Tag Archives: 1985

You’re in love with a…WTF?!?

While discussing Mannequin on the latest episode of the Cult Film Club (a podcast I co-host) we brought up the fact that in the 80s “unconventional” romances on film was sort of a thing. You know, boy sculpts girl, boy gets fired for taking too long constructing girl, boy stumbles upon girl in a department store window, boy gets job at department store to be close to girl, girl turns out to be a real girl, they fall in love, boy ends up saving girl from a giant chipper/shredder. Your basic run of the mill love story for the 80s. Since this style of film was so prevalent during the decade, I thought it would be fun to rank my top 15 weird-ass WTF 80s romance flicks. Strangely enough, ONLY three of them star Jeff Goldblum!

#15: The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

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Woman hearts Fictional Character

I first saw this on HBO back in the day and it broke my young mind. For those who haven’t seen it, this Woody Allen film stars Mia Farrow and Jeff Daniels and centers on Farrow’s character Cecilia falling in love with Tom (a fictional character in the movie within a movie played by Jeff Daniels.) Tom, having somehow noticed Cecilia watching him from the audience over and over, breaks the 4th wall (literally) and steps out of the film into the real world to get to know and eventually fall in love with Cecilia.

#14: Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)

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Woman hearts Blue Fuzzy Alien

What do you get when three horny (and rather furry) aliens crash land in Geena Davis’ pool while attempting to seek out some hairless female companionship? Hilarity. It’s also the first of three times that Jeff Goldblum finds his way onto this list. Written by kooky Julie Brown, this flick captures the WTF hyper-color weirdness aesthetic of the late 80s particularly well…

#13: Date with an Angel (1987)

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Man hearts a Real Life Angel

Proving that it’s possible to make a romantic film in the 80s about a man falling in love with an angel an not using Real Life’s Send Me an Angel, Date with an Angel is a rare gem indeed. Though it’s a romantic comedy, the premise is kind of WTF (aside from the fact that there’s angel romance in it) as the main character is about to die from a brain tumor when the angel sent down to fetch his soul accidentally crashes into a satellite, breaks her wing and falls into the main character’s swimming pool. Only in the 80s….

#12: Vibes (1988)

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Psychometist Man hearts Trance Medium Astral Projectionist

Hello again Jeff Goldblum. Okay, so if you’re noticing, the general gist of this list involves rather normal people falling in love with abnormal beings, and technically this movie has two abnormal people falling in love with each other, but still, it’s such a weird romantic madcap romp that I had to add it to the list. Besides, it upped Jeff Goldblum’s participation to 20%! Either way, I love this flick as it’s fun watching Cyndi Lauper acting, something that she didn’t do nearly enough of back in the 80s…

#11: My Stepmother is an Alien (1988)

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Man hearts Super Hot Alien

This was one of those films that I completely missed out on back in the day but finally caught up with thanks to my CFC co-host Jaime. I love 80s era Aykroyd so it was awesome finally catching up with this flick where he plays a scientist working on sending radio waves into space. He stumbles across Kim Basinger, an alien from a world called Cosine N to the 8th, who is investigating the source of a disturbance that is wrecking havoc on her home world. The unlikely duo fall in love and in a very fish out of water setting we get to see Basinger’s Celeste discover a world of amazing experiences on Earth. Also, notable for introducing the world to a young Alyson Hannigan…

#10: Making Mr. Right (1987)

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Woman hearts Adorably Naive Android

This was one of those films that I saw two million times on Comedy Central throughout the 90s. Starring John Malkovich in the dual roles of scientist inventor Jeff Peters and his creation Ulysses, who is designed for replacing the human element in long term deep space flight. When Frankie Stone is hired to do PR for the Ulysses project she gets more than she bargained for when the android falls in love with her and the world he was created to leave.

#9: High Spirits (1988)

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Man hearts Ghost of Murdered Bride

This is another flick that I totally missed out on until recently when Jaime sat me down to watch it. I love The Gute, Steve Guttenberg, and as you’ll see Daryl Hannah is no stranger to starring in these types of weird, WTF romantic comedies. I’d also call this flick a hidden gem with some really fun performances by Liam Neeson, Jennifer Tilley, Beverly D’Angelo, and Peter freaking O’Toole.

#8: Electric Dreams (1984)

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Man & Obsessive AI Stalker Computer hearts Woman (who’s into the computer kinda)

Electric Dreams is one of those super weird early 80s flicks that was riffing on the whole 1984 “big brother” theme, but wrapping it up in a romantic pseudo-comedy. Miles in need of organizational help finds the “perfect” AI -driven computer, computer and Miles both fall for their new neighbor, Cellist Madeline, weird love triangle ensues. For fans of last year’s Spike Jonze flick Her, this movie feels like it was a heavy inspiration…

#7: Walk Like a Man (1987)

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Woman hearts Man-Child who was Raised by Wolves

One of my favorite guilty pleases of the 80s, this flick is Howie Mandel at his best. The researcher/teacher/student/pet relationship between Penny (Friday the 13th Part 2‘s Amy Steel) and Bobo is beyond heart warming and the zany antics with Bobo’s brother and sister-in-law (Christopher Lloyd and Colleen Camp) are hilarious. To this day I still want to shove a Raisinet in the mouth of anyone who does good work…

#6: My Demon Lover (1987)

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Woman hearts Man Possessed by Horniness-Induced Demon

This is not a good movie. It’s actually really awful bordering on unwatchable in parts but I still have a soft spot in my heart for Scott Valentine (Nick from Family Ties) and can’t help but love the concept. As a horny young boy Kaz (Valentine) was cursed by the gypsy grandmother of his first kiss to forever become a horned demon whenever he gets, well, horny. Since then he’s roamed the streets of NYC as a begger bum who purposefully acts as obnoxious and chauvinistic as possible to avoid falling in love with a a woman he knows he’ll never get to keep. That is until he stumbles upon Denny (played by Michelle Little), a girl who specializes in hopelessly dating scum. Match made in Heav…er…Hell.

