PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Toy Fair 2018: Reports Around The Web

The PopCult Toybox

toy-fair-2018-saturday-morningWelcome to the part of our Toy Fair coverage where we provide you with links to the best on-site coverage of the annual International Toy Fair in New York from all over the internet.

Mattel opened their booth early for major media outlets, and Cnet has a photo essay, while Reuters has video that also includes Hasbro.

Playmobil expands their licensed offerings and almost every company will stick a dinosaur into one of their toy lines to try to cash in on the Jurassic World movie coming out this year (Mattel holds the toy license for that). You can read Playmobil’s press release over at 14U.

Fansided rounds up all the news that Hasbro released in the days leading up to Toy Fair, including the wearable Infinity Gauntlet and the Deluxe co-pilot Chewbacca, which is really just a Fur-real Friend that stands upright.

Bloody Disgusting has extensive photos of NECA’s new action figure of Tim Curry as Pennywise, from the 1990 TV mini-series of Stephen King’s IT.

The next wave of McFarlane Toys Stranger Things Action Figures can be seen at Entertainment Weekly.

Also at Entertainment Weekly you will find a slideshow with photos of all the toys based on Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Finally, Toys R Us offers up a page of their sale on 2018 Toy of the Year award winners.

Check PopCult all weekend long for more updates, links, photos, videos and stories from The 2018 International Toy Fair in New York.

beatles-valentine-day-special-valentine-boxOver at our sister internet radio station, The AIR, we are replaying the entire marathon presentation of the February 2, 2018 marathon “With A Little Help From Our Friends” concert, where Rubber Sould performed over 200 Beatles songs Saturday, February 17.  We originally aired this on Valentine’s Day, but are too lazy to update the graphic at right.

You can listen at The AIR website, or right on this embedded player…

If you want to find a rundown of who sings what, when, go to THIS LINK, which has the full playlist as we broadcast it, with breaks for each hour, and all of the dozens of guest performers listed after each song.

This was an incredible event, and we are pleased to have been able to document it and rebroadcast it to you on The AIR. The show starts at 7 AM and runs until 8 PM.

Rubber Soul is Mark Scarpelli, Greg Hunt, Michelle Toliver, Brian Holstine, Bryan Flowers and Garret Maner, and they should take a bow. This was a remarkable achievement, and a splendid time was had by all.

hasbro_box_4cThe PopCult Toybox

The first shocker of Toy Fair 2018 is the announcement that Hasbro is going to be the new producer of Power Rangers toys starting in the spring of 2019. Bandai had neen producing the toys for twenty-five years, since they debuted as “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” in 1993, and the toy line has been a top-seller since. Bandai will retain the rights to the original source material, “Super Sentai,” in Japan and Asia.

The main reason for the switch is that Saban, the company that produces the Power Rangers, has included in this deal an option for Hasbro to eventually purchase the property, which would fit rather nicely alongside other Hasbro properties like Transformers, GI Joe and Micronauts.

This would be another chapter in the convoluted ownership of Power Rangers, which was based on an origianl Japanese show that is still owned by Toei Co. Ltd (the Godzilla people) and Bandai, the toy company. Haim Saban licensed the property and “created” Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which he sold to the Fox Family Channel in 2002.  Fox Family was bought by Disney, giving them ownership of the Power Rangers until 2010, when they sold the property back to Saban for $43 Million dollars.

dynaman9-425x318That’s complicated enough, so we won’t go into details about the “Dynaman” show, which also used footage from Super Sentai, dubbed into English with raunchy parody dialogue by future members of Kids In The Hall. This version aired on Night Flight, five years before Saban introduced used the same series as a kid’s show.

