memories of the ’70s – Watership Down by Richard Adams

In the early 1970s, a fantasy novel about the life of rabbits in England became a bestseller on the literary lists: Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Inspired by his home in Hampshire, England and the writings of British naturalist Ronald Lockley in his book The Private Life of the Rabbit, Adams started telling stories to his daughters about local rabbits.

Encouraged by their devotion to the stories, Adams started to write down the tales, translating his struggles faced during WWII into how the rabbits would be struggling in their world. Adams created Lapine, a rabbit language used in the novel.

Rejected six times by publishers, Adams persisted and Watership Down was published in 1972.

The story rotates around Fiver, a runt rabbit who has extra-sensory perception, who sees into the future that the rabbit warren will be destroyed. With the help of his buddy Hazel, the rabbits flee the warren to find a new home, and face obstacles in their search for a safe new place with pals Bigwig and Silver.

Seen as an allegory, the novel focuses on the universal truths such as survival, struggle between tyranny and freedom and the rights of the individual versus the rights of a group.

Winning the Carnegie Medal in 1972 as the best children’s book of the year and the Guardian’s Children Book Prize, Adams book received rave reviews as well as became recognized as an important addition to British children’s literature.

In 1978, the book was adapted and made into an animated film – and its lasting effects has made the book one of the 100 best British children’s books of all time.


memories of the ’80s – She’s Gotta Have It

In 1986, the first feature length film by director Spike Lee ushered in a new wave of independent cinema as well as changed the view of African Americans on the big screen in the film She’s Gotta Have It.

Starring Tracy Camilla Johns as Nola Darling, this woman is independent and wants to have a life that is usually slotted only for men – being in charge of her life and having three boyfriends.

But the boys aren’t liking this – polite Jamie (Tommy Redmond Hicks), self-obsessed Greer (John Canada Terrell) and immature Mars (Spike Lee) all want Nola Darling for themselves.

Each man provides something in her life and she enjoys having the variety and the differences. All three are invited for Thanksgiving dinner, which each of them use as an opportunity to prove to Nola why they should be the only man in her life.

Cherishing her freedom and wanting to have the power to be an individual, Nola’s character was uniquely different from the way African Americans had been portrayed on the screen – she wasn’t poor or a whore or a drug addict – nor were her suitors.

Made for less than $200,000 and shot in 12 days in summer 1985 in Brooklyn, the film released in August 1986 and quickly became the topic of discussion by critics coast to coast.

Lee’s commentary on African Americans, women and relationships came under fire by many who felt that it was exploitative and wasn’t a real concern, but viewers loved this film.

She’s Gotta Have It pushed Spike Lee into the spotlight – with a box office of $7.1 million, his film career was happily launched.

And for those of us who liked or didn’t like the film, it encouraged a new indie film scene that definitely made the difference.

memories of the ’70s – The Turkey drop episode of WKRP in Cincinnati

In the first season of 1970s sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, the writers had many characters to get the laughs.

In the seventh episode, they wanted to focus on Mr. Carlson, who felt he wasn’t being included in the daily running of the radio station.

So to get the radio station front and centre, he decided to put together a marketing campaign focused on Thanksgiving – by dropping turkeys from a helicopter over the city of Cincinnati.

Based on an actual event that radio station WQXI did (the station the sitcom is based on) the Turkey Drop episode became almost infamous overnight, with its endless laughs at the expense of Mr. Carlson.

From the live reporting by newsman Les Nessman to the station manager Andy Travis’ stunned reactions to the event, the episode’s unseen promotion became the stuff of sitcom history.

Airing October 30, 1978, the episode helped the sitcom gain a larger share of the audience and insured success for the rest of the season.

And for pop culture history, TV Guide Magazine chose this episode as one of the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time at number 40. The quote from Mr. Carlson says it all – “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”


memories of the ’80s – The Midnight Hour

For kids of the 1980s, they got to know the fear of zombies with the Halloween special The Midnight Hour, starring Levar Burton and Shari Belafonte.

This two hour tv movie, focusing on how a small New England town becomes overrun with witches, zombies, vampires and other horifying creatures also starred Lee Montgomery, Peter DeLuise and Deedee Pfeiffer.

Written by Bill Bleich and directed by Jack Bender, this 95 minute tv movie plotline was this: five highschool friends in Pitchford Cove want to make Halloween memorable.

They break into the local museum and steal clothing and artifacts, including a historic scroll which has ancient curse. As one of the friends recites the curse in the graveyard, it raises the dead, including Lucinda, the great,great,great grandmother of one of the girls, a woman put to death because she was a witch 300 years earlier.

As the friends crash a local costume party, Lucinda starts transforming guests into vampires and the undead. The friends soon realize they need to reverse the curse as the town battles the relentless actions of zombies on All Hallow’s Eve.

Airing on ABC TV in November 1985, the special also featured the music of Three Dog Night, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Smiths and The Guess Who.

Although not a big hit when it aired, it was a fun romp and certainly an easy way to spend Halloween while the trick or treaters keep showing up at the door.