Retrotisement – TV Stratolounger

Sure, the writer’s strike is history and new shows are airing as we speak – but what of comfort? What of style? In my opinion, most modern furniture is simply not up to the task of providing optimum TV viewing enjoyment and relaxation.

Enter…the TV Stratolounger with Relax-A-Vision©, circa 1960.


Now THAT'S a chair!

Honestly, does life get any better than this? Wait, don’t answer that, Maverick is about to start. That James Garner is one mean sumbitch!

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Gray Flannel Mixtape – Desert Island #1s

GFS Mixtape - Desert Island #1s

I’m not sure what the origin of the whole “desert island” thing is when referring to music, movies, and other stuff you really like. Why not a tropical island? That one Tom Hanks got stuck on in Cast Away seemed pretty nice, didn’t it?

Oh right, the point. So apropos of nothing, I recently participated in a fantasy draft on a favorite message board of mine. But instead of drafting a sports team, we picked from a list of every song that has ever reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, now in its 50th year. The only catch was that each team had to select at least two songs from each decade (’58 – ’69 was lumped together). That made things interesting, because the pickings for truly good #1 songs started to get real slim starting in the 1990s.

Overall I’m pleased with my team, which is as follows (in order of selection):

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“Boys Beware,” or The Courtship of Jimmy Barnes, Pt. 2


OK, so I’m not so quick on the whole sequel thing. It’s been a little more than two years since we last visited the 1961 Sid Davis public domain classic “Boys Beware.” I guess it’s taken me that long to shake the heebie jeebies I got from watching the first part. To recap – our hero, Jimmy Barnes, fell under the spell of a balding, mustached Lothario named Ralph.

Jimmy somehow broke Ralph’s spell and ratted him out to the cops. But before we get too complacent, the narrator (Lt. Williamson) jolts us back to reality by warning us that “all homosexuals are not passive. Some resort to violence, as in the case of Mike Merritt.”



Our first shot of the new malevolent stranger has him taking in a game of youth basketball. There was no WNBA in those days, but the level of competition is about the same.


Like a horny, perverted lion, The Stranger waits until the herd thins before moving in to snag his prey. Note that despite wearing a suit and likely sporting a raging hard-on, The Stranger has a sweet hook shot.


Mike, soaking up The Stranger’s kindness like Lindsay Lohan soaks up a bottle of Absolut, walks right into a trap, and “sometime that evening, Mike Merritt traded his life for a newspaper headline.” Bummer, dude.


Quickly putting that ugliness behind us, we visit with Denny and Jerry, who have successfully stolen the day’s newspaper from every lawn in town. But before they can enjoy the spoils of their adventure for too long, they have a run-in another stranger (where the hell is this town?). He pulls the oldest trick in the book – the “get in my car and help me track down those kids who just stole some bikes” gambit – and poor, dim-witted Denny falls for it. Jerry does nothing to stop his friend but does write down the car’s plate number. I suspect that will come in handy later. Where the hell is Chris Hansen when you need him, anyway?


Yup, I was right. Using the plate number Jerry wrote down, Bike Story Stranger is busted by the 5-0. This part of the story has a happy ending, despite the lack of tasers.

The final act in this epic of anti-gay propaganda reminds us that “public restrooms can often be a hangout for the homosexual.” Insert your own Larry Craig joke here. Anyway, three friends exit the bathroom and head for home. Bobby wisely chooses to split off from the other two and takes a longer and more remote path home. Restroom Stranger follows closely behind and the chase is on!


But Bobby is hip to Restroom Stranger’s jive, and hightails it out of there. “After all, it’s more fun to stay with your friends anyway,” Lt. Williamson opines. So in the end Bobby escapes certain homosexual doom, but still has to live with that hideous sweater.


The good lieutenant checks back in to wrap up the story, and shares some good advice – “So no matter where you meet a stranger, be careful if they are too friendly, if they try to win your confidence too quickly, and if they become overly personal. One never knows when the homosexual is about. He may appear normal, and it may be too late when you discover he is mentally ill.”