Anyway, late Thursday Bandai and Saban announced that they would be parting ways following this, the twenty-fifth anniversary year of the property. The press release was a little like mom and dad trying to explain that they were getting a divorce. We had a few hours of wild speculation until Hasbro stepped up and admiited that they were the homewreckers Friday morning.

bandaiHasbro has been named the global master toy licensee for Saban’s Power Rangers. Under the terms of the agreement and in collaboration with Saban Brands, Hasbro will design, produce and bring to market a wide variety of toys, games and role play items inspired by the franchise and its entertainment properties. Hasbro will hold the worldwide rights, excluding Japan and certain other Asian markets, effective as of April 1, 2019. Bandai will retain the rights to their home markets, where they co-created the source material.

According to the joint press release, “The first set of products from Hasbro will be available in spring 2019. Both Hasbro and Saban Brands are dedicated to continue growing this iconic brand. In recognition of this investment, during a period of time after Hasbro becomes the master toy licensee, the arrangement between the parties provides Saban Brands and Hasbro with the opportunity to initiate Hasbro’s purchase of the Power Rangers property.”

That last part explains everything. Hasbro wants to buy the brand, and you can’t blame them. With Star Wars toys in a major slump and Marvel at risk of oversaturating the market, Hasbro needs to hedge their bets.

Hasbro had a major victory a week ago when it became known that they surpassed Mattel as the number one toy company in the US in 2017. It was the first time since 1993 that they’ve held that crown.  However, the victory was tainted somewhat when it was announced Friday, right after Hasbro’s announcement of acquiring the Power Rangers, that the top-selling action figure line last year was Mattel’s WWE Figures, which outsold Power Rangers, Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and all the superhero movie toy lines. Hasbro has been king of the mountain in the world of action figures since they invented the term in 1964, so that had to hurt.

Look for Hasbro to put all their muscle behind Power Rangers, and also look for them to try to integrate the property into their shared cinematic universe, if they don’t abandon that idea before it gets off the ground. Check out the new logo below.



pc-2-16-01The PopCulteer
February 16, 2018

It’s Toy Fair time again. The big show doesn’t kick off until Saturday, but Friday morning is when the press releases start coming fast. This morning we’re going to run down just a few of the cool action figure lines coming your way, but we’ll be posting Toy Fair News all weekend long here in PopCult. Saturday should be a big day, and we’re going to skip The RFC Flashback this week, just to make things easier.

The big news is the drastic redesign of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles Line (seen right), but first we check in with an old friend.

The Original Action Figure For Girls

IAmElemental just revealed the company’s newest female action figure: the Series 2/Wisdom Warrior Core Power Figure, inspired by Alexandrian STEM pioneer Hypatia.   IAmElemental created the toy industry’s first female action figures designed specifically for children.  We covered them extensively here in PopCult, and interviewed company head Julie Kerwin two years ago, which you can see here…

The strong, healthy female figures invite girls and boys to develop their character by playing with “The Elements of Power.”  The company’s Series 1/Courage figures, modeled on Joan of Arc, were launched on Kickstarter to worldwide acclaim in 2014.  Series 2/Wisdom followed in 2016, with ancient Alexandrian STEM pioneer Hypatia as the muse.

pc-2-16-02Series 2/Wisdom includes seven 4” articulated figures: Creativity, Ingenuity, Curiosity, Logic, Exploration, Mastery and Oblivion.  The series culminates in the release of the 6.5” Wisdom Warrior Core Power figure, which is a fusion of all Elements in the series.

“We are so proud of IAmElemental’s newest addition, the Wisdom Warrior Core Power figure.  Like the Elements of Power before her, she is a strong, healthy female figure, carefully designed and engineered to encourage imaginative fun,” said IAmElemental’s Chief Elemental Officer, Julie Kerwin.  “Our Wisdom Warrior is inspired by ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian warriors.  She also celebrates the decidedly human superpowers embodied in modern superheroes like Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose in Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi.”

The Wisdom Warrior Core Power Figure features more than 30 points of articulation and includes removable accessories including a helmet, armor, powerful bow and arrow, and Wisdom shield.  The figure will retail for $24.99.

