I See London, I See France, I See Lessons In Barbie’s Underpants

vintage-blue-barbie-doll-pleated-lingerieBecause my first Barbie dolls had been my aunt’s, I had a lot of the original stuff, including those (now highly collectible) palest blue whispers of chiffon pleated underpants. I remembered being struck by the incongruity of such angles — the square-ish lines of the boxy panties themselves and the triangular points of the pleats — against the round curves of plump plastic. As I slipped them over Babs’ firm flesh, I wondered what her shape would do to the shape of those panties… Miraculously, some of the pleating remained when Barbie wore them — and in fact, the pleating was fully retained once removed from the doll. These were things I was highly suspicious of.

I wondered if those puffs of pleats remained beneath Barbie’s outerwear… They weren’t really visible; Barbie did not suffer from visible panty lines either. But like that refrigerator light problem, there was no way to see-to-believe, no way to really know.

While many blame Barbie for a plethora of society’s ills, I’m not so convinced. I learned many things from Barbie, including, but not limited to, the pure impossibility of comparing myself to a doll (let alone coming up short in such a comparison).

Barbie was a doll, her movements were not only dictated & restricted by manufactured bendable knees & stiff elbows, but whatever limited movements Babs had could only be made at my whim. Her permanently arched foot did not relax when her shoes were removed, nor when she went to sleep. (This, I would learn years later as a department store sales person, was quite probably the most realistic thing about Barbie.) When I cut her hair, it did not grow back. Ever. When her leg popped-off at the hip, you could just press it firmly back into place; no blood, no guts, just the glory of fixing a problem yourself.

Barbie was not real and I knew it.

Her lack of areolas and nipples did not make me question the existence of mine. The enormous size of her breasts and their skewed proportionality did not make me question the size and proportion of my mother’s bustline, that of any other female that I knew, or my own breasts when I developed them. Barbie’s flat tummy did not make me question my plump belly or that of any other female; hers was hard unforgiving plastic, ours were flesh — as flexible, purposeful and forgiving as our arms. Our bodies existed for more than posing, for draping fabrics, for pretending. We are not dolls; we are a human.

Of course, as a child, I didn’t exactly articulate these things to myself or anyone else; these were simply the lessons of play. (Are those the ingrained messages they want to protect children from?)

OK, so Barbie’s hyper-beauty was unrealistic, so what? I had a brain. I was no more in danger from this fashion doll than boys who played smash-up with Hot Wheels cars were from driving like the world was a demotion derby they could just get up and walk away from. Kids can tell reality from pretend, especially when they have emotionally & intelligently available adults who answer questions and talk with them, not at them.

(This is not to say that Barbie, media images, etc. do not have an impact; but that’s more a matter of a collective accumulation of messages. And I’ll continue to pull at those threads.)

However — getting back to Barbie’s pleated underwear, what started all this in my mind was spotting these vintage knife pleated panties.

vintage-knife-pleated-lace-edge-green-pantiesknife-pleated-lace-edge-panties-from-the-1930s

In jadeite green and blushy-peach, they are color variations of Babs’ fancy sheer knickers!

I instantly thought of the mysteries of those angles on Barbie’s curves, of how I wondered just how real flesh would react with those pleats… Puckers & folds in your pants or beneath a slip-protected skirt, would they be there under your clothes? Or would your flesh fill them out, curves rubbing-out the angles? If they were there, what would they feel like? Would they remain when you took those panties off? Puckers & folds, those are usually considered imperfections — yet here they are, for living humans, not just dolls.

These vintage panties are beautiful little mysteries to me. And until I find a pair in my size, this is how they shall remain to me.

Whatjamacallit Wednesday: Myrtle The Turtle

My mother is the one who started it, this tradition of making up silly songs to sing to your kids. I’ve twisted it onto singing songs about my children, usually silly rhymes sung to melodies from television themes songs — like Hunter’s Boo-Bear, Meet The Boo-Bear based on The Flinstones.The kids used to love it, but then they grew older and not-so-much… I must now wait for them to grow old enough to appreciate them again.

One of Allie’s favorites was grandma’s Myrtle The Turtle who would “swim any hurdle — just to be near her Allie.” So when I found this Myrtle The Turtle, a story by Ernestine Cobern Beyer (illustrations by Mildred Gatlin Weber), inside the July 1964 issue of Wee Wisdom, I instantly thought of Allie and began singing the song. Thank goodness I was home alone flipping through the pages & singing, or… Well, let’s just say that if the kids who know the songs and presumably love me no longer can rise above my crazy singing to enjoy the special memories created by such silly songs, how can I expect the general public to?

myrtle-the-turtle
myrtle-the-turtle-2

My mom bought me this vintage copy of Wee Wisdom when we were out antiquing together because she know how much I love Great Danes. Now that I’ve found Myrtle in here, I wonder if she’ll want it back? …I myself am tempted to remove the Myrtle pages (ack!) and frame them for Allie for Christmas. Better yet, just make really high quality scans, print two great copies and frame a set for each of them… (If either one of them pop in here, all bets — and gifts — are off.)

wee-wisdom-july-1964

My Summer of ’79

At 15, I was straddling the simple romantic fantasies of girlhood by day — and the hormonal induced sweaty-pink-bit-manipulations by night.

