Sunday, August 14, 2016

Have you ever listened to a song for a while or even years and because you've never seen the music video or a recorded performance of it, falsely assumed the singer was a particular gender or race because of how they sound? I've been surprised more than once to learn a singer's race or gender and I'm sure it's happened to lots of other listeners that just weren't privy yet to the performer's background. Wayne Newton's performance of "Danke Schoen" quickly comes to mind; a lot of people when hearing it for the first time thinks it was recorded by a woman. Here are five songs I heard countless times that fooled me until YouTube or Sirius set me straight...

Nick Gilder, "Hot Child In the City" (1978)

Who I Thought Sang It: Some woman with a Farrah Fawcett hairstyle
Who Really Sang It: A guy

For years I assumed that "Hot Child In the City" was a one-hit wonder for some little known female singer during the '70s, until I noticed the artist's name on Sirius just a few months ago. Nick Gilder...Nick as in Nicholas. Yep, fooled. He sure sings like a girl to me. And although the song is a catchy one, it would easily be included on a "Music for Pedophiles" compilation album, as it's about child prostitution that Gilder saw first-hand on the Hollywood streets. I hear that some of Gilder's follow-up recordings kind of mirror the same theme; needless to say I haven't bothered looking them up. Gilder started his career in a glam rock band called Sweeney Todd. Fun fact: after Gilder left the group to pursue a solo career, he was replaced by another Canadian-born singer, Bryan Adams.

The O'Kaysions, "Girl Watcher" (1968)

Who I Thought Sang It: A black man
Who Really Sang It: White boy

Not much to say here, really -- this is blue eyed soul at its best. Close your eyes and you'd never guess lead singer Donnie Weaver wasn't African American. The band is still performing today, with a different line-up.

The Pointer Sisters, "Automatic" (1984)

Who I Thought Sang It: A dude from the group's back-up band
Who Really Sang It: Ruth Pointer

Of course, I knew who The Pointer Sisters were when this song was released in 1984 but with apologies to Ruth Pointer who sings lead on it, for many years I thought it was a man from their back-up band doing the honors. Her voice is just so deep here that even when watching performances of it today, it's still a little hard for me to believe it's really her singing...but it is. Ruth told the song's producers that she would happily sing "the low part" and well, it worked.

Jane Child, "Don't Wanna Fall in Love" (1990)

Who I Thought Sang It: A black woman
Who Really Sang It: A white Canadian singer/songwriter with a crazy eccentric hairstyle and piercings

It wasn't long ago when this song popped into my head for some reason -- maybe because it's been a couple of decades now since I last heard it -- and when I saw the music video for the first time after all of these years, I was floored.

Was Jane Child an inspiration for Lady Gaga? I don't ever remember seeing her on TV when her one and only huge hit, "Don't Wanna Fall in Love", was released in 1990. I surely would have recalled that dreadlocked, punk version of a Crystal Gayle hairstyle and nose ring. Perhaps she didn't really achieve a higher level of fame because she refused to sing her hit on Top of the Pops, claiming the program was a "sellout."

Child has a website that says it was being 2007 (it looks like it was created in 1999.) A mysterious musical figure, for sure.

The Newbeats, "Bread and Butter" (1964)

Who I Thought Sang It: Initially a black woman; later a young black guy with an over-the-top falsetto
Who Really Sang It: A white blonde guy that kind of resembled Bill Clinton

I saved this one for last because a. it was my most recent discovery and b. it surprised me the most. The thing about this song is I consider it to be one of the most obnoxious musical works ever released; I mean, even the lyrics are silly and dumb. What self-respecting woman would only feed her loving man bread, butter, toast, and jam? She's a really lousy cook; the song informs us that she doesn't make mashed potatoes or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! It's hard to believe that this song was a monster hit both in the U.S. and the UK in August 1964 -- keep in mind the Beatles had already conquered both continents months earlier, so WTF? Add in the fact that this band goes into dork mode overload during their live performance by pointing fingers at their lead singer while singing the verses. And why are there two saxophone players on the stage when the song doesn't even feature a sax? It's almost painful to watch.

The Newbeats were comprised of two brothers, Dean and Mark Mathis, and its lead singer, Larry Henley. Henley eventually left the brothers to pursue a solo career (um...I know without a doubt that I could not stomach an entire album filled with this guy's voice, but different strokes for different folks, I guess) and later co-wrote the Bette Midler ballad, "Wind Beneath My Wings."

"Bread and Butter" was later used in an advertising jingle for Schmidt's Blue Ribbon Bread..."I like bread and butter, I like toast and jam, I like Schmidt's Blue Ribbon Bread, it's my favorite brand." Also, Devo covered the song for the soundtrack to the steamy Mickey Rourke flick "9 1/2 Weeks." Wikipedia is trying to tell us that the song wasn't used in the film but they're wrong -- I distinctly remember watching it on television of all places and it was used during a scene where Rourke's character is feeding various foods to Kim Bassinger while she's blindfolded.

