Archives for category: entertainment

Rocky Horror

When I was a teenager, I spent quite a few Friday nights ringing in the weekend with a midnight viewing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. My friend John introduced me to it. I think the first time I saw it was at  the Oritani Theater in Hackensack, NJ, and for the next several years I’d go see it at least 6 or 7 times a year.

The movie would bounce from one venue to another – I guess theater owners got tired of cleaning up the toilet paper, playing cards, wet newspapers & rice and would say sayonara to Rocky and the gang. But we’d find the theater it moved to.

I don’t know what it was that struck a cord in me when I first saw it. I loved the music, that’s for sure. I think I went through two copies of the soundtrack album I played it so often. Perhaps I liked it was because it was somewhat naughty – a dude in a corset, thigh highs and f*ck-me heels? You don’t see that in your average movie. I sat doe-eyed in my seat while the audience yelled at the screen and pelted me with toast and other flying props.

But that’s why I loved it so much. It was so much more than just watching a movie – you were a part of what made the night fun - the more the audience participated, the better the show. Each time you went, you learned a few more lines and brought a few more props. And you did the Time Warp.

What fun it was to get out of your seat, run up the aisle to the front of the theater, and do the Time Warp in a line with a bunch of total strangers! And after that, Frankenfurter would appear, stomping his heel as the elevator descended. Yeah, at this point the training wheels were off and you were in for one hell of a ride.

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I don’t like men with too many muscles.

Every one has a character in that movie they relate to. Me? I was a Janet girl. Innocent and sweet, and thrust into a world of perversion against her will. But underneath that virginal, small town girl shell is a saucy little vixen. She spends half the movie walking around in a bra and half slip, which made it really difficult to dress up as her for Halloween.

I went as Magenta instead.

Certain theaters went beyond showing the movie – it was more of an all night event. When I was in college I used to see Rocky Horror at the State Theater on Main Street in Newark, Delaware. They began by showing a Bugs Bunny cartoon, then you watched Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” video, followed by the Tim Curry videos for “I Do The Rock,” and “Paradise Garage.” By that time it was a quarter to 1 and the main event hadn’t even started.

Rocky Horror at the State Theater also included live performers who would act out the movie on the stage directly in front of the screen. This was an element that most of theaters we frequented in New Jersey lacked. These folks took their performances very seriously, and they were good. Once the lips faded from the screen and the credits began to roll you would stumble home at 2:30 am in a Rocky Horror daze.

After college the Rocky Horror craze began to diminish - less and less theaters played it and I usually had other things to do on a Friday or Saturday night. Then one summer while I was on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard we saw that they were playing it at some town building in Tisbury, and we all decided to go. I had a cousin who had never seen it, and was interested to see what all the hubbub was.

And this was where I had a Rocky Horror awakening. It was the first time I went to a showing just to see the movie. From the start I realized nobody in the small audience was going to be shooting water pistols or yelling “Nice Tits!” And nobody was going to get up and do the Time Warp. We just sat and watched the movie.

It was a shock to my system. I heard lines I’d never been able to hear before because the audience wasn’t  yelling “Asshole,” for 3 minutes straight. But I missed the chaos. And I felt bad for those who had come to see  it. They really didn’t get to experience the true Rocky Horror Picture Show – they just watched a movie about a strange guy in women’s underwear.

Once the movie came out on DVD I bought it, and yes, I showed it to my girls (mother of the year!). My youngest really loves it, and I look forward to one day taking her to a theater at midnight and letting her experience the thrill of yelling at the screen, throwing rice, shielding our heads with a newspaper, and getting up to do the time warp.

After all, it’s just a jump to the left.

ComcastAs of today I officially hate Comcast. Like really super duper seethingly passionate hatred.

Let’s be honest. I’ve always hated the cable company. It all started with Cable Vision when I lived in New Jersey. They were notorious for failing to show for scheduled appointments, and then telling you that they dame, but you weren’t at home. This is after you’d spent the last 5 hours waiting in your home that was sans cable.

Before Comcast came to my humble little home, I was dealing with a cable company that was so utterly inept, so entirely clueless, that a call to solve your issue literally took hours. So when Comcast took over, and my internet always worked, and my cable only went out when a monsoon was blowing through, I was thrilled.

But over the past year or so, the service has really begun to suffer. I’ll sit down to watch something on Demand, a service they love to advertise in order to get you to “choose Comcast,” and I’ll get an error message.

Grrr.

Now I have to call Comcast, where the automated bitch will tell me she’s sending a bullet to our TVs which should solve the problem. When that doesn’t fix it, you have to call again, and the customer service rep, who 95% of the time can barely speak English, tells you to unplug your box for 30 seconds and then plug it back in.

