Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas specials you may have forgotten

These shows just don't get shown 24-7 like "A Christmas Story." Which ones do you remember?

--The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas. (1973) Casey Kasem narration! Tommy Smothers as Ted E. Bear!

--The Glo Friends Save Christmas (1985). Remember that Glo-Worm toy? Yeah. Featuring the voices of "All in the Family" stars Carroll O'Connor and Sally Struthers. Watch it online.

--He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985). Perhaps the best title of the bunch. Awesomeness. Just try to follow the plot summary at Wikipedia. That thing's as complicated as Ulysses.

--Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. (1977) Rankin/Bass greatness! Yet somehow not nearly a famous as Rudolph and crew.

--Ziggy's Gift. (1982) Look, has Ziggy ever been funny or witty? Yet this thing won a Emmy. Also, the Wikipedia summary was apparently translated from the Bulgarian or something. Actual line: "Ziggy lets the cat know the fealling his mutchle but the cat is need at the poor famlys house more."

--Raggedy Ann and Andy in the Great Christmas Caper. (1978) Raggedy Ann must have had a slight comeback in the 1970s. I had and loved the doll and had a couple of the Johnny Gruelle storybooks, too. Wholesome yet somehow mischievious, I loved her. That said, I don't ever remember seeing this special, which includes the encasing of toys in something called "gloopstick."

--A Snow White Christmas. (1980) Do not remember this AT ALL. Was it even shown in this country? Snow White and KING Charming have a daughter, also named Snow White, with snow white hair?

--The Night The Animals Talked. (1970). Kind of a cult fave. Apparently passed around on bootleg tapes like The Star Wars Holiday Special, only, you know, not as crappy.

--The House Without a Christmas Tree. (1970) Aw, I loved these Gail Rock books, in part because they were written by a "Gail" and my name was just not that common. But also, who couldn't love Addie, when her dad blames her for killing her mom and won't let her have a Christmas tree, and then she wins one at school? There were other holiday books (The Thanksgiving Treasure, Addie and the King of Hearts) and all were awesome.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Playing in the snow

Brrrr -- all this crazy snow across the country got us thinking about playing outside in the stuff when we were little. Our moms would pile on the layers: Shirts and sweaters, snowsuits and scarves -- no wonder once we got all bundled up we spent hours building elaborate snow forts with tunnels that stretched for blocks or sledding down hills until it got so dark we couldn't see our mittened-hands in front of our faces. It was just too much of a hassle to go back inside for a break.

This classic clip from "A Christmas Story" pretty much sums up what it was like to be a kid in a cold-weather state.

From bright red earlobes to frozen snot to getting my chin split open when a giant icicle dropped from the roof onto my face like a dagger, playing outside on the frozen tundra of Minnesota was full of memories for me -- most of them painful. How about you?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Three oddball Christmas songs from the 1980s

The 1980s had more than their share of original Christmas songs. You hear them on the radio to this day, but something about them throws me right back to that goofy decade. Here are three.

1) Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.
Actually recorded in 1979, but close enough. This was one of those songs that was funny the first couple times you heard it, but later made you want to take the kid who kept singing it outside and make sure SHE got run over by a reindeer. (It had its own TV special in 2000, but Grandma didn't die.)

Best line: "You can say there's no such thing as Santa! But as for me and Grandpa, we believe."

2) Christmas Wrapping
Aw, I love The Waitresses (Square pegs, square pegs, square, square pegs!). This song makes me a little sad, because lead singer Patty Donahue died in 1996 at age 40 after battling lung cancer for a year. Much too short a life. The song sketches out a story that everyone can relate to, really painting a picture. I have in my head the image of the exact store that the song ends in--to me it's a little neighborhood place behind my old apartment in Minneapolis.

Best lines:
"I'm spending this one alone," he said.
"Need a break; this year's been crazy."
I said, "Me too, but why are you?
You mean you forgot cranberries too?"

3) Christmas in Hollis
Not only catchy, but appears in the Christmas-set "Die Hard" (1988) as well as 1996's "Jingle All the Way." Talk about Christmas rapping. And now Rev Run is a reality show star. As a Midwestern white kid, I didn't know where Hollis was and never had collard greens, but chicken, rice, stuffing and mac and cheese sounded like a damn fine holiday meal.

Best lines: "It's Christmas time in Hollis Queens,
Mom's cooking chicken and collard greens.
Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese,
And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bob and Doug McKenzie's "12 Days of Christmas"

Good day, eh? Now that we're well into the 12 days of Christmas (let's see -- we're expecting four calling birds to show up on our doorstep any minute now), it's time to reflect on one of our favorite versions of the classic tune, sung by those hosers from the Great White North, Bob and Doug McKenzie.

Because what's more awesome than getting Canadian stuff like this from your true love? "Four pounds of back bacon, three French toast, two turtlenecks and a beer"? Here's a link to all the lyrics.

Here's an animated version of the tune:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: Lesser-Known Rudolph Specials

We all know the most classic Rankin/Bass Christmas shows: "Rudolph," "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," "Year Without a Santa Claus." (I'm happy to report that my just-turned-four-year-old has been indoctrinated into the Cult of Heat Miser and Snow Miser, by the way. I didn't know what to expect -- they're kind of freaky -- but she took to the little guys right away. She's less enthused about Rudolph -- go figure.)

But have you checked out the second tier of Rudolph specials? Last weekend I caught a bit of two that I hadn't seen in years: "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" and "Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July."

