Sunday, January 27, 2013

Getting Wiggy With It


I never believed my mother and sisters telling me that wearing wigs just because you could was a common trend during the 60s and 70s until I saw the vintage ads to prove it. I still have a hard time fathoming why wigs were in vogue during those decades--ironically, many of them seem to be for shorter styles at a time when long hair was in fashion. I would imagine they'd get itchy, uncomfortable, and hot during the summer months. If you didn't have a medical condition, why would you want one? It seems more deceitful than wearing a push-up bra or makeup. 

Yet, there were wigs...even on catalog and fashion models...and some ads used sexual appeal to sell them, too. Yes, I know today hairpieces are still popular...but I don't remember the last time I saw a wig advertisement in a woman's magazine. Anyways, here's a splattering of wig ads from back in the day:



A playground for men's hands...now that's some copywriting genius. But what happens if playtime gets a little rough, and that playground comes right off? How embarrassing. 



This wig seems to be for international women of mystery...the copy is difficult to read, but I can make out where it says, "Lets you create your mood...instantly! Anything from a shy young miss to that enchanting woman of the world!" Or in this case, wonton sex kitten. 



I don't even know what we're supposed to be looking at here...but it's far from "practically perfect." This has got to be the worst looking mullet I've ever seen.



Yeeeeeeeeek!!!! You mean some women actually PAID MONEY to obtain this look?



I've never heard of Sego, but it was a diet drink, and, well, diet drinks make us think of wigs. Or something. Again, this is playing off the taking on a new persona angle. Number five must be the Stern Librarian disguise. She looks like she's going to shove that pencil where the sun doesn't shine if you don't stop talking in the library. 



From a Sears catalog. Mustn't forget your wig before a workout. 



I love how the last model is giving the rest of them with their blonde afros the side-eye like they're all shades of crazy. 

All ads came from Flickr. Boo to the people who had some great ads but disabled downloading of them--what's the point of uploading them in the first place if you won't share? That's another post for another time...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Retro Product Fail #11: A Tale of Two TV-Themed Restaurants

All images via MewDeep on Flickr
I think most folks know that Tonight Show host Johnny Carson had a successful clothing line at one point, but did you know he had a restaurant chain as well, called Here's Johnny's? What about a Laugh-In restaurant based on the popular NBC comedy show? Well, you bet your sweet bippy these existed--albeit for only a couple of years. 

By the late 60s, Johnny Carson was one of the biggest names on television, and The Tonight Show was being seen by 8 million Americans every weeknight. So I guess that somewhat makes sense that Carson teamed up with the Swanson family of the frozen food line to launch a restaurant franchise called Here's Johnny's! Carson served as Chairman of the Board for the company overseeing the chain, Johnny's American Inn, Inc. The restaurant offered 12 varieties of burgers, including one called "The Great Carnac" ("How big is it?" asked the menu) and a honey-fried chicken dinner called "Bird of Paradise." It was supposed to be an innovative chain that would deliver orders in half the time of the average fast food restaurant. 

According to the above advertisement that appeared in Esquire, more than 300 restaurant franchises were purchased...but I'm guessing that far less than that actually opened. The best information I could find was that by 1970 there were 8 restaurants operating, mostly in the Omaha, Nebraska area. 

A clue to why the chain closed may be in a court record I found online from 1974. An advertising agency sued Johnny's American Inn, Inc. for failure to pay over $78,000 in advertising fees. Who knows if they ever recovered the money. 
Too bad no commercials or ads for the restaurants themselves currently exist online. 

The Laugh-In restaurant chain sounds like it may have enjoyed slightly more success--someone even purchased a napkin and bag from eBay! I think it's interesting that the cash requirement for a Laugh-In franchise was more expensive than Carson's--one of these babies would set you back $45,000, while the Carson chain required around $28,000. The big question here is if these had a whacky theme (I'm imagining a customer saying, "Sock it to me!" when placing an order.) In keeping with the show's catchphrases, there was a "Bippy Burger" on the menu, "Fickle Finger of Fate" fries as well as an ice cream sundae called "Here Comes the Fudge." A commenter on another blog says they made the best onion rings of any fast food chain, and locations were primarily in Michigan and Florida. Like Here's Johnny's, they pretty much closed by the early 70s (right around the time the show itself went off the air) and barely made a blip on the pop culture history books. 

