Sunday, January 31, 2016

Before Tinder and Texting, There Were Acquaintance Cards

Once in a while I like to venture off the mid-20th century pop culture path and explore the nooks and crannies of truly vintage times. Since Valentine's Day is only a couple of weeks away (repeat after me, husbands and boyfriends: "Thank you, GoRetroPam, for reminding me and saving my a$$!") I thought it might be fun to have a look at what they used to call acquaintance or flirting cards back in the day.

Way back in the 1800s and early 1900s, before there was such a thing as texting and that God-awful Tinder app, gentlemen that were taken by a lady would slip her one of these cards as a way of indicating interest or infatuation. Two interesting things I noticed when perusing these cards online: it seemed appropriate for women to use these cards as well, although they also didn't seem to have a rejection card available for their disposal. It kind of makes you wonder how they were supposed to let down someone gently.

Just a distinction: these cards are a little different than calling cards that were being used at the same time. Those were left at someone's home as a polite way of trying to be introduced for the purpose of social or business arrangements. Acquaintance cards were for making a, scoring a date. They were also known as escort or invitation cards and were meant to help break the ice with a member of the female sex.

And just like pick-up lines from any other era, some of these are cute and charming while others are borderline creepy.

Just one quick note before we delve in...these are all credited to a Flickr user named Alan Mays. I reached out to him and asked for permission to use them, since another site has featured them as well. He never got back to Alan, if you see this, I hope it's OK to display your fine collection of vintage acquaintance cards and link back to you.

Just a tidbit of trivia that these cards were once made and found pretty much all over the country. You could buy a box of 1,000 of them for around $1.35 at the time. I guess you would need that many if you were being continuously shot down.

Speaking of shot down, this one was apparently dispensed only by the bravest, besotted man who's willing to risk his life for a date.

If you turn me down, I'm just going to sit on the fence and stare at you as you walk past. Nope, not creepy/stalkerish at all.

Red flag alert: "our" new lamp/sofa? Really makes it sound like the man is not living alone, just saying.

Whoever wrote this one is a real poet (and probably does know it.) But considering you could buy a thousand of these cards for a buck, it seems they were the Victorian equivalent of the carbon copy messages women sometimes get online, where a guy just copies and pastes the same introductory message over and over again. Not exactly the way to make a woman feel unique and special.

For those that met and married later in life...for those old maids that defeated the odds. (It also reminds me of Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes on Downton Abbey.)

I found this one to be a little creepy, and I wonder how vintage it is considering I thought "spooning" was a relatively modern term. And what's up with the "special attention paid to other fellows' girls" line? Yeah, this one is for creeps...let's keep going...

Now we're talking, ladies: a ragtime millionaire! And he's single! But I'm guessing that "knockers" had a different meaning in the 1800s then it does now.

I think it's amusing that there was once a time where women were referred to as creatures.

My goodness, there were a lot of millionaires and millionaires' sons looking for love back in the day, huh? This one is obviously from the 20th century judging by the more modern clothing on the characters.

Anna the "Butch" wants to know who the devil you are. You may want to proceed with caution here, fellas.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Where Have All the Bloggers Gone? Long Time Passing...

This is just a quick personal observation post before I get back to the retro related ones, but I wanted to take a moment to say something to all of my fellow bloggers out there that I know of who still update their sites on a regular or semi-regular basis: congratulations.

You see, last week I noticed in my Blogger dashboard that many of the blogs I used to read at one time are now dead as a doornail. Many haven't been updated in months and a good handful haven't been touched in years -- the one on my list with the longest dormancy period I saw was five years!

It did make me a little sad -- I'm sorry to see them fall by the wayside. Naturally, many of them had a retro/vintage theme. One site that I already knew was no longer being updated was 1972: The Retro WW Experiment. The WW stands for Weight Watchers and the author, Mimi, would make and post meals from 1970s Weight Watchers booklets. I thought she had a really great niche theme, but after she failed to get an interview with WW's founder, Jean Nidetch (who also died last year) she closed the shop up on any new posts.