A strange, kinky legacy for a strange (but not so kinky) song.

OK, Go Retro readers, am I the only one that has made similar errors upon first hearing songs? Please tell me I'm not alone.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Going through the scanned images of It's Great To Be Alive!, two things quickly become obvious: a. kids from the 1950s were terrible bicycle riders and b. kids also did a lot of stupid, dangerous things.

I could find out little information about the history of It's Great To Be Alive! other than the fact that it was distributed by local police, but clearly someone at the time thought it would be a great idea to shock children into being safe by painting morbid scenarios of what could happen if you didn't exercise caution and common sense. This little booklet didn't mince words: there's maiming, crippling, and death sprinkled throughout its sometimes disturbing and unintentionally funny illustrations. So let's have a look...

They're right, you know. It really sucks to be dead...on the other hand, you can probably have lunch with John Lennon on the other side, and that's pretty cool.

Poor Mary. But she's lucky to get off with just a cast. Here are some kids that were not so fortunate...

Another. That means this happened on a regular basis in the 1950s.

Always respect your elders.

Forget Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun...who knew that falling off a bike is a sure-fire way to lose an eye? I just want to know which one is Bill and which is Joe in the illustration? I HAVE to know!

Tommy? More like Don Draper's silhouette once he hit the ground at the end of the opening credits for Mad Men.

See? I told you guys some crazy kid was going to lose his life playing Pokemon Go.

It's funny to see a depiction of kids (I think those are supposed to be kids) waving fake guns around on the street. Today, that would be deadlier to them than running out in front of oncoming traffic.

OK...why would you be hiding in a pile of leaves...on the street???

Of course, it depends on what the treat is. This is made even creepier by the fact that one of the pervert's hands is much larger than the other.

Oh, well. It could be worse -- at least he didn't drink the stuff.

This kid is stoned, right? That would explain the dazed look and why he's not screaming as his back is engulfed by flames.

The yuks stop here -- my sister's friend was actually pushed into an ice box by some of the neighborhood girls that were bullies back in the day. She had nightmares from the experience.

Stay safe, kids!

Monday, August 08, 2016

So here's the scoop, kids. On Friday I was informed that my position at work was being eliminated. Yep, this is the same job that I thought I had successfully manifested using the law of attraction and that I posted about on here earlier this year because I was so happy and excited about it. But the universe had other ideas. And to be honest, with each passing week it was becoming more apparent that the place was not the right vibrational match for me, after all. I was only there for just over five months.

This is the fifth time I've been laid off. While I was blindsided and of course, a little angry at first, it didn't take me long to realize as the weekend went on that this is a blessing in numerous ways. And here is the epiphany I've come to realize that only took getting hit over the head five times over 44 years...

I'm going to pursue some kind of writing career. I want to be a writer.

It is time to stop denying this dream to myself for fear of not succeeding or thinking I'll never have enough money doing it. I am not a brand strategist, or a web designer, or a SEO specialist, or a paid search specialist. I don't like researching and ordering branded swag items. I don't like organizing trade shows and then standing behind a booth all day. I am also not a "yes"woman and wasn't meant to wipe someone's butt for them. (I do, however, believe I have decent graphic design and social media skills.) I can keep going down the same path of trying to make my round peg fit into a square hole which just ultimately leads to the same results. Or I can finally listen to where my inner being is calling me.

I love to write, and I love the more journalistic style of writing and easy marketing copywriting.

I am going to see if I can attract a fun, easy, paid, work from home writing job as a start. I had one last year and earlier this year before starting the full time job, and the articles with my name attached to them are all over real estate websites across the country. It was a fun gig and a great start. I'm also going to look into taking an online course or two through MediaBistro, which offers classes for all kinds of writers.

Maybe I'll end up working for a local magazine, or taking some kind of part-time related job. No, it probably won't be anywhere near what I was making at previous jobs. This is starting all over, at the bottom. But I know I'll be a lot more fulfilled and happy. of my dreams has always been to launch my own magazine; a nostalgia-related one, of course. Wouldn't it be cool to see Go Retro in print?

I also want to take a pottery class and learn how to make ceramics!

This morning, I am happy. Really blessed and happy. I still have my long-standing freelance social media/writing/marketing gig with another company (whose president has told me multiple times what an awesome job I do and that he would never lay me off) so I have that income. I have my health. I have my mother's house and rent-free living.

