Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Land of the Lost TV Series #4: Pryor's Place

It's kind of fascinating to think that Richard Pryor headed his own Saturday morning children's television show. By the time Pryor's Place aired in 1984, the comedian/actor was known for his obscenity-laced routines, album titles that contained the "n" word and the infamous incident where he set himself on fire after freebasing cocaine. But controversial or not, Pryor obviously liked children and cared enough about their well-being to bring some of his tamer comedic talents to Pryor's Place. While the show only aired for 13 episodes, it tackled some of the heavy issues of the day such as divorce, shoplifting, cheating and child molestation. The show was also produced by Sid and Marty Krofft and featured puppets of their creation, as well as guest stars such as Willie Nelson, John Ritter, Henry Winkler, Robin Williams and Lily Tomlin. One of its cast members was Marla Gibbs, who would go on to star in The Jeffersons and 227.

Pryor also appeared on the show as an assortment of characters. The show itself was supposed to be about the young Richard Pryor growing up with his friends in the inner city and learning some hard lessons along the way (which did not include pouring high-proof rum all over your body and setting yourself on fire.) This venture into television was not Pryor's first; The Richard Pryor Show only lasted for four episodes in 1977 after audiences failed to appreciate Pryor's edgy humor.

Ray Parker Jr. of Ghostbusters fame wrote and performed the theme song to Pryor's Place. Unfortunately, there are not any real clips from the show on YouTube to share other than the opening theme below, but all 13 episodes are available on DVD through Amazon.com.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Night Oscar Hung His Head in Shame

Oscar night is full of weird and bad moments, but what you're about to watch is probably the worst opening number of any Academy Awards ceremony ever. We have the late composer Marvin Hamlisch and Allan Carr (the producer of Grease) to blame for this mess which kicked off the 1989 Academy Awards. How bad was it? So bad that several stars including Paul Newman, Gregory Peck and Julie Andrews signed an open letter the next day calling the awards show “an embarrassment to both the Academy and the entire motion picture industry.” It also pissed off Disney for the unauthorized use of Snow White's image.

And boy, did this act do her image no favors. Snow warbles with a high-pitched, irritating voice, and seems to be bothering Tom Hanks, Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver and others in the audience as she makes her way to the stage. There are dancing "stars" (literally), a recreation of the Coconut Grove (with Merv Griffin singing "Ive Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts"--get it?) and Hollywood icons such as Vincent Price and Roy Rogers thrown into the middle of this clusterfuck. Then Rob Lowe joins Snow on-stage as her blind date to butcher "Proud Mary" set to alternate lyrics (it's the Lowe and Snow Show - ha!) You can see why this angered a lot of people. And it goes on for 10 minutes, culminating into A Chorus Line line-up. It doesn't get more over the top than that. Thank goodness some retro trends are best left in the past.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Mystique of Bettie Page

Photo via photobucket
As a heterosexual woman, I never had much of an inkling to look up Bettie Page videos and photos until one of my readers and fellow bloggers, Cliff from Burping Canary Feathers, mentioned her appeal to me. After giving myself a crash course in Bettie's career, I can see why she was referred to as "The Queen of the Pin-Ups", "The Dark Angel", and "The Tease From Tennessee." With her voluptuous figure (Betty's measurements of her chest and hips were almost exactly the same, paired with a tiny waist), trademark black hair and bangs and fun-loving, flirty attitude in front of the camera, Bettie became THE top American pin-up girl from 1950 to 1957. And then--at the height of her career in 1957--she abruptly walked away from it all. That's the mystery of Bettie which seems to have no easy answers, even from Bettie herself. 

Last year a small independent film was released that tried to explain Bettie's life and disappearance from the spotlight in her own words, called Bettie Page Reveals All. (The movie is still screening at some film festivals including this month; you can check out the link for more info.) Bettie Page Reveals All tells the story of Bettie's life using her own words from archived interviews.

Bettie's early life in Tennessee was anything but glamorous. She grew up during the Great Depression and her parents divorced when she was 10. She married and divorced shortly after high school and tried unsuccessfully to make it as an actress. During a visit to Coney Island in 1950, she was discovered by Jerry Tibbs, a policeman and hobbyist photographer, who thought she had a striking look and asked to take pictures of her at his studio. Some of the photos were published by a Harlem newspaper and soon Bettie was posing for men's cheesecake magazines such as Eyeful and Titter. Tibbs even helped create Bettie's signature hairstyle by suggesting that she get bangs cut to help flatter her large forehead. Before long, Bettie was gracing the covers of numerous magazine covers, calendars, and even playing cards.

