Saturday, November 29, 2008

To Die For...

This weekend's tragic crushing of a Walmart employee by Xmas shoppers trying to get the early Black Friday bargains reminded me of an incident that happened to me in the early 80's when I was working at a Walmart-ish store called Zayre. It was similar because they sold cheaply made clothes and low cost foreign made crap. It was the first place to go to buy a Michael Jackson sparkly glove or to get vinyl blinds cut to order. For over three years it was my world. I started as a part-time associate and then moved up to the manager of the Toy department. Quite the accomplishment on the Southwest Side of Chicago. (When I quit to go back to college my mother cried crocodile tears and proclaimed it was the 'worst mistake I'd ever make in my life'. I think she was really crying about her 20% discount going out the window.)
I've many stories about my years there, most of them I think of fondly. There was, as in all work environments, a myriad of characters: Ed Crowley, the burly guy who worked in the hardware department, the sweet Irish lady who worked in Bed and Bath, funny Mary Sims who worked in Housewares. Matt the sexy Polish guy who I had the biggest crush on, nerdy Jeff in electronics, etc. Not a week would go by when someone wouldn't say, "They should make a TV show out of this store..." I mostly remember laughing a lot. You had to, it was a shit job, working in that huge fluorescent tube lighted store with it's miles of low cost clothes, cleaning supplies, and various other junk.

It was Christmas 1983 and Zayre had decided to keep its stores open 24 hours a day. I gladly took the night shift from 11 to 8. It was quiet and all I had to do was restock and take inventory. Every so often a stray factory worker or Midway Airport crew man would wander through like a zombie and maybe get a Barbie Works at McDonald's play set or Masters of the Universe talking Skelator mask. My job was mainly picking up the mess from a days worth of kids running through the department tearing apart every package that was in reach. I found that some parents felt like their children could do whatever the fuck they wanted as long as they didn't have to deal with it. Parents would go do their shopping after telling their children to go play in the toy department. I never understood how a mother who carried a child for 9 months would feel o.k. with leaving them alone in a store. Bob and I once ran across a cute little girl, about four years old, in the housewares department sitting on the floor with blue Tydee Bowl running out of her mouth and down her front. It took ten minutes of paging the mother who showed up screaming as the ambulance pulled up to the store. Whenever Bob talked about the incident he'd just say, "Ba-Ha... She'd been Smurfed..."

But Christmas just turned up the stress with out of control kids and maniac parents. I would have a calendar in my room that I would hang up after Thanksgiving. It would count down the days until Christmas was over. Ten days. Nine days. Eight days. If you want the joy of the holiday season knocked out of you work in one of these stores. That year, 1983 was the year that at the International Toy Fair in New York City the Cabbage Patch Doll was introduced. That fall Zayre got its first shipment in. I thought they were nothing dolls and in fact, the ten or so we got sat on the shelves for weeks without even being pulled out of their boxes by the mobs of roving children; Even they weren't interested in them.

By Thanksgiving however it was a different story. The news was all over the 'hottest' item to get your children this Xmas. It was from Kim Davis, a cashier, that I recall hearing about how popular the Cabbage Patch Kids Dolls were becoming. Kim never said two words to me before, but since she heard that these new type of dolls were coming in she acted as if we were the best of friends. "Please, you'll do that for me, huh?. You'll put one aside. My little girl saw a commercial and has been after me for weeks for one." "Sure..." I couldn't imagine that they would sell out, we were getting over a hundred units of the doll. There was no mad rush for them on that first sale day, although they did sell quickly. People were curious and slowly picked through the dolls looking for the one they wanted. My only job was to tell people that there were no more dolls in the back, that we didn't have one by a particular name or trying to find the missing birth certificate that was pulled out of the box and thrown on the floor. As the big holiday came nearer, the frenzy began to build, everyone wanted one. Even the few left over dolls that were pulled out of the boxes and were damaged disappeared from the shelves.

Every day more and more people started to come up to me asking for the dolls. Once while working the night shift, at 3 AM in the morning, I noticed two couples wandering around my aisles. They had obviously been drinking. One of the women came up to me and slurring told me she wanted a Cabbage Patch Doll. I told her we didn't have any in stock and she snapped at me, "My girlfriend works at the Zayre on Southwest Highway she told me that this store has them hidden in the back." I said I didn't know what she was talking about and she yelled at me and accused me of lying, then pushed her way into the storeroom at the back of the department and began looking for the dolls. Her boyfriend looked pitifully at me and shrugged and then went and got his girlfriend. She yelled, 'Fuck, fuck, I know they have them!" It was downright spooky.

