Friday, April 29, 2011

Charles and Diana's wedding

How could we mark Royal Wedding day without remembering the wedding of Prince William's parents, Charles and Diana?

I admit, I slept in that July day in 1981 and didn't get up at 4 or whatever to watch it. And while I wanted to love her dress, and did love the general froofiness and big marshmallowness, it was not the wedding gown of my dreams. (My wedding gown looked a lot more like that worn by Sarah Ferguson in 1986.)

But who could help but get sucked in by Diana -- her beauty, her shyness, her insistence on standing in line (sorry, "queueing") with her sons in McDonald's, her fight to raise them as normally as possible and so they understood the world around them more than their father did? She made some hella stupid mistakes (hello, so did Charles), but overall, the world was a better place with her in it.

Her death in 1997 seemed so needless, so premature, so senseless. Damn paparazzi. Damn drunken drivers. Damn princesses who think they don't need to wear seatbelts.

Congrats, William, and may your own marriage be as joyous as we had hoped your mother's would be.

Are you watching Wills and Kate? What are your memories of Diana and Charles' big day, or Andrew and Fergie's?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Presto Magix rub-on transfer kits

Man, who didn't love Presto Magix? If you don't recall the brand name, you may have called them "rub-on transfers" or something generic like that.
It came with a background and these little figures and props that were kind of like Colorforms or stickers. But to place them on the background, you rubbed over them with a pencil, and once placed, you couldn't peel them off and replace them, unlike Colorforms.

Actually, Matt from X-Entertainment points out that Presto Magix had its own stick thing that you were supposed to use for rubbing, but we always, always used a sharp pencil.
They came in all varieties, like Shrinky Dinks or coloring books. Scooby Doo, superheroes, Strawberry Shortcake, Star Wars...if you could name it, they probably had it.
Matt points out you could also get quite creative. He notes: "The kit gives you the chance to create scenes you'd never see in the movies. Up above, father and son mutilate the Rancor Monster with their lightsabers. You know, that's a much more touching moment than what we actually got. Vader and Luke fighting dinosaurs side-by-side is way more heartfelt than Luke crying while burning his dad's dead body to a crisp. Then again, I'm not so sure anyone would really be surprised by the idea that a Presto Magix canvas scene can make more sense than a Star Wars movie script."

Do not confuse them with this Presto Magic Show from the 70s, which apparently was a magician's kid for dorky kids, judging by the kids in the commercial.

Ringing any memory bells? Do you remember any particular themes? Did you use a pencil or the provided stick thing? Also, here's a video of some guy showing off his 1980s Presto Magix pages.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Two all beef patties...

C'mon, you can sing it: Twoallbeefpattiesspecialsauce...something? Fill in the blanks!
The Big Mac was a mighty big deal when it came out in 1967 (the year I was born), but it really took off in 1974 thanks to jingles reciting its ingredients. As kids, we were too little to get this kind of a giant burger, and we weren't fans of things like sauce and onions, so we stuck to the basic burgers. But we sure learned the song. My husband Rob actually can sing it backwards, which was something his kid friends learned to do and he somehow never forgot.

There are nearly 600 calories in one of these suckers, although Don Gorske, the Wisconsin guy who ate one EVERY DAY and was featured in "Super Size Me" is actually rather trim. He has eaten 22,000 of the things, and has written a book about it.

But there are no calories in the jingle. Did you learn the jingle? Can you still sing it?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Funky Food Friday: Screaming Yellow Zonkers

Who didn't love Screaming Yellow Zonkers? Did you know they are GONE?

For those not in the know, they were a boxed yellow popcorn snack with a sugary glaze. An unverified sentence in their Wikipedia entry claims they were the first food item to be packaged in black, which seems weirdly unlikely, but whatever. (This design page backs that up, with pictures.)

In my head, I mix them up with Fiddle Faddle, Crunch 'n' Munch and Poppycock. They all seem to have been made by the same snack company, Lincoln Snacks, which later was acquired by ConAgra., who discontinued SYZ in 2007.

I gotta admit, I think of Screaming Yellow Zonkers as the ultimate stoner munchies. Maybe it's the name, maybe the Sixties-era psychedelic packaging, maybe it's because it's too easy to eat an entire box.

