Christmas Rewound

It is Sunday Funday here over at VeggieMacabre HQ and we are smack in the middle of the Holiday Hell Show. Today, I am dipping into the realm that Dinosaur Dracula does so well. I have been on the couch with Christmas movies on the TV, homemade chicken soup cooking in the crockpot, a glass of merlot by my side and the YouTube Time Machine whisking me away to the commercials that filled the time between Merry Christmas Charlie Brown. It is magical. Let’s take a look and dissect these toy ads we grew up with and rip on the kids who were in these.

I was only marginally into He-Man growing up. I loved the idea and Castle Grey Skull was cool but at the end of the day, I just couldn’t get down with characters that look like a well fibrous poop. The accessories, however, were pretty damn amazing. Take Skeletor’s Dragon Water Blaster pack, for an example. You had the ability to soak your friends’ toys and be the little dick of the neighborhood.

HeMan Dork

Let us look at this advertisement. It is hilarious to look back and see these kids imitate their He-Man characters in the gruffest voice a nine-year old could make. I think it was just in the 1980’s that toy advertisers propped up kids to overact their group playtime. I never remember doing any of this! And look at the little fool who takes it to a new level and freezes himself for the duration of the commercial. He is only over to play because either these are all his toys or his mom is friend’s with one of their mothers. No one likes him.

Crappy kid

But the one that stood out the most was the little nut-weed who had the Dragon Blaster Skeletor. Just look at him cackle with delight forcing his playmates to freeze. I know this kid. He’s the neighborhood dick who bullied you into throwing oranges at cars or rings door bells and running. He had an older brother who would beat the hell out of him so shit would roll downhill if you ever came over to his house. He is Reed and he was the one who threw the Cadberry Cream Egg through the kitchen window, not me Dad. “I SAID FREEZE!..OR I’M NOT PLAYING!”

The Sly Snootles and the Max Rebo play set was such a weird toy to get. I guess if you had the entire Jabba Palace play set it wouldn’t be complete without musical entertainment but to just have this set, I don’t know. I guess you could pretend they are a Nirvana galactic cover band touring for your other toys. It’s a stretch but I guess it works.

At least these kids got to kill Sly Snootles.

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 4.58.27 PM

Is it just me or is Droopy McCool the shittiest of all Star Wars characters? He looks like a waterlogged pig who was put in jorts and pushed down a well.

I’ve covered this one before and every Christmas I tend to bring it up again. It’s getting to be a tradition. I never got the USS FLAGG and I’m still bitter about it. Looking back I understand because it was hard to sell the folks why I needed a toy bigger than the dinning room table. But I didn’t care and I blame this commercial.

GI Joes commercials always superimposed kids into the battle to ride in the vehicles and immerse themselves into the world and fight against COBRA. It worked and watching three kids run up and down the flight deck of the USS FLAGG made me want it worse than my dog wanting his hump blanket.

I have faith the new line of GI Joe will release the FLAGG and this time, it will be mine. I want to eat sushi off the deck of it in my living room and watch Nightmare On Elm Street 3. You have to have goals in life otherwise you’ll never have anything!

Oh hell, I had a lot of these. I don’t know if it was all at once or over the course of many Christmases but even today, if you go down in the parent’s basement, I bet in under ten minutes you will find a ROTJ Speeder Bike part. They blew apart with a little button in the back and in my house, that means they never stayed assembled.

While researching for this nonsensical post, I learned the Kenner Star Wars theme song never changed for any toy over the course of the trilogy. It wasn’t anything Lucas but it was something that has been in my head since three this afternoon. And will probably be there until three o’clock in the afternoon of December 14th 2027.

I love watching these kids race their speeders around the yard showing off the speed breaks and blow-apart action of the Speeder Bikes. This was a little before my time judging by their hairstyles. They seemed to have the Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed cuts.

Alright, for a guy who remembers not being the biggest He-Man fan, I have to add another vintage commercial. Boy did I like this and it solidifies why I am such a big fan of monster movies and the dark side. The He-Man Snake Mountain play set looked evil it completely lived up to expectation. Even including a Hensen inspired bird face that would move its beak as you spoke through the echoing (reverb) microphone. Pure gold.

