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Number 50 (Vol 2, No. 10).  This edition is for the week of March 5--11, 2001.
Snuffy Smith cartoonist, Fred Lasswell, dies at 84.
Snuffy and Ol' Bullet South Tampa resident and beloved Snuffy Smith cartoonist, Fred Lasswell, died Sunday morning of an apparent heart attack. He was 84.

I'm assuming this was in national papers, so I won't repeat his entire bio here, except for a couple essentials: he was born in Kennet, Mo. in 1916, but lived in Tampa most of his life. In 1933, Bill DeBeck, creator of "Barney Google", saw a poster by Lasswell in the Palma Ceia Golf Club, in Tampa, where DeBeck was a member. He offered Lasswell the job of assistant. Lasswell moved to New York and, when DeBeck died in 1942, took over the strip. Many "Snuffy Smith" characters are ones Fred developed himself.

Sometime around 1969, my mother heard on the radio Fred had "moved to Tampa" to "semi-retire" and was accepting art student's visits at his Westshore Blvd office/studio. (I'm not sure what mom heard, it's been reported that Lasswell lived and worked in Tampa most of his life, but whatever...) Seizing what we thought was a rare and special opportunity, mom and I scurried up to the office building where Fred's studio was. He received us graciously and I showed him my art work. He was a very funny man and had both of us in stitches. He liked my artwork and said I had promise, but seemed intent on having us explore the Famous Artists School mail-order courses. Somewhat disappointingly, I later discovered Fred's zeal was due to the commission he received from every student signed up. I tried not to hold that against him (sigh...hey, the American way, right?). I did enroll in that ridiculously over-priced "art course", but frankly, I don't regret it. It was an eye-opener. The course I wanted on "cartooning" was mysteriously supplanted by one on "fine art"---presumably because it was a harder sale, so paid more commission. I learned I wasn't fine art material. We live and learn, eh? Much later, Fred marketed his own art course for children, some of which can be experienced at Uncle Fred.com.

Among Fred's survivors are his wife, Shirley, his three sons, David, Danny and Tim, plus two grandchildren. I knew Danny Lasswell personally for many years, as we would cross each other in similar jobs. Also a long-time South Tampa resident, Danny has the same great sense of humor as the old man, but concentrated on writing and music. Unfortunately, I lost touch with Danny during his last move some time ago. I'd like to see him again to offer my condolences.

Fred's affinity for the residents of "Hootin' Holler, somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains" has always escaped me but he seemed to truly identify with his hillbilly characters. When he'd read the strip out loud, he'd do the voices. Part artist, part entertainer/performer, part huckster, Fred Lasswell impacted the comic art world as few before him. With Charles Schulz gone and now Fred Lasswell, we are quickly running dry of artists born in the Depression era who contributed such originality and personality into Americana.

X-Watch!: THE LONE GUNMEN. Premiere on Fox. 3-4-01.
   Chris Carter, producer of "The X-Files", has been trying to capture "lightning-in-a-bottle-for-a-second-time" for years now. "Millenium" didn't make it. "Harsh Realm" was too harsh for most tastes, evidently. Hoping third time's the charm, Carter has repackaged characters that originated on his flagship "X-Files" series. Known as "The Lone Gunmen", they would appear as Fox Mulder's counter-culture patriot "buddies" when he needed computer-hacker experts to divine some government secret source through computer bases unavailable to him. They had a self-confidence and a boderline arrogance where you knew no matter how goofy or unlikable they may have been, they'd get the job done.
    The Lone Gunmen are: John Byers (Bruce Harwood), the dapper-dresser of the group and the chief conspiracy theorist, born November 22, 1963. Melvin Frohike--pronounced "Froh-hickey"--(Tom Braidwood), the older man and surveillance expert. Always had a hard-on for Agent Dana Scully (who didn't). And finally, Ringo Langley (Dean Haglund) sporting the longest hair is the group's hippie, chief paranoiac, and truest computer-whiz of the bunch. But don't make any mistake: these guys lives revolve around their computers.
   I confess I was distracted throughout the series premiere with family problems, but I saw a good 40 minutes pretty completely. I don't like the direction Carter is going with this. He is trying to portray them half seriously, half clownishly. He admits this is his approach. OK, they were always funnily nerdish on The X-Files, but having them be a "Three Stooges of computer-dom" sounds good on paper only if you were never familiar with the history of the X-Files. The writing and direction on this first episode seemed strangely unhip and almost amateur or something. The plot revolving around Byers' father having deeper gov't connections than he thought and seemingly murdered over his knowledge of terrorist acts carried out by our gov't was not handled as well as it could have been, considering the dire subject.
   The X-Files is on a three-week sabbatical to make room for three episodes of The Lone Gunmen to air in its place and hopefully into our fan hearts. The conclusion of the "Where's Mulder" episode of the X-Files 2-parter resumes following. Hopefully, it'll be worth the wait. And maybe, by then, The Lone Gunmen may be more established.

