Here’s a collection of factoids, stories, and rumors I couldn’t squeeze into A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever (on sale now where ever fine books are sold).
— Sigourney Weaver and Meryl Streep both attended the Yale School of Drama in the early ’70s and a blurb in Spy magazine 20 years after the fact claimed these two students had beef; an anonymous source called it “an unspoken feud” but a feud nonetheless because Streep got all the play parts over Weaver; Weaver was apparently iced out for being too tall and too weird (it is said she sewed up her own “elf costumes” to wear around campus); as another source put it, “Sigourney and Meryl have never been friends…Sigourney has always been annoyed by Meryl’s great lady act”
— between 1974 and 1979, Ghostbusters composer Elmer Bernstein had a mail order soundtrack club where he re-recorded other people’s film scores; these re-recordings included Franz Waxman’s The Silver Chalice, Alfred Newman’s Wuthering Heights, and Miklós Rózsa’s The Thief of Baghdad; Bernstein’s son Peter he told me his father lost money on this project but Elmer didn’t care because he was doing it for the love of the music; Film Score Monthly released the entirety of Bernstein’s soundtrack club recordings on CD in 2006
— Walter Peck actor William Atherton used to claim that the philosophical teachings of Aesthetic Realism “cured” him of homosexuality; Atherton performed live testimonials about it around New York City and even went on “Donahue” in 1981 to discuss the “permanent” change he and hundreds of other followers made to heterosexuality (watch the episode here); obviously this was extremely controversial and many derided Aesthetic Realism as a dangerous cult; I’ve heard that Atherton himself eventually felt hoodwinked by the whole thing and disavowed it, which I hope is true; Aesthetic Realism still exists but they stopped promoting a “cure” for being gay decades ago
— in 1983, “Tonight Show” staple David Brenner filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros, Matty Simmons, Harold Ramis, and John Hughes for stealing the idea for National Lampoon’sVacation from a 1979 script Brenner wrote called Goodbye Grandma; Brenner claimed he submitted his script to “one or more” of the defendants beforehand and he sought nearly $40 million in damages; it’s unclear how this was resolved
— according to Ghostbusters editor Sheldon Kahn, the levitation rig used during Sigourney Weaver’s possession scene belonged to Ivan Reitman’s old pal Doug Henning; I attempted to confirm this with Henning biographer John V. Harrison (author of the awesome book Spellbound: The Wonder-filled Life of Doug Henning) but he wasn’t sure; I also e-mailed Henning’s widow Debby but she never responded
— the hare krishna acolyte seen at the end of Ghostbusters is a guy named Stephen Friedland who had a recording career in the 1960s under the name Brute Force; no less than George Harrison was a fan of Brute and tried to get his quasi-obscene novelty ballad “King of Fuh” out on Capital Records and EMI; when those labels blanched, the Beatles pressed up 2,000 copies of “King of Fuh” on their own label Apple; it is apparently the rarest Apple release in existence
— because every aspect of his life was covered by the press, I can tell you Michael Jackson saw Ghostbusters on July 5th, 1984 with his brothers in Kansas City; the Jacksons were in town to play the first three shows of their Victory Tour at Arrowhead Stadium; considering how much acrimony erupted between the Jacksons during this tour, it’s possible Ghostbusters was the last non-contractual outing they all enjoyed together
— Tracey Ullman was complaining about the scripts she was being offered during a 1985 interview with The Toronto Star when she went on a rant about Ghostbusters, calling it “childish” and “rubbish” and a “who’s got the biggest willie” movie; this culminated in Ullman saying that Harold Ramis was “as funny as anthrax”; in all my years of research, this was the meanest thing I ever saw anyone say about Ramis; comedy is subjective, of course, and I don’t find Tracey Ullman very funny (I like her singing though)
— Mel Brooks asked Ray Parker, Jr. to write some music for Spaceballs but Parker turned Brooks down because he was, and I quote, “too busy fooling around, doing something, chasing girls or waterskiing”; yes, he regrets this
— if you’ve seen the 1988 film Storm Warriors starring Mark Keyloun, Marlise Richards, and Gozer herself Slavitza Jovan, consider yourself lucky because it was never released; in fact, Storm Warriors was axed shortly after the trailer debuted at Cannes; the ad they ran in Variety for the film has me intrigued so let’s hope an unearthing occurs soon
