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.
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?
Good weekend everyone. Here’s my next thing:
I fear I originally hung onto this in case I got a job at another Foot Locker; that it would have kept my new employer from having to procure me another one. Maybe I thought it would be a good Halloween costume? Which it totally would be, now that I think about it.
It does bring to mind one of the greatest nights of my life.
It was my buddy Chris Hunter’s 17th birthday, in Fort Worth, Texas, circa in 1987. Because I was working, I was going to have to arrive at his surprise party at Mama’s Pizza after the surprise. This was fine by me — I always fear I that I will be the first person that the person sees after the surprise, and if I’m not in that person’s top tier of friends, I feel like a real jerk.
So that night we were closing up shop at the Foot Locker when my friend Jennifer called me on the telephone and said I needed to get my fanny down to the party quick-like.
“Stevie Ray is here,” she said.
I could hardly believe my ears. Mainly because it was very loud in the area where that pay phone was in Mama’s Pizza.
(Stevie Ray was Stevie Ray Vaughan, y’all. Chris’ mother Barbara Logan was married under the common law to Doyle Bramhall: a collaborator of Stevie Ray’s, he wrote “Change It,” “Lookin’ Out The Window” and co-wrote “The House Is Rockin'” among others.)
I almost didn’t want this news to be true, as it would mean I’d have to abandon my closing duties, which wouldn’t sit well with anyone, including myself, because responsibilities. I was tremendously excited that I was going to get to see SRV in person. If I could get there in time, that is!
I explained quickly what was going on to my boss. Miraculously, no grief was given to me and I squeezed under the mostly-closed metal gating and ran to my car (I was wearing sneakers, so.). Once I got in, I remembered my original plan was to stop off at home to change clothes. I did not want to take the time to do this. Could I show up in my uniform…? No, I thought, Stevie Ray Vaughan was not going to fall in love with me in this uniform.
Thank goodness I had a random change of clothes in my car: a men’s fair isle sweater-vest that I had given my step-brother for Christmas that he didn’t love so I kept; a men’s Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt (mine); and a denim skirt from el cheapo Show Off fashions. I was actually pretty okay with this outfit — boxy, shapeless menswear was a look that was very me at the time. I changed in the car, and after a few strategic fluffs of my perm I was off!
Once at Mama’s, I raced upstairs to the private room and greeted Jennifer. She pointed into a darkened area where Stevie Ray sat with a beautiful woman (hey, wait!) and others. I said “That’s not him!” because it really didn’t look like him, it was dark. But once my eyes adjusted, it was pretty unmistakably him, and I had a hard time processing the whole deal. I now wonder what he must have thought when this weird girl in a men’s vest appeared in the doorway and stood staring at him for many minutes.
At one point, I remember having the opportunity to chat up the beautiful woman. She was maybe European? She said she first met Stevie Ray in the street, getting off a bus in her foreign land, and they were smitten. I was like, “Aww…” because even though she was my romantic rival, I still wanted to be her best friend, because how amazing would that be?!
Later, Stevie Ray played a whole set — for about 30 teenage kids — with my buddy Chris on drums. I was so physically close to him, I could have reached out and grabbed his hat scarf.
My friend Emily and I decided that since technically we were newspaper reporters for the AHHS Jacket Journal, it was our duty to write an article documenting this event. We decided she would be the one to do it, as I was barely able to pull my shit together for the convo with the European lady. After the set, Emily and I got close enough for her to lob one question at him, which was something like, why would he do a gig like this?
“Friends,” was his answer. What a doll!
You are voting on the shirt and the name tag together.
Here’s another questionable thing I’ve held onto for ages:
It’s an autographed photo of the band Pantera before they were famous. In a frame with no glass. And no backing.
I acquired this in 1982, when they were hanging out at Hastings (Hasting’s?) records in the Ridgmar Mall to promote their debut album, Metal Magic. My buddy Suzie and I didn’t know who they were, but they were a rock band, and we therefore loved them instantly. The album cover art was a picture of a panther’s head on a man’s body drawn by a… like a teenage boy. It seemed very homemade, like my Patriotic Fever record a few posts back for the 12 of you keeping up who I love more than anyone.
The band members were asking girls for their earrings. Suzie and I either weren’t wearing them or the ones we were wearing were shitty. So we went shopping in the mall for earrings to give to the band Pantera. We went to Miss Bojangles, Accessory Lady — all over. We found just the right ridiculous dangle ones. They thanked us and were real nice to us, even though we did not buy the album.
My dad got me Metal Magic for my birthday or something, and boy, was it terrible. There is an actual song on it called “Ride My Rocket.” Even at 12 years old, I knew that was less than artful. I was so disappointed — they were so cute! Oh, well, there goes me getting in on the ground floor of a band that turns out to be famous. What’s that you say? They did become famous? Gadzooks.
Please keep in mind that that one guy’s dead, and I’m a bit superstitious about throwing away things that dead people have signed and that also has their faces on it. And P.S. I think that’s known as the Pantera font.
