PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

The RFC Flashback: Episode 183

This week we go back to April, 2013 for Radio Free Charleston, 183, “Defenders Of Bulletman Shirt,” with music from Albert Perrone, Saprogen and Radio Cult plus two trailers for local movies that were shown at the Keith-Albee Theater about a week after this show debuted. Host segments for this episode were shot at Tricon, a large comic book convention held in Huntington.

Our first trailer is for Ladybeard, an Apartment 2B Production, directed by David Smith, and featuring a cameo by yours truly.  The other trailer is for “Trace Around Your Heart” Seth Martin and Friends and Ian Nolte created a stirring motion picture, sort of “A Star Is Born” with country music…and puppets.

In the host segments, you’ll see all sorts of sights and sounds of Tricon, including your PopCulteer cavorting with local convention guests, Jason Pell and Daniel Boyd (as seen in the image with this post).

You can read the full production notes HERE.

The New York Tour Diary Part Two: King Lear

The PopCulteer
May 10, 2019

A little over a week ago I was privileged to witness an amazing performance.

One of the main reasons for our trip to New York was to see a limited run production of Shakespeare’s King Lear, starring Glenda Jackson in the title role.

We got to see Ms. Jackson last year in Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, and she truly is an international treasure, and an acting icon. She is so much of an acting legend that she took on the role of Lear (for the second time–she did it a few years ago in London) without gender-flipping it. This was not “Queen Lear.” She played Lear in drag, and I couldn’t imagine anyone doing a better job of it.

Due to the fantasy aspects of the story (it was based on a mythical King of pre-Arthurian times), this work lends itself well to diverse casting. Two other roles aside from Lear are performed by actors in drag: The Fool and The Earl of Gloucester. The cast is ethnically diverse and even included a deaf actor, and none of that detracted from this revelatory production of King Lear.

Lear is a tragedy with plenty of comic relief and shows the spiral of madness spurred by narcissism, vanity and duplicity. The story in a nutshell is that an aging King divides his Kingdom in three pieces, with plans to give one to each of his daughters. He asks each daughter to declare their love for him in order to see who gets the biggest piece.

The first two do so in a most insincere manner, but the third, his youngest and favorite daughter, Cordelia, declines at first, then declares that she could only love him as a daughter does a father. Enraged by her lack of enthusiasm, he disowns her, and marries her off to a King in France, dividing her share between the other two daughters.

Later the King, who is losing his grasp on reality, is turned out by both daughters, and loses his knights, helped only by one loyal aide and the fool. His estranged youngest daughter comes to his rescue, but things go bad.

Spoiler Alert: To quote the wrestler Tracy Smothers (and who shouldn’t quote a wrestler when discussing Shakespeare?)…everybody dies.

While generally, the play IS the thing, in this case the performances raise it to a new level. The director, Sam Gold, has updated the setting to something not quite contemporary, but to a more relatable imaginary era. The set design is both austere and spectacular, if you can imagine that. A score is provided by musicians seen on stage for much of the time. It was composed by Philip Glass. The cast is world class, with not a weak link among them.

Aside from Glenda Jackson’s Lear, Jayne Houdyshell also pulls drag duty as The Earl of Gloucester, Lear’s compromised ally. Tony-nominee Ruth Wilson does a dual turn as both the youngest daughter, Cordelia, and in drag as a Chaplinesque Fool, who sticks with Lear almost to the end.

John Douglas Thompson is another standout as Lear’s loyal aide, The Earl of Kent. However, the entire cast is remarkable and really manages to keep this production at an astoundingly high level of quality.

I got the feeling, during this performance, that I was witnessing a production of Lear that will take on a legendary status. I have a feeling that people will be talking about this for years, and Glenda Jackson’s portrayal of King Lear will became the pinnacle to which other actors aspire. Her performance transcends gender, as do those of Wilson and Houdyshell.

King Lear is playing at The Cort Theater, 138 West 48th Street in New York City until July 7.

