Tag Archives: 1980s

Filling a gap in my pop culture past…

There are a million reasons why I’m thankful for being brought into this world in the late seventies, but the one that I’ve been focusing on lately is that I feel a very deep appreciation for my luck in experiencing what the world has been like before and after the internet. I do my best to not take the wonderland of the World Wide Web for granted, and I consistently marvel at the level of access we have to information, even if it seems banal and trivial on the surface. With the tools, databases and connections at hand we can use these resources to practically break through the implausibility of a concept like time travel and experience things that should be long gone and forgotten. I spend the majority of my time here at Branded writing and talking about all the stuff from my childhood that I hold dear in particular my personal experiences with the shows, movies, books, toys and pop culture ephemera that I grew up loving. Today I want to talk about something I completely missed out on, something that I only discovered after starting this site almost a decade ago, the Saturday morning entertainment showcase specials that were broadcast by the major TV stations back in the 80s.

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Growing up I never really had a say in what the family would watch on TV. I know, everyone is crying me a river, right? Honestly, it’s not a complaint; I had food, shelter, and more than my fair share of toys and entertainment, but when it came to TV there were only a few windows when I had access to controlling the dial (and much later the remote), especially as soon as my father would come home from work. As soon as he got in the door he immediately changed the station from the afternoon cartoons I might be watching on the UHF channels to whatever station would have local news. So if that meant suffering through syndicated reruns of Alice or the Jefferson’s for the billionth time so that the channel would be tuned in to the news as soon as it started, that’s what we watched. Then it was the local news, then national news, then Entertainment Tonight, and finally onto whatever stuff caught my dad’s interest for the rest of the evening. My TV time was mostly regulated to 30 minutes in the morning before school (where I caught old Our Gang and Three Stooges shorts or the odd episode of Woody Woodpecker or Chilly Willy), an hour after school (where I caught most of my syndicated cartoons like He-Man, G.I. Joe, Bravestarr and the Silverhawks), and a couple hours on Saturday morning for cartoons. Because of this I never tended to flip through the actual programming portion (the B&W newsprint part) of our copies of the TV Guide and therefore I never stumbled across any of the advertisements for the one-off showcase specials that aired during the kickoff of the new network lineup in fall.

So at 8:30pm on Saturday the 8th of September in 1984 I had no idea that there was a 30-minute special called Laugh Busters airing on NBC. In fact I didn’t even learn that it existed until about five years ago when I broke down the 1984 Fall Preview issue of the TV Guide here at Branded. At the time it was a bit of a curiosity that I wished I could explore further but there was nothing online about it except for a glorified placeholder entry on IMDB.

IMDB Laugh Busters

Well, a few years went by and Laugh Busters slipped to the back of my mind as one of those oddities, a hole in my childhood experience that I wished I could fill but knew I’d probably never get a chance to see as something like that would never merit a DVD release (way too many licenses and clearances would be needed.) But, as I stated above, the internet and all its connections are pretty damn miraculous and my buddy Tim over at Flashlights Are Something to Eat had his own Laugh Busters journey going on. Unlike me, Tim had actually seen the original broadcast as a kid and even had the presence of mind to tape the audio on a blank cassette! He did a short synopsis/write-up on his site but was still yearning to re-watch the full special, so he kept up his search and a couple of years later he finally found one of his childhood holy grails, an old VHS copy that had been ripped to DVD. Tim, being the super awesome guy that he is, offered to let me borrow his copy and finally, 30 years after it originally aired, I was able to experience a small part of 1984 that I thought was lost to time. As a bonus the copy of the special was complete with the commercials that originally aired with it, so this was as close to time travel that the internet has made possible.

Laugh Busters

As I mentioned above, Laugh Busters was a Saturday Morning showcase special which was designed to sell the kids of America on NBC’s new line-up of shows, particularly because half of the schedule was brand new for 1984. Here’s a copy of the SMC comic book ad for NBC from which introduced 4 new shows including Kidd Video, Pink Panther and Sons, the Snorks and the live action sitcom Going Bananas starring JR the orangutan as Roxanna Banana a simian zapped by a U.F.O. and given super powers.

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The basic premise of Laugh Busters revolves around the making of the NBC Special starring all of the new cartoon characters as well as the Smurfs, Spider-Man, Mr. T, Alvin & the Chipmunks, and the cast of Going Bananas. The director in charge, D.W. (played by Sandy Helberg), has his plans put in peril by Gargamore O’Dette, a super evil wizard (also portrayed by Helberg) bent on the end of laughter and the ultimate destruction of NBC. Why you ask? Because he’s allergic to laughter of course!  Here’s some audio from that opening segment

Director DW and Assistant

Gargamore ODette

Right off the bat after hitting play I was taken aback as there was a scene during the opening credits that featured a team up between an animated Mr. T and Alvin, Simon and Theodore. At first I thought this was a weird composting of elements from the two Ruby Spears cartoons, but upon digging a bit I found out that Mr. T was featured in the first segment in the premier episode of the 80s Chipmunks series (both shows debuted together the year prior in 1983.) There’s also a great song in the middle of the episode.  Somehow I’ve managed to miss out on this epic bit of pop culture fun for the last 31 years.

Chipmunks 2

After the detour of watching the first episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks I dove back into the Laugh Busters special. To execute his nefarious plan Gargamore kidnaps the Smurfs off screen and recruits two live action henchmen (played by James “Uncle Phil” Avery and Bill Saluga reprising their roles of the Grit Brothers Hank and Hubert from Going Bananas) to stop the rest of the characters from making it onto the special.

Captured Smurfs

Grit Brothers

Of course Thom Bray (Boz and his rad orange robot Roboz from Riptide) show up at the studio for the Special and they end up helping to track down the missing stars and cartoon characters starting with Spider-Man.

Thom Bray

Dan Gilvezan, voice of Spider-Man from the cartoon, redubs animation segments from the show to talk about being excited for the new season as well as taking a trip across country to appear on the new NBC special. He then proceeds to web-swing from NYC all the way to Burbank (seriously) set to the sweet dulcet melody of the city-name-dropping portion of the Huey Lewis song Heart of Rock and Roll.

