PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Radio Free Charleston’s Birthday

Roughly 30 years ago this weekend, the first edition of Radio Free Charleston aired on WVNS FM, 96.1.

The show was a result of my reward for working 100 days straight, often two or three shifts, with no day off while the station was beset with serious staffing problems. I was allowed to go on the air at 2 AM on Sunday morning, and play anything I wanted (within reason) for four hours each week.

This was not just my reward for working myself to death. My real reward was a promotion (in lieu of a raise) to assistant program director. With the title came the responsibility for scheduling the part-time talent to work on the weekends. I couldn’t get anybody reliable to handle the midnight to 6 AM shift Saturday night/Sunday morning, so I went to my boss with the idea of plugging a part-timer into my Friday night, 7 PM to Midnight shift, which was all syndicated programming anyway, and I would take the desolate shift that nobody wanted…IF I could have the freedom to play what I wanted.

My boss agreed to it and thus, Radio Free Charleston was born.

That first show didn’t include any local music. To be honest, it was mainly me digging out the best stuff from our existing playlist and augmenting it with a few choice progressive rock and New Wave tracks from my collection. I also remember being really happy that I could play the extended mix of “Heading To The Light” by The Traveling Wilburys on the first show.  I think it was the third week of the show when I slipped in “Big Red Satellite” by Hasil Adkins, and some single recorded by the teenaged daughter of a local car dealer who was considering advertising on the station.

Two weeks after that, the floodgates had opened, I fell in with the local music scene, and for the remainder of the original broadcast radio run, Radio Free Charleston became a bit of a phenomenon, peaking at over ten-thousand listeners and being featured in The Charleston Gazette. This was with a mix of local music, alternative rock, prog-rock, New Wave, underground tracks and even comedy records.

After the show was strangled in its crib over station politics in the spring of 1990, I couldn’t get hired in local radio. I was told repeatedly that program directors were afraid that if they’d hire me, I’d have their job in six months. I consulted with stations in other towns. I couldn’t relocate because I was taking care of my ailing parents, but they still appreciated my expertise. I also sort of backed into writing and market research after working on local political ads. The whole time I was trying to find a way to revive Radio Free Charleston. I must have recorded a dozen pilot episodes for different stations, but it wasn’t until after I began writing PopCult that Brian Young came to me with the idea of reviving RFC as a video show, and Douglas Imbrogno let me incorporate it into The Gazz and PopCult.

Now, with The AIR operating as the internet radio arm of this blog, and with my video work diminished a bit due to Myasthenia Gravis, I’ve kept Radio Free Charleston going as a radio program once again. Each week on The AIR I bring you an hour of local music on Radio Free Charleston, and two hours of whatever I feel like playing on RFC International. Since the fourth hour of the original show was where I played a feature album or artist, it’s almost like I’m doing the same show I was back in 1989/90, only not in the middle of the night, and with a worldwide audience.

That first RFC happened during Labor Day Weekend in 1989. Nobody knew then that the show would take on a life of its own as a beacon of obscurity. All the big shots in Charleston pretend not to know what RFC is, even if they’ve been on the show. I’m proud of the underground legacy I’ve built over the last three decades.

Saturday, Sunday and Monday I’ll be playing episodes of RFC and RFC International on The AIR. I plan to debut a new episode Tuesday at 10 AM, and since we have been celebrating 30 years of RFC all year long, you can expect more treats to mark the milestone for the rest of the year. The marathon begins Saturday morning at 1 AM and continues until 11 PM Monday evening. It will be interrupted at Midnight Sunday, for our weekly marathon of The Swing Shift, my Swing Music Show. Whenever I pre-empt that, I get very angry emails from our European listeners, so that bit of programming stays in place.

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

The RFC Flashback, which re-presents our video episodes, will return in this space next Saturday.

The Hershey Action Figure and Toy Show 2019

The PopCulteer
August 30, 2019

We’re going to bring you about as many photos of last week’s Hershey Action Figure and Toy Show as WordPress will let us today without flaking out. You’ll want to be sure to check back Sunday for our video of the show, which will have more photos accompanying it.

