Sunday, December 14, 2014

New Album Reviews on REBEAT Magazine

Looking for a holiday gift idea for your retro music fan? I recently reviewed three new album releases for REBEAT...

First up is Neil Diamond's new record, "Melody Road." This is classic Diamond; one of his best albums of original tracks in years, and I found myself replaying the songs over and over again in my head by the time the last track ended. 

There's also a new Peter, Paul and Mary CD to enjoy as part of their 50th anniversary, which is being celebrated on public television stations across the U.S. this month. "Discovered: Live in Concert" is a collection of live songs that were previously not released to their fans with the exception of one. Like most PP&M albums, you'll giggle, get a tear in your eye, and feel uplifted by the various song selections of this iconic folk trio. 

And for those looking to add a touch of 1970s funky soul to their Christmas music collection, Earth, Wind and Fire released their first seasonal album, simply titled "Holiday." 

While you're at it, other staff members and I gave our picks for retro-themed holiday gift check them out and happy shopping!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Movie Review: Kopfstand (1981)

It's the holiday season, and nothing puts me in the Christmas spirit like seeing an Austrian art house film about someone thrown into a mental institution. 

Got your attention, didn't I? Actually, what I meant to say is that when there's an actor I really like, I'm curious to watch his earlier roles to see if it satisfies some of my inward questions. Was he always so talented? Do these parts give any hint of Oscar success that would come decades later? And perhaps the most important, burning question...was he always so hot, beginning with back in the day?

In the case of Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz, the answer to all three of these questions is a resounding yes. A few weeks ago I viewed his first ever film, Kopfstand, on Vimeo complete with English subtitles (a big thank you to the person who uploaded it, as it wasn't previously available on YouTube.) Waltz recently appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (to promote a very un-Oscar worthy film, Horrible Bosses 2) when he told Kimmel that a lot of his early stuff was heavy. (At that point Kimmel showed everyone a clip of a younger, adorable Waltz singing a song about the new year on a 1970s children's program, wearing a knitted striped jumper that didn't exactly hide the contours of his wiener schnitzel.) Heavy, indeed! 

Kopfstand (the German word for headstand) is also pretty heavy. It's dark, depressing, and thoroughly confusing, since the scenario of the plot is really far-fetched (although entirely possible, I suppose, given the imperfect and immoral world we sometimes find ourselves living in.) "This film is based on facts" the austere, Teutonic opening credits tell us--although I couldn't find any backstory to the film to find out if it were true, but to be honest I didn't do much digging...I'm sure some Austrian or German readers and sites out there have the answers. We do learn, however, that the film is dedicated to Franco Basaglia, an Italian psychiatrist who proposed that mental hospitals be dismantled after witnessing first-hand the horrors that took place in the institution he worked in. 

And for a serious movie, the music played over the opening credits is ironically funky and upbeat--a jazz number called "Going Crazy" (ha, of course) by an Austrian musician named Karl Ratzer. I was so disappointed that I couldn't locate more music by Ratzer uploaded online--it's a great sounding tune. (Although "Mad World" by Tears for Fears might have been more appropriate here, but whatever.)

In Kopfstand, Waltz plays a young man named Markus Dorn. We don't know exactly how old he might presume late teens except that he works as a hairdresser and how many 17 or 18 year-olds do you know who have learned professionally how to cut and style hair? I'm guessing that Markus is in his early 20s, and Waltz himself was 23 when the movie was released. The movie opens with Markus in an arcade (ah, nostalgia!) where he spends a good part of his time because he has a crush on the cashier girl. 

When he returns to his apartment late at night, and tries to enjoy his meal (which is precluded by a strange ADD-like percussion sequence of slamming each food item onto the table) he is interrupted by die mutter...or maybe we should say die mutterf*cker. She is one nasty, despicable, delusional, chain smoking nightmare of a woman, immediately launching into accusations that Markus is clearly taking drugs because he stays out late and that the papers are writing about it. There must have been some really slow news days in Vienna in the early '80s. (Dad either died or divorced and left Markus to suffer with this crazy bat.) 

The only thing that Markus is guilty of is backtalk, and it's not like his mother doesn't deserve it. He is only acting out and being sarcastic like anyone in his situation would--mom has a boyfriend who is just as awful as she is, and she has clearly chosen him over her son. After she slaps him across the face, he retaliates with physical force and threatens to "finish her off" before retreating to his bedroom. It isn't long after that that he's awoken, placed in a paddy wagon, and taken to the local police station where he's interrogated relentlessly. If you didn't know beforehand that this movie was taking place in Vienna, Austria, you'd swear it was happening on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall. Despite not having a shred of evidence, the cops are convinced that Markus is into pot, LSD, heroin, you name it..."whatever you (kids) use to kill yourselves." Markus is told to name names, at which point the movie gets its (really) only laugh when he answers, "John Lennon." 

And just like that, poor Markus finds himself in a mental institution, signed over by his own heartless mother. The place is a house of horrors. Markus is drugged, and given shock treatment, which puts him into an emotionless stupor. At one point his mother has the nerve to show up for a visit, to which a post-shocked Markus has no reaction. The doctor in charge of the hospital is just as brutal and delusional as Markus' mother, and the cycle of abusive and unnecessary treatment continues with no end in sight. 

