Throwback Thursday: “The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries” (1977-1979)!

“The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries” (1977-1979) is another show that I remember fondly, if very vaguely, from my very early childhood.  It ran on ABC for a scant three seasons (over a two-year period), and that sounds positively odd to me, because my memory has morphed it into something that seems like a much bigger part of the 1970’s.

I also remember it being two different shows, but that maybe makes sense — the first season of the program had a weird format in that you saw a standalone adventure of the Hardy Boys one week, and then a Nancy Drew outing the following week.  (The characters, of course, were based on the young adult books written respectively by Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene.)  They eventually went on to have adventures together,  Wikipedia tells me, although Nancy Drew had a reduced role, and was eventually dropped altogether in the third and final season.

Wikipedia also tells me that the show’s third season portrayed the Hardy Boys as … adults?  And that they were agents of the Justice Department?  And that the Season 3 premiere saw the younger brother’s fiancee killed by a hit-and-run driver?  I definitely don’t remember that — and it seems a little darker from what I remember of 1970’s primetime television shows.

I loved the show, even if I was too young to follow its relatively simple stories well.  (I would have been in either kindergarten or the first grade.)  But it was a program intended for “big kids” (my older siblings had the books), and that made it wonderfully cool to me.

I moved onto the books myself, by the early 1980’s.  I loved those too.  The two that I remember are “The Secret of Wildcat Swamp” (with the Hardy Boys) and “The Secret of the Old Clock” (with Nancy Drew).  It was the Wildcat Swamp adventure that inducted me into the club — you see that snarling mountain lion on the cover?  That was utterly enticing to me when I found the book in the bottom of the closet I shared with my brother, when I was … maybe in the third grade, I guess.  (It looked a lot like the “saber tooth tiger” baddie in that Aurora model kit that I loved so much.)  I kept pondering that scene and wondering what the outcome was.  (Did they even have guns?!  Would the dad or whoever that was protect them?!)  One day, I finally accepted the challenge of reading what seemed like a very long book to me at the time, and I wasn’t disappointed.  That’s the power of a good book cover, I guess.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “The Gong Show” (1976-1980)!

Chuck Barris’ “The Gong Show” (1976-1980) was another show I remember vaguely (but quite fondly) from when I was in kindergarten or the first grade.  (It aired its original run between 1976 and 1978, and then was syndicated the latter two years.)  I still remember laughing uproariously at its weird acts, and it might have been one of those shows that ended just before my 8 PM bedtime.

The idea was this — a panel of three celebrity judges would view a handful of amateur talent acts, and would bang the titular gong if an act was so bad that they decided they couldn’t allow it to continue.  (Along with legitimate talent, the program deliberately fielded acts that were weird or just plain bad.)  What’s interesting is that this seems like a very tame precursor of contentious current reality shows like “American Idol” or “Britain’s Got Talent,” which are still going strong since their advent in the early 21st Century.  “The Gong Show” was a lot more laid back.

 

 

Throwback Thursday: “Laverne and Shirley” (1976-1983)

Rest in Peace, Penny Marshall.

This is one of only a handful of TV shows that I can remember watching as a tot in the late 1970’s.  “Laverne and Shirley” (1976-1983) was the kind of of thing I’d see in my older sisters’ room.  My Dad and older brother watched war movies, westerns and monster movies, but my two sisters preferred considerably lighter fare.  Two that they watched a lot at the time, if I recall, were this show and “Donnie & Marie” (1976-1979) — about the scariest thing you could find playing on their black-and-white TV was “The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries” (1977-1979). (One of my sisters had a crush on actor Shaun Cassidy; I think there was a poster of him in their room.)

I loved “Laverne and Shirley” when I was that young.  Lenny and Squiggy were my favorite highlight of any episode, even if I was sometimes confused about whether they were meant to be “good guys” or “bad guys.”  I was in kindergarten, and not altogether bright, and I thought that men who wore black leather jackets (Fonzie notwithstanding) were usually “bad guys.”  I also remember thinking that hippies and motorcyclists were the same group of “bad guys” because they disobeyed God or something … my confusion at the time resulted from some vaguely moraled born-again Christian comic books I’d happened across somewhere.

I also remember recognizing “Laverne and Shirley” as being related to another show that a lot of kids back then loved — “Happy Days” (1974-1984), of which it was a spin-off.  This might have been the first time in my life that I was aware of two live-action television properties occupying the same fictional universe; I’d already seen it happen in the movies with the various incarnations of “King Kong” and “Godzilla.”

Here’s what makes me feel old — for both “Laverne and Shirley” and “Happy Days,” I probably watched a lot of the episodes when they were first broadcast, and not just in re-runs (although “Happy Days” was also played in syndication endlessly throughout the 1980’s — it remained a fixture of daytime television).