#5: Mannequin (1987)

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Man hearts Two Thousand Year-Old Egyptian Princess trapped in a Mannequin

What more can I say about this flick that we didn’t address in our most recent episode of the Cult film Club or on our 30 Things We LOVE About it list? Andrew McCarthy is at his Andrew McCarthy-iest and Kim Catrall is perfect as Emmy. Nobody said falling in love with a dummy would be easy…

#4: Weird Science (1985)

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Two boys heart the Woman of their Dreams, that they Built Themselves

How do you find the perfect woman if you’re a nobody dorky geek with only one friend? Easy, join forces with said friend, throw a copy of Frankenstein on the VCR, strap on your mother’s bra, hack governmental imaging software, feed in numerous magazine and newspaper clippings, and tap into the mystical wish fulfillment ether to will the perfect woman into the body of a Barbie doll you have hooked up with a battery. Easy peazy. Now break out the chips, dips, chains, whips, and .357 revolvers and get to it!

#3: The Fly (1986)

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Woman hearts Man whose DNA fused with that of a Fly in a Teleportation Accident

I know what you’re thinking, this flick isn’t a romance. Well, even though it’s a horror film, I truly think that the core story is more of a dark romance, much like Clive Barker’s Nightbreed or Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. Besides, this list didn’t have nearly enough Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, so there. And who wouldn’t want to make-out with Seth Brundle, even during his vomiting on doughnuts and eating the liquidy after effects phase…

#2: Splash (1984)

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Man hearts Mermaid

Probably the most classic (and classy) of the WTF romances of the 80s, Ron Howard’s Splash set the bar for inter-species love. Also, is it just me or was Daryl Hannah born to plays roles like Madison? I mean highly emotive, mostly silent (I’m thinking Pris from Blade Runner, Ayla from Clan of the Cave Bear, etc.) This is also the film debut of the Tom Hanks that would steal all of our hearts throughout the decade. Also, eating lobsters shell-on is pretty hardcore…

#1: Howard the Duck (1986)

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Rock Star hearts Alien Duck

So I’ll be the first to admit that Howard the Duck isn’t really a romance, but as far as WTF romances go, the fact that it’s alluded to that Howard and Beverly “get it on” is amazing and awesome. Especially awesome for ducks hoping for some Lea Thompson love. In my book that makes it number one.

Peel Here #117: Nostalgia from two angles!

Getting old is weird.  As if succumbing to the crippling pull of childhood nostalgia in my mid-twenties wasn’t weird enough, lately I’ve been feeling a similar wave of emotion towards the content that I presented at the outset of this very website.  Back in 2006 when I started Branded I wasn’t sure exactly what form the site was going to take.  I know that I wanted to discuss a bunch of 80s era childhood memories, but I wasn’t concrete about how I was going to pursue that discussion.  It wasn’t until later in the year, after the podcasting bug had worn off a bit and I started switching my focus to writing that I hit upon something that really got me excited which was procuring a bunch of 80s era ephemera and scanning it to share and to be the spark of something to reflect on.  That’s when I decided to get my hands on as many examples of stickers from the decade that I could find, and in that search I reconnected with a piece of my childhood that (at the time) seemed that no one save one random eBay seller remembered, the 7-11 Slurpee lenticular rock coins from 1984-85.

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I was so happy to have found a set of these and even happier when I realized that these were actually stickers and not just collector coins.  I wrote about them back in November 2006 and after scanning them in and sharing them felt pretty confident that I had these little bits of lenticular nostalgia nailed down and “out of my system”.  A few months later in an attempt to recoup the costs of sourcing so many stickers for the site I decided to liquidate my rather larger collection of stickers in order to use the dough to buy even more.  This created a couple of issues though.  For one, at the time vintage stickers were pretty damn cheap on eBay as it seemed like no one was actively buying them.  My hope was that buy selling all the stickers in one large lot I would have a better chance at making back at least what I put into acquiring them as it was an instant collection (featuring pretty much everything I covered on Peel Here for the first 60-70 columns).  Unfortunately I ended up taking a bath on the auction barely making back a fourth of what I originally spent on the stickers.  To add insult to injury, over the next few months I started to notice that the prices of 80s stickers on eBay started to exponentially increase.  All of a sudden people were in the market, so the meager funds I was about to recoup didn’t stretch all that far.

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Well, at least I still had all of the scans I made right?  I figured that if nothing else I had all the imagery of the stickers and felt certain at the time that when ever I felt the nostalgic wave of sticker love wash over me I could just flip though the image archives I have on the site and saved to my hard drives.  I didn’t think about it much for the next few years, but eventually, around 2010 I started wishing I hadn’t sold so much of my collection.  There were a couple of examples in particular that just didn’t translate into the scans as well as I’d hoped, specifically all of the Lazer Blazers holographic stickers and the various lenticular stickers.  It was next to impossible to get scans of both images featured on the stickers (as evidenced above.)  Thanks to friends of the site and some decent eBay auctions over the past 9 years I’ve been able to reacquire a bunch of the lenticular stickers (like the Transformers and Go Bots puffy stickers), but the price of Lazer Blazers and the 7-Eleven Slurpee Rock Coins have been way too high to justify.

Well, after years of waiting and watching eBay like a hawk I finally managed to reclaim a set of the 7-Eleven Rock Coins for a very reasonable price and was super thrilled when they came in the mail this past week.

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It’s so weird, but I feel like I’ve reconnected with an important part of what made Branded in the 80s work for me.  Back during the early days of the site I heavily used these in the site design.  Everywhere on the site that had bulleted lists (like the list of other sites I dig) I used a tiny sprite of the Dio rock coin.  It was too small for anyone to really notice, but I was happy knowing that they were plastered all over the site.

