Memes of Love and Hate

Before I get to that, though, I need to direct you to this post of June 23, 2004, when Fred Hembeck noted the 25th wedding anniversary of Lynn Moss and himself. That was five years ago, which would make today…their 30TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY! Big congrats to you both. Oh, and people, you might want to check out a more recent Fred post, June 21, 2009, where daughter Julie cracks wise.

Oh, and since we’re speaking about Fred, you can now buy Hembeck-designed T-shirts from WORLD OF STRANGE Fantastic Apparel. You can’t buy them from Fred directly , but his June 3 post explains how it all came about.
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Got this from the Frog again; BTW, there’s the back of lovely naked female person in the header of his blog, so depending on where you live or work, that may be an issue. What I guess I’m having trouble with in the meme is the hate side. It’s not that I don’t dislike stuff; it’s that if I dislike it, I tend to ignore it and subsequently forget who or what it was.

1. Most hated food: Brussels sprouts; Sir Frog had a vivid description.
2. Most hated person: Well, I forgave G W Bush, so I’ll say Dick Cheney.
3. Most hated job: Working at Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield as a customer service rep. We were given all the tools to fail. I note that of the 16 people in my training class, at least 12 had left the company before I did 13 months later.
4. Most hated city: that would be Charlotte, NC circa 1977; my father described it as a big country town. But I don’t hate it now, and can think of no substitutes.
5. Most hated band: can’t think of one.
6. Most hated web site: ditto. What I do hate are websites that are perfectly functional; then they do a redesign so I can’t find anything.
7. Most hated TV program: is that show with the Sweet 16 excesses still on? Hated it, just hated it.
8. Most hated British politician: Tony Blair, maybe because I actually had high hopes for him before he became a W toady.
9. Most hated artist: don’t know.
10. Most hated book: Don’t know. That said, the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament is often troubling. Oh, and related, I JUST discovered Mr. Frog’s The Bible Summarized By A Smartass from a couple years ago. Example from Genesis 22: “Abraham walks up the mountain and knifes his kid. Except that God jumps out of the bushes at the last second, probably laughing and pointing. ‘Oh, dude, you were totally going to do it! You were! You should see your face, man! You’ve just been Punk’d!'”
11. Most hated shop: Wal-Mart. Beyond the politics of the place, I had a really lousy experience there when I first shopped there in 1994, and haven’t been back since except with someone else.
12. Most hated organization: Ku Klux Klan, which is still out there, trust me.
13. Most hated historical event: Dred Scott decision, US Supreme Court, 1857.
14. Most hated sport: NASCAR, I suppose. I tried watching it, and unless there’s, Allah forbid, an accident, it’s pretty boring.
15. Most hated piece of technology: The cell phone. The expectation that one can be accessed 24/7. The fact that people drive poorly when talking on them, even the hands-free ones. The fact that I hear too much of other people’s lives when they use them.
16. Most hated annual event: Cinco de Mayo. Pointless drinking.
17. Most hated daily task: Flossing. I swear the gaps in my teeth on the right side of my mouth are far smaller than on the left side, and it’s a PITA.
18. Most hated comedian: never got the Three Stooges.

And now the love.

1. Most loved food: spinach lasagna.
2. Most loved person: The wife or the daughter.
3. Most loved job: working at FantaCo from 1981-1986; but I was there from 1980-1988. So overall, I’ll say being a librarian at the NYS Small Business Development Center.
4. Most loved city: Montreal. U.S. city: San Francisco.
5. Most loved band: The Beatles.
6. Most loved web site: I don’t know; maybe Evanier’s.
7. Most loved TV program: Current: Scrubs. Ever? The Dick van Dyke Show. HOF: JEOPARDY! Oh, and my wife is watching 30 Rock faster than I am. BTW, I just came across a piece on how 30 Rock is a rip off of the Muppet Show
8. Most loved movie: Annie Hall. It’s been a linchpin.
9. Most loved artist: Auguste Rodin. First time I actually saw a Rodin sculpture in person, rather than in photos – probably in Boston – it was heaven.
10. Most loved book: Top Pop Albums by Joel Whitburn. Oh, something with a narrative? Henri J. M. Nouwen’s Here and Now: Living in the Spirit.
11. Most loved shop: Before I worked there, FantaCo.
12. Most loved organization: American Red Cross.
13. Most loved historical event: the resignation of Richard Nixon.
14. Most loved sport: baseball.
15. Most loved piece of technology: DVR
16. Most loved annual event: my birthday. I take it off from work.
17. Most loved daily task: racquetball.
18. Most loved comedian: Bill Cosby in the 1960s. Have five of his albums that I haven’t played in years, but there are whole bits I can still hear and recite from memory.

