Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dr. Madblood – Still Crazy After All These Years

Jerry Harrell as "Dr. Madblood"
I have always been a fan of monster movies. Having grown up in the olden times before the internet, even before VCRs, it was difficult to get my monster movie fix. There were three options,  number one was to wait for a movie to play on TV,  the second option was to see it first run in a theater and third was by attending a film festival or science fiction convention (these were the days before the horror-con). The television was always my first and best option because of cost (free to me, thanks' Mom) and accessibility. Each week I would pour over the new TV listings hoping to find a movie that I had been pining to see on that week's schedule. I had books and magazines, "Famous Monsters of Filmland" in particular,  about monster movies and the images and titles burned into my brain like myths and legends and I had to see every one of those flicks no matter how bad they were. When I was ten years old, I once stayed up until 1:30 am to watch the "The Giant Gila Monster", a film so bad and unintentionally campy that it might be worth watching the trailer on Youtube, but not the entire film (unless you've never seen it). So against this adverse backdrop, it was with much joy when I discovered the local NBC station had a regular Saturday late night horror film show called "Horror, Inc." that showed a steady stream of Universal monster movies. It was a simple show with a basic opening video of a side shot of a coffin slowly opening and a hand creeping out with the title supered over and then to the movie, but you never got to see who was getting out of that coffin. Fast forward a few years and my family had moved to Norfolk, Virginia where I quickly found a local TV horror film show called "Dr. Madblood's Movies" which featured a host of character's and involved skits that were intercut through out the entire main movie. I felt as if I had stumbled onto some secret club for nerds, back in the day when it wasn't cool to be a nerd. The show was irreverent and hip, but still paid respect to the movies and actors of the genre and I was hooked.
My autographed Madblood Mini-Con souvenir from 1978

In the summer of 1978 came a fateful Saturday in July when Madblood fans congregated for the first time at a "mini-con" (small convention) on the second floor of "The Magic Shop" (head shop in the front, real magician's props in the back) on Granby Street in downtown Norfolk. It was a fine event, with all the cast members there to sign autographs and they even showed a twenty minute Super8 reel from "The Creature From the Black Lagoon" in 3-D! The most important thing that happened that day was I found my tribe, a group of people that had the same passion for the weird stuff. I made friendships that day that have endured through the years, particularly my friend Colin. When we were teenagers, we'd take turns sleeping over on Saturday nights so we could stay up and watch Madblood and laugh together. These days we still get together for "Bad Movie Nights", and have a world of monster and sci-fi movies to pick from through Netflix and Amazon streaming, often hunting down movies we've been dreaming of seeing since the old days. We no longer have to stay up until midnight on a Saturday and Dr. Madblood only comes around once a year now, but the laughter and camaraderie are the same and it doesn't get better than that.

You can catch “Dr. Madblood’s Halloween House!” Saturday, October 26th at 10:30 PM Eastern Time on local public television station WHRO-TV and streaming live on the internet at http://www.whro.org/home/html/drmadblood/.

Here's an article that I wrote for the October 2013 issue of VEER Magazine. This is the "Director's Cut" version of the article and runs a good three hundreds or more then the print edition. Enjoy.

Dr. Madblood – Still Crazy After All These Years

I saw my old Doctor
On the tube last night
He was so funny
I just had to smile
He had that same wacky crew
That has been making me laugh
For all these 38 years
Still crazy after 38 years…
(With respects to Paul Simon)

