Friday, July 30, 2010

Two Forgotten Friday Favorites: REM

As if I didn't need another reason to feel old older, I heard on the radio the other day that Michael Stipe has turned 50 years old. That just doesn't sound right - seems like only yesterday my high school and college friends were buying REM CDs. While I'm not a huge fan of the group, the milestone birthday seems like a good enough reason to pick them for today's Two Forgotten Favorites. One of them you actually may not have heard before - it's a remake of a 1971 Tommy James hit (after he left the Shondells) called Dragging the Line. REM's version appears on the soundtrack for Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

My other choice is 1989's Stand - one of my favorite REM songs. 

I'm off to the Cape later today and won't be online, so I hope you all have a great weekend. Stay tuned for August's Retro Hottie of the Month, which may be a day or two late being posted!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

J-E-L-L-Hell to the NO!

You know the old ad slogan "There’s always room for JELLO!"? Well, not in this tummy there isn’t. Truth be told, I can’t stomach the stuff. You wouldn’t think so, considering JELLO is a retro dessert, but I never really ate it as a kid and I don’t eat it, now. I feel a little bit bad putting the smackdown on artificially flavored and colored gelatin, especially after coming across a cool blog yesterday dedicated to all things JELLO called The Joys of JELLO. The blog’s author, Theresa Rohrer, created the blog “in order to educate the public about the awesomeness of Jell-O, to provide a place to commemorate magnificent Jell-O creations, and to furnish tasty recipes for home use, and party décor.” Ah, so when I saw that 1963 Avocado Strawberry Ring recipe, she wasn’t being sarcastic when she said the mold was “extremely tasty”? Hmmmm, OK. Theresa if you ever read this, please know that I really do think your blog is cool! It’s just that I personally don’t like JELLO, and here are the reasons why:

1. It Feels Icky in My Mouth
Admit it – JELLO is slimy. Call me weird, but I just don’t like something wiggly and slippery on my tongue, even though it melts in your mouth.

2. It’s Made From Gross Stuff
It wasn’t until I was a teen, I believe, when I learned the awful truth about gelatin, the main ingredient in JELLO. That truth is that it’s (quoting Wikipedia here) “a protein produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the boiled bones, connective tissues, organs and some intestines of animals such as domesticated cattle, pigs, and horses.”

Ewww, EWWW, EWWWWWWW!!! Good gravy, how can anyone eat THAT? I’ve also read that a meat manufacturer’s process of actually making gelatin is one of the nastiest sights and smells known to mankind. More fun facts from Wikipedia, under Pretreatment: “Maximum fat content of the material should not exceed 1% before the main extraction step. If the raw material is hides and skin, size reduction, washing, removing hair from the hides, and degreasing are the most important pretreatments used to make the hides and skins ready for the main extraction step. Raw material preparation for extraction is done by three different methods: acid, alkali, and enzymatic treatments.”

Just reading that makes me feel like John Hurt's character in Alien just before he met his untimely and horrifying death. Weren't his last words "I don't feel so good."?

3. Truly Terrifying Retro Recipes
I know we’ve all seen the proliferation of vintage JELLO recipes on the many retro blogs out there – there’s a reason why people poke fun out of them. Even though JELLO was invented before the beginning of the 20th century, for some reason it enjoyed an advertising and cookbook heyday during the 50s and 60s. You just gotta wonder who came up with some of this stuff – especially JELLO salads, where unappetizing vegetable bits such as radishes and cabbage are suspended in the wiggly goop, like a science experiment gone horribly wrong. 
Now it’s bad enough that people combined carrots with orange flavored JELLO, or broccoli with lime. But way back in the day JELLO actually made a “mixed vegetable” flavor that was meant for the purpose of making JELLO salads with veggies. I'm guessing there's a reason why this flavor is no longer available. 

Did I mention that I'm not a JELLO fan? My apologies to those who are, but I couldn't hold back any longer. Please note that I actually like JELLO instant pudding, and pudding pops.

Here's a couple of vintage JELLO commercials, including a ridiculous one for JELLO Salad Week. "MMMMMM....bright, crisp vegetables in cool, shimmering JELLO: *there's* a salad for you!" There's a salad for you, alright!

This Chipmunks one is cool, even with the phallic imagery....yes, I said phallic. Just look at what that rascal Alvin did to a hotdog!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Working Couple's Cookbook

I think I'm having a freakout by these psychedelic images that are from an early 70s book by Peggy Treadwell called The Working Couple's Cookbook. It must have been a slightly progressive publication for its time, considering it addressed the needs of households where both partners worked, whether "roomates, soulmates, playmates, or wedded mates." All images are via Flickr from Kyle Katz's Vintage Cookbook Cover and Illustrations album.