Did you ever eat this stuff, or did you prefer Fiddle Faddle, Poppycock, or plain old Cracker Jack? Did you realize it had been discontinued?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Grippies? Grippez? What WERE these?

I write freehand so seldom these days that my handwriting, once a point of pride, has deteriorated noticably. I guess the one good thing about switching to keyboards is that I no longer carry giant finger calluses where a pen or pencil always rested.

But for a short time in late grade school, a product came along that we thought was awesome in this regard. For the longest time I couldn't remember the name, and then it came to me. Grippies! Or was it Grippez? They were little triangular plastic things you slipped on your pencil, they came in all colors, and you they somehow let you rest your finger on them while writing to protect you from calluses, and help you hold the pencil (or pen) better.

Amazon has these, which it claims help with ergonomics, but we had certainly never heard that word in the 70s and 80s, and  ours didn't look anything like these -- they were longer and more like a little pyramid. All I know is that when our (crappy little) grade school store started selling them, they were a hot item indeed.

Ours looked more like these.

Does anyone else remember these? Maybe you called them something else?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Journey Escape the video game

For me, this is one of the most memorable video games of the 1980s. My friend Ann had it, and we played it in her basement all the time. Who remembers Journey Escape?

No, not the hit album. This was a video game cartridge for the Atari 2600, and it might have been the weirdest game I ever remember playing. Your job was to get the little pixilated versions of Journey band members past lusty groupies and evil promoters to their spaceship, the scarab thing pictured on the album. It also played a really tinny version of "Don't Stop Believin'." I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.

Does anyone but me remember this game? Come on, it has a Wikipedia entry, I know it's real. Also, you can check out just how sad our video-game art of the era was on this page.

And here's a commercial! Supposedly it was the first rock video game. Did not exactly start a trend.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Classic Carol Burnett sketch

"The Carol Burnett Show" was always funny, but I swear, this is one of the classic sketches. Eunice and Mama are a charades team against Ed and Tim Conway, and they're all out for blood, except poor Mama.


I swear, this sketch is the one that taught us half the charades rules, with the fingers on your arm for syllables and the grabbing your ear for sounds like and (apparently, though we never played this) the two fingers on your chest for proper name.

"Carol Burnett" is on DVD, which is awesome, considering I loved it so much as a kid I'd hold a tape recorder up to the TV and get noisy, scatchy little copies of it to listen to later.

Did this sketch teach you charades rules? What was your favorite Carol Burnett sketch? ("Went With the Wind" also has to be up there for me.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Classic Clip Monday: Air travel in the '70s

Ah, air travel. I don't think I've been on a flight in the past few years where my knees haven't been jammed into the seat in front of me, and I got more than a two-pack of ginger cookies for my meal.

But remember when traveling by plane was still surrounded by a bit of romance and luxury -- not to mention ashtrays in the armrests? Check out these great '70s commercials. Holy cow -- prime rib! Salad tossed seatside! Stewardesses to help sew on buttons! And I LOVE the United Airlines "Friendship Room" -- a little lounge smack in the middle of coach.

Fly anywhere in the '70s? We'd love to hear if any of this stuff actually happened.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Be our Facebook friend? Our Twitter...tweep?

Are you on Facebook and Twitter? Follow us there!

And then the conversation turned

I love this Kingsford Charcoal ad with a slo-mo cover of Human Leagues "Keep Feeling Fascination." It's like a whole new song, but one I'm already predisposed to love.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Funky Food Friday: Lik-M-Aid

Oh man, this is one of those candies that isn't so much beloved for its taste as for its weird delivery vehicle. We knew it as Lik-M-Aid, although according to Wikipedia, its name since 1989 has been "Fun Dip." Yeah, that's a stupid name. Reminds me of "Sheep Dip." No wonder they kept "Lik-M-Aid" on the package.

You know what it is. A couple packets of flavored sugar and a tongue depressor-like candy stick. You lick the stick, dip it into the powder, and then consume. I was shocked to find out that the stuff dates back to 1942. It doesn't exactly seem like a treat that a World War II nation would embrace, you know?

