Sunday, June 30, 2013

Back to BBYO


On 4/20/13, I spoke at the spring convention of the Connecticut Valley Region of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO).


I used to do this all the time…but not as an author. I was an avid member of CVR BBYO during high school, and at almost every event took to the stage as either a leader or a performer (term used loosely).

So it was an immense honor—and more than a little sentimental—to return to a convention and to speak there. Teens are taller now than when I was one.

In my hourlong presentation I talked about my career, but what felt most special was giving them a glimpse of my formative time in BBYO. Though they’d never heard of me as an author, they were keen to hear the experiences of one of their own; the organization fosters such a fervent bond among young people that anyone who has gone through it is of immediate interest to anyone currently in it.

I started my mini-retrospective by mentioning the five guys who were my best friends back then and I showed the first known photo taken of the six of us:


Kevin, me, Seth (blue shirt with red tartan), Matt (in hat), Darren (with bracelets), Mike; 
yes, we were standing in a camp cabin shower

We were called the Ruach 6—“Ruach” was the name of our chapter (in Hebrew it means “spirit”). I cycled through other BBYO moments that had an impact on me. I concluded by re-showing that first group photo…then revealing that those five guys I was best friends with in 1988 are still my best friends today:

Darren, Matt, Seth, Kevin, me, Mike

The room rippled with the warmth of human connection and jittery excitement for the future.

The kids stopped to digest the possibility that they were in the presence of friends for life.

But I’m sure many of them already knew that.


selfie before my talk

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The first person to play Bill Finger?

On 6/5/13, I went to a Maryland wax museum, but not one in the traditional sense. The wax figures were really human beings—third grade human beings doing a class project.

And one, I’m heartened to report, chose to be Bill Finger, uncredited co-creator and original writer of Batman.




In fact, he may be the first person ever to play Bill Finger. But there will be others. Even just a year ago, a young person choosing Bill for such a project was unthinkable.

As this young man delivered his short, memorized monologue as Bill, dressed in a blue button-down as Bill often did, I unabashedly teared up. 

This is why I wrote Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman.

And this is the second time I’ve heard of a young person portraying a superhero creator I’ve written about.

If you know of any other kids who have role-played Bill, Jerry Siegel, or Joe Shuster, please let me know.

Friday, June 28, 2013

An Elseworlds Batman tale...or a prediction for the future?

 

From News Geeks Want, which presents fake news that geeks wish was real

Children’s Literature Conference at Shenandoah University in Virginia


On 6/28/13, I was thrilled to make my second consecutive appearance at the Children’s Literature Conference at Shenandoah University in Virginia; this was the 28th annual.

It is one of my favorite conferences.

My schedule this year:

  • 1.5-hour writing workshop with middle schoolers
  • presentation to educators
  • two breakout Q&A sessions with educators
  • book signing
  • turkey and cheese croissant sandwich

The hallmarks from last year all made welcome (except for the heat) returns.

Star-studded roster:



Beautiful hand-painted banner (all by the same student!) representing every author:


A mug with our names on it: 


Extreme bookselling:


Bathroom signs featuring author and book quotations:


At first I read this as "You will agree to come with me," which is as lovely a description as any for a person surrendering to a good book.

Thank you again to Karen Huff, my kind right-hand woman Becky, and the rest of the crew for making this a must-attend conference. And thank you to the audiences, who were more than receptive and engaged throughout. I look forward to visiting as many of your schools as I can...and I look forward to (hopefully) seeing you at the 29th.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Good people can always do more

On Comic Book Resources, Greg Hatcher took up the Bill Finger cause in his 5/18/13 column, with focus on Finger's role in the creation of the Clock King. Bill co-wrote the two-part episode of the 1966 Batman TV show that featured the villain.


The comments section was a passion pit (which I also jumped into), and these two in particular had an impact on me:

Herb Finn
May 20, 2013 at 5:54 pm


Marc is a good researcher, writer, and blogger (and a decent cartoonist, too!) but there is NO WAY he will ever get DC to change or add Bill Finger to the “created by” byline on Batman. There are too many legal issues
—and DC finally got resolution over the Superman issues (notice new bylines on the comics) and DO NOT want to deal with something on that scale that will affect millions.

I think Marc should let this rest. DC is paying royalties for reprints of Bill’s stories to Bill’s granddaughter (after years of being misdirected to a former “friend” of her father), which is all they can do.

joshschr
May 20, 2013 at 6:38 pm

 

I think Marc should let this rest. DC is paying royalties for reprints of Bill’s stories to Bill’s granddaughter (after years of being misdirected to a former “friend” of her father), which is all they can do.

No. Good people can always do more.

People coming to the defense of people coming to the defense.

Justice has no expiration date.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bill Finger at the 92nd Street Y


On 5/15/13, I had the pleasure of returning to the 92nd Street Y in New York to speak about a Great Event that happened not far from there: the creation of Batman.


This was a comp ticket; as shown in the previous image, people actually had to part with 
$29 to hear me, which I thought would mean (far) fewer than 29 would show up.


The venue alone was an honor, as was the fact that people I care about came to listen, including a gaggle of college friends:


One of the three people to whom the book is dedicated also humbled me with his attendance: Charles Sinclair, Bill’s longtime friend and sometime writing partner.


Like the last time I spoke at the Y (2009), I took a photo of the room before I started:


But unlike the last time, I forgot to take one of the room once it’d filled in, which was the point.

The event generated some wonderful coverage.




And the coverage generated some wonderful coverage.

More than 350 likes and almost 50 shares 
for the Facebook link to the Newsarama article.

Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen weighed in on Facebook.

Thank you again to Sidney Burgos for hosting me. Hope to speak under your roof again.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jewish Book Council Network 2013

For the second year in a row, I’m thrilled to be on the author roster of the Jewish Book Council Network. The New York Times referred to the annual JBC Network Meet the Author event as “a combination of The Gong Show and speed-dating.” Or, as described by writer Jeffrey Goldberg (quoted in the article), “somewhere between JDate and a camel auction.”


