I have a fascination with amusement parks dating back to childhood. This interest relates primarily to the imagery, colors, and people-watching potential associated with these venues rather than anything practical because I actually dislike most rides. I am a wimp when it comes to roller coasters and rides that spin, although when I was a kid I could handle some spinning rides like the Tilt-A-Whirl and smaller coasters. There are a few fond memories that I will touch upon in this article, with Hollywood Kiddieland topping my list. I enjoyed this magical place from a wee tot all the way through my teen years when a high school boyfriend worked at the batting cages. I am very interested in amusement parks from a historical perspective and although I only went to Riverview Park once and never had the pleasure of exploring Coney Island, these two parks have been lifelong objects of my affection. My trips to NYC during college and more recently were too brief to justify the long subway ride, and now of course, Coney Island has changed drastically. I have been to Disneyland three times and to Disney World once, but these iconic parks really don’t rock my boat. If I had to choose one of these parks, my preference would be Disneyland.
It was with a melancholy pang of nostalgia that I reacted to the death of the legendary Phyllis Diller on August 20 at the age of 95. While her stand-up routine was never quite my cup of tea, I admired her feisty determination and grit. She was a remarkable woman who did not embark on her comedy career until she was nearly 40 with five kids. Upon her death, there were many articles published with trivia/facts and quite a few of her jokes – these are among the most intriguing: Phyllis had a voice-over role with Boris Karloff in Mad Monster Party (1969). Phyllis appeared with bombshell Jayne Mansfield in The Fat Spy (1966). Phyllis was an accomplished pianist and although she gave it up professionally, she owned a custom-made harpsichord that she played at home. Although she used cigarette holders in her comedy routine, she was a confirmed, lifelong non-smoker. Phyllis outlived three of her children – one died in infancy in 1945 before Phyllis embarked on her comedy career – it was her son Perry (who is 62) who found his mom had passed away peacefully in her sleep with a smile on her face. Phyllis holds the world record in the Guinness Book Of World Records for most punchlines delivered in 60 seconds, averaging 12.
I was very sad today when I heard about the death of actor Don Grady, known for his role as Robbie Douglas on My Three Sons. The show aired from 1960-1972 and I don’t recall watching it much back then – after all, I was still in diapers when it started. It was actually my older sister Debbie who had the mad crush on Robbie and plastered pin-ups of him from 16 Magazine on her wall. But since losing my full-time job last June, I admit I have been waxing nostalgic and vintage TV helps me stay lighthearted about my situation. I am grateful to Me-TV for airing these programs since I don’t have cable.
I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener that is what I’d really like to be ’cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener everyone would be in love with me Oh, I’m glad I’m not an Oscar Mayer wiener that is what I’d never want to be ’cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener everyone would take a bite of me Truthfully, I never wanted to be an Oscar Mayer Wiener – I am a Vienna Beef kind of gal, through and through, followed by Hebrew National. When I was a teenager, my dad and I decided that we would become hot dog connoisseurs and pursue the perfect dog. Growing up in Chicago – the hot dog capital of America, this seemed like a logical and glorious quest. Zagat and the Internet did not yet exist for suggestions, but hot dog dives were abundant and we stumbled upon several prime examples within just 2 miles of our house. And on occasion there was a review in the Chicago Tribune or Chicago Reader and we tried those establishments. Quite a few of these “Ma and Pa” places still exist, but many are long defunct.
On many an occasion, Betsy and I have been delighted about how our interests and experiences with candy, toys and pop culture have coincided, despite having grown up in very different circumstances. Numerous times we have brought up the subject of Sid and Marty Krofft and the psychedelic Saturday morning shows they created. Last weekend I discovered that all 17 episodes of H.R. Pufnstuf were available on Netflix. So Sunday morning when we sat down to eat breakfast I fired up the Roku box to watch the first episode. I guess our expectations and memories of the show were quite different since we had last seen it more than 40 years ago. I tried to keep in mind that I was just 10 years old when I first saw it, but I still sat there in disbelief at how BAD it was. Betsy and I glanced at each other numerous times to communicate our astonishment.
