“M*A*S*H” turned 50 years old this past Saturday, folks. It debuted on September 17, 1972, and ran for 11 seasons. (The “M*A*S*H” feature film preceded it by two years — the movie was itself an adaptation of Richard Hooker’s 1968 novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors.)
So the show is as old as I am. And that’s pretty old.
This show was an institution when I was growing up. It was just one of those shows that seemed like it had always been there — like the original “Star Trek” (1966-1969). It was beloved of my dad and older siblings, even if I was too young to fully appreciate it at the time. Dear lord, did it make people laugh.
I never actually went to Action Park — the infamously dangerous 80’s-era amusement park in Vernon Township, New Jersey. But the name alone conjures childhood memories because it was a perennial source of rumors and urban legends for kids at the time. (And we all lived a few hours away in Eastern Long Island.) I remember the commercials too.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard the name mentioned since that time. (The park closed in 1996, in part because of the same recession that was giving my generation so much anxiety in our first post-college job searches.)
So I was surprised when a friend in Britain, of all places, sent me the first video below. Not only does Action Park’s infamy live on, it extends across the Atlantic.
Anyway, it turns out that the park was one dangerous place. There was even a 2020 documentary about it on HBO Max.
Believe it or not, I can remember Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” from its heyday — maybe not 1975, when it was released by Capitol Records, but definitely from the ensuing few years when it so often played on the radio. (It got lots of airtime, as it was a hit with both mainstream and country audiences.) This song will always remind me of my very early childhood.
It’s a catchy tune, really. But it is a bit of an earworm. Hum it at your won risk.
This is just a deep cut from Depeche Mode’s 1990 “Violator” album. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone mention “Blue Dress” as one of their favorite DM songs, but I still think it’s a great, moody techno ballad.
Rest in peace, Andrew “Fletch” Fletcher — who died a week ago today at age 60.
I was chatting with a friend recently and was amused to learn that I am not the only one who remembers the antique glass Christmas ornaments known as “Shiny Brites.” (There’s an interesting history behind the Shiny Brite company dating all the way back to 1937 — check out the Wikipedia entry.)
My mother admonished my siblings and I every year to “Be careful with those! They’re antiques!” But every year such admonitions were beside the point — there were always a couple of fragile ornaments that were already broken when we hauled out the Christmas decorations from the garage. (We stored them there in an immense cardboard … barrel. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true.)
Anyway, the point is this — apparently no one in m y family was especially good at packing fragile items, because every year we’d find at least one reduced to a fine, sparkling dust at the bottom of whatever box they’d been tucked away in — like ground pepper the color of glittering silver.
The picture below of Shiny Brite ornaments is a little disappointing, but it was the only public domain image I could find. These look quite modern and normal; they’re just fine. The ones I grew up with were much different — with tapered glass indentations that looked … arguably kinda ugly, if I’m being honest here. It’s impossible to describe; you have to see them. (If you have, you what I mean.)
From time to time I’ll find an artifact from the old days of broadcast television on Youtube, and I’ll share it in a Throwback Thursday blog post — people really seem to enjoy the clips. (And the credit for that belongs to the Youtube users who originally uploaded them, not me.) One of this blog’s readers asked me about the intro for WOR-TV’s (Channel 9) “Fright Night” movie series.
Here it is below, courtesy of FrightNight7387 on Youtube. (Unless I’m mistaken, this would have been seen only by viewers in the New York metropolitan area between 1973 and 1987.)
I’m … actually not sure I remember this program. The music feels more familiar than the (pretty neat) visuals, and I think I’d recall a montage like that. I’m running it here for those who do remember “Fright Night” and might enjoy the clip.
Anyway, if you want to know more about Channel 9’s show, Jim Arena developed a terrific rundown on it over at DVD Drive-In.
It should not be confused with that other “Fright Night” of 80’s lore, the 1985 film starring Jonathan Stark, Chris Sarandon and Roddy McDowell. That movie also depicted an in-universe movie series named “Fright Night,” which … apparently bears no relationship to the very real eponymous series that ran in New York. (Kinda weird.) The 1985 movie was a lot of fun back in the day, though if it feels mostly forgotten today — even after it spawned a a damned cool 2011 remake.
Here’s a weird, wonderful, possibly offensive clip from the classic days of Mystery Science Theater 3000. This is from the show’s fifth season; it originally aired in 1993. The movie that Mike and the bots are riffing is 1959’s “Santa Claus.” [I am linking below to MsHandsanitizer’s channel on Youtube.]
I remember seeing “Real Genius” in the theater in 1985. Man, did I love it.
I don’t think anyone thinks of this movie when Val Kilmer’s name comes up — he’s more likely remembered as Jim Morrison, Batman or Doc Holiday. But he was actually really funny here. (And does anyone really want to remember him as Batman?)
Does anyone else remember the original “Going In Style” (1979), with George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasburg? It was a really funny movie in which three old men become bank robbers.
It got its share of air time on 1980’s television; it was actually a big family favorite. I’d been looking around for information about it for years (because movie trivia keeps me up at night), but I remembered the title wrong — I kept thinking of “The Sunshine Boys” (1975), which was a different George Burns movie entirely.
They actually remade the movie 2017 with Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin.
Weird world — Laura Branigan wasn’t the first vocalist to perform her signature song, “Gloria” (1982). It was originally an Italian pop song performed in 1979 by Umberto Tozzi. (That’s the second video below.)
Anyway, for a lot of people in my age bracket, this remains a quintessential 80’s tune. Branigan even performed it in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade the year it was released. I still remember people commenting about how beautiful she looked.
If you’re wondering whatever happened to Branigan, there’s a bit of a sad postscript here — she died in her sleep at a relatively young age, 52, from an undiagnosed brain aneurysm. By that time she’d become a fellow Long Islander; she’d been living in East Quogue.