Last year I got to talk about Batman. This year Superman. And as if on cue, upon arriving in New York City on 6/2/13 to give my two-minute pitch to a roomful of programming directors from 100 Jewish institutions across North America, I see and snap this:



The scene juxtaposes two American icons forged in the same decade: the Empire State Building (completed 1931) and the Man of Steel (conceived 1933, debuted 1938).

Here is the room in which the authors (numbering around 50) presented back-to-back, and some of the people to whom we presented:




I look forward to coming to as many of your communities as possible over the next year.

Here was my two-minute pitch:

During dangerous times, a baby boy is born. For his own good, his parents give him up, sending him off in a vessel. Another family finds him and raises him as their own, without knowing where he came from. Eventually, he learns his history…and his destiny…and becomes a savior.

Sound familiar?

Yes, Moses…but also Superman. As his planet is about to explode, his parents launch him to safety in a rocket. He lands on Earth an infant, a Kansas couple adopts him, and he grows up to be the world’s greatest superhero.

He was also the world’s first, created during the Depression by two Jewish teens, writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. They were geeks before the word existed.

Was the Moses parallel intentional? Did Hitler himself call Superman a Jew and ban his comics from Nazi Germany? What is the Jewish connection to Superman’s Kryptonian name? And why did Shabbat prevent Joe from drawing Superman? No, not the obvious reason!

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman answers these questions, debunks myths, and solves mysteries. It’s an all-ages book and the first standalone bio on the men of Cleveland behind the Man of Steel. It’s both inspirational and heartbreaking—even to people who couldn’t care less about superheroes. It reveals a discovery that made the front page of USA Today. It in part led to my TED talk. And it’s an Association of Jewish Libraries Notable Book of Jewish Content, the revised edition of which is out this year for the 75th anniversary of Superman.

I’ve been invited to speak to standing-room-only adult audiences at Jewish institutions nationwide, and I’m thrilled to be on the JBC Network for the second year in a row. Let’s celebrate this icon together, along with truth, justice, and the Jewish-American way.

Monday, June 24, 2013

“The Bloodhound Gang” (“3-2-1 Contact”) cast interviews, 4 of 4

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

“The Bloodhound Gang” was a series of short, live-action mysteries that may have been the most popular segment of the 1980s PBS science show 3-2-1 Contact. 

When was the last time you watched an episode—and how did it hold up?

Nan: I think about a year ago. “The Thing in the Trunk” is on YouTube. It holds up great. The show was so well done.
Seth: Most can be found on YouTube. I got a kick out of the humor I still see in the episodes, but cringe at my acting.
Glenn: Not in a while, but when I do, it always brings back wonderful memories. The time it was shot is very present in each episode…the cars, the wardrobe. It’s a trip to watch. New York was a different place in the late ‘70s.

Kelly: I put it on once in a while since a few of the episodes are on YouTube. I think it looks good, especially since they were filmed back in 1979.

If you are/were married, what was your future spouse/partner’s reaction when s/he learned you were in this series?

Nan: My husband gets a real kick out of it. He wasn’t familiar with it when we first met. He’s from Minnesota. Not sure if it even played out there. But when he saw them, he loved it.
Glenn: My current partner has never seen it. One of these days, I must force him to watch. He might make me sit through his bar mitzvah, though.

Kelly: She found it very interesting. I think she knew since we’re both from the same area and most people knew that I did the show and some other things.

What do your kids think of the series?

Nan: My older daughter is 30, my son is 23, and my younger daughter is 18. They all think it’s a hoot. None of them were born when I did the series. I think they’re proud of their mom.

Kelly: I’ve watched some of them on You Tube with my oldest son (22 years old), and he likes to make fun and tease me about it.

What did you think when you heard I wanted to interview you?

Nan: I was excited. That was a very special time in my life. As I mentioned, when people do recognize me in public, I see their faces as they were when they were 8, 9, 10 years old. Some have even said it’s why they got into science or became a teacher, etc.
Seth: I know your work and thought you would do a fair and admirable job of telling this little story.
Glenn: I thought, “How cool.”

Kelly: I tend to talk about my acting career more as I get older and one of the guys from work went home and googled me and found your site and sent me a link. I thought it was great and looked forward to contacting you and being a part of it.

Has anyone else ever interviewed about this? If so, who, when, and for what publication(s)?

Nan: Honestly, I don’t recall. For it to have been such a popular show, we received very little personal publicity. A magazine spin-off 3-2-1 Contact did include a segment called “The Bloodhound Gang” with characters that resembled us in the cast. I would love for it to make a comeback somehow as science and math are two subjects getting a real big push for our kids to really excel in.
Seth: Nope.
Glenn: I have never been interviewed like this about that show. It has been brought up every so often but I am touched that you want to talk about this, Marc. Right on. It was a big part of my childhood, too.

Kelly: Not specifically about this show, but when I was young I did do an interview about my acting career for two of the local papers in Massachusetts.

Have you appeared at any fan conventions to sign autographs?

Nan: I have not.
Seth: Nope.

Kelly: No.

Would you?

Nan: I certainly would. One thing my fans say when they see me is I haven’t really changed much.
Seth: It would be far too weird for me to do, so far removed from the show.

Kelly: I don’t know. It’s so long ago.

Did you stay in touch with anyone from the series? If so, how often?

Nan: Just Marcelino for that brief time and then, thanks to LinkedIn (or Facebook—can’t remember) I heard from Seth. What a wonderful surprise. So we are in touch now and I am very happy about that.
Seth: Just Nan.
Glenn: I’m sorry to say I haven’t. Maybe through this interview you can reunite us…

Kelly: No.

How do you look back on the experience?

Nan: Very fondly. It was at the beginning of my career. I always wanted to be an actress—why, I don’t know. But I just knew that I could and that I would. It was something beyond my control. I felt like that was where I was meant to be.
Glenn: With warm, happy, loving thoughts and memories. When you do a show like that, it’s not just what appears on the screen that remains in my heart but rather all the people. Great, talented people on that show.