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Looking back at the fact that I’ve almost been running this site for a decade has made me realize just how important it’s been in changing who I am, providing me with a ton of new connections to friends and was the portal to experiences that never would have happened otherwise.  These little lenticular stickers are a very specific symbol of that for me…

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I’m glad I finally got my hands on these again, and having a second shot I’m gonna use this opportunity to showcase them a bit better by literally sharing them from different angles so hopefully folks can get a better view of them.  As an aside, I still find the collection of bands here really strangely eclectic (Rush, Loverboy, .38 Special, Go West, Ratt, Dio, Tears for Fears, Ozzy Osbourne, Huey Lewis and the News, The Police, Night Ranger, Billy Squier, Journey, Bryan and Adams, I guess it’s like MTV threw up all over these…)

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Not only has almost entire decade past since I first shared these, but so many other things on the internet have changed that there are way more resources available to gleam a bit more of what the experience was like collecting these back int he day.  Back in ’06 there were a handful of vintage commercials available on youtube, but not quite to the extent that there are today where there seems to be a dedicated fanbase of people constantly ripping video from old VHS tapes.  So imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon this Slurpee commercial advertising these rock coins!

I’ve also since learned that this 1985 set is the second series.  There was another smaller series done in 1984 that had many of these same bands (and specific sticker coins), but there were a few differences including R.E.M., Krokus, the Tubes, and Big Country.  Also the Ozzy sticker was black instead of red.  I have yet to find a set of these 1984 stickers that aren’t astronomically priced, but there was one extremely blurry picture on eBay, so I figured I’d include it as proof that they exist.

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It’s weird to realize that nostalgia is a motile phenomenon, that it grows with us as we age and isn’t just about the rose-colored view of our childhoods.  It’s also a very personal and selective thing that effects everyone differently.  Whereas I find myself getting nostalgic for the mid 2000′s and the start of Branded, I’ve yet to feel any real pull towards the my time as a teen in the 90s (which some exceptions for friends long gone).  Maybe it points to the fact that the 90s pop culture just didn’t grab me in the same way that the 80s have, and so that 80s nostalgia can jump to even my discussions about it.

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Either way, I finally feel a little bit more at ease knowing that I’ve reconnected with these small bits of my past yet again, and hopefully this time I’ll have the foresight to hold on to them.  Even the Billy Squier sticker coin, which was the first one that I pulled from the bottom of a Slurpee cup in the summer of 1985….

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Chef Boyardee Mini Ravioli is in my DNA…

5741481453_25e5050515_oChef Boyardee is what being six years-old tastes like. Of all my senses the sheer power of the one-two punch of taste and smell as a means of time travel is unrivaled. Sure, the immediacy of sight, seeing imagery of our favorite toys, clothes, TV shows and movies is transportive, and audio, hearing favorite songs, dialogue from movies, or something as incidental as the specific ring my childhood telephone made is enveloping. As far as touch is concerned, for me this is the sense that is overshadowed the most by the others as it’s the one that is next to impossible to turn off and thus it just becomes a part of being. I’m hardly totally discounting it, I mean I have very distinct memories of what it felt like to play with Lego for instance, the sharp edges, the pain under my fingernails from hours of trying to pry apart two flat 1×2 pieces, or the way it felt to chew on one of the bulbous rubber Space set tires. But of all my senses the almost inseparable combination of taste and smell has the unique ability to overwhelm me, almost drowning me in a flood of memory, almost literally enabling me to travel back in time when I reconnect with certain stalwart flavors.

admin-ajax.phpeThis past December I decided to relocate, packing up all my collectible junk and moving from Atlanta to Baltimore. Though I’d hardly say that I’ve been homesick these past three months (I had no problem trading in the Falcons for the Ravens, peaches for crabs, or the really shitty traffic on I-85 for the really shitty traffic on I-95), I have been feeling the pull for homey comfort food. I’m sure part of this is dealing with my first real snowy winter in the last 25 years, as well as wanting to lean on some small part of my past, something that feels like it’s a part of my down to the level of my DNA. While doing some grocery shopping and browsing the aisles of my new local supermarkets I was on the hunt for something that would make me feel like a kid again, something easy, cheap, and undeniable; something that hasn’t changed over the last three decades. For me this pretty much meant picking up a can of Chef Boyardee Mini Ravioli.

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Of all the branded food products I grew up with none had quite the impact on my life as Chef Boyardee, positive and negative. I’ll be the first person to admit that it’s not good food. Hell, even as a kid I know that, and now that I’m a “responsible” adult doing my best to watch what I cram in my body, these heavily processed cans of pasta are probably right under the 1lb block of Velvetta on the list of things that humans should never consume. Even though I know for a fact that my consumption of way too much Chef Boyardee as a kid let to my issues with weight as a kid, the nutritional value isn’t really what I’m getting at. Without these cans of faux Italian goodness I sometimes wonder if I’d be as comfortable in the kitchen as I am today.

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In the eighties I had two distinctly different experiences with Chef Boyardee Mini Ravioli that changed my life for decades. I was six at the time of my first life changing event. My family lived in a quaint slice of suburbia in Tampa, Florida and my best friend was a kid from down the street named Anthony. I remember that his parents were a little on the eccentric side, in fact my dad always used to joke about the fact that Anthony’s father caught and caged a peacock he found on the golf course that butted up to the back of his property. They kept the bird in their garage and always had the door rolled up so they could display it to the neighborhood as a sort of status symbol. I actually thought it was pretty cool and totally identified with how his dad must have felt when he caught it. I myself spent an inordinate amount of time as a kid searching that golf course for wildlife and was always coming home with a mini travel cooler filled with creek shrimp, crawfish, turtles and frogs. At some point during that summer of ’83, Anthony, his little sister and I ventured out onto the green that was beside his house. There was a short bridge that connected a path leading around the green over a small creek that ran alongside it, and underneath where the earth had eroded away there was a decent amount of natural red clay soil exposed. We dug up a couple buckets full of clay with the idea of making some small pottery that we could sell to the neighborhood. We spent the afternoon shaping crude clay ashtrays and a couple sad little clay ducks before leaving them in his driveway to bake under the scorching Florida sun.

