Friday, August 21, 2020



Released in the summer of 1984, “Rock Me Tonite,” the biggest charting hit single by esteemed rock musician Billy Squier, had its accompanying video premiere on MTV. When Squier's fans saw what was depicted in the video, it left many of them flabbergasted, embarrassed and ashamed of their rock hero, others saw it as ridiculous and bizarre. The video has since acquired the reputation as being the “worst music video ever made,” gaining an entire chapter in the 2011 volume, I Want My MTV, and with Squier himself disowning it and claiming it killed his career. I happen to disagree with the common opinion [what else is new] and with this article, hopefully fans will see the video in a new light.

The music video features Squier waking up in a bed with shiny satin sheets, going about his day putting on sweatpants and a halfshirt with torn sleeves. Squier crawls suggestively on the floor, grinds his lower body, with crotch prominently in view and prances about his bedroom, flailing his arms and skipping to the beat. His bedroom is bathed in pastel colors, orange, pink and blue. He swings down a stripper pole, puts on a pink tank top, before grabbing a pink guitar and joining his band in an adjacent room, which is filled with poster-sized images of the album cover to Signs of Life, which “Rock Me Tonite,” comes from.

Up until the release of the video, Squier had always presented himself as a t-shirt and jeans rocker, never without his guitar. His previous material, such as 1981's “The Stroke,” had a much harder sound, then the synth-laden glam tune visualized here. By the mid 1980s, rock music was changing to a more pop vibe, with emphasis on keyboards, hooky choruses and thundering drums. Squier, like many groups and performers needed to remain relevant so his 1984 album, Signs of Life, presented a more poppy sound than his fanbase was used to.

When the video dropped, his fans were alienated, their macho hard-rocking hero, was now a glammy pretty boy prancing about a satin bed, wearing a pink tank top. As a result, his fans who were primarily teenage boys, shunned Squier and his resulting albums sold poorly and his concerts no longer had the attendance they once did. The reason for this, in my opinion, is the homophobic 1980s, a decade remembered for sending the nation in to a tizzy over the AIDS epidemic and fears of contacting homosexual people reached its crescendo. It was not uncommon for a man to be labeled a “faggot” for having feminine tendencies, wearing feminine colors and clothing and overall being a more sensitive individual. Many closeted men chose to remain introverted and some committed suicide over harassment they received from their peers. Whole television programs, mostly driven by religion and trash TV hosts, were based around warning the public about “the dangers of homosexuality.”

Understandably, given the detestable environment of the time, a video like Squier's would be totally unacceptable. While I agree with Squier's assessment that the video killed his career, I vehemently disagree with the popular opinion that the video is the worst of all time. As a matter of fact, I don't even think its a bad video, certainly no worse than anything else released at the time.

As a bisexual man, I have always taken issue with the stereotypical role of men that society has created. I question why men must be emotionless, gruff and tough, with a rabid appreciation for sports, drink and big wheels. Why is it the “in-thing” for men, insecure with their own masculinity, and women with antiquated minds, to judge men for displaying sensitivity and how they present themselves and their homes? Why is it unacceptable for men to have satin sheets, the color pink in their wardrobe and behavioral and emotional attributes typically identified with women? My philosophy is, as long as your lifestyle doesn't harm others, why should anyone pass judgment or care? I say express yourself, be true to yourself and don't hide who you are because of society's prehistoric perspective. I am proud of who I am, and if my way of life alienates my family or my friends, to the extent where they decide to disown me, then our relationships never truly mattered.

With all of this being said, I absolutely love the “Rock Me Tonite” video, it displays a raw sexual energy in men, that had never been adequately displayed before in mainstream media. Squier is obviously turned on by his own song, as it starts he is simply snapping his fingers, but once the beat kicks in he gets a lot more excited and his dancing and prancing about his room becomes more wild and gets him so excited that he must have an orgasm, which is represented by his tearing off his shirt. Once the pink tank top is placed on his body, the cycle begins again, he starts out slow, but before you know it, hes sliding down the stripper pole. The only way he can calm down is by faceplanting onto his bed. He takes the time to meditate as the beat slows, but sure enough he builds up the energy again and this time, he must go out and play, that is the only way he will sexually satisfy himself, so he picks up a guitar and joins his band.

I feel this video is a marvelous “up yours” statement to conformism toxic masculinity and homophobia, it directly attacks the society-mandated gender roles and finally lets men have all the fun the ladies have been having for years. If any video symbolized the counter-culture, counter-society bent to rock music, this would be it. There are no scantily clad women in this to mask men's sexual desires, he doesn't need women to have fun, Squier does a great job of stimulating himself.

