PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

ToyLanta 2018: The Film Festival

pc-2-8-003Another one of the highlights of ToyLanta is the film festival, which has been curated and presented by Tim and Lisa Weedn for the last few years. They also provide the “main event” each year, which is the debut of their latest Studio Joe production.  This year it’s their biggest film to date, “Toys Will Be Toys,” and it’s filled with the cosmically-aware slapstick comedy and cool animated toys that we’ve come to expect. You can watch it above, but make sure to go back in time and travel to last weekend in Atlanta so you can watch all the films that Tim and Lisa discovered.

This time around an undercover agent is trying to apprehend Chugga Lugga, who is alleged to not be a naturalized citizen of this planet. But the poor little guy means no one any harm, and only wants to eat his beans in peace. Astronauts and Interdimensional Pirates show up, and there’s a beautiful non-sequitor interlude about potatoes, so you know it has to be good. The potato song is courtesy of G.B. Hetrick and his band, Motel Jesus.

rudy-and-timRight at the end of ToyLanta Tim hunted me down for a photo. We’re both worn out after so many days of cool toy overload, and I’m still trying to figure out how to take a selfie without looking like I’m trying to figure out how to take a selfie, but that’s us to the left.

Hanging out with Tim is always a blast and one of these days we’ll figure out a way to collaborate on a project somehow.

Next up in PopCult (probably early Friday) I’ll have photo essays showing off what I got, how cool the dioramas and custom figures were and a quick look around the dealer’s room.

Tomrrow’s PopCulteer will be an obit for Toys R Us, with just a teensy glimmer of hope.

tl-001ToyLanta (formerly JoeLanta) is in the books for another year, and your PopCulteer is back home and rested enough to start giving you some comprehensive reports. As always, it was a huge amount of fun as long-time toy collectors gathered around their favorite playthings to socialize and buy, sell and trade. We had a few interesting things happen this year, but it was still a wonderful experience.

Among the “interesting” things we encountered when we checked into the Marriott Century Center in Atlanta was the ongoing renovation of the hotel, and a boil-water advisory due to a massive water main break about five miles from where we were. Being from West Virginia, the mini-water crisis was old hat. We lived through the the chemical water fun of a few years back, so this was nothing.

The ongoing renovations, however, played a bit of havoc with my plan to post videos every day of the show. I didn’t bring headphones, and was editing on my laptop for the first time. I was able to post a report on the first day, but the audio was nowhere near my normal standards. I couldn’t hear too well over the jackhammers and pounding, so rather than just do a short video for each day, I plan to re-edit the “day one” clip and incorporate it into a general round-up video that will hopefully be ready by this weekend.

tl-004The show was also invaded by cows, but nobody was seriously harmed, and professionals were on hand to treat anyone who suffered from Post Bovine Stress Disorder.

Aside from the minor adversities, we had a fantastic time. I bought way too many toys and Mel even got up and sang two songs with Radio Cult. In fact, another factor that threw off our schedule of posting videos a bit was that Saturday became a bit of a crowded day. I was up at 6 AM, planning out the video shoots for the day, and we got to go to sleep sometime well after midnight.

tl-006We actually checked into the hotel on the Wednesday before the convention so that we could meet up with old friends like Buddy Finethy, E.J. White, Marten Jallad, Brian Becker, Steve Charlton, David Lane, Scott Beckmann and many others who will probably be mad at me for forgetting to mention them.

It was also great trun into Mike Gardner (right) who stepped in to run the diorama and custom figure contest this year when Dave (Tanker) Matteson had to bow out due to a Disney emergency. Mike is one of the master class of diorma and custom builders in the hobby, and the contest was in good hands with him in charge.

Also in the photo is Tony Stroud, who makes some amazing custom and reproduction boxes for GI Joe and other action figures.

tl-005Wednesday we went to Lucky’s for dinner, and some of the party devoured two twelve-pound giant hamburgers.  It’s become a tradition, one in which I will not participate (sorry folks, I hate bacon and don’t eat much red meat).

Thursday more folks arrived, like Tim Weedn, Jack Hall and Andrew MacGready. Andrew stayed at another hotel, so we didn’t really get a chance to see him until Friday, but we’re glad we did because a medical emergency Friday night caused him to miss the panel he was hosting on casting and sculpting.  All is well now, and he’s planning to make up for it next year.

Friday night the folks who bought Commander’s Packages were able to register and pick up their convention figures, and also had an early crack at the vendor’s area. Of course, the vendors are also old friends, and it was great to mingle and throw money at Greg Brown from Cotswold Collectibles, James Wozniak of Classic Recasts and other fine folks like Alan Dawson, Steve Stovall, Bryan Tatum, Barry Pippen, Aaron Luck, Rush McAllistair, Chuck Van Voorhis and many, many more.

