Catnip Fever

Continued From: "Kelp Mates," part of a thread beginning with "Remembering Professor Kelp"

I was disappointed to see how few pictures we have of Professor Kelp in the younger days, due largely to my devotion to shooting home movies throughout most of his life. With dozens of hours of miscellaneous footage on shelves and in storage, it's not easy to locate specific memories.

Live and learn. Take snapshots.

Kelp wasn't up to his excited tumbling and catnip wrasslin' potential during the elderly feline phase, but his intense interest and enjoyment of the stimulant never wavered.

A few of Kelp's catnip photographs of recent years follow below. The next one was made on Christmas morning, 2006, on his 20th visit from Santa Cat with those merry stocking stuffers for sniffers.

Next: "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em"


Kelp Mates

Continued From: "Kelp on Ice," part of a thread beginning with "Remembering Professor Kelp"

Kelp loved catnip. One of the most anticipated events came every Christmas, when Santa Cat filled this boy's stocking with a fresh-scented varmint / object of affection.

Kelp would leap into the air and roll in the floor, hugging and kicking his new toy in fits of unbounded bliss.

We'd also note his slobber glands worked just fine, thank you. Why there would be enough cat spit to last us the entire year!

Then, when all was mewed and done, Kelp would settle in for a nap -- with the catnip critter pinned under his butt.

Very odd, but obviously a treasured Kelpian ritual.

Next: "Catnip Fever"


Kelp on Ice

Continued From: "The Kelp of the Wild," part of a thread beginning with "Remembering Professor Kelp"

As a lifelong Georgia resident (mainly for the Krispy Kremes with salmon filling), Kelp saw little snow, which tended to overwhelm him.

He'd venture a few steps into the snow before getting cold feet. Stranded, Kelp would summon a superhero to his rescue!

(This superhero likes the glazed Krispy Kremes. They go with his eyes.)

"Kelp Mates"


The Kelp of the Wild

Continued From: "Kitty Kitty Bang Bang," part of a thread beginning with "Remembering Professor Kelp"

Kelp enjoyed the outdoors, but only in small doses.

He seldom ventured more than 15 feet from the house. A lifeguard was always on duty.

I was pleased to protect him, of course, but he wouldn't wait for me to put on my floaties.

Usually, Monsieur Kelp would be content to sniff and snoop and, maybe, putter in his garden.

One afternoon, Donna decided to escort young Kelp on an excursion around the perimeter of our home. The cat had barely begun the tour, when he leaped into the air like a mad kangaroo in a frenzy.

It was autumn and the unfamiliar sounds of Donna stepping onto crisp fallen leaves put the poor boy into a panic. He was strapped inside a recommended pet harness for his safety and he nearly strangled himself in the desperate effort to get free and away from those frightening noises, much like me with the lullabies of Yoko Ono.

That was an upsetting episode for all involved. So much so, more than a decade would pass before Kelp was comfortable in the yard during fall and winter seasons.

He'd dash outside for a short, medicinal gnaw on grass, then retreat inside to spew a little greenery-induced fur ball fun.

In 20 years, Kelp never grasped he could barf and potty outside. He'd take it all indoors.

Special memories. And a hundred bucks for a lifetime of Bounty towels, "the Kelper picker-upper."

As an elderly cat, he was content to sunbathe on the lawn. Kelp's eyes had become very sensitive to light, but he'd close his lids, point his face skyward, and enjoy a few moments in the warmth.

Having had his fill, Kelp would stand, waddle up the steps to the door, and head back to work.

"Kelp on Ice"


Kitty Kitty Bang Bang

Continued From: "Kelp the Lionhearted," part of a thread beginning with "Remembering Professor Kelp"

Like millions of seven-year-old boys before him, Kelp went through a Randolph Scott period.

Continued: "The Kelp of the Wild"


Kelp the Lionhearted

Continued From: "Remembering Professor Kelp"

Our cat Kelp was a fierce hunter. We'd be treated to his roars of triumph at all hours of the day or night and then he would proceed to the ceremonial presentation of the *kill* at our feet.