I applaud Squier for making this video, even though he is not too fond of it nowadays. This was a very ambitious video to make in the era it was produced, he ran a great risk, and though his career took a nosedive, it presented an image of man far beyond what society had ever seen before. As bisexual and even gay men, we get turned on by Squier getting turned on, we cheer for him as he releases his inhibitions, he doesn't care what you think, hes comfortable enough in his own skin and masculinity to not restrain his energy, as I watch I find myself saying, “Go Billy, Go!”

This video was made for those of us not afraid to question our sexuality nor our acceptance of it. I'm sure a lot of gay fellows in 1984 secretly admired Squier for finally creating something they could identify with, I certainly do. A video like this challenges ignorance, hatred and hostility to alternate lifestyles and does so with such reckless abandon that it is to be celebrated instead of censured.

Friday, December 6, 2019

The Films of Orlando and Robert Rotundo

Most people who know me, know that I love movies, mostly from the 1930s, however I like films from all eras [with the exception of most modern day filmmaking.] I admire and appreciate the works of independent filmmakers of the 1980s and 1990s as it was much more difficult to produce, edit and create films during that time. Names that come to mind are Don Dohler and Chester Novell Turner.

Whilst perusing YouTube, I stumbled upon a short, ten minute video entitled, Attack of the Killer Zucchini From Hell. The title alone was enough to entice me in to a viewing, so I put aside some time to watch it. I found it to be quite well done, if a bit on the campy side, and the actors seemed to be having a genuinely good time.

Out of curiosity, I checked out the uploader's channel, Orlando Rotundo, and found he had several, shot on video short films that he and his brother made back in the early 1990s. This article will focus on three of them. Most of the films feature Rotundo's brother, Robert, in the main role, many of the actors appear in other Rotundo productions, and were filmed in southeastern New York State.

Attack of the Killer Zucchini From Hell, filmed in early September of 1990, concerns four friends who are invited to dine with their much younger compatriot at his home. One by one, the friends are viciously murdered and it is up to the young man to find the source of the slaughters. As the title implies, the culprit is discovered to be a massive zucchini bush located in the young man's backyard. Through a series of attempts to defeat the killer crops, our hero discovers it to be a much more difficult task.

As an introduction to the cinema of Cancuna Productions, the name of Rotundo's production outfit, I was not only thoroughly entertained but also very impressed. The editing was well done, with the possible exception of the ADR work in the beginning that peaks a bit too much in to the red, and as stated above, the actors seem to be enjoying themselves. Aside from Robert Rotundo, the other actors include Andy Jensen, Shane Lambert and Mike D'Afflitto. I also have to remark on the excellent choice of wardrobe, especially for Lambert's character, his Bart Simpson tank top is the epitome of the early 90's. The horror effects, for a small scale production such as this, are inventive, clever and executed very well. Not to give too much away, but I liked Robert Rotundo's transformation in to Rambo towards the end of the picture. This is as good place as any to start your journey in to the irreverent and inventive world of Cancuna Productions.

Terror in the Basement, filmed in 1991, is about three friends, led once again by Robert Rotundo, who have a sleepover to watch some slasher movies in Rotundo's basement. The kids soon discover they are not alone and are pursued by a masked killer who uses everything from darts to car battery jumpers to carry out his heinous crimes.

This film is considerably weaker by comparison, but still a fun watch nonetheless. The film is worth watching purely for Rotundo's dual role as both himself and the killer. The only element of the film that brings it down are the two actresses playing Rotundo's friends, sisters Bettina and Maria Triscari, they are obviously uncomfortable with being on camera and are visibly seen smiling and laughing during the course of the film. The weapons are very inventive and the use, early on in the film, of something called, "Doyle's Instant Breakfast," must be seen to be believed. Overall, there isn't much to say about this one, and is the weakest film of the three I will be concerning myself with.

Bite Me, shot in the summer of 1992, was Cancuna's final production and they went out with a bang or should I say, fang. The film starts on a crisp summer day where a young man, played by a much older Robert Rotundo, is fishing off a dock. A slovenly, drunken hillbilly emerges from his outhouse to warn him about the presence of the undead. Seeing the hillbilly as nothing more than a reclusive nutcase, the man ignores the warnings only to be killed by a vampire bat. The young man is resurrected in the form of Dracula and proceeds to haunt the citizens of Dutchess County, New York. Dracula enslaves two beautiful female pedestrians and goes on a rampage, leaving death and destruction in his wake. The hillbilly decides that enough is enough and enlists the help of the local, donut loving sheriff to put a stop to the chaos. Once again Rotundo uses jumpers as a weapon and Dracula kills the hillbilly in the cruelest way imaginable [to the tune of the "Imperial March" from Star Wars, no less.] The sheriff is then surrounded by hordes of the walking dead and must think fast or endure a ghastly death.

