A Frankenstein by Any Other Name: The Boris Karloff Blogathon

Karloff as Frankenstein

frankblogThough the neck-bolts persisted like a pair of parens framing Boris Karloff’s 38-year career following his portrayal of the Frankenstein monster in 1931, the actor once beamed “The monster was the best friend I ever had.” Such is a testament to good casting, better luck and why the role remains indelibly Karloff’s though he only portrayed the human-patchwork a mere three times.

Raised as “William Pratt” (there are dozens of apocryphal stories detailing the origin of the actor’s chosen pseudonym) and sometimes billed as “Karloff the Uncanny,” Karloff’s uncanniness often lay not with his roles but with the roll calls within his name appeared. Consider the unholy trinity cited below by writer Holland Cotter in a recent New York Times piece about Mad Magazine illustrator Basil Wolverton:

“Cartoonist Al Capp introduced a character named Lena the Hyena, ‘the ugliest girl in Lowr Slobbovia’ to his ‘Li’l Abner’ strip. Her face, however, was not seen… Naturally, the public clamored to see her.’ In response Capp issued an open invitation for people to send versions of what they imagined her to look like, with the best entry to be chosen by a double-take triumvirate of celebrity judges: Frank Sinatra, Boris Karloff and Salvador Dali.”

Wolverton won the contest and Karloff et al took the prize for “most surreal celebrity meeting,” bested, perhaps, only by Nixon and Elvis? photo-op at the Oval Office

bkarloffstarOf course, Karloff leant his marquee name to scads of projects and promotions, including such brazen efforts as Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff and a comic, Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery, in which an illustrated Karloff introduced every issue through the 70s, though he had died in 1969. However, such namedropping certainly helped cement Karloff’s career as a bona fide Hollywood celeb — literally — the man has no fewer than two stars molded into the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Here, again, Karloff finds himself in strange company — the star for his film work (at the GPS coordinates 34.102776, -118.326837) finds him sandwiched between those of country music maven Dale Evans and lauded Polish pianist Arthur Rubinstein, which suggests that stars aren’t placed in constellations that denote musical ability (this duet of “We’re Horrible Men” sung by Karloff and frenemy Bela Legosi makes this particularly evident).

Interestingly, many assume Karloff’s vocal performance as the title character and narrator in the animated classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” included singing the popular tune “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” It didn’t — the ditty was performed by Thurl “They’re Grrreat!” Ravenscroft, better known as Tony The Tiger for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes.

Karloff’s TV star (34.101449, -118.335588) finds him between comedian Drew Carey and Hans Confried, a television, radio and voice actor, who, incidentally, also loaned his pipes to the Grinch though this time in “Dr. Seuss‘ Halloween is Grinch Night,” which aired about a decade after Karloff’s Grinch in 1977 (Karloff had died, eight years prior).

Also sharing grinchly billings with Karloff are, of course, Jim Carrey who also has two stars (one on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the other on the Canadian Walk of Fame, for what it’s worth) and Mason Adams, who played the Grinch in The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat (a mashup title worthy of Abbott and Costello) who has no stars. None. Jim, you could at least give him your Canadian star.

As with his Frankenstein monster, Karloff’s portrayal of the Grinch remains definitive (apparently, it’s easy being green), despite the roster of those that have also pinned their names to the part. This observation, however, might be contrary to the actor’s own assessment of his career: “You could heave a brick out of the window and hit ten actors who could play my parts. I just happened to be on the right corner at the right time.” Karloff’s timing, I submit, is uncanny.

More about the Boris Karloff Blogathon

And here’s Karloff’s guacomole recipe:

For the green ones: Karloff’s Guacamole recipe.


Nick’s Cove: The Long and Winding Road to a Burger and Brew

nc-condomsDriving through rural West Marin County is like driving through a craggy, verdant Mobius strip. If you?re prone to car-sickness the scenic trip might prove lethal. If you survive, good for you, but it?s not ?about the journey, man.? Our mission, at least on this day, was to obtain an old school, straight-up non-chichi burger and a microbrew, preferably local.

Nick?s Cove on Tomales Bay came through. Kudos to restaurant impresario Pat Kuleto who resurrected the dilapidated roadside attraction two years ago and once again made the sleepy seaside village of Marshall a destination.

The Grub😕 The Nick?s House Ground Burger with house made pickles, Pt. Reyes blue cheese and hand-cut fries paired with the Lagunitas Brewing Company?s IPA and the area?s notorious lack of cell phone service would provide the perfect media detox for any road-weary lifestyle correspondent (though my iPhone found an open wifi signal and email remained irresistibly close at hand).

