Friday, June 15, 2018

Christmas in July 2018 ANNOUNCEMENT




It's that time again! The annual Christmas in July party I host each year on this blog is happening soon.  If you've been around awhile, you may remember that each year the summer time party is a little different.  I try to do something special in July each year because we all get very busy in December and it's fun to have a get-together when we aren't in the midst of the holiday season. This is the fifth year we've come together to do this--HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to us!




This year I'd like to repeat the mini-questionnaire as a way to spark a dialogue and to have everyone get to know each other  better. I was inspired to try this approach from what I saw (and participated in) five years ago on the website Kindertrauma.  With their blessing, I've adapted the questionnaire to fit our needs. We did this last year too--remember all the fun answers?  Click on the links to see the 2014 recap, the 2015 recap, the 2016 recap, and the 2017 recap.




This is how we do it: Answer the following five questions as completely or as briefly as you like.  Everyone is invited to take part--long-time readers, other bloggers, casual TV fans, or just the curious passer-by.  ****Everyone should feel free to join the Christmas in July party.******

Copy + Paste the questions below in an email, answer them, and email it back to me.  Send your responses in immediately and I'll email you back with a number. That number is your confirmation that I received your answers and it is your place in the queue. I will begin posting the responses starting on July 1st--and roll them out in the order received. (DON'T put your responses to the questions in the comments below--email them in). Email your responses to: Joanna @ 1701press dot com

Don't worry about photos either--I'll take care of that. And, duplicate answers are part of the party experience--don't exert too much effort trying to find rare examples for your answers. If you want to change your answers after you email them to me--please resist the urge. Instead, add comments to your own post when it goes up in July.


The Miser Brothers


The Christmas in July party is supposed to be fun and entertaining so don't sweat your responses.  Don't spend hours on it--just go with the responses that come easily. Get creative and have fun with it!

If you feel you need a little help, feel free to flip through your dog-eared copy of the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV--or put a copy on hold at your local library.  You can also use the search box on this website (not easily visible on a mobile device but it is top right of the screen for computers) or click through the archives on this website (along the sidebar on the right).  Christmas TV memories will come flooding back, I'm sure.


2018 badge--feel free to use on social media!
 
Whether you send in a response or not, please feel free to follow along throughout the month of July.  Reading other people's responses is half the fun. I want to encourage everyone to leave comments too--it makes people feel good to know their entry is being read by others. If you like, please feel free to use the Christmas in July 2018 badge on your website or social media posts to let others know what you are up to!




Let's get this party started:

Christmas in July 2018: (insert your name--your website/optional)

1) Name your favorite Henson's Muppet Christmas program and why. (For example: "Christmas Eve on Sesame Street," "Muppet Christmas Carol," "Muppet Family Christmas,"John Denver and the Muppets: Christmas Together," "Elmo Saves Christmas," "The Christmas Toy," etc.) If you have no Muppet preference, feel free to name another puppet Christmas favorite.

2) Which decade produced the bulk of your favorite Christmas entertainment?

3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entré, and dessert.

4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Feel free to get creative.

5) If one Christmas movie, special or episode was to be selected for a time capsule to opened in 1,000 years, which title do you think should be included?




 
Since I'm hosting this party, I'll be glad to be the first one to jump in and lead by example.  Isn't this fun already?

Christmas in July 2018:  Joanna Wilson from ChristmasTVHistory.com

1) Name your favorite Henson's Muppet Christmas program and why.

As a kid, I looked forward to watching the John Denver and The Muppets: Christmas Together. The soundtrack still holds a powerful nostalgic trip for me each year when I hear it again. However, as an adult, I end up watching Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas more often. The attention to detail in the background shots, the music, and the heartwarming story are satisfying.

2) Which decade produced your favorite Christmas entertainment?

I'm going with the 1970s. The 1970s saw the development of the Christmas TV movie. Watching the made-for-TV movies The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971) and The House Without a Christmas Tree (1972) each year in my house was must-see-TV. I still fondly remember many of the TV variety specials of the 1970s, from Bing Crosby to The Captain and Tennille, Donny & Marie Osmond, to Sonny & Cher, and Andy Williams. Re-watching those musical programs is still quite pleasurable.
 
3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entré, and dessert.

My ideal Christmas Eve viewing party: Appetizer--1996's "The Christmas Lunch Incident" episode of The Vicar of Dibley.  Entré--It's a Wonderful Life. Dessert: 1987's A Garfield Christmas.

4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Describe it.

