AMERICANPOP33: BIG GUNS BRASS BALLS Original PUBLIC ENEMIES


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GREAT DEPRESSION: THE ERA OF AMERICAN OUTLAWS AND LAWMAN HEROES 

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It may seem difficult to believe today, but there was an era when violent crime, specifically armed bank robberies, were alarmingly commonplace. Indeed, societal unrest started almost immediately with ‘Prohibition’ in 1920. Anger and unrest that  continued to rise with sustained consistency until circa 1935. As a matter of historical fact, the extreme wealth inequity defined by a miniscule percentage of Americans possessing an obscenely high percentage of America’s monetary wealth, was ugly. Frankly, this made many formerly middle class Americans inexperienced, and unfamiliar with sudden abject poverty … literally crazy.  Strange, awfully reckless, and certainly illegal behavior could be witnessed all across America. The advent of moral and ethical decline of men (and women) was indicative of extraordinary stress and desperation. There is a reason the idiom ‘desperate times call for desperate actions’…exists. That reason is the Great Depression era in America. 

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The Great Depression saw Americans lose their homes and resources at a record pace. This was true in all states, counties, cities. It’s okay to say ‘everywhere’. However, the Midwest got hit the hardest and felt the sting of destitution the darndest. Then to add insult to injury, many if not all neighborhood banks started running out of depositors money. Then, it began, as if overnight – brash new kinds of American outlaws from both in and around the Midwest, began racing through the heartland heavily armed  … robbing still operating bank after still standing bank, before about to close bank. The most prolific and colorful of these outlaws became real-life anti-heroes and subsequently pop culture legends

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To be sure, many of these outlaw Americans were creations of the Great Depression. This is to say, grievously pissed off with the added benefit of being well armed with weapons and murderous. Violent. Intent. Law enforcement was caught unprepared, understaffed, and outgunned. For their part, many citizens were ambivalent about these bank robbers. After all, these citizens had no love at all for the banks that lost their operating money and life savings in the first place. In fact, many among these newly, horribly poor Americans, outlaws like the dashing John Dillinger, and others with colorful names and cinematic exploits like ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’, and ‘Babyface Nelson’ were entertaining, if not voyeuristically cathartic. To wit, very often popular outlaws were seen as modern Robin Hoods driving big block Ford V-8’s.



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On the other hand, there was the harsh reality to reckon for those Americans who lost their money in these bank robberies. The federal bank deposit insurance we know as F.D.I.C – did not yet exist. Which was, of course, another cruel irony of the Great Depression. During a 10 year span between 1922 and 1932, the midwestern portion of the United States, specifically banks and financial institutions were terrorized by violent armed bandits, many with bad intentions … routinely. Remarkably, over the course of a few too many moons, banks all throughout the United States were being strong armed robbed…literarily on a daily basis. It was during this time that the bank robbing American anti-hero was born. Local law enforcement called them a scourge, newsreels made them matinée idols and J. Edgar Hoover’s fledgling F.B.I. called them ‘Public Enemies’. AmericanPop33.com presents a snapshot of 12 outlaws turned pop culture icons while also being America’s ‘Public Enemies.’



THE F.B.I.  ‘G -MEN’ ERA BEGINS 

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DEPRESSION ERA TRADE TOOL   –   THOMPSON M-1 ‘TOMMY’ ‘SUB MACHINE GUN  

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Alvin Francis Karpis was also known as ‘Creepy’ and/or ‘Ray’ by his criminal associates. He started building his reputation at the early age of 10 in the state of Kansas, before graduating to the head table of the Barker-Karpis gang in the 1930’s. Part of what set Karpis and his gang (which featured bad-ass grandmother Ma Barker) apart from many, was their willingness to shoot and kill any innocent bystanders who had the misfortune of getting in their way. Although the gang robbed their share of banks, they made far more money in the kidnapping for ransom game. A game that eventually led to Creepy Karpis’s capture in New Orleans, Louisiana on May 1, 1936.



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Fred ‘Killer’ Burke is widely known and/or famous for his suspected role in the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929. Fred was a prolific and violent criminal during the ‘Depression Era’. In 1922 Burke chose St. Louis, Missouri as his personal stomping grounds as he became a member of the notorious gang the ‘Egan’s Rats’. In 1928 Al Capone had a serious Bugs Moran problem and he allegedly asked Killer Burke and his people to be a permanent solution, thus spawning the aforementioned St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. This became a shocking mass murder whose violence and brutality rocked the entire nation. Burke’s 1929 murder of Policeman Charles Skalay officially made him one of Americas most wanted and marked the beginning of the end of his life of crime. His notoriety helped bring him down as an amateur Green City, Missouri gumshoe recognized Burke’s photo in True Detective Magazine, notified law enforcement leading to his arrest.



AMERICAN LIFE CIRCA 1930NOT A CARTOON. NOT A MOVIE.  

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Wilbur Underhill, Jr. nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’ was also known as the ‘Tri-State Terror‘. Underhill and his gang terrorized Oklahoma during the late 1920’s and into the 1930’s. After being convicted on murder and armed robbery charges, ‘Mad Dog’ escaped from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in July of 1931. Throughout his criminal career ‘Mad Dog’ found himself committing crimes and murder for very little pay-off. For example, there was a $52 movie theatre robbery and a $15 gas station robbery, both of which involved murdered persons. His Bailey-Underhill Gang were responsible for dozens of bank robberies in the early 1930’s. He was finally captured in Shawnee, Oklahoma on New Years Eve eve December 30, 1933



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It is a little known fact that Frank ‘Jelly’ Nash is considered in many circles as the most successful armed bank robber in the history of the United States. However, he is widely known for his involvement and subsequent violent death in the notorious ‘Kansas City Massacre’ which was an ill-fated attempt to free him by ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd and Adam Richetti from police custody. Nash was the reputed mastermind behind over 200 bank robberies using several different gangs before his eventual capture and death in 1933.



DEPRESSION AMERICA:  THE 2ND WILD WEST ERA

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‘Slim Gray’ Gibson was a notorious ‘Depression Era’ bank robber who ran with Alvin Karpis and the ‘Barker Gang’ during the late 1920s and into the mid 1930s and just like all of the other members of the gang , was eventually captured and/or killed circa 1935 following a 5 year murderous bank robbing spree throughout the midwest United States.  After exchanging heated gunfire with FBI agents in Chicago, Slim Gibson was shot and killed in 1935.



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Arizona Donnie Barker aka Kate Barker aka Ma Barker was the matriarch of a family of violent criminals, many of whom were members of the ‘Barker Gang’ during the ‘Depression Era’ from which ‘Public Enemies’ were born. Ma Barker hit America’s dusty roads with her sons as a nationwide manhunt for them was closing in fast. Many historians claim that Ma Barker’s portrayal as the leader and/or mastermind of the ‘Barker-Karpis’ gang in films and popular culture is widely exaggerated. Although what isn’t disputed is her predilection for being part of the murderous gang that terrorized the mid-west.



CPD LT. WILLIAM SHOEMACHER …. PRECURSOR TO ‘DIRTY HARRY’ 

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Much like his ‘Depression Era’ bank robbing contemporaries such as ‘Babyface’ Nelson, Charles Arthur ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd despised his media pandered pop culture nickname. It was this same culture and press coverage that sensationalized his criminal accomplishments during the 1930s. Sensationalism that has cemented Floyd as a notorious popular culture anti-hero of iconic status. Like many people of the era, it could be argued that Floyd was as much a tragic victim of hard-time circumstance as a criminal. In either case, Floyd was a central figure in the Kansas City underworld where he performed a plethora of felonious activities, namely bank robberies, over a period of years back to back. It was at that time that he inherited the nickname ‘Pretty Boy’ for his boyish good looks that belied his danger. He was shot numerous times and killed by police during a gunfight as part of his attempted capture in 1934.



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Bonnie & Clyde have become greater than a mere pop culture reference. This twisted albeit loving couple are a fixture in American criminal folklore. Their exploits and perceived love story have taken on a legendary life of their own over the decades. The lion’s share of their exploits circle around a string of smaller robberies to gather resources to satisfy Clyde Darrow’s thirst for revenge against Eastham Prison and it’s guards. In 1932, after a store robbery in Hillsboro, Texas in which the owner was killed by Clyde, Bonnie & Clyde officially went on a run that lasted nearly two years, with the murder of at least thirteen (13) people. Many of these people being law enforcement officers. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were eventually found, ambushed, then killed by law enforcement officers in 1934. Following this, some 20 additional members of their family, as well as friends, were arrested, charged and found guilty … for ‘Aiding and Abetting’ of Barrow and Parker while they had been on the run. Regardless of their murderous actions and social defiance, Bonnie & Clyde are considered legends … because it’s a love story. 