As the swan song for Cancuna Productions, Bite Me is a marvelous topper to the fun, but short lived film careers of the Rotundo brothers. Once again Robert Rotundo plays two parts and is great in both and performs the film's finest stunt, on the top of a speeding car. Andy Jensen's portrayal of the hillbilly was a bit too much to take at times but was hilariously unhinged. Mike D'Afflitto was great as the laid back, careless sheriff. As noted in the description, Orlando Rotundo states that the use of the holy water gun in this film was done years before Tarantino did it in From Dusk Till Dawn, seeing as I haven't seen the Tarantino film I cannot substantiate his claims, you'll just have to take his word for it. I enjoyed the post production effects and the blooper reel at the end was fun, and you clearly saw that these were people who just loved to make movies.

So ends the story of Cancuna Productions, there is a trailer for a more recent film they have done called Dead Float, but I am unsure if it was ever completed. I am not sure what the Rotundo brothers are up to these days, perhaps they just threw in the towel on the film industry, however I feel a return in this current climate would be most welcome. I think these fellows had potential and I would have loved to have seen what they could have done using today's technology and equipment. I do hope for the return of Cancuna Productions one day, but until then let us remember two brothers in southeastern New York and their group of friends who loved making movies back in the early 1990s. Hopefully some young filmmaker will be inspired by their work to go out and create some movie magic of their own. Here's to you, Rotundo brothers, wherever you are.

~ Geno Cuddy

Attack of the Killer Zucchini From Hell
Terror in the Basement
Bite Me

Orlando Rotundo YouTube Channel

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Remembering My Sanctuary: The Old Manchester Parkade

    Sometimes you find friends in unlikely sources, for me that friend was the long abandoned Manchester Parkade in Manchester, Connecticut. 

The old Manchester Parkade, photo taken by me, circa Autumn 2009

      I was evicted from my apartment in Middletown in 2009, and became homeless after my mom got sick. I was in my freshman year of high school and attended Middletown High. My family decided to place me in state custody and they sent me to live at the dreaded 89 Nutmeg Drive residential home for troubled boys (I was the only white guy there and was made the scapegoat of physical and mental torture from the African-American males that lived there, all of which were previously incarcerated for God knows what).

      I always had a passion for dead malls, being a member of the great Ames Fan Club ( and I had fond memories of shopping at Bradlees with my mother. In a weird way, going to see and snap photos of what some would call an 'eyesore', helped me and I always knew that if I needed an escape I could always go to the old Parkade, which I called my "Sanctuary". The entire plaza had been vacant for over ten years, but I felt at home there, and seeing the old Bradlees sign staring back at me, healed me in ways I cannot describe. It took me back, to when I was about four years old, getting school supplies with my mom. The sign had shown its age and looked like it had been in a war, however it still filled me with a sense of nostalgia. The Bradlees chain closed in 2001.

The former Bradlees department store, prior to 1982 it was a King's discount store.
Photo taken by me, circa Summer 2010, my last trip there.

     Bradlees was at one point in time, owned by the local grocery store chain, Stop & Shop, and many Bradlees stores were anchored by S&S, including the one in Manchester. It eventually closed up in the early 90s to move across the street in the current incarnation of the Parkade.

The former Stop & Shop grocery store. Summer 2010.

     My earlier photos were taken with old disposable cameras, I would buy them with the allowance I made from doing chores at the group home, I then would rush them to Rite-Aid to transfer them to photo CDs, some of which still survive. I was an inexperienced photographer at the time and my early efforts are amateurish at best.

Autumm 2009

I just loved this place, it took me away from my hellish existence and transported me back in a time machine to much happier times. The place was full of goodies too, I found working VHS copies of First Kid and Houseguest, both starring one of my favorite comedians, Sinbad, in back of the plaza, its as if they were waiting for me. Everytime I got a chance, I went to my sanctuary to see what else I could find.

The former Marshalls clothing store, at one time it was a radio station, nightclub and indoor mall.
Autumn 2009

 After a while, people at the home grew annoyed of my visits to the plaza, they simply did not know or care about what it meant to me. I had always loved history and this place was part of cultural history of a town that has since gone to the dogs. Their feelings did not stop me from going there, any chance I got, I escaped to my sanctuary, and those bad feelings vanished.