IAmElemental paved the way for a new catagory of toy, action figures for girls, and that path has since been followed by Mattel, with their DC Superhero Girls and WWE Girls lines, and Playmates Toys with their Mysticons, about which you will read more below.

Playmates Revitalizes The Turtles 

pc-2-16-03If you spend time hanging out in the toy aisles, you’ve probably noticed an absence of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles of late. The toy has not faded in popularity. It’s still one of the top action figure lines in the country, but the cartoon series is undergoing a major revamp, and the toys have been absent from stores for a few months while they work on the redesign.

The toys are being kept under wraps until Saturday, but we have images of the new cartoon designs, which are pretty drastically different from previous animated versions.You can see these at the head of this post and around these words.

pc-2-16-04These designs are the work of Andy Suriano, who was the design director on Samurai Jack. While your PopCulteer thinks the new designs look incredible and the new series sounds really interesting, I can see TNMT purists howling in disgust over the new look. It’ll be wild to see how they translate these designs into toys.

Playmates Toys is, of course, the longtime master toy licensee for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They’ll reveal their all-new product line for 2018 inspired by Nickelodeon’s brand-new animated series, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is also set to debut in 2018.

pc-2-16-06In this reimagined iteration of the popular franchise, the band of brothers discover new powers and encounter a mystical world they never knew existed beneath the streets of New York City. The extensive Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy line is set to hit toy shelves in fall 2018, and includes action figures, vehicles, playsets and role play.

Key highlights in the all-new toy line include an assortment of highly detailed action figures that are uniquely sculpted and fully articulated. The collection features the four Turtles, as well as new characters Baron Draxum, voiced by WWE Superstar John Cena, Meat Sweats and others introduced in the series.

The Turtle Tank, the new group vehicle that will help get the Turtles to the action fast, also serves as the mobile command headquarters for the Turtles, when Donatello’s removable lab rises up in spy mode.

The 43″ Epic Lair Playset, the biggest playset ever from Playmates Toys, includes four levels of play and numerous features including an adjustable skateboard ramp, Raphael’s Weight Training Room, Leonardo’s Rotating Weapon storage wall, Michelangelo’s arcade and so much more. We should have good photos of these new toys before the weekend is done.

More From Playmates

In addition to the all-new Turtles toy line, Playmates Toys will expand its current lines based on the following animated series: Cartoon Network’s Ben 10, Nelvana’s Mysticons and DreamWorks Voltron Legendary Defender.

Ben 10

As the global master toy partner for Cartoon Network’s new Ben 10 animated series, Playmates Toys will expand its toy line in 2018 to include an all new assortment of action figures, feature-driven deluxe figures, Omnitrix-inspired role play and more. The Cartoon Network series is centered on the adventures of fun loving, 10-year-old, Ben Tennyson, who finds the Omnitrix, a mysterious watch that transforms him into 10 different heroic aliens, as seen below, it’s a pretty extensive toy line.



New additions to the line include the expansion of the highly detailed and articulated action figure assortment, which will now feature figures inspired by the Omni-Enhanced theme in season two of the animated series. The Omni-Launch Battle Figures allow kids to launch and transform their favorite Ben 10 alien heroes right from the Omnitrix, ready for battle! New Deluxe Action Figures transform from Ben to Alien with a quick and easy activation and new vehicles inspired by the Alien’s home worlds come with an exclusive basic action figure. And finally, the Alien Creation Chamber allows kids to create their own custom mini figures by mixing and matching alien body parts and fusing them together in the Alien Chamber.


pc-2-16-08Playmates Toys, the global master toy partner for Nelvana’s animated series, Mysticons, will be expanding its first-ever action figure collection for girls to include all-new figures and role play. The series premiered on Nickelodeon in August 2017, and tells the epic tale of four  girls chosen to become legendary warriors to protect their realm from evil. The series can be found on Netflix.