MAY 23, 1934 – Weapons cache retrieved from BONNIE & CLYDE’S  Ford V-8 

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Unlike the other persons on our list, Alphonse ‘Al’ Capone was not a hands on bank robber. However, he was labeled as a ‘Public Enemy’ during the 1930’s for his remarkably brief, although quite memorable seven (7) year ‘streets soaked with blood’, ‘sidewalks used for murder’ … criminal run as head of the ‘Chicago Outfit’. The irony is that he was actually convicted on tax evasion charges and not for any of the murder and mayhem he was ultimately responsible for over those years. Like many other gangsters, Capone hated his ‘Scarface’ nickname that was a by-product of the scarred left side of his face. In many ways his 1932conviction and imprisonment marked the beginning of the end of the rollicking, criminal laden movement that ruled the prohibition, depression era in the United States.



THAT’S $360,000 IN 2018 MONEY … JUST IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING



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He was born George Francis Barnes Jr. however, he died Machine Gun Kelly. The intervening years of his life were the stuff of criminal legend. Kelly made his bones as a gangster during the prohibition era, around the same time that he inherited his nickname ‘Machine Gun’ which had to do with his predilection for using and love affair with, the ‘Thompson Submachine Gun‘. The state of the art firearm of the era. He became infamous after his brazen kidnapping of oil tycoon Charles F. Urschel in July 1933, a crime for which his gang collected a cool $200,000 in ransom ($3.6 million in 2018 money). Unlike most of his criminal peers of the era Kelly lived long enough to eventually die in prison after his 1933 capture in Memphis, Tennessee. Legend says that his stay in Alcatraz was so severe that inmates referred to him as ‘Pop Gun’. Either way, Kelly has become an American legend.



CPD Keep Vigil at County Jail – Attempts to Break Out Criminals – Commonplace.    

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If anybody dared call Lester Joseph Gillis aka George ‘BabyfaceNelson to his face. He might’ve shot them … to death. It was a nickname that he despised. It is rumored that he would shoot a person in the face, who dared call him that to his face. The safe bet was to call him ‘Jimmy’ if you had to call him anything … at all. Nelson was a prolific bank robber during the 1930s and was known for his ultra-violent brand of robbery. He didn’t really need an excuse to shoot people, especially police. Indeed, it’s been reported that ‘Babyface’ would often search for Police to shoot. Sweet guy? No. No, he was not. Over the course of his career he worked with several crews, including a stint with John Dillinger, a crime legend whom ‘Babyface Nelson’ would often shock with the nature of his maniacal brutality. They helped each other escape from a Crown Point, Indiana prison. Prison escapes were commonplace and occasionally comical occurrences in the 1930’s. ‘Babyface’ killed more law enforcement officers than any other gangster of the era, including three (3) FBI Agents. His violent nature belied his boyish looks and small stature. He met his demise in a shootout with FBI agents in a town called Barrington outside of Chicago. The FBI was out for blood, and Nelson killed two of them prior to his own death. There was no way Nelson was going down without a fight.



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When it came to incarceration for criminal activities, John Dillinger often did his best Harry Houdini. Dillinger escaped and/or helped others escape, dozens of jails and prisons across the midwest in the 1930’s. In fact, he and his gang would routinely raid small town police stations and relieve them of their weapons, bullet proof vests and even badges. On numerous occasions Dillinger and his gang either outwitted or straight up out shot the FBI during their attempts to apprehend them. As a result Dillinger’s exploits began to grow in popularity as the newsreels in movie theaters would sensationalize and/or report on him. He became America’s ‘Public Enemy’ and remained so until his death in Chicago outside of the Biograph movie theater in July of 1934. It could be easily argued that beautiful women were Dillinger’s soft spot and/or Achilles heel, as on more than one occasion, including his death, his capture was due to the betrayal of his adored girlfriend Mary Evelyn “Billie” Frechette. For our money John Dillinger is America’s first and most remembered anti-hero celebrity aka ‘Public Enemy #1’……

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AmericanPop33: CONFESSIONS OF A BLEEDING HEART LIBERAL

 

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Until fairly recently, the notion that the political descriptor popularly known as ‘Liberal’ would be a concept that needed defining and/or redefining, had never occurred to me. Indeed, from the earliest days surrounding the advent of my political awakening, the term ‘Liberal’ has existed as an ideology whose language instantly bonds with the unseen mechanisms that power my soul. In many ways ‘Liberalism’ exists as politically factual and existential powerful.  ‘Liberalism’ seems to exist in every last synapse of my intellectual aptitude, as it inhabits the moral recesses of my personal sensibilities. 

The impetus behind the notion that ‘Liberal’ might need defining and/or redefining came to me in a fleeting moment of inspired thought. Indeed, during an inadvertent, yet common form of public transportation eavesdropping on a conversation between two human beings whom I did not know, I heard the term ‘Bleeding Heart Liberal’ used disparagingly, with the full force of derogatory intent. It was in this moment I was overcome with that familar feeling … inspiration. I had to express precisely what being a ‘Liberal’ meant … at least for personal purposes, if not for the expository benefits afforded to you, the intrepid reader. So, let’s take this thing for a ride around the block. To be sure, the pessimistic use of ‘Bleeding Heart Liberal’ did succeed in vexing the previously resilient interior of my soul.    



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I’M A LIBERAL … I BELIEVE HUMANITY IS EXCEPTIONAL 

I believe that humanity is exceptional. The accomplishments of mankind impress me as extraordinary. Among all of earth’s creatures, it’s humanity which is imbued with the gift of intellectual advancement. We have been blessed with the capacity for existential thought, unique to our species, which allows humanity to ponder the nature and meaning of its own existence. Horses are beautiful and majestic creatures, yet they do not possess the ability to solve mathematic equations. We may not fully understand the reasons why alligators, who have inhabited this earth for 37 million years, have failed to conjure and manipulate fire or invent plastic. We may not fully understand the reasons why our species, which has inhabited this earth for the cosmic eye-blink of 200,000 years, is the species that has been able to conjure remarkable societal and technological advancements within the span of just the last 6,000 years, including political theory and societal organization, math, science, medicine, complex construction, metallurgy, gun powder, rubber, concrete and the wheel. Indeed, human achievement has made commonplace a great many things which at one time existed on the margins of philosophical wonder. Humanity has accomplished the once inconceivable, yet we endeavor to continue our never ending search for answers. We consistently push boundaries, and challenge convention in the name of evolutionary progress through greater understanding. I am fairly certain that these lofty notions rarely, if ever, occur to birds of prey.  



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I’M A LIBERAL … I BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF LEADERSHIP

believe in the power of ‘Leadership’. Humanity performs at an optimal level when the auspices of patronage and like-minded cooperation are preeminent. The key to this is organizational leadership. Great leaders inspire those in their charge to exceed artificial expectation through confidence born of principled discipline, unfettered effort, and self-sacrifice. Great leaders do better than simply instruct, they educate. Perhaps the greatest education they provide is understanding. Understanding the awesome power of fundamental belief. Understanding the wisdom of the greater good. Understanding the invaluable nature of empathy and the indispensable value of critical thought. There is a reason that not all generals can boast of distinguished success. There is a reason that certain football coaches, baseball managers, diplomats, and Presidents leave behind legacies of transcendent influence. 



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I’M A LIBERAL … I BELIEVE IN EDUCATION

believe in the power of ‘Education‘. In particular, the dedication to the education of America’s youth. America has always only been as strong as the informed  intelligence and confident vitality of our youth. Americans of all ages can impact proactive change in our culture, but no group does so with quite the swiftness and/or earnestness of our youth. Without question, ignorance is the handmaiden of fear, and education is the antidote to ignorance. Liberals understand the true gravity of education. Liberals understand the often understated importance of intellectual growth. We understand that this is true for intellectually capable human beings and/or emotionally astute human beings alike.  Indeed, liberals believe that all humans whether young or old. necessarily understand that the process of intellectual growth need not, and should not ever subside. There is no ‘downside’ to learning something new each blessed day on this earth. Liberals clearly understand that our time on this earth is finite, yet the positive influence and proactive impact of our lives, will long survive in the hearts and minds of those humans we graced during our time. 



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I’M A LIBERAL … I BELIEVE  IN REVERENCE FOR OUR ENVIRONMENT

I believe that the future of humanity on mother earth is directly related to our combined ability to achieve that which makes us the most effective … cooperation. There is a pointed reality and stated jeopardy involved in the overall health and welfare of the only planet in the known universe specifically tailored to human existence. Arguments to the contrary or that aim to dismiss this reality as fiction, are not only doing damage to the fabric of this all-important discourse but also stand in strict and direct contravention of basic liberal ideals. Including but not limited to, social morality, education, empathetic behavior, and selfless notions of the greater good. The long and short of it is this – we simply can’t afford portions or percentages of human participants engaged in a life of industrialized modernity on earth, to also fail in their responsibility to participate in the respect for the environment of this earth. Liberals understand the gravity of ‘Climate Change’. Liberals do not dismiss hard science, nor do they dismiss the incredible work performed by humanities best scientists. Liberals listen to scientific consensus put forth by those charged with and dedicated to science. Be they climate scientists, geologists, rocket scientists, and/or astrophysicists. This is because liberals understand that the hard work of these individuals is done for humanities benefit. Not it’s detriment. 

