Sunday, December 27, 2009

VINTAGE SPACE TOAST TOUR FORT LAUDERBRUTAL: I have been to the past and what I saw in 1977 was so horrible it would give Darth Vader chlamydia

And so Vintage Space Toast Tour 2009 draws to a close with an unexpected visit to the place where in a sense it all began-Fort Lauderdale. I'd been visiting libraries for years before I went to Lauderdale that first time back in '07 but it was during that visit when I got the idea to blog afterwards about the stuff I found. So was born the Vintage Space Toast Tour-the name I came up with for what other people would call going to the library when they're on vacation. Alas, the last two weekends have not been kind to our hero and the Fort Lauderdale microfilm reels have proven dastardly opponents unwilling to give up their old toy robots newspaper ads without first subjecting me to all manner of mayhem and cruelty. As I've written before, anyone who dares revisit the newspapers of the past subjects themselves to headline after headline of horrific cruelness and calamity. For every rare gem of a toy robot ad I found I had to endure countless pictures of dead bodies, car crashes, plane crashes, toddler pool drownings, suicides, explosions and worse. Just when I thought I'd seen it all and couldn't take no more, there on the front page of one paper from 1977 was a puppy about to be given a lethal injection at the pound! I mean sheesh, I thought seeing that one article detailing partial birth abortion procedures was the emotional equivalent of sticking my head in a blender but SO BE IT! I never said there wouldn't be puppies going to hell during the Roboplastic Apocalypse.


Initially when I went back to Lauderdale I tried to revisit the 80s but I'd already found most of the good stuff back in 2007. I decided to change my focus and concentrate on the late 70s-an era dominated by the influence of Star Wars. If you read this blog at length it may seem like all I ever find in the seventies are ads for Micronauts and Shogun Warriors but that's not the case at all. A truer representation of what the toy pages in newspapers from '77 to '79 were like is the following three ads for Star Wars, the Star Bird and Battlestar Galactica:
Super Rx 11/26/78

The Treasury 11/25/79
Jefferson 11/23/78
These three are only the tip of the iceberg when it came to toylines with the word 'star' in them. The seventies also had Star Force, Starroid Raiders, Star Team, and Star Command. It's obvious Star Wars created such a strong demand for space themed sci-fi toylines that toy companies tried to hop on the bandwagon. Yet there were other instances of stardation like Star Trek, Paul Stanley the Star Child KISS doll and Coleco's TeleStar video game system that make me think people in the seventies had an outer space fetish even outside of toys and waaay before George Lucas came along. I don't underestimate his influence, though. I wonder how the toy scene would've changed if he named his movie 'Fart Wars'.


KMart 11/30/77

There was nothing new by way of Micronauts ads but as often happens I got something better than what I had. Back in August I found what I thought was a fantastic Micronauts ad from K-Mart in a Miami paper but because of how the ad was formatted and the nature of the microfilm archiving process, all the text got blotted out. Well guess what I found in Lauderdale? It was the same ad but the microfilm transfer was much nicer. You'll have to take my word for it that it's readable but once I put it up at the Micronauts section of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace at a larger resolution and photo manipulated a bit you'll see how nice it is. In fact a lot of 70s ads I'd already seen before I got to reshoot and get better results because the Lauderdale transfers were really nice and that library had some nice scanners with bright screens. It was Naut too bad at all!


Quite literally the big story during my trip to the Fort Lauderdale library was a newspaper article from titled "Space Toys-Star Wars Won't Make It To Store Shelves In Time" about the lack of Star Wars action figures immediately after the film's release. So rabid were people for anything space after Star Wars that Shogun Warriors would often get shoehorned into the space toy category when they really weren't. I'd see that done in ads all the time but to see a newspaper reporter call Dragun the "creature from outer space" was kind of funny. There was also a shot of a 3 year old little boy named Darren Esan standing next to a loose Dragun standing on top of a boxed giant Shogun and to see the kid dwarfed by 4 feet of roboplastic awesome sure brought back memories. I'm his same age! You know who's not our same age? Dead puppy from page one.


There was also one pretty cool Shogun ad featuring line art of the Grendizer Saucer that I'd never seen before. What was cool about some stores like Britts and JC Penny in the seventies was that they'd come up with their own line art. I've seen the official standard line art for the Grendizer Saucer in other ads and it's not as detailed or dynamic as what Britts did for this ad. I am really glad it survived to be unearthed all these years later.
Britts 11/23/78
As shown with the earlier Micronauts ad, just because something existed in newspapers doesn't always mean it still exists on microfilm in a readable state. These old ads are all at the mercy of the many factors conspiring to keep them buried and forgotten. There's the quality of the microfilm transfer, the image coming off the scanner reading the reels and ultimately the choice of the archivists to scan the newspaper ads in the first place. Lauderdale in the late 70s was the perfect combination of scan quality and archive policy allowing me to rediscover these ads 30 years later. Unfortunately at some point in the 80s the quality of the Lauderdale transfers degrades to being hardly readable sloppy blotches and by 1990 they weren't archiving their weekly retailer circulars anymore so I won't be going back much after this. That said, I'm happy with what I did find-the ads part, not the concentrated dosages of death and destruction one experiences from reading four months of papers in a six hour period part. I can find no better way to explain my satisfaction with the toy robots ads I got from the late 70s Lauderdale papers than to say they almost made all those dead puppies worth it. Almost.

No comments:


Minibox 3 Column Blogger Template by James William at 2600 Degrees

Evil King Macrocranios was voted king by the evil peoples of the Kingdom of Macrocrania. They listen to Iron Maiden all day and try to take pictures of ghosts with their webcams.