By day, I still played with Barbie & her friends. Still playing with Barbies was not something I advertised; I didn’t invite my girlfriends over to play with me. Like my nocturnal activities, this was the solo-play of self-discovery.

Playing with Barbie was like warm comfort food; I understood the rules and romance in playland, even if I didn’t understand the ways of the boys around me who had suddenly started reacting to my well-beyond-just-budding breasts.

But at night, I got hot and sweaty for Andy Gibb — via his posters on my walls.

angy-gibb-posterEspecially that poster of Andy with his dark blue satin baseball jacket worn open to expose what I could only then (and now) best describe as a tree of hair — with a trunk that went down past the navel to what I could only then bear to imagine as another system of hair at the root… Leading to that something that beefed-up his tight satin pants. And that magnificent mane of hair on his head, ahhh... it still works.

But before I begin to get lost in teenage masturbation fantasies, let’s just say that solo-play was far more productive in terms of my nighttime studies; learning the ins-and-outs of myself, physically & emotionally, was easier than figuring out interpersonal play by myself. But I did learn much about me.

At 15, I knew the score — or at least what scoring was — even if I wasn’t ready for it. At least not with a boy. If I was going to give in — and I wasn’t sure I was — it would be with a man who knew what he was doing.

Since I was an avid reader, Barbie wasn’t my only form of entertainment. (Nor was masturbation — quit trying to get me off the subject!) As an avid reader with a voracious appetite for books, my parents let me read freely from anything on the bookshelves at home and at the library. I hadn’t needed my parents’ permission for any reading material since what, I was 6, 7? I read what I wanted, and asked questions when I needed to.

For example, when I was about 10 I read a mystery book which presented a mystery it hadn’t intended. I forget the title and author, but the passage went like this: “and then he threw the flaming faggot into the fire.” Since the only definition for ‘faggot’ I knew was the same for ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ (hey folks, it was 1974, and folks were ‘out’ in theory even if I didn’t know anyone personally); I was at a loss. How could a man who was alone throw another man into a fire? And if there was someone around, why hadn’t he been mentioned earlier? Shouldn’t there have been some sort of exchange or motive? Was it just bad writing?

Book in hand, I approached my mother, showed her the passage and asked for help. How she kept a straight face (no pun intended) while explaining that ‘faggot’ was an English word for cigarette, I’ll never know… But I do know that not only had she helped me with my vocabulary but I helped her by letting her know what I knew. That’s what parenting is all about, yes?

So, flash forward five years to me at 15 again. I dragged myself away from Andy Gibb’s gaze, left Babs alone (that’s not a euphemism; I refer again to the classic fashion doll), and look for a book on my parents’ book shelf.

summer-of-42-coverA title caught my eye, The Summer of ’42 — something about it was familiar. I remembered vaguely the book making news… Something about sex & banning the book… Hmm, I thought, I hope it’s not as dumb as Catcher in the Rye. (That book did nothing for me, sorry.) But curiosity won, and I took Summer of ’42 to my room and read it.

The book was well-written, but it was from the point of view of a boy, which I found faintly disinteresting. A group of boys who want to get laid, gee, that was news to a 15 year old girl with big boobs. But I hung with it (to date, I’ve only quit reading 3 books — I’m a girl who believes in commitment), and I learned a few things.

Like Hermie’s date with Aggie. Hermie thinks he’s getting lucky by touching her breast — a deformed breast lacking any nipple — only to discover later that he’d been fondling and groping her shoulder. (Hey, Andy Gibb would never, ever, have made that mistake!) This only confirmed my belief that boys were stupid. They were in such a rush, they missed pretty basic stuff. Idiots.

But at the end of the book, the cumulative lessons learned left me once again surprised: I’d read another banned book that left me wondering why it would need to be banned. Frankly, I still am.

Sure, Hermie (an under-age boy) has sex with an older (adult) woman; but it’s depressing. It’s not erotic. Nor is it abusive or crude. In fact, it scared me about my fantasies about Mr. Gibb. I mean Hermie was in love, head over heels in love — ga-ga — and after what he thinks is such a beautiful moment, this woman cries and leaves him. Sure, she was vulnerable with her husband’s death and all, but clearly, she didn’t want some kid. Ouch. And hey, Hermie’s got feelings! Who knew boys had feelings?

This was not some sex-filled-romp of adolescence. This was not some titillating erotic entertainment piece. This was heartbreaking. Even at 15, a never-been-kissed-by-a-boy girl, I recognized the agony of misplaced virginity. I knew that a first time, a first love, a first f***, was sacred. This wasn’t some fodder for a solo-f***-fest, some sensationalized erotic entertainment — far from it. It was a warning. Not only were young boys not practiced enough to find a boob, but they were immature enough to not know they should protect their hearts. While I felt that I would fare better in the groping department, I knew I was likely as lame in matters of the heart.

Not long after, Barbie was put away and didn’t see sunlight until we had a garage sale. I had mastered what I needed to know: romance was a fickle bitch, boys could indeed be hurt too, and romance could be as plastic — as one-sided — as a fashion doll.

