Cheap Thrills Thursday: 70s Feet Edition

In the 70s, footprints were big things. Sometimes they were quite literally big things; such as the giant, and very fuzzy, footprint rugs my sister and I had in our room. (See other things that may have been in your bedroom back then.)

vintage footprint rug ad

Other times, the feet were smaller.

And in pairs.

If you were cognizant in the 1970s, you likely recall all the pairs of mating feet. Because many adults labored under the incorrect belief that such pairs of feet were somehow not understood by children (umm, this is exactly what many children saw when they opened the door to your bedroom), these sex feet were everywhere.

Bare Feet Sex Knockin' Boots 1978 Solid Brass Vintage Belt Buckle

And — surprise! — there’s sexism involved in such a sexual revolution.

Typically, sex feet are shown as heterosexual couplings in the missionary position; which is neither all that revolutionary or, for many, very pleasurable. We are able to see that it’s a man and a woman doing it missionary style as there are two sets of feet — but not of the same size. This is typically deciphered to mean that the larger feet belong to a man. After all, hetero-normative rules state men are to be larger than their lady partners. And his feet must be much bigger because, you know, big feet mean big penis. That’s the myth, anyway. And he must be on top because he is The Top.

vintage retro master slave Sew on Cloth Patch Badges 1970's

Besides, who would change their minds (cross their legs and feet) and say “no” other than a woman?

2 Sets of Feet Glass Vintage Ashtray I've Changed My Mind

But if you think this is all about the Free Love movement, sex feet were often presented or captioned with odd supposedly humorous notions revealing traditional values. Like this ashtray and its “Man does this mean we are engaged” speech bubble.

Kitsch Risque Ashtray bare feet Man Does This Mean We're Engaged - Grizelle Japan

Along with confusion caused by missing punctuation, there’s more than a little cognitive dissonance between the “free love” and the marital sentiments or concerns. But then, the liberating 70s was always more than a little confusing that way.

Vintage Marketing To Women Was A-Wash In Premiums

Some people think that the only premiums that came in boxes were in cereal boxes for kids. Sure, there were those coupon books and other early loyalty programs designed to bring people back to certain department stores, gas stations, grocery stores, and other shops. But when it comes to actual free things inside boxes, most people think of the toys and surprises inside cereal boxes designed to make the kiddies beg mom and dad for the stuff. But there were other premiums, including those in products for adults. And primarily these offers were specifically aimed at those adults in charge of most household purchasing: the American housewife.

white wash no red hands vintage duz adPerhaps nowhere was this push for premiums more used than in the area of laundry detergents and soaps.

The competition was fierce in this market on all sorts of points, just as it is today, on everything from cleaning power and amount of suds (any real expert will tell you cleaning has more to do with physical scrubbing and agitation than chemicals and soap suds) to product versatility, and, because some cleaning still was done by actual human hands (something I still highly recommend), how gentle the product was on the little lady’s hands.

Those of us who are at least 40 years old may vividly recall these premiums and brands — not coincidentally because of the soap operas, which were, at their very essence, dramas created for housewives to watch and therefore pushed soaps and cleaning products; hence the name soap operas.

Lever Brothers, makers of Breeze laundry soap, partnered with Cannon towels for a luxury co-branded premium giveaway, eventually offering three sizes of towels.


three sizes of vintage cannon towels in breeze detergent

(This stuff is apparently so nostalgic, that someone just paid $39.99 for an old unopened box of Breeze with the towel still inside.)

My mom watched the CBS soap operas, as did her mother before her. As a result, our family was loyal to the family of Proctor & Gamble products. Proctor & Gamble put towels into their boxes of Bonus laundry detergent — as this fabulous musical commercial from 1960s illustrates. Note the gender split — and how the little woman’s knowledge (and sexual necktie manipulation) wins out.

Later, P&G would graduate from towels to putting glasses and china dishes with a wheat pattern (some even with gold trim) in boxes of Duz, the “does everything” laundry detergent. Incidentally, those wheat dishes were once clogging thrift shop shelves, but now, nostalgia coupled with the fascination with Mid-Century Modern, these dishes are making a comeback.

However, when it comes laundry detergent premiums, I don’t think many things are so firmly entrenched in our collective minds as Dolly Parton pitching boxes of soap with towels in them in the 1970s. While there is some debate as to whether the brand of detergent was Breeze or Duz (it was, in fact, Breeze; and we pray again to the YouTube Gods that someone can upload such a commercial!), almost everyone recalls the ads. Especially the kitsch factor.

Dolly herself admits how corny the ads were:

I remember seeing you on “The Porter Wagoner Show,” pulling out giant towels from boxes of Breeze detergent.

It was actually a bath towel — we used to have to do our own commercials on those shows, and they were so corny. But I still have some of those towels that I’ve kept through the years. Those were the days — “And you can only get them in boxes of Breeze!” And honestly, with that towel inside, there probably wasn’t more than half a box of Breeze. But people didn’t care because they were getting something free.

Corny or not, to this day, when I see a small hand towel covered in gold roses, “zeenyas!”, or other yellow flowers I instantly think of Dolly Parton. Its not just Dolly’s love of yellow roses, but those 70s yellow florals that stick in my mind. And that’s not all. Whenever I am at someone’s house and they have a similar looking towel out for use, I am convinced my hands smell like vintage detergent too. Come to think of it, that may be why I don’t like those wheat patterned dishes either.

Shhh, It’s A Cookbook Secret…

robinhoodbake003I’ve been collecting vintage cookbooks (and other ephemera) for decades. But it’s not because I actually cook. Other than baking, I nearly hate cooking. Thankfully, my dear hubby is the cook in the house. (Aside from baking and cleaning, I tend to stay out of the kitchen.)