Anthony’s mom came out and saw us completely filthy; arms and clothes caked in orange clay mud, and immediately pulled us into the house to get washed up. I remember being very concerned about leaving my handiwork outside and unsupervised where anyone could swipe it and told her as much. Though I don’t remember her exact reaction, I’m pretty sure she had a laugh at that and she ended up buying my duck and ashtray for $15 to put my mind at ease. By the time we were mostly free of mud, and she’d sent the two kids to their rooms to change into fresh clothes it was starting to get dark out. I remember feeling a little strange in their house because I hadn’t really spent much time inside it before and it smelled completely different than my own home. Anthony’s parents didn’t smoke like mine did, and there was a very flowery scent that wafted up from the carpet from the powdered deodorizer I saw his mom using while I waited for Anthony to get done changing.

The family invited me to stay for dinner, so I called home and asked if I could stay out past the time when the street lights came on (the international sign for when to call it quits) to have dinner with Anthony’s family. I must have gotten the okay because the next thing I recall is sitting up on a stool at their kitchen counter with a view of Anthony’s mom breaking out a few cans of Chef Boyardee. I can still see the yellow cans when I close my eyes and remember being excited. Well, that was until I saw his mom bring out a frying pan and crack a couple of eggs into it. My mom was never one to cook breakfast for dinner, so I had no idea why she was frying up eggs when there was also some ravioli simmering on the stove next to it. What happened next changed the way I would view food for the next 30 years. Anthony’s mom dished out two bowls of ravioli for us and topped each one with a sunny side up fried egg. I can’t quite explain why, but the sight of Anthony breaking into the super runny yolk and mixing it with a heaping spoonful of Chef Boyardee made me so disgusted that I freaked out a little. It’s not that I had an issue with either the pasta or runny eggs, I loved both, but the combination of the two had me so nauseous that I had to abruptly excuse myself and I ended up running home, crying and feeling really weird and embarrassed.

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I’m not sure exactly what it was about that mix of food, carpet cleaner, and the strange (to me) odors in the house, but from that day forward it because nearly impossible for me to eat food prepared by anyone besides my parents or stuff I’d get out at fast food or restaurants. Whenever I attempted to eat outside my comfort zone I would have a physical reaction to the food, usually gaging or dry heaving. School lunches, eating at friend’s houses, visiting family, pot lucks at work, or dinner with the in-laws became my own private hell over the next three decades. I spent the first two years of middle school only eating Hostess Dunkin’ Sticks out of the vending machine instead of ever attempting getting a real plate of food. I’ve made so many excuses for why I wasn’t hungry or didn’t feel well as an excuse not to eat that people started to think I had serious health issues.

Over the past few years I’ve loosened up quite a bit, and I think I’ve finally managed to shake my food phobias. Though I’ve always been able to eat stuff that I’ve prepared myself (even weird stuff), the idea of mixing eggs and canned pasta has sort of haunted me. The other morning I was making breakfast for my girlfriend and she requested fried eggs sunny side up so she could dip some toast in them. I’d actually gotten up a bit earlier than her and wanting something comforting I already had a bowl of mini ravioli prepared for myself. While frying my girlfriend’s eggs I screwed up and broke the yolk on one, so I set it aside and made another. Not wanting to waste any food I unconsciously plopped the egg on top of my bowl of ravioli and proceeded to eat. It wasn’t until I was finished that I realized what I had done and the memories of that night in Anthony’s house came flooding back. Sometimes it’s strange the way we change as we age. I’m not sure what triggered inside that let the phobia subside, but I’m glad that I’m more or less free of the fear of eating.

admin-ajax.phpGetting back to the positive way the Chef has changed my life, I’d have to go back to sometime during the fall of 1985. I had just turned eight and was just starting the third grade. That was an interesting time for me because we’d just moved from Tampa to Orlando into another super quaint suburb of Florida and all of a sudden the scope of my world had grown exponentially. For the first time I was allowed to leave the neighborhood so that I could ride my bike the mile and change to my elementary school. I started earning an allowance and found myself “flush” with five bucks a week at a time when most of the stuff I wanted cost between $0.25 and $1.99. And it was around this time that my parents decided to trust me to use the stove top burners to “cook” my own lunches when I got home from school and on the weekends. Now I use the term cook lightly here because all I was really doing was heating up junk that I dumped out of a can into a saucepot (almost exclusively Chef Boyardee Mini Ravioli), but this was an important step for me at an age when I was being seduced by the siren call of fast food. Granted, I was still eating a form of fast food, but it was a form that I had to “cook”. It took a modicum of effort and got me comfortable with using a stove and making stuff for myself.

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This is most likely what urged my mother to buy me a copy of the Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls that same year, which seriously upped my game in the kitchen (well, if making hot dog pizza and eggs baked in bologna cups game changers.) By the time I was in my late teens I was regularly cooking for myself at a time when none of my friends were willing to do much more than nuking their lukewarm chicken McNuggets in the microwave. It seems like such a trivial thing, but when I think back on it, having the freedom to cook my own mini raviolis was the catalyst that has led me to being as competent as I am in the kitchen today.

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In a lot of ways, for good or for ill, Chef Boyardee really is part of my DNA. When I’m in the mood for comfort, when I seriously want to time travel back to the eighties, all I have to do is crack open a can, heat it up and with the first spoonful I’m instantly 30 years younger in a way that watching cartoons, reading old kid’s books, or playing around with my vintage toys can never unlock.

Wait, there are four Ghostbusters?!?

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Poor Winston Zeddmore and Ernie Hudson, it seems like outside of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon and the various comic book series Winston/Hudson is always getting the shaft.  Whether it’s being dropped from 95% of the merchandising of the first film not appearing on the posters or on some of the home video releases over the years, the fact that Hudson is snubbed for most of the film’s original trailer (there’s even a montage of everyone who is starring in the film and when it gets to Hudson, the footage is there but only silence from the announcer), or the fact that Hudson was even passed over when he auditioned to reprise the character in the cartoon for crying out loud.  Both the character and the actor can not catch a break.  I’m surprised they didn’t put William Atherton on the poster just to rub it in a little more…

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Well, I’ve been aware of these slights for awhile, but I never realized just how deep this snubbing went.  Last week I found that copy of Starlog (issue 98 from September of 1985) and while flipping through it there was a spotlight on Ernie Hudson, specifically in reference to his recent stint as one of the Ghostbusters.  At first I was just skimming the article because I thought it was probably a fluff piece, but the more I read the more I realized that even though he was overjoyed to work on the film and is happy with the final result, the Ghostbusters he helped make was not the one he signed on to star in.  In fact, if the version of the script that swayed Hudson to sign on had been filmed things would be a lot different!