Snake Mountain

Today, the true prize is watching these kids play with it and imitate Skeleton in a voice that makes you question if they even watched the cartoon. And the ginger kid rocking the mic made my millennium. Look at his contorted face! I hope he grew up to be the scary warning voice for animatronics horror rides on the boardwalk.

Well, that concludes my little skip through time to revisit some of the great toys we grew up. It’s nice to relive some of the best times of our childhood while watching the advertisements and the silly kids who played with their toys all wrong.

Goodnight! I SAID FREEEEEEEZE!

Tribute to the Best GI Joe Toy: The Tomahawk

There I was, minding my own business on a Wednesday night, watching my new-found love of TV shows, The Toy Hunter, when I was suddenly transported back to December of 1987. No, I wasn’t really get sucked through a wormhole and landed 26 years in the past, forced to watch my 9 year-old-self wear pants that were too high. It was more of an existential experience back to when I had one of the best toys a boy could have. But over the years it slowly lost its pieces and parts in a pretend war campaign waged against Cobra. And the Empire. And Skeletor.

I was such a shit on toys. (I hope I remember to come back and think of a better phrase than that)

That particular episode of The Toy Hunter, the focus was on finding the GI Joe line from the early to late 1980’s and one of my all time favorites as a kid who was destined to one day join the real Army. I remember collecting so many of the vehicles that at one time I needed to rely on Star Wars creatures to operate them. The GI Joe guys seemed to have an issue with their legs coming off.

There was one vehicle, however, that ruled the rest of them. Of course this is up for debate because there are a million of nerds who will argue differently but this was the one that ruled my collection. It was the UH-6N Tomahawk helicopter made by Hasbro and it brought serious clout to the battlefield in the backyard.

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 9.38.04 PM
image from yojoe.com

This was more than just a toy. This was a toy that your other toys could interact with. Hours of fun could be had with this massive vehicle and I do mean massive. Keep in mind, I was 9 years old and probably 60 pounds soaking wet so playing with this helicopter would be the equivalent of “adult” me pretending to fly my ironing board around the room. Most of the time I was loading on legless joes in a hot LZ while medics applied tourniquets and the aircrew laid down a barrage of suppressive fire. I had a realistic imagination and was probably a real drag to play with.

This toy also had another special memory attached to it because like all kids who just can’t wait for Christmas Day, I found the awesome box under their bed in early December and had to crawl the walls for almost the entire month before opening it on Christmas Day. I hope kids still are that way.

So, I guess you are asking why I am writing about a Christmas gift in June? I can answer that. Bringing this tale back full circle to The Toy Hunter, this particular toy, in the unopened box went for $8,000. And that’s when I made this face:

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 3.51.16 PM

$8000 for an almost 30-year-old toy??? It’s hard to fathom six pounds of plastic parts to be monetarily equivalent to a 2003 Acura. I was in disbelief that not only was my favorite toy in a sealed box so expensive but that there are people who actually would pay that much! Why? I was a bit shocked but I also felt a bit validated because I consider it my favorite childhood toy.

Although the Tomahawk is probably a shell at the bottom of a box somewhere in the recesses of the parents’ basement, I took a piece of it with me through my evolving adulthood. It’s a rare thing for me to hold on to very much (both figuratively and literally) from one stage to the next but this bag is something I have not departed with almost thirty years.

Behold, the reminisce of the GI Joe Tomahawk chopper. Sadly, it all fits in a zip-lock bag.

Here we have the 18 point description of the helicopter and weaponry. You have to admit, this was a hell of a machine. It makes you wonder with crazy weapons like the “Laser-enhanced NVS (night vision system) 50 Cal Machine Gun” how they still couldn’t hit a Cobra trooper. Had they had some basic riflery range training, that show would have been a different cartoon.

Take a gander at all the cool tax-paid-parts that made this a formidable opponent on the battlefield. It looks heavy.

When you open the four page fold out we see the directions to put this behemoth together. I am sure this was the part that made Dad groan. And even with plenty of other toys on Christmas morning to keep my attention there was no way I would let Dad drink his eggnog in peace until every missile was on the winglets and every Joe was seated in the constructed ‘copter.

I believe that is how I was busted for peaking at the presents by whining to my father, “Come on Dad! I waited a whole three weeks for this! I mean…er…forever?”.

