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Tuesday
Dec042012

Schwab's Pharmacy

“After that, I drove down to headquarters. That’s the way a lot of us think about Schwab’s. Kind of a combination office, coffee klatch and waiting room. Waiting, waiting for the gravy train.”
-William Holden as screenwriter Joe Gillis, upon facing rejection in the major motion picture Sunset Boulevard

When most of us envision a pharmacy, we recall aisles upon aisles of magic weight loss pills and periodicals, a blood pressure machine, cheap plastic toys and lines queued with the elderly. In the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s, one particular drug store was the center of Hollywood. Simply, it was headquarters.

Schwab’s Pharmacy was its own monster. Tinsel town legend dictates that gorgeous sweater queen Lana Turner was discovered here. This tale is one in a million. 8024 Sunset Boulevard was a who’s who of industry players, a venue to fill prescriptions, grab an ice cream cone, feast on a light dinner, and solidify blockbuster deals that would lead to cinema gold. On any given night, a trip to pick up aspirin for that nagging headache would yield a glimpse at the likes of Judy Garland, Ronald Reagan, and the Marx Brothers talking shop. Charlie Chaplin was a notorious pinball machine hustler, while future leading lady Ava Gardner poured sodas behind the counter for the entertainment elite. The titanic film “The Wizard of Oz” might have gone down in the annals of motion picture history as an also ran if not for the enigmatic anthem “Somewhere over the Rainbow”-quickly composed on the famous countertops of Schwab’s Pharmacy. F.Scott Fitzgerald suffered a heart attack (fortunately amidst a plethora of meds) inside the pharmacy’s hallowed walls, and Marilyn Monroe fed a grandiose appetite for pills though the pharmacist/chefs of Schwab’s.

The behind the scenes brass, arguably more important than their fresh faced and replaceable talents for hire, brokered some of cinema’s greatest collaborations over Coca Cola floats and cheeseburgers. The magical building was the last of its kind, a convergence of wanna be’s, has been’s, and current stars. It was a place where a misplaced drama club performer from a small town in Iowa could light Mickey Rooney’s Lucky Strike, where James Dean might seek the opinion of a stock boy strategically placing industry rags near the checkout lane.

8024 Sunset has been demolished and rebuilt several times, reborn as a multiplex and a shopping center to name a few. Nothing has lived up to the iconoclast known as Schwab’s Pharmacy, but it is not their fault, as nothing possibly could. Hollywood collectors treasure many things; Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, Rocky Balboa’s American flag inspired trunks, Luke Skywalker’s light saber- magnificent, all, yet none can touch the almost biblical rolodex that once was within the grasp of a teenaged soda jerk at Schwab’s.

Saturday
Apr212012

Gordon Gekko

“The richest one percent of this country owns half our country's wealth, five trillion dollars. One third of that comes from hard work, two thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons and what I do, stock and real estate speculation. It's bullshit. You got ninety percent of the American public out there with little or no net worth. I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you buddy? It's the free market. And you're a part of it. You've got that killer instinct. Stick around pal, I've still got a lot to teach you.”

It is the 25th anniversary of the seminal, iconic film Wall Street, and it would appear in our current state that we have learned little. Poor decisions from the actual Financial District have spiraled into scandal and contributed to economic struggles throughout the nation. Still, America loves to hate, and never was there a bitter love affair with a fictional character than in Oliver Stone’s 1987 masterpiece, Wall Street. Traditionally, fictional characters gain esteem in literary form only; for reasons indefinable, it is simply a classier move to celebrate or lambast figures from the written word; Grendel from Beowulf is a villain we love to read about over and over, generation to generation. Then there is Atticus Finch, the classic hero in a white suit, who we also salivate over in print.

And then there is Gordon Gekko. An area as grey as his temples.

