Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Well, on behalf of John, Paul, George, Ringo and myself, I'd like to wish all of my readers out there a healthy and prosperous New Year! I can't tell you how grateful I am for each and every one of you and the growth that Go Retro has seen in 2010. This seemed to be the year I gained the most new followers and a steady group that loves to leave comments (keep 'em coming!) Go Retro was recognized with a few awards from fellow bloggers and now attracts an average of 350 absolute unique visitors daily according to Google Analytics. The most popular blog post I've ever written? That would be the one about Julia Child's sex life which is pretty amazing since the film Julie & Julia was released in 2009.

So, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your engagement and for continuing to give me the motivation to keep this blog going. Have a happy and safe New Year and here's to spreading more retro pop culture love in 2011! As George would sing, "Ring out the old, ring in the new."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ode to a Forgotten Muppet: Roosevelt Franklin

Muppets have come and gone during the history of Sesame Street, so I wonder how many folks remember Roosevelt Franklin? Roosevelt was supposed to be the show's first African American puppet (even though he was purple.) He appeared on the famed children's program for five years, from 1970 to 1975. Rarely seen without his trademark striped shirt, he taught children the days of the week, history lessons, and not to drink poison. He was so smart he had his own elementary school named after him. There was even an LP released that focused solely on Roosevelt: The Year of Roosevelt Franklin, which was later reissued as My Name is Roosevelt Franklin.

Matt Robinson, who played Gordon on Sesame Street, was the voice of the Roosevelt Franklin puppet. Thanks to him, Roosevelt scatted and rhymed his way through many fun skits. However, I get a kick out of Roosevelt Franklin's mother, whose name was billed as just that on the record: Roosevelt Franklin's mother. How many times have you seen such a groovy looking muppet putting her hands on her hips?

One perplexing thing about Roosevelt was his age. He clearly looked like a little boy, and attended school and lived at home. But he had a grown up voice and he also sometimes filled in as a substitute teacher at his own elementary school.

So why did the producers eventually can the puppet? Roosevelt was a victim of too much political correctness. Viewers wrote in complaining that the character was either stereotyping black culture, or that his dialogue was not black enough. Perhaps the fact that Roosevelt appeared to from a one-parent home (we don't know if he had a father) set some critics off. Considering that children don't see racial stereotypes unless they are taught to do so, it seems kind of silly to take aim at a puppet - especially one that Sesame Street used as a good role model for children.

That wasn't the only criticism, however - apparently the other muppets at Roosevelt's school were unruly and therefore, not setting a good example. I guess they have a point with this "Loud and Soft" clip I found on YouTube. 

Roosevelt was phased out of the show by the mid-70s. Long live Roosevelt Franklin!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Go Retro's Ultimate Wish List for Santa

A visit with Santa, circa 1975
This will probably be the last post I can get up before Christmas and in case you couldn't tell, the blogging has been sporadic this month - chalk it up to seasonal craziness. But before I get ready to nosh on the roast beast and Polish gingerbread cake, I wanted to have a little fun and fantasize for a moment about what my ultimate Christmas wish list for Santa would be today. A lot has changed since that girl in the photo with the Peanuts jumper sat on Santa's lap and asked for a Speak 'N Spell. Now of course, Christmas is all about giving and frankly I'd only feel comfortable with this fantasy gift scenario if there were no problems in the world, and everyone had enough money to live on and enough food to eat. So keeping that in mind, here's 10 fantasy gifts I'd love to receive. Santa Baby, slip some of these under the tree for me, will you? I've been an awfully good girl... 

1. A mid-century modern style ranch, built in the 50s or 60s with a garage or carport.
2. The newly (yet retro) redesigned Chevy Camaro, in Inferno Orange
3. A guitar lesson with John Sebastian
4. A retro style bicycle
5. A vintage Beatles lunchbox (image courtesy
6. All seasons of Mad Men available on DVD so far.
7. A Gibson Dove guitar
8. A pair of white leather gogo boots.
9. A (straight and available) boyfriend who reminds me of Kevin Spacey.
10. That all of my readers and friends enjoy an equally swinging Christmas!
I hope that all of you receive what you want this Christmas, but most of all love and happiness. Seasons Greetings, everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What to Give The Hubby for Christmas: Cancer!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bad Cover Art: Yuletide Edition, 2010

Last year I did two posts of horrible vintage Christmas album covers. Just when I thought I couldn't possibly find any more, I came across the following doozies...I know it's kind of an overdone theme on many retro blogs, but how can I resist?

