The Sesame Street “J Train” Not Scary?

Well, I beg to differ. But I couldn’t tell you why.

As a kid I was more fascinated with the supernatural than afraid of it. I loved ghost stories, I loved haunted houses, I could swear I saw a ghost in my basement when I was five, and I was a CHAMPION “Stiff as a Board, Light as a Feather” player–if one can be a champion at something like that. So not many traditional things frightened as much as they fascinated me. Instead, I was more afraid of the everyday things that probably should have been unsettling, startling, cringe-inducing or weird–but not frightening. Things like the “beep” that signaled a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. Or the bathtub drain. Or footy pajamas.

Or–gulp–The J Train on Sesame Street.

I don’t know. What was so scary about this clip? Was it the sepia hued background setting an eerie tone that is in too stark a contrast with the color letter that is zooming through it? Did I wish it all matched? Was that my problem–color clash? Or was it the voice in the narration–a creepy, high pitched male voice that sounded frantic and scattered and just crazy enough to, you know, MURDER someone at any moment? Or was it that ending, where the worst that could happen happens and the train crashes himself and thus becomes junk?

Search me. But I’ll tell you–there really is something to the staying power of images or sounds or ideas that scared us as children. Because even now as I sit here and watch this letter “J” roll along and make words and sense out of “OIN” and “UMP”, I’m doing so wide eyed and with my hand over my mouth.

And for some reason, I have a very powerful urge to hide behind my chair and call my Mom.

Retro Hurricane Memories

Hurricanes can be retro, right? Sure they can.

As Hurricane Irene heads up the East Coast and threatens to give many of us a good what-for this weekend, I am hearing a lot of reports comparing it to a nearly 30 year old storm, saying that Irene will be the biggest pounding the East Coast has gotten since the wrath of this 1985 inclement weather legend:

Do you remember Hurricane Gloria? I do–sort of. I was seven and living in Pennsylvania at that time, and was mostly just thrilled that we had a day off from school. But aside of it being more windy and rainy than usual and the fact that we had no school, I have no other clear memories of that day–other than this. I mostly remember spending much if not all of that day watching reruns of Petticoat Junction–a show that a seven year old in the mid eighties considered a VERY poor alternative to Diff’rent Strokes or The Cosby Show. But Diff’rent Strokes wasn’t on. The Cosby Show wasn’t on. Nothing was on but weather reports and Petticoat Junction. And since I could look out the window to see weather, I went with Petticoat Junction.

So that’s what I remember most about Gloria–not destruction, excitement, or the wonder of Mother Nature, but rather a boredom so severe I took several rides on the little train that was rolling down the track to the Junction.

Petticoat. Junction.

The Dirty Dancing Remake or This Can’t Be Happening!!

There are so many reasons to scream NOOOOOOOO and break out in cold sweats/itchy hives. The fact that Lionsgate Studio just announced plans to remake Dirty Dancing is but one of them.

The remake is being positioned as Dirty Dancing for a “new generation” (which is odd, considering they still plan on using music from the 1960s), and will be directed by Kenny Ortega, who was the original film’s choreographer. A release date has not been announced, nor has anyone been announced to star, though I have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to wind up being someone like James Franco (uh-oh, I think I may have just tempted the universe) and, oh, I don’t know…Mila Kunis. No! Lady Gaga. No! Daniel Radcliffe.

OK. I’ll stop now. Because I could go on forever with possible (though never actual) replacements for Jennifer Grey’s iconic Baby Houseman.

Oh no. And now that I’m thinking about it, isn’t replacing Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing basically putting Baby in a corner?

Yeah. It is. And that’s really not cool. Here, this shot of Baby carrying a watermelon should cheer you up. It worked for me.

Baby Carries a Watermelon

Before they were famous…

But after they’d at least gotten an agent.

Last week, fellow Retroist contributor Brian Boone posted this fun piece about Matt LeBlanc in a ketchup commercial before Friends rocketed him to fame.

So, of course the first question I asked myself was, “Matt LeBlanc was on that show The Fanelli Boys, wasn’t he?”

Answer, no. And I am certain I am one in a very small handful of people who even remember that ill fated show that barely was able to pop out a full season on NBC in 1990. I don’t know, it amused me at the time. There was one episode where one of them was singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, and it was really annoying the other brothers, who then yelled at the singing brother in an overly working class Italian way. Or something. I was 12. “Songs that never end” and “being reprimanded by someone doing his best Sonny Corleone” jokes still worked on me.

Anyway, that did get me thinking about bit parts that now extremely famous people played on television before they were household names. Matt LeBlanc, for one, actually appeared on an episode of Growing Pains spin off Just the Ten of Us–about Coach Lubbock and his very Catholic inability to keep it zipped, hence his gaggle of kids, four of them adolescent daughters. Like Fiddler on the Roof. But with more football. And Matt LeBlanc.

And since I mentioned Growing Pains, that 80s kid classic that followed the follies and subsequent lessons learned by the Seaver family–but who were we kidding, the show was about Boner and Stinky. Still, this is none other than one Brad Pitt making Alan Thicke bend over so he can use his back as a flat surface. Good times.

And finally, my personal favorite. Post Facts of Life, but pre Roseanne–from the 1987 episode of The Golden Girls “To Catch a Neighbor”, George Clooney as a young cop.

Now if only I could find that clip of Andrew Dice Clay as Crazy Larry on Diff’rent Strokes, well, then this day would be complete.