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October 2011 • Vol. 1, No. 1
Yo u r l i f e i n r e t r o
Charles Fox, American Style Fake Jan Gets Real Reel Radio
The Cyber Hits Just Keep on Coming Swimming in the Steno Pool Fashion: Everything Old is New Again The Incredible Egg Chair Diners in the Rough
Don Grady Composes Himself
David Cassidy • Kick-Ass Theme Songs • He Man
c ntents October 2011 • www.themodern.us
T h e M o d e r n — Yo u r l i f e i n r e t r o .
In this issue:
Don Grady Composes Himself Beloved as Robby Douglas on My Three Sons, today Don Grady is an indemand Hollywood composer.
Charles Fox, American Style Famed composer Charles Fox gave us the theme songs to Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Love American Style, The Love Boat and many others. Meet the man whose work you cannot get out of your head.
Top Ten Kick-Ass TV Themes Composer Ron Passaro turns up the volume on the most amazing TV theme songs ever. Evah!
Fake Jan Keeps It Real She was Eve Plumb’s grateful replacement on the critically despised Brady Bunch Variety Hour. Read how the multi-talented Geri Reischl turned a lemon into lemonade.
The Cyber Hits Just Keep on Coming: Reel Radio As the gatekeeper of the most boss Top 40 radio airchecks, Richard Irwin shares the rewards and the challenges of maintaining this all-important historical library.
Swimming in the Steno Pool With steno pad in hand, author (and secretary) Lynn Peril sketches out the history of secretaries. Yes, the gig really was as bad as it was depicted in Mad Men, but it actually wasn’t all bad. Fashion: Everything Old Is New Again Are old styles good? If you like it, it’s good. The Incredible Egg Chair Sit on it, Mark Mussari! Seriously, sit on it and tell us why the classic Egg Chair is so freaking incredible! The Great Forgotten: Singles of the 80s We tap you on the shoulder and remind you of these uh-mazing tunes. Wang Chung tonight! Diners in the Rough Country-boy-turned-city-slicker Jacob Schirmer chows down with the best diner food from Kansas to The Big Apple. Memory Speedway: David Cassidy • Little House on the Prairie • Lenny Dykstra He Man • Julie Andrews • La Boomba Toomba DVD Review: Glenn O’Brien Come as you aren’t: the murky beginnings of cable-access television.
Parting Shot: How To Stuff A Wild Bikini
letter from the editor
Everything old is new again Pardon the pun, but the obsession with retro is nothing new. The past is never past. It’s a living thing. Still, we like to consider ourselves above such musty nonsense, thinking of ourselves as modern, totally immersed in the present tense. Deep down, though, we know that memory is at our side always, helping us to make sense of our present and our future. Because we are social animals, we like to share the past. We all drink from our collective pop-culture pond, but what really makes it fascinating is when we feed off each other. Every one of us has our own deeply personal interpretation of what once was and how we came to it. When we share an aspect of pop culture, it gets reflected, reinterpreted and often reconsidered. It evolves. Over time, its meaning changes. It’s not just reminiscing. It’s more powerful than that. Everybody runs to it. It warms us and makes us feel less alone. Now, let’s add another dimension: younger people. To them, our nostalgia is new and strange. To them, it’s familiar only in the sense that there is something oddly necessary that keeps repeating in the beat of life. Most of it they find heinous, but some of it attracts them and makes them curious enough to adopt it. And their interpretation of it – often ironic — makes us wonder if there is really anything new under the sun. What better time to dive into this perennial primal urge: the digital age. Sure, you can Google anything at any time, but now, with The Modern, we have a place to gather, and to feed, share and exchange. So baby boomers, show them how it’s done. And Generation X, Y and Z, redefine it and throw it back in our faces. Put your stamp on it. As you can see from this issue’s vintage clothing editorial, everything old is new again. Ron Sklar Editor
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Yo u r l i f e i n r e t r o .
Editor • Ron Sklar Art Director • Jennifer Barlow Copy Editor • Patty Wall
Contributing Writers Jay S. Jacobs • Mark Mussari • Ron Passaro • Jacob Schirmer • Lisa Shander Linda Muehlbronner • Greg Vrecenak • Jeff Vrecenak • Liz Sokolow-Shockley • Mark Thomas
Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org The Modern | October 2011
Tapping the shoulders of
65 million baby boomers (and their babies). Tap our shoulder if you want to advertise:
Your life in retro. The past is very now.
The Modern | September 2011
Don Grady Composes Himself B y
“I was raised by a middle-class Italian family,” says Don Grady, “and they would say, ‘Get in there and do the dishes and mow the lawn and I don’t care if you’re on a TV series, you still have to empty the trash.’ I always had that as my backbone.” That backbone kept Grady humbled yet standing tall, while his Oxfords tapped in time to the opening credits of My Three Sons (1960-1972). The series and its 380 episodes are on an exclusive short list as having been one of the few series in TV history to be picked up by two networks (ABC and then CBS, as well as hundreds of cycles in syndication and cable TV over the course of decades). As Robby Douglas, Grady became a household name and an often-reluctant teen idol. “I was on the cover of Tiger Beat a couple times,” he recalls. “It was a rush in the beginning. And then it was a nuisance after that. I just wanted to live a normal life. I didn’t want to be a goldfish in a bowl. I was the kind of person who really didn’t eat up on that. I just wanted to be left alone. I was never rude, I don’t think, to any of the fans. I tried to be polite and answer questions and do that sort of thing, but I found myself hesiwww.themodern.us
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tating to go out a lot. I’m a musician, and I probably come from that place.” Little did he know during those Tiger Beat days that music, not acting, would eventually be his serious vocation. It was a calling that tapped him long before My Three Sons. In fact, as a child actor, it was his adeptness with musical instruments that got him his start, winning him a part as a Mouseketeer on The Mickey Mouse Club. “I was just a kid out of Lafayette, California,” he says, “a normal kid who happened to play a couple of musical instruments. I didn’t know how to be a
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One of America’s favorite boomers is talkin’ ‘bout his generation, and ‘bout his new CD, aptly named ‘Boomer.’
