Friday, February 29, 2008

Express Lane Back to the 80s

Holy Bananarama! That's all I could think of when I visited the local Express store the other day. Their spring collection is full of clothes that I hadn't worn or seen since I was in junior high - and I must admit I liked an awful lot of it, enough that I plan on making a return visit soon to add some pieces to my closet. Nothing like a good swath of spandex to take you back to your teenagehood. Express introduced this 80s trend during the fall and winter by bringing back leggings and long tops...but they've really kicked it into high gear this spring with long and lean tees in bright colors over tights and skinny black jeans, fastened with wide belts. Top off the look with enamel jewerly in poppy primary colors and you've got yourself an 80s revival. I think as long as no one brings back banana hair clips and rubber bracelets we'll be safe. I did buy these stirrup leggings in the bright royal blue color you see here and they were surprisingly comfty. You can see most of the collection on the Express website.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

What a Relief it Is! Alka-Seltzer Brings "Speedy" Out of Retirement

Picture courtesy

There's been a recent retro trend among well-known advertising brands. They're bringing back their product's retired icon or spokesman. Burger King brought back the Burger King a few years ago, even giving him his own MySpace page, and Orville Redenbacher was brought back from the dead first in a weird animatronic form, and then as the real deal in vintage television commercials (a wiser choice.) Now those suffering from heartburn and craving some nostalgia (and bicarbonate relief) can rejoice because Alka-Seltzer has brought back its cute little red-headed spokestablet, Speedy.

Speedy - as I learned from doing a bit of research - has a rather long and lucrative career as far as advertising icons go. He was created by two advertising professionals (and long-time friends), Bob Watkins (a commercial artist) and Chuck Tenant (an ad man at Wade Advertising in Chicago.) Speedy, whose original moniker was Sparky, was introduced in women's magazines in 1952. After television got popular, he came to life in 212 commercials and even had a Spanish-speaking twin named Prontito for Latin-American audiences.

Speedy hasn't really been utilized since the 80s - until now. He's resurfacing in print ads and Alka-Seltzer has even made him the star of an interactive "where's Waldo" type game on their website.
website. Check it out. It's tougher than it looks - I only got one out of three!

Here's a vintage ad of Speedy singing the plop, plop, fizz fizz song. When I was a kid I actually stole some of my parents' Alka-Seltzer and tried it. I thought it was going to taste like soda.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Best Oscar Moment Ever: The Streaker

On a day when Tinsletown rolls out the red carpet to honor "their best" (and I use that expression loosely, since not all of the best get honored) it only seems fitting to remember a man who thumbed his nose - in a matter of speaking - at this annual spectacle that is the Academy Awards. I'm talking about the guy who streaked the 1974 Oscars.

He was Robert Opal (sometimes spelled Opel), a 33 year-old freelance photographer and gay rights activist who finagled his way backstage at the 46th annual Academy Awards and hid behind a piece of scenery before jogging across the stage just as host David Niven was talking about "an important contributor to entertainment." Unfazed and never missing a beat, the incident prompted the very British Niven to quip, "I's think that the biggest laugh that man will ever get in his life is by showing off his shortcomings."

Streaking, or the act of running through a public area naked, was becoming a popular fad in 1973 and 1974, emerging in college campuses before making its way to more populated arenas. One of the reasons it fell out of of favor was not so much the nudity apect as the fact that it was occuring so much that it lost its shock value. Opal was no novice by the time he made his Oscars debut, having streaked at Los Angeles City Council meetings. Many people thought that his Oscar appearance was staged, and instead of being tackled by security Opal actually enjoyed a press conference while the ceremonies were still taking place, and later became a minor celebrity, making an appearance on the Mike Douglas Show.

But Opal's fifteen minutes of fame lasted precisely that long. He was murdered in 1979 in an art gallery by a pair of drug dealers he owned a lot of money to.

Still, many Academy members and actors recall the moment fondly, as in this video clip on YouTube.

For a more detailed account of Opal's life - the best I found on the Web, check out this posting on the WFMU blog.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Simply Quite Atrocious!

Last night when Charlie Gibson announced on ABC World News an upcoming report that claimed Mary Poppins was a liar, I nearly spit out my penne. What? Not our Mary. Not the spoonful-of-sugar loving nanny cemented forever in our cinematic memories by Julie Andrews in the Disney movie. What in the holy name of chim-chimery-cheroo are they talking about?

