Myrtle Beach area celebrities share their favorite holiday movies and the memories that go with them

spalisin@thesunnews.comDecember 13, 2013 

20111121 Turkey TV

SACKOWSKI — MCT

  • Kicks’ picks

    CAROLINE EVANS | As far as tradition goes, it’s “A Christmas Story,” which gets watched probably twice every Christmas and quoted year round in my family. But if I had to pick a favorite Christmas movie, it’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

    STEVE PALISIN | A two-part answer, with perhaps more obscure choices, but both very musical:

    • Among classic specials, “Santa and the Three Bears” still makes me wish for the joy of being young again. This hourlong cartoon from 1970, set as winter blankets Yellowstone National Park, features the voices of the late Jean Vander Pyl – best known as Wilma Flintstone from “The Flintstones” – as Nana, the mother of twin cubs, and a kind, patient ranger played by late Hal Smith, whose decades of acting roles included Otis Campbell on “The Andy Griffith Show” and John Hansen, the father in the “Davey and Goliath” children’s cartoon series filmed in the old, stop-motion “claymation” format.

    • For a gold medal in more modern animation, try “The Tangerine Bear: Home in Time for Christmas” (1999). The plot follows a misfit doll (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas, the middle Taylor son from the “Home Improvement” sitcom) who has a smile sewn upside down as a frown, but he finally finds a home in a family store. Narration and songs come from my goddess of country music, Trisha Yearwood, among an all-star cast of Tom Bosley (“Happy Days”), Jenna Elfman (“Dharma and Greg”), David Hyde Pierce (“Frasier”) as well as comedians Howie Mandel and Marlon Wayans.

It seems everybody has a favorite TV special or movie at this time of year. Maybe it’s because of that one element in life that no one can stop: time marching on.

Time’s power was illustrated so infallibly with the late Red Skelton’s narration in “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year,” a sequel in 1976 to the red-nosed legend’s Rankin Bass stop-motion classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” from 1964, which built upon the original Max Fleischer cartoon short about Rudolph from the 1940s.

As we age, time might seem to speed up as we have more miles logged behind us, but these specials re-aired on TV every December and mass produced on videos let us remember good times as a child, or quality time with a loved one, or unfulfilled wishes awaiting a check on a list.

Check out what some local notables shared as their favorite yuletide TV specials and movies and the memories bookmarked to their choices.

NANCY O’DELL

•  Myrtle Beach native, co-host of “Entertainment Tonight” and co-author of “Little Ashby: Star Reporter – Santa’s Big Premiere,” with Nicholas Bonomo, and Kristine Marsh, illustrator

“I have always loved Christmas specials. In fact, I can remember so clearly buying a calendar as a kid, just to record in it all the dates and times of the Christmas TV specials. And I wouldn’t miss a one.

“One of my favorites growing up was ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ of course. My mom and I would always watch that one together. As a result, she gave me this little pink reindeer with a red nose and fluffy tail. That was always my favorite Christmas decoration, and still is today, mainly because it reminds me of those special memories of watching Rudolph with my mother.

“My other favorite special is ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas.’ I cry every time I watch it. I love watching it with my daughter now, both the old and the new versions. It is one of my favorites because of the message in the story: that Christmas is not about material gifts, but about giving people the gift of kindness.

“Because I loved holiday stories so much, it’s actually why I wrote one of my own for kids. I tell stories for a living on ‘Entertainment Tonight,’ so why not tell a fun, educational story to kids, which teaches compassion and morals?

“That’s what I did with ‘Little Ashby: Star Reporter – Santa’s Big Premiere,’ which actually came out for this holiday as a book on Amazon. The assignment for the animated little girl reporter, Ashby, is to go to the North Pole, cover ‘Santa’s Big Premiere,’ and come back with the story of what the holiday is all about.”

VANNA WHITE

North Myrtle Beach native and longtime wheel turner on “Wheel of Fortune”

“ ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ is my favorite because we watched it every year growing up as a child. I also watched it each year with my children as they grew up, so it was a family tradition.”

JOEL ALLEN

•  news reporter at WPDE-TV 15

“ ‘White Christmas,’ with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. The story line is pretty schmaltzy and predictable, but the songs are classic, and it has a great ending. If ‘White Christmas’ isn’t available, I’ll take the Jimmy Stewart classic, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ It has a heartwarming theme that will really never grow old. The 1951 Alistair Sim version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ also is a favorite.”