This was a terrific one-day show, put on by Greg Brown of Cotswold Collectibles fame, and we saw lots of familiar faces from the other GI Joe and toy shows we make it to each year. You’ll see and hear from more of our friends in the video. We had a blast, and it was a great excuse to turn our anniversary into a week-long excursion into Central and Eastern Pennsylvania.

There were loads of vendors and I was able to pick up the exclusive uniform, accessory and box set that Greg masterminded with help from Sgt. Van’s Backyard Battlefront Fantasy boxes and Mattsquatch Customs. I was also able to pick up the exclusives for last month’s Kentuckiana GI Joe Expo, which I had to miss this year. I will be posting another photo essay on all the cool stuff we got on the trip, including our Toy Show goodies, next week. We still haven’t had time to unpack everything, let alone photograph it all yet.

Greg is leaning heavily toward having the show again next year, with the date still to be determined. I’ll bring you the details here in PopCult as soon as I find out. A big part of the fun of this show was that folks from ToyLanta and Kentuckiana were on hand to show their support. While we were happy to see so many old friends, it was also great to see so many new faces who can’t travel so far for toy shows.

We are running late, and we’ll be bringing you more video and photos from the show over the weekend, so let’s just dive in and gawk at the cool toys and stuff.

I’ll have better photos of the show exclusive uniform set next week. Until then, consider this a teaser.

 

The first thing we saw when we went through the doors…and this was the early admission crowd.

 

The doors had just been opened for about five minutes and folks were already milling about, buying up toys.

A dealer from the Northeast had tons of cool things.

Tearle Ashby with the prototype for his aweswome limited edition shark cage that I’m going to have to find some way to work into the budget soon.

 

Continue reading…

Hershey’s Chocolate World

After we left the Hershey Action Figure and Toy Show last Saturday, we headed over to Hershey’s Chocolate World, which is right next to the Hershey World Amusement Park.

Dear reader, let me share with you some advice: If you want to go to Hershey World: DO NOT GO ON A SATURDAY AFTERNOON WHILE THE AMUSEMENT PARK IS OPEN.

The place was a teeming madhouse of humanity. The parking lot was crowded and we had to walk half a mile from our car. Once we got inside, the place was filled with cool stuff, but not-so-cool people rushing to get in our way.

Now, if you absolutely love Hershey’s chocolate, this is the place for you. For me, Boyer was a much bigger deal. Hershey’s chocolate, to me, was always just the default chocolate. It was nothing special, and since they shut down the factory in Hershey and moved all their production to Mexico it seems like the quality has slipped further from its less-than-spectacular norm.

Even with that, this is an impressive place. The displays are huge. They had “shopping experiences” where you could learn a sanitized history of the company or make your own candy bar, but we did not indulge in those. The lines were way too long. What they did have was a massive amount of merchandise–candy, shirts, caps, toys, magnets, gift boxes and bags that you fill yourself and a gigantic food court. The food court is there for the amusement park-goers, and looked to have pretty much the kind of food you’d expect at an amusement park food court.

There was every variety of Hershey’s candy for sale, and to sort of drive the point home that this was a corporate-branded store and not really a “Chocolate World,” they also sold the beef jerky, popcorn and other non-candy snack products that Hershey owns now.

To be honest, it felt a little insincere and overly-corporate. Hershey Pennsylvania is still the corporate headquarters for Hershey, but they no longer produce any candy there. We had been to Hershey’s Chocolate World stores in Chicago (now closed) and Times Square, and to be honest, those seemed like more fun, even though they only took up a fraction of the space. Those stores had piped in chocolate aroma. If they had that in Hershey you couldn’t smell it over all the sweaty people.

Don’t get me wrong. We had fun there, bought some cool stuff and enjoyed our visit, but we were also happy to get out and get a little peace and quiet when we were done. It wasn’t as much fun as the Boyer Candy Factory Outlet Store. It was bigger, but bigger is not always better.