The Laugh-In restaurants were owned by Chivers, the same company that launched Lum's, which was a more successful fast food chain. 

Any of my readers ever eat at or remember Here's Johnny's or the Laugh-In restaurants?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Anti-McMansion


I've never been a fan of "McMansion" houses. They have spread across this country like a plague and have taken away from the unique architectural style of certain regional areas. For example, where I live in New England, we've always been known for capes, ranches, split levels and the colonial style of older homes. McMansions have no business being here. And yet, every time I see a parcel of land become available around here and a new home going up, it's always a McMansion. Always. No offense to anyone who lives in one, but I fail to comprehend their appeal--they're unnecessarily huge, expensive, lack any uniqueness and stick out like sore thumbs. And yet this behemoth has been nothing but successful since it first sprouted up in the 80s. 

Now that my rant is done, I'd like to turn your attention to the humble mid-century modern home. Ahhhh...aren't these great to look at? National Homes was at one time one of the country's largest providers of pre-fab homes. It was founded in 1940 and by 1963, had built 250,000 homes across the U.S. I think these houses are beeeeeooootiful. What I wouldn't give to find a little ranch with a carport and white fence for the right price in my area like the one in the ad above. And the designs were customizable and affordable. If only they'd make a comeback...



Not a National Homes ad, but just had to throw these in here, too. 




All advertisements came from MidCentArc on Flickr

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Bad Cover Art of the Day: Swedish Bands...Or, Not Everyone Can Be ABBA


Admittedly, there's nothing very original about this post--foreign album cover art has been featured and poked fun at on several retro themed blogs. And the selection I gleamed comes from a new Facebook page called Swedish Dansbands, which has collected several more hideous spectacles; more than I care to put on display in one post. But this is the Internet, where you share and share alike. These covers are proof that you don't have to be good looking to cut a record, but I guess we already knew that. If there's one good thing I have to say about these bands, it's that there's color everywhere! Can't say 70s and 80s Swedish musicians' threads were drab and dull. As for the music? I have no idea--I would guess that at least some of them were/are listenable, but can anyone make it past the cover art?


Sometimes the days before Photoshop and airbrushing were not always a good thing. Could they not afford at least a makeup artist?


A zipper and chest hair makes for a hazardous combination. Why do I have a burning desire to step into that photo and give him a good zzzzzzip? 


You go, girl--show off that leg!


These guys looked like they watched a lot of Mork and Mindy back in the day.



These dudes, on the other hand, were clearly into Miami Vice



This is what happens when you can't decide on coordinating outfits for your cover photo shoot.


And on his farm he had a Swede, e-i-e-i-oh!



I actually have heard of the Schytts (or, I guess they're just called Schytts.) It's a shame that the only band here that features a reasonably attractive lead singer has the same name as what you get when you eat something bad.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Movie Review: The Shout (1978)


I had wanted to review The Shout back around Halloween time, but just couldn't manage to squeeze in it. However, despite the fact that it's technically classified as an arthouse horror flick, I really didn't find anything horrific about it--more of a creepy thriller with a focus on the supernatural. 

It's also thought provoking. Even after viewing it twice, I'm left with so many unresolved questions, and I've come to the conclusion that the filmmakers wanted it that way. Some people are into that sort of thing so if you don't mind the mystery, you'll probably enjoy The Shout. If, like me, you like your movie endings tied up with a pretty little bow, you might find yourself a bit confused. 

One problem with the plot is the sequencing/sense of time. Things happen and we don't know if we're seeing a flashback or flash forward (or even flash sideways.)

So here's the gist of The Shout, the best way I can recap it. My one and only motivation for watching this film is John Hurt, my favorite British actor. Looking rather boyish here with a shaggy 70s haircut, he plays Anthony, a sound engineer with a home studio where he experiments with recording various sounds--for use in what, we never know. He is married to Rachel, played by the pretty Susannah York, a nurse at a psychiatric hospital. 

