If, like me, you spent much of your childhood consciously avoiding uttering the phrase "I don't know," or boasting to your friends that you could most definitely climb up an oil-slicked slide in less than five seconds, our next Nostalgia Week book is just for you.
SLIMED! An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age is the wondrous result of author Mathew Klickstein's hundreds of interviews with the folks—both behind the scenes and on camera—who brought us such beloved TV show gems as "Double Dare," Clarissa Explains It All," "The Ren & Stimpy Show" and, of course, "You Can't Do That on Television."
In this guest post, Klickstein shares what it was like writing the book, as well as some fascinating tidbits he discovered along the way:
When I first signed with a major publisher to write the Nickelodeon oral history, I was uncontrollably besotted by champagne-colored visions of estranged friends and long-lost girls from my past contacting me out of the blue: “Matt! I saw your book in the store!”
It’s only now, after publication and while navigating the circuitous machinery of the publicity foofaraw, that I’ve come to understand who the audience for SLIMED! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age really is.
It’s not only us. It’s also them—the people this book is about. In truth, I’ve realized only recently that the main reason I wrote a book on this most grand era is this: In revealing to all of us the more than 250 Nick VIPs who contributed to SLIMED!, I’ve also revealed us to them.
The book’s reception has reinforced the fact that, yes, even as (slightly more) sane and (slightly less) loudly sentient adults, we do still care as much as we did back when these people were wildly running around onscreen as our heroes during their formative years. We’re here, we’re not going away and neither will Nick’s Golden Age.
Along the craggy path to figuring all of this out, I picked up four breadcrumbs that definitely surprised me about Nick’s foundational years that may surprise you too:
Green slime was at one point dangerous. Aside from the truly disgusting and likely toxic provenance of green slime that you’ll have to read about in SLIMED! to believe, it’s worth noting that a “sliming” was initially categorized as having the same television “violence rating” as a decapitation, according to a report by media specialist George Gerbner. Additionally, green slime’s “secret ingredients” in the early years included baby shampoo in order to help facilitate the cleaning-from-the-hair process. Even though it was baby shampoo, it could still burn one’s eyes, especially if one were to take his/her sliming incorrectly. And, yes, there was a Right Way and a Wrong Way to be slimed.
Yes, Christine Taylor (“Melody”) and David Lascher (“Ted”) from "Hey Dude" did date during part of the series’ production. "Hey Dude" director Fred Keller explains in SLIMED! that for two adolescents, Christine and David handled the typical vicissitudes of young love very well. Immediately after that quote in the book, however, Christine avers that it’s actually surprising how poorly they dealt with it. And therein lies the whimsical contradictions of an oral history.
Marc Summers is not a total douchebag. In fact, just the opposite is true. One would assume a wildly famous game show host would be the kind of Bad and the Beautiful jerk-off. But with Marc, that perennial smile is not an act. He really does love what he does, and he really does love his fans. There was not one person I spoke to in this book who didn’t bring up Marc as a friend, a collaborator, a mentor or a partner in crime.
Joey Ramone was almost on an episode of "The Adventures of Pete & Pete." In the episode, Little Pete decides to start up a band of his own after hearing the first and only song he’s ever actually liked. Singer-songwriter Syd Straw (who played numbers-obsessed math teacher Ms. Fingerwood) was actually a staple of the ’80s music/punk/art scene of ’80s New York City. When she was asked by producers to help fill in the band, she immediately called up her good buddy Joey Ramone. Joey had never seen the show before, but Syd made the premise of being on this hip and wacky kids’ show sound so appealing to the punk progenitor, that he nearly agreed . . . until he remembered he was leaving for a full European tour the next day with his “bruddahs.”
What do hippies, surfers, up-and-coming rock bands and cross-country road trippers all have in common? Often, it's their choice of vehicle: a VW Camper Van. In the nearly 70 years since its inception in the 1950s, the reliable and roomy vehicle has become a pop culture icon with a devoted cult following. One of these enthusiasts is Mike Harding, author of The VW Camper Van: A Biography. Part history, part memoir, the book is sure to delight the most diehard of devotees—and fully entertain those who are merely curious.
In this guest blog post, Harding writes about his love affair with Molly—his orange 2001 Type 2 Transporter—their adventures together and some interesting tidbits he learned while writing The VW Camper Van:
Like Toad in The Wind in the Willows, I have always been fascinated by the open road, the road that goes ever on and leads away from the world of work and taxes. And, to me, the VW Camper Van, with it’s blush of hippie-dom, looked like a magical key to that place of adventure and freedom.
But I had a family and lots of commitments and although I did travel the world—from trekking in the high Himalayas to lone Buddhist temples, crossing the Hindu Kush and singing for my supper in the mining camps of the Australian deserts—I never made that final leap and bought myself a Camper.
Until one November day filled with dark, Wuthering Heights weather, when I followed an ad in a VW mag and bought Molly in the back streets of a Northern England industrial town.
