PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Okay, it’s one week after the Tony Awards were given out, and if you watched you’ll either be filled with the joy of theater, or be disgusted and want something to wash the taste out of your mouth. Either way we’ve got you covered. Tonight we bring you an entire musical production. It’s not just any musical. This is Our House, a musical from London’s West End that was based on the music of Ska’s nutty boys, Madness.

The official descriptions is, “Our House is an epic, passionate and fast moving romantic comedy that begin one summer’s evening in North London. The night of a young bloke’s sixteenth birthday. The night he commits a petty crime to impress the girl he loves. When the police arrive, young Joe is faced with one of those crossroad choices we all face at points in our lives. Stay, or run. Our house follows the two courses his life would have taken had he stayed and faced the music, or bunked the law and made a run for it!”

This is a terrific production of a great musical that has not yet, and may never, make the trip across the Atlantic. It seems that Madness, who evolved from being a simple Ska band into being one of the great British musical storytelling entities on par with The Kinks, may just be “too British” for Broadway audiences. ‘Tis a pity, because this is so good.

The RFC Flashback: Episode 199

FestivAll is underway now. Go Fest all over it, then come back and watch this. It’s our half-hour distillation of FestivAll 2015, with music from Todd Burge, The Bark O Loungers, QiET and The Company Stores, plus dance from Susan Angela Hughart and The Trillium Performance Arts Collective. Sprinkled throughout are many sights and sounds of FestivALL. The show also includes a brief look back at an IWA East Coast wrestling show, held at Skateland in Campbell’s Creek.

Following the FestivALL format that we used in previous years, this show is a stream-of-conciousness collection of music and art. Along the way you’ll see The River Queen Sternwheeler, Jude Binder, The stilt-walkers, Ian Bode’s painting, the horse-drawn carriage, Apartment Earth’s “Pop Goes The Weasel” show, the FestivAll Catfish and more.

Next week we’ll wrap up nearly three month’s worth of FestivAll-based editions of The RFC Flashback with a couple of RFC MINI SHOWS. After that, we’ll jump back where we left off and start posting the old shows in order again.

In the meantime, go out and enjoy some of this terrific summer arts festival. Charleston really is lucky to have something like this.


Stuff To Do: The Hypocrisy Edition

The PopCulteer
June 15, 2018

It is that time of the year when there’s just too much stuff happening all at the same time.You see, FestivAll is happening all over Charleston, starting today. This is a wonderful cluster of arts events that spans two weekends, turns the city into a work of art, and finds music, art, dance, theater, and happiness flooding into the streets of our fair city. It is a truly fantastic and delightful thing that I highly recommend you all get out and experience. If you’re anywhere near Charleston, West Virginia, then you really should come out and take part in the magic that descends upon this city every June.

Your PopCulteer, however, will not be in town for any of it this year.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to these events. I got an excuse, really.

You have to understand that I was a huge supporter of FestivAll in the early years. It was so wonderful to be able to stay in town and enjoy all the world-class entertainment plopped right down at my feet in the middle of Charleston. It was a godsend, and I covered it extensively here in PopCult (and on Radio Free Charleston, which should be obvious to anyone reading our RFC Flashback posts every Saturday for the past ten weeks or so).

The thing was, for over twenty years, from the early 1990s to mid-2013, I could not travel easily. I was the primary caregiver, first for my parents, and then for my late uncle, and one reason that FestivAll was such a godsend was that I could stay at home and still get out to enjoy it.

With my aforementioned late uncle now nearly five years late, I can travel. I can go do things with my wife and enjoy life to its fullest. And to me, that means travelling to Wheeling every June for The Marx Toy Convention, which I have been writing about all week. For the first time in my life I have the time, money and freedom to travel and do the things I really want to do.

