Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Retro Scandals: When Eddie Fisher Dumped Debbie Reynolds

Eddie Fisher died last week at the age of 82. As a 1950s teen idol, Fisher was popular with the teeny bopper set and had a crazy amount of chart-topping hits including Any Time, Tell Me Why, Wish You Were Here, and Oh! My Pa-Pa. Yet he is probably going to be best remembered for the train wreck he caused when he dumped his wife Debbie Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor in the late 50s. In my opinion, the minute he kissed Taylor the first nail had been driven into the coffin of his once lucrative career, and it was the beginning of lifelong strained relationships with his children. When his death was announced last week, a clip of Carrie Fisher giving a speech was shown in which she said, "The best thing Elizabeth Taylor did for us was get Eddie Fisher out of our house." 

Perhaps if Mike Todd, Taylor's third husband, hadn't had died, the fairy tale ending might have turned out differently. Some say that Todd was the love of Taylor's life. When he died in a plane crash after only 13 months of marriage, Fisher - who with Debbie Reynolds often doubled dated with Taylor and Todd - was there to console Taylor. A big mistake. As a couple, Fisher and Reynolds made a cutesy pre-Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee pairing. Reynolds was the original "America's Sweetheart", and America - or at least, Hollywood - did not act kindly when Fisher dumped her for femme fatale Taylor (whom Fisher described as "Sexually she was every man's dream. She had the face of an angel and the morals of a truck driver.")

For Fisher, whose image had always been promoted as squeaky clean, it was a mistake that would haunt him for the rest of his life. RCA dropped him in 1960, and NBC canceled his TV series a year earlier due to the affair. After Taylor left him for Richard Burton in 1962 (after filming Cleopatra), Fisher succombed to drug use and gambling, finally entering The Betty Ford Clinic in 1990 to sober up. He went on to marry three more times, with Connie Stevens being another famous wife, and had a total of four children.

Such was a time when the public and Hollywood held its stars up to higher behavior standards compared to today, but what I find most remarkable about the affair is that Fisher's career tanked while Taylor's continued to rise. Does it not take two people to tango?

Whenever the break-up comes up in an interview, Reynolds has never been anything but classy when speaking about her ex-husband. In fact, she reconciled with Taylor and starred with her in a 2001 TV movie that her daughter Carrie Fisher wrote called These Old Broads, in which the actresses, along with Shirley MacLaine and Joan Collins, play the ex-wives of a man called "Freddie", an intentional nod to Fisher (who complained about the film on Entertainment Tonight, lamenting that the female stars "made fun of my body.") 

A Mad Magazine fake ad, with Reynolds and Taylor lookalikes mocking Fisher
A fitting final tribute, in my opinion.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Whatever Happened To Watching and Disciplining Your Kids?

The Sh*tty Parents Police was on full patrol at my local mall yesterday, and did I witness a doozy. I was in The Gap, just trying to find a long sleeved white t-shirt, when I saw this boy - no older than 3 or 4 - swinging and whipping around a large leather belt that he apparently had snatched off the wall. His mom, who was probably around 30 years old, remained oblivious as she draped articles of clothing over her second child's baby carriage. As the boy continued to coil the belt around his arm and flag nearby mannequins with it, the most she did to curb his behavior was say "stop it...Lou" in a lame ass voice. When she finally decided to pay for her stuff, the baby in the carriage started wailing at the top of its lungs. The older boy had dropped the belt, but was still meandering around the women's section of clothing on the other side of the store. Customers (including me) and Gap employees glared at the woman and if looks could kill, the whole bunch of them would have spontaneously combusted. I can grant a pass to the poor baby - who probably needed a diaper change and was wondering why his carriage was being draped with mama's new outfit - but it took all of my humanly strength not to blurt out "Watch your f***ing kid!" as I ran out of the store.

I've been wanting to write about the topic of modern society's bratty kids for a long time, but the thought of being pelted with comments from angry parents always stopped me - until now. This latest incident pushed me over the edge. Earlier this summer, I witnessed two others that made my blood boil. The first was when a little girl in Starbucks climbed on top of the glass food case that holds the takeaway food items such as sandwiches and pastries while her father, who was paying for his coffee, ignored her. The second was when I was treated to a boy's peep show at the beach, as his mother allowed him to run around and play in the sand sans clothing (at least the moment briefly inspired me to consider creating a t-shirt that reads, "I should not have to look at your 5 year-old's weenie.")

I just don't get what I like to call The Non-Parenting Epidemic. What makes it so dangerous is that it's being practiced by a society that has a twisted sense of entitlement. These parents are also the most spineless wimps - I firmly believe they'd rather see their kid fall on their head in a supermarket rather than hurt his feelings by telling him that the soda pop display is not a jungle gym. It's the reason why "The Supernanny", Jo Frost (God bless her!), has no shortage of clueless lunkhead parents applying to be on her show. More than once she has heard a mother or father confide in her that they "don't want to be the bad guy" when it comes to disciplining their kid(s).

Isn't parenting about setting limits? It's absolutely baffling to compare the non-parenting of today's kids versus when I was growing up. I NEVER would have been allowed to get away with the things I see kids doing in public. I'm sure that many people from my generation and older remember being reprimanded when we did something wrong. And let's not compare a spank or a slap to child abuse - it's NOT the same thing. I'm talking about being sent to our rooms, being grounded, or having something taken away from us. I have never met a person who experienced any well-deserved discipline as a child who grew up to find themselves curled up in the fetal position in a shrink's office, because mommy and/or daddy hit them. 