Liberals abhor those humans whose attitudes towards climate change are based on short-sighted financial self-interest and callous greed. Liberals understand that in order for human beings to survive and thrive on planet earth, clean air and water will be needed, as it has always been. Liberals understand that humans need a healthy atmosphere with an equilibrium that facilitates our future survivability. Liberals understand that respect for our environment and all who share it with us is of paramount importance. Liberals understand that the earth existed without humanity before, and will survive with or without us. The earth is dispassionate when it comes to its inhabitants. Liberals champion proactive environmental policies, thoughtful adjustments and/or changes in our antiquated dependence on fossil fuels. Liberals believe in resource conservation and work that facilitates the preservation of the only planet we have ever known … our 3rd rock from the sun,  blue planet we call earth. 



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I’M A LIBERAL … I BELIEVE  IN  UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE

The fact of the matter is that the auspices of capitalism are anathema to liberal ideals. A human being should not ever be denied medical assistance, suffer needlessly, or perish as a result of their given financial situation. The notion that the availability, efficacy, and quality of care that a human being receives, if at all, being contingent on that human beings wealth is grotesque full stop. Liberals believe that it’s a moral abomination to deny life-saving and/or life-extending care due to the auspices of insurance coverage. Just as it’s the height of callousness and the worst of humanity, to deny insurance coverage due to ‘pre-existing conditions’ This notions all have the same moral failing in common … abject greed. In fact, one would be in good concert by comparing the auspices of universal healthcare that liberalism espouses to the dastardly nature of finance contingent healthcare.

Virtually everything wrong with the soulless, capitalist ideology that motivates human healthcare inequities, exists in lockstep with everything that liberals detest among all humans, regardless of how they might choose to define themselves. In truth, there should be no argument about the human impulse to care for the sickest, poorest of us. There should be no argument, yet there exists in one group of slavish ideologs in American body-politic. Indeed, they a shameful litany of fallacious arguments in defense of the indefensible. To be clear it’s never been a lack of resource issue, America can easily afford universal or single payer healthcare. The issue is not available resources, the issue is the basic will to enact it. The notion of human kindness driven. morally correct single-payer, universal health care for citizens of the wealthiest nation in the history of mankind, offends them to a degree so severe, that it drives them to the brink of physical illness and/or plain madness. These people are not liberal. In general, they are greedy, rigid and wholly illiberal. Liberals have a difficult time understanding these people, and why they lack observable levels of compassion. 



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LIBERALS WHO TALK FAST BELIEVE … 

That Government has an important rule to play in the lives of American citizens. Liberals believe in the inherent responsibility of citizenship. That we are only as strong as the weakest, and most vulnerable among us. That giving a helping ‘hand up’ is wholly different from a ‘handout’, but will not demonize occasional impulses towards the latter within reason. People should do what they can to help those truly in need within reason because frankly, ‘there for the grace of God…’     

In the Best of America and Americans. We Celebrate the Good Fortune of others. We almost always Hope for the Best. We almost always Grieve when it turns out for the Worst. Liberals Believe in Democracy. Liberals believe that the concept of Human Kindness is inexhaustible, and carries with it the Power of Healing.   

That Integrity is a foundational tool for building vigorous Character. Credibility is the sum total of Integrity plus Character plus Reputation. 

There is little nobility and less utility in Outsourcing Problems. As long as the problem exists one is still responsible. The means by which said problem gets solved can increase the  potential for legal jeopardy, without the benefit of responsible involvement. Liberals treat problems as opportunities to think different. 

Admire Excellence. Bestow Honor. Cherish Achievement.  

Justice Can Be Evaded Temporarily … but Never In Perpetuity. 

The importance of Standing Staunchly Opposed to All Nobles, Nations, and Notions that either Suggest or Promote … Governing by Fiat. 

Understand that Drinking Heavily causes more Problems than it solves, yet typically  don’t begrudge those who Drink. Occasional visits with the Spirits has it’s utility. 

Liberals Believe in the RULE OF LAW. We understand that the Rule of Law serves as the structural support beams which run underneath America’s Constitutional Grandstand. As such Liberals are unwavering and unequivocal in our support of the Justice Department. Those Americans represent the best and brightest law enforcement officers produced in these United States of America.  



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AMERICANPOP33: Battle of the Bands R.E.M. vs The BLACK CROWES

 

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‘The Black Crowes’ and R.E.M. were both 1990’s super bands that influenced as many artists and musicians, as they have provided untold levels of enjoyment to the general audiences they entertained. To be certain, each band can claim numerous songs that rise to the rarefied air of all-time rock and roll classics. The unique sound of their respective musical contributions exist as unmistakable to critical observers, as well as the layman and/or casual fan. The question that this Battle of the Bands intends to investigate and then answer, is simple … Which band’s legacy is considered superior? AmericanPop33.com ventures to consider this question and bring critical analysis to understanding the eventual answer. Please Enjoy



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MAKING THE CASE:      BLACK CROWES  

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The Black Crowes were the mid-1980’s (1984) brainchild band formation of talented musician brothers Chris and Rich Robinson. The band’s initial name was ‘Mr. Crowe’s Garden’, however, that name failed to stick, and with hindsight behaving in reliably 20/20 fashion, perhaps abandoning the original name was an unsung prudent choice. Then again, this band possessed extraordinary talent from top to bottom, so who can tell? That said, unlike many transcendent rock and roll bands, ‘The Black Crowes’ hit the American music scene with a virtual two by four while running at full speed. From the outset, their 1990 freshman album release, ‘Shake Your Money Maker’, was a commercial sensation. There is no denying the freshness of this album’s sound, as it is imbued with catchy refrains, crisp melodies. as well as a genre hybrid quality reminiscent of country rock, blues, and electrified acapella. In 1990Rolling Stone Magazine voted them ‘Best New American Band’. The album  title ‘Shake Your Money Maker’, was inspired by the classic blues song by Elmore James. This album produced two #1  Billboard Singles,She Talks to Angels’, and  ‘Hard to Handle’, and four Billboard Top 40 singles in total. ‘Money Maker’ hit #2 on Billboard’s Hot 200 Albums, and went on to earn 5X RIAA Certified Platinum status by selling in excess of 5 million copies in the United States alone.  

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The remarkable commercial success of this Def Jam America band hadn’t quite faded from rock music charts, nor had the shine of pop culture relevance sufficiently dulled, when in 1992 ‘The Black Crowes’ released their sophomore album effort, ‘The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion’. This album stands today widely considered as the group’s greatest overall album. In terms of musicianship, technical proficiency, harmony, and deft track transitions. This would be just as true if none of the songs on the album became charted hits. However, the fact that ‘Southern Harmony and Musical Companion’ featured not one but four Billboard #1 singles, renders that notion moot. ‘Remedy’,  held the #1 spot on Billboard’s Album Rock Chart, for 11 weeks. ‘Thorn in My Pride’ held the #1 spot for 4 weeks. ‘Hotel Illness’ held the #1 spot for 6 weeks, and ‘Sting Me’ held the #1 spot for 2 weeks. This level of chart success, four #1 singles from one album, remains a record in rock and roll, having eclipsed the great Tom Petty’s 1989 record of three #1 singles. ‘Southern Harmony and Musical Companion’ hit the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 200 Album Chart. Not bad for an album recorded largely in one continuous session, which mimicked a concert. ‘The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion’ earned 2X RIAA Certified Platinum status, and is currently ranked #477 on Rock Hard Magazine’s ‘500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time‘, and is ranked #100 on Guitar World Magazine’s ‘Greatest 100 Guitar Albums of All Time’

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Although ‘The Black Crowes’ toured between 2002 and 2005, they weren’t making any new music and were essentially on hiatus in that regard. In fact, they wouldn’t release another studio album until 2008, with ‘Warpaint’. This album raced up the chart settling at #5 on Billboard Hot 200 Album Chart. This was followed by a greatest hits album release in 2010, ‘Croweology’. Following a 20th Anniversary World Tour, in 2013The Black Crowes’ officially announced their disbandment.   

