Remembering Dennis Hopper

Although I had seen him in several movies before, I'm embarrassed to admit that the first time I remember recognizing Dennis Hopper as an actor was in the movie Speed. Since then, however, I've definitely come to realize the talent that he was. With that, in rememberance, I offer my three favorite Dennis Hopper performances...

#3 Hoosiers (1986)

Hands down, the best sports movie ever made. It would take me all day to go over the countless reasons that I love this movie...


#2 Blue Velvet (1986)

Honestly, I hated this movie. If I hate the movie, why is it a favorite?

Back when my wife and I were first dating, we were visiting her dad. While my wife took a nap, my to-be father-in-law and I decided to watch a movie. His choice? Blue Velvet. For those of you familiar with this movie, imagine a guy who had just starting dating a girl he was really interested in. He sits down to watch a movie with this girl's father (who he had only met a few times at this point) and is subjected to Blue Velvet. The word "awkward" does not begin to describe that scene.


#1 Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Not a major role but a role nonetheless. Rebel Without a Cause has always been one of my favorite movies but it wasn't until I had seen it multiple times that I finally noticed Dennis Hopper's bit part as one of Buzz's pals (that's him in the background, furthest back).


Rest easy, Shooter.

Remembering Gary Coleman

With today's passing of Gary Coleman, I began to think about the countless times he has popped up in the television programs and movies I have watched over the past 30+ years.

 

While I could easily recount the seemingly infinite number of episodes of Diff'rent Strokes I've watched in my lifetime, I thought I'd dig a little deeper and see where else Gary Coleman has appeared in the story of my life. Just in my own collection, I found Gary Coleman seven other times outside of Diff'rent Strokes:

 

Top Left: Good Times - "That's Entertainment, Evans Style" - 1978
Top Right: Facts of Life - "Rough Housing" - 1979
Middle Left: Silver Spoons - "The Great Computer Caper" - 1982
Middle Right: Simon & Simon - "Like Father, Like Son" - 1986
Botton Left: Amazing Stories - "Remote Control Man" - 1985
Bottom Right: Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - "I, Done" - 1996 (with Diff'rent Strokes' Conrad Bain)

And who could forget Gary's embarrassing appearance (publicity stunt) on Divorce Court in 2008?

 

I'm sad to see you go, Gary.

Bicentennial TV Guide

We've all seen those booklets you can buy in gift shops that tell you how much a gallon of gas cost when you were born and who the popular celebrities of the day were. But those are gereralities over the course of that entire year.

But what about the minute you were born?
This is something I have considered so I thought it would be interesting to find out what was being broadcast on television at the exact moment when I was born. After a quick search and purchase on eBay for that week's TV Guide, I had the answer.

Making things more interesting, I was born right smack in the middle of prime time (just after 8:00 CST). I immediately flipped to the evening hours of July 6. Since this issue happens to be from the San Francisco area, I had to do a little time zone adjustment. After some quick goat-thinking, there it was:

I entered this world just seconds after the theme to M*A*S*H!

It's probably a safe bet to think that my mother didn't have the TV on in the delivery room, but based on the two pages below, here's the way I'd like to think things went down:

7:30pm (CST) -- Labor progressing normally. Mom flipping the channels between Good Times and Laverne & Shirley.

7:41pm (CST) -- J.J. delivers a "DYNO-MITE!" and my mom is sent into a fit of laughter. Labor intensifies.

8:00pm (CST) -- M*A*S*H begins.

8:03pm (CST) -- I see daylight.

8:30pm (CST) -- Mother and son watch One Day at a Time together founding my sense of humor on the antics of Dwayne Schneider.

 

Frogger Champ!

I've become a big fan of quirky documentaries. One of my favorites is The King of Kong which details the back-and-forth battle between the world's top two Donkey Kong players. In this movie, those who know little about video games are introduced to Twin Galaxies -- the most reputable scorekeeping source for video game competitors.


High scores can be submitted for documentation with Twin Galaxies through a variety of means -- the two most common seeming to be first hand viewing by a Twin Galaxies official or a detailed video submission. Scores are submitted for games on any platform ranging from upright arcade games to modern-day home video games. I chose to stake my claim in video game infamy through my childhood game system -- the Atari 2600.