What do these idiotic non-parenting parents think will become of their kids when they start school and venture out into the real world? We've already heard reports of Gen Y's sense of entitlement in the workplace; I can just imagine what monsters today's 4 year-olds are going to turn into.

I honestly think that people just don't think about their future when they purposely have a child. How many times have you heard a woman whine, "I want a baby!"? You never hear someone whine, "I want a difficult teenager!" Well guess what, Dumbass? Babies can be cute, but they don't remain babies forever - they grow up! Having a baby is more than just that. Having a baby means eventually having a toddler...who eventually becomes a teen...who will hopefully become an adult with something positive to offer the world. If you're a parent, isn't the goal of having children to leave this world knowing you left behind someone who can make it a better place? Unfortunately the majority of parents just don't think that way - they only think of themselves. 

If I'm a paying customer in a store, restaurant, or other public place (I've seen kids misbehave in hospitals, where they used to be banned as might be time to reinstate that rule) I should not have to put up with someone's brat. I worked with someone who said her mother didn't even take her grocery shopping until she understood the rules of behavior in a store. 

I understand that parents are under a lot of pressure today, and even in two-parent homes very often both must work to sustain a household. As a result, they have little time for themselves, let alone their kids. I was extremely lucky in that my mother was able to stay at home and take care of me and my siblings. I realize that this is not the only contributing factor to the Non-Parenting Epidemic, but I do think it's a biggie. One of the overall themes that Jo Frost stresses on Supernanny is thrive on having a routine that includes meal time, chores, homework, and playtime with mom and/or dad. Not easy to do in today's overworked world. 

I could go on and on about this subject, so I'm afraid I have to stop for the sake of taking up space. Also, I do know of many awesome parents out there who are definitely going against the know who you are, so kudos to you! But for the rest of you, in the immortal words of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, "Teach your children well..." for cripe's sake!

Two Forgotten Friday Favorites: Electric Light Orchestra

You may or may not have heard the news a few weeks ago that a former member of ELO died in a freak accident. Mike Edwards (pictured above in the tux), a cellist who played with ELO from 1972 to 1975, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a bale of hay weighing over 1,300 pounds fell off a tractor in Devon, England and rolled onto his van, killing him. It's because of this freak accident I wanted to give a little love to ELO today. Their fusion of classical string instruments, horns, and woodwinds along with rock instruments was inspired by the Beatles' sound in the late 60s. The band was formed by Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne and the name is a pun on combining "electric" rock instruments with more traditional "light" ones. 
I'm out of the loop on modern music most of the time, so forgive my ignorance when I say I've never heard another band with ELO's sound. To me they remain - at least on the mainstream pop music charts - unduplicated to this day.

Now the hard part - how the hell do I choose only two ELO songs? I have so many favorites - Evil Woman, Sweet Talking Woman, Mr. Blue Sky, Strange Magic, Hold On Tight, Do Ya...the list goes on and on. The first video includes Edwards - the most epic version ever done of the classic Roll Over Beethoven as performed on Midnight Special in 1973, and the second is a more recent performance of Turn to Stone:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Go Retro's Commercial Jingle Hall of Fame

OK, maybe "Hall of Fame" is a stretch considering I'm going to just list ten. This is the second partner post I'm doing with Darrin over at Dad's Dish - we decided to compile our favorite advertising jingles from commercials past. I think you'll agree both our posts are soon to get these ditties circulating in your head all day long.

Advertising Age recently printed an article about the hiatus jingles seem to have taken from the ad industry. They say that for a few years now, regular recorded songs have replaced the jingle in commercials. However, the piece also points out that they may be set to make a comeback. I hope so, because jingles in my personal opinion are the most memorable part of an advertising campaign. Case in point - the ones that I'm about to list have stuck in my noggin the most for at least a good 30 years. If that doesn't speak to their staying power, then I don't know what does, other than mascots and logos. So here's my top ten list of the catchiest ones I can recall...and they're not all necessarily from the 70s and 80s, which is a testament to their longevity:

1. Alka-Seltzer: "Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is!"
Alka-Seltzer's famous jingle was born in 1951, the same year as Speedy, its mascot, who sang it in hundreds of commercials in the 50s and 60s.

2. Doublemint Gum: "Double your pleasure, double your fun, with double good, double good, double mint gum."
Heterosexual men everywhere, I'm sure, remember these ads for the cute twins...but I just remember the jingle.

3. Mounds/Almond Joy candy bars: "Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't."
Even though I rarely eat candy, I like both of these coconut-based bars, especially as trick or treat leftovers.  

4. Dr. Pepper: "He's a Pepper, She's a Pepper, wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?"
I think I've only tasted Dr. Pepper once in my life, but we all heard the song numerous times.

5. McDonald's: "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun..." and "You deserve a break today..."

6. Oscar Meyer: "My bologna has a first name, it's O-S-C-A-R, my bologna has a second name, it's M-E-Y-E-R..."
I still love this one - and I still love bologna!

7. Brylcreem: "Brylcreem, a little dab'll do you. Brylcreem, you'll look so debonair..."
Even though a lot of men had long stopped using Brylcreem by the time I was born (thanks to the Beatles and the free flowing hair movement), this little ditty has stuck with me from hearing it somewhere. Their commercials are comical and perplexing, however - hard to believe there was once a time where Charlie McCarthy-like hair was considered hot!

