Big Brother & The Holding Company

December 3rd, 2018

If you’re a fan of Janis Joplin (who isn’t?) or her band Big Brother & The Holding Company, I would like to bring to your attention a brand new CD of old music.

Columbia Legacy has just released Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills, a two-disc set of 30 songs from the Janis Joplin/Cheap Thrills period of Big Brother & The Holding Company. The set mainly consists of studio recordings of the songs recorded live for what became the LP known as Cheap Thrills. Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills was the original title of the album (I had always heard it was originally Sex, Drugs & Cheap Thrills). That title was rejected by the powers-that-be at Columbia for being too outrageous. CBS shortened it to just “Cheap Thrills“.

The liner notes are terrific. There are two fascinating and revealing essays by drummer Dave Getz, one on how the famous Robert Crumb cover came to be. I was surprised to find out what was intended by Robert to be the back cover ended up as the front cover. His original front cover (rejected by the band) was a cartoon drawing of the band but with photographs for the heads, hearkening back to a form of pop art practiced on a regular basis by Sixteen magazine on their covers back then.

The other liners essay is by Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane (like I have to remind you what band she was in). Grace provides a well-written and thoughtful commentary on Big Brother and that optimistic era.

The music is fantastic. I thought there might be a huge loss of energy with the band in the studio without the presence of an adoring audience. There’s not. The band blasts through these cuts with intense ferocity. There are 29 outtakes on these two CDs (25 previously unreleased) plus a bonus live recording of “Ball and Chain”.

Big Brother has always been my favorite backing band for Janis. I think their majestic rawness perfectly matched her intense vocal style. My friend and guitarist James Demeter was amused when one day I described the Big Brother guitar sound as being like hearing the screams and bellows of colossal wounded dinosaurs in a ferocious death battle. There are some spectacular examples of this on Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills.

I highly recommend this wonderful time trip into the past, a reminder of how great Big Brother & The Holding Company were in their prime. You won’t regret the purchase.

Rock on!

See You Tonight!

November 27th, 2018

Tonight I’ll be speaking at an event co-sponsored by the San Diego Natural History Museum and Comic Con International (Comic Con is in the midst of designing a comic art museum in Balboa Park. I am one of a small handful of people who have attended every single Comic Con). My illustrated lecture will take place at the Natural History Museum at 7:00 PM. There will be signed posters for the attendees.

This is all in celebration of today’s official release of Fantastic Worlds – The Art of William Stout. This huge book has over 300 pages and over 500 images. Author Ed Leimbacher is flying down from Seattle and will be on hand to sign the books with me, which will be for sale at the museum’s shop. This will probably be our only joint signing.

The book (published by Insight Editions) covers my fifty-year career as a professional artist. Each chapter covers a different aspect of my kaleidoscopic career; i.e., Dinosaurs, Antarctica, Comics, Film Design, Theme Park Design, Music-related art, Fantasy Illustrations, etc.

Here is the where and when:
San Diego Natural History Museum
1788 El Prado
San Diego, CA 92101
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
7:00 PM
The museum is scheduled to open at 5:30 PM, allowing visitors to see my twelve prehistoric life murals that are on permanent display within the museum’s Fossil Mysteries exhibit.

Holy Moley! This Book Looks GREAT!

October 30th, 2018

I recently received an advance copy of my new book, Fantastic Worlds – The Art of William Stout.

Insight Editions really outdid themselves on this one. My thanks to my great editor, Mark Irwin. He and his Insight Editions team were really instrumental in putting the book together and making it as nice as it turned out. At over 300 pages with more than 500 images, this book spans my fifty year career as a working artist. Although it’s still just the tip of the iceberg in regards to the amount of work I’ve produced, this heavy volume showcases the best of the best of the many different aspects of my diverse career. Each chapter explores a different field of endeavor: Early Years, Mentors & Inspirations, Comics, Music, Entertainment Advertising, Film Design, Theme Park Design, Disney, Dinosaurs, Antarctica, Fantasy Art and Personal Works.

My friend Robert Williams wrote a truly insightful introduction and the great Ed Leimbacher wrote the book’s illuminating text.

