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Friday, February 05, 2016

It's been a while since I've written a post for my Retro Product Fail series, but when I saw this scanned Playboy article from 1972 on Flickr (credited to rchappo2002), I knew I had a winner on my hands.

Behold, the inflatable bubble house as created by a design firm at the time called Chrysalis. Here's what the descriptive copy at the top reads:

Regardless of whether you call the inflatable edifice pictured below a bubble building, hemisphere house or pumped-up pleasure palace, we’re sure you’ll agree it’s the most revolutionary concept in mobile living since somebody invented the trailer—and a lot more fun. Created by a Los Angeles design group named Chrysalis, the polyvinyl Pneudome, when collapsed, fits into a 42”x60”x12” box. To turn on the bubble-house machine, simply spread the dome out on a flat surface, fill the base ring with water (optional cable anchorings also available), then attach the portable air blower to an external port—and up she rises. 

In about eight minutes, you have nearly 500 square feet of living space to do with as your imagination dictates. And, to make sure your air castle doesn’t crumble, you keep the blower going; a gentle current of air not only ensures that the pad remains inflated but ventilated and dust-free, too. 

Although opaque models are also available, we prefer the transparent number, shown here. The price for a Pneudome that’s 25 feet in diameter and ready to rise is about $1950 including blower—a sum that surely won’t blow your bank account. 

So basically, this is like a giant bounce house for adults (without the bounce.) It sure does look and sound cool and I love the concept of environmentally friendly living spaces that was so prevalent in the 1970s. But it's a stretch to call this a house and I think any of us can have a gander at why it never caught on. Obviously there's no way to hook up plumbing, heat, or electricity to it. The only use I can really think of for it is to throw a party in it when you want to be outside on a rainy day or away from the sun. And...it would be very easy for someone to slash that thing and there goes your nearly $2,000 down the drain...

Speaking of which, that amount of money for such a contraption, even back in 1972, sounds like a lot of moola to me for something you can't do much with. Maybe Playboy had the right idea by referring to it as a pleasure palace, as that's all it's really qualified for.

I couldn't find any info on Chrysalis, how long they were in business, and what their other houses looked like. Here's the rest of the article:

Wait a minute...how did they illuminate that thing at night?

Thursday, February 04, 2016

I actually blogged about this video find on YouTube a good five years ago, but feel I didn't do it justice at the time. What brought it back into my mind was seeing the following gif that a Facebook friend posted a few weeks ago:

Now, you KNOW you are a retro addict when you can recognize the video clip this was taken from, as I immediately did. And that is, believe it or not, a little 1970 etiquette lesson filmed for women in the military called "The Pleasure Of Your Company," posted by the U.S. National Archives. It was featured in "Media Matters," the National Archives' blog, and there's two other videos in the same series: "Mind Your Military Manners" and "Look Like A Winner" but the one I'm going to do a mini review of is clearly the most entertaining (in "Look Like A Winner," women are actually educated about the importance of taking a daily shower.)

There's a lot of awkwardness in "The Pleasure of Your Company"...awkward acting (mostly by the cute but kind of ditzy brunette above, who could have later auditioned to be one of Dean Martin's "dingaling sister" back-up singers)...and awkward situations ("I...I never know which one (fork) to use...now let me see...I...oh well, I wasn't too hungry anyway.") Yeah, that's right...just starve yourself instead of risking picking up the wrong fork and embarrassing yourself! #1970sProblems

The best line is when the brunette above is describing a run-in with an older female captain about their miniskirt discussion. "She happens to be an absolutely groovy person...and quite a swinger!"

(By the way, what do miniskirts and '70s fashion have to do with etiquette? I have no idea...but the film was definitely conceived by a man because we're treated to a mini fashion show with the nameless brunette posing in different outfits and biting a giant flower.)

Alas, her female friend, Sandy, has had a tough evening out with a gentleman...she's talking over the waiter and her date while trying to order her dinner. The solution? The lady should always tell her date what she wants, and he will place the order for you.

Wow. I wonder when's the last time a man actually ordered for a woman in a restaurant. Feminists probably didn't approve...on the other hand, I think it might be kind of cool and old school to tell a date what I wanted, and let him order it for me.

I won't reveal anything else...here's the video below so you can see and enjoy this time capsule for yourself!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Once in a while I like to venture off the mid-20th century pop culture path and explore the nooks and crannies of truly vintage times. Since Valentine's Day is only a couple of weeks away (repeat after me, husbands and boyfriends: "Thank you, GoRetroPam, for reminding me and saving my a$$!") I thought it might be fun to have a look at what they used to call acquaintance or flirting cards back in the day.

Way back in the 1800s and early 1900s, before there was such a thing as texting and that God-awful Tinder app, gentlemen that were taken by a lady would slip her one of these cards as a way of indicating interest or infatuation. Two interesting things I noticed when perusing these cards online: it seemed appropriate for women to use these cards as well, although they also didn't seem to have a rejection card available for their disposal. It kind of makes you wonder how they were supposed to let down someone gently.