At first glance, the Michael Douglas character is a microcosm of 80’s greed-he is known foremost for stating that “Greed is good”. Gekko, with his bulky mobile phone and mortgage busting suspenders, is the mascot of a shameful era. With his slicked back coif and cigar smoking alpha male pose, he was big bad wolf that college finance professors warned us about and the dark dirty secret that these students aspired to be. Gordon Gekko was excess before it was cool, the P Diddy jetsetter before “bling” and “swag” hit our vernacular. But in reality Gekko was never an avatar for the times-the times aspired to become Gekko. Life imitating art.

Based on corporate raiders and Manhattan predators like Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken, Gekko has been labeled as the devil incarnate, as well as the offspring of what we all would be-if we could. Ruthless, callous and forgiving, he was the prototype of success in the 1980’s. A throat stepper with no regard, Gordon Gekko was a forefather of a dangerous school of thought-world domination, in designer clothing. And though he was created as a warning of what not to be, film goers embraced him emphatically. Just like an innocent girl forced to choose between a Boy Scout or the bad boy, or a conflicted man weighing the angel on one shoulder and a hellish serpent on the other; the dark side always looks a little juicier.

Gekko’s stats: A City College of New York grad, he garnered his wealth in the 1970s buying real estate. Corporate raiding followed, naturally, along with insider trading (“The most valuable commodity I know of is information”). Private Lear jets. A wife and numerous mistresses of the supermodel ilk. Italian tailors, bulletproof limos, gold plated business cards and literal gold plates to eat caviar from. His fall from grace came at the hands of Bud Fox, ironically a Charlie Sheen performance based upon morals and ethics, but at the end of his run Gekko remained king. In the sequel, he mirrored his rags- to- riches to rags-to even grosser- riches tale in a matter of months. According to AFI, he was the #24 villain of all time, though no research has been done amongst Business and Finance majors since 1988. According to Forbes Magazine, he is the fourth wealthiest fictional character of all time, an asterisk since his wealth is a reflection of the true bank accounts of real world counterparts-Gekko was not a Shah or a Prince, merely a self made man.

Enron has fallen. Bernie Madoff has become the figurehead of society’s downfall. The American dollar is a punchline and without a bailout, GM would be SOL. The people behind the scenes of these occurrences are public enemy #1, dastardly heels whose names are met with disdain and words not suitable for church. But the man who these people are a fraction of, a man immortalized on screen and in culture, the narcissistic, enigmatic and downright heinous Gordon Gekko…he kind of gets a pass. Maybe it’s because he is (debatably) fiction. Perhaps it’s because he was Hollywood handsome while the true citizens of market ruin match their ugly exploits with equally unappealing aesthetics.

Likely, it’s because whether we like it or not, Gordon Gekko is that nagging little voice inside us all, hovering on the cusp of capitalism and morality. In public we label his kind an outrage, but in our private moments, should the opportunity arise to be him…well, that’s an answer only we know as individuals.

“Money itself isn't lost or made, it's simply transferred from one perception to another.” –Gordon Gekko

Wednesday
Apr182012

Charles Bukowski

“Don’t try”.

So reads the epitaph on the headstone of one of the iconic forefathers of the Transgressive Fiction/ Dirty Realism movement in American Literature. Born in Germany around the same time Mickey Mouse was introduced to the world under the guise of Steamboat Willie, his life was a million miles from a Disney fairy tale. Abusive parents, dyslexia, social banishment and alcoholism were the nuances of his “normal”, the accoutrements to his life’s wardrobe. It was this DNA that filtered throughout his body of work and made his name royalty amongst the communities of poets, short story writers, novelists and screenwriters of the modern era.

Charles Bukowski.

Royalty, even if only amongst the working class. He was the scribe behind hundreds of short stories, the creative force that inked thousands of poems. His novels and smaller works produced over sixty books; in film, he has been immortalized many times over. His narratives were universal, largely penned with such themes as alcoholism, poverty, illicit debauchery with women and the drudgery of the workplace. It was these everyman vantages that made him the voice of the real and a curiosity to the fantasy peddlers in literature, the elitists with noses forever planted in the spine of the happy-go-lucky classics. TIME magazine dubbed him “A laureate of American lowlife”. A nation of these theoretically labeled lowlifes named him King.