A festive way to greet your holiday guests - Perry Como's decapitated head hanging on your door. 

I believe the little girl in front strongly disputes the album's title.

 "Oh my, Santa, that's a mighty big sack you have there!"

No wonder I always wake up with a headache! After a long day of cross country skiing, there's nothing better then taking a nap in the snow and dreaming that I'm a 50 foot woman about to be rammed in the head by cars.

Is Heino the German word for heinous?

Chewie already has a comb? In that case, I would recommend the Flo-Bee haircutting system.

 Now we know why no one ever attends John Waters' Christmas parties. 

Do we really need to be treated to the inside of Tiny Tim's ginormous nostril? By the way, this album contains the most bizarre version of Silent Night ever recorded...also check out Tiny's smash hit Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS This Year.

Santa, please leave a new hairstyle for Lynn Anderson under the tree this year.

Forget frightening the children; this demented looking Santa is scaring me! And how about putting on some trousers, old Saint Nick? boy. This guy sure loves a big sausage.

Here's hoping all of you never see any of these records under the tree.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

His & Hers Holiday Hell

Of all of the terrible fashion trends that have come and gone, I don't think too many people would disagree with me if I said that the matching couple clothing phenomenon was one of the worst. It seems to have its roots in the 60s and really hit its stride in the 70s before (thankfully) burning out, at least in Sears catalogs, by the time the 80s rolled around. When I look at these pages from the 1975 Sears Wish Book holiday catalog, so many questions come to mind. Who actually wore his and hers matching outfits? Was one half of the couple responsible for buying both outfits, or did they shop for them together? The fact that these are so prevalent in Christmas catalogs makes me wonder how one was supposed to go about giving these as a gift - talk about awkward.

But enough jabbering from me - time to take a little trip into 70s geekdom:

OK, the couple in blue look halfway normal, but there is something so wrong about seeing a man in bedtime attire that shows off his legs that does not resemble boxers or briefs. The thick rugby stripes and huge honking collar are just not helping. 

There's nothing with wearing your heart on your sleeve, but as an applique decorating your sleepwear? I don't know what man would be caught dead in that thing who wasn't named Elton John.

Why is the name of the brand "Hands Off"? It should be "Sexy Time." Think of how much fun it would be to unbutton your partner's bottom on that red union suit.

I wanna be a cowboy...and you can be my cowgirl. 

"The same ugly shirt, for the both of you!"

"Let's play the Hillbilly Brother and Sister in Love game."

Gives new meaning to the I"m with Stupid" shirts. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Two Forgotten Friday Favorites: The Ink Spots

Apparently a whole slew of gamers are familiar with the singing group The Ink Spots. A few of their hits have been featured in the soundtracks to video games which has led listeners to YouTube to check them out. Hey, I think it's great that younger generations are being introduced to their music through unusual means. The Ink Spots were a singing quarter with beginnings dating back to 1932. Their honey dripped vocals contributed to several hits during WW2 and beyond such as I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire, My Prayer, I'll Never Smile Again, A Lovely Way to Spend Each Evening, and If I Didn't Care. Deek Watson, Charles Fuqua, Orville "Hoppy" Jones and Jerry Daniels made up the original members. Bill Kenny replaced Daniels as the group's lead tenor in 1936, before their hits started to take off. 

And here's a couple of them - I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire and If I Didn't Care.