Despite the suffering, Markus manages to makes friends with other men in the hospital, one of whom meets a tragic fate. He also escapes twice from his hell while doing outdoor work (which seems strangely unsupervised) only to be caught and returned. During one of his bouts with freedom, he stays the night with the girl from the arcade, only to be kicked out the next morning without being given even a cup of coffee because she's afraid of what her jealous boyfriend would do if he caught him there. 

Redemption does arrive for Markus when the head doctor is replaced by a sympathetic woman, who takes an interest in his case and decides to release him. It becomes pretty evident, however, that things are not going to work out between Markus and his mother. He ends up living with a widower in a large house. She's not exactly warm and fuzzy at first, but the arrangement allows Markus to slowly get acclimated back into the free world. And then the film ends kind of abruptly, and we're left wondering if there was a point, other than the fact that mental hospitals really sucked back in the day. I would have liked to see crazy mom be declared insane and strapped onto the shock treatment stretcher. 

It's a downer of a film, made even more eerie by the fact that it's in black-and-white (which recalls some of David Lynch's earlier movies.) One thing I noticed is that the inside of the apartment that Markus shares with his mother always looks so dark, while the scenes shot inside of the institution are much brighter...symbolizing, I have to suppose, the darkness of this young man's home life. 

It goes without saying that Waltz is the only reason to watch this movie, especially if you're a fan of his like I am. I read on one fan site that if this movie had been released in the States the year it came out, he would have been nominated for an Oscar award back then. I don't think that's entirely true...the movie had a really limited release in Austria and its subject matter and style wouldn't have appealed to most American film audiences. The only reason it's been unearthed now online is because of its star. His character is sympathetic and while he appears passive throughout most of the running time, there are a few moments during his stay in the hospital where the bottled-up rage becomes too much. The part where he got practically kicked out of the arcade girl's apartment made me want to cry. Geez. What female Waltz fan wouldn't want to console that sweet boy after all he's been through and keep him hidden from the police, boyfriend be damned?

Also, I can't hide my opinion that Waltz' gorgeous to look at in this film...beautiful eyes, hair pulled back in a ponytail, his full lips and prominent chin more noticeable here (although I think he got even better looking with age and certainly consider him handsome at any phase of his career.) He's just very European and different looking than young American actors at the time. He also looks nothing like a young Ryan Gosling in my opinion, so can the Internet please stop with those annoying side-by-side comparison photos, already? 

Recalling his Dr. King Schultz character from Django Unchained, there's a great scene of him in his hair salon, wearing a vest and running his fingers through his hair to pull it back in a ponytail. He wears jeans, cowboy boots and a leather jacket in the film...not to mention striped hospital PJs and a bathrobe that call to mind the Beatlejuice suit that Robin Thicke wore at that failed VMA performance. Guess who can rock stripes way better?

All shameless swooning aside, Christoph Waltz has something to be proud of here as his first movie role, even though it's miles away from Quentin Tarantino's imagined worlds and the red carpet of the Academy Awards. Kopfstand's unanswered questions hang in the air long after the movie is over. 

Here's part 1 of the film on Vimeo (the movie is uploaded in five parts.) 

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Cos and Effect

Bill Cosby, we hardly knew you. 

At least it seems that way as one allegation after another has surfaced the past few weeks from women who claim Cosby sexually assaulted them, usually while they were under the influence of alcohol and/or a drug. The 21 (and rising) women range from a girl barely out of her teens at the time who wanted a part in Cosby's movie Ghost Dad to Kristina Ruehli, who knew Cosby from his days starring in I Spy

It's just so hard to believe after growing up as a Cosby kid so to speak during the 1970s and 1980s. Besides The Cosby Show, which I watched diligently in the 1980s, Cosby was everywhere: on those JELLO pudding pops commercials, Sesame Street, stand-up appearances, and talk shows. I'm sure I watched Fat Albert once or twice. One of my friends in the 6th grade had a vinyl record of Cosby's infamous stand-up routine of Noah's Ark which we listened to and laughed at during a sleepover night. Cosby was one of the few comedians whose humor was completely safe for kids to partake in.

When Cosby gave interviews in the ‘80s and ‘90s, we got the impression at the time that he wasn’t that much different than his on-screen character Cliff Huxtable. The Cosby Show, after all, was based on comedy routines from Cosby’s stand-up act, where he drew material from his home life; a devoted husband and father doling out common sense parenting with a sense of humor to his real-life clan. Plus in his senior years, Cosby got rather preachy with the way kids in black neighborhoods dressed, spoke, and conducted themselves as well as the decline of family values. I applauded his infamous Pound Cake speech that he gave during an NAACP awards ceremony in 2004, when he admonished parents for allowing their children to become petty crooks and teenage mothers, and to wear droopy pants. Of course, in light of what has happened, that speech seems rather hypocritical now. 

When his only son Ennis Cosby was murdered in 1997, fans across the country including myself ached for him. 

But I guess we were duped. Today, I'n not so sure I want to watch an episode of The Cosby Show, and I feel funny watching him shill pudding pops alongside tots in those archived commercials. It's an icy reminder that everyone has a private and a public side, and that just because someone plays a devoted husband on TV does not mean he's he same way in real life. 

