Adam and I hung out for awhile today at a local comic show, and I was on the hunt again for some 1970s sci-fi print nostalgia like I stumbled onto a couple weeks ago. We’re side by side, thumbing through boxes of magazines, and Adam discovers this piece of wonder:
I have only watched the Star Wars Holiday Special in its entirety once: The night it aired – my eighth birthday.
There are only four Starlog No. 19 pages devoted to the special – one of which includes the complete text of Natalie Millar’s article, “Star Wars Invades TV”. Here are the other three – (click to make ‘em bigger and really feel the magic) :
There’s also this ad:
Even aside from the Holiday Special content, there’s loads of stuff in these pages that I would have loved as a kid – and still do. I mean, just look at the cover contents again: the animated Lord of the Rings, Superman, Mars volcanoes, Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica. Funny thing, though: I didn’t read Starlog when I was little. I remember flipping through it occasionally in the Waldenbooks at Belden Village mall, but I never actually bought a copy. No idea why, other than I suppose if I had $1.95 to spare, it was going toward an action figure.
Because memory association is what I do, on this Father’s Day, here are five songs that always bring my dad immediately to mind:
Harry Chapin, “Taxi” -
I remember my parents talking about the news when Chapin died, but more vividly I remember being in the car with my Dad, and this being a song for which he specifically turned the radio up and told me he liked it. After the song’s narrator talks about his old flame telling him to keep the change from the “twenty dollars for a two-fifty fare” come the lines:
Well another man might have been angry/ And another man might have been hurt,
But another man never would have let her go. / I stashed the bill in my shirt.
At this point Dad gave me one of those eyebrow-raised “that’s life” half-grins and said, “Yep – Harry’s no fool.”
Sheena Easton, “Telefone” –
I remember when Dad bought Best Kept Secret on cassette. It was the first current pop album I remember him buying, and I seem to think he told me it was one of the albums they listened to at the hospital where he worked as an anesthetist. It’s funny how many fragments of the other songs on the album popped into my head when I read through the track listing for the first time in at least 25 years, but “Telefone” is by far the most prominent in memory. (I think Dad had a little thing for the early/mid-1980s Sheena – neatly balanced , of course, by mom’s little crush on Harrison Ford.)
Lionel Richie, “Hello” -
Because the song came on the radio once in the car, and for some reason, Dad began responding out loud to the lyrics:
“I’ve been alone with you inside my mind …”
“And in my dreams I’ve kissed your lips a thousand times.”
“Lionel!” (This was preceded by little gasp of faux-prudish horror and sent me over the edge into laughter.)
My wife never got to meet my Dad, but I told her this story a long time ago, and I’m not sure we’ve ever heard “Hello” and failed to insert Dad’s comments.
The Beach Boys, “Sloop John B” -
Well, I mean, it’s got my name – which is also my Dad’s brother’s name – right there in the title, which Dad always pointed out, and it’s a Beach Boys song from arguably their best and most influential album, so there’s that, too. My parents graduated from high school in 1965, so the The Beach Boys were a big part of the music I heard when I was little, and they later became the first musical act I saw perform live when I went with my parents to Blossom Music Center in my early teens.
Don McClean, “American Pie” -
I remember hearing this song for the first time because we were in the car and Dad made a point of telling me all about how long the song was, and how parts of it were about Buddy Holly’s death and other parts Don McLean had just explained as having no meaning at all.
The song stuck: When I was old enough to drive, I went to the mall and bought a $2 cassette version of it from a bargain bin at Camelot Music (look it up, youngsters) and was disgusted to find it included the cut-in-half “part one” and “part two” single versions. And when I took to hanging index cards with quotes and song lyrics on the inside of my high school locker door, verses from “American Pie” were there.
It’s still a favorite – an absolute gotta-turn-it-up in the car, and if I’m alone, crank it to eleven, sing along, get those adrenaline shivers and remember my Dad.
One of the details I loved in the background of Super 8 was a 1970s-era Warren Presents science fiction magazine which looked a lot like the ones I used to find in the cheap bins at comic book stores.
Now, I’m going to buy it anyway, before I even know the price, because it’s got that early “pointy W” in the Star Wars logo, and I think that’s pretty neat. The same logo’s on an interior page, too:
But the treasure-finding’s not over. There’s an ad for Star Wars on 8mm –
… and one of the more bizarre George Lucas caricatures I’ve seen:
At this point, I’m buying the thing for sure, but it’s not until I get home that I take the time to unfold this masterpiece:
Art by Michael Stein (art director of the magazine), coloring by Jeff or Geff or Geoff Darrow (it’s spelled all 3 ways within the pages), this works in elements from all three classic movies mentioned on the cover. I struggled to get a good photo without a flash – the creases and the glare made for terrible glare otherwise – so the yellow appearance is actually an effect of the lighting. The glossy poster’s colors are really eye-popping in reality, but I think this still captures the feel of the era and the fandom nicely.
