PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

The RFC Flashback: MINI SHOW number 30

This week we go back to July, 2014, for an RFC MINI SHOW starring singer/songwriter Dina Hornbaker. We brought you three songs performed by Dina just a week before we posted this show at the Early Open Mic at Taylor Books. The RFC Crew just happened to be there armed with cameras and we decided to snag Dina’s first three-song set before deadline duties forced us to make a hasty retreat. This was true guerilla filmmaking because we forgot to tell anyone we were recording and had to ask permission afterward.

You’ll hear Dina doing a Summertime song with nods to Sam Cooke and George Gershwin, as well as the song that she performed on RFC 196, “Mountain Mama.” We wrap up the show with a lovely song that did not yet have a title.

Disco Keeps This Post From Being Blank

The PopCulteer
August 14, 2020

It’s admission time. Your PopCulteer has been slacking off this week. Because yesterday was my birthday (it was a very nice, low-key day) I dashed off most of this week’s posts early and scheduled them to drop while I was otherwise occupied. My birthday itself was a nice little bright spot in what has turned out to be one of the worst years in history for anybody. I was genuinely humbled by all the kind birthday wishes left for me on social media, and I spent the day with my favorite person.

Speaking of Mrs. PopCulteer, Mel Larch, we did manage to squeak out a new episode of MIRRORBALL, Mel’s series of Disco Music specials for The AIR.

It’s hard to believe, but we’re already up to our eighth edition of MIRRORBALL  Friday afternoon on The AIR. and that’s followed by two great encore epsodes of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat.  You can hear all this good stuff on The AIR website, or just click on this embedded radio player…

MIRRORBALL returns as Mel Larch brings you another collection of the top hits of the Disco era. Back in the days when polyester ruled, Beats Per Minute was the top musical criteria, there were lightbulbs in the floors and it seemed like everybody was born with a silver spoon around their neck, this was the music that ruled the day.

Check out the playlist for this Disco party…


Love Unlimited Orchestra “Love’s Theme”
Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band “Cherchez La Femme”
Benny Golson “I’m Always Dancin’ To The Music”
Gino Soccio “Dancer”
Patrice Rushen “Haven’t You Heard”
Yvonne Elliman “If I Can’t Have You”
Earth Wind and Fire “September”
Andrea True Connection “New York You Got Me Dancin’”
The Detroit Spinners “Rubberband Man”
Michael Zager Band “Let’s All Chant”
Chaka Khan “I’m Every Woman”
Edwin Starr “H.A.P.P.Y. Radio”
A Taste of Honey “Boogie Oogie Oogie”
Peaches & Herb “Shake Your Groove Thing”

You can tune in at 2 PM and hear the latest edition of MIRRORBALL. The plan is to drop a new episode roughly every other Friday afternoon, until Mel gets tired of doing it, or people stop listening. Later today, it will go up in the Podcast section of The AIR website, so you can listen on demand.  MIRRORBALL will also be replayed Friday night at 10 PM, Saturday at 7 PM (part of a marathon), Sunday at 11 PM and Tuesday at 1 PM. We’ll probably sneak in a few more airings during the week.

And that wraps up this short, slacky PopCulteer.  Check back for fresh content every day, even if some of it is prepared in advance.

Wacky Packages Come To Tiny Life

The PopCult Toybox

Super Impulse, the folks who make all those “World’s Smallest” versions of classic toys, is bringing another great nostalgic concept to stores. The launch of Wacky Packages Minis unleashes a new line of hilarious, miniature, 3D products based on the classic stickers by iconic trading card company Topps. Wacky Packages Minis offers a fun twist on the mini collectible trend.

A few years ago Topps released Wacky Packages erasers, but these new Wacky Packages Minis are a more elaborate take on translating the popular parody stickers into miniature 3D collectibles.

Originally launched in the 1960’s, Wacky Packages has continued to release new series to new generations through the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s, and has earned a coveted place in pop-culture history. With silly and outrageous spoofs of popular household products, Wacky Packages Minis brings the original, 2D parody stickers to life by transforming them to 3D toys. There are 66 “collect-them-all” minis including 6 ultra-rare styles in pearlescent white.

With a mix of nostalgic “Old Skool” satire including Captain Crud and Bandache, along with “New Skool” wit, featuring Ghoul Scout Cookies and Dr. Pooper, this collection builds on the success of the classic collectible stickers, while remaining true to its retro roots. Each blind package “cup” of Wacky Packages Minis includes 5 mini products, 1 mini Original Wacky Packages sticker, and a collector checklist.

