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Preserving the people, places, and things from the pop culture past...because some of us still believe in yesterday.

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  • 09/20/12--16:51: Bomb Girls
  • Image from WebTVWire
    If you're in Mad Men and Downtown Abbey withdrawal and disappointed about the cancellation of Pan Am, then Go Retro has a tip on a hot, new retro themed show for you: Bomb Girls, airing on the Reelz channel. Bomb Girls follows the lives of a group of "Rosie the Riveters"--women working in a munitions factory during WWII while the boys are fighting overseas. The series originally aired in Canada in January, and has now made its way to the States on Reelz.

    And let me tell you, you have to be watching this show. Reelz has only shown the first two episodes and I'm already hooked. This is much better than Pan Am or most series that was set in a previous decade that network TV attempted: it has the guts and great storylines as well as acting, and doesn't shy away from showing the uglier side of the 1940s era. In the first two episodes alone, a girl gets part of her scalp ripped off when a hook along the assembly line gets caught in her hair, another has back alley sex with a soldier she just met the night before he leaves for overseas, and a bad test bomb puts the girls under unfair scrutiny by their archaic and sexist factory manager, who thinks nothing of barging into the women's locker room while they're in their underwear.

    The most famous name in the cast is Meg Tilly, who plays the ladies' floor matron, Lorna Corbett. She's dealing with a depressing home life; a disabled husband (a victim of the first world war) who also suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her two sons are also fighting overseas.

    Then there's Gladys, a girl from a wealthy family (whom the other girls initially despise because of her privileged background) who joins the factory so she can make a difference in the war effort. She tries in vain to convince her coworkers to speak up for better working conditions in the factory, and she's also dealing with overbearing WASP parents who want nothing more then for her to settle down with her rich fiance and start making grandchildren, not bombs. Kate is living under a new name after escaping her abusive, bible thumping father and Betty is her BFF and trainer of the factory girls...there may or may not be a lesbian undertone developing to Kate and Betty's friendship.


    Photo from the Reelz Bomb Girls site
    Along the way the ladies are dealing with sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions, and unhappy family situations. But of course, they always make time to let loose to jitterbug with soldiers to live bands at the swing dances...how I long for this type of recreation! 

    Of course, every series must have a dreamy male lead and in Bomb Girls, it's Marco Moretti (played by Anthony Cupo), one of the guys at the factory who wanted to join the service but was denied due to his Italian-born heritage. Some of the other workers suspect him of being a communist who sympathizes with Mussolini; his father is in an internment camp. 


    Image from Reelz Bomb Girls site
    It's obvious that the creators behind the show did their research into the WWII era and what was expected of women working in a bomb factory. The show's official website has some wonderful photos of real-life bomb girls and interactive features; the show's page on the Reelz site has behind-the-scenes video clips. A clip on Reelz explains the untold dangers that went on in weapons factories during WWII; this series aims to give some long overdue publicity to the women who took up the war cause on the homefront and is a tribute to them. 

    Bomb Girls airs on Tuesday nights on Reelz at 9 PM EST and repeats on Friday nights; check out the site for more info and if you catch the show, let me know what you think!

    Here's the trailer for the show:


    Bomb Girls  | Movie Trailer | Review

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    Photo via sueupton.net
    I consider it a privilege that by the age of 10 I was regularly watching The Benny Hill Show with my parents. When other kids were watching Fame and Silver Spoons, I was taking in the hijinks of Hill and his cleavage peeking crew as they chased after skimpily dressed women, known as Hill's Angels. Some of Benny's humor was actually perfectly appropriate for kids--a fixture of the show was vaudevillian slapstick and silly songs with cleverly disguised double-entendres which flew over my young head. But let's face it, the sketches that I remember most and that were the funniest were those that just barely made it past the U.S. television censors (if anyone was indeed censoring the show.) I distinctly remember one dance number where the entire male cast appeared on stage wearing trench coats, then flashed the audience--each revealing a nude colored body suit with a strategically placed fig leaf. By 1980s television standards, it really did look like everyone was naked. Another sketch showed a sequence of clips meant to emulate a couple copulating and reaching orgasm--a washing machine, a rocket ship blasting into space, fireworks, etc. I was never into Monty Python and I never really got The Black Adder, so The Benny Hill Show served as my introduction to British humor. I suppose for many boys my age at the time who were allowed to watch it, it also served as an introduction to sex. 

    For many years, I didn't dare admit to my friends that I watched this show. It's not like I could have said at the lunch table, "Did you see that Bionic Baby sketch on Benny Hill last night? What a hoot!" They would have thought I was nuts! You see, a lot of people thought this was a sexist and politically incorrect show. Benny would often point out that while the men on the show ogled and chased the women, they never actually caught any. Like Wile E. Coyote chasing after the Roadrunner, Benny never did get the hot chick and it became a recurring gag for several decades. 

    A comedian named Ben Elton made a ridiculous claim in 1987 both on the TV and in Q magazine that The Benny Hill Show was to blame for the increase of rape in England during the decade and that the show encouraged other violent acts towards women. He later tried to backpedal and said the comment was taken out of context, but it drives home the point on how seriously some viewers took the show. 


    Something about the show that I only learned just recently is that it existed in one way or another since the 1950s. I always think of Benny Hill as a 70s and 80s television fixture because that was when I watched it (the Thames years as I call them, as the show aired on Thames in the UK before it made its way to the States.) Alfred Hawthorne Hill worked a number of odd jobs early in his life before getting into radio and comedy, and changed his first name to Benny to honor his favorite comedian, Jack Benny. Benny Hill's first comedic sketch appeared on the BBC1 channel in 1951 on a program called Hi There! By the late 50s, the format known as The Benny Hill Show had come to fruition. 

    Here's a black and white sketch from the mid-60s. The first few minutes really aren't that funny, but the middle portion that takes place in the gym is classic Benny--utilizing creative camera work for comedic effect.



