Showing posts with label Jack Flanders. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jack Flanders. Show all posts

Pop Journal: So long, Jack Flanders

The Jack Flanders adventures have been a fixture of my life since I first happened across "The Fourth Tower of Inverness" at age 9 or 10 on my local college radio station.

I got hooked, and remained so for the next 40 years. Over the past couple years I've rediscovered Jack, listening to many of his most-recent adventures in the car while making occasional trips for work, criss-crossing my state.

The voice of Jack was that of Robert Lorick, a New York theater actor, who gave full life to this "cosmic tourist."

Jack's adventures, penned by Meatball Fulton (aka Tom Lopez), took the character to Morocco, Brazil, Bali and through mysterious realms outside our world and, sometimes, deep inside Jack's own head. They are funny, perplexing, exciting and wise. And Jack, as voiced by Lorick was all that, too.

His Jack could be calm one moment, sharing bits of arcane wisdom he'd gleaned from Eastern religions, Arab proverbs, foreign novels and Tagore poems, and a grump or a goofball the next - complaining that he needed his morning coffee, making terrible puns or exclaiming "feet don't fail me know!" when trying to outrun a dragon set loose in his friend Dr. Mazoola's laboratory.

If you haven't heard "The Fourth Tower," "Moon Over Morocco," "Dreams of Rio," or any of the other 20-some Jack Flanders stories recorded between 1974 and now, you really should.

Listening to the stories as an adult, I realize how much they've helped shape my life. In my best moments, I hope I'm like Jack in his: Open-minded, clear-headed, appreciative of and bewildered by the mysteries of our world, and ready for adventure. But I have plenty of my own grumpy, goofball moments, too.

When I heard the news earlier this week that Robert Lorick had died, it was a bit like losing an old friend, albeit, one I'd never met, or even seen a picture of, in real life.

It wasn't until Tom Lopez shared this image of Lorick that I'd seen what he looked like - different from the Jack of my imagination, but then I figured he probably was.

I'm going to share Lopez' own tribute below, but before signing off, I want to thank him and Lorick for all the great stories, which I'll return to again and again.

If you want to learn more about Jack and the many other characters featured in the ZBS Foundation audio adventures Lopez writes and produces, check them out. They don't appear on the radio as much anymore, but they can be easily downloaded and, soon, streamed. They come with my very highest recommendation.


In Memory of Robert Lorick by Tom Lopez

Robert Lorick died last week. As many of you know, Robert was the voice of Jack Flanders. Jack came into being in 1972 with The Fourth Tower of Inverness. It was a fluke that Robert got the part.

Fulton, who wrote the script, and all the other Jack adventures, had a different actor in mind. But when there was a scheduling problem, Valerie who was to play Lady Jowls, said, “I know just the person.” She had Robert call, and he did an audition on the phone. “I was thinking of someone a bit more macho, more an adventurer,” Fulton said. “But when I heard his voice, there was a kindness, a sensitivity, a sense of humor, and I thought, why not?”

And so Jack Flanders came into being, he was a collaboration between Fulton and Lorick. Robert enjoyed playing Jack, especially coming up here to spend days recording in the country.

Broadway Bob

The photo above was taken in our studio in 1972. As you can see, he was a pretty suave looking guy. Probably not what you thought Jack looked like. When it comes to radio, actors rarely resemble what you envision. Robert had written a couple of successful Broadway musicals. One was “The Tap Dance Kid,” played by Gregory Hines. So whenever Robert came up to ZBS (this is back in our radio-commune days), we’d all sit around our long dining table, and pester Robert to tell us stories about Broadway. Robert was a writer, he had a lot of stories to entertain us with. And he was so charming, so sophisticated, we started calling him, “Broadway Bob”

I know that sounds slick, and the photo above may appear to confirm this, but he wasn’t at all. He was a very kind, generous, thoughtful person, with a droll sense of humor.

We have so many stories to tell about Robert, after all we’ve known and worked with him for 44 years now.

The Voice of Chanel

You may be surprised to know that Robert was the voice of Chanel. Yes, that Chanel. You could hear his voice on their commercials. Of course he didn’t sound like Jack, but he certainly sounded suave.

Robert lived in Manhattan. In 1973, a year after recording “The Fourth Tower,” he was standing on a corner in NYC, waiting for the light to change, a couple guys asked him for a cigarette, Robert explained he didn’t have any. When the light changed, and he stepped off the curb, one of them shot him in the back. He fell into the street, lying there unable to move, watching the car tires coming at him and then wheeze past his head. The bullet was lodged next to his spine, the doctors didn’t dare remove it. The bullet remained there for the rest of his life. Robert often walked with a cane.