Maybe it's something about TV dads. Robert Reed, the patriarch of The Brady Bunch, was gay but kept it under wraps because he feared it would have ruined his career (not that I have anything against homosexuality or that I think there's anything wrong with keeping it hidden to protect a career; just that it was a bit of a surprise.) Stephen Collins, the reverend father on 7th Heaven, was recently revealed to have admitted on tape that he had a thing for underage girls and molested and exposed himself to two (the case was dismissed because of how long ago the incidents occurred and the statue of limitations.)

Then there's the bizarre tale of Max Wright, who played the nerdy, chin-challenged adoptive dad of a furry space creature named ALF. As Willie Tanner, you couldn't find a dorkier guy on television. He's been married since the 1950s to the same woman. But a few years after ALF ended, the National Enquirer ran an expose that showed Wright in video footage screen caps smoking crack from aluminum cans and engaging in sex acts with homeless men he'd picked up moments earlier. He's also been arrested twice for drunk driving. Wright revealed in an interview that he hated his role on ALF, where he played second fiddle to a puppet that got all of the good lines. Maybe that's what drove him to have unprotected gay sex and do drugs?

But Cosby's legacy definitely trumps them all. I'm not sure what to make of it, except I can never think of a chocolate JELLO pudding pop as just a food item ever again. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sharing Some Love for the Epilady

You may remember a few years ago I posted about my horrific earliest experiences with the Epilady--an epilator hair removal gadget that looks a little bit like a torture device. Epilady was the first company to introduce hair removal products that tweeze or pluck body hair from its roots, and the Epilady Trio was on my wish list from Santa in the late '80s. If I'm not mistaken, I saw it listed for sale in a Spiegel catalog, and it seemed like the proper way grown up women removed hair from their legs. 

Only I couldn't get used to the stinging this thing caused each time a leg hair was murdered as it was ripped by the roots from my dermas, and my memories are what spawned my original blog post. Actually, that and the fact that I attempted to use it properly a second time, thinking that my older age had made me less of a wimp. I was wrong.

And then last night, feeling inspirational (and too lazy to shave) I braved the Epilady once again. This time, I succeeded in completing both of my legs. Smooth as silk. And here's the weird part...this time it actually didn't seem that bad. 

Yes, it's true. I am an Epilady convert. And I'm not using one of the newer Epilady models--I'm using the original one--the Epilady Trio--that I've had in my bedroom drawer for the past 25 years. Considering I've barely used it up to this point, it's like brand spanking new. Yep, I'm using an epilator made in 1987 or so to remove hair from my legs. 

I now feel guilty that I referred to the Epilady as a Retro Product Fail in my first post about it. It wasn't a fail at all; in fact, the demand for the original model with the coil system which is the one I have was so strong that the company brought it back and call it the Epilady Trio Classic. In all fairness, I think it looks less menacing then the newer Epilady epilators which look like they have teeth. 

I think what finally got me acclimated to the Epilady sensation is that I've been tweezing parts of my legs for the past few years, to catch the spots the razor missed. I started doing larger areas, then got the niggling feeling that I should really give the Epilady another chance. 

The real question is if I'm brave enough to attempt to use it on other parts of my body...namely, my underarms and the bikini area. Reviews I've read have mixed reactions to pain in these areas...and some women ironically felt that using the devices on their legs was actually more painful then other areas. But we must get comfortable with walking first before we can run. 

Maybe it's the Teutonic blood deep in my lineage that has given me this new strange threshold for pain. Whatever the reason, my Epilady is here to stay. The $100 (or whatever Spiegel charged for it at the time) has finally paid off for my parents. 

Here's a great retro commercial for the Epilady Trio that aired in the late '80s:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Whatever Happened To...Ken Wahl?

I was sludging my way through writing a blog post about 1980s TV stars who fell from grace, partly inspired by the Bill Cosby sex scandal, until I got to Ken Wahl. 

Reading about Wahl's story, I realized he didn't deserve to be lumped into the same category as those actors that let drugs and other demons take over their lives and eventually drive them to their deaths. Wahl's rags-to-riches-back-to-rags story is mainly due to plain old bad luck, and it's even more troubling considering he's a stand up guy who would do anything to help animals.

You may remember that Wahl was the star of the excellent CBS crime drama Wiseguy, which aired from 1987 to 1990. He played the young undercover operative Vinnie Terranova, who helped a fictional special division of the FBI bring down criminal organizations. The series launched Wahl into sex symbol status--he was crowned "The Sexiest Man on TV" by US Magazine. It also raised the profile of another budding actor, Kevin Spacey, who played baddie arms dealer Mel Profitt, a mastermind criminal with an addiction to painkillers and an unhealthy fixation on his sister. Other notable actors who made appearances in Wiseguy included Stanley Tucci and Tom Curry. 

Wahl was one of the lucky few who hit it big in Hollywood practically overnight, and with little acting training and experience. He was born Anthony Calzaretta in Chicago sometime in the mid 1950s (sources differ on his actual age.) In 1978, after working odd jobs, he set off for California in his Dodge Dart with $300 in his wallet. He only intended to stay in Hollywood for a year, collect any earnings, and then pursue his real dream which was playing professional baseball. 

He worked as an extra in several movies before he arrived on the set of The Wanderers for a bit part. Director Philip Kaufman, seeing untapped potential and perhaps struck by his brooding Italian good looks and presence, instead cast him in the lead. 

It turns out that Wahl was a natural. He was soon working alongside Paul Newman in 1981's Fort Apache, The Bronx. The two became friends and Newman even wrote a letter of recommendation to the Chicago White Sox's manager requesting that he let Wahl try out to be on the team. 

