Behold…the Kuba Entertainment Center

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The German made and designed Kuba models were offered for sale from 1957 to 1961.

Kuba - Music and Television

Kuba Comet

A 1961 ‘Komet’ was sold in Köln, Germany on June 9, 2001 for DM16824.14 (about $7300 USD). These sets are exceedingly rare.

Television-Broadcast-Phono-Combination

Technical Data:

TV 53 cm (21 inch) television with radio receiver and record player (phonograph).
Combined TV and radio chassis GRAETZ F 44K Record player: 4-drive record changer Telefunken TW 561
installation of a tape recorder is possible.

8 speakers total, with 2 front-facing horn speakers.
Special Feature: Upper portion with screen can swivel.
Cabinet: Palm and maple woods with polyester high-gloss finish

191 x 167 x 60 cm (75 inches x 66 inches x 24 inches)

Komet recommended price: DM 2.785,-. (Approximately $1,250.00 US, which at that time, represented more than a month’s wages for an average worker)

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The Marriage Of Movement And Music And Their First Child Named, Gumbasia

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When Art Clokey was a boy he would spend his summers on his grandfather’s farm in Michigan. He had a good pal who lived on a neighboring farm and, as boys liked to do in those days, Clokey and his pal often played with toy soldiers. Sometimes, when the battles were particularly fierce, they would need more troops. Clokey would raise them up by fashioning them out of a mixture of soil and water known as ‘gumbo’ – clay.

Some years later Art Clokey would create a children’s television icon – a kind of strange little character made of clay named Gumby.

Gumby - he's known to skate on one foot rather than walk.

Gumby – he’s known to skate on one foot rather than walk.

Before Art Clokey created Gumby he was an early claymation pioneer. It was his 1953 experimental claymation short, Gumbasia, that excited 20th Century Fox producer Sam Engel into giving Clokey his big break. ‘Art, that is the most exciting film I have ever seen in my life,’ Engel said. Engel envisioned a children’s television show using the idea of little claymation figures in various storylines. Giving free reign to Clokey he financed the Gumby pilot, introduced it to Tom Sarnoff at NBC Hollywood, and the rest is history.

Art Clokey’s Gumbasia was a fascinating project. Inspired by his mentor in film making, Slavko Vorkapich, Clokey wanted to work with the idea of ‘kinesthetic film principles’ which enabled him to show film forces through moving objects.

The movements exert a force on your nervous system. They pinch on your nervous system through your eye cells. When you organize the images in the movement from cut to cut, it stimulates the autonomic nervous system. It gives you added excitement and it can start a feeling of movement.

Combining the kinesthetic film principles with Vorkapich’s philosophy of film as poetry and music, Clokey created a short film unique for its time. Music wasn’t used just as a cover – it was an intrinsic part of the experience. The transformation of the objects along with their movements blend with the lyric and the pulse of the jazz. It’s a visual sound experience. It’s also the concept for what would become music video. Gumbasia might properly be considered a prototype for music videos into the future.

Seven Minutes Of Terror, or How Ed Sullivan Sent A Shock Wave Across America

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From 1948 until 1971, Sunday nights were vaudeville nights on televisions across the U.S.. For twenty-three years Americans tuned in to CBS for Ed Sullivan’s ‘really big shooo…‘ From circus acts to ballet dancers, from ventriloquists to opera singers, from Elvis Presley and the Supremes, to the Beatles and The Doors, from classic vaudevillians to Broadway musicals, The Ed Sullivan Show meant variety.

Still, no one was prepared for the night of May 27, 1956. Scheduled to appear on the show were entertainment favorites like singer Kate Smith, and ventriloquist Senor Wences, as well as The Haslevs (tumblers & trampoline artists). Pretty normal fair for Sunday night – it would turn out to be anything but.

A Short Vision human meltdown.

… I’m gonna tell you if you have youngsters in the living room tell them not to be alarmed at this ‘cause it’s a fantasy, the whole thing is animated…It is grim, but I think we can all stand it to realize that in war there is no winner. – Ed Sullivan, 27 May 1956

After referencing the first test drop of an H-bomb the week previous, and giving a subtle hint of what was to come to the parents who might have been viewing the show with their children, Sullivan introduced the animated short film, A Short Vision. The live television audience were then shown the horrific vision of a nuclear apocalypse created by husband and wife team, Peter and Joan Folde:

A Short Vision (1956) | BFI National Archives

Needless to say, the airing of the film sent a shock wave across the country. The next morning the news and entertainment media enthusiastically covered the event and the reactions from the public. The New York World-Telegram and Sun reported that, (f)or some it was ‘seven minutes of terror.’ For others it was ‘the best piece of anti-war propaganda ever shown.’

