Chilly Willy: Cool and Spicy

Chilly Willy title card logoOver at About.com, I selected Chilly Willy's Sub-Arctic World as The Funny Site of the Day. Among many treats, this excellent fan tribute offers most of the cuddly penguin's cartoons online, including the two that shaped the series, from director Tex Avery, "I'm Cold" and "The Legend of Rockabye Point."

I grew up on these films, seen often in theatres, and later I projected them during my career as a motion picture machine operator.

(I had a side career as a malted milk ball and Jujube inhaler, but there was no money in it, and reference sources blanched at crediting me. Jealousy is everywhere. I didn't bother to mention the Black Cow suckers.)

As I recall, in the 1960s, Universal Studios released at least 13 new cartoons each year with several Chilly tales in the mix. They'd also reissue a batch of his earlier shorts. Attractions changed twice per week at my neighborhood theatre. I'd routinely see a penguin or two each month. That's when I learned to take a jacket to the movies. It gets cold in those auditoriums and it seems penguins revolt if the Jujubes are frozen. Those rabid little monsters didn't much care if they had a cartoon counterpart on the big screen or not. They were mean and they turned up their beaks at my licorice peace offerings.

By 1972, the traditional pre-feature cartoon in American cinemas became a memory. I remember it well, because, concurrently, as a big college man, I was phasing out duplicate pocket lints.

Economic forces were to blame for the cartoon's demise and major animation centers were shuttered. It is said Hanna-Barbera's unfunny Frenchy, Loopy DeLoop, soon died in shame. He must have gotten around to watching his pictures.

Loopy DeLoop title card logoI regret I couldn't have been present to throw his Loopy ass for a loop into the asphalt, stomping him into an untalented grease stain on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Doubly nice, while there, I would have had the opportunity to give the "thumbs up" to the geeks in line at Grauman's Chinese for "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith."

Sheesh, are they going to be mad -- when there's no Donald or Daffy Duck before Darth.

From 1977 to 1980, I was part of an effort to sustain the pre-show cartoon custom. I worked one night per week in a drive-in theatre, so I could run the old style projectors, plus enjoy the outdoor ambiance and sitting duck fear.

The theatre company was a firm believer in programming a "color cartoon" before the first show as a customer enticement. They would post "color cartoon" on the marquee and specifically announce showtimes on their answering machine: "... starting at dusk with a color cartoon." Hadn't all cartoons been in color for 40 years at that point?

Perhaps I'm confusing them with the hamburgers. The mustard and ketchup were black and white.

The only cartoons we played each evening were old, deteriorating Universal prints. I showed tons of Chillys during those years, as I had before in 1970, during my earliest times groveling for the almighty benevolent projectionists' union. Amen.

On several occasions, the Business Agent sent me to run a soft porn movie house near the posh section of town. The odd thing was the management insisted on showing a cartoon between the abysmal features. The programs usually lasted an hour, so 10 times each day I'd screen a Universal short subject, always starring Chilly Willy or Woody Woodpecker. It was very surreal.

You wouldn't believe how much time I spent sitting in that projection room trying to figure out if "Woody Woodpecker" and, for that matter, "Chilly Willy," had some kind of porn world significance. Those names seemed awfully suspect and redundant in that place.

But, so would "Speedy" and "Droopy."


Top 10 Reasons I Shaved My Beard

10. Made me look older and people stuck mirrors under my nose.

9. Three-bladed razor doomed to life as cheese grater.

8. Soggy, Pampered tots climbed onto my lap to ask for Christmas Elmos.

7. Soggy, pampered Kate Capshaw climbed onto my lap to ask "Mr. Spielberg, darling," for a part in next picture.

6. Food found in whiskers stale -- and I'm not man enough to sprout Ziploc seal.

5. Decided purchasing of dental floss quicker than growing it.

4. Easy way to lose a pound towards fitting into my beach thong.

3. Missed being questioned about Rue McClanahan and Betty White.

2. Short stubble required for my appearances in "WHAM!Mania."

And the number one reason I shaved my beard...

Neighborhood's Bigfoot sightings up 100%.


Dope on a Pope

Yesterday, as my skinny white legs emerged from the first short pants of the warm seasons, white smoke emerged at the Vatican to announce the election of a new pope.

