Monday, December 24, 2012

Race Record Ramblings: Gene Casey and The Lone Sharks

Untrained by Gene Casey and The Lone Sharks

Gene Casey is in the driver’s seat with a disc that should wear out jukeboxes across the country. There are no A or B sides—all are sure to be first-rate coin cullers at the jukes. Let it be said at first, the man has a great voice. And the guy knows how to make a record. So does his band, The Lone Sharks.

Kicking off this platter is an autobiographical ditty, “I Think About Elvis Every Day.” He wonders what Presley might say, although about what doesn’t matter. Good riff and holler. They may never let Casey sing “Come Home with Me” on The Ed Sullivan Show (without changing to come out). But “Cadillac For Sale” is a road song that should make inroads at diners and gas stops along Route 66. The tracks also have a dramatic Spector-like drama that cries out for inclusion in movie soundtracks.

Gene Casey’s lower baritone vocals are his strongest weapon, his voice a picture-book blend between Ernest Tubb and Ronnie Spector. With a subtle hint of Lennon. Maybe he was born with golden pipes, but the lyrical diction Casey has developed comes from the ages. He knows how to deliver lyrics, has a good way with vowels and does killer background vocals. (Dig the way he enunciates a “soft p” on “Gone Hollywood,” a cut from his 2008 masterwork, What Happened.)

This may be esoteric praise, but to the masses, Casey is the premier barroom troubador of Eastern Long Island. That includes Montauk, the Hamptons on up to Riverhead and any town with an Indian name. But there’s no doubt he would sweep the Sons of Herman Hall crowd in Dallas off their feet, not to mention The Broken Spoke in Austin. A few $50 handshakes from Morris Levy or Don Roby would secure heavy rotatation in Southern radio markets (and reap teen coin amongst both bobby soxers and aging intellectuals alike).

As a guitarist, Casey has refined the Duane Eddy single-note lead line. But this album isn’t about showoff picking. Americana (which categorizes real music they don’t play on commercial radio) is rarely done with such exquisite taste and production. Untrained squares favorably against the latest Johnny Cash, Johnny Burnette or Junior Brown.

copyright 2012 Josh Alan Friedman

Friday, December 14, 2012

"Keith Richards Goes to the Dentist"

In recognition of the worldwide celebration of The Rolling Stones 50th Anniversary—an occasion almost too good to be true—I present this primitive comic strip, which ran in High Times, Feb. 1981. The World’s Greatest Band contains two geniuses, and such grand, fantastical characters, that we are blessed to still have them on earth. But, being Englishmen, there once was this problem with their teeth. I sometimes wondered why The Rolling Stones didn’t have a cartoon series on Saturday morning television, like The Beatles. Perhaps it could have gone down like this:

(click images to enlarge)

Copyright © 1981, 2012 Josh Alan Friedman, Drew Friedman. 

Visit Drew

Saturday, December 8, 2012

"As Chanukah Passes Me By"

To watch on YouTube, click the image above. To watch via Vimeo, click below.

© 2002, 2011 Josh Alan Friedman

Video by Wyatt Doyle & Josh Alan Friedman, with artwork by Drew Friedman. Visit

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Thanksgiving at McDonald's in Times Square"

To watch on YouTube, click the image above. To watch via Vimeo, click below.

Josh Alan's first 45.

To purchase your digital copy of the original "Thanksgiving at McDonald's in Times Square" single, click here.© 1988, 2011 Josh Alan Friedman

Video by Wyatt Doyle & Josh Alan Friedman, with artwork by Drew Friedman. Visit

Josh plays "Thanksgiving" live here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why Joe Franklin Matters

The storm, the election. . . Now, let’s get back to why Joe Franklin matters. . .