Together, these two contain some phenomenal nuggets of nostalgia, including appearances by Red Buttons, Ethel Merman, Shelley Winters, Morey Amsterdam and Frank "The Riddler" Gorshin. They're worth it for the voice talent alone. But then you add the odd plots -- Rudolph teams with a caveman, a knight and Ben Franklin to go find Baby New Year, for instance -- and you've got yourself some must-see holiday TV right there.

Check out some clips, and decide for yourself whether these hold up against the more popular stop-action specials:

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Star Wars Holiday Special

It's Christmastime, and that can only mean one thing: Nah, forget eggnog, Rudolph and the Grinch. It's time for the "Star Wars Holiday Special"!

The prospect of this 1978 TV gem was enough to make our light sabers tingle with glee — a bonus chapter of the tale as we eagerly waited for the Empire to strike back. In reality, though, it was a disaster of intergalactic proportions. The plot, such as it was, focused on Chewbacca’s family — his wife Mala, son Lumpy, and freakish (and, no doubt, flea-ridden and stinky) father Itchy — as they waited for Chewie to return home.

The original Star Wars gang made perfunctory appearances, including an overly made-up Mark Hamill and a stumbly Carrie Fisher. And it all spiraled even further into surreal territory when Bea Arthur, Art Carney, and Harvey Korman showed up. The special was so embarrassing that it only aired once.

If you haven't seen it, you owe it to yourself to check it out. And as an extra little stocking stuffer, have you seen this? The guys at GamerVision put together their own awesome take on Christmas in Star Wars land. Definitely worth checking out.

From all of us at GenXtinct, happy holidays!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas catalogs

Update: Don't know how I forgot this the first time, but you've simply gotta check out Jason Liebig's awesome Wishbook Web. Warning: Be prepared to spend hours -- he has entire catalogs from our youth online.

Do kids even use Christmas catalogs any more? Or do they get all their gift ideas from TV and the Internet and, I dunno, random texts from online strangers.

We LOVED our Christmas catalogs. Wards, Penneys, whoever...we treasured them the way I imagine Laura Ingalls Wilder treasured a new book in the town library or something. Forget the clothes, forget the auto parts and furniture and towels, we found that index right away (the cover always said "index on page whatever" to help us get there ASAP) and went zooming straight to the toy section.

I don't know about you, but I read through the entire toy section every holiday season. Multiple times. I never just stuck to the toys for my age at the moment or the ones recommended for girls. Baby dolls, Barbies, action figures, cars and trucks, microscopes and microphones, chemistry sets, I was intrigued by them all. You could tell what movies were hot (Star Wars!), which trends were taking over (home video game consoles--Atari!) and which franchises were getting reborn (will Strawberry Shortcake ever die?). One of my favorite sections was the make-it-at-home food machine-toy sections. Easy Bake Ovens! Snoopy Sno-Cone Machines! There were others, but we never knew anyone who had them.

I realize today that this fascination may have indirectly led to this site, and our upcoming book. No toy was uninteresting to me, even if only to wonder why someone would covet it.

We dogeared pages in the catalogs, starred items we wanted, circled them, put them on a list. But it didn't, in the end, matter if we got them all, or really, any. The hours spent curled up with the catalog were like a present in itself.

Plaid Stallions has some of the most awesome vintage toy catalogs online if you want to relive those childhood days. There are also some relevant Flickr groups.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Classic Christmas Commercials

Has Christmas become too commerical? Probably. But that doesn't mean we still can't enjoy these, some of our favorite holiday TV commercials.

First is the famous Norelco Santa spot, where Old St. Nick drives around on a razor. Watch out for the internal gear system in that thing, Mr. Claus! (Here's a newer, slicker CG version of the original.)

Next is one that many people continue to list among their all-time top holiday commercials: the Folger's ad where Peter comes home to surprise his family. Here's an interview with Peter himself.

And finally, the Clio-winning McDonald's gift certificates commerical starring a cherubic Corey Feldman. Aaw. He was such a little pumpkin.

All three of these commericals really take us back, sparking a little smile and heartwarming feeling -- and they do it in 60 seconds or less. What are some of your holiday favorites?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Burger King Christmas

Back when Burger King's mascot wasn't nearly as creepy as he is today, the fast-food chain tried to tout the guy as if he was one of the much more sought-after McDonald's gang.

What kid would be thrilled with a pillowy king doll that probably smelled like grilled beef? We're guessing they still have crates and crates of this ill-conceived toy stacked in some Burger King warehouse someplace, Ark of the Covenant-style.

That red-bearded meat monarch couldn't hold a candle to Ronald, Grimace or Hamburglar. Heck, he wasn't even to Mayor McCheese's level. (Maybe it's because we had much more respect for the mayor: he had to win elected office; Burger King was probably born into it.)

Did anybody ask Santa for this chintzy looking thing? "Merry Christmas, Billy. They threw this in the bag when I bought some french fries." Ho, ho, ho...hum.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: The Monkees Go Christmas Tree Shopping

I totally forgot about this holiday episode of "The Monkees." Yep, that's Butch "Eddie Munster" Patrick as the kid, Melvin Vandersnoot. Really, is there anything goofier or more fun than this show?

And aren't they about due for another resurgence?

What's your favorite Monkee memory? Mine is when some high school friends and I went to a Monkees concert in the mid-'80s, and we ran into Peter Tork in the parking lot after the show. We asked for his autograph, but he waved us off with a "Nope -- sorry, folks."

Good times.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Funky Food Friday: Salad bars

So talk to us about salad bars. Where was the first one you ever saw? Was it a novelty that only parents explored, or were you one of those healthy kids who were into salad?