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Sigh, Hudson doesn’t even get a blurb on the cover…

First of all, the way Hudson frames it in this article the character of Winston was in the film longer, originally hired at the outset with Janene when the trio of Stanz, Spengler, and Venkman open the business.  But aside from that there was originally a much richer back story for the character including the fact that he was ex-military, and not just some random guy off the street looking for a job.  He always felt like the odd man out in the films since he wasn’t a scientist like the other three (well Venkman is debatable.)  On top of those slights, some of his bits from the original script were dished out to other characters during filming.  For instance Winston was originally the character that was to be cornered by Slimer in the hotel hallway, which of course went to Bill Murray.  Then later in the film it was Zeddmore that had the Stay Pufy brain fart that brings the Destroyer in the form of a giant marshmallow man!  Well, at least he still gets the “big Twinkie” line…

You can read the article for yourself below…

So, what do you think, has Winston been getting the shaft?

I’m basically still Chunk at heart

For the majority of my life I was, well, let’s say pretty husky.  As a very young kid I was actually pretty skinny, say up until I was six or seven, but starting with my family’s first big move across state, and then all over the east coast things got a little difficult for me and well for a bunch of reasons food became my comfort.  But I’m not really sitting down to write about that as much as describing an aspect that contributed to my personality as a kid.  Moving around a lot, overweight, and to be quite honest I was one hell of a weird kid.  My mom has always kept an unusual schedule, sleeping during the day when my sister and I were at school and my dad at work, and then staying up till all hours of the morning watching late night cable.  When she would go grocery shopping it was usually at one of the stores in the area that was open 24 hours and she liked to hit them up between 10:00pm to 12:00am to avoid a bunch of other customers and to basically have a stress free experience.  When she went on the weekends I’d tag along and wander around the vast empty store, browsing the toy aisle for 45 minutes talking to myself out loud and making mental lists of all the stuff I would ask for on my upcoming birthdays and Christmas.  From the outside I’m sure I appeared pretty damn weird, but I was fully aware of it and for the most part didn’t care how I looked or seemed to others.  I was entertaining myself and that’s all that mattered.

So when relating to characters from pop culture, it should come as no surprise that I’ve always felt that Chunk (Jeff Cohen) from the Goonies is more or less my spirit animal…

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I was never great at making friends though I always managed to, and when I did I tended to over compensate, exaggerate and be kind of a handful just like the loveable Lawrence.  In my defense Michael Jackson, nor his sister, ever came to my house to use the bathroom…but I saw Stephen King in a Maine bookstore once on vacation (sure I did…)  I wouldn’t say I was using the character as a role model, but I sure did feel his pain whenever he’d spaz out or make a fool of himself…

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I also had a weird habit of wearing Halloween costumes was past the point of being “acceptable” for normal attire.  I mean I’d be hanging out in the house dressed up in my sweet ninja gear during Christmas or I’d be tooling around the neighborhood in my “G.I. Joe fatigues” and beret for instance…

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…so later on in life when I found out about Jeff Cohen’s penchant for waring weird and wacky headgear both on and off the set of Goonies, I totally related.  Part of it was that need to perform, part just trying to over compensate.

Jeff Cohen Hat Obsession

Anyway, this is all a lot of lead up to the fact that I just found this old back issue of Starlog magazine in a used bookshop this past week and I was overjoyed to see that it included an interview with Jeff Cohen (and Corey Feldman, but Jeff steals the show)!  Usually these articles only focused on the adult actors or crew, so it’s pretty rad to find one that was concentrating on the kids, but wasn’t fluff from an 80s teeny-bop magazine.  Hope everyone enjoys reading this as much as I did…

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Again, from the article Cohen has a quote about his character Chunk that really echos my childhood experience as a pseudo-Chunk…

“Chunk is too much, but he doesn’t care.  He likes it.  He doesn’t like being fat, but he likes having his own personality.  He’s a little bit flashy, wears plaid pants and a big Hawaiian shirt and struts around…he’s a klutz and a liar.  He lies to his friends, but nothing to hurt ‘em.”

Anyway, the interview is all over the place as both Feldman and Cohen are hyped up and excited, but I still think it’s a fun read and a great snapshot of these two actors in the prime of their Goonies experience.  So glad I found this…

G.I. Joe, a Real French-Canadian Hero!

6883501769_16f5716f51_oI thought I’d take a crack at this week’s League topic (simply: Yo Joe!) since it’s both something I’m interested in (G.I. Joe obviously) and it just so happens that I have something new in my collection that fits in perfectly with the subject.  Not that long ago I was happy that I could provide a friend (the ultra rad Sarah Szefer) with a much-needed toy accessory that she’d been missing for awhile, and as an unexpected “thank you” she sent a small care package.  Since she lives up in Canada, specifically in Quebec, she thought it would be awesome to gift me some cool 80s era French-Canadian ephemera.  One of the bits that caught my eye was this awesome comic book advertisement from 1984-85…

French Canadian G.I. Joe Ad 1985

I’ve never personally seen an English version of this ad, so I’m not sure if it was strictly used in foreign markets or if I just missed it.  Either way this is a really neat ad that is way more in line with all those cool diorama set-ups you’d see in the old Sears Wishbooks.  I always loved the creativity in those since they tended to utilize natural materials mixed with art for the setting like the sand and rocks above.  I love the addition of the fake aquarium vegetation and the awesome impressionist forest fire depicted in the background painting.  Too cool.  I think I also love these types of play set-ups because I spent the majority of my G.I. Joe playtime as a kid setting up battles like this and then never actually acting them out.  It was all about setting the stage for me, and these sorts of advertisements (or the wishbook spreads) were sort of like toy porn in my eyes.

