memories of the ’70s – Montreal Summer Olympics

For the Great White North, the middle of the 1970s was a time to celebrate – the first time Canada was the host country for the Olympics in the city of Montreal.

With 92 nations participating, the Summer Olympic Games opened on July 17th, with the ceremonies including Queen Elizabeth II, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Parti Quebecois premier Robert Bourassa.

It was the first Olympics to introduce three women’s sports – handball, basketball and rowing as well as being the Olympics where Taiwan withdrew after the Canadian government informed them they could not compete under the name Republic of China. A group of 28 African nations led by the Congo protested the presence of the New Zealand rugby team as they had played in South Africa, then still under its apartheid law.

But for the spectators, there were many precedents set – the United States mens’ swimming team won all but one medal, while the East German womens’ swimming team won all but two gold medals.

The United States boxing team, comprised of Sugar Ray Leonard, Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, Leo Randolph and Howard Davis Jr. all won gold medals – one of the best teams of the modern day Olympics.

For gymnastics, the spotlight was focued on Romanian competitor Nadia Comenici scored the first ever Olympic perfect 10 – a record seven times as well as three gold medals, including the All-Around gold medal for womens gymnastics.

Meanwhile US decathlete Bruce Jenner, scored the highest points ever, 8634 points, a world record and won the gold medal for the decathlon. The Soviet Union and East Germany dominated the medal count, while Andorra, Antigua & Barbuda, Papua New Guinea and the Cayman Islands debuted for their first teams in Montreal.

Although as host country, Canada didn’t win a gold medal, and the out of control costs of the Olympics have left a negative view with many locals, the 1976 Summer Olympics is still remembered fondly because of the athletes – Jenner, Spinks, Leonard, Comaneci.

memories of the ’70s – Laverne & Shirley

For the 1970s, two funny single girls, just trying to make a living, were one of the popular sitcoms of the decade – Laverne &  Shirley.

Created by Garry Marshall, Lowell Ganz and Mark Rothman, Laverne & Shirley was a spin-off from the successful series Happy Days, starring Penny Marshall as Laverne and Cindy Williams as Shirley.

Set in the early 1960s, the show debuted in 1976 on ABC and featured characters from Happy Days as guest stars.

Set in Milwaukee, Laverne de Fazio lives with her best friend Shirley Feeney, working as bottlecappers at the local Shotz Brewery. The two  girls deal with their work life, as well as their odd fellow employees and neighbours, Lenny Kosnowski (Michael McKean) and Andrew “Squiggy” Squigman (David Lander) who they communicate with through the building’s old dumbwaiter.

The girls deal with single girl issues – living together, dating, and trying to survive on their meagre salaries. Shirley has an on again off again boyfriend Carmine, known as The Big Ragu (played by Eddie Mekka), a former boxer now dance instructor hoping for his big break one day on Broadway. Laverne’s father Frank (played by Phil Foster), is a single Dad who runs the Pizza Bowl, one of their local hangouts.

Laverne is more fearless and aggressive, sporting a bold L on all her clothing and fond of Pepsi and milk when she needs some fortification, while Shirley is more conservative and demure, keeping her Boo Boo Kitty close by when needed. The two were a popular duo – gaining top ratings, even beating out Happy Days for viewers.

With the early success, the two stars recorded an album called Laverne & Shirley Sing, including a few original songs and several 1950s and 1960s standards. The theme song of the series, Making our dreams come true, sung by Cyndi Grecco, became a top 30 hit on the Billboard charts.

I watched this show for its slapstick humour and silliness, not always getting the more serious themes that were incorporated into the half hour. I liked how each character had its odd quirks, which although seem wierd, its more like real life.

The girls eventually would be in the Army (with Vicki Lawrence playing their sergeant) and move to Los Angeles after losing their jobs in Milwaukee due to automation. But for the 1970s, the halcyon days of the late 1950s and early 1960s were happily showcased in Laverne & Shirley as the idyllic time in American history.

memories of the ’70s – Logan’s Run

In the early 1970s, science fiction fans were welcomed into the 23rd century with the story that wanted to make sure no one lived past the age of 30: Logan’s Run.

Based on a novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, Logan’s Run was published in 1967 and in 1975, director Michael Anderson bought the option to bring it to the screen.

Starring Michael York and Richard Jordan, the film is based on a utopian society where a computer is the ruler. When the citizens, who live a lavish lifestyle reach 30, they are told they must ride the Carousel and then will be Renewed (but in reality they are vaporized).

Every citizen wears a Lifeclock crystal in the palm of their hand, showing the time until its their Last Day. The Sandmen (police) keep track of the citizens to make sure no one breaks the rules before their ride on the Carousel.

