Friday, November 28, 2014

The 1950s car mugs that never were by Fifties Co. LTD

In the mid 1980s, Fifties Co. LTD, a Japanese toy company, produced sturdy tin friction toy cars recalling those made in the 1950s and 1960s.  They were marketed in the United States and must have sold very well.  Even now, you can always find at least a few for sale on ebay.  In 1984, I sent the company some designs for ceramic mugs incorporating the front ends of 1950s cars.  They responded with interest, sent me the above pictures, and I eventually met with representatives of the company when they were in Los Angeles.
They took this picture of me with my 1969 Toronado in the parking lot of their hotel.

For over a year I imagined myself becoming rich designing novelty items like these (I ran several other humorous ideas past them). The did do a test run of the mugs but apparently there was not enough interest at the trade fairs to actually produce them.  They did, however, send me these samples and I've kept them ever since.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Those rascals from Bonanza

I'd heard since I was a kid that the cast of Bonanza once famously slipped the Viewmaster photographer the finger.  As you can see, this is one urban legend that's actually easily verified -- in 3D yet.  It appeared in reel one of the 1964 set based on the episode A Pink Cloud Comes from Old Cathay airing April 12, 1964  Dan Blocker, Michael Landon, Lorne Greene and Pernell Roberts are all clearly flipping the bird (albeit surreptitiously).  Guest actors Benson Fong (with hammer) and Philip Ahn don't appear to be in on the gag.  

The synopsis on IMDB reads: A mix-up in his request for mail-order Chinese fireworks brings Hoss instead a feisty mail-order bride whose militant ideas ignite a workers' rebellion and threaten the completion of a Virginia City railroad project.  Sounds pretty far fetched, doesn't it?  Wait until you hear who the bride was -- That Mail Order Bride,  the not-even-remotely Asian Marlo Thomas. Right from the start, she turns out to be something of a firecracker -- a proto-Feminist Communist. (It's not as interesting as it sounds).  All told, this is a fairly typical episode of Bonanza -- easy going and amiable and it never did pretend to be a historical document on the Old West.  But it sure sold a lot of color televisions. 

There were other Bonanza Viewmaster sets, so be sure to look for this 1964 version on ebay.  They come up for auction often, so one wonders just how many were issued -- certainly tens of thousands at least.  After all, Bonanza was a very popular show and Viewmaster was at its height of popularity at the time.  One can only imagine how the guys reacted when they found out their little joke made it past the Viewmaster editors.  I'm sure there was a round to celebrate the occasion. Probably things were not quite so happy at Viewmaster. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rita Hayworth in Salome at the Hill Street Theater, Los Angeles, 1953

A friend gave me an LA Times Home Section Magazine dated April 12, 1953.  Just inside was this rather expensive looking full-color advertisement for Rita Hayworth's latest Columbia release.  The RKO Hill Street was a massive theater in downtown Los Angeles, with 2,890 seats.  It was closed in 1963 and was torn down in 1965.  A parking garage now occupies the space.  Fortunately for Los Angeles, however, most of the rest of the downtown movie palaces still not only exist but have been or are in the process of being restored.  One notable holdout is the Warner, now a jewelery mart.  The other two theaters mentioned in the advertisement are still in existence.  The RKO Pantages on Hollywood Blvd. is a very successful legit theater.  The 4 Star, on Wilshire Blvd, has seen better days and is said not to be around much longer.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Expo 86 souvenirs

Above, my three day ticket preserved for posterity.
In the previous post, you can see me holding this very bag, ladies and gentlemen.  Price:  $1 Canadian.  I used it to collect the following brochures given out free at many of the various exhibits.  

 The layout of the Canadian pavilion.

 A sample of the inside of the British Columbia brochure.

 In a previous post you can see my pictures of the HSST mag lev train at the Japan pavilion.

 This was more than a mere brochure -- it was a full-scale paperback book.

I could not resist this bronze souvenir of the theme building.  Cost: $8.99 Canadian.  I wouldn't be at all surprised if they are still sold there. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Expo 86 -- Vancouver Part 3

Every world's fair has its midway, and Expo 86 was no exception.  This splashdown variation on the old parachute jump ride featured these rather charming space capsules that seemed more 1966 than 1986.

At the top of the splashdown ride.

You've probably noticed by now that whole fair was designed in a typically bold, bright 1980s palette -- and apparently I felt obligated to dress to match.  Those cartoon-like yellow pants were a Christmas gift from my mother, and I wore that Members Only jacket all the time.
One of the more memorable exhibits was Japan's impressive HSST Mag-lev trains.   It was a short ride. I remember the controls manned by the ladies were remarkably simple.  There was a lever and not much else.

 These shots were taken from a ferry which took us to the Canadian pavilion, located off the main site.
Here you can see the covered stadium.  I remember walking by as we were leaving one night and hearing Joan Rivers' voice booming out of it.
The General Motors Pavilion did not feature the grand sort of ride through space and time as was in the 1964 New York World's Fair, but it did feature an entertaining "Spirit Lodge" movie, which I very nearly worked on.  I can't remember why I didn't.

 One of the few buildings to remain is the Canadian Pavilion, which is now used as a convention center.