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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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    Ah, yes--The Carpenters' hit "(They Long to Be) Close to You" is the quintessential 70s love ballad, is it not? It was even Homer and Marge's love song on The Simpsons when they're shown meeting each other for the first time in the 70s. 

    But the song's roots go back to before Beatlemania, and had already been recorded by a few artists before Karen Carpenter's vocals and brother Richard's new arrangement turned it into solid gold in 1970. Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, it was first recorded by Richard Chamberlain--yes, the actor--and released as a single in 1963 as "They Long to Be Close to You" (no parenthesis.) Chamberlain's version is now considered a "Golden Throat" recording; however, I don't think he sounds all that terrible. You can judge for yourself below. The song just didn't have the secret sauce yet to turn it into a hit. 



    In 1964, Dusty Springfield recorded a version of the song that wasn't heard until 1967, when it was released on her album Where Am I Going?


     Bacharach and David's composition made its way to The Carpenters a few years later when it was first suggested to Herb Alpert as a follow up to his number one hit, "This Guy's in Love with You." Suggested as in a song to sing to. I love me some Herb Alpert, but I'll be the first to tell you that he's better suited as a trumpet musician and not a singer. Alpert apparently felt the same way, as he tried recording "(They Long to Be) Close to You" but was unhappy with the results (the recording later appeared on a 2005 Tijuana Brass record called Lost Treasures 1963-1974.) So he gave it to the new act that had just signed with A&M Records, The Carpenters.

    The Carpenters definitely put their own twist on the arrangement of the song. Richard Carpenter said of the experience, "(Herb Alpert) just gave me a lead sheet, and he said, 'I have a recording of this, but I don't want you to hear it. I don't want anything to influence what I may come up with. Just keep, at the end of the first bridge, two piano quintuplets.' That record, that song, the arrangement, all of it, is misleading to the uninitiated, because it sounds simple. And it's anything but simple."

    Because of the Herb Alpert connection, a lot of people think he played the trumpet on The Carpenters' version, but that honor went to Chuck Findley. Carpenter wanted a layered sound for the middle of the song, and tried having multiple trumpet players perform it in unison, but each instrument sounded slightly different. Findley played all the parts himself, then layered them together to get the sound Carpenter wanted.

    Karen also played drums during the first few sessions, but Alpert didn't like her technique, and gently suggested that Hal Blaine replace her as drummer.

    That was probably a wise move, because it allowed her vocals to shine on what would become the brother and sister act's first and most famous hit. An instant classic was born.

    "(They Long to Be) Close to You" earned The Carpenters a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus in 1971, the first of three Grammy Awards they would win during their careers. Of course, it's been covered seemingly hundreds of times to this day--even The Smashing Pumpkins recorded a version of it. Harry Connick, Jr. released a nice track of it on his 2009 album, Your Songs


    But I doubt anyone will ever be able to top The Carpenters.


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  • 07/27/13--17:09: Ms. Go Retro Answers All

  • You know what's amazing? Go Retro has been live for 6 years now and averages around 1,000 page views a day; that's nearly triple the amount it was getting just over a year ago. And that means people like to write to me. Most of the time the messages are cool--accolades for the site or information that folks thought I would find useful. But with "fame" (ha ha; I use that term loosely) comes a price: a few times a week I now get unsolicited email that often have some off-the-wall motives behind them. You wouldn't think so, seeing as how this blog is all about peace, love and Happy Days, but it happens. I thought I'd take a moment to show you some of the messages that I get on a regular basis. Some of this has been improvised from memory, but I think you'll get the drift in a hurry. I'm thinking some of this may be best digested into a "Contact Me" section of the blog eventually, so that we can hopefully stop some of the stupid before it gets to me. 

    Dear Go Retro,

    I write a blog where I gush about Robert Pattinson's chest hair pattern, debate whether Amanda Bynes is truly insane, and share as many One Direction photos that I can get my mitts on. Can we exchange links on each other's blog rolls?

    Generation Zzzzzzz

    Dear Zzzzzzz:

    Well, I think you and others emailing me similar requests need to ask yourself a question: does my own blog/site have a retro/vintage theme to it? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think it's a safe assumption that most of my audience doesn't really give a shit about Robert Pattinson, let alone his chest hair. 

    Dear Go Retro,

    Can you tell me where I can buy retro/vintage style clothing, like the ones I see on Mad Men?

    Sincerely,
    Miss Clueless

    Dear Miss Clueless:

    A word of advice here: Google is your friend. That's pretty much what I have used to find some interesting sites that sell retro style or actual vintage clothing. Before then, I knew no more than the average person on good resources for retro clothing. 

    Dear Go Retro,

    We publish a magazine about serial killers, the PREMIER publication about serial killers, and it's supplemented by a calendar featuring the serial killer of the month. Would you pretty please link to us and give these soulless heathens of society some free publicity?

    Sincerely,
    Psychotic Phil

    I really, really, REALLY wish I could say that I am making this one up. Granted, the interpretation above is slightly different than the actual inquiry I received, but I was absolutely nauseous that such a publication (and calendar) exists. I really was tempted to write this guy back and give him a piece of my mind on what I really thought about the theme of his magazine, but I held myself back because God only knows what would have happened to my personal safety...one never knows when you're dealing with whackos on the Internet. I just deleted it, but if there was ever an email that gave me the heebee jeebies, that was it. 

    Dear Go Retro,

    I write a blog about the latest technological gadgets and my reviews of them. Would you like to be a guest author for it?

    Sincerely,
    REALLY Clueless Nerd

    Dear REALLY Clueless Nerd,

    Sure, if by the latest technological gadgets you mean VHS and Walkman.

    Yeah, this happened, too...and what's really maddening is that when I wrote the guy back and explained that my blog was about retro pop culture, not the latest technology, he clearly didn't even pay attention to my message and asked me yet again if we could post-swap. That's when I lost it a bit by asking if he even READ my blog, pointed out that the name of the blog was Go RETRO and that the LAST thing I'd be writing about would be the latest piece of technology invented to separate people from the real world. Needless to say, I never heard from him again. Go figure.

    Dear Go Retro,

    I'm selling my parents' home and wish to get rid of the mid-century modern furniture. I heard that movie studios like to buy this stuff to use in films. How do I go about doing that?


    Movie Set Mary

    Dear Mary,

    Um...look some up and contact them? Why not just put the stuff up for sale on eBay? Good luck. 

    Dear Go Retro,

    I really enjoyed your post about go-go dancing. Are you a go-go dancer?

    Dancing Fool

    Dear Dancing Fool,

    Only if you count my past lives. Tip: just because someone writes about something doesn't mean they work that profession. Thought that seemed pretty obvious but I guess not. 

    Dear Go Retro,

    Hi, how are U? Do u have any 60s-80s tv shows or tv specials? write ihavenocluehowtowrite@aol.com

    Dear I Have No Clue,

    "U" need to be more specific here. What do you mean, do I have any 60s-80s tv shows or specials? Do you mean do I have any on DVD? And why do you want to know? So you can buy them? Information (and communication) is key.