I think the first ever salad bar I saw was in ... Burger Chef. Which sounds weird, but then as kids, we weren't going to many real restaurants -- we ate most of our meals at home.

I remember it was a pretty novel thing, and they also had a condiment bar so you could dress up your burger yourself. You were in charge at Burger Chef! It also introduced us to things that our houses never had, whether it was garbanzo beans and sunflower seeds on salads, kinds of dressing that our mom never bought (Russian?), or the sheer novelty of something called a "sneeze guard." I always thought about the results of what would happen if someone DID sneeze and there was NO sneeze guard, because really, once you hear that name, can you think of anything else?

I also remember reading or seeing somewhere (That 70s Show?) a story where the parents in a family went out to a restaurant and the dad made them leave when he discovered the place had a salad bar. No way was he MAKING HIS OWN salad! How times have changed.

Do you remember the first salad bar you saw? What salad toppings and dressings were familiar to you and which ones were way weird?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Birthday destinations: Farrell's and Shakey's

So yesterday was my birthday, and it got me thinking about the birthday destinations of our youth. We didn't have Chuck E. Cheese or Showbiz Pizza, I was a little too old for them--video games came in when I was a little old to have a party out. No, the two I remember most were Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour and Shakey's Pizza. (Oh, and sometimes people had parties at McDonald's--remember those? With GALLONS of that orange drink only they have, and Grimace plastic-bag hand puppets for everyone?)

Farrell's (warning: link has annoying music) was my favorite, since I like ice cream more than I like pizza. Here's their history: The first one opened in 1963 in Oregon, but they were everywhere by the early 1970s, just as I was starting to have birthday parties.

It's supposed to look like an old-fashioned ice-cream parlor, with striped shirts on the employees and those goofy straw hats. The menu looked like a vintage newspaper and they had jars of penny candy.

The big treat, however, was The Zoo. It's like 40 scoops of ice cream (and a bunch of plastic animals, I think, which inspired the name?) and they bring it out on a stretcher with accompanying fanfare--sirens, drums, the staff running it out. I have no idea how much it cost when we were kids, but this blogger went to a Farrell's recently and it's $50!

You could certainly make a Zoo at home for a ton cheaper, but it's the experience, dammit. And Farrell's are expanding--they even have a Facebook fan page--so one might be coming to a mall near you. Rob and I laugh every time we go past what obviously was a Farrell's in L.A., and whoever bought it just turned the F into a B and renamed it "Barrell's.)

Shakey's was a big birthday party place, too. And they also had that turn-of-the-century feel, with banjo and employees in red striped shirts and hats. When we were kids, chain pizza places were a lot more rare than they are now, so going out for pizza was quite novel, and Shakey's party atmosphere made a lot of us grow up associating pizza with parties.

There are apparently 400 Shakey's globally, but less than a quarter are in the U.S., or so saith Wikipedia. It's also interesting to me that Shakey's was named for the founder's malaria-caused nerve damage, which I guess made him shake.

Where did you go for your childhood parties, whether yours or a friend's?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

7-Up Gold

How did I manage to miss the entire (brief) life of 7-Up Gold? Apparently it was a cinnamony (!) ginger version of 7-Up, that was born and died quckly back in 1988.

Thanks for the link, Jeff! I love failed food products.

These are a few of my favorite things

It's my birthday today, and so I've decided to make today's post a list of five of my favorite things about the 1970s and 1980s. I have many, many more favorites, but somehow these always come to mind when I think about the decade.

1) Marathon bars, 1973-1981. Braided chocolate and caramel and a ruler on the back. Who didn't love it? Wash it down with a Pepsi Light and you're in retro heaven.

2) "Facts of Life," 1979-1988. I went to an all-girls high school and we never saw schools like ours on TV. I especially loved the later years, when they ran Over Our Heads and Edna's Edibles. Although I would like to punch that Pippa right in the mouth.

3) Mighty Men and Monster Maker, 1978. Bless my mom's gender-neutral heart, she didn't say one thing when she got me Fashion Plates instead and I asked her to exchange it for this. I was always a story-maker-upper, and half-men, half-monster creatures were much more conducive to my imagination than bland blondes playing dress-up.

4) "Grease," 1978. Who can't sing every word of every song in that movie? Ah got chills, they're mul-ti-plyin'. I still think "Summer Nights" is the best karaoke song on earth. Wella wella wella UNH!

5) "Charlie's Angels" trading cards. I was not a big collector, but I loved these, and spent hours sorting and organizing them. Never was into trading, and I never put together the big puzzle on the back either. But I bought a bunch of old ones recently and I swear there wasn't a photo in them that I didn't remember.
What would be on your top five list?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kenner Tree Tops Tree House

My niece and I are almost the same age (10 months apart, and our daughters are also 10 months apart), and when we were little, we played with the Kenner Tree Tops Tree House a lot.

It had a rounded tree-shaped two-level house that you pulled open at the top, little people (not Weebles, though I always associate it with Weebles -- they had their own tree house) and best of all, a tiny bush that was the dog house!

It is apparently being made in a new version in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, as one of the videos below attests. It's called the Magic Klorofil tree house -- no, really! Sadly, they won't ship overseas. (Someone is trying to sell one on eBay for $300 last I checked--no thanks!)

Thankfully, my sister kept hers, and now my niece and I can bring our kids over to play with the same exact toy we played with as kids. Did you have one?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: Pop-o-matic Trouble

Why was Pop-o-matic Trouble so cool to me as a kid? I can only assume they shoved the dice under a little mini-version of Stephen King's "Under the Dome" because they knew kids lost dice, or put them up their nose, or ate them. But somehow, pressing on the plastic top rather than shaking the dice was MUCH cooler.

