Monday, October 29, 2012

Retro Product Fail #9: Space Food Sticks

I was going through a 1971 Family Circle that I bought at a flea market when this ad piqued my interest. Hmmm...I'd never heard of Space Food Sticks--and honestly, my first impression of the photo is that they didn't look too appetizing. Being touted as only having 44 calories, they were clearly trying to reach the dieting mom demographic here, and promised a dose of protein, vitamins and minerals--a precursor to today's energy bar. To me, they look like a glorified Tootsie Roll. 

But Space Food Sticks were manufactured by Pillsbury beginning in the 1960s to capitalize on America's fascination with exploring outer space, and they did enjoy some success until they fell victim to deceitful advertising. They were created by the company's chief food technologist Howard Bauman, who--along with his team--developed solid food for astronauts that could be eaten in space, such as "food cubes" (no mention of what they actually consisted of), cake, relish and non-refridgerated meat. 

Far out brochure for Pillsbury Space Food Sticks via Allee Willis Blog
Pillsbury wanted people to think that our American astronauts were actually eating these things on missions. They were--in a way--but snacking instead on modified versions, not the commercial version found in stores. When it was discovered that no Space Food Stick had actually been taken on a space trip, Pillsbury dropped the word "space" from the title and simply called them food sticks. Another unfounded claim that Pillsbury had to nix is that they were as nutritious as milk. Their popularity waned from there and they disappeared from store shelves in the 80s. 

That is, until just a few years ago when the site joined up with a food scientist to recreate Space Food Sticks in their chocolate and peanut butter flavors and sell them at Commenters who grew up with them as kids say the taste and texture is very much like the aforementioned Tootsie Roll. You can learn more about them and other space-related foods at The Space Food Sticks Preservation Society. In the meantime, here's a great vintage commercial for them as well as for a knock-off, Space Energy Sticks. Any Go Retro readers fans of them, or remember them?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Man in the Alien Suit

Image from xenomorph, Tumblr
A casting director and a 7-foot tall Nigerian walk into a sounds like the start of a joke, but it actually resulted in horror movie history. 

That good looking young man you see above is inadvertently responsible for giving us nightmares. Bolaji Badejo was a 26 year-old graphic design student having a drink in a London pub in 1978 when he was spotted by a casting agent working with Ridley Scott on the movie Alien. They had yet to find an actor suitable for the actual role of the creature who would terrorize the crew of the ship Nostromo. They needed someone tall and gangly as Scott didn't want audiences to think there could possibly be a human in the costume. He'd been considering basketball players and Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars trilogy, when Badejo was brought to his attention. At 7 feet tall with a sinewy frame and long legs and arms, the Nigeria-born Badejo looked like he'd be a fit for the gig, and he accepted the role. 

Image via TheTallestMan
However, working on the Alien set was not all fun and games. According to an interview that Badejo gave to Cinefantastique Magazine in 1979 (his only known interview, reprinted here on Strange Shapes) playing the gangly alien proved to be physically demanding and uncomfortable at times. Badejo had to make the creature look graceful at times and lethally quick at others (in a documentary about the making of the film, one of the cast members--I don't remember who--said that on film you didn't know if the monster "was going to f*ck you or kill you.") 

The costume itself, designed by H. R. Giger, was made out of 10-15 latex pieces that were custom fit to Badejo's body after he put on a one-piece black bodysuit. The tail attached separately and was controlled with wires. The worst part of it, I'm sure, had to be the gargantuan alien head, which Badejo said was like wearing a huge banana. The suit itself was very hot and Badejo recalled that it didn't take long for him to get soaked with sweat, especially the head. 

Ridley Scott was also full of ideas for the alien and tried filming several scenarios which just weren't possible because of the logistics of the costume; in one scene, the alien was supposed to be curled up like a cocoon in the air and slowly unfurl itself, but Badejo found it impossible to breathe, let alone move. He also had to deal with a never-ending supply of K-Y jelly which created the acid saliva secreted by the alien's mouth.

I think the best part about reading this interview is how scared the other cast members were of Badejo in costume on the set, especially poor Veronica Cartwright, who was also squirted unexpectedly with blood during the chest burster scene. 

The story takes a sad turn, however. Apparently Bodejo fell off the map after the Alien movie was released. According to the interview, he was excited about a potential movie career and legally contracted to appear in a sequel, and there have even been rumors on the Internet that he died, even though there's no proof. If anyone out there knows what happened to Bodejo, I would love to know. 

Here's a behind the scenes clip of Bodejo getting used to the costume and the alien's movements on the cramped set. Kudos to a guy who didn't get a lot of credit for bringing an unforgettable movie monster to life. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tattoo You...And You And You And You

Image from Fashion Avenue
What I'm about to say is probably going to offend a lot of people. It might even piss you off if it applies to you. However, the time has come when I simply cannot refrain myself any longer. 

I hate tattoos. 

