George Clayton Johnson 1929–2015

December 27th, 2015


My long time friend, writer extraordinaire George Clayton Johnson, passed away on Christmas from cancer at age 86.

You might know a bit of George through his work.


He created seven Twilight Zone episodes, including the classic “Nothing in the Dark”, starring a very young Robert Redford. His novel Ocean’s Eleven got turned into the Rat Pack film and the George Clooney/Brad Pitt blockbuster remake.


George wrote “The Man Trap”, the very first Star Trek episode (the one about the salt-sucker creature, featured above) to appear on television.


George collaborated with our mutual friend Ray Bradbury on the Oscar-nominated short film “Icarus Montgolfier Wright”. George was in Roger Corman‘s masterpiece The Intruder (1962), playing a hateful racist. This was casting against type, as I don’t think he had an unkind bone in his body. George Clayton Johnson is perhaps most famous for co-writing the sci-fi cult novel and film classic Logan’s Run.


I loved George (that’s me, George and Sunny Brock at Comic-Con International a few years ago). He was quite the character with his unique, unmistakable visage (was he part Asian? I never asked) and a slightly high, sandpaper-ish voice. In the many decades I knew George (we met back in the early 1970s), his physical appearance and demeanor never seemed to change. He always seemed like a timeless ancient. I never saw the young George, except on film. To me, he always seemed like a whimsical Zen master, wandering the earth and strolling through life greatly amused and fascinated by whatever and whomever he would encounter with everything fodder for his stories.

I was channel-surfing a few years ago and to my surprise and delight came across George extolling the virtues of cannabis on some indy cable station. George was always quite the pot and psychedelic enthusiast.

My favorite party trick of George’s: He would ask you for three elements — an actor, a genre and a setting. From those three things he would immediately weave a riveting tale for you on the spot and without hesitation. At a wildly creative mescaline party thrown by my pal Rob Gluckson, I introduced my very straight, non-drug taking brother Bob to George. George had Bobby spellbound within seconds, spontaneously improvising a story that had Bobby’s eyes filled wide with wonder. I envied George’s ability to do such things seemingly effortlessly.


He beat his first bout with cancer decades ago by going strict raw vegan. His tumor shrank and shrank until it disappeared. George told me the only unpleasant side effect from his veganism was bad breath.

You can still be delightfully entertained by George on his YouTube channel. On a 2009 posting he proclaimed in typical George Clayton Johnson style, “I’m George Clayton Johnson. I make a living daydreaming.”


Love Forever, George.

P. F. Sloan 1945–2015

November 18th, 2015


A dear friend and one of pop music’s greatest songwriters has passed.

P. F. Sloan was born Phillip Gary Schlein. Phil’s father changed their surname to Sloan to avoid anti-Semitism. Phil’s sister called him Flip (the “F” in “P. F.”)

I first met Phil through one of my models, Helena Rowe. She was Phillip’s girlfriend at the time and, like Phil, a devotee of Indian mystic Sai Baba. During my figure drawing workshops I play tapes and CDs I’ve made. One of them was a cassette I had made of P.F. Sloan songs. Upon hearing my tape, Helena asked me if I would like to meet Phillip. I enthusiastically responded in the affirmative.


P.F. Sloan at home in L. A.

If you’re unfamiliar with P. F. Sloan, you can’t be blamed. Phil was more of a behind-the-scenes kinda guy. Here are some of the hits he wrote:
“You Baby” and “Let Me Be” (The Turtles)
“A Must to Avoid” and “Hold On” (Herman’s Hermits)
“Take Me For What I’m Worth” (The Searchers)
“Secret Agent Man” (Johnny Rivers)
“Where Were You When I Needed You” (The Grass Roots; The Bangles)
“Summer Means Fun” (Jan & Dean; The Fantastic Baggies)
“(Here They Come) From All Over the World” (Jan & Dean)
“Tell ‘Em I’m Surfin’” (The Fantastic Baggies)


The Fantastic Baggies. Phil is second from the left.

