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Lori's Stories

Christmas Catalog Countdown - 12/11/06

New Kids On The Block Sleeping Bag - JCPenney Christmas Catalog - 1990


 

    This girl is one hardcore fan. She's laying by her New Kids On The Block sleeping bag (she can't see their faces as well when she's inside), reading her NKOTB article while her NKOTB poster and LP stay close at hand in case of emergency. I was one of the 2% of girls in the late 80's/early 90's who wasn't into the New Kids. People think I'm in denial when I say that, but it's true. I tried, believe me. Being the nerdy girl, I really didn't need anything else to make me different from everyone else. Still, I just couldn't get into them. My grandparents bought me a New Kids shirt one year for my birthday (I was a 10 year old girl, they figured it was a safe bet), and I wore it once, but I felt like such a fake that I never wore it out of the house again. I think that I was always afraid deep down that someone was going to start asking me questions, like what my favorite album was or other NKOTB-related stuff, and I'd be forced to admit my deception. But, I won't deny that the New Kids were one of the most marketable bands of the 90's. The 1990 catalog had no lack of merchandise for the pre-teen girl on your list. And, with a sleeping bag, you could drag them to your sleepover and be the envy of all your friends who thought the New Kids were wicked hot.

    

As a bonus, I found this Sabado Gigante game in the same catalog. I don't pretend to know a lot about Spanish-language television, but I had no idea that Sabado Gigante had been around so long, and I really didn't have any idea that they'd made a board game out of it. See? Catalogs are not only fun, they're educational.

    

 

Christmas Catalog Countdown - 12/10/06

Weebles - Sears Wish Book - 1981

 

    Finally! We get to get old school up in here! Weebles wobble but they don't fall down. That's actually a pretty profound statement when you realize that, even if they disappear for a while, Weebles always find their way back to the toy aisle. They're a timeless toy. My grandparents didn't have a lot of toys for us to play with when we went to their house, but they had Weebles and that Weeble house you see above. We loved getting that thing out. We spent many happy minutes playing with that thing. What can I say, we had attention span issues. You can also see what cool Weebles look like. Today's Weebles look more like obese people, whereas older Weebles looked more like capsules. Now that I think about it, every Weeble kind of looked like the boy in the bubble. That may have something to do with why they changed it. Whatever. I may be biased (say it isn't so!) but I prefer the Weebles of my youth. Wow, I have never typed the word "Weeble" so much in my life.

    
Vintage Weeble   Modern Weeble

Christmas Catalog Countdown - 12/9/06

Roller Skates - JCPenney Christmas Catalog - 1995

 

    The first thing that struck me when I saw this page was how few roller blades were on this page. It was 1995! OK, I lied, the first thing that struck me was that ostentatious Lion King skate. Holy cow! er...Holy leopard, cheetah and zebra! That thing just jumps off the page at you, doesn't it? As usual, the girls get the raw end of the deal with nothing but white and pink options (unless you count Simba's folly on the end.) We don't even get a cool licensed character! We get...oh I can barely type it...a unicorn! Wait a minute...it's Unicorn®. Is she some sort of special unicorn, or did some industrious person realize no one had trademarked the unicorn and saw an opening? Who the heck is Unicorn®? Ironically, I'm more familiar with the Gargoyles, who graced the boys skates. I had actually forgotten all about them until I saw this page. They were another syndicated cartoon catering to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle demographic. Not really my thing, but at least I knew about them. See you in the next installment of the Christmas Catalog Countdown® by Lori®.

Christmas Catalog Countdown - 12/8/06

AT&T Walkie Talkies - JCPenney Christmas Catalog - 1990


 

    Aw, yeah! It's "The Brick", baby! To me, there a few defining symbols of the pop culture of any given time, and this is one for the early 90's. You had to be pretty rich or important to have a cell phone during that time (or in daily danger of ending up stranded far from home, like my dad), but they were starting to peek their heads into the mainstream. We were still far off from the days of every teenager having a cell phone and getting stuck in line behind people who can't stop talking long enough to place a food order...wait, just let me linger there for a moment...ahhhhhh....sweet times....anyway, since kids had no hope of getting their own cell phones back then, we had to settle for these ultra-cool walkie talkies. Look at those antennas - these things were serious. Plus, the simple design and color scheme of the phones made them easily reproducible in toy form, meaning that the replicas looked exactly like the real thing (only they weighed about 50 lbs. less.) Think of the simple fun of these walkie talkies next time you're watching TV and Motorola tries to convince you that it's a good idea to get your grade schooler a pre-paid wireless Go Phone. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go rub a little Ben Gay on the old joints and finish my warm buttermilk and prunes.

