What the…Friday? is a weekly Friday feature in which I resuscitate a video relic from the swampy pits of Pop Culture Wasteland.
Today: What the Unabashed Trolling for Birthday Wishes?
Tomorrow is my birthday.
Tomorrow is December 1st.
That’s right, the most forgettable day in all the land.
May I have your attention please. There are 30 days in November. Not 31. No, I’m serious. Check the calendar.
Typically by the time December 4th or 5th rolls around, my close friends and family realize it’s time to flip the calendar and then, oops, they remember they forgot my birthday.
Or they don’t remember at all. Because it’s almost Christmas, for crying out loud. Who has their birthdays in December when we’re supposed to be thinking about Christmas? Needy people, that’s who. Needy people who want attention so much they’d steal it away from baby Jesus.
Did I tell you I like attention? Well I’m a writer, aren’t I?
Whoa, let’s not get crazy here! Just a little attention, please, nothing over-the-top and showy. I’m a writer, not a lounge singer or a stage actor or Ryan Seacrest or something.
Are you enjoying the music? What you’re hearing right now is one of the world’s most freakishly tiny violins being played. So while I already have it out of its freakishly tiny case, I will continue with a couple more sad songs about birthdays past.
Last year for my birthday I threw an ’80s party.
It was in fact the greatest ’80s party that never was.
I went all punk rock and bought some combat boots, plastered my hair into a fauxhawk, carved enough black eyeliner into my eyelids that I permanently tattooed them, grabbed-up some booze, Martha Stewarted-up some food, bought $50 worth of flashback candy, Judge Wapner cream soda, a case of Pop Rocks — regrettably.
The day of the party, the one and only blizzard of 2011 blew through my city.
By 3:00 p.m., the power lines were encased in sleet, our lights were flickering off and on and the streets became sheets of ice. Turns out that most of the invited guests were not willing to kill themselves for the chance to wear acid-washed jeans.
In the 12 months since that night, I’ve decided I hate Pop Rocks. And that if you don’t eat them after so many months, they actually eat themselves.
In 2nd grade I had my very first slumber party.
It was a helluva bash. Until my friend Angie discovered my Garfield diary tucked away in my dresser drawer. As we were watching a movie, she walked into the living room reading my diary aloud as if she was casually catching up on the journal of a 19th-century homesteading grandmother – who would not have cared two 19th-century shits to have her diary read because she would be too worried about skinning dead prairie dogs in her subzero sod house. And also because she would be dead.
Whereas I in fact cared two-thousand shits.
Also-named-Angie-friend cleared her throat to get the room’s attention and then slowly read the line, “I love Garrett Martin. He is a fast runner. He is the boy of my dreams.” Then she looked up and asked earnestly, “Angie, do you really like Garrett Martin? I didn’t know you liked him!”
Yeah, isn’t that great how diaries work? You write down these things that no one else knows and then you get to blow people’s minds when they one day stumble upon them. Diaries are super.
My diary had a snap on it. A snap. It could’ve had one of those rickety tin locks that pop open with the mere gentle batting of a newborn kitten’s paw. But nope. Let’s cut through the false sense of security here and just make it easy on everyone. A snap.
In retrospect, Garfield probably wasn’t the best keeper of secrets considering his deepest thoughts — scratching out Jon’s eyes, making lasagna with Odie’s entrails — always ended up in a bubble above his head for our amusement.
After the whole diary-reading thing, I locked myself in the bathroom for much of the rest of the party, crying my eyes out while my friends tried to coax me out. I got loads of attention so it was the best birthday ever.
After that, I didn’t have another birthday party for several years.
I attended a lot of friends’ birthday skating parties though. But my parents were never into throwing those kinds of parties for me and my brother. (Now switching to the extra-extra tiny violin here.)
Later, in my junior high years, I learned about this place called ShowBiz Pizza. I heard it had mechanical animals. I heard it had games. I heard that kids had parties there. I heard that kids had fun there. I heard that kids had so much fun they had to get tetanus shots later.
I thought, gee, that would’ve been fun.
Wait, isn’t this Friday? Don’t I need to share an old video today? I almost forgot. I was too busy worrying about you forgetting my birthday.
So without further ado, I present to you today’s WTF? video. This is the way birthdays were meant to look. If you’re wondering where I’ll be tomorrow, look for me here. Fortunately I’m current on all my shots.
Rachel, your days spent featured on the right-hand side of my blog — well, they’ve been some of the best days of my life. You’ve become like a sister to me, and I don’t know how to say goodbye to your blooming hydrangea bangs and glasses-ready-to-suicide-dive-off-your-face. But the time has come to move on.