Craig Torlucci was the artist. I can't say I'm familiar with his work, but I love the abstract, stained glass look. Wish some of the recipes had been scanned as of them was chicken with spiced....crabapples? Ewww. Must be a 70s thing. I did see a copy of the book up for grabs on eBay, and Amazon carries some used ones. Note there's no children in any of the illustrations. That certainly makes cooking and taking care of a household easier for these two:

Coffee, tea, or me? His and hers mugs...too cute.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reporters Say The Darndest Things: Bob Dylan Interview

Musicians who hit it big during the British Invasion and beyond of the 1960s must have hated press conferences. Journalists during these gatherings - who were often much older than 30 and not familiar with the performer's music - asked the stupidest questions. With the Beatles they almost inevitably, at least during the early years, revolved around their hair. Failing to see the irony in the situation, a reporter actually asked Elvis what kind of questions he hated most to answer at a 1957 press conference.

At least the Beatles had each other and Elvis had the Colonel Tom Parker for support. Bob Dylan was on his own for his press conferences and boy, was the questioning clueless. I'm not a huge Dylan fan, but I've been catching snippets of the Martin Scorsese documentary No Direction Home on PBS, and found his interaction with the press to be most amusing. "Bob Dylan is a poet. He'll answer questions on everything from atomic science to uh...riddles and rhymes" the reporters were told at the start of the press conference in another clip I watched. Oh yeah? The very first question is about a t-shirt he's wearing on a cover of an album that he understandably doesn't remember. You can just see a WTF bubble above his head during these interactions. It seems the reporters just didn't know what to make of Dylan - they were expecting a folk messiah with some sort of mythical insight. What they got was a regular guy who happens to be very talented. One squeeky voiced guy actually starts pointing out to him that he seems to be very reluctant when talking about his songwriting. "Well what do you want me to do?" he asks. "Shout hallelujah and crash the cameras?"

I love his answer to the question about how many other singers are protest singers. "I think there's about 136. It's either 136 or 142." Cracked me up.

I actually think Dylan was kind of cute here. Most impressive hair.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Shake It Like A Polaroid Picture - the Instant Film Camera is Back!

Mama may have taken Paul Simon's Kodachrome away, but she's given us back the Polaroid instant film camera! Before digital photography, Polaroid cameras were the closest thing we had to instant photo gratification (um...I also know of someone who had a ball with his girlfriend at the time when these cameras came out.) So I was psyched today to see a little write up in the August issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine that Polaroid has brought back a retro revival of its famous camera, due to be available next month for $90. There's good news and bad news about the Polaroid 300. The good news is it's smaller and lighter than its original bulky model and has an automatic flash and a few lighting settings to accommodate different conditions. The bad news is because it's nearly as small as a standard digital camera, the photos themselves are teeny: only 2.1" X 3.4" prints, and the actual image size is only 1.8" X 2.4"! The design could use a vintage boost - how about a white one with the rainbow stripe that they used to make? Still, I'm tempted to preorder one on Polaroid's site; Fuji also offers its own version called the Instax 200 for $95. Hopefully the image quality and color has improved since the one I owned during the 80s.

Now if only we could get James Garner and Mariette Hartley to hawk the new camera...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sad Songs Say So Much

I've been thinking a lot lately about my favorite sad songs - not because I am a Debbie Downer, but just because I'm fascinated by the power of music to transform our emotions. Upbeat music can make me high on the rare days that I am sad, and the following songs can give me a heavy heart even during the giddiest of moments. These are my favorite sorrowful songs that I also think are beautiful in their own way. Not surprisingly, they all deal with failed relationships. Of course I realize I'm omitting a ton of favorites for some folks, but these lists are personal. I break out the Kleenex for...

S.O.S. by ABBA
Before you say anything against ABBA (if you're not a fan) just know that both Pete Townsend and John Lennon loved this 1975 hit, and Lennon actually said it was his favorite pop song. The descending chords are said to mimic breaking down in tears, and the video, which shows the groups faces being distorted in reflective surfaces, is a bit depressing to me.

Hanky worthy lyric: "When you're gone, how can I even try to go on? When you're gone, ooh I try, how can I carry on?"

Alone Again, Naturally - Gilbert O'Sullivan
Another upper - a song that contemplates suicide! Actually, forget the song for a moment - Gilbert's hair makes me want to cry.

