PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Halloween on The AIR

air-halloween-logoThe AIR is in the midst of a massive Halloween Marathon that began Monday at 7 AM, and runs until Wednesday at 1:30 PM! You can tune in at the website, or on this convenient embedded radio player, to ride out the holiday in grand fashion with music, drama, goofiness and God only knows what else…

In the middle of all our Halloween coolness you’ll find a BRAND-NEW Halloween episode of Radio Coolsville, recorded just a day ago at WMUL in Huntington.

Here’s our full schedule, starting on Tuesday at 7 AM:


7 AM
Three Hours of Musical Mystery with Edgar Allen Poe

10 AM
Radio Coolsville Halloween (NEW!)

526653_269044256566133_121224178_n11 AM
The (BS) Crazy Halloween Show

Sydney’s 2016 Big Electric Halloween Cat

2 PM
Sydney’s 2017 Big Electric Halloween Cat

4 PM
Curtain Call Halloween

6 PM
Radio Coolsville Halloween (NEW!)

7 PM
Radio Free Charleston Halloween

8 PM
Radio Free Charleston Horror Theater International

The schedule continues after the jump…

Continue reading…

Monday Morning Art: Eyes In The Vines



We have an appropriately spooky digital painting for this Halloween Eve. “Eyes In The Vines” is meant to creep you out, just a bit. You can click on the image to see a larger version.

And since we’re in a macabre mood for Halloween, let us point you in the direction of our sister internet radio station, The AIR, where today and tomorrow you can fill up on a 51 and 1/2 hour marathon of all our special Halloween programming. It kicks off at 7 AM Monday with a random assortment of Halloween episodes of Radio Free Charleston, Sydney’s Big Electric Cat, Curtain Call, Radio Free Charleston International, The (BS) Crazy Show and more, along with scary radio dramatizations of work by H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, and Anthony Burgess. Tomorrow morning we’ll post a schedule of the second half of the marathon, but today we’re going to let it come at you with no warning!

Tune in at The AIR, or listen on this tricky little treat of a radio player…

Sunday Evening Videos: More Homegrown Halloween

384480_10152761774460720_1210485209_nTuesday is the big day for candy, ghosts and goblins this year. The weekend parties are behind us and those of us who need it will get a Monday to sleep off any hangovers so that we can all appreciate the real meaning of Halloween…giving out candy to kids dressed in cheesy costumes.

Over the years this holiday has mutated from being a fun thing for children into a way to sell alcohol to arrested adolescents, but on those rare occasions when the local governments allow Trick or Treat to happen on the actual holiday, it somehow becomes pure again, at least for one day.

For the second year in a row kids will get to Trick or Treat on the actual night of Halloween, and adults won’t go on a bender because they have to work the next day.

To get you in the spirit of the holiday, tonight PopCult will look at a few of our own videos that celebrate the true meaning of Halloween.

First up, it’s a look at Ben Cooper Halloween costumes.

Next it’s a cool Halloween-themed game that we saw at Toy Fair.

Of course we have a short, stupid, Halloween cartoon for you.

And finally it’s a “best of” compilation of our early Halloween episodes of Radio Free Charleston.

The RFC Flashback: Episode 74

big-montagethumb74Radio Free Charleston’s seventy-fourth episode, “RFC Trax shirt” is from June, 2009. This show features music from former Morgantonians, J Marinelli and Slate Dump, plus special announcements from Mad Man Pondo and Tofujitsu, as well as a Plant Ro Duction Mini Movie.

We also continued the First Great Guitar Giveaway with Route 60 Music, which has now been over for quite some time. Don’t bother trying to enter.But please do visit Route 60 Music and tell them you heard about it on RFC.

Host segments and our end credit bed were shot during FestivALL 2009 in Davis Park, during the “Art On A Stick” sale and open stage. You’ll hear RFC’s old buddy, Jerry Fugate, singing and playing Mandolin as we show you some of the sights of the day.

This show makes many references to our big third-anniversary show, which was posted the following week. You’ll get to see it in this space next week.  You can read the original production notes for this show HERE.

Changing Course on Wheeler Dealers

27677dfbbfa8820b625e5e095aebbcfe-wheeler-dealers-the-kidThe PopCulteer
October  27, 2017

Earlier this year Edd China, the co-host and mechanic on Wheeler Dealers, announced that he was leaving the show after thirteen seasons due to disagreements over the direction of the program. This was a big deal because Wheeler Dealers is currently the most popular automotive television show on the planet. It’s the highest-rated show on Velocity, and airs in 220 countries around the world. China is a large part of the reason for its success.