Baseball never came calling, but Hollywood continued to offer him work. Then in 1987 he landed the lead for Wiseguy, without even having to audition. By 1990 he had earned a best actor Golden Globe for the series, and had to hire bodyguards to keep women from tackling him. 

He left the job by his own accord in 1990 to pursue movie work, although the press at the time tried to say that Wahl had been fired. Two years later, his life and career took a turn for the worse. 

Wahl was divorced and dating a woman named Joan Child...who happened to be involved with comedian Rodney Dangerfield, and later married him. One morning after spending the night at Child's residence, Wahl fell down a slippery marble staircase in the home, breaking his neck and injuring his spinal cord. Child begged him not to tell the truth to the press--lest Dangerfield find out--so Wahl blamed his injuries on a motorcycle crash. The rehab and operations he underwent (which Wahl says were botched) got him addicted to alcohol to self-medicate the pain and he found it difficult to get through acting projects.

Wahl was a guy affectionately known as Santa Claus to family members and friends; he'd think nothing of helping someone out financially, even strangers. He's also a staunch animal lover and supporter of animal rights. In 2010 he offered up his Golden Globe to whoever had information leading to the arrest of a soulless cretin who glued a young cat to a Minnesota highway and left it to die. As a child, he rescued and helped animals in need and adopted and fostered many after he became a successful actor. He also credits pets with helping him recover from his injuries. 

Wahl more or less had to give up acting in the mid-90s. By 2009 he found himself nearly bankrupt, mostly due to deceptive financial managers and an ex-wife who swindled him out of a trust fund he left to his son years earlier. In another strange turn, his agent was found murdered in 1993 and the case, which Wahl believes to be mob-related, has never been solved. 

Photo via The Anipal Times
There is a silver lining to Wahl's story, however. He seems to have met his kindred spirit in Shane Barbi, one of the Barbi Twins of Playboy fame. Both are crazy about helping animals, and neither was completely comfortable with the Hollywood lifestyle when the met each other. They married in 1997 (the magazines affectionately referred to them as Ken and Barbi) and though both have struggled with and beat alcoholism, they're still married today. Wahl says he was impressed by Barbi's down-to-earth persona and hands-on volunteer work with animals. Barbi even turned down the chance to appear at the Academy Awards one year because it would have interfered with her volunteer slot at a local shelter. 

These days Wahl is devoted to helping struggling military veterans cope with PSTD and other psychological and physical injuries by placing pets with them through his program called "Pets for Vets." He told the Huffington Post in an interview last year that he's found his second calling. In a 2015 interview with The National Enquirer, Wahl says it was the love of a kitten that helped him through his darkest days.

“A person receives tremendous comfort and joy from the animal,” he said. “In my own experience—after rescuing my cats, and them caring for me — it was nearly miraculous!

I now feel a sense of purpose. Trying to help alleviate the suffering of veterans, civilians and animals is my life’s second calling.

My wife Shane and I share this common bond. She concentrates on helping the rescue animals, and I try to reach out to veterans.

On this Veteran’s Day, I want to leave you with one thought — you can’t save all the world’s veterans, but you CAN help save the world of one — just by letting them know that they are appreciated and valued!”

So far I've had no luck locating an authentic photo of what Wahl looks like today; if anyone has any luck, please leave a comment.

Score one for the good guys. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why I'm Glad the Honey Boo Boo Show Went Kaput

Kramer called it years ago on Seinfeld...

KRAMER: ...And you're the manager of the circus.
JERRY: A circus?
KRAMER: Come on, this is a great idea. Look at the characters. You've got all these freaks on the show. A woman with a moustache? I mean, who wouldn't tune in to see a women with a moustache? You've got the tallest man in the world; a guy who's just a head.
JERRY: I don't think so.
KRAMER: Look Jerry, the show isn't about the circus, it's about watching freaks.
JERRY: I don't think the network will go for it.
KRAMER: Why not?
JERRY: Look, I'm not pitching a show about freaks.
KRAMER: Oh come on Jerry, you're wrong. People they want to watch freaks. This is a "can't miss."

To quote REO Speedwagon, I just can't fight this feeling anymore; I'm feeling massive schadenfreude these days knowing that the inappropriately-named network The Learning Channel finally pulled the plug on the massive gravy train wreck called Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (and there goes Honey Boo Boo...buh bye!) after evidence surfaced that the mother was cavorting with a child sex offender. 

I never saw a single episode of the show, but the biggest problem I had with it is that for a while you couldn't get through a typical day without seeing that obnoxious brat and Mama Jabba the Hutt receive unjustifiable media publicity somewhere. Those of us who weren't fans of the show couldn't avoid it. For reasons unknown even Steve Harvey, a man usually known for doling out common sense, interviewed the family on his daytime talk show--where they farted and brought down everyone's brain cell count. Viewers took to his Facebook page in droves to question and denounce his decision...and to be honest, my own interest in his show dwindled after he stooped to that low. 

I also can't help but feel glee that The Learning Channel has some massive egg on its face to clean up thanks to this mess. The network that has built an empire on pap such as Jon & Kate Plus 8, 19 Kids and Counting, and My Strange Addiction finally learned a harsh lesson: when you're dealing with real people and reality TV, you're taking a huge gamble that anything they do in "real life" will hurt your own reputation. Like when Duck Dynasty "star" Phil Robertson made anti-gay comments to GQ Magazine and A&E, which airs the show, suspended him (a "punishment" that ended far too quickly.) 