Spiderman

Of course he encounters the infamous Grit Brothers near the city of One Horse USA, swinging into and getting trapped on a gigantic piece of ACME Fly Paper (in a live action segment that looks like it was straight out of an episode of the Electric Company)! Boz uses Roboz to call a honkytonk out there to enlist the help of Danny Cooksey (from Diff’rent Strokes and later Salute Your Shorts) to help. After performing his best Waylon Jennings imitation of the Ed Bruce song “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” (where the keen observer will notices the entire Kidd Video and Going Bananas cast in attendance as well as Alfonzo Ribero), Danny takes Boz’s call and agrees to help, though he needs a ride to go help Spider-Man since he’s just a kid and all.

Audience

Alfonzo

Boz then enlists the help of KITT from Knightrider to drive Danny out to rescue Spider-Man. What I love about this segment (aside from seeing a pint-sized Danny Cooksey behind the wheel of K.I.T.T.) is that this is the only onscreen pairing of Spider-Man and K.I.T.T. (I have a soft spot in my heart of Knightrider crossovers.) I also love that William Daniel voiced K.I.T.T. in this special uncredited…

Cooksey KITT Spiderman

With Spider-Man rescued, the Grit brothers turn their attention that that new up and coming rock ‘n roll band Kidd Video, and they literally roll a rock at the gang’s, knocking them and the Kiddmobile right out of the flipside back into the real world. Since their ship is messed up they decide to practice their new hit song (Video to Radio) out on a bridge near the wreckage.

Kidd Video

The special then cuts to Roxanna Banana listening to Kid Video on the radio and a reworking of the opening segment of the Going Bananas series then plays out. This bleeds back into the GB cast in their jalopy bus running into Kidd Video still playing out on the bridge and they decide to pick them up and head out to Burbank together.

Going Bananas

Things get a little weird when the special moves on to Alvin and the Chipmunks. Again, like with Spider-Man, Ross Bagdasarian Jr. reprises the role of Alvin to voice new material over clips from one of the cartoon episodes to tie it into the plot of this new story. The Grit brothers have boarded a train carrying the Chipmunks and Dave to Burbank, and the plan is to steal their train tickets so they’ll get kicked off, which they do. But when the Chipmunks get thrown off the train the special switches from animation to live action with three very bulky and ridiculously large chipmunk outfits. They’re rescued by Boz who sends the Riptide Helicopter (the Screaming Mimi) to pick them up.

Chipmunks

As the special moves into its second half the pace starts to pick up dramatically and the amount of original non-clip material is reduced. The last longish bit involves Mr. T and his gymnasts stopping at a meet they were invited to only to realize that it was a trap and they have a run in with the Grit brothers. Luckily they foil the Grit Bros. plan to steal their bus in a weird mix of live action and animation.  Though you hear his voice, you only ever see Mr. T’s real life arm (well, it was supposed to be Mr. T, but I’m sure it was just a stand-in double…)

MR T

Next up is the Pink Panther and Sons segment where Pinky and Panky, the sons of the Pink Panther are taking a bike ride through a city. The grit brothers show up and decide to paint a fake tunnel opening on a huge rock in the hopes that they will ride smack dab into it. The animation switches over to live action as a person in a huge Panky costume rides a bike straight through the painting much like in a cartoon. It’s just assumed that the false tunnel has become a wormhole to Burbank.

Pink Panther

In the second to last segment the Grit brothers are sitting in a raft and have a plan to obliterate the Snorks. They explain that everything in the Snorks underwater kingdom is run on steam and so they take control of one of NASA’s inter-continental ballistic missiles with a remote control and crash it into the sea sealing off an underwater volcano that is the source of the Snork’s steam production. This then switches over to animation where there is a clip of the Snorks removing said missile from the volcano and foiling the Grit Brother’s plan.

snorks

In the last segment Papa Smurf, the only Smurf not captured by Gargamore, figures out that O’Dette is trying not to laugh. So he develops a potion which he slips to Gargamore that makes him evaporate. Yes, Papa Smurf apparently kills Gargamore!

smurfs

This leads to an all-out dance celebration with all of the live action characters, cartoons and the guest stars (minus Panky and Thom Bray), rocking out to a spoof of the Ghostbusters theme by Ray Parker Jr.

Dance Party

I’ll be the first to admit that this Laugh Busters showcase special was super hokey and kind of hard to watch in spots, but I’m glad I finally caught up with one of these because it was great to see the mash-up of properties and characters. I know I would have loved it had I seen it back in 1984. It’s kind of a shame that it’s mostly lost to time, so as a small little capper to this experience I took the time to submit a bunch of information about the special to the pathetic IMDB listing. It’s slowly updating, but at least there’s now a synopsis, more crew and some trivia added. Hopefully they’ll add the rest of the cast that I submitted soon and this won’t be a completely lost bit of 80s fun.

And before I close this out, here’s a list of the original commercials that aired during the special…

Commercial Break

1). Fun with McNuggets: This is a fun early McNuggets commercial that still featured some of the older McDonaldland characters like the Professor and Captain Crook…

Fun With McNuggets

2). Raisin Bran BMX: This commercial is like a mash-up of the movie Rad and a kid crazy for his two scoops of raisins.  So crazy in fact that he decides to ditch halfway through the race to go eat more raisins…

Raisin Bran BMX

3). Wrangler Clothes (Live It to the Limit with Wrangler): This is the first time I’ve seen a Wrangler ad that was aimed at a young teen audience.  I’ve always associated these jeans with like older guys who work on farms or construction, so it was weird seeing the brand try and take a more Jordache spin.  Also, the commercial is an excuse to strip out of the clothes, a weird choice if you ask me…

Wrangler

4). Wendy’s Where’s the Beef?: The classic 80s Where’s the Beef commercial, ‘Nuff Said.

