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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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    It's been eons since I've been able to offer a giveaway on Go Retro, so I was excited and grateful when a company named Be Retro (a soul sister to Go Retro if I ever heard of one) reached out to me about offering up a giveaway item to my readers and followers. 

    Be Retro has been in business since 2008, and they make a groovy selection of retro bowling shirts for men, or all you cool daddy-os out there. You've seen this shirt pop up on popular TV series such as The Sopranos and Two and a Half Men. I am surprised that it never made an appearance on Mad Men from what I can remember, but even if Don Draper never actually sported one on the show, trust me: you're going to feel like Don Draper wearing this shirt! 

    And HEY ladies -- enter this giveaway, too, for the cool guy in your life you know would love this shirt...your boyfriend, husband, brother, friend, dad, gynecologist (OK, maybe not him), etc. 

    What's great about these shirts (besides that fact I think they're sexy) is they're made of machine washable, easy care fabrics including polyester, rayon, and peachskin -- so if you spill anything on it, no worries, dude. Just toss it in the washing machine. I also love the fact that all Be Retro shirts are made here in the USA, a business practice that is near and dear to my heart. 

    Be Retro asked me to choose a style to give away to one lucky winner. Because we're headed into fall and because not every man is fond of bright, contrasting colors, I'm going with the Houndstooth Rockabilly Lounge Shirt. This shirt is made of rayon gabardine (65% polyester and 35% rayon) and features two tones of brown, one being the snazzy subtle houndstooth pattern on the front. There are two chest pockets and as mentioned, the shirt is machine washable. 

    (Note: although several of the shirt sizes are currently sold out, Be Retro has assured me that they are coming back in stock, so don't be alarmed if the page doesn't have your size.)

    Want to win one of these puppies so you can Mad Men-ize your wardrobe a bit? Here are the rules (don't worry; they're easy):

    1. You must "like" the Go Retro Facebook page if you haven't already done so and live in the U.S. Your Facebook profile should be legit; not a made-up name or fake profile. 

    2. Head on over to Go Retro's Facebook page and look for the pinned post featuring the giveaway at the top of the page (or just access it here.)

    3. Leave a comment on the post before Monday, Sep. 21 at 12 noon can say any ol' thing; I don't care (as long as it's not too dirty!) Feel free to share the giveaway, too.

    4. I will choose a winner on Saturday after noon via WooBox, a cool social media contest app. The winner will be announced on the Go Retro Facebook page. They will email me with their shirt size and mailing address and Be Retro will ship the shirt directly to you.

    5. Get ready to be the coolest cat in your neighborhood sporting your new shirt and mixing up martinis!


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    Growing up on The Muppet Show in the '70s, I figured out right that Miss Piggy was never going to be my favorite muppet. While Fozzie Bear is happy-go-lucky, Gonzo is sweet, and Animal is crazy -- but in a good way -- Miss Piggy is just plain mean. Now with the impending premiere of the sitcom The Muppets on ABC and the hoopla over her split with her long-time paramour (frog husband?) Kermit after nearly four decades, I can honestly say that my disdain for her has not diminished after all these years. She is downright annoying. In fact, I'd go so far as to say she's nearly the muppet equivalent of Debra Barone

    This is one muppet that could make a vegan turn into a carnivore. 

    Where to begin? She's a narcissistic, loudmouthed diva with a penchant for childish, over-the-top behavior when she doesn't get her own way. She was also convinced that she was destined for stardom decades before a lot of our children and teens got infected with the very same "I wanna be famous" disease. And then there's the way she constantly refers to herself as "moi" and uses poor grammar such as "I gets" in a high pitched, phony, singy-song voice. Very annoying, indeed.

    I have enormous respect for Jim Henson and all that he created. But when you consider that Miss Piggy was originally supposed be a minor character until her swollen ego took over, one must wonder what The Muppets would have been like without her. I'm surprised she didn't make herself the center of attention at his funeral.

    She's also a psychopath. More on that in a minute, but I invite you to look at the photo below and ask yourself, is this what normal looks like? She has "crazy eyes" -- the same expression we've seen on every American shooter who has opened fire in public over the past five years.

    I caught part of the Good Morning America interview with Miss Piggy the other morning; of course, the interviewer wanted to know what went wrong between her and America's favorite frog. 

    The question that GMA and everyone else should really be asking is, "Why did Kermit put up with this pig's BS for so long?"

    This pig (gosh, it feels so good to write that) is the biggest hypocrite going; it's OK for her to fling herself shamelessly at male co-stars, but if Kermit so much as looks at a female actress or singer, he gets a "hi-YA!" and a karate chop to the mid-section. Actually, Miss Piggy is downright abusive -- how many times did Kermit get used as a karate chopping block or a punching bag? How many times did we see him go sailing through the air, his head hitting the show's stage curtain? Feminists may argue that she's a great example for women, but if the tables were turned in this relationship and the frog was doing the abusing, OH BOY. 

    Poor Kermit (and sometimes the other muppets) are always the target of her nasty, ugly attitude. She should have been fired a long time ago (and gee, without the makeup and hair done, someone isn't quite the glamour puss she wants everyone to think she is...)

    She even used Kermit as a karate demonstration dummy in this sketch with Cheryl Ladd...

    And he put up with it! You would have to be a dummy to tolerate this kind of behavior. 

    No male guest star on The Muppets was off-limits from Miss Piggy's advances. She even tried to put the moves on Elton John. A gay man. Who does she think she is, Elizabeth Taylor?

    Numerous times she has tried to manipulate Kermit into getting jealous -- an immature tactic that doesn't stick when there are two adults in a relationship. Fortunately, it never worked. 

    And she's superficial, too. When asked on GMA what attracted her to Kermit in the first place Miss Piggy responded with "those eyes" and complimented his body...then added, as an afterthought, that he has a lot of self-confidence as he walks around naked.

    Really, pig? 39 years with a guy...frog...and the only thing you can say about him is he has nice eyes? 

    Meanwhile, the sitcom's site reports that Miss Piggy is now dating Josh Groban -- a set-up that Kermit orchestrated after he "feared for his life." It seems the psycho pig just couldn't let go after the break-up and the fact that Kermit has moved on. It's a wonder Kermit didn't find a boiled bunny in his dressing room. By the way, have you seen his new squeeze? 

    Yes, this is the new she-swine in Kermit's life. A sultry looking redhead with almond-shaped eyes named Denise. (He does like dating outside of his species, it seems.) And this one actually seems to be easy going and has ambitions beyond delusional fame. Good for you, Kermie! 

    As far as Miss Piggy's legacy...I say it's time to retire the porker. Anyone have a spit? I have a craving for bacon, BBQ ribs, and braunschweiger. 

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  • 09/18/15--11:42: The Power of the Do Over

  • One of my favorite movie quotes of all time is from City Slickers -- a flick that I neglected to put on my "10 Films That Have Stayed With Me" post from earlier this year. 

    Sadly, no one has updated the clip I have in mind to YouTube, but it's when Mitch (Billy Crystal) is riding with his two friends, Phil (Daniel Stern) and Ed (Bruno Kirby.) Phil believes his life is a mess. His friction-filled marriage recently ended after he was caught having an affair with a check-out girl at the grocery store he manages that is owned by his father-in-law and as a result he has lost everything, including his job. Mitch points out to him that his life is a "do-over." "You've got a clean slate," he says and reminds him how when they were kids playing baseball and someone hit a foul ball, they'd just yell out "do-over!" and begin a new play.  

    Even though I was only 19 years old when I saw the movie, that line resonated with me way back then and has stayed with me ever since. I definitely made a mental note to file that line away for future use. It was probably the first time I realized that some movies do have the power to inspire us and help us change our lives. 

    If you've been reading the blog for a while, then you know that once in a while I deviate from the pop culture theme with a more personal post, as this one is, and you probably remember that I was laid off from my full-time job a good 18 months ago. When it happened, I immediately thought of City Slickers although recently I've been extending the "do over" phrase to other parts of my life as well. Usually I exclaim "do over!" when a knitting or crochet project isn't coming out right, but lately I've been applying it to anything that doesn't work out or isn't producing desired results after a period of time. For me, it's kind of a gentler way of saying "f--- it" and moving on.

    They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That is exactly how I would describe the modern-day job hunting "game" that I've been doing for the past year and a half. This game consists of submitting your resume, cover letter, and sometimes even references and salary requirements (two things that employers shouldn't even be asking of you unless you're actually at the stage where they want to offer you the position) into a company's job search portal, or as I like to call it, the Black Hole of Application Death. As you may have guessed if you're not already playing it, it's a pretty difficult game to win. 