It's time to follow where my heart has always been taking me.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

You knew this blog post was coming, didn't ya? I'm sure I'll catch some heat for saying this, but Pokemon Go is a stupid game. Go ahead: call me old, outdated, antiquated, ignorant, whatever. The fact remains that when you need a mobile video game to entice people to actually go outside and get some exercise, something is kind of off with the world.

In case you're wondering what Pokemon Go is, it's a "location-based augmented reality game" (thanks, Wikipedia) designed by Niantic for mobile devices. As of July 11, the game had been downloaded 7.5 million times. A user's phone coordinates its GPS system with the game to place Pokemon characters in indoor and outdoor settings for players to "catch." They look for Pokemon characters to collect by viewing the world through their mobile phone or tablet, and in the process end up falling off of cliffs, walking onto highways, crashing into police cruisers, or violating historical settings.

If you thought I was kidding about that last sentence, all of those incidents actually occurred within a week or two of the game's release last month. You can look them up.

Yes, Pokemon Go is one way to get the blood flowing, Unfortunately, it was also a can of worms waiting to open and seems to be making the news nearly every day -- not for something good, mind you, unless you count the dead body that a teenage girl found in a Wyoming lake.

Look, I was a video game addict when the Atari 2600 (yes, I'm showing my age here) was released. Suddenly I left the world of Barbies and Easy Bake ovens behind and entered the cubism world of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Q-Bert, among others. I also played with my friend's Intellivision at her house and we made trips to the local arcade. I still remember getting callouses on my left palm where the corner of the joystick box rested. My nieces and nephews grew up with Nintendo and Super Mario Bros.

But thankfully, time away from video games was still time interacting with the real world back then. My parents made sure I turned off the console and went outside. I can see where defenders of Pokemon Go would argue that the game's structure gets people to go outside and physically move their bodies. The problem is, they're not truly paying attention to the world through their tiny screens. They're walking around practically blind and not paying attention to the street, oncoming traffic, or anyone else. In mid July, two young men tumbled 50 feet down a San Diego area cliff while playing the game. Geez. I could see if one guy came close to the edge and his friend stopped him in time, but two people were so consumed with chasing after fictional characters that they both fell off? Just let that sink in for a minute.

In the Boston area, there's a new Meetup group devoted to getting together to play the game. So now socializing and human bonding can't happen for some of these folks unless they're tethered to their smartphones. There are 256 members so far, and many of them look like rejected extras from The Big Bang Theory.

Another problem with Pokemon Go is that it's enticing many users to play the game in areas where frankly, it's disrespectful and inappropriate. The Holocaust Museum, Auschwitz, and Arlington National Cemetery asked Niantic to remove their locations from the game's software. Said Andrew Hollinger, The Holocaust Museum's communications director, "Technology can be an important learning tool, but this game falls far outside our educational and memorial mission."

How sad is it that these kids didn't already know that it might not be a good idea to go Picachu hunting in the gas chambers? Nintendo and Niantic are also being sued by a New Jersey man that claims a number of Pokemon Go players have trespassed his property in an effort to "catch them all." (He gives new meaning to the phrase, "Get off my lawn!")

Even sadder, I feel that Pokemon Go is just the beginning of mobile apps and games that are designed to take humans farther and father away from reality and interacting with others. How far down the rabbit hole -- or a cliff -- will people allow themselves to be led?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

I got a fever...and the only prescription for it is Christopher Walken.

Confession...when I was a kid (or maybe I was a pre-teen) I remember watching The Deer Hunter on TV with my parents and thinking that Christopher Walken was really cute. But, I kept it my secret because a lot of people thought he was not only an odd actor but kind of odd looking. (I think the fact that someone under 16 was allowed to watch a movie as heavy as The Deer Hunter, unedited, is the only thing about the story that's odd here, but that kind of freedom is responsible for fostering my life long love of movies.) A few years after that, I watched The Dead Zone and again, found myself fascinated by him but didn't tell a soul.

Now that I'm in my 40s and no longer being judged by my peers, it's time to let my Christopher Walken freak flag fly a little. I think the man is really sexy and extremely talented. It kind of frightens me to think that the young guy I crushed on in the '80s is now 73 years old (where does the time go?) but he's still going strong -- his latest movie, Nine Lives (costarring another fave of mine, Kevin Spacey) opens in theaters this Friday. It doesn't look like the greatest movie and the plot sounds terrible, but it's clearly geared at children and I'm sure Walken -- who plays an eccentric pet shop owner -- will make it more watchable for adults.

So, in honor of his latest release I think it's time to celebrate the wonderfulness of Walken...with a list of ten reasons why he's so cool (and hot.) And no offense to my readers with the title of this blog're all pretty cool in your own way!

1. He Was A Pretty Smoking Babe Back in the Day

A lot of younger fans identify Walken with the "more cowbell" sketch from Saturday Night Live...but what many of them may not know is that earlier in his career, he was a hottie.

