Sunday, December 25, 2011


Like I'm sure a good portion of you readers are, I too and filled to the brim with great memories of Christmases past to the point where I can even remember what I was doing on certain December 25ths when I was but a mere tot. In fact, the earliest one I can remember (age three) is still deeply etched in my brain, especially the part when, at the family Christmas party, I snuck up on my cousin and bit him on the back of the neck because he wouldn't let me play with his new lithographed pressed metal filling station/garage! After this not-so-nefarious act I do recall cuz crying his eyes out while sitting on the toidy upstairs as somebody rubbed ointment on his bite (which I was too young  to consider an insult, as I've had all my shots and have shown no signs of any disease venereal or otherwise...and not only that but why weren't the grown ups worried about any infections I'd occur biting into his neck!), and recall my absolute dismay that it was he who was getting the sympathetic treatment! I mean, it was """"I""""" had been the snub-ee who was not allowed near that classic fifties-styled garage complete with a car park lift and a number of plastic vehicles to go with it!

The next year was also a fab 'un with me not only receiving my own more modern-looking gas station which also came with a garage park and a slew of plastic Jaguars and Lincolns to go with it but a rifle similar to the one Chuck Conners used on tee vee's THE RIFLEMAN which I would walk around pretending to blast away crotch-level just like in the opening of that famed western series. While we're on the subject of deadly weapons, I also got this dart plunger mini-automatic machine gun with various BEETLE BAILEY cardboard characters to mow down, something which in retrospect I find reprehensible since the guys from Camp Swampy were on our side. Why no Viet Cong or even leftover Koreans, or maybe that wasn't keeping too much in the BAILEY spirit one would surmise. I also remember watching THE BARNEY BEAN SHOW  that afternoon as the family party roared on in the basement, the only Christmas show of his I recall in which he actually appeared even if it was only to tell us that since it was Christmas there wouldn't be any kids on or even drawings using one's initials today but cartoons and nothing but. (I remember the set coming off rather dark as if they wanted to save $$$ by using only the barest lighting essentials, though perhaps it was filmed in advance and given the quality of some of the local station film reproduction in those pre-videotape days I wouldn't doubt it.)

After that Christmas well...they were a mix and match affair. The one I had when I was six or so was OK until I kicked my cousin (same one I bit a few years earlier) because he bust my toy drum pounding it really hard like the drummers in the rock groups did on tee-vee...I certainly remember getting hauled off and whipped for that while one of my aunts was laughing her head off because I told my dad I kicked him because "that's what they do in PEANUTS".  The Corgi Toy X-mas a few years later was also a joy to behold (still remember staring lovingly at the Ghia L4-6 for minutes on end as if it were a moon rock, only snazzier) while Christmas age 12 was pretty good considering the stash of comic books and collections of old Golden Age reprints I lucked out on. Getting into my teenbo years, '75 and '76 stick in my mind if only because I was buying records and well...that sorta figures into fun times really big, y'know? (12/26/75 continues to resonate not only because we went to Cleveland that day but because I bought a cutout copy of the Reuben and the Jets' FOR REAL album on cassette [a comparative snoozer though I wouldn't mind giving the thing another listen] and got sick after my first visit inside a Red Lobster restaurant [the one in Niles Ohio...still there!]  which I blame on the greasy fish I ordered. I guess that's what I deserved for passing up on the first ever copy of CHELSEA GIRL to grace mine eyes, though I recall also passing on a Tanned Leather album I had seriously been considering buying for some time and for the life of me I wonder if that was something smart to do or not considering their mid-ranking, and rather mixed reception,  in the krautrock hall of fame!)

Nowadays Christmas is just another time for me to reflect on past funtime excesses, the boffo gifts and all of the shenanigans that seemed to go woosh once the whacked out seventies clocked over into the giddy squeaky clean eighties. Oh, there were a few good holiday periods sprinkled throughout the "Reagan years" as they say ('82 and '86 being particularly spunky, though '83 was a loser considering the midnight shift job in a junkyard that all but practically ruined my reason for being) but really, along with sleds, stuffed stockings, meringue cookies and those kid fights every party was bound to create the Christmases of past as just about as much a memory as all of those relatives who used to populate those parties who are either now gone or just too old to cut the cheese anymore. All I do on Christmas is eat leftovers and spend recently given moolah via ebay...certainly not the wild kiddie party look at the presents times we all used to have during that great baby boom-dominated tee-vee throbbing rock 'n rolling post-World War II/pre-Politically Pious days that now seems about as distant as the Triassic Period.

