Throwback Thursday: Olivia Newton John’s “Xanadu” (1980)

No, I was never a fan of Olivia Newton John, nor am I old enough to recall her stardom in any great detail.  I need to mention “Xanadu” at least once here at this blog, however, as it is forever linked in my mind with the summer of 1980.

This song was played endlessly at the beach by sunbathing teenage girls.  They mostly went unnoticed by me, as this was the summer before I entered the third grade, and I hadn’t developed much interest in girls just yet.  But thinking of this song immediately returns me to the beach again as a little boy.  (My parents sent me there with my siblings a lot, something for which retrospect has taught me to feel thankful.)

I have a lot of memories of going to the beach in the early 80’s — burning sand, screaming for the ice cream man, and sidestepping endless arrays of discarded bottlecaps in the gravel parking lot.  (The local teenagers must have done a hell of a lot of drinking there; upturned bottlecaps hurt when you stepped on them.)  This was also the summer that my friend Brian’s little brother, Brad, erroneously told me that Han Solo died in “The Empire Strikes Back.”  (There were no “Episode” prefixes when the first Star Wars films came out.)

There was another hit by John that can transport me back the early 80’s.  That would be “Physical,” which was played and sang ubiquitously in 1981 by the girls in my fourth grade class.  (I still remember Linda, who lived on the next street, talking about John in awed tones: “A looooot of people think she is beautiful.”)

But I’d prefer not to think of that song, if I can help it.  While “Xanadu” is arguably still fun and catchy, “Physical” is best left forgotten.

 

 

Throwback Thursday: the 1977 premiere of “Star Wars”

A bunch of us have been chatting online about when we first saw “Star Wars” in 1977.  I actually don’t remember many details.  And that’s reassuring, because it makes me feel old indeed when I explicitly remember things from the 1970’s.

I was five.  I don’t think I got to see it on its opening day, May 25.  And I don’t remember if my siblings took me to see the film with them, or if my father took all of us.  (I’m leaning toward the latter.)  I remember loving what I saw flash across that giant screen, even if I fully comprehended little of it.  I was thrilled at the blaster fire exchanges and the pursuits between between Han Solo and the Stormtroopers through the Death Star, and I’m pretty sure I was shocked at Obi-Wan Kenobi’s death.  At that age, I wasn’t quite used to seeing “the good guys” die in movies.

I also remember gleefully hollering my best synopsis of the film to my poor mother after we got home.  She was washing dishes in the kitchen, and I clearly recall her turning to me to patiently listen to my exuberant screaming, even though she still had to hold her wet hands over the sink.  It was the internal Death Star foot-chase I was most excited about.

I found myself slightly confused today by the results of a Google image search for the movie’s opening day.  They apparently show late-70’s crowds lining up to see it on May 25.  I thought Star Wars was a surprise hit … wouldn’t it have required a lot of word-of-mouth before people started lining up for it?  Maybe you Star Wars scholars can help me out.

Anyway, for an interesting frame of reference for how old this movie is, check out the pictures of the newspaper ad and the marquee below.  The movie’s contemporaries include Disney’s original “Freaky Friday,” the one with Jodie Foster as a child.  They also include “Saturday Night Fever,” “The Bad News Bears,” “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo” and a Charles Bronson actioner.  Wow.

Hey Long Islanders — you see that theater marquee?  That’s 1977 Huntington, YOO GUYZ!

[Update: my friend Tammi just told me that she and her mother saw this movie a total of 4o times over the course of the summer of 1977!!  How nuts is that?!]

 

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Ye olde Nolan

I’m becoming concerned …  I keep seeing more troubling signs that I am getting older.

I can’t eat pizza and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream all day without feeling yucky.  And I have gone shopping and DELIBERATELY looked for vegetables.

I bitch inwardly about the quality of America’s public education system all the time.  (Don’t even get me started.)  I actually begin some of my (admittedly peculiar) inner monologues with the words, “There was a time in this country when …”  I have also lamented that “things were different 20 years ago.”

It recently dawned on me that my longstanding idolization of Kevin Smith may be waning …  last year’s “Tusk” just didn’t do it for me, and his recent appearance on “The Talking Dead” just seemed to feature too much childish sex humor.  I cringed.  (Lengthy analogies about oral sex aren’t THAT hilarious, people.  I suggest they have a 10-second half life.)  I still think that Smith is brilliant; I just think maybe his particular style of humor might better appeal to a guy in his 20’s.

