No, I obviously don’t remember “The Lone Ranger” during its initial run between 1949 and 1957. (At least I hope that’s obvious — I’m a couple of full decades younger than that.) But I absolutely do remember this show’s reruns from when I was a baby … maybe around 1976, if I had to guess? I would have been about four years old. (I was five when my family moved out of that house in Queens, New York, to rural Long Island.)
I know that people who claim early childhood memories are often viewed with skepticism — I get it. (And I think many of us are more prone to confabulation than we’d like to admit.) But I’ve actually got a few memories from when I was a toddler — and this is one of them.
I can remember my Dad putting “The Lone Ranger” on in the tiny … den or living room or whatever, to the left of our house’s front door and hallway. You see the part in the intro below where the horse rears up at the .31 mark — and again at the 1:53 mark? That was a verrrrrry big deal to me as a tot.
Go ahead, tell me I’m nuts. I can take it. You and I live in an age in which conspiracy theories have gone completely mainstream. If I share something online that seems implausible to others, I figure I’m in a lot of company.
Anyway, I pretty much forgot about The Lone Ranger after that. There was a 1981 television movie, “The Legend of the Lone Ranger,” that was remarkably well done — especially for a TV movie at the time. I remember being pretty impressed with that — its plot-driving scene where the good guys get fatally ambushed was unexpectedly dour.
This is a place in Queens that my siblings remember, even if I don’t — the “Adventurer’s Inn” amusement park off the Whitestone Expressway on Linden Place (the College Point area). The park had a bit of a turbulent history, and actually went by a number of names between its opening in the 1950’s and when it closed in 1978. (Somewhat confusingly, it was once called “The Great Adventure Amusement Park,” but it had no connection with the Six Flags Great Adventure megapark that opened in 1974 in New Jersey.)
There are still plenty of people out there who remember “Adventurer’s Inn,” as evidenced by the websites you can find about it. One that I really like is Todd Berkun’s “LI & NY Places that are no more.”
I myself had no clue. I certainly passed the site occasionally when I lived in New York, but I had no idea it was a place my parents took us when we were kids. Any remnants of the park have long since been razed; the College Point Multiplex now occupies the site (not far from The New York Times distribution center).
I found these videos on Youtube. They were taken between 1965 and 1967 in the neighborhood of Woodhaven in Queens, NY — where my family lived when I was a baby. I wasn’t around in the 1960’s, but this is how the community looked around the time my siblings were born.
Here’s a vivid summer memory — and it comes to me courtesy of my dear old friend Sarah in New York, who posted this picture on Facebook not too long ago. Below is the very beach on Long Island where my older brother and I would park in the early 1980’s when we were supposed to be at church on Sunday morning.
We would eat Entenmann’s donuts and we would listen to WBLI on the radio. (If you are from Suffolk County, you can’t not hear the chipper WBLI jingle every time you read those four letters.) If memory serves, the station played Casey Kasem’s countdown on Sunday mornings.
I was pretty young, and I was awed that my brother deemed me cool enough and trustworthy enough to conspire with him in playing hooky from the service. I was fully complicit, too. It was my job to run in and out of the church quickly before the service started, in order to grab the Sunday bulletin, with which my mother had instructed us to return every week.
The first time I colluded with my brother this way, I overdid it a little. Upon our return and gave my mom a lot of unrequested detail about the priest’s sermon, and what it had meant to be. My brother later pulled me aside in the room we shared, and gave me some sage coaching: “You don’t need to make up a whole big story.” That was the first time in my life that I learned not to over-embellish a lie.
You see that? You can learn a lot from a religious upbringing.
I just finished watching Disney’s “Fantasia” (1940) this snowy afternoon with my girlfriend — she gave me the boxed set with “Fantasia 2000” (1999) this Christmas. This is the first time I’ve seen the entire film in … 26 years? If memory serves, I last saw it at Mary Washington College’s Dodd Auditorium when I was a freshman in 1990.
I loved it just now even more than I loved it then. My favorite segment will always be the final one — Modest Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain,” with a coda of Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” (The accompanying animation is Gothic horror; I’ve posted about it here at the blog before.)
I felt for sure that my second favorite would be Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” Pictures of those animated dinosaurs startled and thrilled me as a tot after Christopher Finch’s “The Art of Walt Disney” (1975) somehow appeared magically among my baby books in Queens, New York. As an adult, however, I liked the segment mostly because of its cool depiction of lower life-forms. The dinosaurs were stylized and interesting to see, but I don’t think the quality of the animation has held up very well — especially considering what we know about the dinosaurs has changed so much in 80 years or so.
Instead, my second favorite was Ludwig von Beethoven’s “The Pastoral Symphony,” and its whimsical, beautiful depiction of centaurs, gods, and other figures from Greek mythology.
My girlfriend’s favorite segment was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” with its dancing fairies. “Fantasia” was actually a favorite movie of hers growing up; she’s seen it several dozen times in her childhood.