I guess I'm bringing it up as an excuse to pat myself on the back, because there have been a couple of times I thought of throwing in the towel myself (although I'm awfully glad and grateful that I stuck it out.) When I first starting writing Go Retro in 2007 I did it with the intentions of just posting for fun; I certainly did not expect to attract a lot of readers or make any money with it right off the bat. It took about a good five years before either of those things started to happen (and make no mistake; while I run advertising on this blog, it's not like the revenue I get is anywhere near an amount to live off of; more like I'm grateful it covers filling my car's tank up with gas every couple of months.)

And it's only due to the fact I've been out of work for a while that I've been able to update this site and obsess over the layout and other things about it so much. Blogging can be a lot of work and it can really take a while to build and audience and see results. So I get where so many folks I followed no longer have the time and/or the passion to keep at it.

Having said that, another reason for this post is just to mention the updated blog roll I added at the bottom right side of the page, below the contact me form. I encourage you to check out these swell bloggers' sites, that are still quite active and updated regularly. Some have a retro theme and some do not, but I have my own reasons for following all of them and try to pop in on them when I can. They all deserve their own pat on the back!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

1976: My "First" Year of Music

1976: My "First" Year of Music

(Note: After a few attempts, I have NO idea why this post will not display properly like the to leave a comment, click on the post title above which is hyperlinked and it will show the comment box at the bottom of the post.)

Do you remember how old you were when you started remembering pop and rock songs? I ask because I distinctly remember that many of my "first" songs I remember hearing and retaining were from the year 1976. I was four years old, and it was the first time I was discovering a music world beyond what they played on Sesame Street, namely because of the songs my older siblings were playing at the time both at home and on their car radios when I accompanied them.

Another pivotal year for me in music fandom was 1984 -- as that was when one of my sisters gave me a personal radio with headphones for my birthday -- but for this post I'm going to focus on 1976, a whopping four decades ago (ouch!) and the list of songs I remember hearing the most from that year. I guess it shouldn't surprise anyone that I'm still a fan of most of these singers/bands and they helped start me on the lifelong path of being a retro music lover. And much like the '60s, the '70s decade seemed to offer something for everyone -- from soft rock to more traditional rock 'n' rock to disco.

"If You Leave Me Now" by Chicago

I have always loved Chicago, but only up until Peter Cetera left the band to pursue his own solo career in the '80s; after he and his distinctive voice left the group's sound was never the same again. At the age of four I didn't know anything about romantic love, but I did know that the singer was heartbroken over the thought of his girlfriend leaving him and sometimes, 40 years later, the song brings a tear to my eye. Fortunately, Chicago knew how to swing the songwriting pendulum to compose happy love songs, and they balanced this one out with a big hit the following year, "Baby What A Big Surprise", which is one of my favorite love songs of all time.

"Don't Go Breaking My Heart" by Elton John and Kiki Dee

In the summer of 1976, this hit was all over the radio waves and somehow I knew even at that young age that it would become one of my favorite love songs of all time. Little did we know at the time that the song would be considered a bit of a curse (the "Kiki Jinx") for Elton John; he wouldn't have another number one single of him singing solo until 1997's "Candle In The Wind."

"Got To Get You Into My Life" by the Beatles

This was the first Beatles song I ever remember hearing -- not "Yellow Submarine", "She Loves You", or any of their other hits -- and yet oddly enough, I wouldn't become a huge Beatles fan until some 15 years later. Part of that may have had to do with the fact that my sister had Magical Mystery Tour on vinyl and I was scared half to death of that album cover! I mean, they were dressed like animals with creepy masks and I quite honestly thought they seemed a little freaky at the time. But I digress..."Got To Get Your Into My Life" is one of the only Beatles songs that became a hit some time after the band broke up. It was originally recorded (and released) in 1966 and ten years later was reissued as a single in conjunction with the Rock 'n' Roll Music album, which contained mostly the Fabs' covers of 1950s songs by Chuck Berry and his cohorts that fans were already quite familiar with.

One thing I learned about this song fairly recently is that, while it is a love song, it's an ode not to a woman but to another love in Paul McCartney's life at the time, marijuana! John Lennon told Playboy magazine in 1980 that it was one of McCartney's best songs.

