11/23/2010

item 1 >>> We were just kids, watching our favorite TV shows. They’d debut, they’d get moved around, they went off the air. Of course, these shows originated in the adult world, and it was all centered around just one thing: making money. Thus “The Mickey Mouse Club” killed “Howdy Doody,” or at least chased it off weekdays and onto Saturday mornings. Then, in turn, “American Bandstand” killed the Mouse…and so it went. One of the first things I remember watching when we got our first TV was the Hardy Boys and the Applegate Mystery…gold doubloons and pieces of 8…pieces of 8…pieces of 8…

item 2 >>> As iconic as the MMC is in the memories of Baby Boomers, it only lasted 4 seasons. The show it dethroned, “Howdy Doody,” lasted 16 years, and others like “Capt. Kangaroo” much longer. What killed the MMC? Combination of things…it experienced phenomenal success when it debuted in the fall of 1955…almost half the households that could receive it were watching. It had nowhere to go but down. As appealing as the main group of Mouseketeers were, they did get older, taking their original fans along perhaps, but with no replacements for the younger viewers. The impact of American Bandstand caused the producers to gear the show more towards teens, but their efforts could only be described as “square,” if not downright corny. Then there was the money problem. Walt Disney saw MMC as a way to generate revenue to help his new Disneyland get on its feet, but the park became self-sustaining much quicker than anyone had expected. Meanwhile, MMC was bleeding bucks, despite all the commercials and production cutbacks. The Disney people and the ABC network got into inevitable squabbles, and the plug was pulled. But the show lived on for quite a while in syndication, Annette forever young…in the heyday, she got about 10 times the mail as all the other kids combined. I liked her too, of course, but in retrospect, I think Cheryl Holdridge was cuter, especially when she grew up. But that’s just me…my all-time heart-throb was Nani Darnell on “Magic Land of Allakazam.” …alaka-sunny and alaka-swell!

item 3 >>> Yeah, it was spelled with 2 L’s, and sometimes with a capital K in the middle, for Kelloggs. Her hubby, Mark Wilson, was billed as “the Man with the 100 Thousand Dollar Hands.” Kind of reminds me, for some reason, of the time Joe the Bartender asked Mr. Dennehy what he thought of Pay TV. “Huh? No, no, you got it all wrong, Mr Dennehy. They don’t pay you to watch TV, you pay them!”

item 4 >>> CATV, or Community Antenna Television, was a godsend to people living in areas where over-the-air signals were inaccessible. A large centralized tower pulled in the stations, which were then relayed to customers via cable. This began in 1948 and there was no controversy over this, why should there be? What was controversial were systems called Pay TV, Subscriber TV, or in a 1955 article in the New York Times, “Pay-as-You-See” TV.  These were designed to compete with over-the-air channels in markets where regular TV was accessible. They had to be approved by the FCC, and despite the all the publicity, were relatively short-lived experiments. In both the 50s and 60s, so-called Phonevision systems were tried, with programing delivered over phone-lines. (Nothing new under the sun, eh?) There were over-the-air signals that were decoded by set-top boxes coded with IBM computer cards, and even a system in Southern California with an in-home coin-box, which lasted several years in the 50s. Needless to say, the Big Three networks fought against these enterprises, and outside of cable markets, the idea of paying for something that could be obtained for free was a hard sell, hence Joe the Bartender’s asking Mr. Dennehy’s opinion of it.