There is some bizarre trivia about “Fantasia” from Wikipedia, which has a lengthy entry for the movie: “In the late 1960s, four shots from The Pastoral Symphony were removed that depicted two characters in a racially stereotyped manner. A black centaurette called Sunflower was depicted polishing the hooves of a white centaurette, and a second named Otika appeared briefly during the procession scenes with Bacchus and his followers.” That’s so nuts.
A couple of Facebook posts last night cheerfully proclaimed the 30th Anniversary of The Beastie Boys’ “Licensed to Ill.” That’s mostly right, I guess … the album was released in 1986, although it came out on November 15, not the end of February.
I remember “Licensed to Ill” being a phenomenon when I was a freshman at Longwood High School — reverence for it transcended a lot of high school subcultures. (And at Longwood, I think those subcultures overlapped considerably more than your typical John Hughes film would suggest.) The preppie kids loved the album, the jocks loved it, and a lot of the honors kids were into it too — not to mention just mainstream kids and random weirdos like me. My favorite song was “Brass Monkey;” I was thrilled whenever it was played at parties. (I can’t feature it here, as there are no authorized videos of it online.)
This album had what I remember as a unique vibe to it in 1986. People online call the Beastie Boys “the first white rappers.” I don’t know if that’s true. (Some people said the same thing about Vanilla Ice only four years later). And I’m guessing such a distinction shouldn’t be important. But the Beastie Boys were different.
Previously, rap was perceived only as a kind of counterculture art form for disaffected, young, urban African-Americans. The Beastie Boys were a rap group specifically with which suburban white kids could identify. I hope I’m not saying anything politically incorrect here — of course we all realize that any music can be appreciated by anyone, according to their tastes. (People are occasionally surprised when I myself can recite the Geto Boys as easily as W. H. Auden’s poetry.) And all sorts of kids in the mid-80’s liked Run-D.M.C. and The Fat Boys — they just didn’t have the huge, visible mainstream appeal that the Beastie Boys had.
The Beastie Boys had a wider appeal. Their music was irreverent — they sang about “Girls,” liquor, and the “Right to Party,” in a manner suggesting that they’d probably never been altar boys. They were drunken, pot-smoking malcontents, and expressed some not terribly progressive attitudes toward women. Yet it was perfectly natural, or culturally expected, to hear them blasted at a parentally approved, non-alcoholic party for young teenagers at a suburban, middle class home. The same preps who wore “Ocean Pacific” and played with hacky sacks also played the Beastie Boys. So did some kids in Key Club and the honors classes. A couple of cheerleaders I knew had crushes on Mike D. And it never seemed unusual or ironic, like that time when a nearly all white, suburban crowd chanted along to Boogie Down Productions’ “South Bronx” at a Longwood Junior High School dance.
For some reason, the Beastie Boys’ broad fan base was never really evident among the student body at Mary Washington College — although The Jerky Boys and the Geto Boys both had their share of fans there. I don’t remember them being played once. I think maybe it was because that small southern college subculture leaned so heavily on classic rock and the new “alternative,” with new wave and punk having strong, visible minorities of fans. (Man … if I had a dime for every time time I heard The Allman Brothers in college, I could have paid off my student loans a day after graduation.)
Strangely, I wound up listening to “Licensed to lll” the most often about two decades later, when I was in my mid-30’s. I was going through two weird phases in my life. The first was a newfound love of hip-hop and rap, because I am a weird guy, and I’m always late to the party with these things. The second was a bizarre, temporary sense of financial responsibility. I was constantly saving money. (I think maybe I wasn’t eating right or something. It didn’t last.) But I was constantly listening to old or cheap secondhand CD’s, instead of buying new ones or one of those newfangled mp3 players. (At the time, the iPod’s antecedents seemed just too high-tech and opulent to me.) So there was always a leather case of 80’s and 90’s music CD’s riding shotgun with me in my 1992 Ford Taurus.
I was driving frequently between Whitestone, Queens and my girlfriend’s apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, rocketing up and down “the 278,” the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The Beastie Boys were my miscreant co-pilots; “No Sleep till Brooklyn” was both a kick-ass song and situationally apropos. I played the album constantly, along with L.L. Cool J.’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” and the “MTV Party To Go Volume 2.” Then I’d swap those out with Toad the Wet Sprocket’s more mellow, sensitive “Fear,” just to remind myself that I really was just a softspoken college boy who’d grown into a nerdy thirtysomething (“nerdysomething?”).
I found out recently that Adam Yauch (the Beastie Boys’ member “MCA”) died of cancer. This happened four years ago, I just hadn’t heard. For some reason, it was especially unsettling to learn that a rebellious entertainment figure from my teen years had died from an illness that I usually associate with people older than me. I never loved the Beastie Boys as much as I loved U2, Depeche Mode or Tori Amos, but I found it more troubling than I would have expected. I’m not sure why, but I’ve decided not to dwell on it.
At any rate, if you still love Ad-Rock, Mike D. and MCA, you can play the embedded videos below. But you absolutely should pull up “Brass Monkey” on Youtube to get your full 80’s vibe on.