Bukowski approached the trials and tribulations in his life with a jubilant acceptance that poured into his creations. His alter ego, the irrepressible Hank Chinaski, was Bukowski in high def- an unapologetic drunk who welcomed his demons and shunned a culture that judged him for his vices. Essentially, Charles Bukowski simply shrugged his shoulders at things that caused the more tightly wound citizens of his time to shriek in horror. Bukowski, who in earlier years halted writing altogether after unsuccessfully breaking into the publishing realm (opting instead for a ten year drinking binge-the “lost years”), simply wrote what he knew.

Ham on Rye, Factotum, Notes From a Dirty Old Man, Horses Don’t Bet On People & Neither Do I…a small scattering of genius that he left behind that stands as important a reference tool to an aspiring writer as an English Degree. Charles Bukowski may have very well been a poor man’s Hemingway, but in a world increasingly set upon a 99% versus 1% demographic, perhaps it was Hemingway who was the rich man’s Bukowski. Either way, both men had a masterful way of imbibing just a touch too much and creating the definitive reflection of the life they knew-themselves, in a visceral form.

Creating.

It brings us full circle to the headstone that marks Bukowski’s final drying out spot. And it is the perfect summary to his imperfect life, stolen from a letter the author wrote to a colleague in 1963, an absolutely brilliant piece of craftsmanship from a wordsmith that could only be Charles Bukowski:

On the set of Barfly with Faye Dunaway & Mickey Rourke

"Somebody at one of these places asked me: 'What do you do? How do you write, create?' You don't, I told them. You don't try. That's very important: 'not' to try, either for Cadillac’s, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It's like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it.”

Wednesday
Mar142012

The Writer 

“They had made a movie about us”- Imperial Bedrooms

American literature is a curious thing.

There are the stalwarts that have become a brand, the mechanized typing machines that could (and do) turn a boatload of drivel into a New York Times bestseller. There are the grocery store checkout lane pushers, scribers of campy romance novellas with bare chested Fabio’s painted on the cover. There are those few unapologetic, unabashed gutter heroes, like the inimitable Charles Bukowski.

There are the teen vampire exploiters. The Hemingway’s. The cliché dealers who are published and the unknown game changers that lie haplessly at the bottom of slush piles.

It is unclear where Bret Easton Ellis fits in. But somewhere in between the Don DeLillo’s and Chuck Palahniuk’s, he has left quite the impact. And the pages keep on turning.

Easton Ellis was a mere 21 years of age when his seminal Less Than Zero shook the publishing world. Dubbed then as a “Brat Pack” author, the voice of his generation, the shockingly frank and nihilistic reality of disaffected youth with too much money and not enough something has been considered to be the exposé of the 1980’s greed culture. It was an era the California born Easton Ellis contributed to, amongst the wealth and moral decay of Los Angeles. Hollywood wasted little time optioning the book for cinema, though they liberally concealed the true seedy underbelly of their own back yard, a criminal offense to purists. The book turned Easton Ellis into a lightning rod of controversy and subjected him to attacks from numerous groups for his supposed misogynistic themes. The attention, from either side, validated him. The void of socially relevant novels at the time was filled with the ramblings of dangerous melancholy.

A cult was born.

The marriage of Tinseltown and the written word continued with American Psycho and it's disturbingly lovable serial killer/Whitney Houston junkie, Patrick Bateman. Satirical and dark and obscene to the readers of commercial books that were traditionally entrenched in safety and shiny endings, this work cemented Easton Ellis as the premier mind behind a hellacious (and addictive) literary vision; violence, absurdity, and a dim worldview.

Glamorama. Lunar Park. The Informers. Imperial Bedrooms.

