Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Can't Wait for the Movie!

Talk about an overreaction... BWT, about two years ago I saw a filthy old recliner chair emblazoned with the ATHF logo sitting in the weeds next to I-5's NE 65th exit. That was pretty cool, but not as bitchin' as that lighted Err sign...


When Evel Jumped the Shark

No, it wasn't in 1974, when Evel plunged into the Snake River Canyon. Rather, it was three years later -- 30 years ago today -- on January 31, 1977.

The term jump the shark -- the point when a TV show or other entertainment makes a sudden turn for the worse -- was inspired by the Happy Days episode in which Fonzie did a waterski-jump over a shark. However, the episode was itself inspired by Evel's earlier, real-life shark jump, making him -- not Fonzie -- the true originator of the career-killing shark jump.

I was seven years old. Three months beforehand I saw Evel in person at his previous jumping engagement, and my parents again let me stay up late that January night to watch the next chapter in Evel's messy saga. He was slated to jump the "world's largest indoor saltwater pool" stocked with "man-eating killer sharks." The jump would be the finale in a 90-minute showcase of various daredevils and their respective stunts, broadcast on CBS from the Chicago International Amphitheatre. This was Evel's most heavily promoted event since Snake River, and his first-ever jump in primetime.

Called Evel Knievel's Death Defiers, the show capitalized on the mid-'70s shark paranoia set off by Jaws, offering the possibility of seeing Evel mauled to shreds on live TV. However, the sharks weren't really "man-eaters," and they certainly didn't measure up to the 36-foot great white from the blockbuster movie. Fourteen lemon sharks, eight feet long, were flown in from Florida; only 13 survived the trip. The animals had been heavily tranquilized, and because of poor medical care, several others were near death. Said the shark wrangler, "If (Evel) should fall in, he'd spook those animals right out of the pool... If one of them accidentally hit Knievel, there will be two of us there in wet suits to save (the shark) from total destruction." Chicago's Commission on Animal Care and Control tried stopping the show, fearing that if Evel landed in the pool, the sharks would have to be killed to save Evel.

That afternoon, hours before the show, Evel made an unscheduled rehearsal leap in the empty arena. A safety deck shortened the span across the 90-foot pool to a scant 64 feet, less than half the length of his longest jump. Perhaps he was out of practice, or the landing ramp was too slick, or maybe he just had one too many shots of Wild Turkey. In any event, Evel cleared the pool with ease, but he lost control upon landing. He skidded off the ramp's side, inadvertently crashing through a retaining wall and into a cameraman. (In the photo below, Evel had jumped from the pool's near end, over the safety deck extending over the water at the far end, and slipped off the right-hand side of the landing ramp just before it sloped upward.)

Evel and the cameraman were rushed to the hospital, marking the only time one of Evel's stunts had injured a bystander. Evel claimed the cameraman's eyeball was gouged out, though the guy was only treated for minor injuries and soon released. Evel wasn't as fortunate, fracturing his collarbone and right arm, which required bone graft surgery and a permanent metal plate.

The 3,000 spectators who soon filled the arena booed upon the announcement that evening's main event had been scratched. The rest of the program went ahead as scheduled, as did the live broadcast, co-hosted by Jill St. John and Telly Savalas, who explained at the show's opening what happened. They peppered the program with periodic updates from Evel's hospital room, but with the star absent, any suspense was lost. Not until the program's last segment, when Evel was supposed to do his jump, was videotape of the wipeout shown. Home viewers were left as disappointed -- if not outright angry -- as the live audience. I went to bed in tears.

With perplexing logic, Evel explained from his hospital bed, "I knew there was going to be an accident, and the show couldn't be cancelled. So I decided to take what was coming to me, and I didn't want to see anyone else hurt. I made the practice run before an empty house, so no parents or children would be hurt. I knew when I saw (the jump setup) all squeezed together that it wasn't going to work... (The crash) was a combination of pressure and faulty, hasty preparation... I felt someone would have been killed. It was my obligation to make it safe... I will return, I'm not a quitter.”

