PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

About that secret mission…

As I explained earlier, Mrs. PopCulteer, Mel Larch, really wanted to go to Chicago to see the new Steppenwolf Theater production of the Tracy Letts play, Bug.

In the days before we left I realized that I was in the grip of a Myasthenia Gravis flare up. However I was ready to buckle down and go enjoy this theatrical experience. It’s not like I need control of my fingers to watch a play.

In fact I was reading the Chicago arts and entertainment website New City, and discovered that the night we were to arrive in the Windy City for this very quick trip, another theater in town was staging a production of the Shakespeare play Titus Andronicus.

This was Haven Chicago who perform at The Den Theater in Wicker Park. What was cool about this is that my wife is currently in rehearsal for a local production of Titus Andronicus, which coincidentally opens Thursday night. I will tell you all about that tomorrow.

Even with your PopCulteer somewhat impaired we managed to be very lucky in that Amtrak was running right on time and The Mighty Cardinal actually got us into town half an hour early last Thursday morning. Not only were we lucky with Amtrak but our hotel room was ready as soon as we showed up, five hours before the normal check-in time. Things were going well.

This gave us time to relax and unwind in the hotel room before we went off to the Wicker Park area to see Titus Andronicus. This was our first time visiting Wicker Park. It’s a pretty cool place. I’ll bring you my thoughts on Haven’s production of Titus later on Wednesday. (Spoiler: It was mind-blowing)

And so we enjoyed a fine evening of Shakespeare and grabbed a taxi back to the hotel to rest up for the next day’s adventures.

And what adventures those turned out to be… Friday morning we got up and decided to do one of the most touristy things we’ve ever done in Chicago–we visited the famed Navy Pier. We shopped, we ate, and we rode the big freaking Ferris Wheel. It was a blast, and you’ll find photos below.

Then we headed back to the hotel and napped. Remember, I’m a bit wiped out by MG on this trip. It seemed like there were more sirens than usual during our nap but we got up in plenty of time to make it to Steppenwolf, and then we turned on the news to discover that right outside our hotel there had been a shooting!

You may have seen it on the national news in the last few days, but in short an unruly passenger resisted being subdued by police and wound up with a couple of bullets in him for his efforts. He survived and the police have been suspended. At least this one wasn’t race-related.

Unfortunately for us this meant that our very convenient CTA station at Grand & State on the Red Line was not available because it was now a crime scene, and we would have to take a taxi to Steppenwolf. Making matters worse, Grand Street in front of our hotel was also shut down so we had to walk a half a block to get our ride.

We couldn’t use our handy Venta pass, but at least we didn’t get shot. While this may seem alarming, I still feel safer in Chicago than I do in Downtown Charleston sometimes.

Friday night, after our change of transit plans, we took in yet another amazing evening of theater which I will tell you about in a later post here in PopCult, and afterward we made it back to the hotel and got up the next morning ready to hop the Amtrak back to Charleston. Before that, we decied to make use of our Venta passes and rode around on the L, experiencing our first bit of strangeness as our Brown Line Train mutated without warning into an Orange Line Train headed to Midway, halfway through The Loop. Who knew there was such a thing as a trans-spectrumnal CTA train? We were able to transfer back to the Red Line before we wound up at the Airport.

On top of being weakened by Myasthenia Gravis for this trip a sinus infection which had been lurking in wait for me for the better part of a week finally got the best of me on the ride home, and by the time we were back in Dunbar I needed some bed rest and some fancy sinus medicine.

I’m recouperating right now which is why you didn’t read this post yesterday—I was too wiped out to write it,. Because my fingers are so wonky I’m actually writing this by screaming it into my cell phone which I will then email to myself and heavily edit because otherwise it won’t make any sense because of the cheesy voice recognition. Or as I said earlier, “Tacos partition, endeavor to look askew Toronto.”

You can expect a couple more posts, probably Wednesday, about the Chicago trip. Then Thursday morning I’ll tell you all about the local production of Titus Andronicus and if I’m feeling better Friday I’ll resume my toy fair coverage and try to tell you about stuff you can do this weekend.

Also, Wednesday The AIR will bring you an all-day marathon of Mel’s Curtain Call program, and Thursday will be filled with the best of Radio Free Charleston.

Right now I’m just going to share a few photos with captions and then go to sleep early.

Arriving at Union Station in Chicago.


The Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier.


The view of the Chicago Skyline from The Centennial Wheel.


Mrs. and Mr. PopCulteer in the Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier.I really need to color the beard again.


