Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Victoria's Secret is Dead, Long Live Victoria's Secret

I miss Victoria's Secret. I realize the company is still in business and flourishing but to me the store and catalog that I came of age with is long gone. Their image and who they market to is drastically different today from when I became a young woman. Let me explain...

I didn't step a foot inside the Victoria's Secret store at the local mall until I was in college. Any younger than that would have seemed a bit wrong to me, because back in the 80s and 90s, VS was definitely marketed towards adult women. All this teeny bopper "PINK" crap that you see in their stores, online, and in the catalogs didn't exist. Victoria's Secret was for grown up women only.

That isn't to say that teenage girls never ordered from them or weren't allowed in their stores, but I can honestly say that up until about ten years ago when they expanded their product lines towards a younger demographic, I never saw pre-teens in their stores.

Victoria's Secret stores circa 1990 used to be mature and classy, like a French woman's boudoir. Classical music was softly piped through the racks, the walls were cream and pastel colored, and the stores smelled like lavender and other hints of whatever fragrance they were selling at the time. The salesladies were professional-sometimes to the point of coming across as a little bit snooty-but always helpful.

And the clothes were classy and romantic as well (I had that multicolored flowered print robe at the top.) I always thought there was a distinct difference between VS and the more tarty Frederick's of Hollywood. Frederick's of Hollywood was for women who wanted one night stands, while Victoria's Secret was for women who wanted a committed relationship. Maybe that analogy is too broad but needless to say, I was always a VS woman. 

I used to love their regular clothing - which was only available through their catalog. I bought several dresses, skirts, and suits from them back in the day which were suitable for work - sexy and flattering, but remarkably never revealing. At the risk of sounding gay, their models were pretty, too. Jill Goodacre (Harry Connick Jr's wife), Stephanie Seymour, Elle MacPherson and other big names regularly modeled their clothes and while they were thin, I never thought of any of them as anorexic.

Anyways, the point is I don't recognize Victoria's Secret anymore. I only visit a store now to get my free underwear when I get a card from them in the mall (call me cheap, but the one good thing I can still say about VS is that their cotton panties seem to last forever.) 

Everything about the store and how they market themselves has been completely overhauled. The music and interior design is all techno, there are tacky plastic mannequins, and the salespeople I've encountered are mostly a bunch of bubbleheads. But the worst part is the fact that every time I go in there, I'm nearly overrun by a bunch of giggly, gum popping 12 year-olds. No doubt they were drawn in by the PINK line despite the fact that PINK is geared towards the collegiate crowd. I'm sorry but they don't belong there. They're still kids. The PINK line attracts them and from there they start exploring other areas of the store where adult women are shopping for thongs, bras, and other garments that don't belong on a 12 year-old. Yes, I know adolescents are going through puberty earlier these days, but still...something about the whole thing bothers me. It's bad enough that society pushes sexy toys and clothing to grade schoolers.

VS today: um, seriously???
Back to VS, with the exception of their undergarments, the quality of their clothing has really gone downhill the past few years and reflects teenage fashion - pants on the ground and rags that look like they'll fall apart after about three washes. The models at their annual televised fashion show and in their catalogs look like famished giraffes trying to keep their balance in stilettos. 

Everyone is marketing towards a younger demographic today because they know they have greater buying power and influence over their parents, but do you have to change the entire store image to attract one age group?

The company that I used to know and love is gone. Long live the memories.  

Monday, March 21, 2011

Advertising Ringles

John was the smart one, Paul was the cute one, George was the quiet one, and Ringo was...the advertising spokesman one. Well, at least it seemed that way when I conducted a little research a few weeks ago on YouTube to see how many products Ringo Starr has endorsed through the years. Not that there's anything wrong with that: Ringo is entertaining in each of these spots and all he has to do is...act naturally! Since he doesn't exactly sell out stadiums like his old bandmate Paul, he has to make the extra cash somehow. I could be wrong, but he seems to have endorsed more products than any other rock star/musician in history. Some of these I remember fondly and some were new to my eyes. So let's take a look back at each of these gems...

First up is the slightly cheesy yet amusing 80s spot for Oldsmobile, which also features Starr's daughter, Lee Starkey. Somehow I don't think a Beatle's daughter would actually be driving this "Fab four door" in real life, do you?  

Ringo also filmed a series of commercials for Sun Country wine coolers in the...well, of course the 80s, when wine coolers were big. There's some irony in this advertising match, as Ringo admitted to having a drinking problem around this time and checked himself into the Betty Ford Center for alcoholism in 1988. Something tells me he won't be promoting alcoholic beverages again anytime soon, which is too bad because these advertisements are kinda funny..."Classic noooooose!" 

Now this Pizza Hut one from the 90s is one of my all time favorites; I'd consider this advertising gold as far as clever commercials go. It's just too perfect because it contains not one but two surprises. The first time you watch it, naturally you think Ringo's big announcement is that he's talking about reuniting with the surviving Beatles, when really he's talking about inviting them to eat Pizza Hut's stuffed crust pizza crust first. But the real kicker is seeing the Monkees show up ("wrong lads")! Kudos to the agency that dreamed this one up.

Ringo also did a few Japanese commercials for an apple juice product; according to the description for these clips, ringo is the Japanese word for apple. How convenient - someone thought he was the perfect choice for a spokesperson/surprise guest in these amusing spots. 

Lastly is this credit card ad featuring Ringo's artwork - I remember this one from when I went to see his All-Starr Band perform in the mid-90s. Personally I think he should stick to drumming.