He was truly into the resulting congratulatory praise, head scratches, chin rubs, and neck massages -- a copyrighted feature.

Since Kelp was a housecat, his targets of prey usually came from the species known as "drinking straws."

He loved to play fetch with straws, as I documented in "The Best Dog Ever," and those items would be rediscovered in his later travels around the carpets. He pounced upon the straws, apparently mistaking them as new intruders.

The boy had a short memory, yes.

Kelp was also an authority on unidentified flying objects. I suspect his interest may have had something to do with our residence near Roswell, GA, during the first decade of his life. We considered moving to Roswell, NM, the infamous UFO haven, but Kelp didn't like the gargantuan tumbleweeds. The dust balls under our bed were the perfect size. Why pack?

Whenever Kelp was outdoors he would watch the skies until the UFOs attacked. We humans were able to identify the mysterious objects as pine cones falling from the trees. Kelp had little knowledge of botany, other than the connoisseur catnips.

Pine cones were Kelp's favorite prey and he never failed to seek, capture, and deliver many of the prickly prizes inside our doorway.

Donna and I were puzzled by this behavior at first, but soon realized he was fulfilling his duties of providing for the family.

We were appreciative of his efforts, especially considering the alternative -- piles and piles of mice.

Next: "Kitty Kitty Bang Bang"


Remembering Professor Kelp

Sadly, it is time to report the passing of our beloved family member, friend, guardian, and king, Professor Kelp. He was as fine an animal and companion as I have ever known, and I have been blessed with a streak of exceptional pets.

Kelp left us last Monday, following several weeks of rapid decline. The diabetes became unmanageable, after he had been administered insulin shots twice daily for four and a half years. Donna and I never viewed the regimen as an inconvenience. He was worth every second and breath and purr and then some.

His kind doctor remarked at the end that Kelp had had a good home, longevity, and times, "not bad for being thrown out of a car."

She remembered the anecdote, which I wrote about in "Mother and Father's Little Kelper," when kitten Kelp literally plopped our way from the clutches of an evil Cruella De Vil.

One chance moment became three lucky days, collectively, and six happy decades.

Kelp was a perfect cat. He was polite, considerate, and mannered, which sounds insane, yet it is true.

Donna and Kelp, they were complete together. I've said it before, but I witnessed one of the great loves nurtured between them. Subsequently, my devotion grew stronger for each (although I would occasionally grumble about being the "stunt husband").

Our loss is infinite. Even when you see it coming, you don't see it coming. These farewells do not get easier -- and there's beauty in that. Kelp overcame odds, mastered life, and he meant something.

Kelp. Twenty years and three months. It's not enough.

Next: "Kelp the Lionhearted"


100 Things About Me #116

I Shall Return
On the whole, my first seashore vacation was a resounding success.

Oh, Magoo, you've done it again!

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100 Things About Me #115

Ocean's Three
In another beach reminiscence, from "The Durrett Family Photo Album of Golden Travel Memories, Assorted Creases, Tatters, Coffee Stains, and Oleaginous Fingerprints," big brothers Billy and Bobby and myself form the letter 'U' for the shut-ins back home.

Our 'U,' by the way, is in an uppercase serif font.

That explains the tall boys' caps with brims.

We three lads were the entire turn-out of volunteers for the very first "Hands Across America" event. The local paper dubbed us "Grasps Over Goo Goo," a thinly veiled insult at my expense.

I was a year old. I responded in the only way I knew how. I frothed up bubbles.

We submitted a requisition in triplicate to Mommy and Daddy, lobbying them in favor of adding another brother to the clan, so we four could form the letter 'O,' as in "ocean."

Steven would be born to make the magic happen. In the interim, Billy and Bobby had left the act, so Steven and I were obliged to perform side-by-side as "The Human Dittos."

Our shows were an embarrassment, being so low budget and all, but, in later life, the experience helped with my conceptualizing of how to parallel park.

