Sign Of The Times: A Fishy Ephemera Hunt

I confess, I kill a lot of time just looking at the old snapshots and vintage photos at eBay. Sometimes I buy them, sometimes they inspire odd comments and random captions, and sometimes I become obsessive about them. This post is about a vintage photo I’ve become obsessed over:

ruth-lee-rally

All the seller (Darrins-Photoclique) says of the photo is, “Vintage Photo Ruth Lee Speaking at Rally Protest” and that the photo’s size is 3.5 x 5 inches; but I have no idea who the pretty blonde Ruth Lee is… And Google, searching for that name and with variations on “activist,” “rally,” “protest,” is of no help either. So I take a good look at the signs in the photo.

I can’t make them all out; only “Fish before people right???” is absolutely clear. But I try searches for “Ruth Lee” and “human rights” — with no success. I even try searching her name with the word “fish.” (Don’t laugh; if you ever become obsessed and desperate, I wouldn’t laugh at you — with you, sure. But not at you.)

So I try to make out that nearly-white sign above the sign with the argumentative fish question. Looks like “Bring Back Simas.” So I try that. Nothing shows up with her name, but I try “Simas” alone — too many results. So I try that name with “protest,” and low and behold I discover the story of Simas Kudirka, a Lithuanian sailor who tried to defect to the USA on November 23, 1970. (That date fits the fashions in the photo far better than the seller’s ‘Pre-1950’ categorization too.)

Being only 6 years old myself at the time, I knew nothing of this. Thankfully, Martha’s Vineyard Magazine (2005) has a fine retrospective the newsworthy events and CapeCodToday (2007) covers the interesting historical connections and political ramifications — each worthy of reading.

The short story is this: The 40-year-old persecuted Simas Kudirka, a radio operator on a Soviet fish processing vessel, leaps onto the deck of a Coast Guard cutter. The vessels were moored closely together, about one mile off Martha’s Vineyard, as folks were there for a day-long fishing conference attended by American and Soviet officials. Kudirka announces that he wishes to defect, but the Coast Guard, unsure what to do, goes up the chain of command until they are told by Ed Killham, the Soviet specialist, that they could fish a defector from the water — but he fails to add that they should keep him afterward. So when the Soviets forcibly come to get Kudirka, the Coast Guard lets him go. Bound and beaten, Kudirka is dragged back to his own ship, and the Americans are told Kudirka, if not already dead, will be so soon. The nation explodes in outrage, with plenty of press coverage and rallies — this is presumably where our photo comes in — and there are a number of international political issues as a result (Cold War and all).

You’ll have to read the links to find out whatever became of Simas Kudirka; but I will tell you that in 1978 there was a made for television movie made about the incident, The Defection of Simas Kudirka, though there’s currently no home release of the film. Something J.B. Spins laments — and while I may not agree with his views on Russia’s plans, I think it’s important to remember stories like this too:

These stories are important to study. They are not distant skirmishes from the War of 1812, but critical events of the defining conflict of most of our lifetimes.

I have my perusing of vintage photos to thank for the history lesson. However, I still have no friggin’ clue who Ruth Lee is, or even where this photo was taken. If you have any information, please share it!

Cheap Thrills Thursday, Retro Halloween Edition: Barnabas Collins Game

A character in the Gothic soap opera television series, Dark Shadows (1966 – 1971), Barnabas Collins was a long-suffering vampire — tormented both by his status as a blood drinker and his doomed romance with the beautiful Josette. But none of this really matters when it comes to playing the Milton Bradley Barnabas Collin’s game; it’s just a “scary” game for the kiddies.

original-barnabas-collins-game-box-and-parts

I only paid $1.50 for the game (# 4003, copyright 1969, Dan Curtis Productions, Inc.) at a thrift store; the original store price tag was $3.99. (Ha! Take that, inflation!)

Our game is complete, save for the toy fangs which, while originally included in the game box, were “not part of the game” and ” to be used by the owner of the game when playing the role of Barnabas” (printed inside the box’s lid — twice). Of course, kids being kids, there’s also the proviso that “they should be washed before a player uses them.”

The game is rather like hangman — at least visually. Only instead of trying to spell words, you spin the spinner and try to build your glow-in-the-dark skeleton by “hanging” him, piece by piece, on the cardboard scaffolding.

making-skeletons-in-dark-shadows-barnabas-collins-game

Each of the 2-4 players takes a turn spinning, hoping for the chance to collect bones/parts from the coffin. In order to begin building your skeleton, you’ll need either the skull or the body piece; so the first few spins can be anti-climactic. When the spinner lands on the ring, it’s like a wild card; the player chooses any bone, skull or body piece from the coffin.

winning-move-dark-shadows-gameBut beware, you could land on the wooden spike space! When you do, you’ll need to take a wooden spike from the coffin; collect three of them and you’ll need to remove a bone from your skeleton (and then you may return the three spikes as well). There is an “advanced game” option, in which the player with the three spikes may challenge a player of his/her choosing to a “Vampire Duel.” (They take turns spinning to see who will spin the ring space first. If it’s the challenger, the s/he doesn’t lose a bone; the challenged player does. If the challenged player wins, the challenger must remove two bones from their skeleton.)

As game play is based upon the spinner, there’s very little strategy involved (other than having luckily guessed to use your wild ring spin to get an upper arm when your next turn gives you the lower arm, etc., it’s all chance), making it rather simplistic (even for the ages 6 to 14 stated on the box). But it’s certainly a cheap thrill — on any day of the week.

And it’s cool for Halloween — though it’s not anywhere as scary as indicated in the original television commercial (I doubt it was seen as scary then either).  But before you watch it, here’s an FYI: if you’re a Dark Shadows, Gothic fan, or just a Johnny Deep nut (perhaps all three?), Depp’s apparently signed to play Barnabas Collins in Tim Burton’s film adaptation of Dark Shadows.

Now for the word from our retro sponsor:

Big Bottom Girls Are About To Make The Fashion World Go ‘Round

In 3,500 stores, Walmart will be doubling the space given to Hanesbrands’ plus-sized apparel line Just My Size — an extended line of Just My Size women’s clothes, including dress pants, sweaters and other merchandise beyond the underwear and jeans.

Hanesbrands research found that 60 percent of women shopping at Walmart fit plus sizes, said John Marsh, senior vice president and general manager of the manufacturer’s casual-wear division. About 40 percent of overweight women are comfortable wearing clothes designed as plus size, rather than buying extra-large of regular garments, he said.

Average sized women (for that’s what size 12 and up is!) are comfortable with the “plus size” label because we know that honest-to-goodness clothing designed at a plus size is made to fit bigger bodies; you don’t just add an inch or more all over and think, “Well that’s that! Now it will fit.”

This reminds me of last week’s episode of Shark Tank

gayla-bentleyWhen fashion designer Gayla Bentley appeared, asking for a $250,000 investment (for a 20% stake) in her company so that she could make beautiful clothes easily accessible for large women by expanding her business to include a store to cater to them (and better brand herself), she was met with the a-duh moment from a supposedly savvy investor.