In the Marvel movies’ upcoming “Civil War” storyline entries, I’m firmly on the side of Captain America, and not Iron Man.  Yeah, Tony Stark has the wit and the charm and the girls and the cash.  But Cap has character and good American values, with an emphasis on civil liberties.  Cap would never subject black people to an unreasonable search and seizure.  He wouldn’t enter a private home without a warrant.  And he would uphold a legal wall of separation between church and state.  Dunno about Tony.

Tori Amos is still cool, but she sounds NUTS in her interviews.

I played with a friend’s little girl on the swings the other day … and I actually got DIZZY after donning a swing myself, and trying to swing as high as her.  THAT was disconcerting.

My doctor told me to knock off all the sugar, and I am totally taking her seriously.

My buddy shared a picture today of the original Star Wars cast in 1977.  When I was a tot, I looked up to Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia.  When I was in fifth grade, “Return of the Jedi” Leia was my heart’s desire.  (I need not even mention in which outfit.)  Today, 1977 Carrie Fisher looks like a sweet girl who could be my college sophomore daughter.  (Seriously, she looks YOUNG, people.)  Harrison Ford looks like that older kid in our hometown with the camaro, who I need to keep away from her.  Mark Hamill looks like that sweet kid down the block who wants a date with her, but won’t get one.

My friends from Longwood High School are now teachers at Longwood High School.  The cognitive dissonance connected with that is significant.

And tonight it has dawned on me that (I can’t believe I am saying this) Depeche Mode is getting maybe a little played out for me.  Oh God, I can’t believe I just typed that.  I still love MODE, I swear it!  I just think that after “Violator” has been in my playlist for two decades, it’s maybe time to retire the lesser songs like “World In My Eyes” and find some more new music.

But not “Policy of Truth.”  THAT SONG WILL LIVE FOREVER.  (And never again is what you swore the time before.)

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Throwback Thursday: “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” (1982)

Young people, let me try to explain what it was like for a kid who loved movies in the early 1980’s.

There was no trivia section for the Internet Movie Database.  There was no Internet Movie Database.  There was no goddam Internet.  This meant that information about new movies came mostly from other second-, third- or fourth-graders.  And that was one imperfect grapevine.

Sometimes the information was flat out wrong.  Brad Fisher told me at the beach in the summer of 1980 that Han Solo dies in “The Empire Strikes Back.”  (Yes, “Star Wars” fanatics, I am aware that Harrison Ford wanted the character to die.  Now grow up and watch Ron Moore’s “Battlestar Galactica.”)

Other times, the information was technically accurate, but confusingly articulated.  Such was the account of Jason Huhn, the kid across the street, of Ridley Scott’s “Alien.”  (That was a 1979 movie, but I wasn’t even allowed to watch the bowdlerized version that was on television a few years later.)  “Its head is like a tube.”  Jason told me thoughtfully.  “It has, like, two mouths.  It has a mouth, and then a mouth inside a mouth.”

Finally, the other boys’ reviews were occasionally just too spoiler-heavy.  In 1984, I had the entire rope-bridge scene in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” memorized in detail before I got to see the movie myself.  (Maddeningly, most of Mr. Greiner’s sixth grade class had seen it before I did, and Jason Girnius was particularly exuberant in recounting its climactic fight.)

“Halloween III: Season of the Witch” was something of a different animal.  None of the kids in the neighborhood could figure that one out.

“Michael isn’t in it!”  That was the buzz.  To a boy in the 1982, Michael Myers was an icon on par with “Friday the 13th’s” Jason.  (Leatherface was a bit before our time, and Freddy Krueger and Pinhead hadn’t arrived in theaters just yet.)  Even those of us who weren’t allowed to watch the movies had heard all about him.  It utterly confused us that that a “Halloween” movie could be made in which he was absent.

It … looked pretty scary, at least.  Its poster and tagline suggested that young trick-or-treaters would be victimized instead of teenagers old enough to babysit, so that was more frightening to a young boy.  (As an adult today, I suggest that this movie absolutely did not turn out to be a classic horror film, despite the pretty terrifying basic plot device revealed at the end.)

Today a simple Google search would inform us of John Carpenter’s plans — an anthology series in which every subsequent “Halloween” sequel was a standalone horror story with the holiday as a theme.  (I think I’d question the wisdom of that even as a kid; the studio wisely resurrected the slasher four years later.)

But the gradeschool grapevine was not so informed.  There weren’t even any tentative hypotheses among the kids on my street.  I think we just shrugged it off and returned to talking about “Star Wars.”  We just figured that adults sometimes did some really puzzling, really stupid things.  That’s a belief I still hold today.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that I occasionally engender that belief in others.

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