Friday, March 24, 2017


If you were a kid growing up in New Jersey in the '70s, '80s, or '90s, there's a good chance you visited Action Park in Vernon, just over the New York line. In fact, many former patrons claim it was a right of passage to survive a visit to "Class Action Park"--a fitting nickname given its notorious reputation.

Just how dangerous was this place? It was so treacherous that while researching it I came across commenters on various sites that sustained broken noses, broken bones, skin burns, concussions, near drownings, and more. One said his mother worked at a nearby hospital, where she helped tend to a never-ending stream of kids coming into the ER with injuries from the amusement park. And they were the lucky ones. The place eventually became responsible for six deaths including an electrocution.

It all started with a man named Gene Mulvihill, a New Jersey developer who was compared to P.T. Barnum by a former employee in a 2013 documentary about Action Park. The concept behind the park's creation was well-intended: Action Park was designed and marketed as appealing to thrill-seekers where they got to control how fast they went on a ride, so naturally it was a preadolescent and teenage boy's dream. It opened in 1978 as part of the Mountain Creek ski resort and a way for the property to bring in money during the off-season months, and to also compete with Six Flags. It initially featured an alpine slide, a water park, and a race car track and in many ways, was innovative and ahead of its time. But as it grew, it added more new rides with poor designs completely devoid of safety standards. It's been said that its designers would just throw together rides without fully testing them to make sure they were safe to use.

One of the park's worst offenders was its alpine slide, a fiberglass sled that would carry riders down the mountain on a concrete track which were speed-controled via a throttle stick. As an aside, I rode a few alpine slides as a kid -- including one that used to operate in the next town over from my hometown, and others in the White Mountains -- and never experienced any problems. Then again, I always knew to slow my sled down while approaching curves and had the luxury of a fully-functioning speed control stick. Action Park's sleds, on the other hand, were poorly maintained and described as having only two speeds: extremely slow, and "death awaits" (the words of one employee.) Thus, it was very easy for someone to whip around a curve so fast that centrifugal force would flip them off the track, and riders that went too slow would often get slammed by behind by someone approaching them at a very high speed.

The slide was also responsible for the park's first fatality in 1980 when an employee went down so fast his sled flew off the track, causing him to fall down an embankment and hit his head on a rock. Kids that rode the chairlift up the mountain to get to the slide would sometimes spit on and verbally harass the passengers gliding down the hill below them. By the mid-80s the slide had caused 14 fractures and 26 head injuries not to mention numerous abrasions. Many riders would also take a turn in their bathing suits, which didn't help protect their vulnerable skin from severe scrapes.


Another hazard was the park's infamous Cannonball Loop, an insane looking water slide with an upside down loop at the bottom of it. Legend has it when a test dummy was sent down it, it came out the other end missing its head and limbs. The Cannonball caused people to lose their front teeth, bang their heads, bloody their noses and wreck their backs. It also trapped one rider inside the loop which led to an emergency hatch being added to the bottom to retrieve stuck passengers. Through the years it was shut down for periods due to numerous injuries.


Then there was the Tidal Wave Pool, which eventually became known as the "Grave Pool." The waves generated by the pool were higher and lasted longer than at other water parks, overwhelming even good swimmers who would then crowd the side ladders. Three patrons drowned in the tidal wave pool: one in 1982 (the park's first customer death), 1984, and 1987. A dozen lifeguards had to man this attraction and pulled out on average at least 30 people daily, particularly on high-traffic weekends.


Another hotbed for disaster was the Tarzan Swing, which was exactly what the name implied: patrons swung out over a pool of water and dropped themselves in. With so many people waiting their turn in line, wise guy kids would flash the crowd by pulling down their swimming trunks as they swung out over the water. If swimmers didn't scrape their feet on the concrete on the other side for failing to let go at the right time, the shock of the very cold water would get them. One man actually took a heart attack and died in 1984 after jumping into the pool.

And that electrocution? It happened in 1982 on The Kayak Experience. This was a whitewater course which frequently caused riders' kayaks to flip over. When one patron had to retrieve his, he stepped on a grate that was in contact with a live wire powering the underwater fans. The ride closed and was never reopened.