Super Impulse, internationally recognized for lines World’s Smallest® and World’s Coolest®, has significant experience with licensed products as well as miniature toys. Wacky Packages Minis aligns with the Super Impulse audience and is a perfect addition to their roster of miniature toys.

“Nobody does miniatures better than Super Impulse and we are amped to bring Wacky Packages Minis to the market,” says President of Super Impulse, Alan Dorfman. “There is a loyal collector base spanning five decades of Topps stickers; in fact, I collected them as a kid! We can’t wait to bring these to a new generation of boys and girls.”

Wacky Packages Minis are now available on Amazon.com, Target and specialty retailers and are coming soon to Walmart.

The Traci Lords Story In Podcast Form

This is not a child-safe podcast that I’m telling you about.

If you are old enough, you may remember the Traci Lords story first-hand. In 1986, at the height of her popularity as one of the most famous and prolific porn stars in the world, it was revealed that Traci Lords had, in fact, just turned eighteen, and in the midst of the anti-porn crusades of the Meese Commission, all but one of the dozens of films in which she starred when she was underaged became contraband overnight.

Traci Lords told her story in her memoir. Many in the porn industry have told a different side of that story over the years. Now a podcast series is telling all the versions of the story that they can find and is trying to sort out the truth from the fiction in what comes across as a podcast-noir tale of he-said, she-said, they said where nothing seems to line up straight, but it’s a wild ride anyway.

C13Originals, the Peabody Award-nominated documentary studio division of leading premium podcast company Cadence13 and part of Entercom’s podcast network, announced Once Upon a Time…in the Valley, the real-life mystery and porno-noir podcast series created and written by Vanity Fair’s Lili Anolik, featuring Ashley West. The podcast debuted last month, and to date, seven chapters have been released. I’ve been recommending The Rialto Report, West’s excellent blog/podcast devoted to the golden age of porn chic for a few months. Here he plays the foil and fills in the blanks, providing a keen insider’s view of the history of the porn industry.

Let’s go to the press release.

Before there were sex tapes, there were sex tapes. Before there was Paris or Kim, there was Traci. The first, the best, the O.G. Hardcore since ’84.

In the roaring 80’s porn world, Traci Lords reigned supreme. No one questioned her right to sovereignty. Only, it turned out, the biggest star in adult films was, legally speaking, just a child. As America would discover in July 1986, when the FBI busted down her door. Traci Lords was really Nora Kuzma, who’d entered the industry as a 15-year-old high school sophomore. Traci, the victim, was saved. And the industry, the villain, was very nearly destroyed. But what if the victim here was also the villain; the villain, also the victim?

As Anolik cautions, “Put your condoms on, get that safe word ready” because she and Ashley are going in hard and deep. It’s the San Fernando Valley. It’s the mid-1980s, the moment the industry is exploding: moving from New York to L.A., from film to video, from the shadows to the spotlight. Traci may be the series’ focus, but its setting and supporting players—Ginger Lynn, Christy Canyon, Tom Byron, to name but a few—are so dynamic, they’re constantly threatening to upstage her. (Not that she’ll let them.)

Once Upon a Time…in the Valley launched with the first three episodes on July 14, 2020, via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, RADIO.COM and everywhere podcasts are available. New episodes will drop every Tuesday throughout the series. You can liisten to the trailer and subscribe to the series for free HERE. Note that this podcast contains adult language and storylines. It’s not suitable for anyone under the age of 18, and certainly not safe for work.

“It’s the story I’ve wanted to tell more than any other,” says Lili Anolik. “Just imagine Boogie Nights, if Boogie Nights had a three-way with Gone Girl and A Star Is Born—and it let Gone Girl be on top.”

Once Upon a Time…in the Valley was created and written by Lili Anolik in collaboration with, and produced by Peabody-Award nominated C13Originals, a division of Cadence13. The series is Executive Produced by Corcoran and Anolik; produced by West; directed by Zak Levitt; edited and mastered by Chris Basil, Bill Shultz, Perry Crowell, and Ian Mandt; with theme music and original score by Joel Goodman.

Lili Anolik is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Her work has also appeared in Harper’s, Esquire and The Paris Review, among other publications. Her latest book, the Los Angeles Times bestseller Hollywood’s Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A., was named one of Esquire’s Best Books of 2019.

Ashley West is the creator of The Rialto Report, a web and podcast channel that documents the Golden Age of Porn (1969-1984). He’s worked as a consultant on HBO’s The Deuce, and has published numerous pieces on the adult industry in The Daily Beast, several of which have been optioned for film and television.

Seven episodes in, Once Upon A Time… In The Valley is engrossing. It will make you want to binge-listen. Each episode runs between 35 and 55 minutes, and aside from the sensational subject matter, it’s a compelling Rashamon-like story of one of the most shocking scandals of the Reagan era. It’s also an in-depth look at the death of the porn industry as a major force in pop culture. Between Traci Lords, The Meese Commission, AIDS and the rise of Home Video, it’s no shock that the nature of the business changed dramatically years before the internet came along and took most of the glamour and profit away.

It’s a seedy, sexy and fascinating look at the time just before video killed the porno star.

The production on the podcast is top-notch with original music, loads of interviews with people who were there, and a good rapport between Anolik and West. The dialogue is frank and uncensored, but almost everybody interviewed comes across in a good light. We are presented with many perspectives, some directly from the people involved themselves, and some via passages read from interviews, essays or memoirs. Aside from the subject matter, which may be off-putting to some, this series is practically a textbook for how to create an entertaining and enlightening documentary podcast.

I’ve been downloading Once Upon A Time… In The Valley from Radio.com, but you should be able to find it where ever you normally listen to podcasts. It’s free, with brief commercials, and it’s a great listen.

A Newish RFC In The Middle Of The Marathon

Even in the midst of a four-day Radio Free Charleston Marathon on The AIR we offer up a newish edition of our flaghip show,  Radio Free Charleston. In order to hear these this new episode you simply have to move your cursor over and tune in at the website, or you could just stay on this page, and  listen to this excitable little embedded radio player…

We have a partly new Radio Free Charleston at 10 AM and 10 PM Tuesday. Let me explain.

Over the last couple of months I’ve had, maybe, a dozen or so requests to replay an episode of Radio Free Charleston International from 2016 that paid tribute to David Bowie. We don’t really run RFC International since we combined it with RFC into the three-hour Radio Free Charleston V5. so I decided to do one new hour of RFC, packed with plenty of local and new music, and then make hours two and three an encore of our Bowie tribute. This way I get to do less work, you get a newish episode of the show, and the Bowie fans get to hear the tribute for the first time in three years. So everybody’s happy!

And we are airing this episode in its normal timeslots this week, even though we have a marathon going on. You can hear it Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM, and Thursday at 3 PM.

It’s a pretty happenin’ show. Check out the playlist…

RFCV5 028

IDKHOW “Leave Me Alone”
The Dollyrots “Stay (I Missed You)”
Time And Distance “Live A Lie”
The Swivels “Panama”
The Company Stores “Bottom Out”
Linnfinity “Molly Marr of Rome”
Take Vibe “Golden Brown”
William Matheny “Mind For Leaving”
Paul Calicoat “Dylan Stole My Life”
The Big Bad “Shadowbrook Road”
Wolfgang Parker “Whisper Something German in my Ear”
Frenchy and The Punk “Why Should I?”
QiET “Get Found”
Go Van Gogh “Planet of Pyschotic Women”
WATT 4 “I Don’t Deserve You”
The Concept “Guitar Pick In My Kool Aid”
Jerks! “GFN”

hours two and three
David Bowie “Ashes To Ashes”
Rick Wakeman “Life On Mars”
Nirvana “The Man Who Sold The World”
Frankie Goes To Hollywood “Suffragette City”
Mike Garson “Space Oddity”
Cuddly Toys “Madman”
Nosferatu “Starman”
Spiders From Mars “Moonage Daydream”
Waltari “Look Back In Anger”
Adrian Belew with DB “Pretty Pink Rose”
Queen with DB “Under Pressure”
Iggy Pop with DB “Funtime”
Reeves Gabriel with DB “You’ve Been Around”
Bauhaus “Ziggy Stardust”
Tin Machine “Sacrifice Yourself”
David Bowie “John, I’m Only Dancing”
Ava Cherry and the Astronettes “I Am Divine”
Wreckage “Heroes”
Dana Gillispie “Andy Warhol”
The Polyamorous Affair “Cat People”
The Mission UK “After All”
Mystique “Drive In Saturday Night”
Duran Duran “Boys Keep Swinging”
The Erin Orchestra “Be My Wife”
Graham Blvd “Changes”
Carla Bruni “Absolute Beginners”
Mick Karn “Ashes To Ashes”
We Have Band “Let’s Dance”
Gene Loves Jezabel “All The Young Dudes”
Rick Wakeman “Space Oddity”

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. This week we are running every episode from 2020 in a marathon that began Monday at 7 AM.  It will continue until Thursday night at 10 PM.

Monday Morning Art: Narin The Mermaid Returns


This week I bring you a real-world watercolor and ink piece that was inspired by a batch of photos I found from a Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art Show that took place more than eight years ago. Our subject was Narin the Mermaid, and during that session I took a few photos that showed the lighting equipment and the set that were part of the shoot, which happened in the basement of what was then the Kanawha Player’s Playhouse. I decided to do a piece based on some of those, playing off the light that was pointed directly at the camera.

Back then, I did digital paintings of Narin from that night which you can see HERE and HERE. This time I wanted to try some real painting, instead of going digital.

If you want to see it bigger, just click on the image.

Meanwhile, Monday on The AIR, we begin a four day marathon of Radio Free Charleston at 7 AM. You can read all about it HERE.

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

Radio Free Charleston Four Day Marathon Next Week

At the beginning of 2020, I changed the format of Radio Free Charleston, combining the one-hour, local-focus RFC with the two-hour, not local RFC International into a three-hour weekly show that brings you local music mixed in with the coolest music I can find from all over the world.

Starting Monday at 7 AM, The AIR will run a four-day marathon that will include every 2020 episode of Radio Free Charleston, including a new show that will debut Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM.

This marathon will run from Monday at 7 AM until Thursday at Midnight. Fans of local music can tune in and hear their local favorites played alongside brand-new music from the world’s best bands from a variety of different genre.

The reason for this marathon is that we’re filling up our server, and will have to drop off some of the shows from earlier this year soon. Also, it’s my birthday week, and I sorta like the idea of slacking off.

Tune in at The AIR website, or on this embedded radio player…

Above you see the first film appearance of iconic animated sexpot, Betty Boop, in the Max Fleischer cartoon, “Dizzy Dishes, release ninety years ago, on August 9, 1930. You may notice that Betty isn’t quite human in this cartoon.  Betty began life as a French Poodle anthropomorphized into a Flapper, but over the course of a few months her ears became her hoop earrings and she became fully human. Betty was the first female character to have her own cartoon series.

Inspired by actress Clara Bow, singer Helen Kane and others, Betty went on to become a bigger star than all her influences put together. Today she’s still a merchandising powerhouse, and multiple companies are planning revivals of Betty as animated shorts, feature films and a Broadway musical (currently on hold due to the pandemic). She’s still a fashion icon, too, and even has a new book out.

If I’m posting video of Betty Boop, I’m not going to pass up the chance to include one of her cartoons that includes the legendary Cab Calloway…

Betty’s most recent stint in animation was a digital cartoon that was a little bit of a commercial for designer, Zac Posen. “Betty Goes A Posen” was released in February, 2017…

Betty went through a few changes over the years, being de-sexualized quite a bit during the years of the Hays Code in Hollywood, but she’s back to her old self in today’s cartoons and merchandise.

Happy Birthday, Betty!


The RFC Flashback: Mini-Show number 29

This week we do a double jump into the past. Back in July, 2014 we first published the twenty-ninth episode of The RFC MINI SHOW, but this show was actually made up of footage shot back in May, 2011, at the Blue Parrot.

Our focus was the band, InFormation, which is no longer a band, but two members, Curtis and Shane, are currently in Beggars Clan, who just released a killer debut album last year.

As their website said at the time, “InFormation brings everything you need for a Rock ‘N’ Roll show; mind melting guitar solos, killer guitar riffs, 9 string basses, 7 string basses, drum solos, catchy lyrics, and most of all a real good time.”


The Year Without A Halloween

The PopCulteer
August 7, 2020

I touched on this concept a few weeks ago, but now that the date draws near, it’s becoming very clear that Halloween in 2020 is going to be a mere shadow of its normal self.

The various components that make up Halloween are not all likely to happen as usual this year.

Trick or Treat is a non-starter. Nobody in their right mind could think that sending children door-to-door during a pandemic is a good idea. Not only do you put the kids at risk, who would want strange kids coming to their door asking for candy when they might be spreading the coronavirus?

Likewise, organized school or church parties are not going to be feasible with limits on how big a gathering can be.

Adult parties are also less likely to happen, and even if they do, babysitters are going to be in short supply, and there’s still the matter of people who have more than an ounce of common sense refusing to attend. People are nervous about dining out or sending their kids to school. They’re not going to want to dress up and go to a party.

