Thursday, March 31, 2011

April Fool's Day pranks

I'm not sure why, but as a kid, we'd look forward to April Fool's Day almost as much as Christmas or Halloween. Maybe it was because we were given carte blanche to play pranks on our friends and family -- and all they could do was shake their heads. "Too bad, look at the calendar -- it's a punishment-free zone today."

On paper, that's pretty an eight-year-old. But looking back, our enthusiasm was probably a little over-rated, since we didn't exactly pull out all the creative stops and come up with ultra-memorable, Cartman-tricking-Scott-Tenorman-into-eating-his-parents-level gags. Some people really take the day seriously, though: Check out these top 100 April Fool's jokes of all time.

Instead, we'd take a page from the third-grade playbook, and play benign tricks like replacing the sugar in the sugar bowl with salt, or unscrewing the top to the salt shaker. (Salt, the official sponsor of April Fool's Day.)

What are the best April Fool's pranks you've played -- or had played on you?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Please don't squeeze the Charmin."

Our post a few weeks ago about Margaret Hamilton, The Wicked Witch of the West, shilling for Maxwell House got us thinking about other memorable pitchmen and women. One of the most beloved has got to be good ol' Mr. Whipple, who could never get shoppers to keep their grubby hands off the toilet paper.

Dick Wilson, the actor who played the friendly but frustrated store owner, starred in more than 500(!) commercials. He died in 2007.

Today, Mr. W. has been replaced by one of the more cringe-inducing bathroom-tissue campaigns, featuring a family of bears that...just can't keep their bottoms clean. Disconcerting? Does a bear...well, you know.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Roller rinks

A friend since grade school mentioned she hit the roller rink over the weekend -- for the first time in almost 30 years. It's been that long since I've strapped on skates, too, but thanks to her description of her back-to-the-future experience, a whole lot of memories of the Skatin' Place (Best. Name. Ever.) came a-rollin' back for me, too:

We pre-teens would marvel at the high-tech mood-setting wizardry, which included strobe lights, disco balls and dry ice. Gaggles of teenage girls dressed in rainbow shirts would shuffle by in clumps, holding hands and giggling. Hotshot figure skaters with feathered Farrah hair would scream past, then twirl in circles in the free-skate area of the rink. Depending on the year, we did the Hustle, grooved to “A Fifth of Beethoven” and sang along with “Mickey” at the top of our adolescent lungs. When the terrifying Couples Skate came up, we suddenly found it the perfect time to hide out in the bathroom.

We’d limp home six hours later, feet raw, hopped up on Sugar Babies and giddy with momentum -- and ready to roll back and do it all again.

OK, count me in -- even if it means I may break a hip. To get us in the skatin' mood, here's a clip from "CHiPs'" roller-disco two-parter. It doesn't get any more '70s than this.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Classic Clip Monday: Baby Jessica

Remember watching Baby Jessica's harrowing rescue from an eight-inch well back in 1987? For neary three days, it was all over TV -- especially then-fledgling network CNN, which had round-the-clock coverage of the 18-month-old's ordeal. A Pew Research Center project found that Jessica's rescue drew more worldwide media coverage than any other event, with the exception of Princess Diana's death.

Jessica McClure turned 25 on Saturday, making her eligible to receive the 800-thousand-dollar trust fund set up by well-wishers.

If you haven't watched the footage in a while, here it is. Get ready for goosebumps. No wonder they called her "everybody's baby."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Funky Food Friday: Is Cap'n Crunch history?

If you read this article from earlier this month, you'd probably guess that Quaker has given Cap'n Crunch a not-so-honorable discharge from the Royal Cereal Navy. The Daily Finance theorized that Cap'n Horatio Magellan Crunch (that's his whole name -- who knew?) was being eased into retirement, since he wasn't anywhere to be found on the company's website.

Not so fast, says Quaker, who launched a new site in response: "A special message from the Cap'n: Thanks to everyone who was asking about me. I was out on the seas, but don't worry, I'm back and not going anywhere." The sea-faring, sugary mascot now also has a Facebook page, with almost 18,000 fans since March 11.

