1. Original “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” Concept Art Discovered!

    WELL, here’s something that’s sure to be of interest to you, because why else are you reading this?

    Everyone’s favorite 161, 210, 192, 154, and/or 182 minute comedy from 1963, “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” was originally called something else entirely! And also had different movie poster art! Or concept art or something. Sure, why not?

    And, of course, we’re all familiar with Jack Davis’ iconic movie poster art from the film. Can we get a shot of that, please? The poster from the film…? Hello…! The poster from the film, please…?

    Okay, obviously I’m going to have to go and snag it off someone else’s website. Excuse me a moment.

    …And I’m back. Here we go:

    There it is; we all remember that, right? Ol’ Jack managed to cram everyone from the film – well, save for Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, Abbott and Costello and the Ritz Brothers – into that mob shot there. Unfortunately, because of this oversight – not his fault, either – apparently when he got the assignment, the fax cut off on the third page of the list of the cast, so he didn’t even know they were supposed to be included – because of this mishap, let’s call it, it changed the film entirely.

    At the time, movie poster paper was more expensive than film stock (remember, this was 1963!) and it was deemed too costly to redraw the poster with the missing cast (Adobe Photoshop still three years away!), so it was decided to simply cut Lucy, Jackie, Bud, Lou, and whatever the first names of the Ritz Brothers are – I’m not bothering with Wikipedia, it’s quarter to two in the morning – it was decided to cut their scenes from the film. And burn the negatives, so no record of them ever having been in the film exists. Also, swear the rest of the cast to secrecy under penalty of being forced to play a telephone repairman in an increasingly lousy 1970s sitcom starring a woman about whom my grandmother used to complain “Who the hell told Linda Lavin she could sing?”

    But someone talked, thank you, Marvin, and I have it under good authority that their scenes comprised the funniest additional two hours, fifty-six minutes in the entire film that you’ll never have to sit through at some artsy movie theater in Santa Monica with an audience comprised of a bunch of people on the very fringes of the entertainment industry who all seem to know each other. …Wait, wait…where the hell was I going with this?

    Oh, yeah, the original concept art.  Or movie poster or something. Anyway, so recently, I was going through the personal papers Frank Capra left to the Los Angeles Valley College’s film archives (essentially one slightly crushed banker’s box) for some vague project I told them I’m working on, and managed to sneak out a bunch of stuff to list on eBay (Shhh! But be sure to bid!).

    Anyway, this was stuck to the back of a beefcake shot of Frank “Dr. Research” Baxter from the Bell Laboratory Science Series film “Our Mr. Sun.” I’m guessing it was misfiled, since it was Stanley Kramer who directed “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” though Capra also has that funny “K” sound at the beginning of his last name so that’s probably how it happened.

    Okay, okay, I’m getting to the artwork! Keep your shirt on! Jesus!

    Here it is:

    As you can see, originally, the film was originally going to be titled the decidedly more sedate “It’s a Strange World” and feature a much smaller – if not disparate – cast, if you don’t count the elephant. Wait, wait, can a “cast,” singular, be “disparate”? Okay, let’s say a disparate cast of characters. Does that work?

    Regardless, judging by the artwork (Not Jack Davis, surprisingly; eagle-eyed MAD fans will recognize it as Don Martin’s work), it would have been quite a different film indeed. The Chinaman on stilts, though…? That’s something I think we can all agree that the final version would have benefited from.

    Questions for Discussion:

    1) How many people have I pissed off with this one?

    2) Who might have been a better obscure comedy team to have included rather than the Ritz Brothers?

    3) Oh, now who have I offended by implying the Ritz Brothers are “obscure”? Okay, yeah, I remember you from that screening in Santa Monica. You made sure everyone around you heard you say each line before the characters on screen did.  Lovely.

    4) Can you find at least two people in the concept art/recently discovered movie poster who also appeared as extras on “Jonny Quest”? (No fair checking IMDb!)

