Sunday, July 10, 2016

Government Approved! The Films of Warren G. Spaulding

At long last, Travesty Films' award-winning (one award, but still) feature mockumentary, Government Approved! The Films of Warren G. Spaulding, is available on the World Wide Web. This 2002 film, laboriously compiled from decades of actual taxpayer-funded productions now housed at the National Archives in College Park, Md., was almost doomed to the same fate as the many curious works it celebrates. (Well, maybe not "celebrate.") Which is to say, ignored and abandoned.

But Travesty Executive Director in Charge of Actually Getting Things Done, Mr. Rich West, blew the cobwebs off of the digital bits and bytes and, using Internet technology unheard of when Warren G. Spaulding was making all these films [sic], put the damn thing online.

And so America and the world may again witness the hypnotic horror that is our government's idea of informational, instructional, and propaganda filmmaking in such works as Carbon Monoxide, the Unseen Danger; Three Counties Against Syphilis; Your Enemy, the Grasshopper; King Snow Holds Court; A Better Missouri; and too many more.

This is Mr. West's condensed version, carefully edited for the YouTube generation. The full 81-minute film is available in the DVD format should anyone care to purchase a copy. If that would be you, drop a line at warrengspaulding @ gmail dot com, and wait a while for somebody to remember to check the account.

You're welcome. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Man and His Men and His Music

Guy Gold and His Geldings recorded 17 long-playing albums between 1957 and 1976. Not one of them reached higher than No. 278 on the Billboard charts, and only four of the records were actually released in America. Still, the group's legend remains intact, largely because there are so many unanswered questions. And questions no one wants to ask.

For most of its career, the Geldings were studio-bound, supplying the background "ooohs" and "aaahs" favored by the more popular singers of the day. In a sad irony, the Geldings were also providing the signature air-checks and audio logos for a plethora of AM radio stations — the same stations that refused to play Gelding records.

Guy Gold (born Chaim Goldberg) began as an itinerant music arranger, selling charts in after-hours jam joints in the twilight of the big band era. After unloading a pile of scribble-filled sheet music to Kay Kaiser's cousin, Guy celebrated by stumbling into the nearest bar. There his ears were accosted by a pair of Irish ruffians drunkenly manhandling "Ave Maria." Despite the outrage, Guy heard potential in the two and immediately offered Gary O'Doul and Grant McHiney a contract.

Rehearsing as a trio, Guy's quivering alto melded shamelessly with Gary's rambunctious tenor and Grant's stern baritone. But something was missing. The sound Guy heard in his head was not playing back over the studio speakers. Fortunately, the answer would soon arrive.

While spending time in an airport bathroom, Guy was stunned to hear high angelic moans coming from the next stall. The unearthly soprano belonged to 17-year-old Gil Kitsoulis, on the run from truant officers and his disapproving immigrant parents. After washing up, Gil would become the fourth Gelding.

At first, success seemed assured. Mitch Miller hired the boys to record all of the songs that his major artists refused. Soon, every second-hand tune not good enough for Buddy Grecco was getting the signature Geldings treatment.

But Guy was a strict taskmaster, both musically and personally. There were harsh fines for untucked shirt-tails and mis-combed hair. The Geldings were to be in bed by 9 each evening — and Guy was there to tuck them in! The pressure of churning out one non-hit after another was taking a toll. Many a rehearsal ended in tears. In fact, most of them did.

In 1963, Guy sought to keep peace in the group by begrudgingly producing a solo album for Grant. But the sales potential of Gelded No More and its first single, "A Quiet Kind of Love," was eclipsed by Grant's arrest at Sal Mineo's beach house.

The men recovered the only way they knew how — in song. "Secret Love" and "Not the Marrying Kind" kept the gossip mags happy, if not the accountants. On the road constantly, but with little support from the record company, the four men usually had to share one hotel room — often one bed. Still, the plucky Mr. Gold would call these the happiest days of his life.

1966 found Guy and his good friend Roddy McDowell attending an LSD party at Carey Grant's beach house. That experience led to the recording of "Love Is a State of Mind," the Geldings first, but not last, brush with psychedelia. Shortly thereafter, the group was featured on the television special, Got A Lot of Geldings, where their cover of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" showcased the Gelding's solid commitment to social justice, at least in a musical context.