Nolan-the-webmaster-dept:  Last week, I was honored to be asked to create the new banner graphic for Movie Review Central, the website owned and operated by our own teen-wonder of movie reviewing, Brandon Herring. I did, Brandon liked it, and it's on there now!  MCR has been on-and-off the web several times over the last year's time, and included one brief name change to "Horror Review Central", managed by a friend of Brandon's. The Movie Review Central main link has been on my main homepage for many months (deactivated briefly while Brandon "re-modeled", but now is back in full force). If you haven't visited this site yet, please do so ASAP. It is updated daily/weekly. I am truly grateful Brandon sends me his latest reviews for inclusion in Pop Culture Review.
Terence/Viddywell UPDATE: The pictures from The World of Nolan, filmmaker special, delayed from last week are finally up on the Viddywell site.

The Mexican      Movie review by Brandon Herring
* * * out of * * * *
Starring: Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, James Gandolfini, David Krumholtz, Luis Felipe Tovar.
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Running Time: 123 minutes
Rated: R--violence and strong language.

When I first heard of the pairing of mega-stars Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, I thought wow...that really is a terrible decision. Then the trailer came on, and I was shocked, the film actually looked good! So now that I've watched it what can I say? Great entertainment, memorable characters, very funny, main flaw: 20 minutes overlong.

Jerry Walbach (Brad Pitt) has a problem, he is told to go to Mexico to get a prized antique gun known as The Mexican for a dirty crimelord he once worked for--if he wants to live. His beautiful-if-sometimes-bitchy girlfriend Samantha Barzel (Julia Roberts) has just broken up with him, and is on her way to Vegas. Jerry, however, doesn't have it so good. In Mexico, he finds the kid who has The Mexican gun; but once the kid is shot accidentally in the head, Jerry is a target, with many, many people knowing what he has. Meanwhile in Las Vegas, Samantha isn't having the best time as well. She's slightly depressed, and after she relieves herself in the bathroom, she is greeted by a bad guy who is then greeted by another man. After this man shoots him several times, he takes Samantha and drives off with her in her car.

Leroy (James Gandolfini off "The Sopranos" fame) is the kidnapper, and has taken Samantha due to her relationship (she once) had with her (ex-) boyfriend, Jerry. He wants to know where Jerry is, and where that gun is as well. Back in Mexico, Jerry's car is stolen as well as the gun that was inside the glove box. Not having the best of luck, he calls up his friend (J.K. Simmons) to come down and give him a hand. As Jerry and Samantha are both having their problems, we get to see how they resolve them, and in the end who really gets The Mexican.

Gore Verbinski, director of the the 1997 hit "Mouse Hunt", which was a somewhat clever and funny film, has a lot of talent running around in this film. Brad Pitt (whose best performance to me is still 1999's "Fight Club") is set in goofy mode, and is very funny and engaging. Along with him is the always great Julia Roberts--who looks different with her short, shagged hair--and they make a great pair. The best pairing in the film, however, is Julia and Tony Soprano himself, James Gandolfini. Even as a bad guy, Leroy is a sweet and funny character. This movie, that at first seems to be a pairing of Julia and James, takes a quick 180, and throughout an hour and a half, they aren't even on screen together! The cleverly-written script by J.H. Wyman is foul-mouthed, fast and furious. What surprised me was the comedy in the film. I knew it'd be funny, but there were times when I was laughing pretty hard! I had just one major problem with "The Mexican" and that is the overlong 2 hour 3 minute running time. About 110 minutes into the film, I got squirmy in my chair.

