PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

PopCult Remembers Malcolm Ewen

We have a sad note today in PopCult. Longtime readers may remember my stealth wedding in Chicago almost five years. Your PopCulteer married his long-time love, Melanie Larch, on the stage at the legendary Steppenwolf Theater.

Yesterday, Malcolm Ewen, the man who made that happen, passed away after a long struggle with a variety of ailments. Malcolm and Mel had become Facebook friends after we saw a Steppenwolf production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” back in 2011, and when the time came for us to get married, Malcolm pulled strings and made contacts so we could tie the knot in a very special place.

I’m going to switch over now and bring you Mel’s tribute to Malcolm:

Flash back with me for a few minutes. It’s around this time in 2014. Rudy & I are planning our stealth nuptuals. We know we want to get married in Chicago. In the midst of this planning, we think it’d be great to get married at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, but we don’t know if that’s doable.

So I fire off a message to Malcolm Ewen, asking, “Hey, has anyone ever gotten married at Steppenwolf before?” He replied that he didn’t know, but he’d ask! Next thing you know, I’m getting e-mails from a couple of people on staff and God bless those awesome folks, they said yes, when they could just as easily have told us to bugger off and go to City Hall. But as far as we’re concerned, Mal’s the one who got the ball rolling so it could happen.

While we were friends here on the Book of Faces–another good thing I attribute to Steppenwolf’s production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” that I love so very dearly–it was actually quite some time before we got to meet him in person. Sometimes it was due to the cancer he spent the last few years battling. Other times, we’d be visiting in the summer when he’d be hard at work at the Weston Playhouse in Vermont. If you read the link below, you’ll see that he had an impressive body of work, including Steppenwolf’s acclaimed adaptation of “The Grapes of Wrath.”

But we finally had the chance to meet face to face in December of 2017, when we made one of my birthday trips to Chicago. We were going to see “The Minutes” in the Downstairs Theater. Malcolm was stage managing “BLKS,” which was running at the same time in the Upstairs Theater. After waiting for that show’s fight call (for those not versed in theatre, it’s a pre-show practice of any stage combat to make sure the actors involved can safely execute it in performance) to end, Malcolm came out to the lobby and greeted us like old friends. I’m so very glad we had the opportunity to thank him for his kindness that helped us make our special day even more so.

I had sent him a message a few months back, telling him that I was going to go on my first audition in five years in the near future. His reply? “Have a great audition! Have confidence you will be great!” Those words mean a lot, coming not only from a friend, but also from a member of the company whose work I respect deeply.

RIP, my friend (& fellow Cubs fan!) Thank you for being part of my life in such a very memorable way. I’ll never forget you.
And BTW…we’ll leave the ghost light on for ya.

“Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:”–William Shakespeare

Malcolm was a beloved member of the Steppenwolf Theater family, the first stage-manager to be named a member of the ensemble, and a man who devoted half his life to Steppenwolf. He worked for Steppenwolf for 32 years and stage-managed more than 40 shows. His credits included “American Buffalo,” “BLKS,” “The Christians,” “The Doppelganger,” “East of Eden,” “Familiar,” “Man From Nebraska” and “The Tempest.”

He took Steppenwolf’s critically acclaimed “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” to Broadway. Both won Tony awards. And he helped bring to Broadway Steppenwolf’s “The Rise and Fall of Little Voice,” as well as its collaboration with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, “The Song of Jacob Zulu.”

Mr. Ewen also brought Steppenwolf productions to theaters around the country and to London’s Royal National Theatre and His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth, Australia.

You can read Steppenwolf’s profile of Malcom here. Your PopCulteer bids farewell to the man who helped make the happiest day of my life happen.

We have a brand-new episode of Radio Free Charleston Tuesday on The AIR.  It’s the only new show on The AIR this week because our German broadcastmasters are still tinkering with their new servers and outages are still possible. However, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’ll be able to bring you all our shows uninterrupted by the end of the week.  All you have to do is tune in at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

RFC hits at 10 AM (with a replay at 10 PM– all times EDT) with a brand-new edition of the show. The reason we’re dropping a new RFC this week is that we have a brand-new, fresh out of the musical oven, song from Kevin Scarbrough. Less than five years ago Kevin released his first album, Birthright, and we became instant fans. Friday Kevin will officially release his second album, Rock The Patriarch, but Thursday PopCult will bring you a detailed review of the full album, a day before it’s released. Meanwhile, Tuesday you can tune in and hear his new song, “End Of The Day” open up Radio Free Charleston. PopCult readers can purchase a download of the entire album now at THIS LINK.