    I've been doing it, and can't say I was a complete failure -- I did manage to get four interviews last winter, so I must have been doing something right with my keywords. But it isn't very fun, and it is often very time consuming...especially when you have to excruciatingly copy and paste every section of your resume into a company's applicant site, because it couldn't read your nicely formatted resume when you uploaded it. 

    So I recently decided that I am not going to play this game anymore, and I'm not going to follow these rules, despite what job hunting advice sites may tell you. I'm giving my job hunting a "do over." 

    Earlier this week I woke up and was very inspired to try a different technique of job hunting...something I had read about last year but for whatever reason, was too chicken to try at the time. As it turns out, it's also kind of retro. 

    From now on I am going to mail a hard copy letter of introduction, my resume, and some of my writing and marketing samples to hiring managers -- not human recourses personnel -- at companies I can see myself working at. And I'm doing it regardless of whether they have a suitable position open or not. 

    I know, it's pretty old school. It worked for me back in high school when I wanted to leave the grocery store and break into hospitality (such ambition back then!) Can it work now? Honestly, I don't see why not. 

    I'll go into greater detail in a future post about my reasons behind it, and if it's working...but honestly, I feel more inspired about doing this versus pitching a resume into an abyss where no human will ever see it. This also gives me control over where I want to work instead of taking any old job because it's available. If I can't get excited about a company's products and services and/or their employee reviews are overwhelmingly negative on Glassdoor, then I don't want to work there. Being out of work for an extended period of time has definitely given me clarity what I do -- and don't want -- in my next job. 

    My life in general has been in a "do over" mode for a while -- this was a stressful summer for my family and me, with my mother needing bypass surgery, and it feels like my life's path has been put on hold in many ways. On the other hand, I DO believe in the universe's timing...had I received a job earlier this year, I would not have accumulated enough time off to visit her and more importantly, help her out at home and run errands for her until she fully recovered. We also went through a period where everything seemed to be going wrong -- mainly things in the house that required repair and the money to fix them. Thankfully, that seems to have finally stopped. I've also been fortunate enough to get a freelance writing gig, writing 500 word articles for real estate websites about small businesses such as restaurants and non-profits. I also have been given extra hours for the other contract job I have. But, it is a very limited amount of money and for a variety of other reasons, I'd love to be working in an office again, even if on a part-time basis. 

    In a way, I look at every new day as a "do over" -- a chance to begin again, not repeat a mistake, work towards a goal, etc. It's important to note that a "do over" can't always be an "undo" -- what's done is done, and we can't change the past, but we can learn from our mistakes, forgive others (and ourselves) and move on. And personally, I've always been a fan of clean slates. 

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    Who knew that I would be inspired to write about The Muppets twice within a few days? Yet here we are again...and by the way, I would hope that anyone who read my attack on Miss Piggy knows that I was (mostly) trying to be funny. Truth be told, I felt a little bad a couple of days after posting that, especially when I caught the wedding scene between Kermit and her at the end of The Muppets Take Manhattan on cable the other day. (Miss Piggy can be annoying but OK, she has her cute, redeeming moments, too.) Let's just hope she doesn't start using new boyfriend Josh Groban as her new karate practice dummy.

    Anyways, from time to time we hear about how inappropriately sexualized a lot of things are becoming, particularly toys and clothing meant for children. For example, my generation of girls grew up with My Pretty Pony, pony dolls that actually looked like ponies. A few years ago, a new line of horse dolls was released under the name "Struts." If you think that name sounds too much like sluts, then you should see the dolls -- that look like the supermodel version of horses, with high heels, long manes, and -- I kid you not -- bikinis. We could go on and on all day about sexy clothing and Halloween costumes that exist for girls, sexy looking dolls, and what shows up on TV and in movies today. Now I'm hearing that the new ABC sitcom starring Jim Henson's creations set to premiere Tuesday night, The Muppets, is not immune to this trend. It's already causing a buzz for some of the adult imagery and behavior exhibited by...well, the muppets. 

    Case in point -- the other day in my Miss Piggy post, I introduced you to Denise, Kermit's attractive new girlfriend (who has almond-shaped eyes like mine, which I think is hilarious.) Well, it turns out she's a pretty saucy little swine. Here she is making eyes at an older dude muppet while seductively performing fellatio on a pen:

    Zoinks. And the old perv is nodding his head with approval...ha ha ha. (Actually, in that scene she's really looking at Kermit from across the board room.)

    But that's not even really the most disturbing thing I'm hearing about the Muppets' new show. Sex between muppets...and sexy time between muppets and humans is implied. New York Magazine had this to say in their review of the series:

    "One preview for the show includes Piggy telling her co-star [Topher] Grace, in advance of their date, 'Take a long nap, big boy, you’re really going to need your strength,' followed by an extended make-out session, which is observed by Gonzo, who murmurs, 'Cool … Go Topher,' as if mesmerized by man-on-Muppet porn."

    You can judge for yourself by watching this preview of The Muppets posted by ABC -- the kissing scene in question begins shortly after the 5:00 mark. If it isn't awkward already, Grace responds to Miss Piggy's advances with, "I want more of that."

    On a side note, it sounds like Miss Piggy gets around and lives up to her name. (I thought she was dating Josh Groban?) 

    In that same clip it's revealed that Fozzie Bear has a human girlfriend and her father does not approve of his daughter's choice of a lover (icky, huh?) 

    Maybe Fozzie is trying to emulate another sex-crazed bear with a craving for women, Ted. Man, it sounds like the Muppets are more than eager in 2015 to "get things started." Maybe that acronym I can't stand, MILF, now stands for "Muppet I'd Like to F---." It almost sounds like The Muppets want to compete with the cast of Avenue Q

    I'm not going to lie -- I do plan on watching the show, partly now to see how far ABC can push this...but I must admit, I feel a bit sad, too. This is definitely not the Muppets I grew up with or my generation's children grew up with. I get that the producers want to make the show appealing to adults, but they accomplished that nicely without overly sexual content in the 2011 film The Muppets and again with last year's Muppets Most Wanted

    It's one thing when Miss Piggy coos and flings herself at a male costar, but I think it's another thing to see one of them getting tongue-on-muppet action with her, or another muppet. I think back to a lot of the guest stars of The Muppet Show in the '70s...would Roger Moore had agreed to a script where he had to French kiss the pig? Or would Debbie Harry allow herself to be fondled by Fozzie? Hell, no. And how weird would it have felt, as a kid, to watch that?

    One has to wonder what Jim Henson would think of this modern but kind of sleazy direction the Muppets are taking...on the other hand, his original intention for The Muppet Show was so that audiences of all ages could enjoy it. An early version of the show featuring his characters that aired was actually called Sex and Violence and took a more abstract tone compared to the series we would grow up on and love. I guess time will tell via ratings and any complaints what the viewers will think about The Muppets.

    What do you think -- do you think they should keep The Muppets as innocent as they were during The Muppet Show? Or are we just being a bunch of old prudes?

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    A Cove Haven Resort Tub in the 1970s. 
    Motels featuring heart-shaped beds and hot tubs sound like a kinky throwback to 1970s porn or cheesy 1980s soap operas. Thank God they went the way of the 8-track tape, huh? Well, I'm more than happy to burst the bubble of any haters out there, because the heart-shaped jacuzzi is still alive and well in the Pennsylvania Poconos! 

    I was on a Facebook group page of fans of '60s and '70s advertising the other day when a guy posted several photos he claimed were all from the now-defunct Mount Airy Lodge in the Poconos back in the day. Some of the photos were of heart-shaped tubs and one was of a giant champagne glass-shaped jacuzzi -- which, judging by the photo quality and the hairstyles of the models -- didn't look at all that old to me. 

    My hunch was right. After doing some investigating I discovered that the photos of the tubs and jacuzzis weren't from Mount Airy Lodge at all, but from a couples retreat in the Poconos that still exists and seems to be doing a thriving business: Paradise Stream Resort. Actually, there are three resorts operated by the same company, Cove Haven Entertainment, that all feature the heart and champagne glass-shaped tubs: Cove Haven, Pocono Palace, and Paradise Stream

    I realize that today is the last official day of summer and the last thing people are thinking about right now is summer vacation; however, these resorts operate year-round and Valentine's Day is only five months away, folks! You can thank me later. 

    First of all, how cool is it that you get greeted with this sign upon entering the premises for Pocono Palace?

    I didn't quite determine the difference, if any, between the three properties because they all feature suites like this:

    And THIS:

    And this, a gaming room containing arcade machines:

    Tacky? Yes. Bad taste? No doubt. Outdated? Delightfully so. 


    C'mon, who doesn't want to sit in that insane, amazing, seven-feet tall champagne glass with their boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife? (Provided it was scrubbed clean and disinfected after the previous guests checked out. How DO they clean it, anyway?)

