Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Some Like It Hot -- The next ARCLight Film!


Some Like It Hot is considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, and one of the funniest. Set in 1929, Joe and Jerry (played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon) are jazz musicians who witness a prohibition-era mob killing (inspired by the St. Valentine's Day Massacre). When they are discovered as witnesses to the crime and the mob sends out hitmen to "off" the duo, they dress like women and join an all-female jazz ensemble.  And hilarity ensues, especially when they both try to win the attention of Sugar Kane (played by Marilyn Monroe), the band's lead vocalist and ukulele player -- while trying to keep their identities hidden.

The film is critically acclaimed. Due to the themes, however, the film was made in 1958 outside of the "Hayes Code."  They Hayes Code was the prominent  self-censorship system that ruled Hollywood from the mid-30s to the late 60s.  The Hayes Code was strictly enforced for much of that time, and the filmmakers were afraid that the crossdressing displayed in the movie would be subject to censorship. The film was made anyway without approval.  And it became a hit.

This signaled the beginning of the end of the Hayes code. It would be replaced in 1968 by the ratings system that we have today.

This month we are proud to screen Some Like it Hot. Open to the public. 

Tuesday, December 14 at 7pm in the ARC.

Artist of the Month: Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915.  This month would have been his 106th birthday.

I have been a Sinatra fan all my life. I am not sure where that came from, though. Sure, Sinatra was played at my house as a kid. My grandparents often had big band music playing at their house, too. 

But it wasn't until college when I truly became a fan.  I even saw him in concert in 1991.

When I first started teaching, I tried to impart my love of Sinatra's music onto my students. I placed extra credit Frank Sinatra questions on every test and distributed Frank Sinatra extra credit tokens for good work.

Plus, I created the Frank Sinatra Detention Club. If a student got a detention, then they would have to listen to 30 minutes of Sinatra (and me, singing along). 

It was a slow news day in September of 1992. A reporter had contacted me a few days earlier because there was a blurb put in the school board minutes about my detention club. Little did I know that my Frank Sinatra Detention Club story was going to be front page news in Chicago Sun-Times. The following day: nationally on the front page of USA Today. Calls started coming in. The story was one the wire. I did interviews in Canada, Tokyo and other places. Jay Leno even made a joke about me on the Tonight Show. The joked bombed. 

This was my 15 minutes of fame. 

Photo by Rex Chapman, Chicago Sun-Times (1992)

I haven't given detentions in years. But the "Club" lives on in a radio program that I do for Vinyl Voyage Radio

Why Sinatra? That's a hard question to answer. There is a certain "coolness" about Sinatra. He was a product of his times, for sure.  And much of his persona would most certainly not be acceptable today. But as a singer, he was unparalleled. In fact, he approached songs first as poems. He first read them without the music, and then listened to the accompaniment. He couldn't read music, and so his approach was always centered on the emotion of the lyrics. And he had a way of bringing that out in the song itself.

As a fan, here are my TOP FIVE Sinatra tunes:

5. "The Wave"
This is just an all around groovy song that screams late 60s Bossa Nova. 

4. "McArthur Park"
This song is pretty stupid. Except when Sinatra does it. He cut out the corny "someone left the cake out in the rain" lyrics, and what is left is sublime.

3. "Summer Wind"
Best. Summer. Song. Ever. 

2. "One More for My Baby"
Sinatra was known, for much of his career, as a "saloon singer." And this is the best.

1. "Cycles"
Hands down, this is my favorite Sinatra tune. When he sings, "And Friday, I got fired" you can just feel it.

Check out our specially created Spotify Playlist.

Monday, December 6, 2021

ARCLight S01E6: Weasels, Blackouts and an Angel Named Clarence: A Conversation with John Jughead

John Jughead Pierson is, among other things, a musician, podcaster, actor and novelist. 

Plus, he is a 1985 Hersey graduate.

On this podcast, we sat down to talk with him about his novel, The Last Temptation of Clarence Odbody. This novel reimagines the classic holiday movie, It's a Wonderful Life.  What if the angel, Clarence, did not save George Bailey on that Christmas Eve many years ago?

We discuss how he came about to write such a novel and the difficulties in writing a novel based on a beloved holiday classic.

We also discuss the various other things he has done since graduating Hersey:

He formed the influential punk band, Screeching Weasel in 1986. After leaving Weasel in 2006, he formed Even in Blackouts and currently put out an album with the Mitochondriacs.

He performed with the Neo Futurists and could be seen for over a decade in Chicago's longest-running play, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.

He has played the wizard Ollivander in the wand shop at Universal Studios, Tokyo.

He learned puppetry from a group that had trained with Jim Henson.

He wrote two novels: Weasels in a Box and The Last Temptation of Clarence Odbody We have a couple of copies of The Last Temptation of Clarence Odbody in the ARC.

He hosts a podcast called Jughead's Basement, where he interviews prominent musicians.