Welcome to the Insta-hood @jr.nes77 !

This week’s Welcome to the Insta-hood is on @jr.nes77 !

  1. Tell me a little about yourself:

“I was born and raised in the great city of Chicago and I’m also first generation Mexican. Since I can remember, I’ve always loved watching movies and listening to music.  Growing up on the north side of Chicago, I can remember the days of hanging out on my block while talking with friends about the latest Nightmare on Elm Street movie and with a couple boomboxes playing in the background. One specific genre that would consistently be played on those boomboxes was Chicago House music. On any Friday night, you’d hear mixes from Ron Hardy, Farley “Jackmaster” Funk and the legendary Godfather of House Music, Frankie Knuckles (who I luckily met and became friends with while working at Virgin Megastore).

I was also lucky enough to have parents who loved going to the movies, but also loved having a movie night at home. I can safely say that my taste in movies is a fusion of my parent’s tastes. On one hand, you had my father watching “Deer Hunter” and on the other you’d see my mother watching “Fire in the Sky.”

Being fortunate enough to grow up in Chicago, I was treated at a young age to the legendary show, Svengoolie. This show would play classic camp, sci-fi and horror films like “Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man,” “The Bride of Dracula,” “The Incredible Shrinking Man” just to name a few. The Svengoolie show has aired locally since 1970 and now broadcasts outside of the Chicago area.

My love for films and music grew even more when I worked at Virgin Megastore for nearly 8 years. Not only did I have immediate access to all types of films and music, but access to a group of individuals who had the same love that I do. Having this accessibility just made my love for the strange and unusual even stronger…since I too am…strange and unusual. Sorry, I felt I had an opportunity to quote “Beetlejuice” and I had to take it.  


In 2019, I took the first step in creating my small business and that was forming my LLC, UNDERCOVER. That same year, I partnered with [synthetic] Chicago (Alberto) to create Front Left Speaker (FLS). Forming UNDERCOVER is an extension of my vision on creating product and events that highlight my love for music, movies, art and Chicago.”

2. Can you talk a little bit about Front Left Speaker?

Front Left Speaker (FLS):

When working at Virgin Megastore, I met so many fans of Chicago House Music and aspiring DJs. During and after work, so many great discussions of Chicago House music and parties would be had. As time progressed, I found myself creating amazing bonds with a handful of people and one in particular was Alberto ([synthetic] Chicago).


As we discussed our love for Chicago House Music, we found ourselves having some similar concerns. One of our observations was seeing our female friends struggle to break into the scene. Regardless of how amazingly talented they were, they faced so many obstacles in a heavily male dominated field. We also saw many who didn’t fit the “industry norm,” be denied great opportunities.


As all this occurred, House music was gaining popularity across the world and it seemed that people were forgetting that House music originated in Chicago.  At this point, we thought to ourselves, one day we should collaborate and throw parties together to address these issues. We discussed how we would feature women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ community and remind everyone that House music originated in Chicago.

As life happens, we separated from Virgin Megastore and began our separate journeys. We kept in touch throughout the years, but it would be some time that we would be in the right stage in our lives to start what we’ve always talked about.

Around 2017 we found each other again after not seeing each other for a few years. We reconnected and caught up, turned out we were both starting new chapters in our lives and ready to make some moves. Alberto reached out one day and said, let’s hangout and talk. We met up and as usual, we would catch up. Alberto would then say, I think the time is now for us to work together. Alberto would then explain he’s had an idea of an event series that would address several social issues that we previously discussed. Thus, Front Left Speaker was born.”

3. If you have to make a Cult movie spring list: What movies would you have on there and why?

Top 5 Spring Cult Films:

  1. Polyester – When the Spring season arrives, it brings the beautiful aromas of fresh rain and blooming flowers. With that said, why not celebrate your sense of smell with John Waters’ “Polyester” that features “ODORAMA.”  Plus, everyone loves a serial foot stomper.

2. Spring Breakers – When Spring season hits, it’s a little hard not think about students on Spring Break and their shenanigans. So why not join in on the fun with a couple former Disney stars, booze, drugs, scooters and James Franco (AKA Alien) in Spring Breakers.

3. Pumpkin – Love is in the air during this season and nothing says love like two polar opposites falling for one another.  

4. Demons – As we get ready to hit the movie theaters again, there’s nothing better to celebrate with the idea of getting trapped in the theater with some demons.

5. Showgirls – Need some spring in your step? Showgirls can help you get sprung into action with some killer dance moves and jazz hands.

4.  Can you talk about the music video you created?

Music Video – Version 2.0:  The Reboot:

After completing a successful 2019, we were ready to take 2020 by storm. As soon as our “Mary XXXmas” event ended in December 2019, we were working hard for our 1-year anniversary of FLS in March 2020. As we got closer to the date, the news of a new virus that could possibly become a pandemic was becoming a reality. In early March of 2020, Chicago announced the closures of bars, venues, restaurants and restrictions on gatherings. As heartbroken as we were, there was nothing more important than the safety of all.  As time progressed and closures remained, event organizations were streaming live events to promote their artists and brand. Streaming became very popular and majority were using that platform. As Alberto and I discussed our options during these unusual times, we decided to go in a different route. Instead of streaming, we decided to create a music video that would loop with an original Chicago House mix.  As we discussed the pandemic and social issues that were occurring in 2020, we felt the world needed a “reboot.”  As we were developing the concept of our music video, we decided to also pay homage to our love of cult films.