After the tv takes 20 minutes to reboot, the problem is usually fixed. But, I’ve now wasted 30 minutes of my time when all I wanted to do was plop down on the couch and watch last night’s episode of “The Bachelor.” (aside…wasn’t Juan Pablo a tool?)

If it were just that problem once in a blue moon I wouldn’t be complaining. Everything goes on the fritz every now and then. The problem I have with Comcast is that the problem happens over and over and over again on every cable box I own. Not just one, not just two, but ALL THREE.

Once one box is fixed, another goes klabooey 10 days later. Once that one is fixed, a week later the third decides it doesn’t feel like working. And around 9 days after that, the first cable box will once again lovingly display it’s error message.

I’ve got Comcast on speed dial. Bonnie & Clyde were hit with less bullets than have been sent to my house courtesy of my shitty cable company.

But Monday afternoon I got fed up. Monday & Tuesdays are my early days – I get out at 2 pm – and I was looking forward to a walk, and then sitting down to watch the two episodes of “Walking Dead” that I had missed. I finished my walk, shucked my shoes and socks, and  with my feet up on the table hit the On Demand button.

I was rewarded with yet another error message. I muttered a not so silent expletive, got up and unplugged the box dialing 1-800-COMCAST with my free hand. I had 20 minutes to kill – may as well chew someone’s head off while I waited for my TV to reboot. I didn’t even want a technician…I just wanted to yell at someone.

Once the TV came back on, not only did On Demand not work, but my DVR was gone as well. Mother f-er – my patience was certainly being tested today! Another call to Comcast landed me an English speaking American based service rep – things were looking up. She was super nice – scheduled an appointment for a technician to come the next day, listened to all my griping, and commiserated with my misery. I felt somewhat placated, but was still angry.

The next day, home early again, I skipped my walk because I didn’t want to miss the cable guy who was coming between 3 and 5. 3 o’clock turned to 4. 4 o’clock turned to 4:45. I picked up the phone and called Comcast. Because we had a scheduled appointment, I got a recorded voice saying, “Your appointment is scheduled for 3 pm to 5 pm. Your technician should arrive between 5:05 and 5:35.”

That in itself was a riot. I’m so glad you are admitting to me that my technician is sorta late. As long as he’s still coming.

And at 5:30 we got the call. A Comcast rep called to tell us that our technician called in sick and nobody would be coming today.

Can you say ballistic?

I went off on this gal. If the dude called in sick, why couldn’t they call us to let us know RATHER THAN HAVE ME SIT AROUND MY HOUSE FOR 3 HOURS ON A BEAUTIFUL 75 DEGREE AFTERNOON?

When she tried to reschedule for the next day, I told (screamed to) her that I have to work to make the money to pay for their shitty service. After a few minutes hubby grabbed the phone from me. I was irate and getting nowhere towards getting our cable fixed.

Hubby could be home for the technician if they came between 8 and noon. Fine. He had already nabbed us a $20 discount for the no-show technician. I guess I could live without the DVR and the On Demand for one night.

The next day the dude shows up begins to trouble shoot our lines. I had to leave for work, and left him in hubby’s hands. I came home to a “new” box in my living room, which was not actually new. A scratched, ugly, disgusting refurbished box sat where my well taken care of old one used to be. Seems Comcast doesn’t make new boxes anymore for crappy poor folk like us who can’t afford their snazzy and expensive triple play super high def cable package. Only those rich folks get them nice new shiny boxes.

Oh, and we lost every single thing we’ve ever taped.

I hate Comcast. Can I say that again, please? I seriously need to look into alternatives to traditional cable. However, after a bit of research, that is going to mean a technological leap of faith that I don’t think my family could handle.

Yet.

But I’m going to make it my goal to change their minds. I am so tired of these dickheads taking my very hard earned money and giving me sub-standard service in return. The day will come. The day will come when I can give Comcast a huge middle finger farewell salute, and tell them they don’t have Typical Tracy to push around anymore.

Postscript
I’ve just had to make two more phone calls to Comcast tonight. Our new box came, and our OnDemand still doesn’t work. Cris, my first tech who was very hard to understand, gave me the “I put in new codes don’t use your on demand for 30 minutes” speech. An hour later, it still doesn’t work.

Second call to Sean placed and he is resetting the box to factory settings – now I am 45 minutes without my tv at all. Comcast if you’re reading this, feel deep shame as you type me some bullshit tweet or message about wanting to help. You don’t know the meaning of the word.

Postscript to my Postscript
It is March 20th. My Comcast nightmare began on March 10th. I have been on the phone with them every day – sometimes more than once – for 10 days. They have missed 2 appointments, and wasted roughly 8 hours of my time, not to mention at least 3 hours of viewing time I’ve lost while I was stuck rebooting boxes.

I think it’s finally done though. I think I may not have to call them again. I don’t know if I can keep my sanity if I get another error message.