The towering Bradlees sign always greeted me, whenever I saw it, my face would light up.
Summer 2010
      I eventually fled the Manchester home, fearing for my safety, and settled in another group home, Sankofa House (part of The Village For Families and Children) in Hartford during the winter months of 2009. I was the oldest there, 15 at the time, everyone else were elementary school aged. It opened my eyes to the the plight children have everyday, especially when they don't have parents. It was an equally hellish time there, save for one girl whom I formed a bond with. The girl, who I will call Cynthia for this article, was on the autism spectrum like me, and she looked up to me as a big brother. I would help her get to sleep at night by reading her stories, getting her glasses of water, tucking her in and telling her that everything was going to be alright. When I left there, she reportedly told a staff member, "Make sure you tell Geno that I love him". There was another girl there, about 12, who I will call Kristina, who was constantly causing mischief. She would be physically restrained by staff, and we would all hear her screaming from in our prison cell-like doors. One time the cops were called and she was placed in handcuffs.

The strip mall portion of the plaza, it originally contained an Anderson Little clothing store, CVS Pharmacy,
Jo-Ann Fabrics, Hobbytyme toy store, Card Gallery and the famous Record Breaker record store.
Autumn 2009
     I never forgot the plaza. I went back in the Summer of 2010, this time equipped with a better camera, and better photography skills. I still felt the same feelings, and it was great to spend one final hour at the place I called my sanctuary. I loved walking the grounds that warm day, not knowing it would be my last time.

Two of the last photos I ever took at the plaza.
Summer 2010
     I left Sankofa that summer and returned home to my mother, whose health had improved. I was relieved my troubles were over, but saddened that I was more distant from my beloved Parkade. I sadly never got to return there.

I found out in late 2012 that the town had demolished the site to the ground only two years after I left Hartford, and with that, my sanctuary was gone. I was crushed, and had regrets that I never made another pilgrimage back there. Seeing video of townsfolk rejoicing and celebrating the destruction of these buildings angered me, it still does. What angers me even more is that, as of this writing, the lot is still empty. 

In closing, while I never got the chance to see the Parkade during its heyday, it nevertheless made an impression on me and made memories for me that can never be destroyed. Take that Manchester!


My 15 year old self in front of the Bradlees.
Autumn 2009.