But I am not here to praise Christmas, but to bury it! Yes, along with the funtime frolics and ginchy greed there was, and most definitely REMAINS, a lotta bad baggage to go along with the holiday season. And considering that you readers are probably on a pretty hotcha holiday high as we speak its time that somebody was around to drag you down to where you belong! And that someone is me...

So, here are the top twelve (one for each day of Christmas) lousiest things about the Holiday Season which I know you will agree with me about (and you better...after all it's my blog!).. Yes, for every MISTER MAGOO'S CHRISTMAS CAROL or A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS there must be about ten THE CHIPMUNK WHO PLAYED WITH HIS NUTS THROUGH CHRISTMAS, and for every great Christmas song there must be a dozen or so barfers, all not surprisingly written within the past thirty or so years! So why spend the holidays thinking nothing but world peace when you can Vex the Halls with these definite X-mas low points both past and present...

1) THE CHRISTMAS EPISODE OF THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW-I'm sure at least a good 25% of us can agree that this series was one of the best ever (a def. top forty placer no less) which is no mean feat in an era that produced plenty of good television viewing which continues to stand the test of time. But hey, this reworking of the old Scrooge saga from the series' first season was definitely one of the ten worst this 'un pumped out. (The ten worst ANDY GRIFFITH episodes is a task worthy of a future BLOG TO COMM, and as usual your imput would be unceremoniously tossed by the wayside.) The fact that the ever-sickening Ellie played by Elinor Donahue (who was put to better use on FATHER KNOWS BEST, not exactly one of my top forty classy-era tee-vee choices!) is a featured player in this Dickens rewrite only adds more lump to the rump. Better the umpteenth rerun of EIGHT IS ENOUGH's own sappy mom is dead X-mas schmoozer than this, and I loathe that 'un with a passion!

2) THE CHRISTMAS EPISODE OF THE ADDAMS FAMILY-Given the general irreverence and sexy nature of the boss mid-sixties series, it's sad to see them ruin the chance to do some funny holiday skewering and turn such an opportunity into a gosharootie who's gonna play Santa Claus complete with sappy "Meaning of Christmas" epilogue that's so atypical of the show's entire reason for existence. Oh the wasted opportunity, like seeing Santa subjected to the usual Addams hospitality with all of the telegraphed in advance gags and gaffes with St. Nick making a quick getaway! Now I woulda loved to have seen that!

3) THIS REMARKABLY TERRIBLE NEW CHRISTMAS SONG ABOUT AMERICA I HEARD IN THE SUPERMARKET TODAY-For new heights in jingoistic patriotic fervor this 'un can't be beat. It starts off with lyrics along the lines of "Merry Christmas America" complete with a few cops from other well-known hymns crooned in that typically gruff pseudo-country male singing voice heard so often these days. Then if you can believe it, things get worse as the spiritual successor to Roger Whittaker begins moaning something about This Land Of Ours and the holiday season. If you thought "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" or the recent rash of "updated" goody-two-shoes happy birthday Jesus Christmas songs were beyond the realm of the puke pail, this 'un makes those come off like Fear's "Fuck Christmas"!

4) THE CHRISTMAS EPISODE OF THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW-Back to the tee-vee. Not that this particular installment of the Van Dyke show bugs me the same way that the Griffith one does, but that's only because I've always held Griffith's in a much higher regard. Y'see, although DVD's first series was one that was always on the tube throughout my growing up years and even when it was being syndicated to all heck,  that doesn't mean it was exactly a top-tenner in my book! But probably remember this one which was being presented as an actual installment of the fictitious ALAN BRADY SHOW,  a "very special episode" as they used to say where the usually egomaniacal Brady hands the reigns of his very program over to his writers (and of course Dick's very own wife 'n kid) to do the singing and entertaining while he sat on his throne dressed as Santa the whole time. First off, whose idea was it to have the no name hired help do the entertaining in the first place, Mel Cooley's? I mean, couldn't they wrangle the Redcoats into making another appearance thus boosting the ratings through the roof? Secondly, if you thought that the likes of Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam and that kid who played Richie singing in that irritating version of "Little Drummer Boy" was a great way to enjoy the holiday season you must have really loved those specials and failed series that Van Dyke had been tossing at us ever since the demise of the original.  For mushies only.

5) THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY TEE-VEE SPECIAL (narrated by Greer Garson)-Speaking of the drummer boy...for all of the people out there who complain about "the true meaning of Christmas" being lost in the wave of crass commercialism here's what you get! Aren't you glad??? Don't worry, someone's old timey aunt or next door neighbor'll think this 'un reflects a wholesome, traditional approach to the nativity but hey, if somebody came up to me and played some horrid drum and told me that the resultant raa-taa-taa-taa was a present, I'd bop him one!

6) MISTLETOE-Yeah I know, given my obvious ugly features it's the only chance for me to do any smooching any time of the year, but why does it have to be octogenarian old ladies which hefty denture breath? Why no hotcha young 'n giggly gals of Asian heritage??? If you see the dreaded weed hanging above you in a doorway or arch, be on the lookout for the Miss Grundy in your life.

7) YOGI'S FIRST CHRISTMAS-Of course I like Yogi Bear! After all, he's one of the more identifiable visual if not spiritual icons of the boss late-fifties to mid-sixties baby boomin' funtime entertaining conglomonolith tee-vee world alongside everything from THE TWILIGHT ZONE to Conelrad. Not only that but his personage, along with that of the rest of his Hanna-Barbara brethren, was perhaps as easy to spot during the 1959-1965 growin' up years as Coca-Cola logos and Green Stamps. Best of all, his original moom pitchers still hold up even for alleged oldsters like myself which would figure since these early Hanna-Barbara 'toons were designed not only for the toddlers but the parents and babysitters watchin' 'em with the brood, as if a four-year-old'd necessarily know that Yogi's persona borrowed heavily from Ed Norton or that Augie Doggy's daddy and Snagglepuss were Jimmy Durante and Bert Lahr swipes cleverly enacted by the long-missed Daws Butler.

But after the relative fun energy of the early/mid-sixties gave way to hippydippy sheesh, the entire Hanna-Barbara stable seemed to be drawn into the hipster jive of the day dragging the kids who liked the old fifties-oriented cartoons kicking and screaming the entire way!  And naturally the Yogi Bear persona got muddied throughout the transformation into early-seventies social relevance...first off there was YOGI'S GANG, a Saturday morning series on ABC where the entire H-B outlet to date would fight all of the evils in the world from smog to prejudice with typical 1971 relevant gloss. (The particular scene where Ranger Smith utters the unlikely line "How I hate people who are different than I am!" still resonates deep within my beanie!) After that Yogi was used in a variety of Saturday fodder from the LAFF-A-LYMPICS to some vaguely STAR WARS cum disco cash-in series (I think it was called YOGI'S TREASURE HUNT) that went out with a standard late-seventies plop, along with any shard of respect I might've had for the famed bruin who undoubtedly'd been hot stuff back during the days when he was plugging Kelloggs' Oh's but nowadays was just more flea market filler.

And from this period in Yogi's stellar career came this particular bit of dribble, a Christmas special that not only reunites Yogi and his li'l butt bear Boo Boo with the old Hanna Barbara lot but has the pair fighting to stay awake through the holiday season in order to meet none other'n Santa himself. By this time the pretext of getting anybody over seven to wanna sit through this boring X-mas dross was dropped, though frankly I couldn't even see the kids who might still be catching the old Yogi's on tee-vee wanting to view this turd either! A shame on just about every front, from the tiresome dialogue to the dull musical numbers that always dragged these specials down to the old animation hands from the forties who were ending their careers working on pale imitations of what they started out doing a looooong time ago.

Oddly enough, despite the title this was not Yogi and Boo Boo's first animated Christmas (according to YOWP, they celebrated Christmas via the Golden Books series way back in '61!), since the two actually appeared a couple years earlier in the strangely incongruous CASPER'S FIRST CHRISTMAS (never saw it) of which a spot in Christmas Hell might just be in store if only for the bizarre concept.

8) Fish on Christmas Eve-A tradition I sure could do without, especially when this tradition stenches up the house with the odor of strong fish fried in grease that nobody outside a starving Nigerian would want to eat. If you want to replicate the same effect in your abode, just invite some Zoroasterians to stay at your place for a few hours. At least on a good day my own armpits'll curry the aroma of McDonalds hamburgers!