Wendys

5). Sneak Week with Punky Brewster, Silver Spoons, Highway to Heaven: Always fun seeing the 1st season promo material for Punky Brewster and the most adorable Brandon with an afro…

sneak week

6). Pop Tarts: Color coordinate your Pop Tarts kids.  Also, I forgot how much I missed seeing the bit where the knife is spread over the fruit filling that spells out fruit…

Pop Tarts

7). Chef Boyardee: This commercial wins the award for worst mom ever.  The little girls wants a cookie, but the mom thinking that’s unhealthy (why do you have them in the kitchen then?) stops her and gives her a full can of Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs instead.  Because that’s SOOOOO MUCH BETTER.  Sigh…

Chef Boyardee

Commercial Break 2

Interview with Monster Squad poster artist Craig Nelson!

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nSo I had the opportunity and pleasure to sit down and have a chat with the really cool and gracious artist who painted the original Monster Squad US poster, Mr. Craig Nelson.  Craig has work has been inspiring me for the past three decades and it was a real treat to get a chance to pick his brain about working in the commercial art field as well as listening to him reminisce about his Monster Squad memories.  He has a really wonderful eye for light and shadow and has a very unique perspective on fine art.  Check out his website to see a ton of examples of his work, and hit him up on facebook and tell him Branded sent ya!  You can also see his work at the Ella Richardson Gallery, the Garden Gallery, and my personal favorite exhibition at the Waterhouse Gallery where you can see his works detailing vineyard workers that we discuss in the interview.

Craig Nelson Interview art

You can either click on the picture above, or click here to stream (or right click and select download to listen at your leisure.)

Now for today’s trading card!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Today’s card is #13, The Monster Squad!

13 Monster Squad F-B

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I measure my years in Coreys…

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Corey Feldman and I both share an interesting trait in common, we both use his filmography as a means of charting the timeline of our lives (well to a point, for, um, both of us.) Seriously, when St. Martin’s press kindly offered a review copy of Feldman’s newly published memoir, Coreyography, I figured why not, I knew I loved a bunch of his movies and was curious to read how he reflected on his life to this point. But in the preface, when he writes, “I’ve always marked the chronology of my life not by the year, but by the film…”, it really struck a chord with me. Looking back I’ve personally done the same thing, using movies to mark the years, but when I consider my childhood and adolescence, Corey Feldman stands out in so many of my favorite films. Gremlins, Goonies, Friday the 13th 4&5, Stand By Me, The Lost Boys, License to Drive, The ‘Burbs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and yes, even if not especially Rock and Roll High School Forever. These are all films I’ve watched a million times, and all of them very clearly chart my time growing up in the 80s and 90s. I was also an avid fan of the Bad News Bears sitcom when it aired in repeats on Nickelodeon, and watched my fair share of Madame as well.

Corey

When I found my copy of the book on my porch this past Thursday I was excited, but also not really sure what I was getting myself into. Sure, I love most of Feldman’s 80s era films, but I’ll be honest I’m not a devotee of his personal life. In fact I’ve sort of purposely tried to ignore the press on him dating all the way back to when my mom would clip out the articles on him and lifelong friend Corey Haim from her copies of People magazine. She thought I’d find them cool, but I really didn’t want to know about his drug busts or legendary hotel-trashing parties. So I was in the dark for the majority of his big sound bites over the past decade or so, whether it be his comments on Michael Jackson, his declaration of war on Hollywood pedophilia, or even his reunion with Haim on The Two Coreys and the bombshells about molestation and rape. Blissfully ignorant. So when I cracked the cover and dug into the preface(filling myself in on all of the personal Corey stuff I managed to miss over the years), I again asked myself, what was I getting into?

Corey 1

First and foremost, the memoir is a very quick read, light and breezy with a conversational tone that belies the fact that Feldman wrote it himself (I mean seriously, so many memoirs are ghost or “co-“ written.) It also skirts dramatic license when considering the prose. I’ve read a handful of memoirs and am consistently bugged by the way the authors chose to fill their recollections with an absurd amount of detail and massive amounts of quoted conversation. As much as I’d love to trust their writing, I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about the past and know that when you get right down to it, very few of us have the ability to remember in exacting details the events of our lives. Feldman doesn’t fall trap to this and stays true to the snippets of memory, which is both refreshing and honest.

Circling back to the “light and breezy”, well, that’s just as much of a positive as it is a negative. When you get to the content, the book reads like a Cliff’s notes edition. He scurries from topic to topic, only barely touching on any one movie or experience for a moment before flitting onto the next. For anyone who is a fan of his movies, don’t hold your breath for much in the way of behind the scenes tidbits. He devotes a decent amount of time to the filming of the Goonies, but honestly, most of that time is spent describing himself lusting after the opportunity to meet his childhood hero Michael Jackson on set. Similarly, for those hoping for a lot of behind the scenes stories with his best friend Corey Haim, well, there honestly isn’t much of that either. When it comes to Haim, Feldman spends a lot of time dancing around the rape Haim suffered on the set of Lucas, and the rest painting a portrait of a friend who seemed to annoy way, way more than ever endear. In fact, Feldman seems to be distancing himself from Haim with this memoir, down playing their friendship.

Corey 2

For those looking for the gritty details of Feldman’s days spent snorting or injecting every drug within reach or details into his sexual escapades either consensual or non, it’s all there, but written in such a flippant tone that it all ends up seeming so very inconsequential. It certainly isn’t a tell-all, as he (probably) wisely chose not to name, accuse or implicate anyone in his own or Corey Haim’s experiences with molestation and rape, though he does spend a lengthy portion of the book addressing the abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother. Speaking of tone, I was also surprised how easily Feldman relates the stories of his life as if he were speaking about them as they happened. He doesn’t really look back and dig into his life, examining and offering up a perspective more wise with distance and age. He tone is in the moment, as defiant as when he was on the set of The ‘Burbs and was approached by Joe Dante and Carrie Fisher about his drug usage, or as childlike and naive when consistently pestering Stephen Spielberg for a meet and greet with Michael Jackson on the set of the Goonies. Again, this is both boon and bane, equally putting the reader in the moment, but also lacking much in the way of depth.

