Friday, December 28, 2012

(Non) Movie Review: Teenage Mother (1967)


It's the holiday season and naturally, that makes me think of teenage pregnancy. You know, Baby New Year? Well anyway, I came across the trailer for this movie the other day on YouTube and it sounded so hilarious and unbelievably craptastic that I was almost tempted to "rent" the online version from Amazon.com for $1.99. Almost. The only thing stopping me is that it contains footage of a very graphic, very horrific actual birth verrrrry close-up to boot. The description of this scene from online reviewers who forced themselves to watch it sounds 100 times more vulgar than anything a horror filmmaker could dream up. 

That's too bad, because Teenage Mother sounds initially like a hoot--a misguided attempt from filmmakers in 1967 to warn young women about pregnancy and teach them about sex education. There's so much contradictory information right up front in the trailer--we're told that the film broke box office records across the country, yet it's being shown as a "special roadside attraction to select audiences only." Then we're told at the end that every parent should take their child to see the movie--dear God, are you kidding me? To see a baby's head being pulled out of a movie screen-sized vagina with a clamp? The man doing the voiceover sounds like he's from Brooklyn, which makes it all the more comical. I can almost picture him chomping on a cigar every time he says, "Teenage Mutha...means nine months of trouble!"

From the trailer, I assumed that the slutty girl in the lead part (who appears to be performing fellatio on a drumstick) was the one who gets knocked up (she did her homework in parked cars, after all, according to the poster) after her actions lead to her being gang raped one evening. In reality, the preview for this film is extremely misleading. It's really about a Swedish teacher who wants to teach sex education to her high school students, which causes controversy. The girl that we see in the poster wearing a watermelon underneath her sweater is only lying about her pregnancy. And she wasn't gang raped--it appears that way in the trailer but according to reviews, she is rescued. No one even has sex! Confused yet? I have no idea what the birth scene has to do with the movie, then, unless it was the secret sauce to scare young women into using protection. Fred Willard, at this point just beginning his film career, has a bit part as a coach: 



The film was directed by exploitation/grindhouse film impresario Jerry Gross (other film titles associated with his name include Female Animal, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and Girl on a Chain Gang.)

I'll pass on watching and reviewing Teenage Mother, but I highly recommend the immensely entertaining trailer:

Monday, December 24, 2012

Seasons Greetings, Go Retro Fans

Image via Cozy Home Chronicles
Well, another Christmas and end of year is upon us once again. Just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who reads this blog, who follows the Facebook page, my Twitter handle, and who has taken the time to leave a comment or drop me a message about something they read that sparked their interest. Go Retro had its best year yet--with increased traffic and new fans. Now that I'm on vacation, you may be seeing the tired banner get some swap outs with updates as I experiment to see what looks and works best for a new look. 

To wish you all happy holidays, I have a special treat. The video below came from my friend Greg over at UMRK Radio (and BTW, Greg hosts a super-duper swell retro radio show occasionally--check out the link if you love those old school radio shows that you remember from the 60s, 70s, and 80s!) It's the Twelve Days of Christmas featuring products that were advertised in the 50s and 60s--be prepared for a LOT of Ford custom built station wagons and Libby's fruits and vegetables!



Have a happy and safe holiday season! Here's hoping 2013 brings us all everything we ever wished and hoped for!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The End of the Christmas Classic

Image from SavvySugar
Nothing beats the old Christmas movies, songs and TV specials of the 20th century--it's as simple as that. When you really think about it, nothing that has been released in the past 15 years that is related to Christmas has the potential to become a classic someday. Most of the newer Christmas movies are painfully lame, such as Fred Claus, which starred Vince Vaughn as the inept brother of Santa (played by Paul Giamatti, who incinerated his talent with this film.) Two exceptions may be The Polar Express and Elf; my boss predicts that by the time his oldest child is grown up, these will be considered classic Christmas movies. But will they stir as much nostalgia as It's A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, or A Christmas Story? I doubt it. 