Wikipedia points out that two other Milton Bradley games, Headache and Frustration, also utilized Pop-o-Matic, uh, "technology," but they never were as popular as Trouble.

I don't remember Trouble being a very fun game though, do you? I mean, I guess you got to land on someone's spot and then send them back, but lots of games had a variation of that. But, it had POP-O-MATIC MAGIC!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Six Million Dollar Contest Results

Thanks to everyone who entered our first-ever contest. We appreciate all the '70s and '80s memories you shared.

Our grand prize winner is Thomas Hunt. He'll be receiving the awesome 40-DVD box set of every "Six Million Dollar Man" episode, plus all the TV movies and a bunch of great extras. Plus, the box makes the doot-doot-doot bionic sound, which is icing on the cake.

Jenn Beck and Carole Donald are our runners up. We'll be sending them DVDs of the first season of the show.

Thanks again to the folks at Time Life, who provided the prizes. Check out for more info on this great DVD release.

We'll be doing another contest soon -- stay tuned!

Funky Food Friday: Original Taco Doritos

(Updated: Awesome image courtesy Jason Liebig, check it out here.He has a great vintage photo archive that you'll love.)

Yes, there are eight zillion kinds of Doritos out there, and they often use Taco in their name. We even hear Frito-Lay will be releasing a limited-edition throwback Taco flavor this month.

Whatever. It's NOT THE SAME. We've tried all their taco variations and none have ever been the same as the original version. (No, "Tacos at Midnight" is NOT the same.)

According to Wikipedia, Doritos came out in 1964, and Taco was their second flavor ever, right after Toasted Corn and EVEN BEFORE NACHO CHEESE.

People all over are still mourning the damn things, even comedian Michael Ian Black. (Oh, and me.)

I suspect Doritos HQ actually lost the original recipe -- we were kind of a disorganized country in the 1960s and 1970s -- and just can't admit it, so they keep reissuing flavors with "taco" in the name and acting like they don't know any different.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Born Free"

Not many movies can make me cry, but "Born Free"? Damn, that turns on the waterworks. The song doesn't help, either.

The movie is supposedly one of President Obama's favorites, too, and he admitted to welling up while watching it as a child when Elsa, the lion raised by George and Joy Adamson, is released back into the wild. Don't tell me you don't get a lump in your throat when she lopes after their Jeep, all "why are you leaving me?"

Anyway, mark your calendars now: On Jan. 9, 2011, PBS will show "Elsa's Legacy: The Born Free Story," about the Adamsons and the making of the film. PBS says "The program is a tribute to Elsa the lioness, probably the first environmental icon, who died nearly 50 years ago (Jan 24, 1961.)"

You can watch the whole movie on YouTube, Do your tear ducts need some exercise? Here's part one:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Do They Know It's Christmas?"

Now that Christmas is just a few weeks away, you've probably heard "Do They Know It's Christmas?" for the umpteen-millionth time. I know I have. Sure, it gets to be a bit much, but I think the thing, by super-group Band Aid, still holds up.

And regardless of what you think of the song itself, you've gotta tip your hat to the good it did: It raised millions of dollars for famine relief in Ethiopia in 1984, and was the centerpiece of Live Aid, the worldwide concert event the next year.

However, it seems like it reeeally gets on the nerves of the guy who wrote it, former Boomtown Rat Bob Geldof.

"Any day soon, I will go to the supermarket, head to the meat counter and it will be playing," he told Australia's Daily Telegraph last week. "Every f----ing Christmas."

Geldof calls the holiday tune one of "the two worst songs in history." The other? "We Are the World," a song that was no doubt inspired by Geldof's effort.

Geldof may have a point,at least about "We Are the World": In an interview with Rolling Stone, Billy Joel reminisced: "Most of us who were there didn't like the song, but nobody would say so. I think Cyndi Lauper leaned over to me and said, 'It sounds like a Pepsi commercial.' And I didn't disagree."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Yesterday's post about Marc Singer returning to "V" got us thinking about the actor's even bigger claim to fame: his pec-y portrayal of Dar in the ubiquitous Conan-like flick "The Beastmaster."

Dennis Miller used to joke that the 1982 movie was on TV so much, HBO actually stood for "Hey, Beastmaster's On." And it was, but for good reason: How can you go wrong with a sword-and-sorcery flick starring Singer, "Good Times'" John Amos and a nuded-up Tanya Roberts, ferrets named Kodo and Podo, plus scenery-chewing Rip Torn as the villain?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: "V"

I had high hopes, but ABC's revamp of "V," the 1983 miniseries-then-series about an alien invasion, isn't really doing it for me.

The original, though? Awesome. Could it have been more custom-made for a 15-year-old boy? Intrigue! Lizard people! Half-lizard babies! A pre-Freddy Krueger Robert Englund! Nazi-Germany allegory!

But the best moment was the one people are still talking about today: When Jane Badler's Diana unhinged her jaw and swallowed a guinea pig. Gross-out and cringe-inducing? Sure. But it also was the big reveal, and carried with it an ominous meaning: There was more to these Visitors than we thought. If you haven't seen it, please do (it's below).

Beat that, 2011 "V." Actually, maybe they can. Now, there's word that the new series is serving up a delicious piece of '80s ham: original star Marc Singer. (They'd already announced a move to bring back Jane Badler.)