And we leave you with a shot of the palm trees in the Crystal Garden. They are quite gigantic.

Remember that Monday Morning Art will feature works inspired by this trip all month long. Check back later on Wednesday for a couple of theatre reviews from the trip.

The Joy Of Reflection On The AIR

If you think that headline is just a fancy way of saying we’re in reruns today on The AIR…well, you’d be correct.

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

See, just as Tony Bennet famously left his heart in San Francisco, your humble PopCulteer and radio host left his voice in Chicago. On top of that, Steven Allen Adams, the host of NOISE BRIGADE, is otherwise occupied this week with his regular job reporting on the marauding hoard of hooligans who infest the State Capitol Building every year around this time.

However, to make up for the lack of new programming today (and quite probably for the whole week), we are going to resort to a programming stunt. Tuesday you can hear encore episodes of Radio Free Charleston from 7 AM to 2 PM, and again from 10 PM to 7 AM Wednesday. From 2 PM to 10 PM, you can tune in for a marathon of NOISE BRIGADE, as we bring you every episode of the ska/punk showcase that we’ve brought you on The AIR.

Wednesday, don’t be shocked if we bring you some kind of marathon of Curtain Call, as that show’s host, Mel Larch, is neck-deep in tech week for a production of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, which I am fairly well certain that I will be telling you all about later today or tomorrow.

So tune in and enjoy our past glories as your PopCulteer dutifully takes his Z Pack and tries to recover. I’ll be telling you all about my lightning-round trip to Chicago last week, since I can do that by typing.

Monday Morning Art: March To Chicago


Okay, the top-secret mission I’ve been talking about the last few days was a quick trip to Chicago. Mrs. PopCulteer is a huge fan of award-winning playwright, Tracy Letts, and Steppenwolf Theater (the place where we got married) is mounting a production of one of his early works, Bug, which I will tell you about in a day or two. While we were in town, we also took in an amazing production of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, mounted by Haven Chicago at the Den Theater, and I’ll also tell you about that, and coincidentally the local production of Titus, which Mrs. PopCulteer is performing in this coming weekend.

With that revelation out of the way, our art for all of the month of March will be inspired by this most recent trip to The Windy City. While we were only in Chicago for about 52 hours, we did visit a couple of places we hadn’t been to yet, and some of our art will spring from our visit to Chicago’s Navy Pier, like this week’s art, which is a digital painting of the Chicago Skyline as seen from the pier, with the Centennial Wheel leaning in for a painting bomb.

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

Meanwhile, over in radio-land, Monday on The AIR, our Monday Marathon runs from 7 AM to 11 PM, and brings you an all-day overdose of The Lost Beatles Project on Beatles Blast. You can tune in all day long to hear outtakes, rehearsals, studio chatter, and alternate mixes of classic tunes by The Fab Four themselves. We decided to give you an over-sized marathon today, because most of our shows are going to be in reruns this week, so we wanted to treat you to a bonus.

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

This week’s Sunday Evening Video is an encore from September, 2017. We’re running it again now because your PopCulteer is still working on a top-secret project, and besides that, it’s really, really cool. So watch it again.

fantasticanimationfestival_onesheet_usa-3Tonight we take you back to the days before the proliferation of cable television channels and the existence of the internet, when folks like your loyal PopCulteer, who were obsessed with seeing anything new and different in the world of animation had to scrounge to find anything new and exciting.

Animation fans basically had the PBS program, International Animation Festival, hosted by Jean Marsh, which only ran for a few weeks during some mid-70s summers to expose us to then-new works by independent animators.  At some point in the late 1970s many of the shorts that were shown on that program were compiled into a theatrical feature-length collection that was designed to be shown at midnight movies and in art-houses. Fantastic Animation Festival was a hodge-podge of unusual and psychedelic imagery that show the true potential of animation as an art form at a time when most people knew animation as badly-produced, cheap-looking and disposable children’s entertainment.