These toys were especially cool because each GI Joe had a back story. The pilot that came with the chopper was “Lift-Ticket” but his civilian name was Victor Sikorski, SSN# 675-51-5671, from Lawton, Oklahoma. I can see this was a little nudge to the makers of helicopters like the Tomahawk, Sikorsky.

I find it kind of neat that his story is pretty realistic from the way real Army pilots follow their profession. Opting out of Officer Candidate School and going to a Warrant Officer program was and is exactly how you become a pilot in the US Army. As a veteran, I get a little tickled how realistic the plot of Lift-Ticket’s life was. But that’s just the Army nerd in me. I won’t bore you with all that.

Stickers! Okay, decals. I never put decals on my toys. I did, however, decorate everything from my windows to books with them. I can’t tell you why but I am guessing that once Dad put the vehicles together, I wasn’t taking the time to stick warning signs next to the jet intake areas. My Joes knew not to stand there.

This is off topic but I was actually sent to the principal’s office for putting similar decals on the back of the bus’ windows. I had to scrub all the windows on the entire bus line that Friday. Looking back, I think that punishment was a bit  harsh. There is no way a kid today would be required to pay that price without the news being involved. What little pansies we raise today.

I forgot about these. Back in the 80’s we didn’t have this precious internet so we had to rely on good ol’ postal service. In every vehicle’s box had a card for mail-in points for impossible to find toys. Mostly, it was a Sgt. Slaughter campaign from his commercials and I was definitely a SGT. Slaughter B.A.T.T.L.E. Brigade member. All the way!

Seems a little weird that recently I met the Sergeant in the flesh. I am still a little put off by the smiley dick he drew for me. And his frill on his drill sergeant hat. All a bit strange. I am rethinking what his acronyms really meant now.

Lastly in the ziplock bag, we come to an actual part that I could never keep connected on the Tomahawk; the ramp. The little bastard kept opening mid-flight and in a fit of rage I tore it off and tossed it in the bind with all the miscellaneous guns and rockets from years of toy collecting. I told my platoon that seat belts were S.O.P (Standard Operating Procedure) from then on and I could calm my imagination and OCD.

These nostalgic posts always go from a scream to a whisper so I will leave you with this.

Eight fucking thousand dollars???

EDIT!!!

The Tomahawk was not $8000 but $1500. That gaint coffee table made to look like an aircraft carrier, The USS Flagg, was $8000. Still a lot of money, considering.

So…sorry about that.

What’s the Haps?

Things are happening over here at the VeggieMacabre HQ! I have been working behind the scenes for the upcoming 2013 Halloween Countdown that will be an official thing starting the last week of August and running through October. I had no idea how big of a project something like this is until I committed with a few fellow web masters, an online show, a couple of product lines and friends for road trips just for the spooky articles. I have already been writing the random filler posts so the chance of a midseason burnout is greatly diminished.

Pretty exciting stuff and I have high expectations so now I need to make sure all the pieces fit just right. Oh logistics in a blog! Always elusive.

Until that kickoff, I have a few more adventures in store. Keep an eye out for a nostalgic tribute and a couple more reviews coming to a computer near you.

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 8.40.59 AM

Did you know this site has a Tumblr picture blog? It’s true! Mainly I keep it as my photo blog because I have a magical talent of taking inconspicuous cellphone pictures of odd things. I try to keep it classy but every so often I find a rather large lady at the pool with a bad cat tattoo and I just can’t help myself. You will find all of that nonsense there. And trust me, there is a lot of it.

Click the picture and magically transport yourself there!

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 8.47.52 AM

Also, I am on Twitter too! Say whaaaaaaat??? It’s true! I don’t think I need to make a deal out of this because most people know I am on Twitter even though I don’t say too much about my tiny little webmaster world. I do follow some pretty rad people and shockingly, I am followed by even more rad people. Like Andrew Zimmern! You know, the guy that eats bugs and fish heads as a delicacy on the Travel Channel? He followed me after I tweeted “It would be Hell to be reincarnated as Andrew Zimmern’s toilet”. Good to see he has a sense of humor. I still feel bad about that.

So, come find me and lets follow each other! Forever and ever and ever….

