Three Strikes and you might be Gene Roddenberry

STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE

Anyone and everyone who has stumbled upon THE RETROIST BLOG knows who Gene Roddenberry is. I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by telling you he created Star Trek. What I will tell you is that even though he created one of the most enduring and well-loved franchises in TV and Movie history, everything he touched DID NOT turn to gold. One such idea was the triune of GENESIS II, PLANET EARTH, and STRANGE NEW WORLD. These were the result of an idea for a post-apocalyptic serial where devastation hits the Earth and we follow the exploits of survivor(s) who made it through from the “old world” to the “new world.” Gene’s idea followed a similar formula as Star Trek with an ensemble of regulars finding new and exciting adventures from week to week.

I remember watching GENESIS II (starring Alex Cord as Dylan Hunt) with my Dad, back when it was first shown in prime time. I can’t remember when it was, but thanks to the internet, I can find out. March 23, 1973 – I would have been in 3rd grade. That’s 40 years ago. Wikipedia has a full de-construction of Genesis II, well worth reading. At any rate, it was a while ago. I thought it was fascinating, but the memory of it got burrowed deep within the caverns of my mind.

The show didn’t get picked up, but being that Gene was Gene (and remember – let’s put this in perspective – Star Trek had not yet hit as a huge sci-fi hit by 1973 – it had a cult following – not legions of dedicated fans – but that was about it), Mr. Roddenberry got a chance to re-work the story for another attempt at a new series. The result was PLANET EARTH – which first aired in April of 1974 (ah, the internet).

(note the haircut in this clip was stolen by George Lucas a few years later for Princess Leia). The show still didn’t get picked up, despite the addition of John Saxon in the role of Dylan Hunt. This show is the only one that I have access to directly, having taped it off TBS some years ago. It stands up pretty well, has a decidedly 1970‘s vibe to it, and as one can assume (since it’s a Roddenberry vehicle), Diana Muldaur and Majel Barrett make an appearance. Janet Margolin plays Harper-Smythe, and she has that “Pennsylvania Pretty” look that was dominant in the early to mid 1970’s. Ted Cassidy plays Isiah, and he’s just awesome – so much better than Lurch; they still didn’t fully unleash him, but his character actually gets lines. The story is fairly intricate for a TV pilot, and not bad either, so I wonder why it was rejected a second time. My favorite line (and there are some good ones) is “Let the savage pray, it’ll help as much as anything.”

A year later, Roddenberry had his final cut at the ball and re-worked the idea once again for a shot at a TV series – STRANGE NEW WORLD – still with John Saxon in the lead role. But “the Great Bird of the Galaxy” had had enough and backed away from the project. Enough of the story was changed to prevent potential infringement from occurring, but it didn’t matter, the idea still didn’t get picked up in this or any form. Too bad; I think it could have been great.

I’ve never seen this movie, but as you can hear from the above clip, The foley artists dug DEEP into the Star Trek sound effects vault and the official “EDWARD D. WOOD, JR.” stock footage collection. The series was still not picked up.

All three films are available on DVD (for under $20.00 each at Amazon) and I’m sorely tempted to pull the trigger on them.

So, if you’ve had an idea shot down by Hollywood three times, you just might be the next Gene Roddenberry.

BRE Datsun – The Little Sedan That Could

Back in 50’s, 60’s, and 1970’s, auto manufacturers sponsored teams whose purpose was making their cars look fast and look like winners. In the late 1960’s and into the early 1970’s, most American factories shut down their racing programs. In 1972, Datsun (with Peter Brock’s Brock Racing Enterprises and John Morton as lead driver) was just getting started.

datsun

I don’t know what it was that drew me to like the BRE Datsun car 46, but I have a feeling it was an Aurora AFX set that I received for Christmas one year (and the subsequent need for EVERY car that Aurora made) that drew me to the small sedan. I didn’t know from John Morton, Peter Brock, or the incredible legend behind the car. I just didn’t move in those real-life circles. But I had the toys. Since neither I nor my parents were made of money, decisions had to be made. I ultimately decided on the 2 Datsuns – the 510 and the 240.

I just found this film on YouTube. I think this sums up the fighting spirit that drew me to this small sedan. I don’t know if I ever saw this film before, but it seems to me like I may have, and it simply became a repressed memory, influencing my decisions later in life. I don’t own a 510 (never have) but would like to someday. The final race is something out of Hollywood, but you’re not getting any sneak peaks from me.

Polarizing Foods – You either love them or you hate them

Just like our current government, you either love it or you hate it – there is very little room for those in middle ground. Foods can be like this as well – you either like them or you hate them – they are “Polarizing.”

Two of them that come to mind are White Castle and Spam.

white-castle

White Castle burgers are consumed by the bag load, and to the hungry, they are either Manna from Heaven or the worst possible stuff you could let pass your lips.

Being in Arizona and forced to live via frozen (microwaveable) White Castle Cheeseburgers, I view them as the food of the gods, only available where I am not. The combination of unique taste, portable size, and steamed onions gets me right where I live.

spam ad

Another polarizing favorite of mine is Spam. Here’s the uber-processed and canned pork shoulder and ham meat (it’s NOT posing as meat – it IS meat; TOFU is posing as meat) that came to prominence feeding our men overseas during World War 2. My folks wouldn’t serve Spam at home; they felt it was “beneath them,” kind of like Kraft Mac & Cheese (my mom would only make macaroni and cheese from scratch which was tons better, but still). I discovered Spam in the Boy Scouts on an early camping trip with Dave and Dan, brothers with whom I was in Troop 4 back in Floral Park. Sunday morning breakfast was ham and cheese omelettes, and they broke out the Spam. It was delicious. Doesn’t need refrigeration. Keeps well in backpacks. Makes for an excellent comedic stage play.

