Saturday, December 31, 2011

Remembering New Years Past

New Year’s Eve was always a big deal to me. Ever since I could remember, as a kid, my Aunt and Uncle in South Philly would have a huge New Year’s Eve party in their basement rec-room. This was in the 1970s and ’80s, back when Dick Clark ruled the airwaves but we still switched over to the station with Guy Lombardo to hear his band play Auld Lang Syne.

That basement rec-room was as late-60s-early-70s as you could get. A bachelor pad in the basement of my married Aunt & Uncle's row-home in Philly, the basement was finished in bright white stucco with dark wood furnishings, a black leatherette sofa, a dark wood bar with a black vinyl pad all around and black vinyl and chrome swivel chairs. There was a 13" B&W TV in the corner and Spanish-themed posters (I don't know how else to describe these...they had bullfighters and stuff on them) hung on the walls.

Those parties were the best. Our whole, big Italian family would get together, including grandparents, in-laws and cousins, and some of my Aunt and Uncle’s friends. They had this great old Sears Select-O-Matic console stereo that blasted out disco and Motown songs all night, while the B&W 13” TV played the New Year’s Eve show with the sound off. They had a groovy ’70s bar in that basement too, with all the top shelf liquor of the time: Smirnoff, J&B, Jack Daniels, Cuervo, Beefeater and Chivas Regal. Oh, and of course, some Michelob, in those funny-shaped bottles. I always drank Shirley Temples with a little umbrella in them...probably what led to my fascination with Tiki cocktails today.

My Mother, my Aunt and I would spend all New Year’s Eve day decorating for the party. Streamers (red, white & green, of course) and Happy New Year banners were the main decor. We would put out those little round, colored tins...either full of peanuts, or to use as ashtrays. At around three in the afternoon, my Uncle and I, sometimes with my grandfather, would walk the five blocks down to the bakery and buy a few large paper bags full of fresh rolls as they came out of the oven. (I can still imagine that incredible aroma.) The rolls were for the roast beef and sausage and peppers sandwiches that we’d have at the party, and at their New Year’s Day open house.

Those New Year’s Eve party menus stayed the same year after year, and are so ingrained in me that I still have the same stuff one New Year’s Day, every year. The before-mentioned hot roast beef au jus on kaiser rolls with dill pickle were the main event. A crock pot of sausage and peppers was the most Italian food at the party, with the rest of the menu consisting of mostly traditional American fare: Macaroni salad, potato salad (both homemade, of course), black olives, chips of all kinds, onion dip, nuts and a zillion types of home-baked cookies covered the stereo, which after a half dozen records had been loaded into the changer, doubled as a buffet table.

My Uncle or Father played bartender, which was funny since neither of them ever drank (a social cocktail or two was their limit). One year my Uncle made Frozen Banana Banshees, and although I wasn’t quite old enough to imbibe alcohol (I was eight) he made one light enough for me to taste. I was hooked. That, and a sip of Scotch when I was 12, led to a very long and happy relationship with the nectar of the Gods.

Everybody had a hat and a noisemaker. Whether it was I in my pre-teen years or my Grandparents in their 60s, I made sure everyone had a New Year’s hat or tiara, and a good, old-fashioned metal noisemaker. These were kept year after year in paper bag behind the bar, a bag full of late 1960s metal horns, spinners and clankers. Those old toys held up pretty well...we used them up into the 1980s when they finally began to rust. I managed to save two...a clanker and a mementoes. Just looking at one now brings back a flood of memories that really takes me back.

When the ball finally dropped at Midnight, we’d all yell Happy New Year!, and hug and kiss and all that mushy stuff. Then my Grandfather would immediately change the channel from ABC to CBS where Guy Lombardo would usher in the new year with that very melancholy sounding song, the way I imagined they did back in the dark ages. In contrast a bunch of bubbles would float out of the back of the bandstand, and there would be balloons and streamers everywhere. It just seemed odd to me, as a kid, that such a sad sounding song would be played to swing in the new year. soon as it was over, my 20-something year old Aunt would snap that channel right back to Dick Clark, where something like Kool and the Gang would be playing “Celebration” with a bunch of happy people dancing all over the TV. Disco was never my thing, but it beat the sad-sack sound of Auld Lang Syne.