This happened while Fulton was traveling in Morocco recording sounds for “Moon Over Morocco.” When he spoke to Robert on the phone some weeks later, he could hear his pain, and asked if Robert felt he could record, sitting in a studio for hours at a time. Robert said, no problem.

Good Ol’ Jack

It didn’t matter what was going on in Robert’s life, he was always eager to do another Jack Flanders story. So to make things easier for Robert with “Morocco,” so Jack didn’t have to carry the whole story by himself, Fulton wrote in a couple more main characters, Kasbah Kelley and Mojo Sam.

Our studio is located in a separate building. After a day of recording episodes for “Morocco,” Robert would get up and slowly, somewhat painfully, lean on his cane and walk to the main house. But he never complained. And he recovered, though he continued to use his cane.

Another Near Death

In 1980, Robert was back in the hospital. He was there for weeks. The doctors had no idea what it was, he getting weaker by the day and thought, maybe this is it? Finally a young doctor from India examined Robert, then took a pencil and made a little dot on the back of Robert’s hand. He said, “This is the size of the bug that bit you.” It turned out to be one of the first cases of Lyme Disease. With antibiotics, he recovered.

One Last Story

Over the last year, Robert was in and out of the hospital. He was on dialysis, he needed a kidney. He was a tall guy, 6’ 2”, he’d lost a lot of weight. We didn’t know if he’d be able to record “The Green Velvet Chair.” But Robert kept assuring us, he can do it. He was able to get a portable dialysis machine, and have a friend drive him up here. He’d lost a lot of weight, he was using a walker. While he was taking a break to do his dialysis, we’d record the other actors. He looked frail, but he still had his sense of humor, and his voice sounded great.

What Now?

Fulton has been writing “The League of the Green Velvet Chair.” But he knew Robert’s health was fading. So to take some of the burden off Robert, he wrote in other characters to join Jack & Mojo in Inverness. The script wasn’t completed, we don’t know what he’ll do with it now.

Even though we knew Robert was in poor health, we were stunned to hear of his death. We still are. I end this with sadness, sniffles, sighs and damp eyes. My wife may have said it best, “He was a wonderful man.”

Listen: Episode 1 of Jack Flanders and "The Mystery of Jaguar Reef"

ZBS Media is serializing one of their brilliant, funny and though-provoking Jack Flanders audio adventures starting today. Listen here.

New episodes of "The Mystery of Jaguar Reef" will appear online each Friday and Monday.

Flanders is ZBS' flagship character in a lineup that also includes Ruby the Galactic Gumshoe and more.

A sometimes reluctant adventurer, Jack travels the world and, occasionally, other dimensions, finding himself in all sorts of situations that challenge his, and our, perspectives on the world and reality in general. The stories contain elements of mystery, suspense, mysticism, science fiction, fantasy and lots of humor.

I seriously can't recommend the stories highly enough. If you're a fan of old-time radio and pop culture in general you'll thoroughly enjoy them and keep coming back for more. I've been a fan since 1976 when the college radio station in my hometown starting airing Jack's first adventure "The Fourth Tower of Inverness."

Here's is ZBS' own description of "Jaguar Reef":

As we continue with the Lesser Known Works of Meatball Fulton (who wrote these things), we step into the world of Jack Flanders.  Remember back in the days when someone would suddenly shout, “Far friggin’ out!” Well, that fits this.

The idea for The Mystery of Jaguar Reef came from Fulton meeting a few “far out” people who swore they knew at least one “Walk-In.”

Wikipedia describes this as: A "walk-in" is where the original soul of a human leaves a person's body and another soul "walks in".
Is that even remotely possible? Who knows? But it does make a good story.

The Story
Jack Flanders investigates a puzzling case of personality change and soon finds himself scuba-diving into a dilemma off the shores of Belize, Central America. Where did this mysterious pirate wreck come from? Is Jack really a pawn in a cosmic chess game? And why does everyone around him seem to be “walk-ins”, except (perhaps) Captain Coco?

Pulsing festival rhythms, a dose of potent Viper Rum, and the pirate ship ascends into the tropical night sky. A rope ladder is tossed down, and Captain Jack is suddenly at the helm, suspecting that some kind of alien plot is afloat. And so it is.

The Sounds
We recorded the sounds in Ambergris Caye, Belize, where the story takes place. Fulton even brought along his hydrophones to record underwater. This is one lush, tropical, bubbly adventure.

Check out ZBS Media's new audio drama: "The Night Has Begun"

ZBS Media and scripter/producer Meatball Fulton have produced a new audio series and are airing free episodes each Monday and Friday through Halloween on their website. Hear the first ep here.