Premise: The world is under attack by ignorance and hatred…let alone that dirty nasty bitch COVID-19. Sound the alarm!!! The world is in dire need of a reboot. Queue our lead mother android as she steadily works away creating her fem bot. Watch as they work towards creating change for not one, but for all. Their mission, to eliminate ignorance and hatred through the power of music and artistry.”

5. Do you have any exciting events or news that you would like to share?

“UNDERCOVER product line currently in production and will launch in the summer.  All original creations and manufactured in my studio/office in downtown Chicago.  IG will have updates and more information in the upcoming weeks.

  • New Front Left Speaker music video, “Version 2.0:  Integration,” is currently in development.  Could a trilogy be in the works??? We all know what happens in a trilogy, all bets are off in the last chapter.
  • Front Left Speaker product line in final stages of production and will be launching in the summer.  IG will have updates and more information in the upcoming weeks.”

If you would like more information. The following information is below:

Instagram: @jr.nes77





@tmixwell – Tmixwell

@jaysquaed – Jay Jay


Music Video

My Criterion Collection Dream Movies!

I always imagined if I was in charge of selecting the movies that go on the Criterion Collection what movies I would put on there. So here are five movies that I would pick:

To Woo Foo Thanks for everything, Julie Newmar (1995):

Directed by Beeban Kidron and starring Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo. This is one of my favorite movies and I actually remember going to the theatre to see it. This is the kind of movie I tend to watch when I am in a weird mood and want to watch a movie to change my mood.

Fun Fact about this movie: Gary Oldman was offered one of the lead roles but at the time he did not want to do another role that he had to do a long process of makeup.

Coming to America (1988)directed by John Landis. Starring Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones and Shari Headley. The first time I watched this movie was on TNT and they were having some kind of marathon where it was shown for 24 hours straight. Out of those 24 hours I think I watch it 4 times just to absorb all of the humor and the different characters that Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall played in the movie.

Fun Fact about this movie: This movie was nominated for two Oscars. One for best Makeup- Rick Baker and the other for Best Costume- Deborah Nadoolman

Joe’s Apartment (1996):

directed by Jerry O’Connell and Megan Ward. This is the first MTV movie I remember being heavily promoted on the channel. Plus it has a bunch of cockroaches as the lead in a movie and how many times can you say you watched a movie about Cockroaches in a comedy?

Fun fact about this movie: The concept of making this movie was from a movie short (1994) that was shown during the commercial breaks on MTV.

Elvis (1979) directed by John Carpenter:

Starring Kurt Russell, Season Hubley and Shelly Winters. I have watched a lot of movies about Elvis and his journey to fame. This is one my favorite interpretation of his life.

Fun Fact about this movie: Bing Russell (who’s son is Kurt Russell) played Veron (who is Elvis’s father)

What is your dream list of Criterion Collection movies? Comment below!

Until next time!

Source: Internet movie Database

Welcome to the insta-hood: @wesleyisdrella !

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing @wesleyisdrella !

  1. Tell me a little about yourself:

“My name is Wes, but in drag I go by Drella. I started in the Orlando punk scene, opening a few shows with my personal taste of underground music, new wave and synth punk.

There I am, a queen of the night and then the punks would rage and beat the hell out of each other (while I watched, voyeuristically).

That was my way of avoiding the gay circuit, I am quite stubborn and refused to go the route of a ‘talent’ night and so on. And I had more fun with this crowd anyway, I was pleased Drella was received so well on Mills Avenue. I was just getting the taste for blood before the pandemic. I aspire to weird people out, I care not for big tits or death drops. I want the audience to leave with their date in silence, thinking “how queer..how strange..”

2.  How did you come up with your instagram name? 

Art by @mackamo10

“Simple, Wesley is Drella, Drella is Wesley. I got Drella from Andy Warhol’s persona and the album dedicated to him after his death by John Cale and Lou Reed, Songs for Drella. It’s my love to Andy.”

3.  If you had to pick 3 icons (living or dead) over for a dinner: Who would they be and why?

“I love this question; it is very fun to daydream about. For a dinner of only champagne, I would welcome Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and Nina Hagen to talk about art and all things worth living for. All three have inspired me very much to live as extraordinarily, fiercely, and proud as I can. Then we would all go nightclubbing together.”

Grace Jones

4. Name 3 movies that would best describe your personality and why would those movies be it?

“Oh god. Well, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I believe there are few movies that strike so many chords like conviction, humor, liberation, pride and pain the way that exquisite film does. I really love Blade Runner 2049 too. The dreary, neon world that was built accompanied by the music of Hans Zimmer is enrapturing. I enjoy that kind of viewing experience most, not to mention conceptual, post-apocalyptic fashion and makeup. I am terrible at deciding, so there are many others I could choose for my third movie, like Alien or Black Swan, but I will go with the tried-and-true The Mummy. A camp masterpiece and a look into 1999 Hollywood, silly, but golden, nonetheless.”

