Tag Archives: nostalgia

Remember This? Geritol TV Ads (and a very special “mystery person” – or two)

Hey, wait a minute.

Although the old black and white Geritol ads have long since left the airwaves (an ad highlighted below), this month’s “mystery person” is still very much around television. From the clues below, try to name this iconic television performer who:

*  became the oldest person to guest-host Saturday Night Live, a performance which was critically acclaimed and a major ratings success
*  has hosted an NBC practical-joke show that resulted in three consecutive Emmy nominations
*  has received three American Comedy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, four Golden Globes nominations, a BAFTA, a Grammy, and 23 Emmy nominations with six wins
* has a Guinness World Record for the longest television career for a female entertainer
*  is regarded as a pioneer of American television for being one of the first women to have creative control in front of and behind the camera
* holds the record for longest span between Emmy nominations for performances—her first was in 1951 and her most recent was in 2011, a span of 60 years—and has become the oldest nominee overall as of 2014
* is the oldest winner of a competitive Grammy Award, which she won at age 90 for her seventh book If You ASK Me (And of Course You Won’t)
* has been awarded American Comedy Awards, the Screen Actors Guild, the Television Critics Association and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for her lifetime achievement awards, recognizing her contribution to television

By now you know who it is – Betty White, perhaps best known for her role as Rose on The Golden Girls sitcom. At 92 years young, she’s one of the world’s most amazing and vibrant entertainers, and is still active today.

So, what’s been Betty’s secret to success and longevity all these years?

 

 

That was Betty White in 1954. Somehow I doubt Betty White ever had iron poor blood.

But wait. “Feeling tired, run down…” “Just a tablespoon…” “And it’s good tasting…” Hm-m-m.

Is it possible Betty inspired another female performer to create this timeless skit?

 

 

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So Bright as to be Blinding, Part II

MeXmsTree 48bit 800 color  dust111JUST ICICLES CLOSE-UPMeXmsTree 48bit 800 color  dust111JUST ICICLES CLOSE-UPTen fifteen, Christmas morning, and poof, Christmas was cooked.

Once the last gift had been unwrapped, the entire holiday season was a memory. No more anticipation, no more unbridled glee. With all the weeks of preparation and festivities concluded, Mom wouldn’t make me take down the tree I’d lovingly decorated now, would she? Would she?

She did.

I took a stand and left my masterwork up until April.

Sure, the tree was a little brittle-looking, but I was still in the holiday spirit. However, even I had to admit watching the Masters Golf Tournament on TV next to a still-lit Christmas tree didn’t look right. When was Mom going to explode about the matter, outraged how the pathetic three inches of tinder dry needles below the parched tree were going to make the perfect nest for this year’s Easter egg hunt? Or what if she blew up and asked Dad to remove it, getting him riled at me in the process?

Fearing that scenario, sometime between the golfers turning Amen Corner and the final putt, I began the process of stripping the tree of all its sparkling adornment. In doing so, I made three mental notes about my tree responsibilities for next year. #1. Taking thousands of icicle strands off the tree was a lot less fun than putting them on (Mom insisted we save them all). #2. Trying to recall which boxes the 179 ornaments went back into was torture. #3. Not watering the tree was just an overall bad idea.

As I pulled the dry, browning evergreen out from the corner, a showy display of brittle needles rained to the floor. Just a few feet behind them was a frazzled electric cord plugged into a sparking wall outlet. Imagining the scene of our house going up in flames and Dad yelling, “How could you be so irresponsible!?” I dragged the crackling pine outside as quickly as I could. Then Mom proceeded to complain about the Appalachian Trail of needles that wound through the house all the way to the stack of trees piled in the backyard from previous Christmases. I couldn’t win. As I stared down at what was left of the tree, all I could think was Christmas was over, really over now, and that Mom and Dad were disappointed in my tree removal ability.

Regardless, I reminded Mom about wanting a pet for my next responsibility, suggesting a bear cub, maybe a St. Bernard. She said no. A week later, however, she said yes to a Venus flytrap. What? A plant?

My Venus flytrap lived inside a shiny, clear plastic box of dirt. It looked odd, but fashioned long, pretty lashes, inspiring me to name her Maybelline. I loved to watch her sit perfectly still one second, then snatch a fly inside her lightning-quick jaws the next. Assuming care of a Venus flytrap was Mom’s test to determine whether I could handle responsibility with a living organism (our Christmas tree didn’t count – fortunately), I didn’t want to blow it, and made sure Maybelline stayed on a regular eating schedule.

