from the Plastic Ono Band album, which is rumored to be released as its own deluxe CD boxed set soon, and six tracks from Imagine, which was given the deluxe boxed set treatment two years ago, and five of John’s seven songs from the Double Fantasy album.

Meanwhile we only get a single tune from the often overlooked Sometime In New York City album. We also get one track each from two of John’s posthumous albums, Live In New York City and Menlove Avenue. I would’ve picked any other tracks to represent those two albums.  It would have been nice to get a few more deep album cuts from some of Lennon’s lesser-known works. As quibbles go, not having enough deep album cuts on a “best of” collection is pretty minor.

The real treat for Lennonophiles is the accompanying book, which covers each track in this collection using John’s words from a variety of interviews. It’s cool to get his perspective on “How Do You Sleep” for instance. Mixed in with John’s words are those of his collaborators, giving us a really nice oral history of his solo career along with plenty of rare photos. There are details here that I didn’t know, and I’m a hardcore Beatles fanatic. The addition of complete credits for each song is also a treat, so you can see which tracks George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton played on, and which song has vocals by Timothy Leary and guitar by Tommy Smothers.

The book and CD/Blu Ray folder are housed in a nice slipcover, with black and white photos enhanced with gold ink. That color scheme is repeated throughout the book and accompanying double-sided poster and postcards. There’s even a bumper sticker, recalling the extra goodies that John and Yoko would often throw in with their early albums.

GIMME SOME TRUTH: The Ultimate Mixes is a good collection for the die-hard fan who doesn’t mind buying the same songs they already own. The new mixes and the book make it worthwhile. This would also be a great entry-level collection for a young Beatles fan who wants to dip their toes into John’s solo work. It’s not a cheap collection, but there are less elaborate editions if the price makes you squeamish. You should be able to buy or order this from any retailer who sells CDs.

The Turning Of The Leaves

Yesterday Mr. and Mrs. PopCulteer took a nice leisurely drive West, for a drive-thru lunch and minimal human contact, and along the way yours truly was able to get just a few decent photos of the colorful changing of the leaves along Interstate 64. We did not expect peak color in this area this soon, but there were pockets of spectacularly bright and Autumnal spectral delights. Presented for your enjoyment, and so that I don’t have to write a long post about anything, are a few of those photos…









Monday Morning Art: Swing Dancing


This week’s art is a digital painting which, to be honest, is mainly here to plug the “103 Hours of The Swing Shift” marathon that’s going on right now on The AIR.

Something I used to do quite often, but not so much lately, is to try to capture the spirit of dance in an abstract painting. That’s what I was doing here. My fingers were a little too impaired to try this as a physical painting, so I reached into my digital bag of tricks and slapped this out on a coarse virtual canvas, inspired by some of the Swing Dancing videos I watched while trying to decide what to feaure in yesterday’s Sunday Evening Video.

Feel free to click on it to see it bigger, if that’s your thing.

As for what’s happening today on The AIR, I recently hit (and passed) 100 episodes of The Swing Shift, my Swing Music showcase that you can hear Tuesdays at 3 PM on The AIR. In fact, I shot a bit past that, and now have 103 episodes in the can. Starting last night at midnight Sunday and wrapping up Friday morning at 7 AM, you can hear every single episode of The Swing Shift in a 103-hour marathon.

Not only will this allow you to experience the entire series, but it will also give your PopCulteer a week off from producing other radio programming. I need some time so I can get ahead on this year’s PopCult Gift Guide, which is slated to run during most of November.

If you want to hear this near-week of Swing Music, you can if you tune in to The AIR website, or listen on this embedded radio player to get into the Swing of thing with the best Swing Music from the last century!