    5) Yes, I’m aware that Lou Costello was dead for four years by 1963. Get off my ass. Would it have been any funnier had I written “Bud Abbott & Stan Irwin”? Oh my God, you get that, don’t you?

    Posted by on June 14, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  2. Cereal Mascots!

    HERE’S one that even the breakfast cereal websites won’t touch.

    I hereby offer, for your looking-at pleasure, a box of Fruit Rings:

    Available at your local Dollar Tree, this sweetened multi-grain cereal with the taste of fruit looks good enough to eat!

    As for its mascot, a friendlier, funnier fellow we’ve never seen.  The perfect spokescreature for venerable Fruit Rings, you’ll agree.  But wait…!

    Let’s move down the aisle eighteen inches or so…

    And, brother, you’re not going to believe this!

    Yes! You’re saying exactly what I said!  “Do the Fruit Rings people know that Cocoa Rounds stole their mascot?”

    Ah ha, but how do we know that it’s not Fruit Rings who stole him from Cocoa Rounds?

    Clearly, we needed to get to the bottom of this.  So I had someone look into it and it turns out that both cereals are made – deep in South America’s cereal bowl, Argentina – by the same manufacturer! So there’s no copyright infringement at all! Call off your lawyers, Fruit Rings and Cocoa Rounds – you’re on the same team!

    So why the good goddamn couldn’t they have made the Cocoa Rounds guy brown or something? That’s what you or I would have done and we’d have been right to do it.

    Posted by on June 13, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  3. Lettuce!

    I WANTED to leave you with one for the weekend that would make you think.

    I was at the 99¢ Only Store again today. As my late wife used to say, “You can’t keep him out of there!”

    Christ almighty, how that used to piss me off when she’d say that. And to people we didn’t even know! The bank teller! She didn’t need to know my business. Or the ass who put the tinting on my car windows for $60 cash. (And then the next day I go through a red light, get pulled over, and the cop makes me peel the film off the front windshield right then and there or else pay a $300 fine. And three weeks later the rest of it started wrinkling and bubbling and coming off anyway. Sixty bucks shot to hell!)

    But somehow she works into the conversation to Mr. Window Tinter, “You can’t keep this one out of the 99¢ Only store!” (He did the job in the parking lot when we were shopping inside.) Thank God he didn’t speak English so he didn’t understand. But if I ever find him I’m going to take sixty dollars out of his hide and he’ll understand that. I think he had a baseball cap and dark hair.

    The point is, at the 99¢ Only store, they sell produce now, and today they were offering this:

    And as you know, I’m a pretty introspective person – always thinking.

    It occurred to me that this is a particularly odd brand name. And it makes you think.

    Earthbound Farm.

    To some, it would imply that most farms are just floating around unanchored to our planet, hovering just over the surface maybe, but this one is distinctive because it is in fact an earthbound farm; that is, it’s bound to the earth.

    And others might interpret it this way: This company sells produce that they grow elsewhere in the galaxy, but it’s all being shipped here. Therefore in transit, it’s earthbound.

    It makes you think, though, and every once in a while, that’s important.

    You know what’s also important?  Getting your feet checked regularly for Morton’s neuroma. My God, what I wouldn’t do to hear her say, just one more time, to some complete goddamn stranger, “The 99¢ Only store? Oh, you can’t keep him out of there!”

    But she’s gone.

    Well, that’s what comes of wearing cheap Chinese Crocs knockoffs.
    Holy crap, say that five times fast.

    Posted by on June 10, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  4. Shower Caddy!

    I HATE to ruin your day but this story needs to be told.

    A little less than four years ago I bought a shower caddy. It was expensive, too: $24.95. But I had one of those 20% off coupons that Linens-n-Things included in their flyers. So that brought it down to $19.96. Plus tax. (And brother, do they ever shaft you with the sales tax in California, hooo-whee!)