ED PIOTROWSKI

•  chief meteorologist at WPDE-TV 15

“My all-time favorite Christmas special, bar none, is ‘A Christmas Story.’ I never seem to get enough of it, even though it runs all day long on Christmas. Strangely, I even have it DVR’ed, but refuse to watch it any other time of the year.

“Who can’t relate to at least once scene in that movie? From the scene where Ralphie meets Santa to the scene when he actually shoots his eye out, it’s one belly laugh after another. With my watching it as a meteorologist, there’s no scene better than the tongue-frozen-to-the-pole scene. It’s something I’ve always feared, but never tried. I triple-dog dare anyone to name a better Christmas movie.”

CALVIN GILMORE

•  founder of “The Carolina Opry,” whose Christmas show continues almost nightly through Jan. 4 in Myrtle Beach

“A lot of movies happened around Christmas but we’re not necessarily Christmas movies, such as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ ‘The Family Man,’ which is a relatively contemporary movie, and ‘Planes, Trains & Automobiles.’

“For TV shows, the old ‘Andy Williams Christmas Specials’ were great. Our Christmas show is like Andy Williams’ shows, and Dean Martin’s and Perry Como’s. Those were what we watched on television around Christmastime. The ‘Andy Williams Christmas Specials’ are my favorite, with family memories. I got to meet Andy and spend a little time with him; that makes it even more special.”

CAROLYN PITTMAN

•  executive director of the Long Bay Symphony, based in Myrtle Beach

“A Christmas special my family always watched ... would be ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ with Jimmy Stewart. I think it meant so much because of the importance of family and relationships it portrays. The real joy of Christmas.”

JOHN RHODES

•  Myrtle Beach mayor

“ ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’: “It brings the kid in me out, and it’s a chance to believe.”

MARK KRUEA

•  Myrtle Beach city spokesman

“ ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ ... The Capra classic is a must-watch during the holidays. Granted, it’s a little corny, but very well told and filmed. I prefer the black-and-white original, if you can find it.”

JOHN SHEFTIC

•  market manager for NextMedia, whose radio stations in Myrtle Beach include WMYB-FM “Star” 92.1, playing all Christmas music through Dec. 25

“ ‘Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” ’: That’s what I grew up with, and it’s hard to not like ‘A Christmas Story.’

“ ‘You’ll shoot your eye out’ ” – I think every parent in the 1950s memorized that line and used it, because we all wanted BB guns.”

LEE BRICE

•  Sumter native with “I Drive Your Truck” and “Parking Lot Party” as his most recent country hits

“ ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’: It was what I looked forward to every year as a child. As a daddy, I see it the same way. As a grown man, I still like to watch it.”

CHRISTOPHER HANNA AND ROBBIE WELSH

•  Owner of Palmetto Yacht Management, and his girlfriend and office administrator, from Socastee, in their third season of “Shipping Wars,” airing 10-11 p.m. Tuesdays on A&E. As told by Welsh, who also has a 4-year-old son, Carter

“Chris and my favorite Christmas movies are ‘The Santa Claus’ with Tim Allen, and ‘Elf’ with Will Farrell.

“Chris really likes comedy and he likes Will Ferrell, and he doesn’t watch a lot of movies.

“I’ve always liked ‘The Santa Clause.’ ... For a year, I watched it every day, when I was little; loved it, and it’s really a family movie. ...

“And Carter’s favorite is ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.’ ”

TIM MCGHEE

•  executive/artistic director for Theatre of the Republic, in Conway, whose “Holiday on Main Street: My Favorite Things” continues one final week, Wednesday-Sunday at the Main Street Theatre

“Our family had several traditions. A two-hour drive to Columbus Ohio, to visits Lazarus department store to see the mechanical Christmas windows and seeing Santa, very much like ‘A Christmas Story’ – the movie – inside Lazarus. ...

“We owned horses, and when it snowed, my father would hook up the horse and yes, a red sleigh, and we would go to church on Sunday morning. I remember thinking how beautiful that was.

“I knew it was Christmas when we saw ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ on television and Burl Ives singing as the snowman.