With how tightly television is controlled these days, it’s highly unlikely that such a stunning surprise would ever be allowed to jump out at viewers today. The images played over and over again on September 11, 2001 were/are indeed ghastly, but that event was an unpredicted disaster. What occurred during The Ed Sullivan Show in May of 1956 was a grim warning about the all too predictable horror and destruction that awaits the world with the release of that Thing.

Exposing The Device – The Unbelievable ‘Miss Honeywell’

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In the 1960s there was a flurry of electronic and computer innovation and breakthroughs. Near the end of the decade, in 1968, London, England, hosted a trade fair – the Instruments, Electronics and Automation Exhibition at the Olympia conference center. One would imagine that it should have been filled with all kinds of new and exciting examples of modern ingenuity. After a very thorough search through several databases, only one exhibit appears to have made an impression.

The video below is from the fantastic British Pathé collection on YouTube. It features Miss Honeywell – “a futuristic ‘robot girl’ demonstrating various pieces of equipment by computer company Honeywell Controls Ltd..” The commentator is skeptical. The observers seem fascinated.

 

Yes indeed. The commentator is correct – the man at the controls is illusionist Mark Wilson. Wilson has been credited as the man who brought stage magic innovation to television. He’s since had a very successful career, earned the title of Master Magician, and has been honored with numerous national and international magician awards by his peers. ‘Miss Honeywell’ was more than likely Wilson’s wife and longtime assistant, Nani Darnell.

It appears that the innovation that stole the show in 1968 wasn’t an electronic computerized automation at all – it was instead a dazzling low-tech illusionist invention. Below are two pages of Mark Wilson’s ‘APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR PRODUCING DISPLAY ILLUSIONS’ abstract. It was filed in January 1969 and was patented October 1971.

US Patent 3,612,516 Abstract

US Patent 3,612,516 Abstract  (Image via cyberneticzoo.com)

US Patent 3,612,516 Figures 1 and 2

US Patent 3,612,516 Figures 1 and 2  (Image via cyberneticzoo.com)

Just one last thing about the ‘robot girl’ – she wasn’t a one-trick-automaton. Wilson’s creation traveled to a number of exhibitions and trade shows. Earlier in ’68 she did a gig for Hamilton Beach as the highly efficient housecleaner ‘Roberta the Robot’ at the Home Furnishings Exposition in San Francisco. By 1970 she developed a glitzy glammish look and took to speaking French – La ‘femme robot ménager’ can be seen here.

The ‘Rolling’ Ralston Rocket Clubhouse – The Story Of A National Sensation

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The science fiction adventure series, Space Patrol, was a television phenomenon that ran from March 1950 to February 1955. It began as a local daily 15-minute live TV show aimed at children on KECA – an ABC network affiliate in Los Angeles. In December of 1950, ABC picked up the show for its Saturday lineup and made television history by being the first network to broadcast a live program coast-to-coast. The 30-minute Saturday Space Patrol series became so popular with both children and adults that the 15-minute daily was shown in other cities via kinescoped film prints. A weekly radio program was added to the franchise as well as a comic book series. A cottage industry grew with all kinds of Space Patrol merchandise – a 1952 LIFE article estimated sales of $40 million on 80 items, ranging from space helmets to ray guns, viewscopes, spacephones, puzzles and clothes.*

To this day one of the most talked about memories of the show is the ‘contest to end all contests’. The challenge – ‘NAME THAT PLANET.’

This…contest asked viewers to submit a name for the gigantic Planet X — kingdom of the evil Price Baccarrati — that figured in the series’ storyline during the summer of 1953. The grand prize was [a] forty-foot long rocket clubhouse replica of Commander Buzz Corry’s battlecruiser, the Terra IV (and a sem-truck to pull it!) plus an thousand additional bicycles and Space Patrol toys. Ten year-old Ricky Walker of Washington, Illinois submitted the winning name – Cesaria – and took receipt of the fabulous first prize on January 14, 1954.  – captainbijou.com

The rocket clubhouse was one of the two ‘rolling’ Ralston Rockets which toured the country as an attraction at public events and gatherings promoting Ralston products and the show – the company was one of Space Patrol‘s leading sponsors. Below is a video compilation of the contest hype.