So what is my interest in cookbooks then?

There are many other things to be found in cookbooks, especially the vintage ones. I am particularly fond of the thrift tips and, because I am an antiques dealer as well as a collector who likes to live with old things, I find the cleaning tips quite helpful. And who doesn’t love the old graphics? But primarily my interest in the old cookbooks lies in all the cultural clues.

You can tell a lot about a culture from its cookbooks. For example, according to this 1961 Betty Crocker cookbook (Betty Crocker’s Outdoor Cook Book), there was a Mid-Century swing to putting fireplaces in homes for cooking.

A striking change is taking place in American cooking and entertaining. The backyard barbecue is fast becoming the nation’s number one hobby as, each year, more families discover that fun and good fellowship seem to double around an open fire; that nothing is more appetizing that the aroma of food grilling over glowing coals; and that the easy informality of service under the wide sky makes even the most elaborate patio party seem carefree.

The taste of charcoal broiled meats is so delicious that many of no longer let the end of summer mean good-bye to the “Cook-out.” When the snow flies, it becomes the “Cook-in” at the fireplace or at the broiling hearth now so often seen as a feature of new kitchens or family rooms.

The popularity of backyard barbecues makes sense. They are embedded images of the Atomic American lifestyle, part of the postwar attitude that creative hobbies enhanced life and “made it worth living”. But I have no recollection of this “Cook-in” phenomenon. Was cooking with real fire inside homes — not gas stoves with flames on burners, but cooking in fireplaces and on broiling hearths — a thing? (And what the heck is a “broiling hearth”??!)

Sure, I was only born in 1964 & so have little memories of the early 1960s. However, if so many homes had such things as fireplaces and hearths for cooking, they still would have existed in the 1970s. As a kid, I went in and out of a lot of homes… Extended family, friends, the neighbors… And none of them had these cooking hot spots.

retro mid-century fireplacesSure, there was the whole retro mod fireplace thing (which mainly was a home decor “You had the money for that?!” statement piece), but the closest to cooking that fireplace got was when the fondue pot and accoutrement was placed on the coffee table near it. (Majestic, Malm, & Preway were the names in Mic-Century Modern fireplaces.)

Should General Mills be telling the truth, and not having Betty blow some marketing sunshine up my apron, there are other reasons that I likely know nothing of this “cooking with fire in the home phase” of American life. Primarily this boils down to the socioeconomic status of my life.

We were Middle Class folks, yet not the Upper Middle Class sort who were building their own homes. Plus, in my family, my mother worked — as in she had a career. Cooking was no longer her main focus — if it ever had been. (I married a man like Dear Old Dad, one who cooks!) As a result of all of this, the trendy “cook with fire inside” thing likely was a trend my parents were neither interested in nor one they likely could afford. (We were, however, early adopters of the microwave oven.)

crocker-outdoor-cbThanks to a number of things, I really have done no better in socioeconomic terms than my parents. To keep it simple, I am a 99%-er. While I am in the midst of slowly restoring a century old house, I have no plans for internal cooking with fire options. (I am no cook, remember?)

Anyway, while we slowly restore that house, we live in a very small house — and too much stuff. So, we are downsizing, including our personal collections. (In part why I have been so quiet at this blog; it is time consuming work!) This means that I am currently listing a lot of my antique and vintage cookbooks in our Etsy shop. And other items from my other collections, such as vintage and pulp paperbacks, will be there soon too. Along the way, I will do my best to share interesting tidbits from these items here and at my other blogs (see links under “Deanna Elsewhere”).

The Political Shades Of A Colorpillar

When I grabbed this Romper Room Colorpillar toy, I had vague memories of the Romper Room TV show…

But not enough, apparently. A quick look at the Wiki entry and it turns out this toy is most fitting for this political season.

First, there’s the whole problem with children’s television shows and hosts pitching product during shows. Romper Room was the first target of the newly formed watchdog group Action for Children’s Television who leveraged the power of an threat FCC threat into ceasing “host-selling”.

Then there’s the whole Romper Room abortion scandal.

In 1962, the hostess of the Phoenix franchise of Romper Room linked her own name with that of the ongoing controversies over abortion. Sherri Finkbine, known to television viewers as “Miss Sherri”, sought hospital approval for abortion on the ground that she had been taking thalidomide and believed her child would be born deformed. Finkbine made a public announcement about the dangers of thalidomide, and the hospital refused to allow an abortion, apparently because of her announcement and its own fear of publicity. Finkbine traveled to Sweden for the abortion. Upon completion, it was confirmed that the fetus had no legs and only one arm. The incident became a made-for-TV movie in 1992, A Private Matter, with Sissy Spacek as Finkbine.

I guess this really is an educational toy — if you research it, rather than play with it.

In terms of memories of the show, as I said, they are fuzzy. Not all warm and fuzzy; just not clear. Also according to Wiki:

The hostess would also serve milk and cookies to the children, with prayer offered before eating. The famous Romper Room prayer went “God is great, God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.”

Now that’s the prayer I remember saying. But that’s really odd, because our home was not a praying home. Perhaps this praying business is why I don’t recall much of the show… Perhaps when my folks found out prayer and indoctrination was part of the program, they switched the set off. That is something I will have to ask them.

Reflections On A Pretty Baby

I often wonder about Brooke Shields, especially when I see Pretty Baby. It’s been a few years now since I’ve watched it last, but when I saw this image, I started thinking about the movie and the actress again.

Most people wonder about young Brooke for her notorious advertising gigs, and for the film Blue Lagoon (NWS), but it’s Pretty Baby which makes my head spin. That’s why I’ve watched the movie several times. The are multiple layers of uneasiness and creep that I know I must work out for myself, so I continue to watch it. (This posting likely ensures a viewing sooner rather than later.)