Two weeks before Christmas the dolls were completely sold out everywhere. No one could get them and there was the beginnings of a panic among parents that their children would be left out of the experience of having one on Christmas morning. Around that time Zayre had the doll featured on the cover of its sale flier for $30. These dolls were now selling for hundreds of dollars if you could get them. When the shipment of two hundred units came in they were put in the the locked manager's offices and it was announced that the day before the sale the store would be closed at 11 and not reopen until the big sale started the next day at 7. Bob, Jeff and I worked through the night moving merchandise to make a large space in front of the cashiers where we piled the dolls. All the other employees were forbidden to touch the dolls. A lottery held for employees and that would decided who would be able to buy one.

It was a bitterly cold December night. By two in the morning we could see that people were pulling up in the parking lot; By 3 AM, they were lining up at the door. Jeff nasally said, "This is out of control.." By 7 AM there were hundreds of people pressed up against the glass doors. I don't remember what we as 'associates' were expected to do when the doors opened, but Jeff, Bob and I just stood back and watched. The doors opened and people pushed in with a big roar and descended on the pile of dolls. One big guy ran and did a belly flop into the pile, his arms outstretched trying to grab as many as he could although there was a 'Limit One Doll Per Person". People yanked and pulled each other out of the way, grabbed dolls out of each others hands, pulling some of the dolls apart. Most shocking I saw a man punch an elderly woman in the face breaking her glasses and her nose to get the doll out of her hands. The cashiers with panic on their faces tried to check people out as people pushed to get into line. The guards, whose job mainly was to sit in a booth and look for people shoplifting had suddenly become crowd control. It was fucking the most frightening thing I'd ever seen. Police were called, people were arrested, and the dolls sold out in under fifteen minutes. The store was closed down until noon and a big sign on the outside was put up that said "Out of Cabbage Patch Kids".

Reading about this poor, underpaid Walmart worker who was crushed by that crowd trying to get some X-Box or Elmo Doll or whatever the fuck the media is telling us is what we need to have made me sad and angry. Is it because the economy is in the crapper again as it was in the 80's that this behavior is surfacing again? What if there were a real disaster and shortages of food? The image of those zombie-like people attacking that pile of dolls comes back to me every time I see one dirty and worn out in a bin at at thrift store. What was all that energy for? Is getting something on sale so important that someone had to die?

At the time, I thought of a good idea for Christmas giving. Alternate gift buying for odd years. So every other year is a gift giving year, the even years are just a time for reflection and get togethers. Sort of Big Xmas, Small Xmas. I'm sure that the retailers wouldn't back me up on this one. There is this group who is trying to promote: Buy Nothing Day. Coming from a family of shopaholics this really hits home.

I'll get off my soap box now... But be safe, shop responsible, don't push and think, "Is it really a bargain if you don't need it?"


Are you a Good Consumer? Click Here

Thursday, November 27, 2008


This year is going by so fast. I can't believe it's Thanksgiving already. I'm working my way through my families home movies and luckily there is a treasure trove of goodies for this time of year.

Watch as my my family stuffs themselves on giant turkey legs, enjoys a smoke and then out comes the whiskey. Even Grandma takes a shot. Remember to save some room for pie! It's a feast.

Seen in this film is my Aunt Mildred. She was a man-ish sort of woman. During this period when women were forced to wear dresses, I swear she looked like a transvestite. It's sweet to see how much my parents are in love with each other. But question... what the hell is my mother smelling?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


While trying to distract myself while excercising I've been putting random comedy albums on my Ipod thingy. It amuses me that I'm listening to Belle Barth or Rusty Warren singing about Knockers and Peckers while I'm trying to lift dumbells over my head.

Recently, I plopped on these Milton Berle Roasts that I downloaded from somewhere. I swear I don't remember where so I can't give credit. I felt like I had to share because "Damn, this shit is dirty..." Fag jokes, Milton Berle's big penis jokes, pussy jokes, Paul Lynde is Dead jokes..." These Friar's Club evenings must have been a blast. Nothing was sacred.

I found myself gasping with 'crap did they just say that..." to letting out a big "Ba-Ha" while on the StairMaster. These were the sort of tapes my father would hide on the top shelf in the lights over the bar. We all knew they were there; and sometimes I'd sneak down stairs at night and play them quietly; I knew they were forbidden; I just didn't know why.