"Evil Woman" by Electric Light Orchestra

I have no shame in admitting that ELO is one of my favorite 1970s bands. A lot of it may have to do with the fact that their sound was inspired by the Beatles, but I also love how they incorporated string instruments and how that helped them stand out from so many traditional rock groups at the time. "Evil Woman" was released late in 1975, but received a lot of radio play into 1976 after it became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The line, "There's a hole in my head where the rain comes in" was a little nod to the Beatles' "Fixing A Hole."

"A Fifth of Beethoven" by Walter Murphy

Remember when Walter Murphy took Beethoven's signature Fifth Symphony and turned it into a one-hit disco wonder? This and Barry Manilow's "Could It Be Magic?" were my first introductions to "classical" music. I can't say I'm a fan today of the classical genre but I do have an appreciation for Mozart and...PBS' Andre Rieu. (OK, I'm a fan of Andre Rieu.)

"Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tennille

So yes, I know this song was released in 1975, but my first vivid memory of it was watching Toni Tennille perform it as a duet on her variety show, The Captain & Tennille, in 1976 with...wait for it...Big Bird. This song also has the distinction of being the first (and so far, only) one I've ever performed on karaoke. Sadly, love didn't keep Daryl Dragon (the "Captain") and Toni Tennille together -- in 2014 they announced their divorce after nearly 40 years of marriage.

"Right Back Where We Started From" by Maxine Nightingale

Another feel good fave of mine; it was used in the 1977 film Slap Shot but also showed up during a comical moment on last night's Blacklist.

"Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright

This was another one released in late 1975 (ignore the fact that the video above says 1972), so to me it still counts since it charted the following year. When it came on the radio one day I remember one of my sisters remarking that the opening synthesizer sounded like noises a spaceship would make. To be honest, I've never been a big fan of this song (sorry, Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar) because even at my young age it felt so sad to me. Who wants to live a life where the only time peace and good things come to you is in your dreams? Nonetheless, Wright's hit is a standout of the year for me.

"Life In the Fast Lane" by The Eagles

And in light of the sad, untimely passing of Glenn Frey last week, it seems fitting to end my list of most memorable songs of 1976 with The Eagles' hit from that year, inspired greatly by Frey's friendship with a drug dealer at the time. Thankfully I was blissfully unaware about drug addiction at age four, and simply thought it was a song about driving too fast.

Ah, the '70s. Such a great time for music and to be a kid. What were some of the first songs you remember?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Fond of Fondue

Despite extensive research by the Go Retro "team", we could find no real explanation as to why fondue parties became such a big thing in the 1970s. Some feel it was the appeal of a social meal where people would gather around a fondue pot, while others think it was the food's European roots that inspired Americans to experiment with it. Or maybe it's because it's a sexy meal during a time when the sexual revolution was still in full swing...what could be more sensuous than feeding your partner a warm, chocolate dipped strawberry?

Or maybe it was just the fact that dipping bread, fruit, veggies, and meat into a warm, gooey, melted cheese mixture made with wine Darned. Good. Today also just happens to be National Cheese Lovers Day, which probably explains why fondue is on my mind. Fondue reportedly began to make a comeback about 15 years ago. You may have heard of the restaurant chain The Melting Pot where most of the menu is fondue-based. TMP has locations today all over the U.S., but was originally launched in 1975 -- when the fondue craze began.

We do know that fondue originated in the 1700s in Switzerland as a way for families to use up aged bread and cheese during the winter months.

Whatever the reason, it's definitely fondue season right now -- the Northeastern U.S. is bracing for a snowstorm this weekend and Minnesotans are making yard sculptures by freezing their jeans (but not while wearing them at the same time, thank goodness. There are some body parts that should never experience frostbite.) So it's time to take a retro romp through some fondue images from the past, collected from Pinterest, Flickr, and more. Be warned if you're a cheese addict like myself, because some of these pictures gave me a serious craving for the stuff.

Is there a difference between teenage fondue and regular fondue? Who knows, but my best guess is maybe the teen fondue omitted the wine for underage drinkers.