I took a bunch of photos, so you can see for yourself. I didn’t get any pictures of the non-candy merchandise. That part of the store was so crowded that I couldn’t get my camera out comfortably.  Late this afternoon I’ll bring you pictures of the toy show, but here’s our look at Hershey’s Chocolate World…

The outside is adorned with huge statues of the Hershey candy mascots. The building is made to look like the now-demolished Hershey’s Candy Factory.

Right inside the front door. It was actually way more crowded than it looks in this photo.

This is one of the exhibits we didn’t want to stand in line to see.

Lots of candy for sale all over the place.

You could even have your photo put on a candy wrapper, for some reason.

Surprisingly, the prices weren’t really that great.

It was a bit sad to see some of Hershey’s better-tasting, but lesser-known candy bars just shunted off to the side on slovenly-kept shelves.

The better-known candy got more respect.

Hershey’s Kisses are one of the stars of the show. Twizzlers and Jolly Rancher seem a bit out of place in Chocolate World.

The fill-your-own dispensers had an odd mix of stuff available to fill your bag, tin, or barrel.

Cool, huge sign, but my favorites weren’t there.

That’s one big kiss!

We leave you with one last look at the Hershey Trolley, in front of Hershey’s Chocolate World. It’s a pretty cool place, and probably at its most enjoyable if you visit on a weekday during the off-season.

Later today we’ll bring you photos of The Hershey Action Figure and Toy Show, and tomorrow expect a couple of bonus photo essays of other cool places we visited on our trip.

A Visit To The Birthplace of Cup Candy

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and admit something.

I prefer Boyer’s Peanut Butter Cup to Reese’s.

I realize that some people consider that blasphemy, but it’s true. I also prefer Hunts Ketchup over Heinz and hate the idea or image of chili and slaw on a hot dog. I guess I’m just a contrarian that way.

Since I was a kid, I’ve been a fan of Boyer candies. I love the Smoothie and the Peanut Butter cups.  I’m not as big a fan of their signature candy, the Mallo Cup, but then, as I said, I’m a contrarian. I mean, I like the Mallo Cup, but my heart belongs to the Smoothie.

Based in Altoona, Pennsylvania, Boyer has been around since the great depression, and has seen its share of ups and downs. Currently, the company is heading to new heights, and they recently acquired the Clark Bar, which was originally made in nearby Pittsburgh.  Until last year the Clark Bar had been made by Necco, but when that company went belly-up, their assets were auctioned off and Boyer brought the rather nifty candy bar back to the Keystone State.

The Clark Bar is not back in production yet. It’s expected to be back soon, but Boyer is still working on perfecting the shape (my educated guess is that they need to figure out the proper alignment of the flattening wheel between the extruder and the enrober).

However, since they are cranking out a sizable quantity of misshapen Clark Bars during the trial-and-error process of finding the right shape, they have decided to grind the failed experiments up and deposit them into Clark Cups, which are selling briskly and taste just like a Clark Bar, only as a cup instead of a bar. You can see the colorful boxes to the left.

The Clark Bar is also one of my favorite candies, and it’s cool that it’ll be back in production soon, and made by the folks at Boyer.

There have been a few times over the past couple of years when Amtrak’s Cardinal line was not fully operational, so we drove to Pittsburgh and hopped the Pennsylvanian to go to New York. That train stops in Altoona, and from the trains at the station you can see the Boyer factory, and when we found out that they had a factory outlet store, we decided to find an excuse to go there. Last week’s anniversary trip to the toy show in Hershey gave us that excuse, and the contrarian in me was delighted at the prospect of driving through Hershey with a cooler in the backseat filled with Boyer candy.

The Boyer Factory Outlet Store is small, but it’s still a massive treat for any Boyer fan. If you can’t make it there, you can find a lot of what they sell within at their online store (but none of the bulk goodies are available online). There is plenty of candy, of course, but also T Shirts, mugs, plush toys, toy trucks, gift tins and other coolness. Check out the photos to see what the shop is like…

A closer view of what we saw from the train.

Even closer! We’re nearly there!

Some might think this be heaven.

Boyer also makes some more traditional candies. We didn’t get photos of the chocolate-covered Oreos. They were good, though.

