memories of the ’70s – Polo for Men

In the 1970s, men’s cologne became a category in the drugstore and department store, and one of the key bestsellers was Polo for Men.

Ralph Lauren had introduced his menswear and womenswear under the name Polo, embodying the classic and stylish realm of this sport into high end sportswear.

Taking advantage of the changing market, he introduced Polo for Men cologne in 1978, showcasing the next level for men to not just wear the style, but use the scent too.

The bottles were a deep emerald green, with a gold logo of the polo player on the bottle and subtle labelling, making it a perfect and simple display in a man’s bathroom cabinet.

And in the first ads, it was the man himself showing his stylish spirit that was the face of the campaign – a strong, assured, masculine presence, who could use a scent that was described as woods, leathers and tobaccos.

As stated in the advertisement Lauren focused on promoting the cologne as something was about timeless style, not on the trend of the day or the moment.

And in the 21st century, the cologne is still one of the bestselling men’s fragrances, and now sports the face of a real polo player in its ad campaign.


memories of the ’80s – Cheers

Cheers intro logo.jpgDespite its humble beginnings, this tv series soon became a national addiction to see what was going on in the cosy Boston bar of Cheers.

Created by James Burrows, Les Charles and Glen Charles, the series was set in a Boston bar, where the characters were the bar staff and a few patrons. Debuting on CBS in September 1982, the show had a terrible first season and came in second to last in the overall ratings, almost causing it to be cancelled.

The producers and writers reworked the half hour sitcom and the inclusion of a couple of new characters gave Cheers a new life, and the fanbase started to form around its unique group of people.

The bar was owner by Sam Malone (Ted Danson) a former baseball player, well known ladies man, and bartender, who was helped by Coach (Nicolas Collasanto) a kind yet gullible man, Carla (Rhea Perlman) a smartass waitress/housewife and Diane (Shelley Long), a know-it-all waitress/graduate student.

Their regulars included Norm (George Wendt), an accountant, and Cliff (John Ratzenberger) a postal worker, who added their wit and wisdom to the daily conversations and goings on at the bar.

The interplay of dialogue was what captured viewers, as those who were smart seemed ignorant of the real world, while those who were perceived as not smart knew more about the world.

The tv show’s theme song “Where Everybody Know Your Name” was written and performed by Gary Portnoy.

The blue collar vs white collar backdrop, mixed in humour, oddball characters, fan worship of Sam and targeting Diane for her smartypants behaviour was a regular concoction for each episode.

After the death of Nicolas Collasanto in season three, the character of Coach was also written out because of death, and Woody (played by Woody Harrelson) was added, a somewhat dim young bartender/actor, as well as eventually including Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammar), a psychiatrist and highly intelligent friend of Diane’s and Dr. Lilith Sternin (Bebe Neuwirth), fellow psychiatrist, and finally Rebecca (Kirstie Alley) as a businesswoman brought in to save the bar.

Cheers became one of those shows that developed a cult following, with many knowing the intricacies of the relationships, the catchphrases (the bar would always yell out Norm’s name when he arrived) and the love affairs of the infamous Sam Malone.

Despite humble beginnings, it ended up as a top 10 series for the rest of its run, earning 28 Emmy Awards ( a past record of 117 nominations)  and having one of the highest ratings overall for its last episode in May 1993.

Successful for 11 seasons, the series ended in the following decade, still popular, but its first years, with the snappy dialogue of Sam, Coach, Carla, Diane, Norm and Cliff, is still television humour at its finest.

memories of the ’80s – Donkey Kong

An animated ape made us all want to become more competitive with the game Donkey Kong.

The game was the result of the failure of Radar Scope – a game tested that didn’t meet expectations of gamers. Nintendo hired designer Shigeru Miyamoto to redesign the game to make it more appealing.

The basic premise of the game is Mario’s rescue of Pauline from Donkey Kong through a construction site (Mario appeared four years later in his own game, Super Mario Brothers).

For all those gamers, it was a wildfire response to the rescue game and avoiding the Donkey’s barrels, which were used as weapons and transport.

The game was available for many platforms including arcade, Atari, Apple and Commodore in 1981 and in 1983 was launched via Family Computer as one of its three lead titles.

The success of the game spawned many sequels including Donkey Kong 2, Donkey Kong Jr.,  and Donkey Kong Country. The success also spawned a lawsuit from Universal Studios, who claimed the game was an infringement of their copyright of the film King Kong.

The court found Universal Studios claim was not valid and that the public would never confuse an animated video game with a black and white screen classic.

For Nintendo, Donkey Kong was a major success for this company, which in the early 1980s was in its infancy in its presence in North America.

For this occasional arcade visitor, I could never get close enough to the machine, as the obsessed gamers dominated the lineup for Donkey Kong – only the hardcore seemed to want to spend hours just playing that game.

One of the first games that created a family of games and merchandise, Donkey Kong was awarded seven Guinness Book of World Records for their achievements in video gaming. To date, the franchise has sold 40 million units worldwide.

memories of the ’80s – Tiffany

Pop idols come and go – in the late 1980s, the pop world crowned a new queen – Tiffany.

Tiffany Renee Darwish started singing as a child – her first public gig was in 1981 at a country music fair in small town northern California, where she sang a few songs, passed the hat and collected over $200.

Country star Hoyt Axton saw her perform at a club in Los Angeles and brought her to Nashville to perform on the Ralph Emery Show.

In 1984 she was signed by manager George Tobin and in 1985 she competed on Star Search, finishing second.

Tobin signed Tiffany with MCA Records and she recorded her first album, Tiffany, and released her first single, Danny in 1987. Although the single fell flat, Tiffany went on tour in shopping malls across America, “The Beautiful You: Celebrating the Good Life Shopping Mall Tour”.