First off, I needed a plan of attack -- what game was going to carry me into the history books? Having recently purchased Frogger at a flea market, I decided to go after a record playing a game fresh in my mind. Logging on to the Twin Galaxies site, I was surprised to find that the scores in the top ten were really not all that impressive. While the top score is one I will never come close to achieving, the scores in places six through ten were certainly within my skill level.

I hooked up the Atari, set up my video camera, and played some Frogger. I needed to beat the current tenth place score of 1288 and my first few attempts were unsuccessful -- but the third time was a charm.


I burned a disc, sent it in for review, and a few days later there I was. Number ten.


Big deal, right? A score of 1475 isn't anything to get excited about, you say? Well, last time I checked, I didn't see your name documented as the "Number Ten Atari 2600 Frogger Game 1/Difficulty B" player in the world.

For all I know, I've been bumped from the top ten already. But my moment of glory will live on. Maybe for a short time, maybe for years to come. But either way, for a short time at least, I was the (tenth) best (at Game 1, Difficulty B).

Kids those days.

With this shot of my brother and two of my cousins from June of 1984...


...Pac-Man's 30th anniversary has been properly celebrated.

I can't decide what the coolest part of this photo is. The Atari 2600? The games stored in an 8-track tape box lined with red felt? The TV that likely weighed just short of a full ton? The wood paneling on the wall and the orange carpet? The fact that three kids are spending a summer afternoon in June playing Pac-Man instead of playing outside?

Please note that I am not in this picture so either I was playing outside or I was in trouble and being kept away from anything fun. Probably the latter.

Pac-Mania!

This book came from a monthly sale offered through my school back in 1982. I somewhat question the term "official" on the cover as the quality of this book isn't quite what you would expect from an "official" release.


Either way, sit back and enjoy a sample from the 96 Pac-filled pages of biting humor. Laughing is optional.

 

 

 

Pac-Man Stickers


In honor of the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man, as celebrated by Google over the past few days, I thought I'd come up with something Pac-Man related that was a bit obscure. The easy post here would be about a high score or the Saturday morning Pac-Man cartoon. But how about a few small pieces from my second-grade sticker collection?

Just like most of my classmates, I had a sticker collection -- mine was stored in a photo album with ducks on the cover. While I had no particular love for ducks as a kid, I assume that I must have had a pretty limited selection of photo albums at the local Wal-Mart and therefore chose ducks over the other cover options. If ducks were the best option I had, I'm curious to know what my other choices were.

Anyway, my sticker collection was home to stickers ranging from small stars I got at church for regular Sunday school attendance to the label off my dad's bottle of Coors. Second grade for me would have been 1983 -- a time when Pac-Man and other video games were hitting some of their highest popularity. Of course, this means there were video game stickers in my collection as well. Flipping through my sticker collection, I found two pages with stickers related to various video games. I'll look at the Pac-Man stickers more closely in a moment, but first, take a minute to give the image on the left a good look -- there's Donkey Kong, Mario, and even a Tron sticker.

 

I realize that the "Waka! Waka!" stickers below refer to the sound Pac-Man makes as he moves his way around each level of the game, but I can't help but think of Fozzie Bear laughing at his own jokes instead. Waka! Waka!


I don't exactly know what the purpose is of the "Pac-Man is Coming" sticker. Maybe a warning to any un-chomped ghosts to be on the lookout? I would assume so because of the eyes around the edge of the sticker. I am more intrigued, however, by the sticker above that one. "Don't Play This Game...Pac-Man is Better." Apparently, kids were supposed to put this sticker on other video games to encourage people to play Pac-Man instead. But where to place the sticker? Over the coin slot? Directly on the screen? I can only imagine the fury in the eyes of a pizza joint owner having to scrape some punk's sticker off his Asteroids machine.



More details about these stickers can be found as part of a pretty nice Pac-Man collection found on bubbledog.com. Take a look for yourself to see the entire set.

This last one, I wish I knew more about. This sticker is one of those that alternates between multiple images as you move in your hand. I don't remember for sure, but I want to say that this sticker came in the mail as some sort of promotion associated with our Atari 2600 system. I'd love to know for sure.


More on Pac-Man to come...

Jazz - Generation 1 Transformer

This was one toy that frustrated me to no end when I was younger. Friends of mine had Transformers that were easy to play with -- a few simple moves and they would change from robot to vehicle. When I got ahold of Jazz back in 1984, I was pretty excited...at least until I tried to play with it. Of any Transformer or Gobot I have ever had my hands on, this one is by far the most complicated and difficult to transform. Seeing as how this is one of the earliest Transformers that was available, I'm pretty excited that it's still around. Recently running across it for the first time in many years, I had to laugh at the fact that transforming Jazz from car to robot is still a giant pain in my butt. But here it is nonetheless...complete except for the spring-loaded rocket launcher and the driver's side door...


