Sunday, June 24, 2018

Cassette Tapes and Vincent Price

The England flags are flying all over the place nowadays. Apparently there's some big football game happening? (Yes, yes, I know -- the World Cup.)

I'm oblivious to pro sports in general, so this is probably all you're going to hear about it on my blog.

Let me tell you instead about my dog, because I haven't talked about her since, oh, yesterday!

Seriously, she is sound asleep down by my feet as I lie in bed typing. You know how she wakes me up at 4:30 a.m. every day, raring to go? Well, today she did not. We took a long, long walk on the Heath yesterday -- about three hours, I think. She ran and swam in the mud pond and in general had a ball, and she's been sleeping ever since, with brief breaks for scratches and food. The good news: no limping!

As we walked, we found a couple of boxes of discarded cassette tapes, which made me sad. I used to have tons of cassettes and it made me nostalgic to see these all piled together. There was some Al Green, some jazz, some Jamaican and reggae stuff. Kind of a shame, but the world moves forward, right? I didn't take any of them. I couldn't play them if I wanted to.

Last night I rented "Theatre of Blood," a 1973 movie starring Vincent Price and Diana Rigg. It's about a hammy actor who seeks revenge on the London theater critics that he believes have not given him his due, and it's not nearly as gory as it sounds, at least not by modern standards. Part of the movie was filmed at the school where I work, though it looks different these days, and there are lots of other interesting shots of old London -- like the Putney Hippodrome, which was used in the filming and then demolished. It's been gone for more than 40 years.

Coincidentally, a much younger Price was also in "Laura," the film noir I rented a few nights ago.

I actually met Price once, when I was a cub reporter in 1989. He came to the Florida town where I worked to shoot a promotional video for a new 3-D camera, having starred decades before in some famous old 3-D movies. Here's my article, which you can click to enlarge and read, if you are so inclined:

Price was 77 years old then, and to me -- a callow 22-year-old -- he seemed a million. I remember him moving about and delivering his lines a bit slowly and stiffly. My friends at the time joked, with the cavalier cruelty of the young, that this was the day Vincent Price drooled on me -- but to be fair, I don't think there was any actual drool. I only got one quote out of him, about the weather. No Pulitzer for me!

(And whatever happened to that camera, I wonder? Seems like 3-D photography never quite took off. There are some on eBay, for fans of obscure camera technology.)


  1. I still have cassettes and a player, although I haven't listened to any in quite a while.


  2. "It's beautiful but hot"...Vincent Price might well have been talking about England this very morning. Was your nickname The Ledger?

  3. The "cavalier cruelty of the young." Interesting phenomenon, that. We all did it when young to show our disgust for the aging process in others and ward off aging for ourselves. Now as I age I am at the other end of those jokes. Not laughing quite as hard. Still laughing, tho.

  4. It still blows my mind that you ever lived in Winter Haven and worked for the Ledger. Our paths were simply destined to cross although NOT in Winter Haven. By '89 I'd been living in Tallahassee for fifteen years and had four children. That article was written seventeen days after Jessie was born!
    What a great article and yes, Cypress Gardens was beautiful but hot.
    I'm so glad that Olga is limp-free. What a sweetie girl she is!

  5. Sad,but We are a throw away world.

  6. I still have a few cassettes but nothing to play them on. I keep them because they are compilations sent to me by one of the loves of my life.

  7. The extinction of cassette tapes make me miss the Kodak instant camera, which was FAR superior to the Polaroid, but was only around for a couple of years because Polaroid sued them for patent infringement on one of the steps for developing the film. I always thought Polaroid should instead have forged some sort of partnership to exchange technologies because their instant film STILL isn't a good or as sharp or as atmospheric and the Kodak instant pictures were. I captured some of the most iconic moments of my twenties with that camera. Hmmm, maybe I'll dig them out and share some.

    Olga sleeping in? The girl is getting older isn't she? Thank god no limping. She's awesome.

  8. I was 21 in 1977 when I heard that Elvis Presley had died. His music was from my mother's generation, which made it irrelevant and ancient (to me). Elvis was 44 when he died and I thought, Well, he lived a long life. Back then, I wold have thought that people in their 70s were not even worth talking to, except if you wanted to hear about how a loaf of bread used to cost a nickel or all about their upcoming doctor visits.