I still can't believe there isn't a Christmas episode of I Dream of Jeannie! But I wish there was a classic Star Trek Christmas episode. Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy referring back to the ancient Earth custom of the yuletide has so much potential. I can hear Spock saying "That's illogical!" and watching Kirk roll his eyes. Uhuru would insist upon a gift exchange. What a missed opportunity.

5) If one Christmas movie, special or episode was to be selected for a time capsule to opened in 1,000 years, which title do you think should be included?

I would pick one of those mid-1960s Andy Williams Christmas specials. The color was so vibrant and the music was swingin'. Williams features his brothers on the show singing with him, and the Osmonds are there in five-part harmony too. I like the idea that Christmas is a time of music and a time for family which clearly comes across in these TV specials. If I can be so bold as to suggest a second title, I might include Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol in the time capsule. It incorporates Christmas animation, a musical, and the classic Dickens tale. Can I include both? LOL





Do you have any questions about Christmas in July 2018?  Ask below in the comments.

Send in your responses today!  Thanks for playing along and Merry Christmas in July.



Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her most recent book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Christmas Is (1970) animated TV special


Animated TV special from 1970

We all remember watching the animated TV specials Rudolph, Frosty, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. But do you recall Christmas Is, also made during the golden age of Christmas TV animation? Christmas Is is a half-hour, traditional cel animated TV special produced by Lutheran Television. It aired for many decades in syndication. Not only do I remember seeing it when I was young in the 1970s, but I know it was STILL airing each holiday season through the early 2000s after I had begun the research for the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV.


Best friends Benji and and his pet dog Waldo.

Christmas Is centers around the characters Benji and Waldo, a little boy and his long haired sheepdog. This is the first of four animated specials to feature Benji and Waldo. The two characters can also be seen in The City That Forgot About Christmas (1974), Easter Is (1974), and Freedom Is (1976, Fourth of July TV special).


More about these 7" records in the essay Christmas Records, Part 2. Click HERE.


My Benji and Waldo plastic coin bank.


Benji and Waldo were also featured in children's merchandise. I've found three different plastic 7" records that I believe were offered as free giveaways. I also have a Benji and Waldo 5" plastic coin bank. (If you know of any other Benji and Waldo items--please let me know!)


At play rehearsal. (Benji is the boy touching the floor).

Even though Benji has played Shepherd #2 before, he claims he still doesn't understand what's going on.


Christmas Is casts a long shadow despite its simple story. Benji is playing Shepherd #2 in a children's pageant about The Nativity. After a chaotic rehearsal--another child misbehaves several times--everyone is instructed by the director to return in the evening for the production. Carrying his costume, Benji walks home with the other children. He remarks to the others his frustration with playing the minor role of Shepherd #2 for the second year in a row. Benji expresses doubt that his role is necessary to the production.


Existential crisis time! Benji wonders about the role of Shepherd #2.


To better understand his role, Benji takes a second look at a storybook with the entire tale. Next, he finds himself with Waldo in Bethlehem at the time of the first Christmas. The streets are crowded as people come to the city to be counted in the census. A Roman soldier orders everyone off the streets for the night but the local inn is already full.


Ever find yourself lost inside a book? Benji does.

Benji wisely obeys the orders of a Roman soldier.

Benji enters the building and sees that the innkeeper is struggling to bring food and meet the needs of his guests. Benji volunteers to assist the innkeeper in exchange for a place on the floor to sleep. The innkeeper agrees.


Aahhh. Now Benji has a better understanding of the context of the story.

Going from table to table, bringing food, pouring wine, and cleaning up, Benji overhears various conversations of the people in Bethlehem. He hears people talking about the importance and purpose of the census. He hears Roman soldiers discussing the power and authority they hold over the local residents. And, he hears people discussing their need and desire for the Messiah. When Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary arrive at the front door, Benji sees the innkeeper direct them towards the animal shelter behind the inn.


A baby has been born in the stable but the crowds don't yet know the significance of the event.


In the middle of the night, Benji, Waldo, and the others in the inn are awakened by a bright light coming from the sky. A commotion is happening in the nearby stable, and people begin gathering there. Shepherds arrive at the animal shelter and begin sharing with everyone the importance of the newborn baby. The shepherds reveal that an angel visited them in the fields and told them that this baby is the Messiah of prophesy.


Benji addresses the real-life Shepherd #2.


Benji speaks with one of the shepherds and comes to understand that no one gathered at the stable would know who this baby was if it weren't for the shepherds. Feeling like he has a better understanding of his role in the dramatic story, Benji is eager for the evening's Christmas pageant.


The children's play is a success!

