We Can Start Over Again

I’m ending this blog as I began it: with an Ivy song. Thanks to all who have read, followed and/or bookmarked this site, but it’s time for me to focus on other endeavors:

Haunted Jukebox will continue as I make my way through the 100 Albums project; any other writing about film or pop culture will also end up there.

As for photography, I’ve begun a new Tumblr blog called Kriofske Pix.

’78 Network Promos!

Proud As A Turkey!

Proud As A Turkey!

 

Continuing a fine Kriofske Mix tradition, this year’s Turkey Day post was inspired first and foremost by this clip:

Behold, the Fall TV Season Promo! Back in the day, the Big Three networks advertised their lineups via a series of commercials centered around a theme or slogan, often in song. In their ’70s/’80s heyday, they were inescapable every September. Although they never entirely went away, in an age of the internet, streaming platforms and 1,000+ channels, they’re obviously far less necessary. Still, if you once wanted to learn anything about the new fall season which constituted a crushing majority of what you could watch on TV, well, these promos and TV Guide were your best bets.

NBC had some catchy, memorable slogans; their 1978 effort was not one of them. Of course, considering that year’s slate of new shows, perhaps the excruciating pun of “NB Seeeee Us” was the least of their problems. Not one of those shows lasted beyond one season–only Diff’rent Strokes survived (it’s absent here because it was actually a mid-season replacement that premiered in November.) In fact, the 1978-79 season might be NBC at their pre-Comcast nadir, with only three shows rated in the entire top 25 (Little House on the Prairie, NBC’s Monday Night Movie and CHiPS)! I haven’t even mentioned Supertrain.

CBS looked only slightly less desperate that season, despite their somewhat silly (though less clunky than NBC’s) slogan–do you really want to “be turned on” by the likes of Archie Bunker, Lou Grant and Weezie Jefferson? Sure, they had the great WKRP In Cincinnati on their schedule, but have you even heard of Flying High or American Girls? Why feature Bob Newhart when his show ended the previous season? That they led off by stumping for Mary Tyler Moore’s spectacularly ill-advised variety show Mary suggests they were lazily resting on star power rather than quality. I haven’t even mentioned the Star Wars Holiday Special.

In the late ’70s, ABC was by far the most popular of the Big Three (their ’78 season alone had Mork and Mindy and Taxi), but this wasn’t always the case. Prior to those halcyon days of Happy Days and Charlie’s Angels, ABC was usually a distant third place. Concerning promos, this worked in their favor, for there’s a treasure trove of stylistically daring ABC material on YouTube from the late ’60s and early ’70s–just look at this Fall ’72 extravaganza, whose opening graphics nearly emulate the trippy vortex sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Alas, by ’78 the network toned down the visuals, although those bright colors violently swirling around the ABC logo are quite something. The most interesting thing about that fall’s “We’re The One” campaign is how the network gathered any of its stars who were willing (or maybe contractually obliged–remember, this is also the time of Battle of the Network Stars) to appear in a rousing, strained musical number (this being ’78, it has more than a hint of disco in it.) The first few scenes in the above clip are reasonably entertaining, with various stars toting ginormous, gaudy lightbulb-dotted letters around L.A, hamming it up as some stars do (Hi, Rerun!). Naturally, they all converge on a charmless, cramped soundstage in order for the letters to spell out the slogan, and passionately sing about their employer. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore; despite their unintentional charms, I’m mostly thankful for that.

Stairway To … Something

For your annual Turkey Day clip, we go back to the long-lost realm of 1980s public access TV, New York division. A friend brought Stairway To Stardom’s YouTube page to my attention some time ago, and in particular, Lucille Cataldo, whose one-of-a-kind rendition of her own song “Hairdresser” will permanently alter the way you see the world (somehow, it was never a hit).

Given the holiday, I briefly considered highlighting this food-centric gem (apparently from the real life Sweeney Sisters); instead, I present Gloria Huddle’s truly original version of the Manhattan Transfer hit “Operator”. She inexplicably kicks it off with a dramatic reading of a scene from the 1966 Michael Caine film Alfie, then recites the song’s lyrics over the recording. You be the judge as to whether she’s being totally serious or not (part of me thinks this is actually Lily Tomlin or Andrea Martin in character.) Be sure to watch all the way to the end–her facial expression at the applause is not to be missed.

Gordon Found!

Go directly to 18:09 on the video above and you will see a commercial I’ve spent years scouring the internet for. If you watched TV or listened to radio in Milwaukee in the 1980s, chances are you’ll remember this ad. I hadn’t thought of it in eons until I saw mention of it on an online discussion board a few years ago.

These spots for the now-defunct Gordon Furniture (located across the street from my childhood dentist!) are nothing special visually–it’s all about the audio. The music, genuinely weird for a furniture store, plays underneath the ad copy, and is barely audible apart from a repeated high note that sounds like someone’s incessantly poking a mouse (or plucking a nose hair).