It’s already available for pre-order from Amazon at a greatly reduced price: https://www.amazon.com/Fantastic-Worlds-Art-William-Stout/dp/1608878651/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1540925877&sr=1-1&keywords=fantastic+world+william+stout

The copies that Bud’s Art Books is selling come with an extra signed bookplate with a full color dragon picture of mine that’s never been published: https://www.budsartbooks.com/catalogsearch/advanced/result/?byline=william+stout&comment_start=&description=&isbn=&name=&out_of_print_dd=&p=2&price%5Bfrom%5D=&price%5Bto%5D=&publish_date=&publisher=&search_tag=&sku=

The holidays are coming…

James Karen 1923–2018

October 26th, 2018

One of the most amazing bits of good fortune I’ve had working in the movie business was becoming friends with actor James Karen.

Jimmy just passed away on Tuesday at age 94. He epitomized what we in The Biz call a “working actor”. Jimmy worked constantly. If you live in the northeast you probably know him as “The Pathmark Man“. He made over 5000 Pathmark supermarket commercials.

Sci-fi/horror genre fans know him from his roles in Poltergeist, Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (an early role, billed as “Jimmy”, not “James”), Capricorn One, the 1995 Piranha and, most recently, Cynthia. Mr. Karen has a whopping 204 film and television credits on IMDB — and that doesn’t include his enormous amount of stage work (including more than 20 Broadway shows).

I first worked with Jimmy on Return of the Living Dead in which he played Frank.

He impressed me by showing up on days he wasn’t working, there just to keep the rest of the cast pumped up. One day, he brought his friend Jason Robards to our set.

After working with Jimmy on Return of the Living Dead, I never wanted to make another movie without James Karen. I recommended Jimmy for the role of General Wilson in the remake of Invaders From Mars. During shooting, Jimmy came up to me, beaming.

“Bill,” he said, “I just wanted to thank you for suggesting me for this role.”

“It’s going okay?”

“Better than okay! My role as the general was supposed to be a two day shoot. I’ve been here two months now. I’ve paid for the college educations for all of my grandchildren thanks to this film.”

There are some hilarious James Karen stories I can’t share in a public forum. The following, though, I can. It is one of my favorites.

I am a regular guest at my favorite U.S. convention: WonderFest in Louisville, Kentucky. WonderFest was celebrating Return of the Living Dead, a film that takes place in Louisville. Even though I’ve had many Louisville fans tell me they know and have visited all of the Louisville locations where we shot the film, in actuality we shot everything here in the Los Angeles area, never setting foot in Louisville (we shot most of the film in a warehouse in Burbank) until it was time for director Dan O’Bannon and I to promote the finished film.

Nevertheless, WonderFest invited me, James Karen and actress Linnea Quigley (Trash in the film) to represent the movie to a Louisville audience.

There was a Return of the Living Dead panel that weekend. I made my way up to the room where that was happening. Just before I entered the room I was stopped by our moderator, my dear talented friend, writer/actor/artist Frank Dietz.

Jimmy and I are going to play a little trick on Linnea,” Frank confided. “We’re going to pretend that Return was actually shot in Louisville. Are you in?”

“I’m totally in!”

The panel began. At one point fairly early on, Jimmy stated, “I just want to thank the kind folks of Louisville for hosting our production. Shooting here was a dream. You were all so nice to our cast and crew.”

Linnea’s eyes went wide, and I joined in.

“You guys were fantastic here. You really made us feel welcome and made our shoot so much easier than it could have been.”

Linnea was now looking at both me and Jimmy in disbelief.

“…and your mayor!” Jimmy continued. “He was such a great guy.”

“Wasn’t he?” I added. “So kind, so helpful.”

Linnea responded. “He was a very, very nice man.”

“And generous,” said Jimmy. “An absolutely incredible guy.”

“He was great,” said Linnea.

“So generous,” deadpanned Jimmy. “You know he had a wooden leg which was hollow. He filled it with the finest Kentucky bourbon. If you wanted a nip he would come over to you on set and do a handstand. There was a little spigot near his knee that you turned to fill your cup. Extraordinary!”

James Karen had now taken our tale into the comedic stratosphere. I could hardly contain myself. I had to look away from Linnea so that she couldn’t see the expression on my face. I was trying as hard as I could to hold it all in. She was now having and sharing false memories of our supposed time making the film in Louisville.

We finally couldn’t hold back our laughter. Jimmy, Frank and I confessed to our prank. Linnea at first looked confused — and then very, very relieved (“I thought I was losing my mind”). She was (and is) a sweet gal and the greatest of sports.

I’ll miss my friend Jimmy forever. Making movies won’t be nearly as fun without him. My love goes out to his dear, sweet, talented wife Alba Francesca and to his family — and to all of the people in this crazy biz we call “show” who had the very good fortune to work with the absolutely extraordinary James Karen.

