When I was a wee tyke, I loved TV commercial jingles (still love them, don’t kill me). This fact came to mind recently when I was listening to a internet radio station for vintage music and Eddie Cantor singing “Charley My Boy” came on. Although the song was originally recorded in the 1920s, Phoenix residents may recall that it was constantly used as the jingle for a series of cheeseball ads from local tire merchant Charlie Case in the ’70s. The ads I recall employed a male barbershop quartet, but the one below has a lady quartet introducing Charlie. Dig those lush production values, one small step higher than a Tex & Edna Boil SCTV skit:
Watching TV commercials must have warped my brain. Entire conversations I’ve had are lost to me, but I could easily sing all of the local car lot jingles from ’70s-’80s Phoenix. That includes Bell Ford, which if I’m not mistaken is still in use to this day:
Speaking of jingles, the one used at the end of Sun Valley Waterbed was nearly forgotten by me, especially considering that their ads with the perky “Carolyn” were on locally all the time. Blonde Carolyn looked a lot like local newscaster Mary Jo West, so in the back of my kiddie mind I imagined that the two were friends. Whether that was true or not is open to speculation, but I did just learn that Carolyn was once the keyboard player in The Brooklyn Bridge (“The Worst That Could Happen”). I guess tickling the ivories didn’t bring in the same cash that waterbeds later did. All three of these ads come from YouTube user DaddySinister.
StoryCorps is a unique program in which average people record stories from their own lives. The recordings are stored for posterity by the Library of Congress, and a few of the more intriguing ones are excerpted for broadcast on NPR. When a Story Corps van was scheduled to come to Phoenix, Christopher immediately jumped online and booked us a reservation. He wanted the two of us to talk about ourselves — how we met, the details of our marriage in 2008, and the confusing aftermath of it. To be honest, the whole experience sounded about as fun as a root canal, but he was so enthusiastic about it I just went along (to be a supportive hubby).
We arrived at our local library to find a vintage style Airstream trailer in the parking lot. There was a nice young lady outside who smiled in recognition at our names being given. When it was finally our turn, we were greeted by another nice young lady who led us into the trailer and gave us a basic briefing on the StoryCorps concept while setting us up for recording. We sat in comfortable chairs facing each other in an intimate room with low lighting, a setting which allowed me to relax and just let the words flow. Christopher did most of the talking (of course), but I also got plenty in as well and moved things along in my role as moderator. We even had a few minutes at the end to talk about our midcentury modern designer-named pets, Eero (cat) and Aalto (dog).
After we finished, we stepped outside and found a local TV reporter who had arranged a story on StoryCorps with us. She interviewed each of us on the experience. Our story should end up on the 9 p.m. Channel 3 broadcast next week!
I’ve added a new print at my LitKids etsy store — Laura Ingalls from the Little House on the Prairie books. This is the first time I’ve done a relatively recent character, and by “recent” I mean published in the 1930s. That means it’s not in the public domain, so hopefully the Laura Ingalls Wilder estate won’t sue. You never know with them prairie people, however. These prints have a lot of spray painted layers, with a final screen printed layer that came out a bit more blobby than usual. I’m slapping ten bucks on them and hoping for the best.
In other LitKids news, I’m happy to report that some of my prints will be available locally in a brick-and-mortar retail setting! Changing Hands, the legendary indie bookseller in the Phoenix area, will be selling matted and poly bagged versions of a few of my prints in a special display starting on October 20. They only took five prints (our Laura was among the rejected ones), but they look excellent packaged like this. Hopefully they’ll sell out those five and want more. Later on this month, I’m going to be shopping the prints around to other local retailers. Wish me luck.
Christopher had the day off work today, so we decided to head out to Scottsdale and Tempe for some outdoor fun. Our first stop was Desert Botanical Gardens. This place is a a total snowbird tourist magnet, but it’s also a Phoenix area institution that reminds us of the beautiful flora and fauna that can still be found around here. C. had free passes, which included a special butterfly exhibit. The butterflies were great, and several of them were oddly attracted to my green shirt. After the gardens, we went thrift shopping and I found a set of small brown melamine bowls for my secret project. Then it was lunch at our favorite Mexican eatery in the area, La Fonda (a place that has stood in the same Scottsdale strip mall since I was a wee one!). We then drove to nearby Tempe to view the lake pouring water into the Salt River, and an exhibit on Chuck Jones at the Tempe Center for the Arts. The Jones exhibit was fantastic. It was mostly paintings and cericels from Jones’ personal collection, along with pencil drawings and other wonderful artifacts from the Warner Bros. cartoon vaults. A nice day — now I’m exhausted!
You oughta know this by now, but we can’t get enough old movies — on DVD, on Turner Classic Movies, anywhere we can find them. With all the old movies we get to see, however, it’s a shame that we rarely get the chance to see them as they were originally shown. This past weekend, Christopher, some friends and I got the privilege to experience a silent film the way it would have been shown back in the ’20s, on a big screen with live musical accompaniment. The film was Safety Last! starring Harold Lloyd, presented as part of a series of silent film screenings shown at the beautifully restored Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix.
The film itself was so much fun, and there is a lot more to it than Lloyd’s famous “hanging off a clock” scene. Lloyd plays one of his usual cheerful small town boys here, one that must find a job in the big city so that he can afford to marry his best girl (Mildred Davis, who later became the real Mrs. Harold Lloyd). Although he finds employment as a department store clerk, Lloyd finds that he has to exaggerate his position so his girl won’t leave him. Eventually he devises a promotional scheme to have a “human fly” climb outside the huge department store, a plan that goes awry when Lloyd has to sub for his stuntman pal. This fast-paced romp was a great vehicle for Lloyd’s gift for perfect physical comedy, and the film is brimming with several clever bits that utilize it (Lloyd and his roommate turning themselves into hanging coats to avoid their landlady, for instance). The scenes of Lloyd climbing up that building are beautifully done, and what’s more you get a lot of breathtaking aerial views of downtown Los Angeles streets with their trolley cars and lack of crosswalks or stoplights. The showing had live accompaniment on the huge pipe organ that was part of the Orpheum restoration. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill organ — it’s huge! The score was magnificently played by local legend Ron Rhode, whom I remember playing a similarly gigantic instrument at Organ Stop Pizza not far from where I grew up. His presence made the evening doubly nostalgic for this whippersnapper.
Although the showing we attended was fun, it was also sparsely attended with only about 20% of the theatre’s seats filled. What’s more, the audience was, well, old. I only saw a few dozen people who looked under 40, and precious few children (which is a shame, since I think young kids would get a big kick out of this particular movie). The presentation was hosted by a local community college professor who lacked the gravity of a Robert Osborne. I was also disappointed with the lack of accompanying vintage shorts which were at the last showing we attended. Despite all that, it was a fun evening. The Orpheum really needs to get better p.r. people so the younger generation (and trust me, they’re out there) can enjoy vintage movies the way they ought to be seen.
Nostalgia galore from an Alburquerque, New Mexico TV station commercial break, circa 1979. Though I grew up in the Phoenix, AZ area, I remember much of this stuff — the ABC movie promo, the Yellow Pages ad, the insidious “there’s gotta be an easier way” Circle K convenience store jingle. Only 15 cents for coffee? That was a long time ago.