Even seemingly tame-looking rides had their risks. The Super Speedboats, for example, were on a small pond known to be infested with snakes. And the Battle Action Tanks, which often appeared in television commercials for Action Park, used tennis balls as "ammo" for riders to shoot at one another. When a tank got stuck, which happened often, any employee that entered the lot to assist the rider would then get pelted with tennis balls by the other tanks. It was the only ride that was more dangerous to employees than customers.

Speaking of employees, Action Park regularly hired underage teens to man the rides. This compounded with easy access to beer and other alcohol kiosks made the park all the more risky. Despite its problems, Action Park remained so popular that it welcomed over a million guests per year. By the 1990s, however, Grand American Recreation--Mulvihill's company--was having so many financial problems and not just due to the numerous injuries. It went out of business in 1997. Action Park then operated as Mountain Creek Park from 1998 until 2013.

Today, the water park portion is all that remains of Action Park and it's still part of the Mountain Creek ski resort. There are still plenty of thrills in addition to child-friendly options, but the remaining and new rides are way up to safety standards (on the Tide Slide, which mimics whitewater rafting, participants must wear safety helmets.)

Still...can anything compare to coming home in a cast?

Here's a few vintage commercials for Action Park, footage from its heyday, and both parts of a 2013 documentary made for Mashable. By the way, it was also announced just last month that Johnny Knoxville (known for Bad Grandpa and Jackass) will be making and starring in a movie about Action Park. If you visited and have lived to tell the tale, please drop a comment!








The Most Insane Amusement Park Ever - Part 1 of 2 by insane-amusement-park


The Most Insane Amusement Park Ever - Part 2 of 2 by insane-amusement-park

Sunday, March 12, 2017


"It'll never happen to me," I used to say when I was younger. "I'll never let myself go."

But then I was laid off in August last year and guess what? I did kind of start to let myself go, at least on some days. And let me tell you, it can be a dangerous slippery slope.

Getting up later then usual and lounging in my PJs on my laptop until 10:30 AM on most mornings became the norm.

I went quite a few days without wearing makeup, especially if I wasn't planning on leaving the house that day (who was going to see me? Before you answer "the UPS man" I can assure you we don't order much online and there really have not been many through the years that I would consider attractive.)

I normally wash my hair every other day, but sometimes I let that go an extra day because I was simply too lazy to deal with detangling and drying it. I took to throwing on an old rag of a top and jeans. With no employer to go to and nowhere I needed to be, there seemed no point in making myself look presentable.

Worst of all, I slacked off with my exercising routine...and ended up gaining 12 pounds.

And the saddest part is, I had no real excuse for it. I'm not a mom and I'm not holding down a job outside of the house. I'm also not depressed, so I have no explanation for it other than sheer laziness.

Why bother getting all dolled up if no one's going to see me? Well, the thing is...I see me. Every day.  And after too many days of doing this, I realized that Billy Crystal as Fernando Lamas was right: "Darling, it's more important to look good than to feel good." Or as I like to say, when you look good, the feeling good part follows.

When I look at candid photos of folks over 40 that were taken back in the day, or even family snapshots of grandparents and other older relatives, it seems that in general most people from earlier generations did a better job at not letting themselves go compared to today. Some of them even looked downright glamorous right into their septuagenarian years. That doesn't necessarily mean that they aged better, but they definitely made a greater effort to look presentable, especially when going out in public: neat clothes, groomed hair, and a little bit of makeup were the norm.

I realize this isn't exactly a "retro" post but something I've thinking about lately, especially as I'm now in my 40s -- the decade when a lot of folks seem to let themselves go, due to changing metabolism, hormones, age, etc. (Although, to be fair, there are people in their thirties and younger that let themselves go, too.) Now that I'm back on track and have broken some habits, here's what I would advise to help prevent others from sliding down that slippery mid-life slope into Slobville...

Keep Your Weight Down

Easier said than done, especially during the winter months, and I've learned the hard way that my metabolism isn't the super fast one I had in my twenties. There's no way for me to put this delicately, so I'll just say it: I think people in general look AWFUL once they start gaining weight, and when you're older and you gain weight, it really makes you look like crap.