There was a time when tattoos were mostly spotted on sailors, bikers, convicts and stars of freak shows. Today, it seems that everyone from your boss to your grandmother has a tattoo. This is a complaint that I've read over and over from other tattoo loathers. And it isn't that most people are getting one tattoo in an inconspicuous area on the body--they're inking up an entire body part. So maybe I should clarify: I don't mind seeing a tattoo if it's elegantly done and reserved for one spot (take, for example, Jon Bon Jovi's small Superman tattoo on his left arm.) In that respect, it has much deeper meaning. But when someone gets their back, arms, chest or a combination of these parts and more (like--gasp! their face), a tattoo with any real symbolism loses its impact. I also seriously start to question their sanity and their self esteem. Honestly, it seems like a cry for attention. What better way to get people to look at you then to go through life as a living canvas?

Yeah, I get it--it's your body and you have the right to do with it as you wish. Also, if you want to spend $100s getting ink painfully infused into your derma, knock yourself out. I respect it, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. I'm just trying to figure out why this has been the hot style trend that has suddenly exploded during the past decade, when for many decades prior to that, people didn't have a problem with leaving their body au natural. I've even heard one guy say that people who don't have tattoos are now the rebels, since the tattooed folks seem to be outnumbering the un-inked one. 

Ironically, I've read that Keith Richards and Sid Vicious--two of the biggest rebels in rock and roll--don't have tattoos. 

I'm truly not trying to sound like an ignorant jerk. I actually do have respect for tattoo artists (who must be thrilled, I'm sure, by the tattoo craze.) You really have to be an artist to create some of the designs that they do. It's a form of expression, just like hair and clothing is. I think for me, it's the fact that tattooing is, for the most part, permanent.

Also, tattoos can be distracting. I can't tell you how many times I've seen vintage clothing being displayed on a model cloaked in tattoos. I can no longer see the clothes she is modeling--all I see are her tattoos. And it looks really bizarre and frankly, tacky, to see a Bettie Page-like model who has visited a tattoo parlor...if you want to truly look vintage, you would have left your skin alone.    
I wouldn't date a man with extensive tattooing. It's a turnoff. A lot of people think that Adam Levine is hot. I don't; he's covered in ink. I don't think there's anything sexier than seeing a man as he was born, with unadorned skin.

Lest you think only women feel that way, I came across the comment below...on a clip of the movie Earth Girls Are Easy, of all things. The scene in question featured a very young, tall and beautiful Gina Davis in her bikini, sans a tan and unnatural body art.

"This was back when girls didn't have tattoo's and piercings all over their bodies. It's was just plain natural real-deal human female bodies without a bunch of added bullshit.
Things are *very* different today :("

Yep, they sure are, mister. And at times that makes me sad. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Forgotten James Bond

If I were to ask you which actor who played James Bond is the least memorable, what would be your answer? George Lazenby? Timothy Dalton?

Nope. The name's Nelson. Barry Nelson. And he actually played Bond in a TV version of the novel Casino Royale in 1954, 8 years before Sean Connery began portraying 007 on the big screen. The television production of Casino Royale aired on CBS as part of the Climax! Mystery Theater series. Ian Fleming was paid $1,000 for the television rights to his novel.

And there are some notable differences between this Bond and his movie counterparts. For the TV version of Casino Royale, Bond is an American, going by "Jimmy" (although he does refer to himself as James later on during a phone call.) He also sports a bowtie and a nerdy haircut. Being a live 1950s TV adaptation, don't expect to see any high speed car chases or much in the way of action (or sex.)

What is the same are the presence of an arch-villain (Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre), and a beautiful Bond woman--played by Linda Christian--who can't resist Bond's charms. But it's a far cry from the James Bond image that was developed starting in the 1960s.

Barry Nelson took the role for the chance to work with Lorre. At the last minute, the producers realized their script was going to run three minutes over the allotted air time, so they had to make some last minute changes. Nelson spoke of the experience to Starlog Magazine in 1983. "So they went through and cut three words here, a line there, a half-a-word here, and their script ended up looking like a bad case of tic-tac-toe. I tell you it was so frightening that when I entered my only thought was, 'Oh, God, if I can only get out of this mother!'. I was very dissatisfied with the part, I thought they wrote it poorly. No charm or character or anything."

Indeed, knowing what we know now about Bond, Nelson seems painfully miscast. The TV special was pretty much forgotten until the 1980s, when it was discovered that a copy of it existed on kinescope by a film historian. I guess you could say this interpretation of Casino Royale was a failed experiment, even though some diehard Bond fans have a soft spot for it. It sure makes for some interesting pop culture trivia. 