But damn, we loved this stuff. My pal Matt at X-Entertainment has a hilarious writeup about it. He calls it "sand you can eat." He also provides photos of the version that changes color. This candy was just fun start to finish.

Did you eat Lik-M-Aid as a kid? Or maybe still?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Number please?

I can still recite my childhood phone numbers (we had a main line and a "children's line:): 484-3929 and 484-5051. 484 was the main prefix in my suburb of Shoreview, Minnesota, and neighboring Roseville was 483. Of course, there was only one area code for anyone within hours and hours of us...612.

Of course we all knew how to dial a phone. Ours were red plastic, leased from Northwestern Bell, the only phone company we ever heard of. Touch-tone came later, and my parents were too cheap to get it until I was out of COLLEGE because the phone company (again, only one) charged extra. Once. my parents bought one of those novelty candlestick phones, like someone might use in an old movie, and I thought it was cool for all of two days until I tried to do my homework with a friend on the phone. Impossible to write, hold the one part to your ear, and the one part to your mouth without dropping something.

You got the operator by dialing 0, and could also call for the time and temperature, which for some reason fascinated us and we did it ALL THE TIME. My cousins and I played prank calls on people out of the phone book, because we were idiots. There was no 911 one-size-fits-all emergency number, though the operator would apparently patch you through to the cops or a hospital. I thought a phone number ending in 1234 was the coolest number you could have and used to call it sometimes and quick hang up (it was a real estate office). And no one could trace our bad phone behavior because Caller ID and star 69 and all the others weren't in use.

Everyone you knew was in the phone book. We'd heard of unlisted numbers but they were only for the famous. It was super cool when your last name ended up being one of the "guide words" at the top of a phone book page. Every business you wanted was in the yellow pages and we actually used them, didn't just sigh heavily when they arrived and make a mental note that we were going to sign up for that "do NOT deliver these to me" list.

If people weren't home, it rang and rang. No answering machine or voice mail -- if you were out at the time, you got home later and had no idea if they'd bothered to call. If the line was busy, you got a busy signal, no call waiting noise. We called what would become "cell phones" "car phones," because they were huge beasts only seen on TV shows or in movies where people like presidents and spies would have them.

Pay phones cost a dime, and they were everywhere, complete with their own phone books on chained leashes in their little rooms covered with graffiti. 867-5309! (OK, so that was bathroom graffiti, not pay phone wall graffiti.)

Once, over a period of time when I was breaking up with my high school boyfriend, his mom made a rule that we could only talk at either 9 or 9:30 and only for a half-hour. And sometimes he wouldn't call at 9, and I'd tell myself he would call at 9:30, and the closer 9:30 came the shakier I got, because sometimes he wouldn't call then either. I didn't know this Dorothy Parker story, but I lived it.

What telephone memories do you have? Can you still recite your first-ever phone number? Is the call coming from inside the house?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mall madness

I love this slideshow of people in a mall in 1989. Mullets, mustaches, acid-washed jeans, stores that only sold cassette tapes.

Check it out, see if you recognize anyone. Maybe yourself.

"Welcome Back, Kotter"

Boy, those TV Land Awards are unleashing such a barrage of '70s and '80s TV stars on us, it's tough to keep up. The latest retro group to reunite: the Sweathogs. Gabe Kaplan, John Travolta (!) and four other cast members of "Welcome Back, Kotter" got together on Good Morning America on Monday.

I've gotta say: It's always a blast to see these actors, many of whom haven't exactly been burning up the small or big screens with high-profile work. (We're talking to you, Epstein.) And it's especially cool when a breakout star like Travolta goes back to revisit his '70s roots.

"Kotter" was always such a hoot. (OK, not so much when tight-pantsed Beau showed up in the final season. He was their Ted McGinley.) But the show had so many awesome moving parts, something was bound to elicit a laugh. From Woodman to Epstein's mother to Kotter's stories about his relatives to Carvelli, "Kotter" made it work.

