Friday, July 20, 2007

Go Retro: From Fishbeck to Fish Heads

A snippet of an Eyewitness News broadcast from 2/2/80

Oftentimes, the Militant will be up to his usual militant business, walking down the street or attending some community meeting when a sudden, a random Ghost of Los Angeles Past will haunt him, like shopping at Zody's or going on a family trip to Busch Gardens in Van Nuys. The Militant is certainly not alone, as fellow native and blogger Will Campbell (whom I may or may not have met in person) has referenced The Akron in a recent post. Nothing strikes up nostalgic joy from the natives (and confusion or disinterest from the transplants) like retro Los Angeles references. Go Retro!

Before Doppler Radar, before chroma-key and even before Dallas Raines' eternal tan, was Channel 7's colorful meteorologist Dr. George Fishbeck. He was part of KABC's all-star Eyewitness News lineup of Jerry Dunphy, Christine Lund and Dr. George Fishbeck in the '70s/early '80s -- which was the local news equivalent of the Garvey-Lopes-Russell-Cey Dodger infield. Fishbeck, wearing his trademark spectacles and bow tie, was like everybody's teacher/papa/grandpa, eloquently and passionately working in normally-dull terms like "marine layer" and "westerly winds" into our consciousness like a suspense-filled good-old campfire story. When this Militant first heard of the word "drought," Dr. George told us what it was, how it affected us and how we should conserve water, and everyone listened to him. Today, no one even comes close, not even Fritz Coleman's quasi-standup schtick.

The YouTube clip above shows an Eyewitness News broadcast from a rainy Southern California day back on February 2, 1980.

Demented Angelenos: Barnes & Barnes
This Militant's favorite Sunday night pastime back in the early-mid '80s was to tune to 94.7 KMET and listen to the Dr. Demento Show, which moved to the old 97.1 KLSX (back when they played music...) after KMET's demise into the realm of New Age and Smooth Jazz that is KTWV, which occupies that frequency today. Dr. D's show was definitely born in SoCal, having originated at KPCC-FM out of Pasadena City College before moving to the Mighty Met. The show also featured some very demented Angelenos, from the classic Felix Figueroa and His Orchestra's "Pico and Sepulveda" to Barett Hansen's gift to the world, Lynwood's own "Weird Al" Yankovic. But perhaps the most well-known and heavily played song on Dr. D's show was the abstract and absurd "Fish Heads" from Los Angeles' own Barnes and Barnes. The duo of Art and Artie Barnes (a.k.a. Robert Haimer and Bill Mumy; the latter played Will Robinson on TV's Lost In Space) who still exist today, were not only novelty music legends, but multimedia pioneers as well, having directed their own music videos years before MTV even began plotting the murder of the radio star. Their video to "Fish Heads" also features a younger Bill Paxton. Interestingly, now that fish heads are a common delicacy in various ethnic restaurants around the Southland and that cappuccino is no longer found exclusively at Italian restaurants (not to mention the word "Oriental" has since fallen out of favor when referring to a group of people), neither this song nor its video is as abstractly weird as it was back in 1979 when it was released. But it's still cool anyway.

To a world more familiar with Barnes and Noble, the Militant presents Barnes and Barnes' classic, "Fish Heads" (note the old Pan Pacific Auditorium and the Downtown Industrial District playing cameo roles):

Eat them up, yum!

Militant Update: Metro Toilet at VSM: Still Waiting
Upon learning of the new automatic pay toilet in the vicinity of the Militant's compound at Vermont Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, The Militant was all set with a quarter and his digital camera to leak the process of using such a contraption in the name of blogdom. But alas, some three weeks after first mentioning it on this blog, the toilet remains pretty much in the same state as it was back then, with no work crew in sight. What's holding it up? That just pisses this Militant off. To the wiz who's responsible for such a delay, you're in trouble.


Will Campbell said...

What an awesome find Militant! Can you believe all that hand-chalked stuff to illustrate the national weather patterns? No Doppler 7000 stuff going on there.

And the minute Dr. G turned his back to the camera I knew he was going to rotate the board out from the wall as if he'd just done it last the day before. Old school baby!

I'm not sure if he's still doing it, but up until a couple-three years ago Dr. G was going strong as a docent for the L.A. Zoo, leading tours of schoolkids with the same kind of enthusiasm you'd find in his forecasts. A true L.A. treasure.

I was as upset the day Channel 7 let him go as I was the day the Dodgers traded Garvey to the Padres. Well, almost.

Militant Angeleno said...


Miles said...

Damn, that's a wave of nostalgia for a Saturday morning. I, too, was sucked in by the mania of Dr. George, I lived every day of the summer for Garvey (talk about fallen heroes), Lopes, Russell, Cey-- not to mention Baker, Moday (who saved the flag) and Smith, and Rollie Pollie Fish Heads. Great post. Yum.