TV of today is so totally different than it was when I grew up. Even though I adore all the On Demand and DVR capabilities of today, there was something really special about TV programming back in my youth.

What made me think about this was the recent death of Shirley Temple. I loved Shirley Temple movies when I was a kid, and why? Because channel 11 (WPIX) in New York City used to play a Shirley Temple movie every Saturday morning and my sisters and I usually watched them.

My personal favorite is Heidi, with the evil Fraulein Rottenmeier, the nasty, opportunistic Aunt DeeDee, and the dry, snobby (in a loveable sort of way) butler Andrews, played by Arthur Treacher. I always felt so sorry for little Heidi who only wanted to go home to her grandfather, and was constantly sold a bill of goods and made to stay where she wasn’t happy.

I know you want to go home, but I'm a selfish bitch and want you to stay and be my plaything.

I know you want to go home, but I’m a selfish bitch and want you to stay and be my plaything.

You know, even though Klara was nice in this movie, I never quite trusted her. The girl that played her also played a real bitch in The Little Princess, and I was always certain that Klara was feeding Frau Rottenmeier info to screw over poor Heidi on the sly.

I also loved Captain January, which I haven’t seen in too long a time, and which reminds me again of why Netflix sucks. They never have anything.  Bright Eyes was a really good one too, mostly because I love seeing shitty people get their come-uppance, and boy does this movie satisfy on that level. Not only does the wealthy, wheel chair bound Uncle Ned cut his relatives out of his money after they were mean to poor Shirley, but you see their beyond bratty snot nosed little daughter get a well deserved slap across the face at the end.  They don’t show that shit on television anymore!

motws3Thinking about Shirley Temple movies made me think of all of my other childhood favorites that aren’t really played on television anymore. Every Christmas you’d get to see Laurel and Hardy in March of the Wooden Soldiers at least once; sometimes in black and white, sometimes in color. That movie is as campy as campy can be with it’s lame operettic songs and characters straight from Mother Goose. What’s great about it, besides Laurel and Hardy, is Barnaby, the mean, underhanded, snivelling, villainous land baron who tries to blackmail Little Bo Peep into marrying him. This guy was even a douche in a Little Rascals episode. Laughs and guffaws aside, when those wooden soldiers come to rescue the town from the evil, plastic faced Boogeymen, I still get a chill.

MovieCovers-191618-191609-HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN ET LA DANSEUSE ETOILEAnother great movie that is rarely seen is Hans Christian Andersen starring Danny Kaye. This movie is packed with song after song that I still remember to this day. Ugly Duckling, Thumbelina, Inchworm, not to mention The King’s New Clothes and Wonderful Copenhagen. This gem would be played every year around Easter (I think it was Easter, anyway) and you couldn’t pull me away from the television when it was on. There is one dream sequence where he imagines watching the ballet of The Little Mermaid, and for a small child that was sort of a snore.

That being said, after all these years I can still whistle his theme song, and it makes me feel happy almost immediately. It’s just that kind of song.

430_main_image_2When it came to afternoon programming during the week, our local ABC station had my vote Monday – Friday. After Match Game, The $25,000 Pyramid and Tattletales, I’d almost always tune to the 4:30 movie. They played all the great Hollywood classics, and some real stinkers too.

But what I loved the best is when they’d have theme weeks – one week it would be all Godzilla movies, another week devoted to the Planet of the Apes series. I used to love Bette Davis week, when they’d play Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, and Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. Some weeks would suck though…John Wayne week? I’ll pass. Elvis week could be kind of a drag too, but my sister loved him, so I’d be forced to sit through melodic clam bakes and serenades whilst drag racing.

Nowadays programming like this just isn’t done. It doesn’t have to be done….most folks will just buy a movie if they love it, or rent a bunch and create their own theme night. I do love what television has to offer these days. I really do. It’s almost as if you can watch anything you want at any time with just a few pushes of a button.

But I gotta admit, I wouldn’t mind going back for a week of television viewing, circa 1979. Just seven little channels to choose from, but I usually managed to find something on.

Eddie-Murphy-at-the-79th--007When I worked at Tiger Beat magazine back in the 80s, one of the perks was occasional tickets to movies or movie premiers. If the editors couldn’t go, or had little interest in the movie, they would pass them on to us, the staff. One such instance was when we went to see the premier of “The Abyss.” It was to be a rather large premier at Radio City Music hall, and I was super excited to go.

I dolled myself up in a tight dress and black pumps (I had a figure back then), and my coworkers and I headed into New York City. After a quick dinner, we arrived at Radio City and I was amazed at the magnitude of the event. I’d been to opening night at “Rambo III.” That was nothing more than a crowded theater where my friend yelled “God Bless America” after Sylvester Stallone saved half the human race. It was the one big laugh the movie got.