TV screens show the inner workings of the factory, and there are cool gifts all over the place.

More Clark Cups and Jimmie Stix.

It’s so cool to see the Clark logo on mugs and tins. Plus there’s plenty of cool Mallo Cup logo merch here, too.

Another shot of the sales floor.  On the racks in the background are where the irregular Mallo Cups and Smoothies are sold, unwrapped, in bulk.They tasted just as good, but you don’t get the play money.

After we left we drove by the front of the factory. The unwashed masses are not allowed in there, much to the relief of those of us who like to eat this candy. Nobody wants unwashed masses handling their Mallo Cups.

 

Finally, your PopCulteer stuck his camera out the car window as we sped down 17th Street and got lucky with this money shot of the famous yellow tank of Mallo, and the newly-installed Clark Bar sign. We shall look for some excluse to return to Altoona someday…probably after they get the Clark Bar up and running again.

Friday morning we’ll give equal time to Hershey’s Chocolate World, and later Friday the PopCulteer will present a huge photo essay of the Hershey Action Figure and Toy Show. We were going to post some of that Thursday, but every telemarketer in the world decided to call me today.

As has become tradition over the last fourteen years, anytime your PopCulteer goes anywhere cool, he takes lots of photos and maybe even shoots video to share with his reader.  Last week I went on a ridiculously fun trip with my wife to celebrate our fifth anniversary, and along the way we visted many cool places.

Over the next couple of days I plan to bring you some cool photo essays of places like The Boyer Candy Company Factory Outlet Store in Altoona, Pennsylvania, Hershey’s Chocolate World, The Hershey Action Figure and Toy Show, The Lindt Factory Outlet Store and some of the other cool places we stopped along our meandering drive through the wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania.

We experienced a wealth of chocolate, toys, and other fun things whilst enjoying a no-pressure drive through the land of towns with funny names and outlet malls.

In addtion to the photo essays, we also have a video of the Hershey Action Figure and Toy Show in the works, probably for Sunday.

To get you started, here are a few random images from the trip, just to give you a sample of what you can expect in PopCult in the next several days. Our lead image is at the Boyer factory. You can expect that to be the next photo essay, later today. Here’s a few more teaser images with their descriptions below each photo (where the captions would be if we ever figured out how to do captions with the new WordPress interface)…

Part of the central PA drive. It wasn’t too hot, nor too sunny, both of which kept my Myasthenia Gravis from becoming a major issue.

You’ll have to wait until tomorrow’s PopCulteer to see the huge photo essay from the Toy Show. sorry. I promise it’ll be worth the wait.

You’ll get to see what it was like in Hershey’s Chocolate World after we go to the Boyer Candy Factory, probably later today.

The Fulton Steamboat Inn, in Lancaster, Pa, near Intercourse.

A random photo taken out of the car window to capture the brightness of the colors of what might otherwise have just been a dismal farm or factory shot.

A covered bridge near the Amish Farm in Lancaster. To fully experience the Amish experience we had just eaten at Cici’s Pizza.  It’s not as good as it was when we used to have them around here.

On the way home (in Maryland now) we saw this Mini Cooper with a sticker that cracked me up.

Here it is blown up so you can see it even better.

One of these days we’re going to have to get off the interstate in Cumberland and take photos of all the cool architecture. Hopefully someday when the city doesn’t smell like burnt motor oil and farts.

And we leave you with a sloppy composite photo showing off the full majesty of one side of the Fulton Steamboat Inn. We just stumbled onto this after visiting The Shops At Rockvale, which is a unique beast of an outlet mall in decline. In retrospect, it was positively thriving and vital compared to the Premium Outlet Mall in Hagerstown, Maryland, which was nearly a ghost mall with about 40% of the storefronts vacant. When we went there we only saw about ten other shoppers.

Up next will be photos of our trip to the Boyer Candy Company Factory Outlet Store in Altoona, PA.

 

 

The Late-August Anniversary Glut

Your PopCulteer has more than his fair share of anniversaries this week. Monday was the fifth anniversary of his marriage to Melanie Larch, which was the bestest day in his life. To celebrate, we went on a meandering trip which I will tell you about in the coming days.