In the film, a 12-year-old Brooke Shields plays Violet, the 12-year-old daughter of a prostitute working in Storyville, the red-light district of New Orleans, in 1917.  It would be an interesting and uncomfortable story by itself, but unlike a book, film requires more than your mind — characters are brought to life by actors. As noted in the post about Blue Lagoon (above), a lot of watching a film is about what we bring to it. I didn’t see the film when it came out in 1978 (yet I often wonder what my 14-year-old self would have thought about it);  I was both an adult and a mom. And as a mom — who knows that Brooke is a mom — I can’t help but wonder about the actress herself. What was it like to be a child and pretend such a role? When a kid plays in a horror movie, I have those thoughts too; but then kids know scary monsters under the bed. I’m no prude, and I don’t think sex is worse than violence, but Pretty Baby is/was different. Its sophistication is what makes it a great film. But is such sophistication suitable for children — viewers or actors? …Was young Brooke aware that her position as a child actress was a lot like the role she played? How does Brooke the mother feel — would she allow, encourage, or discourage one of her children from playing such a role?

Brooke’s written books, but her autobiography was written before she was a parent, and I doubt the postpartum depression book mentions any of this… I’d love to get my hands on a copy of her 1987 senior thesis, The Initiation: From Innocence to Experience: The Pre-Adolescent/Adolescent Journey in the Films of Louis Malle, Pretty Baby and Lacombe Lucien; but that too was ages ago. Has age and motherhood changed how she views these experiences?

Happy Birthday Me

Birthdays are a time of reflection — but don’t worry, this isn’t one of those sentimental personal pieces full of beauty and gratitude, a wistful and wise piece about aging, or even one of those sad yet triumphant stories of survival. While I have moments of deep gratitude, brief bits of wisdom, and small moments in which I feel triumph sits on the horizon like a ship I can see and might one day board, I’m still working on all those things.

Instead, this birthday is like most birthdays since I was to turn 16. That year I told my parents that I didn’t need or deserve a party; I had achieved nothing and they deserved the credit for having kept me alive. Today I feel rather the same — only with a much heavier sense of futility. For in 48 years, neither the world, my status in it, nor my feelings about it has changed much.

I was born on June 21, 1964; I joined this world, as Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney left it. My mother’s screams may have been dulled by the twilight sleep of that time’s hospital deliveries, but I passed through the same veil, entered the ether echoing with the agony, pain, and fear of those men, their families and friends, and all who possess any shred of humanity… And I have lived in a country filled with those sounds and the stink of racism ever since.

I was born white; but such privilege doesn’t preclude the ability to know how wrong racism is, to hate what separates and enslaves.  …To feel the futility of such efforts even to educate that we the privileged have an obligation to do what is right is a heavy rope around my own neck.

I was born a girl; I joined this world with my rights up for debate and my womb under the control of others men. Any progress towards equality and the right to my own person has been met with struggle, abated with state allowed terrorism, and, indeed, is being wrestled away as I sit here today. Such abuse, rape, and control by the state fills me with the same pain, indignity, helplessness, and shame as the abuse, rape, and control experienced at the hands of individuals. …And then there are the more subtle, less violent, means of control — disrespect, dismissing, muzzling, belittling, economic inequality, shaming — used to assert government control, which perpetuates the abuses by individuals.

I was born “straight”; but, like being white, I know that my privilege of heterosexuality obligates me behave as a human being towards my fellow human beings. Ostracization and inequality based on orientation &/or gender identity is still in practice, in vogue in some places. It sickens, saddens, and wearies me as if it were my own personal struggle. …Then again, since this is very much tied to male power, beliefs about sexuality, it really mirrors — nay, is, my personal struggle.

I was born without silver spoon in mouth, or nearby. My parents worked tirelessly to provide a better future for their children. It was achieved; but brief. Those born with silver services and gold flatware have worked just as tirelessly to ensure that the poor and middle class would assume their place at the feet of their economic masters. I now work tirelessly to ensure my children survive; “thrive” is a question which lies under the boot heels of social and economic masters — i.e. wealthy white men and their corrupt corporations which are allowed human status.

Survival isn’t as easy as it sounds.

So you’d think I could hang my proverbial birthday hat on that, give myself some credit for just having made it to 48.

But I am just too tired.

Too tired to even go, as is my birthday custom, and visit graveyards and cemeteries. For when I see how the nuns who gave their lives in service and faith are buried like paupers, adoringly facing the monuments of their male leaders — presumably to serve even in death, I cannot bear the energy such emotion evokes. Not even when I see that the little cement slabs which mark where the nuns lay are less lavish, less cared for, than the markers for the never-born, the aborted. Really? Are female lives given in such service worth so little that they must still be treated as less-than virtual beings, ideas of beings?! It’s all just too-too much.

A lifetime of so little progress is just too much.

“Look Like A Chick For A Change”

An ad promoting more “feminine” fashions found in a 1974 issue of 19 magazine. Because, you know, ladies dasn’t wear pants.

Diana Pooley Ltd. must have been like Laura Ashley was in the 1980s; the option for “non-feminists” who eschewed being anything other than a lady in a man’s world. Fashion choice is one thing, but forcing such gender ties to fashion… Well, I often wonder if the Pooleys and Ashleys of the world are ever embarrassed to see their old ads.

Vintage ad scan found at Emmapeelpants at Flickr, where she calls it “Brilliantly patronising and rude.”

What’s Up With ASCII Art Nudes?

Today, at Collectors Quest, I get to find out the truth behind what shocked my teenaged-self so much: keyboard art nudes.

