The spirit of ’83

I’m going to be honest with you: no matter what, I am probably going to keep this Esprit Holiday 1983 catalogue.  Purely for sentimental value, since it’s been a few years since any of these clothes were even available.

I remember giving this very catalogue to my stepmother when she asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  I had circled numerous items and was like, “fly little bird.”

I wanted this entire outfit on the right:

Notice the four layers: a cardigan over a vest over a sweater over a collared shirt.  Styled with a pair of slouchy men’s pants.  The model looks like a linebacker.  I wanted all of it.  My stepmother did find the cardigan, and I wore that damn thing everywhere.  Weddings, bar mitzvahs.  I’m kidding, there weren’t any Jewish kids in Fort Worth in the early 80’s.

I also liked this ensemble:

… because we all know how flattering pant pleats were.  And shorts that cut you off mid-thigh.  And layers of boxy tops were.  Maybe it was the old-timey toothache bow that put it over the top for me.

These pages are where most of my energy was placed:

I ranked these sassy flats in the event my stepmother found them in multiple hues.  Say she’s at Sanger Harris and she sees they have the lavender and blue pairs — how does she choose?  I took the guesswork out of that because I’m nice.  And for the record, I still want all of these.  Except the grey, yeesh, it’s at the bottom of the list for a reason, am I right?

For fun, and because this is how this blog is set up, go ahead and vote.

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Let’s get physical

Here’s what we are dealing with today: a second place ribbon from the Fort Worth Independent School District’s “Fitness Festival.”  What that was was an aerobic dance contest.  My 4th grade class at Tanglewood Elementary had a routine to the Bee Gees “Night Fever,” which was already 3 years old by that time but still going strong, at least to the P.E. teachers at Tanglewood.  I say routine, but it was really just a couple of grapevines, then a couple of kicks and then we did a quarter turn and started the sequence all over again.  We repeated this on all four sides, over and over.  We thought we were hot shit.

The night of the program (I seem to recall we were at the Tarrant County Convention Center or at least somewhere else crazy big), were were nervous but confident.  We were set to “perform” second to last.  All the other schools were not even trying in the choreography department.

It was hard to hear our song at first, the space was so big and the PA was so loud and distorted. But we got it the hell together.  After the song had faded and the last kick and half-assed shuffle was managed, we were happy that all those other schools got served by us.

But then, hold up a min… Eastern Hills Elementary took the floor in full-on costumes.  Leotards, sequins, the whole nine.  They had a full routine choreographed from beginning to end.  Those kids were dancing like they were in a dance class, not an aerobics class for old ladies.  We were all “did we just get served?”  We knew we had.

Epilogue: That following year, I moved out of the Tanglewood area and to — you guessed it — the Eastern Hills area.  There was a whole dance program there at EHE and a big show called the “Dance-a-rama,” performed near the end of the school  year.  I danced the “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Shaft,” and “Disco Mickey Mouse” dances (the last one was a hand-selected group and was the feature dance in the Dance-a-rama, y’all; P.S. it was already 1981 but we were still all about disco).


Quiz me! No, don’t. Yes, do!

This is my only trophy ever, for being a member of the district-winning Whiz Quiz team at Monnig Middle School.  I was an alternate; I played in a total of 2 games and answered a total of zero questions.  I even did that thing where someone buzzed in, and I buzzed in right after them and made a big show pretending I knew the answer but was beaten to it.  It was humiliating not knowing a single answer to anything.  My favorite teacher Miss Janice Dilworth from “spirit leading” was the sponsor and she recruited me because she thought I was smart.  Ha!  I showed her!

So years later, I didn’t know what I was thinking when I signed up to take the test to try to be a contestant on VH1’s “Rock and Roll Jeopardy.”  I mean, I thought I knew a lot about rock, but I had never been called upon to prove it like I always dreamed.