    Sigh. For the record, I'm still waiting for this email to come in:

    Dear Go Retro,

    We've been reading your blog for a while, and we think you'd make the perfect talk show/TV variety host of your own retro morning show. It'll be called...um...Go Retro . You'll kick off every show doing a dance of a particular era along with your background dancers. You'll get to interview notable celebs and people with connections to the pop culture past. Singers from every decade want to perform for your audience. You'll highlight retro fashion and will show people how to throw groovy retro themed parties. Did we mention we'll pay you $250,000 per show? What do you say?

    Big Joe the Network CEO

    Well, one can dream, right?

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    Image via Bilal Ali Productions
    Editor's Note: Today's post is brought to you by guest blogger and freelance entertainment writer Spencer Blohm. 

    On August 9th, the late, great Whitney Houston would have been 50. To honor this great artist’s career, Go Retro and I have teamed up to bring you some of the greatest moments of Whitney’s career during the decade she owned: the 80’s.

    Whitney had her first #1 single in 1985 with “Saving All My Love for You” from her self-titled debut album. This song was just the first of her record-setting seven consecutive singles in a row, a record which she still holds today. Here in this 1985 live performance on Late Night with David Letterman, a fresh faced Whitney wows the audience as soon as that powerful voice comes bellowing out of that waifish body.



    She followed up her soulful first single with a lighter dance track called “How Will I Know”. The dance floor friendly song showed Whitney wasn’t just a gospel singer, but one who was able to cross genres. Here she performs it live on the Peter Popshow in 1985 underneath a rotating triangle with a rainbow in the middle of it. Because it was 1985. 



    If people were doubting her ability to be a successful gospel/pop crossover before, she solidified she was here to stay with “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” the first single off her second album Whitney in 1987. The song was a massive success, her biggest yet. In addition to earning her a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, went double platinum, hit #1 on the charts in thirteen countries, and it gave us this glorious music video. 



    To counter her dance anthem, she released “Didn’t We Almost Have It All” and became the breakup anthem of 1987. Many a teenage girls spend their evenings crying into their pillows listening to Whitney’s soothing, yet powerful voice tell them of unrequited love.



    For her second dance anthem off of Whitney she chose “So Emotional”, her sixth of seven #1 singles in a row. The music video featured an abundance of hair, leather blazers, guitar solos, and high waisted jeans, yet Whitney’s beauty still shines through.




    So today, we remember Whitney for what she gave us in the 80’s; songs to cry to, songs to dance to, and some really voluminous curls. Happy 50th Whitney, may you rest in peace.

    About the Author: Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment and pop culture blogger for GetDirectTV.org. He grew up listening to his mother try to do her best Whitney imitation in the car on the way to school. His mother is no longer allowed to sing in front of him.

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    When I learned that some kind hearted soul had uploaded several episodes of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman to YouTube, I knew that it was my duty as a retro blogger to finally check out for myself what this show was all about. Much love has been spilled for the Norman Lear-produced series on other retro blogs, so I'll be careful not to overlap too much what's been written about it already. Let me start by saying that my honest impression five minutes into the very first episode is that I thought it was bad--a show full of bad acting, bad dialogue and bad jokes. By the end of the 22 minute running time, I thought it was brilliant. Sixteen episodes in (a mere fraction of the 400+ episodes that were filmed) I am definitely hooked on Mary's whacky and wonderful world. 


    The series was--to use a very cliche and overused term--groundbreaking. When it debuted in 1976, nothing like it had aired on television before, and little else has since (one exception is Twin Peaks, which the show has been compared to.) I'm sure that the people behind Desperate Housewives would like to think that their depiction of suburban life was edgy, but it doesn't even come close to Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. What I'm about to say isn't original (I believe it's in Amazon.com's description of the series) but Mary Hartman was the ultimate desperate housewife. 

    Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman is a soap opera parody, which we gander right away during the opening credits as the lead character's name is caterwauled twice (by the actress playing Mary's mother) over melodramatic music. Norman Lear felt that soap opera dialogue was often repeated. There's so much twisted HUMOR in this series--I like to think that the omission of a laugh track was simply because the it didn't need one. To give you a better idea of the show's unsettling aura, in one episode a school sports coach, drowsy from cold medicine, accidentally drowns in Mary's chicken soup. Other characters met their demise in equally bizarre ways. 

    Mary Hartman, as depicted by Louise Lasser, is--of course--the show's leading character. With her collared pale blue minidresses and pigtails she reminds me of Dorothy, and the suburban town of Fernwood and its eccentric citizens are definitely her Oz. Or, she could be Alice in Wonderland. Surrounding her domestic world is:


    Tom Hartman (Greg Mullavey) - Mary's cad of a husband who refuses to have sex with her.

    Loretta Haggers (Mary Kay Place) - Mary's big-haired best friend and neighbor, who has dreams of making it big in Nashville as a country-western star (but is playing at the local bowling alley in the meantime...in the cutest, sparkly 70s costumes you can imagine every country western singer wore back then.)

    Charlie Haggers (Graham Jarvis) - Loretta's rather physically unattractive husband and Tom's best friend.
     

    Cathy Shumway (Debralee Scott) Mary's single kid sister, who has a new boyfriend every week.

    Mrs. Martha Shumway (Dody Goodman) - Mary's quirky mother, who likes to talk to her plants.

    Heather Hartman (Claudia Lamb) Tom and Mary's ornery pre-teen daughter, who seems to have a sugar addiction and who witnessed the mass murder of the Hartman's neighbors.




    The first episode introduces us to all of them, but Charlie and Loretta Haggers are the most memorable to me. With apologies to the Jarvis family, Graham Jarvis is easily one of the most unattractive men to ever grace a TV screen. What's even worse than his egg shaped balding dome is his body. About fifteen minutes into the first episode, our eyeballs are subjected to Charlie Haggers sans shirt--a sight that is not for the faint of heart. His nipples actually point downward, his skin looks as saggy as a deflated balloon, and his pale, completely muscleless body is covered with a LOT of hair in all the wrong places. Bleeecccccchh! I can only imagine that my reaction was also the sentiments of TV audiences across the country when it aired. Charlie is supposed to be 43 years old and older than Loretta, yet they have the steamiest sex life of all the characters on the show (Charlie tells Mary's husband, Tom, that they get it on 5 or 6 times a week.) At first, I found their frequent on-screen affection to be quite disturbing and icky. But by the 9th episode, the Haggers had really grown on me, and Charlie in particular proves himself to be a good guy, and definitely in Mary's corner during a crisis in her marriage. I kept waiting for Loretta to reveal ulterior motives by marrying Charlie, but they truly support and love one another. (However, I could do without hearing Loretta constantly refer to Charlie as "Baby Boy", her pet name for him. Capitalizing on the show's popularity, Mary Kay Place put out an album under her character's name and one of the tracks, "Baby Boy", actually became a novelty hit.) 



    The Haggers' marriage is in starch contrast to Tom and Mary Hartman's relationship. Tom is the biggest tool on the show. He runs hot and cold with Mary, refusing to give her sex and berating her for trying to initiate it, saying that she shouldn't do anything and then telling her that she's not doing anything "the right way." Hoping to put the spark back in their relationship, a frustrated Mary takes out sex tip books from the library, which Charlie discovers, infuriating Tom who then blames Mary for embarrassing him. Tom acts like a child and his wardrobe reflects it--his Star Trek inspired PJs (not in the above screenshot, however) and matching bi-color jacket and baseball cap look like something a 3rd grader would wear. 