Betty Crocker's guide to all of the equipment that you need, for any kind of fondue.

Wiser words were never written. I like that the "oldest cronie" was drawn like Oliver Hardy, and the "newest acquaintance" looks like a beatnik. Ah, the power of fondue to bring people of all backgrounds together!

One thing I'm not too crazy about is cooking meat in a communal pot, like the kind you encounter at some Asian restaurants. I tried it a couple of times but found cooking my own food when I'm paying for it to be prepared a little weird. I'm a traditional fondue person -- I'll take the melted cheese or chocolate over dipping raw meat into hot broth any day!

Two pages from the 1972 Sears Wish Book catalog -- I wouldn't mind having one of those vintage electric fondue pots today.

Fun and safe for kids!

Well, I don't care if it looks or sounds disgusting...I'd totally make pizza fondue!

This image would suggest that fondue was already becoming a thing in the 1960s.

I couldn't tell if this photo was actually from the '70s or made to look that way, but either way that's a pretty grooving dining room...with a fondue pot just waiting for the party to get started.

Typical cozy après-ski scene...with beer and fondue!

And even the littlest ones had their own (safe) version of fondue, courtesy of Kenner.

Well, not only am I all fondued-out, I'm also hungry. Time to go melt some cheese...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Now I Know What Jessica Rabbit Feels Like

Today was my birthday, so when I meandered onto Facebook this morning I was greeted with the usual birthday wishes from friends and family members, accompanied by cute pictures of the Beatles...and Beetles (as in VW.) However, nothing could have prepared me for what is undoubtably one of the most far out, grooviest birthday presents I've ever received in my 44 years on this planet. I was immortalized as a retro style cartoon.

Pete Emslie is an uber-talented cartoonist and illustrator that has gotten paid for what he loves doing best for over 30 years. That includes working for the freaking Disney Company! Pete's been a reader and fan of Go Retro for a few years now, and he also showcases his talent on his own blog, The Cartoon Cave, perfectly capturing the physical characteristics of both retro and modern celebrities with his uncanny caricatures. Please check it out, especially if you're a fan of animation and caricatures; it's so much fun to see his illustrations. The fact that I'm now on the same blog as David Bowie, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, and countless other celebs in the same illustrated form has blown me away!

Not long ago, I was looking into artists posting their services on the site Fiver to have someone illustrate my photo in a Roy Lichenstein or other retro style. The one guy I liked the most was on vacation, had a long wait list, and never responded to my email. The others just didn't seem as talented. Now not only have I received a caricature by an artist that's a thousand times more talented than those guys, but I got it for free!

Thanks, Pete, for capturing me so brilliantly in a retro-style portrait. It's seriously one of the best things to happen to me ever since Paul McCartney flashed the peace sign back at me at a concert in 2002!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Movie Review: Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990)

(Spoiler alert: I reveal the movie's ending towards the end of this post!) In 1990, two romantic movies involving a deceased boyfriend and a love story were released in theaters. One of these, Ghost, was a huge commercial success, grossing over $505 million at the box office, driven by the star power of Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg.

The second movie, Truly, Madly, Deeply -- starring Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman -- only earned just over $1.5 million. But because I've always felt that our friends across the pond do stage and screen much better than us Americans, there's no question which of these movies is (in my opinion) the superior film. Ghost was well-done and entertaining, but Truly, Madly, Deeply (I'll refer to it as TMD) is beautifully acted, delivers more heartfelt emotion, and most importantly, makes you think. (Come to think of it, one critic declared it "the thinking person's Ghost." And well, I do love to think, after all.)

And since we lost Alan Rickman the same week as David Bowie, at the same age (69) and also from cancer, TMD is worthy of some accolades because it featured Rickman in a romantic role (when his death was announced here in the States, it was mostly his villainous characters from Die Hard and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves that were cited.)

What I appreciate most about this movie is how realistic the emotions are portrayed, so much so that it's easy to forget Rickman and Stevenson are acting. When Stevenson sobs, "I miss him, I miss him, I miss him!" and declares that she hates seeing couples in love in her therapist's office, your heart is breaking for her. When she's clowning around with Rickman, you're smiling because it's how a real couple acts; it's completely natural. There's nothing corny or contrived about this film (except for the romantic gestures of Stevenson's Polish-born landlord.) TMD was written and directed by the late Anthony Minghella, known for The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley.