The premise of the show is that Mike Brewer, the other co-host, acquires a used car that has “issues,” and takes them to his mechanic, who fixes the cars up on a tight budget so that Brewer can re-sell the car at a profit. The show has just enough reality-show hijinks to satisfy their US network, Velocity, but the reason for the program’s massive worldwide appeal is that they show the process of making the repairs and restoring the car. China was fantastic at providing clear and concise explanations of what he was doing in an engaging, educational and entertaining way.

After twelve seasons produced by the show’s creators, Attaboy TV handed production of Wheeler Dealers over to Discovery Studios (Discovery Networks owns the show’s US home, Velocity). Season 13, which premiered in 2016, was not quite as slickly produced as the previous seasons, and there were signs that the repulslive reality-show elements that tarnish most of Discovery Studios’ other productions was creeping in.

antandmikeThis is where the controversy comes in. Last March Velocity announced that China had left Wheeler Dealers “to pursue other projects” and also announced his replacement, Ant Anstead (left, with Brewer), for the upcoming season. On the same day, China released a YouTube video with his side of the story, claiming that he was leaving because he disagreed with Velocity, who wanted to cut back the amount of time spent showing the process of fixing up the cars, and instead spend more time on Brewer’s acquisition and reselling adventures. He claimed that Velocity found producing the “fixes” to be too expensive and time-consuming. You can see his statement here…

edd-china-2_530x353Of course, this was throwing a match in the gasoline, and in no short order Brewer and his family had begun receiving death threats, China released another YouTube clip telling people to quit making death threats, and then Brewer made public statements disputing China’s claims about the producers of the show, and called China a “traitor.”

Normally, I wouldn’t care about this type of behind-the-scenes shenanigans, but I’ve been a huge fan of Wheeler Dealers for nearly ten years. I started watching it back when Velocity was called “HD Theater,” and found it to be intriguing, charming and the antithesis of most automotive programs produced by Discovery Networks. Until this controversy erupted I had no idea that the show was so popular.

Most of the automotive shows produced by Discovery are just reality-show garbage. They get a larger-than-life, generally obnoxious central figure, and surround him with goofball mechanics who can provide either drama or comic relief. Then they set artificial deadlines and ramp up the dramatic stress. The actual car repairs are given the short shrift, and many of these shows, like American Hot Rod, Fast and Loud, Misfit Garage and Fantomworks come across more like Honey Boo Boo with a monkey wrench than any kind of authoritative show about cars. They’re equal parts soap opera, professional wrestling, zany sitcom and disaster footage. They might be fun to watch, on a train-wreck level, but you aren’t going to learn anything.

austin-miniWheeler Dealers was different, largely because it was produced in the UK, away from the meddling fingers of Discovery.

However, Discovery Studios took over production of the show, which had largely relocated to California for parts of their most recent seasons, and the soul seemed to have been drained from Wheeler Dealers. With season thirteen the spark seemed to have gone from the program.

I didn’t write about the controversy as it was unravelling last spring because I wanted to give the new season a fair shot before passing judgement. We are three episodes into season 14, and I think it’s fair to comment now.

I miss Edd. That was a given. He was the heart and soul of the show, and having him gone is sort of like hearing the band, YES, without their lead singer, Jon Anderson. However, Ant Anstead is a capable replacement. He does not have the benefit of thirteen seasons of established onscreen likeablity that China had, but he is more than qualified as a mechanic, and is quite good at explaining what he’s doing in a simple and direct manner.

Mike is still Mike. He’s brash, mouthy and entertaining to watch in action. While his behavior earlier this year was less than admirable, it was entirely in character with the way he portrays himself on the show. He is, after all, a used-car salesman.

wheeler-dealers-logoIt seems like the producers have set out to prove China wrong, but they’re still missing the mark. It appears to me that more time is spent on Mike cutting deals, and less on Ant fixing the cars.I haven’t timed it with a stopwatch, so it might just be the editing that makes me feel that way.

The editing of the show is strange. There are so many quick cuts that you can’t get a clear look at the cars that they’re trying to show off. Music videos hold their shots longer than this show does this season. The pacing is choppy.

It’s like they took the hyperactive editors who work on the Grease Monkey Garage show and doubled the caffeine in their coffee before they turned them loose on what was a quiet and relaxing, measured British program.

Wheeler Dealers is still head and shoulders above any other car restoration show on Velocity. It’s just like they dropped a super-charged muscle car engine into a nice little family vehicle and can’t figure out why it doesn’t handle as well as it used to. Velocity does have one other show that is as well-produced as the original Wheeler Dealers, without the hyperactive editing and rushed pace, but Chasing Classic Cars is produced by Essex Television Group, which explains why it’s managed to avoid the typical Velocity production overdrive.

b99511971z-1_20170321151104_000_ggj1dk43u-1-0My verdict is that the show is still quite good, but it is diminished. As much a fan of China that I am, I have to say that Anstead is holding up his end of the bargain as Edd’s replacement.