5. Do you have any exciting news or events that you would like to share?

“I am excited to be now living in Denver to pursue studying art history as well as drag, where I believe Drella will prosper even more in the west.”

If you would like more information on @wesleyisdrella the following contact information is below:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wesleyisdrella/?hl=en

Thank you so much for the interview! Until next time!

The day Valentino died…

When Rudolph Valentino died in the early morning of Monday August 23, 1926 the world was devastated. He had fainted at “The Hotel Ambassador” on August 15, 1926 then he was brought to the New York Polyclinic Hospital. The doctors who treated him diagnosed him with having a couple of gastric ulcers and appendicitis (they referred his symptoms to “Valentino syndrome.”). So they decided to perform surgery the same day Valentino was admitted. However he was not ok after the surgery he had gotten peritonitis. Which is severe inflammation of the peritoneum. It is the lining a the inside wall of the abdomen and acts as the cover of all of the abdominal organs. On August 18 the doctors were on the fence about Valentino overall health. And by August 21 Valentino was doing worst because peritonitis had gone to his left lung which made him very frail.

Italian born American actor Rudolph Valentino (1895 – 1926), fashionably dressed and smoking a cigarette. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

However no one wanted to tell Rudolph Valentino the truth about his ill fate and he actually believed that he was getting better. So on the morning of August 23, 1926 he was talking to the doctors when he fell into a coma later that day and died. He was only 31 years old.

During his days as an actor he became a sexual icon for those who watch his movies. Rudolph was given such names as the “the Latin lover”, Valentino or “the Great Lover.”

Vilma Bank and Rudolph Valentino in The Son of the Sheik (1926)

His funeral was held in both New York and California. On August 24, 1926 about 100,00 mourners engulfed the streets of Manhattan to see the beloved sex symbol of the 1920’s one last time.
The actual funeral was done at a place called Frank Campbell Funeral Home in Manhattan. It got so crowed in that area that windows were smashed and riots went on for that whole day because Valentino’s fans wanted to come inside the funeral home. It took over a hundred policemen to lined the streets trying to restore order during the funeral. Also the number of suicides were documented that day as a high number due to fans who were so overwhelmed by grief of his death.

More craziness ensued that day thanks to actress Pola Negri.

Pola Negri was a popular actress at the time. She met Valentino at a costume party at San Simeon (William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies were known to have various parties with a theme.) and it was claimed from there until the time of Valentino’s death that they were lovers. When she was at his New York funeral she caused such a scene such as collapsing, fainting and sobbing loudly various times throughout the procession that it definitely caught the attention of the media.

She even had a huge floral agreement that spelled out her name to be put next to Valentin’s coffin but it was refused. She also claimed until her death in 1987 that Randolph Valentino was the love of her life.

Rudolph Valentino had made no arrangements for his death because he did not think he was going to die. So a friend of his by the name of June Mathis stepped in to help. For a short time she offer a crypt that she bought for herself at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Hollywood, California) until other arrangements could be made. Mathis bought the crypt for herself and her husband however they divorce and she got the crypt. Unfortunately Mathis died a year after Valentino so she ended being bury where her (ex) husband was going to be.

Rudolph Valentino and June Mathis

And Valentino was never moved. So I am guessing that maybe that they were still friends in the after life. Valentino’s films were more in demand after his death and so they were brought out and played in movie houses until the mid 1930’s. Those in demand Rudolph Valentino movies paid for a lot of bills from his estate.

There has been a long tradition of a “lady in black” appearing at Valentino’s grave. It started around 1928 where a woman would arrived completed covered and veiled in black bring a one rose (some say it’s two roses) to bring to his grave.

A woman named Ditra Flame (1905-1984) claimed to be the original “lady in black.”

Ditra Flame

She said it started when she was 14 years old and was in the hospital with a terrible illness. She had a visitor from a family friend who happened to be Rudolph Valentino. He put a single rose in her hand and told her that everything will be ok and she will live. And he made her promised that if he died before she does to visit his grave so he won’t be alone. After her death in 1987 the tradition still continues and there is still a lady in black visiting his grave.

Sources, Wikipedia, youtube.com, This was Hollywood by Carla Valderrama.

Artist’s spotlight: @rosiephillipsarts

This week’s artist spotlight is on @rosiephillipsarts

  1. Tell me a little about yourself:

“Hello! My name is Rosie and I’m a 20 year old artist based in Norfolk, UK. I specialize in oil painting and realism – specifically portraiture. I’ve always been drawing and creating, but it wasn’t until I completed my A-levels in 2019 that I began practicing art professionally, taking on commissioned work and exhibiting locally. I’m still exploring my style, but for the most part I’ve been engaging with my love of realism, finding ways to take such an oversaturated genre of art and introduce something new to it.”

