Crass Marketing for the Twenties

Calling all barlows, bisquits, and blushing violets!

Wanna shock the gimlets, bun dusters, and the crepe hangers? Wanna thrill your highjohn while you Charleston, black bottom, and shimmy to the whangdoodle at the egg harbor?

You’ve bobbed your hair, raised your hemline, strapped a flask to your stilt, and now it’s time to squander a little of your dapper’s hush money on a flapper ring today!

Zelda says, “Flapper rings are the kitten’s ankles, and that’s no applesauce!”

Listen to this Zelda tomato, all you dumb Doras. She’s a prom-trotter who knows her onions!

Little Richard 1932 – 2020

It’s 1956, and my father is listening to The Johnny Otis Show in the dark.

When my father was a teenager growing up in Seal Beach, California, he would stay up late at night listening in the dark to The Johnny Otis Show being broadcast from KFOX, a Long Beach AM radio station. It’s hard at this late date to imagine what a subversive act it was for a white bread teenage square like Allan Dean Dobkins to be listening to that sort of devil music in that house with my strict and upright grandparents sleeping in the room next door. My pop kept the sound volume on his radio set at a barely perceptible level to avoid discovery and punishment.

I didn’t come into his life until a decade later when he started dating my mother. They married, set up house together, and co-mingled their belongings. A couple years later, Dean adopted me, making me a Dobkins and becoming officially my father.

It’s impossible to meet our parents before we are born, or, in my dad’s case, before he started dating my mother. Who they were remains a mystery that we can never fully crack, but young children are excellent observers like little mini-Jane Goodalls in the field, collecting clues, listening to stories, and noting details about these large looming giants that dominate our early lives so, our parents.

Somewhere in my explorations out in the field of the Dobkins co-mingled household, I came across an old 45 record of Little Richard. It was issued in 1956 with “Long Tall Sally” on side A and “Slippin’ and Slidin'” on the B side. I was just beginning to listen to pop music on my own initiative and this 45 record, no longer of use to its original owner in the age of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and Woodstock, became part of my growing collection of LPs and 45s. I inherited a lot of culture this stealthy fashion when I was just starting out.

It wasn’t until decades later when I mentioned in passing that I had been listening to Johnny Otis on KPFK, a left-wing and left of the dial FM station in the Los Angeles area, that I found out my dad’s naughty little secret about listening to forbidden music played low in the dark when he was a stealth teenage rebel in the fifties. I didn’t immediately make the connection, but at some point, I realized that the Little Richard 45 I now owned was a direct physical artifact from that era in my dad’s life.

So I’m not really writing about Little Richard in this piece. Other people, better versed in his autobiography and his musical significance will be doing that. What I am trying to set up and share is a scenario that I’ve conjured in my mind from the strands of youthful field research into my now deceased dad’s life. I can’t swear that it happened exactly this way, but it’s possible. Maybe even likely.

It’s 1956. My father’s sixteenth birthday is less than three months away. A cool night sea breeze laps at the lingering heat from summer day, and there’s a slight salty tang in the air from the waves breaking on the shore of the beach two blocks away. The only light in my dad’s bedroom is the faint glow of the radio’s tuner.

From a tinny little mono speaker, Little Richard’s voice swoops and dives and delivers all you will ever need to know about a gal named Sally while a sax wails and the drum and piano pound a joyous rhythm that makes you giddy to be alive. The track ends and Johnny Otis tells my father in a low volume whisper that he has just heard “Long Tally Sally,” a brand new 45 recorded by Little Richard. Right then and there, Dean Dobkins (he never really liked Alan part of his name) decides he has to possess this 45 record — even if it means a trek into Long Beach to find a record store selling this music.

It’s a moment I want to believe happened, when my dad was fifteen and Little Richard was only twenty-three, and their whole lives waited ahead of them.

G. Clifford Prout (1930-2020)

A great and noble crusader has fallen

Lost one of the great ones. Tomorrow, in honor of his passing, I will dress all the household pets and any coyote, raccoon, or possum I can capture.

Thankfully, Alan Abel is still with us.

Simple Gifts – Six Episodes for Christmas

Revisiting an obscure but beloved Christmas special from decades past.

SOCIAL MEDIA POST FROM DECEMBER 26, 2009
One night in 1978, I stayed up with my pop and watched an animated anthology on PBS called “Simple Gifts – Six Episodes for Christmas,” and it became one of my few favorite Christmas specials. I have not seen the special in the 31 years since that night, but now a stranger has given me a simple gift by posting it on YouTube. If you have the time, watch it. I dare you not to be charmed.” – Michael Dobkins

“Prologue” by Maurice Sendak

A Memory of Christmas” from Moss Hart’s autobiography, “Act One.” Narrated by Jose Ferrer.

part one

part two

“Lost and Found” from Fontaine Fox’s classic comic strip, “Toonerville Folk.”

“The Great Frost” from Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando.” Narrated by Hermione Gingold.

part one

part two

“My Christmas, an entry in the diary of Teddy Roosevelt, age 11

“December 25th, 1914” from a letter from The Western Front by Captain Sir Edward Hulse.

“No Room at the Inn” from R.O. Blechman’s “Tutto Esaurito”

part one

part two

Historical Roots of The Hollywood Show Biz Elite's War on Christmas

Cruelly candid photos from the front lines of early days of the War on Christmas!

I used to think the War on Christmas was an overwrought alarmist myth until I stumble across this photographic evidence proving that the Hollywood show biz elite has been waging a battle against the Yuletide holiday since the early days of classic Hollywood. This is just the tip of the iceberg, folks.

Silent film screen tart Mary Pickford ruthlessly replaces a decently festive Santa Claus Lane street sign with a salacious and smugly self congratulatory Hollywood Boulevard sign.
Boris Karloff and Ginger Rogers spread the holiday “jeer” by stealthily adding the roadkill remains of family pets to Christmas tree decorations.
Candid snapshot of snide glamourpuss Sophia Loren breaking into a home early Christmas morning to confiscate ornaments and replace all the children’s presents with coal.
Alan Ladd and Sue Carol gloat over all the cash and checks from grandparents they’ve found in Christmas cards they’ve stolen from neighborhood mailboxes!
Serial divorcee Ingrid Bergman and unnamed heathen hussy wearing druid headgear share a deviant moment of cruel satisfaction over informing a small child of the nonexistence of Santa Claus.

Merry Christmas!