After the show, your PopCulteer and his wife did something that we don’t normally do. We stuck around the stage door so that Melanie could meet some of her acting heroes. The wait was not in vain (although the lighting was far from ideal). Thanks to Ms Jackson for insisting that I get a photo.

That is today’s PopCulteer. Look for more of the New York Tour Diary all weekend long.

Your PopCulteer just got back from a trip to New York City.

Actually, I got back Sunday night, but I had a ton of stuff to catch up on before I could jump back into blogging, so I’m just now getting around to writing the tour diary. The purpose of this trip was so that Mel could see two of her theatre heroes, Glenda Jackson and Tracy Letts, in two different plays. While we were up there, I wanted to check out the new FAO Schwarz, and try something a little tourist-y. That’s us on Father Duffy’s Steps in Times Square at the right.

We managed to do all that. Normally our trips go flawlessly and everything works perfectly. That wasn’t so much the case this time, but we still managed to have an amazing time and got to do almost everything we wanted.

To go up we rode Amtrak’s The Cardinal, the train that runs from New York to Chicago (and back) but dips far enough South to include Charleston, as well as Cinncinnati, Washington DC, and several other major cities. We left very early in the morning on Wednesday, May 1, and found our way to our roomette. We wanted a quieter trip up, so we opted for the private room.

It was great, except that about an hour into the trip, we both dozed off, and when we woke up, we discovered that the air conditioner wasn’t working, and we were riding in the sauna car. We alerted the attendant, and they got the AC working, but it took another few hours to get comfortable.

Aside from that glitch, and the chronic lateness that occurs when freight trains in the coalfields flaunt the law and fail to yield to passenger service, it was a great trip. We got into Penn Station (above) in New York City just before 11 PM, and took a taxi to the hotel.

That’s where most of our problems started.

The Worst Hotel On The Planet

Okay, that header might be a little inaccurate. The Element on West 39th street in New York might not be the worst hotel in the world. Hell, it might be the best. It could be the worst. I’ll never really know because The Element Hotel on West 39th Street in Manhattan apparently likes to promise rooms to people, and then when they show up, tell them that they have no vacancies.

We had reservations. We had confirmation emails. We were told that we would have a great room with a fridge and a microwave for four nights. When we got there, we were among over a dozen guests who were told to sit in the lobby while they tried to get us a room somewhere “nearby.” One of the desk staff let it slip that we were only the latest batch of disappointed guests, and that they had been turning away guests who thought they had reservations all day. They blamed it on a computer glitch, but we later learned that it is standard practice at this hotel. Apparently somebody gets a bonus if occupancy stays high, so they overbook to make sure it stays that way.

We made friends with a couple from Australia, who flew halfway-round the world to discover that there was no room at the inn. They had to call back to Quantas, who had arranged their trip, and were having a hard time finding any place to stay.  As with the many other dejected guests, we were told that The Element would cover our costs for that night. Later we discovered that they would only cover those costs if we agreed to return to The Element to finish out our stay. When asked if they could assure us that they would have rooms for the remaining three nights, we were told “probably.”

Sitting in the lobby there for more than two hours I began to imagine that The Element was operating on the same management principle as The Cheese Shop in the Monty Python Sketch, and that perhaps the building only contained the lobby and didn’t really have any rooms at all.  I mean, how could you overbook a hotel over a dozen times in one night?

A little online research shows that The Element does this almost every night. We should have done that research first, but this trip came together quick and we didn’t dig deep enough. The overnight staff did the best that they could in a horrible situation–I gather they’ve had a lot of practice–but the best they could do was put us in a room at a Fairfield Inn, in Astoria, Queens.

Had we decided to come back to The Element to finish our stay, they would have covered the costs of that room, and the transportation to and from. However, they could not guarantee that, if we returned, that they would actually have a room then. It got to a point where there were so many strings attached, and so much shadiness surrounding the hotel, that we were not comfortable with the idea of staying there at all.

