PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Monday Morning Art: Tiny Skyline


Our Monday art this week is an exercise in working small and fast. Lately I’ve been doing my real-world art on tinier and tinier “canvasses,” and this week I used an actual tiny canvas, stretched on tiny wood, which was three by four inches.  I think I got it from Hollar for a buck. It even came with a tiny easel.

I wanted to see what I could knock out on a tiny canvas with a ten-minute time-limit, so I wound up doing a Chicago Skyline from memory, using cheap watercolor markers and some grayscale markers. I wasn’t in the mood to bust out fancy oils or acrylics for such a small piece. I painted this on a tiny spot on my desk, right next to the keyboard I’m using to type these words.

Unless you’re looking at this on your phone, you’re probably seeing it larger than actual size. Rather than scan it, I photographed the finished piece because I was too lazy to clear a stack of stuff off the scanner. Give me points for being honest. You can see the tiny easel in a rejected photo (the flash was too strong) to the right. Notice how gigantic the USB drive in the background seems. The whole thing is less than five inches tall.

You can click the top image if you want to see it even larger than that.

Meanwhile, over in radio-land, Monday on The AIR, our Radio Free Charleston Marathon runs from 7 AM to 7 PM, and brings you a full 24 ours of our flagship show before we get back to whatever passes for normal these days after the holiday weekend.

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

Sunday Evening Video: Prehistoric Svengoolie

This week our Sunday Evening Video jumps back to 1982 for a look at famed Horror Host, Svengoolie back in his early days when he was still known as “Son of Svengoolie.” Rich Koz would go on to great fame almost thirty years after this when the show finally went national. (the drawing of Svengoolie at right is by PopCult buddy and “world’s greatest artist,” Mitch O’Connell)

This is the (mostly) complete broadcast of Sven’s Summer Special, a “Friday Night Fright” edition of Son of Svengoolie, with the 1931 film Frankenstein being the main attraction, as broadcast on WFLD Channel 32, Chicago.

The recording cuts at at the end of the movie, so we miss the last segment with Svengoolie, and some commercials, but otherwise it’s the way Svengoolie looked back in the 80s. This extended video clip includes all the local and national commercials, plus all the skits and song parodies from the original broadcast…well, except for the very end.

Rich Koz took over hosting the Svengoolie show from the original Svengoolie, Jerry Bishop, when the show was revived in 1979 after its original run from 1970 to 1973. Because he was such a fan of the original show, Bishop dubbed Koz “Son of Svengoolie” as he took over for the revived show that ran from 1979 to 1986, when the show was canceled once again by WFLD. (Thanks to Svengoolie himself for the correction on that!)

In 1994 the show was revived by Koz at WCIU in Chicago, and at that point Bishop told Koz that he was “all grown up” and should drop “Son of” from the name of the show. Svengoolie reached new heights when it was picked up for national broadcast by METV in 2011. Just a couple of weeks ago a repeat of the episode where they showed the movie, Munster Go Home, became the highest-rated episode of any program in the history of METV. Our video this week lets you seen Svengoolie’s humble beginnings, way back when.

This program comes to us courtesty of The Museum of Classic Chicago Television, whose primary mission is the preservation and display of off-air, early home videotape recordings (70s and early 80s, primarily) recorded off of any and all Chicago TV channels; footage which would likely be lost if not sought out and preserved digitally. You can find their video library on YouTube on on the Fuzzy Memories Roku app.

The RFC Flashback: Episode 101

RFC 101 "Viewmaster Shirt" from Rudy Panucci on Vimeo.

This week we go back almost ten years, to June, 2010, for the one-hundred first episode of the Radio Free Charleston video program. “Viewmaster Shirt” includes music from Josh Buskirk, The Gypsy Nomads and The ButtonFlies, plus a sequel from MURFMEEF and a trailer for the film, “Toxic Soup.”

Our host segments were shot on a warm, windy Saturday afternoon in front of the Robert C. Byrd Federal Courthouse on Virginia Street, for absolutely no reason other than the fact that we hadn’t shot there yet.

Our musical guests are Josh Buskirk, playing guitar and singing at Taylor Books; Frenchy & The Punk, back when they were known as The Gypsy Nomads, recorded at The Empty Glass; and The Button Flies, also recorded at The Empty Glass. We also have a music video from Murfmeef, the title of which we will not type here.


Memo From The Lockdown

The PopCulteer
May 22, 2020

We are around ten weeks into the pandemic lockdown here at Stately Radio Free Charleston Manor, and this week the PopCulteer is going to share some observations and pass along some links to help the saner amongst you pass the time while the lemmings rush back into the minefield.

I have tried not to focus extensively on the Covid-19 crisis here in PopCult because I would imagine that nobody in their right mind is looking to this blog for up-to-date information or guidance on how to deal with this unprecedented situation.

