About Christmas TV History

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Dean Martin Festival in Steubenville, OH (2017)

It's summer time and I've traveled to another to pop culture destination while on vacation. You may remember some of my earlier destinations: Rosemary Clooney House in Augusta, KY;  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. I love traveling and sharing my adventures. What pop culture destinations have you visited?

Last weekend I journeyed to Steubenville, OH, the hometown of crooner Dean Martin. Two weeks ago, it was (what would have been) Martin's 100th birthday. So his hometown's celebration, the annual Dean Martin Festival, was planned to be bigger and better than ever. Most of the special events were scheduled for Saturday, June 17th but I was only able to make the trip on Friday, June 16th. I knew I would be missing out on most of the fun--but I decided to go anyway, to take in and enjoy what Martin's hometown has to offer.

Spotted this marker from the freeway and was able to find it again after exiting. (Click on image to enlarge).

Steubenville is a Rust Belt city in the Midwest. Like so many others, its peak in population (and industry) was many decades ago but the city and its people move forward to redefine themselves. One of the more fascinating aspects of visiting Dean Martin's hometown is discovering the vibrant and rich history of the city at the time Dino Crocetti lived there. I love history so visiting the local Historical Museum was a must.

The historical museum's collection on Martin includes photos and memorabilia of his music, television, and film career.

The Jefferson County Historical Association Museum is a frequent stop for Dean Martin fans. There's an entire room in the historical home-turned-museum dedicated to Martin's lengthy career. Steubenville residents are especially proud of Martin's acknowledgement of his hometown--there are many newspaper clippings and photos of his return visits.

Who could forget Martin in the car rally movies Cannonball Run and Cannonball Run 2?

Getting a photo of the entire room at the historical museum was too difficult but I found one piece of memorabilia to pose with!

The historical museum is a typical small-town museum but I appreciated its attention to detail and they way it captured the city's rich history. I also learned here that actor Robert Urich is also from the area--he's from Toronto, OH which is right up the road from Steubenville.

Although the Dean Martin Festival website didn't recommend a stop at Dean Martin's Steubenville home, we decided to look up the address on-line. Now we know why. Here's the field bearing the address.

The Dean Martin mural is on the wall of a local grocery store.

Steubenville is also known as The City of Murals. Wonderfully detailed, painted murals line many of the downtown buildings. Of course, there's a Dean Martin one. His mural includes a central image of Dean singing as he descends carpeted stairs. This is surrounded by four sepia-toned tableaus.

Top right quadrant: Dean and Jerry Lewis.
Bottom right: Dean and his musical director from TV's The Dean Martin Show.
Top left: Dean and his Rat Pack buddies, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra.

Bottom left: Dean and Jerry riding in a car during a hometown parade.

The mural is quite a tourist attraction! Everyone at the grocery store was used to seeing people like me stopping for photos.

The Dean Martin Festival also recommended eating at Dean's favorite restaurant in Steubenville: Naples Spaghetti House. On Friday evening, the old-school eatery was already filled with locals and people from out of town for the festival.

Maybe I'll get another chance to eat here next year :)

Again, I missed most of the special events planned for the festival but that's okay. They had a parade through downtown, a marathon street dance, many concerts, contests--even a 5k race! Dean's daughter Deana even came to Steubenville for the celebration. Maybe I need to come back next year.

It turned out to be a nice day trip for myself and my friend. We listened to several Dean Martin albums on the drive down--including a Christmas one! And, I got to share with my friend my passion for the Christmas episodes of The Dean Martin Show and the numerous '70s Christmas specials too. Remember I wrote about the 1968 Christmas episode here.

from the 1968 Dean Martin Christmas show.

Have you ever visited a pop culture destination? What are you plans for this summer?

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. 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

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Christmas in July 2017 ANNOUNCEMENT

Hey-hey, ho-ho! 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 a fun to have a get-together when we aren't in the midst of the holiday season.

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) four 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 these links to see the 2014 recap, the 2015 recap,  and the 2016 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 Christmas in July party is supposed to be fun and entertaining so don't sweat your responses.  Don't spend four 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.

2017 badge

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 2017 badge on your website or social media posts to let others know what you are up to!

Let's get this party started:

Christmas TV Party 2017: (insert your name--your website/optional)

1) Who's your favorite Santa Claus? (from any TV episode, special or movie)

2) What's your favorite Christmas episode from a TV series? (NOT movie or special)

3) Do you enjoy watching Christmas entertainment year round or do you only like watching it during the holidays? And, why?

4) This is the 21st century--how do you watch TV and/or Christmas entertainment? Do you primarily watch through antenna, cable, satellite, a subscription service, or streaming? Do you primarily watch through YouTube, Netflix, Amazon prime, or Hulu? Do you use your local library? Your own DVDs, VHS tapes, or rent DVDs? A combination of these options? Explain.

5) If you were to be stranded on an island (maybe Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean!), what three Christmas movies, specials, or episodes would you like to have with you?

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

Christmas in July 2017:  Joanna Wilson from ChristmasTVHistory.com

1) Who's your favorite Santa Claus?