Kevin O’Leary, ever-arrogant (and admittedly the show’s love-to-hate guy), said, “Is it possible that larger sized women (and don’t beat me with at stick) don’t care about fashion as much?”

As if a 60% market share were just that easily ignored (that is has been is an enigma wrapped in a bitter wienie coating), Bentley (completely charming as well as intelligent and talented) continued to educate he and other doubters with  the facts, including her own success; currently the designer sells her products wholesale and online and last year her sales were $500,000. (Yet no bank would give her a loan.) You can watch the episode here (and find out more at Wallet Pop, but the final outcome was that Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John (of FUBU fame) went in 50-50; now we just have to wait to see Bentley’s efforts to bring real plus size designer fashions to department stores near you & I.

While I’m in no way comparing Just My Size &/or Hanesbrands to Gayla Bentley’s fashions or those by any actual designer, I am encouraged that big business is beginning to see big T n A as a way to fatten their own bottom lines.

She-Ra: Princess of Power, Feminist Icon

I’m old. I have no knowledge of 80’s toys which has not occurred as an adult — He-Man included. But I’m fascinated that younger kids – girls — had some rockin’ Saturday AM cartoons & toys that gave girls & women more powerful female images (no disrespect to Wonder Woman!).

she-ra-collectors-inventory-coverWhen I discovered that Hillary DePiano, the woman I recently interviewed about her My Little Pony collection, not only collected She-Ra but wrote the book on the retro “grrl power” toys, I had to speak with her about them.

Hillary, tell me what it was about She-Ra that captured you as a kid — and how did that fit with your more girlie My Little Pony love?

I think the idea of My Little Pony as girlie is sort of a misconception brought on by the fact that the MLP toys of today are all about nothing but tea parties. I was introduced to them through the cartoons of the 80s and those were dark and very action oriented. In an average day, My Little Pony fought off soul stealing demons, witches, and did battle against ghosts, possessed furniture and all sorts of weird things. In the cartoon a few of them were presented with defensive magic powers to help them fight these enemies so to me they were always a part of the same girl power movement as She-Ra. They were a butt kicking female oriented society with few men and those men were total wimps. If someone had told my younger self that She-Ra’s flying horse Swift Wind was a displaced My Little Pony, I would have totally believed it.

I always pictured them going into battle side by side.

As a collector, dealer, and author, do you see an differences among the My Little Pony collectors and the She-Ra collectors?

Well it is important to designate that, while My Little Pony is a somewhat standalone toy line, She-Ra is a subsection of the Masters of the Universe toyline that includes He-Man. It’s an important thing to note because you have collectors who collect only the She-Ra toys and nothing else and then collectors that are collectors of the entire Masters of the Universe (usually called MOTU) toy line who collect She-Ra as a part of that. Many of those collectors are guys who are somewhat begrudging She-Ra collectors, I have noticed.

she-ra-princess-of-power-squares-off-with-her-nemesis-catra-of-the-evil-hordeThere are also significantly less She-Ra items. They are a very different toy to collect because, unlike My Little Pony, it is actually possible to complete your collection which is a kind of thrill collecting MLP will never give.

Interestingly enough, I started somewhat backwards. He-Man predated She-Ra by quite a few years and as a kid I just LOVED He-Man. I had quite a few of the toys. But when the spin-off show, She-Ra came out, my parents decided that since there was now a “girl version” that I had to give all my He-Man figures to my brother and that he would play with them and I would get the She-Ra. God, was I bitter about that. I think there is some feminism lesson in there.

So, in the beginning, I was playing with one eye on my brother saying to myself, Is he taking care of my He-Men figures?

But as the cartoon developed I really started to love the She-Ra universe. There was a lot more magic than in He-Man and She-Ra had all these extra super powers that made her ripe for more interesting adventures.

As an adult, do you see anything else in She-Ra, or her cultural place? Or do you collect primarily based on a sense of nostalgia?

I actually have been talking about She-Ra a good deal lately in the cultural context as I watch my younger cousins grow up. I find it really interesting that my generation grew up with this super powered female hero with She-Ra and then got Xena and Buffy when we moved into middle and high school. To me it isn’t surprising that now that we are all in our 30s there are a record number of females in high business positions, starting small businesses and breaking down barriers. We were raised on all this butt kicking, girl power entertainment our whole lives so it makes perfect sense to me that we are out there kicking butt in our own way.

The reason this came up recently in conversation is because the pattern I see with today’s teens scares me. My cousin’s generation was raised on the Disney Princess mania, and while I love Disney myself, it does sort of reinforce a very different message about waiting to be rescued by a man and being helpless. I think I would be willing to poopoo the influence of the Princess mania had it not lead directly into this whole twisted Twilight obsession. Their generation went from, “I need to be rescued, I’m a helpless Princess” to their romantic ideal being this abusive, dangerous, controlling figure that is the lead in books like Twilight, House of Night, etc where women are victimized. Now, I read and enjoyed the Twilight books (well, most of them, the 4th book is pretty terrible) but when you step back and look at the pattern, it’s scary.

catra-and-clawdeen-ride-off-to-some-nefarious-purposeIf my generation grew up on powerful, butt kicking women and we took that and became professionally butt kicking, I worry about a generation raised on being helpless and victimized. Of course, we won’t know the real effect of this for many years but it is still interesting to consider.

That said, I am sure some of this influenced me on a subliminal level but I only really started to think about it recently. I mainly collected them because I had fond memories of the toys and cartoon show from my childhood.

How large is your She-Ra collection?

At the time I wrote the book, it was complete but for a few international variations and Spinerella. Unfortunately, I have since had to sell a few pieces and playsets for space. That was a part of why I wrote the guide. I knew I was going to have to sell off some of the pieces and I wanted a photographic record of my collection. As I started to set it up, I realized that what I was creating would be of use to any She-Ra fan and I started to look into publishing it.

The best thing about being a She-Ra collector, though, is that you can have every single figure and pretty much keep in all in one medium sized box. It is a much more compact hobby than My Little Pony which can easily take over your entire house. The biggest playset is the Crystal Castle and even that is still only a fraction of the size of My Little Pony’s Paradise Estate!

Do you have a favorite piece?

crystal-sun-dancer-she-ra-toyMy answer will not surprise you at all. I love the winged horses, obviously. There are quite a few of them (Arrow, Swift Wind, Storm, etc) but my favorites are Crystal Sun Dancer and Crystal Moonbeam. They are supposed to be the daytime and nighttime protectors of the castle and they were made of clear color plastic which means you can see how they are made which is at once weird and cool. As a kid I was fascinated with looking inside of them discovering details like how they added the tails.

From a play standpoint, I just liked the idea of them, that they were these castle sentries that would fend off enemies before anyone else knew the castle was under attack.

The only downside with them, as a collector is that their wings are really sticky. I always have to segregate them from the other figures or wrap them in plastic or they make everything all nasty.