8. Raisin Bran: "Two scoops of plump, juicy raisins in Kellogg's Raisin Bran..."
What else can we say except fiber is your friend. 

9. Rice-A-Roni: "Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat..."

10. Klondike: "What would you do for a Klondike bar?"

As Darrin says, it takes special talent to write a memorable jingle. I know there are so many I had to leave out, so check out Dad's Dish to see Darrin's list, and feel free to let me know your personal favorites!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Two Forgotten Friday Favorites: The Glenn Miller Orchestra

Because I'm still high on Glenn Miller, today's Two Forgotten Friday Favorites is an easy one. Both of these clips come from a 1941 movie called Sun Valley Serenade, starring the Norwegian Olympic gold medalist figure skater Sonja Henie, along with John Payne, Lynn Bari, Milton Berle, and of course, Glenn Miller and his orchestra. I haven't seen the film yet - it's now available on amazon in VHS format - but from the clips on YouTube it looks like delightful, clean fun. Also one of my readers, stay-at-home-dad, recommended it to me and I trust his judgement :) Taking place at a winter/ski resort in Sun Valley, Idaho, it looks like a good one to save for Christmastime, and features several Glenn Miller songs. 

First, In the Mood - a song with one of the most recognizable openings in music history. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I learned that there are actually lyrics that accompany this tune - as sung by The Puppini Sisters on their album Betcha Bottom Dollar:

Who's the lovin' daddy with the sparkling eyes? 
What a pair o' lips, I'd like to try them for size. 
I'll just tell him, baby, won't you swing it with me
Hope he tells me maybe, what a wing it will be
So, I said politely, darlin', may I intrude
He said, don't keep me waitin'
When I'm in the mood

Totally makes me want to get up and dance:

Chattanooga Choo Choo was the first gold record ever awarded to anybody - for topping sales of over 1.2 million copies. How cool is a song that actually sounds like a real train huffing and puffing down the track? I'm a little disappointed to discover that it actually never referred to any particular train, although there is a theme hotel you can stay at called the Chattanooga Choo Choo that features a train as a hotel - with each car (room) decorated Victorian style.

I love this sequence from the movie because of Milton Berle, who cracks me up, Tex Beneke's pants hiked way up to practically his neck (ahhh, 1940s fashion), and because of the segueway into an adorable Dorothy Dandrige singing/dance performance with The Nicholas Brothers. Love it!

I hope you all have a good weekend. Darrin from Dads Dish and I are planning another mirror/cross post, so look for that soon!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Anatomy of an Advertising Fail: Burger King's "Where's Herb?" Campaign

I would have to say if you vaguely remember an advertising campaign, or remember it only because it was so bad, then it's safe to say the concept was a flop. Such was the case in the mid-80s when Burger King debuted its "Where's Herb?" promo. I stumbled upon this sad tale while searching for something else, and have to admit it didn't ring any bells with me, until I watched the commercials on YouTube. Legend has it the campaign is taught to future mad men and women as a lesson on advertising disaster. Burger King's profits plummeted 40% in 1986 for putting its trust in a lame fictional character. So let's take a look, shall we?

In 1985, Burger King was already in trouble. Wendy's had been enjoying much success with its "Where's the Beef?" campaign and McDonald's had launched its McDLT sandwich. BK turned to the J. Walter Thompson advertising firm to raise its public awareness. They came up with the idea of a fictional character that they dubbed Herb. Herb was what you would call a burger, or more specifically, Whopper virgin. He was a mysterious man who had never eaten one in his entire life (I'd say that also makes him pretty smart.) Burger King first started mentioning Herb in newspaper ads, banners, and flyers. They went through so much trouble as to actually give Herb an exciting life of his own; he was supposed to be from Wisconsin, worked in a cheese factory, and sold decoy ducks. Where things really take a turn for Cluelessville, however, was when Burger King started to tell people to be on the lookout for Herb in their local BK restaurant, because if he was spotted, you'd win a whopping $5,000!

There's so many things wrong here. First, since no one knew what Herb actually looked like, winning the money was virtually impossible at this point. I imagine male strangers probably asked each other in BK restaurants if they were Herb. Customers were instructed in ads to say "I'm not Herb" when ordering a Whopper - that would allow them to buy it for 99 cents. Customers who were named Herb were told to say, "I'm not the Herb you're looking for." Thunk! First of all, how many men have you met in your life who were actually named Herb? Secondly, why do the people at Burger King have to know your name?

But perhaps most pathetic about the whole contest was the paltry prize...$5,000? Even for 1985, that amount just seems stinking ass cheap to me! I suppose it could buy you a Pontiac Fiero.

After much build-up, Burger King decided to reveal "Herb" during the 1986 Superbowl. He turned out to be the atypical portrait of an 80s nerd: glasses, too-short black pants matched with white socks, and greased back hair. At least, now, a face had been put to the name, but it was too late. Consumers quickly lost interest in the campaign and Herb was officially retired a couple of months after his debut. Wendy's actually had some fun with the ill conceived idea by saying that Herb ate at their restaurants, and Saturday Night Live capitalized on the pop culture flop by having Randy Quaid portray Herb giving a press conference - which sounds remarkably more entertaining than the promotion itself.

The campaign also faced a legal issue when a 15 year-old boy spotted Herb at a Burger King in Alabama. Because he was just shy of the 16 year-old age requirement to be a winner, the $5,000 was awarded to his older friend who was with him in the restaurant at the time. The boy's parents complained to their Alabama representative, and Burger King's actions were declared as consumer fraud by the State Senate.

