Sunday, August 16, 2009

The more they saw Chris Montez at the Fest for Beatles Fans in Chicago, the more they wanted to call him and say "Let's dance!"

The Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans is winding down tonight-- if "winding down" is the right description for an all-star rock 'n'roll blowout capping s weekend that starred the likes of Ronnie Spector, Earl Slick and two of The Hudson Brothers, among others with longstanding Beatles connections.

As thousands of fans passed through the O'Hare Hyatt Regency Hotel on the most humid day of the summer, the name most talked about as a future Fab Fest fave was that of Chris Montez, featured in a preview of Frozen Pictures's new project, El Viaje Musical de Ezekiel Montanez: The Chris Montez Story, that opened the Fest on Saturday with a grand screening in the Grand Ballroom and created more buzz this afternoon with a more intimate encore showing followed by a lively Q&A with director-writer-producers Brett Hudson and Burt Kearns.

Montez' winning personality, guileless honesty and brilliant talent as a singer and musician were equalled by the surprising story of his experiences headlining over the Beatles on the UK tour that coincided with the release of their first album and the first stirrings of Beatlemania.


The duo promised the film will debut at a Fest for Beatles Fans in 2010, and there's already talk of Chris Montez appearing along with it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Beatles Fan Fest goes wild for Chris Montez

There were cheers, laughs and even gasps as the preview of the new film, El Viaje de Ezekiel Montanez: The Chris Montez Story, was unspooled this afternoon at the Fest for Beatles Fans in Chicago.

Directors Brett Hudson and Burt Kearns took the stage in the Grand Ballroom of the O'Hare Hyatt Regency Hotel to introduce the work-in-progress about the influential singer and musician who headlined a UK tour in 1963 with the Beatles as his opening act. Co-headliner Tommy Roe was another fan favorite as he and Montez revealed behind-the-scenes nuggets, breaking news and making history with untold stories (hence the gasps) before hundreds of Beatles fans.

Directors Kearns and Hudson introduce the film
(Fellow producer and Director of Photography Joachim Blunck remained in LA)

"This was the audience we were most nervous about," said Kearns after the credits rolled. "They know the history. They know the Beatles story. If we could tell them something new, we we were on the right track."

"And we did," added Hudson. "It went over really well."

Hudson and Kearns, who've brought the Frozen Pictures flick The Seventh Python to two past Beatle fan fests, say the final work will encompass all of Montez' career and influence. They hope to bring it to a Beatle fest in the Spring.

Before the 34-minute preview was shown, fans were stunned by the trailer for an upcoming Frozen Pictures production, Apple Pie Heroes, which chronicles a reunion of The Hudson Brothers.

The Fest for Beatles Fans hosts a second screening of both works tomorrow at 1:30, followed by a Q&A with our pals from Frozen Pictures.

The Seventh Python movie and two-thirds of The Hudson Brothers combine for a historic evening at The Comedy Shrine

The Comedy Shrine in Naperville, Illinois was the center of the show business universe last night with a screening of The Seventh Python and a performance by its producer Brett Hudson and brother Mark Hudson in a special evening outside Chicago.

Frozen Pictures' acclaimed, award-winning film about Monty Python cohort Neil Innes made its fourth Chicago area appearance at the legendary comedy club and museum, while the Hudson brothers took time from their fan-flocked weekend at the Fest for Beatles Fans at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare.

The crowd of comedy and music fans gave a rousing reception to both segments of the evening. A delay in getting the Hudsons from the Beatlefest to the club was covered by a raffle and a Q&A by Seventh director Burt Kearns that began to reach its stretching point around the time he played the audience music from his iPhone to explain Frozen Pictures' new film about Chris Montez (which will be previewed at noon today at The Fest for Beatles Fans).

It was generally agreed that the Hudsons were hilarious, working off Mark Hudson's solo show material that was highlighted by his story of a Hudson Brothers song about Joni Mitchell whose trajectory to hit status was derailed by the line, "Joni, I want you to blow me..." The fact that the next phrase was "blow me a kiss..." didn't matter.

