Friday, December 30, 2016

Debbie Reynolds' Lost Fitness Video: Do It Debbie's Way

Debbie Reynolds is being lovingly remembered this week for her iconic roles in Singin' In the Rain, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and The Singing Nun, as well as her many television roles, her devotion to daughter Carrie Fisher, and her marriage to Eddie Fisher that ended in scandal. However, many people may not know that in the early '80s, Reynolds actually jumped on the fitness video craze of the early '80s by releasing her own exercise VHS called Do It Debbie's Way (which in another life might have been the title of a porn film.)

I'm actually very familiar with this underrated, charming, humorous gem of a workout tape, because my mother owned a copy. She used it so much she actually wore it out, and between the time Amazon launched and DVDs replaced VCRs I was able to purchase a new copy for her.

This is actually a very entertaining fitness video; several of Reynolds' Hollywood gal pals join her on the set including Dionne Warwick, Teri Garr, Virginia Mayo, Pat Van Potten, Terry Moore, and a lazy (and chubby) Shelley Winters, who half-asses her way through most of the exercises. Speaking of the softly lit set, it features Grecian columns, a chandelier, the name DEBBIE in big letters, and a pink theme, inspired -- according to Reynolds -- by her many years spent at MGM studios. There's also lots of spandex and leg warmers galore; Reynolds herself is wearing a burgundy-colored unitard (that features a collar) and stirrup pants leggings.

The woman is just too cute in this video. Even as a kid watching it, I could sense that Reynolds was down-to-earth and seemed like she'd be a funny lady to be around. "This is the lousiest exercise I've ever had!" she exclaims at one point and "I hate exercise!" gets shouted out during another moment, as well as "If I only had a hit record I wouldn't have to do this!" which makes me wonder if someone talked Reynolds into doing this tape for some quick cash. It seems pretty obvious that Debbie didn't aspire to become the next Jane Fonda, but she sure is having a lot of fun here.

"Raise your hand if you slept with Howard Hughes!" says Shelley Winters (who then raises her hand, just before everyone else does because it's part of the move they're doing before breaking out in a fit of giggles.) "C'mon Shelley, you're not even trying!" says Reynolds. I guess it was no accident that Winters' spot was regulated to the back of the room.

And the soundtrack of choice for these workouts? Big band music...mostly Glenn Miller. You gotta love it!

The tape is 85 minutes long and features three workouts; one 20-minute segment and two half hour routines. Reynolds explains at her introduction that she tried other workout tapes but found them too fast, whereas she likes to do things that are slow and easy. The workouts feature a lot of floor work, stretching, and light aerobics -- nothing that would cause most people to break out in a sweat or burn a ton of calories, but totally suitable for those that require or enjoy exercise that's on the easier side.

Now here's the best part about this gem of a video. From the reviews on Amazon, it actually has a cult following of women that claim they still work out to it to this day! They like the old school ease and the entertainment it delivers. Hey, whatever motivates people to get off the coach and move their body isn't a bad thing.

And for all of the griping Reynolds does during these workouts, she couldn't have hated them that much. In 1988, she released another workout VHS, this one called Couples Do It Debbie's Way. It featured Tom Bosley (!), Dick Van Patten and their wives, and Reynolds' third husband, Richard Hamlett. Unfortunately, there are no video clips uploaded publicly yet of her follow-up fitness project, but the video below gives you a good idea of what Do It Debbie's Way delivers. So make those New Year's resolutions to lose weight, get in shape, it Debbie's way! (We'll miss you, Ms. Reynolds.)

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Adam-12 Reunion That Wasn't: Nashville Beat

When NBC's popular cop series Adam-12 ended in 1975, the final episode left the fates of officers Pete Malloy and Jim Reed dangling for its viewers; Reed was considering taking an investigator's exam which would have steered him away from the more dangerous patrol division and given him a desk job at his wife's urging. But then the series ended, and viewers never did learn what became of the the rookie and the more seasoned cop that over time became close friends.

Martin Milner (Malloy) and Kent McCord (Reed) also didn't share the screen again...until 1989, that is. That's the year they teamed up for a movie called Nashville Beat that was shown...where else? On the Nashville network. I've seen a lot of comments online from viewers saying that they consider the movie to be the closest thing to an Adam-12 reunion and they seem more than satisfied with the storyline and the setting.