Benji's "research" allows him to bring a sense of authenticity to the role of Shepherd #2.

The animated TV special includes two original songs in its soundtrack: "Christmas Is" and "Christmas All Over the World." The original music is composed by Jimmie Haskell, with lyrics by Guy Hemric.




The voice cast for this production is stellar. Actors Hans Conried, Don Messick, Jerry Hausner, Vic Perrin, and June Foray are certainly familiar voices in the history of animation. This production clearly had a significant budget which they used wisely in casting. The investment clearly contributes to the longevity of Christmas Is.

The short title makes this production a bit confusing to locate in the age of on-line search engines. Make the effort anyway. Christmas Is is available for viewing on DVD, and elsewhere. Do you remember watching the TV special? Have you seen it more recently? Is this one of your favorites? Do you have any additional Benji and Waldo merchandise not mentioned above? Tell me about it in the comments below.


Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her most recent book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Minneapolis Christmas: Mary Tyler Moore Show

I'm such a huge Peppermint Patty fan! These Charles Schulz-inspired sculptures were an important destination.


This Spring, I had the wanderlust again and hit the road. This was my first time in Minneapolis, Minnesota and there were so many pop culture attractions! Of course, I toured Prince's home and recording studios at Paisley Park. The downtown features a colorful mural of musician Bob Dylan--honoring his time spent in Minneapolis. I also made a quick jaunt across the river to St. Paul to visit the seven statues of Peanuts characters--honoring the hometown of comic artist Charles Schulz. But you know one of the first locations I hunted down when I arrived in Minneapolis, right? Yes, I went looking for the home used in the exterior shots of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.


The Mary Tyler Moore Show home--Minneapolis, May 2018.


It wasn't difficult to locate at all. The home is a private residence so I stayed off their property to snap my pics. (I needed the distance to capture the whole home anyway!) Very little has changed over the decades. You can see that the tree in the front yard has grown, and the house is a different color. But these are minor changes, in my opinion. It sits in an amazing neighborhood filled with large upscale homes.


Screen shot of the home from the first season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Compare the two images of the home. The above screen shot from the first season must have been captured in 1970. The house has been well cared for over the decades. Travel tip: take a screen shot of your destination and save it on your phone when you travel. It makes it much easier to identify your TV location when you arrive.


Can you image Phyllis, Lars and Bess living on the first floor? Mary on the second floor? and Rhoda on the third?

If you're a fan of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a trip to Minneapolis must also include locating the statue of Mary as well. In 2001, the TV network TVLand donated the life-size statue to the city and it was placed on the street corner of 7th and Nicollet where the sequence used in the opening credits was originally shot. You know--the iconic sequence of Mary spinning around and throwing her hat up in the air? The statue recreating that inspiring and iconic image of Mary with her hat is located at that intersection! I just had to find it.



You can't LOOK at this statue without hearing the theme song in your head!

For a while, the statue was moved from the corner of 7th and Nicollet because of street construction. I had read that the city made it available to tourists in a temporary indoor location during limited hours. But I'm pleased to report that it has since been moved back to the street corner at 7th and Nicollet. She looks fabulous!


The base of the statue.

Those of us that love pop culture travel know that TVLand dedicated several television-inspired statues throughout the country. I've already visited Fonzie in Milwaukee, Bob Newhart in Chicago, and now Mary Richards in Minneapolis. I still need to visit Andy and Opie in Mount Airy, North Carolina, Samantha Stevens in Salem, Massachusetts, and Ralph Kramden in New York City. Have you ever visited any of these TVLand statues too?



We might just make it after all :)

1970's "Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid II" episode from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Christmas TV fans will remember the first season Christmas episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. To see my discussion of that episode again, click HERE. I've also written about the fifth season episode "Not a Christmas Story." See that essay again HERE. Moore fans fondly remember her in the 1963 holiday episode from The Dick Van Dyke Show too. See that essay again HERE. Did you know that Mary Tyler Moore appeared in several Christmas TV movies too? She appears in 2002's Miss Lettie and Me and 2005's Snow Wonder. Moore makes a guest appearance on Danny Kaye's variety TV show at Christmas in 1963. And, she lends her voice as Granny Rose in the 1996 animated TV special How the Toys Saved Christmas.

If you're looking to re-watch a special treat--check out the 2001 episode "Ellen's First Christmess" from DeGeneres' second sitcom The Ellen Show. The holiday installment features a Mary Tyler Moore Show reunion, of sorts. Special guests include Mary Tyler Moore as Ellen's aunt, and Ed Asner as the mall Santa Claus. Cloris Leachman plays a recurring character, Ellen's mother. It's so great seeing the actors who play Mary, Lou Grant, and Phyllis together again in this Christmas episode that is filled with Mary Tyler Moore Show in-jokes and references!


from 1975's "Not a Christmas Story" episode from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Sure looks like Christmas to me!