    By the 70s, Benny's male supporting cast was made up of Henry McGee, Jon Jon Keefe, Nicholas Parsons, and Bob Todd. But perhaps the most memorable actor on the show was Jackie Wright. He was the little old man with an unintelligible Irish accent who often appeared in drag or got slapped on his bald head by Benny. For many years, my parents speculated that Wright was actually Benny's real-life father but in fact, he was an Irish comedian who got discovered by Benny in the mid-60s. When he passed away in 1989 Benny told the press, "He was a lovely little fella...I'm saddened beyond words." 


    Benny with Jackie Wright via Britcoms.de
    You never knew what you were going to see on The Benny Hill Show. In retrospect I've realized that Benny seemed to imitate more American pop culture figures and characters than British celebs; he lampooned Kojak, Cannon, Starsky and Hutch, The A Team, McCloud, Kenny Rogers, Marlon Brando, and Orson Wells. The Bionic Baby skit that I mentioned earlier was what would have happened if The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman met and had a child together; Benny plays several parts in the segment including appearing in blackface as Ida Amin. 

    Of course, a post about The Benny Hill Show would not be complete without mentioning its closing number, Yakety Sax. I always thought it would be worth learning the saxophone someday just to be able to play this song at parties. The closing to this show always featured the cast running (more sped-up camera work) in a Keystone Cops style...literally a running gag! 

    At one point The Benny Hill Show aired in 140 countries. According to a documentary called Living Famously, John Howard Davies, the former head of entertainment at Thames Television, cancelled the show in 1989 because "...the audiences were going down, the programme was costing a vast amount of money, and (Hill) was looking a little tired." However, the story I've heard on other retro blogs is that the downfall of the show was due to UK viewers getting increasingly upset by the T-and-A jokes, which seems a bit odd given that Benny's theme was hardly anything new and scandalous. Either way, the cancelation seemed pretty low brow to me considering that it happened right after Benny attended a successful Cannes television festival and thought he was getting a new series from Thames. 

    When Benny Hill passed away in 1992, my parents and I were surprised to learn that the man who had seemed to enjoy such notoriety on television apparently lived a quiet life and had never married, although he proposed to three women throughout his lifetime, all of whom turned him down. He didn't own his home or a car, and enjoyed traveling to France. 

    I have about three or four "best of The Benny Hill Show" VHS tapes that I gave to my father for what turned out to be his last Christmas and I haven't been able to bring myself around to watching them again since, as he was such a fan of the show. But perhaps it's time to reconnect that VCR...I'd like to think my dad will somehow be watching them with me. 

    Clips from the show are not as plentiful online as I would have thought, but here's a few giggle worthy ones I roused up...

     







    Jane Leeves, of Frasier and Hot in Cleveland fame, was one of the more famous Hill's Angels. If 2+2 was good enough for Benny, I'm sure it was good enough for male fans, too!



    More Hill's Angels...gee, I don't have the faintest idea why guys loved Benny Hill so much, do you? Keep watching, my fellow ladies...it does get funny for us:



    That famous closing theme...


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    Image from imageshack
    Halloween is just around the corner…let's get into the haunting spirit early with some gloulish disco grooves courtesy of a group that called themselves Hot Blood!

    Not long ago I posted about a European disco dance troupe called Ballet Zoom, which included a performance to a song called "Soul Dracula." I couldn't get the song out of my head and discovered that it's credited to a group called Hot Blood...which put out an album in 1977 called Disco Dracula. Technically, Hot Blood wasn't so much a marketed group as it was a bunch of session musicians brought together for the purposes of putting out an anonymous German novelty disco record. There are only seven tracks and today was my lucky day considering some kind retro soul had uploaded all of them to Grooveshark.

    So if you're in the mood for some obscure disco just for kicks, have a listen and let the Drac take you under his disco spell...



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  • 09/30/12--06:19: When Advertising Took a Trip
  • Looking back at vintage advertising through the decades, it's very evident that psychedelia spilled over into the advertising world during the late 60s. All of a sudden, the ads just pop with swirls of color and flower power. Some models in the ads look like they were on drugs...I mean, take the girl in the example above. This is an ad for dry cleaning, not the state lottery. No one looks this happy over dry cleaning unless they're tripping. From an artistic and pop culture standpoint, these ads are just plain fun to look at. (Note: all ads came from MewDeep via Flickr.)




    Laugh-In was one of those shows that you either got and thought was hilarious or you hated...I'm with the former camp. The whacky, corny and random humor was a sign of the times. I've seen this ad a few times before and never knew that there was such a thing as a Laugh-In restaurant franchise...sounds like a good topic to research for the next installment of my Retro Fail post series.
    Way before its "got milk?" campaign, the American Dairy Association went with The Cowsills promoting "mixed up milk." That wavy font and giant wheel barrel may be a sign that this milkshake delivers more than just calcium. 
    Another example of someone looking way too happy over something that's way too mundane...a drugstore. Tune in, turn on, and freak out with Rexall...
    Not so much psychedelic, but I love that only the 60s or 70s could give us a flying maid for a product icon. 
    Flower Power toilet paper? Sure, why not. A flower-covered knight would have been thrown out of the king's court, but he seems right at home during the 60s. 
    Now these are cool. I want one of those bags. 
    Another thing I admire about so many ads from this period: the artwork. It's as if every advertising agency had a Peter Max working in the art department.
    Maybe whatever company currently publishes the Yellow Pages should think about bringing back this promotion...who would have guessed that at one time you could purchase a Yellow Pages Party Pack for only $2. I mean, this even came with a record, a dance diagram, and 120 feet of crepe paper...a kit today in decent condition must be a collector's item!
    Even the Campbell's Kids became way out flower children during this era. 

    Yes, even bath scales got turned on, and I love these...especially the "Hey Fatso" scale...nothing like being blunt. 