Is there a ‘holy grail’ in She-Ra collecting? Do you have it?

The biggest grail is Spinerella and I do not have her. A fellow collector donated the photo for the guide book. She can sell for $800 or more mint in box. I never really wanted her when I was a kid because I thought she was silly so I am not really looking to get her now as an adult. But she is definitely the highest ticket item of all the Princess of Power toys.

Is there a piece you are still searching for?

Not really. Every piece I really wanted I aggressively pursued already. I have a tendency to go against the grain with collecting. I don’t always go after the pieces everyone wants. Instead I tend to go after only what I want which is usually tied to what I wanted as a kid. So it means I may not always have the best pieces or the most valuable ones but I like what I have.

As a fan of He-Man, do you collect he & his cohorts, or only/primarily She-Ra?

We are in somewhat of a family debate about the He-Man figures. As I mentioned before, they were originally mine and I was forced to give them to my little brother largely against my will. Now my brother wants to sell them for some extra cash and I want to keep the ones that were mine. He thinks he should be able to sell mine as well because my parents gave them to him to play with. I’ll let you know how it turns out. But since I am the family eBay seller, I’m sure as heck not selling them for him so he may be out of luck. ;-)

But I like most of the He-Man figures very much. The later ones got a bit silly for my taste but some of them are still cool.

Do you think She-Ra will be revived as Transformers has & He-Man is supposed to be? Why or why not?

She-Ra never gets as much love as He-Man. That said, I know they are already planning a new He-Man movie so if they do make a new MOTU movie and that is a successful, I think any sequel will definitely include She-Ra. If they need someone to play in the movie her, let them know I’ll be here waiting. ;-)

I’d like to thank Hillary for the guided tour of She-Ra’s universe; I certainly do feel that I may have missed something special by being too old for Saturday morning cartoons in the 80’s.

All images courtesy of Hillary DePiano; image of Crystal Sun Dancer from her book, The She-Ra Collector’s Inventory: An Unofficial Illustrated Guide to All Princess of Power Toys and Accessories.

Hillary DePiano is a fiction and non-fiction author best known for her play, The Love of Three Oranges, and her e-commerce blog, The Whine Seller. Hillary is a collector of both My Little Pony and She-Ra: Princess of Power toys and has authored collectible guides to both. She can be found buying and selling toys from the 80s through today at Priced Nostalgia.

Lessons In Swine

I am recovering from H1N1, the “swine flu.” I know this from Dr. Sanjay Gupta. No, he’s not my personal physician, but unable to sleep, I caught Dr. Gupta on Anderson Cooper 360, discussing how he suffered through H1N1 while he and Cooper were in Afghanistan and when he recounted how he’s never been sicker, describing the worst chills he’s ever had — in Afghanistan! — I knew how he felt.

Even with Advil, my temp was over 101 (and my normal body temp is 1 degree under normal — something I used to get out of gym class all the time), yet I was soooo cold. That’s why I was up, watching CNN: I was too cold to sleep. My goosebumps were like the teeth of a saw and I was shivering so hard I was forced to wind blankets around & between my limbs so that so that my saw-tooth-covered flesh would not cut me while I shivered.

But this is not all I learned from TV this week.

Rod Blagojevich was on both Chelsea Lately and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart — and god help me, he, especially on The Daily Show, sounds rather convincing.  At least far more convincing than ever seemed possible before to me; I am now primed for a larger scandal involving criminal activity on the part of the state of Illinois. (Then again, as a native of Wisconsin, we can believe just about anything bad or criminal of those flatlanders.)

I may not be able to trace my illness back to where I caught it; but I think my ability to entertain the idea of Blagojevich’s innocence stems not so much from my own fever but rather from Blagojevich’s wife, Patti, and her appearance on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. Patti’s staunch support may not have convinced me at the time, but it planted seeds… She made him human, and the rest can be recovered from.

And if you don’t believe me, consider that Tom DeLay has enough fans to save him on Dancing With The Stars.

Author reserves the right to fully recover and recant.

Cheap Thrills Thursday: Can He-Man Still Thrill The Uninitiated?

For the past several years, hubby has tried to sell his Castle of Greyskull at our rummage sales — and every time I have whined.

original-80s-castle-of-greyskull

It’s not that I’m so very protective of his childhood memories that I would second-guess what he ought to part with (and, frankly, he’s sold plenty of his original He-Man collectibles); but I wanted that castle.

It’s not that I have any childhood memories connected to He-Man or that castle either. In the 80’s I was out wearing skanky Madonna fashions — and, yes, that was far more appropriate for a young woman in her 20’s than playing with Mattel’s He-Man toys &/or watching He-Man and the Masters of the Universe; I won’t apologize for it.

But something about that plastic castle intrigued me…

Maybe it’s because I was a huge Thundarr The Barbarian fan — and we never got no stinkin’ toys. Or maybe it’s because He-Man’s castle was so much cooler than any playsets Babs had. (Other than that 1970’s Barbie Country Camper — which my BFF Heidi and I used with her cat’s kittens, filling the sink with kitten food, and driving tiny sleeping kittens up and down the block — Barbie’s toys sucked.)

Anyway, every year that hubby dragged the 1980’s Castle of Greyskull up from the basement I whined that I wanted it; but hubby wanted the money more.

I think it was his way of punishing me for my perpetual yanking his chain by calling action figures “dolls.” And once, when he asked me what I’d do with the castle, I responded that I’d put tea light candles in it and set it in the window for Halloween; that idea received a sneer.

So every year that the castle went up for sale & didn’t sell (even at $10?!), hubby returned it to the basement for the next sale. That is until this year, when my 9 year old son saw it — really saw it.

he-man-castle-of-greyskull-and-80s-action-figures

The boy had walked right past it sitting there on the lawn, and even shrugged it off when I pointed it out at previous sales. But this year, when Hunter spotted the castle, his eyes grew into the proverbial saucers, and he whispered that boy-ish “whoa” of being deeply impressed. His little boy wonder plucked my husband’s heartstrings in a way my wonder had not, and the boy ended up with the toy. Even more than that, hubby went prowling through other boxes (those set out at the rummage and others in the basement) for more of the He-Man (and other 80’s toy) stuff.

playing-with-retro-80s-toys

I don’t know who was more excited — Hunter or me. (And hubby certainly enjoyed giving Hunter, who’d never seen the He-Man cartoons, the scoop on just who was who in He-Man’s world.)

The next day, when hubby went to work, Hunter and I played with the Castle of Greyskull and the He-Man toys.

At first, my son was thrilled with the idea that I would play “boy stuff” with him. (Let’s be honest, moms, there’s a limit to how long we can push cars around — let alone make car noises that satisfy our sons; so boys too-quickly learn to play without us; and we are a bit relieved.) But…

I sat with Hunter, surrounded by He-Man folk and assorted paraphernalia. I asked which guys I could play with — and was given two of the bad guys. There was a three second pause… An awkward pause. I suddenly realized I was going to have to do battle — I, the non-violent-preaching-mom, was going to have to make my bad dudes fight his good guys. Could I do it? I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure my son was thinking the same thing… And I knew I had better start playing before both of us freaked-out from the pressure.