Fantastic Animation Festival began with the briefest of voice overs, “Welcome to the world of animation,” by legendary voice artist Paul Frees, and then launched into a series of short filmes that included: French Windows by Ian Eamesm which used rotoscope animation to bring Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days” to life; Icarus, clay animation by Mihail Badica; A Short History of the Wheel by Loren Bowie; The amazing Cosmic Cartoon, animated and directed by Eric Ladd and Steven Lisberger; The Last Cartoon Man by Derek Lamb & Jeffrey Hale; Au Bout Du Fil Cradle (Cat’s Cradle) by Paul Driessen; Moonshadow, Cat Stevens’ story of Teaser and the Firecat, narrated by Spike Milligan, animated by Charles Jenkins; Oiseau de Nuit (Nightbird) by Bernard Palacios;  Room and Board by Randy Cartwright; the infamous Bambi Meets screen-shot-2017-04-13-at-1-51-10-pmGodzilla by Marv Newland; Mountain Music, very early Claymation by Will Vinton; Light by Jordan Belson; The Mechanical Monsters, a 1941 Fleischer Studios Superman Cartoon; Stranger, a 1971 Levi Strauss Jeans commercial; by Snazelle Films, narrated by Ken Nordine; Uncola, a 1975 7Up commercial; by Robert Abel and Associates; Mirror People by Kathy Rose; Kick Me (film) by Robert Swarthe, a 1975 Best Animated Short Film nominee and Closed Mondays, more very early Claymation by Will Vinton that won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

At the time this was a godsend for animation buffs. The inclusion of a Fleischer Superman cartoon was a real treat because those were rarely seen back in the day. The animated commercials were terrific since commercials were considered disposable and weren’t readily available to be watched again in the days before home video.

faf-001Home video did change things, and this YouTube video is obviously a VHS copy, but it’s still cool a just a little bit nostalgic to see so much great animation collected in one place. Of course, nowadays more quirky, independent animation gets posted to the internet every day than you see in this collection, but this was back in the dark ages of media distribution, when people would toil over a film for months or years, with no hope of it ever being seen by more than a handful of people.These were the pioneers of independent animation.

The RFC Flashback: MINI SHOW number 24

With our numbering back on track, we go back to May, 2015, for a special RFC MINI SHOW featuring an acoustic showcase by none other than Johnny Compton.

This edition of The RFC MINI SHOW starred Johnny “Hurricane” Compton, a legend in the Charleston music scene, performing two solo acoustic numbers at The Thirteenth Lane Taproom at the much-mised Dunbar Lanes. Johnny takes on the Marshall Tucker Band classic, “Fire on the Mountain” before debuting the title track of his solo acoustic album, “These Roads.”

The recording session for this show was a tremendous amount of fun. Dunbar Lanes had a really great, intimate performance space and it was a wonderful place to hear live music. Sadly, it is no longer a music venue (or a bowling alley) but the memories are still wonderful.

Mr. Compton, of course, is still gigging all over the Charleston area with a number of bands like Amos Steele, The Cat Daddys and Mother’s Blues, and also does the occasional solo show, which you can read about in PopCult.

Busy as a Bee

The PopCulteer
February 28, 2020

Okay, your PopCulteer is tied up on a top secret mission that I can’t tell you about right now.

Needless to say, it has suddenly robbed me of the time I usually spend crafting for you a fine pop culture essay, or photo gallery or list of stuff you can do this week.

So for now, since I am sworn to silence and very, very busy, all I can do is apologize and share with you this quick pencil drawing I did of a bee. I used Google images for reference. I’m not too partial to the idea of having a real bee pose for me.


Check back for all of our regular features this weekend, and expect the Toy Fair coverage to continue next week.

Toy Fair 2020: Baby Yoda and Star Wars

Since your PopCulteer decided not to attend Toy Fair in New York this year due to health reasons, we are once again doing our coverage remotely, borrowing images from folks who are on-site, and linking to their coverage so that they can get the proper attribution and hits and everything.We will be linking to sites such as ToyArk, Bleeding Cool, Figures.com, Mego Museum, The Toy Book and more.

Some of our images were picked off of social media, with no attribution given, so we will note that when it happens, and correct it if the persons responsible come forward.

Once upon a time, Star Wars ruled the toy aisles. For years, Kenner, and later Hasbro, had a cash cow that seemed like it would never give out.

Then, a few years ago, something happened. Either due to oversaturation of the market, or the public’s dissatisfaction with the new movies, or a combination of those and other factors, Star Wars toys stopped selling as well as they had.

It got so bad that there was speculation that Hasbro would not pursue the license when it was up for renewal.

And then The Mandalorian happened. And “The Child,” or as he’s unofficially known, Baby Yoda, appeared on the scene, and suddenly, making Star Wars toys is once again just like printing money.In what is sure to be the top-selling toy of the year, Baby Yoda toys are bringing Star Wars back to the top of the sales charts.