            My old doctor would be none other than Dr. Maximillian Madblood and he still does make house calls, though now it’s only once a year around Halloween. For thirty-eight years Jerry Harrell has been donning the good doctor’s lab coat and shaggy, gray wig to host a horror movie program called “Dr. Madblood’s Movies”.  Through the many years and television stations, the show has also been called “Dr. Madblood’s Night Visions” and this year’s special is “Dr. Madblood’s Halloween House Special” (airing Saturday, October 26, 2013 - 10:30 p.m. WHRO-TV). 
            But wait, I can see that some of you are confused.  In this high-speed, digital, streaming to my smartphone YouTube era, what is a “Horror Movie Host”? Why would a horror movie need a host? Is that like a commentary track or something? I am glad you asked. See, once upon a time, there was no Internet or smartphones or even VCRs (those videotape machines before DVDs. Ask your Dad about it.), so if you wanted to see a particular movie, then you caught it in the theater or at a film festival or you waited for it to play on TV and then you had to watch it when it came on because there was no way to record it. Shocking I know, but true, things were much harder back then, for example, most homes only had one telephone and you couldn’t play “Angry Birds” on it, though I knew a kid that could play the theme from M.A.S.H. on a push button phone, but that’s another story.  In an effort to boost ratings and give underworked weathermen something to do, television stations added hosts to their late night horror movie shows. The format was simple, the host often dressed as a vampire or ghoul would introduce the movie, maybe provide a few tidbits of background information and mix in a bad joke or two. The first hosted horror movie show, “The Vampira Show” appeared in the mid-1950s and featured a shapely vampire woman played by Maila Nurmi. Vampira became nationally known and even later had a role in the Ed Wood cult classic “Plan 9 from Outer Space” .  The format was a ratings winner and became something of a phenomenon through the 1960s and 1970s spawning such popular hosts as Zacherley and Elvira Mistress of the Dark.
            Madblood began in 1974 when Jerry Harrell was working at WAVY-TV 10. He and his partner, Mark Young, began brainstorming an idea for a horror movie show to be hosted by a character called, “Dr. Madblood”. A curious name and interesting origin as Jerry tells it;

“I have since the age of about twelve, been a serious student of the magical arts. There was, a very long time ago, an item called the “Madblood Rose”. It was a magician’s prop that was an ‘appearing rose’ and Madblood Roses were very highly thought of among professionals. When I needed to come up with a name for the character, Madblood came into my head from having had some of those roses as a working magician.”

            Originally, Dr. Madblood was to be the Dr. Jekyll half of a character with the Mr. Hyde half to be played by Mark Young as a game show host! Although it was a funny idea, the pair understood the joke could not be sustained, so they kept the mad scientist, Dr. Maxmillian Madblood and Mark Young played his assistant “Volley”. The first show aired on November 4, 1975 on WAVY-TV 10 and featured the 1944 Universal classic, “House of Frankenstein” starring Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr. Viewers were encouraged to call in and answer a trivia question and the station receptionist was quickly overwhelmed. Come Monday morning, Jerry found out that the final caller count topped four hundred and Madblood was made a regular part of the weekly schedule following some new comedy show called “Saturday Night Live”.  Dr. Madblood took the basic horror host formula to a new level with full-blown storylines, often satirizing popular movies of the time like “Star Trek The Motion Picture” and “Star Wars”.  These tales played out against the backdrop of the dilapidated, old Madblood Manor on Idle Hour Road in Pungo, Virginia, in reality a Monty Pythonesque cardboard cutout against a painted background.
            Through the years, Madblood Manor has hosted a bizarre cast of characters played by friends and colleagues. I asked Jerry what has favorite thing about doing Madblood is and he said, “People ask me why we’re still doing it after all this time and it’s because it gives me a chance to get together with all these people.” 
Mike Arlo with Dr. Madblood
Mike Arlo, local celebrity DJ from FM 106.9 Classic Rock has been playing popular regular characters, “Count Lacurda”, “Kid Exorcist” and “Dusty the Cropduster” since 1976. In 1989,  “Nurse Patience Dream” played by the lovely Penny Marcialis joined the gang. Carter Perry started playing “Ernie” one of the monsters that live in the basement of Madblood Manor, in 1977. He also serves behind-the-scenes as sometimes producer, director and special effects artist. He shared this scary tale from the set:

“For a while at WTVZ we would try to rattle the lady who was handling the audio by saying weird things during mic checks. After a quick dinner of a new york hot with chili and onions, putting on the Ernie mask and waiting, I decided to belch my mic check. The mask filled up fast.”

