In Memory of one of the Great “Screen Heavies”

buono2Victor Buono (February 3, 1938 – January 1, 1982), one of the most popular screen “heavies” of the 1960s and 1970s, may have been the heaviest of the “heavies” of his era, weighing in at 280-300 pounds. But Buono was chock full of acting talent and came to Hollywood with a rich background in Shakespearean roles on the stage at the Globe Theater in his native San Diego, California. He was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for 1962’s What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? for his performance as the weird musical accompanist to Bette Davis’ Baby Jane character. He was also famous for playing the villain King Tut on the television series Batman (1966–1968).

Noted for his ability to mix comedy with villainy, Buono played some of TV’s most notorious bad guys with his tongue in his cheek. Among them, the grand Dr. Schubert of The Man From Atlantis, a Capt. Nemo-style villain who roamed the seas in his super submarine; and colorful Count Manzeppi on The Wild, Wild West.


In honor of this talented actor, who passed away 32 years ago today, we’re sharing an excerpt from Ron Miller’s interview from the release You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet! Interviews with Stars from Hollywood’s Golden Era.

Setting the Scene

I met Victor Buono when he was appearing in a 1965 stage production of Moliere’s Tartuffe at the Comedia Repertory Theater in Palo Alto, California. He was absolutely fabulous in this stage role, literally commanding the stage whenever he set foot upon it. He was such a powerful stage performer that I don’t believe his movie and TV fans ever experienced the real Buono if they hadn’t seen him live on a theater stage.

He was the most charming and self-effacing of men and if he was haunted by the limitations of his great bulk, it certainly didn’t show. He struck me as a very happy soul who was quite content in his own skin and really enjoying the great variety of comic and villainous roles that kept coming his way.

Bawden2_Image085The Interview

MILLER: Like Sydney Greenstreet before you, you seem destined to be typecast as a villainous character on screen. Your reaction?

BUONO: If you weigh more than 280 pounds, you better get out the black hat and forget about getting the girl at the end of the picture. I’ve been shot, stabbed, run over, and been pushed off of, out of, under and over more things than you can imagine. I never get the girl. In fact, I’m not even allowed to have a friend.

MILLER: Given that, what do you consider the ideal role for you?

BUONO: Oh, no doubt, Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff. But ever since I played the sinister mama’s boy in Baby Jane, nobody wants to hire me to play Falstaff.

MILLER: Did you ever think about losing weight and slimming yourself into another category?

BUONO: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to lose weight in order to change the direction of my career. But I always give up and shoot back up to 350 pounds or so.

MILLER: I’ve seen you on the TV talk shows and you always seem to have a pretty amused attitude about your weight.

BUONO: What else can I do but joke about it all the time? I mean, people ask me when I eat breakfast and I usually tell them I sit down to breakfast about 8 a.m. and that usually lasts until 2 or 3 p.m.

MILLER: Does being a big guy present any problems for you doing your parts in movies or TV?

BUONO: Well, let me tell you about one incident. I was playing a bad guy on The Untouchables and they had to show me in a close-up, driving a car. Well, I don’t drive, so they had to tie a rope to the car and have a gang of grips tow me across the set. You can imagine how much they loved doing that.

MILLER: What about your visits to wardrobe? Do they have trouble fitting you with clothes?

BUONO: Trouble? My tailors don’t measure me; they survey me.

MILLER: So, you don’t expect to ever slim yourself down?

BUONO: Well, there’s about as much chance of me losing weight as there is of the Pope being named chairman of the Communist Party.

MILLER: Your villains certainly don’t fit the normal dimensions of movie bad guys.

BUONO: No, I’ve developed my own style. I don’t just torture the hero. I torture him while reciting poetry or enjoying an epicurean feast.


Buono never married and often gave whimsical answers when asked about it. Some sources say he was openly gay, but others say he liked women. Let’s just say that he didn’t seem bothered by the fact that he never “got the girl” on screen and draw our own conclusions about why. Buono died from a heart attack on New Year’s Day in 1982 at his home in Apple Valley, California. He was just 43.