When personified, there is something about rabbits and bunnies that can be downright creepy … eliciting a similar reaction as clowns do. This morning on ABC7 Chicago News, a viewer shared a shot of her baby crying hysterically on the lap of a human dressed as the Easter Bunny. I cannot say I blame this child – the costumed creature was downright scary. Stuffed bunny rabbits are very cute and Jeff’s daughter, who is now 24 and married, was in love with these until the age of 13 or 14. And dwarf rabbits apparently make wonderful pets, as evidenced by my older sister turning to mush when her little bunny Shana is nearby – my serious, scholarly sister with the PhD! Rabbits have been used effectively and annoyingly in advertising, by film directors and artists, in cartoons, and of course – as a lighthearted symbol of the Easter holiday.
As an impressionable young woman, I journeyed to fabled Manhattan from my relatively sheltered life as an art student at RISD in Providence, R.I. Upon alighting at Penn Station for the very first time, there was a bit of a glitch. My older, worldlier sister who had already been living in the Big Apple for 3 years had not given me clear instructions on where we were to meet. Those were the days before cell phones – there was no way to get in touch with her. I was an innocent 18-year-old in New York City wondering what the hell had happened to my sister – after about 40 minutes or so I decided to go search upstairs and there she was … my street-smart sister nearly as frantic as I. For a good part of this visit I was on my own – marveling at the gritty, wonderful streets of NYC. Camera in hand, I attempted to summon the spirits of dead immigrants on the Lower East Side, admired the Art Deco lines of the Empire State Building – imagining King Kong and Fay Wray at the top, and prowled Canal Street for Vintage. A longtime admirer of the photography of Bernice Abbott, Jacob Riis, Walker Evans, and Helen Levitt, I too desired to capture a moment in time in “The City that Never Sleeps.”
Like millions of other 9-14 year-olds in the late 1960s, I was in love with Davy Jones. It is with nostalgic sadness that I reacted to news of his death – he is forever ensconced in my memory as a young and adorable lad, despite the fact that I saw him perform in 2003 at the Arlington Heights festival Frontier Days. And by the way, he was still very good looking and charming.
I knew I wanted to be an artist at the ripe old age of 4. My mom had to wrestle crayons and pencils from my hand at the dinner table. I devoured reams of cheap yellow paper bought at Order From Horder with my renderings of The Beatles, my family, movie stars, and Indians. It was in the 4th grade that I developed a profound interest in erasers. As eccentric as it sounds, it is true – my friend Myra and I started collecting shavings from our Artgum erasers and kept the shavings in little boxes in our school desks. These erasers have a very distinct smell, which I think was part of the appeal. We had a competition to see who could grind down their eraser the quickest and collect the most shavings. From just the two of us, our little group of eraser fanatics grew to half the class – an early, successful foray into social media and peer marketing.
Top 20 Grouches Losing my director-level position and being unemployed for the first time in 20 years in a dismal job market My sister Janet losing her glamorous Hollywood job 6 weeks after me Jeff’s scary February car accident on an icy treacherous stretch of road in Long Grove My July 4 ER visit caused by art-related X-ACTO knife blade slip and resulting ugly scar Far-right politicians pulling out all the stops to sabotage Obama – hurting all Americans Mom suffering needlessly years after a botched appendectomy Incessant and overblown media coverage of Tim Tebow Kim Kardashian and her clan Mom falling while on vacation in NYC and suffering a nasty head wound Samantha incurring a permanent facial scar at the hands of an incompetent oral surgeon Wall Street Volatility – making investing wisely a total crap shoot Grossly overpaid CEOs, athletes, and celebrities North Koreans’ brainwashed adoration of a monster dictator upon his sudden death Nancy Grace June 23 ComEd power outage affecting our humble abode for 17 hours People who text and talk on cell phones while driving – especially on the highway Charlie Sheen Rained-out August garage sale after months of preparation – never again Financial worries caused by loss of income and health insurance The annoying Ozzie Guillén – adiós in 2011 Top 20 Purrs Pepper’s snuggles and unconditional love Jeff walking away uninjured from his terrifying car accident A lot of free time to play tennis and exercise Photographing and painting my site specific works Legions of oppressed people in the Middle East overthrowing horrific regimes The deaths of Osama Bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi Leisure time to hang out downtown with Samantha Detoxing after losing my incredibly stressful, office politics-ridden job Discovering the superb Breaking Bad and devouring 3 seasons of episodes within a month Humility learned from being unemployed Amanda Knox being freed in October after 4 years of imprisonment in Perugia The magic of movies including Hugo, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Drive Watching Dark…