    Someone on Yelp actually complained that the place is "stuck in the '80s." Sheesh...that's the point! The suites actually don't look that old to me, but the style is definitely a nod to Las Vegas and the disco and 1980s eras. Some of them also contain massage tables with heat lamps, and mirrored headboards. Yow! I mean, if you're going to be kinky, you might as well go all the way. Even the restaurant's name at one of the locations is called Spooner's. This is the kind of stuff that Austin Powers dreams about. Bring your libido and leave your inhibitions at the door. 

    All three resorts are set on beautiful Lake Eden in the Poconos and feature live entertainment, restaurants, spas, and a variety of outdoor recreation including paddle boats, bicycling, golf, tennis, snow tubing, and ice skating. 

    There's also this kind of creepy Barney Fife-like dude (the resort's Facebook page says he's Officer Billy O; I hope the O does not stand for orgasm) that patrols the premises and busts couples for public displays of affection and hands out tickets. Better safe than sorry: save anything beyond first base for the privacy of your room. 

    Now for the other bad of all three properties are mixed. There's a lot of complaints about the cleanliness of the rooms and the jacuzzis (ewww) and the quality of the food. But, for every negative review there's one that raves about the place, including several from couples who claims they've been visiting for years. Also, the prices aren't exactly the Days Inn and of course, the suites with the champagne glasses cost the most. But for a special weekend or anniversary, isn't your sweetheart worth it? 

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    (Auto-correct wants to write I've been penalized.)

    So this is supposed to be me in a Peanuts cartoon -- I know, the resemblance is striking! It's been hilarious seeing all the grown-ups on Facebook post their versions because basically, everyone looks the same. Every guy looks like Charlie Brown or Linus in disguise. Unlike other sites like Mad Men Yourself, there's really not much room for customization here -- you can't pick a nose or body shape and the eyes are basically the same beady little ones with different eyebrow shapes. Are you a guy (or gal...hee hee) with facial hair? You're out of luck, because eight year-olds with beard don't exist in Charles Schulz's world.

    And in reality all of us adults trying to Peanutize ourselves would end up with a muted trombone for our avatar. Wah wah, wah wah wah wah wah...

    But, if you're bored and curious to see what you'd look like in the famous strip, check out the site Peanutize Me. As you might have guessed, this is part of a marketing push for the big screen version of The Peanuts Movie, which is due to hit theaters on November 6 (I believe the new James Bond movie Spectre opens the same day, so Charlie Brown and company will have to wait for me.)

    I tried to make my Peanuts version as retro as possible; hence, the saddle shoes, sleeveless shift dress, and disco ball. You know what I like best about the dance scene I chose? That crabby loudmouth Lucy isn't in it. So I'm going to go hit on that cute blonde kid with the German name playing the piano in the background, and do the twist with Snoopy. Later! 

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    I think if there's one decorating detail that defined the 1970s -- besides the sometimes retina burning colors -- it's the plethora of plants that were found in homes during this time.

    Look through any modern home magazine or site today, and most of the time you're going to see one or two carefully placed flower arrangements or potted plants in a room and sometimes, none at all. But when I go through photos scanned from 1970s interior decorating magazines or books, I'm sometimes amazed by the amount of vegetation that filled homes -- and public spaces -- back then. 
    I'm not sure why plants were so big during this time. It could be because the world was becoming more aware of environmental issues (Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970) or it may have been a residual effect of the hippie love culture for peace, love, flowers, and all living organisms. Whatever the reason, it's definitely not a bad thing to love plants, but let's face it: some people went overboard like the lady in the photo above. Don't get me wrong, I like plants and flowers, but I can't imagine keeping up with the required watering for some of these homes now preserved online. 

    The one popular plant I remember most from my '70s childhood is the spider plant. I don't know why, but I always had one in my room. They would look cool for a while (especially when they grew "baby spiders") until they inevitably contracted some kind of fungus or parasite (from where, I have no idea -- our house and my room was clean) that would leave bumps all over the leaves and we'd have to throw it out. 

    My mother to this day keeps several potted plants in two designated areas in the foyer on each side of the stairs leading up to the living room -- a design feature that was part of the plans for the mid-century split level home my parents build in the 1960s. (She wasn't too happy when sometime during the '80s, my father thought the same space would be great for his stereo's massive speakers.)

    Anyways, here's a selection of photos found on Pinterest and Flickr when plants of varying degrees ruled the premises. I'm suddenly feeling nostalgic for another spider plant...wonder if Target sells them.

    The two previous photos are from a 1979 book called Planning and Remodeling Kitchens. I'm not sure how you're supposed to water those overhanging plants, but the set up is kind of cool looking (as is the kitchen.)

    Another kitchen ruled by plants. 

    As mentioned, the plant craze wasn't reserved just for homes -- your local mall in the 1970s most likely contained jungles such as this one above. I hear a few small children went missing after wandering into that display. 

    Food court or greenhouse? By the way, I looked up the The Old Spaghetti Factory because I've never seen one around here. Turns out they're mostly on the West coast and in the Mid-west -- and they promise that you feel like you're "stepping into another world" when you eat at one of their restaurants. Each location contains "antique lighting, stained glass displays and an old-fashioned trolley car that doubles as a dining hall." Sounds like my kind of bag!

    Even supermarkets had hanging plants! This image is from a supermarket post I did a year or two ago. 

    Oh, and then there were terrariums, another popular home decor item of the decade. What a shame to think that massive bottle won't be holding wine anytime soon. 

    Macrame plant this is where I really draw the line with putting too many plants in one home. Seems like a good place to also stop this post's plant obsession. 

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    Male heterosexual readers of Go Retro, you may want to turn right around and go back to where you came from -- there's nothing for you here, unless photos of a young Melanie Griffith interest you, and the phrase "sexy piece of hunky man meat" doesn't make you uncomfortable. I'm going shamelessly superficial with this post, because it's all photos of Don Johnson before his Miami Vice days. 

    With Johnson's new TV series, Blood and Oil, set to premiere on ABC Sunday night, I've been feeling very nostalgic for Miami Vice and have been itching to post about its place in television history. (From the promotion I've seen for Blood and Oil, older Don Johnson is still ridiculously hot, too.) However, years before Johnson made Sonny Crockett with his three day-old stubble a household name, he acted in an awful lot of movies and TV series -- most of them forgettable and some of them failed pilots, like the publicity shot above. I have no idea what show this was that featured Johnson as a police officer, but it may be time to take up speeding. He could pull me over at any time!

    Full disclosure: Johnson was my number-one crush starting around the time I was 14 until I was about 16. Little did I know at the time that the man, in his own words, was "trying to set the land speed record" for consumption of drugs, alcohol, and women. Johnson even later admitted to accompanying a drug dealer friend on a deal -- the very type of bad dude his character on Miami Vice was trying to bust! Needless to say, it's a huge turnoff to me today but we're just going to sweep this minor, insignificant character flaw (ahem) under the rug and enjoy these early photos. I think they're proof that Donnie Wayne Johnson  -- with his long locks, beautiful eyes, and killer smile -- really should have been the pin-up centerfold star of every teen crush rag of the 1970s. I know he would have been on my wall for sure. 

    Get lost, Melanie! For those who don't know, Johnson was 21 and Griffith was only 14 when they met on the set of a 1973 film called The Harrad Experiment that Griffith's mother, Tippi Hedren, was starring in with Johnson. I'd post screenshots but the film contains full frontal nudity...yep, you can see Don's johnson in all its glory (sorry, but how could I resist making such a perfect joke?) 

    The previous two shots are from a bizarre 1971 film called Zachariah billed as "the first electric Western" which I wouldn't mind watching and reviewing for Go Retro sometime. 

    This came from Don Johnson's Facebook may have been taken when he was filming his first movie, 1969's The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart. 

    Here's some cute little photo I found from the same movie taken from an early interview with Don:

    Just...stop it....Don, please. 

    Well, you get the idea. If I post any more, my laptop may implode from the heat. Enjoy your weekend...Blood and Oil airs at 9 PM EST on ABC Sunday night. 

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    Yep, you heard it here first on Go Retro: the Old Maid is dead. I'm not a fan of elder abuse, but it was about time someone took that old bag for a ride and dumped her on an abandoned highway in the middle of Kansas. Good riddance! Same goes for the word spinster -- an even worse term someone dreamed up at one point for unmarried women past a certain age. That word always makes me think of a witch...a witch from a Disney cartoon with a big, warty nose who loves to dispense poison apples to innocent children and princesses. 