Curious about my other pop culture/Christmas destinations? Feel free to click through to the following links:

John Denver statue/Mork & Mindy House in Colorado
Perry Como's statue in Canonsburg, PA
Dean Martin's hometown of Steubenville, OH
Rosemary Clooney's home in Augusta, KY
The Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, PA
It's a Wonderful Life Museum in Seneca Falls, NY
Lucille Ball's birthday celebration in Jamestown, NY
A Christmas Story House & Museum in Cleveland, OH

A few months ago, I recorded a podcast with travel writer Lisa Iannucci for her series Reel Travels. Listen again HERE.


Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com







Wednesday, May 23, 2018

DVD.com/Netflix Paper Dress



I have a new adventure underway! As my readers know, I've been researching and writing about everyone's favorite Christmas TV episodes, specials and movies for almost twenty years. One resource for my research is Netflix and their DVD subscription service DVD.com. I've been a subscriber since 2005 and continue to receive DVDs in the mail (I also subscribe to Netflix's streaming service). Thirteen years ago, when I received my first DVD in the mail, I noticed that the paper of the envelopes was an interesting texture. (It seems to resist moisture--which is a good idea since the envelopes go through rain and snow before reaching mailboxes). Rather than discard the envelope front that one tears off before returning the DVD in the mail, I saved the red sheets of paper and began collecting them. Here it is, 13 years later and I have more than 1500 envelope fronts saved in a box. THAT'S an awful lot of Christmas DVDs!




In 2018, DVD.com/Netflix is celebrating their 20th anniversary. A few months ago, I saw that Netflix/DVD.com was looking for interesting subscriber stories to promote their anniversary. I shared my quirky tale of saving more than 1,500 envelope fronts, and they responded! Asking a very reasonable question, they inquired why I would save them. I explained that the texture of the paper impressed me, and I dreamed that maybe one day I would make a dress for Halloween from them. DVD.com/Netflix was so impressed by my collection and the outrageous idea to make an outfit from them that they have now generously offered to sponsor the dress. After I have a designer and dressmaker, they'll share the finished outfit on their social media. Doesn't this sound like fun?

A local news station--WKYC-TV in Cleveland, OH--shared my story this week. Watch the video below:







I'm interviewing Kent State University fashion students (and recent grads) who are interested in this project. If you are a fashion designer and are interested in this unique project, please email me your resumé, a link to on-line portfolio, and send sketches. This project is moving along--Halloween 2018 will be here before you know it.

Please feel free to follow along with this project on social media. I'm on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tistheseasontv/

I'll keep you up-to-date with this fun adventure!


Myself (right) with WKYC-TV newscaster Amani Abraham (left)


Some of my collection of envelope fronts.

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com



Sunday, May 13, 2018

Christmas Records, Part 3


In the process of creating the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV, I learned that writing about Christmas on TV also means I research and write about holiday music quite a bit. Christmas TV episodes, specials and movies are loaded with music and carols. As a pop culture junkie, I love searching out soundtracks to holiday programs and collecting vintage record albums. As a researcher, I often turn to these official releases for help in the identification of songs and to get more information about the music. They're also cool to have and display in my office.

My collection is focused on Christmas records with a film or television tie-in. I've shared some of collection before. Here's a link to Part 1 and Part 2. Here's the original post that started it all--the Christmas records from my trip to Detroit last year. And, here's a post about my Christmas CD collection. Below is more from my collection of vintage records.


I finally found it!!

The Alcoa Hour in 1956 offered TV viewers an outstanding holiday experience. The original musical The Stingiest Man in Town was a lavish production featuring an all-star cast, including Basil Rathbone, and Vic Damone, with music by Fred Spielman and book and lyrics by Janice Torre. It's a musical adaptation of Dickens' classic tale A Christmas Carol. The live TV production was filmed--but lost for decades. A kinescope was found and released on DVD just a few years ago. I wrote about this 1956 Christmas TV special before. You can read about it again HERE.

For many years, all fans had to remember the original 1956 production was this LP soundtrack by Columbia Records. I finally acquired my own copy of the vintage record purchased for me by my friend shopping in a record store in Chattanooga, TN this past spring.