This year, there was a perfect storm of things I wanted to do. While The Marx Toy Convention will keep me out of town for one weekend of FestivAll, probably from now on, this year–for the first time since I became free to travel–the Official GI Joe Convention is close enough for me to attend, which is rather fortuitious because this year is the last one of those ever. It’s my last chance to go and meet some very nice folks who used to pay me to write freelance for them back in my caregiver days. So that’s going to take me out of town during the second weekend of FestivAll, and for the first time since the very first FestivAll, I will not make it to any events this year.

But that’s me. Unless you suffer from the same toy-collecting psychosis that I do, you really ought to stick around and go to some of this stuff. Except for one event, it’s all really cool, and you’ll have a blast. Check out the schedule HERE, and don’t tell them Rudy sent you because then you’d probably have to explain where I am and it just wouldn’t be good. Trust me. I mean, I would go, but I got stuff to do.


The PopCult Index To The Marx Toy Convention

The annual Marx Toy Convention, which has been held at The Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum since 1998, kicks off today with early events and dealer set-ups, and begins in earnest Friday. Your PopCulteer has lost count of how many times he’s gone to this toy show, which is one of the most enjoyable in the country.

Just about every time I’ve gone, I’ve brought you photos or videos or words to show how cool this event is. As promised, today wer’e going to provide a casually-assorted index with links to the best of our coverage of the Marx Toy Convention.

Before we jump into that, I want to bring you a link to a post I did eight years ago to show some of the sights you can see at the museum. In 2010, back when Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum played host to both The Marx Toy Convention and MEGO Meet, I posted a photo essay to give my readers a hint of what the museum is like. This museum is really a treasure, and anyone travelling the Northern Panhandle should make it a point to stop by. They have all kinds of toys, and you will get a nostalgia rush like you’ve never felt before.

On to the convention coverage:

Last year I brought you video and photos in a couple of different posts, which you can see HERE and HERE. I also did a thorough rundown of the show in 2016.

2015 marked the 50th anniversary of Johnny West, and at Kruger Street they had a special exhibit, curated by Scott Stewart, who presented a lecture. This was also the year that James Wozniak, Stewart and Terri Coop teamed up to create a 50th Anniversary Johnny West figure, and Suzanne Hackett Morgan assembled a video made up of photos of the new Johnny from collectors all over the country. You can watch both videos in THIS POST, and read that year’s preview HERE.

In 2014 we took Lee Harrah and Mark Wolfe to Wheeling with us, and Mark provided the ultra-cool photos of Kruger Street in his incredible photographic style. The first time I covered The Marx Toy Convention proper was in 2013, although I’m pretty sure that I’d been going since 2009.  See, back then I was sort of killing myself producing video of FestivAll for Radio Free Charleston, so my visits to the Marx Toy Convention were usually just a quick drive to Wheeling, visit and buy stuff for an hour, then drive back, so I didn’t have time to take many photos.

Now, Mel and I go up early and spend the entire two days there, and it’s much more enjoyable. We’re heading up for this year’s show Thursday afternoon, so PopCult will be on autopilot, still with fresh content every day, but all written in advance, so you’ll have to take it out of the freezer and heat it up before you read it.

Wednesday brings yet another round of new episodes of some of our most popular shows on The AIR.  Tune in to the website, or on the embedded player below for the lastest editions of Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle, Curtain Call and Beatles Blast…

At 1;30 PM, Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle: Want to mend your relationships and love yourself again? Join Michele Zirkle, Master Reiki Healer, Relationship Coach and Author of the novel and soon-to-be motion picture, Rain No Evil, as she leads a healing Meditation and let channeled energy soothe your soul and heal your heart. It’s a calming and relaxing half-hour designed to soothe the nerves of anyone who isn’t hydrophobic and doesn’t hate the beach.

Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle can be heard Wednesday at 1:30 PM and 7 PM, with replays on The AIR Friday at 9:30 AM and Monday at 12:30 PM.