Black-Eyed Peas, Tradition, and the New Year

When it comes to ushering in a new year filled with good fortune and prosperity, certain foods are said to bring good luck. Every culture has variations, but a recurring theme is that black-eyed peas—resembling coins or closed circles signifying the end of one year and success in the next—symbolizes a positive direction in the upcoming year.

One explanation of the superstition says that black-eyed peas were all the Southern slaves had to celebrate with on the first day of January, 1863—the day when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. From then on, peas were always eaten on the first day of January.

In Bound to the Fire: How Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine, Kelley Fanto Deetz draws upon archaeological evidence, cookbooks, plantation records, and folklore to present a nuanced study of the lives of enslaved plantation cooks from colonial times through emancipation and beyond. Deetz not only uncovers their rich and complex stories and illuminates their role in plantation culture, but celebrates their


living legacy with the recipes that they created and passed down to future generations.

Below is an excerpt from Bound to the Fire:

Ingredients and recipes tell the history of enslaved cooks, from their ancestral homes in West Africa, throughout the middle passage, and into Anglo kitchens, where their talent became irreplaceable.

[. . .]

It is challenging to tease out the precise influences of West African foodways in the colonial Virginia. Colonists were transferring a plethora of foodstuffs, some of which were West African in origin, and quickly became part of the Virginian and Atlantic cuisine. What culinary historian James C. McCain calls the Atlantic Circulation, also known as the “Columbian Trade” drastically transformed the global markets, which were previously semi-bound to land. 

Black-eyed peas, okra, millet, and yams are some ingredients which directly transformed both the new colonies’ crops as well as the dinner table. However, the essence of culinary influence is not simply found in these key ingredients, but rather in the techniques of the African cook, whose memories, creativity, and effort transformed crops into cuisine. While many different factors helped flavor the plantation cuisine, the Igbo’s use of okra is one of the most prevalent legacies in Southern foodways. Used as a thickening agent, enslaved cooks relied on this ingredient and one can assume it became a good substitute for a roux. Presumably enslaved cooks had knowledge, either first-hand or passed down, of making certain foods from their homeland. For example, palm wine was a common staple in many parts of West Africa, as was fried foods and stews. Their organic culinary knowledge was easily transferable to the needs of elite plantation culture.

[. . .]

Enslaved plantation cooks singlehandedly transformed American food, and gave birth to Southern cuisine. The West African ingredients and cooking techniques passed down through generations melded with the European methods and ingredients and allowed cooks to author distinct menus. These contributions are undeniable, yet often their cultural roots were ignored, and forgotten.

KBF 2017: A Photoblog

To celebrate Kentucky Humanities‘ 2017 Kentucky Book Fair, we invited one of our current interns, Cassie, to do some reporting from the scene and write about her experience. Read what she (and a few of our authors) had to say—and take a look at what she had to see—below!

This past Saturday marked the 36th annual Kentucky Book Fair, and this was the first time it has ever been held in Lexington! About 180 authors set up tables and promoted their latest books. As a current student at the University of Kentucky and an intern at the University Press of Kentucky, this book fair was a welcome and surprising experience for someone who has never been to one. During my internship, I have seen how much dedication publishers have for the book fair. Promoting their authors and their press—it is whirlwind of exciting events! The following are some fun photos from my time at the book fair and a few, brief interviews with UPK authors.

Having the Kentucky Book Fair at the Kentucky Horse Park during the same weekend as a rodeo was so Kentucky. #onlyinKentucky
Part of the University Press of Kentucky’s booth.

kcg and sw

UPK’s Katie Cross Gibson and UK Libraries‘ Shanna Wilbur staffing the booth.

Booth 6

The welcome sign! Getting ready to walk through the door.

Author signing room

Entering the author signing room!

Quick Q&A with UPK author Colleen O’Connor Olson

Q: Have you attended the Kentucky Book Fair before?
A: No, I have not.

Q: How do you enjoy it at the fair?
A: I like it! It’s fun to talk about my books. There are lots of people and just so much going on.

Q: Do you have a favorite author in attendance today?
A: I don’t. I’m just checking out new people.

Colleen Olson signing

Olson holding Mammoth Cave Curiosities.