On a personal note, I first saw TMD for the first time a few years after my father and the man who had been the first love of my life passed away (within 5 months of each other) and seeing this movie and the message behind it helped me put my lingering mourning behind me. Watching it again recently reaffirmed that it should be on any list of required Valentine's Day movies -- whether you've lost someone close to you or not.

Now for the movie's plot...Stevenson plays Nina, a translator working for a language agency who is still depressed over the death of her cellist boyfriend, Jamie (Rickman.) We don't know how long ago Jamie passed away, but it was sudden according to Nina's boss, who tells the men fixing her rat-infested apartment that Jamie died from a strep virus. For a while, Nina has been hearing Jamie's voice in her head, instructing her on how to brush her teeth properly and to make sure the back door is locked.

One night, Nina's sister suggests that Nina give up Jamie's cello for her son who is learning the instrument and it pushes her into another low mood. That's when Jamie suddenly manifests in the apartment. It's up to interpretation whether Jamie is a ghost or a figment of Nina's imagination, though personally I think it's the former, since he's always complaining about being cold (a downside to being dead, I guess) and talks about continuing to drop in on political rallies, something he was passionate about.

Naturally, Nina is ecstatic at having Jamie and his company back in her life; she misses several days of work as a result. But the miracle soon becomes more than she bargained for when Jamie starts doing little things that annoy her beyond the usual inability to put a toilet seat down. He starts rearranging her furniture. He cranks the heat up to uncomfortable levels. Furthermore, he starts to get annoyed with her, even remarking at one point, "I'd forgotten you could be like this" after springing on her that he has invited some of his ghostly bros to her apartment to watch videos all night long.

He also makes himself scarce when somebody rings Nina's doorbell and their time together is confined to the apartment; it's not like Nina can go out to eat with him or to dinner parties (although it's never confirmed it seems that Nina is the only living person who can actually see and touch Jamie.)

Although I normally consider him attractive, even I find Rickman to be a little annoying in this film; his character at times is a little droll and grump -- especially in contrast to Nina's cheerful nature.

At the same time Jaime and Nina's relationship begins getting strained, she starts crossing paths with a quirky psychologist, Mark (Michael Maloney), that she first encounters in a restaurant, then on a bus. Mark seems like a good guy; he's a psychologist working with mentally disabled adults and he's capable of performing magic tricks. Nina agrees to go out with Mark and while she is attracted to him, feels conflicted because of Jaime's presence back at home.

As Nina and Jaime's relations become more strained (and more of his friends from the other side invade the apartment), the couple begins to realize that their relationship probably wasn't the grand sweeping romance they had idealized it to be. "Was it always this way?" Nina asks one evening. She remembers how she hid away many of her personal belongings because Jaime didn't approve of them. She is soon confronted by a choice: she can stay in the past with her life with Jaime or she can move forward and create a new one.

The movie ends on a bittersweet note with Jaime, smiling and wiping back tears, with his friends watching as Nina is greeted by Mark in front of her apartment and she leaves with him.

Some fans of this movie believe that Jamie's return -- whether imagined by Nina or real -- was necessary to heal her heart and help her eventually move on.

It's a lovely little film, worthy of a view, and currently uploaded to YouTube if you want to check it out. Here's the trailer:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Farewell To A Childhood Film Theater

This post is going to be short, sweet, and personal, but a few weeks ago I found out that the closest movie theater to me -- which happens to be the main one I've been going to since I was a kid -- is closing for good; this weekend, as a matter of fact.

It's just a generic Showcase Cinemas; not a fancy independently operated theater or anything like that, but I'm disappointed just the same. For starters, it was incredibly convenient for me to get to -- just 15 minutes away on the regular back roads in the town next to mine. The ticket prices have always been cheaper than nearby competing chains. And I loved the fact that there was always plenty of parking up close to the entrance because it wasn't a busy theater...but unfortunately that's also the same reason why it's closing. Attendance had dropped off in recent years as people have been going to a newer Loews theater in a shopping center a bit up the highway. But I'm going to miss this theater.