The actor who played Herb--Jon Menick--made out the best of all of the players in the tale. He went on to gain more acting work and appeared as a guest timekeeper (along with Clara Peller, Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" lady) at a World Wrestling Federation match. Burger King pulled its account out of J. Walter Thompson.

Herb also got a brief mention in a rap song in 1989. Canadian rapper Maestro Fresh Wes sang the lyrics, "I eat at Burger King 'cause I'm not Herb, and if your name happens to be Herb, just say 'I'm not the Herb you're looking for, word.'"

In this case, the word would have to be...craptacular.

Here's one of the lame-o Herb commercials:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Retro Product Fail #5: The Egg Cuber

I came across this thing-a-ma-bob on Flickr, photo set courtesy of Andrew Huff. According to a YouTube video, the egg cuber was made in 1977. There's no doubt it is one of the most pointless items ever invented - unless you're paranoid about them rolling off your plate, who the heck needs to square their hard boiled eggs? And would you serve these with squared bagels? It is good for some laughs, though - especially that poor chicken letting some expletives fly on the packaging!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Five Things That Were Way Better Way Back in the Day, #2

Before I launch into this post I have to clear two things up: first, there was a MAJOR, embarrassing typo in the title of my Glenn Miller post that I absolutely had to fix hours after it got posted. Second, if you saw multiple posts of it in your dashboard, I apologize for that annoyance. Blogger has some sort of bug lately that is blocking portions of copy from my post from time to time when I publish it. I had to copy and paste everything into the editor again to make sure it displayed correctly.

OK, glad I could get that off my onto the post!

Several months ago, I did a "Five Things That Were Way Better Way Back In the Day" piece but of course, five is not enough (eight, however, is enough for Dick Van Patten.) So, at the risk of sounding like my parents (or my - yeesh- grandparents), here are five more that I've been pondering about recently. Some things just do not improve with age, such as:

1. Music
I know that whole books could be written on this topic on any retro themed blog, so I'll just try to keep this as short and sweet as possible without bashing current famous singers. I like old music better. I love the melodies, the clean lyrics (and the fact that I can hear and understand the lyrics when they are sung), and the diversity of styles and sounds particularly during the 60s, where instrumentals shared space on the top of the music charts along with psychedelic rock and roll bands and traditional crooners. Today's music scene has a lot to do with marketing and manufacturing, and thanks to advances in technology, there's not a lot of actual instruments being least, in commercial pop music. Plus the inability of most stations to play anything recorded pre-1964 is making the idea of checking out a subscription to Sirius or XM radio all the more appealing to me. The independent scene has a little bit more to offer and is at least interesting. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers launched a musical rant about the current state of the industry in their 2002 album The Last DJ. Listen to the track "Joe" sometime and let me know if it doesn't remind you of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Wonder what Petty thinks about Lady GaGa...

2. Video Games
Never in a million innocent years did I ever think while playing Pac-Man or Donkey Kong that twisted sickos would one day be dreaming up virtual reality type garbage that involves committing grotesque violence and crimes to rack up points. I don't dare Google to see if there are sexual video games being made today, but I'm sure there are. As a kid it never occurred to me that games would eventually require ratings and parental advisory, like films. The problem is a lot of parents just don't care and buy this crap for their kids anyway, or allow them to buy it. I'll stick with Frogger and Qbert, thank you very much.

3. Movie Theaters
I have nothing against movie theaters per say - there's no doubt they've actually improved in some ways, such as giving patrons more spacious stadium seating and better audio. What I have a problem with is all of the advertising before the previews even start to play. It used to be you had a blank screen before the coming attractions, then world news reels in the days before television, then local businesses were allowed to advertise on the screen before the show. Today, however, we are bombarded with loud, obnoxious and usually unfunny commercials before the previews. Nothing, it seems, is considered advertising-free anymore. 

Also, like a lot of other establishments, most movie theaters are now operated by a big chain conglomerate. Up until the 60s and 70s, many of them were still independently owned, giving them their own unique charm. You can still find some gems throughout the U.S. but for the most part it's all National Amusements and AMCs. 

4. Dating
Oh, boy. While I cannot say I've had a ton of personal experience in this area for the past few years, I am hearing lots of horror stories from people out in the battlefield. It used to be so simple - my mother said that my aunts met their husbands at local dance halls (she said it was sooooo easy to meet quality men at these places.) Guys would ask for a girl's number, then actually follow through with a phone call and ask them out. If they didn't hit if off, it was no big deal - there are ways of letting a person down easily without hurting their feelings. Even if they weren't the ones for each other, they still knew how to have a decent time without making the other person feel like dirt.

The truth is dating today sucks - a lot. It seems that people have lost all common sense when it comes to conducting themselves in front of a stranger - saying odd things, asking inappropriate questions, and touching the other person in a way you should not be touching a complete stranger who hasn't given you any signs yet that it's OK to do so. I read about women who complain about the man never picking up the tab - unheard of in generations past. And why is it that people are so rude once they determine at some point during the date that they won't be seeing the other person again? Even if you're not hitting it off, it's not OK in my opinion to check out other potential hotties in the same room - you're just going to make your date feel insecure and really bad. Just end the date by saying you had a nice time (even if you didn't), wishing them a good night and leaving it at that. My local newspaper actually sets couples up on blind dates and reports on them. A few weeks ago, one idiot actually told the girl at the end of the evening point-blank that he wouldn't be seeing her again. WTF - really? I am wondering at what point in society people thought it was OK to say things like that on a date? Needless to say it made the girl feel really awkward and weird.

