Thursday, October 29, 2009

Let's do the time warp again

Pudding Pops? Marathon candy bars? Koogle? Lip Lickers? Schoolhouse Rock? Time for Timer? Choco-Diles? Shakey's Pizza? Hugo, Man of a Thousand Faces? If your nostalgia bells are going off, this blog, and our upcoming book, are for you.

The baby boomers were louder, the millennials will be richer. Who cares? For a supposedly fractured generation, we kids of the 1970s and 1980s share a far more universal past than kids today. We all watched the same five channels, shopped at the same few chain stores, hummed the same commercial jingles. We may not remember the Moon Landing, but we remember Moon Boots. The Mystery Date board game didn’t seem sexist, and exploding Pop Rocks were the epitome of candy science.

Here's our question, then: What happened to all our STUFF?

You may know Gael Fashingbauer Cooper from Pop Culture Junk Mail and her other pop-culture writings. Brian Bellmont is an award-winning writer and pop-culture junkie. We're putting our retro memories together into a book, Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes, & Trends of the '70s & '80s, which is set to come out Summer 2011 from Penguin Books' Perigee imprint. But in the meantime, we're blogging memories and newsy bits about the things of our past right here. We'll even occasionally offer up a sneak preview from the book.

No less a Gen-X prophet than Ferris Bueller himself famously declared “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” As we move through life, it’s easy to forget the items we’re leaving behind on the trash heap of history.

Our goal, with both the blog and book, is to give you that chance to stop and look around, to bring you back to your childhood, even if just for a few minutes, and help you remember the tastes, the smells, and the sounds that made you who you are today.

Stop back often for our take on the lost toys, tastes and trends of the 70s and 80s; news and commentary about Gen-X stuff; and to join in the conversation by weighing in with your own comments and memories. Follow us on Twitter to get notifications of new posts.

So flip up the collar of that polo shirt and dig in. We’re off on a guided tour through a childhood of lost memories, back to the days when MTV played music videos and Quisp and Quake duked it out for cereal supremacy. Memories are made of this.

Burger Chef

Here's a rough example of the kind of item we'll be including in our book.

Fast food wasn’t as family-friendly in the 1960s and early 1970s as it is today. “Have It Your Way”? Have it our way or the highway, kiddo. Tiny tykes who didn’t care for mustard or onions on their burgers were expected to suck it up -- starving kids in Africa would have given anything to have some raw onion to chew on.

Into that bleak and grease-spattered world stepped Burger Chef, and the “works bar,” where kids and adults alike could gussy up plain burgers with onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard and the chain’s own “scrumptious sauce.” Want to deck your burger with a smiley-face of ketchup and a teetering ladder of pickle slices? Hey, as long as mom didn’t yell.

Burger Chef’s mascots were a portly, bespectacled cook, uber-obviously named Burger Chef, and his freakishly hyperactive … son? Life partner? Stunted-growth employee? Irreparably dense young ward? Well, some short guy named Jeff, anyway, possessor of a giant cowlick and prone to shrieking things like “Burger Chef, you’re incrediBURGible!” The franchise is still missed, but at least Jeff finally shut up.

X-tinction rating: Gone for good.

Replaced by: Although the chain had more than 1,000 stores at one point, a 1981 sale of the company meant most of the franchises became Hardee’s restaurants. Numerous Web sites honor the lost chain, and Burger Chef Memories reports that the final Burger Chef clung to life in Cookeville, Tennessee, until 1996. The chain is gone, but many of its former buildings remain recognizable, despite being disguised as other restaurants or drive-through banks.

Fun fact: It’s rumored that Burger Chef’s Big Shef sandwich lives on at certain southern and Midwestern Hardee’s locations. But to find that out would require actually setting foot in a Hardee’s.

Farewell, Wonka bars

Hometown Favorites is an awesome online food and candy store that has perhaps the greatest list of discontinued goodies. If you're wondering if they don't make Seven Up bars or Aspen apple soda any more, or if it's just that your local stores don't carry it, this list is the bible. (Both Seven Up bars and Aspen are gone, by the way. Sniff.)