Heres part 1 of the special, if you want to get a taste of what it was like. The entire 50 minutes is available on YouTube. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Man with the Golden Hits: James Bond Theme Songs

Image from Entertainment Weekly via Illustrated 007
I don't know about you, but I'm getting awfully excited about the latest James Bond movie being released soon, Skyfall. This year marks 50 years of Bond on the silver screen--and to get you in the 007 mood, I've pulled together pretty much every theme song used in the opening credits up through Tomorrow Never Dies. This is certainly nothing original--there have been plenty of compilations of Bond music released--but I'm also including the disco-esque version of the James Bond theme that Marvin Hamlisch arranged ("Bond 77") and Louis Armstrong's "We Have All the Time in the World" from the film On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Make yourself a martini--shaken, not stirred--and have yourself a musical time travel trip through the luscious Bond legacy.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Music Videos of My Nightmares

It's nearly Halloween, so a lot of the blogs are talking about horror movies. Me, I'm thinking about creepy music videos. I guess that's just the way my mind works--and you'd be surprised at what gets imprinted on a 12 year-old's brain that gets recalled almost 30 years later. These were the music videos I remember most from my tween and teen years that I thought were creepy for a variety of reasons. I should add the disclaimer that all of these videos were made during the 80s--I realize that there are more modern ones that are probably far more scary and disturbing, but this is a retro blog full of retro memories. OK, here we go...

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

When TVs Were Stylin'

Image via
One thing I admire about the mid-century modern movement (say that 10 times fast) is that it didn't stop at just furniture, but spilled over into electronics and appliances as well. TV sets made from the late 40s through the 80s have so much character. They were quite often works of art and meant to compliment a room. By contrast, today's flat-screen and 3D TVs may be slick, high-tech, and give us a splendid picture, but they all look the same to me. TV screens have also gotten bigger through the decades in keeping with our increasingly materialistic society, and that means less room for uniqueness. A lot of TV sets from the 50s and 60s doubled as an entertainment console that housed a stereo and storage space; many of today's TVs hang on the wall, out of the way. 

So here's a splattering of ads featuring TV sets that most of us grew up with, when they used to have style. Even the smaller, portable ones looked cool. Long live their marriage of form and function, if only in our memories. (All ads from unless otherwise noted.)

Talk about multi-tasking! Never knew there was a three-way TV...but I'm guessing it never caught on. 

Via brycehudson on Flickr

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Go Retro Goes on Facebook

Well, I've finally gone and done it: I've created a Facebook page for Go Retro. Considering that I manage the social media for a small business in my spare time as well as juggling my personal Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts, don't ask me why I was suddenly inspired to add yet another channel to watch over. However, I think Go Retro was long overdue getting its own Facebook page, as I see (and follow) so many other retro themed websites and blogs sharing oodles of retro goodness daily on the social media site.

Rest assured that this does not mean that the page will replace this blog, or that I plan to stop blogging. On the contrary, I think having a page will inspire me to write even more, because of the amount of content being shared over there. I also can't promise that I'll be posting there every day, but certainly a few times a week seems doable.

Needless to say, it's in the VERY introductory stages at the moment, but I hope you'll "like" and join the retro party...and I promise not to jam your feed with endless photos of Steve McQueen and horrific retro recipes! See you there!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Two Forgotten Friday Favorites: Kid Creole and The Coconuts

I've had two songs by Kid Creole and the Coconuts stuck in my head all week, which makes me wonder why I never seemed to hear them on radio stations in the 80s. Perhaps they just weren't "80s" enough to chart high up on the pop charts. This group's sound has been described as Latin American, South American and Caribbean but the one genre I hear the most in Kid Creole and the Coconuts is the Big Band sound. Kid, whose real name is Thomas August Darnell Browder, adopted a musical look and persona that was directly inspired by Cab Calloway, down to the color popping zoot suits. 

But what about those Coconuts? They were the female trio of backup singers/dancers in the group made up of Adriana Kaegi (who helped cofound the group and who was married to Kid, but stayed in the band after their divorce), Cheryl Poirier and Taryn Haegy (who was replaced by Janique Svedberg.) My introduction to Kid Creole and the Coconuts was when the Jeff Bridges movie Against All Odds was shown on TV. They perform a song called My Male Curiosity and I'll be honest--when I watched the Coconuts do their thing, I thought they looked downright 80s glamorous and sexy with their big hair and shimmery two pieces (but not the slightly unshaven armpits!) It would be fun to be a Coconut. 

The band is still active today but sadly, the new Coconuts that have recently toured with Kid Creole are nothing like the original ladies. It's actually kind of painful to watch. Best to stick with the 80s line-up of the band. So without further ado, here's the two songs I've had in my craw all can I not when the music is this contagious and good? 

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Now That's How You Sell a Sears Freezer

In 1968, Sears was lagging in its sales of Kenmore freezers. Their solution was to create a 16-minute training video starring Judy Carne and Arte Johnson doing a Laugh-In spoof called Freeze-In! The salesmen watching this were in for a treat: Judy is featured quite prominently at the beginning go-go dancing in a bikini and body paint, which begs the question of whether this technique translated in more freezer sales that year, or if the men were merely too distracted to pay close attention. To be honest, much of the training video is, like one of the show's famous taglines, "Verrrrry interesting....but stupid!" However, it's a fun little time capsule look at the late 60s. Arte is mildly amusing. The freezer colors are cool. And if it matters to you, you have a girl in a bikini dancing. What more do you want, brother?

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