I still masturbated to images of Andy, but I no longer romanticized meeting him after a concert and that he’d fall in love with me. It was just sex — just sex in my mind. And it was safer for me at that time to leave it at that. Too bad Hermie hadn’t been that self aware, hadn’t protected himself… And no wonder the older woman who should have known better, but was so affected by her own broken heart she couldn’t think straight, left town asap.

I grew up quite a bit reading Summer of ’42, and I likely saved myself some pain. I’m not saying I mad no mistakes; my life is a character-building exercise. But I made less mistakes, less painful ones. I have Herman Raucher to thank for that. And my parents — for they let me read.

Just last week I asked my mom if she knew that I had read Summer of ’42; yes, she had. I asked her if she was, well, creeped out by it. Her reply? “No. You always came to us if you had questions. …It was a sad story, wasn’t it?”

Yeah mom, it was sad. Sadder still to know that some kids weren’t allowed to read it. Thank you, mom and dad, for being good parents.

banned books Epilogue: Some kids and adults are still not allowed to read or view Summer of ’42 because it has been banned from their libraries. Or they’ve been told to avoid such ‘horrible’ works. I can’t speak for the film, but if you get a chance, read Summer of ’42. It might be too late to save yourself from past mistakes, but it’s never too late to learn something.

Read it this week, Banned Books Week, buy Banned Books Week merch, blog about it and read what others have to say — and celebrate your freedom to read.

The Serendipity Of Teaser Tuesday

teaser-tuesdays-iconI just discovered Teaser Tuesday via Tina, the Creative Nerd and I decided to “play along” because the serendipity gods were with me this week — look at the lovely bit I flipped to on page 53 of Requiem for a Paper Bag: Celebrities and Civilians Tell Stories of the Best Lost, Tossed, and Found Items from Around the World (a Found anthology collected by Davy Rothbart):

What does it mean when you forget how you found something? It means you want to have had it all along. It means you don’t want to think about the loss that precedes the finding.

(Yeah, I broke the role by giving you three lines; but come on, breaking up those lines from Bich Minh Nguyen‘s How I Found My Mother would be like ruining a poem!)

As for future participation in this book meme, well, that depends upon how on top of things I am… If the blogging keeps me from reading, who wants 6 weeks worth of teasers from one book? *wink*

How to participate in Teaser Tuesdays:

  1. Grab your current read
  2. Open to a random page
  3. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  4. Share the title & author, too, so that other Tuesday Tease participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
  5. Link back to Teaser Tuesday’s home (or post your Teaser Tuesday as a comment in that week’s comments).

But Maybe I Should Leave My Fantasies Of Isaac Out Of It

To celebrate National Romance Week, Princess Cruises has joined with Cruise Critic to conduct a search for real-life love stories that have taken place on the decks of Princess ships. Jan Swartz, Princess’ executive vice president, says:

Over the years, we’ve heard many romantic stories from our passengers – everything from meeting their future spouse onboard a Princess ship to unexpectedly reconnecting with someone with whom they develop a new relationship – and so we’re launching a search to find as many of these heartwarming stories as possible.

So why would you confess such things as bumping into an old flame & rekindling a romance aboard a cruise ship, or, a la The Love Boat, hooking up with the ship’s doctor — let alone have them published on the Princess website?

Well, Princess Cruises says it’s for the love of romance — and the prize. (The winner will receive a seven-day Princess cruise to the Caribbean, including airfare.) But I think it’s the opportunity to have Captain Stubing judge your love exploits at sea.

stubing_mcleodThat’s right, one of the judges of this contest is “Princess’ well-known ambassador and member of the line’s ‘Department of Romance’,” Gavin MacLeod.

MacLeod and Cruise Critic editor-in-chief Carolyn Spencer Brown will pick their five favorite stories from among those submitted, and then the Cruise Critic community will then vote on the top five to determine the most romantic story. Entries will be taken until August 28, 2009; the most romantic story will be announced on September 28, 2009.

I’d like to win a free cruise — who wouldn’t? But I’d really like to impress Captain Stubing. (Maybe enough, along with all the other stories, to reignite a campaign to bring back Love Boat; oh, the many happy nights of watching, giggling, dreaming about Isaac, “My Bartender.”) At least that’s why I would enter — if I’d ever been on a cruise, let alone a Princess Cruise. Donations accepted.

issac-my-bartender

Because Of This Book, I Want Carrie Fisher As A Friend

carriefisher_surrenderthepink Surrender The Pink (1991), by Carrie Fisher, was blasted by most reviewers; but I found it to be a delightful & charming quick read. Like Fisher’s Postcards from the Edge (the film anyway; I’ve not yet read the book) you wonder just how much is fiction and how much is Carrie Fisher — or how much the story’s relationship between Dinah and Rudy is really about Fisher and her ex-husband Paul Simon — but what keeps you reading is the wonderful fragmented thoughts and personality of the main character. Whoever she is.

Dinah may have a wild and witty interior dialogue, but it doesn’t stop there. Even if Dinah wishes she were more stoic, she doesn’t exactly keep her cards close to her chest and may even be considered to be a few cards shy of a full deck. (If Carrie is Dinah, or vice-versa, I encourage Carrie to contact me and be my friend!)

