Comics and Humor

July 13, 1957 – Personal Premiere of Screenwriter/Director Cameron Crowe

Cameron CroweOn July 13, 1957, Oscar-winning screenwriter/director and wunderkind Cameron Crowe was born in Palm Springs, California.  The son of a real estate and phone service businessman dad, and teacher, activist and “all-around live wire” mother, Cameron went on to graduate from San Diego High School at age 15.  He became the youngest writer ever to contribute to Rolling Stone magazine, interviewing rock stars, bands and road crews while covering concert tours coast-to-coast.  Cameron went on to become a contributing editor and then associate editor of the magazine, before switching to writing and directing movies for Hollywood.

Crowe’s string of successful filmsSay Anything, Singles, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky, and Elizabethtown – followed his inital hit, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  After posing as high school student at Clairemont High School in San Diego ( at age 22, and “recapturing his lost senior year”), Cameron wrote a book titled, Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story.  The movie version premiered a year later and became a surprise hit, launching the careers of previously little-known actors Jennifer Jason Leigh, Eric Stoltz, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Anthony Edwards, and Oscar winners Nicholas Cage (appearing under his given name of Nicholas Coppola), Forest Whitaker, and Sean Penn.

In celebration of Crowe’s birthday, let’s follow the lead of Ridgemont’s reigning stoner-surfer dude, Jeff Spicoli, and order a pizza.  We can “learn about Cuba, and have some food.”

Jeff Spicoli Pizza

“There’s nothing wrong with a little feast on our time.”

Image Credit: Tony Lowe/PR Photos; Universal Pictures

June 28, 1957 – “Date with the Angels”

Date with the Angels

One June 28, 1957, families home on this Friday night could tune in to ABC’s new comedy series, “Date with the Angels.” Bill Williams and Betty White starred as Gus and Vicki Angel, a somewhat clueless insurance salesman and his “wacky” wife (was one of the working titles for this series, “I Love Betty”?). Bill Williams was familiar to audiences from his role in “The Adventures of Kit Karson” and for his real-life role as the husband of Barbara Hale, soon to appear as the sultry-smart Della Street on “The Perry Mason Show.” Betty White’s successful career in radio and television had recently skyrocketed with “Life with Elizabeth.” In popular “Elizabeth,” a comedy sketch series, twenty-eight-year-old White had full control as both star and producer – the first television series ever to be produced by a woman.

“Date with the Angels” owed some of its premise to “Dream Girl,” a play by Elmer Rice. As originally envisioned by White, each episode would include extensive and hilarious daydreaming by Vicki Angel. Show sponsors were not amused. Pressured to remove the sequences, White felt that she was left with only “one more run-of-the-mill domestic comedy.” “I can honestly say,” she revealed, “that was the only time I have ever wanted to get out of a show.”

Not to worry. The future would hold only greater success for White, including award-winning roles on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and “The Golden Girls.” Current-day reviewers of “Date with the Angels” credit White’s performance as “lovely,” “talented,” “delightful,” “dares you to tune out while she’s onscreen,” “never burlesque or over-the-top,” “always believable,” “gorgeous,” “smart,” and “a class act.” One reviewer points out that White had “a beautiful singing voice” and that Vicki’s songs were “one of the pleasant surprises in this fine series.”

Image Credit: IMDB

June 21, 1957 – Berke Breathed and Opus are Born

Berke BreathedOn June 21, 1957, Guy Berkeley “Berke” Breathed, creator of the Doonesbury-inspired, Pulitzer Prize-winning Bloom County comic strip, was born in Encino, California.  Filled with memorable characters such as Opus the Penguin, Bill the Cat, Steve Dallas, and Cutter John, Breathed parlayed his strip into a cartoon empire including syndication at the strip’s height in over 1200 newspapers, spin-off strips Outland and Opus, eleven cartoon collections, five children’s books, greeting card and gift ensembles, a movie, and a stage musical.

Breathed started his cartooning career while at the University of Texas, where his first strip, The Academia Waltz, appeared in the Daily Texan.  A film adaptation of his picture book Mars Needs Moms!  was released in 2011. Producer Robert Zemeckis used then-state-of-the-art motion-capture animated film technology, but the movie turned out to be less than a magnum “opus” at the box office.  Bill the Cat’s response?  “Accckkk!”

Image Credit: Bloom County/Facebook

June 8, 1957 – Scott Adams and Dilbert are Born

Scott Adams & Dilbert

On June 8, 1957, hypnotist, vegetarian, Mensa member, and “Libertarian, minus the crazy stuff” Dilbert cartoon creator Scott Adams was born in Windham, New York.  The proud but sarcastic owner of an MBA from Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley, Adams began his career in telecommunications and software development for Crocker National Bank and Pacific Bell in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Drawing on his experiences working for big corporations, Scott launched his satirical cartoon strip Dilbert in 1989.  The rest is cubicle history.

Image Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Images

October 25, 1957 – The Rocky Mount Evening Telegram News

A Rocky Mount High School student looks over an edition of the Evening Telegram during a 1952 tour of the newspaper's original office on Howard Street. Photo: Rocky Mount Telegram archives

A Rocky Mount High School student looks over an edition of the Evening Telegram during a 1952 tour of the newspaper’s original office on Howard Street. Photo: Rocky Mount Telegram archives

On October 25, 1957, the Friday night edition of the Rocky Mount Evening Telegram reported the news from far and near to the residents of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Published from 1894 until 1966, the Evening Telegram served a community first founded in 1816 and the home, in 1957, of about 28,000 people.