And just so that everyone knows I'm not slamming men in this post, I know a lot of guys don't have it easy in the dating scene, either - not every woman is a catch, and I've met some pretty strange ones at social events. I do think there are a ton of reasons why dating has become so damn difficult in this day and age, but it's best saved for a future post of its own.

5. Celebrities
I'm afraid that the Hollywood glamour of yesteryear, where stars dressed like stars even off the screen, are long gone. Today's Hollywood crowd is just young and stupid to me. These brats are not grateful for anything, and many of them don't even know how to act. There's no mature grown-ups anymore, it seems, just unattractive kids behaving badly. I see photos of these jerks dressed like homeless people and I just wonder whatever happened to the glamorous movie stars of past decades. 

Did I leave anything off the list? Something good for a third installment? What things do you think were way better way back in the day?

Monday, September 13, 2010

I'm Always In the Mood for Glenn Miller

Why isn't it cool to say Glenn Miller had sex appeal? I think he was cute in some photos - so sue me. I like a normal looking, homey (I said homey, not homely, man.) My blog is probably the only place I can safely admit this to thousands of strangers versus a few close friends, although a few of them do read this blog. Compared to the other big band dudes of the 30s and 40s, Glenn wasn't so bad. Ever see pictures of Harry James? Ewww. Benny Goodman? Kind of nerdy. Guy Lombardo? Meh. (The one exception was maybe Artie Shaw, but he was married eight times!) Glenn was a daddy; the other guys are just dudes. I'm willing to bet he had the most bobby soxers asking for autographs. Maybe he's not exactly a contender for Retro Hottie of the Month, but there's really something about him that I like. Seems like good boyfriend/husband material.

As a side note, I saw the Glenn Miller Orchestra play this past weekend - the second time I've seen them in concert. They rocked the house! No joke, considering swing bands were the rock stars of their time. The band has existed in one form or another since Miller disappeared during WWII (more on this in a future post at some point), and I was sorry to hear that the current musical director, Larry O'Brien, is stepping down after several years of service, because he's just too spry and funny during a show. They performed all of Miller's hits - In the Mood, Little Brown Jug, Chatanooga Choo-Choo, String of Pearls, Pennsylvania 6-500 (you're encouraged to "sing" along with the song's prolific lyrics), Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree and much more. One of my favorite moments was hearing Miller's arrangement of At Last - the song that Etta James later became famous for - I just looooove that song! I have one small criticism - Moonlight Serenade is never played in its entirety, just a snippet opens and closes the show. The orchestra was accompanied by two young singers, Brian Hemstock and Valerie Duke. They perform 300 shows a year all over the world, so as you can imagine the band members usually don't stick with the orchestra for too long.

Usually when I tell someone my age that I love Glenn Miller's music, they either respond with "who's Glenn Miller?" or "Glenn Miller - isn't he the guy that all of the old farts love?" Well, if that means I'm an old fart, count me in! I just love this guy!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Two Forgotten Friday Favorites: Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers

This sweet looking little boy's name was Frankie Lymon. Lymon was sort of the Justin Bieber of his time (I say sort of because I think he was obviously more talented.) Part of a group called The Teenagers, he had a signature voice and at the age of only 13, was inspired by a bunch of love letters to write the group's first hit, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" in 1956. The group then topped the R&B charts with several singles, including "I Want You To Be My Girl", "I'm Not A Juvenile Delinquent", and "Baby Baby." Their next big mainstream hit was a cover of "Goody Goody."

Sadly, Lymon's career and life was shortlived. He broke from the Teenagers in 1957 to pursue a solo career, but lost his soprano voice once he went through puberty. He started singing in a falsetto voice to compensate and during his last television appearance - on Hollywood a Go-Go in 1965 - the now 22 year-old lipsynched to his 13 year-old recorded self singing "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" He also caused a scandal in 1957 when he began dancing with a white girl during  Alan Freed's live ABC show, The Big Beat. He was married and divorced a few times. But most tragically of all, Lymon got hooked on heroin when he was 15 and would die from an overdose of the drug ten years later, at the age of 25. He had actually been clean for three years and had served in the military in the mid-60s but decided to celebrate securing a new recording contract by shooting up again. 

Interestingly, Lymon's life was made into a 1998 movie called (can you guess?) Why Do Fools Fall in Love? and costarred Halle Berry as one of Lymon's three wives fighting for his estate after his death. It was not a commercial success, but it did help reintroduce Lymon's music to the public. 

Here's two TV appearances of Frankie Lymon (the first with The Teenagers) singing his most famous hits - and check out his dancing skills in the second video clip!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Dad's favorite retro toys

Hello, my name is Darrin Vindiola from  This is the first of hopefully many posts that myself and the lovely Pam intend to author and cross post on each others blogs.  For our inaugural topic, we've chosen to blog about favorite retro toys from our youth.  So without any further ado.. on to the post!

It was the spring of 1986, and Nintendo Entertainment Systems were taking the country by storm.  After spending endless hours playing with various friends video game systems, I decided it was time for me to posses one of these technological wonders!  I mowed lawns and performed odd jobs all summer long, until I had earned enough money to finally buy one for myself.  I loved the fact that I no longer had to burn a quarter every time I wanted to play a video game.