    Normally on Go Retro I like to celebrate the way certain things used to be in decades past...but I am still very much a modern woman, and of all of the things that are awesome about living in the 21st century, the fact that there's no longer a stigma against unmarried (or divorced) women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond is definitely at the top of my list. 

    That's why I bring up the "old maid" phrase. Do you remember the last time someone used it to describe a single woman? I sure don't (and in fact, I'm not so sure that kids today even play the card game by the same name.) 

    As glamorous as we think the Mad Men world was, the fact is there was a lot of pressure -- even if it was unseen -- on women to get married by a certain age. If you didn't, it was automatically assumed that there was something wrong with you or even worse, a lesbian. Just check out this Valium advertisement from 1970 that alludes to the fact that being single at age 35 will make a woman mentally lose it...

    "You probably see many such Jans in your practice," reads the copy. "The unmarrieds with low self-esteem. Jan never found a man to measure up to her father. Now she realizes she's in a losing pattern -- and that she may never marry."

    That's right. If you're single, you're depressed and let's face it: you're never getting married, so you might as well live the rest of your sad, unfulfilled life in a drugged stupor and adopt several stray cats while you're at it (another dumb stereotype that needs to go the way of the Dodo bird.) 

    Just about any book that takes place in the 20th century presents the notion that a woman who didn't want to get married young was crazy. Remember the lead character, Skeeter, from The Help? She just wanted to write and establish a career first while the snooty racist women in her town were marrying husbands they didn't love, having babies they didn't raise, and constructing separate bathrooms for their African-American employees. Her mother was constantly distraught by her single status. Over the summer I read a book called American Wife which seems to have been inspired by the life of Laura Bush. The lead character is pondering the town's fabric shop clerk, "whose single status into her late twenties had confused and saddened my mother and me."

    Good grief. Thank God those days are gone. 

    I don't know exactly when it all changed for the better, but it seems during the 1990s and beyond that there was a much-needed shift in thinking towards single women. Maybe all of those shows from the 1970s and '80s that portrayed smart, strong, unmarried or divorced career women such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, Alice, One Day at A Time and Murphy Brown finally got through to us. 

    I wrote a post a couple of years ago about the decline of marriage -- but the truth is people are still getting married and marrying later. The official stats tell us that the average age for a woman's first marriage in the U.S. today is 27 while it's 29 for men. That may not seem that much older, but in 1990 -- 25 years ago -- the average was 23 for women and 26 for men. In 1960, it was 20 for women and 22 for men. I'd say we're definitely moving in the right direction. 

    I've found lots of articles lately about people in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s who have found love and are getting marrying for the first time. And let's not forget divorced people in these age groups who get remarried. I'm willing to bet that most of these marriages are going to be much happier and stronger in the long run compared to people who got married in their 20s. Why? Because they knew exactly what they wanted and weren't willing to settle. They waited until they met someone they're really crazy about. They didn't feel the pressure -- from society, from their partner, from their family, or from a biological clock -- imploring them to tie the knot with someone who would just do, because they didn't think they could do any better. 

    I'm 43, single, and over the past year or so have realized how appreciative I am of the fact that I didn't meet anyone and get married while in my 20s (and that I didn't have kids. No offense to the parents out there, but I was born without a biological clock. It doesn't mean I don't like kids or won't date someone with children; it just means I don't want to give birth to one.) In fact, it's been my personal belief for quite a while now that most people should NOT get married before the age of 40 (OK, maybe 35 or a couple of years younger than that if you know you really want to become a parent.) I know that there are exceptions to every rule; some people who meet in high school or college get married and live happily ever after. I just think getting a career off the ground, paying off any college loans, and saving some money should be your main priority when you're in your 20s -- not finding someone to tie the knot with, unless it just falls into your lap. 

    In fact, it wasn't until I turned 40 that I feel I really came into my own as a woman, and know exactly what I want in a partner; what feels right and what doesn't. I also know what my deal breakers are and what quirks a man may have that I'm willing to put up with (everyone has quirks or habits, but some are more tolerable than others.) Not to mention the give-and-take that relationships require and the communication and honesty needed to work out disagreements. It's the kind of perspective most 25 year-olds simply do not have. 

    Not only that, but I'm proud to be able to honestly say at this age that I have no baggage. No children, and no crazy ex-husbands. That can definitely be a plus, believe me. And I do believe that there is a great guy out there who is available, right for me, and a great match with chemistry, a connection, and mutual attraction. 

    Right about now I'm sure there's someone saying, "But Pam, didn't you hear that unmarried women over 35 have a greater chance of being hit by a meteorite then walking down the aisle? Didn't you hear that all of the good ones are taken?" Yes I have, and I hear similar limiting beliefs from other women, especially about what jerks men are -- but that's all they are: beliefs. You may have decided to believe it for yourself and therefore make it your reality, but I have personally recently chosen to change my perspective and adopt more positive beliefs. 

    (Very non-retro related side note here: for those who are interested in the law of attraction and that "woo woo" stuff, I'm reading an awesome book I can't recommend enough called Deliberate Receiving by Melody Fletcher. She goes into detail about the nitty gritty of negative core beliefs, why people believe them, and how to change them for yourself thus changing your life.)

    And I think as married people get older they start to realize how smart it is that us single 'uns hold out for the right partner. A family member -- whose husband is driving her crazy these days -- advises me to savor being single for as long as I can. 

    So fellow single (and divorced) ladies, rejoice. There's nothing wrong anymore with being single and waiting for the right one to manifest in your life. The Old Maid is dead. May she rest in peace. 

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    A few weeks ago I listed what I feel are ten underrated songs from America's "Piano Man", Billy Joel; today, I felt compelled to list ten from the UK's Piano Man, Sir Elton John. It's a funny thing, but I never considered myself much of an Elton John fan until I started revisiting his musical catalog, which has existed for a good 45 years now. 

    Just how amazingly prolific has John's career been, especially during the 1970s? Well, how many artists today release two albums in one year? John did it three times during the '70s: in 1970 (Elton John and Tumbleweed Collection), in 1972 (Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road) and in 1975 (Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and Rock of the Westies.) Actually, in the U.S. Elton John saw the release of three albums in 1975 if you count the American release of Empty Sky, which was really his 1969 debut album but remained unreleased in the States for six years. Today's music industry is mostly about the flash and appearance, but John's talent actually matches the flamboyancy of the costumes and glasses he's worn throughout the years. 

    A warning for the diehard Elton John fans who read this list: you're probably going to hate it. That's because I included several songs from the '80s. I know that a lot of long-time fans are not crazy about the direction John's music took during the decade of excess, namely because he fired his backup band in 1975. However, my love of pop and rock music didn't truly begin until the early '80s, when I received my first portable radio with headphones and music videos were starting to be shown on television. Some of the '80s tunes I've included here have faded from the radio waves and in my opinion deserve a little resurrection. 

    Of course, the toughest part of any of these lists is sticking to only ten songs; definitely a challenge with John's amazing body of work. So please keep in mind that it's subjective, and here are ten underrated songs from Reginald "Reggie" Kenneth Dwight, aka Elton John (and his long-time songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin!)

    "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" (1973)

    The instrumental "rock opera" masterpiece that is the first half of "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" is considered among Elton John fans to be one of his finest compositions. John says he was inspired to write it when thinking about the type of music he wanted for his own funeral, but the lyrics to the second part of the song are definitely about the death of a relationship. The piece kicks off the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album and its sound is reminiscent of Queen and Electric Light Orchestra. It became a set list requirement for many of John's tours throughout the '70s and '80s, and remains a fan favorite. 

    "Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word" (1976)

    Sad, tender, lovely, and a song I think most people can relate to in their lives at one time or another. 

    "Ego" (1978)

    This track from A Single Man pretty much sums up Elton during this phase of his career, when he was king of the music charts and was developing a reputation as a party animal who tore up hotel rooms. Then again, it pretty much could be the theme song of any number of big musicians from back in the day and now. John had this to say upon the song's release: "I wrote the song jointly with Bernie Taupin, and we never thought of it as an autobiography until it came out. It's about the silliness of rock 'n' roll stars, and the video film was supposed to show just how stupid rock 'n' roll can be. It's the grotesque side of rock 'n' roll. And it's turned out to be one of the most sincere songs we've ever written."

    "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)" 1982

    One of John's biggest hits was a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, "Candle in the Wind", that was later adapted as a tribute to Princess Diana with reworked lyrics and renamed "Candle in the Wind 1997". As lovely as that song is, many people may forget that he wrote and recorded a bittersweet tribute to John Lennon in 1982 called "Empty Garden." John and Lennon were close friends, performing together at Madison Square Garden in 1974 at what would be become Lennon's last concert performance, and John is also Sean Lennon's godfather. 