The lived-through-the chaos, memoir styling of Easton Ellis has created a niche for the author. Drugs, death, pornography. Despair, torment, an eclipse blocking the happy sunset. In a strange shot of irony, he may as well be considered a screenwriter; his work tends to find its way on film anyway. Cosmically, his too-dark-for Hollywood tales are an object of desire for industry types, while maintaining an edge and an underground credibility with his loyal flock. This malleability, this shifty accoutrement to his essence, the ability to slide back and forth between mediums and devotees is a portrait of his work. He is, to many, equal parts brilliant, disgusting, and an outcast (with keys to the clubhouse).

A social media maestro, Bret Easton Ellis has created a stir recently through that eternally necessary device known as Twitter. Inklings of a continuation of American Psycho have turned into literary fervor. Ideas and what-ifs between Easton Ellis and his hungry readers have been exchanged through this medium with gusto, leaving the author as an accessible brand without denting his myth. The salacious possibilities of a middle aged Patrick Bateman quenching his murderous thirst has heads buzzing.

We can just envision the yuppie-tastic sadism now. They’ll likely make a film about it.

And as we are prone to do in any Easton Ellis project, we will immerse ourselves into the recesses of our darkest guilty pleasures.

Disappear here.

Tuesday
Feb282012

Sacha Baron Cohen Prank's Oscars 

Sensationalist, comedian, and gonzo provocateur, Sacha Cohen steals the show at the 2012 Academy Awards. Flanked by two buxom, pouty “bodyguards” in referent paramilitary garb replete with berets, Cohen strolled up the Red Carpet in his newest character – Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen. This spoof, a composite of various banana republic figure heads, festooned in regalia of the most ostentatious sort – the epaulettes, a diagonal silken sash, a ten egg omelet of campaign ribbons, eyes shielded by impenetrable sunglasses, head adorned with a captain's hat, and the entire visage of the face haloed with a beard of extraordinary masculinity – is the main character in Cohen’s latest film endeavor: The Dictator.

In his Oscar night stunt, an urn embossed with the photographic likeness of Kim Jong Il is carried up the red carpet, and the contents spilled on the host Ryan Seacrest. Seacrest good naturedly rolled with the stunt, as Cohen and his entourage were whisked away by event security. The inherent satire of the incident remains a divisive tenet among performance artists: what lines are not to be crossed. The basis of performance art is one of surprise and “out of sortness” – to conflate and perhaps challenge norms. Such is not new – from the Dadaists to the practitioners of Fluxus and other schools of performative artistry – doing non normal things becomes the paintbrush, and the normative environment: the canvas. The art really happens on the edge, and only on the edge.

Friday
Feb032012

Groundhog Day

Harold Ramis’ 1993 masterpiece, cataloguing the existential mundanity of Meteorologist Phil Conners (Bill Murray) surrounding his coverage of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the anticipated emergence of Punxsutawney Phil, the February 2 prognosticating groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, has ensconced itself as an important and emblematic film. Murray’s character becomes a sort of caricatured avatar for the audience, as his life somehow becomes frozen in this small town and on this specific date, each morning being woken up by “I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher, and the day’s events unfold as before; each day becoming more recursive.

The excruciating monotony of the day, as it repeats, becomes a sort of sandbox for grappling with moral dilemma, crushing existential crises, and a general preponderance of man’s purposiveness in this world. The grim grayscale of the Pennsylvania winter, while stuck within the confines of the somewhat obscure town of Punxsutawney provides a droning backdrop to the film’s philosophical themes. Similarly – the chimerical, superstitious, and yet ceremoniously celebrated ritual of prognostication of winter’s length by means of a rodent’s behavior gently calls into question some of society’s unquestioned practices. Practices wrought out of tradition and normality – but ultimately – perhaps, providing a framework of comportment for life. A sort of doctrine, maybe.