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    In 1968, Sears was lagging in its sales of Kenmore freezers. Their solution was to create a 16-minute training video starring Judy Carne and Arte Johnson doing a Laugh-In spoof called Freeze-In! The salesmen watching this were in for a treat: Judy is featured quite prominently at the beginning go-go dancing in a bikini and body paint, which begs the question of whether this technique translated in more freezer sales that year, or if the men were merely too distracted to pay close attention. To be honest, much of the training video is, like one of the show's famous taglines, "Verrrrry interesting....but stupid!" However, it's a fun little time capsule look at the late 60s. Arte is mildly amusing. The freezer colors are cool. And if it matters to you, you have a girl in a bikini dancing. What more do you want, brother?



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    I've had two songs by Kid Creole and the Coconuts stuck in my head all week, which makes me wonder why I never seemed to hear them on radio stations in the 80s. Perhaps they just weren't "80s" enough to chart high up on the pop charts. This group's sound has been described as Latin American, South American and Caribbean but the one genre I hear the most in Kid Creole and the Coconuts is the Big Band sound. Kid, whose real name is Thomas August Darnell Browder, adopted a musical look and persona that was directly inspired by Cab Calloway, down to the color popping zoot suits. 

    But what about those Coconuts? They were the female trio of backup singers/dancers in the group made up of Adriana Kaegi (who helped cofound the group and who was married to Kid, but stayed in the band after their divorce), Cheryl Poirier and Taryn Haegy (who was replaced by Janique Svedberg.) My introduction to Kid Creole and the Coconuts was when the Jeff Bridges movie Against All Odds was shown on TV. They perform a song called My Male Curiosity and I'll be honest--when I watched the Coconuts do their thing, I thought they looked downright 80s glamorous and sexy with their big hair and shimmery two pieces (but not the slightly unshaven armpits!) It would be fun to be a Coconut. 

    The band is still active today but sadly, the new Coconuts that have recently toured with Kid Creole are nothing like the original ladies. It's actually kind of painful to watch. Best to stick with the 80s line-up of the band. So without further ado, here's the two songs I've had in my craw all week...how can I not when the music is this contagious and good? 




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  • 10/07/12--17:04: Go Retro Goes on Facebook
  • Well, I've finally gone and done it: I've created a Facebook page for Go Retro. Considering that I manage the social media for a small business in my spare time as well as juggling my personal Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts, don't ask me why I was suddenly inspired to add yet another channel to watch over. However, I think Go Retro was long overdue getting its own Facebook page, as I see (and follow) so many other retro themed websites and blogs sharing oodles of retro goodness daily on the social media site.

    Rest assured that this does not mean that the page will replace this blog, or that I plan to stop blogging. On the contrary, I think having a page will inspire me to write even more, because of the amount of content being shared over there. I also can't promise that I'll be posting there every day, but certainly a few times a week seems doable.

    Needless to say, it's in the VERY introductory stages at the moment, but I hope you'll "like" and join the retro party...and I promise not to jam your feed with endless photos of Steve McQueen and horrific retro recipes! See you there!


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  • 10/09/12--19:41: When TVs Were Stylin'
  • Image via JoeCrazy.com
    One thing I admire about the mid-century modern movement (say that 10 times fast) is that it didn't stop at just furniture, but spilled over into electronics and appliances as well. TV sets made from the late 40s through the 80s have so much character. They were quite often works of art and meant to compliment a room. By contrast, today's flat-screen and 3D TVs may be slick, high-tech, and give us a splendid picture, but they all look the same to me. TV screens have also gotten bigger through the decades in keeping with our increasingly materialistic society, and that means less room for uniqueness. A lot of TV sets from the 50s and 60s doubled as an entertainment console that housed a stereo and storage space; many of today's TVs hang on the wall, out of the way. 

    So here's a splattering of ads featuring TV sets that most of us grew up with, when they used to have style. Even the smaller, portable ones looked cool. Long live their marriage of form and function, if only in our memories. (All ads from VintageAdBrowser.com unless otherwise noted.)


    Talk about multi-tasking! Never knew there was a three-way TV...but I'm guessing it never caught on. 

    Via brycehudson on Flickr


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    It's nearly Halloween, so a lot of the blogs are talking about horror movies. Me, I'm thinking about creepy music videos. I guess that's just the way my mind works--and you'd be surprised at what gets imprinted on a 12 year-old's brain that gets recalled almost 30 years later. These were the music videos I remember most from my tween and teen years that I thought were creepy for a variety of reasons. I should add the disclaimer that all of these videos were made during the 80s--I realize that there are more modern ones that are probably far more scary and disturbing, but this is a retro blog full of retro memories. OK, here we go...
    "Owner of a Lonely Heart" - Yes
    An awesome song, one of my favorite rockers of the 80s, and the video always stood out to me because it was so unsettling. It has a very 1984 vibe to it, and band members that change into animals, but I think it was the shots of the lead character covered with a snake while in the shower or washing his face with mealworms that landed this video on my list. He also endures a scorpion and a spider on his face. Too creepy crawly for me to forget it. 



    "She's a Beauty" - The Tubes

    An adolescent boy is invited to "ride the Beauty" (double entendre there) at an old timey looking amusement park. A dominatrix looking woman holds him in place with a bar as he rides on her lap. One of the women inside the ride is really a man. They travel through a giant boobie. By the end of the ride, the boy has been transformed into an old man. Yep, that's about the gist of the video, but some reason I found it disturbing and it has stayed with me all these years. I am sure the feminist groups had a field day with this one.




    "Adult Education" - Hall and Oates
    Everyone who knows me knows that I love me some H2O; however, I've always felt that Hall and Oates' videos never lived up to their songs, and "Adult Education" is no exception. It not merely just creepy to me, it's also just plain bad. Since the song is written from a high school girl's point of view, well, naturally I just assumed the video would take place in a school. Instead, it features some weird Raiders of the Lost Ark-inspired set/ancient civilization depicting a human sacrifice...and there appears to be a naked dude in it! And why does Oates look so angry? He's probably pissed at Hall because he had a better idea for the video that got nixed.


