Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Crime Story


I've always loved Del Shannon's Runaway. I grew up in a house that played a lot of oldies. In the early 80s, "Oldies" radio was mostly defined by tracks from the 50s and early 60s, most of which seemed anathema to my own era's Pop music. Thriller, Purple Rain, 1984, Some Great Reward,  Rio and Sports were albums that comprised the bell curve of my taste, so songs like "When the Lion Sleeps Tonight" and its brethren often seemed 'dumb' to me, to invoke the parlance of an eight-year-old. That said, there were always a handful of oldies that moved me. Shannon's Runaway was one.

This became especially true when the Michael Mann-produced Crime Story came to NBC in 1985. Using Runaway as the theme immediately imprinted the show on me. As a kid, I was also a HUGE fan of Michael Mann's Miami Vice. I used to watch it every Friday with my father in a block that included the Sci/Fi show "V. When Crockett and Tubs' success opened the network doors to Mann. he quickly followed with Crime Story, and I ate it up. 

As a nine-year-old, Crime Story was most likely my introduction to the mobster genre. And make no mistake, the show's Big Bad Ray Luca and his laughable henchman Pauli Taglia could have hung with any of the Cinematic Godfathers I'd meet a few years later. 

These guys were something I'd not seen before; in the 80s action flicks I loved, bad guys were either 42 St. scum bags, terrorists, or aliens. These guys were slick, well-mannered and well-dressed.  They moved in circles of wealth and power, more than bombs and guns. Of course, this meant when they did enact violence, it often seemed especially cold, and this made the cops fighting them act in kind. Thrilling, to say the least.

Crime Story was also my introduction to Dennis Farina. Farina's Michael Torello was a tough guy who was so Chicago, he bared more than a passing resemblance to people I knew. The mustache, mannerisms and attitude were attributes I'd seen a thousand times in the adults around me, his accent and demeanor that of friends' parents and relatives, so the entire story seemed that much closer to real life than something like Miami Vice could ever hope to be. 

I'm going on about all this because with my parents in town for the holidays, my father and I spent two days marathoning old cop shows. The first two days were all about Rockford Files episodes. Then, I got an idea: sure enough, both seasons of Crime Story are available for free streaming on Freevee. I'm not much for streaming platforms with commercials, but this was a no-brainer, and we're currently about halfway through the first season and absolutely loving it. Always nice when a show from your childhood holds up. Also, since I hadn't seen this since it aired, I was shocked to realize that, while the theme song is indeed Runaway, it's not Del Shanon's version. Instead, Tod Rundgren pulled off a pretty damn straight cover that can almost fool anyone, those falsetto "Wa-Wah's" in the chorus a close match to Shannon's.


Bob Clark's classic Christmas slasher film Black Christmas was my Christmas Night chaser this year. Here's a TV spot I found from when it aired as "Silent Night Evil Night":

This one always chills me; there's something about the stoicism Clack employs here, whether it's through the meditative movements of Reg Morris' camera, the haunting and ephemeral score by Carl Zittrer, or the "elevated" performances by Olivia Hussey and Keir Dullea, but this one really gets under my skin - in the best possible way. Also, as always, John Saxon gives the best cop performance this side of Tom Atkins. 


Angelo Badalamenti - Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me OST
Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song
The Ronettes - Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes
Various - A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector
Willie Nelson - Red-Headed Stranger
Kermit Ruffins - Barbeque Swingers Live


From Jonathan Grimm's Bound Tarot, which you can buy HERE.

What comes next is a practical solution to emotional setbacks and a long-awaited finish to one of my ongoing projects. 

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