But this? This was the real deal. A red carpet was stretched from the street to the front doors, velvet ropes draped on both sides. I knew for a fact that Ed Harris, the star of the movie, was going to attend. Crowds were beginning to line up on either side of the ropes in the hopes of spotting a celebrity or two – photographers were beginning to gather as well. My friends were eager to get inside, but I suggested we hang back and watch for a while. Nothing major was happening yet, and if I was going to walk the red carpet, I wanted to do it in style.

We hung out on the street for a little bit, but the start of the movie was just a short while away and they became anxious, so I grabbed my coworker Tom’s arm, and we headed for the red carpet.

Have you ever walked down a red carpet? Granted this wasn’t the Oscars, but it was a pretty cool experience. The paparazzi had no clue who we were, but at an event where major stars are going to show up they’ll snap a photo or two just in case. With my stomach sucked in and my head held high, I glided down that carpet, smizing to the cameras, and drinking in the experience for all it was worth. Cameras flashed, and as I looked at all the people on the other side of the velvet rope I wondered if this was what it was like to be a star.

Once inside, we found our seats, and watched the movie. Have you ever seen “The Abyss?” It was just okay. But the whole premier experience had been well worth sitting through the movie.

After the movie we walked out the front entrance, and I was surprised to see the red carpet and velvet ropes still in place…wasn’t that just for the grand entrance? As I walked down the carpet, happy for a second chance to pretend that I was an up and coming starlet, I noticed a limo parked right at the end. As I reached the street, I heard the crowd begin to “ooh” and “aah.” Then they got a little frantic.

Suddenly I heard “Eddie! Eddie!” and the next thing I knew, the small area at the end of the red carpet was swarming with very large, very aggressive security guards. Everyone was screaming and crowding in, but I was still inside the velvet ropes, which I thought would give me a drop of protection. It was Eddie Murphy’s Limo I was standing next to!

A large, tight knot of people were making their way down the red carpet straight for me. I was standing right beside the waiting limo. I was super excited…here I was inside the velvet ropes with Eddie Murphy just a few yards away! Before I could put my most dazzling smile on my face in preparation of rubbing elbows with him, I was shoved, pushed, and bent over backwards on the hood of the limo.

One guy was yelling “Get the fuck back, get the fuck back!”

I think I said, “I’m getting the fuck back!” but it was while I was doing a back bend, that Nadia Comaneci would’ve been proud of, over a hot hood. That throng of body guards meant business…no gal in a tight blue dress was going to keep them from getting Eddie safely in his limo.

Once he was inside, the guards eased up, and I was able to stand up straight again. The door to the limo had not yet been closed, and I peered over the window, waved and said “Hey Eddie!”

He looked right at me and said, “HI!”

Then the door was closed and the limo sped off. I stood in a daze at the end of the red carpet, still safely between the velvet ropes, adjusting the hem of my dress which had ridden up considerably after my ordeal. Did that really just happen? Was I actually just man-handled???? By Eddie Murphy’s bodyguards????

Ha! Another great story. Cause that’s what life’s all about, right? Being in the right place at the right time, and coming home with a great story.

turkeyMark and remember these words. I am done cooking Thanksgiving dinner. No, let’s rephrase that.

Holiday dinners.

I’ve talked in the past about my lack of cooking skills – I’m marginal at best. There are some things I cook well. Chicken soup, creamed spinach, tacos…oh, and I can whip up a mean breakfast. But other than that? It’s hit or miss with me, and I whiff it more often than not.

Let’s take today’s meal and break it down one by one. Shall we?

The turkey was dry. I cooked it for the time recommended on the package, but still it was super dry, even with basting. I told myself this was better than the alternative – undercooked turkey is scary. But, to be honest, my overcooked turkey wasn’t going home with a 1st runner up sash either.

My mashed potatoes were thin and flavorless. I’ll admit I struggle with mashed potatoes in general. Some nights they are flawless…smooth and firm with the perfect amount of butter and salt. And then there are nights like tonight, where I do nothing different – I don’t stray from my potato cooking routine – but they turn out thin and bland. It just pissed me off that I had to settle for the bland variety on a holiday where I’ve already fucked up the main protein.

My spinach? I cooked it last night and it was perfect. I mean, rarely do I whip up a batch where I don’t need to tweak it even one bit. It was that good. Today I put it on the back burner set to Low and went about my business. My sister called, I put up some Christmas lights, I watched some TV. Suddenly, I went back into the kitchen to check the turkey and “gasp!” I saw the steam coming out of the spinach pot.

I had totally forgotten about it. I quickly got a bowl and dumped the spinach nearest to the surface out. The bottom of the pan had a thick film of burned spinach that I am still trying to soak out. I may just have to buy a new pot. My attempts to save the spinach were fruitless. You could taste a slight burnt flavor in it.

