PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Sketchy Bio

Since we’re going live with the Gazz, here’s a quick rundown of who I am, and what I’m doing here:

First, off, I’m Rudy Panucci.

Twenty years ago, along with my brother, Frank, I edited an independent comic book called “Coda.” It was the first nationally distributed comic book published here in West Virginia. I also wrote and drew the backup feature, “Spud.”

Fifteen years ago, I hosted “Radio Free Charleston, the greatest (local) radio show in the history of this city (that’s not really saying much). I played local artists, conceptual comedy bits, and any music that I felt like playing–I’m still proud of the time I segued from the Sex Pistols into Benny Goodman.

About thirteen years ago, I began co-writing “Animated Discussion” with Melanie Larch, which is still being published by the Charleston Gazette, whenever there’s animation to write about.

Ten years ago, I began writing about action figures for Toy Trader Magazine. When Toy Trader was bought up and shut-down by Toy Shop (we were eating away at their sales, so they assimilated us), I moved over to Mastercollector.com, which is also the parent company of the GI Joe Collector’s Club. My work can still be found there, covering topics like action figures, die-cast cars, and cheesy knockoffs. Action figures, especially GI Joe, are one of my main obsessions.

Nine years ago, I began writing for Non-Sport Update, the magazine devoted to non-sport trading cards–you know, the cool ones, like “Mars Attacks” and “Wacky Packages”. I’m still writing for them and can even be seen in their upcoming 15th anniversary issue trying to hide my baldness under a hat.

For the last eight years, I have been caring for my mother at home. She suffered a massive stroke, and rather than park her in a nursing home, I brought her home where she can be healthier and happier than she could have possibly been elsewhere. It’s been a bit of a challenge, and a crash course in medical procedures, but I don’t regret it. It has curtailed my social life, but I was getting lazy about going out before that anyway.

Earlier this year, I had a health scare. I’ve come out of it in better shape than I went in, but it has made me more aware of how important it is to pay attention to what you eat.

So, that’s about it. I may tee off on comic books, toys, movies, animation, health care, food, television, or anything else that strikes my fancy. I’ll also share some of the artwork, photography, and music that I’ve been working on these last few years. Maybe along the way I can reconnect with some of my old Radio Free Charleston co-conspirators.

Hope you enjoy the ride.

Monday Morning Art

Beach 01
“At the Beach”
Digitally manipulated photograph, 2003

Let’s Go Krogering

Kudos to Kroger

If you check out any of the recently-remodeled Kroger stores in our area, you’ll find an impressive new section of organic and avant-garde foodstuffs.

It’s nice be able to walk into a local store and find spelt flour, Organic soy milk, and all that other hippie-dippy crap that’s supposed to be good for you.

So hat’s off to Kroger for improving the quality of life in this area, just a little bit.

No more ordering in bulk off the internet.

Now if they’d only get Red Rock or Whoopee Cola, made with real cane sugar.

And Quisp. Sure would be nice to be able to buy Quisp locally again.

The Green Stuff

Okay, this is another Kroger find.

Earlier this year, I had a health scare that caused me to start eating like a responsible adult. As a result, I recently discovered that I actually like the taste of fresh spinach. I eat it without any dressing, just a dash of kosher salt and some fresh ground black pepper.

But I have a confession to make. The reason I found out that I enjoy this healthy food was soley because of the packaging. I bought it because it had Popeye on the bag.

Like the late legendary Charleston Gazetteer, James Dent, I am a huge fan of Popeye. I love the orginal comic strips by E. C. Segar. I love the stuff by his replacement, Bud Sagendorff. I even like the inferior comic books produced by George Wildman. And of course, to any animation fan, the Max Fleischer cartoons are like Beethoven. My fondness for the character extends to the point where I will pick up almost any product that has his picture on it.

So when I was strolling through the Kroger produce section one day a few weeks ago looking for salad, I found a bag of fresh spinach, washed and ready to eat, with Popeye on the package. I had to buy it, at least once.

Imagine my surprise when I developed a taste for the leafy green, and got hooked on it.

It turns out that Popeye brand fresh spinach is a Kroger’s exclusive. You can’t get it anywhere else.

I’ve tried other brands, but without the squint-eyed sailor man on the package, it somehow doesn’t taste as good.

Now, this is not to be confused with the canned Popeye spinach, which is available everywhere, and is really pretty nasty. This is the fresh stuff, sold in a bag in the produce section.

Grab some and season it up–it’s better than potato chips!

