For the second time this season, I’m currently indulging in a Christmas tradition from my childhood: watching 1981′s “A Walt Disney Christmas.”
My sister, Desty, and I have been watching this collection of four short cartoons since before we can even remember it. This half-hour of holiday happiness is carefully preserved at my parents’ house in VHS form. The tape is ensconced in one of those oversize plastic cases, cracked at the spine. It’s so old that the case is emblazoned with the warning that this video is for sale only, that renting it is against the law. (Yes, I’m old enough to view a recording that predates the legality of video rentals, though at least I’m not old enough to remember the pre-rental days. So, I supposed that’s some comfort.)
It just isn’t Christmas until my parents, sister and I have viewed “A Walt Disney Christmas” at least once all together, and we’ve all seen it so many times that we typically sing along and provide commentary on our favorite bits.
“Once Upon a Wintertime,” the first cartoon in the lineup, has been on my mind quite frequently since earlier this fall, when the 50th anniversary edition of “Sleeping Beauty” was released. One of the featurettes about the art of “Sleeping Beauty” specifically mentions the stylized short as one of the best and clearest examples of the work of legendary Disney artist Mary Blair. A McAlester native, Blair also worked on “Sleeping Beauty,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan.”
“Once Upon a Wintertime” follows a couple who takes a sleigh ride through the country to go ice skating. The man and woman are joined by a pair of romantic rabbits, but both the human and bunny couples get into arguments. The ladies storm off, only to get stranded when thin ice breaks. The guys try to save them to no avail, leaving the horses pulling the sleigh and an array of resourceful woodland creatures to pull off a spectacular rescue.
The two middle cartoons are Silly Symphonies shorts from the early 1930s. “Santa’s Workshop” details the bustling activity in the North Pole as the elves, reindeer and Old St. Nick try to get ready for Christmas Eve. “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” continues the story as Santa stops at the home of a large family. Santa and the toys engage in a bit of musical magic but accidentally awaken the youngsters, and Chris Kringle must make a quick getaway to avoid getting caught by the children.
Made in the ’30s, these two cartoons include some material we now consider insensitive, particularly a quick appearance of a black dolly that says “Mamie” and a little boy who is shown briefly in black face, though he gets that way accidentally.
These moments probably are the reason this collection isn’t widely available on DVD. You can find through Amazon.com a few VHS copies of the 1982 version of “A Walt Disney Christmas,” which the Mouse House apparently re-released in 2000. From what I’ve read, the 1982 version included the four cartoons on the 1981 collection plus two more shorts, “On Ice” and “Donald’s Snow Fight.”
The fourth and final cartoon on the 1981 “A Walt Disney Christmas” is “Pluto’s Christmas Tree,” in which Mickey Mouse and his faithful pooch go into the forest to cut down an evergreen. They inadvertently pick the tree inhabited by mischievous chipmunks Chip and Dale. Once they take it home and get it decorated, Pluto spots the rodents, who taunt the dog as he tries to inform the oblivious Mickey.
My younger son, Gabe, who recently turned 2, watched “A Walt Disney Christmas” this year while visiting my parents. He came home full of tales of Monkey Mouse, the dog, chick-unks and the “BIG MESS.”
It sounds like the tradition is on track to continue.
From left, my family and I show off our new rock ‘n’ roll T-shirts from Happy Days Music. From left, me, my husband Patrick, my older son Chris, my brother-in-law Glenn and my sister Desty. (My younger son, Gabe the Babe, has escaped and is actually on his knees behind my legs. But he is wearing his new black and green tie-dyed Beatles shirt.)
When I opened on Christmas the beautiful yellow, blue and green tie-dyed T-shirt with Led Zeppelin’s famed “Houses of the Holy” album cover on the front, I wasn’t just getting a gift that indulged my classic rock sensibilities, I was enjoying a longstanding family tradition.
Every year when my family and my sister’s family gather at our parents’ house near Lindsay for Christmas, we all know what’s going to be in at least one of our packages: rock ‘n’ roll T-shirts my dad, mom and sometimes my sister painstakingly selected for us from Happy Days Music on SW 89 and Western in Oklahoma City.
My dad, Dale Jones, instilled in my sister and me a love for great music by Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Doors and the like from the time we were children. He occasionally took us to Happy Days to peruse the store’s massive collection of vinyl and rock memorabilia.