    Because he is such an asshat, Tom has an affair with a woman from the plant, a tall married hussy named Mae who clearly has been around the block too many times, and quite possibly with some of her male coworkers. None of the actors on this show were what you would call good looking (although some male fans do have a thing for Louise Lasser) and in some cases, don't even pass for average. As Mae, Salome Jens is an interesting choice because she is obviously a bit older than Tom--this coming during a decade when a woman over 40 was considered old and washed up and you almost never saw them in bedroom scenes, never mind with a younger man. But sweet karma is served as Tom catches a STD from Mae. 

    Needless to say, Mary has her hands full--with her pervy grandfather aka "The Fernwood Flasher", who is arrested for exposing his crotch to an elementary school cafeteria lady, her cheating douchebag of a husband, and bratty daughter who witnessed a mass murderer that wiped out a family (and their chickens and goat) in the Hartman's neighborhood and who is subsequently kidnapped by the murderer. All that plus a concern that her kitchen floor has waxy yellow buildup.



    What I love best about this show is that in true soap fashion, you never know what to expect. The series addressed so many taboo subjects of the time: sex, masturbation, indecent exposure, etc. that it was often shown late at night, sometimes as late as 11 PM. Just like daytime soap operas, it aired Monday through Friday with continuing storylines.

    And the writing on this show was second to none. One of the best lines I've ever heard that was written for television comes from Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. It's in the scene  below where Loretta, suffering from amnesia, is kidnapped by Harry Dean Stanton. His friend sizes Loretta up and says, "You put a diamond on a slut, it'll turn into a rhinestone ." Then the same character launches into a dialogue about sluts. I'm telling you, Tarantino couldn't have written it better. Come to think of it, dude looks like he belongs in a Tarantino film, too:



    Another reason to love Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman is the gaudy sets. It's as if the Fingerhut catalog showcased rooms in the 70s a la IKEA: we're talking quintessential tackiness of the decade. 



    Spolier alert: for reasons still unknown to me as of this posting, Louise Lasser left the show after only one season. During season one, the writers gave poor Mary a nervous breakdown while being interviewed on live TV (a moment that you can find on YouTube) and she ended up in a psychiatric asylum which was a bit of a vacation for her. When she returned, she eventually left Tom and ran off with Sgt. Dennis Foley, a police officer who clearly has a thing for her from the show's get-go. After Lasser's departure, the series became rebranded as Forever Fernwood. The rest of the cast stayed on and Shelley Fabares joined the show as Tom's love interest after Mary leaves. Forever Fernwood lasted for 130 episodes and was then replaced with a talk show parody called Fernwood 2-Night, which later became America 2-Night. Are you confused yet? 

    It's downright criminal that the remaining episodes of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman may never see the light of day. Perhaps us retro bloggers should band together and petition the distributor for a full release?

    Also, as if the show wasn't cool enough, Sammy Davis Jr. recorded a groovy ode to Mary that incorporates the opening theme--found on his LP "The Song and Dance Man."



    One final thought: I'm seriously tempted to dress up like Mary for Halloween. Then when people ask me who I am, I'll have the pleasure of shouting, "Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman!"

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    Photo via BananaRepublic
    Last week Banana Republic launched its latestMad Men-inspired clothing collection. With previous collections I've always been disappointed by the designs--it seemed like Banana Republic's team was a bit behind by a few years from the current year the show was taking place in. 

    Photo via InStyle
    This time, however, they've taken some cues from Megan Draper's wardrobe and the look for the most part says late 60s, albeit on the conservative side. I haven't purchased anything yet, but I did visit my local Banana Republic store to take a peek. My favorite piece is the graphic green and blue dress that was clearly inspired by one worn by Megan when she seduced Don in his office. It's not too revealing that you can wear it to the office but also sexy at the same time. Made of rayon, it retails for $130.00. I also like the silk mod shirtdress that is typically like the ones Diane Von Furstenburg was designing by the mid-70s (100% silk; $140.00):

    Photo via BananaRepublic
    Then there is this very springlike green and white number. Made of polyester and rayon, it retails for $140.00:

    Photo via BananaRepublic
    I also like the black and white gingham pants, white jacket and accessories, particularly the geometric scarves ($49.50.)
    Photo via BananaRepublic
    I actually think the men have it a little more stylish this time around, with plaid sportscoats, striped ties, textured cardigans (the one shown below is priced at $89.50) and straw fedoras ($45.00.)
    Photo via BananaRepublic
    Photo via BananaRepublic
    I wish, however, that Banana Republic would have made more of the line machine washer-friendly…most of the pieces can only be dried-cleaned or hand-washed, and that is one reason why I'm hesitant to splurge on anything, especially as I have so many other dresses that are even more retro looking than this collection. (And how come there are no miniskirts?) Still, there's enough mod in this selection to get you revved up for the season premiere of the show on April 7 on AMC. Better get to a Banana Republic store or the site soon while the getting's good!

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    We're more than a week into March, but someone needs to get that memo to Old Man Winter: it's snowing to beat the band in New England today. It's days like this that make me daydream about summer and to help me along, I'm listening to Miami Sound Machine. I loved Gloria Estefan's band in the 80s. Estefan met the band's leader, Emilio, in 1976 and they're still married today. They're also still performing although the band's name was dropped altogether in 1989 (when they were called Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine.) I guess it's all about Gloria now, but that's OK.

    This group had so many hits that it's impossible to just pick two to highlight, but "Dr. Beat" was their first from the 1984 album Eyes of Innocence and just doesn't get radio play anymore. As far as videos go, it doesn't get much cornier than this, but it's catchy and helped set the band on its way to fame. 



    "Bad Boys" is another favorite of mine--two versions of the video was created. The original is remembered for the cast of Cats, but there's an alternative version showing Gloria chasing a movie star which I like better, except that only half of the video got uploaded to YouTube (but I'm embedding it anyway.)





    To my fellow East Coasters dealing with this storm, hope you stay safe and warm!

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    Ad via AdClassix
    Man, remember how thrilling it was to get your driver's license? When I was in high school, entering your 16th year was an exciting time because it meant you'd get to drive. You'd savor the sweet feeling of freedom behind the wheel, as you no longer had to be shuttled everywhere by your parents, an older family member or a friend.

    This is a feeling that was shared by teens when they became legally able to drive over the past 50 years or so. But lately, something has changed, as I found out via a few news reports last year. Teens and young adults are no longer in love with cars, driving, and auto culture. In fact, they'd rather own a smartphone or a tablet than an automobile. And many aren't even bothering to learn how to drive. In the 1950s, we would have called these kids "squares." But today it's the norm, and understandably, auto makers are a little concerned about it. 

    The way I see it, there are a few reasons why today's young adults simply don't dig cars as much as previous generations did...