    I get a lump in my throat when I hear the lyrics, "It's funny how one insect can damage so much grain" and "Hey Hey Johnny, can't you come out to play in your empty garden?" John has said that he rarely performs the piece in concert, as it's too painful and personal for him. 

    "I'm Still Standing" (1983)

    This is one of my favorite Elton John songs of all-time; I've always likened it to be the male equivalent of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" and equally as defiant. fun would it  have been to be one of the dancers in the music video? The colorful and fast-paced video is one of the most memorable ones of my teen years and extremely well-choreographed. Fans of Dancing With the Stars will recognize judge Bruno Tonioli in several scenes. A little bit of trivia: while in Cannes to make the video, John ran into the boys of Duran Duran and ended up partying pretty hard with them.

    "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" (1983)

    At the time this song came out I thought the lyric "rolling like thunder under the covers" was VERY suggestive; my, how times have changed! I love the harmonica work -- contributed by Stevie Wonder -- and its doo-woppy tone. 

    "Who Wears These Shoes" (1984)

    A totally forgotten, upbeat earworm from John's Breaking Hearts album released in 1984. Poor Elton gets tormented by an ex-girlfriend and her new amour in the very '80s music video...and rocks a giant heart on his jacket. 

    "Healing Hands" (1989)

    Inspired by the Four Tops "Reach Out, I'll Be There", this is a hopeful song about being able to heal and move on after having your heart broken. It's unclear if the healing hands are coming from divine intervention, another lover, or simply time -- but it's definitely one of my favorites. 

    "Sacrifice" (1989)

    As mentioned, a lot of EJ fans hated the direction he took in the '80s, and I saw at least one nasty barb on YouTube about this next song on my list, "Sacrifice." After hearing it for the first time in many years, however, I personally feel that this is one of Elton's saddest, most beautiful, and thought-provoking songs. The lyrics are deceptively simple to me. There's no doubt that the song is about a married man who has an affair. Where things get a little murky, though, is whether he's dismissing the end of the marriage as a sacrifice and if he's being sarcastic with the use of the word. For the record, Bernie Taupin said the song was about, "the breakup of a marriage where the loss of the relationship is no sacrifice."

    However, I have a slightly different interpretation of the song. I think it could also be about people who stay in unhappy marriages and sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of their children's. The tip-off for me is the lyric, "It's two hearts living in two separate worlds." 

    Either way, it's one of the best ballads that Elton John has ever written. 

    "Something About the Way You Look Tonight" (1997)

    I know I've overused the word beautiful in this post, so I'm going to overuse it one more time: this is a beautiful love song. You definitely don't hear people writing music like this anymore.  

    OK...which songs would make YOUR list?

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    Ever since Elvis Presley's death in 1977, there have been more movies made about him then you can shake a stick at. According to IMDb, a total of 43 actors have portrayed the King on screen, including Val Kilmer, Harvey Keitel, and Kurt Russell. One of the best performances, in my opinion, was by Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the 2005 TV movie Elvis. I thought that he looked like Elvis, spoke like him (I was even more impressed once I learned that Meyers is British), and swiveled his hips like him. Definitely at the top of the heap.

    So who would be at the bottom? Well, I haven't seen too many of the other films for a fair comparison, but Don Johnson's portrayal in the 1981 TV movie Elvis and the Beauty Queen has to be one of the worst. Now, if you saw my post from last week, Young Don Johnson Was Ridiculously Smoking Hot, then you know I like the guy. However, to paraphrase a comment I saw on YouTube under the movie, "Don Johnson playing Elvis Presley is like Colin Farrell playing Sonny Crockett." 

    It isn't Johnson's fault -- after all, someone cast him for this movie. But it doesn't take a genius to see that he doesn't even remotely resemble or sound like Elvis Presley. He can get away with it while wearing the full Elvis regalia -- bad wig, sideburns, sequined jumpsuits, and oversized sunglasses. In fact, if you saw him at a Halloween party dressed this way you'd be inclined to shout out, "Hey Donnie, love the Elvis costume!" But this is a movie...albeit a TV one...and once the sunglasses come off, he pretty much looks and sounds like Sonny Crockett undercover as an Elvis impersonator. He also plays the role at his most Don Johnson-y, the charming mid-Western Missouri boy making jokes and flashing his devilish smile a little too often. The most unintentionally funny moments in the movie come when he lip-syncs to Elvis' real singing voice. One minute he's speaking like Don Johnson, the next minute he's mouthing the words to Elvis' rendition of "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." The stark contrast between Elvis' voice and Johnson's only reinforces how he was the wrong actor for the role. 

    Nonetheless, this is still an OK film, especially if -- like me -- you occasionally miss the entertaining movies that were made for television in the '80s. Elvis and the Beauty Queen is about the relationship between Presley and Linda Thompson, a Memphis beauty pageant winner (Miss Tennessee) and later actress who began dating Elvis during his separation from wife Priscilla Presley. The relationship lasted for four years -- from 1972 to 1976. Stephanie Zimbalist of Remington Steele fame plays Thompson and come to think of it, while she's pretty, I don't think she much resembles the real-life Thompson, but it's still a closer match then Johnson and Presley. 

    In the movie, Linda and her roommate/friend/fellow pageant contestant Jeannie (Ann Dusenberry) meet Elvis at a local movie theater after a friend of Linda's arranges it for them. Elvis is pretty smitten with Linda, mostly due to their shared Memphis roots (Linda tells Elvis that the reason for his split with Priscilla is because she wasn't a local girl -- "you shouldn't have married a yankee.") 

    Things progress pretty quickly from there, and Jeannie and Linda's aunt Betty (Ann Wedgeworth) are over the moon, acting like orgasmic giggly teenagers at the prospect of Elvis' interest in Linda with every phone call, word, and relationship development. 

    Linda is also a little naive. She was only 22 when she met Elvis and a virgin, something that the movie doesn't downplay. As a Southern Baptist girl, she wants to save herself for her wedding night. So when Elvis invites her to Las Vegas, she gets a taste of reality. The female fans in the audience are screaming and throwing undergarments at him, and he gets railroaded after the show by a melodramatic lady who calls herself Su-Su. But the biggest wake-up call is when Linda learns she is to share the same hotel room as Elvis. She insists on a separate room, explaining her reasons, but Elvis is equally insistent on having her room with him, later reassuring her that he won't take advantage of her. 

    Before they consummate the relationship, Linda also gets a glimpse of the portable medicine cabinet Elvis carries with him; pills that help him sleep and pills that wake him up. When she has a headache he gives her two tablets that he claims are aspirin, but end up causing her to fall asleep and stay that way through the whole night. 

    Linda soon finds herself immersed in the King's world -- a never-ending routine of concerts and after-parties that include other women flirting with her famous boyfriend. Elvis sleeps during the day and one day when he begins breathing erratically and can't wake up, Linda has him admitted to the hospital. 

    During his hospital stay she walks into his room carrying a giant teddy bear and witnesses a Benny Hill fantasy come to life -- a nurse is kissing Elvis (who then delivers the lamest excuse ever: that she was just "taking his temperature") to which Linda simply replies, "hot." 

    Needless to say, there are no earth-shattering secrets revealed in the movie and the plot is rather simplistic. We all know that Elvis was addicted to prescription pills and fooled around with other women. Linda begins to realize that having one of the biggest stars on the planet for a boyfriend isn't all that it's cracked up to be; he isn't marriage or father material and is constantly on drugs. One night, a stoned Elvis is playing around with a loaded gun in the hotel suite and nearly shoots Linda when he throws it at her in a fit of rage. And even that isn't the breaking point. Linda feels guilty because Elvis gave her brother Sam a job as one of his bodyguards. In the meantime, she's gotten close to David Briggs (Rick Lenz), one of the studio musicians in Elvis' band who seems like a genuinely nice guy with a normal lifestyle. 

    Eventually, after seeing Elvis trying to self destruct too many times, Linda and the King realize that their relationship has run its course and they end up parting as friends, with Elvis giving Linda a diamond necklace. 

    The real Linda Thompson has said that the relationship "disintegrated into a sexless and gloomy existence." Shortly after the break-up Elvis got engaged to Ginger Alden but died the following year before he could marry her. Thompson later married Bruce Jenner then David Foster (and from what I've seen of recent photos, had waaaay too much plastic surgery done.) 

    As for the movie, it has an IMDB rating of 4.4 stars out of 10; I honestly didn't think it was that bad, but OK, it wasn't great, either. But at least now if the question ever comes up in a trivia contest or you want to impress your friends, you can say with authority that Don Johnson played Elvis in a movie. 

    And if you're so inclined, you can view it here on YouTube. 

