Saturday, April 27, 2024

Hot Hero Sandwich Clip Job! The KISS Segment

by G. Jack Urso
 
KISS logo from 1979.
Airing Dec. 28, 1979, episode 7 of Hot Hero Sandwich featured a short documentary about the Heavy Metal band KISS. Directed by Gail Frank and edited by Patrick McMahon, the film, clocking in at just over seven minutes, gives us a backstage look at one of the largest bands at the time, with an emphasis on the young adults working behind the scenes. The segment is a cleverly disguised educational production, giving kids a look at jobs in entertainment they could aspire too.

The hard work involved in setting up the stage is handled by a group of young men, mostly in their twenties. The wardrobe coordinator introduces herself as 23-year-old Pixie Esmonde. At the time, these people could have been our older brothers and sisters, and here they are, responsible for getting KISS in costume and on the stage.  

Landing KISS was an incredible coup for Hot Hero Sandwich producers Bruce and Carole Hart and the show. KISS was absolutely one of the largest bands in the world at the time and in 1979 were in the middle of a major tour. In fact, KISS played Madison Square Garden June 24 and 25, 1979, and, as seen in the clip, they are indeed at Madison Square Garden, so this segment may detail the work backstage for the concerts on those dates.

In this segment, we get a look at them in the flush of their first early success. Had the series been renewed, a recurring film segment featuring young people in unusual jobs — but still something kids could aspire to — would have been an excellent addition to the show.

The KISS segment is provided below from the Hot Hero Sandwich Central YouTube channel.

 
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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Hot Hero Sandwich Project Archives: The Lost Andy Breckman Songbook

by G. Jack Urso

 
A promotional advertisement for Andy Breckman, circa 1979-1980. 

Writer Andy Breckman’s comedy act before Hot Hero Sandwich featured him playing guitar to his own somewhat dark comic compositions, such as one song which featured “a man who is either a mass murderer or just clumsy” — pretty much exactly what someone who wrote for David Letterman and created Monk might come up with. You can check out Andy’s interview with the Hot Hero Sandwich project at Hot Hero Sandwich — Off-Script with Writer Andy Breckman.

Andy turned in some poignant yet still fun songs with “Tommy Two” and “My Friend Bernie.” The songs are layered with meaning and use comedy to camouflage a deeper lesson. Two recently uncovered unaired songs from Hot Hero Sandwich, however, give a glimpse of Andy's slightly darker nightclub humor.

From deep within the Hot Hero Sandwich Project Archives I have discovered some very interesting bits of nearly lost history. Among the finds, including some Andy Breckman promotional materials from his time as a nightclub comic, were also a couple scripts with lyrics to songs he composed, and recorded, but never aired: “The Revenge Song” and “Playing Hard to Get.”

In reviewing the production shooting schedule (see image below) for Tuesday, July 17, 1979, Breckman and the “Breckettes” (the Hot Hero Band) performed and recorded the two aforementioned songs and “Dipstyck,” a song for which I’ve not discovered the lyrics for yet, on the “Disco Set.” 

Production shooting schedule for July 17, 1979.

First up, “The Revenge Song,” filmed on Studio-8H, Tu., July 17, 1979. was slated for Episode 1, but got cut due to time constraints. This shows a bit harder edge than the bittersweet underpinnings of “Tommy Two” and “My Friend Bernie.” A young man, tormented by a childhood bully, works out and studies the martial arts for years. Grown up, he tracks his bully down and . . . promptly gets beat up — again.

“The Revenge Song” lyrics page from an original Hot Hero Sandwich episode 1 script.


The Revenge Song

Chorus:

Let’s sing about peace on Earth.

No, no, no, I want to sing about revenge.

Let’s sing about love, love, love.

No, no. I’d rather sing about revenge.

 

When I was in fifth grade, many years ago

Billy MacGown stole my radio

He made fun of my mother, he broke my bike.

He was the meanest kid I ever knew.

Every afternoon at three o’clock he’d be waiting for me

Out in the parking lot

He used to throw me down on the ground and kick me in the stomach

Real hard till I turned black and blue.

 

Chorus:

Let’s sing about the birds and the bees.

No, no, no, I want to sing about revenge.

Let’s sing about the flowers and the trees.

No, no. I am talking ‘bout revenge.

 

For ten long years I studied kung fu.

I practice karate and jujitsu too.

For ten long years I worked out every day

Till I was stronger than I was ever before.

I jogged and swam and I lifted the weight.

I had to register my hands with New York State.

And when I felt I was ready I took a bus back home

And I knocked on Billy’s door.

 

Chorus:

Let’s sing about the Woodstock nation.

No, no, man. I’m singing ‘bout revenge.

Let’s sing about the good vibration.

Will you shut-up! Can’t you see I’m talking ‘bout revenge.

 

I said, “Hey man, remember me?