The musical was later adapted by Rankin/Bass for the 1978 animated Christmas TV special, also titled The Stingiest Man in Town. In my previous post about Christmas records, I showed off my Alcoa Singers recording that features art work from the animated special. Click HERE to see that vintage record again.


Didn't I share this LP before? NOPE--this RCA/Victor soundtrack is different!

I previously shared the soundtrack recording of 1951's Amahl and the Night Visitors from my record collection. You can see it again HERE. Amahl was the very first opera written specifically for television AND it was the very first Hallmark Hall of Fame production. That's significant Christmas TV history!

While looking through Christmas records in a store in Minneapolis last week, I found this record (black cover above). It is the soundtrack recording from the December 1963 staging of Amahl which aired on NBC, another Hallmark Hall of Fame. This is a new cast and a new production--different from the 1951 recording. I'm so lucky--this LP still includes the libretto booklet that originally came with the 1964 record.
 

1966's A Merry Mancini Christmas (RCA Records)

Also in Minneapolis, I picked up my very own copy of A Merry Mancini Christmas. This 1966 record isn't very rare, and my local library has it on CD in their collection. But I still wanted this because the vintage record includes a very special track. The first song on Side B is Carol for Another Christmas--a Mancini composition created for the soundtrack of the movie by the same title. Talk about Christmas TV history, the movie Carol for Another Christmas is another example of an outstanding TV production.

The 1964 movie was funded by the Xerox Corporation to commemorate the anniversary of the United Nations. Carol for Another Christmas was written by Rod Serling (yes--THAT Rod Serling!). It is another adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol but this version includes a post-apocalyptic vision of Christmases Future. I know, right! And, it features an amazing cast: Sterling Hayden, Ben Gazzara, Peter Sellers, Steve Lawrence, and tons more. The outrageous movie used to be viewable only in museums but now can be found airing each December on Turner Classic Movies. You have to go looking for it, and it often only airs in the early morning hours--but it's there on the schedule. Seek it out--it's worth it. And, listen for the melancholy Mancini soundtrack.


1964 Christmas music from the Singer Company. Recognize that family?

 At first glance, this record may look like so many others. The 1960s and 70s saw many companies in America producing their own collections of Christmas music--a way from them to promote themselves and provide their customers with quality entertainment. Doesn't everyone have at least one Firestone Christmas record in their collection? I'm still dying to find the Christmas record put out by Kentucky Fried Chicken with Col. Sanders on the cover! And, the above record is another in the same genre. It was produced in 1964 by the Singer Company (they make sewing machines). The vintage record features traditional holiday favorites, arranged by George Siravo. But it now resides in my collection because of the TV family on the album cover. That's the cast of The Donna Reed Show after Mary (Shelley Fabares) left for college and the Stone's adopted young Trisha (Patty Petersen). Yes--Singer sponsored The Donna Reed Show in 1964. The Donna Reed Show includes one Christmas episode, 1958's "A Very Merry Christmas" starring silent film superstar Buster Keaton. Read my discussion of it again HERE.

Both Shelley Fabares and Paul Petersen from The Donna Reed Show had solo recording careers. Wouldn't it have been fantastic if they had recorded Christmas music for a release such as this? Oh, what could have been!

Movie fans may remember that actor Donna Reed also starred It's a Wonderful Life. I wonder if that movie ever had a soundtrack release?


1955 RCA/Victor The Voices of Walter Schumann

Another record I found in Minneapolis recently is The Voices of Christmas featuring the chorus group The Voices of Walter Schumann. The album features traditional Christmas tunes, both sacred and secular. The music of the chorus group reflects a typical 1950s style, while familiar it isn't particularly noteworthy either. Except for one tune. "Christmas Gift" on Side B is a lost treasure that I only stumbled across last year. "Christmas Gift" is the only song on the album with a soloist taking the lead vocals among the chorus group. While the back of the album credits choral director and arranger Jester Hairston with writing the song, it certainly sounds like Hairston as the solo vocalist as well. And, the song sure does swing! It stands out from all the other tracks on the album not just as the only one with a solo vocalist, but also its tempo and embrace of jazz.

You know why this song first attracted my attention, right! I've written about Jester Hairston before. Not only is he the composer of the original Christmas standard "Mary's Boy Child," but he also did arrangements for the soundtrack of the movie Lilies of the Field--music which continued in the 1979 TV movie Christmas Lilies of the Field. You may also recognize Hairston as an actor--he appeared on the 1980s sitcom Amen as the elderly Rolly Forbes. Check out my essay on the 1987 Christmas episode of Amen which features Hairston singing. 



Give the song "Christmas Gift" a listen. See if it doesn't impress you as well.


