“You make a better door than a window”

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‘Consuming media the Mid-Century Modern way’

So. The Dude and I went to an actual movie yesterday afternoon. In an actual movie theater. It was the new Mission Impossible. (The one everybody else on earth saw, like, six weeks ago.) I must say that I’m glad we caught those zooming motorcycles and dueling helicopters and ticking nuclear bombs before they left the theaters and we had to stream the whole shebang instead.

Looks like Youngest Younger Brother Doug’s been doing a little ‘streaming’. Or maybe ‘laking’

I can remember only too well those days when, if you wanted to see a movie, you had to go to a movie theater. (I shouldn’t say “had to”, because it was really fun.) The only thing that was kind of a downside was that the one movie theater in my hometown only had one screen and pretty much played only one movie at a time. I say “pretty much”, because sometimes they’d play Kid Movies in the daytime and Grownup Movies at night.

You’d buy popcorn or Milk Duds and sit in the balcony with your friends. If you were naughty, you’d warm the Milk Duds in the palm of your hand, then throw them at the screen. The goal was to get them to stick in an embarrassing spot — like on the Leading Lady’s cheek.

Oh, and in the summer that theater would shut down. (Too expensive to run the AC, I’m guessing.) And the drive-in would open. Our whole family would pile in the car and go see such fare as “The Absent-Minded Professor”. We would pop our own corn and take it in a big washtub. This was not only to save money, but so we kids wouldn’t get “educated” on walks to the concession stand. There were other cars with suspiciously steamed-up windows, you see — even at the Disney movies.

Phishing. A gang of Mid-Century kids left to their own non-electronic devices

When I reached high-school age I was absolutely forbidden to go to the “Passion Pit”, as my mother called the drive-in. Though once I famously got into Big Trouble for going there anyway when she was out of town and my Dad was in charge. (See “Double-Dating at the Drive-In with Bonnie and Clyde” for gory details. Note: I am still grounded.)

Oh — the other way we watched movies was on TV. I don’t remember there being that many channels, but there seemed to be lots of choices. You could watch not only “To Catch a Thief” (one of my Dad’s faves) but cool “foreign” stuff like “The Lavender Hill Mob”. I distinctly remember my Dad digging “Knife in the Water”. Which was in Polish, for heaven’s sakes.

While watching, if we weren’t devouring vats of popcorn popped by my Youngest Younger Brother Doug (who could barely reach the stove to shake the popcorn pot, which was what you had to do, microwaves being non-existent), we were powering down giant bowls of vanilla ice cream. (The only flavor, pretty much, that was on hand, since Mom could buy humongous cartons of it on sale.)

One minor wrinkle was that you could only watch movies on TV when they were actually scheduled. There was no “on demand”, unless you count my father dictating the choices. (He ruled with an iron hand even before the invention of the “remote”. If you had the temerity to change the channel — even if he was snoring in the supine position — there was heck to pay. “I was watching that!” he would snarl, and you’d better darn change it back to the golf game, and be quick about it.)

Flat-screen TVs are nice, but you can’t display family photos or Christmas decorations on them, much less lighted candles

Oh yes. There was one other little drawback. Which was that there were seven of us. And even though we had a pretty big TV, it could be tough to get in good viewing position. Basically, we left the couches and chairs to our parents, and deployed ourselves all around the floor. (Wall-to-wall carpeted, as all floors were back then, at least all the floors I came in contact with.)

Doug again, in prime viewing position. Except that it looks like Major, instead of a sibling, might be blocking his view

The littler kids in my family would sometimes plant themselves smack dab in front of the screen and have to be reminded that, as my title says, “he or sometimes she made a better door than a window”.

Just try to go running with a set of these. That’s not Doug, but The Child, listening to Beethoven, no doubt

By the way, speaking of littler kids, check out the picture at the top of this post. It’s Doug again, at prime screen-blocking age, reading the daily paper, bless him — upside down.