In my opinion, Walken -- particularly during the '70s and '80s -- is really unique looking. Beautiful, even. One of my friends, that is not a fan of him, thinks he looks like an extraterrestrial. I think it's just the right combination of genes from a German father and a Scottish mother that created someone so striking.

I thought I was the only person that felt this way, until I started looking up clips from these eras from movies I'd seen and those that I'd missed. Comments from several women...and the occasional man...confirm that I wasn't such a weird little kid after all.

Here he is playing a gigolo in a television movie called Roseland where he asks Geraldine Chaplin if she approves of his overall look. "And the rest of me - eyes, hair, profile? Legs long enough?"

Gulp. Yes.

Personally, I'm a fan of his look in The Deer Hunter in the pool playing scene below. The irony of the song the guys are singing is not lost on me.

2. He's an Unbelievable Dancer
I knew that Walken was a dancer way before he wowed everyone in Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" -- he took lessons while young and got early acting jobs in musical theater -- but the performance that blows me away is his tap-dancing striptease from the obscure 1981 movie Pennies From Heaven. The look on Bernadette Peters' face during this scene is pretty much what I looked like the first time I watched it. Be sure to watch the whole thing -- it really gets cooking around the halfway mark. Seriously, he could give Gene Kelly a run for his money here. And what's that old saying about men that can dance and the bedroom?

3. He's a Huge Cat Lover

Real men love cats, which makes Walken all that more appealing in my eyes.

"A (cat) tail is so expressive," Walken has said. "On a cat you can tell if they're annoyed. You can tell whether they're scared. They bush their tail. If I was an actor and I had to played scared in a movie all I'd have to do is bush my tail. I think if actors had tails it could change everything."

4. His Elvis Hairstyle May Be Terrible, But He Owns It
Walken's idol is Elvis Presley. The story behind his hair is that early in his career, he decided to adopt Elvis' swept back pompadour as his own hairstyle and hasn't really deviated from it in decades. Personally, I think Walken would have looked better in several movies had he agreed to let someone in Hollywood give him a more flattering and updated cut. one today can't say he doesn't own it. It's become his trademark. (I know the photo below is from the early '70s, but I think he looks SO much better with a little hair covering part of his forehead.)

5. He Once Worked As a Lion Tamer
Walken recently told Parade about his teen job as a lion tamer. When he was 16 he answered an ad to train as a lion tamer that summer for a one ring circus in upstate New York. The old lioness was "very sweet", rubbing up against Walken and performing tricks such as rolling over and sitting up on her back legs. Backstage, Walken would hang out with her and pet her.

Today, Walken is involved in animal charities and believes animals shouldn't be held in captivity. "I wish there wasn't any such thing as zoos," he says.

6. He Never Takes Himself Seriously
I love that later in his career Walken has taken roles in several silly but entertaining movies, and that he's hosted SNL seven times. In fact he has a long-standing invitation with the show to come by any time and host it. Plus for all of the unsettling roles he's taken, he really comes across in interviews as one of the most down to earth actors. Dare I say it, he may be one of Hollywood's most normal people.

7. He Had the Creepy Clown Look Down Pat As a Kid
Way scarier than any creepy role he took as an adult:

8. He Has A Very Sexy Voice
Yes, his deadpan diction is the stuff that impersonations are made of (and Kevin Spacey probably does the best impression of him) but damn, his voice is another aspect of him that I've always found sexy.

Just listen to him reciting the lyrics to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" on Jonathan Ross.

9. He Has One of Hollywood's Longest Lasting Marriages
Walken could have easily become a player and a jerk and dated his way through Hollywood, particularly after winning the Oscar for The Deer Hunter. But instead, he settled down while in his 20s by marrying casting director Georgianne Thon in 1969 and they've been together ever since. In fact, except for Natalie Wood's death (where Robert Wagner confronted Walken and asked if he wanted to f*** his wife) he hasn't been connected to any other scandals or stories of cheating.

For some reason, a lot of people think that Walken has a daughter. He and his wife have no children, something that Walken says has helped him have such a prolific career. They think of their cats as their kids (don't we all.)

10. He Appeared On PBS With Lidia Bastianich
I was watching Lidia Bastianich's Christmas special on PBS last year when Walken showed up for her holiday meal. I wondered what the connection was between the two. It turns out that Bastianich worked in Walken's father's Astoria bakery when she was just 14 years old and new to America. (One time Walken slammed on his car's brakes while delivering wedding cakes, which caused six of them to go flying into the front seat!)

By the way, he can cook, too...yes, this is obviously a parody but there's a video uploaded to YouTube where he's making the same chicken recipe, for real, in his kitchen.

The guy is just too cool.
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