ABC reporter Robert Cruelvich (that isn't how you spell his last name, but given the circumstances) is the perpetrator that orchestrated this two-minute waste of reporting. Using footage from the classic movie and playing it backwards and in slow-motion, he claimed that the way Julie Andrews pronounces " know the rest" backwards isn't even close to the correct way it should be pronounced. They even spelled out the word backwards and forwards and demonstrated how it should've been dictated. And then he said Mary Poppins "lied to us."

You know what I think Cruelvich was really looking for by playing that audio backwards? Evidence that Julie Andrews was telling kids that "the walrus was Paul", or "I like to smoke a good bong on Sundays."

File this one under "too much time on his hands." And I've clearly got too much time to be posting about it! Nonetheless, you can check out this example of foolishness on the ABC News site, and look for the Watch Video clip on the right.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

NBC's Going Retro

NBC Digital Entertainment and NBC Universal Cable Entertainment announced that they plan to stream vintage NBC TV shows on their websites. Some of the old shows you can expect to see view soon include "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," "Kojak," "Miami Vice," the original "Battlestar Galactica," and "A-Team." They'll be offered on,, and beginning this month.

I'm surprised they're not including the original "Knight Rider", considering they just debuted a new version of the show, which didn't make sense to me. "Knight Rider" will always be David Hasselhoff and K.I.T.T. is always going to be a Firebird Trans-AM in my mind.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

You Have Such a Pretty Sleeveface

Photo courtesy and credit Ben Trow and Gemma Rochester.

For a while now I've been hearing about the inevitable demise of the record album. It just seems to be headed in that direction. Not just the fact that most of today's iPod nation would rather cherry pick downloadable tracks rather than listen to a set of songs in their intended sequence, but the fact that no one seemingly gives a rip anymore about great album cover art.

Well, until now. I'm happy to report that vinyl records are in hot demand again - and for their cover art, but for a different reason. Seems there's a new fad out there on the Internet that has many music lovers digging through their parents' basements and scouring garage sales for old vinyl albums, so that they can pose as part of the artist. shows you how to do it - using several examples that fans have uploaded.

Of course, there are limitations to this trick. Albums that don't feature a face or body part taking up a majority of the cover space won't work (that means Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is out.) Neither do CDs for the obvious reason that they're too small.

Here's a few of my favorites that I found on the Sleeveface site (all pictures courtesy of them with photo credit noted where applicable.)

Blondie (photo credit Vincent Ballbag):

Cibo Mato (this one's really fascinating as the two girls look remarkably like the band members on the cover. Photo credit Mary Dovorsky and Christina:)

The Soup Dragons (photo credit unknown:)

Check out the site for more where these came one. There's one of two guys posing as the Double Fantasy LP that is kind of scary.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

No Love Lost: The Ten Best Break Up Songs from the 20th Century

Valentine's Day is over, and I'm willing to bet the same can be said for a few relationships out there as well. Looking for a good break up song to get you through the dark moments? I bet you can generally recall off the top of your heads those weepy arias that reek of crying tears into a pillow, and thinking that the world is going to cave in. Or Neil Sedaka cheerfully singing "Breaking Up is Hard to Do." Forget about all that. I've chosen the following ten songs specifically for their screw-you, I'd-rather-poke-my-eyes-out-with-a-knitting-needle-then-lay-my-eyes-on-you-ever-again attitude. They span a variety of eras but they all share one thing in common: I'm pretty sure you wouldn't find any of their singers or composers self-wallowing in a pint of Ben and Jerry's.

1. These Boots Are Made for Walkin' (Nancy Sinatra, 1966)
Up until Frank's little girl sang this kicky feminist breakthrough anthem, female singers mostly pined for their lost love. Songwriter Lee Hazelwood was inspired after witnessing an older man get harassed by his friends for letting his girlfriend walk all over him. He overheard him saying "I know what you think - that she might be the boss. But I am the boss of my house, and these boots will walk all over her the day that I'm not." The song was released in 1966 and quickly reached number one song in the U.S. and the U.K. and has since been covered by everyone from The Fixx to (ugh) Jessica Simpson. Not to mention its music video of lovely leggies has probably been Googled - and oogled - by men everywhere.

2. Hit the Road, Jack (Ray Charles, 1961)
The lead singer may be Ray Charles, but the real stars in this song are his backup singers The Raylettes, who aim their fierce command at Charles to hit the road. Raylette Margie Hendrix positively growls when she tells Charles that he's "just no good." According to the movie "Ray", Hendrix was feeling inspiration after Charles, who was married, tried to break it off with her. Fortunately for us, the song was indeed good - good enough to become a classic.

3. Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac, 1977)
Fleetwood Mac songstress Stevie Nicks once said that she and former boyfriend Lindsay Buckingham were about as compatible as "a cobra and a mongoose", and their break up inspired Buckingham to write "Go Your Own Way" with the lyrics "Packing up, shacking up is all you want to do" aimed at Nicks. Nicks insisted she never shacked up with anyone when they were going out, and wanted Buckingham to take out the line. He refused.

4. I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor, 1979)
Thirteen years after Nancy Sinatra's hit, Gaynor continued the women's lib vibe with a disco twist. The song has become an unofficial anthem of survival and a karaoke staple through the years. It was written by producers Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris while Gaynor was recovering in the hospital from a back injury. She wore a brace while recording the hit but fortunately wasn't suffering from any emotional injury: Gaynor was happily married when the song was released. It won a 1979 Grammy for Best Disco Recording, the first and last time the Grammys offered the category.

5. The Rain (Oran "Juice" Jones, 1986)
This one-hit R&B wonder by the other O.J., Oran "Juice" Jones, starts out all soft and somber, as the singer (in a falsetto voice) describes seeing his girlfriend walking in the rain with another guy. But the most satisfying - and funniest - part of the song comes towards the end when Jones unleashes a poisonous diatribe against his girlfriend - canceling her credit cards, packing her bags, and giving her a lengthy verbal smackdown. "You don't mess with the Juice!"

6. How Do You Sleep (John Lennon, 1971)Not all break up songs are about the end of a romantic relationship, although Lennon often compared his partnership with former Beatles bandmate Paul McCartney to a marriage..."a marriage that ended in divorce." "How Do You Sleep" was recorded in 1971, a year after the band officially disbanded, and Lennon was still bitter. "The only thing you've done is yesterday, and since you're done you're just another day," he sings, referring to two McCartney compositions. Lennon clearly felt that McCartney's best song composing days were behind him. George Harrison played lead guitar on the song, and in the film "Imagine" Lennon can't resist letting out a "How do you sleep, you c*nt?" during the recording.

7. Tainted Love (Soft Cell, 1981)
Rihanna recently sampled from "Tainted Love" for her hit "S.O.S.", but it's foreboding beat will always be synonymous with telling someone you're packing your things to go. "Tainted Love" was actually recorded in 1964 by British soul singer Gloria Jones and was a moderate success in the U.K. It became Britain's Top Single of the Year in 1981 after the duo of Marc Almond and David Ball, known as Soft Cell, recorded it as a "throwaway track." In an interview Gloria Jones said that she considers the Soft Cell version to be the best one: "I loved the emotion in his voice. Their version was far better than mine." Best of all, it's one break up song you want to dance to.

8. Don't Come Around Here No More (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1985)
Tom Petty has written some excellent break up music - "You Got Lucky" and his duet with Stevie Nicks, "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" come to mind - but "Don't Come Around Here No More" which was cowritten by Dave Stewart, is a make-no-bones-about-it command at a lover (one who can't take a hint) to leave - for good. "I've given up - stop - on waiting any longer. Honey please, admit it's over." The song also inspired one of the best - and delightfully twisted - music videos ever made; a take on the children's story "Alice in Wonderland" with Petty masquerating as the Mad Hatter. By the end of the song, Alice has been turned into a cake which Petty and his bandmates promptly slice up and devour (Eat Me - get it?). The video was criticized by feminist groups who thought that it perpetrated violence towards women. It's a music video. Get over it. Let them eat cake!

9/10. Don't Think Twice, It's Alright/Most Likely You'll Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine (Bob Dylan, 1963 and 1966)
Nobody writes a break up song like Dylan. He has an admirable ability to throw barbs in such a subtle yet biting way it takes a moment to realize the subject of the song has just been insulted. I just love the message in "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" - you wasted my precious time, youre the reason I'm out of here, but hey, no need to feel guilty about it. In "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine", Dylan presents a "well, we'll see about that" attitude when he sings "time will tell just who has fell and who's been left behind, when you go your way and I'll go mine."

Dylan has insisted that "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" wasn't a love song. "A lot of people make it sort of a love song - slow and easygoing. But it isn't a love song. It's a statement that maybe you can say something to make yourself feel better. It's as if you were talking to yourself."

Which, I might suspect, any of these songs can do for someone with a broken heart.

