The Vinyl Frontier

Jim…there’s something funny about the walls and floor…

Star Trek or Planet of the Apes? That was the paralyzing decision that I had to make one afternoon in 1975. I stood transfixed before brightly colored boxes, my brow furrowed with the anxious knowledge that whichever option I chose, it would come at the expense of forfeiting the other. Star Trek or Planet of the Apes? Both playsets looked fantastically inviting, especially when accessorized with a quartet of eight-inch action figures. I studied the pictures and tried to envision what exciting scenarios I might be able to create with these tantalizing toys. Did one of the choices offer more hours of fun? Might I grow tired of one of them sooner than I imagined? Did one road lead to sustained happiness, while the other ended in unforeseen regret? My nostrils flared. Star Trek or Planet of the Apes?

My mother and father stood nearby, patiently observing their youngest child’s angst. We were standing in a long aisle within the vast establishment known as Children’s Palace. The mere sight of its turreted facade had thrilled me to my very capacity for excitement, for I had seen television ads for the store and yearned to visit it like a prospector dreams of El Dorado. In my hometown of Lima, toys were confined to a small department within stores that sold an array of goods. The concept of a big box retailer dealing exclusively in toys was like hearing tell of a swimming pool filled with chocolate milk. Yet here in Columbus, I was standing within a genuine Children’s Palace. Read More

Back From The Dead

One of the things that I love about the Internet is the way that it snatches dormant media from obscurity, allowing us to experience anew that which hitherto existed in the far recesses of our minds as the merest fragments of memory. Whether it’s a long-forgotten commercial or pages from an old Christmas catalog, it seems like everything that was ever broadcast or printed is being digitized, tagged, and archived for our instant access. Can’t get a fragment of an ancient advertising jingle out of your head? Google a few words, and you’ll likely hear it in its entirety. Thinking about the colorful cover of a paperback you once owned? Someone, somewhere, has scanned it, along with the artwork for every other known edition of the title.

Thanks to that other resuscitator of bygone entertainment, Netflix, I recently followed a trail of mental breadcrumbs back to one of my earliest memories. I was watching Who’s Minding the Store, a seldom-seen (and justifiably so) Jerry Lewis vehicle from 1963. Released just five months after Lewis’s brilliant The Nutty Professor, the Frank Tashlin-directed Store is a cinematic abomination that is nevertheless worth watching for its immortal typewriter routine as well as the sheer, audacious chutzpah of its star’s performance.  What caught my attention, however, was the unique diction of supporting player John McGiver.  I knew I had seen him in other productions, yet I could not name any.

IMDb to the rescue!  Soon I was poring over McGiver’s filmography, and while searching for movies and television shows in which I was likely to have seen him, I was absolutely gobsmacked by the presence of a film I had certainly never seen. In fact, I had wondered whether or not my mind had made up this curious title I recalled being promoted when I was quite young. But there it was:  Arnold, released in November of 1973. For years I have carried around in my mind the latent trauma of being exposed to its advertising campaign, which scared the hell out of me as a sensitive and neurotic five-year-old. Read More

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