Now in its thirtieth year, Radio Free Charleston continues to bring you more local music than any other source.

After opening the show with Kevin’s latest, we continue with a mix of brand-new local music, classic tracks and a deepish dive into our archives.

Check out the playlist here:

RFC 109

Kevin Scarbrough “End of The Day”
Beggars Clan “Glass of Water”
Fletcher’s Grove “Ride”
Mother’s Nature “Stand Back”
Mojomatic “That’s what The Blues Is All About”
Todd Burge “Back To The Races (Burlap)”
Holly And The Guy “Since I Met You”
Jay Parade “How This Ends”
John Lancaster “Phantom Moon”
Poor Man’s Gravy “That Which Should Never Be Played”
Feast of Stephen “Gomec”
Holden Caulfield “The Fields Still Burn”

Following the 10 AM debut of this episode, you can stick around and listen to three previously-aired shows, for a four-hour local music fix.

Radio Free Charleston can be heard Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM, with replays Thursday at 2 PM, Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 11 AM and Midnight and Sunday at 1 PM, exclusively on The AIR.

As for the rest of our programming on The AIR we are still in encore mode this week. The plan is to return with all-new episodes of all of our shows next week, and the week after, as well.


Monday Morning Art: The Altered State Building


This week’s art is truly an example of “mixed media.” This psychedelic take on The Empire State Building (part of our New York-inspired art series) started out as a silhouette of the famed skyscraper. I blew it out on the computer so that it was just an outline. Then I printed it out, and took to it with with a variety of pens, gel pens, colored pencils, markers and Sharpies.  I then scanned what I had so far back into the computer, where I cleaned up some pencil lines and sloppy coloring, and added the sky, the border, and did some digital tweaking, like boosting the saturation. The end result is The Altered State Building. You might see it in person if you ever take the open-top bus tour while using hallucinogens.

As always, click the image to see it bigger.

Meanwhile, Monday on The AIR, 7 AM kicks in with a bit of synergy with today’s art, as we bring you eight hours of Nigel Pye’s Psychedelic Shack. Then at 3 PM you can settle in for eight hours of great New Wave music with Sydney’s Big Electric Cat. At 11 PM you can spend your late night with eight hours of the best Progressive Rock of the last half-century on Prognosis.

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

Sunday Evening Video: Andy Warhol

PopCult is a pop culture blog, and one of the legendary POP ART artistes was one Andy Warhol, so it was inevitable that we’d eventually feature Pittsburgh’s favorite son in this space.

Tonight, for those of you who aren’t particularly interested in the series finale of Game of Thrones, we bring you a three-hour documentary about Mr. Warhol.

Quoting from The IMDB Page:

ANDY WARHOL: THE COMPLETE PICTURE is the definitive account of the life and work of the most enigmatic and influential artist of the late twentieth century. Over 60 interviews with Warhol’s close friends, collaborators, Superstars, Factory cohorts and family, as well as distinguished philosophers, art historians and cultural commentators, constitute a documentary profile unprecedented in its depth, range and scale. The series boasts unique access to the Warhol Foundation’s rich and extensive archives, previously unseen private home-movie footage, audio-tapes as yet unheard, and extracts from Warhol’s legendary film experiments, mysteriously withdrawn by the artist over 30 years ago. Warhol’s intuitive grasp of, and influence on, the collapsing of high and low culture in the late twentieth century is reflected in the extraordinary range of participants in this series, who include ARTHUR DANTO, Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, Blondie’s DEBBIE HARRY, Hollywood maverick DENNIS HOPPER and fellow Warhol collector LORD ARCHER. Other contributors include artists JULIAN SCHNABEL, JEFF KOONS, PETER BLAKE, KENNY SCHARF, RONNIE CUTRONE and KOMAR and MELAMID; actors CRISPIN GLOVER, JOE DALLESANDRO, UDO KIER and JARED HARRIS; filmmakers PAUL MORRISSEY and JONAS MEKAS; musicians JOHN CALE and THE DANDY WARHOLS; New York socialite NAN KEMPNER, and guru of window dressing, SIMON DOONAN. Beginning with Warhol’s death and the establishment of the Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh (the only museum dedicated to an American artist), it becomes immediately apparent as we sift through the vast treasure of archives that whether Warhol was sketching, painting, screen printing, photographing, filming, writing, publishing, tape recording, videotaping, or speaking on the telephone, that his entire life was his work, and that as an artist he was obsessed with documenting experience.