Sources:, Wikipedia.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Classic Sweet Treat

Lately I've had a craving for conversation hearts, probably because it's been years since I've downed a box. Growing up and living in New England, I'm quite familiar with conversation hearts, and the company that makes them, NECCO, or New England Confectionary Company. Whether you're married, matched up, or single, Valentine's Day just isn't the same without these candies, which are cheap, conveniently packaged into their own little boxes for giving, fairly low in calories, and fat free.

I had thought the candy's origins were based in the 50s, making them a true retro candy, but in poking around online for their history, I discovered that these treats have been delighting consumers for over a hundred years. It's a long story, but in 1847 a man named Oliver Chase invented the Peppermint Lozenge cutting machine, which stamped out candy wafers (we know them today as NECCO wafers.) Mr. Chase and a business partner named Silas Evan formed the Chase Candy Company.

In 1860 Daniel Chase, Oliver's brother, invented a machine that could print text on the peppermint lozenges. These inspired the first “conversation” candies that were not in the shape of hearts but rather shells and text that was inscribed on a foil wrapper and not the candy itself.

In 1900, one year before the Chase Candy Co. merged with three other candy companies to become the New England Confectionary Company, the first Motto Candy was invented and called Sweet Hearts even though it was in the shapes of baseballs, horseshoes, and watches - not hearts. Their sizes allowed for longer imprinted sayings. Eventually the sayings got shorter and were reduced to one to two lines which fit perfectly on a heart shaped candy, and conversation hearts were officially introduced to the public in 1902.

They're only produced for a six week period, between January 1 and Valentine's Day, and about 8 billion hearts are stamped out each year. The recipe - which consists of mostly sugar, corn syrup, flavorings, and cornstarch - has remained virtually unchanged to this day. The mixed dough has a Play-doh like consistency which is then rolled out, imprinted, and stamped.

NECCO has done a great job with keeping up with the times, coming out with a new set of sayings each year that reflect current culture. This year it's weather and eco sayings, which include "Nature Lover", "In a Fog", "Chill Out", and "Heat Wave."

There's at least one company out there that I found on the Web that makes its own custom naughty conversation hearts...let's just say they're stamped with sayings that rhyme with words such as "truck" and "rock"...but I personally hope NECCO never goes down that road. I for one believe that conversation hearts should remain just as they've always been: kid-friendly, innocent, and...sweet.

Monday, February 11, 2008

C’mon, Get Happy! David Cassidy to Appear on Oprah Tomorrow

Tomorrow’s Oprah show (you can tell by now that I’m an Oprahloony) is going to feature former teenage heartthrob David Cassidy as well as the kids from The Cosby Show. David will be singing. Adult women will lose it. As the tagline for the Oprah site says, “Watch a room full of grown women lose their minds!” C’mon, get happy? Yeah...too late for that. Go positively ape sh*t is more like it!

So, is this the “were you in love with a star from the past” show that she put the call out on a couple of months ago? David never did it for me, but his brother Shaun was my first real celebrity crush…at the ripe old age of 5. I still remember receiving a toy Shaun Cassidy guitar for my 6th birthday, watching The Hardy Boys every day after school, and the television special he did one evening when he sang “They Do Run-Run.” Maybe David will give us an update on what his brother is up to these days. Check your local listings and tune in to see if Bill Cosby ever made nice with Lisa Bonet.

You can view a preview of the madness here.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!

Today is my absolute, all time favorite day in Beatles history. It's when Americans everywhere were introduced to the Fab Four via The Ed Sullivan Show, on February 9, 1964. Life would never be the same...especially for barbers.

I'm willing to bet, that if you were to visit the Ed Sullivan Theater in the middle of a still night, long after David Letterman's crew has left, that you'd still hear faint screeches of the teenage girls who were in the audience on that fateful evening. I wasn't there, but I'm sure if I were, I would've been screaming alright. At the audience. "Shut up, sluts! I want to hear the music!"

Other guests who appeared that evening were a magician named Fred Kaps, who did some card and salt shaker tricks, the cast of "Oliver," Frank Gorshin, Terry McDermott, Tessie O'Shea, and McCall & Brill. Who? You gotta feel sorry for these people. Their names were never well known and never will be. But file that away in your noggin in case you're ever on a trivia game show.

The official Beatles' site has a FAB-ulous section dedicated to every detail of the Beatles' First U.S. Visit. Click here to check it out. And long live the music of John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Classic Couples

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor photo copyright Hulton/Getty. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall photo copyright Ed Clark/TIME LIFE PICTURES/Getty. Hume Cronyn and Jessica tandy photo copyright Deborah Feingold/Corbis. The Windsors copyright Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum. All pictures courtesy of TIME.