In September I received a request from Joe Franklin to take down a blog that originated from this site. It contained a few parodies of Joe my brother and I, then known as The Friedman Bros., did in the 1970s. I was happy to oblige. This might constitute a breach of journalistic ethics if it involved anyone but Joe Franklin. At 86, he is Olde Times Square’s foremost senior statesman. An intimate of Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor who still walks amongst us. Like Hugh Hefner, Joe cares about his image and legacy. Even the minutiae of what appears on esoteric blogs.

Here are several reasons Joe Franklin’s legacy is so valuable:

He was New York’s—and therefore the world’s—first TV talk-show host, circa 1950. The ABC studios on West 66th Street were a former horse stable when Joe broke his new format there. Seated at a particular angle, nose-to-nose, eyeball to eyeball, at a desk, the microphone positioned just so. According to Franklin, his very first week on the air included guests John Wayne, Cary Grant and (17-year-old?) Kim Novak. There are no records to prove this or the hyperbolic lore surrounding who may or may not have appeared through the decades. But that is not the point. (Joe himself would swear Abe Lincoln was on the show.) From Joe’s humble format sprung the TV talk show. That may sound like a curse unleashed, considering the cesspool of programs that appear today. But once upon a time, the format had some dignity.

Joe Franklin invented nostalgia, but more importantly, he was the first to rescue silent films from oblivion. That is the primary reason Franklin should be honored. With the exception of Chaplin, silents—ruthlessly passĂ© after 1930—were utterly forgotten when Joe Franklin’s Memory Lane came on the scene. (It was Lillian Gish who wisely remarked that movies should have begun with talkies and evolved into silent films.) The last silents were only 25 years old at the time Franklin began rescuing old two-reelers from warehouses to broadcast on his show. This ultimately led to film restoration, preservation and pioneering academic study of early film by Kevin Brownlow. Today’s moving picture archaeology involves search and rescue of volatile nitrate film canisters to reassemble lost films. The whole silent era could have disappeared without Franklin’s intervention.

Thirdly, I might add some lore on Franklin the man. It is implied in his autobiography (Up Late with Joe Franklin, Scribner, 1995) that notches on his bedpost include Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and Veronica Lake. And that these actresses literally threw themselves at him. More likely, however, he might have banged Kate Smith. He worked for her at the time when Kate Smith was at the cutting edge of patriotism, the country was at war, Joe was young and anything seemed possible. Should we not honor Joe for those conquests alone? Sarah Silverman can only wish she had a shot with Franklin, were he not 50 years her senior.

As a reliable source of misinformation, his capacity for tall tales is legendary. Especially the Franklin telephone buttering-up process, upon which he heaps praise and promises into a high art of hyperbolic show-biz malarkey. But Joe gets a pass on this conceit.

Joe did indeed did collaborate with Marilyn herself on her first (extremely rare) autobiography. He also may have had Elvis on his show before Ed Sullivan and Milton Berle—but there is no kinescope to prove it. He booked Eddie Fisher’s first TV appearances, along with the earliest Streisand, Woody Allen and Robert Redford appearances. Yet not a moment survives on kinescope or video of Franklin’s show from the 1950s or ’60s, excepting 39 seconds of Japanese silent screen star Sessue Hayakawa on Memory Lane in 1957:

Sessue Hayakawa, hugely popular 90 years ago, in 1957 on Joe Franklin’s Memory Lane.

Thus, Joe’s YouTube series is reduced to titles like "Joe Franklin Remembers _____." Minus the kinescope or video, Joe is reduced to recalling hundreds of guests, including five U.S. presidents. He recalls a lineup of 20th century giants, some who rarely, if ever, did intimate TV interviews: Irving Berlin alongside Sophie Tucker and Ethel Merman, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Rocky Marciano, Eddie Cantor, Jimmy Durante, Jack Benny; all surviving silent screen actors, as well as bedroom conquests Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and Veronica Lake. There was no studio audience, so it was the only time you heard comedians like Milton Berle talk without playing to an audience. If the footage existed it would comprise an archive like no other at the NY Museum of Television and Radio, where Franklin should be canonized.