Speaking of the coming days, This weekend is roughly the thirtieth anniversary of the first broadcast of Radio Free Charleston, which debuted over Labor Day weekend back in 1989.

Also, today (Wednesday) is the 102nd anniversary of the birth of Jack Kirby. If you don’t know who Jack Kirby is, you are probably reading the wrong blog.

Coincidentally, also today, exactly fourteen years ago, the very first post was entered into this, The PopCult Blog.

I’m not going to post a link. Just scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and check the archives for August, 2005 if you want to see it. It’s not really that impressive.

Today’s accompanying illustration is my sloppy, five-minute digital painting that updates the old graphic that used to be at the head of this post.

Since I’ve done something to mark PopCult’s birthday every year, I did this. It’s only slightly more than the least I could do.

It’s been fourteen years. My readers have been with me through deaths, births, a wedding, many trips, loads of toys and comics and a metric ton of Radio Free Charleston. Thanks for enjoying the ride.

Let’s do another fourteen years, okay?

Meanwhile…On The AIR

Your PopCulteer just returned from his week-long anniversary/toy show/candy factory vacation late last night, and has a lot to do to get back into the groove of things. So to make my life easier, The AIR will be in reruns for the next few days. You can still listen to the wonderfulness of truly independent radio at The AIR website, or on this embedded radio player…

Wednesday we offer up an all-day marathon of Melanie Larch’s Curtain Call. Thursday and Friday we’ll bring you our regular schedules, but with encore episodes of Radio Free Charleston International and Sydney’s Big Electric Cat.

Saturday we have a really important programming stunt kicking off, but you’ll have to wait until Friday for details on that.

In the meantime, your PopCulteer will be hard at work on editing photos and video to bring you that show the cool places I went with my lovely wife over the last week. You may start seeing those Wednesday or Thursday, right here in this blog.

More Troops, Groovy Music and Swing On The AIR

It’s yet another day with new programming on The AIR.

Tuesday on The AIR we deliver new episodes of Radio Free Charleston, Psychedelic Shack and The Swing Shift to our loyal listeners. You may point your cursor over and tune in at the website, or you could just stay on this page, and  listen to this happy little embedded radio player…

It all kicks off at 10 AM (with a replay at 10 PM– all times EDT) with a brand-new edition of Radio Free Charleston.

This week’s show goes back into our video vaults for the second of two shows that bring you highlights of the Tribute To The Troops II benefit show, held at Saint Albans City Park back in the summer of 2012. Some of these songs were heard on a three-part series on the RFC video show, while others are being heard here for the first time. This week we bring you performances by Everpulse and Point of Jerus. For some reason we had audio recordings of two entire sets by these bands, so we made them the second part of this series.

If you can’t listen to the stream on The AIR, we are now uploading the RFC radio show to YouTube (by popular demand). So you can listen to it here…

At 2 PM on Psychedelic Shack Nigel Pye checks in from Haversham Recording Institute with a 60-minute mixtape of groovy Psychedelic Rock. Our friend, the Hippie Gnome, Nigel Pye, has cheerfully decided to provide us with a playlist for this new episode so tune in turn on and check out the playlist…

Psychedelic Shack 026

Terry Draper ‘I Have A Dream”
The Move “Walk Upon The Water”
Dantalian’s Chariot “World War Three”
Liverpool Scene “Tramcar to Frankenstein”
Eyes of Blue “Merry Go Round”
Spring “The Prisoner (Eight by Ten)”
13Th Floor Elevators “Postures (Leave Your Body Behind)”
Prince “Around The World In A Day”
The Turtles “A Walk In The Sun”
The Jimi Hendrix Experience “Third Stone From The Sun”
Donovan “Season Of The Witch

Psychedelic Shack can be heard Tuesday’s at 2 PM, with replays Wednesday at 11 AM, Thursday at 5 PM, Friday at Noon, Saturday at 9 AM, Sunday at 4 PM and Monday at 7 PM.

At 3 PM your PopCulteer returns to host a new hour of The Swing Shift as we continue to bring you the best Swing Music of the last century.

