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Danielle Bennignus

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Wacky Chicks: Life Lessons from Fearlessly Inappropriate and Fabulously Eccentric Women
Wacky Chicks: Life Lessons from Fearlessly Inappropriate and Fabulously Eccentric Women
by Simon Doonan
Edition: Hardcover
35 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lighthearted, Fun Reading...and Inspirational, to Boot, July 7 2004
I purchased this book out of respect for my late grandmother and great-grandmother - both of them sublimely wacky ladies. I had been thinking of them, and just happened upon this book - maybe it was meant to be. As I leafed through the pages, I found myself laughing out loud at the stories and witty writing style - I had to have it. And, upon reading the book cover to cover, was delighted.
At last, a brave soul (only the likes of Simon Doonan could do it) has stepped forward, and lauded the zany lifestyles and pasttimes of these women - what society otherwise calls "characters". Here they are in all their loony glory - raising reptiles, creating burlesque home decor, fashioning spandex biker garb, writing up radical cheerleading rhymes...the tales don't stop, and come at you at rapid-fire speed. And not in a disrespectful, exploitative manner - it's done so with great respect, and an often bittersweet tinge. These wacky women didn't get that way by accident - there are some sad stories involved. But these only serve to enhance the overall feel of the book - these ladies are real people with great depth, not cartoony caricatures.
And as far as my own wacky ancestors? Well, having read this book only makes me admire them all the more, and hope to embrace their eccentricities as my own. Maybe times have changed, and maybe I'll never have to endure the hardships they had to (the Great Depression, social pressures, Great Wars, name it), but thanks to this book, I have a much greater appreciation of their survival instincts, and sense of fun in the face of adversity. This book surely opened my eyes even more to their greatness, and to the unique nature of all "wacky chicks".

Exotic Moods of Les Baxter
Exotic Moods of Les Baxter
5 used & new from CDN$ 69.69

5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet, June 29 2004
After hearing several Les Baxter pieces on my boss' Christmas party album (she'd recorded them from an old album), I fell, madly, completely, in love with his work. You can imagine, then, how delighted I was to stumble upon this 2 CD set some years later - a huge collection of just the sort of kooky, campy, craziness I was craving. Indeed, this stuff has a seriously wacky edge to it, but let me say this - there's real artistic substance just under the surface, as well.
Les Baxter's work covers a huge range of applications - it was featured in film, television and popular music; very prominent in the late 50s', 60's and 70's. Sometimes I think he had his hands in everything - he was a great composer in his time. And here's where he seems to have had the most fun. This music is completely unhemmed by convention - it takes wild tangents and just runs with them, all the while remaining completely listenable. In fact, you're a bit fixated on it, not willing to miss a beat. In the course of a song or two, your imagination is whisked through jungle forests, fire-illuminated lagoons, bamboo rafts, spice name it, if it's got any sort of exotic bent to it, it's in this CD set. Campy but tightly composed, this collection is just plain fun.
So, do you need another reason to purchase? Well, if nothing else, I can promise this: you probably haven't heard anything quite like it. And if you haven't, it's time you did. Buy it - you won't regret it.

Ghost World
Ghost World
Price: CDN$ 22.32
32 used & new from CDN$ 7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Worth it for the Nighthawks Alone, June 29 2004
This review is from: Ghost World (Audio CD)
Here's a great CD, a neat mix of new, old and much in between. Now, I have to admit that I'm coming into this as a huge fan of early jazz - the more modern pieces on the album do nothing for me.
But ah, the vintage recordings are golden, and Vince Giordano's recreations are the kind of stuff I come back to again and again. The focus on Skip James serves as a great introduction to his work - I'm so glad to think of folks of the younger generations discovering these gems, as well as original 78rpm recordings, for the first time. Vince Giordano and his Nighthawks are as splendid as ever (my favorite band, hands down), featured in four selections. Their right-on-target renditions of great early jazz blend in perfectly with the original recordings featured - it's the real McCoy, only minus surface noise.
So sue me - the newer music contained just isn't my cup of tea. But the older stuff - now, that's manna from heaven in my book.

Hirschfeld On Line
Hirschfeld On Line
by Al Hirschfeld
Edition: Hardcover
12 used & new from CDN$ 26.67

5.0 out of 5 stars It's All Here..., June 29 2004
This review is from: Hirschfeld On Line (Hardcover)
Here is the indispensible Hirschfeld book - a must for any fan of his work, or of line in general. From his earliest pieces, all the way through his long career with New York theatre, his work is showcased - and done so through his eyes. Each piece is described by this great artist - his inspirations, methods, and thoughts. I cannot imagine a better way to present his wonderful drawings, and I am so very, very thankful that this collection was printed before his death. Although, yes, the work would show just as beautifully without, his commentary alongside each piece just opens up an entirely new viewpoint. This is a truly timeless book, and I highly recommend it.