Q&A with UPK author Robert G. Lawson

Q: Have you attended the Kentucky Book Fair before?
A: No.

Q: How do you like it?
A: It’s good! I don’t know if I can stand it until four o’clock. (Editor’s note: Lawson got his wish, as he sold out of copies of Who Killed Betty Gail Brown? and was actually able to leave early!)

Q: Do you have a favorite author in attendance?
A: This guy right here [Richard H. Underwood]. He’s my best friend.

Q: What is your favorite part about the book fair?
A: Seeing everyone. I have had a lot of friends walk by.

Q: What excites you most about your book?
A: It’s out there and people seem to enjoy it…
Richard Underwood: It was one of his first cases back when he was practicing law.

Richard Underwood and Bob Lawson at KBF '17

Authors and signing neighbors Richard Underwood and Robert G. Lawson. UPK just released Lawson’s Who Killed Betty Gail Brown? this month.

Julia Johnson and JGV Collection

Julia Johnson, editor of The New and Collected Poems of Jane Gentry.

MFA intern Rachel Kersey being interviewed

Rachel, UPK intern and UK MFA in Creative Writing student, being interviewed by a Frankfort TV station.
So many authors and attendees—thanks to all who came!

At What Cost: Selling Books in the Age of Trump

Today is the second day of University Press Week, and this year’s theme is “#LookItUP: Knowledge Matters.” The Association of American University Presses (AAUP) designated November 6-11, 2017 as a week for celebrating university presses as well as the value of knowledge and expertise.

As part of UP Week 2017, we invited Shanna Wilbur, Director of Marketing and Communications at UK Libraries, to be a guest blogger for us. Below, she provides her thoughts on today’s UP Week Blog Tour topic, “Selling the Facts.”

Vox’s David Roberts wrote last week about his concern that the US is currently experiencing an epistemic breach, “a split not just in what we value or want, but in who we trust, how we come to know things, and what we believe we know—what we believe exists, is true, has happened and is happening.” He went on to argue that the conservative movement’s rejection of mainstream institutions (journalism, science, the academy)—society’s appointed arbiters of factual dispute—is a primary source for this breach and has led to what he calls a “’tribal epistemology’—the systematic conflation of what is true with what is good for the tribe.”

The fracturing of the media landscape and the upending of mainstream institutions has been building steadily over decades, aided by advances in information technology and exacerbated by the profit motive. The publishing industry, as one of these institutional gatekeepers, has long felt similar pressures. With increased competition from large-scale retailers like Amazon, the relative ease of self-publishing, and a seeming need to counter long-standing claims of liberal bias, establishing imprints dedicated to producing conservative books makes sense economically especially in light of the sustained success of Regnery. And every major commercial publishing house has benefited monetarily from these conservative imprints since their conception even if it meant that we readers got further separated and compartmentalized.

With Donald Trump’s election cementing conservative control over all three branches of government and a majority of state houses, we are seeing new/alt-right-wing voices emerge emboldened by a president who was so handsomely rewarded for flaunting traditional norms as well as a growing self-described resistance—consumers all. Each of us entrenched in our corners with our own sources of media ready and willing to affirm whatever it is we already believe. This is not to equate the “resistance” with the “alt-right.” Their messages are not comparable in perniciousness or consequence, but set up as they are in opposition to one another each is vulnerable to entrenched thinking. The inability to discern the difference in the scale of problem afflicting each of them may in fact be a precursor to Roberts’ “tribal epistemology”—if both sides are wrong, then nobody is right, and if nobody is right, then everybody is right, and all that matters is me and what I think.