At 2 PM Beatles Blast presents part nine of The Beatles Story, a legendary BBC radio documentary from 1973. In this week’s installment, the band breaks up, just in time to take a week off next week for the West Virginia Day Radio Free Charleston MarathonBeatles Blast can be heard Wednesday at 2 PM, Thursday at 11 AM and 9 PM, Friday at 5 PM, and Tuesday at 9 AM.

At 3 PM Wednesday on Curtain Call Mel Larch presents another hour of the best of musical theatre, opening with a number from Our House, the musical based on the music of the band, Madness. The rest of the hour is filled out with songs from Hamilton, Heathers, Children of Eden, Spamalot, A Chorus Line, The Sound of Music and more. Mel even managed to slip in one song from Once On This Island, which took the Tony Award last Sunday for best revival of a musical.

Curtain Call debuts Wednesday at 3 PM, with replays Thursday at 7 AM and 8 PM and Saturday at 6 PM.

Stay tuned all day, every day, for incredible music, thought-provoking talk and gut-busting comedy exclusively on The AIR. And check out the full schedule below…


The Marx Toy Convention happens this weekend at The Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum in Wheeling, and a big part of why I go is because of Johnny West. Johnny was Marx’s cowboy counterpart to GI Joe in the 1960s and 70s, and “JohnnyCon” is a convention-within-a-convention that happens during the Marx Toy Convention. Basically, it’s most of the top Johnny West Collectors in the country all jammed together in one room. It’s amazing fun and it’s something I wouldn’t miss for the world.

Over the years I’ve written plenty about Johnny West. Today I’m bringing you a handy index to the top articles about Johnny West in PopCult. These include posts I’ve made about the convention, about the Marx Toy Museum, and about the revivals and new product that’s come out. Keep in mind that some of these posts are many years old, and some of the older ones have links that may have gone dead or photos that have gone missing. That’s one of the drawbacks of having a blog that lasts more than a decade.

We’ll get to the index right after we re-present a talk by noted Johnny West expert, Scott Stewart (of Stewart’s Attic fame) that gives a concise history of The Marx Toy Company’s star Cowboy…

Okay, we’re going to sort this index in a casual manner, starting with posts that give you some added historical context beyond Scott’s lecture. Links are embedded in the descriptions.

We start with my first big post about Johnny West from almost nine years ago. This post talks about the grand plans of Noah and Terri Coop and CXR, which sadly did not come to fruition.

CXR did manage to create Marshall Johnny West as well as dozens of custom figures, headsculpts and gear, which can no longer be ordered, so don’t bother clicking on the links. (You can still order the Johnny West coloring book from Amazon)

CXR and Marxman toys were the creations of Noah and Terri Coop, and we lost Noah a few years ago. Terri runs periodic sales of the remaining CXR stock over at the Marx Action Figures Collectors Facebook Page (You will have to ask to join).

Tom Heaton, from The Vintage Toyroom, has written several books about Johnny West and his fellow travellers. You can read about them HERE and HERE. In 2014, at JoeLanta, for some reason I was on the Marx Action Figure Panel with Tom and Scott and Buddy Finethy.

James Wozniak, working with Terri Coop and Scott Stewart, helped bring about 50th Anniversary figures of Johnny West and Sam Cobra. He’s gone on to import many more new Marx action figures, made from the original molds. At ToyLanta 2017, James hosted a discussion of how the original Marx molds for Johnny West wound up in Mexico, and how he got in contact with the people who own them so they can make new figures.

Steve Corn is currently in possession of one of the original molds for Thunderbolt, Johnny West’s horse. He’s created several custom horses based on his first run of the molds, and is gearing up for a second go at it soon. We reviewed his horses HERE.

A few years ago, I wrote about my fondness for Johnny West, GI Joe and Captain Action.  When I first visited The now-closed Marx Toy Museum, I posted a huge, five-part photo essay. One part of that was devoted to Johnny West and cowboy toys.