The Modern | October 2011
professional. All of the sudden, I was thrust into the life of being a professional actor, working with professional directors. If you didn’t know your stuff, you were let go. We watched Mouseketeers get let go all the time. So the stress was on that level. My only focus was: how do I stay on the team?” His winning game plan: to know his way around as many
musical instruments as possible. He says, “On Talent Roundup Day, when they couldn’t find somebody, they would dress me up as a Mexican balladeer and I would play different instruments. I was kind of their plug in.” Soon after, he got plugged into My Three Sons, which electrified the ratings and the teenage girls. And even though most actors eventually want to direct, Grady wanted none of that: instead, he wanted to compose and play music. “It was a wonderful experiThe Modern | October 2011
ence,” he says of the series, “in the sense that I learned right away that fame is not everything. And neither is money, by the way. Money is nice to have. You need enough to feed yourself and your family, but I found out really quickly that [acting] did not satisfy my soul. It was not fulfilling. I needed to do something that satisfied me and was fulfilling. And for me, that was music. So that was a good lesson.” Leaving the show one season before its cancellation, he bought a house in Laguna Beach and secluded himself in his quest to write music. Soon after, he changed things up a bit with a short stint in New York. “New York is the great equalizer,” he says. “Yes, I got recognized a lot, but it didn’t mean much. It means a lot more to be recognized in Kansas and when people jump out of their skin and ask you what you are doing there. In New York, you have to get in there and swim in the pool with everybody else.” He swam until his money ran out, and then he returned to California. After eventually being granted the chance of scoring the theme to The Phil Donohue Show (and it getting accepted), Grady was on his way to a new career. “It started slowly,” he says. “I started doing things for Universal Studios live, at their parks. And then that got me more orchestra gigs. That’s when things started to snowball. And just like anything else, you start to get a name for it. At the time, I became known as the composer who could compose for live shows.” Since then, he’s composed mu-
sic for countless film and TV projects, including documentary series for the Discovery Channel and PBS. And in the ultimate irony, he made a triumphant return to Disney, but not as a Mouseketeer. Instead, he composes for their DVDs, featurettes and series. All the while, he whistles while he works on his own projects. His current album, Boomer, materialized as a direct result of his latelife experience. The recording addresses complex contemporary adult issues (sex, money, career) that those three sons would be unable to dream about. “As I got older and listened to the radio, I realized that I related to it less and less,” he says. “I’m a boomer and I’m still about music and I’m looking for that lifeline, but it isn’t being provided. They’re not writing for us. They’re writing for the kids, where the market is. So I said, somebody’s gotta do this, and it might as well be me. And then I was shot out of a cannon, just writing like crazy, songs about issues that were facing my life.” At a healthy looking 67, he continues to perform, record and compose. He’s married happily to his wife, Ginny, and stays in close contact with his grown children, Joey and Tessa. And because he’s all about family, he easily reminisces about his TV dad, Fred MacMurray. “MacMurray was a big movie star,” he recalls. “In those days, it was difficult to woo [movie stars] into TV, but this is how they got him: his deal was that he only worked three months out of the year. We would have most of the shows written at the beginning of the season. He would come in and www.themodern.us
do about six weeks of work. And we would just do all of his scenes and all of his close ups. And then he would leave and we would go back and pick up all of our own close ups and two shots. “We would be doing anywhere between fourteen and fifteen different episodes a day. The continuity was always a problem. I wore the hair off my legs changing my pants. I had to remember where I was when I walked into the room, and what we just did. Had I just dated the blonde or the brunette?” Eventually, Robby Douglas dated — and married — a blonde named Katie Miller (played by Tina Cole). On the show, they were the proud
did his best to bring some relative relevance to the show. He recalls, “The Love Revolution was happening, but not on My Three Sons. I started to fight small battles. When Robbie and Katie got married, around 1968 or ’69, they had us in separate beds. I walked onto the set and said, ‘I’m not going to film this because this is ridiculous.’ I started to do some research and I found out that on Bewitched, Elizabeth Montgomery was sleeping in a double bed. So I went back to [executive producer] Don Fedderson and that was a battle that I won. “But there were many small battles about dialogue and issues.
“Don’t have a fallback,” he says. “If you have something to fall back on, that’s what you’re going to end up doing. That’s your sure thing; that’s your secure thing. There are so many times that you are so insecure and you think, ‘I’m not going to make it tomorrow.’ Even when you’re successful, by the way. Success does not guarantee you
The only thing you can be sure about is that you are doing something that you damn well love. parents of triplets! Yet Cole and Grady also dated in real life, but contrary to hazy collective memory, they had never married. “People thought we were married because we really were very much in love,” he says. “And we went together for years. And even after the show, we went together. But no, we never got married. No real triplets. Somebody said at one time that we were too serious to get married. That was just a marriage made on TV.” Despite sweeping changes in the culture, the series (like most shows of the time) remained insulated and innocent, despite a large influx of new supporting characters, including females. Yet Grady www.themodern.us
I started to get frustrated about where the show was and where it wasn’t going. What happens with any successful venture is that the producers don’t want to change their formula. They’ve got an audience and they don’t want to shake things, so that’s what happened. So when my obligation for Three Sons was up, I was eager to move on.” Today, he keeps himself busy in the recording studio, but his truest musical love is playing live. His fondest memories including conducting both The London Symphony Orchestra as well as The Toronto Symphony. His advice for young people is unlike anything he ever got from his TV dad.
success. The only thing you can be sure about is that you are doing something that you damn well love. It’s the only thing that you can put in your court, that you are going to do it come hell or high water. And for some reason, I think for reasons beyond our grasp, the universe supports that. And I’ve seen it over and over again. Not only for myself but for other people too.” Find out more about Don Grady, and to buy Boomer, go to dongrady.com. The Modern | October 2011
Charles Fox, The composer of many of our favorite classic TV themes is also an accomplished musician in other genres. B y A thing of beauty is a joy forever. This is especially true when it comes to the small remnant of TV theme songs that stay imprinted on our brains long after
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the serie’s cancellation. If you have any one composer to thank for this, it’s Charles Fox, who has given us at least five classic TV theme songs: Love Ameri-
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can Style, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Wonder Woman and The Love Boat. And not that this is any lesser news: he also composed the music for Killing
The Modern | October 2011
American Style Me Softly for Roberta Flack and I Got A Name for Jim Croce, both of which became megahits in the Seventies. A man this steeped in pop culture comes from an unlikely starting point: an Orthodox Jewish home in the Bronx. Yet his gift for music was revealed early, and as a teenager he went to Paris to study composing. Although his education was classical, his vocation became decidedly commercial. He eventually was called to Hollywood to compose the score for the films Barberella and Goodbye, Columbus at Paramount Studios. This lead to a request to write the theme for the new Monday Night Football series, and then Paramount asked for one more favor: the theme to Love American Style. “I was bringing more of a contemporary record sound to television music,” he says. “It would have seemed wrong to me to approach a contemporary song in the Seventies, with a show that was pretty sexy and
risqué in places, in an old-fashioned style.” What followed was Happy Days, which was a spin-off of Love American Style. It was a classic case of “right place/right time.” ABC originally shelved the Happy Days pilot, but then expressed a renewed hot interest in the show after the huge success of the film American Graffiti. Nostalgia was suddenly big business, and what was needed was a theme song that expressed the innocence and joy of young people in the Fifties. Seventies Top 40 hits were hard to predict, but the Happy Days theme song was released as a single (as a result of the show’s immense popularity) and the record soared to the top of the charts. The series itself remained one of the most
watched shows in America for years to come. “To see the song become a big hit was a joyful shock,” he says. A Happy Days’ spinoff, Laverne & Shirley, also spawned a charttopping record of it theme song. The series itself actually vied with Happy Days for top spot in the TV ratings on a week-to-week basis. And what of the opening chant of Laverne and Shirley at the very be-
The Modern | October 2011
ginning of this song? Fox has the answer, at last. “A schlemiel is a guy who spills soup, he says. “And a shlamazel is a guy who gets spilled on.” Soon after, Fox composed the themes to Wonder Woman (“when I do that song in concert, for some reason it gets the biggest round of applause.”) and The Love Boat, sung by Jack Jones (“Jack never had a hit record with that song, but he tells me that when he
does that song in concert, it’s like his biggest hit.”) In recent years, he returned back to his classical – and cantorial roots. Although not a rabbinical cantor himself, he participated in the 2010 documentary 100 Voices: A Journey Home. A look at the resurgence of Jewish culture in Poland, Fox offers musical selections and some intimate family recollections. His father left Poland as a young man in 1920, and
the relatives who stayed behind did not survive World War II. “Poland was the birthplace of cantorial music,” he says. “I was asked to write a piece based on the words of Pope John Paul II. He was the first pope who ever visited the [Wailing] Wall in Jerusalem. The movie came about as a result of the concert that we did with the Poland National Opera Company and the Warsaw Opera House.”
The Top 10 Kick-Ass TV Theme Songs In No Real Particular (But Somewhat Particular) Order
efore I go any further, let me define “Kick-Ass Original TV Theme Song.” For the sake of time and focus, these are the larger-than-life instrumental theme songs written specifically for prime-time television shows. Of course, there are the wonderfully sung theme songs like The Brady Bunch and Cheers, as well as the dozens of brilliant cartoon show themes (Duck Tales, The Simpsons and Family Guy rank very high on my list), but right now we’re talking over the top, adrenaline pumping, big brass awesomeness… with a slice of cheese. While most recent shows rely on existing songs (CSI: Miami, House, Lie to Me, The Sopranos), there are those that still hire composers to write instrumental theme songs. However, the times have changed and the themes have become sleeker and definitely more subdued. It seems that when studios want something really energetic, they opt for an existing song. Therefore, the remaining theme songs available for composers are usually the cerebral, psychological-thriller type. Two of my favorites are Mad Men and Dexter. They do their job exceptionally well and are quite catchy. But what of original energetic (kick-ass) theme songs? I don’t know any of late that can even breathe the same air as Hawaii 5-0, Mission: Impossible, The A-Team or Magnum, P.I. I actually can’t even think of any that have been created in the last five years or so. Yes, those days have most likely come and gone, but the themes will continue to make people’s Top Ten lists for generations to come. That much is certain.