Surely some ideas are better than others, yes? Not that the better ones should never be challenged but not by previously discarded bad ideas, right? Tribalism rarely results in better ideas, but there is money in publishing to be had in exploiting it. At what greater cost to society, however? Although not divorced from the realities of balance sheets, as non-profits university presses may have more leeway in maintaining a steady voice of reason and openness in these hyperbolic times. For instance, the University Press of Kentucky has a number of forthcoming titles that provide insights on some of today’s most divisive topics: the legacy of the civil war (Rethinking the Civil War Era: Directions for Research by Paul D. Escott), the effects of globalism on rural/small town communities (Appalachia in Regional Context: Place Matters edited by Dwight B. Billings and Ann Kingsolver); the threat of nuclear war (Harold Stassen: Eisenhower, the Cold War, and the Pursuit of Nuclear Disarmament by Lawrence S. Kaplan); the continued struggle for civil rights (An Unseen Light: Black Struggles for Freedom in Memphis, Tennessee edited by Aram Goudsouzian and Charles McKinney); and the environmental impact of humanity (Frog Pond Philosophy: Essays on the Relationship Between Humans and Nature). This long-form published content is undoubtedly a harder sell in this age of distraction and hyper partisanship, but it is also the perfect antidote.

Many thanks to Shanna and UK Libraries for participating! You can find UK Libraries on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @uklibraries.

Candi K. Cann talks Death and Dishes

Last night, on Halloween, the world celebrated ghouls, goblins, and the undead. Today, we move into the time of year when we celebrate family, friendship, and FOOD! Candi K. Cann, author of Dying to Eat: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Food, Death, and the Afterlife, spoke with us about celebrating the dead and her favorite dishes this time of year!

1. How did you celebrate Halloween this year?

I usually head to the Dia de los Muertos celebration in town, and buy a few sugar skulls.

Candi Cann


Dia De Los Muertos

This year, though, I added binge watching Stranger Things with my daughter to my Halloween festivities.

2. What is the yummiest type of Halloween candy you ate?

I have a deep and lasting allegiance to Twix 😊

3. What foods are you most looking forward to eating as we move into our holiday season?

Eggnog, fruitcake (I am one of those people who actually LOVES fruitcake– and the chunkier, the better), and pecan pie. Life is so much better with pecan pie.

Close Encounters of the Curd Kind: Garin Pirnia on Her Experience with Beer Cheese

Garin Pirnia was kind enough to take some time to answer our questions about her experiences with beer cheese and the writing of her book, “The Beer Cheese Book,” which released earlier this month.


Can you describe your first encounter with beer cheese?

I moved to Covington from Chicago in 2011, and one day, probably around 2012 or 2013, I went to Party Town, near my house. They sold pre-packaged beer cheese from Kentucky Beer Cheese. I hadn’t heard of beer cheese before, but I bought some, tried it, and loved it! Later, I Googled “beer cheese” and came across the website for The Beer Cheese Festival—I couldn’t believe there was an entire fest dedicated to beer cheese! In 2014, I finally got the chance to attend the festival.

Why write a book about a topic some would consider to be rather narrow?

Because there is nothing like this on the market. A lot of books about beer, and beer and cheese pairings have been published, but nothing only about beer cheese. There’s an entire book on the market about French fries. Sometimes, I think it’s good to be specific. When I started writing the book I kept thinking, “How am I going to write a 200-page book on beer cheese?” But I realized there was a lot to say about it. I could’ve written a 400-page book on it. I’m hoping other people will feel that same way—it’s weird enough that they’ll feel compelled to read about it.

What is the difference between Kentucky style beer cheese and similar dishes?

Kentucky-style is a cold spread and is separate from the warm dip most people are accustomed to. Kentucky-style is made with cold-pack cheddar, cayenne pepper, garlic, and flat beer. Other variations have sprung up in Central Kentucky, like using white cheddar and adding cream cheese, hot sauce, and other spices. But what you find in Winchester, KY, the birthplace of beer cheese, is typically the aforementioned ingredients.

What are your favorite simple uses of beer cheese?

I love to put it in scrambled eggs or in an omelet. Grilled cheese with beer cheese is good, too.

How much does changing the beer or cheese affect the end product? What is your favorite of both?

If you use a dark beer like a porter, it creates a richness that, say, a lager doesn’t have. Plus, it makes the final spread darker in color. A lot of chefs use a hoppy beer like an IPA. I hate drinking IPAs—way too bitter—but it makes stand out more in the spread. You want to be able to taste the beer but you don’t want it to overpower the spread. A lot of people still use Budweiser or other domestic beers, but I prefer craft beer. As for cheese, I like to stick to artisanal cheeses. Kenny Farmhouse in Central Kentucky makes good cheeses. If you add Velveeta or any other processed cheese, it tastes more like nacho cheese, and it buries the beer flavor. I would avoid those types of cheeses.