I also wouldn’t want to contribute to any misinformation in the middle of what has proven to be an exceptionally fluid set of circumstances.

It is my opinion (informed, but not infallible) that most of the country is rushing to reopen way too soon, and the results will be catastrophic. Keep in mind that this is the point of view of someone who is taking meds to suppress his immune system, so I may be more sensitive to these things than most. The fact that I rarely see more than a third of people wearing masks when I have to venture out is a signal to me that folks are not taking the threat of the virus seriously enough.

I sincerely hope that these people, who look to me like dangerous lunatics–no smarter than lemmings rushing off the edge of a cliff–turn out to be right. If they are right, then me wearing a mask just looks silly for a short time.

If I’m right, then these people will spread a deadly virus that will claim the lives of many of their beloved family members and friends.

I would much rather that these folks be proven right. I would survive the blow to my ego for being wrong about this. However, the fact that the people who ridicule those of us taking safety precautions don’t seem to have enough sense to pour piss out of a boot does not give me much hope that they have any clue what they’re talking about. I prefer to err on the side of caution.

With that out of the way, we can address some of the ways that the pandemic has changed our lives.

What To Expect In Our New World

Malls reopened in West Virginia this week, and the small number of people who ventured out discovered that not all the stores within have survived. Reports are that The Charleston Town Center has lost Books A Million, The Shoe Department and Candy Craze, and down at the Huntington Mall, two anchor stores, Macys and JC Penney, are not yet open, while Bath & Body Works decided not to renew their lease. That’s just the ones I’ve heard about. There may be more (And to be fair, some of these stores may have closed before the shutdown. I don’t think I’ve been to the Town Center this year, so I can’t say for sure).

Nationwide, it looks like maybe 15% of comic books stores will choose not to reopen following the pandemic. This is actually a lower number than people suspected would close, so there’s some optimism there.

Movie theaters may be doomed. I don’t think the entire industry will go under, but I would be shocked if all of the three major theater chains survive. Variety released a poll this week that indicated that 70% of people would be perfectly happy watching new major movie releases in their homes, with over 20% of people saying that they never intended to set foot in a theater again.

It may take years before great numbers of people feel comfortable attending live sporting events, live plays or musicals, concerts or pop culture conventions.

The most dangerous point in all this is that not everybody sees this as a bad thing. Consumers of entertainment may, like your humble blogger, come to the realization that you don’t have to see a hit movie on the first day it opens in theaters in order to enjoy it. With the cost of large-screen TVs at an all time low, people are realizing that they can enjoy movies better without having to deal with other people, waiting in line, paying too much for concessions, and not being able to pause the movie if they have to pee.

People still want to see new movies. Trolls World Tour grossed over $100 million it’s first weekend as a video-on-demand title after its theatrical release was scrapped. That’s probably more than the animated sequel would have grossed in theaters, and due to the nature of the business structure, Comcast, who owns Universal Studios, probably kept a bigger slice of the pie.

Print media is also in crisis. Readership is way up, especially for magazines and newspapers with online components, but advertising is way down. Magazines that rely on bookstores are in trouble, since the stores that sell their product have not been open. Worse yet, the businesses that advertise in their pages have also been affected by the shutdown, and the first thing they cut is their advertising. It’s the same with newspapers, so if you’ve been putting off subscribing to The Gazette-Mail online, now would be a good time to do it. It’s worth it, if only for Phil Kabler’s columns, but there’s so much more than that.

Local TV stations took a hit from this reduction in advertisers too, combined with losing ad time due to running commercial-free daily press briefings from various state and national leaders. They are starting to recoup some of that now, thanks to campaign ads, but their rates must be astonishingly low now because I’m seeing ads for candidates running for offices that used to be considered too piddly for television advertising to be feasible.

I don’t recall seeing TV ads for county magistrates or state legislators before. It’s pretty wild.

There’s Still Cool Stuff

With all that craziness going on in the world, it’s good to know that we have a few cool pop culture stories to which we can link to provide some distraction:

Vanity Fair has a great interview with SCTV legend, Catherine O’Hara, complete with photos taken by a drone, to promote safe distancing. That’s her, in one of the drone photos, at the head of this post.

The City of Charleston and Moses Auto Group will put on a drive-in concert featuring Fletcher’s Grove and Parachute Brigade, June 13 at Hills Plaza on Patrick Street. Go and enjoy the music, but stay in your cars, people.

There is a cool report that crazy sons of bitches have been criss-crossing the country at high speeds in modified cars, breaking the underground speed record of the Cannonball Run. Read this while shaking your head at how reckless it is while quietly thinking to yourself how cool it is at the same time.

Mark Wolfe alerted me to an amusing article about an Italian designer who took some of the world’s worst logos and redesigned them to be blandly acceptable instead of unintentially sexual.