But make no mistake; Nashville Beat is not an Adam-12 reunion. For starters, the two guys play completely new characters; McCord is Lieutenant Mike Delaney and Milner is Captain Brian O'Neal. And while the chemistry is still there between the two actors, this project was McCord's idea and his role is just a little more prominent and has more screen time. Even the photo from the IMDB page for the movie features only McCord. He co-wrote the story and from an older article I found online that was written as the movie was about to air, he was hoping this would get picked up as a regular series. It didn't, and in my opinion it's easy to see why: other than the fact that both guys play cops that started their career together with the LAPD and their characters get along, it doesn't really have the Adam-12 feel or structure to it at all. One of the things that made Adam-12 compelling to viewers was the fact that each episode was only a half hour long and portrayed the unpredictable nature of being a police officer on patrol. With each episode, you never knew what problems, crimes, or people the two guys would have to respond to and deal with.

With Nashville Beat....well, first of all, I mean no disrespect to the citizens of Tennessee's capital, but my one big glaring question about this movie is why Nashville? I don't know too much about McCord's personal life, but perhaps he lived in Nashville at some point or was enamored with the city. But it isn't like the film shows much of anything of the city's historical landmarks such as the Grand Old Opry or the Parthenon, except over the opening credits. Most of the action is regulated to a honky tonk (where Garth Brooks makes an appearance and wastes too much screen time singing), the police department, and an apartment. And one of the minor characters has the mandatory moniker Bubba for these such movies.

During the opening scene, Delaney -- who's a widower -- is flying to Nashville to meet up with O'Neal and in what seems like a precursor to flying in the year 2016, handcuffs a drunk, unruly passenger. He also gets hit on by a flight attendant with a bad perm (well, it was the year 1989 after all...and there's bad hair galore in this movie.) "Still too soon, huh?" asks O'Neal when the attendant comes by and comes on to him again, this time after they're off the plane. "I guess so" Delaney responds. He's got kids back home in California, and we don't find out how long ago his wife died or what she passed away from.

O'Neal's home life is happier; he lives on a sprawling horse ranch and is still enjoying a happy marriage which his long-time wife, who informs Delaney at one point that her husband wants to retire in a few years and she's scared that something could happen to him on the job when she learns he'll be assisting first-hand in thwarting a gang.

For my fellow red-blooded females that love Martin Milner, I guess it's worth pointing out that he's now a certified silver fox in this film, and his boyish trademark smirk is still in place, as evident by the screen shot above. His character is also a lot looser than it was on Adam-12; there's even a scene where he loses his cool and screams while interrogating a witness, something that we wouldn't have seen Pete Malloy doing. He later blames this on being behind a desk for so long. And McCord's character is a take-charge kind of guy; he's not the newbie he was on Adam-12.

As far as the rest of the plot -- well, there's not much to it. As I said, the boys get involved in an undercover sting to stop a local gang's crime spree. They enlist a cocky colleague with a little black book (what players used before smartphones) and a fondness for the Beatles to wear a wire and make a deal with the gang's leader. Oh, and romantic sparks fly between Delaney and the owner of the honky tonk he, O'Neal, and other department members frequent. She has REALLY big and long hair. By the end of the film, Delaney is considering bringing his kids on the next visit to Nashville to see if they would all consider relocating to the area.

I think McCord's heart was in the right place when he co-wrote this film, but there's no way this can be considered an Adam-12 reunion. It would have been far more interesting to see if bachelor Malloy had eventually married and perhaps became a father, and what became of Reed's career. Of course, Martin Milner passed away last year so that's just going to have to be left up to fans' imaginations.

Ironically, though, I think Adam-12 fans are the ones that would get the most enjoyment out of the movie and seeing Milner and McCord share the screen again (they would do so again in 1997 in an episode of Diagnosis Murder playing yet again LAPD cops.) Also, 1989 was the year that a newer but crappy version of Adam-12 started airing that only lasted one season. Milner and McCord never appeared on the new show.

The best scene in Nashville Beat in my opinion? It's when the guys sing backup on a Beatles tune, as seen below. It comes at the very end so if you don't want to waste your time watching this movie, you can cut to the chase and savor it below. (If you do want to watch the whole film, it's been uploaded to YouTube here.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Before 3D Printers, There Was Mattel's VAC-U-FORM

Recently I was looking up the types of models that kids used to make when model and hobby stores existed, and came across an advertisement for a curious looking contraption called the VAC-U-FORM.

I'd never heard of it before, but basically it was a toy (albeit one that had to be used with caution) that kids (and adults) could use to make...other toys. Whoa. Knock me over with a feather; this thing looked like it was a blast!

