We will return in 2018 with a new look, mission & direction. Stay tuned as we develop our online destination that celebrates contemporary & retro pop culture as well as body, mind & spirit!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

I Was Retro When Retro Wasn't Cool

With individual apologies to Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters (including the woefully underrated and misused Irlene), growing up in rural Oklahoma in the '70s and '80s, I was retro when country wasn't cool.

Timeless talents like Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson excluded, when our country apparently thought B- and C-list country music *was* cool circa 1981 for about an hour and a half -- a period in Tulsa that passed as quickly as Abe Vigoda's half-life -- my retroality was as uncool as being named "Jimmy" in the Osmond, Baio and McNichol households. We're talking seriously not cool here.

But I embraced my love for all LA-influenced things pop culture and fifteen minutes ago. I had to. My survival depended on it. When a gaggle of 10-year-old rural Oklahomans began systematically chanting Eddie Rabbit's "Drivin' My Life Away" during every lunchtime recess, I knew I had to escape to a safe place within. A place where the Captain and Tennille taught me that Love Will Keep Us Together. A place where Carrie Fisher's carefully-wound cinammon-bun hairdo would forever warm the contents of my soul. A place where Jack Tripper, Weezie Jefferson, the "Facts of Life" girls and other TV "city folk" flourished, and where sleeping single in a double bed wasn't a white-trash calling card but rather was a sophisticated plot device allowing characters as culturally diverse as Mr. Roper, Mr. Bently or Tootie to spin a few mixed drinks and a case of mistaken identity into sitcomic gold.

Pop culture was my Charlotte Rae of light during my rural Oklahoman darkness. This could possibly explain why I named my orange, fuzzy-coiffed pencil topper "Mrs. Garrett." Or why I tried subverting my sixth-grade schoolmates' endless ennui by falling over my desk a la John Ritter. Or why I cryptically scribbled the phrase "Beans don't burn on the grill" inside my second-grade pencil case.

Years (if not decades) before loving the '70s, '80s and '90s became VH1-approved, I was touting the virtues of retroality. Quietly. To myself. Inside my pencil case. But still, touting nonetheless. And before the late-20th-century decades again become forgotten, we will do our best at Retroality.TV to document and make sense of this era when, to quote "The Jeffersons"'s galvanizing "Movin' On Up" theme, "fish don't fry in the kitchen."

Make that "kitschin.'" That's what we'll do here. We'll "kitsch" about everything retro, much as one would "smurf" about mushroom villages and the like. I'll probably kitsch a lot about how Irlene Mandrell was robbed by her no-talent, kitsch sisters. Not that kitschin' is necessarily a negative expression. At Retroality.TV, kitschin' will be the act of giving all worthy things retro a resounding voice.

In closing, perhaps Alan Thicke's words resounded best in the closing stanza of "The Facts of Life" theme:

It takes a lot to get ‘em right
When you’re learning the facts of life. (learning the facts of life)
Learning the facts of life (learning the facts of life)
Learning the facts of life.


marno said...

YOU CRACK ME UP!! Mainly because I was right there with you!! And tripping over your desk...I remember that cracked me up then too! Great Web site, great stories!! Eagerly anticipating more!

Anonymous said...

And here I was in L.A. loving country music! I guess we just went for whatever wasn't obviously cool at the time. Like the late 70's and early 80's when I was totally into the Monkees and the Beatles and everyone else . . . really really wasn't.

I'll still never forget you mentioning that country song that used to make you nuts, reciting the "honking them tables" line and how shocked you were when I immediately said, "Honky Tonk Heroes! Waylon Jennings!

Yep, those were the days! (You can imagine that line a la Jean Stapleton if you want.)