The tryout was at 8 in the morning, which was the crack of dawn for me at the time.  Oh, those days! Anywhuh, we hopefuls sat in the real Jeopardy audience, a seat or so apart, and were handed a questionnaire about our connections to music and our favorites and all that.  Then they gave an oral test, and I missed some easy questions about Michael Jackson and Alabama.  Like I said, it was early, but also… I choked.  I choked!

Then they called out the names of the people who were moving on to the next level of testing.  As more and more names were called, not mine, the hope started draining out of me, as happens in these situations when I’m trying for a spot among a group of people.  I have never in my life been that last name called.  Until that day!

I squeaked by to the mock game portion by the skin of my teeth, obvi.  Because I was the last one on the list, and because of the numbers, I had no one to play against, which was fortunate for me.  It gave me plenty of time to get accustomed to that whole “What is…?” bullshit.  I tried to give them some personality, which may have come off as desperate, but I had to do something make up for my low oral exam numbers.  I went home and then weeks later, I got the message that I was to be a contestant!  Yay, me!

On the day of the show, I located and joined the other contestants right outside the parking structure, there on the Sony lot.  This one gal brought her notes with her and was being really demonstrative about them.  It worked — I was intimidated.  I had nothing and had done nothing to prepare, aside from trying to name artists real fast when they came on the radio.  Radio, oh, those days!

They took us to a green room and looked through our outfits — they had told us to bring 3 options.  They chose my first option — a yellow sweater set from Rampage and a pair of plaid brown pants from Rampage.  Then we were each individually approached and asked questions about what we’d said on our questionnaires.  They asked if it was true that I quit guitar lessons when I became a cheerleader.  I said it was, because it was, I think.  The person then said, “do you remember any of your cheers?”  I said “no,” and the interviewer moved on to the next person.  I thought to myself, what an idiot!  I took improv, I should have known to “yes, and” the question; keep the improv going.  There were a couple of extra contestants there, and I worried my abrupt end to this tete-a-tete would cost me a spot on the show, or at least make these producers I’d never see again not like me.

Then we were all ushered down to the “Jeopardy!” stage, which was re-dressed for the rock version.  We were randomly selected to go and test out the buzzer situation and get used to what the whole deal felt like.  There was this one guy who was super-quick at the buzzer, it was ridiculous.  I was the person who buzzes in furiously but too late.  When the practice was over, we were told they were going to put us in groups of three, and that would be our show groups.  I hoped to not get stuck with either Notes Girl or Buzzer Guy, but I ended up with them both.

Our group ended up being the first out of the gate, so I had no frame of reference as to what types of questions were going to be asked.  I got into position and quickly developed a crush on host Jeff Probst.  I mean, hubba hubba, right?

The first thing we had to do was the most nerve-wracking.  It was where they say “a homemaker from Reading, Pennsylvania” or whatever, and the camera is on you to just be.  I waved at the camera, doing a “what, am I on camera now?” face.  After I did it, I knew it was wrong.  Also, the set was yellow, or some shade of something that I knew was not going to pair nicely with the sweaters.  So already, everything was awesome.

The game started, and let me tell you — those first-round questions were E to the Z.  So much so that we all knew them.  Good news for Quick Draw McGraw, bad news for Betty Slowthumb.  At the end of the first round, I was in last place.

During the break, I did my best to maintain my composure, i.e. not cry.  I was joking with my competitors, trying to laugh away that $5000 like it wouldn’t seriously help my financial situation.  But it wasn’t about the money, as those who know a lot about rock and have always wanted to prove it can attest.

Hot Jeff Probst headed over to me for the interview portion.  Here was my time to dazzle/seduce him.  He asked me if it was true that I quit guitar lessons to become a cheerleader.  I said yes.  He asked if I remembered any of my cheers.  I said yes.

“We’re the best there’s no debate!  Yay, seniors eighty-eight!” I kind-of-yelled, swaying side to side to the beat.  “I can’t believe I remember that!”  I said, which was a bold-face lie.  As Jeffy moved on to the next contestant, it dawned on me that this display of total assiness was going to be broadcast on television.  Plus it was no way for the love of his life to behave.