The VAC-U-FORM was manufactured by Mattel (you can tell it's Mattel; it's swell) in the early '60s and used the industrial process known as vacuum forming to make plastic molds on a small scale. The machine came with several plastic sheets in a variety of colors. The user would insert a sheet of plastic in a metal holder which got heated over a metal plate. When the plastic got soft and malleable, the holder was swung to the other side where a mold of a desired object was waiting for it. The user would press a handle on the side of the toy that created the vacuum and pressed the plastic over the mold. The shaped plastic would solidify and cool and voila -- you've got yourself a plastic toy, or a part that would be used to create one.

The VAC-U-FORM came with several molds, but additional ones could be purchased separately, and any solid object that could withstand the high temperature and hot plastic could realistically be used as a mold.

Of course, a toy like this would be considered dangerous today, as there were exposed hot surfaces that a child or grown-up could burn themselves on. While Mattel discontinued the product at some point, another company called ToyMax produced its own version, called the VAC-U-FORMER, in the 1990s. Their version was a little safer as it replaced the hot plate with a light bulb, similar to what's found in an Easy Bake Oven.

Both products appear to be readily available on eBay, with prices ranging from $30 for just the machine itself to $100 for an unused complete kit. Wikipedia says many are still in use today, particularly by hobbyists that use the product to make parts for their own crafts.

All I know is...if this had been still on shelves when I was a kid, I definitely would have asked for one! (I also like that a product like this was marketed to both girls and boys.) It looks really awesome; worth the risk of a few burned fingers...

Monday, December 12, 2016

Why "Baby It's Cold Outside" Is Not About Rape

It's been said that today's world is getting too darn politically correct for its own good; it seems nearly everything today can be taken out of context and offend somebody. And for some reason, many Millennials seem easily offended by a lot of stuff. It's gotten so bad that many big-name stand-up comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock have stopped performing at college campuses because too many students can't take even the slightest off-color jokes.

And what's the latest thing that's gotten their diapers in a twist this time? Well, the classic holiday tune "Baby It's Cold Outside", of course! You know, the playful, witty, sexy song that features banter between a male and female vocalist. A song that's been recorded by everyone from Dean Martin to Tom Jones for nearly a quarter-century without ever raising an eyebrow before. 

This is a song about date rape. Did you know that?

Well, at least that's what two 20-something singer-songwriters from Minnesota believe. Last week The Huffington Post reported how Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski recorded what the HP writer describes as updated "adorably consensual" lyrics--lines that now include such cringe-worthy gems as, "You reserve the right to say 'no'", "Text me at your earliest convenience," and "How about the Cheesecake Factory?" Here's the song if you enjoy abusing your ears, or if you're just curious:

A lot have people have tried to defend this reworked song by saying it's a parody. That would be true if it were actually funny....although I found the Cheesecake Factory line rather unintentionally funny. Also, is it just me...or is the new version of the song now promoting drinking and driving?

Back to the HP piece; it actually starts off with this sentence: "If you've ever listened to the classic Christmas song 'Baby It's Cold Outside,' then you know it's a really screwed-up tune."

Actually, I didn't know. Because it's NOT a really screwed-up tune, and it's not creepy, unless you have some sort of twisted, perverted psyche that believes it is about date rape. 

These people don't know the history of the song, and apparently they didn't bother to look it up. Nor are they perhaps that acquainted with the social norms of the time. 

In the 1940s, which was before the sexual revolution, pre-martial sex was socially unacceptable and generally frowned upon. And that's what the gist of the original song is about -- the man wants her to stay the night, using the snow and cold outside as the perfect excuse. And I believe the woman wants to stay and fool around with him, but she's gently rebuffing his pleas because she's concerned about her reputation and what the neighbors and her family may think of her ("The neighbors might think," "My maiden aunt's mind is vicious," "There's bound to be talk tomorrow.")

"Baby It's Cold Outside" was written in 1944 by acclaimed Broadway composer Frank Loesser, the same guy that wrote the score to Guys and Dolls and gave us classics such as "Heart and Soul" and "On a Slow Boat to China." Initially, Loesser would perform the song with his wife at parties, where it always wowed their friends.

Frank Loesser's son, John, was interviewed about the song by the Palm Bean Post in 2010 that was reprinted on the official site for his dad. From the article:

“My father wrote that song as a piece of special material for he and my mother to do at parties,” says John Loesser, who runs the Lyric Theatre in Stuart, and is the son of legendary composer Frank Loesser (Guys and Dolls, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.)