HF has just announced that the Wonka bar has been discontinued. (For now, Hometown Faves still has some for sale.) I can't think that I've ever eaten a Wonka bar, but surely, somewhere, someone is sad.

Now if Wonka would only bring back Wonka Oompas, the split-level chocolate-peanut butter candy that did Reese's Pieces one better. Who's with me?

Book 'em, Danno

Move over, Battlestar Galactica. The latest old TV show being remade into a new series? Hawaii Five-O. Will it fly? Maybe, maybe not. Here are some clues:

It's being produced by CBS Studios, which means it'll likely be a thinly disguised version of its top procedural franchise. Call it "CSI: Waikiki."
Jack Lord, who played the original series' iconic Steve McGarrett, is no longer available -- due primarily to the fact that he died in 1998. Perhaps they'll book his awesome hair for a guest spot, though.
If cost-cutting measures force them to shoot someplace other than Hawaii, it's all over. Especially in winter, Vancouver just ain't gonna cut it.

Brooke Shields, she's a beeeeeautiful doll!

Matt from Scrubbles found this awesome Brooke Shields doll commercial. How do I not remember this?

I had the Cher doll, which was giant and a little scary and could not fit into any of Barbie's clothes.

Note how they dressed and styled the little girl playing with the Brooke Shields doll EXACTLY like the doll itself, even down to the cowlneck sweater.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Links we love

Pop Culture Junk Mail, Gael's personal Weblog

Brian, Brian's personal site

Television Without Pity, founded by our pals Tara Ariano and Sarah D. Bunting

Wes Clark's Avocado Memories. Wes was a generation ahead of us, but we still love his rich family memories of growing up in Burbank in the 1960s and 1970s.

X-Entertainment. If there's a Halloween-themed food product Matt hasn't tasted, it's not worth tasting.

In The 80s and In The Celebrating our favorite decades, in all their shoulder-padded, avocado green glory. Tasty snack-food reviews. Bet you can't read just one.

Plaid Stallions. Awesome catalog pages from the 1970s.

Retrocrush. Everything retro, all the time.

The Retroist. Commercials, cereal, movie trailers and more.

Retroland. Not just a site, but a whole retro community. Awesome.

Branded in the '80s. Many things we love were branded in the '80s.

Bubbledog's scratch-n-sniff sticker page. What exactly does a pilgrim smell like?

Candy Blog. Sweet treats, reviewed and remembered.

Childhood Memory Keeper. Meeeeemories...light the corners of our miiiinds.

70s Child. He remembers what we remember.

Dad's Dish Retro Blog. A dad with a sense of nostalgia.

Playscapes. A blog of playground design, including the unsafe ones of our youth.

The Bewildered Brit. His fascination with retro America, and with candy, has a classy accent.

The Metal Misfit. We knew we'd like him from the logo.

The Surfing Pizza. Let's go surfin' now...

Contact us

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About Us

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper's personal Weblog, Pop Culture Junk Mail, was included on Entertainment Weekly’s August 2006 list of “100 Web sites you must know now,” and The New York Times has called it “one of the best places to explore pop culture online.” She was also named #90 on USA’s list of Top Pop Culture People for 2002. Along with pop culture, Generation X long has been a focus of hers. In a cover story for the Atlantic Monthly, noted sociologists Neil Howe and William Strauss included her in a short list of “emerging young writers” of “generation-defining prose.” Howe and Strauss also quoted her in their seminal nonfiction book “Gen 13: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail?” She is an entertainment producer at

Brian Bellmont is a former local television news reporter and national broadcast producer who’s helped coordinate news coverage for shows including “Inside Edition,” “American Journal,” and the “MacNeill/Lehrer News Hour.” For the past 15 years, Brian has used his experience as a journalist to help companies and organizations get the media's attention. His eponymous Minneapolis-based public relations agency, Bellmont Partners Public Relations, has worked closely with thousands of newspapers, magazines, Web sites, and radio and TV programs. In addition to being an award-winning food writer, he continues to contribute pieces on TV, movies, books, theater, writing and marketing to and other online and print publications. He has interviewed and written about dozens of pop-culture icons, from Batman (Adam West) to The Beav (Jerry Mathers).

Want to chat? Drop us a line at