I couldn’t dwell on my questionable choice, I had a game to finish.  I had not yet burst into tears, so there was still hope for me to pull it together.

I knew there must have been a secret as to how McGraw was buzzing in so early.  Here’s how the game worked: after a question was asked, white Christmas lights that encircled (ensquared?) the board would light up.  You had to wait until you saw the lights come on to buzz in, or you were frozen out for 3 seconds.  I figured out that my competitor was listening for the end of the question as his cue, anticipating the light by a fraction of a second.

At the beginning of round 2, I was armed with this realization.  Oh, and also, I did another queer thing: after I answered a question correctly about Van Halen (in the category of “Devil Music,” I said “What is ‘Running With The Devil’?” — which I was technically wrong on, the answer is “Runnin'”  not “Running”), Jeffy said “They were never better then, huh?” and I was all “Um… no!” or something to that effect.  It was cut out of the broadcast.  I imagine the editors going, “This dork will make America uncomfortable.”

So, like Cliff Clavin on that “Cheers” episode, most of the round 2 categories were in my wheelhouse.  They were like, “Who’s buried in Lubbock, Texas?” and anyone who has been there knows it’s Buddy Holly.  But most people have not been there, see.

The Notes Gal blew it when she got both Daily Doubles and lost.  She had a audio clue for one — they played “How Soon Is Now?”  And she said it was Morrissey, solo.  She did some other stupid things like say it was called the Fillmore West.  Whatever, by the end of the 2nd round, I had enough points to not bet anything in Final Jeopardy.

Now, when you’re about to win $5000, a strange kind of stupidity comes over you.  During the second break, when my competitors didn’t want to pal around anymore, I kept asking the stagehands that were going to and fro if I needed to bet anything, or could I just bet zero.  No one would answer me.  I mean, I had seen the show a zillion times, I knew the rules.  P.S. in this rock version, you just won $5000 (and didn’t get to come back) — you didn’t win your score or whatever.  I bet 10 just to make it fun for me.

The Final Jeopardy category was “Song Inspirations.”  Now, I knew a lot about big famous songs.  I say “knew” because my mind is like a sieve now.  I have actually forgotten all the Rainbow-Sabbath-Dio, etc. lineups that I worked for years to have down.  The question was something like, what Bangles song was inspired by symbols found at a synagogue and at the JFK gravesite?  Even though we had those separators between us, I knew my competitors were both writing “Walk Like An Egyptian,” because I could hear their markers writing a lot.  That’s what I wrote, too, because that was the only Bangles song that came to mind.

It was wrong.  As Jeffy Poop got down to me, asking what I said and how much I bet, kind-of jokingly, he saw that I had the worng answer, but no matter, I had won.

They had warned us about the zoom-in once you were declared the winner.  I knew the camera was on me, but I couldn’t “Yay!” or anything — that would be too “in-your-face!” to those other two.  My win meant that they lost.  So I did a big “Whew!” like I had made it through an ordeal and was just glad to be alive.  My father taught me to be humble, and humble I was.  And good for me.

Okay, so… the trophy.


Happy Father’s Day


The tale of the tape is, who knows?

Here for your review is a number of unlabeled VHS tapes.  They’re full; of what I do not know.  I no longer have a VHS player in my house.  Don’t say take them to Costco, they won’t transfer anything that is copyrighted.  And don’t say pretend you’re the rights holder, I’ve done that, too.  Somehow those people don’t believe I own random SNL sketches from the 90’s or several episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

I know one of these unmarked tapes contains my stint as a member of a very important jury on a very important episode of “LA Law.”  That was by far the best of all the extra gigs I did that summer.  I learned the hard way that that a good living couldn’t be made by working as an extra, even if you did it every day and did it well.  I worked for 2 weeks on the movie “Airheads” with about 200 others, from 6pm to sunup.  Napping on the cold floor of an empty soundstage is not as fun as it sounds.  Sure, some people had sleeping bags and such, but I thought that would just invite trouble. We had to dress like rockers, so I wore this Rampage black bodysuit and torn-up black jersey bell-bottoms that only came to the ankle, with high-heeled black mules.  And let me explain this body suit — it had a mock turtleneck and lace sleeves.  But the sleeves didn’t start until after the shoulder, then it was like a fingerless glove at the end.  I think I spent more on that outfit than I made the entire 2 weeks.