On the eventful day pictured, I suggested to Billy and Bobby we don matching costumes for the trio act, but the boys said I needed to be much older to operate a shirt like their's without injury.

Then they went off and hypnotized flounders.

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100 Things About Me #114

Mike 'n Kin's Island
Well, knit me a red shirt and call me Gilligan!

(Hmm. For some reason, I remember Dad answering to the name "Lovey Howell.")

From the looks of that diaper, I'm on a three-hour sewer.

Actually, this photograph of mini me, teetering at the edge of the Isle of Palms, was snapped years before the premiere of "Gilligan's Island." I am not posing as Bob Denver.

My factory-installed innie navel is posing as the famous sinkhole Big Bone Lick, Ohio.

Oddly enough, it perennially fails to gain me finalist status on "America's Got Talent."

The hat explains bundles, especially my recurring nightmares of being trapped inside a Jiffy Pop.

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100 Things About Me #113

The Good Father
Every one-year-old toddler on his first trip to the beach loves to be swooped up inexplicably by his father and dangled high above the Atlantic Ocean.

"Michael, would you like to swim with the fishies?" he asked.

I squealed discontent. I didn't want to play Marco Polo with them either.

My father was making a joke about organized crime. I would never wish to belly flop with fish.

It was the '50s. Who in their right mind would welcome a baggy cement overcoat with those hideous pleats?

Besides, I know my family and the sea. Just when I thought that I was out, they push me back in.

"Yeah," Billy cheered. "Throw him to the fishies!"

My other sibling seconded the resolution.

This was the moment I chose to speak my first words. I turned my face to the right and said: "Bob-o, you're my older brother and I love you, but don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever."

"I like to drink wine more than I used to," added my father.

"It's good for ya, Pop." I said.

"Anyway, I'm drinkin' more," Pop said.

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With groveling apologies to the Corleones.


100 Things About Me #112

My First Shipwreck
Without notice, I was thrust into raging waters. I managed to make my way back to shore, but, apparently, not by the seat of my pants.

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100 Things About Me #111

My First Cruise
I found the buffets lacking.

Johnny Puleo and His Harmonica Gang appeared nightly in the Lounge.

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100 Things About Me #110

If You Knew Sushi Like I Know Sushi
My mother loved the ocean.

I do, too, although I don't like to be in it.

Even at an early age, I questioned the logic of splashing in the waves. Mom would make me bob in the murky surf, but she would not let me wallow in a rat-infested latrine.

What's the difference? It's all debris, danger, and disease waiting to happen.

I used to discuss my observations with her. She'd get indignant and brush me off. I would be really dirty after a swim and require a brooming.

I took Mom to see "Jaws" in the summer of 1975. The scariest part for me was the movie's revelation that most shark attacks occur in three feet of water. I haven't been more than knee deep since.

I also Scotchgard my shins.

Mother didn't comment on "Jaws," other than to make her obligatory after-show remark, "That was cute."

"Jaws" was "cute." Every movie was "cute."

During numerous subsequent beach vacations, however, I never saw Mom swim in the ocean again.

I felt bad for her and very relieved.

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100 Things About Me #109

The Beach Boys
I was one year old on my first visit to the ocean and the Isle of Palms, SC, near Charleston harbor.

My early memory, as we might expect, is fuzzy. Besides, with the afternoon sun directly overhead, I would have already downed several Ovaltine shooters, plus scored a few hits on the Cream of Wheat bong.

Here I am going for a drag, stretched between my big brothers and Daddy.

It's obvious in the photograph I'm learning to get my land legs. Or maybe I'm just woozy from looking at Billy and Bobby's shirts.

I believe this particular image is a press still from my first TV series, "Babywatch." I'm Li'l Mitch Buchannon, of course.

Pamela Anderson wasn't born, so my father was the original lifeguard, Casey Jean 'C.J.' Parker. He had the gams, smokes, and cleavage for it, and that winning smile.

Then again, the picture might be from the pilot we did for "Boatnanza." I'm Little Joe Cartwright, of course. We're on the way to corral us some seahorses. It was a wetern.