By Ron Passaro
1. Mission: Impossible Mission: Try not to be blown away by this music. Tension strings, big brass stabs and the “covert operation bongo drum.” Not only is this iconic music one of the most memorable themes in history, it’s also written in what many would call an unconventional time signature: 5/4. The composer of the theme, Lalo Schifrin, once said, “things are in 2/4 or 4/4 because people dance with two legs. I did it for people from outer space who have five legs.” I’m not sure whether Lalo knew something we didn’t, but I’m happy to move on to the next theme right about now. The Modern | October 2011
2. Hawaii Five-0 Probably the best showcase of kickass brass in a theme song. Trumpets, trombones and horns galore! You can tell the musicians loved playing this piece. Add some massive drums doing a rocking surf groove and the formula is complete. The main melody is so memorable that the composer, Morton Stevens, decided to just repeat it over and over in various keys and arrangements, the added bonus being no cheesy middle section; just awesomeness with a powerful build at the end to wrap things up. Highly recommended: the newly recorded version conducted by Brian Tyler: http://youtu.be/iHbgdlR-Rrg www.themodern.us
He’s also published a memoir of the letters he had written while a young student in Paris (Killing Me Softly: My Life in Music) and continues to hear from fans who feel he has touched their lives. As far as current-day TV themes, he doesn’t know if he could work steadily in this nervous new environment. He says, “The networks are afraid of losing their audience by taking a minute and a half out
3. Magnum, P.I. I don’t know about you, but I’m sold after the first four opening hits. The rest is icing on the cake. Don’t be fooled by the fact that this show starred a guy sporting short-shorts 99% of the time. The theme chose to ignore this and focused rather on the fact that he drove a red Ferrari and carried a gun. 4. Peter Gunn While not winner of the best bass line on this list, an argument for it to be so could easily be made. It is bold and relentless, underscoring the “cool as a cucumber” statement by the brass above. In the list of kick-ass themes, this one wins the award for most bad-ass. 5. The A-Team Triumphant and unashamed, this happy tune can’t help but put someone into a more optimistic mood. While Peter Gunn was also written in a major key, this is the first song on the list so far to have been written in a major key and also have a major key feel to it. Yay! Let’s blow some stuff up! 6. Knight Rider Best bass line in an instrumental theme song. Period. The fact that it consists of only two notes not only makes it even more kick-ass, but downright enviable. Don’t believe me? Try and write a great base line using only two notes. Good luck to you. www.themodern.us
[for a theme song]. At the end of one show, they roll the cast credits while introducing a new show. This is opposed to people hearing the theme and saying, ‘Oh, I like that show!’ People enjoy the themes, the beginning of shows. But I think the networks are afraid to take a chance.” For more information on 100 Voices, go to www.100voicesmovie.com
7. The Munsters: Season 2 Like Hawaii Five-0, this theme is catchy and surf inspired — at least the Season 2 version is. The original is much more understated and upon listening to both versions it is clear why they decided to add a little more energy into the theme. Interesting to know that the song included lyrics written by the show’s co-producer Bob Mosher, but they were never aired on CBS, so the song remains instrumental and therefore is eligible for this list. 8. T.J. Hooker This high-energy theme works great for Shatner’s police thriller, but it could live just as well in a Rocky movie. By the way, the composer, Mark Snow, went on to write the theme for the X-Files. Broad range, wouldn’t you say? At 1:25, it’s the perfect length to accompany my daily exercise routine, i.e., walking to Dunkin’ Donuts every morning. 9. CHIPS A gutsy theme song, this one takes about 30 seconds to get to the main melody, but it’s worth the wait. 10. Hunter Coming from the same composer of Magnum, P.I. and The A-Team, you know it’ll be pretty solid. Similar to Magnum, P.I., it’s very guitar driven, with the occasional low brass hits and mandatory violins. Ron Passaro is an in-demand composer of film scores and other musical projects. The Modern | October 2011
Gets Real Replacing Eve Plumb as Jan Brady on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour earns Geri Reischl a nickname and a whole bunch of opportunity. TV Guide once called The Brady Bunch Variety Hour the fourth worst TV show of all time. But for Geri Reischl, who replaced original actor Eve Plumb and was christened the nickname “Fake Jan,” the reviled series is still the best thing that ever happened to her. “I really didn’t pay attention to that too much at the time, but I can say that it is definitely a blessing now,” she says of the universal scorn for that cheesy Seventies show. “People love Fake Jan; they just think that’s a funny name and they embrace it.” They embrace Reischl too, as she continues to work her way across the country from her home base in New Jersey. A single mother with two grown children, she continues to give concerts and sign autographs. Also in the mix is her new CD, called 1200 Riverside, which features a countrified remake of the Elton John hit, “Your Song.”
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“That’s the only solo I had on the show,” she confesses. “I would sing during the [show] openings, or in the finale at the end. I would have a few lines to sing, but that
was my full solo. So this time I decided to do it my way and just put a country flair to it and let my fans hear it again because they liked it so much.” Although she never faked her
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way into pop folklore, her most notable TV appearances still remain real in her fans hearts. And Reischl is a defender of the series. “The writers wrote good stuff ” she says. “The songs were great. And it fit right in with the times, with Donny and Marie and Sonny and Cher. Some critics didn’t like it. But now some reviewers love it. They call it campy, kitschy. They’re seeing it in a different light now than they did back in the Seventies. It just takes some time getting used to.” One thing that Reischl herself wasn’t used to was the original Brady Bunch series, which she admits to never watching. As a child actress, she was too busy auditioning for TV to be sitting in front of it. Although she was successful in landing countless TV commercials and guest appearances on series (as well as playing Lake Tahoe with Sammy Davis, Jr.), there were a few shouldawoulda-coulda near misses that prove that Fake Fate is fickle. “I could have had the part of Regan in The Exorcist,” she laments. “My mother would not let me do that, because she just thought that that part was just
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way too out there. [Director] William Friedkin really liked me and I’m really 100% sure I could have had the part, but my mother backed out on it.” If it’s any consolation, as a child she did appear in lesserbeloved horror classics, such as I Dismember Mama (“I didn’t see it until I was 40 years old.”) and The Brotherhood of Satan (“Satan is the doctor of this small town. We can never seem to escape the town because he needs new people for his covenant. I could never leave. I could never get to my grandma’s house to have my birthday party.”)
Also barely in her grasp was the role of Blair in The Facts of Life. She explains, woefully, “I have this ‘almost’ thing going on with me. I’m either a Fake Jan or an almost whatever. But I actually got the part of Blair in The Facts of Life. I was already at the studio rehearsing with the cast and everybody. But I had also signed a contract to do four commercials for [the cereal] Crispy Wheats and Raisins. [The Blair role] ended up being taken away from me because of my [schedule conflicting] con-
tract with the cereal people.” In those cereal spots, she played Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz – as a blonde! Let’s just call her Fake Dorothy. Still, a little fake goes a long way. Fake Jan Day (Jan 2nd, get it?) has become an unofficial national holiday (cheeseballs are ingested nationwide, in her honor). And for three days (December 31, 2011 and January 1st and 2nd, 2012), Bisbee, Arizona hosts The Fake Jan Festival, which is sort of a Brady Woodstock. Between 4-6,000 Brady Heads are expected to celebrate three days of peace and Jan. With all of these miracles happening, one question remains: has she ever been in the same room with Eve Plumb? “I have never met her,” she admits. “I have never spoken with her. Ever. Isn’t that the craziest thing? I think people would almost have a heart attack of excitement if we ever got into the same room together. I would love to meet her, but our paths haven’t crossed yet. But there is a lot of life left, so who knows?” To find out more about Geri and her new CD, go to gerireischl.com. To make your plans for Fake Jan Day, go to fakejanfestival.com
Watch Geri sing “Your Song” on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour!