BTW, I think I'm retiring the Two Forgotten Friday Favorites - at least for a while. Friday is typically the day of the week where my blog's traffic declines, and it's getting to be a challenge to make this a regular post each week. Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Retro Product Fail #6: The Beatles Apple Boutique

On this day in 1967, the first Apple retail store opened. Not Apple as in iPads and iTunes, but Apple as in Beatles! Even though the Apple boutique was short-lived, it shows how ahead of their time the Fab Four were, by expanding their brand name beyond music labels long before today's rock and pop stars did the same. Opening in a now-demolished building in London at the corner of Baker and Paddington Streets, the store's mission statement, as described by Paul McCartney, was to provide "a beautiful place where beautiful people can buy beautiful things." The business venture, an offshoot of the Beatles' new record label, was supposed to be just the first of a chain of Apple stores.

George Harrison's wife at the time, Pattie Boyd, introduced the Beatles to a fashion/art design firm called The Fool to design the building's colorful psychedelic facade. Despite failure to secure the city's permission to decorate the building, The Fool hired art school students to paint the design onto the building in November 1967. On December 5, the launch party was attended by John Lennon and George Harrison and only apple juice was served to an assortment of swinging 60s characters and the media. The store didn't have a license to serve alcohol...what a drag (a well known drag) that had to have been! Virtually all of the clothing and accessories available in the store were The Fool's creations.

Pattie Boyd and other models showing fashions designed by The Fool for the Apple boutique
Unfortunately, the Beatles failed to follow a golden rule of business which is to never hire relatives and friends if you want a job done right. John's friend Peter Shotton and Pattie's sister Jenny (Jenny of "Jennifer Juniper" fame) managed the store. They weren't very good at spotting shoplifters - something that wasn't helped by a lack of retail security cameras during the 60s - so theft was a constant problem and with so many hippie customers coming into the shop, it was virtually impossible to tell as they walked out which articles of clothing were theirs to begin with. 

Jenny Boyd, working in the Apple boutique
The store was also encountering complaints from nearby retailers regarding the building's eye catching exterior - this combined with the initial lack of a building permit forced The Fool to cover it up with plain white paint, and the name "Apple" in simple cursive writing. 
Something in the way she moves: Beatle wives and girlfriends modeling Apple fashions
By the time the store was closed in July 1968 - only 7 months after it had first opened - it had lost over 200,000 pounds of revenue. The decision was made to close shop. The Beatles' wives and girlfriends had their first pick of leftover merchandise; the following day the public was invited to clean house - with the instructions to take one item only. Needless to say, this being the Beatles, it was impossible to enforce the rules: a massive crowd showed up, there was a public riot and the police were called in to keep the peace.

Afterwards, Paul McCartney stenciled the words "Hey Jude" in one of the windows to promote the band's first single to be released on the Apple label. As a final insult to injury the words were mistook as antisemitic ("jude" being the German word for jew) and the graffiti was removed.

Just Not "Our Thingy"
Speaking to the media, Paul McCartney had this to say about the closing of the Apple boutique, avoiding saying they made some bad business mistakes and opting to say "it just wasn't our thingy." Yeah, right.
"We decided to close down our Baker Street shop yesterday and instead of putting up a sign saying, 'Business will be resumed as soon as possible', and then auction off the goods, we decided to give them away. The shops were doing fine and making a nice profit on turnover. So far, the biggest loss is in giving the things away, but we did that deliberately. We're giving them away - rather than selling them to barrow boys - because we wanted to give rather than sell. Originally, the shops were intended to be something else, but they just became like all the boutiques in London. They just weren't our thingy. The staff will get three weeks' pay but if they wish they'll be absorbed into the rest of Apple. Everyone will be cared for."

The Fool got plenty of other design work through the Beatles - they painted a piano and guitar for John Lennon, and a fireplace for George Harrison.

The Apple boutique actually made an appearance in a 1968 film called "Hot Millions" that starred Bob Newhart and Maggie Smith. Check out the clip below for a rare look inside the shop:

Here's a look at media coverage of the launch party - looks like a swinging time was guaranteed for all:

Here's a media clip of the store's closing, complete with mayhem and police.

I've read that the Beatles opened up a second Apple outlet on King's Road that was a shop originally called Dandy Fashions - later changed to Apple Tailoring. The manager designed clothing for Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, The Who, and many other notable rock stars of the time. The store was returned to its owner after the original Apple boutique folded. 

Even though the concept didn't work out for the Beatles, it was an innovative idea at the time...and can you imagine how much any article of Apple clothing would be worth today on eBay???

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Christmas Comeback Kid: The Aluminum Christmas Tree

One of the hottest items on eBay right now is the shimmery aluminum Christmas tree, preferably if it includes the color wheel that allows the branches to change hues. In the past week I've seen vintage Evergleam models going for over $300 to the highest bidder - amazing for a holiday icon that people wanted to get rid of at yard sales for 25 cents in the 80s. Real tree purists may cringe at these shiny holiday creations and consider them symbols of bad taste but personally, I love aluminum and tinsel trees. When filled with colorful glass ornaments, nothing else screams retro Christmas to me.

Aluminum Christmas trees made their U.S. debut in the mid-50s, an inspiration of the space age influence on home decor at the time. They were first produced by a company called Modern Coatings. The Evergleam model was made by another company called the Aluminum Specialty Company, which manufactured over a million trees between 1959 and 1969. Evergleam was popular for its "pom pom" trees which featured feathery pom poms or bursts on the ends of the branches. While these "permanent" trees as they referred to at the time were deemed fireproof, they weren't meant to be strung with lights; that was quite dangerous as it could give someone a nasty electrical shock! Instead, manufacturers provided a color wheel that was placed underneath the tree to give it a psychedelic color changing effect.

Many online sources say that the airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965 was responsible for the trees' decline in popularity in the public eye. In the TV special, Charlie Brown chooses a wonky looking real tree over the many aluminum trees available that Lucy favors. The show's underlying complaint about Christmas being too commercial may have also put a damper on sales. By the late 60s, the Sears Wish Book catalog was now selling only fake trees that more resembled the real thing in look and feel. 

Today, however, the retro revolution has made the aluminum tree very popular again. By the way, if you find yourself the owner of a pink vintage variety, consider yourself very lucky. Pink aluminum trees are very rare - according to, only one out of every 10,000 trees made during their height in popularity were pink. 

Growing up, my house never had one, which is probably why I'm fascinated with aluminum trees. My father was a deer hunter who often returned from his trips with not a deer, but a real tree for Christmas; we also eventually went with a lifelike fake tree that still gets set up in my mother's living room each holiday season. I have a large white tree and a small fiber optic one that I both love, but in the meantime I just ordered this cute little pink tabletop tree from the Vermont Country Store for my desk in work. Technically, it's made of plastic but it'll have to do and at $13 it's pretty affordable:

Check out eBay, Oakdale Enterprises (their trees are made in the USA!), ATOM (The Aluminum Christmas Tree Museum) and the Aluminum Christmas Tree link above if you're interested in purchasing an authentic shiny wonder - but be prepared to part with some serious dough if you do! And if you grew up with one of these trees or currently own one, I'd love to hear all about it.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Go Retro's Retro Hottie of the Month: Sidney Poitier

Sir Sidney Poitier was not expected to live when he was born - he was a premie baby who arrived a couple of months early. Luckily for us, his parents took good care of him and he grew up to become the first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, for 1962's Lillies of the Field. At a young age, Poitier joined the U.S. Army, then worked as a dishwasher and gained entry into the American Negro Theater, which changed his life. Of course we all know that he starred in many notable films such as In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and To Sir, With Love - but did you also know that he directed a few films? One of the more notable titles was the smash comedy hit Stir Crazy starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor.

My favorite Sidney Poitier movie, however, is a light-hearted romantic comedy from 1968 called For Love of Ivy. He plays a manager of a mobile gambling establishment who is set up with a maid, Ivy, whose family doesn't want to lose her services. Ivy dreams of moving from Long Island to NYC to go to school and pursue a dream as an administrative assistant. The film costars a pre-Archie Bunker Carroll O'Connor and Beau Bridges (who looks quite cute as a sideburn-sporting hippie.) I highly recommend checking it out, for there's some great late 60s fashion and decorating going on in the film. 

But enough of that - I know you want to see PICTURES! Enjoy:

 Copyright The New York Times

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