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The Bootleg Files: Bob Hope on the Road to China

BOOTLEG FILES 730: “Bob Hope on the Road to China” (1979 television special).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube in a truncated form.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Out of circulation for many years.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

On January 1, 1979, President Jimmy Carter established U.S. diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Two months later, the longtime rivals established embassies in each other’s capitals. Remarkably, the two countries retained their diplomatic ties despite NBCs ‘s broadcast of the astonishingly atrocious “Bob Hope on the Road to China” in September that year.
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The Bootleg Files: Gabe Kaplan as Groucho

BOOTLEG FILES 729: “Gabe Kaplan as Groucho” (1982 television special).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On VHS and LaserDisc.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Out of circulation for many years.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

In 1976, the producers of the popular sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter” planned to have Groucho Marx make a cameo appearance in an episode called “Sadie Hawkins Day.” The script called for Gabe Kaplan to do an impression of Groucho, only to have the real Groucho come in and react to the unreasonable facsimile. Unfortunately, the 86-year-old comedy icon was in extremely frail health and it was decided that he would not go on camera. Instead, Groucho posed for publicity photographs with the show’s cast – but these were not released to the media and only surfaced many years later.
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The Bootleg Files: Jane Russell Playtex Commercials

BOOTLEG FILES 728: “Jane Russell Playtex Commercials” (series of television advertisement featuring the buxom star selling bras and girdles).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: All old-time commercials get bootlegged.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

Jane Russell became a movie star in the 1940s thanks to producer Howard Hughes’ infantile preoccupation with bosoms. But she maintained her stardom as a result of her droll talent for light comedy and a tough-broad-with-a-heart-of-gold persona that captivated audiences.
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The Bootleg Files: Down Memory Lane

BOOTLEG FILES 727: “Down Memory Lane” (1949 compilation film of Mack Sennett comedy shorts).

LAST SEEN: In a truncated form on YouTube and Internet Archive.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It fell through the cracks.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

By the late 1940s, silent movies had mostly disappeared from public viewing. Some Charlie Chaplin shorts occasionally turned up in kiddie matinees and museums and film societies would sometimes dust off an old print for one-time screenings. But for the most part, the films created prior to rise of “The Jazz Singer” were rarely on the big screen.
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The Bootleg Files: Sing a Song of Six Pants

BOOTLEG FILES 726: “Sing a Song of Six Pants” (1947 Three Stooges short).

LAST SEEN:
On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO
: On too many public domain labels.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS:
A lapsed copyright.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It is doomed to public domain hell forever.

Every Three Stooges fan knows that four shorts starring the slapstick icons are in the public domain because Columbia Pictures failed to renew their copyrights. Three of those films are among the trio’s best: “Disorder in the Court” (arguably the greatest courtroom comedy ever), “Brideless Groom” (my pick for the finest Stooges short) and “Malice in the Palace” (a masterwork of surreal mayhem).
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The Bootleg Files: Mary’s Incredible Dream

BOOTLEG FILES 725: “Mary’s Incredible Dream” (1976 television special starring Mary Tyler Moore).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS:
Too many music and performance rights issues to address, not to mention quality control problems.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE:
Unlikely.

The 1970s represented the pinnacle of bizarre variety programming on American television. Whether it involved regularly scheduled programming – look at “Pink Lady and Jeff,” “The Gong Show” or “The Brady Bunch Hour” – or standalone specials – think of Raquel Welch doing “The Age of Aquarius” on an Aztec pyramid or Ann-Margret joining the Bay City Rollers” in “Saturday Night” before an audience of old ladies or Paul Lynde throwing lavender-scented double entendres at KISS on his Halloween show – the decade represented the alpha and omega of musical-comedy inanity.
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The Bootleg Files: Ritz Thrift Shop Commercial

BOOTLEG FILES 724: “Ritz Thrift Shop Commercial” (1975 New York City-based television advertisement that ran for too many years).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS:
Too brief and commercially obscure.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Unlikely.

It is not unusual for a nationally-aired television commercial to gain a level of cult popularity and stay in broadcast rotation for years. But it is less likely for commercials designed for a specific local market to gain that level of popularity. However, at least one highly unlikely commercial wound up becoming a cultural phenomenon in a single market, enjoying a ridiculously long run despite being seriously outdated by the time it wore out its welcome.
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The Bootleg Files: Treemonisha

BOOTLEG FILES 723: “Treemonisha” (1982 Houston Grand Opera presentation of Scott Joplin’s opera.

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On VHS video only.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS:
It fell through the cracks.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Unlikely.

If you are an opera buff like me – and, yes, believe it or else, I love opera – you will be interested in knowing about a new version of Scott Joplin’s sole surviving opera “Treemonisha” is being produced by Canada’s Volcano Theatre. This presentation – which includes a new libretto and expanded musical arrangements – was scheduled to premiere next month at Stanford Live in Palo Alto, California. However, a certain virus has forced the show’s postponement. (Thank you, Wuhan.)
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