Seen at IWA–Danny Boyd

One of the really cool things about the IWA East Coast show was that I ran into my old buddy, Danny Boyd. I’ve known Danny for more than twenty years. In fact, I was one of his first film students at West Virginia State back in the long-ago 80s. Danny, of course, is the legendary local film maker of “Chillers”, “Strangest Dreams” and “Paradise Park”.

Danny was into wrestling long before I was, and even cast the great Dusty Rhodes in “Paradise Park”. So seeing him at a wrestling show was no shock.

I hadn’t seen Danny in years (I haven’t seen a lot of people in years), and seeing him reinforced my feeling that the IWA shows give off the modern-day version of the cool vibe I used to get at the Charleston Playhouse.

I almost expected to see Bob Gates sitting in the middle of all the mayhem, asleep, with a Black Label in his hand.

But anyway, Danny was at the show working on a top secret project. I can’t say anything about it, but you can decipher what you will right here

IWA photos

You can find some very cool photos from the September 6th IWA East Coast show at this blog,

Check it out and see what all the fuss is about.

Property Damage Guaranteed

IWA East Coast returned to the South Charleston Community Center September 6th with a killer show, “Property Damage Guaranteed”. Despite a couple of last-minute changes to the card, IWA treated their fans to their best show yet, loaded with plenty of intense wrestling action, and some huge surprises.

The show opened with the inebriated Luchadore, El Drunko, facing Spyder Nate Webb. This was a great opener, with lots of comedy and some impressive high-flying action. El Drunko was accompanied by his handlers, Crowza and Woody Numbers (who were all over the show) and even though he didn’t seem to be himself at times, he and Webb put on a very entertaining match that recalled the work of the legendary Detso Ritter. Webb was the victor, but both men shared a beer toast in the ring afterwards.

Next up was a women’s match, with Japanese wrestling star Sumie Sakai facing IWA’s Mickie Knuckles, who’s probably been in eight of the top ten women’s matches in this country so far this year. This was another great match, with Sakai playing to crowd, and both ladies getting cheers. After three German Suplexes, Mickie emerged victorious. This had better action than most men’s matches that you see on TV.

Ironton’s Trik Nasty took on the unstoppable monster Warpig next. This was a no-disqualification match. The action spilled out of the ring and into the stands, before Warpig won due to some interference from Warpig’s Mentor/handler/creator Dr. Max Graves. This lead to a challenge. At the next show, Trik Nasty will face both Warpig and Dr. Max Graves in a handicap match.

At this point, Crowza and Woody Numbers returned to the ring, and introduced the homicidal, suicidal, genocidal legend, Sabu. Sabu’s allegiance to IWA was declared, which brought out Rude Boy, a regular of Juggalo Champions**t Wrestling, who would later face Mad Man Pondo for the JCW title. After a brief dust-up, it was time for intermission.

A replacement match was up next. Ian Rotten, the hardcore legend of ECW and IWA Mid-South fame, has been taken out of action due to a recent skull fracture and could not wrestle (although he did attend the show and was great on the microphone). In his place, former WWE and current NWA TNA star Zach Gowen, the one-legged wonder, stepped in to face Ian’s scheduled opponent, Ashland Kentucky’s The Juggulator. Crowza and Woody Numbers also came to the ring with The Juggulator, and found themselves involved in the match a few times, even hiding Gowen’s prosthetic leg under the ring.

Anytime you see a guy hopping around on one leg in the ring, you know you’re watching something unique, but aside from the novelty, this was a top-notch match, with The Juggulator coming out victorious.

The crowd was disappointed to learn that IWA East Coast Heavyweight Champ Chris Hero was tied up in Europe, but in place of the Hero vs. Kudo championship match, Ruckus defended his CZW Heavyweight title against Kudo in a very fast-paced, action-filled match. Ruckus retained his championship, but both men did fantastic work. Combat Zone Wrestling is one of the top independent federations in the country, and this was a great replacement match. Hopefully we’ll get to see Chris Hero defend his belt against both of these men in the future.

At this point, Crowza and Woody Numbers escorted Sabu to the ring for his match against 2 Tuff Tony. Crowza and Woody were ejected from ringside by Yuki, the Japanese lady ref, and the crowd was treated to an amazing spectacle of a tables match (you win by putting your opponent through a table). The action spilled out of the ring as wrestlers were thrown one way, and chairs were flung the other. Four tables bit the dust before 2 Tuff Tony emerged as the winner.