The time loop is ultimately thwarted by Phil Conners’ engagement in life, as he learns ice sculpting, French; and provides, rather than a smug improvisation of the report on the Groundhog Day event, a masterful and in-depth presentation of the holiday, and those involved. A report that is captured by other news crews. By exerting and actualizing self, Murray’s character is able to escape the floundering banality surrounding this odd holiday.

Thursday
Jan192012

E.T.

This year, the Pearl Anniversary (30th) falls upon one of American cinema’s most groundbreaking and poignant contributions. It has been hailed as the standard of a genre it largely created, celebrated as a work of brilliance in storytelling, special effects and such now-common film nuances as branding. There could only be one E.T.

His face was modeled after the poet Carl Sandburg and the genius Albert Einstein. Ever since he found his way into young Elliot’s closet, the heartwarming tale of the wayward alien and a young boy has, like its aesthetic inspirations, always been both poetic and genius. Like every good story, it emanated from the recesses of a creative maestro. That maestro was Steven Spielberg. Upon the divorce of his parents in 1960, Spielberg filled the emotional gap with an imaginary alien sidekick, a “friend who could be the brother I never had and a father that I didn't feel I had anymore." As the director helmed Raiders of the Lost Ark in Tunisia, boredom overtook him, leading way to memories of his childhood friend. Testament to an artist’s torment, the tentatively titled A Boy’s Life simply had to be made.



The entire film was shot from a low camera angle to portray the vantage of young Elliot and his sister Gertie (future Hollywood royalty Drew Barrymore), and instantly became the symbol of “what to do” in terms of creating an all-ages friendly blockbuster. There was the concept of allowing unknown children and the mythical creature to be the true stars (Harrison Ford played the school principal, but his only scene was cut; E.T. was portrayed by a 2’10” actor, his voice partially by actress Debra Winger). Then there was the product placement that turned Reese’s Pieces into an instantly recognizable brand (rumors endure of a bidding war between Reese’s and M&M’s). Lastly, there was the Disney-esque feel (with the exception of Elliot’s mother, no adults appear until much later in the film) while waging themes of adult issues such as war, peace, and the loss of innocence.

E.T. would hold the trophy as the world’s top grossing film of all time until Spielberg would later best himself with Jurassic Park. The film is ranked as the sixth best movie of all time by AFI, and catapulted its director and much of the cast into household names. Much like the Nike Swoosh and McDonald’s Golden Arches, the image of Elliot on his bike, peddling away against the backdrop of the moon as E.T. sits on the handlebars, has become an international symbol that translates to all languages. At the heart of it all, beyond the glitter, E.T., in its thirtieth year, endures as a landmark work of art that transcends generations.

Phone home.

Wednesday
Dec282011

In the Wake of The Blues Brothers: Dixie Square Mall 

A monument of American film lore still stands in Harvey, Illinois. The struggling municipality just south of Chicago city limits still attracts movie buffs, abandoned urban explorers, youth impelled by high school or college dares – and even Americans who have some basic familiarity with the film – to the sprawling complex along Dixie Highway between 151st and 154th Streets.

Opened in 1966, and initially anchored by retail powerhouse Montgomery Ward, the mall represented, in many ways, an apex in suburban development. Dixie Square Mall remained viable until late 1978. Since then, many ideas have bandied about as to future use – some leading to false starts, convoluted questions of property ownership, liens, and legal battles – one of which in 2008 devolved into a criminal charge when a property owner, obviously frustrated over this seeming eternal impasse, allegedly threatened a lienholder with brass knuckles and a pistol. Southside Chicago ethos remains undaunted within this crumbling ruin.

Dan Aykroyd, an unabashed car buff (a motorhead, as he has been called by colleagues), hatched the mall scene in painstaking detail in his three hundred plus page first draft of The Blues Brothers script. The already abandoned mall was restocked with perhaps the most elaborate movie property undertaking of the time, using real merchandise provided by and decorated by local vendors (from neighboring malls). Candied glass panes were installed, and a meticulous stunt route was devised. The mall lot was even filled to the brim with new cars hauled in from a bevy of local dealerships.