Disgusted, Mel got on her phone and booked us in the Hampton Inn on West 39th street for the three remaining days of our trip. It’s important to note that, with the lower cost of the Hampton, and even adding in the one night at the Fairfield Inn in Astoria, plus over a hundred bucks in cab fare, we still ended up saving money as opposed to if we had stayed at The Element for the four night stay that we had booked—the one that they lied to us about, remember. Not only is The Element a hotel run by people who habitually lie about how many vacancies they have, they are also too damned expensive. I should point out that the Hampton Inn was just up the street, less than half a block from The Element. They didn’t have anything for Wednesday night, but we booked them for the rest of our stay, and made do with what The Element had arranged for that night. We didn’t really have any choice by that time. It was closing in on 2 AM.

So, exhausted after a full-day train ride and more than a couple of hours in the Lobby at THE WORST HOTEL ON THE PLANET, we hopped in a cab and took off for the Fairfield Inn in Astoria, Queens.

Leaving The Worst Hotel On The Planet

Of course, the cab driver got lost on the way there. Not being as dishonest as The Element Hotel on West 39th Street in New York (which nobody in their right mind should ever book for a visit), the driver turned off his meter so the last few miles of him trying to figure out where the hell the hotel was were free.

We found our way to The Fairfield Inn, and were told that they had one room left. We just had to go downstairs and down to the end of the hall.


Yes, our brief stay in Hip, Historic Astoria in Glamorous Queens, New York, was spent underground. Specifically, we were given “The Dank Corner Suite,” right next to the weight room.

Just check out that spectacular view.

To be fair, the Fairfield Inn was nice, clean, and devoid of the bedbugs the size of pugs that we were later told inhabit The Element on West 39th Street. Mel and I both slept the sleep of the dead, aided by the fact that it was after 2:30 AM before we could get settled in and we’d gotten up at 4:30 the previous morning to get ready for the trip. We enjoyed the complimentary breakfast the next morning, and checked out before noon so we could go check into The Hampton Inn on West 39th, which, unlike The Element actually had real rooms, not imaginary ones.

So let the first entry in this diary be a warning for you. If you are visiting New York City, never, under any circumstances, should you even briefly consider staying at The Element on West 39th Street. Talking with other guests at the Fairfield and the Hampton, we learned that The Element has the worst reputation in New York City for overbooking. It’s like they think they’re an airline or something.

We were also told that the staff will use passkeys to enter your room while you’re not there and take a dump on the bed. Now, that may not be reliable information, but if you go to Trip Advisor you can find gory photos of people’s bedbug bites. Okay, I was joking about them taking dumps on the beds. Not about the bedbugs, though. I think we dodged a bullet moving to a better hotel.

Once we got to The Hampton Inn, though, it was all sweetness and light and beauty, and double Hilton Points and while we lost a chunk of time from all the hotel fuss, we managed to have a great trip, which you will read about over the coming days.

Once we checked into a real hotel, we walked a couple of blocks for some New York pizza (seen left) and got ready for an evening of Shakespeare. Since we were so close to The Element, and had to walk by it to get almost anywhere, we had the added enjoyment of flipping them off every chance we got.

In Part Two of the NYC Tour Diary, I’ll tell you about seeing Glenda Jackson as “King Lear.” After that you’ll get the FAO Schwarz photo essay, a review of “All My Sons,” and more. Plus you can probably expect NY-centric Monday Morning Art for the next couple of months.

Last year Danny Boyd’s cult-classic movie, Paradise Park, was adapted into a musical by Danny and Larry Groce, and was presented by Theatre West Virginia. Tuesday on Curtain Call Mel Larch brackets a show about musicals that are based on movies with two songs from the recently-released cast recording (which you can buy HERE).   Wednesday afternoon on The AIR, you can tune in as Curtain Call presents “Movies Go To The Musicals”  You can listen at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

At 3 PM Mel Larch presents a new hour of great musical theater on Curtain Call.  Movies have been used as the inspiration for musicals for decades, and this week Mel brings you examples of some of the best, and takes the occasion to bring you two tracks from the musical adaptation of the West Virginia cult film, Paradise Park.Mel provides background and trivia on each song and brings you a mix of big hits and obscure curiosities.