    "Do You Believe In Love" - Huey Lewis and the News
    A few weeks ago I saw a collection of dating videos from the 80s which featured one sorry looking and nervous dork proclaiming, "I will watch you while you sleep." Perhaps this misguided soul watched this Huey Lewis and the News video too many times. It will leave you asking, "Do you believe in restraining orders?"


    "Thriller" - Michael Jackson
    I'm the first to admit that I never really was a Michael Jackson fan--even before his out-there behavior started--and I'm even less of a fan of zombies. However, there's no denying that the "Thriller" video was a groundbreaking masterpiece and way ahead of its time. Way before Lady Gaga and Beyonce turned their music videos into mini films, Jackson had it figured out first, and this video launched a dance craze and a Halloween anthem that continues to this day. I like it combines a theme inspired by B horror flicks of the 50s with An American Werewolf in London transformation. I think it's amusing that Jackson preceded the video with a statement saying that he didn't believe in the occult, since the video is about werewolves and zombies, not the devil. 



    "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2" - Pink Floyd
    If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding! I don't know of any Brit who claims to have had a happy experience at a boarding school--unless you consider concentration camps to be happy places. Technically the music video to "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2" is a clip from the movie "Pink Floyd The Wall." Why is this scary? It's the masks that the students wear, and the fact that they're being marched into a meat processing machine. Hot dogs, anyone?


    "Land of Confusion" - Genesis
    Forget your clown phobia. Mere child's play compared to The Spitting Image puppets. They were so hideous and scary looking that they deserve their own post before Halloween, but in the meantime you can see them in all their grotesque glory in this video for "Land of Confusion." No one--and I mean NO one--looked good as a Spitting Image puppet and I was a little surprised that Phil Collins and the other band members would willingly subject themselves to be transformed into deformed globs of rubber. Besides Ronald and Nancy Reagan, towards the end you can pick out Prince, Michael Jackson, Bette Middler, Madonna, Paul McCartney and others. I think the worst part is seeing just the puppets' heads on the ground--truly the stuff of nightmares.



    "Don't Come Around Here No More" - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
    Without a doubt, I think that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' video to "Don't Come Around Here No More" must take the top honor for the creepiest video ever made--not just for making me uncomfortable, but because it's also so spectacularly done. It's twisted and sick but you can't help but laugh. This interpretation of "Alice in Wonderland" is more nightmarish than Lewis Carroll's story, with Dave Stewart as the Caterpillar, and Petty playing The Mad Hatter presiding over a tea/dinner party where Alice is eventually transformed into a cake. Trapped, she lies on the dinner table wigging her hands and watches in horror as Petty and the other band members cut into her and hack her to pieces--a twist on the "Eat Me" cake from the story. The inspiration for the video came from Stewart, who said that after Stevie Nicks broke up with Joe Walsh she told him, "Don't come around here no more." 

    An actress named Wish Foley played Alice. She dated lead guitarist Mike Campbell for a while after making the video. I reached out to Foley via YouTube a few years ago to interview her for Go Retro and she initially seemed enthusiastic, but then never answered my questions. Maxim magazine named her one of the Foxiest Fairy Tale Ladies for her role in the Petty video. 



    Did I leave out any from the 80s that would make your list?

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    Image from Entertainment Weekly via Illustrated 007
    I don't know about you, but I'm getting awfully excited about the latest James Bond movie being released soon, Skyfall. This year marks 50 years of Bond on the silver screen--and to get you in the 007 mood, I've pulled together pretty much every theme song used in the opening credits up through Tomorrow Never Dies. This is certainly nothing original--there have been plenty of compilations of Bond music released--but I'm also including the disco-esque version of the James Bond theme that Marvin Hamlisch arranged ("Bond 77") and Louis Armstrong's "We Have All the Time in the World" from the film On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Make yourself a martini--shaken, not stirred--and have yourself a musical time travel trip through the luscious Bond legacy.


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  • 10/18/12--17:07: The Forgotten James Bond

  • If I were to ask you which actor who played James Bond is the least memorable, what would be your answer? George Lazenby? Timothy Dalton?

    Nope. The name's Nelson. Barry Nelson. And he actually played Bond in a TV version of the novel Casino Royale in 1954, 8 years before Sean Connery began portraying 007 on the big screen. The television production of Casino Royale aired on CBS as part of the Climax! Mystery Theater series. Ian Fleming was paid $1,000 for the television rights to his novel.

    And there are some notable differences between this Bond and his movie counterparts. For the TV version of Casino Royale, Bond is an American, going by "Jimmy" (although he does refer to himself as James later on during a phone call.) He also sports a bowtie and a nerdy haircut. Being a live 1950s TV adaptation, don't expect to see any high speed car chases or much in the way of action (or sex.)

    What is the same are the presence of an arch-villain (Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre), and a beautiful Bond woman--played by Linda Christian--who can't resist Bond's charms. But it's a far cry from the James Bond image that was developed starting in the 1960s.


    Barry Nelson took the role for the chance to work with Lorre. At the last minute, the producers realized their script was going to run three minutes over the allotted air time, so they had to make some last minute changes. Nelson spoke of the experience to Starlog Magazine in 1983. "So they went through and cut three words here, a line there, a half-a-word here, and their script ended up looking like a bad case of tic-tac-toe. I tell you it was so frightening that when I entered my only thought was, 'Oh, God, if I can only get out of this mother!'. I was very dissatisfied with the part, I thought they wrote it poorly. No charm or character or anything."