Who was your favorite beer cheese maker/restaurant to interview in the book? Why?

I enjoyed talking to everyone for the book, so it’s hard to say who were my favorites. I liked talking to Olivia Swan about Olivia’s Beer Cheese, and she was one of the first people I interviewed. I also enjoyed talking with the owners of Floyd, NY, because they gave a different perspective of beer cheese. Growing up in Lexington and later moving to NYC, they were one of the first people to put beer cheese on the menu there.

Can you describe how the Beer Cheese Festival and trail gained recognition? What sparked interest?

Nancy Turner runs the Beer Cheese Trail and has done a good job reaching out to local and national publications to get coverage. However, I constantly talk to people in Kentucky who have no idea a trail exists. That’s one reason I wanted to include it in the book. People visit Kentucky for the Bourbon Trail, so why not also visit The Beer Cheese Trail and Beer Cheese Festival?

How easy is the process of making your own beer cheese? What is your simplest recipes?

It’s rather easy to make. The most time-consuming element is waiting for the beer to flatten, which, depending on the process you use, can take up to eight hours. (In the book, I discuss setting the beer out for eight hours, or whisking it for five minutes.) Then you grate the cheese (or use pre-mixed cold-pack cheddar), throw the cheese, flattened beer, and spices into a food processor, and a few minutes later you’re done. Marion Flexner’s recipe, which is in the book, is probably the simplest recipe. Most of the recipes in the book are designed for people who don’t like cooking or don’t have time to cook. But if people want to get more gourmet, there are recipes for beer cheese cupcakes, and beer cheese risotto. Even those recipes don’t take more than an hour to make.


The Classic Movie Hub has begun a five book giveaway for You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet: Interviews with Stars from Hollywood’s Golden Era by James Bawden and Ron Miller. The book includes a collection of forty interviews, which Bawden and Miller ask specific but “off the wall” questions to let some of the most famous actors in film history tell their own stories. All of the interviewees in the collection have since passed away, so this book gives a final recognition of some of the greatest film success stories. There will be five drawings throughout the month on Oct 7, Oct 14, Oct 21, Oct 28 and Nov 4th. To enter to win there are just two requirements:

  1. At the bottom of their blog post about the giveaway, answer the question, “If you had the chance to interview one Classic Movie Star, who would it be and why?”
  2. Tweet: “Just entered to win the “You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet” #BookGiveaway courtesy of @KentuckyPress & @ClassicMovieHub”

Below is an excerpt from the book. In his career as a journalist, Ron Miller got seven minutes alone with Elizabeth Taylor and he reveals his experience and thoughts of her character.

It’s amazing how much mileage a guy can get out of having spent seven minutes alone with Elizabeth Taylor. I don’t think she let that many men spend seven minutes alone with her—unless, of course, she married them first. That’s why I feel so very special these days when somebody asks me, “Did you ever interview Elizabeth Taylor?” Usually, I smile kind of wisely and just nod my head yes, waiting for them to ask what she was really like in person. I’m not the least bit backward about answering that question either. After all, I did spend a whole seven minutes getting to know her.

First, I’m happy to report that Elizabeth Taylor, who was in her early fifties at the time, was very attractive. Yes, she was a bit overweight, but she still had lovely features and her famous violet eyes were truly mesmerizing. I mean, those eyes were really magical and she knew how to use them.

I also drew the immediate impression that she was down to earth and likeable. I say that because I began our “interview” by cracking a joke that made her nearly spit out her food, which I’m sure made her glad I wasn’t accompanied by a photographer. At the time, her son by second husband Michael Wilding was playing Jesus Christ in a TV miniseries, so I simply asked her if she ever thought, after a career spent on the cover of tabloids, that she’d be known as the mother of Jesus. That notion obviously struck her as pretty funny. And here’s an amazing thing: she laughed really big. At that moment, I knew she was the kind of girl who loved dirty jokes. To my credit, I didn’t tell her any, though, just to test my hypothesis.