So I started with what I thought was a logical place: I had my two guys talk to each other.

Hunter just stared at me, his He-Man action figures limp in his hands.

Nervous, I just kept going on — thinking, like I always do, that I can talk my way out of anything. Realizing I needed to put some action into my action figures, I began to make my bad guys argue about who’s idea for getting into He-Man’s lair was better — and then fight. I looked up and saw Hunter just staring at my hands making my guys wrestle and call each other stupid.

Like a television narrator I said, “Now, while they’re busy fighting, it might be a good time to capture them.” Hunter jumped in with his guy to snag one of my guys (while my second guy got away). Hunter’s capture of my guy was my personal rescue; it was no longer some lame girlie theatre performance of one. I don’t know what it really became, this playing He-Man with mom thing — at least not in Hunter’s eyes… He hasn’t invited me to play again.

hunter-and-castle-of-greyskull-and-he-man-toys

But I have hope.

Maybe we’ll even bond over Masters of the Universe DVDs and a new He-Man movie, perhaps?

Anyway, the Castle of Greyskull is indeed way cooler than any Barbie house. Instead of blow-up and other plastic furniture, sticker home decor (which has to go in the place the instruction sheet says, or else it won’t be perfect!), and vinyl window scenes, He-Man’s castle has real windows, look-outs, and functional pieces, which, while admittedly for violent purposes, make the castle fun to play with.

grr-attack-hunter-and-80s-boys-toys

In fact, just the sticker-carpet-covered trapdoor would have improved any of Bab’s residences; triple the fun factor if Barbie’s Dream House had had a dungeon. (I’m not saying what I would have done to Ken there… I’m just saying it would have been more fun.)

And I guess that’s the point about these old He-Man toys — they just looked inherently cool. I had no knowledge of He-Man, nether had my son; we didn’t even have the original toy packaging to sell us on it or the mythology. But we both just knew He-Man’s world was cool and fun to play with. Even if we need more practice at figuring out how to play it together.

looking-through-retro-he-man-castle

hunter-peeping-through-he-man-castle-door

For the first time in my life I wished I’d have been a kid in the 80’s… Well, at least they could have given us Thundarr action figures and playsets. Then I might have been better prepared to play with my son.

Then again, I think Thundarr would kick He-Man’s ass.

greyskull-castle

This Just In… Timeless Television

When I’m not busy killing squirrels & scaring neighbors, I’m researching & writing from home — in between the usual parenting & home life disturbances.

richard-dawsonToday, while researching a vintage plastic donkey (don’t worry, you’ll hear about it all later), I am absentmindedly aware that my son has left the TV on and that an old episode of The Family Feud is playing on GSN.

It’s that final round, and it goes like this:

Richard Dawson: Name something that little boys like that little girls don’t.

Male contestant: Balls.

The audience snickers through the rest of round.

I do believe that when it came time for the “survey sez” that “balls” got bupkiss. But that’s not the point, now, is it.

An Ugly American Watches A Beauty Pageant

After an incredibly busy & exhausting weekend (this was just part of it), I spent a few hours just loafing on the couch Sunday night. Channel surfing, I happened upon the Miss Universe Pageant — I wouldn’t have watched, expect for they were announcing that the female part of Spidey, Heidi Pratt, would be performing a song. Like Scooby-Doo, I say, “Guh?!”

She can’t sing’ she can’t dance — she can barely put more than three moves together & looks like a clomping horse (no offense meant to horses!) while doing it. Don’t believe me? Watch it.

But by the time her performance was over, I was hooked on the train wreck qualities of the show.

Aside from Dean Has-been Cain (and Heidi, who I wish would just go away) the only person I recognized was Tamara Tunie — which surprised me because I’ve always seen her play intelligent women (a lawyer on As The World Turns; a coroner on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit). When Tunie and others asked their questions, they did try to bring up important issues:

  • Should AIDS testing be mandatory?
  • How does it feel to compete in a pageant wearing a bathing suit when some women are not allowed to wear bathing suits?
  • Are women equal to men?
  • Has being beautiful meant you have been taken less seriously as a business person?

Watching the contestants struggle to not answer the questions, to avoid the meat of the issue, was painful. It would be easy to call them robotic Stepford wives, but honestly, how could any of them answer the question directly (let alone honestly) and win the competition?

Watching them give placid answers designed to inflate the room’s already high testosterone levels was to witness a horrifically powerful thing.

It reminded me of the unspoken issues we women have to keep mum about — or risk loosing what places, ground, we have as well as those we aspire to. Watching beautiful young women play that game in a pageant setting was astonishing. Especially in front of La Donald, Mr. Trump. :shudder:

But there was plenty to enjoy too — if your enjoyment, like mine, tends towards the perverse.

I enjoyed the fact that at least one contestant didn’t take not moving on up with the ever shortening list of finalists as gracefully as she’s supposed to. Look at Miss Switzerland’s sad slump of despair!

miss-switzerland-is-sad

I enjoyed watching when Miss Venezuela won — making “history” by giving back-to-back wins for Venezuela in the Miss Universe Pageant — and the former Miss Universe was so excited that she threw the 2009 Miss Universe crown off & over the winner’s head. (This is different coverage than I saw, but you’ll see the crown fumble — and note the unfortunate caption “clinches the tit” as the word title is shortened.)

In looking for photos from last night’s pageant, I found a great number of complaints about the racism in the Miss Universe pageant — especially with regards to Asian women. I haven’t watched a beauty pageant in probably 30 years, so maybe I shouldn’t take the claims as true… But it sure looks like nothing has changed. Except for the internet providing more place for public outcry against the Miss Universe Organization, predictions of which countries will no longer participate, and viewers vowing to switch to other pageants like Miss World.

If I am allowed to make one “purely girlie” observation (one more likely to please La Donald), it’s that Miss Kosovo, Marigono “Gono” Dragusha, is nearly as externally beautiful as Audrey Hepburn. Not only does she physically recall Hepburn, especially around the eyes & in her ball gown performance, but I believe she had stated that she intends to become a counselor to help children affected by the violence in her country. (Miss Kosovo finished as the 2nd Runner Up, aka 3rd place.)

finalists-miss-universe-2009

I don’t have any plans to watch another pageant; but then again, I didn’t plan to watch this one… I do think checking in every 30 years or so might just be enough.

Cheap Thrills Thursday: The Joys Of TCM, Bathing Beauty Edition

I’m not about to go all mathy on yer arse, but in a world of streaming video, on-demand downloadable rentals, home delivery rentals (even without fees!) TCM, part of basic cable, which is bundled with my cable internet connection, is one of the greatest cheap thrills I can get.