It's just bizarre to me how different television has changed in a span of 10-15 years. There was a period shortly after Survivor premiered that I really thought reality TV had run its course. Instead, it's gotten far worse. At least shows like The Amazing Race is a competition. Now we have shows about vapid women who are famous because they are famous, and women who didn't know they were pregnant until they went into labor. 

I grew up on series like AliceOne Day At a TimeHappy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and ALF. Maybe they were't exactly intellectually stimulating, but at least they made me laugh and they didn't show people doing asinine things that made me want to throw up. But what I miss more are the family dramas--shows like Judging Amy. They've been replaced by the CSI franchise (do we REALLY need another autopsy show set in yet another city?) 

The cancellation of Honey Boo Boo is a good thing, and not just for the most obvious reasons. I'm hoping that it starts a trend away from reality TV and back towards programming that requires creativity and has something viable to offer viewers. These reality TV buffoons need to keep up their off-screen bad behavior, because I'd like to see every single one of these shows canned (but please not Masterchef and Masterchef Junior; as much as I dislike reality TV at least I learn something from these shows about cooking techniques and food.)

Unfortunately, as one of my friends recently commented on Facebook, Honey Boo Boo will probably be replaced on TLC by another show that's just as awful. These shows are cheap to conceive and produce; there's no writing, costumes, or sets really required. And for reasons I'll never be able to understand, they manage to attract an audience. (At this point I'd love to toss in the old saying "only in America" except the Brits apparently have an awful show called Sex Box which is going to make its way across the pond here soon.) I'd love to see variety shows make a comeback, but I know that it will never happen. For starters, we just don't have the variety of talent that had mass appeal in the '60s and '70s, and they just cost too much. Everything always comes back to the mighty dollar. 

In the meantime, at least I have PBS and TV Land. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Song's Story #5: Superstar (Groupie)

I recently contributed to REBEAT Magazine's staff picks for guilty pleasure tunes, and while I went with the giddy, upbeat "My Boy Lollipop" by Millie Small, I was sorely tempted to list "Superstar" by the Carpenters. There's something about the feeling of angst and unrequited love in their 1971 hit that is oddly satisfying during the right mood, but it's also just a beautiful melody. 

This isn't the first time I've covered a Carpenters hit in the Song's Story series; I previously wrote before about the history of "Close To You" which originally was covered by other singers before the brother and sister Carpenter team turned it into pure gold in 1971. They replicated that success with their cover of "Superstar" the same year. Like "Close To You," "Superstar" was attempted by several artists before it found the right fit. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Proof That Old Timey Halloween Was Way More Terrifying Than Modern Day Halloween

They breed. 
I did a blog post on this topic some years ago, but thanks to the proliferation of these photos on Pinterest and Flickr, it bears repeating. There's something really unsettling--but also very cool--about vintage Halloween costumes. Decades before we had our choice of any overpriced, cheesy comic book character costume made of cheap vinyl online, everyone had to get crafty and make their own (gosh--the horror!) or choose from the limited designs that were available through mail-order catalogs or from the local five-and-dime.  The fact that many of these photographs are black-and-white also adds nicely to the heebie jeebie factor. So let's take a trip back in time to the days of Halloween past...if you dare. 

Is this a girl or a boy? I can't tell, but this cross-gender skeleton's top hat (I think that's a hat) adds a nice touch. 

There's something about lining up a group of kids and putting them in the same or similar masks that is truly creepy. 

Just what on earth is going on this photo? Did these little demons set fire to that car behind them? Am I seeing unearthly forms in the flames and smoke? I know you had something to do with it, Popeye!

Behold, it's the Killer Rabbits of Caerbannog! Someone get the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch!

Oh, rats. Agnes, I can't see a darned thing with this mask on!

Eye, on the other hand, see just fine.
Maybe if you don't breathe or move, he won't see you. 

Oompa-Loompas! Hands down the best costume of this collection. But what makes it actually scary is I can't tell if the one on the left is a child or a little person. 

They eat the children first. Gives the grown-ups a little more time to try to escape. 

Come and play with us, Danny. Come and play with us. 

Make. It. Stop. 

Maybe no one will notice that some of our costumes are kinda racist. 

I think I've had enough for now. Time to go flood my eyes with cat videos. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

5 Songs That Made Me Happy Before "Happy"

OK Mr. Pharrell Williams, we get it--your song "Happy" is going to go down as THE proverbial song of 2014. However, long before your cheerful earworm took over the airwaves there were other feel-good, chin up songs that had the same effect, at least on me personally. Here are five songs that were "Happy" to me before "Happy" existed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Article on REBEAT Magazine: 5 Artists That Deserve Their Own Biopics By Now

Hey all you groovy guys and gals, REBEAT Magazine has published another opinion piece of mine, 5 Artists That Deserve Their Own Biopics By Now. There are a lot of musicians who deserve to have their story played out properly on the big screen, but these are the top five I've been pondering about for a while. I'm sure you have your own favorites that you would list, so let me know who they are! Also, I can't resist sharing some love for REBEAT these days...we're gaining a steady audience and are really stoked about the content we have planned for Halloween and throughout the rest of the year. More to come. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vintage Ads That Make You Go Blech!

