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Monday, October 12, 2009

Betties & Ditty-Bops: Deconstructing Christmas in the Heart's Credits

I have the admittedly weird tic of reading credits and acknowledgments from beginning to end, word-for-word, partly because I dated a lady in the movie biz who got me into the habit of watching a film's end credits as the rest of the audience filed out. "I like to see which of my friends is working," she told me as gaffers, sound synchers and "best boys'" names scrolled down. So be it movie, book, or music, it's always interesting to me to to see the credits of the team that put a project together. Here's some background on the "Christmas in the Heart" credits.

Front Cover

Designer Coco Shinomiya found the CD's Victorian sleigh cover illustration - which many people feel has a distinctly Russian bent to its look - at, one of the 150 images on a CD titled "Victorian Scrapbook Treasures II."

As all true Theme Time Radio Hour fans should know, Shinomiya is a graphic designer and art director and two-time Grammy nominee. Look at the credits of any Bob Dylan project of recent years and it's likely that Shinomiya had a hand in its design, including creating the Theme Time Radio Hour iconic logo.

Inside Photo

At the beginning of this article, a detail from Leonard Freed's inside photo for "Christmas in the Heart," a 2000 image taken in Rome of Italian street musicians breaking from their Santa rounds.

Born in Brooklyn in 19 and 29, Leonard Freed began his career in photography while in the Netherlands in 1953. He moved to Amsterdam in 1958 and photographed the Jewish community there, pursuing the theme in numerous books and films. His book on Jews in Germany was published in 1961, and "Made in Germany," about post-war Germany, appeared in 1965.

Working as a freelance photographer, Freed photographed blacks in America, the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and a series documenting the New York City police department from 1972 through 1979. He passed away in 2006.

Back Cover Illustration

The back cover illustration of the Three Kings following that Star of Wonder was created by the delightfully named Edwin Fotheringham, a name which sounds as if it could easily belong to "Christmas in the Heart's sleigh driver. Fotheringham was educated at the University of Washington School of Art in Seattle, where he lives today with his family.

According to his on-line bio, "...Fotheringham made a career change from fine artist/stockboy to illustrator in 1992...Having certain band members as housemates afforded Mr. Fotheringham the opportunity to illustrate their CD covers..."

Among his other credits, Fotheringham has illustrated album covers for the band, Mudhoney, and provided illustrations for Neiman Marcus, The New Yorker and Ladies' Home Journal. He's also illustrated two children's books, "What To Do About Alice?" and "Mermaid Queen." "Mr. Fotherigham," as he appears to like to refer to himself, has a great web site, well worth the visit.

Mixed Voice Singers

If anything gives "Christmas in the Heart" that late `50s/early `60s vintage feel it's the "mixed voice" chorus which sounds as if teleported directly from a Ray Conniff Christmas Special. Two members of that chorus - Amanda Barrett and Abby DeWald - are better known as The Ditty Bops, an L.A.-based duo with five albums to their credit.

Six of The Ditty Bop's songs have aired on the TV show "Grey's Anatomy," with their song "There's a Girl" appearing on the series soundtrack. The duo has also made appearances on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion.

The "Notorious" Bettie Page

The once and forever "Queen of the Pin-Ups," Bettie Page lived as complicated a life and career as Bob Dylan. Somewhat like Bob Dylan, Page's public image evolved into a series of archetypes - Jungle Queen, Girl Next Door, Good Girl Gone Bad - during the `50s. She faded away into obscurity and then saw her legend revived once again in the 1980s.

In 1950, during a walk along the Coney Island shore, a 26-year-old Bettie Page met Jerry Tibbs, a police officer with an interest in photography, and a member of what was euphemistically termed an "outdoor camera club." While there were numerous legitimate camera clubs of amateur photographers operating in the `40s and `50s, Tibbs belonged to one of the quasi-legal groups whose main purpose was to photograph young ladies in various states of déshabille... only for "art use" of course.

Within a few months, Page was posing for various men's magazines of the era, with titles such as Wink, Eyeful, Titter, and Tab. In 1955, Bettie won the title "Miss Pinup Girl of the World" and in January 1955, hit the big time as centerfold in Playboy in a photo session that would inspire the Olivia illustration used for "Christmas in the Heart."

Page's life was plagued by exploitation - even of the relatively mild pin-up and stag film "girlie" industry variety - bad marriages, and in her later life, clinical depression. By 1959, she had ended her pin-up career and had refocused her life on Christianity. In the early 1980s, comic book artist Dave Stevens based his hero's love interest on Bettie Page in the ground-breaking series "The Rocketeer." The popularity of the comic, along with a fanzine titled "The Betty Pages," which included photos from the camera club days, sparked renewed interest in Page's life and career. Dave Stevens would eventually become a close friend of Page, remarking in one interview that he could never have imagined that he would be cashing Page's social security checks and picking up groceries for her when he created "Betty Page" in "The Rocketeer."

Bettie Page passed away on December 6, 2008, leaving behind many fond memories for the boys and men who grew up with the images of "That Girl Next Door."

Out of curiosity, I ran "Bettie Page" and "Bob Dylan" together in a Google search, discovering that they had been separated from each other by a mere five degrees of dating, according to one web site. Probably more fantasy than fact, since Bettie Page's "date" with Sammy Davis Jr. apparently consisted of a shared taxi ride, but there's something attractive about the idea.

1 comment:

penelopek said...

Nice article, Fred. I like to look at the movie and album credits, too. Fun.

p.s. How's the book comin'? ;-)