Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Take Crossroads Mall in Saint Cloud, Minn. (Please.) At least two high-profile visitors appeared there in the ‘70s -- somewhere between the Shirt Shack and Sears -- and seeing them in the flesh had a much bigger impact on this 10-year-old kid than watching Justin Bieber wave, then get shuffled away by security ever could.
Spider-Man himself showed up one time, and I got to get my picture taken with him. Note the I’m-extremely-cool-because-I-know-a-superhero-and-I-can-call-him-any-time-the-Green-Goblin-shows-up-in-Saint-Cloud expression on my face.
But the best visit was Clayton Moore, the Lone Ranger. This was during the period when he was legally banned from wearing the mask and blue suit, so he showed up with Foster Grant wrap-around sunglasses. But he was still the Lone Ranger to me.
Most kids were probably watching “3-2-1 Contact” after school, but I tuned into 25-year-old reruns. I’d rush home, eager to return to the thrilling days of yesteryear to immerse myself in the continuing adventures of The Lone Ranger, Tonto and Silver.
At the mall, I remember thinking even then that there should have been far more people waiting in line to meet this iconic actor.
Maybe more people would have shown up if he would have put on a jean jacket and fingerless gloves and sang a few tunes.
Got a celebrity-at-the-mall memory?
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Exhibit A: Adventure for the Atari 2600.
The dragons! They look kind of like...seahorses as drawn by a kid with limited artistic talent.
The bat! Some serious design hours were not invested in him.
Hey, at least the key looked like a key.
But perhaps even more than Adventure I loved Haunted House! (Here are the rules, in case you need 'em.)
You are a pair of eyes and kind of resemble Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. You push the joystick button to light a match and try and assemble an urn. But if the monster enters the room you're in, your match is blown out! HORRORS!
GameSpy has a fun review. Great line: "Look out! It's a bat ... or possibly a boomerang. Or a croissant."
And if you've ever played the game, you'll want to click on the YouTube video below, because the sounds will take you back in time.
Monday, June 28, 2010
We discovered the citizen’s-band phenomenon when C.W. McCall (who is NOT DEAD) recorded the 1976 hit “Convoy.” You didn’t have to drive a cab-over Pete with a reefer on to immediately fall in love with the romance of the 18-wheel lifestyle. “Convoy” told a classic tale of fighting authority, with the truckers crashing roadblocks and flaunting toll bridges.
Kids weren’t the only ones who loved it. Adults started buying CBs for their Dodge Darts at such a frantic pace, the FCC doubled the number of available channels. Of course, no one knew any real CB lingo outside of the song lyrics, so real truckers had to suffer through listening to kids, desk jockeys and housewives calling them “good buddy” until we grew sick of the craze and moved on to the next fad.
Today, the closest kids come to talking to truckers is when they pull an imaginary cord to try and get passing drivers to honk their horns. Still awesome? That’s a big 10-4.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
So Gawker has a post saying candy cigarettes are banned as of today, but the original story it links to, on Consumerist, is gone, and someone in the Gawker comments says it's only candy-flavored REAL cigarettes. Which just sounds gross.
Which is it, Gawker? Smoke 'em if ya got 'em.
My oldest brother was born in 1944 (!) and my mom insists she had some kind of weird prehistoric carseat even for him.
But by the 1970s we were all rolling around like pop cans in the Country Squire station wagon. And now of course you have to be in a booster seat until you're 25.
“Annie is not dying, she’s moving into new channels,” says her syndicator, who's aiming to launch the character into venues like graphic novels, games and in online and mobile projects.
Sure -- why not? Maybe it'd be OK to see the little moppet in an Annie-themed version of "Grand Theft Auto." For our money, though, nothing beats the 1982 big-screen flick, which mashed together all sorts of interesting folks, from Carol Burnett and future "Charles in Charge" charge April Lerman to "Gilmore Girls" grandpa Edward Herrmann and Geoffrey Holder, best known for his creepy 7-Up commericals: "Crisp and clean and no caffeine. Aaaa-ha-ha-haaaa!"