But the night wasn’t over. Ian Rotten entertained on the mic for several minutes during the next intermission. One lucky fan walked away with a truckload of autographed goodies in a raffle which raised nearly three hundred dollars for hurricane relief. Finally, it was time for the main event.

Mad Man Pondo made his first defense of the JCW Heavyweight Title (which he won a few weeks ago by defeating the legendary Terry Funk at the annual “Gathering of the Juggalos”, the wrestling and music festival held by the Insane Clown Posse). JCW’s Rude Boy and Pondo faced off in a match where each man’s hands were covered with broken beer bottles. The blood flowed freely, but Pondo retained his belt after an intense confrontation.

After the match, Pondo raised Rude Boy’s hand in a show of respect, and as Pondo left, Rude Boy took the mic to return the favor. However, Rude Boy was rudely interrupted by none other than Sabu, who smashed Rude Boy with a steel chair and then hung him from the ropes in a vicious attack.

At this point, the crowd went wild. Violent J, from the Insane Clown Posse, made a surprise rescue and ran Sabu out of the ring. What happened next was even more surprising.

Rude Boy turned on Violent J, and beat on him with a steel chair. This set up the main event for the November 15th IWA East Coast show—Rude Boy vs. Sabu vs. Violent J in a steel cage match, with Shaggy 2 Dope, Violent J’s partner in ICP, as the special ref.

That is going to be an incredible show. ICP has a rabid following, and with the addition of loyal Juggalos (fans of ICP) it’s a sure bet that the South Charleston Community Center will see its biggest crowd, ever.

It was an incredible night, and I’ll be posting more about it later.

Oh Boy, NEW TV!!!

For the first time in years, Charleston is getting a new television station. Well, sort of.

WHCP, the technical laughingstock of local broadcasting, is uprooting from Portsmouth Ohio, and moving to Charleston’s West Side, somewhere around the old Duchess Bakery building. While it’s cool that we’re getting a new TV station, I have some concerns.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that WHCP is moving to the West Side. It always seemed sort of alien seeing these funky low-budget commercials for small businesses in other states. While they billed themselves as serving “Huntington, Charleston, and Portsmouth”, it always seemed like Charleston got the short shrift. They should try to become a highly-visible presence and reach out and schmooze the community.

WHCP, in case you never noticed, has been on the air for five or six years, and is an affiliate of both the WB and UPN, which are known as “netlets” or “jokes” in terms of their stature among broadcast networks. The WB is notable for Smallville, and UPN is the home of WWE Smackdown! Aside from the fringe network programming, the hallmark of WHCP has been the sub-cable access quality of most of their local commercials and content.

That may end, with promises of massive upgrades from the new owners (who include Charleston-based legal eagles Mark Hunt and Margaret Workman, among others). At the very least, we may not see too many more commercials that use trademarked characters without any legal permission.

So, with WHCP moving to town, how about we welcome them with some sage advice? You listening, station owners?

First, get a new transmitter, preferably one that allows the transmission of stereo audio and hi-def video. The signal coming from the transmitter you use now looks like UHF coming in on a busted set of rabbit ears. Is that transmitter something you got second-handed from Public Broadcasting? Does that thing run on hamster-wheel power or something? You’re moving to Charleston, don’t forget to upgrade the broadcast quality to at least minimal professional standards.

Next, you want to do a newscast? Fine. I know that’s where the real money is, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that a fourth-place news program is going to be a cash cow. It’ll take years to get folks around here to switch. Your choice of anchor will bring in a lot of blue-haired old lady viewers, but make sure you hire a designated driver to cart him around.

Now, with those issues nailed down, you guys have to make one major change to your upcoming plans. You need to kill the idea of a Ten O’clock newscast. We already have one, and this market has a news glut of biblical proportions. Instead of putting your newscast on at 10 PM, you need to run your WB programming from 7 PM to 9 PM, and do a Nine O’clock newscast. That way, you can do a full hour (if you have the staff), and still go into your UPN programming at 10 PM, like you do now. And I won’t have to stay up past midnight to watch the end of Smackdown!.

To fill up that hour of news, you could do public affairs segments, like we used to get to see before the evil corporate media overlords took over local TV. Mark Hunt and Margaret Workman are going to be part owners of WHCP, so why not put them to work on camera, giving legal advice over the phone once a week.