— Ivan Reitman said once or twice that Julia Roberts auditioned for Ghostbusters II when it appeared Sigourney Weaver wouldn’t be coming back; Roberts was 21 at the time, so as a love interest for Bill Murray that was probably a little too Blame it on Rio
— in 1990, Dan Aykroyd had a project with Al Franken and Tom Davis called “Nixon in The Navy,” a five part comedy series about Richard Nixon’s military service; he imagined they’d put it on basic cable
— I wanted to interview the women who wrote the 1995 movie Casper for my book because I had questions about Dan Aykroyd’s cameo as Ray Stantz; they said no, we have nothing to say, it’s just a silly joke people blow out of proportion; that’s not a direct quote because they asked not to be quoted
— Ghostbusters: The Video Game mastermind John Melchior told me a little bit about working on Simpsons: Hit & Run, specifically that Hank Azaria was the easiest “Simpsons” actor to work with and that Harry Shearer threw a fit and walked out mere seconds into his first recording session when he saw a grammatical error in the script
Never mind the bollocks! I’ve appeared on two UK-based podcasts as of late to promote A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever. There’s a video component to both programs and that split screen technology really makes me feel like Bernard Shaw. On Ghostheads UK, I had a wonderful conversation with host Jamie Burns (and he hadn’t even finished the book yet!).
I had another wonderful conversation with Ben Veal on Good Journeys, a podcast of “inspiring stories” and “inspiring people.” I’ll try not to let that go to my head. Ben admitted he was jealous of the replica Vigo painting in my living room. Unfortunately I couldn’t put it behind me during the podcast recording in my bedroom because that thing is bolted to the wall.
Thanks again to all the UK Ghostbusters fans for taking the time to check out my book. I really appreciate it! By the way, my wife and I have been watching the old “Lovejoy” show with Ian McShane and it’s the perfect tonic for these troubled times. That Charlie Gimbert is such a scoundrel!
Transformers: The Movie — ridiculous gobbledegook or a tongue in cheek delight? A little of both! Become a JG2LAND PREMIUM subscriber for just $2 a month to unlock my full review of this ancient artifact as well as the rest of my beautiful elite bonus content.
“A Year at The Top” is a 1977 sitcom about two musicians who sell their souls to the Devil. It only ran for five episodes but its history is pretty wacky so you know I had to write about it. Become a JG2LAND PREMIUM subscriber for just $2 a month to unlock this piece as well as the rest of my bonus content.
My new book A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever was only released in the UK eleven days ago but already it’s sold out. It may have actually sold out well before the release date, as I’ve heard from people who preordered months ago and still haven’t received their copy. What can I say but thanks, UK! More books will wash up on your shores next month. I’m sorry they can’t get there sooner. Apparently the publisher sends them on a boat. Too heavy for a plane, I guess. At any rate, I appreciate your patience and hope it’s worth whatever wait you must endure.
Would you like to hear me talk about A Convenient Parallel Dimension on yet another podcast? You’re in luck. I was recently a guest on the Ghostbusters fandom podcast Extraplasm. Click here to listen to my chat with show host Jim Maritato. We chop it up about all sorts of stuff. And unless he cut it out, you can hear me rant about how John Landis should be in prison.
In a related story, I wasn’t expecting a single mention of Ghostbusters when I started Punk Paradox, the memoir by Bad Religion singer Greg Graffin, but that’s my fault for not remembering Bad Religion’s emblem (a black cross in a red circle with a slash through it). Graffin spends a few pages in the book discussing the creation of that emblem in 1980 and how prevalent the red negation symbol became thanks in part to Ghostbusters.
“It’s likely that our fortuitous association with this friendly red circle backslash helped to pave the way for our band’s logo over the years,” he surmises. “In America at least, I’m sure that the Ghostbusters symbol and the ‘No Parking’ graphic image helped to diffuse any possible antagonism from religious groups. We were never antagonizers — we were simply the antithesis of the symbol we were slashing: you won’t find religion in this house.”