My stuffing – same I made to perfection last year – was dry and mealy. I’m the only one that eats it anyway, but hell…it was an hour out of my day to make it.

And my gravy was too salty.

So there was dinner. A plateful of “eh” that I was not thankful for. I was hoping dessert would be a bit of a confidence booster.

I was hoping…on the bright side, at least I didn’t over eat.

I made my oldest a cheesecake – her favorite. The last time I made her a cheesecake it sucked because I had relied on my sister to tell me how much cream cheese to buy, and we wound up buying way too little. This time I had a recipe in hand, the official Philadelphia Cheesecake Recipe,  and followed it to a T with one exception – I added a touch of lemon juice to the batter.

Once our blah dinner had digested and we were ready for dessert, I sliced us up some cheesecake, topped it with some whipped cream and sat down to enjoy. I looked at my daughter and said, “I really hope this is good. I really need this to be good.”

You know how cheesecake is supposed to be smooth and rich? Mine wasn’t. It was kind of, well, flaky. I’m thinking it was one too many eggs, but I added the amount called for in the recipe, and in the exact fashion in which they were supposed to be added. Daughter concurred that it was just “okay.”

This was when I made a decision. I am not cooking holiday dinners anymore. It’s just a waste of my time and my money. For the dough I shelled out to make this meal I could have easily bought dinner out, tipped very generously, and had no dishes to do.

That being said, I think I may spend Christmas with my husband out at his skating rink. Sandwiches and a bag of chips sounds way better than anything I could whip up.

And a lot cheaper too.

steel-magnolias-original-CASTI don’t know why, but I love the movie Steel Magnolias. It’s a combination of Dolly Parton’s bad acting, the good natured rivalry between Olympia Dukakis and Shirley McLean, and Julia Roberts’ annoyingly toothy smile that draws me in. Yes, I cry every single time I see it, just like I cry every time I see Terms of Endearment or West Side Story.

But there is a time line discrepancy in Steel Magnolias that bothers me to my very core. Let me outline it for you, and see if you agree or can offer some clarity. I tried reaching out to my Facebook friends, but got little to no satisfaction from anyone’s input.

Fact 1: Shelby has a kidney transplant on our about July 4th.

Fact 2: Annelle, who is deeply religious, is getting married on or close to Halloween.

Fact 3: Shelby collapses and slips into a coma on Halloween

Fact 4: Shelby dies and is buried. At the funeral Annelle is pregnant and asks M’Lynn if she can name her baby Shelby

Fact 5: Annelle goes into labor and gives birth on or around Easter

Just looking at these raw facts raises an eyebrow right away. If you are married on Halloween, there is no way you can have a baby on the following Easter unless you were creasing the sheets before you walked down the aisle. November – April is only 6+ months of gestation time.

Yes, the baby could’ve been premature, but they make mention of how uncomfortable Annelle is in her advanced stage of pregnancy at the Easter Egg Hunt so I doubt that was the case.

Eddie Munster

separated at birth?

There is the school of thought that Annelle gave into temptation by letting her boyfriend bed her down before entering into holy matrimony, but I hate that idea. It just doesn’t fit her character. And on a side note, who cast that dude? He looked like Eddie Munster grown up. Ick.

The only other plausible explanation is that Shelby was in a coma for a very long time. Let’s pretend she collapsed on Halloween of 1989, the year the movie came out. Annelle would have had to have become pregnant around August of 1990 to give birth around Easter of 1991. If she is already pregnant at Shelby’s funeral, that means Shelby would have to have been in a coma for at least 10 months – the last of October 1989 to August of 1990. This would also account for the fact that Jack Jr., who was like 1 1/2 when Shelby collapsed, was a lot older when we next see him at the Easter Egg Hunt where Annelle goes into labor.

But this theory doesn’t mesh for 2 reasons. For one, Jack Jr. is being pushed in a swing at Shelby’s funeral and is clearly still a toddler. And, they mention that M’Lynn didn’t leave Shelby’s side even once while she was in the coma…she couldn’t risk missing it if Shelby woke up for even a minute. I doubt even the best mother would sit by a comatose daughter for 10 months non-stop.

Nope, it’s a plot flaw, plain and simple.

Am I mentally defective for even caring about this?

Eingang des Hard Rock Cafes, New York City, New York, USABack when I was in my twenties, the big rock station in New York City was WNEW. Each October, which they dubbed “Rocktober” (I know, how original) they would have an afternoon block of programming live from the Hard Rock Cafe. Musical guest and actors would come in and be interviewed before a live audience, which consisted of whoever was having lunch in the restaurant that afternoon.

At the time of this story I was working as a graphic artist at Tiger Beat magazine. It was my first real job, and I took it very seriously. One morning while I work I got a call from my friend Paul. He asked me what I was doing that afternoon, and I said “working, what do you think?”

