Pop Culture
Pop Culture: Articles for the Scripps Howard News Service & "Seen, Heard, Said"

Why the top-365-songs list isn't a stupid idea

Actors sink their teeth into vampire roles

Gregory Corso: My encounter with a Beat legend

Golden Globes: Sleazy and proud of it

In the offing, Clinton continent looms

"NYPD Blue" opener: The misery continues

 New movie genre: Reclusive authors anonymous

"West Wing," "Ally," et al.: Words, words, words

When TV shows outstay their welcome

Film critics dig their own graves with "Angels" review

Great Robert Altman films you never
heard of

Famous folk, next week in the arts, show business briefs

"Time regained": Proust in the multiplex

Glitterati is dead, long live Popfocus

Carl Barks: The man who put the ducks in Duckburg

"Almost Famous": Lester Bangs rises from the dead

Liz Hurley wins in war of words with Jane mag

Douglas poses with Zeta-Jones, and baby-makes three

Weddings that aren't: Douglas, Zeta-Jones, Madonna, Ritchie

The Emmy War: A half-century of coast-to-coast feuding

Jennifer Love Hewitt plays the Iglesias odds

It's raining books by and about Trumps

What's in a mane? Blond woman in the news

Liz Hurley denies dissing ex-beau

Rock Hall of Infamy: Anti-heroes from Elvis to Eminem

Barbra tix bankrupt fans

Laurels for Kathie Lee to rest on

Hillary "In bed" with De Niro, Cruise, Kidman

How "Sopranos," "West Wing" will divvy up awards

This just in: Donald Trump is not a dope

Walter Matthau: A rumpled old dog in the heart of the city

Sampras to take a stroke at wedding bells

Who wants to host "Monday Night Football"?

Queen rewards Tina Brown for demoralizing American readers

How the Korean War cane to TV land 20 years late

Ivanka Trump: From catwalk to commencement line

Lester Bangs: The troublesome punk who wouldn't die

Rags clash over Ted Turner "romance"

With straight face, Trump deems Marla's move "tacky"

"Friends" re-up for another season of top ratings, top money

Madonna in denial, and rightly so

"Suburbia": The continental subdivide

Howard Stern, Sly Stallone in bizarre, apocryphal triangle

Easter video viewing: "Spartacus" to "Harvey"

Billy’s in the news: Bob, Joel in love but not with other

"Charles's Angels" movie: Dispiriting news for old-time fans

Innovative career move for 'NYPD Blue' co-star

Top model: Why I gave oldish rocker husband the heave-ho

Unpleasantville: The awful truth about old-time TV families

Tina Brown held captive in desert by demanding children

Anybody's Oscar: Unusually suspenseful awards show looms

Oscar telecast: Looking for a few good hosts

"Lambs," "Beauty": Oscar's love affair with unacceptable behavior

Brad Pitt, Oscar to be in same room at same time

Letterman bites guest-host bullet: Andrew "Dice" Clay, call your agent

Seinfeld eyes East Hampton manse: Where's the welcome wagon?

"Mod Squad" Immortal dishes couple du jour

Brad Pitt's second thoughts about Oscar

Mike McCurry praises "West Wing": It's not entirely demeaning,,,"

Memo to "Hannibal" producers: Get Najimy while the getting's good

Don't Invite Gwyneth and Oscar to the same party

True or false: Douglas, Zeta-Jones don't even know each other

Ex-Clinton honcho linked to ex-"Cheers" costar

Third party cited in Trump-Knauss breakup

 Gossip queen goes to bat for Talk mag

20th century's No. 1 hit: "Satisfaction" hits the spot

Statement: Spice girl's marital problems insoluble

Charlie Brown, Pogo and me

From Howdy to Charlie Brown, we hate to say goodbye

The Beatle George: While his guitar gently weeps

Jodie Foster's people in mild tiff with CBS

A Peanuts trivia Q&A

Publicist: Boyle still joined at hip

There's video in your future and future in your video

"The future is now": Hit rewind

Whitney Houston presides over confluence of talent

Jim Carrey's flack earns A "D," Cher's A "B-minus"

Geraldo: bye-bye, doghouse

Michael Douglas does nothing much, reporters go wild

Ricky Martin on Menudo: Look back in anger

How to outsmart Halloween crowds at the video store

Tom Cruise puts himself in harm's way, only not really

1800-1900: Steaming towards revolution

1700-1800: Liberty, equality and bloodshed

1600-1700: The earth moves; North America is settled

Trump mulls travel plans, from altar to White House

"Faces of Impressionism" Time machine made of canvas, paint

Major quakes aren't personal unless they happen to you

Brad Pitt gracious about character assassination

Director insists Harrison Ford is not a brainless hulk

Costner, Willis, Douglas. Branagh, Sting_ in that order

Streisand: Color her ready to plug her new album

Julia and Benjamin's rings devoid of significance, flack says

Literary mud wrestling, featuring Geri and The Spice Girls

Urgent news: Ford to replace Gibson on "GMA" eventually

She married a monster from outer space

Never mind Godzilla VS. Mothra, Here's Trump VS. Cronkite

Spurned by Pitt, Redford pays court to Damon

Celebrity coyness is bustin' out all over

"Detroit Rock City": Kiss of death

Talk is cheap? Not with Tina Brown at the helm

The Beats: Remembered, Lionized and Unread

Real estate beat, starring Woody Allen and Donald Trump

Mood Music, or how we learned to stop worrying

Sex in the cinema: From "Last Tango" to "Eyes Wide Shut"