Something I always did no matter where I worked was I would take a walk during my lunch break if the weather was good, so when my part of the country went through a warm snap recently I laced up my Reeboks and did an hour-long walk around the neighborhood. (I also started to get back into running before our region turned sharply colder.) After the blizzard hits that they're predicting for Tuesday, I plan on going cross country skiing again. Lastly I've been making the effort to do a regular workout (mix of aerobics and weights) a few times a week.


Do physical activities that you enjoy doing, such as bicycling, swimming, dancing, hiking, or rollerblading/rollerskating. The older I get, the more I realize the importance of rediscovering or keeping up with activities I loved doing as a kid. For me, it's a lot of bicycle riding and I'm also planning on taking a paddle boarding lesson this summer.

I've also blogged about this before, but I've really cut my sugar consumption in recent years. I'm convinced more than ever that sugar is as addictive as drugs; it lights up our brains in the same way and once people get used to gulping down extra large sugary drinks all day long or putting away a box of cookies in a day it gets more difficult to stop. I put a teaspoon in my morning coffee and drink mostly water at every meal (except for a half glass of soda or bottled iced tea a couple of times a week) and I save a small dessert for after dinner. (I recently got hooked on Yasso frozen yogurt bars; those things taste like dense ice cream and average between 90-100 calories a pop!) Occasionally I'll have a piece of dark chocolate in the afternoon as a pick-me-up, or some gummy bears. And that's it. I never eat anything sweet for breakfast, unless it's a small spoonful of maple syrup on pancakes or French toast.

Keep in mind that the American food industry has packed a ton of its products with hidden sugar, like most yogurt brands (as in regular flavored yogurt.) I tend to buy the plain unsweetened yogurt and then mix in a little honey and whatever I like so I don't end up eating something with 18 grams of sugar in it.

Keep To A Regular Morning Schedule If You Can, Even On the Weekends

Instead of schlepping around in a bathrobe until it's nearly lunchtime, I've made the effort to wash up and get dressed by 9 AM most mornings. I try not to do too much on the laptop until I'm "ready to work" so to speak because I know I'll just sit there and answer emails and start doing work.

Keep Up the Grooming Habits

I put makeup on most days, even if it's not my usual "full face" because it makes me feel good. Sometimes a little foundation, mascara and nude colored lipstick or gloss is all you need to feel pulled together. I also keep my fingernails trimmed and filed, and massage hand cream into them every day.

Wash and style your hair (and get it trimmed or try out a new hairstyle.) I also think it's a good idea to upkeep the grooming of areas most people won't see during the winter (get your mind out of the gutter! I'm talking about shaving your legs and pits, if you're a woman, and making sure your feet and toenails look presentable. But hey, it doesn't hurt to upkeep the private areas that get grooming, wink wink.) Sure, if you're single, no one will know but you -- but it will make you feel great.

Another thing -- I make sure the roots of my hair don't grow in too much before I color them.

Save The Old and Baggy Clothing for Dirty Household Jobs

Personally, I don't feel like myself if I'm wearing clothes that aren't flattering on me. So last year I splurged on a few pairs of dark new jeans that fit me well, and several stretchy and form fitting long tees from Eddie Bauer that are great for layering, and I've pretty much stuck with these staples throughout the winter.

Also, don't underestimate the power of simple jewelry or a nice scarf to pull an outfit together.

Ultimately, I think keeping yourself pulled together is a choice. You can either choose to let yourself go, or you can choose to make a little time to keep up the self care and keep yourself looking fabulous into your forties and beyond.

Sunday, March 05, 2017


Side note: here we go again; the blog template put the entire post on the homepage (grrrrr.) To leave a comment, here's the actual link to the post to do so (which also includes the title): http://www.goretro.com/2017/03/elle-macpherson-kicked-my-butt-my.html

When I was younger, I went through a brief period where I wanted to look like Elle Macpherson. And if I couldn't have Elle's face and body, I would have at least settled for her impossibly long legs. Eventually I decided that I was beautiful in my own unique way, but when Elle released a workout VHS in 1994 -- called Elle Macpherson: Your Personal Best -- I jumped at the chance to emulate The Body's body through exercise.