I hope the radio waves will be captured in interstellar space and a future civilization will behold The Joe Franklin Show. But let us honor this man now.

copyright © 2012 Josh Alan Friedman  

portrait of Joe, © 2012 George Seminara

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Josh Alan in Doc Pomus doc, WEASELS in San Diego

Doc Pomus in the studio, 1950s 
Per Josh Alan:

"I will be in attendance (and onscreen) to talk at the Austin Film Festival premiere of AKA Doc Pomus on Friday Oct. 19th (9:30 pm). The doc on Doc has been garnering emotional rave reviews."

LEFT: Peggy, Doc Pomus, girl singer, Josh; Lone Star Cafe 1982 
RIGHT: Josh, Ginger, Doc, Ratso Sloman, Peggy; Bitter End, NY 1989 

For more information on the film and screenings, check out the AFF website here.

Also this weekend:

Black Cracker Online moderator and Josh's co-editor on the upcoming Weasels Ripped My Flesh! book, Wyatt Doyle, will be appearing at the San Diego Comic Fest this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  A very limited advance edition of the Weasels anthology will be available for sale there, while they last!

Highlights of the weekend will include a Live Weasels! talk and presentation by Wyatt, Sunday at 10 am, and Weasels Ripped My Reading!, Saturday at 2:15 pm, an all-star performance of the book's toughest, sweatiest highlights, delivered from the Fest's re-creation of Twilight Zone writer George Clayton Johnson's legendary beatnik coffee house of the 1950s, CafĂ© Frankenstein.   

For more information about Comic Fest, visit

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Josh Alan on KNON and LIVE! in Dallas

Tomorrow night—Monday Sept. 3—point your ears to KNON 89.3 at 7 pm Dallas time to hear Josh Alan debut two new, upcoming blues hits: "(You Can Kiss) My Big Black Ass" and "This Radio Don't Play Nothin' But the Blues." Dig the premiere on Texas Blues Radio with JMac, KNON 89.3 (Dallas-Ft. Worth, but available by streaming here.

Then, Friday night in Dallas...

Black Cracker author Josh Alan Friedman presents a solo performance/reading and signing to celebrate the new edition of the Friedman Bros.' notorious Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead Is Purely Coincidental from Fantagraphics.

Fri. Sept. 7th, 8pm-11 tickets $10
The Hi/Lo Speakeasy at The Mason Bar
2701 Guillot St. (in new State-Thomas/Uptown district)
Dallas Texas 75204

Josh talks Any Similarity... here.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

WANTED! More Readers Like...

From the editor's desk:

Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Heavy Metal Picnic. Neil Diamond Parking Lot. Hitler's Hat. Ernest Borgnine on the Bus! And that's only a sampling.

If you're not already a fan, get thee to his website(s), his Vimeo channel and his Borgnine on the Bus YouTube channel —a world of wonderful strangeness awaits you.

And if you're lucky enough to be in Los Angeles this weekend, you can catch him in person.

Ladies and gentlemen, filmmaker Jeff Krulik does the cover.

Black Cracker is available NOW; signed copies are available here.

photo © 2012 Wyatt Doyle

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Josh Alan LIVE in Dallas, Friday, Sept. 7!

Josh Alan Friedman presents a solo performance/reading and signing to celebrate the new edition of the Friedman Bros.' notorious Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead Is Purely Coincidental from Fantagraphics.

Fri. Sept. 7th, 8pm-11 tickets $10
The Hi/Lo Speakeasy at The Mason Bar
2701 Guillot St. (in new State-Thomas/Uptown district)
Dallas Texas 75204

Josh will also debut two new upcoming blues hits: "(You Can Kiss) My Big Black Ass" and "This Radio Don't Play Nothin' But the Blues." Josh will premiere these songs Mon. Sept. 3rd, 7pm, on Texas Blues Radio with JMac, KNON 89.3 (Dallas-Ft. Worth, but available by streaming here.