This all reminds me of the sorts of stories friends tell; good or bad, they are always entertaining. For example, Dinah shares the three times she lost her virginity. Each time is rather sad and lamentable, familiar in their probability, yet Dinah’s storytelling is the sort of context setting that engages a reader. It made me devour the book in one afternoon.

True, the ending of the book is a little rushed, and somethings are even more ambiguous than when they started, but hey babe, that’s life. Or at least my life.

PS. If you want to really know more about me, pay close attention to pages 143-150.

Cheap Thrills Thursday: It’s Q*bert, Baby!

When I spotted this authentic retro Q*Bert “a board game based on the exciting arcade game” (Parker Brothers #0142, © 1983, Gottlieb & Co.) at a rummage sale, I was excited. The box felt so light, I had no idea if there even was a game & pieces inside — but I didn’t dare to even open the box there; I just wanted to buy it and get out of there before the $5 price went up.

No, I’d never played Parker Brothers Q*bert; I was a freshman in college when this hit the market in 1983, and boardgames, especially for ages 7-14, were so not cool. In fact, boardgames weren’t especially cool then. Arcade video games were where it was at and any college bar worth visiting had them.

My college roommate, Sue, and one of our dorm-mates, Nora, were especially obsessed with Q*bert. I myself never mastered it; artist Jeff Lee’s pyramid of cubes inspired by M. C. Escher made me dizzy and I too often jumped myself (or Q*bert) off the pyramid. But when I spotted the retro board game box, I was so flooded with memories…

I told myself that if I did indeed now possess a complete game, I would probably be better at it than the old video game. And if I didn’t, it was a cool retro nostalgic piece. How could I lose?

Surprise, surprise! When I opened the box, I found every last piece was there (save for a standard 6-sided die, of which my drawers are plentiful). So I made hubby come over and play.

The game is a two-player game, with each player playing two rounds: one as Q*bert and one as the “nasty” characters, Coily, Red Ball, Ugg, Wrong Way, Green Ball, and Slick. (Don’t worry, you’ll only play one at a time, determined by the roll of the dice.)

The player being Q*bert goes first. He or she drops the 8-sided die into the “Q*bert secret die-rolling tube” and then moves, like video Q*bert, up &/or down the pyramid on the yellow spaces, taking white pegs from every space Q*bert travels. The Q*bert player does not have to move the entire number rolled (more on that in a minute).

Then player two, as the “nasty” characters, goes. He or she rolls the character die and the 6-sided die together, revealing just which “nasty” character will move how many spaces — the chart on the back of the gam’s instruction booklet tells you A) where each character starts, B) the direction of their movement, and C) how or if Q*bert can be captured by said “nasty” character.

If a “nasty” character captures Q*bert, Q*bert may be saved if the player moving/being Q*bert did not move the total number on the dropped 8-sided die — those unused moves on the pyramid may be “escape moves.” If Q*bert cannot be saved by an escape move (just moving away or by using a Flying Disc), then that round is over and the total number of pegs collected are that player’s score for the game.

The players reset the board & switch roles (and drops and rolls of the dice) and play again. Whoever collects the most pegs as Q*bert wins.

Considering the game is for ages 7 through 14, the instructions are rather complicated… (This makes me wonder what lays beneath the round blue “for Only 2 Players, Ages 7-14” stickers — do they cover up other recommended ages?)

Yeah, if you remember Q*bert at all, each character’s movement sounds familiar… But it was a hell of a lot easier when the 1’s and 0’s of the program did it. Even if the pyramid on the screen made you dizzy & end your turn/game early while your friends played for hours.

Overall, the game is fun for the sake of nostalgia; but not so much fun to play. And, as a board game lover (even of kiddie games), it pains me to say it.

“Milwaukee Blue”

In the 80’s, I worked in the cosmetics area of a department store — but not just for any cosmetics brand, it was Estée Lauder; and not just any department store either, it was Marshall Fields. Hence I had a lot of training, including district training sessions, which meant traveling to or training with people outside of Milwaukee.

One of my first large training sessions I learned that Milwaukee was famous for more than being America’s Dairy Land, known for more than the land of beer & brats and its associates sports teams; Milwaukee had a bad rap beauty wise.

The other Lauder beauty advisers teased us all for having named a particular type of customer after our area. These customers were those who were stuck in a decade or two prior to the one we were all living in now — most commonly seen as the swipe of blue eyeshadow across the lid. This 1974 Aziza Eyes ad illustrates the look.
1974-aziza-eyes-advertisement

This look began in the 60’s & had a resurgence in the 70’s, so it was completely dated in the 80’s, prompting the other Lauder girls (mainly those from Chicago who kept looking down their powdered noses at “small time” Milwaukee — grrr) to dub the beauty faux pas “Milwaukee Blue.”

If this post serves any purpose it is to remind you that many of those cosmetic girls are indeed talking about you & your dated makeup look.

I suppose “Milwaukee Blue” has left the vocabulary of most women in the beauty business by now… Which makes me wonder what the latest local beauty slur is.

Ah, The Sights & Sounds Of 80’s Flicks

The Monday Movie Meme is I love The 80’s; here are some of my quick thoughts on my favorite 80’s films…

Desperately Seeking Susan — I was dressing like slutty Madonna; but like Rosanna Arquette’s Roberta Glass, I wanted more of Madonna’s life (as Susan, anyway). I recently watched the movie again, and felt the same stirrings now. Still a cheap, fun thrill!