If you haven't entered Fulton's funny/mystical/adventurous world before, you should get a kick out of it. I grew up hearing his fabulous Jack Flanders adventures on my local college radio station and enthusiastically recommend them to anyone who loves cool things.

Background info:
The spark that ignited The Night happened when Mr. Fulton was trekking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan and wandered into a room filled with carved wooden sculptures, masks, shields, totem poles, and a gigantic elaborately carved dugout canoe the size of a fallen tree.  When he saw this, he stopped in his tracks.  We’ve all seen primitive art, but these things were alive.

The Headhunters
It turned out to be the works of the Asmat headhunters of Irian Jaya, Indonesia.  Meatball began to wonder, “Why do I feel these things are breathing?”  When he began his research, he discovered that the carvers believe the spirits of their ancestors still live within the sculptures.  In fact, it’s the ancestor’s spirits that inspire their art and guide their hand.

The Story
And so Meatball began to wonder, is it possible to tap this energy he‘s feeling?  The Asmat, besides being headhunters, are also known for their curses.  Someone has done them wrong, then there’s nothing like a good curse to make things right, to restore the balance in their universe.

ZBS Media announces Saratoga Noir audio/comics series!

I've been a fan of ZBS' mystical/magical/comical audio programs since I first discovered Jack Flanders and the "Fourth Tower of Inverness" back in 1975.

Great stories that still dazzle today. So I always enjoy passing along news of their latest programs. This one looks like fun. Check out the ZBS website for more info. If you haven't tried any of these shows, and are a fan of old radio shows and good stories, you really need to. Any other fans out there? Let me know in the comments!

Above is an example of things to come.  On Monday, June 30th, we’ll post Episode #1 of Saratoga Noir.  There are 20 episodes, we will offer them all, for free, on our website
Along with the comic strip is the audio; a magnificent example of contemporary comic-strip radio drama created just for the internet.  Many of the same actors you’ve heard in Ruby and Jack Flanders are playing different characters, acting their little hearts out, in Saratoga Noir.
Why Noir?  
Because Saratoga Springs has such an amazing history, the oldest racetrack in the country, the old gambling casinos, the old spas and healing spring waters, and the shady characters that lurked about in the shadows.  Even though this is set in present-day Saratoga, there’s plenty going on right now.
The Plot
Danny Boyee, a local private investigator, who is barely paying the rent, is hired to find a pussycat; a Balinese wearing a very expensive diamond collar.  Vicki Millhouse, an ex-showgirl who married into old Saratoga money, hires Danny to find her kidnapped cat.  But something as simple as finding a pussycat, quickly turns into danger and intrigue for unsuspecting Danny Boyee. 
The Episodes
Starting June 30th, Episode #1, the comic strip and the audio, will be on the ZBS website.  It will be up all week.  And then every Monday, and every Friday, a new episode will be released.  The series will play throughout the summer.  We do hope you’ll catch a few.  They really are fun (as you can see above).
CDs & MP3 Downloads
You will be able to buy the series one day.  But for now, it’s free.  

ZBS Foundation announces new Jack Flanders audio adventure

If you've not heard any of ZBS Media's great radio series of the 70s through today, you're missing a big chunk of mystery, magic and delight in your life. The outfit's hallmark character is Jack Flanders, an affable fellow who stumples through mystic adventures throughout this world and others. "The Fourth Tower of Inverness" and "Moon Over Morocco" are classics. ZBS also has done a number of sci-fi series starring Ruby, the "galactic gumshoe."

Here's info on the new Flanders release:
In Belize, Jack Flanders meets Friedrich, the owner of a bar called Fat Freddy´s. Jack knew his brother Klaus back in Rio de Janeiro. Shortly before Klaus died he sent Friedrich a blue crystal stone along with a note, "Hear this for me."

Later, when Jack and Mojo are talking to Lindz, a waitress at Fat Freddy´s, she suggests, "Why not build a crystal radio receiver?" They do, and begin to pick up music that sounds ancient and alien. Listening late one night, Jack hears a woman´s voice accusing him, "You! You!"

He begins to have disturbing dreams, being lost in a jungle, coming upon a moonlit Mayan temple covered with black orchids. At the top of the pyramid is a gigantic stone jaguar. He later discovers the Jaguar Temple does exist.

That night, camped at the base of the pyramid, he once again dreams of the mysterious woman who takes him by the hand and leads him down into the depths of the temple. 2 hours.

Listen to a sample:

Available on 2 CDs or MP3 download.

Hip tip: ZBS Media radio shows

Jack Flanders. Either you know the name and are a rabid fan of the guy's exploits or you've never heard of him before.

Same with Ruby. You know, the galactic gumshoe?

When it comes to the audio adventure shows produced by ZBS Media, there's no real middle ground. People either don't know about 'em or they love 'em.

And what's not to love?

I heard the first Flanders series, "The Fourth Tower of Inverness," on college radio back in 1976 when I was in fourth grade and instantly loved the wild storylines mixing suspense, comedy and philosophy, the great performances and the incredible sound effects.

Flanders is a young American guy visiting an old family estate in Scotland. The mansion has three towers, but Jack sees a fourth. He's warned not to investigate but, inevitably, does. From there it's wild and weird explorations up stairs, through doorways and secret passages and into strange new dimensions.

Listening at night, with my headphones on and eyes closed, the series was an incredibly rich entertainment experience.

Fortunately, the station kept playing Flanders adventures over the years and I was able to keep up with our intrepid hero and his expeditions to Morocco ("Moon over Morocco"), alternate dimensions ("The Adventures of Jack Flanders") and Brazil ("Dreams of Rio").

And I got to hear the earliest exploits of ZBS' other popular hero, the Ruby, in her various series blending sci-fi with satire.

All great stuff, all like nothing you've ever experienced before.

The adventures of Ruby, Jack and the various one-off shows and series produced by ZBS over the years are nearly all the product of the imagination of one "Meatball Fulton," otherwise known as writer/engineer Tom Lopez.

Fulton's scripts carry the influence of comics, movies, pulps, eastern philosophy and much, much more, but reside in their own universe. Much like Joss Whedon has created a Buffyverse or Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had a Marvel Universe, this is a Meatball-verse. Things in this world move, and work, very much in their own fascinating and goofy way.

If you enjoy the stuff discussed here regularly (comics, pulps, movies, music, old-time radio, etc.), you're sure to like Fulton's stories. You owe it yourself to check 'em out.

The ZBS Web site has audio samples and downloads, or you can order the different series on CDs. Amazon has 'em too.

I see that Meatball now has a podcast, too. I'll need to check it out.

Related sites:

ZBS Media
The Whirlitzer of Wisdom
Jack Flanders Wikipedia entry

ZBS offers audio stories for cellphones

ZBS Media, creator of the wildly entertaining (and just plain wild) audio adventures of Jack Flanders, Ruby and others is now offering 90-second "short stories" for cellphone.

The titles are all penned by Flanders and Ruby creator Meatball Fulton and can be downloaded from the ZBS site. Free sound samples are available there too.

Stories include: "The Okey Dokey Swamp Thingie," "Revenge of the Tooth Fairy," "Hotel Catatonia," "The Sweet Scent of a Succubus," "Frankenstein's Finger," "Don't Eat on Twilight Street," "Zombie Al's Big Night Out," "Doctor Borneo Bob, Head Shrinker," "All My Cells Have Phones!" "Don't Eat at Igor's" and "The X Fillings, Dental Case #122, 'An Odious Extraction'."

The new Jack Flanders adventure

Anyone who's a fan of radio drama/comedy, or sci-fi, or fantasy or cool genre stuff in general is really missing out if he or she isn't hip to ZBS Media and its continuing audio adventures featuring adventurer Jack Flanders and others.

Since the early 70s, with "The Fourth Tower of Inverness," "Moon Over Morocco" and into the 80s and 90s with "The Incredible Adventures of Jack Flanders" and the "Traveling Jack" series, the Flanders stories by author "Meatball" Fulton (a.k.a. Tom Lopez) are filled with humor, mysticism and action. Some of the most original stuff I've ever heard. And the acting, sound effects (many recorded on location in various exotic locales) and overall production are all amazing.

So, it's exciting news to hear there's another Jack story coming: "Orchids & Moonbeams," which ZBS describes this way:

Somewhere in the tropics, yet another beach resort is being built. The developers are planning to put a road through a valley the locals consider sacred, they believe a powerful Nature Spirit dwells there. As the developers bulldoze into the jungle, and the warm tropical rains continue, the jungle is sprouting up everywhere.At Maria's Café, chairs are sprouting leaves, tables are growing roots, vines are creeping over the counter, and orchids are clinging to the walls. One morning, Mojo finds a snake coiled up on his chair, "Oops, looks like this seat's been taken."

Jaguars are seen strolling through town, while spiders, iguanas, tree frogs, etc., are hopping and crawling everywhere. There's even a parrot infestation. In the local bars, scarlet macaws snatch pretzels out of patron's fingers. Meanwhile, Jack, Mojo, and Claudine are attempting to prove the Nature Spirit not only exists, she may have just begun to "even the score."

You can order it, and other ZBS product, here. Links above are to Amazon, which stocks many of the ZBS adventures as well.