After midnight it was always a contest to see how late we could stay up. I, being the youngest and most hard-headed, would outlast everyone by at least a few minutes. I remember my record was four a.m.; it was when I was around ten and I would break that record until I was much older, celebrating with friends in my 20s. It was in my early 20s when illnesses in the family finally forced my family to break the tradition and no longer have the parties. But I am happy to report I didn’t turn into one of those kids that abandoned the family when I got “too old” to go to those parties...I was at every one, till the end.

New Year’s Day in South Philly

It amazes me that no one outside of an 80 mile radius of Philadelphia every heard about the New Year’s Day tradition of the Mummers Parade. Well, almost no one...but even most New Yorkers I’ve talked to never heard of it...they were always too ensconced in their own parades.

The Mummers Parade started in the very early part of the 20th century. It was originally, really, just a bunch of drunk partiers who never went to sleep New Year’s Eve who took to the streets dancing and playing music, dressed up as clowns or just wearing their party clothes. It quickly evolved into a gigantic parade full of marching bands, comics, and “floats”. But this parade was different from any other, anywhere...the marching bands were not of the Sousa-playing variety, and resembled the generic military marching bands the way a banana resembles a Buick. Called “String Bands”, these marchers were made up mostly of banjos, fiddles, base fiddles, drums and Xylophones. Somewhere down the line rows of saxophones were added, and the very distinctive sound of the String Bands was born. They played (and still do) pop standards, not marching tunes, and found a natural partnership with the jazzy big band songs of the 1930s and ’40s. Even today, you’d be hard-pressed to not find at least one String Band play Golden Slippers of Chattanooga Choo Choo.

My Aunt and Uncle’s house was on Jackson, just two blocks from Broad Street in South Philadelphia, the home of the Mummers Parade. So every year they would have an open house, with lots of food, hot coffee and cookies for people going to the parade. Friends and family would stop in for a bite and to warm up before going back out the usually 20° or less winter to watch the parade go by. The menu mimicked New Year’s Eve’s, with the addition of boiled hot dogs, sliced baked ham, and lentil soup. Supposedly if you ate lentils on New Year’s, it meant you’d make a lot of money that year. Never seemed to really work for me. Oh well.

The Parade was an insane way of bringing in the new year. Thousands of people would pack the sidewalks of Broad Street, from Oregon Avenue all the way down to City Hall. Cops on horses would stride along with the parade, making sure nobody tried to join in. Vendors selling hot coffee and hot soft pretzels would make a small fortune on the sidelines. It wasn’t uncommon to see people drinking hot coffee or cocoa out of styrofoam cups...but it was equally as common to see people taking nips out of bottles in paper bags.

Watching the Mummers stut down Broad Street was certainly a unique experience. In the 1970s and ’80s, when I saw them most, they were still using musical instruments that had been used for two or three generations. Hell, they probably still use them now...and these included such huge and rare instruments such as bass saxophones (you can’t imagine how big these are until you see a guy carry one down the street), triple-snare drums, and upright basses...yes, they carried upright basses down the street. I can’t even imagine.

The main materials for Mummers costumes are feathers. Millions of feathers go into making thousands of costumes, along with glitter, mirrors, and baubles. Although this may sound like something invented by the Logo channel, I’d like to point out that this was a parade that didn’t allow gays, women, Asians, or blacks to participate until the law required them to allow everyone in (sometime in the late 1970s, believe it or not). The parade producers at the time said this racist, closed-club policy was just because of “tradition”. There were actually some pretty big fights over this nonsense, but common sense finally won out. Today, everyone is welcome to join in the parade, as it should be.