Soon, however, Maybelline stopped eating. Dead flies I dropped in her mouth sat there. Even bits of protein-fortified hamburger fell in with no change. Not until she turned yellow and her overflowing mouth looked like a dried-up, all-beef taco did I conclude she was actually dead.

“I don’t know what happened. She just died,” I cried to Mom.

“May this be a lesson to you to eat nutritious meals or you might shrivel and die, too.”

An image of Mom’s scary goulash came to mind, but I mustered enough strength to answer with words I absolutely had to deliver if I ever wanted another pet.

“Yes, Mom, I do know. I do. Nutritious meals are important. And the ones you serve are really really good.”

Sure enough, a few weeks later, she brought home a beautiful, royal-looking, sleek, gray-colored seal point Siamese cat I immediately named Dexter.

This is an excerpt from my memoir, Maybe Boomer, and the chapter titled, “Responsibility.” You can read more from that chapter and others in the Excerpts section from this website.

 

 

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Being Benjamin: “The Graduate” – Then and Now (an ode to Mike Nichols)

At the end of the film, “The Graduate,” Benjamin Braddock and Elaine Robinson are running for their lives. Darting into a Santa Barbara municipal bus, barely escaping their parents’ contempt and wrath, Benjamin and Elaine are on their way to living their own lives. Yes! Good for them. They made it. And “The Graduate” will end on a happy note.

But wait. Their jubilant smiles have disappeared. Sitting alone together at the back of the bus, they’re not even talking to each other either. Fade out? Roll credits? The film’s over? What? And who is this Mike Nichols guy?

Mike Nichols was one of the new, young Hollywood directors springing up in the sixties. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” his directorial debut in 1966, presented controversial social issues rarely seen in Hollywood films then. The following year, “The Graduate” was released on December 21, 1967 – forty-seven years ago today. Sadly, on November 19 of this year, Mike Nichols passed away at 83.

Because of Mike Nichols and the power of “The Graduate,” I saw life through a close-up lens, one that expanded a view of the world I desperately needed at the time. Watching “The Graduate” this week brought back that same hyper-impressionable Mike Andberg, the half-person who, more than anything, wanted to be anyone but himself. Sad, but true. Such is the power of film and how it can be used as a benchmark in life, for better or for worse. I had no idea at the time how Mike Nichols – through his lead character, Benjamin Braddock – would influence me in so many ways.

About to be a freshman at Maryland University, I couldn’t wait to look like Benjamin strolling around campus in a brown corduroy sport coat (just as Benjamin did at Berkeley for what seemed like the entire second half of the film. Hmmm, not a bad way to live life – to stroll, to wander, to drift.) Sadly, I wore baby blue tee shirts under my open corduroy coat, blowing away any sex appeal the jacket may have initiated.

My next goal was finding just the right shades to look like Benjamin. Shopping all over College Park was worth the effort getting my hands on a pair of large, dark-rimmed sunglasses (that really looked nothing like Benjamin’s, nor did I look any more like Benjamin when putting the spectacles on). Wearing them at night was cool, too – perhaps the best pay-off. That’s what Benjamin did.

Since Benjamin shunned the bar scene, so would I. I, like him, preferred to spend my Saturday nights gazing for hours into space, out the window, or through an aquarium, all to the introspective sounds of Simon and Garkunkel’s “Parsely, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” playing in the background.

Being part of the So Cal beatnik scene one day could be cool for me to join, but I’d seen how Benjamin tuned out the hipster crowd at the hamburger drive-in by rolling his ragtop down so he could eat alone with Elaine. That’s what I really wanted – an Elaine. Beautiful girls, beautiful dates, beautiful never-ending campus life. Benjamin (played by Dustin Hoffman) had a big nose; so did I. Benjamin got women; so would I.

Benjamin was a master of casual, deadpan reactions. He even yawned after his big kiss with Elaine. How cool and suave that act was, as if an attitude of “not really needing it (love)” turned women on! To him, marriage was a game. To him, his parent’s marriage was a wreck; Elaine’s was a wreck; in fact, my parent’s marriage was a wreck. It’s best to play it easy with love. And whatever you do, don’t do what your parent’s did.