The Comedy Shrine, with its extensive comedy collection (just about every inch of the 4800 square-foot place is filled with comedy memorabilia), is one of the most unique attractions in all of America. Located in an upscale minimall in downtown Naperville, the pop culture treasure is the brainchild and labour of love of veteran comedian and Emmy winner Dave Sinker, a longtime friend of the Hudsons.

Dave Sinker in his Comedy Shrine

More on The Comedy Shrine to come...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Surprises" promised as Chris Montez movie gets Saturday morning preview at Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans

Our pals at Frozen Pictures tell us they've just left the F&F Digital Post facilities in Los Angeles with copies of their special Beatlecentric preview of their new nonfiction film project, El Viaje Musical de Ezekiel Montanez: The Chris Montez Story.

Next stop is Chicago for special screenings of the half-hour teaser of a musical documentary about the Mexican-American rock and pop legend. The film is the first in-depth look at Montez's career, which has spanned almost fifty years, developing alongside artists like Ritchie Valens, The Beach Boys, Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Beatles and Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, with an influence that extends from punk rock to roots rock to lounge and easy listening.



The big screening will take place at 11 am Saturday morning in the Grand Ballroom of the Chicago's O'Hare Hyatt Regency Hotel, as the "Early Bird Special" before doors open for the latest Fest for Beatles Fans. Screenings of Frozen Pictures' Neil Innes film, The Seventh Python, drew upwards of a thousand people and standing ovation at past Beatlefests. The film will also be screened Sunday afternoon, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.

"We've got all kinds of surprises in store," says Burt Kearns, who directed along with Brett Hudson. "Beatles fans will be arguing on the way out the door-- and they'll have a lot more to look forward to."

The Chris Montez project, described by Hudson as "an only-in-American tale," was produced by Hudson, Kearns and Joachim Blunck, who's also Director of Photography. Filming continues after the crew returns from Chicago, where they're also showing The Seventh Python Friday night at the nearby Comedy Shrine club.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sunday night in Tulsa: There will be Bloodline

Producer RenĂ© Barnett brings her controversial, acclaimed documentary film Bloodline back home to Oklahoma on Sunday, August 16th, in an exclusive one-night-only event at Tulsa’s historic Circle Cinema.

The movie investigates the popular theory that Jesus Christ married and fathered children with Mary Magdalene, finding the real story behind The Da Vinci Code. It caused a furor upon its release in theatres, has been presented around the world, and has only grown in popularity and influence since its release on DVD.

René Barnett is a native Oklahoman who worked for years with director Bruce Burgess on the project, presents the film on Sunday at 7 pm. The screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session that's bound to be spirited.

Barnett is a veteran producer whose television credits include Ripley’s Believe it or Not and Strange Universe. She is also host of the syndicated radio program Night Vision.

She got her start in radio at KAKC in Tulsa, as the newscaster who also provided occasional live sound effects on "Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi's Unfilmy Can Festival," a zany late night show featuring Tulsa natives Gailard Sartain and Gary Busey.

Bloodline runs at 7 pm Sunday night. The Circle Cinema is located at 12 South Lewis (at 1st Street) in Tulsa. More information at 918-592-FILM and the cinema website.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Chris Montez movie-in-the-making gets a sneak preview August 15th at the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans

Lucky participants at the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans are about to become a very select film audience on the morning of Saturday, August 15th, when they get the first sneak preview of El Viaje Musical de Ezekiel Montanez: The Chris Montez Story.

And of course, it's a got a Beatles twist.

Tommy Roe and Chris Montez, who headlined a UK tour in 1963.
The Beatles were their opening act.

We've been hearing about the Chris Montez film bio project since last summer, when it was announced by our pals at Frozen Pictures. While the guys have spent the past twelve months running their Neil Innes biopic, The Seventh Python, through film festivals and special screenings around the country and the world, they've also been shooting the definitive work about the influential and diverse rock and pop musician who went to school with the Beach Boys, launched the lounge movement, and is hailed as the successor to the first Mexican-American rock star, Ritchie Valens.