Films shown uninterrupted and commercial free, save for a few sponsored reminders to things you probably want anyway (like the TCM Now Playing Guide) — it’s the way TV ought to be. (And here is where I will insert my continual plea that TV return to its original format of corporate sponsored programs, with mentions at the top & bottom of the hour, as opposed to junky ads & product placements — which, in the case of the former, only distract & cause me to leave the room and, in the latter, go unnoticed by me anyway.)

Anyway, TCM is an incredible value.

robert-osborne-bobbleheadAlong with Robert Osborne and, now, Ben Mankiewicz‘s informative tidbits, you get to watch films you adore and see films you’ve never seen — including those that aren’t available anywhere else & those that you’ve avoided before because of crappy trailers & promotions that made you think they were crap. Now, thanks to TCM, you can watch them and either fall in love or be glad you didn’t waste money on a rental, download, or whathaveyou.

All of this brings me to the case in point: Last night’s viewing of Bathing Beauty.

As a kid, I’d never seen the Esther Williams films — but I saw the various parodies & heard the not-so-flattering commentary about the kitsch of synchronized swimming and pageantry of the old dated swimming movies. Ditto my kids, who aren’t interested in humoring me enough to let me rent one for movie night. But thanks to TCM, I got to watch Bathing Beauty last night.

The film is as sweet & simple as you’d expect a film from the 1940’s to be; romance and humor, with Red Skelton a complete joy as the young man willing to do anything — even be the only (tortured for demerits, forced to crossdress) male at an all girl’s school — to get his beloved back.

Unexpected were the lengthy scenes of musical performances from Harry James and his orchestra, Xavier Cugat, & others in traditional, glamorous nightclub settings; vicarious home front war living for those who couldn’t afford evenings out.

Now I loves me some Cugat, but the pee-my-pants-with-delight moment was a scene early on in the film, when the campus girls force (by flattery & girlie whining) one of the music instructors to play some forbidden music…

Here Ethel Smith plays the organ — note the lavish visual of her dainty feet, in pretty pumps, skimming along the peddles (Foot fetishists, beware! I’m not responsible for what this does to you!)

After that warm up, Smith consents to show the kiddies — ooops! I mean the girls — more of her chops on the electric organ, playing her theme song Tico Tico.

Ahh, a fantastic orgasmic ode to the organ — and fashion (love her ensemble!). But if that’s not incentive enough to watch Bathing Beauty &/or TCM, how about Skelton as a ballerina?

Seriously, all of this is so fantastic, I was nearly exhausted by the time we go to the results of all the cumulative efforts — the big swimming pageant. Which was as over-the-top as the parody legends proclaimed. Oh well, I have to leave you with something to look forward to.

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

New Vintage Reviews Carnival, 4th Edition

New Vintage Reviews Carnival
New Vintage Reviews Carnival
Reuse, recycle — rejoice!

Welcome to the fourth edition of the New Vintage Reviews Carnival, where we review “old stuff” that is likely new to someone… And (most of the time) it still has great entertainment value!

Games:

Chris presents Game of Round the World with Nellie Bly posted at Book Hunter’s Holiday.

Derek presents Game Night: Password posted at Collectors’ Quest.

I present Mall Madness (Retro Electronic Version), at Collectors’ Quest.

Cliff Aliperti presents 1939 Wizard of Oz Card Game posted at things-and-other-stuff.com.

Records:

Jaynie presents Listen To Busby Berkeley? posted at Here’s Looking Like You, Kid.

Books & Magazines:

Sarah Sammis presents Destination Moon posted at Puss Reboots: A Book Review a Day.

I review I Like It Here, by Kingsley Amis here at Kitsch Slapped.

Sarah Sammis presents The Postman Always Rings Twice (yes, the novel, not the film!) at Puss Reboots: A Book Review a Day.

Sarah Sammis presents The Motorman’s Coat at Puss Reboots: A Book Review a Day.

Film & Television:

Cliff Aliperti presents Louise Brooks stars in William Wellman’s Beggars of Life (1928) posted at NY Classic Movies Examiner.

Jaynie presents A Real Peach Of A Film posted at Here’s Looking Like You, Kid.

Jaynie presents Don Knotts As Hugh Hefner? at Here’s Looking Like You, Kid.

Collin David presents The State, Finally on DVD at Collectors’ Quest.

Cliff Aliperti presents Diamond Jim (1935) starring Edward Arnold as Diamond Jim Brady posted at NY Classic Movies Examiner.

Jaynie presents The Fantasy Of Star-Crossed Cursed Lovers at Here’s Looking Like You, Kid.

Classic Kitschy Travel Destinations:

jen from windy ridge presents Main Street Station posted at The Chronicles Of Windy Ridge, saying, “A review of our local Vintage & Retro “junk” shop. Acquire things that you absolutely love and incorporate them into your home.”

Emma Taylor presents 100 Best Curator and Museum Blogs posted at Online Universities.com.

Honorable Mention:

Central Kentucky Antiques & Collectibles presents Antique Jewelry – Investment and Fashion posted at Central Kentucky Antiques and Collectibles.

That’s it for this month. We hope we’ve inspired you to go into that attic, basement, or closet (maybe even the thrift store or yard sale) dust off that old stuff and let it entertain you!

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. (For more info, read this.)

Police Woman: The Long Octopus Arms Twarting Female Police Detectives

police-woman-angie-dickinsonMost of us tend to think of Angie Dickinson when we think of police women — and it’s not just because she was Sgt. Suzanne “Pepper” Anderson on Police Woman in 1974.

Most of us tend to think of the 60’s & 70’s when those women’s libbers pushed and sued for the opportunity to be equals (including police officers) and Angie baby was in full mod swing then, so naturally we “see” her as the face (and bod) of the mod we’ve-come-a-long-way-baby policewoman. And the plethora of Police Woman dolls & toys — like this ridiculous “Sabotage Under The Sea” set with octopus — helped solidify this image for a lot of us.

retro-police-woman-sabotage-under-the-sea-set

But in truth, there not only were female cops before then, but they were the result of what we’d now call “unlikely feminists” — and some bad male behavior. These battles would be more dangerous than tangling with an octopus.

You may have heard of Isabella Goodwin, the first US woman detective appointed in New York City on March 1, 1912 (it’s the sort of “fun historical fact” people like to blog about, say, on March 1st). But few take the time to give you some real information about her — or at least some cultural context. But you know I’m all about the context, right?

There’s little information available on the web about Isabella Goodwin (save for the fact one-liner), but there is a story & a setting alright.

The story begins in the mid 1800’s when female prisoners were housed with male prisoners and so male officers, their wives, widows of policemen (called “bedmakers,” these women were paid out of the policemen’s own pockets), or “the maid at the police station” performed searches on female prisoners. Such mingling of the sexes shocked the general public — mainly because of the high number of poor men and women who came to New York City often found themselves forced to find shelter at station houses (these people were called “casuals”). According to the NYPD, “in 1887, at various times, up to 42,000 of these homeless women spent at least one night in a station house.” However, things were about to change.