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The Black Crowes enter this Battle of Bands contest armed with a legacy that can boast of commercial success indicative of six #1 hit singles, two RIAA Multi-Platinum Albums. As well as combined album sales that exceed 30 million, and an All-Time Ranking of  #92  on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.  Will these accolades be enough to defeat Michael Stipe and R.E.M.  in this battle? The answer remains to be seen, however, there is no denying the tremendous cultural impact and virtuoso musicianship that ‘The Black Crowes’ demonstrated during their prime recording and performing years. 

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TALE OF THE TAPE 

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MAKING THE CASE:      R.E.M. 

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In many music circles, R.E.M. is widely considered to be among the select group of influential bands responsible for the advent of the ‘Alternative Rock’ genre. What is not a matter for critical debate is the fact that R.E.M. was an influential supergroup by any reasonable definition. Indeed, between their active years of 1983 and 2011, R.E.M. was consistently critically acclaimed, and culturally relevant. This Athens, Georgia band was formed in 1980 and consisted of members Michael Stipe, Bill Berry, Peter Buck, and Mike Mills. They released 15 studio albums over the course of their nearly 30-year musical journey. The R.E.M. sound was unique, immediately identifiable by lead vocalist Michael Stipe’s distinctive vocal stylings and often disjointed, albeit compelling lyrics. In combination with the superb guitar work of  Mike Mills, and Bill Berry’s deft percussion drum work. Indeed, the R.E.M. musical style typified alternative rock considerations that it came to represent.

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‘Document’ was the 5th studio album release from R.E.M. under their label I.R.S. Records. Although their previous four studio albums enjoyed decent to moderate success, R.E.M. was still largely a fringe band with a notable grassroots cult following. The group’s pop culture status experienced remarkable improvements in terms of notoriety and visibility virtually immediately upon the September 1st, 1987 release of ‘Document’. This album became the first in what would be a dozen produced by the magic man, producer Scott Litt. ‘Document’ produced R.E.M.’s first Top 10 hit single, ‘The One I Love’ which hit #9 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, and perhaps more consequentially, ‘Document’ became the 1st of an eventual 9 RIAA Certified Platinum albums that this group would turn in. Rolling Stone Magazine  ranked ‘Document’  #41 on their ‘100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s’ 

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R.E.M. immediately followed up their ‘Document’ success with the November 1988 release of their 6th studio album, ‘Green’, released by Warner Bros. Records. This album eradicated any remaining notions which asserted that R.E.M. as a glorified garage band. After ‘Green’, they were destined to occupy future notions which spoke primarily of the exceptional. Indeed, ‘Green’ produced #1 hit singles ‘Orange Crush’ and  ‘Stand’, with a total of 5 singles that registered on Billboard Top 40 Charts, including ‘Get Up’ and the ironically titled, ‘Pop Song 89’. At the time of their 1991 release, ‘Out of Time’, R.E.M. was already on a serious roll, and then that roll got even faster and more frenetic. ‘Out of Time’ catapulted R.E.M. into the stratosphere of international fame. To wit, this album held the top spots in album sales both here at home in the United States, as well as the  United Kingdom. In the U.S. ‘Out of Time’ held the top album position for an eye-watering 109 weeks. ‘Out of Time’ went on to earn 17X RIAA Platinum Certification with nearly 18 million in worldwide sales. In 1992, the signature hit from ‘Out of Time’, the hauntingly introspective single, ‘Losing My Religion’ earned 2 Grammy Awards with the album earning 3 Grammys on its own, making ‘Out of Time’ a winner of 5 Grammys in total.   

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R.E.M. would go on to release a half-dozen additional albums which were both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. These included the 1992 release of the 4X RIAA Platinum Certified album ‘Automatic for the People’, the 4X Platinum 1994 release, ‘Monster’, as well as the Platinum 1996 release, ‘New Adventures in Hi-Fi’, in addition to the 1998  RIAA Gold release, ‘Up’.  

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There is no reasonable argument to be made that would contradict the sheer artistic, commercial, and musical cultural impact of the Michael Stipe led, Scott Litt produced  R.E.M legacy.

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There’s was a run that not only blazed trails but influenced generations. Sales of over 85 million albums sold worldwide, make R.E.M. one of the best-selling rock and roll bands of all-time. This in addition to their 30 plus years of activity, also concedes that there is no denying R.E.M.’s cultural gravity, longevity and commercial viability.  



 

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SUMMARY VERDICT: 

In truth, ‘R.E.M.’ was the heavy odds-on favorite going into this battle of the bands with ‘The Black Crowes’. Their longevity, influence, and cutting-edge musical excellence is titanic in its largess. So too is the record-setting commercial success that R.E.M. can easily boast. As for ‘The Black Crowes’, musically they were better than fantastic, with no discernible holes in their sound and no doubt as to their bona fides as champions of the rock and roll sound, attitude and style. The ‘Crowes’ did have 2 albums that went RIAA Platinum multiple times. They also had a half-dozen #1 singles to their credit, and own a distinct, certainly notable hybrid sound. In short, ‘The Black Crowes’ were an exceptional rock band with an impressive music library for both current and future generations to explore and enjoy. R.E.M. however, can claim all of the aforementioned, plus much more. 

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R.E.M. wins this battle with a split decision (2 to 1) however, this competition was never really that close. As good as R.E.M. was in terms of pure technical proficiency, there is a cogent argument to be made that ‘The Black Crowes’ exceeded them in this area. As it turns out, this is the only area in which the ‘Crowes’ can claim superiority over R.E.M. The good news is that there really is no loser in these battles as inclusion in the competition means transcendent quality musical contributions for all participants. AmericanPop33.com hopes that you’ve enjoyed this edition of ‘Battle of the Bands’. Be sure to check out our next battle coming sooner than you think, but definitely later than right now.  

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AMERICANPOP33: MICHAEL JACKSON 10 Years of MUSICAL GRAFFITI (1979 – 1989)

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AmericanPop33.com presents a 10 year snap shot of Michael Jackson’s illustrious entertainment career. In virtually every conceivable way, the artistic legend and performance exploits of the recording artist known to the world as the ‘King of Pop’ stand as historically unprecedented. The following is a thoughtful  examination of the ‘Prince of Pop’ as his artistic growth and commercial success transitioned him into the heralded ‘King of Pop’. Indeed, the true gravity and pop cultural influence of Michael Jackson’s 1980s artistic dominance exists only among the most rarified of air. It was a 10 year run that perhaps no other recording artist and entertainer will ever equal, let alone endeavor to surpass.  

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Without question, Michael Jackson’s music and influence permeated every aspect of pop music during the 1980’s. His unique style of entertainment was the musical equivalent of the hard-driving rain which powers a once in a generation hurricane. In retrospect, it’s reasonable to imagine the futility in thinking that the future of humanity might one day provide another artistic being with the transcendent talents of Michael Joseph Jackson.   

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The Coronation:       The ‘King of Pop’ 

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The long, short, and whole of  Michael Jackson’s musical career, specifically with regard to his commercial success and artistic achievement, is at once unprecedented, unparalleled, and frankly, unbelievable. Fact: Michael Jackson is the best-selling solo recording artist in all of human history. Between 1979 and 1989Jackson along with his talented and dedicated production team wrote, recorded, and released 3 of the 10 best-selling albums in the history of music, in the folowing order, Off the Wall’  (1979), ‘Thriller’ (1982), followed by ‘Bad’  (1987). The cultural impact of these albums is superseded only by the enormity of their commercial success. 



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OFF THE WALL     (1979)

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THRILLER     (1982) 

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BAD     (1987) 



OFF THE WALL 

Virtually, since it’s August 10th of 1979 release, Off the Wall’  (Epic/CBS Records) has been widely considered a musical work of art, and the best disco album … ever. In truth, ‘Off the Wall’ was exceedingly polished lyrically, and notably more nuanced in terms of depth and complexity than most ‘disco’ albums of the era. Its crossover appeal did not take away from its consideration as the best disco genre album of them all. It was a collaboration which brought the transcendent talents of Michael Jackson, ‘midas touch’ producer Quincy Jones, and song writing contributions from the likes of Paul McCartney,  Stevie Wonder and Rod Temperton. This was the first time that this esteemed group came together, but it was certainly not the last. The results remain awe-inspiring. Michael Jackson became the first solo artist to have Four (4) singles from one album to break the Billboard Top 10, including the Grammy winning #1 single,”Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. This single was also Michael’s 1st earned Grammy as a solo artist. To date, ‘Off the Wall’ has sold in excess of 20 million units world-wide, in addition to being RIAA Certified 8x Platinum in the United States alone. Simply remarkable. ‘Off the Wall’ remains one of the greatest and best-selling albums of all-time.  