Photo via BettiePageCafe
The amazing thing about Bettie's image even today is you can see how much of a natural she was in front of the lens and how much fun she was having. The camera clearly loved Bettie--and Bettie returned the favor. She would later say that she learned poses just from studying fashion magazines, and often pretended that the camera was her boyfriend, and that she was smiling and posing just for him. She was also very comfortable with nudity, claiming that it was only natural. It's been speculated that Bettie Page helped launched the sexual revolution of the 1960s--in the 1950s!

However, it was Bettie's involvement with another photographer which led to scandal and possibly her reason for existing her career.

Irving Klaw was one of the first fetish photographers, operating a mail-order business that featured photographs and 8 mm films of women in bondage and domination situations. The photos didn't depict any sex acts or nudity, but I still find them difficult to look at, and I certainly didn't want to include any in this post (anyone can easily find them by doing a search.) Bettie herself was not into bondage, but has said in interviews that she never felt exploited or that she was doing anything bad. But in 1955, a Senate investigation was launched into Klaw's business and Bettie herself was called to testify. Although the government had no real case against Klaw, the scandal hurt his business and he was forced to destroy many of this negatives--except for many of Bettie, which he discretely saved. 

Bettie also posed for Playboy and was now getting acting work on TV and stage appearances and in burlesque films. One of her most famous movies is Striporama, a 1953 comedy which was filmed in color; Bettie appears in two sequences, one of them where she's the object of affection of two unattractive lunkheads who share a dream about her:

One of Bettie's most famous photo shoots is the one called "Jungle Bettie", which features her in a Florida wildlife park posing in a leopard print swimsuit or nude with a pair of cheetahs from the park. 

Photo via michaelmay.us
In 1957, a young man killed himself and was found with several of Bettie's bondage photos. Shortly afterwards, Bettie stopped modeling. She would later cite her born-again Christianity as a reason, as well as the fact that she felt she was growing too old to model, having started her career at 27, which was considered older at the time. Mental health may have another contributing factor--in 1979, Bettie was diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent almost two years in a state mental hospital. After attacking her landlord with a breadknife, Bettie was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent 8 years under state supervision, being released in 1992. 

Sadly, Bettie didn't have much luck with men, either. By the time she passed away in 2008, she'd been married and divorced three times. It's a funny thing how men are scared of beautiful women; she would say in an interview that as her popularity grew, men shied away more and more because they were afraid of her. 

Bettie enjoyed a resurgence in pop culture popularity in the 80s, especially when the comic book series "The Rocketeer" was released, which featured a female heroine that resembled Bettie. Dark Horse Comics created a series of books that followed the fictional adventures of Bettie, made for a modern audience. 

One of the best reports I've seen on Bettie Page is the above interview that she gave to an entertainment TV program in 1996. It was her last interview and while she asked that her image at the time not be shown on camera, a photo of an older Bettie does exist. Here she is with the late Anna Nicole Smith and Pamela Anderson, taken sometime during the 1990s. As you can see, the trademark hair and smile is still intact. 

I think it's safe to say that the world is never going to see another woman quite like Bettie Page. Many--such as Madonna and Dita Von Teese--have tried to emulate her but they don't quite have the sexiness and girl-next-door appeal of Bettie. Her iconic status marches on--there's even a Bettie Page-inspired line of clothing and in 2005, a movie about her life called The Notorious Bettie Page was released. Gretchen Mol portrayed Bettie in the film but I don't think she looks anything like her or quite captures her persona...but then again, who could? That's part of what makes her mystique so appealing. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cupid is Putrid: Twisted Valentine's Day Cards

I'm a little late to the game; as I post this, Valentine's Day is just about over. However, I can't let it go by without posting some of these great vintage cards I found via Flickr. There were lots of cute V-Day cards featuring fuzzy animals and Peanuts characters back in the day and when I was growing up. However, these define explanation--they're just downright creepy; sure to scare your Valentine rather than put them in the mood for sexy times. Some of them leave me so speechless they're best presented without commentary. 

Via pageofbats, flickr
Nothing says romance like an arm bathed in blood while doing a little butchery.
Via It's Just Jack, flickr

Via It's Just Jack, flickr

Via It's Just Jack, flickr
Via It's Just Jack, flickr
Via It's Just Jack, flickr

Via It's Just Jack, flickr
Via It's Just Jack, flickr
Via It's Just Jack, flickr
Via It's Just Jack, flickr
Something about this illustration reminds me of Eraserhead; never a good thing. 

Via It's Just Jack, flickr
What is it with these creepy characters in some of these cards? This butler has crazy eyes; I'm deeply suspicious about the origins of the heart he's carrying. 
Via It's Just Jack, flickr
Via It's Just Jack, flickr
I think the best thing about this card is that it was a Hallmark.

I hope everyone had a nice Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

And the Winner of the Greeting Card Giveaway Is...

Joanna of ChristmasTVHistory! Joanna received two entries since she also tweeted about the giveaway. Congrats, Joanna, and my apologies that it took longer than expected to choose a winner. I will be in touch with you to get your mailing address for the cards.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Whatever Happened To...Communication Skills?