Josh talks Any Similarity... here.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

"I'll See You in My Dreams"

I have a recurring dream, which I will embellish only a little: It is of an old, but not entirely abandoned, amusement park that once rivaled Coney Island—but apparently never existed. An alternate Coney Island on the other side of the borough, North Brooklyn, near the Navy Yard. They have their own trademark mascot, a competitive cousin of the Steeplechase Imp. They have their own famous hot dog joint, an alternate Nathan's. An abandoned subway El runs alongside their own famous roller coaster, both casting rusted-iron shadows. The cityscape is sepia-toned. Nothing is gentrified here whatsoever. When I awake, I feel certain this place exists.

Is this amusement park the foiled plan of some visionary—not George Tilyou or Walt Disney—but some would-be conjuror of mass entertainment whose dreams never got off the ground? Are these the ruins of what never was—as if it once had been?

I walk along the rusted perimeter of this archeological ruin. I sense that a few sparsely attended attractions still operate somewhere inside. The roller coasters, shoot-the-ducks midway games and sideshows are closed. The park had an affiliation with the image of comedian Joe E. Brown—the "Generalissimo of Joy," who was once chairman of National Smile Week. He, too, had a grotesquely overblown smile, like the Steeplechase demon. Brown’s trademark cavernous mouth is on the twin pillars of the park’s main entrance.

I can barely make out faded depictions of Little Lulu, Popeye, Olive Oyl, Betty Boop and Wimpy on fun houses. Faded ads testify there was once a spin-off here of Auster’s Egg Creams, from the Lower East Side, called Egg Cream Land. And for longshoreman or wayward dads at night, there was The Ritz Bros.' Shayna Tuchas Burlesk.

The park peaked in the 1930s, when Coney was long past its technological prime. It was slightly more modern than Coney, 1930’s state-of-the-art, yet not so futuristic as the 1939 World’s Fair. One concession’s faded logo claimed to have first introduced cotton candy, the first spinning sugar machine. There is a pre-WWII airplane ride for children. Little planes that once rose and fell have lost their original colors; the metal parts have rusted through. Yet, I wonder whether this ride still operates. There’s an abandoned electric-track spook house, with dancing Mr. Bones skeletons on the facade. One advertises a choice of three doors to enter, like the spook house in a Little Rascals short. Its entry doors that burst open are, of course, embossed with the giant mouth of Joe E. Brown.

A creaky hot dog joint around the corner still operates. I head for it. The front entrance swings open like a spring screen door. This joint once competed head-to-head with Nathan’s from the other side of Brooklyn, like the underdog Dodgers against the Yankees. They still serve seltzer bottles and egg creams. I’m one of the only customers present. There are old-timers who swear by it, over Nathan's. But how do they maintain a license to operate, much less a Board of Health rating?

There appears to have been some kind of bathing pavilion—not Brooklyn by the Sea, like Coney Island, but Brooklyn by the River. The East River. The presence of the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge looms nearby. Tires once swung over barnacled dry docks where kids could leap off and swim. Floats are now obscured in seaweed. Popeye the Sailor's tattooed anchor forearm is on the Admiral's Row pavilion. Some kind of longshoreman ethic once ruled. The skeleton of a carnival tent rusts by the pier, where you could once get an illegal tattoo.

Closer to Manhattan, right over the bridge, these were the stomping grounds of incredible hipster Al Dubin, lyricist of "42nd Street," "Lullaby of Broadway" and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." His heart belonged here, not in Coney Island, and his enormous girth was enhanced by the hotdogs and egg creams. After all, this park was just a few subway stops from Tin Pan Alley on 28th Street.

People in this part of Brooklyn today seem barely aware that it exists and are indifferent. The amusement park is just over there, always had been, no one pays any attention. Time marched on without it. But is it possible no one ever sees it, just me?