Hasbro and Disney re-upped their deal for Star Wars (and Marvel) and every other toy company that can, is getting in on the act.

You can see photo galleries of Hasbro’s new Star Wars toys HERE, HERE and HERE. You can see video of their new Baby Yoda animatronic figure right here…

That particularly Yoda has the innards of a FurReal Friend, but the sounds and movements are inspired by the character from the hit Disney+ show. There’s more Baby Yoda coverage HERE, HERE and HERE.

Mattel snagged the license for regular plush, which you can see HERE. You can see LEGO’s upcoming sets based on The Mandalorian (featuring you know who) HERE.

Funko announced their Baby Yoda Pop late last year. NECA is releasing a Baby Yoda Chia Pet.

Build-A-Bear Workshop will have their own version of The Child. Hot Toys is releasing a high-end bobblehead version.

Hasbro is even releasing The Mandaolorian board games. Bleeding Cool has late-breaking news on a reissued board game that will come with a planned figure from 1981 that was never released, included as a bonus.


Toy Fair 2020: Superheroes part two: Marvel and More

Since your PopCulteer decided not to attend Toy Fair in New York this year due to health reasons, we are once again doing our coverage remotely, borrowing images from folks who are on-site, and linking to their coverage so that they can get the proper attribution and hits and everything.We will be linking to sites such as ToyArk, Bleeding Cool, Figures.com, Mego Museum, The Toy Book and more.

Some of our images were picked off of social media, with no attribution given, so we will note that when it happens, and correct it if the persons responsible come forward.

When it comes to toys, Marvel is a little easier to cover than DC.

Hasbro has the master toy license, and they’re pretty stingy about sharing it with other toy companies. Basically, you have Marvel action figures that most people can afford, and then you have very expensive collector figures made by smaller companies for the hobby market.

Hasbro’s bread-and-butter is the Marvel Legends line, and you can see galleries of it HERE, HERE and HERE. They have a ton of cool stuff coming out, and Marvel fans and collectors should have plenty to look forward to in the coming year.

Hasbro also makes the budget-line, 12″ Titan Heroes figures, which I think suck, but they sure do sell in high numbers. You can see what they have planned for the next Venom Movie HERE.

You can see the Mezco One-:12 Marvel figures HERE. These are pricey, but look incredible. That gallery has tons of non-Marvel stuff in it, too, but it all looks really cool.

S.H. Figuarts offer really cool-looking, really expensive figures too. And you can see their Avengers offerings HERE.

Look for our post about other superheroes next week. Trust me, it’ll be worth the wait.

Since your PopCulteer decided not to attend Toy Fair in New York this year due to health reasons, we are once again doing our coverage remotely, borrowing images from folks who are on-site, and linking to their coverage so that they can get the proper attribution and hits and everything.We will be linking to sites such as ToyArk, Bleeding Cool, Figures.com, Mego Museum, The Toy Book and more.

Some of our images were picked off of social media, with no attribution given, so we will note that when it happens, and correct it if the persons responsible come forward.

There are tons of Superhero toys coming out this year, with DC, Marvel and other super-powered characters arriving in toy aisles to fight crime and bust budgets. We have a lot to go over here, so let’s start with DC Comics. We’ll cover Marvel and the others in later posts.

DC Comics

The image at the head of this post is the first official shot of prototypes of the upcoming 8″ DC Comics figures coming from MEGO. These are from Toy Fair and are courtesy of our friends at MEGO Museum, who have more photos and info at their site. MEGO Museum was given the okay to publish these photos after an unscrupulous “toy journalist” took photos, despite there being signs asking people not to take them, and smeared them all over social media, which caused quite a headache for MEGO, since these toys are still early in the approval process, and these are not what the final product will look like.

These were announced (and some of them shown) last year at MEGO Meet, but those of us in attendance were asked not to even take photos. Sadly, some folks feel that they don’t need to honor such requests. It’s cool to get a look at this work in progress, but it’s a shame that it was because the images were leaked by somebody with no ethics.

We are still awaiting word on the final price and which retailers will carry these figures, but the line is going to be a shared exclusive among three or four retailers, and the price is said to be on par with what MEGO figures already sell for, so it’s safe to guess the final retail price will be in or near the fifteen-dollar range. The finished product will look much better than these prototypes, with re-sized heads and improved tailoring and packaging.

There are also DC Comics Multiverse figures coming from McFarlane Toys, and you can see a photo gallery of those at ToyArk.

McFarlane’s DC Comics Multiverse figures are already showing up in stores, since his license began on January 1 of this year.

