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  • Peter Gunn, The Series 1958-1961 – A New Twist on Mod Movie Monday

    Posted on May 2nd, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 1 comment

    Peter Gunn is available on DVD, ya dig?

    Peter Gunn is available on DVD, ya dig?

    (Cue mid-tempo jazz bassline)
    Lay back kats, and knock your swingin’ lobes to the riffs I’m layin’ down before thee; as this week we dance to the tune of a different bongo-ist, take a beat off the beaten path and give Mod Movie Monday a little twist – a foray into the land of the groove tube, the noise box, the all-mighty television. This week I present to you for your hippest approval, that hippest of hip private dicks,

    Peter Gunn

    Starring Lola Albright, Hershel Bernardi, and the inimitable Craig Stevens as the swingin’ gumshoe Gunn.mod-movie-mondays

    There has never been, nor shall there ever be an equally jazzy, kool and quintessentially hip cop show on the airwaves. From the opening, pre-credit crime scene with swingin’ background bass and eerie horns, to the slick late ’50s ragtop that Gunn motorvated around in, to the sultriest if sultry atomic blonde bombshells Edie Hart as the jazz joint’s singer, Peter Gunn just oozes with dark kool.

    Craig Stevens and Lara Albright

    Craig Stevens and Lola Albright

    Imagine a cop show where the PI is a tough, good-looking Rat-Pack-era swinger who’s always in total control, even when he pushes the line between legit and vigilante. Instead of driving a cop sedan, he drives a sleek convertible. He dresses sharp and hangs out at a jazz club with the musicians and has a thing going with the smokin’ girl singer, a swingin’ chick if ever there was one. Throw on top of that the fact that he’s a damned good detective, and his notoriety helps him gain the potatoes he needs to lead his swingin’ lifestyle, and you’ve got the makings of one hell of a TV series – good enough to last 114 episodes.

    Thanks to our pal Blake Edwards, the style of the show holds up 50 years later. A Noir undertone driven by a jazz beat and purposely subtle acting, Peter Gunn is considered one of the best stylistic TV dramas of the time.

    The Jazz, man, it’s all about that swingin’ background jazz, the musical soundtrack that very often came out of the background and coolly slid into the spotlight whenever Gunn entered Mother’s Jazz Club on the waterfront. Several scenes featured the hipster musicians getting in the groove with their sexy singer, Edie, riffing out tunes by Henry Mancini, played in the style of The Modern Jazz Quintet and Dave Brubeck. Peter Gunn is credited as being

    Peter Gunn, 1957

    Peter Gunn Album, 1958

    the first TV show to have a custom designed soundtrack (all others used stock music up until then), and the resulting Peter Gunn album stayed at #1 on the charts for 10 weeks (and is still a best seller today). That unforgettable theme has been used so many times since then that even kids who never heard of the show know that krazy piano intro and those blaring horns. Oh, and by the by…that piano intro…was originally played by another kat you may have heard of, a young pup by the name of John Williams.

    Style aside, the series was ahead of its time in the ’50s, and still holds up as great to watch today. The crimes were never sugar-coated…murder, drugs, all of it right out there lightened only by an occasionally funny hipster character who was so way out there you had to chuckle. In my opinion, the only thing that would have made this show better was if they didn’t have to squeeze it into a half hour. An hour would have done it much more justice.

    Splash Screen before and after commericals, Petet Gunn

    Splash Screen before and after commericals, Peter Gunn

    And what beat-era libations and repast doth thou deal out during said performance? ’50s hipsters were all about trying new things…which of course, are now old things. Maybe some cucumber sandwiches, with sour cream/dill dipping sauce. Maybe some mini spinach quiches wrapped in bacon. Pretzel rods with mustard. Finger sandwiches of smoked oysters or salmon spread. Kooky stuff like that. Serve Port, or Sambucca, or Galliano over the rocks. Or if you can get your hands on it, Absinth. Top it off with fresh pineapple, mango and coconut over vanilla ice cream for dessert. And don’t forget to smoke a pack of Camels before the show ends, dig?

  • How to be a Hipster in 1958: Read COOL Magazine, Man!

    Posted on November 18th, 2009 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 3 comments

    cool-man-cool Don’t be a four-corner square, Jack. You want to know what all the Cool kids are doing? They’re hip to COOL Magazine, America’s Coolest Teenage Rag!

    COOL Magazine, March 1958 Issue
    COOL Magazine, 1958. Don’t be a turkey, click on the snapshots to peep them nice and big

    This copy my Mama bought new in 1958. It features a spread on George Burns’ son, Ronnie, plus Platter Party ideas, cool threads for tigresses, and a scribble on how to lay down a kickin’ kiss.

    But my fave part of this rag mag is the Hipster’s Dictionary. Man, any zotep zombie can be a real keen jelly bean if they read this magazine! Just memorize a few hip phrases like “let’s buzz around the barrel” (let us partake in the eating of food) or “Let’s take a treat on the main beat” (let us congregate where all the ‘in’ people are) and you’ll go from a moldy-minded miser to a zoolie hipster with the most in a flash, Jack! There are several pages from A to Z of hipster lingo, plus a few columns of phrases so you’ll be really in the know.