At the beginning of the film, a man named Graves (played by a young Tim Curry) arrives at a psychiatric hospital to help keep score for a cricket match. In the score booth with him is a man named Crossley, played by Alan Bates. He sees Anthony playing cricket, points him out and announces that he is a man who once had a wife, but lost her, and proceeds to tell the story of how it happened.

Anthony and Rachel are napping on the beach when they are both awakened by the same unsettling dream of an aboriginal man wearing a long dark coat and carrying what appears to be a carved bone across the dunes.

Anthony first encounters Crossley outside of the church he attends. Crossley has apparently picked Anthony as a target--he let the air out of his bicycle, and talks his way into being invited for lunch at his home, explaining that he's been traveling in the desert for some time and hasn't had anything to eat in three days.


As Crossley, Bates cuts an odd, intimidating and brooding figure who has no problem crushing wasps with his thumb. He takes very little food for his plate, despite claiming to be starving, and tells Anthony and Rachel how he lived in the outback for several years and became integrated with aboriginal society. Most unsettling is that he admits to killing the children he fathered in the desert, claiming that it's perfectly legal where he was and that he didn't see the point of them living since he was leaving and they would grow up without a father.

Crossley is well versed in aboriginal magic, and tells Anthony that he is capable of releasing what he calls "The Shout"--a yell so powerful it will kill anyone and anything within hearing distance. At first, Anthony is bemused and doesn't believe Crossley, but the next morning they walk to the dunes. This was definitely the most suspenseful part of the movie. Anthony plugs up his ears just in time, but his skinny body is knocked over by the force of The Shout and he tumbles down a dune. Nearby sheep and their herder kiel over as well. 



After Anthony comes to and they return to his home, he discovers that he has a bigger problem on his hands. Crossley is seducing Rachel...and is quite intent on never leaving their home. 

All of this would make us sympathetic towards Anthony if it weren't for one thing: he's apparently having an affair of his own with the village cobbler's wife, who makes googly eyes at him. They sneak off together after mass one day. We don't actually see them do anything salacious--but it's assumed that Anthony is straying outside of the marriage. This makes for an interesting dynamic since Crossley is out to displace Anthony. The question now is if Anthony can break Crossley's curse. 

The photography and shooting locations in this film are spectacular. It was filmed in North Devon in southwestern England--think quintessential Great Britain with rolling hills, lush greenery and coastline. The beach has been a favorite shooting location in other movies--including Pink Floyd--The Wall.

The film was directed by Jerzy Skolimowski, and features an ominous soundtrack by Tony Banks and Michael Rutherford of Genesis. 

Perhaps the unconventional shooting style is best explained by producer Jeremy Thomas:

"Skolimowski had a sense of shooting style then, this was the second director who I had worked closely with, and it was fascinating watching Skolimowski work. He came from a Polish tradition, the Wajda Film School, he had a different background to other directors I had been working with in the cutting rooms or elsewhere. And it made the film much more creative to me. I saw it more as an artistic endeavour by him. The film went to Cannes and won the Grand Prix de Jury. We were incredibly lucky and the film was appreciated by the jury. It was a very small festival then, nothing like the Cannes Film Festival of today, it was a small event in a cinema of 800 people or so."

The below trailer to The Shout promised me a "soul shattering experience"...I think it missed the mark a bit, but was interesting and entertaining just the same. You can view the movie in two parts on YouTube. 

Friday, January 04, 2013

Two Forgotten Friday Favorites: Patti Page

Photo via Wikimedia and Salon.com
Patti Page, who passed away this week, was responsible for what I consider one of the most depressing songs ever recorded, "Tennessee Waltz." It's sung by a woman whose friend seduces her boyfriend while dancing with him, and the two of them run off together. Today, such a song would include the narrator seeking revenge by blowing the both of them away in bed--but this was 1950, and Patti takes it gracefully on the chin. An interesting and random fact about the song is that it was the biggest selling single in Japan by 1974.