In the collectors market, Diamond Select will be offering several DC Comics statues and collectibles, while the DC Direct name has been resurrected, and will be used on statues and action figures. You can see their full line-up HERE.

Iron Studios will be offering a line of “DC Comics Through The Ages” statues.

Medicom will release insanely-expensive figures of Batman and Shazam. You can see those HERE, along with Michael Jordan.

Jada Toys will have a full slate of DC Comics Die Cast in different scales, which you can see HERE.


Spin Master has the main, mass-market toy license for DC Comics, and you can see a gallery of photos from their booth HERE. These are also in stores now, with both 4″ and 12″ figures showing up at Walmart and Target. Bleeding Cool has a good gallery of photos from the Spin Master booth HERE.


Mezco will be offering 4″ collector figures based on Batman 66 and the Max Fleischer Superman. You can see those in this gallery at Bleeding Cool, even though their reporter didn’t recognize the Fleischer Superman, and thought these were from Kingdom Come. That gallery is a lot of fun, because you can also see the upcoming One:12 figures of DC and Marvel characters, plus Popeye, Conan, Aliens, Living Dead Dolls and everything else that Mezco makes.



Later today we’ll bring you updates on Marvel Comics action figures. Keep checking PopCult.

Dive Into The Archives On Radio Free Charleston

Tuesday on The AIR we deliver a special new episode of Radio Free Charleston. 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…

Tune into this week’s Radio Free Charleston at 10 AM and 10 PM Tuesday for a special show that opens with a new tune by Rel-X, but then re-presents almost three hours of a Frankenstein show made up of most of two episodes of RFC Volume 3, as heard five years ago on Voices of Appalachia Radio. These shows haven’t been heard since before VOA mutated into The AIR back in 2016, and they have some great material, including the entire First Step Sampler from 1990.

The second hour of the show comes from a special episode cohosted by my then newly-wed wife, Mel Larch, who chipped in to get her feet wet before she started hosting her own shows.

Your PopCulteer (and radio host) is a once again bit under the weather this week, or more precisely, under the Myasthenia Gravis, so I decided to harvest the best of two great episodes of the old show that would have otherwise been forgotten.  It’s a little bit of a cheat, like it was a few weeks ago when we pulled a similar stunt, but it’s also a great show that I think new listners will enjoy, and old listeners have probably forgotten.

Check out the playlist…

RFCv5 008

hour one
Rel-X “Mission”
Qiet “Little Window”
Io and the Ions “There’s A Light”
Wolfgang Parker “The Mice, The Demons and The Piggies”
Todd Burge with Kathy Mattea “Change”
Sasha Colette, John Lilly and Jonathan Glen Wood “Walking Cane”
Underdog Blues Revue “What You Say”
Trielement “Seven Dirty Words”
Stephen Beckner “Falling Star”
Paul Calicoat “Trampled Flowers”
DEVO “Clockout”
Hasil Adkins “She Said”
69 Fingers “How To Get A New Life”

hour two
David Synn “Battle of Anihilation”
John Lancaster “Phantom Moon”
Black Cross Brotherhood “Megido”
Bobflex “I’m Glad You’re Dead”
Lady D “Higher”
Spurgie Hankins Band “Dirty Rule”
Donny Iris “River of Love”
Company Stores “Rise”
The Boatmen “Heartbreak Hangover”
Joe Vallina “Year of the Wicked”
John Radcliff “Hanging On”
Foz Rotten “Funklips”
South Park Enterprise “Next Level”

hour three
The First Step sampler


side one
Slick Six “Terri Ann”
Debut “Free Your Mind”
Night Fire “Change”
Big Money “Words On The Street”
Spyce “Freeway Rider”
Territories “Ghostown”

side two
Act 1 “Winners”
Xtasy “Give Me A Chance”
Tempest “What It’s Like To Be Me”
Annex “Blindsided”
Sound Advice “Say That You Love Me”
Brian Diller and the Ride “Don’t Stop at Anything”



Jim Wolfe “The Goober Special”
Atomic Cafe “The Trax”
Blue Million “Everything Inside Out”

Radio Free Charleston can be heard Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM, with replays Thursday at 2 PM, Friday at 9 AM and 7 PM, Saturday at 11 AM and Midnight, Sunday at 1 PM and the next Monday at 8 PM, exclusively on The AIR.

The rest of today’s programming on The AIR will be encore presentations, but you should still listen in because they’re pretty damned good.