TV Land's got a great where-are-they-now? rundown of the cast. And if you think we won't be watching the TV Land Awards on Sunday, well, then up your nose with a rubber hose.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hide and seek memories

Everyone played it as a kid, whether you called it hide and seek or hide and go seek. Every kid and neighborhood had their rules, too, as to what the boundaries were and what was off-limits and how high to count.
"Schoolhouse Rock" taught a bunch of us new counting rhymes. "Ready or Not, Here I Come" was the name of their jingle to teach the five times tables. "Four quarters make a dollar, I didn't hear anyone holler and "apples, peaches, pumpkin pie, whoever's not ready, holler I!" (Or was it "aye"?)

Somehow we picked up "Ollie, ollie oxen free" -- here's an explanation of how that translated to every playground across the land.

But when I read this Ask Metafilter question from a guy who grew up in suburban Boston and used to call out "My ghouls 1-2-3!" when he and his friends got back to base, I had never, ever heard of it. But the thread is great -- it brought out a bunch of kid memories, and the guy who posted the thread wrote out his own neighborhood's very complex rules here.

 I confess, I loved hide and seek. My best friend's basement was perennially under construction, and full of weird little rooms that were open to each other, and hiding in there waiting for someone to find you was so delightfully exciting it gave me shivers. Outside was fun too, but I always remember that half-built floor and snuggling in behind some pillar or open area that would eventually be a closet, trying not to be seen.

Did you have special rules or chants or counting rhymes for hide and seek? Or regional specialties for other outdoor games?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Classic Clip Monday: Commodore 64

The Commodore 64 is back, baby. Thankfully, the new version will feature, um, a tad more memory than the original. It had 64 kilobytes -- barely enough to power Pac-Man or Pooyan. But -- boy, you've got to give that little-computer-that-could its props. Even though it cost $595. In today's dollars, that's like eighteen million.

We had the cassette hard-drive, and then the floppy disk drive, which was louder than our washing machine. But at least it played Summer Games! Dang, that was some high-tech Olympic action, right there.

Did you have a Commodore? Here are a couple of early TV commercials for this technological wonder.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Funky Food Friday: Sbarro and food courts

So apparently Sbarro is looking into bankruptcy, though the company may not file.

The pizza chain moved into malls in 1967 and has 1000 stores worldwide. I am no giant fan of mall-style pizza (give me Chicago deep-dish any day), but I remember when I worked in downtown Mpls and would sometimes get a pasta dish at Sbarro. They are one of those chains that is in every other food court, and yet my eyes kind of blip over them when making a food-court choice, because they always seem so heavy and greasy.

Looking around the Web, I admit, this person's photo and longing almost made me rethink my Sbarro disinterest.

My favorite food court was the old food court at Maplewood Mall in Minnesota. It was down on the lowest level and was a circle. Friends and I would start at Baskin-Robbins and just start walking, and eventually each of us would drop off at whichever place we wanted our lunch from. Then we'd walk on, and eventually meet back up by the Baskin-Robbins again (Daiquiri Ice, mmm!) I can't remember what all chains were in the food court though. But I can recite the Mpls City Center food court almost by heart since I used to work in a bldg one skyway away from it. McDonald's, Great Steak & Fry, Eddington's Soup and Salad (these really need to move out of Minnesota, dammit), Taco Bell, Cinnabon, an Arby's with its own reserved seating, etc. Healthy, I know.

Are you a Sbarro fan? What's your favorite food-court chain? Got any regionals, like Eddington's, that you recommend?

And all this food-court talk reminds me that "King of the Food Court," by King Radio, is about the best song ever. But I can't find it on You Tube. Take my word for it. And you can listen to a sample on Amazon. "Plastic trays and paper plates, all the people here got dates, with the King of the Food Court."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A sneak peek at "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops"

Our book, "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes & Trends of the '70s & '80s," comes out exactly two months from today, so we thought we'd share this little sneak preview.

Remember these?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rosie the Waitress

When it comes to TV spokespeople, we're whoopie for Mr. Whipple, but who's next in line when it comes to commercial royalty? Why, diner waitress Rosie, of course, whose clumsy patrons spilled every liquid in sight.

Oddly, Rosie wouldn't send the careless customers packing, or make them wash dishes to make restitution. Instead, she'd extole the virtues of Bounty paper towels, "the quicker picker-upper." During her stint as Rosie from 1970 to 1990, four-foot-eleven-inch Nancy Walker found time to appear in movies and on a kajillion TV shows, most notably as Rhoda's mom, Ida Morgenstern.