Frank Loesser’s wife, Lynn, was a nightclub singer who had moved from Terre Haute, Ind. to New York in search of a career. She was singing in a nightclub when she met Frank Loesser around 1930.

The song itself was written in 1944, when Loesser and his wife had just moved into the Hotel Navarro in New York. They gave a housewarming party for themselves and when they did the number, everybody went crazy.

“We had to do it over and over again,” Lynn Loesser told her kids, “and we became instant parlor room stars.”

Performers started to take note of the song, and record covers of it. It's also featured in the 1949 musical comedy Neptune's Daughter as sung by Ricardo Montalb├ín and Esther Williams below. And in that movie, it takes an ironic tone since the movie takes place in a warm climate. It also earned Loesser an Academy Award for Best Original Song. 

The one line that the easily offended are extracting as evidence that the song is about date rape is, "Say, what's in this drink?" This line also bothered Liza, who told the Huffington Post, "You never figure out if she gets to go home. You never figure out if there was something in her drink. It just leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth."

(No pun intended, I'm sure.)

Only, "Say, what's in this drink?" had a different meaning in previous decades. If someone were to say it today, we'd think they were asking if someone slipped them a Mickey (date rape substance, for you younger 'uns.) In fact, the phrase was a slang expression that one would use as a joking pre-cover up to any questionable behavior they were about to undertake by consuming alcohol. And that's ALL that it means. 

In fact, the social justice warriors finding offense with this song may be surprised to know that a feminist publication, Persephone Magazine, defended the composition by saying, "It's not a song about rape. It's a song about the desires even good girls have." And as for that line, "What's in that drink?" they had this to say:

“Say, what’s in this drink” is a well-used phrase that was common in movies of the time period and isn’t really used in the same manner any longer. The phrase generally referred to someone saying or doing something they thought they wouldn’t in normal circumstances; it’s a nod to the idea that alcohol is “making” them do something unusual. But the joke is almost always that there is nothing in the drink. The drink is the excuse. The drink is the shield someone gets to hold up in front of them to protect from criticism. And it’s not just used in these sort of romantic situations. I’ve heard it in many investigation type scenes where the stoolpigeon character is giving up bits of information they’re supposed to be protecting, in screwball comedies where someone is making a fool of themselves, and, yes, in romantic movies where someone is experiencing feelings they are not supposed to have.

As for Liza saying we never find out if the woman gets to go home in the song...I think the answer to that one is pretty obvious: she DOESN'T go home! The duet ends with her caving into her desires and both she and the male singer in harmony, belting out the final line, "Baby, it's cold outside!" in unity. 

There's another way of looking at this song: I actually think it was an empowering composition for women at the time. To me, it's about a woman defying the social norms at the time and making her own decision to stay the night. 

So really, I don't understand what the fuss is about with the PC police and insisting that this song is "creepy", but I suspect it'll be coming under fire every year out of ignorance and fear. The good news is, the revamped version is so awful to listen to that it's attracted way more negative comments and thumbs down on YouTube then the righteous rape phobics that actually enjoy listening to it. 

At what point will this PC ridiculousness stop? I predict they'll be coming for "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" next, citing it as promoting elder abuse. Or how about "Santa Baby," which portrays women as gold diggers? 

Well, I'm too over it to find out. I intend to listen to the classic versions of "Baby It's Cold Outside" until my ears fall off. And I suggest, GR readers, that you do the same. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

New On the Go Retro Tube: Collecting Vintage Cake Carriers

I posted a video earlier today on Go Retro's YouTube channel where I talk a bit about vintage metal cake carriers from the 1940s through the 1970s. I show you my collection...which consists of one cake carrier (ha!) but you know, I think I picked the best design of the bunch (and I even wore a dress to match it.) So while this is hardly an earth shattering video, maybe it'll pique your interest about adding one of these former kitchen staples to your home. They're fairly cheap, fun, easy to find online...and who doesn't like cake?

For some reason, my video editing software is chopping off a few extra seconds of where I've made the trim, so just FYI the video ends a few seconds early. Hey, I'm getting better at this.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Go Retro Giveaway: Jacob Bromwell Made In The USA Cocktail Shaker!

Woo, hoo! It's your lucky week, retro loving guys and gals! I've got another giveaway for all of you Go Retro readers, and this one's a delight. Up for grabs: one gorgeous copper, made in the USA cocktail shaker by Jacob Bromwell!