We all know that sex sells, but what about content that can only be described as stomach churning? I apologize in advance for the eye and brain bleach you're about to need after viewing these charming vintage ads scoured from Pinterest...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Coming Soon to A Theater Near You: GoRetroPam in The Equalizer

Next week, on September 26, Denzel Washington's new movie The Equalizer opens in theaters. Why should you care and what does this have to do with anything retro? Because there's a chance you might see yours truly as one of the background extras. Oh, and the film does have a sorta retro slant; it's based on the 1980s TV series of the same name.

Monday, September 15, 2014

For the Love of Train Travel: Thank Goodness Some Things Remain the Same

I've read lots of articles and blog posts in recent years lamenting how awful it is to travel on a commercial airliner these days compared to the golden age of the '60s and '70s. That's because it is, indeed, pretty terrible to fly on an airplane today, and passengers are so fed up they're taking matters into their own hands. Did you hear about the airplane passenger who recently used plastic clamps on the seat in front of him so that the woman sitting in it wouldn't be able to recline back and infringe on his personal space? Yeah, it caused a huge ruckus but can you blame that guy? Forget flying the friendly skies--they just simply do not exist anymore. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Movie Review: The Girl Most Likely to... (1973)

They treated her like a dog. Now, she's a fox. And she's going to make them pay.

When Joan Rivers passed away last week, lots of people were familiar with her zingy one-liners and her fashion police commentary. Less commonly known may be the fact that she wrote a kind of crazy, but entertaining television movie called The Girl Most Likely to... starring Stockard Channing, which aired on ABC in 1973.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Checking in With the Labor Search This Labor Day Weekend

It isn't that often that I deviate from the retro-related observations to post personal stuff on Go Retro but it's been my experience that the few times I have that my readers kind of dig it. I know that I like to get the person behind some of my favorite sites.

So what's today's personal topic about? Well, some of you may know that I was laid off earlier this year from my full-time February, to be exact. For those of you know don't know, I was laid off earlier this year from my full-time February, to be exact (giggles.)

The good news is I've been staying really positive through this particular tussle with unemployment. This isn't my first's my fourth. Do you think maybe the universe is trying to send me a message about seeking employment in corporate America?

Anyways, being that it's Labor Day weekend, I thought I'd do a little self check and update everyone on what I've been up to for the past seven months.

In all this time, I've only had one in-person interview, with a staffing agency. The interview itself went very well but it was disappointing because I thought I was interviewing for a marketing manager position for a small but growing manufacturing company. The advertised job opening said the person filling the role would be managing their social media channels, helping to name new products and promote them, and write copy for their collateral. It turned out to be nothing more than a copywriter position, for a less-than-exciting company. And the position has been posted on their site pretty much since I've been laid off, and I doubt anyone's been hired for it yet.

But that's not to say that I haven't been staying productive during this time off:

*I continue to manage the social media channels for a small consumer wares company and try to make it fun for their followers (product giveaways, contests, etc.) I also write posts for the company blog and attract PR and good juju for them through Twitter. I don't want to name them because the last time I did, the managers saw it in a Google alert and while I said only good things, it was still a little embarrassing. If you want to know who they are, just send me a private email.

*I got a (non-paying) writing gig with REBEAT Magazine, which is a lot of fun.

*I managed to get a paying writing gig through Craiglist, for a company that populates content sites with those slideshows accompanied by descriptive captions. I compile the photos and write the captions. It pays a few dollars per gallery depending upon the length, and you can pick and choose the ones that interest you. Hey, I'll take it...I have already made a few extra bucks and plan on cranking them out once my unemployment runs out. 

*I was a background extra, playing a nurse in a German TV miniseries that's been filming in my state over the summer. Last year I was a background extra in the upcoming Denzel Washington film The Equalizer and that was a little more exciting and lucrative, but the German miniseries gig was closer to my home and fun, easy money for one day of work. Apparently the Germans are really big on corny romance novels by a British writer named Katie Fford whose books get turned into miniseries for the country. Who knew? 

*While I've exercised regularly since my 20s, I vowed when I got laid off that I'd lose the muffin top I had attracted during the past 7 years at my last job, finally tone my abs and would get into really good shape. I ran my first 5K in May in 32 minutes, 23 seconds (a nice symmetrical number) and have lost seven pounds since losing my job...I'm sure that not having nearly daily temptations in the office such as a vending machine, doughnuts, leftover meeting snacks and homemade cookies helped contribute to that loss!

Which brings me to my next point...

When I was younger, I thought from time to time about becoming a model. People told me on occasion that since I was tall and thin and had nice features, I should try. I actually did, signing on with a now-defunct agency in the Boston suburbs. The only job I was ever offered from them was for a hair show, which I actually couldn't participate in since it was short notice and I worked at a hotel at that time, and it would have been impossible to get the day off. I also did local fashion shows for a small bridal shop...for free. So, when too many shows went by without any compensation from the owner, I quit and forgot about the dream.

As I got older, I noticed that older models were starting to become a commodity. More magazine used to run an annual modeling contest for women over 40. I told myself that when I was 40, I would enter it. That never happened because they discontinued it. But after reading articles about women who were able to launch modeling careers after the age of 40, I got really interested in it again. Not every client is seeking 21 year-old women who are six feet tall, weight 120 pounds, and wear a D cup sized bra. There is commercial modeling work...and companies who are promoting products to 40-something and older women want age appropriate people in their ads and materials. 