The pièce de résistance, however, is the jingle at the end: three disembodied echoing voices that say, in succession, “Gordon, Gordon, Gordon”, followed by an eerie ascending musical cue more appropriate for a sci-fi movie than a furniture store ad. As I said, this was ubiquitous on Milwaukee radio and TV from as early as I can remember well into the ’90s. The question is, why this music for this business without any other pretense? Did they want your shopping experience to be one teeming with mystery and intrigue? Did the owners give the job to a relative or a family friend? Did it run for years and years out of a sense of stubborn pride and recognizability (like the deathless Bernie and Phyl’s jingle in New England?).

The jingle died when Gordon Furniture died (I believe in the mid-late ’90s); it’s now gone, but as you can see by my ramblings here, decidedly not forgotten.

MYSTERY ACHIEVEMENT, PART 4

19. Back in Boston, he arrived at his apartment to discover his beau of two years had left—this time for good. He was not surprised and did not care. “La, la, la” he wordlessly sang to himself, genuinely relieved and happier than he’d felt in years.

20. This proverbial heavy weight lifted, he felt uncommonly inspired—he had to write it all down. Usually, he’d walk over to the Common and find a secluded park bench, but it was way too cold for that. He ended up at the Wired Puppy on Newbury and immediately claimed the sole unoccupied table.

21. A succession of mocha lattes in one hand, a pen in the other, he wrote and drank for hours; his words resembled poetry more than prose, which was odd ‘cause he’d never written a poem before.

22. He emerged from the subterranean enclave satiated and fully convinced he’d created something new and rare. He strolled down an uncharacteristically empty Newbury Street, and snowflakes gently fell—a perfectly beautiful moment he could never hope to capture on the page, and yet he accepted it without any reservations.

23. He somehow secured an appointment with a publisher in New York weeks later; on the bus ride down, he did his best to remain calm and in the moment.

24. Staying a block off Bleecker Street with an old friend, he woke up secure and contented, knowing that whatever the outcome of his meeting with the publisher, it was a considerable achievement that he had made it this far. As he sat at the kitchen table stirring his coffee and reading the paper, a blonde woman quickly walked in and then, seconds later, out the front door without even saying hello. He didn’t care, for he preferred life’s great mysteries to its mundane, rational details.

THE END

MYSTERY ACHIEVEMENT, PART 3

13. Within a week, she was back in Chicago anyway, back to her childhood in every sense—she had moved in with her now-retired parents. Nothing inside the family home had changed, but she barely recognized the neighborhood outside. For the most part, it was cleaner, safer and shinier than she remembered.

14. She didn’t like this. Rather than confront the world beyond her front door, she took up residence on the couch, staring at the same Saturday morning cartoons she obsessed over as a kid.

15. She took comfort in this familiarity even though she knew well enough what a regression it was to return and, in a sense, surrender herself to such simplicity.

16. After a few months of this stasis, her brother arrived from Boston for the holidays. He was appalled at the sight of her and urged her to get off the couch, to remember who she once was and what she had achieved. “You were a star,” he repeatedly reminded her.

17. She dismissed such a notion and grabbed the remote control, turning up the volume to drown him out. The conversation left him frustrated and melancholy; that night he took the El across town to North Halsted and Belmont, where he knew he could entice someone to listen to his stream-of-consciousness babble.

18. At dawn, he woke up in an unfamiliar bed next to a butch white guy, his head throbbing. As quietly as he possibly could (which is to say, not too quietly), he stumbled out of the third floor walk-up, oriented himself as to where he was and made his walk of shame to the El with speed and discretion.

MYSTERY ACHIEVEMENT, PART 2

7. She sipped a Singapore Sling as a blonde bombshell sidled in next to her at the bar. This chick wouldn’t shut up as she blabbed on and on about New York, New Mexico and every place in between. Still, she couldn’t deny she was smitten.

8. They kissed on the sidewalk after leaving the bar and she thought, “HEY! What am I doing?” Such close contact with another woman’s mouth startled her; she could feel foundations she had set in place years before crumbling.

9. They walked on with no particular destination in mind as the blonde spoke of all the mistakes she made in New York and repeatedly declared her determination to “get it right” the next time. She didn’t ask her to elaborate; she simply appreciated being the one who listens instead of the one who talks for a change.

10. Suddenly, it hit her as to how much she missed Chicago.

11. It’s not like moving 1300 miles away had solved any of her problems. Come to think of it, she was more thrilled by the idea of kissing the blonde than the act itself. As they reached the Plaza, she felt a little woozy.

12. She began to suspect that someone slipped her a mickey. What was in that cocktail? Did the blonde secretly exchange something mouth-to-mouth with her? After the initial confusion, she thought, “Screw it” and focused on living in the moment—no more pining over him or her or the Southwest or the Midwest. “Be here now,” she said to herself.