Cleaning Up

The downside to these giant parties was the giant clean-up afterwards. Since I was a kid, that meant I got to do a lot of the work. Hefty bags full of streamers, paper dishes, old food and popped balloons would fill up the alley. My Aunt, who was a neat freak, would dust and polish everything and vacuum the rugs before the guests had all left. By late afternoon on New Year’s Day, you’d never know there was a two-day event at her house. The only reminder was the lingering aroma of hot dogs and lentil beans, and my New Year’s Eve hat hanging on the vestibule door knob. As the sun went down and the hundreds of double-parked cars would pull out, my parents and I would all say goodbye, hop in the old Cadillac or vintage Chevy or ’60s Pontiac wagon or whatever old car we had that month, and head home to the Jersey Shore, so I could go back to school, sleep and slow, on January 2nd.

Sorry if there are any typos in this. I'm writing it on New Year's Eve, and I've already begun celebrating :)

-Christopher Pinto, author of
Murder Behind The Closet Door
Murder on Tiki Island
Tiki Lounge Talk

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Goodreads Rating on Dead Street By Mickey Spillane

Dead Street (Hard Case Crime #37)Dead Street by Mickey Spillane
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've always been a big Micky Spillane fan. When I heard that Max Allen Collins (Road to Perdition, Saving Private Ryan) was Spillane's longtime friend and was asked to finish out several of his unfinished novels, I was ecstatic, yet took it with a grain of salt. After all, how could anyone...even as great a writer as Collins...match Spillane's style and flair?

Well, he did a great job. So far I've read two of these collaborations and have been satisfied with both. My only criticism is that you can sort of tell that Collins had to stretch out some of the material to go from notes and partial chapters to a finished book. There are times when it what you are reading may seem if it were covered a few times already. I found more of this in The Goliath Bone than I did in Dead Street, but it still seemed like a little of Spillane's "meat" was never written before his death.

This non-Hammer Spillane cop story reminded me a lot of The Deep. If you dug that, you'll dig this.

Could I, as a writer have done a better job, though, without comprising Spillane's story? Nope. This is a great read for Spillane lovers, with few exceptions.

View all my reviews
-Christopher Pinto, author of
Murder Behind The Closet Door
Murder on Tiki Island
Tiki Lounge Talk

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: The Playboy Club, the new Retro-style Show on NBC

A VERY racy image for 1963 - a blonde, a brunnet and a red head all in the same photo.
A VERY racy image for 1963 - a blonde, a brunette and a redhead all in the same photo.

 True Retro Lovers, you're in for a let down. Now, those of you who read Tiki Lounge Talk regularly know that I don’t usually review a movie or TV show. I generally just present stuff I really dig, hoping you’ll dig it too. I know I sound like I’m slamming this fact, I sort of enjoyed it, and will continue watching it (unless it gets really bad). I’m just disappointed that NBC went all through the trouble of doing a show set in the 1960s and completely missed the point of doing a show set in the 1960s. It’s the ambiance, the over-all look, feel and texture of Mad Men’s style that roped us in to Mad Men. The writing and unorthodox story telling keeps us coming back. Rehashing a good old “oops I killed the gangster, uh oh” plot just doesn’t cut it for me.

Now SHE is a good reason to watch this show. What a looker!
Now SHE is a good reason to watch this show. What a looker!
Last night “The Playboy Club” pilot (Mondays, 10/9c) aired on NBC, beating “Pan Am” to the punch for retro-style prime-time drama du jour. Both of these shows have been created to play off the popularity of “Mad Men” (a couple of years late), but from the opening scene of The Playboy Club it was obvious: This ain’t no Mad Men, baby. Stylized shots of hot 1960s chicks in bunny costumes, a ’59 Buick, thin ties and mood lighting were spliced together to give us the look and feel of the era…but in typical “old three” network fashion, the plot very quickly deteriorated from what should have been a great slice-of-life drama of the every-day perils of working at The Playboy Club…to…drumroll please…a murder-driven plot, following the same worn-out formula that’s burdened networks like NBC for 50 years.