It’s not to say that there’s nothing to the book, or that it wasn’t and interesting and entertaining read, it’s just, well, light. There is enough here fans of his films will sure to gleam a fun detail or two about some of their favorite films, but don’t expect anything groundbreaking. All in all, the book feels like a really good outline for a much longer, more detailed look at Feldman’s life. Who knows, maybe in another ten or fifteen years he’ll use Coreyography as a guide to sit down and write it.

Coreyography hits book stores on October 29th!

So, I don’t go to yard sales but…

this week’s League topic is all about that one great yard sale or flea market find.  Though I do enjoy perusing the aisles of antique stores and the occasional flea market, it’s super rare that I ever find anything I really want to plunk some hard earned money down on the counter to own, let alone something I’ve been actively searching for.  Maybe my focus is too narrow (I want some pretty damn specific stuff) or my cheapness keeps the purchasing in check (I’m super unwilling to buy that specific stuff if it means spending more than $10-20 bucks!)  Either way, I don’t really have a great “wow, lookit that, how much, screw it I’ll pay it…” kind of story.  Yes, I loved finding a bootleg double-logo Spiderman.  Sure, it was rad finding an in-box Robo Force Enemy toy and a carded Starriors Hot Shot.  And yes, it was pretty damn cool to spot this bottle of G.I. Joe Bazooka shampoo/bubble bath while hanging out with the amazing Jaime Hood the first time we met in person (though I didn’t pull the trigger on buying the little guy.)

bazooka clean

No, the only item that I have in my collection that gives me that “holy crap I can’t believe I found this” feeling has to be my almost complete set of 1st series Garbage Pail Kids.  I didn’t buy them; they were given to me by a super awesome co-worker out of the blue who didn’t know or really care what they had (not that they’re even worth much in their condition), but all the same it evokes that feeling.  That one big score, that awesome relic I’d been looking for for almost 30 years, the Holy “Crap I Found This” Grail.  I wrote about this incident shortly after it happened back in June of 2010, and honestly, I’m still pretty proud of what I wrote.  So I’m going to lay it our for you again because it’s still my favorite “I found that” moment (collecting junk-wise that is…)

“I’ve talked a lot about collecting here at Branded, and on a few occasions I’ve discussed how the hobby leads to certain unobtainable “holy grail” items. The hobby is, by nature, goal driven; when you find one thing, one object that you desired and enjoyed, as a collector you’ll inevitably seek out another item linked to the first and so on. It’s these goals that keep you going, looking for the next piece to acquire, and the beauty of most collections is that there is usually one item that is really hard to obtain. Personally, though it’s frustrating during the hunt, this unobtainability is what keeps the fire stoked; it’s what keeps it interesting.

dirty gpk

Though I’d consider myself a collector, I’ve always been hampered by my own frugality. As much as I’ve wanted certain expensive things over the years I’ve found that I have a hard time paying much more than bargain prices. If I can’t find it cheap, then it can wait. So even though some of my “holy grail” items are available, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever add ‘em to the collection based on crazy high collector’s prices. I’d resigned myself to the fact that no matter how much I wanted a set of 1st series Garbage Pail Kids stickers, it just wasn’t going to happen. The set runs upwards of $300 on eBay, which is roughly $280 more than I’d ever be willing to pay for 82 sticker cards. But the hunt kept me searching. About seven months ago I stumbled across a single 1st series card, 36a Wrapin’ Ruth, in a comic shop. I was so stoked because I’d never seen one up close, and it was only a buck. I snatched it up and put it proudly at the beginning of my collection, just waiting for the other 81 stickers to eventually join it. I wasn’t holding my breath.

Then, just a couple weeks ago, a co-worker came in with a big bag of miscellaneous Garbage Pail Kids cards. Her son had just gotten into the newer series and one of her friends had given her a bunch of their old stickers to pass on to him. Since they were older and because she knew that I collected them myself, she gave me first crack at them considering that her son would be more interested in using them as stickers than collecting them. This has happened before, people have given me a stack of cards to rifle through, either to help them find anything “worth some money” or to add to my collection. Typically there isn’t anything of value, and usually the cards are in pretty bad shape. This stack was no different as you can see in the 1st picture above…

Some of the cards looked like they’d been dipped in beef stew, while others suffered from the normal issues; checklists had been ticked off and there was a fair share of cards that were either written on or were missing borders. But as I started sorting the stickers into piles (beef stew, border-less, doubles of stuff I already had), I found a pocket of cards that were stuck together. As I carefully pried them apart I realized that they were 1st series cards, and they were in pretty good condition. Well, they were actually pretty bad in that they all had a thick line of residual tape glue on the backs where they’d been taped into a picture album, but none of them looked like they’d been dipped in stew.

I decided to take my lunch so that I could concentrate on the stickers, and a half an hour later I was staring at a sight that I honestly never expected to see, a near complete set of 1st series Garbage Pail Kids stickers! I kept muttering, “Holy crap…” under my breath as I was sorting and I found more and more of the set.

All told, the set was only 14 stickers short (including my Wrappin’ Ruth), and whoever had collected these as a kid had managed to at least get at least one of each of the A&B stickers except for one set. So even though the set isn’t complete, all but one of the John Pound paintings are accounted for, as well as most of the Tom Bunk illustrated certificate backings.

After spending a good four hours rubbing off the residual tape glue, and putting them into card pages that evening I was finally looking at something I never thought I’d have. Granted, the cards aren’t in the best condition, but who cares!