Check out the playlist:

Curtain Call 062

“Paradise Park” From Theatre WV’s Paradise Park
“Breakfast At Tiffany’s” from Cruel Intentions A 90s Musical
“Liza” From An American In Paris
“Great Big Stuff” from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
“What Do You Know About Love” From Frozen
“Trick Or Treat” from Halloween: The Musical
“The World Will Know” from Newsies
“Dances Turn Into Dreams” from Urban Cowboy: The Musical
“Somebody’s Got Your Back” from Disney’s Aladdin
“I Wanna Be A Producer” From Mel Brooks’ The Producers
“Beauty and the Beast” from Disney’s Beauty and The Beast
“The Teacher’s Argument” from Fame
“Dentist” from Little Shop of Horrors
“Never Ending Love” From Paradise Park

After the new hour of Curtain Call, stick around for two additional episodes from the Curtain Call archives. Curtain Call can be heard Wednesday at 3 PM, with replays Thursday at 8 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..

It’s time for two “mixtape shows Tuesday on The AIR so listeners can enjoy new episodes of Radio Free Charleston and The Swing Shift without having to listen to so much of me talking.  All you have to do is tune in at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

RFC hits at 10 AM (with a replay at 10 PM– all times EDT) with a brand-new edition of the show. Now in its thirtieth year, Radio Free Charleston continues to bring you more local music than any other source.

This week RFC  digs into the archives for the entire show, opening with a 27-year-old track co-produced by yours truly, and continuing, mixtape-fashion, with music from local legends like Hasil Adkins, Go Van Gogh, The Pistol Whippers, The Carpenter Ants, Punk Jazz and more. You’ll even hear a piece of music composed and performed by your PopCulteer himself.

Check out the playlist here:


Three Bodies “Gardens of Hope”
600 Lbs of Sin “TJ’s Song”
Andy Park and the Kountry Katz “Attention”
Sahsa Colette and The Magnolias “Sweet”
Go Van Gogh “Planet of Psychotic Women”
John Radcliff “Somethings Got To Give”
Under The Radar “Krakatoa”
The Pistol Whippers “Lucky Boy”
The Carptenter Ants “Blessing”
Saprogen “Jam/Total Damnation”
Punk Jazz “Little Star”
Highway Jones “Shimmer”
Ovada “The Electric God”
Rudy Panucci “Jazz Sketch”
Hasil Adkins “Maybelline”

Psychedelic Shack remains in reruns this week. Tuesday at 2 PM we revisit Nigel Pye’s trippy mixtape that begins with some really trippy music by Roger Glover. Psychedelic Shack can be heard Tuesday’s at 2 PM, with replays Wednesday at 11 AM, Thursday at 5 PM and Saturday at 7 AM and the next Tuesday at 9 AM.

At 3 PM we have a special new, shiny edition of The Swing Shift that presents songs about New York City, in honor of your PopCulteer’s recent trip to The Big Apple. You can read about that trip when I start posting installments of the NYC Tour Diary later today. This mixtape might make a good soundtrack for the posts coming your way this week.

During this week’s show you will hear Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Louie Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Royal Crown Revue and more, all singing the praises of the five bouroughs.

You can hear The Swing Shift Tuesday at 3 PM, with replays Wednesday at 7 AM, Thursday at 7 PM and Saturday at 9 AM, 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: The Dancer


This week’s art is the second of two pieces which are exercises in high contrast lighting and negative space. You can see the first piece HERE. This week it’s a single dancer. with her shape suggested by highlights in a dark space. These two pieces were based on photos I found on a long-neglected drive that date back more than ten years, so I don’t remember who the models were. You can’t really see their faces in this minimalist approach, anyway.

As always, click the image to see it bigger.

Meanwhile, Monday on The AIR, 7 AM sees a marathon of Radio Coolsville with DJ Betty Rock. Then at 3 PM you can settle in for eight hours of great New Wave music with Sydney’s Big Electric Cat. At 11 PM you can spend your late night with eight hours of the best Progressive Rock of the last half-century on Prognosis.