So thanks a million for sending me this Sarah, it totally made my week!  If you like what you saw here and would like to see more League posts about G.I. Joe, check out these other great sites…

Stacey, Geeky Vixen, is waxing nostalgic about old friends and discovering badass Ladies in G.I. Joe!

Michael, Retromash, takes a look at Joes from the UK perspective with Action Force!

Jathaniel shares some artistic Joe pictures from his instagram account!

Derek, Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks, shares some awesome G.I. Joe kid’s picture books (Earl Norem Art!)

Erik Johnson talks about Joe Gibken from Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger!

Brian, Cool & Collected, talks about his Joe team, those 82-85 characters!

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I’m obsessed with the LoEB’s return!

6883501769_16f5716f51_oThe League of Extraordinary Bloggers has been on hiatus for a while as Brian over at Cool & Collected has been “extraordinarily” busy with his C&C print magazine project, but it’s finally back this week with a new topic. To kick things off again Brian asks what our current obsessions are, and this just happens to coincide with a slight shift in my personal 80s collecting habits of late. Outside of a few sets of Garbage Pail Kids, I really didn’t start buying up stuff from my in and around childhood until I started work on this site. Then for the first 7 years or so of running Branded I focused most of my efforts on acquiring all sorts of ephemera, be it stickers, old magazines, or trading card wax pack wrappers that spanned all sorts of pop culture subjects from cartoons to food. I love talking about the 80s, specifically the marketing and “branding”, and I wanted to touch on all sorts of stuff from Sizzlean to amazing Return of the Jedi Jungle Gyms. Needless to say, digging up all of this stuff wasn’t cheap, so finding content to talk about on the site sort of dominated my collecting. The majority of the stuff I was hoarding storing in my flat-file, while awesome, didn’t necessarily always reflect the stuff I personally had as a kid.

Over the last year though I’ve decided to concentrate on rebuilding a small collection of things that I actually had as a kid.  Whether it’s the reproduction Masters of the Universe figures Mattel put out just after the millennium…

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…or picking up the occasional mint on card vintage toy like the super cool Transformers Afterburner I recently found.

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I think this all started just over a year ago when I managed to get a hold of my original childhood Atari 2600 system.  Reconnecting with that faux wood-paneled beauty really got me thinking about where I really wanted to spend my money when it came to my collecting habits.

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Lately this turn towards reacquiring treasures from when I was a kid has morphed into some more obscure purchases.  Instead of trying to get all the actual toys I had I’ve been cherry-picking specific pieces I owned from various toy lines, stuff that when put out on a shelf illustrates my childhood experience.  This has led to some more obscure toy hunting leading up to snagging stuff like a Demon from Blackstarr, Warduke from the D&D line, and Tonto from the Gabriel Legend of the Lone Ranger line

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I’ve also started following this urge to round out my collection with more offbeat stuff by picking up some weirder childhood reading material.  For instance, I was just recently reminded by my mom during one of our weekly phone calls about a cookbook she gave me when I was eight, the Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls (a version published in 1985 by Golden.)  I immediately flashed upon the iconic cover and felt an insane desire to pick it up and hold it again.  So I logged on to eBay immediately after the call an proceeded to track down and buy a copy…

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I must have stared at those disturbing cheeseburger people a million times as a kid.  Even though this isn’t my original copy (which is probably no longer in existence or mostly disintegrated in a landfill in Florida somewhere), mine was as beat-up and well read as this copy I now have on my shelf.  Clocking in at just under 100 pages, this cookbook was my go-to tome when learning the basics of recipe-reading and trying my hand at some culinary concoctions that were always just this side of edible.  Though I learned a lot from watching my mom in the kitchen, I always took pride in exploring on my own and trying to make lunches or breakfasts on the weekends, and a lot of that inspiration came form the dishes in this book.  Speaking of, the recipes range from the ridiculous yet fun arrangement of canned fruit on a lettuce leaf like this Friendly Dog Salad below…

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…to the surprisingly difficult to master (as a kid) Eggs in Bologna Cups.  Mine never tasted right.  In fact they were pretty noxious if I remember (probably due to over-use of the paprika which I practically caked on top of each cup…)

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The book is filled with glorious 70s/80s era design, from the style and color of the cookware depicted in the recipes to the bodacious font choices.  I actually kind of love it to death and am curious about seeking out some other more standard 80s era cookbooks for my kitchen…

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Reading back through it I was surprised at the level of complexity in some of the recipes (like a giant baked ham loaf that required grinding up smoked ham steaks), and some of it actually looks like stuff I’d love to try today as a way more accomplished home cook.  In fact I’m toying with the idea of trying to replicate all 120 or so dishes in the book at some point.  I mean a lot of this stuff is pretty simple, but I remember it being sort of like comfort food.  It might be easy to turn one’s nose up at it as an adult, but stuff like this Polka Dot Pizza (aka Hot Dog Pizza) looks like the perfect comfort food for a lazy Saturday afternoon…

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If you enjoyed reading about my currently 80s collecting obsession, why not take a moment to check out some of the other League participants to see what they’re focusing on like…

Brian at Cool & Collected who is currently binge watching Band of Brothers and True Detective

Lee & Linz at Pop Rewind who are obsession over McDonald’s Orange Drink

Derek at Really Rather Random Guy who is having a an existential obsession crisis

Victoria at Vikki Verka who is glad she found the sci-fi series Charlie Jade

Tim at Flashlights Are Something to Eat is listening to the Scorchers, watching Breaking Bad, and buying some Atari games!