    Why on earth would I pay enough money for a night on the town on a shower caddy? Because it was stainless steel and guaranteed for life. Let me repeat that because it’s going to become important later: Guaranteed for life. I was also probably a little overwhelmed from votive fumes. (Their candle section was truly second to none.)

    As for “Guaranteed for Life,” this was an actual guarantee printed on the back of the paper that was stapled around the thing. If it ever got rusty, the manufacturer promised me they’d replace it.

    Okay, are you ready for this? The sense of angry indignation you’re about to feel on my behalf is quite justified. Quite justified indeed. Look:

    Ignore the mold in the grout on the left there. Also all the soap scum build up. (I let that thief Ildefonsa go two months ago after I discovered she was taking my beer cans out of the trash and turning them in for the redemption value.) I want you to focus on the rust.

    And to help you focus on the rust, we’re going in for – yes! – a closeup!

    Are you as disgusted as I am? Good.

    Now here’s what’ll further enrage you – and I want you good and mad. I save every goddamn instruction book, every guarantee, every bit of warranty information…

    …in this nice box that I even labeled with its contents. I specifically remember saving the damn shower caddy paperwork…

    …but now I can’t find it! (Probably Ilda again. Oh, don’t worry, I called Immigration.)

    So unless one of you steps up to the plate here, I am royally screwed. The damned caddy rusted and those pricks owe me a new one but I have no idea who made it. And oh yes, I already talked to my attorney about dragging Linens-n-Things into this for a quick five figure settlement, but that’s not what I’m after. Plus he told me to forget it because they’d filed for bankruptcy shortly after I bought this thing. (Coincidence? Hmm.)

    Here’s the deal: Among the tens of thousands of regular readers of this blog, odds are a few hundred of you own this same model of shower caddy. The first one who gets me the name of the company, as well as your paperwork which I presume you saved (a scan is useless, you’ll need to send it to me via certified mail), gets his (or her, ladies) name mentioned in a future blog post!*

    On your mark…Get set…Go find that warranty information!

    *Upon receipt of new caddy or satisfactory financial restitution from manufacturer.

    Posted by on June 9, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  5. The Cooler Stool!

    HERE’S a merry little caper I came up with just for you. Are you ready?

    In the paper the other day, I saw an ad for the Cooler Stool, sure.

    I have it on good authority that it can also be used by medical delivery services to keep a sample properly chilled on its way from the proctologist to the lab.

    But then it’s the Stool Cooler.

    Print this one out and keep it in your wallet for a fun alternative to the 75¢ tip you usually leave at Bob Evans.

    Posted by on June 8, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  6. Of Bees and Rebates: A Warm Remembrance of Nick Novotne

    AS LONGTIME READERS of this blog know, my father (retired but still going strong at 91!) worked for years as a master beekeeper.

    You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this.

    Well, before he was a master beekeeper, he was, of course, taken on as a beekeeper’s apprentice, or, as it is known in the guild, an apprentice beekeeper (and then later as a journeyman beekeeper). His mentor was the famous Nick Novotne whose name still generates a buzz (sorry!) among both keepers and bees.

    A gentle soul despite a lifetime battling Mother Nature’s most bloodthirsty predator, Nick had a soft voice, a relaxed, ambling gait, and fingers as big around as a man’s penis. When I was a boy, Nick had already retired from the bee game, but many was the Saturday when he’d drop by the house to talk bees with Dad, knock back a few, and compare bee bites (“war wounds,” they’d call them) with my old man.

    The thing about Nick was he’d never show up without a little something for me, and that something was usually a Maxwell House coffee rebate form from the coupon section of the paper and a few proofs-of-purchase. I’d send in the two UPCs from the label along with my name and address on the form and six to eight weeks later, voila, I’d receive, by mail, a check for a crisp one dollar bill.

    If you don’t think that means much then you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a boy. Back then, every red-blooded American boy loved getting mail, and in this particular case I was no exception. The check was beside the point – especially since it was no longer negotiable once I added a bunch of zeros to it with a green Bic Banana. What was important was getting an envelope with my name on it. Suddenly I mattered.  Me. It was me who mattered.  Me. Me.