Craig T. Adams plays the other basement monster, “Waldo” and characters “Dr. Roach” and “Uncle Felonious” and also is the voice of “Brain” (a sponge in a bowl).  Craig and his wife, Debra Burrell own “Fuzz and Stuffing Puppets” and it was their puppeteer skills that brought them into the Madblood fold:

“In 1979, a friend of ours introduced me to Jerry Harrell. I took a bunch of puppets to the meeting and a year later, we were asked to be on the show and bring our sci-fi themed puppets, for a spoof of "The Empire Strikes Back". I was also asked to do a space bounty hunter character, Bubba Fat, and something about the voice I used resulted in my being asked to join the company as the new voice of "Brain”.

Debra Burrell continues to serve behind-the-scenes as either (or both, depending on the situation) “Continuity Goddess” or “The Ninja Script Woman of Death.”  She got to get in front of the camera once:

“… I did get to play an evil nurse. Well, the evil incarnation of the nice nurse. Patience Dream accidentally ingested some “Pretty Mean Stuff” (PMS, get it?) and turned into the evil nurse Edie Hyde. That script was written by my darling husband, but I actually begged for that role. It was so much fun.”

There are many more crazy characters that have appeared through the years and a complete list can be found on Dr. Madblood’s web site (www.madblood.net). 
            Anyone familiar with Dr. Madblood will immediately think of the striking, psychedelic music from the show’s opening often referred to as “Dr. Madblood’s Theme”, but in reality the song is “Green-Eyed Lady” by the band Sugarloaf.  Harrell first heard the song one day while driving to work and decided to try it out and the music proved to be a perfect fit. About a year after using the theme, Harrell got a call from Jerry Carbetta himself, Sugarloaf band member and the song’s co-writer. “I assured him that we were paying the proper licensing fees,” Harrell told me Carbetta said, “…No, that’s fine, I just wanted to check and see if that was the case.”
            The story for this year’s show is pulled straight from the headlines and tells the tale of “P. Bradley Botts”, a billionaire, tech guru, played by local actor Terry Jernigan, who wants to move his data storage from the cloud into the swamp and needs to buy Madblood Manor to accomplish the task. The good Doctor has no interest in selling and the drama begins.
            This year’s movie is “The Satanic Rites of Dracula” (1973) the last Hammer Production to feature Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in a story set in 1970s swinging London that features a devil-worshipping ceremony and motorcycle chases mixed in with the usual vampire antics. There is one scene with some nudity that Jerry assures me has been creatively dealt with by inserting Waldo and Ernie at key moments.
            In all the thirty-eight years that Madblood has been with us, I asked Jerry if he had a favorite memory from doing the show:

“A story that I’ve never told anybody before, is when I was doing the show on WAVY, Frank Gorshin was appearing at a nightclub in Virginia Beach and I went out to see him. I was sitting in the audience and Frank Gorshin says, ‘I was watching TV last night and there was this guy on there who was really funny and he was going Li-Dee-Di-Dee-Di!’ and I thought ‘I’m sitting in the audience and Frank Gorshin is doing me!’”

You can catch “Dr. Madblood’s Halloween House!” Saturday, October 26th at 10:30 PM Eastern Time on local public television station WHRO-TV and streaming live on the internet at http://www.whro.org/home/html/drmadblood/.

Dr. Madblood on the web:

Me, my wife and Dr. Madblood from the 2012 Halloween show

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Can Refrigerator Magnets Defeat Domestic Violence?

I am running in a 5k race this Sunday that is a fundraiser for Samaritan House, which is a worthy charity that helps victims of domestic violence and families at risk of becoming homeless. Full disclosure, my wife works part-time at Sam House, so we often participate in their fundraising events. In recent years, government funding has been becoming less available, so charities like Samaritan House are struggling to find money to help their clients.

Last year was the first time I ran a 5k of any kind and I enjoyed the atmosphere and sense of purpose. It felt good to give back to the community. This year I decided to try and raise extra funds on top of what I have contributed. I've built a pretty decent social network and want to see if I can use it to educate and amplify for this cause. My goal is $500. I am suggesting a donation of $10, with the hopes that I could get fifty people to come through. So far, I am 60% of the way there. I hit on the idea to provide an additional incentive and offer up these two groovy, vintage Kan-Kan Studio (my old studio name from the 1990s) fridge magnets that I recently dug up. Here's the deal; who ever makes the largest contribution, will get their pick between the two. I'll do a drawing among the $10 or more donors for the other one. A mere ten bucks will get you a chance to own one of these beauties. It also feels damn good .

