PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

A Day Without Pants

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As everyone knows, May 5 is a special day. It’s National No Pants Day! What better way to celebrate than to see Charleston’s own No Pants Players, as they treat us to an evening of fine improv comedy at the Labelle Theater in South Charleston?

Friday (and Saturday, for you stragglers) The No Pants Players ply their improv trade at the Labelle with an all-ages show that kicks off at 8 PM. Admission is a mere five bucks, and audience members who participate on stage will be rewarded with prizes from Krispy Kreme and Main Tin. I caught the No Pants Players a couple of months ago, and it was loads of fun. It’s about time that we finally got some great improv comedy in this area.

If you go: Admission is five dollars. The show is appropriate for all ages. Curtain time is 8 PM, Friday and Saturday May 5 and 6 at the Labelle Theater, 311 D Street, South Charleston.

Mountain Booking

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Saturday at Taylor Books, author Robin Boyd will be signing copies of her new book, The Mountain Biker’s Guide to West Virginia from 1 PM to 3 PM. Robin’s enthusiasm for biking in the Mountain State is evident. She says, “I’ve mountain biked in Europe, Africa and Australia, and all across the United States, and I stand by the fact that the best mountain biking in the world is in West Virginia.”

Robin Boyd is a professor and a journalist, but she’s also a competitive athlete, mom, and bicycling advocate. In the book, she tells of her favorite places to ride, all over the state, covering different skill levels and locations ranging from remote to just five minutes from downtown Charleston.

The book also features photography by Danny Boyd. Already established as an educator, film maker and wrestler, Danny adds yet another “slash,” as he shows off his prowess as an adventure photographer.

The Mountain Biker’s Guide to West Virginia is available at stores around the state or from the West Virginia Book Company at 888-982-7472. The book retails for 8.95.

If you go: Robin Boyd will be at Taylor Books, 226 Capitol Street, Charleston, Saturday May 6, from 1 PM to 3 PM.

So Who Is Andy Prieboy, Anyway?

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Okay, I’ve been writing about him all week, so here’s his rough biographical sketch: Andy Prieboy was born in California, raised in Indiana, and became part of the San Francisco punk scene in the late 1970s. He toiled on the fringes of the music business until he was hired to replace Stan Ridgeway as lead singer of Wall Of Voodoo, in 1985. Wall Of Voodoo had one hit while Ridgeway was the lead singer (“Mexican Radio”) but were not expected to survive his exit. Oddly enough, both Ridgeway and Wall Of Voodoo went on to make better music apart than they did together.

Around 1990, Wall Of Voodoo split, and Prieboy recorded “Upon My Wicked Son,” a brilliant solo debut that showed more diversity and brilliance than even his impressive work with Wall Of Voodoo had. Two songs from that album have been recorded by other artists, with great success. “Tomorrow Wendy,” a song about an AIDS victim, was the only hit for Concrete Blonde, while “Loving The Highway Man” was recorded by Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. You can hear Prieboy’s original versions by clicking on the song titles.

In the late 1990s, after contributing a few songs to the “Mr Potato Head” children’s puppet show, Prieboy took up residence at a Los Angeles nightclub and developed his “Gilbert and Hooligan” style with “White Trash Wins Lotto,” a musical about Guns N Roses. “White Trash” became a hit, and productions have been mounted in Los Angeles, Toronto, and New York. Thus far, it has not been recorded or released officially. He’s been working on it for eight years now, taking time out to co-author “The Psycho Ex Game” with Merril Markoe.

I’m a huge fan of his work, and thought maybe some of my readers might get a kick out of him, too. He’s one of those rare birds, a songwriter of substance and humor, whose music actually means something. Andy Prieboy, go listen to his music.

Overlooked Album Of The Year: 1995

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The Artist: Andy Prieboy
The CD: “Sins Of Our Fathers” (out of print)

The best album of 1995 was so poorly distributed that I couldn’t find a copy until one turned up at an affordable price on eBay three years ago. I knew it was out, but I could never find a copy at the same time that I had the disposable income to pick it up. It was worth the eight-year wait. This is an epic album, musically diverse, lyrically brilliant, with a perfect blend of humor and gut-wrenching emotional wreckage. Fueled by the dissolution of a long-term dysfunctional relationship and frustration from twenty years of being bounced around by the music industry, “Sins Of Our Fathers” is a masterpiece that deserves to be ranked with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” and John Lennon’s “Plastic Ono Band” as one of the great catharthic achievements in rock music.

