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 6MDM.com, 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 genxtinct@gmail.com 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 GenXtinct.com, 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?

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Man, I haaaated Scrappy Doo.

I remember him being a real Cousin Oliver/jump the shark moment, but either I'm wrong or Wikipedia is on some serious crack. They say: "Scrappy-Doo was added to the cast of Scooby-Doo to save the show's ratings, which by 1979 had begun to sink to the point of cancellation threats from ABC. After his addition to the show proved to be a ratings success, Hanna-Barbera restructured the show around Scrappy in 1980."

They do go on to say: "Scrappy-Doo has become the symbol of a character, usually overexuberant or cute in an irritating way, that critics say is gratuitously added to a series, which is known as Cousin Oliver Syndrome. Due to the general perception of the character by audiences, Scrappy-Doo has not appeared in any Scooby-related spinoffs since the made-for-television movie Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf in 1988, with two exceptions."

Apparently, the damn dog has a middle name. It's Cornelius. Oh for frickin' frackin'...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lip Lickers

I looooooved Lip Lickers from Village Bath (in Minnetonka, wooo, Minnesota represent!).

Lip Smackers were awesome too of course, but they're still around and never really went away. Lip Lickers, on the other hand, are a special memory that not everyone has. They came in those cool tins with sliding tops and were decorated with vintagey graphics of flowers and fruit.

Some had two flavors per tin -- remember those? You slid the lid one way for one flavor and the other for the second.

The folks at Vintage Sister remember, and they were inspired enough to make very similar glosses. Here's their story of finding a box of old Lip Lickers from 1979 and starting a business because of it. (Unfortunately, the site says it's closed until the fall...this would seem to be the fall, so not sure what's up there.)

Did you have Lip Lickers, or were you purely a Lip Smackers fan? What flavors do you remember? (Gael's PCJM site got some great comments on this back in 2006.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"

MGM is releasing 1968's "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" today for the first time on Blu-ray, and I don't know whether to rush out to get the thing, or hide under the bed.

It's being billed as a "heart-warming family classic." Hmmm. Is it really? Sure, it starts out all lollipops and gumdrops, but then it takes a sharp turn into balls-to-the-wall horror.

The basic plot sounds harmless: Eccentric inventor Dick Van Dyke fixes up an old jalopy, which turns out to be a magic flying car. What fun! Then the Child Catcher (yes, that’s his name) arrives, with his greasy, stringy hair; huge nose; Wicked-Witch-of-the-West voice and horrific singular focus (“There are children here somewhere; I can smell them.”). Why hello, thirty years of therapy. If you've seen the movie, you know exactly what I'm talking about. He easily ranks right up near the top of my list of the scariest villains ever put on film.

Whaddya think -- benign family fare or the stuff of nightmares?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: Mis-tah KOT-TAH

Oh, we gotta admit it: We loved "Welcome Back, Kotter."

The Sweathogs! Suave Boom-Boom Washington, sexy Barbarino, annoying Horshack, Epstein and his endless notes from Epstein's mother. Woodman! Hotsie Totsie! Kotter himself and his lame jokes! "Up your nose with a rubber hose." "What? Where? How?" Julie's hideous tuna casserole! (I seriously think this is why I will not eat this, or any tuna-based recipe, to this day.)

That theme song, man, it was awesome. Although watching the credits now, 1970s Brooklyn looks even more hellish than I remember. And also, old, like this could be 1870s Brooklyn, with the exception of the subway.

Ba-ba-ba, ba-ba-BARINO!