I saw everything there from The Empire Strikes Back to E.T., Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, James Bond movies, and all of the Indiana Jones ones. In fact, my first vivid movie memory happened there when my brother took me to see Jaws in 1976. I was only three and a half years old but what I remember most other than the movie itself (which I loved; I wasn't scared at all) were all of the Jaws toys and promotional items being sold in the lobby, something that doesn't happen today. (My brother bought me an orange rubber toy shark that I put in my backyard wading pool the next day.)

In high school, it was where my friends and I would go on half days followed (or preceded by) lunch at Denny's next door.

Construction of the original 1-6 theater side in 1964. Photo credit: James V. Roy at
I found out that the theater was built in 1965 and two of the first films screened there were In Harms Way starting John Wayne, and The Train with Burt Lancaster. Theater one was the only one of its kind in the area because it could screen both 70mm as well as 35 mm film. By the 1980s this particular movie theater actually consisted of two buildings; the original, on one side of the main drag, showed movies 1-6. The second structure, across the street, was constructed to accommodate movies 7-14 as well as viewer demand.

Then, in 2008, the original 1-6 side was shut down and stadium seating was added to all of the theaters on the newer side (another reason why I loved it, because my legs and knees suffer in a more cramped Showcase in another town that has really outdated seating.) They also improved the sound system and size of the screens.

The last film I saw there was The Peanuts Movie (two thumbs way up, by the way) and there was a substantial crowd in the theater, including men with their kids, which was surprising given the Pats were playing that afternoon. But not long ago an older woman from my church that's friendly with my mother and her friends told us the last time she went to see a movie there, she was only person in attendance. She felt creeped out about being alone in a dark theater and left. The ticket attendee told her more people were favoring the Loews.

And it's not that I have anything against Loews; the one people are flocking to features big reclining seats, something I definitely appreciate. But it costs more, and the theaters themselves are smaller, and I'm not thrilled at the idea of driving on the highway to get there. The other Showcase is pretty big and has plenty of parking, but like I mentioned they really need to update the actual theaters and make them bigger and more comfortable. And I guess it's just the stab of knowing another place from childhood is soon to be gone, joining the likes of the local five-and-dime store and a favorite restaurant my parents and I went to often that disappeared years ago.

I'll be curious to know what will become of both buildings eventually; will they be knocked down and something new built in their place(s)? Probably likely...but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that perhaps a different movie chain will look into taking them over and resurrecting them so that they can compete with the others nearby.

Either way, the screens go dark -- for now -- this Sunday. :(

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

No Purchase Necessary: When Sweepstakes Were Groovy

While everyone has gotten themselves worked up in a Powerball frenzy, I've been thinking about sweepstakes, and how much cooler they seemed back in the day. I occasionally enter an online giveaway and have noticed that they don't just seem as unique as ones from previous decades (and some magazines, like Shape, have become cheap skates and aren't even offering giveaways anymore.) I mean, who wouldn't want to win a baby blue Mustang, or the chance to fly on Hugh Hefner's jet, or a walk-on cameo on Laugh-In? Today's sweepstakes rules also make you do so much work sometimes to have to upload a photo with a hashtag to Instagram, or make a video showing why you should be chosen as the winner.

Just give me an old fashioned entry form to fill out with a ballpoint pen. Here's a look at some of the prizes you could have had a chance at winning from the '60s or '70s.

For me, it doesn't get any cooler than this...a Volkswagen that looks like Peter Max designed it. Five lucky winners got a custom designed Bug...I wonder if any of them are in existence today? I was surprised to learn that Ultra Brite toothpaste still exists.

Yardley's giving away an exciting role in a new TV show filmed in London. Hmmm...Benny Hill?

Catch a Mustang, catch a man.

Yesterday marked 50 years since Batman premiered on television. $50,000 -- and $1,000 -- were pretty generous cash amounts for 1966. But perhaps the coolest prize listed here? The "official" Batman equipment package including a hood, cape and utility belt. No word on whether it was meant for kids or their parents.