He said that he was going into New York and try to get into the Hard Rock for that afternoon’s Rocktober broadcast. The guests were Robin Williams and Julian Lennon. I had to admit, it sounded way more fun than pasting up another boring story about Corey Feldman.

But I didn’t like the idea of cutting out of work. I knew if I went to my boss and asked for the afternoon off, he’d tell me to forget it and get back to work. Therefore, if I had any chance of going, I’d have to lie. I weighed the pros and cons and decided to join my friends on a star studded NYC adventure.

I went home for lunch, and called 10 minutes before I was supposed to be back at my desk complaining of cramps. It was plausible; most of my girl friends at work (and even a few of my guy friends) knew I had legendary bouts of cramps from time to time. Then I freshened up my make up, put on a cute little outfit and hopped in Paul’s car.

We got into the city and walked to the Hard Rock to find a line outside with lots of security. This would have discouraged most folks, but most folks didn’t have Paul around. I can’t explain how he did it, but Paul always managed to finagle his way into places that were barred from everyone else. Security guards and bouncers were someone to befriend and bullshit with, rather than view as a threat or a deterrent.

This day was no different. I can’t remember how he got us in, but within 10 minutes we were inside waiting in line for a table. The line was upstairs, which was great because they broadcast from this glass booth in the upstairs corner of the restaurant, so we could see everything while we waited.

Robin Williams was in the booth with Scott Muni, who was the big DJ at the station. The interview ended, and Robin left the booth and began walking our way to head down the stairs and exit the Hard Rock. I saw my chance and hopped over the velvet rope, stood right in front of him and said, “Hi, Mr. Williams!”

He shook my hand, said, “Well, Hello!” and then disappeared down the stairs. Yes, this was way better than an afternoon with Corey Feldman. Way better.

The next guest was Julian Lennon. Marty Martinez, who was the joker in the crowd trying to find fans to ask questions, approached me. He told me I was hot (to which I thought “ewwww”) and did I want to ask a question. I said that I’d love to ask a question, but had no clue what to ask. While I like his music, I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of Julian Lennon’s.

So Marty says, “He has a water pistol collection, ask him about that.”

Perfect, I thought. So, the next thing I know I’m live on the radio with Julian Lennon. I say, “Marty here tells me you collect water pistols, and would you be willing to show me yours?”

Yes, it was a very saucy way to phrase the question, but I wanted to be somewhat memorable rather than the dud who asked the boring question. The crowd “oooohed” and he laughed. I can’t remember if he even answered the question or not. I went back to our table triumphant in the fact that I’d had a few seconds of fame, even if it was only on the radio.

The next day, I went to work dying to tell everyone about my adventure, but I couldn’t because after all, I was supposed to be in bed with a hot water bottle on my throbbing abdomen. Oh what a tangled web we weave…

Well the joke was on me. Turns out the radio in the art room was tuned to WNEW that afternoon, and all of my coworkers had heard me ask my saucy question. They never listened to that station – there were too many guidos in the office and we usually listened to the top 40 stations rather than anything rock related.

I got caught. I didn’t get into too much trouble, but my boss had lost a little faith in me which sucked. I didn’t call in sick for a long, long time after that. And when I did, I wondered if they turned on the radio to see if it was true.

ghostbusters logo logoBack in the summer of 1984, I returned home from a semester abroad in Vienna. Within hours of going through customs, I ate White Castles, drank some Buds, and turned on MTV.

It didn’t take too long for me to realize that I was very out of touch with what was hot in the states. For the past 4 months I had watched almost no television; my viewing history included an episode of “Magnum PI”  and “Little House on the Prairie” in German. And music? I’d listened to Blue Danube radio which played American songs that were already out back home – songs like “Relax” and “Sweet Dreams.” And of course my stash of mixed tapes. Nothing new there.

It was during these first days home that I saw the video for Ray Parker’s “Ghostbusters,” along with the trailer for the movie. Seems there was an cultural phenomenon going on and I was missing it. The video was very intriguing – boring segments of Ray Parker Jr. and the girl with the perm interspersed with scenes from the movie, and celebrities singing “Ghostbusters!”

I had to see this movie!

We left for our annual vacation on Martha’s Vineyard just days after my return, and even up there you could really see how popular this movie was. Every T-shirt shop, post card stand, and souvenir joint had Ghostbusters stuff. The ghost with the “nuh-uh” circle was printed on anything and everything. I dragged my parents to see it at the Edgartown Town Hall, which was where you saw movies in Edgartown before they opened a traditional movie theater.

You know, there are movies that take time to grow on you – or movies that start off slow, but build. Some you come to appreciate after thinking about them for a while. And then there are movies that you love from almost the very start. “Ghostbusters” was one of those movies for me. Now I understood what the craze was all about.