Chris Montez at the site of the Wilson brothers' childhood home
(a California Registered Historical Landmark),
where he'd jam with the future Beach Boys

We caught up with them earlier this month at the Grammy Museum, where Chris was participating in a tribute to Ritchie Valens, and their crew has been filming around Chris' hometown, Hawthorne, California.

In March 1963, Chris headlined a tour of England with Tommy Roe. The opening act was a group called The Beatles. That month will be the focus of the preview shown in the ballroom of The Hyatt Regency O'Hare on Saturday morning, August 15th.

"We're looking forward to the fans at the Beatles Fest," says director Burt Kearns. "We got a great reception when we screened The Seventh Python and now we're able to give a little back with some Beatles history. Chris' Beatles tour took place at the cusp of Beatlemania. Their first album was released midway through, the fans were wild-- the audience will be very surprised at the revelations."

"Including the truth about Chris' fist fight with John Lennon. It's been forty-seven years, and no one's gotten the story right until now," says producer Brett Hudson, who will also be performing at the Fest with Mark Hudson-- another third of The Hudson Brothers.

The Seventh Python-- the hit of last year's Chicago Beatles Fest-- won't be forgotten. The film is being screened at the world-renowned Comedy Shrine club in neighboring Naperville on Friday, August 14th.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Seventh Python returns to Chicago! One night only! The Comedy Shrine! With special performance by Mark & Brett Hudson! Friday, August 14th!

So what is it with The Seventh Python and Chicago? The veddy-Anglocentric award-winning nonfiction feature about the veddy-British musical satirist, rock 'n' roll legend and Monty Python compatriot Neil Innes from our pals at Frozen Pictures returns to the Chicago area on Friday, August 14th, with a one-night-only screening and (two-thirds) Hudson Brothers performance at The Comedy Shrine.

The announcement is great news for comedy and Monty Python fans... but begs the question why, after entertaining audiences and winning standing ovations around the world-- from Perth, Australia to the New Jersey Meadowlands-- The Seventh Python keeps returning to the City of Big Shoulders in the American Heartland?

Since the film's premiere at the American Cinematheque's Mods & Rockers Film Festival in Hollywood, it's played at:

So what's the secret to Chicago?

"The secret to Chicago is-- there is no secret," says Seventh Python director Burt Kearns. "Chicago is a comedy capital. They've got The Second City there, but also universities, where some of the finest comics and comedy writers were schooled. There are a lot of comedy legends in and around Chicago."

One of those legends is Dave Sinker. The longtime Hudson buddy, Emmy-winning writer and Second City veteran runs The Comedy Shrine, and came up with the idea of bringing back The Seventh Python for a return engagement.

The Friday evening show on Chicago Avenue in Naperville is set to begin with a screening of the hilarious film starring John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Aimee Mann, Matt Groening and many others, followed by a special performance by Brett and Mark Hudson (they'll arrive after they appear at The Fest for Beatles Fans at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare). Brett produced the film. Mark, the noted music producer and performer, was music supervisor.

Click here for tickets. Arrive early so you'll have some time to check out the extensive comedy memorabilia collection. They don't call it The Comedy Shrine for nothing.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Python in Perth, Bruce: Australian film festival launches tonight; tickets selling fast for two screenings of The Seventh Python

The Revelation Perth International Film Festival launches today in Perth, Australia, along with great excitement for the two prime-spot screenings of The Seventh Python.

The Saturday, July 4th presentation of the acclaimed, award-winning documentary about legendary pop satirist, wit and Monty Python cohort Neil Innes will be the Australian premiere of the film from our pals at Frozen Pictures that's received accolades and standing ovations as its made its way across America through film festivals, special event screenings and Beatles fan conventions since its premiere at the American Cinematheque's Mods & Rockers Film Festival last summer.

The 12th annual Revelation Perth Fest is perhaps the most respected film festival in all of Australia. One film reviewer writes: "Under the curatorial leadership of author Jack Sargeant for the second year running, Revelation aims to bring new, weird, interesting and unusual features and documentaries that wouldn't otherwise get screened in cinemas to Perth audiences."

