Monday, August 22, 2016

Rosemary Clooney House

Rosemary Clooney House in Augusta, KY

It's that time of year again. I've been traveling to pop culture destinations on summer vacation. You may remember some of my earlier destinations: The Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, PA; It's a Wonderful Life Museum in Seneca Falls, NY; The Waltons-Hamner Homestead in Schuyler, VA; The Lucille Ball museums in Jamestown, NY; and A Christmas Story House Museum in Cleveland, OH. Earlier this year, I even visited webmaster and Christmas music collector Jeff Fox in Ottawa. I love traveling and sharing my adventures. What pop culture destinations have you visited?

Augusta is a sleepy little town located on the banks of the scenic Ohio River.

Last week I went Augusta, KY to visit the Rosemary Clooney House. The singer/actor's personal home has been turned into a museum filled with treasures from Clooney's long career. Getting there was half the fun. Rosemary was raised in nearby Maysville--this is also where she currently rests. But she purchased the beautiful home in Augusta to be near her family and as an isolated getaway between New York and Los Angeles. Since I live in Ohio and was traveling from the north, I took a ferry across the Ohio River to reach Augusta. I recommend it--riding the small ferry was an adventure in itself.

Crossing the Ohio River. On the Ohio side, there are many historic sites and museums dedicated the Underground Railroad and nineteenth century paths taken by escaped Southern slaves seeking freedom in the North.

Sheet music and original 7" recording of Clooney's Christmas hit song "Suzy Snowflake."

Inside the museum, you'll find photos, artifacts, memorabilia, and costumes from Rosemary's singing career and appearances in Hollywood films. Bet I know what you're interested in! The stuff from the 1954 movie White Christmas, right? The museum boasts "the largest collection of White Christmas memorabilia anywhere in the world." Make sure you contact them before you visit--during the holidays, pieces from the collection travel to other museums. (I almost visited late last year but waited until now when I knew the collection was all at the Rosemary Clooney House.)

Remember the sparkly gloves she wears during the song "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me" in White Christmas?

Pardon the glare from the glass case: here's a blue fan from the performance of "Sisters."

That's Rosemary's brown coat in the back from the scene in which she boards the train. There are lots of Vera-Ellen costumes too.

The "White Christmas" dress in the back is a re-creation, and the "Sisters" dresses have experienced their own long history--ask the museum staff, she'll explain.

Rosemary's bedroom in the house.

The museum also features Rosemary's original bedroom set and her personal items. What a treat it was to see the things she owned and loved. There are more costumes and memorabilia from Clooney's other Hollywood films as well.

The museum also has several Bob Mackie hand-drawn designs of fashions Rosemary Clooney wore.

Geroge Clooney's bib overalls from the Coen Brothers' movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Holy smokes! They also have costumes and personal items from her famous nephew--maybe you've heard of him? GEORGE CLOONEY. He was raised in Augusta and the Clooney family still owns several properties there in town, so he occasionally drops by. I looked for him, but he wasn't around when I was there. Go figure. The museum is now run by Heather French Henry (beauty pageant winner Miss America 2000) and her husband Dr. Steve Henry (former Lt. Governor of Kentucky). The museum also features several of their accomplishments too. There's lots to see and experience at the small museum.

Sorry--pardon the glass case glare. Here's a dress worn by Sondra Locke in the movie Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story from 1982.

Amanda and I pose in front of a larger-than-life-sized OSU football player in Columbus, OH. Neither of us knows anything about football.

While I was traveling, I also got a chance to visit with Amanda By Night from Made for TV Mayhem website and the Made for TV Mayhem podcast. We spent an evening together in Columbus, OH discussing our favorite TV movies. What more could I ever want?

Where did you go on summer vacation?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Perfect Strangers Christmas (1988)

Sometimes our favorite TV shows are just silly, wacky stories that allow us to escape from our daily routines. There's something on TV for everyone--and a Christmas episode to suit every taste. I was recently reminded of the third season holiday episode "The Gift of the Mypiot" from the 80s hit sitcom Perfect Strangers. Do you remember this one?

Balki's co-workers watch him open his Christmas gift from his mother.

It's Christmas Eve and Larry and his cousin Balki are looking forward to their Christmas party later in the evening. At work at the Chicago Chronicle, the cousins talk about their preparations for the party and how their workplace friends are all invited. Balki discovers that Larry didn't invite their boss Mr. Gorpley because...well, no one likes him. Larry is convinced Mr. Gorpley will ruin the party for the other guests but Balki thinks everyone should be invited to the party.

Balki has a very kind heart--even to those with a toxic personality, like Gorpley.