Tiffany’s second single, a cover of I Think We’re Alone Now, hit the mark with listeners, capturing the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Tiffany was seen in the pages of Tiger Beat and Teen Beat as well as in regular rotation on MTV. In February 1988, Tiffany grabbed her next number one hit with the song Could’ve Been.  She followed up with singles I Saw Him Standing There (Beatles) and Feelings of Forever, setting a Billboard record as the youngest female artist to top charts with a debut album.

Later in 1988, Tiffany was the opening act for the New Kids on the Block tour but her career took a backseat to a squabble between her parents and her manager George Tobin over her career earnings. She applied to the court to become an emancipated minor, which was rejected by the judge, while she became the temporary ward of her Grandmother. When she turned 18, she fired Tobin and hired new management, but her teen idol time has passed.

Her second album Hold an Old Friend’s Hand, was released in late 1988 and although went platinum, didn’t have the impact of her previous effort. She ended the decade doing the voice of Judy Jetson in  the animated film The Jetsons, as well as contributing three songs to the soundtrack.

I wasn’t a fan of Tiffany, finding her style not attractive to my cool teen self, nor her music that interesting or original. But her flash into the pop world was big and bright and like so many before her and after, she got her 15 minutes of fame.

memories of the ’80s – Punky Brewster

A humorous sitcom with serious overtones about foster care? A spunky child whose life lived on in pop culture’s dictionary as a kid with an attitude? That would be Punky Brewster.

This NBC television showed aired for two seasons from 1984-1986, the story of Punky, whose father disappeared and whose mother abandoned her in a shopping mall with her dog.

Not wanting to be thrown into foster care, Punky inhabits her apartment with her dog, but comes under the watchful eye of  Henry, a grumpy widower who discovers Punky is living on her own in the abandoned apartment.

There are other adults and kids who help take care of Punky like Betty, as her grand daughter Cherie becomes friends with Punky and school chums Allen and Margaux, as well as Punky’s teacher Mrs. Morton.

Shown on Sunday evenings, NBC tried something unique with the show, as it didn’t want to disrupt viewers despite Sunday Night Football games. So the show was filmed in 15 minute segments, instead of the traditional 22-24 minutes for a half hour sitcom, so viewers didn’t have to join the show in progress when the football games went overtime.

Punky’s second season showcased the state of foster care, when Henry ends up in the hospital and  a social worker discovers the unofficial relationship of Punky and Henry. Punky ends up living with wealthy family for the short term, but eventually ends up back with her new adoptive parent, Henry. Although ratings for the show were ok, at the end of the second season, NBC cancelled the series.

But the show survived, going into syndication for two more years and allowing Punky to become a teenager and her avante garde neon outfits that she was known for disappeared into more traditional styles as story lines revolved more about her meeting up with boys. Henry created Punky’s Place, a teen hangout at the mall, which becomes the focus of season four for Punky and her friends.

Punky Brewster was one of those shows I never watched, deeming it for much younger viewers and absolutely not interesting to me at all. But it was a show I couldn’t escape, with the actor Soleil Moon Frye and her character’s unique style seen in teen and adult magazines as well as a cult favourite with many people. I was  glad when the show finally ended, as it just seemed an oddity that got entrenched in pop culture, despite its lack of substance.

Punky Brewster is a blip on the tv schedule of almost forgotten sitcoms and Soleil Moon Frye a forgotten kid actor, hopefully forever buried in the past and never to be revisited or reinvented. But even if you say the name to certain people of a certain age, there’s a nostalgia for the kid with attitude.

memories of the ’70s – Dy-no-mite!

The 1970s had its select catchphrases that divided the young from the old, the cool from the uncool. For the mid ’70s, JJ Walker’s character on Good Times caught the wave of pop culture with his signature comment – Dy-no-mite!

First spotted on 1960s variety show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In, James ‘Jimmie’ Walker was a up and coming stand up comedian, using his skinny body and large eyes to emphasize his comedic patter.

Cast as the oldest son on the tv sitcom Good Times in 1974, Walker made the most of bringing the cool African American male to prime time, with a buffonish edge that delighted audiences.

The series, produced by Norman Lear, was based on the childhood memories of writer Eric Monte. As the show wrapped serious issues within its humorous 30 minutes, Walker’s distinct character became household favourite across North America, as he poked fun at his younger siblings and stereotypically acted as the big brother as typical irritant. Good Times was a spinoff from fellow tv series Maude.

The family was the first time a working class African American family was portrayed on network television. Good Times pushed the boundaries for viewers in the 1970s and did so with a unique combination of humour, sass and intelligence. Set in Chicago, the family of Good Times including sister Thelma and little brother Michael, living in a housing project. This series showed the reality of Dad and Mom working multiple jobs to support the family, while the kids dealt with the pressures of growing up.

JJ was a favourite of mine, with his silly body language and odd slang phrases. I would wait to hear him say Dy-no-mite in each episode, gleefully laughing at the expressive delivery of the word, while his on-screen family cringed at his continuous use of the word. The use of the word became so powerful, JJ the character became a spokesperson for Panasonic, appearing in tv commercials for the electronics manufacturer.

The series continued until 1979, reaching its shelf life after six seasons. Notable guest stars during the series include Robert Guillaume, Kim Fields, Gary Coleman, Lou Gossett, Philip Michael Thomas and Jay Leno. Singer Janet Jackson joined the cast in season five, playing the adopted daughter of a good friend of the family.

Although many people still dwell on the silly antics of JJ and the memory of Dy-no-mite!, the power of Good Times was its depiction of hardworking Americans, just wanting to be able to put food on the table and live their dreams of increased opportunity.