Evel never returned. The event ultimately proved to be his final, high-profile, nationally broadcast performance, and eight months later, on September 20, 1977, Fonzie jumped his own proverbial shark. The following day, Evel beat up Sheldon Saltman with a baseball bat.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Scenic Drives Update

From Carol McMahan in Arterial Traffic Operations at the Seattle DOT:

I found in our sign database a record of the signs for Scenic Drive #4. In 1980 the weathered or missing signs along this route were replaced and a portion of the scenic drive was rerouted due to a slide and bridge closure. At that time these signs were put into our database of sign records. There were 94 signs for Scenic Drive #4, of these I do not know how many actually still remain. If you are interested in these other locations I would be happy to send you a copy of the work instruction from 1980 that did this route revision and replacement... I cannot find a record of the three other scenic drives, though I have seen some of the signs along the other routes. We currently do not have a program for maintaining these signs.

Wow, that clears some things up, and now I can't wait for that 1980 work instruction... Thanks Carol!

BWT, yesterday I drove the purple northeast route on my old map, and today I drove the blue northwest route. Both of 'em meandered through lots of nice but boring residential areas, with nary a Scenic Drive sign. Still, I plan to explore the one remaining route -- the red, southeast one -- sometime in the next few days, so keep your eyes open for the Prize Patrol™!

That is all.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Signs, Signs, (Not) Everywhere a Sign

In my ongoing quest to retrace Seattle's Scenic Drives, today Eliza and I motored along what appears to be Scenic Drive 4, the mustard- colored route in the southern half of our outdated, non-detailed map. We were surprised to find nine signs we hadn't seen before -- nowhere near enough to follow the route by sign alone, but far more than we expected. Curiously, they were along just one stretch of the approximately 25-mile drive, all in West Seattle, from Hamilton Viewpoint to Fauntleroy Park. Among them were newer metal signs like we'd seen before, as well as older wooden ones like the weathered specimen here. Also, on the last sign we saw, the arrow pointed in a different direction from what the map indicated. We followed both routes, just to cover the bases.

Anyway, we plan to drive the other three routes in the coming weeks; I'll post our findings as they occur, along with anything the Seattle DOT can tell us.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Love That Bob's

Sad news on the front page of this morning's Tacoma News Tribune...

"Among the big-name rockers to drop in were the Ventures, who often performed there before the Tacoma surf-rock band scored its first big hit 'Walk -- Don't Run,' in 1960. Members of Nirvana hung out there in the '80s, though the urban legend that the band performed there isn't true. Members of Tacoma punk band Girl Trouble were also regulars around that time; singer Kurt Kendall and guitarist Bill 'Kahuna' Henderson met there. And Neko Case was even employed as a bartender a few years later, before she became a rising alt-country star. The bar once featured two chimpanzees, named Java and Jive, who played drums for the customers. Animal rights protests and Health Department complaints forced the family to give the pets to friends."

I've only been inside the place once, when I stopped by for a hamburger one afternoon. No rock stars or celebs or chimps were present -- just me and the bartender/cook. I regret never spending an evening there, when the joint is presumably rockin'. Still, I often drive by when passing through T-Town, usually to show Bob's off to friends and take pictures, like the one here I snapped in 1993.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bill and Tom's Excellent Blog Venture

I'm forever grateful to Bill and Tom Ojendyk for publishing my first-time-ever- in-print anything, an article about pinball, which they ran in a 1994 issue of their fanzine Bopsicle.

These days, Los Bros. Ojendyk are busy with the awesome Lamestain, a blog about the lesser-known- but-no-less-deserving acts of Seattle's grunge era. Their we-were-there insight covers such under-appreciated outfits as the Melvins (seen here), the Wipers, Green River, Dickless, and the Freewheelin' Mark Arm. Also, there's a cute picture of Bill's baby in a Motörhead onesie.

Today I'm grateful to Bill and Tom for inviting me to do a guest-post on Lamestain -- Girl Trouble: Grunge By Association went up this morning.

Thanks dudes!

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Follow the Trident and Trees

“Follow the 'Trident and Trees' markers to see Seattle’s many delightful scenic attractions.”

Trouble is, there are hardly any such markers to be found, other than the few I wrote about last month. However, a recent trip to the library answered some of my original questions...

In 1958, the Seattle Engineering Department’s Traffic Division asked the city’s Art Commission for help in mapping a scenic drive around town for both locals and tourists to enjoy. The commission did so, and also urged the Traffic Division to commission a professional artist to design a distinctive marker sign for the project. The Traffic Division chose Robert Mathieson, who described his winning design thusly: “Within a blue Neptune’s trident, representing our surrounding waters, are two simple, elongated green triangles, representing our abundant trees. Water and trees are our great resources. And the driver need read nothing save ‘City Drive’ to understand.”