I miss the “Mutt and Jeff” quality that China brought to his interactions with Brewer (China is six-foot, seven-inches tall. Brewer is not). I miss the hilarity that ensued when Brewer would bring some teensy Eurpean car into the shop and China couldn’t fit into it. Mostly I miss the production values and cool-headed editing that Attaboy TV brought to the first twelve seasons of the show.

China has not yet announced his next major project. I believe he’s been working on commercials in the UK. He is a fascinating individual, who made his name building motorized sofas and chairs for shows like Father Ted before he was tapped for Wheeler Dealers, so I look forward to seeing what sort of thing he comes up with next. I will still watch Wheeler Dealers and hope that the production team quits trying to Americanize the show, and returns to its original pace and format. It’s not hitting on all cylindars, but it’s still a fun ride.

The Return of The Real with Mark Wolfe

the-real-player-logoMy old pal, Mark Wolfe, has returned with a new episode of his podcast for the first time in over a year. Mark has interviewed some of Charleston’s most interesting movers and shakers, both in the creative world as well as politics and government, and he brings out some surprising details as he delves into his subjects.

The last year has been a busy one for Mark, and he’s had to put The Real on the backburner, but now he’s back and we’re very happy to see him behind the microphone once more.

You can hear The Real with Mark Wolfe a variety of ways. You can listen at The Real’s main website. You can subscribe to it on iTunes.

real-guests-blacklightYou can also tune in Friday mornings at 10 AM, when we broadcast The Real with Mark Wolfe on The AIR. You can visit the AIR website to tune in, or come back to this post and listen on the cool little embedded player right here…

We will debut new episodes on The AIR every Friday at 10 AM, with replays Sunday at 6 PM and Thursday at 11 PM.

On this week’s episode, Mark talks with CT Minimah & Rico Moore with the Blacklight Initiative talk about issues facing the African American community. It’s guaranteed to be an intriguing discussion of a series of very serious matters. You can tune in Friday at 10 AM on The AIR, or go check it out now at The Real’s website.

It’s great to have Mark back in the interviewing saddle, and we’re thrilled to have new episodes of The Real with Mark Wolfe on The AIR.

Halloween Stuff To Do

Halloween isn’t until next week, but this weekend is the time when the adults go out to party. I’m sure you all know about HallowEast and The Empty Glass’s big Halloween Hootenanny, but here are some other pre-Halloween party events happening this weekend, one here in Charleston, one cool benefit nearby and one all the way up in Morgantown.






Johnny West’s Formative Years

The PopCult Toybox AND Bookshelf

The Illustration Guide to Marx Action Figures
Module 4: Heroes of the West & Fort Apache Fighters
by Tom Heaton
Sold by www.VintageToyRoom.com
$49.99 (including shipping)

20993060_1406013366143874_8849195586889216784_nModule 4 of Tom Heaton’s ongoing updates to his Encyclopedia of Marx Action Figures is actually a terrific starting point for anyone intensely interested in the Western action figures made by the Marx Toy Company from 1964 to 1976. If you’re a fan of Johnny West and his friends and foes, this is the book for you. It covers the key introductions and changes that happened in the first three years of this classic action figure line.

Tom’s original Encyclopedia was published in 1999, and at the time he was very upfront about not knowing everything that there was to know about Marx Action figures. This admission was a refreshing change from the typical stance of authors of books about collectibles, who often have appointed themselves as infallible fonts of information. Tom explained that there was still much to learn and new sources of information (and new variants of toys) were turning up all the time. Because of ongoing discoveries and the size limitations of his original book, Tom began self-publishing update modules that would focus on one particular type of Marx Action Figure, and present in-depth looks at the figures, accessories, packaging, advertising and known variations that exist.

Each module features large, full-color photographs of the figures, both as bare figures and decked out with all their gear, along with descriptions of everything included in the package and photos of all the accessories. This makes identifiying figures a snap.

His latest module, number 4, was published in June and is the largest one yet. In fact, this module has more than half as many pages as Tom’s original Encyclopedia had, while focussing on the figures that only made up a fraction of that book. This is essential reading for any fan or collector of Johnny West action figures. In this module you’ll find information on the genesis of the Marx Action Figure, the Daniel Boone figure that started it all, and the rapid addition of Johnny West’s family and associates to the line. It only covers the years 1964 to 1967, but there’s a wealth of information here.

And there are full details on the horses. Thunderbolt, Comanche, Thundercolt, the Pancho Pony, plus all the wagons, buckboards, corrals and ranches that were sold for Johnny West. You’ll even find Johnny’s dogs and the elusive buffalo in these pages.