What’s this I found in a bin in my linen closet? Is it a file folder filled with various certificates of award…?! Oh, this is embarrassing. I mean, there’s like 30 or something. What kind of awards are they, you’re probably not asking? Well, there’s a few Ann Brannon awards for scholastic achievement and improvement; one from the Optimists’ Club for citizenship; and a ribbon for reading. I must say I never tire of seeing my name in calligraphy.
But if I’m being honest here… one of these honors I did not earn. It was one of my Ann Brannon awards for scholastic achievement and improvement. I was a senior in high school and I really wasn’t the best in any subject, nor did I make any great strides in any one area. But the government teacher, Mrs. Murray, gave me the Ann Brannon award for government. Now, I made good grades in government — but not the best. Plus I took that class first semester — I was long done with that by the time the awards rolled around. I was, at the time, however, Mrs. Murray’s teacher’s assistant. I graded papers for her and whatnot. Talk about nepotism. I accepted the award, of course — if she hadn’t given it to me, I’d have had no Ann Brannon award that year. Can you even imagine?
You are voting whether or not to keep the file in its entirety. Thank you.
When I was in middle school, I had thin hair, an overbite, and I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with my mother.
Still, I wanted more. I wanted status, recognition. I wanted to be something and someone. I thought Student Council would be the way to go, but year after year, my homeroom was wont to elect two more popular kids to the posts, not some girl who, and I’m serious about this, wore glasses that had her name engraved across the bottom of one of the lenses.
There was a group anyone at Monnig Middle could join called the MAT Team (this stood for ‘Monnig Action Team,’ and I guess should just have been called ‘MAT’ but was indeed called the ‘MAT Team.’). Oh, the MAT Team, we were responsible for… I don’t know, we did stuff, all kinds of stuff. We had a lock-in once and discussed things and ate pizza. And I wanted to be their President. It definitely offered more prestige than being President of the National Junior Honor Society, of which I was also a member. But no one cared what the smarties were up to, so their leader had no real power among the students.
Well, one particular day I decided I wanted to stay home from school. Because I was such a good student, my mother would allow me to stay home occasionally if I wanted. So, I was home watching TV and taking it easy at four o’clock-ish when the terrible news came down the pike – they had had a MAT Team meeting after school and they sprang the officer elections on them and Shannon Beard was elected. Ugh! Why was the world conspiring against me to get anything cool?!
Luckily, there was this fantastic black teacher that came on the scene at around that time – her name was Janice Dilworth. Stylish, young and dynamic, she taught 7th grade Texas History and was the first teacher to ever care about me as a person. And I needed that. I mean, I wouldn’t say I was troubled, but middle school is tough. Girls can be very mean, and were, to me. I sat alone at lunch eating Little Debbies for more than one day of my life, I can tell you that. Thank goodness for my one friend Shea Shockley — she and I were like the girls in “Square Pegs,” but since I was fat and had glasses, I could have been either one. But really I was the fat one.
So when Miss Dilworth told me they were starting up a cheerleading squad and wanted me to be the captain, it was pret-ty eff-ing cool.
Now, we couldn’t be called cheerleaders; we had to be called “Spirit Leaders” for some legal reason. But there would be pom poms, megaphones, skirts with pleats – everyone would know what we were, come on.
Miss Dilworth called an informal meeting for all 7th and 8th grade girls interested in being on this new squad. Much needed to be explained to these girls, not the least of which was all the legal mumbo jumbo. I stood at the front with Miss Dilworth, looking down at all those eager faces in the standing-room-only classroom. As she spoke, I nodded along – ‘cause I was already in the know about all of it, y’all. She announced that there would be no tryout, and that she, as the sponsor, and me, as the captain, would be hand-selecting the squad.
She adjourned the meeting and handed me a clipboard with which to gather the hopefuls’ names. I had never seen so many people looking at me all at once! In that moment, all those assholes were lamenting the wrongs they had committed against me: this one girl was regretting calling me a scum in the girls’ bathroom… another was wishing she hadn’t ditched me at the fair for peeing in my pants on the tilt-a-whirl. I was able to bring my one friend Shea on board, which felt right.
Concurrently, I started to take gymnastics classes, knowing that at the high school level of cheerleading, they’d be looking for more than just the vocal projecting, general enthusiasm, and the knowing of the football players names I had down pat. See, a spot on the high school cheerleading squad as a freshman basically guaranteed your success in life. Right away, your face is out there at every pep rally; everyone knows your name because it’s embroidered on your uniform. You’d then then get voted into other things, like Student Council and Class Favorite. And cheerleaders always had dates to all the dances and then got made Queens of all the dances. You’d marry well and be set forever!
Gymnastics classes were a disaster. I was neither a skilled nor trainable gymnast.
So it was no surprise when I didn’t make the freshman squad. No, wait, it was a huge surprise! Even though I should have known that I was not one of the best 6 girls, I only did the math in the moments before the names were called. Then I wept openly right where I sat in the bleachers.
The cheer sponsor, Mrs. Gregory, flitted over and asked if I was hurt. I couldn’t lie, I said no, I was just sad. She scuttled away, sighing, as if she was concerned over nothing.