The Lost Boys — Still an excellent film. A great blend of adventure comedy with enough chills & thrills to make you grip your boyfriend’s arm. Of course, Jami Gertz & Jason Patric gave you chills & thrills of a different sort (and maybe that lead to different sort of grips between you & your boyfriend… I’m not judging you if it did.)

I wore out my cassette version of the soundtrack; had to get it on CD.

Pretty In Pink — Molly totally chose the wrong guy. How can anyone turn down The Duckman?! His performance of Otis Redding’s Try A Little Tenderness, & the rich kid was forgotten. Yes, I know that song was lip-synced; but I melted. (Jon Cryer, as Duckie, did sing Love in the film though.)

James Spader was in the film too — as the rich jerk you loved to hate. Too pretty for me to like him then, it was too easy to lump Spader into the group of vain guys who thought they were better than me.

james_spader_molly_ringwald_pretty_in_pink

But…

Along came Secretary & then Boston Legal, and I completely, utterly fell in love with Spader. He’s on my list of “people I’m allowed to ‘do’ if I ever have the opportunity.”

I may have to write more about my love affair with James Spader later.

The Breakfast Club — This time Molly Ringwald got the guy right; but somehow, I knew that once she drove off with her (movie) dad, she’d forget all about Judd Nelson…

I wouldn’t.

Judd was never hotter. (I know because I kept waiting for him to appear so hot again. :sigh: I still wait.)

But to me, the ultimate 80’s flick is Valley Girl. If I couldn’t be brave enough to live life as Madonna’s Susan, well, I’d get me Nicolas Cage, the dangerous yet misunderstood “bad boy” who’d love me, even if I would have uttered “gag me with a spoon” — which, trust me, we only said to mock those we felt were lame enough to say that… I don’t think anyone ever said that outside of a movie or a cliché.

Actually most of the movie is cliché. But it’s the height of cliché! It’s full of romantic cheese done with an incomparable stylistic edge set to Modern English’s I Melt With You, yet (and loads of other greats on a kick-ass soundtrack).

New Vintage Reviews Carnival, Second Edition

new-vintage-reviews-carnival_bigWelcome to the second edition of the New Vintage Reviews Carnival, where we review “old stuff” that is likely new to someone… In the hopes that it inspires you to dust off the things in the closet, basement, attic etc. and put them to use. (Maybe even head to the thrift store rather than the mall?)

Reuse, recycle — rejoice!

Books & Reading:

The Dean presents Old Time Modern Priscilla posted at Collectors’ Quest.

Sarah Sammis presents Don Quixote: Sancho’s Big Score posted at Puss Reboots: A Book Review a Day, saying, “Don Quixote was my first series of reviews that use pop culture to review the book. I posted the final one in the series which has links to the previous posts.”

Azrael Brown presents Book vs Film: Immortality Inc / Freejack posted at The Double-Breasted Dust Jacket.

Films:

Jaynie presents The Knack (And How To Get It) In Romance & Fashion posted at Here’s Looking Like You, Kid.

I present Does Sparkle Shine? here at Kitsch-Slapped.

Games:

Collin presents Vintage Board Gaming : Mr. Know-It-All posted at Collectors’ Quest.

I present Bingo, Anyone? (a word of caution — and hope! — about old Bingo games) posted at Collectors’ Quest.

Audio:

Collin presents Tag Sale Finds : Sounds of Terror LP posted at Collectors’ Quest.

Collin presents Tag Sale Finds : Armand Schaubroeck Steals posted at Collectors’ Quest.

Things To Do & See:

Sheila Scarborough presents Classic kid movies in classic theaters – yay! posted at Family Travel Guide, saying, “Why the Austin, Texas Paramount Theater rocks my household with its annual summer Film Series of classic movies.”

NAOMI presents Laurel and Hardy Statue Unveiled in Ulverston posted at Diary From England.

Honorable Mentions:

Kyle Boyd-Robertson presents “The Rialto” or “If That Old Theater Could Talk” posted at his TEN blog — it’s a nostalgic post about old movie theaters (with plenty of comments & photos!) Maybe it will inspire you to visit &/or support your old downtown theatres this summer?

Sam presents Famous Baseball Players and Their Teams posted at Surfer Sam and Friends — it’s certainly interesting to note this time of year. (Maybe it will inspire kids to collect & learn as well as play!)

I present What A Collection Can Do: A Love Of Vintage Inspires Designer Of Hot Trendy Fashions posted at Collector’s Quest — to inspire you to take a look at “old clothes” as “a pile of fabric possibilities!”

This concludes this second edition. Please submit your blog articles to the next edition of new vintage reviews using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts (maybe you’ll be one?!) can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Technorati tags: , .

Simon Cowell Says My Blog Is Self-Indulgent

Is it it wrong if I find myself crying while Danny Gokee sings with Lionel Richie?

If so, I don’t care.

If you live long enough, the cool becomes kitsch — and then it becomes cool again.

That’s worth getting emotional over.

See? Just look at my girl Paula Abdul dancing & singing along. She knows what I’m talking about. Hell, just look at Paula’s career, for that matter.