After a few months passed, I came to the realization that I wasn't getting outside very much anymore.  In fact, there were lots of things I was doing a lot less of.  Riding my bike, playing ball, and fishing, were all taking a back seat to video games. Not long after that, a friend came over one weekend to spend the night, and he brought a new Nintendo basketball game for us to play.  When he showed it to me I laughed and said "Hey! Now we don't have to play real basketball anymore.  We can just play it on Nintendo from the couch!"  We both cracked up, but I remember how profound that statement sounded to me even at the age of sixteen.

I personally believe that the introduction of home video gaming systems into the American household, forever altered the way that most kids play, socialize, and use their imaginations.  When I sit back and take a look at the types of toys available to kids these days, I actually feel a bit sorry for them.  Let me share with you, a few different toys I enjoyed as a child that spurred creativity, imagination, problem solving, and yes.. even physical fitness.

Cowboys and Indians
Cowboys and Indians will always hold a special place in my heart.  At any given time, my brother and I literally had hundreds of these little plastic guys lying about.  We lived out our adventures through them, and our house was a world that provided endless possibilities for epic battles, odysseys and expeditions.  A pile of blankets or towels, a couch with pillows, or the vastness of the backyard, all provided excellent landscapes for all of the above listed scenarios. 

Basically everything about the way we played with these little guys, was fueled by imagination.  Predetermined story lines, battle strategy, or exactly who was good and bad, were not spoon fed to us from comics, television, or players guides.  And the Indians were not automatically made out to be the bad guys either!  I remember one of my brothers friends coming over to play with us one afternoon when I was about 5 years old.  From the get go, he wanted to use cowboys and army men to conquer the "evil"  Indians.  I distinctly remembering being upset about it, and telling him that the Indians were peaceful,  and it was the cowboys who needed hanging! 

And talk about a durable toy!  I don't know how many times various Cowboys or Indians would go through the washing machine and dryer, get run over by our bikes or the old man's Ford, and even attacked by our Beagle.  They might have been a little worse for wear, but were still totally usable, and their tribulations actually added character to them. How many toys these days could even stand up to a fraction of that abuse?  They were also very convenient and mobile.  Many items were considered to be kid contraband in school and church, and toys were one of them.  Cowboys and Indians were small enough to be easily smuggled, played with inconspicuously, and quickly hidden.  (Not that I'd ever recommend doing this kids)

I bought my son some cowboys and Indians once when he was very young, and sadly he showed little to no interest in them. During that time of his childhood, he was infatuated with anything Pokemon or Spider-Man related.  I can't remember seeing a child play with Cowboys and Indians for several decades now.  I'm sure they do, but I wouldn't go buying stock in the company that still makes them.  Every time I walk by a set of cowboys and Indians in the store, I want to snatch the package right off of the shelf and take them home with me.  It's funny how such a simple toy can garner such positive and happy feelings that have stuck with me for an entire lifetime.

Hacky Sack
Every boy I knew (and many a girl) in the 80's owned a Hacky Sack.  A Hacky Sack resembles a small beanbag or jugglers ball.  The term Hacky Sack is a generalized name for "Foot Bag" which is also a hobby and sport enjoyed all over the world.  In short, the point of playing Hacky Sack is to keep the foot bag off of the ground, and in the air, by means of using only your feet. 

There were several ways to play Hacky Sack, but the most fun for me was with a large group.  As kids, we would form what is known amongst players as a "Hack Circle", and would commence to keep the Hacky Sack from touching the ground.  Basically, you accomplish this by kicking the foot bag with any part of your foot or leg.  Hands are not allowed to touch the foot bag except when tossing the foot bag back into play after it hits the ground.  

Incentive to keep us from touching the foot bag with our hands was actually a form of punishment we instated.  If you got caught touching the foot bag with your hand in any way, you would have to turn around, facing away from the rest of the group. Then, the person directly across from you got to throw the foot bag as hard as they could at you!  Lots of kids who couldn't keep their hands off of the foot bag would play with their hands in their pockets, or behind their backs.  Then there were guys that prided themselves in never touching the Hacky Sack with their hands, even when they needed to serve to another player.  One fella I knew had a signature move of putting the foot bag between his feet, doing a hand stand, and tossing it up in the air back into the Hack circle!

Since Hacky Sacks are small, soft, and pliable, they can easily be taken anywhere.  You don't need much room to play, so the world is basically your playground.  If you didn't happen to have anyone else to play with, you could easily entertain yourself by trying to set personal records for how long you could keep the Hacky Sack in play, or by developing trick moves.  In fact, playing Hacky Sack solo was absolutely necessary for getting more skilled at playing.

Going along with one of my mantra's "older is better", Hacky Sack's like so many older toys were made to last!  This red and tan Hacky Sack you see here is from 1978, and is made from pig skin.  I occasionally apply a little mink oil to it, and there's no sign of it wearing out anytime soon.  My kiddos and I kick it around on occasion, until my knees and feet start begging me to stop.