And I only just realized writing this that Lenny was played by the priceless Michael McKean.  As an adult, I know him primarily from his brilliant turns in “This Is Spinal Tap” (1984) and “The X-Files” (1998-2018).  He’s 71 now.  Wow.

 

 

Throwback Thursday: WOR-TV Channel 9’s “Million Dollar Movie” intro!

This will probably be a pretty obscure Throwback Thursday post, but the segment below should be recognized by people who grew up in the New York metropolitan area in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.  It’s none other than the intro for WOR-TV Channel 9’s “Million Dollar Movie.”  (That music you hear is a particularly brassy rendition of Max Steiner’s “Tara’s Theme” from 1939’s “Gone With the Wind.”)

If you were in the New York area at that time, it ought to bring back memories of the old days of broadcast television.  (It’s actually surprising how much nostalgia people online report at seeing this 44-second clip.  And it’s amazing what you can find on the Internet.)  A few commenters note sardonically that the clip makes Manhattan look like a nighttime paradise — while The Big Apple in the 1970’s was not always an easy place to be.  (The city if far cleaner and safer today.)

Some of the comments I read were befuddling.  There is one blogger who wrote that he remembers this intro from as far back as the 1950’s.  (Had they really used it for more than two decades?)  And a populous minority of commenters remember being unsettled by the clip.  (They describe it as ominous, and the music as creepy, which mystifies the rest of us who remember “Million Dollar Movie.”)

This intro had an indelible effect on me.  While it recalls monster movies like “King Kong” (1939) and “Godzilla” (1954) for a lot of others, it will always remind me of my father watching war films and cowboy movies on his days off — along with the occasional Charles Bronson flick.   “The Great Escape” (1963), “A Bridge Too Far” (1977) and “Shane” (1953) all spring to mind.

When I was in the first or second grade, I habitually enhanced my Dad’s enjoyment of the “Million Dollar Movie” by peppering him endlessly with questions about whatever was playing — even if I had only wandered into the room for a few minutes.  “Why did they call it ‘a bridge too far?'” “Why did they fight World War II?” “The British and French were good guys in the war, right?” “Why did the cowboy drop his gun on purpose?”  “Why did the guy fake his death?”  (Bear in mind, folks, this was broadcast television — long before the days of Netflix and DVD’s.)

If any kid did that to me when I was watching my favorite movies, I’d go nuts — even if I had a pause button.  My father was a saint.

 

Throwback Thursday: Levi’s science fiction advertising posters

This ought to be an obscure Throwback Thursday — although I’d be thrilled if somebody else remembered these.  For a brief period in the early 1980’s, Levi’s produced some wicked cool in-store posters with science fiction themes.  I had several of them hanging in my room; the one below dates from 1981, and was advertised on eBay for a while for the modest sum of $20.

For decades, Levi’s had relied on endless cowboy imagery to sell its brand.  And that makes sense, given the rugged individualism they wished to associate with their product.  Portraying people wearing their jeans alongside strange aliens on fantastic worlds seems like an odd marketing choice.  (I don’t think it lasted very long.)  I can only guess that the success of “Star Wars” (1977) and “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) had something to do with the marketing strategy.  (You can also sometimes find Levi’s posters from the 1970’s featuring psychedelic imagery.)

The poster appears to feature the name “McClure” as the artist.  If any of you guys know the artist’s full name (or can point me in the direction of other posters like this), I’d be grateful.

 

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Throwback Thursday: the Mr. Peanut Peanut Butter Maker!

The Mr. Peanut Peanut Butter Maker was an unusual late 1970’s toy; although it first appeared in 1967, I had some variation of it around 1977 or 1978, when I was in kindergarten or the first grade.  I loved it beyond reason.  (I was bizarrely fixated with peanut butter at that age.)

As a few toy collectors have pointed out online, what’s interesting about this product is that it was both a child-safe toy and a marginally functional appliance — you could indeed make peanut butter with it, albeit very slowly.  You just poured the peanuts in and cranked away.  I honestly can still remember how it tasted, without the added oil and sugar of store-bought peanut butter.  It wasn’t as smooth, but it was damned good.

 

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Dennis Villelmi interviews the Woman in Room 237!

If you are a horror fan, you’re in for a rare treat.  Stop over at The Bees Are Dead to read Dennis Villelmi’s interview with Lia Beldam, who portrayed the woman in Room 237 in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Shining.”  (Fans of the 1977 novel and its 2013 sequel, “Doctor Sleep,” may recognize the character as the ghost of Lorraine Massey.)

Dennis chatted with Ms. Beldam about a few different aspects of filming — including her experiences with Kubrick and Jack Nicholson.  It’s great stuff.

 

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