My dream also begs the question of whether New York City, not to mention Brooklyn, could have handled two great amusement parks simultaneously. Well, why not? They nearly supported three major league baseball teams for 75 years. Palisades thrived for 70 years in New Jersey. Freedomland in the Bronx only lasted four. But just how much had these two parks—Coney and The Joe E. Brown Grounds—undercut each other's business over the decades, leading to the demise of both?

In popular song, this park was associated with the ditty "I’ll See You My Dreams." Ukulele Ike performed it there. “Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland” was Coney Island’s most famous song. And by odd coincidence, 50 years later, "I’ll See You in My Dreams" became popular by another, unrelated Joe Brown, the English ukulele player who does fine throwback numbers. Always playing second fiddle, many things were nearly, but not quite the same, as Coney.

© 2012 Josh Alan Friedman

Friday, April 13, 2012

Robert Ward's RENEGADES

Renegades, by Robert Ward (Tyrus Books, 2012)

There once was a certain breed of men (and manly ones, to boot) that specialized in crafting journalistic “pieces” for magazines. Some had yearly contracts to tackle say, six assignments; others freelanced like gypsies on the road. Robert Ward was one such road writer during the last hurrah of “New Journalism,” with notepad, plane ticket and bourbon in hand. Deadlines were their own form of amphetamine.

As a teenager, Bob Ward was so innocent, he “didn’t know mere mortals could even meet Elvis.” He learned this when carousing as a teen with a seafaring vaudevillian who appeared in the 1964 Presley flick, Roustabout. The fellow was a mate of Ward’s sea-captain grandfather. Finally, granddad took Bob himself on as a “mate” one night. Cap Ward introduced his grandson to Baltimore’s waterfront bars, strip dives and Blaze Starr herself. Bob never realized his granddad even knew about such things. Ol’ Cap Ward beats young Bob to the punch, slugging out a longshoreman who insults Bob’s grandmother.

A few years later, Ward trips down the rabbit hole, escaping working-class Baltimore for anything-goes New York. New intros and postscripts to each article give Renegades an autobiographical flair.

We meet the deposed leader of South Vietnam, reduced to operating a liquor store in California. Ward reveals the “core” of painter LeRoy Neiman, the Liberace of art. The Outlaw Country movement in Texas is shown up as an impure enterprise of Capitalism. He’s there during Mark “The Bird” Fidrych’s phenomenal rookie season, wherein the pitcher comes off as baseball’s Gomer Pyle. However, among the athletes profiled, Pistol Pete Maravich and Johnny Unitas earn our highest admiration.

Shadowing Larry Flynt during Hustler’s second year, Ward found his delicate sensibilities offended. Having narrowly escaped atrophy as a young Lit professor at William Smith College, Ward deemed the upstart magazine “gross.”

“I’m here to set the record straight,” he told his subjects. None of them questioned the neutrality of such a claim. Until they saw themselves in print. Hold a mirror up to almost anyone, and they’ll want to kill you.

Ward knew exactly what he was doing on the page, and made his point without stating it pointblank. He could size up a character or scene quicker than a hundred psychiatrists. Unimpressed by mere celebrity. Confronted with pomposity or self-deception, he questioned what’s fake and celebrated what’s real. All those good things, now rare in the dying magazine market, dominated by fluff pieces that submit to publicists and advertisers. Editors left Ward alone, let him do it his waywhich is usually the only way a master can work.

© 2012 Josh Alan Friedman

Renegades by Robert Ward is available here.

Monday, March 26, 2012


"We were lucky—until the weasels..."

New Texture and manfully present

Weasels Ripped My Flesh! A shirt-ripping, gut-punching anthology of two-fisted writing, ripped from the pages of long-lost men’s adventure magazines of the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Outrageous, 100% true tales of sex, crime, combat, jungle goddesses, beatnik girls, LSD experiments, animal attacks . . . and nymphos. Always nymphos.