Playing Hacky Sack was very much a social game steeped in camaraderie, which for a shy kid such as myself, benefited me immensely.  There were times when we had as little as two players, and sometimes as many as a dozen, all focused on keeping the foot bag from hitting the ground.  Anyone could join in on the fun, and often did just so.  Many times at recess, it was not at all odd to see a hack circle consisting of jocks, headbangers, nerds, break dancers, cheerleaders, band geeks, and even the occasional teacher who was still very much young at heart.  With big groups, our main goal was for each person in the circle to kick the foot bag at least one time before it hit the ground (much easier said than done).  When this was accomplished, the feat was celebrated with hoops and hollers. When the foot bag would go around the circle a second time with every one successfully passing it twice, we'd all go ballistic.. and the foot bag would inevitably get kicked astray or dropped during the excitement.

Hacky Sack has to be one of the worlds most perfect toys.  After all, any toy that can promote balance, coordination, physical activity, and good social skills, is truly a wonder in itself.

In the mid 70's, The Marx toy company designed this variation of their "Big Wheel" that they first introduced in 1969.  My old man bought me a Green Machine when I was about six years old.  It was my first taste of independence that a kid usually feels when they get their first bike, and later again when getting their first car.  Now that I had wheels, the open road was mine to explore!  Well.. at least to the end of our driveway.

The Green Machine was the bad boy version of the Big Wheel.  Its coolest feature had to be the swivel action rear wheels which allowed you to perform super side skids, and spin outs that could spray Mom's flower bed with gravel from ten feet away!  I remember actually treating this toy like it was my car.  I'd tell my schoolmates stuff like "I've gotta go home and clean up The Green Machine".  With a certain girl I used to play with in first grade, I'd use the line "Come over to my house and play..  I cleaned my Green Machine up just for you!"

What's funny, is that I soon found myself adopting somewhat of a bad boy attitude because of The Green Machine.  I was only allowed to travel as far as the end of our driveway, but on a couple of occasions I strayed down the sidewalk to the stop sign at the end of the street.  Once I even turned the corner, and went all the way to my school and back, which was a half a block away!  I also started developing a desire to chase the neighbors dogs and cats if they strayed too close to our property.  Of course, there was no sneaking up on anybody with a Green Machine.  The hard plastic wheels made a deafening racket as they rolled along the pavement.  Many times I couldn't even hear my mom calling me for dinner as I rode up and down the driveway.

I've heard rumors that there are some adult sized versions of the Green machine available for purchase.  If this is true, and they are affordable, you may just see some video on my blog of me tearing the pavement up just like I did when I was a six year old.

Well folks, trust me when I say that I could go on and on for days about more great toys from my youth.  However,  I'll give it a rest for now and release "Go retro" back into the hands of my ever engaging blogger buddy Pam.  I had a great time reminiscing about some of the more innocent times of my life, and I hope Pam had just as much fun.  Make sure to read Pam's great guest dish at my blog.. Dad's Dish.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Not Everybody Loves Debra Barone

***UPDATE: comments have been closed on this post due to too many clueless dolts Debra fans failing to see the humor in it.*** 

Is it unreasonable for a real person to have a problem with a fictional television character? I don’t think so when the character in question is Debra Barone, aka Patricia Heaton, of Everybody Loves Raymond fame. Sure, she can be cute and perky sometimes, but more often than not every time I catch a rerun of the show I want to yell, “You’re an ungrateful bitch!” at the TV screen.

You see, as someone who’s female and single I’m here to tell you (and Mrs. Barone) that Raymond Barone is a catch--relatively speaking. Don’t get me wrong; Raymond is definitely a doofus at times and a mama’s boy, but compared to what’s out there in singleton? At least Raymond can talk to people, has a good job, is a good dad to those three annoying kids, helps out with housework (sometimes) and is funny and kind. And he’s cute. And how does Debra reward him for fulfilling his husbandly duties? By consistently bitching and whining and withholding sex from him. The keys to any successful marriage!

Sexy time is always a failure for these two. Despite having homely twin boys and an obnoxious daughter, these two are rarely dancing in the sheets. It’s not like Ray never tried to be romantic. He once purchased a massager meant to help relax Debra. Instead it got in her hair. Little Miss Prissy had a hissy fit and said it killed her mood. Tsk. Imagine that! The rare time that they had sex three times in one week (a record, as Raymond told his friends and brother) it turns out it was only because Debra was getting inspired by her hunky aerobics instructor (Raymond’s freestyle moves during the routine remains one of my funniest moments in my personal television watching history.)

Of course, it cannot be easy living next door to Raymond’s parents, Frank and Marie Barone, but isn’t that what locks and house alarms are for? Who leaves their doors unlocked? Just turn off all of the lights and pretend that nobody is home! Or, how about actually cleaning that disaster zone that masquerades as your residence for once and for all and banishing all of the kids’ toys into storage boxes upstairs? How about actually leaning how to cook so that your husband doesn’t gag at every dinnertime? Both of which would at least help her be better friends with Marie. Besides, Debra should thank her lucky stars that the Barones are nothing like Robert's wife Amy's family--now that is a trainwreck!

Maybe Debra's problem is that she's been stuck in that messy house with the kids for too long. She actually tried going back to work once--it was a fail. Get this: she actually got a job at an advertising agency! Faster then you can say, “would somebody please get Peggy Olson in here” her boss showed her the door. She had come up with a remarkable pizza campaign that featured a cartoon character called “Professor Pete Za.” At Sterling Cooper, she wouldn't have lasted 45 minutes. Then, when Raymond actually went to the agency and lobbied with the owner to give Debra another chance, she actually got really pissed. Go figure--there’s just no pleasing the woman. 