    Nick’s been gone for years now, probably. I have no idea when he passed away. At some point a boy doesn’t care about getting mail anymore. For me it was probably around the time Star Wars came out, or the four months I spent in the hospital after eating three tubes of Super Elastic Bubble Plastic (It doesn’t taste good per se, but you just can’t stop.). So I guess he died sometime after that; I don’t know. If he was still coming around, I wasn’t paying attention. I could ask Dad, but I want to finish this thing tonight and it’s too late to call and ask. And if I did call I’d have to endure a two-hour rant about Nancy Pelosi.

    But if Nick was around today (and I don’t know that he’s not, but Jesus, he’d be like 109 or something), what he’d be doing is tearing these things out of the coupon section…

    …and giving them to me, regardless that he’d have absolutely no idea what they were for. Because if he was still alive at this point he’d probably be senile. And you can’t redeem these things. (Can you?) So they’re useless to me. (Unless you can redeem them. And has anyone tried using them as postage stamps? Does it work? Is it legal / illegal…? Let me know.)

    Furthermore, I can’t imagine that he’d be able to tear these out as nicely as I have without ripping the actual important part. Remember, he’d be like 109.

    Posted by on June 7, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  7. The Sunday Paper!

    IF THERE’S one thing that we can all agree on its how much time is wasted each weekend with the tedious, never-ending chore of reading the Sunday paper. It’s a thankless job, but it’s got to be done. I hear tell of those who are stuck at a Starbucks for hours – often with a girlfriend, goomah or, God forbid, wife – just trying to just get through this thing.

    I’m going to show you how to power through that son-of-a-bitch and be done with it so you can get to more important things, like sitting in front of the TV at home, trying to undo that ingrown toenail with an awl.

    Now if you have the misfortune, as I do, to live in the toilet that is Los Angeles, you’re stuck with the LA Times, which logically should be printed on cottony-soft two-ply. Though it is not.

    First, let’s take a look at this bad boy:

    Above: The Sunday LA Times with its requisite weekly hand-wringing front page sobfest about people who’ve made irresponsible life choices and now suddenly we’re supposed to not only feel sorry for them but take care of them. In this case the president of Yemen.

    Christ on a cracker, 486 pages! This is going to take forever! Or is it…? Watch and learn, pal.  Watch and learn.

    Front Section: News. You’ve already read it online, heard it on the radio, or watched it on TV.  Trash.
    Big 5 Sporting Goods Circular: Keep.
    Travel Section: You never go anywhere. Trash.
    Business Section: Okay there, Mr. Rockefeller, you’re not fooling anyone. Trash.
    Real Estate Supplement: In this economy? Trash.
    Vehicle Classified Ads: These still exist? In the age of AutoTrader.com, Craigslist, and that stretch of Los Feliz Blvd. between Western and the 5? Trash.
    Calendar Section: Trash.
    Mattress Store Flyer: Like you or I know anyone who buys their mattress new. Trash.
    Comics I Section: Read: Dilbert, Get Fuzzy, Pearls Before Swine, Bizarro, In the Bleachers, Frazz. Skip: Doonesbury, Lio, Candorville, Stone Soup, Non Sequitir. Then trash.
    Toys R Us, Dell Computers, Local Appliance Store, Camera Store and Cash for Gold Flyers: Trash.
    Coupon Sections: Hand to wife, significant other, or whoever you spent last night with and is still hanging around. Optional*: “Get clippin’, there, sweetheart!”
    *Dependent on presumed temperature of partner’s coffee.
    Official Vegas Guide to Summer: Hand to girlfriend.
    Old Navy Flyer: Well, you should know where I stand on Old Navy since that Tie Shorts debacle. Trash. (I admit I glanced at the madras shirts for a moment. Ultimately, I’ll stick with my ring tees. As a pal says, “Ring tees never go out of style.”)
    JC Penny Flyer: Wait, they’ve got better madras shirts for two bucks less than Old Navy. On the second page. Tear it out, hand scrap to wife, tell her you like green, and trash the rest.
    Lowe’s Circular: Keep.
    Sports Authority Flyer: Keep.
    RiteAid and Walgreen’s Flyers: Wife.
    Target Supplement: Glance at grill and patio furniture section, then trash.
    Comics II Section: Read: Zits, Mutts, Fox Trot, Marmaduke (Yes, Marmaduke, including Doggone Funny!), Jump Start, Classic Peanuts, Shylock Fox (mystery only), Blondie, Baby Blues. Skip: Prickly City, Home and Away, Drabb– You know what, I take that back. You’ll want to read all the comics, because God knows when the final nail is hammered into the newspaper industry’s coffin in the next six months or so, the only thing we’re going to miss is the comics.
    Best Buy Circular: Keep.
    Sears Shoe Circular: Shoe circular?! Would it have killed Sears to include some Craftsman tools in there? Trash.
    TV Weekly Lite: Trash. Unless you’re over 75 and this is the only reason you buy the paper. And believe me, if you’re over 75, this would be the only reason you’re buying the LA Times!
    Harbor Freight Tools Circular: Do I really need to tell you this? Keep! Keep!
    LA Times Subscription Card: Fold into paper airplane and sail into trash.
    Local TV/ Stereo Superstore Insert: Keep.
    Parade Magazine: Keep. Sir Walter Scott’s Questions About Celebrities That No One Actually Sent In is always good for a chuckle, and that Marilyn Bon Vivant gal makes you think.
    Arts & Books Section: Tear off last page with crossword puzzle, sudoku, and, yes, Ask Amy, trash the rest.
    California Section: Trash.
    Sports: Tear off Fry’s ad from back page.  Trash the rest.

    Now here’s the best part: This week’s Sunday paper comes with a great big brown paper shopping bag for OfficeMax that you’re supposed to bring to the store and cram stuff in it. But you’re going to use it to throw the rest of the paper away in. Ta da! Done. And in record time, might I add.

    By now you should be back in the car, leafing through whatever’s left  while laying on the horn for what’s-her-name to get her ass in gear and hurry up with that extra bear claw.

    Posted by on June 6, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  8. Creme-Filled Oatmeal Cookies!

    I‘VE got a real knee-slapper guaranteed to get you in good with the cute broad behind the counter at the package store where you pick up your forties on the way home from work every night.

    Here’s a box of Mrs. Freshley’s Oatmeal Cremes. Sure, you know the ones – those individually wrapped creme-filled cookies. Our kids live on these things, and I bet yours do, too. They’re cheap and they let you buy them with your EBT card. It’s a food you can feel good about.

    But how can they sell a box of eight for a buck at the local Dollar Barn?

    A patented Ted Parsnips close-up  holds the answer!

    Ha! Priceless!

    Posted by on June 3, 2011, 1:36 PM.

  9. Noisy Birds: An Update

    AS I told you last week, in addition to every other damn human-related noise I’m subjected to in this God-forsaken neighborhood, the wildlife has it out for me as well.

    And I thought it was bad when I wrote that first thing! It only got worse! Two days later I’m dealing with this:

    (I commissioned myself to update the picture from the first post.
    I’m also considering maybe getting one of my guns all inked up, so I sketched that in, too.)

    As you can see, the racket had gotten more than a little out of control. I could barely see myself glower anymore.

    And then!

    Then, the next day, it lessened by precisely half! Oh, it was still bad, but like I said, by half!

    How could this be? What happened?

    Well! I was in the backyard burying money in coffee cans as we all do at the end of every month when we’ve got some left over from the mortgage payment, when I saw this:

    As I live and breathe, right in front of me, at my feet, one of the very culprits responsible for the disruption of my peace and quiet!  And me with a sturdy shovel in my hands! (By the way, turns out it wasn’t a pterodactyl after all. Or “pteranodon,” you nitpickers. It was what I originally thought it was – a baby red-tailed hawk!)