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
If only BP executives-to-be would have paid attention to this episode, in which a dead oil-slathered duck named Becky inspires Zack, Screech, Mr. Belding and the gang to wax philosophical about oil spills.
Check out this prophetic quote from Jessie Spano: "Accidents happen a lot with oil companies, then they just slip out of being responsible for them."
Hmmm. Now that's one to grow on.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
As if Vincent Price didn't scare us enough, what with his spooky movies, kidnapping the Brady boys on the Hawaii episode, and later voicing over about "the funk of forty thousand years" in the "Thriller" video, he also had this: Vincent Price's Shrunken Head Apple Sculpture.
At this time in our childhoods, we were pretty sure everything in the world existed somewhere -- we'd seen "In Search Of" and read the Time-Life books, after all. So who's to say there wasn't a jungle tribe somewhere out shrinking heads?
Read the comments on the link above -- every kid who was lucky enough to get one of these creepadelic things LOVED it to death. We hope not literally. We need more toys like this today, and fewer Bratz dolls.
Best comment: "My older brother pushed a hot shrunken head onto my forehead. To this day I have this little burn mark in the shape of a face. I grow my hair long in front to cover it. My older brother is a no good drunken bum these days, a total loser. I hate him for disfiguring my face. I hope he goes to hell. I live all alone and am single because nobody will date me anymore after they see the face. Please don't feel sorry for me. You have to play the hand you're dealt."
I searched YouTube for an old commercial for this toy but struck out. If anyone finds one, please post it in the comments! I can only imagine how Vincent and that creepy, creamy, honeyed, poisonous voice sold us this one.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Up until the wall-crawler skittered onto the small screen, we nine-year-olds didn't have a whole lot of experience with live-action super heroes, and seeing Spidey as a flesh and blood fella was a singular thrill. Sure, we had an earlier taste of Spider-Man as a guy in a suit on "Spidey Super Stories" on "The Electric Company," but he lived in a comic book and only talked in word balloons. ("Spider-Man, where are you coming from? Spider-Man, nobody knows who you aaaaaaare.")
We tuned in to Shazam and Isis on Saturday mornings, Wonder Woman deflecting bullets with her magic bracelets and Batman delivering bon mots, but Spider-Man was the superhero that resonated most. He was young and he had problems -- just like us! OK, we didn't have to deal with a jerky J. Jonah Jameson yelling at us all the time or fight the Chinese mafia, but we did have math homework.
Here's a promo clip from the show, which starred Nicholas Hammond (also known as the oldest Von Trapp boy Friedrich in "The Sound of Music"). Ooh and aah as he gently tosses a web onto some villains, and it takes an hour to drift onto them! Marvel as Spidey's hands and feet lightly brush the side of the building as he's dragged by a cable!
Spider-Man may have been amazing, but the special effects? Not so much.
Friday, June 18, 2010
I have no idea why we thought drinking a glass of what was essentially chocolate milk was a good breakfast replacement, but we loved the stuff. It looks a lot like Slim-Fast in retrospect, although I never heard that it was exceptionally low-cal. Though I guess if you just had a glass of milk for a meal, it's lower-cal than eating, say, a Denny's Grand Slam. (No one says "low-cal" any more, do they? It's all about the low-fat and the HFCS-free.)
But you've gotta check out the ad. The '80s hair on the first chick! The chunky businessman who drinks it while ironing his pants! The last girl, who serves it to herself in a wine glass while putting on the most hideously 1980s patterned stockings!
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Joey was, of course, Archie Bunker's grandson on "All in the Family," the only child of Mike "Meathead" (Rob Reiner) and Gloria (pre-"South Park" mockery Sally Struthers, who was quite the blonde babe for a while).
(Speaking of which, back in the 1970s, when we all had huge families, it was a little odd that both Archie and Edith and then Mike and Gloria after them only had one child. I never thought of that at the time though.)
Anyway, the Joey doll gained fame because he was supposedly the first anatomically correct baby boy doll, and this for some reason was a HUGE DEAL.