Not to look a gift-horse in the mouth, but I was a little bummed that there wasn’t a Potty Scotty sticker. Growing up, though I never managed to see any of these stickers firsthand, I was aware of a handful of the cards based on other GPK merchandising. In my eyes there were six main cards that sort of defined the series and Garbage Pail Kids as a whole, Adam Bomb, Dead Ted, Nasty Nick, Bony Joanie, Brainy Janie, and Potty Scotty. In fact, any GPK that featured a toilet was sort of like the equivalent to Boba Fett or Wedge Antilles in the Star Wars Universe. I’m glad I snagged a Jason Basin though…

This is kind of a silly thing to admit, but for years I used to have this reoccurring dream where I was in an orchard of trees that had GPKs instead of leaves. It was perpetually Fall and the stickers where falling to the ground in big heaps and I’d spend the whole dream raking up the cards and sorting them by series. I’d always get so depressed after waking up and realizing that the big pile of 1st series GPKs weren’t real. The past two weeks have felt like that dream. I guess in some way, as glad as I am to have finally scored these stickers, it’s sort of anticlimactic in a way. The hunt is mostly over. Sure, I can pick up the missing 14 stickers over time (if I can find the damn things cheap enough), but I almost don’t want to.

I did decide to go ahead and order one sticker, 35b Rockin’ Robert. Seemed like a shame to be missing the one John Pound painting. I think I’m going to have to consider Potty Scotty as the new holy grail for my GPK collection…”

As a post script to this story, over the past three years I’ve manged to plug a few of those missing card holes in the set.  Of the original 13 missing cards I actually found 9 of them during an antique market trip.  I’m still missing 4 cards (12b, 25a, 27b, and the all important 14a, Potty Scotty.)  I’m not trying too hard to get them, keeping the hunt alive and all, and as much as I would absolutely love to have him, I’ve seriously considered specifically not getting the Potty Scotty card.  I have one of the over-sized ones framed at Branded HQ, and I can always look at his twin, Jason Basin, and well, pretend.  That way I’ll always have my GPK holy “crap I don’t have that” grail.

So, if you enjoyed reading this tale of the ultimate rad vintage score, why not check out some of the other League members to see what they found on their hunts…

Jaime, Shezcrafti, doesn’t do yard sales either, but if she did she’s be on the hunt for some electronic radness

Eric, Toyriffic, shares his epic Masters of the Universe haul

Patrick, Nerd Out with Me, found an amazing Sith Lord that can hold up his pants

James, James Abels dot net, uncovered some rad top secret NES passwords

Grey, Achievements in Gaming, found an amazing deal on the rare Dark Tower game, he then in a very classy move, gave to a friend

 

False Nostalgia…

Nostalgia and memories are the closest thing to a time machine that we have, that we’ll ever have.  The power that images of old toy and food packaging can have over an individual is astounding, transporting them instantly to a day when they were a child in a store, staring up at a coveted item or watching as their parent handed over that week’s groceries to a cashier to be rung up.  Holding an Atari joystick will remind you what that orange shag carpeting felt like between your toes when you were trying desperately to figure out how to find all the pieces of E.T.’s makeshift radio transmitter.  For me, just the sight of a Little Orphan Orange Otter Pop instantly makes me remember sitting on one of those ground mounted transformer units, those big green metal power boxes that pepper the landscape of most suburbs.  I can feel the thing burning my butt and thighs through my long surf shorts as I sucked on that pop and chatted about skateboarding with a friend.  It’s an intense feeling, like a drug sometimes.  There have been moments where I stumble across something that I completely forgot about and literally doubled over as if I were punched in the gut.  The disbelief that I had forgotten, or more accurately neglected some cherished thing and memory is such a strong and weird feeling.  Running a site like Branded, well I’ve made a hobby out of recalling those memories and doing my best to inspire them in others.

So it was weird this past week when I found an advertisement in an old issue of People magazine that both punched me in and gut with remembering, but also made me realize that I’ve had nostalgic feelings for something I actually never had or experienced.  How many folks out there associate the 80s with wearing Lacoste kid’s polo shirts?  I know I did.  I could care less about clothes brands at the time, and I didn’t even know the Lacoste or Izod names, but I thought it was pretty darn cool that a bunch of my shirts had little alligator patches on them!  Part of this was growing up in Florida and seeing gator imagery everywhere, so it was also pretty cool to see those little patches on shirts.  It played into this sense that I had at the time that Florida was the center of the country, the center of cool (later on, when I moved up north for awhile, I was astounded when most of the kids didn’t even know what surfing was!)  I mean, even if you never had one, who doesn’t remember this little guy?

Lacoste

It’s not like I only wore Lacoste shirts, or I have an intense nostalgic love for the rad little gator patch, but it is an aspect of my childhood that I remembered fondly.  Well, at least I thought I did until I saw the following 1981 Sears advertisement that jogged my memory enough to make me realize I never had any little gator patch shirts!

Braggin Dragon Ad Small

As I flipped to this page in that old People magazine my jaw dropped at the sight of that little Dragon patch.  Braggin’ Dragon branded polos.  It was the fire coming out of its mouth, that little burst of flame that I remembered on my own shirts as a kid.  I instantly was transported back to a time as a kid when I thought my shirt was cooler than a friends because mine had a reptile that could BREATH FREAKING FIRE.  Top that.  So stumbling on this ad was sort of bittersweet with the reconnection to something I had as a kid and the realization that for the past 15 years I’ve been fondly remembering the Lacoste gator for no good reason.  Misplaced, misremembered nostalgia.  False.  It’s a lesson about how easy one can jumble memories, how idealized thoughts of the past can become.  It’s also another shining example of why I love ephemera so much.  These old mom magazines full of old advertisements and photoshoots are a version of the truth that’s set in stone.  They’re a Rosetta Stone that can unlock the past in ways that our own minds alone are often times incapable of processing.

Braggin Dragon Logo

Now, do I get this little guy tattooed above my heart on my chest? ;)

Taking a Closer Look at an Awesome Bedroom, part 2: The Monster Squad Edition!