The Modern | October 2011
Top 40 AM radio is alive again with original broadcasts from your home town. “It’s kind of a strange feeling,” says DJ Richard Irwin on the demise of Top 40 radio. “You feel like you’ve lost a friend.” Yet, like everything else in the digital age, your old friends now Facebook and Google you and boomerang right back at ‘cha. Same here: Irwin runs the non-profit website Reelradio. com, in which actual Top 40 airchecks and original radio programs can be heard all over again. Simply by calling up your town, your year and/or your favorite DJ, you are instantly transported back to your first car, your first date or your first…well, your first whatever.
Richard Irwin, on the air, 1968.
Go ahead. Try it. But be warned: your mind will be blown at how much you remember forgetting.
It’s more than just golden oldies: it’s DJ’s bantering, commercial jingles, weather reports and news at the top of the hour. “There is a very individual kind of satisfaction that comes from listening to these old radio programs the way we used to listen to radio,” says Irwin, 60, whose “collection of collections” number over 850 since 1996, also making Reelradio one of the very first websites. His site features the actual broadcasts of such Top 40 legends as Wolfman Jack, Alan Freed, The Real Don Steele and Ron Lundy, among hundreds of lesser-known others in dozens of markets. The stations available include some of Top 40’s historic powerhouses, including New York’s WABC, Los
By Ronald Sklar The Modern | October 2011
Angeles’ KHJ, and Chicagoland’s WLS. The smaller markets are not neglected, not even the one where Irwin first got bit by the radio bug. “I have my favorites like everyone else,” he says. “I’m fascinated by the stuff that I grew up with, which was Big WAYS in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jack Gale is still, to my way of thinking, the greatest morning man of all time. Jack is still alive and working, and I think he’s in his 80s now and in Florida. He buys a new house every couple of years. He bought a new radio station four or five years ago! He can’t stay out. Big WAYS was on a lower frequency, around 610. And that station with its five kilowatts literally during the day covered both North and South Carolina. It was amazing. You could hear that radio station 150 miles away. People did listen to it 150 miles away because it was www.themodern.us
Big WAYS, and there was nothing else like it.” From there, Irwin got his own start at WMAP in Monroe, North Carolina, and now lives in Sacra-
Jack Gale, WAYS.
mento, California. He carefully spends his time painstakingly adding only the highest quality airchecks to his collection (tapes only – no mp3s). They are offered up by
passionate aircheck collectors all over the world. However, his biggest challenge doesn’t come from the airwaves but from the wallet. “We just need a lot of money,” he says of his non-profit, “because there is extra licensing involved, there is extra hardware involved, and frankly, there is a lot of custom software development that has to be done. And I’m not capable of doing it all because I’m doing everything I can at this point just to try to get us to the point where we could do some kind of mobile presentation. It’s a big job, and maybe it’s bigger than we can handle.” In the meantime, Reelradio still keeps on keeping on as the site that always rocks, the site that never stops! Listen to Reelradio’s incredible mix of the Top 40 era here: reelradio. com To help with a donation, go to reelradio.com The Modern | October 2011
Mad Women The Sexist Story of the Secretary: Lynn Peril’s new book, Swimming in the Steno Pool, shows us how to succeed in business (show some leg!). By Ronald Sklar
Photo Credit: US National Oceanic and atmospheric Administation
Imagine happening upon this little nugget while cruising the Help Wanted ads, circa 1960: GIRL FRIDAY WANTED. MUST BE ATTRACTIVE. PROTESTANT ONLY. This is just another listing in the very strange and often uncomfortable history of the American secretary. In her book, Swimming In the Steno Pool (W.W. Norris & Company), writer (and secretary) Lynn Peril examines this odd chapter of corporate life. Despite the job’s long history of being disrespected, parodied and easily dismissed, Peril argues that the job was more than it seemed on the surface. Secretar-
ies may have dealt with sexism, poor pay and being treated as glorified waitresses, but the job also paved the road toward feminism and corporate opportunity. Through her study of long-discarded occupational guidebooks, Peril pieces together an insightful look at a job that was truly a product of its time and today is headed for extinction. You are a secretary yourself, but do you call yourself a secretary or an administrative assistant? I work in the legal realm and we do use the term ‘secretary.’ Even today, the word ‘secretary’ really upThe Modern | October 2011
sets some people. When I’m speaking somewhere, I usually start right away by saying that I use the term ‘secretary.’ If it sets your teeth on edge, I’m sorry. How did your research come about? I am very interested in prescriptive literature, the kind of guidebooks that tell women how to be women, usually how they’re doing it wrong, and if they’re doing it wrong, how they’re actually not women at all. Especially materials though the mid-twentieth century, the Forties through the Seventies. It’s exactly the kind of stuff that Betty Friedan was writing about in The Feminine Mystique. It turns out that in that same time period, there was a secretarial mystique that was as strong as the one Betty Friedan wrote about. It was written about in women’s magazines and especially in the totally fabulous genre of secretarial guidebooks. I really had no idea these existed until I started to really research this book. So the history of the secretary is largely based in the secretarial guidebook. Give us an example of an outrageous secretarial guidebook. One of my favorite guidebooks that I used as a reference for this book was published in 1939. I think it was called The Secretary and Her Job. Right off the bat, on about page ten, it starts talking about how your boss is probably going to have a bar in his office. He would probably mix the drinks when people come to visit, but as a secretary you really should know how to mix the most common drinks. Then, on page 150 or something like that, they actually talk about the nuts and bolts of the job: dictation, shorthand, typing — all the kinds of really professional stuff. I thought that was really mind-blowing, because on the one hand, secretarial work is what got women out of the house and into the work world. It was the thin edge of the blade for women who wanted to be in business themselves. Business schools were not open to women. It was a very important position for many women for many years. And yet there really was this sexist, demeaning attitude toward their work. It even sometimes pops up in the guidebooks. www.themodern.us
These were very frequently written by women who were, in fact, secretaries themselves.
waitressy kind of stuff they were expected to perform. In the early-to-mid-Seventies, you have women refusing to serve coffee in their office. It happened right across the United States, and women lost their jobs because they refused to make a pot of coffee or they refused to get cups of coffee for executives. It’s like the famous Miss America protest in Atlantic City in the late Sixties, where they had the “Freedom” trash can where the feminists threw in girdles and steno pads. They really should have thrown in a coffee pot, because that was where the line between service and servility were really drawn: making coffee.