“It’s also funny you asked because in Theatre of the Republic’s holiday show, the theme is ‘My Favorite Things,’ and because I wrote and directed it, I used many of my favorite things on the set and in the show.”

KATHRYN MARTIN

•  Surfside Beach-based playwright, whose newest show, “A Jersey Country Girl,” a musical comedy, plays Jan. 10-12 at Theatre of the Republic’s home stage, the Main Street Theatre in Conway

“It’s not very traditional, and not very well-known: My favorite movie is ‘A Pocketful of Miracles.’ Glenn Ford plays a gangster, and Bette Davis is Apple Annie, a street person. There’s almost no mention of Christmas in it, but it has a nice, warm-fuzzy message about kindness toward someone who’s down and out, without being sappy, like most Christmas movies. ... It is [in a Christmas setting]; there’s even a Christmas tree in the big climactic scene.”

MATT SEDOTA

•  general manager of “Easy Radio” WEZV-FM 105.9/WGTN-FM 100.7

“The ‘Andy Williams Christmas Specials.’ I remember watching them at my grandparents’ house; they were big Andy Williams fans. I remember the Osmond family singing on those specials, and the brothers of Andy Williams’, too.

“ ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ seemed to be the kickoff to the Christmas season; I loved it then, and I love it still. And ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’: Who would’ve thought a jazz soundtrack – by Vince Guaraldi – would have such lasting value?

“I was always more about the movies though: ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’

“Long before they were available all the time, it was a rare treat to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ or staying up ‘till 1 in the morning to catch my first-ever viewing of ‘Meet Me In St. Louis,’ with Judy Garland’s best moment on screen: ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.’ ”

DIANE DEVAUGHN STOKES

•  host of “Inside Out” an hourlong monthly show replaying at 8 a.m., noon and 8 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on HTC Channel 4, and “Diane at Six,” 6-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays on WEZV-FM 105.9 and WGTN-FM 100.7

“I lived with my grandparents from the time I was nine months old after my parents divorced. My mom’s sister was also divorced and she, and her daughter lived there, too: one big happy family. So my mom, aunt, cousin and grandparents gathered around the old Zenith TV with our big bowls of ice cream for every single Christmas special: Andy Williams, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Mitch Miller and of course, Lawrence Welk, my grandmother’s favorite. From the hymns to the traditional secular selections, we loved them all and never missed a musical Christmas special.

“My favorite Christmas movie was ‘Miracle On 34th Street.’ I watched it every year. Even back then, I was a sucker for happy endings.

“I also recall that ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ even though it had nothing to do with Christmas, it was aired by the networks in December, and my family never missed it. I would sing along and act out the parts with all the characters, and my grandparents would cheer me on – the beginnings of my love for performing.

“I never really understood the movie ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ until I was older. I remember being in my 20s and watching it after not seeing it for years, and I was like, ‘Wow, now I get it.’ And it makes me cry every time I see it. Actually just the mention of it makes me cry, because after all, it is a wonderful life.”

BILL OBERST

•  Georgetown native who’s built a career of acting in movies, and in stage shows such as his solo rendition of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Dec. 19-21 during Brookgreen Gardens’ “Nights of a Thousand Candles”

“ ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ – I didn’t even have to think twice. In those halcyon days, we saw Christmas specials once a year. No Hulu. No DVR. No DVD. Nothing. With just one chance each December to cheer The Grinch’s comeuppance, or sing along with the Winter Warlock about putting ‘one foot in front of the other’ in ‘Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,’ we had them all circled in the TV Guide, especially ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas.’

“Ask anyone who crowded in front of the family television to watch it to recite lines from ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ – we all still can: ‘I’m not going to let this commercial dog ruin my Christmas.’ ‘There’s too much dust! It’s taking the curl out of my naturally curly hair.’ ‘It’s not such a bad little tree. Maybe it just needs a little love.’

“But above all, we children of the Nixon administration remember ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ for two words spoken by Linus. Two little words. And for what happened after he said them. On an animated stage, an animated boy said, ‘Lights, please,’ and then he answered Charlie Brown’s eternal question, ‘Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?’

“It might be hard to imagine in a world of texts and tabs and multiple entertainment centers, but in so many American households. There was dead silence as Linus told the old, old story and quietly ended with ‘That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.’

“This year, I’ll watch it again, but only once, so it will mean something, like it used to.”

Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.

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