The Women’s Prison Association of New York and the American Female Christian Temperance Union petitioned the Board of Estimate and Apportionment for the appointment of police matrons, and for the creation of separate prison cells for men and women. If it sounds odd to you that Christian women of the 1800’s would be involved in a feminist push for equal career opportunities, you misunderstand. The push was not for careers for women, but for the protection of women who could be victimized by men. And you must remember that once upon a time, Christians saw their role in society as to help the less fortunate, including through social reform, as opposed to the current day philosophy of “”convert them or judge them & leave them to rot.”

Pressured by groups seeking social reforms, the New York State Legislature passed a law requiring that female doctors treat female patients in mental institutions & that every precinct station house has Police Matrons to tend to female arrestees. This legislation was passed in 1888. But the New York City Board of Police Commissioners does not make any Matron appointments until 1891 — after Governor David B. Hill signed a bill that mandated the hiring of Police Matrons and the establishment of separate cells for men and women under arrest. This was a direct result of a police officer being found guilty the attempted assault of a fifteen-year-old girl at a station house and sentenced to prison in 1890.

Months later, the first civil service test was held for the title of Police Matron — with applicants being required to have letters of recommendation from at least twenty women “of good standing.”

In an attempt at humor, I suppose, Jay Maeder sums up the “new” police matrons with “thus creating the jail-matron system that remained a sinecure for many a stern, stout Irishwoman well into the 20th century.”

:sigh:

Maeder’s stereotype isn’t the worst, or even the first. Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History notes:

Of course the matrons were not installed without criticism, which by the way ranged from the prediction that women would become totally incapacitated at the sighting of a mere rodent to criticism that men wouldn’t stand a chance because women would completely take over, dominating the station house and their fellow male employees.

Police Matrons worked long hours, receiving only one day off per month, and just one week’s vacation per year. In 1896, there is one Matron per shift (one day, one night) per station house. Their duties increase too. Matrons are now assigned to search subjects; process, escort and supervise inmates; and to care for lost children. As of 1899, they were paid $1,000 per year as of 1899, and they would not receive a pay increase until 1918.

It is in 1896 that police widow Isabella Goodwin (noted as having four children) is hired as a Police Matron and begins her police career, which will culminate in making First Grade Detective in March of 1912, and being appointed second in command of the first Women’s Police Precinct in April that same year.

Goodwin’s appointment to detective came about through the Police Chief bypassing Civil Service requirements that discriminated against women — presumably in large part due to pressure from the public and lots of press regarding her role in “bringing to justice of the taxicab bandits,” as evidenced in Goodwin’s interview in The New York Times, March 3, 1912 (below).

You really should read it; where else can you read a real news story which includes characters called Swede Annie and Eddie The Boob?

The old newspaper article also includes Goodwin’s story of a bust of a (male) fortune teller. The problem of $2 readings were apparently quite prevalent, for The New York Supplement details of Goodwin’s testimony & the judge’s affirmation of the conviction of fake fortune teller Maude Malcolm on Janurary 18, 1915 (beginning on page 919).

Goodwin, naturally, ends the interview with a, “Despite my peculiar work I try not to neglect my home. A woman’s first duty is to her family, and I have tried always to remember that.” To which the author is only too happy to pander, prove (with assertions from Isabella’s children & the author’s own eyes) & compliment.

But if this seems, well, less satisfactory than the loud “long way baby” route of the mod 60’s women’s lib ladies, consider the following…

Such public adoration may have been new to Goodwin and to female policewomen at the time, but Jay Maeder notes it wouldn’t stay that way:

Matrons did women pretty much exclusively until 1912, when one Isabella Goodwin, theretofore detailed to the wayward-lass wing of the Mercer St. station, was assigned to take a position as a domestic in a household full of suspected bank robbers. Goodwin, swiftly getting the goods on this bunch, then became New York’s first female detective first grade. Subsequently, more and more women began to get pulled into crime-busting duties, and a full-fledged Bureau of Policewomen was established in 1926.

The city’s lady cops, many of them nurses and lawyers and social workers and other such college-educated professionals, were celebrated public figures all through the 1930s and ’40s and ’50s, always good press copy as they went often quite dangerously undercover to lure sexual predators and smash abortion rings and whatnot.

Isabella Goodwin may never have had a doll or octopus made in her honor; but then again, she was probably never called “a bitch of a detective” in some sort of twisted praise. Angie Dickinson, on the other hand, only played a detective on TV and got the doll, the octopus, the pinup poses in men’s magazines, and had her then-husband, Burt Bacharach, “compliment” her by saying, “”If she’s down a notch from me in the public eye these days, well, she should be up a notch—she’s a bitch of an actress.”

So I ask you, who was the more respected woman? Who should we think of when we think of “police woman?”

And why hasn’t someone made a collectible Isabella Goodwin doll?

Maybe instead of an octopus accessory, it can have a fake fortune teller accessory kit.

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?

Republicans Suffer From Dementia & Can’t Understand Satire

In celebration of what is looking more & more like (knock wood) Al Franken’s seat filling the Senate seat and the recent publication of Ohio State University’s study on satire (The Irony of Satire: Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report, April edition of the International Journal of Press/Politics), I’m reposting something I wrote 11 months ago… Because, as you’ll see, it’s more ironic to reread this than to rewrite it.

First republicans were actually using comedian Steven Colbert’s satirical works to push their agendas, and now ABC reports that the Minnesota Republican Party’s released a letter, signed by a whopping six GOP women, attacking comedian Al Franken who was then running for United States Senate in Minnesota:

Eight years ago, Franken penned a column for Playboy called “Porn-O-Rama!” in which the former Saturday Night Live comedian wrote about visiting a made-up sex institute where he takes part in sexual acts with humans and machines.

“While you may attempt to defend your writing as satire, we hardly find anything defensible about your finding humor in your desire to have sex with women or robots that look like women simply to give yourself a good time,” the Minnesota GOP women wrote in the letter. “This column is at its worst, an extreme example of the kind of disrespect for the role of women in society that all of us have fought our entire lives. At best, it is the disrespectful writings of a nearly 50-year-old man who seems to think that women’s bodies are the domain of a man who just wants to have a good time.”

“Denounce this article and apologize immediately,” read the letter.

Sheesh. And they say feminists have no sense of humor…

Perhaps too many republicans suffer from frontotemporal dementia and therefore cannot process sarcasm. (It’s funny because it’s true.)

Meanwhile, for those suffering from a poor sense of humor, an dementia-induced inability to recognize sarcasm, or a fundamental ignorance of humor ~ including satire ~ and its historical use as social protest, the Franken camp’s response (via ABC) should help clarify things a bit:

The Franken campaign said the Playboy column was written as a satire.

“Al had a long career as a satirist,” said Jess McIntosh of the Franken campaign. “But he understands the difference between what you say as a satirist and what you do as a senator. And as a senator, Norm Coleman has disrespected the people of Minnesota by putting the Exxons and Halliburtons ahead of working families. And there’s nothing funny about that.”