I think that’s enough with blog begging for a day. I just wanted to point out some areas where you can access hidden gems that will get bigger throughout the summer.

Enjoy your day and I will be back with a tribute to the best GI Joe vehicle ever and if you disagree, I will….do nothing. Maybe make noises like “pshhh”. Who knows?

 

 

It’s A Mad Mad Mad Monster Party: Part 2

Hello there! I am back with the second part to the Mad Monster recap. Sorry it has taken a little while longer to get this up but stupid work was being, well, stupid. Gotta pay the bills, ya know? Anyway, let us jump right back to where I left off.

IMG_4704

I will admit, even though this was a horror convention, I am always amazed by people who think up and create stuff like this. It’s one thing to dress up as your favorite character or even just a random zombie, it’s a whole other bag of beans to strap a quadriplegic zombie girl to your back and walk around in jeans and a button-down shirt just because. It didn’t make any sense. I can’t think of a time I walked around with a mannikin strapped to my back and passed it off as a costume. Well, there was that Halloween when I did the whole “Weekend at Bernie’s” thing. But that was different!

And there was more than one of these weirdos too! It seemed these five guys all over the age of 38 got together and thought this was a brilliant idea. I sure hope these guys are writers or producers of “The Walking Dead” or something because if it’s random, C minus. It just doesn’t make any sense. But this next thing does!!!

What the shit is this? I kind of love it. Really can’t tell how this…thing…got to the top of the stairs and into the convention center but much success to this guy for pulling off such an impressive costume. If it wasn’t for the huge claws and steak knife I would swear that the inspiration came from the old cartoon The Real Ghostbusters. It just seems that crazy. But what do I know?

IMG_0120

The main reason I was at The Mad Monster Party was to see and support my boys, Brockton and Bo, from Lost Story Studios. They are brilliant artists and can zombie-fy any character you can think of. Not only are they great artists, they are fantastic people and their wives, Amy and Holly are equally as cool. I wish we lived closer but for my liver’s sake, perhaps it’s better that we don’t. Thank you Amy (long time friend) for expanding my buddy pool.

Just look at their work. I love it oh so much. Also, their comic Death Curse is crazy good. This will be huge so remember folks, you saw it here first.

Later in the evening we all party pretty heavy into the night. I have no idea how these guys can get up the next day draw and be creative. My mind was mush and for once, I understood Busey.

Speaking of Busey…

SAM_0025

My good pal Josh C asked me if he could get a personalized hello from Gary Busey and I said sure thing. I knew I could figure something out but honestly, I had no idea the level of insanity that guy has achieved. From the second I met him I knew this needed to be a fast transaction. Here’s how it went:

Me: Hello Mr. Busey, I’m a big fan but my buddy Josh can’t be here. Could I get a picture of you holding this saying hello to him?

Busy: What? Speak up!

Me: HELLO MR. BUSEY, I AM A BIG FAN BUT MY BUDDY JOSH CAN’T BE HERE. COULD I GET A PICTURE OF YOU HOLDING THIS SAYING HELLO TO HIM?

Busey: You have a shirt on you…what?

Me: What?

Busey’s publicist: He just wants you to hold this sign for a friend while he takes a picture.

Busey: So no one is going to sit next to me?

Me: *thinking to myself* Please for the love of Christ, let the camera work.

After that exchange I gave him $20 and he quite literally ripped it from my hand like a money stealing a tourist’s ice cream. I felt like I somehow annoyed him so I bought an autograph as well. It was a headshot from Lethal Weapon. I told him the special forces tattoo line was our favorite when I was in the military. He said of all the movies he has done, that role was his favorite.

Then, out of nowhere, he stood up and saluted me and screamed, “I SALUTE YOU SIR!!!” spitting wildly. I just smiled and backed away like the woman in Elf. You know the scene. The “IT’S SANTA!” scene? Pay attention to the old woman in the background after the Santa shouting. That was me.

Well, Gary didn’t disappoint and he was everywhere all weekend. In fact he acquired a guitar somehow and I barely caught this little ditty.

It’s kind of funny to think that guy could have been murdered by Meatloaf.  Loaf. I hate that word.

