inktober52: scratch

I saw Emo Philips at a little comedy club in Philadelphia in 2009. There were four people in the audience. My son and I were seated at a tiny table for two positioned stageside and a man and a woman were at a larger table about six or so feet behind us. That’s it.

There were 46,000 people five miles south, cheering the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park as they tried to pull ahead of the New York Yankees in a World Series that was currently tied at a game each. The rest of the city was either tuned into the game on television or listening to the local radio broadcast.

But four brave souls — of which I numbered myself — were anxious to see an evening of irreverent comedy. Adhering to the show business credo “The show must go on!,” the somewhat peculiar Mr. Philips did not disappoint. As a matter of fact, at one point during the show, he sat down on the edge of the stage, set his elbows on our tabletop and rested his chin on the knuckles of his clenched fist as he delivered his surreal humor in his trademark sing-songy voice.

After the show, he mingled with the four of us and thanked us for not being baseball fans.



DCS: bud brisbois

12-year old Bud Brisbois picked up a trumpet and his life was never the same. Mostly self-taught, he headed to Los Angeles after a brief enrollment at the University of Minnesota. Bud bounced around the LA music scene until he joined Stan Kenton’s band as lead trumpet player. He recorded ten albums as a part of Kenton’s band. Bud spilt with Kenton in 1963, taking more lucrative work as a studio musician.

Bud played on hundreds of recording across all genres. He worked with such diverse acts as Herb Alpert, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Nat King Cole, Bobby Darin, Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington. Bud performed — uncredited — on recordings by The 5th Dimension, Bonnie Raitt and even The Monkees. Bud’s trumpet can be heard at the forefront of the Hawaii 5-0 theme song as well as on the theme to The Jetsons.

In 1973, Bud formed the rock group Butane and took lead vocal duties in addition to his signature trumpet. The band, although unsigned, appeared on an episode of the late-night music program The Midnight Special. Unable to sign a recording contract, Butane disbanded.

After some marital trouble, Bud left the music business. He took an unlikely job as a car salesman. In the middle 1970s, he slowly began playing the trumpet again, as it helped him to cope with his lifelong mental illness. He taught some music classes at the Mesa Community College in Phoenix, Arizona and joined a few local jazz bands.

In 1978, Bud made a guest appearance with the jazz fusion group Matrix. After the show, he told the band: “I played as well as I have ever played.”

Less than a week later, Bud committed suicide. He was 41 years old.



DCS: terry hall

In 1982, Fun Boy Three released their first of two albums. Formed from the remnants of the breakup of pioneering British ska band The Specials, Fun Boy Three brought together Neville Staple, Lynval Golding and Terry Hall for a fleeting bit of fame. With a little help from girl group du jour Bananarama, recorded and released the single It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It) to much success. The tribal drum driven tune was catchy and infections — just what New Wave radio lived for. My girlfriend (now wife) bought Fun Boy Three’s eponymous first effort and I recorded it to listen in my Walkman. And I played it a lot.

One day, as I was once again giving Fun Boy Three’s debut album another run-through, my mom began to sing along to It Ain’t What You Do. I stopped the cassette mid-chorus and was taken back. Now, my mom was cool. Ask any of my high school and post-high school friends. But, was she this cool? Could she be sneaking listens to I-92 “Rock of the ’80s,” the Philadelphia radio station that was the first in the area to change formats to the New Wave trend.

“How do you know this song?,” I asked my mom

She laughed. “This song,” she explained, “is from the 1930s” And she laughed again. “It was originally done by Jimmie Lunceford and his big band. I believe Ella Fitzgerald sang it.”

“Ella Fitzgerald?,” I countered, “That lady who breaks the wine glasses with her voice on the Memorex commercials?”

My mom laughed again. I started up my cassette player again and my mom picked up singing along. The next time I was at my girlfriend’s house, I checked the label on the record and, sure enough, the song was written by Melvin “Sy” Oliver and James “Trummy” Young. Oliver and Young were noted jazz musicians, with Oliver a member of Jimmie Lunceford’s band and Young, an associate of the great Louis Armstrong. (I didn’t know any of this information the time. I found all of this out much, much later.)

But my mom knew the song. And that was pretty cool.

Fun Boy Three had six top singles in their native United Kingdom, including a darker take of the Go-Go’s bouncy Our Lips Are Sealed, which Terry Hall co-wrote with Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin in the aftermath of a short romance. Fun Boy Three only lasted a few years before the members went off to explore other ventures.

Terry Hall passed away on December 18, 2022 at the age of 63.



DCS: ann prentiss

Ann Prentiss, the younger sister of actress Paula Prentiss, had a pretty good career in front of the camera, She was featured in a number of small roles on some of the most popular TV series on the 60s and 70s. Adept at both comedy and drama, Ann appeared in episodes of Mannix, Hogan’s Heroes, Bewitched, Get Smart!, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, The Virginian and many, many others. She was featured on the big screen alongside Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis in the original Out-of-Towners, as well as a co-starring role in Robert Altman’s California Split with George Segal and Elliot Gould. Ann was the love interest in the single season sitcom Captain Nice opposite William Daniels. She even lent her voice to a character in seven episodes of the science-fiction send-up Quark, starring her brother-in-law, actor Richard Benjamin.

In 1996, Ann was tried and convicted of assault against her father. She had also made threats against other members of her family including her sister Paula and Paula’s husband, Richard Benjamin. While incarcerated for the assault, Ann made plans with another inmate to kill her father, Paula and Richard. She was sentenced to 19 years in prison. She passed away in 2010 while serving her sentence. Ann was 70.



DCS: bruce geller

As a psychology major at Yale University, Bruce Geller discovered his real calling — theater.

He started his career writing scripts for shows on the fledgling DuMont Television Network in the early 1950s. He also tried his hand at writing librettos for several musicals, none of which were successful. Looking for better opportunities, he left his native New York City for Los Angeles. This proved to be a move in Bruce’s favor. Soon, he was writing scripts for a number of popular Western TV series, including Zane Grey Theater, Rawhide, Have Gun, Will Travel and The Rifleman. He was given a co-producer credit for the 1964-65 season of Rawhide.

With the job security that Rawhide provided, Bruce began developing another kind of series. In 1966, he conceived, wrote, directed and produced the ultra-suave and often complicated TV series Mission: Impossible. The show, known for its iconic “self-destructing” tape player, ran for seven seasons on CBS, garnering over two dozen Emmy nominations. Bruce himself was awarded two Emmys.

In 1967, one year after Mission: Impossible premiered, Bruce wrote, directed and produced another hit series — Mannix starring Mike Connors as the title tough private investigator. Sometimes focusing of socially-relevant issues, Mannix was recognized with over a dozen Emmy nominations in the course of its eight season network run.

Bruce made his only venture into feature films in 1973, directing and producing James Coburn and Walter Pidgeon in the pickpocket caper Harry in Your Pocket. This was one of the last films in Pidgeon’s illustrious career.

Bruce developed an interest in flight, specifically small aircraft. In 1974, he was killed when the twin-engine Cessna Skymaster, in which he was a passenger, ran into fog and crashed near Santa Barbara, California. He was 47 years old.