You don’t have to be an Al Franken fan (though I am) to love the “he understands the difference between what you say as a satirist and what you do as a senator”.

sarcasmbrainMaybe a little remedial reading, via the links here, would help those six GOP ladies… Or lobotomies. Hey, Dr. Katherine P. Rankin, do they do parahippocampal gyrus lobotomies for the sarcasm impaired?

Related: In the New York Times article on sarcasm, Dr. Rankin is quoted as saying, “I bet Jon Stewart has a huge right frontal lobe; that’s where the sense of humor is detected on M.R.I.”

And now you know how to spot all the smart funny people (who are happy to see you). Bet there are few bulging lobes in today’s republican party.

Then again, they are rarely happy to see me.

Mixed Reactions To A Literal Three-Ring Circus

Trying to move past my fear knowledge of clowns and their assassination attempts on my life, we went to the circus on Saturday — El Zagal’s 58th Annual Shrine Circus, at the Fargodome. You’ll never guess who the opening act was…

Sanjaya Malakar.

sanjaya-malakar-fargo-shrine-circus-2009

Yup, that kid with the weird hair from American Idol season 6. The one who makes young girls cry (and that, I guess, is due to puppy love — not the whine of his voice or the sight of his knotted-up hair).

sanjaya-malakar-fargo-shrine-circus-2009_2

My daughter, Destiny (age 12), upon hearing the news that we were going to the circus, warned alerted me to the Sanjaya performance with a, “Everyone from school is going to see Sanjaya!” I guess he still makes pre-teens swoon. I don’t get it. It’s not like he’s Andy Gibb or Parker Stevenson… But hey, I guess I’m just old.

But how far down the talent totem pole do you have to sit to perform at a circus? A circus in Fargo, North Dakota, yet.

Pretty far down.

Even if folks are talking about his being here for some flood relief benefit. (Bryan Shinn, public relations spokesman for the El Zagal Shrine Circus, supposedly said that “Malakar’s appearance is a byproduct of the region’s flooding, which postponed the first scheduled dates of the circus earlier this month and threatened cancellation when replacement acts were hard to find… Malakar will congratulate us on what a great job we did fighting the flood.” I didn’t hear the kid say that…

Oh, but see, he was in town for a local bar’s American-Idol style singing competition called Fargo Star. And while that’s not a hell of a lot better than performing at the circus, I guess the boy’s got a book, a five-song EP — and, yes, a reality television show to promote.

sanjaya-malakar-fargo-shrine-circus-2009_3

Anyway, my hysterical laughter at Sanjaya’s performance wasn’t a thing to be contained. I cackled like an old lady from my nose-bleed seats. Especially when he shook is tiny butt.

But several acts later, I found myself crying.

It was over a bear act — Rosaire’s Bears. Call me crazy, call me a chick; but bears are not supposed to walk on their hind legs (for such lengths of time), suck from bottles and fake-smooch men.

bear-show-shrine-circus-2009

I don’t care if young men and women in gilttering Lycra outifts swing from trapeze or are juggled by their parent’s feet; they (sort of) have a choice. In fact, that stuff pretty darn thrilling. At least for me. Not many of the kids seemed as impressed as the adults. But maybe that’s because today’s kids are overweight and only “do” stairs when the escalators are broken — or when they have to walk steps to get into the house to sit and play a video game.

Yeah, I’m saying that too many kids are so out of shape & mesmerized by digital action & special effects that they don’t even realize what a feat it is to do the stuff that was right in front of their cotton-candy-eating faces.

But I loved the human circus performances. Then my entertainment isn’t spoiled by wild carnage (other than my motherly sense of worry) or neglect/abuse.

Maybe I should just be expecting my period.

But the other acts cheered me up a bit — until the elephants came out. They were also a ticketed ride attraction too. Riding an elephant… Mmmm, OK… But why did one of the women have an elephant lay down on it’s side & do the splits on top of it? Demeaning. And probably a sticky mess too, based on the skimpiness of her costume.

All I could think of was what has happened to trained performing elephants, and I was ready for another cry over them and the bears…

Bears aren’t supposed to pose for photographs with kids either. For the sake of the bears & the kids. (I don’t care that they had pretty painted canvas dividers — I know what bears can do. And these are tamed wild animals, not domesticated animals. Even domesticated dogs bite, maim, kill…)

Sanjaya was posing for photographs at the circus intermission (autographing stuff too, I guess); but he has a choice. And if thinks the promotion helps his career, his choice to be a dancing bear, fine. But spare the bears. Please!

And then it hit me; the best photo-op of the day would have been to get a photo of Sanjaya with the bear. Because that one photo would have summed up so many things that are wrong in this world.

I Am *Not* My Demographic (Not That You’d Know What To Do With It)

I was watching last Sunday’s Celebrity Apprentice and aside from the actual show happenings — which very much depend upon what I have to say today, though — little foam-flecks appeared at the side of my mouth. And I got that gleam in my eye that made hubby brace himself for the rant to follow. Why? Because the stupid executives from all® laundry detergent/Sun Products Corporation were idiots. Or maybe they were edited to sound like idiots. I can’t say for sure…

But when asked what their demographic was, they said “women over the age of 25.”

That’s not a demographic, people. That’s not even an answer to a math question on averages — mean, median or mode. That’s a swath so wide any marketing instructor worth her salt will smack you with your rolled-up assignment. And I think executives must be at least that high(ly educated) to get on any corporate ride.

When further pressed by the group of celebrities (who I swear had popping eyeballs to match my own frustrated amazement), the executives would only elaborate that the “viral” video used to “promote & brand the product” should appeal to their consumer, said “women 25 years old and older,” who “had children” but were “not (necessarily, I guess?) mothers” or married. So, if I’m to be kind, they maybe were saying that these women had children but don’t identify as “mothers” or don’t wish to be typecast as “mothers only”? Hell, I don’t know.

Still, what a weak bag of crap to hand teams assigned to a promotional project.

No wonder both teams failed in the executive’s eyes.

I seriously thought Melissa’s team, Athena, did a great spot — up until the midgets little people were swearing and the one walked off, anyway.

Anyway, the all® executives instructed teams to create a viral video for (an ill-defined segment of) women.

“Viral videos for women” is a stupid point all by itself.

Speaking not only with my vagina (my over 25 year old vagina, which has delivered children that I raise and so I do identify, in part, as a mom), but as a marketer, I can tell you the activity of “viral videos” is a male hobby. Women may enjoy a really good video, but we don’t have the time — and we don’t care enough to make the time to search for, watch, and relentlessly pass along at even the adorable talking cat video.

(Just one of the dozens my husband has shown me this week; which is like 10% of what he and his bother send back & forth, and maybe 1% of the volume of what either of them watches in any given week.)