We're glad you're alive and well, Cap'n, and haven't been abducted by pirates. Who else would dare to churn out so many weird, wacky -- and awesome -- flavors like Vanilly Crunch, Punch Crunch, and Deep Sea Crunch? Not to mention the world's most perfect food, the still-going-strong Peanut Butter Crunch?

What's your favorite Cap'n Crunch flavor?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"The Frog Prince"

"Bake the hall in the candle of her brain." Recognize that bewilderingly intriguing line? If you do, then you just might be an extremely fervent Muppet fan. If you don't? Then you've got to run out RIGHT NOW and find yourself a copy of "Tales From Muppetland: The Frog Prince," Jim Henson's 1971 take on the classic fairy tale. If doesn't matter if you have kids or not -- it's that dang fun.

We had the record of the TV special, and played it over and over and over, reveling in the story of little frog Robin, who claims he's really a prince, and the princess who's been enchanted by an evil witch, and can only speak gibberish. A skeptical Kermit's in it, and it marks the debut of Sweetums, the ginormous-monster muppet. How can you not love a story with lines like "Have another popover, froggy!"?

And that mixed-up phrase about the candle of her brain? Spoiler alert: It's really "Break the ball in the handle of her cane." But if you've ever seen this great little romp, you already knew that.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hawaiian Punch Commercials

Here’s yet another lesson TV taught us: If someone asks you, “Hey, how about a nice Hawaiian Punch?”, it’s a trap. You’re very likely not going to get a fruity drink, and in fact, you may get a trip to the hospital thanks to a feisty beverage mascot named “Punchy.”

But maybe that's not so true anymore. While he's had his hand clenched into a fist for the past 50 years, it looks as if Punchy is finally getting some anger-management therapy. Hawaiian Punch is giving the angriest mascot in the world a makeover -- they even have their website under construction to rework the little dude. Waffle Whiffer Zone found a box of fruit snacks that gives a sneak preview of his new look: Gone is the clenched fist; he's now doing a hang-loose sign instead.

Wondering if the much-assaulted, Mr. Howell-looking tourist Oaf is going to come back and exact some revenge on the kinder, gentler Punchy? Us, too.

Here's a clip of Punchy, back when he was all about the beat-downs:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Stand by Me"

It's been 25 years since Gordie, Teddy, Chris and Vern set out on the adventure of their young lives, sparked by one of the most jarring lines a kid's ever uttered in the movies: "You guys wanna go see a dead body?" Yep, "Stand by Me" is a quarter-century old -- and most of the cast and director Rob Reiner reunited last week to celebrate, and promote the new DVD/Blu-Ray release of this classic coming-of-age flick.

I appreciate just about everything about the movie, from the harrowing train-trestle run to "Chopper, sic balls," to the part where the other kids tease Vern by launching into "I ran all the waaay hooooome" every time he tried to talk. The writing was phenomenal, and the child actors -- Jerry O'Connell, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman and the late River Phoenix -- absolutely nailed it.

And I really, really love that the movie, based on a novella by Stephen King, finally showed the world that the the author was about a lot more than just telekinetic teens and posessed cars. King drove that point again in a big way eight years later, with another flick about enduring friendship, The Shawshank Redemption.

Here's a look at the movie's trailer. How about you -- does "Stand By Me" still stick with you, too?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Classic Clip Monday: Captain Crook

So Brian and I were discussing McDonaldland the other day, as you do, and we had to rack our brains to remember who the heck the pirate criminal was.

Captain Crook!

Sure, the Hamburglar gets all the criminal attention (ROBBLE ROBBLE ROBBLE), but Captain Crook, introduced in 1970, was also a bad guy. His goal? To steal Filet O' Fish sandwiches.

Wikipedia notes his rise and sad fall: "In the '70s, he was a major character with an unseen mouth and a rubber mask. In the 80s, he was a supporting background character renamed "The Captain" where he had an almost Muppet-like look and was often seen with a parrot. The character was dropped during the streamlining of the characters in the mid-1980s."