So, here it is, many years later, and I’ve never married. I’ve also discovered treating women in an unemotional, casual, even-headed and deadpan way never really worked. Neither did it keep me from feeling deep pain when rejected. Even though I eventually dropped use of corduroy coats by day and shades by night, I wonder now how many years I felt far too comfortable as the man who inspired the coat idea in the first place.

I also wonder what took me so long to pay attention to the positive sparks ignited by “The Graduate” – my desire to go west and get away from my native east coast security; to feel the excitement of Hollywood; to experience the warmth of Southern California; to explore the San Francisco area bridges – all images of places introduced to me in the film. Yet, I waited until my forty-third year to go to film school. Forty-fifth to see Hollywood and Southern California. It wasn’t until this September I visited San Francisco and beautiful lower northern California for the first time. In part, this is what became of me.

As for Benjamin and Elaine, one wonders what became of them. Much older and wiser now, I say they probably became just like their conventional, values-depleted, money-oriented parents. Perhaps that was Nichols’ view, too (who, like many things, was far ahead of me in seeing this scenario). Mike Nichols was a visionary and great director.

I’m a film devote and helluva DVD spinner.

I guess I can live with that Mike.

 

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So Bright as to be Blinding (was my tree decorating delight)

MeXmsTree 48bit 800 color  dust111JUST ICICLES CLOSE-UP“Being a man is about taking on responsibility,” Dad said to me one day in a  low and throaty delivery. “Some day your time will come to prove yourself.”
Thank goodness I was only nine and had a long time to go before proving myself, whatever that meant.

“Michael, I want you to put up the family Christmas tree and decorate it, then take it down at the end of the season,” Mom said to me one day. What? The moment’s here already? And I’m still only nine? And who, me? Given responsibility with tree icicles? Candy canes? AC powered bubble lights? Electricity? I’ll blow up the tree.

After Dad fulfilled his meek part of this year’s tree task – dumping a freshly cut Scotch pine on the basement floor and getting it to stand inside its cheap aluminum base – I initiated my big task.

I smothered the tree in a blinding sheen of bright silver icicles. Then, I covered the pine’s branches with twice their weight in bright ornaments and lights. To top everything off, I placed the heavy star contraption on the uppermost branch, bending it over like a week-old carrot. But it was fun standing on a tall ladder trying to get the wimpy limb to stand straight. When else had I been allowed to use a tall ladder?

I stood back, assessed my completed tree design, slapped my hands together and smirked. Responsibility wasn’t so bad after all – more like pure merriment! Decorating was art, and I loved it. Perhaps the best part was being allowed to create my tree masterpiece without being overseen, especially by Dad. It was all endless joy.

 

Ten fifteen, Christmas morning and poof, Christmas was cooked.

Once the last gift had been unwrapped, the entire holiday season was a memory. No more anticipation, no more unbridled glee. With all the weeks of preparation and festivities concluded, surely Mom wouldn’t make me take the tree down now, would she? Would she?

To be continued December 28th with my next installment of “Stories From Maybe Boomer.”

 

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Remember This? The Idyllic World of “To Kill a Mockingbird”


Sometimes I get the urge to house hunt. I go to open house events and savor the dream of owning my own house one day. And sometimes I wonder just what it is I’m looking for, what I’m attracted to, what I’m not, and where my preferences come from.

One of my favorite movies from childhood is “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Although a 1963 film, it’s set in Depression-era Alabama. As a young boy raised in Maryland during the sixties, for some reason, I sensed the days depicted in the film were “better” than the contemporary times I lived in. It was just my reaction to the film when I watched it.

Visiting various open houses last weekend here in Santa Fe, I walked away several times feeling empty. Where were the rose gardens in the front yards? Where were the people mingling in the street, walking to and fro? Where were the houses adorned with porches and stoops and sidewalks welcoming visitors to the front door?

Cue: “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Oh my God, the image of my perfect house is exactly what I viewed in “Mockingbird.” Could I have held on to this image of hallowed house and home for so long?

Yes. That’s exactly the image I still yearn to see. After watching a DVD of the movie later that house-hunting day, I realized I wanted not just the houses, but the streets, the people, the neighborhood, the community – even cranky old Mrs. Dubose. Call me corny, but I still crave the Maycomb, Alabama, I saw in “Mockingbird” with its white, wooden houses and green grass lawns, and apparently have all my life.