If Singer and Badler can reignite some of that '80s sci-fi cheesiness that made the original must-see TV, count me in as a viewer. If not, well, thank goodness for YouTube.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Funky Food Friday: Micro Magic Fries, Burgers and Shakes

Microwaves were cool when we first got them, but the novelty wore off damn fast. They had almost settled down into the life of another boring mom appliance when out of nowhere came the red-packaged Micro Magic line.

Mostly, we remember the fries. They cooked right in the carton (and tasted a little cardboardy, but don't question technology!) and it was a big thrill to be able to have french fries at home without having to turn on the oven and wait for-freaking-ever.

There were burgers too, but the coolest item on the Micro Magic agenda was their MILKSHAKES. Yes, you put the milkshakes in the micro--hear me out. They arrived pretty solidly frozen, and a whir round in the Amana melted them just enough to get them to icy beverage perfection.

Matt from X-Entertainment remembers the Micro Magic fries well, and even has the encouraging word that they may be still available in Japan. Damn Japan. Green-tea Kit Kats, whiskey vending machines, Micro Magic. They get all the good stuff.
I cannot BELIEVE YouTube had a commercial for these. Bless you, YouTube. Anyone else remember these treats?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gym, a.k.a. PE, Phy Ed, or even .... Phys Ed?

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who loved gym, and those who still shudder at the thought. You know which one you are, don't tell me you don't.

Gym was one of those classes we had every day, if I remember correctly. And while we sometimes called it "P.E." or "phy ed," we NEVER NEVER called it "phys ed." Fizz Ed? Who's he? (Yeah, I know, like Fi Ed made a lot more sense?)

Grade school gym was OK. I liked kickball, and sometimes we played Red Rover or with parachutes. (Also, when I went to Catholic school, I remember us always being completely freaked that the ball was going to break one of the church's elaborate saint-centered stained-glass windows, though it never did). I haaaaaated running. The 600-yard dash was torture. (Was this only a Midwest thing? Someone online comments on what a weird distance it was.)

High school gym for me wasn't terrible because I went to an all-girls school, and there just wasn't the major pressure I think there might have been at a co-ed school. Mostly we just stood around (volleyball, softball, I don't remember playing basketball) and hoped the ball wouldn't come our way, or moved around so we looked like we were getting some exercise and hoped the teacher wouldn't call us out. We didn't have a pool or a fancy gym--our gym was uber-basic and also contained the theater stage, which limited our moving-around space. And in Minnesota, there wasn't a lot of time when you could have gym outdoors.

We were given matching gym shirts and shorts in high school, but seriously, the amount of sweating we did in gym was so minimal that absolutely zero of us took showers after gym, and I can't even remember if we took our gym clothes home often to get washed. I'd say we must have smelled horrible, but we didn't sweat a lot, so it's more than possible we didn't. It was the 1980s! We weren't very smart about things!

I vaguely remember the Presidential Physical Fitness Award, which apparently was changed to be called the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award. I would say I'm sure I never qualified for one, except that I think I HAVE one somewhere in a box of school crap, so maybe I did.

No question that society as a whole is much more attuned to being fit and eating properly and all that stuff, and I imagine gym class is much better today than it was in the 1970s and '80s. I learned to like gym in college, when I could pick the electives I wanted (swimming!). But I imagine even if it is a more useful class today, it still stars in people's nightmares.

What are your gym class memories? What weird games/sports did your school play? Did you have gym suits? (We never called them that!) Did you win a Presidential Physical Fitness Award? And what did you call it -- gym, PE, phy ed, phys ed, none of the above?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Man, I was terrible at Spirograph (still available today!), but I loved it anyway. Raise your hand if you ripped the paper every time.

Also, if you really want to see a Wikipedia entry that goes off the rails, check out the equations in the Spirograph entry. Somehow they do not help me improve my Spirograph skills one bit.

Here's a fun blog entry where the writer remembers not just Spirograph, but plenty of other toys. She even remembers a variation I must have blocked out -- Spirofoil, saying "After I got bored with Spirograph, I moved on to Spirofoil. Just replaced the paper with thin sheets of aluminum that were incredibly sharp. The final result was colorful, though hardly the prettiest things in the world, but boy could they cut and shape wallpaper in a pinch."

Anyway, this is the trippiest, most 1970s toy commercial around. SPIRO MANIA!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Come On Eileen"

It's my favorite one-hit-wonder song of the 1980s, so much so that I named one of our cats "Dexy" in homage to the band.

But the video? Admit it, it's as flat-out weird as the song is addictive.


Monday, November 29, 2010

R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen

Leslie Nielsen died on Sunday, at age 84. Surely he'll be best remembered for his memorable role on "Airplane!," and as Lt. Frank Drebin in the "Naked Gun" movies ("Hey, look -- it's Enrico Pallazzo!"), don't you think?

I especially loved him in the short-lived, six-episode 1982 series "Police Squad," which set the stage for the three "Naked Gun" flicks. Not many actors can reinvent themselves from Serious Actor to agile comedian the way Nielsen did. Sure, the humor was broad and muggy, but man, Nielsen did it up right.

R.I.P., Mr. Nielsen. And no, we won't call you Shirley.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Funky Food Friday: Pringles

So first there were potato chips, and they were good. And then, in 1968, potato chips met The Jetsons, and we got...Pringles!

They came in a can! They stacked perfectly and didn't break! (That much...) They are so little related to potatoes that they had to be renamed "potato crisps"!