Plus, there was Rubin Studdard — my first American Idol love. The Velvet Teddy Bear. Too bad he didn’t record what he sang on the show.

So add tears of regret to those of nostalgia.

And then you add in my 6 year old niece who’s a huge Danny Gokee fan. She even got to see him recently at the Milwaukee bash. Well, as Maddie will be (un)happy to inform you, she didn’t see him, she saw his bus. But still…

It’s one thing when my own kids rock out to AI and music, but when even littler kids do it too? Especially your sister’s kids, because then I can remember my sister and the where & when of our shared musical loves, from sing-alongs to dance clubs, from sneaking her under-age-ass in at the bars in my college days to karaoke a month ago… Oh, it’s all so Lion-King-circle-of-life.

How cool to feel all the full circle moments.

And now I just realized I didn’t record the damn show. Poop. On a stick, no less.

So just let me cry, OK?

Retro Radio Shack Flashback

Hubby brought home a few old copies of retro Radio Shack catalogs from the 1980’s. I’ve naturally managed to ignore them quite well for the past few weeks because I’ve never been much of an electronics or gadget girl — but I do have a few fond (embarrassing) Radio Shack memories…

So I finally had to pick up the old catalogs and flip through them.

Here are 13 things you can remember &/or learn about me from retro Radio Shack catalogs.

1 I have virtually no understanding of most of the stuff listed (nor it’s tech descriptions) in the catalogs. Then, as now, I only manage to memorize what I need to for a purchase and then dismiss it.

1980-radio-shack-catalog

2 I think I’m supposed to recognize the album cover shown on the catalog cover — so I keep turning back to look at it. But I’m continually distracted by the hip guy in the jogging suit and the sunshine babe in yellow. Twenty Kitsch-Slap Points to anyone who can identify the LP cover.

3 I miss big boomin’ speakers. Everything is so small today, but back then they were massive building blocks in your stereo system. And it didn’t necessarily mean men were over-compensating if they had them. That would take a few more years.

1980s-speakers

4 I think the chick being protected by her speaker-fort looks like Megan Mullally.  I wonder what she was doing in the 80’s…

5 Ah, scientific calculators… I remember in high school we were specifically told to get Texas Instruments (TI) calculators and any kids who showed up with the Radio Shack equivalents were looked funny — mainly because they were so geeky in their defense of their calculators which were supposedly better and were therefore the choice of brainiacs everywhere.

1980-radio-shack-scientific-calculators

6 Which reminds me, what’s the first thing we all learned to do with our expensive scientific calculators — TI or Radio Shack brands? Spell “hell” and “Shell Oil”. Proof that brand really didn’t matter.

7 I don’t recall ever having seen one of these red Radio Shack AM radios — but I’m guessing this hot little number adored the desk in many a brainiac’s bedroom.

retro-red-radio-shack-am-radio

8 Hey, it’s 1986 and electronic books hit the market. As a parent & a reader, I rue the day.

touch-senstive-electronic-book

But the best thing about these catalogs — the 1980 issue especially — was that I discovered the name of a retro computer game I used to play… Consider this 9-13 because it’s full of TMI.

Back in the summer of 1980 I was 16 and my BFF was Mary. We used to walk up to the K-Mart and buy lip gloss Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers (watermelon, please!), wide hair combs to stick in our back pockets, & Tiger Beat magazines — and if we didn’t have money, we’d just flip through issues.

Then we’d head to the strip mall which shared the K-Mart parking lot and cruise albums in a little vinyl shop — until we were chased out for having no money & loitering. Then, still having nothing better to do, we’d giggle over the “real man” who worked at the Radio Shack.

He was a real man, with a thick head of 80’s hair and a full mustache, not the few stray hairs boys at school had above their lips. He was hot.

One day, when they moved the new-fangled computer to the front by the door, the man called us in to test it out. Convinced he was flirting, we giggled our red-faced way into the store and let him teach us about these boxes that I’d one day spend hours of my life on.

1980-radio-shack-trs-80-model-ii

The game they had set up for consumer demos was this game where you thought of a question you wanted answered & the “girl” would ask you questions until she guessed your question. I couldn’t recall the name of the game, but there, in blue & white I discovered the name of it: “Eliza” Artificial Intelligence.

1980-radio-shack-computer-games

Eliza was no oracle; she wouldn’t give you the answer to your question, she’d just figure out your question. Are you as smart as Eliza was purported to be — can you guess my question?

My 16 year old boy man crazy self wanted to know if the man, Mark, liked me and would ask me out.

If it sounds stupid, it was. But in my immature infatuated brain, I thought it would be so romantic to have Eliza “say” to me via the TRS-80 screen, “Is your question, ‘Does Mark like you?'” — with Mark right there to give me the dreamy, “Yes, he does.”

I’m sure he would have uncomfortably said, “No.” (His fiancé called him at the store everyday while I blushed and talked to Eliza.)  And had he liked me “that way,” I’m sure my mom & dad would have been thrilled to have their 16 year daughter bring home a 23 year old man in polyester Sans-a-Belt pants, a short-sleeved white dress shirt & a tie who worked at Radio Shack & flirted with underage girls.