DROPPED? STREAMLINING OF THE CHARACTERS? Whose great idea was that? The best thing about McDonaldland was how random and bizarre characters would just show up whenever you least expected it. (Remember the Fry Guys?) They should never have dropped any of these loons, they should just wander off for a few years and then come back with a few dark secrets and an extra tattoo or so.

Bring back Captain Crook! Here's Ronald telling of his legend.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Funky Food Friday: Ayds

Look, no jokes, here. Obviously, AIDS is serious business.

Which is why it's still so weird to us that there was once a appetite-suppressant that we popped like candy that had the same name, with only a one letter spelling difference.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

'Darby O'Gill and the Little People'

So we should have saved our Shamrock Shake post for today. St. Patrick's Day, but we didn' here's another randomly Irish post. Who out there remembers "Darby O'Gill and the Little People"?

I was shocked that the movie was made in 1959 (Disney, of course). I saw it around 1978 so it must have been re-released. (Minnesotans: I saw it in the old White Bear Lake movie theater, which later became the Avalon Mall in the old WBL downtown.)

It is...not a great movie. I remember it kind of rambling and incorporating a lot of Irish legends and with some hard-to-understand brogues. Sean Connery is in it, though, a young, hunky Sean Connery.

Parts of it kind of look like a Lucky Charms commercial. But now that I've kind of dissed it, I have a yearning to watch it again.

Ever see this one? Any memories of it?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tell Me Why...

Do you remember this series of books? The "Tell Me Why" books were meant to offer up answers to kids' inevitable and constant questions about the world in those pre-Internet days.

This Metafilter question says that there was a 1960s series and then they were revised in the 1990s. The poster doesn't care for the modern version, as with so many revisions, they kinda took the charm out of them.

If you didn't have these books, what works did you turn to as a kid for reference? Did your folks have a full set of encyclopedias, or other general reference books, or did you practically live at the library?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cassette tape decks in cars

I remember when my mom had an 8-track deck in her car. That was cool, but you had to deal with the clunky 8-track CLICK multiple times a tape. We really moved up in the world when we got a car with a cassette player.

Did you know that they were still making cars with cassette decks in them until now? And oddly, the last cars that had them were Lexus models.

I love CDs and MP3s, but I do feel like you got so much more down and dirty with cassettes. Fixing them with a pencil when they unrolled. Making mix tapes. Shoeboxes full of tapes. Cassingles. What are your favorite cassette tape memories?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Classic Clip Monday: Maxwell House Commercials

"I'll get you another cup of coffee, my pretties! And your little dog, too!" OK, she never said that, but in my eight-year-old mind, that's exactly what Wicked Witch of the West Margaret Hamilton was cackling when she started popping up in Maxwell House commercials in the mid-'70s.

For a generation terrorized by her performance in "The Wizard of Oz," how could she ever be perceived as anything but a flying-monkey-owning enchantress? In the commericals, Hamiltion played Cora, a homey but persnickety New England shopkeep, and talked a lot about how her little store could only stock one brand of coffee, so she chose Maxwell House. And then she tried to light a scarecrow on fire. Wait, that wasn't in this. But Cora was probably thinking it, even while she was playing checkers with her customers or closin' up for the evening.

In real life, Hamilton was apparently the exact opposite of the green-faced baddie she played in the movie. She reportedly loved children, and supported charities that benefitted kids and animals. She even appeared on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" to explain that she was only playing a role, and she wasn't really mean.

We tried to dig up that clip, but came up empty. (If anybody knows where we could find it, please send it our way.) But we did find a couple of Maxwell House commercials. Mmm...good to the last drop. My pretties!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Funky Food Friday: Slice soda

I remember distinctly the first time I ever saw a can of Slice. It was summer just after I graduated from high school in 1985 and a group of five of us from my all-girls high school were going up to one of our friends' cabins. One of my friends brought a can of Slice along, and I swear we talked about it in the car for 20 minutes. What WAS this new beverage?

