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What I Learned This Week – 2/8/15

This week I learned about the 80’s TV series The Facts of Life.

The Facts of Life aired on NBC from 1979-1988

The Facts of Life aired on NBC from 1979-1988

Entertainment Weekly, which seems to be trying to gain more readers by being the go-to pop culture binge one-stop, put an in-depth article about The Facts of Life on their website. You can check it out here:

Actually, a lot of it I already knew, but just forgot. Tidbits, like that Nancy McKeon (she was always my favorite) was up for the role of Monica on Friends (Courtney Cox is the best Monica). Or that Mindy Cohn was not even an actor–she was just a regular girl at a private school giving show creators a tour of her school (she proved to be a very important quarter of the show). Or that Geri Jewell was the first actress with cerebral palsy with a recurring role on a TV series. Or that they tried to make a spin-off at the very end about students at Eastland again, featuring young Juliette Lewis, Mayim Bialik, and Seth Green. But, it wouldn’t have lasted, even if they did pick it up. Because it looked like a lot like the first season of The Facts of Life. Mostly taking place in the common room of a dormitory, which had proved unsuccessful previously. The show was its most successful and engaging when it centered on only Mrs. Garrett, the four girls, and the cafeteria.

The article mentions all the “special episodes” that occurred over the years, including racism, “abortion, adoption, drug abuse, alcoholism, rape, and suicide at various points”. But they forget to mention the episode where Tootie talks to the young prostitute in a New York City, and almost gets recruited herself. The prostitute was played by a very young Tammy Lauren, later known for playing Ginger Szabo on ABC’s post-WWII masterpiece “Homefront”.

In the 1980’s, The Facts of Life made me want to create a male version of the show.  I wanted to have Dick Clark as the head master, then all the trouble-making school boys would be played by all the young, male actors that I had crushes on at the time.  It would have been a hit with tween girl audiences.

If you want to reminisce about all things Facts of Life, including Andy, Pippa, George, and Beverly, check out the link above.

The paint fight is always my favorite.

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Freezing Rain on the Block

There seems to be a big debate out in the world right now concerning whether school gets delayed or canceled for weather more now than it did previously.

This debate seems to come up every year about this time. It takes me back to a simpler time. A time in Michigan between the Blizzard of ’78, caused by regular old winter and the large snowfalls of 2014, caused by climate change. It takes me back to a certain winter, 1989-90, when I was in 8th grade. There was not snow that winter, but endless freezing rain. Freezing rain caused by global warming that no one was talking about yet.

Freezing rain, in case you live somewhere without it.

Freezing rain, in case you live somewhere without it.

My life was very complicated at that time. I struggled every morning with what clothes and jewelry to wear so that I wouldn’t get teased once I arrived at the bus stop/bus/school. I desperately wanted to wear things that would be “in fashion”*. Instead, I tried for “blend in”. Usually, I achieved something just north of “you’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny”. (Although, I assure you, my mom was not dressing me at that time.) Luckily schoolwork came rather easy to me, because I spent most of my time stressing about all the different cliques at my school. And if any boys would ever like me. (Seems kinda obvious now that no boys liked me in 8th grade because I had zero boobs and looked like I was about 10.) Little did I know that my future husband was still in elementary school at this time. My school looked like a prison, with tall gray walls and few windows. Gum chewing was banned. I was lucky enough to be able to say I had 6 friends that year. That is probably the only time in my life I have been able to say that.

My bedroom walls circa 1989, partway through NKOTB-ification.

My bedroom walls circa 1989, partway through NKOTB-ification.

Now that I have painted the picture for you of my day-to-day existence, I must let you know that it was the year of New Kids on The Block. Their presence in every part of pop culture had sling-shotted me into puberty. My asbestos friend and I made a daily pilgrimage to the nearby pharmacy to loiter and read the teen magazines to gain all the knowledge we could about Danny, Donnie, Joe, Jon, and Jordan. (I would marry Jordan, and she would marry Jon, and we would be sisters-in-law.**) When we had some money, we would buy the magazines for research purposes, such as the name of Jon’s dog and their bodyguards. We also hung up the pin-ups all over our rooms. What better way to memorize every line on their faces?