Anyway, I don’t really remember when or why I stopped going to flush & blush my way through conversations with Mark & Eliza… My guess is that summer ended & both of them were put out of their misery by my return to school. But in any case, I can now seriously consider getting an old TRS-80 and an Eliza game. That’s safer than figuring out what happened to Mark.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here

The Black & White Of Seeing In Color

When I was young, my family was one of the last to get a color television. We were among the first to get a microwave though; because both my parents worked, a microwave was considered practical. Original microwave ovens were about the size of TVs at that time, but probably even more expensive. I remember my sister and I sitting ’round the microwave making more s’mores than we could stomach because we loved to watch the marshmallows expand — something that drove my mom nuts because, like the early television myths (and masturbation), watching the happenings inside a microwave would make you go blind.

But hey, we didn’t have a colored TV to watch, so sis & I entertained ourselves with the microwave until the novelty wore off.

We entertained the neighborhood kids with the microwave too. Something quite handy when it came time to force friends to reciprocate when their families got those new-fangled video cassette machines. Our cousins, who lived out of state, were the first we knew to get VCRs — I think they even had one before we had color TV even. Being technology geeks, they were into Beta not VHS. I remember them bringing the machine and the tapes along with them when they visited for holidays like Thanksgiving. My sister & I thought our parents would hop on video players asap — we thought the convenience of watching movies when it suited them was like the convenience of microwave ovens. But no. TV was a very low priority in our house.

But I digress.

We had black & white television for ages — until the early 80’s, I think. But my sister and I saw the programs in color.

Through the magic or our minds, we took in black & white and deciphered it into color. Something which both made our parents marvel — and further delay purchase of a color TV set.

We knew what we saw (deciphered) was correct because, say, we’d be watching the Miss America pageant, and I’d say that Miss Oklahoma’s hair was the same color as Rita Hayworth’s and my sister would say she loved the fabulous blue bikini’s in the swimsuit competition — and then, the next morning in the paper there would be color photos of the contestants posing in bright blue swimsuits — and proof of Miss Oklahoma’s red locks too.

Whatever this ability to view black & white yet “see” color was, I lost it somehow during all the years of viewing color television. Occasionally, watching classic films, I get it right (verifiable via color promotional photos etc.); but for the most part I am guessing, not seeing as I once did.

I wonder if my sister has lost her ability too… I’ll have to call her and see.

Dancing With The Stars, My Age Is Showing

Watching Dancing tonight, the results show, I saw Hall & Oates perform one of the songs from my glory days, Maneater.

Now the interesting thing, the thing is not just that I feel old because I watch the show with my kids, but because I’ve seen Hall & Oats perform live, in concerts. And I thought I’d already seen the duo’s life cycle.

But I was wrong.

The first time I’d seen the band I was 19 or 20. It was at the great party on the lake, Summerfest — back in the day when the old stage had true general seating. Not some general seating (like today on ‘the hill’, with partially obstructed views, vs. the ticket seats closer to the stage), but all the seats were general seats.

The only price you paid was your general admission to the fest (and the food and drink bill — which was no small thing, but still cheaper than it is today). The true fans, those dedicated to the principal of the fest and music, would arrive in a group at the festival park before the gates opened, and at 10 A.M., when the gates opened, rush the main stage.

There you’d scrounge for and stake-out the best seats you could get. You had to be a group because in order to keep you seats, at least a pair of you would need to sit, lounge and/or lay upon the old wooden plank seating from 10 in the morning until 7 P.M. or so when the opening act would begin their performance.

You’d guard in shifts, with other members checking back in either to take their shift at seat saving or to bring you wine coolers, beers & real brats (not the grey hotdogs many try to pass-off as bratwurst). I personally loved my seat saving duties. Despite the great number of other seat savers (and the scavengers who tried to poach seats) and music occasionally billowing by from one of the other stages, it was one of the more quiet places on the lake to actually have a conversation. Conversation, sunlight, wine coolers, music, lake breezes… What’s not to like? Oh yeah, and the inevitable run-in with old friends who spotted you on your concert seating stake-out. (Remaining in place, letting others come to you, has always been one of the best ways to be found.)

Anyway, the first time I saw Hall & Oats was at Milwaukee’s Summerfest — they were just approaching their biggest days and as a college student on the cutting edge of music at the time, it was freakin’ fantastic. Being slightly drunk on beverages, the feeling of cool night lake air caressing hot sunburned skin, the intoxicating mix of old and new friends (and lovers), and youth was topped-off by awesome music & dancing on the wooden plank benches as we scream-sung the lyrics. Hall & Oats was on fire and so was I.

But just a few short years later, or so it seemed to me, Hall & Oats was once again back at Summerfest — but this time, at one of the smaller music stages. I still went to see them & had a fantastic time. But it was a stage demotion, symbolic of their loss of cool status — and my own. No longer were any of us on fire… Smoldering, maybe; but not on fire.

I noted it, this temporary ‘hot’ status in pop culture, and how it mirrored my own fleeting popularity in our youth obsessed culture. I didn’t like it; but I accepted that this was how others would see us. They were wrong; but let them move along with their fads & fancies.