I get some messages on OKCupid that are real doozies, but this latest one really took the cake:

Guys are that observant. We just know your fair looks nice. We not concearned with how women get the way they look. We are just happy they look nice. 
It s funny someone noticed a Victoria secret catalog in a photo I sent of cookies I made. 
But very nice profile I hope your search goes well 

What the...what? I have NO idea what this man was trying to say. There isn't anything in my profile that talks about men being concerned about looks. Victoria's Secret catalog...cookies...what? Not to mention the spelling mistakes. I assume he meant "hair" and not "fair." The message sounds like Cookie Monster wrote it. One initial thought was that English wasn't his second language. Anyways, it was so bizarre and non-sensical I simply had to respond:

Excuse me--is this an actual response to my profile? This message makes zero sense and is full of spelling and grammatical errors. NEXT.

He responded with this:

It was intended ado kind note. Sorry about that. My sense of humor does not translate well sometimes. My apologies. 
I was typing on my phone 

Yep, I could have guessed as much. The friggin' smartphone. Texting mistakes. More importantly, the inability to see how much of a doofus you come across as when you send someone on an online dating site a sloppy message that you texted up that's filled with spelling and grammar errors but oddly enough, no relevancy to anything whatsoever. (Sense of humor? His message was supposed to be funny?) By the way, I looked at this guy's profile after the fact and was baffled to see that he apparently was born in the U.S. and that he actually wrote a normal sounding profile. 

Not long ago I took a virtual dating trip around the world and viewed the profiles of guys in other countries. Amazingly, their profiles were written in far more impeccable English than a lot of American men's profiles. They seem to care more about first impressions and a few stated that they hoped their English was good enough to read. (They also dress and present themselves better than a lot of American guys online, but that's another post for another time.)

So what the hell has happened to communication skills? I guess technology has killed them--but that's still no excuse to me. 

I'm seeing moronic messages from strangers more and more and I don't like it one bit. I got a message a few weeks ago from a girl who wanted to sell Mary Kay to my social group members. Her message was exhausting to read as it was essentially one long run-on sentence with no punctuation or capitalization. 

I really want to ask these people that if they applied for a job this way, do they think they would get an interview? If you take a test on your way to becoming a doctor or lawyer by writing like you're in the 4th grade, do you think you would pass the exam? Why would you think anyone should take you seriously when you communicate like a caveman? If the texting keypad on your phone causes you to make several mistakes, then why not type a proper email using a friggin' computer?

And I'm afraid it's only going to get worse. This report that American students lack writing skills was no surprise to me. Maybe school administrators need to wrench their phones and tablets from their hands while they're in the classroom. 

Maybe I'm being harsh, but first impressions are everything and from now on, if one can't bother to spell or write a coherent sentence, they're not worth my time. The sad part is a lack of basic writing skills has now become expected; accepted, even, because of texting. Well, I simply cannot accept it. I didn't graduate from high school, go through college, hold jobs and start a blog with shitty language skills. 

Call it having standards. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Retro Greeting Cards Giveaway!

I was hoping when 2013 rolled around that I'd get the opportunity to do another giveaway on Go Retro. That opportunity presented itself when NobleWorksCards.com reached out to me to offer a retro greeting card assortment to one of my readers. I've posted about the decline of greeting cards a while back, so here's your chance to keep a retro trend going!

Entering is easy--just take a look at NobleWorks' retro card collection starting here and leave a comment letting us know which design you like the best. I'll put all of the names in a random pick generator online and will announce the winner on Monday, February 11. You must have an actual commenter name with a link to an active email address...so if you're posting as an anonymous commenter, please provide that info and your name with your comment to qualify. 

Want an extra entry? Take to Twitter and mention my blog & handle in a tweet -- @GoRetroPam. Good luck, everyone!

Monday, February 04, 2013

Video Game Console Smackdown: Atari 2600 vs. Intellivision

Were you on Team Atari or Team Intellivision in the 80s? There were other home gaming consoles on the market at this time, but it seems these two companies were the main contenders battling it out in ads and commercials.

Like so many other kids, I had an Atari 2600. My best friend from the time had Intellivision. I only remember playing it a couple of times at her house and to be honest, I recall not being terribly impressed. Sure, it had the "better" graphics compared to Atari (which sounds hilarious now considering how far gaming technology has come) but the selection of available games fell short compared to the list Atari eventually accumulated and licensed. The flat controller with its keypad was cumbersome for someone used to Atari's joystick.

The Atari 2600 was released in 1977, and quickly became a popular gaming system. Intellivision was developed by Mattel in 1979 and was marketed as "intelligent television." They got writer George Plimpton--an odd choice for a spokesman, since most kids didn't know who he was--to star in a series of snooty ads and TV commercials explaining why Intellivision trumped the Atari 2600. 