Michael York and Richard Jordan play Sandmen, Logan 5 and Francis 7. They realize the computer is trying to destroy them and become runners in order to live. Farrah Fawcett also is in the cast as a comely Holly who also wants to live, while Jenny Agutter plays Logan’s love Jessica.

Made for US$9 million and filmed mainly in Dallas, this film was deemed silly, irreverent and terrible, but was nominated for three Academy Awards (winning an Oscar for Special Achievement for Special Effects) and made an easy $25 million at the box office in 1976, with fans loving every minute of the futuristic thriller.

As a result of the popularity of the film, in 1977 a  television series was developed starring Gregory Harrison and Heather Menzies, but it only aired for one season on CBS before being cancelled.

I remember first seeing the tv series as a young child, but I didn’t quite get it and was confused by the storylines. By the time I saw the film as a teenager, the change in special effects made it look so dated and odd, yet it had a charm about it as the SF storyline still held up.

An iconic 1970s science fiction film, Logan’s Run set the standard for the latest in techno effects, and made science fiction a frontrunner of movie themes of this decade.

memories of the ’70s – Rich Man, Poor Man

In the early 1970s, a novel broke ground as the first popular mini series, which would soon become a standard of TV programming.

Published by Irwin Shaw in 1969, the novel Rich Man Poor Man was first serialized to much acclaim in Playboy Magazine. It told the story of the Jordache siblings, and their lives from WWII until the 1960s.

The main characters were Rudy (the rich man), his brother Tom (the poor man) and Julie (the woman in between) while their parents and friends made up the secondary characters.

In 1976, the novel became the second mini series from ABC TV. Adapted for the screen by Dean Reisner, the 12 part series aired every Monday night at 10pm, and soon became the favourite of many viewers. with Rudy played by Peter Strauss, Tom played by Nick Nolte and Julie played by Susan Blakeley, Rich Man, Poor Man was the obsession of early 1976.

Each week, viewers would see the trials and tribulations of both brothers, trying to see what would happen to propel one ahead or prevent one from living up to his sibling. As a story of immigrant survival, the Jordache family was something many could relate to, especially with the recent backdrop of World War II and leading into the more recent turbulent societal changes of the 1960s.

Nominated in mulitple categories, Rich Man Poor Man garnered 19 Emmy nominations and won four, including an Outstanding Lead Actor for Ed Asner, as Axel Jordache, the father. The series won four Golden Globe awards and catapulted both Peter Strauss and Nick Nolte into the A list of acting and celebrity.

The success of the series spawned a sequel, Rich Man Poor Man II, which aired in September 1976. This became the first successful blockbuster miniseries, which led to the development of other literary adaptations – Roots and Brideshead Revisited.

memories of the ’70s – Network

A satirical look at the broadcast television industry, this film was already bemoaning the change in the media and the focus on corporate interests.

Network, directed by Sidney Lumet, was released in November 1976, and starred Peter Finch as Howard Beale, a news anchor for a fictional television network UBS.

The films opens when Beale is informed by his boss, Max Schumacher, played by William Holden, that he has to give him his two weeks notice.

Beale goes crazy, and tells the public that he will commit suicide on air in a week. Instead of removing him from his job, the network decides to exploit his shenanigans and rants and allows him to continue in the job.

Faye Dunaway plays the head of programming Diana Christensen, who is fascinated by Beale’s outlandish behaviour.

She begins an affair with Beale and convinces the UBS powers to allow Beale to come under her programming control, producing a new show where he can rant every night and encourage viewers to do the same.

One of the most memorable scenes is Beale’s rant which contains the words – “I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore!”.

Beale’s success encourages him to leave his wife for Christensen, but he soon realizes she is all about the ratings and is focused on her job 24-7. He returns to his wife and doesn’t want to rant anymore, and soon a plot by Christensen and the UBS executive to assassinate Beale is underway.

Network made a handsome effort with movie-goers – almost $24 million at the box office and was the winner of Academy Awards for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Screenplay.

The film includes illusions to fact, with the use of the kidnapping of heiress Patty Hearst and the suicide of a television anchorwoman in Florida. Despite its dark premise and even darker ending, its impact still continues. In 2000, Network was chosen as for preservation by the US National Film Registry by the US Library of Congress.

Despite the satirical focus of this film, its Hollywood pedigree as one of the best films of the 1970s and for all time continues as an example of journalism on the big screen that is more fact than fiction.

memories of the ’70s – Babe by Faberge

For the girls of the late 1970s, the fragrance of choice was Babe.