    Image via Classic Style Preservation

    1. Buying/Owning a Car is Expensive. 
    From this point of view, I can understand why today's kids don't want a car: they're expensive, especially when compared to the bang you could get for your buck in the 1960s and 70s. A VW Beetle, for example, retailed for about $1,700 during the 60s. Today's version starts at around $20,000. Even a four cylinder Kia with just the basic features will run you about $14,000. Not to mention there's the on-going cost of maintaining a car--and paying for gas (which is hovering in my area around $3.65.) The price of everything has gone up--except for the average American family's income, or at least not enough when compared to the jump in inflation. Teens and 20-somethings were hit hard by this recent downturn in the economy, and they simply cannot afford to own an automobile.



    2. The Car is No Longer a Means to Freedom 
    Where my generation and others viewed the car as a symbol of freedom, the Internet has become the new path of escapism from school, parents and other responsibilities. I find this ironic considering I feel downright confined after being online for too many hours in a row and nothing else feels more refreshing than shutting down the devices and connecting with people in person--or even reading a good book.

    3. Things Can Be Done Online Instead of In-Person
    Society also doesn't have to rely anymore on having a car to get things done--shopping and so many other tasks can be accomplished by going online instead of physically driving someplace.


    Photo via Life archives/AllPosters
    4. Lack of Car-Centric Places Where Kids Can Take Their Wheels
    Drive-ins, diners, car-hops, and other cool hang out places were synonymous with car culture in the 50s, 60s and 70s. When's the last time you saw one of these places? This begs the question of where do kids make out these days on dates, if not in the back seat of a Toyota? 

    This indifference towards car ownership is hard for me to wrap my head around. How my friends and I loved driving once we were all able to do so--I have many fond memories of trips to the movies, fast food restaurants, the mall, the beach, the prom, (my friend borrowed her father's Lincoln Town Car at the time--we felt like big shots!) each other's houses, and even just back and forth to school. 

    During the warmer months, I still love to get in my car and drive someplace--there's nothing like going to the beach with the sunroof and windows open, the wind blowing through my hair and my favorite music playing. I've owned exactly three cars to date since I got my license 25 years ago, and I've loved all of them--my first car was a 1985 Pontiac Firebird; the second, a 1998 VW Beetle and my current mode of transportation is a 2003 Honda Accord coupe. Since my dad was a big car guy, I've saved all of the vintage brochures he collected on various models around the early 70s and while I'm hardly an auto expert, I usually keep up with the latest models and trends. I've gone to auto shows and vintage car shows (I guess it should come as no surprise that the majority of men you see at vintage car shows are older, retired dudes who scrimped and saved their whole lives to buy the classic vintage beauty of their dreams. You don't see too many 20-somethings as the owners at these events.)

    The muscle cars of the 60s through the 80s catered to the younger crowd...but this is no more. The auto manufacturers aren't making many muscle cars due to lack of interest. I guess it's not the worse thing in the world, since a new driver in control of a 300 hp machine is enough to make anyone nervous, and America's roads are pretty congested as it is. Add in the fact that a lot of people like to text or use a phone while they're behind the wheel and frankly, I'd rather those folks never learn to drive. 

    But as far as I'm concerned, teens and young adults don't know what they're missing...and this constant need to be online and communicate only via text and Facebook isn't doing anyone any favors. I hate to borrow the title of a Rihanna song here, but instead of "shut up and drive" maybe we should be saying "shut it off and drive." 

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  • 08/24/13--20:10: Awkward Ads

  • Sometimes, you come across a vintage advertisement that makes you do a double take. You ask yourself if you're really seeing what you're seeing, or you start to feel uncomfortable looking at the ad. Such is the case with the collection I've gathered for this post. Many of these left me shaking my head.


    Like the first one, above, promoting hair color. I have no problem with the kids being topless, even the girls--they don't have breasts yet. However, I couldn't help but notice that one of the gingers appears to be pinching another girl's nipple. It just looks really awkward and struck me as funny. I imagine this was the result of a photo shoot that was a challenge, trying to wrangle a dozen young kids and getting them to stand still and look into the camera. Come to think of it, some of the adult models aren't even looking directly into the camera. 



    Next up is this Volkswagen Beetle spot. These prints ads made such an iconic campaign for the car, but this one missed the mark severely. "Women are soft and gentle, but they hit things. Most other VW parts are interchangeable, too. Inside and out. Which means your wife isn't limited to fender smashing. She can jab the hood. Graze the door. Or bump off the bumper."

    Yikes. Normally I give passes to retro ads that others find sexist, but this one is undeniably insulting. Could you imagine the uproar it would cause today?



    Words fail me. "Teens too chubby to fit into regular sizes" is really the icing on the cake. Yet, this was frank and honest language for overweight people back in the day. 


    Lord West did a print campaign in the 60s and 70s with the tagline "...and the lady approves" featuring young daughters with their dads. As sweet and innocent as the intention was, the problem is the gesture in this particular ad just seems waaaaaaaay too intimate...they look like they're about to make out. It's too close for consumers' comfort...certainly mine. 

    As if that's not creepy enough, check out THIS male model and daughter. Where the devil did they find this dude? And the little girl looks scared. 



    I don't care what anyone says; male underwear ads of yesteryear are always awkward. Unless you have a solo male model standing modestly, there's no good way to execute these ads...and for some reason, many featured groups of men. I think it's weird that the dude behind the seated guy has one foot up on the back of his chair. 


    But it could be worse. We could always feature sweaty macho men wrestling with the tagline "Let's Get Down to Business." This brand touted its "stretchy seat."



    Or how about we feature three average Joe Schmoes? I feel sorry for the old man...clearly, that is not a Jockey semi-brief but a Depends diaper with extra padding. The second dude reminds me of Judd Hirsch from Taxi and the last guy looks like he's ready to get his freak on with the animal print brief and necklace. Grrrrr, tiger!



    These guys, on the other hand, look like they're cracking up at their matching printed get-ups or are ready to par-ty!



    Feminine hygiene ads always seem a little weird...it's a tricky product to shill, for sure. But for the love of Tampax, why is his face so close to her derriere? If I had a date during that time of the month, I wouldn't want to subject him to...well, to this. Forget the old adage ladies first"...for his sake, he should be ahead of her climbing up the hill.  



    I think I saved the best for last. Talk about an extremely awkward product for children, which is certainly not being helped by the choice of the child model. 

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  • 08/29/13--10:05: Mmmmmmm....Metrecal!
  • When I came across the vintage ad above for the diet drink Metrecal, I was both repulsed and fascinated by it. It looks like Pepto-Bismol gurgling (urrrgh!) in a bowl, but is actually the strawberry flavor of the product. It's ludicrous of the advertisers to think that consumers were going to opt for a can of Metrecal after they mention steak and potatoes in the ad…were they serious???


    Yet, for several years, Metrecal enjoyed much success on store shelves and is often credited with kicking off the liquid diet phase of the 1960s. It was inspired by a concoction given to invalids and sick people (never a good thing) and originally came in a powder form made of skim milk, soybean flour, corn oil and vitamins and minerals that was mixed with water. A couple of years later, Metrecal (the name was a combination of "metric" and "calories") started arriving on store shelves in cans of various flavors. 


    Mead Johnson, the company that manufactured the product, advised consumers to drink four servings of Metrecal daily to lose and maintain weight. At a mere 225 calories per can, that means anyone on the Metrecal diet was subsiding on only 900 calories a day. Mead Johnson claimed that the hunger pains went away after a few days. Metrecal cookies, clam chowder (noooo!) and tuna with noodles were eventually added to the product line, despite the fact that many dieters reported that the liquid flavors were disgusting. In 1960, Time magazine published an article on the Metrecal craze and noted that some people added liquor to their Metrecal to make it more palatable.