When Balki overhears Mr. Gorpley talking on the phone, he learns that his boss will be alone on Christmas. Although he knows Larry won't like it, Balki invites Gorpley to come to the Christmas party.

Larry isn't happy with Balki's guest list.

Balki hesitates to share with Larry what he's done. When Larry finds out that Mr. Gorpley is invited, his plan is to avoid answering the door to him. Balki explains to Larry that he invited the miserable man because Christmas is a time to help the less fortunate. He believes that if they show Mr. Gorpley a bit of kindness, it will spark the Christmas spirit inside him. Larry isn't convinced.

Larry identifies each guest's voice before opening the door, hoping to screen out Mr. Gorpley.

One by one, the party guests arrive. When Mr. Gorpley finally knocks on the door, Larry panics and the other party guests learn that Mr. Gorpley was invited too.

No one wants Balki to answer the door and let Mr. Gorpley into the party!

Showing just how unpopular Gorpley has made himself, the party guests attempt to keep Balki from opening the door and letting the boss in. Plan B: all the guests decide to leave!

Balki is persuasive!

Of course, Balki convinces everyone that it's the right thing to let Mr. Gorpley attend the party. They open the door, invite him in, wish him a merry Christmas, and Mr. Gorpley begins to make those around him feel miserable. As a distraction, Balki puts on a Santa suit and begins to hand out gifts to the guests. However, Gorpley's comments and attitude is spoiling everyone's fun.

Enough is enough! The guests throw the mean and cruel Gorpley from the party.

Balki Claus defends Gorpley and insists he stay.

The angry mob rises up against Gorpley's bad attitude.

Gorpley confronts the angry party guests and explains to them that they can't hurt him--he's had plenty of miserable Christmases. As he begins to list off the bad Christmases he's experienced throughout his life, the crowd begins to soften, feel sorry for him, and understand the miserable man. Balki calms them all and returns to handing out gifts.

Gorpley thanks Balki for the gift of love.

The last gift is for Gorpley--a surprise to him and the other guests. Gorpley opens it and finds that Balki has given him the precious gift from his mother--a treasured, handmade item sent from his village back home. All the party guests know how much the gift means to Balki and they are touched by his sacrifice in giving it to Gorpley. Even Gorpley recognizes the gift's value. It turns out Balki was right after all. Kindness shown to Gorpley has inspired his Christmas spirit.

Touched by the moment, the party guests begin singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

The episode's title "The Gift of the Mypiot" pays homage to the popular short story "The Gift of the Magi" written by O.Henry. Of course, Mypos is the vaguely European home to Balki before coming to stay with his cousin Larry in America. While this episode isn't much of an adaptation of "The Gift of the Magi," it is a thoughtful tribute to the spirit of making sacrifices and offering gifts to others as an expression of love.

The 1988 Christmas episode is also one that includes the character Harriette Winslow, the elevator operator at the Chicago Chronicle. TV fans may remember that Harriette eventually got her own spin-off TV series called Family Matters--and the rest is Urkel history!

Actor Jo Marie Payton as Harriette Winslow.

Interested in reading about a few other Christmas movies, specials and episodes adapted from short stories by O.Henry? Here's a list of links from other reviews I've written. Have a favorite?

Remember the 1955 Christmas episode of The Honeymooners? It's an adaptation of O.Henry's "Gift of the Magi."

Monday, August 1, 2016

Christmas in July 2016: Jim Fanning

Christmas in July 2016: Jim Fanning at Tulgey Wood

1) What Christmas episode/special/or movie always puts you in the holiday spirit?

When the Whos start singing at the beginning of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (the original animated TV special from 1966). Their rendition of “Welcome, Christmas” followed immediately by “Trim Up the Tree” just make me instantly feel like it’s Christmastime.

2) What Christmas program or scene brings you to tears?

There are so many but I never fail to be moved by the entire not-quite-Christmas-but-we’ll-make-it-Christmas scene in Auntie Mame (not strictly speaking a Christmas movie but as so many of us feel, if it has a Christmas scene, it’s a Christmas movie!)…especially when Beau invites Mame out and she declines, saying she is going to have a celebration with "my little family.” Christmas is about the family, whatever form it may take--and unconventional Mame of course has formed a unique family around her, even though it was unplanned.

The Cratchit family in Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.

3) What's your favorite quote of dialogue, song lyric, or sentiment from a Christmas program?

Here I have to choose the song “The Lord’s Bright Blessing” in Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. No, not the part about razzeleberry dressing (although that’s fun and quanit), but the line “we’ll have a Christmas far more glorious than grand."  The entire song captures the essence of A Christmas Carol, about having a merry Christmas even if you have very little…or nothing… "as long as we're together, heart to hand."