EVERY girl at school had a NKOTB T-shirt. So, of course, I had to get one. As all the fashion was still 1980’s-based, and I was fond of all things fluorescent. The New Kids shirt I bought had a black and white picture of each of them, accented with fluorescent yellow. On the back were hand prints in hot pink (presumably theirs), with a print of their autographs on it. I think only one or two other girls in my school had that particular shirt.

My NKOTB scrapbook

My NKOTB scrapbook

You might wonder what all this has to do with freezing rain. I’m getting to that.

I learned a trick. If you wore a risky article of clothing on a Monday, the other hellions at school teased you about it ALL WEEK LONG. So, I took to wearing risky clothing on Fridays. Then, it would be forgotten about over the weekend. By everyone else, anyway.

So, the winter of 8th grade, I always wore my New Kids on The Block shirt on Friday.

“But, they were popular?” you ask.

Yes, they were. And other girls in the school liked them too.

But just because the popular kids like the same things you did, that still didn’t mean you weren’t safe from getting teased for it. Especially if you had a reputation for being an easy target. (Please, kids. NEVER let yourself get that reputation. It will scar you for life and force you to use your blog as therapy for it.) Although I did once impress a group of girls a rung or two higher on the popularity ladder than I by showing up at school with the first known magazine of Jordan with his shirt off. Of course, they still didn’t let me be in their dissection group in biology class.

Jordan Knight showing off his chest.

Jordan Knight showing off his chest.

And I never knew if I would walk into school one day, and that would be the day everyone else decided that NKOTB were uncool. (It turned out that happened during the summer after 8th grade.)

So, I put on my NKOTB shirt every Friday, ready to head off to the hell that was middle school. And every Friday, for what seemed like all winter, school was either delayed, cancelled, or delayed until it was cancelled, due to freezing rain. I guess something about the roads being slippery and not thinking it was safe for the school buses to drive on them or something. I was a kid. All I knew was that my NKOTB shirt was my “lucky charm” to get school cancelled. If I wore it, I got to stay home! Or, in most cases, hang out with my asbestos friend all day.

Just because the roads were too icy to drive on, didn’t mean they were too icy to walk on, right? My asbestos friend and I would go up to the pharmacy to look at teeny bopper magazines, all the while clinging on each other as we slid along on the ice-covered sidewalks. One time the ice was so bad that she got out her ice skates and skated down the road of our subdivision (i.e. trailer court). I followed along, sliding in my boots. It was great fun, until the sun came out and melted the ice and she had to hobble home in her ice skates on concrete.

One day, I even fell down–which was AWESOME!!

You see, my mother wouldn’t let me cut holes in my jeans, as was the style at the time. But when I fell on the ice, I tore a tiny little hole in the knee of my jeans. I picked and picked and picked at that hole until it went from side to side, seam to seam. (She is still mad at me about that to this day.)

So, you see, that is how winter weather, New Kids on the Block, and fashion are all stored together in my mind.

Oh, I never got to see the New Kids in concert. Still kinda hoping my asbestos friend and I might go someday. But, I did meet one in person!***

* In retrospect, it is all so fucking stupid. We were a bunch of farm kids in Michigan. Why were we trying so hard to dress like the people we saw on TV and in magazines anyway? It’s not like we were going to grow up and be famous models or Miss Teen Michigan or anything.

** As an adult, Jordan seems very self-centered and egotistical. No longer appealing to me. And Jon turned out to be gay. I was always sure that with that high voice, Jordan would be the gay one.

*** I met Joe McIntyre! There is a picture of him hugging me to prove it, but I was unfortunately never able to actually get my hands on said picture. *sigh* Now I think Joe may be my favorite.

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Bosom Buddies

Bosom Buddies is more awesome than I remember.

I went shopping last weekend with my asbestos friend.  We went to Target.  While looking at the DVDs, in a chance encounter she read off the title of Bosom Buddies.  I was like “What!  I have never seen that one in a store!  I must own it!”