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    Although I didn't receive any hate mail about it, I realized after publishing the Rejoice, Single Ladies: The "Old Maid" Term Is Dead post that some of my opinions may have come across a little heavy-handed and could offend some married people, particularly those that tied the knot at a younger age. This is Monday morning quarterback time...but I amended the original post and added some points that should have been included when I first published it. I sincerely hope I didn't offend any married readers and/or parents. Marriage is a personal choice and a lot of work no matter what age it happens for you. 

    I also had to remove one of the images, as I didn't think it conformed to Google AdSense's guidelines on posting content that contains nudity. 

    Now back to the fun retro stuff!

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    I guess you could say one of my retro-related regrets is that I've never been in a home that had a sunken room, or conversation pit. I think my first introduction to the interior design feature was when I saw the Beatles' quirky house in the movie HELP! for the first time -- remember John's below floor level bed in the Fabs' living room? Don and Megan Draper also had a pretty snazzy sunken living room in their NYC apartment on Mad Men. But in real life, I just haven't had the good fortune yet to see one in person. 

    That may change because I've been reading that conversation pits may be poised to make a comeback, or at least they're finding their way into much newer homes from what I've seen on interior decorating sites. However, the photos of sunken living areas that are being added to the newer homes can't compare to the images of ones from the '60s and '70s. There's something about a conversation pit that makes it better matched to a house constructed during one of those decades -- it probably has to do with the surrounding decor and the general atmosphere. 

    To see what I mean, here are vintage photos of conversation pits gleamed from Pinterest and Flickr that are definitely ten of the coolest sunken living areas I've ever seen...maybe you'll agree as well.

    #1: The Pool View Pit

    Talk about having the best of both worlds...and it appears to have a mirrored ceiling as well. 

    #2: The Party Time Pit

    This is easily my favorite of the have a sunken entertainment center complete with an organ (someone notify Roger Sterling), colorful furniture, a modern wall decoration and of course, plenty of '70s plants again. How cool would it have been to throw a shindig in this space?

    #3: The Psychedelic Pit

    I actually don't know how old this photo is, but this conversation pit is very Peter Max and Austin Powers; groovy, baby!

    #4: Quality Father-Son Time Pit

    And they're getting ready to enjoy a meal...where's the fondue pot?

    #5: The Organic Pit

    This one reminds me of The Flintstones with its stone seating, palm trees, and table carved out of a tree trunk. Definitely a yabba-dabba-DO!

    #6: The Shaggy Pit

    This is actually from a 1966 tile advertisement but what drew my attention was the orange shag carpeting. In front of the fireplace, it looks like a cozy place to take a nap. 

    #7: The Teen Party Pit

    They have a fire pit in the pit for roasting marshmallows...and ah yes, a photo of a vintage teen party wouldn't be complete without the requisite guitar sitting off to the side. 

    #8: The Coffee and Cigarettes Pit

    That pretty much sums it up.

    #9: The Pleasure Pit

    This is how you do it: good music on a quad stereo set-up, shaggy carpeting, a leopard print pillow, and your other half in your cozy pit o' love. 

    #10: The Hot Tub Pit

    Just when you think you've seen every outrageous possibility in '70s decor, you come across a photo of a jacuzzi in someone's living room floor. 

    Screenshot from a porn flick, or someone's actual house? You decide. 

    Did you grow up in a house that had a conversation pit, or do you currently live in one or know someone who does?

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    Thirty years ago an iconic music video began airing on MTV and other music video stations. Oh, we didn't know back then that it was about to live on in infinity quite yet, but it's now 2015 and A-ha's "Take On Me" has truly stood the test of time -- it's even been parodied on Family Guy and Volkswagen did their own take on it for a commercial spot a year or two ago. Back in the '80s, most music videos -- if they were done right -- were like short films that told a story, and "Take On Me" should definitely be on any list of the best music videos ever made. It was clever, cute, fascinating, and backed by a good song with a bit of an interesting history, too. 

    Most American music fans may not realize that the Norwegian trio A-ha (made up of keyboardist Magne Furuholmen, guitarist Pal Waaktaar-Savoy, and lead vocalist Morten Harket) is still very much active, recording music, and performing. They just released a new studio album after a five year hiatus (Cast in Steel) and are getting ready to kick off a European and South American tour this month. "Take On Me" may have been the band's biggest and only American hit, but their popularity continued in Europe and the group has sold 80 million records worldwide. The three men formed the band in 1982 in Norway and moved to London that year to launch their music careers.

    "Take On Me" was originally written, more or less, in 1981 by Furuholmen and Waaktaar-Savoy. At that time they were part of a band called Bridges and hadn't met Harket yet, and "Take On Me" was actually being called "The Juicy Fruit Song." After Bridges disbanded and Harket left his own band, Souldier Blue -- joining Furuholmen and Waaktaar-Savoy -- A-ha decided to rework "The Juicy Fruit Song." It then became known as "Lesson One" and while it sounds very familiar to the final version that became "Take On Me", the lyrics and structure aren't quite there yet as you can hear from the second video below...and when Harket tries to hit that high note, ouch! We'll cut him some slack, though, as the final "Take On Me" has an ascending falsetto that he did nail...making it one of toughest karaoke songs to tackle. (Don't attempt it, folks, unless you actually are a pretty good singer or you could do some serious damage to innocent eardrums.) 

    Here's the very early version of "Take On Me" (or "The Juicy Fruit Song") which had a definite rock sound, and then "Lesson One" which it morphed into, accompanied by Furuholmen's keyboard work, who has cited Ray Manzarek of The Doors as a huge influence for his role in "Take On Me."

    According to Furuholmen, the song received yet another title change, this one being "All's Well That Ends Well and Moves With The Sun." ("A very catchy, short title," Furuholmen told Rolling Stone in a 2010 interview.)

    After finally settling on "Take On Me" and being signed to Warner Bros. Records, the band released the song as a UK single in 1984 -- where it quickly bombed on the music charts. It was rerecorded and rereleased again -- where it failed yet again. They also had a music video to accompany the song:

    The U.S. branch of Warner Brothers still believed in the group, and felt the song was hit-worthy. That's where the story of the infamous music video we know and love comes in. 

    The Irish-born director Steve Barron was hired to direct the second video (Barron also worked on Michael Jackson's video to "Billie Jean" and is also best known for directing the profound Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles.)

    I think the reason the video is so endearing to '80s music fans is because the visual effects in it are old school and were accomplished without a computer. (Well, and some of us girls at the time briefly fantasized about being pulled by Harket's drawn hand into that same animated world -- sans bad guys chasing us with a monkey wrench, of course.) For the longest time I thought the animation was credited to the work of one comic artist, but the sequences were actually achieved using rotoscoping, a technique that is a hundred years old. With rotoscoping, live-action footage gets painstakingly traced over frame by frame to create an animated version of it. For "Take On Me", over 3,000 frames were traced over in pencil by several artists and took over four months to complete. To this day we don't know who these artists were that worked on creating the video, but kudos to them! 

    The cute girl who starred in the video as the singer's love interest is an English actress, dancer, and model named Bunty Bailey. She actually dated Harket for a while after making the music video and also appeared in the group's video for "The Sun Always Shines on T.V." which was a minor follow-up hit for the band in the U.S. (At the beginning of "The Sun Always Shines on T.V.", Harket says goodbye to Bailey and returns to his animated form and world.) 

    Bailey appeared on a British show a few years ago called Big Fat Quiz of the '80s and looks...exactly the same. She's as lovely as ever and hasn't aged at all! 

    As for "Take On Me", the U.S. video catapulted it to the top of the charts. It was also released in the UK for a third time, which turned out to be the charm: it peaked at number two on the UK singles charts, thwarted by Jennifer Rush's "The Power of Love" in the number one spot. It finally made the band a smash and they went on to rack up music awards. The music video won six trophies at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards. 

    There seems to be a lesson in the story behind "Take On Me" about the power of perseverance and believing in one's self and talent. Ironically, part of the reason the group then faltered in the U.S. is because they refused to be pigeon-holed as teen idols with songs similar to "Take On Me." They decided to stick to focusing on what they wanted to produce, which has worked very well for them in other parts of the world. 

    And now for old time's sake, here's that infamous music video. Go on, you know you want to watch it again. 

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    "What sort of man reads Playboy?" In light of the news this week about Hugh Hefner's famed mag ditching nude photos from their pages, probably the most obvious answer is, not the type of guys depicted in these ads anymore...these Don Draper, Steve McQueen, and Ron Burgundy wannabes. Forget calling them a dying breed; they're already extinct. So let's take a look at a few bygone examples of nostalgia, before getting into Playboy's changes and the kind of man they're probably now going to set their sights on...