Flash forward to now. A few weeks ago, Hall & Oates appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (yes, I am old; but I’m also cool enough to have intelligence and good taste, thankyouverymuch). Their appearance may have seemed a slice of retro kitschy goodness to many — a big “Howdy” to gods from the 80’s, a decade now so “vintage” that it’s back “in” again — but to me, it was a fond remembrance. Not just of my glory days, but of my “they’re wrong, they don’t know what they’re doing” thoughts. Seeing them with Stewart wasn’t a nod from a current pop culture collegiate deity to gods that once were; it was, at least, mutual recognition of one another’s cool factor — with neither’s being over with.

Seeing the duo’s performance on Dancing tonight, with that hot Karina Smirnoff in a flaming red jumpsuit and black leg warmers, I realized that I may no longer look as hot as she did — but I once wore those leg warmers, those heels, and mesmerized audiences grooving to Maneater. My audience was smaller, my moves less professional; but by boobs were bigger and I was entertaining and cool to those who watched. Like Hall & Oates, I may not be the looker I once was, but I’m not dead. Or irrelevant.

I hope to keep seeing more of them; because, boys, every time you go away you take a piece of me with you.

Gimme Back That Filet-o-Fish

Not since “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun” have I enjoyed singing along with a McDonald’s commercial so much, so many kudos to Arnold Worldwide for the latest Filet-o-Fish commercial. Here are the lyrics, so you can sing along with the video which follows:

Gimme back that filet-o-fish
Gimme that fish
Gimme back that filet-o-fish
Gimme that fish
What if it was you
hanging up on this wall?
If you were in that sandwich
you wouldn’t be laughing at all!

Normally McDonald’s falls so far behind the trend curve that they become not fun & kitschy but irrelevant (leaving Burger King to reign over kitsch & cool) but this time the decade delay in mocking Billy Bass works. Not just because you’ll find a dozen of these plastic mounted wall fish thrown back into the consumerism pond via thrift shops, but because of the incredible music & lyrics.

The music is not, as rumored to be, by the band Holy Fuck. However, if you are looking for 6 minutes and 26 seconds of similar sounding retro Casio Keyboard nostalgia (with a bit more heat & noise from the mutated rhythm), then get Casio Bossa Nova. I totally enjoyed it myself; but it’s not the music in the commercial.

Determined to find out who it was behind the fab song in the McDonald’s ad, I got on the phone with the folks at Arnold Worldwide — who, by the way, answer the phone with the perplexing, “Good afternoon, Arnold,” which prompted me to respond, “My name is not Arnold.”

Anyway, Arnold Worldwide didn’t write the tune or the lyrics, but they still get my kudos because they hired the folks who created it: Pulse Music.

So thanks, Pulse Music. I’m off to get a Filet-o-Fish. Humming & singing Gimme back that filet-o-fish all the way.

PS My dog especially loves it when I sing the “ahh!” at the end.

The Verrry Interesting Laugh-In Lunch Box

Growing up, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In was on too late for me to stay up & watch; it began airing in 1968 when I was just four. But hearing my parents talk about the show, I wanted to see it in the worst way. So eventually my whining bore fruit; mom sent me to bed with my younger sister, but as she tucked me in she whispered in my ear, “Just pretend to sleep — I’ll come back and sneak you out past your sleeping sister before the show starts.” I was so excited!

But that must have been too much excitement for me because mother found me passed-out, sound asleep, when she came back for me — but my little sis was awake and she got to watch the show! Drat! Just another reason for a little girl to dislike her little sister.

As the show ran until 1973, I eventually grew old enough to stay up and watch it — not that I understood most of it. Laugh-In was a show built on political humor and sexual innuendo; not something your average kid knows. Well, I understood enough to know there was naughty stuff… and most of the cultural comments were even further over my head. But Arte Johnson was wacky enough for me to genuinely giggle at.

All of this came flooding back when I spotted this old Laugh-In lunch box at a local antique mall this past weekend.

It was a delight to spot — but I carefully replaced it up on it’s lofty spot on a shelf when I spotted the $125 price tag. (Which, apparently, is not out of the norm for such retro Laugh-In lunch boxes.)

But what really makes this find noteworthy is the fact that Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In was not a television show for kids — so why make kids’ lunch boxes?

I mean kids didn’t understand the show — and by the time they would have, wouldn’t they be too old for lunch boxes with thermoses? I can imagine the beating 16 year olds took for toting mom’s PB&J in a lunch box.

So just who were these lunch boxes with “Sock it to me” on them marketed to? Kids who, like me, wanted to watch the show because their parents thought it was cool? Parents, who wanted their kids to look cool?

Well, it seems to me that in the late 60’s to early 70’s parents didn’t push their kids to look like mini-adults like they do today… And while there weren’t the same judgments & finger pointing at parents for kids having risqué knowledge (hey, back then we kids traveled in cars without seat belts, even riding on those backseat ‘shelves’ under the rear windows, and we kept our parents company in taverns without any finger or tongue wagging), parents hadn’t yet given into the permissiveness of letting the children dictate to them, especially about adult things. We sat in taverns because parents wanted to go, we rode in the car that way because no laws yet forbade it, and we got Disney and Muppet stuff because we were kids.

It was just that sort of upbringing which makes me covet such a lunch box. It’s familiar & nostalgic, but it was never mine because I was too young — now that I’m older, I want it bad.