Tuesday, October 4, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: "In Such Good Company" by Carol Burnett

Once again, working in a library worked to my advantage, because one day while I was shelving returned books, I took notice of a brand-new tome on the shelf: In Such Good Company by Carol Burnett. And while it's been said not to judge a book by it's cover, I found it impossible to resist the adorable image of Carol standing next to the Charwoman, a character she created that became the mascot of her successful television variety show, The Carol Burnett Show.


In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox is Carol Burnett's latest memoir, a fond look back on her successful musical variety show The Carol Burnett Show that ran from 1967-1978. Full of memories, stories, and even some bits of juicy behind-the-scenes gossip, to say I enjoyed this book would be an understatement! 

I feel the Carol did a great job putting this book together, compiling a wonderful insider's look into the musical variety show she created that went on to garner 25 Emmy awards and recognition by both TV Guide and Time magazine as one of the greatest shows of all time. There are a lot of chapters to this book, but everything - and everyone - gets recognized, including the individual members of the cast and crew, Carol's favorite Q & As, and the best movie parodies and recurring sketches through the years; Carol also shares embarrassing moments, memories from some of Carol's favorite guest stars, and even the story of filming an episode of The Carol Burnett Show in London.

It was so incredibly fun for me to read about how Carol came to meet Vicki Lawrence, who was a mere seventeen years old when she first came on board; to learn backstories of familiar characters like the Charwoman, Eunice, and Mrs. Wiggins and Mr. Tudball; to go behind-the-scenes with famous sketches like "Went With the Wind" (and learn how Carol's famous curtain rod costume came about!); and to discover that Carol once actually had to FIRE Harvey Korman!

In addition to Carol's narrative, the book also includes other great "extras" that made the book even more special for me, and that I think fans will really enjoy. There are many black-and-white photo stills from various episodes, showing Carol onstage with legends such as Rock Hudson, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Lucille Ball. Carol also divulges what a typical week was for the cast and crew, explaining each day's schedule was and why it worked so well (and why that would never work on television today). 

What was, for me, the piece de resistance: In the name of "research" for her book, Carol went back and re-watched all 276 episodes of The Carol Burnett Show, and then compiled a list detailing each show's individual broadcast date as well as the regular cast members and guest stars who appeared on that show. I thought that was not only awesome of Carol to do, but it is a great resource for fans both new and old who might be looking for more information about specific episodes, sketches, or stars they enjoyed, or to find out which episodes featured their favorite entertainers.

Once again, to say that I enjoyed In Such Good Company by Carol Burnett would be an understatement. I loved, after having closed the cover of this book, going back and watching episodes of The Carol Burnett Show and seeing sketches, stars, and stories that Carol talks about within its pages. It's the perfect companion for any fan of Carol Burnett and her esteemed musical variety show.

You can get your own copy of In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett from Amazon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Few Questions with Timothy Compton, Comic Book Writer/Filmmaker


Timothy Compton loves to tell a good story! Whether it is comic books or filmmakers, Timothy is busy writing away and sharing a good story. 

"Runnin' Down a Dream" caught up Timothy to talk about his comic book Monster City and he talks about his influences! 

QUESTION: You are a creator, what is it you have created?
TIMOTHY COMPTON: Beyond comics, I have been able to work in film and create a number of shorts among other things.
[However as] far as comic books go, I’ve had the pleasure of creating a series called Monster City with the help of the illustrator Aaron Nicholson, over the last couple of years.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

INTERVIEW: Lisa Dascoli, actor - Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate"

Lisa Dascoli Interview from Don Smith on Vimeo.


In recent weeks, I have had the pleasure of meeting an amazing actor by the name of Lisa Dascoli. She is with the TNT Theater Company and currently starring as Mrs. Robinson in a production of "The Graduate."

I talked with Lisa about playing the roll of the immortal older woman!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: “Trying To Float: Coming of Age in the Chelsea Hotel” By Nicolaia Rips

From the inside book jacket:

Part Eloise, part The Grand Budapest Hotel, part early David Sedaris, a seventeen-year-old's darkly funny, bighearted memoir about growing up in a legendary New York City hotel.

New York's Chelsea Hotel may no longer be home to its most famous denizens...but the eccentric spirit of the Chelsea is alive and well. Meet the family Rips: father Michael, a lawyer turned writer with a penchant for fine tailoring; mother Sheila, a former model and renowned artist who matches her welding outfits with couture; and daughter Nicolaia, a precocious high school senior working on a record of her peculiar seventeen years.