Although I've returned to the Isle of Palms many times, I have no recollection of the wooden pier. My brother says it was destroyed in a hurricane, but I think he might be protecting my emotional fragility. I can see very clearly in our group snapshot, we were moments away from the approaching "War of the Worlds" attack.

I had blanked all of that, out of my mind.

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Tinkle Toes

I've just been added to the Lollapalooza line-up. I'll be performing my one man show, "Bladderdance."

Can't see the video? Click here.


Birth of a Notion

The other day on my About.com site, I tossed off this line:

"Forget the iPhone. Where's our iSpork?"

Ever since, I've been giving that concept a lot of thought and, frankly, it's a winner. What could be more high tech and cooler than a gadget that is part spoon, part fork, and part Internet babes? Why, it--




I'm going to be immensely rich....

The iSpornk.


Fellini Greedy

Continued From: "A Hard Day's Patsy," part of a thread beginning with "I Lost My Heart in a Drive-In Movie"

The marketing of "The Patsy" in Italy was even stranger than the German poster implying the Jerry Lewis comedy is somehow related to The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night."

Italian film director Federico Fellini had an international hit with his semi-autobiographical drama, "8½," in 1963.

When "The Patsy" entered the country, the American advertising concepts were discarded for a new campaign effort to equate Lewis to Fellini.

"The Patsy" was retitled "Jerry 8¾." While both movies are set in show business, there is nothing whatsoever to connect them.

Man, that's some beautiful poster art. The fine detail, the cigarette.

Note the ornate font of "8¾" is apparently the same one used for "8½."

I've probably seen "The Patsy" a dozen times or more, however until I glimpsed the Italian poster, I never realized the whole thing hinges on a giant pocket watch.

All I can say is parmigianoey.


A Hard Day's Patsy

Continued From: "Paper Loon," part of a thread beginning with "I Lost My Heart in a Drive-In Movie"

Beatlemania ascended in the United States as "The Patsy's" cameras neared completion. "A Hard Day's Night" was set to roll. The projects bear curious connections and coincidences.

"The Patsy" was filmed during the first two months of 1964. On Feb. 9, newcomers The Beatles exploded from television's "The Ed Sullivan Show."

Sullivan is an unbilled guest star in "The Patsy." Stanley Belt (Jerry Lewis) also makes a triumphant debut on Sullivan's program.

The Beatles' movie began shooting on March 2. "The Patsy" wrapped Feb. 28. One weekend separates their production calendars.

Both films are zany and episodic behind-the-scenes yarns about young entertainers striking the big time, each via the hit record pathway.

A minor similarity, granted, but Lewis sported footwear with a resemblance to what would soon become known as "Beatle boots."

Mulling these facts, I began to wonder, "Is it possible the comedies were released on the same day?"

According to Internet Movie Database, no, not by a long day's night.

The Beatles opened in American movie theatres on Aug. 11, 1964. "The Patsy" dawdled until Aug. 12. One day separates them.

[Correction: According to the "A Hard Day's Night" newspaper ad found in "The Atlanta Constitution," the Beatles' film debuted Aug. 5. See: "'A Hard Day's' Plight." "The Patsy" appeared earlier in the summer, although the specific date is elusive. It was common for major motion pictures to be released on a staggered schedule from market to market in the 1960s.]

By the time the Lewis picture premiered in Germany on Sept. 18, The Beatles had conquered the universe. The studio's foreign merchandisers moved to capitalize on the band's popularity. They updated the ad campaign to transform traditional clean cut Jerry into a Beatles lookalike, although a peculiar one.

Stanley's fussily-styled hair and expensive black suit, seen in "The Patsy's" recording studio sequence, are gone. He's acquired the group's trademark mop-top mane, although the sketch artist garbs him in odd casual clothing not seen in this movie nor the band's wardrobe. The Beatles of the period wore tailored suits, too, which contributed much to their initial appeal.

The entire Jerry Lewis poster art changed from head to ankle. Those boots were made for hawking.

Next: "Fellini Greedy"
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