I’ve watched it a zillion times. There are lines that stick in my head, lines like “Maybe I’ve got a milkbone,” “Nice Shootin’ Tex,” “My uncle thought he was Saint Jerome” and “You never studied.” I know that Ted and Annette Fleming have a small carpet cleaning business in receivership. And I know what the magic word is. I still have my VHS tape of the movie, recorded from HBO back in the late 80′s.

My husband likes the sequel which makes me question his taste.

And if you’re in the mood, here’s a link to the video. Personally, I like this song better than “I’ve Got a New Drug.”

80s collageYesterday my youngest daughter made a comment about my youth, referring to it as “The 80′s, when there were all those hippies.”

After a playful head flick and a quick history lesson, I thought about my childhood and deducted that I did most of my living, hell, the best part of my living in the 80s. It truly was my decade.

My daughter was partially right; having been born in 1964 I did live a large portion of my earlier life in the hippie generation. My preteen years were mostly in the 70s, where bell bottom pants would swish down the hallways in school, and you listened to all of your pop music on a crackly AM radio or huddled in front of the family’s hi-fi stereo with gigantic headphones on. And disco? You either loved it or hated it.

(I loved it.)

When the 70s gave way to 1980 I was a sophomore in high school. By the time 1990 rolled around I had lived the best years of my life. The best. I had graduated from both high school and college, had traveled to Europe twice, had my best job ever, had my best car ever, had become engaged, and then, unengaged.

Even if I try to forget the milestones of my life and just really look at that decade, I have to say I think the 80s were great. It was like the planet woke up from a long, dreary sleep and said “Rise & Shine! Let’s kick ass and take names!” Everything about the 80s seemed to go POW! Music, fashion, movies, TV; everything was brighter and better. Well, maybe not better, the 80s did give us Kirk Cameron.

The 80s brought us MTV. Hell, the 80s brought us cable TV and HBO, both of which were monumental to this young Jersey girl. Add to that the VCR, and I had a television trifecta. (Yes, I know the VCR & HBO came out in the 70s, but my family didn’t get either until the 80s)

cable remote

The old cable remote. I’m pretty sure MTV was channel 26 – first button, third click down.

Before cable there were 7, maybe 8 channels you could watch. After cable? It seemed like there were hundreds, but there were only 37 at first. Now I could watch stations out of Atlanta and Chicago – it was like the world was delivered to my television set. And HBO? If I weren’t watching MTV, I was watching HBO. I’d watch the same movies over and over again. Except Eddie and the Cruisers – HBO played that one way too much.

Eddie and the Cruisers was another bad thing to come out of the 80s.

The 80s brought us the Walkman. Music was both portable and private. No more listening to music blaring from a tape deck. Alright, you still did it, but you didn’t need to anymore. I didn’t get a Walkman for quite a few years after they came out – they were too expensive. All the rich kids at my school had them, but I had to wait until they came down to a reasonable price. And the headphones? They were tiny compared to the giant cans we had used in the past.

albumsThe 80s brought us some great music. Ok, not all of it was great – I could go the rest of my life without hearing Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died in Your Arms” – but a lot of it was new and original. Madonna, Adam and the Ants, Depeche Mode, Bananarama, Squeeze, Human League, Cyndi Lauper, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I could go on and on.

Certain songs catapult me right back to college, walking along the paths of U of D with my headphones on. Songs like  “Don’t You Forget About Me,” or “Eye in the Sky.” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and “Dance Hall Days.”

The 80s brought us some fucked up clothes, but I kind of liked it. Neon, graphic patterns like checkerboard and animal prints, slouched shirts with one shoulder bared. It was comfortable, I’ll give you that. It was also the last time I wore, or looked good in spandex.

playhouseHow about 80s television? Yeah, most of it sucked, I’ll give you that. Shows like Growing Pains, Punkie Brewster, Night Rider, Saved By The Bell, and Who’s The Boss polluted the airwaves. But it wasn’t all bad. The 80s also gave us Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Cheers, Family Ties and The Golden Girls. I have to admit to a few other shows I loved with some level of shame – The Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, and Rescue 911.

MoviesAnd 80s movies? Come on – there were TONS of good movies in the 80s. Back to the Future, Sixteen Candles, Tootsie, The Karate Kid, Mommie Dearest, Aliens, Scarface, Ghostbusters, The Princess Bride, Big, Die Hard, Caddyshack, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Poltergeist, and Raiders of the Lost Ark just to name a few. I must have consumed 4000 pounds of movie theater popcorn during those 10 years.

I know some of you out there will disagree with me – you probably think the 80s were mindless and vapid, filled with big haired bimbos and clueless dudes wearing headbands and pastel polo shirts. Yeah, they were all there.

