Was there really a 1-900 number for crying?

This commercial is amazing. Mostly because I am not sure what to make of it. When you called this 1-900 number do you hear people crying? Is it supposed to make you cry? Would a caller be happy paying 2 bucks for the first minute and 45 cents each additional minute or would they cry again once their telephone bill arrived?

When these pay-to-call numbers started proliferating in the nineties, I was always surprised at the number of services you could find advertised on TV during late night. Sure the world has an appetite for the more “adult” offerings that these services provided, but I didn’t know they had an appetite anywhere near of what was being supplied. When the offering was less mature, and not related to Santa Claus or a celebrity, I found it even extra confusing.

Before watching the commercial, you should familiarized yourself with the full cast of criers. Each one is brilliant and deserves your respect. You have:

The woman over the sink…

Weepy business guy..

The red bathrobe sobber…

Mullet guy with single fake tear…

Now here is the commercial in its brilliant entirety. I have watched it over twenty times today and I am still not clear exactly what calling it would have provided. Did anyone out there call it? Was it something to make you cry? Perhaps someone on the other end laughing at you because you were foolish enough to call a number that was supposed to make you cry?


Remember when Amazon’s Jeff Bezos appeared in a Taco Bell commercial

The world was an interesting place in the early 2000’s. Taco Bell had ended its very popular Taco Bell Chihuahua ads (RIP Gidget) and was looking for a fresh face to help sell its various incarnations of the exact same thing. One of their ideas that surprisingly did not catch on was using Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos as a spokesCEO. At this time this did not strike we as weird for some reason, but looking at it now it is a real head-scratcher.

The commercial opens in a boardroom, in what I assume are Amazon’s offices. A group of seemingly smart people are gathered around Mr. Bezos as he complains about having seen everything in the world of PDAs and Handhelds.


But wait! Here is a handheld you have never had before Jeff. It is Taco Bell’s new Chicken Quesadilla. Being a good CEO, he demands a demo. So the person I assume is the director of cheesy deliciousness steps up to the plate and grabs a handful and takes a bite. She then spend the better part of 5 seconds wordlessly appreciating this scrumptious new food and everyone is very impressed.


I am not sure how/why they got Jeff in this ad, but it makes for a great snapshot of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. It was a time before the dotcom bubble popped and CEOs of a company that wasn’t even associated with Taco Bell could be the star of their commercials.

TRON Love Scene

Was this scene from TRON too “sexy” for audiences?

Disney’s TRON was a risk for the studio. It was a more “adult” film, but you might be surprised to learn that the film was almost a little more “adult” in nature. Like many films, extra scenes were shot for TRON that wound up on the cutting room floor. Some of those scenes are cut early, but with TRON, you can tell when a scene was cut by how much animation was done for it. It is a good indication of just how close the scene was to making the final cut.

In this scene TRON and YORI visit her “apartment”. It is a plain room, but not for long. With a wave of her arms, not only does the apartment transform in an amazing bit of animation, but YORI herself changes. Turning from:




People who worked on the film have differing opinions as to why the scene was cut (we also get one dissenting opinion). Director Steven Lisberger thought the scene was too sentimental, while star Bruce Boxleitner remarked in the anniversary DVD that it was just confusing. Bringing into question the sexuality of what up to this scene had been depicted as anthropomorphized computer programs. Visual Effects Supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw believed the scene added a lot to the film.

I tend to agree. It adds a deeper level of humanity to these programs. Something we would get more of a dose of in TRON Legacy. If it had been in the original cut of the film, it would have been something TRON fans would have been discussing for decades afterwards. Instead we get a great, but more sanitized version of the film.

Here is the entire scene in its scintillating glory. Do you think it was best left out?

For more information on TRON, check out the TRON Retroist Podcast and the TRON Diary of an Arcade Employee Podcast. (Yes, we love TRON at the Retroist.)