The store also carries an impressive display of interesting, high-quality rock T-shirts. They aren’t used/”vintage” shirts or those flimsy concert Ts. They’re made of heavy cotton and usually depict an album cover, the band itself or some of the famous iconography associated with the band, such as the Beatles’ Apple logo. Many of them are available in colorful tie-dye patterns.
When my sister, Desty, and I were in middle school, my dad bought us each a Happy Days rock T-shirt for Christmas. We liked it so much that he did it again next year and then the year after that. It became a Christmas tradition throughout high school.
When we were in college, my dad decided that maybe we had outgrown the custom, and one year, we didn’t find a Happy Days T under the tree. The resulting furor caused my parents to quickly reinstate the practice.
It’s a tradition that’s gotten more extensive – and expensive – as the years have passed. First, my parents expanded the tradition to include my husband, Patrick, and then my sister’s husband, Glenn, both big rock ‘n’ roll fans.
Then, when my older son, Chris, was about 6, he wondered why he didn’t get a classic rock T. After all, he loved the Beatles and his favorite movie at the time was “Yellow Submarine,” so why didn’t he get a shirt? The store didn’t carry many T-shirts smaller than an adult small, so he wore a couple as night shirts and then tucked the rest away in his closet. It’s only been in the past couple of years that Chris, now 14, has gotten to don shirts he got for Christmas half a dozen years ago.
This year, the T-shirt selection depicted the cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti” album and self-titled 2003 DVD set, Metallica’s “… And Justice for All” album, and Blue Oyster Cult’s 1977 tour. My parents even found a shirt for my 2-year-old son Gabe: a black and neon green shirt with the Beatles’ Apple on it.
In the past, our T-shirts also have represented the Doors, Pink Floyd and Green Day, though Zeppelin and the Beatles remain the family favorites.
I’ll add my aforementioned tie-dyed “Houses of the Holy” shirt to a collection of Ts depicting the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” album cover, the Fab Four with the American flag and Union Jack, several different versions of Zeppelin’s fourth album’s distinctive imagery, and the Door’s “Waiting on the Sun” cover.
Though my new shirt is undeniably awesome, I think my all-time favorite remains my brown tie-dye – yes, brown tie-dye – of a guitar emerging from cracked earth with the slogan “Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same” above it. The image is from the 1999 DVD re-release of the concert film of the same name.
If you want to fly your classic rock flag, you might check out Happy Days’ new Web site, www.happydaysmusiconline.com. The blurry pictures on the site don’t do their shirt collection justice, but you can see it for your self at 8916 S Western Ave.
On Friday, I revealed my list of the top 10 albums of 2008. It’s a diverse list, covering rock, metal, country, folk and Red Dirt music. It also includes several recording artists with Oklahoma ties and features a mix of top-sellers and indie releases. (You can check out my top 10 albums list by clicking here.)
Over the course of a year, I listen to and review many CDs. Some are good, some bad, a few great, but the vast majority are just mediocre.
Here in no particular order are a dozen additional albums from 2008 that I really enjoyed. These are the albums that I anticipate I’ll be listening to – in whole or in part - long after this year is a vague, blurry memory.
Some on this list are really terrific. For instance, it was merely a technicality that kept “In Rainbows” off my top 10 list. The CD came out on Jan. 1, but the band famously released it online in late 2007 in its pay-what-you-want promotion. Therefore, it had to be considered a 2007 release, though I didn’t personally hear it until 2008.
Other albums on this list objectively really probably shouldn’t be considered among the best of the year. Bryan Adams’ “11″ can’t compare to the albums of his heyday in the 1990s, but I personally love Bryan Adams, so I was excited to get new music from him. Call me a total sucker for hooky ’90s pop; I won’t deny it. It’s a completely subjective and fairly sentimental sense of favoritism, and I’m not afraid to admit it.
So, here is my totally subjective list of CDs that I’m taking with me as 2008 fades away:
Radiohead, “In Rainbows”
Rebecca Lynn Howard, “No Rules”
The Flaming Lips, “Christmas on Mars” soundtrack.
Sugarland, “Love on the Inside”
Lee Ann Womack, “Call Me Crazy”
Glen Campbell, “Meet Glen Campbell”
Blake Shelton, “Startin’ Fires”
The All-American Rejects, “When the World Comes Down”
Taylor Swift, “Fearless”
Reckless Kelly, “Bulletproof”
Toby Keith, “That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy.”