And what would those Rocky Mount residents have seen on the front page when they snapped open the evening news at the start of their weekend? Here are two of the headlines:


Reds Launching Could Be Fake

REDLANDS, Calif. (AP)-Russia’s launching of Sputnik may have been a “fake stunt,” says a physicist participating in the U.S. Far Side Project.

Sputnik may have been launched from a balloon–as the Far Side rocket was–instead of using an intercontinental ballistic missile, said Charles E. Bartley.

“As propaganda, the Russian launching is undeniably superb,” Bartley told a group of University of Redlands scientists. “By innuendo, it supports Soviet claims to an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“But objective analysis raises several questions. Sputnik could easily have been launched from a balloon. This would have been possible without employing a large rocket of ICBM magnitude.

He quoted a Russian scientist, Mrs. Anna T. Masevich, vice president of the Soviet Astronautical Council, as saying in Barcelona, Spain, on Oct. 4:

“Newspapers were wrong when they said the satellite weighed 184.3 pounds. I think it is not so heavy.”

Commented Bartley: “Common sense and logic sum up two reasonable suppositions. The Soviet Sputnik more likely weighs 18 pounds and it does not make sense that the Russians would expend a large ICBM rocket, even if they had it, to put that weight into an orbit when a light cluster of efficient small rockets could do the same job from a balloon.”

Bartley is the president of Grand Central Rocket Co., which makes third and fourth stage motors for Far Side rockets.


Not Socialized

ASHEVILLE, NC (AP)-Dr. True B. Eveleth of Chicago, executive secretary of the American Osteopathic Assn., has told the North Carolina Osteopathic Society that socialized medicine will never be imposed in the United States.

“Rapidly expanding prepaid hospitalization programs will ultimately circumvent any future possible need of government-controlled medicine,” he told the 53rd annual convention of the society here yesterday.

Dr. Albert G. Moore of Wilmington was elected president, succeeding Dr. T. M. Rowlett of Concord.


And at the bottom of the page, the following some-things-never-change item:

DETROIT (AP)-Mrs. Edith Hall told police a thief took $5 from her purse which she had left on the porch of her home while she raked leaves. He threw away the purse, overlooking $2,170 hidden in a secret compartment.



September 10, 1957 – Jerry Lewis Solos at Ben Maksik’s Town and Country Club

Jerry Lewis (Not Nutty Yet)

On September 10, 1957, singer, dancer, and comedian extraordinaire Jerry Lewis gave a powerhouse solo performance at Ben Maksik’s Town and Country Club in Brooklyn, New York.  After years of second-billing behind Dean Martin doing successful comedy nightclub acts, radio and television programs, and films, Jerry was on his own before a live audience with his unique brand of slapstick comedy.  The duo’s breakup in July of 1956 ended a relationship that had become increasingly strained by Lewis’ dominance in popularity.  Each went on to success as solo performers.  Neither would ever comment on the split or consider a reunion.

In the Paramount film released in June of 1957, The Delicate Delinquent, Jerry became a major comedy star in his first solo role playing a juvenile delinquent mistaken for a gang member.  Officer Darren McGavin put Lewis through police training – compete with amusing “mishaps” – and young Jerry finally “reformed” and redeemed himself by graduating from the academy.

Later that summer, reviewer Robert W. Dana of the New York World Telegram and Sun covered Lewis’ act at the Town and Country Club for his column, “Tips on Tables”.  Dana admitted “I haven’t always been an ardent Lewis fan.  I am now after this performance.”  He continued, “Given the keynote at the outset by Ned Harvey’s crack band, the man with the shorty  haircut never let up.  He’s Mr. Rhythm with a voice.  He’s Mr. Hoofer, with a loose-jointed grace of a true showman.  And he’s Mr. Clown, who makes each line count for a laugh.”

Lewis, the son of a vaudeville entertainer father and a radio-station-piano-playing mother, spent part of his opening night kidding around with a Spanish dancer act, poking fun at rock and roll, crooning a “Danny Boy” spoof, and giving a side-splitting portrayal of “Tokyo’s foremost singing star”.  After initially bumbling about, he “caught on” and joined in a tap dance number.  And he gave serious and skillful renditions of “Shine on Your Shoes”, his top forty hit “Rock a Bye, My Baby”, “Come Rain or Come Shine”, and closed the evening with the somewhat poignant “I’ll Go My Way By Myself”, which Dana described as “a touching, straightforward conclusion”.  Lewis deeply appreciated Dana’s column, sending him a signed note on September 12th “to express my heartfelt thanks to you for your very, very nice column.  I more than appreciate your kind words, and my only hope is that I can live up to them”.

Jerry Lewis went on to great fortune and fame all over the world.  He received numerous rewards for his film and television work.  In spite of suffering nagging health concerns through much of his adult life, he maintained a full work schedule. Until stepping down in 2011, Lewis dedicated himself to his yearly Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, raising 2.6 billion dollars over the years for research and treatment of the crippling disease.