Last year, WalletPop named Rosie #4 on its list of the top 10 ad icons of all time, handily beating Ernest (#8) and Joe Isuzu (#9).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Richie Rich and other Harvey comics

Richie Rich! His dog Dollar! His butler Cadbury! His robot maid! His wannabe girlfriend, Mayda Money!

I loved Richie Rich comics as a kid, and actually had quite a few other series of Harvey Comics that I adored. Little Dot (Dot Polka) was a favorite. So was Little Lotta (who was not little). Wendy the Good Little Witch. Little Audrey. Hot Stuff the Devil. Casper the Friendly Ghost

It never occurred to me that Harvey Comics weren't as cool (if comics can be cool) as, say, Archie. These weren't teen characters, with high school and cars and dating. The Harvey Comics characters were kids like us, and even if we weren't kid zillionaires who always wore bow ties and fought villains like The Onion and Dr. Blemish, they still had friends and fights and kid worries, stuff we could relate to.

Apparently Harvey Comics ceased publishing in 1982, came back in 1986, and now has sold its properties. I kinda got a headache trying to follow the chain of events as described on Wikipedia there. But the funniest bit of it for me was that Marvel tried to copy Richie Rich after Harvey went away, with a character called Royal Roy of Cashelot. Look how similar he looks!

Richie Rich also had a cartoon show, which I vaguely remember, mostly for when it was combined into the horribly named "The Richie Rich/Scooby-Doo Show and Scrappy Too!" Seriously, people? Scrappy? Also, Richie got a movie I never saw with the perfectly cast (at least in looks) Macaulay Culkin.

Did you read Richie Rich, Little Dot, Little Lotta, or other Harvey Comics? Oh, and apparently if you did and miss them, you can now buy a bound volume of Harvey Comics stories. Cheap, too!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Classic Clip Monday: O, mighty Isis!

O, mighty Isis!

Man, Saturday kids' TV just rocked in the 1970s, didn't it? "The Secrets of Isis" wasn't even a cartoon, it was a live-action Sat. AM show, and it rocked our socks off.

The plot was awesome. Young science teacher Andrea Thomas (Joanna Cameron, who is apparently still eating out on that role today, as she should) dug up an amulet that would let her change into the goddess Isis.

As Wikipedia notes, "Isis displays a virtually unlimited array of superhuman powers and abilities. Usually she invokes these powers through incanting a rhyming couplet, for example, taking flight by reciting 'Oh zephyr winds that blow on high / Lift me now so I can fly.' " She also gave a little moral lesson at the end of the show, usually something like "don't be racist."

For a while, Isis shared a time block with Shazam, under the name "Shazam/Isis Power Hour." Total awesomeness.

As with every fond memory of our childhood, there may be a new version. Says Wikipedia: "Grammnet, the production company owned by Kelsey Grammer, has reportedly obtained the rights to produce a movie based on the character to be called The Legend of Isis." Frasier and Isis? Seems an odd combo, but we'll see if this happens or it's just another Hollywood MadLib, as in (Name of famous movie star with lots of money) wants to remake (1970s or 1980s classic).

The show did come out on DVD in 2007, but is apparently out of print, and used copies are kinda pricey. But if you have Netflix, you can watch them streaming online.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Funky Food Friday: Zotz

Not that many candies start with "Z." Zotz had not one, but two Zs in its name, and that was only part of its coolness.

Zotz were a fruity candy with sour fizzy powder inside. They came out in 1968, and were so novel that they apparently became one of the nation's best-selling candies almost instantly. The sour craze, in which every candy seemed to have to be wrapped in sour powder, was still years away, so Zotz were novel, if a little weird and daring. (Naturally, there's a Facebook fan club.)

Pop Rocks, to me, seem like kind of Zotz taken one step further. Whereas Zotz kind of hid their weirdness inside a regular candy shell, Pop Rocks was all weird, all fizzy, all candy that was shocked by an electrical wire.

You can still buy Zotz online, and it's often found in those Mr. Bulky type candy stores full of bins and nostalgia.

Do you remember Zotz?