ROG

Julie Hembeck Turns 18

One of the great pleasures I’ve had as a result of reigniting my friendship with Fred Hembeck and his wife Lynn Moss was getting to know their daughter Julie. From an awkward 15-year-old teenager to a beautiful 18-year-old young lady, she has blossomed in her confidence as well as her artistic eye. She will be going to college next month in New York State, but about four hours from home, compared with a couple colleges she looked at right in the Mid-Hudson that were only about an hour’s drive. So Fred and Lynn have to cope with being empty-nesters.

In fact, Leonard Bernstein, who would have been 90 today, discusses and plays the Ode for Joy, just for Julie:

And speaking of the Hembecks, Carol, Lydia and I made our annual trek to their chateau earlier this month. As usual, Fred and I blathered about what we’ve later described as unincapsulable. I know we talked about FantaCo, Regis Philbin, and Fred’s new book. But the conversation tended to flit from subject to subject.

He, our wives and I also had a philosophical conversation about blogging. My wife chastised me for me saying that she should look at my blog, rather than me having to explain what I had written. I noted that it isn’t just the information in the blog that I was trying to convey but the style and manner in which I said it. So to give a Cliff’s Notes version of it wouldn’t do it justice.

Fred ragged on me when he discovered that I had watched on the Internet the last 10 minutes of “There Shall Be Blood.” About every 10 minutes he would find some parallel slapdown to give me, ending with “Oh I suppose you listened to/read/watched/ saw the last 10 minutes of THAT,” no matter what it was. He even got my beloved wife to join in the fun. I had a good time anyway, with Lynn’s vegetarian dinner a highlight of the day.
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Another satisfied Fred Hembeck customer.

Hembeck is 55

Fred turns 55 today, that wonderful time of the year when he’s older than I for about five weeks. The interview I did with him, which I posted a few days ago was only the first half. Unfortunately, technological difficulties precluded getting the second part. But since I still have the questions written, I’m going to piece this together based entirely on my recollection of a conversation ten days ago, and hope for the best.

I asked him about his comic influences: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the original team on Spider-Man; his recently expressed love of Lee/Kirby circa 1964; how he came to DCs first, and he told some wonderful tales, none of which I can summarize properly. Since he’s not reading new comics heavily, he doesn’t have strong opinions about the Brand New Day reboot of Spider-Man, with Peter as a single guy, Harry is back, etc., although, for most of Fred’s reading of the character, Peter IS single, so it doesn’t bother him much.

Fred is indeed a member of the Bing Crosby fan club. “Probably among the youngest members when you joined,” I opined. Apparently his wife Lynn had said something similar. He first noted Der Bingle in those Hope/Crosby Road movies, and he thinks Hope is underrated as a singer, but that Crosby’s voice he really appreciated. I noted that he turned me on to an album that Bing did with the Andrews Sisters.

I asked, “You seem to have more than a passing interest in Soupy Sales. You even have an album of him singing pop songs. One is forced to ask the question why?” He laughed, noting that his love of Soupy came from watching him on NYC TV growing up.

He claims to be less obsessed with Jerry Lewis, although he still watching the Labor Day weekend telethons and will catch him in whatever dramatic roles he takes. (I recall a Law & Order franchise show that Fred had mentioned in a column.)

A couple years back, I gave Fred some slight grief over his youthful affection for Al Jolson. He noted that, at the time, pre-Beatles, he hated all things rock and roll, and that he was fascinated by just how huge Jolson was, to have two movies of his life story, one played by Jolson himself and one by Larry Parks. (Sidebar: there was a video clue of Parks mimicking someone, not in blackface, in a video clue on the second day I was on JEOPARDY; I got that it was Jolson.) No, Fred has not seen the recent movie The Savages, where Jolson figures into the storyline.

I asked what old movies did he grow up watching that he thought most affected his sensibilities now. He demurred, saying that it was more old television that helped turn him into the man he is. He specifically mentioned Sgt. Bilko, and I almost asked him about Allan Melvin, who had died, but that Fred had not yet written about; he has subsequently. We talked about our shared affection for the Dick van Dyke Show, of which he’s watched all five seasons on DVD AND has been reading a book about it. He needs to blog on how well it’s held up. He professes that Car 54 Where Are You was a much better show than The Munsters, though they shared actor Al (Grandpa) Lewis.

His affection for Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys is legendary. I made him record the Kennedy Center Honors segment on Brian. He’s glad, because he was touched, especially by Lyle Lovett’s singing, surprising to him because he’s not such a Lyle fan, though he knows I am. He was less impressed with Hootie and the Blowfish, who he though had broken up anyway. Always interesting to see Brian looking uncomfortable, we agreed.