Now please know that I'm being realistic about the goal. As much as I'd like to make a commercial where I'm driving my Jag through a car wash to shampoo my hair and meet and marry a British rock star, I know that I can't be the next Pattie Boyd. And I'm still job hunting and prepared to take on a part-time position to supplement whatever modeling gigs I can get...or a full-time one again if it doesn't pan out.  

I have no idea if there's any demand for someone like me in an already extremely competitive industry. But I've met women who are shorter than I am and not much younger who gave gotten lucrative modeling work, and some of the women on the site of an agency I really want to work for are a dress size higher than me, older than me, and shorter than me. So I feel like I have nothing to lose, other than the money I shelled out earlier this week for a professional photographer to take photos of me to submit to sites. I think it would be a good experience for me...a chance to meet some new people, a way to work on my confidence, and who knows, maybe some jobs will get me involved in charity events or involved in other ways to help others. 

You only get one time around on the planet (or so I believe, anyway) so I gotta at least try. Who knows, a year or two from now I may be thinking of venturing into something else. And rest assured, Go Retro isn't going anywhere! 

That's the scoop. I hope everyone, whether working or not, is enjoying the Labor Day weekend!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mother's Little Helper: Vintage Drug Ads Aimed at Women

Something I've discovered recently is how many prescription anti-anxiety drugs were marketed towards women or their husbands back in the day, to ensure that housekeeping duties would not fall by the wayside. I guess it makes women became desperate housewives they had to deal with the stresses of keeping the house clean, getting the kids off to school and shuttled to extracurricular activities, and making sure a hot meal was waiting for their husband when he got home. Then as woman entered the workforce, they had to deal with a job on top of all of that. No problem, just take the little lady to the doc's to get a prescription for Butisol, Thorazine, or that old standby, Valium, and your kitchen floor will be shining again in no time. We've come a long way, baby...I think? Let's have a look...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Suddenly, Everyone Today is An Artist

Over the weekend I watched a lovely indie film released in 2009 called Local Color. It was based on the true story in the early '70s of an aspiring teenage artist who develops a friendship with a reluctant and rather coarse Russian artist, Nikolai Serov, as played by Armin Mueller-Stahl. Let me say right now that anyone who is a painter--and by painter, I mean those who can actually create something meaningful with paint on canvas WITHOUT the assistant of a paint bar (more on those in a minute)--should make this film required viewing. Seriously, make a point of renting this one from your local library because you will probably relate to a lot of what Mueller-Stahl's character says in the movie about creating art. It's also a wonderful coming-of-age story. 

From the film Local Color. Now that's more like it.
Besides that, the movie is pretty funny at times and there were two scenes that I thought were absolutely hilarious. The first is when  Serov is invited to judge a local art exhibition by his flamboyant art gallery owner friend, as portrayed by Ron Perlman (Beauty and the Beast) like you've never seen him before. As Serov meanders through the never-ending examples of head-scratching pieces of garbage passing for modern works for art, he grows increasingly frustrated and (before letting out a slew of expletives) finally declares the fan the only thing in the room that makes sense, slapping the blue ribbon onto it before leaving. 

The second scene is when Serov is showing the same friend a series of paintings that were done by mentally challenged children that he mentors--and is more and more amused as his friend praises the blobs of blue and red paint for their "anger" and "pain" like they were recently discovered masterpieces.

Which brings me to this "paint bar" craze that has popped up all over the U.S. in the past 5 years or so. To be perfectly blunt, if the real-life Serov (whose real name was George Cherepov) have lived long enough to witness this fad, he would have labeled it the nasty word that means ca-ca. In case you don't know what a paint bar is, it's an art studio where you reserve a date and time (which usually costs about $40) and the instructor gives you a limited amount of paint colors, and step-by-step instructions over the course of an hour or so on how to recreate the painting. Oh, they usually tell you to bring your own bottle of wine, so you can get sloshed during the session--I assume to distract yourself from how terrible your painting is, or delude yourself into thinking that you are an artiste (said in a French accent.)

How is this any different than the paint-by-numbers kits that were popular in the '70s...depicting Elvis...on velvet?

I know, I sound like a snob. But I have every right to be. My mother is a very talented painter--having worked with oil paints her whole life, and other members of my family were artists. I took painting classes in high school and college, so I can tell you that one does not become a talented painter in an hour. It takes years of dedicated practice. 

To be fair, some paintings offered by these gimmicky paint bars are much better than others. You can scroll through a website and choose which image you wish to duplicate, and I have seen some that approach professionalism. More often than not, however, these are cartoonish paintings that look like a child created them. I wish I could show one but many are copyrighted and I don't want to link to any paint bar. But for example, I saw one featuring two jumbled faces in a variety of awful colors you could choose to make that was called Paint Like Picasso. You get my drift. 

I do think paint bars are a wonderful way for people with little aptitude for creativity to dip their toes into art. However, after a certain point, if one really loves it so much why not try the real thing? I've known people who got addicted to paint bars and kept going back...kept paying $40 a pop for yet another awful looking creation. Why would you want anyone to think your 6 year-old nephew did the wall art for your living space? If you're willing to spend that much money, why not use it to buy some paints, brushes, and canvases at the local Michael's store, and then invest in a good instructional book on painting to elevate your skills? Or just head on over to YouTube, where the instruction is plentiful and FREE?