Here is The Child, post trick-or-treating, using an early version of Seamless 

I could go on and on, but I have to go check on my grocery delivery. The Fresh Direct internet elves tell me it should be here by now. In the meantime, if you haven’t already seen the ever-youthful how-does-he-still-do-his-own-stunts Tom Cruise in the new Mission Impossible, I highly recommend you do so before streaming is your only option.

The Child setting me up with Facebook. Which I am sure she now eternally regrets

New York City. September 2018

The time I lost my office and found myself on TV

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‘I make a slightly-more-than-cameo appearance in a British documentary’

Last week I attended an event called, I kid you not, The Ogilvy Ancients reunion. This was a nice luncheon held sort of in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the ad agency I worked for longest and to whom I owe my funniest ad-biz stories. (See ‘Short Men and Flat-Chested Women’, ‘Around the World in 80 Shoots’, ‘My Head Feels Funny’, or practically anything in the tab labelled Adland Lore for hilarious examples.)

I’m thinking this reunion was called ‘Ogilvy Ancients’ because the organizers believe in truth in advertising. Though none of us in the room were on hand when the late great David Ogilvy founded the place in 1948, many of us in attendance could easily identify with the characters on Mad Men. Honestly, there were four people at this shindig who started at the agency in the fifties. (No, I was not one of them. Though I do admit to being alive in the fifties.)

D. O. Himself holding forth at my very first Agency Christmas Party — which was not in the fifties. OK, ok, it was in the seventies. (Same diff, you say)

I don’t think I was the only one at this ‘do’ who had worked in all three Ogilvy New York locations, but I’m thinking there weren’t many who could make that claim. I started out (see ‘Take a Letter, Miss Henry’ for deets) at the Original Ogilvy on Madison Avenue, next door to which was the infamous watering hole Rattazzi’s, which was the model for the bar on Mad Men. Everybody used to go to this bar after work — even the married guys who commuted to Connecticut or Westchester. (Actually, they were the ones you could count on to always be there.) Little weenies were served with big drinks, and Ideas were, quite literally, thought up and scribbled down on cocktail napkins.

But I digress. This Gathering of Ancients took place in Ogilvy’s current location, which is a converted chocolate factory on the Way West Side of Midtown. There wasn’t much there before — except for car dealerships, crumbling wharfs, and other disused factories — but now it’s the kind of nabe you’d want to live in if you were, say, a hipsterish 25. It’s cool and trendy and somewhat spotty — you can still nod ‘hello’ to confused-looking halfway-house residents on your walk from the subway — kind of like non-Colonial Williamsburg (the Williamsburg that’s in Brooklyn) used to be before it got full of strollers. Continue reading

“Eenie Meanie Chili Beanie, the spirits are about to speak”

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‘The time Rocky starred in a Hershey commercial’

I was all set to write about the origins of the Henry HooHah when, oh no, I saw in the Times that June Foray had died.

I’ll be back. Tune in next week for the origins of the HooHah

Now the name “June Foray”, no doubt, does not ring a bell. But for those of you, like me, who grew up watching the ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’, you’ll know her as the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel, AKA ‘Rocky’. (Yup, Rocky was a girl.)

Now, it may be hard for those of you who did not grow up watching this show to understand not only how hilarious it was, but also how, um, culturally pervasive. Well, at least at my house. We kids would torture each other — and our parents — by endlessly repeating the show’s catch phrases, “Eenie meanie chili beanie” being just one example. And the puns? Ouch. Here’s the Times, from that juicy June obit:  Continue reading

Stars in stripes

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‘Looking back and forth on the Fourth’

For the past several summers we’ve had this fun Fourth of July tradition where we let The Child fill up our house with as many of her friends as we have beds to lay their pretty little heads on. Sometimes it’s guys and girls; sometimes ‘just’ girls. The Dude and I are happy with either arrangement, though we have noticed that when it’s girls-only, the Young Friends seem more inclined to activity — like going to the beach, hopping on the bikes, or heading into town to catch what’s up at The Talkhouse.  