He’s most famous (or infamous) for writing “Eve of Destruction”. That song got him into a lot of trouble. His record company hated it, calling it un-American commie trash. They tried to bury the song, but couldn’t.


A reluctant Barry McGuire had the hit with Phil’s protest classic.

Bob Dylan heard the song and asked to meet Phil. The record company (Dunhill) refused. They last thing they wanted was for Phil or “Eve of Destruction” getting any more attention. Phil found out that Dylan wanted to meet him and was crushed when the record company refused to cooperate.

The next day, Dylan arrived at Dunhill, accompanied by a very straight looking gentleman wearing an expensive suit. Dylan asked to see the president of Dunhill.

“How much for your record company?”


“I said how much for your record company. This is my accountant; tell him the amount and he’ll write you a check. If buying your company is what it will take for me to meet P. F. Sloan, then I’ll buy your company. I want to meet P. F. Sloan.”

Dylan called Dunhill’s bluff. Bob got to meet Phil. They got together at Dylan’s hotel room. Dylan said, “I think you might find this interesting.”

Bob placed a record on the turntable. It was an advance copy of Highway 61 Revisited.

Phil listened intently to the amazing new Dylan songs.

“Bob watched my face. He could see that I clearly ‘got it’. I got the humor, I understood all the metaphors, the subtleties and nuances of what he had written.”

After it was over, Dylan told Phil, “I’m going to give you a gift. Pick any song on the LP . You can be the first to record a cover version of that song.”

Phil picked “Ballad of a Thin Man”. He promptly recorded it as The Grass Roots (basically, Phil and the Wrecking Crew, Phil Spector’s stable of great session musicians) and released it as “Mr. Jones (Ballad of a Thin Man)”.


It was a big hit here in Los Angeles but only made it to 121 on the national charts. It’s a great version of the song.


Dunhill was furious that Sloan was recording and releasing his own songs. They wanted to keep him confined to solely being a Dunhill songwriter. They forced him to find another band and call them The Grass Roots, which he did (Dunhill was reputedly Mafia-owned. They told Phil he could continue to have his solo career — but only if he’d let them take one of his testicles, right then and there at the meeting).

Phil played with lots of groups. One group, The Mamas & The Papas, were fellow Dunhill stablemates. They played him “California Dreamin’” at their first Dunhill session. They didn’t really have an arrangement yet. Phil listened to the song.

“Great song, but you need an intro. How about this?”

Phil (who founded the surf band The Fantastic Baggies) took the introductory descending chords of The Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run” and slowed them down. Voila! A pop classic was born.

Phil was a gentle, sensitive — and some might say tortured — soul. He claimed the lyrics to “Eve of Destruction” were mysteriously dictated to him. A voice told him to grab a pen and write as the voice spoke the lyrics. During the process, he had questions.

“Think of all the hate there is in Red China…”

China?” asked Phil. “Not Russia?”

“Trust me”, the voice said. “It’s China. Keep writing.”

Because many of Phil’s personal stories seemed so fantastic he had lots of doubters.
“There’s reality,” one music biz insider told me, “and then there’s P. F. Sloan’s reality.”


My heart always went out to him whenever we’d meet. The pain inflicted upon him by the record business was all over his face. Whether his many bizarre tales were true or not, there’s no denying P. F. Sloan’s talent as a songwriter, arranger and producer. And from personal experience, I can tell you that he was also a kind and generous friend.

Phillip, my dear amigo, you will be missed.


All the leaves are brown… 

Allen Toussaint 1937–2015

November 11th, 2015


It is with very heavy heart that I report the passing on November 10 of Allen Toussaint, a legendary figure in New Orleans music.

I have been a fan of his music for many decades but I only just met Allen two and a half weeks ago on the 25th Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. We chatted several times during the 8-day cruise. Allen had an encyclopedic knowledge of New Orleans music (as he worked with just about every musician who came out of New Orleans) and rhythm & blues and pop music in general.


A lucky fan gets to meet Allen Toussaint.