After that experience I moved over one spot to my right and there was his son, Jake Busey. Not nearly the line that his father had but he seemed to be in good spirits. We actually shot the shit for a while about the first episode of Tales From the Crypt and how that show evolved since the first season. He seemed surprised that someone would recognize him for that rather than Frighteners or Starship Troopers. I didn’t have the balls to say what I really think of those movies anyway. He was even pretty patient when my friend couldn’t work the camera while making “aw shit” faces. Jake casually said, “That’s not a good face”.

IMG_0054

We figured it out finally. Looking back, he’s a pretty tall dude! I am right at 6 feet so he’s, what, 6.4? He must have been pretty annoyed to be stuck between Gary and the Halloween mood table that played Halloween 3’s Silver Shamrock commercial over and over. That’s his penance for The Hitcher 2. And yes, that is also the autograph I chose.

IMG_4703

Good ol’ Kirk Hammett, the meekest member of Metallica, stopped by to sign his new book. It’s no secret that Kirk has always been into the retro monster flicks and masks so it seemed right for him to be there. He’s definitely the coolest and after that dump-in-a-jar documentary, Some Kind of Monster, he out shined the two women, Lars and James. If Metallica has lost many of its original fans, Kirk has been the bridge to keep the others.

You couldn’t approach him. In order to talk with him you needed to sign up for another $100, weeks ahead of time. I get that but it’s still a little disappointing. The cool thing is they put him in plain site of the public and we could at least get a quick snapshot of him.

IMG_0134

Of all the people at this event, meeting  actor Jeffery Kramer was one of my favorite experiences. He was the nicest of people and out of the whole Jaws panel, he was the one I geeked out over the most. Sure Chrissy, the first shark victim, was cool but as a kid, I remember Deputy Hendricks the most. He went on for a long while about shooting Jaws one and two and how nuts Robert Shaw was to work with and what it was like to work on Halloween two. He’s just an over all nice person and he couldn’t believe I could recite all his lines in both of the Jaws movies. I, myself, couldn’t believe I actually let anyone know that. Especially him.

He was so flattered he signed the wrong character to the Halloween 2 picture and gave me another. I said it was more than okay because that just makes it a little cooler. He insisted so now I have two. This photo always makes me feel bad for poor Ben Tramer. Of all nights to go out on Halloween dressed in a pale William Shatner mask and mechanic overalls. Who knew Michael Meyers had that same costume idea too?

IMG_4752

May have gotten him to sign my Jaws 2 shirt as well. “The Beaches Are Closed”. Love it! He’s never signed a shirt before. Looking back I hope I didn’t creep him out. I was powered by bud light all weekend.

IMG_4740

Hey it’s Lea Thomson from Back to the Future, Red Dawn, Jaws 3-D and Howard the Duck! She was also sweet and still a pretty good lookin’ lady. My buddy DJ D is in love with her. He said something about me creating a diversion, a trunk and rope. I am not sure I was paying attention close enough. Maybe that’s for the better.

IMG_4762

This was the time when the show was wrapping up for the second day and all my friends had finally arrived. It was party time. I will admit you have never fully partied until you are at a Monster Party karaoke bar with my friends. It was called “Scareoke” but I kept saying “Spookeoke” by accident. I like “Spookeoke” better.

The whole night is a bit of a blur so that’s why I took a ton of pictures and put them into a slide show for your viewing pleasure. I made so many great friends on top of spending quality time with my buddies. It was horror. It was my best pals. Its was heavy metal. It was my movie and music idles. I was in heaven. Where else can you drink beer with Tyler Mane and Salacious Crumb? No where, that’s where!

Like I said, it’s all kind of blurry but I know it was a great time. Also, when I finally had enough, I decided to head up to the room and when the elevator opened and I got on I found myself between Michael Meyers and Leatherface.

IMG_4731

I asked if this was the murder elevator. They had a good laugh and I asked if I could get their picture because tomorrow it will just be another “no shit, there I was story” and they more than obliged. Tyler Mane is such a great guy. I remember that ride but looking through my pictures I never noticed…

IMG_4730

Ace Frehley was on it too! And should I know the girl in the middle?

