Monday, July 13, 2009

Snap it, Pal

It was like a secret society growing up in NY/NJ mid to late 70's; either you knew who Uncle Floyd was or you didn't.

Coming in like a snowy, UHF blast of bizarro sketch-comedy, celebrity impressions, oddball puppetry, punk rock musical guests and Stride-piano, "The Uncle Floyd Show" circa 1977 sneakily beamed its way into thousands of rabbit-eared TVs (and the hearts of their mostly pubescent/teen owners) all across the tri-state area virtually undetected by the Ford-era mainstream. To my young, untrained eye this beautiful, low budget, Vaudevillian freak-show might as well have been broadcasting directly from outer-space. It was like nothing I'd ever seen on TV before. Little did I know this strange world was, in reality, not very far, emanating form a broken down New Jersey television studio, two rivers
across from where I watched cross-legged every afternoon in my Queens bedroom. And speaking to me from the center of this insane, fuzzy universe? A man in a plaid jacket and a funny hat known simply as "Uncle Floyd" Vivino.

Vivino, the friendly host,
comedic straight-man, piano virtuoso and creator of this home-spun, television circus served as our daily ring-master of sorts, inviting us to join his weirdo parade each and every weekday afternoon. I, of course, was very eager to comply. With its off-camera laughter, its unstable cast, its failed, disintegrating sketches, it's cutting-edge musical guests (The Ramones appeared several times) and Floyd's episode-closing, Ragtime serenades, "The Uncle Floyd Show" was just what the doctor ordered for every local, TV addicted misfit.

Uncle Floyd, indeed, wasn't for everybody; you had to be that special kind of person - a seeker, someone who's sensibilities deviated from the mainstream, VHF path of Brady Bunch re-runs, urging them to comb the
interference-laden frequencies of the UHF band in search of something different. In between the static and ghosting the initiated found their "different" in "The Uncle Floyd Show".

And as history has since proved, it wasn't all suburban freaks and geeks watching either; A missive penned by none other than David Bowie testifies to that end (courtesy of davidbowie.com) -

"Back in the late '70s, everyone that I knew would rush home at a certain point in the afternoon to catch the Uncle Floyd show. He was on UHF Channel 68 and the show looked like it was done out of his living room in New Jersey. All his pals were involved and it was a hoot. It had that Soupy Sales kind of appeal and though ostensibly aimed at kids, I knew so many people of my age who just wouldn't miss it. We would be on the floor it was so funny. Two of the regulars on the show were Oogie and Bones Boy, ridiculous puppets made out of ping-pong balls or some such. I just loved that show."


Apparently Bowie
had learned of Floyd from another fellow musician and loyal Uncle Floyd viewer by the name of John Lennon. Pretty awesome, no?

These days in an era where left-of-center, late night television is pretty common place (if not cliche) and the Uncle Floyd Show is but a heady, childhood memory for me and my aging misfit compatriots, I can't help but wonder if folks like Letterman, O'Brien, etc don't owe at least a small debt of gratitude to the "irreverent late-afternoon TV before irreverent late-night TV" of "The Uncle Floyd Show".

In the immortal words of Bones Boy - "Hey, Dave...snap it, pal !"

A clip of Uncle Floyd at the piano in 2009 -

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Family Affair

After two years in production, Blue Sky Studios' new animated feature, "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" (Fox) is ready for release and is scheduled to hit theaters worldwide, July 1. In the interest of full disclosure, this new family feature has also been a bit of a family affair around these parts as my lovely and talented wife Lynn served as a Senior Lighting Technical Director on the film. As such, the Mrs. and I are excitedly looking forward to watching this long-crafted creation finally make its way to the big screen this summer in hopefully a big way.

It's certainly been a long and winding road over the past two aforementioned years, with my baby's mama putting in her share of 12 hour days and 6-day work weeks in efforts to make these beloved, frozen characters come to life. After attending an advanced screening last week at the Ziegfeld Theater here in NY, it was evident that my wife and her colleagues' tireless efforts had indeed paid off. The movie looks great and is most definitely a fun, playful ride with all the original Ice Age characters returning - Manny (Ray Romano), Sid (John Leguizamo) and Diego (Denis Leary) along with the addition of some rather big reptiles; The latter being especially awesome in 3-D (which, by the way, is pretty cool in its current incarnation - gone are the days of cardboard, multi-colored glasses and their accompanying headaches).

If you're looking for Fellini this 4th of July weekend, forget it, obviously read no further but if you're searching for a fun, summertime diversion that the kids (and probably you yourself) will enjoy, than load up the family Winnebago, make your way to the Ice Age...i.e. a theater with really good air conditioning and check out "Dawn of the Dinosaurs" (view trailer).

ps- Look for Lynn's name in the credits next to a little green dinosaur sketched by our obviously talented 4 year old son (I mention this purely without bias of course).