Really, Nabisco? The best you could do was Neil Sedaka and The Marshall Tucker Band? OK, maybe this doesn't belong in a post of "cool" contests to enter. No offense to their fans, but I'd rather win a lifetime supply of Junior Mints.

I'd temporarily take up smoking for the chance to win a pair of these cars.

"No jingles to write, no boxtops to mail." I love that Wheaties kept it simple!

You bet your sweet bippy that this is definitely the most unique sweepstakes shown here, as the first prize was your own franchise of a Laugh-In restaurant, something I wrote about a few years ago. The second prize sounds swell -- a walk-on appearance on Laugh-In. Sadly, after that the prize quality goes down...a statue of the Fickle Finger of Fate and the Laugh-In record album.

Hefner's selling his Playboy mansion...I wonder whatever become of the Big Bunny Jet?

Don't snicker -- this was a technological wonder at the time. The second prize isn't too shabby. You get a collection of cassettes to play including albums by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and The Mamas and the Papas.

Good luck to everyone that bought a Powerball ticket for tonight!

Monday, January 11, 2016

10 Favorite David Bowie Songs

"Planet earth is blue, and there's nothing I can do."

Like a lot of music fans today I'm shocked and saddened to hear about the death of David Bowie. He'd been discretely battling cancer for the past year and a half, and passed away on Sunday, January 10, just days after his 69th birthday and releasing his 27th and final album, Blackstar. As an eerie parting gift to his fans, his last music video for a track from that album, "Lazarus", is brave and prophetic, announcing his death (and concludes with Bowie backing himself into a bedroom wardrobe, off to the land of Narnia, we can assume.) Knowing his time on this earth was preciously short, he sure knew how to make an exit as well as an entrance.

I don't consider myself a huge Bowie fan, but I do like his music (although I'm unfamiliar with most of what he recorded during the past 25 years) and I've been touched by seeing the outpouring of tributes and affection for him on social media. For kids that grew up feeling left out or misunderstood, the "Thin White Duke" was a rebellious musical hero and not afraid to push artistic limits with his gender bending, makeup draped personas.

Amazingly, Bowie (he adopted the made-up last name because his real name, David Jones, was already taken by one of The Monkees) didn't considered himself a musician. He told Charlie Rose that he was more of an artist who was using music to express himself.

I'm not knowledgable enough to list ten underrated songs from Bowie's catalog, but I am going to list ten of my favorite songs of his as a small Go Retro tribute. No surprise, several of these come from the '80s, the decade of my preteen and teenage years. RIP and godspeed, Ziggy Stardust.

1. Space Oddity (1969)

It wasn't until a couple of years ago that it occurred to me just how perfectly composed Bowie's big early hit is. First it all, it tells a story which is an uncommon theme in most of today's music, and second, you can easily envision the rocket ricocheting upward after takeoff thanks to that wavering guitar effect. There were two music videos filmed for the track -- I prefer the second one above which is from Bowie's promotional film Love You Til Tuesday (but definitely favor the radio version of the song we're all familiar with.)

By the way, the song inspired the '80s hit by German singer Peter Schilling, "Major Tom (Coming Home)" released in 1983, in which the astronaut character comes back home to earth.

2. Changes (1971)

My go-to "soother" song each time I was laid off. That, and Bobby Darin's "Change."

3. Rebel Rebel (1974)

"Rebel Rebel", to me, could have been David Bowie singing about himself. "You've got your mother in a whirl...she's not sure if you're a boy or a girl. Hey, baby, your hair's alright." It's thought of as Bowie's farewell song to the glam rock genre and his most covered song.

4. Fame (1975)

In 1974, David Bowie met John Lennon for the first time and no surprise, the two became fast friends. At a speech Bowie gave to the Berklee College of Music in 1999, he called Lennon his "greatest mentor." (Yoko Ono said on Facebook that Bowie was a good friend and like a father figure to Sean after Lennon passed away.) "Fame" was partially motivated by Bowie's unhappiness with his management at the time. "I think fame itself is not a rewarding thing," he said in a 1990 interview. "The most you can say is that it gets you a seat in restaurants."

