Tag Archives: 80’s

Throwback Thursday: the McDLT

Why on earth did MacDonald’s discontinue the McDLT?  Sure, it had a stupid gimmick.  And it seemed to have so much lettuce and tomato that I used to think of it as “the saladburger.”

But it was good.  Hey, it takes a lot to get a guy like me to order anything resembling a salad.

I have no idea why the commercial below features George Costanza singing and dancing like he’s in a Michael Jackson video.  The 80’s were a weird time.

 

Throwback Thursday: T.S.S. in Middle Island, NY

This “Throwback Thursday” post is one to which only my longtime fellow Long Islanders might relate.  And it’s really more of a bittersweet news item …  I signed onto Facebook the night before last only to see this message from a great old friend from the neighborhood:

“They tore down the old T.S.S. today.”

Yes — that’s “T.S.S.,” as in Times Squares Stores, even though nobody ever called it the latter.  And “T.S.S.” is an appellation that only the 40-and-up-ish crowd would recognize, I think.  Everyone else thinks of it as “the old K-Mart.”  But in the late 70’s and early 80’s, it was a sprawling local family discount store.

I and other Longwood High School kids have a hell of a lot of memories from there.  I remember accompanying my parents there during their shopping expeditions when I was .. maybe the age from Kindergarten through the third grade?

“Warehouse”-type club stores weren’t really a thing back then.  T.S.S.’ immense space was truly impressive to a little boy; it seemed like a world unto itself.  We all remember the toy section — that was where I browsed wistfully through the very first Star Wars figures — I’m talking the original toys released in connection with the 1978 and 1980 films.  I still remember them arrayed along the racks in their original packaging — Lord only knows how much those racks of unopened original toys would be worth today.  I’m also pretty sure that’s where my parents picked up those Micronauts figures I got for Christmas one year.  Come to think of it … I’ll bet the majority of my Christmas presents were bought there.

I also vividly remember the bedding department, for some reason.  I think it’s because I really took a liking to some Charlie Brown bedsheets I saw displayed there.

But more than anything else, I remember the weird entranceway — they sold concession-style drinks and snacks on both sides, the better to appeal to children to beseech their parents.

There’s a neat little blog entry, complete with the store’s original TV commercials,  right here at LongIsland70skid.com:

http://www.longisland70skid.com/tss/

T.S.S. was such a vivid, memorable part of my early childhood that it was pretty damned depressing for me Tuesday to discover its eventual fate.  I’m not talking about the sprawling space being razed.  I’m talking about the goddam dystopian state of disrepair into which the entire commercial property fell.

After some long intervening years during which the space became a K-Mart, the building just went to hell after that doomed chain went as defunct as T.S.S.  Tuesday’s Newsday article, below, should give you the rundown.

And the rundown isn’t pretty.  Over the past decade, it seems that the “hulking eyesore” of a building was the site of squatters, drug users, and encroaching wild plantlife.  If you have fond childhood memories of the store, then do not perform a Google image search for the location, as I did.  It’ll show you a massive, vacant monolith of a building on a vast, overgrown, dangerous looking lot.  It looks frikkin’ postapocalyptic.  And it’ll make you sad.

And if that weren’t enough, a murder victim was found this past Saturday in the woods just next to the site:

“Middle Island vacant K-Mart demolished days after body found,” by Carl MacGowan, Newsday, 4/5/16

They say you can never go home again, huh?

Throwback Thursday: “Tales of The Gold Monkey” and “Bring ‘Em Back Alive”

I was chatting the other day with author and blogger “Porter Girl,” about what I call the “80’s ‘Raiders’ TV ripoffs.”  And that’s … probably an unjustly harsh term coming from me, because I absolutely loved both shows in question when they were on the air in 1982.

I’m talking about “Tales of the Gold Monkey” and “Bring ‘Em Back Alive,” which both aired for only a single season.  (“Bring ‘Em Back Alive” had the misfortune of airing opposite “The A-Team,” a show I never liked but which was a LITTLE popular among my peer group of 10-year-olds.)

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” had hit theaters a year prior.  Countless adults will tell you today that the “Star Wars” movies were part of their childhood, and that’s true for me too.  But “Raiders” was a far larger part, and today it is still tied with “Vanilla Sky” (2001) for my favorite movie of all time.  And if you’ve ever read this blog before, then you know that I watch a lot of movies.

So I was thrilled when two shows appeared that were so much LIKE “Raiders.”  Both were sort of … “Raiders” Lite.  (I think what a lot of people fail to realize is that the sometimes grim inaugural 1981 movie was unambiguously aimed at adults, while the sequels were geared toward the younger set.)

And, to be fair, each show stood on its own.  “Tales” was set in the Pacific in 1938, and followed cargo plane pilot Jake Cutter (played by Stephen Collins).  He and his near-sentient, one-eyed dog, “Jack,” adventured among all manner of period players: Nazi spies, American spies, Imperial Japanese officers, et alia.  (I think that both “Tales” and “Raiders” misled an entire generation about the degree of gunfights and swordplay connected with certain careers.)

The show’s title derives from the adventure in its pilot episode; Jake and company face a mysterious island in which giant, vicious were-monkey cryptids protect a golden monkey statue.  (Think of the evil primates in “Congo” (1995).)  I explained to my friend that I thought this was maybe inspired by the Hovitos’ gold idol in the opening of “Raiders.”  Quite honestly?  I remember that pilot episode being pretty scary for a kid, and it was unusually dark for early 80’s primetime show.