Monday, January 22, 2018


                I think the majority of people who knock Herb Abrams UWF, are  fans who expect all promotions to be like the megafed WWF. Not every promotion can be WWF, and not every promoter can be Vince McMahon. People forget, McMahon had knowledge of the business due to his dad, promoter Vince McMahon, Sr., teaching him at a young age and McMahon inherited the WWWF from him too. McMahon, in a sense, was born in to royalty.
                Herb Abrams was more or less an outsider to the world of professional wrestling and as such didn't have the resources that many of the more seasoned veteran promoters had. I admire Herb as he had a dream and he went after it. He signed a lucrative deal with the now-defunct Sportschannel America and signed some top talent from the glory days of the AWA, WCW and WWF. Most online reviewers say these guys were past their prime and couldn't go anymore, in my eyes guys like Paul Orndorff and B. Brian Blair showed that they still had it when the cameras started rolling on the UWF weekly series Fury Hour in the summer months of 1990.
             You can't say that Herb was a bad businessman, he knew how to market his product and promote it well. People say he wasn't good at pulling in large crowds, well there is a reason for that, if you had to choose between attending a live taping of WWF television over UWF television, it is rather obvious you would choose the more established product due to a lack of certainty with the new upstart organization. It needed a chance to grow, and it wasn't going to happen overnight. I feel the reason that people hate Herb Abrams so much is because he took the UWF name from under Bill Watts when Watts failed to trademark his version of the Universal Wrestling Federation, if the fans should be angry with anyone it should be with Watts for not filing the proper paperwork. Something I've learned a long the way is that people are huge marks for Bill Watts.                                                              Another complaint that Herb Abrams gets is that the quality of the wrestling isn't very good and he was a terrible booker, well of course he was, he had never done this before and because of respected and opinionated dirt sheet writers like Dave Meltzer,its likely that Herb never would have gotten the full backing from the wrestling community that was needed to hire more experienced writers and bookers. Herb had to do it all on his own, with no help from the outside world and for all intents and purposes, the product is actually rather good for a man who never had experience at all in professional wrestling.                                                                                                                                           Herb's greatest achievement though was the hiring of young up-and-comer Steven Ray, a former football player and former bodyguard of Hulk Hogan, to wrestle for the UWF. Ray was billed under the name "The Wild Thing" and had a gimmick that was a cross between Motley Crue's Vince Neil and Ric Flair. This young man had charisma, charm and great in-ring ability, whose career was cut short due to his wife becoming pregnant with their son. Abrams partnered him with the memorable Sunny Beach (Rick Allen) and one of the most charismatic and greatest unsung tag teams in the history of professional wrestling was born.                                                                                                        The following statement will be controversial but so be it, Vince McMahon stole from Herb Abrams. Truth be told, Abrams was in fact the first ever authority figure to be at the center of a storyline on any wrestling program, predating the "Mr. McMahon" character by a good five or so years. Abrams created a personality as the upstanding promoter who rooted for the faces and called out the bad guys for cheating and even suspending wrestlers on television for breaking the rules. If you are getting vibes of "Mr. McMahon" screaming at Shawn Michaels, "You're Fired", you should. People are marks for McMahon so I guess when he does it its OK, but when Abrams did it, it was a strokefest, don't understand that logic at all.
            On hand to assist Herb were the legendary Bruno Sammartino, one of wrestling's all time greatest grapplers and the always enjoyable Captain Lou Albano, one of wrestling's greatest managers and characters. Sammartino served as color commentator, first with Herb Abrams and then with Craig DeGeorge who had previously worked for the WWF in the 1980s. Albano had his own segment on the Fury Hour called "Captain Lou's Corner" where he interviewed the UWF's roster of talent and even Andre The Giant on a couple of episodes.                                                                                    People say Herb used to cheat the boys or "stiff" them out of cash money. Well, which promoter hasn't done that? You cannot tell me that Vince McMahon never stiffed anybody or Verne Gagne never flew the coupe prior to payday. This was an all too common occurrence in the wrestling business in the 70s, 80s and 90s. I am not excusing Herb Abrams for doing that, but he isn't the only guilty party is he? People also take issue with Herb's cocaine addiction, there is a reason Herb had that addiction. Herb was a notorious party animal and also a notorious sex addict and due to his small stature, he needed something to fuel him during those times of passionate intimacy. I don't know why I should even discuss that though, a man's personal life isn't the issue we should have, it is the quality of product that matters here, which I will reiterate was not that bad all things considered.                               Fans like to sadistically laugh at the events of Herb Abrams' death, in which he died in police custody, after suffering a cocaine-induced heart attack, nude, covered in Vaseline, chasing prostitutes with a baseball bat in his New York Office. The author wishes to dismiss those cackles as I see his death as more of a cry for help, than just the rampage of a psychopath. We can't take things in face value, we must look within ourselves and wonder, what if that were my family member, would you still want to laugh if that were your brother or cousin, or would you want to get them some help. I'd choose the latter. Another thing to consider is the possibility that Abrams had Autism. As an autisitc individual myself, I can detect it more than others can. Herb's mannerisms, his ticks, his attention to detail, all speak to Autism, a disorder that was never diagnosed until after Herb died.                                                        At the end of the day, was Herb Abrams a saint, of course not, and it isn't my intention to lead you in that way, however he wasn't necessarily the arrogant, idiotic jerk that people in the wrestling community make him out to be either. After many long, intimate chats with Steve "The Wild Thing" Ray, I have a whole new outlook and appreciation for Herb Abrams. Herb taught Steve everything he knew as a businessman which led Steve to owning and operating his own wellness organization for many years. Herb helped out a lot of people and by all accounts that I've heard personally, was an all around good guy. Don't believe everything you hear from people like Dave Meltzer. Do your own digging, enjoy the product, and you will discover that Herb Abrams wasn't a lunatic, but an underappreciated genius.                                                                                            

An unsung hero of professional wrestling.

P.S. My wonderful friend Jonathon Plombon is working on a new book about Herb Abrams and the UWF, which will do a much better job than I have of illustrating one of wrestling's most eccentric and mysterious figures as well as the empire he built. You may check out the progress of the book at his Facebook page: UWF and Herb Abrams: The Book Project

Also check out his YouTube channel for rare UWF videos: John's UWF Channel

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Memory Machine - Episode One - So Weird

Hello All,
    I have been working on a lot since my last post, including several podcasts and shows. I am proud to present The Memory Machine,  a podcast that talks about movies and TV shows from the 90's and early 2000's.
   Today's topic is the late 90's Disney Channel series So Weird, which explored paranormal activity and scary situations. The show was about a young girl, with a rock star mom, who ran her own paranormal website and often had to combat demons, aliens and monsters.