If you don’t recognize his name, you know his songs. Here are just some of the hits that he either wrote, produced, performed and/or arranged:
“Fortune Teller” (Benny Spellman; The Rolling Stones; The Who; Robert Plant & Alison Krauss); “A Certain Girl” (Ernie K-Doe; The Yardbirds; Warren Zevon); “Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette)” (Benny Spellman; Ringo Starr); “Mother-in-Law” (Ernie K-Doe); “Ya-Ya” (Lee Dorsey; Lee Michaels); “Get Out of My Life Woman” (Paul Butterfield Blues Band; Iron Butterfly; The Leaves; Spirit); “Ride Your Pony” (The Meters); “Working in the Coal Mine” (Lee Dorsey; Devo); “Ruler of My Heart” (Irma Thomas); “It’s Raining” (Irma Thomas); “Ooh Ooh Pah Doo” (Ike & Tina Turner; Paul Revere & The Raiders); “Over You” (Aaron Neville; Small Faces); “I Like It Like That” (Chris Kenner; Dave Clark 5); “Java” (Al Hirt); “Whipped Cream” (Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass; this became The Dating Game theme); “Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky” (Lee Dorsey; Don Covay); “Occapella” (Lee Dorsey; Van Dyke Parks; Ringo Starr); “Riverboat” (Van Dyke Parks; Robert Palmer); “Right Place, Wrong Time” (Dr. John); “Holy Cow” (Lee Dorsey; The Band); “On Your Way Down” (Little Feat); “Yes We Can Can” (Lee Dorsey; The Pointer Sisters); “Lady Marmalade” (LaBelle); “What Do You Want the Girl to Do” (Lowell George; Boz Scaggs; Bonnie Raitt); “Freedom for the Stallion” (Boz Scaggs; Three Dog Night); “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” (Robert Palmer); “Sophisticated Cissy” (The Meters); “Hercules” (Boz Scaggs; Paul Weller); “Southern Nights” (Glen Campbell). Allen also was heavily involved in Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello projects.

And that’s just the tip of the Allen Toussaint iceberg.


I caught his first and subsequent sets aboard ship. A true gentleman, Mr. Toussaint radiated warmth, class and refinement. That first evening his snow white hair was matched by his glittery white evening jacket. His band, not surprisingly, were all musicians of the highest order. They performed the finest arrangement I have ever heard of the New Orleans blues classic “St. James Infirmary”. Their instrumental version reminded me of the musical journey I take every time I listen to Jimi Hendrix’s “1983…(A Merman I Should Turn to Be)”.

I gave Mr. Toussaint a copy of my book Legends of the Blues. He began to slowly go through each page. “I worked with him; he was very talented. Oh, she was a wonderful singer to work with; I produced several albums for this fine man. Chuck Berry…now he chose a different path, didn’t he?” and so on, all through the book.


The Good Reverend Billy C. Wirtz

On board ship I became friends with one of the performers, the Reverend Billy C. Wirtz. Billy has an amazing show. He plays all kinds of boogie and barrelhouse piano with a strong Jerry Lee Lewis influence. His songs are funny (“What I Used to Do All Night Long Now Take Me All Night Long to Do”) and his performance is peppered with rapid-fire humor. I saw him effortlessly breeze through a two and a half hour show with only one five minute break.

Billy also has an encyclopedic knowledge of gospel, R & B, blues and wrestling (he used to manage professional wrestlers).


After one of his shows we were walking towards the dining room with a late dinner in mind when we ran into Allen Toussaint. I introduced Billy to Allen and then just stood back for the lively history lesson. Mr. Toussaint was delighted with Billy’s vast musical knowledge. Billy would mention an obscure player and Allen would light up.

“I thought I was the only person who still remembered him!”

I wasn’t able to stand in line for Mr. Toussaint’s autographs during the cruise’s autograph sessions as I was signing myself. I gave my wife the CDs and booklets I wanted to have Allen sign, then she patiently took her place in Mr. Toussaint’s line. When she presented him with the CDs and booklets, she apologized.

“I’m sorry; I know that there’s a three item limit but my husband gave me four things for you to sign.”