    Metrecal inspired many competitors (such as Carnation with its instant breakfast drink) to jump on the liquid diet fad, but by the mid-60s it had already started to lose its luster. People were finally realizing that man could not live on liquid nourishment alone In the late 70s, Metrecal and other products were discontinued after the Food and Drug Administration declared them dangerous due to 59 reported deaths connected to liquid protein products. (Today we have Slim Fast, but that program at least recommends supplementing their products with actual solid meals.)

    Here's a look at some Metrecal TV commercials from back in the day. I'd have to say that freezing the product to turn it into ice cream actually doesn't look so bad...but I still wouldn't try it. 







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    Ad via AdClassix
    Man, remember how thrilling it was to get your driver's license? When I was in high school, entering your 16th year was an exciting time because it meant you'd get to drive. You'd savor the sweet feeling of freedom behind the wheel, as you no longer had to be shuttled everywhere by your parents, an older family member or a friend.

    This is a feeling that was shared by teens when they became legally able to drive over the past 50 years or so. But lately, something has changed, as I found out via a few news reports last year. Teens and young adults are no longer in love with cars, driving, and auto culture. In fact, they'd rather own a smartphone or a tablet than an automobile. And many aren't even bothering to learn how to drive. In the 1950s, we would have called these kids "squares." But today it's the norm, and understandably, auto makers are a little concerned about it. 

    The way I see it, there are a few reasons why today's young adults simply don't dig cars as much as previous generations did...


    Image via Classic Style Preservation

    1. Buying/Owning a Car is Expensive. 
    From this point of view, I can understand why today's kids don't want a car: they're expensive, especially when compared to the bang you could get for your buck in the 1960s and 70s. A VW Beetle, for example, retailed for about $1,700 during the 60s. Today's version starts at around $20,000. Even a four cylinder Kia with just the basic features will run you about $14,000. Not to mention there's the on-going cost of maintaining a car--and paying for gas (which is hovering in my area around $3.65.) The price of everything has gone up--except for the average American family's income, or at least not enough when compared to the jump in inflation. Teens and 20-somethings were hit hard by this recent downturn in the economy, and they simply cannot afford to own an automobile.



    2. The Car is No Longer a Means to Freedom 
    Where my generation and others viewed the car as a symbol of freedom, the Internet has become the new path of escapism from school, parents and other responsibilities. I find this ironic considering I feel downright confined after being online for too many hours in a row and nothing else feels more refreshing than shutting down the devices and connecting with people in person--or even reading a good book.

    3. Things Can Be Done Online Instead of In-Person
    Society also doesn't have to rely anymore on having a car to get things done--shopping and so many other tasks can be accomplished by going online instead of physically driving someplace.


    Photo via Life archives/AllPosters
    4. Lack of Car-Centric Places Where Kids Can Take Their Wheels
    Drive-ins, diners, car-hops, and other cool hang out places were synonymous with car culture in the 50s, 60s and 70s. When's the last time you saw one of these places? This begs the question of where do kids make out these days on dates, if not in the back seat of a Toyota? 

    This indifference towards car ownership is hard for me to wrap my head around. How my friends and I loved driving once we were all able to do so--I have many fond memories of trips to the movies, fast food restaurants, the mall, the beach, the prom, (my friend borrowed her father's Lincoln Town Car at the time--we felt like big shots!) each other's houses, and even just back and forth to school. 

    During the warmer months, I still love to get in my car and drive someplace--there's nothing like going to the beach with the sunroof and windows open, the wind blowing through my hair and my favorite music playing. I've owned exactly three cars to date since I got my license 25 years ago, and I've loved all of them--my first car was a 1985 Pontiac Firebird; the second, a 1998 VW Beetle and my current mode of transportation is a 2003 Honda Accord coupe. Since my dad was a big car guy, I've saved all of the vintage brochures he collected on various models around the early 70s and while I'm hardly an auto expert, I usually keep up with the latest models and trends. I've gone to auto shows and vintage car shows (I guess it should come as no surprise that the majority of men you see at vintage car shows are older, retired dudes who scrimped and saved their whole lives to buy the classic vintage beauty of their dreams. You don't see too many 20-somethings as the owners at these events.)

    The muscle cars of the 60s through the 80s catered to the younger crowd...but this is no more. The auto manufacturers aren't making many muscle cars due to lack of interest. I guess it's not the worse thing in the world, since a new driver in control of a 300 hp machine is enough to make anyone nervous, and America's roads are pretty congested as it is. Add in the fact that a lot of people like to text or use a phone while they're behind the wheel and frankly, I'd rather those folks never learn to drive. 

    But as far as I'm concerned, teens and young adults don't know what they're missing...and this constant need to be online and communicate only via text and Facebook isn't doing anyone any favors. I hate to borrow the title of a Rihanna song here, but instead of "shut up and drive" maybe we should be saying "shut it off and drive." 

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    I'm very pleased to announce my participation in a special event taking place next week--a Valerie Harper Blog-A-Thon! From March 19th-22nd, several cool bloggers and myself will be posting all about the lovely lady who won our hearts over on 1970s and 1980s American television. A big shout-out and thank you go to Amanda from the awesome blog Made For TV Mayhem for putting together this blog-a-thon to celebrating the life and career of Valerie Harper. Want to know who else is participating? Here's the list--be sure to give these blogs and sites a visit!

    Christmas TV History
    Craftypants Carol
    (Not all posts suitable for office viewing!)
    Daily Grindhouse
    How Sweet it Was
    Kindertrauma 
    Michael's TV Tray
    Moon in the Gutter


    My post will be going up on March 19, so stay tuned. Are you a blogger yourself who would like to participate? Just visit Made For TY Mayhem and leave a comment for Amanda with a link to your Valerie Harper post!

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    All images from CityGal on Angelfire
    A few years ago I received an invitation in the mail to be part of a TV focus group event that was taking place at a local hotel. We were told that the group wanted the public's opinions on new TV pilots that had the potential to become full-fledged sitcoms. In exchange was the chance to win free groceries and other prizes. Little did I know at the time that it turned out to be a scam--the "pilots" that were shown to us were clearly anything but NEW programming. The clothing, hairstyles, cars and huge honking telephones were dead giveaways that they were filmed in the early 90s. One show we watched was about a woman who felt she had a past life connection with a love interest. The acting and storyline was so horrendous it could make any soap opera look like Downton Abbey.

    One sitcom that they aired, however, stands out to me to this day because it was the best one. It starred Valerie Harper and was called City. We were told that Harper was considering making a return to sitcom television and the network needed test audiences to provide their opinion of it. What they didn't reveal, however, is that City had already aired its entire 13 episodes on CBS from January through June 1990.

    City was Valerie Harper's return to sitcom television after her previous situation comedy, Valerie, resulted in her dismissal from the show over salary and contract disputes. Harper starred as city manager and widow Liz Gianni, who had to deal with the bureaucratic day-to-day job duties as well as a truly kooky staff (including a stupid security guard who coats himself with White-Out to ensure that no one could ever steal it) and her 19 year-old college dropout daughter, Penny, who is the cause of some household angst thanks to her dating choices.