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THRILLER          

As a remarkable matter of historical fact, ‘Thriller’ (1982) is the most commercially successful album in all of human history. It often takes a moment for one to fully grasp the largess of this reality. ‘Thriller’ was released by Epic/CBS Records on November 30th of 1982. Almost immediately the album took off running and for all intents and purposes hasn’t stopped, even today some 4 decades later. In fact, within the space of 14 months, with an astonishing 66 million units sold, ‘Thriller’ became the 3rd best-selling album of all-time, on its way to becoming the first album in the history of recorded music to earn RIAA Certified 33x Multi-Platinum (No. That is not a typo). To add to Michael Jackson’s transcendent legend, he is credited as the writer of  4 of the 9 tracks on the  Quincy Jones produced album. All told, ‘Thriller’ produced an eye-watering seven (7) Top 10 singles. Including – Billie Jean, ‘Beat It’ ‘The Girl Is Mine’, ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Something’, ‘Human Nature’, ‘Pretty Young Thing’ and the title track ‘Thriller’. Additionally, 1983 saw ‘Thriller’ receive eight (8) Grammy Awards, including ‘Album of the Year’, also unprecedented in history. Not too bad for an album that took the better part of 7 months to produce with a budget just north of $750,000.  

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“Thriller”          Best Selling Album in Human History

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BAD

As if  Michael Jackson’s 1980’s cultural and commercial dominance wasn’t enough following the other-worldly successes of ‘ Off the Wall’ and ‘Thriller’, just five years following Thriller’s releaseEpic/CBS Records released Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ on August 31st of 1987. Jackson, who composed 9 of the 11 tracks on this album, once again teamed up with producer Quincy Jones, who waved his magic wand. The ball just kept rolling, as this album was a runaway hit in its own right. Lyrically, this album displayed a more mature version of Jackson, who took on serious life topics, including subject matter the likes of  ‘media bias’, and ‘racial profiling’. These in addition to the time-honored musical tradition of ‘love and romance’. More importantly, with the astronomical success of a 3rd consecutive album, it became clear that Michael Jackson was the legitimate ‘King of American Pop Music’, and a bona fide pop culture icon of the 1980’s.

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Indeed, of the eleven (11) songs on ‘Bad’, nine (9) were released as singles, with five (5) of those hitting #1 on U.S. Billboard 100 charts, with a sixth hitting the Billboard Top 10. ‘Bad’ reached #1 ranking in thirteen (13)  different countries A fact which is nothing short of amazing. Indeed, ‘Bad’ has sold in excess of  35 million units worldwide, garnering it the rare achievement of an RIAA Diamond Certification. All told, Michael Jackson’s 3rd album in 10 years was nominated for six (6) Grammy Awards, bringing two (2) of those home for the win. In addition, in 2009, ‘Bad’ was given a ranking of #43 on the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time List, and a ranking of #22 oRolling Stone Magazine’s ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time’. The success of ‘Bad’ marked a farewell to the Jackson – Jones production tandem. 



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Intention  vs. Perception =   A Legacy Tarnished?

Throughout history, when it comes to the proverbial entertainment superstar, more often than not, concepts of intention and perception seem locked in a perennial struggle to define an artists legacy. There is perhaps no greater example of this confusing, often dualistic and complex reality than the curious case of Michael Joseph Jackson aka the ‘King of Pop’.

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Intention

The intended artistic delivery of arguably the most successful, and influential entertainer of all-time, is compelling evidence of bedrock insistence. His intention to consistently entertain at the highest levels is clear. His intention to influence his adoring fans who literally span the entire planet, and across generations is virtually sacrosanct. Also true is his intention to reach as many humans with his music as possible. The success of which is evidenced by his record-setting commercial success. 



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Perception

Michael Jackson’s legacy of modified physical appearance. Within the minds of folks in the African-American community in America, as well as people the world over, it would be difficult to escape the accusation and/or charge that Michael Jackson was  guilty of attempting to abandon his aesthetic blackness, which by extension  as a resulted in abandoning his responsibility to the struggle of black people in general.

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Indeed, multiple surgeries including rhinoplasty and a litany of additional drastic changes in his appearance, such as skin bleaching (claiming the medical condition Vitiligo) and other strange procedures, have left very specific perceptions in the minds of untold millions. In many ways this is similar to golfer Tiger Wood’s conjuring an obscure racial identity called ‘Cablanasian‘. The perception is that individual wants to extricate him/herself from being African-American, and all that comes with it. Dubious aesthetic changes aside, starting in 1993, Michael Jackson was the accused subject, and criminal defendant in a series of child sexual abuse claims. His defenses spanned the range of ‘extortion’ to the ‘idiosyncratic’. Regardless, his behavior around children proved questionable in the best of cases.

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The truth is what the truth is. It’s likely that only God knows exactly what that truth  is, however, with perception being as powerful as truth in the realm of public opinion, Michael Jackson’s overall legacy has assuredly taken a hit.  



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At the end of the day, perhaps it’s good practice to separate the artist from the man, with the understanding that cultural icons are indeed human beings. All human beings are flawed by their very nature. The limit of their heights, the depths of their souls, and the truth of their hearts are truly only knowable and redeemable by their creator.

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AmericanPop33: EDDIE MURPHY / FABULOUS 5 COMEDY CLASSICS 1980S

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PROLOGUE / EDITOR’S NOTE

As a matter of observable fact, comedy exists as a component of popular culture in general, and part of our shared human experience specifically. In its broadest  form comedy can serve as an emotional ballast. Physical comedy can elicit laughter and keeps us in touch with our human fallibility, and predilection for silliness. Satirical comedy can promote existential thought, or more simply, it provides important forms of perspective through clever irony and the pointedly absurd. Situational comedy however, is far and away the most influential. It provides all of the aforementioned, with the all important addition of context. 

Almost assuredly this is the principle reason why we love to go to the movies and take in a good comedy. It’s a good comedy if we laugh. It’s great comedy if we laugh our asses off. It becomes a legendary comedy, the moment our culture unilaterally adopts the funniest and/or most memorable lines of dialogue … into our discourse, becoming an addendum to our cultural lexicon. This reality is not insignificant. In fact, it’s rather remarkable. It’s important to reserve some part of your soul for the blessings that humor provides. Laughter is an interpersonal lubricant, and occasionally a societal analgesic. Comedy also has the added benefit of existential umbrella, the kind that keeps our soul dry during some of life’s unpleasant precipitation.

For all of the aforementioned and more, perhaps we should acknowledge societies best and brightest comedians and comic entertainers, as cultural royalty. However, this acknowledgement should be given judiciously, to those deserving, staying vigilant and being careful to avoid arbitrary notions of ‘famous for being famous’. That uniquely American pop culture phenomenon whose time has passed.  Hopefully. Thankfully.

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INTRODUCTION

For our money, Eddie Murphy is one of the funniest comics that America has ever produced, and by extension, he’s one of the funniest men to ever walk the earth.  Sycophancy aside, Eddie Murphy is an American pop culture icon. As such, American Pop has compiled a thoughtful list of Eddie Murphy’s five best films from the 1980’s, a decade in which he dominated the world of entertainment. In addition to being a part of Saturday Night Live’s resurgence, The acerbic tenor of Eddie Murphy’s stand-up comedy was insightful, irreverent, and had audiences rolling in the aisles  nationwide. His comedy albums and subsequent cable television specials only added hydrogen to his growing star. However, it was the popularity and astronomic box office success of  the films he starred in, that instigated the nuclear fusion which made Murphy hotter than the surface of the sun. Earning him a decades long-term as Hollywood’s king of comedy. 



American Pop Presents

‘Eddie Murphy:  Fabulous Five Classic Comedies  (1980 – 1990)  

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HISTORY BY THE NUMBERS

In the years between 1980 and 1990 (aka a decade) Eddie Murphy starred in eight (8) feature films. Six (6) of which were extraordinary box office successes, and five (5) are featured on American Pop’sFab 5‘ list. It would be difficult to overstate Eddie Murphy’s outsized success during the first 10 years in the business of show. To wit, baseline accounting of his 1980’s film box office receipts reflect combined gross totals that exceed $900 million ($944 million), as in nearly a billion dollars. A fact that can be described in  any number of ways, as long as people come away with notions that equal or exceed ‘remarkable’. Overall, Eddie Murphy’s 1980’s film catalog produced box office averages just north of $100 million per film. If there was any question as to Murphy’s box office bona fides, that fact should more than suffice as the answer. 