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Apparently 8 is the magic number…

So, in just a couple of weeks Branded in the 80s will turn 8 years old.  Though it’s kind of arbitrary, we tend to focus on the “big” anniversaries in the five-year increment territory, but I had a couple of milestones I really wanted to hit when I started this project.  The first was making it to the seven year mark because I have a special fondness for that particular digit.  The second is marking the 8th birthday of the site because again, it has a special meaning to me.  I first dreamed of having my own little spot on the internet back around 1998.  I’d been farting around the interwebs via AOL and Compuserve and I really wanted to stake out a small piece of the digital landscape to do something.  My best friend, who was in the midst of getting his computer science degree at the time, had just recently built a website for a class project and he promised me he’d help me build one of my own.  It never materialized, though a lot of that had to do with my not knowing exactly what it was that I wanted to do with a website.  Regardless, that marks the beginning of what would eventually become Branded, and it took me eight long years of brainstorming and procrastinating before I eventually settled on what I wanted to do.  So in the back of my brain I’ve always hoped that I’d be able to keep this thing going at least as long as it took me to get it off the ground.  Well, mission accomplished I guess.  As for my next milestone, well, I don’t really have one I guess.  I’m kind of curious to see what will happen at the eleven year mark considering that will mean that I would have spent slightly more time talking about the 80s than the decade itself lasted.

Anyway, when I look back at where the site started and where it really took off for me the one aspect that kind of changed everything was when I started investing in a pretty stupidly large collection of 80s stickers to scan and share.  Part of this came out of wanting to acquire a bunch of the stickers I had as a kid, but another was that there was a distinct lack of sticker scans floating around on the internet and I felt like it was an opportunity to contribute a small portion to the digital nostalgic pop culture zeitgeist.  One of the aspects I love about the nostalgia-minded community is the eagerness to share the cool junk that we love.  So it was pretty neat timing that while I was thinking back on all of this I was approached by the cool lady behind the rad RainbowBrite.co.uk website with to help share some fun stuff.

cologo01She obviously runs a pretty neat Rainbow Brite fan site, so she acquired a bunch of info and ephemera to post up there.  But in her research and collecting she’s amassed a bunch of other cool non-RB stuff that she felt needed to get out there.  So she graciously offered to send me some scans of a pretty neat 1985 Mattel Events Guide to share here at Branded.  Tying this in a bit more into my silly milestone is that I just happened to turn eight the year this Event guide was published (seriously, there has to be something to this, numerology-wise…)

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These event guides were sent out to retailers as a way for Mattel to bolster excitement for their product lines and I’m sure to secure a larger market share of the retail market by encouraging stores to increase orders and devote more shelf and peg space to Mattel stuff.  They did this by helping to host local in-store meet and greet events with some of Mattel’s most popular brands and characters.  So if you were lucky enough to shake hands with Skeletor at a Toys R Us back int he day, most likely this was one of the guides that the store had to help them schedule and promote the event…

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It’s really cool to get a glimpse into this aspect of the marketing and promotion of some of our favorite toys from back in the 80s.  Not only is it cool to see some rad artwork that only exists to promote these in-store events (like the neat illustration of the Hot Wheels play area that was shipped to the store), but it’s also awesome to see and read about some of the swag for the event that was either given away (like the Hot Wheels kid’s drivers licenses) or became a “free item with purchase” like the super cool Hot Wheels combination watch/wallet below!

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1985 was also a great year for Mattel toys because they were hip deep in the Marvel Secret Wars toy line…

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What really struck me about this Secret Wars event is that it wasn’t just geared towards boys.  Mattel makes it clear that “boys AND girls” will received a free water color poster.  That kind of inclusion back in the 80s seems pretty rare, but then again, Mattel worked on some pretty progressive toy lines like these two favorites, Princess of Power and Masters of the Universe!  I mean I know most of the boys who were into He-Man were also secretly into She-Ra…

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Man, I feel like I missed out so much on these in-store events.  I never managed to attend one and after reading through this guide I feel like I missed out on some amazing experiences and swag.  So, I wonder if a little boy could have been initiated into the Legion of Good receiving a free golden power ring and poster?  I sure as hell hope so.  Also, holy crap, a 15 foot high replica of the Crystal Castle?!?  How awesome would that have been to see?  I wonder if the stores had to ship them back or of they were ordered to destroy them.  I have to imagine that one of these must have made it into a private collection.  Hell, at that size it would practically be big enough for kids to play in as a fort.  The mid boggles at the possibilities…

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Apparently for ’85 Mattel introduced new full body costumes for He-Man and Skeletor.  I’ve seen photos of buff guys in the He-Man duds before, but never a full body costume like this complete with toy-accurate mask and all.  I like that they even managed to replicate the spiny fin on Skeletor’s wrists (like on the toy…)  Sadly there was no 15 foot Castle Greyskull or Snake Mountain, but there were some pretty rad glow in the dark posters!

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A lot of this stuff has to be pretty rare.  I searched for awhile and couldn’t find and example of the glow in the dark Masters of the Universe poster (not even on He-Man.org!)  So it;s cool at least to get a glimpse into this promotional world to know that this stuff exists.  FYI, there’s a bit more to this Event Guide, specifically the Rainbow Brite section, but if you want to see that head on over to the cool RainbowBrite.co.uk to find out what was in that in-store event.  Thanks again to them for sharing this rad piece of 80s toy ephemera and helping to make the nostalgia community that much richer!

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I think I have a crush on Lynne Stone…

Even though I’ve seen a metric ton of flicks from the 80s, there are a lot that I’ve never seen.  One of the cool aspects of catching up with these movies is getting to see some established actors before they were huge, and in some cases seeing them in roles that give me a whole new appreciation for them.  A couple years ago I did just that when I saw Laura Dern as a young post-punk rock star in Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains.  It totally changed my outlook on Mrs. Dern and it’s sort of given me a taste for redefining my outlook on some stars that maybe I don’t give enough credit.  Well this past weekend I curled up next to my girlfriend Jaime while she introduced me to the campy 80s dance flick Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and at about four minutes in I found an entirely new appreciation for one Mrs. Helen Hunt!