>>> Click right here to go to my Crowd Rise fundraiser page <<<<

Thank you!


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Exhibition bound - "Big Chief Bad Noodle"

I finished "Big Chief Bad Noodle" with a lick of acrylic paint and a touch of gold leaf; rubbing and distressing the surface to make it look like an artifact.

As a newbie woodcarver, I'm pleased with the results I got from using hand tools and the dremel.  I have a whole stack of cedar to play with and will get rolling on the next piece soon.

This piece was taken from a tiny sketch that I did a long time ago.

 I decided to not try and copy the original design exactly, leaving some room open for randomness. As you see, he was wider through the middle in the sketch and where the "brain" is was just a pattern that doesn't quite work. I also changed to the brain matter when I thought of the name.

"Big Chief Bad Noodle" will be hanging in the "Small Works - Miniatures by Tidewater Artists" at the Charles H, Taylor Center in Hampton, Va. from October 12th until December 1st. Last year I had a drawing in that show, "Edgar Allen Poe VS. The Brain Eating Microbe". I need to get started now on some work for next year's show as I am always procrastinating until the last minute.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Big Chief Bad Noodle

I am working on a new woodcarving, a small piece that might wind up in a local show if I can finish it by the entry date (some things never change). I'm using a combination of hand tools and a Dremel, playing around with different techniques and seeing what works. For the moment I am calling this piece "Big Chief Bad Noodle", but that could change. I still need to paint him and that could spark another name. I love the smell of fresh sanded Cedar wood.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How We Remember

I've tried to explain to a few friends what Vine is and they all have the same reaction, "Six seconds? That's it? What can you do with that?". Good question. I think six seconds is freeing because it breaks the expectation we normally have for watching a "short" video. It also occurred to me that our memories, well at least my memories, seem to happen in short chunks; chunks that might just be about six seconds long. When I call up a memory, often times it is a flash of an ordinary moment; walking down the street, waiting in line, a turn of the head and a smile. If I try to remember a long event, it still comes to me in little packets of memory. Vine videos replicate that.

Last weekend, my wife and I were hanging out on the patio listening to the new Steve Earle album and I happen to look straight up and saw some beautiful clouds floating overhead.


Friday, June 07, 2013

"The Struggle" - A Vine Stop Motion bit

"The Struggle", a short stop-motion animation starring "Frank" from "Sin City". :) OK HW

Six Seconds on The Vine

This morning, a friend of mine posted this link;


on a well-used social media web site. I instantly fell in love with these imaginative and lyrical very short, just six-second animations created through a new (to me) app called Vine. I was intrigued enough with the concept of what could be done with six seconds, that I downloaded the app and installed it on my iPod. Here's first attempt;

Believe me, I realize it is a very humble start, but what I liked about it was the immediacy of capturing a moment. The six second time limit and lack of customization options strips away the clutter and forces the creator to make something. Even if that "something" is bad or boring, it's over so quick, no harm done. The six second limit also makes the videos more honest in a way. I see that people are willing to share very mundane moments, which for me is where life happens. Most of our lives are made up by those "mundane moments", so what a fine gift to glimpse other folks slices of life and save some of my own.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Covering the Beer Revolution

Sometimes work finds you. Usually when you already have more then enough to do. I was in just that state of heightened activity when my old friend, Jeff Maisey, owner/publisher of VEER Magazine approached me to create an illustration of George Washington raising a pint for the May issue. "When do you need it?" I asked him. "I don't need it until May second. That gives you plenty of time". "I'm leaving for Scotland on April twenty-fifth, so I'll have to have it to you by the twenty-fourth". And so it began.
Jeff's idea to have Washington raising a pint came from another venture of his, a new web site promoting Virginia Craft Beer, and with Virginia being strong in the "Founding Father's" department and George being such a recognizable figure, it was a natural. I decided to take a pop art approach to the piece, with bold colors, heavy lines and starburst background. Jeff approved my concept and I was off and drawing. I only had to reach into my pocket and pull out a dollar bill to use as reference for my portrait. I also served as my own hand model and used the camera built-in to my laptop to shoot a few images of my hand holding a pint glass.