This latest module can be ordered directly from Tom’s website, The Vintage Toy Room, and the other modules can also be found there as well as the original encyclopedia. Tom will even sign these for you, if you wish. Tom has alreday done most of the work on Module 5, which will likely be published next year and which will focus on Stony Smith, The All American Fighters and the Marx Military Action Figures.  These are low-print-run,  full-color books, crammed with vital information for the hobby, and are worth every penny.

Disclaimer time: Tom is a buddy, one of the first collectors I met in the hobby (along with Terri Coop and Scott Stewart) when I started going to the Marx Toy Convention back in 2009. I would highly recommend his books if I hadn’t met him, but I’m very glad that I did.

Stuff To Do: Tombstone, Pizza

Wednesday night in Elkview a collection of the area’s best singer/songwriters will gather at Roni’s Pizza to relate a classic tale of The Old West. SongwriterStage presents TOMBSTONE Arizona 1881: A Piece of The Old West, a story told in song and narrative by Roger Rablais, with guest performances by Albert Frank Perrone, Holly and the Guy, Mike Arcuri, Tony Harrah, Travis Vandal, Chet Lowther, Larry Hoskins and Ritch Collins. The event seems to be free, but I’m sure that tips will be appreciated.

This sounds like a terrific production, and it will be followed by a special edition of SongwriterStage. Roni’s is a wonderful venue, with great food, and I hope that maybe they do this again, because I’d love to see this, but I’ve got a prior committment that night. I’m really glad to see local musicians coming together to do projects like this, and I’m really happy to see it happen as such a nice place. I’m also very pleased that it gave me a chance to run that absolute groaner of a headline.

This all starts at Roni’s Pizza in Elkview, right off of I 64, Wednesday at 7 PM. Details can be found in the graphic below.


All Hallow’s Approaches on The AIR!

week-schedule-10-23We get a bit of a head start on Halloween this week on The AIR. In addition to several hours of scary radio drama, we’ll bring you Halloween episodes of some of your favorite shows. You can see a schedule with highlights accompanying this post while you tune in at the website, or listen right here on this very scary embedded radio player…

Monday our afternoon specialty music shows get you warmed up for spookiness, and then we bring you radio drama and music in the evening. At 2 PM Lee Harrah pulls you into Harrah’s Hard & Heavy with an hour of very scary music by Type O Negative. 3 PM sees Herman Linte present very Halloween-appropriate episode of Prognosis with two hours of music by the masters of horor soundtracks, Goblin.

Monday at 7 PM we kick off five hours of Halloween-centric radio drama that includes three hours of music and verse inspired by Edgar Allen Poe, plus we re-present last year’s Halloween edition of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat.

Tuesday we’re coming at you with new episodes of Radio Free Charleston (at 10 AM and 10 PM) and The Swing Shift (3 PM). We’re sure that both of these shows will be fantastic, but we can’t offer up details because we haven’t recorded them yet.

Wednesday an all-new episode of Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle airs at 1:30 PM and 7 PM and will feature Michele looking at the spookier aspects of her book, Rain No Evil. At 2 PM Beatles Blast will look at the folks who dress up like The Beatles and try to sound like them, but aren’t. On a new Curtain Call at 3 PM Mel Larch will present a fresh hour of Halloween-friendly Broadway show tunes.  At 5 PM The AIR Audio Playhouse presents a dramatization of the story The Color of Space by H.P. Lovecraft.

Thursday at 2 PM we replay this week’s new Radio Free Charleston, then we’ll launch right into a rare replay of last year’s special Radio Free Charleston Horror Theater International at 3 PM. This was the audio debut of Count Rudolf, and the first time anyone has met his assistant, Igor. It’s two wild hours that are not to be missed.

Friday at 2 PM it’s time for an all-new Radio Coolsville, hosted by DJ Betty Rock, courtesy of WMUL Radio in Huntington. At 3 PM we bring you the premiere of this year’s Halloween episode of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat, with the spookiest Halloween music from the New Wave era.

Friday evening at 9 PM Jay and Jared take The Third Shift into Halloween overdrive with a new episode at 9:30 PM (preceded by a replay of last week’s show).

Saturday you get a chance to hear all of this week’s music specialty shows starting at 7 AM. Then at 7 PM we have three all-new episodes of The (BS) Crazy Show. Midnight sees Radio Free Charleston take over all night long.

Sunday we will feature more Halloween programming in The Talk Block at 11 PM, followed by replays of Marking Out, The Comedy Vault, Big Electric Cat, Radio Free Charleston and RFC International. At Midnight you get to Swing All Night with a marathon of The Swing Shift, which is very popular in Europe, by the way.

Every weekday at 6 PM you get treated to a half-hour of new music (both local and non-local) on The New Music Show, and at 6:30 PM you can catch up with The (BS) Crazy Show.

That is your guide to programming on The AIR for this week. Enjoy!