Atari tried to say that the Intellivision console didn't have any space games, then Intellivision counteracted with this spot that featured a kid dressed like George Plimpton:


This one starring Henry Thomas from E.T. is weird--Henry is starstruck by "Mr. Intellivision" and it is ironic considering the E.T. video game was developed for Atari. 

Mattel got into hot water when they started to build up hype by hinting at a new accessory for Intellivision which it called a "Keyboard Component." This was a piece of technology with extra RAM that your Intellivision would be inserted into, turning the whole system into a personal home computer. The Keyboard Component became a marketing disaster, getting delayed several times so that engineers could resolve its reliability problems and make it cheaper to produce. When Jay Leno performed at Mattel's Christmas party in 1981, one of his jokes was, "You know what the three big lies are, don't you? 'The check is in the mail,' 'I'll respect you in the morning,' and 'The Keyboard will be out in spring.'" Things got so bad that the FTC accused Mattel of fraud and false advertising, and ordered the company to pay a fine of $10,000 daily until the system upgrade was widely available in retail stores. By the fall of 1982, Intellivision officially canceled the Keyboard Component. 

Meanwhile, Atari was racking up the accessories and games:

Intellivision would release new versions and variations of its system but in my opinion, it never cemented itself into pop culture notoriety like the Atari 2600 did. Which one did you own--or like the best?

Friday, February 01, 2013

Go Retro's Retro Hottie of the Month: Christoph Waltz

Photo via Oblige me tumblr
Last weekend I saw Django Unchained in the movie theater; a few weeks ago I watched Inglorious Basterds on cable. Now I'm in love and it's all Christoph Waltz's fault. For too long the Austrians and Germans were keeping this sexy, talented, Austrian man all to themselves (and who can blame them?) until Quentin Tarantino pulled him out of obscurity and introduced him to American audiences. He won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Inglorious Basterds and may very well take home another for Django. With the Academy Awards taking place later this month, and the recent announcement that he'll be hosting Saturday Night Live on February 16, I can't think of a better time to declare Christoph as Go Retro's Retro Hottie of the Month. 

By now you're probably wondering, "Wait a minute…is Christoph retro?" Oh yes, very much so. Christoph is, amazingly, 56 years old…which means there's oodles of "before he was famous" clips of him out there on the Internet. (Although I think he's way more handsome today.) 

Also, this may help explain Christoph's retro-ness. This is how one fan describes his appeal:

"The man has "Old School" charm. He is suave, sophisticated, and a gentleman. He is VERY appreciative of his "new found' fame. He epitomizes the Classic Hollywood Gentleman that is missing in a lot of today's actors (he has been known to give women his jacket when it is cold outside)."

That sounds about right to me. Are you ready to dip into some Teutonic hotness from decades past?

One of Christoph's earlier roles was that of the German singer Roy Black in a TV biopic called Die Roy Black Story. Roy Black was a very popular German singer in the 70s and 80s who started out trying to be a rock star, but gained notoriety when he switched over to love songs.

The black wig doesn't do anything for Christoph, but he really did sing in the movie, and I uncovered some priceless moments. For example, here's Christoph--as Roy--doing his best John Travolta impersonation and showing off some serious dance moves while driving the frauleins wild:

I have no idea what show this clip is from, but apparently it's from some German children's show, and Christoph appears to be a teen in it, and--oh, my! That knitted unitard! It leaves nothing (and everything--ha ha!) to the imagination. 

Now this clip was so hot and sensuous my laptop started to bend. It's from a 1982 German movie or miniseries called Fire and Sword. Christoph appears in all his naked glory. I have no idea who the peeping Jane is who comes into the love nest--but the couple is oblivious...and honestly, I think I would be, too, if I had Christoph making love to me. 

Christoph also appeared on a German series called Kommissar Rex. The episode was called Der Puppenmorder ("the doll murderer") and features Christoph as a creepy doll shop owner who entices female customers to dress up as life size dolls so he can photograph them. If they don't oblige, he strangles them. Hmmm...sounds like training for his Hans Landa character years later...and yet, the idea of dressing like a doll for Christoph and taking orders from him seems pretty enticing to me. Here's part 1 of the episode--I highly recommend watching the opening credits; they're delightfully cheesy and that dog clearly steals the show!

Also, remember that video clip of the Russian singer who became known as the "Trololololo" guy after a strange performance of him singing on 1970s Russian television circulated around the web a couple of years ago? Christoph put his own hilarious spin on it called Der Humpink. I think he's going to be a natural at hosting SNL. Is there nothing this man can't do?

Pretty smoking back in the day...but even hotter today in my honest opinion. Better with age!
Photo via waterforelephantsfilm.com
Something tells me we'll be seeing a lot more of Christoph on American movie screens. 

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