The action figure assortment will grow in 2018, introducing new figures to the current collection of highly detailed and articulated 7-inch figures, the Lights & Sounds Figures, which bring each of the Mysticons heroes to life, and the Griffin & Figure Assortment. In addition to figures, the role play segment will expand with an all-new Light Up Bracer Assortment and a Dress Up Assortment, allowing girls to easily transform into their favorite Mysticons warrior.

DreamWorks Voltron Legendary Defender

pc-2-16-09Playmates Toys is also the master toy licensee for DreamWorks Voltron Legendary Defender, which is now streaming on Netflix, with season five set to debut on March 2. The line will continue to grow in 2018 with the addition of a classic line of figures and more. The series is a contemporary reimagining of the pop culture phenomenon featuring five young pilots of mystical robot lions that combine to form Voltron, the legendary defender of the universe.

New introductions for 2018 include the Classic Legendary Lion Assortment, which features five Classic Legendary Lions that combine to form a fully-articulated 16″ Classic Voltron figure with a chest that lights up and over 60 sounds from the original 1984 show. Additionally, the 12″ Defender Voltron, an all-new version of Voltron, features a projectile launching shoulder cannon and Voltron’s shield.

Since we will be back all weekend long with more updates from Toy Fair, we’re going to cut short the PopCulteer here. Check back for more updates, reports and links all about the toys for the coming year all weekend long in PopCult.

Toy Fair 2018 Preview

The PopCult Toybox

tf-001The International Toy Fair in New York kicks off Saturday, and tomorrow’s PopCulteer will likely bring you some of the early news, but a lot of it is embargoed until things actually kickoff, so we’ll be posting all weekend long. Since your PopCulteer is sitting this Toy Fair out (we hope to go back next year), today we’re just going to give you a heads-up about what to expect from the annual expo that unveils the new toys for the year.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for what you can expect to find coming your way in 2018. The plan is to update PopCuylt all weekend long with new reports and links to other websites who have reporters at Toy Fair so that you can get all the juicy details. We really wish we could go, but this year it just wasn’t in the cards.

Toy Fair is an incredible and overwhelming experience and it’s really cool to be there in person. However, we can offer you a foretaste of what to expect…

rickandmortyIt’s going to be a big year for Rick and Morty. The hit Adult Swim series will be represented with new action figures  plush, Dorbz and blind box toys from Funko, as well as mini-figures from Monogram, games and trading cards from Cryptozoic Entertainment and electronics from KIDesign.

On top of that, Kurt S. Adler will be making Christma ornaments based on the dimension-hopping duo. McFarlane Toys will show off the second series of their Rick and Morty building sets. USAopoly will introduce Rick and Morty-branded versions of Risk, Trivial Pursuit and Yahtzee, plus two new jigsaw puzzles.  Finally, Toy Factory will create Rick and Morty plush for use in claw machine games.

tf-002Marvel Comics will be well-represented by action figure and toy lines based on their upcoming films, Avengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man and The Wasp. Hasbro will show their action figures lines at their own showroom, but many other toy companies will have everything from coloring books to high-end collectibles.  Black Panther toys are already in stores. A few items from Avengers:Infinity War have turned up at retail already (see right)

DC Comics, partnered with an array of companies, will focus on the upcoming Aquaman movie,  with action figures from Mattel. You can also expect expansions of their Justice League Action and DC Superhero Girls lines, and new developments in the DC Multiverse action figures. DC will also unveil a new line of toy cars, produced by Funrise, as well as plush, games, trading cards and more. Advance images are scarce, but this weekend they’ll be all over the place.

tf-003Disney will also be all over the place, teaming up with Hasbro, Mattel, and just about every other major toy company in one way or another with merchandise based on their upcoming movies and television shows, which include: The Incredibles 2; A Wrinkle In Time; Christopher Robin; RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: Wreck-It Ralph2; Mary Poppins Returns and probably a few more. Disney has been one of the most savvy media empires when it comes to merchandising since the 1930s when they signed their first toy license with The Marx Toy Company. Now they’re bigger than ever, and probably get half their revenue from toy sales.