Seems that what I’d seen then was ASCII art, but more likely done by a computer program operating off of a photograph, not a person. I guess it makes more sense that way… Some computer nerds (or geeks?) at the office goofing off with technology, not doing art for art’s sake by hand. (Though, I suppose, to be fair and sex positive, hands were likely involved at some point.)

The image is from this gallery of ASCII art nudes. This is “Ms Collins” or “Vicki” from created from Oui magazine, February 1973. I selected her because she seems a lot like one of the nudes I’d seen that fateful day.

…A day way back then, when parents could display nude artwork and not cringe or worry when they gave the babysitter a tour of their house.

Jessica Savitch (Part One?)

I watched Almost Golden: The Jessica Savitch Story, starring Sela Ward, tonight. During commercial breaks, I Googled Jessica Savitch. To my surprise — and major disappointment — there’s not really any website devoted to this groundbreaking woman who earned four Emmys, an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award, and election to the board of trustees at Ithaca College.

If you start at Wikipedia (and I never trust Wiki completely, so please only let it be a starting place), the entry on the anchorwoman pretty much follows the made for TV movie. The Accuracy Project has basic bio info, but leaves a lot to be desired as it really only presents corrections, and a handful of them at that. And there’s this bio by Abigail Griffith (Spring 2008).

Reading all of those, there are odd discrepancies which mainly center on Donald Rollie Payne, a gynecologist in Washington, DC, who was Savitch’s last husband who committed suicide on August 1, 1981 by hanging himself in the basement of their home. Abigail Griffith says that Payne “committed suicide after becoming aware of a diagnosis of incurable cancer,” while Wiki says he was a “closet homosexual.” I don’t suppose that matters much to most of us, but I’m certain these things mattered to Savitch and possibly say a lot about her (continued) relationship choices.

For something that fills in more gaps, you can try this archived article from People magazine on Savitch’s death.

And in 1988, five years after her death, a Current Affair episode in which Savitch’s family calls Gwenda Blair’s book lies:

(Worth watching for so many reasons — we can discuss in the comments!)

But for my money, the most insightful piece about Jessica I found online was this article written by Maury Z. Levy when Savitch was still a broadcaster in Philadelphia.

Since her death, Jessica Savitch’s been inducted into The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia’s Hall of Fame, and the Park School of Communications at Ithaca College hosts a Journalism Lecture Series in her honor as well as named an on-campus television studio in her honor. There should be some sort of official website in her honor.

I bet Jessica would have loved the Internet, even if it/we would have had a field day of speculation and fun at her expense with the gaffes (largely exaggerated in the movie and historical footnotes) made on her last broadcast — just 20 days before her death. So someone, give her her due.

Of Tailgators, Radio & Retail

This is a vintage WKTI Tailgator pinback from 1983, featuring Old Style beer. It’s mere 1.75 inches, but oh the size of the memories it unleashes…

If you’re of a certain age — and from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area — you remember this era of WKTI, Reitman & Mueller — and the uncomfortably named Jim “Lips” LaBelle.

Thinking of WKTI reminds me of the days our family ventured into the retail business. We bought into the Just Pants franchise, running the Just Pants store at Southridge Mall, then a Taubman Mall (Taubman married and divorced from Christie Brinkley, a rather too present icon of my life, helping me date nearly anything).

Our biggest Just Pants competitor was the County Seat — and Kohl’s department store (which bled we specialty jean stores to death by using Levi’s and Lee denim loss leader sales). Anyone else remember the days of denim walls so high, sales staff used ladders to reach the goods? That’s the pun behind this sexy Just Pants ad — it predates when we had our store (and I doubt we would have ran the ad ourselves, even if it had been in the creative pool of franchisee options.)

Anyway, in that era we not only often played WKTI in the store but we special ordered and custom hemmed Bob Reitman‘s black boot-cut Levi’s. Yeah, we were that cool.

Back then, we not only played whatever radio we wanted in the store, on July 13, 1985, we played the Live Aid broadcast in the store. I called in from the store to donate, getting myself an official Live Aid t-shirt. (They were out of my size, so I received a size small which wouldn’t have covered The Girls and so it has remained safely packed away all these years.)

Now, WKTI is WLWK, “Lake FM.” (Reitman’s still kicking it on air with his weekly show, It’s Alright, Ma, It’s Only Music.) And, ironically, Lake FM sounds almost like an auditory time capsule of the Reitman & Mueller days. I know, I’ve listened to the station when I’ve traveled home. Old habits die hard and my fingers still “dial” to the stations I recalled. Not that any of them are there anymore.  Lazer 103, QFM, LPX… All long gone. Apparently, after I moved from Wisconsin, the radio station marketplace went to hell. I’m not the only one who’s more than nostalgic; check out 93QFM: The Halcyon Daze for Milwaukee Rock Radio DJ Stories.

This got me thinking about the other radio stations & DJs… And the connections to retail.

Marilynn Mee, aka Jackpot Girl, part of Bob And Brian’s morning show on Lazer 103 (Mee may still be on WKLH?), was someone I met quite often when I was working at the Estee Lauder counter at Gimbels. Mee was pals with Pam, who worked Lancome. I envied Mee her wardrobe of all things.  But then, if you’ve ever had to wear the cosmetic girl garb, well, you’d understand it. Hard to feel 80-‘s glam when you’re wearing a turquoise smock-tent, no matter how fab your face and hair look. (Despite the fact that Marilynn and Pam partied with rock stars, I was the good girl who found herself knocked up; an entirely different subject, and I’ve digressed too much already.)

Because I’m all nostalgic about radio…

My first radio love was WOKY — and AM station that then played top 40 pop stuff. It came in loud and clear on my red ball Panasonic R-70 transistor radio.