So far in 2001, it's been a good year and "The Mexican" I can add to that. It's a fun, rollicking, clever ride that is great from start to finish. For all those fans of Julia and Brad, I definitely recommend this, and hope they do more movies together.
Reviewed by Brandon Herring 3-1-01.©2001

Letters to the Editor

Mark Drinnenberg
Dear Nolan:
Say it aint so, No'. If I hadn't read it on your site, I might never have known that the Britton Cinema had closed down. (Last issue's "announcements", gentle readers.---Nolan) This, of course, proves the cutting-edge nature of Nolan's Pop Culture Review. (Thanks, Mark! I'm speechless...---N) But I must say that I am extremely sad about this turn of events. Do you know how many times I walked, rode my bike, drove my car, and even took a bus to Britton Cinema? (Like we all did, oh yes.---N)

All those years of working the night shift and catching the $1.50 matinees nearly every day! In fact, I think I remember when they were $.75 matinees.

I saw "Fiddler on the Roof" there, for crying out loud. "101 Dalmations". "Jungle Book". "West Side Story". "Time After Time". "Excalibur". "Xanadu" and "Can't Stop the Music" (dare I admit it?) I saw Bill Murray in "Meatballs" at the Britton Cinema. I even saw some stupid horror flick about a ship that was alive. They kept cutting to boiler-room scenes with supposedly frightening music (Matt and/or Mike probably know the title). (Hmmm...got me. Mike? Matt? Any clue?---N) It was a very bad movie in a very great theatre.

I saw C.H.O.M.P.S. there (like anybody remembers that one). That, alone, proves that I was an avid patron. (That's for sure. At first, I thought I remembered it as a James Hampton vehicle from 1976, but now I think that was HAWMPS.---N) And I was a respectful patron, as well. I always obeyed the cartoon at the beginning of each showing and deposited my cups and popcorn boxes in the receptacles at the exits. The Britton was too special to deface with my litter.

All those years and all those movies. All those times of exiting the theatre and waving at Nolan B. Canova as I passed the newsstand where he was dutifully serving the reading public. (Or dutifully reading while ignoring the public, one of the two!---N) And now it's gone. (Both gone, yes...N) Do me a favor, Nolan. If the Steak 'N' Shake across from Plant High School has closed down, please keep it to yourself. I couldn't possibly take two such blows to my nostalgic senses.
Mark Drinnenberg
Calvary Fellowship of McHenry
Chicago, Illinois
   Not Steak 'N' Shake, no, but Farners Shoes of South Dale Mabry---and once a part of Britton Plaza in the '60s, I believe---has closed after 69 years of continuous operation by the same family! (The Edelsteins bought the Zack Street store from Mel Farners is 1932!)
   Mark, my friend, thanks so much for writing. There's a lot of Tampa boy still left in you---and that's a great thing!---Nolan.

Mike's Rant   by Michael A. Smith.
Hello gang! Some news and notes plus I remember the Britton Cinema. Shall we begin?

Possibly the tackiest song I've heard in a long time is the current "tribute" song to the late, great Dale Earnhardt. Entitled "Matthew, Mark, Luke and Earnhardt", it attempts to link NASCAR racer Earnhardt with the three members of the Bible. This makes such crap as "Blindman in the Bleachers" look like Grammy material.

Suzanne Vega? ("My name is Luca....I live on the second floor....I live upstairs from you....yes, I think you've seen me before." No, seriously, I don't know! Readers?---N)

Caught the new "Planet of the Apes" trailer, and I'm VERY happy to say it looks incredible! (Agreed---N) Wish I could say the same for "Josie and the Pussycats." It looks like a "VH1, Behind the Scenes" episode, and there is no sign of the cool cartoon theme song anywhere to be heard. Rumors are that the studio can't make a deal for the rights. (Can't make a deal for the rights??? Who the hell has to gain by DENYING them the rights?---N)

This week CBS and USA network paid $18 million for the broadcast rights to "Hannibal." While USA will show the theatrical film, CBS has reached a deal with director Ridley Scott to include over an hour of unused footage so that it can be shown as a two-part mini-series. The first airing is schedule for November 2003. I can't imagine the eventual DVD not including the above-mentioned footage, so I can't see the wisdom in the mini-series idea.