RIP, my dear friend. Don’t forget to tell the Karen Black story up in Heaven.

Stout Story in Latest Spook House!

October 10th, 2018

Spook House 2 #2 on sale today!! It’s got a scary comics story I wrote and illustrated for my grandsons. Eric Powell did a great job coloring my story. If you haven’t seen Spook House, you’re in for a treat. It’s scary stories for (future Monster) Kids!

Dino Fest!

September 28th, 2018

The T. rex character from the Jim Henson dinosaur movie

I hope to see all of you dinosaur lovers tomorrow at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County for Dino Fest. I’ll have a table set up and I’ll be selling many of my dinosaur-related items.

It’s 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM tomorrow, September 29.

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 W. Exposition Boulevard
Exposition Park
Los Angeles, California 90007

Fantastic Worlds

August 29th, 2018

Here’s a preview of one of the covers for Fantastic Worlds: The Art of William Stout. This 300+ pp. book with over 500 illustrations is available for pre-order at Amazon. The street date is November 7 — just in time for the holidays! The art, of course, is by Stout. The text is by Ed Leimbacher (Ed wrote the fabulous intro to Stout’s Legends of the Blues) with an introduction by Robert Williams. Each of the twelve chapters covers a different aspect of Stout’s famously diverse career (dinosaurs, Antarctica, comics, film design, LP & CD covers, etc.). 2018 is Stout’s 50th year as a professional artist.

The Revenge of the Creature

August 29th, 2018

 

Fair warning out there to all of you Creature of the Black Lagoon fans. I just received my Blu-ray Creature From the Black Lagoon two-disc set (with all three Creature movies, plus two of them in 3D). I, like many others, purchased it for the 3D version of The Revenge of the Creature, which has never been released in 3D blu-ray form until now.

Well, not exactly like until now.

Instead of the crisp, crystal clear 3D of the Creature of the Black Lagoon 3D blu-ray, two images side-by-side (like a split screen) show up when I try to play the Revenge 3D version.

Checking at Amazon, this problem seems to be rampant among the disc sets released yesterday. Buyer Beware until Universal fixes this idiotic and frustrating error.

ARETHA FRANKLIN 1942-2018

August 17th, 2018

When I heard that the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, had died, my first thought was, “Is life truly worth living without the presence of Aretha?”

I mentioned in a recent journal entry what a lucky life I have had. A big chunk of that luck was to have been on this planet during Aretha Franklin’s wave of recordings for Atlantic Records. From this point on, those incredible performances will now have to stand in for our dear departed diva.

I was in my last year of high school (1967) when Aretha’s breakthrough LP I Never Loved a Man the Way I loved You was released. It hit my generation like the proverbial ton of bricks. This was different; this was new. James Brown was well established as the King of Soul. To me and my friends, James’ music sounded like it came from another planet. Enter the Queen: Aretha Franklin. Her music sounded as if it was the first music to emerge from Planet Earth.

Here was African American music that was different from what was coming out of Detroit and Motown. It was richer, deeper, sexier and more meaningful. It struck the deepest of chords.

I grew up in a couple of nearly all-white communities. My second major home was in Thousand Oaks, an extremely conservative community (when the first black family moved into Thousand Oaks a cross was burned on their front lawn). The guys in my hang-out group were all musicians (we were all in rock bands). Our sole exposure to black culture back then was music. Along with our Beatles and Yardbirds covers (we were exposed to black American blues second hand by British Invasion bands), we had already started to incorporate black music into our band’s sets.

I’ll never forget what was said by the lead guitarist from another band as we walked home from school and Aretha Franklin was brought up in our musical conversation.

He confided and whispered to me, “When I hear her sing, she gives me a boner.”

That was revelatory (and pretty forbidden) back then. And it caught my attention.

I bought that LP — and her subsequent Atlantic LPs — and became immersed in her world and her music. Her interpretations of songs crossed racial lines and united us as human beings, all of us yearning for the love and sharing the heartbreaks she expressed. Aretha built cultural bridges for us all, white or black or brown.

My favorite performance of hers is “I Say a Little Prayer”, a song written by the dynamite white songwriting duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. What originally seemed like pure white pop music (I love Dionne Warwick — the original singer of most Bacharach/David songs — but her recordings were definitely aimed at an MOR — Middle of the Road — audience), the song was given a deep injection of transcendent soul by Ms. Franklin. Her version builds and builds until it soars.

