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Fantastic Worlds

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.

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The Revenge of the Creature


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.

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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.

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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.