It quickly became my favorite workout tape -- much more so than Cindy Crawford's Shape Your Body (which came under criticism because some of the warm-up moves could injure your neck and back.) But when DVDs came on the scene and my VCR eventually died, I had to give the workout up other than the moves that had been committed to memory.

Flash forward to 2017 and I discover, with delight, that some incredibly awesome person actually uploaded Your Personal Best to YouTube! Earlier today I finally pulled on my Athleta workout gear, ignoring the fact that the 12-14 pounds I have gained during the past year are making me look like I'm in the first trimester of pregnancy. This is going to be a piece of cake and a blast, I'm thinking to myself; after all, I did this workout 2-3 times a week back in the day.

I couldn't do even half of the last aerobics section. Sigh...I really am getting (ahem) older (and getting sidelined with a nasty virus for a while after Christmas didn't exactly help me stay in shape.) I was sweaty, hot, and tired -- not unlike having the flu (and I'm sure the achy part will come tomorrow.) Elle Macpherson -- and her trainer on this video, Karen Voight -- kicked my butt. But of course after hopping in the shower I felt great, and I'll be making this workout a regular part of my exercise routine a few times a week.

There's a few reasons why I love Your Personal Best. For starters, even though it was released over 20 years ago it has aged tremendously well, with just some opening graphics and the soundtrack (INXS, Power Station, Sting, etc.) giving the era away. It was also filmed in Hawaii, including one location that was featured in the first Jurassic Park movie. But most importantly, it delivers a really awesome workout in an hour that incorporates sculpting and lifting weights with burning some calories via low impact moves. And of course, Macpherson is her beautiful, personable self in it. I remember a few months after I first started doing it in the '90s, a fitness instructor complimented me on my toned upper body when I took a class with a couple of friends at their gym. So I know it works!

Elle Macpherson made an earlier workout video, in 1989, called Elle Macpherson Stretch and Strengthen, but Your Personal Best definitely beats that one. Karen Voight, by the way, has trained Hollywood stars and has produced over 25 workout videos.

YouTube is now teeming with a lot of uploaded "vintage" workouts (even though Your Personal Best doesn't feel so vintage.) Sometimes it's fun to try these out, if even for the nostalgic value of watching women hop around in colorful spandex. If you're curious to try it out for yourself, here's the entire Your Personal Best workout:

Thursday, March 02, 2017


The last time I went to a movie theater was in January to see the Ben Affleck film Live By Night. Before that, it was a good year earlier, to see The Peanuts Movie in December 2015 and Spectre the previous month.

And the last before that was Big Eyes, in December 2014.

As you can see, there's a pattern here. I'm only going to the movies, on average, once or twice a year. And as it turns out, I'm in good company. Recently I came across the following chart showing the results of a survey taken just last month polling Americans about their moviegoing habits. (You have to subscribe to the site to get access to all of the source details, but you get the idea....however, I would be curious to know how many people they actually polled.)

Source: Statista
Hollywood should be alarmed by these stats; according to this, a combined 45% of those surveyed--nearly half!--stated that they never or almost never go to the movies. Of course, I believe there's a few obvious reasons for this: it's cheaper to rent and watch a flick on on-demand or from your local library  or stream it vs. paying a high ticket fee to see it on the big screen.

But for me personally, the reasons go a little deeper. Going to the movies isn't quite the joyful experience anymore that it was for me in the '70s, '80s, and '90s. Here are three ways how moviegoing has changed from earlier decades--and hence, three reasons why I'm hardly going to a movie theater anymore (hopefully these won't make me sound too curmudgeonly.)

1. Less Movies Being Made That I Actually Want To See

I didn't watch any of the award shows this year, or last year for that matter. Part of the disinterest is because I've grown tired of listening to actors use the awards stage as a soapbox for their political beliefs. But mainly, most of the movies being nominated lately just don't appeal to me and even just the films being made in general feel very underwhelming.