They have a number of flavors, including limited-edition ones that have included honey mustard, cheesy fries, onion blossom, mozzarella cheese stick, screamin' dill pickle, and Mexican layered dip (so sez Wikipedia -- I don't think I've tasted any of these).

Their cans are great for craft projects, and they have their own Facebook page. Really, they are a superb invention.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

We are thankful for all of you!

We are thankful for everyone who's ever read GenXtinct, or our Facebook page, or our Twitter feed, and passed the links along to similar retro-minded friends! And who will, we hope, buy our book, "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," when it comes out in June!

Thank you all!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Which '80s actor directed "Burlesque"?

The new singin'/dancin' flick "Burlesque" hits theaters today, and it's got quite a '70s and '80s pedigree, what with Cher taking center stage. But did you know it's directed by an '80s actor, Steve Antin?

I read an article that mentioned that Antin had been in "The Goonies," so I searched for a photo of him, but didn't recognize him. Turns out he doesn't look much like he used to. Not much at all. Here he is today:

And here he is back in the '80s:

Ring a bell? He was indeed in "The Goonies," as the jerk who tormented Josh Brolin's character. He was the jerk who got the girl in "The Last American Virgin." And best of all, he was Jessie -- yes, also a jerk -- in the video for Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl."

Good times. Good times. It made me realize that as actors who played jerks go, Antin was underrated. So today, in conjunction with the release of his new movie, I hereby nominate Steve Antin as runner-up King of the '80s On-Screen Jerks, second only to the once-and-forever king, William Zabka.

Here's Antin strutting his smirky stuff in "Jessie's Girl":

Rick Springfield - Jessie's Girl
Uploaded by jpdc11. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Malibu Barbie

I think Malibu Barbie was the toy that started my fascination with California. It was later encouraged by TV shows, especially "CHiPs," but man, other Barbies had jobs -- they were Rockettes, or vets, or teachers. Malibu Barbie just lay around in the sun, with her sky-blue swimsuit and her Jackie O sunglasses.

She's so popular, in fact, that there have been numerous reproductions of her, so you can buy one for the child in your life, or the child in your heart. (Note that at least one of the repros comes with suntan lotion--back in 1971 we didn't care about saving our skin! We just slathered on the oil and laid back.)

Malibu Barbie was and is my favorite Barbie of all time. What's yours?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: WKRP's Thanksgiving Episode

"Oh, the humanity! The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement!" If you haven't seen WKRP's classic 1978 Thanksgiving episode, where a publicity stunt goes remarkably, hilariously wrong, you've got to check it out. The whole episode, where Mr. Carlson arranges to drop turkeys from a helicopter, and Les Nessman gives the horrific play-by-play, is here.

In a hurry? Here's the episode, cut down to 30 seconds:

Of course, nothing beats the best line in the episode, and possibly of the entire series: "As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Funky Food Friday: A "Happy Days" Thanksgiving

Sure, "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" is one of the best Turkey Day TV memories of all time (mmm...pretzels, toast, popcorn and jelly beans). But what about this episode of "Happy Days" from 1978, where Marion tells the story of the first Thanksgiving? It's a 1950s-meets-1620s-meets-1970s TV mashup that's tastier than a thick slice of pumpkin pie.

I've got to say, I didn't remember this episode, and was pleasantly surprised to find it on YouTube (awesome page-boy haircut, Mr. C!). Here it is, divided into three parts:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Six Million Dollar Man Doll

Steve Austin was a lucky man. And not because those military doctors saved his life when his experimental aircraft tumbled into a fiery ball of grainy stock footage. No, he was fortunate enough to have his accident back in the 1970s: Had he been injured today, his six-million-dollar repair budget would have gotten him a Band-Aid for his torn-off arm and a get-well card.

Yes, Colonel Austin fared pretty well, what with all the bionic whatnots and whoozits six million Carter-era bucks bought. His action figure was even cooler, with a huge eye for kids to look through, a button on the back that ratcheted up his arm, and his best feature: the peel-back rubber skin on his forearm that revealed removable circuits beneath.

Were you among the countless kids spending hours making the doot-doot-doot bionic sound effect and forcing the Austin doll to put his sporty red jumpsuit and tennis shoes to good use and jog in slow motion around the ottoman? (I was!) And how about his bionic entourage? There was nothing better than the Bionic Bigfoot and Maskatron figures. Even bureaucrat Oscar Goldman, with his exploding briefcase, puts Barbie's Ken to shame.

If you're looking to relive those bionic days of yesteryear, don't forget to enter our contest by Nov. 22. You could win the entire 40-DVD set of "Six Million Dollar Man" episodes!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Scratch-n-sniff stickers

Who didn't love scratch-n-sniff stickers? They were huge in the 1970s-1980s, and my favorite brand was Trend.

Trend had the round ones, generally on a white background, with cute lil cartoony items and maybe a couple of words of text.

Shakespeare was not writing these things. The peach sticker said "Peachy!" The hot dog said "Hot Dog!" The smiling popcorn kernel, which had to be one of the most-printed stickers because it was EVERYWHERE, said "Poppin' Good!" Witty.

Everyone had their own faves. I remember way preferring the sweet smells over the savory ones (pizza--blech!). I wasn't really a fan of the holiday ones--Christmas trees and turkeys and witches--but I always kind of liked the really odd ones, those things you wouldn't ever want to smell, like a shoe or an old tire. I guess some people really got into them and traded them, but we didn't--we scratched then and sniffed them and stuck them on things, but never took it to the trading or collecting level.