Let local musicians come on and do a song to plug a festival or show. Do a live remote from a high-school football game. Just don’t do what channel 13 does and try to take ten minutes of local news and stretch it to fill up two-and-a-half hours every day.

Now, on my dream wish list, just in case someone from WHCP is actually reading this: Actively seek out local talent and allow them access to the air, even if it’s just a fringe weekend timeslot. There are lots of filmmakers and creative folks around here, and public access cable is not terribly friendly to Charleston-area peoples.

Oh, and you need to hire an announcer to be the “voice of the station”. Your best bet would be to find somebody with a strong local connection, but a person who hasn’t been on the air in, say, fifteen years or so. Find somebody with a distinctive voice that isn’t your typical booming announcer’s monotone. And pay him a ton of money to be your exclusive talent.

Get in touch, I may be able to…uh…find somebody for you.

My Hasil Story

While we’re on the topic of great Boone county artistes, I thought I might share my Hasil Adkins story, tiny though it may be.

Back in 1989, when I was just starting Radio Free Charleston, one of the hooks that used to get my boss to let me do the show was that I would play local music.

However, at that time, I hadn’t hooked up with any local musicians (that would change later). So to find some local music, I headed down to Elkins Record Shop on Central Avenue (you could actually go to Central Avenue without a bullet-proof vest in those days) and asked if they had any singles by local artists. Yes, these were still back in the days of vinyl, and Elkins was responsible for stocking most of the local Jukeboxes.

The only thing they had that wasn’t off-tune gospel music was a 7″ single by Hasil Adkins called “Big Red Satellite”. I was stunned by the raw quality of the music, and Hasil was the very first local artist that I played on Radio Free Charleston.

Later on, George Rollins hooked me up with more Hasil music to play on the show, but it wasn’t until after Radio Free Charleston ended that I actually got to meet Hasil and see him perform at the Empty Glass.

It was a singular experience. There are a couple of DVDs floating around that try to show Hasil in action, but nothing could possibly capture the energy and pure psycho mojo that poured out of this man. He sat alone behind the drum kit with a guitar, harmonica, and God knows what else, and he made the most astounding noise I’ve ever heard. It was like being in a holy-roller church, a livestock auction, a crackhouse, and a cell with Charlie Manson, all at the same time. I don’t think I’ve ever been closer to real, pure rock n’ roll than I was that night. “One-man band” does not do justice to Hasil Adkins. He was a one-man force of nature.

I got to meet Hasil and hang out with him briefly. I was later told that I was the only radio person he met that he didn’t take an instant dislike to. So I don’t have any stories about death threats or the brandishing of weapons. I just knew Hasil as a quiet, humble guy who made amazing music.

Hasil is gone now. He passed away in April. You can visit his official site http://www.hasiladkins.com and leave your condolences.

Whether you have a tear in your eye, or breath a sigh of relief, you have to agree that the likes of Hasil Adkins will not walk this Earth again.

One night at the Playhouse


While I’m in a reflective mood, I thought I’d share an image with you all.

One night early in 1990, if I recall correctly, I knocked off work early, and rounded up my buddy John “Sham Voodoo” Estep, because he was going to host a Thursday night acoustic jam at the Playhouse. The Tuesday jam had been a huge success, but we wanted to try something a bit quieter.

The problem was that nobody told us that the Playhouse had already been booked that night.

Morgantown film maker Jacob Young and Michael Lipton had arranged for a performance by the then-unknown “dancin’ outlaw” Jesco White.

It was quite a shock. After getting over the disappointment from the cancelled jam session, Sham and I found ourselves mesmerized by the unique dance styling of the Boone county legend. I had my camera (loaded with pretentious artsy-fartsy black and white film) and snapped the photo you see above.

At the time, I chalked it up as just another night of Charleston Playhouse bizzaromania. I also remember that the stage at the Playhouse was never the same after Jesco had at it with those cast-iron tap shoes.

It was surreal, and one of those things in life that seems like a dream. It was a year or more before the Dancin’ Outlaw documentary was finished, and by that time, we’d all forgotten about it. In fact, this photo sat in my archives until last month, when I found it in while moving stuff around. Then I remembered, I was there the night they filmed Jesco for the documentary.

Another surreal moment was a few years later, when Jesco was the Grand Marshall of the annual Commode Bowl Parade in Dunbar. The parade route goes right by my house, and I took a moment from cooking a Thanksgiving turkey to look up and see Jesco, in full Elvis regalia, riding by my living room window on a fire truck.

I didn’t get any pictures that time.

Darn it.