That said, they probably aren't safe for work; Unless you work in an all-men real estate office. In which case, turn it up as loud as you want.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Costumes with the Dramatic Instinct
Joan Crawford Shows Her Stuff
Found in the February 1929 issue of Photoplay Magazine is this lovely spread of a 24 year old Joan Crawford modeling the latest of high fashions of the day. It's clear why Joan became a star, she just lights up these photos. I think people forget just how beautiful she was when she was young.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Too Late For Tears
Lately, I've been really into the Film Noir genre. Double Indemnity, The Big Combo, Asphalt Jungle, to name a few of my favorites. Last night I watched one that I never heard of before. And it's a doozy. It has everything that makes my little dark heart jump for joy: A cold-as-ice blond, lady-slapping bad guys, and characters who just keep digging themselves into deeper and deeper holes.
Too Late for Tears AKA Killer Bait is a hidden gem starring the 'oh so mean' Lizbeth Scott and wonderful Dan Duryea. I fell in love with Dan Duryea when I saw him in Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street (a must see classic). I didn't think I'd ever see a role where he gives a sleazier performance with snapper lines like:
Much like the great film Detour, Too Late For Tears just cries out to be discovered. It's risen high on my list of favorite films. Just classic. Noir of the Week has a wonderful review of this movie; but don't read it until you've watched it. It's also where I got the link for the film and the poster art. Check it out.
So if you have an hour and half to kill go to the player below. You can actually watch the full film, it's a little dark at the beginning. Someday I'm hoping for a restoration. This film is part of a 5-DVD set called 5 Noir Killer Classics. It's a great set because it includes DOA, Detour, Scarlet Street, The Stranger and To Late For Tears. Five films that will get you hooked on this genre.


Go Here to See the Puppies HERE

(The live link was really slowing down my site...)

Still the cutest thing in the world... when it's on...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Time to Look Towards the Future
Future Fashions That Is...

"Oooh Swish".

They did correctly predict that men will have a suit with a phone and Ipod. But the style is about 20 years off. That suit is very 1985.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Girl with a Cock
1940's Joe Average Thought Picasso was Nuts

Painting found at the

In the May 25, 1940 issue of Life Magazine readers found pen in hand to comment on a feature the week before profiling Picasso and his painting Girl with a Cock. Guess what? They hate him! Ghoulish! Detestable! La Trash! 68 years later these Letters to the Editor are hysterical.

Note: I'm wondering if my hits will go up now because I have Girl With a Cock in my post.

The painting above is really called Farmer and Nude, Surrounded by Hens. 1938. Charcoal on canvas. I'm assuming this is the painting that is being referenced. I searched all over, this was the closest I could come. Girl with a Cock is referenced in many books but no on-line scans. (If anyone finds it, please pass it along.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Bit of Hope

This video has been pretty viral, but it was one of my favorites of the political season. I'm going to vote in a few minutes for Obama. I hope that it's a landslide. These last eight years have been pretty tense. With Clinton it was all Sex, Money and Rock N' Roll, with the Republicans it's been War, Death and Kenny Chesney. It think the world needs a break.

Even my father who has been pretty much a Republican his whole life is voting for Obama, I think... He told me Sunday he was still undecided, but he wants to have the war end in Iraq and McCain will continue it. As my mother said when the Iraq war started, "Even when I was a little girl, we knew never to go poking a stick into that vipers nest in the Middle East."

Eight years ago I didn't vote, I got so complacent after 8 years of Clinton that things would stay the same, that we never could go back to the Republicans after the years of Reagan/Bush I. I've never forgiven myself.

So get out there and vote... Peace...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Yma Sumac

The embodiment of 50's Lounge. Exotic and truly one of the most unique and amazing voices that ever was...

Limited Time Yma Sumac Jukebox:
This is her super rare last album. A psychodelic, hard rockin' romp with Les Baxter no less. Enjoy.

What's in a Name

As a child I always thought it was odd when my father would tell the gas station attendent to put Ethyl in the tank. Ethel was always the blonde lady with Lucy.

And don't you love the pre-rock era hair banger maestro, Ceasar.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Big Secret

Another feminine odor ad, with some beautiful Vargas Girl-ish drawings. (click on photos to enlarge) The story:

The Bride: (tearfully) We've been married eight whole hours, and he hasn't so much as kissed me, and...

The Bride is then told by the mysterious US about The Big Secret! The secret of personal daintiness. And that soap doesn't have have that mannish smell to be effective.

After a bath where the mysterious US gives her some crap about it smelling like $20 an ounce perfume, her husband comes back after ignoring his new bride for eight hours to give her the old what for, but not before The Bride asks: But tell me... does Cashmere Bouquet always make a groom so attentive?
US: It's you who rates the attention, my pet... Cashmere Bouquet just insures the perfection of tender moments by guarding your daintiness!

I think Cashmere Bouquet would make a great drag name.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Nailin' Palin
A Montreal radio comedy duo placed a prank call to Sarah Palin. The surprise is that not for one moment does she go off message. But also shows that she does not listen. Best line: "I love the documentary about your life, Nailin' Palin, very edgy."
Story about the prank HERE