Did I forget anything? If there's anything else that Ringo has shilled, please let me know!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Playboy After Dark

All week long I've been watching and enjoying clips of Hugh Heffner's late 60s program, Playboy After Dark. Yes, quite a while before the Playboy cable channel launched, Hefner's notorious magazine spun off into television twice. The first time was in October 1959 with a program called Playboy's Penthouse. It was filmed in a Chicago studio and syndicated to select American stations. Believe it or not, it was smut-free and actually quite groundbreaking for its time. The set was made to look like a hip bachelor pad with a perpetual party going on in the background. Many African American entertainers such as Nat "King" Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Harry Belafonte were invited as guests, making it the first time blacks and whites appeared in such a setting on a national program. Beat poets and musicians were regulars; even folk hero Pete Seeger appeared on the program with a banjo to discuss the roots of popular music with Hef.

Playboy's Penthouse ran for two seasons, and it was during this time that Hefner opened up the first Playboy Club in Chicago and moved into the Playboy Mansion.

However, the more interesting program in my opinion is Playboy After Dark, which debuted in January 1969 and ran for 26 episodes. Now the swinging 60s were at their peak, the show was in color, and Hefner's original cocktail dress wearing guests were now replaced by a cast of regulars - some of which were Playboy Bunnies - who looked like extras from an Austin Powers movie. The opening titles may have oozed coolness and elegance but this was the time of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and Hefner responded by hosting several awesome musical acts on the program including Deep Purple, Iron Butterfly, Ike and Tina Turner, The Grateful Dead, Three Dog Night, Grand Funk Railroad, Canned Heat, James Brown and many more. I've also found a clip of Hefner interviewing Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate which says it's from the series; however, as Tate was murdered in 1968 that can't be correct unless the interview was previously taped and later aired in 1969. 

Apparently, at the beginning of each episode, Hef (with a girl or two on his arm and his iconic pipe in hand) would welcome the viewer to his swinging party. Guests would mix and mingle with Hef conducting one-on-one interviews in between musical acts.

A funky band called The Checkmates appeared four times on the show; in this clip they're joined onstage by a grooving Sammy Davis, Jr. Check it out!

Although the set makes it appear as if the show was actually filmed at the Playboy mansion, sources say it was taped on a set meant to mimic the famous house. 

This clip below is EPIC - a must see for any sixties fan! It's Iron Butterfly performing their psychedelic classic In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (albeit a much shorter version) as dancers including Barbie Benton, Hefner's old flame, totally get down. As my friend who showed me the link put it, the way it's done, you feel like you're stepping back in time! I'm digging the tall dude's red jacket and white go-go boots and I just want to join right in with the dancing. 

From there I found an awesome segment of Deep Purple performing their hit Hush on the show. I cracked up when the band member said that the house the group lived in was haunted; you can tell Hefner wasn't so sure that some sort of substance wasn't involved!

Finally, I give you Ike and Tina Turner's appearance on the show, which includes smoldering renditions of I Wanna Take You Higher, Proud Mary, and Come Together

With all of these musical acts, it's kind of a shame that the show only lasted two seasons. Although ratings were high, only 23 cities aired it, which wasn't enough to continue its lifespan. Many stations also shied away from it, concerned that the Playboy name would scare way older, conservative audiences. Still, watching some of these clips warms the nostalgic heart in a way that's anything but R-rated. 

You can find most episodes of Playboy After Dark on DVD.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

GoRetro is Now on Twitter

Well friends, I finally broke down a few days ago and signed GoRetro up on Twitter, so if you're a tweeter and want to follow the blog and any retro related news I find interesting enough to post, just click this link here and I'll be happy to reciprocate. I'd also like to give a little shout out to Darren of DadsDish for officially signing on as my first follower! Woot! Or should I say, TWEET!

P.S. Happy St. Patty's Day!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Forgotten Hit: Sukiyaki

A while ago one of my readers, Dave, who writes the blog 42N Observations, clued me in about a song by a Japanese artist that topped the U.S. charts in the early 60s. The recent tragic events in Japan reminded me to recheck out the link he sent me and post about the song, called "Sukiyaki" and sung by Kyu Sakamoto. The original title in Japanese was "Ue O Muite Aruko," which translates to "I look up when I walk." However, the British record company that produced it (Pye Records) renamed it "Sukiyaki" after a DJ had trouble pronouncing the original title. 

In light of the disaster in Japan, listening to the lovely song - which is about sadness and isolation in Japan following WW2 - seems poignant and haunting today. As Dave pointed out to me, it's pretty remarkable that "Sukiyaki" became a number one American hit on the Billboard charts in June 1963 - a time when WW2's generation hadn't quite warmed up yet towards our former enemy countries.

The song's success made Sakamoto a sensation, and he was invited to appear on many American TV shows, including The Ed Sullivan Show (which he had to turn down because he was filming a movie.) He did have a second, but much more minor American hit called "China Nights" in late 1963. Sadly, he died in a 1985 plane crash.

I hope you'll give the song a listen. And thanks to Dave, for passing it on to me!

Kyu Sakamoto - Sukiyaki by Knightrdr

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Go Retro Reaches 200 Followers!

Hey wait a minute...where are the MALE cheerleaders in this photo? How did I end up with a congratulatory picture that looks like it came from Retrospace's Miniskirt Mondays series?

Well anyways, some time in the past week or two Go Retro surpassed 200 followers which I think calls for some recognition. This number may or may not include the 28 folks currently subscribed to the feed. I just wanted to take a moment to extend a deeply felt thank you to all of you for paying attention to my humble blog, and to the peeps who comment on my posts on a regular basis. 

I also received a blog award from Sassy Lassies Vintage Life, that I plan on passing along soon (thank you Sassy Lassies for recognizing me!)

I know it seems like I've gone dark on this site but I've just been busy, and appreciate each and every one of you who shares my love for retro pop culture. More posts coming soon along with...I first giveaway.

Thank you all, again. Now let's party like we're 1970s teenage girls with our first tape recorder machine!

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