Our next post will present Tim and Lisa Weedn’s latest Studio Joe Creation. After that, I’m going to show off my ToyLanta swag. In the coming days you can expect photo essays of the vendor’s rooms, the diorama and custom figures and finally the big wrap-up video.

rfci-june-variant-005Your PopCulteer is hard at work editing the ToyLanta 2018 wrap-up video. There will be a post with a detailed run-down of the show and photos later today, but we wanted to give you a heads up that you can hear part of ToyLanta Thursday on Radio Free Charleston International, Thursday at 3 PM on The AIR. Tune in at The AIR website, or on this particularly cool embedded radio player…

This week we bring you a special episode of Radio Free Charleston International. This is a bootleg recording of Radio Cult at ToyLanta, recorded March 10, 2018. Radio Cult is the house band for ToyLanta and every year they put on a heck of a show in one of the conference rooms at the Marriott Century Center.

The cool part is that they have convention-goers join them onstage. In this show you will hear Mike Gardner and Alex Massey guest on guitar, JD Luck on bass, a couple of guys whose name I didn’t catch on drums and Jas Ingram on Theremin. You’ll also get to hear guest vocals by Dan Cioffi, David Lane, Jas Ingram and Mel Larch, among others.

It was a real kick to see Mrs. PopCulteer join the band late in the show on “Country Roads” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit, ” since she wasn’t really feeling up to singing at the beginning of the show.

This recording, like our Rubber Soul Beatles marathon, is bootleg-quality, so don’t expect a lossless 5.1 audio mix or anything. I do think it conveys the pure fun of Radio Cult’s performance. You’ll hear a few Radio Cult originals and covers of everything from AC/DC to KISS, to Skynyrd to Nena and Madonna. There’s even a snippet of Queen in there.

You can hear this special edition of Radio Free Charleston International Thursday at 3 PM, Friday at 9 AM and 10 PM, Saturday at 1 PM and Midnight, Sunday at 3 PM and next Tuesday at 11 PM, exclusively on The AIR.

Robin Hood Comes To Saint Albans

wolf-001Above you see a trailer (excellently produced by Carrie McCracken) for Wolf’s Head: A Tale of Robin Hood and the Sheriff, a play opening this weekend at the Alban Arts Center in Saint Albans.

Based on the ancient ballads of Robin Hood, this stage premiere was adapted by John Johnson, who does double duty as the Sheriff of Nottingham.  Our old pal Kevin Pauley takes on the role of Robin Hood, and a cast of the area’s finest accompanies the titular duo.  Robin Hood is a major literary character, and perhaps the first great hero in the fight for income equality. The time is ripe for us to hear his story again.

For more details we go to the description from the Facebook event page: “Sometimes when a greater evil comes along, you find that your allies aren’t always who you might expect. Many films, stories, plays, and songs have explored the story of Robin Hood. This play explores more the relationship of Robin and the Sheriff of Nottingham, based on history and the ballads of days gone by. Expect good nature fun, sword play, and honor in this play. “

Brian Kidd directs, from Johnson’s script, and the fight choreography is handled by William Rouse.  You can see some behind-the-scenes footage of the battle staging below…

wolf-002You can see Wolf’s Head: A Tale of Robin Hood and the Sheriff beginning Friday at the Alban Arts Center, located on Main Street in Saint Albans. Showtimes are 8 PM Friday and Saturday with a 2 PM matinee on Sunday. The show runs for the next two weekends, and tickets can be purchased at the door or online.  Admission is fifteen dollars for adults, ten dollars for children and seniors.

This is the latest from Astral Theatre Collective, and looks to be another fine entry in their growing catalog of contemporary adaptations of literary classics.  They always manage to preserve the integrity of the original works while finding creative ways to bring the classics to the stage in a way that appeals to modern audiences.


life-pealks-logoIt’s Wednesday, and that means we have a brand-new episode of Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle Wednesday at 1:30 PM and 7 Pm on The AIR. Check it out at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

This week Michele follows last week’s show on water with a half-hour rumination on the importance of movement in your life. Instead of staying in one place, Michele urges her listeners to get straight, go forward and move ahead. That way, if a problem comes along, you can whip it.

You can hear Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle Wednesday at 1:30 PM and 7 PM, with additional replays Friday at 9:30 AM and Monday at 12:30 PM. This Sunday at 7 PM The Talk Block will present three hours of the best of Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle.

The rest of Wednesday’s schedule is made up of encores of the finest choice episodes of your favorite programs from The AIR, because your PopCulteer is hard at work on wrapping up this year’s ToyLanta coverage. You can hear part of that on Radio Free Charleston International Thursday, as we present two hours of Radio Cult, with special guests, recorded live at ToyLanta last Saturday night.