    Indeed, knowing what we know now about Bond, Nelson seems painfully miscast. The TV special was pretty much forgotten until the 1980s, when it was discovered that a copy of it existed on kinescope by a film historian. I guess you could say this interpretation of Casino Royale was a failed experiment, even though some diehard Bond fans have a soft spot for it. It sure makes for some interesting pop culture trivia. 

    Heres part 1 of the special, if you want to get a taste of what it was like. The entire 50 minutes is available on YouTube. 




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    Image from Fashion Avenue
    What I'm about to say is probably going to offend a lot of people. It might even piss you off if it applies to you. However, the time has come when I simply cannot refrain myself any longer. 

    I hate tattoos. 

    There was a time when tattoos were mostly spotted on sailors, bikers, convicts and stars of freak shows. Today, it seems that everyone from your boss to your grandmother has a tattoo. This is a complaint that I've read over and over from other tattoo loathers. And it isn't that most people are getting one tattoo in an inconspicuous area on the body--they're inking up an entire body part. So maybe I should clarify: I don't mind seeing a tattoo if it's elegantly done and reserved for one spot (take, for example, Jon Bon Jovi's small Superman tattoo on his left arm.) In that respect, it has much deeper meaning. But when someone gets their back, arms, chest or a combination of these parts and more (like--gasp! their face), a tattoo with any real symbolism loses its impact. I also seriously start to question their sanity and their self esteem. Honestly, it seems like a cry for attention. What better way to get people to look at you then to go through life as a living canvas?

    Yeah, I get it--it's your body and you have the right to do with it as you wish. Also, if you want to spend $100s getting ink painfully infused into your derma, knock yourself out. I respect it, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. I'm just trying to figure out why this has been the hot style trend that has suddenly exploded during the past decade, when for many decades prior to that, people didn't have a problem with leaving their body au natural. I've even heard one guy say that people who don't have tattoos are now the rebels, since the tattooed folks seem to be outnumbering the un-inked one. 

    Ironically, I've read that Keith Richards and Sid Vicious--two of the biggest rebels in rock and roll--don't have tattoos. 

    I'm truly not trying to sound like an ignorant jerk. I actually do have respect for tattoo artists (who must be thrilled, I'm sure, by the tattoo craze.) You really have to be an artist to create some of the designs that they do. It's a form of expression, just like hair and clothing is. I think for me, it's the fact that tattooing is, for the most part, permanent.

    Also, tattoos can be distracting. I can't tell you how many times I've seen vintage clothing being displayed on a model cloaked in tattoos. I can no longer see the clothes she is modeling--all I see are her tattoos. And it looks really bizarre and frankly, tacky, to see a Bettie Page-like model who has visited a tattoo parlor...if you want to truly look vintage, you would have left your skin alone.    
     
    I wouldn't date a man with extensive tattooing. It's a turnoff. A lot of people think that Adam Levine is hot. I don't; he's covered in ink. I don't think there's anything sexier than seeing a man as he was born, with unadorned skin.

    Lest you think only women feel that way, I came across the comment below...on a clip of the movie Earth Girls Are Easy, of all things. The scene in question featured a very young, tall and beautiful Gina Davis in her bikini, sans a tan and unnatural body art.

    "This was back when girls didn't have tattoo's and piercings all over their bodies. It's was just plain natural real-deal human female bodies without a bunch of added bullshit.
    Things are *very* different today :("

    Yep, they sure are, mister. And at times that makes me sad. 

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  • 10/23/12--17:17: The Man in the Alien Suit
  • Image from xenomorph, Tumblr
    A casting director and a 7-foot tall Nigerian walk into a bar...it sounds like the start of a joke, but it actually resulted in horror movie history. 

    That good looking young man you see above is inadvertently responsible for giving us nightmares. Bolaji Badejo was a 26 year-old graphic design student having a drink in a London pub in 1978 when he was spotted by a casting agent working with Ridley Scott on the movie Alien. They had yet to find an actor suitable for the actual role of the creature who would terrorize the crew of the ship Nostromo. They needed someone tall and gangly as Scott didn't want audiences to think there could possibly be a human in the costume. He'd been considering basketball players and Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars trilogy, when Badejo was brought to his attention. At 7 feet tall with a sinewy frame and long legs and arms, the Nigeria-born Badejo looked like he'd be a fit for the gig, and he accepted the role. 



    Image via TheTallestMan
    However, working on the Alien set was not all fun and games. According to an interview that Badejo gave to Cinefantastique Magazine in 1979 (his only known interview, reprinted here on Strange Shapes) playing the gangly alien proved to be physically demanding and uncomfortable at times. Badejo had to make the creature look graceful at times and lethally quick at others (in a documentary about the making of the film, one of the cast members--I don't remember who--said that on film you didn't know if the monster "was going to f*ck you or kill you.") 

    The costume itself, designed by H. R. Giger, was made out of 10-15 latex pieces that were custom fit to Badejo's body after he put on a one-piece black bodysuit. The tail attached separately and was controlled with wires. The worst part of it, I'm sure, had to be the gargantuan alien head, which Badejo said was like wearing a huge banana. The suit itself was very hot and Badejo recalled that it didn't take long for him to get soaked with sweat, especially the head. 

    Ridley Scott was also full of ideas for the alien and tried filming several scenarios which just weren't possible because of the logistics of the costume; in one scene, the alien was supposed to be curled up like a cocoon in the air and slowly unfurl itself, but Badejo found it impossible to breathe, let alone move. He also had to deal with a never-ending supply of K-Y jelly which created the acid saliva secreted by the alien's mouth.

    I think the best part about reading this interview is how scared the other cast members were of Badejo in costume on the set, especially poor Veronica Cartwright, who was also squirted unexpectedly with blood during the chest burster scene. 



    The story takes a sad turn, however. Apparently Bodejo fell off the map after the Alien movie was released. According to the interview, he was excited about a potential movie career and legally contracted to appear in a sequel, and there have even been rumors on the Internet that he died, even though there's no proof. If anyone out there knows what happened to Bodejo, I would love to know. 