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Literally, Jaime and I were about five minutes into the flick when I did a spit take (well, would have had I been drinking anything at the time) and freaked out after noticing Hunt wearing a very awesome piece of jewelery that I myself sported back in the 80s.  Her character, Lynne Stone, is sort of a Cyndi Lauper lite, free spirited, takes crap from no one, and has a wickedly fun fashion sense.  Though the film focuses mainly on Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Janey, I kind of immediately fell in love with Lynne and I’m basically already writing the fan-fiction sequel flick in tandem with this article.  Also, since I’ve sort of been locked in a mode of finding all sorts of fun junk in the background of movies I thought it would be fun to point out the six aspects that make Hunt’s Lynne Stone such a rad character…

#6: Her Crush on C. Thomas Howell

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But then again, didn’t we all have a crush on C. Thomas Howell?

#5: Her Transforming Catholic School Uniform

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The scene where Lynne rips off her school outfit and flips it to form an entirely new outfit is pretty cool, as is her line: “Velcro.  Next to the Walkman and Tab it’s the coolest invention of the 20th century!”

#4: Her Awesome Headgear

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Giant grasshoppers, 50′s coonskin caps, and Dinosaur barrettes are just a smattering of the awesome things you’ll see on Lynne’s head throughout the flick.

#3: Her Babysitting Technique

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Get to job, put on Dance TV, place baby in pizza box, take absolutely no messages for her employer.  That’s the way to do it.

#2: Her Taste in Lunchboxes

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I have to say that the 8 year-old me who was carrying a Masters of the Universe lunchbox to school, if he’d crossed paths with a teenaged Helen Hunt with the same lunchbox, well, he (I) would have fallen in love and then fainted.  Seriously, I love that she’s carrying that lunchbox!

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#1: Her Amazing Taste in Kronoform Watches!

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Not only did I have the same lunchbox as Lynne, I also had that same knockoff red Kronoform transforming robot watch!!!  (Also, note the rad dinosaur headgear…)

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Seriously, I might have to consider knocking one of my 80s crushes off my list because I think Lynne Stone/Helen Hunt deserves to be on it…

 

Awesome 80s Bedrooms continues: Explorers edition!

I spent a few hours this weekend cracking open the cases on my 80s-centric DVDs and combing through the flicks looking for some more rad kid’s rooms to obsess over and I found some pretty neat stuff.  I really am having a blast doing this, finding things I never noticed.  Usually when I pop these movies into the DVD player I’m immediately engrossed and just watch the flicks with eyes wide and a smile on my face, but I forced myself to detach and just observe this time.  So today I’m gonna share a few things I saw in the 1985 Joe Dante movie, Explorers!

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Unfortunately, so many of the shots in Ben’s room are in the dark as most of these scenes are shot when he’s sleeping and dreaming of schematics for building the inner workings of Thunder Road.  So it was sort of hard to make out some of the stuff.  There’s some interesting toys on his desk and on the shelves by the windows that I just can’t make out.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some real treasures here as well…

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1). Issue #9 of the original run of the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe, Q-S edition! (I’m hoping Dante or one of the set designers included it because of Rom!)

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2). Carl Bark’s Uncle Scrooge comic book, issue #37

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3). Robo Force mini comic (packed in with the Toys.)

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4). Space Camp Stickers

This next screen shot is a little frustrating.  There are a couple of things I spotted which I’ll detail in a minute, but there are a lot of other things that I just can’t nail down.  For instance, the white robot on the shelf by the window.  I’ve scoured some of the “Old Toy Robot” sites and I just can’t figure it out.  That style of toy is one of my big weaknesses when it comes to recognizing stuff from the 70s and 80s.  If it’s not Rickey’s Robot butler on Silver Spoons, the robot that Rocky buys his kid in Rocky 3, or Conky from Pee Wee’s Playhouse I’m usually stumped.  There’s also some sort of carrier toy to the right of the robot, and a weird purple and yellow bulbous robot-looking toy on the desk that I can’t figure out.  Ah well…

**UPDATE**  Thanks to the keen eye and detective skills of Las Vegas Yankee who identified the robot as a Tommy Atomic toy!

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5). Go Bots Super gobot Psycho

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6). Starlog Issue 84 (featuring a story on the Gremlins)

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I love how Dante peppers his movies with little things from his previous flicks.  There’s a Twilight Zone the movie poster in Gremlins for instance.  So this issue of Starlog was a fun little hidden gem, though there is something way cooler coming at the end of this post!

**Update** Esteban over at the Roboplastic Apocalypse nailed down one of the toys on Ben’s desk above as the Dred Crawler from Robo Force.  Good eye Steve!  You can clearly see the little clear bubble with the red antenna…

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Continuing on…

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Finally, a scene where the lights were on.  Though unfortunately you only get this vantage of his room for the most part.  But there are a couple of neat things, namely…

7). Transformers Lazerbeak (or Buzzsaw, it was hard to tell if the body was red or gold…)

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8). Huntsville, AL poster for the Space Academy complex.

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9). It Came From Outer Space poster

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10). Japanese robot Halloween masks.  I can’t figure these out for the life of me.  The one at the bottom sort of looks like a green Ultraman, and the other one (as well as a couple other in another section of his room) look like Shogun Warriors, but I don’t think they are.  Again, this is a lacking bit in my pop culture knowledge… :p  Anyway, for a second I’m going to exit Ben’s room and take a quick look at Wolfgang’s kitchen which features one of my favorite childhood toys!

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11). The blue Tonka Hand Commander Jet!

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This was one of my favorite toys.  I loved that you could hold it like a gun (there was a hand and trigger on the bottom that when squeezed would make the propellers turn.  I used to run all around my house with this jet, crashing it into the sofa, or dunking it in the bathtub for water landings.  Sigh.  This toy also pops up in an episode of Silver Spoons, the second episode I believe.

Alright, now we get to the seriously cool hidden gem in the movie Explorers.  I mentioned that Dante likes to put stuff from his previous flicks in the background of his newer movies right.  Well, how freaking cool is it that Ben Crandall has the following item on his dresser!

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12). Stripe’s Skull from Gremlins!

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Is Ben the luckiest kid in the world?  Yeah, I think so.

So, did I miss anything?  And can anyone identify the masks or that big white robot by his window?

Other Awesome Bedrooms I’ve covered…

Sara’s Room from Adventures in Babysitting

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

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