Indeed, those are words to live by. Wait, what the hell was that last part?!


Retrotisements – Telephone technology

With the release of the much-ballyhooed iPhone just around the corner, I thought I’d take a look at a few other telephone innovations of the past.

Satellite phone service

Phone calls over satellite? Nonsense!

While satellite phone service is no big deal now – and has in fact been eclipsed by cell phones in terms of sheer usage – this 1960 ad from Douglas (pre-McDonnell) recalls a time when the technology was very much new and exciting (the first American satellite, Explorer I, had only been launched in late January 1958).




Other than jet-powered cars, few things scream “FUTURE!” like videophones. This 1968 ad from Western Electric (the manufacturing arm of AT&T) promised to bring the future to the present through the introduction of the Picturephone, but for a variety of reasons it flopped. Even though the technology itself has improved a lot in the nearly four decades since then, the idea of a videophone has never really captured the imagination of the buying public (although it is used more often in the business world for video conferences).

Retrotisement – Career Club Shirts

Career Club shirt ad

I’m willing to accept that ‘fashionable’ is a relative term, one whose definition changes almost daily. So I can see how his ugly-ass belt — as well as her entire outfit — might have been considered pretty hip back in the day. But you will never convince me that this grotesque farce of a ‘dance’ was ever popular, let alone socially acceptable.

This was published in 1967 — the dawn of the Psychedelic Era in the United States, as well as the height of Motown’s popularity. As this ad shows, never has the disconnect between advertising executives and the youth culture of America been thrown so sharply into focus.

(Yes, I do know that the Skate was in fact a real dance. But man oh man, was it ever white bread. Guess that’s what you look like when you spend most of your adolescence suppressing your emotions.)

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Retrotisement – 1967 Magnavox TV

Magnavox color TV ad (1967)

You can have your fancy-pants plasma HDTVs — for my money ($339.50 to be precise) there is nothing better than this Magnavox beauty. It’s everything a TV should be – large, wooden, and… well, large and wooden. And classy? Mister (or miss), this friggin’ set oozes class. It comes with its own flower arrangement and tambour doors. I have no idea what tambour doors are, but I want them. Perfect for kicking back on a Saturday afternoon and watching that local yacht team.

Oh yeah, there’s also a small one available for all you Neanderthal football fans. You get a tray.

“Boys Beware,” or The Courtship of Jimmy Barnes

Before the salad days when children and teenagers could look to trusted role models like MTV and professional athletes for guidance on how to behave, there were educational films. School kids were treated to lectures in the popular “talkie” format that showed them how to conduct themselves in all facets of life.

So after reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, Little Johnny got to learn the do’s and don’ts of important areas such as dating, hygiene, good study habits, avoiding the pervasive influence of filthy Communists and, of course, our pal the atom! In retrospect, most of these films appear rather quaint and benign, if not a bit creepy.

And then there’s 1961’s “Boys Beware.”

In just ten minutes, this Sid Davis Production managed to simultaneously entertain, confuse, and frighten an entire generation of American children. And quite honestly, it scares the crap out of me too.

"Boys Beware" 1961 public domain film screenshot

Pretty ominous title screen, n’est ce pas? A little vague, though. Beware of what? Dogs? Cooties? Commies?

"Boys Beware" 1961 public domain film screenshot

Our cautionary tale begins with our humble narrator and public servant, Lt. Williamson, strolling out of the police station and getting into his car. Why this scene took an entire 30 seconds is unknown. I guess I’ll have to wait for the Special Edition DVD with Director’s Commentary to find out.

"Boys Beware" 1961 public domain film screenshot

The constable spots a group of young hitchhikers thumbing a ride. I’m not familiar with infrastructure of the late ’50s-early ’60s, but I’m guessing that those benches would indicate that they are hitchhiking at a bus stop. Interesting. Anyway, this affords Lt. Williamson with the opportunity to tell his first tale of woe:

"Boys Beware" 1961 public domain film screenshot

Jimmy Barnes, obviously not in a state of bewareness.