I can’t imagine there are ’80s nostalgia geeks out there who don’t know about The Retroist already, but if you’ve never spent time on the site or listening to the podcast, you’re missing a daily dose of Good Stuff, Maynard. Stuff you will wonder how you ever lived without, like the pointer to C64 Yourself, where you can just drag-and-drop a photo and get it rendered almost instantly into a gorgeous Commodore 64-ized version like this:
What makes this photo great? Not because that’s me, but because that’s me sitting at my typically clutter-covered desk playing Burgertime on my Commodore 64.
Large light gray box at the right? A black-and-white TV with rabbit ears serving as my monitor. The darker gray blob just to the left is the C64 itself, with the still-darker area being the keys. In my hands? A beat-to-hell joystick from our original Atari. (You can see the second joystick sitting on the desk almost dead-center: That short white vertical line – that’s right, we had played the covers off the things. Also, my brother Nick had a habit of chewing on them.)
Unfortunately, the C-64’s limited graphics capability falls short of capturing in detail my Gumby sweatshirt and oh-so-80s parted-down-the-middle haircut. Some things are best left pixelated.
It took eight and a half hours for me to formulate my first written reaction to Super 8 – and even then all I could muster via Twitter was, “Can’t be impartial about Super 8: I’m too in love with the inspirations and the way it captures the era of my childhood. Fantastic.”
And that’s why this isn’t really a review of the movie. Other people have said the things I think – the best reflection, I think, being the opinion that what makes J.J. Abrams’ blatant homage to the likes of E.T. and Stand By Me and The Goonies and Jaws work so well is its complete sincerity, delivered without clever winks, nods or half-smirks. And I agree with the most positive reviews, although I admit that while I utterly loved it, I the story also never gave me that lump-in-the-throat moment I had expected.
So why did I love this movie so much?
There’s a bit in Wil Wheaton’s The Happiest Days of Our Lives where he writes, “If you’ve seen E.T., you’ve seen houses just like the ones I grew up in.”
I felt that way all through Super 8.
Those houses where the folks of fictitious Lillian, Ohio lived in 1979? I’ve been in them. They were my friends’ houses and my relatives’ houses and our neighbors’ houses, whether here in Stark County or up in Akron or across the state in Upper Sandusky or down in Columbus.
Those nerd-cluttered bedrooms, with science fiction magazines and movie one-sheets and those tiny, square glass Testors model paint bottles and the National Geographic space-shuttle cutaway posters and yes, even the occasional 8 mm movie camera and film reel? Those were the coolest.
Super 8 was filmed in and around Weirton, West Virginia, about 90 miles from here, but from Lillian’s downtown to its industrial mills to its surrounding hills and railroad tracks and nearby river, it just felt so much like an actual place in my memory; like I’d been there – driven through it or knew a kid who moved there or went there once with my parents for some reason. (Geography lesson: The movie places Lillian in an impossible Escher-eqsue way, noting on a map that it’s in the southwest corner of the state, but mentioning Belmont – all the way in the southeast corner – as a neighboring county. I’m OK with that, though: It fits the J.J. Abrams mystery mold perfectly.)
And I felt that way about so much of the movie – the characters, the dialogue and the more everyday aspects of the story: There was a genuine sense of the era and the emotions without feeling like the overt, time-period-as-story-element approach of something like Dazed and Confused or The Wedding Singer.
It felt very much – even though I don’t mean this in a specific my-street, my-school, my-childhood kind of way – like home.
1 ) Super 8 with Jenn & Kelsey Friday night. (Separate blog entry on the movie forthcoming.)
2) Completion of writing and editing duties for a soon-to-be-unveiled project.
3) Saturday: Summerish evening spent taking Kels to drive-in dinner at Sonic, then an hour or so just driving around some of the rural roads and talking. Also – at her request – introduced her to an off-the-beaten-path cemetery where there’s a statue that still kind of spooks me a little. (And yes, Weeping Angels references were made.)
4) North Coast Comic Con: My friend Bryan and I talked about his Giant Monsters Fighting A Lot miniatures game, Kaiju Kaos – which I’m looking forward to playing at GenCon in August – and I caught up with Sean Forney and talked about conventions and other assorted nerditry.
5) Kels & I made a frozen lasagna and Texas toast garlic bread for dinner, watched some Doctor Who while we ate, and followed up with fresh brownies she made as a surprise while I was at the convention.
And while I didn’t want to mention Collect All 21 in that review (there are limits, believe it or not, to my shameless self-promotion), during the Star Wars-related parts of Pegg’s book – and there are many – I found myself smiling at the similarities in the original trilogy’s impact and memories and impressions their place in the childhood landscape of so many of us former ’80s kids.