    Here's a behind the scenes clip of Bodejo getting used to the costume and the alien's movements on the cramped set. Kudos to a guy who didn't get a lot of credit for bringing an unforgettable movie monster to life. 



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    I was going through a 1971 Family Circle that I bought at a flea market when this ad piqued my interest. Hmmm...I'd never heard of Space Food Sticks--and honestly, my first impression of the photo is that they didn't look too appetizing. Being touted as only having 44 calories, they were clearly trying to reach the dieting mom demographic here, and promised a dose of protein, vitamins and minerals--a precursor to today's energy bar. To me, they look like a glorified Tootsie Roll. 

    But Space Food Sticks were manufactured by Pillsbury beginning in the 1960s to capitalize on America's fascination with exploring outer space, and they did enjoy some success until they fell victim to deceitful advertising. They were created by the company's chief food technologist Howard Bauman, who--along with his team--developed solid food for astronauts that could be eaten in space, such as "food cubes" (no mention of what they actually consisted of), cake, relish and non-refridgerated meat. 

    Far out brochure for Pillsbury Space Food Sticks via Allee Willis Blog
    Pillsbury wanted people to think that our American astronauts were actually eating these things on missions. They were--in a way--but snacking instead on modified versions, not the commercial version found in stores. When it was discovered that no Space Food Stick had actually been taken on a space trip, Pillsbury dropped the word "space" from the title and simply called them food sticks. Another unfounded claim that Pillsbury had to nix is that they were as nutritious as milk. Their popularity waned from there and they disappeared from store shelves in the 80s. 

    That is, until just a few years ago when the site Retrofuture.com joined up with a food scientist to recreate Space Food Sticks in their chocolate and peanut butter flavors and sell them at FunkyFoodShop.com. Commenters who grew up with them as kids say the taste and texture is very much like the aforementioned Tootsie Roll. You can learn more about them and other space-related foods at The Space Food Sticks Preservation Society. In the meantime, here's a great vintage commercial for them as well as for a knock-off, Space Energy Sticks. Any Go Retro readers fans of them, or remember them?




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    Found on FlickRiver, credited to King Power Cinema
    It just doesn't seem right to see the word "fail" in the same sentence as Sid and Marty Krofft--the sibling duo known for their string of highly successful children's fantasy TV programs and specials throughout the 70s and 80s. Yet in May 1976, the Krofft brothers ventured into unfamiliar territory when they opened up their own themed amusement park, called The World of Sid and Marty Kroftt, at the Omni Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Looking like a psychedelic, Willy Wonkaesque playground, it was the world's first known indoor amusement park with multiple levels, attractions to explore, and characters straight out of the Kroftts' imagination. It sounds like a 70s child's dream. But only six months later, in November 1976, it was closed. How could something like this happen?

    Via CNNRotatingSquare on YouTube
    An article printed in Old Chicago after the park went defunct which was posted on the site Theme Park Review reveals that the family attraction was plagued with problems from the get-go. The Kroffts borrowed virtually all of the money required to build the park--$10 million--on the condition that all profits would go towards paying off the loan. The park was due to open in February 1976, but a city-wide workmen's strike delayed it to May. Right up until opening weekend, construction was still going on and after the park was already in business, extra walls had to be added around two out of the three rides offered because the sunlight streaming into the Omni Center was ruining the effect.

    Did I mention that there were only three rides? Having an indoor location limited what the park could offer, so obviously sprawling rollers coasters were out, but the World did feature a Crystal Carousel with mythical creatures, a Living Island Dark ride (featuring a Krofft character, Witchie-Poo, as well as giant mushrooms and talking trees) and a Pin-Ball ride, where visitors were propelled through a giant pin ball machine. 


    The Pin Ball Machine ride, via toml1959 on flickr
    The World also employed entertainers including singers, mimes, jugglers, 18-foot tall clowns on stilts, sword swallowers and acrobats, and artisans selling their wares ("hippie stores", as one commenter on YouTube said his mother called them.) There was an Elton John show featuring a puppet that played his music. Animated characters could be found among the World, and there were theaters, food and games, as well as a gigantic ice skating rink. 

    The World of Sid and Marty Krofft opened to much fanfare in May 1976. Jimmy Carter, Tony Orlando and Geraldo Rivera were among the A-listers who got invited along with the local media. The following YouTube clip contains the few remaining photos of that night and the park's history in general, as well as audio sounds that were heard during a visit to the World (just a warning that the music gets...uh...psychedelic creepy towards the end.)



    The World was a cool concept, and a forerunner to Chuck E. Cheese, but it was competing with the nearby Six Flags Over Georgia, which offered a much larger, traditional outdoor amusement park experience for only a bit more money (and which featured a Sid and Marty Krofft puppet attraction.) The Kroffts' park was promoted as an all-day experience, but most patrons found that it only took a couple of hours to see and do everything within the floors and that the only direction one could go once in the park was down to the next level. The Omni Center was also constructed in what was at that time a rough part of Atlanta, surrounded by crime and housing projects. Parents felt it was simply too dangerous to take their kids there. Ultimately, the park just couldn't deliver enough bang for the buck and closed its doors in November 1976. 

    Today, the location of The World of Sid and Marty Krofft is now the CNN center, and all that remains of the amusement park is the massive escalator that used to carry visitors to the top floor. Don't you wish you could have visited it? 

    Here's some color postcards showing more images of the park in its heyday (click here.) 

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    I try not to forget that Go Retro attracts a lot of male readers so as my gift to you guys, here's a collection of vintage ads that matches pretty women with cars and car parts--most of them from the "Dodge Fever" campaign of the late 60s. I don't remember where I found most of these so I'm leaving credit off--but if any of these belong to you, just let me know and I'll gladly link back to your site. Zoom, zoom, zoom...