Created by cosmetics giant Faberge, Babe was released in 1976 and was a unique blend of 118 different essences, including jasmine, hyacinth, lily of the valley, rose and amber.

The cosmetics company decided to make a splash and hired young Margaux Hemingway, sister to Mariel Hemingway and the granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway to be the face of Babe. Hemingway was paid a record-high US$1 million for her contract with Faberge.

The cologne tapped into the world of luxury lifestyle, portraying the Babe woman as someone who was regularly wandering the streets of Europe and sipping champagne at all times of the day as she celebrated being a woman of the moment as seen here.

The success of the cologne amongst women led Babe to become the bestselling fragrance of the year and winner of two awards from the Fragrance Foundation in 1977: Most Successful Introduction of a Women’s Fragrance in Popular Distribution and Best Advertising Campaign for Woman’s Fragrance.

My Mum didn’t wear Babe, but I remember seeing it on the bathroom shelf of one of my friend’s Mums. Being curious about the glass bottle, I sprayed some of the cologne, which to me smelled so strong! It was very floral and seemed oh so adult. And for those women of the late 1970s – it was the trail of scent they left.

memories of the ’70s – Disco Duck

In the height of the disco years, a Memphis-based DJ decided to mix it up with a tribute to a former ’60s song with the creation of Disco Duck.

Written by DJ Rick Dees, Disco Duck was inspired by 1960s novelty song The Duck, which took him a day to write, but three months to convince any musicians to record the song.

The story of the song is someone who decides to dance like a duck but is embarrassed, until he realizes everyone on the dance floor is emulating his slick moves.

Dees paired “duck” vocals with orchestral and disco sounds, and did a part one and part two for the single release. Although the song’s quirky oddity caught the ears of radio stations across the US, Dees station in Memphis refused to play the single and forbid Dees from playing it on his own show.

Dees had put together Rick Dees and his Cast of Idiots, and began performing around Memphis, and as the song grew in popularity, Dees landed the group a spot on American Bandstand. In October 1976, the song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Dees was fired from his radio station after speaking about the success of his single on his radio show and hired by the competition in Memphis. Meanwhile, the song was used in the1977  film Saturday Night Fever, during a scene where senior citizens are being taught how to disco.

I remember hearing this silly song, and not paying much attention to it – years later when I saw a segment on disco, it was cited as one of the horrible consequences of disco – although its intent was always being a novelty and not a true representative of a classic disco song.

Dees is still a successful DJ, now based in Los Angeles, and for music history, created a silly song that embodied the mid 1970s.

memories of the ’70s – Kristy McNichol

For the young girls of the 1970s, she represented the teenager they wanted to become – whether it was as Buddy in the tv series Family or as the tough girl in Little Darlings.

Kristy McNichol was the teen star who climbed the ladder along with her brother, Jimmy McNichol.

Born in Los Angeles, the sister and brother grew up connected to the entertainment business thanks to their Mum, a manager and former actress. Starting with tv commercials, she graduated to guest roles on hot ’70s series such as Starsky & Hutch, The Bionic Woman and Love Boat.

In 1976, McNichol was cast as Buddy, the teen daughter in the Aaron Spelling drama Family, which during its four season run earned her two Emmy Awards for Best Supporting Actress. McNichol as the young ingenue of the moment – appearing on the talk show circuit, making an album with her brother Jimmy with a hit single, making appearances on Battle of the Network Stars and starring in successful tv film The Summer of My German Soldier.

McNichol benefitted from her A list status by starting to do movies – The End with Burt Reynolds, Little Darlings with Tatum O’Neal and Matt Dillon and The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia with Dennis Quaid and Mark Hamill, for which McNichol was paid an unprecedented six figure salary for her role. From The Mike Douglas Show to Dinah!, McNichol was the young celeb gracing the cover of every teen magazine.

But as the decade came to end, the young star was 21 and her fortunes started to change. She starred in The Pirate Movie with Christopher Atkins which was a huge flop and then got into trouble on the set of her next film, when she didn’t return to the set after a break during filming. Rumours started to circulate about drug use and other problems, and McNichol was soon relegated B movie and tv roles in the 1980s, pushed to the side by the new stars of the time.

I remember being quite fascinated with McNichol on Family as well as her role in Little Darlings. She was not standard-issue blonde, but a pretty brunette with a warm smile and a genuine spirit. It came out later that she suffered from a mental illness and she disappeared from acting and Hollywood.