    So yes, after six decades of Playmate of the Month, pinups, and photo spreads of famous actresses and models, Playboy announced that they will no longer publish nude images and the magazine will receive a redesign in March of next year. They already removed nude photos from their website a couple of years ago -- which, oddly enough -- resulted in quadrupling their traffic. It seems that no one really buys nudie magazines anymore (what do the sperm donation clinics use today?) The web has made it all too easy to look at nudity online, making Playboy obsolete. It had lost its shock value in recent years. 

    Had they made this decision in the '70s or '80s, feminists would have rejoiced. Time to retire guys like Roger Sterling and get with the times. After all, it's probably a good thing that women will no longer be exploited in the magazine, right? Well...

    I had a look at the Playboy website for the first time in my life the same day the news broke. If the magazine is looking to reach 20-something guys that are into playing video games or scoping YouTube's latest "stars", then they won't have to tinker with much. 

    The site is just...awful. It's one of the worst content sites I've seen in a long time; horribly designed with an onslaught of random articles on each page that aren't grouped in any logical way. I was really surprised to see such a poorly designed web presence affiliated with the Playboy brand. Why is there a link to an article about beer-making Massachusetts monks under Night Life, for example? Or a dental care article under Style? A link to the apology video posted by the "Mac and Cheese Kid" is posted under Culture. Wait, this is what passes for culture nowadays?

    The joke about Playboy used to be that men only read it for the articles. However, the magazine at one time did give us some insightful conversations with famous people. Maybe Miles Davis, Bette Davis, Steve Jobs, and John Lennon ring a bell, just to name a few. 

    I had expected to see some content from the latest issue on the home page, or anything, really, that resembled journalism. Instead there's a Photoshop mock-up of a fake Tinder conversation between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump and the headline, "Girl Strips Naked in Public Because Her Boyfriend Won't Buy Her an iPhone" under the "Clickbait" section. 

    It's sad...but unfortunately Playboy is changing because today's average man, for the most part, has changed. 

    Even with the nudity -- which, let's face it, was very tame and done in a tasteful way compared to Hustler and harder core rags -- I always pictured the average Playboy reader to be a somewhat sophisticated man; the type of guy that had good taste in style and music, knew how to mix cocktails, and throw a dinner party. He probably had to have some money, because the ads show him driving a sports car, partaking in a luxurious activity, or enjoying an exotic location. 

    A buddy of mine and reader of this blog opined on Facebook yesterday that the new Playboy reader will probably be "an emasculated, meterosexual, feminist lap dog, the sort of guy who always felt that showing an interest in the attractive female form was 'sexist.'" (Ha ha!) Actually, that's higher praise then the typical reader I have in mind after going through the website. If they reprised the "What sort of man reads Playboy?" ads today, I'm picturing a sloppy looking, tattoo wearing, younger Zach Galifianakis type (before his weight loss) taking a selfie. 

    Something interesting to note...Playboy's counterpart for women, Playgirl, is still in business...who knew? Their website contains nudity...and lots of it (accessible by becoming a member of which I am not one, I swear) and the print magazine publishes on a quarterly basis. No word yet if the no-nudity policy will spill over into the sister mag. 

    So, alas, Playboy has already changed it seems and not necessarily for the better. Those nostalgic for the days of playmates, ads for pipes like the one Hugh smoked, and Little Annie Fanny will just have to search for them online. 

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    We've all watched a Beatles cover band at some point. They run the gamut from those with members that don't dress up like the Fabs (Beatlejuice) to the ones that go all-out with costumes and Liverpudlian accents emulating John, Paul, George, and Ringo during each phase of the Beatles' career (The Cast of Beatlemania.) 

    But there's a new Beatles tribute band on the scene -- at least in the New England area -- that is currently the only one of its kind in the U.S.: AfterFab. As you may have guessed by the name, AfterFab covers only the Beatles' solo hits after they broke up in 1970. And I have to say, after seeing them play at the Chelmsford Center of the Arts in Chelmsford, Massachusetts last weekend, I totally fell in love with them. If you're tired of seeing too many guys in shaggy wigs singing "Love Me Do" too many times, then AfterFab is the band for you! (I have nothing against "Love Me Do" or any of the Beatles' songs, by the way; just grabbing one out of thin air as a common example.)

    To be honest, I was in a little bit of a blah mood on Saturday and not all that psyched about going for some reason. I had bought a ticket and posted the show as an event with my Meetup group during the summer, then later found out an annual Octoberfest dinner I really love attending was slated for the same night. I was missing out on bratwurst, spaetzle, and apple strudel. 

    That all changed as soon as AfterFab hit the stage and immediately launched into Lennon's "Nobody Told Me" followed by "Power to the People" and the McCartney-composed Badfinger hit, "Come and Get It." For the next two hours they shook the center's intimate performance hall with a trip through the Beatles' solo careers accompanied by a slideshow that flashed picture sleeves from notable singles as well as introspective quotes from the Beatles themselves on their post-Fab careers. 

    It was such a delight because it's not that often you get to hear John Lennon and George Harrison gems like "Whatever Gets You Through the Night", "My Sweet Lord", "Watching the Wheels", "What Is Life," "Imagine", "Devil's Radio" and others get played live. A highlight for me was hearing the band's rendition of George's bittersweet tribute to John, "All Those Years Ago." It sounded exactly and perfectly like the album version. 

    They also rocked through Paul's "Hi Hi Hi", one of my favorite Macca songs of all time that always gets my hormones pumping notably because of its sexiness and suggestive lyrics. At this point it took all of my restraint not to get up and dance to this song. At some point during the show came "Let 'Em In," complete with the opening doorbell effect and synthesizers nicely substituting for the flute and horn parts. This was in addition, of course, to Paul's standards that he plays during his tours such as "Band on the Run," "Junior's Farm", "My Love", "Silly Love Songs", "Jet", and "Live and Let Die."

    Have I mentioned that a Traveling Wilburys song was performed as well? The band did a fine job on "End Of The Line." Ringo Starr fans, however, may have been wanting more than three hits: "Photograph", "Back Off Bugaloo", and "It Don't Come Easy." This was explained by the band reporting that they were hearing requests for more Harrison songs for their set list (no offense to Ringo, but as a Harrison girl I couldn't complain.)

    The group is comprised of six members: lead singer Jon Paquin, guitarist and keyboardist Adam Boc (also the band's founder), lead guitarist Lauren Passarelli, drummer Tom Evans, bassist Mike Bishop, and keyboardist Bryan Eyberg. Paquin looked like he literally stepped out of the 1970s with his flowing hair and white shirt and pants. He reminded me a bit of Jim Morrison and brought so much energy onto the stage, leaping and clearly enjoying himself while mastering the vocals of each composition, without feeling the need to actually imitate each Beatle's voice. 

    But my favorite band member was Passarelli. When she's not blowing people away playing the tricky guitar high notes and effects that Harrison composed, she's a music professor at Berkeley and actually used to play George in an earlier Beatles tribute band. 

    The only bad thing one can say about AfterFab is their touring base is currently limited to the New England area, and mostly my home state of Massachusetts. But maybe -- to borrow a McCartney lyric -- with a little luck (and publicity) they'll expand their shows to other areas of the U.S. 

    I can't wait to see them again at some point. And dare I say it -- it was even more enjoyable than an Octoberfest meal. 

    Here's a promotional clip of the band from their site but be forewarned -- they sound even better in person. You can visit their site for more info on upcoming performances. 

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  • 10/26/15--17:01: Pumped for Peanuts

  • Am I the only one I know who's planning on seeing The Peanuts Movie when it opens in theaters in a few weeks?

    When I mentioned my desire during a recent outing with my Meetup group, the reaction it caused at the restaurant table were giggles. No, make that laughter...raucous, rollicking belly laughter a lot like Snoopy's trademark "HEE HO HAWS" (accompanied by fingers pointing at me):

    Good grief. OK, it wasn't quite like that, but you know what I mean. These are women that wouldn't think twice about taking their kids or grandkids to see Inside Out, Transylvania Hotel 2, or those God-awful obnoxious Minions (no offense to kids and adult minions fans, but I personally find them annoying and think they look like multi-vitamin tablets.) Somehow, though, Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang aren't quite what you would consider cool  -- or at least, cool enough to shell out money for to see them on the big screen. Too old school, I guess. But in my opinion, old school is cool. 