Here is what Jazz looks like in all his glory had I learned how to transform him properly...


[Images courtesy of toybin.org]

...and apparently this is what Jazz looked like when I first got him.


[Image courtesy of eBay]

Silver Dollar City Cap Gun

I turned seven during the summer of 1983 -- the same summer my family visited Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. Just like any kid my age, I was super excited to get my hands on a new cap gun while we were there -- and apparently I didn't waste any time trying it out. Here I am threatening one of my parents with both caps cocked and ready to fire. No orange tip for this kid's cap gun!


After years of storage in everything from cardboard boxes to a chest of toys in the garage, this gun's still around today. The hammers both work perfectly even though a bit of corrosion has started to form on the metal.

 

Underneath a bit of the corrosion, you can still make out the specifics: #2891 made by Replicas By Parris. Yes, they're still in business.

FP Musical Ferris Wheel

The same flea market vendor who sold me the Sesame Street floor puzzle also took a few buck from me for a beat up Fisher Price ferris wheel. A sucker for anything associated with the original Little People, despite its rough condition and missing pieces, I couldn't turn this down.

 


Based on information from the always-reliable This Old Toy, what I have is a Fisher Price Musical Ferris Wheel (#969) made between 1966-1972 (B969G). When I brought this piece home from the flea market, I was very intrigued as I didn't recall having ever seen one of these before. So image my surprise when I was recently thumbing through some old family photographs and came across a late-1973/early-1974 shot of my brother with a Musical Ferris Wheel of his own.

Sesame Street Floor Puzzle

Several weeks back, I paid a dollar at a local flea market for this Sesame Street floor puzzle. Bringing it home, it was a huge success with my daughter who is a Sesame Street nut.


I have been able to find very little about this puzzle online short of a link to an eBay auction that is long over. The pictures from the auction are long gone so I am left with what little information I have been able to piece together myself. What I do know is that the puzzle was made by Playskool in 1976 and when all 23 pieces are together, it measures approximately 32" x 40.5". I was able to determine that this puzzle was sold in a box (as opposed to a plastic bag of some sort) so, of course, I'm on the lookout for an image of what that box looked like.

The illustration itself was done by Joe Mathieu -- who has done fine art work for Sesame Street products since the early 1970's.

The coolest aspect of this puzzle that I found was in the fact that the window pieces are interchangable giving kids the opportunity to mix and match the locations of six of the characters.


I'd love to learn more about this puzzle if anyone has any more information...

Really? Again?

Some of you may have found your way to this blog earlier this year. At that time, my intention was to use the blog to share all of the junk from my childhood that I've had packed away for the past few decades -- but I quickly found that I wasn't happy with the direction the blog was headed. I found myself pushing ideas to the side that didn't exactly fit the "retro pop-culture" theme I had established and I felt like I had pigeon-holed the blog into a single category from which I couldn't deviate.

So I wiped the slate clean and for the past several weeks have considered eliminating this blog altogether. Between the responsibilities of everyday life and the handful of websites I am already committed to maintaining, I was leaning towards calling this one quits.

But that urge is still there. That urge to share. That urge to display the junk that clutters my basement as well as the thoughts and ideas that clutter my mind.

Self-serving and narcissistic? Absolutely. Therapeutic? Indeed.

My wife thinks that I'm a junk collector and that I place too much importance on pop culture -- both past and present. I think Rob and Dick hit it on the head in the movie High Fidelity:
Dick: It looks as if you're reorganizing your records. What is this? Chronological?
Rob: No.
Dick: Not alphabetical.
Rob: Nope.
Dick: What?
Rob: Autobiographical.
Dick: No f-cking way.
Rob: Yep. I can tell you how I got from Deep Purple to Howlin' Wolf in just twenty-five moves. And, if I want to find the song "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac, I have to remember that I bought it for someone in the fall of 1983 pile but didn't give it to them for personal reasons.
Dick: That sounds...
Rob: Comforting.
Dick: Yes.
So let's go at this again. Still a lot about the junk I've held on to from yester-year...but this time with less structure and a more open forum for anything and everything else that I feel like sharing.