She better watch herself, because it's rough out there for middle aged single moms looking for romance. Her forays into flirting at the local supermarket didn't exactly work out: male shoppers ignored her and the produce man nearly had her tossed from the store for stalking.

Maybe Ray and Debra are no longer together in the year 2010. I’m willing to bet that if they were still coming into our homes each week, they’d be divorced by now. The kids would be in college by now, and Raymond probably would have taken up with a younger, tall blonde, someone who bears a striking resemblance to me. Sorry, Debra.

Go Bananas, Alright: Fugly Knits from the 90s

With fall weather about to be upon us, I'm getting in the mood to knit again. I happened to grab a Fall 1995 issue of Vogue Knitting from my mother's archives and was surprised to be reminded of just how God-awful fashion from this decade was. If you thought the bulky sweaters, big shoulders and gawdy patterns of the 80s were long gone by the mid-90s, then someone forgot to give that particular memo to the yarn and pattern manufacturers that advertised in this issue. Ironically, the actual Vogue patterns in the book aren't all that bad - just the advertising. It isn't that often that I cover much from the 90s decade, so crank up your Salt-N-Pepa CD and brace yourself. 

I never thought it was possible to ruin mohair yarn until I saw this ad. The first two women are doing a pretty good job pretending they actually enjoy wearing ridiculously oversized fuzzy sweaters with animals and farm landscaping on them, but not that blonde model. Her smile is not quite as perky as the others. She looks like she's ready to kill the booking agent who put her literally into this fuzzy mess. I wouldn't recommend wearing any of these sweaters on a date, especially the Crazy Cat Lady pattern. They'll kill an erection faster than you can say "Elena Kagan."

More like trend enders. 

Matching couples sweaters are bad enough, but "Mommy and me 4ever" matching sweaters is a little creepy, as in "Mommy plans on keeping you with her forever and ever." 

 They forgot "absolutely nucking futs." 

More like Oh, Brother. Who the heck wants to go stepping out looking like a member of the British royal family, circa 1982?

Friday, September 03, 2010

A Special Announcement

I'm pleased to announce that Go Retro has just signed on its first official guest author! Darrin over at the Dads Dish Retro Blog reached out to me recently with the idea of cross posting on each other's sites and I thought it sounded like a fab idea. We tend to think alike in our retro musings and both feel this is a great way to attract more readers to each other's blogs and keep the content fresh. We're still brainstorming ideas, but the posts may be topics that we share the same (or opposite) point of views on, favorite memories from childhood, and maybe some retro he said/she said posts. So stay tuned because we're both working on one over the long holiday weekend.

And welcome, Darrin!

Two Forgotten Friday Favorites: Captain & Tennille

I cannot lie about it - I love Captain & Tennille! Even though they recorded one of the most awful pop songs ever (Muskrat Love - which remarkably reached #4 on the U.S. music charts), the pluses about this duo far outweigh the negatives. First of all, they were/are as cute as a button could get - I wonder how many women of the 70s longed for Toni Tennille's Dorothy Hamill bowl haircut? Second, they make a great retro couple costume for Halloween. Thirdly, they actually hosted (as many stars of the 70s did) their own variety show for a couple of seasons in the mid-70s. Fourthly, they've been married for 36 years (and they got married on Valentine's Day, 1974) - how many other famous couples from the 70s can say the same? Fifthly (is that a word?) they made great music! Sixthly, I remember they sang Love Will Keep Us Together with Big Bird on one of their TV shows. So enough rambling, here's the "Captain" Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille with two of my favorites, Love Will Keep Us Together (as much as I find Neil Sedaka annoying I have to thank him for this song) and Do That To Me One More Time - still one of the sexiest songs ever written.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Cool Wheels: Car Brochure #1 - Lincoln Mercury

I was really excited to recently find a bunch of old car brochures and pamphlets that my late father had saved. Apparently he was shopping for a new car for my mother in 1970 - they eventually settled on a Pontiac Firebird - but they collected a lot of dealership catalogs in the process. No matter how innovative today's automobiles may become, I'll always have a soft spot for old cars - virtually any make, any model. There's just nothing like them on the roads of the 21st century and the colors of both the exteriors and interiors were gorgeous - a 60s/70s spectrum of mustard yellow, burnt orange, lime green, and pastel blue sure makes today's standard silver pale in comparison.

These things definitely deserve to see the light of day. I've been enjoying the photos, graphics, and layouts in these old brochures. I'll be scanning them periodically in the coming weeks - first up is the Lincoln Mercury lineup for the year 1970. Clicking on each image will give you a larger view. Enjoy! And if you or your parents drove one of these beauties, I'd love to hear about it!

Retro Hottie of the Month: Ricky Gervais!

Yes, this is THAT Ricky Gervais - the slightly portly star of Great Britain's version of The Office! I'm sure my 80s fans out there probably already know this (although I didn't until maybe a year ago) but Ricky was actually a pop singer during another time: he was half of a British duo called Seona Dancing. He certainly looked the part - very cute and feminine looking with an affinity for eyeliner. 

And Lordy, can it really be September and time for another Retro Hottie of the Month already? I've been soooo busy this week which is why the blogging is slow, but I simply CANNOT neglect my Retro Hottie duties! Here's a hilarious clip of an interview Gervais gave a couple of years ago that highlights Seona Dancing back in the day. I don't think he should be so embarrassed - he wasn't a bad looking kid and not a bad singer. I actually think he's still cute today with that average guy persona that I go for.

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