I was a little kid then but as you can see

I ain’t no more. Now get on out here.

You’re gonna get what’s coming to you.”

He threw me down on the ground and began to kick me real hard.

I said, “Oh, no, not again.”

He probably would have killed me if they hadn’t pulled him off.

It still hurts me right here every time I take a breath.

 

Chorus:

Let’s sing about peace on Earth.

Peace on Earth? Sounds good to me.

Let’s sing about love, love, love.

I don’t want to hear no more about revenge.

I still can’t touch my toes.

 

Do you want to see my scar?

Love, love, love, love, love, love.

 
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The next song, “Playing Hard to Get” may not translate too well from the late ‘70s zeitgeist which gave it birth. There is a certain stalker vibe to it, though at 15 in 1979 I would have just thought it a funny song about some guy who couldn’t take a hint. Its intention, in context of the script, was to point out the immature aspects of such behavior. “Playing Hard to Get” was also filmed Tu., July 17, 1979. 

The Playing Hard to Get” lyrics from the script.

Playing Hard to Get

by Andy Breckman

 

There used to be a girl named Linda living down the street.

She used to scream and run away whenever we would meet.

Everytime I’d telephone she’d hang right up – and yet

I think she really liked me, but was playing hard to get.

 

Sometimes I used to follow her as she’d come down the block.

She used to say if you don’t quit I’m gonna call a cop.

How them handcuffs pinched my wrist I never will forget.

She was crazy for my lovin’, just playing hard to get.

 

One time she beat me up so bad

My leg was in a sling.

I hobbled around for half a year,

Love’s a many splendored thing!

 

I understand she’s married now and living in L.A.

She’s got two kids already with another on the way

She’s never called or written me but still I do suspect

She’s crazy for my loving, just playing hard to get.

 

All the girls adore me, they’re just playing hard to get. 

 
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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Duck and Cover and DIE!: Rehearsing for the Nuclear Holocaust

by G. Jack Urso

 
From the Aeolus 13 Umbra YouTube channel.

Produced in 1952 by Archer Productions for the Federal Civil Defense Administration and in consultation with the Safety Commission of the National Education Association, Duck and Cover is a 9-minute animated film aimed at school-age children to teach them practical life-saving tips on how to survive a nuclear blast. While Duck and Cover was generally regarded as the height of Cold War paranoia it has in recent years received a more favorable treatment with supporters pointing out that the techniques taught by “Duck and Cover” actually can improve survivability depending on the distance from the blast epicenter.

They’re out of their tiny little minds.

Widely shown throughout public and private schools in America during the 1950s and 1960s, Duck and Cover drills, along with other Civil Defense measures, created a paranoia and mistrust of government that contributed to the creation of the counter-cultural movements of the era — exactly opposite of what the film hoped to accomplish.

As a late Baby Boomer born in 1964, I’m just old enough to remember the Duck and Cover drills at St. Teresa’s elementary school on New Scotland Avenue in Albany, NY, which took place as late as 1971 and 1972. I remember looking out the windows and imagining the horrific blast as the nun instructed us how to crawl under the desks to protect ourselves. Another drill had us shuffle out into the hallway to crouch low against the inside walls. We were all of 7 and 8 years old.

Just an average day of rehearsing for the holocaust in Post-War American schools.
Another feature of the post-war Duck and Cover generation were the civil defense loudspeakers which, usually in the summer, would be tested by blaring a loud warning. Mounted on wooden telephone or green metal utility poles, these loudspeakers were scattered throughout the city. There were a couple in Pine Hills where I grew up, one at the nearby Little League ball parks on Woodlawn Avenue, and another about a half-mile away near the corner of Mercer Street and Ryckman Avenue. Much to my surprise, both were still around when I graduated college and moved back into the area in 1990. Still there about 2000, they were removed not long afterwards. Ghostly relics of a near-apocalyptic past, they served no purpose after the Soviet Union broke apart.

A next-door neighbor was a Civil Defense warden and his home had a cache of CD supplies, including the lemon and cherry-flavored high-caloric candies meant as a dietary and energy supplement. My complete collection of Popular Mechanics and Popular Science magazines from the 1940s to the 1980s (an inheritance from by Uncle Frank) are filled with plans for bomb shelters, mainly during the 1950s and 1960s issues. My grandfather, a WWII Italian army veteran, built a bomb-shelter as a sub-cellar off the basement. My dad tried to ease my nuclear anxiety by pointing out if a bomb dropped near us, it would probably be in Schenectady, where the General Electric facilities were, about 30 miles away, not in Albany itself.