I’ll always remember the fun-loving teenager who gained the devotion of many young girls who saw someone who skillfully revealed the awkward, confusing and ever-changing life of a teenager so well on screen.

memories of the ’70s – Convoy

Breaker, breaker good buddy, do you seen any smokeys? The world of CB radio and long-distance truck driving managed to become instilled in pop culture in the mid-1970s, thanks to the novelty song, Convoy, sung by C.W. McCall.

McCall is the pseudonym for Bill Fries, a singer/songwriter who specialized in the hurtin’ country songs that talked about rural life and being on the road. He focused on using that unique style of speaking/singing, which helped him incorporate the slang of the CB (citizens band) radio users.

Released in 1976, Convoy became the first country song to hit number one on the pop charts at the same time. Its catchy CB lyrics detailed a trucker rebellion, showcasing their frustration of working endless hours as they transport goods from coast to coast. As the majority of North Americans travelled by car, the use of the CB radio grew in popularity amongst casual users, who wanted their own ‘handle’ and to share info on the highway speed traps, as the speed limit had been reduced to 55mph. It wasn’t just for the professional drivers anymore.

Fueled by the interest in the trucking genre in popular culture, director Sam Peckinpah, inspired by the hit song, produced the film Convoy, starring Kris Kristofferson, Ali McGraw and Ernest Borgnine.

The film detailed the antics of “Rubber Duck” (Kristofferson) as he drives his way through the southwest, encountering a Jaguar driven by Melissa (McGraw), his fellow driving buddies (Pig Pen and Spider Mike) and corrupt sherriff Dirty Lyle (Borgnine).  Fries recorded a new version of Convoy for the film soundtrack.

But it was the language of this world that became memorable, with its unique descriptions of the police, vehicles and cities: such as Smokey or Bear (police officer), Miss Piggy (female police officer), 18 wheelers (truck w/tractor trailer), Shakytown (Los Angeles), Chi-town (Chicago), Bullshit City (Washington DC), back door (rear), swindle sheets (driving logs), Cornfield Cadillac (John Deere tractor), and one of my favourites – Pregnant rollerskate (Volkswagen Beetle).

I never quite understood the fascination for the slang and the world of trucking. I assume its a symbol of freedom, that ability to take off and be your own boss on the open road, especially during the 1970s when cars were the most equitable mode of transport within North America. And since the profession is dominated by men, its seems like another thing that men love and women just don’t get.

Although the obsession for this world has since passed, in 2004, country singer Paul Brandt did a cover of Convoy, and had himself a hit record and video, thanks to all those fans who are still obsessed with hitting the highway, looking for a way to drive fast and far, and avoid those smokeys.

memories of the ’70s – A Star is Born

A rock musical with a country accent – this mid ’70s remake was one of the most popular films and soundtracks of the decade – A Star is Born.

Directed by Frank Pierson and produced by Jon Peters and Barbara Streisand, this was the third time this film was remade, the first time done in the 1930s with actors Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, the second version released in the 1950s with Judy Garland and James Mason.

The story of a successful up and coming female meeting and falling in love through a series of coincidences with a male whose career is in decline, the story is about ambition, self-destruction and the differences between the way men and women view careers.

The previous films focused on the film business, the 1970s’ version of A Star is Born was set in the music business.

Elvis Presley was initially considered for the title male role, but his manager Col. Tom Parker wanted too much money and didn’t want his star to be portraying someone whose career was on the downside.

Neil Diamond and Marlon Brando were also considered for the role. Before Streisand became a producer on the project, Cher had been considered for the title female role of Esther Hoffman. Kris Kristofferson was chosen to play opposite Streisand; he had a few successful films under his belt and an established career in the Nashville music scene.

The film starred Streisand and Kristofferson, portraying singers who through a series of coincidental meetings eventually fall in love, affect each others careers and then make choices about how their futures may or may not become. . The film was a box office smash, costing US$6 million to make, and with worldwide sales of over US$120 million.

The soundtrack to the film did just as well, with sales of 15 million copies worldwide, with all the songs performed by Streisand and Kristofferson. The main song Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star is Born) was a number one hit around the world.

In the film, the culmination is when Esther wins a Grammy (unlike the past with the female leads winning an Oscar). In real life, the film was nominated for four Academy Awards, and won for Best Original Song, and won five Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture.

I remember renting this film, curious to see the power of a younger Barbara Streisand than I was aware of at the time. It was years since the film had been released, but the power of the storyline and the actors’ performance was amazing. I understood what on-screen chemistry was after seeing this performance.

Both stars have gone onto continue their successful careers, and this remake is an example of a universal storyline, that has been made well three times – each time contributing a unique view of the relationship of men and women and the ambition lurking within.