    As you might guess, the Ford Cortina of Great Britain's 70s roads was promoted as an alternative to the VW Beetle.











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  • 11/12/12--12:12: The End of Telephone Fun
  • Image from Tumblr
    It isn't fun to get telephone calls anymore. Do you agree? 

    I remember when the telephone used to be SO much fun--as a pre-teen and teenager, I welcomed calls from my friends, especially on snow days. Or how about that cheerful ring on the holidays that signaled a call from a long-lost relative; say, your Uncle Joe in Chicago? The telephone in its early days was used for communication among family and friends. What was that Ma Bell slogan? "Reach out, reach out and touch someone."



    Now, then the phone rings, 9 times out of 10 the caller on the other end isn't a friend or a relative. It's almost always someone I don't want to speak to; a business trying to sell me something, someone trying to get me to participate in a survey, or a charity asking for collections, or it's a scumbag scam caller asking for the routing number to my checking account. Things got so bad during this recent election with automated calls being received daily, and sometimes multiple times a day, that everyone I know on Facebook was complaining about it. 

    I am soooo sick of it.

    We have a National Do Not Call Registry, but in my opinion it does little good considering charities, political surveyors and telephone survey takers are exempt, plus your number has to be registered for 31 days before you can file a complaint against a business. 

    Some callers are relentless. Letting the answering machine pick it up does no good--they simply won't give up. So I've started to research a lot of the numbers that I don't recognize that call multiple times, and most of them are survey companies and scam operations. But some charities are no better--I looked up a number today that had called me several times and it was a cancer charity with numerous complaints logged on it. It even made a Forbes magazine list of the worst charities to donate to, since most of the money collected doesn't go to help cancer patients. 

    When I'm home and trying to get things done or relax, the last thing I want is a telemarketer interrupting my day. Can I have my time and solace, please?

    And I know it might be easy to point fingers at the rise of cell phones and the Internet, but I think they have little to do with the proliferation of unwanted phone calls--I could be wrong, but I believe that for whatever reason (the economy, etc.) too many companies and charities have become so desperate for money that they've resorted to cold calling. I guess it could be worse--they could be soliciting door-to-door and ringing our doorbell all day long. 

    Anyways, nothing would make me happier than to see the Directory make some amendments that would at least limit the amount of times in a month that any kind of charity, survey taker or political organization can call your registered number. 

    Let's leave the phone line open for Uncle Joe in Chicago. 

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    Via felixtcat on flickr
    In case you haven't heard the sad news already, Twinkie the Kid is officially retiring. Hostess, the maker of Twinkies, Sno-Balls and other blood sugar-spiking goodies as well as Wonder Bread, is officially going out of business after more than 80 years as an American-made brand. Their union workers have been on strike since September, and the company was unable to reach a deal with them. Additionally, profits were down--probably a sign that some Americans are taking healthier eating habits to heart. 

    Now I was more of a Drake's Devil Dog kid myself, partly because I remember a recurring story that my mother had heard from her Weight Watchers group in the 70s. It was about a lady who tossed a package of Twinkies on a shelf to hide her snacking habits from her husband. A year later, while cleaning the shelf, she found the Twinkies and they looked exactly the same as the day she bought them, which meant they were chockfull of preservatives. This tale has been dismissed as an urban legend, but in 2005, NPR interviewed a chemistry teacher who unwrapped a Twinkie which then took 30 years to develop green fuzzy mold.

    At any rate, I never touched Twinkies (but liked those coconut covered Sno-Balls) and the last time I ate Wonder Bread was when I was 12 years old (remember squishing one slice up into a little ball the size of a marble and popping it in your mouth?) There are tons of copycat recipes out there for Hostess products that you can make yourself at home and are probably better for you since they won't contain food additives. But today, I'm holding a moment of silence for Hostess and offering up a splattering of vintagecommercials. Hostess is dead...long live Hostess...













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  • 11/20/12--20:37: A Plea to Save Thanksgiving
  • Enough of this insanity already
    Yep, here it comes: another cranky ol' lady post. However, the controversy in the news lately over whether Walmart and other retail employees should have to work on Thanksgiving is weighing heavily on my mind.

    Several years ago I worked in retail briefly during the Christmas season when I was laid off from my regular job. There's no way to put this nicely--it sucked. It's a thankless job where you're dealing with bitchy customers, bitchy managers and if you're lucky, getting paid $10 an hour to do so while being on your feet all day. I worked at a Crate&Barrel which had to be replenished every night after closing or the manager wouldn't allow us to leave. In fact, she locked us in until she was satisfied--something that I'm pretty sure is illegal.

    But I digress--I think it's extremely offensive that anyone should have to work on Thanksgiving--or even Black Friday for that matter. What is up with this stupid obsession over Black Friday, anyway? Are we so greedy and materialistic that our idea of a good way to spend the day after turkey day is to wait in line for hours at night and scramble through the opening doors in a mad rush for the chance to get 40% off a flat screen TV? Would it kill retailers to remain closed for at least 24 hours to give their employees some well-deserved rest and a day to spend with family and loved ones? Can they really not take their minds off the almighty dollar for one day?

    Thanksgiving is a day for this:


    And this:


    And this:

    It is NOT, however, a day for this:


    Or this:

    Black Friday, by its definition, has been around since the 1960s. The name was coined in Philadelphia, and was used to define the pedestrian and automotive traffic that occurred in the city the day after Thanksgiving. At first, many stores would open earlier than usual to accommodate eager holiday shoppers--6 A.M. was the average start time. But in the past dozen years, that time has crept up to 5 AM...4 AM...even 3 AM. Now the standard opening for most retail chains is midnight, but some Walmart and Target stores are planning on opening earlier...at 8 PM which is technically still Thanksgiving Day. When will it end?

    I think our grandparents and great-grandparents would be appalled by the spending spree spectacle that Black Friday has become. 