    Unlike Valerie Harper's iconic Rhoda, Liz Gianni didn't sport headscarves, but she did have some amazing big hair in this series along with feminine power suits. Among her eccentric crew was Anna-Maria Batista (Liz Torres), a Cuban purchasing agent who pronounced "yep" as "jep," Wanda Jenkins (Tyra Ferrell), an African American secretary who was once married to a classical pianist, Gloria Elgis (Mary Jo Keenan), a city social worker and spoiled bubblehead, and Roger Barnett (Todd Susman), the assistant city manager with a weakness for gambling. Everyone reported to the corrupt Deputy Mayor Ken Resnick, played by Stephen Lee. No doubt the producers probably had the unique characters of Night Court in mind when the sitcom was conceived. 

    There were some weird coincidences between City and Valerie, which by this time had been renamed The Hogan Family after Harper's character was written off the show and replaced by a new female character played by Sandy Duncan. The actress who played Liz's daughter, Penny, on City was LuAnne Ponce--the sister of one of the boys who played Valerie Harper's son on Valerie, Danny Ponce. Valerie Hogan's husband on Valerie was named Michael, as was Liz Gianni's late husband on City. CBS also scheduled City to air opposite of The Hogan Family on NBC. 

    City is so elusive in television history that I couldn't locate any video clips to include in my post. For whatever reason, this show failed to secure a second season despite debuting with really great Nielsen ratings which held strongly through April 1990. It's a shame that it only lives on thanks to a lame research company's attempts to pass it off as modern-day TV fare. 

    As far as the research study scam, no real harm was done. They collected everyone's addresses, but I don't think they did anything with them as I didn't receive any unwanted junk mail as a result. Valerie Harper's husband considered suing the research company that aired the pilot of City across the country, as the use was unauthorized. At least these screenings have exposed some folks to a series that deserved to air longer than it actually did.



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    The Valerie Harper Blog-A-Thon that Amanda at MadeForTVMayhem organized still marches on, and it's been wonderful seeing all of the love this week for one of our favorite TV ladies. I've had so much fun reading the other posts that I realized one of my own wasn't enough for me. So today I want to talk a bit about Rhoda Morgenstern's signature bohemian look and how Valerie Harper herself was inspired to create her character's fashion sense. Disclaimer: I'm pulling much of the details from a story The Hollywood Reporter posted a couple of weeks ago. 

    I'm sure that when many of us think of Rhoda, we immediately think of headscarves. "That's so Rhoda" I think to myself when I see someone wearing a scarf this way--even if it's in a fashion photo taken years before television audiences were introduced to Rhoda. Headscarves were to this iconic TV character what a leather jacket was to Fonzie, and what shoes would become years later to Carrie Bradshaw. On The Mary Tyler Moore Show and later for a bit on her spin-off sitcom, Rhoda, Mary's best friend was rarely seen without a colorful scarf tied around her head. 



    There actually seem to be two stories about how scarves found their way into Rhoda's closet. The first is that Valerie Harper's secretary used to wear scarves and inspired the look. 

    But according to The Hollywood Reporter, it was another woman who was responsible for being Rhoda's fashion muse. A forthcoming book by author Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, MaryandLouandRhodaandTed: And All the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show A Classic, explains that Rhoda originally was portrayed as a somewhat dowdy character, with baggy clothes that would keep her blended with the background. But Valerie Harper lost 30 pounds on Weight Watchers, and she was inspired to kick her character's wardrobe up a notch when she saw Mary's stand-in, Mimi Kirk, hanging out on the set one day. 


    Kirk, a self-proclaimed "late hippie" and free spirit of her own, was wearing a scarf around her head and colorful clothing. Harper was inspired and asked the show's co-creator Allen Burns how he would feel if Rhoda dumped the "schlumpy" stuff. Rhoda, after all, was a creative individual; she worked as a window dresser for a department store. Why shouldn't her clothing reflect that artistic quirkiness?

    Burns was all for it and as Kirk told The Hollywood Reporter, she actually made a lot of Rhoda's scarves herself, as not every store scarf was the right size and shape to tie them just so around a head. A lot of Rhoda's headwear was crafted from fabrics including bed sheets and table clothes that Kirk would cut and sew. She also made a lot of Rhoda's jewelry and went to Harper's house for a little closet cleaning, getting rid of anything that Rhoda wouldn't wear. 

    I love this clip that I found the other day, which explains how to get the Rhoda look:




    It's interesting to note that by season three of the spin-off series Rhoda, the character was becoming a savvy businesswoman and underwent a wardrobe makeover, ditching the scarves and bohemian clothing for more workplace-oriented attire. Someone--perhaps the writers, perhaps Harper herself--felt that Rhoda needed to be less artsy and more sophisticated (not that scarves can't be sophisticated.) No matter. Rhoda was beautiful either way--and her trademark accessory lives on in television history. 


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    Photo via The Jane Austin Film Club
    Should I be ashamed that I had never heard of one of England's most prominent department stores, Selfridges, until PBS started promoting the premiere of the series Mr. Selfridge a few weeks ago? This latest Masterpiece Theater series premieres on Sunday, March 31 and stars cutie Jeremy Piven as the wheelin' and dealin' Midwestern American store mogul Harry Selfridge who made a name for himself when he opened up the first department store of its kind, Selfridges, in London in 1909. 


    An illustration of Selfridges' rooftop via Melbourne Blogger
    Big whoop, you may be saying. How exciting can a series about a department store be? That's what I thought until I found out that the flagship Oxford Street Selfridges at one time had a rooftop terrance that showcased gardens, parties, fashion shows, cafes, mini golf and even a ladies' gun club. Harry Selfridge also revolutionized the way customers shopped, by making a trip to the store fun and exciting. He started window displays and has been credited with coining the phrase "The customer is always right." (I am sure that many folks who work in service-related industries would like to slap him for creating that mantra.) Every detail of the store--from lighting to the way salespeople approached customers--was meant to provide a pleasurable shopping experience. Let's hear it for materialism!



    I am sure that the series' producers embellished the Selfridge saga with storylines and events that never took place and will play up Harry Selfridge's womanizing ways (Jeremy Piven looks like he's having too much fun with the ladies in the photo above to portray a dedicated family man.) According to the PBS site, a showgirl and "temptress" named Ellen Love will be one of the women drawn to Mr. Selfridge's charisma. PBS is clearly hoping to corral the Downtown Abbey fans like myself who are going through withdrawal, as the Selfridge promos starting airing the minute the last season of Downton ended. 

    Something sad and ironic to note, which may or may not be portrayed in the series: for all of his success, Mr. Selfridge went bankrupt during the Great Depression, pretty much because he couldn't curb his own spending habits and gambling addiction. 