Last year’s crop of Nation’s Birthday Beauties. Haven’t wrestled this year’s photo out of The Dude’s camera yet. But, trust me, they’re equally sparkly

(The guys, when the guest list includes them, seem content to hang around The Compound, sipping beer and, well, being content. Sometimes they bestir themselves to demonstrate their CrossFit routines; there was a Matt-shaped indentation in our lawn for a few post-Fourth days one year. Oh, and one other memorable Fourth, Somebody’s BF soaked his iPhone in our hot tub, though not intentionally. BTW, putting a soaked iPhone into a jar of rice does not dry it out, no matter what you may have read on the internet.)

Speaking of food, this year I inaugurated a new tradition: The USA Birthday Cake. From Carvel, of course. No, we didn’t sing

But hey, anything anybody wants to do — or not do — is A-okay with me. I’m happy to provide food — beaucoup de food — and stay the heck out of the way. I was in the kitchen in the midst of doing just that when one of this year’s Young Lovelies (and they are — lovely — each and every one of them) strolled by on her way to the pool, and I happened to catch the unmistakable whiff of — Coppertone.

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“You bet your sweet bippy!”

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‘”Screen time” in the Olden Golden Days’

Even more of a shock to me than Chuck Berry’s recent demise was to open the Times and see an obit for one of the Really Cute Girls who used to dance in bikinis on Laugh In.

Remembering Chelsea Brown — and Goldie Hawn and Judy Carne — ‘go-go’ dancing their little hearts out got me to thinking about how much fun we used to have watching TV back in those days.

See, TV back then didn’t mean streaming a show on your iPad with your earphones in. It meant sprawling on the living-room floor, consuming huge cereal bowls of ice cream (usually vanilla, but sometimes a flavor called ‘Neapolitan’; the green stripes being my favorite) or sharing a giant washtub of popcorn (Littlest Brother Doug was the designated Popcorn Chef; he popped it in a battered aluminum pot on the stovetop, shaking it energetically and listening carefully for the last ‘pops’ so it didn’t burn).

Littlest Brother Doug (with Major Moseby) taking a break from his corn-popping duties

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Laughter is the best medicine. Well, except for maybe a manhattan.

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‘Waking up to Mo(u)rning in America. Trumped’

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. But what do you do when life (or, er, almost half of your fellow Americans) hands you a Big Ole Orange? Well, you can weep or rage or march. You can tear at your clothing or hair. You can move to Canada or even threaten to secede from the Union. (Bye, California, including Oldest Younger Brother Scott in Petaluma; just don’t take Mom with you.)

And sure, you can look for a way to try to squeeze a little orangeade out of that Big Ole Orange. Here’s a way that involves squeezing a trigger. (No, no. Do not call the Secret Service; this is perfectly-harmless-yet-remarkably-satisfying paintball, folks. And, yes, The Child approves the use of this message.)

paintball-wizzard

Caption to this pic on The Child’s Instagram feed: ‘Good way to let off steam after a tough week #stillanastywoman’

And of course you can indeed toss off a few Manhattans. I chose this other favorite beverage this time because I’ve already ‘done’ Martinis. You can read about my cocktail adventures in ‘Three, and you’re under the host’, in case you missed it or just want to bail already on this Trump post and skip right to drinking. Reading about it, anyway. Continue reading

The Fat Lady ain’t sung. Yet.

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‘Expressions of glee from the Land of the Free and the Home of the Cubs’

I am (in)famous amongst Henrys for my lack of interest in team sports. I’ve been known to ask if baseball is the one where they throw the little white ball with the stitching, as opposed to the one where they throw the big orange ball with the pointy ends. (I do know that the big round orange ball is the one that gets ‘dribbled’; I didn’t attend Carlyle High School basketball games just to flirt, you know.)