Mr. Toussaint gave her a big smile and replied, “I’ll be happy to sign anything you put in front of me.”


Each signature, by the way, was elegant and elaborate (For a great overview of Allen Toussaint’s career, I highly recommend the above collection).


The elegant Mr. Toussaint and her majesty, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas

On one morning of the cruise there was a Q & A with Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas. The many tales and remembrances of these two musical giants had me riveted.

When asked about Hurricane Katrina, Allen surprised everyone when he said in some ways Katrina was a blessing.

“All of the musicians were forced to evacuate the city. They spread north. Suddenly, they got all the work they could handle, as promoters no longer had to figure in travel expenses for the musicians; they were already living in town. I’ve never seen so much work for New Orleans musicians in my life.”

I was surprised to learn that Mr. Toussaint was uneasy in the spotlight of being a headliner. He felt much more at ease and at home working behind the scenes in the studio. One of the final questions asked was “Is there any unfulfilled dream or project that you would like to do?”

His answer?

“I’d love to produce another album by Irma Thomas.”

Irma was completely taken by surprise.

Sadly, we’ll never get to hear that final collaboration. The 77 years of Allen Toussaint’s life, however, has left us with a vast musical treasury that can be loved and appreciated forever.

Rest In Peace, kind sir. Thank you for gracing and enhancing our lives with your presence, your spirit and your music.


The External and the Contemplative

October 22nd, 2015

Art Fans!

I think you’ll find this group exhibition extremely interesting:

“The External and the Contemplative”

Phone: 626/ 577-7733

Group Exhibition:
The External and the Contemplative offers an introspective examination of the intent of featured American Legacy Fine Arts (ALFA) Artists to reveal the poetry and personal connections they find in life. With the collective works in the exhibition, the artists interpret their subject matter as forms of contemplation-often with a spiritual relationship-and encourage the viewer to experience art and life on a deeper, more enriching level.”
Elaine Adams, Director

Exhibiting Artists:
Peter Adams, George Gallo, David Gallup, Jean Legassick, Eric Merrell, Jennifer Moses, Alexander Orlov, Tony Peters, Daniel W. Pinkham, Scott W. Prior, Amy Sidrane, Christopher Slatoff, Tim Solliday, Alexey Steele, William Stout, and Jove Wang.

An online preview of the exhibition is available at:

To RSVP or to make a private appointment to view the exhibition, please call 626/ 577-7733 or e-mail the gallery at during normal business hours.

A Public Apology

October 9th, 2015

I just watched Electric Boogaloo. It’s a terrific documentary on Cannon Films, fascinating and very funny. I was totally up for this doc, as I made two movies for Cannon: Invaders From Mars and Masters of the Universe. I also heard lots of stories about other Cannon film projects.

I was interviewed for the documentary and appear in the film.

Unfortunately, I repeated a story I was told about when Sylvester Stallone visited our set and made a disparaging remark regarding Dolph Lundgren‘s acting abilities.

It was not my story to repeat. If it needed to be told at all (and it didn’t), it should have been told either by Stallone or the person to whom he made the comment (the guy who told me the story).

I felt deeply ashamed hearing that snark come out of my mouth. My deepest apologies, Mr. Lundgren.

Best Convention Ever?

October 6th, 2015

I just spent Saturday and Sunday at MondoCon 2015 in Austin, Texas. I was a guest there last year. I liked it so much that I agreed to be a guest again this year.

Man, was I surprised! As good as it was last year (and it was good), it dramatically surpassed itself this year, Big Time!

BTW, I think the quality of this year’s MondoCon experience was greatly better for BOTH artists and attendees.

People were camped out to get in on Friday (one person started the line on Thursday!). On Friday night I worked the line, introducing myself and greeting the art-loving folks who were determined to take advantage of Early Entry. To my amazement, I met fans from all over the world (Europe, Australia, Japan, etc.), many who had made the trip just meet me. I was humbled and honored.