Matt at X-E has a more sane view: "Thank God Archie Bunker -- obvious hero to young girls of the world -- was there to spray his venom in the general direction of a doll-making factory's naughty-lever. Come on...All In The Family toys? There had to be more sinister business strategies in place. Surely nobody at Ideal thought kids were gonna go for this. No, this was really for older folks who wanted something interesting to show their guests. "
I don't know anyone who had the Joey Stivic doll, and frankly, that is about the worst last name in sitcom history.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
This 1980s ad for Dragon Blaster Skeletor cracks me the heck up. See, apparently Skeletor wears a dragon thing as a kind of ... backpack? And you can take its head off and fill it with water? And then turn it into a squirt gun? And squirt harmless WATER at your friends' Masters of the Universe action figures, and they have to pretend it's some kind of deadly acid, unless they have Roboto, the creepy robot figure, who is unharmed by water? (Really, wouldn't a robot be MORE harmed by water?)
The look on the one kid's face as his action figure is getting squirted is priceless. A young Ashton Kutcher practices his method acting?
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
Guests who were already dead in real life? Laurel and Hardy. Guests who just wouldn’t go away? The Harlem Globetrotters showed up three times. Most awkward guests? Sonny and Cher were just as mean to each other in cartoon form as they were in real life. But perhaps no guest put up with more than Mama Cass Elliott, who was the target of fat jokes from Shaggy, and was drawn with a double chin and orange-and-magenta muu-muu. Zoinks!
Friday, June 11, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Not sure where I was, but not only did I not see the first film, I had no idea there were multiple sequels. Apparently the fourth one, "The Next Karate Kid," with future paralyzed boxer Hilary Swank as the latest kid. A girl! Horrors!
Man, I bet Pat Morita bought a few houses with those paychecks. Now all four films are for sale for $30.
Anyway, all the hype of the old films is to further promote the new film, opening Friday, and featuring Jaden "Hi, I'm Will Smith's kid" Smith in the Ralph Macchio role, and Jackie Chan (!) as the new Mr. Miyagi character.
I'm trying to remember, but I do not think that we had even really heard of karate or martial arts before the first film. Now, everyone's little kid is a black belt.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
That got me thinking: Sweet Chai-Chai Rodrigwez, “WKRP in Cincinnati” was an awesome show. I haven’t watched it for years now – and a quick TiVo search tells me that the only way to check it out these days is online (Hulu.com has the first season.). No matter -- I’ve still got a highlight reel playing in my head:
• Les Nessman reporting on the infamous WKRP-organized Thanksgiving Day promotion, where they dropped turkeys from a helicopter. “As God as my witness,” Mr. Carlson says at the end. “I thought turkeys could fly.” Oh, the humanity.
• Venus Flytrap teaching a gang-banger about to drop out of school the parts of an atom. The kid explains to Venus that his teachers are letting him slide through school, citing Music Appreciation class. “They play music, and I say, ‘I appreciate that.’”
• Anything Herb does. Or wears.
All of the characters paid off, even Andy Travis, who I always thought was the weakest link. A few years ago, I interviewed Loni Anderson, who played Jennifer Marlowe, the receptionist – and smartest person on the radio station’s payroll. I thought it was interesting that she made a decision about her character early on – and it became a big part of the show.
Before she accepted the job, Anderson took a gutsy stand, insisting that the character be fleshed out as more than the stereotypical “blonde receptionist.” “It was a tough conversation because I thought I lost the part,” she said. “I thought when I said that that they’d say, ‘Thank you for coming in, and hopefully we’ll consider you for something else next time.’ But he went with it.”
To me, that sums up the appeal of the show. It didn’t pander with easy jokes. It was smart, populated with far-more-than-sitcom-deep characters – and damn funny.
Here's the clip of Venus explaining protons, neutrons and electrons. What’s your favorite WKRP memory?
Friday, June 4, 2010
Totally worth scrolling through, and I've pulled out a few treasures:
--Dinky Donuts: TOTALLY illustrated by that guy who drew Bummers in Dynamite Magazine.
--Croonchy Stars: Whaaaa? The Swedish Chef had a cereal?