    I guess we'll see how this plays out when Mr. Selfridge airs the first of its right episodes next Sunday on PBS. Here's a preview of the series:


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    Photo credit: Mathieu Meunier
    I know this blog has been quiet of late…and it's going to be even quieter as I'm leaving for Washington D.C. on Thursday for a mini-vacation and to see the cherry blossoms in the nation's capitol. In the meantime, there's something that's been on my mind lately. Go Retro is now six years old and in all that time there is a type of post I would love to do which hasn't been accomplished yet and that's to interview somebody. That's right, I'm looking for a great scoop--so consider this an open call to find someone relevant to pop culture history who wouldn't mind answering a few questions for this blog. Some of the subjects I have in mind include:

    *Someone who co-starred in a notable music video from the 80s who might have a story or two about the band/performer and the behind the scenes going-ons (I came close a few years ago when I almost got the woman who starred as Alice in Tom Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More" video, but she flaked on me. Pfffft. Her loss, right?)

    *Someone who worked behind the scenes on a notable TV sitcom or variety show from the 60s, 70s or 80s.

    *A former Playboy bunny who worked in one of the Playboy clubs

    *A former go-go or backup dancer for any of those variety/music shows

    *A roadie or groupie for a band/performer from the 60s, 70s or 80s

    *Someone who worked for or had a close encounter with the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, or any other notable music group/performer from the era.


    You get my drift. Anyone who has a good story to tell. If you or someone you know fits the bill, feel free to email me at GoRetro1@hotmail.com.

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  • 04/15/13--11:54: Saxy Songs of the 80s

  • It must be the toughest gig these days to be a saxophone-playing session musician--you just don't hear them anymore in most mainstream music. One recent exception is Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory" which featured the late Clarence Clemons. She gets an A for effort in my book, but the song still falls short of the memorable pop and rock tunes that prominently featured a sax--songs that all these years later we still remember for their sultry solos or melodies. 

    It's so strange to me that saxophones have disappeared as a pop music trend, as they're hip and sexy. And I'm sure we all know that no other decade personified the sax like the 80s did. It seems like every other song on the radio back then featured a saxophone. As with all other lists, this one is purely subjective...but here are the songs that had (in my opinion) the most memorable saxophones... 


    "You Belong to the City" -- Glenn Frey
    I was a big Miami Vice fan in the 80s, even though I was too young to know what was going on in every episode--the opportunity to drool over Don Johnson was my main motivation for watching the show. That, and the flashy clothing, cars and music. Miami Vice probably had the best soundtrack of any drama on TV at the time, and I still have a my copy...on cassette! One track that still stands out is Glenn Frey's "You Belong to the City" because of the repeating saxophone riff throughout. Frey played all instruments on the song except for the sax...that was accomplished by studio musician Bill Bergman. 


    "Urgent" -- Foreigner
    This list wasn't put together in any particular order, but if I had to pick one top 80s saxophone song it would have to be Foreigner's "Urgent." Motown sax legend Junior Walker played on the album version (as did Thomas Dolby on synthesizer.) The whole song just screams sex and it wouldn't be the same without Walker's sax riff and scorching solo. 



    "Careless Whisper" -- Wham!
    A list of notable saxophone songs would not be complete without "Careless Whisper", a song which got overplayed both on the radio and MTV (and which Brooke Shields thought was about her after her breakup with George Michael--ha!) Michael was only 17 when he composed the song on a bus and thought up the sultry sax rift himself.



    "Smooth Operator" -- Sade
    What makes "Smooth Operator" stand out is the sax plays a starring role throughout the song, vs. just having a short solo--just like the character Sade is singing about; a rich, promiscuous playboy. Stu Mathhewman played sax on the studio recording and in the music video. 


    "Maneater" -- Hall and Oates
    Charles DeChant has been a band member of Hall and Oates since the 1970s, and actually plays several instruments including flute, guitar and keyboards. But he's mainly a saxophone expert and "Maneater" was a song that definitely let his sax skills shine. A song with a title like "Maneater" deserves a saxophone. Daryl Hall has said that the track at the time wasn't like anything else on the radio. It reached number one on the U.S. charts in 1982 and stayed there for 4 weeks. 



    "True" -- Spandau Ballet
    Steve Norman (also pictured at Live Aid at the top of this post) was Spandau Ballet's saxophonist, but didn't start with the band that way--he was originally a guitarist. By the third album he introduced the sax to the group's sound, lending a much-needed sax solo to their big hit, "True." 



    "Rio" -- Duran Duran
    British saxophonist Andy Hamilton played with several 80s bands including Wham!, Pet Shop Boys and Duran Duran. He's the saxophone player we hear on the song "Rio" but in the music video, two members of Duran Duran mimic the playing: bassist John Taylor while on a cliff and keyboardist Nick Rhodes on a raft. Hamilton also contributed sax to another DD hit, "Union of the Snake."



    "Who Can It Be Now?" -- Men at Work
    Greg Ham from Men at Work played several instruments, but it's his saxophone playing on "Who Can It Be Now?" that no doubt made the song a hit and introduced the world to the new wave Australian band. 



    There are dozens more songs out there and expanding the criteria here to include the 1970s would have brought Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel to the list. What are your most memorable saxophone songs?

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  • 04/21/13--06:19: The Milkman Cometh
  • Image via Antique Automobile Club of America forums
    The milkman: for those of us born after a certain time in America, we never got a visit from one...no fresh, cold milk waiting for us in glass bottles on the doorstep or in the milk chute every morning. But there was a time for many decades when regular milk delivery was a given. Milk delivery goes so far back that milkmen first delivered the goods by horse and wagon, before the automobile and milk trucks came along. Many people who did have milk delivered recall how the fat (cream) would rise to the top of the glass milk bottles and would be scooped out and eaten (yum!)

    There was even a milkman-themed board game produced in the 1950s, called Merry Milkman by Hasbro. As you can imagine, the object was simple: the first player to deliver all of their milk to the neighborhood won the game!

    Via image Northwest Leeds Tumblr
    By the time I was born in the early 70s, the milkman had practically disappeared from American neighborhoods. It's not difficult to understand why--milk first got delivered at a time when homes didn't have refrigeration and needed to be consumed fairly quickly before it spoiled. In the 1950s and 60s, not only did households have refrigerators, but the first paper milk cartons were being produced, which were cheaper than the heavy glass bottles milk was first carried in. It also cost more money to have milk delivered then buying it at the local store. 

    But the milkman may be making a comeback: in recent years I've seen news stories here and there about how the nostalgic love for milk (and food) delivery is keeping the milkman alive and well in some parts of the country. In Louisville, KY, Ehrler's Micro Dairy delivers milk, cheese, eggs and jam to customers three times a week. In one month alone, they delivered over 800 gallons of milk. 

    A.B. Munroe Dairy of Providence, RI, is another company that provides milk delivery, mainly to the Southern New England area. They've been in business for over 130 years. 

    And what about bigger city dwellers who crave home delivered milk? Manhattanites are in luck; Manhattan Milk, owned and operated by Matt Marone and Frank Acosta, deliver hormone-free milk and other goodies around the New York City vicinity. 

    Interestingly, the milkman never faded away in Britain, where milk delivery remains a trend. As in the States, British milk producers/transporters have diversified their offerings to include yogurt and other foods available for home delivery. In India, milk delivery has never gone out of fashion. 

    I'm not sure if I'd ever use a milk service myself--it's still pricier than visiting a store--but I do like the idea of a milk truck making early morning deliveries and keeping a small bit of nostalgia alive. 