I would turn the volume up and dance madly in the back yard. My most vivid memory is of cranking up Billy Preston’s Go Round in Circles and dancing on top of the old wooden picnic table. So not safe, I’m sure, even if you weren’t dancing yourself dizzy goin’ round in circles. Ahh, those were the days, though.

Image Credits: Vintage 1970 Just Pants ad via Ads-Things4Less. Panasonic photo via ebyauctions.

This One’s For My Dad

The Spectacular Suzanne Pleshette

This photo of Suzanne Pleshette reminds me of my dad.

My dad had a thing for Suzanne. He also had a lusty crush on Susan Anton. We used to tease him maybe variations on “Sue” was his real “thing.” *wink*

As a young girl, and then a young woman, those two women were so disparate… And neither resembled my mother.

…Well, maybe my mother was a bustier Pleshette, with a more dulcet voice.

But anyway, my point is, my daddy taught me early on that men can be attracted, simultaneously, to many things about women — that there wasn’t necessarily a “type,” either for one man or mankind. That’s the sort of thing a woman needs to know. And it doesn’t hurt to know that such crushes or affections do nothing to demean or diminish the loving and lusty committed relationship one’s in, either.

I was reminded, again, just how important dads are to girls when hubby and I helped dad run his booths selling antiques at Cedarburg Maxwell Street Days this past weekend. Dad’s sort of got a carnival-barker-meets-stand-up-comic style to his manning of his booths. (Another thing I’ve picked up from Dad!) One woman, drawn in by Dad’s quick wit, was instantly charmed — not only by my dad, but by my relationship with him.

“It’s clear you love your dad,” she said. Tears formed in her eyes — and mine — when she said, “I lost my dad 26 years ago… Dads are so important in their daughters’ lives…”

Damn right they are.

So here’s to you, Dad. Enjoy Ms. Pleshette. Thanks for being you.

Forever indebted,
your daughter

The “Cherry Bomb” Bomb: An Ignorant Hetero Midwest Girl Reviews The Runaways Film

Cherie Currie and Joan Jett, back in the days when they were Runaways.

I don’t ever claim to be first with the reviews (I deal in old stuff, so why even rush to hop on the bandwagon with films about retro bands?), so you’ve likely already heard about, read reviews of, or even seen 2010’s The Runaways, starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning. Anyway…

The Runaways is an incredible film. You should see it. My only real comments are really about my impressions of myself…

I wasn’t actually going to write any sort of a review, but then I stumbled onto Susie Bright’s commentary:

“What is this Little Debbie BULLSHIT?” I said. “This is a disgrace.”

Director Floria Sigismondi’s “pretty-in-glam” Runaways promo wasn’t the underground punk scene I remember from Los Angeles in the 1970’s.

And then I thought, “Hey, someone needs to speak for the rest of the un-cool kids here in the Midwest.”

You see, I didn’t know of The Runaways until after there was Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ I Love Rock and Roll.  That made it on the radar — and radio waves — in Midwest suburbia.  Heck, my mom was a HUGE fan of that song!  (Rock on, Mom!)

Before Bright’s commentary, I’d viewed the relationship between Jett and Currie as a more complicated version of the college lesbianism experience, mixed with drugs, celebrity-too-soon, and, sure, what looked in the film like a bit of opportunistic, if not predatory, moves on Jett’s part — which seemed more natural and less creepy than it sounds, really. And I don’t suppose Bright’s commentary really changes any of that. ( Or that my interpretation of the film is accurate; or even that the film was entirely explicit about many intimate aspects of their personal lives. It was, after all, a film; not a documentary.) But I feel it’s worth noting that Los Angeles is, and was, a million miles away from my Milwaukee suburban experience. Or even my imagining.

I was in gay bars in the 80’s. However, I’m sure they weren’t anything like the punk scenes you big coastal cities had. I’m sure even the leather and dungeon rooms would have seemed comical (at least by comparison at the time). But my point is that even though I wasn’t phobic, wasn’t ignorant, and therefore wasn’t shocked or put-off by anything in The Runaways that would have freaked my version of the world at that time, the sort of cultural context Bright feels was a necessary part of the story has me thinking… Maybe too much.

Yes, it may be accurate to say, as Bright does, that, “The Runaways band would not have happened, could not have been conceived, without the Underground Dyke Punk Groupie Slut culture that stretched from the San Fernando Valley to the bowels of Orange County,” but is it necessary to understand or appreciate the film, the story of (at least two of) the girls in the all-girls band?

Maybe it’s some sort of “ism” for a heterosexual chick to say it doesn’t matter; or at the very least, I’m being insensitive and dismissive to a movement. I certainly don’t mean to be.  Yet, I thought the film was about forging ahead against the odds, the isolating experience of individuals — of female individuals — and maybe all that cultural context wasn’t integral?  Then again, I’m always harping on the context of things, and certainly the counter-culture is as important in the story of where this band, these women, sat as the cultural norms I was carrying in my own head.

I just can’t decide.

Because fundamentally, I felt the tidal waves of emotion of abuse (self, drug, management, the industry, etc.), dreams gained and lost, friendships, trust, creativity, and being a woman with little respect through it all… And I’m not sure that being more precise in the documentation or depiction of what Bright described as the scene at the time is would have enhanced that ride. Though I guess I’ll never know because that film hasn’t been made.

At the end of The Runaways, I was left wanting to discover what others already had; the music of the band itself. (And the music each made with other bands and in solo careers — save, perhaps, for Lita Ford.  Hubby had a crush on her, so her discs are around… Plus, at the end of The Runways, I didn’t like her. Sure, I understood what motivated her snits; but ick.)   Though, what Susie Bright said now not only colors my thoughts about the film, but thoughts about the music as well.

Such is the plight of one who thinks too much, I suppose.