Christmas Catalog Countdown - 12/7/06

McDonald's Play Set - JCPenney Christmas Catalog - 2002


 

    When the McDonald's toy revolution (OK, maybe "revolution" is too strong of a word) started, I was mostly past toy age. My sister was able to get in on it a little. I specifically remember a Christmas where she got the drive-thru outfit and the drink/ice cream dispenser for playing McDonald's. When I got a little older, I caved and bought some McDonald's toys for myself because I loved them so much. Besides, I had fond memories of playing McDonald's as a kid (without the aid of officially licensed McDonald's products.) As I discovered not too long ago, kids still have this strange fascination with playing "drive-thru". It's just one of those things you do. The McDonald's playsets got more and more elaborate and detailed, making pop culture freaks like me squeal with delight. What a difference a few years make.
     Seeing this in the 2002 catalog made me realize I didn't recall seeing any in this year's. I checked and, sure enough, no more McDonald's toys. My heart broke a little. Nowadays, the idea of seeing Ronald McDonald eat a hamburger in front of a group of kids has been placed in the same realm as seeing Fred Flintsone light up a Winston. Playsets like these are now viewed as glorifying junk food and promoting obesity. Yeah, like how all the times I played "hospital" as a kid made me think that getting surgery is a gas. Anyway, if this was how the Mickey D's toys were going to go out, at least they did it with a bang. It even comes with its own tiny deep fryer. How cute is that! My favorite part is all the replica product packaging. After all, you can't feel like a participating McDonald's restaurant if you're serving your drinks in Dixie cups. Ah, 2002...so close, yet so far away.

This is SO Worth Breaking Up The Countdown

     You're going to think I'm making this up. If I read this, I'd think I was making it up too. I promise, this story is completely true.
     When I was visiting with my parents a couple of weeks ago, I found a pristine McDonald's tray liner from 1979 in an antique shop. That's a pretty hard thing to come by, and the pop culture freak in me went nuts. I was going to leave it there, but my mom wanted to buy it for me (and she did.) When I got home, I decided it would be cool to display it in an actual McDonald's tray to give it some context. Lo and behold, I found one for a great price on eBay. The seller promised to throw in a freebie with purchase, which sweetened the deal for me.
     Today I got home from the grocery store and I saw my package waiting for me. With excitement I tore it open and this is exactly what I found:




Accompanied by this note:



Yes, just to eliminate any doubt about what was in the wrapper:


That's right. I got sent a genuine Californian McChicken. The sandwich seemed to be in pretty good shape,  a fact which I'm sure Morgan Spurlock would have a field day with. (That's not mold on the sandwich, if you're wondering. In fact, now that I look at the picture, I have to say that the sandwich looked a whole lot better in person.) At worst, it was just a little flat and the mayonnaise had caused the bread to stick to the chicken. Of course, it has been rather chilly. If I'd bought that tray in July, this story may have had a different ending. Actually, I doubt the package would have made its way here.
     I was trying to keep this month's blog pretty much all about the countdown and hold all other thoughts until next month, but I wanted to share this one right away. Of course, since I built this up to be the weirdest story of the century, it probably lost a bit of its punch. Still, I think it was worth it.

Christmas Catalog Countdown - 12/6/06

Florence Griffith-Joyner Doll - Sears Wish Book - 1989


 

    I was all about the Olympics when I was a kid. This was, of course, back when both Olympics ceremonies happened during the same year. Schoolteachers always enjoyed an opportunity to tie them in with their lessons, meaning that there was no way they were going to go by without the kids of America being fully aware. 1988 was no different. In all honesty, I remember the winter games from that year most vividly. I remember watching Katarina Witt bring her drama to the ice, that my uncle thought Elizabeth Hanley was adorable, and that I used to put on my boots and hold positions in the dining room as if I was gliding across ice. That memory still makes my mom laugh. One thing I do remember about the summer games was the track stars. I remember Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and of course, Flo Jo. People loved Flo Jo because she proved that you could be one of the most talented track stars in the world and a style icon at the same time. What I remember most were her long, painted fingernails. She became an instant role model and, as the 1989 Sears Wish Book shows, a marketable one. Keep in mind, this was a year after the games, and she was still toy worthy. I checked this doll out on eBay. It's not too hard to get one of these things MIB for the price of a fast food meal (well, for two), and it looks like she comes with fingernails for you to wear. I may be about 17 years late to the party, but I think I know what I want for Christmas now. 