Well. As some of you may recall from my ubiquitous Facebook presence, I recently spent a most pleasant long weekend with as many Henrys as could squeeze into Oldest Younger Brother Scott’s house in Petaluma. The ostensible reason for our get-together was to celebrate a couple of Henry birthdays (my Mom’s and Middle Younger Brother Roger’s).

That's Birthday Boy Roger on the left, Birthday-Venue-Boy Scott on the right

That’s Birthday Boy Roger on the left, Birthday-Venue-Boy Scott on the right

But what got everybody really excited was not the big ole dual-duty birthday cake (with a candelabra on top, seriously), or even the Second Presidential Debate (the Town Hall One with the Stalking), but watching the Cubs battle the Giants for a spot in the National League Playoffs. Continue reading

Garry Shandling was right

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‘Why we loved Mary, spunk and all’

It seems that the late great Garry Shandling and the still-with-us Jerry Seinfeld were not only Big Buds, but they were both huge fans of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I discovered this while watching a very hilarious episode of Jerry’s highly addictive web series, ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’.

In the episode, which is rather eerily titled ‘It’s Great that Garry Shandling is Still Alive’, Garry and Jerry drive around, drink coffee, and reminisce about making landmark TV shows at the same time at the same studio. (This episode is more than just eerie, it’s amazingly hilarious. Don’t miss G and J ‘doing’ those Matthew McConaughey Lincoln commercials.)

Anyway. At one point Garry and Jerry take a break from cracking each other up to agree that the Mary Tyler Moore Show was right up there with their own personal shows in the landmark category. Continue reading

General Foods, we salute you

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‘Drinking the Kool-Aid (and Country Time) in the 80s’

Those of us who worked on the General Foods account at Ogilvy used to kid around a lot (big surprise; see ‘Short Men and Flat-Chested Women’ for evidence). We used to say that nothing General Foods made was really a ‘food’. You know, something that could actually sustain life. If you were stranded on a desert island with only GF products to eat, you would, basically, starve.

That’s because everything made by General Foods (or GF as it was fondly known around the shop) was actually a powder. A powder that you stirred into water (Kool-Aid, Tang, Country Time Lemonade-Flavor Drink Mix), brewed with water (Maxwell House Coffee), shook up with meat (Shake ‘n Bake), or mixed with other assorted stuff (Good Seasons Salad Dressing Mix). I don’t mention Jello here, even though it was in fact made by GF, because it (and Bill Cosby) were Y&R’s problem, er product.

My first Ogilvy commercial was one for Shake ‘n Bake. This was in the early 80s, so it actually did not use the famous ‘and I helped’ line. Nope, I got to do commercials with this spokesperson called Pete the Butcher. The 80s were replete with spokespersons: Cora (Margaret Hamilton, who was the Bad Witch in the Wizard of Oz) for Maxwell House, Grandpa for Country Time. And those were just some of the Ogilvy GF spokespeople. (Don’t forget Bill Cosby for Jello; as if you could.)

Here’s a typical example of a Shake ‘n Bake Pete the Butcher spot that I found. I’m not sure if I did this one or not. That tells you something right there, I’m afraid. Continue reading

Short men and flat-chested women

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‘Mad Men, Memories, and Me’

What a quandary Sunday night! Two hot shows in competing TV time slots. Do I watch the one with the bloodthirsty power plays, the deadly palace intrigue, the dangerous illicit sex, the fabulous period costumes, the one where women lose their heads over the charismatic moody king?

Or do I watch Wolf Hall?

Through the miracle of modern technology (well, um, DirectTV), I actually got to watch them both. Even though they are, essentially, the same deal. TV-wise, anyway:

Mid-Century Lust (for sex, power, clothes), 16th-Century Edition

Saga of sex and power, with great clothes. 16th-Century Edition

Mid-Century Lust (for sex, power, clothes), 20th-Century Edition

Saga of sex and power, with great clothes. 20th-Century Edition

Now, as much as I’m sure you’re dying to hear my views on Hilary Mantel and Henry the VIII, it’s nah, not today. Let’s talk about Mad Men.

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