Following his highly regarded contributions to the justly-lauded History of Men's Magazines and It's a Man's World (both men's adventure mag bibles), Josh Alan Friedman contributes essays and rare interviews with some of the heaviest hitters from the pulp mags' glory days.

Steel your nerves for bare-knuckle stories and gutsy reminiscences by some of the toughest writers ever to punch a typewriter: Bruce Jay Friedman, Mario Puzo, Lawrence Block, Robert F. Dorr, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Walter Kaylin, Walter Wager, Jane Dolinger, Ken Krippene and more.

Weasels Ripped My Flesh! Edited by Robert Deis, with Josh Alan Friedman and Wyatt Doyle.

Coming this summer from New Texture. Man up.

For updates, watch this space—and subscribe to the MensPulpMags feed on their site, here.

Weasels Ripped My Flesh! Facebook page is here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Colored School: Josh Alan at the TED Conference

"My Black Cracker reading at the TED educational conference for teachers. Begin at 11 minutes into the feed."

Monday, March 5, 2012


From the editor's desk:

After too long out of print, the Friedman Bros. debut collection, Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Purely Coincidental, is back in print this April! This all-new edition includes new painted covers by Drew and a new introduction by Chester "Chappy" O'Daniel (elevator man, emeritus).

Pre-order your copy at HERE.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Richard Jaccoma's THE WEREWOLF'S TALE

I don’t know if he invented the genre—but Richard Jaccoma has melded vampires, werewolves and sex scenes in his fiction longer than virtually any other writer currently in vogue. This, in a volatile mix of Old Lefty politics. Lesbo vampire pirates meet commies, mummies ’n’ Nazis. The political slant reflects the leanings of Jimmy Underhill, which gives Jaccoma’s detective noir its unique flavor. The pornographic parts merely describe action that would have been omitted in Chandler or Hammett’s time. Many of Jaccoma’s stories saw light in the men’s magazine demimonde, now part of the last century. Jaccoma is, to say the least, a master pornographer.

Any rational thinking reader acquainted with his first novel would be forced to agree on one controversial matter concerning Richard Jaccoma: The Yellow Peril, published in hardcover by Putnam in 1978, contained a point-by-point blueprint for Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Indiana Jones franchise emerged during the following decade. Jaccoma took the gentleman’s path, so to speak, and decided to forego unpleasant litigation that might have resulted in a slam-dunk settlement.

He put his energy into a series of high-adventure pulp novels that are only pulp on the surface. The Werewolf’s Tale begins in New York, 1939. Poland is on the brink of falling to the Nazis, and Jimmy is drinking off his 1930s sorrows in Germantown on the upper east side of Manhattan. He barroom brawls with Nazi sympathizers from the German-American Bund. Mysterious Asian folks are “Orientals,” an incorrect term these days unless referring to rugs. Who would have known that Manhattan was awash in mysticism, the occult and cannibalism?

So will today’s youth, whose political consciousness was awakened by Occupy Wall Street, be intrigued by this 1930’s brew of Lefty politics and occultism? Would followers of Taylor Swift (“Swifties”), Katy Perry or the Twilight series get turned on by Jaccoma’s narratives of violent sex with werewolves? My guess is that The Werewolf’s Tale will indeed unlock the disturbed sexual fantasies of teenyboppers. And elevate their social consciousness. Originally published in 1988, it raises the bar a few notches to the Left of Sookie Stackhouse. And will provide young readers the thrills they’ve paid their money for. Especially when describing the alien spice of the female werewolf’s steaming breath; the sweet, pungent musk of her fur, the emerald green glow of her eyes through membranous lids. If that isn’t romantic enough, this succubus violently rapes hero Jimmy Underhill, veteran of the Spanish Civil War, fighter of fascists. Artfully plotted, and with more substance than most pulps of yore, Jaccoma wears his politics on his sleeve. And they are correct by righteous standards.

The Werewolf's Tale is now available on Kindle, HERE.

© 2012 Josh Alan Friedman