7" record RCA/BMG (1994)

In a previous post about Christmas records, I shared my 1982 record Soap Opera Christmas. See that again HERE. I accidentally overlooked this 7" record also in my collection in that previous post. This 7 inch record entitled A Soap Opera Christmas features two songs. Side A is "Merry Christmas Wherever You Are (Radio Version)" performed by the Soaps and Hearts Ensemble, and Side B is "O Come All ye Faithful to the World-Medley" performed by Martha Byrne, who played Lily Grimaldi on As the World Turns. From the text on the reverse side of the sleeve pictured above, this 7" appears to have two singles from the larger 1994 project also entitled A Soap Opera Christmas, released on CD and cassette by BMG. Much like the 1982 record I previously wrote about, the 1994 record features holiday music performed by soap opera stars of the era. The Soaps and Hearts Ensemble appears to be a chorus consisting of 30 soap actors. The list of participants is too long to include here but I recognize a few outstanding names, such as Eva La Rue (from All My Children), Kristoff St. John (from The Young and the Restless), and Louise Sorel (from Days of Our Lives). I don't have the CD or cassette of the 1994 album A Soap Opera Christmas, only the two singles. But I bet somebody else has it! Let us know in the comments below how you like it :)



Salsoul Record Corp (1978) Cuchi Cuchi!

A Charo record!? Yup. I recently picked up this Christmas 12 inch here in Ohio. On Side A is the disco song "(Mamacita) ¿Donde Esta Santa Claus?" sung by Charo, and on Side B is the instrumental version of the same tune. Of course, "¿Donde Esta Santa Claus?" is the familiar 1958 holiday song--here it is covered by the musician and TV personality Charo with a Latin/disco beat. 1978 was a magical time, wasn't it?


John Schneider's White Christmas Scotti Brothers Records (1981)

Bo Duke made a Christmas album!? YES! Actually, this is John Schneider's first Christmas album. It includes traditional carol such as "White Christmas," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Winter Wonderland," "Silver Bells," "Silent Night, Holy Night," "The Christmas Song," "Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and more. I think my favorite is "Katey's Christmas Card" a song with a touching narrative. The back cover of the album also includes an address to join the John Schneider fan club. Hhhmmm...I wonder if that group is still active?

John Schneider of course portrayed Bo Duke on the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard. You can read my discussion of the 1980 Dukes of Hazzard Christmas episode again HERE. Schneider also lent his voice to the Saturday morning cartoon series The Dukes. Read my discussion of the 1983 Christmas episode of The Dukes HERE. And, Schneider has appeared in several Christmas TV movies over the years. My favorite of those is 1987's Christmas Comes to Willow Creek. Read about that movie again HERE.


Do you own any of these musical titles? Do you have other records in your collection that were adapted from Christmas programs? Share the titles below.


Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned here can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Reel Travels #8: Podcast with travel writer Lisa Iannucci, Virgin Traveler



I'm so excited to share that I joined travel writer Lisa Iannucci on her most recent podcast talking about our favorite film and TV pop culture travel destinations. Lisa is the author of the *new* book On Location: A Film and TV Lover's Travel Guide. Her book is so much fun--I've been pouring through it! It's one of those books that I'm going to keep in my collection for later reference too when I'm planning future excursions.

If you follow along on my website, you know I love to travel to pop culture destinations. I'm most attracted to ones with a Christmas entertainment tie-in. Click on each to return to the essay:

John Denver statue outside Denver, CO
Mork & Mindy house in Boulder, CO
Perry Como's statue in Canonsburg, PA
Dean Martin's hometown of Steubenville, OH
Rosemary Clooney's home in Augusta, KY
The Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, PA
It's a Wonderful Life Museum in Seneca Falls, NY
Lucille Ball's birthday celebration in Jamestown, NY
A Christmas Story House & Museum in Cleveland, OH


2017 at the Christmas Story House & Museum 5k run.


Lisa found me on Twitter--and I immediately began following her too! We have a lot in common. So when she invited me on her podcast, I knew we would have quite a bit to talk about.

***Listen to Reel Travels episode #8: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/reeltravels/2018/04/13/reel-travels-podcast-8-filmtv-highlights-from-chicago-author-joanna-wilson

It's a pretty significant discussion. We talk for more than 30 minutes. Feel free to join the conversation and leave comments here, or with Lisa. You can find her on Twitter: @VirginTraveler


At the Rosemary Clooney House museum in Augusta, KY in 2016. They claim to have the largest collection of White Christmas memorabilia there is.