If you don’t remember (But, how could you not!), Bosom Buddies was a sitcom starring Tom Hanks (as Kip) and Peter Scolari (as Henry) that debuted in 1980, and ran for two seasons. It was about two young guys who worked at an ad agency. They find a cheap place to live, but it is a women’s only hotel. So, they do the logical thing. They dress up like women to live there.

Photo: Bosom Buddies

Bosom Buddies

I started watching my season one dvd box set right when I got home.  I was instantly disappointed for two reasons.

1. They changed the theme song.  Originally, it was Billy Joel’s “My Life”.

And it does say on the box “Some music has been changed for this home entertainment version.”  And if I had seen that before purchase, I would have instantly known that, of course, Billy Joel doesn’t want them using one of his songs if he can’t make mucho money off of it.  I am surprised that Billy Joel allowed them to use it as the theme song on televison in 1980.  And I am sure he never dreamed they would be asking permission to use it on a DVD 34 years later.

Who in their right mind would still want to watch a show about cross-dressing guys in the 80’s 34 years later?  (Not me.  I want to watch it, but I am not in my right mind ;P )

But it made me sad.  The theme is such an ESSENTIAL PART of the show!  I may not have bought it if I had seen the warning first.  And the song they replaced it with is heinous.

So, how did I cope?  I muted the TV for the first 90 seconds of every episode and sang the Billy Joel song myself.  (If he had heard this, Billy Joel might have taken pity and let them use the song…)

2.  The first couple episodes dragged.

Or maybe it just took that long for me to get back into it again. The first episode sets up that they are moving into the hotel and dressing like women, “Buffy & Hildy”. The second episode introduces them to the women who live in the building as Buffy & Hildy’s brothers.

But by episode 3, the hot neighbor across the hall that Kip has a crush on comes to stay in their apartment, and wacky high-jinks ensue.

I watched all 19 episodes of season one within about 36 hours.  I love binge watching.

I watched Bosom Buddies at the time it originally aired, and a little bit when it was in syndication. This was still probably 30 years ago. I forgot how utterly annoying Tom Hanks was when he first started out. So goofy and lanky and loud. He seems to have figured out how to harness that over the years to make boring, Oscar-winning roles. I still believe he has all that energy and goofiness trapped inside him somewhere. Maybe he only lets it out when he voices toy cowboys.

Photo: Peter Scolari, 1980

Peter Scolari, 1980

I forgot how CUTE Peter Scolari was. He was always my favorite. As Henry, he was the one with all the heart, while Kip was a jerk a lot of the time. And I have liked Peter in everything he has done through the years. Except maybe Newhart, because that was a really dull show to watch, especially in my teens. I liked Dweebs, another short-lived show that you might remember for Corey Feldman being a part of the cast.

Bosom Buddies also starred the great Wendie Jo Sperber (Back To The Future, Babes), the super Telma Hopkins (Gimme A Break, Family Matters) and the wonderful Holland Taylor (The Practice, 2 And A Half Men). This show had a great, talented cast with great comedy and timing chops. It is too bad that the writers seem to only be able to give Telma stereotypical black girl punch lines to spout. Her part on Gimme A Break several years later with Nell Carter would be much more well-rounded. Holland comes off as the old chick on that show, playing their boss. But when my husband and I thought about, she was probably only in her late 30’s at that time–and I am that age now!

In one episode, they are at a club that has a comedian. It is Bob Saget. Bosom Buddies was produced by Miller-Milkis-Boyett Productions. Seven years later, Full House would premiere starring Saget, produced by Miller/Boyett Productions. Could it be that is how he got on the radar to play Danny Tanner? While Danny Tanner was a giant dork, no one else could have played him as lovingly as Bob Saget.

The clothes are not yet over-the-top 80’s fashions, but you can tell they are approaching. Fast.  I liked how they would have to come up with more and more inventive places to change their clothes on the way to work or back home again. It is bothersome that as I got further into my season one episodes, they seemed to show them dressed up as women less and less often. I wonder if that was a change that the network may have asked for. It is missed, especially since that is the whole premise of the show! Kip and Henry hang out with these girls from the building more and more as just Kip and Henry. Now, wouldn’t it be weird if you suddenly started hanging out with the “brothers” of the women who lived across the hall from you, but they themselves were never around? Some episodes make up excuses for it, like that Buffy and Hildy are sick in bed. But usually, it is just not brought up at all.