Eddie Murphy’s highest grossing film of the decade, is also widely considered an all time comedy great. Indeed, ‘Beverly Hills Cop (1984), took in an astronomical $235 million at the box office. The John Landis directed mega hit was Murphy’s 4th career major feature film. It was preceded by ’48 Hrs’ (1982) with Nick Nolte, the #4 film in our ‘Fab 5’, ‘Trading Places’ (1983) with Dan Akroyd, and ‘Best Defense’ (1984). The remaining three films following ‘BHC’ are ‘The Golden Child’ (1986), ‘Beverly Hills Cop II’ (1987), ‘Coming To America’ (1988) with Arsenio Hall, and ‘Harlem Nights’ (1989) with Ricard Pryor. As a matter of record, ‘Best Defense’ holds up the rear as the least grossing film of Murphy’s decade of dominance,. The military comedy teamed Murphy up with  comedian Dudley Moore, but only managed to pull in a paltry by comparison $19 million at the box office. However, that was enough for the film to enter the back door into the proverbial ‘black’, since technically it turned a $1 million dollar profit.  



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Released on June 8th of 1983, Director John Landis’s ‘Trading Places’ is Eddie Murphy’s second career major film. With the fortune of hindsight, it’s no wonder that a John Landis film starring the outsized young talents of Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Eddie Murphy, paired with the likes of veteran funnyman Don Ameche, was an easy as oatmeal lock to strike gold. 

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The quirky plot revolves an obnoxious homeless man (Eddie Murphy) who spends his days engaging in scams where he fakes disabilities, and feigns blindness for sympathy and of course … money.

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(L to R)  Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Dan Aykroyd 

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(L to R) Don Ameche, Eddie Murphy, and Ralph Bellamy in discussion. 

The street hustler behavior comes to an end, and his life quickly changes in what will turn out to be irrevocably ways, when he unwittingly becomes involved in an elaborate bet between two wealthy Philadelphia commodities investors.

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This bet involves forcibly ‘trading places’ with a pampered and wealthy young associate (Dan Aykroyd) of the commodities brokers. Hilarity ensues as Akroyd’s character loses his mind and tries everything and anything to get his hands on Murphy and retrieve his ‘stolen’ life.   

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Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy celebrate a stock market windfall 

With a production budget of $15 million, the Paramount Pictures distributed project ‘Trading Places’ went on to earn in excess of $90 million in the United States.  



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Eddie Murphy in his 1st HBO stand up comedy film/special ‘DELIRIOUS’  (1983) 



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It could be argued, and I suspect to great effect, that Director Walter Hill’s smash hit 1982 film ’48 Hrs’ starring Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, is the original film of the modern ‘buddy cop’ genre. This Action-Comedy-Drama is full of raunchy realism, and grit. The pairing of Eddie Murphy as a loquasious convict with hopes on adding ‘ex’ to his convict moniker, with Nick Nolte as the acerbic, ill mannered, and  brash detective who needs Murphy’s help, is wonderful to behold. In terms of historical legacy, the success of 48 Hrs has grandfathered an impressive lineage of ‘buddy cop’ films such as the ‘Lethal Weapon’ and ‘Rush Hour’ series respectfully.  

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The excessive use of off-color language comes off as colorful when uttered in by these characters using this dialogue. Frankly speaking, one would be hard-pressed to imagine a better cast to inhabit the celluloid in what would be wunderkind Hollywood producer Joel Silver’s first theatrical feature.

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As a film, 48 Hrs enjoyed wide critical praise. It was nominated for more than a few awards for its excellence. Included in these nominations was Eddie Murphy’s first Golden Globe Nomination, for ‘Best Acting Debut – Male’which was not a bad showing for Murphy’s freshman film effort. Director Walter Hill was awarded a ‘Grand Prix Award’ from the  ‘Cognac Festival du Film Policier’, and the screenplay for 48 Hrs was nominated by the Edgar Allan Poe Award for ‘Best Motion Picture Screenplay’

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Indeed, Murphy and Nolte adopted the true strengths of the collaboratively created script written by Roger Spottiswoode, Larry GrossSteven E. de Souza, and Jeb Stuart, which was the characters and the location (San Francisco). They not only made this film their own, they also set the bar for how these kinds of films could and should be played.

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48 Hrs. is certainly among the more entertaining films in American pop culture history. In 1982, it ranked as the  #7 highest-grossing film of the year. It was produced for the modest sum of $12 million and returned an opening weekend gross that exceeded $4 million, followed by overall box office grosses that nearly eclipsed $80 million. By any reasonable measure, 48 Hrs was a huge commercial success. 

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Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte about to exchange pleasantries. 



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Eddie Murphy in his smash hit stand-up comedy movie ‘RAW’   (1987) 



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Not many observers knew quite what to expect from Eddie Murphy’s 1986 Action-Fantasy-Comedy vehicle ‘The Golden Child’. Which in its own way was a benefit for both Murphy as well as the film. Audiences went in armed only with muted expectations and with minds a bit more open than your average ‘Golden Child’, as it were. This Michael Ritchie directed film turned out to be a mid-1980’s ‘sleeper hit’ that has since risen to cult classic status. 

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Eddie Murphy returns a charming performance as private investigator Chandler Jarrell, who has dedicated his professional life to finding lost and kidnapped children. This role displayed a slightly softer side to Murphy, without going pink ‘Izod Lacoste’ shirt type of overboard. 

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Indeed, the unwitting Eddie Murphy (Chandler Jarell) life changes in unforeseen ways with mystical consequence. Immediately following regaining his emotional footing after being hit with the gravity that he is in fact, ‘The Chosen One’, charged with saving the world by saving ‘The Golden Child’. Typically, burrito digestion becomes strained after learning things of this nature.  

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Produced for $25 million and distributed by Paramount Pictures,The Golden Child’ went on to earn just shy of $80 million in domestic box office receipts. It was the #8 ranked film in terms of grosses for 1986. Normally, returns like these would have made most Hollywood studios beside themselves with joy, and ‘popping bubbly’. However, this was an Eddie Murphy film and they expected returns more along the lines of the $230 million that his previous film ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ (1984) had earned. Crazy talk, I know, but this was is life in 1980’s Hollywood, Ca.   

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Without question, if an observer is inclined to witness and consider the true scope of versatility and transcendent talent that Eddie Murphy possessed during his 1980’s prime, then look no further than 1988’s ‘Coming to America’. This is because Murphy plays not one but four wildly divergent, albeit wonderful, characters in the film.

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This John Landis directed movie is based on a story that Murphy had been working on as a starring vehicle. It should be noted that there has been some controversy surrounding exactly how much of this story was Murphy’s self-conceived idea, and how much was ‘borrowed’ from humorist writer Art Buchwald, who subsequently sued Murphy and the film’s producers in the  Buchwald v. Paramount civil suit, in 1990 to get that sorted out. 

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‘Coming to America’ is perfectly cast with notable performances from the talented likes of  Arsenio Hall, Eric LaSalle, James Earl JonesShari Headley, and John Amos.

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Eddie Murphy is straight up hilarious playing the main character role of Akeem Joffer, the Crown Prince of ‘Zamunda, who has ‘Come to America’ looking for a wife. It can be argued that any one of his three additional characters Murphy played were equally as hilarious. Specifically, preacher ‘Randy Watson’.

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Paramount Pictures distributed this tremendous worldwide box-office hit. ‘Coming To America’ enjoyed an opening weekend in which it debuted at #1 with grosses that exceeded $21 million. ‘Coming To America’ returned an overall domestic box office gross that exceeded $125 million, making it the #1 grossing film of 1988, as well as one of the most successful of Eddie Murphy’s 1980s run.  

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What can you say about ‘Beverly Hills Cop’, the all-time classic action-comedy-drama that is also one of the most commercially successful films in the history of filmmaking, that hasn’t already been said? As it turns out, there are a few notable things. Including the fact that Eddie Murphy’s career gem was the highest grossing film of 1984. It is also the highest grossing, most successful comedy films of all-time. It is also held the record for  highest grossing, most successful Rated ‘R’ movie of all-time, for 19 years. 

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Directed by legendary comedy auteur Martin Brest, Eddie Murphy plays the wisecracking but talented, instinctual but reckless, streetwise but headstrong, young Detroit PD detective, Axel Foley. He does so in compelling fashion, wildly entertaining with amazing deftness of performance skill. The aesthetic contrast of having this Detroit cop entering the austere confines of Beverly Hills California to engage in an investigation using methods that are completely alien to the local police … is the stuff of film legend. 

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The performances put forth by the actors in the supporting roles are outstanding. Including but not limited to performances from the likes of  Judge Reinhold, John AshtonRonny Cox, and Lisa Eilbacher.

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This first film in the Beverly Hills Cop film series propelled Eddie Murphy to the recesses of worldwide notoriety that he hadn’t already conquered. ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ earned a Golden Globe Nomination for ‘Best Motion Picture – Comedy’ as well as an Academy Award Nomination for ‘Best Original Screenplay’. With box office grosses that exceeded $225 miliion, ‘Beverly Hills Cop’  was easily the highest grossing film of 1985, and as alluded to above, is also held the record for highest grossing Rated ‘R’ film … for 19 years. 