I recently heard this 1972 hit close out an episode of Life on Mars (the British version of the series) and it seemed so sad and poignant, since Sam Tyler is stuck and alone in the 70s decade. Thank goodness O'Sullivan insisted that the song is not autobiographical.

Hanky worthy lyric: "At sixty-five years old, My mother, God rest her soul, Couldn't understand why the only man, She had ever loved had been taken. Leaving her to start, with a heart so badly broken...despite encouragement from me, no words were ever spoken."

I'm Not in Love - 10cc
Hmmmm...are we starting to see a trend with 70s songs here? Who knew the decade was this much of a bummer. I love this song, though...not sure why. The lush multi-tracking and overdubbing background makes me think of Phil Spector's wall of sound technique. The "Be quiet. Big boys don't cry, big boys don't cry..." whisper was contributed by the recording studio's receptionist, Kathy Warren.

Hanky worthy lyric: "So if I call you, don't make a fuss. Don't tell your friends about the two of us."

Didn't Want to Have To Do It - The Lovin' Spoonful
I don't recommend listening to this one if you've recently broken up with someone or worse, if someone has broken up with you. This John Sebastian composition is painful enough to listen to when sung in his gentle voice, but an alternate version with Cass Elliot seems to take it to an ethereal level. Really sad and beautiful.

Hanky worthy lyric: "Was a time that I thought our love could fly and never never fall...Why should I suppose we were never really meant to be close to each other at all?"

The End of the World - Skeeter Davis
I would imagine many teen girls found solace in this country twinged song from the early 60s, but I mostly remember it when a character in the movie Girl, Interrupted takes her own life. It's been covered by soooo many artists but I think Davis did it the most justice.

Hanky worthy lyric: "I wake up in the morning and wonder why everything's the same as it was. I can't understand, no I can't understand, how life goes on the way it does."

Remember (Walking in the Sand) - The Shangri-Las
This style (melodramatic doo-wop, complete with ominous opening piano notes and seagull sound effects) would never top the charts today, but The Shangri-Las' follow-up to Leader of the Pack was a 1964 hit. Aerosmith covered it in 1980 but they missed the mark IMHO - it's best when sung by a love-angst teenage girl.

Hanky worthy lyric: "And then this letter came for said that we were through, he found somebody new. Oh, let me think, let me think, what can I do?"

Somebody's Crying - Chris Isaak
Not quite as retro (it was released in 1995) as my other choices, but a coworker years ago told me to listen to it and I've never forgotten it. It was especially hard hitting when I realized I had been led on by a guy I had a one-sided crush on around the time.

Hanky worthy lyric: "Return the love you took from me, or let me know if it can't be me."

Red Red Wine - Neil Diamond
Yes, the UB40 reggae version from the 1980s was a hit, but the 1968 original, as sung by Diamond (who also wrote it) has a country western flavor. I like it better...the sadness factor was definitely diminished when it resurfaced as a dance track.

Hanky worthy lyric: "I'd have sworn that with time, thoughts of you would leave my head. I was wrong, and I find just one thing makes me forget."

Yesterday/You've Got to Hide Your Love Away by The Beatles
Yesterday is the creme de la creme of sad songs...not much else to say except classic! However, I'm giving You've Got to Hide Your Love Away equal billing because I believe it's a very underrated John Lennon composition that was written around the same time, but overshadowed by McCartney's Yesterday. YGTHYLA was featured in the movie Help! and meant to emulate Bob Dylan's style.

Hanky worthy lyrics: Why she had to go I don't know, she wouldn't say. I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday."/"If she's gone I can't go on, feelin' two-foot small."

I am now officially ready to listen to C'mon, Get Happy...want to share your favorite sad songs with me? Please do.

Two Forgotten Friday Favorites: Sam Cooke

Like Roy Orbison, I believe the late Sam Cooke deserves his own movie biography. He wrote and sang several hits that topped the charts in the late 50s/early 60s, made the transition from gospel to soul music, and founded his own record label. And not to sound superficial, but he was tres handsome, too. Aretha Franklin said on a PBS documentary about Cooke's life called Sam Cooke: Legend that he quite effortlessly took women’s breaths away with his handsome looks and charismatic charm.

He also died under mysterious circumstances in 1964 at the age of 33 - the official police record stated that he was shot to death by a motel manager who thought Cooke was trying to rob her. Cooke was staying at the motel with a woman named Elisa Boyer, whom he had met earlier in the evening. Cooke's sister maintained that her brother, who was married at the time of his death, "...was first class all the way. He would not check into a $3 a night motel; that wasn't his style." And the great Etta James recounted in her autobiography years later that she viewed Cooke's body at the funeral home and his injuries were far worse and sinister than a simple gunshot wound.