I had a crap ton of fun examining Sara’s room from Adventures in Babysitting a couple weeks ago, so I figured I’d take a second to take a closer look at another pop culture bedroom.  This time I decided to scope out Eugene’s room in one of my favorite flicks, 1987′s The Monster Squad!

monster squad poster

There really only one scene with the bedroom in the flick, the iconic beat where Eugene, scared out of his wits, begs his dad to come and get the monster out of his closet.  But in that minute or two of footage there are a ton of cool things in the background.  But let’s start with Eugene himself as he’s wearing some pretty darn bitchin’ PJ’s…

Monster Squad 1

1). Robotech Odyssey Pajamas

That’s right, Eugene is a fan of the 80s Carl Macek re-edit of the Macross Space (Soap) Opera.  Front and center on that rad nightshirt is none other than Rick Hunter, Roy Folker, and Captain Gloval.  But that’s not all the giant mech goodness in this room as we’ll see in a later screenshot.  So let’s take a closer look at Eugene’s room shall we…

Monster Squad 2 small

2). The Punisher Poster

3). Garbage Pail Kids Stickers

4). Godzilla Toy

5). My Pet Monster

6). Wolverine Poster

So, I think it can be firmly established that the set designer decided that Eugene was into comics, in particular some of the more violent vigilantes in the Marvel Universe!  There are also some GPK  stickers on the wall, though it’s kind of hard to make out which ones.  There are more GPK stickers on his closet door that I’ll run down in a bit.  Like Sara in Adventures in Babysitting, Eugene was a proud owner of a My Pet Monster too.  Let’s take a clearer peep at those Marvel posters…

Posters

It kind of cool to realize that Eugene was into the same characters that I was growing up, and I’m totally jealous of that Rick Leonardi Wolverine poster!  Anyway, what else is in his room?

Monster Squad 5 small

7). Dreadstar Poster

8). Comico Comics posters (Jonny Quest on top and a jam poster featuring Mage, Grendel, Jonny Quest and Robotech among other characters…)

9). Mickey & Minnie Mouse lamp

Continuing the comic book theme we can get a glimpse of some Comico branded posters on Eugene’s wall.  Not only was he reading Wolverine and the Punisher, but also potentially Matt Wagner’s Mage and Grendel as well!  Seriously it’s like that set designer was pulling inspiration from my very mind!  There are a couple of other posters in the room that I couldn’t peg (one to the left of and one below the Wolverine poster in the second screenshot), as well as a toy helicopter on his bureau underneath the Punisher poster.  Anyone out there have any guesses?  Here’s a better look at that Comico mash-up poster…

Comico

Okay, last but certainly not least, a better look at some of the Garbage Pail Kids on Eugene’s closet door…

Monster Squad 4

10). More GPKs.  Specifically Roy Bot, Apple Corey, Stoned Sean, and Warmin Norman from the 3rd series, Basket Casey, Larry Lips and Dana Druff from the 4th series.  The rest I can’t get a good enough look at…

So, anything I missed?

Other Awesome Bedrooms I’ve covered…

Sara’s Room from Adventures in Babysitting

Mikey’s room from the Goonies

David’s room from Flight of the Navigator

Robbie’s room from Poltergeist

Ben’s room from The Explorers

Pee Wee’s room from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

Elliot’s room from E.T.

Fred Savage’s room from The Princess Bride

Josh’s room from Big

No Seriously, I Guess I like Talking… ;)

All of a sudden one stops and takes stock of the past few weeks and it’s impossible to ignore the fact that you’ve been hosting or guest hosting on a ton of podcasts.  This happens to everyone right?  Seriously, I think I’ve been making up for my recent internet sabbatical in the form of podcasting.  It’s immediate, the editing is minimal (as if I edit my writing, pshaw), and the conversations tend to be a lot more fun than just banging away at my keyboard.  I’m not really comparing the two for any other reason than trying to rationalize how in the past two week’s I’ve had six podcast announcements!  Seriously, I guess I like talking…

Cult Film Club

So, what are the other three shows I’ve been involved with recently you might be asking yourself?  Well, first off, there’s a brand new episode of the Cult Film Club, the show I do with some criminally awesome co-hosts, Paxton Holley and Jaime Hood.  This should be of interest to folks who enjoy this site as the movie we chose for discussion is none other than the batshit insane Karate Kid III!

Martin-Kove-Lives

For real, this flick is crazy, and as my co-hosts point out, Karate Kid III is basically a parody of the first KK film.  John Kreese, down on his luck after all of the Cobra Kai students have abandoned him in the wake of some crazy car-window punching and nose honking, seeks revenge against Daniel and Miyagi by hooking up with his secret CK grand master and old war buddy Terry Silver.  They lure Daniel to the dark side of the, um, karate, and well, you have to watch this film to believe that it was actually made.  We chat about the film, the actors, some dream re-writes, and how we all secretly wish we were Terry Silver.  You can listen to the episode and join the Cult Film Club here!

Next up is the long awaited release of the new episode of the Saturday Supercast!

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This time I check back in with hosts Jerzy Drozd and Dave Roman to discuss one of my all-time favorite flicks, 1986′s Transformers the Movie.  We’re joined by the super cool Matt Hawkins to discuss the film, the soundtrack, the casting, and we all provide some interesting arguments for how the Decepticons managed to hand the Autobots their buts so easily at the start of the flick!  We all had way too much for with the conversation and it ended up a long show.  So Jerzy and Dave broke it in half.  Check out Part 1 over at Sugary Serials!

Last but not least, I was kindly asked to be a guest on the latest Retro Retro Retro Podcast by the really awesome and swell guy Raven J!

retro retro retro

The discussion is all about magazine memories, NES and Gensis video game reviews, as well as some movie reviews.  I sat in on the discussion of magazines with Raven and his crew and had a blast.  Check out their site, and you can find the episode here!

Taking a Closer Look at an Awesome Bedroom!

I was recently inspired by Tim over at Flashlights Are Something to Eat and Johnny at Freddy in Space to finally get off my butt and write about a topic I’ve been meaning to get to for what seems like forever, namely, taking an awesome 80s film and finding cool stuff in the background that makes said film even more awesome.  Specifically I wanted to take a closer look at some of the kid’s bedrooms that I kind of obsess over.  Not sure if I’m going to make this a reoccurring column just yet, but either way I wanted to focus on just one room today.  Probably my favorite kid’s bedroom in an 80s flick, let’s take a closer look at Sara’s room  from 1987′s Adventures in Babysitting!