Nicolaia is a perpetual outsider who has struggled to find her place in schools populated by cliquish girls and loudmouthed boys. But at the Chelsea, Nicolaia need not look far to find her tribe. The kids at school might never understand her, but as Nicolaia endeavors to fit in, she begins to understand that the Chelsea's motley crew could hold the key to surviving the perils of a Manhattan childhood.


I work in a library, and when I saw Trying to Float by Nicolaia Rips on the shelf with the rest of our new releases, its cover adorned with adorable young photos of the author, I couldn't help but pick it up. Then I read the synopsis on the inside of the book jacket and it was so bizarre – and yet so terribly interesting – that I just knew I had to read this book! Believe me when I say that I am so glad I did.

Nicolaia Rips is the only child of two very unconventional, creatively-minded parents; father Michael is a lawyer-turned-writer, and mother, Sheila, is a former model and celebrated artist. Her first real friends are the equally unconventional fellow residents of the Hotel Chelsea, which includes Artie, proprietor of New York's most famous nightclubs, and the androgynous Storme', who keeps a pink handgun strapped to her ankle. As early as preschool Nicolaia struggles to fit in and make friends; a near-tragedy involving Nicolaia during a birthday party in kindergarten earns her a reputation that follows her straight through junior high school and doesn't make it any easier for her classmates understand her. Her entire student career is a myriad of misunderstanding and struggle until that last day of junior high when, at last, it all starts to make sense.

What makes this book a triumph for me is a combination of things. First off, the author – despite being just seventeen – has a writing style that hooks the reader's interest from the first sentence until the very last one. Her witty tone and self-depreciation, combined with the particular selection of anecdotes that she chose to share (one can't help but wonder what ended up being left out) makes this one memoir that no reader should miss out on! What's more, the essential theme of this book is acceptance – a child looking for acceptance from her parents, her teachers, her peers – and that is something that anyone is able to relate to, no matter where you grew up.


Trying to Float: Coming of Age in the Chelsea Hotel by Nicolaia Rips is available on Amazon.



Monday, July 4, 2016

Interview with Carla Ulbrich: Singer/Songwriter/Professional Smart Aleck

"Runnin' Down a Dream" is continuing a love of local music (1 and 2). Over at DonSmithWrites, there's an interview up on the "Conversations for the Better" page.

Singer/Songwriter Carla Ulbrich stopped by and talked songwriting, humor and comedy.  Check it out and enjoy!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Six To Eight Mathematics Rocked Clash Bar in Clifton on June 24th


L to R: Ali McDowell, lead guitarist; Alana Quartuccio, lead singer; Dan Peacock, drummer & former Hollywood Stuntman; and Mary Beth Kochmar, bassist.

Remember last week when Runnin' Down a Dream's interviewed our buddies Six To Eight Mathematics?  

And remember, the amazing story of how Alana Quartuccio, the lead singer, had a tumor removed which resulted in her losing her voice and hearing in one ear?  

And remember how the band - Ali McDowell, guitarist; Mary Beth Kochmar, bassist; and drummer Dan Peacock - talked about sticking it out during Alana's recovery?  

And, finally, remember how Six To Eight was making a comeback by headlining a local show here in New Jersey on June 24 at the Clash Bar in Clifton, New Jersey?  



How did it go?  

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Six To Eight Mathematics to Headline Concert at Clash Bar, June 24th

Image Courtesy of Six to Eight Mathematics.
I am sure it is known that many musicians - whether they be fine, classical, poppy or jazzy - call New Jersey their home. 

However, there are some bands that just plain kick the teeth out of music and take no prisoners! And one of those bands is the North Jersey based punk band - Six to Eight Mathematics! 

Six to Eight, as they are known to friends and fans, has been around since 2004. The band has two CDs available on CD Baby - High Heels, Whiskey & Mayhem and Mental Melodies (click on the links to pick 'em up!). 

I was able to sit down with them back in May to promote an upcoming show on June 24th, at the Clash Bar in Clifton, New Jersey. Six to Eight will headline the DIY Radio Presents Concert. They concert will feature many amazing bands and begins right at 8:30 pm.

I had been following them since 2011 and I saw them live in 2015 (see pictures below)! It is amazing to see real music on a real stage on a local level that is not some cheap cover band! Their name comes up from time to time in punk circles here in New Jersey and - wow! - everyone agrees - this is the band that takes the stage, puts on a show and leaves 'em wantin' more!


Image courtesy of Six to Eight Mathematics.

Since 2014, their current line up, which has featured Alana Quartuccio the lead singer and rhythm guitarist; Ali McDowell, lead guitarist and backing vocalist; Mary Beth Kochmar, bass guitarist and Dan Peacock, drummer.

And when I sat down to talk with the quartet, they discussed it had been a year of challenges! However, it was challenges they overcame and June 24th will be their first back!