Thursday, August 15, 2013

Great Scott

On the afternoon of Monday, March 30th, 1981, I was on a class field trip to a local park. A group of students and a couple of teachers were seated in a circle on the grass when a long-haired and slightly dazed looking fellow approached. This was no unusual sight in Berkeley, but when he blurted out "They just shot the President!" and ran off, our teachers assured us not to listen to the lunatic.

When we got back to school and found out it was true, I think the rest of the day was spent discussing the situation and listening for news updates on the radio. I don't think they had the TV on (perhaps to spare us from a Jack Ruby-type situation), but that night my father recorded a movie on KBHK, channel 44, and sure enough, it's preceded by a news update on the shooting.

The anchor, Edwina Moore, later went on to have a minor acting career - I was surprised to see her in 1988's The Naked Gun as the usher who cues Enrico Palazzo's entrance.

The movie was Petulia, directed by Dick Lester (Beatles connection) and starring George C. Scott. Somewhere around this time (date unknown, but directly following Sleuth on tape A4), my father taped the 1971 film The Hospital, also starring George C. Scott. Although he was a Scott fan, his real interest in these films were the leading ladies - Julie Christie in Petulia and Diana Rigg in The Hospital, both favorites of his since the late 60's.

While he paused the commercial breaks on The Hospital, Petulia has all the original ads and news segments. Let's take a look at them, from tape A2 just after 20/20:

I had forgotten that the assassination attempt postponed that night's Oscar ceremony until the following evening. 

I also don't remember a few of the products here. Super Plenamins? I was thrilled to see the Oakland A's "Year of the Uniform" spot, as this was the season that made me a baseball fan, despite the mid-year strike, and the '81 A's still hold a special place in my heart (more on them in future posts). Also glad to see Round Table Pizza Cap Day, as I loved eating there (they showed cartoons!).

It's fun to see some TV clich├ęs were alive and well, such as "Now how much would you pay?" in the LustreWare ad, and stupid characters falling for the "Do you still use Good Seasons?" "Not anymore!" "Whaaaaat?" "We use new, improved Good Seasons!" trope. In general, there's not much that is dated about these commercials, apart from JJ "Dynomite" Walker declaring "I got this heavy date with this chick on Saturday night", but even that was a few years old by 1981.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Send More Chuck Berry

The third-season episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Steve Martin on April 22nd, 1978 may have been the best in the show's history. It's chock full of classic sketches and quotable lines:

"Oh, did I assassinate your penguin?"
"Hosed? Count me in!"
"Say, who's the barber here?"
 "I'm really worried about Dialing For Toast... not!"

And, of course, "Send More Chuck Berry".

Not only were most of the sketches home runs, but there were four outstanding musical numbers: two from the Blues Brothers, "Dancing In The Dark" with Steve and Gilda Radner gliding and tripping around studio 8H, and the world premiere of "King Tut".

Hell, even the Thursday night promo for the show was funny:


Martin later said of the episode, "It was like the peak of Saturday Night. It was the peak of me." The show was aired March 28th, 1981 as part of the month-long classic reruns, and naturally we set the VHS to record it, on tape A1.

I probably watched this show more than anything else in our VHS collection, and have most of it memorized. In viewing the DVD release a few years back, the only difference I noticed from the off-air tape is in the nerds science fair sketch. 

You'll notice in the clipping above that Bill Murray's character is named "Todd DeLamuca". His original name was Todd LaBounta, also the name of a high school classmate of Al Franken and/or Tom Davis. When the real-life LaBounta threatened a lawsuit, the name was changed in subsequent appearances. For this rerun, NBC merely silenced a portion of the audio, so it comes out as "Todd... Bounta".

Here are the original ads from the 1981 airing:


Many of these commercials are the same as in the Richard Pryor SNL from two weeks prior, or at least from the same sponsors (a new Brooke/Calvin Klein spot, Magic Johnson for 7UP this time). The enigmatic Olympia Beer ad features some unseen Artesians. I also love the Atari 2600 Space Invaders ad, and the Chuck Norris double feature ("Chuck Norris faces the ninja!"). Note that the awful-looking Jerry Lewis flick Hardly Working has the tagline "He's the original jerk!" Pandering to Steve Martin's audience?

The audio anomalies towards the end are not NBC's fault, but me trying out the "Audio Dub" feature on our VCR by overlaying sound from other channels at a later date. Luckily I stopped messing around in time to preserve the final commercial. My father loved those chimps listening to K-101 FM so much he gave this ad its own entry in our VHS catalog!