Ever since, I’ve been a fan of Spam. Others are not so enthused. It has such widespread negative connotations that it is now in the current lexicon meaning “annoying e-mail that has no bearing on my life except for making me wear out my ‘delete’ key.”

Mangia!

Growing up in a Station Wagon

There’s an independent film that’s making the rounds on the regional film circuit. There have been some one-off showings, and a few awards have been garnered. I haven’t seen it yet. “Wagonmasters” (www.Wagonmastersthemovie.com) is a documentary of the life and times of the American car, the Station Wagon – how it came to be, how it became ingrained into American society and culture, and how it fell out of favor and essentially ceased to be….almost. I grew up in station wagons – there were 6 kids in our family and there were times when we were older that we took TWO cars on vacation, simply because we had to. Then came the van, but that’s a different story.

The first wagon I remember was a maroon wagon – I couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4. I think it was a Ford, because that’s all my Dad ever drove (aside from the 1965 Pontiac Catalina he had “inherited” from our Uncle Jack when we needed a second car, but that, again, is a different story) The first new car I remember getting was bought right off the lot, in the days when you could get a car right off the lot that wasn’t loaded to the gills with every gizmo on the options list. Our 1968 Ford Ranch Wagon had no A/C, an AM radio, a 390 cubic inch V8, and an automatic transmission. The seats were benches, and in the “way back” or “roost” (as we called it) were flip-up seats, facing each other, that could fit 4 kids – or 2 adults if you were in an absolute bind for space. Ford didn’t change the architecture of their full size wagons much over the years – I owned a 1988 Ford Crown Vic Wagon right after getting married, and the interior layout was, while being much more plush, essentially the same.

The Pontiac eventually gave out, and my folks were forced to buy another “sweet” Station Wagon right off the lot – again, from Jericho Motors in Mineola, NY. (There were other Ford Dealers closer than this dealership, but this is where they went. This time, it was a yellow Ford LTD Station Wagon (It may have been a Country Squire – not sure) with the wood grain paneling on the side – the archetypal “Family Truckster” except still with no A/C, with an AM radio, and with hidden headlights. Our naming nomenclature for the cars was very creative – The Green Station Wagon and The Yellow Station Wagon. Pretty original, eh?

In 1974, we went to Western Canada (Alberta and BC – my Mom’s home turf) and visited for a summer – while there we rented (you guessed it) a Station Wagon. Again – AM Radio but this one had A/C (and I think my Mom liked having A/C, because in 1979, after the green 1968 finally keeled over, he went and ORDERED a car from a dealership – a 1979 Ford Super Wagon (this is the 1-ton van with a full passenger interior – think of a church bus) pretty much loaded with every option EXCEPT 4-wheel drive (yeah, they used to offer that) and a second gas tank (which he kicked himself for not ordering once gas rationing was happening in the early 1980’s). I wound up taking my road test for my driver’s license in that van – February 1982 – the morning after a blizzard that closed the schools. DMV was still operating and the road test proctors were NOT happy.

When we had the Station Wagons, they were part of the family – they took us to Burger King, McDonald’s, Roosevelt Field Mall, vacation, apple picking, church, pretty much everywhere we went. The brought new bikes home from the bike store; they took us to see Santa at A&S in Manhassett; they took us to Pennsylvania (more times than I can remember); up and down the east coast. One summer, my Dad bought CB’s, had them installed in the cars, and we convoyed to summer vacation in Pennsylvania, talking back and forth the whole way. Our station wagons were magical conveyances, but not magical enough to get us to the Happiest Place on Earth.

station-wagon-01

They never took us to Walt Disney World.

When I grew up, got married, and had a family, we bought a Station Wagon – a 1993 Ford Escort Wagon with a 5 speed. That was a fun wagon. We also had a 1987 Mercury Sable Wagon (my wife LOVED that car), the 1988 Ford Crown Vic mentioned above, and a Subaru Outback Wagon, which we had on a lease, and a 1996 Buick Roadmaster Wagon which DID NOT love us and left us stranded in Blythe, CA (look it up – it’s in the middle of nowhere) on our way to Disneyland in 2003.

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I still love Station Wagons, but today I rock the current equivalent – a 1999 Chevy Minivan with a surfboard on the roof.

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Thanks for reading.

Radio Shack Catalogs – Like ALL of them

radio shack catalog

I could spend hours at this site. Check out Radio Shack Catalogs – Like ALL of them

I used to wait for the TV commercials heralding the arrival of the NEW RADIO SHACK CATALOGS (usually some time in the fall) which would usually have a coupon for a free plastic 4 or 5 cell D-battery flashlight. My friend Tad and I would ride our bikes to the store, get the Flashlight and the Catalog. The guys in the store viewed us as annoying kids, but what they didn’t realize was that by being nice to us, they were creating Radio Shack fans for life. A little short-sighted, but they were on commission, so I guess we were still just annoying kids.

The 1980 catalog has a TRS-80- computer for on $499.95. HUZZAH!