The male lead seems to be a Don Draper knockoff. Swing, and a miss!
The male lead seems to be a Don Draper knockoff. Swing, and a miss!
No spoilers...The previews did that for us. [/caption] From the previews everyone knows someone important gets accidentally murdered in the first five minutes of the story, and the bunny who does it (played by the beautiful Amber Heard), along with a smooth-talking lawyer (played by Eddie Cibrian) – who is interested in more than just her cotton tail – decide to hide the body and pretend like nothing every happened, ya dig? I ain't kidding. No Mad Men realism here, kids. No subtle plot points to ponder and dissect later in the evening. She just hauls off and kills the guy by kicking him in the throat with her stiletto (curious lack of blood, by the way). The 'victim' turns out to be a gangster "who was askin' for it". Although there were not witnesses, predictable hoods assume the blonde bunny had something to do with his disappearance "because they saws her dancin' wit him". Ok, I may be exaggerating the accent a little. Anyway by the end of the episode it’s all about the murder, the gangsters and the bunny trying to cover up the killing, and has very little to do with the Bunny Club. Of course this murderous plot-line is briefly interrupted by naked people having sex in the bathroom (naked for no apparent reason, I mean, it's a bathroom), some kool stuff about civil rights, and a scene where the chick goes OUTSIDE to the smoke. Uh, yeah.

Music for Modern Mindless

The show opens with a Bunny on stage, singing “Chicago” in a way that sounds much more like a Pussycat Dolls rendition than anything a 1963-ish songbird would ever tweet. It rolls into a version of Shaboom Shaboom that sounds even more up-to-date and hip-hoppy, destroying any 1960s feel that may have been conjured in the opening. When the song ends, the background music sounds exactly like they ripped it from Law and Order.

Bunny Maureen & Bunny Mother Carol-Lynne in an early 60s office with an early 80s painting on the wall.

Bunny Maureen & Bunny Mother Carol-Lynne in an early 60s office with an early 80s painting on the wall.

Hey, Look At Me, I’m A Character!

They don’t leave anything to chance with this show. Like most network shows, every character hits you over the head with their specifics before the second commercial break can air. As a friend of mine said, the lawyer seems to be doing his best Jon Hamm the point that listening to him speak while not watching, I’d swear Don Draper was making a guest appearance on the show. However, where Don Draper is smooth, mature and always in subtle control, this character seems to bounce between the slick Chicago lawyer and a somewhat cocky frat boy. As for the blonde bunny, she's doing the best she can with what she's's not easy to establish a character when you start out being freaked out by killing a man with your shoe just because he felt you up. Again, don’t get me wrong, the acting is pretty good. Just not Mad Men good. You hip? Good.

Quick, Somebody Give Me A Plot Idea...Murder A Gangster? I’m In.