2. What was the first painting you remember creating?

” My memory is ROUGH these days – but i like to think my first actual painting was a profound, career-defining masterpiece. The first painting I remember creating was in 2013 and quite the opposite; a wonky pop-art portrait of Rihanna made with poster paint and permanent marker that my then – puppy ended up cocking his leg on. A harsh critic, but looking back I get why he did it.

The first ‘proper’ painting that I created was the portrait of my Uncle cutting my Grampy’s hair. I wanted to capture his bold character in this moment, highlighting all the wonderful amusing little quirks that make each family unique. My favorite thing about this one is the narrative – I’ve had so many dramatically different comments on it. Some people recognize their family, or someone famous (had some VERY questionable names pop up here), or they think he’s a boxer in a ring maybe. I think its fun to get people thinking and re-remembering certain moments from their own lives; some stories I would have never otherwise heard if it wasn’t for my paintings.”

3.  What are some central figures or themes in your art and why are they a recurring theme?

“I’ve definitely had a focus on people and animals in my recent pieces – partly as a result of commissioned work for sure. I find people so interesting – I’m drawn to body language and inward states in particular. Most of my subjects have been people that I’m close to and I think this has helped me to communicate expressions and personal relationships that feel universal; just as familiar to a passing stranger as they are to me.

My self portrait was inspired by the ways I have found myself addressing my identity; as something I am yet to ‘grow into’ and less of an understanding of my current values and interests. The theme came from my glitchy family TV and alludes to the stagnant feeling most of us have probably experienced a lot in the past year. “

Trying to predict the future all the time can be exhausting; in my paintings i aim to ‘interrupt’ seemingly insignificant moments and observe the present.”

4. How does the process of commissions work?

“I’m very much still learning as I go – to anyone thinking about offering commissions, I would recommend you log absolutely everything! Time, materials, the lot. Starting out has been full of trial and error, but I’m really grateful for this. With each portrait I’ve found ways to improve, become more efficient, and learn more about myself and how I work. I actually used to have a massive issue with finishing pieces as I would constantly pick them apart for ‘flaws’, so just getting my work out there has helped me go from strength to strength. Now that I record my process for YouTube, I’m able to better judge how long a painting will take me. For example, an A4 piece is likely to take between 20 – 40 hours depending on the level of detail and background in it; I’m quite the perfectionist and attention to detail is really important to me. I tend to avoid price lists for commissioned work as each of my paintings have been so unique, but I’m more than happy to offer quotes when contacted!”

5. Do you have any exciting news or events that you would like to share?

“Yes! I’m running an exhibition for young and emerging creatives this summer where I’ll be displaying and selling my own work! Everything will be available to view online and I will be selling prints alongside originals. If anyone is interested, more information will be available closer to the time via my linked social media. I’m really looking forward to doing more of this now that things are opening up here in the UK, so stay tuned!”

If you like more information about Rosie and her art. The following contact information is below:

Email: rosiephillips.art@gmail.com

Instagram: @rosiephillipsart

Facebook: Rosie Phillips Art : https://www.facebook.com/rosiephillipsart

Twitter: @rosphillipsart : https://twitter.com/rosphillipsart

YouTube: Rosie Phillips Art : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk8-nTg7puFgw3d1u41oOEg

TikTok: @rosiephillipsart : https://www.tiktok.com/@rosiephillipsart?

Website: https://rosiephillipsart.com/

 Linktree, which has everything listed above: https://linktr.ee/rosiephillipsart

A mother of a movie: Great Mother Day’s Movies to watch!

With Mother’s Day around the corner I decided to list five movies that centers around mother’s and/or a mother and daughter/son relationship.

Serial Mom (1994) directed by John Waters. Starring Kathleen Turner, Ricki Lake, Sam Waterston and Matthew Lillard. What can I say about one of my favorite movies ever? This movie taught me such valuable lessons. However the most important lesson I learned from watching this movie was never take anyone for face value. Because they could be a Serial Mom in the making.

Fun Fact about this movie: The video store in the movie was one of John Waters favorite video stores in the area.

The Joy Luck Club (1993) directed by Wayne Wang. Starring Ming-Na Wen, Tsai Chin, Lisa Lu and Rosalind Chao. I remember the first time I watched it I was about ten years old. I never sobbed so much after watching a movie. But it made me want to get it a second movie watch after I watched it. It also made me wonder what kind of life my mom had before she had kids and the struggles and victories she had in order to make a life for herself by coming to a new country. I definitely recommend watching this movie at least once or reading the book by Amy Tan.

Fun Fact about this movie: This movie was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry for the Library of Congress in 2020.

Mermaids (1990) directed by Richard Benjamin. Starring Cher, Winona Ryder, and Christina Ricci.

I actually did not see this movie until five years ago. But I enjoyed this movie immensely because it seemed like the mother/daughter roles were reverse. Cher playing the role of Mrs. Flax and mother to Charlotte and Kate but she is still trying to figure out life. Never really satisfied with life or the men in that town so she gets bore and moves. It kind of reminds me of the weird period of what you graduate from high school what is your next transition and will it be a successful one? Charlotte Flax played by Winona Ryder plays more of the mother role. She is practically a mother figure to her younger sister and she is more of the stable one between her and mother.