Of course, Disney also owns Lucasfilm now, and you can expect a flood of toys, mostly from Hasbro, based on Solo: A Star Wars Story. Star Wars toys are always a mainstay of Toy Fair, and I’m sure that there will be a ton of classic toys based on past permutations of the property, too.

tf-004Entertainment Earth , a popular worldwide toys and collectibles destination, announced this week the signing of a license with TeeRico by Lin-Manuel Miranda (the Hamilton creator’s merchandise brand) to create a toy and collectible product line. The first product announced is Lin-Manuel Miranda and his beloved dog Tobi adorably designed in the highly popular Pin Mates™ brand of wooden figures.

Pin-Mates are little wooden figures made in the style of the old Fisher Price Little People.  We were lucky enough to be given the first one that Entertainment Earth Produced at Toy Fair in 2016 (it was Batman). Now they have over 200 different Pin-Mates, featuring everything from DC to Marvel to Star Trek and more. These are great small, and low-priced collectibles, and part of the proceeds will go to Miranda’s charities.

tf-005McFarlane Toys, in addition to their second series of Rick and Morty construction sets, will likely have new Steven Universe, Five Nights At Freddy’s and South Park construction sets to show off, as well as action figures based on Spawn, The Walking Dead, Stranger Things, Five Nights At Frieddy’s, Naruto, The NFL  and Star Trek.  McFarlane Toys always has ultra-detailed sculpts and really knows how to make their figures collector-friendly. We’ll have a detailed rundown of what they have to offer this weekend.

There will be more, and tomorrow we’ll tell you about some of the smaller companies, and what you can expect from the worlds of plush and board games.

PopCult will be updated all weekend long. Some posts might just be links to other websites,  since we’re not actually there, but we want you to know all about all the cool stuff coming out in toy stores in 2018.

The Rubber Soul Valentine’s Day Beatles Marathon



beatles-valentine-day-special-valentine-boxToday is the day! For Valentine’s Day The AIR presents our entire “bootleg” recording of Rubber Soul’s “With A Little Help From Our Friends” Beatles marathon concert. You can tune in starting at 11 AM at The AIR website, or right here on this handy little embedded player…

This concert was held on February 2, 2018 (with a little spillover into February 3) at the Capitol Theater on Summers Street. Dozens of guest musicians joined in as Rubber Soul performed over 200 Beatles classics in a 14-hour-plus concert.

We are bringing you a bit more than 98% of that show. A few songs were spoiled by audience noise, since we recorded the show with a microphone set up in the back of the hall, but we do have all the high points of the day.

Rubber Soul is the brainchild of Mark Scarpelli, as was this idea of performing over two hundred Beatlesongs in one go. Rubber Soul is Mark, Greg Hunt, Garret Maner, Michele Toliver, Bryan Flowers and Brian Holstine, and they did an amazing job, with a little help from their friends.

After the jump, you will see the entire song line-up, with approximate breaks for every hour. Guest performers are listed after each song and are vocalists, unless otherwise noted.  If there’s no guest listed, that means that it was a member of Rubber Soul singing. We did not present the show in the exact order that it was performed, but it’s pretty much as it was seen that fateful Friday.

It was an honor to witness this amazing feat, and an even bigger honor to contribute a little to the script for Larry and Mark to use while introducing the songs. Talks are underway to see if they can do this again next year, and you can be sure I’ll be there.

We will air this marathon again on Saturday, February 17, and we’ll keep you posted on future replays next week and the week after.

Follow the jump for the full line-up:

Continue reading…

…And In The End…

2-13-graphicsToday we wrap up our serialized presentation of Rubber Soul’s marathon Beatles concert, “With A Little Help From Our Friends,” on The AIR. At 10 AM and again at 10 PM you can tune in for two episodes of Radio Free Charleston that present the final two pieces of this epic musical undertaking. Tune in at The AIR website, or on this embedded radio player…

In the first hour we pick up where Monday’s installment left off, with the full, unedited performance of “Hey Jude” by Ted Rose and Michelle Toliver, with Rubber Soul. We had to fade out early on part seven of this serialization, but we didn’t want you to miss any of it.