A three-year-old article at Quartz that started circulating again this week tells how Henry Ford forced square dancing into schools in an attempt to keep white children from being attracted to black people’s music. This would be an attempt that backfired, since I can say for myself that forced square dancing made me develop a hatred of country music, hillbilly culture and White Supremecy all at the same time.

Our old JoeLanta buddy and maestro of the six-stringed beast, Timothy Price, has a new fingerstyle album out.

Todd Burge passes along a form letter you can send to your legislators stressing the need for support to keep our non-profit peformance venues going.

A fascinating documentary abou the woman who was the “Roe” in “Roe vs. Wade” debuts tonight on FX. The Los Angeles Times leaks the stunning revelation from the film.

I’m going to call it a column at that. I hope you don’t mind the ramblings, and remember to tune in to The AIR this weekend for several day’s worth of Radio Free Charleston.

And read PopCult for fresh content every day and all our regular features.

RFC Marathon for Memorial Day Weekend

This weekend you can tune in to  The AIR for a marathon of our flagship show, Radio Free Charleston. You can leap over and tune in at the website, or you could just stay on this page, and listen to this swell little embedded radio player…

Starting Friday at 9 AM, and running until midnight, Sunday, we will present every 2020 episode of the new three-hour version of the show, with a few of last year’s episodes of RFC and RFC International included to make sure there are no repeats during the first 60 hours of the marathon. After our Sunday night marathon of The Swing Shift, the RFC marathon will resume Monday morning at 7 AM, and run for an additional 24 hours.

This special event will let listeners spend the unofficial start of summer this weekend by listening to a great mix of local music with the best cool music in the world.

It will also let your PopCulteer attempt to relax a bit for a few days.

It kicks off Friday morning, with a replay of the final 2019 episodes of RFC and RFC International, before we combined them into one big weekly show. Then you can catch up with the new episodes of Radio Free Charleston Volume 5. Join us as we perfect the art of slacking off this weekend on The AIR.

Wednesday afternoon The AIR brings you a new episodes of Beatles Blast and Curtain Call that both continue series-within-a-series of shows that bring you rare Beatles recordings and pay tribute to the legendary composer/lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, in his 90th year, respectively. You know, just like last week. You can tune in at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

At 2 PM, your humble blogger returns with the seventeeth Beatles Blast that leads us closer to the conclusion of what has turned into a 20-part series, The Lost Beatles Project. This brings together bonus material from deluxe reissues of The Beatles’ group and solo albums and weaves them together in a flowing stream of consciousness mixtape that allows the listener to pretend to be a fly on the wall in the studio while the Fab Four make their magic.

After we conclude the Lost Beatles Project series in June, Beatles Blast will revert to it’s usual format, presenting The Beatles group and solo material mixed with cover tunes by other artists, music from related acts (like labelmates, offspring, or former collaborators) and songs that feature guest contributions from the boys.

Beatles Blast can be heard every Wednesday at 2 PM, with replays Thursday at 10 PM, Friday at noon, Saturday at 4 PM, Sunday at 5 PM and Tuesdays at 9 AM, exclusively on The AIR.

At 3 PM Mel Larch once again devotes the entire hour of Curtain Call to a musical tribute to Stephen Sondheim for his 90th year. This time she goes back to the 2010 PBS special, Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall.

For this second of three parts of the Curtain Call Sondheim 90th birthday tribute, Mel presents highlights of this special, featuring performances by Jerry Hadley, Bernadette Peters, Victor Garber, Liza Minelli, Glenn Close, Patti Lupone, Bill Irwin, Betty Buckley and more.

Curtain Call can be heard on The AIR Wednesday at 3 PM, with replays Thursday at 8 AM and 9 PM, Friday at 10 AM and Saturday at 6 PM. An all-night marathon of Curtain Call episodes can be heard Wednesday nights, beginning at Midnight, and an additional marathon can be heard Sunday evenings from 6 PM to midnight.

Psychedelic Shack And More On The AIR

Once again, we only offer up one new episode of our speciality music shows Tuesday on The AIR with a fresh edition of Psychedelic Shack. RFC is taking the week off because we’re planning a big marathon for this coming weekend, and your PopCulteer needed a week off.  Meanwhile, 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…

I am planning a marathon of Radio Free Charleston this weekend on The AIR, and decided to take a week off from RFC and The Swing Shift this week. Today we’re going to bring you the final one-hour episode of RFC, plus the final two-hour RFC International at 10 AM and 10 PM, as we go back to the last week of 2019 for our last shows before we merged the two into what is now known as Radio Free Charleston Volume Five. We’ll tell you all about the marathon later in the week.

At 1 PM we’ll bring you an encore of MIRRORBALL, Mel Larch’s second Disco Special that premiered last Friday.