Christmas Catalog Countdown - 12/5/06

Star Trek: TNG Action Figures  - JCPenney Christmas Catalog - 1993


 

    Oh yesssss! I'm not going to be a poseur and say that I was or am a fan of Star Trek in any of it's incarnations. That said, I can admit that I've seen more episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (hereby known as ST: TNG because we're tight like that) than any other. The reason is simple: syndication. It's 6 PM, you're a pre-teen sitting in front of the TV, it seems like nothing is on but news and...fine, we'll watch Star Trek. Plus, I married a ST: TNG fan, so if it's on when we're flipping channels, we'll typically stop and watch.
    In 1993, before Scott Bakula ruined it for everyone else, the Star Trek franchise had hit its high note with TNG. Even I knew that. These action figures are the proof. Have you known anybody with a Capt. Janeway figure? OK...besides a sci-fi geek? TNG was about as mainstream as Star Trek gets. I'm sure that kids all over America were begging for these things come Christmas morning, leaving one kid really psyched to get the A-list set (Set 01) and his sibling feeling totally gypped by getting the B-list set (Set 02). I don't know what Geordi did to get banished to Set 02, but it must have been bad. And, for the record, that looks nothing like Q. By the way, I'm sorry that Data and Borg Picard got a little blurred. JCPenney likes to stick its coolest stuff near the crease.

Christmas Catalog Countdown - 12/4/06

Karaoke - JCPenney Christmas Catalog - 1991


 

    I'm a sucker for home karaoke. I want my own in-home karaoke bar so I can enjoy the fun of singing my favorite songs, complete with studio background tracks, into a microphone at the top of my lungs without having to do it in front of drunks, strangers, or pretty much anybody. It wasn't until the early 90s that karaoke machines started becoming affordable enough that people who weren't Sharper Image-shopping techheads could afford to have them in their homes. Most of the time, they simply consisted of a tape player/amplifier with a mic jack. However, if you were really good, Santa might have brought you a video karaoke system, so you could view the words on a TV screen and not have to fumble with those paper lyric inserts (that sometimes didn't even have the lyrics printed on them!)
     I absolutely love the picture above. First of all, there's the boy, whom JCPenney was kind enough to label as Exhibit B. The boy is dressed like every boy in my 7th grade year book. Secondly, he's rocking out pretty hard to what the screen is showing to be "Jingle Bells". In fact, it looks like he's gotten so caught up in it that he's completely stopped singing. Then, of course, there's the part of the picture I'm sure you all have barely been able to take your eyes from - Exhibit A - the dad. This guy is clearly very supportive of his children, throwing his heart and soul into everything they do. He's giving his son the double-handed disco point that says, "Way to go, son! Get down with your bad self!" (and sometimes says, "Hey good lookin', be back to pick you up later.") There's no way the boy in the melon-colored shirt is having half as good a time as his dad. I wish "Jingle Bells" had that kind of effect on me.

Christmas Catalog Countdown - 12/3/06

Carol Channing Marionette - JCPenney Christmas Catalog - 2006


 

     I hadn't planned on doing anything from this year's Christmas catalog. After all, the point of this was supposed to be kind of nostalgic, either in the "Awww....I remember that!" way or the "Oh my gosh! What were we thinking?!" way. Still, I just couldn't let this go by without a mention. If you grew up looking at Christmas catalogs every year like I did, you're probably familiar with the marionette page. It always surprises me that there's a page devoted to marionettes because it's hard for me to believe that they're still a hot ticket Christmas item. There are always the classics - Howdy Doody, Charlie McCarthy - and then, every once in a while, you get your mind blown. This year, they're offering Carol Channing. I don't even know where to begin with that.
     First of all, when was the last time anyone heard of Carol Channing doing anything? When I was a kid, she was known for perennially playing the title role in "Hello, Dolly!" (and, of course, for her hair.) Who even knows who Carol Channing is anymore besides me and people older than my parents? Still, someone thought the time was right to market a tiny Carol Channing, not just in doll form, but as a full-blown marionette, complete with smart, red pantsuit. As you can see, the catalog marked her with a "new!", though I don't hold out too much faith that we'll see her become a seasoned veteran of the catalog marionette page. I guess there's always a chance this blog entry will promote a surge in sales. Cross your fingers.