I love it when an episode has too many Santas. I think it's a way for TV writers to show off an ensemble of characters' Christmas spirit. Perfect example: the 1965 Christmas episode of The Addams Family. Viewers can see Gomez, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Cousin Itt, Grandmama, AND Morticia all dressed as St. Nick for the sake of the children Pugsley and Wednesday. This sort of crowd of Santas has been done multiple times on television. I usually find it quite heart-warming.

2) What's your favorite Christmas episode from a TV series?

It is difficult for me to pick just one. Today my favorite is the 1976 Christmas episode of Laverne & Shirley, now entitled "Oh Hear the Angels' Voices," but it was originally called "Christmas at the Booby Hatch." It is a variety show-within-a-show so viewers are treated to our favorite L&S characters singing and dancing in a stage show for the holidays. I love love love the kooky song Lenny and Squiggy sing ("The Jolliest Fat Man"), and I like seeing Laverne and Shirley doing their best to sing, dance and twirl batons to entertain people in a hospital for the holiday. Other favorite episodes: the 1963 holiday episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show and the 1964 Christmas episode of Bewitched with Billy Mumy.

3) Do you enjoy watching Christmas entertainment year round or do you only like watching it during the holidays? And, why?

You know what I'm going to say, right? I enjoy watching it year round--and I always have. I especially like seeing the Christmas episodes in TV shows I'm watching in reruns. For example, I've been watching M*A*S*H reruns on MeTV lately and I'm very pleased to see the numerous Christmas episodes as the network broadcasts the entire series. It's nice to be reminded of the heart-warming holiday story lines throughout the year.

4) This is the 21st century--how do you watch TV and/or Christmas entertainment? Explain.

I know my response is going to be a unique one--I don't watch TV like anyone else. So don't compare yourself to me. But I watch TV and Christmas entertainment through every imaginable option available. I'm very resourceful. I currently have cable TV--which also includes a dozen or more antenna digi-net channels (MeTV, AntennaTV, RetroTV, CoziTV, GetTV, Movies! etc). I also use my local library's resources--they all know me there!--and always have TV series and Christmas entertainment on DVDs checked out. I also use their inter-library loan services to check out stuff from all over the country. I still have several VCRs that I regularly use to view older Christmas entertainment. I'm a Netflix subscriber--both streaming and DVDs. I still use the resources of a local video rental store--to see new releases (stuff that I want to view immediately because there's a long list of holds on the library copies, Netflix will take a day or two, and I'd rather not buy a copy to stream it). I also house-sit quite a bit throughout the year, so I have access for long periods of time to other peoples' Roku, Hulu, and Amazon Prime accounts. I keep up with new series and holiday entertainment through these avenues as well. And, yes--I do watch YouTube too. Today's options to access the archives of TV history and new releases are sometimes overwhelming. I love it!

5) If you were to be stranded on an island (maybe Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean!), what three Christmas movies, specials, or episodes would you like to have with you?

I answered a version of this question for a blogathon from last year: check out my list of 5 classic movies here. To provide a somewhat new response: Here's my list of three Christmas titles:

#3: A Charlie Brown Christmas
If I find myself stranded on a deserted island, I anticipate that I'll be craving the comforts of familiarity and home. What better to bring this feeling of comfort than the classic animated Peanuts Christmas special? Long-time readers of mine may remember that I was in a staged school production of A Charlie Brown Christmas when I was in 2nd grade--and I still remember much of the dialogue from those rehearsals. The music, the animation, and the dialogue still remind me of the warmth and glow of a pleasant childhood--and it would be nice to be reminded of these comforting memories during the long days and nights on the island.

#2: White Christmas (1954)
I anticipate having to perform quite a few mundane chores on this deserted island in order to survive. I'll probably have to gather palm fronds for a shelter, and fruits, nuts, and vegetables (I really don't see myself hunting and killing wild boar) in order to eat. I might even have to plant and harvest food to sustain a lengthy stay. UGH! These chores will go faster if I sing while I work--so I wanted to select a Christmas musical to sing along with.

The song "Snow" may help me chill out on those long, hot days stuck on a tropical island!

The lyrics to the title song "....I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know..." will certainly fit the bill, living on a tropical island. The song "Sisters" always puts a smile on my face, and "Count Your Blessings" may help inspire me to feel grateful that I'm alive during my darkest moments alone on the island. You can't beat an Irving Berlin soundtrack set against island living!

#1: The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

If you haven't already figured it out, I wouldn't really enjoy being stuck on a tropical island. The experience doesn't sound like paradise to me--it resembles torture.  So if I'm on a deserted island, my efforts will focus on trying to escape. Here's my best plan: request that the Star Wars Holiday Special be made available to me on my island. Since the 2 hour production no longer officially exists (George Lucas stopped acknowledging its existence decades ago), any search for an official print of the movie will alert certain people of importance. Disney purchased the Lucas catalog a few years back--so aggressive Disney lawyers will become involved. After they hunt down my location to deliver a cease & desist/restraint order, I'll have access to a lawyer's boat to escape my deserted island! My plan doesn't require me to actually watch the absolutely awful Star Wars Holiday Special--not again, please!--but merely to request a print for my island visit.

However, if somehow my brilliant plan doesn't work--and I do acquire a copy for The Star Wars Holiday Special for my deserted island experience, and anyone else ever washes ashore, then this movie will give us a laughable conversation piece for the rest of our long lives!

If you have any questions about Christmas in July 2017?  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. 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