Can I continue to rock to Crimson & Clover without having any such thoughts of celebrating a “dyke rock’n’roll legacy” — and not have that be dismissive or exclusionary, not have it be a political or social statement at all? Yes, I think I can. So I think I can enjoy The Runaways as a film without any of that too.

I think that’s the question, and the answer.  For me.

I’ll tell you how that works as I listen to more of the music.  …Maybe watch the film again.

PS The end of the movie left you rather feeling like Cherie had relegated herself to, or was even happy with, some sort of boring mainstream life after the band split. Clearly the film focused on Jett. (Odd because the movie was based largely on Currie’s autobiography, Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runawayoriginally published in 1989; reprinted to coincide with the film.) But Currie’s life indeed went on.  Cherie also went on to play more music; to marry and divorce from Robert Hays (of Airplane! — what an odd pairing in my mind) — they even had a son, Jake Hays, who accompanied his mom and dad at The Runaways premier, and to rock the art as a chainsaw chick.

Cheap Thrills Thursday: Skeeter Davis Was A Lover (Not A Fighter)

Skeeter Davis fan club pinback, circa 1970s, printed with her photo and one of her song titles, I’m A Lover (Not A Fighter).

Here are the song lyrics:

I only married you for love dear I didn’t go for all of your dough
Now and then you say you love me but honey baby it didn’t show
I never seemed to please you lately cause all you ever do is complain
I’m sick of this fussin’ and fightin’ so baby let your loving woman explain.

I’m a lover not a fighter
I kinda like it that way
If you want a fightin’ partner
Go live with Cassius Clay.

— Instrumental —

A woman is soft and tender and willing to love her man
So why don’t you take advantage of the woman that you know I am
I don’t want to fuss and fight dear for the rest of my natural life
Stop treatin’ me like your enemy start treatin’ me like a wife.

I’m a lover not a fighter
I kinda like it that way
If you want a fightin’ partner
Go live with Cassius Clay.

I’m a lover not a fighter
I kinda like it that way
If you want a fightin’ partner
Go live with Cassius Clay.

I’m a lover not a fighter
I kinda like it that way
If you want a fightin’ partner
Go live with Cassius Clay…

Confessions Of Culture Shifts & Gender Bias

Sometimes being 46 years old — and a woman — is an amazing thing. I’m often fascinated by the cultural shifts I’ve witnessed; too often dismayed by the cultural shifts promised which have not occurred, been set further back even… But it sure has been a shifty four decades.

I often wonder if other individual women in other generations have anything to compare…

I’ve thought my Great Aunt M had lived through some amazing changes — suffrage, working during WWII and returning back home when the men came back to claim “their” jobs, the choice not to have children in the atomic family age… Amazing cultural shifts in one lifetime.

I’ve long been aware of my mother’s experience — but usually from the point of view of what it’s been like to have been her daughter. She was the first and only mom I knew who consistently worked outside of the home. At first it may have just been for the money; waitressing and the like. But by the late 70’s she was progressing from “just an office job” to reading The Assertive Woman, attending workshops on how-to-dress-for-success, and actively pursuing a career. As the only kids in the neighborhood — and in our family — with a wanting-to-work mom (and a father who supported her choice and her work), my sister and I had a different perspective of women’s lib: equal parts of liberation, greater responsibilities, and increased expectations. …This could be a long post by itself.

But just a few days ago I had an astonishing talk with my mother which made me reexamine just what it must have been like for her…

She and I had been discussing how different my sister and I are (I’ve always said that if we hadn’t been born sisters, we never would have met), and I said, “I could understand it better if she and I had been born further apart, but there’s only a year and a half separating us — we were raised by the same parents, at the same time in their lives.”

And then that’s when my mom shared some stories that rocked my brain.

When my mom was in high school, this would be the late 1950s, she wanted a summer job. Her father said he would recommend her to the diaper washing service next to his auto-body shop if she promised to work every single day — not miss one day, or ever be late. She agreed, he made the recommendation, and she got the summer job.

She went in to work every day, all summer long. Then one night, she and her boyfriend — her first love, broke up. She spent all night crying, as teenage girls will do. When she woke up and her father spotted her in the hall, he asked her why she wasn’t yet dressed for work. She responded that she was a mess, that she could barely see through her puffy eyes, that she wouldn’t be going into work that day. Her father looked directly at her, said, “You gave your word,” then turned on his heel and left.

Mom quickly got dressed and to work on time.  She never missed one day of work and lived up to her word.

When it came time for her younger sister Vickie, mom’s junior by nine years, to get a summer job, Vickie only worked four days before she quit. Years later, when having some sister-chat, my Aunt Vicki asked her sister, my mother, “Why didn’t they teach me to be responsible, like they did you?”

My mom’s response was, “You came along at a different time in their lives; you were their baby and they had different expectations of you.”

That is probably a fair analysis. And an amazingly insightful, non-spiteful, response from my mother to boot.

But my mom wasn’t done sharing her stories.

A few years after the summer laundry job, my mom worked full-time as a secretary at a finance company. This was at the same time that her brother, Mike, just two years her junior, was working at Pabst. My mom was paying $15 a week in rent to her parents. She thought nothing of it until she discovered that her brother wasn’t paying anything to their parents.

When she asked her parents why she paid rent and her brother did not, the answer (given in that “you’re so silly to ask” tone of condescension) was that “she was working for pin money, but Mike was a man.”

Even though “Mike the man” wasn’t supporting a family (his paycheck went to purchase beer), the assumption was that he was working for a future, that his paycheck and job were more important. He was expected to work; she was not.   The price for her frivolity in dabbling in employment was one she would have to pay for.

