This blog is dedicated to all things Frank – past, present and future.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lester Joins The Fusco Family

Last year my friends Dave and Elaine went to a street fair. There, they saw a vendor selling an old Lester ventriloquist dummy. They took a bunch of photos of themselves with Lester and posted them to Facebook. I was the first person to respond with, "Lester!". I think I might've also had a second comment describing how, as a child, every Christmas I'd circle Lester in the Sears catalog, in hopes of getting him. But Santa never delivered.

A few weeks later, exactly one year ago today, I got home from work to find a box waiting for me on my doorstep. As soon as I saw who it was from I knew what it was, but I still couldn't believe it. I opened the box and there was Lester with a letter saying "Please take care of me", or something like that (I wish I still had the letter). Dave and Elaine made my childhood Christmas wish come true. It was truly the best "just because" gift I have ever received.

To show my appreciation I thought it would be fun to make a calendar of Lester's first year as part of my family. Each month I photographed Lester in a scene that best represents that month – some were pretty elaborate. My neighbors must think I'm a nut job, posing dolls in front of the house.

I knew from ordering calendars in the past that they also give you the option to add photos on peoples birthdays or holidays. I figured if this calendar was coming from Lester, he would probably acknowledge his friends and family's birthdays. So I needed images of Lester's friends and family. That led to a google search: black ventriloquist dummies. Through searching, I learned that there's been many African American ventriloquist acts in the past and present. I became fascinated with this genre, at least for a few days. When I put my mind to something, I tend to go all out…some may say overboard. The proof is below.

Please enjoy my year with Lester, I know I have...

For those of you not familiar with the comedy stylings of Willie & Lester, here's a video from the 1970's children's show, Vegetable Soup

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Santa Baby (2012)

Here's this year's Santa photo, much better than years past. Chloe actually sat next to Santa and smiled…a first.

She's come a long way…

2007: Lots of babies cry on Santa's lap, understandable.

2008: Still a baby, I get it.

2009: Not crying, but refused to sit next to Santa. A bit unorthodox.

2010: Wouldn't even go near Santa.

2011: Again, wouldn't go near him. So I got creative.

2012: Yay Chloe!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Monkees @ The Paramount, LI (12/1/12)

"That was really good, even though there wasn't any explosions." That was Casey's comment after seeing The Monkees perform at The Paramount in Long Island, just over a week ago. The only other show he's ever been to was a KISS/Mötley Crüe concert (here) and it was full explosions, so he only has that as a guide.

We listen to The Monkees on a regular basis at home and in the car so Casey and Chloe are very familiar with their songs. The Monkees were also the first band I ever got into (their show used to rerun on Saturday mornings). Our seats were great, seven rows from center stage (although the people in front of my mom – she went too – stood the whole time, blocking her view).

This particular Monkees tour was quite special in that Michael Nesmith was participating. He's always been the hold-out when it comes to Monkees reunions. He, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork performed 29 songs spanning their short-lived time as a band – including lots of deep cuts you normally don't hear.

Unfortunately, there was one key thing missing, Davy Jones. He passed away last February. (Fortunately, I had the honor of meeting and working with Davy back in 2010.) We originally had tickets to see The Monkees with Davy Jones (no Nesmith) over a year ago, but they abruptly canceled the tour. I later found out it was due to Davy wanting more money. But Davy was at The Paramount in spirit and represented in videoclips. In fact, the most emotional moment of the night came toward the end, when the trio and a randomly chosen audience member led the crowd in a massive singalong to Davy's hit, “Daydream Believer.”

Below are some videos I recorded of the show. The first one being “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, which was actually the closing song of the show (you'll notice Casey didn't want me filming him, he can be a grouch at times). I recorded that one in it's entirety. The other two songs I recorded all of were Nesmith's "Papa Gene's Blues" and "Circle Sky". I also recorded snippets of a bunch of other songs, which I strung together forming a 10 minute Monkees medley.

“Pleasant Valley Sunday”

"Papa Gene's Blues"

"Circle Sky"

"Monkees Medley" (ending of 'Last Train to Clarksville', band intros, 'Sweet Young Thing', 'Steppin' Stone', 'Randy Scouse Git', 'Daily Nightly', 'Porpoise Song', 'As We Go Along', 'Daydream Believer', and 'Listen to the Band')

Here's the complete setlist from the night...

1. Last Train to Clarksville
2. Papa Gene's Blues
3. Your Auntie Grizelda
4. She
5. Sweet Young Thing
6. I'm a Believer
7. (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone
8. I Wanna Be Free (Davy on video)
9. You Told Me
10. Sunny Girlfriend
11. You Just May Be the One
12. Mary, Mary
13. The Girl I Knew Somewhere
14. For Pete's Sake
15. Early Morning Blues and Greens
16. Randy Scouse Git
17. Daily Nightly
18. Tapioca Tundra
19. Goin' Down
20. Porpoise Song (Theme From "Head")
21. Daddy's Song (Davy on video)
22. Can You Dig It?
23. As We Go Along
24. Circle Sky
25. Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?
26. Daydream Believer (Vocals sung by audience)
27. What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?
28. Listen to the Band
29. Pleasant Valley Sunday

Monday, December 3, 2012

2012 Christmas Card

2012 turned out to be the year of KISS for the Fuscos. We saw KISS in concert, went to a KISS Expo, met Ace Frehley, and the kids even dressed as KISS for Halloween. All of those experiences lead to this year's Christmas card.

I apply a certain amount of pressure on myself when coming up with our Christmas card. We've had some pretty good ones in the past and I don't want to let anyone down, myself included. The year you get a store-bought Christmas card from the Fuscos you'll know I've given up on life. But I'll admit, it's getting harder to come up with ideas.

Kim and I started talking about this years Christmas card in October. I had a few thoughts, but nothing I was in love with. We had just ordered the kids Halloween costumes so Kim suggested we all dress up as KISS and say "Merry KISSmas". That's right, it was Kim's idea! (I added the Santa hats.)

Kim and I didn't have costumes so we had to make ours. Her interpretation of Paul Stanley was pretty simple to put together – a female version. Mine was a little more elaborate. I figured with a little construction paper and some tape I could recreate Ace Frehley's Hotter Than Hell costume – out of all his costumes, it seemed the easiest to pull off.

When it came to the photo shoot I thought it would be cool to reenact the cover of KISS Alive! I scanned the album cover, Photoshopped the band out, and tweaked the colored smoke to be Christmas colors. Then I shot us on green screen and pasted us in. Voila!

It wasn't easy finding a printing company that offered square cards – a music LP is square so I wanted to be true to form – but then I found Tiny Prints (they were very thorough, sending emails about my cards' status along the way and a representative even sent me a handwritten card afterward telling me how much he enjoyed my art). The square card allowed for a custom photo front with a personalized message on the inside, plus the option to add an extra photo on the inside.I figured we'll borrow the back cover layout of KISS Alive II and have close-ups of our faces on the inside. After all, applying that make-up was a grueling experience, might as well get the most out of it.

Here's our personalized message…

And the FFF logo on the back…

Here's to a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and the hopes that Gene doesn't sue me for copyright infringement.