Nick Dalton's Bachelor Pad was one of the highlights of the show, and didn't get nearly enough exposure.
Nick Dalton's Bachelor Pad was one of the highlights of the show, and didn't get nearly enough exposure.
Have you noticed how Mad Men ran for four seasons without a single murder mystery? Or even an unsolved robbery. Sure there were mysteries...Don’s past, Pete’s true character, Don's brother, etc. But not one murder. Here’s how I’m guessing The Playboy Club started out, and how it evolved: The Idea Man: Banking off of Mad Men, we do a show all about The Playboy Club in the 1960s, how the girls were treated, why the men went there, how the Playboy empire evolved, with all the great, secret stories that came out of the era. Stories of civil rights. Stories of sugar daddys. Stories of Hef himself. Stories of sleazy swinger parties with Don Rickles and Doris Day. Stuff like that. Producer: I love it just the way it is! (By the way, we need to sell advertising.) Jello is in, but they want to make sure it appeals to a wider audience than Mad Men, so it can’t be all young girls with huge racks and shots of the mid-century modern furniture. Throw in a chick in her late 30s or 40s that’s still a hot looking bunny, to appeal to the people who watch Desperate Housewives. Tell her to act like that busty redhead on Mad Men. You know, like an office manager, for bunnies. Executive Producer: Perfect show! Don't change a thing! But just for the hell of it, consider this: our marketing department tells us people like murder mysteries! Isn't that interesting? Murder and sex. But not too much sex. Throw in a murder mystery and we’re golden. And show some flesh, for Christ’s sake. Oh, wait, speaking of Jesus...I just remembered, we want to appeal to the moral majority segment too, so if anyone is having sex out of wedlock, make sure the guy proposes marriage to the girl while he's doing her up against a public restroom sink, while they are both completely naked. That will seem realistic, right? And add some gangsters. People like Chicago gangsters. Director: This show is perfect! But it needs something...I know, a more modern edge! Let’s have the old bunny broad sing some songs like the Pussycat Dolls do. That will appeal to both the Desperate Housewives market AND the 90210 crowd! Action! Writer: I quit. Sponsors: We love it! Tell our ad agency to place six commercials (use the same one over and over again, people like that) throughout those little empty spaces between the acts. Oh, and can you make it more about the gangsters and that hot blonde, and less about the club and the era? My 12 year old daughter says that gets dull, and she knows TV better than anyone else. Final editing: When no one's looking, we’re putting the stuff about the gays and the black bunny back in. Don’t tell the producer. Emmy, here we come! And there you have it. A show that probably started out 100 proof got watered-down until it was just wishy-washy enough to air at prime time on a major network like NBC without offending anyone too much. Yet, it still has enough kick to keep it least enough to watch the next episode. Spoilers in next week's trailer: Dammit. They gave away three answers to what little real mystery they came up with in the "scenes from next week". Don't they know they're supposed to just show split second, one or two word clips edited out of order to create a sense of "what the hell was that"?

What I Would Do Differently, As A Professional Theatrical Producer

Everybody has an opinion. I, being a former director, writer and producer (of theatrical murder mysteries) of course have my own opinions on the direction this show should have taken. Like you, I’d want to see much more of the actual inner workings of the Playboy Club as it was in the day. How did they pick the girls? Was there an audition process? Was it legal to fire them if they gained weight? What about the stars that came to the club? Or the infamous parties at the Playboy Mansion? They talked about a party, but where the hell was it? They only showed a few seconds of people dancing. Wasn't there an indoor pool in the Playboy Mansion where bunnies swam naked? Were the bunnies really off-limits to guests, or were they banging every high-roller that came through the door? How much did a membership cost? How was it viewed by the general public? I would completely ditch the whole murder/gangster idea and focus on the blonde’s character. Make her as interesting as Don Draper, with a mysterious past (in a different way than his, of course). Maybe even have her be an undercover reporter, doing an exposé on the women of the club, and how they operated. And I would definitely give the manager of the Chicago Playboy Club a better car to drive than a four-year old Buick. He would be driving a Cadillac, or an Imperial, if anything. Probably a coupe or a convertible, definitely black with leather seats. Not a Buick sedan. His wife could have a Colony Park station wagon to drag the brats around in. One with those ugly plaid seat covers you used to buy at Sears, where she’d get all the kids’ toys because she would be too cheap to go to FAO Schwartz. Woah...How’s that for going off on a tangent? Ok, so I'd make the lawyer guy a heroin addict or something, and the "old" bunny would turn out to be a tranny. Ok, maybe not. It's getting late and I've had a few drinks. Anyway, if you’re looking for a cool, sleek, stylized show like Mad Men, The Playboy Club will be very disappointing. If you’re looking for a prime-time show with pretty girls and plot that you can follow even if you miss 20 minutes in the middle of the show while you make frozen daiquiris and those little hotdogs in puff pastries for your guests, the show is fine. Hopefully Pan Am will be a little more our style.  
-Christopher Pinto, author of
Murder Behind The Closet Door
Murder on Tiki Island
Tiki Lounge Talk 
A Flash of Noir

(This article also appears at Tiki Lounge Talk)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Vampire Killing Kit for sale on eBay

If you hate sparkly vampires, now's your chance to kill them all with this fantastic Vampire Killing Kit created by Gothic Artist CRYSTOBAL.
Like all of CRYSTOBAL's Vampire Killing Kits, this original work of art is full of all the cool stuff that makes these things fun to own.