Oddly, it gave me little comfort.
Picture Parade, 1953.
While an entire generation grew up under the threat of nuclear annihilation at any time, our popular entertainment become more and more — well, just plain weird and outrageous. TV series such as Batman, The Addams Family, The Munsters, Laugh-In, Mad Magazine, and many comic books, movies, and music, reflected our anxiety over an imminent holocaust and rightfully questioned the credibility of the world order that brought us to this point. We consumed more, we partied more, we used more drugs, we had more sex, we found religion, and we lost religion. Of course there were consequences, such as having to endure the fundraising moralistic preaching about our behavior from the older generation who gave us a world where death is always around the corner.

As an adult, I ended up as a weapon systems profiler for a military database in Washington DC for 25 years. It actually was a result of an interest in tracking weapon sales I developed while a member of Amnesty International. What I learned is that the dirty little secret about the doctrine of Mutually-Assured Destruction (MAD), which promised peace because both sides knew that launching any nuclear weapon would result in an immediate full-response — literally destroying the world — is that it worked. We came close several times but survived the Cold War. Would Russia have invaded Ukraine had it kept the nuclear weapons it gave up in the early 1990s?  It’s a question for which I’m not sure I really want the answer.

Duck and Cover theatrical release poster.
Perhaps MAD worked when there were just three nations with nuclear weapons, but now there are at least eight nations with nuclear weapons, possibly nine. If a nuclear weapon were to be used now, it likely would not result in a global thermonuclear war, but a very localized event such as at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Nevertheless, I'm not inclined to consider that progress.

The complete Duck and Cover film is available above from the Aeolus 13 Umbra YouTube channel.
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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Hot Hero Sandwich Project Archives: Official Series Credits Press Release

by G. Jack Urso
 

Dated Oct. 22, 1979, two days after the initial start date of Oct. 20 (later moved to Nov. 10), this production memorandum represents the final official credits list. In a variety-type show like Hot Hero Sandwich, with both filmed and tape segments and last-minute celebrity and music scheduling, keeping track of the cast and crew is imperative, particularly for awards consideration and probably a few unions as well. The original release is provided below at the end of this article.

The release identifies the directors of the film sequences:

GaiI Frank (wife of series writer Joseph Bailey)

Al Waller

I was especially excited to find this document because it also identified the artists of the animated  sequences working under the aegis of Jerry Lieberman Studios.

Animator: Mary Beams

 Animator: Bruce Cayard

 Animators: Mary Beams and Bruce Cayard

 Animator: Al Jarnow

Animator: Jerry Lieberman

Animator: Eli Noyes

The original release is provided below (click on image for larger size).

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Hot Hero Sandwich Project Archives: Tentative Series Production Schedule

by G. Jack Urso

 
Dated May 15, 1979, this production memorandum issues by producer Howard Malley lays out the series projects shooting schedule. The filming schedule identifies the location shoots and the studio taping exactly that — videotaping in Studio 8-H.

The original memorandum is provided below (click on image for larger size). 

 

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Hot Hero Sandwich Project Archives: The First Official Press Release

by G. Jack Urso
 

In the course of my research, from several sources, including the invaluable support and archives donated from series writer Marianne Meyer, I have accrued a large number of original documents on hard copy. What better way to inaugurate this new category in the Hot Hero Sandwich Project than with the first official press release from the show’s production team (see images at end of article).

Dated June 7, 1979, producers Bruce and Carole Hart encapsulate the shows mission:

Carole Hart said: “There will be a variety of themes, including: physical changes common to adolescence; the emotional and psychological hang-ups common at that time of life; the new awareness of sex; relationships with the family; new friendships; secret terrors; coping at school; out-of-school activities.”

“We’ll note that this age group feels uniquely isolated, helpless, misunderstood. Our sub text will be:  ‘Look, you’re not crazy – you’re normal, this is just the way things are.’ Our aim is to encourage viewers to think while they are being entertained. But always we’ll have a light touch, with the accent on humor and music.”

Bruce Hart said: “The situations we will touch upon are universal – everybody has faced them. But today, they seem more difficult for youngsters because of the times in which we Iive.  The celebrities on our show will talk exclusively about some of their experiences in growing up and how they survived their teen years.”

In the release, Dr. Tom Cottle is only identified as a “permanent interviewer,” and the main cast’s age range is given from 16-19 — stretching the truth juuuuuuussssst a bit. Vicky Dawson was the youngest at 17, and then L. Michael Craig (Michael Longfield) at 19. The rest of the main cast clocked in over 19 with Paul O’Keefe the oldest at 28.

Interestingly, a series premiere date of Oct. 20, 1979, is given. Later NBC promotional materials advertised a planned start date of Nov. 17; however, the show actually debuted Nov. 10. While start date changes are not uncommon, for Hot Hero Sandwich being a Saturday morning children’s show, the November start dates were, frankly, deadly. The Saturday morning fall TV schedule typically kicked off mid to late September, so an Oct. 20 start date, while a little late, was still fairly early in the season. By November, however, viewing patterns are already established, and a 12 Noon start time didn’t help either.

The original press release is provided below (click on image for larger size).

      
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