For a short time, Ricky Walker was the most envied kid in the U.S. – it was a huge day in Washington, Illinois when the rocket arrived:

'Ricky Walker Day' Announcement in storefront window.

‘Ricky Walker Day’ announcement in a storefront window. (Photo via johneaves.wordpress.com)

Kids greeting ship in Washington's square in cardboard space helmets

Kids greeting ship in Washington’s square in cardboard space helmets (Photo: Yale Joel of LIFE magazine via The Spaceman’s Toy Chest)

Ricky Walker On Rocket Bunk -

Ricky Walker On Rocket Bunk – ‘Inside the ship is equipped as a clubhouse, with eight folding bunks, table, benches, phone, kitchen and power generator.’ (Photo: Yale Joel of LIFE Magazine via The Spaceman’s Toy Chest)

Ralston Rocket At Night In Walker Family Driveway

Ralston Rocket At Night In The Walker Family Driveway (Photo: Yale Joel of LIFE Magazine via Street Worm at Universal Monster Army)

Eventually the novelty wore off and Ricky’s parents sold the rocket playhouse to a traveling carnival for the sum of $1000. The Ralston Rocket faded into obscurity but lived on in the memories of the viewers as one of the most – if not THE most – amazing prizes in television history. Sadly, the end of the road for the rocket was far less glamorous. In 1985 it was discovered on the property of a small construction company in Gent, New York. No longer the glistening star of 1954, the Ralston Rocket Clubhouse was now rusted and neglected. Area resident Rick DeMeis took the following photographs which he later presented to Solar Guard for posting on their Ralston Rocket page. A short time after these photos were taken, the construction company had it unceremoniously destroyed and sold for scrap.

Thus came the unhappy conclusion to a national sensation.

Entry to the Rocket

Entry to the Rocket

Road side view of Rocket- Santa is looking out

Road side view of Rocket- Santa is looking out

Rear view with Christmas lights

Rear view with Christmas lights

Control center for the Ralston Rocket

Control center for the Ralston Rocket

Television Really Needs A Show Like ‘Atomic City’

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There’s something so enjoyable about 1960s futurism and visual effects expert Markus Rothkranz has created a television show that celebrates it all. It’s a retro science fiction comedy called, Atomic City – and it looks grand. ‘Sexy’ with an ‘innocent charm’, it features ‘…super-luxury liners that fly through the air with stewardesses in mini skirts, deluxe posh monorails with swank lounges, floating restaurants, flying diners etc. Secret bases. Underground test sites. Convertible jet cars. Bikinis, Martinis and UFOs…’ It’s a ‘comedy adventure about private eye Stan Velvet uncovering secrets in a futuristic Vegas’.

Rothkranz’s Atomic City is a concept project developed with his company, Astro Films LLC. Located in Nevada, Astro Films ‘works outside of the Hollywood bureaucracy that bogs down so many films and projects with great ideas.’ The talented creatives involved with this motion picture and entertainment company believe that, ‘The time has come for a new artistic renaissance.’ For those who feel bored and uninspired by the same old tired television faire, let the revival begin!

Unfortunately, while being on the outside creatively is a great thing, it isn’t so much when trying to get picked up by a network. Atomic City has never found a home on television. The video below is an introduction to the pilot episode. There’s a lot of cool stuff to enjoy – if you’d like to see more you can check out the super Atomic City web site by clicking here.

For those wanting a little fun getaway to a simpler time, step aboard this futurama rocket ride to Tomorrowland!

Behold, the Alps Television Spaceman Robot!

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This robot is a star from the Golden Age of robot and toy production. It was a masterpiece of mechanical design. The ‘Television Spaceman’ was created and manufactured by Alps  – one of the top Japanese toy companies to emerge post-WWII. If you wonder why so many collectors note Made In Japan when describing a mid century robot or toy, the answer is twofold: quality and multiple features. Alps put both of those virtues into the Television Spaceman – and a lot of creativity to boot. You can click here to read all about the fantastic features of this little marvel at Robot Era.

As can be seen in that nifty video, the centerpiece of this prized robot is the television:

…pre-Apollo era artwork inspired by (or more accurately copied from) the works of the famous space artist Chesley Bonestell…Also noteworthy is Dr Werner von Braun’s space plane prominently displayed at various points in the panorama.

Not all toy robots are alike – and there’s more than just a bit of graphics that set them apart. Alps’ ’61-’69 Television Spaceman robot is a splendid example of just what exactly does.