    So dear Olga needs 24 hours to recuperate from too much fun? I know the feeling.

  9. I forgot to add that I think your article on Vincent Price is extremely well written for a 22-year old. (It would still be very well written by a writer of any age, but 22 is very young and I know for a fact that I could not have carried it off at that age.) That's a really good opening sentence.

  10. Well done, Stephen. When I once interviewed John Wayne I was equally surprised to see him wearing seersucker trousers and a camel's hair jacket and hearing him talk, sounding exactly like he did in the movies!

  11. I remember watching Vincent Price movies when I was a teenager and I think that might be the last time I ever saw one. But, I don't think I have any memory of a 3-D camera which surprises me because that is exactly something my dad would have rushed out to purchase.

  12. Olga is such a good sport! If I had been born a dog I would want to be your dog that is for sure. So much fun, so close to great places to romp! Perfect life!

    I would have taken those tapes for sure, still use a tape player in the studio, and those that were beyond , I would crochet into an art thing that would probably be a hit with the homeless.

  13. I fervently wish today's reporters had the same standard of clarity and succinctness that you showed in this piece, Steve! I find it increasingly hard to wade through lengthy articles online where the same thing is said a half a dozen ways, each less clear than the one before :)

    I'd never heard of 3-D cameras before. I have, however, heard of cassettes and still have not one but two players plus a cupboard full of tapes. Not that I listen to them, but I COULD! I have a couple my grandfather made of him playing the fiddle, and I have one that's a partial recording of a 15-minute piece our community choir sang in a music festival, including a solo part by yours truly. Our choir director composed the piece for us; he and his wife came to Canada from the USA to avoid the draft and they enriched our community unbelievably, both musically and in so many other ways.

    I never tire of hearing about (or seeing) Olga. I would hazard a guess I am not alone :)

  14. What a great experience to have as a 22-year old reporter. I had no idea that there were 3-D camera's way back when. I guess that idea didn't quite take off.

    In one of our many moves, I think we gave up all of our old cassette tapes. We no longer had a player. We still have three big boxes of old albums though. Love those and our old record player. We play music off our iPhone these days, but we keep dreaming about playing those old LPs.

    Always love reading about Olga!

  15. We could play the cassettes on our state of the art (for 1985) in home sound system! It pipes music into the bedroom, where Al Green would work like a charm. Ha!

    Excellent article about Vincent Price!

  16. Grab the tapes and ship them to Jax!

  17. Alphie: You probably haven't moved in a while, have you? Moving always prompts me to get rid of things like that.

    YP: Actually, in all honesty, my nickname was "the microwave reporter," because I wrote fast!

    Colette: Well, exactly. When we're young we don't even see the cruelty in it.

    Ms Moon: It's amazing to think of you and 17-day-old Jessie, somewhere out there in the world, on the very day I was meeting Vincent Price near your childhood home!

    Red: Indeed. More plastic!

    Ellen: I have a few cassettes I keep for sentimental reasons. I've had them digitized so I can listen to them again.

    37P: Interesting! I'm not familiar with the Kodak instant. I think we had a Polaroid.

    Vivian: Yeah, Elvis's death seemed very abstract to me at the time. I didn't identify with Elvis at all. Thanks for the comments on my writing. I enjoyed featurey stories like this one, as opposed to the hard news about goings-on at City Hall.

    Catalyst: Yeah, that sounds surreal! You just expect him to be wearing a cowboy hat, right?

    Sharon: I don't think that camera ever made much of an impact. Reading about it online, it sounds like the results weren't always satisfactory.

    Linda Sue: I must admit, looking at those cassettes, it never occurred to me to use them as crocheting material! LOL!

    Jenny-O: How great that you have recordings of such irreplaceable memories! I used to have a recording of my grandmother playing the piano, but it was lost ages and ages ago. I think maybe the tape broke -- an unfortunate consequence of using inexpensive cassettes.

    Robin: I got rid of all my old albums, too. I've moved so many times that I just couldn't see lugging all that stuff around. I miss them, though!

    Bug: Swanky! If Al were still there, I'd pick him up and mail him to you. :)

    Utah: Sadly, yesterday I walked past the spot where I saw them, and they're all gone. Besides, Kristen would KILL me if I mailed those things to you. LOL