I asked him what was about the Beach Boys and Brian’s solo work that he finds so appealing. He wished he were more versed in music terminology so that he could answer that better.

I noted that we’re both Beatles’ fans, but he leans towards Paul, Brian Wilson’s near twin, while I tended toward John. Fred clarified that, up to Rubber Soul or so, it was about even, and perhaps he was leaning a little towards John, before Paul took over. He noted John’s near-absence on Revolver, which, of course, would have been the American version that Capitol Records had butchered. Yes, he was you watching Sullivan on February of 1964, and that was a transformative time in his life. He has seen both Paul and Ringo live.

He’s gone through phases of music, which has involved everyone from Lesley Gore to Michael Jackson to Nellie McKay.

Fred has gotten over last season’s colossal collapse by the New York Mets.

I went on to some personal stuff. He was born an only child of parents who were a bit older than his friends’ parents. His father was 50, his mother 39. I noted that they were YOUNGER than I was when Carol and I had our daughter Lydia. He grew up on Long Island, in Yaphank, but went to college in Buffalo, where he met Lynn Moss. He spent a time in the Kingston/Woodstock area. Then he came to the Capital District when Lynn went to RPI. I had thought that was when he started hanging out with the FantaCo folks, even me. In fact, he had met Mitch Cohn in Kingston. He recalled that he had only known Mitch for a couple weeks before Fred and Lynn got married, so he didn’t invite Mitch to the ceremony. They did invite people they soon lost track of, but Mitch was someone Fred especially would know for several years thereafter.

When Fred and Lynn moved downstate, I lost track of them. Somehow, probably through Rocco Nigro, I did know that they had a baby girl, Julie, who’s now 17, and getting ready for college. She has her first serious boyfriend, and I wondered if it messed with that strong father-daughter bond I’ve seen them have. He explained that he likes Julie’s boyfriend quite a bit.

I asked about some friendships he developed in the comics field. I think I heard from Rocco that Fred had turned Terry Austin from a Luddite to a technological wizard. Fred noted several names, including Joe Staton, Joe Sinnott and Professor Herb Trimpe, but there may have been others.

One day in October 2004, I ran into Rocco, and he said to me, “Have you seen Fred’s website?” Of course, I hadn’t. Hembeck, of Germain origin, is an unusual enough name that when he registered Hembeck.com, it was available. I asked him, “What was the goal when you started the site and how has that evolved?” Don’t recall the answer to the latter part, but as to the former, he wanted to be all things to all comics and comics-related people, which I sensed almost immediately when I saw his list of links. When I discovered Hembeck.com, I e-mailed Fred and he e-mailed me back. And I got a little obsessed with his site, as I sent Fred a SERIES of e-mails noting broken links on his prodigious links page. And, we recalled, I gave Fred a couple of blog ideas, one on Herb Alpert’s 70th birthday and another about those variation on album covers site.

“Ultimately, I thought I had enough ideas that I thought I could have my own blog. So, it’s YOUR FAULT, Fred Hembeck, for getting me to blog, curse you!” He just laughed.

Fred has a MySpace page where he actually get comments for some of the stuff he republishes from Hembeck.com. He also has The Fred Hembeck Show, which started on IGN and is now on Quick Stop Entertainment. Ken Plume brought Fred to IGN, so when Ken left, and Peter Sanderson as well, Fred followed.

That column was interrupted by the book, but now he’s back at it. It used to be a weekly, but now he’s re-examining what he should be doing there that he isn’t doing at his home site. So recently, he’s been doing strips that, one day, can be gathered for a collection.

My family’s been to the Hembeck palatial estate three years running now. I think the first year, Fred and I unintentionally seemed to be speaking in code and said, “Oh, yeah, I wrote about it on my blog” about a dozen times. Drove my wife crazy. I noted that Fred’s wife is more likely to read my blog than my wife is, and that I’ve learned to accept that.

So, that, in peculiar summary form, was the second part of the interview. Happy birthday, old man. Let me know what double nickel is like.

[PHOTOS: Various combinations of Lydia, Carol (in the red) and me visiting Fred, Lynn (in the white) and Julie (in the blue), August 2007, all taken by me, except the one I’m in, taken by Julie. Discovered perhaps a week ago.]

What Hast Moss Wrought

Lynn Moss, the wife of Fred Hembeck, has posted pictures of the second FantaCon back in 1980, before she WAS the wife of Fred Hembeck, if I’m remembering correctly. (EDIT: I wasn’t remembering correctly: they were married the year before.) The convention was put on by FantaCo Enterprises, the comic book store I worked at from 1980 to 1988. The pictures feature Fred, Lynn, Bill Anderson, Joe Staton, Wendy and Richard Pini, Dave Simons, and John Caldwell, plus FantaCo artist/front man Raoul Vezina, FantaCo employee Mitch Cohn and FantaCo owner Tom Skulan. The pictures also feature the “art jam” drawing done by Fred, Raoul, Wendy Pini, Berni Wrightson, Jeff Jones, Simons, Caldwell, and Staton, a drawing Fred described on November 28, 2003.