Fun fact about this movie: Winona Ryder was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in the movie.

Mommie Dearest (1981) directed by Frank Perry. Starring Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwald and Rutanya Aida.

So there is probably no surprise that this movie is on the list. I have talked about this movie so much that how could I NOT include it? I always watch this movie every year for Mother’s Day for the past 18 years. The first time I saw this movie I was seven years old and I thought that Faye Dunaway was the real Joan Crawford. It took me a good three years to realize that it was an actor portraying Joan Crawford!

Fun fact about this movie: Paramount Presents is re-resealing this movie in June of this year. (And yes I definitely pre-ordered it!!!)

Mother (1996) directed by Albert Brooks. Starring Albert Brooks and Debbie Allen.

When I was 13 years old I had a mild obsession with Albert Brooks. If I had to rank the 3 most watched movies of his it would be 1. Defending Your Life 2. Mother 3. Modern Romance. I tried to share my witty humor and passion of Albert Brooks movies to my classmates but no other kid understood where I was coming from. Forward to now and I am glad that I am able to share my adoration for this movie! I thought this was more of Albert Brooks funnier movies. I know for myself I literally found myself laughing out loud at this movie than others. Albert Brooks plays the lead role. He goes back home to find his roots after a messy divorce and tried really really hard to connect with his mother. Which does not go very smoothly.

Fun Fact about this movie: Debbie Reynolds was not the first choice to play the role of Albert Brooks’s mother. Esther Williams was also in consideration.

Until next time!

Sources: Youtube and Internet Movie Database.

Welcome to the Insta-hood: @Childrensbookclub!

This week’s interview is on a great social media account: @childrensbookclub !

1. How did you come up with the idea of this account?

“I created the account in 2018, a time when I was at home quite a lot with a toddler and a baby. I often found myself photographing illustrations from my vintage children’s book collection (which was much smaller then—this account has really allowed me to justify bulking it up!) and then returning to the pictures in my phone to admire them. That started to feel a bit silly, so on a whim I started an Instagram account just to have something to do with all those photos. 

The first book I ever posted was Spectacles by Ellen Raskin, one of my favorite children’s book authors. Spectacles is basically a visual gag about what a little girl sees or thinks she sees before and after her first pair of glasses. Most people know Ellen Raskin from The Westing Game, which was one of my most treasured chapter books as a kid, but she was a prolific picture book author and illustrator too. Her illustrations from the late 1960s are incredible. 

It took a while before the account attracted any real following, and when it did I was pleasantly surprised. There are so many incredible children’s book accounts on Instagram that I never expected mine to get noticed, but I get very thoughtful and complimentary messages all the time about how much people look forward to my posts.”

2. Who are your top 3 favorite children’s book authors and why?

1. Ezra Jack Keats. I think it’s tempting to dismiss iconic children’s books like Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Where the Wild Things Are due to feeling overexposed to them, and I get that—I have read each of those books one thousand times in my life as a kid, as a teacher, as a parent and it’s hard to muster up the enthusiasm to count those fruits the caterpillar is eating his way through yet again. (Also this is maybe a good time to confess that I have never liked Dr. Seuss, even before we all noticed he was a deplorable racist, and I detested The Giving Tree even as a child, so I understand that those archetypal picture books simply are not for everyone.) But I urge anyone who feels like The Snowy Day is overrated to try to read it again with fresh eyes! It is truly a flawless picture book. There is an amazing quote from Keats about Peter, the protagonist of The Snowy Day and six of his other books, who was the first Black main character in a bestselling children’s book: “My book would have him there simply because he should have been there all along.” 

2. Anne Rockwell. I am choosing Anne Rockwell because she occupies the perfect center in a Venn diagram representing authors I love(d) as a child, as a parent, and as the person running the ChildrensBookClub account. She published a kids’ cookbook in the early eighties called The Mother Goose Cookie-Candy Book that my older sister and I made nearly every recipe from when we were kids, and that was my first experience with baking and it was hugely formative for me at six, seven, eight years old to make a thing without adult help—that was actually edible!

I don’t really enjoy cooking but I love to bake, and I think that book is one of the reasons why: it taught me that baking is fun, even when it doesn’t turn out exactly as expected. (A side note regarding baking: if you, like me, love cake and also vintage children’s books, I started a new side account recently called ChildrensBookCakes that might be right up your alley!) Both of my children adore Anne Rockwell and we have a huge collection of her work. She was mind-bogglingly prolific but a few of her best books, in my opinion, are The Bump in the Night, Gypsy Girl’s Best Shoes, and The Awful Mess.