This kit is especially unique as it includes a replica black powder pistol, complete with wooden bullets. The kit also features two hand-made wooden cross-stakes and matching wooden mallet, matching rosary, bottles for holy water and rock salt, a coffin-like box for garlic and a mirror.

Here's a video of the kit and all its contents. To view the auction with more photos, visit the Vampire Killing Kit on ebay. Reserve is set lower than any other kit currently available!

CRYSTOBAL is the artist credited with starting the repro Vampire Killing Kit crazy in the late 1990s. He's been building these kits for stage, screen and private collectors since the 1950s, and without doubt is the premier builder of these historic pieces. Many have tried to imitate his work, in fact some even have the audacity to claim to have been the first to create this style of kit, but none have been able to come even close to his unique and original style of 19th century, primitive Vampire Slayer Kits.

So whether you're a fan of Dracula, Twilight, True Blood of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, owning your own Vampire Killing Kit is the ultimate collectible.

-Christopher Pinto, author of
Murder Behind The Closet Door
Murder on Tiki Island
A Flash of Noir
Tiki Lounge Talk

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Christine" - My Rating on Goodreads

ChristineChristine by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book from beginning to end, but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I am an antique car nut, always have been, and found myself sympathizing with the car more than the characters.

This is a perfect example of why Stephen King is famous. Great story, original, fun, scary. Imagery is incredible. But some people may not enjoy it as much as I did, if they aren't into vintage cars...only because if you're into those big, sleek 50's monsters with giant tailfins and tons of chrome, you'll get it...I mean really get it.

I guess what I'm saying is, if you drive a Camry and think it's a great car, you just won't get it.

Anyway, great book, only reason I won't give it 5 stars is that he talks about the car having 4 doors when Furys ONLY came in 2-doors. Then in another scene, he talks about 2 doors. Minor technicality, but like I said...I'm a car guy.

View all my reviews

-Christopher Pinto, author of
Murder Behind The Closet Door
Murder on Tiki Island
Tiki Lounge Talk

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Good article on how to promote your book

Found this article on the web about how to promote your book. The author offers some very good suggestions, including information on helpful sites.

-Christopher Pinto, author of
Murder Behind The Closet Door
Murder on Tiki Island
Tiki Lounge Talk

Friday, June 17, 2011

Kindle vs. Paperback: You can't collect kindle books

Ebooks are taking over (quickly) as the medium of choice for many readers. Amazon eBook sales reportedly surpassed US print sales this year, and show no signs of slowing down. Indeed, my Kindle versions of Murder Behind the Closet Door and Murder on Tiki Island are outselling the paperback versions 4 to 1.

Certainly eBooks are great: Convenient, inexpensive, and instantly available. You can store hundreds of ebooks in less space than a single traditional paperback. There's only one catch...

You can't show off your collection of eBooks.

It just can't be done. There's no bookshelf to keep them on, no way of having an author-signed copy or first edition. There's no "special dustjacket" or hardback edition available with eBooks. You can't even write a dedication in the flap when you give one as a gift.

I say eBooks have their place. They really are convenient, especially when traveling. But there's nothing, nor will there ever be, anything like the look and feel of a real book.

-Christopher Pinto, Author

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chrysler PT Cruiser: Saying Goodbye to the Retro Icon

In today's market, ten years is a solid run for any model vehicle. With only a minor facelift on exterior design and interior trim, the Chrysler PT Cruiser ends its reign as the number one retro-styled vehicle in America this year.

