May 30, 2009

Coca-Cola Bottling Company

The Old Coca-Cola Bottling Company in Crockett, Texas, was built in the late '20s, early '30s. It was pretty awesome to find this vintage, Art Deco structure so close to home.

May 29, 2009

"Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)"

Oh, the crazy b*stard. Phil Spector was today sentenced to 19 years in prison. He won't be eligible for parole until he is 88-years-old. That's a long time to go without one's wig collection.

18 year old Phil Spector

Not that I condone (at all) what he was found guilty of doing, but he was a great, innovative, and massively influential record producer. The world would not have had a Pet Sounds (1966) without him, for example. His "Wall of Sound" is legendary, and unfortunately, could not protect him from this terrible fate. One of my favorite things he did was John Lennon's third single as a solo artist, "Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)" (1970). Other than "#9 Dream," it may be my favorite post-Beatles Lennon tune. The slapback echo on Lennon's voice is (as usual) awesome. George (Harrison) and Billy Preston play on this, with Mal Evans doing chimes and hand claps (on the original, studio recording, not the video in this post). This video is the TV performance John and the Plastic Ono Band did on Top of the Pops where Yoko sits, blindfolded, on a stool the entire time, so it's got that going for it too...

May 27, 2009

Sinatra sings for Nixon

How does one get from here:
Frankie and Eleanor Roosevelt - Los Angeles, 1947

to here???
The White House, April 17, 1973

Welllll (deep breath)....


Sinatra was essentially "born" a Democrat. His brash, foul-mouthed and aggressive mother, Dolly, who campaigned for Al Smith, was a Democratic Party ward boss in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Of course, the singer's affiliation with, and support for, John F. Kennedy before, during, and after the 1960 presidential campaign (against Richard Nixon) is the stuff of legend. According to my personal Sinatra "Bible," J. Randy Taraborrelli's, Sinatra: Behind the Legend, during 1960, "...Frank Sinatra continued his diligent campaign for Kennedy with performances and donations and also by hiring a private investigator to see what kind of dirt he could dig up on Richard Nixon, which, as it would turn out, was not much" (p. 230).

The caption for this Life magazine photo, taken in Beverly Hills, 1960: "Singer Frank Sinatra talking with Edward M. Kennedy (Center R) at 'Key Women for Kennedy In California' rally."
Ha, ha, ha - I wonder if Judith Exner was there?

At the Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C., January 20, 1961

Sinatra would stump for Hubert Humphrey in 1968 (against Richard Nixon). But by Thanksgiving of 1971, it would appear a political shift had occurred, as he "played host for three days to Spiro Agnew and his family...Sinatra and Agnew had forged a close friendship; in fact, Sinatra was determined to see Agnew president in 1976..." (Taraborrelli, p. 390). The "official" cause for Sinatra's political about face was Richard Nixon's position on admitting China to the United Nations, an issue about which he agreed and had been vocal. So, although "he had been extremely critical of Nixon in the past, Sinatra would now become his strongest supporter, contributing $50,000 to his campaign for reelection in 1972...Many of Frank's friends were angry with him for supporting Nixon and the Republican Party" (Taraborrelli, p. 391).

Clearly, Sammy didn't mind!
Sammy Davis, Jr. at a 1972 Nixon reelection event

So, I suppose the world has China to thank for the following marvelous, live Sinatra performance (the original point of the post, I swear to goodness...). He was invited to sing at the White House when the Italian prime minister, Giulio Andreotti, visited in April 1973. The video features the singer doing the Nelson Riddle arrangement from The Concert Sinatra (1963) of "I Have Dreamed." This was during Frank Sinatra's brief "retirement" period and proves he hadn't yet lost his pipes (see 2:17 onward). Nixon is supposed to have said afterwards: "Once in a while, there is a moment when there is magic in the room--when a great performer, singer, and entertainer is able to capture us all. Frank Sinatra did that tonight." But Nixon was known to lie from time to time, so don't take his word for it, see for yourself:

UPDATE 5/2011: Video is gone, I'm afraid. Couldn't find a replacement. :(
Will fix it as soon as I can.

May 25, 2009

More vintage imagery

I just had to do another post about the Library of Congress and its set of favorites at Flickr from the Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection.

This photograph was taken in July 1940 by Marion Post Wolcott, and it features Wigwam Village #2, in Cave City, Kentucky. It would appear the neon sign is still there. It reminds me a lot of the Tee Pee Motel, right outside of Wharton, which I photographed back in February 2007.

side view of tee pees lined up

tee pee motel sign with sun just rising

Another fine Marion Post Wolcott photograph, this one was taken in October 1939 of a "negro going in colored entrance of movie house on Saturday afternoon, Belzoni, Mississippi Delta, Mississippi." I include this one here for the most superficial of reasons, namely, it reminds me of some shots I've taken:

dr. pepper mural in pittsburg
Pittsburg, March 2007

dr. pepper sign in mt. pleasant
Mount Pleasant, also March 2007

food & one

May 24, 2009

Iconic images

If you are a Flickr person, then this is pretty cool. The Library of Congress (if you are a Flickr person, you should make it a contact) has uploaded and created a set of "iconic" Great Depression photos.

Included in the set is perhaps the icon of Great Depression-era photo icons, "Migrant Mother," by a hero, Dorothea Lange. A fascinating thing about most of these photographs are the tales behind them. Every picture tells a story, as they say. For example, I love the fact that Lange literally got out of her car, walked towards the woman (a "destitute pea picker" named Florence Owens Thompson) while taking the pictures (six images in ten minutes), then left. That's my kind of photography -- almost guerrilla style. Get it and go! Lange didn't mess around.

Some other interesting factoids about "Migrant Mother":

  • The negative was retouched in the 1930s to erase a thumb holding the tent pole in lower right hand corner.
  • Of Cherokee descent, Florence Owens Thompson was born in a tepee in Oklahoma, 1903. What a broad spectrum of the American fabric she covers!
  • Florence remembered that "when Steinbeck wrote in The Grapes of Wrath about those people living under the bridge at Bakersfield—at one time we lived under that bridge."
  • Incredibly, Thompson was tracked down in 1978 by a reporter who located Thompson at her Modesto, California, mobile home and recognized her from the 40-year-old photograph.
  • The Wikipedia entry for Thompson has this blurry photo of her and children in 1979:

    Note how she is sitting in a similar pose to the one she was forty-three years earlier in the famous photo. Was she asked to pose this way by the photographer? Or was this just something she did, hoping people would recognize her? For example, would she go to the local mall or park, and assume that pose, wanting to receive attention? Was it just her habit to sit this way? Had she been frozen in this position for forty-three years???.....
  • May 21, 2009

    DiCaprio's first stab at Sinatra

    Because it's from The Sun, which I always thought was like a British National Enquirer, perhaps this should be taken with a pile of salt:

    (In relation to the proposed Martin Scorsese directed Frank Sinatra biopic)

    A source confirmed: “Leo has hired a top vocal coach to get him sounding like Sinatra. He is a massive fan of the singer and has always wanted to play him. He would be sick to miss out on the leading role because his singing wasn’t up to scratch.

    “He is now in intensive vocal coaching lessons to replicate Sinatra’s distinctive style.”

    If this opening credits sequence from This Boy's Life (1993) is any indication, those voice lessons (if the Sun story is true) should be scraped in favor of Auto-Tune:

    May 20, 2009

    '"Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree"

    The The Andrews Sisters recorded and released "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else but Me)" in 1942, the song reaching #16 on the charts. Lyrically, the song obviously played upon the insecurities of men in uniform during W.W. II. Musically, it swings...

    Perhaps you are more familiar with the version Glenn Miller did (also in '42) with Tex Beneke and The Modernaires :

    Tex Beneke

    A polite jazz hands?

    May 18, 2009

    Pulchritude of the past

    Oh, I wish I'd known about this. Galveston Island’s "legendary Bathing Beauties Pageant" was resurrected on Saturday (5/16/09). History from Galveston Beach Revue (quote in green):

    Dubbed the "Pageant of Pulchritude" by C.E. Barfield, the Galveston beauty contest began in the summer of 1920 and from then on marked the kick-off for tourist season each year. By 1928, the event (which had morphed into the "bathing girl revue") had become so popular, the Island's population was said to have tripled during the event weekend. These Island pageants are said to have been the beginning of what we know today as the Miss America Contest.

    Being a BOI (refers to those "Born on Island"), as they say, and having grown up on the Island, I am fascinated with its history. I love hearing especially about the era when it was a prototype for the kind of a town places like Las Vegas, Nevada, would eventually become. The Galveston I knew was so different from that, but you could still get a sense (more like a vibe) of what it had been like.

    Had I known about this event's rebirth, I might have been able to get some excellent pictures, such as this one from The Galveston Daily News photographer Kevin Cox:

    Dana Blue of Houston twirls her umbrella for the judges during the vintage-inspired swimwear competition of the Galveston Island Beach Revue on the beach at 33rd Street on Saturday afternoon. She won second place. (The Galveston Daily News)

    May 14, 2009

    Being perfectly Frank

    I've always felt the Beatles' story, if done right, would make an excellent film. And the only director I thought could do it well (in my humble onion) would be Martin Scorsese (or maybe Oliver Stone). But Scorsese has always been more about the Stones than the Fabs. As you may have already seen, various sources are reporting the very hopeful news that Scorsese is in the process of putting together a project based on the life of Frank Sinatra. Apparently he's a fan, so that's encouraging. I don't know what the source material, if any, is, but Phil Robinson (Field of Dreams) is currently mentioned as the screenwriter. That could be interesting!

    So the obvious question now with something like this is what actor will portray the legendary crooner? Or might it be a few different actors, seeing as Sinatra's career spanned five decades? I can't think of anyone who could pull it off. Leonardo DiCaprio's name is being thrown around as a candidate, and because he is currently Scorsese's celluloid alter-ego/muse, it would appear to be a possibility. I'd say the casting of the lead part would present one of the biggest challenges to making the film. For example, it doesn't appear as if anyone has even been cast in Chris Tucker's next film, Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra. I think it's best they get some unknown, but I'm just some guy in Nacogdoches, Texas. WTF do I know??