BTW, 21 Central Avenue, Albany, which was FantaCo’s location for its 20 years, has been several things in the years since it closed in 1998. Currently it’s a bazzar (their spelling), a convenience store that sells halal meats and other items.
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R: You really ought to plug Fred’s upcoming book again.
R: Well, I have all of those FantaCo publications in the Smilin’ Ed and Hembeck series. In fact, just came across them in the attic this weekend.
R: Yeah, but there’s over 600 MORE pages, some of which you’ve never seen.
R: Really?
R: Yeah, and all for about $25.
R: WOW! But I need a new angle.
R: How’s that?
R: I need a new way to plug the book again.
R: How about the cover, with the color scheme they chose NOT to use?

R: That’d work.
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A bunch of Jack Kirby stories that have allegedly never been reprinted. (Thanks, Dan.)
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Fred and Rose talk about commerce, of a sort.

ROG

Interview by Dymowski


Gordon writes: As promised, here are my five interview questions for your blog.

1) You’ve discussed Rod Serling multiple times on your blog. My question – what are your favorite Serling-written pieces? (You can pull from anywhere – the Playhouse 90 stuff, Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, et al)

There were some pre-Twilight Zone pieces, and maybe a Night Gallery or two, but I think I’ll stick with Twilight Zone, because there were so many:
“Time Enough at Last” with Burgess Meredith as a man after a nuclear war with time enough to read (finally!), but then who breaks his glasses.
“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” with Claude Akins and Jack Weston. The power goes out. Is it the aliens? It turns out the monsters are ourselves. For some reason, in some ways, reminds me of an old EC comics story about the guy who is not saluting the flag, so the crowd beats him to death, figuring he’s a Commie, when, in fact, he lost his sight fighting in the war on our side.
“It’s a Good Life” with Billy Mumy as a very scary, and powerful, kid.
“A Game of Pool” with Jack Klugman, playing the game of, and for, his life.
“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” with William Shatner. Is there something on the wing of the airplane, or is he crazy? This segment also appears in the Twilight Zone movie, perhaps to lesser effect.
I’m sure there are others: “The Dummy”, “To Serve Man”. There’s one, Little Girl Lost, with a kid going under the bed and ending up in another dimension, that TERRIFIED me in the day. I must also mention “Walking Distance”, that DOES have a carousel that reminds me of Rec Park in Binghamton. There was a segment, Nightmare as a Child, that was also in the Twilight Zone movie; I laughed out loud when I saw it at movie’s world premiere in Binghamton, because it namechecked Helen Foley, his favorite teacher and one of mine, who was in the audience at the time.
BTW, Gordon sent me this link to a bunch of “The Twilight Zone” TV Bumpers; here’s a definition of a bumper. Lots of them are for cigarette ads, especially early on; tobacco killed Rod Serling far too young. Oh, the picture above was purloined from here; when IS that museum going to open?

2) As a relatively new father, what aspect of parenting – or your daughter’s future – are you a little concerned about? Any adjustments that you think you will have to make?

There is always a balancing act between letting her do as much as she wants and making sure she doesn’t get hurt or frustrated or spoiled. She tends to be wary of strangers, which has its good and not-so-good elements. The world can be scary, and I want her to be cautious without being paranoid. It’s a fine line, that.

3) Does your local public library have a summer reading program? And if so, do you participate?

Yes, and as a matter of fact, as a member of the Friends of the Albany Public Library has authorized money to subsidize the program. Do I participate myself? No, but I’m sure we will in the future.

4) What strange, hidden secret of Fred Hembeck do you think the comics-reading public should know?

Interesting. I saw Fred, his wife Lynn, and daughter Julie just yesterday. He is a piler. He has piles of stuff. Reference materials for his blog here, reference materials for his cover redoes there. His Superman DVDs under those for Gilmore Girls. It’s not messy, exactly; it’s rather organized chaos.

5) What is your all-time favorite book?

I once said the World Almanac, and it’s probably true, or maybe one of those Billboard singles or album books. But if you’re talking about books with actual paragraphs, O Albany! by William Kennedy. I know this is sacrilege, but I’ve never gotten through any of Bill Kennedy’s Albany-based fiction, and I’ve tried. But I enjoyed his non-fiction piece. Favorite fiction, and I read very little these days: A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

ROG