Since then Molly and I have traveled Britain, staying in forests and by the seashore and visiting lonely moorland pubs and friendly village folk festivals. With my banjo on the back seat and her little fridge full of food and wine, we trundle along the backroads shouting “Poop poop!” to the world.
Here are some little known facts about the VW Camper Van:
• The early VW vans featured the filler cap for the fuel tank in the lockable engine compartment because of the rampant cases of fuel theft from vehicles in postwar Europe.
• If it weren't for an Englishman from Northern England—Major Ivan Hirst—there would be no VW Beetle or Camper Van. (You'll have to read the book to find out why!)
• President Johnson’s “Chicken Tax,” which effectively stopped the import of VWs into the U.S. in the late '60s, has still not been repealed.
• VW vans have been used for everything from funeral hearses to camping vans, from fire engines to mobile chintzy English tea rooms complete with fragile china cups and fairy cakes.
• Sadly, the production of VW Camper Vans came to an end this year.
[All photos from The VW Camper Van, used with permission.]
So far this week, we've indulged our nostalgia for toys and candy, and now it's time for reminiscing over another cultural obsession: movies! Infographic Guide to the Movies by Karen Krizanovich is sure to delight film buffs with its clever, bright graphics illustrating a bookload of facts, tidbits and trivia about the movies. A map detailing the zombie outbreaks depicted in films, a timeline of apocalyptic movies and an illustrated analysis of Judd Apatow's secret for success—these and more make this fun book a visual feast for movie lovers of all kinds.
Author Karen Krizanovich describes what it was like compiling the more than 100 infographics of the book and even shares couple of them to whet your appetite:
Everyone loves films, trivia and graphics. As a film writer and author of Infographic Guide to the Movies, I can say that this 160-page book is so engaging that people will forget they’re learning things while reading it. As I say in the introduction, research shows that infographics can help almost anyone grasp difficult concepts more easily. (That’s almost everyone. Bear that in mind.)
I'll avoiding further grandiose epistemological statements. It took more than 30 designers to make Infographic Guide to the Movies as alluring as it is. Some designers supplied their own ideas; others illustrated our concepts. Our biggest problem was, to paraphrase Amadeus (1984), “simply too many notes”—we had too many great ideas. My suggestion to determine editorial content by arm-wrestling was quashed, so this book is not the work of me as auteur. It’s more a case of, as Mel Brooks once said, “We are all singing but I have the mouth.”
Infographic Guide to the Movies was a labor of love. Who am I kidding? It was an obsession! I have had a love-hate relationship with infographics ever since I failed my first quantitative methodology exam. (I passed the second one. Just passed.) For all completionists and "detail people" out there, please read the introduction before you email me with your thoughts, corrections, arguments and "what ifs." It’s a book, made by humans, printed on paper. It will have errors. The question is, can readers find them all?
Ryan Gosling is very close to the world’s most perfect man, so it’s good to see here that his skill makes us love him no matter what he plays. I look at page 31 and say to myself, “Hey girl,” and pretend he’s saving me from being hit by a bus in New York City. Like he once did for real. (Not to me.)
Attack Clint! is one of my favorite pages. In fact, you could do one of these for any action actor. How much does his character need to suffer for us to empathize with him? Lots.
[Illustrations from Infographic Guide to the Movies, used with permission.]
Yesterday, we got reacquainted with our favorite childhood toys. For today's Nostalgia Week guest post, we're turning our focus to another childhood obsession (for most of us, anyway): candy!
Samira Kawash's Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure is a scrumptious, sweeping history of sweet treats that includes the early days of mass production, its eventual entanglement with morality and how it became downright vilified by a diet-obsessed culture. This fascinating account of a candy crazed nation is certain to satisfy your craving for an entertaining and informative read. Here's Samira with more on the book and some interesting tidbits she learned while writing it:
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Candy: sometimes it seems like such an innocent pleasure. But then we worry: Will it rot my teeth? Make me fat? Ruin my dinner?
The ambivalence around candy really came home to me when my daughter was about three years old. Should I let her eat it? When and how much? I began to realize that I had grown up with a very confused message about how candy was both very desirable and very bad. My own confusion as a parent seemed reflected in many others’ experiences. It seemed to me that there was something interesting going on there, and I wanted to figure out what it was.
My research led me back to the earliest days of what I call “industrial candy,” that is, candy made in factories in mass quantities. Candy grabbed hold of the American imagination and stomach in the early decades of the 20th century, yet at the same time, there were many reasons Americans were suspicious about candy: It was a new kind of food; it was entirely artificial; and it offered pleasure and stimulation in ways that made some people who were influenced by religious moralism feel very uneasy.
Candy uncovers this untold history, both bright and dark. Here are some of the surprising stories about candy that I learned along the way.