"City Drive" was changed to “Scenic Drive,” otherwise, that same year the design appeared on 12-by-24-inch route markers installed along 117 miles of city streets. A corresponding color-coded map was created; the one above -- with the "Scenic Drive" image in the upper-right corner -- appeared in a souvenir booklet from the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. It shows four routes, one for each approximate quadrant of the city. Click on the map for a larger view; print it out, along with the descriptions below, and take 'em along on your own self-guided tour!

Questions remain: How many of these signs are still posted? When were the original 3/8-inch-thick plywood signs replaced with the metal ones we see today? Are missing signs ever replaced anymore, or will they continue to disappear over time? When did the city apparently stop promoting the Scenic Drives?

I can't find anything on the Seattle Department of Transportation site. I'll drop em a line, and report whatever I find.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Squatch Plays Drums on the Space Needle

Now I've seen everything.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy Birthday, Elvis!

Had a bloated, doped-up Elvis not died on his bathroom’s shag carpet, gold pajama bottoms around his ankles, face-down in his own vomit, he would’ve turned 72 today.

I wrote this last year -- on what would've been his 71st birtday -- which drew some awesome comments.

Here's a photo from September 1962, taken at the old monorail station in downtown Seattle. In town filming It Happened at the World's Fair, Elvis presents a smoked ham to Washington Governor Albert Rossellini, as a Memphis Mafioso and Col. Tom Parker look on. It was supposedly Rossellini's idea for the film, as he wrote a letter to MGM proposing they use the Century 21 fair a backdrop for an Elvis vehicle.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

TV on the Radio: Ten Songs About Television

1. Gil Scott-Heron, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" (1970).
Scott-Heron delivers an urgent black-power message that's simultaneously solemn and hilarious, weaving jazz flute with ad jingles and socially relevant references to then-current shows: "Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies and Hooterville Junction will no longer be so damn relevant, and women will not care if Dick finally got down with Jane on Search for Tomorrow, because black people will be in the street looking for a brighter day." The best TV song ever. Video link.

2. The Misfits, "TV Casualty" (1978).
Danzig laments that his "eyeballs absorb only blue filtered light," but it's not really a problem: "TV casualty, TV casualty/ We're all right!" Besides a reference to Sub-Mariner, the song ends with various unidentifiable samples before fading with the unmistakable I Love Lucy theme. Watch a post-Danzig 1998 performance here.

3. The Victims, "Television Addict" (1978).
An awesome Australian punk blast with a kickass riff, commenting on TV's supposed monkey see/do effect. The titular protagonist "went out and shot someone/ Like some Kojak teleplay," but the Victims ain't no victims: "Just because I watch Dinah Shore/ Doesn't mean I need a facelift... We're not dumb!" Watch a 1978 performance here.

4. The Cramps, "TV Set" (1980).
Not so much about the medium as the appliance, specifically how a TV figures into Lux's gruesome fantasy: "Oh baby I see you on my TV set/ I cut your head off and put it in my TV set/ I use your eyeballs for dials on my TV set/ I watch TV since I put you in my TV set." Subsequent verses describe similar scenes with a radio and a fridge. Watch a 1997 performance here.

5. Black Flag, "TV Party" (1982).
Henry Rollins leads the singalong chorus in this sardonic putdown of TV-and-beer escapism: "We got nothin' better to do/ Than watch TV and have a couple of brews." As with Gil Scott-Heron's earlier tune, this one gives shoutouts to the popular programs of the day: That's Incredible!, Hill Street Blues, Dallas, Quincy, Saturday Night Live, Monday Night Football, The Jeffersons, Vega$. "Don't talk about anything else, we don't wanna know/ We're dedicated to our favorite shows!" That is, until the TV conks out. Watch the video here.

6. Young Fresh Fellows, "TV Dream" (1987).
Guest trumpeter Richard Peterson's Sea Hunt riff propels this rapid-fire nightmare of references to The Andy Griffith Show, The Jetsons, Dark Shadows, Honey West, Johnny Quest, The Addams Family, Dick Tracy, Perry Mason, The A-Team, I Dream of Jeannie, My Friend Flicka, Dragnet, My Three Sons and The Gong Show. Sample lyric: "Now you and Napoleon Solo are just throwin' up/ From all the cute little black kids talkin' like grown-ups/ Art Fleming won't even let you question the answers/ Until you've tried out for the Solid Gold Dancers."