--Kaboom: With the rainbow clown. Kinda the generic sugary cereal of sugary cereals. The clown had no cartoon or other tie-in that I could see, so naturally he wasn't quite going to rise as high as Mr T cereal or C-3POs.
--Morning Funnies cereal: Apparently the point was that they put comic strips on the box. Big whoop.
--Cracker Jack had a cereal?
--Vanilly Crunch might be the only one of these cereals that I would regularly buy if it still existed.
--Circus Fun=Kaboom rip-off.
--Fruit Islands=Fruity Pebbles rip-off.
--Waffelos. Man, I can still remember how artificially maple these tasted.
--Breakfast with Barbie. Holy. Crap.
Fruity Yummy Mummy (and Fruit Brute) were the two monster cereals that never made it. And the mummy is so obnoxious in this ad you can see why. He should have been distinguished and with a clipped Egyptian accent, not sound like a small-time mobster from New Jersey.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Everything passes away, that's the whole reason for our book, and I find it fascinating to watch it go, and to learn from the lessons it teaches as it does.
(By the way, did you know the widely striped crosswalk, as shown in the Abbey Road pic, is called a "zebra crossing"? I had no idea. That's got to be the most famous one in the world, no? I imitated that famed walk on that very same crosswalk with three friends on a trip to London in 1999, as so many have done before and since. Only according to the Wikipedia entry on Abbey Road, the crosswalk was slightly moved in the 1970s, so we weren't in the exact footsteps of the Fab Four after all.)
"One of my first memories that involved events outside of my own family was the great civic convulsion of 1976, when many neighborhoods painted their fire hydrants to look like short, squat, Founding Fathers. (Why? I do not know. I think America went a little crazy around the bicentennial.)"
Dixie Carter’s Maggie married Mr. Drummond in 1984, and brought along her son, red-headed moppet Sam (Danny Cooksey, who went on to appear in "Terminator 2" -- seriously) – “Diff’rent Strokes’” Cousin Oliver. She was replaced the next year by former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley. Carter passed away in April. Cooksey appeared in an indie film that’s currently in post-production, "DaZe: Vol. Too (sic) - NonSeNse." The movie also stars the late Andrew Koenig (“Boner” on “Growing Pains”), whose disappearance sparked a worldwide media frenzy in February.
And how about Arnold’s pal Dudley, Shavar Ross? He’s acted sporadically over the years, most recently as a preacher on Comedy Central’s “Chocolate News” in 2008.
Who were your all-time favorite and least-favorite "Diff'rent Strokes" characters?
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
But what about the rest of the “Diff’rent Strokes” cast? Here’s a quick rundown: Conrad Bain is now 87 and retired; one of his final acting gigs was reprising the role of Mr. Drummond on a 1996 episode of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Charlotte Rae found even bigger fame when she moved over to “The Facts of Life,” of course. She’s still acting, and guest-starred in a recurring role on “ER.” After Mrs. Garrett moved to Eastland, housekeeper Adelaide took over; spunky actress Nedra Volz passed away in 2003. Pearl, played by Mary Jo Catlett, took care of the Drummond kids next; Catlett went on to entertain a whole new generation of TV viewers as the voice of Mrs. Poppy Puff on “SpongeBob,” and showed up in a brief role on “Glee” just a few weeks ago.
Tomorrow: Some more "Diff'rent Strokes" cast, including Dudley!
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
He was a little like – and hopefully this isn’t too degrading – a mascot of sorts for growing up in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. I rooted for him when he was going through his voluminous troubles – with his money, his parents, his relationships, his health. It always felt like Coleman had a sense of humor about his fame and the troubles that came with it. And sure, I laughed at the jokes in Broadway’s “Avenue Q,” when “Gary Coleman” managed an apartment building in the crummiest part of town, and everybody in the cast agreed that his life sucked the most out of all of theirs, including the puppets’.
But there’s a reason a Google search of the guy pops up 18 million hits. Tons of people liked his work, and felt like maybe he’d be able to find a way out from under the child-star cloud that hung over his head all these years.
Even though he was small in stature, the pop-culture legacy that he left behind is pretty big.