I've been hearing all week long that Page's singing was special; that you could hear her bring emotion to a song with her voice. Dubbed "the singing rage", she was one of the few "pop" singers at her time to cross over very successfully into the country music genre, and remained with that category throughout her later years. She had her own show on ABC and made a few movie appearances. After her singing career, she and her third husband ran a maple syrup business in New Hampshire. She was 85.

Today's Two Forgotten Friday Favorites is dedicated to Patti Page. Here is "The Tennessee Waltz", as well as a novelty favorite we all remember as kids, "Doggie in the Window."



Thursday, January 03, 2013

Wasted Makeovers

I could be wrong, but I believe that beauty makeovers started to appear in women's magazines in the 70s. It's a sad conundrum, however, that due to the styles of the times, the woman didn't necessarily look any better after her makeover.

Case in point: the two ladies below, who were featured in Good Housekeeping Magazine. These appear over at the awesome retro site ClickAmericana--I only wish I had my own scans to show; maybe in the future I'll acquire some magazines to make this a full-fledged wasted makeover post.


The magazine is saying that Bridget was worried that a shorter do would require constant care. Here's the thing with these Farrah Fawcett-inspired flips by someone who tried unsuccessfully to have one as a teenager: they create MORE work, especially when you have fine hair. You can spend hours trying to whip those side layers into submission with rollers, a curling iron, and enough Aqua-Net to burn a hole in the ozone layer. And I'm sorry to say this, but that cut is really drawing attention to her nose.

Nancy's new look screams Tootsie to me--all she needs is a pair of large framed glasses. She looks older. You gotta feel sorry for her; she's an actress, but how many roles can she get with this buttoned up look--a schoolmarm? The only thing I like is the hair color.

Ah, well...better luck next time, ladies.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Misunderstood Milky

Image vis PlaidStallions.com
A nostalgia-themed Facebook page that I follow posted a picture of Milky the Marvelous Milking Cow by Kenner the other day, accompanied by this observation: "I think I had this..or maybe my cousins did. Regardless, it was kinda weird..and so was the white-ish watery probably toxic substance that Milky 'produced'."

Then someone who follows the page chimed in with this comment: "That's crazy and kinda creepy....Glad my kids never wanted one :-P."

And on YouTube, someone who posted the commercial for this toy declared it the Worst Toy Ever Made.

To all of these misguided folks, I have something to say to you: what the hell have you been smoking?

Milky the Marvelous Milking Cow ROCKED. I'm almost personally offended that anyone could call this adorable toy creepy and weird.

And as far as the pretend milk tasting bad--well, duh! It wasn't real milk and you weren't supposed to drink it. At the age of six, when I first got Milky, even I knew that. 

To give you the lowdown on Milky, this was how the toy worked: you unscrewed the udder and placed a chalky "milk" tablet in it. Then you filled Milky's trough with water. You'd press her head down so that her mouth was in the water, and then you'd pump the tail, which caused Milky to "drink" the water. When she'd had enough--about after a minute or so--her head would pop up and she would let out of a moo! Then you could milk her by squeezing one of her udders that had a tiny hole it in, and fill the accompanying milk pail.

And yeah, that was it. But creepy? I'm not sure why people would find this toy creepy and gross--I thought it was cool. In fact, I still have Milky! Kids are still drawn to it--when my nieces and nephews were little, they played with Milky and one of my nieces has a four-year son who always wants to see the cow when he visits the house. Sadly, Milky's head no longer stays down and thus she no longer moos, but I will hold onto her for old time's sake. When I find my own place, Milky will probably take up a small kitschy spot of her own in the kitchen.

You know what's interesting...I found this alternate package art of Milky in which she appears to be more anatomically correct...she is missing her horns (and has a veiny looking udder...OK, that's a little icky compared to the version I have:)


Image via ImageShack
Kenner made the coolest toys--in addition to Milky, I also owned an Alvin the Aardvark--he was an aardvack with a long velcro tongue that would "eat" the giant ants that came with the toy.

Besides, this toy was nowhere near as disturbing as the Play-Doh Doctor Drill N Fill.

Anyone else own or remember Milky?

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