Lake Wobegon Loyalty Days
Lake Wobegon Loyalty Days
Price: CDN$ 25.16
13 used & new from CDN$ 0.97

5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Garrison Does it Again, June 23 2004
After shuffling this CD around for some time (I had sort of "inherited" it from my father, and just hadn't gotten around to listening to it), I finally gave it a go on the stereo...and was utterly delighted. Here is a wonderful example of Keillor's work - warmly poking fun at his home state, making his classic commentary on Lutheranism, and peeking a little into his past. It makes for great comedy, and wonderful listening.
Let's go through this sequentially, shall we? The "Whoopi Ti-Yi-Yo" piece is great - the song about a humorist's work, set to cattle-rustling music is such a clever concept, you'll have to hear it for yourself. Just the fact that he mentions his "hand-carved, hand-tooled ballpoint" makes it an instant Keillor classic. The "Sons of Knute", set to Grieg's Homage March is wonderful, as well - such silly lyrics ("Sons of Knute, marching to freedom...") set to such a noble composition - it's a marriage made in heaven. "The Young Lutheran's Guide to the Orchestra" will surely go down as one of the great Keillor works - it's pure genius. His description of each instrument's sound, and what one should associate it with, is guaranteed to draw laughter from the stodgiest curmudgeon. And, of course, the analysis of each instrument's player - priceless. "The Radio Announcer" is classic Keillor nostalgia, touched with hilarity, and bittersweet memory - the outcome of his college radio career is absolutely knee-slapping. Finally, the "Song of the Exiles" shows Keillor at his best - almost hypnotizing in his ability to capture in words the character of a place, time and surrounding experience. Here is where his work truly shines, and it is the perfect way to wind up the album. Through it all, the Minnesota Orchestra accompanies beautifully, enhancing perfectly Keillor's written word. Everything falls into place seamlessly.
I can honestly say that this CD is among my top twenty, and is never far from my stereo. It fits my every mood, and I never tire of it. If you're a fan of Keillor, it's a must-have. If you're new to his work, here's a good place to start.

Harpo Speaks!
Harpo Speaks!
by Harpo Marx
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 23.93
43 used & new from CDN$ 8.82

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unsung Classic, June 23 2004
This review is from: Harpo Speaks! (Paperback)
This book is a true must-read for anyone, Marxist or not. Full of good humor, incredible experiences, an amazing childhood, and life in vaudeville, its message is one of warmth and hilarity. I first read it at 18 years of age, and still revisit its pages twelve years later. I hope that's always the case, for each time, I find something new.
As you read through this book, you'll find yourself thinking, "There just aren't people like this guy anymore" - Harpo Marx was the cheerful, resourceful product of turn-of-the-century New York, and vaudeville, at that. His childhood of scrapping out a survival of relative destitution (the jobs he took are hilarious, and fascinating, to read about), in a loving, albeit quirky, family couldn't be found in fiction - it's too wacky to have been invented. And his introduction to life on the stage - well, you'll have to read for yourself.
Harpo Marx's life seems never to have had a dull moment - from a hugely successful life on stage and screen, to his intimate friendships with members of the legendary Algonquin Round Table (the croquet fixation among those folks is a book in itself) - it's practically a life worthy of fairytale status. His stories about Alexander Woollcott are absolutely hysterical, and a great treat by themselves. And don't even get me started on the section about Oscar Levant - just thinking about it makes me laugh out loud. Finally, we read about Harpo's marriage to Susan Fleming, and their adoption of five children. The warmth and humanity that were such a huge part of Harpo can be summed up by the reason he chose to adopt five children - so that when he came home every day, there would be a face in each window to greet him. What a great, great man.
My review only skims the surface of this great book's content - it's a fascinating read, and will definitely open your eyes to a new way of seeing the world. It's worth every penny, and chances are you'll want to hold onto your copy for a good, long time. I sure have.

Good Old Coney Island
Good Old Coney Island
by Edo McCullough
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 38.41
16 used & new from CDN$ 4.96

5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading for us Coney Island Fanatics, May 18 2004
This review is from: Good Old Coney Island (Paperback)
This book is truly a delight - it opens the eyes to the magic that Coney Island possesses, and forces you to see it in a completely new light. Told from the viewpoint of a man with strong Coney ancestry, this is really the "inside story" - from the Island's tawdry beginnings, through its turn-of-the-century glory days, the zany "nickel empire" of the 1920's, all the way into the 1950's. I wish it could go on further, but no need for complaint - that's practically where Charles Denson picks up with his marvelous book on Coney - but that's another review altogether.
Here, Edo McCullough talks honestly about Coney's glories, as well as its seamy underbelly - nothing is left out, and it isn't necessarily a "sentimental journey", after all. But all the better - the seamy side is half the fun, after all. From shifty politics, prostitution, crime and carnies, to the glories of Luna Park, Dreamland, and Steeplechase - the reader is in for a truly fascinating experience.
But be warned - once you pick the book up, you'll have a hard time putting it down. Despite it's being packed with solid history, it's a very quick read - which, I think, is a very good sign. Enjoyable education - who could ask for more?