Executive Chef Adam Mali?s excellent and diverse menu notwithstanding (classics like the Tomales Bay clam chowder to the buttery lobster sliders served with lemon aioli, which our photographer Flash enjoyed) it was the ?Red Legged Frog,? served with ?mounds of sticky red tape? for the price of $2,000,000. The cheeky reference to the frog, otherwise known as Rana draytonii and decidedly unavailable at the restaurant, makes light of the environmental odyssey Kuleto experienced when the endangered amphibian was discovered on the property during it?s 8-year renovation.

This characteristic whimsy continues to the men?s room where a framed collection of no fewer than 17 vintage tin condom containers hangs above the ?Men?s Waterless Urinal,? which the sign proudly indicates saves ?40k gallons/yr H20.? Finally, I can pee with a clear conscience.

Tip: Every Thursday and Friday night at the bar, Nick?s Cove features a ?Local?s Combo,? which includes three barbecued oysters (presumably from the adjacent bay), the aforementioned burger and a draft beer (go with the Lagunitas) for a mere $15.

Nick?s Cove, 23240 Highway 1. 415.663.1033. NicksCove.com.

Sonoma Faces off on Facebook

In another of my social media-to-print experiments (OK, admittedly, Twitter interview made only partial sense – least of all to those on Twitter), I decided to “crowd-source” my column. Crowd-sourcing is like out-sourcing but instead of farming my column out to an emerging economy like India or East Petaluma, one taps the so-called “wisdom of crowds.” The results, I suppose, depend on the crowd in which one is running. Mine is apparently enthused, despondent and ultimately passionate, if slightly pissy, about several issues now facing Sonomans.

Author and thinker Clay Shirky explored the notion and others in his tome, “Here Comes Everyone: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations,” in which he observed “Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring … It’s when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen.” Um, well, we’ll see, Clay. This is what happened on Tuesday: Pursuant to a query I posted on Facebook, “Taking requests for my column this week. What’s on your mind, Sonoma?” the first 20 minutes yielded a pitch for cheese by a cheesemaker, the namedrop of a theater production from the dramaturge and an inquiry regarding an exceptional bottle of sparkling I was to deliver to sommelier pal Christopher Sawyer on the occasion of his 40th birthday on behalf of the inquirer, who simply posted “Pol Roger.”

Later a wine guy mused on “the Renaissance of supple ‘balanced’ pinot noirs to the Russian River Valley and the death of over-blown ‘hot rod’ wines …” A woman from the old Lumaville scene simply posted “deconstruction,” philosopher Jacques Derrida’s approach to textual analysis, a notion big in the ’90s and preceded by the once vogue terms “post-modern” and “existential,” which mysteriously evaporated from cafe conversations like the steam of a Venti latte, if you know what I mean. Another Luman lamented the unavailability of my column since she moved from Sonoma, despite the fact that it’s online, every week at sonomanews.com (with a reprise on DHowell.com). Oh, and you can always subscribe but I guess that’s so Web 1.0.

The Facebook stew was simmering. Now I needed it to boil over into quotes, which I could cut-and-paste to make my word count. I posted, “Brilliant. So far so good. Now send me quotes, which I can attribute to you …”

Bobo de Albo suggested I opine on “taco truck overkill” and offered the quote, “It’s overkill.” Thanks for contracting “it is” to “it’s,” Bobo, big help on the word count. Steve Meloan bemoaned “The dearth of places in Sonoma for kids to run around during the rainy months and the boiling hot months. Why isn’t there a bowling alley, indoor rock climbing, indoor pool, indoor soccer, etc?” The wine guy, Robert Conard, jumped in with some suggestions, but alas, they weren’t Valley-specific, which led Sharna Haver to lament “Are we too good for a bowling alley …”

Apparently, yes — yes, we are too good for a bowling alley if we accept that we are indeed “good” and the empirical fact that there is no bowling alley.

The I-T’s own J.M. Berry reflected that we once had a bowling alley and, should it return, he nominated Emmy Kaplan of Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack to run the lounge. Kaplan could not be reached for comment until 12 hours later. She apparently ignored Berry’s career advice (smart) and posted her suggestion that I write about “how everybody complains that there is nothing to do and then when there is something to do they make an excuse.” Charissa Drengsen capped the conversation with “the state of the arts in public schools … (are) there any?” Yes, Charissa, there’s a blossoming graffiti program.

OK, Sonoma, from what I can glean from your Facebook commentary, Emmy should install a bowling alley,  a pool full of Russian River Valley pinot noir and climbing-wall covered with graffiti, which everyone will complain about — especially when the taco truck arrives.