Turns out we were a little behind. Slice came out in 1984 from Pepsi. I swear the flavor I remember is pear flavor, but doubted myself when I didn't see it listed in the flavor list. But now I see on Wikipedia that the original flavor was considered to be a mix of lemon-lime and pear, so apparently only the "pear" taste stuck in my brain.

Shortly afterwards, Slice went to town on flavors, if the town was Fruitopolis. Strawberry, orange, grape, passionfruit, peach, mandarin orange, apple...if you could find it in the produce section, they could liquify it.

But apparently that wasn't what the guzzling public wanted. Says Wikipedia:

"In the summer of 2000, lemon-lime Slice was replaced in most markets by Sierra Mist, which became a national brand in 2003. The rest of the Slice line was replaced in most markets by Tropicana Twister Soda in the summer of 2005, although the Dr. Slice variety can still be found in some fountains. In early 2006, Pepsi resurrected the Slice name for a new line of diet soda called Slice ONE. Marketed exclusively at Wal-Mart stores, Slice ONE was available in orange, grape and berry flavors, all sweetened with Splenda."

Wow. Who knew? I guess I assumed it was still around, in grocery stores and gas stations, but I just never looked for it.

Were you ever a Slice fan?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Kool-Aid Man

Hey! Kool-Aid! You know the drill. And then the obese pantless freak comes smashing through walls and doors, eager to cannibalize himself by serving up some of his insides. What in the what, now? And who has to pay for those walls he busted down? Not him, I'm guessing.

Kool-Aid Man was both ingenius and incredibly creepy. We remember him to this day, but we're never quite sure if it would be a good or a bad thing to have the giant pitcher with elephant stumps for legs come running to provide beverages for your childhood sweaty activities.

Let's roll some tape.

Kool-Aid Man visits "Family Guy"

It was Kevin's nickname on "The Office"

Possibly the weirdest commerial of the '80s, which is really saying something

This is more along the lines of the ads I remember.

Kool-Aid Man also was an Atari and Intellivision game. Reportedly voted the stupidest game of 1983.

There are some kind of creepy parodies of the ads.

But maybe we should be thankful -- before the Kool-Aid Man could walk, he was just a stupid pitcher with a face that talked to some very white 1950s kids who had no sense of musical pitch.

What's your memory of Kool-Aid Man -- cute or creepy? Did you drink the stuff?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Shamrock Shakes

It's that time again. Not all McDonald's have them, but a lot of locations are offering the Shamrock Shake.

I think I have maybe had one sip of a Shamrock Shake in my entire life. Not a fan of the mint, exactly. But I love them all the same. The concept of a only-for-a-limited-time item, in a color that milkshakes just are never in, it was a huge fascination.

They came out in 1970, so they're a true Xer food item. Wikipedia says they are "credited with helping pave the way for other seasonal drinks, including Starbucks Coffee's pumpkin spice and eggnog lattes."

Canadians, however, are mostly out of luck. Shamrock Shakes are much rarer there -- apparently they showed up in 2008, but before then, had been missing for five years.

Uncle O'Grimacey, purple Grimace's green Irish relative, used to promote the shakes. And we thought GRIMACE was weird...

Were you, or are you a Shamrock Shake fan? Do you remember Uncle O'Grimacey? What other seasonal fast-food offerings are you a fan of?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Here they come, walkin' down the street...

OK, maybe it's more like shuffling gingerly because their hips hurt -- they ARE in their late sixties -- but regardless: Hey, hey, it's the Monkees! Micky, Peter and Davy are hitting the road again this summer for their -- brace yourself -- 45th anniversary tour.

I saw these guys during one of their last major tours, back in 1986, which really did capture the goofy fun and awesome tunes from their heyday. Think they can pull it off once more, 25 years later? I'm a believer, and plan to see them when they hit Minnesota.