We re-arranged the order of the concert a little but, but the final hour is pretty much intact as it was performed after 1 AM on February 3.

Below you’ll find the playlist for each show. Guest perfromers are listed after each song, and are vocalists unless otherwise noted. Wednesday at 11 AM (we moved it up an hour so that we can wrap it up by midnight) you can tune in for the whole concert. We’ll repeat it again Saturday starting at 7 AM. We will post a guide with the complete rundown Wednesday morning, so you can keep score at home.  Tuesday, you can catch both of these two hours at 10 AM and again at 10 PM:

RFCv4069       (10 AM and 10 PM)

Rubber Soul (with special guests)

“Hey Jude” (Ted Rose)
“Drive My Car” (Kevin Mullins)
“And I Love Her” (Ryan Kennedy-Solo Guitar)
“She’s A Woman” (Mark Davis)
“No Reply” (Terry Moles and The Outdoor Cats)
“I’m A Loser” (Terry Moles and The Outdoor Cats)
“I’ll Be Back” (Jonathan Tucker and Ryan Hardiman)
“Things We Said Today” (Ryan Hardiman and Jonathan Tucker)
“I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party” (Ryan Hardiman and Jonathan Tucker, Bill Robinson-Pedal Steel Guitar)
“She Said, She Said” (Michael Tomasky, Jeff Gianola, Ken Munday)
“I Want To Tell You” (Michael Tomasky, Jeff Gianola, Ken Munday)
“Eleanor Rigby”
“Got To Get You Into My Life” (Kevin Mullins, Michelle Toliver)

RFCv4070     (11 AM and 11 PM)

“Paperback Writer” (Ted Rose and Friends)
“Yesterday” (Ted Rose and The Kanawha Kordsmen)
“Lady Madonna”
“Revolution” (Kevin Mullins)
“You Like Me Too Much” (Rusty Marks)
“Don’t Let Me Down” (Kevin Mullins)
“The Ballad of John and Yoko” (Larry Groce, Bill Robinson-Pedal Steel Guitar)
“Dig A Pony” (Travis Stephens)
“Let It Be”  (Steve Melton)
“Hey Bulldog” (Kevin Mullins)
“For You Blue” (Bill Robinson-Pedal Steel Guitar)
“Revolution 1” (Travis Stephens)
“The Long And Winding Road” (Jonathan Tucker)

Starting Wednesday morning we’ll play the whole shebang. Come back and listen along with us.

Rubber Soul Tackles The Beatles From 1968 On The AIR

rs-1968The serialization of Rubber Soul’s “With A Little Help From Our Friends” marathon concert continues Monday at 3 PM on The AIR, which you can listen to at the website, or on this rather nifty little embedded radio machine…

In today’s installment, joining Rubber Soul (Mark Scarpelli, Greg Hunt, Garret Maner, Michele Toliver, Bryan Flowers and Brian Holstine) are an impressive assortment of guest perfomers, who are listed after the songs they tackled. This two-hour block of the marathon concert focuses on songs the Beatles recorded in 1968, including their self-titled “White Album.”  All guests are vocalists unless noted.

