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Memory Lane Is a Way of Life for These Entertainment Buffs

BOOKS & AUTHORS

September 06, 1990|By DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

At 39 and 31, Jordan Young and Randy Skretvedt are too young to have experienced firsthand the filmmakers, musicians and entertainers of the 1920s, '30s and '40s.

But there's no question the two Orange County men have the right credentials to publish Past Times, the Nostalgia Entertainment Newsletter.

The quarterly newsletter "celebrates" entertainment of the '20s through the '40s with articles and reviews about the music, movies and radio programs of that golden era.

As an author, Young has written six entertainment books, including a biographical career study of Spike Jones ("Spike Jones and the City Slickers") and a collection of interview profiles of movie actors from the '30s and '40s ("Reel Characters"). The Orange resident is also the publisher of Moonstone Press, which specializes in nostalgia entertainment books.

Skretvedt, a Buena Park resident, hosts "Forward Into the Past," a weekly nostalgia radio show on KSPC (88.7 FM). A lifelong Laurel and Hardy buff who has run the Orange County chapter of the Sons of the Desert (the international society devoted to the films of Stan and Ollie) since 1975, he is the author of "Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies."

Appropriately, Young and Skretvedt met at a Sons of the Desert meeting in the early '70s. Young published Skretvedt's critically acclaimed Laurel and Hardy book in 1987, and they are currently working together on a book dealing with radio as a dramatic medium.

So it's with that common background that Young and Skretvedt have come together to publish Past Times.

But don't think the newsletter takes a rosy-hued look at the past.

As Managing Editor Skretvedt wrote in the debut summer issue: "I can't think of a less desirable time in which to live than the 1930s and early '40s. However, the performing arts flourished in those years. Perhaps because the grimness of the times fostered an intense hunger for entertainment and escape, the filmmakers, songwriters and performers of the era elevated the standards of popular culture to a level that, at least in my opinion, hasn't been equaled since.

"Read a song lyric by Ira Gershwin, listen to a piano solo by Fats Waller, watch a film directed by John Ford, and you'll know that you're experiencing the work of a great artist.

"At Past Times, we think that what is great in art remains great."

The slim quarterly--12 pages in its first issue, 16 in the upcoming fall issue--provides a wealth of succinct and well-written reviews.

Included in each issue are reviews of new nostalgia entertainment books, video and audio releases, and a calendar of upcoming events--vintage film revivals, big band shows, club meetings and conventions and television documentaries.

The first issue also features an article on how fans are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Stan Laurel's birth and an appreciation of Spike Jones.

The fall issue, available in mid-September, contains articles on silent movie comedian Charlie Chase, SPERDVAC (the old-time radio club) and an interview with movie character actor Fritz Feld, whose film career began in Germany in the '20s and continues today at the age of 90.

(Feld, who played countless waiters, chefs and hotel clerks, is best known for his trademark "pop," made by slapping the palm of his hand on his mouth and sounding like a champagne cork being pulled from a bottle.)

The idea behind the newsletter, Executive Editor Young explained, "is basically to perpetuate the entertainment of the era."

Noting that there are numerous old-time radio clubs, film societies and other special-interest organizations, Young said he hopes that Past Times will bring the diverse groups of fans together.

They may be in for some pleasant discoveries.

"There are a lot of people who are interested in old movies who are unfamiliar with the music of that era and vice versa," he said. "There are a lot of record collectors, people who are into Bix Beiderbecke or Fats Waller, but somehow don't know about Buster Keaton or Charlie Chase."

Although they are focusing on the period between 1920 and 1950, Skretvedt said there will be some overlapping to include World War I era music, for example, and early '50s television.

In fact, the next issue features a review of "Kovacsland," a new biography of comedian Ernie Kovacs by Diana Rico.

"That's not to say there aren't television shows made later that aren't worth watching, but we much prefer watching something from the '40s or '50s than the '70s or '80s," Young said. "People who feel the same way may want to check us out."

To order the fall issue of Past Times ($2 for a single issue; $8 for a year's subscription), write to Past Times, 7308 Fillmore Drive, Buena Park, Calif. 90620.

Book Signing: J. Michael Straczynski will sign his new horror novel "Othersyde" from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Aladdin Books, 122 W. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton.

Romance Writers: Finalists in the 1990 Unpublished Novelist Contest sponsored by the Orange County chapter of Romance Writers of America will be presented during the group's pre-meeting workshop at 10:30 p.m. Saturday at the Fullerton Public Library, 353 W. Commonwealth Ave. Susan Ellison and Margaret Brownley will discuss plotting during the regular meeting at 1 p.m. Cost: $3 per session.

Poets Reading: Poets Robert Odom Jr. and Dawn will read at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Poets Reading meeting in the Fullerton Museum Center, 301 N. Pomona Ave., Fullerton. $3.

Independent Writers: Erik Himmelsbach, managing editor of Orange Coast Magazine, will discuss Getting It Into Print at the Orange County chapter of Independent Writers of Southern California meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Pomona First Federal Savings community room, 17851 17th St., Tustin. Free for members; $10 for non-members.

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