There's particular excitement about The Seventh Python-- enough that the musical comedy doco is getting two screenings at prime times. Along with the Saturday, July 4th showing at 7:15 pm, The Seventh Python will also be screened on Friday, July 10th at 7:15 pm.

click photo to enlarge

One reason for the buzz Down Under can be found on the Festival website: "Alongside many interviews The Seventh Python features numerous versions of Innes’ songs including the Australian version of The Philosopher’s Song."

Australian readers, click here to get your tickets.

Monday, June 22, 2009

American Dunkleman makes The Globe!

The Globe, the edgy supermarket tabloid that's scarfed up by millions of Americans each week, is highlighting American Dunkleman!

You remember American Dunkleman. It's the proposed television comedy series starring former American Idol host Brian Dunkleman, was hailed as "hilarious" earlier this year when a trailer for the based-on-real-life laughfest hit the Internet. The series from our pals at Frozen Pictures got great attention from the likes of the Los Angeles Times and The National Enquirer, which had fun with the producers' tongue-in-cheek Facebook campaign.

Now the current issue of The Globe tabloid features American Dunkleman. The fact that the weekly tabloid with a finger on the pulse of Middle America chose to seek out and publish a story on the show is yet another indicator of American Dunkleman's mainstream appeal.

The story is another juicy tease with an A+ tabloid headline:


FORMER American Idol host Brian Dunkleman is attempting a TV comeback by shopping around a sitcom about his life.

Called American Dunkleman, the series plays on Brian's real-life reputation of having made "the biggest mistake in the history of show business" when he walked away from his role as "Idol" co-host after the show's first season.

Since leaving FOX's talent fest, his career has nose-dived, while his co-host Ryan Seacrest went on to make a fortune as a radio DJ and TV producer.

The comedy series follows the fictional Dunkleman as he attempts to get back into the television business.

A source says: "His character embarrasses himself and disappoints his friends while constantly being reminded that he could have been a millionaire if he'd stuck with the show."

So what about the show?

"We're negotiating, we're pitching and we've got one especially hot prospect we hope will become a reality soon, says Frozen's Brett Hudson. "This series will introduce America to a Brian Dunkleman who was never revealed on reality television. He's a true comedy idol!"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Multitalented, ever-clever, never going to be halftime at the Super Bowl": Chicago Tribune features The Seventh Python

A week ago, we featured pictures from a Chicago Tribune photo shoot featuring music and comedy legend Neil Innes, star of The Seventh Python, the nonfiction musical feature film from our pals at Frozen Pictures. The session was part of a media blitz surrounding the historic Innes concert and film screening at the Wilmette Theatre on June 9th, and accompanied an interview with Innes by Tribune writer Marc Caro.

The feature runs in today's issue of the Trib (which has already called the film "magical, mysterious, whimsical, hysterical!"), a little late for the Wilmette show but just in time for The Seventh Python's pair of showings at the Relevation Perth International Film Festival July 4th and 10th:

Chicago Tribune
'Seventh Python' has been
making his mark
for more than four decades

But Neil Innes is far from a household name
By Mark Caro, Tribune reporter
June 21, 2009

Neil Innes was browsing the stacks at Vintage Vinyl in Evanston when the clerk brought over copies of several albums by Innes' anarchic '60s jazz/rock/comedy collective, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

The records were priced at $50 apiece, prompting the 64-year-old British singer/songwriter/pianist/guitarist to marvel, "Is that what they are? Hmm. Well, good luck."

He thought about autographing them, then reconsidered: "It would probably devalue it if I signed."

He inspected the back cover of "Gorilla," the Bonzos' 1967 debut album, on which was listed a song called "Death Cab for Cutie." "That came from an American crime magazine which I found in Deptford Street Market [in London]," Innes recalled. "It was this lurid cover; it said, 'Death Cab for Cutie.' "

Paul McCartney liked the song so much that he tapped the Bonzos to perform it in the Beatles' rambling TV movie "Magical Mystery Tour." A Seattle-area rock band subsequently took the song title as its own name and became so popular that the phrase's origins have become all but forgotten.