4) Is there a Christmas program that unintentionally frightens you--or turns you off?

This one's easy. I know a lot of people have an affection for it, but I find The Polar Express so creepy. I’m not sure why a good director like Robert Zemeckis is so attracted to that motion capture process. And in case you're wondering if I saw his version of A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey, the answer is no.

5) Name one character from Christmas entertainment with whom you closely identify? and explain why.

I am tempted to say, like David Hofstede, John-Boy Walton, for the same reason as David's: John-Boy is the embodiment of the writer, or at least the in progress writer. (Plus I bear a certain resemblance to John-Boy.) But instead I'll cheat and choose two characters:  Lucy Carmichael and Vivian Bagley from The Lucy Show episode, "A Christmas Together.”  I can truly relate to how both Lucy and Viv are so dedicated to their holiday traditions because I too have strong opinions on the “best” way to celebrate Christmas—although I also am fascinated by and interested in how others celebrate too, and Mrs. Carmichael and Mrs. Bagley are not. But at the end of the episode Lucy and Viv are inspired by their own children to put their differences aside and combine their efforts, as symbolized by the two Christmas trees they join together to form one.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Christmas in July 2016: Recap

Did you check out all the responses by our Christmas in July participants?  In case you were late to the party this summer, here's your chance to catch up.  Below is a complete list of links to each of our guests who participated in July. It goes by quickly, doesn't it?

This past month has been an exciting one for me too. Galleys for my new book project The Triple Dog Dare: Watching--and Surviving--the 24 Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story are going out soon. Look for the new book this upcoming holiday season.

Thanks to everyone who participated in Christmas in July and to all who left comments.  I was entertained and amused all month long by everyone's replies--I hope you were too!

Introduction to Christmas in July 2016, and Joanna Wilson's responses

Drew Flowers of Christmas Movies & Music

Brian Arnold of Me and You and a Blog Named Boo


Rob Martinez of The Nights Before Christmas

Linda M. Young of Flying Dreams

Do You Hear What I Hear

Jim Inman of Christmas Movies & Music

Cathie Kahle of Christmas Movies & Music

S.W. of Ho! Ho! Holiday Viewing

Jennifer Davis of smARTStudio

Kevin Bowman


Mitchell Hadley of It's About TV!

Jeff Fox of

Melissa Olson of Gilmore Girls Soundtrack

Randall Buie

Donna Bock

D.X. Ferris of 6623 Press

David Branch

Net of It's a Wonderful Movie

Ed South of Wonderful World of Blog

Jakki of Christmas Movies & Music

J.A. Morris of Holiday Film Reviews

Daniel Budnik of Some Polish American Guy Reviews Things website, and Eventually Supertrain podcast

Dominic Caruso of 1701 Press

Laura Rachel of

David Hofstede of Comfort TV

Jonathan Sowers

Jim Fanning of Tulgey Wood

If you're interested, below are a few more links.  These are the recaps from Christmas TV History's previous Christmas in July parties.  

Christmas TV Party 2015: Recap

Christmas TV Party 2014 Summary

2013's Christmas in July: Animation Celebration

2012's Sci-Fi Christmas in July

2011's 1990s Christmas in July

2010's Christmas in July guest bloggers and Fan Photos


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Christmas in July 2016: Jonathan Sowers

Christmas in July 2016: Jonathan Sowers

1) What Christmas episode/special/or movie always puts you in the holiday spirit?

It's not Christmas without seeing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer one more time. The opening scenes are all I need to see. Just the credits whisk me back to the 1960s when these shows came on every Christmas and you had to be there in front of the TV or you missed
it. The music in that special is so timeless and good. Watching that show was one of the highlights of my Christmas when I was a child. I remember the GE commercials too, with the elves. We always had lots of GE appliances--fridge, stove, washer, dishwasher, radios and TVs. Mom's GE stove is 63 years old.

2) What Christmas program or scene brings you to tears?

For me it's a song. Glen Campbell singing There's No Place Like Home. He sang it on his 1970 Christmas special, but I remember it more from his Capitol recording. It's a beautiful song and Glen sang it better than anyone else.

When I was growing up, my dad's family always celebrated Christmas Eve at Granny's next door and that song brings back memories of Christmas Eves past when I helped Granny decorate for Christmas and get the kitchen ready for the family to come that evening. And especially the one year when mom and I were walking home and she heard the bells on Santa's sleigh. That memory is so vivid that I
still remember the spot I was standing when she said it. I think I was about three or four. That same night I also remember watching Mary Martin as Peter Pan after I got home, on our old Philco black and white TV. I guess Santa had to circle the landing area while I looked at TV.