An eyewitness to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln makes a television appearance

Even in 1956, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was a long time ago, but to one man the memory was still very much alive. His name Was Samuel J. Seymour and he went on the Garry Moore hosted TV show, “I’ve Got a Secret” as the last living eyewitness to that terrible event. An event that was so shocking that the audience is actually stunned when they learn his secret. It doesn’t take long for the panelists (Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows, Henry Morgan, and Lucille Ball) to figure out his secret and when they do, we get to hear what a 5-year-old takes away from being there during such a pivotal moment.

It was not the gun shot. It wasn’t people freaking out. No, he remembers being concerned for the man who had fallen out of the balcony. That man was John Wilkes Booth, who had leapt from the balcony after the fateful shot and injured himself when he did. I am not sure if that is just his more concise telling of the story for television or the real thing that stuck in his mind 90+ years later. For more info about Mr. Seymour, check out the 1954 article in the Milwaukee Sentinel that inspired this historical TV appearance. In the article he goes into a lot more detail about what he remembers. It is remarkable.


Learn all about the video game “Berzerk” on the Retroist Video Podcast

On today’s show, I start off by talking about how after breaking an Atari joystick while playing Berzerk, I grew closer to one friend and further apart from another. Then I jump into the star of this episode, the Stern arcade classic, Berzerk. I talk about the people and company who created the game, the gameplay, strategy, ports, sequels and much much more.

This video podcast was done by Justin M. Salvato of boxing4free.com and is a video-ized version of the original Berzerk podcast I did.


Not a video fan? Listen to the original audio episode:

Like what you hear/see? Listen and subscribe to the Retroist Podcast!


Listen to over an hour of background music from the 1967 Spider-Man Animated Series

The music from the 1967 Spider-Man animated series is jazzy and catchy. Unfortunately the music has never been released in a format that would allow us to enjoy it completely. I often wondered what it would be like to capture the music from a series that never did a soundtrack, but I don’t have to wonder any longer. YouTube user, 11db11, went through the entire run of the series and attempted to capture the audio in its complete form, removing voice and sound effect when possible. This labor of love, which I imagine took a good amount of time, is over and hour-long and an addicting listen.

The music is credited to Jazz legend Ray Ellis. Ellis, who passed away in 2008 was a record producer, arranger and conductor. He is probably most famous among “serious” music fans for doing the orchestration for Billie Holiday’s Lady in Satin (1958). That is all well and good, but I became an unknowing fan because of his work with Filmation.

Working under the pseudonym of Yvette Blais (his wife’s name) and George Blais, he and Norm Prescott composed most of the background music for cartoon studio Filmation from 1968 to 1982. Ark II, Space Academy, and Jason of Star Command owe their very original musical styling to this brilliant maker of music. So if you need something new (that is old) to enjoy, why not give the video above a listen. It is not a soundtrack release, but it is probably the closest we will ever get.



This is how you sell an MS-DOS Upgrade

The MS-DOS 5 Promo Video with its memorable visuals and music stylings is pretty close to perfect as advertising. Now you might laugh at the notion, but consider this one important fact. It is decades later and we are still talking about it. Now it might not be in the same league as advertising classics like, “Where’s the beef?” or “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”, but in my opinion this is still impressive.

This video was posted online a while ago, but last night I was up late watching it and really thinking about how to best describe the music. The best I could do was that it sounds like the music that results when you explain to a person who knows how to make music what “rap” music is, but they have never really heard it before. The results are these terribly clunky and overly literal rhymes that do not flow from well and are not catchy at all. Despite listening it repeatedly, I still cannot remember a full lyric, but instead I walk away with a general impression of what was said over the duration of the promo.

Now I am not saying that modern advertising should attempt to mimic this bit of history, but I sort of am. Why bother with the same old stale ads that we see again and again, when you could create an amateurish mashup of pop culture like an advertising mad scientist and have it stand the test of time? Think about it.