Cue: the documentary on “To Kill a Mockingbird” enclosed inside the DVD case. No, the Maycomb in “Mockingbird” was not filmed in Maycomb. It was not even filmed in the South. In fact, it wasn’t a real town, but a movie set. Every house was constructed from scratch and the street built on a Hollywood back lot. What? My entire image of house and home is –  and was – built upon the foundation of a movie set, flats and scene designers handy work?

I viewed “Mockingbird” one more time. Yep – a suspicion come true. Upon closer inspection, beyond the beautiful hickory trees adorning Maycomb’s main street where Scout, Jem and Atticus lived was the beautiful Alabama Mountain Range (er, the San Gabriel Mountains just outside Hollywood). Boy, had I been duped. As a child, even an adult, I never thought to question whether Alabama had big mountains. Or I consciously didn’t want to.

And that’s the power of film, and specifically “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It took us to a quieter time in America. It also took us to a period where discrimination and ignorance were far more prevalent. In teaching his children to face prejudice in the eye, Atticus Finch tried to construct an uplifted community, not just one surrounded by the idyllic trappings of a world surrounded by white picket fences. For all these reasons, they made an irresistible world to me.

Cue: a sense of reality. I guess I can abandon the idea of house hunting in rural Alabama some day. And what have I been thinking here in Santa Fe: rose bushes, pitched roofs, green grass – in New Mexico?

I’ll just have to return to the movie and the Alabama of my mind for that house (and all the nostalgia that went with it).

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Remember This? Roget’s Thesaurus

Quote of the day: Everything in the world is good for something. –– Dryden.

Roget illustration 001bPeter Roget is God, kind of. What would I do today without my 1961 edition of Roget’s International Thesaurus? It was a present given to me by my mother for completing my Lutheran confirmation classes.

At the time, after sweating through those confirmation classes, I asked, “Is this all I get, a book with a billion words and only one picture, a sick, sepia-toned print of the author, some guy named Roget?” Looking at his picture, all I saw was a stiff, scholarly guy staring back at me with an expression that said only one thing, “I am smarter than you will ever be.”

Unimpressed with Roget, for nearly a decade, his thesaurus was put to better use as a prop to hold up makeshift shelves in the living room that my precious TV sat on.

But one day, years later, when I needed to find a synonym for “lazy,” I slid Roget out, dusted him off, and life hasn’t been the same since. No more using “lazy” when there’s “dilatory, slack, shiftless, and lazy as Ludlam’s dog” around. I look at Roget now and give praise. What other gift could keep on giving like his thesaurus?

The answer is J.I. Rodale’s 1361-page synonym finder. I’ve been confirmed to the next level, and Rodale’s compilation of synonyms is the best around today.

Even still, I have Roget’s Thesaurus by my side. His book not only contains synonyms, precious American slang and colloquialisms, but is full of ancient, foreign and modern quotations at the bottom of each page. In fact, that’s where I found the quotation by Dryden for this post: Everything in the world is good for something. However, I could have found better use for Roget’s masterpiece than as some prop to elevate the almighty TV set on. How slack, lax and negligent.

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Remember This Guy? Chef Boy-Ar-Dee

047_ATT304848 (1)As a kid, I assumed this handsome Italian chef guy made all the Chef Boy-Ar-Dee brand spaghetti personally. I visualized him stirring a huge vat of it in a factory somewhere around Gary, Indiana, the factory capital of the US. But even as a four-year-old, I knew Chef Boy-Ar-Dee wasn’t great spaghetti.

Regardless, I learned one very important thing from Chef B-A-D: the taste difference between “canned” food and fresh. Unfortunately, Mom – head chef in our house – preferred canned spaghetti (and peas, corn, beans, Spam, potted meats, etc.) Tin-encased foods represented one less meal she had to prepare from scratch over a hot stove. (Mom took this to the hilt in retaliation for too many other housewife responsibilities. Read more about it in the introduction to Chapter Three, “Revenge,” from my memoir, Maybe Boomer.)

Actually, the Chef Bor-Ar-Dee people are still around, but have a new guy modeling as Chef. I’ve gone to a health food diet in my adult years and kind of miss the old Chef Boy-Ar-Dee, even his Beefaroni and Spaghetti & Meatballs. Do you? Or do you still (secretly) crank out the can opener for an occasional comfort food hit?