I know my chronological order is a bit skewed but let’s pretend it’s not. The last day was one of buying all the stuff I didn’t feel like dragging around. And holy shit I bought a lot. In fact my home office looks like a fanboy’s spank room. I thought we were just going to kick around for a few hours before going back to the real world but when it comes to fun and horror, the party didn’t stop. I stayed another day just to take it all in again.

IMG_4748

Kane Hodder, ladies and gentlemen, the legend who played Jason in the Friday the 13th and Hatchet I and II. And that’s a real chokehold! Keep in mind, he plays Jason and is about three inches taller than me. Here it looks like we are the same height. I will admit, I was a bit surprised by that grip.

Again, what a cool guy and he checked my knowledge about Friday the 13th and the scene of the photo he signed. He specifically asked what scene it was and what happened. Thank God I knew the answer! I had him sign it to my pal who runs one of my favorite sites ever and NO SHIT Kane Hodder knew what it was. I feel a bit proud. I was shocked that a 58-year-old horror icon knew my buddy’s site and even said, “yeah, it’s a funny one. Last time I was there he was talking about Easter eggs and shit.” He must have gotten there by word of mouth or the numerous F13 posts. Who knows, but I got him an autograph as proof. Good for you, Mathew!

IMG_4750

Some $500 later in mech, I saw Jake the Snake Roberts at the buffet looking…sore. I feel for these wrestlers from my childhood. There’s no way their bodies and hearts can be fully functional. But it’s fun to know Jake and I have the same shirt! Speaking of wrestlers, you know I had to get this…

Ever been in the “Cobra Commander Chokehold” by Sgt. Slaughter himself? I have. It’s pretty surreal to think about but I had no intentions to even get a photo with the guy. I wanted this amazing poster but before I knew it, he came around the table and said, “hold still”. Ooooookay?

You have to admit that’s pretty badass. I appreciate the “At Ease, Will” addition. This has pretty much my 1987 loves wrapped into one poster. The only reservation I have is…

…the weird smiley dick. I think that would give most people the heebs.

The day kept getting better. Since the night before I had the pleasure  to hangout and befriend one of the best musicians to grace metal, Brent Hinds from Mastodon.

Brothers don’t shake hands, brothers gotta hug! It’s weird to talk with one of the greatest guitarists and musicians in the world. I saw him in Spokane in ’09 and got caught in a moshpit so tough, I lost both shoes. It was even cooler that he hung out with my friends the entire night and shot the shit. Great guy and so very humble.

I am getting tired of writing this so I will hurry up. Just a couple more neat-o events.

As the show started to wrap up, you could tell the celebrities were winding down too. I only had one person I had to see left that was on my list, Amelia Kinkade from Demons 1,2 and 3. She was another adolescent crush that I had to tell. Something happened though, and I got sidetracked and when I came back to the showroom, she was gone. I was really bummed out. Until…

IMG_4756

I went to a restaurant down the street to get dinner and there she was by herself, trying to order. Usually I would just leave it be but this was destiny. I sat down, ordered a beer and quietly said I was a big fan as I pretended to watch the basketball game. She scooted over a seat and we talked for a good hour. So so so cool. I bought her dinner and she gave me a couple of her books. She’s a huge animal activist and..(ahem)…animal psychic. It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend. But just when I thought it was over as I went back to the hotel, two mega horror movie stars most anyone would know were sitting at the hotel bar and asked if there was anything to get into on a Sunday in Charlotte. Just so happens I am buddy’s with Bill the owner at the Tremont Lounge and gave him a call. Wouldn’t you know it? There just happened to be a freak show there that night. And I gave them a ride there.

I so want to say who they are but I feel that by doing so it could harm them. I know no one reads this but if some bullshit were to happen, I would feel like total dog shit. Anyway, I had to leave them early because I just couldn’t do it anymore. The batteries were severely low at that point. I did get a call at 4am wondering where I was and how to get back to the hotel. Of course I picked them up. I’m a nice guy and these guys caused me nightmares for years.

So that was that! It was a great time all the way around. I am very thankful for my friends who made it all the more special. If you can, next year come to the Mad Monster Party in Charlotte. Do the whole thing. Live it up and experience everything. I absolutely had one of the best times of my life. Us horror fans have a weird bond. I guess that’s why there are no drama or comedy movie conventions. The weird people need a place to be themselves.

BONUS! Wanna see DJ D sing “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap “by AC/DC?