“Bring ‘Em Back Alive,” while also developed to capitalize on “Raiders'” popularity, was actually based on a real person.  Bruce Boxleitner’s “Frank Buck” was based on the very real Frank Buck, a famous big game trapper in the 1930’s.  He wrote a book entitled “Bring ‘Em Back Alive,” and the film treatment followed in 1932.

I’m surprised that anyone even remembers “Tales” or “Bring ‘Em.”  I don’t ever remember meeting another fourth grader who talked about either show.  It was always about “The A-Team” in the lunch room, and the “DID YOU SEE WHEN THAT GUY SHOT THAT GUY?!”  But Blog Correspondent Pete Harrison chimed in immediately when I posted about “Tales” on Facebook, and there are people in the blogosphere who fondly remember them too.

If you do recall them with a smile, as I do, I think they’re both available on DVD.

 

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Goldmonkey     jakecutter1

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Throwback Thursday: the Halloween “treats” you never wanted.

Let’s begin with a little contrast — any kid knows the gold standard for Halloween candy — chocolate bars.  The households that gave away Snickers, Nestle Crunch, Three Musketeers and Butterfingers were the most revered.

If you were a little bastard, as I was, you exploited such generosity.  I learned early on to carry an extra mask or even a full costume in my trick-or-treat bag, so that I could visit any particular house on Halloween twice.  I got called on it once, by a patient woman in my neighborhood who was giving away Three Musketeers; she asked me to take off my reserve mask and suggested that we had spoken only minutes before.  My lust for free candy was so strong that I actually pretended to be my own twin brother.  At the age of eight, I was the grade-school moral equivalent of a Wall Street banker before the 2008 housing crash.  I think the only thing that redeemed my greedy soul every year was the fact that I absolutely did not throw eggs or toilet paper or shoot shaving cream at houses.  (We really didn’t resent any neighbors.)  I’d like to think that my temperance redeemed my avarice.

I knew all the ins and outs of trick-or-treating.  Halloween only arrived once a year.  I planned that event with all the resolve and forethought of Rommel, even before I knew who Rommel was.  Instead of a store-bought plastic bag, I carried a sturdy pillowcase every year, as it was less likely to stretch or break under the weight of my annual bounty.  (It’s all about the tensile strength, you see.)

My carefully selected partners and I would meticulously plan which streets to invade, when to leave, and how to defend ourselves against the older kids’ pranks.  (Our own shaving cream arsenals were only for self-defense purposes, but they were well stocked and always within reach.)  We were set upon one year by some older kids at the top of my street who were wielding slings made out of socks filled with flour.  When you were whipped with them, they left long, white powdery stripes down your costume.

I absolutely was not a tough kid.  But Halloween brought something out in me that day, and I retaliated like a goddam enraged Israeli during the Six Day War, or maybe one of the infected from “28 Days Later.”  Maybe it was the rush from eating sugar all day.  Maybe it was the spirit of Samhain.  Maybe it was some deep-seated primal nature evoked into actuality by the wearing of a mask for eight hours.  But I nearly took an older boy DOWN after he got my costume all flour-striped.  He laughed and actually congratulated me after our melee for being the only younger kid who fought back.  He said that made it more fun.

But I’m getting off topic — this is a blog post about sucky Halloween treats.  My friends are all adults now, and I am arguably one.  So this is an important public service announcement about what NOT to hand out to trick-or-treaters.

There are three things that you need to avoid to prevent severely disappointing a child.  Think of them as the Trio of Terrible Treats.

First, “Candy Corn.”  The very design of this candy boggles the mind in its stupidity.  Candy Corn?  What person, not under the influence of bath salts, has ever looked at corn and opined, “You know, this corn is delicious, but would taste even better if it were made of sugary cream?”  This bizarre foodstuff manages to be both … sickly sweet and blandly creamy, with the added sensory discomfort of being hard and chewy.  Why does such a product even exist?  Why is it perennial?  Did somebody actually patent this abomination, or is it a generic and strangely cruel tradition — like some weird, timeless holdover from a medieval age the Catholic Church employed candy to punish pagans and heretics?

Second, those little boxes of “Good-n-Plenty.”  The boxes were tiny, the candy sucked; I complained loudly as a boy that they were “neither good nor plenty.”  They tasted like black licorice that was fermented in ostrich piss.  The marketing was strange too.  The boxes were … kinda fluorescent burgundy, and the candy itself looked like … pills.  Seriously, they looked like pills — check out the photos below.  As though homeowners were offering children PCP or “uppers,” because the annual Autumn de facto overdose of pure sugar wasn’t enough.  Every 80’s kid knew that “Good-n-Plenty” totally contradicted what we’d learned from the anti-drug PSA’s that were ubiquitous on television back in the day.

Third is a “treat” that wasn’t even candy at all.  No, it isn’t apples; people were paranoid enough by the 80’s so that everyone eschewed handing out anything that wasn’t wrapped.  I’m talking about toothbrushes and tooth capsules.  Handing out toothbrushes on Halloween is the equivalent of handing out copies of Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” at the local church on Christmas morning.  The … tooth capsules were downright bizarre.  The Internet tonight informs me that they are called “plaque disclosing tablets.”  And, though they looked like they could be candy, their flavorless function was merely to stain your teeth in order to show you where you needed to brush more often.  I was always unfailingly polite to adults who handed these out (the result of a Catholic upbringing), and I always said “Thank you.”  What we all always wanted to ask, however, was, “If I cared about my teeth, why would I be carrying around a 20-pound bag of candy, mother@#$%er?!”

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Photo credit: “Candy-Corn” by Evan-Amos – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

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Photo credit: “Good-&-Plenty-Box-Small” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

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Photo credit: “Good & Plenty licorice candy” by Glane23 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons .

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