Friday, April 13, 2018

Christmas Records, Part 2



One thing I learned early in my research for the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV, when you specialize in writing about Christmas on TV, you also research and write quite a bit about music. Christmas TV episodes, specials and movies are loaded with music and carols. As a pop culture junkie, I love picking up soundtracks to holiday programs and collecting vintage record albums. As a researcher, I often turn to these official releases for help in the identification of songs and for more information about the music. They're also just cool to have and display in my office.

My collection is focused on Christmas records with a film or television tie-in. I've shared some of collection before. Here's a link to Part 1. Here's the original post that started it all--the Christmas records from my trip to Detroit last year. And, here's a post about my Christmas CD collection. Below is more from my collection of records.



Free record for viewers of the 1970 animated TV special Christmas Is.

I've managed to collect three different printings of the free 7" plastic record that viewers could get for the asking from Lutheran Television Ministries with music and stories from the 1970 animated TV special Christmas Is. The record was advertised after the half-hour cartoon when it aired in syndication for several years. (I saw it airing in syndication where I live in as late as the early 2000s).   
Christmas Is features the characters of Benji and his sheepdog Waldo in their pursuit of the meaning of the yuletide season. Benji and Waldo are also at the center of the 1974 animated special The City That Forgot About Christmas, 1974's Easter Is, and 1976's Freedom Is (about the 4th of July).

Each of the records is slightly different. The first record (no date) Side 1: the songs "What Is Christmas?," "Christmas All Over the World," and "Christmas Is." Side 2: Hans Conried narrates two stories--Christmas as described by St. Luke (Luke 2:1-20) from the Bible, and Christmas as described by St. Matthew (Matthew 2:1-12) from the Bible.


The "preview" mentioned on Record 2 (above) is for a comic strip promoting the animated special Easter Is.

Record 2 (dated 1970, 1973) Side 1: the songs "What Is Christmas?," "Christmas All Over the World," and "Christmas Is." Side 2: an interview with the stars Benji and Waldo. Benji speaks--and Waldo barks--about their characters, the making of Christmas Is, and its appeal to international viewers.


The cover of Record 3 includes a cut-out with the characters from The City That Forgot About Christmas.

Record 3 (dated 1970, 1974) Side 1: the songs "Overture," "You Can't Stop Christmas," and "Chip, Chip, Chip Away." Side 2: the songs "Christmas All Over the World," and "Christmas Is." The inside of the cover includes the song lyrics for the songs. What a keepsake!


12" record of The Alcoa Singers performing selections from the musical The Stingiest Man in Town.


The cover artwork with the cartoon characters first attracted my eye. Those characters are from the 1978 Rankin/Bass animated TV special The Stingiest Man in Town--but this is not the soundtrack. Instead this is the Alcoa Singers--a group of volunteers from Alcoa employees that perform for company events as well as community functions--performing songs from the original 1956 TV musical The Stingiest Man in Town, sponsored by Alcoa. I wrote an essay about that production--see it again HERE.

The Stingiest Man in Town features music by Fred Spielman and lyrics by Janice Torre in a spectacular adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It is this production that was then adapted for the 1978 Rankin/Bass animated special. This 1979 record features the Alcoa Singers performing songs from that musical, as well as other traditional yuletide carols. What a quirky treat!



Fans of the movie The Apartment (starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine)--do you know about this musical?

I've been looking for this record for a while! Finally, I found it. Promises, Promises is the Broadway musical adapted from the Academy Award-winning 1960 movie The Apartment. If you remember the movie, it includes several Christmas scenes. You may be interested to know that the musical adaptation includes holiday tunes! Yup. There's more: the music was written by Burt Bacharach, lyrics by Hal David, and Jerry Orbach was in the original cast and is featured on this recording. I know--right? Back to the holiday tunes--yes, this musical includes the songs "Turkey Lurkey Time" and "Christmas Day." Bacharach fans will recognize "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" and "Promises, Promises" from this musical too. This 1968 12" is from United Artists Records.


Soundtrack to movie Lilies of the Field, directed by Ralph Nelson. Epic Records 1964.

In my collection, I also have the original soundtrack to Academy Award-winning 1963 movie Lilies of the Field. The music was composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith but the vocals are by Jester Hairston. I have this soundtrack in my Christmas collection because there was a sequel made in 1979, the made-for-TV movie Christmas Lilies of the Field. Billy Dee Williams takes over the role of Homer Smith--the role that won Sidney Poitier his first Oscar. I've written about Christmas Lilies of the Field on this website before, click HERE to see it again. The sequel also includes a version of the the gospel song "Amen" originally found on this soundtrack. In the 1963 movie, Jester Hairston provides the vocals for Poitier on the song "Amen." Hairston is a very noteworthy artist--not only did he write the popular Christmas carol "Mary's Boy Child" but her sang it in the 1987 Christmas of the TV sitcom Amen in which he played the regular Rolly Forbes! I've written about this 1987 Christmas episode HERE.