Adventures in Babysitting

So, Matt at Dinosaur Dracula recently wrote about this room, mainly to point out the inclusion of a certain plush toy that I’ll get to in a minute, and pretty much anyone who has seen this flick knows that Sara is mildly obsessed with a nordic Marvel character that goes by the name Thor (ever heard of him?), but there is a metric ton of other cool stuff in this room…

AIB 1 Small

So, let’s take a look at what I was able to spy in the room.  In the screen shot above we of course have a ton of Thor references (which I haven’t numbers because that was just going to get out of hand) including the large cut-out standee on the wall to the right, the wicked awesome Thor bedspread, the Thor Halloween mask hanging from the right bedpost, and the super cool drawing of Thor on the rainbow bridge to the upper left of the bed.  So, what else is hiding in this image…

1). A Wrinkles Puppy puppet plush made by Ganz in the early 80s.

2). A Geoffrey the Giraffe Toys ‘R Us plush

3). A Cabbage Patch Kids plush.

4). Transformers Walkie Talkie (the 2nd handset in in another shot)

5). Giant Donald Duck coloring book.

Here’s a closer look at that Transformers Walkie Talkie and the Wrinkles plush…

Wrinkles Transformers

There’s some sort of big action figure behind the walkie talkie that I can’t place (purple, yellow and red with a silver head), any guesses?

*UPDATE #1* You guys are quick!  Huge thanks go out to Jaime of Shezcrafti.com and Matt of Geektarded for solving a couple of the toy mysteries!  As Ms. Hood points out in the comments, the large plush on the bed is none other than one of the Pillow People, in particular Punky Pillow!

pillow people

Dr. Geektarded identified the toy behind the Transformers Walkie Talkie as an Inter-Changeables Cosmobot, a re-colored Micronauts Biotron figure.

Inter-Changeables Cosmobot

Photo from Microforever.com

This sequence moves pretty fast as the camera pans across the room, so most of these shots are kind of blurry, but let’s take a look at another shot a few frames past the first…

AIB 2 Small

The Thor reference count now jumps from 4 to 7 as there are two more drawings on the art desk and a third on the floor next to the dresser.  But what else is there to spy in the room?

6). AMToy Super Pickle Hot Dog Plush hanging from the ceiling…

7). A Rainbow Brite plush, the Sprite known as Sparks (and this is the second series Hatful Sparks – ’cause he has an Indian headdress…)

8). A super rad poster of Jelly Beans that I felt I had to point to…

*UPDATE #2* I don’t know where that Hot Dog is from (Thanks to Jack Frost for solving the Hot Dog mystery!), but I managed to find a clearer picture, as well as a better one of Sparks…

Spark Hot Dog

Moving right along, here’s out next screen shot…

AIB 3 Small

Okay, I’m officially going to give up counting Thor references because there are like a billion on the floor by Sara.  I will say that it’s rad how often she can be seen sporting the Thor helmet.  More importantly, this shot has two more awesome background elements…

9). A Lots-a-Lots-a-Legggggs plush toy.

10). Probably my favorite background spotting, a 1985 Transformers Soundwave Cassette Player by Durham Industries that actually plays full size tapes (many thanks go to Steve at the Roboplastic Apocalypse for helping me identify this rad piece)!  I had never heard of this tape player existing before I spotted the over-sized Soundwave in the background.  So cool!

Soundwave Leggggs

**UPDATE** I missed a couple of toys when I initially wrote this post back in 2013.  In the screen shot above and below you can clearly see two Madballs on top of Sarah’s dresser to the left of the Lotsaleggs, namely Wolf Breath and Lock Lips.  Can’t believe I missed these!

locklips wolfbreath

AIB 4 Small

There was one straggler that I couldn’t get into the same screen shot with the last two, another favorite spotting in this room…

11). A Darth Vader “The Force” Light Saber from 1983!  I had Luke’s green one form Return of the Jedi.  For those that don’t remember, these had hollow plastic blades that were designed to catch the air to make some pretty wicker saber noises.  Reis at the Dork Horde has a great write up about his Vader Saber

AIB 5 Small

Next up we have three more Thor sitings with another large standee, the light switch cover above it (not on the actual light switch as it’s one of those weird paddle switches) an another drawing above that.  And on the shelf to the right…

12). Transformers Dinobots Snarl wall clock from Concept Clocks (which happens to have a reversible image plate with the Insecticon Bombshell on the other side!)  It’s so damn rad that Sara is also a major Transformers fan…

AIB 6 Small

In the above shot you can get a better look at that Thor drawing on the wall (and there’s another off to the right.)  But let’s take a look at the bookshelves shall we…

13). A Disney Fluppy Puppy plush.

14). A 2nd set of Transformers Walkie Talkies, this one shaped like Optimus Prime

*UPDATE #3* I have no idea what that red plush is next to the Transformers clock.  It looks like it has a ton of sharp teeth though. *Thanks to Newton G. of Infinite Hollywood for identifying the red toothy plush as LB the Bounder from Teddy Ruxpin!

Optimus Fluppy

LB the Bounder Teddy Ruxpin

And for the last screenshot, a much more recognizable background item…

AIB 7 Small

15). A My Pet Monster plush.  Always wanted one.  Never got one.

So there you have it.  Sara from Adventures in Babysitting has a pretty darn awesome bedroom filled with all kinds of rad toys,  a lot of which I wished I had as a kid.  Did you spot anything that I missed?

*UPDATE #4Can anyone identify the grey and red robot by Sara’s feet?  Thanks to Tintod at the wicked awesome Junk Fed for identifying the robot at Sara’s feet as none other than a Jim the Politician remote control robot!

Jim the Politician

Other Awesome Bedrooms I’ve covered…

Eugene’s Room from The Monster Squad

Mikey’s room from the Goonies

David’s room from Flight of the Navigator

Robbie’s room from Poltergeist

Ben’s room from The Explorers

Pee Wee’s room from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

Elliot’s room from E.T.