Originally presented as a mini-series for TV, here’s the entire thing, in one nearly three-hour block. Enjoy, and maybe have some Campbell’s soup with it!

And remember, some reviews have said that this documentary is chock full of mistakes and inaccuracies.

The RFC Flashback: Episode 184

This week we go back to late April, 2013 for Radio Free Charleston 184, “Sherlock Shirt,” which was shot all over the city of Charleston and featured the RFC debuts of both The Carpenter Ants and Time and Distance. Plus we had a song from Joseph Hale (in a music video by Murfmeef) and a preview of the Alban Arts Center production of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance as well as animation from Frank Panucci.

The Carpenter Ants are seen performing “Blessing” at The East End Bazaar. We recorded Time And Distance doing their song, “There Is Nothing I Hate More Than The DMV,” at The Empty Glass, and the late Mr. Hale’s video for “Serene” was shot around Parkersburg.

For the original production notes, go HERE.

Help Finish “My Autopsy”

The PopCulteer
May 17, 2019

Today we’re going to tell you how you can help finish a terrific-looking local indendent film. This is a really special project, and I think it could really help show off the filmmaking talent in this area with a first-rate production.

My Autopsy is a film project that writer/director Holly Mollohan has been working to bring to life for ten years. It’s a fresh take on the issue of domestic abuse with an enlightened point of view.

I spoke with Serenity Allinder Velasco Valle, the producer of My Autopsy, as well as an actress in the film. She tells the story of the film, “Holly Mollohan began this journey ten years ago! The screenplay won several awards along the way. I signed on in June of last year as pre-production was starting and went head over heels into my first stint on that side of the camera. I’ve acted, but never been part of the crew until now.”

My Autopsy follows 24-year-old Rachel (Gareth Tidball) as she tries to move on with her life after a violent relationship. However, the more she tries to move on, it becomes more evident of how much deeper the emotional scars are than the physical ones from the relationship with Vince (Dave Stishan), the film’s main antagonist. Vince starts reminding her that she isn’t her own person: she is his property. In effect, she never fully became free. Eventually, the threat of Vince becomes real in a final showdown that pits Rachel and Vince against each other for ownership of her inner power, and her true self.

Set in the environment of the gritty local music scene, My Autopsy examines Rachel’s fall into the abyss and her ultimate realization of self in a hard hitting, “no holds barred” fashion. It’s sex, drugs, rock and roll, and stream of consciousness poetry with a dreamlike emotional twist. In this tale it is discovered that within even the most broken woman hides a strong person who will eventually break out of the emotional cell in which she is imprisoned. She will find that she has the inner strength to not only tackle life on her own, but to effectively exorcise the demons from her past.

My Autopsy was filmed entirely in West Virginia. Holly Mollohan directed from her own script, with Assistant Director Eric Lorenz for Screaming Butterlfy Entertainment. Now You can help finish this project and bring Holly’s vision to the big screen.

A Kickstarter campaign has been launched to cover the costs of the finishing the film: shooting pick-ups, post-production expenses and festival submission fees.

There’s just under four weeks left in the campaign, and you can see the Kickstarter trailer right here…

Rewards range from social media shout-outs to Tarot readings, autographed movie posters, digital downloads of the finished film and a varity of cool merchandise branded with the film’s logo.

Best of all, you’ll be encouraging the film industry in West Virginia, and maybe help us retain more of our young creative people.

Holly has been a fixture on the local music scene for some time, directing videos for bands like Byzantine and Voices of Anatole. In fact, I first met Holly back in 2007 when she contributed a Voices of Anatole music video to an episode of Radio Free Charleston that is currently in the cue to be remastered.