    Somehow, like a pimple, it's grown into this humongous, overhyped holiday event of its own. I sure don't remember the day attracting this much hoopla when I was growing up. How nice it would be to force people to stay home until 8 AM on the day after Thanksgiving, actually R-E-S-P-E-C-T (as Aretha Franklin would say) the holiday, and give the retail worker a well deserved break and a full night's sleep. I wrote a while ago about the death of the Blue Laws and why we should bring them back. I absolutely hope this consumerism and greediness burns itself out and fast.

    Plus, did everyone suddenly forget this year that shoppers have DIED during Black Friday mayhem? People have been trampled; a pregnant woman miscarried. So you could get your dirty mitts on a television set? Really???

    Sadly, with so many Americans out of work, we know that if Walmart and Target employees went on strike in protest, the stores would have no problem finding replacements waiting in the wings.

    I really hope the retailers come to their senses, or some laws are eventually put in place to keep them closed on a national holiday. In the meantime, while the shopping fools are freezing their asses waiting in the dark for a deal on an Wii Thursday night, I'll be warm in my bed sleeping off a turkey coma.

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    It isn't that often that I review films on Go Retro and rarer, still, foreign films. However, Seven Beauties remains one of the best movies I've seen so far in my life--I rank it higher than a lot of the classic epics such as Doctor Zhivago and Gone With the Wind--and its recognition on this blog is long overdue.

    I was first introduced to this movie via PBS, of all places. Don't ask me how they got away with airing it--in unedited form, yet--but it was shown more than once on the same station that gave us Sesame Street and Mister Roger's Neighborhood. It was one of my father's favorite movies and I first viewed it as a teenager. Many scenes from the film have stayed with me...or should I say haunted me...ever since.

    Seven Beauties, simply put, is a movie about survival. One might also say that it is a dark comedy--a very dark comedy, considering the subject matter. It stars Italian actor Giancarlo Giannini as Pasqualino Frafuso, a ladies' man and small time hood from Naples who, by a series of events, ends up in a German concentration camp during WWII. Pasqualino's nickname about town is Settebellezze, or "Seven Beauties"--so called because of his seven sisters. The name is a bit ironic, however, since none of the sisters are exactly beautiful; in a scene that's nothing short of comic genius, one of them (sporting a large facial mole and rotund figure) performs a dance at a burlesque club, only to get jeered and laughed at by the audience (see clip below--although her obscene gestures that I remember her giving to the crowd have been edited out.) This embarrasses Pasqualino greatly, since family reputation and honor are very important to him. 



    Through flashbacks throughout the film, we learn more about the path that sent Pasqualino to hell on earth. When one of his sisters turns to prostitution and takes up with a pimp, Pasqualino decides that the best solution to this is to kill the pimp. He then realizes he has to dispose of the body, so he chops him up with an ax--but not before the large man emits post-mortem intestinal gas, lending to a comedic moment. (Thankfully, we do not actually see Pasqualino doing the ghastly deed.) The body pieces are stuffed into suitcases and shipped to various locations, but Pasqualino is a careless criminal, and he is soon caught, put on trial, declared insane and sent to a mental asylum. 

    At the asylum, he rapes a female patient, joins the war effort to escape the mental hospital, deserts the army with a fellow soldier, and is eventually captured by the Nazis after raiding food from a German home in the Black Forest (while telling the lady of the house how much he admires her daughter's beautiful ass while he watched her play Wagner on the piano moments before.)

    At the German prison camp, Pasqualino faces the biggest challenge of his life. The Nazi camp commandment is basically a female human version of Jabba the Hut; a large, grotesque, whip-brandishing woman played by an American actress named Shirley Stoler. Her character was supposedly based on a real-life camp commandant named Ilse Koch, also known as "The Bitch of Buchenwald." A remarkable tidbit about Stoler that I uncovered is that she later appeared on Pee-wee's Playhouse



    Pasqualino remembers something that his mother told him when he was a child--that any woman, no matter how heartless, can be reached...like a cup of coffee; they must be stirred with a little sugar sometimes to be sweetened up. With that advice in mind, Pasqualino decides to seduce the commandant; in a dangerous move he whistles while in her presence, sings, winks, and weakly smiles until he is invited to meet with her privately. What happens next is a scene that is nothing short of disturbing. Pasqualino practically crawls up She-Jabba's lumpy body with all of his physical strength left; his erection weakened by malnutrition. The dialogue says it all: "First you eat, then you fuck," she tells Pasqualino. "If you don't fuck, then kaput." 

    And it gets worse for Pasqualino. As grim as all this sounds, this movie is actually laugh out loud funny in many parts; thus, that's what makes it so darned brilliant. It was written and directed by Lina Wertmuller, who teamed up with Giannini for several of her movies including The Seduction of Mimi and Swept Away (which later got remade into a Madonna box office bomb.) Never again have I ever seen a film that was able to mix comedy with such a horrific subject while remaining respectful to those who had to suffer through WWII, if that makes sense. In other words, Wertmuller knows when to be appropriately funny and when to stop. With Seven Beauties, she became the first female director to be nominated for an Academy Award in 1976.

    If you don't want to know the ending of the film, skip this paragraph. Pasqualino makes it back to Naples, but there's a sense of sadness and defeat despite his survival. Wertmueller herself has said in interviews that Pasqualino in many ways would have been better off dead than alive and that his life by the end of the film isn't the definition of a life anymore. He's been reduced to a shell of a man and any hint of his previous swagger has been erased. But nonetheless, he is alive. 

    The soundtrack from this film is haunting and beautiful. Tira A Campà is the name of the theme (Google translates it to mean "bell pulls" but I suspect that's not quite right.) This scene contains the theme and also gives you a good idea of Pasqualino's la dolce vida before the war:



    Seven Beauties is a stunner and a must-see for any lover of Italian cinema.

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