Full disclosure: I'm actually the marketing manager for Jacob Bromwell on a freelance, contract basis. As such, I've accumulated many of their products through the years and none of them have let me down. This company has been making their products in the USA since 1819 -- a defining factor that drew me to them in the first place five years ago. Jacob Bromwell was an entrepreneur who started a wire-weaving and housewares company in Cincinnati that made shoe brushes, dusters, window brushes, rat traps (shiver), mops, popcorn poppers, flour sifters, and more -- you know, all of the essentials that any frontiersman or woman needed to keep an early American home spic and span.

Today, Jacob Bromwell makes several kitchen utensils, flasks, cups, beer steins, money clips, camping utensils, and more -- and they still make their popcorn poppers just as they did in the early 19th century!

However, the product you can win is the Legacy Cocktail Shaker. Imagine shaking up your or your guests' favorite cocktails in this classy copper and stainless steel beauty this holiday season.

To enter, use the Rafflecopter app below. You must be a U.S. resident to win, and you can gain additional entries per the app's options. It will collect entries until Dec. 12th and I'll contact the winner on the 13th.

ONE MORE THING! Jacob Bromwell is offering HALF OFF all orders until December 20th! Just use the discount code SAVE50 when placing your order. This special discount is site wide and has no restrictions. So definitely check their site out! Also, we are running a special giveaway series now through December 12 on our Facebook page, so you may want to give JB's page a like and enter the giveaways we're posting on a daily basis.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Losing My Potty Mouth: The F*** Stops Here

You wouldn't know it from my blog postings but I swear -- sometimes a lot. I recently reviewed a blog post I wrote on here five years ago about how the f word has lost its shock value in today's modern world, only to realize that I haven't really been practicing what I was previously preaching. Ever since that post I jumped on the f-this, f-that, and f-ing bandwagon pretty quickly and haven't stopped. Somewhat ironically, I mostly drop the f-bomb in conversation with my mother, of all people (hey, she does it, too!) especially when it's a topic I'm especially aggravated by or I need to put emphasis on the point I'm making.

Well, I'm making a New Year's resolution a month early, which I've already started today: it's time to start cutting it out. If I'm going to portray myself as the classy retro chick that I want to be, then there's no need for me to be dropping the f bomb at least a dozen times a day in normal conversation. I've gotten pretty exhausted from seeing it thrown out so casually on social media sites and usually by people younger than me.

I think a bulb went off in my head about how awful excessive swearing can sound when I watched a video that an acquaintance posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. It was supposed to be a comedic video of a woman making a vegan version of a "turducken" (that's when a deboned chicken is somehow stuffed into a deboned duck, which is then stuffed into a deboned turkey. Don't ask me who invented this culinary creation or why.) The woman in the video swore worse than a drunken sailor, throwing around not only the f word multiple times in one sentence, but the s word and the a word as well, in a calm voice. The person that posted it apparently thought it was hilarious; I thought it was stupid and I was so turned off by the profanity that I didn't make it to the end of the video. Needless to say, it was an odd way to promote veganism!

Then there was the video campaign put out by a feminist group a couple of years ago that featured little girls in princess costumes swearing and using the f-word. I get the group's intentions, which was to bring attention to equal pay for women, but felt there could have been a better way of delivering the message. "What’s more offensive?" the videos asked. "A little girl saying f*ck or the sexist way society treats girls and women?"

Um. Well...

What it did reveal to me is just how much further the word has lost its shock value. As I said in my original post on the topic, it seems that it's become such common language in videos and in blog posts that not many people bat an eye any longer at its excessive usage. I also get tired when I read it being used in a book, like if one of the characters uses it way too much.

There's also been studies published in recent years claiming that swearing "expands your vocabulary" and "makes you smarter." I've seen this one get shared a lot on social media, I suppose so that people can promote swearing and justify their own use of the f-bomb and perhaps feel slightly less guilty about their regular word choices (I'm not judging; just making a guess based on what I've seen.)

Don't get me wrong; I'm no goody two-shoes and it's not like I've never going to say a swear word ever again in my life. There's a time and a place for everything. I have also never said it at a job, or during events with a Meetup group and especially not when meeting people for the first time. Once I get to know someone, make friends with them, and hang out with them socially is when they start to see my f-bomb flag flap a little. But even then, I think I say it a little too much.

It's time to dial it down a bit. Time to stay classy, as Ron Burgundy would say. Who knows, it may just reach a point in our society when it's the people that can control their swearing become the ones that stand out. From this day forth, the f*** stops here.

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