A recurring theme of the album is the collapse of Prieboy’s deal with MCA Records, and the desperation at having your dreams dashed and your career left in ruins. This CD would have made the perfect soundtrack for the dot-com bubble bursting and the Enron debacle. Mixed in with the songs about business are the songs about Prieboy’s personal hell in dealing with his failing relationship. His drug-addicted ex is a major character in these songs. One of the admirable things is that Prieboy doesn’t shy away from exposing his own faults. The song “Psycho Ex” (which you’ve probably heard about by now), tells the tale of an obsessed ex who doesn’t want to let go. It’s followed immediately by “You Cannot Not Want Me,” which is exactly the flip side–Prieboy’s plea to a woman who’s rejected him. It’s a bold move, artistically , portraying behavior as “psycho” in one song, then exhibiting that same tone in the next.

Other highlights of the album are “Who Do You Think We’re Coming For,” a hair-raising tune which compares an executive at MCA to a Cardinal who turned his back on Louis XIV during the French Revolution, and “When The Dream Is Over,” a doomed-love song, starkly arranged with piano and strings.

Mixed in among the heavy tunes are lighter moments with Prieboy’s sardonic humor and a dash of vaudeville. The musicianship is top-notch, particularly Scott Thunes (late of Frank Zappa’s band) on bass. Sadly this CD is out of print, and sells for as much as sixty bucks on the secondary market. Once in a while, you may luck out and find one for less than ten dollars on eBay. It’s worth hunting down.

The Psycho Ex Game: A Novel

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Continuing with “Andy Prieboy Week” here at Popcult, today we’re looking at a novel, co-written by Prieboy with comedy writing legend Merrill Markoe: “The Psycho Ex Game,” inspired by the song posted earlier here at Popcult. “The Psycho Ex Game” is a “He said/She said” book, with alternating chapters told in first person by slightly fictionalized versions of Prieboy and Markoe “Grant Repka” and “Lisa Roberty.” They meet at a performance of Repka’s musical, based on the romance of Tommy Lee and Pam Anderson, and strike up a bizarre email correspondence, which develops into a game, as they try to out-do each other with sordid tales of their respective “Psycho Exes.” This is one compelling read. Both authors so clearly delineate their characters that you feel like you know them instantly. The game itself is a terrific device to let us get to know these people.

” From the Psycho Ex Game Official Handbook:
All points in Psycho Ex Game are self-awarded by the narrator.
Points are given based on a personal value system of
humiliation, horror, self-debasement and pain endured. “

This book is a pure delight. Or to be more exact, it’s a guilty pleasure. You feel bad getting so much enjoyment out of other people’s tales of misery, but Markoe and Prieboy do such a deft job of letting you inside the heads of their protagonists that you instantly relate to them.

Part of the fun of this novel is that it’s so thinly disguised. Though Markoe’s “Lisa” is famous for having dated “Nick Blake,” a big-time movie comedian, in real-life, Markoe spent the better part of a decade as the significant other of David Letterman. I’d rather not guess wrong about the identity of “Jane Gray,” the novel’s name for Prieboy’s psycho ex, but I think it’s one of the alternative music scene’s favorite divas. In the book, “Grant’s” musical is about Tommy Lee and Pam Anderson. In reality, Prieboy has created “White Trash Wins Lotto,” an acclaimed musical that tells the story of Guns N Roses.

This book was published almost two years ago, but managed to fly under my radar. I didn’t find out about it until last week, while I was making one of my periodic checks of Amazon to see if a cast album of “White Trash Wins Lotto” had been released yet. Imagine my shock when I discovered that one of my favorite musicians had co-written a book with a comic author whom I hold in high regard. Talk about not being able to put a book down: My desire to finish reading this book mirrored “Lisa’s” obsessive need to read the next email from “Grant.”

“The Psycho Ex Game” has been out long enough that you can buy it now for next nothing, using Amazon’s “new and used” option. I think my hardcover copy was less than six bucks, including shipping. It’s the best six bucks I’ve spent in years.

Song Of The Week: Psycho Ex

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First off, a warning: This week’s SOTW is NOT “work safe.”

There are f-bombs galore, and you also run the risk of laughing so loudly that you disrupt the workplace.

Psycho Ex” is by Andy Prieboy. It’s the kickoff of “Andy Prieboy Week” here at PopCult, as I abuse the blog to promote one of my favorite, overlooked, creative people. You can download the song by right-clicking on the title and saving it, or you can go here to give it a listen while you read the lyrics.