Today is the dawn of a new Dynomite! kid. And I have just the Dynomite! theme for this special holiday season.
Yes, I think these Dynomite! entries are just what the Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman ordered.
This Thanksgiving week, let’s stop focusing on the bitter past, start blocking our fathers’ apocalyptic email forwards about the Mayan calendar’s alignment with Obama’s election, and let’s move on to what really matters.
I can truly say there are no three people in the world I’d rather look prepubescently-awkward next to than these bunch of weirdos. I love my family. Warts and all.
Warts, ten-inch-diameter eyeglass frames, outdated polyester disco shirt, sloppily untucked safariwear — and all.
But these families down here? They’re not too bad either. In fact, they’re gonna blow the doors off your ’78 Chevy Malibu they’re so damn precious.
You ready for me to roll out these families?
Alright! Let’s go to it.
First we have the family of Nancy from the blog Not Quite Old.
I’m intrigued by the story behind this photo. Where have we been, where are we going? Are we all on our way to Dick Nixon’s inauguration? Is Nancy sacrificing body heat so that her coat won’t cover her beloved rickrack trim? Is Mom happy to watch her shiver? Is Dad disgusted by his daughter’s recklessness? I mean, it must be January! It must be reefer madness at work! Nancy, clearly you’re a disgrace to your family, but I dig the pixie cut.
Next we have . . . wait a minute here . . . okay, next I guess we have Rachel again from the blog Rachel’s Table. Yes, that Rachel. Apparently being adored on my blog for several weeks in a row wasn’t quite enough for Rachel.
Alright, it’s a pretty damn good photo. We’ve got the double-breasted junior executive at left, the shaker-knit sweater over the prep school tie at right, the rampant expressions of arrogance you’ve come to expect from families of the ’80s. This photo is a little slice of Highway to Heaven. What can I say, Rachel is a trained professional Dynomite! contestant. She even dresses like one.
Then we have this one from . . . Lucy. Yeah, I’ll call her Lucy.
Holy Angstballs, am I right or am I right? The common teenage thought “I don’t belong here” — never has it been more palpable.
I’m a little uneasy about featuring this photo. And not just because Lucy’s eyes are stabbing me with daggers. My issue is that this photo was entered by a person who is actually close to me in my real world life. So to off-set this conflict of interest, I will withhold all commentary that might color your opinion. Except to tell you that this photo was taken for a church directory. Perfect.
Finally we have this photo from Emily of the blog Hey from Japan — Notes on Moving.
I don’t believe this family is real. Frankly, I’m shocked that Dad isn’t holding a tobacco pipe. That goes double for the house — not real. They must be on a TV studio set. They must be guest performers on The Lawrence Welk Show, episode #412. Those candlesticks are actually hollow. The fireplace is cardboard. Mom’s hair is a wig. Emily, seated at right, looks eager to prove she’s the least difficult child. But let’s face it, all three children are always behaved with nary a sticky finger, ringworm scab or grocery aisle tantrum — and not a single bout of stomach flu on a beige rug at 3:00 a.m. on a Tuesday.
So there you go. That’s the line-up. Are they the greatest Dynomite! family photo contestants ever or what?
Now it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Time to cast your vote. I know you’re sick of those words. But this isn’t the same as that Tuesday, November 6th thing. This is much more important.
Because here’s what’s at stake.
The winner of this Dynomite! contest will not only be featured on my blog with smiling family members
who did not sign up for this, the winner will also be mailed a genuine original Flashback-in-a-Box!
Let’s look back at the amazing prizes given to our last winner.
That’s some pretty valuable crap. And to up the ante, I’m prepared to throw in another piece of Bazooka gum.
Vote now, vote with your conscience, vote for our country. These families are depending on you.
Poll closes next Monday the 26th at 6:00 a.m EST.
Today: What the General Foods International Coffee Ad?
This post is for The Byronic Man.
Perhaps The Byronic Man noticed it had been three weeks since I delivered on my weekly WTF? video series commitment — or perhaps he didn’t notice at all.
You see, he’s a very busy man these days, what with now overseeing the care of another human being, the incredibly small kind, and what with being a very important comedianactorteacherwriter and all. But all the same, he probably received the memo that I’ve been wearing the same coffee-stained sweatpants since Tuesday and have lost the will to
That’s when he generously threw this out:
I think you should do a “What the … General Foods International Coffee?” Remember those awful ads? Somebody has a touching moment of love or reconciliation and the woman says, “I’ll make the General Foods International Coffee,” because that’s not an awkward mouthful or totally strange thing to say and do.
[Actual photograph of The Byronic Man. Or possibly a photograph I cropped from an ad for General Foods International Coffee.]