That gives you links to the most extensive PopCult posts about Johnny West. Hope you enjoy them (and please report any dead links in the comments. I’m trying to root those all out).

Come back Thursday for an index to our coverage of the Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum.

Radio Free Charleston and The Swing Shift both begin two-part specials today on The AIR. You can tune in at The AIR website, or just listen on this little embedded radio doohickey…

At 10 AM and 10 PM our latest Radio Free Charleston digs into the archives of our video program and brings you songs recorded especially for RFC between eight and ten years ago. Opening with the now-Mrs. PopCulter, Mel Larch performing a wordless song composed for the FestivALL Catfish, this episode contines with music from The Clementines, InFormation, Doctor Senator, A Place of Solace, T.J. King and more. Many of these songs were recorded on location at The Empty Glass, The Blue Parrot, UUC, Sam’s Uptown Cafe and other recognizable venues around town. This is the first of two special installments of Radio Free Charleston that dip into the vaults to bring you classics that you won’t hear anywhere else. Next week we bring you part two of our raid on the video vault.


Mel Larch “Siren Song of the Catfish”
The Clementines “Soundscape #1”
InFormation “Angry All The Time”
Barrelhouse Bonnie and Ko “Memphis In May”
Doctor Senator “Awkward Social Situation”
Synergy Collective “Awry”
A Place Of Solace “Thirty Seconds”
The Coal Men “Outside Looking In”
Lonely Town “Lonely Town”
Marcie Bullock with Steve Himes “Just So You Know”
T.J. King “Bad Things, Good People”
The Button Flies “Butch Bottom”
Hellblinki “Bella Ciao”

Radio Free Charleston can be heard Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM, with replays Thursday at 2 PM, Friday at 8 PM and Saturday at 11 AM and Midnight, exclusively on The AIR.

At 3 PM stay tuned to The AIR for the beginning of another two-parter, The Swing Shift, devoted to one of the most important concerts in the history of pop music.  This week you can hear the first half of Benny Goodman’s historic 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall, which prior to this show had been reserved for classical music only. With a band that already included Harry James, Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa and more, for this performance Goodman invited a host the best Swing musicians around to sit in for extended jam sessions. You will hear legends like Count Basie and Lester Young jumping in on these recordings.

Next week we’ll bring you part two of this historic concert.

You can hear The Swing Shift Tuesday at 3 PM, with replays Wednesday at 7 AM, Thursday at 7 PM and Saturday at 9 AM, only on The AIR. You can also hear all-night marathons, seven hours each, starting at Midnight Thursday and Sunday evenings.

I hope you enjoy these special episodes of the show, and return next week for the conclusions. These shows were assembled so that we’d have something special for you guys laid out in advance, since your humble correspondent will be tied up in Wheeling this weekend

Monday Morning Art: Blue City #2


During the month of June, Monday Morning Art will present a series of four pieces called “Blue City.” These numbered works are all inspired by a recent trip to New York on a sunny day where things were particularly bright and blue. Each piece was created using a slightly different style.

Click the image to see a bigger version.

Also today, on our sister internet radio station, The AIR, at 3 PM we have a new episode of Prognosis, our Progressive Rock showcase, temporarily being hosted by yours truly, with a 2015 live concert by the legendary Dutch prog band, Focus.  Check it out at the website, or on this magical little embedded player…


The 20th Anniversary Marx Toy Convention happens Friday and Saturday, June 15 and 16 at The Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum in Wheeling, West Virginia. This year there are even some events on Thursday for early arrivals. We will be telling you about the show all week long, and PopCult will be there (we wouldn’t miss it for the world).

Tonight we bring you video from last year’s Marx Toy Convention, along with a couple of bonus clips.

The Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum is an incredible place to visit, a huge building packed full of displays featuring the coolest toys from the last hundred years or so. The top floor is dedicated to toy trains and slot car sets, while the main floor has rooms devoted to dolls, action figures, games, vehicles and more.