I decided the final work would be done as a vector image in Adobe Illustrator, so that I would have maximum flexibility with color and scalability. I scanned in my drawings, George and the hand holding the pint were separate pieces and placed them in my Illustrator document. I tried the auto-trace feature on my scans, but my first drawings of George were too rough and I couldn't get the look I had in mind, so I created a larger, cleaner drawing of George (shown above) by doing a quick tracing over a blown-up image from the dollar bill and finishing details by hand. This image yielded better results with the auto-trace. I cleaned-up any unwanted artifacts and modeled the mouth into a smirk. All the coloring was done on separate layers above and below the outlines using the paintbrush tool controlled via mouse (next time I'll have a Wacom tablet). I finished the illo with the starburst background and sign plate with the tagline, "a revolution is brewing" and delivered my files via dropbox. In the final printed version, they added the Virginia Craft Beer title. The printed issue is available in the Tidewater region of coastal Virginia through the month of May.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Little Sketchbook

My last post was about a drawing that was the final drawing in this little sketchbook. The first drawing was done August of 2008 and was a study of an Egon Schiele painting. The last was the sketch I did of the Oscar Kokoschka sculpture , "Self-Portrait as a Warrior" in January of 2013. It took me four and a half years to complete this little book. It's dog-earred and heavy with ink now and I'm glad to reflect on the journey that it documents. This little visual journal has helped me reconnect with making art and though it has been a slow process, it's been worth the time. Part of the effort was regaining confidence in my ability to create art that has some value and meaning to me. Another part has been to spend time gazing with loving intent at art objects that inspire me, in this case primitive art. There's an unself-consciousness to primitive art that I envy and admire. The fierce, powerful shapes hold a magic that I don't often recognize in contemporary art. I hope by inscribing them again with hand and eye, that I might invoke some of their mystery.

The first drawing that I posted from this book was a portrait of Luis Buñuel. I drew him because I love his quote, "Thank God I'm an atheist". Some other drawings that I posted from this book included; a portrait of the surrealist Oscar Dominguez, an Edgar Allen Poe, an African Akan sculpture, another African mask, this time from Basonge, Zaire,  and a Mexican primitive piece, Tlaloc, the God of Rain. There were other posts from this book. If you click the "art" tag it will sort out some of them.

Now I need pick a new sketchbook to start on. This time I think I'm going to go larger.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Expressionist-Beatnik Connection

My latest drawing is of a sculpture by the Austrian Expressionist artist, Oscar Kokoschka titled, "Self-Portrait as a Warrior". It currently resides in the Boston Museum of Fine Art. I chose to draw this piece for several reasons.

First, I love the shape and power and emotion of this sculpture. Even though it's suppose to be a "Warrior", rather than looking fierce, I think he looks frightened. The second photo is of the original work (Courtesy of a blog called "Tall Tales From the Traveling Thornberries"). The second reason I picked it was it reminded me of the  underground comix artist Mark Marek who did a book called Hercules amongst the North Americans. The third and finally motivation was I think there is more then a passing resemblance to Jack Kerouac's running mate, Neil Cassidy; hence the "Beatnik Connection".
The coincidence is a bit uncanny as Kokoschka's sculpture was done decades before Cassidy was even born. Beat writing certainly have an expressionist feel.

This drawing finally completes a sketchbook that I've been working in for way too long. Here's the full shot of the drawing.


Sunday, January 06, 2013

I'm a Monkey, baby!

I saw this monkey mask at an exhibition at The Charles H. Taylor Art Center in Hampton, Va and took a picture. It's a simple, decorative piece, not a "real", "danced" mask. Even so, I like the clean shape of the face and the hair lines and the button eyes. I forgot to record any information about where this mask came from or who made it, so I did a web search for "African Monkey Masks" and I found that this is likely to be a mass produced mask from Indonesia. That's alright, it's still a cool looking mask and I enjoyed drawing it.