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    Image via Mamecade

    A computer/technology pioneer and the cast of a sitcom that never showed a single PC on the set during their run…a match made in advertising heaven!

    According to an old L.A. Times article, the cast of M*A*S*H* replaced the Charlie Chaplin lookalike that IBM was previously usingto promote their computers in the late 80s. The president of the agency that created the campaign said that M*A*S*H* was a natural fit for the new strategy because they represented teamwork. By the time these ads aired/ran, the popular show had been off the air for five years. Maybe theexecutives also felt that American consumers would appreciate seeing familiar faces to shill computing products. Then again, lots of celebs were showing up in computer print ads and commercials around this time...Bill Cosby for Texas Instruments, Bill Bixby and Tandy and William Shatner pitching Commodore were just some of the celebrity endorsements for computers during the 80s. Whatever the reason, the second commercial spot here looks like a M*A*S*H*/The Office....er, mashup:




    A few years before this campaign, Alan Alda was the spokesman for Atari computer products. Is it just me, or is this commercial a little unsettling? What the heck is Alda doing dressing in a college boy's room, if he isn't his father? Shouldn't Hawkeye be checking out the girls' dorms?


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    Today I'm launching a new post theme for Go Retro: A Song's Story. We'll take a look at some songs from music history that have an interesting history behind them. 

    The reason for my first choice, "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down," is because I have a confession about it: until yesterday, I never knew that Cher was the original artist to sing the song and that Sonny Bono wrote it! Hard to believe, but I always thought Nancy Sinatra took the credit. Quentin Tarantino is responsible for my personal gaffe--like most people of my generation, the first time I heard it was during the opening credits of Kill Bill Volume 1. After the film was released, its exposure inspired a lot of bands and singers to cover it--most notably was "Shot You Down" by Audio Bullys who sampled the Sinatra version in what became a top ten UK hit. 

    However, after hearing Cher's original version which was released in 1966, I'm sold on it and prefer it over Sinatra's. I'm puzzled that I've never heard it on the radio, not even on oldies stations. It's already a haunting, depressing song--the singer is telling about her love who used to play with her when they were children and would pretend to shoot her while they rode on "horses made of sticks." They grow up and she marries him--complete with dancing and church bells--but then he leaves her. She's been shot down again yet again by the creep and it's devastating. But there's something about Cher's version that literally gave me chills as I listened to it twice--first of all, it has a Western/Spanish/gypsy theme running through it. No doubt Bono was inspired by the spaghetti westerns that were gracing movie screens in the mid-60s. It also seems to foreshadow the ultimate demise of Sonny and Cher's marriage in the 70s.  

    The song was released as a single and on the Cher album The Sonny Side of Cher. It reached number two on the U.S. Billboard chart in 1966. Sinatra's version was released the same year and pretty much hid in obscurity until it was chosen for the Tarantino movie. It has a more melancholy tone and an opening tremolo guitar effect. 

    Since its release, the song has been covered by Stevie Wonder, The Beau Brummels, Petula Clark, Vanilla Fudge, Lil' Wayne and Italian, French, German and Japanese artists. Cher herself updated the song in 1987 with a rock feel--but I prefer the original (unfortunately I don't think the audio is synched with this video, but it's the only clip of the music video available on YouTube):



    One cover of the song that I came across the other day and love is this version by a Polish singer named Ania Dabrowska. It was released in 2010 and features some pro drumming as well as a scorching sax solo--this right after I posted about how you don't hear saxophones so much in pop music anymore.



    And there you have it. The song will no doubt shoot me down for many more years to come. 

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    Up until not long ago, I long detested beards on men (well...and on women, too. Ha.) I can't even explain why--I just thought guys looked sexier and more professional when clean shaven, with nothing standing in the way of any food that might fall from their face while eating. But now, I think a short, well-groomed beard is devastatingly sexy on the right man. What flipped the switch for me? It was watching Christoph Waltz play Dr. King Schultz in Django Unchained. That beautiful old timey facial hair is as much Schultz's trademark and accessory as the derringer he uses to blow to hell outlaws and abusive slave owners. Waltz has said in interviews that the beard was like a pet, and throughout the movie he cannot resist twirling his 'tache and smoothing it into shape...a character mannerism, I'm sure, he dreamed up himself. Plus he looks dashing with the right length of whiskers in a debonair brown and gray pattern which calls to mind a 1970s Kris Kristofferson. What I wouldn't give to feel those bristles gliding across certain parts of my body, but I digress...

    We're talking about RETRO beards here! And they are sexy and masculine if done right. 

    Beards have definitely been making a comeback on the celeb circuit in recent years--Ben Affleck, George Clooney, and Jon Hamm are just a few of the men who have been sporting them off camera on a regular basis. However, gentlemen need to take care--and clippers--here, because once a beard grows past a certain length it ventures dangerously into ZZ Top, Ted Kaczynski, Grizzly Adams, biker dude, Santa Claus and crazy hippie guy territory. Also, neck beards are never--NEVER!--ever sexy. I don't care what your hipster friends tell you. 

    With that in mind, I rounded up a collection of dudes from back in the day who I think looked good with a certain amount of beard. Emphasis on good. Jim Morrison looked terrible with that caveman beard of his, as did Mick Jagger. George Harrison's Jesus look above is quite fetching, but then he turned into Rasputin the Mad Monk by the time All Things Must Past was released. So you won't find those examples here. Instead I present...

    Jeff Bridges

    Most of us are accustomed to seeing Bridges sport a goatee as "The Dude" in The Big Lebowski. But how hot was he in Against All Odds with his short, trimmed beard? So hot that Rachel Ward could not resist his charms among the Mayan ruins of Mexico. 

    Clint Eastwood

    The good, the bad, and the beard, which is a little bit of both and not ugly (and by bad I mean BADASS.) 

    Harrison Ford

    After finding this photo, I'm surprised that Harry never really was seen with a beard in his younger years. This is really a quite flattering look on him. Indy, leave the razor at home on your next adventure.  

    Paul Newman

    I don't think anything could have made Paul Newman look bad. Something about this beard...perhaps because it's brown...is bringing out his blue eyes even more. 

    Paul McCartney

    All of the Beatles had beards at one time or another, particular by the time Let It Be came out--I'd like to think they started the hairy trend, after all. Around the time the Beatles broke up, Paul looked like a stoned Neanderthal which is what happens when you get lazy about your beard grooming habits. But here in this photo, with a very short beard, I think he looks absolutely love me do-able. 

    Bruce Springsteen

    While I think The Boss looks better without the fuzz, he can still rock a beard--quite literally.

    Steve Jobs

    It was a bit skimpy in its younger incarnations, but I cannot leave Steve Jobs off a list like this. He did indeed look pretty good with a beard...even better than Ashton Kucher. 

    Robert De Niro

    One of the few times we've seen him with a beard--here with his Oscar for Raging Bull

    Eric Clapton

    Not very nice to the women in his life, but I'm guessing they couldn't resist Slowhand's whiskers. He did look very sexy throughout the 80s with the neat, trimmed beard. 

    Billy Crystal

    How cute was Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally when he had the beard?


    Christoph Waltz

    Well looky who we have here! Dr. King Schultz, the early years I presume. Yeah, I had to end it with that.

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