• Early nutrition research in the 19th century identified sugar as a significant source of quick energy. The German military experimented with candy rations and discovered significant advantages for endurance and strength. By the early 1900s, U.S. and British forces were generously provisioned with candy. The number one favorite was lemon drops, which candy makers produced to a precise U.S. government formula.
• The quantity of inexpensive candy available to ordinary Americans exploded in the 1880s. Not everyone celebrated. Early candy critics warned that cheap candy was poison candy. Reformers alleged that candy routinely included noxious or toxic ingredients and fillers, including boot black, floor scrapings, glue, plaster of paris, arsenic and iron rust. Hundreds of alleged poisonings were blamed on bad candy. The evidence? None to be found.
• Candy bars combining ingredients like nuts, nougats, caramel, marshmallow and chocolate were an exciting new sensation in the 1920s. They were portable, convenient and affordable: the perfect food for a nation on the go. Classics like Snickers and Milky Way got their start in this era. But thousands more were offered to a candy eating public hungry for novelty. The bars are long gone, but the names remain. Silly names like Snirkles and Damfino. Salacious names like Fat Emma, Big Dick, Hot Liza and Love Nest. And even substantive names that evoked more nutritive meals: Denver Sandwich, Chicken Dinner and Spud.
• The Oh! Henry candy bar was one of the top sellers in the 1920s. The secret to success? Creative marketing, including a campaign to encourage women to use the bar in novel ways. One suggestion: to “slice and serve,” transforming the rugged bar into a dainty delicacy. Another idea: cooking with Oh! Henry candy bars. Recipes for desserts, breakfast treats and even savory and vegetable dishes enhanced with Oh! Henry bars were collected in “60 Ways to Serve a Famous Candy.” Candy salad, anyone?
• Candy’s popularity led inevitably to a dietary backlash. Lulu Hunt Peters was the first American author to popularize the idea of dieting by counting calories in her 1918 bestseller Diet and Health, with Key to the Calories. Candy was, for Peters, an especially pernicious temptation. She warned: “When you see a pound of candy you would like, don’t think of it as candy, but as a lump of fat annexed to your fattest spot. If you have any candy around, and can’t give it away, throw it away.” But more Americans were eager to follow the advice of the candy industry promoters: “Candy is Delicious Food! Enjoy some every day.”
[Images from Candy, used with permission.]
Is there a more nostalgia-inducing holiday than Halloween? Whether it's of a particularly creative (although slightly itchy, perhaps) costume or an impressively large candy haul, Halloween memories have a tendency to make us wistful for days gone by.
Welcome to Nostalgia Week on The Book Case. Each day this week, we'll be featuring a guest post by the author of a recent book that's sure to induce nostalgia of some sort–whether it's for candy, TV shows, movies or more.
Today's post is by Christopher Byrne, author of Toy Time! Brimming with color photographs, this super-fun book features profiles of the biggest toy sensations from the 1940s up through the 1980s, including Chatty Cathy, Slip 'N Slide, Lite-Brite, Hot Wheels, Transformers and dozens more. It's time to get reacquainted with your favorite childhood toys. It's Toy Time! Here's Christopher:
Toys have an amazing power—in childhood and, it turns out, throughout one’s life. We never forget the toys we wanted, the toys we had, the toys we didn’t get. These toys and the memories of them become part of our identities, and over the years I’ve had the pleasure of hearing many stories, both hilarious and heartbreaking about favorite toys.
For Boomers and beyond, toys are cultural markers that are very specific to their time, more so than any other product. Our toys have a totemic power, and revisiting or reflecting on them touches the deep and powerful connection each of us has to our childhood. I talked to hundreds of people in person—and hundreds more online—in creating Toy Time!, and I was always surprised and delighted by the power and vibrancy of these memories. How did we choose these toys? Well, the current buzzword is “crowd sourcing,” but really, we just talked to folks as we put this collection together, selecting toys that had cultural significance and shaped thousands of childhoods. Here are some things you may not know about some of those classic toys:
• Twister was about to be pulled by retailers for lack of interest—until Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor played it on “The Tonight Show.” On the game’s 30th anniversary, Regis Philbin and Dolly Parton recreated that legendary competition.
• Major Matt Mason, Mattel’s astronaut answer to Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, went into space for real in 1998 along with John Glenn on his final shuttle mission aboard the Discovery.
• Silly Putty was famous for being able to pick up images from newspapers. But it won’t do it any more. Not because Silly Putty has changed, but today’s newsprint uses different inks that don’t transfer. Hands stay cleaner, but Silly Putty has lost a little.
• Strawberry Shortcake’s friend Raspberry Tart got a new name—Raspberry Torte. Seems like there was a bit of sensitivity about whether or not her moniker could give her a questionable reputation, ushering in the age of hypersensitivity about things of this nature.
• Trivial Pursuit came about as a result of an argument between two friends, Scott Abbot and Chris Haney, over who had the better grasp of trivia. Between 1983 and 1985, more than 30 million games were produced, so it looks like they both won.
[Images from Toy Time! Used with permission.]