Columbia Records (1967)

Ed Sullivan Presents Music of Christmas is a pleasant album of orchestra and chorus music. The TV variety host selected the songs for the album--what a sweet gig! The music was produced by Ted Macero, arranged by John Gregory, with musical consultant Ray Bloch. The songs range from the secular ("Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer," "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," "Jingle Bells," "White Christmas" and more) to the sacred classics ("The Little Drummer Boy," "Three Wise Men, Wise Men Three," O Holy Night," "O Bambino," "The First Noel," the English carol "Bethlehem," and more).

I like that Sullivan's photo is on the album cover. Although I'm too young to have watched the variety show when it originally aired, I did watch it on PBS in the 1990s and I've watched DVDs of the highlights of the original program. The Christmas music clips from The Ed Sullivan Show are some of my favorites--including The Supremes singing "My Favorite Things" on his show in 1966. So stylish. See what I mean?







 Bob and Doug McKenzie's Great White North. Mercury Records (1981)

I was a teenager in the 1980s, so, of course, I'm a big fan of SCTV and the characters Bob & Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas). Great White North is their comedy album with  spoken word tracks and a couple songs. The hit song from the album was "Take Off" featuring fellow Canadian Geddy Lee. But my interest is in the song "Twelve Days of Christmas" in which the lyrics enumerating the gifts given by a true love are instead re-written to reflect the beer-drinking, toque-wearing, jelly donut-eating Canadian brothers' lifestyle. I'm not sure this song gets much radio play anymore during the holidays but it was a popular parody of the traditional song during the 1980s, based on characters from an influential sketch comedy TV show.


Soap Opera Christmas. Pink Wings Productions (1982)

Soap Opera Christmas is very easy to find in thrift stores where I live, and I have several copies. With a little digging, I discovered several artists on the album are originally from Northeast Ohio! Just as the title suggests, this is a collection of Christmas songs performed by soap opera stars. Side A: Candice Earley (All My Children) sings "O Holy Night/O Happy Day," Allan Fawcett (The Edge of Night) performs "Christmas Is You," Randy Hamilton (Texas) sings "Merry Christmas, Darling," Lori Loughlin (The Edge of Night) sings "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," and John McCafferty (Texas) rocks out on "Jingle Bell Rock." Side 2: Mary Gordon Murray (One Life to Live) performs "Blue Christmas," Tom Nielsen (Guiding Light) sings "Winter Wonderland," Frank Runyeon (As the World Turns) sings "White Christmas," John Wesley Shipp (Guiding Light) sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and Darnell Williams (All My Children) sings "The Christmas Song." ***Several of these actors have been on other soaps too, however I've credited the soap they were appearing in when the record was produced in 1982.

For those paying attention, Lori Loughlin continues to have a very acting successful career. Christmas fans may have seen her recently in the TV movie Every Christmas Has a Story (2016), and the two yuletide installments (2016 and 2017) of the series When Calls the Heart on the Hallmark Channel.



Caedmon Publishers (1957)

I just love this stylish woodblock print-inspired album cover art. Regular readers of this website know I'm a huge fan of Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales." Click HERE to return to my discussion of the 1987 Christmas TV special adapted from Thomas' story. I've read Thomas' story before, and listened to Youtube clips of the writer reading his own story. But I also have my own copy of the artist reciting his wonderful prose poem "A Child's Christmas in Wales." This album features Dylan Thomas's recitation, recorded February 22, 1952 in New York--arguably his most famous recording. I cherish this record.


RCA/Victor (1952) box and book.


Another highlight of my collection is this 1952 soundtrack. This is a recording of the very first Hallmark Hall of Fame production, 1951's Amahl and the Night Visitors--the first opera commissioned especially for television. The 1952 33 1/3 record comes in its own box and includes a booklet with photos from the 1951 TV production, a history written by its composer Gian-Carlo Menotti, and the Libretto. When my partner came home from the record store with this package for me, I cried! I feel blessed to have my own copy, complete with booklet. THIS is what Christmas TV history looks like.

Do you own any of these musical titles? Do you have other records in your collection that were adapted from Christmas programs? Share the titles below.


Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned here can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com