Just a distinction: these cards are a little different than calling cards that were being used at the same time. Those were left at someone's home as a polite way of trying to be introduced for the purpose of social or business arrangements. Acquaintance cards were for making a score....er, scoring a date. They were also known as escort or invitation cards and were meant to help break the ice with a member of the female sex.

And just like pick-up lines from any other era, some of these are cute and charming while others are borderline creepy.

Just one quick note before we delve in...these are all credited to a Flickr user named Alan Mays. I reached out to him and asked for permission to use them, since another site has featured them as well. He never got back to me...so Alan, if you see this, I hope it's OK to display your fine collection of vintage acquaintance cards and link back to you.

Just a tidbit of trivia that these cards were once made and found pretty much all over the country. You could buy a box of 1,000 of them for around $1.35 at the time. I guess you would need that many if you were being continuously shot down.

Speaking of shot down, this one was apparently dispensed only by the bravest, besotted man who's willing to risk his life for a date.

If you turn me down, I'm just going to sit on the fence and stare at you as you walk past. Nope, not creepy/stalkerish at all.

Red flag alert: "our" new lamp/sofa? Really makes it sound like the man is not living alone, just saying.

Whoever wrote this one is a real poet (and probably does know it.) But considering you could buy a thousand of these cards for a buck, it seems they were the Victorian equivalent of the carbon copy messages women sometimes get online, where a guy just copies and pastes the same introductory message over and over again. Not exactly the way to make a woman feel unique and special.

For those that met and married later in life...for those old maids that defeated the odds. (It also reminds me of Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes on Downton Abbey.)

I found this one to be a little creepy, and I wonder how vintage it is considering I thought "spooning" was a relatively modern term. And what's up with the "special attention paid to other fellows' girls" line? Yeah, this one is for creeps...let's keep going...

Now we're talking, ladies: a ragtime millionaire! And he's single! But I'm guessing that "knockers" had a different meaning in the 1800s then it does now.

I think it's amusing that there was once a time where women were referred to as creatures.

My goodness, there were a lot of millionaires and millionaires' sons looking for love back in the day, huh? This one is obviously from the 20th century judging by the more modern clothing on the characters.

Anna the "Butch" wants to know who the devil you are. You may want to proceed with caution here, fellas.

Friday, January 29, 2016

This is just a quick personal observation post before I get back to the retro related ones, but I wanted to take a moment to say something to all of my fellow bloggers out there that I know of who still update their sites on a regular or semi-regular basis: congratulations.

You see, last week I noticed in my Blogger dashboard that many of the blogs I used to read at one time are now dead as a doornail. Many haven't been updated in months and a good handful haven't been touched in years -- the one on my list with the longest dormancy period I saw was five years!

It did make me a little sad -- I'm sorry to see them fall by the wayside. Naturally, many of them had a retro/vintage theme. One site that I already knew was no longer being updated was 1972: The Retro WW Experiment. The WW stands for Weight Watchers and the author, Mimi, would make and post meals from 1970s Weight Watchers booklets. I thought she had a really great niche theme, but after she failed to get an interview with WW's founder, Jean Nidetch (who also died last year) she closed the shop up on any new posts.

I guess I'm bringing it up as an excuse to pat myself on the back, because there have been a couple of times I thought of throwing in the towel myself (although I'm awfully glad and grateful that I stuck it out.) When I first starting writing Go Retro in 2007 I did it with the intentions of just posting for fun; I certainly did not expect to attract a lot of readers or make any money with it right off the bat. It took about a good five years before either of those things started to happen (and make no mistake; while I run advertising on this blog, it's not like the revenue I get is anywhere near an amount to live off of; more like I'm grateful it covers filling my car's tank up with gas every couple of months.)

And it's only due to the fact I've been out of work for a while that I've been able to update this site and obsess over the layout and other things about it so much. Blogging can be a lot of work and it can really take a while to build and audience and see results. So I get where so many folks I followed no longer have the time and/or the passion to keep at it.

Having said that, another reason for this post is just to mention the updated blog roll I added at the bottom right side of the page, below the contact me form. I encourage you to check out these swell bloggers' sites, that are still quite active and updated regularly. Some have a retro theme and some do not, but I have my own reasons for following all of them and try to pop in on them when I can. They all deserve their own pat on the back!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

1976: My "First" Year of Music

(Note: After a few attempts, I have NO idea why this post will not display properly like the others...so to leave a comment, click on the post title above which is hyperlinked and it will show the comment box at the bottom of the post.)

Do you remember how old you were when you started remembering pop and rock songs? I ask because I distinctly remember that many of my "first" songs I remember hearing and retaining were from the year 1976. I was four years old, and it was the first time I was discovering a music world beyond what they played on Sesame Street, namely because of the songs my older siblings were playing at the time both at home and on their car radios when I accompanied them.