I also don't remember the last time I tried watching a new animated or musical Christmas special. Last year's A Michael Buble Christmas would have been more watchable if it weren't for a. the horribly unfunny sketch Buble did sporting a mustache and Christmas sweater, b. Michael Buble wasn't such a douchebag in real life, and c. Justin Bieber hadn't been invited to this lame holiday party. Thank goodness for YouTube, where I can find solace in Christmas specials by Andy Williams, Sonny & Cher, and Carol Burnett. And how about those sitcoms?     The Sanford and Son episode entitled "Ebenezer Sanford", where Fred gets even grumpier and stingy than usual during Christmas, is funnier than any holiday themed comedy today. "You don't upset me, Fred Sanford" says Aunt Esther. "I have the feeling of Christmas." "And the face of Halloween!" zings back Fred.

And the animated specials? I don't think I'll ever get tired of A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, or Frosty the Snowman. Sure, the newer animations are slick and computer generated, but they'll never have the charm or the slightly herky-jerky awkwardness of the Rankin-Bass stop motion TV specials. 

On my last post, a few people commented about a fairly newer song called "The Christmas Shoes." Having never heard it before, I looked it up and tried to give it a whirl--dreadful! I think holiday music should be happy and fun, not something that should be played at a funeral. Even the socially conscious "Do They Know It's Christmas?" wasn't this depressing! Right up through the 80s, we had classic Christmas staples being created such as Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" and The Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping." (One exception: I love Bob Dylan's "It Must Be Santa" from his 2009 Christmas album.) Nowadays it seems like only the country folks are writing newer Christmas music, and the older crooners like Rod Stewart are covering the same old songs. 

I guess it goes hand-in-hand with the complaints about Hollywood that we've been hearing for a while now: lack of imagination.

And it isn't that I'm being an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy on purpose...I really have given the newer Christmas movies, music and specials a try...they just aren't for me, and I don't think any of them are on schedule to go down in history as pop culture classics. If anyone thinks that there are exceptions worth checking out, I'm open to hearing about them. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Most Annoying Christmas Song


Is it "Dominick the Christmas Donkey"? The Chipmunks' "Christmas Don't Be Late"?

No. For me, the song that's become the yuletide equivalent of a dentist's drill is "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" sung by Gayla Peevey. Even her name sounds annoying (I'm sorry, Gayla, if you happen to read this.) This spoiled brat wants Santa to bring her not a dollhouse or a pony--but a hippo, apparently unaware that hippos can charge after humans and snap their body in two (someone get Gayla a hippo pronto!) 

Gayla was ten years old when this novelty became a hit in 1953, and she even performed it on The Ed Sullivan Show. Her voice is a little easier to take when she's singing on a variety show set. And guess what? Gayla got her wish. An Oklahoma radio station launched a campaign to raise money to give her a hippopotamus for Christmas. She was presented with a hippo, named Matilda, which she donated to the local zoo. 



When Gayla was a little older, she performed under the name Jamie Horton and had a minor hit with "My Little Marine" in 1960. 

What holiday song bugs you the most?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Forgotten Allure of Fur


Genuine fur clothing has become so taboo during the past 15 years or so that I don't remember the last time I saw an ad for a fur coat. Very few people today, it seems, dare to wear real fur. Each time I walk into my local Macy's I use the entrance right near the fur salon, and I have yet to see anyone in there other than the saleswomen. If a designer releases a fur item or a celebrity is spotted wearing fur, he/she receives a lot of bad publicity. 

That wasn't always the case. Before animal welfare groups such as PETA were formed and shed a light on the fur industry, people were blissfully unaware of how cruelly fur was farmed. For many decades, fur was seen as glamorous and coveted; the ultimate present a woman could receive from her suitor, back in the day, was often a fur coat. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tragedy


I'm taking a break from the retro posts today to say a few words about the horrific news yesterday, which I'm sure has been weighing heavily on everyone's mind. The incident made me think back to when I was in kindergarten myself. I was five years old. I knew what death was, having experienced the death of my grandfather and a beloved cat by that age, but I'm not sure I knew the concept of murder yet. Had something like that happened when I was in kindergarten, I doubt that any of us could have comprehended what was going on. My heart, thoughts and prayers go out not only to the victims, but everyone who was affected by this inconceivable tragedy. It boggles my mind to think that 27 families are not going to have much of a Christmas or holiday celebration. 

For whatever reason, today's world is not the same one as the one I grew up in. I remember the turning point was when Adam Walsh was abducted and found dead in the early 80s--suddenly, as a kid, I didn't feel quite so safe being outside on my own anymore, knowing that there were monsters who wanted to harm children. But now things have gotten so far off the deep edge and out of control, I don't know what the threshold is anymore. That isn't to say, of course, that people weren't hurting and killing each other back in my parents' and grandparents' times. No, the world wasn't perfect. We had wars, discrimination, and corrupt politicians. But mass shootings? Unheard of. 