Error
This video doesn’t exist

Tales From The Darkside Got Me Grounded

This story is a testament to how much simpler life was back when I was a kid. I had almost completely forgotten about this story until recently when I was talking to Kristen and low and behold, it just popped in there! The brain never ceases to amaze me because this memory has been stored for over twenty years only to randomly fallout like a picture used as a bookmark falling from a Garfield comic. (Because we all have read these in the 80’s) It comes at a good time too because this blog was turning into rubbish with mindless beer reviews and beef jerky. That’s no way to go through life, son.

Saturday nights for a certain period of my life were a special time. For whatever reason, from 7:00 to let’s say 10 or 11:00, my parents hosted a few couples from church for a bible discussion party. Well, I assume that’s what it was though I can’t be sure because my evenings were far better, which you will find out soon. After their bible yap, everyone would mingle and share the desserts each couple brought. I was allowed downstairs for that. Until then I was confined to the parents room with the TV, books of sharks, and whatever else a young seven-year old needed to pass the time. But at 9:00 my attention was devoted to a very special program that sometimes proved to be regretful whether it was later on at night from fears of what lurks under the bed or….well…keep reading.

I didn’t have cable until high school so with five channels (not including PBS because that was like watching school) and four channels on the smaller rotating dial, the selection was limited. But on Saturday nights there was quite the programing on Atlanta 46! The most memorable, of course, was “Tales From the Darkside”. For those not familiar, get out. I kid! I kid! It was a thirty minute program that featured two stories of macabre and strange tales usually starring some middle of the road actor from the time. Not all the shows were great but to a seven-year old, each one was a masterpiece.

One fateful Saturday afternoon my Dad informed me that a couple would be bringing their kids to the bible party and I would have to share my Saturday night of B-rated TV. While I was a little disappointed because as an only child I am a spoiled little dick, I had no say in the matter and began looking for the bright side. I mean, it could be fun.

It wasn’t at all. I knew it the second they arrived as I watched them pull into the driveway. These kids were melvins who brought their own pillows. They brought their own pillows for Christ sake! I sighed and walked limp-armed back to the parents room across the hall, head hung low and waited to hear people walk up the stairs. But instead Mom called for me to greet the un-welcomed guests and walk them to my Saturday sanctuary where no parental guidance was required.

I must have look like a pill giving a limp handshake to…Whats-his-face (let’s call him Jimmy for lack of memory) and his little sister, Rebecca.

Rebecca would be a problem for me.

With their idiotic board games and pillows in hand, we trudged upstairs to ruin my night. I offered to leave them in my room to do their will upon my collection of GI Joe and Legos, but that only appealed to Jimmy; the one kid I thought wouldn’t mind a night of twisted tales of grown up gore. Rebecca was stuck to my side like a rock in tire tread. Looking back as an adult it was pretty cute but to a kid that waited all week to hear the intro to “Tales From The Darkside”, it was an un-welcomed advance and there was no way to give these home schooled kids the slip.

Throughout the evening I tried to be entertaining and cordial. Jimmy wasn’t too bad, partly because he had Castle Greyskull to play house with and could care less about the world around him. Rebecca, however, sat hip-to-hip with me on the floor, eyes fixed on the TV as we watched “Small Wonder” and I nervously counted down the program schedule until “Tales From The Darkside” aired. Only one more “feel-good” show to go!

Dad brought us popcorn and cokes and asked if I was being a good host to which I responded “yeahyeah” without breaking gaze from the TV. He left to rejoin the adults and I could hardly wait because now was the time I had waited for patiently and even though I had to share this moment with these two weirdos, it was happening.

The intro alone distracted Jimmy from battling the forces of Cobra as he joined his sister and me on the floor, soon to witness the macabre and scary tales this glorious show had to offer. And brother, this one was a doozy! It was the first episode and pilot for the show that George Romero himself wrote and produced. The episode was called “Trick or Treat” and had demons, witches, pirate zombies and Satan himself all wrapped into a half an hour. Let’s break it down, shall we?