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

Sunday Evening Video: Los Lobos Live In 1987

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, and because your PopCulteer is actually on a train heading back from Manhattan and had to crank out a week’s worth of posts ahead of time, today we present Los Lobos, recorded live in concert from 1987 at The Ritz in NYC.

Here is the setlist for this show:

Will The Wolf Survive
We’re Gonna Rock
Come On, Let’s Go
Our Last Night
Walking Song
How Much Can I Do
Buzz, Buzz, Buzz
Matter Of Time
I Got Loaded
Let’s Say Goodnight
Corrido #1
Serenata Nortena
Volver, Volver
I Got To Let You Know
My Baby’s Gone
Farmer John
Don’t Worry Baby


The RFC Flashback: Episode 182

We launch our video time machine back to March, 2013, to bring you this epic episode of Radio Free Charleston. Above you see a very special episode of RFC. Our friend, international music superstar, Deni Bonet was in this edition of the show with a really cool music video. We also had a very special semi-animated performance by HARRAH, plus we had the Radio Free Charleston debut of Beggar’s Clan, who have just released a terrific new album that you can find at CD Baby.

We also offered up the return of Murfmeef and some trippy animation.You can read the original production notes HERE.

Free Comic Books And More Stuff To Do

The PopCulteer
May 3, 2019

As you read this your PopCulteer is probably stumbling around somewhere in Manhattan. However, there is a ton of cool stuff happening this weekend here in and around Charleston, West Virginia.

Saturday May 4 is Free Comic Book Day, and if there are any comic book stores left in the area, they’re bound to be joining in.

If, like your PopCulteer, you gave up on local comic book stores and order everything from Westfield Comics, then you’ll want to stay up until Midnight (Central Time), Friday, so you can order one each of all the 51 free comic books and have them sent directly to your home.

That’s what I’ll be doing from the City That Never Sleeps.


Aside from Free Comic Book Day, there are a bunch of other things you can get into this weekend, where apparently they have some kind of horse races and then go get Mexican food food or something.













That’s it for this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for fresh content every day, even if it was prepared a few days in advance.

PopCult Peruses The Party Pump

The PopCult Toybox

One of the perks of writing a blog that’s loosely devoted to the concept of pop culture is that I get to write about almost anything…movies, music, comic books, toys…toys being one of the more fun things in my repertoire. Today PopCult brings you a quick video of me and my nephew, Seth, trying out a cool new thing that I wish I had when I was a kid.

Zuru has revolutionized balloons with their Bunch O’ Balloons concept, that uses one-way valves so that you can fill balloons with air (or water, or helium) several at a time, with no blowing or tying or aggravation. Originally released as a great way to stock a massive arsenal of water balloons, they’re just now releasing the Bunch O’ Balloons Party Pump, which can inflate up to 40 of these special balloons at a time in just forty seconds.

The balloons are connected together in bunches of eight, with long inflation tubes that double as a string. You simply inflate them, and peel apart the stems and you’re in business. The Party Pump can also be used to inflate other items, like air mattresses and pool floaties, so it’s a pretty handy thing to have around.

I got my hands on one of these just in time for my nephew’s birthday, and that’s where the video you see above originated. I have to say I was really impressed by how cool this whole Bunch O’ Balloons system is. The balloons can be re-inflated, and each pack of balloons includes an adapter so that they can be filled with helium.

The balloons are ridiculously sturdy, and can withstand the full force of an eight-year-old diving into them. My only regret is that I couldn’t use Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up” as the background music without getting into trouble with YouTube. The Party Pump itself is not a toy for the younger kids. It’s an electric device and should always be used with adult supervision, but parents of kids who love balloons will consider this a godsend. Event planners might also want to look into this for when they need decorations fast.

The Bunch O Balloons Party Pump comes with 16 balloons and is available now at Walmart –http://www.bobparty.shop/walmart.  It’s a great way to come up with a lot of balloons in a short amount of time without destroying your lungs. For more information about ZURU visit www.zuru.com.