The quality of the artists exhibiting at the show was the highest I’ve ever seen. Graphic design was at a new level there, with incredible poster art that reminded me of the Polish poster Renaissance. There was not one booth or table with work that made me ask, “Why in the heck is this guy here?” Every single artist was outstanding. In addition to the quality I was also impressed by the variety of styles exhibited.

The MondoCon volunteers were everywhere, helping attendees and guests alike. They were all smart, bright, knowledgeable and efficient. Whenever I had a panel, a convention volunteer would appear and escort me to where I needed to be…sometimes by car, even though the other convention building was just across the street.

The show had seven food trucks just outside the convention entrance, all serving fantastic food and drinks. As you may or may not know, the food truck movement began in Austin, Texas. Each morning the artist guests were given a sheet where they could choose an item from one of six food trucks. That item was delivered to their table or booth each day at lunch time.

I was flown out on my airline of choice, Southwest Airlines (free baggage). MondoCon pleasantly surprised me by springing for Southwest’s Early Bird boarding option, alleviating the stress I often have when I’m worried about the plane not having enough space for my roll-away bag in the overhead bins.

I appeared at the Masters of the Universe Q & A which took place after the screening of the MOTU documentary Toy Masters. That same afternoon I participated in a meaty podcast interview that greatly pleased both the audience, the interviewer and me.

I delivered my own illustrated lecture, William Stout Career Retrospective, on Sunday afternoon. The place was packed. Mondo was completely prepared audio-visual-wise, which is always a relief. I showed the audience lots of my art they had never seen and told some of my favorite stories. I got a huge round of applause at the end and, afterwards, lots of kudos throughout the day for my talk.

Although the entire event was well-planned and structured, the Mondo folk still allowed opportunities for more informal meetings and get-togethers. I met lots of great young artists and made some new friends. I won’t even go into the incredible parties that MondoCon hosted each night. I do have to mention that the fans who attended this event were of the highest caliber. It seemed that nearly every single one of them exhibited taste, intelligence and artistic and cultural sophistication — and were really nice folks, every single one of them.

Heavy Metal magazine was well represented and, by coincidence, they were selling their big hardcover anniversary book that included my Arzak collaboration with my friend Jean “Moebius” Giraud. I happily signed lots of those.

A movie theater was part of the event and there were screenings all day. Tickets to the screenings often included a rare limited edition silk screen print of a specially commissioned poster of the film. Fans could watch as Sam Wolfe Connelly painted a terrific mural during the show. There was lots of limited vinyl being exhibited and sold at MondoCon, too.

I sold loads of original art (thanks to my fans who asked me to bring originals prior to the show), prints and books — completely selling out of lots of what I brought.

There were only two downsides to the show for me. I tried like crazy to finish my White Zombie poster art for publication by Mondo (or at least, to preview at MondoCon), but I failed. I’ve still got about two more days to go on it. Also, my pal Bernie Wrightson was scheduled to appear but had to bail at the last minute, apparently for health reasons. I had been really looking forward to seeing Liz and Bernie.

The Mondo folks asked if I’d be a guest in 2016. My response?

“Are you kidding? In a heartbeat!”

See You There!

Mondo Con! Austin!

October 1st, 2015


I’m looking forward to being a guest at Mondo Con this weekend. It’s in my favorite Texas city: Austin.

Why do I love Austin?

Easy: Franklin’s BBQ; Waterloo Records; the Arthur Rackham Poe illustrations at the university; the food truck movement; the bats under the bridge; “Keep Austin Weird”; the music scene; Antone’s; memories of seeing Doug Sahm, Lou Ann Barton, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Albert Collins; recent transplants Liz and Bernie Wrightson…I could go on and on.

If you don’t know about Mondo, here’s the skinny: They hire top contemporary artists to create new movie posters for old classic films. They sell these as serigraphs (limited edition silkscreen prints). Drew Struzan drew a new Frankenstein poster for Mondo; I did King Kong and Nosferatu. Today, I’m finishing up a poster of Bela Lugosi‘s White Zombie (the very first zombie movie) for them. Typically, their prints sell out out in less than two hours. There’s a huge secondary market for them.