9) "PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TOWARD ALL MEN"-Not that I'm particularly against peace or treating honest, holy and loaded with bucks men with cheer, but such things sound so phonus balonus when mouthed by some of the most two-faced, one-dimensional louts to walk the face of the earth. I mean yeah, there will always be people protesting for "peace", though when there's a war they want you can bet they'll not only be the first to wave the flag, but the first to make sure YOU'LL get inducted (forget about them...after all deep down they're still for peace!). And as far as that good will stuff goes, nowadays there's so much baggage packed onto that phrase that when starry-eyed world-huggers utter it, the "all" seems to be truncated into something along the lines of "all people who tend to share our world view and you BETTER tow the correct line because we've got a billion dollar media industry and politicians at our beck and call to make sure your life is ruined if you don't!" These are the people who think "Happy Holidays" translates into the start of the Winter Solstice as if the past two thousand years was just a gross sidestep towards that perfect world where we can all love, throw frisbees and have somebody else pay the bill in peace...

10) "JINGLE BELL ROCK"-I remember when I was a high school frosh, or a sosh for that matter, and I was in the gym when a buncha gals from my class put on this quickie, impromptu show for some teach where they sang this song while kicking it up Rockettes-style. Naturally the teacher smiled with sublime approval. The whole thing makes me glad I was the high school champeen striker-outer if this is the quality of gals who I hadda attend class with!

11) "IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR"-Yeah, the Johnny Mathis favorite which ain't so offensive offhand, but that line about "scary ghost stories" really gets me. I mean yeah, telling horror sagas has really been a Christmas tradtion right? And don't go 'round sayin' that the song refers to A CHRISTMAS CAROL because that ain't exactly like a horror tale that's supposed to scare the bajabbers outta ya 'r anything.

12)  IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE-Last but most certainly least, the doggo that is best known for spawning a whole load of equally saccharine ripoffs from the likes of a Marlo Thomas tee-vee movie to THE FACTS OF LIFE (who were unique enough to substitute Santy himself for the angel trying to get his wings). A movie so nauseating that I must say that it's turned me off of the entire career of not only James Stewart, but I can't even watch THE DONNA REED SHOW w/o doin' a little wincing myself.

Now, I will admit that I once did not have such an animosity towards this particular fact the first time I became aware of the thing was long before the recent (mid-eighties on) rash of retropraise heaped upon the thing. Oddly enough, I was doing a bitta channel surfing on a sunny summer afternoon (!) around 1975 or '76 when I just happened to catch the scene where the gymnasium floor opens up during a dance and the attendees go plop right into the water, and gotta admit I thought that scene was pretty funny 'n keeno neat in a typically goofball kid way! After awhile between household chores and the usual fights with my sister I managed to catch the part where Stewart was shown just what a rotten and horrid state of affairs his li'l bubble of a world would be if he only hadn't been born. Seemed dramatic enough but nothing that special. However, since this was during the era in Amerigan tee-vee/moom pitcher culture where the Hollywood of the past was being bombarded atcha on the cathode of today and old movies/tee-vee shows were such a rage it wasn't like I was harboring any great  loathing towards IT'S A WONDERFUL least not yet.

That would come later, during a time when the "essence" of feeling good about one's self would beat actually being something/one to feel good about in a throbbing, seething, o-mind kind of way. Maybe it's because it's the same kinda people who would be more'n glad to evict a 99-year-old widow if she's late with the rent before tuning in to sniff and slobber over this diabetic delight that I hate the thing. But it's the moom pitcher itself...sappy, sentimental, gooey and just plain ol' cornier'n a sharecropper's tootsies that really gets to me. And the fact that none other than Frank Capra (the same guy who almost derailed Harry Langdon's career and wanted to turn the OUR GANG comedies into gritty urban realism) glopped his hokum charms upon this mess is enough to make me wanna slaughter the next starry-eyed gooch to sing the praises of this moom with a repeating tape-loop of Margaret O'Brien at her pig-tailiest!

I'll bet Hitler and Stalin woulda loved this film with a passion, though since Hitler croaked before it was made we'll never know what his opines were. As for Stalin...well, I wouldn't doubt that a copy of the film was snuggled into the Kremlin for his personal perusal and maybe he was so moved that he requested a Soviet rewrite of it for the local market...something called IT'S A WUNNDERFUL POLITBURO where Stalin himself sees what life would have been like if he, Lenin, Trotsky, Marx, Engels etc. weren't born, then has the angel shot!

And on that "wunnderful" note, Merry Christmas, hokay?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

bah, humbug...
on a more positive note, hope you enjoy the should keep you busy for a while, being 3-4 years worth of comic strips!
Best to you and yours...BILL S.