However, we do have a new edition of Psychedelic Shack from Nigel Pye today at 2 PM. Nigel returns with a new show that opens with an epic psychedelic/prog bizarro epic by Utopia.

Check out the playlist…

Psychedelic Shack 031

Todd Rundgren and Utopia “Singing And The Glass Guitar”
Spirit “Aren’t You Glad”
13th Floor Elevators “Fire Engine”
Donovan “Epistle To Dippy”
Iron Butterfly “In The Times of Our Lives”
Klaatu “Little Neutrino”
Janis Joplin “Piece Of My Heart”
Love “Live and Let Live”
Strawberry Alarm Clock “Strawberries Mean Love”
The Rutles “Nevertheless”

Psychedelic Shack alternates weeks with NOISE BRIGADE Tuesdays at 2 PM, with replays Wednesday at 11 AM and 10 PM, Thursday at 8 AM, Friday at Noon, Saturday at 8 AM, Sunday at 4 PM and Monday at 7 PM.

At 3 PM, The Swing Shift brings you three encore episodes. Our Swing showcase will return with new episodes next week. 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.

Monday Morning Art: Palm Trees In Chicago


Our Monday art this week is a real-life, small-scale painting, based on a digital painting inspired by the trip your PopCulteer took to Chicago back in February, which seems like a lifetime ago now.

This is my depiction of the palm trees in The Crystal Garden at Chicago’s Navy Pier. It was sort of bizarre hanging out around palm trees in a giant glass atrium in freezing cold weather, but it inspired me to do a digital painting based on a composite of different photos. I posted that on Instagram almost three months ago, but this weekend revisited it and produced this version on a tiny canvas using a variety of different media, including oil pastel crayons, acrylic paints, water color markers and just a little Testor’s enamel.

After last week I was reluctant to put this in the scanner, so this is close-up photo of the finished piece, taken in the lightbox I usually use to photograph toys.

You can click the image if you want to see it bigger.

Meanwhile, over in radio-land, Monday on The AIR, our Monday Marathon runs from 7 AM to 3 PM , and brings you eight hours of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat, because Sydney Fileen’s New Wave Music showcase will be missing in action this week due to a Radio Free Charleston Memorial Day marathon. 3 PM sees an encore of a recent episode of Prognosis with Herman Linte.

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

Yesterday we lost comedy legend, Fred Willard, a master of improv, a first-class actor, and by all reports, one of the nicest guys in show business.  One indicator of how much people liked Willard was that this blog, which posted an episode of Fernwood 2 Nite about eleven and a half months ago, saw a surge as hundreds of people found us via Google to watch Fred Willard in all his glory.

I first saw Willard almost fifty years ago as part of the Ace Trucking Company, an improv group he co-founded, which appeared on variety shows like Flip Wilson’s program in the early 1970s.

It’s time for one more look at Willard’s work, with the little-seen Cinemax series History of White People in America, which also co-stars his Fernwood 2 Nite partner, Martin Mull, and several other comedy legends. That’s the second series of four episodes, combined into one mockumentary feature, posted up above. This series was written by Mull, directed by Harry Shearer, and co-starred Mary Kay Place and Edie McClurg alongside Willard.

Here’s to one of the nicest funny guys who ever existed.

The RFC Flashback: Episode 99

RFC 99 "Porkchop shirt" from Rudy Panucci on Vimeo.

This week we go back ten years ago for the episode of Radio Free Charleston before our big 100th show.  Due to an encoding glitch, this video has been missing from PopCult for quite a long time.

Our 99th show was called “Porkchop Shirt,” in honor of Eamon Hardiman’s horror epic, which has sent gone on to become a cult classic, sold at Walmart and streamed on dozens of different online and Roku channels…sometimes even legally. We produced what was then an extra-long show, with music from Highway Jones, OVADA and HARRAH, plus a visit from IWA East Coast Heavyweight Champion contender, Chris Hero, a short film by Murfmeef and some really cute, but disgusting animation.

This was the first show where we used the Kodak Zi8 video camer, which was then-new, and is today obsolete, but it’s still our weapon of choice as we now have five and a half of them. (Don’t loan your cameras out to other people, kids)

It was also the first appearance of HARRAH as a band, although Lee Harrah had been part of the show since episode 19.

The promo for Chris Hero was shot for us by Bo Vance, and is notable because Chris spent years at WWE’s NXT brand (until just recently, in fact) as “Kassius Ohno,” and in this clip he challenges Roderick Strong, who is still a star in NXT, and name-checks other wrestlers he’d faced, like Billy Gunn, Jerry Lynn and current AEW champ, Jon Moxley.

All  in all, it’s a pretty solid show, loaded with great music and plenty of weird extras to help you pass the time. Original production notes are HERE.