Then, the 6 names were announced, not mine, and those 6 girls went nuts. As well they should have! They had it made from then on and they knew it. I went home and cried and cried. Mom knew the drill: in times of great sadness or celebration, she’d take me to Red Lobster. And then we’d hit the Tom Thumb supermarket and rent movies starring my favorite actor, Rutger Hauer. (I even liked the weird ones like the one with the bird eggs and Powers Boothe.) Mom would go out of her way to try to make me feel better. “Next year,” she’d say. And I’d believe her.
But we were wrong. It took 3 more tries. I finally made the squad my senior year, and I was only able to manage that because that year there were only 13 girls trying out for 12 spots and there was one girl that was somehow a worse cheerleader than me. I can’t remember what had decimated the numbers, but I seem to recall it was the no pass/no play rule, and apparently a lot of good cheerleaders were also dum dums. But no matter – I was on the cheerleading squad! I was finally a damn cheerleader!
Pretty straight away, though, I was miserable – we practiced early in the morning and in the 100+ degree Texas heat. Sometimes you got kicked in the face when you dropped someone. I whined about all this during cheerleading camp, and Rachel Meyer accused me of only being a cheerleader because I wanted to be popular, since I was being such a big jerk. Mrs. Gregory backed her up. Rachel cried, I cried. I will say, it did make me work harder, someone calling me out and embarrassing me like that. This memory makes me chuckle, though, as Rachel and I became good friends and still are to this day.
Cheerleading actually turned out to be sort of awesome. I mean, it didn’t transform my life like I thought it would — but it did make me work hard for something that wasn’t just for myself. And it did keep me from having to pick out an outfit to wear to school on game Fridays.
Our squad ended up going to NCA Nationals in 1987. And and we placed 17th in the land! Here was the sweatshirt I bought from a kiosk that day.
It has stains on it from my college days when we painted our sorority house mother’s parking space, a task I was responsible for for some reason. I chose a water-based paint, because I was 20. The day after we painted it, it rained (it was Florida), and the paint washed away from the concrete. It did not wash away from the sweatshirt, however.
Take all of this into account. I look forward to your thoughts.
Here’s what this is: it’s a sequin bowtie, used during an 8th grade talent show dance to “New York, New York.” Not to be a braggadocio, but… it was the cool girl dance.
I became aware of the cool girl dances in the 6th grade, when a bunch of them did a routine to “It’s A Hard Knock Life.” As the 10 or so cute, popular girls tromped around the stage adorably, throwing their rags down in sync and with sass, I sat in the dark in awe, like in that movie I’ve never seen, “Cinema Paradiso.” Not being asked to participate in that was like death.
One long, terrible year passed, and I got my opportunity to get into the 7th grade cool girl dance (“We Got The Beat”)! I think I was at someone’s house (Jennifer Roels? Becky Lawrence?) when they got The Call To Join, and they were like “Christy Stratton’s here,” and I might have insinuated myself into the situation at that point. I believe we went straight away to Bonnie Blossman’s house for the first rehearsal. I said something like “Do you think I shouldn’t go? I don’t think I was really invited…” to my friend in the car on the way over, knowing I had no plans to go anywhere whatever her answer.
Once at Bonnie’s house, Bonnie’s mom put us in an inverted “V” formation. I had somehow managed to be put in the front of the “V” on the right side! I’m not going to tell you that I was an amazing dancer, but I was good, and I did have lots of energy and excellent facial expressions — so it made sense. But my excitement was short lived when one of the moms demoted me to second row. Stacey Youngblood was moved in front of me, apparently because she was taller. I wasn’t buying that — we were the same height and she was a terrible dancer. But, whatever. I should just shut up and enjoy that I’m in this thing at all, right? I can tell you I did not. I pissed and moaned about this as much as a 13-year old girl can. But the moms’ decision was binding. During the actual performance, I wore a ponytail that apparently bobbed and bounced, distracting from my good dancing and all the dancing, really. I feel bad about it now, but I couldn’t help it; I really had the beat!
The good news about the following year’s dance to “New York New York” — I was grandfathered in. We went with a professional choreographer this time, and we rehearsed in a real dance studio, like the one in that scene in the “Bad News Bears,” a movie I did see.
But yet again I found a way to attract the wrong kind of attention: waiting in the hallway moments before we were to perform in front of the whole school (!), I realized that the pantyhose I was wearing beneath my fishnets was different from everyone else’s. Mine had lines across the thigh — they were SUPPORT HOSE. I had just grabbed some of mom’s pantyhose for my costume… why wouldn’t I assume that all pantyhose were alike? Maybe no one would notice — perhaps distracted by our professional choreography and our sequin bow ties. You can kind of see it here. Horrifying.
I’ve seen better pictures, y’all, it was super obvious. We were all standing next to each other in a kickline for shit’s sake!
I had to scrape and claw my way into these dances, and sure it ended up bringing shame upon me, but I made it, dammit! I can’t just throw this thing away and forget who I was! Or should I?