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‘Beverly Hills Cop’ earned a mind-boggling $15 million in under a week … specifically, it’s first week of theatrical release. It held the #1 spot in America for 14 weeks consecutive weeks in 1985.  In other words, for over a 1/4 of the entire year.   

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How great was Eddie Murphy’s 1980s dominance? The short answer is ‘really great’. When taken into the context of a career that has spanned nearly 40 years, its nothing short of amazing. Eddie Murphy continued on well past the 1980s, and enjoyed incredible success to be sure, however it wouldn’t be intellectually honest to assert that post 1980s Eddie Murphy entertainment, in any way compares to the transcendent quality and raw comedy gangster funny of 1980s Eddie Murphy. Gangster funny that came to define during his otherworldly 1980s entertainment dominance. 

As of 2014, Eddie Murphy can boast of feature film grosses that total nearly $4 billion domestically, and nearly $7 billion worldwide. By any reasonable estimate, this is a truly remarkable feat. Especially, in an entertainment business that is legendary for it’s ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ wheel of strange fortunes environment.

Perhaps it can be effectively argued that it was legendary late funnyman Richard Pryor whom had blazed a trail before Eddie Murphy. That it was Pryor whom had built the comedy Ferrari, that Eddie Murphy was afforded the opportunity to redline all the way up to comedic superstardom. Eddie Murphy it seems, was the right man, in the right decade, armed with the right brand of transcendent talent.  Eddie Murphy not only broke all kinds of box-office records, but he also influenced an entire generation of creatives, artists and entertainers. I am proud to count myself among that generation.   comics the world over. In all observable measures, Eddie Murphy is the archetype of generational show business talent.

 

END.

 

 

AMERICANPOP33: 1980s ‘BRAT PACK’ then and now …

 

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AMERICAN POP’S 1980s BRAT PACKERS:  James Spader, Jennifer Connelly, Judd Nelson, Robert Downey Jr, Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, Ally Sheedy, Patrick Dempsey, Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore, Rob Lowe



I’ve come full circle about the 1980’s. For the longest time I brazenly turned my back on the very decade responsible for the unceremonious birth of the certifiable lunatic which inhabits the deepest recesses of my mind. Indeed, I was ungrateful. As part of the last class of the 1980s, when I stepped into the 1990s it immediately felt like I belonged there. Here’s the thing, as it turns out a major right of passage for being cool in the 1990’s … was to be snobbish about the 1980’s. It took a long time for this habit to wear away. The truth is …the 1980’s established more than a few some indispensible trends in American pop culture. 

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JUNE 10TH 1985  NEW YORK MAGAZINE – THE LEGEND MAKING COVER  



When you’re a teenager there aren’t many ideas not worthy of exploration. In my case, sneaking into movie theatres was an idea definitely worth exploring. So we explored walking into the theatre by standing at the rear exists, waiting for people to leave so that we could catch the next show …. and usually the show after that. 

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The 1980’s  were a decade rich with all things American consumerism, and it was very good to be flying in the rarefied air of the young, rich, and famous in Hollywood. The late great John Hughes’s movies were as much a part of popular culture as Sassoon jeans, parachute pants, and hairspray. Some of the films of the 1980’s are classics that have lasted the test of time, the hairspray? Not so much. The young Hollywood stars of the era were coined ‘The Brat Pack’ by David Blum in his 1985 cover story in New York Magazine. The actors themselves didn’t care for the tag, especially Rob Lowe, he hated it. However, the moniker stuck. The reality is that this group of young stars extended well beyond the original five. AmericanPop thought it would be worth the road trip to revisit some of the more notable ‘Brats’ and their achievements. Let’s take a look-see what life looks like for them today,  both aesthetically, and otherwise. Enjoy!



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Throughout his illustrious acting career, James Spader has made an art form of playing quirky, albeit eccentric, occasionally unhinged characters. The 1980’s were his decade of ascendance to pop culture prominence. In subsequent years, Spader successfully honed his acting talent from raw to fine. By decades end, his performance as Graham Dalton in Sex, Lies, and Videotape’ (1989), garnered Spader the ‘Best Actor’ Award at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2003 James Spader was awarded a Primetime Emmy for ‘Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series‘ for his work on the hit ABC series ‘The Practice’. Currently, James remains a highly sought after Hollywood talent.



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Jennifer Connelly has come a very long way since her feature film debut at 14 years old, in the 1984 ‘Godfather-esque’ crime drama ‘Once Upon a Time in America’. Hers is an example of a successful transition from the novelty of adorable child actor to the legitimacy of a dramatic adult performer. Jennifer came to national prominence upon the release and subsequent success of the 1986 fantasy film ‘Labyrinth’. Connelly lit up the screen playing opposite the late great David Bowie. Her career has been stellar in subsequent decades. In 2002, Jennifer Connelly achieved the acting ‘triple crown’ for her portrayal of ‘Alicia Nash’ in Director Ron Howard’s biopic, ‘A Beautiful Mind’. She was awarded ‘Best Supporting Actor’ at the Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and BAFTA Award ceremonies. respectfully. Jennifer Connelly has proven to be a wonderful talent whose work has entertained millions. 



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Full disclosure, I was one among untold legions of adolescent American boys who idolized Director John Hughes’s 1985 classic film ‘The Breakfast Club’. Of particular admiration and/or focus were the exploits and attitude of the rule dodging renegade, ‘burner’ character named ‘John Bender’. If Judd Nelson never did another film in his career, he would remain a legend for this role. It was that good. Nelson showed his versatility as an actor the following year with his role as straight-laced political neophyte with a wandering eye, Alec Newbary in Director Joel Schumacher’s coming of age film classic, ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’. Nelson has had a wonderful acting career, and in 1991 he starred in yet another classic film, playing detective Nick Peretti in Director Mario Van Peebles crime drama, ‘New jack City’. In the mid-1990’s Nelson played the notable character Jack Richmond in NBC’s ‘Suddenly Susan’. Indeed, Judd Nelson has maintained a career full of excellent character work and continues to entertain audiences well into the 21st century.



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Of all of the talented artists and entertainers of ‘Brat Pack’ lineage, perhaps none can claim greater dominion in terms of god given ability and transcendent talent, than the great Robert Downey Jr. The progeny of artists from Greenwich Village, New York, Downey had a promising start in the 1980’s with roles in films such as ‘Weird Science’ ‘Johnny Be Good’, and Director James Toback’s ‘The Pick-Up Artist’. However, it was his role as the drug addict ‘Julian’ in ‘Less Than Zero’ (1987) that made audiences and critics alike…pause. Perhaps he was so good because it was a role that imitated Downey Jr’s life at the time. Whatever the reason, he was amazing. In 1992, Robert Downey Jr played Charlie Chaplin in the biopic, ‘Chaplin’. All he did was win the BAFTA Award for ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’, in addition to earning an Academy Award nomination for ‘Best Actor’.  Despite this success, at times Robert Downey was a complicated and troubled man. His personal demons allowed him to stumble often through his late twenties until he finally crashed and burned his way into prison in his 30’s. However, Robert Downey Jr was able to resurrect his life and career in his early 40s. Today he is one of the most bankable A-List movie stars in the world. A remarkable, perhaps impossible feat for persons of lesser talent, or simply ‘normal’. However, Robert Downey Jr is certainly no ordinary talent. 



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One would be forgiven for the belief that Anthony Michael Hall appeared in virtually every great movie during the 1980’s. The truth is that Hall wasn’t in every film. However, the films he did star in were all pretty great. These included, Director Harold Ramis’s classic 1983 comedy National Lampoon’s Vacation, John Hughes’s classics ‘The Breakfast Club’ and ‘Sixteen Candles’, ‘Weird Science’, and ‘Johnny Be Good’. Anthony Michael Hall was also a ‘Saturday Night Live’ cast member during the 1985-86 season. No too shabby Michael, not too shabby at all.   



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Once upon a time during the 1980s, the beauty and talents of actor Molly Ringwald were the apple of many an American teenage boy eye. Ringwald had the market cornered on playing the girl next door in classic 1980s films such as John Hughes’s classics ‘Sixteen Candles’, ‘Pretty in Pink’, and ‘The Breakfast Club’. Prior to those films, in 1982, young Molly Ringwald earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role in ‘Tempest‘. Molly may be all grown up now, but for members of a certain generation of Americans, the crush hasn’t quite faded.



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During the 1980’s and into the 1990’s Andrew McCarthy was a very hot coal among the band of young hot talented coals known as the ‘Brat Pack’. Indeed, McCarthy starred in classic films such as ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’, ‘Mannequin’, ‘Weekend at Bernies’, ‘Pretty in Pink’, and ‘Less Than Zero‘. An impressive list to be sure. In subsequent decades McCarthy has starred in television series such as  ‘Lipstick Jungle’, ‘White Collar’, and ‘Royal Pains’. So it should go without saying that Andrew McCarthy has had a prolific Hollywood career by any reasonable standard.