As the '70s dawned, Guy's experimentation with Eastern mysticism and intense bodybuilding influenced his striking arrangement of "Gypsies Tramps & Thieves," which he offered as an attempt to bridge the generation gap. But after premiering the song on the 1972 summer replacement series, A Time for Geldings, the generations remained firmly apart.

Still, Guy kept reaching out to the kids. "Good Day Sunshine" was the group's biggest hit (in Japan), though an enraged Paul McCartney reputedly threatened to hire hit-men to stop its release.

Early in 1975, in a move that shocked that part of show business that was paying attention, Guy fired all of the Geldings, replacing them with younger, slimmer, more compliant men. This was The New Geldings, and though the names on the album covers remained the same, nobody was fooled. Guy attempted to "cash in" on the rock-n-roll fad by recording a rock opera with his new outfit. The resulting double-album would have been the most expensive record ever released had the studio not immediately canceled the contract and bulk-erased everything — recouping its costs by using the tapes to record Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy."

In 1976, America celebrated its bicentennial to the news that former Gelding Gary had been arrested at Billy Preston's beach house.

As Guy's stage efforts were failing, so too was his personal life. Guy's bills for Grecian Formula were skyrocketing, and he was behind on alimony from his six failed marriages. He was also burdened by royalty lawsuits from Gary and Grant, and the bitter memory of Gil's suicide. Guy faced his troubles as he had always done: he ran away. And he remains on the loose to this day. If he's still alive. Authorities ask that anyone with information relating to the capture and return of Mr. Gold should contact America's Most Wanted.

Finally, included in this compilation is the anthem "Stupid Generation," by Guy Gold Junior & the Raging Hardons. The dismal product of his father's tragic fourth marriage, the younger Gelding dedicated his short life and career to destroying all that his father had built. As with everything else involving Guy Gold, it was a pitiful failure.

Liner notes by Ralph J. Gleason

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ghost County, USA

Presenting for the first time almost anywhere Travesty, Ltd.'s unreleased Halloween classic, "Ghost County, USA."

Recorded in the late 1980s for reasons unclear, this track was not included on any official Travesty release, be it long-playing vinyl, compact disc, cassette, or 8-track tape. In fact, the only time anyone in the group ever thought about it at all was usually in November when the realization struck that, oops, we forgot to get this out for the Halloween season. Again.

So, finally, this cut, which both Time and Newsweek might have labeled "brilliant" had they been given the opportunity, is being made available to a listening public. Bobby "Boris" Pickett, were he still alive, might have felt a pang of jealousy that "Ghost County, USA" was destined to replace "Monster Mash" as the official theme song of the Halloween season.

If you enjoy this timeless tune, feel free to show your appreciation by dropping a few shekels on this Paypal page.

You're welcome.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Travesty Films' entry into the 2013 DC 48 Hour Film Project. The genre was "horror," the required elements were:

Prop - drumstick
Line of Dialog - "What do you think this is?"
Character - Alex or Alexa Berbrick, inspector

Music by the multi-talented Andy Charneco (he has a theremin!) of Cigarbox Planetarium fame.

We did not win any awards. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Anatomy of a 48 Hour Film Project Triumph [sic]

After a six-year absence from the 48 Hour Film Project competition, the aging warriors of Travesty Films decided to once again set foot on the cinematic battlefield. The group was part of the inaugural 48 Hour event in 2001 and participated eight times over the years. While the group won awards and was part of many best-of screenings, too often the event left the men wallowing in pools of tears, unanswered questions denying them restful sleep.

This time, it would be different.*

For starters, the group decided that there was no need for audiences to look upon their physical selves. Instead, Travesty would offer up an animated cartoon. As Mr. Pat Carroll would be doing the drawings, the results would still be disturbing, but at least no one would have to confront these AARP-eligible performer's sagging flesh projected onto the huge AFI screen.

You're welcome.

The following photographs and video tell the story.


Producer Dave Nuttycombe, graphic designer Brad Dismukes, and composer Andy Charneco met at the kickoff in the parking lot of the Warehouse Theater.