Introduced for the 2000 model-year, the PT Cruiser was Chrysler's answer to the popularity of the retro-styled Ford Mustang. Taking design cues from Art Deco-inspired Plymouths and Chrysler Air Flows of the 1930s, the PT stood apart from the generic, bubble-ish cars of the late 90s with accentuated fenders, a waterfall grill, and a rounded "Touring Sedan" profile common in the pre-war era. The raked-back look, Frenched-in head and tail lights, old-school chrome door handles and five-spoke alloy wheels gave the car a custom, hot rod style that became an immediate hit with retro design lovers. This also led very quickly to a large aftermarket of custom and performance parts, making the PT Cruiser one of the most easily and extensively customizable vehicles on the market. Chrysler marketed this vehicle to both the retro crowd and everyday people, calling it "the small car alternative".

The first PTs had a four cylinder, 2.4 liter engine that topped out at about 150 horsepower. That was the major complaint for many buyers who dreaded the zero-to-sixty time of nearly ten seconds in a car that looked like a hot rod. The fact that the vehicle got less than twenty miles per gallon city didn't help. Even though the public loved the styling, that wimpy engine was responsible for the first couple of years of soccer moms and rental companies buying the car...until 2003, when the GT Turbo version was released.

The 2003 PT Cruiser GT Turbo (sometimes referred to as the GT Cruiser or PT Bruiser) boosted the horsepower to 215, giving the retro-rod the fast kick it needed. Combined with the "Four on the Floor" manual transmission, the little car could now rocket from zero to sixty in around 6 1/2 seconds from the factory. An AutoStick automatic transmission was also available, allowing the driver to choose between manual (clutchless) mode or auto. A lowered, stiffer suspension, wide performance tires and traction control added to the GT's handling and hot rod looks.

2005 saw the next, and probably most important step in the PT's evolution. Designed by Daimler-Benz, the PT Cruiser convertible debuted to a much appreciative public. The car was reinforced to accommodate the convertible top, and a stylish yet functional roll bar was incorporated to add stability and rollover protection. The top-of-the-line model was the GT Turbo High-Output, a car capable of reaching horsepower in the 215 to 225 range stock. A sporty leather interior with chrome accents, factory navigation, chrome grill and special GT Turbo High-Output badging distinguished it from the flock. Unfortunately the car carried a hefty price tag - over $30k for a decked-out GT-HO version - which prohibited sales, making the GT ragtop a rare bird.
2006 saw the first and only design change for the Cruiser. A slightly modified front end and back bumper, along with a newly designed dash and center console was all that was done to update the PT's appearance. The engine was modified to give a little better performance. The Turbo could now churn out 230 horses, but the gas mileage remained woefully low at a time when gas prices were climbing to $4.00 per gallon, and competitive small cars were getting upwards of 35 mpg. By 2007, the novelty was wearing off, and Chrysler found themselves selling a lot of Cruisers as fleet vehicles for rental car agencies. The recession and Chrysler's merge with Fiat doomed the PT Cruiser from evolving any further, and in 2008 it was announced that production of the then-dated car would cease by 2010, to be replaced with a Fiat-based, more economical vehicle.

Today, a handful of 2010 Sedans are still available from Chrysler as "classic" PT Cruisers, but when they're gone, they're gone. Remaining vehicles are basically base models, without an option for the turbo or the convertible. An optional "Couture Edition" features a two-tone paint job, red leather seats and a much higher price tag. The Couture production is limited to 500, meaning a few die-hard PT lovers will buy them and store them as future classic investments. But without that Turbo, there's little hope for much interest by the future collector market. If anything, the 2005 PT Cruiser Convertible stands out as the first PT ragtop, and the only year with the original styling. The '05 GT-HO Turbo version should be the one to watch.

So we say goodbye to ten years of the much-loved retro rod, just as retro-styled vehicles like the Chevy Camaro and HHR are gaining popularity, along with the Dodge Challenger and continuation of the Ford Mustang. Today, even vehicles like the Cadillac CTS, Chrysler 300 and Infiniti G37 are utilizing a considerable amount of classic retro styling. Designers are incorporating some of the greatest styling elements of the 1920s, '30s, '40s and '50s into today's vehicle...And so though the little PT Cruiser may be gone, it's certain its influence will be around for a very long time.