After the magical introduction we begin the story with a typical Scrooge-like character, Mr. Haggles, played by Bernard Hughes (one of my all time favorite actors). He is having his books balanced by a couple of accountants and we begin to learn what a cheap miser he really is, charging one of them .04 cents for another cup of coffee. But we also learn he has a twisted side too as he scares the two accountants into a bowel evacuation by an animatronic…thing that he uses on children during his favorite “SEASON”, Halloween.

It’s Willy from Alf!!!

That’s right. Mr. Haggles says what I have always believe and that is Halloween is a season, not a day. Anyway, he goes on to explain how every year he tempts the children in the valley to find the IOU’s of their parents that he holds liens on, hidden somewhere in his house, and if they find them all debt is forgiven. But no one ever has because of the terrifying tricks he has set up around his home.

We see during the afternoon of Halloween the bind he has on the parents as they are so deep in debt to Mr. Haggles that they even have to buy costumes for their children on credit in his general store. He taunts them into sending their children to the Hell house with the chance to have their debts forgiven.

Much like Romero’s style, there is a deep cultural issue hidden behind a cheeky horror story. We see how desperate people in financial distress can be and in some cases, putting their children in harm’s way to get out of their situation. I’m not going as far as saying prostitution but…kind of?

Oh Jimmy, find the IOU’s and get those much need braces or don’t find them and get a beating. The odds aren’t good since Mr. Haggles has a house full of spooky sounds and animatronic ghoulish surprises in store. Jimmy comes close but just couldn’t take the torture of Mr. Haggle’s taunts.

As Jimmy runs out of the house his father picks him up in a nurturing way and walks home defeated. Mr. Haggles laughs at the terrified kid but there is a moment when he has his bubble burst when Mr. Muldoon isn’t angry but rather a caring father. You can almost hear Mr. Haggles sigh a “humbug”. Who is next?

Another potential victim rings his doorbell and from his Wizard of Oz type control room, he looks to see who it is. Another kid? A parent coming to whoop an old man’s ass? Not quite!

In every story when a greedy person meets their fate, there seems to always be this third-party who’s entire being is for punishing the sinner. By far, this is my favorite punishment. He looks into the peephole only to see one of the scariest witches as she cackles a “trick or treat”. He opens the door to shoo away this prankster only to come to the realization that this is a real witch. She flies through the house on her broom and magically finds the hidden IOU’s and blows them in his face. Frantically, Mr. Haggles jumps to catch them all completely overlooking that he HAS A FUCKING WITCH IN HIS DEN and runs through the house shouting “my money!”.

 

In each room he is met with these type of creatures, who are not animatronic, but real and all over his cash. He is in disbelief that a pirate-zombie is sitting on his check deposits and scurries to salvage the flying cash. Which leads him to….

 

 

Ah, Satan himself. The Devil reverses the taunting and repeats “you’re getting warmer” and Mr. Haggles crawls his way down a bright red corridor which is made of what appears to be bubble wrap. While the set design looks to be a mediocre haunted garage that can be found in any suburb on Halloween night, it is a little creepy. Mr. Haggles crawls his way, chasing his blowing cash, to what is perceived to be Hell. Good riddance.

But what about all the poor people who were in debt to Mr. Haggles?

 

 

Well, the witch gave it all to Billy. The End.

As we finished this tale of awesome, I came out of my “Tales From The Darkside” trance to the world around me. Only Jimmy was sitting next to me but where was Rebecca? Apparently during the Hell scene she ran from the room and down to the bible study in tears telling her parents that I forced her to watch ‘R’ rated devil shows. Before I could evaluate the situation I heard the familiar sound of my Mom’s fast paced stair climbing gape. There was nowhere to hide. Jimmy looked at me and said, “You’re in a lot of trouble”. Fuck you, Jimmy, you home-schooled melvin.

The credits were still rolling while Mom and her parents breached the door and she yanked me from the floor so fast there was a tiny pop from a sound barrier break. I was escorted to my room by the elbow and Jimmy was taken downstairs to join his traumatized sister and would be given cookies and cake until their parents decided to leave. I cursed them all from my bed having daydreams much like Ralphy from The Christmas Story, thinking how sorry they would be if I was blind or have an affliction that required sympathy. But I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.

By the next week when bible study came around, the melvins did not join me. I was thankful for this but my Saturday nights had to be spent without TV. But was it worth it?

Yes it was.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: