Out of a Mercedes Trunk and Deep Freeze

The story of how filmmaker Jeffery Haas brought the new Leon Russell DVD to life is as remarkable as the footage itself, which captures Leon at the height of his musical powers even as it shows the influence of TV and radio preachers on his stage patter. I’ve written about it in my latest OKLAHOMA Magazine column; you can read it here.


Most of us know Bartlesville’s Becky Hobbs as a country-music recording artist, songwriter, and playwright. In my OKLAHOMA Magazine column this month, Becky tells us about a not-as-well-known facet of her early show-biz, career, when she organized the first all-girl rock ’n’ roll group in Oklahoma — which later figured into her friendship with one of Hollywood’s most notorious pop-music figures.
Read all about it here.

A Shooting Star

My OKLAHOMA MAGAZINE column for August 2017 tells the story of actor Gar Moore, a guy from Chelsea, Oklahoma who became a matinee idol in Italy following World War II and, unfortunately, found himself unable to duplicate that success in his home country. You can read it here

Again, big thanks to Sandi Bible, Kristi Mariezcurrena, Connie McSpadden, and Meredith Walker for their help with this piece.


Highball_250Back in 1989, I wrote the teleplay for a made-for-TV movie called DAN TURNER, HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE, which ultimately played in prime time over some 200 stations via the old LBS network. You may have seen it. In 1990, it was released on VHS by Fries Entertainment (as, unfortunately, THE RAVEN RED KISS-OFF), and while it has yet to secure a DVD release, it’s been kicking around for some years on various cable-movie channels.
Initially, the powers-that-be wanted a contemporary setting, although Dan Turner — a long-running pulp-magazine character — would retain the qualities (or vices) on display in pulps like SPICY DETECTIVE and HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE during his 1930s-40s heyday. So I wrote the script that way, with a character right out of the classic hardboiled mold coming up against ‘80s types, including a metalhead cabbie.
Just about the time I finished the script, director Chris Lewis brought me the news that the backers had decided they wanted a period piece after all, so I spent a pretty frenetic week on deadline battling everything back to the 1940s, losing or transmogrifying a couple of characters in the bargain.
A few months ago, Bold Venture Press saw fit to print the original script, along with the pulp novelette it was adapted from and a new introduction, in a book called HOMICIDE HIGHBALL (the title of the original pulp story). Check it out online at www.boldventurepress.com or other outlets, including Amazon.
And while you’re there, you might want to look into THE TWILIGHT AVENGER RETURNS, a big book of 1930’s-style adventure that collects the first four stories artist Terry Tidwell and I did for Eternity Comics, back during the ‘80s black-and-white comics boom. There’s a ton of extras as well, all infused with a classic B-movie sensibility that’s thankfully shared by our publisher, Bill (The Mad Pulp Bastard) Cunningham at Pulp 2.0 Press (pulp2ohpress.com).
I’m very proud of both these books and feel that they provide solid entertainment value for fans of pulp literature and good old B-pictures. May I humbly suggest you check ‘em out?


On behalf of co-host Michael H. Price and producer Joey Hambrick, I’m proud to say that we will be presenting a new Forgotten Horrors Podcast on the 13th of every month. As is the case with the acclaimed Forgotten Horrors series of books, originated by Michael and George Turner back in the ‘70s, our podcasts focus on obscure, weird, and/or unheralded movies from all eras, as we keep in mind H.P. Lovecraft’s famous dictum about horror being where you find it.
For August: We take a good look at 1965’s Day of the Nightmare, an oddball thriller of the Psycho school that was released in two very different versions. It’s our 31st broadcast in the series, and they’re all available at no charge at forgottenhorrorspodbean.com or http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/forgotten-horrors-podcast/id446297655
Please give us a listen and let us know what you think. And, as always, thanks for your support. DayoftheN



Wes Craven The Man And His Nightmares

As Wes Craven’s most recent biographer, I was taken not only by his creative skill in coming up with new ways to scare us, but also by the spiritual qualities and conflicts that were often in play during many of his films. With all of that in mind, here’s something I wrote for the Tulsa World’s Jimmie Tramel when he asked me for comments following Craven’s passing:
It seems to me that the genius of Wes Craven lay in his ability to bring the terror closer to a viewer than ever before, using an innovative technique that’s often been referred to as “rubber reality.” Basically, this means that when you’re watching the action on the screen, you’re never sure if what you’re seeing is supposed to be taking place in the real world or the dream world. This intentional confusion of dreams and reality keeps you off-balance and skittish, pulling you into a weirdly intimate place where anything can happen — just as a dream does. I mean, what’s more intimate than a dream?
I remember the first time I became aware of what he was doing, and it chilled me to the marrow. It’s kind of a throwaway scene in 1984’s Nightmare on Elm Street, his breakthrough picture, in which the camera pans down a high school hallway, with kids going back and forth to classes — and there’s a goat, standing by a locker, with no one paying any attention. It was exactly the kind of thing you’d see in a dream, and I suddenly knew we were dealing with something new here, and that the ante had been upped for horror-film audiences.
To my mind, this approach was perfected in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare(1994), which I think is his best picture. In it, reality warps back and forth and back again, as he and his two Elm Street stars, Robert Englund and Heather Langenkamp, play themselves, haunted by manifestations of the roles they’ve played. It sounds confusing, but it’s freaking brilliant.
I should also say here that a tip of Freddy Krueger’s fedora needs to go not only to actor Englund, who helped make the Krueger character such a fright-film icon, but to Tulsa’s own Heather Langenkamp, who brought an immeasurable amount of charisma and likability to her roles in Craven’s two greatest films. (And yes, the Scream pictures were pretty terrific too, with Craven leaving behind the idea of rubber reality to explore the potential of self-reference, in which the characters in a horror film refer to characters in horror films. It was very clever, but I just didn’t think it was as effective as the approach he took in Elm Street and New Nightmare.)
I was delighted to be able to really dive into this stuff in my Craven biography, Wes Craven: The Man and His Nightmares. I would’ve been even more delighted if an event trumpeted by a Hollywood Reporter story back in the mid-‘80s had come to pass. It said that Craven’s next picture would be Old Fears, based on a novel he had just optioned. Old Fears was written by my friend Ron Wolfe and me, and while Craven kept it under option for a year or so and we cashed a couple of nice checks as a result, the film version never happened.
About 10 years after Craven took out the option, when Scream was getting ready to hit the nation’s theaters, I did an phone interview with him in my capacity as an entertainment writer for the Tulsa World. He was congenial and articulate, as he always seemed whenever I talked to him, and when I reminded him I was the co-author of Old Fears, he said, “Oh, sure. Did that picture ever get made?”
I wish it had. And I sure wish he’d made it.


imagePlease join Public Radio Tulsa’s Scott Gregory and me at 8 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 4, for the broadcast of our latest HIDDEN SIXTIES SUMMER SPECIAL. This is the one that computer problems sabotaged a couple of months ago when it was initially supposed to air; we are now assured those have all been fixed and we are cleared for takeoff.
As you may remember, this particular installment of our quarterly holiday series is a tribute to the Beatles’ Shea Stadium concert, a defining moment in popular-music history that happened 50 years ago this summer. To celebrate, Scott and I have put together a pretty swell variety of Beatles covers, ranging from reggae and sunshine-pop to straight-ahead jazz and even Dixieland. We don’t want to give away the farm here, but don’t be surprised to hear Beatle-song interpretations from Bobbie Gentry, the Midnight String Quartet, Chet Baker, and even the leading movie sexpot of the 1930s during the course of the hour.
That’s the HIDDEN SIXTIES SUMMER SPECIAL, 8 p.m. Friday Sept. 4 on Public Radio Tulsa, 89.5 FM, and streaming anywhere in the known universe at 8 p.m. Tulsa time over publicradiotulsa.org. And thanks for listening.


My sincere apologies to all who tuned in to our HIDDEN SIXTIES SUMMER SPECIAL Friday night at 8 p.m. on Public Radio Tulsa, 89.5 FM, and publicradiotulsa.org. No one was more flabbergasted than me — like you, I was listening at home — unless it was my co-host, Scott Gregory.
I have heard from a lot of people via email, Facebook, phone, etc., and I’ve been told that the station will air it again in the near future. Of course, that’s cold comfort to those of you who stayed at home instead of going out on July 3 so that you could hear the show, and to those of you who went out of your way to retweet or share my Facebook postings about it.
When the station announces a new air date, I’ll get the word out with alacrity. Meanwhile, thanks to everyone who tuned in. I hope you’ll be able to listen to the whole thing soon, because I really do think you’ll enjoy it.


Except for a couple of stories I sold to Warren’s fabled Eerie magazine in the very early ‘70s (just before Uncle Sam came along to whisk me away from my writing pursuits and drop me onto a helicopter carrier ferrying Marines to Viet Nam), The Twilight Avenger was the first comic book I ever scripted. Originally floated out on the crest of the black-and-white independent comics wave of the 1980s, the character was created by artist Terry Tidwell and me for an initial four-issue run.
The strange and sad reason only two of the projected four comic books appeared — although a later version ran for eight issues from a different publisher — is explored in an essay of mine that accompanies the entire original adventure in the brand new graphic novel, The Twilight Avenger Vol. 1, expertly and lovingly produced by Bill Cunningham, aka the Mad Pulp Bastard, for his Southern California-based Pulp 2.0 Press.
The Twilight Avenger Vol. 1 offers, for the first time, our entire pulp-and serial-flavored, 1930s-set story, featuring an Old School masked avenger and a costumed villain, along with plenty of what used to be called female interest. The approach we took is nicely summed up on the cover of the book, shown here. It’s one of several new pieces of art that Terry, and others, created for the book. (And while I might be telling tales out of school, it’s also one that caused him a bit of embarrassment after he’d finished it. He thought, on the whole, he might’ve gotten a little too carried away with the young lady’s deshabille. But he and Bill let it ride, and Terry seems okay with it now.)
Other bonus features include a series of lobby cards for the (unfortunately pretend) Twilight Avenger serial, a Twilight Avenger prose story written in the style of the weird-menace pulps, and a casting call, in which I had a little too much fun selecting the real-life ‘30s B-picture actors I’d like to have seen in the TA serial.
We think it’s a nice package for pulp, serial, and costumed-hero comics fans, and we like the price Bill put on it. The Twilight Avenger No. 1 is on sale for under ten bucks from our eStore address: https://www.createspace.com/5281297
It’s also available at amazon.com, where it’s been racking up some pretty good numbers. You can check it out at either place, and we’d sure appreciate it if you did. image