Christopher Pinto, Creative Director

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nearing completion of "Murder on Tiki Island"

"Murder on Tiki Island" is my latest novel, featuring Detective Bill Riggins (from Murder Behind The Closet Door). Only this time Riggins is only 28 years old, as the action takes place in New York City and the Florida Keys in 1956. More of a true gumshoe detective story in the traditional Noir style, Murder on Tiki Island will surely appeal to anyone who enjoys the stories of Mike Hammer, Phillip Marlow, or Sam Spade.

The story centers around Riggins who is forced to take a 'vacation' after getting caught doing some not-so-politically correct interrogating at his New York precinct. A friend turns him on to Tiki Island, a private resort in the Florida Keys, where he is treated like a celebrity. Tropical breezes, strong cocktails, and fast women promise to make this vacation one to remember, until a skeleton is uncovered on the resort's grounds...and Riggins is asked to help solve the mystery. His lighthearted investigation turns dark when his life is threatened, and one of the Island's top managers is murdered. Riggins' investigation begins to uncover more than just a few skeletons...including wild sex parties, drugs, prostitution, and corruption. And through it all are unexplained phenomena, where the paranormal collides with the ordinary.

Projected final of the first draft is late February, 2011, with the final edited version to be on sale by April.

-Christopher Pinto

Saturday, January 22, 2011

25 years since the Challenger Tragedy

I'll never forget that day. Star Dust was playing on the radio.

I remember it now as if it had just happened. I was a senior in high school...I stayed home from school that day, sick. I was in bed resting with the oldies station on, and Star Dust by Artie Shaw started playing on the radio. Since it was always one of my favorite songs, I sat listening, enjoying. Half-way through they cut the song short for a news announcement. I remember how mad I was that they cut it off before the end, steamed that they'd chop off a great song in the middle for some stupid news story, especially when it was rare for them to play that special tune. Then I heard them say the Space Shuttle Challenger had just exploded in mid-air, seconds after take-off.

My heart sank. Like millions of other kids, I loved the shuttles and the whole glamorous idea of space travel. Yet the shuttle launches had become so common, it seemed, that I didn't even bother to watch the launch on TV, and that made me sadder yet.

After the shock wore off I turned on the tube and found the video of the ship exploding in mid-air, 73 seconds after take-off. My God, all those poor people, including that pretty teacher, gone in an instant; and I somehow knew the hopes and dreams of someday traveling in space myself were gone too. So God damned sad, it still hurts to think about it 25 years later. 25 years, and it still seems like it just happened.

Star Dust was playing on the radio. I'll never forget that day.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Murder Behind the Closet Door now availble in paperback and as eBook for Kindle, iPad, PC, Mac, Smart Phones and Barnes and Noble Nook

Murder Behind the Closet Door now availble in paperback and as eBook for Kindle, iPad, PC, Mac, Smart Phones and Barnes and Noble Nook

Yeah, I know, long title. Pretty much says it all, though...Modern technology meets old-school noir fiction as my book, Murder Behind the Closet Door: The Wildwood Paranormal Mystery becomes available as "books on demand" through, and in eBook format.

The Kindle version can be read on any Kindle device, plus it can be read on an iPad, iPhone (and most other smart phones), PCs, Macs and any other reader that can download the Kindle software (free from

Kindle and Nook eBooks are only $3.95. Library-quality paperback is $16.95 plus shipping.

Nook: Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Noir Movie Monday: The Man with the Golden Arm, 1955 starring Frank Sinatra

I've revised Tiki Lounge Talk's weekly movie posts...welcome to Noir Movie Mondays! I'll still post some fun mod stuff and retro movies, but this season we'll be concentrating on the best of the black and white classics. This week,
Noir Movie Monday: The Man with the Golden Arm, 1955 starring Frank Sinatra