3. Tomi Ungerer. With the exception of Crictor, which was a Reading Rainbow book, I didn’t read any of Tomi Ungerer’s books until I was an adult, which is really a shame because his aberrant brand of storytelling and celebration of unsavory characters would have been my exact cup of tea as a child. I now read his books often with my family, particularly The Three Robbers, Zeralda’s Ogre, and The Beast of Monsieur Racine. Those books, and many of his others, have a lot of central themes in common: intrepid children, immoral or at least questionable behavior going unpunished, unspecified Old World countries as settings, magnificent bygone language (blunderbuss! marauder! cuirass!), surprising endings. Ungerer’s books celebrate bravery and champion adventurousness, and they are darkly funny in a way appealing to both adults and children. He was a cartoonist and satirist and wrote erotica as well and I think the fact that he wasn’t primarily an author of children’s books is why his books feel so authentic and genuine and never like they are pandering to children. (Also—young Tomi Ungerer was a TOTAL BABE.)

A young Tomi Ungerer for reference 🙂

3. What kinds of books did you read as a child?

“When I was very little I loved the Frances books, especially Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell and Lillian Hoban, the Frog and Toad books, and the Childcraft How and Why Library. I still love all those books and now my kids do too! I grew up in the 80s and I think that’s why I love the 60s and 70s for picture books—most of the books I read at school or from the library were from that era.

When I started reading chapter books I definitely gravitated toward dark/mysterious/scary books: I loved In a Dark, Dark Room, anything by Roald Dahl, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Mary Downing Hahn, and The Westing Game. I did read things that were warm and cozy, too—I read and frequently reread all of the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary and I was a huge fan of The Babysitter’s Club (Team Stacey!) and Sweet Valley (Team Elizabeth!). And as I got older I loved to read horror by Lois Duncan and Christopher Pike, which paved the way for a major preteen Stephen King phase. I suppose it’s hard to tell from my Instagram account that I am a big horror fan, but I am, and I guess I always have been!

4. What is the process in choosing the images for your social media page?

Most of the books I post on Instagram belong to me. My personal children’s book collection contains some of the books that I saved from my own childhood, but it is predominantly supplied by my local thrift stores. I have been a devoted thrifter since I was ten years old, and I never get tired of the thrill of the hunt! I will buy books online occasionally, but that takes the fun out; there is really nothing like the feeling of finding a sought-after book in the wild.

Libraries have also provided me with lots of wonderful material. I have library cards for all of the nearby counties and I like checking out (no pun intended!) different branches to see which libraries have good collections of vintage children’s books. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library has a fantastic children’s collection.

One incredible book I read at SFPL is Suzuki Beane by Sandra Scoppettone, which is typically described as a Beatnik version of Eloise. That is a rare, expensive book but they have it in the Book Arts and Special Collections center on the 6th floor of the main branch, and I was thrilled to be able to photograph it there and post it to my Instagram account.

The 1960s and 1970s are my two favorite decades for children’s books and I think most of what I post is from that era. I almost always post ten slides for each book, and I try to keep them sequential for the most part so that I can try to get the story across, although without sharing text it’s a bit difficult. But I do my best to convey the soul of the book!”

5. What is the most requested genre you get to post on your feed and why do you think it is so popular?

You know, I don’t think I have ever received any requests to post anything! I get a lot of requests to post more often and a lot of messages of appreciation for what I do post, but no one ever really makes requests. Based on comments and likes, though, I would say that people respond really positively to mid-century-era books, bold and colorful illustrations (black and white illustrations just never garner the same enthusiasm!), lesser-known works by well-known authors and illustrators, and childhood favorites. As a follower of many accounts that are similar to mine, what I personally enjoy most is getting the opportunity to look closely inside a book that I have never seen before. I am always appreciative when people post multiple images; that is why I try to always post ten slides, so people can get a real sense of what is going on in the book (at least illustrations-wise). I don’t know how many people are swiping past the first image but I do try to be purposeful in my choice of all ten! 

My favorite part of running this account is when I discover something unusual and a little bit weird, because I know people will get excited with me over it.

A good example is a book that I recently stumbled upon called The Nuns Go West by Jonathan Routh. The premise involves seven faceless nuns on holiday traveling through the West on a giant elephant and getting mixed up in some wacky shenanigans, and it is one of those books that just has something for everyone. It’s weird but not inaccessible, it’s funny to kids and to adults, it’s silly in a smart way and the illustrations are great. Those are the kinds of books I love sharing: surprising, lovely, quality books that you have probably never heard of before, but if you track down a copy you can read it to the kids in your life and they’ll love it too, or you can just hang on to it as a collector, and when you turn its pages you can take a moment to feel how lucky you are to live in a world where these extraordinary objects exist.”

If you would like more information. The following contact info is below:

Instagram: @childrensbookclub


Thank you so much for the interview Katie!

until next time! 🙂

Great Small Business: @gumballpoodle !

This week I interviewed a fantastic, great small business: @gumballpoodle !

“One of our very first sales events, ca. 2009-2010, with my pal Sam Phillips helping. I’ve been very fortunate to receive incredible support from my friends since the very beginning. “
  1. How did you start your business?:

” Gumball Poodle started on a whim, way back in 2008. I always wore knee socks and shorts – that was my look – and one day I decided I wanted knee socks that said OBAMA on them…We were all excited about the election, there were loads of t-shirts, bobbleheads, toilet paper, you name it. But as it happened, there were no socks. So I made these OBAMA knee socks, really just for me, but I had to make several thousand pairs. Luckily I had a few friends with stores that said they could sell some, and then other friends got me and my socks into the Manifest Hope Gallery during the DNC.