It's this nostalgia for different and often, better times that keeps this blog going. As I was telling a coworker at my company's holiday party last night, it makes me feel good when people tell me my posts bring back nice memories.  

I'm grateful for all of my readers who visit and enjoy this site--and I wish you all the best for the holiday season, with loved ones who are safe and close at hand. May you all have plenty to be grateful for and may we figure out some ways to make the world a safer place starting in 2013. 

Someone posted this song on Facebook yesterday; it seemed highly appropriate.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mickey Mouse and Sex Ed: The Story of Menstruation


If I told you that a Disney-produced film was responsible for the first on-screen mention of the word vagina, would you believe me? Well believe it, folks--and file that tidbit away in your noggin in case you're ever a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

The film in question is called The Story of Menstruation and I came across it the other night on--what else--YouTube. This was a 1946 educational animated short shown in American high schools to teach young ladies about their menstrual cycle. I actually think it's well-done for its time; as expected, it does not mention sexual intercourse or exactly how women get pregnant, but it does dispel some old wives' tales about getting a period. My only complaint is that it downplays menstrual cramp pain ("some girls may feel an occasional twinge"...yeah, right. More like pass the ibuprofen before I pass out, please!) It also seems to be saying that if you powder your face and toughen up your attitude, you'll be over your PMS in no time at all. And stand up straight, girls! "Let those organs function the way they were intended." 

YouTube says the video was banned, but I couldn't find any information elsewhere that confirms this. Wikipedia claims it was shown in high schools for some time, and came with a companion booklet for each student called Very Personally Yours, which featured advertising by Kotex. 

Walt Disney Corporation never renewed the copyright for the film, so it's now in the public domain and can be freely shared. 

Here's the video. It would be too weird to say "enjoy", right?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Forgotten Teen Idols: The Williams Brothers

Image via MainStreetMallOnline
Long before the world had heard of Justin Bieber and One Direction, there were Andy and David Williams--nephews of the late Andy Williams (by the way, it's hard to believe this holiday season is the first one without Andy still with us.) These twin brothers are probably best known for their appearance in 1974 on The Partridge Family where they had the hots for Laurie Partridge, played by Susan Dey:


They released a few albums in the 70s--mostly capitalizing on The Partridge Family connection. I actually don't think their songs were bad at all--catchy, upbeat music to make young girls swoon, like this doo-wopish, moderate hit they had called "What's Your Name?"


After the album releases, they seem to have made an awful lot of appearances in the teen mags from the day--but oddly enough, I've never heard any woman who grew up during the era say that they had a crush on these kids or even remember much about them. It seems any popularity at the time was due to their connection to their famous uncle and of course, they appeared on his Christmas television specials. Here's a clip of them performing "Hello Mary Lou" on the 1973 Andy Williams Christmas program:


For young teens, they have surprisingly mature voices compared to some of today's singers in the same age range.

After the limelight died down, the Williams boys did some growing up and studied music. In the 90s, they re-emereged on the music scene and had a 1991 hit called "Can't Cry Hard Enough."

Something interesting to note about the duo is that for the second act of their musical career, they shed the bubblegum pop personas for more serious music--opening shows for Suzanne Vega and Roy Orbison. Critics had good things to say about their work, comparing their harmonies to The Everly Brothers, R.E.M. and Bruce Hornsby--which makes it all the more perplexing why we haven't heard more about them since their teeny bopper years. 

David Williams announced in 1994 that he was gay. As of late, there hasn't been much information about Andy and David Williams. Anyone know what they might be up to these days?

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Deodorant Ads: The Shame of Body Stench


Body odor. It's a scourge that has plagued humankind since the dawn of time, wrecking havoc on one's social life. And that's just the angle that advertisers used to shame people into practicing better hygiene. These ads say, "Hey, you. Yes, YOU. In case you haven't noticed by your lack of a dating life and friendship, you stink. Use our product." Well, some of them wouldn't be too far off the mark. After all, no one wants to kiss or hang out with someone who smells like the monkey exhibit at the zoo. 





Two ads that warned how B.O. can cause Old Maid syndrome, too. 