Last month Time Magazine published a photo essay of famous couples from the 20th century on their site. With Valentine's Day right around the corner, I thought I'd highlight a few of my favorites here, but you can see them all on TIME's site. Man, I never realized before just how hot Richard Burton was in his heyday.

You know what amazes me about a lot of the images they chose is just how closely some of these couples resemble each other, namely Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn, those original partners-in-crime, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, and The Windsors Wallis and Edward. It's like that old belief that you gravitate towards partners that look like you, or you become more alike the older you get.

These are all good choices, but they missed a few underated partnerships in my opinion. I'll try to fill in those pop culture couple gaps by Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Phone Calling for Dummies, Circa 1950s

This is for all dial-challenged out there. Courtesy a site called comes a vintage guide to using the telephone. The tips in here are still pertinent today! "Be sure of the number." "Be ready to talk." "Speak directly into the phone, using a normal, natural tone of voice. Shouting distorts your voice and is not pleasant." Click on the link above for more, especially if you're a ringy dingy.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

This Valentine's Day, Send a Call From A Has-Been Retro "Star"

Valentine's Day is next week, peeps, and nothing says "I love you" to a significant other than having a has-been retro star call them and do it for you. Why fool around with flowers, dinner, and chocolates when for only $19.95 you loved one can receive a live phone call from Butch Patrick, Russell Johnson, or Christopher Atkins? Who, who, and who you might ask? Well you might know them respectively as Eddie Munster, The Professor from Gilligan's Island, and the curly blonde-haired dude that starred with Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon.

I'm not kidding. The site HollywoodisCalling makes these "celebrities" and more available to call anyone of your choice and deliver a 30-second message to them. The site's celebrity directory reads like a Who's Who for the next line-up of Dancing With the in who the heck is who again? The site lists a resume of appearances beneath each personality, lest you don't recognize them. Well, of course I know who Jon Provost is! Only Timmy from the Lassie series! Geesh!

There's a catch, though. According to the FAQ section of the site, celebrities can place their calls anytime within 7 days of receiving the order, and because of time differences, your loved one could be awakened in the middle of the night by Ron Palillo aka Arnold Horshack.

I'm so disappointed that former miniseries and TV movie leading man of the 70s and 80s, Peter Strauss, isn't listed in the directory. Now there's a guy whose career has tanked ever since Miracle-Gro failed to renew his contract as their official spokesman. I was so in the mood for some phone sex and Lou Ferrigno just doesn't cut it for me.

So Long, Sexie Sadie

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the bearded Indian guru to the Beatles who introduced the Western world to transcendental meditation, died Tuesday at his home in the Dutch town of Vlodrop, a spokesman said. As he never really aluded to the year he was born, he was thought to be 91 years old.

The Maharishi rose to fame in the late 60s when the Beatles quickly took a liking to his teachings, and joined him for a meditation excursion in 1968. But they quickly became disillusioned when they discovered that the guru had tried to seduce actress Mia Farrow during their India trip. The Maharishi was referred to as the moniker Sexy Sadie in the Beatles song by the same name, in which John Lennon sings "You made a fool of'll get yours yet!" Which is kinda hypocritical considering Lennon had started his affair with Yoko Ono and was still married to Cynthia Lennon during the trip.

Transcendental meditation has become more popular with other celebs in recent years, including director David Lynch and singer Donovan. The Maharishi will always be known as the one who brought the religion into the spotlight. Rest in peace, Mahesh!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

GoRetro's Retro Hottie of the Month: Tom Petty!

Everything about Sunday's Superbowl sucked (yes, you can tell I'm a Pats fan)...except for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' halftime show. They rocked the house...and Petty looked and sounded like he hasn't changed much in 30 years. While Petty has said "I'm not a poster boy" he is indeed sexy and seems like an easy going guy and that goes a long way. Not to mention whether with the Heartbreakers, the Traveling Wilburys, or solo, I have always loved his music. Petty and the Heartbreakers are kicking off a national tour this spring, and late last year they were the subject of a Peter Bogdanovich documentary film, "Running Down a Dream", which I hear was excellent.

He's also aging well. I envy the natural mine comes from a box. Technically I'm supposed to post an older photo of the Retro Hottie of the Month, but I thought this more one was so flattering I couldn't resist it. I snatched from a site called Mudcrutch (if it's copywrited please let me know and I'll give you credit.) He reminds me of Peter Fonda here. A real (insert dramatic pause) "Heartbreaker"...haw haw haw!

Yer so bad, Tom, and that makes yer so good.

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