Each year they host the Marx Toy Convention to celebrate what was once the biggest toy company in the world, and one that had a major manufacturing plant located in nearby Glen Dale, West Virginia. This annual event is something that your PopCulteer does not intend to ever miss. It’s one of the most fun toy shows in the nation.

Not only will their be dealers selling all kinds of Marx toys, from classic playsets to tin toys to Johnny West, board games and Big Wheels, along with the famous Marx Toy Trains, but you can also wander the museum and look at the coolest toys from your childhood, and maybe your parent’s childhoods.

Regular readers of PopCult probably also know about the Marx Toy Museum in Moundsville, which closed its doors two years ago. This museum, founded by Francis Turner and housing his epic collection, was devoted solely to The Marx Toy Company. Last year, one year after closing its doors, The Marx Toy Company reopened for one night for a special sale, and to announce that the History Channel show, American Pickers had visited the museum after its closing.

When the episode of American Pickers aired last fall, intrest in The Marx Toy Museum and Marx Toys in general spiked. Hit counts on this blog and on the videos I’ve made skyrocketed. The interaction of Mike and Frank with Francis Turner was priceless, as can be seen in this clip…

With interest in Marx Toys at new peak, and with this being the 20th anniversary of the Marx Toy Convention AND with the possiblity that Francis will once again open his museum (located just 12 miles away from The Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum) for after-hours events and sales, this may be the most-attended Marx Toy Convention ever. Check out this video of last year’s after-hours sale…

Check PopCult every day this week for more info on the Marx Toy Convention, and more video from our Marx vaults.

The RFC Flashback: Episode 162


Once again dipping into the FestivALL well, we go back for the second part of our coverage of FestivAll 2012, from June of that year. In this episode we kicked off with The Bob Thompson Unit, captured at The Shops at Bridge Road, performing on the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame bandwagon.  With the Bob Thompson Unit’s smooth jazz playing behind them, we cut to footage of the West Virginia Dance Company, recorded at the Charleston Town Center Mall. From there, we raced over to Davis Park at the Appalachian Power Stage to bring you a lovely, new “murder ballad” by Oak Hill’s virtuoso Americana band, The Boatmen. A quick trot up Capitol Street took us to the BB&T Stage in front of Taylor Books for the Raqs Shakti collective (seen right), with this performance featuring Jenna Brooke Swanson dancing to music provided by Amanda Jane and Dwayne Swanson (The Snake and The Pot) and violinist extraordinaire Alasha Al-Qudwah.

We returned to Davis Park for music from the Rich Collins Three-O, over which we brought you footage of artist Ian Bode, working on his epic FestivALL painting. At breakneck speed, we then jogged up to the Verizon Wireless Children’s Stage across from the Kanawha County Public Library, where Todd, Sophie, and Will Burge treated us to the song, “The Bugs Are Coming.”

All that running had us tired, so we paused for a moment to take a look at a theatrical event that wasn’t really officially a part of FestivALL. It was the Alban Arts and Conference Center production of David Alburn’s Tony and Pulitzer Prize  winning play, “Proof.”

Having returned from the drama, we found Duo Divertido performing at the BB&T Stage, over which we dropped in footage of FestivALL’s Princess, Jude Binder and Dizzy Doc’s Balloon Sculpture.  Eduardo and Beth treated us to a lovely version of “The Girl From Ipanema.” Next up, we had music from Bob Shank and Sam Morgan, combined with dance from Carli Mareneck and Friends.  We followed that with the Katzendrummers and a troupe of kids at the Verizon Wireless Children’s Stage, combined with scenes of the Children’s Art Fair, the ShockaCon alien, and the Rocky Point Farm horse carriage.

That’s not all. We also had the David Smith film, META, The Leon Waters Blues Band, and scenes from Dr. Sketchy’s and Bare Bones. It’s a loaded show, and typical of the vast riches of art, music, dance and more that you’ll find during FestivALL.