The scene lives on in movie history, as those two iconoclasts clad in cheap black suits and sunglasses tore through the Dixie Square Mall, followed by an entourage of state troopers, bursting over kiosks, and scattering extras posing as shoppers busily going about their affairs. A perfect swansong to an aging mall. Too bad that was in 1980.

Tuesday
Nov222011

Actress Cyndy Allen 

Location, the historic Emery Theatre

Actress Cyndy Allen has been approaching her craft with an inextricable desire to communicate emotion through her characters for over fifteen professional years. Her latest endeavor, Susan on the webseries Girl/Girl Scene, has vaulted her into a rarified level of international exposure. Allen imbues the conflicted Susan with a palpable sense of inner turmoil. As I clunked my ramshackle car into her glazed cobblestone driveway, I was unsure what to expect. Outtake clips of Girl/Girl Scene led me to think Cyndy Allen had morphed into Susan: a libidinous cougar venturing out of the closet in placid suburban Middle America. The trope had become a popular one.

I was greeted in the front yard by Michael, her affable husband of twenty three years. Jokingly, I asked him if I needed a permit to park my car, and he immediately retorted: “It’ll be towed by the time you get out.” He led me in, showing me their hardwood floored gym, and theater style screening room. Cyndy came down, and introduced herself. Their elderly golden retriever, Bailey, splaying a mouthful of a plush toy, followed closely at Cyndy’s heels.

Her demeanor seemed antithetical to what was portrayed by her Girl/Girl Scene character: somewhat shy and reserved. Demure. We sat down in front of the fireplace.

She told me about how she got into the acting business. Her acting career began at the age of six, with a school play, continued through junior high and high school, gravitating toward any drama opportunity. The acting bug, as they say, had her, and she was irrevocably drawn. To this day she remains called to the profession and craft.

Obvious obstacles arise while juggling roles of acting, and those of a wife and mother. The most difficult thing, Cyndy said, is “balancing what is most important. And dedicating time to each of those things, and making sure I don’t neglect one thing over another.” This balancing, Cyndy asserts not only exemplifies independence and strength of a woman, but also reifies her own embodiment of characters. This struggle to reconcile different realms informs roles and character creation.

True to her craft, Cyndy describes that “everything I feel, and everything I do goes into character.” Explaining further, she described the emotional impact had by a particular song heard on the radio, concurrent with hearing news that her father had suffered a stroke. Knowing this indelible emotive attachment to the song, she kept that as a marker for future roles. She told me she does this with everything. Everything becomes an emotive landmark for a future role. An enterprise so emotionally taxing – so draining – few attempt it. Such is the wont of a method actor.

In that vein of method acting, I asked Cyndy if she had any particular objects that she used to call upon as a device for emotional orientation. Her grandmother’s ring came to mind, because she says “there were so many feelings associated with [the ring].” That ring, she says, has been a font of emotion: from grief, to joy, to a profound understanding of her grandmother’s struggle as a woman. This memory approach is indicative of an adherence to Lee Strasberg’s interpretation of the acting method formulated by Constantin Stanislavski. Critics of this memory approach, most notably Stella Adler, question the practice of conjuring old memories for placement in current characters.

Cyndy Allen disagrees. Cyndy’s purpose for acting, she says, is to convey feeling and emotion. A communicative act, she says. The remembered feelings, she claims, are necessary. Combining that definition of the purposiveness of acting, with the fact that fathoms of sometimes excruciating emotion are needed to be dredged, acting becomes simply a selfless endeavor.

Expounding upon the role of Susan, Cyndy describes the inner turmoil of the character’s struggle to come to grips with her child’s sexuality, simultaneously grappling with the façade surrounding her own life, not the least of which being her own closeted desires. That straddling of realms – of worlds – is rife for storytelling. Expounding upon this, she says she tends to look for “grittier, darker roles;” something that can surmise years of history of a character’s personal background in this very brief communication of acting. That raw struggle is what is layered as a character, and provides depth to a story.