Do you think the secretaries portrayed in Mad Men are realistic? Not every office was like that, but it seems to me that it was and is realistic in very great ways. Prior to Title IX in 1964, you could say things like: I want a white, Protestant secretary who is really hot. People said things like that in ads all the time. The secretary, in many ways, was a huge status symbol for these men. If you were an executive who was lower on the totem pole, you often had a secretary assigned to you out of the pool. These large corporations had a pool of secretaries that they would send out: the newer secretaries to the newer executives. And once you climbed up the totem pole, you got your own [private] secretary. So there is this idea that she is a status symbol. In the secretarial In the secretarial guidebooks [of the era], there are tons of pages guidebooks [of the devoted to good grooming and attractive appearance. There is this idea that people are going to come era], there are tons into the office and the secretary is going to be the first person they of pages devoted see. She is going to be the representative of the boss. On the one to good grooming hand, you want to be bright-eyed and sparkling; but there is also this and attractive underlying idea that you can be a little sexy, but not too sexy. It was sexual stereotyping at its worst! appearance. How did the Women’s Liberation movement in the late Sixties and early Seventies change the perception of the secretary? Women’s Liberation and technology together are really what undid traditional male boss/female secretary duos. Before [the Women’s Liberation movement], women found themselves in secretarial schools or in secretarial jobs because there just wasn’t anything else. The Women’s Liberation movement helped open up professional schools [law school, medical school] to women. What [secretaries] hated about their job was the www.themodern.us
Were secretaries always commonly thought of as women? Originally, all secretaries were men. The entire office was male. Then the typewriter came along. People had been creating typewriters throughout the nineteenth century. The typewriter that really gets it right and becomes the standard is the Remington Model One, which goes on the market in 1874. It is a piece of new technology, so people don’t have any firm ideas in their head about who should be operating it. It’s not like a razor, which is associated with men, or an iron, which is associated with women. The typewriter is a gender-neutral piece of technology. So women can operate it without being accused of stealing jobs from men. Also, right around this time, the business model in America moves away from very small, locally-based businesses. That’s where you had one person, a male usually, working as an office boy and literally dreaming of one day becoming the boss. He will indeed perform all of the tasks within that office. Then, when business really starts becoming national and eventually international, the business model changes. Now, instead of having one person who does everything, you have a dedicated accountant as well as a dedicated typist and a dedicated secretary. Men don’t want those jobs because they can’t legitimately advance in them. There is a ceiling built into them. So women fill those positions. The Modern | October 2011
steno pool All this happens within the last twenty-five years of the nineteenth century, when women really start flooding into the offices and taking all of these clerical and secretarial jobs. World War I finishes it off, when men go to war and women again fill up those last few male-held secretarial positions. So the position becomes and remains overwhelmingly female. How is the role of secretary changing in the digital age? One of the things happening right now is that secretarial positions are disappearing. Many executives — now male and female – have discovered that they can do a lot of stuff on their own, thanks to technology. It doesn’t mean that they like to do stuff on their own, but they can do it on their own. They can make travel arrangements by themselves. They don’t need anyone to do the typing because they either type themselves or they’ve got voice recognition technology that is just getting better and better all the time. So they don’t really need a secretary per se. And a lot of offices are doing away with admin assistants altogether. Secretarial work is changing in that it used to be a position that required brains and skill, but you also had a certain amount of flexibility and mobility. That’s disappearing. Now, with that said, a lot of people who work as administrative assistants today are doing more complex tasks than secretaries ever did
before. In certain ways, they are doing lower management type things where they are putting together [projects like] corporate retreats. That’s instead of getting the mail and typing letters. How has the writing of this book changed you as a person? It’s made me have a lot more respect for what I used to call the “lifer secretaries.” I am, at least in some regard, a lifer secretary or a “lifer office worker.” I fell into office work because I had parents who told me to take typing in high school. I moved to San Francisco in 1985 with my art history degree. I’m from Milwaukee and I could not wait to get out of Milwaukee. Doing office work was available; it paid a decent wage, but I never thought about what it meant as an occupation, as a woman’s occupation. I have a lot more respect now for the women – and men – who do this job. Then again, largely, it’s been women. It’s not an easy position and it’s really been looked down upon for so long that there is the secretarial stereotype of the dumb bunny and the pencilpushing husband hunter, and it’s not true. These women work very hard and the position itself is a really important one. It made many, many women really good lives. And I think I have a lot more respect for that now. To read more about Lynn, go to pinkthink.com.
The Week in the Music Biz: May 13, 1972 Midway between Woodstock and disco, the music industry tries stayin’ alive with phonograph records and fifties revivals at Madison Square Garden (but don’t tell Ricky Nelson) • Casting call for the film version of Jesus Christ Superstar. No room at the inn for non-union dancers. • Elvis slated to play New York City for the first time ever.Ticket price: $10.
• Sonny and Cher open at The Sahara Hotel in Vegas. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, babe.
• The race for the first home video recorder is on. The “be kind, rewind” players: Panasonic, Sony and Philips.
• Arthur Godfrey, 69, retires his radio show after 43 years. But everyone is listening to The Wolfman.
• The #1 song on jukeboxes: “I Gotcha” by Joe Tex. Only those with hot pants may dance.
• The #1 “Soul” single is “I’ll Take You There” by The Staple Singers. Righteous and outa-sighteous.
The Modern | September 2011
• Bubbling under Billboard’s Hot 100: David Cassidy’s remake of “How Can I Be Sure”. He can’t. Ronald Sklar
sit on it
I am the Egg man How does a chair design survive for more than half a century yet remain an immediately recognizable icon? In the case of Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair, you only have to look at it to find the answer.
One of Jacobsen’s great accomplishments was designing organic “wholes.” Image: Shutterstock ©fthes
Well, answers, actually: It says 1950s and it says now. It says wing chair and it says space age. It says chair and it says sculpture. Designed in 1958 for the SAS Royal Hotel—the world’s first designer hotel—the sensuous Egg was part of Jacobsen’s vision for a total design experience. He designed everything for the hotel—from the building to the furniture, from the textiles to the glassware, from the lighting fixtures to the cutlery. In its own way, the Egg—like its sister the Swan— manages to recall his conscious design effort for the hotel and yet remain a singular piece of design. It is beyond pervasive, appearing for some 50 years in television shows, commercials, movies and advertisements. It even appeared recently on the cover of Kathy Lee Giffords’ autobiography (she’s sitting in one). Proving, perhaps, that not only does the Egg swivel but that Jacobsen may also be spinning in his grave. What is it about the Egg? One of Jacobsen’s great accomplishments was designing organic “wholes.” No seams in the cutlery, no separate arms on the chairs, stems merging gracefully into glasses. His forms offer the eye an immediate sense of completeness. “As thin as possible and never in the middle,” he once pithily replied to a request for his design philosophy. www.themodern.us
The sculptural characteristics of the Egg have also added to its endurance. Its ovoid form recalls the expressionist creations of sculptors Jean Arp and Henry Moore. Working to get the shape just right, the perfectionist Jacobsen and his friend the sculptor Sandor Perjesi spent days adding and taking away plaster to the original mold of the Egg until its form was just right. If Jacobsen was unhappy with the way a prototype was going, he’d have it sliced in half to figure out what needed to be changed and start all over again. The result? Look at the Egg from any angle and its overall form curves and undulates. Lighting and shadows also alter its striking effect. The chair’s highly textural hide is one thing in leather—cool and removed—and another in fabric—warm and inviting. And you don’t just sit on an Egg—you sit within its soft, protective shell. It also seems to float, an effect Jacobsen enjoyed creating and another explanation for its allure. In this time when Danish design is once again au courant, it’s funny to see the newfound interest in the Egg. Born in Denmark, it has long since become a world citizen—residing at the rarely located intersection of industrial design and humanly useful. A design for the ages. Mark Mussari is a writer and translator who writes frequently about art and design.
Image: Shutterstock ©Ralf Juergen Kraft
Design writer Mark Mussari cracks wise on the classic Egg Chair.
The Modern | October 2011
The Modern | September 2011
Everything Old New Again is
Are old styles good? If you like it, it’s good.
Photographer: Josh Sailor Joshsailor.com Models: Flynn and Marshall from Fusion Hair: Shinya Nakagawa shinyanyc.com Makeup: Hiroko Takada for mu www.ht-makeup.com Styling: Josh and Nicole Sailor
When trumpets were mellow
Don’t throw the past away
And ev’ry gal only had one fellow
You might need it some rainy day
No need to remember when
Dreams can come true again
‘Cause ev’ry thing old is new again
When ev’ry thing old is new again
(Dancin’ at) Your Long Island Jazz Age parties
I might fall in love with you again
Waiter, bring us more Bacardis We’ll order now what they ordered then ‘Cause ev’ry thing old is new again Get out your white suit, your tap shoes and tails Let’s go backwards when all else (forward) fails And movie stars you thought were long dead Now are framed beside your bed
Copyright: Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, WINDSWEPT HOLDINGS LLC, CARLIN AMERICA INC • Songwriters: P. ALLEN, C.B. SAGER •Album: Ultimate
The Modern | October 2011
The Modern | October 2011
the great forgotten
You’ve forgotten these songs. It’s all right, though. It happens to all of us. You don’t have to thank us, but you’re welcome. It’s your 80s party: everybody has Wang Chung-ed tonight, wanted to have fun, held you now and insisted on getting a paternity test from Billie Jean. Now what? Come on, Eileen, there has to be more 80s songs than the ones the radio keeps playing over and over, time after time. Sweet dreams would be made of that. So if you’re getting tired of hearing “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “When Doves Cry,” and “Uptown Girl,” (all great songs, but overplayed) add these great forgotten singles to your next 80s mix tape. Okay, I know you don’t have a cassette player anymore, but what is more 80s than a mix tape?