The above performance is a rare one; Bowie appeared on Soul Train, obviously lip-synching his hit (and without his Beatle backup singer present.)

5. Heroes (1977)

It's a beautiful love song about a fleeting romance, but I will always remember how it got noticeable radio play after 9/11.

6. Fashion (1980)

Of all of the songs on my list, "Fashion" is probably the most underrated. The first time I heard it, it quickly became one of my favorite Bowie songs. The music video features G.E. Smith of Hall & Oates' band, and May Pang, John Lennon's mistress during his lost weekend period.

7. Under Pressure (1981)

Bittersweet now because it was a collaboration with Freddie Mercury and Queen, Under Pressure is as timely today as ever.

8. Let's Dance (1983)

Brings back great memories of Friday night junior high school dances.

9. Modern Love (1983)

Although the song was released nearly ten years before he married her, I think it's worth mentioning Bowie's wife Iman, the gorgeous supermodel from the '70s and '80s. Bowie met Iman at a dinner party and was immediately smitten; she was suspicious because she didn't want to get involved with a rock star. Bowie pursued her and wooed her, and when he bent to tie her sneaker lace that had some undone in the middle of the street she knew he was a keeper. "My father gave me a positive connection with men because he is a gentleman," she told Harper's Bazaar in 2010. "And that is what attracted me to David. He is a gentle soul."

They married in 1992, had a daughter (Bowie also had a son with his first wife), and right up until Bowie's death had by all accounts something rare in the music biz -- a happy, strong, and fulfilling marriage.

10. Blue Jean (1984)

I would like to know if David Bowie did his own makeup for this video, or a makeup artist...because the contouring job is amazing!

What are your favorite David Bowie songs?

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Welcome to the Seventies: Sunset Ideas for Clothing Decoration

Pure retro gold -- that's what I'm about to show you within the pages of this awesome scanned book I found on Flickr, Sunset Ideas for Clothing Decoration. This book was published in 1977 and amazingly, you can currently buy a copy of it on with a description that says it was "rarely opened." That's a shame, because a book like this was meant to be enjoyed and poked fun at on a regular basis. You want to keep scrolling because things go from groovy to grotesque in a heartbeat. I don't think there's any further introduction I can give it before we delve in other then announcing, "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 1970s."

I'll admit it -- the Polish girl in me really digs this vest; it has an Eastern European look to it. I don't think we can say the same for the model; I've seen happier women in laxative advertisements.

I do like this skirt, too. A few years ago I started embroidering flowers on an old pair of jeans; I'll admit seeing this is inspiring me again.

Very Bohemian. Not sure what I think about the eagle on the back of the sweater but this was the 1970s, after all.

The purple flowers in her hair is a nice matching touch. I honestly can't tell if the top model is a boy or a girl but either way, that is the worst looking bowl haircut I've ever seen.

Thumbs up on the dress and that embroidered denim skirt again. Not sure what I think about Joseph's amazing technicolor dream coat at the top, though.

And now we're starting to get a little weird. The girl has an image of a rather rotund lady appliquéd on a smock, while dad looks like his shirt is trimmed with macrame. The tunic on the "mom" is the only fashion statement I'd approve here.

Was that previous page not weird enough for you? Well then, here you go. I still haven't figured out what we're supposed to be looking at here. It's a little scary.

South American inspired duds and patchwork.

Back to more over-the-top weirdness. A quilted coat from this decade wouldn't be complete without a rainbow somewhere on it.

I honestly can't think of anything to say. Let's keep going.

Tie dye and Native American we're talking!

That's right, why should only the women be humiliated in this craft book?

Oh boy. I hope someone told the dude in the cow shirt with the dour expression up top how lucky he was that he at least didn't have to model the outfit on the bottom.

I appreciate that the boy's shirt is made of"keepsake patches". But sending your child off to school looking like this is just begging for them to be beaten up.

It takes a confident man to wear painted jeans.

And we've finally reached the end, which is good news because the sentence on her top makes no sense (much like half of this book)..."Good take care of your boy today." Huh?

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