Coney Island: Lost and Found
Coney Island: Lost and Found
by Charles Denson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 37.99
15 used & new from CDN$ 34.73

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The BEST Coney Island Reference Book Available, April 29 2004
Calling all Coney Island fanatics, nostalgia buffs and preservationists - this is the book for you. I hardly know where to start in singing its praises - simply put, it's a heartfelt love-letter to the past, present and future of our beloved Island. The photographs are exquisite, the author's personal experiences poignant, and the history documented fascinating. What more could you ask for?
I was amazed upon first opening Denson's book - for some years I had been photographing the "leftover buildings", as I knew them - faceless, nameless structures from the old days of Coney, unsure of their histories, but endlessly fascinated by them. Charles Denson cleared up most every mystery for me, documenting the pasts of these previously anonymous remnants. For this, I cannot thank him enough. Even further, he has included photographs that he took over a lifetime, of demolitions, which are heartbreaking, but informative, to see. It's as if he's putting his private treasure trove of images out for all the world to see, which, really, is a great gift. I owe him many thanks.
The layout and sequencing of the book is perfect, arranged in a timely, appropriate manner. Unfortunately, it is a very fast read, but not due to a shallow treatment of its subject - rather, that it is such fascinating material, handled with enthralling interest. One can feel Denson's pride and joy in Coney Island - it practically radiates from the pages.
This is one of the few books that I'd recommend buying even if one doesn't have the chance to view it first - it would be well worth three times the asking price. It is a truly landmark reference book on Coney Island - although it's a delight, it's accurate, respectable, and quite sincere, as well. The photographs alone make it worthy of purchase, as do Denson's personal stories of youth and adolescence on the Island. Please, please, please give it a try - you'll find that it is worth every penny, and that it is a book you'll hold onto for a long, long time to come.

The Amusement Park Guide, 5th
The Amusement Park Guide, 5th
by Tim O'Brien
Edition: Paperback
18 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Must-Have for Amusement Park Fanatics, April 29 2004
This is, truly, the bible of amusement park guides. I am always amazed at its thorough coverage of parks, both large and small, in the United States and Canada - is there an international edition in the works??? If so, put me on the list of buyers.
It's difficult to think of a park that isn't listed here - from the mainstream parks such as Disneyworld and Universal, to the tiny, neighborhood parks such as Weona and Nelly Bly, they're all here, and beautifully documented. Signature rides are listed for each park - from the big, modern coasters, to the rarer flats. As a huge fan of Flying Scooters and Lusse Auto Skooters (you fellow park nuts will know what I'm talking about, here), I love that such rides are included. Park histories are here, as well, for all of us preservationists.
Directions, websites, and further information are included for the parks, also, which greatly helps if one wishes to visit a park. Also, common-sense tips for park visitors are here, as well as little-known secrets that assist with getting around a park to the greatest efficiency.
I was fortunate enough to find this book while visiting Knoebels Grove (the best park in America, as far as I'm concerned), and couldn't put it down during the entire ride home. It's addictive, informative, and, well, a must-have. What with the summer practically here, run, don't walk, and get your copy NOW.

Coney Island: American Experience [Import]
Coney Island: American Experience [Import]

5.0 out of 5 stars Required Viewing, April 23 2004
I am endlessly amazed by this film - the perfect Coney Island documentary. I have long loved, and studied, the history of this great resort, and could never imagine a better documentary celebrating its past glory, and future prospects.
I hardly know where to begin...from the priceless archival footage, the sounds incorporated, the utterly accurate representation of history - it all deserves to be held in high praise. The commentary, and voice-overs, from great intellectual figures of our time certainly doesn't hurt, either - their readings from such as Maxim Gorky, George Tilyou, etc. are perfectly chosen, and beautifully phrased. Fantastic.
The footage deserves a paragraph all its own - this alone is cause for viewing, and purchase. Long-lost rides such as the Leapfrog Railway, Witching Waves, Virginia Reel, Steeplechase and Chute the Chutes are shown in all their glory, at correct film speed (an unfortunate rarity). Such a pleasure to view these images! I can't put it into words! The skylines of Luna Park and Dreamland sparkle as those who remember dreamily describe, and the interior of Steeplechase spins and buzzes with ineffable gaiety. Why, oh why can't we have such glories again?! Alas - such innocent times are gone forever. All the more reason that such archival films are so important.
The history of the parks is right on target, and depicted with interest and enthusiasm. Even those who couldn't care less about amusement parks will surely find themselves rather riveted - it's a fascinating story. The tales of sheer will and determination of the businessmen of early Coney Island is incredibly impressive, and their sense of survival in the face of disaster serves as a real inspiration.
Overall, need I even say it, I would recommend this film to anyone - it's fascinating viewing, and a marvelous look at a sorely underappreciated part of American history.

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