This year, each team received a bag of delicious Route 11 potato chips, with an entire case raffled off to one lucky team. We didn't win, but we already felt like winners, as Andy's company had actually designed the bags and logos for Route 11. Tres coincidence!

Dave stepped up to the front and drew the genre from the official hat -- HORROR. This was good. We had done a crowd-pleasing horror film before, Shakespeare vs. the Monsters. And horror was a genre that Travesty Films had turned to often in the '70s and '80s, when film was actually shot on film.

Dave and Andy repaired to the local Hooters, where Pat and Tom Welsh were waiting. If you're involved in a project with Pat Carroll and there is a Hooters nearby, you will find yourself in that Hooters. And that is where the script took shape.

The story of a 12-year-old ghost-hunter presented itself and the script took shape, as it often does, on tiny scraps of paper, a form suitable to the scope of the vision.

 From Hooters, it was a straight shot up 7th Street NW, which becomes Georgia Avenue, which leads directly to the Patcave.



Before any substantive works gets underway: Lunch! (It's after noon already.)

The Command Center, where director Rich West will make the magic happen.

Graphics whiz Brad sets up a satellite workstation.
Storyboards are hastily scribbled to give the team a clearer understanding of where this story is headed and to keep us all on track. Not sure anybody paid much attention to them.

The magic begins. Mr. Carroll stays on course deep into the night, drawing his sad little creatures (or stars), scanning, Photoshopping (in a format that will require extra work later, but still). Behind him, international thespian Jim Phalen checks his fan mail while awaiting his closeup.
Writer/actor Tom polishes the script. Or checks his mail.
Director Rich loses himself in the process.

Brad creates an entire world through the miracle of pixels. These are the type of fascinating behind-the-scenes shots you won't see on E! or Entertainment Tonight.

Actual filming takes place! A bit late in the afternoon, but, hey. Our star, Ms. Shari Elliker, lost in her character. What a pro!

TRAGEDY! Brad's graphic computer goes down. The clock is ticking. This is standard 48 Hour Film Project procedure. Still sucks, though.


VICTORY! Film finished on time and with a reasonable amount of quality.

Because our film will not screen until the following Friday, there's time to create fancy promotional postcards for the event. Which we do. (Thanks, Vistaprint!)  And, as if we had any foresight, organizers announce a new award: The Spirit Award, for the team which exhibits the most, er, whatever, at their screening.

So, at some expense (I mistakenly double-order), postcards are created. In my haste, I leave Tom's name off as the main actor.

Sneaking into the theater before the show, I place postcards on every chair. Feels like overkill and maybe a bit creepy. But it's marketing! Promotion! This is how it's done -- street-teaming myself!

We don't win the Spirit Award. A team that made an utterly earnest film about saving the ocean, using drawings of fish attached to sticks, takes the prize. Sigh.

We also don't win the Audience Award, either, which is always what we shoot for. A team that made an "operetta" about milk wins. And deservedly so. After all, it featured live humans and we only offered crude drawings. Still, defeat never tastes good.

Ah, well. We did make it into the Best-of screening, which takes place Thursday, May 23, at the AFI Silver Theatre, Silver Spring, Md. Get your tickets now.

*It wasn't much different.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Travesty Triumphantly Returns to the 48 Hour Film Project

48 Hour Filmmaker: Washington, DC 2013

After a six-year absence, the mighty men and indulgent women of Travesty Films will once again take part in the annual filmmaking competition that is the 48 Hour Film Project. Over the course of a single weekend, the creative geniuses who brought you It Came From Marlow Heights, Phantom of the Beltsville Drive-In, and Intestines From Space will write, direct, act, edit, and possibly sing an entire motion picture.

The result will be screened at the luxurious AFI Silver Theatre in beautiful downtown Silver Spring, Md., on Friday, May 10, at 7 p.m. Victory is assured.

You're welcome. Follow @nutco on Twitter for regular updates from the madness. The hashtag #48hourfilm might also prove useful.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Knothead Chronicles

From the Mind of Pat Carroll comes the inspired story of a man and his puppet. Created in 1930 at great expense at the lavish Welsh Studios, the Knothead Chronicles instantly became a beloved holiday tradition for families and people without families. Two horses and lots of gin were injured in the making of this video.