Friday, August 31, 2012

Blue Moon...You Saw Me Standing Alone

Image via
Do you recognize this song?

It's an early version of "Blue Moon" before it officially became "Blue Moon." The song was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for a movie called Hollywood Drama that never did include it. So it ended up in the 1934 film above, Manhattan Melodrama, which starred Clark Gable and Myrna Loy, as "The Bad In Every Man." At some point the lyrics got changed to the Blue Moon lines we know today, because Rogers and Hart's publicist said it would be a big commercial hit. And it was--the song has been covered from everyone from Mel Torme to Chris Isaak, but the cover that most folks are familiar with is the 1961 hit by the doo wop group The Marcels (which is also my personal favorite.) 

Tonight, we'll be experiencing a blue moon--so called because it's the second full moon to occur in the same month as the first one. We won't see another again until 2015. So get ready for a magical Labor Day weekend! Cosmo from Moonstruck would approve:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

One of Those 70s Things: Waterbeds

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Waterbeds. Was there ever another piece of furniture in the history of mankind that enjoyed a kinkier reputation? I've only known one person in my life who actually had a waterbed, and that was a girl that I was friends with in junior high. I can still remember feeling the rippling sensation and hearing the squish of the water as it lapped under my body (editor's note: I'm heterosexual and despite the sensual description, nothing unsuitable for a G rated audience took place on that bed; I was merely trying it out.)

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That was the one and only time I encountered one, and this was some time during the 80s, definitely the end of the waterbed's heyday. While they're thought of as a 70s fad, waterbeds actually have their roots in the 1800s, when they were used for medicinal purposes and to prevent bedsores. Dr. Neil Arnott, a Scottish physician, is most often credited with inventing an early form of the waterbed, but never patented it. In 1968, helped along by the invention of vinyl, Charles Prior Hall brought the waterbed into the modern age. He first experimented with a chair by filling it with cornstarch and even Jello (!) He had better luck with a bed, and dubbed it "the pleasure pit." He patented his creation in 1971, but manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon with their own designs.

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Soon, the waterbed took off along with its slutty reputation. Hugh Hefner owned a king sized one covered with Tasmanian possum fur. "Two things are better on a waterbed. One of them is sleep." said an advertising slogan from one company who made them. In 1971, Time reported on the bed's newfound popularity: "In Manhattan, the waterbed display at Bloomingdale's department store for a while was a popular singles meeting place. Sears, Roebuck and Holiday Inns are eying the beds, and Lake Tahoe's Kings Castle Hotel has already installed them in its luxury suites."

The waterbed's popularity peeked in 1987 when it accounted for 22% of all U.S. mattress sales that year. Eventually, their novelty wore out as the cons of owning one (danger of being punctured, high cost of heating the water, heavy to move, etc.) outweighed its pleasures. They still make them today, but I've yet to meet another person who claims to own one. 

Despite the fact that they were so rare in my circle of acquaintances, television commercials for waterbeds are plentiful on the web. It seems by the time the 80s came around (which coincidentally was when safe sex started to be touted) that they were promoted as cool beds for kids.

OK, so this one is from the 70s...what is up with the clip of the pooping baby lion at the end?

This one featuring an older couple is just plain terrible and kind of discriminating...they're so old they're driving an antique car? Someone must have tipped the wife off about waterbeds lighting up a senior sex life, as she seems awfully eager to bring one home. 

Did you ever own a waterbed, or try one out?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ballet Zoom

Image via fotolog
Ballet Zoom was a Spanish disco dance troupe that was formed in 1973. From there, the history gets a little sketchy because most online sources found on them are in Spanish and don't translate smoothly through Google. From what I could tell, they appeared regularly on a popular Spanish variety TV show called Ladies and Gentlemen, although they also released a single in 1977 and split up a year later. Several of its members then formed another group called Zoom.

Their vintage performances that I've found are everything that you would expect from a 70s dance troupe: colorful, cheesy, bizarre and downright entertaining, and of course the male dancers dress and act just as goofy as their female counterparts. The music from the first clip sounds like Doctor Who on a bad acid trip:

Terrible audio, but my personal favorite. C'mon, they're dancing with kittens. What's not to love? Somehow I think Julie Newmar would be proud. 

Make fun of this one if you want, but this here is a workout...a pre-cursor to bosu balance trainers:

I realize that Halloween is 10 weeks away, but who can resist a performance called "Soul Dracula"? Watch out, George Hamilton--you've got competition.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Why I Wouldn't Want to Be a Teenager Today

I think it's safe to say that there are few among us who, given the chance, would return to their teenage years. However, I'd much rather relive my coming of age years when they actually took place--the 80s--then today. Unless you go back to ancient or medievel times or the Great Depression, I don't think there's been a period of history when things have looked more bleak to be a teen than today. At the risk of sounding like a cranky old lady, here are some of the reasons why:

Awful Job Outlook
I'm really fortunate to have been working since I was 15 years old, except for one 18 month period after I was laid off during the dotcom crash. My first job was in a supermarket; while I attended a local college I worked at a hotel, and then I was able to make the transition into the 9-5 office world. Today's teens not only face a job crisis once they graduate from college, but summer jobs are very hard to find. Fewer than 3 out of 10 American teens have a summer job this year, and the ones that do aren't getting as many hours as they would like. On the positive side, the Portland Tribute reported that the lack of work has turned some teens into entrepreneurs. However, not everyone can be the next Steve Jobs. I should also point out how crazy expensive college tuition has become compared to my college years during the early 90s, when scholarships, loans and my hotel job helped push me through. Today's college grads are left with astronomical loan debt and a very competitive job market. If I had to do it all over again today, I'd skip the four year bachelor's degree for training for an industry that has foreseeable demand for the coming years.   

Rampant Bullying
I was teased and bullied many times through elementary and junior high school, but I think what I went through was small potatoes compared to what some of today's kids must endure. I can remember a mean girl from one of my classes crank calling my best friend and I separately and saying terrible things about us; today, because of social media, that same message would be instantly broadcast to 100 or so classmates. It's a sad situation that has led some kids to kill themselves. I guess one good thing to come out of it has been the rise of anti-bullying organizations, which weren't around when I was going to school. 

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Tethered to Technology
On that note, today's teens have never known a world without the Internet, smartphones, iPads, iPods, etc. When I was in elementary school, the closest we got to seeing a piece of portable technology in the classroom was when someone brought in an electronic game such as Simon or Merlin. I won't deny that the Internet is a marvelous invention--I may not be employed right now if it weren't for it, and certainly wouldn't be enjoying the virtues of my blog. However, kids are becoming addicted to technology and constantly having a device in their hands. It's breaking down social, communication, and writing skills among the younger generations. According to a New York Times article from 2009, texting interferes with everything from sleep time to learning in the classroom. But nothing irks me more than to see people walking down the street, not paying attention to their surroundings or anyone around them while they text. Time to shut it off, already? 

The Lack of Good Role Models
Maybe I'm just really out of the loop with this one, but I'm hard pressed to think of anyone who's a good role model for kids, teens and young adults these days. Certainly not Miley Cyrus. Maybe with his charity work? Maybe there's an athlete I don't know about? Today's fixation on being famous for the sake of being famous has catapulted people into the spotlight who don't deserve it and infested the networks with crappy reality shows. The Kardashians and Snooki should not be role models.

Sexed Up Society
I personally don't know if there's more pressure among teens to have sex today then during the 80s, but what I know is this: today's pop culture seems to be saturated with tons more sexual imagery then ever before. Yes, we had George Michael singing that he wanted our sex, and Cyndi Lauper singing about masturbation (She Bop) but at least they kept their clothes on where today, dressing slutty on stage in the norm. There was an emphasis on safe sex during the 80s because of the AIDS crisis; I can remember Madonna and other celebs in public service announcements urging people to be safe and use condoms. I don't remember the last time I heard about the same message being aimed at today's teens, even though it's been reported that oral and anal sex are among the rise in teens, despite the fact that it's not 100% safe. Teens are also dealing with "sexting" and sending racy photos of themselves via their phones. 

Well, I hope I didn't come across as too crotchety with this post, but I'm grateful just the same to have been a teen of the 80s, when it seemed the most of us had to worry about was having enough Aqua Net to keep our hairstyle up all day. Such simpler times, indeed.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Stranger Danger

As a child of the 70s and early 80s, I can remember many carefree summer days being spent riding my bike to my neighborhood friends' houses, walking blocks with them without parental supervision to get ice cream, getting dropped off at the movies and generally, for most of the time, being somewhere where adults couldn't reach us. We didn't have smartphones back then, and didn't need them. The world just wasn't the scary place as we know it today and our innocent minds didn't know about child molesters and kidnappers.  

Then in 1981, a little boy by the name of Adam Walsh was abducted while he was alone in the toy section of a Sears department store. The authorities later discovered his body and that he had been decapitated (I was 9 at the time, and horrified to learn that he had been found without his head.) A couple of years later, a TV movie about Adam's disappearance and murder was broadcast and suddenly, the world became a very sinister place, and the movement known as "Stranger Danger" was formed.

Suddenly, and with good reason, kids had to be taught to be more streetwise with adults that they did not know. The program has come under criticism because it fails to teach kids that most child abductors and molesters are often someone that the child actually knows.

Needless to say, this is serious business...until I came across the following video clip, which appears to be from the late 80s or early 90s. It is not supposed to be funny but I can't help it--it simply is. I defy anyone to watch it and keep a straight face. Whoever did the casting brought together a great collection of dorky actors who look like social deviants--except for the battery girl towards the beginning, who many male viewers on YouTube said was hot and that they would follow her anyday. And the dude threatening that he would kill the boy's dog if he told anyone--intense!

Do you remember being taught Stranger Danger growing up?

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Vintage British Beauty: The British Pathe Archives

Many of the short newsreels that British moviegoers saw with their flicks during a good part of the 20th century were produced by British Pathe, a media company that has its roots in Paris. Now, British Pathe has archived virtually all of its footage online for our viewing pleasure. I particularly found the vintage beauty related clips below pretty amusing. First up, a look at the meterosexual male, English style, during the early 60s...note the observation, "Banish those wrinkles and your secretary will gladly dine with you."

Next up, Britain's Most Gorgeous Man contest--the ladies are so excited, they're chomping on their scarves. I thought it was interesting that even their teeth are judged.

And now for something politically incorrect by 2012's standards...behold, "Britain's Most Glamorous Fatty!"

There's plenty more goodies where these came from; check out the British Pathe site for lots more!

Sunday, August 05, 2012

And The Winner Is...

My apologies for being a little late drawing a name on The Unofficial Mad Men book giveaway. I entered everyone's names into an online random name selector, and the lucky person it selected is....

Congratulations, Doug! Send me your address and I'll get the book shipped out to you ASAP. Thanks for "going retro" and thanks to all who entered the contest!

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