When my friend and I went to see Live By Night, we had to sit through about eight previews and I can honestly say not a single one appealed to either one of us. It was one dark looking, shoot 'em down, action-oriented, CGI riddled hot mess after another...the new Vin Diesel movie, another with Keanu Reeves (John Wick: Chapter 2...was there even a chapter 1?), Kong: Skull Island, a dumb-looking comedy, and some horror flick that takes place in a Swiss mental asylum.

Where were the previews for the intelligently written dramas; something that looked like it might have a compelling story behind it and is capable of pulling some heartstrings? It doesn't seem like there's much that fits that definition in the pipeline for 2017.

Speaking of which, it seems lately that when Hollywood does produce a drama, it's a depressing one with no point or redemption to the story. For example, one of the winners at the Academy Awards the other night was Manchester by the Sea. I had no interest in seeing it and since recently learning the entire plot, will definitely pass. This movie (warning: spoilers ahead) is about a young man who lost his three children in a fire (that he set while drunk) and spends much of the film depressed and wallowing in his self misery. Although it was deemed an accident, his wife blames him for the fire, divorced him, gets remarried and has a kid which makes him even more depressed. He gets a chance to better himself when he is named the guardian of his teenage nephew after his brother passes away, but apparently botches that up too, and at the end of the movie he's no more happier than he was at the beginning of the film. The end.

I know someone out there right now is saying, "But Pam, that was a movie about what life is really like; sometimes there's no happy ending."

To which I say as an optimist, I would rather my money be awarded with knowing that the possibility for a happy ending can still exist in this world.

I'm not saying that Tinseltown should be giving us nothing but technicolor lollipops and sunshine, but if you're going to make a sad fictional film, at least give moviegoers a silver lining to it.

At least Manchester by the Sea isn't a remake, or the latest of a long list of sequels (do we REALLY need another Pirates of the Caribbean installment?)

I could dwell on this all day, but bottom line -- there just hasn't been much coming out lately that I want to see, and that includes renting it on on-demand.

There's been very few films during the past decade that have dazzled me with a combination of a compelling plot, juicy dialogue, authentic looking costumes, sets, cinematography, etc. and that includes Best Picture Oscar winners in recent years, like Spotlight and Birdman. Snooze. Lately I find myself skipping over the latest releases for on-demand, and curling up with a book instead.


2. The Rising Cost of Going to the Movies

I know that nothing is really exempt from inflation, but it's crazy to fantom that a family of four can easily drop around $75 or more on an afternoon at the movies today if they get regular priced tickets plus some snacks. It seems every time I've gone to the movie theater, the price of popcorn has gone up yet again; you'd be better off saving the money for an actual meal before or after the show (except the smell of that popcorn is so damn addicting.) I realize that theaters have added a lot of perks such as reclining seats, bars, and reserved seating to the modern moviegoing experience, but personally I'd rather have the "luxury" of paying only $8 a ticket, be allowed to bring in my own food and drink from home if I wish, and watch the film in a standard stadium seating theater.

Some movie chains do offer memberships where you can see a movie for free or receive money off the cost of a ticket after you've seen so many films, but I can't help but feel this is a marketing ploy to help offset the cost of lost business in recent years.

3. Putting Up With Other People

Thankfully this really hasn't happened all that often, but right in the middle of Live By Night, a couple came in with a young child--perhaps no more than 5 years old--who then proceeded to talk and make a fuss until one of the parents took him to the concession stand to get a snack. But...WTF? The movie was rated R. I realize the kid was with his parents, and believe it or not, he did quiet down once he had food, but I do have to question why anyone would bring a child that young into a movie that contained violence and profanity. It seems that a lot of parents these days do not want to be bothered with hiring a babysitter, so their solution is to push the limits and take their kid anywhere, even if it's typically a venue for adults only.

As my friend and I were leaving the theater, a couple behind us was actually complaining about what happened as well, and we ended up chatting with them a bit about how one parent should have taken the boy to see a kid's movie while the other parent watched the Ben Affleck film.

Then there's the whole mobile phone thing...it's sad that movie theater chains must remind us before the coming attractions that mobile devices should be turned off, and ringtones set to vibrate. However, as we all know, it doesn't always happen.

OK, I've griped enough. If you're not really going to the movies all that much, either, let me know your reasons why in the comments!

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