Even now when I think about this I am amazed. Not just that this greatly shifts my perception of my beloved grandparents, who were a product of their own times, but that my mother who was raised by and living with these people had the guts to question her parents about this gender bias.

But that’s not even the worst of it.

When I expressed my surprise and shock — including that I’d never heard these stories before, my mother shared one more…

This one is about my cousins, Lisa & Danny, who are my Uncle Mike’s kids.

Recently, my cousin Lisa was out to lunch with my mom and she confessed that both she and her brother felt they never pleased their father; Danny for not being a macho sports guy — and Lisa for not being a boy at all. It was so bad that Lisa said, “You know, my mom never read to me. Not once. She read to Danny.”  And then she rapidly tacked on — as if risking being accused of being unfair or mean-spirited,  “I could listen though.”

Images of a small shy child silently lurking in the doorway while a mother snuggled with a sibling on a bed, reading to him from a book he’d selected… *shudder*

I always wondered why my cousin Lisa was so shy — painfully so. Ill-confident, uncomfortable in her own skin.  How can you be anything else when your own parents don’t think you’re worthy of being read to because you’re not a male child?

It sounds the stuff of the 1950s, not the 1960s and 70s… If  “America” at all.

But here it is, gender bias bullshit, from real lives, not text book depictions; from my family, some of it even in my lifetime.  It’s real. It’s still living here, if only in echos. And poor self esteem.

Image via Steady Mom.

Still Using The Word “Negro” In 1977

In 1977 I was 13, and I know use of the word “negro” was a no-no. But here’s proof it was not only said by ignorant white trash folk, but used to peddle dolls, doll parts, etc. A page of from the 1977 Standard Doll Co. catalog featuring “negro dolls” — alongside “Indian dolls,” a term which is still bandied about far too often (but then Native Americans are the most overlooked people in our country — and that’s saying something).

Kaptain Kool & The Kongs On Gender & Fashion

From issue number two of The New Krofft Supershow comic (1978), deep insights into gender and fashion…

In panel two:

Turkey, why are you wearing your socks wrong side out?

Shh, there’s a hole on the other side!

‘Cuz men are stupid; they never change or replenish their socks — or underwear.

(Confession: I sit here right now, my bare toe sticking out of — wait for it! — my husband’s sock. Why? I am in need of purchasing more socks for myself. …However, it is so fun to say, “My toe is sticking out of hubby’s sock.” That’s how close we are!)

In panel three:

Oh, these pants are tighter than my skin!

How can anything be tighter than your skin?

Easy! She can sit down in her skin, but she sure can’t sit down in those pants.

‘Cuz women are stupid; they kill themselves for fashion.

(Confession: I wore tight Jordache jeans. They were tight… But obviously if I wore them to school or took a ride in a car, I could sit in them. …And I do recall that men’s jeans were just as tight. In fact, I vaguely recall it being some sort of a competition.)

PS Bonus points for the ironic “Watch Your Step” sign in the background of that last panel.

Lashes For The Feminist Movement

Picture the scene… It’s 1974 and those women’s libbers are everywhere. Before you know it, those damn women will have screwed up everything. Hell, we won’t even be able to tell the boys from the girls. Oh my gawd, what about the children?! How do you combat it? Big Fluttery Lashes.

The amazingly-trademarked Big Fluttery Lashes were copyrighted in 1974, by Imagineering Inc., Phoenix, Arizona (but made in Hong Kong).  The lashes sold for 39 cents and they were safe & non-toxic (unless you’re under the age of three).

And good news, boys; if you were caught with one on your upper lip (or simply caught with the package), you could simply say it was a mustache — the package even says so!

Image via Tiki Ranch.

Stop Being Such A Baby

I’ll admit that I don’t have a clue as to what this vintage photo is really about. It could be innocent silliness; it could be some sort of kinky soft-core fantasy.

But when I look at it, I’m reminded of my sister.

When we were kids on family vacation one year, my sister had one of her dramatic fits of anger just as we were all walking from the hotel room to the car. As luck would have it, there outside of the rooms ins some sort of outdoor covered area, along with the ice and vending machines, there was a baby’s crib, left by housekeeping or something. Since my sister was acting like a baby, my dad picked up my sister (who was then roughly 10 years old) and placed her in the crib.

My sister should have been able to get out, but being so consumed and fraught with anger, she couldn’t mobilize such an effort. This made her even more furious.

Her face was so red, her fists were clenched in rage beating on the top rail of the crib’s walls — her screams demanding her release could barely be understood above her own howls of fury.

And we, my parents and myself, just stood there, watching. And laughing. At a safe enough distance.

The laughing only enraged my sister more, keeping her helpless and trapped in the baby’s crib.

Eventually she was spent. With nothing left to give, her emotional skies cleared, and the whole thing passed. Too exhausted from it all, she still couldn’t get herself out so my dad picked her up for the second time that morning and swung her back down to the ground.

And we went on our way to get breakfast.

Photo via Shop-Till-You-Hop-Photo-Store.

Familiar Feminist Faces

This pair of Ms. mugs look familiar… But then, as someone growing up in the 70’s, I saw a lot of the art deco dames — and the word “Ms.” Sometimes the word was a slur; but still…

I have no idea if these were put out by Ms. Magazine. Someone needs to make a site or page devoted to Ms. collectibles… Gads, I hope I didn’t just assign myself another project.

Soul Train Lessons

Hubby and I enjoy the hell out of reruns of Soul Train.

Rediscovering lost musical loves and finding new-to-us artists to hunt for, like Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, is too awesome. The clothing and dances are feasts for the eyes. Don Cornelius holding the mic a hundred yards away because his deep booming voice doesn’t need a mic, but the show totally believes in the props, is a hoot. Spotting regular dancers and keeping up with yesterday’s lingo… It’s heaven.