The Screenplay for My Autopsy has won the Silver Ace Award at the 2011 Las Vegas International Film Festival, was an Official Finalist at the 2011 Beverly Hills International Film Festival, won the Award of Excellence at the 2012 Canada International Film Festival, and took Second Place at the 2011 Appalachian Film Festival. Now with the production inches away from the finish line, you can help give it that one final push.

We go back to Serenity for the last word on My Autopsy, “We have the absolute BEST cast and crew! We have fun while getting things done. I haven’t had this much fun since I got to walk around making small talk with Tim Burton on the set of Planet of the Apes!”

Go kick in some funds, and keep checking PopCult for more updates on My Autopsy. When it’s finished I’ll let you know where and when you can see the finished film.

That is the PopCulteer for today. Check back for our regular features and one last NYC photo essay.

The NYC Tour Diary Part Five: All My Sons

As I mentioned previously, the main reason for my recent trip to New York City was to see two Broadway shows that Mel really wanted to see. The first was King Lear, starring Glenda Jackson, and you can read about that production HERE.

Then we had a day off, before heading to see All My Sons, Arthur Miller’s first major play, in a production starring Tracy Letts and Annette Bening.

Thought not as well-known as Miller’s later works, All My Sons is a modern classic, and this production really brings his work to life. Set in 1947 (when it was originally staged), what starts out as a snapshot of small-town life quickly turns into the unravelling of a web of deceit, secrets, lies and horror. The play is truly gut-wrenching, and you will be emotionally worn out by the time it’s over.

I’m not going to get too heavily into the plot because it can be a bit ridiculous to write a synopsis of such a classic work, but also because it’s hard to reveal too much of it without spoiling the shocks and surprises along the way. Joe Keller is a successful businessman who was exonerated of selling defective engine parts to the military during the war, resulting in the deaths of twenty-one pilots. His business partner, and former next-door-neighbor, was convicted of that crime and remains in prison. Letts plays Joe, and Bening plays his wife, Kate, who believes that her MIA son, Larry, is still alive, waiting to rescued after disappearing at sea.

On the morning when the play begins, a tree planted in memory of Larry had blown over in a storm. Ann, the daughter of his business partner is arriving for a visit, and she and Joe’s son try to figure out how to explain that Ann, who was the girlfriend of Larry, is in love with Larry’s brother, Chris and they want to get married.

Almost every major character is keeping secrets that can destroy the family.

This production is downright stunning. Not being familiar with the story in advance, I was drawn in by the performances and the plot. The set design by Douglas Schmidt was simply brilliant, which is no mean feat since the entire play takes place in the Keller’s backyard. Director, Jack O’Brien, manages the action on the set perfectly, and the cast is up to the challenge of portraying Miller’s American tragedy.

Tracy Letts, as Joe Keller, perfectly conveys the complexities of a happy, friendly and gregarious man who has seriously compromised ethics. His portrayal of the businessman who survived a scandal is very real, and actually reminded me a bit of my late uncle, Gene Warden, who had a bit in common with Joe Keller in terms of how he treated his partners.

Letts is, of course, a Tony and Pulitzer Award-winning playwright himself, and it’s interesting to note that his most recent work, The Minutes, touches on similiar themes of deceit, secrets, cover-ups and how they relate to the American Dream.

Annette Bening gives a measured performance within a performance as Kate, who outwardly projects confidence and contentment, but whose deep depression over the fate of her son and the actions of her husband come to the forefront as she becomes increasingly numb. This is a quietly powerful performance.

Benjamin Walker’s acclaim for his performance as Joe’s idealistic, yet haunted son, Chris is well-deserved. In the hands of a lesser actor, his character could come across as flat and contradictory, rather than complex and conflicted.

All My Sons is, as I said, a classic of modern drama, and it’s hard to imagine a better production than this current Broadway run. That run has been extended to the end of June, and you may still be able to get tickets. It’s a production of The Roundabout Theatre Company, and is staged at The American Airlines Theater.

Trivia Note: Yes, the band, Twenty-one Pilots, took their name from this play. Also, the play was inspired by a real incident from World War II, but every detail has been fictionalized.