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The always gifted and charming Ally Sheedy became part of American pop culture consciousness in the 1980’s with a notable role in the film ‘Bad Boys’ (1983). Sheedy followed that up with staring roles in iconic films such as ‘The Breakfast Club’, and ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’. Ally’s career saw a resurgence in the late 1990’s with her role in the critically acclaimed film ‘High Art’ (1998) for which she was awarded ‘Best Actress’ at the Independent Spirit Awards, and Los Angeles Film Critics Association, as well  as the National Society of Film Critics. If there was any question as to Ally Sheedy’s acting chops, her 1998 run on the award circuit answered them with certainty. 



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The pointedly understated talented member of the Sheen family business, Emilio Estevez has made quite a career for himself. Starting in the 1980’s with starring classic roles in critically acclaimed films such as ‘The Outsiders’, and ‘Repo Man’. Estevez also starred in classic hit films, ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’, and ‘The Breakfast Club’. Emilio has since followed up his tremendous 1980’s emergence with the super successful ‘Mighty Ducks’film franchise. Everybody loves Emilio Estevez. His controversial brother Charlie Sheen? Weeeeeellllll….



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Before he was the heart throbbing neurosurgeon Dr. Derek Shepherd (aka McDreamy) on the ABC hit drama Grey’s Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey was an understated, boyishly charmed member of the 1980’s ‘Brat Pack’ brigade. Following starring roles in hit films such as ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ (1987), and ‘Loverboy’ (1989), Patrick Dempsey’s career took off like a bat out of hell. Audience’s worldwide have been entertained ever since. It should be noted that Patrick Dempsey (52) has aged with amazing grace. 



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What superlatives can be said about the talents and beauty of the incomparable Demi Moore, that hasn’t already been repeated ad nauseum? Not much apparently. Demi Moore moved into the confines of American pop culture royalty and our collective hearts starting with her 1981 soap opera appearances on ‘General Hospital‘. Success she followed up with starring roles in films such as ‘Blame It on Rio’ (1984), ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’ (1985). Then in 1986 she took Hollywood by storm with a stellar performance in her starring role opposite Rob Lowe in the classic romantic comedy-drama, ‘About Last Night’Demi Moore has become a true Hollywood starlet in every sense of the word, and her career has been exceptionally successful. 



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Perhaps the iconic face of the ‘Brat Pack‘, Rob Lowe enjoyed a notable film career early on in the 1980’s. However, he will be most remembered for his television career which has been prolific. With project credits that match the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star he has been endowed with,  Lowe has starred in classic Hollywood blockbuster films such as ‘The Outsiders’, ‘Oxford Blues‘, ‘About Last Night‘, and of course the all-time cult classic, ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’. He has followed up his 1980’s success with dozens of memorable television roles including the Emmy Award winning  ‘West Wing’.  Rob Lowe has the looks of a man with ageless grace. His Hollywood career has been remarkable. Not bad for a man who almost quit the business in the days just before being cast in the ‘Outsiders’



 

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AMERICANPOP33: GENE KELLY & 10 LUMINOUS SILVER SCREEN LEGENDS

I’d have to say that the biggest, most profound difference between the Hollywood of today and that of it’s ‘Golden Age’, is the level of individual talent that Golden Age actors not only possessed, but displayed in prolific fashion. There was a time when a Hollywood leading man had to be able to sing and/or dance at an exceptional level, comic actors were far more slap-stick risqué, physical, and dare I say, athletic. In the era before the information age, a star was a star due to an exceptional talent. Golden Age stars were entertainers in the true sense of the word. To fully understand this difference is to understand the difference between leading men Gene Kelly and Tom Cruise. Here’s a hint: One is a Dancer, Choreographer, Singer, Producer and Director, and one is basically just a pretty face. Compare Judy Garland to Kim Kardashian. Capisce? The only thing missing from Hollywood’s Golden Age was the comparative inclusion of minority talent, they were very few and far between, sadly. Idiots Guide thought it was time to highlight some of these remarkable show business talents from yesteryear, who should never be forgotten.

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Eleanor Powell was an amazing talent who is best remembered for her otherworldly solo tap dances in dozens of musical films throughout the 1930s and 1940s. She was one of, if not the best female dancer on MGM’s talent roster during Hollywood’s Golden Age. You can see her immense talent in Born to Dance (1936), Broadway Melody (1937) and Rosalie (1937) among many others.

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Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were huge comedy stars from the late 1920s through the mid-1940s. Their slapstick comedy had audiences literally in stitches. Their signature act was known as ‘The Dance of the Cuckoos’. This funny duo appeared in 107 films, including 32 short silent films, 40 short sound films and 23 full-length feature films. #VeryFunny

 

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During the 1940’s and 1950’s you would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful and talented woman on planet earth than Cyd Charisse. This beauty saw many roles opposite leading men such as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, her dancing talent was amazing. You can find Cyd in films that include ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (1952), ‘The Band Wagon’ (1953) and ‘Silk Stockings’ (1957)

 

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The Marx Brothers:  Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo and Zeppo, were a family comedy troupe that facilitated the laughter of millions of Americans during the 1920’s – 1940’s. They appeared in 13 feature films, with 5 of those being listed on AFI’s best films of all-time. ‘Duck Soup’ (1933) and ‘A Night at the Opera’ (1935) being among their very best.

 

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Judy Garland had the kind of talent that people adored and often rewarded with many individual honors. She started receiving them early with a Juvenile Academy Award, as well as a Golden Globe Award and a Special Tony Award, before she was 18. She was also the first woman to win a Grammy for Album of the Year. She worked with all of the best leading men of her era including Gene Kelly in his first feature film ‘ For Me and My Gal’ (1942). Garland was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in ‘A Star Is Born’ (1954) but she is best known for her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939). #OneofaKind

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Harry ‘Bing’ Crosby, Jr. had an amazing intimate, bass-baritone voice. He is considered one of the greatest recording artists of the 20th century, with over one billion units sold. Billion with a ‘B’. He was also a leading man in Hollywood during it’s ‘Golden Age’ and one of the best as he won an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1944 for the motion picture ‘Going My Way’. That’s pretty amazing isn’t it? Clearly, a multi-talented show business legend in every sense of the word.

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Simply put, Frank Sinatra aka ‘Ol Blue eyes’ was a bonafide superstar in both film & television and as a recording artist. He is perhaps my favorite entertainer of all-time. During a career that spanned 5 decades, Sinatra excelled as a singer, actor, and producer. He could do it all, and do it with a legendary flair. In 1945 he teamed up with Gene Kelly and the beautiful Kathryn Grayson in the runaway hit musical ‘Anchors Aweigh’. He teamed with Kelly again in 1949 to do a hit movie called  ‘On the Town’ a film that is ranked as No. 19 on American Film Institute’s list of best musicals of all-time. There is so much more, but for now just understand his immense talent and greatness as both a person and entertainer. There’s only one Frank…

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When people talk about Fred Astaire, they’re talking about a legendary dancer, singer, actor, choreographer, and musician. His entertainment career spanned the better part of a 75 years. In that time he made 31 films and was awarded several awards in film. In 1999 Astaire was named the 5th ‘Greatest Male Star of Old Hollywood’ by AFI. That pretty much says it all about this transcendent entertainer. In 1951’s ‘Royal Wedding’ he did a scene (below) where he dances on the ceiling of an apartment, one of the iconic scenes of his illustrious career. Take a look…

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There was nothing that Buster Keaton couldn’t do and do exceptionally well in entertainment. He was an actor, director, producer, writer, and stunt performer. A true icon of the silent film era,  his trademark physical comedy was something to behold. His deadpan comedic expression earned him the nickname ‘The Great Stone Face’. Buster  Keaton was perhaps the single most talented individual that Hollywood has ever seen.  In 1999 Keaton was recognized by the American Film Institute as the 21st greatest male star of Classic Hollywood. Entertainment Weekly lists him as the 7th greatest director of all-time. From 1920 to 1929 Buster Keaton was Hollywood. His 1926 film ‘The General’ is considered by many to be one of the greatest comedy of all-time. #MultiTalented

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Everything that Buster Keaton was, so to was Eugene ‘Gene’ Kelly except that he could dance better on screen than almost any human being on earth. Extremely versatile, he was a dancer, actor, singer, film director, producer and choreographer. All of those things he did exceptionally well. His on-screen energy was unmatched, his athletic form of dancing was unparalleled. His leading man good looks, made him, well a leading man of note. He is best known for his performances in ‘An American in Paris’ (1951), ‘Anchors Aweigh’ (1945), and ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (1952). Gene Kelly is number one in our book.

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