Bryan Adams, “11″
Carolyn Hill is stepping down this week from her longtime position as executive director of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
Hill spearheaded the efforts to convert the old Centre Theater in downtown Oklahoma City into the beautiful Donald W. Reynolds Visual Art Center. What she has done to turn a struggling institution until a stunning regional attraction is simply amazing.
The Oklahoman business reporter Steve Lackmeyer, who provides ongoing coverage of Oklahoma City’s downtown renaissance, talked to Hill about her time at the museum. You can click here to read the story and check out the NewsOK video above.
Glen Gentele, who was previously director of Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, Mo., will become the new president and CEO of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art Jan. 5.
Fireworks mark the start of 2008 at Opening Night 2008. Opening Night 2009 will be from 7 p.m. to midnight Wednesday at 10 venues in downtown Oklahoma City. (The Oklahoman Archives photo)
A version of this story ran in Sunday’s The Oklahoman.
Annual Opening Night to ring in the New Year
Rock bands, lion dancers and strolling puppeteers will be among the dozens of performers ringing in the New Year Wednesday in downtown Oklahoma City.
Opening Night 2009, the Arts Council of Oklahoma’s 22nd annual family-friendly and alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration, also will include children’s activities and a grand finale with a countdown to midnight, fireworks and the ascension of a giant, glittering ball to symbolize hope for the New Year.
Opening Night Director Lindsey Pever said 65,000 to 75,000 people are expected to attend the event, which will be spread over 10 downtown venues.
Opening Night 2009
When: 7 p.m. to midnight Wednesday.
Where: 10 venues in downtown Oklahoma City.
Admission: Wristbands are $8 in advance, $10 the day of the event. Children 5 and younger admitted free. Wristbands are available in advance at 7-11 Stores, metro area Homeland stores, MidFirst Bank locations, Mathis Brothers Furniture, Penn Square Mall, Leadership Square and the Arts Council of Oklahoma City. They are available at the event at Stage Center, Kerr Park trailer, Leadership Square, north end of the Cox Convention Center and Kerr Auditorium.
Information: 270-4848 or www.artscouncilokc.com.
Venue 1 – Cox Convention Center
Duo Fisher: Dueling Pianists: 7 p.m., 9 p.m.
Total Equilibrium: 8, 10
Exhibit Hall 1
Ford Chastain: 7
Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea: 8, 10
Junebug Spade: 9, 10:45
Exhibit Hall 2
Lemma: 9, 10, 10:45
Tornado Alley Rollergirls: 7, 8
Exhibit Hall 3 – Children’s Area
Children’s Area hours: 7 to 11
Prof. B Looney: 7
Dance Dimensions: 8, 10
Oklahoma Children’s Acting Guild: 9
Clowns/Magicians/Face Painters: 7 to 11
Venue 2 – Myriad Gardens
Kris Boevers: 7
Albert Gray Eagle: 8
Sunshine Hahn: 9, 10
Venue 3 – Stage Center
Everybody & Their Dog: 7:30, 8:30, 9:30
Edgar Cruz: 7, 8, 9, 10
Venue 4 – Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library
Studio B with Bruce Benson: 7, 9
Vizions: 8, 10
Venue 5 – Leadership Square
Michael Summers Band: 7, 8, 9, 10
Venue 6 – Bank of Oklahoma
Son del Barrio: 7, 8, 9, 10
Venue 7 – Kerr Auditorium
Cori & Chelsey Emmett with No U Turn: 7, 8, 9, 10
Venue 8 – Kerr Park
The Wise Guys: 8, 9, 10, 11
Countdown to the New Year: 11:30
Finale and fireworks: midnight
Venue 9 – First National Center
Ambassador’s Concert Choir: 7
Harrison Academy: 8
Spiritful Voices: 9, 10
Venue 10 – Chase Tower
Book of Rules: 7, 10
Boru’s Ghost: 8, 10:30
Desert Fire: 9
Strolling Street Performers
St. Andrew’s Dung Lac Lion Dance Group
Natanasuta – Lord Shiva’s Dancers
Clear…as Dance Institute & Clarity Performing Dance Group
Balcum Rancum Puppetry
Today is the last chance to take a free ride on the Bricktown Canal as part of Downtown in December. (Photo by Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman)
Today’s featured event:
Today is your last chance to experience some of the Downtown in December activities, including The Oklahoman Holidays on the Canal and American Fidelity Free Museum Sundays at the Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum and the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
For more information, go to www.downtownindecember.com.
For more events, go to www.wimgo.com.