Whatever the cause of death, Cooke leaves behind a remarkable legacy of music: hits such as You Send Me, Cupid, Chain Gang, I Love You For Sentimental Reasons, Wonderful World, Bring it on Home to Me, We're Having a Party, Another Saturday Night and Twistin' the Night Away. He also wrote a civil rights anthem called A Change is Gonna Come which Seal re-recorded a couple of years ago.

Needless to say I had a hard time deciding which two songs to highlight, so I picked a contrast of styles: You Send Me (because it's so beautiful and I haven't heard it on the radio in years) and one that makes me want to dance: Shake. Now c'mon, Hollywood - make a movie about this man - stat!

Cooke doesn't actually appear in this video, but I love the vintage dance clips!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Favorite Comedic Movie Clip of All Time

If you've never seen Mel Brooks' The Producers, a word of advice - don't even mess with the 2005 remake. See the original 1968 version starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. The later version just does not compare. My favorite part was excluded from the 2005 film, perhaps because it touched upon the late 60s pop culture at the time.

I can't even come up with the right words to describe how much I love this scene. It's guaranteed to lift anyone's spirits. The first time I ever saw it, I thought I would split my gut right in two from laughing so hard. In this clip, producers Mostel and Wilder are auditioning to find an actor to play the lead in "Springtime for Hitler" without any luck. Dick Shawn is Lorenzo St. DuBois ("L.S.D., baby") and, thinking that he is auditioning for a groovy production called "Boomerang", gives an absolutely hysterical performance as a daisy loving hippie. Only Mel Brooks can write hilarious lyrics and a song that mimics the groovy sound of the time. And that dancing! Also the closing line that Mostel calls out in this clip is pure genius!

Dick Shawn also played Ethel Merman's party boy son (or nephew?) in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and he also went on to guest star on several TV sitcoms, including playing Jack Tripper's father on Three's Company.

And do you recognize the guy with the green paisley shirt? That's Christopher Hewett, who went to on to Mr. Belvedere fame.

Anyways, enough chattering...please behold the power of "Love Power"!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Three Ads Too Good Not to Share #3

I love advertising copy that doesn't beat around the bush! Did I just say that? Pun intended! And the best thing about this copy - it rhymes! I believe this came from a 70s music magazine....because nothing personifies the decade like a creepy crawly STD.

And speaking of itchy and scratchy, here's a woman who's not just suffering from the seven year itch, but the seven and a HALF year itch. Zoinks. Poor thing has also probably been dateless for just as long....or maybe it was a date that gave it to her, in which case she could benefit from the product in the first ad...

This third ad comes courtesy of a hilarious blog called Vintage Child Abuse. It's just so hard to believe in today's day and age that an ad could get away with being this racist and it appears the mother is abandoning her baby due to forgetfulness? Neither of which is relevant to the product it's pushing, Ivory soap.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Retro Product Fail #3: Paper Dresses

"Paper clothing, apparently, is here to stay" reads a Time magazine article from May 1967. Uh-huh. Well, it's now 43 years later and I've yet to see an article of clothing made from paper, but in the mid to late 60s this fad enjoyed some moderate popularity among swinging fashionistas. A fascination with space age inspired style plus the influx of disposable household items such as cups, plates and diapers set the stage to give paper "fabric" its 15 minutes of fame.

The first paper dress was introduced by Scott Paper Company in 1966 and offered through the mail at $1 a pop. The dress' shapeless chemise style was ugly and unflattering (although available in a red paisley or black and white op art pattern) and to the company's amazement, they received over 500,000 orders within an eight month span. Soon, other companies jumped on the paper chase bandwagon. Hallmark offered "hostess dresses" that were meant to match party napkins, tablecloths, and other accessories. You could mail order an Andy Warhol inspired Campbell's Soup paper dress. Dresses that featured the images of political figures running for office became popular. Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor, among many other notable department stores, opened up paper departments. Some companies began experimenting with paper hats, aprons, pillow cases, slippers, and even bikinis (which they claimed could last through a few swimming sessions.) Apparently even the Beatles showed up at an event wearing paper men's suits.

None of this clothing was actually made of paper as we think of it. The material was a combination of cellulose reinforced with a bit of synthetic thread such as nylon or rayon. It wouldn't rip or tear with normal wear, but it certainly wasn't as durable as regular fabric. In fact, most paper clothing was meant to last through a dozen wearings or so before you'd throw it away. With most dresses selling for just a few dollars, it certainly was an economical alternative.

