One great thing about the internet is how communities are formed around almost ANY special area of interest or information or passion or knowledge.
Whether it is the Art of Papercutting, which my wife Elsa has turned into a movement over at her blog The Heart of Papercuts, or Vinyl Record Albums with Cartoon Drawings On The Cover, which my friend Peter Hannan turned me on to, it is amazing how deep and specialized the collection of human creative effort is on the 'net.
Like I thought I was pretty down with the Film Noir genre until I came across the folks at Noir City Sentinel. Check out some of the articles in their first annual issue:
The advertisement in the LA Weekly was just too appealing. I clipped it out and kept it in my wallet all week. And Sunday night, when the kids were tucked in bed and the dishes were cleaned and put away, and I'd closed the cover on the last screenplay of my weekend read, I kissed Elsa, threw on a light jacket, and cruised over to the American Cinematheque at the classic Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. just in time to catch the second half of the double bill in their Film Noir Series.
"I don't know - what you've ever done - with don't care who - but Walkin' is - my favorite thing - for cats and chicks to do..." - Jon Hendricks (Lambert, Hendricks & Ross)
The 2009 Walk Now For Autism was a rousing success, and Elsa, Miro, Natalie, Diego and I thank EVERYONE who supported Team Diego and walked with us in spirit on Saturday. Diego's friends contributed a staggering $14,740 towards the over $1 million dollars raised for Autism research, making us ONE OF THE TOP SEVEN FUNDRAISING TEAMS at the march! Way to go, Diego!
Even Barack Obama was there (well at least his cardboard effigy) but as one speaker pointed out, the new administration has already acted to target funds for children with special needs in the budget.
I was explaining to young Natalie the other day how far the center of gravity has shifted in contemporary Hollywood, with the new masters of the universe being not the producers nor the filmmakers, but the heads of marketing and creative advertising.
She's such a quick study, it didn't take much for her to come back to me with her first effort at a One Sheet.
Tomorrow is our second annual walk to raise money and awareness about Autism, a developmental disorder which is affecting 1 in every 150 children born in America today.
Hugh Hefner, Mike Royko, William Friedkin, Roger Ebert, Studs Terkel, they are all there, within the pages of Stop Smiling's great Chicago Issue.
This bench is sooo deep there are even reviews of the re-release of two classic Chicago publications, "Big Bill of Chicago" and "Lords of the Levee: The Story of Bathhouse John and Hinky Dink" by Lloyd Wendt and my friend Rick Kogan's father Herman Kogan.
One of my favorite articles was on the Birth of Chicago Comedy by Jeff Griggs, who wrote a book about one of the funniest and least known (except within the comedy world where he is a revered figure) comedians, Second City's in-house master of improvisation, Del Close.
Griggs gives us brief biographical sketches of Mort Sahl, Shelly Berman, Nichols and May, and even Dick Gregory, who was influenced by his predecessors Nipsey Russell, Godfrey Cambridge and Redd Foxx, and became the first black comedian to perform at the then prestigious Playboy Club in Chicago.
And what tour of Chicago cultural icons would be complete without at least a mention of the great Curtis Mayfield, who came from a musical family on the West Side, started The Impressions when he was 13 years old, famously wrote the songs for the blaxploitation classic "Superfly" and even had his own record label, Curtom.
He was paralyzed from the neck down in a tragic accident in 1990, but before his untimely death in 1999, he recorded a final album, one breath at a time, called New World Order.
So in honor of Curtis and all of the artists who came from the streets of Chicago and made it into the pages of Stop Smiling magazine, take your own deep breath, and keep on smiling!
Here is an iconic photograph of the Ramsey Lewis Trio on Michigan Avenue in Chicago in the 1960's from the great magazine STOP SMILING. I love this shot and the energy and optimism is conveys.
STOP SMILING has a theme for each issue. The first one I cracked open was the Jazz issue, with my all-time hero flute player and multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy on the cover and interviews inside with the likes of vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson (pictured below) and photos from the great William Claxton and others.
If that wasn't enough to keep the drool flowing, then there was a deep dish Chicago issue covering politics and sports and local cultural icons old and new, with old school characters like the radio host Dick Buckley (pictured above with Joe Williams and Count Basie) or comedian Mort Sahl or published Hugh Hefner inside.
If that's not a reason to smile, what is?
I left Chicago in 1986, and even though I have been back many many times since then, in some way the city still remains in my mind the way it was then, and the myriad changes since then, of gentrification and development, shifting demographics, disappearing landmarks and cultural artifacts, are all details that have mostly escaped my attention as the beat goes on and on.
Therefore, one of the things that never made it on to my radar out here on the West Coast was the publication of one of the best magazines I have ever stumbled across, the Chicago-based STOP SMILING.
My sister brought me out two back-issue copies for my birthday this year, and if someone had sat down to design a collection of words and images that, story by story and topic by topic and shot by shot, hit the very center of the sweet spot of my eclectic range of interests, STOP SMILING would be it.
It is described as a magazine for "high-minded lowlifes", and I don't know if this fits me or not, but you can check out their website here. I almost feel like I should just link my blog to their content, since almost all of my own subjects of passion are covered so beautifully within their pages. Or maybe they will just make me an honorary member?
In any event, I will feature some of my favorite STOP SMILING excerpts here, and urge you to check them out on your own, as I have just begun to scratch the surface of their backlist issues.