Wait--did I just read that overweight people stink more than average weight people? Did I just see the words "stout" and "plump"? Yes, we did. This is not so much an ad, but an advertorial from a 1962 Woman's Day. However, what I find most disturbing about it is the accompanying photo of the girl who appears to be anything but "plump." I hope not too many girls who saw this ad said to themselves, "Wait, I look just like the girl in the photo. I guess I'm fat." 



For some reason, the 70s ushered in an obsession with feminine odor and advertising settings in fields. It's perplexing because everyday feminine odor is usually not detectable, especially through clothing, unless your face is pressed up against someone's crotch. I mean, we were showering and bathing regularly in the 70s, right? Apparently, not using Pristeen will get you banished to a secluded field.



Hasn't she heard of Odo-Ro-No, the ad asks? Who HAS heard of this brand? I haven't a clue, but those two chicks in the background should talk by the odd way they're practicing ballet moves on each other. Maybe the second girl is confused by who is causing the smell. With the first girl's legs open like that, perhaps someone could use a little Pristeen spray.



Rule #58 from the Mad Men Handbook of Office Rules: When you answer the phone, bring coffee, pour a scotch or otherwise wipe the ass of Mr. Boss Man, you want to make sure your smell does not offend him while doing so. 

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Retro Ornament: How to Make a Polish Porcupine

I wanted to take a break from the pop culture reminiscing to share a retro Christmas craft with you all. 

These are called Polish porcupines. We've been making them in my family before I was born. The Polish call them "jezyk" which technically, translates to hedgehog. Sometimes they're also called Polish stars or Polish star urchins. Whatever you want to call them, these are super fun and easy to make--and you can use practically any kind of easily bendable paper to get a few different looks. Even aluminum foil can be used. 


Here's what you need to make them:

Paper--any kind as mentioned, even leftover wrapping paper. I like to use shiny foil origami paper that you can buy in squares in craft stores. When you put a bunch of these brightly colored beauties on a white or silver tree, you've got yourself a very retro/mid-century modern look. 

A jar or glass to trace onto the paper to cut it into circles--It's best to use  something that will give you a circle around 4" across or slightly larger. You can also use a CD as a tracer to give you larger ornaments. 

A sharpened pencil--this is important because a nicely sharpened pencil is needed to get those pointy "spikes" in the ornament (and it will also help you trace your circle.)

Craft glue, and toothpicks to help you spread just the right amount as you create the spikes (as you can see from the photo above, I went retro with the Mod Podge.)

A sewing needle, and thread.

Step 1: Trace your chosen paper and cut out the circle shape. When I use the foil origami paper, I find that I need 8-10 circles to make one Polish porcupine, so repeat several more times until you have enough circles. You can mix colors if you like (for the purposes of showing the steps below, I used leftover matte origami paper that I had on hand.)

Step 2: Fold a circle in half, then half again, then half one more time. Open it up. You'll now have 8 creases and you want to cut along these creases, but don't cut all the way to the center. Leave some space in the middle because you'll be threading the circles together when they're ready. 

Step 3: Now this is the tricky (and time consuming!) part. Using the sharpened pencil point, you're going to roll each section of the cut circle around it as shown. I usually put a bit of glue on the left side of each section with a toothpick, place the pencil in the center at a slight angle, and wrap the right side of the cut section around the pencil first, making sure it's tucked underneath, then wrap the left glued side around the pencil the other way. It might take some practice to get it rolled tightly and to know where to affix the glue. Repeat and each circle will have 8 spikes when done. Then repeat with the other cut circles. 

Step 4: When you think you have enough spiked circles, stack them all on top of each other. I usually rotate each layer slightly so that the spikes overlap into place. 
Step 5: Using thread and a sewing needle, thread the circles together by bringing the needle through the center of the stacked circles all the way up through the bottom (be sure to knot the end of your thread) and then all the way back down through a second hole. Then I create a loop for hanging the ornament before cutting the thread. 

I'll also adjust the spikes on the top and bottom of the ornament by bending them slightly to help it take on a more rounded, even shape. And that's it! However, making one takes time so don't expect to have a whole treeful in one afternoon, but it's definitely fun to set aside an afternoon and put on the Christmas music while making these. 

Here's one of my smaller trees decorated sort of 60s style a few years ago featuring some Polish porcupines (yep, those are the Beatles underneath the tree!)

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