This week it’s another mix of old and new, with classics from the Big Band era, Retro Swing from the 1990s, and fresh Swing from today’s top bands.

The Swing Shift 079

Cherry Poppin’ Daddies “The Fixer”
Queen Bee and the Honeylovers “Beaucatcher”
Benny Goodman “Bugle Call Rag”
Artie Shaw “Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive”
Gerald Beckett “Swinging At The Haven”
Glenn Miller “Chattanooga Choo Choo”
Joe Stilgoe “The Heat Is On”
Duke Ellington “Take The A Train”
IKS Big Band “Sing, Sing, Sing”
Charlie Parker Quintet “Wee”
Jeremy Sherman “Boulangerie”
Lionel Hampton “Flying Home”
Jive Me “On Stage”
Dave Stuckey and his Hot House Gang “Sister Kate”
Royal Crown Revue “I Love The Life I Live”
Jack Pack “Light My Fire”

You can hear The Swing Shift Tuesday at 3 PM, with replays Wednesday at 7 AM and 6 PM, Thursday at 7 PM and Saturday at 5 PM, only on The AIR. You can also hear all-night marathons, seven hours each, starting at Midnight Thursday and Sunday evenings.

Remember, you can tune in to The AIR at all hours of the day and night for a variety and quality of programming that you will not find anywhere else. Check PopCult regularly for details on our new episodes.

Monday Morning Art: Fifth Anniversary

 

Allow your PopCulteer a bit of indulgence here, please.  Today is his fifth wedding anniversary, and he wanted to celebrate that with a Monday Morning Art painting of him and his lovely wife, Melanie Larch, to mark the occasion. Mel won’t see this until it’s posted here, so I’m hoping that it will make her even happier as we spend our day wandering aimlessly around Southeast Pennsylvania, possibly somewhere between Blue Ball and Intercourse.

I did this when I was preparing a week’s worth of PopCult in advance so that nobody would notice that I was gone. It’s a mixed-media painting, based on a photograph of us taken at the National Mall a few years ago. I didn’t paint in the Washtington Monument because I was in a hurry to get this done while packing for our trip.

You can read about our wedding and see the photo that inspired this painting HERE.

If you wish, you can click this image to see it bigger.

Meanwhile, over in radio-land, Monday on The AIR, this week we bring you a Monday Marathon featuring four special episodes of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat.

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

At 3 PM Herman Linte’s show, Prognosis marks 51 episodes with the second of a two-part “Prog Rock 101” special that will present songs from the quintessential progressive rock bands.

Check out the playlist below…

Prognosis 051

The Nice “America”
Frank Zappa “Apostrophe”
The Moody Blues “Nights In White Satin”
Syd Barrett “Rhamadon”
Steve Hackett “Shadow of the Heriophant”
Rick Wakeman “Jane Seymour”
Rabbit “Locomotive Breath”
Robert Fripp “Pie Jesus”
Queen “Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)”
Peter Gabriel “Down The Dolce Vita”
Pallas “Cut And Run”
Asia “Wildest Dreams”
Can “Moonshake”
Captain Beefheart “My Human Gets Me Blues”
Chris Squire “You By My Side”
Kate Bush “Breathing”
Mike Batt “Imbecile/Plainsong”

Prognosis will be followed by an extra classic episode at 5 PM, and then by replays of last week’s Psychedelic Shack at 7 PM, Radio Free Charleston at 8 PM and RFC International at 9 PM. Then at 11 PM we kick it back over to Prognosis, with an extra eight hour marathon of great progressive rock.

Whenever I go out of town for a vacation, I know I can turn to The National Film Board of Canada for something cool to drop in to our weekly video showcase.  In this case it’s a cartoon from 1995 that they just posted week before last. Animator Paul Driessen sets eight interlocking tales to the music of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in this animated short. Toying with traditional storytelling structures, Driessen allows his stories to unfold simultaneously in eight different windows on the screen. Like Vivaldi, he uses the seasons to delineate the work.

It’s pretty cool. Enjoy it. I’m celebrating my anniversary.