He's Benedict XVI and he's delightfully tasty in hollandaise sauce or something.

Yeah, I'm miffed. I wanted to be pope. I'm happ'nin' in satin.

Sure, I withdrew my name from consideration, but that doesn't mean they couldn't have twisted my arm to do the job. Anyone who knows me is well aware I've long coveted becoming Pope Shemp I.

Or Eminence for short. (There goes my hip hop career.)

Once again, I must wait. For now, I am simply Mike Durrett, creator of The Shemptown Sound.

My brother, Bob, sent along a note about my list of "reasons for not becoming pope." He says: "You forgot the apparent part about the necessity to have bad teeth."

Thanks. I hadn't noticed the hallowed tradition of mangled pope choppers. I tend to relate bad teeth to our Wal-Mart. I think of the Wal-Mart as being a religious place. It's as big as the Vatican, has Golden Arches, and I look at the slugs in there and say, "Holy crap!"

I've heard it revealed the new pope was a member of The Hitler Youth. He shall not be judged by me. I have my skeletons, too, for -- forgive me, O Lord -- I was Benny the Ball in The Top Cat Club.

Being in a club based on Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters still shames me. I spent my tenure forced into limited animation. No one was allowed to see my often remarked upon skinny white legs move.

The Bible teaches us that we should not carry a grudge or a party assortment of love jellies. So, alas, I'll get over the papal snub.

This time.

It's just that I've always wanted a pinkie ring the size of a chariot.

For while God is my co-pilot, bling bling is my co-Pilate.


Top 10 Reasons I, Mike Durrett, Withdrew as a Candidate for Pope

From Fox News, April 5, 2005:
Papal Qualifications
Contrary to what many people think, there are surprisingly few qualifications for someone to become pope: The cardinals can elect any baptized male to the papacy.

Top 10 Reasons I, Mike Durrett, Withdrew as a Candidate for Pope

10. Insulted that the tailor would need to "let out" my gowns -- and, "possibly, the Vatican."

9. No seersucker cassock, no seersucker sash, no seersucker skullcap for spring.

8. No seersucker, no audience with Matlock.

7. Popemobile equipped with lousy AD/BC radio.

6. My fear of myrrh.

5. I was young. That stag film, "The Passion of the 'Three's Company' Chrissy."

4. College of Cardinals' dictate I bring holy water ice cubes to the mixers.

3. Sunroof taboo in big hats.

2. My wife won't let me.

And the number one reason I withdrew as a candidate for Pope...

Spinach sucks and I hate Bluto and I thought the application said "Popeye!"


A Chat With My Catch

Donna: (Poking at the M&Ms in her milkshake) Do you like red McFlurrys?

Mike: Loved him on "My Three Sons."


A Chat With My Cat

Actual Conversation
Kelp: MEOWffr.

Mike: You want some lunch, Kelpy? Do I need a maitre d' towel over my arm?

Kelp: Mewlff...

I had hoped not. I think it's pretentious.


The Man Who Wrote "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance"

I've been a big fan of composer Burt Bacharach since my readin', writin', and luncheon days in school.

During the pulsating hippie years of the early 1970s, he was my favorite musical artist. Of course, I couldn't tell anyone at college or they would have taken away my herringbone flare pants and Remington Hot Comb (personally endorsed by Edd "Kookie" Burns).

I spent my time at the university as an imposter. I was compelled to roam hallways, mumbling to anyone and everyone, "Hendrix ... Joplin ... Hot Tuna ... He's a complicated man, but no one understands him, but his woman. John Shaft!..."

I'd throw the campus citizens off my musical trail with those trippy, psychedelic references and a glimpse of my plasticized, The Dry Look-encrusted John Denver 'do, but inside my head I'd be perusing satellite photographs and longitudinal charts to, you know, the way to San Jose.

I still find Burt Bacharach's music to be quirky and unexpected. I've always enjoyed pop from the twangy rock era that had the guts to bring in 20 violins and a large classical orchestra for audio enhancements.