PopCult’s NYC Tour Diary will conclude in a day or two with one last photo essay. You can read the other parts, HERE, HERE and HERE.

Getting back to your PopCulteer’s recent trip to The Big Apple…

…if you’ve been following this, we arrived late Wednesday to find our hotel rooms to be imaginary. Thursday we saw Glenda Jackson as King Lear, and Friday we went to FAO Schwarz.

With some of our plans somewhat obliterated by the unethical actions of the worst hotel in the world, we rearranged our schedule, and found ourselves with a few hours to kill on Saturday morning, the day before we were to leave NYC for home. I had been wanting to try something, and even though it’s about the most tourist-y thing you can do Mrs. PopCulteer quickly agreed and together we found ourselves boarding one of the double-decker, open-deck, tour buses.

We went with TopView Sightseeing (there are several from which to choose), primarily because that was the first one who’s agent we ran into on Eighth Avenue. We could’ve bought our tickets online, but if you buy one from the guys in the red vests on the street they will cut you a better deal.

We decided to do this because, while we have made quite a few trips to New York recently, neither of us had seen The Empire State Building or The Flatiron Building or Ground Zero and the new tower, so this was a fun way to pass a few hours on what started as a dreary, rainy day, which then turned into a pleasant afternoon.

My ulterior motive for taking this tour was that I brought my camera, my trusty Canon, and wanted to stock up on photos to inspire my art. You’ll be seeing lots of New York-centric art every Monday for the next couple of months.

I took over five hundred photos on this bus tour. Today you’ll get to see just a tiny sampling, so that we don’t break the PopCult server. The plan now is for there to be two more entries in The NYC Tour Diary, a review of All My Sons, and one last photo essay.

Now, here’s the photos from the bus…

Right after we got on the bus, on Eighth Avenue, near 42nd Street. This is a hop-on, hop-off bus so that you can jump off and explore, then jump on the next bus that comes along in about twenty minutes. We didn’t hop off any, but we may do this again and use the bus to explore the city in more detail.

The obligatory bus selfie, this time with a real camera, and in focus.

Continue reading…

The AIR’s Greatest Hits, All Week Long!

If that headline looks to you like a euphemism for reruns, you are correct. The nice German folks who maintain the service we use to bring you The AIR have informed us that they are upgrading their servers this week, and as a result, there may be intermittant outages during that time. Since we don’t want to promote new shows, only to have our listeners tune in to hear dead air, I made the call to bring you encore presentations all week, so that you don’t get too disappointed if the station goes dead for a minute or fifty right in the middle of the cool new thing I promised.

You can still tune in at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

As for our reruns, I can assure you that we will only use the finest, USDA Grade-A repeats of our musical programs this week.

Tuesday, you can hear episode 100 of Radio Free Charleston at 10 AM and 10 PM, and the morning run will be followed by our three most recent RFC episodes. The Swing Shift will replay its fiftieth show, followed by a couple of other classic episodes at 3 PM.

Wednesday Curtain Call will present an encore of recent shows devoted to The Tony Awards. The rest of the week will also see classic episodes of our music programs. This is a great chance to check out The AIR, because one thing I know is, with our luck, hundreds of people will tune in right when the servers shut down and we have nothing but dead air.

Cross your fingers and hope that they get this all worked out by next week. We have lots of cool stuff we want you to hear. In the meantime, check PopCult for the rest of our NYC Tour Diary, and some reviews of really cool stuff.


This week we kick off a longish series of paintings and images based on my recent trip to New York City. Today it’s a fairly normal street scene, with an astronaut walking down Eighth Avenue. It’s a digital painting based on a composite of several photos I took from the taxi on the way from our purgatorial hotel in Queens to our real hotel. I’ll probably have NY-centric art in this space for the next couple of months.

As always, click the image to see it bigger.

Meanwhile, Monday on The AIR, 7 AM sees a marathon of Radio Free Charleston International with your PopCulteer playing whatever stikes his fancy. Then at 3 PM you can settle in for eight hours of great New Wave music with Sydney’s Big Electric Cat. At 11 PM you can spend your late night with eight hours of the best Progressive Rock of the last half-century on Prognosis.

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