item 5 >>> Speaking of American Bandstand, when I say it killed the Mickey Mouse Club Show, it wasn’t because they were on at the same time. Just the opposite…when “Bandstand” started in 1952 at WFIL in Philadelphia, it aired from 3:30 to 5pm, followed by MMC when it arrived in 1955. But that was just in Philadelphia. When the show went national on August 5, 1957, hence the addition of “American,” it was on ABC, and still lead into MMC, but now for everyone, not just Philadelphia. Trouble was the ratings: sometimes they fell off by half when AB went off and MMC came on at 5pm. And don’t think the sponsors didn’t notice…they did, and switched, and that’s how AB killed MMC. More tomorrow on the fascinating history of AB…

item 6 >>> Getting back to Nani Darnell, I sure got that one right. Looking back at old videos, she was quite a babe. But I recall feeling “something,” not quite sure what at the time, for Dale Evans, Betsy Palmer, the grown-up Shirley Temple, even Loretta Young to a certain extant. Then came the First Grade, which for many of us Boomers was our first exposure to school, and the big world outside our immediate neighborhoods. Geez, I even had a “girl-friend,” in the first grade, then took a break for about a decade. Never played doctor much…I never saw what the big appeal of it was, sitting in the waiting room for 45 minutes…

item 7 >>> Wanna get a rise outa your kids or grandkids? Tell ’em Justin Bieber is actually a girl. They won’t believe it, and I wouldn’t have believed it either, till I saw this picture in the paper from the American Music Awards. Well, at least he’s not gay…unless he’s a lesbian…

item 8 >>> Woe is me, I never dreamed the day would come when I wouldn’t understand tonic. I mean, they have a Cherry version of Dr. Pepper out now. I thought cherry was the whole point, of Dr. Pepper…that was certainly the idea when Coke launched the Mr. Pibb attack, to get a piece of the cherry soda market. I know, they advertise Dr. Pepper as having 23 flavors, but come on. OK, the cherry version is more cherrier, but you know, lots of things have lots of flavors. The ingredient list just says “natural and artificial flavors,” right? For example, vanilla in in nearly everything sweet. It tends to enhance other flavors, like chocolate, caramel, coffee, lots of stuff. In fact, this morning I bought some diet A&W Root Beer…see next item…

item 9 >>> …and it said on it “Made With Aged Vanilla.” First of all, why is it assumed that “aged” is better? Ever eat an aged banana? Second of all, since when is vanilla the draw of root beer? Sure, just about everything sweet has some vanilla in it, if only a tweak. But I did some blog-snooping, and turns out this is a mini-New Coke scandal in the making. Some long-time A&W fans hate it, others are fine with it. I tried it and yeah, it could have had a bit more of a root beer taste than it did. What’s next, chocolate root beer? BTW, do you know what root flavors root beer? Answer tomorrow…

item 10 >>> And why is Cream Soda flavored with vanilla? Because it’s meant to approximate an old-time favorite: a scoop of ice cream in soda water. “Ice cream” was shortened to “cream,” and vanilla was and probably still is the “default” flavor of ice cream, get it? What you might not get is why the Cream Soda flavor of Dum Dum pops has a picture of fruit on the wrapper…looks like a banana, pineapple, lemon, and yellow-colored orange, maybe? When questioned, Spangler, the makers of Dum Dums, came up with a pretty dumb dumb answer: “We couldn’t think of what else to illustrate vanilla…we couldn’t put a picture of a soda can or bottle.” But why fruit? Why not a rabbit, or a tennis racket? And why not a can or bottle…they illustrate their Root Beer flavor with a barrel, after all. But I’ll tell you the truth, I always thought the fruits and the green & yellow color scheme of the wrapper just seemed right, in some inexplicable way. Indeed, it seemed a little mysterious, even nonsensical I guess, but that was fine. Life doesn’t always have to make sense.

Wicked Ballsy


This is a combination of 2 photos, showing Ernie Kovacs’ famous “Weird Gravity” routine as it was set up in the studio, and as it appeared on the TV screen. Many years later, it inspired Penn and Teller’s “upside-down” magic tricks…

strictly plugsville…

Podcasts at http://stolfpod.podbean.com and   http://thewholething.podbean.com

Daily blogs at http://stolf.wordpress.com and  https://deepfriedhoodsiecups.wordpress.com

More bloggage at http://travelingcyst.blogspot.com and  http://www.examiner.com/retro-pop-culture-in-watertown/mark-john-astolfi

Resume and audio samples at http://home.rr.com/mastolfi

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