    Now, I want you kats and kittens to knock me your peepers for a few ticks, while I lay down this jazz. And when you get to a mugshot you dig, click on it, and it will blow up to actual size so you can read the feed without flippin’ your wig, dig?

    COOL Magazine: The Hipster’s Dictionary, Definition of Hip, Hep & Hipster

    Hipster's Dictionary, definition of Hip, Hep & Hipster

    There are a lot of kats who zonk out over hip, hep, hep cat and hipster. Well, here’s the definitions straight from the source, the Cool Mag Hipster’s tome from 1958:

    “HEP: An archaic word meaning “in the know”, replaced by “Hip”.

    HEP CATS: Cats & Kittens who read this this publication*

    HIP: Up to date, cool. A person who knows what’s going on. Replaces the word “Hep”.

    HEP CAT: Hip Cat and Hep Cat not used very often. Replaced by the word “Hipster”.

    HIPSTER: A cool cat or kitten who knows what’s going on.”

    *They meant COOL Magazine. I mean Tiki Lounge Talk, dig?

    So, essentially, you’d be a real Hep Cat for reading COOL magazine, and that would automatically make you hip, but a Hipster would never be called Hep because he’d be too hip for hep, are you hip to this jazz? Groovy. So what that means is that even in 1958, swing-era Hep Cats were still considered cool Jives. And since jive changes with the ages, we kool bachelor-pad-type hot-roddin’ Tiki bar-boozin’ Swingers can feel free to lay down our riffs with hip, hep, or whatever the hell we want without flippin’ anyone’s wig, dig? Fantabulous!

    COOL Magazine…How to Plan a Successful Platter Party

    Cool Magazine...How to have a Platter Party

    Now, I know all you kids out there really want to have a cool party like the one in the photo, with your beer-guzzling teenage brother (on the left) and funny-looking nine-year-old cousin who whines a lot. Well, our prayers have been answered. Angela, the swingin’ tigress Special Interests Editor at COOL Magazine, has laid down a scribble with all you need to know. She hits on such important subjects as having hot spaghetti with your pizza, giving little prizes like dented hubcaps, and making sure you have plenty of groovy records of Rock ’n’ Roll, Bop & Lindy to dance to. She is also very sure to pepper the article with lots of jive terms from the Hipster’s Dictionary. Imagine that!

    COOL Magazine: Fashions for Spring & Summer, 1958


    Those of you who are into retro and vintage clothing will flip for this. Our friend Angela once again graces us with her far out knowledge of what hip kittens want. But this time she drops the jive and writes like she’s got a byline in Harper’s. In fact, the whole spread looks sorta out of place in this rag. You’d think COOL Magazine would have spread with dolls dressed in Capris and off-the-shoulder tops, or blue jeans and leather jackets. Or black sweaters and thigh-high boots. Or, I dunno, leopard leotards. Anyway, if you click on the image you can blow it up to read all about it. Can you say “early product placement”?

    COOL Magazine: Part of the spread on cover boy Ronnie Burns


    This kid actually got a 16-Page spread in this issue of COOL. Imagine one star getting that much print today, huh? Especially since he was an aspiring star, the son of George Burns and Gracie Allen. (If you don’t know who they are, well, you better Google ’em). Even with all this press he never really made stardom, but he gave us a great bunch of pix that show how a cool boy of the late 50’s should be. See him working on his Corvette sports car (I suspect that’s the first time he saw under a hood in his life), clean his gun, read on the patio, swim, play ping-pong with his shirt nicely tucked in, and go Christmas shopping with his mother…just like…eh…all the…um…cool kids…yeah. (Why ain’t he smoking?)

    record-jamboreeFun Advertisements in COOL Magazine

    This rag is riddled with ads, as you might guess. Of course Marketing was in its baby stages in the ’50s, so they still didn’t really have the whole “We cater to the teenage crowd” mindset just right, just yet. 20-towels-ad

    This allowed for fantastic placement of ads for things like “Record Jamboree”, featuring hit albums of Polkas, Honky Tonk Piano, and Ragtime…you know, the stuff hip teenagers love to listen to. Or maybe the ever-popular “20 Towels for 5¢ Each”; that’ll have the kids sending cash and stamps by the handful. Of course there are a few ads that make sense, like those for losing weight (even in the ’50s) and subscribing to one or more of the publisher’s mags. Then I came across two jewels, two ads that made my day. The first was an ad for the “Magic Art Reproducer”, the second for “40 Model Cars”. I flipped like a burger when I saw these, because, in my collection of junk, I have these little trinkets, on display in my home. I don’t have all 40 of the bouncy rubber cars, but I have the caddy that’s in the ad. It’s times like this – going through a 50+ year old magazine that my mother kept all her life and gave to me, then finding ads for stuff that was fun, cheap stuff then, but are hard to find collectibles now, and knowing I have some of that junk (some of those toy cars I’ve had since I was a kid, and they were old then) – it’s times like this that I just have to sit back and say, “Wow, baby. That is some far out, frantic jazz.”

    Ad for the Magic Art Reproducer, and the actual one I have at home.

    Cool Magainze Ad - Draw Any Person With Our Gizmo


    Ad for Rubber Toy Cars, and a shelf in my home with six of those cars.

    Cool Magazine Ad - 40 Toy Cars for a Buck