More than This — Roxy Music
Roxy Music followed a rather crooked road in the Seventies, from art-school glam rockers to atmospheric soulful crooners. By their 1982 swan song album, Avalon — for which this dropdead gorgeous love song was the lead single — the band had paved the way for the New Wave explosion. Without music like this, there would have been no Duran Duran, Human League, OMD or Depeche Mode. www.youtube.com/embed/kOnde5c7OG8
Reap the Wild Wind — Ultravox
Midge Ure is currently better known as the other guy who co-wrote “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” and his band is better remembered for the melodramatic atmospherics of their hit “Vienna” and “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes.” However this majestic 1983 single is by far the singer/songwriter’s finest moment. www.youtube.com/embed/pR5cjfllaDA
The Modern | October 2011
the great forgotten
“Kissing With Confidence” — Will Powers
Will Powers was a goofy side-project by celeb photographer Lynn Goldsmith. She decided to ask some of her rock-star friends to help her make an album of wacky songs parodying self-help recordings – well over a decade before film director Baz Luhrmann’s similar one-off hit, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).” “Kissing with Confidence” gets bonus coolness points due to vocals by uncredited superstar Carly Simon – who had never seemed like she had a good enough sense of humor to be part of something as wonderfully silly as this. www.youtube.com/embed/dp-4o0IodsE
“Hang on Now” — Kajagoogoo
This song is proof positive that Kajagoogoo – despite having the worst band name of the 80s, even beating out Hayzi Fantayzee and Wang Chung – was not a one-trick pony. No one remembers another song from the band after “Too Shy,” but this follow-up single is just as good. Also look for lead singer Limahl’s single solo hit, the theme song to the film The Never Ending Story. www.youtube.com/embed/8ifjAKBxf3c
“Dance Hall Days” — Wang Chung
Speak of the poorly-named devil. A few years before everybody Wang Chung-ed pretty much every night, the band’s first single was actually light-years better than the song that exploited the band’s silly moniker and became their calling card. www.youtube.com/embed/V-xpJRwIA
The Modern | October 2011
“I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On” — Cherrelle
The song is more well-known from the greatly inferior Robert Palmer cover version that hit The Top Ten in 1986. The singer is best known for maudlin hit duets with Alexander O’Neal. However, Cherrelle’s original 1984 version of “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” was as close to Prince-ly perfection as mid-80s funk got. Besides, you have to love any music video with a guy in an ape suit breakdancing. www.youtube.com/embed/8BV1Ft4BQ1o
“I Can’t Hold Back” — Survivor
I know that when you think of Survivor, visions of meathead anthems like “Eye of the Tiger” fill your head. However, for a very brief window of time (the Vital Signs album), Survivor became one of the best purveyors of arena-rock ballads on the scene. This tune is the best of three spectacular cheese-ball love songs from that album, but also look for the followups: “High on You” and “The Search is Over.” www.youtube.com/embed/GaMcsKtBDwE
“I Beg Your Pardon” — Kon Kan
Anyone who could come up with the idea of marrying a sample of country songbird Lynn Anderson with a cool New Order synth line and vocals has to be an evil genius. Kon Kan never even came close to recapturing his spectacular first shot (his second single sampled from Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking,” but by then, the bloom was off the rose). This just adds to the confluence of influences that makes this one of those perfect one-off flukes that add excitement to music. www.youtube.com/embed/swnfPL8i4UM
Diners in the Rough Jacob is not in Kansas anymore, but that doesn’t mean New York can’t offer him an old-fashioned, All-American diner meal. When I was a young man about town in the heart of Kansas, my grandfather would wake me every morning, just before sunrise, to do a handful of chores that would take me all day to complete. And when one is raised on a farm in Kansas, one does not get paid for his labor; he gets fed! That’s just what grandpa would do; he would feed me to my heart’s content. After a long day’s honest work, I would get to choose where we would fill up. Sharp’s Diner was definitely my favorite spot to grub. Their down home cooking and the overall at-
have sampled many, many omelets. Needless to say, this is where I got my taste for good old diner food. Now that I live in New York and my grandpa is no longer around to drag me off to the local diner, I ventured into the city to find a diner that could summon the nostalgia that I once knew. Finding a diner in this city is a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. I just head to 10th Avenue and walk south. There I find a plethora of diners to choose from. My first stop,
It was a harmonious pairing of fresh cut tomato, creamy American cheese and toasty Wonder bread that put me over the top.
mosphere was quite nostalgic — a throw-back joint where everyone knows your name. Sharp’s had all the classics down pat, but there were a few that just outshined the rest. I would start with their giant cinnamon rolls, made from scratch, and served steaming with a slab of butter. The icing ran for days and the scent of its cinnamon core could be detected from across the room. I’ve never had anything like them anywhere else in the U.S. The main course would be the biscuits smothered in thick white sausage gravy and an order of hand-cut, American-style fries with an additional order of white sausage gravy for dipping. If I didn’t feel like biscuits and gravy, I would order the three-egg Denver omelet. This was stuffed with green peppers, onions, ham and a hearty helping of American cheese. It came with a large order of hash browns, with or without sausage gravy, and two slices of buttered toast with jam. My mouth waters every time I talk about it. Definitely one of the best omelets I’ve had to date and I www.themodern.us
Star Diner on 18th, is a quaint spot on the corner of 18th Street and 10th Avenue. From the outside façade I was unsure that it was the kind of diner I was looking for, but upon entering I realized it was just right. The diner had classic vinyl booths and a lunch counter you could belly up to and order a coffee and a sweet roll. I was handed a menu straight away and began flipping through it while the neon clock tictocked above my head. There were an array of classics like double cheeseburgers, open-faced Philly steak sandwiches with fresh cut peppers and onions, french fries smothered in cheese, malts, shakes and more. I was overwhelmed by the choices so I kept things simple. I ordered the standard American grilled cheese with tomato. While I waited for my sandwich, I peered around the room to take it all in. The patrons of the diner were definitely local and everyone knew each other. It almost felt like I was a guest at their table. My sandwich was up in no time and the gal from the old fashioned Coca-Cola sign was tempting me The Modern | October 2011
retro foodie with her ice-cold beverage. I would normally order for the peach/blackberry cobbler and a cup of coffee water but she was really selling it, so I opted for the with cream on the side. My coffee arrived in a sturdy Diet Coke instead. She was right! It went great with white mug and was amazing and rich with flavor, the butter-toasted white bread and that gooey Amerwhich cheered me up quite a bit. The music overhead ican-cheese filling. As I bit into the grilled-cheese triwas a mix of classic rock and The Beatles. The place angle, the cheese oozed out the side and dripped onto was growing on me quickly. my fingers, it was so good I had to lick them clean. It My cobbler arrived in a personal sized cast iron was a harmonious pairing of fresh cut tomato, creamy skillet topped with a dollop of home-made vanilla American cheese and toasty Wonder bread that put ice cream. The dessert was piping hot with freshly me over the top. Totally satisfied, I paid cut peaches and my tab and hit the streets in search juicy blackof a good cup of joe and slice of berries the All-American pie. size of your I didn’t have to go far to thumb. The find my next spot. The crust was a butHighliner Diner, on tery walnut crumble 22nd Street and 10th that retained its crunchiMy coffee arrived in Avenue, stuck out ness when mixed with like a shiny metal the berry juices and a sturdy white mug blast from the past. ice cream. The cool ice As I walked through cream complimented and was amazing and the door I could tell the oven-fresh berry I was in for an atmixture perfectly. I was mospheric treat. The definitely blown away. It rich with flavor. place was covered in tasted just like the cobbler white and black hexgrandma would have made agonal tile flooring and back on our farm in Kansas. polished stainless steel Satisfied, I sat for a minute, walls and trimming. The ceilfinished my coffee and decided I ing was paneled in wood like an really liked the way the diner mixed old-school bullet trailer that had trava modern menu with the nostalgia and eled through time. I wanted to roll up my blue architecture of the 50s style diner. jeans, put on a tight white t-shirt and slick my hair As I left, I thought about Sharp’s and about my back. The waitress greeted me with a menu and a trips there with my grandpa. It reminded me of evvery friendly smile and attitude. I was pleasantly surerything we did together and all the fun and great prised; it was like she was from the past too. food we had back then. The Star Diner and The I scanned the menu quickly. It wasn’t overwhelmHighliner helped me recall similar feelings. ing like other diners, and I was immediately caught Isn’t that why we like diners, because they remind off guard by the updated food options. They offered us of our youth and the good times? I think so, and dishes such as watermelon salad with feta cheese, my grandpa would definitely agree. So head out there arugula and black olives or squid a la plancha, which and try out the great American diners this city has to included sweet corn, lime and mint. offer. In this modern metropolis, let them take you At that point, the place seemed solely aesthetic, back to the good old days. but I was there for dessert and coffee, so I held off on my final judgment. I asked for pie; they only had Jacob Schirmer is a foodie from Kansas with an apkey lime pie. Disappointed in my pie options, I opted petite for life. New York City satisfies his every craving.