So, recently, I was delighted to see him in concert with the Atlanta Symphony. In what was essentially an extended medley of hits -- all of which he wrote -- he played keyboards for an hour and 45 minutes. Even then, not every piece was included. Great tunes like "Baby, It's You," "Nikki," "Everybody's Out of Town," and the theme to "Casino Royale" were omitted.

They did feature "The Blob," one of Burt's first successes, from the spooky 1958 Steve McQueen flick.

"Beware of The Blob, it creeps
And leaps and glides and slides
Across the floor
Right through the door
And all around the wall
A splotch, a blotch
Be careful of The Blob"
Frankly, I had forgotten that song, but I was delighted to hear it. Now, I'll have something to serenade the septic tank guy.

Burt and the orchestra also performed a memorable western movie ballad, "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance." A big song in 1962, it, oddly enough, is not in the film of the same name. According to The Internet Movie Database:

Many people take Gene Pitney's recording of "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance" to be the theme song from the movie but, as Gene himself reports: "The song `Liberty Valance' was written for the movie but for some strange reason never was put in the soundtrack. Because of the prior success with "Town Without Pity" I was paid a bundle to record the song, and Burt Bacharach produced it. He wrote the song with Hal David. There was some screw-up between the publishing company, Famous Music, and the parent company, Paramount Pictures, as to why it never was in the actual film[...] The most bizarre part of the story I found out a few years ago. The actual music used in the film was from a 1938 Henry Fonda film called 'Young Mr. Lincoln' (1939). Go figure that out!"
Of course, John Ford directed both movies and, I'm guessing, he probably got irritated when the music issue materialized. I'd bet he told Paramount to go use that "Lincoln" score and be done with it.

Oh, in case you're wondering, "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance" is not in "Young Mr. Lincoln" either.

"(The Man Who Begot) Abraham Lincoln" is in the picture, as I recall, although that could be The Dry Look fumes talking.

Say, I was textbook groovy in those trousers, high atop my platform shoes.

I had to give up the shoes because of the nosebleeds.

Now, there's a medley for you, Burt.... "Nosebleeds Keep Fallin' on My Threads" and "The Blot."


Out Movin'

We attended the national tour of Broadway's "Movin' Out," the eye-popping contemporary ballet by Twyla Tharp. The choreography reminded me of the street gangs and their high-stepping hoopla in "West Side Story." It was amazing to see the performers sling and toss each other around the stage. I wondered how many dancers they break each week.

I don't believe I've seen such sustained, athletic footwork and acrobatics in any production, ever. I popped a groin tendon simply watching the second act from the balcony.

That after tearing deltoid and brachioradial muscles ripping into a box of Junior Mints during intermission.

My ulna, scapula, and clavicle may sit out the season. Or, at least, Dots and Mike and Ikes.

Perhaps, I should exercise more. But that was such a perfect push-up, back junior year, high school, 1969. I'll never top it.

Oh, I've come close: Floor-palming, hacking cough, 1987.

Came close, but no cigar. (Someone had offered me a puff on a Virginia Slim.)

Besides, when I get down to exercise, my wife says, "Don't go changing, to try and please me. I want you just the way you are."

Isn't she sweet? That's true love.

She's also my lucrative life insurance beneficiary.

When I die, her Turtle Wax and Rice-A-Roni will be free for a year.

I have the Fabulous Parting Gifts Policy.

So, I won't "go changing."

--Hey, ironically, those words are from a Billy Joel song and "Movin' Out" uses all of his hit music as the soundtrack.

I found the evening inspiring. To honor Billy Joel, going home, I wrecked two cars, ditched my beautiful wife, and became engaged to a trophy fetus.

Soon, I'll go changing diapers, to try and please her.


Toy Boy

Questions to Mike posed by The Friday Five.

1) What is the most dangerous toy you have now?

Turbo-powered atomic nose hair trimmer. Inhale wrong, get a free lobotomy.

2) What was your favorite toy as a child?

Tape recorder. By age 9, I was producing full-length shows with skits and music. Today, it would be called UPN.

3) What is your favorite toy now that you're "grown up?"

Girls. (Batteries not included.)

4) What is the most dangerous toy you had growing up?

Batteries. (Girls not included.)

5) What one toy do you wish you had/have?

The Energizer Playboy Bunny.
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