“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.
This week A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever was released across the pond so I hope all the UK ghost heads are ready to check it out. Blackwell’s and Waterstones are just two of the fine UK retailers who carry the book. My apologies to anyone who preordered it from Amazon UK; for some reason, they are sticking to a release date of February 17th. Strike four thousand against the Jeff Bezos website.
Let me also remind you that the audiobook of Parallel Dimension as read by Tim Dixon is available via Google Play and Apple Books. Tim did such an amazing job and working with him was very cool. Thanks again, Tim!
So it looks like they’re gonna start filming another Ghostbusters movie pretty soon. This time I hope they bring back Janosz!
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.
Awooo! I wrote a long thing about Wolfen, the best of 1981’s werewolf bumper crop. Also, what are the best Howling sequels? $2 a month unlocks this essay plus all my other exclusive content. Bark at the moon!
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.
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Bloody Disgusting has published a very flattering review of my new book A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever. Ike Oden writes that ACPD is “the definitive, unexpurgated story of the beloved film franchise and its central players. Finally, ghostheads have their own gospel, a Tobin’s Spirit Guide of thoroughly researched and thoughtfully disseminated Ghostbusters history.”
Oden sums up the book as “an addictively written, utterly engrossing read, and an absolute must-have stocking stuffer for fans this holiday season.” Thanks! Although I don’t think the book will fit in a stocking. Maybe you should wrap it up with a nice ribbon.
Remember, if you buy A Convenient Parallel Dimension directly from the publisher right now you can save 35% off with the code 22JOYSALE. This is a cool deal. It saves you some money and ensures that absolutely no money goes to Jeff Bezos. Sale ends on January 6th, 2023.
Speaking of odious billionaire scum, Elon Musk was making it feel extremely gross to remain on Twitter so I deactivated my account. It’s a bummer. For all its pre-Elon problems, Twitter was tough to beat as a news aggregate. There were tons of people on there who clued me in on social issues that never got amplification anywhere else. It was an awesome comedy aggregate too. The hardest laughs in the past decade came from anonymous weirdos tweeting like they had nothing to lose. Most importantly, I met my wife on Twitter.
So Twitter was a valuable resource in those respects and it sucks that the world’s richest edgelord is tanking it because all his kids hate him and his all his ex-wives hate him and everyone sensible person in the world hates him because he’s perpetually full of shit and his cars keep murdering people. Just another reason this country needs a maximum wage. No one should be able to spend $44 billion on a utility just so they can treat it like a pile of Legos. Billionaires should not exist!
Meanwhile, the rest of us are just trying to afford groceries. That reminds me — if you enjoy my writing, please consider becoming a paid subscriber to this blog. For the nominal fee of $2 a month, JG2LAND PREMIUM unlocks a tier of exclusive content that’s continuously growing. Here are the pieces subscribers have enjoyed thus far:
Ass My Kiss (history behind KISS tribute album Kiss My Ass)
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Enjoy your holiday season and remember, the pandemic is not over. Please keep masking and avoiding large crowds. Let’s make 2023 the safest year yet. I mean, as safe as we can be in a country with no gun control.
The lore behind the 1994 KISS tribute album Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved is pretty wild. $2 a month gets you access to this important KISStory lesson plus all my other exclusive content! Wow, cool deal!
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.
The audiobook of A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever has been released! It’s available via Google Play (click here) and Apple Books (click here). Twelve engrossing hours narrated by the incredible Tim Dixon. What better way to drown out the ills of the world?
Of course you can still buy the silent, three dimensional version of ACPD and if you buy it directly from the publisher right now they’ll take 35% off the price with the code 22JOYSALE. Wow, not a bad deal. Click clicky!
The best deal of all is free, so ask your local library to get a few copies of A Convenient Parallel Dimension if they haven’t already. Support your local library! Support all libraries! They are vital to functioning communities!
Still on the fence about reading this book? Consider these critical appraisals. “A deeper dive into Ghostbusters than anything before,” says Chris Stewart, founder of long-running Ghostbusters news source Proton Charging. “I love this book like Winston loved New York!” raves Book Bits emcee Dave Kirby. Noted Ghostbusters fan / historian Alex Newborn also posted a very positive video review on his YouTube channel.
I’ve been on two podcasts to talk about ACPD — Episode 253 of People Are The Enemy and Episode 149 of The Hungry Trilobyte Podcast. Big thanks to Andy Mascola and Aaron Bossig, the respective hosts of these shows. Both are awesome dudes.
Well, that’s the update for now. Thanks to everyone for your interest. I hope bustin’ always makes you feel good.
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.