    So let's do a brief review...who has portrayed "The Voice" before?

    Philip Casnoff did a really great job in 1992 playing the young crooner in the mini-series Sinatra. He was handpicked by the series' producer, Tina Sinatra, for the role. And although not obvious in this clip, he had quirks, like the thing Sinatra would do occasionally with his lower lip, down pat:

    Dennis Hopper, in The Night We Called It a Day, a.k.a. All the Way (2003), captured the sort of creepy, menacing vibe Sinatra could give off during his last couple of decades, and may have proven that an Italian doesn't necessarily have to do it.

    Speaking of having a creepy, menacing vibe, there was James Russo's great interpretation in the Frank, Jr. kidnapping comedy, Stealing Sinatra (2003).

    The late, great Phil Hartman just nailed the cliched impression my g-g-generation had of the white toupe wearing, omnipresent tuxedo clad, mafioso thug relic/anachronism:

    But, by far, my favorite impression of Frank Sinatra so far was done by a Scorsese alum, Ray Liotta, in The Rat Pack. He got to play Frank at the same point in his life as Hartman did, and he got to play Sinatra at perhaps his most swingin' period, during the heyday of the Summit. Now, I never actually believed he was Sinatra (unlike, say, Val Kilmer as Mr. Mojo Risin' in The Doors), but he has done the best job of coming close to Sinatra of what I've seen, so far:

    Whoever it turns out to be, GOOD LUCK, Jack!

    May 12, 2009

    A Where Are You? sampler

    Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to -- Si-na-tra-land...

    Based on the fact this is a photograph taken in March 1956 of the first recording session held in the newly constructed Capitol Records "Circular Tower," and Frankie is conducting the orchestra, I'd say this is a session for the Frank Sinatra Conducts Tone Poems of Color album. And since Nelson Riddle is in the hizouse (just under Frank's left armpit), I'd guess the song being recorded is Riddle's contribution to that album, "Gold." But I'm struck at how nonchalant the crooner seems to be about revealing to all involved his thinning hair, a subject about which he was no doubt touchy.

    I mean, my God, he practically extended the fashion of men wearing hats for at least another decade (until The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan) due to his "need" for them. The cover art for Where Are You? was clearly painted from a photograph taken at this recording session. Again, I find it to be so revealing of the singer's mood at the time that he allowed this to be used as the cover. He must have been in one of his emotional troughs.

    The first album Sinatra recorded (April 10-May 1, 1957) at Capitol without Nelson Riddle, as well as the first he recorded in stereo, Where Are You was one of four classic downbeat ballad albums he made between 1955 and 1959 (In the Wee Small Hours, Where Are You?, Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, and No One Cares).

    Ladies and gentleman, the lush strings of Gordon Jenkins:

    "Where Are You?" (Harold Adamson, Jimmy McHugh)

    "Maybe You'll Be There" (Sammy Gallop, Rube Bloom)

    "Maybe You'll Be There" was a song Gordon Jenkins had much experience with, as he and Orchestra released a version in 1948, which lasted 30 weeks on the chart, peaking at #3. The 1948 version was Jenkins' first charting record.

    "Lonely Town" (Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, Adolph Green)

    New York, New York, or a village in I-o-way (I love that)
    The only difference is the name
    If you're alone, whether on Main Street or on Broadway
    If you're alone, they are both the same
    A town's a lonely town
    When you pass through and there is no one waiting
    there for you
    Then it's a lonely town

    In all it's sturm und drang heaviness:

    "I'm a Fool to Want You" (Frank Sinatra, Jack Wolf, Joel Herron)

    Nice job on the video!

    "I Think of You" (Jack Elliot, Dan Marcotte)

    Trek lives!

    Because a couple of people may be slightly curious as to my feelings about the new Star Trek movie, I'll do a short post about it, rather than a long, point-by-point review. Basically, I was not disappointed. It was way better than The Phantom Menace (thank God!). Wouldn't Gene Roddenberry be thrilled? The film was rather stirring, at parts, and I only got truly choked up, once, right at the very, very end....I, as any Trek purist worth his or her weight in dilithium crystals should, have major issues with some of the tinkering around the with the mythology, but, oh well. Damn the torpedoes, and full speed ahead!

    May 11, 2009

    The sun goes down in Eagle Lake

    This weekend, I visited Eagle Lake, the place where my parents met in high school.
    eagle lake depot
    eagle lake city hall
    Eagle Lake City Hall, c. 1926

    wintermann warehouse
    old gas station in eagle lake
    garage view of eagle lake service station
    old gas station and eagle stop
    the farris hotel
    farris hotel at evening
    across the tracks from the farris hotel
    buildings along booth drive, evening
    evening street view along south mccarty avenuetaco tony's sunset
    taco tony's at sunset