7. Public Enemy, "She Watch Channel Zero?!" (1988).
"You're blind, baby, you're blind from the facts on who you are 'cause you're watching that garbage," Flavor Flav screams at his girl. (Apparently she was watching Flavor of Love?) Besides, Flav wants to watch the Super Bowl and the "Tyson fight." Listen here.

8. Bob Dylan, "TV Talkin’ Song" (1990).
Dylan sings about witnessing some guy's anti-TV spiel at Speaker's Corner in London's Hyde Park. "Sometimes you gotta do like Elvis did and shoot the damn thing out," the guy advised, inciting a riot. "Later that evening I watched it on TV." So what?

9. Bruce Springsteen, "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)" (1992).
The Boss's life is ruined by TV. He gets a cable hookup and later a satellite dish, but he loses his lady and finds himself friendless. "So I bought a .44 Magnum with solid-steel cast/ And in the blessed name of Elvis well I just let it blast/ 'Til my TV lay in pieces there at my feet/ And they busted me for disturbing the almighty peace." Watch the video here.

10. The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, "Television, the Drug of a Nation" (1992).
A provocative, largely humorless condemnation of the "cathode-ray nipple," as these party-poopers accuse TV of "breeding ignorance, feeding radiation." Between the sharp wordplay is sprinkled random TV noise -- the only thing I can identify is Dr. Frasier Crane. The tune mentions Grecian Formula and some networks ("CNN, ESPN, ABC, TNT, but mostly BS"), though it doesn't mention any specific shows. Watch an unofficial 2006 video.

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Music of the Decade! Movies of the Century! TV!

My list-making of late got me thinking about what entertainments I've most enjoyed so far in this here 21st century. And so, seeing as how the first decade of the 2000s is already 70% behind us, why not check in with some favorites-thus-far lists of the two-aughts?

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
3. Best in Show
4. American Splendor
5. Adaptation.
6. Sideways
7. Stevie
8. Borat: Culural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
9. The Station Agent
10. Spider-Man

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell
2. Paul Westerberg, Come Feel Me Tremble
3. Detroit Cobras, Life, Love and Leaving
4. The Strokes, Is This It
5. Rolling Stones, A Bigger Bang
6. New Pornographers, Mass Romantic
7. The Dirtbombs, Ultraglide in Black
8. Danger Doom, The Mouse and the Mask
9. Iggy Pop, Skull Ring
10. Bob Dylan, Modern Times

TV shows:
1. King of the Hill
2. Six Feet Under
3. The Office (UK)
4. The Office (US)
5. Curb Your Enthusiasm
6. Aqua Teen Hunger Force
7. Jackass
8. Strangers with Candy
9. Wonder Showzen
10. The Late Show with David Letterman

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I Will Not Eat My Pants

In November I issued a challenge to anyone who could produce an Evel Knievel injury chart that pre-dated mine, a graphic which I thought had been my own original idea. However, I've since found this 1970 graphic -- appearing 24 years before mine -- proving that my idea wasn't a stroke of genius after all. It's this print ad for Evel's June 1970 jump in Vancouver. Fortunately, since the person who called this to my attention was me, and since I can't force myself to do anything I don't want to do, I will not eat my pants.

Updated Knievel Injuries page.


Gerald Ford v. Evel Knievel

“Ford Pardons Nixon” read front-page headlines nationwide on September 9, 1974. The previous day, President Gerald Ford formally granted Richard Nixon a “full, free, and absolute” pardon for “all offenses against the United States.” The same day as the pardon, Evel Knievel failed to clear the Snake River Canyon. Much to Evel's dismay, Ford's surprise announcement bumped Evel's Snake River fiasco as the day's lead story. Evel put his own spin on the events in a 1997 Ralph magazine interview: “He told me, Gerald Ford personally, that he waited until that day because he knew that I would have so much publicity that he wouldn't get so much steam over the pardoning.”

Um, okay. The graphic here is stolen from the Onion book Our Dumb Century (Three Rivers Press, 1999). According to the story, Ford made a 1976 vow that "the US would put a man on the other side of Idaho's Snake River Canyon by 1978." Ford budgeted $14 billion to the project, "citing the need to stay ahead of the Soviets in the field of daredevilry."