I look forward to seeing all my Texas friends and fans this weekend. I’ll be giving an illustrated talk covering my whole career (funny stories and lotsa eye candy) during the event. Don’t miss it!

Details regarding Mondo Con: October 3 & 4 (Saturday & Sunday); Marchesa Hall & Theatre (6406 N. Hwy 35 #3100, Austin, Texas 78752) and at the Holiday Day Inn Midtown Conference Hall.

MondoCon is a celebration of everything you and I love, including movies, art, comics, music, toys, and food. It’s a weekend curated with the fans in mind, featuring incredible Artists & Creators from around the world, Panels, Screenings, Food Trucks, & Interactive Events. This is the second annual MondoCon; they can’t wait for us to see what they have planned.

For more information about MondoCon check out their website!

Tickets will be on sale Thursday, April 30th at 11:00am CST. 

Due to capacity restrictions MondoCon has a limited number of tickets available for each day. There may be a limited number of stand-by tickets available at The Marchesa Hall and Theatre on each day of the event, and will be sold based on available capacity.

See You There!

Blues Magazine Article

September 30th, 2015


My favorite magazine, The Blues Magazine out of the UK (subscribe at, just ran a terrific article on me and my blues book, Legends of the Blues, in their current issue (September 2015, Issue #24).

As a happy coincidence, that issue features the great Buddy Guy on the cover. I’ll be seeing Mr. Guy soon, as he’s headlining my October Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. He will also be featured in my third blues volume, Modern Legends of the Blues.

Here’s the first page of my article:


The well-illustrated (eleven full color pictures, two of them full page) article talks about the origins of my book, but also includes my personal commentary on eleven of my choices for the book, information that is not in the text of Legends of the Blues. Here’s another page from the six-page article:


On this same subject, I just heard from my editor at Abrams ComicArts that Legends of the Blues is going into a second printing. Woo hoo! Great news, indeed!

Ben Cauley 1947 – 2015

September 29th, 2015


Ben Cauley, the trumpet player for the Bar-Kays and the sole survivor of the tragic 1967 Otis Redding plane crash, has passed at the age of 67.

Several years ago, Industrial Light and Magic asked me to be the designer of their first foray into themed entertainment design. This job took me to Memphis, Tennessee. I won’t go into the whole project here, just that it involved a celebration of four kinds of music that emanated from Memphis. Our guide to the soul music aspect of this project was David Porter, half of the famous Porter-Hayes (the “Hayes” being Isaac) songwriting team, responsible for hits like “Soul Man” and “Hold On, I’m Comin'”.

He took my team out to a Beale Street music club for some live Memphis soul music.

It wasn’t long before I became uncomfortable. Something didn’t feel right. I looked around the room. There were no African Americans in the club.

I leaned over to Dave and asked if we could go to a black club. He lit up.

“Oh — you want the Real Thing!”

“Indeed I do.”

Dave made some quick calls, then we jumped into a cab and drove to the heart of black Memphis. The club owner seemed very surprised to see a couple of white guys strolling into his venue but Dave assured him we were OK and there for the music.

Dave had called in some favors. We got to see two incredible performances that night. One was by the powerful Ruby Johnson, whose version of Sam Cooke‘s “A Change Is Gonna Come” brought me to tears.

The other was by Ben Cauley, who sang and played up a storm that night, covering all the Bar-Kays hits and more. Although it had been many years since the fateful crash that took Otis and most of the band, when we talked about it Ben still seemed extremely haunted by the event. He easily teared up at the memory of the horrors he witnessed, the pain all over his face.

I will never forget the fine, kind and deeply human soul that was Mister Ben Cauley.

Rest in Peace, dear good man.

See You in Salt Lake City!

September 23rd, 2015


I am really looking forward to my guesting at this weekend’s Salt Lake City Comic Con!

I was born in SLC on the way to Los Angeles. I’ve got lots of family there and the Convention Center is close to the huge Mormon center where all of Arnold Friberg‘s original paintings for the Book of Mormon are on display. Woo hoo!