The Modern | October 2011
memory speedway David Cassidy In my eight-year-old dream, I’m the sassy, pretty, next-door neighbor playing hard-to-get with Keith Partridge. My personal vision of the show included me trading witticisms with the cute, boyish, slightly shy Keith on a regular basis. Whenever he left the house, there I’d be, washing the car or trimming the hedges. I would say something funny and flirty to him, which would stop him in his tracks. Then he’d blush or fidget or shake his head, smiling. Oh, yes, he would be in love with me – the girl next-door. At the ripe old age of ten, I realized that David Cassidy was the real-life prize – Keith Partridge just a role for the enormously talented star. That’s when I started begging my mom to buy me Tiger Beat magazine at the A&P check out. Of course she said no, so I started scavenging under sofa cushions and stalking
the five-and-ten parking lot looking for coinage with which to purchase my precious Tiger Beat. My friend Dawn lusted after Donny Osmond, so between us and our limited ability to collect change, we would gleefully tear out pages for each other and tape them to our bedroom walls. I perfected the art of carving our initials into trees (LK + DC), and raised the ire of Sister Immaculata when she discovered that I’d been doodling hearts and the name “David” on my notebook when I should have been completing the stupid math assignment. I gazed at the album covers, dwelling on his beautiful eyes, perfect teeth, and that fabulous feathered hair. But I knew in my heart of hearts that I was too young for him; that he would be dating gorgeous, interesting girls his own age, not some ridiculous, homely child like me. So then I would crumple up the love letters I had written to him,
Lenny Dykstra I wish Lenny Dykstra was my friend. Not the Lenny Dykstra of 2011 — the Lenny Dykstra of 1991. This was a guy who took my favorite Tom Hanks (as Jimmy Dugan) adage from A League of Their Own to heart: “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” Dykstra ran into walls, tumbled into home plate and chewed so much tobacco that he made the Marlboro Man look like the Naked Cowboy. Dykstra was my hero growing up simply because he was cool and because he played the game of baseball hard. Or so I thought. Years later I would come to find out that Dykstra was really just another juice-head wannabe “rockstar” who had the mental makeup of Kurt Cobain’s lyrics. Growing up in Booklyn meant you played baseball, and you liked either the Mets or the Yankees. I didn’t root for either team, to be quite honest. I felt it was much easier to root for one person. And that person just so happened to be Lenny Dykstra. But, it wasn’t enough to just root for him. I had to emulate him. And emulate him I did. I only wore the number 4. As a matter of fact, to this day, I www.themodern.us
and cry the tears of the forsaken at night in bed. In college, my roommate and I bonded over our mutual bubblegum love of David Cassidy – and the fact that we were the same size and could borrow each other’s clothes. Of course, by then it was a joke of sorts. We would bring tapes of “I Think I Love You” to parties and bars, and dance our drunk little hearts out. Later, when she worked for a New York publishing company, she found some unpublished photos of David from his teen idol days. In the one I recall, he was posing rather rudely with a small doll that a fan had sent. It only made me love him more. Lisa Shander spends her time wrangling her two middle- and highschool-age boys and their friends, and harassing school and county officials at her home on Signal Mountain,Tennessee.
will not wear a jersey unless it has the number 4 on it. I do, however, make an exception for Derek Jeter’s number 2. I was too young to chew tobacco like Dykstra did, so I opted for Big League Chew. Of course I couldn’t spit like he did. But who the hell wants to spit out Green Apple flavored gum anyway? I was too young to drink and drive and get into an accident with Darren Daulton (in which Dykstra broke his right collarbone). So I had a cup of iced tea with extra sugar, hopped on my Air Dyno and played bumper-bikes with my brother, Greg. I was also too young to spend most of my promising career nursing injuries. So I’d get hurt and then play through the injury. But, in Lenny’s defense, a scraped knee probably isn’t the same as a concussion from running into a wall. Therefore, to be safe, and to make up for my own inadequacies, I broke my collarbone three times before the age of six. As Jimmy Dugan says, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” Jeff Vrecenak is a freelance writer and the co-owner of BaseballSantaClaus.com, a website dedicated to giving away baseball tickets free of charge to people in need.
The Modern | October 2011
memory speedway Little House on the Prairie When I was eight-years old, in the early part of the 1970s, the inevitable happened: I fell in love for the first time with a book. From the moment I read the first chapter of Little House in the Big Woods, I was hooked. I adored the Little House on the Prairie series. I became obsessed with Pa and Ma, Laura and Mary, their baby sister Carrie, and their good old bulldog, Jack. I couldn’t believe I was stuck in the suburbs when it was quite obvious that I had been born in the wrong era. I was made to be part of the Ingalls family. I was a prairie girl at heart. Anyone could see that. Eat squirrel for dinner? Sure! Survive with no heat? I’m hardy! No indoor plumb-
ing? Well, If Laura could do it, then I could too! I was captivated and loved my life in those books. I even dressed as Laura Ingalls for Halloween. Of course, my hair was short and curly, not long, straight and pig-tailed, but I figured my beautiful bonnet helped to hide that fact. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better – I discovered that Little House on the Prairie was going to be made into a television series. It amazed me that there were so many other people who loved Laura as well. I felt validated! I planted myself in front of our little television that September evening in 1974 and waited with growing anticipation as Laura, Mary and Carrie ran over the grassy prairie
Alberto Tomba: The Skier Better-Known as La Boomba Tomba The year is nineteen-ninety something. Alberto Tomba was, at the time, my hero – like every avid snow-ski racer. He dominated both Slalom and Giant Slalom during the 1980s and 1990s (which was my aspiration at the time). He was also constantly being photographed driving a Ferrari and being kissed by Miss Italy (which is my current ambition). Every day during the week, I would hop the bus up to my local mountain and train with the Ski Team. We would try to get the fastest time down the hill by emulating Toomba’s explosive ski style. We pumped ourselves up by pretending that it was the buzzer-beating moment: “Ok, it’s the last race of the year. You’re behind by just a couple tenths of second and you’re the last skier of the day…ready?” I chant to myself, La Boomba Tomba, La Boomba Tomba, La Boomba Tomba! At thirteen-years old, I suddenly have an unexplainable leap in ability. I go from being a mediocre skier to one of the elite in my age bracket. I zip towards the first gate with as much fervor as my youthful body can garner. Next thing I know, I’m on my side, sliding toward damnation. I had lost my edge and had fallen. Somehow, I manage to pop up without losing too much momentum and I am right back in the race. In competitive skiing, races are won and lost by tenths and hundreds of a second. But La Bomba Tomba would never back down and neither would I. I am only a couple tenths of a second behind the leader and my time is good enough to place me fifth. Later, I would find out that I had the fastest time of the day through three-fourths of the course. Looking back on this moment, I realize the importance of having heroes. Mark Thomas received his master’s from New York’s New School for drama; he currently resides in Los Angeles, CA. where he is pursuing a career in film and television. The Modern | October 2011
knoll and into my living room. The two Melissas [Melissa Sue Anderson and Melissa Gilbert] were perfect as Laura and Mary. And has there ever been a better television villain than Nellie Oleson? And, Pa! I hadn’t realized Pa was so handsome! The show was perfect. Laura, of course, would always do the right thing by the end of the episode. My mom, understanding then as a mother of three what I could never know until I had my own children, would turn to me and say, “You know, Linda, people are not really that nice. Problems are not solved that quickly.” But I knew the truth — Pa was so good-looking that people just did what he wanted. About fourteen years ago, when I was pregnant with my older daughter, I was having early contractions and was told to take it easy for a couple days. I’m not sure what prompted me, but I found that bag of Little House books. I lay on my couch and reread the entire series, hoping to find the magic that I remembered from so long ago. I’m happy to say I did. Maybe it was because I was on the brink of a major life-changing event, but those books were the perfect medicine for me. I took comfort in the simplicity of the stories and figured that if Ma and Pa could travel by wagon with three girls from Wisconsin to Kansas in the 1800s, then maybe, just maybe, my husband and I could bring a girl into this world and do right by her. In her previous life, Linda Muehlbronner worked in marketing communications; she currently is an athome mom living in Chalfont, PA www.themodern.us