But we also play this game when we watch reruns of Soul Train. The Soul Train Game is to guess the year of the episode before the credits roll and reveal the answer.

Amazingly, hubby always wins — even though he was an underage kid when most of these shows aired.

You’d think I’d have the advantage; not only was I buying plenty of records and tapes, but soon I was out dancing in (and dressing to kill for) the club scene too. But no, hubby, the stay-at-home-young-pup wins.

I’d like to think it’s a matter of me over-thinking my answer (I lived in the Midwest, so how far behind were we in the fashions?). But the simple fact is, he is smarter about this stuff. I’m greatly disadvantaged because I don’t think in terms of years; I view life and history as “chapters” and “episodes,” and am hard-pressed to name dates. His knowledge of technology and historical time lines beats out my real life experience — at least in this case.

(In fact, I always turn to him to help me date any antique or vintage collectible — even clothing — because he’s so damn good at this stuff.)

But I have another point to make, another story to tell, so I’ll move along…

The other day, hubby and I were joking about the Soul Train Game, and Destiny, the 13 year old, asked us what we were talking about. Have you ever tried to explain Soul Train and American Bandstand to a teenager of today?

She couldn’t fathom the idea of kids wanting to watch a bunch of kids dance on TV, let alone that those dancing kids had groupies and fan clubs of their own.

So how could we move on to the issues of race and lip-syncing — often with a microphone from the future, with a fake short cord that wobbled about. But we did. Because that’s the kind of context geeks hubby and I are.

Honestly, I think Des understood the race issues and the faux Microphone Of The Future better than the concept of turning on the television to watch a bunch of kids dance.

I’m sure getting over this speedbump of understanding is thwarted by her preference for Goth-kid-attire; she’s not interested in finding out the latest trends in fashion.

I’m sure the fact that learning dance steps is only relatable in terms of the uncoolness of line-dancing in phy-ed — or today’s shows which emphasis professional dancers, oft paired with celebrities. Destiny’s clearly not thinking she should bust a new move on the dance floor — or that watching teens dance on TV would be the way to learn. You’d Google it, right?

I guess the basic problem here is that these shows didn’t spoon-feed you the dance steps, or break down fashion into sponsored “must haves.”  You watched, like a voyeur, identified what you wanted, and figured it out. So to kids today, the concept of watching teens dance on television is like watching a party through a window — only you’re allowed to go, so where’s the thrill?

And so I didn’t even try to get into Solid Gold or the Solid Gold dancers.

Even after she watched Soul Train with us (right after a Ru Paul’s Drag Race episode) it didn’t seem to make sense; she made it through the hour of Ru Paul, but only 20 minutes of Soul Train.

Explaining teenage dance shows to kids today is like explaining the joys of watching fuzzy YouTube clips of a kid & his light saber dancing to Star Wars to the kids of yesteryear.

We Had Joy, We Had Fun, We had Seasons In The Sun…

I’ve been listening a lot to the cable music stations — most recently to the 70’s station. Tonight, Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks came on and I found myself singing along as I had in my childhood:

We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun
‘Til the cops came along and shot us in our buns.

At this point hubby (10 years my junior, remember, and so perhaps not even born at the time I was singing along to the AM radio), turns around and calls me an affectionate slur for a mental handicap.

“Come on,” I laugh, “I was like 10 years old when this song came out.”

And I continue to sing along with the song — growing happier and louder with each opportunity to sing my childhood recollections of the verse. I was seriously clapping with glee by the end of the song. Perverse? Maybe. But it was thrilling to relive my 10 year actions and enthusiasm.

Blaming my age might seem like a weak defense, but honestly, little kid weirdness can often be attributed to very real — and very grown-up — things.

Streaking was a big thing then (at least pop culture reference wise; I never knew anyone then who had done so) and as kids, uncomfortable with the notion of naked adults, we made jokes about it. Continually.

And the song, Seasons In The Sun, was terribly depressing; it reeked of death. Another thing kids would be terribly uncomfortable with.

So we dealt with our anxieties via the mutilation (further mutilation?) of the song.

Come to think of it, so many 70’s songs were about death…

There was Wildfire and Brandy, of course (the latter of which may not have explicitly about death, but certainly there was loss). Helen Reddy’s Angie Baby used to scare the crap out of me (that swirling noise made me dizzy and is somehow mythologically tied to my experience with the floor dropping in Disney’s Haunted Mansion) — second only to Eleanor Rigby, which, with the popularity of Wings, was played far too often as far as I was concerned. (Wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door?! I’m old enough to understand the lyrics better now, but that only creeps me out more.)

However, in terms of raw exploitation and manipulation of emotion, there were even worse offenders.

Like Rocky (“Rocky I’ve never had a baby before, don’t know if I can do it…”) by Austin Roberts. In my mind, Rocky was from the made for TV movie, Sunshine, which was based on the real life story of Jacquelyn Marie “Lyn” Helton, a young woman who while dying journaled for her young daughter so that she’d remember her (unbearably more than ironic if this post is to be believed).

I recently discovered that Rocky was not from that film when we found the record at a thrift shoppe (and yes, I snatched it up). I don’t think I ever saw the Sunshine movie, or the television series which followed…

But maybe I did. In my mind, it was all twisted up with my Sunshine Family dolls. Dolls who suffered greatly, despite their cheerful happy hippy faces. One parent often died… Of course, it could have been worse for the children after I read Flowers In The Attic (the baby boy obviously would have been named Cory).

All of this is so depressing.

The only way to really cleanse from this is to sing along with Seasons In The Sun — my way. Go ahead and try it, you’ll understand why we sang it this way as kids.

We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun
‘Til the cops came along and shot us in our buns.