    And what a baby! This thing was literally the size of a chicken! (Now here’s where I should have put a Toolie Bird by it for scale! But you don’t think about these things until it’s too late.)

    Its nest was at the very top of a tree that is easily 70 feet tall, if not more. And somehow it got from there…to the ground. I guess its first attempt at soloing didn’t quite go as planned. And it could no longer fly (if it had ever been able to).

    Here’s what’ll surprise you: As much as this thing and its still-screeching sibling had aggravated me – and brother, let me tell you, they aggravated the holy hell out of me – when I approached it, and it looked at me with those big raptor eyes, I melted. You would, too. I know you would.

    It was that moment when I finally understood how my friends with children felt when they saw their newborn babies for the first time.

    Anyway, the poor thing was obviously hungry and as much as I would welcome any excuse to knock off a few squirrels around here to feed it, I don’t need to give the neighbors reason to get up another petition.

    So I improvised with what I had in the house (Thank God I had the foresight to buy all that leftover Easter candy from three nearby Walgreens a few weeks ago!) and I’m pleased to say that my new friend Jellybeans is doing great.

    I take him (Or her. Who the hell knows?) with me everywhere, tethered by a short length of sturdy rope, just like that French kid did with the red balloon in the movie of the same name. So I’m currently working up a treatment about the experience and am hopeful that Hollywood will soon come knoc–

    Oh for God’s sake I called a wildlife rescue organization and they picked it up.  Damn bird’s fine.

    Posted by on June 2, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  10. 10 Foods from the 99¢ Only Store That Are Way Ahead of the Curve on That Whole “Retro Package Design” Thing

    EVERYTHING old is new again, and you know that if you’ve bought Cap’n Crunch, Doritos, or Hostess Cupcakes lately. They’re among an increasing number of products decked out in “vintage” packaging aimed to appeal to nostalgic consumers. Here, let the Wall Street Journal explain it to you. (Just read the article or click through the slideshow. For the love of God, man, don’t watch the video! It’s four excruciating minutes of three people who apparently have never been on camera before talking over each other!)

    Quaker, Frito Lay, and Hostess, however, are merely jumping on a bandwagon driven by braver companies: Let’s take a trip down the aisles of our local 99¢ Only store  as we celebrate some of the greatest vintage-looking packages still available today from manufacturers who were so forward-thinking that they never changed their packages from whenever they first debuted.

    Or at least it looks that way.

    Many (but not all) are from small, private-label companies that probably contracted a graphic designer long ago to develop their packaging. They’ve seen no reason to update it, and frankly, you and me, we’re glad they haven’t.

    This is not “10 Packages Desperately In Need of a Makeover,” – no no no! Indeed, we love the way these products look, and we hope that, despite the infinite power and influence this website wields over all manner of society and industry, none of the companies making these foods decides to update their product’s packaging. Indeed: They look fine as they are. By the way, they’re all great products, all made in the good ol’ USA, and each and every one from companies worth supporting!

    And one last note: This is just the tip of the iceberg, brother.  I got another two batches to hit you with in the next week or so, and believe me when I say that the package design just gets more charmingly anachronistic as we go along!

    On with the show!

    This Sacramento Tomato Juice looks like it’s from… the late 1970s.
    Proof of Its Modernity: Website address on label.
    Where You’d Expect to See It: At your grandparents’ house in the Bloody Marys they’ll sip while watching “Crockett’s Victory Garden.”
    Buy It Because: “Sacramento Juices offer exceptional nutritional value and extraordinary taste. Enjoy Sacramento, and you’ll be serving healthy juices your whole family will love.” –from their website.
    • With its largely gold label with touches of green and a little silhouette cameo of a horse and buggy, this is a particularly handsome design.

    Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

    Posted by on June 1, 2011, 9:00 AM.

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