Julie Andrews Julie Andrews was my heroine. I remember seeing Mary Poppins in the movie theater and dressing up as her for Halloween. I wanted to be able to fly and sing. And when I first saw “The Sound of Music,” well, forget it! To this day, when I see that movie, I stand on a chair or my bed, throw my arms in the air, twirl around in circles and scream, “The hills are alive with the sound of music!” I just can’t help myself. Julie has always seemed like such a lady. She was married to the same man for 41 years, and always so proper. Even when she cussed in Victor/Victoria, I forgave her for that. She bared her boobies in that same film, and I forgave her for that too, because
I knew they were stand-in boobies. I even love her morerecent movies. Yes, I have watched The Princess Diaries and, dare I say it, The Tooth Fairy. I own a catering company based outside of Philadelphia and we cater all of the events for Macy’s in the area. A few years ago, we were asked to set-up a green room for Ms. Andrews. She had just released her first book and was going to sign copies in the store. For once, I asked if I could please work this event! Not only did I meet her, I showed her a photo of me in my Mary Poppins Halloween costume. She was so sweet. She signed my
book and ate the scones and clotted cream we had left for her. It was a thrill and one of the most exciting days. So, even when I was older and listening to Freddie Mercury and painting my finger nails black and cooking and cussing like a sailor in many different kitchens, my heart always belonged to Julie Liz Sokolow-Shockley is co-owner, along with her husband, Greg, of the Philadelphia-based catering company Sage Caterers. Contact them at: www.sage99event.com
He-Man Power Sword When you’re the same weight at thirty-years old that you were at three-years old, you can draw one of many assumptions about yourself. You could assume, for starters, that you were a really, really heavy kid. Not true in my case. In fact, quite the opposite. I’m thin. So thin, in fact, that the recent invasion of hipster skinny jeans still left my Diesel Thicars hanging low enough to make the world aware that I favor Calvin Klein boxer briefs. When you’re as thin as me you can rule out a couple activities that you should engage in. Wrestling, football, rugby, and mixed martial arts – I stayed away from all these manly activities growing up (and still do now). So, I turned, as a very young child, to my trusty, two-piece, grey and yellow He-Man Masters of the Universe Power Sword. My power sword came with me everywhere. I’d keep my slightly phallic security blanket tucked into my shirt, ready to pounce on any offender with lightning speed. (I went to Catholic school as a kid, and the nuns had a discussion with my parents about the appropriateness of bringing a sword to school. So, after much resistance I caved in and agreed to part with my sword between the hours of 8 and 3.) Looking back, I’d say that the nuns offered sage advice, as one instant of sword-driven craziness stands out above all others. Every year, my mother’s company organized a picnic to www.themodern.us
continue building camaraderie among employees. Nuns didn’t attend, so I made sure that I had my sword. The picnic held many family-friendly events – three-legged races, potato sack races, face-painting – just to name a few. My particular favorite was the annual magician. He asked for a volunteer to participate in a card trick. The magician should have known better than to choose a kid with a sword in his back. He asked me to pick a card and keep the card’s identity a secret. I complied. When he successfully revealed the card I had picked, I grew angry and experienced tunnel vision. Feeling threatened, I pulled out my sword and WHACK! I hit him — He-Man style — in front of the entire audience in what was definitely an act of self-defense. My parents no longer allowed me to carry the sword after that event. And, for twenty-three years, I had gone swordless. One day earlier this summer, however, I purchased a brand new He-Man Masters of the Universe Power Sword for $2 at a local garage sale. I no longer carry the sword in my back as often, but magicians everywhere should be on their best behavior. Greg Vrecenak currently teaches high school English in Brooklyn and on Staten Island, co-owns the philanthropic website Baseball Santa Claus, and has dreams of circumnavigating the globe on a wooden raft.
The Modern | October 2011
Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party Come as you aren’t: the murky beginnings of cable access television. By Ronald Sklar
most famous and celebrated photographer, had also made a brief appearance — as a stylist. The question isn’t this: how much can you endure It’s George Clinton, of the funkadelic band Parof artsy New York hipsters who think they are smartliament, who sums it all up when asked by O’Brien, er, cooler and more detached than you? The question “What is too funky?” is this: how do all the Lower East Side struggling art“Evidently, nothing,” Clinton answers, looking ists – who this late Seventies’ cable-access show is around. This is while Fab Five Freddy, the early rapaimed at – afford cable? per, is dressed for Halloween as a dime bag. We’ll never know, nor O’Brien, a writer who is trying his best to be an will we care, nor does Glenn enigma, hosts this mess, which is meant to be evO’Brien care if we know or erything and nothing, deliberate and accidental all care or not. Glenn O’Brien’s at once. Whatever you think of it, O’Brien and his TV Party is a cultish culturband of merry men will try to make you think you’re al hiccup in that New York wrong. Take it for what it is — and try to watch more than ten minutes of it if you can — there are long, awkward It’s the TV show that’s a pauses, avant garde music (read: noise), rambling lectures, and a cocktail party that could be small studio audience made up of the creepy and the kooky. Everyone you would expect, and in a political party. black and white. Johnny Carson may have cigarette smoke waftminute between the advent ing across his desk, but here, the smoke is of a more of cable TV and MTV, when medicinal nature. anything went just to fill the Most fun, however, is the newly cool idea of takempty, lonely after-hours ing viewer’s phone calls (example: “you guys make for a spaced-out audience of disco look good, ya know that?”). Feel free to call dozens. into the show and tell them how much they suck. In O’Brien describes it like this: “it’s the TV show 1979, you didn’t even need to dial an area code. that’s a cocktail party that could be a political party.” Everyone here, without much effort, is easily having There’s a message in there somewhere. In the meanmore fun than you are; it’s the wild side of New York, time, as the crude computer graphics instruct us, the anti-suburban dream of your youth; the late-night “CALL NOW FOR A TV PARTY T-SHIRT AND New York life you want to live until the rent is due. It NEWSLETTER.” raises more questions than it answers: are they on to We all know how bad cable access television can something or are they just on something? be, from our own local experiences to the spoofs of them on Saturday Night Live, but this one in particular became a sort of classic. Debbie Harry, who for those five minutes was maybe the biggest pop star in the world, made for a chilly guest (she’s so cold she’s hot) and David Letterman has been known to say that this was one of his favorite TV shows (but was he being serious?). Steven Maisel, not yet the world’s www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3d0ZymLEk0&feature=related The Modern | October 2011
It is universally agreed that the greatest film musical of all time is How To Stuff A Wild Bikini. This clip keeps right on proving it. Here, Mickey Rooney, as high-powered executive J. Peachmont Keane (or Peachy Keane for “short”), picks his ideal girl for an upcoming public relations campaign. The other girls feel that they should be given equal consideration (hence, their plea in song). These chicks who know all the tricks do make a good point. However, Peachy’s mind is made up and he will not be knuckled under by temptation. He admits, “You’re wild, chickie babies, wild! But she is the wildest!” Case closed. And his judgment is not at all affected by his wearing a three-piece suit and bowler hat on a stifling hot beach Ronald Sklar
The Modern | October 2011
Published on Oct 2, 2011
Pardon the pun, but the obsession with retro is nothing new. The past is never past. It’s a living thing. Still, we like to consider ourselv...