Bars, which depend on Halloween to generate some of their most profitable and well-attended debauchery are probably not going to be open, and if they are, they are still going to have to operate without the participation of the people who would rather not catch a fatal or life-changing disease just so they can have a drink with their buddies while wearing a goofy costume.

It will be interesting to see how the businesses that depend on Halloween for a big chunk of their annual revenue will deal with this most unusual, yet interesting of times. Halloween, and later Christmas, will be two of the last dominos to fall in our great economic collapse.

The L.A.Times published a great article about the business aspects of Halloween (after I started working on this essay, but the timing is really convenient). If you haven’t already exhausted your free article limit this month, you can read it HERE.

In case you have, here’s a chunk of the beginning of the article:

With less than three months before the annual celebration of all things ghoulish and creepy, many Halloween festivities have either been canceled or will be dramatically altered out of fear of the nation’s biggest terror: COVID-19.

The likely results: A drop in orders for trick-or-treat candies and Halloween costumes and the loss of big crowds and hefty revenues at theme parks that host Halloween-themed events.

In short, another financial blow to an economy already weakened by the business closures and double-digit unemployment rates caused by the pandemic.

Halloween is “the holiday that comes second after Christmas as far as spending goes,” said Tom Arnold, a professor of finance at the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond. “I don’t think it would be wrong to predict that spending gets cut in half, at a minimum.”

The article goes on to discuss how COVID-19 will torpedo theme parks, cruise lines and places that host haunted houses, and how Halloween retailers like Spirit Halloween and Party City’s Halloween City plan to open as usual later this month, but are preparing for a disastrous season as demand for costumes and decorations plummet.

Many costume-makers started dumping product as early as May, selling it to outlets like Zuilly and Ollie’s as “cosplay” and “dress-up” items. It was sort of weird to log into Zuilly on the fourth of July and see “Sexy Librarian” outfits.

Hershey, which counts on Halloween candy for 10% of its revenue in a normal year, is going to attempt to sell the public on the idea of a ten-week “Halloween Season.” They’re rushing their specialty candy, which includes green Kit Kat bars and Reese Cups and other horror-themed treats, into stores early so they can try to avoid having it all marked down to a fraction of its suggested retail price on November 1.

With bars closed or operating at limited capacity, the beer companies are cutting production and cutting back on Halloween promotions.

2020 might turn out to be the year that people observe Halloween by watching horror movies at home while eating big bowls of General Mills’ Monster Cereals like Count Chocula. I would guess that the only people who come out ahead will be streaming services, online retailers who sell horror movies and pizza delivery companies.

I know lot of die-hard Halloween fans are going to be disappointed and sad this year.

In the grand scheme of things, though, maybe taking a year away from traditional parties isn’t really that big a sacrifice. Halloween monsters would probably seem a little tame this year anyway.

Freddy Kruger or Jason might not seem so scary when there’s a very real possibility of catching a disease that will make you die alone in a hospital bed, laying face down with tubes rammed up or down your most delicate orifaces, spending your last days hallucinating from the sedatives they have to give you to keep you from ripping out your IVs.

We can’t forget why we’re doing this. COVID-19 is a real, airborne virus. It can be spread by people who show no symptoms and have no idea that they’re inflicting the virus on other people. Elderly people can die from this. Young, healthy people who catch this are more likely to survive, but they also have a good chance of sustaining permanent lung, heart or vascular damage. They may lose limbs. Children who get this disease can indeed die from it, but even if they survive they can develop vascular imflammation that can lead to serious life-long health issues.

The Coronavirus is way more scary than any Halloween story.

If there’s a silver lining (and God knows we could use one) it’s that maybe we can come out of this with a greater appreciation of our societal rituals and traditions. If you think a year without Halloween is bad, wait until we get to a Quarantine Thanksgiving. And forget about going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. If she’s smart she ain’t letting anybody in.

I’ve been pretty vocal about being burned out on Halloween here in PopCult for some time now. I could use a year off from it. I love horror movies and monster movies and scary stuff and always will, but I can do without the focus on beer parties and overly-commercialized Halloween regalia. Honestly, the idea of celebrating Halloween by eating Graziano’s pizza while watching Svengoolie sounds pretty damned swell to me.

Think how much fun it will be when things go back to normal in 2021 (or 2022). Maybe we can appreciate everything a little more and respect just how fragile life on this planet is.

Then we can get back to being terrified of movie monsters, instead of going to the grocery store.

That’s this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for fresh content every day, and all our regular features.