I noticed there are two rainbows that hung on the wall in the office behind them at their work. Could that have been some sort of support for the gay community? Or just leftover groovy 70’s style?

Apparently, in the second season they leave the ad agency and buy a commercial production house. I don’t really remember that. And that makes me torn as to whether I should purchase season two or not.

But it is a great TV show.  Be sure to play the theme song video above.  If you already did, please play it again.  Then, the next time you hear “My Life” playing in the grocery store, you will think of Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari in drag.  And that brings a smile to everyone’s face… 🙂

You Can Never Get Too Much Punky Brewster

Since I had almost no followers a year ago, most of you probably do not realize that I have previously blogged about Punky Brewster. (Clicking on the link will let you see my Punky-inspired tattoo.) I loved her growing up and spent quite a while dressing like her and buying assorted merchandise which I am sure made NBC quite rich and Soleil Moon Frye didn’t see a penny.

I now follow her on Facebook. It is very cool to get to see glimpses of her life now with her husband and two young daughters. I have learned that she really loves to take pictures of herself. Sometimes I try to pretend our lives have things in common. They really do not.

The other day I found this page from my scrapbook about my Punky-worshipping years. Enjoy. Please don’t laugh so hard your gut bursts open.

Yes, my scanner is small and I had to piece together 2 pictures.

For more Punky, please visit:

Ode to Punky Brewster

My Life Philosophy (Sitcom Style)

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A Few of My Fav 80’s Pix (Fashion Extravaganza…or lack thereof)

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I guess I am glad I grew up in the 1980’s. It gave me a chance to wear some truly bright and strange clothes. I still got teased for wearing them. But I still think I looked good.

Here is a picture of my asbestos friend and I at a school dance. We must have been dancing hard because we look a little sweaty and gross. I look at this picture and think “No wonder no boys wanted to kiss me. I look like I’m eight years old!” And yes, I am wearing my Wild Puffalumps shirt that I got from the Kool-Aid Wacky Warehouse. I wonder if that still exists?

Two hot chicks at the middle school Beach Party Dance. 5/20/1988

This is my favorite 80’s outfit. I have never gotten to make my own tie-dyed shirt (I am lacking in so many essential life experiences). This shirt from Hill’s (the 80’s palace of pre-teen low-budget sub-standard style) was as close as I came. I am also wearing my jean skirt–everyone was required to have one. Notice how I am not just wearing 2 socks on each foot, but one foot has yellow/pink, and the other has pink/yellow. Ya, I knew how to rock it.

My favorite 80’s outift

This is my second favorite 80’s outfit. It was very colorful. And I was very into the color fuschia/magenta at the time. Notice the fake suspenders, where both ends are attached to the shirt. The jeans had multi-colored patches on them. (My mom didn’t put them on, they came that way. I know, stylish.) I think there were 3 patches in all, but only two can be seen in the picture.

My second favorite 80’s outfit

I told my husband “This is what teenage girls do when they don’t have boyfriends and they are at home bored.” He said, “What, masterbate?” I replied, “Well, that too. But they also put lots of hair spray and make-up on to see how awesome they can look.”

Maybe I was going for the Pizzaz from Jem & The Holograms look? Notice the Kirk Cameron T-shirt. (Man, I was a nerd.)

Final and lastmost. The pride of the collection. I present to you, the hightest my bangs ever got. They would have gotten bigger…but then the 80’s ended:( This was a school picture. Yup, I rocked the necktie in a school picture. I still totally have that shirt. I wear it now and then and tell people it is over 20 years old. (They are unimpressed.)

School picture time. Whoa, can barely fit those bangs in the picture-NOT!

OK. That is all the embarrassment I can handle for one post. Remember folks, these are the pictures I CHOSE to share with the world. There are many others that will never see the light of the cybersphere.

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