“Some of our first press – a feature in LA Weekly (before we were even a company!)”

My one-off socks turned out to be a sensation that garnered national press and demanded several manufacturing runs! After Obama won, I thought “that was fun!” And I had more ideas for socks so why not keep going? That is how we started – completely by accident.”

2. How did you come up with your business name?

“Totally random…I was failing at coming up with a name for the business, so I started a stream of consciousness list. Just writing down anything that popped into my mind. Then I looked up and saw my vintage toy poodle collection next to an antique gumball machine: Gumball Poodle! To me, the name conjures retro Americana, bright colors, playfulness, it’s kind of quirky. These are all characteristics our brand embodies so Gumball Poodle we became. “

” A few of those vintage toy poodles that inspired the name, Gumball Poodle”

3. What are your three most popular items and why do you think they are so popular?

” For now we only sell socks. So socks, socks and more socks are the most popular items in our catalog!”

“one of my favorite styles we’ve released so far this year, with a  bit of vintage ephemera…these types of things are what inspires me”

4. How do you come up with the phrases on the gym socks?

“Mostly just by wandering around and talking with people and looking at the world. I find inspiration at flea markets, random signs, old magazines. I enjoy just listening to conversations and sometimes hearing a single word or phrase, it jumps out at you! Words that start with “B” have a certain magic, they have a good mouth feel. “

5. Do you have any exciting news or events that you would to share?

“Some of the designs from our artist collaboration with Oliver Hibert. Getting to work with him was a rare bright spot in 2020. I have been a fan for years.”

“We’re really enjoying our new Artist Collaboration series of socks. Every other month in 2021 we’re introducing a capsule collection of socks featuring designs from an artist we think is special…to date, the collections are with @oliverhibert , @dreyfus.art and @bunnieluvrocks – all really fun, unique artists whose work turned into rad socks. I’m super excited for the other artists we have queued up but who they are will have to be a surprise!”

If you like to learn more about Gumball Poodle. The following contact is below:

Website: https://www.gumballpoodle.com/

Instagram: @gumballpoodle

Thank you so much for the interview Erica!!

Until next time!

The Circleville Writer

I am always revisiting old episodes of Unsolved Mysteries. Since it was one of my main shows I watched as a child there was always a curiosity as to whether a bulk of those unsolved mysteries were in fact solved. And in episode 6, season seven (debut date of this episode was on November 11,1994), they discussed the case of the Circleville Writer:

The some of the residents of a small town called Circleville, Ohio started receiving threatening creepy letters. Some of the letters contained super harassing statements and sexual lewd things but all the of the letters had no return address but were postmarked in Columbus, Ohio. Most of the letters were sent to a women named Mary Gillispie who was a school bus driver for the Westfall School District. The first one she received was in the summer of 1976. She opened the letter and it contained gossip of an alleged affair with the superintendent of school she worked at. The letter also stated that Mary’s house and the movement of her children were being monitored and if this affair did not stop then something bad would happen.

Mary kept the letter to herself thinking it was some kind of weird prank. However over a week later she received more threatening letters and also her husband Ron Gillespie was now getting them. At that point Mary had to be honest with Ron and tell her about the same harassing letters she was getting too. Ron’s letter contained the same information as the letters Mary was getting but with the ultimatum that the writer will go to the media outlets with information of the affair. Also that Ron had to stop the affair or he would be killed because the writer was frustrated that nothing was being done.

The couple decided to fight back by Mary’s inkling of who might be writing those threatening letters and they decided to write to them stating that they knew who was writing the letters and to halt threatening them. It was claimed that the letters that was sent to that person was non threatening but confrontational to a point of telling them to stop harassing them. There was a brief pause of weeks of the letters being sent to the Gillespie. So naturally they thought everything was back to their normal life. However they were beyond wrong!

Almost a full year from the first letter that Mary Gillespie received on August 19, 1977 Ron got an anonymous phone call. It was suspected that Ron was talking to the person who was behind the threatening letter campaign. No one but Ron knew what was discuss between him and the caller. However Ron took his gun, quickly told his kids where and why he was going then got in his pickup truck (a vehicle that was noted from the anonymous writer that that vehicle was being watched) to confront the person who was harassing him and his wife. Later that day Ron was found only a short length from his house. He was shot dead and his truck had crashed in a tree but the authorities were not sure if Ron was shot at (there was no bullet casing found at the crime scene) or if Ron shot himself and crashing into the tree due to him drinking earlier that day. The sheriff that was on the scene was contradictory on his findings (the anonymous writer made sure to write to the townspeople of Circleville to say that the sheriff was covering up the actual cause of death) and results of the cause of Ron’s death. First the sheriff said that there was “foul play” in the cause of death but later he said that Ron’s alcohol blood level was double the legal limit. The only thing that was confirmed was the Ron’s gun was fired from.

The letters didn’t stop and in February 1983 (yes, the letter harassing campaign had been going on for six years at this point). Mary and that particular superintendent did come clean and admitted they had a relationship but it was after the letters started.