Initially I thought, on the contrary, there is nothing absurd about those lovable throwback General Foods International Coffee ads. And I happen to like the name General Foods International Coffee. General Foods International Coffee has a nice continental feel to it. General Foods International Coffee is what I almost chose to name my first-born child. And I happen to frequently “celebrate the moments of my life” with coffee, though maybe not with General Foods International Coffee.
But the words “General Foods International Coffee” had no sooner left my
temporal lobe medulla cerebellum brain-thingy when they were struck down by this granddaddy truth:
General Foods International Coffee is instant flavored coffee. Instant Flavored Coffee. Three words that should never touch, much less make-out in a cafe in Vienna.
And to that I give General Foods International Coffee a great big WTF salute!
Some preparatory notes before viewing today’s video.
1.) This commercial typically ran on prime-time TV circa 1991-1992. I am led to believe it was tailored to airings of Designing Women, Major Dad and Murder She Wrote. Yes, these shows did qualify as prime-time TV back then. Yes, I am as shocked as you are.
2.) I carry with me the completely illogical fears that (A) I will one day dine at a cafe in Paris where my waiter will introduce himself as Jean Luc, (B) he will talk me into purchasing a time-share condominium in Branson, Missouri, and (C) the walls of my house contain a den of spider monkeys.
3.) Over the years, I’ve put together a rough sketch of what Jean Luc probably looked like, which I am exclusively sharing with you today.
3.) If you’ve long been wondering about the best way to torture me, consider serving me instant flavored coffee and then repeating the audio of this General Foods International Coffee ad — specifically during the part where the two friends
erotically excitedly exclaim “Jean Luc” in unison. At which point I will vomit jean-luc the instant Irish Mocha Fudge Cinnamon Creme you just served me onto my already coffee-stained sweatpants.
But that’s where the food mascots came in. Yes, it always helped fuel my appetite to have a food mascot bouncing around the television set on a Saturday morning, telling me that food tastes Grrreat!, telling me that food is fun, that I should eat food.
Here are a few food mascots that have stayed with me over the years.
1.) Mr. Salty. I once loved salt so much that I would privately binge on Play-Doh under the preschool table. My mother even gave me my own salt shaker, which she placed next to my plate when she set the table — right next to my blood pressure monitor. So Mr. Salty’s very name made my mouth water.
And just look at him. He’s a sailor, he’s salty and he’s adorable. If Mr. Peanut is the standoffish monocle-wearing aristocrat, Mr. Salty is the lovable everyday working bloke.
2.) Mayor McCheese. I love cheese. I want to make-out with cheese, marry it and appoint it Mayor of the Land of Edible Food-like Products. Oh, where have you gone, Mayor McCheese? What have they done with you?
Sadly, Mayor McCheese was last seen fighting to place government regulations on super-sized sodas. He was never heard from in McDonaldland again.
3.) Sonny. I have a theory that Nancy Reagan would’ve fared much better with her drug war had she scrapped the Just Say No campaign and borrowed a lesson from Cocoa Puffs cereal. Call me cuckoo, but I never once touched the chocolatey smack. Because that Sonny scared me straight. Cocoa Puffs looked good, sure, but see what happens when you get your fix?
Here we have a picture of a throwback Sonny seen holding a coke spoon and stumbling out of the old Studio 54.
4.) Birdie. The details are vague. I couldn’t tell you what her voice sounded like, what special mascot powers she possessed, or even what she has to do with McDonald’s. Is she Big Bird’s illegitimate child? Did she lay an Egg McMuffin? What I do know is that Birdie was a pioneer, one of the first female food mascots I recall. (It’s been speculated that Grimace was also female. However, no external sex organs exist to prove this.)
Boys had a role model in the brave and beefy Tony the Tiger. But we girls had to settle for Aunt Jemima — who spent her day in the kitchen. Legal status, questionable. Inappropriateness, undeniable. Whereas Birdie was apparently an airplane pilot. She also had her red hair in braids, which was undoubtedly McDonald’s middle finger to the Wendy’s mascot.
5.) The Kool-Aid Pitcher. Having been raised in Nebraska, home of the inventor of Kool-Aid, I could not fail to include the Kool-Aid pitcher on my list. What is he? He’s the Kool-Aid pitcher. What does he do? He walks around and pours Kool-Aid. And he breaks down walls and stuff.
Okay, seriously, this is the best they could do? A freakin’ pitcher that breaks down walls? Who’s not even close to being as badass as Punchy the Hawaiian Punch guy. A little marketing tip — if you’re dull enough to make your mascot an inanimate food container, at least give him some snappy punchlines like the Parkay margarine tub. You know, make him seem relevant to the conversation.