Flaming Lips fans ring in the New Year at the Lips’ 2007/2008 concert at the Cox Convention Center. The Oklahoma City-based Grammy-winning band will again play the downtown convention center on New Year’s Eve 2008/2009. (The Oklahoman Archives photo)
From Saturday’s The Oklahoman. Entertainment Editor Gene Triplett contributed to this story.
2009 will roll in with downtown fun
For the 22nd year, Opening Night will turn downtown Oklahoma City into a sprawling New Year’s Eve party complete with musicians, magicians and of course, revelers.
But snow tubing, professional basketball and a giant hamster ball also will be part of the fun for those who want to start 2009 in downtown.
“New Year’s Eve the place to be is downtown Oklahoma City, and Opening Night is just one of the fabulous layers of entertainment,” said Peter Dolese, executive director of the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, which organizes Opening Night.
For the second year, Oklahoma City-based Grammy-winning band The Flaming Lips will ring in the New Year in the Cox Convention Center with psychedelic rock, bizarrely costumed dancers and frontman Wayne Coyne’s huge plastic sphere. Last year’s show was part of Opening Night, but this year it is separate.
Dolese said the council is focusing on showcasing the community’s new or lesser-known performers rather than putting on a big concert.
“We want to bring lots of people down here to see lots of great performers who also work in Oklahoma City full time,” he said. “The Flaming Lips is an international act. … I loved working with them, but they need to go ahead and do their own thing and they’re doing it. We’re thrilled that they’re doing it.”
Coyne, a lifelong Oklahoma City resident, plans to make the concert an annual spectacle.
“The Flaming Lips welcomes everybody to get on board with this thing,” he said. “But I would say that the Flaming Lips are gonna do it anyway. As long as there’s a building and people that wanna rock, we’ll do it with just whatever.”
The city’s new NBA team, the Thunder, also will play on New Year’s Eve.
“We are thrilled to be part of the excitement and energy that is downtown Oklahoma City,” said Thunder spokesman Dan Mahoney.
Other downtown New Year’s Eve events include the Devon Ice Rink, Chesapeake Snow Tubing at the Brick, a formal gala and live country music.
Along with its family-friendly, alcohol-free slate of activities and performances, Opening Night will light up the sky with a fireworks display at midnight. About 65,000 to 75,000 people are expected to attend the event.
See the jump for a schedule of New Year’s events in downtown.
Today’s featured event:
SHAWNEE – Catch Tulsa standup comic/comedic musician Rodney Carrington at 7 and 9:30 tonight at Firelake Grand Casino, 1601 S Gordon Cooper Drive.
For more information, go to www.firelakegrand.com.
For more events, go to www.wimgo.com.
Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton (Associated Press photo)
I’ve brought you interviews with both Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert this year, since country music’s newest power couple has been hot throughout 2008.
Here’s a link to another story, from McClatchy-Tribune Information Service, about the couple, who live on neighboring farms in Tishomingo.
Shelton and Lambert embarked this fall on a short co-headlining tour. They will wrap the tour on New Year’s Eve in Green Bay, Wis., and from what they’ve told me in recent interviews, they aren’t planning another joint tour for awhile.
It’s a shame the dual tour never came to Oklahoma, but the artists perform here separtely fairly often and are worth catching live if you have the opportunity.
Eartha Kitt as Catwoman (Associated Press photo)
Sultry singer, actress and dancer Eartha Kitt, who sexily purred the evergreen holiday song “Santa Baby,” died on Christmas of colon cancer. She was 81.
Not only was Kitt a Broadway, movie and recording star, she became famous for playing the slinky cat Catwoman on the popular “Batman” TV series in 1967-68; the self-proclaimed “sex kitten” replaced Julie Newmar, who originated the role.
Kitt kept work well into this decade, opening herself up to a whole new generation of fans by playfully voicing the villianess Yzma in the hilarious 2000 Disney animated comedy “The Emperor’s New Groove.”
She also earned a Tony nomination in 2000 for “The Wild Party.”
Kitt famously rose from a poor and unloving childhood to fame and fortune: Born Jan. 17, 1927 – she didn’t even know her birthday for many, many years – in North, S.C., Kitt was the daughter of a black and Cherokee mother and white father. Her stepfather shunned her for her mixed heritage, so she was left to live with other relatives. She grew up picking cotton, but eventually ended up living with an aunt in New York, where she attended a performing arts school.
To read the full Associated Press obituary for Kitt, click here.
Our thoughts go out to Kitt’s loved ones and fans. She will be missed.