I was saddened to read Nolan's piece on the closing of the Britton Cinema in Tampa. It was there I started my "show business" career. The first movie I saw in Tampa was at the Britton. It was entitled "The Second Gun" and was a conspiracy-theory film on the assassination of Robert Kennedy. At that time I was (and still am) a conspiracy buff on both Kennedy murders. (Really? We'll have to do an issue sometime...say around the 22nd of November!---N)
    In early 1977, a friend of my step-mother's told me her son worked there and that they needed help. I applied and was hired. On Friday, February 25, 1977 the movie "Slap Shot" and I both started at the Britton. My memories of the Britton are extensive. Those of you who may remember it as a three-screen complex will remember the HUGE center auditorium with a smaller theatre on either side. The cool part was that in the upstairs part of the theatre, there was a "secret" door that went from one auditorium to the other. It was pretty fun to sneak down behind people who were unaware of the door. (Ha ha! You'll have to write an exposé on what you saw!---N)
    I can remember taking my break sitting INSIDE the Sensurround speakers used during the showing of "Rollercoaster." (You're an animal...N) Though I only worked at the Britton for two months (I jumped across the parking lot to work at Twin Bays 4 Theatres for an extra 25 cents an hour), (Twin Bays 4...also gone---N) I saw many a fine film there. My happiest memory is waiting in line with Matt, Scott Gilbert and Rick Sousa on Friday, June 16th 1978 and purchasing the first ticket to "Jaws 2". Incidentally, Matt and I saw ALL five shows that day! The last movie I saw at the Britton was "Star Trek III," which opened while I was home on vacation. Ironically, for me the Britton has come full circle, as my current employer, Regal Cinemas, was the last owner of the complex. I hope there is still life left in the old girl. If not, she has served her public well and deserves her rest.

Well, that's it for this week. Have a good one!

Dan Pestana
First-time contributor Dan is an associate of mine from The Tampa Bay Community Network!---Nolan
Hey Nolan,
(Re: the "Moon Landing hoax issue" of PCR, issue #48) Did you address the claim that there is supposedly too much radiation outside our atmosphere to withstand without huge, thick walls of lead, let alone a small flimsy metal? And, what about the supposed fact that we still do not have the technology to adequately heat a spacesuit in such low temperatures?

Thanks for reading the Moon issue! To address your questions:
   The Van Allen radiation belts are always a real concern in space travel, BUT I believe their harmful effects are much more concentrated at the poles. By the time the astronauts reached the belts' position in deeper space, not only were they in a weaker field, but they were traveling at around 25,000 mph and made it thru the radiation in a very short time. IF they had "stalled" or something, then the rad count would have been cumulative enough to do damage, but they weren't in one spot long enough. HOWEVER, there WAS a massive solar flare that erupted about the time they reached the belts. This turned out to be a much greater concern. Altho, it increased the chances of radiation trouble, as it turned out, the astronauts' were protected enough in the capsule, thin metal shielding notwithstanding, due mostly to their speed, position in the belts, and duration of exposure.
   About heating the suits. I never studied that, but I thought I remembered there was a "vacuum layer"--thermos style--built into the suits to insulate them from temperature extremes. Along with whatever state-of-the-art cooling/heating systems they had already built in, the vacuum layer would retard any sudden change. That's what I believe, anyway.
Thanks for writing,

And speaking of the Moon issue....
UPDATE: My colleague at public access TV, Malcolm Hathorne, took offense at my alluding to the National Enquirer as a purveyor of crap, as I used that tabloid's name as a synonymn for same in my moon hoax rebuttal article (again, issue 48). After last week's "UFOs and Metaphysics" broadcast, Malcolm and I were talking in the parking lot and he argued vigorously about The National Enquirer's reputation. According to Malcolm, they have been first to break stories on many important issues that other papers were afraid to touch. Also he dared me to find the first article that I thought was a lie! When I brought up the "Lost Bat-Boy found in Argentina Cave" argument, not to mention several celebrity lawsuits, he said the Bat-Boy was The Weekly World News doing a bad impression of The Enquirer, not the Enquirer itself. And celebrities are trying to save face with their lawsuits, but admittedly The Enquirer does showcase Hollywood sensationalism. While I still don't agree with Mal's take on the Enquirer's unshakable "integrity", I did promise I'd publish his spoken rebuttal in this issue of The Review. He said when he had time, he'd write a longer piece.---Nolan

"Mike's Rant" is ©2001 by Michael A. Smith.
The movie review of The Mexican is ©2001 by Brandon Herring
I'd like to thank Mark Drinnenberg for his second great letter to this 'zine!
Thanks also to Dan Pestana for writing and challenging me on the Moon hoax issue!
All contents this page are ©2001 Nolan B. Canova

Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of  Nolan B. Canova, ©2001