How many videos do you watch and send in a week — and how does that compare to the number of videos your menfolk watch & pass? If I ask you to watch the all® laundry detergent videos “officially” made by Joan & Melissa Rivers to promote all® small & mighty® — will you? Are you going to pass any on? (If there weren’t any charity donations involved, would you?)

For the most part, we women “talk” & “shop” on the internet, and videos (along with the creation of LOLcats and other Photoshop “events”) are pull-my-finger, channel surfing time wasters that we don’t participate in.

What a surprise; women & men doing what they do in the real world, on the internet. Huh. Who knew?

I did.

And as if all of this weren’t insane enough… Then the all® execs who say that the promotional pieces are supposed to appeal to women (25 and over, with children) — and Trump who agrees with them, ushering in the dual firing action — add yet another tier on this wedding cake of idiocy. They have a man (a childless gay man) rate & assign a viral weight to the videos. Yeah, Perez Hilton knows his viruses virals, but he said he had no idea if the videos would appeal to women &/or the supposed demographic. *

WTF?

But before I get lost into any more details of Celebrity Apprentice, let me say that in general I don’t think anyone marketing understands what the hell they are doing.

Take TV — especially the dreaded Friday night slots of death. Now we hear that The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Dollhouse may both have or are about to get the ax. We all know Friday night television viewing has a lower viewing audience; only the uncool, exhausted, broke, and likely parenting and so we have no social lives of our own among us (myself included) are home to watch. (And we admit it.) We all know this — there’s a frickin’ Wiki page about it for Christ’s sake. So stop expecting “must see TV” numbers on a Friday night, will ya, stooopid tv execs?

Now if you can’t understand what a grade schooler knows, please, audition for Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader and leave the biz.

At least leave the biz.

But you don’t. And because you can’t understand this simple fact of American life and how it affects your livelihood, it’s no wonder you’ve managed to kill off the longest-running scripted program in broadcasting history.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you don’t understand me.

I’m 44 year old woman, but I am a HUGE fan of Chelsea Lately and I get my news from The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. Did you know that? No, of course not. You think I’m a 24 to possibly 34 year old woman, probably a hipster; but you’re wrong. And it will only get worse as I’m (too) quickly entering the über-ignored yet fastest-growing segment of the American market.

Now what.

I don’t have — never have had — a Nielsen box (excluding that one time two times in college with one Ms S. Nielson — but we did watch some TV together…), so maybe you need to readjust your box assignments. If you did you’d see that my info wouldn’t be some anomaly but that your demographic numbers skew much higher/older than you thought, more accurately reflecting the reality of American’s viewing habits.

But you’d still ignore us. I don’t know why you do; but you do.

* By the way, I find it really odd that he made no effort to even pretend to know what women like — shouldn’t he know his own readership? There’s lots of women at his site. And I assume they, as well as Perez, wash their clothes.

Has Fonzie’s Real Cool Happy Days Game Jumped The Shark?

For a decade, from 1974 through 1984, Happy Days was one of the most popular sitcoms on television. While the show was supposed to be centered on Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) and his family, quickly the star of the show became Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler). So much so, that in 1980, the Smithsonian honored the Fonz and the series for it’s role in American pop culture history by putting one of the Fonz’s leather jackets on display — and there’s even a Bronz Fonz in Wisconsin memoralizing the TV series. But when I brought home the Happy Days game from the thrift store (a paltry $1.75), neither of our girls (age 19 and 12) even knew what or who the heck we were talking about.

I guess our rigid TV limits prevented them from mindless hours of channel surfing & the discovery of reruns.

But I never let stuff like that, be it the ignorance or the distaste of others, stop me from enjoying a new-to-me find.

I cleared the table and invited them all to play Happy Days, “Fonzie’s Real Cool Game By Parker Brothers”, © 1976 Paramount Pictures Corporation.

happy-days-boardgame-cover

The instructions sheet states the goal of this retro board game as follows: “Heeeeey… the Fonz is hangin’ out at your house. Show him how cool you really are by being the first player to collect 16 cool points and light up Arnold’s juke box.” Which doesn’t tell you much — other than you’ve somehow appropriated Arnold’s juke box and are keeping it at your house. Or maybe the Fonz did the liberating? I don’t know.

In reality the game is based on collecting cool points; but you don’t spend time at your house or anyone elses (with or without the Fonz). In fact, landing on your home space or another home space can cost you in cool points. But I guess I’m expecting too much story from a story-based board game.

Anywhoooo…

The game is pretty simple. In theory. I’m not saying the ages 7 – 13 thing is off; I’m just saying that it’s more complicated to explain without typing the entire instruction sheet.

But I’ll try.

OK, picture playing Monopoly. You start with some money (in this case, a $3 allowance) and your playing piece starts at your own color-coordinated home rather than “Go”. Unlike Monopoly, you also get a Somethin’ To To card, have a peg in the juke box “cool meter” (with one cool point granted to you), and you only have one die to roll.

game-set-up

You roll the die, move that number of spaces, and where ever you land on the board, take the action directed — should you be able to. Because you might not have enough allowance to go on the date or activity listed on your Somethin’ To Do card — or you might have used-up your Somethin’ To Do card supply.

Round & round the board you go, going on dates, hanging out with pals, earning allowance & money for odd jobs (so you can hang out and go on dates) — plus earning and losing cool points.

game-in-play

The game is not monotonous. Along the way, you or another player may draw a Crusin’ card, which will direct you all to “stuff a telephone booth” or “play the pinball machine” — the winner of which, selected by being the high roller, gets two cool points. Of course, you can loose cool points whimsically too. Like when another player draws a Crusin’ card which says “knocked over Fonzie’s bike” or “the Fonz catches you wearing colored socks”. The penalty point loss isn’t given to the player who drew the card; they get to play it against an opponent.

But by far, the most fun are the Drag spaces on the board.

When you land on one of these two spaces, you get to challenge any other player to a drag race. Should anyone chicken out, the chicken loses a cool point and the other gains a cool point. Ah, but if you race, the action moves to the center of the game board, where you roll the die to see who reaches the finish line first — be careful, because you could spin-out or have an engine stall! The winner of the race gets two cool points and the loser is moved to the “Hey, Nerd!” space of the winner’s choosing, where he or she loses a point. Plus the winner of the drag race gets to place themselves anywhere they’d like on the board.

So while the game play is pretty simple, the game action is rather varied — and we all had a blast.

I know what you’re thinking — I’m a silly board game geek and a lover of retro chic, so of course I liked it, and therefore I’m probably imagining that everyone else did too. Plus, I won the first game. But honestly, the kids insisted on playing three more games (Des, the 12 year old, won twice) — and both girls whined when hubby & I had to call it quits for dinner.

And the rest of the night, “Hey, Nerd!” was shouted and giggled at one another for any old thing. Not just by the kids either.

It almost became annoying. Almost.

So I totes recommend the retro Happy Days board game; it has not jumped the shark. It’s even fun if you don’t know the show.

destiny-ayyyyyy

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.

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.