Two easy steps to looking exactly like Ricky Martin

Close encounters of the Muppet kind

Upcoming Brad Pitt movie not garbage, insiders say

Kathie Lee's eyewear excites Islanders' ire

Back to the future, continued

"Wild Wild West": Buck Rogers in the 19th century

Sculptures by Roy Lichtenstein: Fun, Fun, Fun

An expert's verdict:" Austin Powers" is pretty neat

Click here for pointless celebrity gossip

P. Dempsey Tabler of the jungle: The many faces of Tarzan

Kirk Douglas' Ex tells all about Errol Flynn fling

New twist in TV programming: Ax profitable shows

Private jet fees spell the end for another celebrity union

Killer serials: "Flash," "Buck" and a boy named George Lucas

Top nonfiction books: A message from two old men

Celebrity Dream dreams: Monica, Donald, Barbara, Georgette

Two divas, publicist form bizarre show-biz triangle

Johnny Cash tribute: Ring of fire, ring of friends

Streisand employee really upset about rumors

Grande Dame Eyes MGM Grand Gig

Secretive celebs? Not by a long shot

NBC honcho bristles at notion that Brokaw is not a saint

Barbara Walters not keen on daily dose of Monica

"Seen, Heard, Said"

David Letterman, Donald Trump, Eddie Murphy, Elton John

Madonna, Frank Sinatra, Prince Charles, Maj, Ronald Ferguson, Fergie, Miranda Richardson, Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, Axl Rose, Stephanie Seymour

June 22, 1999


By ROGER ANDERSON Scripps Howard News Service

Imagine a history class sometime around the year 2100.
PROFESSOR: "Then a country called the United States of America finally landed a man on the moon in 1969 ..."

STUDENT: "But, sir, according to my database, some English people actually traveled to the moon via anti-gravity technology as early as 1900."

PROFESSOR: "Son, I'm afraid what you've got in your database is an old movie - pure fiction."

STUDENT: "I doubt that, sir. Take this documentary I have up on my screen right now - 'Wild Wild West,' in which an African-American secret agent in the 1870s goes up against a giant, mechanical steam-driven spider. Surely you're not suggesting someone made this up?"

We have the Industrial Revolution to thank for giving writers like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells the impetus for imagining all kinds of advanced technology decades and centuries before reality could catch up with them.

Once our own century got under way, some of those antiquated fantasies made it to the screen in period dress. Think proper gentlemen in waistcoats traveling through space and time by means of deucedly clever contraptions, all in glorious Technicolor.

The creators of "The Wild Wild West," the TV show starring Robert Conrad, which ran from 1965 to 1970 and is now the basis for a gigantic special-effects-laden movie starring Will Smith, obviously knew a good, fun thing when they saw it. That's why they dreamed up an action-packed TV program in which post-Civil War government agents track down malefactors with the aid of flying machines, jet packs, hlgh-yield explosives, and every other sort of anachronistically high-tech device.

Verne, Wells and their Hollywood acolytes were there long before them.

Consider a Victorian sea captain who tools around in the deep in an atomic-fueled submarine called the Nautilus, which comes complete with a pipe organ. In Disney's version of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1959), based on the Verne novel, it's James Mason as the undersea commander and no less odd (and sinister) a couple than Kirk Douglas and Peter Lorre as the two hapless tars held captive by his nefarious scheme for world domination. (The 1916 silent version of the tale is touted as one of the first special-effects extravaganzas.)

Speaking of world domination, who can forget "Master of the World" (1960), with Vincent Price as a well-meaning megalomaniac bent on forcing the pre-World War I commonwealth of nations into a state of permanent detente through the agency of a massive dirigible armed with advanced weapons systems? This time Charles Bronson - in the days before he became one of the biggest box-office draws in movie history - is the Joe Blow who falls afoul of the mastermind's schemes yet manages to thwart them.

In at least one classic case, H.G. Wells dreamed up a device that scientists of our own time haven't been able to replicate. We're talking, of course, about "The Time Machine" (1960) that turn-of the-century English gentleman Rod Taylor makes out of gleaming ivory and then pilots into the far future, where he meets up with an effete belle played by Yvette Mimieux and a bunch of boorish trogolodyes known as Morlocks.

Bear in mind that the tale begins and ends within the confines of the Taylor character's genteel London dining room, where he and his gentlemen cronies smoke cigars and swirl brandy while Rod explains why time is "the fourth dimension."

Now, any American male born between 1945 and 1955 will tell you that the greatest motion picture in history is not "Birth of a Nation,""Potemkin," “Citizen Kane" or “Children of Paradise." The greatest movie in history, such men assure us, is "Journey to the Center of the Earth," another Jules Verne tale, filmed in 1960, with James Mason (again) as an Edinburgh University pointy-head in full tweeds who explores a mysterious subterranean realm with the help of his plucky assistant, Pat Boone.

This one's got it all - erupting volcanoes, waterfall chambers studded with jewels, dinosaurs, the ruins of Atlantis, an underground sea. There's a dearth of high-tech gadgets, but you can't have everything.

And what about the late Victorian mission to the lunar surface our history student was talking about? It's all recorded in "First Men in the Moon," a dandy 1961 Wells-based adventure with veteran screen actor Lionel Jeffries as a scientist who invents a substance that repels gravity. Before you know it, he and a couple of charming young people are rising into space in a vessel fashioned from the stuff - and they don't stop rising till they reach our nearest celestial neighbor.

And now here we are about a breath away from a brand-new century. If "Wild Wild West" itself is anything to go by, we are about to embark on a whole new round of anachronistic Victorian-age sci-fi. With no real-life time machines or anti-gravity ships on our technological horizon, the question becomes: Will our reality ever catch up with the fantasies people had back in the days before the horseless carriage?

Roger Anderson is arts and entertainment editor at Scripps Howard News Service.

back to top