You can also stay tuned to The AIR for the best of our music programming, as well as stimulating and entertaining talk and comedy.

A Much Needed Day Of Rest

20180310_145608Your PopCulteer has returned home after an eight-day trip that included not only ToyLanta, but also a visit to Senoia, Georgia and stops in Chattanooga along the way.

I have plenty of writing, photos and video to bring you from my travels, but they will begin appearing here tomorrow. Today has been set aside for recovery and catching up with other stuff that needs to be tended to.

At the moment I’m still so loopy that I can’t remember what I’ve posted from the trip thus far. This trip was a blast, with some curve balls included. At one point I was so worn out that I thought that I’d begun hallucinating cows all over the ToyLanta show, but the bottom photo below comes courtesy of Scott Beckmann, who apparently was also seeing them.

Wednesday in PopCult we’ll tell you about a brand-new episode of Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle, which you will be able to hear on The AIR, and we’ll also preview a new play about Robin Hood that opens this week in St. Albans.

If all goes as planned I’ll have a photo essay and report from ToyLanta, with video coming a day or two after that. On Thursday we will bring you bootleg audio from the Radio Cult show at ToyLanta as a special episode of Radio Free Charleston International.

But at the moment, it’s time for a day to settle back in (we arrived home late Monday, expecting to have to fight our way through a blizzard, only to find our home totally devoid of snow).

I’ve got to get back into my routines and start cranking out cool stuff for you guys to read and watch.




Monday Morning Art: She’s On Fire



This week, still trying out my brand-spanking-new digital painting toys, I came up with this semi-abstract painting with a fun name. If you know where it comes from, shame on you. Click to enlarge.

I should be back from Atlanta later today, so look for plenty of ToyLanta coverage, if I haven’t already been posting from the road.

stranglersOne of my favoriate bands, The Stranglers, hardly ever tour in America any more. That’s not good because more than forty years in, and almost thirty years since the exit of their original frontman, Hugh Cornwell, The Stranglers are as vital and creative as ever. I posted a version of this concert almost four years ago, but that video was taken down by YouTube. Eventually it was replaced with the even better version you see above.

Still anchored by J.J. Burnel’s epic basslines and David Greenwood’s keyboards, the band is producing progressive punk-influenced rock and roll that can blow most of today’s rock bands off the stage. Drummer Jet Black, now 79, would still play part of the UK shows, but hasn’t appeared on stage since 2015 and is now officially retired.  Jim Macaulay, his former drum tech, had been playing with the band since Black’s illness, and is behind the kit for this show. Baz Warne has been handling guitar duties since 2000, and lead vocals since 2006.

The band is currently touring the UK after a quick jaunt to Australia and New Zealand, but some of those dates have been rescheduled due to the apocalyptic weather they’re having over there. The press for their current tour shows them to still be up to their old attitudes, slightly readjusted for age.

This concert was recorded April 7, 2014, at L’Olympia,Paris, and shows the band running through classic songs as well as tunes from their more recent albums, “Suite XVI” and “Giants.” It’s some pretty meaty stuff, and I’m glad to have it back online for you guys while I make my way back from ToyLanta.

The RFC Flashback: Episode 129

rfc-129From May, 2011, we bring you Radio Free Charleston episode 129, “Adventure Wars Shirt. ” This week we featured music by Blue Million, HARRAH and Ryan Hardiman.  We also had a preview of a great CYAC show, “Airwaves.”  There was animation by Frank Panucci, too.

Before we got too far into the show, there’s animation by Frank, and we ran the promo for this weekend’s East End Yard Sale again, just to be on the safe side.

Our first musical guest is Blue Million. We recorded Alan, Andy and Gary at The Empty Glass. I’ve known Alan Griffith and the guys for more than 25 years, and I’m always in awe of his songwriting and performing prowess. Blue Million treated us to the lead song off of their then-new 6 Song EP, “Down To A Groove.”

Austin Sussman contributed a great promo clip for the CYAC production, “Airwaves,” which people still talk about nearly seven years later.

Our next musical guest was HARRAH.  This is Lee Harrah’s band, and he’s practically family, so going on and on about him would just embarrass the guy. HARRAH unleashes the song, “Green (Day of Rage),” inspired by Lee’s favorite super-hero, The Incredible Hulk.

Playing us out this week was Ryan Hardiman, the winner of Symphony Idol, star of countless local musical productions like “Jack The Ripper” and “Rent,” and a good friend of RFC. We brought you Ryan, backed by Mark Scarpelli, from the 2010 “Good Night” event, performing a great cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” recorded at Trinity Lutheran Church.

You may, if you wish, read the original production notes HERE.

ToyLanta 2018: Day One

A quick look at the first day of ToyLanta 2018, as people check in and the vendors set up to sell tons of toys to the masses.