6.) The Pillsbury Doughboy. It wouldn’t be the same without him, but it almost pains me to put the Pillsbury Doughboy on my list. He’s lame. And I can’t take that people are always poking at him like a pregnant stranger’s belly. Evil-me wants to toss him in a closet with the Hamburger Helper hand to see what would happen. But then, I couldn’t stand hearing that obnoxious giggle again and again.
7.) The Noid. He’s not exactly iconic, he’s not typically memorable, but the Noid was cutting-edge. Hey, he was stop-motion animation, he was claymation for crying out loud! It was the wave of the ’80s! More groundbreaking than the California Raisins? No. But those dudes made raisins sound good. Big deal. The Noid made us forget that Domino’s pizza sucked.
8.) King Halfsies. You’re going, “Who the hell?” Well, I’ll be honest, I really don’t know. I mean, I don’t even know if his name is King Halfsies. I will assume it is, given the fact that he represents Halfsies cereal and rules over Halfsiesland.
Here’s the thing — King Halfsies did what not a darn one of these above mascots achieved. He made me want to eat something that actually qualified as food. He made me want to eat this cereal, this cereal that probably tasted like boiled sweatsocks, this cereal called “Halfsies” because it had “half the sugar of sugar-coated cereals.” But I didn’t know that. I just knew that everyone in the village of Halfsiesland was dressed half different and ate out of half a bowl. And I could half-heartedly get on board with that schtick.
Legend has it that a box of Halfsies cereal remained in my family’s kitchen pantry for over two straight years. It was half-eaten.
And just when you thought you had quite your fill of the 1982-Angie and 1989-Jessica letter series (oh, no — trust me, you haven’t), another old pen pal letter surfaces!
This time 1982-Angie is eager to share her American Halloween traditions with her British pen pal. Who apparently celebrates Halloween too? (Psssst. England celebrates Halloween. Did not know this. No, really. I didn’t. Also thought “Jessica” was pronounced “HAY-soos.”)
Join me across the Atlantic? (C’mon, it’s okay. They look just like us. Perhaps a bit pastier.)
Click here to read the letter. And Happy Halloween!
Please check back on Halloween this Wednesday for 1982-Angie’s holiday-themed response.
17th October 1989
I am fine. I checked with my brothers and they are also fine. Oliver is still ginger, Chris is still a pooh-head, Joe has a scab the size of My Little Pony on his left knee and Mike’s new favourite word is “no”.
Chris kidnapped my Tiny Tears doll the other day and threatened to pull her head off. I said he wouldn’t dare, but he did dare and he ripped her head clean off. So I cried until my brain hurt.
My mother tried to put Tiny back together again with some duck tape. I told Chris that I wanted to rip his head off and stick it back on with duck tape to see how he likes it. He lent me his Tenderheart Bear to say sorry – but I’m still mad.
Would you like another brother? You can borrow Chris forever if you like. Also, is duck tape is made from real ducks?
Thanks for the catalogue picture of Barbie’s house (the one that is not an orange crate). I like to cut stuff out of catalogues too. It helps Santa’s elves know what to make me for Christmas.
I have almost finished making my witch’s hat for Sarah Fairburn’s Halloween party. It is black, pointy and covered in glitter and glow-in-the-dark stickers. It just needs a bit more glitter and a lot more stickers.
I love Halloween! We get to draw funny faces on pumpkins and scoop their brains out. Then we dress up all fancy and eat sweets. Even though all the grownups say I’m a fussy eater, I am not. I like all sweets – apart from green ones and yellow ones.
Do you fly your bike past the moon on Halloween like all the American kids do in E.T.?
Your chum, from England,
Jessica, age 7½
Ps. I think Margaret Thatcher has the same hairdresser as my Grandma.
Today: What the Underoos Worn as a Costume?
It’s six hours ’til the neighbors’ Halloween party.
And you don’t have your costume yet.
And You Don’t Have Your Costume Yet?
Relax. You’re okay. You’ve got one. You’ve got underwear, right?
When I was a kid, I had Underoos. Wonder Woman Underoos. And that was just as good as a costume. Better, in fact.
Here below is a Childhood Relived reader, circa 1981, proudly modeling her Wonder Woman Underoos. (Thank you, Wendy, for bravely submitting this photo! Oh, was I not supposed to use your name?)
For more on the magical (miraculous!) physical transformation enabled by Underoos, fasten your seat belts and read my blog post Hold On a Second . . . It’s Underwear?
Or skip the reading — who’s got time to read anyway, you only have six hours to find some clean underwear — and watch today’s WTF? video instead.