Another pivotal year for me in music fandom was 1984 -- as that was when one of my sisters gave me a personal radio with headphones for my birthday -- but for this post I'm going to focus on 1976, a whopping four decades ago (ouch!) and the list of songs I remember hearing the most from that year. I guess it shouldn't surprise anyone that I'm still a fan of most of these singers/bands and they helped start me on the lifelong path of being a retro music lover. And much like the '60s, the '70s decade seemed to offer something for everyone -- from soft rock to more traditional rock 'n' rock to disco.

"If You Leave Me Now" by Chicago

I have always loved Chicago, but only up until Peter Cetera left the band to pursue his own solo career in the '80s; after he and his distinctive voice left the group's sound was never the same again. At the age of four I didn't know anything about romantic love, but I did know that the singer was heartbroken over the thought of his girlfriend leaving him and sometimes, 40 years later, the song brings a tear to my eye. Fortunately, Chicago knew how to swing the songwriting pendulum to compose happy love songs, and they balanced this one out with a big hit the following year, "Baby What A Big Surprise", which is one of my favorite love songs of all time.

"Don't Go Breaking My Heart" by Elton John and Kiki Dee

In the summer of 1976, this hit was all over the radio waves and somehow I knew even at that young age that it would become one of my favorite love songs of all time. Little did we know at the time that the song would be considered a bit of a curse (the "Kiki Jinx") for Elton John; he wouldn't have another number one single of him singing solo until 1997's "Candle In The Wind."

"Got To Get You Into My Life" by the Beatles

This was the first Beatles song I ever remember hearing -- not "Yellow Submarine", "She Loves You", or any of their other hits -- and yet oddly enough, I wouldn't become a huge Beatles fan until some 15 years later. Part of that may have had to do with the fact that my sister had Magical Mystery Tour on vinyl and I was scared half to death of that album cover! I mean, they were dressed like animals with creepy masks and I quite honestly thought they seemed a little freaky at the time. But I digress..."Got To Get Your Into My Life" is one of the only Beatles songs that became a hit some time after the band broke up. It was originally recorded (and released) in 1966 and ten years later was reissued as a single in conjunction with the Rock 'n' Roll Music album, which contained mostly the Fabs' covers of 1950s songs by Chuck Berry and his cohorts that fans were already quite familiar with.

One thing I learned about this song fairly recently is that, while it is a love song, it's an ode not to a woman but to another love in Paul McCartney's life at the time, marijuana! John Lennon told Playboy magazine in 1980 that it was one of McCartney's best songs.

"Evil Woman" by Electric Light Orchestra

I have no shame in admitting that ELO is one of my favorite 1970s bands. A lot of it may have to do with the fact that their sound was inspired by the Beatles, but I also love how they incorporated string instruments and how that helped them stand out from so many traditional rock groups at the time. "Evil Woman" was released late in 1975, but received a lot of radio play into 1976 after it became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The line, "There's a hole in my head where the rain comes in" was a little nod to the Beatles' "Fixing A Hole."

"A Fifth of Beethoven" by Walter Murphy

Remember when Walter Murphy took Beethoven's signature Fifth Symphony and turned it into a one-hit disco wonder? This and Barry Manilow's "Could It Be Magic?" were my first introductions to "classical" music. I can't say I'm a fan today of the classical genre but I do have an appreciation for Mozart and...PBS' Andre Rieu. (OK, I'm a fan of Andre Rieu.)

"Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tennille

So yes, I know this song was released in 1975, but my first vivid memory of it was watching Toni Tennille perform it as a duet on her variety show, The Captain & Tennille, in 1976 with...wait for it...Big Bird. This song also has the distinction of being the first (and so far, only) one I've ever performed on karaoke. Sadly, love didn't keep Daryl Dragon (the "Captain") and Toni Tennille together -- in 2014 they announced their divorce after nearly 40 years of marriage.

"Right Back Where We Started From" by Maxine Nightingale

Another feel good fave of mine; it was used in the 1977 film Slap Shot but also showed up during a comical moment on last night's Blacklist.

"Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright

This was another one released in late 1975 (ignore the fact that the video above says 1972), so to me it still counts since it charted the following year. When it came on the radio one day I remember one of my sisters remarking that the opening synthesizer sounded like noises a spaceship would make. To be honest, I've never been a big fan of this song (sorry, Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar) because even at my young age it felt so sad to me. Who wants to live a life where the only time peace and good things come to you is in your dreams? Nonetheless, Wright's hit is a standout of the year for me.

"Life In the Fast Lane" by The Eagles

And in light of the sad, untimely passing of Glenn Frey last week, it seems fitting to end my list of most memorable songs of 1976 with The Eagles' hit from that year, inspired greatly by Frey's friendship with a drug dealer at the time. Thankfully I was blissfully unaware about drug addiction at age four, and simply thought it was a song about driving too fast.

Ah, the '70s. Such a great time for music and to be a kid. What were some of the first songs you remember?
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