In typical 60s fashion, one of the weirdest paper dresses was embedded with seeds and would actually grow flowers if you watered it!

So what made this low cost, quirky fad finally fall out of fashion? It wasn't that the dresses would rip easily or really all that impractical, but that they were highly flammable. Manufacturers caught onto the danger and started to add flame retardants to the paper, but by then it was already falling out of favor. They were also said to be itchy and uncomfortable to wear.

Today, of course, any paper clothing that's survived until now is considered a collector's item. Here's some of the images I found of paper dresses while scouring Google images. If you owned a piece of paper clothing, I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two Forgotten Friday Favorites: The Turtles

I love the Beatles, but I also love me some Monkees on occasion and some Turtles, too! Where did all of the animal related 60s band names (including The Animals) come from, anyway? Were they all derived from Beatles (which actually didn't refer to the name of the insect at all, but was a play on the word "beat")? Anyways, I'm digressing - today's Two Forgotten Friday Favorites is in honor of The Turtles, a great band our of California with several 60s hits including their most famous, Happy Together. But I'm not going to show that one.

First up is a song I consider to be one of the most romantic ever written - You Showed Me. It's my absolute favorite Turtles song and I don't know why I never seem to hear it on the radio anymore. I like to call it a "swoony" type of song not just because of the subject matter but because the whole melody has a swooning feel to it to me. Ahhhh...sweet.

My second choice is one that Christopher Walken would approve of - She'd Rather Be With Me. Why Christopher Walken? Well, the song features a cowbell - in fact, as this predates Blue Oyster Cult I'm wondering if it was the first pop hit to feature the "instrument" although personally I think it needs, in his words, "More cowbell!" Great tune.

The Turtles split up in the late 60s after problems with lawsuits, but the lead singer - Howard Kaylan - and backup/harmony singer Mark Volmam (the guy with the most impressive afro) still perform today under the name Flo and Eddie.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Go-Go Dancer, Your Life is Calling

It probably won't come as a shock to any of you by this point if I tell you that I've always wanted to be a go-go dancer. I don't mean a modern day go-go dancer who performs in sleazy stripclubs wearing next to nothing; I mean one of the dancers who regularly appeared on Shindig, Hullabaloo, Shivaree, or even the Ed Sullivan Show in its later years, shimmying next to my favorite bands. What a gig that had to be if you landed one on TV during the 60s - and what a fab total body workout!

I've tried studying video clips and emulating the moves during my workouts (in the privacy of my home, of course) but I know I'm not getting them all. What we all need is a go-go dance workout video!

There are some go-go dance DVDs available but again, they're kind of weird to watch as they're offshoots on the whole stripper workout trend, and they feature demonstrators wearing underwear. I think if someone could put together a fun, PG rated DVD that was inspired by the actual choreography of some of the music variety shows, it would be a hit! White boots would be optional. 

The name go-go came from the saying "go-go-go" which described a high-energy person. It was also influenced by the French expression à gogo, which means "in abundance, galore", which is in turn derived from the ancient French word "la gogue" meaning joy and happiness. Go-go dancing started to pop up in the early 60s. One of the most famous go-go dancers was a woman named Carol Doda. She got breast implants and began dancing topless in 1964 at the Condor club in San Francisco. Another notable was Lada Edmund Jr., who appeared as the caged dancer in the Hullabaloo A-Go-Go segment towards the closing of the show. West Hollywood's Whiskey A Go-Go club is believed to be the first place to have cages suspended from the ceiling, giving rise to the trend of cage dancing.

Needless to say, the topless factor is not for me; I just think it would be fun to do some 60s inspired dance moves, like in the video clips below. The ultimate form of free dance expression - without the sleaze!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sexist Children's Book

Well, not really. Or maybe. Depends on your perspective. These images are from a children's book published in 1970 called, "I'm Glad I'm a Boy! I'm Glad I'm a Girl!" by an American satirist/cartoonist named Whitney Darrow. Apparently the book was meant as satire, but that hasn't stopped people from leaving nasty reviews about it on

Technically, I stole these images from My Blagh, so I must give credit to that blogger for scanning and posting the entire book. Whatever you think of it, it's clear we've come a long way in our thoughts about gender roles. I'm glad I'm a girl! 

Aww, I think that closing image is so sweet. 

I also came across a collection of illustrations that Darrow did for a book called "Sex and the Single Child." Way funnier stuff and I plan on posting them soon!

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