“Psycho Ex” is a pop-operetta that tells of a particularly nasty break-up. This song is the basis for Prieboy’s novel, “The Psycho Ex Game,” co-authored with Merril Markoe, which I will be telling you about tomorrow.

In case you didn’t know, Prieboy is the singer who replaced Stan Ridgeway in Wall Of Voodoo, back in the mid-1980s. After Wall Of Voodoo split in 1990, he released a couple of incredible solo albums, the latter of which includes “Psycho Ex.” Of late, he’s been working on a musical called “White Trash Wins Lotto,” a fictionalized account of the beginnings of Guns N’ Roses. I’ll have more details on that, as well as bonus songs and more, later in the week.

Ailing Cartoonist

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Bob Burden, creator of The Flaming Carrot and Mystery Men, has been in the hospital, in critical condition, after emergency surgery a couple of weeks ago. He’s expected to be released later this month, after winding up a week in intensive care just a few days ago. Well wishers can send cards and other missives to him in care of his publisher:

Bob Burden Best Wishes
c/o Desperado Publishing
51 South Peacthree Street
Suite 8 Norcross, GA 30071

While The Flaming Carrot has managed to exist outside of the spotlight of mainstream attention, a one-shot gag team of supporting characters was the basis of the unjustly overlooked 1999 movie, “Mystery Men,” which starred Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo.

In addition to being one of the nicest guys in comics, Bob has spent the last quarter-century creating some of the most entertaining, surreal comic books on the market. He’ll be out of commission for at least two months. Let’s hope he recovers quickly so he can start making more bizarre comic books.

This week’s art is a series of digitally assaulted photos, arranged nicely, on a virtual canvas.

“The Rear View Series” is a collection of seven digital variations on a photo that, to be honest, was just a screw-up. I was trying to get the camera ready to take a picture while I was driving, and wound up with photo of my rear view mirror, which you can see below, on the left.

When I found that photo on the Smartcard, I decided that I liked the accidental composition when I turned it on its side, and wanted to mess around with the colors. I came up with several different versions, and since none of them stood out, I just slapped the better ones together into the montage at right. Click to enlarge.

As a bonus, you can also see the first digitally assaulted photo in this series, below, on the right.

Local Wrestling Under Assault

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RCW (Revolutionary Championship Wrestling), the Portsmouth-based independent wrestling federation is facing a crisis. Their show, which airs every Saturday at 4 p.m. on WHCP WB30, is scheduled to go off the air at the end of the month. WHCP has chosen not to renew the contract that has brought local viewers some very entertaining local wrestling for the last year. Unless the management at WHCP changes their mind, tomorrow’s show will be the last.

RCW has been a fun little treat. Some of the talent from IWA East Coast has turned up on their shows, and this half-hour program was a nice alternative to the slick WWE programming that dominates TV. I can’t understand why WHCP would want to kill off the only locally produced programming that they air, since their newscast was found floating belly-up at the top of the TV set back in February.

RCW would continue promoting events and selling DVDs of their shows, but losing TV would cut off a lot of their fans, who can’t travel to southern Ohio to see their live events.

RCW is suggesting that their fans contact the station to show support. You should be polite, and courteous, and it would probably be smart not to mention that you read about his here in PopCult, since WHCP seems to have a problem with us.

Cool Toy Of The Week: Uglydoll

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“They’re so ugly that they’re cute!”

You’ve heard that before. You may have even said it a few times. That’s the premise behind Uglydolls, stuffed animal monsters that are so ugly, that you just know that kids are going to love them. Created by Dave Horvath and Sun-Min Kim in 2001, these 12″ plush critters sell for around 20 dollars (lately, smaller versions have been released that sell for less) and they’ve been cropping up on the outer fringes of “cool” culture for the last couple of years. Debra Messing, Robin Williams, Nelly and designer Todd Oldham have all been spotted toting these lovable beasties.

There are a dozen Uglydolls, with names like “Wage,” “Ice-Bat” and the inseparable “Bop and Beep.” You can read their individual profiles at the Uglydoll website. Kids love ugly toys, and Uglydolls have the added appeal of being a hot pop culture item, too. In addition to the basic plush, you can now find vinyl versions of the Uglydolls and even Uglydog.

Google will take you to several dozen online retailers that sell Uglydolls, but locally, you can find them at Kid Country Toys. Go hunt them down. Ugly is the new pretty.