I’m halfway through Punk Paradox and it’s tough to put down. I’ve been into Bad Religion since I was a teenager in the Freaking 1990s but I never took the time to learn very much about their history as underdogs in an underdog genre. I always assumed Graffin was more or less a good egg — thoughtful, principled, compassionate. His book confirms that. And he calls out bullshit when he sees it. Case in point: he really tears into Youth Brigade for all the baloney they put in their famous documentary Another State of Mind.
Another cool memoir I read recently is Bob Odenkirk’s Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama. Nothing about Ghostbusters in there that I can remember but plenty about how miserable he was writing for “Saturday Night Live.” Has anyone ever had a good time working on “SNL?” Anyone besides Kenan Thompson and Don Pardo?
Before I sign off, let me remind you that if you enjoy my writing and want to support me in a tiny, recurring way you can sign up for JG2LAND PREMIUM, the paid tier of this blog. A mere $2 a month unlocks super elite bonus posts (and helps support all the stuff I post for free). The most recent paid content was a piece I wrote about Wolfen. Click here, lay it down, and check it out. Then check out all the other bonus stuff, like the long thing I wrote about the KISS tribute album or my review of every “Faerie Tale Theatre” episode.
Can anything prepare you for a first time listen of The Transformed Man? As a forty-something already familiar with the rest of William Shatner’s career in kitsch and irony before giving this a spin, I will say no. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve heard his embittered take on “Rocket Man” or that logic-defying run through of “Common People.” Hearing 1968’s The Transformed Man after all that is like picking up the first Ramones album after Ramones Mania, which was absolutely my experience in high school. You have this kind of cutesy framework that’s obliterated by the raw element. Like, God, this might really be from another planet.
According to the text on the back cover, The Transformed Man came about because Shatner was enamored with a couple poems by Frank Davenport and wanted to bring them to life. Davenport’s work came to Shatner via a co-worker on “Star Trek,” Cliff Ralke. Ralke’s father Don, a music industry figure best known for helping launch Ed “Kookie” Burns, wound up producing The Transformed Man. Having an actor recite poetry and Shakespeare and even some pop music lyrics over an orchestra isn’t that bizarre conceptually, even for 1968. Of course, it’s not the material, it’s the delivery, and Shatner floors it the entire time. You know you’re in for the ride for your life from the get-go; the LP opens with a white-knuckle reading from Henry V that suggests Shatner was there to help the English seize Harfleur.
When Shatner does a whimsical dance through Cyrano, I laugh. When he is tormented by Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” my jaw is on the floor. This is just the first 12 minutes of The Transformed Man. Make it to the conclusive title track and you’ll be rewarded with one final dose of crazed conviction as Shatner recounts a baptism through nature.
“I became as a pure crystal submerged in a translucent sea and I knew that I had been awakened…I had touched the face of God!” Those final words are barked like a mongrel, and it’s interesting to juxtapose that against Shatner’s recent trip to stars. Did he touch the face of God? Did he even see God?
“All I saw was death,” he said of space’s infinite vacuum.
This review was originally published via The Classical Mess, a Substack I wasdoing a few years ago before I found out they gave money to bigots.
I’m not sure how well known Joe Franklin was outside the New York City media bubble. He hosted a talk show on WOR Channel 9 — “The Joe Franklin Show” — that ran from the early ‘60s until the early ‘90s. It was a low budget affair that still managed to get everyone from Salvador Dali to the Beastie Boys. Franklin might be best known for his cameo in Ghostbusters; he’s the media figure who asks Dan Aykroyd “How is Elvis and have you seen him lately?”
Joe Franklin loved to say that he invented the concept of nostalgia when he worked in radio in the 1940s because he was the only deejay playing records from 20 years earlier. They called him the Young Wreck With The Old Records, and Franklin coupled that schtick with a non-threatening, nebbishy persona. He addresses his ineffectual image in the prologue of his 1995 memoir, Up Late With Joe Franklin, one of the strangest celebrity tell-alls in history.