Smell is the sense that can take you back in time like no other. So if you really want to spend just another five minutes in junior high or grade school or however old you were back in this era, find yourself your favorite sticker--the scents hold on--and give it a sniff. Here's one fan's discussion of how to buy vintage stickers.

I remember really liking the chocolate ice cream cone one even though it didn't smell like chocolate. Which were your faves, and which scents grossed you out?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Our first contest! And it's bionic.

We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better. Stronger. Faster. And in about 40 years, we'll release him on DVD.

To celebrate the November 23 release of the never-before-available "The Six Million Dollar Man" on DVD, we're launching our first-ever contest.

The folks at Time Life have provided some awesome prizes, including a heckuva grand prize: "The Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Collection," a 40-CD (!) set. You can read all about the collection, which has a $239.95 value, at, which is also the only place you can order it.

So how do you enter? It's easy: Between now and November 22, just send us an email at with a memory from the '70s or '80s. On November 23, we'll choose our favorites. We'll select one grand-prize winner, as well as four runners-up, each of whom will receive either a collection of Season One of "The Six Million Dollar Man," or a collection of DVD extras.

Just one entry per person, please. By entering, you're giving us the OK to use your memory on the blog and to send you (very) occasional emails about, and our book, "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops?", which is set to come out in June 2011 from Penguin's Perigee imprint.

Good luck!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: Mr. Snuffleupagus

Mr. Snuffleupagus, a.k.a. Snuffy, is Big Bird's big, brown furry friend on "Sesame Street." If a wooly mammoth mated with a dinosaur, and they were both sweet as pie but dumb as a bag of hammers, you might get Snuffy.

It was great for Big Bird to have a pal, especially one who took up just about as much room as he did and didn't have to bend down to talk to him, but there was a weird twist. For years, only Big Bird could see his pal, and the grownups on the show didn't believe him and thought he was an imaginary friend.

Seriously, have you SEEN the Muppets? A big brown woolly mammoth thing is no weirder than or less capable of being your best friend than a green furry thing who lives in a trash can or an odd little bug family who resides in your flower box. Why Snuffy was singled out for disbelief was never clear, and really, it was kind of frustrating, like your mom's friend who insists on acting like your name is "Mabel" when it's totally not and you've corrected her every day of your life without end. Eventually you just grit your teeth, smile, and write her off as a nutcase.

It wasn't until 1985 when the "Sesame Street" grownups finally got to meet Snuffy, and it was for a well-intentioned, if creepy reason. That was when all those McMartin Preschool-style child abuse cases were rising up, and there was a big movement to believe what kids told you, not to dismiss or doubt them. (This applied only to kids born to Baby Boomers, of course. We Gen Xers, the Rosemary's Baby generation, got the shaft as always.) But anyway, the "Sesame Street" adults met Snuffy, apologized for thinking Big Bird was a big ol' liar, and we moved on.

Also? Snuffy's first name is ALOYSIUS. Like having the last name "Snuffleupagus" wasn't bad enough.

And his parents apparently got a divorce, but that episode never aired. Kids hated it and found it disturbing, and from the Wikipedia description, I don't blame them.
Here's the video where he's finally revealed as real.

What say you? Snuffy--love him or hate him?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Funky Food Friday: Super Sugar Crisp

Who can forget the scene in "Poltergeist" where the family realizes that their home is built on a cemetery? "You left the bodies and you only moved the headstones!"

Throughout the last few decades, tons of companies have been doing just that, pretty much, by renaming their companies or products so the name won't scare health-conscious buyers, but often not changing the content of the product one bit. They're moving the headstones. (Hello, KFC, we know your middle name is still "Fried.")

The biggest headstone I remember is "Sugar." All kinds of products dropped the word "Sugar" from their titles when we started to get all aware of it in the 1970s and 1980s (Sugar Frosted Flakes, anyone?). Turns out that some kids' cereals were 50% sugar. No wonder we got all jacked up and ran around the house imitating The Bugaloos while jumping on the couch pretending to fly.

Most memorable for me is Super Sugar Crisp, which was a great cereal name and also had a mascot named Sugar Bear.

According to Wikipedia, the name change went like this:
Sugar Crisp
SUPER Sugar Crisp
Super Golden Crisp
Golden Crisp

Topher's Breakfast Cereal Character Guide has more on the mascots. And Dan Goosell has a photo timeline of Sugar Bear.

It also appears that Sugar Bear has been downplayed, through no fault of his cavity-causing self. And according to Wikipedia, Canada held firm against this change and the cereal has always been Sugar Crisp with mascot Sugar Bear there.

There's also Super Sugar Smacks, of course, which became Honey Smacks.

Any other name changes come to mind?
This commercial is so 1970s (air pollution!) it just about turns my appliances avocado.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hands Across America

There's a great scene in "My Name Is Earl" where Earl and his brother, Randy, as adults, decide they have to live up to the little handmade coupon book they gave their Mom one 1980s Mother's Day (they stole the wrapped booklet from another kid and were shocked to find out it wasn't just a present, but actually involved them doing things).

In a classic scene, they agree to participate in 1986's Hands Across America with her 20 years after the fact, and are seen standing awkwardly in her living room holding her hands while Mom beams.

Apparently 5.5 million people participated in this goofy charity event, raising $20 million (not the hoped-for $70 mill) while linking in a human chain across the United States. If the United States does not include New England, Florida, Hawaii, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee ... well, you get the picture. Celebs joined in, too, from Scott Baio to Chewbacca to Charlene Tilton to Jamie Farr to a bunch of Elvis impersonators. If that isn't a weird slice of 1980s America, I don't know what is.