Young Jimmy Barnes was tired from playing baseball (probably an early sign of radiation poisoning), so opted instead to grab a ride from a the first adult who happened by. Seems more logical then hitchhiking at a bus stop, I guess. Enter The Stranger.

"Boys Beware" 1961 public domain film screenshot

No Jimmy! Don’t do eet!

"Boys Beware" 1961 public domain film screenshot

Jimmy makes it home without incident, despite the creepy Stranger’s attempt to apply the Vulcan Neck Pinch.

"Boys Beware" 1961 public domain film screenshot

I can see why this guy didn’t set off any alarm bells. Seems legit.

"Boys Beware" 1961 public domain film screenshot

“Hey kid, wanna earn 25 cents the hard way?”

As promised during their previous encounter, The Stranger is there to pick up Jimmy again, though for some reason he is now driving a car with the steering column on the right-hand side.  I knew it, he’s some freaky European.

"Boys Beware" 1961 public domain film screenshot

The Stranger seeks to buy Jimmy's affection with tacos.

Whilst enjoying some fine local cuisine, The Stranger tells Jimmy several “off color” jokes. This impromptu Friar’s Club routine somehow segues into a trip to the local fishing hole. It is here that we learn the name of The Stranger — Ralph! I KNEW IT! He just looks like a Ralph, doesn’t he?!

"Boys Beware" 1961 public domain film screenshot

"And after I took these I chopped the women up into little pieces!"

During a break in the fishing action, and while Jimmy is occupied with a sandwich made from leftover taco meat, Ralph (*shudder*) decides to kick things up a notch. Aaaaaaand out comes a stack of nudie photos. According to the narrator, “Jimmy knew he shouldn’t be interested, but well, he was curious.”

See, this is backwards thinking. In a perfect world, all children would be issued a stack of pornographic photos as soon as they hit 12. That way, the Jimmy Barneses of the world would never be susceptible to the seductive charms of the Ralphs of the world.

And it is here that the message of “Boys Beware” is driven home with all the subtlety of a kick to the groin. In the words of Lt. Williamson,

“What Jimmy didn’t know was that Ralph was sick. A sickness that was not visible like smallpox, but no less dangerous and contagious. A sickness of the mind. You see, Ralph was a homosexual, a person who demands an intimate relationship with members of their own sex.”

Go back and read that again, then consider that the above monologue was delivered with an almost Joe Friday-esque sense of placid matter-of-factness. No loud, excited tones, just even-keeled narration. Like he was delivering a traffic report and assumed no one would question him. Not much I can really add here, other than this — this film was shown to children. In the public school system.

Now if this were a horror movie, the audience would be screaming at Jimmy to run away right? But it was too late! The free rides, the tacos, the risqué cards, Ralph’s pornstache — it was simply too much for Jimmy to resist. We see through the use of a montage that Ralph has Jimmy caught in his web of sickness.

"Boys Beware" 1961 public domain film screenshot

Jimmy and Ralph bond by shooting small animals.

"Boys Beware" 1961 public domain film screenshot

Ralph admires Jimmy's backstroke at the local putt-putt. Hey-O!

Luckily for Jimmy, he figured out that Ralph was up to no good right after he opened up a gift registry for them at the local NAMBLA gift shop. He tells his parents, who quickly report the incident to the police. Ralph was arrested and Jimmy was released on probation in the custody of his parents. Apparently just consorting with homosexuals was a punishable offense in California back then.

"Boys Beware" 1961 public domain film screenshot

Jimmy is comforted by his parents, who for some reason look very much like his grandparents.

And so ends the first half of “Boys Beware.” All seems well now, but as Lt. Williamson soon warns us:

“But all homosexuals are not passive. Some resort to violence, as in the case of Mike Merritt.”

Crap, you mean there’s another one of those homo-sexuals running rampant?

Oh well, tune in for Part 2 of “Boys Beware” if you dare!

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