Fred Savage’s room from The Princess Bride

Josh’s room from Big

A Good Thing About Moving…

So I recently moved house, which is part of what’s been keeping me so silent on the internet these past few months, but in the process I found some treasures I didn’t even realize I had!  A little while after my sister passed away I took charge of all the family photos so that I could organize and scan them all so we’d have an easy to share set of digital snapshots.  My main focus was getting to all the pictures of my sister, but I kept a stack of photos of myself as a kid that I haven’t had a chance to look through until this past month.  One of the awesome side effects of a move (seriously, you have to try and look on the bright side right?) is that it forces you to take stock of everything you own.  It all has to be packed up, moved and unpacked, so you get a couple chances to find things that have been lost or discover things you never realized you had.

One of laments about my childhood is that by the time I came along my parents had lost a lot of the zest for taking pictures that they had with my sister.  So I don’t have any Halloween photos, or all that many Christmas morning shots.  Well, apparently my parents had been sitting on some pictures that are exactly the kind of things I’ve been dying to post on Branded but thought didn’t exist.  There weren’t a ton, but there were a few really cool snapshots, like this one of me and my friend Timmy playing with his Millennium Falcon sometime in 1982…

Shawn Star Wars small

Man, how I remember coveting that thing!  I had some really cool Star Wars junk as a kid (a couple of At-Ats, an X-Wing, Snow Speeder, and a Y-Wing), but isn’t it always the case that the stuff you didn’t have always seemed cooler than the stuff you did?  Well, at least I got a chance to play with it and wasn’t just drooling over the pages in the Sears or JC Penny Catalogs…

I’ve rigged all the cabinets so you won’t need tokens…

Getting back into the swing of things around here and as luck would have it this week’s League assignment is a real peach!  Submitted by Jason over at Rediscover the 80s (who just started a pretty rad podcast that I totally am way behind in pimping), the topic is all about building a dream arcade in our homes.  Though I’m not much of a gamer these days, I did spend a decent amount of time playing the stand-up cabinets at the local pizza joints, mall arcades, Showbiz and Chuck E. Cheese’s, and even in the converted utility closet of the 7-Eleven that was in my neighborhood growing up.  That being said, my dream arcade would probably fit in a utility closet now that I think about it…

So what would be in my dream arcade closet?  Only four cabinets.  Well, three cabinets and one cocktail table unit.  First up, the classic (at least for me), Galaga…

Galaga Small

This is my go-to game when I’m in the mood for a truly old school arcade experience.  It’s also the game I judge most pizza places on.  Sure, if a place makes a good NY style pizza, that’s good, but if there are arcade cabinets in the joint and Galaga is missing, so too will be my patronage.  For my money (and I will drop a considerable amount of coinage in a Galaga cabinet when I have a belly full of pizza) there no better combination than securing that double spaceship with the taste of sausage and onion in my mouth that was just recently washed down with coke sipped out of a clear red plastic cup.  Just a bit of heaven if you ask me.

Plucking some similar pizza place-centric nostalgia heart strings would be securing a Mrs. Pac-Man cocktail sit-down table.  Faux wood grain trim would be essential too…

Mrs Pacman Cocktail

Can’t count the number of times I played a unit that looked just like this while waiting for my personal pan pizza at my local Orlando area Pizza Hut as a kid.  Did I mention that the personal pan pizza in question would have invariable been free based on my appetite for reading and the Pizza Hut Book It program…

Now the next cabinet is not an arcade game in the strictest sense, but it did provide an arcade experience, and that’s the Nintendo PlayChoice-10…

PlayChoice-10

This unit was basically a way for Nintendo to “advertise” for the NES system by housing it and 10 games into one arcade cabinet.  We had one in my local 7-Eleven when I was growing up and it’s where I spent a good deal of time playing games like Ducktales, Goonies II, and more importantly Lifeforce.  I also learned a neat trick where if you could pull both of the joysticks to the right and mash down all the buttons you’d get free timed play on a handful of the games in the cabinet.  I used this method to play a shitton of Lifeforce before breaking down and begging my mom for an at-home copy of the game.  In other words, mission accomplished Nintendo.

Rounding out my dream arcade would be my favorite arcade game ever, a 6-player X-Men game cabinet…

X-Men Small

Not only was this game based on Pryde of the X-Men, my favorite X-Men cartoon of all time (the one-shot failed pilot produced by the wonderful folks over at Sunbow), but it features one of my favorite X-Men characters, the much underrated Dazzler.  My four friends during middle and high school were all X-Men nerds like me, so between the five of us we used to rock the crap out of this game at our local arcade/go cart track called Malibu Grand Prix.  All of us would beg our parents to go there for birthdays just so that we could spend a couple hours plunking quarters into the above machine.  I’m pretty sure we even came close to beating it one or two times.  Hands down some of my favorite arcade experiences surrounded time at the joystick playing either Wolverine or Dazzler.

About 10 years ago I ran across a very reasonably priced 6-Player X-Men cabinet, but was plagued with the ultimate nerd conundrum of how to justify a car payment on something so big and loud that would be next to impossible to move without a professional team and a forklift.  In the end I passed, but there has always been a part of me that regretted it…

So there you have it.  The Branded in the 80s Arcade.  Small, sure.  But for me, arcade heaven.  Pass me a slice of sausage and onion, and don’t worry, I’ve rigged all the cabinets so you don’t need tokens!

If you liked my shenanigans this week, why not check out these other rad League participants…

Pax, Cavalcade of Awesome (and my rad Cult Film Club co-host), lists his top 10 arcade games!

Classick Material, Cold Slither Podcast, goes the extra step and makes a fantasy show about his favorites!

Rich, The Nerd Nook, Moonwalks over to the 7-Eleven to play some Street Fighter II!

Kal, Calvin’s Canadian Cave of Cool, has a bone to pick with Dragon’s Lair!