If you have not been exposed to the music of Aretha Franklin (how is that possible?), then I would recommend the purchase of her first four Atlantic albums: I Never Loved a Man the Way I loved You, Aretha Arrives, Lady Soul (with a guest spot by Eric Clapton) and Aretha Now. Keep in mind that when you hear her performing the best music black culture has ever produced, that she is backed on those LPs by a magical mix of dedicated black and white musicians — plus Aretha’s own amazing piano playing. If you’re a male, it will probably give you a boner.

I have had bouts of weeping over Aretha for days now. I expect they will continue.

May all of our tears cleanse all of our souls.

Her music lives on forever.

DONNIE WADDELL 1960–2018

August 1st, 2018

I am one of the luckiest guys I know. Last night I had a casual dinner with one of my favorite actresses, a woman who is as sweet and kind in person as she is on screen. That bit of fortune got me to pondering and reflecting on some of the other wonderful, lucky experiences in my life of which I’ve had many.

Donnie Waddell was one of those experiences. My friend just tragically passed away. It leaves a huge gap in my life in addition to losing one of my favorite reasons for attending WonderFest in Donnie’s home town of Louisville, Kentucky.

I met Donnie a long, long time ago. I thought it had been at Louisville’s 1985 RiverCon, where Dan O’Bannon and I were sent to promote our movie Return of the Living Dead (that was the sole promotion we were allowed to do for the film). But Donnie told me we had met even earlier, when Donnie first ventured out to California. Regardless, our friendship became thoroughly rooted when Donnie first asked me to be a guest at WonderFest in Louisville, Kentucky. It was there I also became friends with writer-artist-caricaturist extraordinaire and all round nice guy Frank Dietz.

Frank was already a regular at WonderFest and after that first one I became a WonderFest regular, too, and WonderFest became our second family.

Above: Donnie (wearing one of my WonderFest shirts) and David Colton, founder of the Rondo Awards which are presented during each WonderFest.

Frank and I would always do whatever we could to get as much Donnie Time as possible because Donnie Waddell was Louisville’s comedy genius. If he had chosen that career path, I have no doubt that Donnie would have become the next Patton Oswalt (whom he physically resembled) or Robin Williams. He was that funny.

Donnie was often Frank’s and my chauffeur around Louisville, driving us to the off-campus WonderFest events. One night we decided to play a trick on Donnie. While I kept Donnie distracted, Frank borrowed some hot red frilly undies from one of the convention’s lady guests. Frank snuck out, somehow got into Donnie’s car and hung the delicate underthings on Donnie’s rear view mirror. Then Frank returned to our dinner table.

Eventually, it came time to leave. We followed Donnie to his car, then we all got seated inside. Donnie turned on the engine and then looked up at his rear view mirror. Without missing a beat, Donnie launched into well over a half hour’s worth of comedy riffing and improv, using the undies as a prop. I thought that Frank and I were going to die from asphyxiation we were laughing so hard. Different voices flew rapid fire out of Donnie’s mouth as he drove us back to the hotel hosting WonderFest (Donnie was an extremely skilled mimic; he could do just about anybody. And he didn’t just do impressions of the usual famous stars; he also did dead-on impressions of people like Forrest J. Ackerman and Ray Harryhausen.

Above: That’s Donnie (far right) sitting next to me during a dinner at VinylFest.

Eventually, for reasons I can’t fathom, Donnie and WonderFest drifted apart. Although I always saw him there, he was no longer part of the show’s staff. I felt bad for Donnie because I knew how much WonderFest and its long line of media guests meant to him. Whenever I would return home from WonderFest my sons would always ask, “Did you see Donnie?” He had charmed them, too, on that very first WonderFest trip.

Above (from L to R): Writer and Creature of the Black Lagoon collector par excellence David Schow, Donnie and Video Watchdog founder and editor (and Mario Bava biographer) Tim Lucas — all part of our beloved WonderFest family.

Besides being hysterically funny, Donnie Waddell was incredibly generous. From time to time I would receive surprise gifts in the mail from Donnie, usually obscure books or DVDs he thought I would like. The same thing would happen at each WonderFest. “Here, Bill. I thought you might like this.” It was typically something very precious to him he had found at Half Price Books (or some other Louisville shop) that he thought deserved a larger audience.

I miss my lovable teddy bear of a guy, his kind, generous soul and his devastating wit. Some people that you meet in life are unique and irreplaceable.

Donnie Waddell was one of those guys in spades.

RIP my dear, dear friend.