It's easy to make fun of now (ABC News calls it "one of the noblest failures in the history of American popular culture") , but watching the video below makes me a little less cynical -- who can be against feeding hungry kids? (And where are those now-grown kids today?) The comments on the YouTube video kinda say it all "Man, we really were socially conscious in the '80s, weren't we? What the fuck happened?!" and "Aw. 1986, a time when humans were more sympathetic toward each other."

Growing up in the Twin Cities we were skipped by Hands Across America, but I vaguely remember the hype. Did you participate? Was it as weird as it seems, but with a good heart?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Catching up...

During the week, we tend to post extra links on our GenXtinct Facebook page, simply because it's easy and quick to do so. Here's some of what we posted there recently:

--Mr. Mouth, Mr. Mouth! Even those who hated it remember it, and the weird jingle.

--Happy 41st birthday, "Sesame Street!"

--Look, we get why Ponch and Jon of "CHiPs" got action figures, but what kid was out there demanding that Mom or Dad buy them Sergeant Getraer?

--The homecoming dress both Kelly and Brenda wore to Homecoming on 90210 lives on at Spiegel for $20.

--Did anyone like Toughskins? Maybe Mom, who didn't have to replace them often, but not us kids.

--It's the 35th anniversary of the storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The Regal Beagle

Kids in the '70s didn't have the Internet, and it was not yet the era of earnest parents who really wanted to communicate with their kids. So we learned about what the adult world would be like from television, of course.

We learned that when we grew up we'd sail around on The Love Boat, with frequent visits to Fantasy Island. If we went to the police academy and were assigned very hazardous duties, someone would take us away from all that. We didn't really know about sex, but from Love, American Style, we could see it involved a brass bed. And of course, we'd hang out at the Regal Beagle.

It's still, somehow, incredibly disappointing for me that the Regal Beagle, the bar of choice on "Three's Company," isn't real. I totally wanted to hang out there, even if it was populated by slightly oily guys like Jack Tripper's pal Larry.* It seemed so grown up, so bubbling over with promise and fun and responsibility. (I felt the same way about Danny's bar on "Quincy, M.E.")

Now of course I see that I mentally made the Regal Beagle into much more of a fun place than the weird little set depicted it as. But every once in a while, I go into a bar that's just a little bit dumpy and yet a little bit everybody-knows-your-name and I think: Is that Mrs. Roper over there?

*Richard Kline, who played Larry, was actually a Vietnam vet and seems to be a stand-up guy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Brushes with Celebrity

I was in Vegas this weekend with my wife, brother and sister-in-law, and we ran into and got our picture taken with a '70s/'80s icon -- Erik Estrada. He and his wife were really accomodating and nice (his wife took the photo), and it got me thinking about other celebrity run-ins I've had over the years.

Sure, I think it's a real kick to see a star in their natural habitat (like at an interview, or when they're coming out of an awards show, concert or theater performance), but it's especially fun to just run into somebody out and about -- like the time I saw Screech from "Saved by the Bell" as he was waiting in line for McDonald's at the Minneapolis airport. That's just not something you're really planning on seeing as you're running to catch your flight. My neck still hurts from the double-take.

Got a good '70s/'80s-celebrity run-in tale? Let's hear it!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: "Twilight Zone: The Movie"

Doo-doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo...

It's a pretty sure bet that 1983's "Twilight Zone: The Movie" will go down in history for its horrible on-set accident that killed Vic Morrow and two child actors. But if that hadn't happened, the flick may have earned a reputation as a pretty nice homage to the black-and-white TV series. It featured four remakes of famous "Zone" plots, each by a famous director, plus an intro with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks. (The segment starring Morrow, directed by John Landis, was apparently not actually a remake, but loosely based on a pair of "Twilight Zone" episodes.)

Steven Spielberg’s segment, "Kick the Can," starring Scatman Crothers, is a sweet but not really fulfilling episode about retirement-home residents who find their inner children. And "Gremlins" director Joe Dante's redo of the “It’s a Good Life” episode, with Anthony wishing people into the cornfield, is plenty weird and creepy. This version starred future Oscar nominee Kathleen Quinlan and “Valerie’s Family” kid Jeremy Licht, plus Bart Simpson himself, Nancy Cartwright, as his sister Ethel.

The final segment, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” -- with John Lithgow stepping into the role that William Shatner originally hammed up -- is especially creepy, and wins extra points for what happened afterwards: When Shatner later guested on Lithgow's “Third Rock from the Sun,” their characters joked about both seeing a gremlin on the wing of a plane. Totally meta -- Rod Serling would have been proud.

Here's what Siskel and Ebert had to say about the movie:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Funky Food Friday: The McRib

As Carol Anne might have said in "Poltergeist," "It's baaaaaack." Except this is much less scary, and a lot more delicious. The McRib, the tangy, tasty, wait-those-aren't-really-bones rib-like sandwich that was originally introduced way back in 1981 is now available at a McDonald's near you for the next six weeks.

Just how awesome is this pork sandwich -- slathered with BBQ sauce, pickles and onions -- to deserve all the hype? Well, it's pretty good, but its appeal was pretty much tied to how difficult it was to find. Sure, we could visit the McRib Locator site to figure out where this sporadically available treat popped up, but now Mickey D's is putting on the menu of all its stores until mid-December.

It's the first time in 16 years it's been this universally easy to find. Are you going to take advantage of this McReintroduction and give this urban legend of a sandwich -- and its 26 grams of fat -- a taste?