We didn't get a color TV until 1969 and I remember watching Glen Campbell on that TV. A GE 21" table model. I still have that TV in my living room.

3) What's your favorite quote of dialogue, song lyric, or sentiment from a Christmas program?

I only get to see the song now in recordings I made back in the 1980s and 90s or on YouTube--the opening to Christmas in Washington in its early years when they had the Naval Academy Glee Club singing was one of the classiest and best performed TV show openings ever done. "Christmas is the perfect time to beeeeee, in Washington, Deeee Ceeee!" They just got everything right when they made that introduction--the scenes of snow in the city--it's just magical. I was very sad when they changed it and now they don't even have the show on any more.

4) Is there a Christmas program that unintentionally frightens you--or turns you off?

The scene in Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol with the door knocker that turned into Marley's Ghost frightened me as a child and I never forgot it. Also the bony finger of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was equally scary. I probably saw it about 1963 when I was in kindergarten and that memory lasted for years until I bought the DVD and saw it again. That particular show wasn't repeated as often as some of the others, but it was one of the first and I never forgot it. I also bought the book on the making of that show. I enjoy that show even more after learning the back story.

5) Name one character from Christmas entertainment with whom you closely identify? and explain why.

Hermey the Elf on the Rudolph special is one character I identify with. I haven't always fit in, especially in school. I never went along with the crowd, so to speak.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Christmas in July 2016: David Hofstede

Christmas in July 2016: David Hofstede of Comfort TV

1) What Christmas episode/special/or movie always puts you in the holiday spirit?

Actually, it's not a show or movie at all - it's the classic animated Toys-R-Us Christmas commercial from the 1980s. The music, the vibrant colors, the snowfall and the roaring fireplace - it always puts me in a happy holiday mood, no matter what time of the year I watch it.

2) What Christmas program or scene brings you to tears?

There are two:

1. When Aaron plays his drum for the baby Jesus in The Little Drummer Boy (1968), and his beloved lamb is restored to health.

2. Near the end of The Partridge Family episode "Don't Bring Your Guns to Town, Santa" when the family returns to the ghost town to serenade the old prospector so well-played by Dean Jagger. We see his eyes fill with tears and it has the same effect on me.

3) What's your favorite quote of dialogue, song lyric, or sentiment from a Christmas program?

Linus: "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." (A Charlie Brown Christmas, of course)

4) Is there a Christmas program that unintentionally frightens you--or turns you off?

However old I was the first time I watched Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, the first appearance of the Winter Warlock frightened me. More recently, as far as a turn-off, it's not a particular program but the gradual progression (perhaps 'regression' is more accurate) from sincerity to snark in holiday episodes. Why is everyone so afraid of honest emotion in modern sitcoms? That's why I stick with the classics.

from the 1971 TV movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story.

5) Name one character from Christmas entertainment with whom you closely identify? and explain why.

I'd say John-Boy Walton in The Homecoming, because at that age I knew I wanted to be a writer too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Christmas in July 2016: Laura Rachel

Christmas in July 2016: Laura Rachel of

1) What Christmas episode/special/or movie always puts you in the holiday spirit?

I used to say It's a Wonderful Life, it's the quintessential story of how our lives are important to the ones around us and to not take it for granted. Than I watched It Happened on Fifth Avenue which is very reminiscent of It's a Wonderful Life but puts in perspective the needs of other people during the holiday. I fell in love at first viewing.

2) What Christmas program or scene brings you to tears?

I'm a huge fan of Hallmark's Christmas films, what can I say, I'm a girl who likes romantic movies so I really enjoyed the skating scene in ABCFamily's Holiday in Handcuffs in which Trudie, Melissa Joan Hart's character, talks about her dreams, what she wants in life, and how it always just eludes her.

3) What's your favorite quote of dialogue, song lyric, or sentiment from a Christmas program?

That would be the song, "That's What Christmas Means to Me" from It Happened on Fifth Avenue.

4) Is there a Christmas program that unintentionally frightens you--or turns you off?

I'm sorry to say, it's the movie A Christmas Story. That movie has just never tickled my funny bone nor has it made me sentimental for my own childhood. I just never connected with that film.

5) Name one character from Christmas entertainment with whom you closely identify? and explain why.

I don't identify the film Bridget Jones' Diary as a Christmas film but I know it is on a lot of Christmas movie lists. It's one of my all time favorite films and I really do  identify with Bridget. As a single girl just trying to find a nice guy while you know there are all these flaws with you and your family that you wish weren't there. Love that film and I'm excited to see the new one out this fall.