    Maybe it's a generation gap thing. I grew up on Peanuts. I was 3 or 4 years old when I first discovered them, via those Dell paperback books containing several strips that my sisters would read to me. My oldest sister, in fact, insists that I learned to read (with supplementation by Sesame Street and The Electric Company) by going through the books on my own. I was immediately fascinated by Charles Schulz's characters even at my young age; they were kids not that much older than I was with larger than life personalities. I grasped the sense of humor, the heaviness of Linus' musings, the punchlines, and most of all, I felt empathy for Charlie Brown, an underdog who always seemed to be getting kicked by life. I had Peanuts dolls -- including a dress-up Snoopy -- Christmas ornaments, and assorted toys. Peanuts were absolutely a large part of my childhood. 

    So if anyone should have any misgivings about a Peanuts reboot circa 2015, it oughta be me. But so far, I don't have any. 

    I remember when The Peanuts Movie was first announced a few years ago, there were grumblings and skepticism online by other long-time fans over the fact the movie would be computer generated and in 3D. But I have to say, the more I've seen and heard about the film, the more it looks like the heart and soul of creator Schulz's strip has remained safely intact. Yes, the movie wasn't done in the flat, hand-drawn animation found in all of the TV specials my generation grew up with. But the final product reminds me a lot of something else from my childhood: those View-Master slides that featured three-dimensional Peanuts characters. (Did you know that View-Master is still manufacturing viewers? They can now be used with a smartphone to create virtual reality worlds, but I prefer the reels I grew up on in the '70s.)

    Both Schulz's son and grandson are the producers and writers of the movie. That should at least soothe any concerns that the film won't remain true to the spirit of the original strip and TV specials. And the plot is classic Peanuts: the little red-haired girl has moved into the neighborhood, which sets everyone into a tizzy, most of all our hero, Charlie Brown. 

    The only thing somewhat new is the addition of Snoopy's girlfriend, an adorable French poodle named Fifi (what is it about the allure of French girls?) (Fifi actually made an appearance in the 1980 TV special Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown.)

    I have read some complaints about the music being used in the trailers -- "Baba O'Reilly" by the Who, for example, doesn't exactly invoke images of Snoopy battling the Red Baron. While some contemporary music is part of the soundtrack, film score composer Christophe Beck -- the same guy behind Frozen -- insists that Vince Guaraldi's trademark melodies are used in several appropriate moments during the running time. Also, archived audio of Bill Melendez was resurrected to preserve Snoopy's and Woodstock's vocalizations. 

    My only hope for this movie is that everyone's favorite blockhead finally gets his redemption after all these years; his shining moment of well-deserved glory, a home run and a kiss from the red-headed girl, perhaps? A justification to put his thumbs in his ears, waggle his fingers, and sing, "nah, nah, nah, nah nah nah!" at Lucy and all of the other naysayers. 

    Or maybe not. The movie was produced by Schulz's family members, after all. Nonetheless, I'll be watching and hoping, sometime next month. 

    Here's the trailer for the film, in case you haven't seen it yet:

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    Three years ago at this time, Adele's "Skyfall" -- the theme for the new James Bond movie in 2012 -- was getting lots of radio play. I remember it took a few listens for me to warm up to it, but all in all it turned out to be a fine modern addition to the Bond theme song legacy. Not one of my favorites, especially as I prefer the themes from the '60s through the '80s, but certainly not one of the worst.

    Then I heard Sam Smith's "Writing's On the Wall" for the upcoming Bond film Spectre. Surprisingly (or maybe not) there's been little PR and airplay surrounding this composition. Maybe it's because -- to put it bluntly -- it...well, it sucks. In my honest opinion anyway. 

    To make sure that I wasn't being unfair, I posted a link to the song on Facebook and asked others what they thought. It was unanimous. Everyone who commented thought it was awful, too. 

    I should probably preface this by saying that I'm just not a Sam Smith fan. I find his music too slow and ponderous and I think it's safe to say that he (if even unconsciously) ripped off Tom Petty when he released "Stay With Me" and plagiarism just isn't cool. (For those who weren't in the loop, Tom Petty sued Smith last year because "Stay With Me" sounded too much like Petty's "I Won't Back Down." The two musicians reached a settlement out of court.)

    But despite that, I was ready to give him the benefit of a doubt here and I was open minded to hearing the song, because it isn't that often a modern musician strikes a chord with me. Here's the song, by the way, if you want to listen to it first before hearing my further thoughts...

    For starters, it's too painfully slow. The opening orchestra sweep at the beginning certainly sounds like a 007 theme. But then that droning piano makes me impatient. You would think after "Skyfall" the Broccoli family would have asked for a more upbeat theme, like "You Know My Name" from Casino Royale and "Another Way to Die" that accompanied Quantum of Solace. I nearly dozed off listening to "The Writing's On the Wall" until...

    That falsetto begins. Sweet Lord, are my ears really hearing a falsetto in a Bond theme song? I have nothing against falsettos as long as they're appropriate for the song; Mick Jagger can rock (key word: rock) a falsetto on many Rolling Stones songs, and Prince made the singing style his trademark. However, it just doesn't work on a Bond song. A man like Bond is worthy of a deeper, majestic baritone singing his theme song, like Tom Jones did on "Thunderball", not someone who sounds like Barry Gibb. 

    And the falsetto gets repeated...and repeated...and repeated...throughout the song. 

    I get that the producers like to keep up with the times and have a modern singer record the Bond theme songs, but this one seriously left me craving the classics from previous decades. Something interesting to note: the original motion picture soundtrack for Spectre contains only the instrumental version of the Sam Smith composition; not the sung version. Hmmmm. 

    At the end of the day, I suppose it doesn't really matter what gets used for the opening theme song or who sings it when all I care about is the movie itself and if it's entertaining and well done. But considering that Daniel Craig has been hinting in interviews lately that he's about ready to leave the Bond role, maybe this is a sign that some things in Bond's current world are getting tiring and need some rejuvenating. 

    And call me crazy, but if I'm not mistaken, I thought there was a rumor quite a ways back that Depeche Mode was going to record the theme song for Spectre. "Personal Jesus", anyone?

    I sincerely don't mean to offend the Sam Smith fans out there. The tune just isn't my bag. Nonetheless I'm interested in hearing your opinion -- leave a comment and let me know what you think of it. 

    0 0 has been giving us some great videos this year showing the evolution of style during the past century. Their latest, 100 Years of Halloween Costumes in 3 Minutes -- proves that the old timey Halloween costumes from the beginning of the 20th century were definitely the creepiest. Check out that paper mache mask from 1915 -- yikes!

    It's easy to choose my favorites here: 1935 (adorable), 1955, and especially 1965. My least favorite? That's easy...2015's choice makes me want to vomit. I'm a little surprised it wasn't a zombie, given the popularity of shows like The Walking Dead

    Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone!

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    Vader artwork by Terry Fan for Monde Mosaic
    When the official trailer for Star Wars: the Force Awakens was released a few weeks ago, I thought I heard a collective orgasm from Star Wars geeks ripple through the universe (a great disturbance in the force, indeed!) While everyone is waiting for the movie's release date of December 18 to get here, I thought this might be a good opportunity to point out a huge similarity I've heard between "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)" and two other songs -- one of them from 1932!

    It all started when I first heard the 1997 song "Your Woman" by White Town being played on my local independent radio station a few years ago. "Hey, that sounds just like Darth Vader's theme!" I'd think to myself when I heard the repeated trumpet melody...and every time the song aired in my car on the way to work or home, it would just reconfirm my opinion. I thought it was cool that someone gained copyright permission to sample John Williams' composition, until I did more research into "Your Woman."

    It turns out that White Town was inspired -- not by the Dark Side -- but by a 1932 song by Al Bowlly called "My Woman." Bowlly was a South African/British singer, songwriter, composer and band leader whose career lasted from 1927 until his untimely and tragic death in 1941. He recorded over 1,000 records including the classic love song "The Very Thought of You" as well as "Midnight, the Stars and You" and "Goodnight, Sweetheart." 

    "My Woman" was actually credited to Lew Stone and the Monseigneur Band featuring Al Bowlly. It may have been heavily inspired by Bowlly's heartache at the time -- in 1931 he married a woman named Freda Roberts only to later find his new bride in bed with another man on their honeymoon night (he remarried in 1934 and that marriage lasted until his death.)

    The comments on YouTube for "My Woman" are guy said Darth Vader dons his top hat and cape and goes out on the town to this tune...another said his woman left him so he turned to the Dark Side. Some people thought it sounded nothing like "The Imperial March"...I disagree. In my opinion, there's a huge, almost bizarre similarity here that seems too obvious to be ignored. The question remains...did Williams plagiarize Bowlly? 

    Anyways, here's Bowlly's "My Woman" followed by White Town's "Your Woman" followed by "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)". You can be the judge. 

    By the way, I've found my Halloween costume idea for next year. Why haven't I thought of getting dressed up as a sexy, female Darth Vader before? (She's missing her cape and lightsaber, though.)

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