Here's a list of their other tour stops. Will you take the last train to...wherever they're playing to check them out?

6/3/2011 Chastain Park Amphitheatre Atlanta, GA
6/4/2011 Ruth Eckerd Hall Clearwater, FL
6/5/2011 Pompano Beach Amphitheatre Pompano Beach, FL
6/6/2011 Florida Theatre Jacksonville, FL
6/8/2011 Innsbrook Pavilion Glen Allen, VA
6/9/2011 The Community Theatre At Mayo Center For The Performing Arts
Morristown, NJ
6/10/2011 Mohegan Sun Arena Uncasville, CT
6/11/2011 Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort Niagara Falls, ON
6/12/2011 Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort Niagara Falls, ON
6/15/2011 Lowell Memorial Auditorium Lowell, MA
6/16/2011 Beacon Theatre New York, NY
6/17/2011 NYCB Theatre At Westbury Westbury, NY
6/18/2011 Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa / Event Ctr. Atlantic City, NJ
6/19/2011 Filene Center At Wolf Trap Vienna, VA
6/20/2011 Hershey Theatre Hershey, PA
6/22/2011 Stage AE Pittsburgh, PA
6/23/2011 Fox Theatre Detroit, MI
6/24/2011 Lifestyle Communities Pavilion Columbus, OH
6/25/2011 Aronoff Center For The Arts Cincinnati, OH
6/26/2011 Murat Theatre Indianapolis, IN
6/29/2011 Genesee Theatre Waukegan, IL
6/30/2011 Star Plaza Theatre Merrillville, IN
7/1/2011 Minneapolis Zoo Minneapolis, MN
7/2/2011 Minneapolis Zoo Minneapolis, MN
7/5/2011 Paramount Theatre Denver, CO
7/8/2011 Pantages Theater Tacoma, WA
7/9/2011 Sleep Country Amphitheater Ridgefield, WA
7/10/2011 The Mountain Winery Saratoga, CA
7/13/2011 Majestic Fox Theater Bakersfield, CA
7/14/2011 Chumash Casino Santa Ynez, CA
7/15/2011 Morongo Casino Resort & Spa Cabazon, CA
7/16/2011 Greek Theatre Los Angeles, CA

Monday, March 7, 2011

Christmas in the 70s

I know it's not exactly the season, but I love Joal Ryan and Brian Heiler's "Christmas in the 70s" site, which will eventually become a book.

This is my favorite photo. Jaime Sommers AND Tuesday Taylor! I had both too, and man, did I love them.

Any special Christmas or other holiday gifts you remember?

Classic Clip Monday: Magilla Gorilla and Grape Ape

Not quite sure why monkeys became a huge part of 1970s TV (not just cartoons--remember "BJ and the Bear"?) But somehow both Grape Ape and Magilla Gorilla are permanently etched in my brain.

Grape Ape? Lord, what a moron. He's 40 feet tall and says his name a lot. In the 1970s, this was pretty much all the gimmick you needed for a show, apparently. Despite weighing many tons, he somehow had the superpower to jump on the Mystery Machine-ripoff van and not crush it or the passengers. Also, I do not think he was even grape flavored. But this line from Wikipedia cracked me up, once I thought about it for a second: "Grape Ape appeared in the Robot Chicken episode "I'm Trapped." After Grape Ape was killed, a police officer looks at his wallet and sees that his name is Grape Ape. He then asks if the other police officers heard the 'G' in his name."

I much preferred Magilla Gorilla, although I must have seen reruns, since it ran a little before my time. (1963-1967). It kind of made me sad that he was always sitting in a pet store and no one would buy him. Also, he was a more normal-sized ape, and his adventures weren't quite as stupid. "Take our advice, at any price a gorilla like Magilla is mighty nice!"

Did you watch either of these shows? I also think I had a Magilla Gorilla comic book.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Funky Food Friday: Orange cereals

Look, we've all eaten some weird cereals in our time. Urkel-Os, C-3POs, random Monster cereals, Cupcake Pebbles, Vanilly Crunch, whatever.