But it was my time. I was young and things were new and exciting. There was stuff out there that my parents just couldn’t relate to, and I loved that. Things like MTV, Walkmans, and CD players were ours – innovations that had never been seen before and we were the target market. Yeah, I loved the 80s.

Like, fer sure.

Alda Autograph

Did anyone famous live in your hometown?

I grew up in a small, but lovely community a stone’s throw from New York City, so needless to say we had our fair share of residents who were fairly well-known. Some of the famous folks who called Leonia home before my time were Buddy Hackett, Pat Boone, and even Sammy Davis Jr. – although I never realized that until I Googled it just now.

While I was growing up we were proud to have two famous authors living in our midst; Robert Ludlum and Robin Cook. We also had James Noble, who played the Governor on Benson, and Paris Themen, who played Mike TeeVee in the original Willy Wonka movie. I remember playing in someone’s backyard and being totally bowled over when he showed up – perhaps to pick up a younger sibling. I can’t recall. I just know I gushed.

Gene Shalitt, the NBC film critic with his trademark black curly hair and bushy mustache, also lived in Leonia – I was good friends with his son Andrew. And let me not forget to mention Anthony Bourdain. He wasn’t famous while we were growing up, but he went to high school with my brother at Dwight Englewood – a private school that also had another famous graduate, Brooke Shields.

But there was one celebrity that rose above all of these during my childhood. Alan Alda.

Yep, good old Hawkeye lived just 5 blocks away from me during his 10+ year stint on M*A*S*H. He was the “it” celeb when I was growing up – it was a real coo if you ran into him at the grocery store or the pharmacy, especially once M*A*S*H became such a hit.

My husband recounts tales of playing hockey on the tennis courts in the Alda’s backyard, and getting angrily chased away each and every time. Gee, I wonder why? Hubby also says he delivered the Bergen Record to his house and claims he wasn’t a great tipper. I trick or treated at the house once, but nobody answered the door.

Alan Alda had daughters, and at least one of his daughters also went to high school with my brother at Dwight Englewood. My brother enjoyed acting, and was usually in the school play. I can’t remember what play we were seeing when my Alan Alda incident occurred – maybe “Guys & Doll” or “Oliver!” I know my brother was in both of those plays, as was one of the Alda daughters.

I’m guessing I was around 9 years old, clad in a bright yellow dress that my mom had made for me with a shiny pair of patent leather Mary Janes on my feet. Right before the show started my mother nudged me and whispered in my ear that Alan Alda had just come in and was seated on the aisle just a few rows behind me.

I turned to look, and sure enough there he was! I asked my mom if I could ask him for his autograph, but she told me to wait until the intermission because the play was about to start. All through the first act I squirmed in my seat thinking about how to approach him while in my head I crafted various clever and endearing opening lines.

When the intermission began my mother needed to bolster my nerve – I was scared to actually approach him, but she assured me that once it was over and done with, I would be happy I did it, and miserable the entire night if I didn’t. So, with a program and pen in my shanking little hands, I walked up to his seat and said,

“Excuse me, Mr. Alda. May I please have your autograph?” Remember… 9 years old, bright yellow dress, patent leather Mary Janes.

He turned to me and said, “No. I’m sorry, but I’m just trying to enjoy the show.”

Denied.

I most likely mumbled something like “Oh, that’s ok.” and skulked back to my seat. I was crushed. And embarrassed. I hung my head in shame and silently cried waiting for Act II to start. My mother was furious – not so much because he had sent me packing, but because she had urged me to do it and it had turned out badly.

I never liked him much after that. I’d watch M*A*S*H and see this happy-go-lucky character on the screen, and remember that feeling of pain and shame that was associated with my encounter. Pavlov knew what he was talking about.

About a year ago I recounted this story on a Facbook page that is associated with my hometown – the thread being about all the famous folks that lived in town. Boy oh boy, the backlash was immediate and immense. Seems Alan Alda did lots of wonderful things for many of my fellow townsfolk, and my story didn’t sit well with them.

I refused to apologize, though. I simply said that they are fortunate to have had such a positive experience with him. Mine? Not so much.

Now that I’m older and wiser, I can totally see his point. He was just trying to inconspicuously watch his daughter in the school play – trying to be like every other parent in the auditorium. And along I came to remind everyone that he’s famous.

But on the other hand, I wasn’t loud or obnoxious. I didn’t draw attention, except maybe for the fact that I was in a bright yellow dress. I was little. And polite. In patent leather Mary Janes. You’d think he could’ve thrown me a bone.

Everybody has a bad day – maybe he was having one that night. As horrifiying as it was when the incident happened, now it’s a funny little story in the timeline of my life. If he had granted me the autograph, I might only remember that Alan Alda signed my crumpled play program. Boring.

My story? It has pizzazz, and drama, and heartache. Thanks, Hawkeye – for making Tracy just a little less typical.

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