I mainly see these places as another sign of our instant gratification-dependent society (and one that rejoices in giving a medal to every child, because everyone is talented.) I really can't see how you can gather any sense of accomplishment after a visit from a paint bar, because they're not challenging enough. Wouldn't you rather stretch your mind and problem solving abilities by trying to duplicate a painting without the basic instruction? That's how one learns. 

It's like comparing a fast food meal to a gourmet, home-cooked one. When you're hungry, you can quench your appetite pretty quickly with McDonald's, but you may not feel so good afterwards about the sub-par ingredients you put into your body. Or you can crack open a cookbook and learn to make a healthy meal using your own hands. Which is ultimately more satisfying? 

The only real benefit I see to paint bars are the social aspect, and I get that. But paint bars seem like an insult to real artists who invested in years of work and dedication to reach the level they are at. When you watch those instructional artists on PBS, they're demonstrating different techniques with their brushes--the kid of tips you'll never pick up from a paint bar. I bet Bob Ross and Bill Alexander are turning over in their graves from this darned craze. 

Well, I guess I've bashed paint bars enough. All of this talk has kind of inspired me to dig out my oils and an empty canvas...but I'll leave the bottle of Riesling in the fridge. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Whatever Happened To...Rick Moranis?

If you were watching movies in the '80s then surely you remember Rick Moranis, the lovable nerdy guy who enjoyed a terrific film career throughout the decade, appearing in Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors, Parenthood, Spaceballs, Strange Brew, and Honey I Shrunk the Kids. It was while watching Parenthood on cable a few weeks ago that I realized that Moranis hasn't seemingly appeared on the big screen for nearly 20 it was time to do a little investigating. 

Moranis' movie legacy is bittersweet. Of course, most of us know that he hails from Canada and got his start on Second City Television alongside friend and fellow actor/writer Dave Thomas. The two pals would soon become known for their Great White North sketches featuring the characters of Bob and Doug McKenzie. Prior to that, Moranis worked as a radio DJ and was persuaded by Thomas to join SCTV as a comedy writer and performer. After the success of Strange Brew in 1983, which featured the McKenzie brothers on the big screen, Hollywood offered several more plummy comedy roles to Moranis throughout the decade. 

Then in 1991, Moranis' wife died from cancer, leaving him to raise their two young children alone. That's when Moranis slowly started to extradite himself from acting so he could focus on being a full-time, stay at home dad. He did star as Barney Rubble (with a blonde wig and without his trademark specs) in 1994's The Flintstones, and alongside Tom Arnold in 1997's Big Bully, which was a certifiable flop. Since the mid-90s, Moranis has done voiceover work mostly for children's television programs, and starred in a 1993 music video for a song by Donald Fagen of Steely Dan called Tomorrow's Girls, in which he is married to a female alien. 

Moranis emerged from his private life last year to give an interview to NPR's Jesse Thorn and revealed that he had, indeed, pretty much retired from acting. He explained why it was easy for him to walk away from Hollywood: 

“Stuff happens to people everyday, and they make adjustments to their lives for all kinds of reasons. There was nothing unusual about what happened or what I did, I think the reason that people were intrigued by the decisions I was making and sometimes seem to have almost admiration for it had less to do with the fact that I was doing what I was doing and more to do with what they thought I was walking away from, as if what I was walking away from had far greater value than anything else that one might have. The decision in my case to become a stay-at-home-Dad, which people do all the time, I guess wouldn’t have meant as much to people if I had had a very simple kind of make-a-living existence and decided I needed to spend more time at home. Nobody would pay attention to it, but because I came from celebrity and fame and what was the peak of a career, that was intriguing to people. To me, it wasn’t that. I didn’t have anything to do with that. It was work, and it was just time to make an adjustment.”

Moranis doesn't regret his decision at all, and of course he's to be applauded. He went on to say in the interview that his own childhood was a happy one, and he wanted his kids to have that experience, too:

“When my kids came home, there was music, and there were lights on, and there were great smells coming out of the kitchen. And it was just a joyful place to be, and that’s what I wanted.”

Last year Moranis also released a comedy album, My Mother's Brisket & Other Love Songs, about growing up Jewish. He has also weighed in about the possibility of a third Ghostbusters movie, and if his character Louis Tully might make an appearance in it:

"I haven’t talked to Dan Aykroyd about it. Somebody he’s associated with called me and I said, ‘I wouldn’t not do it, but it’s got to be good.’ You know, I’m not interested in doing anything I’ve already done, and I thought the second one was a disappointment. But I guess I’m interested in where that guy is now. I sort of see him as being Bernie Madoff’s cellmate in jail. Both of them being so orderly that they race to get up and make their beds.”

It's good to know that he's doing well. 
Rick Moranis in 2013

Friday, August 15, 2014

New REBEAT Magazine Article Posted: 10 Criminally Underrated Beatles Songs

It's Beatles week on REBEAT Magazine as some members of the staff are gearing up for the Chicago Beatlefest this weekend, so in keeping with the week's theme of all things Fab Four, here's a little list I pulled together of 10 underrated Beatles songs. Yeah, yeah,'s a very subjective list (and really, could have been stretched easily to 20 tunes), but click on the image above to read it, and let me know which ones you would have included. Have a great Friday, everyone!

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