But I didn’t need much money: I had just moved to town and was renting the spare bedroom of a friend’s Sherman Oaks apartment.  She always referred to where she lived as “the city,” so when people would ask me where in town I lived, I always said, with total authority, “I live in the city.”  She had 2 cats that would give me ringworm and scratch their fleas into the sink where I brushed my teeth.  I went to take a shower one morning and startled one of them taking a shit in the litterbox, and I backed out of the room sheepishly, like I’d walked in on a human person.  I didn’t know how to cook, so most nights I made brie and strawberry quesadillas.  I’d then retreat to my room and watch taped episodes of “Larry Sanders” or “Dream On” or “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”  I really cannot overstate how much I loved that show.

You are voting on whether or not I should continue my efforts to discover what hidden treasures might be on these tapes, or to throw them in the garbage and not look back.


I learned the truth from Seventeen

Ah, my old Seventeen mags from the 80’s.  The crazy eyebrows, the glove with the ring on top, the head bow that you usually only see on babies — this look unapologetically says, “Notice me” and “I’m not looking for a boyfriend” and “Step away, hobos!” all at the same time.  I especially love that they thought teenage girls described clothes as “marvelous,” a word I would’ve only used when imitating that Billy Crystal character.

And remember when not being sluts was cool?  I would say I love the message of abstinence on the cover, but 2 pages in, there’s this ad:

It says, “Nuance says yes.  But you can always say no.”  “Um… okay.  You mean, say no to drugs, right?” my 13-year-old or so self says.  And this gal’s wearing a negligee — like we all did as teen and tween girls.  I mean, I had the pink underwear that said “I’m Baby Soft,” as in the Love’s perfume, but that was also creepy.

Back then, we wanted to be and look older — er, “sophisticated.”  Get a load of these gals:

I imagine the casting call was “20 to look 45.”  An unexpected surprise in this particular issue was this ad, for the Columbia Record N Tape club:

These were some of my picks, had I been brave enough to get in on this insane offer:

This is how I know my husband and I were meant to be together:

Here’s a weird ad for tampons:

I don’t remember them ever touching the tampon.  I don’t know how much that sells it.  Speaking of ads, here’s one…

… for your HOPE CHEST!

Makeup… fashion… articles about baskets… Seventeen has it all, girls.

Pack light, but don’t forget your granny panties!

I still want every single one of these shoes.

My 10 or so 80’s Seventeens.  Should they stay or should they go?


Oh, Ziggy. Will you ever win?

These are exactly what they look like: Ziggy and Fuzz salt and pepper shakers.  I had this set when I was a child.  Oh, not this exact set: these I bought during the early days of eBay.  As soon as I discovered there was an eBay, I sought these out and managed to acquire them without any bidding war ugliness.  Ziggy still has old salt in him, and it spills out wherever he is stored, but taking the salt out of my Ziggy salt shaker is very low on my list of priorities always.

I must tell you that my love for Ziggy was a real love and it lasted at least 2 years.  In the late 70’s, he was everywhere, like Paul Williams.  I had his Christmas ornaments, his plush toys, 2 lap desks… I even carried his comb in my back pocket.  Also, I had a Ziggy-themed roller skating party for my 10th birthday.  I made a paper mache mask of him in the 5th grade — I guess so I could be him.

I don’t know why I loved Ziggy so much.  It wasn’t because of his messages of pessimism and despair mixed with those of love and stuff like wanting it to rain kittens or whatever. I actually think it had more to do with how aesthetically pleasing his face was/is.  The round head, the bulbous nose — very easy on the eye; very easy for a 10-year-old to draw with accuracy.

A toss vote is a vote to donate, not to throw in the garbage.  Although something tells me Ziggy wouldn’t be all that surprised to end up there.