She also still had her job as a bus driver and she was going on her regular route when she noticed that there were signs that were threatening her and her kids. She was so annoyed that this person was doing this that she stopped to remove one of the signs and there was some kind of device that held a gun. To try and kill her if it was removed in a particular way. The police took the gun and notice that whoever set up the device try to remove the serial number on the gun. However the gun went through lab tests and they were able to obtain the serial number. From there they were able to find the owner of the gun and it was Mary’s former brother-in-law (who was recently divorced from Mary’s sister) Paul Freshour.

In late February of 1983, Paul was taken into police custody to be questioned about the gun. Paul said that the gun was stolen. The police also asked Paul to submit a handwriting test to be compare to the letters. The evidence was stacking against Paul and he was arrested but later released on a $50,000 bond.

Paul’s next step was to check himself into a mental health center (possibly to plea insanity) but that plea was let go. In October of 1983 Paul Freshour went to trial for attempting to kill his former sister in law: Mary Gillispie. There was witnesses from Paul’s work that that gun was bought from a co-worker and that the date of the attempted murder of Mary. Paul took a personal day. Also writing samples from Paul’s files were taken from his work and writing experts said it was a match. Paul’s defense was that he did purchase the gun but he kept it in the garage and it was stolen from there. Always claiming that he had no knowledge of the whereabouts of the gun once he stored it in the garage and that he also did not write those harassing letters to the townspeople of Circleville.

Paul was found guilty of the attempted murder of Mary Gillispie but not charged with writing the letters. He was sentenced to 25 years.

Some interesting facts of the case:

A harassing letter was sent to the show Unsolved Mysteries:

Even though Paul was arrested and was sent to jail the harassing letters did not stop. There were still being sent to the townspeople of Circleville. Also Paul received some of the letters while he was serving his sentence. He was paroled in 1994 and still claims he did not do anything.

There was nearly a thousand lettered mailed in total. The bulk of the letters contained information about political corruption in the state of Ohio and some even had arsenic in them.

There was one theory about a man that was near the vicinity of where Mary found the device in a bright color El camino. Although that man was never identified or questioned.

What are your thoughts about the case? Comment below!

Source: mentalfloss.com, Unsolved Mysterious Wiki, Youtube.

Artist’s Spotlight: @celebriteeths

This week artist’s spotlight is on @celebriteeths

  1. How did you decide to focus your art on teeth?

“I was at a friends’ yard sale, and they were selling a box of dentist teeth samples. I kept walking over to those teeth all day and thinking “Who in the hell would buy these things?” After a bottle of wine, I finally said to myself “Jesus Ashley YOU need to buy those teeth!” It kind of just took off from there. I should note: I hate my teeth. Like, to an obsessive level I hate my teeth. And we all have those teeth dreams. People really respond to these fake teeth – negatively as well as positively. I do paint other things as well, just so it doesn’t become too much of a gimmick. But, if it makes sense, I stick those teeth there. For example, of course Gwyneth needed to have one lone tooth.”

2. Can you talk about your shop?

“Oh, the hard part – actually selling your art! I have originals and prints for sale; with prints being available on Saatchi. Honestly, originals are cheaper to just order through me directly. I also have some greeting cards of Marcia available – I am also open for commissions! Anyone can DM me!

3. Who has been your most requested celebrity art piece and why do you think it’s so popular?

” I think people respond to the Marcia Brady pieces. I really have tried to capture her going through the changes and rituals girls go through from puberty to teenage years. My focus on her was: Look, here is this perfect girl we all watched grow up – but was she perfect? She was often whining about something; she dealt with her braces, her nose, her ego. But, she was also a little bad ass feminist! And, Maureen McCormick certainly didn’t have an easy road after The Brady Bunch. I like to explore that juxtaposition between perfect images and the reality.”

4. What was the first art piece you created?

“I was reading The Artist’s Way and one of the assignments was to go to the 99 Cent Store and just buy random things. I bought some gold stickers, not really thinking anything of them. Later, I was entranced by the image of tween Marcia Brady in her braces bitching about something and knew I had to paint it. I didn’t feel like the teeth were finished (note: everyone hates painting or drawing teeth). I looked down and saw the gold teeth and said ‘There are my braces!” So, those gold stickers were my first official teeth painting. After I got the fake teeth, I turned to Marcia again – she had some teeth issues; she hated her braces, and she was in love with her dentist. I knew I wanted to paint her mouth agape, dreaming of being Mrs. Marcia Dentist.”

5. Do you have any exciting news or events that you would like to share?

“I am beyond excited that Paul Scheer reposts my videos of his paintings, and he seems to dig his. My hope is to get more celebs on board so I can make a living off of my artwork and move to a beach house/farm with 100 dogs and cats. JK. Kind of.”

If you would like more information about Ashley and her art. The following contact information is below:

Instagram: @celebriteeths

Store: https://www.saatchiart.com/ashleychafin

Email: ashley@thebigcool.com

Thank you Ashley for the interview!!

Until next time!