Franklin asserts that he harbors no anger or bitterness, despite having been “double-crossed and triple-crossed and deceived” during his many years in the business. “I have no nasty streak in me. I’ve got no vindictiveness, no revenge, no rage.” Franklin then writes about the handful of critics who gave him truly awful reviews. They all disappeared, he says, thanks to an unsolicited “benefactor” working on his behalf. Franklin paints this mysterious figure, who phoned him numerous times to explain what was going on, as a Don Corleone type. Franklin is very proud that the mafia might have been rubbing people who didn’t like him.
“Remember when they were messing with Wayne Newton how things ended? Wayne had to go out there on his own, a lone man, and confront the people who were making fun of him. I’ve never had to do that.”
This proclamation is disproven several chapters later when Franklin talks about his lawsuit against Uncle Floyd, a tv personality even more obscure than himself. Floyd had a variety show on a UHF station out of Newark; Franklin was lampooned on that show as Joe Frankfurter. “I love satire — except he got very vulgar,” Franklin explains. “He had four guys on with yarmulkes and Jewish accents, me with a Jewish accent. He had ‘guests’ on my alleged show blowing snot into a glass.” Woody Allen of all people convinced Joe to go after Floyd. “Joe, you gotta do it. You gotta sue him. This guy is gonna hurt you.” Can you imagine that diseased worm actually giving a shit about Joe Franklin and Uncle Floyd?
Most of Up Late With Joe Franklin is devoted to the celebrity interactions Franklin’s lengthy career afforded him. For reference purposes, one assumes, a notable figure’s name is often printed in bold typeface above a corresponding one or two paragraph anecdote. So it’s easy to flip the book open and find the spot where Mae West talks about her enema regimen or the passage that details Louis Armstrong handing out business cards with a picture of himself on the toilet. Franklin was most enamored with meeting entertainers of the 1920s, so guys like Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson get several pages of stories and praise.
Another inspiration from that era whom Franklin got to know was Rudy Vallée. “People forget that in his heyday, in 1930 or 1931, Rudy Vallée was bigger than Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen and the Spin Doctors combined,” he enthuses with not a single drop of irony. When Vallee uncovered his wife’s secret plan to poison him so she could run off with her lover, why, “[that story] was bigger than World War I and II put together.” Vallée and Franklin became palsy enough to start watching old movies together in Franklin’s basement. Joe dishes up some dirt on this hero — Vallée was apparently so cheap he’d tip waiters with fountain pens.
Joe Franklin has no problem using words like “fuck” and “sexy” in his book (“I loved Joan Crawford [and] I was always intrigued by her big sexy mouth”). However, when describing sexual encounters, he can’t say anything specific beyond “biological urge” or “biological need.” Marilyn Monroe had “a strong biological urge” that Franklin couldn’t ignore when they worked together one night on a manuscript. If you have trouble believing America’s most famous blonde seduced Joe Franklin, wait until the next page when he reveals that Jayne Mansfield extended her “smoldering touch” to his diminutive frame. Then, on the page after that, it’s Veronica Lake who’s in heat. “She threw herself at me, but I always refrained.” Franklin says he respected Lake too much but he also implies she was too old when her severe biological needs arose.
Franklin was married to a woman named Lois for long time despite the fact that she loathed his career and liked to smack her husband around (she ruptured one of his ear drums during one fight). Divorce was out of the question; Franklin was afraid it would somehow leave him emotionally shattered. “I’m a creature of habit,” he shrugs.
A lot of Up Late reads like Donald Trump tweets — self-aggrandizing, sometimes wounded, often nonsensical. Writing about Johnny Carson, Franklin brags, “Towards the end, when he did a thing with Christian Slater, he really gave me a big, big send-off. In his last six months he talked about me several times.” Eddie Murphy was on Franklin’s show once, but Franklin says “[Eddie] denies he ever made an appearance. That’s okay. He’ll live without me, and I’ll live without him.” Joe Franklin featured a young Garth Brooks on his show because he recognized this aspiring singer “had something special” even though “he was chubby [and] not especially sexy.”