But there was a brief time in the 1970s-1980s when someone, somewhere, decided that ORANGE was underrepresented in breakfast cereal flavors, and set out to change that.

I mean, what the heck?? I like a good glass of orange juice or a citrus fruit with my breakfast same as anyone. But I don't exactly want orange-flavored cereal, especially not if I am going to be putting milk on it.

But there they were anyway. Post Super ORANGE Crisp (Thanks to Matt H. for the video!)

Quake's Orange Quangaroos (yes, the Quake who got sent back to his underground mines by Quisp).

And for one brief year in the 1980s, OJs!

Did you try any of these orange cereals? Were they as bad as they sound? Any other weird cereal trends you recall from our childhoods?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine

What was better than toys or snacks? Toys that made snacks!

I adored the Easy Bake Oven, but I think even more than that I loved the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine.

Somebody in our neighborhood had it, but I don't think it was me. Maybe a cousin, maybe a neighbor. I remember that turning the crank to shave down the ice cube was much harder than advertised. I also remember that we would sometimes consume the syrup packets without bothering to shave the ice. (In Minnesota, where I grew up, you could just squirt it on snow.)

It's also awesomely designed. Look how cute that doghouse is! So classy compared to some of the versions they have today, like the nightmade-inducing Sponge Bob Square Pants Sno-Cone Maker.

Also, I think even if I lived to be 101, on my deathbed I will still be able to sing the damn jingle. "It's yum-yum fun, that is cool and keen! And its name is the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine!"

What about you? Did you have one of these, or covet one?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Is Blythe back?

Of all the childhood things I had and lost along the way, there are really only a couple that I wish I had back. One of them is my Dark Shadows board game. And another is my Blythe doll.

You remember Blythe, right? She was the doll whose eye color could change when you pulled a string. Blue, brown, and some weird colors like orange and pink were the ones I remember. And she had enormous eyes too, like those Margaret Keane Big Eyes paintings.

Did my mom really buy me an original Blythe? Supposedly they were only made in 1972, when I was just 3 or 4 years old. I remember having one, and endlessly changing the eye color, but maybe I am just over-remembering the commercials.

Anyway, Blythe vanished from the market, but those of us who had them (or imagined we had them) played with them for years and years. And in 2000, photographer Gina Garan published a photo book of Blythe, "This Is Blythe," and suddenly the doll was remembered again, and a Japanese company started making new versions.

But it seems like Blythe could be riding another wave of popularity. Now you can get Littlest Pet Shop toy playsets that come with tiny Blythe dolls. They don't change eye color, I guess, but they have the same giant eyes and are distinctly Blythe. They're seriously adorable though, and I may have to buy one for Kelly.

What about you? Do you remember Blythe? Did you actually have one, or do you remember the ads?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Nancy, Nancy Drew, where are you?

Lovvvvvved Nancy Drew. There are approximately 8 zillion different bindings, but mine were the yellow-backed ones with full-color covers where Nancy has kind of a Marlo Thomas "That Girl" flip going on.

Nancy had it going ON. Yes, her mother was dead, but Nancy didn't dwell on that. Her dad was a hotshot lawyer who let her have her own blue convertible (changed to a hybrid in later books), she had a motherly figure in the form of housekeeper Hannah Gruen, she had two best friends, cousins Bess and George, she was recognized in every police department in the country, she apparently had neither a job or classes, and of course she had a boyfriend, although really, Ned Nickerson was pretty Ken doll-bland.

Growing up a girl in the 1970s was pretty OK in many ways. You really were encouraged to do anything a boy could do, and Nancy was a big part of that. I always thought of the Hardy Boys as her slightly slower cousins.

And today? She even has an iPad app, which I may just have to get.

Were you a Nancy fan? Do you remember any one book over the others? I also read other series like they were going out of style: Bobbsey Twins, Happy Hollisters, Dana Girls, Three Investigators, Trixie name it. Any of those in your childhood bookshelf?