Kelly: I loved it. I was disappointed when I was called back to shoot more episodes, but had grown too much so they ended up recasting the part of the younger boy. That’s when Seth was selected.

Anything you’d like to add?

Nan: I would like to mention Linda Marmelstein. She was the producer and a very kind and supportive person. She gave me wonderful recommendations. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer while we were shooting our last year. She still came to the set every day. I remember her very fondly for her gentleness and perseverance in times of adversity.
Seth: I stayed in contact with the production company, Daniel Wilson Productions, for years afterwards. Linda Marmelstein, the executive producer, was a wonderful friend for a number of years. We kept in touch through my high school years, and she kept feeding my interest in moving behind the camera. She wrote me a recommendation for NYU’s film and TV program. While at college, Linda lost a silent, stoic battle with cancer, and I lost a friend. DWP continued to support my education, lending me an editing suite for several months so I could edit my senior thesis film. Daniel and Linda were wonderful people, and I will never forget their support.

Most of what you see on the Apple 2 computer in our “office” was actually my programming. There was a BASIC emulator included that allowed me to write programs for the show. I learned some computer language in elementary school—they had a program for children who showed advanced abilities in math and science, and the classroom included a TRS-80 Tandy Radio Shack computer. When we showed up at the “office” for the last week of shooting (actually a room in a fantastic Victorian mansion in the low 70’s on Central Park West), the director was trying to block the scene in a way to hide the computer screen. Seems that there was nothing prepared to go on the screen for that scene. I spent five minutes and wrote a quick program that followed the script, and suddenly the computer was able to play. So I took it upon myself to do all the programming for both seasons. I think that was the highlight of my computer career, but I still get a kick out of the crew’s reaction—“this seventh-grader is programming a computer!” I was typecast.

Kelly: Like most child actors, I have to thank my mom and dad for allowing me to have the wonderful and unique experiences that most kids don’t get to have. None of it would’ve been possible without their support.

Nan

 Seth

Glenn

Kelly

Sunday, June 23, 2013

“The Bloodhound Gang” (“3-2-1 Contact”) cast interviews, 3 of 4

Part 1.

Part 2.

“The Bloodhound Gang” was a series of short, live-action mysteries that may have been the most popular segment of the 1980s PBS science show 3-2-1 Contact. 

Why did the series end?

Nan: Not sure. Funding?
Seth: I never asked. I assumed it was either because Marcelino died or there just wasn’t a budget. I was disappointed to learn there would be no more “Bloodhound Gang,” for more than just selfish reasons. Sure, it was great to be on TV and a remarkable experience to have, but I knew it was the beginning of the end for 3-2-1 Contact. Every one of my peers, whether they knew my role or not, answered that “Bloodhound Gang” was what they think of the most when remembering
3-2-1 Contact. I found people remember us better than the “science” part of the show. On a rare occasion, people will remember the week the regular cast spent to Space Camp. We were probably a big drain on the budget—after all, we were a full union film production crew on location for a month a year, producing about a tenth of the total seasonal content (we aired 3-4 days a week). So it was probably a sound decision from a financial perspective, but the show’s audience missed out. And I think that is reflected by the show’s ultimate cancellation a few years later.
Glenn: I’m not sure. I was already in LA when the series ended.

Kelly: Not sure.


photo courtesy of Seth Greenspan

How did you feel when the series ended?

Nan: Sad. We got to work with great New York actors and a professional crew.
Seth: The series continued for a few years without producing any new “Bloodhound Gang” episodes before
3-2-1 Contact was cancelled. They simply retasked [old] “Bloodhound Gang” episodes for new 3-2-1 Contact ones. When I found out the show was continuing without new segments, I was very sad. But I kept reading about new adventures in the monthly magazine.
Kelly: I didn’t really follow the show since I was older and no longer a part of it. I thought it was a show lots of kids really enjoyed watching.

What shows, if any, did you appear in after that?

Nan: Featured and/or co-starred: Hot Hero Sandwich (another children’s show, on NBC); lots of episodic shows including Kate & Allie, The Cosby Show, The Cosby Mysteries, several  Law & Order episodes, All My Children, As the World Turns, Another World; lots of TV commercials; TV movie The Littlest Victims. On Broadway: Open Admissions; I replaced Angela Bassett in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.
Seth: A few after school specials, a few one-line walk-ons, but nothing of note. I did get to perform as Puck in a summer stock outdoor performance of one of my favorite plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was my last; I hung up my hat after that.
Glenn: [Beyond] One Day at a Time, I did a wonderful CBS TV movie, Rifkin: Bounty Hunter with Harry Morgan. I loved that experience. I also hosted a daytime NBC show called Fantasy with Peter Marshall and Leslie Uggams, a favorite job of mine. I was in three Love Boat episodes and whole bunch of other cool gigs. I had a wonderful childhood.

Kelly:
  • 1981 The Private History of a Campaign that Failed (PBS TV-movie)
  • 1981 Nurse (CBS drama series; one episode, “Rivals”)
  • 1982 CBS Library (TV series)
  • 1984 CBS Schoolbreak Special

If you met any celebrities due to the series, who, how, and where?

Nan: Not that I can recall. Just really fine actors.
Seth: Skip Hinnant, who was a principal on The Electric Company, was in an episode. I was impressed with that because I also watched that show. I also met the guy who did the plant’s voice in Little Shop of Horrors. He played a pawn shop owner.
Glenn: Not due to
“Bloodhound” but I have been very fortunate to meet so many talented celebs throughout the years.
Kelly: I met a couple of actors who I still see on TV or in movies.

Did any guest stars who appeared in the series go on to become well-known?

Nan: I see lots of the actors that we worked with starring in movies, on TV all the time, just don’t know their names. They are not the super stars, but the very recognizable face you’ve seen so often.
Seth: Steve James, who was a Hollywood stuntman and played a police detective for a few episodes, just started to make it big in karate and action movies, but then I heard something happened to him that cut his career short.

What do you think about the band that named itself after the series? Have you had any contact with them?