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Remember This? Army Men

001_ATT222 (1)Army men were the bomb – my most explosive nostalgia memory. I had all kinds – Civil War army men, Revolutionary War army men and WWII army men. For years, I enjoyed placing my toy miniature plastic soldiers in fresh war scenes concocted in the dirt battlefields of my backyard.

But, as I got older, there came a time when my revered toy troops needed to be reinvented, recycled. My middle school friend, Paul, showed me how – by burning them. Oh, the seductive, searing sound that drops of molten plastic make when they drip to the ground!

But playing with fire proved far too tempting for my comrade and I one afternoon. Dousing the heads of the army men in gas, then the grass below, the gas can accidentally caught on fire. The rest of the story is chronicled in my memoir, Maybe Boomer (although you can read more about kindling friendships in the introduction to Chapter Five, Friendship”).

Did anyone else out there nearly burn their house down by accident?

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Baby Boomers, Exclusion and Ex Lax

Quote of the day: If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.–– Thoreau

Welcome to my blog. This is my inaugural post, and thanks for being a part of it. I want my blog to be a place where you and I share our thoughts and creative endeavors together.

Diner2 1200 BLOG res 48 bit color thumb003I took the photo of this billboard on a chilly winter night in Bethesda, Maryland, sometime back in the eighties. Whenever I look at that large piece of nostalgia now, with the smiley, happy family sitting in the front seat, I say how phony. Life wasn’t really like that back then, was it? It wasn’t for me. In fact, “There’s no way like the American Way” came across more like, “It’s our way or the highway, young man.”

The billboard scene was not too far off from my own family experience. (After all, if you look closely, you’ll see it’s not me sitting cozily between Mom and Dad in the front seat, but my sister, forever the middle child, with her own set of problems. I was probably stuck in the back scrunched between my two older brothers – twins – with their own matching set of problems.) From the very beginning of life, I felt excluded and different from everyone. It was like I wasn’t even in the car at all, left behind at High’s Dairy Store after we’d gotten our weekly allotment of milk, Wonder Bread and Ex Lax.

With all this angst, I had to write a memoir. It’s called Maybe Boomer, my story of what it’s like to not fit in, and not just with my family, but the entire baby boom generation at large for many reasons.

When I took the photo of the diner on that cold night thirty years ago, I was just beginning to let creativity click into my life. More and more “clicks” went off: from the camera shutter, my chalk pastels hitting the drawing paper, my guitar pick tapping upon strings, and most recently, the computer keys clicking away day and night. They’ve all been essential stepping stones to lead me down a path that is mine, truly mine. Art was my salvation. Read more about my thoughts on creativity in Excerpts, “Chapter 7,” from Maybe Boomer. You can also see some of my creations (works on paper, music, photography and film) in My Art.

I invite you to check my blog regularly where we can explore our stories together. What kept you from feeling a part of your generation?  Are you a baby boomer who didn’t fit in with what was going on around you? How did you come to peace with that, if at all?

And, if nothing else, does anyone else remember seeing those billboards?

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Remember This? Travel – Corvair Style

 

What a hunk of nostalgia these cars were.

When the sleek Chevy Corvair first hit the 60s’ roadways, I thought it was cool. It was a far better car than some of the other wrecks around at the time, such as the Studebaker Lark and Rambler American. Like the spiffy new Mustang and Corvette introduced recently, would I like Corvairs as much?

The only Corvair I saw around our Silver Spring, Maryland, neighborhood was driven by the mother of a girl from my sixth grade class I had a big crush on. This little excerpt from my memoir, Maybe Boomer (Chapter 10, “Girls”), explains it:

Then Mary came along in sixth grade. She was one of the first to present breasts in our class, although they were always difficult to corroborate with falsies so prevalent at this age. I really liked her, but she was one of those girls who did everything with her mother. What good was showing off a nice bust after school if your mother was always there? Maybe Mary didn’t like her breasts. Did I want a girl like that? The only thing she ever flaunted was the new, chocolate milk-colored Chevy Corvair her mother chauffeured her around in.

Of course, after I was eventually dumped by Mary, I knew I hated all Corvairs everywhere.

But I got the last laugh only five years later when Corvairs filled landfills across the country. Were Corvairs really that bad a car to travel in?

 

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