So it goes for the multitalented, ever-clever Innes, who has been making his mark for more than four decades without ever becoming a household name.

"I'm never going to be halftime at the Super Bowl," he dryly acknowledged.

The Bonzos had one British hit, Innes' jokey-folky "I'm the Urban Spaceman" (produced by McCartney under the name Apollo C. Vermouth), and appeared regularly on the madcap British TV series "Do Not Adjust Your Set," which featured future Monty Pythonites Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. But the band never exceeded cult status, particularly in the U.S.

Innes wound up providing musical contributions to "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975). He's the minstrel singing about Brave Sir Robin, and he's also a peasant who gets crushed by a gigantic wooden rabbit. His impact on the troupe was such that Terry Gilliam dubbed him "The Seventh Python," also the name of Burt Kearns' documentary that brought Innes to town earlier this month for a screening and performance at the Wilmette Theatre.

Post-Python, Innes and Idle created the Rutles, a Beatles parody group that debuted on the duo's British TV series "Rutland Weekend Television" before starring in their own 1978 NBC television special "All You Need Is Cash." It was the week's lowest-rated show among the major networks yet provided the "mockumentary" template for "This Is Spinal Tap" (1984) while sustaining a steady level of belovedness among Beatles and Python fans.

Innes eventually spun off a second Rutles album without Idle in 1996 ("Archaeology"), and a solo Idle cobbled together a rather lame Rutles follow-up film in 2005 (the straight-to-DVD "Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch"). When Innes performed a solo show in Los Angeles in 2003, "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening was among those who showed up to pay their respects, and Kearns started work on "The Seventh Python."

Innes now has more paunch and less hair than when he played the John Lennon doppelganger Ron Nasty, but he's in anything but a retiring mood. His one-man show, which he performed at the Abbey Pub and again in part at the Wilmette, is called "A People's Guide to World Domination," a decades-spanning collection of his songs around which he wraps his theme "that the individual is being wiped out by the mass media." In typically cheeky fashion, the show climaxes with Innes leading a mock march in which he swears in the audience as "Ego Warriors," whose salute is the familiar thumb-to-the-nose gesture.

Innes is eager for 2010 to arrive because that's when his current publishing deal expires, and he's so miffed at its terms that he's waiting till then to release any new music.

"When we did the second Rutles album, I was naive enough to think if I paid a lawyer, that that lawyer would represent my best interests," he said, bursting into laughter. "No! How stupid could you get?

"I am off the hook on Jan. 1 of next year, so I will be actually doing more, being a bit more prolific. I'm just so fed up with being burgled. At the age of 65, I shall be free, so I should become a complete fame slut now."

By this point Innes was sitting outside with former Hudson Brother (and "Seventh Python" co-producer and co-writer) Brett Hudson at Argo Tea down the street from Vintage Vinyl. Neither of these two veterans was pining for the good ol' days or lamenting the demise of a record industry devoted to producing physical products.

"Quite frankly, I'm glad that part is gone," Innes said. "In many ways, what's the difference for people like me and Brett? They took all the money then."

The two of them laughed.

"I'm glad that the record business has changed and isn't what it was," Hudson said. "Because now we have a chance to make some money."

"It's gone full circle back to Woody Guthrie," Innes said.

"You're absolutely right," Hudson said.

"And, hello, we can get on street corners and say what's what," Innes said.

"You're right," Hudson said. "Woody Guthrie. We can come back. It's true."

Innes laughed. "This era is our era."

Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Exclusive! More video and photos from the big Neil Innes & The Seventh Python event at the Wilmette Theatre and beyond!

A Chicago Tribune photo shoot at the legendary Vintage Vinyl record store (from the movie High Fidelity) in Evanston, Illinois:
Downtown Chicago, heading to the WLS studios to be interviewed, along with The Seventh Python producer Brett Hudson, on the Roe Conn radio show:
Showtime at the Wilmette Theatre:
Above center: The Seventh Python costars Rutling Ken Thornton & Vet Ken Simpson

Signing a poster for the publican at the after-party: