Over far too many years, I have accumulated an extensive collection (digital and print) of old magazines, books, tapes, etc. When I want to write a post, if I don’t already have a topic in mind, I’ll just dig through until something catches my eye. Today was going to be a good one.
I recently acquired a copy of Crazy magazine. During the late 60’s and early 70’s, Mad Magazine was at its peak with over two million readers on a regular basis. As usual, once something is a success, all the copycats spew from the darkened corners. National Lampoon, Cracked & Sick were some of the biggest.
In 1973, Marvel Comics decided to get in the act and put out their own version called Crazy, which ran from 1973-1993.
Their goal was simple: “Do what Mad does.” I have copies of all of these and much of them are interchangeable. Sure, a few things are immediately recognizable. For instance, any longtime Mad reader would know “Dave Berg’s Guide to….”
Or Sergio Aragones’ amazing margin work:
Or some may know Sylvester P. Smythe from Cracked:
But Crazy didn’t have anything that really defined it. They had a very generic mascot:
But the inside looks just like the others. The big draw for them was going to be the parodies. A good parody can make or break an entire issue. I have some old Mad magazines that are mostly garbage, but they have an awesome Star Wars parody, so I’ll never let them go.
Back to this new (to me) issue. The front cover shows the crew from Animal House, one of the greatest films of its time. Front and center is Bluto in full toga mode. We’ve got Flounder, Hoover, D-Day, even Dean Wormer. What more could you want?
As I flipped through, a few things stuck out. First and foremost, that’s not how Bluto looks:
He doesn’t wear a coat and tie. Or glasses. The others look okay, but that’s often the case with parodies. One or two just don’t look right.
As I read further, it dawned on me. This wasn’t Animal House. This was about the crappy G-rated TV version they made. Talk about a bait and switch. That’s like signing up for Disney+ expecting to watch Star Wars, but instead of Episode IV, they’re only showing Hardware Wars.
Delta House was one of 3 (THREE!) versions of Animal House to air in the 1979 TV season. (CBS’ Co-Ed Fever & NBC’s Brothers and Sisters were the others.)
It brought back a few of the original cast members (as shown on the above front cover.) John Belushi had moved on to bigger things, so Bluto was said to have been drafted. Instead, we got Josh Mostel as ‘Blotto’ Blutarsky, Bluto’s brother. (Try saying that five times fast.)
As you’d expect, much of what made Animal House so appealing just couldn’t be portrayed on TV. It aired at 8:00 on Saturday night, which was still considered “family hour”, so it had to be toned down even more. It did pretty well at first in the ratings, but constant battles with Standards and Practices led to the producers and the network deciding to call it quits after thirteen episodes.
I have watched a few episodes and it’s just not very good. Even by 70’s measures, it’s forced and just not that funny, which is a real shame.
I wouldn’t normally suggest anybody watch two different versions of something bad, but here is an exception. Both are worth viewing for very different, yet interconnected, reasons.
The original pilot for Delta House used the same sweeping, dramatic music featured in Animal House.
Once the show was on the air, however, the network felt it needed a new theme song. After all, the 70’s were a prime era for TV theme music.
They turned to Jim Steinman, a mostly unknown songwriter who was just gaining recognition for his collaboration with Meat Loaf on the seminal album Bat Out of Hell. The very same Meat Loaf, by the way, who was the 2nd choice to play Bluto in Animal House if Belushi didn’t work out
As many musicians do, Steinman recycled an old piece he’d been working on, got someone to add lyrics and vocals, and POOF! Delta House now had a new catchy theme song. It’s no Greatest American Hero, but it got the job done.
Any Meat Loaf fans out there may have also noticed the song was recycled yet again. Two years later, he put new lyrics to the same melody and created Dead Ringer for Love, an underrated collaboration between Meat Loaf and Cher. Yes, Cher!
Also in that second intro clip, if you look closely about 46 seconds in, you’ll see Generic Otter making out with a blonde in a red sweater. That was Michelle Pfeiffer, playing “Bombshell” (her only name for 12 episodes), in her very first role.
Just like that, we’ve got 2/3 of the The Witches of Eastwick linked together. If only we had Susan Sarandon as Mrs. Dean Wormer….
Someday I’ll dig deeper into the 3 different Fraternity shows, but not today. I need to find something to wash out this sour taste. Maybe I’ll watch Animal House.