Incredibly, Trump is one Big Apple fixture who doesn’t show up in this book, a volume that goes out of its way to clown former mayor Abe Beame and contains more than one reference to the Martha Washington Hotel. And aside from a singular photo with Dan Aykroyd, Franklin makes no reference to his appearance in Ghostbusters. Once you’ve satisfied Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, Slimer must seem like small potatoes.
If you enjoyed this piece, please consider subscribing to the premium version of JG2LAND. Exclusive content (like the lengthy history of a KISS tribute record or my look back at Gus Van Sant’s Psycho) can be unlocked for just $2 a month.
This review was originally published via The Classical Mess, a Substack I wasdoing a few years ago before I found out they gave money to bigots.
“By the way, if you listen to the very end of ‘She Bop,’ you’ll hear that Michael Jackson took the bass line and wrote ‘Bad’ from it. Right before he went in to record ‘Bad’ he sat behind me on an airplane with Emmanuel Lewis and he was listening to ‘She Bop.’ Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I’m very flattered by even the thought of that.”
This snippet from Cyndi Lauper’s eponymous 2012 memoir arrives in the midst of a lengthy passage about touring Romania in the early 21st Century. It’s not an isolated incident of narrative interruption. Turns out you can take the girl out of Queens but you can’t take the unpredictable tangent out of the New York storyteller. When Lauper mentions her home in Connecticut she confirms that it’s in the same area where that lady had her face ripped off by a chimp and she meditates on that for a few beats.
Michael Jackson isn’t the only superstar Lauper accuses of plagiarism in Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir. According to her, Bruce Springsteen lifted the template of her song “Sally’s Pigeons” for his Oscar and Grammy-winning effort “Streets of Philadelphia.” Lauper was less enthused with this theft and she has another Bruce anecdote where he acted coldly towards her at a party. Let’s get these two on “WTF” so they can hash it out.
Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir presents a familiar trajectory — hard scrabble upbringing, a years long “overnight” success, lonely times at the top, listening to 50 Cent while you drive your son to hockey practice. Lauper endured her share of abuse on the journey through celebrity, underscoring a real tenacity, and she’s candid regarding her own mistakes. The example springing to mind per the latter is, for lack of a better term, fucking insane: Lauper once referred to herself using the n word (with a hard “r”) during a record company meeting early in her career.
Lauper says she was referencing Yoko Ono’s controversial quote about women that employs the epithet and claims she “wasn’t sensitive” at that age to the “long history of abuse and slavery and horror” sewn into those six letters. I don’t buy the second half of this 70-year-old white woman’s defense but at least she’s not pretending she didn’t say the n word. And at no point does she use the “some of my best friends” crutch.
Did you know Cyndi Lauper had a recurring role on 1990s sitcom “Mad About You?” I didn’t. Lauper praises Paul Reiser as one of Hollywood’s true nice guys but says Helen Hunt was a little crazy with power. Specific examples are not provided, so the “Mad About You” historians have their work cut out for them.
The great Jancee Dunn co-authored Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir but, as noted, it doesn’t feel like much editorial work was applied. In addition to all the bizarre tributaries, the tone is inconsistent. Sometimes Lauper writes like a normal person and sometimes she lapses into the phonetic quack of a Bowery Boy. The latter is cute, though occasionally it obscures Lauper’s thesis on a given topic.
Was there friction between Lauper and Dunn? The copy of Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir I own is autographed by Lauper and when I received it the jacket was bent in such a way that Dunn’s photo was not visible. Let the conspiracy theories flow.
For a lengthy, uncensored history of the Ghostbusters films, who ya gonna call? A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever. Available in regular, ebook, or audiobook form. Click here or here!
BRAVE PUNK WORLD
My second book is called Brave Punk World: The Internat’l Rock Underground From Alerta Roja to Z-Off and it is now available for purchase. It’s about the development of punk rock in other countries. All the info you want / need about it is right here (click here!).
The Misfits Book
The soft cover of This Music Leaves Stains is available here. Get that sucker and learn all about New Jersey's greatest punk band! Click here to look at the corresponding photo tumblr and click here for the official F.A.Q.