Live and Local 003

“Across The Universe”  (Devin Elliott, Spencer Elliott-Guitar)
“Back In The USSR” (Kevin Mullins)
“Dear Prudence” Amanda Bridgette)
“Glass Onion” (Travis Stephens)
“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” (Tayan and Zene Cooper)
“Wild Honey Pie”
“The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill”
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (Ryan Kennedy-Guitar)
“Happiness Is a Warm Gun” (Travis Stephens)
“Martha My Dear” (Mark Parsons-Justice)
“I’m So Tired” (Ted Rose)
“Blackbird” (Eli Chambers)
“Rocky Raccoon”
“Don’t Pass Me By” (Alasha Al Qudwah-Fiddle, Bill Robinson-Pedal Steel Guitar)
“Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” (Eli Chambers)
“I Will” (Ryan Hardiman)
“Julia” (Travis Stephens)
“Yer Blues” (Amanda Bridgette)
“Mother Nature’s Son”
“Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey”
“Sexy Sadie” (Curtis Chittendon)
“Helter Skelter” (Kevin Mullins)
“Revolution 1” (Travis Stephens)
“Honey Pie”
“Savoy Truffle”
“Cry Baby Cry” (Mel Larch)
“Good Night”

Tuesday Radio Free Charleston will bring you the final two hours of this epic concert, and then on Wednesday we’ll run the entire show, starting at 11 AM (we moved it up an hour so that it’ll be done by Midnight. That’s our Valentine’s gift to you. We will also replay the entire marathon Saturday, starting at 7 AM, exclusively on The AIR.

Monday Morning Art: An Image



We start off a momentous new week with a new piece of Monday Morning Art, about which I will tell you little.

It’s the first piece of art for PopCult that I produced on my new computer. I like it. I think it looks cool. It doesn’t really matter what it is or what it “means.”

Click to enlarge.

madefortv-2for-webThis week we bring you an early project by a true West Virginia legend, newly-minted West Virginia Music Hall of Famer, Ann Magnuson.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet Ann a few times and we stay in touch via Facebook (and I’ve even contributed art to one of her shows), but the first time I ever heard of her was a long time ago, back in 1984. I was attending college at West Virginia State (now “University) and after a morning class, found myself back at home, half-dozing on a couch in the living room. I was not a morning person back then, and couldn’t make it through the day without falling over if I had to take a class before noon.

I was half vegged-out flipping channels when I landed on WPBY right when they had a slide on the screen and a voice-over guy reading about “the bright young lady who graduated from George Washington High School” and introducing a short film by her. Being an unenlightened brat at the time, I watched with very low expectations.

It was “Made For Television,” Ann’s short film that channel-jumped through dozens of brief parodies in fifiteen minutes. This was a  video Ann made with the late Tom Rubnitz in 1984. It wasn’t just that it was a short comedy film that impressed me. Ann was incredible, playing almost 50 characters. And it wasn’t just that she was playing different characters. She was skewering televangelists and other mainstays of TV at the time, but then half-way through, she made fun of Lene Lovich.

madefortv1I became an instant fan. The mere fact that somebody from West Virginia even KNEW who Lene Lovich was was mind-blowing to me.  I only had a small circle of friends at the time, and the arrogance of youth allowed us to think that we were operating on a different level than everyone else. Nobody else from aroud here could possibly like the same stuff as us.

Seeing a film made by a West Virginian that was so…hip…was like a lifeline. I went to a high school where people thought AC/DC was punk rock and Steely Dan was Jazz. I remember serious arguments over whether or not KISS was better than The Beatles. The fact that I listened to DEVO, YES, Zappa and…Lene Lovich, made me an outcast.

Seeing Made For Television gave me something that I hadn’t had before: Hope. It gave me hope that cool stuff could be made by West Virginians. It gave me hope that I could stay here and work with creative people without having to make everything about coal, hillbilly pride and getting drunk.

That hope led me to create Radio Free Charleston so I could promote West Virginia’s world-class talent without catering to the cheap stereotypes that help keep this state in the back of the line. That hope led me to turn down jobs in other states because I like living here. And even today, when our political climate is as toxic as the groundwater around Elmer Fike’s chemical plants used to be, that hope keeps me believing that things will get better. They have to.

And for that, I thank Ann Magnuson…for giving me hope. And I hope she doesn’t get pissed off because this video I’ve embedded probably isn’t legal.  Ann, you deserve every accolade you get.