Nan: I did not know there was a band with the name. What kind of music do they play?
Seth: Strangely enough, I did try to get in touch with them. Started an email conversation with someone from their webpage. I sent them photos to prove my identity, and never heard back. Later, I heard stories that one of them had been claiming he was me onstage. Weird. Like, really weird. Not too fond of them, but I guess there will always be a market for crude, rude, misogynistic 7th grade humor music, and they fit the bill.
Glenn: That was sooo cool when I heard about that. How fun! I never had contact with them. Not even 3-2-1 contact. LOL.

Kelly: I really don’t know much about them.

Where did you go to college and what did you study?

Nan: I attended Virginia Commonwealth University, CCNY, and Empire State College. Studied theater. Received my degree from Empire State College in Theater/English.
Seth: Tisch School of the Arts for film and TV production.
Glenn: I went to NYU and studied film. I had left acting to do so. I got real about being gay and at that point the industry wouldn’t let me be honest about who I was. Games were played back then if you wanted a career in front of the camera. Thank God things have changed. I studied film to continue my creativity but not always be so public and under a microscope.

Kelly: I went to several schools as I moved around in the military: University of Maryland, Saint Leo University, and Campbell University. I finally consolidated all my credits and military training to get a Bachelor of Science degree in organizational management with a minor in geography from Excelsior College.

What are you doing these days?

Nan: I am a teaching artist, actor, and writer. We moved to upstate New York where I got involved in the school system through an organization called Families First New York. They needed someone who could create artistic programs to teach academic subjects. For some reason I knew I could do that, and convinced them as well. It is such fulfilling and rewarding work. My years as a professional actor certainly helped to inform me and inspire the programming I developed. I was given a staff to train and implement my programs in both elementary and middle schools. They were hugely successful. I knew when I was hired it was the last year of that grant and they would not be getting any more funding.

I was lucky enough to be hired as an independent contractor, continuing to create and implement arts-based academic programs within the Poughkeepsie City School District, this time focusing mostly on the middle school. I wrote a musical the kids entitled Junior High School Drama, The Musical. Poughkeepsie is still talking about that show.

This work is what inspired me to develop a character education program entitled Virtue Planet. I always incorporated character building within my school programs as the need was so great; however, I wanted to create something specifically for that all-important aspect of life, so Virtue Planet was born. It includes an interactive storybook entitled Journey to Virtue Planet (Outskirts Press) with Virtue cards attached in the back of the book, bonus illustrated Virtue cards, and a sing-along book entitled What Is a Virtue? This book is part of the accompanying original music CD Virtue Planet.

Originally this program was designed for parents and teachers to have Virtue Planet parties. I included everything: the invitations, name tags, activities to reinforce the concepts, a mat to protect the floor, crayons, everything one needed to have a successful Virtue Planet party. A truly wonderful, fun, and educational experience.

I held a few at my home and in public and the kids (and parents) loved it! Unfortunately, my marketing funds (our pockets) were not deep enough to give it the push it needed and I had to set it aside. I’ve just recently started recharging it and hoping to really get it out there this time. I’ve narrowed it down to the two books and CD. It has been a labor of love and I feel once it gets out there it will be a huge hit. I may even try the Virtue Planet Parties again.

I’ve worked with Harry Belafonte at HarBel, his production company, as a story editor.

I’ve written short stories including “Memories of a Girl King” and “Pashima,” children’s stories, two series (The Girl with the Giggling Hair and Delaney Diction Master, unpublished), poetry, songs, screenplays, and lots of plays including Leaving Watermaine, which was recognized internationally as a Susan Smith Blackburn award finalist. I also conduct acting classes for community kids in Poughkeepsie. We currently call ourselves The Empowerment Players. Currently looking for work.


[Also, I have started a movement] combining meditation and creative expression as I believe creativity is a spiritual act and a healing energy. Eventually I would like to combine all of the performing arts creative expressions (dance, playwriting, music, poetry, maybe even set design) into a one-day workshop [with] a socially relevant theme for the performance and at the end of the day present it as a production at a dinner/luncheon event, keynote speaker, etc. I have gotten such excellent feedback on the first one and just the concept in general. On Twitter (@creationnation9) or by email (mycreationmeditation@gmail.com) people can send for a free purple gift bag, make a handmade gift, and give it away to a family member, friend, or stranger. All I ask is that they take a picture of their creation and send it in so I can post it on my gallery page on the site. Part of the movement!

Seth: Work in national news, have a boutique production company on the side, and have spent the last four years producing self-funded documentaries on critical marine issues.
Glenn: I still use a lot of what I learned from my early days in my business now. I own a TV station in beautiful Sedona, AZ. It’s called Sedona Now TV. We have been on the air for 11 years. I love living and working in Sedona.

I am also the co-founder of Sedona World Wisdom Days. This spiritual event will take place January 17-20, 2014. Bestselling author Jean Houston will be our first keynote speaker with more announcements soon. We will also have a weekend of life-changing workshops, a book fair, and an inspirational/motivational film festival [films have spiritual content].

Kelly: After I stopped acting, I did several things. At 21 years old, I ran and was elected to a three-year term as a selectman in my small Massachusetts town. I served as a part-time police officer and a volunteer fireman, but I finally decided to join the U.S. Army and ended up retiring in December 2010 after 20 years as a Chief Warrant Officer Four in Geospatial Intelligence. For the last three years, I have worked as a government civilian for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) doing things similar [to what] I did in the Army, but now every day I put on a suit instead of a uniform.

Where do you live?

Nan: Poughkeepsie, NY.
Seth: New York City.
Glenn: Sedona, AZ.

Kelly: I currently live in Stuttgart, Germany supporting United States Africa Command, but in the summer of 2014 I will move back to the States. Either the Washington D.C. area or back to Western Massachusetts.

Do you have copies of every episode?

Nan: No, just a few.
Seth: No. I was given a VHS copy by the producers that was missing one episode. It got left behind at the worst job I had, a podunk production facility in North Dakota. [They] decided that they wouldn’t return some of my personal property, like that tape, after we parted ways. On eBay I recently found a VHS tape with a few episodes, and I bought it just so I could prove that I was a cute kid.
Glenn: I do not. I wish I did.

Kelly: No. I did record a lot of the shows when they were running on TV, but the VHS tape doesn’t play anymore since it’s so old.

photo courtesy of Seth Greenspan 

Part 4.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

“The Bloodhound Gang” (“3-2-1 Contact”) cast interviews, 2 of 4

Part 1.

“The Bloodhound Gang” was a series of short, live-action mysteries that may have been the most popular segment of the 1980s PBS science show 3-2-1 Contact.

What did you think of the series at the time?

Nan: I thought it was a great way to teach science to kids. I was very happy to be a part of something that did not talk down to children. It felt very worthwhile.
Seth: Huge fan. I was even a subscriber to the CTW magazine, which featured a “Bloodhound Gang” story in each month’s issue. The only shows I was watching back then was 3-2-1 Contact and Mork and Mindy. I was certainly a nerd.
Glenn: I loved it and was proud to be a part of it.

Kelly: I thought it was a great show.

Marcelino, Seth, Nan, filmstrips; 
photo courtesy of Seth Greenspan

What did your parents think of it?

Nan: My mother was very proud of me and happy for me, even though she still wanted me to be a lawyer.
Seth: My parents were super supportive and probably prouder than I was.
Glenn: They thought it was a wonderful show for youth.

Kelly: They thought it was great and my dad loved to brag about me at his work.

What did your friends think of it?

Nan: My friends, I think, were happy for me. They were also in show business so maybe…they…weren’t…?
Glenn: They liked it, too. Many would ask how we came up with solutions to the cases. I had to explain it was just a show. We weren’t real and didn’t come up with anything. LOL.

Kelly: Not sure. Where I lived in Massachusetts, it was hard to get good reception of the PBS channel.

How did you balance doing the series and going to school?

Nan: I was a working actress and wife at the time. I was not going to school.
Seth: I had a complete 7th and 8th grade month-long lesson plan, [including] homework, to submit to my regular school. I usually wound up doing my studies for the day in an hour or two at night. I was a quick reader for a kid.
Glenn: I had a tutor on the set throughout my childhood.

Kelly: I went to a private school in NYC for my ninth grade since I would miss a month of school filming the show. They were very accommodating, but I wasn’t very good about getting my work done.

Did the show ever affect your love life in any way?

Nan: Huh?
Glenn: No. I was just a kid. No love life. LOL.

Kelly: No, it didn’t.

[to be clear, I meant when they were old enough to have a love life!]


Did you receive fan mail? If so, do you still have any of it?

Nan: Yes, I did receive fan mail. Unfortunately, I do not have any of it as I have moved several times and those kinds of things I guess just get left behind or lost in unopened boxes. I believe I still have the red jacket that Vikki wore.
Seth: No, but I was recognized once. When I was 15 I took a job at the carny [carnival] when it came through my town. Certainly an interesting four days—the underbelly of entertainment. When I was running the bouncing balloon building, two girls kept staring at me. Turns out one babysat a kid who watched the show, and she recognized me and wanted an autograph. But that was it.
Glenn: I did receive fan mail but I do not have any of it now. My home burned to the ground in 2008 and I lost all memorabilia from my entire life. I had great pics but they are gone, too.

Kelly: No, I don’t remember receiving any.

Did you ever meet the writer of the series?

Nan and Seth: No.
Glenn: Yes.

Kelly: No.

Did you ever come up with ideas for stories or parts of stories?

Nan: No. We were never asked and I never thought to make any suggestions.
Seth: No, but the Executive Producer, Linda Marmelstein, recognized I was a curious lad, and she instructed the crew to be patient with me and answer any questions I had. I ate it up. I learned everything I could about every job on the set. I found it wonderfully interesting and very appealing. I thought people generally liked me, but little did I know they were being intimidated into it!

The director of the last season, whose name escapes me, really liked me and encouraged my creativity. At one point, he invited me to “collaborate” with him on directing a scene. He was very kind to humor me, but from what I remember, he asked how I would start it, and I said, “establishing shot over here, two singles from over there and a two shot, and then a reverse from over here...” And that’s how we mostly shot the scene; he had only one correction.
Glenn: No, I was very young and the writers certainly didn’t need any help.

Kelly: No.

Tell me about your co-star, Marcelino Sánchez.

Nan: Marcelino and I became good friends as a result of our work on the show. He was funny and made me laugh all the time. He was a very kind, talented, and giving soul. We kept in touch after the show was over. He moved to LA.
Seth: One of the most creative, funny people I have ever met, and truly beautiful inside. He was inspirational, patient; a great friend on the set. He taught me how to impersonate celebrities, but all the celebrities he taught me were women. I was blessed with blinders at a young age and saw him as the person he was, not a sexual preference. I didn’t connect the dots between things like female impersonation and his orientation until he was infected with AIDS in one of the first waves.
Glenn: I loved Marcelino very much. He was kind and giving. He became a great friend. I always thought he was so talented…even when he was in Warriors. I loved him in that movie. To this day, I often think of him.

Kelly: All I remember is how nice he was.
 

photo courtesy of Seth Greenspan

How did you find out he died?

Nan: Marcelino had actually contacted me months prior to his passing to let me know that he was sick. We met and spent an entire day together while he was here in NYC, basically to say good-bye. He had a friend to whom he had given the names of some of his friends to call upon his passing to let us know. That friend was very dutiful in carrying out his wishes. I still think of Marcelino often.
Seth: When the AIDS epidemic was first being reported out of San Francisco, with a few dozen confirmed dead and hundreds more sick, we were in the middle of filming the second season. Every night, the news kept reporting on this strange “gay disease” and Marcelino became more withdrawn and seemed very concerned. Again, I made no connection. It was only months after the end of the last season when I found out. I honestly cannot recall how I found out, but part of me has the notion that he called me to tell me himself. I may be completely wrong in this, but I have that nagging feeling that’s how I learned. What’s important was not how I learned, but the sadness it instilled in me.
Glenn: I was in a supermarket and read it in a newspaper. “Warriors Star Dead at 29” or something like that. Made me so sad. I ran home to cry.

Kelly: I heard about it on the news.

What were you paid?

Nan: I don’t remember.
Seth: Scale.
Glenn: I have no clue. When I was a child, I never even asked what I was paid. It didn’t matter to me. Maybe other kids asked; I just didn’t. I act because I love it!

Kelly: Whatever scale was at the time, but my mother did tell me that I made extra money during the four weeks of filming due to all the overtime we worked.

Were you ever recognized in public? How often and when last? Any stories about that?

Nan: I am still, to this day, recognized by grown people with children of their own who used to watch the show when they were little kids. Yikes! It may happen four or five times a year. Sometimes on a bus, walking into a store, passing on the street, or at an event. They all seem to be very excited to see me as it brings back their fond childhood memories, I guess. Of course I feel ancient but it is still very flattering and I am happy to acknowledge and take time to talk. The last time was when I did a day player role on one of the soaps and a crew member saw me on set. He came right over and asked if I was the girl from
“The Bloodhound Gang.” I couldn’t believe it. I was looking as grown-up as I possibly could and he still recognized me. Very flattering.
Seth: (see “fan mail” answer above) 
Glenn: Yeah, but way more folks recognized me once I got on One Day at a Time.
Kelly: I used to have younger kids come up to me at other auditions and ask for my autograph. Just a few times and I would say within three years.

Part 3.

Friday, June 21, 2013

“The Bloodhound Gang” (“3-2-1 Contact”) cast interviews, 1 of 4

If you were a preteen in the early 1980s, you remember shows including The Electric Company, Zoom, The Great Space Coaster, and 3-2-1 Contact.

And if you remember 3-2-1 Contact, you surely remember “The Bloodhound Gang,” a series of short mysteries that may have been the most popular segment of the PBS science show. Children
’s author Sid Fleischman wrote the scripts. It was live-action Scooby-Doo, without a dog.



Refresh your memory with any number of the episodes on YouTube. Then come back to learn the backstory of this beloved series with the following oral history—the first-ever interviews about the show with three four of the gang:

  • Nan Lynn Nelson (“Vikki”)
  • Glenn Scarpelli (“Cuff”)
  • Seth Greenspan (“Skip”)

Kelly Pease, AKA Zach, if you’re reading this, please contact me—I’d love to add your answers!


12/13/13 update: I heard from Kelly and have integrated his answers!

What is “The Bloodhound Gang”?

Seth: We are, or were, a group of youth sleuths who solve crime using science. Mr. Bloodhound was our mentor, an unseen adult character whose only presence was a shadow or fleeting hat and overcoat. I played Skip in the third and fourth season, which was sadly the last.

What years did it run?

Nan: I believe the pilot and a few episodes were in 1979 and then we shot the series in ‘80 and ‘81.

How old were you when you were cast?

Nan: Too old to be playing a 16-year-old. Good genes.
Seth: Let me do the math…I’m thinking 11 and 12?
Glenn: I must have been around 12. I always played younger. I think Cuff (my character) was supposed to be 10.

Kelly: I was 14 years old when shooting began. I always looked 3-4 years younger than I was.

Where were you living at the time?

Nan: I was married and living in the Bronx—told you, too old.
Seth: I was living in a town in central Connecticut called Cheshire. It’s about a two-hour drive to New York City, where the entire series was filmed. My mother, who was very dedicated to helping me in this unusual pursuit, would pack me into the car at 3 a.m. Monday morning and drive me to the usual 5:30 a.m. call time, and we would stay in the city, either with friends and family or in a hotel, for the week.
Glenn: Staten Island. My hometown.

Kelly: I lived in Western Massachusetts. During the shoot, my mother and I would take a 3½-hour bus ride to New York City on Sunday nights and stay with my manager for the week, then go back home on Friday after shooting.

What acting experience, if any, did you have before you were cast?

Nan: I was appearing on Broadway as an original cast member in Runaways by Elizabeth Swados.
Seth: School plays, but had been auditioning for a year.
Glenn: At age 9, I debuted on Broadway in Golda with Anne Bancroft and later appeared on Broadway in Richard III with Al Pacino. Around the same time that I was doing
“The Bloodhound Gang,” I landed a role playing Audrey Hepburn’s son in Peter Bogdanovich’s film They All Laughed.
Kelly: I sang and danced live at Lincoln Center for the Daytime Emmy Awards and for a number on The Crystal Gayle Special on CBS in 1979. Mostly I did TV commercials and had done about 80 [of them] before being cast on 3-2-1 Contact.

How did you find out about the audition?

Nan: My agent at the Fifi Oscard Agency.
Seth: My agent. At the time I had been getting regular callbacks (second time a casting agent sees you) and final callbacks (when they were going to choose) for comedies and some films, so my agent had a good feeling I had a shot.
Glenn: I had an agent and manager at the time. They set up my audition.

Kelly: My manager set it up through an agent.

What did you have to do for the audition?

Nan: On-camera audition from sides from the show, but it wasn’t until the casting director and director came to see me in Runaways that I got the callback and the job.
Seth: The first audition was with a casting director or a member of the casting agency. They videotaped you reading sample scripts called “sides”—about four minutes. Often, this was the last you heard about the role until the show or movie came out. I also managed to make an interesting connection from something in the script to one of my own hobbies—magic—and showed the casting agent a few tricks I knew.


On the second [audition], I met the director, Christopher Dixon (who now is an executive on Wall Street). This time, my agent sent me a sample script to learn, so I had come in prepared. After reading the script, the casting director urged me to show a few tricks, so I spent five minutes doing a coin routine for Chris, who got a kick [out of it].

The final audition meant sitting with Nan and doing a few scenes on tape. I should explain that I was huge fan of the first two seasons of
3-2-1 Contact; I would watch the show every afternoon on the 13” black-and-white set while I did my homework. My favorite part by far was “The Bloodhound Gang.” It was like a promised dessert for finishing all your science vegetables. I even wanted secretly to be named Zach. The first time I heard the name was the second season, when the youngest detective was so named, and I just thought it the most terrific name a guy could have. So when I walked into the room and had to sit next to Nan, I was truly star struck. I don’t know if I showed her the magic tricks, too—all I remember was finding it difficult to concentrate. I mean—I was sitting with Vikki! She must have noticed that I was a little anxious, and she was not only patient, but so friendly that after a minute or two of talking with her, I was totally at ease. 
Glenn: I honestly don’t remember it. LOL.
Kelly: During the first casting, I was the runner-up to Glenn. When he wasn’t available to shoot additional episodes due to getting cast on One Day at a Time, they selected me for the part as the younger Bloodhound. Since my character used a CB radio, they had us do some things using that.

Do you remember what your reaction was when you were cast?

Nan: Ecstatic! I was extremely happy.
Seth: My agent at the time, a wonderful woman named Nancy Carson, could not have broken the news in a better way. I think she had already spoken to my mother, who never broke in expression when I came home from school. But five minutes later, as I watched TV in the basement, the phone rang and my mom announced it was Nancy for me. “Now Seth,” she said, “you know how we always have these really close calls when it looks real promising, but then I wind up having to tell you that the part went to someone else? And that there will be other fun roles that are perfect for you coming along?” My heart sank until her voice changed from somber to joyous, as she said, “I won’t be telling you this time. You got the part!” Few feelings matched that.
Glenn: I was thrilled! I really liked the scripts. I thought they were fun. I couldn’t wait to start shooting.

Kelly: I was so happy since I mostly did commercials and had been so close to landing movies and series before.

Where was the series filmed?

Nan: The show was shot on location all over New York, including City Island in the Bronx. We typically stayed in Manhattan.
Seth: The series was filmed on location in New York and the area around the city, into Westchester and parts of New Jersey. It was done on 16mm film instead of videotape. This was 1981 or 1982, when location video systems were big, bulky, unreliable, and not fun to light, so they went with film instead since we were completely on location.
Glenn: New York. I believe we shot quite often in Brooklyn.

Kelly: All around the New York/New Jersey area. I do remember that we did all the shots of the Bloodhound Detective Agency office (which was in the Wall Street area) in the first week of filming. The reason I remember is that Pope John Paul II visited New York (October 1979) and we stopped shooting to watch from the window above as his motorcade went by.

How long was a typical shoot?

Nan: For an episode, it took about a week of shooting. It was like making a mini movie every week.
Seth: We shot about a month for each season, making 20-25 episodes, each 4-5 minutes long. I would return to Cheshire on the weekends. The production was continuous for each season, for either 4 or 5 weeks total.
Glenn: We shot all the episodes I was in in a few weeks.

Kelly: We did eight shows that made up 16 episodes. It took us about a month to shoot, but I do remember that we would work a lot of overtime. 

What was the hardest part of the job?

Nan: Nothing really. It was fun. There was one guest actress, however, who accused me of stealing her fur coat when she couldn’t find it at the end of the shoot. One of the crew had put it safely away and because she let Marcelino and I try it on earlier, having fun, she assumed I must have taken it when I left the set early for another audition. Marcelino informed me the next day. That was not fun. That was hurtful. Marcelino had my back.
Seth: Being an actor on location is all about “hurry up and wait.” The waiting was tough. You need to be there bright and early so you are in wardrobe and makeup by the time the first set is roughly lit so they can set the frame. Then you stand in your positions while they decide the action and the camera moves, and they do all the fine lighting. Then you do a few takes and finally get to act. Once the director is satisfied, it’s back to waiting while they reposition the camera and lights to take other angles of the same scene, so you step away for 15-20 minutes.

I would find ways to get myself in trouble two ways. The first way, I would wind up at the craft services table, which is basically just snacks. So I was eating way too much and gained 10 pounds each season. I wound up becoming a smoker the second season when there would be cartons of cigarettes for the crew lying around. I was bored, had no scenes, so I would steal cigarette packs and taught myself to smoke. Also taught myself some cigarette magic routines.
Glenn: Leaving it. After the first season I was cast as a regular on One Day at a Time with Bonnie Franklin, Valerie Bertinelli, and Mackenzie Phillips. I loved the people I was working with on
“Bloodhound” but I had the opportunity to move onto a primetime, top 10 show. I had to do it. I was sad to say goodbye to a great group of people.
Kelly: Being away from my home and missing a month of school. I ended up going to a private school in NYC that year due to filming.

Part 2.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

“Boys of Steel” 75th-anniversary-of-Superman paperback edition is out

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman came out in hardcover in 2008, and is still reprinted in that format. When, several years ago, I first suggested putting out a special 75th-anniversary-of-Superman edition in 2013, I was envisioning it in hardcover as well.

Random House agreed to the anniversary edition but in paperback; it sports not only the celebratory banner but also a few corrections.



My author copies arrived 5/24/13, AKA a week before June, which marks the cover date of Action Comics #1 (1938) and the release of the latest screen iteration of Superman, Man of Steel, not to mention my friend Brad Ricca’s exhaustively researched book Super Boys.

The summer of Superman is in full force...again.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Jerry Robinson previously unpublished interview, 6/9/06; part 3 of 3

Part 1.

Part 2. 

Where did [Bill Finger] do his research?

We’d go to the library. We’d go to the newsstands. Movies. Park. Everywhere.

Did he carry with him a notebook and a pen and jot things down in movies and places like that?

I don’t remember him doing that. I think he would clip things in that extensive clip file when he read things. Anything that he thought might be useful.

He clipped out things from magazines?

Yeah.

But he wasn’t jotting things down all the time?

 
I don’t remember him doing that. But he had a great memory so he probably didn’t have to.
 

[asked about the two blizzard stories that were similar enough to seem like the same event, yet still different: one in Batman and Me, one in Men of Tomorrow; Jerry’s response (part verbatim, part paraphrased): “Bob was full of crap” (laughs); he probably read that, that’s what he did all the time—read a story, adapt it as his own, “I never heard that story before”; Jerry mentioned the “preposterous” interview Bob gave to Jerry Bails where he said Bill Finger didn’t create anything—anyone who would say that is capable of anything; “I’m probably the one who gives Bob more credit than anybody”; I asked Jerry about the sketches dated 1/17/34 and how Gerard Jones said they were fabricated; Jerry agreed and said another Bob lie was that he said he went to anatomy classes] 

There’s this convention in 1965 where Bill first publicly spoke about his involvement. Were you there?

I don’t remember if I was there or not.

There was a panel that you were not on, but maybe you were there.

I might’ve been there, but I don’t have any specific memory now.

Did you ever go to a convention with Bill after that?

I can’t remember ever doing that.

So you never got to see Bill interact with fans?

If I was at that one, I might have, but I don’t remember generally, no.


Was he funny in person?

He could be. We joked a lot.

But was it a defining characteristic of him in person?

I wouldn’t say defining.


Did you ever play golf with him?

No.

Or tennis?

I don’t know that he played tennis. If he played tennis, I’m surprised I wouldn’t have [played with him], because my thing was tennis.
 


Was he already married when you met him?

No.

Did you guys ever go try to pick up girls together?

No, I think early on he fell in love with Portia. I don’t know where they met, actually, being she was way up there till she came to New York. I think pretty early on, because I was still on Batman in this instance where I told you when he stopped and called Portia. [After he?] married, I don’t know that he ever fooled around. Not to my knowledge.

Sorry, I wasn’t implying that. I just thought if he wasn’t already married…

No, I understood what you said. I think he very deeply loved Portia. She was a fighter, she would call me and rail against the injustice done by Bob. She hated it.


When did they divorce?

I don’t know when they divorced. I wasn’t in touch with them at that time. And when I did find out and talk to Portia, I was very surprised.

Because you never saw signs of that?

No.

[asked him about comment he made in Comics Journal that Joe Shuster did marry at one point]

In his later life, yeah. At the end of his life, the last few years. Married in California.

But then divorced because I think he was a bachelor when he died?

Were you in touch with him at that time?

I was in touch with him but I didn’t meet her. Jerry and his wife knew her very well.

Do you know how long Joe was married?

Not exactly, but it wasn’t too long. [unintelligible] …few years. 


Do you know what Bill thought of Jerry and Joe going after the rights to Superman?

I don’t remember discussing it with him specifically, but I can’t imagine he would be other than supportive or happy about it.

Do you think it ever gave him a kick to try to do that himself, get some rights to Batman?

He might’ve entertained it, but I think he was so beaten down, and without resources, and without any seeming legal avenue to do it, he probably never thought seriously.


Were you in touch with Bill up until his death?

Sporadically. He would visit here. For a while, I was sharing an apartment with another writer, just before I got married. And he collaborated with him on various things. Mostly for television, I believe. And so they would write up here in my apartment and I would see him then. And then on a few other occasions. I’ll tell you something but it’s not for print.

Okay.

[redacted]

Do you remember how you heard that Bill had died?

I don’t know if I read it or somebody called me, I’m not sure.

Were you at his funeral?

No, I never knew that there was one. Usually, DC has a service, but they never had one for him. They had one for Siegel and Shuster and I attended each one.

Where were their funerals, by the way?

I don’t know if they had a public funeral as such, but we had a special service at DC.

For both of them?

Not together, each one.

Do you know where Bill is buried?

No, I don’t know that, either. It may be that nobody survives who does know. That’s possible.

[I say that Freddie’s friends might know but I don’t how to find them…though eventually, I did find some; Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman reveals what happened to Bill after he died...he was not buried...]

I never knew the service for Portia. I was never called. And I knew I was one of the closest friends.

You weren’t called when she passed away?

[inaudible no]

If you were doing this book [on Bill] yourself, who would be the main players?

The editors at DC and some other editors. But on a personal level he might have had some other friends I don’t know of, some school friends. Portia. His son. [something including “myself” and “Bob”] …the editors at DC we dealt with, mostly [Mort] Weisinger and [Jack] Schiff.



[Bill] created most everything for [Bob]. He definitely was a full co-creator. I think he had more to do with the molding of Batman than Bob. He just did so many things at the beginning. As an artist, I can appreciate what goes into that. Aside from creating almost all the other characters, creating the whole persona, the whole temper, the history, origin of Batman. Everything. It made it a success from the beginning.

Anything in particular about Bill that you think kids would find interesting?

[unintelligible] …how widely read he was and how he would absorb everything and you never know how something he read would turn up in the feature. He was very hard-working. [unintelligible] …one of the best writers in the business, certainly at that time. … As you probably know, it came hard for him. He was always late in deadlines. Maybe some of his personal life interfered with that as well, but I know a lot of times it was due to his painstaking work, that he wouldn’t hand it in until he was satisfied with it. And they would never appreciate the time and effort he put in, even though they were benefiting from it and it made the feature so great. But he couldn’t help himself. He would slave over it. He was not a natural writer in the sense that it would pour out.


How did he influence you?

In many ways. I was an aspiring writer myself at that time. That’s what I intended to be. Fortunately, as my career went I was able to do a lot of writing. So his approaches and inventiveness, his creativity, humor, I appreciated his injection of that to humanize the strip and Batman. His idea of introducing Robin to humanize Batman enlarged the plot potential, the parameters of the strip. I think a lot of his reading went into the creation some of the great villains that he molded, like the Penguin, the Riddler.


Anything else about Bill that I didn’t cover?

He suffered a lot. And that’s sad. He didn’t deserve it. He was a very fine guy and a very fine writer and a good friend.
 


What I’d like to do is, I mean, you’re the legacy, and if this gets together, I’d like to show you what I wrote. It’ll be as short as what you read, the Boys of Steel book. (laughs) It won’t take much of your time. I’d welcome all your feedback.

Yeah, I’d appreciate it before it’s published.

[NOTE: Sadly, Jerry died in December 2011, six months before the book came out.]
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