Images Ann Van Epps

She loves stage acting, but noted that “there’s not room for subtlety on stage.” Curiously, as if on cue, her dog Bailey nuzzled my knee.

Film, however, is the medium she prefers. Short films, due to length of production, and artistic rawness are what attract her most. When not working, Cyndy keeps her chops up with a close knit group of acting friends, bouncing monologues, and characters off of each other.

Cyndy sees her genuineness and Middle American sensibilities brought to roles as an asset, noting that the denizens of LA and New York are often jaded and desensitized. The Lexington, Kentucky set Girl/Girl Scene continues to be a wellspring for the authenticity of this Midwestern motif. The grit and rawness, and the inherent struggle of Cyndy’s character Susan, is implicit in the show.

Monday
Nov212011

The Ricky Nelson Story 

Ricky Nelson was the sole inspiration that coined the term “Teen Idol”. In his brief life, he was an influence upon the likes of Bob Dylan, earned a Golden Globe, recorded 20 Top Ten smashes, was the first artist to strike #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, and was granted enshrinement into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Accolades and shiny awards aside, Ricky Nelson as a brand was the pioneering force behind the now-essential marketing tool that is cross-promotion.

It was iconic father Ozzie Nelson's shrewd grasp of cross-promotion that led Ricky Nelson into the annals of legend, but do not cry nepotism; without the musical chops and smoldering good looks, the entire concept would have flopped. But Ricky did posess these qualities, and the collaboration’s effects have been felt for decades. Nelson became the first teen idol to employ the still novel medium of television to promote hit records, ultimately culminating into a rock and roll music career in 1957. Ozzie’s future world vision was to have Ricky close an Ozzie & Harriet episode by singing his current hit tune. Soon, most episodes of the Ozzie & Harriet television show ended with a musical performance by Ricky, most of the time non-congruent with any plot stoylines; essentially, it was free advertising on an already grossly popular franchise.

The theory was brilliant; the weekly family sitcom attracted millions of viewers, mostly families, and by incorporating Ricky’s music, teenagers would flock to the record shops for Nelson’s latest 45, while simultaneously softening the adult demographic on what was perceived to be a dangerous genre-Rock and Roll. Ozzie Nelson’s crystal ball told him that by winning over the teen audience, the Nelson dynasty would be gaining the approval of the parents as well. And the groundbreaking ventures did not stop there. Thirty years before the notion of Mtv sprouted wings,Ozzie Nelson had the idea to edit footage together to craft what would be some of the first music videos. This unchartered editing is seen in videos Ozzie produced for tracks such as"Travelin' Man", which still draw enormous views on media sharing sites such as YouTube.

During the sitcom's tenure, Ozzie Nelson brilliantly barred his son from appearing on other TV programs that could have enhanced his public profile, such as American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show. The idea was simple; why advertise The Wall Street Journal in Forbes Magazine? By keeping the talented Pop star in-house (and in-family), the Nelson’s found themselves, at the time, morphing into a stand-alone kingdom-entertainment royalty.

The cross-promotion, marketing and brand ingenuity engineered by Ozzie Nelson is not only rampant in today’s competitive game, it is standard. Seemingly every established act has an undiscovered talent on some branch of the family tree, seemingly every actor is a singer, every singer an actor. The Brady kids tried to synthesize what came natural to the Nelson’s; the “show within a show” further exploited with modern hits such as Glee. Even product placement (think recurring character on a sitcom holding a can with the Pepsi logo pefectly visible) owes a gratitude to the genius of Ozzie Nelson.

And perhaps the biggest debt, whether he was talented or not, was owed by Ricky Nelson. The duo would have fit in well with another television giant of its time; Father Knows Best.

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